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do contain dramatic elements and an overall sense of story. Each of the poems deals with a highly personal theme, and each can be taken on its own or in relation to the poems around it. The sonnets have the feel of autobiographical poems, but we don’t know whether they deal with real events or not, because no one knows enough about Shakespeare’s life to say whether or not they deal with real events and feelings, so we tend to refer to the voice of the sonnets as “the speaker”—as though he were a dramatic creation like Hamlet or King Lear. THE SONNET FORM. A sonnet is a fourteen-line lyric poem, traditionally written in iambic pentameter—that is, in lines ten syllables long, with accents falling on every second syllable, as in: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Themes Different Types of Romantic Love. Modern readers associate the sonnet form with romantic love and with good reason: the first sonnets written in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italy celebrated the poets’ feelings for their beloveds and their patrons. Shakespeare dedicated his sonnets to “Mr. W. H.,” and the identity of this man remains unknown. He dedicated an earlier set of poems, Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece, to Henry Wriothesly, earl of Southampton, but it’s not known what Wriothesly gave him for this honor. In contrast to tradition, Shakespeare addressed most of his sonnets to an unnamed young man, possibly Wriothesly. Addressing sonnets to a young man was unique in Elizabethan England. Shakespeare used his sonnets to explore different types of love between the young man and the speaker, the young man and the dark lady, and the dark lady and the speaker. In his sequence, the speaker expresses passionate concern for the young man, praises his beauty, and articulates what we would now call homosexual desire. Several sonnets also probe the nature of love, comparing the idealized love found in poems with the messy, complicated love found in real life. The Dangers of Lust and Love. In Shakespeare’s sonnets, falling in love can have painful emotional and physical consequences. But many sonnets warn readers about the dangers of lust and love. According to some poems, lust causes us to mistake sexual desire for true love, and love itself causes us to lose our powers of perception. Several sonnets warn about the dangers of lust, claiming that it turns humans “savage, extreme, rude, cruel” (4), as in Sonnet 129. Real Beauty vs. Clichéd Beauty. In Sonnet 130, Shakespeare directly engages—and skewers —clichéd concepts of beauty. The speaker explains that his lover, the dark lady, has wires for hair, bad breath, dull cleavage, a heavy step, and pale lips. He concludes by saying that he loves her all the more precisely because he loves her and not some idealized, false version. Real love, the sonnet implies, begins when we accept our lovers for what they are as well as what they are not. The Responsibilities of Being Beautiful. Shakespeare portrays beauty as conveying a great responsibility in the sonnets addressed to the young man, Sonnets 1–126. Here the speaker urges the young man to make his beauty immortal by having children, a theme that appears repeatedly throughout the poems: as an attractive person, the young man has a responsibility to procreate. Sonnet 95 compares the young man’s behavior to a “canker in the fragrant rose”
(2) or a rotten spot on an otherwise beautiful flower. In other words, the young man’s beauty allows him to get away with bad behavior, but this bad behavior will eventually distort his beauty, much like a rotten spot eventually spreads. Nature gave the young man a beautiful face, but it is the young man’s responsibility to make sure that his soul is worthy of such a visage. Motifs Art vs. Time. Shakespeare, like many sonneteers, portrays time as an enemy of love. Time destroys love because time causes beauty to fade, people to age, and life to end. Through art, nature and beauty overcome time. Several sonnets use the seasons to symbolize the passage of time and to show that everything in nature—from plants to people—is mortal. But nature creates beauty, which poets capture and render immortal in their verse. Stopping the March Toward Death. Growing older and dying are inescapable aspects of the human condition, but Shakespeare’s sonnets give suggestions for halting the progress toward death. Shakespeare’s speaker spends a lot of time trying to convince the young man to cheat death by having children. In Sonnets 1–17, the speaker argues that the young man is too beautiful to die without leaving behind his replica, and the idea that the young man has a duty to procreate becomes the dominant motif of the first several sonnets. The Significance of Sight. Other sonnets link writing and painting with sight: in Sonnet 24, the speaker’s eye becomes a pen or paintbrush that captures the young man’s beauty and imprints it on the blank page of the speaker’s heart. But our loving eyes can also distort our sight, causing us to misperceive reality. In the sonnets addressed to the dark lady, the speaker criticizes his eyes for causing him to fall in love with a beautiful but duplicitous woman. Ultimately, Shakespeare uses eyes to act as a warning: while our eyes allow us to perceive beauty, they sometimes get so captivated by beauty that they cause us to misjudge character and other attributes not visible to the naked eye. Readers’ eyes are as significant in the sonnets as the speaker’s eyes. Shakespeare encourages his readers to see by providing vivid visual descriptions. One sonnet compares the young man’s beauty to the glory of the rising sun, while another uses the image of clouds obscuring the sun as a metaphor for the young man’s faithlessness and still another contrasts the beauty of a rose with one rotten spot to warn the young man to cease his sinning ways. Other poems describe bare trees to symbolize aging. Symbols Flowers and Trees. Flowers and trees appear throughout the sonnets to illustrate the passage of time, the transience of life, the aging process, and beauty. Traditionally, roses signify romantic love, a symbol Shakespeare employs in the sonnets, discussing their attractiveness and fragrance in relation to the young man. Sometimes Shakespeare compares flowers and weeds to contrast beauty and ugliness. Stars. Shakespeare uses stars to stand in for fate, a common poetic trope, but also to explore the nature of free will. Using his eyes, the speaker “reads” that the young man’s good fortune and beauty shall pass to his children, should he have them. During Shakespeare’s time, people generally believed in astrology, even as scholars were making great gains in astronomy and cosmology, a metaphysical system for ordering the universe. According to Elizabethan astrology, a cosmic order determined the place of everything in the universe, from planets and stars to people. Weather and the Seasons. In the sonnets, the speaker frequently employs the pathetic fallacy, associating his absence from the young man to the freezing days of December and the
promise of their reunion to a pregnant spring. Weather and the seasons also stand in for human emotions: the speaker conveys his sense of foreboding about death by likening himself to autumn, a time in which nature’s objects begin to decay and ready themselves for winter, or death. Similarly, despite the arrival of “proud-pied April” (2) in Sonnet 98, the speaker still feels as if it were winter because he and the young man are apart. ROMEO&JULIET Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy by William Shakespeare about the fate of two lovers who struggle against fate. It is perhaps his most famous song, one of his early successes and is considered the most typical love story of the Renaissance. Dramatic structure. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare employs several dramatic techniques that have garnered praise from critics; most notably the abrupt shifts from comedy to tragedy (an example is the punning exchange between Benvolio and Mercutio just before Tybalt arrives). Before Mercutio's death in Act three, the play is largely a comedy. After his accidental demise, the play suddenly becomes serious and takes on a tragic tone. Language. Shakespeare uses a variety of poetic forms throughout the play. He begins with a 14-line prologue in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet, spoken by a Chorus. Most of Romeo and Juliet is, however, written in blank verse, and much of it in strict iambic pentameter, with less rhythmic variation than in most of Shakespeare's later plays.In choosing forms, Shakespeare matches the poetry to the character who uses it. Friar Laurence, for example, uses sermon and sententiae forms, and the Nurse uses a unique blank verse form that closely matches colloquial speech. · The deaths of Romeo and Juliet in the Capulet tomb (5.3) PROTAGONISTS · Romeo; Juliet ANTAGONISTS · The feuding Montagues and Capulets; Tybalt; the Prince and citizens of Verona; fate SETTINGS (TIME) · Renaissance (fourteenth or fifteenth century) SETTINGS (PLACE) · Verona and Mantua (cities in northern Italy) POINT OF VIEW · Insofar as a play has a point of view, that of Romeo and Juliet; occasionally the play uses the point of view of the Montague and Capulet servants to illuminate the actions of their masters. FALLING ACTION · The end of Act 5, scene 3, when the Prince and the parents discover the bodies of Romeo and Juliet, and agree to put aside their feud in the interest of peace. TENSE · Present GENRE · Tragedy, revenge tragedy TONES · Passionate, romantic, intense, rhapsodic, violent, prone to extremes of emotion (ecstasy, rage, misery, etc.)
Themes .The Forcefulness of Love. Romeo and Juliet is the most famous love story in the English literary tradition. Love is naturally the play’s dominant and most important theme. The play focuses on romantic love, specifically the intense passion that springs up at first sight between Romeo and Juliet. Love in Romeo and Juliet is a brutal, powerful emotion that captures individuals and catapults them against their world, and, at times, against themselves. The powerful nature of love can be seen in the way it is described, or, more accurately, the
the Chorus states that Romeo and Juliet are “star-crossed”—that is to say that fate (a power often vested in the movements of the stars) controls them (Prologue. and their love is so profound that they are willing to end their lives in its defense.way descriptions of it so consistently fail to capture its entirety. The sleeping potion he gives Juliet is concocted to cause the appearance of death.Light/Dark Imagery. and they are always connected to passion. and their renunciation of their names. make sense in the context of individuals who wish to escape the public world. The themes of death and violence permeate Romeo and Juliet. The Inevitability of Fate. in which Juliet. metaphorically described as the sun. or be able. whether that passion is love or hate. as in the fourteen lines when Romeo and Juliet first meet. But the connection between love and violence requires further investigation. Shakespeare uses two main devices in this regard: Mercutio and servants. often in terms of night/day imagery. This contrast is not given a particular metaphoric meaning—light is not always good. Poison. to resist its power. violence. The characters also are quite aware of it: Romeo and Juliet constantly see omens. One of the play’s most consistent visual motifs is the contrast between light and dark. But the lovers cannot stop the night from becoming day. love emerges as an amoral thing. with its attendant loss of obligation. The Individual Versus Society. It is only through death that they can preserve their love. the potion does bring about a fatal result: Romeo’s suicide. light and dark are generally used to provide a sensory contrast and to hint at opposed alternatives. In its first address to the audience. It is possible to see Romeo and Juliet as a battle between the responsibilities and actions demanded by social institutions and those demanded by the private desires of the individual. At times love is described in the terms of religion. The connection between hate. but is instead a natural substance made lethal by human hands. Symbols. But in its extreme passion. most potent expression of love that Romeo and Juliet can make. The lovers’ suicides can be understood as the ultimate night.6). This theme is ilustrated by the double suicide. The mechanism of fate works in all of the events surrounding the lovers: the feud between their families Motifs . with its darkness and privacy. Romeo and Juliet’s appreciation of night. Shakespeare includes numerous speeches and scenes in Romeo and Juliet that hint at alternative ways to evaluate the play. Friar Lawrence’s words prove true over the course of the play. Opposite Points of View. This tragic choice is the highest. leading as much to destruction as to happiness. not death itself. and death seems obvious. One of the more important instances of this motif is Romeo’s lengthy meditation on the sun and the moon during the balcony scene. and dark is not always evil. On the contrary. the rest of the world will not let him. Love as a Cause of Violence. and not just for the audience. the ultimate privacy. the love that Romeo and Juliet experience also appears so exquisitely beautiful that few would want. This sense of fate permeates the play. poison is not intrinsically evil. Of course. but through circumstances beyond the Friar’s control. and his determination to spend eternity with Juliet results in their deaths. And Romeo cannot cease being a Montague simply because he wants to. Poison symbolizes human society’s tendency to poison good things and 4 . In the play. is seen as banishing the “envious moon” and transforming the night into day. Romeo’s defiance itself plays into the hands of fate.
CLIMAX · When Hamlet stabs Polonius through the arras in Act III. 1604 in a superior quarto edition PROTAGONIST · Hamlet MAJOR CONFLICT · Hamlet feels a responsibility to avenge his father’s murder by his uncle Claudius. England. particularly from Hamlet himself. as an essentially meaningless gesture. violence. but rather people whose good qualities are turned to poison by the world in which they live. This play poses many questions that other plays would simply take for granted. early seventeenth century (probably 1600–1602) DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · 1603. but also by emotional. Thumb-biting. desperate. Moreover. Another possible climax comes at the end of Act IV. FALLING ACTION · Hamlet is sent to England to be killed. the fencing match. 5 . purposeful way. represents the foolishness of the entire Capulet/Montague feud and the stupidity of violence in general. When he does act. but instead serve to confirm them in whatever vices they are addicted to—for example. What separates Hamlet from other revenge plays (and maybe from every play written before it) is that the action we expect to see. Hamlet struggles with his doubts about whether he can trust the ghost and whether killing Claudius is the appropriate thing to do. Hamlet returns to Denmark and confronts Laertes at Ophelia’s funeral.make them fatal. In Hamlet. he commits himself to overtly violent action and brings himself into unavoidable conflict with the king. Directly related to the theme of certainty is the theme of action. ironic. melancholy. or lust. revenge tragedy LANGUAGE · English TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · London. the deaths of the royal family SETTING (TIME) · The late medieval period. and psychological factors. ethical. After all. such as the need for certainty. violent Themes.The thumb-biting. this play does not have an evil villain. but Claudius is now the king and thus well protected. Can we have certain knowledge about ghosts? The Complexity of Action. One of the most noteworthy aspects of Queen Mab’s ride is that the dreams she brings generally do not bring out the best sides of the dreamers. greed. is continually postponed while Hamlet tries to obtain more certain knowledge about what he is doing. Queen Mab. he prefers to do it blindly. which is taken to foreshadow an ominous future for Denmark TONE · Dark. HAMLET GENRE · Tragedy. Hamlet passes up the opportunity to kill Claudius while he is praying. Hamlet stages the mousetrap play. scene iv. Hamlet feigns madness to his intentions. passionate. the question of how to act is affected not only by rational considerations. in a pirated quarto edition titled The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet. when Hamlet resolves to commit himself fully to violent revenge. Hamlet himself appears to distrust the idea that it’s even possible to act in a controlled.The Impossibility of Certainty. scene iv. just as the pointless Capulet-Montague feud turns Romeo and Juliet’s love to poison. though the play’s chronological setting is notoriously imprecise SETTINGS (PLACE) · Denmark FORESHADOWING · The ghost. contemplative. unlike many of the other tragedies. RISING ACTION · The ghost appears to Hamlet and tells Hamlet to revenge his murder.
ending once and for all the problem of trying to determine truth in an ambiguous world. as Laertes sometimes speaks to his sister in suggestively sexual terms and.iv. The motif of incest runs throughout the play and is frequently alluded to by Hamlet and the ghost. the former brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are now married. forthright ruler under whose guard the state was in good health. and many observers interpret the presence of the ghost as a supernatural omen indicating that “[s]omething is rotten in the state of Denmark” (I. has corrupted and compromised Denmark to satisfy his own appetites.Incest and Incestuous Desire. but they can also be used to distort the truth. and serve as tools in corrupt quests for power. the idea of death is closely tied to the themes of spirituality. The Nation as a Diseased Body. He urges Ophelia to go to a nunnery rather than experience the corruptions of sexuality and exclaims of Gertrude. showing a particular obsession with what he perceives to be a connection between female sexuality and moral corruption. is the most obvious example of a man who manipulates words to enhance his own power. the shrewd politician. and uncertainty in that death may bring the answers to Hamlet’s deepest questions. And. thy name is woman” (I. The Nation as a Diseased Body Everything is connected in Hamlet. Words are used to communicate ideas. characters draw explicit connections between the moral legitimacy of a ruler and the health of the nation. The other characters obviously think much less about “action” in the abstract than Hamlet does. Claudius. They simply act as they feel is appropriate. it is intimately tied to the theme of revenge and justice—Claudius’s murder of King Hamlet initiates Hamlet’s quest for revenge. Denmark is frequently described as a physical body made ill by the moral corruption of Claudius and Gertrude. Throughout the play. but it is an important inhibiting factor in Hamlet’s relationships with Ophelia and Gertrude. and violently. Hamlet is obsessed with the idea of death. since death is both the cause and the consequence of revenge. The play’s early scenes explore the sense of anxiety and dread that surrounds the transfer of power from one ruler to the next. A subtle motif of incestuous desire can be found in the relationship of Laertes and Ophelia. This motif of misogyny. truth.recklessly. occurs sporadically throughout the play. or hatred of women. The Mystery of Death. Motifs.67). leaps into her grave to hold her in his arms.146). in Hamlet’s fixation on Gertrude’s sex life with Claudius and his preoccupation with her in general. Hamlet becomes cynical about women in general. The dead King Hamlet is portrayed as a strong. In the aftermath of his father’s murder. manipulate other people. At the end of the play. “Frailty. at her funeral. and are therefore less troubled about the possibility of acting effectively. most obviously in conversations about Gertrude and Claudius. while Claudius. and Claudius’s death is the end of that quest. the strongest overtones of incestuous desire arise in the relationship of Hamlet and Gertrude. Misogyny Shattered by his mother’s decision to marry Claudius so soon after her husband’s death. including the welfare of the royal family and the health of the state as a whole.ii. and over the course of the play he considers death from a great many perspectives. a wicked politician. the rise to power of the upright Fortinbras suggests that Denmark will be strengthened once again. Throughout. Ears and Hearing One facet of Hamlet’s exploration of the difficulty of attaining true knowledge is slipperiness of language. However. from Claudius’s murder of the king by pouring poison into his ear to Hamlet’s claim to 6 . The sinister uses of words are represented by images of ears and hearing.
Horatio that “I have words to speak in thine ear will make thee dumb” (IV.vi.21). The poison poured in the king’s ear by Claudius is used by the ghost to symbolize the corrosive effect of Claudius’s dishonesty on the health of Denmark. Declaring that the story that he was killed by a snake is a lie, he says that “the whole ear of Denmark” is “Rankly abused. . . .” (I.v.36–38). Symbols Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Yorick’s Skull In Hamlet, physical objects are rarely used to represent thematic ideas. One important exception is Yorick’s skull, which Hamlet discovers in the graveyard in the first scene of Act V. As Hamlet speaks to the skull and about the skull of the king’s former jester, he fixates on death’s inevitability and the disintegration of the body. He urges the skull to “get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come”—no one can avoid death (V.i.178–179). He traces the skull’s mouth and says, “Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft,” indicating his fascination with the physical consequences of death (V.i.174–175). This latter idea is an important motif throughout the play, as Hamlet frequently makes comments referring to every human body’s eventual decay, noting that Polonius will be eaten by worms, that even kings are eaten by worms, and that dust from the decayed body of Alexander the Great might be used to stop a hole in a beer barrel. MACBETH
· The Tragedy of Macbeth AUTHOR · William Shakespeare GENRE · Tragedy TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · 1606, England DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · First Folio edition, 1623 TONE · Dark and ominous, suggestive of a world turned topsy-turvy by foul and unnatural crimes TENSE · Not applicable (drama) SETTING (TIME) · The Middle Ages, specifically the eleventh century SETTING (PLACE) · Various locations in Scotland; also England, briefly PROTAGONIST · Macbeth MAJOR CONFLICTS · The struggle within Macbeth between his ambition and his sense of right and wrong; the struggle between the murderous evil represented by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and the best interests of the nation, represented by Malcolm and Macduff RISING ACTION · Macbeth and Banquo’s encounter with the witches initiates both conflicts; Lady Macbeth’s speeches goad Macbeth into murdering Duncan and seizing the crown. CLIMAX · Macbeth’s murder of Duncan in Act 2 represents the point of no return, after which Macbeth is forced to continue butchering his subjects to avoid the consequences of his crime. FALLING ACTION · Macbeth’s increasingly brutal murders (of Duncan’s servants, Banquo, Lady Macduff and her son); Macbeth’s second meeting with the witches; Macbeth’s final confrontation with Macduff and the opposing armies
Themes.The Corrupting Power of Unchecked Ambition. The main theme of Macbeth—the destruction wrought when ambition goes unchecked by moral constraints—finds its most
powerful expression in the play’s two main characters. Macbeth is a courageous Scottish general who is not naturally inclined to commit evil deeds, yet he deeply desires power and advancement. The problem, the play suggests, is that once one decides to use violence to further one’s quest for power, it is difficult to stop. There are always potential threats to the throne—Banquo, Fleance, Macduff—and it is always tempting to use violent means to dispose of them. The Difference Between Kingship and Tyranny.In the play, Duncan is always referred to as a “king,” while Macbeth soon becomes known as the “tyrant.” The difference between the two types of rulers seems to be expressed in a conversation that occurs in Act 4, scene 3, when Macduff meets Malcolm in England. In order to test Macduff’s loyalty to Scotland, Malcolm pretends that he would make an even worse king than Macbeth. Motifs .Hallucinations.Visions and hallucinations recur throughout the play and serve as reminders of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s joint culpability for the growing body count. When he is about to kill Duncan, Macbeth sees a dagger floating in the air. Covered with blood and pointed toward the king’s chamber, the dagger represents the bloody course on which Macbeth is about to embark. Later, he sees Banquo’s ghost sitting in a chair at a feast, pricking his conscience by mutely reminding him that he murdered his former friend. The seemingly hardheaded Lady Macbeth also eventually gives way to visions, as she sleepwalks and believes that her hands are stained with blood that cannot be washed away by any amount of water. In each case, it is ambiguous whether the vision is real or purely hallucinatory; but, in both cases, the Macbeths read them uniformly as supernatural signs of their guilt.
Violence.Macbeth is a famously violent play. Interestingly, most of the killings take place
offstage, but throughout the play the characters provide the audience with gory descriptions of the carnage, from the opening scene where the captain describes Macbeth and Banquo wading in blood on the battlefield, to the endless references to the bloodstained hands of Macbeth and his wife. The action is bookended by a pair of bloody battles: in the first, Macbeth defeats the invaders; in the second, he is slain and beheaded by Macduff. In between is a series of murders: Duncan, Duncan’s chamberlains, Banquo, Lady Macduff, and Macduff’s son all come to bloody ends. By the end of the action, blood seems to be everywhere.
Prophecy.Prophecy sets Macbeth’s plot in motion—namely, the witches’ prophecy that
Macbeth will become first thane of Cawdor and then king. The weird sisters make a number of other prophecies: they tell us that Banquo’s heirs will be kings, that Macbeth should beware Macduff, that Macbeth is safe till Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane, and that no man born of woman can harm Macbeth. Save for the prophecy about Banquo’s heirs, all of these predictions are fulfilled within the course of the play. Still, it is left deliberately ambiguous whether some of them are self-fulfilling—for example, whether Macbeth wills himself to be king or is fated to be king. Additionally, as the Birnam Wood and “born of woman” prophecies make clear, the prophecies must be interpreted as riddles, since they do not always mean what they seem to mean.
Symbols .Blood.Blood is everywhere in Macbeth, beginning with the opening battle
between the Scots and the Norwegian invaders, which is described in harrowing terms by the wounded captain in Act 1, scene 2. Once Macbeth and Lady Macbeth embark upon their murderous journey, blood comes to symbolize their guilt, and they begin to feel that their crimes have stained them in a way that cannot be washed clean. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?” Macbeth cries after he has killed Duncan, even as his wife scolds him and says that a little water will do the job (2.2.58–59). Later, though, she comes to share his horrified sense of being stained: “Out, damned spot; out, I say . . . who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” she asks as she wanders through the halls of their castle near the close of the play (5.1.30–34). Blood symbolizes the guilt that sits like a permanent stain on the consciences of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, one that hounds them to their graves.
