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Pre-WWII British Literature
Titles, Characters, Concepts
29
English
10/02/2011

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Term
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree"
Definition
Author: W.B. Yeats Genre: poem

Summary

The poet declares that he will arise and go to Innisfree, where he will build a small cabin “of clay and wattles made.” There, he will have nine bean-rows and a beehive, and live alone in the glade loud with the sound of bees (“the bee-loud glade”). He says that he will have peace there, for peace drops from “the veils of morning to where the cricket sings.” Midnight there is a glimmer, and noon is a purple glow, and evening is full of linnet’s wings. He declares again that he will arise and go, for always, night and day, he hears the lake water lapping “with low sounds by the shore.” While he stands in the city, “on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,” he hears the sound within himself, “in the deep heart’s core.”

Form

“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is written mostly in hexameter, with six stresses in each line, in a loosely iambic pattern. The last line of each four-line stanza shortens the line to tetrameter, with only four stresses: “And live alone in the bee-loud glade.” Each of the three stanzas has the same ABAB rhyme scheme. Formally, this poem is somewhat unusual for Yeats: he rarely worked with hexameter, and every rhyme in the poem is a full rhyme; there is no sign of the half-rhymes Yeats often prefers in his later work.

Commentary

“The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” published in Yeats’s second book of poems, 1893’s The Rose, is one of his first great poems, and one of his most enduring. The tranquil, hypnotic hexameters recreate the rhythmic pulse of the tide. The simple imagery of the quiet life the speaker longs to lead, as he enumerates each of its qualities, lulls the reader into his idyllic fantasy, until the penultimate line jolts the speaker—and the reader—back into the reality of his drab urban existence: “While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey.” The final line—“I hear it in the deep heart’s core”—is a crucial statement for Yeats, not only in this poem but also in his career as a whole. The implication that the truths of the “deep heart’s core” are essential to life is one that would preoccupy Yeats for the rest of his career as a poet; the struggle to remain true to the deep heart’s core may be thought of as Yeats’s primary undertaking as a poet.
Term
"Adam's Curse"
Definition
Author: WB Yeats Genre: Poem

Summary

Addressing his beloved, the speaker remembers sitting with her and “that beautiful mild woman, your close friend” at the end of summer, discussing poetry. He remarked then that a line of poetry may take hours to write, but if it does not seem the thought of a single moment, the poet’s work has been useless. The poet said that it would be better to “scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones / Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather,” for to write poetry is a task harder than these, yet less appreciated by the “bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen” of the world.

The “beautiful mild woman”—whose voice, the speaker notes, is so sweet and low it will cause many men heartache—replied that to be born a woman is to know that one must work at being beautiful, even though that kind of work is not discussed at school. The speaker answered by saying that since the fall of Adam, every fine thing has required “labouring.” He said that there have been lovers who spent time learning “precedents out of beautiful old books,” but now such study seems “an idle trade enough.”

At the mention of love, the speaker recalls, the group grew quiet, watching “the last embers of daylight die.” In the blue-green sky the moon rose, looking worn as a shell “washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell / About the stars and broke in days and years.” The speaker says that he spoke only for the ears of his beloved, that she was beautiful, and that he strove to love her “in the old high way of love.” It had all seemed happy, he says, “and yet we’d grown / As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.”

Form

“Adam’s Curse” is written in heroic couplets, which is a name used to describe rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter. Some of the rhymes are full (years/ears) and some are only partial (clergymen/thereupon).

Commentary

“Adam’s Curse” is an extraordinary poem; though it was written early in Yeats’s career (appearing in his 1904 collection In the Seven Woods), and though its stylistic simplicity is somewhat atypical for Yeats, it easily ranks among his best and most moving work. Within an emotional recollection of an evening spent with his beloved and her friend, Yeats frames a philosophical argument: that because of the curse of labor that God placed upon Adam when He expelled him from the Garden of Eden, every worthwhile human achievement (particularly those aimed at achieving beauty, whether in poetry, physical appearance, or love) requires hard work. The simple, speech-like rhythms of the iambic pentameter fulfill the poet’s dictate that a poetic line should seem “but a moment’s thought,” and the bittersweet emotional tone appears wholly organic, a natural result of the recollection. The speaker loves the woman to whom the poem is addressed, and speaks “only for [her] ears”; but though the scene seems happy, their hearts are as weary as shells worn by the waters of time.

Behind the natural, unsophisticated feel of the poem, of course, lies a great deal of hard work and structure—just as the poem’s speaker says must be true of poetry generally. (One of the most charming aspects of this poem is its mirroring of the aesthetic principles laid out by the speaker in the first stanza.) The discussion of work and beauty is divided into three progressive parts: the speaker’s claims about poetry, the friend’s claims about physical beauty, and the speaker’s claims about love. This last claim affords Yeats the chance both to hush the trio and to soften the mood of the poem, and the speaker looks outward to the rising moon, which becomes a metaphor for the effects of time on the human heart, a weariness presumably compounded by the labor of living “since Adam’s fall.”
Term
"The Second Coming"
Definition
Author: WB Yeats Genre: Crazy-shit Poem

Summary

The speaker describes a nightmarish scene: the falcon, turning in a widening “gyre” (spiral), cannot hear the falconer; “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”; anarchy is loosed upon the world; “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned.” The best people, the speaker says, lack all conviction, but the worst “are full of passionate intensity.”

Surely, the speaker asserts, the world is near a revelation; “Surely the Second Coming is at hand.” No sooner does he think of “the Second Coming,” then he is troubled by “a vast image of the Spiritus Mundi, or the collective spirit of mankind: somewhere in the desert, a giant sphinx (“A shape with lion body and the head of a man, / A gaze as blank and pitiless as the sun”) is moving, while the shadows of desert birds reel about it. The darkness drops again over the speaker’s sight, but he knows that the sphinx’s twenty centuries of “stony sleep” have been made a nightmare by the motions of “a rocking cradle.” And what “rough beast,” he wonders, “its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Form

“The Second Coming” is written in a very rough iambic pentameter, but the meter is so loose, and the exceptions so frequent, that it actually seems closer to free verse with frequent heavy stresses. The rhymes are likewise haphazard; apart from the two couplets with which the poem opens, there are only coincidental rhymes in the poem, such as “man” and “sun.”

Commentary

Because of its stunning, violent imagery and terrifying ritualistic language, “The Second Coming” is one of Yeats’s most famous and most anthologized poems; it is also one of the most thematically obscure and difficult to understand. (It is safe to say that very few people who love this poem could paraphrase its meaning to satisfaction.) Structurally, the poem is quite simple—the first stanza describes the conditions present in the world (things falling apart, anarchy, etc.), and the second surmises from those conditions that a monstrous Second Coming is about to take place, not of the Jesus we first knew, but of a new messiah, a “rough beast,” the slouching sphinx rousing itself in the desert and lumbering toward Bethlehem. This brief exposition, though intriguingly blasphemous, is not terribly complicated; but the question of what it should signify to a reader is another story entirely.

Yeats spent years crafting an elaborate, mystical theory of the universe that he described in his book A Vision. This theory issued in part from Yeats’s lifelong fascination with the occult and mystical, and in part from the sense of responsibility Yeats felt to order his experience within a structured belief system. The system is extremely complicated and not of any lasting importance—except for the effect that it had on his poetry, which is of extraordinary lasting importance. The theory of history Yeats articulated in A Vision centers on a diagram made of two conical spirals, one inside the other, so that the widest part of one of the spirals rings around the narrowest part of the other spiral, and vice versa. Yeats believed that this image (he called the spirals “gyres”) captured the contrary motions inherent within the historical process, and he divided each gyre into specific regions that represented particular kinds of historical periods (and could also represent the psychological phases of an individual’s development).

“The Second Coming” was intended by Yeats to describe the current historical moment (the poem appeared in 1921) in terms of these gyres. Yeats believed that the world was on the threshold of an apocalyptic revelation, as history reached the end of the outer gyre (to speak roughly) and began moving along the inner gyre. In his definitive edition of Yeats’s poems, Richard J. Finneran quotes Yeats’s own notes:

The end of an age, which always receives the revelation of the character of the next age, is represented by the coming of one gyre to its place of greatest expansion and of the other to its place of greatest contraction... The revelation [that] approaches will... take its character from the contrary movement of the interior gyre...

In other words, the world’s trajectory along the gyre of science, democracy, and heterogeneity is now coming apart, like the frantically widening flight-path of the falcon that has lost contact with the falconer; the next age will take its character not from the gyre of science, democracy, and speed, but from the contrary inner gyre—which, presumably, opposes mysticism, primal power, and slowness to the science and democracy of the outer gyre. The “rough beast” slouching toward Bethlehem is the symbol of this new age; the speaker’s vision of the rising sphinx is his vision of the character of the new world.

This seems quite silly as philosophy or prophecy (particularly in light of the fact that it has not come true as yet). But as poetry, and understood more broadly than as a simple reiteration of the mystic theory of A Vision, “The Second Coming” is a magnificent statement about the contrary forces at work in history, and about the conflict between the modern world and the ancient world. The poem may not have the thematic relevance of Yeats’s best work, and may not be a poem with which many people can personally identify; but the aesthetic experience of its passionate language is powerful enough to ensure its value and its importance in Yeats’s work as a whole.

Second Coming: declining modernity, apocalyptic, second coming is looking forward to the “beast of Bethlehem” that is the second gyre beginning. The sphinx is the next central ideology in next gyre. Images: Falcon cannot hear the falconer: world is falling apart, downfall of modern life, failure of meta-narratives: no center anymore (“center cannot hold”) beginning to question Christian center. Blake without contraries there is no progression (Hegelian dialectic: thesis antithesis move forward). Still ends in question, still unsure of answer.
Term
"Sailing to Byzantium"
Definition
Author: WB Yeats Genre: Poem

Summary

The speaker, referring to the country that he has left, says that it is “no country for old men”: it is full of youth and life, with the young lying in one another’s arms, birds singing in the trees, and fish swimming in the waters. There, “all summer long” the world rings with the “sensual music” that makes the young neglect the old, whom the speaker describes as “Monuments of unageing intellect.”

An old man, the speaker says, is a “paltry thing,” merely a tattered coat upon a stick, unless his soul can clap its hands and sing; and the only way for the soul to learn how to sing is to study “monuments of its own magnificence.” Therefore, the speaker has “sailed the seas and come / To the holy city of Byzantium.” The speaker addresses the sages “standing in God’s holy fire / As in the gold mosaic of a wall,” and asks them to be his soul’s “singing-masters.” He hopes they will consume his heart away, for his heart “knows not what it is”—it is “sick with desire / And fastened to a dying animal,” and the speaker wishes to be gathered “Into the artifice of eternity.”

The speaker says that once he has been taken out of the natural world, he will no longer take his “bodily form” from any “natural thing,” but rather will fashion himself as a singing bird made of hammered gold, such as Grecian goldsmiths make “To keep a drowsy Emperor awake,” or set upon a tree of gold “to sing / To lords and ladies of Byzantium / Or what is past, or passing, or to come.”

Form

The four eight-line stanzas of “Sailing to Byzantium” take a very old verse form: they are metered in iambic pentameter, and rhymed ABABABCC, two trios of alternating rhyme followed by a couplet.

Commentary

“Sailing to Byzantium” is one of Yeats’s most inspired works, and one of the greatest poems of the twentieth century. Written in 1926 and included in Yeats’s greatest single collection, 1928’s The Tower, “Sailing to Byzantium” is Yeats’s definitive statement about the agony of old age and the imaginative and spiritual work required to remain a vital individual even when the heart is “fastened to a dying animal” (the body). Yeats’s solution is to leave the country of the young and travel to Byzantium, where the sages in the city’s famous gold mosaics (completed mainly during the sixth and seventh centuries) could become the “singing-masters” of his soul. He hopes the sages will appear in fire and take him away from his body into an existence outside time, where, like a great work of art, he could exist in “the artifice of eternity.” In the astonishing final stanza of the poem, he declares that once he is out of his body he will never again appear in the form of a natural thing; rather, he will become a golden bird, sitting on a golden tree, singing of the past (“what is past”), the present (that which is “passing”), and the future (that which is “to come”).

A fascination with the artificial as superior to the natural is one of Yeats’s most prevalent themes. In a much earlier poem, 1899’s “The Lover Tells of the Rose in His Heart,” the speaker expresses a longing to re-make the world “in a casket of gold” and thereby eliminate its ugliness and imperfection. Later, in 1914’s “The Dolls,” the speaker writes of a group of dolls on a shelf, disgusted by the sight of a human baby. In each case, the artificial (the golden casket, the beautiful doll, the golden bird) is seen as perfect and unchanging, while the natural (the world, the human baby, the speaker’s body) is prone to ugliness and decay. What is more, the speaker sees deep spiritual truth (rather than simply aesthetic escape) in his assumption of artificiality; he wishes his soul to learn to sing, and transforming into a golden bird is the way to make it capable of doing so.


“Sailing to Byzantium” is an endlessly interpretable poem, and suggests endlessly fascinating comparisons with other important poems—poems of travel, poems of age, poems of nature, poems featuring birds as symbols. (One of the most interesting is surely Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale,” to which this poem is in many ways a rebuttal: Keats writes of his nightingale, “Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! / No hungry generations tread thee down”; Yeats, in the first stanza of “Sailing to Byzantium,” refers to “birds in the trees” as “those dying generations.”) It is important to note that the poem is not autobiographical; Yeats did not travel to Byzantium (which was renamed Constantinople in the fourth century A.D., and later renamed Istanbul), but he did argue that, in the sixth century, it offered the ideal environment for the artist. The poem is about an imaginative journey, not an actual one.
Term
"Leda and the Swan"
Definition
Author: WB Yeats Genre: Poem

Summary

The speaker retells a story from Greek mythology, the rape of the girl Leda by the god Zeus, who had assumed the form of a swan. Leda felt a sudden blow, with the “great wings” of the swan still beating above her. Her thighs were caressed by “the dark webs,” and the nape of her neck was caught in his bill; he held “her helpless breast upon his breast.” How, the speaker asks, could Leda’s “terrified vague fingers” push the feathered glory of the swan from between her thighs? And how could her body help but feel “the strange heart beating where it lies”? A shudder in the loins engenders “The broken wall, the burning roof and tower, and Agamemnon dead.” The speaker wonders whether Leda, caught up by the swan and “mastered by the brute blood of the air,” assumed his knowledge as well as his power “Before the indifferent beak could let her drop.”

Form

“Leda and the Swan” is a sonnet, a traditional fourteen-line poem in iambic pentameter. The structure of this sonnet is Petrarchan with a clear separation between the first eight lines (the “octave”) and the final six (the “sestet”), the dividing line being the moment of ejaculation—the “shudder in the loins.” The rhyme scheme of the sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFGEFG.

