November 2015 ~ All About English Literature

For Exclusive Notes and Analysis

Monday, 30 November 2015

Charles Lamb's Essay, "The Superannuated Man" : A Complete Summary

Charles Lamb's Essay, "The Superannuated Man" : A Complete Summary


Who is 'Superannuated Man'?

A superannuated man is one who has declared too old to work by the company and hence forcibly retired from service.


According to Albert, ‘no essayist is more egotistical than Lamb; but no egotist can be so artless and yet so artful, so tearful and yet so mirthful, pedantic and yet so human.’ His “Essays of Elia” expresses freely his whimsical personality and humour, his love of London and of the antique an peculiar in literature, in furniture, books and customs.

 ‘The Superannuated Man’ is an account of Lamb’s lament of his life’s travails from his school days to the job in Counting House in Mincing-lane in London. He took up the job at fourteen and languished there for ‘six and thirty’ years leading up to his retirement. The care-free, fun-filled school days were gone forever. At his desk in the firm, his life was mired by boredom and tediousness. The working hours often dragged on from eight to nine to ten hours. In the confines of the office, Lamb’s soul and vitally weathered inflicting pain that he could not endure. Yet he had to submit to the oppressive rigour of his office just as a jungle animal submits to its life in a cage till it becomes subdued and emasculated. Eagerly did he await the Sunday for a respite from his colourless monotonous work.


Lamb had Sundays to himself. It gave him respite from the office, but the day was insufferably lifeless. The entire city of London slept on Sundays. There was not a trace of the hustle and bustle, the colour and fun, the glitter and cheer of London’s streets. The book shops, the restaurants and the shops bursting with their wares were all shut. Thus, the Sundays, too, failed to lift his spirits.
Charles Lamb's Essay, "The Superannuated Man" : A Complete Summary
Charles Lamb


Besides Sundays, Lamb loved the Easter and the Christmas holidays that allowed him to escape to his native place Hertfordshire where he indulged in his simple pleasures in gay abandon. This escape from his dreary office to his home’s rejuvenating environment helped him to banish his woes and recharge himself for another year of monotony and boredom.


But the much-awaited seven days’ holidays came and went too fast. Before he could plan how to make the best use of it, it vanished. Another year of servitude to the dreadful job awaited him after this fleeting year-end holiday ended.

The speaker was a miserable worker at the office. He detested the rigidity, inhumane and stifling environment pervasive in his work place. His mood often swung to extreme frustration. Enduring the relentless pain, both his mind and body shimmered in discontent. The anguish loomed large on his face. Slowly it debilitated his body. His self confidence deserted him. Fear of failure gripped his inner self. Slowly, the fear crept into his bed room. In the darkness of night, he wondered if he had made any mistake in the many entries and the number juggling he did during the course of his work in the office. He reached 50, with no hope of freedom from the stranglehold of his dreadful work.

The speaker’s colleagues, puzzled at his pallid face and sagging spirit would inquire about his well being. Perhaps, his discomfiture in the work place had been taken note of by his employers, he feared. That lurking anxiety was very unsettling.

One day Mr. L—, a junior partner of the firm, called him to his side and very kindly asked him the reason of his torment. Confronted with such a searching question, he admitted that he was finding it hard to cope up with the work pressure. Even he went to the extent of saying that he might have to leave his job soon. Mr. L — comforted him with some kind words. The matter stopped there.

For a whole week after this encounter, the speaker regretted his indiscretion. He thought he should not have divulged his inadequacies. Some nervous times passed. On 12th April, a very tense moment arrived when he was asked to stay back after the office hours. He knew the doomsday had finally arrived and his dismissal from job was imminent. With fear pounding his heart, he tiptoed to the back parlour where the entire top management of the firm had assembled.

On facing the team, he could see a small smile in Mr. L—’s face. Then Mr. B—, the senior-most partner began his long speech narrating how he had served the firm so long and with such aplomb. Mr. B– told it was time for him to call it a day. Bewilderment and fear made his blood race through his veins. He braced himself for the worst crisis to explode. Then, Mr. B — made some brief inquiries about his wealth and property. Finally, he declared that the firm would retire him soon, and give him a pension equivalent to two third of his salary! Other members assented with a mechanical nod.

