September 2016 ~ All About English Literature

For Exclusive Notes and Analysis

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Mysticism and Transcendentalism in Walt Whitman's Poem, "Song of Myself"


Mysticism is not really a coherent philosophy of life, but more a temper of mind. A mystic vision is intuitive; a mystic feels the presence of divine reality behind and within the ordinary world of sense and perception. He feels that God and the supreme soul animating all things are identical. He believes that all things in the visible world are but forms and manifestations of the one Divine life.

The self-proclaimed “American Bard” Walt Whitman is undoubtedly a mystic and transcendental poet. He shocked his contemporaries by his embrace of the sensual; “Song of Myself” has been regarded as a prolonged expression of an experience that is essentially mystical. The beautiful sampling of Whitman’s poetry from “Song of Myself” offers a glimpse into the spiritual side of his most radical themes–love for country, love for others and love for self. Whitman seeks to tear down the belief the spiritual resides only in the religious and embraces the idea that nothing is more divine than humankind, nothing greater than individual soul. There is a great deal of sexual elements in Whitman’s poetry; sexual connotations are inseparable from the mystical experience.

In “Song of Myself” Whitman’s overjoyed revelation of union of his body with his soul has been depicted in his mystic expression. Held in the trance-like grip of the soul from beard to feet, the poet has a feeling of fraternity and oneness with God and his fellowmen:

“And I know the hand of God is the promise of my own
 And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own
And that all – of the creation of love.”

As a mystic Whitman believed that there is no difference between Creator and the Creation. His “self” is a universal self. He sees people of both sexes, all ages, many different walks of life; even animals are included. The poet along with the divine spirit not only loves them all; he is also a part of them.
      
In “Song of Myself”, mystical experience is symbolically conveyed through a piece of sensuous experience. Being a mystic poet of his own kind, Whitman gives equal importance to body and soul; he becomes the spokesman of the “forbidden voices” of ‘sexes and lusts indecent.’ He loves his body and is sensitive to another’s touch. Both the lady and the prostitute enjoy equal position in his poetry, for the inner reality, the soul has been created by the same God. Whitman declares: “If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.” Thus he takes equal delight both in good and bad, noble or ignoble.

Whitman does not reject the material world. He seeks the spiritual through the material. He does not subscribe to the belief that objects illusive. There is no tendency on the part of the soul to leave this world for God. Whitman does not belittle the achievements of science and materialism.

 “Hurrah for positive science!
Long live exact demonstration.”
Whitman praises not merely life, but absolute worth of every particular and individual person. Thus, his comic consciousness is the result of the expansion of the ego. The word “I” assumes an enlarged universal connotation bringing the smallest and the greatest things of the universe within its compass.

James E. Miller considers Whitman’s Song of Myself as “inverted mystical experience”. While the traditional mystic attempts to annihilate himself and mortify his senses in preparation for his union with the divine; Whitman magnifies the self and glorifies the senses in his progress towards the union with the absolute. Although Whitman is influenced by Emerson and oriental mysticism, yet there is a difference between Whitman’s mysticism and the mysticism of Orient. Oriental mystic believes that communication between soul and God is possible only through the mortification or conquest of the senses and the physical appetites. On the other hand Whitman believes that spiritual experiences are possible without sacrificing the physical appetites.

Whitman seldom lost touch with the physical reality even in the mist of his mystical experience. Physical phenomena for him were symbols of spiritual reality. He believed that “the unseen is proved by seen”; thus he makes use of highly sensuous and concrete imagery to convey his perception of divine reality. He finds a purpose behind any natural objects- grass, sea, birds, flowers animals etc.

Whitman is a mystic as much as he is a poet of democracy and science, but a “mystic without a creed.” Song of Myself portrays Whitman's poetic birth and the mystical journey; the poet feels the exhilaration of being no longer bound by the ties of space and time: he is "afoot with" his "vision." He feels able, indeed, to range back and forth over all time, and to soar like a meteor out into space. His entity is unique: he can assume the "gigantic beauty of a stallion" and can turn himself  into a departing air or annihilate himself into a dirt.