Commentary

Like “The Second Coming,” “Leda and the Swan” describes a moment that represented a change of era in Yeats’s historical model of gyres, which he offers in A Vision, his mystical theory of the universe. But where “The Second Coming” represents (in Yeats’s conception) the end of modern history, “Leda and the Swan” represents something like its beginning; as Yeats understands it, the “history” of Leda is that, raped by the god Zeus in the form of a swan, she laid eggs, which hatched into Clytemnestra and Helen and the war-gods Castor and Polydeuces—and thereby brought about the Trojan War (“The broken wall, the burning roof and tower, / And Agamemnon dead”). The details of the story of the Trojan War are quite elaborate: briefly, the Greek Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, was kidnapped by the Trojans, so the Greeks besieged the city of Troy; after the war, Clytemnestra, the wife of the Greek leader Agamemnon, had her husband murdered. Here, however, it is important to know only the war’s lasting impact: it brought about the end of the ancient mythological era and the birth of modern history.

Also like “The Second Coming,” “Leda and the Swan” is valuable more for its powerful and evocative language—which manages to imagine vividly such a bizarre phenomenon as a girl’s rape by a massive swan—than for its place in Yeats’s occult history of the world. As an aesthetic experience, the sonnet is remarkable; Yeats combines words indicating powerful action (sudden blow, beating, staggering, beating, shudder, mastered, burning, mastered) with adjectives and descriptive words that indicate Leda’s weakness and helplessness (caressed, helpless, terrified, vague, loosening), thus increasing the sensory impact of the poem.
Term
"Easter 1916"
Definition
Author: WB Yeats Genre: Poem

Summary/analysis: Easter, 1916 is a poem by W. B. Yeats describing the poet's torn emotions regarding the events of the Easter Rising staged in Ireland against British rule on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. The uprising was unsuccessful, and most of the Irish republican leaders involved were executed for treason. Although a committed nationalist, Yeats generally disapproved of violence as a means to securing Irish independence, and as a result had strained relations with some of the figures who eventually led the uprising.[1] The deaths of these revolutionary figures at the hands of the British however, were as much a shock to Yeats as they were to ordinary Irish people at the time who did not expect events to take a worse turn so soon. Yeats was working through his feelings about the revolutionary movement in this poem, and the insistent refrain that "a terrible beauty is born" turned out to be rather prescient—as the brutal execution of the Easter Rising leaders by the British had the opposite intended effect, and led to a reinvigoration of the Irish Republican movement rather than its dissipation.
The initial social and ideological distance between Yeats and some of the revolutionary figures is portrayed in the poem when, in the first stanza, the poem's narrator admits to having exchanged only "polite meaningless words" (6) with the revolutionaries prior to the uprising. However, this attitude changes with the refrain at the end of the stanza, when Yeats moves from a feeling of separation between the narrator and the revolutionaries, to a mood of distinct unity, by including all subjects of the poem in the last line with reference to the utter change that happened when the revolutionary leaders were executed by the British: "All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born." (15-16) These last lines of the stanza have rhythmic similarities to the popular ballads of the era as well as syntactic echoes of William Blake[2]
In the second stanza, the narrator proceeds to describe in greater detail the key figures involved in the Easter uprising, alluding to them without actually listing names. The female revolutionary described at the opening of the stanza is Countess Markievicz, who was well-known to Yeats and a long-time friend. The man who "kept a school / And rode our winged horse" is a reference to Patrick Pearse, and the lines about Pearse's "helper and friend" allude to Thomas MacDonagh. In Yeats's description of the three, his torn feelings about the Easter uprising are most keenly communicated. He contrasts the "shrill" voice of Countess Markievicz as a revolutionary, with his remembrance of her uncomparably "sweet" voice when she was a young woman; and he contrasts the haughty public personae of Pearse against his impression of his "sensitive" nature, describing how "daring and sweet" his ideals were even though he and MacDonagh had to resort to "force".
This stanza also shows how Yeats was able to separate his own private feelings towards some of the revolutionary figures from the greater nationalist cause that the group was pursuing. Whilst Yeats had positive regard for the three Republican leaders mentioned above, he despised Major John MacBride, who as the estranged husband of Maud Gonne (who in turn had been the object of Yeats's romantic feelings for a number of years) had abused both Gonne and their daughter during their marriage.[3] In this poem, although MacBride is alluded to as a "vainglorious lout" (32) who had "done most bitter wrong" (33) to those close to the narrator's heart, Yeats includes him in his eulogy among those who have fallen for their republican ideals: "Yet I number him in the song;/ He, too, has resigned his part/ In the casual comedy/ He, too, has been changed in turn" (36-7). The phrase "the casual comedy" is laden with sarcasm, pointing to an unnecessary loss of life (a point he picks up again in a later stanza) as well as the senselessness of the killings. Yeats emphasises his repeated charge at the end of the stanza, that, as a result of the execution of the Easter Rising leaders, "A terrible beauty is born" (40).


Thomas MacDonagh, mentioned in the poem's final stanza, was executed for his role in the Easter 1916 uprising
The third stanza differs from the first two stanzas by abandoning the first-person narrative of "I" and moving to the natural realm of streams, clouds, and birds. The speaker elaborates on the theme of change ("Minute by minute they change (48) ... Changes minute by minute" (50)) and introduces the symbol of the stone, which opens and closes the stanza. Unlike the majority of images presented in this stanza, of clouds moving, seasons changing, horse-hoof sliding, which are characterized by their transience, the stone is a symbol of permanence. Yeats compares the fixedness of the revolutionaries' purpose to that of the stone, their hearts are said to be "enchanted to a stone" (43). The stone disturbs or "trouble[s]" "the living stream" (44), a metaphor for how the steadfastness of the revolutionaries' purpose contrasts sharply with the shifting transience of popular moods. The singularity of their purpose, leading to their ultimate deaths, cut through the complacency and indifference of everyday Irish society at the time.
The fourth and last stanza of the poem resumes the first person narrative of the first and second stanzas. The stanza returns to the image of the stony heart: "Too long a sacrifice/ Can make a stone of the heart" (57-8), Yeats wrote, putting the determined struggle of Irish republicans in the Easter Rising in the context of the long, turbulent history of British colonialism in Ireland, as well as alluding to the immense psychological costs of the long struggle for independence. Indeed, the narrator cries, "O when may it suffice?", and answering his own question with the line, "That is heaven's part" (making an allusion to Shakespeare's play Hamlet-- the parallel line occurs in Act I, scene V, regarding Gertrude's guilt: "Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven").[4] In Yeats's schema, Heaven's role is to determine when the suffering will end and when the sacrifices are considered sufficient (59-60); whilst the role of the people left behind is to forever remember the names of those who had fallen in order to properly lay their wandering spirits to rest: "our part/ To murmur name upon name,/ as a mother names her child/ when sleep at last has come/ On limbs that had run wild." (60-3).
In the second half of the last stanza, the narrator wonders aloud whether the sacrifices were indeed warranted: "Was it needless death after all?" (67), contemplating the possibility that the British might still allow the Home Rule Act 1914 to come into force without the uprising. However, Yeats made the point that what's done was done. All that is important is to remember the revolutionaries' dream and carry on: "We know their dream; enough/ To know they dreamed and are dead." There is no point arguing over whether these revolutionaries should or shouldn't have acted so rashly for their cause as they did: "And what if excess of love/ bewildered them till they died?" These are some of the most poignant lines in the poem, with the phrase "excess of love" (72) recalling the character of Oisin in Yeats's long poem "The Wanderings of Oisin."[4]
In the end, the narrator resigns to commemorating the names of those fallen revolutionary figures, viz. Thomas MacDonagh, John MacBride, James Connolly and Patrick Pearse, as eternal heros of the Irish Republican movement (symbolised by the colour green), with Yeats adapting the final refrain to reflect the price these people paid to change the course of Irish history:
"I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born."
The extent to which Yeats was willing to eulogize the members of the Easter Rising can be seen in his usage of "green" (78) to commemorate said members above, even though he generally abhors the use of the colour green as a political symbol (Yeats's abhorrence is such that he forbade green as the color of the binding of his books).[5] In commemorating the names of the revolutionaries in eloquent lamentation in the final stanza, including even his love rival Major John MacBride, Yeats reconciled his personal private sentiments towards some of the individuals involved with the larger nationalist sentiments upheld and championed by the poem, even if there were revolutionaries whose strategies he didn't fully agree with. Yeats has an interesting perspective on the historical significance of his poem, adding to the tension of his recording. The revolutionaries "now and in time to be (77)... are changed, changed utterly" (79)-- the knowledge of which shows Yeats's astute insight into the historical importance of his poetic memorial of these revolutionary figures.

questioning the rebellion? Were their dreams enough? image: stone in the stream trying to change the current, “Terrible beauty is born”
Term
"The Love Song of JA Prufrock"
Definition
Author: TS Eliot Genre: Poem

Summary

This poem, the earliest of Eliot’s major works, was completed in 1910 or 1911 but not published until 1915. It is an examination of the tortured psyche of the prototypical modern man—overeducated, eloquent, neurotic, and emotionally stilted. The poem is usually read in three ways: as the poet narrator addressing the audience, the narrator addressing a lover, or the battle of the conscious and unconscious. The opening lines set the stage for London and the modern age:

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;

Giving nods to the metaphysical poets, Eliot uses extended metaphors--conceits--such as the cat that prowls the city. The poem repeats the lines, "In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo." While the women are never identified, one assumes the narrator is either watching or imagining a room full of women. The discussion of Michelangelo could allude to the poets desire to make great art, or the narrators insecurities about talking to cultured women. The narrator continues to question his future actions ("Do I dare? Do I dare?"), and we discover the monotony of his life: "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." Finally, the narrator describes himself as a low-life bottom dweller crab: "I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas." And
desires to “force the moment to its crisis” by somehow consummating the relationship with a woman. But Prufrock knows too much of life to “dare” an approach to the woman: In his mind he hears the comments others make about his inadequacies, and he chides himself for “presuming” emotional interaction could be possible at all. The poem moves from a series of fairly concrete (for Eliot) physical settings—a cityscape and several interiors (women’s arms in the lamplight, coffee spoons, fireplaces)—to a series of vague ocean images conveying Prufrock’s emotional distance from the world as he comes to recognize his second-rate status (“I am not Prince Hamlet’). Lamenting his age ("I grow old … I grow old … / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled./ Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?"), the narrator ends contemplating how mermaids will not sing to him:

"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.I do not think that they will sing to me...

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown."

“Prufrock” is powerful for its range of intellectual reference and also for the vividness of character achieved.

Form

“Prufrock” is a variation on the dramatic monologue, a type of poem popular with Eliot’s predecessors. Dramatic monologues are similar to soliloquies in plays. Three things characterize the dramatic monologue, according to M.H. Abrams. First, they are the utterances of a specific individual (not the poet) at a specific moment in time. Secondly, the monologue is specifically directed at a listener or listeners whose presence is not directly referenced but is merely suggested in the speaker’s words. Third, the primary focus is the development and revelation of the speaker’s character. Eliot modernizes the form by removing the implied listeners and focusing on Prufrock’s interiority and isolation. The epigraph to this poem, from Dante’s Inferno, describes Prufrock’s ideal listener: one who is as lost as the speaker and will never betray to the world the content of Prufrock’s present confessions. In the world Prufrock describes, though, no such sympathetic figure exists, and he must, therefore, be content with silent reflection. In its focus on character and its dramatic sensibility, “Prufrock” anticipates Eliot’s later, dramatic works.

The rhyme scheme of this poem is irregular but not random. While sections of the poem may resemble free verse, in reality, “Prufrock” is a carefully structured amalgamation of poetic forms. The bits and pieces of rhyme become much more apparent when the poem is read aloud. One of the most prominent formal characteristics of this work is the use of refrains. Prufrock’s continual return to the “women [who] come and go / Talking of Michelangelo” and his recurrent questionings (“how should I presume?”) and pessimistic appraisals (“That is not it, at all.”) both reference an earlier poetic tradition and help Eliot describe the consciousness of a modern, neurotic individual. Prufrock’s obsessiveness is aesthetic, but it is also a sign of compulsiveness and isolation. Another important formal feature is the use of fragments of sonnet form, particularly at the poem’s conclusion. The three three-line stanzas are rhymed as the conclusion of a Petrarchan sonnet would be, but their pessimistic, anti-romantic content, coupled with the despairing interjection, “I do not think they (the mermaids) would sing to me,” creates a contrast that comments bitterly on the bleakness of modernity.

Commentary

“Prufrock” displays the two most important characteristics of Eliot’s early poetry. First, it is strongly influenced by the French Symbolists, like Mallarmé, Rimbaud, and Baudelaire, whom Eliot had been reading almost constantly while writing the poem. From the Symbolists, Eliot takes his sensuous language and eye for unnerving or anti-aesthetic detail that nevertheless contributes to the overall beauty of the poem (the yellow smoke and the hair-covered arms of the women are two good examples of this). The Symbolists, too, privileged the same kind of individual Eliot creates with Prufrock: the moody, urban, isolated-yet-sensitive thinker. However, whereas the Symbolists would have been more likely to make their speaker himself a poet or artist, Eliot chooses to make Prufrock an unacknowledged poet, a sort of artist for the common man.

The second defining characteristic of this poem is its use of fragmentation and juxtaposition. Eliot sustained his interest in fragmentation and its applications throughout his career, and his use of the technique changes in important ways across his body of work: Here, the subjects undergoing fragmentation (and reassembly) are mental focus and certain sets of imagery; in The Waste Land, it is modern culture that splinters; in the Four Quartets we find the fragments of attempted philosophical systems. Eliot’s use of bits and pieces of formal structure suggests that fragmentation, although anxiety-provoking, is nevertheless productive; had he chosen to write in free verse, the poem would have seemed much more nihilistic. The kinds of imagery Eliot uses also suggest that something new can be made from the ruins: The series of hypothetical encounters at the poem’s center are iterated and discontinuous but nevertheless lead to a sort of epiphany (albeit a dark one) rather than just leading nowhere. Eliot also introduces an image that will recur in his later poetry, that of the scavenger. Prufrock thinks that he “should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” Crabs are scavengers, garbage-eaters who live off refuse that makes its way to the sea floor. Eliot’s discussions of his own poetic technique (see especially his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent”) suggest that making something beautiful out of the refuse of modern life, as a crab sustains and nourishes itself on garbage, may, in fact, be the highest form of art. At the very least, this notion subverts romantic ideals about art; at best, it suggests that fragments may become reintegrated, that art may be in some way therapeutic for a broken modern world. In The Waste Land, crabs become rats, and the optimism disappears, but here Eliot seems to assert only the limitless potential of scavenging.

