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Saturday, 11 July 2020

Conception of Love and Love's Order in "As You Like It"

Conception of Love and Love's Order in "As You Like It"
Theme of Love in the Play "As You Like It"

As You Like It owes its charm and beauty to the flavour of love that pervades the plot. The drama maintains a number of love episodes, which as a matter of fact spring from the main fountain – love between Orlando and Rosalind. But there is another touch of love in the play, which distinguishes it from most of the Shakespearean comedies. It is the innocent yet sincere and penetrating love between the two cousins Rosalind and Celia.

Presentation of Love in the Elizabethan Period

It was only post-Renaissance dramatists who made a bold experiment in introducing love as an absorbing theme in drama. In the Elizabethan age romantic love  or courtly love often became the main ingredient of writings. To Elizabethan people "to live was to love, and to love was to love romantically." It was left to Shakespeare and his great contemporaries to achieve a mystical alliance between comedy and romance, and to elevate comedy from the region of the farcical and the ludicrous to the realm of the poetic and the romantic. A note of high seriousness often characterised a comedy of love. As You Like It is replete with different portrayals of love.

True Love between Orlando and Rosalind

True love pervades the souls of Orlando and Rosalind. The very presence of Rosalind radiates soul-enkindling light, and its interpenetrating rays have thrilled the encircling gloom of Orlando's heart. He is at once lifted out of the slough of despondency and despair; for him life now receives a new significance. Romantic love - love at first sight - has stirred the deepest depths of his heart which naturally seeks consolation in offerings of amatory verse dedicated to the adoration of the lost beloved. The heroine gifted with an unusually rich fund of common sense, fully alive to the silly excesses committed by youthful lovers, cautioned by Celia and warned by Touchstone, is exceptionally competent to come to her lover's rescue.

In asking Orlando to woo her in masquerade, when she remains unrecognised, Rosalind hits upon a very novel method of indirectly teaching her lover proper restraint in the art of wooing, not without now and then subtly fanning its consuming flame, and at the same time herself drinking the delicious cup overflowing with his passionate outpourings of love. We are greatly amused when she assumes, when herself madly in love the lofty philosophical pose of a very wise and experienced man and thus speaks to Orlando: "Love is merely a madness; and I tell you deserves well a dark house and a whip as mad men do, and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too." (III. ii) This camouflaged courtship is a unique experience for both the lovers and it is the most entertaining form of stage representation of love in literature.

Blind and Abrupt Love between Celia and Oliver

The love of Orlando and Rosalind is not as sudden as that of Oliver and Celia. Celia has all along affected an airy cynicism about the love that had sprung up in her cousin's heart at first sight; with an exquisite irony of unconsciousness both Rosalind and Orlando wonder at the love that Celia and Oliver all of a sudden feel for each other. No sooner had Celia and Oliver seen one another than they fell in love, there are no opportunity of wooing-in earnest or in jest.

This love-affair does not have the imaginative, fanciful, poetical quality of the Rosalind-Orlando affairs nor does this love possess that wit, humour, gaiety which marks the love of the other pair. The suddenness and abruptness of love between Celia and Oliver is somewhat surprising. Shakespeare seems to hay been in a hurry to unite these two characters at the cost of realism.

The Love between Silvius and Phebe serves as a foil to love between Rosalind and Orlando. The love between Rosalind and Orlando is deep and genuine, while that of Silvius and Pheo shallow and unreal. The love between first pairs is love at first sight: it is mutual, it is reciprocated in every possible manner, and the love between second pairs is one sided. It is no love at all.

Prosaic Love of Touchstone and Audrey

The union of Touchstone and Audrey represents the most prosaic kind of love. Audrey is ugly. But he does not mind that. In her very presence he refers to her as "a poor virgin, an ill-favoured thing." He says that he is going to take a woman whom no other man will. He sees no harm in marriage, even though he knows that wives are often faithless. As for Audrey, she knows she is not fair but she has the opportunity to marry a social superior. By this marriage, "Touchstone lets in the East Wind of realism into the artificial palm-house of Arden."

Sisterly Love

This is clearly evident between Celia and Rosalind as Celia abandons her home and privileges to join Rosalind in the forest. The pair is not actually sisters but support each other unconditionally.

Brotherly Love

At the onset of the drama brotherly love is something missing in the characters. Duke Frederick has banished his brother Duke Senior and usurped his dukedom. Oliver hates his brother Orlando and wants him dead. However, to an extent, this love is restored in that Oliver has a miraculous change of heart when Orlando bravely saves him from being savaged by a lioness. Likewise Duke Fredrick acknowledged his faults and restored his elder brother his dukedom.

Significance of Phrase "Whoever Loved that not at First Sight". If we consult the evidence of the play it will be abundantly dear that Love-at-first-sight is the main theme of the comedy of As You Like It. All the lovers in this play, courtiers as well as rustics, follow this kind of love. Such a conception of love is romantic, and Shakespeare has employed unhesitatingly for no less than four pairs of lovers, two from the higher and two from the lower class of society, follow such a mode of romantic love.