The poet does not deny but dismisses his "contradictions," asserting, "I am large, I contain multitudes." In the beginning the poet vows to "permit to speak at every hazard, / Nature without check with original energy." Leaving "Creeds and schools in abeyance" , he goes "to the bank by the wood” and becomes “ undisguised and naked" similarly, at the end, he describes himself as "not a bit tamed," as "untranslatable," as one who sounds his "barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world." His journey over and done, he prepares for departure, bequeathing himself "to the dirt to grow from the grass" he loves, and tells the reader: "If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles." At the end, the poet admonishes his readers to "keep encouraged" and continue their search for him, promising: "I stop somewhere waiting for you." 
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Sunday, 11 September 2016

Download Chinua Achebe's Stunning Novel "Things Fall Apart"

Download Chinua Achebe's Stunning Novel "Things Fall Apart"

Nobel Laureate, Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart is regarded the alpha of Anglo-African literature. It is the book that brought the story from the ‘Dark Continent’ through the voice of an educated African through which he showed the conflict between African values and the advent of Christianity in Nigeria.

First published in 1958 – the year after Ghana became the first African nation to gain independence, as Britain, France and Belgium started to recognise the end of colonialism in Africa and began their unseemly withdrawal – Chinua Achebe's debut novel concerns itself with the events surrounding the start of this disastrous chapter in African history.

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is a beautiful novel - as an extended metaphor for African despoliation, life and politics it works wonderfully. Beautiful is, perhaps, a strange word to describe this essentially melancholic novel but whilst Things Fall Apart is a sorrowful affair it is never a despondent one. The scenes from the life of Nigeria's Ibo society are painted with an assured, uplifting clarity and they resonate brightly - and long. Okonkwo is an excellent, wonderfully human, central character: strong; headstrong; wilful; proud. A traditionalist, he is acutely aware of the pitfalls of forgetting the past but he is blind to the absurdities, cruelties and sheer backwardness of certain of his tribe's customs and of his own, sometimes outrageous, actions.


Okonkwo is an ambitious man within the Umuofia clan of the Igbo tribe. Determined to be a lord, he observes its rules, even the harshest of them, though that observance will eventually drive away his own son.

Achebe guides us through the intricacies of Igbo culture, its profound sense of justice, its sometimes murderous rules, and its noble and harmful machismo.

By the time the British colonial administrator arrives towards the end of the book to dismiss the natives as savages, we know how profoundly mistaken that word is. Everything that Okonkwo holds dear becomes threatened after an accidental shooting. Okonkwo must flee with his family from his beloved village for seven years, losing the life that he worked so hard to gain.

He gets through his seven years of exile only to go back home and discover that everything has changed. White missionaries have come to convert Africa to their ways.

It portrays the collision of African and European cultures in people’s lives. Okonkwo, a great man in Igbo traditional society, cannot adapt to the profound changes brought about by British colonial rule.

Yet, as in classic tragedy, Okonkwo’s downfall results from his own character as well as from external forces.

Achebe’s is an essentially melancholic novel and an extended metaphor for African despoliation, life and politics. Things Fall Apart is a sorrowful affair but not a despondent one.

The scenes from the life of Nigeria’s Igbo society are painted with an assured, uplifting clarity and they resonate brightly - and long. Okonkwo is an excellent, wonderfully human, central character: strong; headstrong; willful; proud.

A traditionalist, he is acutely aware of the pitfalls of forgetting the past but he is blind to the absurdities, cruelties and sheer backwardness of certain of his tribe’s customs and of his own, sometimes outrageous, actions.

Achebe shows how African cultures vary among themselves and how they change over time.

Things Fall Apart translated into 50 languages, taught in high schools all over the world, was the first ‘African’ book that was written with the real voices of Africans, hence giving a correct representation of the real Africa.

Achebe said of his first novel that Things Fall Apart was ‘an act of atonement with my past, the ritual return and homage of a prodigal son.’

He wished to teach his (African) readers that ‘their past …with all its imperfections … was not one long night of savagery from which the Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them’.

The first part of a trilogy, Things Fall Apart was one of the first African novels to gain worldwide recognition: half a century on, it remains one of the great novels about the colonial era. This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

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Saturday, 10 September 2016

Consider How Far the Title of Jane Austen's Novel, "Pride and Prejudice" is Justified?

