2018 ~ All About English Literature

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Sunday, 30 December 2018

Charles Lamb’s prose style as revealed in his essay The Dream Children: A Reverie

Charles Lamb’s prose style as revealed in his essay The Dream Children: A Reverie

Charles Lamb occupies a unique place in the history of the English prose by virtue of his unique style. All of Lamb's major trademarks as an essayist are to be found in this work: overall, a relaxed and colloquial voice and a genteel sensibility incorporating elements of humour, whimsy, strong personal recollection and touches of pathos. He himself characterizes his own style as a “self-pleasing quaintness.” All these mark him out as one of the great exponents of the familiar essay in English in the nineteenth century, along with Thomas de Quincey and William Hazlitt. However, he is unique by the virtue of his telling stories bearing his personality as forever sweet memories, the quality as one of “Elia's” distinctive hallmarks, along with his fondness for the obscure and other idiosyncrasies.
As already stated, 'Dream Children: A Reverie' exhibits all Lamb's strengths as an essayist. It is short but effective in encompassing a range of moods. It starts out on a convivial and realistic note with the picture of a cozy domestic setting in which the writer regales his two children with stories of the family past; yet by the end this picture has dissolved into nothingness, is revealed to be a mere dream, or ‘reverie’ on part of the writer. It is, in fact, the picture of the family that Lamb longed for but never actually had, as he never married, instead devoting a lifetime to caring for his sister Mary (who appears as Bridget in his essays) who was afflicted with periodical insanity.
The real achievement of this piece lies in the compact evocation both of the solid realism of family life and nostalgia for a family past, incorporating the memory of a lost love, Alice, and also of Lamb’s older brother, before merging into the air of dream. More, he also skillfully conjures a genuine sense of eeriness when the two children reveal themselves to be mere dream, the products of wishful thinking, before the dreamer wakes up:
 “We are not of Alice, nor of thee, nor are we children at all …. We are nothing; less than nothing, and dreams. We are only what might have been ….”
Procter has pointed out that Lamb is unique not because of his ‘Elizabethanness’, but that one of the most invigorating aspects of Lamb’s style is his dramatic characterization. Though his ‘Phantasm; or imaginary characters are best revealed in his essays  The South Sea HouseMy Own Relation and The Dream Children, we also get a glimpse of – Lamb’s ability of characterization. James Elia of My Relations, but John L- The Dream Children, so handsome and spirited youth, and a ‘king’, Charles’ grandmother Mrs. Field, his sweetheart Alice Winterton are the living pictures in his picture gallery.
Lamb’s another essential component style is his profuse use of quotation and allusions to the older texts. Lamb was a prolific reader and the huge influx of quotations shows that they are constantly in his mind, and are a natural component of his style not raked up on occasion.
George Barnett Lamb has observed, "Lamb's egoism suggests more than Lamb's person: it awakens in the reader reflections of kindred feelings and affections" (Charles Lamb: The Evolution of Elia). To conclude we may say that Lamb’s style is a mixture certainly of many styles, but a chemical not a mechanical mixture.

Blending of humour and pathos in Lamb’s Essay Dream Children: A Reverie Or Discuss how Lamb’s Dream Children is dominated by feeling of ‘Loss’ and ‘Regret’

Blending of humour and pathos in Lamb’s Essay Dream Children: A Reverie Or Discuss how Lamb’s Dream Children is dominated by feeling of ‘Loss’ and ‘Regret’

Wordsworth’s  “Lamb, the frolic and the gentle” was a refined humorist whose smile could be both satirical and tender. In him humour and pathos are, indeed, very often allied. Lamb could not prevent his mind from passing at times to the sadder aspects of life, and there is belief that he laughed to save himself from weeping. Laughter is followed by tears of sympathy in many of his essays. In fact, Lamb’s personal life was full of disappointments and frustrations. But instead of complaining, he looked at the tragedies of life, its miseries and worries as a humorist. Dream Children: A Reverie is a true testimony of his blending of humor and pathos in a single row.

The whole essay permeated with a note of heart sob. With the “viewless wings of poesy” he journeys back to the good old days and pops up stories in front of his dream children. He relates his childhood days, of Mrs. Field, his grandmother and John Lamb, his brother. He describes how fun he had at the great house and orchard in Norfolk. Of his relations he gives us full and vibrant pictures – his brother John (John L-), so handsome and spirited youth, and a ‘king’. John was brave, handsome and won admiration from everybody Charles’ grandmother Mrs. Field is the other living picture. She was a good natured and religions – minded lady of respectable personality.

