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1. William Shakespeare: Sonnets XVIII, CXXX, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, A
Midsummer Nights Dream
2. Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe
3. Jonathan Swift: Gullivers Travels
4. John Keats: Poems
5. Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
6. Charles Dickens: Great Expectations, David Copperfield
7. Lewis Carroll: Alices Adventures in Wonderland
8. Thomas Hardy: Tess of the DUrbervilles
9. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter
10. Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass
11. Emily Dickinson: Poems
12. Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
13. Herman Melville: Moby Dick
14. Henry James: The Portrait of a Lady
15. Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim
16. James Joyce: Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
17. G. B. Shaw: Caesar and Cleopatra, Pygmalion
18. Virginia Woolf: Mrs Dalloway
19. F. S. Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
20. Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
21. William Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury
22. T.S. Eliot: Waste Land
23. William Golding: Lord of the Flies
24. Forster, E.M.: A Passage to India
25. Fowles, John: The French Lieutenants Woman, The Magus
26. Poe, Edgar Allan: The Tell-Tale Heart
27. Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt: Slaughterhouse - Five (or The Childrens Crusade)
William Shakespeares father, John Shakespeare, moved to the idyllic town of Stratford-
upon-Avon in the mid-sixteenth century, where he became a successful landowner,
moneylender, wool and agricultural goods dealer, and glover. In 1557, he married Mary
Arden. John Shakespeare lived during a time when the middle class was growing and became
increasingly wealthy, thus allowing its members more freedoms and luxuries, and a stronger
voice in the local government. He took advantage of the opportunities afforded him through
this social growth, and in 1557 became a member of the Stratford Council, an event that
marked the beginning of an illustrious political career. By 1561 he was elected one of the
towns fourteen burgesses, and served successively as constable, one of two chamberlains,
and alderman. In these positions, he administered borough property and revenues. In 1567 he
was made bailiff, the highest elected office in Stratford the equivalent of a modern-day
The town records indicate that William Shakespeare was John and Marys third child. His
birth is unregistered, but legend places it on April 23, 1564, partially because April 23 is the
day on which he died 52 years later. In any event, his baptism was registered with the town on
April 26, 1564. Not much is known about his childhood, although it is safe to assume that he
attended the local grammar school, the Kings New School, which was staffed with a faculty
that held Oxford degrees, and whose curriculum included mathematics, natural sciences, Latin
language and rhetoric, logic, Christian ethics, and classical literature. He did not attend a
university, but this was not unusual at the time, since university education was reserved for
prospective clergymen and was not considered a particularly mind-opening experience.
However, the education he received in grammar school was excellent, as evidenced by the
numerous classical and literary references in his plays. His early works especially drew on
such Greek and Roman greats as Seneca and Plautus. More impressive than his formal
education is the wealth of general knowledge exhibited in his works, from a working
knowledge of many professions to a vocabulary far greater than any other English writer.
In 1582, at age eighteen, William Shakespeare married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway.
Their first daughter, Susanna, was baptized only six months later, which has given rise to
much speculation concerning the circumstances surrounding their marriage. In 1585 Anne
bore twins, baptized Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare. Hamnet died at the young age of eleven,
by which time Shakespeare was already a successful playwright. Around 1589, Shakespeare
wrote his first play, Henry VI, Part 1. Sometime between his marriage and writing this play he
and his wife moved to London, where he pursued a career as a playwright and actor.
Although many records of Shakespeares life as a citizen of Stratford, including marriage
and birth certificates, are extant, very little information exists about his life as a young
playwright. Legend characterizes Shakespeare as a roguish young scrapper who was once
forced to flee London under sketchy circumstances. However the little written information
we have of his early years does not confirm this. Young Will was not an immediate and
universal success; the earliest written record of Shakespeares life in London comes from a
statement by rival playwright Robert Greene, who calls Shakespeare an upstart crow
[who] supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you hardly
high praise.
With Henry VI, The Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus under his belt, Shakespeare
was, by 1590, a popular playwright, but 1593 marked a major leap forward in his career. By
the end of that year he garnered a prominent patron in the Earl of Southampton, and his Venus
and Adonis was published. It remains one of the first of his known works to be printed, and
was a huge success. Next came The Rape of Lucrece. Shakespeare had made his mark as a
poet, and most scholars agree that the majority of Shakespeares sonnets were probably
written in the 1590s.
In 1594 Shakespeare returned to the theater and became a charter member of the Lord
Chamberlains Men, a group of actors who changed their name to the Kings Men when
James I ascended the throne. By 1598 he was the principal comedian for the troupe, and by
1603 he was principal tragedian. He remained associated with the organization until his
death. At this time, acting and playwriting were not considered noble professions, but
successful and prosperous actors were relatively respected. Shakespeare was very successful
and made quite a bit of money, which he invested in Stratford real estate. In fact, in 1597 he
purchased the second largest house in Stratford, the New Place, for his parents. In 1596
Shakespeare applied for a coat of arms for his family, in effect making himself a gentleman,
and his daughters married successfully and wealthily.
The same year he joined the Lord Chamberlains Men, Shakespeare penned Romeo and
Juliet, along with Loves Labours Lost, The Taming of the Shrew, and several other plays.
Two of his greatest tragedies, Hamlet and Julius Caesar, followed in 1600 (or thereabout),
and the opening decade of the seventeenth century witnessed the debut performances of many
of his celebrated works: Richard III in 1601, Othello in 1604 or 1605, Antony and Cleopatra
in 1606 or 1607, and King Lear in 1608. The last play of his performed was probably King
Henry VIII, in either 1612 or 1613.
William Shakespeare lived until 1616, and his wife Anna died in 1623 at the age of 67.
He was buried in the chancel of his church at Stratford. The lines above his tomb (allegedly
written by Shakespeare himself) read:
Good friend, for Jesus sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

Hamlet was likely written in 1600, but the date of composition is uncertain. Most scholars feel
that the play came after Julius Caesar, which is alluded to 3.2.93 by Polonius. The first
reference to the play is by a printer named James Roberts, who entered the play into the
Stationers Register on July 26, 1602. The first known edition is in a quarto dated 1603, but
printed by Nicholas Ling and John Trundell. This text is only 2200 lines long, making it one
of the shorter versions of the play, as well as one of the inferior copies. Many scholars believe
this version to have been reconstructed from memory alone, probably by one or two of the
actors in Shakespeares company. The next edition, in 1604, seems to have used
Shakespeares handwritten draft, and is significantly larger and more comprehensive. The
third main edition is that of the First Folio in 1623. This version of the play seems to have
used the promptbook as its source, and thus more accurately portrays the play as
Shakespeares audience would have seen it. Due to discrepancies in the 1604 and 1623 texts,
many modern editors have conflated the two versions into a unified text.
The narrative behind Hamlet derives from the legendary story of Hamlet (Amleth) recounted
in the Danish History from the twelfth century, a Latin text by Saxo the Grammarian. This
version was later adapted into French by Francois de Belleforest in 1570. An unscrupulous
Feng kills his brother Horwendil and merries his brothers wife Gerutha. Horwendils and
Geruthas son Amleth, although still young, decides to avenge his fathers murder. He
pretends to be a fool in order to avoid suspicion, a strategy which works. With his mothers
active support, Amleth succeeds in killing Feng. He is then proclaimed King of Denmark.
There is no uncertainty in this story, although Belleforets version claims that Gerutha and
Feng are having an affair. In fact, in this version the murder of Horwendil is quite public, and
Amleths actions are considered to be a duty rather than a moral sin.
This version of Hamlet is likely what Shakespeare knew, along with another play done in
1589 in which a ghost apparently calls out, Hamlet, revenge!. However, this other play
from 1589 is largely lost, and scholars cannot agree on what parts of it Shakespeare may have
adopted or not, or if it even existed. Assuming it did exist, most scholars attribute it to
Thomas Kyd, author of The Spanish Tragedy in 1587. The Spanish Tragedy includes many of
the elements that Hamlet has, such as a ghost seeking revenge, a secret crime, a play-within-a-
play, a tortured hero who feigns madness, and a heroine who goes mad and commits suicide.
This play is focused on revenge, and actually precipitated the genre of revenge plays of which
Hamlet is a part.
The revenge play that Hamlet falls into includes five typical assumptions. Revenge must
be on an individual level against some insult or wrong. Second, the individual may not have
recourse to traditional means of punishment, such as courts, because of the power of the
person or persons against whom revenge will be enacted. Third, the lust for revenge is an
internal desire, which can only be satisfied by personally carrying out the revenge. Fourth, the
revenge must make the intended victim aware of why the revenge is being carried out. Lastly,
revenge is a universal decree that supercedes any particular religious doctrine, including
Hamlet is a play a questions. Unresolved questions are constantly being asked, about
whether the gost of Old Hamlet is friendly or a demon, or whether Ophelia commits suicide or
dies accidentally. The first act sets the scene for the rest of the play, What art thou (1.1.45),
Is it not like the king? (1.1.57), What does this mean, my lord? (1.4.8). The inability to
know the truth and to act on it is encapsulated in Hamlet himself, who is constantly seeking
the answers to his questions throughout the play. This sense of constant questioning is
perhaps best epitomized in the opening line, Whos there? (1.1.1).
Hamlet as a character remains tantalizingly difficult to interpret. The German poet Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe described him as a poet, a sensitive man who is too weak to deal with
the political pressures of Denmark. The twentieth century has had Sigmund Freud, who
viewed Hamlet in terms of an Oedipus complex, a sexual desire for his mother. This complex
is associated with the wish to kill his father and sleep with his mother. Freud points out that
Hamlets uncle has usurped his fathers rightful place, and therefore has replaced his father as
the man who must die. However, Freud is careful to note that Hamlet represents modern man
precisely because he does not kill Claudius in order to sleep with his mother, but rather kills
him to revenge his mothers death. Political interpretations of Hamlet also abound, in which
Hamlet hides the spirit of political resistance, or represents a challenge to a corrupt regime.

Stephen Greenblatt, the editor of the Norton Edition of Shakespeare, views these interpretive
attempts of Hamlet as mirrors for the interpretation in the play itself. Polonius attributes
Hamlets madness to his rejection by Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern feel Hamlet
suffers from ambition, a desire to succeed his father on the elective throne of Denmark.
Hamlets madness is itself doubtful at times, Hamlet claims to pretending. Claudius doubts
his nephews madness, but at the same time Hamlets melancholy nature is clearly expressed
in the beginning by his continued mourning for his father. In Shakespeares time excessive
melancholy was often associated with forms of madness, and so Hamlet, already exhibiting
bouts of melancholy, makes himself a natural candidate for madness.
The soliloguies are dramatically rhetorical speeches of self-reflection. These have already
been seen in the characters of Brutus in Julius Caesar and Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part. 1
Hamlet is a culmination of these characters, capable of far more complexity and
psychological introspection. Indeed, in order to allow Hamlet to bring his mind to full
expression, Shakespeare allegedly introduced over 600 new words into the English language
in this play alone.

SHORT SUMMARY: Hamlet starts with soldiers changing the guard outside of Elsinore
Castle in Denmark. The new guards have brought along a scholar named Horatio because they
claim to have seen a ghost. Horatio is skeptical of their story until the ghost actually appears.
He then tries to speak to it, but the ghost remains silent until it stalks away.
Horatio tells the guards that the ghost was dressed the same way Old Hamlet (the former King
of Denmark and Hamlets father) was dressed when he defeated King Fortinbras of Norway.
He further tells them that young Fortinbras, the son, has gathered together an army to attack
Denmark. At this point the ghost reappears and Horatio again begs it to speak to him. The
ghost seems about to say something but at that moment a cock crows and the ghost vanishes.
The guards and Horatio decide to tell Hamlet what they have seen.
King Claudius, who is Hamlets uncle and who assumed the throne after Hamlets father
died, is in the castle. He has recently married Queen Gertrude, who is Hamlets mother and
the widow to Old Hamlet. Claudius is worried about the fact that young Fortinbras has raised
an army against Denmark, and so he sends out messengers to the uncle of young Fortinbras
asking him to stop his nephew. Claudius, then turns to Laertes, the son of Polonius, and asks
him why he requested an audience. Laertes asks the king for permission to return to France,
which he is granted.
Claudius finally turns his attention to Hamlet, who is standing in black robes of mourning
for his father. He tells Hamlet that it is unnatural for a man to mourn for such a long period of
time. Queen Gertrude agrees, and asks Hamlet to wear normal clothes again. Both the king
and queen then beg Hamlet to stay with them at the castle rather than return to his studies in
Wittenberg. Hamlet agrees to stay, and both his mother and his uncle rush out of tha palace to
celebrate their new wedding.
Horatio arrives with the guards and tells Hamlet that they have seen his fathers ghost. Hamlet
is extremely interested in this, and informs them that he will join them for the watch that
Laertes is finishing his packing and is also giving his sister Ophelia some brotherly advice
before h leaves. He warns her to watch out for Hamlet whom he has seen wooing her. Laertes
tell Ophelia to ignore Hamlets overtures towards her until he is made king, at which point if
he still wants to marry her then she should consent. Polonius arrives and orders his son to
hurry up and get to the ship. Polonius then gives Laertes some fatherly advice, telling him to
behave himself in France. Laertes departs, leaving Ophelia with Polonius. Polonius then turns
to her and asks what has been going on between her and Hamlet. She tells him that Hamlet
has professed his love to her, but Polonius only laughs and calls her ignorant. He then orders
her to avoid Hamlet and to not believe his protestantions of love. Ophelia promises to obey
her father.
Hamlet, Horatio and a guard meet outside to see whether the ghost will appear. It soon arrives
and silently beckons Hamlet to follow it. Hamlet pushes away Horatio, who is trying to hold
him back, and runs after the ghost. The guard tells Horatio that they had better follow Hamlet
and make sure he is alright.
The ghost finally stops and turns to Hamlet. He tells Hamlet that he is the ghost of Old
Hamlet, who has come to tell his son the truth about how he died. He tells Hamlet that he was
sitting in the garden one day, asleep in his chair, when Claudius came up to him and poured
poison into his ear. He was killed immediately, and because he was not allowed to confess his
sins, he is now suffering in Purgatory. The ghost of Old Hamlet then orders his son to seek
revenge for this foul crime before departing.
Hamlet is confused about whether to believe the ghost or not, but he makes Horatio and the
guard swear to never reveal what they have seen. He decides that he will pretend to be mad in
order to fool Claudius and Gertrude until he is able to know whether Claudius really killed his
father or not.
Polonius sends his servant Reynaldo to France in order to spy on Laertes. He order Reynaldo
to ask the other Danes what sort of reputation Laertes has in order to make sure his son is
behaving. Reynaldo promises to do this and leaves for France. Ophelia enters looking
extremely frightened and informs her father that Hamlet has gone mad. She tells him that
Hamlet entered the room where she was sewing and took her wrist. After starting into her
eyes for a long while he walked out of the room without ever taking his eyes off of her.
Polonius concludes that Hamlet must have gone mad because he ordered Ophelia to reject
Hamlets affections.
Claudius and Gertrude have invited two friends of Hamlet to come and spy on Hamlet. They
are aware that Hamlet is acting strangely and want the friends to figure out what the problem
is. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, eager to please King Claudius, agree to try and find out
what is wrong with Hamlet. They leave, and Polonius enters with news that the messengers
are back from Norway. Claudius tells him to bring the messengers in.
The messengers inform Claudius that after they arrived, the uncle of Fortinbras sent his
nephew a summons. Young Fortinbras obeyed, and the uncle chastised him for attempting to
attack Denmark. Fortinbras apologized for his behavior and received an annual allowance
from his uncle as a token of goodwill. Further, the uncle gave Fortinbras permission to attack
Poland. Since Fortinbras would have to march through Denmark in order to reach Poland, the
uncle sent Claudius a letter asking for safe passage. Claudius, overjoyed by this news, assents
to give permission.
Polonius then tells him that he knows the reason for Hamlets madness. He reads Claudius
and Gertrude one of the letters Hamlet sent to Ophelia in which Hamlet professes his love for
her. Claudius is not entirely convinced, and so he and Polonius agree to set up a meeting
between Hamlet and Ophelia that they will be able to spy on.
Hamlet enters the room and cuts their plotting short. Polonius asks the king and queen to
leave him alone with their son, to which they assent. Polonius then tries to talk to Hamlet,
who, feigning madness, calls him a fishmonger and asks him if he has a daughter. Hamlet
continues to insult Polonius until Polonius finally gives up in frustration.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive and Hamlet recognizes them. He greets them warmly
and asks what brings them to Denmark. They only give an ambiguous answer, from which
Hamlet infers that Claudius asked them to come. Hamlet then reveals to them that he has been
very melancholic lately, and gives that as the reason he has been acting mad. They try to cheer
him up by telling him some actors arrived with them on their ship. Hamlet is overjoyed to
hear this news, and he immediately goes to find the actors.
He succeeds in finding the players and asks them to perform a speech from Dido and Aeneas
for him. One of them agrees and performs the part where Priam, the father of Aeneas, is
killed. He then continues with the part where Hecuba, Priams wife, sees her husband being
murdered and lets out a cry that rouses even the gods. Hamlet tells him it is enough when
Polonius begs the actor to stop. He then asks the actors if they can perform the murder of
Gonzago as well some extra lines that he will write for them. They agree and leave to rehearse
their parts. Hamlet meanwhile has compared the murder of Priam to his own fathers murder
and has become outraged with Claudius, whom he hopes to reveal as the murderer through the
play that he asked the actors to perform that night.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern tell Claudius and Gertrude that they really do not know what
the matter with Hamlet is. They can only say that he seems distracted, but that arrival of the
actors made him happier. Polonius then tells Claudius that Hamlet is putting on a play that
night and requested that they attend. Claudius agrees to go.
Polonius hears Hamlet coming and he and Claudius quickly made Ophelia stand in clear view
while they hide themselves. Hamlet enters and gives his To be or not to be; that is the
question (3.1.58) speech. He stops when he sees Ophelia and goes over to speak with her.
Hamlet rudely tells her that he never loved her and orders her to go to a nunnery. After he
leaves, Claudius tells Polonius that Hamlet does not seem to be mad because of Ophelia, but
Polonius still believes that she is the real reason for his melancholic madness.
Hamlet puts on a play called The Mousetrap for Claudius and Gertrude, as well as other
attendants in the castle. The play involves a king who is murdered by his nephew while
sleeping in the garden. As the nephew pours poison into the kings ears, King Claudius
becomes so outraged that he stands up, thereby forcing the play to end. He orders light to be
shown on him and talks angrily out of the room.
Hamlet is delighted by this and is convinced that the ghost was telling the truth. Horatio
agrees with him. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern then arrive and tell Hamlet that his mother
wants to see him in her private chambers immediately. Polonius soon arrives with the same
news. Hamlet sends them all away and plans to reveal what he knows to his mother in order to
see if she was part of the plot to kill his father.
Claudius overcome with emotion, prays to heaven to forgive him his sin. He admits to
committing the murder of his brother. Hamlet enters silently with his sword and is about to
kill Claudius when he realizes that Claudius is praying. Since that would mean that Claudius
would absolved of his sins if he died right then, Hamlet stops and decides to wait until he can
kill Claudius when his soul may be as damned and black as hell (3.3.94-95).
Hamlet then goes to see his mother. He immediately insults her for having married Claudius
so soon after his fathers death. She gets scared and calls for help, causing Polonius (who is
hidden behind a curtain spying on them) to make a sound. Hamlet pulls out his dagger and
kills Polonius through the curtain, but he is disappointed when her realizes it is not the king.
Hamlet then shows his mother two pictures of both Claudius and Old Hamlet, comparing
them for her. She is almost at the point where she believes him when the ghost appears and
Hamlet starts to speak to it. Gertrude, unable to see the ghost, concludes that Hamlet must be
truly mad and starts to agree with everything he says in order to get him out of her room.
Claudius, once Gertrude tells him what has happened, orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to
prepare to take Hamlet with them in England. He then orders the body of Polonius to be found
since Hamlet has hidden it. Hamlet eventually reveals the location of the body and then leaves
the castle that night.
While traveling away from Elsinore, Hamlet encounters Fortinbras army. Fortinbras has just
send Claudius a message telling him that the Norwegian army is there and requesting safe
passage. Hamlet asks one of the captains what part of Poland they are attacking. The captain
refuses to reveal the exact location, and there remains the possibility that Denmark is the true
target, although this is not revealed in the play.
Ophelia has meanwhile gone mad at the death of her father. Horatio tries to take care of her,
but finally asks Gertrude to help him. Claudius and Gertrude order Horatio to keep an eye on
her. Soon thereafter Laertes arrives with a mob. He has returned from France once he learned
of Polonius death and is intent on killing the murderer of his father. Claudius calms him
down and tells him that Hamlet is the murderer, and since Hamlet has been sent to England
there is no one there to kill. Laertes then sees Ophelia, who fails to recognize him and instead
gives him a flower.
Hamlet send letters back to Denmark. He tells Horatio that the ship was attacked by pirates
and that he managed to escape in the process by joining the pirates for a short while as their
prisoner. He also tells Horatio that he sent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on to England, but
that he will be returning shortly. Claudius also receives a letter from Hamlet informing hm
that Hamlet will soon return home. Claudius immediately plots a way to kill Hamlet by
having Laertes fight him in a fencing match. Laertes decides to put poison on the tip of his
rapier so that any small scratch will kill Hamlet, and Claudius tells him he will also poison a
cup of wine and give it to Hamlet as a backup measure. At that moment Gertrude enters and
tells the men that Ophelia has drowned herself in a brook. She and Claudius follow Laertes,
who is once more grief-stricken.
Hamlet and Horatio come across two gravediggers who are digging a fresh grave. They are
engaged in wordplay until one of the men sends the other away to fetch him some liquor.
Hamlet watches as the remaining man tosses up skulls and signs while he works. He finally
approaches the man and asks who the one skull belonged to. The gravedigger tells him it was
Yoricks, a court fool whom Hamlet knew from his youth. Hamlet is shaken by the skull and
ponders the fact that all of them return to the earth. He and Horatio are forced to run and hide
when Laertes, Claudius and Gertrude arrive with the coffin.
They place the coffin into the ground , but the priest refuses to say any prayers for the dead
because Ophelia committed suicide rather than die a natural death. Laertes argues with him,
but finally gives up and jumps into the grave in grief. Hamlet, when he realizes who is dead,
comes out of hiding and also jumps into the grave. Laertes grabs him by the throat and
Claudius is forced to order the other men to intervene and separate them.
Back in the castle Hamlet tells Horatio that before he go off the ship he stole the letters
Claudius had given to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The letters asked the English king to kill
Hamlet. Hamlet, furious at this betrayal, wrote new letters in which he asked the king to kill
the messengers, namely Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
A lord named Osric enters the room and informs Hamlet that Laertes has challenged hm to a
fencing match. Claudius has bet Laertes that he cannot defeat Hamlet by more than three hits
during twelve engagements. Hamlet agrees to the dual even though Horatio tells him he
cannot win. They enter the match room, and Claudius announces that if Hamlet scores a hit
during the first, second, or third bout, then he will drop a valuable pearl into a cup of wine and
give it to Hamlet.
Laertes and Hamlet choose their foils and proceed to fight. . Hamlet scores a hit which Osric
upholds, and Claudius drops his pearl into some wine which he offers to Hamlet. Hamlet,
excited by the match, refuses to drink it and asks for the next round. They fight again, and
Hamlet wins the next hit as well. Gertrude, thrilled at how well her son is fighting, takes the
cup of wine from Claudius and drinks it to celebrate Hamlets hit. Claudius turns pale when
he realizes that she has drunk the poisoned wine, but he says nothing.
They fight again, and Laertes slashes Hamlet out of turn with his poisoned foil, causing
Hamlet to bleed. Hamlet is infuriated and attacks him viciously, causing him to drop the foil.
Hamlet gets both rapiers and accidentally tosses his rapier over to Laertes. He then slashes
Laertes with the poisoned foil, drawing blodd as well. They stop fighting when they realize
that Queen Gertrude is lying on the ground.
Gertrude realizes that she has been poisoned and tells Hamlet that it was the drink. She dies,
and Laertes tells Hamlet that he too is going to die from the poisoned tip. Hamlet, even more
furious than before, slashes Claudius with the poisoned tip. He then takes the wine chalice and
forces the poison into Claudius mouth until Claudius falls dead into the ground. Laertes is
also on the ground at this point and he forgives Hamlet for killing Polonius before he too dies.
Hamlet sees Horatio about to drink the remaining poisoned wine and orders him to stop. He
tells Horatio that only he can tell the people what really happened and thus reveal the truth.
Osric comes in at that moment and informs them that Fortinbras and some ambassadors from
England have arrived. Hamlets final words are to give Fortinbras his vote to become the next
King of Denmark.
Fortinbras arrived and looks over the scene of dead bodies. The ambassadors also enter the
room and inform Horatio that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been put to death. Horatio
asks Fortinbras to order the bodies placed in the public view so that he can tell the people
what happened. Fortinbras final act is to order his soldiers to give Hamlet a military salute by
firing their guns.

ABOUT SHAKESPEAREAN THEATER: Before Shakespeares time and during his

boyhood, troupes of actors performed wherever they could in halls, courts, courtyards, and
any other open spaces available. However, in 1574, when Shakespeare was ten years old, the
Common Council passed a law requiring plays and theaters in London to be licensed. In 1576,
actor and future Lord Chamberlains Man, James Burbage, built the first permanent theatre,
called The Theatre , outside London city walls. After this many more theaters were
established, including the Globe Theatre, which was where most of Shakespeares plays
Elizabethan theaters were generally built after the design of the original Theatre. Built of
wood, these theaters comprised three tiers of seats in a circular shape, with a stage area on one
side of the circle. The audiences seats and part of the stage were roofed, but much of the
main stage and the area in front of the stage in the center of the circle were open to the
elements. About 1500 audience members could pay extra money to sit in the covered seating
areas, while about 800 groundlings paid less money to stand in this open area before the
stage. The stage itself was divided into three levels: a main stage area with doors at the rear
and a curtained area in the back for discovery scenes; an upper, canopied area called
heaven for balcony scenes; and an area under the stage called hell, accessed by a trap
door in the stage. There were dressing rooms located behind the stage, but no curtain in the
front of the stage, which meant that scenes had to flow into each other, and dead bodies had
to be dragged off.
Performances took place during the day, using natural light from the open center of the
theater. Since there could be no dramatic lighting and there was very little scenery or props,
audiences relied on the actors lines and stage directions to supply the time of day and year, the
weather, location, and mood of the scenes.
Shakespeares plays masterfully supply this information. For example, in Hamlet the audience
learns within the first twenty lines of dialogue where the scene takes place (Have you had
quiet guard?), what time of day it is (This now stroke twelve), what the weather is like
(This bitter cold), and what mood the characters are in (and I am sick at heart).
One important difference between plays written in Shakespeares time and those written today
is that Elizabethan plays were published after their performances, sometimes even after their
authors deaths, and were in many ways a record of what happened on stage during these
performances rather than directions for what should happen. Actors were allowed to suggest
changes to scenes and dialogue and had much more freedom with their parts than actors
today. Shakespeares plays are now exception. In Hamlet, for instance, much of the plot
revolves around the fact that Hamlet writes his own scene to be added to a play in order to
ensnare his murderous father.
Shakespeares plays were published in various forms and with a wide variety of accuracy
during his time. The discrepancies between versions of his plays from one publication to the
next make it difficult for editors to put together authoritative editions of his works. Plays
could be published in large anthologies called Folios (the First Folio of Shakespeares plays
contains 36 plays) or smaller Quartos. Folios were so named because of the way their paper
was folded in half to make chunks of two pages each which were sewn together to make a
large volume. Quartos were smaller, chapter books containing only one play. Their paper was
folded twice, making four pages. In general, the First Folio are much easier for editors to
Although Shakespeares language and classical references seem archaic to some modern
readers, they were commonplace to his audiences. His viewers came from all classes, and his
plays appealed to all kinds of sensibilities, from highbrow accounts of kings and queens of
old to the lowbrow blunderings of clowns and servants. Even his most tragic plays included
clown characters for comic relief and to comment on the events of the play. Audiences would
have been familiar with his numerous references to classical mythology and literature, since
these stories were staples of the Elizabethan knowledge base. While Shakespeares plays
appealed to all levels of society and included familiar story lines and themes, they also
expanded his audiences vocabularies. Many phrases and words that we use today, like
amazement, in my minds eye, and the milk of human kindness were coined by
Shakespeare. His plays contain a greater variety and number of words than almost any other
work in the English language, showing that he was quick to innovate, had a judge
vocabulary, and was interested in using new phrases and words.


ROMEO AND JULIET was first published in quarto in 1597, and republished in a new
edition only two years later. The second copy was used to create yet a third quarto in 1609,
from which both the 1623 Quarto and First Folio are derived. The first quarto is generally
considered a bad quarto, or an illicit copy created from the recollections of several actors. The
second quarto seems to be taken from Shakespeares rough draft, and thus has some
inconsistent speech and preserved lines which Shakespeare apparently meant to cross out.
Romeo and Juliet derives its story from several sources available during the sixteenth
century. Shakespeares primary source for the play is Arthur Brookes Tragical History of
Romeus and Juliet (1562), which is a long, dene poem. This poem in turn was based on a
French prose version written by Pierre Boiastuau (1559), who had used an Italian version by
Bandello written in 1554. Bandellos poem was further derived from Luigi da Portos version
in 1525 of a story by Masuccio Salernitano (1476).
Shakespeares plot remains true to the Brooke version in most details, with theatrical license
taken in some instances. For example, as he often does, Shakespeare telescopes the events in
the poem which take ninety days into only a few days. He also depicts Juliet as a much
younger thirteen rather than sixteen, thus presenting a young girl who is suddenly awakened
to love.
One of the most powerful aspects of Romeo and Juliet is the language. The characters
curse, vow oaths, banish each other, and generally play with the language through overuse of
action verbs. In addition, the play is saturated with the use of oxymorons, puns, paradoxes,
and double entendres. Even the use of names is called into question, with Juliet asking what is
in the name Romeo that denies her the right to love him.
Shakespeare uses the poetic form of sonnet to open the first and second acts. The sonnet
usually is defined as being written from a lover to his beloved. Thus, Shakespeares misuse
of the prose ties into the actual tension of the play. The sonnet struggles to cover up the
disorder and chaos which is immediately apparent in the first act. When the first sonnet ends,
the stage is overrun with quarreling men. However, the sonnet is also used by Romeo and
Juliet in their first love scene, again in an unusual manner. It is spoken by both characters
rather than only one of them. This strange form of sonnet is, however, successful, and even
ends with a kiss.
It is a worthwhile to note the rather strong shift in language used by both Romeo and
Juliet once they fall in love. Whereas Romeo is hopelessly normal in his courtship before
meeting Juliet, afterwards his language becomes infinitely richer and stronger. He is changed
so much that the Mercutio remarks, Now art thou sociable (2.3.77).
The play also deals with the issue of authoritarian law and order. Many of Shakespeares
plays have characters who represent the unalterable force of the law, such as the Duke in The
Comedy of Errors and Prince Escalus in Romeo and Juliet. In this play, the law attempts to
stop the civil disorder, and even banishes Romeo at the midpoint. However, as in The Comedy
of Errors, the law again seems to be a side issue, one which cannot compete with the much
stronger emotions of love and hate.
The play is set in Verona, Italy, where a feud has broken out between the families of the
Montegues and the Capulets. The servants of both houses open the play with a brawling scene
that eventually draws in the noblemen of the families and the city officials, including Prince
Romeo is lamenting the fact that he is love with a woman named Rosaline, who has
vowed to remain chaste for the rest of her life. He and his friend Benvolio happen to stumble
across a servant of the Capulets in the street. The servant, Peter, is trying to read a list of
names of people invited to a masked party at the Capulet house that evening. Romeo helps
him read the list and receives an invitation to the party.
Romeo arrives at the party in costume and falls in love with Juliet the minute he sees her.
However, he is recognized by Tybalt, Juliets cousin, who wants to kill him on the spot.
Capulet intervenes and tells Tybalt that he will not disturb the party for any amount of money.
Romeo manages to approach Juliet and tell her that he loves her. She and he share a sonnet
and finish it with a kiss.
Juliets Nurse tells Romeo who Juliet really is, and he is upset when he finds out he loves the
daughter of Capulet. Juliet likewise finds out who Romeo is, and laments the fact she is in
love with her enemy.
Soon therafter Romeo climbs the garden wall leading to Juliets garden. Juliet emerges on
her balcony and speaks her private thoughts out loud, imagining herself alone. She wishes
Romeo could shed his name and marry her. At this, Romeo appears and tells her that he loves
her. She warns him to be true in his love to her, and makes him swear by his own self that he
truly loves her.
Juliet then is called inside, but manages to return twice to call Romeo back to her. They agree
that Juliet will send her Nurse to meet him at nine oclock the next day, at which point Romeo
will set a place for them to be married.
The Nurse carries out her duty, and tells Juliet to meet Romeo at the chapel where Friar
Laurence lives and works. Juliet goes to find Romeo, and together they are married by the
Benvolio and Mercutio, a good friend of the Montegues, are waiting on the street when
Tybalt arrives. Tybalt demands to know where Romeo is so that he can challenge him to duel,
in order to avenge Romeos sneaking into the party. Mercutio is eloquently vague, but Romeo
happens to arrive in the middle of the verbal bantering. Tybalt challenges him, but Romeo
passively resists fighting, at which point Mercutio jump in and draws his sword on Tybalt.
Romeo tries to block the two men, but Tybalt cuts Mercutio and runs away after he hears that.
Mercutio has died. Romeo fights with Tybalt and kills him. When Prince Escalus arrives at
the murder scene he choose to banish Romeo from Verona forever.
The Nurse goes to tell Juliet the sad news about what has happened to Tybalt and Romeo.
Juliet is heart-broken, but soon recovers when she realizes that Romeo would have been killed
if he had not fought Tybalt. She sends the Nurse to find Romeo and gives him her ring.
Romeo comes that night and sleeps with Juliet. The next morning he is forced to leave at dusk
when Juliets mother arrives. Romeo goes to Mantua where he waits for someone to send
news about Juliet or about his banishment.
During the night Capulet decides that Juliet should marry a young man named Paris. He
and Lady Capulet go to tell Juliet that she should marry Paris, but when she refuses to obey
Capulet becomes infuriated and orders her to comply with his orders. He then leaves, and is
soon followed by Lady Capulet and the Nurse, whom Juliet throws out of the room, saying
ancient damnation (3.5.235)
Juliet then goes to Friar Laurence, who gives her a potion that will make her seem dead
for at least two days. She takes the potion and drinks it that night. The next morning, the day
Juliet is supposed to marry Paris, her Nurse finds her dead in bed. The whole house decries
her suicide, and Friar Laurence makes them hurry to put her into the family vault.
Romeos servant arrives in Mantua and tells his master that Juliet is dead and buried. Romeo
hurries back to Verona. Friar Laurence discovers too late from Friar John that his message to
Romeo has failed to be delivered. He rushes to get to Juliets grave before Romeo does.
Romeo arrives at the Capulet vault and finds it guarded by Paris, who is there to mourn the
loss of his betrothed. Paris challenges Romeo to a duel, and is quickly killed. Romeo then
carries Paris into the grave and sets his body down. Seeing Juliet dead within the tomb,
Romeo drinks some poison he has purchased and die kissing her.
Friar Laurence arrives just as Juliet wakes up within the bloody vault. He tries to get her
to come out, but when she sees Romeo dead beside her, Juliet takes his dagger and kills
herself with it. The rest of the town starts to arrive, including Capulet and Montegue. Friar
Laurence tells them the whole story. The two family patriarches agree to become friends by
erecting golden statues of the others child.


A Midsummer Nights Dream is first mentioned by Francis Meres in 1598, leading many
scholars to date the play between 1594 and 1596. It is likely to have been written around the
same period Romeo and Juliet was created. Indeed, many similarities exist between the two
plays, so much that A Midsummer Nights Dream at times seems likely to degenerate into the
same tragic ending that befalls Romeo and Juliet.
The play was first printed in quarto in 1600, following its entry into the Stationers Register
on October 8, 1600. This quarto is almost surely taken directly from a manuscript written by
Shakespeare. A second quarto was printed in 1619 (and falsely backdated to 1600) and
attempted to correct some of the errors in the first printing, but also introduced several new
errors. It is the second quarto which served as the basis for the First Folio in 1623.
There is a myth that A Midsummer Nights Dream was first performed for a private audience
after an actual wedding had taken place. The plays three wedding and play-within-a-play
Pyramus and Thisbe certainly would seem to fit the scene, with all the newlyweds retiring to
their respective chambers at the end. However, no evidence of this imagined performance
exists. Rather, A Midsummer Nights Dream was definitely performed on the London stage by
the Lord Chamberlains Men, and the title page of the first Quarto indicates it was written by
William Shakespeare.
The title draws on the summer solstice, Midsummer Eve, occurring June 23 and marked by
holiday partying and tales of fairies and temporary insanity. Shakespeare cleverly weaves
together not only fairies and lovers, but also social hierarchies with the aristocratic Theseus
and the rude mechanicals, or the artisans and working men. This allows the play to become
infinitely more lyrical, since it is able to draw on the more brutal language of the lower
classes as well as the poetry of the noblemen.
One of the more interesting changes which Shakespeare introduces is the concept of small,
kind fairies. Robin Goodfellow, the spirit known as Puck, is thought to have once been feared
by villagers. History indicates the prior to Elizabethan times, fairies were considered evil
spirits who stole children and sacrificed them to the devil. Shakespeare, along with other
writers, redefined fairies during this time period, turning them into gentle, albeit mischievous,
The final act of the play, completely unnecessary in relation to the rest of the plot, brings to
light a traditional fear of the Elizabethan theater, namely that of censorship. Throughout the
play the lower artisans, who wish to perform Pyramus and Thisbe, try to corrupt the plot and
assure the audience that the play is not real and they need not fear the actions taking place.
This culminates in the actual ending, in which Puck suggests that if we do not like tha play,
then we should merely consider it to have been a dream. One of the most remarkable features
of A Midsummer Nights Dream is that at the end members of the audience are unsure
whether what they have seen is real, or whether they have woken up after having shared the
same dream. This is of course precisely what Shakespeare wants to make clear, namely that
the theater is nothing more than a shared dream. Hence the constant interruption of that dream
in the Pyramus and THisbe production, which serves to highlight the artificial aspect of the
theater. Bottom and his company offer us not only Pyramus and THisbe as a product of our
imagination, but the entire play as well.
Pucks suggestion hides a more serious aspect of the comic fun of the play. There is deep
underlying sexual tension between the male and female characters, witnessed by Oberons
attempts to humiliate Titania and THeseus conquest of Hippolyta. This tension is rapidly
dissipated by the sure solution which the play assumes, making it seem less real. However,
the darker side of the play should not be ignored, nor the rapid mobility with which the actors
transfer their amorous desires from one person to the other.
A Midsummer Nights Dream takes place in Athens. Theseus, the Duke of Athens, is planning
his marriage with Hippolyta, and as a result he is a planning a large festival. Egeus enters,
followed by his daughter Hermia, her beloved Lysander, and her suitor Demetrius. Egeus tells
Theseus that ermia refuses to marry Demetrius, wanting instead to marry Lisander. He asks
for the right to punish Hermia with death if she refuses to obey.
Theseus agrees tht Hermias duty is to obey her father, and threatens her with either entering a
nunnery or marrying the man her father choose. Lysander protests, but is overruled by the
law. He and Hermia than decide to flee by night into the woods surrounding Athens, where
they can escape the law and get married. They tell their plan to Helena, a girl who is madly in
love with Demetrius. Hoping to gain favor with Demetrius, Helena decides to tell him about
the plan.
Some local artisans and workmen have decided to perform a play for Theseus as a way to
celebrate his wedding. They choose Pyramus and Thisbe for their play, and meet to assign the
roles. Nick Bottom gets the role of Pyramus, and Flute takes the part of Thisbe. They agree to
meet the next night in the woods to rehearse the play.
Robin Goodfelow, a puck, meets a fairy who serves Queen Titania. He tells the fairy that his
King Oberon is in the woods, and that Titania should avoid Oberon because they will quarrel
again. However, Titania and Oberon soon arrive and begin arguing about a young boy Titania
has stolen and is caring for. Oberon demands that she give him the boy, but she refuses.
Oberon decides to play a trick on Titania and put some pansy juice on her eyes. The magical
juice will make her fall in love with first person she sees upon waking up. Soon after Puck is
sent away to fetch the juice, Oberon overhears Demetrius and Helena in the woods.
Demetrius deserts Helena in the forest, leaving her alone. Oberon decides that he will change
this situation, and commands Robin to put the juice into Demetriuss eyes when he is
sleeping. He then finds Titania and drops the juice into her eyelids. Robin goes to find
Demetrius, but instead comes across Lysander and accidentally uses the juice on him.
By accident Helena comes across Lysander and wakes him up. He immediately falls in love
with her and starts to chase her through the woods. Together they arrive where Oberon is
watching, and he realizes the mistake. Oberon then puts the pansy juice onto Demetriuss
eyelids, who upon waking up also falls in love with Helena.
She thinks that the two men are trying to torment her for being in love with Demetrius, and
becomes furious at their protestations of love.
The workmen arrive in the woods and start to practice their play. They constantly ruin the
lines of the play and mispronounce the words. Out of fear of censorship, they decide to make
the play less realistic. Therefore the lion is supposed to announce that he is not a lion, but only
a common man. Bottom also feels obliged to tell the audience that he is not really going to
die, but will only pretend to do so. Puck, watching this silly scene, catches Bottom alone and
puts an asses head on him. When Bottom returns to is troupe, they run away out of fear.
Bottom then comes across Titania, and succeeds in waking her up. She falls in love with him
due to the juice on her eyes, and takes him with her.
Lysander and Demetrius prepare to fight one another for Helena. Puck intervenes and leads
them through the woods in circles until they collapse onto the ground in exhaustion. He then
brings the two women to same area and puts them to sleep as well.
Oberon finds Titania and releases her from the spell. He then tells the audience that Bottom
will think is all a dream when he wakes up. He further releases Lysander from the spell.
Theseus arrives with a hunting party and finds the lovers stretched out on the ground. He
orders the hunting horns blown in order to wake them up.
The lovers explain why they are in the woods, at which point Egeus demands that he be
allowed to exercice the law on Hermia. However, Demetrius intervenes and tells them that he
no longer loves Hermia, but rather only loves Helena. THeseus decides to overbear Egeus and
let the lovers get married that day with him. Together they return to Athens.
Bottom wakes up and thinks that he has dreamed the entire episode. He swiftly returns to
Athens where he meets his friends. Together they head over to Theseuss palace. Theseus
looks over the list of possible entertainment for that evening and settles on the play of
Pyramus and THisbe. Bottom and the rest of his company perform the play, after which
everyone retires to bed.
Puck arrives and starts to sweep the house clean. Oberon and Titania briefly bless the couples
and their future children. After they leave Puck asks the audience to forgive the actors if they
were offended. He then tells the audience that is anyone disliked the play, they should
imagine that it was only a dream.

Shakespeares sonnets comprise 154 poemes in sonnet form that were published in 1609 but
likely written over the course of several years. Evidence for their existence long preceding
publication comes from a reference in Francis Meres 1598 Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury,
where his allusion to Shakespeares sugred Sonnets among his private friends might
indicate that the poet preferred not to make these works public. It is unclear whether the 1609
publication, at the hands of a certain Thomas Thorpe, was from an authorized manuscript of
Shakespeares; it is possible that the sonnets were published without the authors consent,
perhaps even without his knowledge.
This is but one of the mysteries of Shakespeares sonnets. Another, which continues to spur
debate among literary scholars today, is the identity of the publications dedicatee, the
collections onlie begetter, a Mr. W.H. Speculation largely vacillates between two main
candidates: Mr. William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke; and Mr. Henry Wriothesley, third
Earl of Southampton. Both possible are tenable, as both were men of means and literary
interest enough to be patrons to Shakespeare. In fact the poet dedicated other works to each:
his First Folio to Herbert and his Venus and Adonis and Lucrece to Wriothesley. Those who
favor one man or the other draw on circumstantial evidence concerning his life and character,
such as the amicable terms on which Shakespeare is known to have been with Wriothesley, or
events in Herberts life that may be intimated in the exploits of the sonnets fair lord.
The fair lord is one of three recurring characters in the sonnets, together with the dark and the
rival poet. The real-world referents of these persons are yet another locus of controversy.
Some critics suggest that the fair lord and the collections dedicatee are one and the same,
while others disagree. Still others question the autobiographical nature of the sonnets, arguing
that there is no hard proof that their content is anything but fictional.
These mysteries and others, including the ordering of the sonnets, the date of their
composition, and seeming deviations from the otherwise rigid format (one sonnet has 15 lines,
another only 12; sonnets 153 and a154 do not fit well in the sequence), have generated an
abundance of scholarly criticism over the years, and the dialogues they provoke remain highly
contentious to this day.
The 1609 publication of Shakespeares sonnets is today referred to as the Quarto and
remains the authoritative source for modern editions.
The Ravages of Time: Shakespeares sonnets open with an earnest plea from the narrator to
the fair lord, begging him to bear his child so that his beauty might be preserved for posterity.
In sonnet 2, the poet writes, When forty winters shall besiege thy brow / And dig deep
trenches in thy beautys field How much more praise deserved thy beautys use / If thou
couldst answer This fair child of mine / Shall sum my count and make my old excuse /
Proving his beauty by succession thine! The poet is lamenting the ravages of time and its
detrimental effects on the fair lords beauty, seeking to combat the inevitable by pushing the
fair lord to bequeath his exquisiteness unto a chlid. By sonnet 18 the poet appears to have
abandoned this solution in favor of another: his verse. So long as men can breathe or eyes
can see / So long lives this and this gives life to thee. But the ravages of time return to haunt
the narrator: in sonnet 90, the poet characterizes time as a dimension of suffering, urging the
fair lord to break with him if ever, now; Give not a windy night a rainy morrow, he
writes, pleading with him to end the desperation of hopeful unrequited love. The theme
resurfaces throughout the sonnets in the narrators various descriptions of himself as an aging
man: But when my glass shows me myself indeed / Beated and choppd with tannd
antiquity (sonnet 62); And wherefore say not I that I am old? (sonnet138). It has also been
suggested that the poet implies that he is balding in sonnet 73, where he writes, That time of
year thou mayst in me hold / when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang / Upon those
boughs ; such an interpretation fits well with the idea that Shakespeare is in fact the
narrator of the sonnets, as extant portraits of Shakespeare show the poet to have been balding
in his later years.
Platonic Love vs. Carnal Lust: The divide between the fair lord sonnets and the dark lady
sonnets is also a divide between two forms of interpersonal attraction. While the narrator of
the sonnets is clearly infatuated with both the fair lord and the dark lady, the language he used
to describe these infatuations shows them to be of disparate natures. The lack of explicit
sexual imagery in the fair lord sonnets has led most scholars to characterize this infatuation as
an example of Platonic love, i.e., a form of amorous affection bereft of any sexual element.
Meanwhile, the dark lady sonnets are replete with sexual imagery, implying an attraction
based largely on carnal lust. The poet seems to glorify the former while condemning the
latter; his heart is at odds with his libido. If we take the angel of sonnet 144 to be the
narrators fair lord, we see this contrast clearly: To win me soon to hell, my female evil /
Tempteth my better angel from my side / And would corrupt my saint to be a devil / Wooing
his purity with her foul pride. It might be argued that this very incompatibility between the
two distresses the narrator most as he learns of their affair.
Selfishness and Greed: The themes of selfishness and greed are prevalent throughout the
sonnets as a whole, emerging most perceptibility in the narrators hypocritical expectation of
faithfulness from the fair lord and the dark lady. The poet seems at times to advance a double
standard on the issue of faithfulness: he is unfaithful himself, yet he condemns, is even
surprised by, the unfaithfulness of others. The rival poet sonnets (79-86), for example, capture
the poets jealousy of his fair lords having another admirer; dark lady sonnets 133-134 and
144 do the same, and they may even include a reference to an affair between her and the fair
lord that perhaps was alluded to previously in sonnets 40-42. (For this reason and other, it is
sometimes suggested that the ordering of the sonnets does not wholly parallel the actual
chronology of the events they describe.) Although the narrator does indeed chastise himself
for his own unfaithfulness, perhaps in reference to his wife, his distress at the unfaithfulness
of those with whom he himself has been unfaithful makes him out as a wanting to have his
cake and eat it too.
Self-Deprecations and Inadequacy: Self-deprecatory language frequently appears regarding
the poets various inadequacies, in particular his ability to keep his fair lords interest. In
sonnet 76 the poet basically calls himself a bore. He begins, Why is my verse so barren of
new pride / So far from variation or quick change? His expressions of inadequacy reach a
pinnacle in the rival poet sonnets, where they transform into pathetic outburst of jealousy. In
sonnet 80 we read, But since your worth, wide as the ocean is / The humble as the proudest
sail doth bear / My saucy bark inferior far to his / On your broad main doth willfully appear;
in sonnet 84, Who is it that says most? Which can say more / Than this rich praise, that you
alone are you? The poets self-deprecation continues as he blames himself for much of that
which he disapproves of both in the fair lord and in the dark lady. He himself is the cause of
their abandoning him; his will is inadequate for resisting the temptations of Love.
Homoerotic Desire:
Although a fair number of scholars argue that the sonnets do not reflect any intimation of
homosexual desire whatsoever on the part of the narrator, others find sonnets 1-126 rife with
homoerotic undertonesat times appearing as explicit expressions of the narrators love for
the fair lord. In sonnet 20, for example, the poet expressly laments the fact that Nature
fashioned the fair lord with male genitalia (she prickd thee out). In sonnet 29, the narrator
bemoans his oucast state, perhaps a direct reference to a homoerotic desire he fears cannot
be accepted by society. Still, just as it is intellectually necessary to confront the idea that
homoerotic desire is prevalent to some extent in the sonnets, it is incumbent on readers not to
let the imagination go astray.
Scholars who accept that homoerotic undertones are present in the sonnets are, nevertheless,
divided regarding what this desire really means. Unlike the sonnets featuring the dark lady
(127-154), the fair lord sonnets contain no explicit reference to sexual desire; even if the
narrator lusts for the fair lord, it is debatable whether this lust has as its goal any act of sexual
Financial Bondage:
Throughout the sonnets there is considerable imagery of financial debt and obligation,
bondage and transaction. Many scholars are convinced that the fair lord is not only the objects
of the poets affection but also his financial benefactor. Such speculation has led to the
identification of the fair lord with the begetter of the sonnets, Mr. W.H. Although this
argument is difficult to prove, it certainly has its merits.
In sonnet 4, financial imagery is ubiquitous: unthrifty, spend, bequest, lend, frank,
niggard, profitless, usurer, sum, and audit, and more. Sonnet 79 likewise includes
aid, numbers, robs, pays, lends, stole, afford, and owes. Support for the
hypothesis that the dark lady of the sonnets was in fact a prostitute comes in part from sonnet
134, where the language includes mortgaged, forfeit, bond, statute, usurer, sue,
debtor, and pays, although it could also be arguing d that the narrator is merely describing
the dark lady as a whore out of jealousy of her affair with the fair lord.
Color Symbolism: This theme emerges most palpably in the dark lady sonnets, where the
poets repeated use of the color black to describe the dark ladys features, both physical and
intangible, ascribes her with the evilness or otherness that the color has often symbolized in
the Western mentality. However, color imagery is present in the fair lord sonnets as well,
especially in conjunction with the theme of passing time. In sonnet 12, for example, the poet
draws a parallel between the aging of nature with the aging of human life, opposing the
violet and summers green with the silver and white of age. Note, though, that the
opposition here is not between black and white, as might be expected, but rather between
color and absence of color, the latter of which is a product of passing time. The poet dreads
both the passing of time as well as the sinfulness of his dark lady, and it is conceivable that
the goal of his symbolism is to represent that which he fears by that which is without color.
This argument is complicated, however, by sonnet 99, where purple, red, and white
appear to take on more convoluted roles. Still, it is possible to find consistencies in the poets
use of color symbolism: all three instances of yellow (in sonnet 17, 73, and 104) are used in
the context of passing time, while green is largely symbolic of youth (such as in sonnet 63).
The sonnets are traditionally divided into two majors groups: the fair lord sonnet (1-126) and
tha dark lady sonnets (124-154). The fair lord sonnets explore the narrators consuming
infatuation with a young and beautiful man, while the dark lady sonnets engage his lustful
desire for a woman who is not his wife. The narrator is tormented as he struggles to reconcile
the uncontrollable urges of his heart with his minds better judgment, all the while in a
desperate race against time.
The sonnets begin with the narrators petition to the fair lord, exhorting him to preserve his
beauty for future generations by passing it on to a child. This theme is developed until sonnet
18, where the narrator abandons it in favor of an alternative plan to eternalize the fair lords
beauty in his verse. But it is not long before the narrators mellifluous depictions of the fair
lords beauty are replaced with the haunting lament of unrequited love. The narrator grows
increasingly enamored with the fair lord eventually becoming emotionally dependent upon
him and plagued by the inability to win his heart. The narrator is further distressed by the
incessant passing of time, and he fears the detriment time inevitably will bring to the fair
lords youthful beauty.
The narrators emotions fluctuate between love and anger, envy and greed. We find poignant
examples of the narrators jealousy in the rival poet sonnets (79-86), where the fair lords
attention has been caught by another. The narrators fragile psyche collapses in bouts of self-
deprecation as he agonizes over the thought of forever losing the object of his affection. In
sonnet 87, the narrator bids the fair lord farewell but his heartache long persists.
The reminder of the fair lord sonnets are characterized by the vicissitudes of the narrators
emotional well-being. After his parting with the fair lord in sonnet 87, the narrator grows
introspective, waxing philosophical as he begins to probe the very fabric of love. Throughout
these developments we are made privy to the narrators mounting apprehension that this time
is running short. Finally, in sonnet 126, his love matured and yet still beautiful, the narrator
points out that the fair lord too will one day meet his doom.
The following sonnet (127) begins the dark lady sequence, the group of sonnets dealing with
the narrators irresistible attraction to a dark and beautiful woman. Here the allure is not of
love but of lust, and the narrator is torn between his hunger for the woman and his disgust at
the sinfulness of carnal desire.
The dark lady is described as freely promiscuous, the epitome of lustful endeavor. Drawn by
and at the same time repelled by her darkness, the narrator once again reverts to meditative
mind-wandering to cope with his situation. In the end, the narrators lust is expressed as an
incurable disease, a burning sensation than can only be quenched if temporarily, by the eyes
of the dark lady.


The sonnet is a traditionally rigid poetic form featuring fourteen lines with rhyme, meter, and
logical structure. The form was first developed in Italy during the High Middle Ages, with
such well-known figures as Dante Alighieri putting it to use. But the most famous sonneteer
of that time was Francesco Petrarca, and it is after him that the Italian sonnet got its name.
The Petrarchan sonnets fourteen lines are divided into an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six
lines), with the sestet responding to some proposition introduced in the octave. The rhyme
scheme varied somewhat, but typically featured no more than four or five rhymes, for
example abbaabba cdeced.
Thomas Wyatt introduced the sonnet form into the English language in the early 16th century.
Although Wyatt stuck to Petrarchan conventions, the form soon evolved into a specifically
English one, and it was used by a good number of Renaissance poets including Shakespeare.
In fact, the English sonnet is often referred to as the Shakespearean sonnet for the same reason
the Italian sonnet is often named after Petrarch. It is also sometimes referred to as the
Elizabethan sonnet, after the era during which it took shape.
The Shakespearean sonnet is distinct from the Petrarchan sonnet in a number of ways. First,
the octave-sestet division is replaced by a quatrain-couplet division, with three quatrains of
four lines each followed by a closing two-line couplet. The rhyme scheme of a traditional
Shakespearean sonnet is abab cdcd efef gg, increasing the total number of rhyme to seven.
The meter is limbic pentameter, five feet of two syllables each (ten syllables total per line),
where each foot is normally an iamb consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a
stressed one. Finally, the logical structure of a Shakespearean sonnet parallels that of the
Petrarchan to a certain extent, in that the third quatrain sometimes introduces a twist on the
theme of the preceding two; but it is the distinctive couplet that carries the pop, normally
delivering a great overarching message or a deeply insightful thought.

The speaker opens the poem with a question addressed to the beloved: Shall I compare thee
to a summers day? The next eleven lines are devoted to such a comparison. In line 2 , the
speaker stipulates what mainly differentiates the young man from the summers day: he is
more lovely and more temperate. Summers days tend toward extremes: they are shaken by
rough winds; in them, the sun (the eye of heaven) often shines too hot, or too dim. And
summer is fleeting: its date is too short, and it leads to the withering of autumn, as every fair
from fair sometime declines. The final quatrain of the sonnet tells how the beloved differs
from the summer in that respect: his beauty will last forever (Thy eternal summer shall not
fade...) and never die. In the couplet, the speaker explains how the beloveds beauty will
accomplish this feat, and not perish because it is preserved in the poem, which will last
forever; it will live as long as men can breathe or eyes can see.

Why is he saying it?

Sonnet 18 is arguably the most famous of the sonnets, its opening line competitive with
Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? in the long list of Shakespeares quotable
quotations. The gender of the addressee is not explicit, but this is the first sonnet after the so-
called procreation sonnets (sonnets 1-17), i.e., it apparently marks the place where the poet
has abandoned his earlier push to persuade the fair lord to have a child. The first quatrains
focus on the fair lords beauty: the poet attempts to compare it to a summers day, but shows
that there can be no such comparison, since the fair lords timeless beauty far surpasses that of
the fleeting, inconstant season.
Here the theme of the ravages of time again predominates; we see it especially in line 7,
where the poet speaks of the inevitable mortality of beauty: And every fair from fair
sometime declines. But the fair lords is of another sort, for it shall not fade the poet is
eternalizing the fair lords beauty in his verse, in these eternal lines. Note the financial
imagery (summers lease) and the use of anaphora (the repetition of opening words) in lines
6-7, 10-11, and 13-14. Also note that May (line 3) was an early summer month in
Shakespeares time, because England did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752.
The poet describes summer as a season of extremes and disappointments. He begins in lines
3-4, where rough winds are an unwelcome extreme and the shortness of summer is its
disappointment. He continues in lines 5-6, where he lingers on the imperfections of the
summer sun. Here again we find an extreme and a disappointment: the sun is sometimes far
too hot, while at other times is gold complexion is dimmed by passing clouds. These
imperfections contrast sharply with the poets description of the fair lord, who is more
temperate (not extreme) and whose eternal summer shall not fade (i.e., will not become a
disappointment) thanks to what the poet proposes in line 12.
In line 12 we find the poets solution how he intends to eternalize the fair lords beauty
despite his refusal to have a child. The poet plans to capture the fair lords beauty in his verse
(eternal lines), which he believes will withstand the ravages of time. Thereby the fair lords
eternal summer shall not fade, and the poet will have gotten his wish. Here we see the
poets use of summer as a metaphor for youth, or perhaps beauty, or perhaps the beauty of
But has the poet really abandoned the idea of encouraging the fair lord to have a child? Some
scholars suggest that the eternal lines in line 12 have a double meaning: the fair lords
beauty can live on not only in the written lines of the poets verse but also in the family lines
of the fair lords progeny. Such an interpretation would echo the sentiment of the preceding
sonnets closing couplet: But where some child of yours alive that time / You should live
twice; in it and in my rhyme. The use of growest also implies an increasing or changing;
we can envision the fair lords family lines growing over time, yet this image is not as really
applicable to the lines of the poets verse unless it refers only to his intention to continue
writing about the fair lords beauty, his verse thereby growing. On the other hand, line 14
seems to counter this interpretation, the singular this (as opposed to these) having as its
most likely antecedent the poets verse, and nothing more.