Consider How Far the Title of Jane Austen's Novel, "Pride and Prejudice"is Justified

Jane Austen, with her powerful artistic touch pens down in Pride & Prejudice her concern for the then society drunk with reputation and appearance. First written in 1797 under the title First Impressions, it was later revised and published as Pride and Prejudice in 1813. The theme of judgment runs throughout the novel as prejudging people is a favourite pastime illustrated by the opening sentence “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen borrowed the title from Fanny Burney’s novel Cecilia, “The whole unfortunate business was the result of Pride and Prejudice.”

The two pivotal characters are both guilty of pride and prejudice and must learn the errors of their ways before they can live “happily ever after”. Elizabeth Bennet, Austen’s heroine, believes herself to be a very shrewd judge of character, but her pride allows herself to fall victim of her own set of prejudices. On the other hand, Darcy is proud of his refinement and superiority of social standing. This leads him to a general prejudice for all those below his social status. The novel is about the pride of Darcy and the prejudice of Elizabeth caused by their mutual misunderstanding.

Earlier in the novel, Mary describes Pride as “…a common failing. Human nature is particularly prone to it”. Mr. Darcy stands as the most obviously proud character. Wickham tells Elizabeth that he has a ‘filial pride’ and we tend to agree with Mrs. Bennett’s complaint that “He walked here and he walked there, fancying himself so very great”.

His haughty manners at the ball gave people a very bad impression of his personality, especially Elizabeth, whom he considered as “tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt (him)”. Lady Catherine, Miss Bingley and even Elizabeth Bennett constitute the other proud characters. While Lady Catherine’s patronizing behaviour and Miss Bingley’s rudeness are due to their social class, Elizabeth can be deemed proud on the account that she has high respect for herself and this is best displayed when Elizabeth refers to Darcy: “And I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” Being rejected by him at the ball, her prejudice mounts up and from the start; she willfully misinterprets all his utterances and actions.

Darcy’s pride stemming from the superiority of intellect, his noble ancestry and his enormous riches prejudices him strongly against Elizabeth’s family and her low connections. Although “he had never been bewitched by any woman as he was by her”, Darcy feels beneath his dignity to admit to his love for her. Even when he can repress his feelings no longer and does propose to Elizabeth, “he was not more eloquent on the subject of the tenderness than on pride”. He is considerably humbled when he is rejected without ceremony, and Elizabeth’s words “had you behaved in a more gentleman like manner” and her criticism of his self-conceit affects him deeply.

Elizabeth’s refusal initiates a process of introspection and self analysis in Darcy. Consequently, he emerges as a man who has gone through a considerable transition. This is revealed by his long explanatory speech to Elizabeth towards the end of the novel. The greatest proof of this transition is in his remaining firm in his choice of Elizabeth even after Lydia-Wickham elopement which draws from Elizabeth the acknowledgement- “indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable.”

Elizabeth's judgments about other characters' dispositions are accurate but only half of the time.  While she is correct about Mr. Collins and how absurdly self-serving and sycophantic he is and about Lady Catherine de Bourgh and how proud and snobbish she is, her first impressions of Wickham and Darcy steer her incorrectly.  When Charlotte tries to show Elizabeth the agreeable side of Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth cries out in a disdainful manner: “To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil”. It is only when she reads Darcy’s letter that her eyes are opened to the true characters of both Darcy and Wickham
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In fact Darcy’s letter introduces in Elizabeth the same self-criticism that Darcy too undergoes. Thus Elizabeth realizes her folly in trusting her first impressions and states, "how despicably have I acted. I, who have prided myself on my discernment! - I, who have valued myself on my abilities."

 To sum up, the title, Pride and Prejudice very aptly pins down to the theme of the novel. The two protagonists have been tangling with pride and prejudice throughout the novel. They also struggled to put down their pride and get rid of their prejudice. However, to say that Darcy is proud and Elizabeth is prejudiced is to tell but half of the story. The fact is that both Darcy and Elizabeth are proud and prejudiced. The novel makes clear the fact the Darcy’s pride leads to prejudice and Elizabeth’s prejudice stems from a pride in her own perceptions.
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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Critical Appreciation of Ramanujan's poem "A River" or What light does a river throw on the poetical characteristics of Ramanujan? or Comment on Ramanujan's use of Irony in the poem "A River"


A.K. Ramanujan’s ‘A River’ is of his finest poem taken from his magnum opus, The Striders (1965). Here the poet has compared and contrasted the attitudes of the old poets and those of the new poets to human suffering. He has come to the conclusion that both the groups of the poets are indifferent to human sorrow and suffering. Their poetry does not reflect the miseries of the human beings. He has proved this point in the present poem.