Charles Lamb’s sweet heart Alice Winterton is the other shadowed reality. The Dream Children, Alice and John are mere bubbles of fancy. Thus Lamb’s nostalgic memory transports us back to those good old days of great grandmother Field. But even in those romantic nostalgia the hard realities of life does not miss our eyes. Death, separation and suffering inject us deep-rooted pathos in our heart. Whereas Mrs. Field died of cancer, John Lamb died in early age. Ann Simmons has been a tale of unrequited love story of Charles Lamb. Notably the children are millions of ages distant of oblivion and Charles is not a married man but a bachelor having a reverie.

In his actual life Lamb courted Ann Simmons but could not marry her, he wanted to have children but could not have any. Thus he strikes a very pathetic note towards the end of his essay when he puts the following word in front of his imaginary offspring:
 “we are not of Alice, nor of thee, nor are we children at all … We are nothing, less than nothing, dreams. We are only what might have been”.

Lamb’s humour was no surface play, but the flower plucked from the nettle of peril and awe. In fact, Lamb’s humour and pathos take different shapes in different essays. Sometimes it is due to his own unfulfilled desires, sometimes it is due to the ill-fortunes of his relatives and friends and on some other occasions it is due to his frustration in love etc.

In any well-balanced piece of writing, humor is supplemented to pathos. Our present essay also appropriates this trademark features. Lamb’s widowhood and parenthood both arouse laughter and sorrow. But the most exuberant source of humor is his fictitious creation of children. In fact, the subtitle of the essay – ‘A Reverie’ which literally means a daydream or a fantasy – prepares us for the pathos of the return to reality although the essay begins on a deceptively realistic note.



Thursday, 20 December 2018

Show Ideas of Love & Marriage during Renaissance

Show Ideas of Love & Marriage during Renaissance

During the Renaissance, Europeans saw love and marriage as two important, but very different, parts of life. Poets described love as an overpowering force, both spiritual and sexual. For most people, however, marriage was a more practical matter. As the basic building block of society, it involved the expectations of families and communities, not just the wishes of two individuals. Although marriage was the normal state of life for most people, many remained unmarried for either practical or religious reasons.

The idea of romantic love took shape in the centuries leading up to the Renaissance. The literature of the Middle Ages developed the concept of courtly love, which treated the beloved as a pure ideal. Two Italian writers of the 1300s, Dante Alighieri and Petrarch, drew on this tradition in their poetry. Each of them presented a beloved woman as a source of inspiration and a symbol of female perfection. European poetry in the following centuries followed their lead, treating love as an experience above and beyond ordinary life. Some poets saw sexual desire as a vital part of love, while others presented love as a pure and selfless emotion. John Donne’s “The Good Morrow”, celebrates love and sexuality in marriage. Some others viewed "platonic" love as the highest and noblest form of love. They saw love as a path to the divine, which was the source of the beloved's beauty. Sydney’s Astophel and Stella, Spenser’s Amoretti , Shakespearean sonnet suggest spiritual aspects of love.

The Renaissance view of marriage had little to do with love. Most people believed that the perfect love of the poets could not exist alongside the everyday concerns of marriage. The reality, of course, was more complicated. Although practical matters played a major role in marriage, some rebels insisted on marrying for love.

At the highest levels of society, a marriage was not just a bond between two people but a union of two families and their fortunes. Marriages between ruling families could seal political alliances and even unite empires. Therefore, among the upper classes, parents took the lead in arranging marriages.

Courtship led to betrothal, which until the late 1600s was an important step in the process of getting married. The legal requirements for a marriage were a confusing mix of church law, local rules, and custom until the mid-1500s. After that time, the church became a legal part of the marriage ceremony. 