The end of the play is a triumphant celebration of love's order. Music sung. Hymen appears mysteriously, and the eight lovers are joined in marriage and all make merry. Love's ideal has been achieved.
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Sunday, 5 July 2020

Free Download Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar PDF, Also Read The Bell Jar Review

Free Download Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar PDF, Also Read The Bell Jar Review

The Bell Jar Review

The Bell Jar was first published in the United States, almost ten years after Sylvia Plath's death, exploding on the bestseller charts. Today its popularity endures, and the novel has sold more than 2 million copies in the United States alone. Plath started writing the highly autobiographical novel after her first book of poetry, The Colossus, was published in 1960. The Bell Jar was first published in England under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in 1963. Plath used the pen name to protect people portrayed in the book and possibly also because she doubted its literary merit, referring to it in a letter as “a pot boiler.” One month after its publication, Plath committed suicide.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is often considered a roman à clef, with Esther Greenwood's descent into mental illness paralleling Plath's own experiences. The events in the novel closely parallel Plath's twentieth year, and the novel contains many descriptions of real people, though Plath changed names and embellished fictional details. For example, like Esther who secures a high profile summer internship at the magazine Ladies' Day, Plath worked in 1953 on the college editorial board at Mademoiselle. Philomena Guinea is based on Plath's patron, Olive Higgins Prouty, author of Stella Dallas and Now, Voyager, who funded Plath's scholarship to study at Smith College.

Also similar to the novel's protagonist, Plath was rejected from a Harvard writing course taught by Frank O'Connor, which contributed greatly to her impending breakdown. Doctor Nolan is thought to be based on Plath's own therapist, Ruth Beuscher, whom she continued seeing into adulthood. Esther Greenwood's breakdown and suicide attempt closely resemble Plath's during the summer of her junior year. Plath swallowed an excessive dose of pills and hid in the crawlspace of the cellar, her absence prompting an all-out search by family, friends, and local officials. Two days later, she was discovered—alive, but semicomatose—and rushed to the hospital.

The Bell Jar : Story Behind Its Publication

The Bell far has a noteworthy publishing history. In London, under the name of Victoria Lucas, it received moderately positive reviews and sold briefly. It was then published again in England, posthumously, in 1967, this time under Plath's name. In 1971, Ted Hughes, Plath's husband, convinced her mother, Aurelia, to allow The Bell Jar to be published in the United States. Aurelia worried that the novel's often unkind portraits of people would be injurious both to those portrayed and to Plath's growing reputation as a serious poet. Between the novel's publication in England and the United States, Plath's posthumous volume of poems, Ariel, had been published in 1965 to critical success. Reviewers praised the chilling, intimate, confessional poems, and many considered Plath to be a gifted writer.

The Bell Jar was almost unheard of in the United States until its publication in 1971. Its appearance would quickly make Plath a popular and tragic legend, to be adored by fans and debated by critics.

The Bell Jar's reception in the United States was greatly affected by both the publicity surrounding Plath's death and the posthumous publication of Ariel. Bantam Books brought out an initial paperback edition in April 1972, with a print run of 357,000 copies. That initial printing sold out, as did a second and a third printing, in one month, and the novel remained on the bestseller list for at least 24 weeks.

Plath's suicide helped fuel her legendary status. The emotional immediacy of her confessional poems and the biography of the all-American girl who killed herself at the age of 30 add up to a tragic and compelling story. Plath has become a mythical cult-like figure: an artist who struggled through depression, overcame it, and was then destroyed by it.

The Bell Jar is widely read among adolescent women. Esther Greenwood is a popular protagonist, the female counterpart to J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield. Esther is a good student, funny, sexually confused, and depressed. She often feels alienated from and pressured by society, and many young readers feel they can identify with her. The nervous breakdown and attempted suicide of a well-behaved, bright, and successful college student touches adolescent readers, and reading Sylvia Plath has become a rite of passage for many young adults.

Even for critics and scholars, the biography of Plath and her mythical stature greatly influence their readings of the novel. Critics have debated if the novel should be considered serious literature or if it should be remembered as a popular novel by an author whose true talent was poetry. The Bell Jar has received less scholarly attention than the poems, yet many notable critics have claimed it to be an important American novel that gives voice to women who are typically silenced.

Feminist critics have analyzed the novel as a powerful critique of the repression of women in the 1950s and as a portrayal of one woman's struggle within such a society and her attempt to assert control over her life. Plath's highly respected poems, her tragic suicide a month after The Bell Jar's initial publication, and the widely known story of her depression, breakdown, and stay in a mental hospital are impossible for readers to ignore in their reading of the book. As Sylvia Plath's only novel, The Bell Jar has become iconic in both literary and popular culture.