The Weather/As in other Shakespearean tragedies, Macbeth’s grotesque murder spree is
accompanied by a number of unnatural occurrences in the natural realm. From the thunder and lightning that accompany the witches’ appearances to the terrible storms that rage on the night of Duncan’s murder, these violations of the natural order reflect corruption in the moral and political orders.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Key Facts
· A Midsummer Night’s Dream AUTHOR · William Shakespeare TYPE OF WORK · Play GENRES · Comedy; fantasy; romance; farce LANGUAGE · English TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · London, 1594 or 1595 DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · 1600 PUBLISHER · Thomas Fisher NARRATOR · None CLIMAX · In the strictest sense, there is no real climax, as the conflicts of the play are all resolved swiftly by magical means in Act IV; the moment of greatest tension is probably the quarrel between the lovers in Act III, scene ii. PROTAGONIST · Because there are three main groups of characters, there is no single protagonist in the play; however, Puck is generally considered the most important character. ANTAGONIST · None; the play’s tensions are mostly the result of circumstances, accidents, and mistakes. SETTINGS (TIME) · Combines elements of Ancient Greece with elements of Renaissance England SETTINGS (PLACE) · Athens and the forest outside its walls POINT OF VIEW · Varies from scene to scene FALLING ACTION · Act V, scene i, which centers on the craftsmen’s play TENSE · Present
when the lovers’ tangle resolves itself into symmetrical pairings. the relationships between fantasy and reality and between environment and experience MOTIFS · Love out of balance. it distances the audience from the emotions of the characters in order to poke fun at the torments and afflictions that those in love suffer. farcical SYMBOLS · Theseus and Hippolyta represent order. Though most of the conflict in the play stems from the troubles of romance. THEMES · The difficulties of love. Somewhat similarly. in the relationship between Titania and Oberon. fantastic. the nature of dreams. clumsy and graceful. and wakefulness. short and tall. it is not truly a love story. such as beautiful and ugly. The theme of love’s difficulty is often explored through the motif of love out of balance—that is. The prime instance of this imbalance is the asymmetrical love among the four young Athenians: Hermia loves Lysander. Although the misuse of magic causes chaos. contrast (juxtaposed opposites. they are linked to the bizarre. dreams are an important theme in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. the traditional happy ending will have been achieved. magical mishaps in the forest. joyful. that is. ethereal and earthy) FORESHADOWING TONES Themes. which brings about many of the most bizarre and hilarious situations in the play. Theseus’s hounds represent the coming of morning. dreamlike. Oberon’s love potion represents the power and instability of love. Hippolyta’s first words in the play evidence the prevalence of dreams (“Four days will quickly steep themselves in night. stability. as when he reshapes Bottom’s head into that of an ass and recreates the voices of Lysander and Demetrius.i.” comments Lysander.Love’s Difficulty. and though the play involves a number of romantic elements. and it is therefore free to enjoy the comedy without being caught up in the tension of an uncertain outcome. stands in contrast to the laboriousness and gracelessness of the craftsmen’s attempt to stage their play. Lysander loves Hermia. Shakespeare uses magic both to embody the almost supernatural power of love (symbolized by the love potion) and to create a surreal world. Magic The fairies’ magic. Helena loves Demetrius. Additionally. / Four 10 . comedic. is another element central to the fantastic atmosphere of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. and the plot is in many ways based on a quest for internal balance. magic. The tone of the play is so lighthearted that the audience never doubts that things will end happily. magic ultimately resolves the play’s tensions by restoring love to balance among the quartet of Athenian youths. while Bottom is clumsy and grotesque.· Comments made in Act I. the ease with which Puck uses magic to his own ends. leaving one woman with too many suitors and one with too few. and Demetrius loves Hermia instead of Helena—a simple numeric imbalance in which two men love the same woman. an imbalance arises out of the fact that Oberon’s coveting of Titania’s Indian boy outweighs his love for her. The play has strong potential for a traditional outcome.134). satirical. Later. as when Puck mistakenly applies the love potion to Lysander’s eyelids. “The course of true love never did run smooth. articulating one of A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s most important themes—that of the difficulty of love (I. Dreams As the title suggests. romantic situations in which a disparity or inequality interferes with the harmony of a relationship. scene i about the difficulties that lovers face · Romantic. Titania’s passion for the ass-headed Bottom represents an imbalance of appearance and nature: Titania is beautiful and graceful.
unable to fathom the magical happenings that have affected him as anything but the result of slumber.i. however. Theseus and Hippolyta are always entirely in control of theirs. Symbols Symbols are objects. Shakespeare uses Theseus and Hippolyta. while the lovers are overly serious. instability. The theme of dreaming recurs predominantly when characters attempt to explain bizarre events in which these characters are involved: “I have had a dream. the ruler of Athens and his warrior bride. Puck plays pranks. as it helps render the play a fantastical experience rather than a heavy drama. to contrast with the uncertainty. Hermia is short.7–8). Bottom is the victim of pranks. Further. time loses its normal sense of flow. and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. scene i and not reappearing until Act IV. delicate Titania weaving flowers into the hair of the ass-headed Bottom. there is no scene in which extraordinary contrast is not present. Their reappearance in the 11 .nights will quickly dream away the time”). the three main groups of characters (who are developed from sources as varied as Greek mythology. saying that. and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes. appearing in the daylight at both the beginning and the end of the play’s main action. Puck extends the idea of dreams to the audience members themselves. they should remember it as nothing more than a dream. with the play’s most indelible image being that of the beautiful. Motifs Motifs are recurring structures. Shakespeare is also interested in the actual workings of dreams. Contrast serves as the defining visual characteristic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. to represent order and stability. Whereas an important element of the dream realm is that one is not in control of one’s environment. contrasts. It seems impossible to imagine two figures less compatible with each other. if they have been offended by the play. Man is but an ass if he go about t’expound this dream. while the craftsmen are clumsy and earthy. The entire play is constructed around groups of opposites and doubles. Contrast The idea of contrast is the basic building block of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. the craftsmen are merry.” Bottom says. he seeks to recreate this environment in the play through the intervention of the fairies in the magical forest. characters. This sense of illusion and gauzy fragility is crucial to the atmosphere of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. and various characters mention dreams throughout (I. and darkness of most of the play. At the end of the play. past the wit of man to say what / dream it was. Nearly every characteristic presented in the play has an opposite: Helena is tall. for the duration of the action. and classical literature) are designed to contrast powerfully with one another: the fairies are graceful and magical. Titania is beautiful. leaving in the middle of Act I. in how events occur without explanation. figures. Theseus and Hippolyta Theseus and Hippolyta bookend A Midsummer Night’s Dream. as the sun is coming up to end the magical night in the forest. English folklore. and the impossible occurs as a matter of course. Bottom is grotesque. The juxtaposition of extraordinary differences is the most important characteristic of the play’s surreal atmosphere and is thus perhaps the play’s central motif. They disappear.
TONE · Crusoe’s tone is mostly detached. POINT OF VIEW · Crusoe narrates in both the first and third person. Crusoe occasionally describes his feelings. then Brazil. and objective. Pyramus and Thisbe face parental disapproval in the play-within-a-play. just as Hermia and Lysander do. then a deserted island off Trinidad. then Lisbon. and finally the island again PROTAGONIST · Robinson Crusoe GENRE 12 . He displays little rhetorical grandeur and few poetic or colorful turns of phrase. preferring an inventorylike approach to the facts as they unfold. meticulous. and only does so when those feelings affect a situation directly. indicating that their fatigue allows them to be defeated. and undeniably powerful nature of love. then overland from Spain toward England. The Craftsmen’s Play The play-within-a-play that takes up most of Act V. The craftsmen’s play is. then England. their performance satirizes the melodramatic Athenian lovers and gives the play a purely joyful. it is used by the fairies to wreak romantic havoc throughout Acts II. which can lead to inexplicable and bizarre behavior and cannot be resisted. scene i is used to represent. III. Because the meddling fairies are careless with the love potion. TENSE · Past SETTING (TIME) · From 1659 to 1694 SETTING (PLACE) · York. Usually he favors a more factual narrative style focused on actions and events. erratic. He generally avoids dramatic storytelling. but only when they are overwhelming. DANIEL DEFOE. comedic ending. The Love Potion The love potion is made from the juice of a flower that was struck with one of Cupid’s misfired arrows. such as when he describes the mutineers as tired and confused. England DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · 1719 PUBLISHER · William Taylor NARRATOR · Robinson Crusoe is both the narrator and main character of the tale. presenting what he observes. the theme of romantic confusion enhanced by the darkness of night is rehashed. therefore.daylight of Act IV to hear Theseus’s hounds signifies the end of the dream state of the previous night and a return to rationality. London. and Titania is hilariously humiliated (she is magically compelled to fall deeply in love with the ass-headed Bottom). then London. novel of isolation LANGUAGE · English TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · 1719. England. and IV. He very rarely registers his own feelings. then Sallee. The love potion thus becomes a symbol of the unreasoning. or those of other characters. as Pyramus mistakenly believes that Thisbe has been killed by the lion. North Africa. just as the Athenian lovers experience intense misery because of the mix-ups caused by the fairies’ meddling. many of the important ideas and themes of the main plot. fickle. then England. Because the craftsmen are such bumbling actors.ROBINSON CRUSOE · Adventure story. in condensed form. the situation of the young Athenian lovers becomes increasingly chaotic and confusing (Demetrius and Lysander are magically compelled to transfer their love from Hermia to Helena). a kind of symbol for A Midsummer Night’s Dream itself: a story involving powerful emotions that is made hilarious by its comical presentation.
“Seeing all these things have not brought thee to repentance. the cross. Crusoe needs repentance most. Crusoe’s mastery over nature makes him a master of his fate and of himself.” and indeed he lets him “know that was to be [Crusoe’s] name.Crusoe’s experiences constitute not simply an adventure story in which thrilling things happen. he finds that he is master of his life—he suffers a hard fate and still finds prosperity. ordeals at sea SYMBOLS · The footprint. eating. and is almost a born-again experience for him. and controlling his environment shows the condition of mastery in a positive light. privation. secures a food supply. when Crusoe is rescued and his fortune restored.” Crusoe never entertains the idea of considering Friday a friend or equal—for some reason. he complains much less about his sad fate and views the island more positively. His taming and domestication of wild goats and parrots with Crusoe as their master illustrates his newfound control. repentance consists of acknowledging his wretchedness and his absolute dependence on the Lord. This moral and religious dimension of the tale is indicated in the Preface. while Crusoe seems praiseworthy in mastering his fate. who are his “subjects. We further question Crusoe’s right to be called “[m]aster”when he later refers to himself as “king” over the natives and Europeans. Crusoe’s success in mastering his situation. the importance of self-awareness MOTIFS · Counting and measuring. RISING ACTION · Crusoe disobeys his father and goes out to sea. Moreover. This biblical reference also suggests that Crusoe’s exile from civilization represents Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden. But this theme of mastery becomes more complex and less positive after Friday’s arrival. when the idea of mastery comes to apply more to unfair relationships between humans. Crusoe’s bower MAJOR CONFLICT Themes. But in the later part of the novel. but also a moral tale illustrating the right and wrong ways to live one’s life. he frequently blames himself for disobeying his father’s advice or blames the destiny that drove him to sea. THEMES · The ambivalence of mastery. Early in the novel. now thou shalt die.The Ambivalence of Mastery. Defoe explores the link between the two in his depiction of the colonial mind. which he refers to as his “original sin. the praiseworthiness of his mastery over his fellow humans is more doubtful.” In short. This admission marks a turning point in Crusoe’s spiritual consciousness. as Crusoe does several times with few results. Crusoe lands in an inhospitable environment and makes it his home. forcing him to fend for himself and his basic needs.· Shipwrecked alone. After repentance. For Crusoe. as Crusoe is when his grain sprouts. which states that Crusoe’s story is being published to instruct others in God’s wisdom. this view of the necessity of repentance ends up justifying sin: Crusoe may never have learned to repent if he had never sinfully disobeyed his 13 . who also regained divine favor. While it is important to be grateful for God’s miracles. overcoming his obstacles. CLIMAX · Crusoe becomes shipwrecked on an island near Trinidad. In building a home for himself on the island. Crusoe teaches Friday the word “[m]aster” even before teaching him“yes” and “no. Later. FALLING ACTION · Crusoe constructs a shelter. superiority comes instinctively to him. at least at the beginning of the novel. Crusoe has a profitable first merchant voyage.” Crusoe believes that his major sin is his rebellious behavior toward his father. the necessity of repentance. loneliness. The Necessity of Repentance . Ironically. it is not enough simply to express gratitude or even to pray to God. as he learns from the fiery angelic figure that comes to him during a feverish hallucination and says. and one vital part of this wisdom is the importance of repenting one’s sins. Crusoe struggles against hardship. and prepares for a slave-gathering expedition. he compares himself to Job. and accepts his stay on the island as the work of Providence. and cannibals in his attempt to survive on a deserted island. In Chapter XXIII. Crusoe stops viewing himself as a passive victim and strikes a new note of self-determination. has fantasies of success in Brazil.” akin to Adam and Eve’s first disobedience of God.
Life for Crusoe always illustrates this eat or be eaten philosophy. “Poor Robin Crusoe. Crusoe feels the importance of staying aware of his situation at all times. . businesslike character and his hands-on approach to life. he frets about not having “anything to eat or drink to comfort me. Similarly. but for him the necessity of counting out each day is never questioned. since even back in Europe he is threatened by man-eating wolves.Crusoe’s encounters with water in the novel are often associated not simply with hardship. but with a kind of symbolic ordeal. just as being eaten signifies death for Crusoe. . the storm off the 14 . even when they amount to nothing more than finding a few pieces of wood on the beach or waiting inside while it rains. and. but it is given a strange intensity when we recall that Crusoe has spent months teaching the bird to say it back to him. but that it takes precisely twenty days to fell the tree and fourteen to remove the branches. like manna from heaven. Motifs . Crusoe keeps accounts of himself enthusiastically and in various ways. Even while he is still wet from the sea in Chapter V. a sort of self-conscious or autobiographical calendar with him at its center.Counting and Measuring . and four foot eleven inches diameter at the end of twenty-two foot. For example. .” He soon provides himself with food. The idea that the individual must keep a careful reckoning of the state of his own soul is a key point in the Presbyterian doctrine that Defoe took seriously all his life. The Importance of Self-Awareness . We may often wonder why Crusoe feels it useful to record that it did not rain on December 26. and 100 yards in breadth. in the end. but informs us with a surveyor’s precision that the space is “150 yards in length. We can also sense Crusoe’s impulse toward self-awareness in the fact that he teaches his parrot to say the words. showing us that. He does not simply tell us that his hedge encloses a large space. It is not just an immense tree. . almost a luxury food for Crusoe.Crusoe is a careful note-taker whenever numbers and quantities are involved. Crusoe obsessively keeps a journal to record his daily activities. or test of character. Eating is an image of existence itself. unlike animals. In a way. it is significant that Crusoe’s makeshift calendar does not simply mark the passing of days. Crusoe teaches nature itself to voice his own self-awareness. but is “five foot ten inches in diameter at the lower part . but instead more egocentrically marks the days he has spent on the island: it is about him. and his discovery of grain is viewed as a miracle. But no sooner does Crusoe master the art of eating than he begins to fear being eaten himself. His cultivation of raisins. it is nevertheless complex and ambiguous. First. these images of eating convey Crusoe’s ability to integrate the island into his life. All these examples of counting and measuring underscore Crusoe’s practical. Where have you been?” This sort of selfexamining thought is natural for anyone alone on a desert island. But Defoe sometimes hints at the futility of Crusoe’s measuring—as when the carefully measured canoe cannot reach water or when his obsessively kept calendar is thrown off by a day of oversleeping. and indeed each new edible item marks a new stage in his mastery of the island. The cannibals transform Crusoe from the consumer into a potential object to be consumed. as powerful as the theme of repentance is in the novel.” Furthermore. marks a new comfortable period in his island existence. he remains conscious of himself at all times. time is measured with similar exactitude.father in the first place. as Crusoe’s journal shows. everything Crusoe counts never really adds up to much and does not save him from isolation. . just as food is integrated into the body to let the organism grow and prosper. We see that in his normal day-to-day activities. his island existence actually deepens his self-awareness as he withdraws from the external social world and turns inward. One of Crusoe’s first concerns after his shipwreck is his food supply. so that his food supply becomes a symbol of his survival.” He tells us not simply that he spends a long time making his canoe in Chapter XVI. Ordeals at Sea . Defoe may be subtly poking fun at the urge to quantify. His securing of goat meat staves off immediate starvation. Thus.Crusoe’s arrival on the island does not make him revert to a brute existence controlled by animal instincts. Indeed.
Crusoe’s shocking discovery of a single footprint on the sand in Chapter XVIII is one of the most famous moments in the novel. in capital letters. he thinks in terms of “pleasantness.On a scouting tour around the island. .” The large size and capital letters show us how important this cross is to Crusoe as a timekeeping device and thus also as a way of relating himself to the larger social world where dates and calendars still matter. as the print of the devil or of an aggressor. set[s] it up on the shore where [he] first landed.The Footprint. Crusoe marks the passing of days “with [his] knife upon a large post. and that the isolation he is experiencing may actually be his ideal state. The Cross. His escape from his Moorish master and his successful encounter with the Africans both occur at sea. Then. Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. Now. . and in his second one. but may be an opportunity for enjoyment—just as. by which Christians prove their faith and enter a new life saved by Christ. Crusoe’s Bower. in his first trading voyage. yet the evidence of a man on his island sends him into a panic. and it symbolizes our hero’s conflicted feelings about human companionship. he shows he is able to survive enslavement. Crusoe discovers a delightful valley in which he decides to build a country retreat or “bower” in Chapter XII. He never for a moment entertains hope that it could belong to an angel or another European who could rescue or befriend him. for the first time since his arrival. All the life-testing water imagery in the novel has subtle associations with the rite of baptism. . Yet Crusoe’s large cross seems somewhat blasphemous in making no reference to Christ. for the Presbyterian. an immersion in water like Crusoe’s shipwreck experience. But the sea remains a source of danger and fear even later. life may be enjoyed only after hard work has been finished and repentance achieved. JONATHAN SWIFT GULLIVER’S TRAVELS Key Facts full title · Gulliver’s Travels.Concerned that he will “lose [his] reckoning of time”in Chapter VII. . Island life is no longer necessarily a disaster to suffer through. and making it into a great cross . by Lemuel Gulliver author · Jonathan Swift type of work · Novel genre · Satire 15 . Crusoe has earlier confessed how much he misses companionship. . since it is built not for the practical purpose of shelter or storage. But the cross is also a symbol of his own new existence on the island. the bower symbolizes a radical improvement in Crusoe’s attitude toward his time on the island. Immediately he interprets the footprint negatively. underscoring how completely he has become the center of his own life. it is a memorial to Crusoe himself. This bower contrasts sharply with Crusoe’s first residence. Symbols. which by this point in the novel is more or less secure. Instead. The Spanish shipwreck reminds Crusoe of the destructive power of water and of his own good fortune in surviving it. This instinctively negative and fearful attitude toward others makes us consider the possibility that Crusoe may not want to return to human society after all. Crusoe survives his shipwreck after a lengthy immersion in water. or. he proves himself a capable merchant.”Thus.coast of Yarmouth frightens Crusoe’s friend away from a life at sea. Most significantly. but does not deter Crusoe.” Crusoe is no longer focused solely on survival. but simply for pleasure: “because I was so enamoured of the place. just as the Christian cross is a symbol of the Christian’s new life in Christ after baptism. when the cannibals arrive in canoes.
Gulliver’s Travels implicitly poses the question of whether physical power or moral righteousness should be the governing factor in social life. to keep him company themes · Might versus right. he is enslaved by a farmer. tone · Gulliver’s tone is gullible and naïve during the first three voyages. specifically when he shuns the generous Don Pedro as a vulgar Yahoo falling action · Gulliver’s unhappy return to England accentuates his alienation and compels him to buy horses. the warfare it has sparked. The intention of the author. But alongside the use of physical force. Swift is engaged in a conflict with the English society he is satirizing. better behaved. Houyhnhnms. the limits of human understanding motifs · Excrement. This difference of opinion seems to justify. Brobdingnagians. Gulliver experiences the advantages of physical might both as one who has it. when he is physically tied down by the Lilliputians. as with the Houyhnhnms’ chaining up of the Yahoos. Laputa. Brobdingnag. Similarly. even though we might see them as absurd and unpleasant. the ruling elite of 16 . Blefuscu. London and Dublin date of first publication · 1726 (1735 unabridged) Publisher · George Faulkner (unabridged 1735 edition) narrator · Lemuel Gulliver point of view · Gulliver speaks in the first person. and the land of the Houyhnhnms protagonist · Lemuel Gulliver major conflict · On the surface. the use of physical force against the Yahoos is justified for the Houyhnhnms by their sense of moral superiority: they are cleaner. Below the surface.Might Versus Right. the novel tends to show that claims to rule on the basis of moral righteousness are often just as arbitrary as. foreign languages. Laputans. The Laputans keep the lower land of Balnibarbi in check through force because they believe themselves to be more rational. in the fourth. which remind him of Houyhnhnms. as a miniature visitor to Brobdingnag where he is harassed by the hugeness of everything from insects to household pets. Similarly. instead. a religious and moral issue related to the proper interpretation of a passage in their holy book. Themes. rising action · Gulliver’s encounters with other societies eventually lead up to his rejection of human society in the fourth voyage climax · Gulliver rejects human society in the fourth voyage. He describes other characters and actions as they appear to him. and sometimes simply disguises for. later. as a giant in Lilliput where he can defeat the Blefuscudian navy by virtue of his immense size. the individual versus society. and as one who does not have it. in their eyes at least. He also observes physical force used against others. England foreshadowing · Gulliver’s experiences with various flawed societies foreshadow his ultimate rejection of human society in the fourth voyage. there are also many claims to power based on moral correctness. His first encounter with another society is one of entrapment. Jonathan Swift. simple physical subjugation. Gulliver strives to understand the various societies with which he comes into contact and to have these societies understand his native England. it turns cynical and bitter. clothing symbols · Lilliputians. tense · Past setting (time) · Early eighteenth century setting (place) · Primarily England and the imaginary countries of Lilliput. But overall. Motifs & Symbols Themes. and more rational. is satirical and biting throughout.language · English time and place written · Approximately 1712–1726. The whole point of the egg controversy that has set Lilliput against Blefuscu is not merely a cultural difference but. in Brobdingnag.
emphasize not these people’s knowledge or understanding of abstract ideas but their ability to live their lives in a wise and steady way.The idea that humans are not meant to know everything and that all understanding has a natural limit is important in Gulliver’s Travels. He never speaks fondly or nostalgically about England. Gulliver’s Travels explores the idea of utopia—an imaginary model of the ideal community. and backstabbing. but its results are not exactly utopian. jealousies. Practical knowledge is also satirized when it does not produce results. The Brobdingnagian king knows shockingly little about the abstractions of political science. where the experiments for extracting sunbeams from cucumbers amount to nothing. as in the academy of Balnibarbi. such a union is impossible for him. if Swift’s satire mocks the excesses of communal life. England itself is not much of a homeland for Gulliver. like Brobdingnag and Houyhnhnmland. going back at least as far as the description in Plato’s Republic of a city-state governed by the wise and expressed most famously in English by Thomas More’s Utopia. and. it may also mock the excesses of individualism in its portrait of a miserable and lonely Gulliver talking to his horses at home in England. and every time he returns home. Gulliver’s Travels could in fact be described as one of the first novels of modern alienation. yet his country seems prosperous and well governed. since he is not a horse.Balnibarbi believes itself to be in the right in driving Lord Munodi from power. The Houyhnhnms also practice strict family planning. without individual identities. dictating that the parents of two females should exchange a child with a family of two males. Gulliver’s intense grief when forced to leave the Houyhnhnms may have something to do with his longing for union with a community in which he can lose his human identity. with no knowledge of their biological parents. since Lilliput is torn by conspiracies. but the embittered and antisocial misanthrope we see at the end of the novel is clearly a profoundly isolated individual. they come closer to the utopian ideal than the Lilliputians in their wisdom and rational simplicity. with his surgeon’s business unprofitable and his father’s estate insufficient to support him. he is quick to leave again. Thus his depictions of rational societies. Thus. Gulliver never complains explicitly about feeling lonely. The children of Plato’s Republic are raised communally.Like many narratives about voyages to nonexistent lands. Swift singles out theoretical knowledge in particular for attack: his portrait of the disagreeable and self-centered Laputans. they are in a sense the exact opposite of Gulliver. The Limits of Human Understanding. The idea of a utopia is an ancient one. focusing on an individual’s repeated failures to integrate into societies to which he does not belong. Claims to moral superiority are. as hard to justify as the random use of physical force to dominate others. In their absolute fusion with their society and lack of individuality. although we perceive that Munodi is the rational party. Despite minor physical differences. and all the other societies he visits make him feel alienated as well. he may be right to feel alienated from it. Similarly. Swift has the Lilliputians similarly raise their offspring collectively. Swift nods to both works in his own narrative. and one of the main aspects he points out about famous historical utopias is the tendency to privilege the collective group over the individual. who show blatant contempt for those who are not sunk in private theorizing. in the understanding that this system enhances social fairness. in the end. the Houyhnhnms know little about arcane 17 . In any case. The Individual Versus Society. Indeed. But there is something unsettling about the Houyhnhnms’ indistinct personalities and about how they are the only social group that Gulliver encounters who do not have proper names. who has hardly any sense of belonging to his native society and exists only as an individual eternally wandering the seas. though his attitude toward utopia is much more skeptical. Swift insists that there is a realm of understanding into which humans are simply not supposed to venture. is a clear satire against those who pride themselves on knowledge above all else. so that the male-to-female ratio is perfectly maintained. they are all so good and rational that they are more or less interchangeable.