Beowulf as an Epic Hero or Character Sketch of Beowulf

Beowulf as an Epic Hero or Character Sketch of Beowulf

Typically, epic heroes are honest, hard-working, loyal, brave, of noble birth and probably good-looking, too. Beowulf has all these qualities. The hero of Beowulf, Beowulf is a Geatish warrior loyal to his king, Hygelac. Beowulf's father was the warrior Ecgtheow, and his mother is a sister of Hygelac. Despite his noble lineage, Beowulf was a bit of a juvenile delinquent, and little was expected of him. But he soon proved his doubters wrong and grew up to be a great warrior. He has the strength of thirty men in his grasp, and rather remarkable swimming ability. In addition to his great warrior skills, Beowulf eventually becomes a strong, powerful, and generous king.

Like a true hero Beowulf possesses enormous inhuman strength. With his skills and talent, he can overcome all. He fears no enemy. He defeats three monsters- Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the fire breathing Dragon. In his last battle, Beowulf was fatally wounded, but he won the battle before he died. This was the fall of a great hero.

Loyalty is the most respected characteristic in Anglo-Saxon society. Beowulf is loyal to king Hrothgar – who once saved his father – evidenced by his arrival to kill the monsters threatening Herot; loyal to his own king; loyal to his own men as evidenced by his decision to stay and with them and sleep in the same place rather than a place of honour. Beowulf is showing loyalty to Hrothgar because of family ties.

“Fame and success, even survival, were gained only through loyalty to the leader.” (Leeming 11)
Friendship is important because it shows another aspect of loyalty. The virtue of friendship is valued among Anglo-Saxons, even though it isn't valued so highly as loyalty.
"Beowulf, you've come to us in friendship, and because of the reception your father found at our court." (Beowulf 191-192)
Beowulf never thinks fighting the monster, that until his arrival, have done nothing but kill before him as evidenced by his courage can be found throughout the text.
Beowulf rounds out in epic quality by proving himself to be a capable ruler. He is not power-hungry guy as he initially refuses the throne of his country and only became king when there is no other option. His reign of fifty years showers peace and prosperity to his country.

Beowulf frequently references giving glory to ‘God’ or the ‘Lord’ after a victory; the traditionally pagan tale passed down orally was finally written by Christian monk, so the faith in God element was likely added as a means of spreading Christianity.

An epic hero is not thoroughly perfect and immortal but he certainly has a sort of super-human caliber. He is larger than life. Beowulf at the end sacrifices him fighting with a dragon to protect his kingdom. Beowulf as a remarkable leader with heroic feats arrests our mind.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Bring out the Significance of the Title of Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story, “Interpreter of Maladies”

The expression ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ suggests clarifying or explaining ailments of the body, mind, or moral. Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies” is an outstanding short story of the vistit of a Bengali-American family, consisting of a couple, Mr. & Mrs. Das, and their three children, little daughter, Tina, and two sons, Ronny and Bobby for a sight-seeing to Sun Temple of Konark, Udaygiri and Khandagiri. The car hired by them was driven by a middle class well dressed gentleman, Mr. Kapasi.

However, apart from being a tour-guide Mr. Kapasi had another job. That was his regular duty. It was the job of the interpreter of different maladies in a doctor’s chamber. Infact his assignment was to learn the nature of ailment of an ordinary Gujrati patient and to explain that in English to the doctor who did not know Gujrati. Here in this story Mr, Kapasi’s function has nothing to do with as an Interpreter in Doctor’s chamber but his major role is associated as an interpreter while acting as a tour-guide to Das family.

As Mr. Kapasi drove the das family and listened to their talk, he felt fascinated by Mrs. Das. He glanced, time and again, through the car-mirror at her physical charm. The situation also brought them closer, as they sat side by side in the road side restaurant and had meal and drink together. Their conversation took an erotic turn when Mrs. Das revealed her long private correspondence. Out of exhaustion Mrs. Das decided to remain with Mr. Kapasi in the car. Mr. Das had to go with his children. It was a time when Mrs. Das told him deep secret and a great moral lapse in her life. Mrs. Das confessed the hard truth that her son Bobby had not been the child of Mr. Das. Mr. Kapasi was stunned and could hardly believe what he had heard. Mrs. Das continued to explain how the baby conceived on a sofa in course of her sexual intercourse with a Punjabi youth, a friend of Mr. Das. She did not make any form of protest.

That was the secret that Mrs. Das had long been concealed from every one. It was definitely a grave moral lapse on her part and totally upset her. This untold mental wound of Mrs. Das was like an internal haemorrhage. Though Mrs. Das would not get any proper remedy from Mr. Kapasi, the interpreter yet his candid confession to him could relieve his mental stress. Initially Mr. Kapasi felt astonished why a lady is disclosing this serious secret to a mere tourist-guide. After all, Mr. Kapasi used to act as an interpreter of maladies. That secret was tormenting her dreadfully. It was nothing less than a psychological malady of a patient.