“Prufrock” ends with the hero assigning himself a role in one of Shakespeare’s plays: While he is no Hamlet, he may yet be useful and important as “an attendant lord, one that will do / To swell a progress, start a scene or two...” This implies that there is still a continuity between Shakespeare’s world and ours, that Hamlet is still relevant to us and that we are still part of a world that could produce something like Shakespeare’s plays. Implicit in this, of course, is the suggestion that Eliot, who has created an “attendant lord,” may now go on to create another Hamlet. While “Prufrock” ends with a devaluation of its hero, it exalts its creator. Or does it? The last line of the poem suggests otherwise—that when the world intrudes, when “human voices wake us,” the dream is shattered: “we drown.” With this single line, Eliot dismantles the romantic notion that poetic genius is all that is needed to triumph over the destructive, impersonal forces of the modern world. In reality, Eliot the poet is little better than his creation: He differs from Prufrock only by retaining a bit of hubris, which shows through from time to time. Eliot’s poetic creation, thus, mirrors Prufrock’s soliloquy: Both are an expression of aesthetic ability and sensitivity that seems to have no place in the modern world. This realistic, anti-romantic outlook sets the stage for Eliot’s later works, including The Waste Land.
Term
"The Wasteland"
Definition
Author: TS Eliot Genre: Poem

Summary:
The Waste Land Section I: “The Burial of the Dead”

Summary

The first section of The Waste Land takes its title from a line in the Anglican burial service. It is made up of four vignettes, each seemingly from the perspective of a different speaker. The first is an autobiographical snippet from the childhood of an aristocratic woman, in which she recalls sledding and claims that she is German, not Russian (this would be important if the woman is meant to be a member of the recently defeated Austrian imperial family). The woman mixes a meditation on the seasons with remarks on the barren state of her current existence (“I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter”). The second section is a prophetic, apocalyptic invitation to journey into a desert waste, where the speaker will show the reader “something different from either / Your shadow at morning striding behind you / Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; / [He] will show you fear in a handful of dust” (Evelyn Waugh took the title for one of his best-known novels from these lines). The almost threatening prophetic tone is mixed with childhood reminiscences about a “hyacinth girl” and a nihilistic epiphany the speaker has after an encounter with her. These recollections are filtered through quotations from Wagner’s operatic version of Tristan und Isolde, an Arthurian tale of adultery and loss. The third episode in this section describes an imaginative tarot reading, in which some of the cards Eliot includes in the reading are not part of an actual tarot deck. The final episode of the section is the most surreal. The speaker walks through a London populated by ghosts of the dead. He confronts a figure with whom he once fought in a battle that seems to conflate the clashes of World War I with the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage (both futile and excessively destructive wars). The speaker asks the ghostly figure, Stetson, about the fate of a corpse planted in his garden. The episode concludes with a famous line from the preface to Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal (an important collection of Symbolist poetry), accusing the reader of sharing in the poet’s sins.

The Waste Land Section II: “A Game of Chess”

Summary

This section takes its title from two plays by the early 17th-century playwright Thomas Middleton, in one of which the moves in a game of chess denote stages in a seduction. This section focuses on two opposing scenes, one of high society and one of the lower classes. The first half of the section portrays a wealthy, highly groomed woman surrounded by exquisite furnishings. As she waits for a lover, her neurotic thoughts become frantic, meaningless cries. Her day culminates with plans for an excursion and a game of chess. The second part of this section shifts to a London barroom, where two women discuss a third woman. Between the bartender’s repeated calls of “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME” (the bar is closing for the night) one of the women recounts a conversation with their friend Lil, whose husband has just been discharged from the army. She has chided Lil over her failure to get herself some false teeth, telling her that her husband will seek out the company of other women if she doesn’t improve her appearance. Lil claims that the cause of her ravaged looks is the medication she took to induce an abortion; having nearly died giving birth to her fifth child, she had refused to have another, but her husband “won’t leave [her] alone.” The women leave the bar to a chorus of “good night(s)” reminiscent of Ophelia’s farewell speech in Hamlet.

The Waste Land Section III: “The Fire Sermon”

Summary

The title of this, the longest section of The Waste Land, is taken from a sermon given by Buddha in which he encourages his followers to give up earthly passion (symbolized by fire) and seek freedom from earthly things. A turn away from the earthly does indeed take place in this section, as a series of increasingly debased sexual encounters concludes with a river-song and a religious incantation. The section opens with a desolate riverside scene: Rats and garbage surround the speaker, who is fishing and “musing on the king my brother’s wreck.” The river-song begins in this section, with the refrain from Spenser’s Prothalamion: “Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song.” A snippet from a vulgar soldier’s ballad follows, then a reference back to Philomela (see the previous section). The speaker is then propositioned by Mr. Eugenides, the one-eyed merchant of Madame Sosostris’s tarot pack. Eugenides invites the speaker to go with him to a hotel known as a meeting place for homosexual trysts.

The speaker then proclaims himself to be Tiresias, a figure from classical mythology who has both male and female features (“Old man with wrinkled female breasts”) and is blind but can “see” into the future. Tiresias/the speaker observes a young typist, at home for tea, who awaits her lover, a dull and slightly arrogant clerk. The woman allows the clerk to have his way with her, and he leaves victorious. Tiresias, who has “foresuffered all,” watches the whole thing. After her lover’s departure, the typist thinks only that she’s glad the encounter is done and over.

A brief interlude begins the river-song in earnest. First, a fisherman’s bar is described, then a beautiful church interior, then the Thames itself. These are among the few moments of tranquility in the poem, and they seem to represent some sort of simpler alternative. The Thames-daughters, borrowed from Spenser’s poem, chime in with a nonsense chorus (“Weialala leia / Wallala leialala”). The scene shifts again, to Queen Elizabeth I in an amorous encounter with the Earl of Leicester. The queen seems unmoved by her lover’s declarations, and she thinks only of her “people humble people who expect / Nothing.” The section then comes to an abrupt end with a few lines from St. Augustine’s Confessions and a vague reference to the Buddha’s Fire Sermon (“burning”).

The Waste Land Section IV: “Death by Water”

Summary

The shortest section of the poem, “Death by Water” describes a man, Phlebas the Phoenician, who has died, apparently by drowning. In death he has forgotten his worldly cares as the creatures of the sea have picked his body apart. The narrator asks his reader to consider Phlebas and recall his or her own mortality. The major point of this short section is to rebut ideas of renewal and regeneration. Phlebas just dies; that’s it. Like Stetson’s corpse in the first section, Phlebas’s body yields nothing more than products of decay. However, the section’s meaning is far from flat; indeed, its ironic layering is twofold. First, this section fulfills one of the prophecies of Madame Sosostris in the poem’s first section: “Fear death by water,” she says, after pulling the card of the Drowned Sailor. Second, this section, in its language and form, mimics other literary forms (parables, biblical stories, etc.) that are normally rich in meaning. These two features suggest that something of great significance lies here. In reality, though, the only lesson that Phlebas offers is that the physical reality of death and decay triumphs over all. Phlebas is not resurrected or transfigured. Eliot further emphasizes Phlebas’s dried-up antiquity and irrelevance by placing this section in the distant past (by making Phlebas a Phoenician).

he Waste Land Section V: “What the Thunder Said”

Summary

The final section of The Waste Land is dramatic in both its imagery and its events. The first half of the section builds to an apocalyptic climax, as suffering people become “hooded hordes swarming” and the “unreal” cities of Jerusalem, Athens, Alexandria, Vienna, and London are destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again. A decaying chapel is described, which suggests the chapel in the legend of the Holy Grail. Atop the chapel, a cock crows, and the rains come, relieving the drought and bringing life back to the land. Curiously, no heroic figure has appeared to claim the Grail; the renewal has come seemingly at random, gratuitously.

The scene then shifts to the Ganges, half a world away from Europe, where thunder rumbles. Eliot draws on the traditional interpretation of “what the thunder says,” as taken from the Upanishads (Hindu fables). According to these fables, the thunder “gives,” “sympathizes,” and “controls” through its “speech”; Eliot launches into a meditation on each of these aspects of the thunder’s power. The meditations seem to bring about some sort of reconciliation, as a Fisher King-type figure is shown sitting on the shore preparing to put his lands in order, a sign of his imminent death or at least abdication. The poem ends with a series of disparate fragments from a children’s song, from Dante, and from Elizabethan drama, leading up to a final chant of “Shantih shantih shantih”—the traditional ending to an Upanishad. Eliot, in his notes to the poem, translates this chant as “the peace which passeth understanding,” the expression of ultimate resignation.

Commentary

The initial imagery associated with the apocalypse at this section’s opening is taken from the crucifixion of Christ. Significantly, though, Christ is not resurrected here: we are told, “He who was living is now dead.” The rest of the first part, while making reference to contemporary events in Eastern Europe and other more traditional apocalypse narratives, continues to draw on Biblical imagery and symbolism associated with the quest for the Holy Grail. The repetitive language and harsh imagery of this section suggest that the end is perhaps near, that not only will there be no renewal but that there will be no survival either. Cities are destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed, mirroring the cyclical downfall of cultures: Jerusalem, Greece, Egypt, and Austria—among the major empires of the past two millennia—all see their capitals fall. There is something nevertheless insubstantial about this looming disaster: it seems “unreal,” as the ghost-filled London did earlier in the poem. It is as if such a profound end would be inappropriate for such a pathetic civilization. Rather, we expect the end to be accompanied by a sense of boredom and surrender.

Release comes not from any heroic act but from the random call of a farmyard bird. The symbolism surrounding the Grail myth is still extant but it is empty, devoid of people. No one comes to the ruined chapel, yet it exists regardless of who visits it. This is a horribly sad situation: The symbols that have previously held profound meaning still exist, yet they are unused and unusable. A flash of light—a quick glimpse of truth and vitality, perhaps—releases the rain and lets the poem end.

The meditations upon the Upanishads give Eliot a chance to test the potential of the modern world. Asking, “what have we given?” he finds that the only time people give is in the sexual act and that this gift is ultimately evanescent and destructive: He associates it with spider webs and solicitors reading wills. Just as the poem’s speaker fails to find signs of giving, so too does he search in vain for acts of sympathy—the second characteristic of “what the thunder says”: He recalls individuals so caught up in his or her own fate—each thinking only of the key to his or her own prison—as to be oblivious to anything but “ethereal rumors” of others. The third idea expressed in the thunder’s speech—that of control—holds the most potential, although it implies a series of domineering relationships and surrenders of the self that, ultimately, are never realized.


Finally Eliot turns to the Fisher King himself, still on the shore fishing. The possibility of regeneration for the “arid plain” of society has been long ago discarded. Instead, the king will do his best to put in order what remains of his kingdom, and he will then surrender, although he still fails to understand the true significance of the coming void (as implied by the phrase “peace which passeth understanding”). The burst of allusions at the end can be read as either a final attempt at coherence or as a final dissolution into a world of fragments and rubbish. The king offers some consolation: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins,” he says, suggesting that it will be possible to continue on despite the failed redemption. It will still be possible for him, and for Eliot, to “fit you,” to create art in the face of madness. It is important that the last words of the poem are in a non-Western language: Although the meaning of the words themselves communicates resignation (“peace which passeth understanding”), they invoke an alternative set of paradigms to those of the Western world; they offer a glimpse into a culture and a value system new to us—and, thus, offer some hope for an alternative to our own dead world.
Term
"Little Gidding"
Definition
Author: TS Eliot Genre: Poem

Summary

“Little Gidding” was the last of the Quartets to be written. It appeared in print in 1942; in 1943, the four pieces were collected and published together. “Little Gidding,” named after a 17th-century Anglican monastery renowned for its devotion, is the place where the problems of time and human fallibility are more or less resolved. The first section describes a sunny winter’s day, where everything is dead yet blazing with the sun’s fire. The poem considers those who have come to the monastery, who come only “to kneel / Where prayer has been valid.” It is here that man can encounter the “intersection of the timeless” with the present moment, often by heeding the words of the dead, whose speech is given a vitality by a burning fire. The second section opens with a lyric on the death of the four elements (air, earth, water, and fire) that have figured so prominently in the previous quartets. The scene then shifts to the poet walking at dawn. He meets the ghost of some former master, whom he does not quite recognize. The two speak, and the ghost gives the poet the burdens of wisdom: awareness of folly, a loss of perception of beauty, and shame at one’s past deeds. The spirit tells him that only if he is “restored by ...refining fire” will he escape these curses. The spirit then leaves him with a benediction, and a horn blows, which may be an air-raid siren. The third section is more propositional in nature. The poet declares that attachment, detachment, and indifference are all related; all three look alike but indifference comes only through the exercise of memory to create abstractions. The second part of this section asserts that, despite this, “all shall be well.” As the poet thinks on the people who have come to Little Gidding seeking spiritual renewal and peace, he realizes that the dead have left us only “a symbol,” one that has been perfected but is nevertheless still only a representation or an abstraction. The fourth section is a formal two-stanza piece describing first a dove with a tongue of fire, which both purifies and destroys; the second stanza then considers love as the chief torment of man, which can redeem as well as torture. Either way, we are caught between two kinds of fire. The final section of the poem, and of the whole of the Quartets, brings the spiritual and the aesthetic together in a final reconciliation. Perfect language results in poetry in which every word and every phrase is “an end and a beginning.” The timeless and the time-bound are interchangeable and in the moment, if one is in the right place, like the chapel at Little Gidding. All will be well when the fires that both destroy and redeem come together to form a knot and “the fire and the rose”—divine wrath and mercy—become one.

Form


This is the most dramatic of the Four Quartets, in that it is here that the language most closely approaches the rhythms of everyday speech. The diction is measured, intellectual, but always self-conscious in its repetitiveness and in the palpable presence of the speaker. Certain sections of “Little Gidding” (“And all shall be well and / All manner of thing shall be well”) borrow from liturgical language to create the effect of attending an ideal religious service. The fourth section, like the fourth sections of the other quartets, is a sustained formal piece that serves as a sort of contrapuntal melody to the rest of the poem. Although not as elegant as “Burnt Norton” or as musical as “East Coker,” “Little Gidding” is perhaps the most balanced of the quartets in its attention to imagery and language.

Commentary

Fire and roses are the main images of this poem. Both have a double meaning. Roses, a traditional symbol of English royalty, represent all of England, but they also are made to stand for divine love, mercy, and the garden where the children in “Burnt Norton” hide (they reappear at the end of this poem). Fire is both the flame of divine harshness and the spiritual ether capable of purifying the human soul and bringing understanding. The series of double images creates a strong sense of paradox: Just as one seemingly cannot exist both in and out of time, one cannot be simultaneously both purified and destroyed.

This sense of paradox leads to the creation of an alternative world, rendered through spiritual retreat and supernatural figures. The dead, with their words “tongued with fire,” offer an alternative set of possibilities for the poet seeking to escape the fetters of reality. By going to a place “where prayer has been valid,” Eliot proposes that imagination and a little faith can conquer the strictures placed upon man by time and history; as the ghost in the third section reminds the poet, escape is always possible. This is particularly significant when we notice that the ghost’s words are actually generated by the speaker (who “assumed a double part”), actually engaged in a dialogue with himself. While the dead can offer us only a “symbol,” symbols nevertheless give us an opportunity for interpretation and exercise of the imagination. By allowing us a way to bypass the realities of our world, they open up a spiritual freedom.

This poem, finally, celebrates the ability of human vision to transcend the apparent limitations of human mortality. In a place set away from the world, one can hear, if one chooses, the children laughing in the garden. War, suffering, and the modern condition have provided Eliot with an opportunity for spiritual reflection that ultimately transcends external events and the burden of history. While not an overtly optimistic work, “Little Gidding” and Four Quartets as a whole offer a reasoned sense of hope. Poetry may suffer from language’s inherent lack of precision, but it provides the aesthetic faculty with an opportunity to disregard human limitations, if only for a moment
Term
"Not Waving But Drowning"
Definition
Author: S. Smith Genre: poem

Poem: Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.


