April 2019 ~ All About English Literature

For Exclusive Notes and Analysis

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Test your knowledge: English Literature Quiz 1

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English Literature Quiz 1


  1. The poem ‘The Patriot’ is written by -
    1.   Alfred Tennyson
    2.   Robert Browning
    3.   Mathew Arnold
    4.   John Donne
  2. Which book is a Tragedy?
    1.   Hamlet
    2.   Measure for Measure
    3.   She Stoops to Conquer
    4.   As You Like It
  3. The ‘Merchant of Venice’ Written by Shakespeare is-
    1.   a novel
    2.   a short story
    3.   a poem
    4.   a drama
  4. Which poem ends 'I shall but love thee better after death'?
    1.   How do I love thee
    2.   Ode to a Grecian urn
    3.   In faith I do not love thee with mine eyes
    4.   Let me not to the marriage of true minds
  5. Which poet is considered a national hero in Greece?
    1.   John keats
    2.   Lord Byron
    3.   Solan
    4.   Sappho
  6. Great Expectations is a novel written by-
    1.   Charles Dickens
    2.   Thomas Hardy
    3.   Jane Austen
    4.   Henry Fielding
  7. Who wrote ‘Madame Bovary’?
    1.   Leo Tolstoy
    2.   James Joyce
    3.   E.M. Forster
    4.   Gustave Flaubert
  8. Who among the following is a revolutionary poet?
    1.   John Keats
    2.   P.B. Shelly
    3.   S.T. Coleridge
    4.   William Wordsworth
  9. Which kind of poem is Edward Lear associated with?
    1.   Nature
    2.   Epics
    3.   Sonnets
    4.   Nonsense
  10. In coleridge's poem 'The rime of the Ancient Mariner'where were the three gallants going?
    1.   A funeral
    2.   A wedding
    3.   Market
    4.   To the races

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Compare and contrast Shelley's "To a Skylark" with Wordsworth's "To the Skylark".

Compare and contrast Shelley's "To a Skylark" with Wordsworth's "To the Skylark".

In the firmament of Romantic literature, both Wordsworth and Shelley are two dazzling luminaries. Both their Skylark poems deal with a common theme, namely the skylark, a sweet song-bird of England. Though both the poem treats the same theme, their approach is different. Wordsworth wrote his poem as a rejoinder and partial criticism to the lyric of Shelley written earlier. Again Wordsworth's poem is addressed to the skylark, the skylark as a species of bird, while Shelley's ecstatic chant is inspired by one particular skylark's song.

In concept, tone and temperament, the difference between the two poets is very prominent. But still they have some points of contact. Both regard the bird as 'ethereal' – because of it soars high up in the sky – and hidden by the strong light of the sun. Both of them eagerly listen to its 'flood of harmony', and sing in glory of its supremacy over all earthly music. Both poets also agree with the fact that the skylark soars and sings simultaneously, and if it stops its flight, the song must come to an end.

In contrast, Wordsworth’s approach to the bird is one of a poet of objective reality. He describes the habit of the bird with perfect fidelity. He does not lose sight of the bird in its upward flight and song. The skylark is to him a creature of flesh and blood, and not a metaphysical abstraction. It is true to the everyday life of the bird. It does not “despise the earth where cares abound.” Even when it soars to the regions beyond the clouds, it does not forget about its earthly connection. Its song is prompted by its love for its mate and young. Wordsworth humanizes the bird. “Through his skylark he bids us observe that it is not the distance from the earth but the nearness to it which inspires celestial joy.” (Hutton)

Shelley’s skylark is not the creature of flesh and blood. It is a metaphysical abstraction. It is an “unbodied joy” whose race is just begun. It is a symbol of illimitable thirst drinking in illimitable sweetness. It is an image of the rapture which no man can ever reach, because it soars so far from earth, because it is ever rising with unflagging wing despising earthly delight. It is the quintessence of that throbbing, joyous life which slips away so quickly and inevitably from man. Unlike Wordsworth’s Shelley’s skylark does not recognize any earthly abode. While Shelley is almost forgetful of this earthly life and is eager to escape the bondage of the sad worldly existence, Wordsworth is ever “True to the kindred points of heaven and home.”