gain access to their culture quickly. Clothing. But even more important. or when Brobdingnagian flies defecate on his meals. and it obstructs any attempt to view humans as wholly spiritual or mentally transcendent creatures. which at the time only admitted the Dutch..Critics have noted the extraordinary attention that Gulliver pays to clothes throughout his journeys. we are reminded how very little human reason has to do with everyday existence. a kind of anthropologist’s awareness of how things vary from culture to culture. it appears that living a happy and well-ordered life seems to be the very thing for which Swift thinks knowledge is useful. passions. and we are perhaps meant to yearn for a narrator who is a bit less able to remember the Brobdingnagian word for “lark” and better able to offer a more illuminating kind of cultural analysis. since that knowledge has a practical effect on their well-being.Excrement. He is meticulous in recording the details of language in his narrative. Gulliver is initially remarkably lacking in self-reflection and self-awareness. these 18 . though they know how long a month is by observing the moon. dreams. It symbolizes everything that is crass and ignoble about the human body and about human existence in general.While it may seem a trivial or laughable motif. Yet surprisingly. and he shows no interest in describing his own psychology to us. and that if we look too closely at ourselves we might not be able to carry on living happily. when Gulliver urinates to put out a fire in Lilliput. knowing at least the basics of several European languages and even a fair amount of ancient Greek. he may strike us as frustratingly hollow or empty. Foreign Languages. Every time he gets a rip in his shirt or is forced to adopt some native garment to replace one of his own. Motifs. In one sense. Since the Enlightenment culture of eighteenth-century England tended to view humans optimistically as noble souls rather than vulgar bodies.Gulliver appears to be a gifted linguist. Thus. the Brobdingnagians. We are told how his pants are falling apart in Lilliput. Swift also emphasizes the importance of self-understanding. and how the finest silks of the land are as thick as blankets on him. Aspiring to higher fields of knowledge would be meaningless to them and would interfere with their happiness. Swift’s emphasis on the common filth of life is a slap in the face of the philosophers of his day. his facility for translation does not indicate a culturally comparative mind. he has come close to a kind of twisted self-knowledge in his deranged belief that he is a Yahoo. Swift may thus be saying that self-knowledge has its necessary limits just as theoretical knowledge does. his linguistic gifts allow him to learn the languages of the exotic lands he visits with a dazzling speed and. often giving the original as well as the translation. or when the scientist in Lagado works to transform excrement back into food. His revulsion with the human condition. the recurrent mention of excrement in Gulliver’s Travels actually has a serious philosophical significance in the narrative. He makes no mention of his emotions. as he is able to disguise himself as a Dutchman in order to facilitate his entry into Japan. shown in his shabby treatment of the generous Don Pedro. This knowledge serves him well. he recounts the clothing details with great precision. Swift suggests that the human condition in general is dirtier and lowlier than we might like to believe it is. By the end. extends to himself as well. In such contexts. Thus. Accordingly. and even the neighing tongue of the Houyhnhnms. Gulliver’s mastery of foreign languages generally does not correspond to any real interest in cultural differences. or aspirations. He learns the languages of the Lilliputians. so that as the army marches between his legs they get quite an eyeful. One would expect that such detail would indicate a cross-cultural sensitivity. and he rarely even speculates on how or why cultures are different at all. so that he ends the novel in a thinly disguised state of self-hatred.subjects like astronomy. He compares any of the governments he visits to that of his native England. though it is likely that his personal emptiness is part of the overall meaning of the novel. We are informed about the mouse skin he wears in Brobdingnag. thus.
even when there is no real danger present—a pre-teen girl is hardly a threat to a grown man. He does not seem to have much selfhood: one critic has called him an “abyss. Swift fully intends the irony of representing the tiniest race visited by Gulliver as by far the most vainglorious and smug. and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. forgetting that they have no real physical power over him. and point out Gulliver’s inability to diagnose it correctly. the farther he is from the comforts and conventions of England. or lack thereof. The Lilliputians show off not only to Gulliver but to themselves as well. But the motif of clothing carries a deeper. His journey to new lands is also thus a journey into new clothes. Significantly. but in his shrunken state 19 . Gulliver is a naïve consumer of the Lilliputians’ grandiose imaginings: he is flattered by the attention of their royal family and cowed by their threats of punishment. Gulliver vehemently refuses. We sense that Gulliver may well never fully reintegrate into European society. and more of the pettiness of small minds who imagine themselves to be grand.The Lilliputians symbolize humankind’s wildly excessive pride in its own puny existence. the Lilliputians symbolize misplaced human pride. the two moments when he describes being naked in the novel are two deeply troubling or humiliating experiences: the first when he is the boy toy of the Brobdingnagian maids who let him cavort nude on their mountainous breasts. personal. but it works quite effectively on the naïve Gulliver. An eighteenth-century philosopher could afford to ignore the fly buzzing around his head or the skin pores on his servant girl.The Brobdingnagians symbolize the private. the proper interpretation of scripture by the emperor’s forebears and the hurt feelings resulting from the disagreement. preferring his wild animal skins. There is more backbiting and conspiracy in Lilliput than anywhere else. at least in physical terms. and the second when he is assaulted by an eleven-year-old Yahoo girl as he bathes. The philosophical era of the Enlightenment tended to overlook the routines of everyday life and the sordid or tedious little facts of existence. figures. and physical side of humans when examined up close and in great detail. a basically absurd way to boost the collective ego of the nation. There is no mention of armies proudly marching in any of the other societies Gulliver visits—only in Lilliput and neighboring Blefuscu are the six-inch inhabitants possessed of the need to show off their patriotic glories with such displays. There is surely no character more odious in all of Gulliver’s travels than the noxious Skyresh.” a void where an individual character should be. more psychologically complex meaning as well. sometimes matters of life and death. characters. Lilliputians.descriptions are obviously an easy narrative device with which Swift can chart his protagonist’s progression from one culture to another: the more ragged his clothes become and the stranger his new wardrobe. Brobdingnagians. Symbols Symbols are objects. If clothes make the man. All in all. both collectively and individually. When he is picked up by Don Pedro after his fourth voyage and offered a new suit of clothes. but in Brobdingnag such facts become very important for Gulliver. Indeed. it is a pathetic reminder that their grand parade—in full view of Gulliver’s nether regions—is supremely silly. Their formally worded condemnation of Gulliver on grounds of treason is a model of pompous and self-important verbiage. Both incidents suggest more than mere prudery. Gulliver associates nudity with extreme vulnerability. rather. When the Lilliputian emperor requests that Gulliver serve as a kind of makeshift Arch of Triumph for the troops to pass under. since the cause is not a material concern like disputed territory but. Gulliver’s intense interest in the state of his clothes may signal a deep-seated anxiety about his identity. the war with Blefuscu is itself an absurdity springing from wounded vanity. then perhaps Gulliver’s obsession with the state of his wardrobe may suggest that he desperately needs to be fashioned as a personality. The state of nudity may remind Gulliver of how nonexistent he feels without the reassuring cover of clothing.
and Gulliver’s intense grief when he is forced to leave them suggests that they have made an impact on him greater than that of any other society he has visited. The Brobdingnagians do not symbolize a solely negative human characteristic. dependent as they are upon the Balnibarbians below. Swift was a critic of the newfangled ideas springing up around him at the dawn of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Even up above. Indeed. a period of great intellectual experimentation and theorization. but in Brobdingnag he is treated as a doll or a plaything. England seems to symbolize deficiency or insufficiency. Laputa symbolizes the absurdity of knowledge that has never been tested or applied. Their lives seem harmonious and happy. They have few material worries. there are echoes of Plato’s Republic in the Houyhnhnms’ rejection of light entertainment and vain displays of luxury.The Houyhnhnms represent an ideal of rational existence. Indeed. He much preferred the traditional knowledge that had been tested over centuries. Laputans. implies that he strongly identifies with the Houyhnhnms. As in Plato’s ideal community. this apparent ease may be why Swift chooses to make them horses rather than human types like every other group in the novel. Their subjugation of the Yahoos appears more necessary than cruel and perhaps the best way to deal with an unfortunate blot on their otherwise ideal society. at least in the financial sense that matters most to Gulliver. their appeal to reason rather than any holy writings as the criterion for proper action. They have no names in the narrative nor any need for names. with little individual identity. Even down below in Balnibarbi. to get glimpses of family relations or private affairs. under close scrutiny. challenge.Gulliver is forced to pay great attention to such things. More than anything else. the ludicrous side of Enlightenment intellectualism. and thus is made privy to the urination of housemaids and the sexual lives of women. In any case. as the Laputans do. England is passed over very quickly in the first paragraph of 20 . like the queen’s goodwill toward Gulliver and the king’s commonsense views of politics. they symbolize a standard of rational existence to be either espoused or rejected by both Gulliver and us. to those more insightful than Gulliver. and their communal approach to family planning. where the local academy is more inclined to practical application. England. but others are noble. like their gigantic stench and the excrement left by their insects. although quite lacking in vigor. being such an outsider. theoretical knowledge there has proven positively disastrous. The Laputans do not symbolize reason itself but rather the pursuit of a form of knowledge that is not directly related to the improvement of human life. resulting in the ruin of agriculture and architecture and the impoverishment of the population. As a profound cultural conservative. in which he snubs the generous man as a Yahoo-like creature. but neurotic and disagreeable. In other lands it is difficult for Gulliver. They do not use force but only strong exhortation. the Brobdingnagians symbolize a dimension of human existence visible at close range. knowledge is not made socially useful as Swift demands.As the site of his father’s disappointingly “small estate”and Gulliver’s failing business.The Laputans represent the folly of theoretical knowledge that has no relation to human life and no use in the actual world. But they are tormented by worries about the trajectories of comets and other astronomical speculations: their theories have not made them wise. since they are virtually interchangeable. the Houyhnhnms have no need to lie nor any word for lying. Houyhnhnms. But we may be less ready than Gulliver to take the Houyhnhnms as ideals of human existence. He may be hinting. His derangement on Don Pedro’s ship. the Houyhnhnms seem like model citizens. that the Houyhnhnms should not be considered human ideals at all. and excitement. the pursuit of theoretical understanding has not improved the lot of the Laputans. In these ways and others. Indeed. He is forced take the domestic sphere seriously as well. a life governed by sense and moderation of which philosophers since Plato have long dreamed. They are not merely ridiculous—some aspects of them are disgusting.
England is brought more explicitly into the fabric of Gulliver’s Travels when Gulliver. Hovering near this dream. For Keats.Ode to a Nightingale. but they too are hardly mentioned. referring to Englishmen as Yahoos. Keats explores this idea in the first book of Endymion (1818). as in “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles” (1817). 21 . In this sense. The people on the urn. Examples of great beauty and art also caused Keats to ponder mortality. and eventually dies. small. was a morbid sense that death might intervene and terminate his projects. as if to show that it is simply there as the starting point to be left quickly behind. in his neurotic state. As a writer. in which Odysseus misses his homeland and laments his wanderings. He reassures young lovers by telling them that even though they shall never catch their mistresses.Ode to Psyche. shall never stop having experiences. By the end of the fourth journey. birds (“Ode to a Nightingale”). we can choose to spend our time alive in aesthetic revelry. and he chronicled these small mortal occurrences. grows old.Chapter I. and stars (“Bright star. starts confusing Houyhnhnmland with his homeland. unspoken importance. looking at beautiful objects and landscapes. Although we must die eventually. England is where Gulliver’s wife and family live. The end of a lover’s embrace. They shall remain permanently depicted while the speaker changes. “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again” ). The speaker in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” envies the immortality of the lute players and trees inscribed on the ancient vessel because they shall never cease playing their songs. so that England is kept constantly in the picture and given a steady. The possibility thus arises that all the races Gulliver encounters could be versions of the English and that his travels merely allow him to see various aspects of human nature more clearly.Even before his diagnosis of terminal tuberculosis. the images on an ancient urn. however.” The Contemplation of Beauty. Keats hoped he would live long enough to achieve his poetic dream of becoming as great as Shakespeare or John Milton: in “Sleep and Poetry” (1817). Unlike mortal beings. Gulliver seems to have very few nationalistic or patriotic feelings about England.In his poetry. beautiful things will never die but will keep demonstrating their beauty for all time. JOHN KEATS’ ODES(Ode on Indolence. Keats’s speakers contemplate urns (“Ode on a Grecian Urn”).Ode on Melancholy. Yet Swift chooses to have Gulliver return home after each of his four journeys instead of having him continue on one long trip to four different places. slow acts of death occurred every day.To Autumn) ThemesThe Inevitability of Death. books (“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” .Ode on a Grecian Urn. Keats proposed the contemplation of beauty as a way of delaying the inevitability of death. Keats focused on death and its inevitability in his work. the reaping of grain in autumn—all of these are not only symbols of death. The distinction between native and foreign thus unravels—the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos are not just races populating a faraway land but rather types that Gulliver projects upon those around him. nor will they ever shed their leaves. would I were stedfast as thou art” ). Gulliver’s Travels is quite unlike other travel narratives like the Odyssey. but instances of it. he expresses these concerns in the mournful 1818 sonnet “When I have fears that I may cease to be. and he rarely mentions his homeland on his travels. these women shall always stay beautiful. unlike the speaker. Keats outlined a plan of poetic achievement that required him to read poetry for a decade in order to understand—and surpass—the work of his predecessors.
Since the poem’s publication in 1820. The ability to get lost in a reverie. and Shelley.Like his fellow romantic poets. Similarly.Motifs. Keats found in nature endless sources of poetic inspiration. we can delay death through the timelessness of music. and a virginal maiden holding still.Music and musicians appear throughout Keats’s work as symbols of poetry and poets. to create extended 22 .In Keats’s theory of negative capability. the speaker imagines himself capable of using poetry to join the bird in the forest. As mortal beings who will eventually die. we cannot hear the music. the speaker leaves the real world to explore a transcendent. to depart conscious life for imaginative life without wondering about plausibility or rationality.In many of Keats’s poems. like spring. has songs to sing. Coleridge.Music and Musicians. even though we can touch them by holding the vessel. Although we cannot literally hear their music. and he described the natural world with precision and care.” the speaker imagines a state of “sweet unrest” (12) in which he will remain half-conscious on his lover’s breast forever. the speaker of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” describes the scenes on the urn for several stanzas until the famous conclusion about beauty and truth. critics have theorized about who speaks these lines. The erasure of the speaker and the poet is so complete in this particular poem that the quoted lines are jarring and troubling. Keats explored the relationship between visions and poetry in “Ode to Psyche” and “Ode to a Nightingale. Caught up in beautiful birdsong. mythical. the season of flowers and rejuvenation. The speaker of “To Autumn” reassures us that the season of fall. and they cannot touch one another. Symbols. Often the appearance or contemplation of a beautiful object makes the departure possible. in turn. lead to the production of worthwhile art. the season of changing leaves and decay. At the end of the poem. In “Bright star. In “Ode on a Grecian Urn.Keats imagined that the five senses loosely corresponded to and connected with various types of art. or aesthetic realm. the speaker.Departures and Reveries. All the figures remain motionless. The beauty of the bird’s music represents the ecstatic. In “Ode to a Nightingale. Keats’s speakers become so enraptured with an object that they erase themselves and their thoughts from their depiction of that object. poetry. the speaker/poet becomes melded to and indistinguishable from the object being described. or smelling. the speaker in “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”compares hearing Homer’s words to “pure serene” (7) air so that reading. held fast and permanent by their depiction on the sides of the urn.” the speaker longs for a drink of crystal-clear water or wine so that he might adequately describe the sounds of the bird singing nearby.” The Five Senses and Art. “Ode to a Nightingale” uses the bird’s music to contrast the mortality of humans with the immortality of art.” for instance. whether the poet. which. the speaker returns to his ordinary life transformed in some way and armed with a new understanding. the work itself chronicles an experience in such a way that the reader recognizes and responds to the experience without requiring the intervention or explanation of the poet. among others. Wordsworth. the poet disappears from the work—that is. As speakers depart this world for an imaginative world. The Disappearance of the Poet and the Speaker. because we see the musicians playing. For instance. In essence. imaginative possibilities of poetry. or one or all the figures on the urn. which is enclosed in quotation marks. the speaker describes musicians playing their pipes. musicians playing instruments. would I were stedfast as thou art. is as worthy of poetry as spring. Observing elements of nature allowed Keats. is part of Keats’s concept of negative capability. the urn. Fall. Nature. including lovers chasing one another. and other types of art. or seeing. they have experiences and insights that they can then impart into poetry once they’ve returned to conscious life. The speaker in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” describes the pictures depicted on the urn. becomes associating with breathing. Although the poem associates sight and sound. by using our imaginations. we can imagine and thus hear music. Each of the five senses must be involved in worthwhile experiences.
” S. as a reward. The power of imagination transforms the prison into a perfectly pleasant spot. in which the speaker employs a keen poetic mind that allows him to take part in a journey that he cannot physically make. This achievement was one of Keats’s great hopes.” hearing the bird’s song causes the speaker to ruminate on the immortality of art and the mortality of humans. and worship. however. the speaker discovers. including the leaves.Coleridge believed that a strong. Keats saw the possibility of permanent artistic achievement: if an urn still spoke to someone several centuries after its creation. exchanging them for an entirely new and completely fabricated experience. Many of his poems are powered exclusively by imaginative flights. then goes on to list specific flowers that are linked to sadness. and Poetry. active imagination could become a vehicle for transcending unpleasant circumstances. In ancient cultures.” the speaker mines the night sky to find ways to worship the Roman goddess Psyche as a muse: a star becomes an “amorous glow-worm” (27). organic and derived from the natural world. often take place in a mythical world not unlike that of classical antiquity. but he also discovers in nature similes.T COLERIDGE THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER Themes. after having imagined himself on a fantastic stroll through the countryside.Keats had an enduring interest in antiquity and the ancient world. The Interplay of Philosophy. Here. Coleridge linked them to God. such as “Ode to Psyche” and “To Homer” (1818). wherein the speaker temporarily abandons his immediate surroundings. For example. individual spirituality that equates nature with God. temporary nature of life. Piety. The poem ends by discounting the pantheist spirit. symbols. such as the Grecian urn. the speaker agonizes over his spiritual conflict. and the moon rests amid a background of dark blue.The Transformative Power of the Imagination. who disapproves of his unconventional ideas and urges him to Christ. While his wife lies untroubled. the speaker’s philosophical tendencies. For Keats. caught between Christianity and a unique. Using the imagination in this way is both empowering and surprising because it encourages a total and complete disrespect for the confines of time and place. poetry.Coleridge used his poetry to explore conflicting issues in philosophy and religious piety. philosophy. both on and off the page. The speaker of “Ode on Melancholy” compares a bout of depression to a “weeping cloud” (12). ancient myth and antique objects. In “The Eolian Harp” (1795). He finds in nature apt images for his psychological state. have a permanence and solidity that contrasts with the fleeting. Some critics argue that Coleridge’s interest in philosophy was simply his attempt to understand the imaginative and intellectual impulses that fueled his poetry. spirituality. The Ancient World. and metaphors for the spiritual and emotional states he seeks to describe. plenty of things to enjoy from inside the bower itself. creating friction and disorder for Coleridge. His longer poems. When he“returns” to the bower. collide with those of his orthodox wife. such as The Fall of Hyperion or Lamia.meditations and thoughtful odes about aspects of the human condition. In “Ode to Psyche. To support the claim that his imaginative and intellectual forces were. there was hope that a poem or artistic object from Keats’s time might continue to speak to readers or observers after the death of Keats or another writer or creator. These mental and emotional jumps are often well rewarded. He borrowed figures from ancient mythology to populate poems. and piety clashed. the trees. and the shadows. and the speaker concludes by privileging God and Christ 23 . Keats quietly prophesied: “I think I shall be among the English poets after my death. Coleridge struggles to reconcile the three forces. in fact. particularly the belief that an “intellectual breeze” (47) brushes by and inhabits all living things with consciousness. In an 1818 letter to his brother George. Keats not only uses nature as a springboard from which to ponder. in “Ode to a Nightingale. In his work. Perhaps Coleridge’s most famous use of imagination occurs in “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” (1797).
who might have felt excluded or put off by the form and content of neoclassicists. Nevertheless. praising it in his notebooks and repeatedly referencing it in his poems. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. frequently incorporating events and details of his domestic life in an effort to widen the scope of possible poetic content. To Coleridge. Although he sometimes wrote in blank verse. Close observation. Coleridge’s so-called conversation poems are short. straightforward language of the speaker. For Coleridge. and so on—who listens silently to the simple.”derive some symbols and images from nature. long. such as Alexander Pope. Coleridge guarded against the pathetic fallacy. Coleridge worshiped nature and recognized poetry’s capacity to describe the beauty of the natural world.Conversation Poems. self-contained. friend. great attention to detail. Coleridge remained defiantly supportive of prayer. Nearly all of Coleridge’s poems express a respect for and delight in natural beauty. God. including “The Eolian Harp. and he tells his son that he shall never be removed from nature. He recalls his boarding school days. The son shall be given the opportunity to develop a relationship with God and with nature. and the act of prayer appear in some form in nearly all of his poems.Coleridge. and he lamented the missed opportunities of his sheltered. love. far away from the rural idylls of his youth. Delight in the Natural World.Coleridge wanted to mimic the patterns and cadences of everyday speech in his poetry. freedom. Coleridge vacillated from supporting to criticizing Christian tenets and the Church of England. 1798). such as “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison. He once told the novelist Thomas de Quincey that prayer demanded such close attention that it was the one of the hardest actions of which human hearts were capable. Still other poems. Colloquial. and precise descriptions of color aptly demonstrate Coleridge’s respect and delight. Here. Even poems that don’t directly deal with nature.Like the other romantics. spontaneous. unrhymed iambic pentameter. an opportunity denied to both the speaker and Coleridge himself. and often without a discernable poetic form. Others. Unlike the descriptive. including “Kubla Khan” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. son. while his infant son sleeps nearby. the speaker sits quietly by a fire. musing on his life. digressive poems of Coleridge’s classicist predecessors. Despite his criticisms.Although Coleridge’s prose reveals more of his religious philosophizing than his poetry. imaginative soul of youth. Motifs. Both Wordsworth and Coleridge believed that everyday language and speech rhythms would help broaden poetry’s audience to include the middle and lower classes. The son of an Anglican vicar. and friendly. city-bound adolescence in many poems. including “Frost at Midnight”(1798). nature had the capacity to teach joy. crucial characteristics for a worthy. and piety. or the attribution of human feeling to the natural world. the son shall experience the seasons and shall learn about God by discovering the beauty and bounty of the natural world. According to their formulation. he adapted this metrical form to suit a more colloquial rhythm. Nature and the Development of the Individual. The death of his father forced Coleridge to attend school in London. Coleridge’s conversation poetry is also highly personal. The conclusion to Part 24 .” use images of nature to explore philosophical and analytical ideas.” “Youth and Age” (1834). simply praise nature’s beauty. finding images in nature with which to describe it. Christianity. and “Frost at Midnight. Many of his poems openly address a single figure—the speaker’s wife. experiencing nature was an integral part of the development of a complete soul and sense of personhood. and other romantic poets praised the unencumbered. Unlike the speaker. Prayer. constant joyousness wholly separate from the ups and downs of human experience. and John Dryden. Some poems. the way the speaker once was.” mourn the speakers’ physical isolation from the outside world. during which he would both daydream and lull himself to sleep by remembering his home far away from the city. including “The Nightingale” (ca. nature contained an innate.over nature and praising them for having healed him from the spiritual wounds inflicted by these unorthodox views. Wordsworth. developed individual.