This sonnet compares the speakers lover to a number of other beautiesand never in the
lovers favor. Her eyes are nothing like the sun, her lips are less red than coral; compared to
white snow, her breasts are dun-colored, and her hairs are like black wires on her head. In the
second quatrain, the speaker says he has seen roses separated by color (damasked) into red
and white, but he sees no such roses in his mistresss cheeks; and he says the breath that
reeks from his mistress is less delightful than perfume. In the third quatrain, he admits that,
though he loves her voice, music hath a far more pleasing sound, and that, though he has
never seen a goddess, his mistressunlike goddesseswalks on the ground. In the couplet,
however, the speaker declares that, by heavn, he thinks his love as rare and valuable As
any she belied with false comparethat is, any love in which false comparisons were
invoked to describe the loved ones beauty.
This sonnet, one of Shakespeares most famous, plays an elaborate joke on the conventions of
love poetry common to Shakespeares day, and it is so well-conceived that the joke remains
funny today. Most sonnet sequences in Elizabethan England were modeled after that of
Petrarch. Petrarchs famous sonnet sequence was written as a series of love poems to an
idealized and idolized mistress named Laura. In the sonnets, Petrarch praises her beauty, her
worth, and her perfection using an extraordinary variety of metaphors based largely on natural
beauties. In Shakespeares day, these metaphors had already become cliche (as, indeed, they
still are today), but they were still the accepted technique for writing love poetry. The result
was that poems tended to make highly idealizing comparisons between nature and the poets
lover that were, if taken literally, completely ridiculous. My mistress eyes are like the sun;
her lips are red as coral; her cheeks are like roses, her breasts are white as snow, her voice is
like music, she is a goddess.
In many ways, Shakespeares sonnets subvert and reverse the conventions of the Petrarchan
love sequence: the idealizing love poems, for instance, are written not to a perfect woman but
to an admittedly imperfect man, and the love poems to the dark lady are anything but
idealizing (My love is as a fever, longing still / For that which longer nurseth the disease is
hardly a Petrarchan conceit.) Sonnet 130 mocks the typical Petrarchan metaphors by
presenting a speaker who seems to take them at face value, and somewhat bemusedly, decides
to tell the truth. Your mistress eyes are like the sun? Thats strangemy mistress eyes
arent at all like the sun. Your mistress breath smells like perfume? My mistress breath reeks
compared to perfume. In the couplet, then, the speaker shows his full intent, which is to insist
that love does not need these conceits in order to be real; and women do not need to look like
flowers or the sun in order to be beautiful.
The rhetorical structure of Sonnet 130 is important to its effect. In the first quatrain, the
speaker spends one line on each comparison between his mistress and something else (the
sun, coral, snow, and wiresthe one positive thing in the whole poem some part of his
mistress is like. In the second and third quatrains, he expands the descriptions to occupy two
lines each, so that roses/cheeks, perfume/breath, music/voice, and goddess/mistress each
receive a pair of unrhymed lines. This creates the effect of an expanding and developing
argument, and neatly prevents the poemwhich does, after all, rely on a single kind of joke
for its first twelve linesfrom becoming stagnant.

The most influential writer in all of English literature, William Shakespeare was born in 1564
to a successful middle-class glove-maker in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Shakespeare
attended grammar school, but his formal education proceeded no further. In 1582 he married
an older woman, Anne Hathaway, and had three children with her. Around 1590 he left his
family behind and traveled to London to work as an actor and playwright. Public and critical
acclaim quickly followed, and Shakespeare eventually became the most popular playwright in
England and part-owner of the Globe Theater. His career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I
(ruled 15581603) and James I (ruled 16031625), and he was a favorite of both monarchs.
Indeed, James granted Shakespeares company the greatest possible compliment by bestowing
upon its members the title of Kings Men. Wealthy and renowned, Shakespeare retired to
Stratford and died in 1616 at the age of fifty-two. At the time of Shakespeares death, literary
luminaries such as Ben Jonson hailed his works as timeless.
Shakespeares works were collected and printed in various editions in the century following
his death, and by the early eighteenth century his reputation as the greatest poet ever to write
in English was well established. The unprecedented admiration garnered by his works led to a
fierce curiosity about Shakespeares life, but the dearth of biographical information has left
many details of Shakespeares personal history shrouded in mystery. Some people have
concluded from this fact and from Shakespeares modest education that Shakespeares plays
were actually written by someone elseFrancis Bacon and the Earl of Oxford are the two
most popular candidatesbut the support for this claim is overwhelmingly circumstantial,
and the theory is not taken seriously by many scholars.
In the absence of credible evidence to the contrary, Shakespeare must be viewed as the author
of the thirty-seven plays and 154 sonnets that bear his name. The legacy of this body of work
is immense. A number of Shakespeares plays seem to have transcended even the category of
brilliance, becoming so influential as to affect profoundly the course of Western literature and
culture ever after.
Shakespeares shortest and bloodiest tragedy, Macbeth tells the story of a brave Scottish
general (Macbeth) who receives a prophecy from a trio of sinister witches that one day he will
become King of Scotland. Consumed with ambitious thoughts and spurred to action by his
wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and seizes the throne for himself. He begins his reign
racked with guilt and fear and soon becomes a tyrannical ruler, as he is forced to commit
more and more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion. The bloodbath swiftly
propels Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to arrogance, madness, and death.
Macbeth was most likely written in 1606, early in the reign of James I, who had been James
VI of Scotland before he succeeded to the English throne in 1603. James was a patron of
Shakespeares acting company, and of all the plays Shakespeare wrote under Jamess
reign, Macbeth most clearly reflects the playwrights close relationship with the sovereign. In
focusing on Macbeth, a figure from Scottish history, Shakespeare paid homage to his kings
Scottish lineage. Additionally, the witches prophecy that Banquo will found a line of kings is
a clear nod to Jamess familys claim to have descended from the historical Banquo. In a
larger sense, the theme of bad versus good kingship, embodied by Macbeth and Duncan,
respectively, would have resonated at the royal court, where James was busy developing his
English version of the theory of divine right.
Macbeth is not Shakespeares most complex play, but it is certainly one of his most powerful
and emotionally intense. Whereas Shakespeares other major tragedies, such
as Hamlet and Othello,fastidiously explore the intellectual predicaments faced by their
subjects and the fine nuances of their subjects characters, Macbethtumbles madly from its
opening to its conclusion. It is a sharp, jagged sketch of theme and character; as such, it has
shocked and fascinated audiences for nearly four hundred years.
Macbeth - Macbeth is a Scottish general and the thane of Glamis who is led to wicked
thoughts by the prophecies of the three witches, especially after their prophecy that he will be
made thane of Cawdor comes true. Macbeth is a brave soldier and a powerful man, but he is
not a virtuous one. He is easily tempted into murder to fulfill his ambitions to the throne, and
once he commits his first crime and is crowned King of Scotland, he embarks on further
atrocities with increasing ease. Ultimately, Macbeth proves himself better suited to the
battlefield than to political intrigue, because he lacks the skills necessary to rule without being
a tyrant. His response to every problem is violence and murder. Unlike Shakespeares great
villains, such as Iago in Othello and Richard III in Richard III, Macbeth is never comfortable
in his role as a criminal. He is unable to bear the psychological consequences of his atrocities.
Lady Macbeth - Macbeths wife, a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and
position. Early in the play she seems to be the stronger and more ruthless of the two, as she
urges her husband to kill Duncan and seize the crown. After the bloodshed begins, however,
Lady Macbeth falls victim to guilt and madness to an even greater degree than her husband.
Her conscience affects her to such an extent that she eventually commits suicide.
Interestingly, she and Macbeth are presented as being deeply in love, and many of Lady
Macbeths speeches imply that her influence over her husband is primarily sexual. Their joint
alienation from the world, occasioned by their partnership in crime, seems to strengthen the
attachment that they feel to each another.

The Three Witches - Three black and midnight hags who plot mischief against Macbeth
using charms, spells, and prophecies. Their predictions prompt him to murder Duncan, to
order the deaths of Banquo and his son, and to blindly believe in his own immortality. The
play leaves the witches true identity unclearaside from the fact that they are servants of
Hecate, we know little about their place in the cosmos. In some ways they resemble the
mythological Fates, who impersonally weave the threads of human destiny. They clearly take
a perverse delight in using their knowledge of the future to toy with and destroy human
The main theme of Macbeththe destruction wrought when ambition goes unchecked by
moral constraintsfinds its most powerful expression in the plays 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. He kills Duncan against his better judgment
and afterward stews in guilt and paranoia. Toward the end of the play he descends into a kind
of frantic, boastful madness. Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, pursues her goals with greater
determination, yet she is less capable of withstanding the repercussions of her immoral acts.
One of Shakespeares most forcefully drawn female characters, she spurs her husband
mercilessly to kill Duncan and urges him to be strong in the murders aftermath, but she is
eventually driven to distraction by the effect of Macbeths repeated bloodshed on her
conscience. In each case, ambitionhelped, of course, by the malign prophecies of the
witchesis what drives the couple to ever more terrible atrocities. The problem, the play
suggests, is that once one decides to use violence to further ones quest for power, it is
difficult to stop. There are always potential threats to the throneBanquo, Fleance,
Macduffand it is always tempting to use violent means to dispose of them.
Characters in Macbethfrequently dwell on issues of gender. Lady Macbeth manipulates
her husband by questioning his manhood, wishes that she herself could be unsexed, and
does not contradict Macbeth when he says that a woman like her should give birth only to
boys. In the same manner that Lady Macbeth goads her husband on to murder, Macbeth
provokes the murderers he hires to kill Banquo by questioning their manhood. Such acts show
that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth equate masculinity with naked aggression, and
whenever they converse about manhood, violence soon follows. Their understanding of
manhood allows the political order depicted in the play to descend into chaos.
At the same time, however, the audience cannot help noticing that women are also
sources of violence and evil. The witches prophecies spark Macbeths ambitions and then
encourage his violent behavior; Lady Macbeth provides the brains and the will behind her
husbands plotting; and the only divine being to appear is Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft.
Arguably, Macbeth traces the root of chaos and evil to women, which has led some critics to
argue that this is Shakespeares most misogynistic play. While the male characters are just as
violent and prone to evil as the women, the aggression of the female characters is more
striking because it goes against prevailing expectations of how women ought to behave. Lady
Macbeths behavior certainly shows that women can be as ambitious and cruel as men.
Whether because of the constraints of her society or because she is not fearless enough to kill,
Lady Macbeth relies on deception and manipulation rather than violence to achieve her ends.
Ultimately, the play does put forth a revised and less destructive definition of manhood. In
the scene where Macduff learns of the murders of his wife and child, Malcolm consoles him
by encouraging him to take the news in manly fashion, by seeking revenge upon Macbeth.
Macduff shows the young heir apparent that he has a mistaken understanding of masculinity.
To Malcolms suggestion, Dispute it like a man, Macduff replies, I shall do so. But I must
also feel it as a man (4.3.221223). At the end of the play, Siward receives news of his sons
death rather complacently. Malcolm responds: Hes worth more sorrow [than you have
expressed] / And that Ill spend for him (5.11.1617). Malcolms comment shows that he has
learned the lesson Macduff gave him on the sentient nature of true masculinity. It also
suggests that, with Malcolms coronation, order will be restored to the Kingdom of Scotland.
Visions and hallucinations recur throughout the play and serve as reminders of Macbeth
and Lady Macbeths 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
kings chamber, the dagger represents the bloody course on which Macbeth is about to
embark. Later, he sees Banquos 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.


By the time he took up his pen to write Robinson Crusoe at about the age of fifty-eight,
Daniel Defoe had a broader range of experiences behind him than most can claim for a
lifetime. At one time or another he war merchant, a manufacturer, an insurer for ships, a
convict, a soldier, an embezzler, a political spokesman, and of course, an author.
Defoes life was, to say the least, a strange one. He was born Daniel Foe to a family of
Dissenters in the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate, London; his exact birth date is unknown, but
historians estimate that it was in the year 1659 or 1660. (Why Daniel added De to his
surname is a subject of speculation. He might have decided to return to an original family
name. Maybe he wanted to give himself a high-born cachet. In any event, in his mid-thirties
he began signing his name as Defo.) James Foe, his father, a butcher by trade, was a sober,
deeply pious Presbyterian of Flemish descent one of perhaps twenty percent of the
population that had relinquished ties to the maind body of Church of England. Very little of
known of Daniels childhood. However, it is reasonable to assume as the son of a Dissenter
much of his time was spent in religious observances. It is likely that this spurred the fervent
belief in Divine Providence that is so evident in his writings. Since they were barred from
Oxford and Cambridge universities, Dissenters sent their children to their own schools.
Defoes education began in the Rey. James Fishers school in Dorking, and later, at about the
age of fourteen, he was enrolled in the Dissenting academy in Newington Green. Newingtons
headmaster, Rev. Charles Morton, a plain-spoken Puritan, was a progressive educator (despite
a belief in storks spending the winter on the moon). He gave his students a thorough
grounding in English as well as the customary Greek and Latin. Morton is seen as a major
influence on Defoes writing style; the other influence was the Bible.
Although intended for the ministry, Defoe settled instead on a career as a commission agent.
For more than a decade he traded in a wide range of goods, including stockings, wine,
tobacco, and oysters. Trade was a loved subject of this man. He wrote countless essays and
pamphlets on economic theories which were advanced for his time. Indeed, had he taken his
own advice, he would have been a wealthy man. While his years as a broker endowed him
with insight into human nature, his risky and unscrupulous ventures (he was sued at least
eight time, and once bilked his own mother-in-law out of four hundred pounds in a cat-
breeding deal), combined with bad luck and faulty judgment, more often than not steered him
into debt, deceit, and political double-dealing. Still, in his mind and heart, Defoe undoubtedly
saw himself in the role of solid, middle-class family man. He wrote numerous treatises which
demonstrated that he considered himself an expert on most, it not all, family matters.
However, his own marriage to Mary Tuffley, a merchants daughter, despite its length of
forty-seven years and fecundity of eight children, cannot have been a model of matrimonial
paradise. Defoes unstable fortunes, his extended visits abroad, and his absence while a
fugitive from enemies and creditors would have tried the patience of the most patient, loving
spouse. There is evidence also that, in spite of loving them deeply, Defoe alienated some, if
not all, of his children. A year after his marriage, Defoe took up arms as a Dissenter in
Monmouths failed rebellion against the Catholic King James II. Unlike three of his former
classmates who were caught and sent to the gallows, Defoe narrowly missed the troops and
hastened to safety in London. When the king was deposed, Daniel rode with the volunteer
guard of honor that escorted William of Orange and his wife Mari into the city.
Due mainly to losses incurred by insuring ships during a war with France, Defoe faced
bankruptcy in 1692. With creditors hot on his trail he fled to a debtor sanctuary in Bristol, and
from there was able to negotiate terms that spared him the humiliation of debtors prison.
Within ten years he had repaid most of what he owed. Unfortunately, Daniel never fully
recovered from that fiasco. Debt would haunt him as long as he lived. This circumstance can
be credited for his ambivalent political actions and his prodigious output as a writer. He was
able to win King Williams favor, and was appointed Commissioner of the Glass Duty. He
was put in charge of proceeds from a lottery and became the kings confidential advisor and
leading pamphleteer. Defoes fervent sense of justice often led him to tweak the noses of
those in high places. His essays, The shortest Way, would bring him great grief. A satire that
poked fun at the manner in which the Church and State dealt with Dissenters, it infuriated the
powers at large and forced Daniel to go into hiding. He was betrayed by an informant and
brought to trial for seditious libel against the Church. He was jailed and sentenced to three
days in the pillory, a manacle device that exposed a criminal to public ridicule.
A pardon some months later from Queen Anne hardly was a chance to start over. Defoes tile
and brick business had fallen apart during his absence, and he once again faced debtor prison.
A grant of 1000 pounds from the Earl of Oxford allowed Defoe to climb out of debt and start
his own newspaper, the Review. He ran his views and was frequently in trouble for them.
After another arrest in 1715 for libel, Defoe spent his time covertly editing other newspapers
as he worked on novels such as Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders. He died in 1731, poor
and fighting.
The adventures of Crusoe on his island, the main part of Defoes novel, are based largely on
the central incident in the life of an undisciplined Scotsman, Alexander Selkirk. Although it is
possible, even likely that Defoe met Selkirk before he wrote his book, he used only this one
incident in the real sailors turbulent history. In these days the island was known as the island
of Juan Fernandez. Selkirk was not the first person to be stranded here at least two other
incidents of solitary survival are recorded. A Mosquito (Guyanese) Indian, Will, was
abandoned there in 1681 when a group of buccaneers fled at the approach of unknown ships.
The pilot of Wills ship claimed that another man had lived there for five years before being
rescued some years before. Three years later, Will was picked up alive and well by an
expedition that contained William Dampier, a keen observer who was good enough to recount
that journey and a subsequent one in 1703, which Selkirk attended.
Dampier was sailing in command of a privateerting expedition that consisted of two ships.
Alexander was the first mate on one of them. The purpose was to harry the Spanish and
Portuguese shipping off the estuary. Failing this, the buccaneers would try their fortune off
the shore of Peru. As they reached the area of the Juan Fernandez islands, the ships could not
agree on a course of action. By a stroke of bad luck, the ships were separated. Selkirks ship,
the Cinque Ports, found herself in the Juan Fernandez islands, in great need of repair.
Stradling, captain of the ship, preferred to keep account of the rescue: Twas he that made the
fire last night when he saw our Ships, which he judged to be English he had with him his
clothes and bedding, with a fire-lock, some powder, bullets and tobacco, a hatchet, a knife, a
kettle, a Bible, mathematical instruments, and books He built two huts with pimento trees,
covered them with long grass, and lined them with the skin of goats, which he killed himself
he was greatly pestered by cats and rats At his first coming on board with us, he had so
much forgot his language for want of use, that we could scarcely understand him. Upon
returning to England, Selkirk was interviewed by the writer Richard Steele. His story
appeared in the periodical The Englishman, and was a source of wonder for many. The
bottom line: he is happiest who confines his wants to natural necessities.
ROBINSON CRUSOE is a youth of about eighteen years old who resides in Hull, England.
Although his father wishes him to become a lawyer, Crusoe dreams of going on sea voyages.
He disregards the fact that his two older brothers are gone because of their need for adventure.
His father cautions that a middle-class existence is the most stable. Robinson ignores him.
When his parents refuse to let him take at least one journey, he runs away with a friend and
secures free passage to London. Misfortune begins immediately, in the form of rough
weather. The ship is forced to land at Yarmouth. When Crusoes friend learns the
circumstances under which he left his family, he becomes angry and tells him that he should
have never come to the sea. They part, and Crusoe makes his way to London via land. He
thinks briefly about going home, but cannot stand to be humiliated. He manages to find
another voyage headed to Guiana. Once there, he wants to become a trader. On the way, the
ship is attacked by Turkish pirates, who bring the crew and passengers into the Moorish port
of Sallee. Robinson is made a slave. For two years he plans an escape. An opportunity is
presented when he is sent out with two Moorish youths to go fishing. Crusoe throws one
overbard, and tells the other one, called Xury, that he may stay if he is faithful. They anchor
on what appears to be uninhabited land. Soon they see that balck people live there. These
natives are very friendly to Crusoe and Xury. At one point, the two see a Portuguese ship in
the distance. They manage to paddle after it and get the attention of those on board. The
captain is kind and says he will take them aboard for free and bring them to Brazil.
Robinson goes to Brazil and leaves Xury with the captain. The captain and a widow in
England are Crusoes financial guardians. In the new country, Robinson observes that much
wealth comes from plantations. He resolves to buy one for himself. After a few years, he has
some partners, and they are all doing very well financially. Crusoe is presented with a new
proposition: to begin a trading business. These men want to trade slaves, and they want
Robinson to be the master of the tradepost. Although he knows he has enough money, Crusoe
decides to make the voyage. A terrible shipwreck occurs and Robinson is the only survivor.
He manages to make it to the shore of an island.
Robinson remains on the island for twenty-seven years. He is able to take many provisions
from the ship. In that time, he recreates his English life, building homes, necessities, learning
how to cook, raise goats and crops. He is at first very miserable, but embraces religion as a
balm for his unhappiness. He is able to convince himself that he lives much better life here
than he did in Europe much more simple, much less wicked. He comes to appreciate his
sovereignty over the entire island. One time he tries to use a boat to explore the rest of the
island, but he is almost swept away, and does not make the attempt again. He has pets whom
he treats as subjects. There is no appearance of man until about 15 years into his stay. He sees
a footprint, and later observes cannibalistic savages eating prisoners. They dont live on the
island; they come in canoes from a mainland not too far away. Robinson is field with outrage,
and resolves to save the prisoners the next time these savages appear. Some years later they
return. Using his guns, Crusoe scares them away and saves a young savage whom he names
Friday is extremely grateful and becomes Robinsons devoted servant. He learns some
English and takes on the Christian religion. For some years the two live happily. Then,
another ship of savage arrives with three prisoners. Together Crusoe and Friday are able to
save two of them. One is Spaniard; the other is Fridays father. Their reunion is very joyous.
Both have come from the mainland close by. After a few months, they leave to bring back the
rest of the Spaniards men. Crusoe is happy that his island is being peopled. Before the
Spaniard and Fridays father can return, a boat of European men comes ashore. There are
three prisoners. While most of the men are exploring the island, Crusoe learns from one that
he is the captain of a ship whose crew mutinied. Robinson says he will help them as long as
they leave the authority of the island in his hands, and as long as they promise to take Friday
and himself to England for free. The agreement is made. Together this little army manages to
capture the rest of the crew and retake the captains ship. Friday and Robinson are taken to
England. Even though Crusoe has been gone thirty-five years, he finds that his plantations
have done well and he is very wealthy. He gives money to the Portuguese captain and the
widow who were so kind to him. He returns to the English countryside and settles there,
marrying and having three children. When his wife dies, he once more goes to the sea.

3.Swift, Jonathan: Gullivers Travels

Jonathan Swift, son of the English lawyer Jonathan Swift the elder, was born in Dublin,
Ireland, on November 30, 1667. He grew up there in the care of his uncle before attending
Trinity College at the age of fourteen, where he stayed for seven years, graduating in 1688. In
that year, he became the secretary of Sir William Temple, an English politician and member
of the Whig party. In 1694, he took religious orders in the Church of Ireland and then spent a
year as a country parson. He then spent further time in the service of Temple before returning
to Ireland to become the chaplain of the earl of Berkeley. Meanwhile, he had begun to write
satires on the political and religious corruption surrounding him, working on A Tale of a
Tub, which supports the position of the Anglican Church against its critics on the left and the
right, and The Battle of the Books, which argues for the supremacy of the classics against
modern thought and literature. He also wrote a number of political pamphlets in favor of the
Whig party. In 1709 he went to London to campaign for the Irish church but was
unsuccessful. After some conflicts with the Whig party, mostly because of Swifts strong
allegiance to the church, he became a member of the more conservative Tory party in 1710.
Unfortunately for Swift, the Tory government fell out of power in 1714 and Swift, despite his
fame for his writings, fell out of favor. Swift, who had been hoping to be assigned a position
in the Church of England, instead returned to Dublin, where he became the dean of St.
Patricks. During his brief time in England, Swift had become friends with writers such as
Alexander Pope, and during a meeting of their literary club, the Martinus Scriblerus Club,
they decided to write satires of modern learning. The third voyage of Gullivers Travels is
assembled from the work Swift did during this time. However, the final work was not
completed until 1726, and the narrative of the third voyage was actually the last one
completed. After his return to Ireland, Swift became a staunch supporter of the Irish against
English attempts to weaken their economy and political power, writing pamphlets such as the
satirical A Modest Proposal, in which he suggests that the Irish problems of famine and
overpopulation could be easily solved by having the babies of poor Irish subjects sold as
delicacies to feed the rich.
Gullivers Travels was a controversial work when it was first published in 1726. In fact, it
was not until almost ten years after its first printing that the book appeared with the entire text
that Swift had originally intended it to have. Ever since, editors have excised many of the
passages, particularly the more caustic ones dealing with bodily functions. Even without those
passages, however, Gullivers Travels serves as a biting satire, and Swift ensures that it is
both humorous and critical, constantly attacking British and European society through its
descriptions of imaginary countries.
Late in life, Swift seemed to many observers to become even more caustic and bitter than he
had been. Three years before his death, he was declared unable to care for himself, and
guardians were appointed. Based on these facts and on a comparison between Swifts fate and
that of his character Gulliver, some people have concluded that he gradually became insane
and that his insanity was a natural outgrowth of his indignation and outrage against
humankind. However, the truth seems to be that Swift was suddenly incapacitated by a
paralytic stroke late in life, and that prior to this incident his mental capacities were
Gullivers Travels is about a specific set of political conflicts, but if it were nothing more than
that it would long ago have been forgotten. The staying power of the work comes from its
depiction of the human condition and its often despairing, but occasionally hopeful, sketch of
the possibilities for humanity to rein in its baser instincts.
About the book
Gullivers Travels recounts the story of Lemuel Gulliver, a practical-minded Englishman
trained as a surgeon who takes to the seas when his business fails. In a deadpan first-person
narrative that rarely shows any signs of self-reflection or deep emotional response, Gulliver
narrates the adventures that befall him on these travels.
Gullivers adventure in Lilliput begins when he wakes after his shipwreck to find himself
bound by innumerable tiny threads and addressed by tiny captors who are in awe of him but
fiercely protective of their kingdom. They are not afraid to use violence against Gulliver,
though their arrows are little more than pinpricks. But overall, they are hospitable, risking
famine in their land by feeding Gulliver, who consumes more food than a thousand
Lilliputians combined could. Gulliver is taken into the capital city by a vast wagon the
Lilliputians have specially built. He is presented to the emperor, who is entertained by
Gulliver, just as Gulliver is flattered by the attention of royalty. Eventually Gulliver becomes
a national resource, used by the army in its war against the people of Blefuscu, whom the
Lilliputians hate for doctrinal differences concerning the proper way to crack eggs. But things
change when Gulliver is convicted of treason for putting out a fire in the royal palace with his
urine and is condemned to be shot in the eyes and starved to death. Gulliver escapes to
Blefuscu, where he is able to repair a boat he finds and set sail for England.
After staying in England with his wife and family for two months, Gulliver undertakes his
next sea voyage, which takes him to a land of giants called Brobdingnag. Here, a field worker
discovers him. The farmer initially treats him as little more than an animal, keeping him for
amusement. The farmer eventually sells Gulliver to the queen, who makes him a courtly
diversion and is entertained by his musical talents. Social life is easy for Gulliver after his
discovery by the court, but not particularly enjoyable. Gulliver is often repulsed by the
physicality of the Brobdingnagians, whose ordinary flaws are many times magnified by their
huge size. Thus, when a couple of courtly ladies let him play on their naked bodies, he is not
attracted to them but rather disgusted by their enormous skin pores and the sound of their
torrential urination. He is generally startled by the ignorance of the people hereeven the
king knows nothing about politics. More unsettling findings in Brobdingnag come in the form
of various animals of the realm that endanger his life. Even Brobdingnagian insects leave
slimy trails on his food that make eating difficult. On a trip to the frontier, accompanying the
royal couple, Gulliver leaves Brobdingnag when his cage is plucked up by an eagle and
dropped into the sea.
Next, Gulliver sets sail again and, after an attack by pirates, ends up in Laputa, where a
floating island inhabited by theoreticians and academics oppresses the land below, called
Balnibarbi. The scientific research undertaken in Laputa and in Balnibarbi seems totally inane
and impractical, and its residents too appear wholly out of touch with reality. Taking a short
side trip to Glubbdubdrib, Gulliver is able to witness the conjuring up of figures from history,
such as Julius Caesar and other military leaders, whom he finds much less impressive than in
books. After visiting the Luggnaggians and the Struldbrugs, the latter of which are senile
immortals who prove that age does not bring wisdom, he is able to sail to Japan and from
there back to England.
Finally, on his fourth journey, Gulliver sets out as captain of a ship, but after the mutiny of his
crew and a long confinement in his cabin, he arrives in an unknown land. This land is
populated by Houyhnhnms, rational-thinking horses who rule, and by Yahoos, brutish
humanlike creatures who serve the Houyhnhnms. Gulliver sets about learning their language,
and when he can speak he narrates his voyages to them and explains the constitution of
England. He is treated with great courtesy and kindness by the horses and is enlightened by
his many conversations with them and by his exposure to their noble culture. He wants to stay
with the Houyhnhnms, but his bared body reveals to the horses that he is very much like a
Yahoo, and he is banished. Gulliver is grief-stricken but agrees to leave. He fashions a canoe
and makes his way to a nearby island, where he is picked up by a Portuguese ship captain who
treats him well, though Gulliver cannot help now seeing the captainand all humansas
shamefully Yahoolike. Gulliver then concludes his narrative with a claim that the lands he has
visited belong by rights to England, as her colonies, even though he questions the whole idea
of colonialism.
About the characters
Lemuel Gulliver
Although Gulliver is a bold adventurer who visits a multitude of strange lands, it is difficult to
regard him as truly heroic. Even well before his slide into misanthropy at the end of the book,
he simply does not show the stuff of which grand heroes are made. He is not cowardlyon
the contrary, he undergoes the unnerving experiences of nearly being devoured by a giant rat,
taken captive by pirates, shipwrecked on faraway shores, sexually assaulted by an eleven-
year-old girl, and shot in the face with poison arrows. Additionally, the isolation from
humanity that he endures for sixteen years must be hard to bear, though Gulliver rarely talks
about such matters. Yet despite the courage Gulliver shows throughout his voyages, his
character lacks basic greatness. This impression could be due to the fact that he rarely shows
his feelings, reveals his soul, or experiences great passions of any sort. But other literary
adventurers, like Odysseus in Homers Odyssey, seem heroic without being particularly open
about their emotions.
What seems most lacking in Gulliver is not courage or feelings, but drive. One modern critic
has described Gulliver as possessing the smallest will in all of Western literature: he is simply
devoid of a sense of mission, a goal that would make his wandering into a quest. Odysseuss
goal is to get home again, Aeneass goal in Virgils Aeneid is to found Rome, but Gullivers
goal on his sea voyage is uncertain. He says that he needs to make some money after the
failure of his business, but he rarely mentions finances throughout the work and indeed almost
never even mentions home. He has no awareness of any greatness in what he is doing or what
he is working toward. In short, he has no aspirations. When he leaves home on his travels for
the first time, he gives no impression that he regards himself as undertaking a great endeavor
or embarking on a thrilling new challenge.
We may also note Gullivers lack of ingenuity and savvy. Other great travelers, such as
Odysseus, get themselves out of dangerous situations by exercising their wit and ability to
trick others. Gulliver seems too dull for any battles of wit and too unimaginative to think up
tricks, and thus he ends up being passive in most of the situations in which he finds himself.
He is held captive several times throughout his voyages, but he is never once released through
his own stratagems, relying instead on chance factors for his liberation. Once presented with a
way out, he works hard to escape, as when he repairs the boat he finds that delivers him from
Blefuscu, but he is never actively ingenious in attaining freedom. This example summarizes
quite well Gullivers intelligence, which is factual and practical rather than imaginative or
Gulliver is gullible, as his name suggests. For example, he misses the obvious ways in which
the Lilliputians exploit him. While he is quite adept at navigational calculations and the
humdrum details of seafaring, he is far less able to reflect on himself or his nation in any
profoundly critical way. Traveling to such different countries and returning to England in
between each voyage, he seems poised to make some great anthropological speculations about
cultural differences around the world, about how societies are similar despite their variations
or different despite their similarities. But, frustratingly, Gulliver gives us nothing of the sort.
He provides us only with literal facts and narrative events, never with any generalizing or
philosophizing. He is a self-hating, self-proclaimed Yahoo at the end, announcing his
misanthropy quite loudly, but even this attitude is difficult to accept as the moral of the story.
Gulliver is not a figure with whom we identify but, rather, part of the array of personalities
and behaviors about which we must make judgments.
The Queen of Brobdingnag
The Brobdingnagian queen is hardly a well-developed character in this novel, but she is
important in one sense: she is one of the very few females in Gullivers Travelswho is given
much notice. Gullivers own wife is scarcely even mentioned, even at what one would expect
to be the touching moment of homecoming at the end of the fourth voyage. Gulliver seems
little more than indifferent to his wife. The farmers daughter in Brobdingnag wins some of
Gullivers attention but chiefly because she cares for him so tenderly. Gulliver is courteous to
the empress of Lilliput but presumably mainly because she is royalty. The queen of
Brobdingnag, however, arouses some deeper feelings in Gulliver that go beyond her royal
status. He compliments her effusively, as he does no other female personage in the work,
calling her infinitely witty and humorous. He describes in proud detail the manner in which he
is permitted to kiss the tip of her little finger. For her part, the queen seems earnest in her
concern about Gullivers welfare. When her court dwarf insults him, she gives the dwarf away
to another household as punishment. The interaction between Gulliver and the queen hints
that Gulliver is indeed capable of emotional connections.
Lord Munodi
Lord Munodi is a minor character, but he plays the important role of showing the possibility
of individual dissent within a brainwashed community. While the inhabitants of Lagado
pursue their attempts to extract sunbeams from cucumbers and to eliminate all verbs and
adjectives from their language, Munodi is a rare example of practical intelligence. Having
tried unsuccessfully to convince his fellows of their misguided public policies, he has given
up and is content to practice what he preaches on his own estates. In his kindness to strangers,
Munodi is also a counterexample to the contemptuous treatment that the other Laputians and
Lagadans show Gulliver. He takes his guest on a tour of the kingdom, explains the advantages
of his own estates without boasting, and is, in general, a figure of great common sense and
humanity amid theoretical delusions and impractical fantasizing. As a figure isolated from his
community, Munodi is similar to Gulliver, though Gulliver is unaware of his alienation while
Munodi suffers acutely from his. Indeed, in Munodi we glimpse what Gulliver could be if he
were wiser: a figure able to think critically about life and society.
Don Pedro de Mendez
Don Pedro is a minor character in terms of plot, but he plays an important symbolic role at the
end of the novel. He treats the half-deranged Gulliver with great patience, even tenderness,
when he allows him to travel on his ship as far as Lisbon, offering to give him his own finest
suit of clothes to replace the seamans tatters, and giving him twenty pounds for his journey
home to England. Don Pedro never judges Gulliver, despite Gullivers abominably antisocial
behavior on the trip back. Ironically, though Don Pedro shows the same kind of generosity
and understanding that Gullivers Houyhnhnm master earlier shows him, Gulliver still
considers Don Pedro a repulsive Yahoo. Were Gulliver able to escape his own delusions, he
might be able to see the Houyhnhnm-like reasonableness and kindness in Don Pedros
behavior. Don Pedro is thus the touchstone through which we see that Gulliver is no longer a
reliable and objective commentator on the reality he sees but, rather, a skewed observer of a
reality colored by private delusions.
Mary Burton Gulliver
Gullivers wife is mentioned only briefly at the beginning of the novel and appears only for an
instant at the conclusion. Gulliver never thinks about Mary on his travels and never feels
guilty about his lack of attention to her. A dozen far more trivial characters get much greater
attention than she receives. She is, in this respect, the opposite of Odysseuss wife Penelope in
the Odyssey, who is never far from her husbands thoughts and is the final destination of his
journey. Marys neglected presence in Gullivers narrative gives her a certain claim to
importance. It suggests that despite Gullivers curiosity about new lands and exotic races, he
is virtually indifferent to those people closest to him. His lack of interest in his wife bespeaks
his underdeveloped inner life. Gulliver is a man of skill and knowledge in certain practical
matters, but he is disadvantaged in self-reflection, personal interactions, and perhaps overall
Might Versus Right
Gullivers Travels implicitly poses the question of whether physical power or moral
righteousness should be the governing factor in social life. Gulliver experiences the
advantages of physical might both as one who has it, as a giant in Lilliput where he can defeat
the Blefuscudian navy by virtue of his immense size, and as one who does not have it, as a
miniature visitor to Brobdingnag where he is harassed by the hugeness of everything from
insects to household pets. His first encounter with another society is one of entrapment, when
he is physically tied down by the Lilliputians; later, in Brobdingnag, he is enslaved by a
farmer. He also observes physical force used against others, as with the Houyhnhnms
chaining up of the Yahoos.
But alongside the use of physical force, there are also many claims to power based on moral
correctness. The whole point of the egg controversy that has set Lilliput against Blefuscu is
not merely a cultural difference but, instead, a religious and moral issue related to the proper
interpretation of a passage in their holy book. This difference of opinion seems to justify, in
their eyes at least, the warfare it has sparked. Similarly, the use of physical force against the
Yahoos is justified for the Houyhnhnms by their sense of moral superiority: they are cleaner,
better behaved, and more rational. But overall, the novel tends to show that claims to rule on
the basis of moral righteousness are often just as arbitrary as, and sometimes simply disguises
for, simple physical subjugation. The Laputans keep the lower land of Balnibarbi in check
through force because they believe themselves to be more rational, even though we might see
them as absurd and unpleasant. Similarly, the ruling elite of Balnibarbi believes itself to be in
the right in driving Lord Munodi from power, although we perceive that Munodi is the
rational party. Claims to moral superiority are, in the end, as hard to justify as the random use
of physical force to dominate others.
The Individual Versus Society
Like many narratives about voyages to nonexistent lands, Gullivers Travels explores the idea
of utopiaan imaginary model of the ideal community. The idea of a utopia is an ancient
one, going back at least as far as the description in PlatosRepublic of a city-state governed by
the wise and expressed most famously in English by Thomas Mores Utopia. Swift nods to
both works in his own narrative, though his attitude toward utopia is much more skeptical,
and one of the main aspects he points out about famous historical utopias is the tendency to
privilege the collective group over the individual. The children of Platos Republic are raised
communally, with no knowledge of their biological parents, in the understanding that this
system enhances social fairness. Swift has the Lilliputians similarly raise their offspring
collectively, but its results are not exactly utopian, since Lilliput is torn by conspiracies,
jealousies, and backstabbing.
The Houyhnhnms also practice strict family planning, dictating that the parents of two
females should exchange a child with a family of two males, so that the male-to-female ratio
is perfectly maintained. Indeed, they come closer to the utopian ideal than the Lilliputians in
their wisdom and rational simplicity. 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. Despite minor physical differences, they
are all so good and rational that they are more or less interchangeable, without individual
identities. In their absolute fusion with their society and lack of individuality, they are in a
sense the exact opposite of Gulliver, who has hardly any sense of belonging to his native
society and exists only as an individual eternally wandering the seas. Gullivers 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. In any case, such a union is
impossible for him, since he is not a horse, and all the other societies he visits make him feel
alienated as well.
Gullivers Travels could in fact be described as one of the first novels of modern alienation,
focusing on an individuals repeated failures to integrate into societies to which he does not
belong. England itself is not much of a homeland for Gulliver, and, with his surgeons
business unprofitable and his fathers estate insufficient to support him, he may be right to
feel alienated from it. He never speaks fondly or nostalgically about England, and every time
he returns home, he is quick to leave again. Gulliver never complains explicitly about feeling
lonely, but the embittered and antisocial misanthrope we see at the end of the novel is clearly
a profoundly isolated individual. Thus, if Swifts satire mocks the excesses of communal life,
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.
The Limits of Human Understanding
The idea that humans are not meant to know everything and that all understanding has a
natural limit is important in Gullivers Travels. Swift singles out theoretical knowledge in
particular for attack: his portrait of the disagreeable and self-centered Laputans, who show
blatant contempt for those who are not sunk in private theorizing, is a clear satire against
those who pride themselves on knowledge above all else. Practical knowledge is also satirized
when it does not produce results, as in the academy of Balnibarbi, where the experiments for
extracting sunbeams from cucumbers amount to nothing. Swift insists that there is a realm of
understanding into which humans are simply not supposed to venture. Thus his depictions of
rational societies, like Brobdingnag and Houyhnhnmland, emphasize not these peoples
knowledge or understanding of abstract ideas but their ability to live their lives in a wise and
steady way.
The Brobdingnagian king knows shockingly little about the abstractions of political science,
yet his country seems prosperous and well governed. Similarly, the Houyhnhnms know little
about arcane subjects like astronomy, though they know how long a month is by observing
the moon, since that knowledge has a practical effect on their well-being. Aspiring to higher
fields of knowledge would be meaningless to them and would interfere with their happiness.
In such contexts, it appears that living a happy and well-ordered life seems to be the very
thing for which Swift thinks knowledge is useful.
Swift also emphasizes the importance of self-understanding. Gulliver is initially remarkably
lacking in self-reflection and self-awareness. He makes no mention of his emotions, passions,
dreams, or aspirations, and he shows no interest in describing his own psychology to us.
Accordingly, he may strike us as frustratingly hollow or empty, though it is likely that his
personal emptiness is part of the overall meaning of the novel. By the end, he has come close
to a kind of twisted self-knowledge in his deranged belief that he is a Yahoo. His revulsion
with the human condition, shown in his shabby treatment of the generous Don Pedro, extends
to himself as well, so that he ends the novel in a thinly disguised state of self-hatred. Swift
may thus be saying that self-knowledge has its necessary limits just as theoretical knowledge
does, and that if we look too closely at ourselves we might not be able to carry on living
While it may seem a trivial or laughable motif, the recurrent mention of excrement in
Gullivers Travels actually has a serious philosophical significance in the narrative. It
symbolizes everything that is crass and ignoble about the human body and about human
existence in general, and it obstructs any attempt to view humans as wholly spiritual or
mentally transcendent creatures. Since the Enlightenment culture of eighteenth-century
England tended to view humans optimistically as noble souls rather than vulgar bodies,
Swifts emphasis on the common filth of life is a slap in the face of the philosophers of his
day. Thus, when Gulliver urinates to put out a fire in Lilliput, or when Brobdingnagian flies
defecate on his meals, or when the scientist in Lagado works to transform excrement back
into food, we are reminded how very little human reason has to do with everyday existence.
Swift suggests that the human condition in general is dirtier and lowlier than we might like to
believe it is.
Foreign Languages
Gulliver appears to be a gifted linguist, knowing at least the basics of several European
languages and even a fair amount of ancient Greek. This knowledge serves him well, as he is
able to disguise himself as a Dutchman in order to facilitate his entry into Japan, which at the
time only admitted the Dutch. But even more important, his linguistic gifts allow him to learn
the languages of the exotic lands he visits with a dazzling speed and, thus, gain access to their
culture quickly. He learns the languages of the Lilliputians, the Brobdingnagians, and even
the neighing tongue of the Houyhnhnms. He is meticulous in recording the details of language
in his narrative, often giving the original as well as the translation. One would expect that
such detail would indicate a cross-cultural sensitivity, a kind of anthropologists awareness of
how things vary from culture to culture. Yet surprisingly, Gullivers mastery of foreign
languages generally does not correspond to any real interest in cultural differences. He
compares any of the governments he visits to that of his native England, and he rarely even
speculates on how or why cultures are different at all. Thus, his facility for translation does
not indicate a culturally comparative mind, 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.
Critics have noted the extraordinary attention that Gulliver pays to clothes throughout his
journeys. Every time he gets a rip in his shirt or is forced to adopt some native garment to
replace one of his own, he recounts the clothing details with great precision. We are told how
his pants are falling apart in Lilliput, so that as the army marches between his legs they get
quite an eyeful. We are informed about the mouse skin he wears in Brobdingnag, and how the
finest silks of the land are as thick as blankets on him. In one sense, these descriptions are
obviously an easy narrative device with which Swift can chart his protagonists progression
from one culture to another: the more ragged his clothes become and the stranger his new
wardrobe, the farther he is from the comforts and conventions of England. His journey to new
lands is also thus a journey into new clothes. When he is picked up by Don Pedro after his
fourth voyage and offered a new suit of clothes, Gulliver vehemently refuses, preferring his
wild animal skins. We sense that Gulliver may well never fully reintegrate into European
But the motif of clothing carries a deeper, more psychologically complex meaning as well.
Gullivers intense interest in the state of his clothes may signal a deep-seated anxiety about
his identity, or lack thereof. He does not seem to have much selfhood: one critic has called
him an abyss, a void where an individual character should be. If clothes make the man, then
perhaps Gullivers obsession with the state of his wardrobe may suggest that he desperately
needs to be fashioned as a personality. Significantly, 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, and the second when he is assaulted by an eleven-year-old Yahoo girl as he bathes.
Both incidents suggest more than mere prudery. Gulliver associates nudity with extreme
vulnerability, even when there is no real danger presenta pre-teen girl is hardly a threat to a
grown man, at least in physical terms. The state of nudity may remind Gulliver of how
nonexistent he feels without the reassuring cover of clothing.
The Lilliputians symbolize humankinds wildly excessive pride in its own puny existence.
Swift fully intends the irony of representing the tiniest race visited by Gulliver as by far the
most vainglorious and smug, both collectively and individually. There is surely no character
more odious in all of Gullivers travels than the noxious Skyresh. There is more backbiting
and conspiracy in Lilliput than anywhere else, and more of the pettiness of small minds who
imagine themselves to be grand. Gulliver is a nave consumer of the Lilliputians grandiose
imaginings: he is flattered by the attention of their royal family and cowed by their threats of
punishment, forgetting that they have no real physical power over him. Their formally worded
condemnation of Gulliver on grounds of treason is a model of pompous and self-important
verbiage, but it works quite effectively on the nave Gulliver.
The Lilliputians show off not only to Gulliver but to themselves as well. There is no mention
of armies proudly marching in any of the other societies Gulliver visitsonly in Lilliput and
neighboring Blefuscu are the six-inch inhabitants possessed of the need to show off their
patriotic glories with such displays. When the Lilliputian emperor requests that Gulliver serve
as a kind of makeshift Arch of Triumph for the troops to pass under, it is a pathetic reminder
that their grand paradein full view of Gullivers nether regionsis supremely silly, a
basically absurd way to boost the collective ego of the nation. Indeed, the war with Blefuscu
is itself an absurdity springing from wounded vanity, since the cause is not a material concern
like disputed territory but, rather, the proper interpretation of scripture by the emperors
forebears and the hurt feelings resulting from the disagreement. All in all, the Lilliputians
symbolize misplaced human pride, and point out Gullivers inability to diagnose it correctly.
The Brobdingnagians symbolize the private, personal, and physical side of humans when
examined up close and in great detail. The philosophical era of the Enlightenment tended to
overlook the routines of everyday life and the sordid or tedious little facts of existence, but in
Brobdingnag such facts become very important for Gulliver, sometimes matters of life and
death. An eighteenth-century philosopher could afford to ignore the fly buzzing around his
head or the skin pores on his servant girl, but in his shrunken state Gulliver is forced to pay
great attention to such things. He is forced take the domestic sphere seriously as well. In other
lands it is difficult for Gulliver, being such an outsider, to get glimpses of family relations or
private affairs, but in Brobdingnag he is treated as a doll or a plaything, and thus is made
privy to the urination of housemaids and the sexual lives of women. The Brobdingnagians do
not symbolize a solely negative human characteristic, as the Laputans do. They are not merely
ridiculoussome aspects of them are disgusting, like their gigantic stench and the excrement
left by their insects, but others are noble, like the queens goodwill toward Gulliver and the
kings commonsense views of politics. More than anything else, the Brobdingnagians
symbolize a dimension of human existence visible at close range, under close scrutiny.
The Laputans represent the folly of theoretical knowledge that has no relation to human life
and no use in the actual world. As a profound cultural conservative, Swift was a critic of the
newfangled ideas springing up around him at the dawn of the eighteenth-century
Enlightenment, a period of great intellectual experimentation and theorization. He much
preferred the traditional knowledge that had been tested over centuries. Laputa symbolizes the
absurdity of knowledge that has never been tested or applied, the ludicrous side of
Enlightenment intellectualism. Even down below in Balnibarbi, where the local academy is
more inclined to practical application, knowledge is not made socially useful as Swift
demands. Indeed, theoretical knowledge there has proven positively disastrous, resulting in
the ruin of agriculture and architecture and the impoverishment of the population. Even up
above, the pursuit of theoretical understanding has not improved the lot of the Laputans. They
have few material worries, dependent as they are upon the Balnibarbians below. But they are
tormented by worries about the trajectories of comets and other astronomical speculations:
their theories have not made them wise, but neurotic and disagreeable. 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.
The Houyhnhnms represent an ideal of rational existence, a life governed by sense and
moderation of which philosophers since Plato have long dreamed. Indeed, there are echoes of
Platos Republic in the Houyhnhnms rejection of light entertainment and vain displays of
luxury, their appeal to reason rather than any holy writings as the criterion for proper action,
and their communal approach to family planning. As in Platos ideal community, the
Houyhnhnms have no need to lie nor any word for lying. They do not use force but only
strong exhortation. 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. In these
ways and others, the Houyhnhnms seem like model citizens, and Gullivers 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. His derangement on Don Pedros ship, in which he snubs the
generous man as a Yahoo-like creature, implies that he strongly identifies with the
But we may be less ready than Gulliver to take the Houyhnhnms as ideals of human existence.
They have no names in the narrative nor any need for names, since they are virtually
interchangeable, with little individual identity. Their lives seem harmonious and happy,
although quite lacking in vigor, challenge, and excitement. Indeed, this apparent ease may be
why Swift chooses to make them horses rather than human types like every other group in the
novel. He may be hinting, to those more insightful than Gulliver, that the Houyhnhnms should
not be considered human ideals at all. In any case, they symbolize a standard of rational
existence to be either espoused or rejected by both Gulliver and us.
As the site of his fathers disappointingly small estate and Gullivers failing business,
England seems to symbolize deficiency or insufficiency, at least in the financial sense that
matters most to Gulliver. England is passed over very quickly in the first paragraph of
Chapter I, as if to show that it is simply there as the starting point to be left quickly behind.
Gulliver seems to have very few nationalistic or patriotic feelings about England, and he
rarely mentions his homeland on his travels. In this sense, Gullivers Travels is quite unlike
other travel narratives like theOdyssey, in which Odysseus misses his homeland and laments
his wanderings. England is where Gullivers wife and family live, but they too are hardly
mentioned. 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, so that England is
kept constantly in the picture and given a steady, unspoken importance. By the end of the
fourth journey, England is brought more explicitly into the fabric ofGullivers Travels when
Gulliver, in his neurotic state, starts confusing Houyhnhnmland with his homeland, referring
to Englishmen as Yahoos. The distinction between native and foreign thus unravelsthe
Houyhnhnms and Yahoos are not just races populating a faraway land but rather types that
Gulliver projects upon those around him. 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.
Scattered among the standard narrative style of most of Gullivers travels are legal documents
and reports, such as the inventory of Gullivers possessions and the list of obligations
presented to him by the Lilliputians. There are also brief passages in which Swift, by his style
alone, ridicules the linguistic excesses of various specialists. A good example is at the
beginning of Part II, Chapter I, where Gulliver uses complicated nautical jargon. The effect is
so overdone that, instead of coming off as a demonstration of Gullivers in-depth knowledge
of sailing, the passage works as a satire of sailing language and, more generally, of any kind
of specialist jargon. A similar passage occurs in Part III, Chapter III, where Gullivers
painstaking description of the geometry of Laputa serves as a satire of philosophical jargon.
Over the course of the novel, there are several changes in Swifts style. In the first two
voyages, the style is constant: it is a relatively lighthearted but still biting satire of European
culture and politics, framed as an adventure among dwarves and giants. In the third voyage,
the tone shifts. Gulliver becomes less of a personality and more of an abstract observer. His
judgments of the societies he encounters become more direct and unmediated, and the overall
narrative becomes less of an adventure and more of a scattered satire on abstract thought. In
the fourth voyage, the tone becomes, for the most part, much more serious than in the first
three adventures. Gulliver too is more serious and more desperate, and his change in
personality is reflected in a style that is darker, more somber, and more cynical.
Gulliver is somewhat more tranquil and less restless at the end of the story than he is at the
beginning. In desiring first to stay with the Houyhnhnms, then to find an island on which he
can live in exile, Gulliver shows that his adventures have taught him that a simple life, one
without the complexities and weaknesses of human society, may be best. At the same time,
his tranquility is superficiallying not far below the surface is a deep distaste for humanity
that is aroused as soon as the crew of Don Pedro de Mendez captures him. From our point of
view, after we have looked at the world through Gullivers eyes for much of the novel,
Gulliver undergoes several interesting transformations: from the nave Englishman to the
experienced but still open-minded world traveler of the first two voyages; then to the jaded
island-hopper of the third voyage; and finally to the cynical, disillusioned, and somewhat
insane misanthrope of the fourth voyage.
In many ways, Gullivers role as a generic human is more important than any personal
opinions or abilities he may have. Fate and circumstance conspire to lead him from place to
place, while he never really asserts his own desires. By minimizing the importance of Gulliver
as a specific person, Swift puts the focus on the social satire itself. At the same time, Gulliver
himself becomes more and more a subject of satire as the story progresses. At the beginning,
he is a standard issue European adventurer; by the end, he has become a misanthrope who
totally rejects human society. It is in the fourth voyage that Gulliver becomes more than
simply a pair of eyes through which we see a series of unusual societies. He is, instead, a
jaded adventurer who has seen human folliesparticularly that of prideat their most
extreme, and as a result has descended into what looks like, and probably is, a kind of

4. John Keats KEATSS ODES

In his short life, John Keats wrote some of the most beautiful and enduring poems in the
English language. Among his greatest achievements is his sequence of six lyric odes, written
between March and September 1819astonishingly, when Keats was only twenty-four years
old. Keatss poetic achievement is made all the more miraculous by the age at which it ended:
He died barely a year after finishing the ode To Autumn, in February 1821.
Keats was born in 1795 to a lower-middle-class family in London. When he was still young,
he lost both his parents. His mother succumbed to tuberculosis, the disease that eventually
killed Keats himself. When he was fifteen, Keats entered into a medical apprenticeship, and
eventually he went to medical school. But by the time he turned twenty, he abandoned his
medical training to devote himself wholly to poetry. He published his first book of poems
in 1817; they drew savage critical attacks from an influential magazine, and his second book
attracted comparatively little notice when it appeared the next year. Keatss brother Tom died
of tuberculosis in December 1818, and Keats moved in with a friend in Hampstead.
In Hampstead, he fell in love with a young girl named Fanny Brawne. During this time, Keats
began to experience the extraordinary creative inspiration that enabled him to write, at a
frantic rate, all his best poems in the time before he died. His health and his finances declined
sharply, and he set off for Italy in the summer of1820, hoping the warmer climate might
restore his health. He never returned home. His death brought to an untimely end one of the
most extraordinary poetic careers of the nineteenth centuryindeed, one of the most
extraordinary poetic careers of all time. Keats never achieved widespread recognition for his
work in his own life (his bitter request for his tombstone: Here lies one whose name was writ
on water), but he was sustained by a deep inner confidence in his own ability. Shortly before
his death, he remarked that he believed he would be among the English poets when he had
Keats was one of the most important figures of early nineteenth-century Romanticism, a
movement that espoused the sanctity of emotion and imagination, and privileged the beauty of
the natural world. Many of the ideas and themes evident in Keatss great odes are
quintessentially Romantic concerns: the beauty of nature, the relation between imagination
and creativity, the response of the passions to beauty and suffering, and the transience of
human life in time. The sumptuous sensory language in which the odes are written, their
idealistic concern for beauty and truth, and their expressive agony in the face of death are all
Romantic preoccupationsthough at the same time, they are all uniquely Keatss.
Taken together, the odes do not exactly tell a storythere is no unifying plot and no
recurring charactersand there is little evidence that Keats intended them to stand together as
a single work of art. Nevertheless, the extraordinary number of suggestive interrelations
between them is impossible to ignore. The odes explore and develop the same themes, partake
of many of the same approaches and images, and, ordered in a certain way, exhibit an
unmistakable psychological development. This is not to say that the poems do not stand on
their ownthey do, magnificently; one of the greatest felicities of the sequence is that it can
be entered at any point, viewed wholly or partially from any perspective, and still prove
moving and rewarding to read. There has been a great deal of critical debate over how to treat
the voices that speak the poemsare they meant to be read as though a single person speaks
them all, or did Keats invent a different person for each ode?
There is no right answer to the question, but it is possible that the question itself is wrong: The
consciousness at work in each of the odes is unmistakably Keatss own. Of course, the poems
are not explicitly autobiographical (it is unlikely that all the events really happened to Keats),
but given their sincerity and their shared frame of thematic reference, there is no reason to
think that they do not come from the same part of Keatss mindthat is to say, that they are
not all told by the same part of Keatss reflected self. In that sense, there is no harm in treating
the odes a sequence of utterances told in the same voice. The psychological progress from
Ode on Indolence to To Autumn is intimately personal, and a great deal of that intimacy
is lost if one begins to imagine that the odes are spoken by a sequence of fictional characters.
When you think of the speaker of these poems, think of Keats as he would have imagined
himself while writing them. As you trace the speakers trajectory from the numb drowsiness
of Indolence to the quiet wisdom of Autumn, try to hear the voice develop and change
under the guidance of Keatss extraordinary language.
The Inevitability of Death
Even before his diagnosis of terminal tuberculosis, Keats focused on death and its
inevitability in his work. For Keats, small, slow acts of death occurred every day, and he
chronicled these small mortal occurrences. The end of a lovers embrace, the images on an
ancient urn, the reaping of grain in autumnall of these are not only symbols of death, but
instances of it. Examples of great beauty and art also caused Keats to ponder mortality, as in
On Seeing the Elgin Marbles (1817). As a writer, 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), Keats outlined a plan of poetic achievement that required him to read poetry
for a decade in order to understandand surpassthe work of his predecessors. Hovering
near this dream, however, was a morbid sense that death might intervene and terminate his
projects; he expresses these concerns in the mournful 1818 sonnet When I have fears that I
may cease to be.
The Contemplation of Beauty
In his poetry, Keats proposed the contemplation of beauty as a way of delaying the
inevitability of death. Although we must die eventually, we can choose to spend our time
alive in aesthetic revelry, looking at beautiful objects and landscapes. Keatss speakers
contemplate urns (Ode on a Grecian Urn), books (On First Looking into Chapmans
Homer [1816], On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again [1818]), birds (Ode to a
Nightingale), and stars (Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art [1819]). Unlike
mortal beings, beautiful things will never die but will keep demonstrating their beauty for all
time. Keats explores this idea in the first book of Endymion (1818). 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, nor will they ever shed their leaves.
He reassures young lovers by telling them that even though they shall never catch their
mistresses, these women shall always stay beautiful. The people on the urn, unlike the
speaker, shall never stop having experiences. They shall remain permanently depicted while
the speaker changes, grows old, and eventually dies.
Departures and Reveries
In many of Keatss poems, the speaker leaves the real world to explore a transcendent,
mythical, or aesthetic realm. At the end of the poem, the speaker returns to his ordinary life
transformed in some way and armed with a new understanding. Often the appearance or
contemplation of a beautiful object makes the departure possible. The ability to get lost in a
reverie, to depart conscious life for imaginative life without wondering about plausibility or
rationality, is part of Keatss concept of negative capability. In Bright star, would I were
stedfast as thou art, the speaker imagines a state of sweet unrest (12) in which he will
remain half-conscious on his lovers breast forever. As speakers depart this world for an
imaginative world, they have experiences and insights that they can then impart into poetry
once theyve returned to conscious life. Keats explored the relationship between visions and
poetry in Ode to Psyche and Ode to a Nightingale.
The Five Senses and Art
Keats imagined that the five senses loosely corresponded to and connected with various types
of art. The speaker in Ode on a Grecian Urn describes the pictures depicted on the urn,
including lovers chasing one another, musicians playing instruments, and a virginal maiden
holding still. All the figures remain motionless, held fast and permanent by their depiction on
the sides of the urn, and they cannot touch one another, even though we can touch them by
holding the vessel. Although the poem associates sight and sound, because we see the
musicians playing, we cannot hear the music. Similarly, the speaker in On First Looking into
Chapmans Homer compares hearing Homers words to pure serene (7) air so that reading,
or seeing, becomes associating with breathing, or smelling. In Ode to a Nightingale, 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. Each of the five senses must be involved in worthwhile
experiences, which, in turn, lead to the production of worthwhile art.
The Disappearance of the Poet and the Speaker
In Keatss theory of negative capability, the poet disappears from the workthat is, 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. Keatss speakers
become so enraptured with an object that they erase themselves and their thoughts from their
depiction of that object. In essence, the speaker/poet becomes melded to and indistinguishable
from the object being described. For instance, 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, which is enclosed in quotation marks. Since the poems publication in 1820, critics
have theorized about who speaks these lines, whether the poet, the speaker, the urn, or one or
all the figures on the urn. The erasure of the speaker and the poet is so complete in this
particular poem that the quoted lines are jarring and troubling.
Music and Musicians
Music and musicians appear throughout Keatss work as symbols of poetry and poets. In
Ode on a Grecian Urn, for instance, the speaker describes musicians playing their pipes.
Although we cannot literally hear their music, by using our imaginations, we can imagine and
thus hear music. The speaker of To Autumn reassures us that the season of fall, like spring,
has songs to sing. Fall, the season of changing leaves and decay, is as worthy of poetry as
spring, the season of flowers and rejuvenation. Ode to a Nightingale uses the birds music
to contrast the mortality of humans with the immortality of art. Caught up in beautiful
birdsong, the speaker imagines himself capable of using poetry to join the bird in the forest.
The beauty of the birds music represents the ecstatic, imaginative possibilities of poetry. As
mortal beings who will eventually die, we can delay death through the timelessness of music,
poetry, and other types of art.
Like his fellow romantic poets, Keats found in nature endless sources of poetic inspiration,
and he described the natural world with precision and care. Observing elements of nature
allowed Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, among others, to create extended
meditations and thoughtful odes about aspects of the human condition. For example, in Ode
to a Nightingale, hearing the birds song causes the speaker to ruminate on the immortality
of art and the mortality of humans. The speaker of Ode on Melancholy compares a bout of
depression to a weeping cloud (12), then goes on to list specific flowers that are linked to
sadness. He finds in nature apt images for his psychological state. In Ode to Psyche, 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), and the moon rests amid a background of dark
blue. Keats not only uses nature as a springboard from which to ponder, but he also discovers
in nature similes, symbols, and metaphors for the spiritual and emotional states he seeks to
The Ancient World
Keats had an enduring interest in antiquity and the ancient world. His longer poems, such
as The Fall of Hyperion or Lamia, often take place in a mythical world not unlike that of
classical antiquity. He borrowed figures from ancient mythology to populate poems, such as
Ode to Psyche and To Homer (1818). For Keats, ancient myth and antique objects, such
as the Grecian urn, have a permanence and solidity that contrasts with the fleeting, temporary
nature of life. In ancient cultures, Keats saw the possibility of permanent artistic achievement:
if an urn still spoke to someone several centuries after its creation, there was hope that a poem
or artistic object from Keatss time might continue to speak to readers or observers after the
death of Keats or another writer or creator. This achievement was one of Keatss great hopes.
In an 1818 letter to his brother George, Keats quietly prophesied: I think I shall be among the
English poets after my death.


Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 at Steventon, Hampshire, England. She was the
seventh child of the rector of the parish, and lived with her loving family, which included one
sister and six brothers, until they moved to Bath, a setting she utilized to advantage in many of
her novels, when her father retired in 1801. Her father, Reverend George Austen (1731-1805),
was from Kent and attended the Tunbridge School before studying at Oxford and going on to
make a living as a rector at Steventon. Her mother, Cassandra Leigh Austen (1739-1827) was
the daughter of a patrician family. Upon her fathers death in 1805, Austen moved with
Cassandra and her mother to live with her brother Frank, and afterwards moved in 1809 to a
cottage at Chawton, where her wealthy brother Edward had an estate.
Like many women of the era, Austen had almost no formal education, but she was an avid
reader and a highly-regarded critical thinker. Although Austens family was neither noble nor
wealthy, Rev. Austen had a particular interest in education, even for his daughter. In 1783,
she received instruction from a relative in Oxford, and then went to study in Southampton.
She also attended the Reading Ladies Boarding School in the Abbey gatehouse in Reading,
Berkshire for one year (1785-1786). From her teen years old, she wrote comic pieces for an
audience, and parodies of famous eighteenth-century novels in the manner of her novel
Northanger Abbey, a satire of Ann Radcliffes famous Gothic novel, The Mysteries of
Udolpho. In addition, the youngsters in the Austen family often staged theatrical productions
perhaps similar to the production described in Mansfield Park.
Unlike many famous writer, who lived lives filled with adventure and travel, Austen lived an
extremely quiet, uneventful life. She never married, but did accept an offer of marriage once
from Harris Bigg-Wither, a big and awkward man six years her junior. However, for some
unknown reason she changed her mind and rescinded her promise the day following her
acceptance. In this era, unmarried women were not highly regarded: women of high social
rank were not permitted to work, and thus remained dependent upon their families for
financial support. For Austen, turning down a marriage proposal was an important decision
indeed, because marriage would have freed her from the embarrassing situation of being a
dependent. More than anyone, Austen was close to her older Cassandra, who was her
lifelong companion. The rest of her siblings were brothers. Frank and Charles went to sea an
eventually became admirals. Most of Austens novels contain admirable characters which go
to sea and do very well. For example, Fanny Prices brother William in Mansfield Park begins
his career as a midshipman and is eventually promoted to Lieutenant thanks to Henry
Crawford, who arranges an interview with his uncle, the Admiral. William is one of the finest,
most morally upright characters in the novel.
Plagued by ill-health, Austen lived much of her life in seclusion. (It is thought that she may
have suffered from Addisons disease.) She died in Winchester on July 8, 1817 and was
buried at the citys famous cathedral.
In all, Jane Austen published four novels anonymously during her life: Sense and Sensibility
(1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815). Two novels,
Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published posthumously, in 1817. Her novels focus
on courtship and marriage, and remain well-known for Austens satiric depictions of English
society and the manners of the era. Her insights into the lives of women during the late
eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century Regency period, in addition to her highly
regarded ability to handle form, satire, and irony have made her perhaps the most noted and
influential novelist of her time. Incredibly, however, she achieved little renown during her
lifetime. In short, Jane Austen was an English novelist whose work is considered to be a
strong influence on the Western cannon of English literature. Austens portrait, a colored
sketch by her sister Cassandra, is available for viewing in National Portrait Gallery in

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE published in 1813, is Jane Austens earliest work, and in some
sense also one of her most mature works. Austen began writing the novel in 1796 at the age of
twenty-one, under the title First Impressions. The original version of the novel was probably
in the form of an exchange of letters. Austens father had offered the manuscript for
publication in 1797, but the publishing company refused to even consider it. Shortly after
completing First Impressions, Austen began writing Sense and Sensibility, which was not
published until 1811. She also wrote some minor works during that time, which were later
expanded into full novels. Between 1810 and 1812 Pride and Prejudice was rewritten for
publication. While the original ideas of the novel come from a girls of 21, the final version
has the literary and thematic maturity of a thirty-five years old woman who has spent years
painstakingly drafting and revising, as is the pattern with all Austens works. Pride and
Prejudice is usually considered to be the most popular of Austens novels.
Pride: As said in the words of Mary at the beginning of the novel, human nature is
particularly prone to [pride] (Volume I, Chapter 5). In the novel, pride prevents the
characters from seeing the truth of a situation and from achieving happiness in life. Pride is
one of the main barriers that creates an obstacle to Elizabeth and Darcys marriage. Darcys
pride in his position in society leads him initially to scorn anyone outside of his own social
circle. Elizabeths vanity clouds her judgment, making her prone to think ill of Darcy and to
think well of Wickham. In the end, Elizabeths rebukes of Darcy help him to realize his fault
and to change accordingly, as demonstrated in his genuinely friendly treatment of the
Gardiners, whom he previously would have scorned because of their low social class. Darcys
letters shows Elizabeth that her judgments were wrong and she realizes that they were based
on vanity, not on reason.
Prejudice: Pride and prejudice are intimately related in the novel. As critic, A. Walton Litz
comments, in Pride and Prejudice one cannot equate Darcy with Pride, or Elizabeth with
Prejudice; Darcys pride of place is founded on social prejudice, while Elizabeths initial
prejudice against him is rooted in pride of her own quick perceptions. Darcy, having been
brought up in such a way that he began to scorn all those outside his own social circle, must
overcome his prejudice in order to see that Elizabeth would be a good wife for him and to win
Elizabeths heart. The overcoming of his prejudice is demonstrated when he treats the
Gardiners with great civility. The Gardiners are a much lower class than Darcy, because Mr.
Darcy is a lawyer and must practice a trade to earn a living, rather living off of the interest of
an estate as gentlemen do. From the beginning of the novel Elizabeth prides herself on her
keen ability for perception. Yet this supposed ability is often lacking, as in Elizabeths
judgments of Darcy and Wickham.
Family: Austen portrays the family as primarily responsible for the intellectual and moral
education of children. Mr. and Mrs. Bennets failure to provide this education for their
daughters leads to the utter shamelessness, foolishness, frivolity, and immorality of Lydia.
Elizabeth and Jan have managed to develop virtue and strong characters in spite of the
negligence of their parents, perhaps through the help of their studies and the good influence of
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, who are the only relatives in the novel that take a serious concern in
the girls well-being and provide sound guidance. Elizabeth and Jane are constantly forced to
put up with the foolishness and poor judgment of their mother and the sarcastic indifference
of their father. Even when Elizabeth advises her father not to allow Lydia to go to Brighton,
he ignores the advice because he thinks it would too difficult to deal with Lydias
complaining. The result is the scandal of Lydias elopement with Wickham.
Women and Marriage: Austen is critical of the gender injustice present in19th century English
society,. The novel demonstrates how such as Charlotte need to marry men they are not in
love with simply in order to gain financial security. The entailment of the Longbourn estate is
an extreme hardship of the Bennet family, and is quite obviously unjust. The entailment of
Mr. Bennets estate leaves his daughters in a poor financial situation which both requires them
to marry and makes it more difficult to marry well. Clearly, Austen believes that women are
at least as intelligent and capable as men, and considers their inferior status in society to be
unjust. She herself went against convention by remaining single and earning a living through
her novels. In her personal letters Austen advises friends only to marry for love. Through the
plot of the novel it is clear that Austen wants to show how Elizabeth is able to be happy for
refusing to marry for financial purposes and only marrying a man whom she truly loves and
Class: Considerations of class are omnipresent in the novel. The novel does not put forth an
egalitarian ideology or call for the leveling of all social classes, yet it does criticize an over-
emphasis on class. Darcys inordinate pride is based on his extreme class-consciousness. Yet
eventually he sees that factors other than wealth determine who truly belongs in the
aristocracy. While those such as Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, who are born into the
aristocracy, are idle, mean-spirited and annoying, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are not members of
the aristocracy in terms of wealth or birth but are natural aristocrats by virtue of their
intelligence, good-breeding and virtue. The comic formality of Mr. Collins and his obsequious
relationship with Lady Catherine serve as a satire class consciousness and social formalities.
In the end, the verdict on class differences is moderate. As critic Samuel Kliger notes, It the
conclusion of the novel makes it clear that Elizabeth accepts class relationship as valid, it
becomes equally clear that Darcy, through Elizabeths genius for treating all people with
respect for their natural dignity, is reminded that institutions are not an end in themselves but
are intended to serve the end of human happiness.
Individual and Society: The novel portrays a world in which society takes an interest in the
private virtue of its members. When Lydia elopes with Wickham, therefore, it is scandal to
the whole society and an injury to entire Bennet family. Darcy considers his failure to expose
the wickedness of Wickhams character to be a breach of his social duty because if
Wickhams true character had been known others would not have been so easily deceived by
him. While Austen is critical of societys ability to judge properly, as demonstrated especially
in their judgments of Wickham and Darcy, she does believe that society has a crucial role in
promoting virtue. Austen has a profound sense that individuals are social beings and that their
happiness is found through relationships with others. According to critic Richard Simpson,
Austen has a thorough consciousness that man is a social being, and that apart from society
there is not even the individual.
Virtue: Austens novels unite Aristotelian and Christian conceptions of virtue. She sees
human life as purposeful and believes that human beings must guide their appetites and
desires through their use of reason. Elizabeths folly in her misjudgments of Darcy and
Wickham is that her vanity has prevented her from reasoning objectively. Lydia seems almost
completely devoid of virtue because she has never trained herself to discipline her passions or
formed her judgment such that she is capable of making sound moral decisions. Human
happiness is found by living a life in accordance with human dignity, which is a life in
accordance with virtue. Self-knowledge has a central place in the acquisition of virtue, as it is
a prerequisite for moral improvement. Darcy and Elizabeth are only freed of their pride and
prejudice when their dealings with one another help them to see their faults and spur them to

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is set primarily in the country of Hertfordshire, about 50 miles
outside of London. The novel opens at with a conversation at Longbourn, the Bennets estate,
about the arrival of Mr. Bingley, a single man with large fortune, to Netherfield Park, a
nearby estate. Mrs. Bennet, whose obsession is to find husbands for her daughters, sees Mr.
Bingley as a potential suitor. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five children: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary,
Kitty, and Lydia.
The Bennets first acquaintance with Mr. Bingley and his companions is at the Meryton Ball.
Mr. Bingley takes a living to Jane and is judged by the townspeople to be perfectly amiable
and agreeable. Mr. Bingleys friend Mr. Darcy, however, snubs Elizabeth and is considered to
be proud and disagreeable because of his reserve and his refusal to dance. Bingleys sisters
are judged to be amiable by Jane but Elizabeth finds them to be arrogant.
After further interactions, it becomes evident that Jane and Bingley have a preference for one
another, although Bingleys partiality is more obvious than Janes because she is universally
cheerful and amiable. Charlotte Lucas, a close friend of Elizabeth with more pragmatic views
on marriage, recommends that Jane make her regard for Bingley more obvious. At the same
time, Mr. Darcy begins to admire Elizabeth, captivated by her fine eyes and lively wit.
When Jane is invited for dinner at Netherfield, Mrs. Bennet refuses to provide her with a
carriage, hopping that because it is supposed to rain Jane will be forced to spend the night.
However, because Jane gets caught in the rain, she falls ill and is forced to stay at Netherfield
until she recovers. Upon hearing that Jane is ill, Elizabeth walks to Netherfield in order to go
nurse her sister. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst (Bingleys sister) are scandalized that Elizabeth
walked so far alone in the mud. Seeing that Jane would like Elizabeth to stay ith her,
Bingleys sisters invite Elizabeth to remain at Netherfield until Jane recovers.
During her stay at Netherfield, Elizabeth increasingly gains the admiration of Mr. Darcy. She
is blind to his partiality, however, and continues to think him a most proud and haughty man
because of the judgment she made of him when he snubbed her at the ball. Miss Bingley, who
is obviously trying to gain the admiration of Mr. Darcy, is extremely jealous of Elizabeth and
tries to prevent Mr. Darcy from admiring her by making rude references to the poor manners
of Elizabeths mother and younger sisters and to her lower class relatives. When Mrs. Bennet
and her younger daughters come to visit Jane, Elizabeth is mortified by their foolishness and
complete lack of manners. Bingleys admiration for Jane continues unabated and is evident in
his genuine solicitude for her recovery. After Jane recovers, she returns home with Elizabeth.
A militia regiment is stationed at the nearby town of Meryton, where Mrs. Bennets sister
Mrs. Phillips lives. Mrs. Phillips is just as foolish as Mrs. Bennet. Lydia and Kitty love to go
to Meryton to visit their aunt and socialize with the militias officers.
Mr. Collins, a cousin of Mr. Bennet who is in line to inherit Longbourn because the estate has
been entailed away from the female line, writes a letter stating his intention to visit. When he
arrives, he makes it clear that he hopes to find a suitable wife among the Miss Bennet. Mr.
Collins is a clergyman, and his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (who is also Darcys
aunt), has suggested that he find a wife, and he hops to lessen the hardship of the entailment
by marrying one of Mr. Bennets daughter. Mr. Collins is a silly man who speaks in long,
pompous speeches and always has an air of solemn formality.
When the Miss Bennet and Mr. Collins go for a walk to Meryton, they are introduced to an
officer in the regiment named Mr. Wickham. They also run into Mr. Darcy, and when Darcy
and Wickham meet both seem to be extremely uncomfortable. Mr. Wickham immediately
shows a partiality for Elizabeth and they speak at length. Wickham tells Elizabeth that the
reason for the mutual embarrassment when he and Darcy met is that Darcys father had
promised that Wickham, his godson, should be given a good living after his death, but that
Darcy had failed to fulfill his fathers dying wishes and had left Wickham to support himself.
Elizabeth, already predisposed to think badly of Darcy, does not question Wickhams account.
When Elizabeth tells Jane Wickhams story, Jane refuses think badly of either Wickham or
Darcy and assumes there must be some misunderstanding.
As promised, Bingley hosts a ball at Netherfield. He and Jane stay together the whole
evening, and their mutual attachment becomes increasingly obvious. Mrs. Bennet speaks of
their marriage as imminent over dinner, within earshot of Mr. Bingleys friend Mr. Darcy.
Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance with her and she inadvertently accepts. She does not enjoy it
and cannot understand why he asked her. Mr. Collins pays particularly close attention to
Elizabeth at the ball, and even reserves the first two dances with her.
The next day Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. She refuses him, and after a while Mr.
Collins comes to understand that her refusal is sincere, not just a trick of female coquetry.
Mrs. Bennet is extremely angry at Elizabeth for not accepting, but Mr. Bennet is glad. Mr.
Collins shifts his attention to Elizabeths friend Charlotte Lucas. He proposes to Charlotte and
she accepts. Elizabeth is disappointed in her friend for agreeing to marry such a silly man
simply to obtain financial security.
Bingley goes to London for business and shortly after he leaves his sisters and Darcy go to
London as well. He had planned to return quickly to Netherfield, but Caroline Bingley writes
to Jane and tells her that Bingley will almost definitely not return for about six months.
Caroline also tells Jane that the family hopes Bingley will marry Darcys young sister
Georgiana and unite the fortunes of the two families. Jane is heartbroken, thinking that
Bingley must not really be attached to her. Elizabeth thinks that Darcy and Bingleys sisters
somehow managed to convince Bingley to stay in London rather than returning to Netherfield
to propose to Jane.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Elizabeths aunt and uncle, come to Longbourn to visit. They invite
Jane to come and spend some time with them in London, hoping that the time away will help
to cheer her up. Elizabeth also hopes that Jane will run into Bingley while in London. Mrs.
Gardiner, after observing Elizabeth and Wickham together, warns Elizabeth against the
imprudence of a marriage to Wickham because of his poor financial situation, and advises
Elizabeth not to encourage his attentions so much.
While in London Jane is treated very rudely by Caroline Bingley and comes to realize that she
is not a sincere friend. She assumes that Mr. Bingley knows she is in London, and decides that
he must no longer be partial to her since she does not hear from him at all.
Wickham suddenly transfers his attention from Elizabeth to Miss King, who has recently
acquired 10.000 pounds from an inheritance.
Along with Sir William Lucas and Maria Lucas (Charlottes father and younger sister)
Elizabeth goes to visit Charlotte (now Mrs. Collins) at her new home in Kent. On their way
they stop to see the Gardiners. Upon hearing of Wickhams change of affections, Mrs.
Gardiner is critical, but Elizabeth defends him.
While staying with the Collinses, Elizabeth and the others are often invited to dine at Rosings,
the large estate of Mr. Collins patroness Lady Catherine. Lady Catherine is completely
arrogant and domineering. After Elizabeth has been at the Parsonage for a fortnight, Mr.
Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam visit Rosings. Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam
get along very well. Darcy also seems to be paying a lot of attention to Elizabeth, and often
visits her and Charlotte at the Parsonage along with Colonel Fitzwilliam. He also purposely
meets her very frequently on her usual walking route through the park.
While walking one day with Elizabeth, Colonel Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth how Darcy
recently saved a close friend from an imprudent marriage. Elizabeth concludes from this
comment that it must have been Darcys advice which convinced Bingley not to propose Jane.
She becomes so angry and upset that she gets a terrible headache and decides not to go to
Rosings for dinner. While she is alone at the Parsonage, Darcy pays a visit. He tells her that in
spite of all his efforts to avoid it because of her low family connections, he has fallen in love
with her and wants to marry her. Elizabeth is shocked. She rudely refuses and rebukes him for
the ungentlemanlike manner in which he proposed, as well as for preventing the marriage of
Bingley and Jane and for ill-treating Wickham. Darcy is shocked because he had assumed she
would accept.
The next day Darcy finds Elizabeth and hands her a letter then quickly leaves. The letter
contains an explanation of his reasons for advising Bingley not to marry Jane and for his
actions toward Wickham. He had prevented Bingley from proposing to Jane because it did not
seem to him that Jane was truly attached to Bingley. Wickham was Darcys father god-son.
Before his death, Darcys father had asked Darcy to provide Wickham with a living if
Wickham were to decide to enter the clergy. Wickham, however, did not want to enter the
clergy. He asked Darcy for 3.000 pounds, purportedly for law school, and agreed not to ask
for any more. Darcy gave Wickham the money and he squandered it all on dissolute living,
then came back and told Darcy he would like to enter the clergy if he could have the living
promised to him. Darcy refused. Later, with the help of her governess Miss Younge,
Wickham got Darcys younger sister Georgiana to fall in love with him and agree to an
elopement, in order to revenge himself on Mr. Darcy and get Miss Darcys fortune.
Fortunately, Darcy found out and intervened at the last minute.
After reading these explanations in the letter Elizabeths first reaction is disbelief, but after
reflecting upon and slowly rereading the letter, she begins to see that Darcy is telling the truth
and that she was only inclined to believe Wickhams story because he had flattered her with
his attentions, while she was inclined to think ill of Darcy because he had wounded her pride
on their first meeting.
Soon afterwards, Elizabeth returns home from her stay with the Collinses and Jane returns
from her stay with the Gardiners. When they return their mother and sisters are upset because
the regiment stationed in Meryton will soon be leaving, depriving them of most of their
amusement. Lydia receives an offer from Mrs. Forster, Colonel Fortsters wife, to accompany
her to Brighton, where the regiment will be going. Elizabeth advises her father not to allow
Lydia to go, thinking that such a trip could lead to serious misconduct on Lydias part because
of the flirtatiousness and frivolity of her character and her complete lack of a sense of
propriety. However, Mr. Bennet does not heed Elizabeths advice.
Elizabeth goes on vacation with the Gardiners. Their first stop is in the area of Pemberley, Mr.
Darcys estate. The Gardiners want to take a tour, and having found out that Mr. Darcy is
away, Elizabeth agrees. During their tour of the estate the housekeeper tells them about how
kind and good-natured Darcy is. Elizabeth is impressed by this praise, and also thinks of how
amazing it would be to be the mistress of such an estate. During their tour of the gardens
Elizabeth and the Gardiners run into Mr. Darcy, who has returned early from his trip. Darcy is
extremely cordial to both Elizabeth and the Gardiners and tells Elizabeth that he wants her to
meet his sister Georgiana as soon as she arrives.
Darcy and Georgiana pay a visit to Elizabeth and the Gardiners at their inn on the very
morning of Georgianas arrival. Bingley comes to visit as well. It is clear that he still has a
regard for Jane. Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth return their civilities by calling at Pemberley to
visit Georgiana. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst are there as well, and they thinly conceal their
displeasure at seeing Elizabeth.
One morning Elizabeth receives a letter from Jane announcing that Lydia has eloped with
Wickham, and that they fear Wickham does not actually intend to marry her. Jane asks
Elizabeth to return home immediately. Darcy comes to the door just after Elizabeth has
received the news. She explains to him what has happened. He feels partially to blame for not
having exposed Wickhams character publicly.
Elizabeth and the Gardiners depart for Longbourn immediately. Mrs. Bennet is in hysterics
and the entire burden of keeping the household together in this moment of crisis has fallen on
Janes shoulders. They find out from Colonel Forster that Wickham has over 1.000 pounds of
gambling debts and nearly that much owed to merchants. The next day Mr. Gardiner goes to
join Mr. Bennet in London to help him search for Lydia. After many days of fruitless searches
Mr. Bennet returns home and leaves the search in Mr. Gardiners hands.
Soon a letter arrives from Mr. Gardiner explaining that Lydia and Wickham have been found
and that Wickham will marry Lydia if Mr. Bennet provides her with her equal share of his
wealth. T Knowing that, with his debts, Wickham would never have agreed to marry Lydia
for so little money, Mr. Bennet thinks that Mr. Gardiner must have paid off Wickhams debts
for him.
After their marriage Lydia and Wickham come to visit Longbourn. Lydia is completely
shameless and not the least bit remorseful for her conduct. Mrs. Bennet is very happy to have
one of her daughters married.
Elizbeth hears from Lydia that Darcy was present at the wedding. She writes to her aunt to
ask her why he was there. She responds explaining that it was Darcy who had found Lydia
and Wickham and who had negotiated with Wickham to get him to marry her. Mrs. Gardiner
thinks that Darcy did this out of love for Elizabeth.
Bingley and Mr. Darcy return to Netherfield Park. They call at Longbourn frequently. After
several days Bingley proposes to Jane. She accepts and all are very happy. In the meantime
Darcy has gone on a short business trip to London. While he is gone Lady Catherine comes to
Longbourne and asks to speak with Elizabeth. Lady Catherine tells Elizabeth that she has
heard Darcy is going to propose to her and attempts to forbid Elizabeth to accept the proposal.
Elizabeth refuses to make any promises. Lady Catherine leaves in a huff.
Darcy returns from his business trip. While he and Elizabeth are walking he tells her that his
affection for her is the same as when he last proposed, and asks her if her disposition toward
him has changed. She says that it has, and that she would be happy to accept his proposal.
They speak about how they have been changed since the last proposal. Darcy realized he had
been wrong to act so proudly and place so much emphasis on class differences. Elizabeth
realized that she had been wrong to judge Darcy prematurely and to allow her judgment to be
affected by her vanity.
Both couples marry. Elizabeth and Darcy go to live in Pemberley. Jane and Bingley, after
living in Netherfield for a year, decide to move to an estate near Pemberley. Kitty begins to
spend most of her time with her two sisters, and her education and character begin to improve.
Mary remains at home keeping her mother company. Mr. Bennet is very happy that his two
oldest daughters have married so happily. Mrs. Bennet is glad that her daughters have married
so prosperously.


Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England, on February 7, 1812. He was the second
of eight children. His mother had been in service to Lord Crew, and his father worked as a
clerk for the Naval Pay office. The John Dickens was imprisoned for debt when Charles was
very young. Dickens went to work at a blacking warehouse, managed by a relative of his
mother, when he was twelve, and his brush with hard times and poverty affected him deeply.
He later recounted these experiences in the semi-autobiographical novel David Copperfield.
Furthermore, the concern for social justice and reform which surfaced later in his writings
grew out of the harsh conditions he experienced in the warehouse. Although he had little
formal schooling, he was able to teach himself shorthand and launch a career as a journalist.
At the age of sixteen, Dickens got himself a job as a court reporter, and shortly thereafter he
joined the staff of A Mirror of Parliament, a newspaper that reported on the decisions of the
Parliament. Fast becoming disillusioned with politics, Dickens developed an interest in social
reform and began contributing to the True Sun, a radical newspaper. Although his main
avenue of work was as a novelist, Dickens continued his journalistic work until the end of his
life, editing The Daily News, Household Words, and All the Year Round. His connections to
various magazines and newspapers as a political journalist gave him the opportunity to begin
publishing his own fiction at the beginning of his career.
While he published several sketches in magazines, it was not until he serialized The Pickwick
Papers over 1836-37 that he experienced true success. A publishing phenomenon, The
Pickwick Papers was published in monthly installments and sold over forty thousand copies
for each issue. In 1836 dickens also married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of a fellow co-
worker at his newspaper. The couple had ten children before their separation in 1858.
Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby followed in monthly installments, and both reflected
Dickens understandings of the lower classes as well as his comic genius. In 1843, Dickens
published one of his most famous works, A Christmas Carol. His disenchantment with the
worlds economic drives becomes clear in this work; he blamed much of societys ills on
peoples obsession with earning money and acquiring a status based on money.
His travels abroad in the 1840s, first to America and then through Europe, marked the
beginning of a new stage in Dickenss life. His writings became longer and more serious. In
David Copperfield (1849-50), readers find the same flawed world that Dickens discovered as
a young boy. Dickens published some of his best-known novels including A Tale of Two
Cities and Great Expectations in his own weekly periodicals.
The inspiration to write a novel set during the French Revolution came from Dickenss
faithful annual habit of reading Thomas Carlyles book The French Revolution, first published
in 1839. When Dickens acted in Wilkie Collinss play The Frozen Deep in 1857, he was
inspired by his own role as a self-sacrificing lover. He eventually decided to place his on
sacrificing lover in the revolutionary period, a period of great social upheaval. A year later,
Dickens went through his own form of social change as he was writing A Tale of Two Cities:
he separated from his wife, and he revitalized his career by making plans for a new weekly
literary journal called All The Year Round. In 1859, A Tale of Two Cities premiered in parts in
this journal. Its popularity was based not only on the fame of its author, but also on its short
length and radical (for Dickenss time) subject matter.
Dickenss health began to deteriorate in the 1860s. In 1858, in response to his increasing
fame, he had begun public readings of his works. These exacted a great physical toll on him.
An immensely profitable but physically shattering series of readings in America (1867-68)
speeded his decline, and he collapsed during a farewell series in England. On June 9, 1870,
Charles Dickens died. He was buried in Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey. Though he left
The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished when he died, he had already written fifteen
substantial novels and countless shorter pieces. His legacy is clear. In a whimsical and unique
fashion, Dickens pointed out societys flaws in terms of its blinding greed for money and its
neglect of the lower classes of society. Through his books, we come to understand the virtues
of a loving heart and the pleasures of home in a flawed, cruelly indifferent world. Among
English writers, in terms of fame and recognition of characters and stories, he is second only
to Shakespeare.
The name is Great Expectations. I think a good name? says Dickens to his editor before he
started publishing the novel.
When Dickens started his thirteenth novel, Great Expectations, in 1860, he was already a
national hero. He had come from humble beginnings, working as a child in a shoe polish
factory while his family was in debtors prison, to become the quintessential Victorian
gentleman. He was involved in all aspects of English life: writing, acting, producing, going on
book tours, publishing magazines, and, as always, active in social welfare and criticism.
Amidst all this, however, Dickens private life had entered a dark period. Dickens had just
separated from his wife two years earlier, there were rumors of an affair with a young actress
in the newspapers, and he was spending more and more time at his home in Chatham.
Dickens himself had risen to achieve greater expectations than any clerks boy could expect,
but he had not found happiness. The idea that one must search beyond material wealth and
social standings and must look within themselves for happiness becomes the major theme in
Great Expectations.
Sometime in 1860, Dickens had started a piece that he found funny and truthful and thought it
might do better as a novel: it so open out before me that I can see the whole of a serial
revolving on it, in a most singular and comic manner, he wrote. Dickens had told friends that
he had gone back and read David Copperfield and was quite struck by the story now that he
looked back upon it. Copperfield was a happy novel, the story of a young man who came into
his fortune though hard work and luck. Its influences and similarities are seen in Great
Expectations. There are, however, some major thematic differences.
Though not considered as autobiographical as David Copperfield which he had published
some ten years earlier, the character of Pip represented a Dickens who had learned some hard
lessons in his later life. Especially strong throughout the novel are the concepts of fraternal
and romantic love, how society thwarts them, how a man should find them.
For financial reasons, Dickens had to shorten the novel, making it one of his tighter and better
written stories. It was published in serial form, as were all of his novels, and the reader can
still see the rhythm of suspense and resolution every couple of chapters that kept all of
England waiting for the next issue.
Though a dark novel, Great Expectations was deliberately more humorous than its
predecessor A Tale of Two Cities, and even while it presented Dickens ever present social
critique, it did so in a way that made people laugh.
The greatest difference between Great Expectations and Dickens earlier novels is the
introduction of dramatic psychological transformations within the lead characters, as opposed
to characters that are changed only through their circumstances and surrounding. The story of
Pip is a Bildungsroman a story that centers on the education or development of the
protagonist and we can fallow closely the things that Pip learns and then has to unlearn.
All in all, Great Expectations is considered the best balanced of all Dickens novels, though a
controversy still persists over the ending. Dickens had originally written an ending where Pip
and Estella never get back together. Many critics, including George Bernard Shaw, believe
that this rather depressing ending was more consistent with the overall theme and tone of the
novel, which began, continued, and perhaps should have finished with a serious, unhappy
Nevertheless, Dickens published the ending where all is forgiven and Estella and Pip walk out
of the Satis House garden together.
It was, perhaps, and ending that Dickens would have liked to have had for his own life.
Dickens published one more novel, Our Mutual Friend, before dying in 1870.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS is the story of Pip, an orphan boy adopted by a blacksmiths

family, who has good luck and great expectations, and then loses both his luck and his
expectations. Through this rise and fall, however, Pip learns how to find happiness. He learns
the meaning of friendship and the meaning of love and, of course, becomes a better person for
The story opens with the narrator, Pip, who introduces himself and describes a much younger
Pip staring at the gravestones of his parents. This tiny, shivering bundle of a boy is suddenly
terrified by a man dressed in a prison uniform. The man tells Pip that if he wants to live, hell
go down to his house and bring him back some food and a file for the shackle on his leg.
Pip runs home to her sister, Mrs. Joe Gragery, and his adoptive father, Joe Gragery. Mrs. Joe
is a loud, angry, nagging woman who constantly reminds Pip and her husband Joe of the
difficulties she has gone through to raise Pip and take care of the house. Pip finds solace from
these rages in Joe, who is more his equal than a paternal figure, and they are united under a
common oppression.
Pip steals food and a pork pie from the pantry shelf and a file from Joes forge and brings
them back to the escaped convict the next morning. Soon thereafter, Pip watches the man get
caught by soldiers and the whole event soon disappears from his young mind.
Mrs. Joe comes home one evening, quite excited, and proclaims that Pip is going to play for
Miss Havisham, a rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house.
Pip is brought to Miss Havishams place, a mansion called the Satis house, where sunshine
never enters. He meets a girl about his age, Estella, who was very pretty and seemed very
proud. Pip instantly falls in love with her and will love her for the rest of the story. He then
meets Miss Havisham, a willowy, yellowed old woman dressed in an old wedding gown.
Miss Havisham, seems most happy when Estella insults Pips coarse hands and his thick
boots as they play. Pip is insulted, but thinks there is something wrong with him. He vows to
change, to become uncommon, and to become a gentleman.
Pip continues to visit Estella and Miss Havisham for eight months and learns more about their
strange life. Miss Havisham brings him into a great banquet hall where a table is set with food
and large wedding cake. But the food and the cake are years old, untouched except by a vast
array of rats, beetles and spiders which crawl freely through the room. Her relatives all come
to see her on the same day of the year: her birthday and wedding day, the day when the cake
was set out and the clocks were stopped many years before; i.e. the day Miss Havisham
stopped living.
Pip begins to dream what life would be like if he were a gentleman and wealthy. This dream
ends when Miss Havisham asks Pip to bring Joe to visit her, in order that he may start his
indenture as a blacksmith. Miss Havisham gives Joe twenty five pounds for Pips service to
her and says good-bye.
Pip explains his misery to his readers: he is ashamed of his home, ashamed of his trade. He
wants to be uncommon, he wants to be a gentleman. He wants to be a part of the environment
that he had a small taste of at the Manor House.
Early in this indenture, Mrs. Joe is found lying unconscious, knocked senseless by some
unknown assailant. She has suffered some serious brain damage, having lost much of voice,
her hearing, and her memory. Furthermore, her temper was greatly improved, and she was
patient. To help with the housework and to take care of Mrs. Joe, Biddy, a young orphan
friend of Pips, moves into the house.
The years pass quickly. It is the fourth year of Pips apprenticeship and he is sitting with Joe
at the pub when they are approached by a stranger. Pip recognizes him, and his smell of
soap, as a man he had once run into at Miss Havishams house years before.
Back at the house, the man, Jaggers, explains that Pip now has great expectations. He is to
be given a large monthly stipend, administrated by Jaggers who is a lawyer. The benefactor,
however, does not want to be known and is to remain a mystery.
Pip spends an uncomfortable evening with Biddy and Joe, then retires to bed. There, despite
having all his dreams come true, he finds himself feeling very lonely. Pip visits Miss
Havisham who hints subtly that she is his unknown sponsor.
Pip goes to live in London and meets Wemmick, Jaggers square-mouth clerk. Wemmick
brings Pip to Bernards Inn, where Pip will live for the next five years with Matthew Pockets
son Herbert, a cheerful young gentleman that becomes one of Pips best friend. From Herbert,
Pip finds out that Miss Havisham adopted Estella and raised her to wreak revenge on the male
gender by making them fall in love with her, and then breaking their hearts.
Pip is invited to dinner at Wemmicks whose slogan seems to be Office is one thing, private
life is another. Indeed, WEmmick has a fantastical private life. Although he lives in a small
cottage, the cottage has been modified to look a bit like a castle, complete with moat,
drawbridge, and a firing cannon.
The next day, Jaggers himself invites Pip an friends to dinner. Pip, on Wemmicks suggestion,
looks carefully at Jaggers servant woman a tigress according to Wemmick. She is about
forty, and seems to regard Jaggers with a mix of fear and duty.
Pip journeys back to the Satis House to see Miss Havisham and Estella, who is now older and
so much more beautiful that her doesnt recognize her at first. Facing her now, he slips back
into the coarse and common voice of his youth and she, in return, treats him like the boy he
used to be. Pip sees something strikingly familiar in Estellas face. He cant quite place the
look, but an expression on her face reminds him of someone.
Pip stays away from Joe and Biddys house and the forge, but walks around town, enjoying
the admiring looks he gets from his past neighbors.
Soon thereafter, a letter for Pip announces the death of Mrs. Joe Gragery. Pip returns home
again to attend the funeral. Later, Joe and Pip sit comfortably by the fire like times of old.
Biddy insinuates that Pip will not be returning soon as he promises and he leaves insulted.
Back in London, Pip asks Wemmick for advice on how to give Herbert some of his yearly
stipend anonymously.
Narrator Pip describes his relationship to Estella while she lived in the city: I suffered every
kind and degree of torture that Estella could cause me, he says. Pip finds out that Drummie,
the most repulsive of his acquaintances, has begun courting Estella.
Years go by and Pip is still living the same wasteful life of a wealthy young man in the city. A
rough sea-worn man of sixty comes to Pips home on a stormy night soon after Pips twenty-
four birthday. Pip invites him in, treats him with courteous disdain, but then begins to
recognize him as the convict that he fed in the marshes when he was a child. The man,
Magwitch, reveals that he is Pips benefactor. Since the day that Pip helped him, he swore to
himself that every cent he earned would go to Pip.
Ive made a gentleman out of you, the man exclaims. Pip is horrified. All of his
expectations are demolished. There is no grand design by Miss Havisham to make Pip happy
and rich, living in harmonious marriage to Estella.
The convict tells Pip that he has come back to see him under threat of his life, since the law
will execute him if they find him in England. Pip is disgusted with him, but wants to protect
him and make sure he isnt found and put to death. Herbert and Pip decide that Pip will try
and convince Magwitch to leave England with him.
Magwitch tells them the story of his life. From a very young age, he was alone and got into
trouble. In one of his brief stints actually out of jail, Magwitch met a young well-to-do
gentleman named Compeyson who had his hand in everything illegal: swindling, forgery, and
other white collar crime. Compeyson recruited Magwitch to do his dirty work and landed
Magwitch into trouble with the law. Magwitch hates the man. Herbert passes a note to Pip
telling him that Compeyson was the name of the man who left Miss Havisham on her
wedding day.
Pip goes back to Satis house and findsMiss Havisham and Estella in the same banquet room.
Pip breaks down and confesses his love for Estella. Estella tells him straight that she is
incapable of love she has warned him of as much before and she will be married to
Back in London, Wemmick tells Pip things he has learned from the prisoners at Newgate. Pip
is being watched, he says, and may be in some danger. As well, Compeyson has made his
presence known in London. Wemmick has already warned Herbert as well. Heeding the
warning, Herbert has hidden Magwitch in his fianc Claras house.
Pip has dinner with Jaggers and Wemmick at Jaggers home. During the dinner, Pip finally
realizes the similarities between Estella and Jaggers servant woman. Jaggers servant woman
is Estellas mother!
On their way home together, Wemmick tells the story of Jaggers servant woman. It was
Jaggers first big break-through case, the case that made him. He was defending this woman
in a case where she was accused of killing another woman by strangulation. The woman was
also said to have killed her own child, a girl, at about the same time as the murder.
Miss Havisham asks Pip to come visit her. He finds her again sitting by the fire, but this time
she looks very lonely. Pip tells her how he was giving some of his money to help Herbert with
his future, but now must stop since he himself is no longer taking money from his benefactor.
Miss Havisham wants to help, and she gives Pip nine hundred pounds to help Herbert out. She
then asks Pip for forgiveness. Pip tells her she is already forgiven and that he needs too much
forgiving himself not to be able to forgive others.
Pip goes for a walk around the garden then comes back to find Miss Havisham on fire! Pip
puts the fire out, burning himself badly in the process. The doctors come and announce that
she will live.
Pip goes home and Herbert takes care of his burns. Herbert has been spending some time with
Magwitch at Claras and has been told the whole Magwitch story. Magwitch was the husband
of Jaggers servant woman, the Tigress. The woman had come to Magwitch one day she
murdered the other woman and told him she was going to kill their child and that Magwitch
would never see her. And Magwitch never did. Pip puts is all together and Tells Herbert that
Magwitch is Estellas father.
It is time to escape with Magwitch. Herbert and Pip get up the next morning and start rowing
down the river, picking p Magwitch at the preappointed time. They are within a few feet of a
steamer that they hope to board when another boat pulls alongside to stop them. In the
confusion, Pip sees Compeyson leading the oher boat, but the steamer is on top of them. The
steamer crushes Pips boat, Compeyson and Magwitch disappear under the water, and Pip and
Herbert find themselves in a police boat of sorts. Magwitch finally comes up from the water.
He and Compeyson wrestled for a while, but Magwitch let him go and he is presumably
drowned. Once again, Magwitch is shackled and arrested.
Magwitch is in jail and quite ill. Pip attends to the ailing Magwitch daily in prison. Pip
whispers to him one day that the daughter he throught was dead is quite alive. She is a lady
and very beautiful, Pip says. And I love her. Magwitch gives up the ghost.
Pip falls into a fever nearly a month. Creditors and Joe fall in and out of his dreams and his
reality. Finally, he regains his sense and sees that, indeed, Joe has been there the whole time,
nursing gim back to health. Joe tells him that Miss Havisham died during his illness, that she
left Estella nearly all, and Matthew Pocket a great deal. Joe slips away one morning leaving
only a note. Pip discovers that Joe has paid off all his debtors.
Pip is committed to returning to Joe, asking for forgiveness for everything he has done, and to
ask Biddy to marry him. Pip goes to Joe and indeed finds happiness but the happinees is Joe
and Biddys. It is their wedding day. Pip wishes them well, truly, and asks them for their
forgiveness in all his actions. Their happily give it.
Pip goes to work for Herberts firm and lives with the now married Clara and Herbert. Within
a year, he becomes a partner. He pays off his debts and works hard.
Eleven years later, Pip returns from his work overseas. He visit Joe and Biddy and meets their
son, a little Pip, sitting by the fire with Joe just like Pip himself did years ago. Pip tells Biddy
that he is quite the settled bachelor, living with Clara and Herbert and he thinks he will never
marry. Nevertheless, he goes to the Satis House that night to think once again of the girl who
got away. And there he meets Estella. Drummle treated her roughly and recently died. She
tells Pip that she has learned the feeling of heartbreak the hard way and now seeks his
forgiveness for what she did to him. The two walk out of the garden hand in hand, and Pip
saw the shadow of no parting from her.

Charles Dickens: David Copperfield


Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, and spent the first ten years of his life in
Kent, a marshy region by the sea in the east of England. Dickens was the second of eight
children. His father, John Dickens, was a kind and likable man, but his financial
irresponsibility placed him in enormous debt and caused tremendous strain on his family.
When Charles was ten, his family moved to London. Two years later, his father was arrested
and thrown in debtors prison. Dickenss mother moved into the prison with seven of her
children. Only Charles lived outside the prison in order to earn money for the struggling
family. He worked with other children for three months pasting labels on bottles in a blacking
warehouse, where the substance people used to make boots black was manufactured. His
experiences at this warehouse inspired passages in David Copperfield.
After an inheritance gave John Dickens enough money to free himself from his debt and from
prison, Charles attended school for two years at Wellington House Academy. He became a
law clerk, then a newspaper reporter, and finally a novelist. His first novel, The Pickwick
Papers (1837), met with huge popular success. Dickens was a literary celebrity throughout
England for the rest of his life.
In 1849, Dickens began to write David Copperfield, a novel based on his early life
experiences. Like Dickens, David works as a child, pasting labels onto bottles. David also
becomes first a law clerk, then a reporter, and finally a successful novelist. Mr. Micawber is a
satirical version of Dickenss father, a likable man who can never scrape together the money
he needs. Many of the secondary characters spring from Dickenss experiences as a young
man in financial distress in London.
In later years, Dickens called David Copperfield his favourite child, and many critics
consider the novel to be one of his best depictions of childhood. Dickenss other works
include Oliver Twist (18371839), Nicholas Nickelby (18381839), and A Christmas
Carol (1843). Perhaps his best known novel, Great Expectations (18601861) shares many
thematic similarities with David Copperfield. Dickens died in Kent on June 9, 1870, at the age
of fifty-eight.
David Copperfield is set in early Victorian England against a backdrop of great social change.
The Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries had
transformed the social landscape and enabled capitalists and manufacturers to amass huge
fortunes. Although the Industrial Revolution increased social mobility, the gap between rich
and poor remained wide. London, a teeming mass of humanity lit by gas lamps at night and
darkened by sooty clouds from smokestacks during the day, rose in dark contrast to Britains
sparsely populated rural areas. More and more people moved from the country to the city in
search of the opportunities that technological innovation promised. But this migration
overpopulated the already crowded cities, and poverty, disease, hazardous factory conditions,
and ramshackle housing became widespread. Dickens acutely observed these phenomena of
the Industrial Revolution and used them as the canvas on which he painted David
Copperfield and his other urban novels.
About the book
Now a grown man, David Copperfield tells the story of his youth. As a young boy, he lives
happily with his mother and his nurse, Peggotty. His father died before he was born. During
Davids early childhood, his mother marries the violent Mr. Murdstone, who brings his strict
sister, Miss Murdstone, into the house. The Murdstones treat David cruelly, and David bites
Mr. Murdstones hand during one beating. The Murdstones send David away to school.
Peggotty takes David to visit her family in Yarmouth, where David meets Peggottys brother,
Mr. Peggotty, and his two adopted children, Ham and Little Emly. Mr. Peggottys family
lives in a boat turned upside downa space they share with Mrs. Gummidge, the widowed
wife of Mr. Peggottys brother. After this visit, David attends school at Salem House, which is
run by a man named Mr. Creakle. David befriends and idolizes an egotistical young man
named James Steerforth. David also befriends Tommy Traddles, an unfortunate, fat young
boy who is beaten more than the others.
Davids mother dies, and David returns home, where the Murdstones neglect him. He works
at Mr. Murdstones wine-bottling business and moves in with Mr. Micawber, who
mismanages his finances. When Mr. Micawber leaves London to escape his creditors, David
decides to search for his fathers sister, Miss Betsey Trotwoodhis only living relative. He
walks a long distance to Miss Betseys home, and she takes him in on the advice of her
mentally unstable friend, Mr. Dick.
Miss Betsey sends David to a school run by a man named Doctor Strong. David moves in
with Mr. Wickfield and his daughter, Agnes, while he attends school. Agnes and David
become best friends. Among Wickfields boarders is Uriah Heep, a snakelike young man who
often involves himself in matters that are none of his business. David graduates and goes to
Yarmouth to visit Peggotty, who is now married to Mr. Barkis, the carrier. David reflects on
what profession he should pursue.
On his way to Yarmouth, David encounters James Steerforth, and they take a detour to visit
Steerforths mother. They arrive in Yarmouth, where Steerforth and the Peggottys become
fond of one another. When they return from Yarmouth, Miss Betsey persuades David to
pursue a career as a proctor, a kind of lawyer. David apprentices himself at the London firm
of Spenlow and Jorkins and takes up lodgings with a woman named Mrs. Crupp. Mr. Spenlow
invites David to his house for a weekend. There, David meets Spenlows daughter, Dora, and
quickly falls in love with her.
In London, David is reunited with Tommy Traddles and Mr. Micawber. Word reaches David,
through Steerforth, that Mr. Barkis is terminally ill. David journeys to Yarmouth to visit
Peggotty in her hour of need. Little Emly and Ham, now engaged, are to be married upon Mr.
Barkiss death. David, however, finds Little Emly upset over her impending marriage. When
Mr. Barkis dies, Little Emly runs off with Steerforth, who she believes will make her a lady.
Mr. Peggotty is devastated but vows to find Little Emly and bring her home.
Miss Betsey visits London to inform David that her financial security has been ruined because
Mr. Wickfield has joined into a partnership with Uriah Heep. David, who has become
increasingly infatuated with Dora, vows to work as hard as he can to make their life together
possible. Mr. Spenlow, however, forbids Dora from marrying David. Mr. Spenlow dies in a
carriage accident that night, and Dora goes to live with her two aunts. Meanwhile, Uriah Heep
informs Doctor Strong that he suspects Doctor Strongs wife, Annie, of having an affair with
her young cousin, Jack Maldon.
Dora and David marry, and Dora proves a terrible housewife, incompetent in her chores.
David loves her anyway and is generally happy. Mr. Dick facilitates a reconciliation between
Doctor Strong and Annie, who was not, in fact, cheating on her husband. Miss Dartle, Mrs.
Steerforths ward, summons David and informs him that Steerforth has left Little Emly. Miss
Dartle adds that Steerforths servant, Littimer, has proposed to her and that Little Emly has
run away. David and Mr. Peggotty enlist the help of Little Emlys childhood friend Martha,
who locates Little Emly and brings Mr. Peggotty to her. Little Emly and Mr. Peggotty
decide to move to Australia, as do the Micawbers, who first save the day for Agnes and Miss
Betsey by exposing Uriah Heeps fraud against Mr. Wickfield.
A powerful storm hits Yarmouth and kills Ham while he attempts to rescue a shipwrecked
sailor. The sailor turns out to be Steerforth. Meanwhile, Dora falls ill and dies. David leaves
the country to travel abroad. His love for Agnes grows. When David returns, he and Agnes,
who has long harbored a secret love for him, get married and have several children. David
pursues his writing career with increasing commercial success.
About the characters
David Copperfield
Although David narrates his story as an adult, he relays the impressions he had from a
youthful point of view. We see how Davids perception of the world deepens as he comes of
age. We see Davids initial innocence in the contrast between his interpretation of events and
our own understanding of them. Although David is ignorant of Steerforths treachery, we are
aware from the moment we meet Steerforth that he doesnt deserve the adulation David feels
toward him. David doesnt understand why he hates Uriah or why he trusts a boy with a
donkey cart who steals his money and leaves him in the road, but we can sense Uriahs
devious nature and the boys treacherous intentions. In Davids first-person narration, Dickens
conveys the wisdom of the older man implicitly, through the eyes of a child.
Davids complex character allows for contradiction and development over the course of the
novel. Though David is trusting and kind, he also has moments of cruelty, like the scene in
which he intentionally distresses Mr. Dick by explaining Miss Betseys dire situation to him.
David also displays great tenderness, as in the moment when he realizes his love for Agnes
for the first time. David, especially as a young man in love, can be foolish and romantic. As
he grows up, however, he develops a more mature point of view and searches for a lover who
will challenge him and help him grow. David fully matures as an adult when he expresses the
sentiment that he values Agness calm tranquility over all else in his life.
Uriah Heep
Uriah serves a foil to David and contrasts Davids qualities of innocence and compassion with
his own corruption. Though Uriah is raised in a cruel environment similar to Davids, Uriahs
upbringing causes him to become bitter and vengeful rather than honest and hopeful.
Dickenss physical description of Uriah marks Uriah as a demonic character. He refers to
Uriahs movements as snakelike and gives Uriah red hair and red eyes. Uriah and David not
only have opposing characteristics but also operate at cross-purposes. For example, whereas
Uriah wishes to marry Agnes only in order to hurt David, Davids marriages are both
motivated by love. The frequent contrast between Uriahs and Davids sentiments emphasizes
Davids kindness and moral integrity.
While Davids character development is a process of increased self-understanding, Uriah
grows in his desire to exercise control over himself and other characters. As Uriah gains more
power over Mr. Wickfield, his sense of entitlement grows and he becomes more and more
power-hungry. The final scenes of the novel, in which Uriah praises his jail cell because it
helps him know what he should do, show Uriahs need to exert control even when he is a
helpless prisoner. But imprisonment does not redeem his evilif anything, it compounds his
flaws. To the end, Uriah plots strategies to increase his control. Because he deploys his
strategies to selfish purposes that bring harm to others, he stands out as the novels greatest
James Steerforth
Steerforth is a slick, egotistical, wealthy young man whose sense of self-importance
overwhelms all his opinions. Steerforth underscores the difference between what we
understand as readers and what David seesand fails to seein his youthful navet. David
takes Steerforths kindness for granted without analyzing his motives or detecting his
duplicity. When Steerforth befriends David at Salem House, David doesnt suspect that
Steerforth is simply trying to use David to make friends and gain status. Though Steerforth
belittles David from the moment they meet, David is incapable of conceiving that his new
friend might be taking advantage of him. Because Steerforths duplicity is so clear to us,
Davids lack of insight into Steerforths true intentions emphasizes his youthful innocence.
Steerforth likes David only because David worships him, and his final betrayal comes as a
surprise to David but not to us.
Like many of Dickenss other works, David Copperfield was originally published in serial
installments, small sections that appeared in magazines over the course of many months.
Dickens employs several methods to make the novel flow smoothly and to sustain his readers
interest over the novels publication period. First, he uses strong imagery to make each
characters physical appearance and qualities easy to remember. Uriah Heeps red hair, for
example, reminds us of his fiery personality, while Doras silly dog, Jip, reminds us of Doras
impetuous mannerisms. Also, the names Dickens gives his characters serve as keys to their
personalities. Agnes, for example, whose name is rooted in the Latin word for lamb, is
gentle and soft-spoken. Similarly, Miss Murdstone, whose name has a hard, metallic feel to it,
is mean and petty.
Dickens also holds his readers interest by making the novel suspenseful, particularly through
the use of foreshadowing. Because he was writing in installments and wanted to keep his
readership hooked, Dickens ended each section with a strong hint of what was to come in the
next section. By creating a number of intriguing plot strands involving various characters, he
generated a devoted readership that waited expectantly to see how these multiple subplots
would resolve themselves and how these familiar characters would end up. To contribute to
the intrigue of each section, Dickens focuses chiefly on plot elements rather than character
development or setting. As a result, David Copperfield is almost always lively and
energeticthe kind of story a reader would want to continue to reading over an extended
period of time.
Many of the characters in David Copperfield have foilssimilarly situated characters whose
characteristics contrast with, and thereby accentuate, those of other characters. One such pair
of foils is Agnes and Steerforth, who are both well situated in society. Whereas Agnes shows
complete devotion to her family and remains constant in her affections, Steerforth is ever-
shifting in his allegiances. In the end, Agness wholesome steadfastness gains her Davids
love, while Steerforths restless, misdirected energy brings him an untimely death. By placing
Agnes and Steerforth in close proximity in several places throughout the novelas, for
example, at the theater on the night of Davids dinner partyDickens implicitly contrasts the
two, creating an opposing pair that illuminates his view of good and evil. Similarly, Miss
Betsey and Miss Murdstone, both old ladies in a position of authority over David, represent
good and evil, respectively. Whereas Miss Betsey, for all her tough exterior, is caring and
loving toward David, Miss Murdstone treats him cruelly. In these and other pairs of characters
within the novel, the contrast between figures illustrates the contrast between good and evil
For Dickens, constancy of heart is a sign of single-mindedness, which is one of the most
positive characteristics a person can possess. The happiest characters in the novel are those
whose affection is unwavering. Chief among them is Agnes, whose quiet faith and calm love
sustain her through Uriahs attempts to seduce her and ruin her father. Agness devotion to
her father, which she exhibits throughout the novel, is evidence of her stability, as is her
persistent love for David. Her constant good eventually leads her to happiness, as she restores
her father to his previous glory and marries her true love.
Dora, by contrast, represents the flighty heart, whimsical and impulsive. She comes across as
childish because of her fickle desires, and her unhappiness in her marriage to David is the
direct result of this inconstancy. Although Dora loves David, her inability to control her
emotions prevents her from enjoying married life. The failure of David and Doras union,
contrasted with the success of David and Agness, conveys Dickenss belief that constancy
and fidelity of emotion are among the most important moral qualities.
The most significant element of Davids process of maturity is his learning to control his
emotions and keep a steady heart. Early in the novel, Davids emotions get the better of him.
As a boy, David bites Mr. Murdstones hand out of hatred. As a young man, he falls into
excesses of alcohol and infatuation, as we see in his dinner party with Steerforth and his
obsession over Dora. Before David can obtain true love, he must learn to curb these excesses
and master his own emotions. As he brings his heart under the control of his intellect, David
finally realizes his love for Agnes. By strongly believing in this love even though he does not
believe that she loves him, he ultimately wins her.


Born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in Cheshire, on January 27, 1832, the man who would
become Lewis Caroll was an eccentric and an eclectic whose varied works have entertained,
edified, enlightened, and evaded readers for over a century. The son of a vicar and his first
cousin, Dodgson was a precocious child who showed early interest in both writing and
mathematics. After studying mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford, from 1850-1854,
Dodgson was appointed to a lectureship there, where he was to continue studying, remain
unmarried, and prepare for holy orders for almost 30 years. Although he never reached the
priesthood, he did reach the level of deacon. During his very successful academic career, he
wrote extensively on mathematics and logic, among other subjects. However, it is not for his
academic work that he is best remembered, but rather the works for children which he created
under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.
Dodgsons relationship to children has been questioned by recent scholarship, as his
photography of young girls is undeniably erotic, and all his close and enduring friendship
throughout his life were with young children, mostly girls. Dodgson was intensely interested
in and an advocate for the freedom and wisdom of childhood, and wrote his books as
pleasurable amusements for the people he admired. His muse, Alice Liddell was the young
daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, who he wrote Alices Adventures in Wonderland for
in 1865. The work started out as an oral tale which he later wrote down as Alices Adventures
Underground, but later revised into Alices Adventures in Wonderland. In 1872, Carroll
published Throughout the Looking Glass, the sequel to Wonderland. The books were
illustrated by Sir John Tenniel, a top political illustrator of the day, whose crisp etching work
with Carrolls sly text to create the world of Wonderland still known today. These books
brought Carroll great fame and renown during his lifetime, but the shy Dodgson made a great
effort to distance himself from the fame of his alterego Carroll. An intensely awkward and
introverted man, he was almost unable to have interactions or friendships with adults, but was
happy and at peace when around children. He spent most of his later years in the company of
young children who he entertained with his stories and documented in his famous
Along with the Alice books, Carroll published Phantasmagoria and other Poems in 1869, The
Hunting of the Snark in 1876, and Sylvie and Bruno in 1893, though none of his other works
were ever nearly as popular as the Alice duo either in his lifetime or afterwards. He died
January 14, 1898 in Guilford, Surrey.
The Alice books were written during the Victorian era, a time now remembered for its stifling
propriety and constrictive morals. Carroll had something of an outsiders perspective on this
world; he was painfully shy, and he often stuttered. His fondness for little girls has raised
more than a few eyebrows, although it is unknown if Carroll ever acted on this obsession. At
any rate, these feelings of his served to accentuate his feelings of isolation.
But his position gave him tremendous perspective on his world. The creatures of wonderland
have many arbitrary customs. Their behaviors are all defensible with strange logic, but the
customs are still silly or even cruel. There are obvious echoes of the Victorian world, as the
animals are opinionated and have strong ideas about what constitutes appropriate behavior.
The creatures preciousness and their arbitrary sensitivities mock the fastidiousness of the
Victorian era.
The Alice books also mock the childrens literature of the day. In keeping with the character
of the time, childrens literature was full of simplistic morals and heavy-handed attempts to
educate the young. Some of the books supposedly for children were quite dry, and at the least
suffered from a lack of imagination.
Alices Adventures in Wonderland was first published in 1865, and it was an immediate
success. Carrolls sense of the absurd and his amazing gift for games of logic and language
have made the Alice books popular with both adults and children, and they have remained
some of the best-known childrens books written in English. The well-known Disney
adaptation draws freely from both books, while retaining the basic structure of the first book
and remaining faithful to the flavor and central themes of the story.
The Alice books deal with the sometimes precarious world of children; the reader should keep
in mind that at the time of their writing, the advent of industrialization had raised peoples
consciousness of child labor and exploitation. Carroll sees the world of children as a
dangerous place, shadowed by the threat of death and the presence of adults who are powerful
but often absurd.
The book is refreshingly complex, refusing to take patronize its young audience with
simplistic morals or perspectives. A point of comparison is Antoine de St. Exuperys The
Little Prince: while The Little Prince sets up a rather simplistic binary between children (who
are good, wise and innocent) and the big people (who are mean, shallow, and foolish), the
Alice books satirize the absurdities of adults while avoiding pat conclusions about the
difference between adults and children. Childhood is seen as a state of danger, and although
Carroll has an evident fondness for children he never idealizes them. Alices challenge is to
grow into a strong and compassionate person despite the idiosyncrasies of the creatures she
meets (the creatures symbolizing the adult world). She has to learn the rules of each new
encounter, but in the end she must also retain a sense of justice and develop a sense of herself.
Rather than set childhood and adulthood as simple opposites, valorizing he former and
disparaging the latter, Caroll shows the process by which a good child can become a strong
adult. Alice is also not without adult friends along the way: in the first book, for example,
the Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat are two enigmatic creatures who seem to understand how
Wonderland works. They help Alice at key point.
The books always retain a sense of mystery and a fondness for the sinister; even the
characters who aid Alice have a dark edge to them. The hints of mortality and the sense of
fear in the books have only contributed to their popularity. The books stand as evidence that
childrens literature need not talk down to its audience. In fact, it is the depth and
sophistication of the Alice books that has won them recognition as some of the best childrens
literature ever written.