As superb pieces of art, the two lyrics are poles asunder. In musical quality Shelley is by far the more wonderful. Like the song it celebrates it is “a rain of melody”, a veritable symphony of song. Its lilting melody, bright assemblage of colours and passionate sweep cannot fail to fascinate any reader. But as poetry Wordsworth is more mature and more acceptable equally to heart and brain. It has truth, wisdom, sanity, and the wealth of deep humanity of tone, which is the ultimate gift of Wordsworth's genius. Prof. Herford has finely expressed the contrast in the approach of the two poets in the epigrammatic observation:

“Where Wordsworth’s imagination isolates and focuses…. Shelley’s dissolves and transcends.”


Sunday, 28 April 2019

Discuss Browning’s optimistic philosophy towards life as revealed in his poem “The Last Ride Together”.

Discuss Browning’s optimistic philosophy towards life as revealed in his poem “The Last Ride Together”.

“I find earth not grey but rosy/Heaven not grim but fair of hue.”
Robert Browning, a cherished poet of the Victorian era, has many of his poems filled with unbridled optimism. He is an uncompromising foe of scientific materialism as Hudson states

Victorian age is a watershed age in English literature. As there were the influences of Classicism, Italian and British Renaissance, Individualism, Socialism, Utilitarianism, Neo-classicism, Romanticism, Modernism, Materialism and Skepticism, therefore there was a lot of confusion and conflict in this age – conflict between art and life, art and morality, content and form, man and woman, body and soul etc.

 “The Last Ride Together” is an important document of Browning’s optimistic philosophy of life. Though it is a poem of despair in love, the philosophy of life expressed in the poem is that of optimism and hope. The lover having failed neither complains nor grumbles, but gather manliness and courage. “He weaves the experience”, says W. T. Young, “into the fabric of character, and imbues its resignation with new thought and resolves for new ventures.” Failure does not daunt the lover, for he knows that none gets complete success in life. No man – no matter whether he is a statesman, or a soldier, or a poet, or a musician or a sculptor – succeeds in achieving what he strives for:
“Look at the end of work, contrast
The petty done, the undone vast.”

According to Browning the evils of life – failures, frustrations, disappointments etc are necessary for the perfection and purification of man. Failures strengthen the mind and thereby help in his spiritual development. The rejected lover console himself in a bold and daring manner, and his words breathe an atmosphere of optimism:
“Fail I alone in words and deeds?
Why, all men strive and who succeeds?”

The wonderful example of Browning’s psychological insight into the lover’s mind is to be found in the line – “Who knows but the world may end tonight?.” Every lover who has been jilted by his ladylove wishes that the world should be destroyed by some calamity, so that he may be spared the pangs of separation.  

A man cannot translate all his thoughts into action because of his bodily limitations:
“What act proved all its thought had been?
What will but felt the fleshy screen?”

Browning is optimistic towards failure. To him some of the desire must be left unfulfilled on the earth so that they can be accomplished in the afterlife. So he is ready to face the death:
“Earth being so good, would heaven seem best?
Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.”

Browning’s optimism is based on immortality of soul. In “The Last Ride Together” the speaker perceives that, through their death his and his beloved’s souls will enter into eternity and their ride will be continuing eternally:
“The instant made eternity
And heaven just prove that I and she
Ride, ride together, forever ride?”

Love plays an important role in Browning. It is love which harmonizes all living beings. In “Evelyn Hope”, the lover does not despair as he derives consolation from the optimistic faith that God “creates the love to reward the love” . True love is sure to be rewarded in the life after death, if not in this life.

The poem reveals Browning’s humanism as he reflects life is superior to art. A famous sculptor may carve, after his 20 years ceaseless labour, a wonderful statue of Venus; but men care more for a rustic girl of flesh and blood, who tucks up her cloths and crosses the stream.

To conclude, Browning is a strong voice against Victorian skepticism and pessimism.  “He seeks optimism in any situation of life, preaches the universality of soul, advocates God and encourages people to be optimistic.”


Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Discuss Jane Austen's use of irony in her novel, "Pride and Prejudice".

Discuss Jane Austen's use of irony in her novel, "Pride and Prejudice".

Use of word with humorous or satirical intention, as a result of which the meaning is the exact opposite of what actually said, is called irony. According to Prof. Chevalier, “the basic feature of every irony is a contrast between a reality and an appearance.”
Irony is Jane Austen’s forte, it is very soul of her novels. It has been pointed out that it never imposes itself, it is never absent from more than a paragraph. Jane Austen’s themes are instructive. Pride and Prejudice illustrates the dangers of excessive pride and unrestrained prejudice. Emma deals with the dangers of excessive self- confidence and Persuasion with those of over persuasion. In Sense and Sensibility, it is true that Jane Austen makes sense triumph and sensibility is depressed.

As one examines “Pride and Prejudice”, one is struck with the fact of the ironic significance that pride leads to prejudice and prejudice invites pride and both have their corresponding virtues bound up within them. Each has its virtues and each has its defects. They are contradictory and the supreme irony is that intricacy, which is much deeper, carries with it grave dangers unknown to simplicity. This type of thematic irony runs through all of Jane Austen’s novel.

In “Pride and Prejudice” there is much irony of situation too, which provides a twist to the story. Mr. Darcy remarks about Elizabeth that:
“tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me…”

We relish the ironical flavour of this statement much later when we reflect that the woman who was not handsome enough to dance with was really good enough to marry. He removes Bingley from Netherfield because he considers it imprudent to forge a marriage alliance with the Bennet Family, but himself ends up marrying the second Bennet sister. Collins proposes to Elizabeth when her heart is full of Wickham and Darcy proposes to her exactly at the moment when she hates him most. Elizabeth tells Mr. Collins that she is not the type to reject the first proposal and accept the second but does exactly this when Darcy proposes a second time. The departure of the militia from Meryton was expected to put an end to Lydia's flirtations, it brings about her elopement. The Lydia-Wickham episode may seem like an insurmountable barrier between Elizabeth and Darcy, but is actually instrumental in bringing them together. Lady Catherine, attempting to prevent their marriage only succeeds in hastening it.

Irony in character is even more prominent than irony of situation. It is ironical that Elizabeth who prides herself on her perception is quite blinded by her own prejudices and errs badly in judging intricate characters. Wickham appears suave and charming but is ironically unprincipled rouge. Darcy appears proud and haughty but ironically proves to be a true gentleman when he gets Wickham to marry Lydia by paying him. The Bingley Sisters hate the Bennets for their vulgarity but are themselves vulgar in their behaviour. Darcy is also critical of the ill-bred Bennet Family but ironically his Aunt Catherine is equally vulgar and ill-bed. Thus, the novel abounds in irony of characters.

The narrative of “Pride and Prejudice” too has an ironic tone which contributes much verbal irony. Jane Austen’s ironic tone is established in the very first sentence of the novel.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

As Dorothy Van Ghent remark, what we read in it is opposite – a single woman must be in want – of a man with a good fortune. There is much verbal irony in the witty utterances of Mrs. Bennet. He tells Elizabeth:
“Let Wickham be your man. He is pleasant fellow and would jilt you creditable …”

In the words ‘pleasant fellow’ is hidden a dramatic irony at the expense of Mr. Bennet, for Wickham is destined to make a considerable dent in Mr. Bennet's complacency.

Jane Austen did not show any cynicism or bitterness in using her irony to draw satirical portraits of whims and follies. Rather her irony can be termed comic. It implies on her side an acknowledgement of what is wrong with people and society. It is interesting to note that ironically, in “Pride and Prejudice”, it is the villainous character Wickham and lady Catherine – who are responsible for uniting Elizabeth and Darcy.

Austen uses irony to shake her major figures of their self-deception and to expose the hypocrisy and pretentiousness, absurdity and insanity of some of her minor figures. It is definitely possible to deduce from her works a scheme of moral values. Andrew H. Wright rightly points out that irony in her hands is ‘the instrument of a moral vision and not a technique of rejection’.


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