Let me drop my pen with a superb quote of The Bell Jar :

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

To Download The Bell Jar pdf click download button bellow:

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Saturday, 4 July 2020

Feminism and Gender Consciousness in Kamala Markandaya’s Nectar in a Sieve

Feminism and Gender Consciousness in Kamala Markandaya’s Nectar in a Sieve

“Life is a challenge”. It has to be met. The cliched saying is far more true in the case of a woman. For a woman life is always a challenge and since ages she has been subjected to the many challenges thrown by society, customs, traditions and men.

Tradition, the world over, has assigned a lower and subordinate position to women in it's social set up. However important the functions and duties of a woman are, she is always relegated to the background. And woman is obliged to subordinate her interests and desires to the collective will of her community, and in particular to the male members. These constricting and narrow social norms constrained her to obliterate her ‘self', her individuality and separate identity.

Change is the law of life, and the status of women all over the world has been undergoing a rapid change in recent times. Traditionally, the Indian woman accepted the frame work of the family with a blind faith and rarely, if ever, showed a spirit of rebellion. But times have changed and the women of India too are taking strides though slow at the moment towards attainment of selfhood, independence and personal dignity.

The post independence era in the Indo-Anglican novel marks a striking departure from the traditional depiction of the female as but I weak, dependant adjunct to her counter parts in society. It is an obvious advancement. A galaxy of women novelists have sprung up, a remarkable phenomenon by itself. These women novelists have contributed to the development of the Indo-Anglian novel by an inclusion of new themes, with special focus on the issues that concern women, their joys and sorrows, ills and blessings.

Indian literature of the earlier era has depicted woman as one who is docile, self sacrificing, the very embodiment of self less love and a veritable monument of patience, ever willing to suffer. Such virtues are highlighted as the virtues of true womanhood, the virtues of a “pathivratha".

The Smrithis, the Puranas, even the Epics and Vedas speak of woman's lower position. It is a man made world, and woman is bound within the narrow confines prescribed by man. This kind of male chauvinism resulting in female enslavement has been a set feature of Indian society, since ages. However, with the spread of education, wider exposure to society, both at home and abroad, woman in the Indian context, has been able to achieve a breakthrough from the shackles of ages-old servility and subordination.

This aspect of woman's life has been portrayed by the women writers with sensitivity and understanding. Today, we may boldly assert, a woman writing is a woman fighting. She is fighting for her rights, for truth, for honesty, for identity, for freedom and for equality. The muted voice has freed itself, and come on stage to air the concerns of the hitherto neglected, ill treated and ignored "other gender”.

Literature of the post-independence era of our land clearly marks the creativity release of the feminine sensibility. There is a long line of women writers of eminence like Kamala Markandaya, Nayantara Sehgal, Ruth Prawer Jhabwala, Anita Desai, Santha Rama Rau, Attia Hussain, Padmini Sengupta, Nargis Dalal and a host of others. Among these Kamala Markandaya is the most outstanding critical and creative artist. An insightful and eminent critic, Dr. A. V. Krishna Rao, holds her in high regard. He has said:

“Kamala Markandaya's novels, in comparison with those of her contemporary women writers, seem to be more fully reflective of the awakened feminine sensibility in modern India as she attempts to project the image of the changing traditional society.”

Kamala Markandaya's first novel "Nectar in a Sieve”, was published in 1954. In this novel, (which is to celebrate the Golden Jubilee Year of it's publication soon), Markandaya deftly deals with the pains, pleasures, sufferings and the heart burning problems of women through the character of Rukmani. Rukmani in ‘Nectar in a Sieve' is a memorable character. She typifies, in her exemplary conduct her character, traditional Indian womanhood. She suffers but is not inclined to rebel against the traditional values.

The novel depicts the tragedy of a traditional village under the assault of tremendous modernity. The symbol of modernity in this novel is the tannery. The tension between tradition and modernity is symbolized by the tension between Rukmani and tannery and those who favour it.

She has used Coleridge's famous lines as the epigraph of her novel on rural India. It is subtle, richly allusive and at once strikes the keynote of the entire novel and it's basic theme:

“Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, 
And hope without an object cannot live."

"Nectar in a Sieve” is an enactment of these lines. Rural life is like nectar in a sieve. It is a comment on the waste of all human endeavour sustained by hope, a hope to collect the nectar of happiness in life, all slipping through. The placid rhythm of rural life is disturbed by the intrusion of the urban culture.

The traditional culture of Rukmani's village, it's simplicity, its slow and calm beauty and innate human values is destroyed by the intrusion of modernity. The nectar of life of the rural spread is drained and the staleness and stink of the affluents from that emblem of modernity, the tannery, stay to corrupt and condemn. Labour, gruesome and unrewarding labour stays. Hope is drained and the nectar of life is elusive. It is a veritable rape of innocence.