with the speaker at passionate prayer. as in “Frost at Midnight. consequently. the speaker. the moon appears fourteen times in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.Like the sun. “Kubla Khan” is subtitled “A Vision in a Dream. Coleridge composes an epitaph for himself. whereas the moon represents the benevolent. “a lovely sight to see” (279).” Coleridge compares the sun to “God’s own head” (97) and.”and the dancing rays of sunlight represent a pinnacle of nature’s beauty. however.” the mariner is stripped of his ability to speak as part of his extreme punishment and.Coleridge explores dreams and dreaming in his poetry to communicate the power of the imagination. “Epitaph” (1833). In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. this poem contains eleven references to the sun. For example. in which he battles imaginary demons to pray aloud.Coleridge believed that symbolic language was the only acceptable way of expressing deep religious truths and consistently employed the sun as a symbol of God. Similarly. troubling things happen to the crew during the day. but the moon has more positive connotations than the sun. vengeful God. All told. in contrast to the horrors that occur during the day. as in “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison. as it dehydrates the crew. while smooth sailing and calm weather occur at night. Rather than recommend a manner or method of prayer. as well as a symbol of his authority. “Dejection: An Ode”(1802) begins with an epitaph about the new moon and goes on to describe the beauty of a moonlit night. the sun stands in for God’s influence and power. by the light of the moon. Coleridge’s poems reflect a wide variety. Upon awakening. left incapable of praying. which emphasizes his belief in the importance of individuality. later. Dreams and Dreaming. the mariner’s curse lifts and he returns home by moonlight.”and generally favorable things occur during night. Nevertheless. repentant God. he wrote out the fragments that now comprise “Kubla Khan. comforts himself by imagining and then dreaming of his rural home.” Opium probably gave Coleridge a sense of well-being that allowed him to sleep without the threat of nightmares. the poem speaks to the imaginative possibilities of the subconscious. contrasting its beauty with the speaker’s sorrowful soul. Bad. In the sad poem. All told. “Frost at Midnight” also praises the moon as it illuminates icicles on a winter evening and spurs the speaker to great thought. in which he prays silently. Frequently. which urges people to pray for him after he dies. when he returned. the moon often symbolizes God. In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Coleridge suffered from nightmares so terrible that sometimes his own screams would wake him.”According to Coleridge. In his real life. attributes the first phase of the mariner’s punishment to the sun. “The Pains of Sleep” (1803) contrasts the speaker at restful prayer. he began transcribing the dream-vision but was soon called away. The setting sun spurs philosophical musings. Dreams usually have a pleasurable connotation. a phenomenon he details in “The Pains of Sleep. attributing it to an attempt at increasing the poem’s dramatic effect. In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. wrathful God. as in “The Eolian Harp.” The Moon. JANE AUSTEN PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 25 .” Some critics doubt Coleridge’s story.The Sun. many of which signify the Christian conception of a wrathful. Symbols. he fell asleep while reading and dreamed of a marvelous pleasure palace for the next few hours. as well as the inaccessible clarity of vision.”There. lonely and insomniac as a child at boarding school.1 of Christabel portrays Christabel in prayer.” the sun and the moon represent two sides of the Christian God: the sun represents the angry.
in Volume 3. Journeys THEMES MOTIFS · The novel is light on symbolism. in Jane Austen’s own words.”and is clearly meant to symbolize the character of Mr. Chapter 16) · Elizabeth Bennet · Snobbish class-consciousness (epitomized by Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Miss · Some point during the Napoleonic Wars (1797–1815) · Longbourn. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth (Volume 3. Chapter 1. which is described as being “neither formal. Motifs & Symbols ThemES Love. between 1796 and 1813 · 1813 LANGUAGE TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION PUBLISHER NARRATOR CLIMAX · Thomas Egerton of London · Third-person omniscient · Mr. Class · Courtship. nor falsely adorned. except on the visit to Pemberley. SYMBOLS Themes. · The two chapters of the novel after Darcy’s proposal FALLING ACTION TENSE · Past tense · The only notable example of foreshadowing occurs when Elizabeth visits Pemberley. Elizabeth’s pride makes her misjudge Darcy on the basis of a poor first impression.Pride and Prejudice contains one of the most cherished love stories in English literature: the courtship between Darcy and Elizabeth. and sparkling” · Love.Key Facts FULL TITLE · Pride and Prejudice · Novel TYPE OF WORK GENRE · Comedy of manners · English · England. Reputation. beginning with the tensions caused by the lovers’ own personal qualities. FORESHADOWING TONE · Comic—or. Her appreciation of the estate foreshadows her eventual realization of her love for its owner. As in any good love story. while Darcy’s prejudice against Elizabeth’s poor social standing 26 . Darcy’s estate. Darcy. in rural England PROTAGONIST ANTAGONIST Bingley) SETTING (TIME) SETTING (PLACE) POINT OF VIEW · The novel is primarily told from Elizabeth Bennet’s point of view. “light and bright. the lovers must elude and overcome numerous stumbling blocks.
anxieties about social connections. meanwhile. interfere with the workings of love. Collins offers an extreme example. to her many virtues. This theme appears in the novel. cynical) notes about love.) Austen. Darcy and Elizabeth’s realization of a mutual and tender love seems to imply that Austen views love as something independent of these social forces. At other points. Yet with her central characters. but some readers might resent that such an intervention was necessary at all. using the character of Charlotte Lucas. Austen does sound some more realist (or. Though Mr. including Lady Catherine’s attempt to control her nephew. who spends most of his time toadying to his upper-class patron. Mrs. and unproductive. Reputation. more worthy virtues. Collins. The lines of class are strictly drawn. Miss Bingley. who are middle class. Collins is therefore also more subtly directed at the entire social hierarchy and the conception of all those within it at its correctness. in that both reflect the strictly regimented nature of life for the middle and upper classes in Regency England. may socialize with the upper-class Bingleys and Darcys. and the importance placed on reputation. who marries the buffoon Mr. by Mr. when Elizabeth walks to Netherfield and arrives with muddy skirts. unexplored. Stepping outside the social norms makes her vulnerable to ostracism. but later in the novel. Through the Darcy-Elizabeth and Bingley-Jane marriages. Austen pokes gentle fun at the snobs in these examples. in complete disregard of other. In each case. particularly in the character of Mr. or the desire for better social connections. one could say. they are clearly their social inferiors and are treated as such. and Wickham. the author treats reputation as a very serious matter.blinds him. those servants she does portray are generally 27 . Darcy. Miss Bingley’s snobbery. the ill-mannered. His conception of the importance of class is shared. Collins’s views are merely the most extreme and obvious. The satire directed at Mr. One can ask of Pride and Prejudice. thereby implying that such prejudices are hollow.Pride and Prejudice depicts a society in which a woman’s reputation is of the utmost importance. and to what extent does it simply accept their inevitability? Class. Austen shows the power of love and happiness to overcome class boundaries and prejudices. Austen suggests that true love is a force separate from society and one that can conquer even the most difficult of circumstances. however terrible. who believes in the dignity of his lineage. who will do anything he can to get enough money to raise himself into a higher station. Lydia clearly places herself outside the social pale. Lady Catherine de Bourgh. and Wickham’s deceit. The fact that Lydia’s judgment. to demonstrate that the heart does not always dictate marriage. he is not the only one to hold such views. Austen satirizes this kind of class-consciousness. when Lydia elopes with Wickham and lives with him out of wedlock. Why should Elizabeth’s reputation suffer along with Lydia’s? Darcy’s intervention on the Bennets’ behalf thus becomes all the more generous. to the shock of the reputationconscious Miss Bingley and her friends.The theme of class is related to reputation. Mr. who dislikes anyone not as socially accepted as she is. for a time. A woman is expected to behave in certain ways. but in many ways it leaves the theme of reputation. If Darcy’s money had failed to convince Wickham to marry Lydia. one could also say that Elizabeth is guilty of prejudice and Darcy of pride—the title cuts both ways. By becoming Wickham’s lover without benefit of marriage. would likely have condemned the other Bennet sisters to marriageless lives seems grossly unfair. this whole discussion of class must be made with the understanding that Austen herself is often criticized as being a classist: she doesn’t really represent anyone from the lower classes. Bennet’s idiocy. Of course. poses countless smaller obstacles to the realization of the love between Elizabeth and Darcy. to what extent does it critique social structures. ridiculous behavior of Mrs. unfeeling. among others. (Of course. as something that can be captured if only an individual is able to escape the warping effects of hierarchical society. would Darcy have still married Elizabeth? Does his transcendence of prejudice extend that far? The happy ending of Pride and Prejudice is certainly emotionally satisfying. Collins for his money. While the Bennets. Bennet gives her a bad reputation with the more refined (and snobbish) Darcys and Bingleys. and her disgrace threatens the entire Bennet family.
and the action centers around the Bennet home in the small village of Longbourn. suggesting the broad gulf of misunderstanding and class prejudice that lies between them—and the bridge that their love will build across it.Pride and Prejudice is remarkably free of explicit symbolism. Courtship becomes a sort of forge of a person’s personality. and by the picturesque countryside. just as she will be charmed. in the process demonstrating his continued devotion to Elizabeth.” Pemberley even offers a symbol-within-a-symbol for their budding romance: when Elizabeth encounters Darcy on the estate. importance in the novel. by the gifts of its owner. Elizabeth visits it at a time when her feelings toward Darcy are beginning to warm. autobiographical fiction 28 .In a sense. Austen does criticize class structure but only a limited slice of that structure. Wickham’s pursuit first of Elizabeth. and the journey ends with Darcy tracking them down and saving the Bennet family honor. meanwhile. sits at the center of the novel. literally and figuratively. she is crossing a small bridge. Her second journey takes her to Derby and Pemberley. courtship constitutes the real working-out of love. and leads to his first proposal. Miss Bingley’s unsuccessful attempt to attract Darcy. Motifs . Nevertheless. then of the never-seen Miss King. which perhaps has something to do with the novel’s reliance on dialogue over description. she is enchanted by its beauty and charm. Collins’s aborted wooing of Elizabeth. brings her into contact with Mr. Nevertheless. Elizabeth’s first journey. Courtship therefore takes on a profound. sends various people in pursuit of Wickham and Lydia. social criticism.” Darcy possesses a “natural importance”that is “swelled” by his arrogance. Symbols . and each courtship becomes a microcosm for different sorts of love (or different ways to abuse love as a means to social advancement).Courtship.happy with their lot. Journeys. and finally of Lydia. Darcy. Great Expectations Charles Dickens Key Facts FULL TITLE AUTHOR · Great Expectations · Charles Dickens · Novel TYPE OF WORK GENRES · Bildungsroman.“a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater. by which she intends simply to visit Charlotte and Mr. as a geographic symbol of the man who owns it. he is neither “formal. where she fans the growing flame of her affection for Darcy. Pemberley. Within this broad structure appear other.” Like the stream. smaller courtships: Mr. The third journey.” she writes. followed by his successful wooing of Charlotte Lucas. journeys—even short ones—function repeatedly as catalysts for change in the novel. but without any artificial appearance. increasingly. Collins. if often unspoken.Nearly every scene in Pride and Prejudice takes place indoors. Pride and Prejudice is the story of two courtships—those between Darcy and Elizabeth and between Bingley and Jane. Darcy’s estate. Marriage is the ultimate goal. but which coexists with a genuine honesty and lack of “artificial appearance. nor falsely adorned.Pemberley. Austen makes the connection explicit when she describes the stream that flows beside the mansion. “In front.
including Magwitch’s death. as on the night of Magwitch’s return. files) symbolize the theme of guilt and innocence. and Pip’s reunion with Estella eleven years later TENSE · Past · Great Expectations contains a great deal of foreshadowing. sentimental. Bentley Drummle. convicts. Joe represents conscience. wry. critical. and moral). Estella. published in England by Chapman & Hall. and so on. Bentley Drummle represents the grotesque caprice of the upper class. and innocence. educational. Joe) foreshadow his return. the fact that Jaggers is a criminal lawyer foreshadows his involvement in Magwitch’s life. and simple good nature. satirical. two invalids. the connection between weather or atmosphere and dramatic events. The repeated references to the FORESHADOWING convict (the man with the file in the pub. handcuffs. dark. lawyers. With the exception of the last three. policemen. England SETTINGS (PLACE) POINT OF VIEW · First person · The period following Magwitch’s capture in Chapter 54. SETTING (TIME) · Mid-nineteenth century · Kent and London. the second convict on the marsh foreshadows the revelation of Magwitch’s conflict with Compeyson. social class. Pip’s FALLING ACTION reconciliation with Joe. the man in the pub who gives Pip money foreshadows the revelation that Pip’s fortune comes from Magwitch. economic. loyalty. chains. Orlick’s attempt to murder Pip. affection. the importance of affection. prisons. PROTAGONIST ANTAGONIST · Pip · Great Expectations does not contain a traditional single antagonist. foreboding. sympathetic · Ambition and the desire for self-improvement (social. 1860-1861 TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · Published serially in England from December 1860 to August 1861. THEMES criminality. Mrs. TONE · Comic. maturation and the growth from childhood to adulthood. disappointed expectations. Moreover. Orlick. the weather often foreshadows dramatic events: a storm brewing generally means there will be trouble ahead. Pip’s feeling that Estella reminds him of someone he knows foreshadows his discovery of the truth of her parentage. the marsh mists represent danger and ambiguity. Miss Havisham’s wedding dress and her bizarre surroundings foreshadow the revelation of her past and her relationship with Estella. Miss Havisham.) SYMBOLS · The stopped clocks at Satis House symbolize Miss Havisham’s attempt to stop time. and Pip’s attempt to help Magwitch escape London. two secret benefactors. Various characters serve as figures against whom Pip must struggle at various times: Magwitch. each of the novel’s antagonists is redeemed before the end of the book. cheerful. the attack on Mrs. Satis House represents the upper-class world to which Pip longs to belong. 29 . the difficulty of maintaining superficial moral and social categories in a constantly changing world MOTIFS · Crime and criminality. Gothic. the many objects relating to crime and guilt (gallows. and sympathy over social advancement and class superiority. and Compeyson. published in America by Harper & Brothers NARRATOR CLIMAX · Pip · A sequence of climactic events occurs from Chapter 51 to Chapter 56: Miss Havisham’s burning in the fire. published in book form in England and America in 1861 DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION PUBLISHER · Serialized in All the Year Round. guilt. loyalty. doubles (two convicts. courts.LANGUAGE · English · London. etc. dramatic. Joe.
Guilt. Pip’s life as a gentleman is no more satisfying—and certainly no more moral—than his previous life as a blacksmith’s apprentice. when he learns to read at Mr. loyalty. The theme of social class is central to the novel’s plot and to the ultimate moral theme of the book—Pip’s realization that wealth and class are less important than affection. At heart. when he realizes that he cannot read. First. he torments himself about having behaved so wretchedly toward Joe and Biddy. becoming an important symbol of Pip’s inner struggle to reconcile his own inner moral conscience with the institutional justice 30 . and as a young man. Dickens subtly reinforces the novel’s overarching theme of ambition and self-improvement. Drummle. In love with Estella. it provides Dickens the opportunity to gently satirize the class system of his era and to make a point about its capricious nature. When he sees Satis House. and Innocence. for instance.Themes. whenever he can conceive of something that is better than what he already has. when he takes lessons from Matthew Pocket. Crime. From the handcuffs Joe mends at the smithy to the gallows at the prison in London. and Magwitch. Dickens establishes the theme and shows Pip learning this lesson. he longs to be good. When he leaves for London. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about the novel’s treatment of social class is that the class system it portrays is based on the post-Industrial Revolution model of Victorian England. and innocence is explored throughout the novel largely through the characters of the convicts and the criminal lawyer Jaggers.The theme of crime. Pip achieves this realization when he is finally able to understand that. a persecuted convict. largely by exploring ideas of ambition and self-improvement—ideas that quickly become both the thematic center of the novel and the psychological mechanism that encourages much of Pip’s development.The moral theme of Great Expectations is quite simple: affection. he has no hope of social advancement. Even Miss Havisham’s family fortune was made through the brewery that is still connected to her manor. Pip learns that social and educational improvement are irrelevant to one’s real worth and that conscience and affection are to be valued above erudition and social standing. while Magwitch. loyalty. he immediately desires to obtain the improvement. he longs to learn how. he longs to become a member of her social class. Pip desires educational improvement.Throughout Great Expectations. and class. one’s social status is in no way connected to one’s real character. and inner worth. he entertains fantasies of becoming a gentleman. and. He is extremely hard on himself when he acts immorally and feels powerful guilt that spurs him to act better in the future. by connecting the theme of social class to the idea of work and self-advancement. social. Joe and Pumblechook. Social Class. Pip understands this fact as a child. and conscience are more important than social advancement. he longs to be a wealthy gentleman. the imagery of crime and criminal justice pervades the book.Ambition and Self-Improvement. Biddy. wealth. has a deep inner worth. when he thinks of his moral shortcomings. As long as he is an ignorant country boy. for instance. Pip’s desire for selfimprovement is the main source of the novel’s title: because he believes in the possibility of advancement in life. Dickens generally ignores the nobility and the hereditary aristocracy in favor of characters whose fortunes have been earned through commerce. through the examples of Joe. he has “great expectations”about his future. Ultimately. Ambition and self-improvement take three forms in Great Expectations—moral. The working out of this fantasy forms the basic plot of the novel. ranging from the most wretched criminals (Magwitch) to the poor peasants of the marsh country (Joe and Biddy) to the middle class (Pumblechook) to the very rich (Miss Havisham). Significantly. Pip is an idealist. Pip desires moral self-improvement. despite the esteem in which he holds Estella. In this way. encouraged by Mrs. is an upper-class lout. This desire is deeply connected to his social ambition and longing to marry Estella: a full education is a requirement of being a gentleman. these motivate Pip’s best and his worst behavior throughout the novel. Second. and educational. Pip desires social selfimprovement. Third. guilt. Dickens explores the class system of Victorian England. Wopsle’s aunt’s school.
system. like the connection of weather and action. Comparison of Characters to Inanimate Objects. extraordinarily tangled webs of human relationships. and Miss Havisham. Motifs . nearly every element of Great Expectations is mirrored or doubled at some other point in the book. This motif. 31 . Throughout Dickens’s works. courts. which Dickens uses throughout his novels. he helps Magwitch to evade the law and the police. In Great Expectations.) become a superficial standard of morality that Pip must learn to look beyond to trust his inner conscience. and character are all seamlessly fused. just as social class becomes a superficial standard of value that Pip must learn to look beyond in finding a better way to live his life. and Pip. but. Finally. he has replaced an external standard of value with an internal one. however. both of these actions are motivated by Compeyson: Magwitch resents but is nonetheless covetous of Compeyson’s social status and education. and Miss Havisham’s heart was broken when Compeyson left her at the altar. By the end of the book. while the inscrutable features of Mr. frightens Pip at first simply because he is a convict. and highly dramatic developments in which setting. This doubling of elements has no real bearing on the novel’s main themes. which motivates his desire to make Pip a gentleman. jails.One of the most remarkable aspects of Dickens’s work is its structural intricacy and remarkable balance. this kind of dramatic symmetry is simply part of the fabric of his novelistic universe.Throughout Great Expectations. Dickens’s plots involve complicated coincidences. Interestingly. perhaps the most visible sign of Dickens’s commitment to intricate dramatic symmetry—apart from the knot of character relationships. Joe and Miss Havisham). From the earliest scenes of the novel to the last. there are two adults who seek to mold children after their own purposes: Magwitch. who mirrors Magwitch’s action by secretly buying Herbert’s way into the mercantile business. it adds to the sense that everything in Pip’s world is connected. the external trappings of the criminal justice system (police. in that it implies that an institution such as the class system or the criminal justice system dehumanizes certain people.Doubles. who wishes to “own” a gentleman and decides to make Pip one. two young women who interest Pip (Biddy and Estella). two invalids (Mrs. The relationship between Miss Havisham and Compeyson—a well-born woman and a common man—further mirrors the relationship between Estella and Pip. the narrator uses images of inanimate objects to describe the physical appearance of characters—particularly minor characters. Magwitch. Joe looks as if she scrubs her face with a nutmeg grater. Prompted by his conscience. which motivates her desire to achieve revenge through Estella. and is able to disregard his external status as a criminal. There are two convicts on the marsh (Magwitch and Compeyson). who gives Pip his fortune. event. There are two secret benefactors: Magwitch. and so on. Pip has discovered Magwitch’s inner nobility. In general. etc. who raises Estella to break men’s hearts in revenge for her own broken heart. may suggest a failure of empathy on the narrator’s part. Mrs. of course—is the fascinating motif of doubles that runs throughout the book. The latter interpretation would mean that the motif in general is part of a social critique. Wemmick are repeatedly compared to a letter-box. or it may suggest that the character’s position in life is pressuring them to resemble a thing more than a human being. or characters with whom the narrator is not intimate. and Pip feels guilty for helping him because he is afraid of the police. As Pip has learned to trust his conscience and to value Magwitch’s inner character. For example. for instance. atmosphere.
Symbols .In Satis House. Miss Havisham’s wedding dress becomes an ironic symbol of death and degeneration. and the stopped clocks throughout the house symbolize her determined attempt to freeze time by refusing to change anything from the way it was when she was jilted on her wedding day. and educational advancement so that each depends on the others. As a child. dilapidated stones of the house. In his mind. The wedding dress and the wedding feast symbolize Miss Havisham’s past. Bentley Drummle provides an important contrast with Pip and represents the arbitrary nature of class distinctions. are used several times to symbolize danger and uncertainty. The brewery next to the house symbolizes the connection between commerce and wealth: Miss Havisham’s fortune is not the product of an aristocratic birth but of a recent success in industrial capitalism.Although he is a minor character in the novel. something dangerous is likely to happen. England · May 1849–November 1850 (serial publication) LANGUAGE TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION 32 . Pip must go through the mists when he travels to London shortly after receiving his fortune.Satis House. Significantly. provides Pip with proof that social advancement has no inherent connection to intelligence or moral worth. one of the most evocative of the book’s settings. as well as the darkness and dust that pervade it. while Pip’s friend and brother-in-law Joe is a good man who works hard for the little he earns. symbolize the general decadence of the lives of its inhabitants and of the upper class as a whole. The misty marshes near Pip’s childhood home in Kent. a member of the upper class. Whenever Pip goes into the mists. social. Pip has connected the ideas of moral. Pip brings Magwitch a file and food in these mists. The Mists on the Marshes. and eventually to discard his immature fantasies about wealth and class in favor of a new understanding that is both more compassionate and more realistic. Finally. Dickens creates a magnificent Gothic setting whose various elements symbolize Pip’s romantic perception of the upper class and many other themes of the book. he is kidnapped by Orlick and nearly murdered in them. Drummle is a lout who has inherited immense wealth. and always sets a tone that is perfectly matched to the novel’s dramatic action. later. alerting the reader that this apparently positive development in his life may have dangerous consequences. Drummle’s negative example helps Pip to see the inner worth of characters such as Magwitch and Joe. David Copperfield Charles Dickens Key Facts FULL TITLE AUTHOR · The Personal History and Experience of David Copperfield the Younger · Charles Dickens · Novel TYPE OF WORK GENRE · Bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel) · English · May 1849–November 1850.The setting almost always symbolizes a theme in Great Expectations Bentley Drummle. On her decaying body. The coarse and cruel Drummle. the crumbling.
Throughout David Copperfield. THEMES MOTIFS · The plight of the weak. Creakle. Instead. for example. and the mentally disabled to show that exploitation— not pity or compassion—is the rule in an industrial society. whose financial stability affords her the power to shelter David from Mr. physical beauty · The sea.In the world of the novel. doesn’t stand up to Mr. with little money and few people to guide MAJOR CONFLICT him. TONE · David reflects upon his youth fondly and remembers his naïve youth wistfully. wealth and class · The role of mothers. the powerful abuse the weak and helpless. Dick’s kite · The opening scene’s observation that David’s birth is inauspicious. Mr. David realizes his love for Agnes. Equality in Marriage .The weak in David Copperfield never escape the domination of the powerful by challenging the powerful directly. the weak must ally themselves with equally powerful characters. Agnes’s blush when David asks her about her love life Themes. Dickens draws on his own experience as a child to describe the inhumanity of child labor and debtors’ prison. RISING ACTION · David loses his mother and falls victim to a cruel childhood but then has a happier youth with Miss Betsey and Agnes. As his guardian. women. and comes to grips with the treachery and death of his good friend Steerforth. even though they are morally good people. Dickens holds up the Strongs’ marriage as an 33 . In both situations. · David writes in the first person. Agnes’s distrust of Steerforth. marriages succeed to the extent that husband and wife attain equality in their relationship. This realization forces David to contemplate his marriage to Dora in a new light and reconsider most of the values he has held up to this point. Murdstone and challenge his authority. David’s escape proves neither self-reliance nor his own inner virtue. he flees to the wealthy Miss Betsey. · Past · 1800s · England TENSE SETTING (TIME) SETTING (PLACE) PROTAGONIST · David Copperfield · David struggles to become a man in a cruel world. Murdstone can exploit David as factory labor because the boy is too small and dependent on him to disobey. Murdstone. His characters suffer punishment at the hands of forces larger than themselves. Mr. FALLING ACTION · The various subplots involving secondary characters resolve themselves. Dickens focuses on orphans. David. limiting his viewpoint to what he sees in his youth and his attitude POINT OF VIEW at that time. equality in marriage.The Plight of the Weak. The arbitrary suffering of innocents makes for the most vividly affecting scenes of the novel. the adult David’s remark that SYMBOLS FORESHADOWING Little Em’ly would have been better off if the sea had swallowed her as a child. that marriage cannot be happy unless husband and wife are equal partners. while watching the reconciliation between the Strongs. but rather the significance of family ties and family money in human relationships. the boys at Salem House have no recourse against the cruel Mr. David starves and suffers in a wine-bottling factory as a child. children deprived of the care of their natural parents suffer at the hands of their own supposed protectors. accented speech. flowers. CLIMAX · David realizes. Instead.PUBLISHER NARRATOR · Bradbury and Evans · An older David Copperfield narrates the story of his childhood from his happy home in London. Likewise. marries her.