Growth into Adulthood: This theme is central to both books. Alices adventures parallel the
journey from childhood to adulthood. She comes into numerous new situations in which
adaptability is absolutely necessary for success. She shows marked progress throughout the
course of the book; in the beginning, she can barely maintain enough composure to keep
herself from crying. By the end of the novel, she is self-possessed and able to hold her own
against the most baffling Wonderland logic.

Size change: Closely connected to the above theme, size change is another recurring concept.
The dramatic changes in size hint at the radical changes the body undergoes during
adolescence. The key, once again, is adaptability. Alices size changes also bring about a
change in perspective, and she sees the world from a very different view. In the last trial
scene, her growth into a giant reflects her interior growth. She becomes a much stronger, self-
possessed person, able to speak out against the nonsensical proceedings of the trial.

Death: This theme is even more present in the second Alice book, Throughout the Looking
Glass. Alice frequently makes references to her own death without knowing it. Childhood is a
state of peril in Carrolls view: children are quite vulnerable, and the world presents many
dangers. Another aspect of death is its inevitability. Since the Alice books are at root about
change (the transition from childhood to adulthood, the passage of time), mortality is
inescapable as a theme. Death is the final step of this process of growth. While death is only
hinted at in the first book, the second book is saturated with references to mortality and
macabre humor.
Games / Learning the Rules: Every new encounter is something of a game for Alice; there
are rules to learn, and consequences for learning or not learning those rules. Games are a
constant part of life in Wonderland, from the Caucus race to the strange croquet match to the
fact that the royal court is a living deck of cards. And every new social encounter is like a
game, in that there are bizarre, apparently arbitrary rules that Alice has to master. Learning
the rules is a metaphor for the adaptations to new social situations that every child makes as
she grows older. Mastering each challenge, Alice grows wiser and more adaptable as time
goes on.

Language and Logic / Illogic:

Carroll delights in puns. The Alice books are chockfull of games with language, to the
readers delight and Alices confusion. The games often point out some inconsistency or
slipperiness of language in general and English in particular. The books point out the pains
and advantages of language. Language is a source of joy and adaptability; it can also be a
source of great confusion.
Just a baffling is the bizarre logic at work in Wonderland. Every creature can justify the most
absurd behavior, and their arguments for themselves are often fairly complex. Their strange
reasoning is another source of delight for the reader and challenge for Alice. She has to learn
to discern between unusual logic and utter nonsense.
Alice is sitting with her sister outdoors when she spies a White Rabbit with a pocket watch.
Fascinated by the sight, she follows the rabbit down the hole. There is also a key on the table,
which unlocks a tiny door; through this door, she spies a beautiful garden. She longs to get
there, but the door is too small. Soon, she finds a drink with a note that asks her to drink it.
There is later a cake with a note that tells her to eat; Alice uses both, but she cannot seem to
get a handle on things, and is always either too large to get through the door or too small to
reach the key.
While she is tiny, she slips and falls into a pool of water. She realizes that this little sea is
made of tears she cried while a giant. She swims to shore with a number of animals, most
notably a sensitive mouse, but manages to offend everyone by talking about her cats ability
to catch birds and mice. Left alone, she goes on through the wood and runs into the White
Rabbit. He mistakes her for his maid and sends her to fetch some things from his house.
While in the White Rabbits home, she drinks another potion and becomes too huge to get out
through the door. She eventually finds a little cake which, when eaten, makes her small again.
In the wood again, she comes across a Caterpillar sitting on a mushroom. He gives her some
valuable advice, as well as a valuable tool: the two sides of the mushroom, which can make
Alice grows larger and smaller as she wishes. The first time she uses them, she stretches her
body out tremendously. While stretched out, she pokes her head into the branches of a tree
and meets a Pigeon. The Pigeon is convinced that Alice is a serpent, and though Alice tries to
reason with her the Pigeon tells her to be off.
Alice gets herself down to normal proportions and continues her trek through the woods. In a
clearing she comes across a little house and shrinks herself down enough to get inside. It is
the house of the Duchess; the Duchess and the Cook are battling fiercely, and they seem
unconcerned about the safety of the baby that the Duchess is nursing. Alice takes the baby
with her, but the child turns into a pig and trots off into h woods. Alice next meets the
Cheshire cat (who was sitting in the Duchesss house, but said nothing). The Cheshire cat
helps her to find her way through the woods, but he warns her that everyone she meets will be
Alice goes to the March Hares house, where she is treated to a Mad Tea Party. Present are
the March Hare, the Hatter, and the Dormouse. Ever since Time stopped working for the
Hatter, it has always been six oclock: it is therefore always teatime. The creatures of the Mad
Tea Party are some of the most argumentative in all of Wonderland. Alice leaves them and
finds a tree with a door in it: when she looks through the door, she spies the door-lined
hallway from the beginning of her adventures. This time, she is prepared, and she manages to
get to the lovely garden that she saw earlier. She walks on through, and finds herself in the
garden of the Queen of Hearts. There, three gardeners (with bodies shaped like playing cards)
are painting the roses red. If the Queen finds out that they planted white roses, shell have
them beheaded. The Queen herself soon arrives, and she does order their execution; Alice
helps to hide them in a large flowerpot.
The Queen invites Alice to play croquet, which is a very difficult game in Wonderland, as the
balls and mallets are live animals. The game is interrupted by the appearance of the Cheshire
cat, whom the King of Hearts immediately dislikes.
The Queen takes Alice to the Gryphon, who in turn takes Alice to the Mock Turtle. The
Gryphon and the Mock Turtle tell Alice bizarre stories about their school under the sea. The
Mock Turtles sings a melancholy song about turtle soup, and soon afterward the Gryphon
drags Alice off to see the trial of the Knave of Hearts.
The Knave of Hearts has been accused of stealing the tarts of the Queen of Hearts, but the
evidence against him is very bad. Alice is appalled by the ridiculous proceedings. She also
begins to grow larger. She is soon called to the witness stand; by this time she has grown to
giant size. She refuses to be intimidated by the bad logic of court and the bluster of the King
and Queen of Hearts. Suddenly, the cards all rise up and attack her, at which point she wakes
up. Her adventures in Wonderland have all been a fantastic dream.
Thomas Hardy was born June 2, 1840, in the village of Upper Bockhampton, located in
Southwestern England. His father was a stone mason and a violinist. His mother enjoyed
reading and relating all the folk songs and legends of the region. Between his parents, Hardy
gained all the interests that would appear in his novels and his own life: his love for
architecture and music, his interest in the lifestyle of the country folk, and his passion for all
sorts of literature.
At the age of eight, Hardy began to attend Julia Martins school in Bockhampton. However,
most of his education came from the books he found in Dorchester, the nearby town. He
learned French, German, and Latin by teaching himself through these books. At sixteen,
Hardys father apprenticed his son to a local architect, John Hicks. Under Hicks tutelage,
Hardy learned much about architectural drawing and restoring old houses and churches.
Hardy loved the apprenticeship because it allowed him to learn the histories of the houses and
the families that lived there. Despite his work, Hardy did not forget his academics: in the
evenings, Hardy would study with the Greek scholar Horace Moule.
In 1862, Hardy was sent to London to work with the architect Arthur Blomfield. During his
five years in London, Hardy immerses himself in the cultural scene by visiting the museums
and theaters and studying classic literature. He even began to write his own poetry. Although
he did not stay in London, choosing to return to Dorchester as a church restorer, he took his
newfound talent for writing to Dorchester as well.
Form 1867, Hardy wrote poetry and novels, though the first part of his career was devoted to
the novel. T first he published anonymously, but when people became interested in his works,
he began to use his own name. Like Dickens, Hardys novels were published in serial forms
in magazines that were popular in both England and America. His first popular novel was
Under The Greenwood Tree, published in 1872. The next great novel, Far from the Madding
Crowd (1874) was so popular that with the profits, Hardy was able to give up architecture and
marry Emma Gifford. Other popular novels followed in quick succession: The Return of the
Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of the
DUrbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). In addition to these larger works, Hardy
published three collections of short stories and five smaller novels, all moderately successful.
However, despite the praise Hardys ficion received, many critic also found his works to be
too shocking, especially Tess of the DUrbervilles and Jude the Obscure. The outcry against
Jude was so great that Hardy decided to stop writing novels and returns to his first great love,
Over the years, Hardy had divided his time between hs home, Max Gate, in Dorchester and
his lodgings in London. In his later years, he remained in Dorchester to focus completely on
his poetry. In 1898, he saw his dream of becoming a poet realized with the publication of
Wessex Poems. He then turned his attentions to an epic drama in verse, The Dynasts; it was
finally completed in 1908. Before his death, he had written over 800 poems, many of them
published while he was in his eighties.
By the last two decades of Hardys life, he had achieved fame as a great as Dickens fame. In
1910, he was awarded the Order of Merit. New readers had also discovered his novels by the
publication of the Wessex Editions, the definitive versions of all Hardys early works. As a
result, Max Gate became a literary shrine.
Hardy also found happiness in his personal life. His first wife, Emma, died in 1912. Although
their marriage had not been happy, Hardy grieved at her sudden death. In 1914, he married
Florence Dugale, and she was extremely devoted to him. After his death, Florence published
Hardys autobiography in two parts under her own name.
After a long and highly successful life, Thomas Hardy died on January 11, 1928, at the age of
87. His ashes were buried in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey.

Tess of the dUrbervilles, like the other major works by Thomas Hardy, although technically
a nineteenth century work, anticipates the twentieth century in regard to the nature and
treatment of its subject matter. Tess of the dUrbervilles was the twelfth novel published by
Thomas Hardy. He began the novel in 1889 and it was originally serialized in the Graphic
after being rejected by several other periodicals from July to December in 1891. It was finally
published as a novel in December of 1891. The novel questions societys sexual mores by
compassionately portraying a heroine who is seduced by the son of her employer and ho thus
is not considered a pure and chaste woman by the rest of society. Upon its publication, Tess of
the dUrbervilles encountered brutally hostile reviews; although it is no considered a major
work of fiction, the poor reception of Tess and Jude the Obscure precipitated Thomas Hardys
transition from writing fiction to poetry. Nevertheless, the novel was commercially successful
and assured Hardys financial security.
Tess of the dUrbervilles deals with several significant contemporary subjects for Hardy,
including the struggles of religious belief that occurred during Hardys lifetime. Hardy was
largely influenced by the Oxford movement, a spiritual movement involving extremely
devout thinking and actions. Hardys family members were primarily orthodox Christians and
Hardy himself considered entering the clergy, as did many of his relatives. Yet Hardy
eventually abandoned his devout faith in God based on the scientific advances of his
contemporaries, including most prominently Darwins On the Origin of Species. Hardys own
religious experiences can thus be seen in the character of Angel Clare, who resists the
conservative religious beliefs of his parents to take a more religious and secular view of
The novel also reflects Hardys preoccupation with social class that continues through his
novel. Hardy had connection to both the working and the upper class, but felt that he belonged
to neither. This is reflected in the pessimism contained in Tess of the dUrbervilles toward the
chances for Tess to ascend in society and angels precarious position as neither a member of
the upper class nor a working person equivalent to his fellow milkers at Talbothays. Again,
like Angel Clare, Thomas Hardy found himself torn between different social spheres with
which he could not fully align himself. Tess of the dUrbervilles reflects that divide.

Tess of the dUrbervilles begins with the chance meeting between Parson Tringham and John
Durbeyfield. The parson addresses the impoverished Durbeyfield as Sir John, and remarks
that he has just learned that the Durbeyfields are descended from the dUrbervilles, a family
once renowned in England. Alhough Parson Tringham mentions this only to note how the
mighty have fallen, John Durbeyfield rejoices over the news. Durbeyfield arrives at home
during the May Day dance, in which his daughter Tess dances. During this celebration, Tess
happens to meet three brothers: Felix, Cuthbert and Angel Clare. Angel does not dance with
Tess, but takes note of her as the most striking of the girls. When Tess arrives at home, she
learns that her father is at the tavern celebrating the news of his esteemed family connections.
Since John must awake early to deliver bees, Tess sends her mother to get her father, then her
brother Abraham, and finally goes to the tavern herself when none of them return.
At the tavern, John Durbeyfield reveals that he has a grand plan to send his daughter to claim
kinship with the remaining dUrbervilles, and thus make her eligible to marry a gentleman.
The next morning, John Durbeyfield is too ill to undertake his journey, thus Tess and
Abraham deliver the bees. During their travels the carriage wrecks and their horse is killed.
Since the family has no source of income without their horse, Tess agrees to go to the home of
the Stoke-dUrbervilles to claim kinship. There she meets Alec dUrberville, who shows her
the estate and prepares to kiss her. Tess returns home and later receives a letter from Mrs.
Stoke-dUrberville, who offers Tess employment tending to her chickens. When Alec comes
to take Tess to the dUrberville estate, Joan thinks that he may marry Tess. On the way to the
dUrberville estate at Trantridge, Alec drives the carriage recklessly and tells Tess to grasp
him around the waist. He persists, and when Tess refuses him he calls her an artful hussy and
rather sensitive for a cottage girl.
When Tess meets Mrs. Stoke-dUrberville, she learns that the blind woman has no knowledge
that Tess is a relative. Tess becomes more accustomed to Alec, despite his continual
propositions to her. She finds Alec hiding behind the curtains while Tess whistles to the
bullfinches in his mothers bedroom.
During a weekend visit to Chaseborough, Tess travels with several other girls. Among these
girls are Car and Nancy Darch, nicknamed the Queen of Spades and the Queen of Diamonds.
Car carries a wicker basket with groceries on her head, and finds that a stream of treacle drips
from this basket down her back. While all of the girls laugh at Car, she only notices that Tess
is laughing and confronts her. Car appears ready to fight Tess when Alec dUrberville arrives
and takes her away. As Alec whisks Tess off, Cars mother remarks that Tess has gotten out
the frying pan and into the fire.
On the journey home, Alec asks Tess why she dislikes when he kisses her, and she replies that
she does not love him and in fact is sometimes angered by him. When Tess learns that Alec
has prolonged the ride home, she decides to walk home herself. Alec asks her to wait while he
ascertains their precise location, and returns to find Tess, who has fallen asleep. Alec has sex
with Tess.
Several weeks later, Tess returns home. Tess tells Alec that she hates herself for her weakness
and will never love him. While at home, Tess admits to her mother what happened and asks
her why she did not warn Tess about the danger than men pose. Rumors abound concerning
Tesss return to the village of Marlott. In fact Tess is pregnant and has bears the child month
later. However, the child becomes gravely ill before she has had baptized. Without the
opportunity to call a minister, Tess baptizes the baby herself with the name Sorrow before it
dies. When Tess meets the parson the next day, he agrees that the baby had been properly
baptized, but refuses to give Sorrow a Christian burial until she convinces him otherwise.
Tess leaves Marlott once again to work at Talbothays dairy, where she works for Richard
Crick and find that Angel Clare, whom she vaguely remembers, now works at the dairy. The
other milkmaids (Izz Huett, Retty Priddle, Marian) tell Tess that Angel is there to learn
milking and that, since he is a parsons son, rarely notices the girls. Although his brothers are
each clergymen and he was expected to be as well, Angel did not attend college because of
philosophical and religious differences with his father and established church doctrine. He
works at Talbothays to study the workings of a dairy in preparation for owning a farm himself
one day.
Angel grows fond of Tess, and begins arranging the cows so that she may milk the ones that
are her favorites. However, Tess learns from Dairyman Crick that Angel has scorn for
members of nobles families, even those whose families have fallen from prominence. Tess
realizes that the three other milkmaids are attracted to Tess, but they know that Angel prefers
Tess. When Tess overhears the three milkmaids discussing this, she feels jealousy at the
others attraction for Angel, and begins to believe that, as a working woman, she is more
suited to be a farmers wife than a woman of equal rank as Angel. Still, Tess retreats from
Angels affections until he finally declares his love for her.
Angel visits his home in Emminster, where he discusses the possibility of marriage with his
parents. While visiting his family, Angel realizes how life at Talbothays had changed him.
Although his parents suggest that Angel marry a local girl, Mercy Chant, angel suggests that
he should marry a woman with practical talents. His parents only consent when they feel
certain that the woman is an unimpeachable Christian. When Angel returns from Emminster,
he proposes to Tess, who rejects him without giving him a reason. Although he persists, she
finally admits that she is a dUrberville, thus a member of the type of family that he despises.
When Angel remains unfazed by this news, she agrees to marry him.
Tess writes to her mother to ask whether she should admit the entirety of her past to Angel,
but her mother assures her that she should not. Tess remains nervous concerning her impeding
marriage, attempting to postpone the date and forgetting to make important wedding plans.
While in town with angel, Tess sees a man who recognizes her from TRantridge and remarks
on her questionable reputation. Angel defends her honor, but Tess realizes that she must tell
him about her past with Alec dUrberville. Tess writes Angel a letter and slips it under his
doorway. The next morning Angel behaves normally. It is only on the day of her wedding that
Tess finds that the letter slid under the carpet and Angel thus never found it.
After Angel and Tess marry, they go to Wellbridge for their honeymoon and remain at a home
once owned by the dUrbervilles. Tess learns from Jonathan Kail, who delivers a wedding gift
from the Cricks, that the girl at Talbothays have suffered greatly since Angel and Tess left.
On their wedding night, Angel and Tess vow to tell one another their faults. Angel admits that
he had a short affair with a stranger in London, while Tess admits about Alec dUrberville.
After telling Angel her story, Tess begs for forgiveness, but he claims that forgiveness is
irrelevant, for she was one person and is now another woman in the same shape. She vows to
do anything he asks and to die if h would so desire, but he claims that there is discordance
between her current self-sacrifice and past self-preservation. Although he claims to forgive
her, Angel still questions whether or not he still loves her. Angels obstinate nature blocks his
acceptance of Tesss faults on principle, and he remains with Tess only to avoid scandal until
he tells her that they should separate.
That night, Angel begins sleepwalking and carries Tess out of their home and across the
nearby river to the local cemetery, where he places her in a coffin. She leads him back to bed
without waking him, and the next morning he seems to remember nothing of the event. Angel
tells Tess that he will go away from her and she should not come to him, but may write if she
is ill or needs anything.
Tess returns home, where her family remains impoverished and Tess had no place to stay.
When Tess receives a letter from Angel telling her that he has gone to the north of England to
look for a farm, Tess uses this as an excuse to leave Marlott.
Angel visits his parents and tells them nothing about his separation, but they sense that some
difficulty has occurred in his marriage. Angel decides to go to Brazil to look for a farm,
although he realizes that he has treated Tess poorly. Before leaving for Brazil, Angel sees Izz
Huett and proposes that she accompany him to Brazil. When he asks her whether she loves
him as much as Tess does, Izz replies that nobody could love him more than Tess does,
because Tess would give up her life for Angel. Angel realizes his foolishness and tells Izz that
her answer saved him from great folly.
Tess journeys to Flintcomb-Ash, where she will join Marian at a different farm. On her way
to the farm, Tess finds the man from TRantridge who identified her when she was with Angel,
and he demands an apology for allowing Angel to wrongfully defend her honor. Tess hides
from him, and after she is propositioned by young men in a nearby in the next morning, she
clips off her eyebrows to make herself less unattractive.
Tess works as a swede-hacker at Flintcomb-Ash, a barren and rough place. Marian believes
that Tess has been abused and thinks Angel may be to blame, but Tess refuses to allow
Marian to mention Angels name in such a derogatory manner. Izz Huet and Retty Priddle
join Marian and Tess at Flintcomb-Ash, and Tess learns that the man who insulted her is the
owner of the farm where she works. Car and Nancy Darch work at this farm as well, although
neither recognize Tess. Since the conditions at Flintcomb-Ash are so arduous, Tess visits
Emminster to ask the Clares for assistance, but does not approach them when she overhears
Felix and Cuthbert Clare discussing how disreputable Angels new wife must be. While
returning to Flintcomb-Ash, Tess learns that a noted preacher is nearby: Alec dUrberville.
When Tess confronts Alec, he claims that he has a newfound duty to save others and feels that
he must save Tess. Still, he seems to blame Tess for her tempting Alec to sin, and makes her
swear never to tempt him again. Alec begins to visit Tess frequently, despite her overt
suspicion and dislike for him, and even asks her to marry him and accompany him to Africa
where he plans to be a missionary. Tess refuses and admits to Alec that she is already married,
but Alec derides the idea that her marriage is secure and attempts to refute Tesss religious
views. Alec accuses Tess once more of tempting him, and blames her for his backsliding from
Christianity. Alec soon disavows his faith and loses the adornments of it, returning to his
more fashionable ways and giving up preaching. When Alec tells Tess that she should leave
her husband, she slaps him and then refuses to back down when Alec appears ready to return
her blow. She tells Alec that she will not cry if he hits her, because she will always be his
Alec soon tries a different tactic to get Tess to submit to him; he attempts to dominate her by
exerting financial superiority. Alec offers to support her family, but only as a means to make
Tess and her family dependent. Tess returns home to Marlott when she learns that her mother
may be dying and her father is quite ill, but soon after her return her father dies instead, while
her mother recovers. After the death of John Durbeyfield, the family loses their home and
must find accommodations elsewhere. They move to Kingsbere, where the dUrberville
family tomb is located. Although Alec offers to support the Durbeyfields, Tess refuses, even
when he offers a guarantee in writing that he would continue to support them no matter the
relationship between Tess and himself. When the Durbeyfields reach Kingsbere, they find no
room at the inn where they scheduled to stay, and thus must remain in the church near the
dUrberville family vault.
Angel Clare returns home from Brazil, weak and sickly, and finds the letter from Tess in
which she claims that she will try to forget him. Angel writes to her home at Marlott to search
for her, but only later finds out that the Durbeyfields are no longer at Marlott and that Joan
does not know where her daughter is. Angel decides to search for Tess, and eventually finds
her mother, who reluctantly admits to Angel that Tess is at Sandbourne, a thriving village
Angel finds Tess at an inn at Sandbourne, where she has been living a comfortable life with
Alec dUrberville. Tess tells Angel that it is too late, and that Alec convinced her that he
would never return. Tess admits that she hates Alec now, for he lied to her about Angel. After
Angel leaves, Tess returns to her room and begins to sob. Alec finds her, and after a heated
argument Tess stabs Alec in the heart, killing him.
As the dejected Angel leaves town, he finds Tess following him. She admits that she has
killed Alec, and the two continue along together to escape. They remain at a deserted mansion
before continuing northward to find a boat out of England. They rest at Stonehenge; there
Tess, who realizes that she will inevitably be captured, asks Angel to marry her sister, Liza-
Lu, after she is gone. As Tess sleeps a party of men surrounds Angel and Tess to capture her
and arrest her for Alecs murder. Tess is executed for her crime, while Angel does her bidding
and presumably marries Liza-Lu.


Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, the descendent of a
long line of Puritan ancestors, including John Hawthorne, a presiding magistrate in the Salem
witch trials. After his father was lost at sea when he was only four, his mother became overly
protective and pushed him toward more isolated pursuit. Hawthornes childhood left him
overly shy and bookish, and molded his life as a writer.
Hawthorne turned to writing after his graduation from Bowdoin College. His first novel,
Fanshawe, was unsuccessful and Hawthorne himself disavowed it as amateurish. However, he
wrote several successful short stories, including My Kinsman, Major Molyneaux, Roger
Malvins Burial and Young Goodman Brown. However, insufficient earning as a writer
forced Hawthorne to enter a career as a Boston Custom House measurer in 1839. However,
after three years Hawthorne was dismissed from his job with the Salem Custom House. By
1842, however, his writing amassed Hawthorne a sufficient income for him to marry Sophia
Peabody and move to the Manse in Concord, which was at that time the center of the
Transcendental movement. Hawthorne returned to Salem in 1845, where he was appointed
surveyor of the Boston Custom House by President James Polk, but was dismissed from this
post when Zachary Taylor became president. Hawthorne then devoted himself to his most
famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. He zealously worked on the novel with a determination he
had not known before. His intense suffering infused the novel with imaginative energy,
leading him to describe it as the hell-fired story. On February 3, 18250, Hawthorne read the
final pages to his wife. He wrote, It broke her heart and sent her to bed with a grievous
headache, which I look upon as a triumphant success.

The Scarlet Letter was an immediately success and allowed Hawthorne to devote himself to
his writing. He left Salem for a temporary residence in Lenox, a small town the Berkshires,
where he completed the romance The House of the Seven Gables in 1851. While in Lenox,
Hawthorne became acquainted with Herman Melville and became a major proponent of
Melvilles work, but their friendship became strained. Hawthornes subsequent novels, The
Blithedale Romance, based on his years of communal living at Brook Farm, and the romance
The Marble Faun, were both considered disappointments. Hawthorne supported himself
through another political post, the consulship in Liverpool, which he was given for writing a
campaign biography for Franklin Pierce.
Hawthorne passed away on May 19, 1864 in Plymouth, New Hampshire after a long period of
illness in which he suffered severe bouts of dementa. Emerson described his life with the
words painful solitude. Hawthorne maintained a strong friendship with Franklin Pierce, but
otherwise had few intimates and little engagement with any sort of social life. His works
remain for their treatment of guilt and the complexities of moral choices.
The novel opens with Hester being led to the scaffold where she is to be publicly shamed for
having committed adultery. Hester is forced to wear the letter A on her gown all the times.
She has stitched a large scarlet A onto her dress with gold thread, giving the letter an air of
Hester carries Pearl, her daughter, with her. On the scaffold she if asked to reveal the name of
Pearls father, but she refuses. In the crowd Hester recognizes her husband from Amsterdam,
Roger Chillingworth.
Chillingworth visits Hester after she is returned to the prison. He tells her that he will find out
who the man was, and that he will read the truth on the mans heart. He then forces her to
promise never to reveal his true identity.
Hester moves into a cottage bordering the woods. She and Pearl live there in relative solitude.
Hester earns her money by doing stitchwork for local dignitaries, but often spends her time
helping the poor and sick. Pearl grows up to be wild, in the sense that she refuses to obey her
Roger Chillingworth earns a reputation as being a good physician. He uses his reputation to
get transferred into the same home as Arthur Dimmesdale, an ailing minister. Chillingworth
eventually discovers that Dimmesdale is the true father of Pearl, at which point he spends his
every moment trying to torment the minister.
One night Dimmesdale is so overcome with shame about hiding his secret that he walks to the
scaffold where Hester was publicly humiliated. He stands on the scaffold and imagines the
whole town watching him with a letter emblazoned on his chest. While standing there, Hester
and Pearl arrive. He asks them to stand with him, which they do. Pearl then asks him to stand
with her the next day at noon.
When a meteor illuminates the three people standing on the scaffold, they see Roger
Chillingworth watching them. Dimmesdale tells Hester that he is terrified of Chillingworth,
who offers to take Dimmesdale home. Hester realizes that Chillingworth is slowly killing
Dimmesdale, and that she has to help him.
A few weeks later Hester sees Chillingworth picking herbs in the woods. She tells him that
she is going to reveal the fact that he is her husband to Dimmesdale. He tells her that
Providence is now in charge of their fates, and that she may do as she sees fit.
Hester takes Pearl into the woods where they wait for Dimmesdale to arrive. He is surprised
to see them, but confesses to Hester that he is desperate for a friend who knows his secret. She
comforts him and tells him Chillingworths true identity. He is furious, but allows her to
convince him that they should run away together. He finally agrees, and returns to town with
more energy than he has ever shown before.
Hester finds a ship which will carry all three of them, and it works out that the ship is due to
sail the day after Dimmesdale gives his Election Sermon. However, during the day of the
sermon, Chillingworth gets the ships captain to agree to take him on boards as well. Hester
does not know how to get out of this dilemma.
Dimmesdale gives his Election Sermon, and it receives the highest accolades of any preaching
he has ever performed. He then unexpectedly walks to the scaffold and stands on it, in full
view of the gathered masses. Dimmesdale calls Hester and Pearl to come to him.
Chillingworth tries to stop him, but Dimmesdale laughs and tells him that he cannot win.
Hester and Pearl join Dimmesdale on the scaffold. Dimmesdale then tells the people that he is
also a sinner like Hester, and that he should have assumed his rightful place by her side over
seven years earlier. He then rips open his shirt to reveal a scarlet letter on his flesh.
Dimemsdale falls to his knees and dies while on the scaffold.
Hester and Pearl leave the town for a while, and several years later Hester returns. No one
hears from Pearl again, but it is assumed that she gets married and has children in Europe.
Hester never removes her scarlet letter, and when she passes away she is buried in Kings
The Custom House is largely an autobiographical sketch describing Hawthornes life as an
administrator of the Salem Custom House. It was written to enlarge the overall size of The
Scarlet Letter, since Hawthorne deemed the story too short to print by itself. It also serves as
an excellent essay on society during Hawthornes times, and allows Hawthorne to pretend to
have discovered The Scarlet Letter in the Custom House.
Hawthorne was granted the position of chief executive officer of the Customs House through
the Presidents commission. His analysis of the place is harsh and critical. He describes his
staff as a bunch of tottering old men who rarely rise out of their chairs, and who spend each
day sleeping or talking softly to one another. Hawthorne tells the reader that he could not
bring himself to fire any of them, and so after he assumed leadership things stayed the same.
Hawthorne describes the town of Salem as a port city which failed to mature into a major
harbor. The streets and buildings are dilapidated, the townspeople very sober and old, and
grass grows between the cobblestones. The custom House serves the small ship traffic which
goes through the port, but is usually a quiet place requiring only minimal amounts of work.
The connection between Salem and the Puritans is made early on in the text. Hawthornes
family originally settled in Salem, and he is a direct descendent of several notable ancestors.
He describes his ancestors as severe Puritans decked out in black robes, laying harsh
judgment upon people who strayed from their faith. When discussing his ancestors,
Hawthorne is both reverent and mocking, jokingly wondering how an idler such as him could
have born from such noble lineage.
Much of the story then deals with long descriptions of the various men with whom he worked
in the Custom House. General Miller, the Collector, is the oldest inhabitant, a man who had
maintained a stellar career in the military, but who has chosen to work in the Custom House
for the remainder of his years. The other man described by Hawthorne is the Inspector.
Hawthorne writes that the job was created by the mans father decades earlier, and that he has
held the position ever since. The Inspector is the most light-hearted of the workers, constantly
laughing and talking in spite of his age.
The upstairs of the Custom House was designed to accommodate a large movement of goods
through the port, and is in ill-repair since it soon became extraneous. Hawthorne says that the
large upstairs hall was used to store documents, and it is that he finds an unusual package. The
package contains some fabric with a faded letter A imprinted in the cloth, and some papers
describing the entire story behind the letter. This is the story that Hawthorne claims is the
basis for The Scarlet Letter.
Three years after taking his job as Surveyor, General Taylor was elected President of the
United States, and Hawthorne received notice of his termination. Hawthorne remarks that he
is lucky to have been let go, since it allowed him the time to write out the entire story of The
Scarlet Letter. He finishes the Custom House with a description of his life since leaving his
job as Surveyor, and comments that, it may be, however that the great-grandchildren of
the present race may sometimes think kindly of the scribbler of bygone days .
10. Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass
Walt Whitman was born in 1819 on Long Island (the Paumanok of many of his poems).
During his early years he trained as a printer, then became a teacher, and finally a journalist
and editor. He was less than successful; his stridently radical views made him unpopular with
readers. After an 1848 sojourn in the South, which introduced him to some of the variety of
his country, he returned to New York and began to write poetry.
In 1855 he self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass,which at the time consisted of
only twelve poems. The volume was widely ignored, with one significant exception. Ralph
Waldo Emerson wrote him a congratulatory letter, in which he offered his greet[ings]... at
the beginning of a great career. Whitman promptly published another edition of Leaves of
Grass, expanding it by some twenty poems and appending the letter from Emerson, much to
the latters discomfort. 1860 saw another edition of a now much larger Leavescontaining
some 156 poemswhich was issued by a trade publisher.
At the outset of the Civil War Whitman volunteered as a nurse in army hospitals; he also
wrote dispatches as a correspondent for the New York Times. The war inspired a great deal of
poetry, which was published in 1865 as Drum Taps. Drum Taps was then incorporated into an
1867 edition of Leaves of Grass, as was another volume of wartime poetry, Sequel, which
included the poems written on Lincolns assassination.
Whitmans wartime work led to a job with the Department of the Interior, but he was soon
fired when his supervisor learned that he had written the racy poems ofLeaves of Grass. The
failure of Reconstruction led him to write the best known of his prose works, Democratic
Vistas, which, as its title implies, argues for the maintenance of democratic ideals. This
volume came out in 1871, as did yet another edition of Leaves of Grass, expanded to include
more poems. The 1871 edition was reprinted in 1876 for the centennial. Several other prose
works followed, then a further expanded version of Leaves of Grass, in 1881.
Whitmans health had been shaky since the mid-1870s, and by 1891 it was clear he was
dying. He therefore prepared his so-called Deathbed edition of Leaves of Grass, which
contained two appendices of old-age poems as well as a review essay in which he tries to
justify his life and work. The Deathbed Edition came out in 1892; Whitman died that year.
Whitmans lifetime saw both the Civil War and the rise of the United States as a commercial
and political power. He witnessed both the apex and the abolition of slavery. His poetry is
thus centered on ideas of democracy, equality, and brotherhood. In response to Americas
new position in the world, Whitman also tried to develop a poetry that was uniquely
American, that both surpassed and broke the mold of its predecessors. Leaves of Grass, with
its multiple editions and public controversies, set the pattern for the modern, public artist, and
Whitman, with his journalistic endeavors on the side, made the most of his role as celebrity
and artist.
Whitmans poetry is democratic in both its subject matter and its language. As the great lists
that make up a large part of Whitmans poetry show, anythingand anyoneis fair game for
a poem. Whitman is concerned with cataloguing the new America he sees growing around
him. Just as America is far different politically and practically from its European counterparts,
so too must American poetry distinguish itself from previous models. Thus we see Whitman
breaking new ground in both subject matter and diction.
In a way, though, Whitman is not so unique. His preference for the quotidian links him with
both Dante, who was the first to write poetry in a vernacular language, and with Wordsworth,
who famously stated that poetry should aim to speak in the language of ordinary men.
Unlike Wordsworth, however, Whitman does not romanticize the proletariat or the peasant.
Instead he takes as his model himself. The stated mission of his poetry was, in his words, to
make [a]n attempt to put aPerson, a human being (myself, in the latter half of the 19th
century, in America) freely, fully, and truly on record. A truly democratic poetry, for
Whitman, is one that, using a common language, is able to cross the gap between the self and
another individual, to effect a sympathetic exchange of experiences.
This leads to a distinct blurring of the boundaries between the self and the world and between
public and private. Whitman prefers spaces and situationslike journeys, the out-of-doors,
citiesthat allow for ambiguity in these respects. Thus we see poems like Song of the Open
Road and Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, where the poet claims to be able to enter into the
heads of others. Exploration becomes not just a trope but a mode of existence.
For Whitman, spiritual communion depends on physical contact, or at least proximity. The
body is the vessel that enables the soul to experience the world. Therefore the body is
something to be worshipped and given a certain primacy. Eroticism, particularly
homoeroticism, figures significantly in Whitmans poetry. This is something that got him in
no small amount of trouble during his lifetime. The erotic interchange of his poetry, though, is
meant to symbolize the intense but always incomplete connection between individuals.
Having sex is the closest two people can come to being one merged individual, but the
boundaries of the body always prevent a complete union. The affection Whitman shows for
the bodies of others, both men and women, comes out of his appreciation for the linkage
between the body and the soul and the communion that can come through physical contact.
He also has great respect for the reproductive and generative powers of the body, which
mirror the intellects generation of poetry.
The Civil War diminished Whitmans faith in democratic sympathy. While the cause of the
war nominally furthered brotherhood and equality, the war itself was a quagmire of killing.
Reconstruction, which began to fail almost immediately after it was begun, further
disappointed Whitman. His later poetry, which displays a marked insecurity about the place of
poetry and the place of emotion in general (see in particular When Lilacs Last in the
Dooryard Bloomd), is darker and more isolated.
Whitmans style remains consistent throughout, however. The poetic structures he employs
are unconventional but reflect his democratic ideals. Lists are a way for him to bring together
a wide variety of items without imposing a hierarchy on them. Perception, rather than
analysis, is the basis for this kind of poetry, which uses few metaphors or other kinds of
symbolic language. Anecdotes are another favored device. By transmitting a story, often one
he has gotten from another individual, Whitman hopes to give his readers a sympathetic
experience, which will allow them to incorporate the anecdote into their own history. The
kind of language Whitman uses sometimes supports and sometimes seems to contradict his
philosophy. He often uses obscure, foreign, or invented words. This, however, is not meant to
be intellectually elitist but is instead meant to signify Whitmans status as a unique individual.
Democracy does not necessarily mean sameness. The difficulty of some of his language also
mirrors the necessary imperfection of connections between individuals: no matter how hard
we try, we can never completely understand each other. Whitman largely avoids rhyme
schemes and other traditional poetic devices. He does, however, use meter in masterful and
innovative ways, often to mimic natural speech. In these ways, he is able to demonstrate that
he has mastered traditional poetry but is no longer subservient to it, just as democracy has
ended the subservience of the individual.
Democracy As a Way of Life
Whitman envisioned democracy not just as a political system but as a way of experiencing the
world. In the early nineteenth century, 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. To allay those fears and to praise democracy, Whitman tried to be
democratic in both life and poetry. He imagined democracy as a way of interpersonal
interaction and as a way for individuals to integrate their beliefs into their everyday lives.
Song of Myself notes that democracy must include all individuals equally, or else it will
In his poetry, Whitman widened the possibilities of poetic diction by including slang,
colloquialisms, and regional dialects, rather than employing the stiff, erudite language so
often found in nineteenth-century verse. Similarly, he broadened the possibilities of subject
matter by describing myriad people and places. Like William Wordsworth, Whitman believed
that everyday life and everyday people were fit subjects for poetry. Although much of
Whitmans work does not explicitly discuss politics, most of it implicitly deals with
democracy: it describes communities of people coming together, and it imagines many voices
pouring into a unified whole. For Whitman, democracy was an idea that could and should
permeate the world beyond politics, making itself felt in the ways we think, speak, work,
fight, and even make art.
The Cycle of Growth and Death
Whitmans poetry reflects the vitality and growth of the early United States. During the
nineteenth century, America expanded at a tremendous rate, and its growth and potential
seemed limitless. But sectionalism and the violence of the Civil War threatened to break apart
and destroy the boundless possibilities of the United States. As a way of dealing with both the
population growth and the massive deaths during the Civil War, Whitman focused on the life
cycles of individuals: people are born, they age and reproduce, and they die. Such poems as
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd imagine death as an integral part of life.
The speaker of When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd realizes that flowers die in the
winter, but they rebloom in the springtime, and he vows to mourn his fallen friends every year
just as new buds are appearing. Describing the life cycle of nature helped Whitman
contextualize the severe injuries and trauma he witnessed during the Civil Warlinking death
to life helped give the deaths of so many soldiers meaning.
The Beauty of the Individual
Throughout his poetry, Whitman praised the individual. He imagined a democratic nation as a
unified whole composed of unique but equal individuals. Song of Myself opens in a
triumphant paean to the individual: I celebrate myself, and sing myself (1). Elsewhere the
speaker of that exuberant poem identifies himself as Walt Whitman and claims that, through
him, the voices of many will speak. In this way, many individuals make up the individual
democracy, a single entity composed of myriad parts. Every voice and every part will carry
the same weight within the single democracyand thus every voice and every individual is
equally beautiful. Despite this pluralist view, Whitman still singled out specific individuals
for praise in his poetry, particularly Abraham Lincoln. In 1865 , Lincoln was assassinated,
and Whitman began composing several elegies, including O Captain! My Captain!
Although all individuals were beautiful and worthy of praise, some individuals merited their
own poems because of their contributions to society and democracy.
Whitman filled his poetry with long lists. Often a sentence will be broken into many clauses,
separated by commas, and each clause will describe some scene, person, or object. These lists
create a sense of expansiveness in the poem, as they mirror the growth of the United States.
Also, these lists layer images atop one another to reflect the diversity of American landscapes
and people. In Song of Myself, for example, the speaker lists several adjectives to describe
Walt Whitman in section24 . The speaker uses multiple adjectives to demonstrate the
complexity of the individual: true individuals cannot be described using just one or two
words. Later in this section, the speaker also lists the different types of voices who speak
through Whitman. Lists are another way of demonstrating democracy in action: in lists, all
items possess equal weight, and no item is more important than another item in the list. In a
democracy, all individuals possess equal weight, and no individual is more important than
The Human Body
Whitmans poetry revels in its depictions of the human body and the bodys capacity for
physical contact. 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 bodys
physical possibilities. With physical contact comes spiritual communion: two touching bodies
form one individual unit of togetherness. Several poems praise the bodies of both women and
men, describing them at work, at play, and interacting. 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. This free expression of sexuality horrified some of
Whitmans early readers, and Whitman was fired from his job at the Indian Bureau
in 1 8 6 5 because the secretary of the interior found Leaves of Grassoffensive. Whitmans
unabashed praise of the male form has led many critics to argue that he was homosexual or
bisexual, but the repressive culture of the nineteenth century prevented him from truly
expressing those feelings in his work.
Rhythm and Incantation
Many of Whitmans poems rely on rhythm and repetition to create a captivating, spellbinding
quality of incantation. Often, Whitman begins several lines in a row with the same word or
phrase, a literary device called anaphora. For example, the first four lines of When I Heard
the Learnd Astronomer (1865 ) each begin with the word when. The long lines of such
poems as Song of Myself and When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd force readers to
inhale several bits of text without pausing for breath, and this breathlessness contributes to the
incantatory quality of the poems. Generally, the anaphora and the rhythm transform the poems
into celebratory chants, and the joyous form and structure reflect the joyousness of the poetic
content. Elsewhere, however, the repetition and rhythm contribute to an elegiac tone, as in O
Captain! My Captain! This poem uses short lines and words, such as heart and father, to
mournfully incant an elegy for the assassinated Abraham Lincoln.
Throughout Whitmans poetry, plant life symbolizes both growth and multiplicity. Rapid,
regular plant growth also stands in for the rapid, regular expansion of the population of the
United States. In When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd, Whitman uses flowers,
bushes, wheat, trees, and other plant life to signify the possibilities of regeneration and re-
growth after death. As the speaker mourns the loss of Lincoln, he drops a lilac spray onto the
coffin; 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. The title Leaves of Grass highlights another of
Whitmans themes: the beauty of the individual. Each leaf or blade of grass possesses its own
distinct beauty, and together the blades form a beautiful unified whole, an idea Whitman
explores in the sixth section of Song of Myself. Multiple leaves of grass thus symbolize
democracy, another instance of a beautiful whole composed of individual parts. In 1860 ,
Whitman published an edition of Leaves of Grass that included a number of poems
celebrating love between men. He titled this section The Calamus Poems, after the phallic
calamus plant.
The Self
Whitmans interest in the self ties into his praise of the individual. Whitman links the self to
the conception of poetry throughout his work, envisioning the self as the birthplace of poetry.
Most of his poems are spoken from the first person, using the pronoun I. The speaker of
Whitmans most famous poem, Song of Myself, even assumes the name Walt Whitman, but
nevertheless the speaker remains a fictional creation employed by the poet Whitman.
Although Whitman borrows from his own autobiography for some of the speakers
experiences, he also borrows many experiences from popular works of art, music, and
literature. Repeatedly the speaker of this poem exclaims that he contains everything and
everyone, which is a way for Whitman to reimagine the boundary between the self and the
world. By imaging a person capable of carrying the entire world within him, Whitman can
create an elaborate analogy about the ideal democracy, which would, like the self, be capable
of containing the whole world.

11. Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson read about the world around her, but for most of her adult life, she did not
live in it. She spent much of her life behind locked doors, refusing visitors and producing
poem after poem in her room. However, politics engaged Dickinson's attention for some time.
Her father, Edward Dickinson, was a United States Congressman. Dickinson's ancestry traced
back to the beginnings of New England history. The Dickinsons had come to America with
John Winthrop in 1630 and had settled all over the Connecticut River Valley by the time
Emily Dickinson was born two hundred years later.
During Dickinson's life, a number of important events and movements took place. A social
and religious movement called the Great Revival renewed religious fervor among the people
of New England. It resulted in the closing of saloons all over Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Dickinson's father joined the Great Revival movement in supporting the temperance pledge,
but Dickinson looked on the movement with skepticism.
During the 1840s and 1850s, the abolitionist movementa social movement organized in the
North to abolish the institution of slaverygained support. On May 30, 1854, Congress passed
the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This bill made the Kansas and Nebraska territories full-fledged
states. As a result of granting Kansas and Nebraska statehood, the slave debate in America
intensified, for the new bill permitted slavery, enraging some United States citizens. The
Kansas-Nebraska Act stated that the new states would decide to adopt slavery or not based on
"popular sovereignty," or the will of the inhabitants of the territory. Leaving the adoption of
slavery up to the individual states directly contradicted the Missouri Compromise, which
barred the extension of slavery into new states. Edward Dickinson fought vehemently against
the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The bill passed, and as a result, Edward Dickinson and about forty
other U.S. Congressmen began planning an entirely new political party, which would come to
be called the Republican party.
The Civil War also touched Emily Dickinson's life. Her brother Austin paid a conscript to
take his place in the war, avoiding it, but Emily's great friend Thomas Wentworth Higginson
led the first black regiment in the Union army, and one of her dearest friend's husbands was
killed by an explosion in the conflict.
The American literary world was not closed to female writers, but it did not welcome them,
either. Harriet Beecher Stowe was the notable exception to the unspoken rules barring women
from the literary club. In 1852, Stowe published the immensely popular, controversial
novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Despite the gains made in fiction by women like Stowe, poetry was
still considered a man's arena, especially in New England, where heavyweights like Ralph
Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman practiced their art.
Dickinson's father was liberal in some respects and conservative in others. He would have
disapproved if he knew Dickinson spent her time writing in her room, so she kept her massive
collection of writings locked in a secret drawer in her room. Dickinson's only publicly
disseminated poems were those she sent to friends and family as notes, birthday greetings,
and Valentines. In her lifetime, Dickinson published only seven poem out of the nearly 2,000
that would eventually be published after her death. During Dickinson's life, nearly all of the
seven published poems were published anonymously in the Springfield Republican
newspaper. Dickinson, socially brilliant as a young woman, became increasingly reclusive as
her life progressed. In her mid-twenties, she began wearing only clothing that was white.
Eventually, she stopped receiving most visitors, even refusing to see dear friends that came to
her house.
Dickinson's great poetic achievement was not fully realized until years after her death, even
though Dickinson understood her own genius when she lived. Many scholars now identify
Dickinson's style as the forerunner, by more than fifty years, of modern poetry. At the time in
which Dickinson wrote, the conventions of poetry demanded strict form. Dickinson's broken
meter, unusual rhythmic patterns, and assonance struck even respected critics of the time as
sloppy and inept. In time, her style was echoed by many of our most revered poets, including
Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. However, while she lived, the few publishers could not appreciate
the innovation of Dickinson's form. Her unique technique discomfited them, and they could
not see beyond it to appreciate her jewels of imagery and her unexpected and fresh metaphors.
Dickinson's niece Martha Dickinson Bianchi and Dickinson's sister Lavinia collected and
published some of Dickinson's poetry after her death, but the world was still slow to recognize
Dickinson. In 1945, the collection of poems titled Bolts of Melody was published. In 1955
Dickinson's letters and selected commentaries on her life and work were published, and in
1960, her complete poems, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, were published. At last the world
began to recognize Dickinson's innovation and brilliance. Today, Dickinson is ensconced in
the canon and almost universally considered one of the greatest poets in history.
In recent years, many scholars have rejected the popular view of Emily Dickinson as a
heartsick recluse who spent her entire life pining for an unnamed lover, foregoing sex and
companionship in order to concentrate more fully on her writing. Some scholars have argued
that research on Emily Dickinson has focused too heavily on her personal life and on the
importance of men to her poetry. There can be no doubt, however, that her poetry was a
forerunner to modern poetry and that her poems contained some of the most unusual and
daring innovations in the history of American poetry.
Short summary
Emily Dickinson, the "Belle of Amherst", is one of the most highly-regarded poets ever to
write. In America, perhaps only Walt Whitman is her equal in legend and in degree of
influence. Dickinson, the famous recluse dressed in white, secretly produced an enormous
canon of poetry while locked in her room and refusing visitor after visitor. Her personal life
and its mysteries have sometimes overshadowed her achievements in poetry and her
extraordinary innovations in poetic form, to the dismay of some scholars.
Dickinson was born in December of 1830 to a well-known family, long established in New
England. Her family lived in the then-small farming town of Amherst, Massachusetts. The
middle child, Dickinson was adored by both her older brother Austin and her younger
Dickinson Lavinia. Her relationship with her mother was distant, and though she was likely
her father's favorite, her relationship with him was sometimes frosty.
Dickinson regularly attended her family's church, and New England Calvinism surrounded
her. Dickinson stood out as an eccentric when, as a young girl, she refused to join the church
officially or even to call herself a Christian. At school she proved a good student, but spent
only one year at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before leaving the school due to health
problems. In the years prior to her cloistered existence at the house in Amherst, Dickinson
was quite social, attending parties, impressing her father's Washington political comrades
during a trip there, and amusing everyone with her witticisms. Emily Dickinson was a fun,
fiercely intelligent, young woman.
Something changed in her life, and that change is one of the greatest mysteries surrounding
Dickinson's legend. Some time around 1850 she began writing poetry. Her first poems were
traditional and followed established form, but as time passed and she began producing huge
amounts of poetry, Dickinson began experimenting. In 1855, Dickinson, already a homebody,
took a trip to Washington D.C. after much prodding from her family. She also went to
Philadelphia, spending three weeks there. While in Philadelphia, she made the acquaintance
of a brilliant, serious man named Dr. Charles Wadsworth, a married reverend at one of the
Presbyterian churches in the city. He was an arresting figure and Dickinson deeply admired
him. Most scholars agree that Wadsworth was the man Dickinson fell in love with, and the
man who inspired much of her love poetry. Just before he left his Philadelphia church in 1861
to move to San Francisco, Wadsworth visited Dickinson to tell her of his plans to leave. No
one in the family witnessed their meeting, but when he left, Dickinson suffered a nervous
breakdown that incapacitated her for a week and nearly ruined her eyesight.
Dickinson was experimenting with the form and structure of the poem. Many of her
innovations form the basis of modern poetry. She sent her poems as birthday greetings and as
valentines, but her love poetry was private. She tied it in tight little bundles and hid it away.
She did, however, seek out a mentor in Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a prominent literary
critic in Boston. They began a correspondence that would last for the rest of her life. Though
she doggedly sought out his advice, she never took the advice he gave, much to Higginson's
During the 1860s and 1870s, Dickinson grew even more reclusive. She stopped wearing
clothes that had any hint of color and dressed only in white, she turned away almost every
visitor who came to see her, and she locked herself in her room for days at a time. In the late
1870s and early 1880s, a number of people close to Dickinson died in quick succession,
including her mother, her friend Judge Otis Lord, her young nephew, her good friend Helen
Fiske Hunt and Dr. Charles Wadsworth.
In 1886, Dickinson's health began deteriorating and she found herself slowly becoming an
invalid. Dickinson was only fifty-six, but she was suffering from a severe case of Bright's
disease. She died on May 15, 1886, and was buried in a white coffin in Amherst.


Christened as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Mark Twain was born on November 30, 1835
in the small river town of Florida, Missouri, just 200 miles from Indian Territory. In his
youth, Twain was a mischievous boy, the prototype of his character, Tom Sawyer. Though he
was plagued by poor health in his early years, by age nine he had already learned to smoke,
led a small band of pranksters, and had developed an aversion to school. Twains formal
schooling ended after age 12, because his father passed away in March of the year. He
became an apprentice in a printers shop and then worked under his brother, Orion, at the
Hannibal Journal, where he quickly became saturated in the newspaper trade. Rising to the
role of sub-editor, Twain indulged in the frontier humor that flourished in journalism at the
time: tall, tales, satirical pranks, and jokes.
On his way to Nevada, twelve years after the Gold Rush, Twains primary intentions
were to strike it rich mining for silver and gold. After realizing the impossibility of this
dream, Twain once again picked up his pen and began to write.
Twain joined the staff of the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, and became an established
reporter / humorist. In 1863, he adopted the pseudonym Mark Twain, derived from a river
pilot term describing safe navigating conditions.
In 1880, his third daughter, Jean, was born. By the time Twain reached age fifty, he was
already considered a successful writer and businessman. His popularity sky-rocketed with the
publications of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1882),
and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). By 1885, Twain was considered one the
greatest character writers in the literary community.
Twain died on April 21, 1910, having survived his children Langdon, Susan and Jean as
well as his wife, Olivia. In his lifetime, he became a distinguished member of the literati, and
was honored by Yale, the University of Missouri, and Oxford with literary degrees. With his
death, many volumes of his letters, articles, and fables were published, including: The Letters
of Quintas Curtius Snodgrass (1946); Simon Wheeler, Detective (1963); The Works of Mark
Twain: What is Man? An Other Philosophical Writings (1973); and Mark Twains Notebooks
and Journals (1975 79). Perhaps more than any other classic American writer, Mark Twain
is seen as a phenomenal author, but also as a personality that defined an era.
ABOUT THE NOVEL: Throughout the twentieth century, The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn has become famous not only as one of Twains greatest achievements, but also as a
highly controversial piece of literature. In certain Southern states, the novel was banned due
to its extensive criticism of the hypocrisy of slavery. Others have argued that the novel is
racist du to the many appearances of the word nigger. Unfortunately, the connotations of
this word tend to override the novels deeper antislavery themes, and prevent readers from
understanding Twains true perspective. In Twains time, this word was used often and did
not carry as powerful a racist connotation as it does currently. Therefore, in using the word,
Twain was simply projecting a realistic portrayal of Southern society. Undoubtedly, The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is highly significant due to its deep exploration of issues
surrounding racism and morality, and continues to provide controversy and debate to this day,
evidencing the continued relevance of these concepts.
MAJOR THEMES: Conflict between civilization and natural life: The primary theme of
the novel is the conflict between civilization and natural life. Huck represents natural life
trough his freedom of spirit, uncivilized ways, and desire to escape from civilization. He was
raised without any rules or discipline and has a strong resistance to anything that might
sivilize him. This conflict is introduced in the first chapter through the efforts of the Widow
Douglas: she tries to force Huck to wear new clothes, give up smoking, and learn the Bible.
Troughout the novel, Twain seems to suggest that the uncivilized way of life is more desirable
and morally superior. Drawing on the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Twain suggests that
civilization corrupts, rather than improves, human beings.
Honor: The theme of honor permeates the novel after first being introduced in the second
chapter, where Tom Sawyer expresses his belief that there is a great deal of honor associated
with thieving. Robbery appears throughout the novel, specifically when Huck and Jim
encounter robbers on the shipwrecked boat and are forced to put up with the King and
Dauphin, both of whom rob everyone they meet. Toms original robber band is paralleled
later in the novel when Tom and Huck become true thieves, but honorable ones, at the end of
the novel. They resolve to steal Jim, freeing him from the bonds of slavery, which is an
honorable act. Thus, the concept of honor and acting to earn it becomes a central theme in
Hucks adventures.
Food: Food plays a prominent role in the novel. In Hucks childhood, he often fights pigs for
food, and eats out of a barrel of odds and ends. Thus, providing Huck with food becomes a
symbol of people caring for and protecting him. For example, in the first chapter, the Widow
Douglas feeds Huck, and later on Jim becomes his symbolic caretaker, feeding and watching
over him on Jacksons Island. Food is again discussed fairly prominently when Huck lives
with the Grangerfords and the Wilkss.
Mockery of Religion: A theme Twain focuses on quite heavily on in this novel is the
mockery of religion. Throughout his life, Twain was known for his attacks on organized
religion. Huck Finns sarcastic character perfectly situates him to deride religion, representing
Twains personal views. In the first chapter, Huck indicates that hell sounds far more fun than
heaven. Later on, in a very prominent scene, the King, a liar and cheat, convinces a
religious community to give him money so he can convert his pirate friends. The religious
people are easily led astray, which mocks their beliefs and devotion to God.
Superstition: Superstition appears throughout the novel. Generally, both Huck and Jim are
very rational characters, yet when they encounter anything slightly superstitious, irrationality
takes over. The power superstition holds over the two demonstrates that Huck and Jim are
child-like despite their apparent maturity. In addition, superstition foreshadows the plot at
several key junctions. For instance, when Huck spills salt, Pap returns, and when Huck
touches a snakeskin with his bare hands, a rattlesnake bites Jim.
Slavery: The theme of slavery is perhaps the most well known aspect of this novel. Since its
first publication, Twains perspective on slavery and ideas surrounding racism have been
hotly debated. In his personal and public life, Twain was vehemently anti-slavery.
Considering this information, it is easy to see that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
provides an allegory to explain how and why slavery is wrong. Twain uses Jim, a main
character and a slave, to demonstrate the humanity of slaves. Jim expresses the complicated
human emotions and struggles with the part of his life. To prevent being sold and forced to
separate from his family, Jim runs away from his owner, Miss Watson, and works towards
obtaining freedom so he can buy his familys freedom. All along their journey downriver, Jim
cares for and protects of Huck, not as a servant, but as a friend. Thus, Twains encourages the
reader to feel sympathy and empathy for Jim and outrage at the society that has enslaved him
and threatened his life. However, although Twain attacks slavery through is portrayal of Jim,
he never directly addresses the issue. Huck and Jim never debate slavery, and all the over
slaves in the novel are very minor characters. Only in the final section of the novel does
Twain develop the central conflict concerning slavery: should Huck free Jim and then be
condemned to hell? The decision is life-altering for Huck, as it forces him to reject everything
civilization has taught him. Huck chooses to free Jim, based on his personal experiences
rather than social norms, thus choosing the morality of the natural life over that of
Money: The concept of wealth or lack thereof is thread throughout the novel, and highlights
the disparity between the rich and poor. Twain purposely begins the novel by pointing out that
Huck has over six thousand dollars to his name; a sum of money that dwarfs all the other
sums mentioned, making them seem inconsequential in contrast. Huck demonstrates a relaxed
attitude towards wealth, and because he has so much of it, does not view money as a
necessity, but rather as a luxury. Hucks views regarding wealth clearly contrast with Jims.
For Jim, who is on a quest to buy his family out of slavery, money is equivalent to freedom.
In addition, wealth would allow him to raise his status in society. Thus, Jim is on a constant
quest for wealth, whereas Huck remains apathetic.
Mississippi River: The majority of the plot takes place on the river or its banks. For Huck
and Jim, the river represents freedom. On the raft, they are completely independent and
determine their own courses of action. Jim looks forward to reaching the free states, and Huck
is eager to escape his abusive, drunkard of a father and the civilization of Miss Watson.
However, the towns along the river bank begin to exert influence upon them, and eventually
Huck and Jim meet criminals, shipwrecks, dishonesty, and great danger. Finally, a fog forces
them to miss the town of Cairo, at which point there were planning to head up the Ohio River,
towards the free states, in a steamboat.
Originally, the river is a safe place for the two travelers, but it becomes increasingly
dangerous as the realities of their runaway lives set in on Huck and Jim. Once reflective of
absolute freedom, the river soon becomes only a short-term escape, and the novel concludes
on the safety of dry land, where, ironically, Huck and Jim find their true freedom.