This tension between tradition and modernity pervades and entire novel, and through this conflict remains unresolved, there is a silent acceptance of change. People have to acquiesce into modernity. The idyllic rural ambiance is rudely ruptured, familial loyalties strained, if not totally shattered and migration to the urban wilderness begins.

Kamala Markandaya's main focus, which she effectively presents, is the predicament of women in these situations. Her Rukmani, no doubt, is a triumph of the spirit of tradition. She is the archetype; the ideal idolized the adored woman of Indian tradition. True to the traditions of an Indian woman, she shows exemplary' patience and fortitude and an ungrudging acceptance of the reality of her situation.

The force of tradition is operative in the way the birth of the girl is viewed in the family. The birth of a girl is looked upon with resignation, if not with sorrow. It is the male child that keeps up the father's line and saves the family from ‘Punnama Naraka'. A barren wife is pitilessly ill-treated in the tradition bound Indian society and this is a universal phenomenon. Mother of a male child is welcome and mother of a female child is not. Rukmani suffers the ignominy of both, for sometime. To her great disappointment, her first born child is a girl and in anguish she cries;

"I turned away and despite myself, the tears came, tears of weakness and disappointment, for what woman wants a girl for her first-born?"

One assumes that under the impact of this shock, she stays unproductive and barren for sometime. After sometime her first male child is born. Ira and Arjun are followed by many children, all males, Thambi, Murugan, Raja, Selvan and Kutti. Rukmani, soon discovers that children do not necessarily contribute to the happiness of the family nor do they invariably ensure a woman the promised joys of motherhood.

The vagaries of nature bring in famine through heavy rains and floods and starvation stares in the face of the family. It is again the woman's burden to find the where withal to feed the family. Rukmani starts petty trading. She sells vegetables in the market to eke out a living to feed her children. Soon the urban civilization makes its inroads into the rural life shattering the placid rhythm of its life. The tannery intrudes and disrupts the family. Much against her will, her eldest sons join the tannery as workmen and soon after they leave her and the country and migrate to Ceylon. Murugan too betrays her and shifts to the city, in search of livelihood. Raja dies and Kutti falls ill. The compulsions of their situation force ‘Ira' to become a prostitute and Nathan is evicted from his land by and landowning zamindar.

With the patience and fortitude instinctive with traditional Indian womanhood Rukmani braves these adverse circumstances in her life and leaves the village along with her husband for the city to start life a new with her son Murugan there. In the city, Nathan falls ill and dies and Murugan could not be traced in the city. Widowed now, and betrayed by her own sons on whom she lavished her all, the native returns to her village in the company of Puli an orphan boy who she has befriended during her sojourn in the city.

Rukmani is a straightforward and hard-working peasant woman of the Nectar in a Sieve. But hunger and poverty crush the spirit in Rukmani. Time has changed and women the world over are fighting for recognition in the face of stiff resistance offered by man. Rukmani is an example of suffering wife and patient mother. Yet, she is the first pioneering female protagonist who raises her voice of protest against the repressive practices.

Iconoclastic upheavals are not new phenomena in our world. Old order has to yield place to new order. Rukmani's heroic struggle against repressive traditional social structure is the central focus of this novel.

Kamala Markandaya's Rukmani is the forerunner of the modern woman to liberate herself from the debasing, obviously oppressive and totally irrelevant traditions. She lived her life within the bounds of the traditions of her social order and yet she has shown that she was fully alive to the inequity and injustice of it all.
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Friday, 3 July 2020

Raja Rao's Kanthapura as a Gandhian Novel or Kanthapura as a Political Novel or Nationalism in Kanthapura


Raja Rao's Kanthapura as a Gandhian Novel or Kanthapura as a Political Novel or Nationalism in Kanthapura
Kanthapura as a Gandhian Novel

Perhaps Bengal is the first province which felt the need of nationality and Indian English writing was born and brought up here with its first novel in English Rajmohan’s Wife (1864) written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee; this novel has the seedlings of nationality, though it appeared in the texts of other languages of Indian writing much earlier. Raja Rao's Kanthapura published in 1938, that is, pre-independence days can be taken primarily as a nationalistic discourse, with other dimensions too.

Kanthapura is a small traditional village with all primitive structure of an Indian society, divided, obsessed and loitering as a handicapped entity cocooned from the rest of the world and etherized as Eliot's modernity. At the same time, it is India in its miniature and, in its sweet slumber; awareness creeps in gradually as an alien element with the literacy of a few, frequent visit to the outer world and the spread of the Gandhian philosophy. The introduction of such element create upheavals of all sorts —social, political, religious and ideological, that ultimately subsides giving way to the urge for a free nation.

It has happened in every village of India, for that matter; it has happened in every colony of United Kingdom; it is a natural process of change, stagnancy cannot persist for long; resistance is the first sign of development; ignorance cannot rule for long; slavery cannot have its heydays for long; the dawn of freedom is imminent like Victorian's inevitability.