Instead. Wickfield’s friends confront him. powerful. Wealth and Class.Mothers and mother figures have an essential influence on the identity of the characters in David Copperfield. inflated self-regard that breeds cruel behavior. the aunt who raises David. Almost invariably. Murdstone’s attempts to improve David’s mother’s character. on the other hand. he still assumes that his wife. Peggotty and Ham. Uriah develops a vain. which leaves her meek and voiceless. Mr. Dickens criticizes characters who attempt to invoke a sense of superiority over their spouses. even though he too is poor and helpless. who is wealthy. Murdstone forces Clara into submission in the name of improving her. neither of the Strongs views the other as inferior. Dickens. dotes on her son and allows him to dominate her.example to show that marriages can only be happy if neither spouse is subjugated to the other. does not challenge his society’s constrictive views about the roles of women. middle-class citizens. On the other hand. as a woman. clearly adores him but does not doteon him. by depicting a marriage in which a man and wife share some balance of power. Many people in Dickens’s time believed that poverty was a symptom of moral degeneracy and that people who were poor deserved to suffer because of inherent deficiencies. we see. not on the hand that the cruel world deals them. Steerforth is treacherous and self-absorbed. in an attempt to appear poor and of good character.Dickens gives his characters different accents to indicate their social class. Doctor Strong is gentle and soothing with his wife. consistently drops the “h” in “humble” every time a group of Mr. Dickens does not paint a black-and-white moral picture but shows that wealth and class are are unreliable indicators of character and morality. Conversely. she forces David to confront them himself.The success of mother figures in the novel hinges on their ability to care for their children without coddling them. Dickens. Uriah. although Doctor Strong does attempt to improve Annie’s character. depends upon him and needs him for moral guidance. Uriah’s mother. not their own failings. This moral connection between mothers and children indicates Dickens’s belief that mothers have an all-important role in shaping their children’s characters and destinies. In contrast. She encourages him to be strong in everything he does and to be fair at all times. sympathetic characters. However. to show that these traits are more likely to corrupt than improve a person’s character. Mr. rather than abrasive and imperious like Mr. Dickens uses Steerforth. only crush her spirit. Accented Speech. Murdstone. Poor people frequently swindle David when he is young. Doctor Strong and Agnes. Motifs . Peggotty are two notable examples of such characters whose speech indicates their social standing. for example. Mr. good mother figures produce good children while bad mothers yield sinister offspring. are generous. He warns mothers to love their children only in moderation and to correct their faults while they can still be fixed. Dickens’s treatment of mother-child relationships in the novel is intended to teach a lesson.Mothers and Mother Figures. she does not block those hardships. Miss Betsey. Though Doctor Strong’s marriage is based at least partially on an ideal of equality. She corrects him when she thinks he is making a mistake. Dickens does not go so far as to suggest that all poor people are absolutely noble and that all rich people are utterly evil. both poor. Although Miss Betsey raises David to deal with the difficulties of the world. as with his marriage to Dora. both wealthy. and her ability to see faults in him helps him to mature into a balanced adult. Dickens does point toward an age of empowered women. and noble. nonetheless are morally upstanding. As a result. Dickens criticizes his society’s view of wealth and class as measures of a person’s value. Dickens invites us to judge his characters based on their individual deeds and qualities. Heep. sympathizes with the poor and implies that their woes result from society’s unfairness. Mrs. Uriah drops this accent as soon as his fraud is revealed: he is not the urchin- 34 . he does so not out of a desire to show his moral superiority but rather out of love and respect for Annie.Throughout the novel. Uriah Heep and Mr. On the whole. Indeed. In contrast.
and ill-tempered. the force of the sea is beyond human control. Mr. he discovers that the old flowers are in the room. indicates genuine humility and poverty. Because Mr. he cannot hide his true treachery for years. Murdstone. In each of these cases. violent. physical beauty corresponds to personal worth. In this manner. he is able to mend the disagreement between Doctor and Mrs. physical beauty corresponds to moral good. on the other hand. even the most carefully buried characteristics eventually come to light and expose elusive individuals for what they really are. Rather.The Sea. Mr.The sea represents an unknown and powerful force in the lives of the characters in David Copperfield. Strong. which indicates that the room has been returned to its previous state of simplicity and innocence. For example.Flowers represent simplicity and innocence in David Copperfield. unpretentious joy Mr. Likewise. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll 35 . Mr. Dick brings to those around him. and it is almost always connected with death. as the sea treats him like flotsam and jetsam. and Mr.Mr. double-crossing social climber who views himself as superior to the wealthy and who exploits everyone he can. circumstances will eventually reveal the moral value of characters whose good goes unrecognized or whose evil goes unpunished. Dickens suggests that internal characteristics. Mr. are evil. which none of the other characters can fix. Dora forever paints flowers on her little canvas. David brings Dora flowers on her birthday. whom the characters believe to be insane. The sea washes Steerforth up on the shore—a moment that symbolizes Steerforth’s moral emptiness. When David returns to the Wickfields’ house and the Heeps leave. Peggotty’s lower-class accent. Physical Beauty.In David Copperfield. Dick is not a part of the social hierarchies that bind the rest of the characters. Symbols. for example. initially appears harmless but annoying. Uriah is a conniving. much like physical appearance. Humans must try to live in harmony with the sea’s mystical power and take precautions to avoid untimely death. who grew up hard and fell into his current character because of the cruelty of the world. stands apart from the rest of society. Flowers indicate fresh perspective and thought and often recall moments of frivolity and release. like David’s mother.child he portrays himself to be. Dick’s own childish innocence. Just as the kite soars above the other characters. Creakle. the sea takes both Ham and Steerforth. Although Steerforth. are good and noble. and the pleasure the kite offers resembles the honest. Dick’s enormous kite represents his separation from society. Flowers. like Uriah Heep. Like death. Steerforth nicknames David “Daisy”because David is naïve. Dick. Dickens uses accent in both cases to advance his assertion that class and personal integrity are unrelated and that it is misleading to make any connection between the two. In David Copperfield. The kite’s carefree simplicity mirrors Mr. for almost all the characters in the novel. cannot be disguised permanently. The storm in the concluding chapters of the novel alerts us to the danger of ignoring the sea’s power and indicates that the novel’s conflicts have reached an uncontrollable level. Those who are physically beautiful. while those who are ugly. flowers stand as images of rebirth and health—a significance that points to a springlike quality in characters associated with their blossoms. The sea took Little Em’ly’s father in an unfortunate accident over which she had no control. Rather. Dick’s Kite.
the mushroom · The Mouse’s history about Fury and the Mouse foreshadows the trial at the end of the story. children’s fiction. Wonderland TENSE SETTING (TIME) SETTING (PLACE) PROTAGONIST · Alice · Alice attempts to come to terms with the puzzle of Wonderland as she undergoes great MAJOR CONFLICT individual changes while entrenched in Wonderland. Life as a meaningless puzzle. though occasionally in first and second person. causing her to wake up and dispel the dream of Wonderland. allegory · English · 1862–1863. “curious. FALLING ACTION · Alice realizes that Wonderland is a sham and knocks over the playing card court. · The narrator speaks in third person. subversion. TONE · Straightforward. · The narrator is anonymous and does not use many words to describe events in the story. THEMES · The tragic and inevitable loss of childhood innocence. where she participates in the trial of the Knave of Hearts.Key Facts FULL TITLE AUTHOR · Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland · Lewis Carroll · Novella TYPE OF WORK GENRE · Fairy tale. The narrative POINT OF VIEW follows Alice around on her travels. avuncular · Past · Victorian era. circa publication date · England. Death as a constant and underlying menace MOTIFS · Dream. · Alice gains control over her size and enters the garden.” “nonsense. voicing her thoughts and feelings.”and “confusing” · The garden. satire. RISING ACTION CLIMAX · Alice follows the White Rabbit down a well and pursues him through Wonderland. SYMBOLS FORESHADOWING 36 . Oxford · 1865 LANGUAGE TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION PUBLISHER NARRATOR · Macmillan & Co. language.
Alice quickly discovers during her travels that the only reliable aspect of Wonderland that she can count on is that it will frustrate her expectations and challenge her understanding of the natural order of the world.Throughout the course of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In Wonderland. Though Alice’s experiences lend themselves to meaningful observations. or games that would normally have solutions that Alice would be able to figure out. which imitates the ways that life frustrates expectations. since it would likely kill her. Death may be a real threat.Alice continually finds herself in situations in which she risks death. 37 . As in a dream. Alice learns that she cannot expect to find logic or meaning in the situations that she encounters. The dream motif explains the abundance of nonsensical and disparate events in the story. Alice finds these changes to be traumatic. she becomes upset when she keeps finding herself too big or too small to enter the garden. Motifs . as she botches her multiplication tables and incorrectly recites poems she had memorized while in Wonderland. riddles.The Tragic and Inevitable Loss of Childhood Innocence. but to no avail. Wonderland frustrates Alice’s desires to fit her experiences in a logical framework where she can make sense of the relationship between cause and effect. frustration. and feels discomfort. and Alice starts to understand that the risks she faces may not be ridiculous and absurd after all. they suggest that death lurks just behind the ridiculous events of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a present and possible outcome. when the narrator mentions that Alice would say nothing of falling off of her own house. she loses control over specific body parts when her neck grows to an absurd length. Alice expects that the situations she encounters will make a certain kind of sense. Alice takes risks that could possibly kill her. The discomfort she feels at never being the right size acts as a symbol for the changes that occur during puberty. so that the characters and phenomena of the real world mix with elements of Alice’s unconscious state. Alice finds that her lessons no longer mean what she thought.In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Even Alice’s physical dimensions become warped as she grows and shrinks erratically throughout the story. Alice tries to understand the Caucus race. she starts to realize that her experiences in Wonderland are far more threatening than they appear to be. As the Queen screams “Off with its head!” she understands that Wonderland may not merely be a ridiculous realm where expectations are repeatedly frustrated. they resist a singular and coherent interpretation. even when problems seem familiar or solvable. In every instance. In Chapter 1. and sadness when she goes through them. She struggles to maintain a comfortable physical size. but she never considers death as a possible outcome.Themes. and games of logic. the riddles and challenges presented to Alice have no purpose or answer. Life as a Meaningless Puzzle.Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland takes place in Alice’s dream. and understand the Queen’s ridiculous croquet game. In Chapter 5. Subversion. These constant fluctuations represent the way a child may feel as her body grows and changes during puberty. solve the Mad Hatter’s riddle. Death appears in Chapter 1. the narrative follows the dreamer as she encounters various episodes in which she attempts to interpret her experiences in relationship to herself and her world. in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland he makes a farce out of jokes. Carroll makes a broader point about the ways that life frustrates expectations and resists interpretation. Over time. riddles. even when they appear to be problems. and while these threats never materialize. but they repeatedly frustrate her ability to figure out Wonderland.Dream. Alice encounters a series of puzzles that seem to have no clear solutions. Death as a Constant and Underlying Menace. Even though Lewis Carroll was a logician. Alice goes through a variety of absurd physical changes.
Alice must master the properties of the mushroom to gain control over her fluctuating size.Language. England LANGUAGE TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN 38 . which represents the bodily frustrations that accompany puberty.Alice uses these words throughout her journey to describe phenomena she has trouble explaining. When Alice declares something to be nonsense.The Garden. tragic · English · 1880s. she usually assigns curious and confusing to experiences or encounters that she tolerates. Though the words are generally interchangeable. Others view the mushroom as a psychedelic hallucinogen that compounds Alice’s surreal and distorted perception of Wonderland. but nothing clearly represents one particular thing. Alice’s exclamation “Curious and curiouser!” suggests that both her surroundings and the language she uses to describe them expand beyond expectation and convention. Carroll invents words and expressions and develops new meanings for words. Some readers and critics view the Caterpillar as a sexual threat. and Carroll’s manipulation of language reflects this sense of unlimited possibility. The Caterpillar’s mushroom connects to this symbolic meaning. as she does with the trial in Chapter 12. The Caterpillar’s Mushroom. On a more abstract level. an idyllic space of beauty and innocence that Alice is not permitted to access. in that Alice focuses her energy and emotion on trying to attain it. The symbolic resonances of Wonderland objects are generally contained to the individual episode in which they appear. its phallic shape a symbol of sexual virility. Anything is possible in Wonderland. The garden may symbolize the Garden of Eden. The two symbolic meanings work together to underscore Alice’s desire to hold onto her feelings of childlike innocence that she must relinquish as she matures. Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy Key Facts FULL TITLE AUTHOR · Tess of the d’Urbervilles · Thomas Hardy · Novel TYPE OF WORK GENRE · Victorian.Nearly every object in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland functions as a symbol. Symbols. the Caterpillar’s mushroom also has multiple symbolic meanings. Often the symbols work together to convey a particular meaning. making use of puns and playing on multiple meanings of words throughout the text. Curious. hoping to gain a clearer picture of how that individual or experience functions in the world. and Confusing. Nonsense. she rejects or criticizes the experience or encounter. She endures is the experiences that are curious or confusing. the garden may simply represent the experience of desire.Like the garden.Carroll plays with linguistic conventions in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
FALLING ACTION · Tess’s last-ditch decision to marry Alec. Alec’s assertion that he SYMBOLS FORESHADOWING will “master” Tess again foreshadows his reemergence in her life 39 . going off to Brazil and not answering her letters. TONE · Realistic. pessimistic · Past · The 1880s and 1890s · Wessex. the d’Urberville family vault. making MAJOR CONFLICT her unacceptable to her true love Angel later in life. which drives her to seek help from the d’Urbervilles.DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION PUBLISHER NARRATOR · 1891 · Random House. RISING ACTION · Tess’s family’s discovery that they are ancient English aristocracy. giving them all fantasies of a higher station in life. changing ideas of social class in Victorian England. and abandoned by the son of her upper-class patroness. the southwest of England TENSE SETTING (TIME) SETTING (PLACE) PROTAGONIST · Tess Durbeyfield · Tess is seduced. variant names · Prince. the Book of Genesis. impregnated. Tess’s accidental killing of the family horse. but also published serially in different periodicals · Anonymous · The narrator speaks in the third person. men dominating women · Birds. Angel’s return from Brazil to discover Tess marriage to her former seducer. and bringing Tess to despair. CLIMAX · Tess’s new husband discovers her earlier seduction by Alec and decides to leave her. The narrator is POINT OF VIEW objective but has an omniscient understanding of future implications of characters’ actions as they happen. and his meeting with Tess. Brazil · Tess’s killing of the pheasants foreshadows her own death by hanging. and looks deep into the characters’ minds. Tess’s murder of Alec and short-lived escape with Angel before being apprehended and executed THEMES MOTIFS · The injustice of existence. who claims to love her. where she is seduced and dishonored.
the moral atmosphere of the novel is not Christian justice at all. Angel. remind us of a world where the gods are not just and fair. is clearly the most serious instance of male domination over a female. This sort of unconscious male domination of women is perhaps even more unsettling than Alec’s outward and self-conscious cruelty.One of the recurrent themes of the novel is the way in which men can dominate women. This devotion is not merely fanciful love. was smoothly able to use his large fortune to purchase a lustrous family name and transform his clan into the Stoke-d’Urbervilles. which makes their earlier schoolgirl-type crushes on Angel seem disturbing. does not even realize that they are interested in him. but whimsical and uncaring. Tess does not mean to kill Prince. but his faith seems shallow and insincere. Christianity teaches that there is compensation in the afterlife for unhappiness suffered in this life. But there are other. What passes for “Justice” is in fact one of the pagan gods enjoying a bit of “sport. Mrs. and the President of the Immortals (in the Aeschylean phrase) had ended his sport with Tess. but unhealthy obsession. Alec’s father. and their acquaintance would not have been possible if he were a more traditional and elitist aristocrat. the most life-altering event that Tess experiences in the novel. Christianity offers little solace of heavenly justice. When. The d’Urbervilles pass for what the Durbeyfields truly are—authentic nobility—simply because definitions of class have changed. and Tess’s final rest at Stonehenge at the end. Clare. Indubitably the Durbeyfields have purity of blood. just as she is unfairly punished for her own rape by Alec. this fact amounts to nothing more than a piece of genealogical trivia. in the man’s full knowledge of his exploitation. which explains how Simon Stokes. Men Dominating Women. For others in their misery. as when Alec acknowledges how bad he is for seducing Tess for his own momentary pleasure. Thus.The Injustice of Existence. Alec’s act of abuse.Unfairness dominates the lives of Tess and her family to such an extent that it begins to seem like a general aspect of human existence in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. but she is punished anyway.” we are reminded that justice must be put in ironic quotation marks.Tess of the d’Urbervilles presents complex pictures of both the importance of social class in nineteenth-century England and the difficulty of defining class in any simple way. These girls appear utterly dominated by a desire for a man who. but the only devout Christian encountered in the novel may be the reverend. with no attention paid to fortune or worldly success. In the Victorian context. The issue of class confusion even affects the Clare clan. The converted Alec preaches heavenly justice for earthly sinners. Tess’s friend Retty attempts suicide and her friend Marian becomes an alcoholic. Certainly the Durbeyfields are a powerful emblem of the way in which class is no longer evaluated in Victorian times as it would have been in the Middle Ages—that is. cash matters more than lineage. whose most promising son. who seems more or less content in his life anyway. since it is not really just at all. Sometimes this command is purposeful.” or a frivolous game. is intent on becoming a farmer and marrying a milkmaid. less blatant examples of women’s passivity toward dominant men. Nor is there justice waiting in heaven. When the narrator concludes the novel with the statement that “‘Justice’ was done.Themes. after Angel reveals that he prefers Tess. The forces that rule human life are absolutely unpredictable and not necessarily well-disposed to us. Mr. His willingness to work side by side with the farm laborers helps endear him to Tess. exerting a power over them linked primarily to their maleness. but pagan injustice. an issue that is one of the main concerns of the novel. Durbeyfield never mentions otherworldly rewards. Changing Ideas of Social Class in Victorian England. we are told explicitly. by blood alone. 40 . the three main characters in the Angel-Tess-Alec triangle are all strongly marked by confusion regarding their respective social classes. Generally. yet for the parson and nearly everyone else in the novel. The pre-Christian rituals practiced by the farm workers at the opening of the novel. thus bypassing the traditional privileges of a Cambridge education and a parsonage.
Mrs. It is an explanation of how all of us humans—not only Tess—never quite seem to live up to our expectations. This pattern of male domination is finally reversed with Tess’s murder of Alec. and actually renames himself Sir John.The Genesis story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is evoked repeatedly throughout Tess of the d’Urbervilles. “she regarded him as Eve at her second waking might have regarded Adam. He seduces Tess under a tree. when the crowd of male police officers arrest Tess at Stonehenge. is known in Christian theology as the original sin that all humans have inherited. that her aristocratic original name should be restored. dominates her in an unhealthy way. These pheasants are no Romantic songbirds hovering far above the Earth—they are victims of earthly violence. and are never able to inhabit the places of grandeur we feel we deserve. the Chase. Of course. Yet there is irony attached to birds as well. which symbolize sublime heights. It may be that freedom for one creature entails hardship for another. This Story of the Fall—or of the “Pure Drop.”and his family is evicted after his death at the end of the novel. just as Alec’s free enjoyment of Tess’s body leads her to a lifetime of suffering. evoking or contradicting their traditional spiritual association with a higher realm of transcendence.Images of birds recur throughout the novel. in which. When Tess goes to work for Mrs. this act only leads to even greater suppression of a woman by men. her identity and experiences are suppressed. which will never be erased. In the end. making us doubt whether these images of hope and freedom are illusory. giving the novel a broader metaphysical and philosophical dimension. while Tess is the indecisive and troubled Eve. albeit unknowingly. These birds offer images of hope and liberation. the accepted pattern of submissive women bowing to dominant men is interrupted. but part of her still believes. Motifs . which presumably some servant—perhaps Tess herself—will have to clean. with his open avowal that he is bad to the bone. and Tess’s act seems heroic. lead us to expect that birds will have positive meaning in this novel.” we feel that he may be denying her true self in favor of a mental image that he prefers. a woman takes active steps against a man. as pure and gentle as it seems. giving her sexual knowledge in return for her lost innocence. for just a moment. The roles of Eve and the serpent in paradise are clearly delineated: Angel is the noble Adam newly born. Angel substitutes an idealized picture of Tess’s country purity for the real-life woman that he continually refuses to get to know. their free expressiveness stands in stark contrast to Tess’s silent and constrained existence as a wronged and disgraced girl. but rather oppressed and submissive. Tess occasionally hears birdcalls on her frequent hikes across the countryside. Another character who renames himself is Simon Stokes. as her parents also believe. Thus. Tess knows and accepts that she is a lowly Durbeyfield. When Angel calls Tess names like “Daughter of Nature” and “Artemis. as his tombstone epitaph shows. This guilt. 41 . is the conniving Satan. The very name of the forest where this seduction occurs.The transformation of the d’Urbervilles into the Durbeyfields is one example of the common phenomenon of renaming. Variant Names. suggests how Eve will be chased from Eden for her sins. d’Urberville’s birds leave little white spots on the upholstery. Names matter in this novel. John Durbeyfield goes a step further than Tess.”Alec. or variant naming. their homelessness evokes the human exile from Eden. d’Urberville. Both the Christian dove of peace and the Romantic songbirds of Keats and Shelley.”to recall the name of a pub in Tess’s home village—is much more than a social fall. Original sin suggests that humans have fallen from their once great status to a lower station in life.Birds. When Tess gazes upon Angel in Chapter XXVII. in the novel. Just as John Durbeyfield is told in Chapter I that “you don’t live anywhere. she is surprised to find that the old woman’s pet finches are frequently released to fly free throughout the room. Nevertheless.Even Angel’s love for Tess. for the first time in the novel. condemned to suffer down below and never fly again. birds no longer seem free. The Book of Genesis. just as the d’Urbervilles have devolved into the modern Durbeyfields. when Tess encounters the pheasants maimed by hunters and lying in agony.
despite all his mechanical know-how in farm management. attaining a kind of personal grandeur even as she brings death to others and to herself. and its name a potent symbol of Tess’s own claims to aristocracy. and with him her family’s only means of financial sustenance. Prince. Reality may not be as solid as the names people confer upon it. Yet the vault that sounds so glamorous when rhapsodized over by John Durbeyfield in Chapter I seems. Yet her dream of meeting a prince while she kills her own Prince. a place where dreams come true. The question raised by all these cases of name changing. and this lesson helps him reevaluate his disappointment with Tess’s imperfections. setting the events of the novel in motion. such as a useful animal or even her own honor. as if its basic emptiness is a complement to its visual grandeur. the d’Urberville family vault represents both the glory of life and the end of life. The d’Urberville Family Vault. as we are reminded twice in Chapters I and II. so inevitably his experience in the imagined dream world of Brazil is a disaster that he barely survives. Prince’s death occurs right after Tess dreams of ancient knights.” He imposes a fictional map on a real place. indirectly. where she reads her own name inscribed in stone and feels the presence of death. In an odd way. but by the end. Brazil is the country in which Robinson Crusoe made his fortune and it seems to promise a better life far from the humdrum familiar world. but he does not yet know how to tell the difference between an exotic dream and an everyday reality. As Angel’s name suggests. The horse’s demise is thus a powerful plot motivator. but is doomed to a lowly life of physical labor. his lordly and commanding bearing make him seem almost deserving of the name his father has bought. is a tragic foreshadowing of her own story. Interestingly. he is a lofty visionary who lacks some experience with the real world. spurs Tess to seek aid from the d’Urbervilles. When Tess is executed. and her horse dies a heroic death.Angel’s father. by the end.Prince. her failure 42 . the horse is pierced by the forward-jutting piece of metal on a mail coach. it produces only a hollow echo. through excessive fantasizing about a better world. Symbols. with names altered correspondingly.A double-edged symbol of both the majestic grandeur and the lifeless hollowness of the aristocratic family name that the Durbeyfields learn they possess. is the extent to which an altered name brings with it an altered identity. when he appears at the d’Urberville family vault. Hardy’s interest in name changes makes reality itself seem changeable according to whims of human perspective. Tess herself bears a highclass name. His fiasco teaches him that ideals do not exist in life. Tess’s dream of medieval glory comes true. The village of Blakemore. Since Tess herself moves from passivity to active murder by the end of the novel. Perhaps the secret of the family crypt is that its grandiosity is ultimately meaningless. the resulting death of the Durbeyfield horse. it is natural that he meets her in the vault in d’Urberville Aisle. Moreover. He may be able to milk cows. which is reminiscent of a wound one might receive in a medieval joust. and indeed Hardy famously renames the southern English countryside as “Wessex. her ancestors are said to snooze on in their crypts. is also known as Blackmoor. her own death later. having just heard the news that her family is aristocratic. like a spoiled medieval nobleman. whether successful or merely imagined. Alec acts notoriously ungentlemanly throughout the novel. the narration shifts very briefly to Brazil when Angel takes leave of Tess and heads off to establish a career in farming. When Tess dozes off in the wagon and loses control. Alec brings Tess both his lofty name and. Even more exotic for a Victorian English reader than America or Australia. Brazil is thus more than a geographical entity on the map in this novel: it symbolizes a fantasyland. When Alec stomps on the floor of the vault. Brazil. strangely hollow and meaningless. who purchased a family tree and made himself Simon Stoke-d’Urberville. Like the horse. the double symbolism of the vault makes it a powerful site for the culminating meeting between Alec and Tess. The death of the horse symbolizes the sacrifice of real-world goods.Rather surprising for a novel that seems set so solidly in rural England. as if uncaring even about the fate of a member of their own majestic family.