But the matter remained inconclusive. Mrs. Das had to rush to the hill as a matter of Bobby’s problem with the monkeys. The Das family decided to return to the hotel and so Mr. Kapasi’s suggestion remained untold and unheard.

Mrs. Das’s secret has a significant relevance in the story, though it covers a brief space. Her moral lapse, her guilt-oppressed thought of having illicit sexual affair, though not rare in such a Indo-American family, need to be interpreted for a moral honesty in modern society.  Hence considering this angel the title is well-fitted.



Thursday, 22 November 2018

Bring out the contrast between Hardy’s Pessimism and the Thrush’s Optimism in the poem “The Darkling Thrush”.

Bring out the contrast between Hardy’s Pessimism and the Thrush’s Optimism in the poem “The Darkling Thrush”.

Thomas Hardy is a detached observer of life and a typical product of the Victorian spirit – ‘Fin-de-siècle’. As a poet Hardy’s vision of life is that of a pessimist. Unlike Robert Browning, he finds no hope, no consolation in the life-long tunnel of darkness. His none-too-happy views of life are actually ‘exploration of reality’, for he always strove to grapple with problems of human character and conduct. His “Darkling Thrush” shows the contrast between the desolation of the wintry scene and the joyous song of the aged thrush, between affirmation in the world of Nature and the negation in the poet’s heart. According to A. E. Housman, there is always a “satisfying flatness” in Thomas Hardy’s poem.

Pessimism arises from a clash of human instincts and ambition against the environment. And since his own life has been a story of odds and upsets of financial constraints and unrequited loves he usually turned to be pessimist. The harsh realities of Industrial Revolution left a tremendous impact in the mind of the poet. The life that Hardy saw around him was full of suffering and destruction- for example the life of the Wessex labour with its grim poverty. He often wrote about the human predicament in the universe rather than about the betterment or happiness. His conception of life was essentially tragic. Life was no boon to him, no happiness at all. He therefore announced “Happiness was but an occasional episode in the general drama of pain.” (The Mayor of Casterbridge)

Darkling Thrush begins with a typical Hardyan narrative opening. Winter is drawing to its close and the scene around him is cheerless. People living nearby had retired indoors. There was frost which was pale as ghost. The inclement weather of the winter still prevailed and the sun has already set on the western horizon. The stems of the bine trees have already reached the sky. Each and every member of the society was in earnest quest of their domestic entertainments. The poet is leant upon the gate. The sharp features of the landscape appeared to be the corpse or dead body of the nineteenth century. The century was almost dying. The process of birth and growth seemed to have stopped in the rigorous winter. The sky was cloudy, a storm was blowing. Every living being felt gloom and depression. But suddenly a song issued from the dark and decayed branches of the tree. It was spontaneous and it comes from the inner most core of the heart. It was excessively joyous and delightful. An old thrush that was lean, frail and weak was singing to his heart’s content in the midst of enveloping darkness. His plume was perturbed by the gust of wind. The poet finds the ray of hope in the bird’s song. He hopes for the coming golden future.

Hardy’s thrush represents his pessimism in the midst of optimism or reversal. It seems that Hardy is stranded between optimism and pessimism, between hope and despair. The evening symbolizes left helpless, despair, frustration, metal darkness and disillusionment. But the song of the thrush symbolizes the spirit of hope, a hope for a world of beauty, a world which is devoid of ugliness, the hope of the beginning of a new era or century or Millennium. It represents the passing away of an old century and heralding of a bright and hopeful new century.

In The Darkling Thrush, Hardy the pessimist sings the glory of Hardy, the optimist. Although all was not right with his world, yet all was not wrong, all was not dead. Only for a moment, the pulse of the life seemed to stop but in the very next moment with all spontaneity life spring up with all its “joy illimited”. Beneath the wintry desolation there lies the eternal pulse of germ and birth. Behind the death of the old century there is the birth of new century, behind death and despair there is hope and life. From the very title of the poem it is clear that the thrush is sitting in the dark in the encircling gloom just like Hardy himself in the long drip of human tears. Yet out of this gloom bursts a song of hope, out of the goodnight air trembles forth an air of good morning – if winter comes can spring be far behind”.