Moorthy is the jargon of Kanthapura, no one can understand him in the beginning; subsequently he is simplified and made acceptable. The first step towards freedom is nationalistic consciousness, that is to be generated by Raja Rao and he is aware of this necessity; religion is the earliest weapon, Siva is the three-eyed, and Sawaraj, too, is three-eyed: self purification, Hindu-Muslim unity and khaddar, thus the consciousness is injected through popular sentiments, as K.R. Srinivas Iyenger clarifies,
“Bhajans and Harikatha mix religion and politics freely and often purposefully, the reading of a newspaper became as serious a discipline as the reverent reading of the Gita and handspinning is elevated into a daily ritual like puja. The walls of orthodoxy are suddenly breached: revolution comes as a flood, and carries all before it.” 

It is not a political movement only, it includes social as well as religious waves too, as Paul Verghese puts it,
Kanthapura is not merely a political novel; for the three different strands of experience in it-the political, the religious and the social-are so dovetailed into one another as of present to the readers a realistic picture of the social, political and religious revival that took place in the twenties of this century in India. Since the action is set in a village, the novel is an easily recognizable village novel.”

Kanthapura is a village in South India, probably lost in obscurity and Raja Rao makes it alive again. And this village is afflicted now, assailed by Gandhian philosophy, the haunted party is aggrieved. Civil Disobedience Movement (Dandi March and Satyagraha), Non-Cooperation Movement (by non-payment of taxes and defiance of British Government), the grass root programme of Congress Committee (Nehru's social programme and Gandhi's message), campaign against ill practices (like untouchability, drinking, child marriage, widowhood, illiteracy, communal feeling, sexual exploitation, etc.) and finally the unification of the whole society for a singular nationalistic cause, all these things are anxiety towards freedom and nationhood.

Obviously, Kanthapura is the urge to be free from the demon of the foreign rule. Kanthapura as India in microcosm has religion as its backbone that influences its social and political activities. Talk of communal harmony, swaraj, khadi, Gandhi-bhajans replace Harikhata; temple becomes the platform for political interactions, Ram/ Krishna is replaced by Gandhi: in a sense, innocence and ignorance of villagers provide a congenial atmosphere for sowing the seeds of nationality. Unexpectedly, Moorthy proves to be ahead of Gandhi. For these religious villagers Gandhi is an incarnation like Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, who came to establish the righteousness and so the satyagraha became a religious ritual.

Moorthy exploits the Harikatha tradition to spread the message of freedom struggle of Gandhi. M.K. Naik is of the view that “Kanthapura probes the depths to which the nationalistic upspring penetrated, showing how, even in the remote village, the new patriotic upsurge fused completely with the traditional religious faith, thus rediscovering the traditional Indian soul”. Meenakshi Mukherjee in her book The Twice Born Fiction admits,

“The independence movement in India was not merely a political struggle but an all-pervasive emotional experience for all Indians in the nineteen twenties and thirties. No Indian writer, writing in those decades or writing about them, could avoid reflecting the upsurge in his work. Thus many of the English novels written in India in the twentieth century also deal with national experience, either directly as theme or indirectly as significant background to a personal narrative.”

Another significant factor that contributed to the development of nationalistic consequences was responsible for the unification of the educated mass irrespective of cast, creed, sex, religion, etc., and taught them the importance of freedom and law (constitutional). Certainly, the elite Indian brought this nationalistic movement and we have Raja Ram Mohan Roy and his followers Derozians, Tagore, Ramkrishna, Vivekananda, Mrs Annie Besant, etc. Indian literatures began to flourish in the modern Indian languages in the later part of the nineteenth century, with a definite shape.

Raja Rao is not a politically committed writer like Anand and Narayan, rather he is different, as William Walsh observes,
“...is poetic, metaphysical, Lawrentian. Kanthapura focuses on the intensity of Indian life, its physical immediacy, its traditional swaddling and its religious murmuration.”

It is remarkable to note that culmination of Kanthapura has an element of doubt while shifting from Gandhism to Nehruism and it is here that some critics raise question and also on the integrity of Rao as a Gandhian. Though both Gandhi and Nehru have the same destination, there is difference in their approach; Nehru is anglicised in his 'borrowing and difference', Gandhi is a bit nostalgic and his principle unscientific and so unwelcomed.

Right from the beginning a reader feels a change in the small remote orthodox village, the agent is completely transformed Moorthy, the motivation is complete and experience a sort of nationalism. Transformation continues; Moorthy continues to develop, though he does not get support from all quarters and imperialism seems to be crumbling. Achakka's thinking and behavior reflects her understanding of the dynamics between the village and the Indian nation as the blending of tradition and modernity. Kanthapura undergoes the process of nationalization, as an intricate and dynamic process and the process is an internal one. Achakka is 'a perpetrator of Hindu revivalist propaganda' and Rao stands as a Hindu reformer to encourage self-exploration.