Lamb was overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude, joy, and relief. With his brain in a tizzy, he told them to treat that day as his final and thanking them profusely, walked home. For a moment he thought his company — the house of Boldero, Merryweather, Bosanquet, and Lacy – was the most caring company on earth.

Lamb was in cloud 9. A ceaseless torrent of happiness raced through his mind. It took a long time for the just-retired (or just-freed) employee to let the joy sink in. For a while, he felt disoriented like the Bastille prisoner let free after four decades.

He knew he would have all his time to himself. It felt as if he had entered the realm of Eternity. His elation knew no bounds. He felt he was a man of great wealth whose property was to be managed by a full-time manager.  A mix of hallucinatory euphoria swept through his mind.

Slowly and steadily, he got used to his new life with no job, no rigid routine, no fear, and no worries. He felt truly contented. When he felt he had too much time to spare, long walks, one of his favorite pastimes provided him the escape from boredom.

The speaker also took to reading leisurely, selectively and joyfully. There was no need to pour over books straining eyes in dim candle light. Life thus began to fall in to an easy pace.

When the speaker reminisced about the fifty years of past life gone by, he realized he had devoted a lion’s share of his time for the service of others. Now, he would have all his time for himself. Thus, if he managed to live ten more years, that would be equivalent to thirty years of his past life. Often, he felt he had retired long long back. The memory of his bosses and the colleagues at the Counting House faded from his mind quite fast.


He visited his old colleagues in the office, and was received with a lot of warmth, bonhomie and banter. It made him to wonder why he had dreaded his desk so much when he was in service. Now, the environment appeared not the least unfriendly or oppressive.

He bid good bye to his friends promising to come again, and imploring them to do their work diligently.

He returned home to his restful and carefree life. He wandered around as he pleased, did what he liked, and lived the way that pleased him most. At times, he was in the Bond Street at 11 in the morning. He often dropped into Soho – his favourite bookshop.

For him, time stretched endlessly. He felt as if it was thirty years since he retired. He thought about Fish-street Hill, Fenchurch-street, and the Stones of old Mincing-lane, which he had visited umpteen times in the thirty six years of his service.

Deep in his heart, he felt as if time was flying past as he visited the Elgin Marbles. Was he passing to another world, he wondered. His mind experienced contrasting feelings. At times, it appeared life had become so uneventful. Time appeared to stand still. He lost track of the calendar. The yearning for the Sunday was not there. Nor did he experience the typical mid-week feeling on Wednesday. Saturday nights had lost their characteristics. Now all days of the week appeared equal with no torment, no anxiety and no worries.

Now, the author could visit the church on Sundays without worrying about the scarce time being lost. He could visit a sick friend. He could pay an unannounced visit to a very busy person. He could tease him to join a pleasure visit to Winsor in the morning. He could even indulge in some social welfare work for the poor. He felt he was making the best of the ample leisure time at his disposal. The time was being well spent with no sense of boredom or guilt or laziness. He hated the factories and the offices that made life so insufferable with monotonous work.

At the end, he sang the praise of his post-retirement life declaring how contented he was to have lived his life to its full. No regrets.
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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Malapropism: An Overview

Malapropism: An Overview


Malapropism

‘Mal’ is originally a French prefix which means ‘ill’ and ‘aprop’ means ‘to the purpose’. Malapropism is the wrong use of similar sounding word that results in a nonsensical and humorous expression

Mrs. Malaprop is  a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s famous play, The Rivals.  She is famous for her notorious use of words or phrases which gives her a special status representing a new form of entertaining verbal felicity. The oddity of Mrs. Malaprop’s language is popularly known as Malapropism which has become a subject of discussion in English philology.
..
What Mrs. Malaprop says
What Mrs. Malaprop wants to mean
Allegory
Alligator
Envoy
Convoy
Dissolve
Resolve
Felicity
Velocity
Illuminate
Elucidate
Analysed
Paralysed


Common Example:
Malapropism is a common phenomenon in our daily life.

1) You lead the way and we'll precede. (proceed)
Malapropism: An Overview



2) Having one wife is called monotony. (monogamy)
3) Good punctuation means not to be late. (punctuality)


Literary Example:


William Shakespeare uses malapropism in his plays as well. Look at the following example of malapropism uttered by Constable Dogberry in Act III Scene 5 of “Much Ado About Nothing”:

“Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons.”