Like many of Smith's poems, "Not Waving but Drowning" is short, consisting of only twelve lines. The narrative takes place from a third-person perspective and describes the circumstances surrounding the "dead man" described in line one. In line five the poem suggests that the man who has died "always loved larking," which causes his distress signals to be discounted.[2]
The image that Smith attached to the poem shows the form of a girl from the waist up with her wet hair hanging over her face. Although the image goes with a poem about a man drowning, the girl's expression appears incongruous with the text of the poem as it forms what Severin describes as a "mysterious smile".[5] Jannice Thaddeus suggests that the speaker of the poem, like other figures in Smith's works, changes from male to female as part of a theme of androgyny that exists in many of the poems found in Selected Poems.[6] The sketch differs from the poem in that the figure is of a woman rather than a man, and Smith scholar Laura Severin suggests that the figure might be Mary, a character in another poem by Smith entitled "Cool as a Cucumber." The drawing was used as the accompanying image for the poem "The Frozen Lake" in Selected Poems, a self-edited compilation of Smith's works published in 1962.[5][7]
While Ingrid Hotz-Davies suggests that the "drowning man" is Smith herself, she also states that there are problems with reading the poem as a cry for help due to the humorous tone of the poem yet at the same time she also notes that the representational form of the poem "may easily be misread as a friendly wave of the hand".[2] The poem's simple diction led Clive James to suggest that Smith attempted to write the poem so that the diction appeared ignorant of poetic convention yet was carefully crafted to appear more simple than it was.[8] James describes the relationship between Smith and the speaker in "Not Waving but Drowning" by saying, "her poems, if they were pills to cure Melancholy, did not work for [Smith]. The best of them, however, worked like charms for everyone else."
Term
"Pretty"
Definition
Author: S. Smith Genre: Poem

Poem:
Why is the word pretty so underrated?
In November the leaf is pretty when it falls.
The stream grows deep in the woods after rain.
And in the pretty pool the pike stalks.

He stalks his prey, and this is pretty too,
The prey escapes with an underwater flash.
But not for long, the great has him now.
The pike is a fish who always has his prey

And this is pretty. The water rat is pretty.
His paws are not webbed; he cannot shut his nostrils
As the otter can and the beaver; he is torn between
The land water. Not 'torn he does not mind.

The owl hunts in the evening, and it is pretty.
The lake water below him rustles with ice.
There is frost coming from the ground, in the air mist.
All this is pretty; it could not be prettier.

Yes, it could always be prettier, the eye abashes.
It is becoming an eye that cannot see enough,
Out of the wood the eye climbs. This is prettier.
A field in the evening, tilting up.

The field tilts to the sky. Though it is late,
The sky is lighter than the hill field.
All this looks easy, but really, it is extraordinary.
Well, it is extraordinary to be so pretty.

And it is careless, and that is always pretty.
This field, this owl, this pike, this pool are careless.
As Nature is always careless and indifferent.
Who sees, who steps, means nothing, and this is pretty.

So a person can come along like a thief-pretty!
Stealing a look, pinching the sound and feel,
Lick the icicle broken from the bank,
And still say nothing at all, only cry pretty.

Cry pretty, pretty, pretty, and you'll be able
Very soon not even to cry pretty.
And so to be delivered entirely from humanity.
This is prettiest of all, it is very pretty.
Term
Heartbreak House
Definition
Author: B. Shaw Genre: Drama

Characters: Captain Shotover, Lady Ariadne Utterword, Mrs. Hesione Hushabye, Hector Hushabye, Ellie Dunn, Mazzini Dunn, Boss Mangan, Randall Utterword, Nurse Guinness, Billy Dunn

Summary: Young and pretty Ellie Dunn was the first of many guests to arrive at the home in Sussex, England, of Captain Shotover. Ellie, who had been invited by Mrs. Hushabye, Captain Shotover’s eldest daughter, eventually renamed the home Heartbreak House because of all the disappointments she and others experienced there that day.

When Ellie arrived at the house, there was no one to greet her, and she sat reading William Shakespeare until she fell asleep. The elderly servant, Nurse Guinness, finally discovered Ellie just before the arrival of another visitor, Shotover’s younger daughter, Lady Utterword, who was returning home after having been away from England for twenty-three years.

Mrs. Hushabye had invited Ellie, her father Mazzini Dunn, and Ellie’s fiancée Boss Mangan to Captain Shotover’s house because she wanted to persuade Ellie not to marry Mangan, a millionaire industrialist who had befriended Ellie’s father. Mangan had given Dunn money to begin a business that failed after two years, after which Mangan bought the business, which then thrived, and gave Dunn a job managing it. Mrs. Hushabye wanted Ellie to marry someone she loved rather than someone to whom her father owed a debt.

In a conversation with Mrs. Hushabye, Ellie revealed that she had a secret passion for a mysterious man she had just met, a romantic adventurer named Marcus Darnley. When Mrs. Hushabye’s husband, Hector, entered the room, Ellie discovered that Marcus Darnley was a name Hector had assumed as he told extravagant stories to impress her. Ellie was heartbroken and angry at her gullibility. Mrs. Hushabye told her that heartbreak was just life’s way of educating her.

Boss Mangan finally made his appearance, and the process of his heartbreak began when Captain Shotover predicted that Mrs. Hushabye would see to it that Mangan did not marry Ellie. The next visitor to arrive was Randall Utterword, Lady Utterword’s brother-in-law. Randall had invited himself after hearing from his brother that Lady Utterword was staying at Shotover’s. When Hector met Lady Utterword, he immediately fell in love with her, initiating the process of his heartbreak.

After dinner, in conversation with Ellie, Mangan revealed that he had ruined Ellie’s father intentionally: He had given him money to start up a business, knowing Mazzini Dunn would fail and that this was a cost-efficient way to take over a new enterprise. Ellie declared that she was still willing to marry Mangan (even though Mangan was in love with Mrs. Hushabye and she herself was in love with Hector), because she would be marrying Mangan for his money. Ellie warned Mangan that if he backed out of their agreement, she would see to it that Mangan never saw Mrs. Hushabye again. Mangan collapsed into a chair and Ellie massaged his temples until Mangan fell into a deep, hypnotic sleep. While he rested in a trance, Mrs. Hushabye, Mazzini Dunn, and Ellie discussed Mangan, who heard every word of their conversations.

Suddenly, a pistol shot was heard upstairs, and Mazzini and Hector entered with a burglar who had been trying to steal Mrs. Hushabye’s diamonds. Captain Shotover revealed that the burglar was a pirate named Billy Dunn, no relation to Mazzini and Ellie, who had once stolen ship’s stores from Captain Shotover. Billy admitted that he only posed as a burglar in the houses of the wealthy, using his capture as a way of extorting money that the wealthy were willing to pay to avoid having their names dragged into the papers. It was revealed that Billy had formerly been married to Nurse Guinness. Ellie spoke privately with Captain Shotover, telling him that she would rather marry him. After Ellie and Shotover left for the kitchen, Hector and Randall talked of their passion for Lady Utterword, who then entered. Hector and Randall vied for her attention, and it was clear that she had broken both of their hearts.

That evening, everyone was relaxing in the garden when Lady Utterword offered the observation that what Shotover’s house lacked was stables and horses. Stables, she claimed, were the real center of a proper household—“the people who hunt are the right people and the people who don’t are the wrong ones.” Then, in front of Mangan, the conversation turned to whether Ellie should marry him for his money. Mangan confessed that he actually had very little money, that he owned nothing and simply ran things for other investors. At that, Ellie announced that she would not marry Mangan and had never intended to marry him, that she had only wanted to feel her strength over him. She announced that she had that evening married Captain Shotover.

A distant explosion was heard and the house lights were put out. Nurse Guinness ran in to explain that the police had ordered the lights to be extinguished because planes were approaching in a bombing raid and that everyone was supposed to go down to the cellar. Most of them refused to take shelter, and Hector turned on all the lights in the house, making it a perfect target for the bombers. Billy Dunn and Mangan ran to a nearby gravel pit to hide in a cave as the planes drew closer, not knowing that Captain Shotover had stored dynamite there. Mrs. Hushabye and Ellie found the sound of the planes and the bombs as exciting as a Beethoven symphony, and Lady Utterword urged Randall to play his flute to show he was not afraid. It appeared that Mangan and Billy Dunn would survive the bombing raid and that the others would die because they had refused to go to the cellar, but when the final and most terrific explosion came it was a direct hit on the dynamite cache. Mangan and Billy Dunn were killed and everyone else survived. With that the planes disappeared and the danger was over. Ellie was disappointed and Hector disgusted because their world had become dull again. Mrs. Hushabye exclaimed that the experience had been glorious and expressed her hope that the planes would come again the following night. Ellie, radiant at the prospect, added her hope for more excitement.
Term
The Plough and the Stars
Definition
Author: S. O'Casey Genre: Drama

Characters: Fluther Good, Peter Flynn, Mrs. Gogan, Mollser Gogan, Bessie Burgess, The Covey, Nora Clitheroe, Jack Clitheroe, Captain Brennan, Corporal Stoddart, Sergeant Tinley

Summary: Fluther Good had put a new lock on the Clitheroes’ door when Mrs. Gogan brought in a hatbox, just delivered for Nora Clitheroe. Mrs. Gogan was convinced that Nora was putting on airs and buying too many new clothes in order to hold on to her husband. Nora’s Uncle Peter Flynn drifted in and out, readying his uniform of the Irish National Foresters. Peter had a chip on his shoulder which all the tenement dwellers took turns knocking off. He was an ineffectual man and he knew it.

When the Covey, Nora’s cousin, came in, telling them that he had been laid off from work because the boys had mobilized for a demonstration for independence, he aroused both Peter and Fluther. The Covey was less inclined to follow the flag of the Plough and the Stars than to go ahead with his work. Peter and the Covey were arguing away when Nora came home and quieted them, declaring that there was small hope of ever making them respectable. She was pleased with the way Fluther had put on the lock, but Bessie Burgess, a vigorous but rather coarse woman, scornfully berated Nora for treating her neighbors shamefully, not trusting them. As Fluther broke up the women’s wrangling, Jack Clitheroe came home and sent Bessie away. He told Nora that he would speak to Bessie when she was sober again.

Jack was despondent because the Citizen Army was to meet that night. He had lost the rank of captain to Ned Brennan and, sulking, had refused to attend meetings. Wanting to be a leader, he did not have strength of leadership. Nora tried to get his mind off the meeting by making love to him. They were interrupted by the new Captain Brennan with a dispatch from the general telling Jack where to report. Jack did not understand why he was to report until Brennan told him that the boys had given him the title of Commandant, word of which had been in a letter Nora had never delivered. Disturbed because Nora had withheld the letter, Jack went off to the meeting with Brennan.

Mollser Gogan, a child in the last stages of tuberculosis, asked Nora if she might stay with her, since everyone else had gone to the demonstration. Fluther and Peter, overwhelmed by the oratory of the speakers at the demonstration, repaired to a bar to pour in more courage. Even in the public house, the voice of the speaker followed them, urging bloodshed and war. Bessie and Mrs. Gogan were engaged in a verbal battle when they entered. Bessie, drunk, was ready for a hair-pulling, but the barman sent both women away. Peter was left holding Mrs. Gogan’s baby, for she had forgotten the child when she was piloted out of the bar. He hurried out to find her.

Fluther, though he had intended to give up drinking before the meeting, decided the time had come for all the liquor he could hold, and he was generous enough to stand treat, even to the Covey and Rosie, a prostitute. Fluther and the Covey got into an argument on the labor movement and the barman had to separate them. Rosie and Fluther left when Jack, Brennan, and other officers, their eyes shining with excitement, came in for a drink before moving off with the Citizen Army.

The next day Mollser was so much weaker that Mrs. Gogan put her out in the sun in front of the house; they could hear shooting in the distance. Looking for Jack, Nora and Fluther had spent the night going to all the barricades without finding him. When they came back to the house, Nora was leaning heavily on Fluther. Bessie shouted down curses from her window. The Covey sighed that the fight would do the poor people no good.

Bessie brought Mollser a mug of milk when she came downstairs. The men began to gamble to keep their minds off the shooting, but they stopped when Bessie reappeared, laden down with booty, to say that looting had begun in the shops. Fluther and the Covey went off immediately. The guns scared Mollser so much that Bessie took her into the house. Even timid Peter started to follow Bessie and Mrs. Gogan when they set out with a baby carriage to hold their loot, but the sound of the big guns again stopped him. He was envious, however, when he saw the Covey, then Bessie and Mrs. Gogan, return with piles of loot.

Brennan and Jack stopped at the steps to let a wounded comrade rest. It was with difficulty that Jack got away from Nora, who had run down to him when she heard his voice. When the two officers finally took their man away, Nora was ready to faint.

Fluther came back with a jug of whiskey. Roaring drunk, he was too fuddled to go out for a doctor for Mollser, who was suddenly very sick. Bessie, praying when she heard the guns, went off toward the shooting to find a doctor.

A few days later the rebellion was still going on. Mollser had died, and Nora had had a stillborn baby. Both bodies were in the same coffin in Bessie’s room, the only room in the tenement that seemed safe from the shooting. Fluther, the Covey, and Peter, having taken refuge there, played cards to while away the time.

Nora was on the verge of insanity. Bessie had stayed up with her for three nights and was herself almost dead for sleep. Each time Bessie sat in the chair in front of the fireplace for a nap, Nora would wake up. Once, when Nora got up, Brennan, in civilian clothes, was in the room telling the men how Jack had died. Nora did not recognize him. Brennan wanted to stay with the others; he said there was nowhere to go any more. Corporal Stoddart, an English soldier, came in to escort the coffin out of the house. Mrs. Gogan was the only one allowed to go with it. As she was thanking Fluther for making the funeral arrangements, the soldier heard a sniper nearby shoot another English soldier. The English, trying to find the sniper, were rounding up all the men in the district, and so Fluther, the Covey, Peter, and Brennan were forced to go with the corporal to spend the night in the Protestant church.

Bessie had again fallen asleep. Nora got up to prepare tea for Jack. As she stood at the window looking for him, the soldiers below shouted for her to go away. Bessie, awakened, tried to pull her back, but Nora struggled so hard that Bessie fell back against the window frame as she pushed Nora. Two shots, fired quickly, struck Bessie. She was dead before Mrs. Gogan came home.

Two English soldiers, investigating the room for snipers, found the mistake they had made in killing Bessie. They calmly poured themselves cups of tea while Mrs. Gogan took Nora downstairs to put her into Mollser’s bed.

Analysis: Sean O’Casey’s bitter childhood and early manhood help account for his adherence to the Marxist idea of class war. He believed that the Irish would have to reckon with the problem of Irish poverty before they could ever hope to win independence. It is with this problem of some poor people caught in the midst of the famous Easter Rebellion of 1916 that O’Casey deals in The Plough and the Stars. In the play, the desperate situation of a group of tenement dwellers overshadows the dream of national independence. The Covey seems always to give O’Casey’s own views on humanity versus nationality. The play was the cause of a patriotic riot when it was first produced by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

The Plough and the Stars is the last of Sean O’Casey’s realistic plays about the Irish Civil War and, along with Juno and the Paycock (1924), represents the high point of his artistic achievement. Although it may lack the depth of characterization present in Juno and the Paycock, it probably has a greater theatrical impact. Juxtaposing scenes of the most intense pain and violence against moments of earthy, vital humor, O’Casey succeeds in capturing and dramatizing both the folly and the heroism of this Irish national tragedy.