Such nationalistic discourse allows us to re-examine traditional ideas about caste (that is the social structure), the role of women (that is, the restriction imposed on her), the relation between the elite and the masses (that is, the democratic pattern), the communal difference (that is between Hindu and Muslim), child marriage and early widowhood, sexual exploitation of poor and pseudo-supremacy of the literate upper class; it is the native Indian response to the British colonial design and that too in ancient Indian puranic mode of narration.
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Sunday, 28 June 2020

Pride and Prejudice as a Domestic Novel

Pride and Prejudice as a Domestic Novel

Of all the truisms about Jane Austen, the favourite for the past centuries is that a little interest is taken by her in the broad concerns of national life. It is a proposition which seems quite obvious to the readers of Pride and Prejudice or any other of Austen’s works. Winston Churchill exclaims, “What calm lives they had, those people! No worries about the French Revolution or the Napoleonic Wars!” Chesterton writes “a story as domestic as a diary in the intervals of pies and puddings.”

Criticism of this kind indicates the essentially narrow focus of an Austen novel in which the novelist seems to pen activities about her neighbours while the dynasts were fearing the world to pieces and consigning millions to their paves.

Admittedly Jane Austen stands aside from the ideological convulsions that accompanied and followed the French Revolution. But detachment is not the quality that evidently strikes the critic cited above. Her detachment from the larger world guarantees a brilliant narrowness of focus upon a domestic world which in Pride and Prejudice centres on marriage and money.

But the marriage and money theme operates on many levels. It is even more baffling when Austen’s heroine comes to marry. The fact remains that Elizabeth does make of what from the materialistic point of view is a glorious match the most glorious of any Austen’s heroines and that its material splendour is pointedly put forward. The question that naturally arises is: what is the connection between the heroine’s personal progress and the minor characters’ husband – hunting this novel as a conservative novel and marriage should be and is the fulfilment of personal moral quest. This applies to Elizabeth more than to any other characters. Personals matters and personal attitudes are made the themes of social interaction in the novel on the most important plane, they involve moral implication and often assume religious overtone.

In fact the subject of Pride and Prejudice is what the little indicates: the sin of pride obnoxious to the Christian, which takes the form of complacency about the self and correspondingly borrow a lower opinion or prejudice about others. Darcy’s pride is humbled midway through the novel when he proposes to Elizabeth and to his astonishment is rejected the lesson he has to learn is that he has to earn his right to consideration by respect for others.  

Elizabeth’s corresponding sin is more subtle and her enlightenment requires the space for the whole book. She seems unconscious that she suffers from pride at all. Quick of observation encouraged by her father’s example to take delight in the follies and vanities of others, she sees everyone’s mistakes but her own. The false assurance of friendship from Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst do not deceive her. She already has too low an opinion of them. She sees and enjoys the follies of Mr. Collins. But she also quite unreasonably persists in thinking ill of Darcy, and just as perversely, in thinking well of Wickham, even when the evidence that he is a fortune-hunter is placed before her.

In Jane Austen's novels the maneuvering by which a man presents himself to a woman and her parents as a possible husband often comes before any signs of love. Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice offers the most tough-minded and unsentimental analysis, counseling that Jane Bennet should secure her rich husband first and think about love only after they are married. 'Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance'.

The marriage of a young woman is the protocol of Jane Austen’s time. Lydia Bennet marries at 16 and her mother talks of her sister Jane attracting the attentions of a well-qualified suitor at the age of 15. At a certain age, somewhere between 15 and 19, a young woman was said to be 'out'. That meant that she could be courted. . In 1802, aged almost 27, Jane Austen herself accepted a proposal of marriage from Harris Bigg-Wither, the brother of family friends, only to change her mind by the next morning.

The marriage choices that Jane Austen's characters make are absolute. Mr. Bennet, Austen tells us, married Mrs. Bennet because he was captivated by youth and beauty, but then discovers her true nature. 'Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown.'

Questions of status and class are a major preoccupation of Jane Austen's characters, and of the novels themselves. Professor John Mullan considers both the importance of social status and its satirical potential. There is certainly no association in her novels between high rank and any great virtue or ability. Aristocrats are at best buffoons, at worst paragons of arrogance.

There has been a curious tendencies to take ‘pride’ and ‘prejudice’ to be polar qualities, like ‘sense’ and ‘sensibility’ where as in the course of the novel we generally see them associated within the same character. The proud lady Catherine is certainly prejudiced and the prejudiced Elizabeth can be accused of pride. Caroline Bingley declared that her manners are “a mixture of pride and impertinence.”