Here the use of ‘comprehended’ for ‘apprehended’ and ‘auspicious’ for ‘suspicious.’


Malapropism is the direct influence of the Latin and Greek words after Renaissance. The half educated people were tempted to use such way which laid to ridiculous mistakes.

The effect of Malapropism as Sheridan employed is to raise the feeling of ludicrousness. It also acts the farcical element in rhetoric. Although it is considered an error in speech, malapropism is a great source of humour in both everyday life as well as literature.

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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Picture of Contemporary Social Life in "Beowulf"

Picture of Contemporary Social Life in "Beowulf"



Literature of people springs directly out of its life. Beowulf which is considered to be the oldest surviving epic of the Teutonic  people affords us a glimpse into the customs and traditions, philosophy and life-style of the heroic age of Germania which is also known as the  Age of National Migrations.

The scenic background is well-suited for the men. The people who are tillers and hunters were also compelled by circumstances to become fierce sea-rovers. Outwardly their life was a constant hardship, a perpetual struggle against savage Nature and savage men. Behind them were gloomy forests inhabited by wild beasts and still wilder men, and peopled in their imagination with dragons an evil shapes. In front of them, thundering at very dikes for entrance, was the treacherous North Sea, with its fogs and storms and ice. Yet, they love sea; and because they love it they hear and answer its call.

Beowulf is heroic in spirit, chivalrous in content and humanistic in appeal. The poem celebrates of Beowulf, a Teutonic tribal lord who devotes himself to the worthy cause of protecting the weak against the wicked. Beowulf fights and saves the weak and innocent people against the monsters and the dragon of his land: ‘Death is better for all earls than a shameful life.’

People wore clothes made from woollen cloth or animal skins. Men wore tunics, with tight trousers or leggings, wrapped around with strips of cloth or leather. Women wore long
Picture of Contemporary Social Life in "Beowulf"
dresses. Women spun the wool from sheep and goats to make thread. They used a loom to weave the thread into cloth. Clothing styles varied from region to region. For instance, an Anglican woman fastened her dress with a long brooch.

Fighting, banqueting, and carousing are everyday occurrences. The warriors are devoted to, as a critic puts it, “glee in the hall and glory in the field”, and their possessions are gold cups and gold armour.

A man’s life is more than his work; his dream is ever greater than his achievements; and literature not only scans his deeds but also the splendid things that he ever hopes to do. Those early sea kings were mixture of savagery and sentiment, rough living and deep feeling, chivalry and melancholy. They knew their limitations well and answered their problems accordingly.

Ancient Teutonic literature usually suffers from a paucity of feminine interest. But in
Picture of Contemporary Social Life in "Beowulf"
Beowulf, the graceful presence of Wealthow indicates the happy position enjoyed by women in society.

The men described in Anglo-Saxon literature are men of few words. They are brave and loyal, valorous and implacable. They were highly conscious of their heritage- hence the bloody feuds. Honour gives them the staff of their life, and this honour is chiefly won by physical valour.

The philosophy of life expressed by the poem is powerful but not rejuvenating. Beowulf knows the day will come when fate will be stronger than himself. His Pre-Christian faith does not offer him consolations of heaven. But still he carries of the violent fight with the evil. For the life is not the bed of roses, rather the bed of thorns.

Though full of Christian interpolations and Biblical references like the ‘Song of Creation’, ‘the Race of Cain, the dominating spirit of the poem is pagan one. The funeral described towards the end is also definitely pagan. Pagan element is also evident in the descriptions of feats and halls and in the belief in the inscrutable fate. The dead are cremated, omens are observed, sacrifices are vowed at the temple of idols.

Though containing splendid pictures of the glorious life of the Heroic age, the poem gives the impression of having come out of ‘a cold cell in Northumbrian cloister’.

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Beowulf as an Epic

Beowulf as an Epic

 An epic hero is, in short, the hero of an epic. In Beowulf, the
Beowulf as an Epic
Anglo-Saxon hero is well defined by the actions of Beowulf. It is obvious that Beowulf is the quintessential hero. His strength and courage are unparalleled, and he is much more humble (and honorable) than many of the corrupt warriors around him. Beowulf displays his great strength time after time. As a critic puts it, “ Beowulf is to the Englishman what Achilles is to the Greeks.”