Hardy’s The Darkling Thrush is the basis of Hardy’s self-designated evolutionary meliorism”. The poem ends with a note of optimism:
 “Some blessed hope where of he knew
And I was unaware”


Monday, 19 November 2018

Nissim Ezekiel's Indianness or Indian Sensibility in "The Night of the Scorpion"

Nissim Ezekiel's Indianness or Indian Sensibility in "The Night of the Scorpion"

Prof. V.K. Gokak defines Indianness as, “A composite awareness in the matter of race, milieu, language and religion.” But Indianness has been interpreted differently by different critics. It can be described as the author’s feeling of being an Indian, whether he lives in India or lives abroad Indian writing in English reflects the authors’ cultural, socio-political and religious background. Whatever the genre; poetry, drama, fiction or even essays, this unique identity of the Indian author is mirrored. K.N. Daruwalla rightly says; “Nissim Ezekiel was the first Indian poet to express modern Indian sensibility in a modern idiom.”

Though Ezekiel has been criticized as being not authentically Indian on account of his Jewish background, and urban outlook, he could see the essential India in the urban climate of Bombay where he was born and brought up. As he said the Indian writers “Have to make a synthesis between ancient and modern cultures”. In his own poems he tried to achieve a remarkable cultural synthesis between the Jewish and the Indian, the western and the Eastern, and the urban and the rural.

Night of the Scorpion, though a narrative poem, offers a positive image of Indian women and mothers – woman as a creator, protector, and educator and as an integrating force. He recalls the painful night in the life of his mother when she was  stung by a scorpion.:
“The peasants came like swarms of flies
And buzzed the Name of God a hundred times to paralyze the
Evil one.”

Villages are the backbone of India. Ezekiels The Night of the Scorpion depicts a typical Indian village in flesh and blood. The relationship, especially the human relationship is the strongest among the villagers. This is the most ideal humanitarian aspect of village life. Unity of all religions in India is seen here. Peasants of various faiths, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Jews came in large numbers to see her and prayed for her.
“The lines May the sins of your previous birth
Be burned away tonight.”

The priest is the representative of God in most Indian villages. In Night of the Scorpion also, Nissim brings the priest to execute the divine act of destroying the evil through rituals. Indian tradition is rich in spiritual myths and ideologies. The belief in the previous birth and the next birth, and the relevance of the “karma” and the consequent sufferings in the present life, form the basic concept of Hindu mythology in Indian background.

Through the voices of the peasants, the poet echoes the Indian belief in washing away their sins of their previous birth by suffering in the present birth.
“May your suffering decrease
The misfortunes of your next birth.”

Though he may appear to be ridiculous, he does not ridicule the Indian customs and traditions but depicts popular Indian beliefs as they are truthfully. He is in fact compassionate, unlike V.S. Naipaul. The scene in Night of the Scorpion is made more dramatic by his father, a skeptic and a rationalist who tried “every curse and blessing/powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.”

The final lines,
“My mother only said
Thank God the Scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.”
are very beautiful and a befitting portrayal of a typical Indian mother. The concluding lines mesmerize and define the Indianness impressively in Nissim Ezekiel as it brings out the authentic flavor of India, though his poems are simple, introspective and analytical.

Finally, in respect of Indianness, James H. Cousins says that Indian poetry in English is: “Indian in thought, Indian in emotion, Indian in imagery and English only in word.” In the words of Nissim Ezekiel, “My poems in Indian English are rightly described as very Indian poems. So they should not be considered as “mere lampoons”.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Assess Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" as a Feminist Novel

Assess Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" as a Feminist Novel

 Pat Macpherson points out in the book Reflecting on Jane Eyre , Jane Eyre is marked by strong romantic elements and the role of nature is especially important”

A feminist is a person whose beliefs and behavior are based on feminism (belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes). Jane Eyre is clearly a critique of assumptions about both gender and social class. It contains a strong feminist stance; it speaks to deep, timeless human urges and fears, using the principles of literature to chart the mind’s recesses. Thus, Jane Eyre is an epitome of femininity – a young independent individual steadfast in her morals and has strong Christian virtues, dominant, assertive and principled. That is marriage should base on true love, equality and respect rather than social ranks, materials or appearance.