SHORT SUMMARY: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is often considered Twains

greatest masterpiece. Combining his raw humor and startlingly mature material, Twain
developed a novel that directly attacked many of the traditions the South held dear at the time
of its publication. Huckleberry Finn is the main character, and through his eyes, the reader
sees and judges the South, its faults, and its redeeming qualities. Hucks companion Jim, a
runaway slave, provides friendship and protection while the two journey along the Mississippi
on their raft.
The novel opens with Huck telling his story. Briefly, he describes what he has experienced
since, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which preceded this novel. After Huck and Tom
discovered twelve thousand dollars in treasure, Judge Thatcher invested the money for them.
Huck was adopted by the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, both of whom took pains to raise
him properly. Dissatisfied with his new life, and wishing for the simplicity he used to know,
Huck runs away. Tom Sawyer searches him out and convinces him to return home by
promising to start a band of robbers. All the local young boys join Toms band, using a hidden
cave for their hideout and meeting place. However, many soon grow bored with their make-
believe battles, and the band falls apart.
Soon thereafter, Huck discovers footprints in the snow and recognizes them as his violent,
abusive Paps. Huck realizes Pap, who Huck hasnt seen in a very long time, has returned to
claim the money Huck found, and he quickly runs to Judge Thatcher to sell his share of the
money for a consideration of a dollar. Pap catches Huck after leaving Judge Thatcher,
forces him to hand over the dollars, and threatens to beat Huck if he ever goes to school again.
Upon Paps return, Judge Thatcher and the Widow try to gain court custody of Huck, but a
new judge in town refuses to separate Huck from his father. Pap steals Huck away from the
Widows house and takes him to a log cabin. At first Huck enjoys the cabin life, but after
receiving frequent beatings, he decides to escape. When Pap goes into town, Huck seizes the
opportunity. He saw his way out of the log cabin, kills a pig, spreads the blood as if it were his
own, takes a canoe, and floats downstream to Jacksons Island. Once there, he sets up camp
and hides out.
A few days after arriving on the island, Huck stumbles upon a still smoldering campfire.
Although slightly frightened, Huck decides to seek out his fellow inhabitant. The next day, he
discovers Miss Watsons slave, Jim, is living on the island. After overhearing the Widows
plan to sell him to a slave trader, Jim ran away. Jim, along with the rest of the townspeople,
thought Huck was dead and is frightened upon seeing him. Soon, the two shar their escape
stories and are happy to have a companion.
While Huck and Jim live on the island, the river rises significantly. At one point, an entire
house floats past them as they stand near the shore. Huck and Jim climb aboard to see what
they can salvage and find a dead man lying in the corner of the house. Jim goes over to
inspect the body and realizes it is Pap, Hucks father. Jim keeps this information a secret.
Soon afterwards, Huck returns to the town disguised as a girl in order to gather some news.
While talking with a woman, he learns that both Jim and Pap are suspects in his murder. The
woman then tells Huck that she believes Jim is hiding out an Jacksons Island. Upon hearing
her suspicions, Huck immediately returns to Jim and together they flee the island to avoid
Using a large raft, they float downstream during the nights and hide along the shore during the
days. In the middle of a strong thunderstorm, they see a steamboat that has crashed, and Huck
convinces Jim to land on the boat. Together, they climb aboard and discover there are three
thieves on the wreck, two of whom are debating whether to kill the third. Huck overhears this
conversation, and he and Jim try to escape, only to find that their raft has come undone from
its makeshift mooring. They manage to find the robbers skiff and immediately take off.
Within a short time, they see the wrecked steamship floating downstream, far enough below
the waterline to have drowned everyone on board. Subsequently, they reclaim their original
raft, and continue down the river with both the raft and the canoe.
As Jim and Huck continue floating downstream, they become close friends. Their goal is to
reach Cairo, where they can take a steamship up to the Ohio River and into the free states.
However, during a dense fog, with Huck in the canoe and Jim in the raft, they are separated.
When they find each other in the morning, it soon becomes clear that in the midst of the fog,
they passed Cairo.
A few nights later, a steamboat runs over the raft, and forces Huck and Jim to jump
overboard. Again, they are separated as they swim for their lives. Huck finds the shore and is
immediately surrounded by dogs. After managing to escape, he is invited to live with a family
called the Grangerfords. At the Grangerford home, Huck is treated well and discovers that
Jim is hiding in a nearby swamp. Everything is peaceful until an old family feud between the
Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons is rekindled. Within one day all the men in the
Grangerford family are killed, including Hucks new best friend, Buck. Amid the chaos, Huck
runs back to Jim, and together they start downriver again.
Further downstream, Huck rescues two humbugs known as the Duke and the King.
Immediately, the two men take control of the raft and start to travel downstream, making
money by cheating people in the various towns along the river. The Duke and the King
develop a scam they call the Royal Nonesuch, which earns them over four hundred dollars.
The scam involves getting all the men in the town to come to a show with promises of great
entertainment. In the show, the King parades around naked for a few minutes. The men are
too ashamed to admit to wasting their money, and tell everyone else that the show was
phenomenal, thus making the following nights performance a success. On the third night,
everyone returns plotting revenge, but the Duke and King manage to escape with all their ill
gotten gains.
Further downriver, the two con men learn about a large inheritance meant for three recently
orphaned girls. To steal the money, the men pretend to be the girls British uncles. The girl
are so happy to see their uncles that they do not realize they are being swindled.
Meanwhile, the girls treat Huck so nicely that he vows to protect them from the con mens
scheme. Huck sneaks into the Kings room and steals the large bag of gold from the
inheritance. He hides the gold in Peter Wilkss (the girls father) coffin. Meanwhile, the
humbugs spend their time liquidating the Wilks family property. At one point, Huck finds
Mary Jane Wilks, the oldest of the girls, and sees that she is crying. He confesses the entire
story to her. She is infuriated, but agrees to leave the house for a few days so Huck can
Right after Mary Jane leaves, the real Wilks uncles arrive in town. However, because they lost
their baggage on their voyage, they are unable to prove their identities. Thus, the town lawyer
gathers all four men to determine who is lying. The King and the Duke fake their roles so well
that there is no way to determine the truth. Finally, one of real uncles says his brother Peter
had a tattoo on his chest and challenges the King to identify it. In order to determine the truth,
the townspeople decide to exhume the body. Upon digging up the grave, the townspeople
discover the missing money Huck hid in the coffin. In the ensuing chaos, Huck runs straight
back to the raft and he and Jim push off into the river. The Duke and King also escape and
catch up to rejoin the raft.
Farther down the river, the King and the Duke sell Jim into slavery, claiming he is a runaway
slave from New Orleans. Huck decides to rescue Jim, and daringly walks up to the house
where Jim is being kept. Luckily, the house is owned by none other than Tom Sawyers Autn
Sally. Huck immediately pretends to be Tom. When the real Tom arrives, he pretends to be
his younger brother, Sid Sawyer. Together, he and Huck contrive a plan to help Jim escape
from his prison, an outdoor shed. Tom, always the troublemaker, also makes Jims life
difficult by putting snakes and spiders into his room.
After a great deal of planning, the boys convince the town that a group of thieves is planning
to steal Jim. That night, they collect Jim and start to run away. The local farmers follow them,
shooting as they run after them. Huck, Jim and Tom manage to escape, but Tom is shot in the
leg. Huck returns to town to fetch a doctor, whom he sends Tom and Jims hiding place. The
doctor returns with Tom on a stretcher and Jim in chains. Jim is treated badly until the doctor
describes how Jim helped him take care of the boy. When Tom awakens, he demands that
they let Jim go free.
At this point, Aunt Polly appears, having traveled all the way down the river. She realized
something was very wrong after her sister wrote to her that both Tom and Sid had arrived.
Aunt Polly tells them that Jim is indeed a free man, because the Widow had passed away and
freed him in her will. Huck and Tom give Jim forty dollars for being such a good prisoner and
letting them free him, while in fact he had been free for quite some time.
After this revelation, Jim tells Huck to stop worrying about his Pap and reveals that the dead
man in the floating house was in fact Hucks father. Aunt Sally offers to adopt Huck, but he
refuses on the grounds that he had tried that sort of lifestyle once before, and it didnt suit
him. Huck concludes the novel stating he would never have undertaken the task of writing out
his story in a book, had he known it would take so long to complete.


Herman Melville was born on the first of August in 1819 in New York City, the third of eight
children of Allan and Maria Gansevoort Melvill. His ancestors included several Scottish and
Dutch settlers of New York, as well as a number of prominent leaders in the American
Revolution. His paternal grandfather, Major Thomas Melvill, was a member of the Boston
Tea Party, and his maternal grandfather, General Peter Gansevoort, was renowned for leading
he defense of Ft. Stanwix against the British during the revolution.
Melvilles father was involved in the felt and fur important business, yet in 1830 his business
collapsed and the Melvill family moved from New York City to Albany, where Allan Melvill
died two years later. As a child, Herman suffered from extremely poor eyesight caused by a
bout of scarlet fever, but he was able to attend Male High School despite his difficulties.
Herman Melville worked as a bank clerk before attending the Albany Classical School, and
then worked for a short time as a teacher in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Although he studied surveying al Landingsburgh Academy, in order to take part in the Erie
Canal Project, he did not gain a post with the project and instead shipped out of America as a
cabin boy on the St. Lawrence, bound for Liverpool. By this time, Melville had already
started writing. In January of 1841 Melville undertook a second voyage on the whaler
Acushnet from New Bedford to the South Seas. By June of the following year the Acushnet
landed in the Polynesian Islands, and Melvilles adventures in this area became the basis for
his first novel, Typee (1846). This novel is the reputed story of his life among the cannibalistic
Typee people for several months in 1842, but is likely a highly fictionalized dramatization of
the actual events. Melcilles second novel, Omoo (1847) details the adventures of another
whaling journey in which Melville took part in a mutiny and landed in a Tahitian jail, from
which he later easily escaped.
Melville took his final whaling voyage as a harpooner on the Charles & Henry, but left the
voyage while on the Hawaiian Islands and returned to America as a sailor on the United
States, reaching Boston in 1844. By the time Melville reached America once more, his
familys fortunes had dramatically improved: his brother Gansevoort had become the
secretary for U.S. legation in London under the Polk Administration. Melville could now
support himself solely by writing, and his first novels were notorious successes. In August
1847 Melville married Elizabeth Shaw, daughter of the Chief Justice of Massachusetts, and
began a new book, Mardi, which would be published in 1849. The novel was another
Polynesian adventure, but its fantastical elements and jarring juxtaposition of styles made it a
critical and commercial disappointment. The successes Redburn (1849) and White-Jacket
(1850) returned to the style that had made Melville famous, but neither work expanded the
authors reputation.
In the summer of 1850, under the influence of Nathaniel Hawthornes The Scarlet Letter,
Melville bought the Arrowhead farm near Pittsfield so that he could live near Hawthorne, and
the two men, who shared similar philosophies, became close. The relationship with
Hawthorne reawakened Melvilles creative energies, and in 1851 Melville published his most
renowned novel, Moby Dick. Although now heralded as a landmark work in American
literature, the novel received little acclaim upon its release. He followed this with Pierre
(1852), a novel that drew from Melvilles experiences as a youth, and the modest success
Israel Potter (1855). Melvilles most significant works outside of Moby Dick include the short
stories that he wrote during the time period, including Bartleby the Scrivener (1853) and
Benito Cereno (1855).
In 1856 Melville journeyed to Europe, and he followed this sojourn with the publication of
The Confidence Man (1857), the final novel that Melville would publish during his lifetime.
Melville then devoted himself to lecture tours and a global voyage that he abandoned in San
Francisco. He published some poetry in his remaining years, but these works were of little
Melvilles final years were marked by personal tragedy. His son Malcolm shot himself in
1867, and another son, Stanwix, died after a long and debilitating illness in 1886. During his
final years Melville did return to writing prose, and completed the novel Billy Budd, which
was not published until 1924, several decades after his death. Melville completed Billy Budd,
the story of a sailor who accidentally kills his master after being provoked by a false charge,
in April 1891, and five months later he died, on September 28 in New York City.

The novel Moby Dick was the sixth novel published by Herman Melville, a landmark of
American literature that mixed a number of literary styles including a fictional adventure
story, historical detail and even scientific discussion. The story of the voyage whaling ship
Pequod, the novel draws at least partially from the experiences of its author while a sailor and
a harpooner on whaling ships before settling in New England as a writer.
The title character of Moby Dick was inspired by an article in Knickerbocker magazine in
May 1839 entitled Mocha Dick: or the White Whale of the Pacific. The author of this
article, Jeremiah Reynolds, detailed the capture of a giant sperm whale legendary among
whalers for its vicious attacks on ships. The whale was named as such after the Mocca
Islands, the area where the whale was commonly sighted (Dick was used simply because it
was a common male name). The origin of the Moby of the novels title has never been
conclusively determined.
The first publication of Moby Dick was in London in October of 1851. Entitled The Whale,
the novel was published in three volumes and was censored for some of its political and moral
content. The British publisher of the novel, Richard Bentley, inadvertently left out the
Epilogue to the novel, leading many critics to wonder how the tale could be told in the first
person by Ishmael, when the final chapter witnesses the sinking of the Pequod with
presumably no survivors.
The first American publication of the novel came the following month. The American version
of the novel, published by Harper & Brothers, although fixing the narrative error of the British
version through the inclusion of the epilogue, was poorly received by critics and readers who
expected a romantic high seas adventure akin to Melvilles first success. The reputation of the
novel floundered for many years, and it was only after Melvilles death that it became
considered one of the major novels in American literature.

Ahab as s Blasphemous Figure:

A major assumption that runs through Moby Dick is that Ahabs quest against the great whale
is a blasphemous activity, even part from the consequences that it has upon its crew. This
blasphemy takes two major forms: the first type of blasphemy to prevail within Ahab is
hubris, the idea that Ahab thinks himself the equal of god. The second type of blasphemy is a
rejection of God altogether for an alliance with the devil. Melville makes this point explicit
during various episodes of the novel, such as the instance in which Gabriel warns Ahab to
think of the blasphemers end (Chapter 71: The Jeroboams Story) and the appraisal of
Ahab from Peleg in which he designates him as an ungodly man (Chapter 16: The Ship).
The idea that Ahabs quest for Moby Dick is an act of defiance toward God assuming that
Ahab is omnipotent first occurs before Ahab is even introduced during Father Mapples
sermon. The lesson of the sermon, which concerns the story of Jonah and the whale, is to
warn against the blasphemous idea that a ship can carry a man into regions where god does
not reign. Ahab parallels this idea when he compares himself to God as the lord over the
Pequod (Chapter 109: Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin). Melville furthers this idea through
the prophetic dream that Fedallah tells Ahab that causes Ahab to conclude that he is immortal.
Nevertheless, a more disturbing type of blasphemy also emerges during the course of the
novel in which Ahab himself does not merely believe omnipotent, but aligns himself with the
devil during his quest. Ahab remains in collaboration with Fedallah, a character rumored by
Stubb to be the devil himself, and when Ahab receives his harpoon he asks that it be baptized
in the name of the devil, not in the name of the father.
The Whale as a Symbol of Unparalleled Greatness:
When Melville, through Ishmael, describes the Sperm Whale during the many non-narrative
chapters of Moby Dick, the idea that the whale has no parallel in excellence recurs as a nearly
labored point. Melville approaches this theme from a variety of standpoints, whether
biological or historical, in order to prove the superiority of the whale over all other creatures.
During a number of occasions Melville relates whaling to royal activities, as when he notes
the strong devotion of Louis VXI to the whaling industry and considers the whale as a
delicacy fit for only the most civilized. In additional, Melville cites the Indian legends of
Vishnoo, the god who became incarnate in a whale. Even when discussing the whale in mere
aesthetic terms Melville lauds it for its features, devoting an entire chapter (42) to the
whiteness of the whale, while degrading those artists who falsely depict the whale.
The theme of excellence of the whale serves to place Ahabs quest against Moby Dick as, at
best, a virtually insurmountable task in which he is doomed to failure.
The Whale as an Undefinable Figure:
While Melville uses the whale as a symbol of excellence, he also resists any literal
interpretation of that excellence by refusing to equate the species with any concrete object for
idea. For Melville, the whale is an indefinite figure, as best shown in The Whiteness of the
Whale (Chapter 42). Melville defines the whiteness as absence of color and thus finds the
whale as having an absence of meaning. Melville bolsters this premise that the whale cannot
be defined through the various stories that Ishmael tells in which scholars, historians and
artists misinterpret the whale in their respective fields.
The recurring failed attempts to find a concrete definition of the whale leave the Sperm
Whale, and Moby Dick more specifically, as abstract and devoid of any concrete meaning. By
allowing the whale to exist as a mysterious figure, Melville does not pin the whale down as an
easy metaphorical parallel, but instead leaves a multiplicity of various interpretations for
Moby Dick.
Moby Dick as a Part of Ahab:
Throughout the novel, Melville creates a relationship between Ahab and Moby Dick despite
the latters absence until the final three chapters through the recurrence of elements creating a
close relationship between Ahab and the whale. The most significant of these is the actual
physical presence of the Sperm Whale as part of Ahabs body in the form of Ahabs ivory leg.
The whale is a physical part of Ahab in this instance; it is literally a part of Ahab. Melville
also develops this theme through the uncanny sense that Ahab has for the whale. Ahab has a
nearly psychic sense of Moby Dicks presence, and more tragically, the idea of Moby Dick
perpetually haunts the formidable captain. This theme serves in part to better explain the
depth of emotion behind Ahabs quest for the whale; as a living presence that haunts Ahabs
life, he feels that he must continue on his quest no matter the cost.
The Contrast between Civilized and Pagan Society:
The relationship between Queequeg and Ishmael throughout Moby Dick generally illustrates
the prevalent contrast between civilized, specifically Christian societies and uncivilized,
pagan societies. The continued comparison and contrasts between these two types of societies
is often favorable for Melville, particularly in the discussion of Queequeg, the most idealized
character in the novel, whose uncivilized and imposing appearance only obscures his actual
honor and civilized demeanor. In this respect, Melville is fit simply to deconstruct Queequeg
and place him in entirely sympathetic terms, finding the characters from civilized and from
uncivilized to be virtually identical. Nevertheless, Melville does not include these thematic
elements simply for a lesson on other cultures; a recurring theme equates non-Christian
societies with diabolical behavior, particularly when in reference to Ahab. Ahab specifically
chooses the three pagan characters blood when he wishes to temper his harpoon in the name
of the devil, while the most obviously corrupt character in Moby Dick is conspicuously the
Persian Fedallah, whom the other characters believe to be Satan in disguise. With the
exception of Queequeg, equating the pagan characters with Satan does align with the general
religious overtones of the novel, one which presumes Christianity as its basis and moral
The Sea as a Place of Transition:
In Moby Dick, the sea represents a transitional place between two distinct states. Melville
shows this early on in the case of Queequeg and the other Isolatoes (Daggoo and Tashtego),
who represents the transition from uncivilized to civilized society unbound by any specific
nationality, but in an overwhelming amount of cases this transitional theme relates to the
precarious line between life and death. There are a number of characters who teeter at the
brink between life and death, whether literally or metaphorically, throughout Moby Dick.
Queequeg again proves to be an example: during his illness he prepares for death and in fact
remains in his own coffin waiting for illness to overtake him, but it never does (Chapter 110:
Queequeg in his coffin). The coffin itself becomes a transitional element several chapters later
when the carpenter converts it into a life-buoy and it thus comes to symbolize both the saving
of a life and the end of one (Chapter 126: The Life-Buoy).
Several of the minor characters in Moby Dick also exist in highly transitional states between
life and death. After Pippin jumps to his death from the whaling boat and is saved only by
chance, he loses his sanity and behaves as if a part of him, the infinite of his soul had
already died. Melville further elaborates this theme through the blacksmith, who works on the
sea primarily as a means to escape life.
Harbingers and Superstition:
A recurring theme throughout Moby Dick is the appearance of harbingers, superstitious and
prophecies that foreshadow a tragic end to the story. Even before Ishmael boards the Pequod,
the Nantucket strangers Elijah warns Ishmael and Queequeg against traveling with Captain
Ahab. The Parsee Fedallah also has a prophetic dream concerning Ahabs quest against Moby
Dick, dreaming of hearses. Indeed, the characters are bound by superstition and myth: the
only reason that the Pequod kills a Right Whale is the legend that a ship will have good luck if
it has the head of a Right Whale and the head of a Sperm Whale on its opposing sides. An
additional harbinger of doom found in Moby Dick occurs when a hawk takes Ahabs hat, thus
recalling the story of Tarquin and how his wife Tanaquil predicted that it was a sign that he
would become king of Rome.
The novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville is an epic tale of the voyage of the whaling ship
the Pequod and its captain, Ahab, who relentlessly pursues the great Sperm Whale (the title
character) during a journey around the world. The narrator of the novel is Ishmael, a sailor on
the Pequod who undertakes the journey out of his affection for the sea.
Moby Dick begins with Ishmaels arrival in New Bedford as he travels toward Nantucket. He
rests at the Spouter Inn in New Bedford, where he meets Queequeg, a harpooner from New
Zealand who will also sail on the Pequod. Although Queequeg appears dangerous, he and
Ishmael must share a bed together and the narrator quickly grows fond of somewhat
uncivilized harpooner. Queequeg is actually the son of a High Chief who left New Zeeland
because of his desire to learn among Christians. The next day, Ishmael attends a church
service and listens to a sermon by Father Mapple, a renowned preacher who delivers a sermon
considering Jonah and the whale that concludes that the tale is a lesson to preacher Truth in
the face of Falsehood.
On a schooner to Nantucket, Ishmael and Queequeg come across a local bumpkin who mocks
Queequeg. However, when this bumpkin is swept overboard, Queequeg saves him. In
Nantucket, Queequeg and Ishmael choose between three ships for a year journey, and decide
upon the Pequod. The Captain of the Pequod, Peleg, is now retired, and merely owns the boat
with another Quaker, Bildad. Peleg tells them of the new captain, Ahab, and immediately
describes him as a grand und ungodly man. Before leaving for their voyage, Ishmael and
Queequeg come across a stranger named Elijah who predicts disaster on their journey. Before
leaving on the Pequod, Elijah again predicts disaster.
Ishmael and Queequeg board the Pequod, where Captain Ahab is still unseen, secluded in his
own cabin. Peleg and Bildad consult with Starbuck, the first mate. He is a Quaker and a
Nantucket native who is quite practical. The second mate is Stubb, a Cape Cod native with a
more jovial and carefree attitude. The third is Flask, a Marthas Vineyard native with a
pugnacious attitude. Melville introduces the rest of the crew, including the Indian harpooner
Tashtego, the African harpooner Daggoo.
Several days into the voyage, Ahab finally appears as a man seemingly made of bronze who
stands on an ivory leg fashioned from whalebone. He eventually gets into a violent argument
with Stubb when the second mate makes a joke at Ahabs expense, and kicks him. This leads
Stubb to dream of kicking Ahabs ivory leg off, but Flask claims that the kick from Ahab is a
sign of honor.
At last, Ahab tells the crew of the Pequod to look for a white-headed whale with a wrinkled
brow: Moby Dick, the legendary whale that took Ahabs leg. Starbuck tells Ahab that his
obsession with Moby Dick is madness, but Ahab claims that all things are masks and there is
some unknown reasoning behind that mask that man must strike through. For Ahab, Moby
Dick is that mask. Ahab himself seems to recognize his own madness. Starbuck begins to
worry that the ship is overmatched by the mad captain and knows that he will see an impious
and to Ahab.
While Queequeg and Ishmael weave a sword-mat for lashing to their boat, the Pequod soon
comes a whale and Ahab orders his crew to their boats. Ahab orders his special crew, which
Ishmael compares to phantoms, to their boats. The crew attacks a whale and Queequeg does
strike it, but this is insufficient to kill it. Among the phantoms in the boat is Fedallah, a
sinister Parsee.
After passing the Cape of Good Hope, the Pequod comes across the Goney, another ship on
its voyage. Ahab asks whether they have seen Moby Dick, but Ahab cannot hear his answer.
The Pequod does have a gam with the next ship it encounters, the Town-Ho.
Ishmael interrupts his narration to tell a story that was told to him by the crew of the Town-
Ho. The story concerns the near mutiny on the Town-Ho and its eventual conflict with Moby
The Pequod does vanquish the next whale that it comes across, as Stubb strikes a whale with
his harpoon. However, as the crew of the Pequod attempts to bring the whale into the ship,
sharks attack the carcass and Queequeg nearly loses his hand while fending them off.
The Pequod next comes upon the Jeroboam, a Nantucket ship afflicted with an epidemic.
Stubb later tells a story about the Jeroboam and a mutiny that occurred on this ship because of
a Shaker prophet, Gabriel, on board. The captain of the Jeroboam, Mayhew, warns Ahab
about Moby Dick.
After vanquishing a Sperm Whale, Stubb next also kills a Right Whale. Although this is not
on the ships agenda, the Pequod pursues a Right Whale because of the good omens
associated with having the head of a Sperm Whale and a head of a Right Whale on a ship.
Stubb and Flask discuss rumors that Ahab had sold his soul to Fedallah.
The next ship that the Pequod meets is the Jungfrau (Virgin), a German ship in desperate need
of oil. The Pequod competes with the Virgin for a large whale, and the Pequod is successful in
defeating it. However, the whale carcass begins to sink as the Pequod attempts to secure it and
thus the Pequod must abandon it. The Pequod next finds a large group of Sperm Whale and
injures several of them, but only captures a single one.
Stubb concocts a plan to swindle the next ship that the Pequod meets, the French ship Bouton-
de-Rose (Rosebud), of ambergris. Stubb tells them that the whales that they have vanquished
are useless and could damage their ship, and when the Rosebud leaves these behind the
Pequod takes them in order to gain the ambergris in one of them.
Several days after encountering the Rosebud, a young black man on the boat, Pippin, becomes
frightened whale and jumps from the boat, becoming entangled in the whale line. Stubb
chastises him for his cowardice and tells him that he will be left at sea if he jumps again.
When Pippin (Pip) does the same thing again, Stubb remains true to his word and Pip only
survives because a nearby boat saves him. Nevertheless, Pip loses his sanity from the event.
The next ship that the Pequod encounters, a British ship called the Samuel Enderby, bears
news of Moby Dick but its crewman Dr. Bunger warns Ahab to leave the whale alone. Later,
Ahabs leg breaks and the carpenter must fix it. Ahab behaves scornfully toward to Ahabs
cabin to report the news. Ahab disagrees with Starbucks advice on the matter, and becomes
so enraged that he pulls a musket on Starbuck. Although Ahab warns Starbuck that there is
but one God on Earth and one Captain on the Pequod, Starbuck tells him that he will be no
danger to Ahab, for Ahab is sufficient danger to himself. Ahab does relent to Starbucks
Queequeg becomes ill from fever and seems to approach death, so he asks for a canoe to serve
as a coffin. The carpenter measures Queequeg for his coffin and builds it, but Queequeg
returns to health, claiming that he willed his own recovery. Queequeg keeps the coffin and
uses it as a sea chest.
Upon reaching the Pacific Ocean, Ahab asks Perth the blacksmith to forge a harpoon to use
against Moby Dick. Perth fashions a harpoon that Ahab demands be tempered with the blood
of his pagan harpooners, and he howls out that he baptizes the harpoon in the name of the
The next ship that the Pequod meets is the Bachelor, a Nantucket ship whose captain denies
the existence of Moby Dick. The next day, the Pequod slays four whales, and that night Ahab
dreams of hearses. He and Fedallah pledge to slay Moby Dick and survive the conflict, and
Ahab boasts of his own immortality.
Ahab must soon decide between an easy route past the Cape of Good Hope back to Nantucket
and a difficult route in pursuit of Moby Dick. Ahab easily chooses to continue his quest. The
Pequod soon comes upon a typhoon on its journey in the Pacific, and while battling this storm
the Pequods compass moves out of alignment. When Starbuck learns this and goes to Ahabs
cabin to tell him, he finds the old man asleep. Starbuck considers shooting Ahab with his
musket, but he cannot move himself to shoot his captain after he hears Ahab cry in his sleep
Moby Dick, I clutch thy heart at last.
The next morning after the typhoon, Ahab corrects the problem with the compass despite the
skepticism of his crew and the ship continues on its journey. Ahab learns that Pip has gone
insane and offers his cabin to the poor boy. The Pequod comes upon yet another ship, the
Rachel, whose captain, Gardiner, knows Ahab. He requests the Pequods help in searching for
Gardiners son, who may be lost at sea, but Ahab flatly refuses when he learns that Moby
Dick is nearby. The final ship that the Pequod meets is the Delight, a ship that has recently
come upon Moby Dick and ahs nearly been destroyed by its encounter with the whale. Before
finally finding Moby Dick, Ahab reminisces about the day nearly forty years before in which
he struck his first whale, and laments the solitude of his years out on the sea. He admits that
he has chased his prey as more of a demon than a man.
The struggle against Moby Dick lasts three days. On the first day, Ahab spies the whale
himself, and the whaling boats row after it. Moby Dick attacks Ahabs boat, causing it to sink,
but Ahab survives the ordeal when he reaches Stubbs boat. Despite this first failed attempt at
defeating the whale, Ahab pursues him for a second day. On the second day of the chase,
roughly the same defeat occurs. This time Moby Dick breaks Ahabs ivory leg, while
Fedallah dies when he becomes entangled in the harpoon line and is drowned. After this
second attack, Starbuck chastise Ahab, telling him that his pursuit is impious and
blasphemous. Ahab declares that the chase against Moby Dick is immutably decreed, and
pursues it for a third day.
On the third day of the attack against Moby Dick, Starbuck panics for ceding to Ahabs
demands, while Ahab tells Starbuck that some ships sail from their ports and ever afterwards
are missing, seemingly admitting the futility of his mission. When Ahab and his crew reach
Moby Dick, Ahab finally stabs the whale with his harpoon but the whale again tips Ahabs
boat. However, the whale rams the Pequod and causes it to begin sinking. In a seemingly
suicidal act, Ahab throws his harpoon at Moby Dick but becomes entangled in the line and
goes down with it. Only Ishmael survives this attack, for he was fortunate to be on a whaling
boat instead of on the Pequod. Eventually he is rescued by the Rachel as its captain continues
his search for his missing son, only to find a different orphan.

14.James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady

Henry James was born in New York City in 1843 and was raised in Manhattan. James's
father, a prominent intellectual and social theorist, traveled a great deal to Geneva, Paris, and
London, so Henry and his brother, William, accompanied him and virtually grew up in those
locations as well. As a child, James was shy, delicate, and had a difficult time mixing with
other boyshis brother, who was much more active, called him a sissy. William James, of
course, went on to become a great American philosopher, while Henry became one of the
nation's preeminent novelists.
The James family moved to Boston when Henry was a teenager, and Henry briefly attended
Harvard Law School. But he soon dropped out in order to concentrate on his writing. He
found success early and often: William Dean Howells, the editor of theAtlantic
Monthly, befriended the young writer, and by his mid- twenties James was considered one of
the most skilled writers in America. In novels such as The American, The
Europeans, and Daisy Miller, James perfected a unique brand of psychological realism, taking
as his primary subject the social maneuverings of the upper classes, particularly the situation
of Americans living in Europe. For James, America represented optimism and innocence,
while Europe represented decadence and social sophistication; James himself moved to
Europe early on in his professional career and was naturalized as a British citizen in 1915 to
protest America's failure to enter World War I.
Throughout his career, James earned criticism for the slow pacing and uneventful plotting of
his novels, as well as for his elliptical technique, in which many of a work's important scenes
are not narrated, but only implied by later scenes. But as a stylist James earned consistent
admiration; he is often considered to be a "writer's writer," and his prose is remarkable for its
elegance of balance, clarity, and precision.
First written in the 1880s and extensively revised in 1908, The Portrait of a Lady is often
considered to be James's greatest achievement. In it, he explored many of his most
characteristic themes, including the conflict between American individualism and European
social custom and the situation of Americans in Europe. It also includes many of his most
memorable characters, including the lady of the novel's title, Isabel Archer, the indomitable
Mrs. Touchett, the wise and funny Ralph Touchett, the fast-talking Henrietta Stackpole, and
the sinister villains, Gilbert Osmond and Madame Merle.
While he was a dedicated observer of human beings in society, James was a socially distant
man who formed few close friendships. He never married and openly claimed to practice
celibacy. Perhaps this gave him time to write: in four decades of his writing career, he
produced nearly 100 books, including such classics as The Golden Bowl, The Wings of the
Dove, and the immortal ghost story "The Turn of the Screw." He died on February 28, 1916,
shortly after receiving the English Order of Merit for his dedication to the British cause in
World War I.

Isabel Archer is a woman in her early twenties who comes from a genteel family in Albany,
New York, in the late 1860s. Her mother died when she was a young girl, and her father
raised her in a haphazard manner, allowing her to educate herself and encouraging her
independence. As a result, the adult Isabel is widely read, imaginative, confident in her own
mind, and slightly narcissistic; she has the reputation in Albany for being a formidable
intellect, and as a result she often seems intimidating to men. She has had few suitors, but one
of them is Caspar Goodwood, the powerful, charismatic son of a wealthy Boston mill owner.
Isabel is drawn to Caspar, but her commitment to her independence makes her fear him as
well, for she feels that to marry him would be to sacrifice her freedom.
Shortly after Isabel's father dies, she receives a visit from her indomitable aunt, Mrs.
Touchett, an American who lives in Europe. Mrs. Touchett offers to take Isabel on a trip to
Europe, and Isabel eagerly agrees, telling Caspar that she cannot tell him whether she wishes
to marry him until she has had at least a year to travel in Europe with her aunt. Isabel and
Mrs. Touchett leave for England, where Mrs. Touchett's estranged husband is a powerful
banker. Isabel makes a strong impression on everyone at Mr. Touchett's county manor of
Gardencourt: her cousin Ralph, slowly dying of a lung disorder, becomes deeply devoted to
her, and the Touchetts' aristocratic neighbor Lord Warburton falls in love with her. Warburton
proposes, but Isabel declines; though she fears that she is passing up a great social opportunity
by not marrying Warburton, she still believes that marriage would damage her treasured
independence. As a result, she pledges to accomplish something wonderful with her life,
something that will justify her decision to reject Warburton.
Isabel's friend Henrietta Stackpole, an American journalist, believes that Europe is changing
Isabel, slowly eroding her American values and replacing them with romantic idealism.
Henrietta comes to Gardencourt and secretly arranges for Caspar Goodwood to meet Isabel in
London. Goodwood again presses Isabel to marry him; this time, she tells him she needs at
least two years before she can answer him, and she promises him nothing. She is thrilled to
have exercised her independence so forcefully. Mr. Touchett's health declines, and Ralph
convinces him that when he dies, he should leave half his wealth to Isabel: this will protect
her independence and ensure that she will never have to marry for money. Mr. Touchett
agrees shortly before he dies. Isabel is left with a large fortune for the first time in her life.
Her inheritance piques the interest of Madame Merle, Mrs. Touchett's polished, elegant
friend; Madame Merle begins to lavish attention on Isabel, and the two women become close
Isabel travels to Florence with Mrs. Touchett and Madame Merle; Merle introduces Isabel to a
man named Gilbert Osmond, a man of no social standing or wealth, but whom Merle
describes as one of the finest gentlemen in Europe, wholly devoted to art and aesthetics.
Osmond's daughter Pansy is being brought up in a convent; his wife is dead. In secret,
Osmond and Merle have a mysterious relationship; Merle is attempting to manipulate Isabel
into marrying Osmond so that he will have access to her fortune. Osmond is pleased to marry
Isabel, not only for her money, but also because she makes a fine addition to his collection of
art objects.
Everyone in Isabel's world disapproves of Osmond, especially Ralph, but Isabel chooses to
marry him anyway. She has a child the year after they are married, but the boy dies six
months after he is born. Three years into their marriage, Isabel and Osmond have come to
despise one another; they live with Pansy in a palazzo in Rome, where Osmond treats Isabel
as barely a member of the family: to him, she is a social hostess and a source of wealth, and
he is annoyed by her independence and her insistence on having her own opinions. Isabel
chafes against Osmond's arrogance, his selfishness, and his sinister desire to crush her
individuality, but she does not consider leaving him. For all her commitment to her
independence, Isabel is also committed to her social duty, and when she married Osmond, she
did so with the intention of transforming herself into a good wife.
A young American art collector who lives in Paris, Edward Rosier, comes to Rome and falls
in love with Pansy; Pansy returns his feelings. But Osmond is insistent that Pansy should
marry a nobleman, and he says that Rosier is neither rich nor highborn enough. Matters grow
complicated when Lord Warburton arrives on the scene and begins to court Pansy. Warburton
is still in love with Isabel and wants to marry Pansy solely to get closer to her. But Osmond
desperately wants to see Pansy married to Warburton. Isabel is torn about whether to fulfill
her duty to her husband and help him arrange the match between Warburton and Pansy, or to
fulfill the impulse of her conscience and discourage Warburton, while helping Pansy find a
way to marry Rosier.
At a ball one night, Isabel shows Warburton the dejected-looking Rosier and explains that this
is the man who is in love with Pansy. Guiltily, Warburton admits that he is not in love with
Pansy; he quietly arranges to leave Rome. Osmond is furious with Isabel, convinced that she
is plotting intentionally to humiliate him. Madame Merle is also furious with her, confronting
her with shocking impropriety and demanding brazenly to know what she did to Warburton.
Isabel has realized that there is something mysterious about Madame Merle's relationship with
her husband; now, she suddenly realizes that Merle is his lover.
At this time, Ralph is rapidly deteriorating, and Isabel receives word that he is dying. She
longs to travel to England to be with him, but Osmond forbids it. Now Isabel must struggle to
decide whether to obey his command and remain true to her marriage vows or to disregard
him and hurry to her cousin's bedside. Encouraging her to go, Osmond's sister, the Countess
Gemini, tells her that there is still more to Merle and Osmond's relationship. Merle is Pansy's
mother; Pansy was born out of wedlock. Osmond's wife died at about the same time, so Merle
and Osmond spread the story that she died in childbirth. Pansy was placed in a convent to be
raised, and she does not know that Merle is her real mother. Isabel is shocked and disgusted
by her husband's atrocious behaviorshe even feels sorry for Merle for falling under his
spellso she decides to follow her heart and travel to England.
After Ralph's death, Isabel struggles to decide whether to return to her husband or not. She
promised Pansy that she would return to Rome, and her commitment to social propriety
impels her to go back and honor her marriage. But her independent spirit urges her to flee
from Osmond and find happiness elsewhere. Caspar Goodwood appears at the funeral, and
afterwards, he asks Isabel to run away with him and forget about her husband. The next day,
unable to find her, Goodwood asks Henrietta where she has gone. Henrietta quietly tells him
that Isabel has returned to Rome, unable to break away from her marriage to Gilbert Osmond.
About the characters
Isabel Archer - The novel's protagonist, the Lady of the title. Isabel is a young woman from
Albany, New York, who travels to Europe with her aunt, Mrs. Touchett. Isabel's experiences
in Europeshe is wooed by an English lord, inherits a fortune, and falls prey to a villainous
scheme to marry her to the sinister Gilbert Osmondforce her to confront the conflict
between her desire for personal independence and her commitment to social propriety. Isabel
is the main focus of Portrait of a Lady, and most of the thematic exploration of the novel
occurs through her actions, thoughts, and experiences. Ultimately, Isabel chooses to remain in
her miserable marriage to Osmond rather than to violate custom by leaving him and searching
for a happier life.
Gilbert Osmond - A cruel, narcissistic gentleman of no particular social standing or wealth,
who seduces Isabel and marries her for her money. An art collector, Osmond poses as a
disinterested aesthete, but in reality he is desperate for the recognition and admiration of those
around him. He treats everyone who loves him as simply an object to be used to fulfill his
desires; he bases his daughter Pansy's upbringing on the idea that she should be unswervingly
subservient to him, and he even treats his longtime lover Madame Merle as a mere tool.
Isabel's marriage to Osmond forces her to confront the conflict between her desire for
independence and the painful social proprieties that force her to remain in her marriage.
Madame Merle - An accomplished, graceful, and manipulative woman, Madame Merle is a
popular lady who does not have a husband or a fortune. Motivated by her love for Gilbert
Osmond, Merle manipulates Isabel into marrying Osmond, delivering Isabel's fortune into his
hands and ruining Isabel's life in the process. Unbeknownst to either Isabel or Pansy, Merle is
not only Osmond's lover, but she is also Pansy's mother, a fact that was covered up after
Pansy's birth. Pansy was raised to believe that her mother died in childbirth.
Ralph Touchett - Isabel's wise, funny cousin, who is ill with lung disease throughout the
entire novel, which ends shortly after his death. Ralph loves life, but he is kept from
participating in it vigorously by his ailment; as a result, he acts as a dedicated spectator,
resolving to live vicariously through his beloved cousin Isabel. It is Ralph who convinces Mr.
Touchett to leave Isabel her fortune, and it is Ralph who is the staunchest advocate of Isabel
remaining independent. Ralph serves as the moral center of Portrait of a Lady: his opinions
about other characters are always accurate, and he serves as a kind of moral barometer for the
reader, who can tell immediately whether a character is good or evil by Ralph's response to
that character.
Lord Warburton - An aristocratic neighbor of the Touchetts who falls in love with Isabel
during her first visit to Gardencourt. Warburton remains in love with Isabel even after she
rejects his proposal and later tries to marry Pansy simply to bring himself closer to Isabel's
Caspar Goodwood - The son of a prominent Boston mill owner, Isabel's most dedicated
suitor in America. Goodwood's charisma, simplicity, capability, and lack of sophistication
make him the book's purest symbol of James's conception of America.
Henrietta Stackpole - Isabel's fiercely independent friend, a feminist journalist who does not
believe that women need men in order to be happy. Like Caspar, Henrietta is a symbol of
America's democratic values throughout he book. After Isabel leaves for Europe, Henrietta
fights a losing battle to keep her true to her American outlook, constantly encouraging her to
marry Caspar Goodwood. At the end of the book, Henrietta disappoints Isabel by giving up
her independence in order to marry Mr. Bantling.
Mrs. Touchett - Isabel's aunt. Mrs. Touchett is an indomitable, independent old woman who
first brings Isabel to Europe. The wife of Mr. Touchett and the mother of Ralph, Mrs.
Touchett is separated from her husband, residing in Florence while he stays at Gardencourt.
After Isabel inherits her fortune and falls under the sway of Merle and Osmond, Mrs.
Touchett's importance in her life gradually declines.
Pansy Osmond - Gilbert Osmond's placid, submissive daughter, raised in a convent to
guarantee her obedience and docility. Pansy believes that her mother died in childbirth; in
reality, her mother is Osmond's longtime lover, Madame Merle. When Isabel becomes Pansy's
stepmother, she learns to love the girl; Pansy is a large part of the reason why Isabel chooses
to return to Rome at the end of the novel, when she could escape her miserable marriage by
remaining in England.
Edward Rosier - A hapless American art collector who lives in Paris, Rosier falls in love with
Pansy Osmond and does his best to win Osmond's permission to marry her. But though he
sells his art collection and appeals to Madame Merle, Isabel, and the Countess Gemini, Rosier
is unable to change Gilbert's mind that Pansy should marry a high-born, wealthy nobleman,
not an obscure American with little money and no social standing to speak of.
Mr. Touchett - An elderly American banker who has made his life and his vast fortune in
England who is Ralph's father and the proprietor of Gardencourt. Before Mr. Touchett dies,
Ralph convinces him to leave half his fortune to his niece Isabel, which will enable her to
preserve her independence and avoid having to marry for money.
Mr. Bantling - The game Englishman who acts as Henrietta's escort across Europe,
eventually persuading her to marry him at the end of the novel.
Countess Gemini - Osmond's vapid sister, who covers up her own marital infidelities by
gossipping constantly about the affairs of other married women. The Countess seems to have
a good heart, however, opposing Merle's scheme to marry Osmond and Isabel and eventually
revealing to Isabel the truth of Merle's relationship to Osmond and Pansy's parentage.
The Portrait of a Lady explores the conflict between the individual and society by examining
the life of Isabel Archer, a young American woman who must choose between her
independent spirit and the demands of social convention. After professing and longing to be
an independent woman, autonomous and answerable only to herself, Isabel falls in love with
and marries the sinister Gilbert Osmond, who wants her only for her money and who treats
her as an object, almost as part of his art collection. Isabel must then decide whether to honor
her marriage vows and preserve social propriety or to leave her miserable marriage and
escape to a happier, more independent life, possibly with her American suitor Caspar
Goodwood. In the end, after the death of her cousin Ralph, the staunchest advocate of her
independence, Isabel chooses to return to Osmond and maintain her marriage. She is
motivated partly by a sense of social duty, partly by a sense of pride, and partly by the love of
her stepdaughter, Pansy, the daughter of Osmond and his manipulative lover Madame Merle.
As the title of the novel indicates, Isabel is the principal character of the book, and the main
focus of the novel is on presenting, explaining, and developing her character. James is one of
America's great psychological realists, and he uses all his creative powers to ensure that
Isabel's conflict is the natural product of a believable mind, and not merely an abstract
philosophical consideration. In brief, Isabel's independence of spirit is largely a result of her
childhood, when she was generally neglected by her father and allowed to read any book in
her grandmother's library; in this way, she supervised her own haphazard education and
allowed her mind to develop without discipline or order. Her natural intelligence has always
ensured that she is at least as quick as anyone around her, and in Albany, New York, she has
the reputation of being a formidable intellect.
After she travels to England with her aunt, Mrs. Touchett, however, it becomes clear that
Isabel has a woefully unstructured imagination, as well as a romantic streak that suits her
position as an optimistic, innocent American. (For James, throughoutPortrait of a
Lady, America is a place of individualism and navet, while Europe is a place of
sophistication, convention, and decadence.) Isabel often considers her life as though it were a
novel. She also has a tendency to think about herself obsessively and has a vast faith in her
own moral strengthin fact, recognizing that she has never faced hardship, Isabel actually
wishes that she might be made to suffer, so that she could prove her ability to overcome
suffering without betraying her principles.
When Isabel moves to England, her cousin Ralph is so taken with her spirit of independence
that he convinces his dying father to leave half his fortune to Isabel. This is intended to
prevent her from ever having to marry for money, but ironically it attracts the treachery of the
novel's villains, Madame Merle and Gilbert Osmond. They conspire to convince Isabel to
marry Osmond in order to gain access to her wealth. Her marriage to Osmond effectively
stifles Isabel's independent spirit, as her husband treats her as an object and tries to force her
to share his opinions and abandon her own.
This is the thematic background of Portrait of a Lady, and James skillfully intertwines the
novel's psychological and thematic elements. Isabel's downfall with Osmond, for instance,
enables the book's most trenchant exploration of the conflict between her desire to conform to
social convention and her fiercely independent mind. It is also perfectly explained by the
elements of Isabel's character: her haphazard upbringing has led her to long for stability and
safety, even if they mean a loss of independence, and her active imagination enables her to
create an illusory picture of Osmond, which she believes in more than the real thing, at least
until she is married to him. Once she marries Osmond, Isabel's pride in her moral strength
makes it impossible for her to consider leaving him: she once longed for hardship, and now
that she has found it, it would be hypocritical for her to surrender to it by violating social
custom and abandoning her husband.
In the same way that James unites his psychological and thematic subjects, he also intertwines
the novel's settings with its themes. Set almost entirely among a group of American
expatriates living in Europe in the 1860s and 70s, the book relies on a kind of moral
geography, in which America represents innocence, individualism, and capability; Europe
represents decadence, sophistication, and social convention; and England represents the best
mix of the two. Isabel moves from America to England to continental Europe, and at each
stage she comes to mirror her surroundings, gradually losing a bit of independence with each
move. Eventually she lives in Rome, the historic heart of continental Europe, and it is here
that she endures her greatest hardship with Gilbert Osmond.
Narratively, James uses many of his most characteristic techniques in Portrait of a Lady. In
addition to his polished, elegant prose and his sedate, slow pacing, he utilizes a favorite
technique of skipping over some of the novel's main events in telling the story. Instead of
narrating moments such as Isabel's wedding with Osmond, James skips over them, relating
that they have happened only after the fact, in peripheral conversations. This literary
technique is known as ellipses. In the novel, James most often uses his elliptical technique in
scenes when Isabel chooses to value social custom over her independenceher acceptance of
Gilbert's proposal, their wedding, her decision to return to Rome after briefly leaving for
Ralph's funeral at the end of the novel. James uses this method to create the sense that, in
these moments, Isabel is no longer accessible to the reader; in a sense, by choosing to be with
Gilbert Osmond, Isabel is lost.


Joseph Conrad grew up in the Polish Ukraine, a large, fertile plain between Poland and
Russia. It was a divided nation, with four languages, four religions, and a number of different
classes. A fraction of the Polish-speaking inhabitants, including Conrads family, belonged to
the Szlachta, a hereditary class below the aristocracy, which combined qualities of gentry and
nobility. They had the political power, despite their impoverished state. Conrads father,
Apollo Korzeniowski, belonged to this class. He studied for six years at St. Petersburg
University, which he left before earning a degree. Apparently, he was physically unattractive
and unpleasant. Conrads mother, Eva Bobrowska, was thirteen years younger than Apollo
and the only surviving daughter in a family of six sons. Afther his parents met in 1847, Eva
was drawn to Apollos poetic temperament and passionate patriotism, while he admired her
lively imagination and warm heart. Although Evas family disapproved of the courtship, they
eventually realized that their daughter would remain unmarried if she could not have the man
she loved, so the two were married in 1856.
Instead of devoting himself to the management of his wifes agricultural estates, Apollo
pursued literary and political activities, which brought in little money. He wrote a variety of
plays and social satires. Although his works were little known, they would have tremendous
influence on his son.
A year into the marriage, Eva became pregnant with Joseph, who was born in 1857.
(Conrad is actually a middle part of his name.) The Crimean War had just ended, and hopes
were high for Polish independence. The family of young Joseph moved quite a bit, and he
never formed close friendships in Poland. Music was one of his earliest memories, and the
image of his mother at the piano was lasting.
Family happiness was then shattered Apollo was arrested on suspicion of involvement in
revolutionary activities. From then on, the family was thrown into exile and unsettled. Eva
gradually developed tuberculosis, and she died in 1865. The seven-year-old Conrad, who
witnessed her decline, was absolutely devastated. He also developed health problems
(migraines and lung inflammation), which persisted throughout his life. Unfortunately, Apollo
too fell into decline, frustrated with his lack of success in stirring up revolution, and he died of
tuberculosis in 1869. At age eleven, Joseph became an orphan.
The young boy became the ward of his uncle, who loved him dearly and essentially replaced
Apollo. Thus began Josephs Cracow years, which ended when he left Poland in 1874. This
move was a complex decision, resulting from what he saw as the intolerably oppressive
atmosphere of the Russian garrison.
He spent the next few years in France, mastering his second language and the fundamentals of
seamanship. The author made acquaintance in many circles, but his bohemian friends were
the ones who introduced him to drama, opera and theatre. In the meantime, he was
strengthening his maritime contacts, and he soon became an observer on pilot boats. The
workers he met on the ship, together with all the experiences they thrust upon him, laid the
groundwork for much of the vivid details in his novels.
By 1878, Joseph had made his way to England with the intention of becoming an officer
among the British ships. He ended up spending twenty more years at sea. Conrad would take
voyages for a long period and then take rest time on shore. This was a cyclic pattern.
When he was not at sea, writing letters or writing in journals, Joseph was exploring other
means of making money. Unlike his father, who practically abhorred money, Conrad was
obsessed by it; he was always on the lookout for business opportunities.
Once the author had worked his way up to shipmaster, he made a series of eastern voyages
over three years. At this time he suffered a severe back injury from which he never
completely recovered. Conrad remained in the English port of Mauritius for two months. In
Mauritius he unsuccessfully courted to women. Frustrated, he left and journeyed to England
for a good long while.
In England in the summer of 1889, Conrad began the crucial transition sailor to writer by
starting his first novel, Almayers Folly. Interestingly, he chose to write in English, his third
language. This decision showed his commitment to England.
A journey to the Congo in 1890 was Josephs real inspiration to write Heart of Darkness. His
outrage and condemnation of colonialism were well documented in the journal he kept during
his visit. He returned to England and soon faced the death of his beloved guardian-uncle. In
the meantime, Conrad became closer and closer to Marguerite, an older family friend who
was his closest confidant. For six years he constantly tried to establish intimacy with her, but
he was eventually discouraged by the age difference and their disparity in social position.
Then, 1894 was a landmark year for Conrad: his first novel was published; he met Edward
Garnett, who would become a lifelong friend; and he met Jessie George, his future wife. The
two-year courtship between the 37-year-old Conrad and the 21-year-old Jessie was somewhat
discontinuous in that Conrad pursued other women in the first year of their relationship but
since they all rejected his advances, his attention became strongly focused on Jessie by the
autumn of 1895. Garnett disapproved of the match, especially since Jessie was miles below
Joseph in education and intellectual culture. However, they married in March 1896.
The children who followed the union were not warmly welcomed by their father; an absent-
minded sort, he expressed surprise each time Jessie delivered a baby. His days were
consumed with writing, trying to find the right word for every sentence. His struggle was no
doubt accentuated by the gaps in his knowledge of the English language.
The major productive phase of Conrads career spanned from 1897 to 1911, during which
time he composed The Nigger of the Narcissus, Youth, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim,
Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and Under Western Eyes, among others. During this period, he
also experienced serious financial difficulties, often living off of advances and state grants,
there being little in the way of royalties. It was not until the publication of Chance in 1914
that he experienced the level of commercial success that afforded a prosperous lifestyle.
As his work declined, he grew increasingly comfortable in his wealth and status. Conrad had a
true genius for companionship, and his circle of friends included talented authors such as
Stephen Crane and Henry James.
Still always writing, he eventually returned to Poland, and then traveled to America, where he
died of a heart attack in 1924, at the age of 67. Conrads literary work would have a profound
impact on the Modernist movement, influencing a long list of writers including T.S. Eliot,
Graham Green, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Mann, Andre Gide, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott
Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner.

There is a group of men aboard an English ship that is sitting on the Thames. The group
includes a Lawyer, an Accountant, a Company Director/Captain, and a man without a specific
profession called Marlow. The narrator appears to be another unnamed guest on the ship.
While they are loitering about, waiting for the wind to pick up that they might resume their
voyage, Marlow begins t speak about London and Europe as some of the darkest places on
earth. The narrator and other guests do not seem to regard him with much respect. Marlow is a
stationary man, very unusual for a seaman. He is not understood because he does not fit into a
neat category in the same manner that the others do. He mentions colonization, and says that
the taking of the earth is not something to examine too closely because it is atrocious. He thn
moves into narration of a life experience in Africa, which forced him to become a fresh water
sailor and gave him a terrible glimpse of colonization. With the exception of two or three
small paragraphs, perspective shifts as Marlow becomes the main narrator.
He has always had a passion for travel and exploration. Maps are a small obsession of his.
Marlow decides he wants nothing more than to be the skipper of a steamship that travels up
and down the river in Africa. His aunt has a connection in the Administration Department of a
seafaring / exploration company that gathers ivory, and manages to get Marlow an
appointment <he is replacing a captain who was killed in a skirmish with the natives. When
Marlow arrives at the company office, the atmosphere is extremely dim and forboding. He
feels as if everyone is looking at him pityingly. The doctor who performs his physical asks if
there is a history of insanity in Marlows family, and tells him that nothing could persuade
him to attend the Company down in the Congo. This puzzles Marlow, but he does not think
much of it. The next day he embarks on a one month journey to the primary Company station.
The African shores that he observes look anything but welcoming. They are dark and rather
desolate, in spite of the flurry of human activity around them. When he arrives, Marlow learns
that a company member recently committed suicide. There are multitudes of chain-gang
types, who all look at him with vacant expressions in their eyes. A young boy approaches
Marlow, looking very empty. Marlow can do nothing else but offer him some ship biscuits.
He is very relieved to leave the boy behind as he comes across a very well-dressed man who
is his exact picture of respectability and elegance. They introduce themselves <he is the Chief
Accountant of the Company. Marlow befriends this man, and frequently sends time in his hut
when he is going over the accounts. After ten days of observing the Chief Accountants ill
temper, Marlow departs for his 200 mile journey into the interior of the Congo, where he will
work for a station run by a mythic man named Kurtz.
The journey is arduous. Marlow crosses many paths, deserted dwellings, and black men who
are working. They are never describes as humans. Most often, everyone refers to them in
animalistic terms. Marlow finally arrives at a secondary station, where he meets the Manager,
who for now will oversee his work. It is a strange meeting. The manager smiles in a manner
that is very discomfiting. The ship that Marlow is supposed to sail is currently broken. While
they await the delivery of rivets that is needed to fix it, Marlow spends his time on more
mundane tasks. He frequently hears the name Kurtz around the station. Clearly everyone
knows him. It is rumored that he is ill. Soon the entire crew will depart for a trip to Kurtzs
The Managers uncle arrives with his on expedition. Marlow overhears them saying that they
would like to see Kurtz and his assistant hanged so that their station could be eliminated as
ivory competition. After a day of exploring the expedition has lost all of their animals.
Marlow sets out for Kurtzs station with the Pilgrims, the cannibal crew, and the Manager.
About eight miles from their destination, they stop for the night. There is talk of an
approaching attack. Rumor has it that Kurtz might have been killed in a previous one. Some
of the pilgrims go ashore to investigate. The whirring sound of arrows is heard. An attack is
underway. The pilgrims shoot back from the ship with rifles. The helmsman of the ship is
killed, as is a native ashore. Marlow supposes that Kurtz has perished in the attack. This
upsets him greatly <over the course of his travelling, inexplicably he has really looked
forward to meeting this man. Marlow shares Kurtzs background: an English education, a
woman at home waiting for him. In spite of Marlows disappointment, the ship presses
onward. A little ways down the river the crew spots Kurtzs station, which they had supposed
was lost. They meet a Russian man who resembles a harlequin. He says that Kurtz is alive but
somewhat ill. The natives do not want Kurtz to leave because he has expanded their minds.
Kurtz does not want to leave because he has essentially become part of the tribe.
After talking for a while with the Russian, Marlow has a very clear picture of the man who
has become his obsession. Finally he has the chance to talk to Kurtz, who is ill and on his
deathbed. The natives surround his hut until he tells them to leave. While on watch, Marlow
dozes off, and realizes that Kurtz is gone. He chases him and finds Kurtz in the forest. He
does not want to leave the station because his plans have not been fully realized. Marlow
manages to take him back to his bed. Kurtz entrusts Marlow with all of his old files and
papers. Among these is a photograph of his sweetheart. The Russian escapes before the
Manager and others cam imprison him. The steamboat departs the next day. Kurtz dies
onboard a few days later, with Marlow having attended him until the end.
Marlow returns to England, but the memory of his friend haunts him. He manages to find the
woman from the picture, and he pays her a visit. She talks at length about his wonderful
personal qualities and about how guilty she feels that she was not with him at the last. Marlow
lies and says that her name was the last word spoken by Kurtz <the actual truth is too dark.