The play is set during the Easter Uprising of 1916, when extremists proclaimed an Irish Republic and seized the Dublin General Post Office. A short, bloody struggle ensued and ravaged most of the city for several days before the nationalists surrendered. The Plough and the Stars describes the impact of these events on the inhabitants of a single tenement dwelling, which, because of O’Casey’s careful selection of characters and conflicts, becomes a microcosm of Dublin at war.

The play’s title points to many of its themes. On one level the title refers to the flag of the Citizen Army, a leftist labor movement that was one of the two groups sponsoring the uprising. Thus, O’Casey specifically identifies himself with the radical workers rather than with the ardent nationalists. On a more symbolic level, however, the flag suggests a conflict—the “plough” versus “the stars”; that is, the practical realities of poverty and human relationships versus the abstract ideal of pure nationalism. While O’Casey admired the courage and dedication of the rebels, he felt that their fanatical actions at best attacked only superficial evils and at worst were suicidal, unleashing forces that destroyed not only the insurrectionists but also large numbers of innocent people caught up in the resulting violence. The ways in which impersonal, abstract ideals can destroy human relationships, a major theme in O’Casey’s previous plays, reaches its fullest statement in The Plough and the Stars.

This theme is illustrated in the play’s first act in the dispute between newlyweds Jack and Nora Clitheroe. In spite of her social and cultural pretensions, Nora is the embodiment of domesticity, valuing only her husband, her home, and her family to be. She can understand neither Jack’s devotion to a political cause nor his apparent taste for the military style; she fears only his injury or death and is willing to deceive him to keep him out of combat. For his part, Jack seems deeply, if sentimentally, in love with Nora, and at times he is tempted to accede to her desires, but his commitment is too strong. He and his comrades are caught up in the fervor of the times.

O’Casey makes the audience wonder, however, how much of that commitment is dedication, how much is ego, and, when the fighting becomes intense, how much is fear of being thought a coward. The outcome of the domestic conflict is predictable: Jack is killed in combat and Nora, too delicate to stand the pressure, goes insane. Others are not so weak. If O’Casey’s vision does not spare those who bring havoc on themselves and their loved ones, he also pays homage to those victims who are forced by circumstance to assume the burdens. Frequently, those who seem the least promising become, under pressure, the most heroic.

Fluther Good behaves like an amiable drunk during most of the play and is quick to loot liquor stores when given the opportunity. When Mollser Gogan dies and Nora has her breakdown, however, he braves bullets and arrest to bring aid and comfort. Bessie Burgess, the lone English partisan in the tenement, seems ill-tempered and bigoted in the early parts of the play, deriding Nora and fighting constantly with Mrs. Gogan, another querulous lady. Yet, in the last act, it is Bessie who ministers to the dying Mollser and the mad Nora, finally sacrificing her life trying to shield the girl from sniper fire. Her rival, Mrs. Gogan, assumes the burdens after Bessie dies.

Bessie and Mrs. Gogan, like Juno in the earlier play, represent the strength of an Ireland torn to pieces by civil war. They do what they can—and must—to keep the continuity of life intact while the men, with their abstract notions of nationalism, heroism, and manhood, destroy. While the fighting rages, young Mollser dies of tuberculosis because there is no one available to help her. Mollser is O’Casey’s symbol for the real Irish situation: poverty and neglect are the real evils, and until they are dealt with, the question of nationalism is largely irrelevant. As long as the Jack Clitheroes and the Brennans can be stirred up to violence by the demagogic appeals of the “Voice,” these problems will continue to be ignored. However, as long as Ireland is capable of producing people like Bessie Burgess, Mrs. Gogan, and Fluther Good, O’Casey suggests that there is hope.
Term
Mrs. Dalloway
Definition
Author: V. Woolf Genre: Novel

Characters: Clarissa Dalloway, Septimus Warren Smith, Peter Walsh, Sally Seton, Richard Dalloway, Hugh Whitbread, Lucrezia Smith (Rezia), Elizabeth Dalloway, Doris Kilman, Sir William Bradshaw, Dr. Holmes, Layd Millicent Bruton, Miss Helena Parry, Ellie Henderson, Evans, Mrs. Filmer, Daisy Simmons, Evelyn Whitbread, Mr. Brewer, Jim Hutton,

Summary: M rs. Dalloway covers one day from morning to night in one woman’s life. Clarissa Dalloway, an upper-class housewife, walks through her London neighborhood to prepare for the party she will host that evening. When she returns from flower shopping, an old suitor and friend, Peter Walsh, drops by her house unexpectedly. The two have always judged each other harshly, and their meeting in the present intertwines with their thoughts of the past. Years earlier, Clarissa refused Peter’s marriage proposal, and Peter has never quite gotten over it. Peter asks Clarissa if she is happy with her husband, Richard, but before she can answer, her daughter, Elizabeth, enters the room. Peter leaves and goes to Regent’s Park. He thinks about Clarissa’s refusal, which still obsesses him.

The point of view then shifts to Septimus, a veteran of World War I who was injured in trench warfare and now suffers from shell shock. Septimus and his Italian wife, Lucrezia, pass time in Regent’s Park. They are waiting for Septimus’s appointment with Sir William Bradshaw, a celebrated psychiatrist. Before the war, Septimus was a budding young poet and lover of Shakespeare; when the war broke out, he enlisted immediately for romantic patriotic reasons. He became numb to the horrors of war and its aftermath: when his friend Evans died, he felt little sadness. Now Septimus sees nothing of worth in the England he fought for, and he has lost the desire to preserve either his society or himself. Suicidal, he believes his lack of feeling is a crime. Clearly Septimus’s experiences in the war have permanently scarred him, and he has serious mental problems. However, Sir William does not listen to what Septimus says and diagnoses “a lack of proportion.” Sir William plans to separate Septimus from Lucrezia and send him to a mental institution in the country.

Richard Dalloway eats lunch with Hugh Whitbread and Lady Bruton, members of high society. The men help Lady Bruton write a letter to the Times, London's largest newspaper. After lunch, Richard returns home to Clarissa with a large bunch of roses. He intends to tell her that he loves her but finds that he cannot, because it has been so long since he last said it. Clarissa considers the void that exists between people, even between husband and wife. Even though she values the privacy she is able to maintain in her marriage, considering it vital to the success of the relationship, at the same time she finds slightly disturbing the fact that Richard doesn’t know everything about her. Clarissa sees off Elizabeth and her history teacher, Miss Kilman, who are going shopping. The two older women despise one another passionately, each believing the other to be an oppressive force over Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Septimus and Lucrezia are in their apartment, enjoying a moment of happiness together before the men come to take Septimus to the asylum. One of Septimus’s doctors, Dr. Holmes, arrives, and Septimus fears the doctor will destroy his soul. In order to avoid this fate, he jumps from a window to his death.

Peter hears the ambulance go by to pick up Septimus’s body and marvels ironically at the level of London’s civilization. He goes to Clarissa’s party, where most of the novel’s major characters are assembled. Clarissa works hard to make her party a success but feels dissatisfied by her own role and acutely conscious of Peter’s critical eye. All the partygoers, but especially Peter and Sally Seton, have, to some degree, failed to accomplish the dreams of their youth. Though the social order is undoubtedly changing, Elizabeth and the members of her generation will probably repeat the errors of Clarissa’s generation. Sir William Bradshaw arrives late, and his wife explains that one of his patients, the young veteran (Septimus), has committed suicide. Clarissa retreats to the privacy of a small room to consider Septimus’s death. She understands that he was overwhelmed by life and that men like Sir William make life intolerable. She identifies with Septimus, admiring him for having taken the plunge and for not compromising his soul. She feels, with her comfortable position as a society hostess, responsible for his death. The party nears its close as guests begin to leave. Clarissa enters the room, and her presence fills Peter with a great excitement.

Themes:

Communication vs. Privacy

Throughout Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa, Septimus, Peter, and others struggle to find outlets for communication as well as adequate privacy, and the balance between the two is difficult for all to attain. Clarissa in particular struggles to open the pathway for communication and throws parties in an attempt to draw people together. At the same time, she feels shrouded within her own reflective soul and thinks the ultimate human mystery is how she can exist in one room while the old woman in the house across from hers exists in another. Even as Clarissa celebrates the old woman’s independence, she knows it comes with an inevitable loneliness. Peter tries to explain the contradictory human impulses toward privacy and communication by comparing the soul to a fish that swims along in murky water, then rises quickly to the surface to frolic on the waves. The war has changed people’s ideas of what English society should be, and understanding is difficult between those who support traditional English society and those who hope for continued change. Meaningful connections in this disjointed postwar world are not easy to make, no matter what efforts the characters put forth. Ultimately, Clarissa sees Septimus’s death as a desperate, but legitimate, act of communication.

Disillusionment with the British Empire

Throughout the nineteenth century, the British Empire seemed invincible. It expanded into many other countries, such as India, Nigeria, and South Africa, becoming the largest empire the world had ever seen. World War I was a violent reality check. For the first time in nearly a century, the English were vulnerable on their own land. The Allies technically won the war, but the extent of devastation England suffered made it a victory in name only. Entire communities of young men were injured and killed. In 1916, at the Battle of the Somme, England suffered 60,000 casualties—the largest slaughter in England’s history. Not surprisingly, English citizens lost much of their faith in the empire after the war. No longer could England claim to be invulnerable and all-powerful. Citizens were less inclined to willingly adhere to the rigid constraints imposed by England’s class system, which benefited only a small margin of society but which all classes had fought to preserve.

In 1923, when Mrs. Dalloway takes place, the old establishment and its oppressive values are nearing their end. English citizens, including Clarissa, Peter, and Septimus, feel the failure of the empire as strongly as they feel their own personal failures. Those citizens who still champion English tradition, such as Aunt Helena and Lady Bruton, are old. Aunt Helena, with her glass eye (perhaps a symbol of her inability or unwillingness to see the empire's disintegration), is turning into an artifact. Anticipating the end of the Conservative Party’s reign, Richard plans to write the history of the great British military family, the Brutons, who are already part of the past. The old empire faces an imminent demise, and the loss of the traditional and familiar social order leaves the English at loose ends.

The Fear of Death

Thoughts of death lurk constantly beneath the surface of everyday life in Mrs. Dalloway, especially for Clarissa, Septimus, and Peter, and this awareness makes even mundane events and interactions meaningful, sometimes even threatening. At the very start of her day, when she goes out to buy flowers for her party, Clarissa remembers a moment in her youth when she suspected a terrible event would occur. Big Ben tolls out the hour, and Clarissa repeats a line from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline over and over as the day goes on: “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun / Nor the furious winter’s rages.” The line is from a funeral song that celebrates death as a comfort after a difficult life. Middle-aged Clarissa has experienced the deaths of her father, mother, and sister and has lived through the calamity of war, and she has grown to believe that living even one day is dangerous. Death is very naturally in her thoughts, and the line from Cymbeline, along with Septimus’s suicidal embrace of death, ultimately helps her to be at peace with her own mortality. Peter Walsh, so insecure in his identity, grows frantic at the idea of death and follows an anonymous young woman through London to forget about it. Septimus faces death most directly. Though he fears it, he finally chooses it over what seems to him a direr alternative—living another day.

The Threat of Oppression

Oppression is a constant threat for Clarissa and Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway, and Septimus dies in order to escape what he perceives to be an oppressive social pressure to conform. It comes in many guises, including religion, science, or social convention. Miss Kilman and Sir William Bradshaw are two of the major oppressors in the novel: Miss Kilman dreams of felling Clarissa in the name of religion, and Sir William would like to subdue all those who challenge his conception of the world. Both wish to convert the world to their belief systems in order to gain power and dominate others, and their rigidity oppresses all who come into contact with them. More subtle oppressors, even those who do not intend to, do harm by supporting the repressive English social system. Though Clarissa herself lives under the weight of that system and often feels oppressed by it, her acceptance of patriarchal English society makes her, in part, responsible for Septimus’s death. Thus she too is an oppressor of sorts. At the end of the novel, she reflects on his suicide: “Somehow it was her disaster—her disgrace.” She accepts responsibility, though other characters are equally or more fully to blame, which suggests that everyone is in some way complicit in the oppression of others.

Motifs
Time

Time imparts order to the fluid thoughts, memories, and encounters that make up Mrs. Dalloway. Big Ben, a symbol of England and its might, sounds out the hour relentlessly, ensuring that the passage of time, and the awareness of eventual death, is always palpable. Clarissa, Septimus, Peter, and other characters are in the grip of time, and as they age they evaluate how they have spent their lives. Clarissa, in particular, senses the passage of time, and the appearance of Sally and Peter, friends from the past, emphasizes how much time has gone by since Clarissa was young. Once the hour chimes, however, the sound disappears—its “leaden circles dissolved in the air.” This expression recurs many times throughout the novel, indicating how ephemeral time is, despite the pomp of Big Ben and despite people’s wary obsession with it. “It is time,” Rezia says to Septimus as they sit in the park waiting for the doctor's appointment on Harley Street. The ancient woman at the Regent’s Park Tube station suggests that the human condition knows no boundaries of time, since she continues to sing the same song for what seems like eternity. She understands that life is circular, not merely linear, which is the only sort of time that Big Ben tracks. Time is so important to the themes, structure, and characters of this novel that Woolf almost named her book The Hours.

Shakespeare


The many appearances of Shakespeare specifically and poetry in general suggest hopefulness, the possibility of finding comfort in art, and the survival of the soul in Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa quotes Shakespeare’s plays many times throughout the day. When she shops for flowers at the beginning of the novel, she reads a few lines from a Shakespeare play, Cymbeline, in a book displayed in a shop window. The lines come from a funeral hymn in the play that suggests death should be embraced as a release from the constraints of life. Since Clarissa fears death for much of the novel, these lines suggest that an alternative, hopeful way of addressing the prospect of death exists. Clarissa also identifies with the title character in Othello, who loves his wife but kills her out of jealousy, then kills himself when he learns his jealousy was unwarranted. Clarissa shares with Othello the sense of having lost a love, especially when she thinks about Sally Seton. Before the war, Septimus appreciated Shakespeare as well, going so far as aspiring to be a poet. He no longer finds comfort in poetry after he returns.

The presence of an appreciation for poetry reveals much about Clarissa and Septimus, just as the absence of such appreciation reveals much about the characters who differ from them, such as Richard Dalloway and Lady Bruton. Richard finds Shakespeare’s sonnets indecent, and he compares reading them to listening in at a keyhole. Not surprisingly, Richard himself has a difficult time voicing his emotions. Lady Bruton never reads poetry either, and her demeanor is so rigid and impersonal that she has a reputation of caring more for politics than for people. Traditional English society promotes a suppression of visible emotion, and since Shakespeare and poetry promote a discussion of feeling and emotion, they belong to sensitive people like Clarissa, who are in many ways antiestablishment.