In the 19th century, women were considered to be appendages to men. Marriage and family life were the whole world to women. Women depended upon men physically, financially and spiritually.  Bronte sisters grew up in a poor priestly family. Their mother died of lung cancer when the children were very young. As there was no sunlight in the depths of winter, the children's childhood was desolate and without joy. Fortunately, their father, a poor learned priest, he himself taught them reading, and guided them to read newspaper. This would be a relief in the midst of sadness. Because of the miserable life, Bronte sisters had spent a childhood in charity school. These experiences offered the available materials for the prospective creation.

Jane lost her parents when she was young, and thanks to her uncle Jane could live a good life, but unfortunately her uncle died after a few years. Her aunt, Mrs. Sarah Reed, regarded Jane as a jinx and her three children (John, Eliza and Georgiana) neglect and abuse Jane. Cold and disparaging, Aunt Reed always treats Jane Eyre as an encumbrance inferior to a maid and takes her as a doll to show her hypocritical generosity. Eventually one day, little Jane had an argument with her cousin and was beaten. After being locked in a room for a night, Jane was ill and at that time, her early feminism came out: She tells Mrs. Reed,
          “I’m not deceitful. If I were, I should say I loved you, but I declare, I don’t love you.”

Then little Jane was sent to Lowood boarding school where she learnt a lot and became much stronger and independence. She demanded the girls in Lowood to wear ugly or even torn clothes, eat far-from-enough harsh food and led a hard life. She never surrendered to the powerful and authoritative person like Mr. Brocklehurst.

Another proof of her free spirit and feminist ideals is her relation with Rochester. Even if she is a governess (less than a member of the family, but more than a servant given her education), she does not consider herself inferior to Rochester in terms of spiritual qualities. She insists she is much more than her social status, saying-

 "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! I have as much soul as you--and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you" (…) Do you think I am an automaton? ­ a machine without feelings?...Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong — I have as much soul as you, — and full as much heart...I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; — it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal, — as we are.”

During this period, Jane covered her name and wanted to make a new living. Being a teacher in a small village, she made friends with John and his sisters. Though John is a handsome guy and he proposed to Jane, she cannot accept himthis is the reflection of her iron determination in pursuing true love . In a word, she does not want an affection-less love. A decent and handsome man as John is, Jane Eyre cannot accept him because his love would be “one of duty, not of passion”

In all Jane Eyre’s life, the pursuit of true love is an important representation of her struggle for self-realization. Love in Jane Eyre’s understanding is pure, divine and it cannot be measured by status, power or property and so on. Having experienced a helpless childhood and a miserable adolescence, she expects more than a consolable true love. She suffers a lot in her pursuit of true love. Meanwhile, she obtains it through her long and hard pursuit.

Everybody has the rights to pursue happiness, to pursue the true spirit of life, which can be seen from Jane Eyre’s struggle for independence and equality. Jane Eyre’s story tells us that in a man-dominated society, a woman should strive for the decency and dignity. In face of hardships in life, the courageous woman should be brave enough to battle against it. Self-esteem is the primary element to protect. She dares to fight against the conventional marriage ideas, which well reflects all feminists’ voice and wish for a true love. Maybe Jane’s choices are considered something shocking, but it really gives a blow to the Victorian society.


Thursday, 15 November 2018

"Lets Fly to Utopia" a poem by Somnath Sarkar


Monday, 12 November 2018

Is Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" a poem of escape or a reflection of human experience? or How does Keats explore the capacity of the imagination to transcend reality in "Ode to a Nightingale"?

Is Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" a poem of escape or a reflection of human experience? or How does Keats explore the capacity of the imagination to transcend reality in "Ode to a Nightingale"?

Escapism is the English Romantic Movement as affirmation by Keats and many other poets. Escapists run away from harsh, unpleasant facts and duties, thus try to hide themselves in their idle world of dream and peace. Yes, a note of escapism is sounded clearly in “Ode to a Nightingale” because the poet wants passionately to 'leave the world unseen' and with the nightingale 'fade away into the forest dim'. Escapism is the life and soul of romantic poetry. The romantic poets are all fed up with the hard, stern realities of life – its din and bustle, fever and fret. The realization that happiness in this world is but an occasional episode in the general drama of pain is too much for them to bear. Thus Wordsworth escapes to Nature, the vast world of flowers, trees, mountains, valleys etc. ; Coleridge to the mysterious world of supernatural, and Shelley to the Golden Millennium of the future.