Austen’s domestic world is thus not quite simple in which characters are personified abstractions – like ‘pride’ and ‘prejudice’, ‘insolence’ and ‘folly’, ‘irresponsibility’ and ‘jealousy’. Narrow and domestic though the world is, it is nevertheless quite rich in suggestion and implication. To apply such term as ‘narrow’ or ‘domestic’ is to ignore the richness and complexity of Pride and Prejudice.
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Saturday, 27 June 2020

Shooting an Elephant : Critical Analysis or Orwell's View on Imperialism

Shooting an Elephant : Critical Analysis or Orwell's View on Imperialism
Shooting an Elephant as a Postcolonial Essay

Louis Cazamian in A History of English Literature declares George Orwell's work as a whole to be "the citizen's manifesto against the powers that be". Even from his youth, Orwell rejected many of the accepted social and political conventions, and his novels and essays clearly reveal him as a non-conformist. In all his novels and in many of his essays, his strongly dissenting voice can be clearly heard. And though Shooting an Elephant is a narrative essay, it gives us a fairly clear idea of Orwell's view of British imperialist domination in the East.

Even from the start of his career as a police officer in British occupied Burma, Orwell was not favourably disposed to the British imperialist policy. He had a genuine sympathy for the oppressed native people, and he hated himself for being a tool of imperialist domination. But even so, he did not quite realise how utterly futile was the white man's domination in the East. This he came to realise through an experience which has been described in his essay Shooting an Elephant.

The author was then a sub-divisional police officer in Moulmein. a township in Lower Burma. One morning, he received the news that an elephant, under the attack of 'must' had broken its chained was ravaging the bazaar area. So he started out with his light rifle to see what the matter was. On his way, he received a lot of conflicting reports on the behaviour of the elephant. Finally he reached the locality where the animal had been last seen. Then the veils of a woman attracted his attention. As he went forward the dead body of a black Dravidian coolie came into his view. He had been trampled to death by the elephant. At once the author sent an orderly who fetched an elephant rifle for him. At the sight of this weapon, the people who had gathered there became greatly excited because they now took it for granted that the sahib was surely going to shoot the elephant. But, till that moment, the author did not have the slightest intention of killing the elephant.

As he went a little farther, he saw the elephant in a paddy field. It looked peaceful enough, and the author felt there was no reason for killing it unless it turned savage again. At this moment, he turned round and saw that a huge crowd of natives had followed at his heels. Looking at their eager, expectant faces, he suddenly realised the absolute helplessness of his position. He felt that, in spite of all his reluctance, he would have to shoot the elephant, after all. For, in that critical situation, he was expected to live up to the image of the white men in the colonies-a man of extra-ordinary strength, courage and determination, who must remain unmoved in the face of every crisis. Thus, he was not free to act according to the dictates of his own conscience. He was a mere puppet driven by the will and expectation of the thousands of natives surrounding him. At the moment of crisis, he realised the bitter truth : "when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys." Thus, from his own experience, he realised that the white man's superiority over the natives was but a hollow myth with no substance at all.

The essay starts with a reference to the strained relations between the ruler and the ruled in Moulmein, a township in Lower Burma. Anti-European feelings ran high among the native people though they did not have the courage to rise in open rebellion against British domination. So their hatred of the white man found expression through devious ways. They never missed an opportunity of baiting white men or jeering at them. They would even try to inflict injuries on white men whenever they could do it with impunity, As a police officer, the author was an obvious target of such petty attacks and insults. Sometimes the author felt tempted to have his revenge on these jeering "devils', but his better reason always prevailed. He rightly recognized such feelings as the 'normal by-products' of imperialism and he rather hated himself for serving a power that oppressed people and held them in subjection.

But there are, in this essay, far more overt references to the evils of imperialism. As a police officer in Burma he had seen ‘the dirty work of Empire at close quarters’. He refers to the lock-ups as 'stinking cages’ in which native prisoners were huddled like cattle, He has a vivid memory of the ‘cowed faces’ of long-term convicts and the 'scarred buttocks’ of men who had been flogged with bamboos.

But his greatest accusation against imperialism is of a radically different nature. In this essay he asserts that the shooting of the elephant gave him a better glimpse of the real nature of imperialism than he ever had before. It is this incident that opened his eyes to the 'hollowness, the futility of the white man's domination in the East'. In order to make its domination safe and secure, imperialism has to build up a highly inflated image of the white man. Thus he loses his freedom of action. He must not act according to the dictates of his conscience; he must act in strict conformity with the codes of conduct established by imperialism. The author had shot the elephant much against his will. While, apparently, the author was the leading actor of the piece in reality he was 'an absurd puppet' driven by the will of the crowd that surrounded him. Thus, imperialism harms and oppresses not only the subjugated people; it also harms its own servants by subjecting them to a process of moral and psychological degeneration.

Even the advocates of imperialism would find it difficult not to agree with Orwell's view of its harmful effects. History has confirmed his views even to the last detail.

And the history of our country under the British rule bears ample evidence to the evils of imperialist domination. As to the evil effects of imperialism, Orwell's views have been confirmed by many white men who have served in the colonies.