The poem is all about a river, Vaigai which flows through the heart of Madurai city, the centre of Tamil culture. The word Madurai means a “sweet city”. It is a Tamil word. As a matter of fact, this city is the seat of Tamil culture and learning. It is also a holy city full of temples including the famous Meenakshi Temple. The poets have written many poems on the temples and the river. In the poem A River the poet presents two strikingly contrasting pictures of the river: a vivid picture of the river in the summer season and the river in its full flow when the floods arrive with devastating fury.





In the summer, the river is almost empty. Only a very thin stream of water flows. So the sand ribs on the bed of the river are visible. The stones that lie on the bed of the river also exposed to view. On the Sandy bed could be seen the hair and straw clogging the Watergates. The iron bars under the bridge are in need of repair. The wet stones are all like the sleeping crocodiles. The dry stones look like the shaven buffaloes. It is a wonder for the poet because not too often such scenes are described by the poets. All those symbolize the utter wretchedness and degeneration of human condition in Hindu culture



During the rainy season when the floods hit, the poets of past and present observe it very anxiously. They remember the rising of the river inch by inch from time to time. They remember how the stone steps of the bathing place are submerged one by one. Three village houses were swept away. The news came of a pregnant lady and a couple of cows being washed away. Even the new poets do not bother to write about all these things. They look at it still in the old way as seen by the old poets. In the past, the poets were the appreciators of the cities, temples, rivers, streams and are indifferent to the miseries of human beings and animals. The river dries to a trickle in every summer the “poets sang only of the floods.” Flood is the symbol of destruction to person and property. The poets of today still quoted the old poets sans the relevancy of life:




“The new poets still quoted

the old poets, but no one spoke

in verse of the pregnant woman –
drowned, with perhaps twins in her,
kicking at the blank walls even before birth.”




The above lines satirize and debunk the traditional romantic view of the river Vaigai in Madurai, by the ancient poets. The image of “pregnant woman” implies a fine example of two generations, the present and the future. This is a poignant imagery full of pathos. R. Parthasarathy verily remarks “The relative attitudes of the old and new Tamil poets, both of whom are exposed for their callousness to suffering, when it is so obvious as a result of the flood.” The coloured diapers of the twins symbolize the black people and the white people. The use of wit, irony and humour, and dramatic imagery is distinctive of his style. Also we may label “A River” as a tragic-comic poem.

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Saturday, 3 September 2016

Father's Gift: Motivational Story

Father's Gift: Motivational Story

Everybody talks about Mother’s love.... Yes, she is an Angel of God. But that can’t be the real reason why we underestimate or undervalue Father’s selfless contribution and sacrifice. Here is a wonderful story....   

One Day An 11 Year Old Girl Asked Her Daddy, ”What Are You Going To Get Me For My 15th Birthday ?”

The Father Replied, “There Is Much Time Left.”

When The Girl Was 14 She Fainted And Was Rushed To The Hospital. The Doctor Came Out And Told Her Dad She Had A Bad Heart & She Is Probably Gonna Die…

When She Was Lying In The Hospital Bed, She Said “Daddy… Have They Told You I Am Going To Die ?” The Father Replied; “No You Will Live” As He Left Weeping.

She Said “How Can You Be Sure.” He Turned Around From The Door And Said”I Know.”

She Turns 15 When She Is Recovering And Comes Home To Find A Letter On Her Bed. It Says : ”My Dearest Daughter, If You Are Reading This It Means All Went Well As I Told You. One Day You Asked Me What I Was Giving You For Your 15th Birthday,

I Didn’t Know Then But Now My Present To You Is MY HEART.”


Her Father had Donated His Heart … !

‘BLESSED INDEED IS THE MAN WHO HEARS MANY GENTLE VOICES CALL HIM FATHER’

He makes Many silent Sacrifice for us ~ Love u Daddy;)
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