Trees and Flowers

Tree and flower images abound in Mrs. Dalloway. The color, variety, and beauty of flowers suggest feeling and emotion, and those characters who are comfortable with flowers, such as Clarissa, have distinctly different personalities than those characters who are not, such as Richard and Lady Bruton. The first time we see Clarissa, a deep thinker, she is on her way to the flower shop, where she will revel in the flowers she sees. Richard and Hugh, more emotionally repressed representatives of the English establishment, offer traditional roses and carnations to Clarissa and Lady Bruton, respectively. Richard handles the bouquet of roses awkwardly, like a weapon. Lady Bruton accepts the flowers with a “grim smile” and lays them stiffly by her plate, also unsure of how to handle them. When she eventually stuffs them into her dress, the femininity and grace of the gesture are rare and unexpected. Trees, with their extensive root systems, suggest the vast reach of the human soul, and Clarissa and Septimus, who both struggle to protect their souls, revere them. Clarissa believes souls survive in trees after death, and Septimus, who has turned his back on patriarchal society, feels that cutting down a tree is the equivalent of committing murder.

Waves and Water

Waves and water regularly wash over events and thoughts in Mrs. Dalloway and nearly always suggest the possibility of extinction or death. While Clarissa mends her party dress, she thinks about the peaceful cycle of waves collecting and falling on a summer day, when the world itself seems to say “that is all.” Time sometimes takes on waterlike qualities for Clarissa, such as when the chime from Big Ben “flood[s]” her room, marking another passing hour. Rezia, in a rare moment of happiness with Septimus after he has helped her construct a hat, lets her words trail off “like a contented tap left running.” Even then, she knows that stream of contentedness will dry up eventually. The narrative structure of the novel itself also suggests fluidity. One character’s thoughts appear, intensify, then fade into another’s, much like waves that collect then fall.

Traditional English society itself is a kind of tide, pulling under those people not strong enough to stand on their own. Lady Bradshaw, for example, eventually succumbs to Sir William’s bullying, overbearing presence. The narrator says “she had gone under,” that her will became “water-logged” and eventually sank into his. Septimus is also sucked under society’s pressures. Earlier in the day, before he kills himself, he looks out the window and sees everything as though it is underwater. Trees drag their branches through the air as though dragging them through water, the light outside is “watery gold,” and his hand on the sofa reminds him of floating in seawater. While Septimus ultimately cannot accept or function in society, Clarissa manages to navigate it successfully. Peter sees Clarissa in a “silver-green mermaid’s dress” at her party, “[l]olloping on the waves.” Between her mermaid’s dress and her ease in bobbing through her party guests, Clarissa succeeds in staying afloat. However, she identifies with Septimus’s wish to fight the cycle and go under, even if she will not succumb to the temptation herself.

Symbols

The Prime Minister

The prime minister in Mrs. Dalloway embodies England’s old values and hierarchical social system, which are in decline. When Peter Walsh wants to insult Clarissa and suggest she will sell out and become a society hostess, he says she will marry a prime minister. When Lady Bruton, a champion of English tradition, wants to compliment Hugh, she calls him “My Prime Minister.” The prime minister is a figure from the old establishment, which Clarissa and Septimus are struggling against. Mrs. Dalloway takes place after World War I, a time when the English looked desperately for meaning in the old symbols but found the symbols hollow. When the conservative prime minister finally arrives at Clarissa’s party, his appearance is unimpressive. The old pyramidal social system that benefited the very rich before the war is now decaying, and the symbols of its greatness have become pathetic.

Peter Walsh’s Pocketknife and Other Weapons

Peter Walsh plays constantly with his pocketknife, and the opening, closing, and fiddling with the knife suggest his flightiness and inability to make decisions. He cannot decide what he feels and doesn’t know whether he abhors English tradition and wants to fight it, or whether he accepts English civilization just as it is. The pocketknife reveals Peter’s defensiveness. He is armed with the knife, in a sense, when he pays an unexpected visit to Clarissa, while she herself is armed with her sewing scissors. Their weapons make them equal competitors. Knives and weapons are also phallic symbols, hinting at sexuality and power. Peter cannot define his own identity, and his constant fidgeting with the knife suggests how uncomfortable he is with his masculinity. Characters fall into two groups: those who are armed and those who are not. Ellie Henderson, for example, is “weaponless,” because she is poor and has not been trained for any career. Her ambiguous relationship with her friend Edith also puts her at a disadvantage in society, leaving her even less able to defend herself. Septimus, psychologically crippled by the literal weapons of war, commits suicide by impaling himself on a metal fence, showing the danger lurking behind man-made boundaries.

The Old Woman in the Window

The old woman in the window across from Clarissa’s house represents the privacy of the soul and the loneliness that goes with it, both of which will increase as Clarissa grows older. Clarissa sees the future in the old woman: She herself will grow old and become more and more alone, since that is the nature of life. As Clarissa grows older, she reflects more but communicates less. Instead, she keeps her feelings locked inside the private rooms of her own soul, just as the old woman rattles alone around the rooms of her house. Nevertheless, the old woman also represents serenity and the purity of the soul. Clarissa respects the woman’s private reflections and thinks beauty lies in this act of preserving one’s interior life and independence. Before Septimus jumps out the window, he sees an old man descending the staircase outside, and this old man is a parallel figure to the old woman. Though Clarissa and Septimus ultimately choose to preserve their private lives in opposite ways, their view of loneliness, privacy, and communication resonates within these similar images.

The Old Woman Singing an Ancient Song

Opposite the Regent’s Park Tube station, an old woman sings an ancient song that celebrates life, endurance, and continuity. She is oblivious to everyone around her as she sings, beyond caring what the world thinks. The narrator explains that no matter what happens in the world, the old woman will still be there, even in “ten million years,” and that the song has soaked “through the knotted roots of infinite ages.” Roots, intertwined and hidden beneath the earth, suggest the deepest parts of people’s souls, and this woman’s song touches everyone who hears it in some way. Peter hears the song first and compares the old woman to a rusty pump. He doesn’t catch her triumphant message and feels only pity for her, giving her a coin before stepping into a taxi. Rezia, however, finds strength in the old woman’s words, and the song makes her feel as though all will be okay in her life. Women in the novel, who have to view patriarchal English society from the outside, are generally more attuned to nature and the messages of voices outside the mainstream. Rezia, therefore, is able to see the old woman for the life force she is, instead of simply a nuisance or a tragic figure to be dealt with, ignored, or pitied.
Term
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Definition
Author: DH Lawrence Genre: pornography!

Characters: Lady Chatterley (Connie), Oliver Mellors, Clifford Chatterley, Mrs. Bolton, Michaelis, Hilda Reid, Sir Malcomlm Reid, Tommy Dukes, Charles May, Duncan Forbes,

Summary: Summary

Lady Chatterley's Lover begins by introducing Connie Reid, the female protagonist of the novel. She was raised as a cultured bohemian of the upper-middle class, and was introduced to love affairs--intellectual and sexual liaisons--as a teenager. In 1917, at 23, she marries Clifford Chatterley, the scion of an aristocratic line. After a month's honeymoon, he is sent to war, and returns paralyzed from the waist down, impotent.

After the war, Clifford becomes a successful writer, and many intellectuals flock to the Chatterley mansion, Wragby. Connie feels isolated; the vaunted intellectuals prove empty and bloodless, and she resorts to a brief and dissatisfying affair with a visiting playwright, Michaelis. Connie longs for real human contact, and falls into despair, as all men seem scared of true feelings and true passion. There is a growing distance between Connie and Clifford, who has retreated into the meaningless pursuit of success in his writing and in his obsession with coal-mining, and towards whom Connie feels a deep physical aversion. A nurse, Mrs. Bolton, is hired to take care of the handicapped Clifford so that Connie can be more independent, and Clifford falls into a deep dependence on the nurse, his manhood fading into an infantile reliance.

Into the void of Connie's life comes Oliver Mellors, the gamekeeper on Clifford's estate, newly returned from serving in the army. Mellors is aloof and derisive, and yet Connie feels curiously drawn to him by his innate nobility and grace, his purposeful isolation, his undercurrents of natural sensuality. After several chance meetings in which Mellors keeps her at arm's length, reminding her of the class distance between them, they meet by chance at a hut in the forest, where they have sex. This happens on several occasions, but still Connie feels a distance between them, remaining profoundly separate from him despite their physical closeness.

One day, Connie and Mellors meet by coincidence in the woods, and they have sex on the forest floor. This time, they experience simultaneous orgasms. This is a revelatory and profoundly moving experience for Connie; she begins to adore Mellors, feeling that they have connected on some deep sensual level. She is proud to believe that she is pregnant with Mellors' child: he is a real, "living" man, as opposed to the emotionally-dead intellectuals and the dehumanized industrial workers. They grow progressively closer, connecting on a primordial physical level, as woman and man rather than as two minds or intellects.

Connie goes away to Venice for a vacation. While she is gone, Mellors' old wife returns, causing a scandal. Connie returns to find that Mellors has been fired as a result of the negative rumors spread about him by his resentful wife, against whom he has initiated divorce proceedings. Connie admits to Clifford that she is pregnant with Mellors' baby, but Clifford refuses to give her a divorce. The novel ends with Mellors working on a farm, waiting for his divorce, and Connie living with her sister, also waiting: the hope exists that, in the end, they will be together. The novel ends with a letter sent from Mellors to Connie, summing up the message of the novel about the social blight upon England. The masses of men are emasculated, poor, hopeless, devoted only to getting and spending money. Without a radical change, the future is bleak. Only with a mass transformation, a realization of the power of sensuality, will people restore humanity and joy to their lives. Mellors comforts himself with thoughts of Connie, and the passion that exists between them: "we fucked a flame into being."

This is not a novel that ends with an epiphany, nor a climactic scene of action and emotion. Rather, it fades away. Instead of a revelation, there is a careful summary of the novel's central ideological messages; instead of tragedy or triumph, there is a certain measured circumspection, a tenuous promise of hope in a vague future. The English author Lawrence Durrell held this anticlimactic ending against the novel: "The book falls away rather sadly at the end. It had all the ingredients for a big tragedy, but it ends on a whimper."

Perhaps, however, the ending of Lady Chatterley's Lover should be evaluated remembering that the novel is as much an ideological tract as a work of living fiction. One way of reading Lady Chatterley's Lover is to view the narrative as the means rather than the end of the novel. This approach to the novel implies that in Lady Chatterley's Lover, the plot and the dialogue serve the purpose of conveying more effectively the novel's ideology, its set of social messages. Only secondarily do the characters assume depth and fictional reality; their primary function is to enact scenes that dramatize the novel's agenda. Thus it could be argued that Mellors is less a three-dimensional character in his own right than an embodiment of D.H. Lawrence's principles of sensuality and irreverence.

Lawrence Durrell faults Lady Chatterley's Lover for avoiding the "big tragedy" that might have brought a satisfying and dramatic ending to the narrative. But this sort of ending would not have been in keeping with the social purpose of the novel. Throughout, Lady Chatterley's Lover--most explicitly through the character of Mellors, in his role as the author's spokesman--expresses a deep pessimism about the future of English society. Mellors is reluctant to bring children into the world, which he feels is bound for disaster. In the postwar world of Lady Chatterley's Lover, tradition has been discarded, men have been emasculated and dehumanized by industry and greed, and women have forgotten sensuality.

There may be little room for optimism, but Connie convinces Mellors that there is room for hope. And the novel ends with Mellors writing Connie a letter that balances its condemnation of English society with a proposal for a massive societal transformation, and that ends both "droopingly" and "with a hopeful heart." Mellors awaits his divorce, while Connie is left in limbo, awaiting Clifford's consent for a divorce. A child will be born, but it remains to be seen whether Mellors and Connie will be able to live together and raise the child under the protection of their love, or whether circumstances will come between them. Thus the future of the protagonists is uncertain, just as the future of the English society portrayed in Lady Chatterley's Lover remains uncertain. A great tragedy, or a happy reunion, would run counter to the perspective of the novel on the broader future of society.

Term
"The Dead"
Definition
Author: J. Joyce Genre: Short Fiction, From The Dubliners

Quote: "Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried."

Summary

At the annual dance and dinner party held by Kate and Julia Morkan and their young niece, Mary Jane Morkan, the housemaid Lily frantically greets guests. Set at or just before the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, which celebrates the manifestation of Christ’s divinity to the Magi, the party draws together a variety of relatives and friends. Kate and Julia particularly await the arrival of their favorite nephew, Gabriel Conroy, and his wife, Gretta. When they arrive, Gabriel attempts to chat with Lily as she takes his coat, but she snaps in reply to his question about her love life. Gabriel ends the uncomfortable exchange by giving Lily a generous tip, but the experience makes him anxious. He relaxes when he joins his aunts and Gretta, though Gretta’s good-natured teasing about his dedication to galoshes irritates him. They discuss their decision to stay at a hotel that evening rather than make the long trip home. The arrival of another guest, the always-drunk Freddy Malins, disrupts the conversation. Gabriel makes sure that Freddy is fit to join the party while the guests chat over drinks in between taking breaks from the dancing. An older gentleman, Mr. Browne, flirts with some young girls, who dodge his advances. Gabriel steers a drunken Freddy toward the drawing room to get help from Mr. Browne, who attempts to sober Freddy up.

The party continues with a piano performance by Mary Jane. More dancing follows, which finds Gabriel paired up with Miss Ivors, a fellow university instructor. A fervent supporter of Irish culture, Miss Ivors embarrasses Gabriel by labeling him a “West Briton” for writing literary reviews for a conservative newspaper. Gabriel dismisses the accusation, but Miss Ivors pushes the point by inviting Gabriel to visit the Aran Isles, where Irish is spoken, during the summer. When Gabriel declines, explaining that he has arranged a cycling trip on the continent, Miss Ivors corners him about his lack of interest in his own country. Gabriel exclaims that he is sick of Ireland. After the dance, he flees to a corner and engages in a few more conversations, but he cannot forget the interlude with Miss Ivors.

Just before dinner, Julia sings a song for the guests. Miss Ivors makes her exit to the surprise of Mary Jane and Gretta, and to the relief of Gabriel. Finally, dinner is ready, and Gabriel assumes his place at the head of the table to carve the goose. After much fussing, everyone eats, and finally Gabriel delivers his speech, in which he praises Kate, Julia, and Mary Jane for their hospitality. Framing this quality as an Irish strength, Gabriel laments the present age in which such hospitality is undervalued. Nevertheless, he insists, people must not linger on the past and the dead, but live and rejoice in the present with the living. The table breaks into a loud applause for Gabriel’s speech, and the entire party toasts their three hostesses.

Later, guests begin to leave, and Gabriel recounts a story about his grandfather and his horse, which forever walked in circles even when taken out of the mill where it worked. After finishing the anecdote, Gabriel realizes that Gretta stands transfixed by the song that Mr. Bartell D’Arcy sings in the drawing room. When the music stops and the rest of the party guests assemble before the door to leave, Gretta remains detached and thoughtful. Gabriel is enamored with and preoccupied by his wife’s mysterious mood and recalls their courtship as they walk from the house and catch a cab into Dublin.

At the hotel, Gabriel grows irritated by Gretta’s behavior. She does not seem to share his romantic inclinations, and in fact bursts into tears. Gretta confesses that she has been thinking of the song from the party because a former lover had sung it to her in her youth in Galway. Gretta recounts the sad story of this boy, Michael Furey, who died after waiting outside of her window in the cold. Gretta later falls asleep, but Gabriel remains awake, disturbed by Gretta’s new information. He curls up on the bed, contemplating his own mortality. Seeing the snow at the window, he envisions it blanketing the graveyard where Michael Furey rests, as well as all of Ireland.