When she gives birth to a child. RISING ACTION · Dimmesdale stands by in silence as Hester suffers for the “sin” he helped to commit. hides his true identity and. though his conscience plagues him and affects his health. Massachusetts SETTING (PLACE) PROTAGONIST · Hester Prynne · Her husband having inexplicably failed to join her in Boston following their emigration from MAJOR CONFLICT Europe. semi-allegorical. Hester Prynne engages in an extramarital affair with Arthur Dimmesdale. For Angel. Yet. but he occasionally uses the present tense when he addresses his audience. who has appeared just in time to witness her public shaming. because he voices his own interpretations and opinions of things. but also forgiveness and acceptance of life in spite of those disappointed ideals. Chillingworth. and Fields · The narrator is an unnamed customhouse surveyor who writes some two hundred years after the events he describes took place. POINT OF VIEW · The narrator is omniscient. Hester invokes the condemnation of her community—a condemnation they manifest by forcing her to wear a letter “A” for“adulteror”—as well as the vengeful wrath of her husband. Hester’s husband. thoughtful. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne Key Facts FULL TITLE AUTHOR · The Scarlet Letter · Nathaniel Hawthorne · Novel TYPE OF WORK GENRE · Symbolic. because he analyzes the characters and tells the story in a way that shows that he knows more about the characters than they know about themselves. Massachusetts. fairly straightforward. 43 . Brazil symbolizes the impossibility of ideals. TONE · Varies—contemplative and somewhat bitter in the introduction. historical fiction.to incarnate the ideal he expected her to be. late 1840s · 1850 TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION PUBLISHER NARRATOR · Ticknor. Reed. He has much in common with Hawthorne but should not be taken as a direct mouthpiece for the author’s opinions. yet occasionally tinged with irony in the body of the narrative TENSE · The narrator employs the past tense to recount events that happened some two hundred years before his time. He is clearly sympathetic to Hester and Dimmesdale. romance (in the sense that it rejects realism in favor of symbols and ideas) LANGUAGE · English · Salem and Concord. he is also a subjective narrator. SETTING (TIME) · Middle of the seventeenth century · Boston.
SYMBOLS FORESHADOWING enriching their meaning rather than anticipating their occurrence. Once expelled from the Garden of Eden. Hester and Dimmesdale contemplate their own sinfulness on a daily basis and try to reconcile it with their lived experiences.”The first is in Chapter 12. evocative names · The scarlet letter. The characters also try to root out the causes of evil: did Chillingworth’s selfishness in marrying Hester force her to the “evil”she committed in Dimmesdale’s arms? Is Hester and Dimmesdale’s deed responsible for Chillingworth’s transformation into a malevolent being? This confusion over the nature and causes of evil reveals the 44 . Thus. these qualities are shown to be incompatible with a state of purity.” the falling action is either the course of events that follow Chapter 12 or the final reports on Hester’s and Pearl’s lives after the deaths of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. the town scaffold. experience. and the human condition. THEMES MOTIFS · Sin. the location of Hester’s original public shaming. Knowledge. Over the course of the novel. they are forced to toil and to procreate—two “labors” that seem to define the human condition. The key characters confront one another when Hester and Pearl join Dimmesdale in an “electric chain” as he holds his vigil on the marketplace scaffold. and Mistress Hibbins. But it also results in knowledge— specifically. he confronts his role in Hester’s sin and realizes that he can no longer deny his deed and its consequences. so that his heart vibrate[s] in unison with theirs. FALLING ACTION · Depending on one’s interpretation of which scene constitutes the book’s “climax. Chillingworth appears in this scene as well. For Hester. Themes. in both cases. The experience of Hester and Dimmesdale recalls the story of Adam and Eve because. the “burden” of his sin gives him “sympathies so intimate with the sinful brotherhood of mankind.” His eloquent and powerful sermons derive from this sense of empathy. the characters’ secrets are publicly exposed and their fates sealed.Sin. Puritan society is stagnant. because the symbols tend to coincide temporally with events. the rosebush next to the prison door · Foreshadowing is minimal. The Puritan elders.The characters in the novel frequently debate the identity of the “Black Man. As for Dimmesdale. at the end of the book. effectively exacerbating Dimmesdale’s feelings of shame and thus reaping revenge. that which separates them from the divine and from other creatures. the nature of evil.Sin and knowledge are linked in the JudeoChristian tradition. sin results in expulsion and suffering. and the Human Condition. Adam and Eve are made aware of their humanness.posing as a doctor to the ailing minister. Here. they view sin as a threat to the community that should be punished and suppressed. at the exact center of the book. on the other hand. and understanding of others. CLIMAX · There are at least two points in The Scarlet Letter that could be identified as the book’s “climax. The Nature of Evil. they push these revelations to such extremes that they all must leave the community in one way or another. in knowledge of what it means to be human. night versus day. and Chillingworth not only acknowledge their secrets to themselves and to each other. the scarlet letter functions as “her passport into regions where other women dared not tread.” leading her to “speculate” about her society and herself more “boldly” than anyone else in New England. Yet. while Hester and Dimmesdale’s experience shows that a state of sinfulness can lead to personal growth. As a result of their knowledge. Hester. Pearl. The other climactic scene occurs in Chapter 23. Chillingworth. the “Black Man” is associated with Dimmesdale. tests his suspicions that Dimmesdale is the father of his wife’s child. Dimmesdale. the meteor. Paradoxically. sympathy. The Bible begins with the story of Adam and Eve. who were expelled from the Garden of Eden for eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As Dimmesdale watches a meteor trace a letter “A” in the sky. insist on seeing earthly experience as merely an obstacle on the path to heaven.” the embodiment of evil. Their answer to Hester’s sin is to ostracize her. identity and society · Civilization versus the wilderness. and little Pearl is thought by some to be the Devil’s child.
a rule-bound space where everything one does is on display and where transgressions are quickly punished. her unwillingness to leave the town may seem puzzling. Motifs. on the other hand. running away or removing the letter would be an acknowledgment of society’s power over her: she would be admitting that the letter is a mark of shame and something from which she desires to escape. Perhaps Pearl is not entirely wrong when she thinks Dimmesdale is the “Black Man. too. Daylight exposes an individual’s activities and makes him or her vulnerable to punishment. . Dimmesdale also struggles against a socially determined identity. Evil. for example—it also permits greater honesty and an escape from the repression of Boston. Hester stays. Hester very determinedly integrates her sin into her life. Night is the time when inner natures can manifest themselves. for a few moments. of one’s assigned identity.After Hester is publicly shamed and forced by the people of Boston to wear a badge of humiliation.Civilization Versus the Wilderness. While this allows for misbehavior—Mistress Hibbins’s midnight rides. Surprisingly.” Evil is not found in Hester and Dimmesdale’s lovemaking. Her past sin is a part of who she is. to pretend that it never happened would mean denying a part of herself. is located on the outskirts of town and at the edge of the forest. and those which must take place covertly. who should love Pearl. it is a place where she can create for herself a life of relative peace. Hester’s cottage. Thus. The forest. Night. Instead. The town represents civilization. both emotions depend upon “a high degree of intimacy and heartknowledge. and secrets remain secrets.”because her father. misinterpreting it as holiness. is a space of natural rather than human authority. She is not physically imprisoned. not a rejection. Dimmesdale never fully recognizes the truth of what Hester has learned: that individuality and strength are gained by quiet self-assertion and by a reconfiguration. When Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the woods. Dimmesdale. His cruel denial of love to his own child may be seen as further perpetrating evil. Night Versus Day. Unfortunately. refiguring the scarlet letter as a symbol of her own experiences and character.In The Scarlet Letter. These notions of visibility versus concealment are linked to two of the book’s larger themes—the themes of inner versus socially assigned identity and of outer appearances versus internal states. interiority is once again hidden from public view. the town and the surrounding forest represent opposing behavioral systems. During the day. nor even in the cruel ignorance of the Puritan fathers.problems with the Puritan conception of sin. and alternate identities can be assumed. on the other hand. significantly. will not even publicly acknowledge her. To her. in its most poisonous form. conceals and enables activities that would not be possible or tolerated during the day—for instance. but because it lies apart from the settlement. As the community’s minister. 45 . whose love has been perverted. which ties it to the authoritarian town. embodies both orders. upon another. As the narrator points out in the novel’s concluding chapter. Hester reacts with dismay when Chillingworth tells her that the town fathers are considering letting her remove the letter. has perverted his love. they become happy young lovers once again. and leaving the Massachusetts Bay Colony would allow her to remove the scarlet letter and resume a normal life. Identity and Society. The book argues that true evil arises from the close relationship between hate and love. Hester’s behavior is premised on her desire to determine her own identity rather than to allow others to determine it for her.By emphasizing the alternation between sunlight and darkness. each renders one individual dependent . which. the novel organizes the plot’s events into two categories: those which are socially acceptable. In the forest. those around the minister willfully ignore his obvious anguish. society’s rules do not apply. is found in the carefully plotted and precisely aimed revenge of Chillingworth. he is more symbol than human being. Except for Chillingworth. . It is her place of exile. Dimmesdale’s encounter with Hester and Pearl on the scaffold.
even as a reminder of Hester’s “sin. Like Pearl. indeterminacy. She is the physical consequence of sexual sin and the indicator of a transgression. Chillingworth is cold and inhuman and thus brings a “chill” to Hester’s and Dimmesdale’s lives. which thinks that it stands for “Angel” and marks Governor Winthrop’s entry into heaven. but instead it becomes a powerful symbol of identity to Hester. and lack of will. This system of naming lends a profundity to the story. To Dimmesdale.Evocative Names. The Meteor. Originally intended to mark Hester as an adulterer. Symbols. the meteor implies that he should wear a mark of shame just as Hester does. all of which characterize the young minister.” while “Dimmesdale” suggests “dimness”—weakness. a symbol becomes a focal point for critical analysis and debate. The child has been sent from God. symbols are taken to mean what the beholder wants them to mean. it becomes indeterminate: the Native Americans who come to watch the Election Day pageant think it marks her as a person of importance and status. a meteor traces out an “A” in the night sky.Although Pearl is a complex character. Whitman’s Poetry Walt Whitman Themes. Pearl is a sort of living version of her mother’s scarlet letter. the letter seems insignificant. the “A” eventually comes to stand for “Able. but the letter is merely a human contrivance. The Puritans commonly looked to symbols to confirm divine sentiments. But “Angel” is an awkward reading of the symbol. or at least from nature. people still harbored many doubts about whether the United States could survive as a country and about whether democracy could thrive as a political system. In the early nineteenth century. It also aligns the novel with popular forms of narrative such as fairy tales. The letter’s meaning shifts as time passes. Thus.The scarlet letter is meant to be a symbol of shame. she functions in a symbolic capacity as the reminder of an unsolved mystery. Whitman tried to be democratic in both life and poetry. linking it to other allegorical works of literature such as The Pilgrim’s Progress and to portions of the Bible. To allay those fears and to praise democracy. “Prynne” rhymes with“sin. The incident with the meteor obviously highlights and exemplifies two different uses of symbols: Puritan and literary. She represents not only “sin” but also the vital spirit and passion that engendered that sin. lack of insight. Yet. Pearl’s existence gives her mother reason to live.Democracy As a Way of Life. The meteor is interpreted differently by the rest of the community. He imagined democracy as a way of interpersonal interaction and 46 .The Scarlet Letter.” Pearl is more than a mere punishment to her mother: she is also a blessing. the letter functions as a physical reminder of Hester’s affair with Dimmesdale.The names in this novel often seem to beg to be interpreted allegorically.”Finally. Additionally. It is only after Dimmesdale is revealed to be Pearl’s father that Pearl can become fully “human. bolstering her spirits when she is tempted to give up.” Until then. Pearl. compared with a human child. her primary function within the novel is as a symbol. however.As Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold with Hester and Pearl in Chapter 12. the instability of the letter’s apparent meaning calls into question society’s ability to use symbols for ideological reinforcement. More often than not. But.Whitman envisioned democracy not just as a political system but as a way of experiencing the world. and thus helps to point out the ultimate meaninglessness of the community’s system of judgment and punishment. The name “Pearl” evokes a biblical allegorical device—the “pearl of great price” that is salvation. In this narrative.
making itself felt in the ways we think. or else it will fail. The Cycle of Growth and Death. and it imagines many voices pouring into a unified whole. democracy was an idea that could and should permeate the world beyond politics. But sectionalism and the violence of the Civil War threatened to break apart and destroy the boundless possibilities of the United States. and Whitman began composing several elegies. a single entity composed of myriad parts. Whitman praised the individual. Whitman believed that everyday life and everyday people were fit subjects for poetry. 47 . but they rebloom in the springtime. He imagined a democratic nation as a unified whole composed of unique but equal individuals. The Beauty of the Individual. including“O Captain! My Captain!” Although all individuals were beautiful and worthy of praise.as a way for individuals to integrate their beliefs into their everyday lives. Whitman focused on the life cycles of individuals: people are born. During the nineteenth century. In his poetry. In this way. particularly Abraham Lincoln. Describing the life cycle of nature helped Whitman contextualize the severe injuries and trauma he witnessed during the Civil War—linking death to life helped give the deaths of so many soldiers meaning. For Whitman. they age and reproduce. In 1865. work. and even make art. Such poems as “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” imagine death as an integral part of life. Similarly.“Song of Myself” notes that democracy must include all individuals equally. Although much of Whitman’s work does not explicitly discuss politics. he broadened the possibilities of subject matter by describing myriad people and places. and sing myself” (1). As a way of dealing with both the population growth and the massive deaths during the Civil War. Whitman still singled out specific individuals for praise in his poetry. Elsewhere the speaker of that exuberant poem identifies himself as Walt Whitman and claims that. rather than employing the stiff. Despite this pluralist view. many individuals make up the individual democracy. and its growth and potential seemed limitless. and regional dialects. Lincoln was assassinated. “Song of Myself” opens in a triumphant paean to the individual: “I celebrate myself. America expanded at a tremendous rate. erudite language so often found in nineteenthcentury verse. most of it implicitly deals with democracy: it describes communities of people coming together.Whitman’s poetry reflects the vitality and growth of the early United States. Whitman widened the possibilities of poetic diction by including slang. the voices of many will speak. and he vows to mourn his fallen friends every year just as new buds are appearing. Every voice and every part will carry the same weight within the single democracy—and thus every voice and every individual is equally beautiful. speak.Throughout his poetry. colloquialisms. fight. Like William Wordsworth. through him. some individuals merited their own poems because of their contributions to society and democracy. The speaker of “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” realizes that flowers die in the winter. and they die.
Many of Whitman’s poems rely on rhythm and repetition to create a captivating. Whitman’s unabashed praise of the male form has led many critics to argue that he was homosexual or bisexual. The long lines of such poems as “Song of Myself” and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” force readers to inhale several bits of text without pausing for breath.Motifs. a literary device called anaphora. all items possess equal weight. the repetition and rhythm contribute to an elegiac tone. and no individual is more important than another. the first four lines of “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” (1865) each begin with the word when. the speaker also lists the different types of voices who speak through Whitman. In a democracy. The speaker uses multiple adjectives to demonstrate the complexity of the individual: true individuals cannot be described using just one or two words. Generally. Lists are another way of demonstrating democracy in action: in lists. spellbinding quality of incantation. these lists layer images atop one another to reflect the diversity of American landscapes and people. describing them at work. The speaker of“Song of Myself” claims that “copulation is no more rank to me than death is” (521) to demonstrate the naturalness of taking pleasure in the body’s physical possibilities. Several poems praise the bodies of both women and men. This free expression of sexuality horrified some of Whitman’s early readers. and this breathlessness contributes to the incantatory quality of the poems. The speaker of “I Sing the Body Electric” (1855) boldly praises the perfection of the human form and worships the body because the body houses the soul. and Whitman was fired from his job at the Indian Bureau in 1865 because the secretary of the interior found Leaves of Grass offensive. however. Often. Often a sentence will be broken into many clauses. to mournfully incant an elegy for the assassinated Abraham Lincoln. and no item is more important than another item in the list.Whitman filled his poetry with long lists. Rhythm and Incantation. Also. the anaphora and the rhythm transform the poems into celebratory chants. In “Song of Myself. and the joyous form and structure reflect the joyousness of the poetic content. Later in this section. or object.Lists.Whitman’s poetry revels in its depictions of the human body and the body’s capacity for physical contact.” for example. The Human Body. person. For example. as in “O Captain! My Captain!” This poem uses short lines and words. With physical contact comes spiritual communion: two touching bodies form one individual unit of togetherness. such as heart and father. 48 . and interacting. the speaker lists several adjectives to describe Walt Whitman in section 24. as they mirror the growth of the United States. all individuals possess equal weight. at play. but the repressive culture of the nineteenth century prevented him from truly expressing those feelings in his work. and each clause will describe some scene. Whitman begins several lines in a row with the same word or phrase. These lists create a sense of expansiveness in the poem. Elsewhere. separated by commas.
” even assumes the name Walt Whitman. In the Bible (Acts 9:4). In “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d. bushes. and other plant life to signify the possibilities of regeneration and re-growth after death. who inevitably saw themselves as subordinate to God. the speaker describes how unmitigated truth (in the form of light) causes blindness. In a sense. Dickinson’s poetry criticizes God not by speaking out directly against him. Dickinson’s Poetry Emily Dickinson Themes. Most of his poems are spoken from the first person. Perhaps her most fiery challenge comes in “Mine by the Right of the White Election!” (528). regular expansion of the population of the United States.” Multiple leaves of grass thus symbolize democracy. She was dissatisfied with the notion that the poet can engage with God only insofar as God ordains the poet as his instrument. “Song of Myself. By imaging a person capable of carrying the entire world within him. and she challenged God’s dominion throughout her life.Plants. and literature. He titled this section “The Calamus Poems. Many poems describe a protracted rebellion against the God whom she deemed scornful and indifferent to human suffering. Dickinson rejected this premise in her poetry. she was a religious poet. trees. Each leaf or blade of grass possesses its own distinct beauty. which is a way for Whitman to reimagine the boundary between the self and the world. God decides to enlighten Paul by making him blind and then healing him on the condition that thenceforth Paul becomes “a chosen 49 . The speaker of Whitman’s most famous poem. the poem refers obliquely to his suppression of the apostle Paul in the last two lines. Unlike other religious poets.Throughout Whitman’s poetry. Whitman published an edition of Leaves of Grass that included a number of poems celebrating love between men.” after the phallic calamus plant. Elsewhere. The title Leaves of Grass highlights another of Whitman’s themes: the beauty of the individual. an idea Whitman explores in the sixth section of“Song of Myself. which would. he drops a lilac spray onto the coffin. The Self. a divine being perpetually committed to subjugating human identity. using the pronoun I. Though the speaker of “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” (1129) never mentions God. he also borrows many experiences from popular works of art. music.Dickinson devoted a great amount of her work to exploring the relationship between an individual and a Judeo-Christian God. Repeatedly the speaker of this poem exclaims that he contains everything and everyone. Rapid. and together the blades form a beautiful unified whole. Although Whitman borrows from his own autobiography for some of the speaker’s experiences. but nevertheless the speaker remains a fictional creation employed by the poet Whitman.” Whitman uses flowers. refusing to submit to his divine will at the cost of her self. envisioning the self as the birthplace of poetry. Whitman links the self to the conception of poetry throughout his work.Symbols.Whitman’s interest in the self ties into his praise of the individual. like the self. claiming the earth and heavens for herself or himself. in which the speaker roars in revolt against God. In 1860. As the speaker mourns the loss of Lincoln. be capable of containing the whole world. plant life symbolizes both growth and multiplicity. the act of laying a flower on the coffin not only honors the person who has died but lends death a measure of dignity and respect. but by detailing the suffering he causes and his various affronts to an individual’s sense of self.The Individual’s Struggle with God. another instance of a beautiful whole composed of individual parts. Here. wheat. regular plant growth also stands in for the rapid. Whitman can create an elaborate analogy about the ideal democracy.
Perhaps the most important of these was Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. as the province of the poet. is the call to explore and express the self to others. invasive. this development only reinforced the opposition to the belief in a transcendent and divine design in an increasingly secularized world. who have imprisoned her body but not her mind. Dickinson once wrote: ‘Nature is a Haunted House—but Art—a House that tries to be haunted. through words. Dickinson portrays God as a murderous hunter of man in “My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun” (754). who renounced obedience to God through the steps of her own mental evolution. This abstention is most evident in Dickinson’s poem about a snake.In a letter to a friend. but so long as he or she remains a sovereign self. The individual is subject to any amount of suffering. the self is never more apparent in Dickinson’s poetry than when the speaker brandishes it against some potentially violating force. published in 1859. evolution throttled the notion of a world created by God’s grand design. he or she still has that which separates him or her from other animate and inanimate beings. performing his will. but rather to ascertain the character of God’s power in the world. Because God most often plays the role of culprit as an omnipotent being. The sentence’s second part reveals the poet’s role. In “They shut me up in Prose—” (613). despite the efforts of others to intrude on them. Dickinson asserts the importance of the self.“A narrow Fellow in the Grass” (986). he can and does impose compromising conditions upon individuals according to his whim in Dickinson’s work. which deceive humankind as to the purpose of things in nature as well as to God’s purpose in the creation of nature. cruel. These poems are among the hundreds of verses in which Dickinson portrays God as aloof. the “self” entails an understanding of identity according to the way it systematizes its perceptions of the world. a theme closely related to Dickinson’s censure of God.vessel” of God. and comes to judgments regarding what it perceives. In another instance of implicit criticism.” The first part of the sentence implies that the natural world is replete with mystery and false signs. a sense of the world as a place in which objects have an essential and almost mythic relationship to each other. which remains free and roaming. As Dickinson understood it. Indeed. and the call of the poet. forms its goals and values. Dickinson’s poems often link abstract entities to physical things in an attempt to embrace or create an integral design in the world. Besides the tidal wave it unleashed in the scientific community. she was quite attuned to the modern trends of thought that circulated throughout Europe and North America. The speaker recoils from this instance of God’s juggernaut-like domination of Paul in this poem but follows the poem’s advice and tells the truth “slant. in which Dickinson refrains from the easy reference to Satan in Eden. such as “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—” (254) or “Hope is a subtle Glutton” (1547). the mere act of speaking or writing is an affirmation of the will. Nearly all Dickinson’s speakers behave according to the primacy of the self. This act is most apparent in her poems of definition. or vindictive. Against this power. Indeed. the self is essentially defined. Dickinson began to see language and the word.”or indirectly. Nature as a “Haunted House”. insensitive. The duty of the poet was to re-create.In her work. The Power of Words and Poetry. however. in many 50 . For Dickinson. which were formerly part of God’s domain. Dickinson employs metaphors that assign physical qualities to the abstract feeling of “hope” in order to flesh out the nature of the word and what it means to human consciousness. The poet does not exist merely to render aspects of nature. In these poems. For Dickinson. in which Death goes about gleefully executing people for his divine master.Though Dickinson sequestered herself in Amherst for most of her life. in particular. rather than censuring God directly. The Assertion of the Self. the characterizing of God’s power proved to be complicated since she often abstained from using the established religious symbols for things in nature. the speaker taunts her captives. For Dickinson.