In Beowulf, heroic life is crystallised into generic scenes like voyage, welcome, feast, fight, reward etc. The legacy and customs of Germanic antiquity are described in minute detail.


The noble ending of the poem is essentially epical. The poem ends with the burning of Beowulf body and treasures on a funeral pure amid the lamentation of the people. A Monumental borrow was built to perpetuate his memory. However, the notes of stoical resignation and the fatalistic approach also have a stately epic dignity.


Some critics feel Beowulf lacks some of the criteria of a true epic. It’s shorter length and lacks of unity of action are highly objectionable.


Thus, Beowulf may not satisfy all the characteristics of an epic, but it may certainly be called an epic in an embryonic stage. An eloquent celebration of heroic life and death, the poem has a glorious majesty and an austere splendour typical of the epic.
Beowulf as an Epic

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Monday, 23 November 2015

Symbolism: Definition & Examples

Symbolism: Definition & Examples



Symbolism

Etymological Meaning:


Interestingly, the word symbolismderived from the Greek word ‘symballein’ (a compound of the word ‘syn’=together and ‘ballein’=to throw), means to throw together. With symbolism, authors create layers of meaning because symbols often have more than one meaning.



Definition and Meaning:


Generally, symbolism is an object representing another to give it an entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more significant. Sometimes, however, an action, an event or a word spoken by someone may have a symbolic value. For instance, “smile” is a symbol of friendship. Other literary devices, such as metaphor, allegory, and allusion, aid in the development of symbolism. Authors use symbolism to tie certain things that may initially seem unimportant to more universal themes
Symbolism: Definition & Examples
.



Some Common Usages and; Examples:


In our daily life, we can easily identify objects, which can be taken as examples of symbol such as the following:

1) The dove is a symbol of peace.
Symbolism: Definition & Examples

2) A red rose or red color stands for love or romance.

3) Black is a symbol that represents evil or death.

4) A ladder may stand as a symbol for a connection between the heaven and the earth.

            5) A broken mirror may symbolize separation.

            6) ‘Ashoka Chakra’ in our National Flag is a symbol of ‘progress’.



Literary Examples:



Example -1


LADY MACBETH: Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!

(Sleep Walking Scene, Macbeth by William Shakespeare)

The literal “spot” she is trying to rid herself of is King Duncan’s blood, though the spot is a symbol for the mark on her conscience. Here the blood spot is the symbol of ‘the act of crime’.


Example-2

In the poem “The Sick Rose” by William Blake, ‘the Rose’ is a symbol of ‘innocence’ and the ‘invisible worm’ is a symbol of ‘experience’.



Example-3

We find symbolic value in Shakespeare’s famous monologue in his play As you Like It:


“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

they have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,”


The above lines are symbolic of the fact that men and women, in course of their life perform different roles. “A stage” here symbolizes the world and “players” is a symbol for human beings.


Example-4

One notable example is in Joseph Conrad’s aptly titled Heart of Darkness, where the “darkness” of the African continent in his work is supposed to symbolize its backwardness and the possibility of evil there.


Example-5


“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”

(The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)


J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous fantasy series, The Lord of the Rings, is a hero’s quest in which the hobbit Frodo Baggins must destroy an all-powerful ring. This object is imbued with magic through its creation, and is a symbol for ultimate power. The ultimate power also becomes equated with evil. The ring simply being in Frodo’s presence begins to turn Frodo toward desire of power, and thus evil. However, Frodo’s ability to combat the power of the ring shows that he possesses a great inner source of goodness



Functions:


Symbolism gives a writer freedom to add double levels of meanings to his work: a literal one that is self-evident and the symbolic one whose meaning is far more profound than the literal one. The symbolism, therefore, gives universality to the characters and the themes of a piece of literature.


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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Some Important Short Notes from Herbert's "The Pulley"

Some Important Short Notes from Herbert's "The Pulley"



Q.      Asses George Herbert’s The Pulley as a metaphysical poem?

What is distinctly metaphysical about the poem is that a religious notion is conveyed through a secular, scientific image that requires the reader's acquaintance with, and understanding of, some basic laws of physics. Pulleys and hoists are mechanical devices aimed at assisting us with moving heavy loads through a system of ropes and wheels (pulleys) to gain advantage. We should not be surprised at the use of a pulley as a central conceit since the domain of physics and imagery from that discipline would have felt quite comfortable to most of the metaphysical poets. 