Analysis Part I:
The logical point from which to begin analyzing this story is by applying the title to the novel.
Darkness is a problematic word with several meanings. It is initially referred to in the
context of maps <places of darkness have been colored in; therefore they have been settled by
explores and colonialists. The idea of a map is an important symbol. They are guides, records
of exploration. They have dual purposes in that they unlock mysteries by laying out the
geography of unknown lands and they create more mystery by inspiring curiosity about
unknown lands on and off the map. The river is another important symbol. Always moving,
not very predictable, the gateway to a wider world, it is an excellent metaphor for Marlows
life. Marlow says as a child he had a passion for maps, for the glories of exploration.
Although this description seems very positive, it sounds ominous. The tone is of one who
recalls childhood notions with bitterness and regret. The reader can extrapolate these ideas
simply by taking into account the first description of Marlow. The sallow skin and sunken
cheeks do not portray him as a healthy or happy. He has had the chance to explore, and
apparently the experience has ruined him in some respect. This is Conrads way of arranging
the overall structure of the novel. The audience understands that it is to be a recollection, a
tale that will account for Marlows presently shaky, impenetrable state. The author is also
presupposing knowledge of colonialism. The bitterness of Marlows recollection
demonstrates Conrads own strong bias against colonialism, which he wants to impart to the
reader. The imagery of light and dark very clearly corresponds to the tension that is arranged
between civilization and savagery. The Thames River is called a gateway to civilization
because it connects to the civilized city of London. It is important to note that the city is
always described in stark contrast to its dark surroundings, which may be water or land, they
are so amorphous.
The vivid language of maps becomes more interesting when we consider that the word
darkness still retains its traditional meaning of evil and dread. The fact that Marlow applies
the concept of darkness to conquered territories once again indicates his negative view of
colonialism. He clearly states that colonists are only exploiting the weakness of others. Their
spreading over the world is no more noble than other types of violence and thievery. On the
map, places that are blank and devoid of outside interference are apparently the most
desirable. Darkness has another application <a color of skin. Much of this chapter is spent
discussing Marlows primary encounters with and observations of the natives of the African
Congo. The darkness of their skin is always mentioned. At first glance, Marlow describes
them as mostly black and naked, moving about like ants. While in the shade, dark things
seem to stir feebly. There is absolutely no differentiation between dark animals and dark
people. Even the rags worn by the native people are described as tails. The constant
dehumanization of black people is almost obsessive on the authors part. He is looking to
build a very closed-minded picture of the colonists. Black shapes crouch on the ground,
creatures walk on all fours to get a drink from the river. They are called shadows:
reflections of humans, but not substantial enough to be real. Marlow observes the piece of
white string on a young man, and he is taken aback by how much the whiteness stands out
against the darkness. He cannot seem to conceive of mixing black and white.
As ignorant as Marlows perceptions may appear to our modern reading, it is crucial to realize
that even before he experiences the African jungle, he exists in a class of his own, separate
from everyone else. It is not accidental that he is the only person on the Thames boat who is
named <all the others are presented as titles of their occupation. He is distinct from them
because he has no category that fits him. He is a man who does not represents his class
because he crosses boundaries. His reaction to the African natives may not be sensitive by our
modern standards, but he is more kindly than the other officers at the stations. The chief
accountant dismisses the cries of a dying black man as annoying. Clearly he has no respect for
the lives of the Africans. The offering of a biscuit to the young boy with the white string is a
nice gesture with deeper meaning. It appears to be somewhat considerate, but it is also
degrading. Marlow does this because he can think of nothing else to do as he looks into the
boys vacant eyes. The action is analogous to giving a dog some meat, that he might be
content and retreat back into his corner. Marlow means well, but he is definitely a product of
the society in which he was raised. Immediately following the encounter with the young boy,
he meets the chief accountant who is perfectly attired with collar, cuffs, jacket, and all the
rest. He refers to him as amazing and a miracle. We observe at this moment the
distinctions between savagery and civilization, at least through Marlows narrow definitions.
The diction demonstrates a type of hero worship for this man. His starched collars and cuffs
are achievements of character, and Marlow respects him on this basis. Taking account the
colonialism factor, however, creates bitter irony <to the author, those who look the most
civilized in this novel are actually the most savage. Indeed, the institution of colonialism is
referred to as a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil. Everything it touches turns sour <the
station is an administrative nightmare, and decaying machinery lies everywhere. Marlow
takes this as an indication of poor work ethic, which he despises. For this reason he is drawn
to the blustering accountant, who is a hard worker if nothing else. The natives are the most
affected people, and Marlow in his own bumbling way tries to relate to them.
The sense of time throughout the chapter is highly controlled. Conrad purposely glides certain
events while he examines others in minute detail. He does this in order to build suspicion
about the place to which Marlow has committed himself. Notice that he painstakingly
describes precursor events such as the doctors visit and all conversations that involve the
unseen character Kurtz. Thus begins Marlows consuming obsession with this man. At the
moment, it is more or less inactive, and does not inspire fear. Perfectly placed leading
questions such as the one about a history of family insanity have the desired effect of alerting
readers to a rather fishy situation. That Marlow ignores all of these warnings creates some
dramatic irony <it will take him longer to arrive at the conclusion which the reader has
already reached. One level of speech and communication in this novel exists in the fact that
Marlow is telling a story. His recollections have a hazy, dreamy quality. The narrative is
surely an examination of human spirit. As all stories are subjective, we have to question how
trustworthy both narrative speakers are. The outside narrator only refers to what Marlow says
and does <all others are ignored. There is a definite selection of fact that occurs. Marlows
perception of the African environment, which develop into a larger theme, illustrates this idea.
As far as Kurtz is concerned, there is incomplete communication <Marlow and the reader
know him, and yet not really. He obviously painted as a sinister character. People discuss him
in a hushed sense, always complimenting him. However, the fact that nobody has anything
negative to say about him is suspicious, as if they are all terribly anxious to stay on his good
side. The portrait in the brick maker / first agents room, of the blind woman holding a torch,
suggests the falling of Kurtz: that he has blindly traveled into a situation and become absorbed
in it, much as the woman is absorbed into the darkness of the painting (with the exception of a
torch <insufficient light). This preemptive warning is useful to keep in mind for the
subsequent chapters.
Analysis Part II:
It is important to see that even in this chaotic jungle, there exists a twisted sense of morality.
As the Manager and his uncle discuss Kurtz, they are willing to do anything that will get him
or his assistant the Russian hanged, that the trading field might be leveled to their advantage,
since anything can be done in this country. They both still retain a sense of law, but the
most base components of their personalities control all their intentions; therefore the civilized
law of the Europe continent is discarded for a more vigilante existence. The revealing of such
predatory nature points to the theme of instilled savagery. Modern novels such as Lord of the
Flies borrow much from Conrads piece. There is an integral connection between mind, body
and nature. Again, however, the lines between civilized and savage are blurred. These two
men propose a very savage solution to a seemingly civilized problem of economic
competition. The Congo has a metaphoric effect on the Europeans, Marlow observes the evil
uncle extend his short flipper of an arm for a gesture that seemed to beckon with a
dishonoring flourish before the sunlit face of the land a treacherous appeal to the lurking
death, to the hidden evil, to the profound darkness of its heart. There is one of the few
instances in which a white man is animalized. The land is a living entity, one which has the
potential to create evil. The proprieties observed by the Manager are all completely fake
<Marlow takes this as an illustration of his hollowness. Conrad is making a general
commentary on human nature. One of Marlows more personally distressing thoughts is the
realization that the monstrous tendencies of the black cannibals are not inhuman
tendencies <the white men possess them in a different form. The African land behaves as an
equalizer: in this setting, all that matters is wit and determination. It appears that living here
allows nature to perform a trick on the inhabitants of the land. While travelling Marlow
becomes somewhat delusional <river travel brings back the past, enlarges and distorts it until
it becomes an uncontrollable paranoia that he is being watched. The telling of the tale takes on
the tone of an epic quest that is larger than life. There is pregnant silence and a falling of the
senses. Marlow appears to be travelling deeply into his own mind. His fanatic interest in the
proper working of things is evident when he states that scraping a ship on the river bottom is
sinful. The religious language demonstrates a mounting kind of panic. This paranoia in turn
diminishes his sense of reality, leaving him searching for a sense of truth and stability. This in
part helps to explain his obsession with Kurtz. Behind the myth of this mysterious figure lies
a real, substantial person. He is the most logical entity on which Marlow can fixate. Being lost
in this manner, however, does not seem to be so terrible. The inferiority of the natives is a
thread that runs throughout the story. About the fireman on his ship, Marlow remarks he was
there below me to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches.
The physical position of the body corresponds to a mental and social state. The author creates
a sense of what might be termed inherent inferiority of the blacks <in all possible aspects they
are subservient to the white man, and even seeing them wear pants amounts to no more than a
warped joke. The one time that a native actually speaks is when the ship approaches the
brush, right before attack, and all he has to say is that any prisoners should be given to the
crew as a meal. More than anything the comment is laughable. An attack is about to occur,
and this man is concerned about eating? It is Conrads underhanded means of demonstrating
the simplicity of the natives. The narrator cannot understand why the white men were not
eaten. He cannot credit the blacks with any intelligence beyond instinct. During the battle, one
native is shot, with Marlow and the Manager watching: I declare it looked as though he
would presently put to us some question in an understandable language, but he died without
uttering a sound. There is never any comprehension of blacks. They are always evaluated
and silenced before they can speak. Marlow does feel a real kinship to his savage crew,
which places him above all other whites. However, he has also has shortcomings <his
appreciation of the helmsman after he has died seems more appropriate to a machine than a
The figure of Kurtz grows more enigmatic this chapter, and we return to the theme of voices
and communication. Communication fails when Marlow cannot decipher the book and when
the note has an incomplete warning. Marlows obsession with Kurtz has reached its height.
Talking to this has become the entire reason for Marlows passage through this jungle. The
fact that authoritative, unpleasant figures such as the Manager dislike Kurtz make the reader
more receptive to liking him. Notice that Marlow and Kurtz are the only two characters in the
entire story who are named. Everyone else is titled, detached and therefore dehumanized. This
is an effective means of drawing a relationship between the two characters before they even
meet. As soon as Marlow believes that Kurtz is dead, his presence begins to dominate him
more vividly <Marlow hears his voice, sees him in action. Kurtz is even stronger than death.
The reason Kurtz affects Marlow so deeply is that he has turned his back on his roots and
essentially become native. This demonstrates that there is much more to Marlows personality
that what appears. He is not the average European. The reader understands that we will
receive the most accurate portrait of Marlow through his interactions with Kurtz.
Analysis Part III:
The Russian says it best: I went a little farther Still I had gone so far that I dont know how
Ill ever get back. The Russian and Marlow are the same, both looking for epiphany and
enlightenment. This is the basic catchphrase of Conrads novel, and it gives us much insight
into the character of Kurtz. It is fascinating that he is the most powerful figure in the story,
even though he does not appear until the end. The author is setting forth a challenge <rather
than directly describing Kurtz, he provides various clues that we must piece together in order
to understand who Kurtz is. The first conversation that the Russian has with his mentor, about
everything in life, including love, points to a man who is sensitive and introspective. Kurtz
speaks in civil and savage tongues. His eloquence is his trump card, because it disguises his
darkness from sweet people like the Russian. The woman back in Europe who mourns for him
speaks of a generous heart, a noble mind and greatness. The impressions of these two people,
strongly contrast with the opinion of people such as the Manager, who say that Kurtz was
unethically gathering ivory by exploiting the locals. Marlow must stand in for the readers
perspective. From what he sees and reports, the reader realizes that indeed all accounts are
true. Yet Marlow does not see Kurtz as evil for his actions toward the natives because of the
idea of intentions. People such as the Manager truly care only about fulfilling an ivory quota
and becoming wealthy. While Kurtz is certainly consumed with his search for ivory (his face
and body are described in terms of this precious resource), Conrad does not provide any
evidence that he is concerned with the material aspects <his house and existence are
extremely simple, despite all of the ivory he has recovered. If money and fame were the only
important entities, he could have returned to England long ago. The Russian states that Kurtz
would lose himself among the people. The staked heads around his home demonstrate a
lack of restraint in the gratification of various lusts. They are necessary for a man with a
bog appetite. Apparently, the time in the African Congo has been a time of letting go for
Kurtz, a time in which passions and appetites become unbridled, and in which the past no
longer matters. Undeniably this is a type of sickness. The image of Kurtz on his deathbed,
opening his mouth wide, gives him a voracious aspect as if he wants to absorb and swallow
everything. His need to plan and consume, however, has consumed his mind and spirit. It is a
remarkable case of colonialism gone awry <the wilderness had found him out early, and had
taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. Curiosity that leads to
exploration can also lead, more tragically, to a loss of self. Herein lies a sociopolitical
message that is not originally a part of you, lest it winds up controlling you.
Marlow does not condemn Kurtz because he pities him, sympathizes with his tortured
existence. This is the readers response as well. The moment when Marlow stands between
Kurtz and the horned, demonic-looking man is critical <this figure symbolizes the death and
darkness of Kurtz, and he only turns away from complete desolation because Marlow is there
to help him back. Marlows loyalty allies with Kurtz because his demons are much more evil
than those of, say, the Manager or the Pilgrims. He clearly needs help. Despite the sad
circumstances, however, there is an undercurrent of history that quietly says Kurtz deserves
what he gets. The devotion shown to him by the natives illustrates an almost reciprocal
relationship between them. While it is most likely that they help Kurtz without understanding
the material benefits behind the ivory, it is clear that Kurtz enjoys being a part of them as
much as they enjoy having him there. He is definitely the least biased character in the whole
book, which speaks highly for him in the eyes of a modern reader. Unfortunately, he loses
himself, detaches from everything earthly. Kurtzs soul has broken forbidden boundaries
because it only concentrated on itself. He dies painfully both because his obsessive tasks were
not complete, and because his soul has been sold. The horror he pronounces on his deathbed
is a judgment upon how he has lived his life. We can definitely see Kurtzs demise as a
possible end for Marlow if he had not left the Congo. As it was, the wilderness was certainly
creeping and merging into his psyche < there was a moment when he could not tell the
difference between a drum beat and his own heartbeat. He appears to have escaped in time.
Marlows lie at the end of story is both cruel and compassionate. While the woman is
comforted, she will have to continue believing in an illusion. She will never know what Kurtz
became. As Marlow states, the truth is too dark to tell. Truly, his terrible decline is in vain if
no one learns of it. This is completely the point of Marlows telling the tale the people aboard
the Thames river ship. The river, which once led to civilization, now leads into darkness.

16.James Joyce: Ulysses

James Joyce was born on February 2, 1882, in Dublin, Ireland, into a Catholic middle-class
family that would soon become poverty-stricken. Joyce went to Jesuit schools, followed by
University College, Dublin, where he began publishing essays. After graduating in 1902,
Joyce went to Paris with the intention of attending medical school. Soon afterward, however,
he abandoned medical studies and devoted all of his time to writing poetry, stories, and
theories of aesthetics. Joyce returned to Dublin the following year when his mother died. He
stayed in Dublin for another year, during which time he met his future wife, Nora Barnacle.
At this time, Joyce also began work on an autobiographical novel called Stephen Hero. Joyce
eventually gave up on Stephen Hero, but reworked much of the material into A Portrait of the
Artist as a Young Man, which features the same autobiographical protagonist, Stephen
Dedalus, and tells the story of Joyces youth up to his 1902 departure for Paris.
Nora and Joyce left Dublin again in 1904, this time for good. They spent most of the next
eleven years living in Rome and Trieste, Italy, where Joyce taught English and he and Nora
had two children, Giorgio and Lucia. In 1907 Joyces first book of poems,Chamber
Music, was published in London. He published his book of short stories, Dubliners, in 1914,
the same year he published A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in serial installments in
the London journal The Egoist.
Joyce began writing Ulysses in 1914, and when World War I broke out he moved his family
to Zurich, Switzerland, where he continued work on the novel. In Zurich, Joyces fortunes
finally improved as his talent attracted several wealthy patrons, including Harriet Shaw
Weaver. Portrait was published in book form in 1916, and Joyces play, Exiles, in 1918. Also
in 1918, the first episodes of Ulysses were published in serial form in The Little Review. In
1919, the Joyces moved to Paris, where Ulysses was published in book form in 1922. In 1923,
with his eyesight quickly diminishing, Joyce began working on what became Finnegans
Wake, published in 1939. Joyce died in 1941.
Joyce first conceived of Ulysses as a short story to be included in Dubliners, but decided
instead to publish it as a long novel, situated as a sort of sequel to A Portrait of the Artist as a
Young Man. Ulysses picks up Stephen Dedaluss life more than a year after
where Portrait leaves off. The novel introduces two new main characters, Leopold and Molly
Bloom, and takes place on a single day, June 16, 1904, in Dublin.
Ulysses strives to achieve a kind of realism unlike that of any novel before it by rendering the
thoughts and actions of its main characters both trivial and significantin a scattered and
fragmented form similar to the way thoughts, perceptions, and memories actually appear in
our minds. In Dubliners, Joyce had tried to give his stories a heightened sense of realism by
incorporating real people and places into them, and he pursues the same strategy on a massive
scale inUlysses. At the same time that Ulysses presents itself as a realistic novel, it also works
on a mythic level, by way of a series of parallels with Homers Odyssey.Stephen, Bloom, and
Molly correspond respectively to Telemachus, Ulysses, and Penelope, and each of the
eighteen episodes of the novel corresponds to an adventure from the Odyssey.
Ulysses has become particularly famous for Joyces stylistic innovations. In Portrait,Joyce
first attempted the technique of interior monologue, or stream-of-consciousness. He also
experimented with shifting stylethe narrative voice ofPortrait changes stylistically as
Stephen matures. In Ulysses, Joyce uses interior monologue extensively, and instead of
employing one narrative voice, Joyce radically shifts narrative style with each new episode of
the novel.
Joyces early work reveals the stylistic influence of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.
Joyce began reading Ibsen as a young man; his first publication was an article about a play of
Ibsens, which earned him a letter of appreciation from Ibsen himself. Ibsens plays provided
the young Joyce with a model of the realistic depiction of individuals stifled by conventional
moral values. Joyce imitated Ibsens naturalistic brand of realism in Dubliners, A Portrait of
the Artist as a Young Man, and especially in his play Exiles. Ulysses maintains Joyces
concern with realism but also introduces stylistic innovations similar to those of his Mo-
dernist contemporaries.Ulyssess multivoiced narration, textual self-consciousness, mythic
framework, and thematic focus on life in a modern metropolis situate it close to other main
texts of the Modernist movement, such as T. S. Eliots mythic poem The Waste Land (also
published in 1922) or Virginia Woolfs stream-of-consciousness novel, Mrs.
Dalloway (1925).
Though never working in collaboration, Joyce maintained correspondences with other
Modernist writers, including Samuel Beckett, and Ezra Pound, who helped find him a patron
and an income. Joyces final work, Finnegans Wake, is often seen as bridging the gap
between Modernism and postmodernism. A novel only in the loosest sense, Finnegans
Wake looks forward to postmodern texts in its playful celebration (rather than lamentation) of
the fragmentation of experience and the decentered nature of identity, as well as its attention
to the nontransparent qualities of language.
Like Eliot and many other Modernist writers, Joyce wrote in self-imposed exile in
cosmopolitan Europe. In spite of this fact, all of his work is strongly tied to Irish political and
cultural history, and Ulysses must also be seen in an Irish context. Joyces novel was written
during the years of the Irish bid for independence from Britain. After a bloody civil war, the
Irish Free State was officially formedduring the same year that Ulysses was published.
Even in 1904, Ireland had experienced the failure of several home rule bills that would have
granted the island a measure of political independence within Great Britain. The failure of
these bills is linked to the downfall of the Irish member of Parliament, Charles Stewart
Parnell, who was once referred to as Irelands Uncrowned King, and was publicly
persecuted by the Irish church and people in 1889 for conducting a long-term affair with a
married woman, Kitty OShea. Joyce saw this persecution as an hypocritical betrayal by the
Irish that ruined Irelands chances for a peaceful independence.
Accordingly, Ulysses depicts the Irish citizens of 1904, especially Stephen Dedalus, as
involved in tangled conceptions of their own Irishness, and complex relationships with
various authorities and institutions specific to their time and place: the British empire, Irish
nationalism, the Roman Catholic church, and the Irish Literary Revival.
The Quest for Paternity
At its most basic level, Ulysses is a book about Stephens search for a symbolic father and
Blooms search for a son. In this respect, the plot of Ulysses parallels Telemachuss search for
Odysseus, and vice versa, in The Odyssey. Blooms search for a son stems at least in part from
his need to reinforce his identity and heritage through progeny. Stephen already has a
biological father, Simon Dedalus, but considers him a father only in flesh. Stephen feels
that his own ability to mature and become a father himself (of art or children) is restricted by
Simons criticism and lack of understanding. Thus Stephens search involves finding a
symbolic father who will, in turn, allow Stephen himself to be a father. Both men, in truth, are
searching for paternity as a way to reinforce their own identities.
Stephen is more conscious of his quest for paternity than Bloom, and he mentally recurs to
several important motifs with which to understand paternity. Stephens thinking about the
Holy Trinity involves, on the one hand, Church doctrines that uphold the unity of the Father
and the Son and, on the other hand, the writings of heretics that challenge this doctrine by
arguing that God created the rest of the Trinity, concluding that each subsequent creation is
inherently different. Stephens second motif involves his Hamlet theory, which seeks to prove
that Shakespeare represented himself through the ghost-father in Hamlet, but alsothrough
his translation of his life into artbecame the father of his own father, of his life, and of all
his race. The Holy Trinity and Hamlet motifs reinforce our sense of Stephens and Blooms
parallel quests for paternity. These quests seem to end in Blooms kitchen, with Bloom
recognizing the future in Stephen and Stephen recognizing the past in Bloom. Though
united as father and son in this moment, the men will soon part ways, and their paternity
quests will undoubtedly continue, for Ulyssesdemonstrates that the quest for paternity is a
search for a lasting manifestation of self.
The Remorse of Conscience
The phrase agenbite of inwit, a religious term meaning remorse of conscience, comes to
Stephens mind again and again in Ulysses. Stephen associates the phrase with his guilt over
his mothers deathhe suspects that he may have killed her by refusing to kneel and pray at
her sickbed when she asked. The theme of remorse runs through Ulysses to address the
feelings associated with modern breaks with family and tradition. Bloom, too, has guilty
feelings about his father because he no longer observes certain traditions his father observed,
such as keeping kosher. Episode Fifteen, Circe, dramatizes this remorse as Blooms Sins
of the Past rise up and confront him one by one. Ulysses juxtaposes characters who
experience remorse with characters who do not, such as Buck Mulligan, who shamelessly
refers to Stephens mother as beastly dead, and Simon Dedalus, who mourns his late wife
but does not regret his treatment of her. Though remorse of conscience can have a repressive,
paralyzing effect, as in Stephens case, it is also vaguely positive. A self-conscious awareness
of the past, even the sins of the past, helps constitute an individual as an ethical being in the
Compassion as Heroic
In nearly all senses, the notion of Leopold Bloom as an epic hero is laughablehis job,
talents, family relations, public relations, and private actions all suggest his utter ordinariness.
It is only Blooms extraordinary capacity for sympathy and compassion that allows him an
unironic heroism in the course of the novel. Blooms fluid ability to empathize with such a
wide variety of beingscats, birds, dogs, dead men, vicious men, blind men, old ladies, a
woman in labor, the poor, and so onis the modern-day equivalent to Odysseuss capacity to
adapt to a wide variety of challenges. Blooms compassion often dictates the course of his day
and the novel, as when he stops at the river Liffey to feed the gulls or at the hospital to check
on Mrs. Purefoy. There is a network of symbols in Ulysses that present Bloom as Irelands
savior, and his message is, at a basic level, to love. He is juxtaposed with Stephen, who
would also be Irelands savior but is lacking in compassion. Bloom returns home, faces
evidence of his cuckold status, and slays his competitionnot with arrows, but with a
refocused perspective that is available only through his fluid capacity for empathy.
Parallax, or the Need for Multiple Perspectives
Parallax is an astronomical term that Bloom encounters in his reading and that arises
repeatedly through the course of the novel. It refers to the difference of position of one object
when seen from two different vantage points. These differing viewpoints can be collated to
better approximate the position of the object. As a novel, Ulysses uses a similar tactic. Three
main charactersStephen, Bloom, and Mollyand a subset of narrative techniques that
affect our perception of events and characters combine to demonstrate the fallibility of one
single perspective. Our understanding of particular characters and events must be continually
revised as we consider further perspectives. The most obvious example is Mollys past love
life. Though we can construct a judgment of Molly as a loose woman from the testimonies of
various characters in the novelBloom, Lenehan, Dixon, and so onthis judgment must be
revised with the integration of Mollys own final testimony.
Lightness and Darkness
The traditional associations of light with good and dark with bad are upended inUlysses, in
which the two protagonists are dressed in mourning black, and the more menacing characters
are associated with light and brightness. This reversal arises in part as a reaction to Mr.
Deasys anti-Semitic judgment that Jews have sinned against the light. Deasy himself is
associated with the brightness of coins, representing wealth without spirituality. Blazes
Boylan, Blooms nemesis, is associated with brightness through his name and his flashy
behavior, again suggesting surface without substance. Blooms and Stephens dark colors
suggest a variety of associations: Jewishness, anarchy, outsider/wanderer status. Furthermore,
Throwaway, the dark horse, wins the Gold Cup Horserace.
The Home Usurped
While Odysseus is away from Ithaca in The Odyssey, his household is usurped by would-be
suitors of his wife, Penelope. This motif translates directly to Ulysses and provides a
connection between Stephen and Bloom. Stephen pays the rent for the Martello tower, where
he, Buck, and Haines are staying. Bucks demand of the house key is thus a usurpation of
Stephens household rights, and Stephen recognizes this and refuses to return to the tower.
Stephen mentally dramatizes this usurpation as a replay of Claudiuss usurpation of Gertrude
and the throne inHamlet. Meanwhile, Blooms home has been usurped by Blazes Boylan, who
comes and goes at will and has sex with Molly in Blooms absence. Stephens and Blooms
lack of house keys throughout Ulysses symbolizes these usurpations.
The East
The motif of the East appears mainly in Blooms thoughts. For Bloom, the East is a place of
exoticism, representing the promise of a paradisiacal existence. Blooms hazy conception of
this faraway land arises from a network of connections: the planters companies (such as
Agendeth Netaim), which suggest newly fertile and potentially profitable homes; Zionist
movements for a homeland; Molly and her childhood in Gibraltar; narcotics; and erotics. For
Bloom and the reader, the East becomes the imaginative space where hopes can be realized.
The only place where Molly, Stephen, and Bloom all meet is in their parallel dreams of each
other the night before, dreams that seem to be set in an Eastern locale.
Plumtrees Potted Meat
In Episode Five, Bloom reads an ad in his newspaper: What is home without / Plumtrees
Potted Meat? / Incomplete. / With it an abode of bliss. Blooms conscious reaction is his
belief that the ad is poorly placeddirectly below the obituaries, suggesting an infelicitous
relation between dead bodies and potted meat. On a subconscious level, however, the figure
of Plumtrees Potted Meat comes to stand for Blooms anxieties about Boylans usurpation of
his wife and home. The image of meat inside a pot crudely suggests the sexual relation
between Boylan and Molly. The wording of the ad further suggests, less concretely, Blooms
masculine anxietieshe worries that he is not the head of an abode of bliss but rather a
servant in a home incomplete. The connection between Plumtrees meat and Blooms
anxieties about Mollys unhappiness and infidelity is driven home when Bloom finds crumbs
of the potted meat that Boylan and Molly shared earlier in his own bed.
The Gold Cup Horserace
The afternoons Gold Cup Horserace and the bets placed on it provide much of the public
drama in Ulysses, though it happens offstage. In Episode Five, Bantam Lyons mistakenly
thinks that Bloom has tipped him off to the horse Throwaway, the dark horse with a long-
shot chance. Throwaway does end up winning the race, notably ousting Sceptre, the horse
with the phallic name, on which Lenehan and Boylan have bet. This underdog victory
represents Blooms eventual unshowy triumph over Boylan, to win the Gold Cup of
Mollys heart.
Stephens Latin Quarter Hat
Stephen deliberately conceives of his Latin Quarter hat as a symbol. The Latin Quarter is a
student district in Paris, and Stephen hopes to suggest his exiled, anti-establishment status
while back in Ireland. He also refers to the hat as his Hamlet hat, tipping us off to the
intentional brooding and artistic connotations of the head gear. Yet Stephen cannot always
control his own hat as a symbol, especially in the eyes of others. Through the eyes of others, it
comes to signify Stephens mock priest-liness and provinciality.
Blooms Potato Talisman
In Episode Fifteen, Blooms potato functions like Odysseuss use of moly in Circes den
it serves to protect him from enchantment, enchantments to which Bloom succumbs when he
briefly gives it over to Zoe Higgins. The potato, old and shriveled now, is an heirloom from
Blooms mother, Ellen. As an organic product that is both fruit and root but is now shriveled,
it gestures toward Blooms anxieties about fertility and his family line. Most important,
however, is the potatos connection to IrelandBlooms potato talisman stands for his
frequently overlooked maternal Irish heritage.


James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born on February 2, 1882, just south of Dublin in a
wealthy suburb called Rathgar. The Joyce family was initially well off as Dublin merchants
with bloodlines that connected them to old Irish nobility in the country. James father, John
Joyce, was a fierce Irish Catholic patriot and his political and religious influences are most
evident in Joyces two key works A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses.
Joyces next major work, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, appeared in serialized form
in 1914 and 1915, before Joyce was discovered by Ezra Pound and the complete text was
printed in New York in 1916, and in London in 1917. It was with the assistance of Pound, a
prominent literary figure of the time, that Joyce came in contact with Harriet Shaw Weaver,
who served as both editor and patron while Joyce wrote Ulysses.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was first published in serial form in the Egoist in the
years 1914-15. Chronicling the life of Stephen Dedalus from early childhood to young
adulthood and his life-changing decision to leave Ireland, the novel is profoundly
autobiographical. Like Stephen, Joyce had early experiences with prostitutes during his
teenage years and struggled with questions of faith. Like Stephen, Joyce was the eldest of ten
children and received his education at Jesuit schools. Like Stephen, Joyce left Ireland to
pursue the life of a poet and writer. Joyce began working on the stories that formed the
foundation of the novel as early as 1903, after the death of his mother. Previous to the
publication of Portrait, Joyce had published several stories under the pseudonym Stephen
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is one of the earlier examples in English literature of a
novel that makes extensive use of stream of consciousness. Stream of conscious is a narrative
technique through which the author attempts to represent the fluid and eruptive nature of
human thought. The narrative is anchored in the interior life of a character rather than from
the perspective of an objective third-person narrator. While in Paris in 1902, Joyce discovered
the French novel Les Lauries sont Coup?s; Joyce credits this novel with the inspiration for
creating his own style of stream of consciousness narrative.
While Portrait lacks the ambition and scope of Joyces later stream of conscious masterpiece,
Ulysses, in many ways it was a revolutionary novel. The opening section is in stream of
consciousness with a child protagonist, and the novel is marked by an increasing
sophistication of narrative voice as the protagonist matures. Although many sections of the
novel are narrated in a relatively direct style, Joyce writes long passages that sustain a
complex and difficult language attempting to approximate the workings of human though.
Even when the work is narrated in a straightforward manner, the narrative voice never strays
from the interior life of Stephen Dedalus. We see events only as they are filtered through
The book shows a wide range of narrative styles. There are lush and intricate passages,
sections narrated in a direct style, and highly experimental sections. The close is very simple
done, all in the form of Stephens journal entries before leaving Ireland. The variety of styles
is part of what makes Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man such an enjoyable read.
Joyce is one of the central authors of the modernist canon, and he is best known for a core of
four works: Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914-5), Ulysses
(1922), and Finnegans Wake (1939). These last three works in particular had a huge impact
on the development of modernist English literature. Writers as illustrious as Virginia Woolf
and William Faulkner were strongly influenced by Joyces innovative narrative experiments.

MAJOR THEMES: Entrapment and Constraint: Stephen eventually comes to see Ireland
as a kind of trap, a restraint that will make it impossible for him to live and create. Three
major bonds threaten: family, nation, and the Church. Stephens family, increasingly destitute,
is a source of frustration and guilt. He can do nothing to help them, and the continued
ineptitude of his father exasperates Stephen. Though his father is an ardent nationalist,
Stephen has great anxieties about Irish politics. He finds the Irish people fickle and ultimately
disloyal; at one point, he says to a friend that the Irish have never had a great leader whom
they did not betray or abandon. He also rebels against the nature of activities like petition-
signing and protest; in his mind, these activities amount to an abdication of independence. At
the same time, he leaves Ireland hoping to forget the new conscience of his race.
Catholicism: The Church is perhaps the greatest constraint on Stephen, and merits its own
entry. The teachings of the Church run contrary to Stephens independent spirit and intellect.
His sensitivity to beauty and the human body are not at all suitable to the rigid Catholicism in
which he was raised. But the Church continues to exert some small hold on him. Although he
eventually becomes an unbeliever, he continues to have some fear that the Catholic Church
might be correct. Despite his fears, he eventually chooses to live independently and without
constraint, even if that decision sends him to hell.
Escape: Escape is the natural complement to the theme of Entrapment and Constraint. Joyce
depicts escape metaphorically by the books most important symbol and allusion: the
mythical artificer Dedalus. Dedalus is not at an Irish name; Joyce took the name from the
mythical inventor who escaped from his island prison by constructing wings and flying to his
freedom. Stephen, too will eventually escape from the island prison of Ireland.
Independence: Closely related to the above theme, Stephens move towards independence is
one of the central movements of the novel. When we first encounter Stephen as a young boy,
his athletic ineptitude and sensitive nature make him an easy target for bullies. He is a rather
shy and awkward boy. The contrast with the university student Stephen could not be greater.
The older Stephen is fiercely independent, willing to risk eternal damnation to pursue his
destiny. He is not cowed by anyone, and he will pursue live as an artist no matters what the
Beauty, Sensitivity, and Imagination: What begins as sensitivity and imagination in the child
Stephen eventually evolves into a near-obsessive contemplation of beauty and the mechanics
of art. Even as a child, young Stephen is a extraordinarily imaginative and sensitive boy.
Eventually, these strong but unarticulated feelings take shape as a passion for the arts. In
Chapter 5, Stephen has developed a theory of aesthetics that is quite sophisticated for a
university student; he thinks carefully and thoroughly about beauty and the power of art, and
knows that he can do nothing else but pursue the life of a poet and writer.
SHORT SUMMARY: Portrait of the artist as a young man takes place in Ireland at the turn
of the century. Young Stephen Dedalus comes from an Irish Catholic family; he is the oldest
of ten children, and his father is financially inept. Throughout the novel, the Dedalus family
makes a series of moves into increasingly dilapidated homes as their fortunes dwindle. His
mother is a devout Catholic. When Stephen is young, he and the other Dedalus children are
tutored by the governess Dante, a fanatically Catholic woman. Their Uncle Charles also lives
with the family. The book opens with stream of consciousness narrative filtered through a
childs perspective; there is sensual imagery, and words approximating baby talk. We leap
forward in time to see young Stephen beginning boarding school at Clongowes. He is very
young, terribly homesick, un-athletic and socially awkward. He is an easy target for bullies,
and one day he is pushed into a cesspool. He becomes ill from the filthy water, but he
remembers what his father told him and doesnt tell on the boy. That Christmas, he eats at the
adult table for the first time. A terrible argument erupts over politics, with John Casey and
Stephens father on one side and Dante on the other. Later that year, Stephen is unjustly hit by
a perfect. He complains to the rector, winning the praises of his peers.
Stephen is forced to withdraw from Clongowes because of his familys poverty. The family
moves to Blackrock, where Stephen takes long walks with Uncle Charles and goes on
imaginary adventures with boys from around the neighborhood. When Stephen is a bit older,
the family moves to Dublin, once again because of financial difficulties. He meets a girl
named Emma Clere, who is to be the object of his adoration right up until the end of the book.
His father, with a bit of charm, manages to get Stephen back to private school. He is to go to
Belvedere College, another institution run by the Jesuits.
Stephen comes into his own at Belvedere, a reluctant leader and a success at acting and essay
writing. Despite his position of leadership, he often feels quite isolated. He continues to be a
sensitive and imaginative young man, acting in school plays and winning essay contest. He is
also increasingly obsessed with sex: his fantasies grow more and more lurid. Finally, one
night he goes with a prostitute. It is his first sexual experience.
Going with prostitutes becomes a habit. Stephen enters a period of spiritual confession. He
considers his behavior sinful, but he feels oddly indifferent towards it. He cannot seem to stop
going to prostitutes, nor does he want to stop. But during the annual spiritual retreat al
Belvedere, he hears three fire sermons on the torments of hell. Stephen is terrified, and he
repents of his old behavior. He becomes almost fanatically religious.
After a time, this feeling passes. He becomes increasingly frustrated by Catholic doctrine.
When a rector suggests that he consider becoming a priest, Stephen realizes that it is not the
life for him. One day, while walking on the beach, he sees a beautiful girl. Her beauty hits
him with the force of spiritual revelation, and he no longer feels ashamed of admiring the
body. He will live life to the fullest.
The next time we see Stephen, he is a student at university. University has provided valuable
structure and new ideas to Stephen: in particular, he has had time to think about the works of
Aquinas and Aristotle on the subject of beauty. Stephen has developed his own theory of
aesthetics. He is increasingly preoccupied with beauty and art. Although he has no shortage of
friends, he feels isolated. He has come to regard Ireland as a trap, and he realizes that he must
escape the constraints of nation, family, and religion. He can only do that abroad. Stephen
imagines his escape as something parallel to the flight of Dedalus, he escaped from his prison
with wings crafted by his own genius. The book ends with Stephen leaving Ireland to pursue
the life of a writer.

17. G B Shaw Caesar and Cleopatra

George Bernard Shaw was born Protestant in a predominantly Catholic Dublin in 1856. When
Shaw was sixteen, his mother, an accomplished singer, left Ireland to escape her husband's
alcoholism and follow her singing teacher to London. Shaw remained to complete his
education but, finding his schooling largely inadequate, soon began to pursue his studies
independently. During this time, his father's alcoholism came to affect him deeply, making
him a dedicated teetotaler for most of his adult life. At age twenty he followed his mother to
London to pursue his writing and political career. A staunch progressive, Shaw joined in 1884
the Fabian Society, an organization of middle-class socialists dedicated to mass education and
the legislative reform of England. The Fabians would later become instrumental in the
founding of the London School of Economics and Labour Party. As a member of their
executive committee, Shaw established himself as an orator, social critic, and public
intellectual. Throughout his career as a playwright, he would thus remain active with the
Fabians and work on behalf of a number of causes, including the abolishment of the public
censors and the establishment of a National Theater. With the outbreak of World War I, which
for him tolled the death knell of the capitalist system, Shaw would publish a series of anti-war
newspaper articles entitled "Common Sense about the War." The series would temporarily
ruin his public reputation and lead him to abandon the limelight, until 1923, when his Saint
Joan would bring him back to the spotlight. Other notable political writings from his long
career include "How to Settle the Irish Question" (1917) and "The Intellectual Woman's
Guide to Socialism and Capitalism". Shaw lived until the age of 94, dying in 1950 after
falling from a ladder while gardening. He famously left a portion of his estate to his last
reform campaign, an ill-fated project to simplify the English language alphabet.
Shaw's writing career began almost simultaneously with his political one. His first literary
endeavors consisted a series of rather unsuccessful novels crafted in the 1870s and 1880s.
During this time, Shaw also worked as an art, music, and theater critic for the Saturday
Review and published a number of pamphlets on the arts, most famously "The Perfect
Wagnerite," a commentary on Wagner's Ring Cycle, and "The Quintessance of Ibsenism," an
homage to one of his primary muses. Shaw produced his first play, Widower's Houses, a
strident attack on London's slumlords, in 1892 with a private progressive theater company. He
did so as the play could have never hoped to pass public censors at the time. A collection of
further anti-capitalist works appeared in the 1898 anthology, Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant.
Indeed, Shaw found himself forced to publish a number of his more famous works in reading
editions before they ever saw the theater. Though critics generally received them well, they
almost unanimously agreed that they were better suited to novels than to the stage. Lengthy
stage directions and character descriptions, dizzying intellectual discussions, and the absence
of conventional dramatic action made their production seem unlikely at best.
Shavian drama ultimately came to the stage, however, introducing what has come to be
known as the "discussion play"that is, works primarily driven by ideas, argument, and
debateto modern Anglophone theater. Shaw wrote these plays in a variety of genres,
ranging from the comedy to the chronicle. Examples includeCaesar and Cleopatra (1901); the
philosophically imposing Man and Superman(1903); Major Barbara, a tale of a broken family
some biographers relate to Shaw's own; The Doctor's Dilemma (1906); the
beloved Pygmalion, a tale on gender, class, and phonetics later adapted as the musical My
Fair Lady; and Androcles and the Lion (1912), the only text to appear in Shaw's reformed
alphabet. After the interruption of his dramatic output caused by World War I, Shaw returned
to the stage with last major works, including his ambitious Back to Methuselah (1921), a
meta-biologist five-play cycle on what he called "creative evolution", and Saint Joan(1923),
the play that would win him back his popular appeal.
Caesar and Cleopatra, four-act play by George Bernard Shaw, written in 1898, published in
1901, and first produced in 1906. It is considered Shaws first great play. Caesar and
Cleopatra opens as Caesars armies arrive in Egypt to conquer the ancient divided land for
Rome. Caesar meets the young Cleopatra crouching at night between the paws of a sphinx,
wherehaving been driven from Alexandriashe is hiding. He returns her to the palace,
reveals his identity, and compels her to abandon her girlishness and accept her position as
coruler of Egypt (with Ptolemy Dionysus, her brother). Caesar and Cleopatra was
extraordinarily successful, largely because of Shaws talent for characterization.
About the book
The play has a prologue and an "Alternative to the Prologue". The prologue consists of the
Egyptian god Ra addressing the audience directly, as if he could see them in the theater (i.e.,
breaking the fourth wall). He says that Pompey represents the old Rome and Caesar represents
the new Rome. The gods favored Caesar, according to Ra, because he "lived the life they had
given him boldly". Ra recounts the conflict between Caesar and Pompey, their battle
at Pharsalia, and Pompey's eventual assassination in Egypt at the hands of Lucius Septimius.
In "An Alternative to the Prologue", the captain of Cleopatra's guard is warned that Caesar
has landed and is invading Egypt. Cleopatra has been driven into Syria by her
brother, Ptolemy, with whom she is vying for the Egyptian throne. The messenger warns that
Caesar's conquest is inevitable and irresistible. A Nubian watchman flees to Cleopatra's
palace and warns those inside that Caesar and his armies are less than an hour away. The
guards, knowing of Caesar's weakness for women, plan to persuade him to proclaim
Cleopatrawho may be controllableEgypt's ruler instead of Ptolemy. They try to locate
her, but are told by Cleopatra's nurse, Ftatateeta, that she has run away.
(The film version of the play, made in 1945, used the Alternative Prologue rather than the
original one.)
Act I opens with Cleopatra sleeping between the paws of a Sphinx. Caesar, wandering lonely
in the desert night, comes upon the sphinx and speaks to it profoundly. Cleopatra wakes and,
still unseen, replies. At first Caesar imagines the sphinx is speaking in a girlish voice, then,
when Cleopatra appears, that he is experiencing a dream or, if he is awake, a touch of
madness. She, not recognizing Caesar, thinks him a nice old man and tells him of her childish
fear of Caesar and the Romans. Caesar urges bravery when she must face the conquerors, then
escorts her to her palace. Cleopatra reluctantly agrees to maintain a queenly presence, but
greatly fears that Caesar will eat her anyway. When the Roman guards arrive and hail Caesar,
Cleopatra suddenly realizes he has been with her all along. She sobs in relief, and falls into his
Act II. In a hall on the first floor of the royal palace in Alexandria, Caesar meets King
Ptolemy (aged ten), his tutor Theodotus (very aged), Achillas (general of Ptolemy's troops),
and Pothinus (his guardian). Caesar greets all with courtesy and kindness, but inflexibly
demands a tribute whose amount disconcerts the Egyptians. As an inducement, Caesar says he
will settle the dispute between the claimants for the Egyptian throne by letting Cleopatra and
Ptolemy reign jointly. However, the rivalry exists because, even though the two are siblings
and already married in accordance with the royal law, they detest each other with a mutual
antipathy no less murderous for being childish. Each claims sole rulership. Caesar's solution is
acceptable to none and his concern for Ptolemy makes Cleopatra fiercely jealous.
The conference deteriorates into a dispute, with the Egyptians threatening military action.
Caesar, with two legions (three thousand soldiers and a thousand horsemen), has no fear of
the Egyptian army but learns Achillas also commands a Roman army of occupation, left after
a previous Roman incursion, which could overwhelm his relatively small contingent.
As a defensive measure, Caesar orders Rufio, his military aide, to take over the palace, a
theatre adjacent to it, and Pharos, an island in the harbor accessible from the palace via a
causeway that divides the harbor into eastern and western sections. From Pharos, which has a
defensible lighthouse at its eastmost tip, those of Caesar's ships anchored on the east side of
the harbor can return to Rome. His ships on the west side are to be burnt at once. Britannus,
Caesar's secretary, proclaims the king and courtiers prisoners of war, but Caesar, to the
dismay of Rufio, allows the captives to depart. Only Cleopatra (with her retinue), fearing
Ptolemy's associates, and Pothinus (for reasons of his own), choose to remain with Caesar.
The others all depart.
Caesar, intent on developing his strategy, tries to dismiss all other matters but is interrupted
by Cleopatra's nagging for attention. He indulges her briefly while she speaks amorously of
Mark Antony, who restored her father to his throne when she was twelve years old. Her
gushing about the youth and beauty of Mark Antony are unflattering to Caesar, who is
middle-aged and balding. Caesar nevertheless, impervious to jealousy, makes Cleopatra
happy by promising to send Mark Antony back to Egypt. As she leaves, a wounded soldier
comes to report that Achillas, with his Roman army, is at hand and that the citizenry is
attacking Caesar's soldiers. A siege is imminent.
Watching from a balcony, Rufio discovers the ships he was ordered to destroy have been
torched by Achillas' forces and are already burning. Meanwhile, Theodotus, the savant,
arrives distraught, anguished because fire from the blazing ships has spread to the
Alexandrian library. Caesar does not sympathize, saying it is better that the Egyptians should
live their lives than dream them away with the help of books. As a practicality, he notes the
Egyptian firefighters will be diverted from attacking Caesar's soldiers. At scene's end,
Cleopatra and Britannus help Caesar don his armor and he goes forth to battle.
Act III. A Roman sentinel stationed on the quay in front of the palace looks intently, across
the eastern harbor, to the west, for activity at the Pharos lighthouse, now captured and
occupied by Caesar. He is watching for signs of an impending counter-attack by Egyptian
forces arriving via ship and by way of the Heptastadion (a stone causeway spanning the five
miles of open water between the mainland and Pharos Island). The sentinel's vigil is
interrupted by Ftatateeta (Cleopatra's nurse) and Apollodorus the Sicilian (a patrician amateur
of the arts), accompanied by a retinue of porters carrying a bale of carpets, from which
Cleopatra is to select a gift appropriate for Caesar.
Cleopatra emerges from the palace, shows little interest in the carpets, and expresses a desire
to visit Caesar at the lighthouse. The sentinel tells her she is a prisoner and orders her back
inside the palace. Cleopatra is enraged, and Apollodorus, as her champion, engages in
swordplay with the sentinel. A centurion intervenes and avers Cleopatra will not be allowed
outside the palace until Caesar gives the order. She is sent back to the palace, where she may
select a carpet for delivery to Caesar. Apollodorus, who is not a prisoner, will deliver it since
he is free to travel in areas behind the Roman lines. He hires a small boat, with a single
boatmen, for the purpose.
The porters leave the palace bearing a rolled carpet. They complain about its weight, but only
Ftatateeta, suffering paroxysms of anxiety, knows that Cleopatra is hidden in the bundle. The
sentinel, however, alerted by Ftatateeta's distress, becomes suspicious and attempts,
unsuccessfully, to recall the boat after it departs.
Meanwhile, Rufio, eating dates and resting after the day's battle, hears Caesar speaking
somberly of his personal misgivings and predicting they will lose the battle because age has
rendered him inept. Rufio diagnoses Caesar's woes as signs of hunger and gives him dates to
eat. Caesar's outlook brightens as he eats them. He is himself again when Britannus exultantly
approaches bearing a heavy bag containing incriminating letters that have passed between
Pompey's associates and their army, now occupying Egypt. Caesar scorns to read them,
deeming it better to convert his enemies to friends than to waste his time with prosecutions;
he casts the bag into the sea.
As Cleopatra's boat arrives, the falling bag breaks its prow and it quickly sinks, barely
allowing time for Apollodorus to drag the carpet and its queenly contents safe ashore. Caesar
unrolls the carpet and discovers Cleopatra, who is distressed because of the rigors of her
journey and even more so when she finds Caesar too preoccupied with military matters to
accord her much attention. Matters worsen when Britannus, who has been observing the
movements of the Egyptian army, reports that the enemy now controls the causeway and is
also approaching rapidly across the island. Swimming to a Roman ship in the eastern harbor
becomes the sole possibility for escape. Apollodorus dives in readily and Caesar follows, after
privately instructing Rufio and Britannus to toss Cleopatra into the water so she can hang on
while he swims to safety. They do so with great relish, she screaming mightily, then Rufio
takes the plunge. Britannus cannot swim, so he is instructed to defend himself as well as
possible until a rescue can be arranged. A friendly craft soon rescues all the swimmers.
Act IV. Six months elapse with Romans and Cleopatra besieged in the palace in Alexandria.
Cleopatra and Pothinus, who is a prisoner of war, discuss what will happen when Caesar
eventually leaves and disagree over whether Cleopatra or Ptolemy should rule. They part;
Cleopatra to be hostess at a feast prepared for Caesar and his lieutenants, and Pothinus to tell
Caesar that Cleopatra is a traitress who is only using Caesar to help her gain the Egyptian
throne. Caesar considers that a natural motive and is not offended. But Cleopatra is enraged at
Pothinus' allegation and secretly orders her nurse, Ftatateeta, to kill him.
At the feast the mood is considerably restrained by Caesar's ascetic preference for simple fare
and barley water versus exotic foods and wines. However, conversation grows lively when
world-weary Caesar suggests to Cleopatra they both leave political life, search out the Nile's
source and a city there. Cleopatra enthusiastically agrees and, to name the city, seeks help
from the God of the Nile, who is her favorite god.
The festivities are interrupted by a scream, followed by a thud: Pothinus has been murdered
and his body thrown from the roof down to the beach. The besieging Egyptians, both army
and civilian, are enraged by the killing of Pothinus, who was a popular hero, and they begin to
storm the palace. Cleopatra claims responsibility for the slaying and Caesar reproaches her for
taking shortsighted vengeance, pointing out that his clemency towards Pothinus and the other
prisoners has kept the enemy at bay. Doom seems inevitable, but then they learn that
reinforcements, commanded by Mithridates of Pergamos have engaged the Egyptian army.
With the threat diminished, Caesar draws up a battle plan and leaves to speak to the troops.
Meanwhile, Rufio realizes Ftatateeta was Pothinus' killer, so he kills her in turn. Cleopatra,
left alone and utterly forlorn discovers the bloodied body concealed behind a curtain.
Act V is an epilogue. Amidst great pomp and ceremony, Caesar prepares to leave for Rome.
His forces have swept Ptolemy's armies into the Nile, and Ptolemy himself was drowned
when his barge sank. Caesar appoints Rufio governor of the province and considers freedom
for Britannus, who declines the offer in favor of remaining Caesar's servant. A conversation
ensues that foreshadows Caesar's eventual assassination. As the gangplank is being extended
from the quay to Caesar's ship, Cleopatra, dressed in mourning for her nurse, arrives. She
accuses Rufio of murdering Ftatateeta. Rufio admits the slaying, but says it was not for the
sake of punishment, revenge or justice: he killed her without malice because she was a
potential menace. Caesar approves the execution because it was not influenced by spurious
moralism. Cleopatra remains unforgiving until Caesar renews his promise to send Mark
Antony to Egypt. That renders her ecstatic as the ship starts moving out to sea.
Shaw wants to prove that it was not love but politics that drew Cleopatra to Julius Caesar. He
sees the Roman occupation of ancient Egypt as similar to the British occupation that was
occurring during his time. Caesar understands the importance of good government, and values
these things above art and love.
Shaw's philosophy has often been compared to that of Nietzsche, Their shared admiration for
men of action shows itself in Shaw's description of Caesar's struggle with Pompey,In the
prologue, the god Ra says, "the blood and iron ye pin your faith on fell before the spirit of
man; for the spirit of man is the will of the gods."
A second theme, apparent both from the text of the play itself and from Shaw's lengthy notes
after the play, is Shaw's belief that people have not been morally improved
bycivilization and technology.A line from the prologue clearly illustrates this point. The
god Ra addresses the audience and says, "ye shall marvel, after your ignorant manner, that
men twenty centuries ago were already just such as you, and spoke and lived as ye speak and
live, no worse and no better, no wiser and no sillier."
Another theme is the value of clemency. Caesar remarks that he will not stoop to vengeance
when confronted with Septimius, the murderer of Pompey. Caesar throws away letters that
would have identified his enemies in Rome, instead choosing to try to win them to his side.
Pothinus remarks that Caesar doesn't torture his captives. At several points in the play, Caesar
lets his enemies go instead of killing them. The wisdom of this approach is revealed when
Cleopatra orders her nurse to kill Pothinus because of his "treachery and disloyalty" (but
really because of his insults to her). This probably contrasts with historical fact. The murder
enrages the Egyptian crowd, and but for Mithridates' reinforcements would have meant the
death of all the protagonists. Caesar only endorses the retaliatory murder of Cleopatra's nurse
because it was necessary and humane.

Born in Dublin in 1856 to a middle-class Protestant family bearing pretensions to nobility
(Shaw's embarrassing alcoholic father claimed to be descended from Macduff, the slayer of
Macbeth), George Bernard Shaw grew tobecome what some consider the second greatest
English playwright, behind only Shakespeare. Others mostcertainly disagree with such an
assessment, but few question Shaw's immense talent or the play's that talentproduced. Shaw
died at the age of 94, a hypochondriac, socialist, anti-vaccinationist, semi-feminist
vegetarianwho believed in the Life Force and only wore wool. He left behind him a truly
massive corpus of work includingabout 60 plays, 5 novels, 3 volumes of music criticism, 4
volumes of dance and theatrical criticism, and heaps of social commentary, political theory,
and voluminous correspondence. And this list does not include the opinionsthat Shaw could
always be counted on to hold about any topic, and which this flamboyant public figure
wasalways most willing to share. Shaw's most lasting contribution is no doubt his plays, and it
has been said that "aday never passes without a performance of some Shaw play being given
somewhere in the world." One of Shaw's greatest contributions as a modern dramatist is
in establishing drama as serious literature, negotiatingpublication deals for his highly popular
plays so as to convince the public that the play was no less important thanthe novel. In that
way, he created the conditions for later playwrights to write seriously for the theater.Of all of
Shaw's plays, Pygmalion is without the doubt the most beloved and popularly received, if not
the most significant in literary terms. Several film versions have been made of the play, and it
has even been adapted intoa musical. In fact, writing the screenplay for the film version of
1938 helped Shaw to become the first and onlyman ever to win the much coveted Double: the
Nobel Prize for literature and an Academy Award. Shaw wrote the part of Eliza in Pygmalion
for the famous actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, with whom Shaw was having aprominent affair
at the time that had set all of London abuzz. The aborted romance between Professor
Higginsand Eliza Doolittle reflects Shaw's own love life, which was always peppered with
enamored and beautifulwomen, with whom he flirted outrageously but with whom he almost
never had any further relations. For example,he had a long marriage to Charlotte Payne-
Townsend in which it is well known that he never touched her once.The fact that Shaw
was quietly a member of the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology, an organization
whose core members were young men agitating for homosexual liberation, might or might not
inform the way thatHiggins would rather focus his passions on literature or science than
on women. That Higgins was arepresentation of Pygmalion, the character from the famous
story of Ovid's Metamorphoses who is the veryembodiment of male love for the female form,
makes Higgins sexual disinterest all the more compelling. Shaw istoo consummate a
performer and too smooth in his self- presentation for us to neatly dissect his
sexualbackground; these lean biographical facts, however, do support the belief that Shaw
would have an interest inexploding the typical structures of standard fairy tales.
Two old gentlemen meet in the rain one night at Covent Garden. Professor Higgins is a
scientist of phonetics,and Colonel Pickering is a linguist of Indian dialects. The first bets the
other that he can, with his knowledge of phonetics, convince high London society that, in a
matter of months, he will be able to transform the cockneyspeaking Covent Garden flower
girl, Eliza Doolittle, into a woman as poised and well-spoken as a duchess. Thenext morning,
the girl appears at his laboratory on Wimpole Street to ask for speech lessons, offering to pay
ashilling, so that she may speak properly enough to work in a flower shop. Higgins makes
merciless fun of her, butis seduced by the idea of working his magic on her. Pickering goads
him on by agreeing to cover the costs of theexperiment if Higgins can pass Eliza off as a
duchess at an ambassador's garden party. The challenge is taken,and Higgins starts by having
his housekeeper bathe Eliza and give her new clothes. Then Eliza's father Alfred Doolittle
comes to demand the return of his daughter, though his real intention is to hit Higgins up for
somemoney. The professor, amused by Doolittle's unusual rhetoric, gives him five pounds.
On his way out, the dustman fails to recognize the now clean, pretty flower girl as
his daughter.
For a number of months, Higgins trains Eliza to speak properly. Two trials for Eliza follow.
The first occurs at Higgins' mother's home, where Eliza is introduced to the Eynsford Hills, a
trio of mother, daughter, and son. The son Freddy is very attracted to her, and further taken
with what he thinks is her affected "small talk" when she slips into cockney. Mrs. Higgins
worries that the experiment will lead to problems once it is ended, but Higgins and Pickering
are too absorbed in their game to take heed. A second trial, which takes place some months
later at an ambassador's party (and which is not actually staged), is a resounding success. The
wager is definitely won, but Higgins and Pickering are now bored with the project, which
causes Eliza to be hurt. She throws Higgins' slippers at him in a rage because she does not
know what is to become of her, thereby bewildering him. He suggests she marry somebody.
She returns him the hired jewelry, and he accuses her of ingratitude.
The following morning, Higgins rushes to his mother, in a panic because Eliza has run away.
On his tail is Eliza's father, now unhappily rich from the trust of a deceased millionaire who
took to heart Higgins' recommendation that Doolittle was England's "most original moralist."
Mrs. Higgins, who has been hiding Eliza upstairs all along, chides the two of them for playing
with the girl's affections. When she enters, Eliza thanks Pickering for always treating her like
a lady, but threatens Higgins that she will go work with his rival phonetician, Nepommuck.
The outraged Higgins cannot help but start to admire her. As Eliza leaves for her father's
wedding, Higgins shouts out a few errands for her to run, assuming that she will return to him
at Wimpole Street. Eliza, who has a lovelorn sweetheart in Freddy, and the wherewithal to
pass as a duchess, never makes it clear whether she will or not.
About the characters
Professor Henry Higgins - Henry Higgins is a professor of phonetics who plays Pygmalion
to Eliza Doolittle's Galatea. He is the author of Higgins' Universal Alphabet, believes in
concepts like visible speech, and uses all manner of recording and photographic material to
document his phonetic subjects, reducing people and their dialects into what he sees as readily
understandable units. He is an unconventional man, who goes in the opposite direction from
the rest of society in most matters. Indeed, he is impatient with high society, forgetful in his
public graces, and poorly considerate of normal social niceties--the only reason the world has
not turned against him is because he is at heart a good and harmless man. His biggest fault is
that he can be a bully.
Eliza Doolittle - "She is not at all a romantic figure." So is she introduced in Act I.
Everything about Eliza Doolittle seems to defy any conventional notions we might have about
the romantic heroine. When she is transformed from a sassy, smart-mouthed kerbstone flower
girl with deplorable English, to a (still sassy) regal figure fit to consort with nobility, it has
less to do with her innate qualities as a heroine than with the fairy-tale aspect of the
transformation myth itself. In other words, the character of Eliza Doolittle comes across as
being much more instrumental than fundamental. The real (re-)making of Eliza Doolittle
happens after the ambassador's party, when she decides to make a statement for her own
dignity against Higgins' insensitive treatment. This is when she becomes, not a duchess, but
an independent woman; and this explains why Higgins begins to see Eliza not as a mill
around his neck but as a creature worthy of his admiration.
Colonel Pickering - Colonel Pickering, the author of Spoken Sanskrit, is a match for Higgins
(although somewhat less obsessive) in his passion for phonetics. But where Higgins is a
boorish, careless bully, Pickering is always considerate and a genuinely gentleman. He says
little of note in the play, and appears most of all to be a civilized foil to Higgins' barefoot,
absentminded crazy professor. He helps in the Eliza Doolittle experiment by making a wager
of it, saying he will cover the costs of the experiment if Higgins does indeed make a
convincing duchess of her. However, while Higgins only manages to teach Eliza
pronunciations, it is Pickering's thoughtful treatment towards Eliza that teaches her to respect
Alfred Doolittle - Alfred Doolittle is Eliza's father, an elderly but vigorous dustman who has
had at least six wives and who "seems equally free from fear and conscience." When he learns
that his daughter has entered the home of Henry Higgins, he immediately pursues to see if he
can get some money out of the circumstance. His unique brand of rhetoric, an unembarrassed,
unhypocritical advocation of drink and pleasure (at other people's expense), is amusing to
Higgins. Through Higgins' joking recommendation, Doolittle becomes a richly endowed
lecturer to a moral reform society, transforming him from lowly dustman to a picture of
middle class morality--he becomes miserable. Throughout, Alfred is a scoundrel who is
willing to sell his daughter to make a few pounds, but he is one of the few unaffected
characters in the play, unmasked by appearance or language. Though scandalous, his speeches
are honest. At points, it even seems that he might be Shaw's voice piece of social criticism
(Alfred's proletariat status, given Shaw's socialist leanings, makes the prospect all the more
Mrs. Higgins - Professor Higgins' mother, Mrs. Higgins is a stately lady in her sixties who
sees the Eliza Doolittle experiment as idiocy, and Higgins and Pickering as senseless children.
She is the first and only character to have any qualms about the whole affair. When her
worries prove true, it is to her that all the characters turn. Because no woman can match up to
his mother, Higgins claims, he has no interest in dallying with them. To observe the mother of
Pygmalion (Higgins), who completely understands all of his failings and inadequacies, is a
good contrast to the mythic proportions to which Higgins builds himself in his self-
estimations as a scientist of phonetics and a creator of duchesses.
Freddy Eynsford Hill - Higgins' surmise that Freddy is a fool is probably accurate. In the
opening scene he is a spineless and resourceless lackey to his mother and sister. Later, he is
comically bowled over by Eliza, the half-baked duchess who still speaks cockney. He
becomes lovesick for Eliza, and courts her with letters. At the play's close, Freddy serves as a
young, viable marriage option for Eliza, making the possible path she will follow unclear to
the reader.
Pygmalion derives its name from the famous story in Ovid's Metamorphoses, in which
Pygmalion, disgusted by the loose and shameful lives of the women of his era, decides to live
alone and unmarried. With wondrous art, he creates a beautiful statue more perfect than any
living woman. The more he looks upon her, the more deeply he falls in love with her, until he
wishes that she were more than a statue. This statue is Galatea. Lovesick, Pygmalion goes to
the temple of the goddess Venus and prays that she give him a lover like his statue; Venus is
touched by his love and brings Galatea to life. When Pygmalion returns from Venus' temple
and kisses his statue, he is delighted to find that she is warm and soft to the touch--"The
maiden felt the kisses, blushed and, lifting her timid eyes up to the light, saw the sky and her
lover at the same time" (Frank Justus Miller, trans.).
Myths such as this are fine enough when studied through the lens of centuries and the buffer
of translations and editions, but what happens when one tries to translate such an allegory into
Victorian England? That is just what George Bernard Shaw does in his version of the
Pygmalion myth. In doing so, he exposes the inadequacy of myth and of romance in several
ways. For one, he deliberately twists the myth so that the play does not conclude as
euphorically or conveniently, hanging instead in unconventional ambiguity. Next, he mires
the story in the sordid and mundane whenever he gets a chance. Wherever he can, the
characters are seen to be belabored by the trivial details of life like napkins and neckties, and
of how one is going to find a taxi on a rainy night. These noisome details keep the story
grounded and decidedly less romantic. Finally, and most significantly, Shaw challenges the
possibly insidious assumptions that come with the Pygmalion myth, forcing us to ask the
following: Is the male artist the absolute and perfect being who has the power to create
woman in the image of his desires? Is the woman necessarily the inferior subject who sees her
lover as her sky? Can there only ever be sexual/romantic relations between a man and a
woman? Does beauty reflect virtue? Does the artist love his creation, or merely the art that
brought that creation into being?
Famous for writing "talky" plays in which barely anything other than witty repartee takes
center stage (plays that the most prominent critics of his day called non-plays), Shaw finds
in Pygmalion a way to turn the talk into action, by hinging the fairy tale outcome of the flower
girl on precisely how she talks. In this way, he draws our attention to his own art, and to his
ability to create, through the medium of speech, not only Pygmalion's Galatea, but Pygmalion
himself. More powerful than Pygmalion, on top of building up his creations, Shaw can take
them down as well by showing their faults and foibles. In this way, it is the playwright alone,
and not some divine will, who breathes life into his characters. While Ovid's Pygmalion may
be said to have idolized his Galatea, Shaw's relentless and humorous honesty humanizes these
archetypes, and in the process brings drama and art itself to a more contemporarily relevant
and human level.


