November 2018 ~ All About English Literature

For Exclusive Notes and Analysis

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.”


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