She commands the soul to choose one person from a great number of people and then “close the lids”of attention. such as “A Bird came down the Walk” (328). Thus. By emphasizing the subjectivity. the “I” that is the soul has eyelike properties: closing the lids. when the speaker of “After great pain. she shuts her eyes “Like Stone—” (12). a formal feeling comes” (341) notes that feet are going around in his head while he is going mad. he points to the fact that his ability to make poetry is compromised. and thoughts with those expressed in Dickinson’s lyrics. Dickinson rails against those educational and religious institutions that attempt to limit individual knowledge and experience. sight becomes an important expression of the self. emotions. and consequently the speakers in Dickinson’s poems value it highly. In poetry. ultimately they are fictional entities distinct from their writers. an act that would prevent seeing. or individuality.of her nature poems. Readers are thus invited to compare their experiences. when the speaker of “A narrow Fellow in the Grass” (986) remembers himself a “Barefoot” boy (11). sight and self seem literally fused. stones represent immutability and finality: unlike flowers or the light of day. This wordplay abounds in Dickinson’s body of work. The final utterance. Likewise. Frequently.Dickinson’s speakers are numerous and varied. In this poem.Feet enter Dickinson’s poems self-referentially. Stone. since the words foot and feet denote poetic terms as well as body parts. is tantamount to cutting off the “I” from the rest of society. which lends her poems the immediacy of a dialogue between two people. sight and self are so synonymous that the end of one (blindness) translates into the end of the other (death). “I could not see to see” (16). Motifs. It is used especially effectively in the third stanza of “The Soul selects her own Society—”(303).The Speaker’s Unique Poetic Voice. A stone becomes an object of envy in “How happy is the little Stone” (1510). he indirectly alludes to a time when his sense of poetry was not fully formed. of experience. In other poems. or the self. and thus haunted. is concentrated on the desire to “see” more than anything else. In this sense. Poets create speakers to literally speak their poems. She sometimes aligns multiple speakers in one poem with the use of the plural personal pronoun we. In this poem. the speaker and the reader. in which the speaker declares that she knows the soul. a 51 . firmly closing herself off from sensory perception or society. Sight requires that the seer have the authority to associate with the world around her or him in meaningful ways and the sovereignty to act based on what she or he believes exists as opposed to what another entity dictates. After the speaker chooses her soul in “The Soul selects her own Society—” (303). Dickinson ultimately insists on depicting nature as unapologetically incomprehensible. a connection that Dickinson toys with by playing on the sonic similarity of the words I and eye. The Connection Between Sight and Self. points to the fact that the last gasp of life. The speaker in “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers” (216) imagines the dead lying unaffected by the breezes of nature—and of life. “feet” are the groups of syllables in a line that form a metrical unit. stones remain essentially unchanged. The first-person singular and plural allow Dickinson to write about specific experiences in the world: her speakers convey distinct. and thus of selfhood. subjective emotions and individual thoughts rather than objective. The horror that the speaker of “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died—” (465) experiences is attributable to her loss of eyesight in the moments leading up to her death. Symbols. Dickinson’s mention of feet in her poems generally serves the dual task of describing functioning body parts and commenting on poetry itself. concrete truths. or distinctive tone and style. seeing is a form of individual power. while these speakers might share traits with their creators or might be based on real historical figures. but each exhibits a similar voice. Dickinson employs the first person.In Dickinson’s poems.For Dickinson.Feet.
Petersburg. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain FULL TITLE · The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn AUTHOR · Mark Twain (pseudonym for Samuel Clemens) · Novel TYPE OF WORK GENRE · Picaresque novel (episodic. Twain said the novel was set forty to fifty years before SETTING (TIME) the time of its publication SETTING (PLACE) · The Mississippi River town of St. bildungsroman (novel of education or moral development) LANGUAGE · English. particularly concerning adventure novels and romances. RISING ACTION · Miss Watson and the Widow Douglas attempt to civilize Huck until Pap reappears in town. the bird becomes an emblem of the unyielding mystery of nature. In “Split—the Lark— and you’ll find the Music” (861). and other adults. colorful story often in the form of a quest or journey). Connecticut. Dickinson links birds to poets. sometimes boyish and exuberant TENSE · Immediate past · Before the Civil War. satire of popular adventure and romance novels. art produces soothing.Dickinson uses the symbol of birds rather flexibly. as Huck must decide whether to turn Jim in. Later. roughly 1835–1845. Huck escapes society by faking his own death and retreating to Jackson’s Island. this conflict gains greater focus in Huck’s dealings with Jim. frequently makes use of Southern and black dialects of the time · 1876–1883. · Huckleberry Finn · Huck’s point of view. free from human cares. Huck gradually begins to question the 52 . MAJOR CONFLICT represented by the Widow Douglas. whose job is to sing whether or not people hear. Hartford. as Huck seeks to decipher the world around him. although Twain occasionally indulges in digressions in which he shows off POINT OF VIEW his own ironic wit TONE · Frequently ironic or mocking. while in“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” (254). the bird becomes a personification of hope. and Elmira. Birds. Elsewhere. In“A Bird came down the Walk” (328). Webster & Co. various locations along the river through Arkansas PROTAGONIST · Huck Finn · At the beginning of the novel. as society demands.poem in which the speaker longs for the rootless independence of a stone bumping along. the poem concludes by asking rhetorically whether its listeners now understand the truths produced by both birds and poetry. Miss Watson. New York · 1884 TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION PUBLISHER NARRATOR · Charles L. demands Huck’s money. also contemplative. Missouri. and kidnaps Huck. symbolized by the bird. Huck struggles against society and its attempts to civilize him. truthful sounds. Like nature. Dickinson compares the sounds of birds to the lyrical sounds of poetry. where he meets Jim and sets out on the river with him. or to protect and help his friend instead.
and his growing relationship with Jim. The result is a world of moral confusion. Huckleberry Finn fits into the tradition of the bildungsroman: a novel depicting an individual’s maturation and development. Slavery could be outlawed. in which seemingly “good” white people such as Miss Watson and Sally Phelps express no concern about the injustice of slavery or the cruelty of separating Jim from his family. who engage in a series of increasingly serious scams that culminate in their sale of Jim. no matter how degraded that white society may be.By focusing on Huck’s education. uneducated boy. Tom and Huck try to free Jim. especially in his SYMBOLS FORESHADOWING frequent comparisons between Huck’s plight and eventual escape and Jim’s plight and eventual escape. But even by Twain’s time. Afterward. who ends up at the Phelps farm. he lies and makes up a story to scare off some men searching for escaped slaves. THEMES MOTIFS · Racism and slavery. race relations. Intellectual and Moral Education. far fewer people. he set it several decades earlier. The new racism of the South. the plan to put the United States back together after the war and integrate freed slaves into society. In this light. Huck distrusts the morals and precepts of the society that treats him as an outcast and fails to protect him from abuse. As Twain worked on his novel. parodies of popular romance novels · The Mississippi River. insidious effort to oppress. FALLING ACTION · When Aunt Polly arrives at the Phelps farm and correctly identifies Tom and Huck. had hit shaky ground. when slavery was still a fact of life. lies and cons. Although Huck and Jim live a relatively peaceful life on the raft. Just as slavery places the noble and moral Jim under the control of white society. for all intents and purposes an orphan. saw the act as immoral and rushed to combat it. designed to limit the power of blacks in the South in a variety of indirect ways. they are ultimately unable to escape the evils and hypocrisies of the outside world. less institutionalized and monolithic. lead Huck to question many of the teachings that he has received. In Huckleberry Finn. so too did the insidious racism that arose near the end of Reconstruction oppress black men for illogical and hypocritical reasons. Instead. Northern or Southern. we might read Twain’s depiction of slavery as an allegorical representation of the condition of blacks in the United States even after the abolition of slavery. demonstrates how racism distorts the oppressors as much as it does those who are oppressed.Racism and Slavery. America—and especially the South—was still struggling with racism and the aftereffects of slavery. things had not necessarily gotten much better for blacks in the South. although it had not yet failed outright.Although Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn two decades after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War. superstitions and folk beliefs. Tom recovers from his wound. but when white Southerners enacted racist laws or policies under a professed motive of self-defense against newly freed blacks. as when. The most notable representatives of these outside evils are the con men the duke and the dauphin. As a poor. by exposing the hypocrisy of slavery. floods. shipwrecks. Tom reveals that Miss Watson died two months earlier and freed Jim in her will. brought the beginning of a new. in order to protect Jim. This apprehension about society. The imposition of Jim Crow laws. the hypocrisy of “civilized” society · Childhood. while Huck decides he is done with civilized society and makes plans to travel to the West.rules society has taught him. Reconstruction. CLIMAX · Huck considers but then decides against writing Miss Watson to tell her the Phelps family is holding Jim. the natural world · Twain uses parallels and juxtapositions more so than explicit foreshadowing. especially 53 . was also more difficult to combat. and Tom is shot in the leg during the attempt. once again became strained. Although Twain wrote the novel after slavery was abolished. which seemed to be on a positive path in the years following the Civil War. Themes . Twain. intellectual and moral education. By the early 1880s. following his conscience rather than the prevailing morality of the day.
for example—but who Twain takes care to show are prejudiced slave-owners. Lies and Cons. In this light. depending on its purpose. it seems that telling a lie can actually be a good thing.Huck’s youth is an important factor in his moral education over the course of the novel. Throughout the novel. most notably the slave-hunters. a lack of logic. when the new judge in town allows Pap to keep custody of Huck. Huck bases these decisions on his experiences. to distinguish good. his own sense of logic. Huck often knows better than the adults around him. In implicitly comparing the plight of slaves to the plight of Huck at the hands of Pap. pure joy. has power over Jim. yet frivolous crimes. the silliness. able to make his own decisions without restriction. Huck is especially free from society’s rules. unaffected by the accepted—and often hypocritical—rules and values of Southern culture. This shaky sense of justice that Huck repeatedly encounters lies at the heart of society’s problems: terrible acts go unpunished. Huck encounters individuals who seem good—Sally Phelps. the lines between a con. and naïveté of childhood give Huckleberry Finn a sense of fun and humor. this decision comments on a system that puts a white man’s rights to his “property”—his slaves—over the welfare and freedom of a black man. who is influenced by a bizarre mix of adventure novels and Sunday-school teachings. to whom he makes up a story about a smallpox outbreak in order to protect Jim. lies and cons provide an effective way for Twain to highlight the moral ambiguity that runs through the novel.regarding race and slavery. he comes to his own conclusions. lead to executions.When Huck plans to head west at the end of the novel in order to escape further “sivilizing. menace. Through deep introspection. More than once. because he is white. Motifs . we see Huck choose to “go to hell” rather than go along with the rules and follow what he has been taught. This insight is part of Huck’s learning process. By the novel’s end. and what his developing conscience tells him. no matter how “civilized” that society believes and proclaims itself to be. Twain depicts the society that surrounds Huck as little more than a collection of degraded rules and precepts that defy logic. Since Huck and Tom are young. Yet Huck himself tells a number of lies and even cons a few people. Again and again. Twain implies that it is impossible for a society that owns slaves to be just.Huckleberry Finn is full of malicious lies and scams. Though its themes are quite weighty.Childhood. and profound selfishness. which he combines to justify his outrageous and potentially harmful escapades. society instead is marked by cowardice. Sherburn’s speech to the mob that has come to lynch him accurately summarizes the view of society Twain gives in Huckleberry Finn: rather than maintain collective welfare. As Huck realizes. His moral development is sharply contrasted to the character of Tom Sawyer. and so on. and approved social structures like religion are fine indeed. It is clear that these con men’s lies are bad.” he is trying to avoid more than regular baths and mandatory school attendance. friend. The judge privileges Pap’s “rights” to his son as his natural father over Huck’s welfare. At the same time. Huck has learned to “read” the world around him. This faulty logic appears early in the novel. many of them coming from the duke and the dauphin. yet Huck. away from civilization. Ironically. which excuses them in certain ways and also deepens the novel’s commentary on slavery and society. such as drunkenly shouting insults. the novel itself feels light in tone and is an enjoyable read because of this rambunctious childhood excitement that enlivens the story. And on a different level. right. their age lends a sense of play to their actions. legitimate entertainment. 54 . even though he has lacked the guidance that a proper family and community should have offered him. The Hypocrisy of “Civilized” Society. for we sense that only a child is open-minded enough to undergo the kind of development that Huck does. for they hurt a number of innocent people. On the raft. as he finds that some of the rules he has been taught contradict what seems to be “right.” At other points. Twain also frequently draws links between Huck’s youth and Jim’s status as a black man: both are vulnerable. bad. wrong.
the episodes that deal with this subject are among the funniest in the novel. Much like the river itself. Huck and Jim are in flux. away from his abusive father and the restrictive “sivilizing” of St. Huck at first dismisses most of Jim’s superstitions as silly. bases his life and actions on adventure novels. or The Whale 55 . the duke and the dauphin invade the raft. Even early on. wrecks. the river becomes something other than the inherently benevolent place Huck originally thought it was. they soon find that they are not completely free from the evils and influences of the towns on the river’s banks. Parodies of Popular Romance Novels. the most obvious example. Jim spouts a wide range of superstitions and folktales. it turns out. Whereas Jim initially appears foolish to believe so unwaveringly in these kinds of signs and omens. which was to be their route to freedom. Moby-Dick Herman Melville Key Facts FULL TITLE · Moby-Dick. there is a more substantive message beneath: that popular literature is highly stylized and therefore rarely reflects the reality of a society. These characters’ proclivities toward the romantic allow Twain a few opportunities to indulge in some fun. In this transition from idyllic retreat to source of peril. the Mississippi River is the ultimate symbol of freedom. but ultimately he comes to appreciate Jim’s deep knowledge of the world. Each escape exists in the larger context of a continual drift southward. The deceased Emmeline Grangerford painted weepy maidens and wrote poems about dead children in the romantic style. a thick fog causes them to miss the mouth of the Ohio River. Alone on their raft. In this sense.The Mississippi River. Tom Sawyer. Symbols . the river. The river carries them toward freedom: for Jim.Superstitions and Folk Beliefs. toward the free states. and Huck and Jim must spend more time ashore. bringing Huck and Jim into contact with criminals. however. the river mirrors the complicated state of the South. it often merely effects the exchange of one bad situation for another.From the time Huck meets him on Jackson’s Island until the end of the novel. and stolen goods. Emmeline dies. for Huck. willing to change their attitudes about each other with little prompting.Huckleberry Finn is full of people who base their lives on romantic literary models and stereotypes of various kinds. However. Though the river continues to offer a refuge from trouble. and indeed. As Huck and Jim’s journey progresses. Twain shows how a strict adherence to these romantic ideals is ultimately dangerous: Tom is shot. Much as we do. becomes merely a short-term means of escape that nonetheless pushes Huck and Jim ever further toward danger and destruction. As the novel progresses. the real world intrudes on the paradise of the raft: the river floods. Jim’s superstition serves as an alternative to accepted social teachings and assumptions and provides a reminder that mainstream conventions are not always right. they do not have to answer to anyone. curiously. As Huck and Jim move further south. Petersburg. overexcited conception of family honor. that many of his beliefs do indeed have some basis in reality or presage events to come. then.For Huck and Jim. The Shepherdson and Grangerford families kill one another out of a bizarre. and the Shepherdsons and Grangerfords end up in a deadly clash. toward the Deep South and entrenched slavery. which once seemed a paradise and a source of freedom. Despite their freedom. Then.
and Indian Oceans · Ahab dedicates his ship and crew to destroying Moby Dick. symbolizes humankind’s inability to SYMBOLS understand the world. RISING ACTION · Ahab announces his quest to the other sailors and nails the doubloon to the mast. TONE · Ironic. in the Pacific. FALLING ACTION · The death of Ahab and the destruction of the Pequod by Moby Dick. and presuming to understand and fight evil on a cosmic scale. philosophical. By ignoring the physical dangers that this quest entails. because he TENSE SETTING (TIME) SETTING (PLACE) MAJOR CONFLICT sees this whale as the living embodiment of all that is evil and malignant in the universe. describing events as he saw them and providing his own thoughts.AUTHOR · Herman Melville · Novel TYPE OF WORK GENRE · Epic. on an objective level. the deceptiveness of fate. a white sperm whale. the exploitative nature of whaling · Whiteness. Massachusetts. CLIMAX · In Chapter 132. Ahab arrogantly defies the limitations imposed upon human beings. “The Symphony. floats on a coffin and is rescued by another whaling ship. tragedy · English · Between 1850 and 1851. hyperbolic · Past · 1830s or 1840s · Aboard the whaling ship the Pequod. recounting the events of the voyage after he has acquired more experience and studied the whale extensively. celebratory. Atlantic. and New York City · 1851 LANGUAGE TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION PUBLISHER · Harper & Brothers in America (simultaneously published in England by Richard Bentley as THE WHALE) NARRATOR · Ishmael. Ishmael. adventure story. the Rachel. surfaces and depths · The Pequod symbolizes doom. dramatic. the only survivor of the Pequod’s sinking. a junior member of the Pequod’s crew. Queequeg’s coffin symbolizes both life and death FORESHADOWING · Foreshadowing in Moby-Dick is extensive and inescapable: everything from the Pequod’s ornamentation to the behavior of schools of fish to the appearance of a giant squid is read as an omen of the eventual catastrophic encounter with Moby Dick. allegory. setting himself against other men. and realizes that he does not have the will to turn aside from his purpose. casts himself as the author. in Pittsfield. the Pequod encounters various ships with news and stories about Moby Dick. 56 . He presents the thoughts and feelings of the other characters only as an outside observer might infer them. POINT OF VIEW · Ishmael narrates in a combination of first and third person. quest tale. Moby Dick. THEMES MOTIFS · The limits of knowledge.”Ahab interrogates himself and his quest in front of Starbuck.
the prophesies of Fedallah and others seem to be undercut in Chapter 99. his African harpooner. and some even claim the ability to foretell the future. the whale has taken on an incredible multiplicity of meanings. Motifs. On a live whale. including art. like those of the Christian God.Themes. Many of the sailors believe in prophecies. the Pequod seems like an island of equality and fellowship in the midst of a racist. suggest that human knowledge is always limited and insufficient. he makes use of nearly every discipline known to man in his attempts to understand the essential nature of the whale. who listens to Ahab’s pacing from below deck. on a dead whale. gold mining. that characters are actually deluding themselves when they think that they see the work of fate and that fate either doesn’t exist or is one of the many forces about which human beings can have no distinct knowledge. hierarchically structured world. noting that only the surfaces of objects and environments are available to the human observer.The Limits of Knowledge. for example. Surfaces and Depths. unfair trade with indigenous peoples—that characterize American and European territorial expansion. who are white. Ahab. demonstrating that humans project what they want to see when they try to interpret signs and portents. The Exploitative Nature of Whaling. taxonomy. and nonwhites perform most of the dirty or dangerous jobs aboard the ship. Each of these systems of knowledge. Moby Dick is the pinnacle of whiteness. The ways of Moby Dick. are unknowable to man. The ship’s crew includes men from all corners of the globe and all races who seem to get along harmoniously.In addition to highlighting many portentous or foreshadowing events. Ahab. These examples reverse the traditional association of whiteness with purity. in order to beat the other mates to a prize whale. However. When it comes to Moby Dick himself. and phrenology. or which part 57 . the conditions of work aboard the Pequod promote a certain kind of egalitarianism. Ishmael is initially uneasy upon meeting Queequeg. this limitation takes on allegorical significance. Ishmael’s narrative contains many references to fate. is horrible because it represents the unnatural and threatening: albinos. Ahab is depicted as walking over the black youth Pip.As Ishmael tries. only the outer layer presents itself. coupled with his compulsive need to assert his authority as a narrator and the frequent references to the limits of observation (men cannot see the depths of the ocean. The multiplicity of approaches that Ishmael takes. Additionally. Over the course of the novel. Moreover. throughout history. is inevitably futile and often fatal. The Deceptiveness of Fate. to offer a simple collection of literary excerpts mentioning whales. creating the impression that the Pequod’s doom is inevitable.Whiteness.At first glance. and is thus reminded that his value as a slave is less than the value of a whale. and Melville’s characters cannot objectively understand the White Whale. he discovers that. fails to give an adequate account. for example). believes that Moby Dick represents evil.Ishmael frequently bemoans the impossibility of examining anything in its entirety. in the opening pages of Moby-Dick. as Ahab does. waves breaking against rocks. Each of the Pequod’s mates. is entirely dependent on a nonwhite harpooner. since men are promoted and paid according to their skill. for instance. clearly exploits the sailors’belief in fate to manipulate them into thinking that the quest for Moby Dick is their common destiny. Whiteness conveys both a lack of meaning and an unreadable excess of meaning that confounds individuals. A number of things suggest. to Ishmael. but he quickly realizes that it is better to have a “sober cannibal than a drunken Christian”for a shipmate. for example. and thus trying to interpret them. however. the work of whaling parallels the other exploitative activities—buffalo hunting. while Ishmael fails in his attempts to determine scientifically the whale’s fundamental nature.Whiteness. creatures that live in extreme and inhospitable environments. when various individuals interpret the doubloon in different ways. Flask actually stands on Daggoo. it is impossible to determine what constitutes the whale’s skin. however.
and no one knows where it goes or what it does. the legendary White Whale is a concept onto which they can displace their anxieties about their dangerous and often very frightening jobs. He perpetuates the knowledge tattooed on his body by carving it onto the coffin’s lid. in fact. manage it. we can only observe. the Pequod becomes one. tales about the whale allow them to confront their fear.Queequeg’s coffin alternately symbolizes life and death. In its inscrutable silence and mysterious habits. HENRY JAMES THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY Major themes. that fraction of entities—both individuals and environments—to which we have access: surfaces. for example. marked for death.The Pequod. the White Whale can be read as an allegorical representation of an unknowable God. head—offers the best understanding of the entire animal.Moby Dick possesses various symbolic meanings for various individuals." It is a rather existentialist novel. Symbols. Adorned like a primitive coffin.Named after a Native American tribe in Massachusetts that did not long survive the arrival of white men and thus memorializing an extinction. It is painted a gloomy black and covered in whale teeth and bones. The richness of The Portrait is hardly exhausted by a review of Isabel's character. Only then did he begin to form a plot to bring out the character of his central figure. saving not only his life but the life of the narrative that he will pass on. the Pequod is a symbol of doom. whatever it might be. This motif represents the larger problem of the limitations of human knowledge. Queequeg has it built when he is seriously ill. as the whale swims. The novel exhibits a huge panorama of trans-Atlantic life. Humankind is not all-seeing. To the Pequod’s crew. blubber. It is. Ahab. believes that Moby Dick is a manifestation of all that is wrong with the world. when it replaces the Pequod’s life buoy. Because they have no delusions about Moby Dick acting malevolently toward men or literally embodying evil.James's first idea for The Portrait of a Lady was simple: a young American woman confronting her destiny. a far larger canvas than any James had 58 . This was the uncompromising story of the freespirited Isabel losing her freedom—despite (or because of) suddenly coming into a great deal of money—and getting "ground in the very mill of the conventional. in a morbid way. the coffin becomes Ishmael’s buoy. As a part of the natural world. but when he recovers. Moreover. Moby Dick.—skeleton. Queequeg’s Coffin. and he feels that it is his destiny to eradicate this symbolic evil. on the other hand. literally bristling with the mementos of violent death. As a profitable commodity. and thus only acquire knowledge about. it represents the destruction of the environment by such hubristic expansion. as Isabel is very committed to living with the consequences of her choice with integrity but also a sort of stubbornness. it hides much of its body underwater. it fits into the scheme of white economic expansion and exploitation in the nineteenth century. Moby Dick also bears out interpretations not tied down to specific characters. When the Pequod sinks. The sea itself is the greatest frustration in this regard: its depths are mysterious and inaccessible to Ishmael. away from the human gaze. The coffin further comes to symbolize life. and continue to function. it becomes a chest to hold his belongings and an emblem of his will to live.
and providing his own commentary on the story. at the Company’s offices. 1898–1899. deceit. frame story. colonial literature. Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad Key Facts FULL TITLE AUTHOR · Heart of Darkness · Joseph Conrad · Novella (between a novel and a short story in length and scope) TYPE OF WORK GENRE · Symbolism. Marlow narrates his story in the first person. a middle-aged ship’s captain. inspired by Conrad’s journey to the Congo in 1890 · Serialized in Blackwood’s magazine in 1899. Events of the story take place in Brussels.previously painted. TENSE · Past · Latter part of the nineteenth century. RISING ACTION · The brutality Marlow witnesses in the Company’s employees. and in the Congo. · There are two narrators: an anonymous passenger on a pleasure ship. who listens to Marlow’s story. and Two Other Stories PUBLISHER NARRATOR · J. but he claims that any thinking man would be tempted into similar behavior. and suffering. adventure tale. where Marlow is telling the story that makes up SETTING (TIME) SETTING (PLACE) Heart of Darkness. Ltd. the rumors he hears that Kurtz is a remarkable and humane man. POINT OF VIEW · The first narrator speaks in the first-person plural. This moneyed world appears charming and leisurely but proves to be plagued with treachery. probably sometime between 1876 and 1892 · Opens on the Thames River outside London. then a Belgian territory. PROTAGONIST · Marlow · Both Marlow and Kurtz confront a conflict between their images of themselves as “civilized” MAJOR CONFLICT Europeans and the temptation to abandon morality completely once they leave the context of European society. TONE · Ambivalent: Marlow is disgusted at the brutality of the Company and horrified by Kurtz’s degeneration. 59 . and Marlow himself. almost a romance in its insistence on heroism and the supernatural and its preference for the symbolic over the realistic LANGUAGE · English · England. M. on behalf of four other passengers who listen to Marlow’s tale. published in 1902 in the volume Youth: TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION A Narrative. Dent & Sons. describing only what he witnessed and experienced. and the numerous examples of Europeans breaking down mentally or physically in the environment of Africa.