In 1878, Leslie Stephen and Julia Jackson Duckworth married, a second marriage for both.
They gave birth to Adeline Virginia Stephen four years later, on the 26th of March at 22 Hyde
Park Gate, London. Virginia was the third of their four children. Leslie Stephen began his
career as a clergyman but soon became agnostic and took up journalism. He and Julia
provided their children with a home of wealth and comfort.
Though denied the formal education allowed to males, Virginia was able to take advantage of
her fathers abundant library and observe his writing talent, and she was surrounded by
intellectual conversation. The same year Virginia was born, for instance, her father began
editing the huge Dictionary of National Biography. Virginias mother, more delicate than her
husband, helped to bring out the more emotional sides of her children. Both parents were very
strong personalities; Virginia would feel overshadowed by them for years.
Virginia would suffer through three major mental breakdowns during her lifetime, and she
would die during a fourth. In all likelihood, the compulsive drive to work that she acquired
from her parents, combined with her naturally fragile state, primarily contributed to these
breakdowns. Yet other factors were important as well. Her first breakdown occurred shortly
following the death of her mother in 1895, which Virginia later described as the greatest
disaster that could have happened. Some have suggested that Virginia felt guilt over
choosing her father as her favorite parent. In any case, her fathers excessive mourning period
probably affected her adversely.
Two years later, Virginias stepsister Stella Duckworth died. Stella had assumed charge of the
household duties after their mothers death, causing a rift between her and Virginia. Virginia
fell sick after Stellas death. The same year, Virginia began her first diary.
Over the next seven years, Virginias decision to write took hold and her admiration for
women grew. She educated herself and greatly admired women such as Madge Vaughan,
daughter of John Addington Symonds, who wrote novels and would later be illustrated as
Sally Seton in Mrs. Dalloway.
Her admiration for strong women was coupled with a growing dislike for male domination in
society. Virginias feelings were likely affected by her relationship to her stepbrother, George
Duckworth, who was fourteen when Virginia was born. In the last year of her life, Virginia
wrote to a friend regarding the shame she felt when, at the age of six, she was fondled by
George. Similar incidents recurred throughout her childhood until Virginia was in her early
twenties. In 1904 her father died, shortly after finishing the Dictionary and receiving a
knighthood. Though freed from his shadow, Virginia was overcome by the event and suffered
her second mental breakdown, combined with scarlet fever and an attempted suicide.
When she recovered, Virginia left Kensington with her three siblings and moved to
Bloomsbury, where she began to consider herself a serious artist. She immersed herself in the
intellectual company of her brother Thoby and his Cambridge friends. This group, including
E.M. Forster and Lytton Strachey, later formed what was known as the Bloomsbury Group,
under the Cambridge don G.E. Moore. They were dedicated to the liberal discussion of
politics and art. In 1906, Thoby died of typhoid fever and Virginias sister married one of
Thobys college friends, Clive Bell. Virginia was on her own. Over the next four years,
Virginia would begin work on her first novel, The Voyage Out (1915), ahe accepted a
marriage proposal from Strachery, who later broke off the engagement. She received a legacy
of 2.500 pounds the same year, which would allow her to live independently. In 1911,
Leonard Woolf, another of the Bloomsbury Group, returned from Ceylon, and they were
married in 1912. Woolf was the stable presence Virginia needed to control her moods and
steady her talent. He gave their home a musical atmosphere. Virginia trusted his literary
judgment. Their marriage was a partnership, though some suggest their sexual relationship
was nonexistent.
Virginia fell ill more frequently as she grew older, often taking respite in rest homes and in
the care of her husband. In 1917, Leonard founded the Hogarth Press to publish their own
books, hoping that Virginia could bestow the care on the press that she would have bestowed
on children. (She had been advised by doctors not to become pregnant after her third serious
breakdown in 1913. Virginia was fond of children, however, and spent much time with her
brothers and sisters children.) Through the press, she had an early look at Joyces Ulysses
and aided authors such as Forster, Freud, Isherwood, Mansfield, Tolstoy, and Chekov. She
sold her half interest in 1938.
Before her death, Virginia published an extraordinary amount of groundbreaking material.
She was a renowned member of the Bloomsbury Group and a leading writer of the modernist
movement with her use of innovative literary techniques. In contrast to the majority of
literature written before the early 1900s, which emphasized plot and detailed descriptions of
characters and settings, Woolfs writing throughout explores the concepts of time, memory,
and consciousness. The plot is generated by the characters inner lives, not by the external
In March 1941, Woolf left suicide notes for her husband and sister and drowned herself in a
nearby river. She feared her madness was returning and that she would not be able to continue
writing, and she wished to spare her loved ones.
Over the course of her many illnesses, however, Woolf had remained productive. Her intense
power of concentration had allowed her to work ten to twelve hours writing. Her most notable
publications include Night and Day, The Mark on the Wall, Jacobs Room, Monday or
Tuesday, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, A Room of Ones Own, The Waves,
The Years, and Between the Acts. In total, her work comprises five volumes of collected
essays and reviews, two biographies (Flush and Roger Fry), two libertarian books, a volume
of selections from diary, nine novels, and a volume of short stories.


In Jacobs Room, the novel preceding Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf works with many of the
same themes she later expand upon in Mrs. Dalloway. To Mrs. Dalloway, she added the
theme of insanity. As Woolf stated, I adumbrate here a study of insanity and suicide; the
world seen by the sane and the insane side by side. However, even the theme that would lead
Woolf to create a double for Clarissa Dalloway can be viewed as a progression of other
similar ideas cultivated in Jacobs Room. Woolfs next novel, then, was a natural
development from Jacobs Room, as well as an expansion of the stories she wrote before
deciding to make Mrs. Dalloway into a full novel.
The Dalloways had been introduced in the novel, The Voyage Out, but Woolf presented the
couple in a harster light than she did in later years. Richard is domineering and pompous.
Clarissa is dependent and superficial. Some of these qualities remain in the characters of Mrs.
Dalloway but the two generally appear much more reasonable and likeable. Clarissa was
modeled after a friend of Woolfs named Kitty Maxse, whom Woolf thought to be a
superficial socialite. Though she wanted to comment upon the displeasing social system,
Woolf found it difficult at times to respond to a character like Clarissa. She discovered a
greater amount of depth to the character of Clarissa Dalloway in a series of short stories, the
first of which was titled, Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street, published in 1923. The story would
serve as an experimental first chapter to Mrs. Dalloway. A great number of similar short
stories followed and soon the novel became inevitable. As critic Hermione Lee details, On
14 October 1922 [Woolf] recorded that Mrs. Dalloway has branched into a book, but it was
sometime before [Woolf] could find the necessary balance between design and substance.
Within the next couple years, Woolf became inspired by a tunneling writing process,
allowing her to dig caves behind her characters and explore their souls. As Woolf wrote to
painter Jacques Raverat, it is precisely the task of the writer to go beyond the formal railway
line of sentence and to show how people feel or think or dream all over the place. In
order to give Clarissa more substance, Woolf created Clarissas memories. Woolf used
characters from her own past in addition to Kitty Maxse, such as Madge Symonds, on whom
she based Sally Seton. Woolf held a similar type of affectionate devotion for Madge at the age
of fifteen as a young Clarissa held for Sally.
The theme of insanity was close to Woolfs past and present. She originally planned to have
Clarissa die or commit suicide at the end of the novel but finally decided that she did want
manner of closure for Clarissa. As critic Manly Johnson elaborates, The original intention to
have Clarissa kill herself in the pattern of Woolfs own intermittent despair was rejected in
favor of a dark double who would take that act upon himself. Creating Septimus led directly
to Clarissas mystical theory of vicarious death and shared existence, saving the novel from a
damaging balance on the side of darkness. Still, the disassociation of crippling insanity from
the character of Clarissa Dalloway did not completely save Woolf from the pain of
recollection. Woolfs husband and close friends compared her periods of insanity to a manic
depression quite similar to the episode experienced by Septimus. Woolf also included
frustratingly impersonal doctor types in Bradshaw and Holmes that reflected doctors she had
visited throughout the years.
As the novel focused mainly on the character of Clarissa Dalloway, Woolf changed the name
of the novel to Mrs. Dalloway from its more abstract working title, The Hours, before
publishing it. Woolf struggled to combine many elements that impinged on her sensibility as
she wrote the novel. The title, Mrs. Dalloway, best suited her attempts to join them together.
As Woolf commented, In this book I have almost too many ideas. I want to give life and
death, sanity and insanity; I want to criticize the social system, and to show it at work, at its
most intense. Furthermore, she hoped to respond to the stagnant state of the novel, with a
consciously modern novel. Many critics believe she succeeded. The novel was published in
1925, and received much acclaim.


Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was a Jazz Age novelist and short story writer who is considered
to be among the greatest twenty-century American writers. Born on September 24, 1896, he
was the only son of an aristocratic father and a provincial, working-class mother. He was the
product of two divergent traditions: while his fathers family included the author of The Star-
Spangled Banner (after whom Fitzgerald was named), his mothers family was, in
Fitzgeralds own words, straight 1850 potato-famine Irish. As a result of this contrast, he
was exceedingly ambivalent toward the notion of the American dream: for him, it was once
vulgar and dazzlingly promising.
Like the central character of The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald had an intensely romantic
imagination; he once called it a heightened sensitivity to the promises of life. The events of
Fitzgeralds own life can be seen as a struggle to realize those promises.
He attended both St. Paul Academy (1908-10) and Newman School (1911-13), where his
intensity and outsized enthusiasm made him unpopular with the other students. Later, at
Princeton University, he came close to the brilliant success of which he dreamed. He became
part of the influential Triangle Club, a dramatic organization whose members were taken from
the cream of society. He also became a prominent figure in the literary life of the university
and made lifelong friendships with Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop. Despite these
social coups, Fitzgerald struggled academically, and he eventually flunked out of Princeton.
In November 1917, he joined the army.
While stationed at Camp Sheridan (near Montgomery, Alabama), he met Zelda Sayre, the
daughter of an Alabama Supreme court Judge, and the two fell deeply in love. Fitzgerald
needed to improve his dismal financial circumstances, however, before he and Zelda could
marry. At the first opportunity, he left for New York, determined to make his fortune in the
great city. Instead, he was forced to take a menial advertising job at $90 per month. Zelda
broke their engagement, and Fitzgerald retreated to St. Paul, Minnesota. There, he rewrote a
novel that he had begun at Princeton. In the spring of 1920 the novel, This Side of Paradise,
was published.
Though todays readers might find its ideas dated, This Side of Paradise was a revelation to
Fitzgeralds contemporaries. It was regarded as a rare glimpse into the morality and
immorality of Americas youth, and it made Fitzgerald famous. Suddenly, the author could
publish not only in prestigious literary magazines such as Scribners but also high-paying,
popular publications including The Saturday Evening Post.
Flush with his new wealth and fame, Fitzgerald finally married Zelda. The celebrated
columnist Ring Lardner christened them the prince and princess of their generation. Though
the Fitzgeralds reveled in their notoriety, they also found it frightening, a fact which is
perhaps represented in the ending of Fitzgeralds second novel. This novel, The Beautiful and
Damned, was published two years later, and tells the story of a handsome young man and his
beautiful wife, who gradually deteriorate into careworn middle age while they wait for the
young man to inherit a large fortune. In a predictable ironic twist, they only receive their
inheritance when is too late.
To escape this grim fate, the Fitzgeralds (together with their daughter, Frances, who was born
on in 1921) moved in 1924 to the Riviera, where they became part of a group of wealthy
American expatriates whose style was largely determinate by Gerald and Sara Murphy.
Meanwhile, Fitzgeralds reputation as a heavy drinker tarnished his reputation in the literary
world; he was viewed as a irresponsible writer despite his painstaking revisions numerous
drafts of his work.
Shortly after their relocation to France, Fitzgerald completed his most famous and respected
novel, The Great Gatsby (1925). Fitzgeralds own divided nature can be seen in the contrast
between the novels hero, Jay Gatsby, and its narrator, Nick Carraway. The former represents
the nave Midwesterner dazzled by the possibilities of the American dream; the latter
represents the compassionate Princeton gentleman who cannot help but regard that dream
with suspicion. The Great Gatsby may be described as the most profoundly American novel
of its time; Fitzgerald connects Gatsbys dream, his Platonic conception of himself, with the
aspirations of the founders of America.
A year later, Fitzgerald published a collection of short stories, All the Sad Young Men. This
book marks the end of the most productive period of Fitzgeralds life; the next decade was
full of chaos and misery. Fitzgerald began to drink excessively, and Zelda began a slow
descent into madness. In 1930, she suffered her first mental breakdown. Her second
breakdown, from which she never recovered, came in 1932.
Throughout the 1930s the Fitzgeralds fought an ultimately unsuccessful battle to save their
marriage. This struggle was tremendously debilitating for Fitzgerald; he later said that he lfet
[his] capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zeldas sanitarium. He did not finish
his next novel, Tender is the Night until 1934. It is the story of a psychiatrist who married one
of his patients, and, as she slowly recovers, she exhausts his vitality until he is a man used
up. This book, the last that Fitzgerald ever completed, was considered technically faulty and
was commercially unsuccessful. It has since gained a reputation, however, as Fitzgeralds
most moving work.
Crushed by the failure of Tender is the Night and his despair over Zelda, Fitzgerald became
an incurable alcoholic. In 1937, however, he managed to acquire work as a script-writer in
Hollywood. There he met and fell in love with Sheilah Graham, a famous Hollywood gossip
columnist. For the rest of hs life, though he frequently had drunken spells in which he became
bitter and violent, Fitzgerald lived quietly with Ms. Graham. Occasionally he went east to
visit Zelda or his daughter Frances, who entered Vassar College in 1938.
In October 1939, Fitzgerald began a novel about Hollywood titled The Last Tycoon. The
career of its hero, Monroe Stahr, is based on that of the renowned Hollywood producer Irving
Thalberg. On December 21, 1940, Fitzgerald suffered a fatal heart attack, leaving the novel
unfinished. Even in its half-completed state, The Last Tycoon is considered the equal of the
rest of Fitzgeralds work for its intensity.

THE GREAT GATSBY, published in 1925, is widely considered to be F. Scott Fitzgeralds

greatest novel. It is also considered a seminal work on the fallibility of the American dream. It
focuses on a young man, Jay Gatsby, who, after falling in love with a woman from the social
elite, makes a lot of money in an effort to win her love. She marries a man from her own
social strata and he dies disillusioned with the concept of a self-made man. Fitzgerald seems
to argue that the possibility of social mobility in America is an illusion, and that the social
hierarchies of the New World are just as rigid as those of Europe.
The novel is also famous as a description of the Jazz Age, a phrase which Fitzgerald
himself coined. After the shock of moving from a policy of isolationism to involvement in
World War I. America prospered in what are termed the Roaring Twenties. The Eighteenth
Amendment to the American Constitution, passed in 1919, prohibited the sale and
consumption of alcohol in America. Prohibition made millionaires out of bootleggers like
Gatsby and owners of underground salons, called speakeasies. Fitzgerald glamorizes the
nouveau riche of this period to a certain extent in his Jazz Age novel. He describes their
beautiful clothing and lavish parties with great attention to detail and wonderful use of color.
However, the author was uncomfortable with the excesses of the period, and his novel sounds
many warning notes against excessive love of money and material success.
Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby was not a great success during his lifetime, but became a
smash hit after his death, especially after World War II. It has since become a staple of the
canon of American literature, and is taught at many high schools and universities across the
country and the world. Four films, an opera, and a play have been made from the text.
Honesty: Honesty is does not seem to determine which characters are sympathetic and which
are not in this novel in quite the same way that it does in others. Nick is able to admire Gatsby
despite his knowledge of the mans illegal dealings and bootlegging. Ironically, it is the
corrupt Daisy who takes pause at Gatsbys sordid past. Her indignation at his dishonesty,
however, is less moral than class-based. Her sense of why Gatsby should not behave in an
immoral manner is based on what she expects from members of her milieu, rather than what
she believes to be intrinsically right. The standards for honesty and morality seem to be
dependent on class and gender in this novel. Tom finds his wifes infidelity intolerable,
however, he does not hesitate to lie to her about his own affair.
Decay: Decay is a word that constantly comes up in The Great Gatsby, which is appropriate
in a novel which centers around the death of the American Dream. Decay is most evident in
the so-called valley of ashes. With great virtuosity, Fitzgerald describes a barren wasteland
which probably has little to do with the New York landscape and instead serves to comment
on the downfall of American society. It seems that the American dream has been perverted,
reversed. Gatsby lives in West Egg and Daisy in East Egg; therefore, Gatsby looks East with
yearning, rather than West, the traditional direction of American frontier ambitions. Fitzgerald
portrays the chauvinistic and racist Tom in a very negative light, clearly scoffing at his
apocalyptic vision of the races intermarrying. Fitzgeralds implication seems to be that society
has already decayed enough and requires no new twist.
Gender Roles: In some respects, Fitzgerald writes about gender roles in a quite conservative
manner. In his novel, men work to earn money for the maintenance of the women. Men are
dominant over women, especially in the case of Tom, who asserts his physical strength to
subdue them. The only hint of a role reversal is in the pair of Nick and Jordan. Jordans
androgynous name and cool, collected style masculinize her more than any other female
character. However, in the end, Nick does exert his dominance over her by ending the
relationship. The women in the novel are an interesting group, because they do not divide into
the traditional groups of Mary Magdalene and Madonna figures, instead, none of them are
pure. Myrtle is the most obviously sensual, but the fact that Jordan and Daisy wear white
dresses only highlights their corruption.
Violence: Violence is a key theme in The Great Gatsby, and is most embodied by the
character of Tom. An ex-football player, he uses his immense physical strength to intimidate
those around him. When Myrtle taunts him with his wifes name, he strikes her across the
face. The other source of violence in the novel besides Tom are cars. A new commodity at the
time that The Great Gatsby was published, Fitzgerald uses cars to symbolize the dangers of
modernity and the dangers of wealth. The climax of the novel, the accident that kills Myrtle,
is foreshadowed by the conversation between Nick and Jordan about how bad driving can
cause explosive violence. The end of the novel, of course, consists of violence against Gatsby.
The choice of handgun as a weapon suggests Gatsbys shady past, but it is symbolic that it is
his love affair, not his business life, that kills Gatsby in the end.
Class: Class is an unusual theme for an American novel. It is more common to find references
to it in European, especially British novels. However, the societies of East and West Egg are
deeply divided by the difference between the nouveau riche and the older moneyed families.
Gatsby is aware of the existence of a class structure in America, because a true meritocracy
would put him in touch with some of the finest people, but, as things stand, he is held at arms
length. Gatsby tries desperately to fake status, even buying British shirts and claiming to have
attended Oxford in an attempt to justify his position in society. Ultimately, however, it is a
class gulf that separates Gatsby and Daisy, and cements the latter in her relationship to her
husband, who is from the same class as she is.
Religion: It is interesting that Fitzgerald chooses to use some religious tropes in a novel that
focuses on the American Dream, a concept which leaves no place for religion save for the
doctrine of individualism. The most obvious is the image of the valley of ashes, which
exemplifies Americas moral state during the Roaring Twenties. This wasteland is presided
over by the empty eyes of an advertisement. Fitzgerald strongly implies that these are the eyes
of God. This equation of religion with advertising and material gain are made even more
terrifying by the fact that the eyes see nothing and can help no one (for example, this God
can do nothing to prevent Myrtle or Gatsbys deaths).
World War I: Because The Great Gatsby is set in the Roaring Twenties, the topic of the
Great War is unavoidable. The war was crucial to Gatsbys development, providing a brief
period of social mobility which, Fitzgerald claims, quickly closed after the war. Gatsby only
came into contact with a classy young debutante like Daisy as a result of the fact that he was a
soldier and that no one could vouch for whether he has upper-class or not. The war provided
him with further opportunities to see the world, and make some money in the service of a
millionaire. Gatsbys opportunities closed up after the end of the war, however, when he
found upon returning to America that the social structure there was every bit as rigid as it was
in Europe. Unable to convince anyone that he is truly upper-class (although his participations
in the war gave him some leeway about lying), Gatsby finds himself unable to break into East
Egg society.
While The Great Gatsby is a highly specific portrait of American society during the roaring
Twenties, its story is also one that has been told hundreds of times, and is perhaps as old as
America itself; a man claws his way from rags to riches, only to find that his wealth cannot
afford him the privileges enjoyed by those born into the upper class. The central character is
Jay Gatsby, a wealthy New Yorker of indeterminate occupation. Gatsby is primarily known
for the lavish parties he throws each weekend at his ostentatious Gothic mansion in West Egg.
He is suspected of being involved in illegal bootlegging and other underworld activities.
The narrator, Nick Carraway, is Gatsbys neighbor in West Egg. Nick is a young man from a
prominent Midwestern family. Educated at Yale, he has come to New York to enter the bond
business. In some sense, the novel is Nicks memoir, his unique view of the events of the
summer of 1922; as such, his impressions and observations necessarily color the narrative as a
whole. For the most part, he plays only a peripheral role in the events of the novel; he prefers
to remain a passive observer.
Upon arriving in New York, Nick visits his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband, tom.
The Buchanans live in the posh Long Island district of East Egg; Nick, like Gatsby, resides in
nearby West Egg, a less fashionable area looked down upon by those who live in East Egg.
West Egg is home to the nouveau riche, people who lack established social connections, and
who tend to vulgarly flaunt their wealth. Like Nick, Tom Buchanan graduated from Yale, and
comes from a privileged Midwestern family. Tom is a former football player, a brutal bully
obsessed with the preservation of class boundaries. Daisy, by contrast, is an almost ghostlike
young woman who affects an air of sophisticated boredom. At the Buchananss, Nick meets
Jordan Baker, a beautiful young woman with a cold, cynical manner. The two later become
romantically involved.
Jordan tells Nick that Tom has been having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, a woman who lives
in th valley of ashes, an industrial wasteland outside of New York City. After visiting Tom
and Daisy, Nick goes home to West Egg; there, he sees Gatsby gazing at a mysterious green
light across the bay. Gatsby stretches his arms out toward the light, as though to catch and
hold it.
Tom Buchanan takes Nick into New York, and on the way they stop at the garage owned by
George Wilson. Wilson is the husband of Myrtle, with whom tom has been having an affair.
Tom tells Myrtle to join them later in the city. Nearby, on an enormous billboard, a pair of
bespectacled blue eyes stares down at the barren landscape. These eyes once served as an
advertisement; now, they brood over all that occurs in the valley of ashes.
In the city, Tom takes Nick and Myrtle to the apartment in Morningside Heights at which he
maintains his affair. There, they have a lurid party with Myrtles sister, Catherine, and an
abrasive couple named McKee. They gossip about Gatsby; Catherine says that he is somehow
related to Kaiser Wilhelm, the much-despised ruler of Germany during World War I. The
more she drinks, the more aggressive Myrtle becomes; she begins taunting Tom about Daisy,
and he reacts by breaking her nose. The party, unsurprisingly, comes to an abrupt end.
Nick Carraway attends a party at Gatsbys mansion, where he runs into Jordan Baker. At the
party, few of the attendees know Gatsby; even fewer were formally invited. Before the party,
Nick himself had never met Gatsby: he is a strikingly handsome, slightly dandified young
man who affects an English accent. Gatsby asks to speak to Jordan Baker alone; after talking
with Gatsby for quite a long time, she tells Nick that she has learned some remarkable news.
She cannot yet share it with him, however.
Sometime later, Gatsby visits Nicks home and invites him to lunch. At this point in the
novel, Gatsbys origins are unclear. He claims to come from a wealthy San Francisco family,
and says that he was educated at Oxford after serving in the Great War (during which he
received a number f decorations). At lunch, Gatsby introduces Nick to his business associate,
Meyer Wolfsheim. Wolfsheim is a notorious criminal; many believe that he is responsible for
fixing the 1919 World Series.
Gatsby mysteriously avoids the Buchanans. Later, Jordan Baker explains the reason for
Gatsbys anxiety: he had been in love with Daisy Buchanan when they met in Louisville
before the war. Jordan subtly intimates that he is still in love with her, and she with him.
Gatsby asks Nick to arrange a meeting between himself and Daisy. Gatsby has meticulously
planned their meeting: he gives Daisy a carefully rehearsed tour of his mansion, and is
desperate to exhibit his wealth and possessions. Gatsby is wooden and mannered during this
initial meeting; his dearest dreams have been of this moment, and so the actual reunion is
bound to disappoint. Despite this, the love between Gatsby and Daisy is revived, and the two
begin an affair.
Eventually, Nick learns the true story of Gatsbys past. He was born James Gatz in North
Dakota, but had his name legally changed at the age of seventeen. The gold baron Dan Cody
served as Gatsbys mentor until his death. Though Gatsby inherited nothing of Codys
fortune, it was from him that Gatsby was first introduced to world of wealth, power, and
While out horseback riding, Tom Buchanan happens upon Gatsbys mansion. There he meets
both Nick and Gatsby, to whom he takes an immediate dislike. To Tom, Gatsby is part of the
new rich, and thus poses a danger to the old order that tom holds dear. Despite this, he
accompanies Daisy to Gatsbys next party; there, he is exceedingly rude and condescending
toward Gatsby. Nick realizes that Gatsby wants Daisy to renounce her husband and her
marriage; in this way, they can recover the years they have lost since they first parted.
Gatsbys great flaw is that his great love of Daisy is a kind of worship, and that he falls to see
her flaws. He believes that he can undo the past, and forgets that Daisys essentially small-
minded and cowardly nature was what initially caused their separation.
After his reunion with Daisy, Gatsby ceases to throw his elaborate parties. The only reason he
threw such parties was the chance that Daisy (or someone who knew her) might attend. Daisy
invites Gatsby, Nick and Jordan to lunch at her house. In an attempt to make Tom jealous, and
to exact revenge for his affair, Daisy is highly indiscreet about her relationship with Gatsby.
She even tells Gatsby that she loves him while Tom is in earshot.
Although Tom is himself having an affair, he is furious at the thought that his wife could be
unfaithful to him. He forces the group to drive into the city: there, in a suite t the Plaza Hotel,
Tom and Gatsby have a bitter confrontation. Tom denounces Gatsby for his low birth, and
reveals to Daisy that Gatsbys fortune has been made through illegal activities. Daisys real
allegiance is to Tom: when Gatsby begs her to say that she does not love her husband, she
refuses him. Tom permits Gatsby to drive Daisy back to East Egg; in this way, he displays his
contempt for Gatsby, as well as his faith in his wifes complete subjection.
On the trip back to East Egg, Gatsby allows Daisy to drive in order to calm her ragged nerves.
Passing Wilsons garage, Daisy swerves to avoid another car and ends up hitting Myrtle; she
is killed instantly. Nick advises Gatsby to leave town until the situation calms. Gatsby,
however, refuses to leave: he remains in order to ensure Daisy that Daisy is safe. George
Wilson, driven nearly med by the death of his wife, is desperate to find her killer. Tom
Buchanan tells him that Gatsby was the driver of the fatal car. Wilson, who has decided that
the driver of the car must also have been Myrtles lover, shoots Gatsby before committing
suicide himself.
After the murder, the Buchanans leave town to distance themselves from the violence for
which they are responsible. Nick is left to organize Gatsbys funeral, but finds that few people
cared for Gatsby. Nick seeks out Gatsbys father, Henry Gatz, and brings him to New York
for the funeral. From Henry, Nick learns the full scope of Gatsbys visions of greatness and
his dreams of self-improvement. Thoroughly disgusted with life in New York, Nick decides to
return to the Midwest.
Nick muses that Gatsby, alone among the people of his acquaintance, strove to transform his
dreams into reality; it is this that makes him great. Nick also believes, however, that the
time for such grand aspirations is over: greed and dishonesty have irrevocably corrupted both
the American Dream and the dreams of individual Americans.
Although The Great Gatsby is generally considered to be a work focused on the American
Dream and is analyzed as such, it has connections to other literary work of its period. The
Great Gatsbys publication in 1925 put it at the forefront of literary work by a group which
began to be called the Lost Generation. The group was so-called because of the existential
questioning that began to occur in American literature for the first time after the war. Many
critics argue that this Generation marked the first mature body of literature to come from the
United States.
The Lost Generation was a group of writers and artists who lived and worked in Paris or in
other parts of Europe during World War I and the Depression. This Group includes authors
such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot. This group often
had social connections with one another, and would even meet to critique one anothers work.


Ernest Hemingway was born in July 21, 1899, in suburban Oak Park, IL, to Dr. Clarence and
Grace Hemingway. Ernest was the second of six children to be raised in the quiet suburban
town. His father was a physician, and both parents were devout Christians. In this context,
Hemingways childhood pursuits fostered the interests which would blossom into literary
Although Grace hoped her son would be influenced by her musical interests, young
Hemingway preferred to accompany his father on hunting and fishing trips. This love of
outdoor adventure would be reflected later in many of Hemingways stories, particularly those
featuring protagonist Nick Adams.
Hemingway also had an aptitude for physical challenge that engaged him through high
school, where he both played football and boxed. Because of permanent eye damage
contracted from numerous boxing matches, Hemingway was repeatedly rejected from service
in World War I. Boxing provided more material for Hemingways stories, as well as a habit of
likening his literary feats to boxing victories.
Hemingway also edited his high school newspaper and reported for the Kansas City Star,
adding a year to his age after graduating from high school in 1917.
After this short stint, Hemingway finally was able to participate in World War I as an
ambulance driver for the American Red Cross. He was wounded on July 8, 1918, on the
Italian front near Fossalta di Piave. During his convalescence in Milan, he had an affair with
nurse Agnes von Kurowsky. Hemingway was given two decorations by the Italian
government, and he joined the Italian infantry. Fighting on the Italian front inspired the plot of
A Farewell to Arms in 1929. Indeed, war itself is a major theme in Hemingways works.
Hemingway would witness firsthand the cruelty and stoicism required of the soldier he would
portray in his writing when covering the Greco-Turkish War in 1920 for the Toronto Star. In
1937 he was a war correspondent in Spain, and the events of the Spanish Civil War inspired
For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Upon returning briefly to the United States after the first world War, Hemingway worked for
the Toronto Star and lived for a short time in Chicago. There, he met Sherwood Anderson and
married Hadley Richardson in 1921. On Andersons advice, the couple moved to Paris, where
he served as foreign correspondent for the Star. As Hemingway covered events on all of
Europe, the young reporter interviewed important leaders such as Lloyd George, Clemenceau,
and Mussolini.
The Hemingways lived in Paris from 1921 1926. This time of stylistic development for
Hemingway reached its zenith in 1923 with the publication of Three Stories and Ten Poems
by Robert McAlmon in Paris and the birth of his son John. This time in Paris also inspired the
novel A Moveable Feast, published posthumously in 1964.
In January 1923 Hemingway began writing sketches that would appear in In Our Time, which
was published in 1924. In August of 1923 he and Hadley returned to Toronto where he
worked once again for the Star. At this point he had no writing that was not committed to
publication, and in the coming months his job kept him from starting anything new. But this
time off rom writing gave him renewed energy upon his return to Paris in January of 1924.
During his time in Toronto he read Joyces Dubliners, which forever changed his writing
career. By August of 1924 he had the majority of In Our Time written. Although there was a
period when his publisher Horace Liverwright wanted to change much of the collection,
Hemingway stood firm and refused to change even one word of the book.
In Paris, Hemingway used Sherwood Andersons letter of introduction to meet Gertrude Stein
and enter the world of expatriate authors and artist who inhabited her intellectual circle. The
famous description of this lost generation was. The famous description of this lost
generation was born of an employees remark to Hemingway, and it became immortalized as
the epigraph for his first major novel, The Sun Also Rises.
The lost generation both characterized the postwar generation and the literary movement it
produced. In the 1920s, writers such as Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra
Pound, and Gertrude Stein decried the false ideals of patriotism that led young people to war,
only to the benefit of materialistic elders. These writers held that the only truth was reality,
and thus life could be nothing but hardship. This tenet strongly influenced Hemingway.
The late 1920s were a time of many publications for Hemingway. In 1926, The Torrents of
Spring and The Sun Also Rises were published by Charles Scribners Sons.
In 1927 Hemingway published a short story collection, i[Men without Women]. In the same
year he divorced Hadley Richardson and married Pauline Pfieffer, a writer for Vogue. In 1928
they moved to Key West, where sons Patrick and Gregory were born in 1929 and 1932. 1928
was a year of both success and sorrow for Hemingway. In this year A Farewell to Arms was
published, and his father committed suicide. Clarence Hemingway had been suffering from
hypertension and diabetes. This painful experience is reflected in the pondering of Robert
Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
In addition to personal experiences with war and death, Hemingways extensive travel pursuit
of hunting and other sports provided a great deal of material for his novels. Bullfighting
inspired Death in the Afternoon, published in 1932. In 1934, Hemingway went on safari in
Africa, which gave him new themes and scenes on which to base The Snows of Kilimanjaro
and The Green Hills of Africa, published in 1935.
In 1937 he traveled to Spain as a war correspondent, and he published To Have and Have Not.
After his divorce from Pauline in 1940, Hemingway married Martha Gelhorn, a writer. They
toured China before settling in Cuba at Finca Vigia (Look-out Farm). For Whom the Bell
Tolls was published in the same year.
During World War II, Hemingway volunteered his fishing boat and served with the U.S. Navy
as a submarine spotter in The Caribbean. In 1944, he traveled through Europe with the Allies
as a war correspondent and participated in the liberation of Paris. Hemingway divorced again
in 1945 and then married Mary Welsh, a correspondent for Time magazine, in 1946. They
lived in Venice before returning to Cuba.
In 1950 he published Across the River and Into the Trees, thought it was not received with the
usual critical acclaim. In 1952, however, Hemingway proved the comment Papa is finished
wrong, in that The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. In 1954, he won the
Nobel Prize for Literature.
In 1960, the now aged Hemingway moved to Ketchum, Idaho, where he was hospitalized for
uncontrolled high blood pressure, liver disease, diabetes, and depression.
On July 2, 1961, he died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. He was buried in Ketchum. Papa
was both a legendary celebrity and a sensitive writer, and his influence, as well as some
unseen writings, survived his passing. In 1964, A Moveable Feast was published; in 1969, The
Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War; in 1970, Islands in the Stream; in
1972, The Nick Adams Stories; in 1985, The Dangerous Summer; and in 1986, The Garden of
Hemingways own life and character are as fascinating as any in his stories. On one level,
Papa was a legendary adventurer who enjoyed his flamboyant lifestyle and celebrity status.
But deep inside lived a disciplined author who worked tirelessly in pursuit of literary
perfection. His success in both living and writing is reflected in the fact that Hemingway is a
hero to intellectuals and rebels alike; the passion of the man are equaled only by those in his
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA was published 1952 after the bleakest ten years in
Hemingways literary career. His last major work, Across the River and into the Trees, was
condemned as unintentional self-parody, and people began to think that Hemingway had
exhausted his store of ideas. Santiagos story was originally conceived as part of a larger
work, including material that later appeared in Islands in the Stream. This larger work, which
Hemingway referred to as The Sea Book, was proving difficult, and when Hemingway
received positive reviews of the Santiago story, known then as The Sea in Being, he
decided to allow it to published independently. He wrote to publisher Charles Scribner in
October 1951, This is the prose that I have been working for all my life that should read
easily and simply and seem short and yet have all the dimensions of the visible world and the
world of mans spirit. It is as good prose as I can write as of now. The Old Man and the Sea,
published in its entirety in on edition of Life Magazine, was an instant success. In two days
the September 1st edition of Life sold 5.300.000 copies and the book version sold 153.000.
The novella soared to the top of the best-seller list and remained there for six months. At first,
critical reception was warm. Many hailed it as Hemingways best work, and no less than
William Faulkner said, Time may show it to be the best single piece of any of us, I mean his
and my contemporaries. Others, however, complained of artificiality in the characterization
and excess sentimentality. Despite these detractors, The Old Man and the Sea was awarded
the 1953 Pulitzer Prize and American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit Medal
for the Novel and played a significant role in Hemingways selection for the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1954. For the first fifteen or so years after its publication, critical response
remained largely positive. Since the mid-60s, however, the work has received sustained
attacks from realist critics who decry the novellas unrealistic or simply incorrect elements,
e.g. the alleged eight rows of teeth in the makos mouth or the position of the start Riegel.
Through the 1970s the book became less and less the subject of serious literary criticism, and
the view of the book as embarrassingly narcissistic, psychologically simplistic, and overly
sentimental became more and more entrenched. While The Old Man and the Sea is popularly
beloved and assigned reading for students in the US and around the world, critical opinion
places it among Hemingways less significant works.
Unity: Hemingway spends a good deal of time drawing connections between Santiago and his
natural environment: the fish, birds, and stars are all his brothers or friends, he has the heart of
a turtle, eats turtle eggs for strength, drinks shark live oil for health, etc. Also, apparently
contradictory elements are repeatedly shown as aspects of one unified whole: the sea is both
kind and cruel, feminine and masculine, the Portuguese man of war is beautiful but deadly,
the mako shark is noble but a cruel, etc. The novellas premise of unity helps succor Santiago
in the mids of his great tragedy. For Santiago success and failure are two equal facets of the
same existence. They are transitory forms which capriciously arrive and depart without
affecting the underlying unity between himself and nature. As long as he focuses on this unity
and sees himself as part of nature than as an external antagonist competing with it, he cannot
be defeated by whatever misfortunes befall him.
Heroism: Triumph over crushing adversity is the heart of heroism, and in order for Santiago
the fisherman to be a heroic emblem for humankind, his tribulations must be monumental.
Triumph, through, is never final, as Santiagos successful slaying of the marlin shows, else
there be no reason to include the final 30 pages of the book. Hemingway vision of heroism is
Sisyphean, requiring continuous labor for quintessentially ephemeral ends. What the hero
does is to face adversity with dignity and grace, hence Hemingways Neo-Stoic emphasis on
self-control and the other facets of his idea of manhood. What we achieve or fail at externally
is not as significant to heroism as the comporting ourselves with inner nobility. As Santiago
says, [M]an is not made for defeat A man can be destroyed but not defeated (103)
Manhood: Hemingways ideal for manhood is nearly inseparable from the ideal of heroism
discussed above. To be a man is to behave with honor and dignity: to not succumb to
suffering, to accept ones duty without complaint, and most importantly, to display a
maximum of self-control. The representation of femininity, the sea, is characterized expressly
by its caprice and lack of self-control; if she did wild or wicked things it was because she
could not help them 930). The representation of masculinity, the marlin, is described as
great, beautiful, calm, and noble, and Santiago steels him against his pain by telling
himself, suffer like a man. Or a fish, referring to the marlin (92). In Hemingways ethical
universe, Santiago shows us not only how to live life heroically but in a way befitting a man.
Pride: while important, Hemingways treatment of pride in the novella is ambivalent. A
heroic man like Santiago should have pride in his actions, and as Santiago shows us,
humility was not disgraceful and it carried no less of true pride (14). At the same, though, it
is apparently Santiagos pride which presses him to travel dangerously far out into the sea,
beyond all people in the world, to catch the marlin (50). While he loved the marlin and
called him brother, Santiago admits to killing it for pride, his blood stirred by battle with such
a noble and worthy antagonist. Some have interpreted the loss of the marlin as the price
Santiago had to pay for his pride in traveling out so far in search of such a catch. Contrarily,
one could argue that this npride was beneficial as it allowed Santiago an edifying challenge
worthy of his heroism. In the end, Hemingway suggests that pride in a job well done, even if
pride drew one unnecessarily into the situation, is a positive trait.
Success: Hemingway draws a distinction between two different types of success: outer,
material success and inner, spiritual success. While Santiago clearly lacks the former, the
import of this lack is eclipsed by his possession of the later. One way to describe Santiagos
story is as a triumph of indefatigable spirit over exhaustible material resources. As noted
above, the characteristics of such a spirit are those of heroism and manhood. That Santiago
can end the novella undefeated after steadily losing his hard-earned, most valuable possession
is a testament to the privileging of inner success over outer success.
Worthiness: Being heroic and manly are not merely qualities of character which one
possesses or does not. One must constantly demonstrate ones heroism and manliness through
actions conducted with dignity. Interestingly, worthiness cannot be conferred upon oneself.
Santiago is obsessed with proving his worthiness to those around him. He had to prove
himself to the boy: the thousand times he had proved it mean nothing. Now he has proving it
again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it
(66). And he had to prove himself to the marlin: Ill kill him in all his greatness and glory.
Although it is unjust, but I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures. (66) A
heroic and manly life is not, then, one of inner peace and self-sufficiency; it requires constant
demonstration of ones worthiness through noble action.

21. William Faulkner- The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner was born in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi, to a prominent Southern
family. A number of his ancestors were involved in the Mexican-American War, the Civil
War, and the Reconstruction, and were part of the local railroad industry and political scene.
Faulkner showed signs of artistic talent from a young age, but became bored with his classes
and never finished high school.
Faulkner grew up in the town of Oxford, Mississippi, and eventually returned there in his later
years and purchased his famous estate, Rowan Oak. Oxford and the surrounding area were
Faulkners inspiration for the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, and its town of
Jefferson. These locales became the setting for a number of his works. Faulkners
Yoknapatawpha novels include The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay
Dying (1930),Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), The Hamlet (1940), and Go
Down, Moses (1942), and they feature some of the same characters and locations.
Faulkner was particularly interested in the decline of the Deep South after the Civil War.
Many of his novels explore the deterioration of the Southern aristocracy after the destruction
of its wealth and way of life during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Faulkner populates
Yoknapatawpha County with the skeletons of old mansions and the ghosts of great men,
patriarchs and generals from the past whose aristocratic families fail to live up to their
historical greatness. Beneath the shadow of past grandeur, these families attempt to cling to
old Southern values, codes, and myths that are corrupted and out of place in the reality of the
modern world. The families in Faulkners novels are rife with failed sons, disgraced
daughters, and smoldering resentments between whites and blacks in the aftermath of
African-American slavery.
Faulkners reputation as one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century is largely due to
his highly experimental style. Faulkner was a pioneer in literary modernism, dramatically
diverging from the forms and structures traditionally used in novels before his time. Faulkner
often employs stream of consciousness narrative, discards any notion of chronological order,
uses multiple narrators, shifts between the present and past tense, and tends toward impossibly
long and complex sentences. Not surprisingly, these stylistic innovations make some of
Faulkners novels incredibly challenging to the reader. However, these bold innovations
paved the way for countless future writers to continue to experiment with the possibilities of
the English language. For his efforts, Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in
1949. He died in Mississippi in 1962.
First published in 1929, The Sound and the Fury is recognized as one of the most successfully
innovative and experimental American novels of its time, not to mention one of the most
challenging to interpret. The novel concerns the downfall of the Compsons, who have been a
prominent family in Jefferson, Mississippi, since before the Civil War. Faulkner represents
the human experience by portraying events and images subjectively, through several different
characters respective memories of childhood. The novels stream of consciousness style is
frequently very opaque, as events are often deliberately obscured and narrated out of order.
Despite its formidable complexity, The Sound and the Fury is an overpowering and deeply
moving novel. It is generally regarded as Faulkners most important and remarkable literary
Attempting to apply traditional plot summary to The Sound and the Fury is difficult. At a
basic level, the novel is about the three Compson brothers obsessions with the their sister
Caddy, but this brief synopsis represents merely the surface of what the novel contains. A
story told in four chapters, by four different voices, and out of chronological order, The Sound
and the Fury requires intense concentration and patience to interpret and understand.
The first three chapters of the novel consist of the convoluted thoughts, voices, and memories
of the three Compson brothers, captured on three different days. The brothers are Benjy, a
severely retarded thirty-three-year-old man, speaking in April, 1928; Quentin, a young
Harvard student, speaking in June, 1910; and Jason, a bitter farm-supply store worker,
speaking again in April, 1928. Faulkner tells the fourth chapter in his own narrative voice, but
focuses on Dilsey, the Compson familys devoted Negro cook who has played a great part
in raising the children. Faulkner harnesses the brothers memories of their sister Caddy, using
a single symbolic moment to forecast the decline of the once prominent Compson family and
to examine the deterioration of the Southern aristocratic class since the Civil War.
The Compsons are one of several prominent names in the town of Jefferson, Mississippi.
Their ancestors helped settle the area and subsequently defended it during the Civil War.
Since the war, the Compsons have gradually seen their wealth, land, and status crumble away.
Mr. Compson is an alcoholic. Mrs. Compson is a self-absorbed hypochondriac who depends
almost entirely upon Dilsey to raise her four children. Quentin, the oldest child, is a sensitive
bundle of neuroses. Caddy is stubborn, but loving and compassionate. Jason has been difficult
and mean-spirited since birth and is largely spurned by the other children. Benjy is severely
mentally disabled, an idiot with no understanding of the concepts of time or morality. In the
absence of the self-absorbed Mrs. Compson, Caddy serves as a mother figure and symbol of
affection for Benjy and Quentin.
As the children grow older, however, Caddy begins to behave promiscuously, which torments
Quentin and sends Benjy into fits of moaning and crying. Quentin is preparing to go to
Harvard, and Mr. Compson sells a large portion of the family land to provide funds for the
tuition. Caddy loses her virginity and becomes pregnant. She is unable or unwilling to name
the father of the child, though it is likely Dalton Ames, a boy from town.
Caddys pregnancy leaves Quentin emotionally shattered. He attempts to claim false
responsibility for the pregnancy, lying to his father that he and Caddy have committed incest.
Mr. Compson is indifferent to Caddys promiscuity, dismissing Quentins story and telling his
son to leave early for the Northeast.
Attempting to cover up her indiscretions, Caddy quickly marries Herbert Head, a banker she
met in Indiana. Herbert promises Jason Compson a job in his bank. Herbert immediately
divorces Caddy and rescinds Jasons job offer when he realizes his wife is pregnant with
another mans child. Meanwhile, Quentin, still mired in despair over Caddys sin, commits
suicide by drowning himself in the Charles River just before the end of his first year at

The Compsons disown Caddy from the family, but take in her newborn daughter, Miss
Quentin. The task of raising Miss Quentin falls squarely on Dilseys shoulders. Mr. Compson
dies of alcoholism roughly a year after Quentins suicide. As the oldest surviving son, Jason
becomes the head of the Compson household. Bitterly employed at a menial job in the local
farm-supply store, Jason devises an ingenious scheme to steal the money Caddy sends to
support Miss Quentins upbringing.
Miss Quentin grows up to be an unhappy, rebellious, and promiscuous girl, constantly in
conflict with her overbearing and vicious uncle Jason. On Easter Sunday, 1928 , Miss
Quentin steals several thousand dollars from Jason and runs away with a man from a traveling
show. While Jason chases after Miss Quentin to no avail, Dilsey takes Benjy and the rest of
her family to Easter services at the local church.
The title of The Sound and the Fury refers to a line from William
Shakespeares Macbeth. Macbeth, a Scottish general and nobleman, learns of his wifes
suicide and feels that his life is crumbling into chaos. In addition to Faulkners title, we can
find several of the novels important motifs in Macbeths short soliloquy in Act V, scene v:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.
Lifes but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
The Sound and the Fury literally begins as a tale / Told by an idiot, as the first chapter is
narrated by the mentally disabled Benjy. The novels central concerns include time, much like
Macbeths [t]omorrow, and tomorrow; death, recalling Macbeths dusty death; and
nothingness and disintegration, a clear reference to Macbeths lament that life [s]ignif[ies]
nothing. Additionally, Quentin is haunted by the sense that the Compson family has
disintegrated to a mere shadow of its former greatness.
In his soliloquy, Macbeth implies that life is but a shadow of the past and that a modern man,
like himself, is inadequately equipped and unable to achieve anything near the greatness of
the past. Faulkner reinterprets this idea, implying that if man does not choose to take his own
life, as Quentin does, the only alternatives are to become either a cynic and materialist like
Jason, or an idiot like Benjy, unable to see life as anything more than a meaningless series of
images, sounds, and memories.

22. T.S. Eliot: Waste Land

Thomas Stearns Eliot, or T.S. Eliot as he is better known, was born in 18 88 in St. Louis. He
was the son of a prominent industrialist who came from a well- connected Boston family.
Eliot always felt the loss of his familys New England roots and seemed to be somewhat
ashamed of his fathers business success; throughout his life he continually sought to return to
the epicenter of Anglo- Saxon culture, first by attending Harvard and then by emigrating to
England, where he lived from 1914 until his death. Eliot began graduate study in philosophy
at Harvard and completed his dissertation, although the outbreak of World War I prevented
him from taking his examinations and receiving the degree. By that time, though, Eliot had
already written The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and the War, which kept him in
England, led him to decide to pursue poetry full-time.
Eliot met Ezra Pound in 1914 , as well, and it was Pound who was his main mentor and editor
and who got his poems published and noticed. During a 1921 break from his job as a bank
clerk (to recover from a mental breakdown), Eliot finished the work that was to secure him
fame, The Waste Land. This poem, heavily edited by Pound and perhaps also by Eliots wife,
Vivien, addressed the fragmentation and alienation characteristic of modern culture, making
use of these fragments to create a new kind of poetry. It was also around this time that Eliot
began to write criticism, partly in an effort to explain his own methods. In 1925 , he went to
work for the publishing house Faber & Faber. Despite the distraction of his wifes
increasingly serious bouts of mental illness, Eliot was from this time until his death the
preeminent literary figure in the English-speaking world; indeed, he was so monumental that
younger poets often went out of their way to avoid his looming shadow, painstakingly
avoiding all similarities of style.
Eliot became interested in religion in the later 1920 s and eventually converted to
Anglicanism. His poetry from this point onward shows a greater religious bent, although it
never becomes dogmatic the way his sometimes controversial cultural criticism does. Four
Quartets, his last major poetic work, combines a Christian sensibility with a profound
uncertainty resulting from the wars devastation of Europe. Eliot died in 1965 in London.
Eliot attributed a great deal of his early style to the French SymbolistsRimbaud, Baudelaire,
Mallarm, and Laforguewhom he first encountered in college, in a book by Arthur Symons
called The Symbolist Movement in Literature. It is easy to understand why a young aspiring
poet would want to imitate these glamorous bohemian figures, but their ultimate effect on his
poetry is perhaps less profound than he claimed. While he took from them their ability to
infuse poetry with high intellectualism while maintaining a sensuousness of language, Eliot
also developed a great deal that was new and original. His early works, like The Love Song
of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land, draw on a wide range of cultural reference to
depict a modern world that is in ruins yet somehow beautiful and deeply meaningful. Eliot
uses techniques like pastiche and juxtaposition to make his points without having to argue
them explicitly. As Ezra Pound once famously said, Eliot truly did modernize himself. In
addition to showcasing a variety of poetic innovations, Eliots early poetry also develops a
series of characters who fit the type of the modern man as described by Fitzgerald, Faulkner,
and others of Eliots contemporaries. The title character of Prufrock is a perfect example:
solitary, neurasthenic, overly intellectual, and utterly incapable of expressing himself to the
outside world.
As Eliot grew older, and particularly after he converted to Christianity, his poetry changed.
The later poems emphasize depth of analysis over breadth of allusion; they simultaneously
become more hopeful in tone: Thus, a work such as Four Quartets explores more
philosophical territory and offers propositions instead of nihilism. The experiences of living in
England during World War II inform the Quartets, which address issues of time, experience,
mortality, and art. Rather than lamenting the ruin of modern culture and seeking redemption
in the cultural past, as The Waste Land does, the quartets offer ways around human limits
through art and spirituality. The pastiche of the earlier works is replaced by philosophy and
logic, and the formal experiments of his early years are put aside in favor of a new language
consciousness, which emphasizes the sounds and other physical properties of words to create
musical, dramatic, and other subtle effects.
However, while Eliots poetry underwent significance transformations over the course of his
career, his poems also bear many unifying aspects: all of Eliots poetry is marked by a
conscious desire to bring together the intellectual, the aesthetic, and the emotional in a way
that both honors the past and acknowledges the present. Eliot is always conscious of his own
efforts, and he frequently comments on his poetic endeavors in the poems themselves. This
humility, which often comes across as melancholy, makes Eliots some of the most personal,
as well as the most intellectually satisfying, poetry in the English language.
Not only is The Waste Land Eliots greatest work, but it may bealong with
JoycesUlyssesthe greatest work of all modernist literature. Most of the poem was written
in 1 9 2 1, and it first appeared in print in 1922 . As the poems dedication indicates, Eliot
received a great deal of guidance from Ezra Pound, who encouraged him to cut large sections
of the planned work and to break up the rhyme scheme. Recent scholarship suggests that
Eliots wife, Vivien, also had a significant role in the poems final form. A long work divided
into five sections, The Waste Land takes on the degraded mess that Eliot considered modern
culture to constitute, particularly after the first World War had ravaged Europe. A sign of the
pessimism with which Eliot approaches his subject is the poems epigraph, taken from
the Satyricon, in which the Sibyl (a woman with prophetic powers who ages but never dies)
looks at the future and proclaims that she only wants to die. The Sibyls predicament mirrors
what Eliot sees as his own: He lives in a culture that has decayed and withered but will not
expire, and he is forced to live with reminders of its former glory. Thus, the underlying plot
of The Waste Land, inasmuch as it can be said to have one, revolves around Eliots reading of
two extraordinarily influential contemporary cultural/anthropological texts, Jessie
Westons From Ritual to Romance and Sir James Fraziers The Golden Bough. Both of these
works focus on the persistence of ancient fertility rituals in modern thought and religion; of
particular interest to both authors is the story of the Fisher King, who has been wounded in
the genitals and whose lack of potency is the cause of his country becoming a desiccated
waste land. Heal the Fisher King, the legend says, and the land will regain its fertility.
According to Weston and Frazier, healing the Fisher King has been the subject of mythic tales
from ancient Egypt to Arthurian England. Eliot picks up on the figure of the Fisher King
legends wasteland as an appropriate description of the state of modern society. The important
difference, of course, is that in Eliots world there is no way to heal the Fisher King; perhaps
there is no Fisher King at all. The legends imperfect integration into a modern meditation
highlights the lack of a unifying narrative (like religion or mythology) in the modern world.
Eliots poem, like the anthropological texts that inspired it, draws on a vast range of sources.
Eliot provided copious footnotes with the publication of The Waste Land in book form; these
are an excellent source for tracking down the origins of a reference. Many of the references
are from the Bible: at the time of the poems writing Eliot was just beginning to develop an
interest in Christianity that would reach its apex in the Four Quartets. The overall range of
allusions in The Waste Land, though, suggests no overarching paradigm but rather a grab bag
of broken fragments that must somehow be pieced together to form a coherent whole. While
Eliot employs a deliberately difficult style and seems often to find the most obscure reference
possible, he means to do more than just frustrate his reader and display his own intelligence:
He intends to provide a mimetic account of life in the confusing world of the twentieth
The Waste Land opens with a reference to Chaucers Canterbury Tales. In this case, though,
April is not the happy month of pilgrimages and storytelling. It is instead the time when the
land should be regenerating after a long winter. Regeneration, though, is painful, for it brings
back reminders of a more fertile and happier past. In the modern world, winter, the time of
forgetfulness and numbness, is indeed preferable. Maries childhood recollections are also
painful: the simple world of cousins, sledding, and coffee in the park has been replaced by a
complex set of emotional and political consequences resulting from the war. The topic of
memory, particularly when it involves remembering the dead, is of critical importance in The
Waste Land. Memory creates a confrontation of the past with the present, a juxtaposition that
points out just how badly things have decayed. Marie reads for most of the night: ostracized
by politics, she is unable to do much else. To read is also to remember a better past, which
could produce a coherent literary culture.