Analysis

In “The Dead,” Gabriel Conroy’s restrained behavior and his reputation with his aunts as the nephew who takes care of everything mark him as a man of authority and caution, but two encounters with women at the party challenge his confidence. First, Gabriel clumsily provokes a defensive statement from the overworked Lily when he asks her about her love life. Instead of apologizing or explaining what he meant, Gabriel quickly ends the conversation by giving Lily a holiday tip. He blames his prestigious education for his inability to relate to servants like Lily, but his willingness to let money speak for him suggests that he relies on the comforts of his class to maintain distance. The encounter with Lily shows that Gabriel, like his aunts, cannot tolerate a “back answer,” but he is unable to avoid such challenges as the party continues. During his dance with Miss Ivors, he faces a barrage of questions about his nonexistent nationalist sympathies, which he doesn’t know how to answer appropriately. Unable to compose a full response, Gabriel blurts out that he is sick of his own country, surprising Miss Ivors and himself with his unmeasured response and his loss of control.


Gabriel’s unease culminates in his tense night with Gretta, and his final encounter with her ultimately forces him to confront his stony view of the world. When he sees Gretta transfixed by the music at the end of the party, Gabriel yearns intensely to have control of her strange feelings. Though Gabriel remembers their romantic courtship and is overcome with attraction for Gretta, this attraction is rooted not in love but in his desire to control her. At the hotel, when Gretta confesses to Gabriel that she was thinking of her first love, he becomes furious at her and himself, realizing that he has no claim on her and will never be “master.” After Gretta falls asleep, Gabriel softens. Now that he knows that another man preceded him in Gretta’s life, he feels not jealousy, but sadness that Michael Furey once felt an aching love that he himself has never known. Reflecting on his own controlled, passionless life, he realizes that life is short, and those who leave the world like Michael Furey, with great passion, in fact live more fully than people like himself.

The holiday setting of Epiphany emphasizes the profoundness of Gabriel’s difficult awakening that concludes the story and the collection. Gabriel experiences an inward change that makes him examine his own life and human life in general. While many characters in Dubliners suddenly stop pursuing what they desire without explanation, this story offers more specific articulation for Gabriel’s actions. Gabriel sees himself as a shadow of a person, flickering in a world in which the living and the dead meet. Though in his speech at the dinner he insisted on the division between the past of the dead and the present of the living, Gabriel now recognizes, after hearing that Michael Furey’s memory lives on, that such division is false. As he looks out of his hotel window, he sees the falling snow, and he imagines it covering Michael Furey’s grave just as it covers those people still living, as well as the entire country of Ireland. The story leaves open the possibility that Gabriel might change his attitude and embrace life, even though his somber dwelling on the darkness of Ireland closes Dubliners with morose acceptance. He will eventually join the dead and will not be remembered.

The Morkans’ party consists of the kind of deadening routines that make existence so lifeless in Dubliners. The events of the party repeat each year: Gabriel gives a speech, Freddy Malins arrives drunk, everyone dances the same memorized steps, everyone eats. Like the horse that circles around and around the mill in Gabriel’s anecdote, these Dubliners settle into an expected routine at this party. Such tedium fixes the characters in a state of paralysis. They are unable to break from the activities that they know, so they live life without new experiences, numb to the world. Even the food on the table evokes death. The life-giving substance appears at “rival ends” of the table that is lined with parallel rows of various dishes, divided in the middle by “sentries” of fruit and watched from afar by “three squads of bottles.” The military language transforms a table set for a communal feast into a battlefield, reeking with danger and death.

“The Dead” encapsulates the themes developed in the entire collection and serves as a balance to the first story, “The Sisters.” Both stories piercingly explore the intersection of life and death and cast a shadow over the other stories. More than any other story, however, “The Dead” squarely addresses the state of Ireland in this respect. In his speech, Gabriel claims to lament the present age in which hospitality like that of the Morkan family is undervalued, but at the same time he insists that people must not linger on the past, but embrace the present. Gabriel’s words betray him, and he ultimately encourages a tribute to the past, the past of hospitality, that lives on in the present party. His later thoughts reveal this attachment to the past when he envisions snow as “general all over Ireland.” In every corner of the country, snow touches both the dead and the living, uniting them in frozen paralysis. However, Gabriel’s thoughts in the final lines of Dubliners suggest that the living might in fact be able to free themselves and live unfettered by deadening routines and the past. Even in January, snow is unusual in Ireland and cannot last forever.
Term
"Araby"
Definition
Author: J. Joyce Genre: Short Fiction, From The Dubliners

Quote: "I watched my master’s face pass from amiability to sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play."

Summary

The narrator, an unnamed boy, describes the North Dublin street on which his house is located. He thinks about the priest who died in the house before his family moved in and the games that he and his friends played in the street. He recalls how they would run through the back lanes of the houses and hide in the shadows when they reached the street again, hoping to avoid people in the neighborhood, particularly the boy’s uncle or the sister of his friend Mangan. The sister often comes to the front of their house to call the brother, a moment that the narrator savors.


Every day begins for this narrator with such glimpses of Mangan’s sister. He places himself in the front room of his house so he can see her leave her house, and then he rushes out to walk behind her quietly until finally passing her. The narrator and Mangan’s sister talk little, but she is always in his thoughts. He thinks about her when he accompanies his aunt to do food shopping on Saturday evening in the busy marketplace and when he sits in the back room of his house alone. The narrator’s infatuation is so intense that he fears he will never gather the courage to speak with the girl and express his feelings.

One morning, Mangan’s sister asks the narrator if he plans to go to Araby, a Dublin bazaar. She notes that she cannot attend, as she has already committed to attend a retreat with her school. Having recovered from the shock of the conversation, the narrator offers to bring her something from the bazaar. This brief meeting launches the narrator into a period of eager, restless waiting and fidgety tension in anticipation of the bazaar. He cannot focus in school. He finds the lessons tedious, and they distract him from thinking about Mangan’s sister.

On the morning of the bazaar the narrator reminds his uncle that he plans to attend the event so that the uncle will return home early and provide train fare. Yet dinner passes and a guest visits, but the uncle does not return. The narrator impatiently endures the time passing, until at 9 p.m. the uncle finally returns, unbothered that he has forgotten about the narrator’s plans. Reciting the epigram “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” the uncle gives the narrator the money and asks him if he knows the poem “The Arab’s Farewell to his Steed.” The narrator leaves just as his uncle begins to recite the lines, and, thanks to eternally slow trains, arrives at the bazaar just before 10 p.m., when it is starting to close down. He approaches one stall that is still open, but buys nothing, feeling unwanted by the woman watching over the goods. With no purchase for Mangan’s sister, the narrator stands angrily in the deserted bazaar as the lights go out.

Analysis

In “Araby,” the allure of new love and distant places mingles with the familiarity of everyday drudgery, with frustrating consequences. Mangan’s sister embodies this mingling, since she is part of the familiar surroundings of the narrator’s street as well as the exotic promise of the bazaar. She is a “brown figure” who both reflects the brown façades of the buildings that line the street and evokes the skin color of romanticized images of Arabia that flood the narrator’s head. Like the bazaar that offers experiences that differ from everyday Dublin, Mangan’s sister intoxicates the narrator with new feelings of joy and elation. His love for her, however, must compete with the dullness of schoolwork, his uncle’s lateness, and the Dublin trains. Though he promises Mangan’s sister that he will go to Araby and purchase a gift for her, these mundane realities undermine his plans and ultimately thwart his desires. The narrator arrives at the bazaar only to encounter flowered teacups and English accents, not the freedom of the enchanting East. As the bazaar closes down, he realizes that Mangan’s sister will fail his expectations as well, and that his desire for her is actually only a vain wish for change.

The narrator’s change of heart concludes the story on a moment of epiphany, but not a positive one. Instead of reaffirming his love or realizing that he does not need gifts to express his feelings for Mangan’s sister, the narrator simply gives up. He seems to interpret his arrival at the bazaar as it fades into darkness as a sign that his relationship with Mangan’s sister will also remain just a wishful idea and that his infatuation was as misguided as his fantasies about the bazaar. What might have been a story of happy, youthful love becomes a tragic story of defeat. Much like the disturbing, unfulfilling adventure in “An Encounter,” the narrator’s failure at the bazaar suggests that fulfillment and contentedness remain foreign to Dubliners, even in the most unusual events of the city like an annual bazaar.


The tedious events that delay the narrator’s trip indicate that no room exists for love in the daily lives of Dubliners, and the absence of love renders the characters in the story almost anonymous. Though the narrator might imagine himself to be carrying thoughts of Mangan’s sister through his day as a priest would carry a Eucharistic chalice to an altar, the minutes tick away through school, dinner, and his uncle’s boring poetic recitation. Time does not adhere to the narrator’s visions of his relationship. The story presents this frustration as universal: the narrator is nameless, the girl is always “Mangan’s sister” as though she is any girl next door, and the story closes with the narrator imagining himself as a creature. In “Araby,” Joyce suggests that all people experience frustrated desire for love and new experiences.
Term
"Hap"
Definition
Thomas Hardy; Genre: Poem; Naturalism; Sonnet

Its fourteen lines are written in iambic pentameter, the rhyme scheme abab, cdcd, efef, gg is complied with, and the three quatrains are followed by a rhymed couplet to conclude the poem.

The definition of Hap is a chance occurrence, usually bad. The poet is bemoaning the condition of the world that he sees as guided by random chance, with no God and no sense of fate, and thus no meaning. He begins the poem by saying that he would rather have some vengeful God who is causing human suffering out of spite and amusement:
"Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
that thy love's loss is my hate's profiting!"

If that was the case, he could bear his suffering because it would be self-righteously unmerited. "But not so," says the poet. Time, crass Casualty (which Hardy personifies like a God as purblind Doomsters) strew blisses and pain randomly in his way; it is all chance (hap). There is no organizing principle, which makes the poem naturalistic.

If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: "Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
that thy love's loss is my hate's profiting!"

Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.

But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
--Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan. . .
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.

Term
"The Convergence of the Twain"
Definition
(Lines on the loss of the 'Titanic')
I
In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.
II
Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.
III
Over the mirrors meant
To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls -- grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.
IV
Jewels in joy designed
To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.
V
Dim moon-eyed fishes near
Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: 'What does this vaingloriousness down here?'...
VI
Well: while was fashioning
This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything
VII
Prepared a sinister mate
For her -- so gaily great --
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.
VIII
And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.
IX
Alien they seemed to be:
No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history,
X
Or sign that they were bent
By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one august event,
XI
Till the Spinner of the Years
Said 'Now!' And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

Stanza I
In this stanza, Hardy introduces the topic of his poem. He presents the Titanic as being in a sort of under water seclusion. She is "Deep from human vanity", the very vanity that created her, and eventually sank her.
Stanza II
This stanza juxtaposes cold and hot, and on a symbolic level, life and death. It also contrasts the way the ship was in her glorious, unsinkable past, and how she is in her disintegrating present condition. The cold steel chambers filled with arctic currents, are compared to the warm fires that used to burn brightly on the ship. Hardy uses the word "pyres" to connote funeral pyres, and to add to the tone of loss. Hardy says that the chambers are now filled with the rhythmic music of the sea, which contrasts with the chaos of the Titanic's last few hours afloat.
Stanza III
Stanza three compares the civilized, wealthy world of the passengers of the Titanic, with the raw, natural world of the sea-worm. The reader is presented with a mirror on the ship, originally intended to reflect the wealthy physiques of the passengers of the ship. However, now it reflects the sea-worm, that is uninterested in the lavish life that used to inhabit the ship. It is "dumb, indifferent", words that seem bitter, as if the speaker resents the worm for not caring about the history of its habitat.
Stanza IV
It reads "Jewels in joy designed"; These "jewels" no lay lifeless on the ocean floor, much like the Titanic herself. Without the light of day, the sparkles of the jewels are gone. This stanza can be paralleled to stanza three. The jewels were supposed to "ravish the sensuous mind". However, in stanza three, the "dumb and indifferent" sea worm takes no notice of the dazzling decor of the ship.
Stanza V and VI
In stanza five, Hardy refers to the fish which now inhabit the Titanic. He uses personification and gives the fish an inquisitive attitude. They ask, "What does this vaingloriousness down here?" They wonder why this marvel rests on the ocean floor where it is obviously out of place. As stanza five asks the questions, stanza six presents an answer. While the speaker was creating the strong "unsinkable" ship, one that divided the ocean waters with ease, "The Immanent Will," destiny that is, was working its course.
Stanza VII and VIII
Stanza IX and Stanza X
This stanza again speaks of the "Immanent Will" between the Titanic and the iceberg. Hardy states that destiny is upon the two, and because of their destiny, no one is able to predict that they will meet. In this stanza, it is mentioned that, "no mortal eye could see" which is relevant that although humans could not assume that the Titanic's fate would lie on the bottom of the ocean, a superior force not known to die knew and thus he created the fate of the iceberg and the Titanic. The stanza ten mentions that the paths, or destiny, of the Titanic and the iceberg would converge, hence the name of the poem. Hardy's use of personification is evident again. He uses the term "paths," which can be seen as giving the Titanic and the iceberg a life's destiny.
Stanza XI
The last stanza mentions the "Spinners of the Years," which is fate, and the command, "Now!" which is given by the omnipresent force. The Titanic and iceberg met immediately by the irresponsibility of the crew who were not alert of the presence of the iceberg in the water, even after repeated warnings. Hardy ends the poem by stating the two have met. The "hemispheres" refer to the battle of two sides, machine and nature. Nature won this battle and the Titanic rests at the bottom of the sea as a testimony of Nature's victory.

This stanza is related to the latter two for it explains the destiny of the Titanic. Hardy reveals the Titanic's mate is an iceberg and again uses personification by referring to the iceberg as "sinister." Hardy also states a vast contrast between the iceberg and the Titanic, though the two are meant to meet. As the iceberg was "sinister" the Titanic is "gaily great." Despite this difference Hardy states that the two are destined to meet, although they are still of great distance from each other and within time they will meet for their final dance.
he destiny is the main theme of the poem. Throughout the poem, Hardy mentions that the iceberg and the Titanic are slowly meeting. By the last few stanzas the two have met; thus their destiny's have been fulfilled. In addition, Hardy uses an extended metaphor throughout his last five stanzas of the poem. Such words as mate (VII), intimate welding (IX), and consummation (XI) to describe that the iceberg and Titanic were fated to be married to each other. Consummation should not, however, be restricted to the idea of marriage, but also to a state of completion.
Term
"The Darkling Thrush"
Definition
The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

Thomas Hardy's "The Darkling Thrush" was originally called "The Century's End, 1900" and was first printed in The Graphic on 29 December of that year. "A deleted 1899 on the manuscript suggested he had written it a year before," Claire Tomalin tells us in her biography, Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man. Earlier in the same book, Tomalin memorably describes Hardy as a child, waiting each evening for the setting sun to light up the red-painted staircase in the family house, at which point he would recite an "evening hymn" by Sir Isaac Watts, beginning "And now another day is gone,/ I'll sing my maker's praise". "The Darkling Thrush" seems oddly to recall that scene.