The Hypocrisy of Imperialism. First. This kind of dehumanization is harder to identify than colonial violence or open racism.” dead helmsman. the absurdity of evil · Darkness (very seldom opposed by light). they are nevertheless necessary for both group harmony and individual security. upon reaching the Inner Station. madness as a result of imperialism. ironic understatement. and Kurtz’s African mistress is at best a piece of statuary. Kurtz. “whited sepulchre”of Brussels. and near-slavery. Kurtz’s “Report. As Marlow travels from the Outer Station to the Central Station and finally up the river to the Inner Station. His perverse honesty leads to his downfall. in Heart of Darkness. is open about the fact that he does not trade but rather takes ivory by force. Madness also functions to establish the necessity of social fictions.”Kurtz. is the result of being removed from one’s social context and allowed to be the sole arbiter of one’s own actions. inability to find words to describe situation adequately. cruelty. While Heart of Darkness offers a powerful condemnation of the hypocritical operations of imperialism. However. Their existence and their exoticism enable his selfcontemplation. etc.Madness is closely linked to imperialism in this book. At the very least.” and their treatment of native Africans is part of a benevolent project of “civilization. Madness has two primary functions. begin to form a more complete picture of Kurtz. and the reader. interiors vs. that in the context of the Company insanity is difficult to define. station/forest. on the other hand. Africa is responsible for mental disintegration as well as physical illness. However. French warship shelling forested coast. both Marlow and the reader begin to sympathize with Kurtz and view the Company with suspicion. has to do with the hypocrisy inherent in the rhetoric used to justify imperialism.Heart of Darkness explores the issues surrounding imperialism in complicated ways. he encounters scenes of torture. as his success threatens to expose the evil practices behind European activity in Africa. images of ridiculous waste. Africans in this book are mostly objects: Marlow refers to his helmsman as a piece of machinery. gloomy. maps. the incidental scenery of the book offers a harsh picture of colonial enterprise. Marlow’s encounters with Company officials and Kurtz’s family and friends. that Kurtz has completely abandoned European morals and norms of behavior FALLING ACTION · Marlow’s acceptance of responsibility for Kurtz’s legacy. Marlow’s visit to Kurtz’s Intended THEMES MOTIFS · The hypocrisy of imperialism. is mad. Although social mores and explanatory justifications are shown throughout Heart of Darkness to be utterly false and even leading to evil. Madness as a Result of Imperialism. women (Kurtz’s Intended.CLIMAX · Marlow’s discovery. grove of death. it becomes apparent that his madness is only relative. for Marlow as much as for Kurtz or for the Company.). It can be argued that Heart of Darkness participates in an oppression of nonwhites that is much more sinister and much harder to remedy than the open abuses of Kurtz or the Company’s men. hyperbolic language. a human screen against which he can play out his philosophical and existential struggles. coast/inland. and he describes his own treatment of the natives with the words “suppression” and “extermination”:he does not hide the fact that he rules through violence and intimidation. upriver versus downriver/toward and away from Kurtz/away from and back toward civilization (quest or journey structure) SYMBOLS · Rivers. too. it also presents a set of issues surrounding race that is ultimately troubling. Madness. which is consistently dark. as Marlow. The impetus behind Marlow’s adventures. and threatening Themes. it serves as an ironic device to engage the reader’s sympathies. Africans become for Marlow a mere backdrop. his African mistress). 60 . man trying to fill bucket with hole in it FORESHADOWING · Permeates every moment of the narrative—mostly operates on the level of imagery. knitting women in Company offices. surfaces (kernel/shell. severed heads on fence posts. fog. The men who work for the Company describe what they do as “trade. Thus. Marlow is told from the beginning.
Words themselves fail to capture meaning adequately. Kurtz’s broad forehead—that he must interpret. Marlow is more interested in surfaces. That the serious and the mundane are treated similarly suggests a profound moral confusion and a tremendous hypocrisy: it is terrifying that Kurtz’s homicidal megalomania and a leaky bucket provoke essentially the same reaction from Marlow. As the narrator states at the beginning of the text. Darkness is the inability to see: this may sound simple. Marlow is confronted with a series of exteriors and surfaces—the river’s banks. Failing to see another human being means failing to understand that individual and failing to establish any sort of sympathetic communion with him or her. Thus. and they provide him with perhaps a more profound source of knowledge than any falsely constructed interior “kernel. during which Marlow is able to figure out a good deal more than simply what the man has to say. These exteriors are all the material he is given. above all. The priority placed on observation demonstrates that penetrating to the interior of an idea or a person is impossible in this world. it is difficult to discern exactly what it might mean. rule-defying Kurtz. Darkness thus seems to operate metaphorically and existentially rather than specifically. the forest walls around the station. even if the sun is shining brightly. and this is more than any one man can bear.Comparisons between interiors and exteriors pervade Heart of Darkness. However. 61 . it becomes increasingly clear that to try to judge either alternative is an act of folly: how can moral standards or social values be relevant in judging evil? Is there such thing as insanity in a world that has already gone insane? The number of ridiculous situations Marlow witnesses act as reflections of the larger issue: at one station. This inverts the usual hierarchy of meaning: normally one seeks the deep message or hidden truth. At the Outer Station.Observation and Eavesdropping.Marlow gains a great deal of information by watching the world around him and by overhearing others’ conversations. and Brussels are all described as gloomy and somehow dark. England. and thus they must be taken in the context of their utterance. for instance.Darkness is important enough conceptually to be part of the book’s title. given that absolutely everything in the book is cloaked in darkness. but as a description of the human condition it has profound implications. ambiguity. often simultaneously. This phenomenon speaks to the impossibility of direct communication between individuals: information must come as the result of chance observation and astute interpretation. Interiors and Exteriors . The Absurdity of Evil. As the idealistic Marlow is forced to align himself with either the hypocritical and malicious colonial bureaucracy or the openly malevolent. and moral confusion. The absurd involves both insignificant silliness and life-or-death issues. Another good example of this is Marlow’s conversation with the brickmaker.This novella is.Madness is thus linked not only to absolute power and a kind of moral genius but to man’s fundamental fallibility: Kurtz has no authority to whom he answers but himself. Motifs . as when he listens from the deck of the wrecked steamer to the manager of the Central Station and his uncle discussing Kurtz and the Russian trader. an exploration of hypocrisy. he sees a man trying to carry water in a bucket with a large hole in it.” Darkness . It explodes the idea of the proverbial choice between the lesser of two evils. he watches native laborers blast away at a hillside with no particular goal in mind. in the surrounding aura of a thing rather than in any hidden nugget of meaning deep within the thing itself. Africa.
The ease with which he journeys back downstream. (Belgian colonies. and indeed Europe is the origin of the colonial enterprises that bring death to white men and to their colonial subjects. Marlow frequently claims that women are the keepers of naïve illusions.” JOSEPH CONRAD LORD JIM Major Themes Piecing Together the Story. although this sounds condemnatory.Fog is a sort of corollary to darkness. On the verandah. and Marlow concludes that Stein is a romantic. where the Company’s headquarters are located. and the story is pieced together by means of his own observations. This failure results in lost opportunities not only for a show of 62 . dehumanization. careers at sea have their beginnings in youthful. in other words. Marlow is then presented telling his story to a gathering. it allows the white man to remain always separate or outside. Marlow’s steamer is caught in the fog.Symbols . The Romantic. oftentimes. such a role is in fact crucial. Jim's direct statements. and then shifts to a clear narrator. the image is appropriate for Brussels. The river also seems to want to expel Europeans from Africa altogether: its current makes travel upriver slow and difficult. A sepulchre implies death and confinement. it is also governed by a set of reified social principles that both enable cruelty. and statements by his friend.) Women. the owner of a rice mill.The “whited sepulchre” is probably Brussels. the women are the beneficiaries of much of the resulting wealth. The River. romantic aspirations. Africa is thus reduced to a series of two-dimensional scenes that flash by Marlow’s steamer as he travels upriver. Marlow’s struggles with the river as he travels upstream toward Kurtz reflect his struggles to understand the situation in which he has found himself. he tells Jim's story.The Congo River is the key to Africa for Europeans. Matthew describes “whited sepulchres” as something beautiful on the outside but containing horrors within (the bodies of the dead). given the hypocritical Belgian rhetoric about imperialism’s civilizing mission. meaning that he has no idea where he’s going and no idea whether peril or open water lies ahead. The “Whited Sepulchre”. Fog not only obscures but distorts: it gives one just enough information to begin making decisions but no way to judge the accuracy of that information. Egstrom. omniscient voice.Stein concludes that Jim is a romantic. as these naïve illusions are at the root of the social fictions that justify economic enterprise and colonial expansion.Fog. on the other hand. and that. and Schomberg the Bangkok hotelkeeper. there is the leap Jim is too late in taking. one of Jim's employers. In return. and they become objects upon which men can display their own success and status. mirrors his acquiescence to Kurtz and his “choice of nightmares. particularly the Congo. It allows them access to the center of the continent without having to physically cross it. It is implied that Marlow too had once been a romantic. First. which often ends up being wrong. The Leap. were notorious for the violence perpetuated against the natives. The phrase “whited sepulchre” comes from the biblical Book of Matthew. but the flow of water makes travel downriver.Both Kurtz’s Intended and his African mistress function as blank slates upon which the values and the wealth of their respective societies can be displayed. back toward“civilization. and evil and prohibit change.There are several occasions of leaping in Lord Jim.” rapid and seemingly inevitable. thus. Marlow. In the passage. with a close view of Jim's inner life.The novel begins in a third-person.
POINT OF VIEW · Episodes One." his daughter Emma. and Bloom. Episode Three features interior monologue. Episode Fifteen is in play-script form. Experience. and Seventeen are told from the third-person viewpoint. comic novel. meant to be representative of the prose styles of historical English authors. Episode Eighteen features an interior monologue. Four–Twelve.The image of "the clean slate" that Jim desires. 63 . Switzerland. 1914–1921 · Individual episodes were published serially starting in 1918. as well as the similarity of their respective communities.The official Inquiry into the facts surrounding the Patna incident occupies much of the first half of the novel. is made of iron. The Patna vs. Molly Bloom is the first-person narrator of Episode Eighteen. Episode Fourteen is told variously in the third-person and firstperson. Episode Fourteen features a variety of narrators. on which Jim is chief mate. Gerty MacDowell. Patusan by both wilderness and the sea. Paris. they think. Sixteen. is the opportunity or chance to prove himself. Iron. Two. Episode Thirteen is told from the third and first person. Sixteen. and Seventeen feature anonymous narrators. as a novel. Women (and "the Eastern bride" of opportunity).The women in Lord Jim include Stein's wife "the princess. it was first LANGUAGE TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION published in 1922 PUBLISHER NARRATOR · First serially in The Little Review. Facts vs.The steamship Patna. like a block of lead.The second leap is the one that he ironically does take: a leap into "a deep hole" of shame and guilt. the only woman who survives the telling of the tale. that will sink silently into the sea. Ulysses James Joyce FULL TITLE AUTHOR · Ulysses · James Joyce · Novel TYPE OF WORK GENRE · Modernist novel. and after the disturbance cuts a hole in its underside. This second leap is ambiguously presented as an action or reflex.courage but also for personal glory and for respect. upon which he can live his life free of the failure he had exhibited on the Patna. Two. quest novel · English · Trieste. It is a metal. The impending event of the sinking of the steamship flooded Jim with fear.The similarity between the names of the Patna and Patusan is striking. Episode Thirteen features an amalgamation of anonymous narrator. The Clean Slate. Jim and the rest of the crew express little faith in iron. Episode Twelve is told from the first-person. The tale ends with Jewel living the quiet life in Stein's old age. Italy. as a novel by Shakespeare & Company · Episodes One. Both are isolated: the Patna by the sea. Four–Eleven. Zurich. since it is an island. Episode Three features Stephen’s thoughts. and their reflection in the Malay-Dutch woman who is a mother to Jewel. Patusan. Episode Fifteen has no narrator.
then return to the Bloom residence and have cocoa and talk (Episode Seventeen). including pious. MAJOR CONFLICT Leopold Bloom’s desire for a son (his only son died eleven years ago several days after his birth) RISING ACTION · Bloom leaves his house for the day.M. and “of all his race. Molly lies awake considering the events of the day and a happy memory from her and Bloom’s past. Church doctrines that uphold the unity of the Father and the Son and. Bloom tells Molly about his day and asks her to serve him breakfast in bed (Episode Seventeen). and he mentally recurs to several important motifs with which to understand paternity.” The Holy Trinity and 64 .The Quest for Paternity. and vice versa. Episode Sixteen has a tired tone. and becomes anxious about Blazes and Molly’s four o’clock rendezvous. Episode Seventeen has a scientific tone. the remorse of conscience. They pass by each other several times and coincidentally meet at Holles St. Thus Stephen’s search involves finding a symbolic father who will. which seeks to prove that Shakespeare represented himself through the ghost-father in Hamlet.TONE · The narratives of Episodes One through Eight have a straightforward tone. Stephen is more conscious of his quest for paternity than Bloom. Bloom is convinced they are going to have sex. Bloom’s search for a son stems at least in part from his need to reinforce his identity and heritage through progeny. the writings of heretics that challenge this doctrine by arguing that God created the rest of the Trinity. Stephen Dedalus’s search for a symbolic father. Bloom’s potato talisman SYMBOLS FORESHADOWING · Stephen’s and Bloom’s compatible dreams set in an Eastern marketplace street Themes. the Gold Cup horserace. the home usurped. belligerent tone. but considers him a father only in “flesh. are searching for paternity as a way to reinforce their own identities. Maternity Hospital.M. but also—through his translation of his life into art—became the father of his own father. Stephen’s thinking about the Holy Trinity involves. and satiric. Stephen’s second motif involves his Hamlet theory. Episode Fourteen has an extreme variety of tones. Simon Dedalus. Stephen already has a biological father. CLIMAX · The first climax could be when Bloom looks after Stephen during Stephen’s argument with Private Carr (at the end of Episode Fifteen). Stephen and Bloom go about their day. THEMES · The quest for paternity. and its surrounding suburbs SETTING (TIME) SETTING (PLACE) PROTAGONIST · Stephen Dedalus. sensational. the plot of Ulysses parallels Telemachus’s search for Odysseus. In this respect. sees Blazes Boylan on the street several times. on the other hand.At its most basic level.. Stephen’s Latin Quarter hat. in turn. Molly Bloom · Molly Bloom’s infidelity with Blazes Boylan. parallax or the necessity of multiple perspectives MOTIFS · Lightness and darkness. The second climax is Bloom’s return home to his bedroom to discover evidence of Molly’s infidelity and to mentally overcome the threat of Blazes Boylan (Episode Seventeen). Leopold Bloom. June 17. playful tone. June 16. allow Stephen himself to be a father. compassion as heroic. Both men. Episode Fifteen has no narrator and therefore no dominant narrative tone. Ireland. Ulysses is a book about Stephen’s search for a symbolic father and Bloom’s search for a son. the East · Plumtree’s Potted Meat. Episode Twelve has a hyperbolic. Episode Thirteen has a sentimental tone. concluding that each subsequent creation is inherently different. 1904 · Dublin. in The Odyssey. 1904–approximately 3 A.. of his life. in truth. TENSE · Present · 8:00 A.” Stephen feels that his own ability to mature and become a father himself (of art or children) is restricted by Simon’s criticism and lack of understanding. FALLING ACTION · Bloom and Stephen rest at a cabman’s shelter (Episode Sixteen). Episodes Nine through Eleven have a self-conscious. on the one hand.
It refers to the difference of position of one object when seen from two different vantage points. Compassion as Heroic.In nearly all senses. at a basic level.” He is juxtaposed with Stephen. Motifs. a woman in labor. who shamelessly refers to Stephen’s mother as“beastly dead. such as Buck Mulligan. Bloom’s fluid ability to empathize with such a wide variety of beings—cats. old ladies. in which the two protagonists are dressed in mourning black. and so on—is the modernday equivalent to Odysseus’s capacity to adapt to a wide variety of challenges. and Molly—and a subset of narrative techniques that affect our perception of events and characters combine to demonstrate the fallibility of one single perspective. a religious term meaning “remorse of conscience. A self-conscious awareness of the past. birds.” comes to Stephen’s mind again and again in Ulysses. family relations. The theme of remorse runs through Ulysses to address the feelings associated with modern breaks with family and tradition. and so on—this judgment must be revised with the integration of Molly’s own final testimony. who would also be Ireland’s savior but is lacking in compassion. Bloom. Bloom’s compassion often dictates the course of his day and the novel. and the more menacing characters are associated with light and brightness. such as keeping kosher. These quests seem to end in Bloom’s kitchen. Deasy’s anti-Semitic judgment that Jews have “sinned against the light. The Remorse of Conscience. and slays his competition—not with arrows. Though remorse of conscience can have a repressive. Three main characters—Stephen. helps constitute an individual as an ethical being in the present. representing 65 . to “love. Ulysses uses a similar tactic. faces evidence of his cuckold status.Lightness and Darkness. As a novel. Our understanding of particular characters and events must be continually revised as we consider further perspectives.Parallax is an astronomical term that Bloom encounters in his reading and that arises repeatedly through the course of the novel. as when he stops at the river Liffey to feed the gulls or at the hospital to check on Mrs. paralyzing effect. Ulysses juxtaposes characters who experience remorse with characters who do not.” dramatizes this remorse as Bloom’s “Sins of the Past” rise up and confront him one by one. it is also vaguely positive. even the sins of the past. too. public relations. dogs. Purefoy. as in Stephen’s case.” Deasy himself is associated with the brightness of coins. Stephen associates the phrase with his guilt over his mother’s death—he suspects that he may have killed her by refusing to kneel and pray at her sickbed when she asked. Lenehan. and his message is. Episode Fifteen. The most obvious example is Molly’s past love life. the poor. vicious men. Dixon. It is only Bloom’s extraordinary capacity for sympathy and compassion that allows him an unironic heroism in the course of the novel. the men will soon part ways.The phrase agenbite of inwit.Hamlet motifs reinforce our sense of Stephen’s and Bloom’s parallel quests for paternity. Though united as father and son in this moment. who mourns his late wife but does not regret his treatment of her. and their paternity quests will undoubtedly continue.The traditional associations of light with good and dark with bad are upended in Ulysses. has guilty feelings about his father because he no longer observes certain traditions his father observed. Parallax. for Ulysses demonstrates that the quest for paternity is a search for a lasting manifestation of self. but with a refocused perspective that is available only through his fluid capacity for empathy. “Circe. or the Need for Multiple Perspectives. talents. These differing viewpoints can be collated to better approximate the position of the object. Though we can construct a judgment of Molly as a loose woman from the testimonies of various characters in the novel—Bloom. and private actions all suggest his utter ordinariness. blind men. Bloom. Bloom returns home. with Bloom recognizing“the future” in Stephen and Stephen recognizing “the past” in Bloom. the notion of Leopold Bloom as an epic hero is laughable—his job. This reversal arises in part as a reaction to Mr.” and Simon Dedalus. There is a network of symbols in Ulysses that present Bloom as Ireland’s savior. dead men.
dreams that seem to be set in an Eastern locale. The Gold Cup Horserace. the “dark horse.While Odysseus is away from Ithaca in The Odyssey. the East is a place of exoticism. Penelope.” Bloom’s conscious reaction is his belief that the ad is poorly placed—directly below the obituaries. Bloom’s and Stephen’s dark colors suggest a variety of associations: Jewishness. and Stephen recognizes this and refuses to return to the tower. who comes and goes at will and has sex with Molly in Bloom’s absence. He also refers to the hat as his “Hamlet hat. Meanwhile. though it happens offstage. and erotics.In Episode Five. where he.Stephen deliberately conceives of his Latin Quarter hat as a symbol.” wins the Gold Cup Horserace. Molly and her childhood in Gibraltar. Stephen mentally dramatizes this usurpation as a replay of Claudius’s usurpation of Gertrude and the throne in Hamlet. Stephen’s and Bloom’s lack of house keys throughout Ulysses symbolizes these usurpations. The Home Usurped. / With it an abode of bliss. The East. Bloom’s hazy conception of this faraway land arises from a network of connections: the planter’s companies (such as Agendeth Netaim). which suggest newly fertile and potentially profitable homes. outsider/wanderer status.wealth without spirituality. For Bloom and the reader. Zionist movements for a homeland. Stephen. The only place where Molly. suggesting an infelicitous relation between dead bodies and “potted meat.” the horse with the phallic name. representing the promise of a paradisiacal existence. This motif translates directly to Ulysses and provides a connection between Stephen and Bloom. the figure of Plumtree’s Potted Meat comes to stand for Bloom’s anxieties about Boylan’s usurpation of his wife and home.”On a subconscious level. is associated with brightness through his name and his flashy behavior. and Stephen hopes to suggest his exiled. notably ousting “Sceptre. to win the “Gold Cup”of Molly’s heart. Bantam Lyons mistakenly thinks that Bloom has tipped him off to the horse “Throwaway. again suggesting surface without substance. The Latin Quarter is a student district in Paris. In Episode Five. his household is usurped by would-be suitors of his wife.”tipping us off to the intentional brooding and artistic connotations of the head gear.” the dark horse with a long-shot chance. Buck. anti-establishment status while back in Ireland. less concretely. narcotics. especially in the eyes of 66 . “Throwaway” does end up winning the race. This underdog victory represents Bloom’s eventual unshowy triumph over Boylan. and Haines are staying. the East becomes the imaginative space where hopes can be realized. Furthermore. Bloom reads an ad in his newspaper: “What is home without / Plumtree’s Potted Meat? / Incomplete.Plumtree’s Potted Meat.The motif of the East appears mainly in Bloom’s thoughts. For Bloom.“Blazes” Boylan. Bloom’s nemesis.The afternoon’s Gold Cup Horserace and the bets placed on it provide Stephen’s Latin Quarter Hat. on which Lenehan and Boylan have bet. Bloom’s home has been usurped by Blazes Boylan.” The connection between Plumtree’s meat and Bloom’s anxieties about Molly’s unhappiness and infidelity is driven home when Bloom finds crumbs of the potted meat that Boylan and Molly shared earlier in his own bed. Throwaway. much of the public drama in Ulysses. anarchy. The image of meat inside a pot crudely suggests the sexual relation between Boylan and Molly. Bloom’s masculine anxieties—he worries that he is not the head of an “abode of bliss” but rather a servant in a home “incomplete. Stephen pays the rent for the Martello tower. Symbols. and Bloom all meet is in their parallel dreams of each other the night before. Yet Stephen cannot always control his own hat as a symbol. The wording of the ad further suggests. Buck’s demand of the house key is thus a usurpation of Stephen’s household rights. however.
The potato.others. As an organic product that is both fruit and root but is now shriveled. however. Ellen. 67 . is an heirloom from Bloom’s mother.In Episode Fifteen. Most important. it gestures toward Bloom’s anxieties about fertility and his family line. enchantments to which Bloom succumbs when he briefly gives it over to Zoe Higgins. it comes to signify Stephen’s mock priest-liness and provinciality. Bloom’s potato functions like Odysseus’s use of “moly” in Circe’s den—it serves to protect him from enchantment. is the potato’s connection to Ireland— Bloom’s potato talisman stands for his frequently overlooked maternal Irish heritage. Through the eyes of others. Bloom’s Potato Talisman. old and shriveled now.
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