Born in 1911 Saint Columb Minor in Cornwall, England, Sir William Gerald Golding was
educated at the Marlborough Grammar School, where his father taught, and later at Brasenose
College, Oxford. Although educated to be a scientist at the wishes of his father, he soon
developed a great interest in literature, becoming first devoted to Anglo-Saxon and then
writing poetry. At Oxford he studied English literature and philosophy. Following a short
period of time in which he worked at a settlement house and in small theater companies as
both an actor and a writer. Golding became a schoolmaster at Bishop Wordsworths School in
Salisbury. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy and was involved in the
sinking of the German battleship Bismark, but following the war he returned to Bishop
Wordsworths School, where he taught until the early sixties.
In 1954, Golding published his first novel, Lord of the Flies, which details the adventures of
British schoolboys stranded on an island in the Pacific who descend into barbaric behavior.
Although at first rejected by twenty-one different publishing houses, Goldings first novel
becomes a surprise success. E. M. Forster declared Lord of the Flies the outstanding novel of
its year, while Time and Tide called it not only a first-rate adventure story but a parable of
our times. Golding continued to develop similar themes concerning the inherent violence in
human nature in his next novel, The Inheritors, published the following year. This novel deals
with the last days of Neanderthal man. The Inheritors posits that the Cro-Magnon fire-
builders triumphed over Neanderthal man as much by violence and deceit as by any natural
superiority. His subsequent works include Pincher Martin (1956), the story of a guilt-ridden
naval officer who faces an agonizing death, Free Fall (1959), and The Spire (1964), each of
which deal with the depravity of human nature. The Spire is an allegory concerning the
protagonists obsessive determination to build a cathedral spire regardless of the
As well as his novels and his early collection of poems, Golding also published a play entitled
The Brass Butterfly in 1958 and two collections of essays, The Hot Gates (1965) and A
Moving Target (1982).
Goldings final novels include Darkness Visible (1979), the story of a boy horribly injured
during the London blitz of World War II, and Rites of Passage (1980). This novel won the
Booker McConnel Prize, the most prestigious award for English literature, and inspired two
sequels, Close Quarters (1987) and Fire Down Below (1989). These three novels portray life
aboard a ship during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1983, Golding received The Nobel Prize for
literature for his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity
and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world today, and in 1988 he
was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Sir William died in 1993 in Perrananworthal, Cornwall.
At the time of his death he was working on an unfinished manuscript entitled The Double
Tongue, which deals with the fall of Hellenic culture and the rise of Roman civilization. This
work was published posthumously in 1995.
Lord of the Flies was the first novel published by Sir William Golding after a number of years
as a teacher and training as a scientist. Although Golding had published an anthology of
poems nearly two decades before writing Lord of the Flies, this novel was his first extensive
narrative work and is informed by his scientific training an academic background. In many
ways Lord of the Flies is a hypothetical treatment of particular scientific concerns. It places a
group of young English boys on a deserted island where they must develop their own society,
in essence constructing a sociological experiment in which these boys must develop without
any societal influences to shape them. In fact the beginning chapters of the novel parallel
assumptions about human evolution, as the characters discover fire and form levels of
political authority. However, what concerns Golding in Lord of the Flies is the nature of evil
as demonstrated by the boys on the island. He concludes that the evil actions that the boys
commit are inherent in human nature and can only be controlled by societal mores and
rationality, as exemplified by the character Piggy and Ralph.
Although the novel does not adhere to themes particular to one religious tradition, in Lord of
the Flies Golding draws upon a great deal of religious symbolism updated to conform to more
contemporary ideas of human psychology. The title character, the pigs head that Simon
dubs the lord of the flies is a translation of the Hebrew word Baalzevuv, or its Greek
equivalent Beelzebub. For Golding, this devil comes from within the human psyche rather
than acting as an external force, as implied by Judeo-Christian teaching. Golding employs this
religious reference in more Freudian terms. The devil that is the lord of the flies represents
the Freudian conception of the Id, the driving amoral force that works solely to ensure its own
survival. The lord of the flies directly confronts the most spiritually motivated character of
the novel, Simon, who functions as a prophet-martyr for the other boys.
Lord of the Flies is firmly rooted in the sociopolitical concerns of its era. Published during the
first decade of the Cold War, the novel contains obvious parallels to the struggle between
liberal democracy and totalitarianism. Ralph represents the liberal tradition, while Jack,
before he succumbs to total anarchism, can be interpreted as representing military
dictatorship. In its structure as an adventure the novel further resembles the science-fiction
genre that reemerged as a popular form of literature during the fifties. Although taking place
among ostensibly realistic events, Lord of the Flies is an adventure story whose plot, which
finds a small group of humans isolated on an alien landscape, correlates to this popular genre.
Goldings next novel was a further step toward this genre. The Inheritors, heavily influenced
by H.G. Wells Outline of History, imagines life during the dawn of man.
Goldings novel remains significant for its depiction of the nature of human society and its
musings on the nature of evil. Influenced by scientific teaching, Freudian psychology, religion
and sociopolitical concerns, Lord of the Flies, like much of Goldings work, attempts to
account for the evil inherent in human nature.
During an unnamed time of war, a plane carrying a group of British schoolboys is shot down
over the Pacific. The pilot of the plane is killed, but many of the boys survive the crash and
find themselves deserted on an uninhabited island, where they are alone without adult
supervision. The novel begins with the aftermath of the crash, once the boys have reached the
island. The first two boys introduced are the main protagonist of the story: Ralph is among the
oldest of the boys, handsome and confident, while Piggy, as he is derisively called, is a pudgy
asthmatic boy with glasses who nevertheless possesses a keen intelligence. Ralph finds a
conch shell, and when he blows it the other boys gather together. Among these boys is Jack
Merridew, an aggressive boy who marches at the head of his choir. Ralph, whom the other
boys choose as chief, leads Jack and another boy, Simon, on an expedition to explore the
island. On their expedition they determine that they are, in fact, on a deserted island and
decide that they need to find food. The three boys find a pig, which Jack prepares to kill but
finally balks before he can actually stab it.
When the boys return from their expedition, Ralph calls a meeting and attempts to set rules of
order for the island. Jack agrees with Ralph, for the existence of rules means the existence of
punishment for those who break them, but Piggy reprimands Jack for his lack of concern over
long-term issues of survival. Ralph proposes that they build a fire on the mountain which
could signal their presence to any passing ships. The boys start building the fire, but the
younger boys lose interest when the task proves too difficult for them. Piggy proves essential
to the process: the boys use his glasses to start the fire. After the boys start the fire, Piggy
loses his temper and criticizes the other boys for not building shelters first. He worries that
they still do not know how many there are, and believes that one of them is already missing.
While Jack tries to hunt pigs, Ralph orchestrates the building of shelters for the boys. The
littlest boys have not helped at all, while the boys in Jacks choir, whose duty is to hunt for
food, have spent the day swimming. Jack tells Ralph that he feels as if he feels as if he is
being hunted himself when he hunts for pigs. When Simon, the only boy who has consistently
helped Ralph, leaves presumably to take a bath, Ralph and Jack go to find him at the bathing
pool. However, Simon instead walks around the jungle alone, where he finds a serene open
space with aromatic bushes and flowers.
The boys soon become accustomed to the progression of the day on the island. The youngest
of the boys, known generally as the littluns, spend most of the day searching for fruit to eat.
When the boys play they still obey some sense of decency toward one another, despite the
lack of parental authority. Jack continues to hunt, while Piggy, who is accepted as an outsider
among the boys, considers building a sundial. A ship passes by the island, but does not stop,
perhaps because the fire has burned out. Piggy blames Jack for letting the fire die, for he and
his hunters have been preoccupied with killing a pig at the expense of their duty, and Jack
punches Piggy, breaking one lens of his glasses. Jack and the hunters chant Kill the pig. Cut
her throat. Bash her in in celebration of the kill, while Maurice pretends to be a pig and the
others pretend to attack him.
Ralph becomes concerned by the behavior of Jack and the hunters and begins to appreciate
Piggys maturity. He calls an assembly in which he criticizes the boys for not assisting with
the fire or the building of the shelters. He insists that the fire is the most important thing on
the island, for it is their one chance for rescue, and declares that the only place where they
should have a fire is on the mountaintop. Ralph admits the he is frightened but there is no
legitimate reason to be afraid. Jack then yells at the littluns for their fear and for not helping
with hunting or building shelters. He proclaims that there is no beast on the island, as some of
the boys believe, but then a littlun, Phil, tells how he had a nightmare and when he awoke saw
something moving among the trees. Simon admits that Phil probably saw him, for he was
walking in the jungle that night. The littluns begin to worry about the supposed beast, which
they conceive to be perhaps a ghost or a squid. Piggy and Ralph fight once more, and when
Ralph attempts to assert the rules of order, Jack asks rhetorically who cares about the rules.
Ralph in turn insists that the rules are all that they have. Jack then decides to lead an
expedition to hunt the beast, leaving only Ralph, Piggy and Simon. Piggy warns Ralph that if
Jack becomes chief the boys will never be rescued.
That night, during an aerial battle, a pilot parachutes down the island. The pilot dies, possibly
on impact. The next morning, the twins Sam and Eric are adding kindly to the fire when they
see the pilot and believe him to be a beast. They scramble down the mountain and awake
Ralph. Jack calls for a hunt, but Piggy insists that they should stay together, for the beast may
not come near them. Jack claims that the conch is now irrelevant, and takes a swing at Ralph
when he claims that Jack does not want to be rescued. Ralph decides to join the hunters on
their expedition to find the beast, despite his wish to rekindle the fire on the mountain. When
they reach the other side of the island, Jack wishes to build a fort near the sea.
The hunters, while searching for the beast, find a boar that attacks Jack, but Jack stabs it and it
runs away. The hunters go into a frenzy, lapsing into their kill the pig chant once again.
Ralph realizes that Piggy remains with the littluns back on the other side of the island, and
Simon offers to go back and tell Piggy that the other boys will not be back that night. Ralph
realizes that Jack rates him and confronts him about that fact. Jack mocks Ralph for not
wanting to hunt, claiming that it stems from cowardice, but when the boys see what they
believe to be the beast they run away.
Ralph returns to the shelters to find Piggy and tells him that they saw the beast, but Piggy
remains skeptical. Ralph dismisses the hunters as boys with sticks, but Jack accuses him of
calling his hunters cowards. Jack attempts to assert control over the other boys, calling for
Ralphs removal as chief, but when Ralph retains the support of the other boys Jack runs
away, crying. Piggy suggests that, if the beast prevents them from getting to the mountain,
they should build a fire on the beach, and reassures them that they will survive if they behave
with common sense. Simon leaves to sit in the open space that he found earlier. Jack claims
that he will be the chief of the hunters and that they will go to the castle rock where they plan
to build a fort and have a feast. The hunters kill a pig, and Jack smears the blood over
Maurices face. They then cut off the head and leave it on a stake as an offering for the beast.
Jack brings several hunters back to the shelters, where he invites the other boys to join his
tribe and offers them meat and the opportunity to hunt and have fun. All the boys, except
Ralph and Piggy, join Jack. Meanwhile, Simon finds the pigs head that the hunters had left.
He dubs it the Lord of the Flies because of the insects that swarm around it. He believes that it
speaks to him, telling him how foolish he is and how the other boys think that he is insane.
The pigs head claims that it is the beast, and mocks the idea that the beast could be hunted
and killed. Simon falls down and loses consciousness.
Simon regains consciousness and wanders around. When he sees the dead pilot that the boys
perceived to be the beast and realizes what it actually is, Simon rushes down the mountain to
alert the other boys of what he has found. Ralph and Piggy play at the lagoon alone, and
decide to find the other boys to make sure that nothing unfortunate happens while they play as
hunters. When they find Jack, Ralph and Jack argue over who will be chief. When Piggy
claims that he gets to speak because he has the conch, Jack tells him that the conch does not
count on his side of the island. The boys panic when Ralph warns them that a storm is
coming. As the storm begins, Simon rushes from the forest, telling about the dead body on the
mountain. The boys descend on Simon, thinking that he is the beast, and kill him.
Back on the other side of the island, Ralph and Piggy discuss Simons death. They both took
part in the murder, but attempt to justify their behavior as acting out of fear and instinct. The
only four boys who are not part of Jacks tribe are Ralph and Piggy and the twins, Sam and
Eric, who help tend to the fire. At the castle rock, Jack rules over the boys with the trappings
of an idol. He has kept one boy tied up, and instills fear in the other boys by warning them
about the beast and the intruders. When Bill asks Jack how they will start a fire, Jack claims
that they will steal the fire from the other boys. Meanwhile, Ralph, Piggy and the twins work
on keeping the fire going, but find that it is too difficult to do by themselves. That night, the
hunters attack the four boys, who fight them off but still suffer considerable injuries. Piggy
learns the purpose of the attack: they came to steal his glasses.
After the attack, the four boys decide to go to the castle rock to appeal Jack as civilized
people. They groom themselves to appear presentable and dress themselves in normal clothes.
When they reach castle rock, Ralph summons the other boys with the conch. Jack arrives from
hunting and tells Ralph and Piggy to leave them alone. When Jack refuses to listen to Ralphs
appeals to justice, Ralph calls the boys painted fools. Jack takes Sam and Eric as prisoners
and orders them to be tied up. Piggy asks Jack and his hunters whether it is better to be a pack
of painted Indians or sensible like Ralph, but Roger tips a rock over on Piggy, causing him to
fall down the mountain to the beach. The impact kills him. Jack declares himself chief and
hurl his spear at Ralph, who runs away.
Ralph hides near the castle rock, where he can see the other boys, whom he no longer
recognizes as civilized English boys but rather as savages. He crawls near the place where
Sam and Eric are kept, and they give him some meat and tell him to leave. While Ralph hides,
he realizes that the other boys are rolling rocks down the mountain. Ralph evades the other
boys who are hunting for them, then realizes that they are setting the forest on fire in order to
smoke him out, and thus will destroy whatever fruits is left on the island. Ralph finally
reaches the beach, where a naval officer has arrived with his ship. He thinks that the boys
have only been playing games and scolds them for not behaving in a more organized and
responsible manner, as is the British custom. As the boys prepare to leave the island for home,
Ralph weeps for the death of Piggy and the end of the boys innocence.


Edward Morgan Forster was born in London on the first day of 1879. His father, an architect
from a strict evangelical family, died of consumption soon after Forster was born, leaving him
to be raised by his mother and paternal great-aunt. Because his mother was from a more
liberal and somewhat irresponsible background, Forsters home life was rather tense. He was
raised in the household of Rooksnest, which inspired Howards End. Forster was educated as a
boy at the Tonbridge School, Kent, an experience responsible for a good deal of his later
criticism of the English public school system. He then attended Kings College, Cambridge,
which greatly broadened his intellectual interests and provided him with his first exposure to
Mediterranean culture, which counterbalanced the more rigid English culture in which he was
Forster became a writer shortly after graduating from Kings College. His first novels were
products of that particular time stories about the changing social conditions during the
decline of Victorianism. However, these earlier works differed from Forsters contemporaries
in their more colloquial style and established the authors early conviction that men and
women should keep in touch with the land to cultivate their imaginations. He developed this
theme in his first novels, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) and The Longest Journey
(1907), followed by the comic novel A Room With a View (1908), which concerns the
experience of a young British woman, Lucy Honeychurch, in Italy.
However, Forsters first major success was Howards End (1910), a novel centered on the
alliance between the liberal Schlegel sisters and Ruth Wilcox, the proprietor of the titular
house, against her husband, Henry Wilcox, an enterprising businessman. The novel ends with
the marriage of Henry Wilcox to Margaret Schlegel, who brings him back to Howards End,
reestablishing the Wilcox land link. When composing this novel, Forster was part of the
Bloomsbury Group, a set of unconventional British bohemian thinkers that included Virginia
Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey.
Forster spent three wartime years in Alexandria doing civilian work and visited India twice.
After he returned to England, inspired by his experience in India, he wrote A Passage to India
(1924). The novel examines the British colonial occupation of India, but rather than
developing a political focus, explores the friendship between an Indian doctor and British
schoolmaster during a trial against the doctor, based on a false charge. A Passage to India is
the last novel Forster published during his lifetime, but two works remained, the incomplete
Arctic Summer, and the unpublished complete novel Maurice, which was written circa 1914,
but published in 1971 after Forsters death. Forster specifically requested the novel be
published only after his death due to its overt homosexual theme.
Although Forster published no novels after A Passage to India, he continued to write short
stories and essays until his death in 1970. He published several anthologies, including The
Celestial Omnibus (1914) and The Eternal Moment (1928), two collections of short stories,
Abinger Harvest (1936), a collection of poetry, essays and fiction, and several non-fiction
works. Forster also wrote the libretto to the Benjamin Britten opera Billy Budd. The essays
by forster as well as his frequent lectures on political topics established his reputation as a
liberal thinker and strong advocate of democracy. Forster was awarded membership in the
Order of Companions of honor in 1953 and received the Order of Merit from Queen Elizabeth
in 1969. He died in June of 1970 after a series f strokes.
Today, many people know of E.M. Forster due to many film adaptations of his work. Titles
by Forster that are immortalized not only on the page but also on film include A Passage to
India (1984), A Room with View (1986), Where Angels Fear to Tread (1991), and Howards
End (1991). It is ironic that so many of his titles were made into movies, many with great
success, as throughout his life he remained adamant about the difficulty of adapting books to
stage or film. In 1919, he contributed regularly to the London literary magazine The
Athenaeum, often criticizing various attempts to convert written work to the stage. For him,
the individual experience of reading a book was something that could not be captured in
another form of media. Despite his beliefs, many of the film adaptations of Forsters work
were met with widespread enthusiasm and praise, including multiple Academy Award

E.M. FORSTER wrote A Passage to India in 1924, the last completed novel that he published
during his lifetime. The novel differs from Forsters other major works in its overt political
content, as opposed to the lighter tone and more subdued political subtext contained in works
such as Howards End and A Room With a View. The novel deals with the political occupation
of India by the British, a colonial domination that ended after the publication of Forsters text
and still during his lifetime.
The colonial occupation of India is significant in terms of the background of the novel. Britan
occupied an important place in political affairs in India since 1760, but did not secure control
over India for nearly a century. In August of 1858, during a period of violent revolt against
Britain by the Indians, the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act,
transferring political power from the East India Company to the crown. This established the
bureaucratic colonial system in India headed by a Council of India consisting initially of
fifteen Britons. Although Parliament and Queen Victoria maintained support for local princes,
Victoria added the title Empress of India to her regality. The typical attitude of Britons in
India was that they were undertaking the white mans burden, as put by Rudyard Kipling.
This was a system of aloof, condescending sovereignty in which the English bureaucracy did
not associate with the persons they ruled, and finds its expression in characters such as Ronny
Heaslop and Mr. McBryde in A Passage to India.
Indian nationalism began to foment around 1885 with the first meeting of the Indian National
Congress, and nationalism found expression in the Muslim community as well around the
beginning of the twentieth century. Reforms in Indias political system occurred with the
victory of the Liberal Party in 1906, culminating in the Indian Councils Act of 1909, but
nationalism continued to rise.
India took part in the First World War, assisting the British with the assumption that this help
would lead to political concession, but even with the promise after the war that Indians would
play an increased role in their own government, relations between the English and Indians did
not improve. After the war tension continued; in 1919 hundreds of Indians were massacred at
Amritsars Jallianwala Bagh during a protest. It is around this time that Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi became a preeminent force in Indian politics, and it is also around this
time that forster would wrote A Passage to India. More than twenty years later, after a long
struggle, Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act in 1947, ordering the separation of
India and Pakistam and granting both nations their sovereignty.

FORSTERs A Passage to India concerns the relations between the English and the native
population of India during the colonial period in which Britain ruled India. The novel take
place primarily in Chandrapore, a city along the Ganges River notable only for the nearby
Marabar caves. The main character of the novel is Dr. Aziz, a Moslem doctor in Chandrapore
and widower. After he is summoned to the Civil Surgeons home only to be promptly ignored,
Aziz visits a local Islamic temple where he meets Mrs. Moore, an elderly British woman
visiting her son, Mr. Heaslop, who is the City Magistrate. Although Aziz reprimands her for
not taking her shoes off in the temple before realizing she has in fact observed this rule, the
two soon find that they have much in common and he escorts her back to the club.
Back at the club, Mrs. Moore meets her companion, Adela Quested, who will likely marry her
son. Adela complains that they have seen nothing of India, but rather English customs
replicatd abroad. Although a few persons make racist statements about Indians, Mr. Turton,
the Collector, proposes having a Bridge Party (to bridge the gulf between east and west).
When Mrs. Moore tells her son, Ronny, about Aziz, he reprimands her for associating with
and Indian. Whn Mr. Turton issues the invitations to the Bridge Party, the invitees suspect
that this is a political move, for the Collector would not behave so cordially without a motive,
but accept the invitations despite the suspicion.
For Adela and Mrs. Moore, the Bridge Party is a failure, for only a select few of the English
guests behave well toward the Indians. Among these is Mr. Fielding, the schoolmaster at the
Government College, who suggests that Adela meet Aziz. Mrs. Moore scolds her son for
being impolite to the Indians, but Ronny Heaslop feels that he is not in India to be kind, for
there are more important things to do; this offends her sense of Christian charity.
Aziz accepts Fieldings invitation to tea with Adela, Mrs. Moore, and Professor Narayan
Godbole. During tea they discuss the Marabar Caves, while Fielding takes Mrs. Moore to see
the college. Ronny arrives to find Adela alone with Aziz and Godbole, and later chastises
Fielding for leaving an Englishwoman alone with two Indians. However, he reminds Ronny
that Adela is capable of making her own decisions. Aziz plans a picnic at the Marabar Caves
for Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore. Adela tells Ronny that she will not marry him, but he
nevertheless suggests that they take a car trip to see Chandrapore. The Nawab Bahadur, an
important local figure, agree to take them. During the trip, the car swerves into a tree and
Miss Derek, an Englishwoman passing by at the time, agrees to take them back to town.
However, she snubs the Nawab Bahadur and his chauffeur. Adela speaks to Ronny, and tells
him that she was foolish to say that they should not be married.
Both Aziz and Godbole fall sick after the party at Mr. Fieldings home, so Fielding visits Aziz
and they discuss the state of politics in India. Aziz shows Fielding a picture of his wife, a
significant event considering his Islamic background and an important demonstration of their
Aziz plans the expedition to the Marabar Caves, considering every minute detail because he
does not which to offend the English ladies. During the day when they are to embark,
Mohammed Latif, a friend of Aziz, bribes Adelas searvant, Antony, not to go on the
expedition, for he serves as a spy for Ronny Heaslop. Although Aziz, Adela and Mrs. Moore
arrive to the train station on time, Fielding and Godbole miss the train because of Godboles
morning prayers. Adela and Aziz discuss her marriage, and she fears she will become a
narrow-minded Anglo-Indian such as the other wives of British officials. When they reach the
caves, a distinct echo in one of them frightens Mrs. Moore, who decides she must leave
immediately. The echo terrifies her, for it gives her the sense that the universe is chaotic and
has no order.
Aziz and Adela continue to explore the caves, and Adela realizes that she does not love
Ronny. However, she does not think that this is reason enough to break off her engagement.
Adela leaves Aziz, who goes into a cave to smoke, but when he exits he finds their guide
alone and asleep. Aziz search for Adela, but only finds her broken field glasses. Finally he
finds Fielding, who arrived at the cave in Miss Dereks care, but he does not know where
Adela is. When the group returns to Chandrapore, Aziz is arrested for assaulting Adela.
Fielding speaks to the Collector about the charge, and claims that Adela is mad and Aziz must
be innocent. The Collector feels that this is inevitable, for disaster always occurs when the
English and Indians interact socially. Fielding requests that he see Adela, but McBryde, the
police superintendent, denies this request. Fielding acts as Azizs advocate, explaining such
things as why Aziz would have the field glasses. Aziz hires as his lawyer Armitrao, a Hindu
who is notoriously anti-British. Godbole leaves Chandrapore to start a high school in Central
The Anglo-Indians rally to Miss Questeds defense and call a meeting to discuss the trial.
Fielding attends, and makes the mistake of actually referring to her by name. The Collector
advises all to behave cautiously. When Ronny enters, Fielding does not stand as a sign of
respect. Mr. Turton demands an apology, but Fielding merely resigns from the club and
claims he will resign from his post if Aziz is found guilty.
Adela remains in the McBrydes bungalow, where the men are too respectful and the women
too sympathetic. She wishes to see Mrs. Moore, who kept away. Ronny tells her that Fielding
wrote her a letter to her pleading Azizs case. Adela admits to Ronny that she has made a
mistake and that Aziz is innocent. When Adela sees Mrs. Moore, she is morose and detached.
She knows that Aziz is innocent and tells Adela that directly. Mrs. Moore wishes to leave
India, and Ronny agrres, for she is doing no one any good by remaining. Lady Mellanby, the
wife of the Lieutenant-Governor, secures Mrs. Moore quick passage out of India.
During the trial, the Indians in the crowd jeer Adela for her appearance, and Mahmoud Ali,
one of Azizs lawyers, claims that Mrs. Moore was sent away because she would clear Azizs
name. When McBryde asks Adela whether Aziz followed her, she admits that she made a
mistake. Major Callendar attempts to stop the proceedings on medical grounds, but Mr. Das,
the judge, releases Aziz. After the trial, Adela leaves the courtroom alone as a riot foments.
Fielding finds her and escorts her to the college where she will be safe. Disaster is averted
only when Dr. Panna Lal, who was to testify for the prosecution, publicly apologizes to Aziz
and secures the release of Nureddin, a prisoner rumored to have been by the English.
At the college, Fielding asks Adela why she would make her charge, but she cannot give a
definite answer. He suggests that she was either assaulted by the guide or had a hallucination.
Adela seems to believe that she had a hallucination, for she thinks she had a hallucination of a
marriage when there was none. Fielding warns her that Aziz is very bitter. Ronny arrives and
tells them that his mother died at sea.
After a victory banquet for Aziz, he and Fielding discuss his future plans. Fielding implores
Aziz not to sue Adela, for it will show him to be a gentleman, but Aziz claims that he is fully
anti-British now. Fielding reminds Aziz what a momentous sacrifice Adela made, for now she
does not have the support nor friendship of the other English officials. Fielding tells Aziz that
Mrs. Moore is dead, but he does not believe him. The death of Mrs. Moore leads to suspicion
that Ronny had her killed for trying to defend Aziz. Although there was no wrongdoing in the
situation, Ronny nevertheless feels guilty for treating his mother so poorly. Adela decides to
leave India and not marry Ronny.
Fielding gains new respect for Adela for her humility and loyalty as he attempts to persuade
Aziz not to take action against Adela. Adela leaves India and vows to visit Mrs. Moores
other children (and Ronnys step-siblings) Stella and Ralph. Aziz hears rumors and begins to
suspect that Fielding had an affair with Adela. He believes these rumors out of his cynicism
concerning human nature. Because of this suspicion, the friendship between Aziz and
Fielding begins to cool, even after Fielding denies the affair to Aziz. Fielding himself leaves
Chandrapore to travel, while Aziz remains convinced that Fielding will marry Adela Quested.
Forster resumes the novel some time later in the town of Mau, where Godbole now works.
Godbole currently takes part in a Hindu birthing ceremony with Aziz, who now works in this
region. Fielding visits Mau; he has married, and Aziz assumes that his bride is Miss Quested.
Aziz stopped corresponding with Fielding when he received a letter which stated that Fielding
married someone Aziz knows. However, he did not marry Adela, as Aziz assumes, but rather
Mrs. Moore daughter, Stella. When Fielding meets with Aziz and clears up this
misunderstanding, Aziz remains angry, for he has assumed for such a long time that Fielding
married his enemy.
Nevertheless, Aziz goes to the guest house where Fielding stays and finds Ralph Moore there.
His anger at Fielding cools when Ralph invokes the memory of Mrs. Moore, and Aziz even
takes Ralph boating on the river so that they can observe the local Hindu ceremonies. Their
boat, however, crashes into one carrying Fielding and Stella. After this comical event, the ill
will between Aziz and Fielding fully dissipates. However, they realize that because of their
different cultures they cannot remain friends and part from one another cordially.

25.Fowles, John: The French Lieutenants Woman

John Fowles was born in 1926 in Bedford, England. After graduation from Oxford University,
where he studied French, he taught in France and also for several years on a Greek island,
then returned to England and worked on his first novel, The Collector, published in 1963.
After its publication, and the good reviews which it received, he gave up teaching to pursue
writing full time.
Fowles' next work was The Aristos, a collection of philosophical aphorisms, published in
1965. The Magus, his next novel, was published in 1966, and in 1978, he published a revision
of it.The French Lieutenant's Woman appeared in 1969. The Ebony Tower, a collection of
short stories, was published in 1974. His later novels include Daniel
Martin (1978), Mantissa (1982), and A Maggot (1985). John Fowles died in 2005.
In The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles does not merely recreate a Victorian novel;
neither does he parody one. He does a little of both, but also much more. The subject of this
novel is essentially the same as that of his other works: the relationship between life and art,
the artist and his creation, and the isolation resulting from an individual's struggle for
selfhood. He works within the tradition of the Victorian novel and consciously uses its
conventions to serve his own design, all the while carefully informing the reader exactly what
he is doing. His style purposely combines a flowing nineteenth-century prose style with an
anachronistic twentieth-century perspective.
Fowles is as concerned with the details of the setting as were his Victorian counterparts. But
he is also conscious that he is setting a scene and does not hesitate to intrude into the narrative
himself in order to show the reader how he manipulates reality through his art. Like Dickens,
Fowles uses dialogue to reveal the personalities of his characters and often he will satirize
them as well. For example, Charles' attitudes toward Sarah and Ernestina are revealed in the
way he talks to them. He is forever uncomfortable with Sarah because she won't accept the
way in which he categorizes the world, including his view of her. Sarah's responses to the
world around her, as seen through her words and actions are consistent, for she is already
aware of herself as an individual who cannot be defined by conventional roles. However,
Charles changes, depending upon whom he talks to, because he really does not know who he
is yet, and he sees himself as playing a series of roles. With his fiance, he is indulgent and
paternal; with his servant Sam, he is patronizing and humorous at Sam's expense, and with
Sarah, he is stiff and uncomfortable. When he attempts to respond to Sarah's honesty, he hears
the hollowness of his own conventional responses.
Fowles does not recreate his Victorian world uncritically. He focuses on those aspects of the
Victorian era that would seem most alien to a modern reader. In particular, he is concerned
with Victorian attitudes towards women, economics, science, and philosophy. In this
romance, Fowles examines the problems of two socially and economically oppressed groups
in nineteenth-century England: the poverty of the working and servant classes, and the
economic and social entrapment of women. While the plot traces a love story, or what seems
to be a love story, the reader questions what sort of love existed in a society where many
marriages were based as much on economics as on love. This story is thus not really a
romance at all, for Fowles' objective is not to unite his two protagonists, Sarah and Charles,
but to show what each human being must face in life in order to be able to grow.
While Fowles has titled his book The French Lieutenant's Woman, Sarah Woodruff is not
really the central character. She does not change greatly in the novel as it progresses, for she
has already arrived at an awareness that she must go beyond the definition of her individuality
that society has imposed upon her. Because her situation was intolerable, she was forced to
see through it and beyond it in order to find meaning and some sort of happiness in her life. In
the early chapters of the novel, she perhaps makes one last effort to establish a life within the
norms of Victorian society. She chooses the role of the outcast, the "French lieutenant's
whore," and also falls in love with Charles or causes him to fall in love with her. But even as
she draws Charles away from his unquestioning acceptance of his life, she finds that she does
not want to be rescued from her plight. She has already rescued herself.
Charles, it seems, is the actual protagonist of this novel, for he must travel from ignorance to
understanding, by following the woman whom he thinks he is helping, but who in fact is his
mentor. He must discard each layer of the false Charles: Charles the naturalist, Charles the
gentleman, Charles the rake, and perhaps even Charles the lover, in order to find Charles the
human being. The knowledge he arrives at is bitter, for he has lost all his illusions, as Sarah
discarded hers sometime before. But the result itself is not bitter. Although Charles and Sarah
are not reunited, for life's answers are never as simple and perfect as those of art, they both
achieve a maturity that enables them to control their lives as long as they remember to look
for answers nowhere but in themselves.

About the novel

This novel is based on the nineteenth-century romantic or gothic novel, a literary genre which
can trace its origins back to the eighteenth century. Although Fowles perfectly reproduces
typical characters, situations, and even dialogue, the reader should always be aware of the
irony inherent in Fowles' perception; for his perspective, however cleverly disguised, is that
of the twentieth century. We see this both in the authorial intrusions, which comment on the
mores of people in Victorian England, and in his choice of opening quotations, which are
drawn from the writings of people whose observations belie the assumptions that most
Victorians held about their world.
Fowles is concerned in this novel with the effects of society on the individual's awareness of
himself or herself and how that awareness dominates and distorts his or her entire life,
including relationships with other people. All the main characters in this novel are molded by
what they believe to be true about themselves and others. In this case, their lives are governed
by what the Victorian Age thought was true about the nature of men and women and their
relationships to each other. The French Lieutenant's Woman of the title, for example, is the
dark, mysterious woman of the typical Victorian romantic novel.
Sometimes the villainess, sometimes the heroine, such a woman was a symbol of what was
forbidden. It is this aura of strangeness about Sarah Woodruff that first attracts Charles
Smithson's attention. The story that develops around this pair echoes other romantic novels of
a similar type, wherein a man falls in love with a strange and sometimes evil woman.
Charles' relationship with Ernestina Freeman creates another sort of romantic story, one that
formed the basis of many Victorian novels. In the present story, the romantic situation which
develops around the pair of aristocratic young people is not allowed to prevail over the forces,
including the dark lady, that would normally keep Charles and Ernestina apart. Thus Fowles
uses the popularity of the comedy of manners and combines it with the drama and
sensationalism of the gothic novel and, using several stylistic conventions, creates a masterful,
many-layered mystery that is one of the finest pieces of modern literature.
Fowles has taken two traditional romantic characters, a young hero and a mysterious woman,
and has transformed them into human beings.
There is no French lieutenant to pine after, and Sarah's life is not a tragedy that echoes her
nickname in Lyme. Charles' gift of marriage is not a gift at all. While the novel could have
ended with the couple's reconciliation, as it might have had it been a traditional romance,
Fowles does not end it there. In the second ending, Sarah rejects the familiar security that
Charles offers and both are forced to go on alone. Fowles' novel echoes the doubts raised by
such novelists as Thomas Hardy, and by such poets as Matthew Arnold and Alfred Lord
Tennyson, about the solidity of the Victorian view of the world. The world was changing and
old standards no longer applied, though they lingered on long after many had discarded them
in their hearts. This theme that was approached by writers in the nineteenth century is picked
up again by Fowles and carried to a logical conclusion. The novel is therefore actually a
psychological study of an individual rather than a romance. It is a novel of individual growth
and the awareness of one's basic isolation which accompanies that growth.

This thematically complex novel is equal parts psychological study and mystery thriller, using
the narrative structure of the latter as a framework for the former. It tells the story of a self-
centered young Briton, Nicholas Urfe, who, over the course of a magical summer in Greece,
discovers sometimes frightening truths about himself and about the nature of life. Vivid
imagery, dense language, and intriguingly layered characterizations thread, collide and
intertwine throughout the narrative until the reader, like Nicholas, is unsure of what's true and
what's fabricated by the characters. Only on the novel's very last page are protagonist and
reader alike assured that the carefully woven mystery is over ... and the free-flowing mystery
of life is now ready to begin.
The novel begins with Nicholas in England, where he embarks on what he believes will be
one of his customary manipulative and dismissive affairs with women. The object of his
"affections" this time is the vulnerable, sexually eager, and emotionally manipulative Alison,
equal parts victim and user herself. As their affair develops, Nicholas also pursues an
employment opportunity at a school in Greece, finding himself unexpectedly and inexplicably
drawn to both the job and the country. Once he gets the job, he contacts his predecessor, who
issues mysterious warnings about life on the island, but refuses to elaborate. As Nicholas
prepares to go to the island, intrigued and excited, he engineers what he believes will be a
clean break with Alison, but which she experiences as extremely painful.
Nicholas arrives in Greece, immediately falls in love with the landscape and in hate with the
school and its students. One day while exploring the island (Phraxos) upon which the school
is built, he discovers a mysterious villa and signs of human, particularly feminine, habitation.
After investigations of the villa and its inhabitants prove inconclusive, he returns to the villa
(Bourani) to continue his explorations, where he unexpectedly finds himself invited inside by
the tenant, the intriguing, enigmatic Maurice Conchis.
Over the course of several visits, Conchis draws Nicholas into an increasingly, and for
Nicholas troublingly, complex web of half truths, dramatic histories, romance, and tantalizing
sexuality. Several mysterious events involve the appearance of a beautiful young woman
named Lily, with whom Nicholas falls instantly, and deeply, in love. At first, Lily rebuffs his
advances but as more and more layers of Conchis' half-truths come into play, she becomes
more and more flirtatious, eventually confessing that she is not what she seems, that Conchis
is playing games with Nicholas and that she is prepared to break Conchis' manipulative rules
in order to be with him.
As Conchis tells Nicholas the dramatic story of his life, and as Nicholas falls more deeply in
love with the inscrutable Lily, events at Conchis' home (Bourani) take increasingly bizarre
turns, which finally result in Nicholas' being kidnapped, confronted by a exotically masked
and costumed tribunal and told that he has been the subject of a complex psychological
experiment. Conchis and Lily, as well as others Nicholas has encountered, turn out to have all
played key parts in the experiment, and at its conclusion tempt Nicholas with the option of
taking his revenge on them by punishing "Lily," the symbolic focus of his anger. Nicholas
realizes that this is, in fact, the point of the experiment - to see whether he can transcend his
feelings of anger and his desire for vengeance. He refuses to punish Lily and is then
abandoned to find his way back to England.
Back in London, Nicholas attempts to track down both Alison and Conchis' allies, having
little initial success in both but eventually discovering at least a degree of the truth. Eventually
he's led into a reunion with Alison, who turns out to have been involved in Conchis' games
and who, at first, refuses to get involved again with Nicholas. But as the result of everything
that's happened to him, Nicholas has realized that it's time to live a life of personal integrity
and attempts to force Alison to do the same. The novel concludes on the ambivalent note of
Nicholas striding firmly into his future, unsure of whether Alison will join him on the way.
The technique Fowles uses in The Magus gives it richness, complexity, and mystery, all of
which mirror its theme. The protagonist, Nicholas, has a rational, cynical view of life which
must be challenged. To do this, Conchis exposes Nicholas to the mysteries of the godgame,
which intrigue and challenge him. As the mysteries unfold, Nicholas tries to decipher their
meaning rationally and logically. So, too, does the reader. Each time Nicholas arrives at a
conclusion, which seems logical and sensible, the reader, too, is prone to believe it. Then
Conchis, the magus, unmasks the players and the logical answer proves false.
Using such a technique, Fowles brings the reader, along with Nicholas, to the truth behind the
masks: the need for Nicholas to choose truth by choosing life in a world of hazard. The novel
is written and narrated from the first person, subjective point of view, that of the protagonist,
Nicholas Urfe. The essential value of this point of view is that it puts the reader in the same
position as Nicholas, experiencing what he experiences and in much the same way - visceral,
immediate, and often unexpected. While the technique of first person narration is often
employed over a wide range of genres, its application here is particularly effective because
what Nicholas goes through over the course of the novel becomes increasingly extreme,
complicated and mysterious. As a result of this narrative choice, the reader goes through a
similar progression of intrigue, bewilderment, and quite probably frustration.
The Magus was the first novel Fowles wrote, although not the first he published. He wrote
and rewrote it for a dozen years before its publication in 1965. Still not happy with it, despite
its commercial and critical success, he reworked it again and the revised version was
published in 1977. Fowles's obsession with The Magus and his fascination with it have given
it what he calls "favored child" status. He still marvels from time to time that he could write
it. It is an important work for its autobiographical connections, its portrayal of the protagonist
trapped in a meaningless world who must learn to choose life and love, and its use of myth
and mystery to define what is lacking in the protagonist's life.
The Magus is told from the point of view of Nicholas Urfe, who is bored with life. Having
attended Oxford and taught for a year at a public school, he decides to take a position as the
English teacher at the Lord Bryon School in Greece, on the island of Phraxos. Nicholas looks
up a former teacher there, and is warned to "Beware of the waiting-room," without
explanation. Nicholas is not deterred, but during the last few weeks before he leaves, he meets
Alison Kelly, an Australian girl who is about to begin training as an airline stewardess. They
are both sophisticated about sex and somewhat cynical, but each experiences some regret as
they go their separate ways.
During his first six months on Phraxos, Nicholas finds the school claustrophobic but the
island beautiful. He realizes that he cannot write good poetry and that he is having difficulty
forgetting Alison. In a funk, he visits a brothel in Athens and contracts a venereal disease. He
seriously contemplates suicide. The first of the novel's three parts ends at this point.
The mysteries begin as Nicholas goes swimming and someone leaves a book of poems,
evidently meant for him to find. As he looks in the woods nearby, he finds a gate to a villa
with a nearby sign Salle D'Attente, French for "waiting room." One of his colleagues at the
school explains that the villa is owned by a rich recluse named Maurice Conchis. Nicholas
decides to look him up and finds, inexplicably, that he is expected. After some conversation,
as Nicholas is leaving, he finds an old-fashioned glove on the path and surmises that someone
has been watching them.
Invited back for the next weekend, Nicholas is astonished by Conchis' collection of art and by
his claim to be psychic. After dinner, Conchis tells Nicholas about an episode in his boyhood
when he was fifteen and met a fourteen-year-old girl named Lily Montgomery, whose image
haunted him afterward. They were both musically inclined and fell in love, but in 1914, she
led him to feel that he ought to volunteer for the army. Conchis explains that he deserted at
the battle ofNeuve Chapelle, and offers Nicholas a chance to gamble with his own life by
rolling a die and promising that he will take a cyanide pill if the die comes up six. It does, but
Nicholas refuses to take the pill; Conchis seems to approve his decision, and reveals that the
die was loaded against the roller--as was World War I against the soldiers. That night, as
Nicholas is going to sleep, he hears voices singing a war song and smells a foul stench.
The next day Conchis encourages Nicholas to read a pamphlet by Robert Foulkes, written as
he was waiting to be hanged in 1677. Nicholas takes it with him on a walk, falls asleep, and
awakes to see a man in 17th-century dress staring at him from across a ravine. The man
disappears before Nicholas can reach him.
At dinner that night, Conchis tells of his wartime pretense to be on leave so that he could
return to England to visit Lily. As Nicholas retires, he hears a harpsichord accompanied by a
recorder, and investigates, to find Conchis and a beautiful girl dressed in Edwardian clothes,
but he declines to interrupt them.
The next weekend "Lily" joins them after dinner and speaks in the language of the early
1900s. Their conversation is interrupted when a horn sounds, a spotlight illuminates a nymph
who runs by, pursued by a satyr, and another woman seems to shoot the satyr with an arrow.
Nicholas is bewildered but decides that Conchis must be re-creating masques for his own
amusement. Lily refuses to explain, and Conchis talks in parables. He describes an attempt to
found a Society for Reason after the war, and he tells the story of a rich collector whose
mansion is burned by a resentful servant. Nicholas begins to fall in love with Lily, who
professes to be as mystified by what Conchis may be up to as Nicholas is. Conchis explains
that she is a schizophrenic whom he indulges by letting her manipulate men in the controlled
environment at Bourani, but that Nicholas must not believe what she tells him. For the
weekend's culminating experience, Conchis hypnotizes Nicholas, who experiences the
separateness of himself from everything else. Nicholas leaves eager to return for more
Alison has invited Nicholas to Athens the next weekend. Nicholas finds the villa closed up, so
he meets her and falsely tells her that he is suffering from syphilis. They have an enjoyable
weekend climbing in the mountains, at the end of which, back in Athens, Nicholas confesses
his lie and tells her about Bourani and Lily. Alison is hurt, and gives him an ultimatum: She
will quit her job and join him on Phraxos, or she will leave him. When Nicholas hesitates, a
violent argument ensues, and she refuses to let him back in their hotel room.
When Nicholas returns to the villa, Conchis drops the pretense that Lily is a schizophrenic
and tells him that she and her twin sister are actresses named Julie and June, whom Conchis
has hired for a theatrical experiment. The first evening, Conchis tells Nicholas the story of
Henrik Nygaard, a blind madman who believes that he talks with God. Afterward, Nicholas
goes to a passionate rendezvous with Julie in the woods, where he is shocked to discover that
Julie has sent her twin sister instead. June explains that they feel like prisoners, always
watched by Conchis' black valet, Joe, repeatedly told to learn lines and to prepare for
improvisations, but never told what it all means. The next day the twins tell Nicholas their
backgrounds and show him documents to support their statements. After a day of being
shadowed by Joe, even while they are inside an empty chapel, the twins leave with Conchis
on his yacht, vowing to insist that he begin to be forthright with them all.
The next Wednesday the yacht returns, and Julie meets Nicholas at night to assure him that
there will be no more pretense of schizophrenia; however, Nicholas is to join the twins in the
improvisation the next weekend, after which all will be explained. Julie again avoids sex with
Nicholas, pleading her menstrual period. On his way back to school in the dark, Nicholas is
stopped by a patrol of soldiers in Nazi uniforms, who proceed to beat up a captured partisan.
To Nicholas's dismay, he receives a letter on Friday that he will not be welcome, after all, at
the villa that weekend.
Nicholas receives two letters the next Thursday, one from Julie indicating that Conchis has
told her that Nicholas was sick and the other from Alison's roommate telling Nicholas that
Alison has committed suicide. He does not reveal this to Conchis the next weekend, but
demands to know the truth. Conchis explains that he is experimenting with a new form of
theater, without audience, in which everyone is an actor.
Conchis continues the supposed story of his life with the narrative of the German occupation,
when he served as mayor of Phraxos. A crucial event, interpreted differently by different
characters in the novel, occurred after the killing of three Austrian soldiers by guerrillas.
Conchis was told that the lives of eighty villagers about to be executed in reprisal would be
spared if he would club the guerrilla leader to death; he refused, and took his place with the
hostages, but managed to survive the mass execution.
Conchis then explains that Julie is his mistress and that they are all about to leave. When
Nicholas tries to confront Julie, she disappears, playfully demonstrating one of their hiding
places in an old bunker. Inside, she denies what Conchis has said, but as she climbs out of the
bunker, she is grabbed and Nicholas locked in. When he gets out, he finds the villa shut up
and a skull and a doll hanging from a nearby tree. Nicholas does not know what to think and
returns to school.
Several nights later, June appears at the school in distress, concerned about Julie. She says
that they have lied to Nicholas and falsified documents about who they are. Nicholas explains
that their games have cost the life of Alison. She apologizes, and explains that Conchis is
really a psychiatrist doing research and that Julie is at his house in the village, to which June
offers to take Nicholas. When he arrives, Nicholas and Julie make passionate love, after
which she tells him that Julie is not really her name, and walks out. Three men walk in and
restrain Nicholas as they administer an injection that makes him lose consciousness.
Some days later, Nicholas revives, is dressed in ritual garb, and is taken to a chamber
decorated with symbols, where he is seated on a throne facing 12 figures in bizarre costumes.
As they unmask, they are introduced as psychiatrists, including the former Lily as Dr.
Vanessa Maxwell, who reads a clinical diagnosis of Nicholas's psychological problems. She is
then stripped to the waist and tied to a flogging frame, as Nicholas is handed a cat-o'-nine-
tails and invited to judge her--and the others--by choosing to flay her or not. He declines.
Then Nicholas is tied to the frame, to watch Lily and Joe make tender love in front of him.
Afterward, he is again made unconscious.
Nicholas awakens on the mainland, alone. He returns to the school and gets himself fired. He
goes back to the villa and searches for clues. Although he finds a typescript of a story about
how a prince learns to become a magician by accepting that life is full of illusion, Nicholas
goes on looking for expla- nations. The second part of the book ends with his discovery that
Alison is still alive, her supposed suicide evidently part of the charade.
In the last part, Nicholas continues his research. Nicholas finds no record of Conchis'
supposed credentials in psychology. He interviews one of his predecessors at the Lord Byron
School, now living as a monk in Italy, but the monk is not interested in helping Nicholas. He
finally succeeds in locating a house in which a Montgomery lived during World War I and the
inhabitant directs him to one of the Montgomery daughters, a Mrs. Lily de Seitas. At first, she
toys with Nicholas, but when he finds out that she has twin daughters of her own, she admits
that she is a friend of Conchis--and of Alison. Nicholas is angry, partly over her refusal to tell
him where Alison is, but he gradually overcomes his resentment and they meet again.
Nicholas begins to appreciate what has happened, and even declines to discuss it with his
immediate predecessor at the Lord Byron School. Finally, Alison appears when he least
expects her, and they have a confrontation in Regent's Park, where he at first imagines that
they are being watched from Cumberland Terrace. Nicholas issues her an ultimatum--"them
or me." She rejects the ultimatum, and Nicholas walks away from her. When she follows him,
he slaps her without understanding why. Then he realizes that they are unobserved and asks
forgiveness. The novel ends at that point, with their future relationship uncertain.

26.Poe, Edgar Allan. The Tell-Tale Heart;

An unnamed narrator opens the story by addressing the reader and claiming that he is nervous
but not mad. He says that he is going to tell a story in which he will defend his sanity yet
confess to having killed an old man. His motivation was neither passion nor desire for money,
but rather a fear of the mans pale blue eye. Again, he insists that he is not crazy because his
cool and measured actions, though criminal, are not those of a madman. Every night, he went
to the old mans apartment and secretly observed the man sleeping. In the morning, he would
behave as if everything were normal. After a week of this activity, the narrator decides,
somewhat randomly, that the time is right actually to kill the old man.
When the narrator arrives late on the eighth night, though, the old man wakes up and cries
out. The narrator remains still, stalking the old man as he sits awake and frightened. The
narrator understands how frightened the old man is, having also experienced the lonely terrors
of the night. Soon, the narrator hears a dull pounding that he interprets as the old mans
terrified heartbeat. Worried that a neighbor might hear the loud thumping, he attacks and kills
the old man. He then dismembers the body and hides the pieces below the floorboards in the
bedroom. He is careful not to leave even a drop of blood on the floor. As he finishes his job, a
clock strikes the hour of four. At the same time, the narrator hears a knock at the street door.
The police have arrived, having been called by a neighbor who heard the old man shriek. The
narrator is careful to be chatty and to appear normal. He leads the officers all over the house
without acting suspiciously. At the height of his bravado, he even brings them into the old
mans bedroom to sit down and talk at the scene of the crime. The policemen do not suspect a
thing. The narrator is comfortable until he starts to hear a low thumping sound. He recognizes
the low sound as the heart of the old man, pounding away beneath the floorboards. He panics,
believing that the policemen must also hear the sound and know his guilt. Driven mad by the
idea that they are mocking his agony with their pleasant chatter, he confesses to the crime and
shrieks at the men to rip up the floorboards.
Poe uses his words economically in the Tell-Tale Heartit is one of his shortest storiesto
provide a study of paranoia and mental deterioration. Poe strips the story of excess detail as a
way to heighten the murderers obsession with specific and unadorned entities: the old mans
eye, the heartbeat, and his own claim to sanity. Poes economic style and pointed language
thus contribute to the narrative content, and perhaps this association of form and content truly
exemplifies paranoia. Even Poe himself, like the beating heart, is complicit in the plot to catch
the narrator in his evil game.
As a study in paranoia, this story illuminates the psychological contradictions that contribute
to a murderous profile. For example, the narrator admits, in the first sentence, to being
dreadfully nervous, yet he is unable to comprehend why he should be thought mad. He
articulates his self-defense against madness in terms of heightened sensory capacity. Unlike
the similarly nervous and hypersensitive Roderick Usher in The Fall of the House of Usher,
who admits that he feels mentally unwell, the narrator of The Tell-Tale Heart views his
hypersensitivity as proof of his sanity, not a symptom of madness. This special knowledge
enables the narrator to tell this tale in a precise and complete manner, and he uses the stylistic
tools of narration for the purposes of his own sanity plea. However, what makes this narrator
madand most unlike Poeis that he fails to comprehend the coupling of narrative form and
content. He masters precise form, but he unwittingly lays out a tale of murder that betrays the
madness he wants to deny.
Another contradiction central to the story involves the tension between the narrators
capacities for love and hate. Poe explores here a psychological mysterythat people
sometimes harm those whom they love or need in their lives. Poe examines this paradox half a
century before Sigmund Freud made it a leading concept in his theories of the mind. Poes
narrator loves the old man. He is not greedy for the old mans wealth, nor vengeful because of
any slight. The narrator thus eliminates motives that might normally inspire such a violent
murder. As he proclaims his own sanity, the narrator fixates on the old mans vulture-eye. He
reduces the old man to the pale blue of his eye in obsessive fashion. He wants to separate the
man from his Evil Eye so he can spare the man the burden of guilt that he attributes to the
eye itself. The narrator fails to see that the eye is the I of the old man, an inherent part of his
identity that cannot be isolated as the narrator perversely imagines.
The murder of the old man illustrates the extent to which the narrator separates the old mans
identity from his physical eye. The narrator sees the eye as completely separate from the man,
and as a result, he is capable of murdering him while maintaining that he loves him. The
narrators desire to eradicate the mans eye motivates his murder, but the narrator does not
acknowledge that this act will end the mans life. By dismembering his victim, the narrator
further deprives the old man of his humanity. The narrator confirms his conception of the old
mans eye as separate from the man by ending the man altogether and turning him into so
many parts. That strategy turns against him when his mind imagines other parts of the old
mans body working against him. The narrators newly heightened sensitivity to sound
ultimately overcomes him, as he proves unwilling or unable to distinguish between real and
imagined sounds. Because of his warped sense of reality, he obsesses over the low beats of
the mans heart yet shows little concern about the mans shrieks, which are loud enough both
to attract a neighbors attention and to draw the police to the scene of the crime. The police do
not perform a traditional, judgmental role in this story. Ironically, they arent terrifying agents
of authority or brutality. Poes interest is less in external forms of power than in the power
that pathologies of the mind can hold over an individual. The narrators paranoia and guilt
make it inevitable that he will give himself away. The police arrive on the scene to give him
the opportunity to betray himself. The more the narrator proclaims his own cool manner, the
more he cannot escape the beating of his own heart, which he mistakes for the beating of the
old mans heart. As he confesses to the crime in the final sentence, he addresses the
policemen as villains, indicating his inability to distinguish between their real identity and
his own villainy.

27.Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse 5


Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was born in Indianapolis in 1922, a descendant of prominent German-
American families. His father was an architect and his mother was a noted beauty. Both spoke
German fluently but declined to teach Kurt the language in light of widespread anti-German
sentiment following World War I. Family money helped send Vonneguts two siblings to
private schools. The Great Depression hit hard in the 1930s, though, and the family placed
Kurt in public school while it moved to more modest accommodations. While in high school,
Vonnegut edited the schools daily newspaper. He attended college at Cornell for a little over
two years, with instructions from his father and brother to study chemistry, a subject at which
he did not excel. He also wrote for the Cornell Daily Sun. In 1943 he enlisted in the U.S.
Army. In 1944 his mother committed suicide, and Vonnegut was taken prisoner following the
Battle of the Bulge, in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium.
After the war, Vonnegut married and entered a masters degree program in anthropology at
the University of Chicago. He also worked as a reporter for the Chicago City News Bureau.
His masters thesis, titled Fluctuations Between Good and Evil in Simple Tales, was rejected.
He departed for Schenectady, New York, to take a job in public relations at a General Electric
research laboratory.
Vonnegut left GE in 1951 to devote himself full-time to writing. During the 1950s, Vonnegut
published short stories in national magazines. Player Piano, his first novel, appeared in
1952. Sirens of Titan was published in 1959, followed by Mother Night (1962), Cats
Cradle (1963), God Bless You, Mr. Rose-water (1965), and his most highly praised
work, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). Vonnegut wrote prolifically until his death in 2007.
Slaughterhouse-Five treats one of the most horrific massacres in European historythe
World War II firebombing of Dresden, a city in eastern Germany, on February 13, 1945
with mock-serious humor and clear antiwar sentiment. More than 130,000 civilians died in
Dresden, roughly the same number of deaths that resulted from the Allied bombing raids on
Tokyo and from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, both of which also occurred in
1945. Inhabitants of Dresden were incinerated or suffocated in a matter of hours as a firestorm
sucked up and consumed available oxygen. The scene on the ground was one of unimaginable
The novel is based on Kurt Vonneguts own experience in World War II. In the novel, a
prisoner of war witnesses and survives the Allied forces firebombing of Dresden. Vonnegut,
like his protagonist Billy Pilgrim, emerged from a meat locker beneath a slaughter-house into
the moonscape of burned-out Dresden. His surviving captors put him to work finding,
burying, and burning bodies. His task continued until the Russians came and the war ended.
Vonnegut survived by chance, confined as a prisoner of war (POW) in a well-insulated meat
locker, and so missed the cataclysmic moment of attack, emerging the day after into the
charred ruins of a once-beautiful cityscape. Vonnegut has said that he always intended to
write about the experience but found himself incapable of doing so for more than twenty
years. Although he attempted to describe in simple terms what happened and to create a linear
narrative, this strategy never worked for him. Billy Pilgrims unhinged timeshifting, a
mechanism for dealing with the unfathomable aggression and mass destruction he witnesses,
is Vonneguts solution to the problem of telling an untellable tale.
Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five as a response to war. It is so short and jumbled and
jangled, he explains in Chapter 1, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a
massacre. The jumbled structure of the novel and the long delay between its conception and
completion serve as testaments to a very personal struggle with heart-wrenching material. But
the timing of the novels publication also deserves notice: in 1969, the United States was in
the midst of the dismal Vietnam War. Vonnegut was an outspoken pacifist and critic of the
conflict. Slaughterhouse-Five revolves around the willful incineration of 100,000 civilians, in
a city of extremely dubious military significance, during an arguably just war. Appearing
when it did, then, Slaughterhouse-Five made a forceful statement about the campaign in
Vietnam, a war in which incendiary technology was once more being employed against
nonmilitary targets in the name of a dubious cause.
About the book
Billy Pilgrim is born in 1922 and grows up in Ilium, New York. A funny-looking, weak
youth, he does reasonably well in high school, enrolls in night classes at the Ilium School of
Optometry, and is drafted into the army during World War II. He trains as a chaplains
assistant in South Carolina, where an umpire officiates during practice battles and announces
who survives and who dies before they all sit down to lunch together. Billys father dies in a
hunting accident shortly before Billy ships overseas to join an infantry regiment in
Luxembourg. Billy is thrown into the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and is immediately taken
prisoner behind German lines. Just before his capture, he experiences his first incident of
timeshifting: he sees the entirety of his life, from beginning to end, in one sweep.
Billy is transported in a crowded railway boxcar to a POW camp in Germany. Upon his
arrival, he and the other privates are treated to a feast by a group of fellow prisoners, who are
English officers who were captured earlier in the war. Billy suffers a breakdown and gets a
shot of morphine that sends him time-tripping again. Soon he and the other Americans travel
onward to the beautiful city of Dresden, still relatively untouched by wartime privation. Here
the prisoners must work for their keep at various labors, including the manufacture of a
nutritional malt syrup. Their camp occupies a former slaughterhouse. One night, Allied forces
carpet bomb the city, then drop incendiary bombs to create a firestorm that sucks most of the
oxygen into the blaze, asphyxiating or incinerating roughly 130,000 people. Billy and his
fellow POWs survive in an airtight meat locker. They emerge to find a moonscape of
destruction, where they are forced to excavate corpses from the rubble. Several days later,
Russian forces capture the city, and Billys involvement in the war ends.
Billy returns to Ilium and finishes optometry school. He gets engaged to Valencia Merble, the
obese daughter of the schools founder. After a nervous breakdown, Billy commits himself to
a veterans hospital and receives shock treatments. During his stay in the mental ward, a
fellow patient introduces Billy to the science fiction novels of a writer named Kilgore Trout.
After his recuperation, Billy gets married. His wealthy father-in-law sets him up in the
optometry business, and Billy and Valencia raise two children and grow rich. Billy acquires
the trappings of the suburban American dream: a Cadillac, a stately home with modern
appliances, a bejeweled wife, and the presidency of the Lions Club. He is not aware of
keeping any secrets from himself, but at his eighteenth wedding anniversary party the sight of
a barbershop quartet makes him break down because, he realizes, it triggers a memory of
The night after his daughters wedding in 1967, as he later reveals on a radio talk show, Billy
is kidnapped by two-foot-high aliens who resemble upside-down toilet plungers, who he says
are called Tralfamadorians. They take him in their flying saucer to the planet Tralfamadore,
where they mate him with a movie actress named Montana Wildhack. She, like Billy, has
been brought from Earth to live under a transparent geodesic dome in a zoo where
Tralfamadorians can observe extraterrestrial curiosities. The Tralfamadorians explain to Billy
their perception of time, how its entire sweep exists for them simultaneously in the fourth
dimension. When someone dies, that person is simply dead at a particular time. Somewhere
else and at a different time he or she is alive and well. Tralfamadorians prefer to look at lifes
nicer moments.
When he returns to Earth, Billy initially says nothing of his experiences. In 1968, he gets on a
chartered plane to go to an optometry conference in Montreal. The plane crashes into a
mountain, and, among the optometrists, only Billy survives. A brain surgeon operates on him
in a Vermont hospital. On her way to visit him there, Valencia dies of accidental carbon
monoxide poisoning after crashing her car. Billys daughter places him under the care of a
nurse back home in Ilium. But he feels that the time is ripe to tell the world what he has
learned. Billy has foreseen this moment while time-tripping, and he knows that his message
will eventually be accepted. He sneaks off to New York City, where he goes on a radio talk
show. Shortly thereafter, he writes a letter to the local paper. His daughter is at her wits end
and does not know what to do with him. Billy makes a tape recording of his account of his
death, which he predicts will occur in 1976 after Chicago has been hydrogen-bombed by the
Chinese. He knows exactly how it will happen: a vengeful man he knew in the war will hire
someone to shoot him. Billy adds that he will experience the violet hum of death and then will
skip back to some other point in his life. He has seen it all many times.
The author narrates in both first and third person. The first-person sections are confined
mainly to the first and last chapters. The narration is omniscient: it reveals the thoughts and
motives of several characters, and provides details about their lives and some analysis of their
motivations. The narrator primarily follows Billy Pilgrim but also presents the point of view
of other characters whom Billy encounters. The narrators tone is familiar and ironic, and he
uncovers touches of dark humor and absurdity that do not diminish the lyrical and emotional
power of the material. His portrayal of Billy is intimate but ambivalent, and he occasionally
emphasizes the diction of reported speech (prefacing a passage with He says that or Billy
says) to draw a distinction between reality and Billys interpretation of events.
The novels random, skipping timeline presents an effective method of representing one
mans inability to live a normal life after experiencing modern warfare. The disjointed collage
of Billy Pilgrims life gets translated directly to the disjointed collage of the narrative. We
experience Billys life as he does, without suspense or logical order, randomly orbiting about
the firebombing of Dresden.
A traditional novel might start with a youthful Billy Pilgrim and follow him into old age or
with an elderly protagonist who flashes back on his life. Billy, however, adopts a
Tralfamadorian attitude because it is the only way he can make sense of the loose grip on time
he is left with after the war. In order to follow him, the narrative approximates the same
attitude. A Tralfamadorian novel, as discussed in Chapter 5, contains urgent, discrete
messages describing scenes and situations. The author of such a novel carefully chooses the
messages so that, when seen all at once, they form a profound image of life. Otherwise, there
is no obvious relationship among themthere is no beginning, middle, climax, or end.
Humans, of course, cannot perceive all the elements of a novel at the same time. We can only
approximate this effect like we approximate motion on filmwith quick snapshots shown in
rapid succession. Showing the snapshots in chronological order yields a traditional linear
narrative; shuffling them up yields the closest approximation of a Tralfamadorian whole.
Vonnegut entrusts his long-in-the-making Dresden book to a Tralfamadorian template in the
hopes that it will produce something profound and beautiful from the memories of a massacre.