“Ode to a Nightingale” is a poem of escape into the dreamland cast up by Keats’ romantic imagination. The poet heard the song of nightingale. The song fills his mind with intense joy which borders no pain. Drunk with delight the poet wants to escape from the world of “the weariness, the fever and the fret” to the world of fantasy where evanescence of youth, beauty and love exist. Thus he hits upon different ideas like opiate himself, taking a small doze of hemlock, sinking into the river of Lethe, drinking wine but finally he transports himself to the ideal land of nightingale with “the viewless wings of poesy”.

The general picture of malady is undeniably moving in its pitiful starkness:
“Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies,
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new love pine at them beyond tomorrow.”

The poem reflects tragic human experience that human life is a tedious tale of sorrow, of hopes baffled and efforts disappointed. In this world few men live up to old age, and even those who are fortunate to live up to that age are struck with paralysis, and with a few grey hairs on their heads they hobble along trembling and tottering.  Here he remembers the bitterness of his own life. The poet here thinks of his young brother Tom, dying just before his eyes.  He considers that life is full of misery, sorrow and disease, of tiring struggle, of restlessness and pain; that life is nothing but a series of groans and complaints. The charm of loveliest woman fades away very soon, and the love of woman for her lover does not last longer. Here he remembers his beloved Fanny Browne’s rejection of his young love and turning to others.

The note of escapism asserts more strongly in the death-wish of the poet. The soothing darkness brings up his desire for the dark death –
“… for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death”

But Keats’ world of imagination remains only a short while. The ring of illusion vanishes. The very word ‘forlorn’ makes him strand on the hard shore of reality:
“Forlorn! The very word is like a bell
 To toll me back from thee to my sole self”.

We may conclude with the voice of C.D. Thorpe as he comments in his book The Mind of John Keats
“The moment of insight with him was a moment of complete emotion,           absorption in which the poet lost even his own senses of being in intense pursuit of his imaginative query. The extreme of this activity was a flight, far away from the fret and fever of life into a realm of imaginative delight into a region of abstractions of the poets own creations.”


Saturday, 27 October 2018

Pope's use of Supernatural Machinery in the poem "The Rape of the Lock" or Role of Sylph in the poem "The Rape of the Lock"

Pope's use of Supernatural Machinery in the poem "The Rape of the Lock" or Role of Sylph in the poem "The Rape of the Lock"

In his dedicatory letter to Miss Arabella Fermore, Pope writes “The machinery, Madam is a term invented by the critic to signify that part which the Deities, Angels and Demons are made to act in a poem”. From the ancient epics like The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Paradise Lost, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, we find God and Goddesses intervening in human affair. When the first edition consisting two cantos was brought out in 1712, it had no elements of supernatural machinery. But Pope wanted to make the resemblance of his poem to a complete epic.

Pope borrowed his supernatural machinery from two sources. He took the name of Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and the idea of the sylphs from a French book Le Comte de Gabalis by Abb-de-Villars. It has an account of the Rosicrucian mythology of spirits. According to the mythology, the four elements are inhabited by spirits, which are called sylphs (air), gnomes (earth), nymphs (water) and salamanders (fire). Pope mixed it with Platonic conception that soul never dies, but continues to live on in a changed form as spirits. Thus Pope’s sylphs are the souls of beautiful women, still having many of their former vanities and frivolities. 
Ariel, the leader of all the spirits, has warned Belinda of her impending disaster:

“Fairest of mortals, thou distinguished care of thousand bright inhabitants of air!” again in the lines we get:

“Know then, unnumbered spirits round thee fly,
The light militia of the lower sky.”

Therefore, Ariel assigns different works to the spirits when Belinda joins the fashionable band. One was given the charge of Belinda’s fan, another was to take care of Belinda’s ear-rings, the third was to take care of her watch, and the fourth was to gourd her favourite lock. Ariel was to take charge of her dog, Shock.  The important duty of guarding the petticoat was given to fifty chosen sylphs. Ariel warned the pygmy band of spirits against negligence of their duties. Punishment was to be given to those who failed to perform their duties according to their nature and size.