Q.       Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
           If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
           May toss him to my breast.”                                           - Explain

The Supreme Creator delves into His jar of blessings that contains virtues and attributes, bestowing strength, beauty, wisdom, honor, and pleasure upon man. Wishing that man reach for heaven for his peace rather than being complacent with nature, the Creator uses the metaphorical "pulley" of restlessness which will draw man to reach for heaven and attain spiritual perfection, rather than being satisfied on earth with Nature. It is in his weariness, then, that man will realize his imperfections and his need for God and the spiritual life. Then, he will reach for God's "pulley" and seek heaven. If love of God does not return man to him, his weariness of the world will.  God wants an emotional relationship with man.

Q.      How far the title of the poem “The Pulley” is justified?


The key to understanding the poem's title is two-fold: the denotation and connotation of the word, pulley. A pulley is a mechanical device used for lifting weights with a downward application of force.  The poet places this contraption then in the hands of God to ascribe certain qualities to man: loveliness, astuteness, reverence, enjoyment. God pulls each sacred gift from a glass brimming over until he comes to the last one. Man falls into the trap, in the process, forgetting his true nature, borne out by these possessions. Herbert professes that God uses Rest as a pulley to pull Man towards Him, it was indeed within Man from the beginning. Thus, the title of the poem clearly highlights the main tune of the poem.



Q.      Consider “The Pulley” as a religious poem.



Mankind takes pride in its religious traditions, legends and literature. Through ages religion is the part and parcel of human life. Therefore, great devotional poets have given to powerful expressions to their faith in God. For George Herbert poetry is religion and religion poetry. He believed that a man should dedicate all his gifts to God’s service, that a poet should make the altar blossom with his poetry. Accordingly his most famous poem included in The Temple (1633), The Temple as well as his other poems like "Virtue" and The Pulley are full of faith and fervor. in The Pulley, the poet declares that his present religious vocation is no more than a ‘cage’. The bond between man and God which he had thought to be exceptionally strong ‘coble’ to draw him from the earth to heaven was actually nothing but a ‘rope of sands’. He feels that it is because of his weakness that he has been so firmly enslaved by God. Even the message of death, the Biblical remainder that man must one day turn to dust and then face the wrath of God was only an illusion.


Q.      What is the jewel of God’s blessings? Why does God decide not to bestow it on man?
‘Rest’ is God’s most precious gift to man.

Since first attaining consciousness, the human creature has been plagued with feelings of restlessness. This has resulted in finding new and better ways of doing things. Herbert intends to use pun on this word to emphasize on the rest that man can afford every day and the ultimate rest that is in the hands of God. While man is allowed the pleasure of all gifts, he retains ‘rest’ with him because it was man’s choice to decide the time of rest, he will either end up using God’s other gifts completely or over-use it to such an extent to forget the creator of these. So he created pain along with pleasure to let man realize His worth. In that sense, this feeling of restlessness has been a boon and blessing to all mankind.

Q. What does the expression mean ‘So both should losers be’ in the poem “The Pulley”?

By denying man the most precious jewel, "rest," God has not been unkind to Man but he has only been all the more good to him. It is this denial of "rest" which acts as the "pulley" which always draws restless Man to God and also helps God to keep ambitious and wayward Man under His control.  If God had not been kind enough to deny Man "rest" then Man would not seek God and he would lose eternity and consequently God would also lose Man to the eternal fires of hell: "So both should losers be." Paradoxically, God the 'giver' by refusing to give the most precious gift proves himself to be all the more generous and kind.

Q. What did the God hope in the final stanza of the poem, "The Pulley"?


 The poet, George Herbert in the final stanza of his poem, “The Pulley” hoped that the human beings, in spite of having all the supreme qualities like ‘beauty’, ‘honour’, ‘wisdom’, ‘pleasure’ bestowed by the God, have to come to God as they lack best gift ‘rest’. God has withheld the gift of rest from man knowing fully well that His other treasures would one day result in a spiritual restlessness and fatigue in man who, having tired of His material gifts, would necessarily turn to God in his exhaustion. God, being omniscient and prescient, knows that there is the possibility that even the wicked might not turn to Him, but He knows that eventually mortal man is prone to lethargy; his lassitude, then, would be the leverage He needed to toss man to His breast.

~~~~~*~~~~~
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