But it would be going rather too far to describe Shooting an Elephant as 'a critique of imperialism'. Orwell's primary aim in this essay was to describe an incident which had made deep and lasting impression on his mind. The views on imperialism expressed here are but incidental to the main theme of the essay. So it would be more pertinent to describe Shooting an Elephant as a narrative essay incorporating certain relevant criticism of imperialist domination in the East.
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Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Merci as Medieval Romantic Poem or Critical Appreciation of La Belle Dame Sans Merci

La Belle Dame Sans Merci as Medieval Romantic Poem or Critical Appreciation of La Belle Dame Sans Merci

La Belle Dame Sans Merci is the glory of romantic poetry. In it the medieval revival which constitutes one of the most significant aspects of romanticism reaches its culmination. Keats was ever enamoured of the Middle Ages. But it was the external glitter and glamour of the Middle Ages that captivated him. Their weird spirit - the elements of their magic and marvel hardly stirred his imagination.

In La Belle Dame Sans Merci Keats not only reproduces the medieval pomp and chivalry, but also creates the typical medieval atmosphere of enchantment and marvel. The picture of the knight-at-arms with which the poem opens at once transports us into the medieval days of knight-errantry. The beautiful fairy lady who bewitched the knight and ultimately led him to his spiritual doom recalls the medieval vampire woman who sucked men's blood with cold. The reference to elfin grot, "honey wild and manna dew", dream-vision of the skeletons of kings, princes and warriors diffuse over the whole poem the mood of awe and wonder that is associated with the medieval mind.

Again in the treatment of medievalism Keats, like Coleridge relies more on subtle suggestion than on description. Nothing is said definitely and in detail. Everything is left to the imagination of the reader. Nothing is said about the nature of the "fairy's child" or about the fate that awaits the knight. The poem is truly a masterpiece of horror-stricken reticence. George Saintsbury rightly says:

"He (Keats) could have known extremely little of medieval literature; yet there is nothing anywhere which catches up the whole of the true medieval romantic spirit as does the short piece of La Belle Dame Sans Merci."

Like a romantic poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci gives a faithful description of nature. It portrays the winter landscape with its barrenness and desolation:
"The sedge has wither'd from the lake
And no birds sing."

La Belle Dame Sans Merci is a superb example of the ballad. The story of a mortal creature being bewitched by an enchantress and carried to an elfin world is a fairly recurrent theme in ballad literature. The poem has all the simplicity and directness, the weird beauty and imaginative intensity of the best ballads. L. Hearn rightly says:

"The theme, the phantom woman whose love is death, is almost as old as the world; thousands of poems have been produced upon it. But in simple weird beauty I do not know of anything in all English literature exactly like this."

Though the poem is a ballad, it is intensely lyrical like a romantic poem. It is in a sense a cry from the poet's heart, a tale of disillusionment told by a man whose dream of love has faded, leaving behind a taste of dust and ashes in the mouth. Consumed as he was by an intense passion of love, the knight at arms seems to be a reflex of Keats's own self. Fanny Brawne who played with the poet's love is the lady without mercy. But the subjective note seems to be utterly impersonal because of the narrative and dramatic form of the poem.

Like other poems of Keats La Belle Dame Sans Merci turns on the contrast or conflict between the ideal and the real - between reality and imagination. The elfin grot represents the ideal world and the fairy's child its denizens. The knight belongs to the real world. The adequate communication between these two worlds is impossible as is evident in the lines:
"And sure in language strange she said
"I love thee true'."

The contrast between the two worlds is also implicit in the kind of food that the fairy offered—"roots of relish sweet/ and honey wild and manna dew". The sad moan and sigh of the Fairy's child imply a recognition of the unbridgeable gulf that exists between the two worlds. The conflict between these two worlds is so great that one who has an access into the immortal sphere withers away and dies like the knight-at-arms.

The poem illustrates Keats's use of concrete images. It opens with the description of the barren landscape which images the knight’s desolation. The rich autumnal harvest conveys the sense of fulfilment and a promise of sustenance. The twin images of lily and rose call forth the memory of the transient bliss the knight had in the elfin grot. The "fading rose" also indicates that the knight is progressing towards death. The food that the fairy offered "roots of relish sweet", "honey wild, and manna dew" is the image for the unbridgeable distance that exists between the ideal and real worlds. The image of death - pale kings, princes and warriors suggest the tragic fate of those who leave the mortal sphere in search of an impossible ideal.

The beauty of the poem lies in its marvelous suggestiveness. Words, expressions and images are so used as to call up vivid pictures before our vision. As we read the lines
"The sedge has wither'd from the Lake
And no birds sing."
the picture of the sedge withering in a lake and the dreary winter desolation starts floating before our mental eyes. The expression "fragrant zone" is rich in suggestion. It conjures up the picture of the girdle made of sweet-smelling flowers.

John Keats follows the example of Coleridge in his use of the ballad metre. But his use of a short fourth line, heavily accentuated, and admirably expressing the weird tragedy is his own development.

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