The sylphs are diminutive airy spirits having “Insects wings”. They can assume either sex when required. The sylphs have the power to see into the future. Therefore Ariel knows that some disaster threatens the ‘brightest fair’ (Belinda). But the exact nature of the disaster was not known to them. They can look into the hearts of mortals.  They perform services of all kind for the fair sexes. Thus Ariel withdraws helplessly as soon as he sees an earthly lover lurking in the heart of Belinda. The sylphs remain helpless and do not affect anything in the poem because Belinda does not follow the advice of Ariel.

Pope’s object in introducing supernatural machinery to heighten mock-heroic effect of the poem and the same time tends it more impersonal in tone and so less distasteful the Fermor family.  This help converting a mere personal squib into a masterly and playful satire upon the follies and frivolities of the fashionable young ladies and beaux of his time.
Addison, a reputed essayist of the 18th century advised him against the introduction of the machinery in a long narrative poem like The Rape of the Lock.  George Holden in his famous book, The Age of Pope, points out, “It is Pope’s use of  his machinery, moreover, which more than any other single feature made the poem the single success that it is.” In the ultimate analysis, Pope’s machinery remains a sure proof of his artistic excellence.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Trace Wordsworth's attitude towards Nature as revealed in the poem “Tintern Abbey”. or "Tintern Abbey" records different stages in Wordsworth's appreciation of Nature. Discuss.

Trace Wordsworth attitude towards Nature as revealed in the poem “Tintern Abbey”. or "Tintern Abbey" records different stages in Wordsworth's appreciation of Nature. Discuss.
Panoramic View of Wye River Flowing through forest beside dilapidated Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey gives us”, as Moody and Lovett say, “almost a complete programme of Wordsworth’s poetic career”. The poem is especially memorable as Wordsworth’s own exposition of his changing attitude towards nature from his early boyhood to his mature age.

His first stage in his love of Nature was as Hudson puts it so nicely, “simply a healthy boy’s delight in freedom and open air” which the poet calls in the poem “the coarser pleasures of my boyish days” like boating, skating, bird catching etc. It was to him a mere playground giving him all these feeling of physical sensation. Stop ford Brooke has rightly observed that in the first stage of his acquaintance with Nature it was not he that was in search of Nature but it was Nature who allured the boy but eluded him with its beautiful and myriad manifestation. At this stage Nature was but,

“Secondary to my own pursuits
And animal activities and all
Their trivial pleasure” (“The prelude”)

In the second stage, his own love for nature baffled his own power of description. He says, “I can’t paint what then I was”. The coarser pleasure of his boyhood days and his glad animal movements were all gone by. Nature was to him all in all. This was the stage when

“…. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock
The mountain, and the deep gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite.”

The world of eye and ear came near to him and the sensuous beauty of nature was loved with an unreflecting passion altogether untouched by intellectual interest. Wordsworth’s passion for sensuous pleasure found a full expression in the cry of Keats, “O, for a life of sensation rather than thought.”

But the mental repose of this stage was terribly shattered by the heat and fervor of the French Revolution. He, for a moment, lost faith in nature. All the ‘aching joys’ and ‘dizzy raptures’ of youth were gone and his mind was diverted to the tragedy of humanity. He gained faith in the dictum which Keats was to declare after lapse of many years – “Nature may be fine but human nature in finer still”. For in the interim he had heard the “still sad music of humanity”. Nature now opens to him the gate of spiritual meditation and suggested to him the deeper truth of human life

The third stage is marked by his moralistic interpretation of Nature. Now he looks at Nature not with a painter’s eye, but as a translator who can explain its hidden meaning. The poet thought that the beauty of Nature has the power to lead us from joy to joy, to comfort us, to mould our character and so to feed our mind with lofty thoughts. Now he experiences a kind of spiritual uplift, a sublime state of meditation in which he feels within himself a presence of the Divine spirit that animates mystic thoughts in him. He felt the vibration of the same mighty soul every where, in the light of the setting sun, in the waves of the sea, in the living air, in the blue sky and in the mind of man.

Celebrated critic Myers has rightly described Tintern Abbey as “the consecrated formulary of Wordsworthian faith.” For the poem formulates the main aspects of Wordsworth’s nature cried in superb poetic diction, Tintern Abbey is an epitome of Wordsworth’s philosophy of nature and man.


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