It is one of Hardy's most lyrical poems, musical in execution, metaphor, theme, and even title. The Keatsian word "darkling" simply means "in the dark", but it has the sound of a preludial shimmer of birdsong. Visually, too, it prepares us for the image of the "aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,/ In blast-beruffled plume … " Another use of the -ling suffix is to produce a diminutive of a noun (as in gosling, duckling, sapling, etc.) and though this isn't what is happening etymologically, in "darkling" we pick up a distant sense of it, and therefore of the bird's littleness and exposedness in his bare tree.

The plain, steady rhythm and rhyme-scheme of Hardy's hymn-like metre provide a kind of aural blank canvas, allowing individual words to sound out with particular clarity. Sibilance in the first three lines creates a whispery atmosphere, a touch of wind among the stiffened branches which then fall still with the alliteration-free neutrality of "The weakening eye of day". Then there are the hard 'C' sounds in stanza two: "corpse", "crypt", "cloudy canopy" – which evoke, perhaps, the tread of a funeral march, the dislodged clods of earth, the entombment of the personified century.

In the grey scenery of the first two stanzas, the narrator, barely visible, sees only the stasis of deepest winter. That resonating pair of words "leant" and "outleant" impresses on the eye images of disablement, the laying-out of the dead, and, of course, leanness. As in the title, there is a Keatsian echo, this time from "The Eve of St Agnes". Hardy's scene is even more deathly still: it is not only the winter of the year but of a whole century. And then the solo-singer appears, and subtly the music of the diction changes. The beautifully unexpected word, "illimited", is the first we hear, inside the poem, of the singing thrush, the flowing double 'l' conveying the sense and sound of a joy which spills out and cannot be circumscribed or halted. There are further "liquid siftings" in the many l' and 'r' sounds that ensue. It's as if the broken lyre-strings that the tangled stems suggested in stanza one had been mended.

Hardy's thrush of course belongs to the Romantic tradition, in which birds seem to express emotion in "songs" that have human significance. Modern readers interpret bird-song differently: we know the "ecstatic carolings" to be territorially possessive; as mundane as estate agents' 'Sold' signs. Today's ornithologically-minded poets content themselves with more descriptive responses, though birds have never yet gone out of poetic fashion.

It would no doubt have satisfied the deep pessimist in Hardy to have known this, and one can imagine the negating final stanza he might have added to cancel the magic with gloomy thoughts of territorialism and warfare. But he is still close enough to the 19th century to be able to treat the bird, however warily, as a symbol of hope for the new epoch. And, indeed, to give the word a capital letter, which it shares only with Frost, Winter and Century itself. Later on, Hardy became more, not less, despairing: his philosophy of the "Immanent Will" is laid out in The Dynasts (which I haven't yet read, and really should get round to – New Year Resolutions, how are ye?). The heartlessness of this "Will" is more accessibly expressed in the great poem of 1912 about the sinking of the Titanic, "The Convergence of the Twain."

In 1899, however. Hardy was more optimistic. Commentators who consider the thrush to represent the poet himself surely have a good point. He was frail and bird-like in appearance, and he had discovered an abundant poetic inspiration towards the end of his life that must have seemed at times miraculously "illimited".

Let the poet-thrush's "happy good night air" sing us out of 2009, with all my thanks and good wishes to friends old and new, on (and behind the scenes of), Poem of the Week.
Term
"They"
Definition
Author: Siegfried Sassoon; Genre: Poem in two stanzas

Siegfried Sassoon: Siegfried Sassoon is the greatest of the British poets to have survived the war. Born into a wealthy family, Sassoon had a lonely childhood. He took the expected route of his privileged class from public school (Marlborough) and thence up to university (Cambridge), though he quit Cambridge without a degree. At Cambridge, Sassoon fell in love with David Thomas, who later died serving with Sassoon and their friend Robert Graves in the Royal Welch Fusiliers at Fricourt (Graves would write the poem ‘Goliath and David’ in tribute to Thomas; Sassoon ‘The Last Meeting’ and ‘A Letter Home’). Sassoon took Thomas’ death badly and would go out into no-man’s land nightly, “looking for Germans to kill”. Sassoon, in fact, had a reputation for bravery amongst his men (he was known as ‘Mad Jack’) and won the Military Cross for his actions during the Battle of the Somme. Sassoon was shot in 1917 and invalided home, there meeting a number of notable pacifists. Sassoon became convinced that he had to make a statement about the conduct of the war, which he described in a letter (later read to parliament) as “now become a war of aggression and conquest”. His friend Graves, fearing that Sassoon would be harshly punished, testified before the army medical board that Sassoon had shell-shock and Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital, Edinburgh. It was here that Sassoon met Wilfred Owen and fostered his writing ambitions. Sassoon eventually returned to fight on the Western front in 1918, but was again shot in June of that year. He did however survive the war, and published his brilliant autobiographical trilogy, The Memoirs of George Sherston over the next twenty years. He died in 1967.

They: ‘They’ are the idealised British soldiers of whom the bishop speaks. ‘They’ are quite unlike the real soldiers who go to war.

“The Bishop tells us:”: The figure of religious authority in the poem— a Bishop of the Church of England— speaks with confidence about a situation of which he has no knowledge. He represents a brand of religious cant and hypocrisy that was deeply unpopular amongst many men at the front.

“When the boys come back / They will not be the same;”: The meaning of the poem turns on this observation— that the war changes the men who fought in it. Note the easy familiarity, even patronizing tone of the reference to ‘the boys’, and the use of alliteration in this first line, as throughout the poem.

“for they’ll have fought / In a just cause;”: alliteration (‘f’) is again used to give a rhythmic force to the Bishop’s leading statements. The mention of a “just cause” reinforces the sense that the Bishop is dealing in popular platitudes about the justification for war— that it is “just”, or ‘right’.

“their comrades blood has bought…”: the soldiers are explicitly compared to Christ, who ‘bought’ man eternal life by dying for their sins. Sassoon’s earlier poem ‘The Redeemer’ explicitly made this contrast: interestingly, Sassoon now seems to refute this sentimental analogy.

“New right to breed an honourable race,”: what follows from this Christ-like redemption is more unpleasant however. The Bishop uses pseudo-scientific language, popular around the turn of the century. In Social Darwinist terms, the ‘right to breed’ is claimed through the sacrifice of soldiers. This ‘survival of the fittest’ (here, the fittest are the most “honourable”) is an idea that underlay much elitist thinking about society and often had, as here, a racist dimension. Compare and contrast this line with those found in Rupert Brooke’s ‘Peace’ and ‘The Dead’.

“they have challenged Death and dared him face to face”: the Bishop’s heroic and clichéd rhetoric unwittingly recalls the line in Corinthians 13:12, that declares “now we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face”. This Biblical line declares that before death we have necessarily imperfect knowledge, only attaining real enlightenment when we meet God. In many ways, the Bishop embodies this cosmic ignorance.

“‘We’re none of us the same!’ the boys reply”: The anguished agreement echoes— along with the use of the phrase “the boys” – the first line, only to subvert the Bishop’s prediction.

“For George lost both his legs…”: A grim litany of injuries follows, spelling out the true consequences of war for “the boys”. Note that the soldiers are named, rather than idealized and anonymous in the Bishop’s sermon. The description is explicit and pitiful: “Poor Jim’s shot through the lungs and like to die”.

“‘And Bert’s gone syphilitic:”: Bert has contracted syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease. Soldiers on leave would commonly visit prostitutes in the local towns and villages; brothels were even graded in some areas for use by officers (signed by blue lamps) and privates (red lamps). Venereal infection was endemic, as prostitutes could sleep with over a hundred men a day. Note the deeply ironic contrast, then, between this and the Bishop’s claim that “their comrades blood has bought / New right to breed an honourable race”.

“…that hasn’t found some change.”: the irony of this statement illustrates Sassoon’s satirical point, that a massive change has indeed come to the men, but quite different to that which the Bishop predicts.

“And the Bishop said; ‘the ways of God are strange!”: The Bishop resorts to idiotic cliché to explain the real change witnessed, essentially pronouncing that ‘God works in mysterious ways’.


The Bishop tells us: 'When the boys come back
'They will not be the same; for they'll have fought
'In a just cause: they lead the last attack
'On Anti-Christ; their comrades' blood has bought
'New right to breed an honourable race,
'They have challenged Death and dared him face to face.'

'We're none of us the same!' the boys reply.
'For George lost both his legs; and Bill's stone blind;
'Poor Jim's shot through the lungs and like to die;
'And Bert's gone syphilitic: you'll not find
'A chap who's served that hasn't found some change.
' And the Bishop said: 'The ways of God are strange!'


This poem satirically contrasts the moral improvement to British soldiers promised by a Bishop with the physical damage and moral degradation that they actually experience.

STRUCTURE: ‘They’ is comprised of two stanzas of equal length: six lines of iambic pentameter each, with rhyme scheme ABABCC. The second stanza subverts the message of the first. ‘They’ has a clever rhythmical structure, intended to create a particular tone to the poem. Sassoon subtly subverts the Bishop’s strident sermon in the first stanza by his use of colons and semi-colons as caesuras or pauses in the middle of each line. These give the first stanza a deliberately halting rhythm that, along with the rhetorical confidence of the Bishop’s sermon, gives his speech a subtle staginess that suggests an insincere performance. By contrast, the strong rhythm given to the answers of the men in the second stanza reinforces the ugly truth that they tell. The soldiers’ reply tends to pause more ‘naturally’ at the end of lines, ‘end-stopping’ each statement, giving a sense of complete meaning.

They: ‘They’ are the idealised British soldiers of whom the bishop speaks. ‘They’ are quite unlike the real soldiers who go to war.

“The Bishop tells us:”: The figure of religious authority in the poem— a Bishop of the Church of England— speaks with confidence about a situation of which he has no knowledge. He represents a brand of religious cant and hypocrisy that was deeply unpopular amongst many men at the front.

“When the boys come back / They will not be the same;”: The meaning of the poem turns on this observation— that the war changes the men who fought in it. Note the easy familiarity, even patronizing tone of the reference to ‘the boys’, and the use of alliteration in this first line, as throughout the poem.

“for they’ll have fought / In a just cause;”: alliteration (‘f’) is again used to give a rhythmic force to the Bishop’s leading statements. The mention of a “just cause” reinforces the sense that the Bishop is dealing in popular platitudes about the justification for war— that it is “just”, or ‘right’.

“their comrades blood has bought…”: the soldiers are explicitly compared to Christ, who ‘bought’ man eternal life by dying for their sins. Sassoon’s earlier poem ‘The Redeemer’ explicitly made this contrast: interestingly, Sassoon now seems to refute this sentimental analogy.

“New right to breed an honourable race,”: what follows from this Christ-like redemption is more unpleasant however. The Bishop uses pseudo-scientific language, popular around the turn of the century. In Social Darwinist terms, the ‘right to breed’ is claimed through the sacrifice of soldiers. This ‘survival of the fittest’ (here, the fittest are the most “honourable”) is an idea that underlay much elitist thinking about society and often had, as here, a racist dimension. Compare and contrast this line with those found in Rupert Brooke’s ‘Peace’ and ‘The Dead’.

“they have challenged Death and dared him face to face”: the Bishop’s heroic and clichéd rhetoric unwittingly recalls the line in Corinthians 13:12, that declares “now we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face”. This Biblical line declares that before death we have necessarily imperfect knowledge, only attaining real enlightenment when we meet God. In many ways, the Bishop embodies this cosmic ignorance.

“‘We’re none of us the same!’ the boys reply”: The anguished agreement echoes— along with the use of the phrase “the boys” – the first line, only to subvert the Bishop’s prediction.

“For George lost both his legs…”: A grim litany of injuries follows, spelling out the true consequences of war for “the boys”. Note that the soldiers are named, rather than idealized and anonymous in the Bishop’s sermon. The description is explicit and pitiful: “Poor Jim’s shot through the lungs and like to die”.

“‘And Bert’s gone syphilitic:”: Bert has contracted syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease. Soldiers on leave would commonly visit prostitutes in the local towns and villages; brothels were even graded in some areas for use by officers (signed by blue lamps) and privates (red lamps). Venereal infection was endemic, as prostitutes could sleep with over a hundred men a day. Note the deeply ironic contrast, then, between this and the Bishop’s claim that “their comrades blood has bought / New right to breed an honourable race”.

“…that hasn’t found some change.”: the irony of this statement illustrates Sassoon’s satirical point, that a massive change has indeed come to the men, but quite different to that which the Bishop predicts.

“And the Bishop said; ‘the ways of God are strange!”: The Bishop resorts to idiotic cliché to explain the real change witnessed, essentially pronouncing that ‘God works in mysterious ways’
Term
"Everyone Sang"
Definition
Author: Siegfried Sassoon; Genre: War Poem

Everyone Sang
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on--on--and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away . . . O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

April 1919

Everybody Sang’ is Sassoon’s most famous poem, and according to some critics, supposedly written in celebration of Armistice Day, 1919, just before he found out that his friend Wilfred Owen had died in the last week of fighting. Sassoon had been treated for shell shock and war neurosis in one of the UK’s most experimental war trauma facilities, the psychiatric unit at Craiglockhart, and had sustained physical wounds during his time at the Western Front.

Later on, Sassoon talked about the poem as ‘an expression of release’. Even later, he also likened ‘the singing that will never be done’ to the coming of the Socialist Revolution. So, to many people, this is a poem of peace rather than war.


‘Everyone Sang’ relates Sassoon’s ecstatic— almost religious— joy on hearing soldiers singing, and is a song of praise for the men’s resiliance.

Everyone Sang: Communal singing was common in the trenches. Sassoon was an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Graves notes that whereas in other regiments singing was often limited to music hall numbers, Welsh soldiers sang hymns, often in Welsh. This singing, perfected in Chapel and Church, was often powerfully moving. It is possible that it is this kind of singing that Sassoon refers to. Critics have suggested that ‘Everyone Sang’ describes to soldiers’ reactions to the Armistice (Robert Graves interprets the poem in this way in ‘Goodbye to All That’). Others follow Sassoon’s own account in ‘Siegfried’s Journey’ that the poem is, rather, a more abstracted paean to change and the singing represents ‘social revolution’ (see W. Lawrence’s fascinating comment to this post, above).

STRUCTURE: ‘Everyone Sang’ is comprised of two stanzas of five lines length, rhyme scheme ABCBB.

“Everyone suddenly burst out singing;”: the “Everyone” of this poem refers to a group of men singing and celebrating. The emphatic description of ‘everyone’ singing captures the broader tone of celebration of the human spirit that this poem contains.

“I was filled with such delight / As prisoned birds must find in freedom”: the conventional symbolism— that of a freed, flying bird embodying the human spirit— nonetheless captures the sense of release that the singing brings.

“Winging wildly across the white / Orchards and dark-green fields;”: the alliteration introduces a wheeling rhythm to the end of the stanza, until we gain the perspective of the freed bird, looking down on the countryside below. There is a real sense of the expanding horizons that the singing- and coming of peace- brings.

“on— on— and out of sight.”: a ponderous and deliberately slowed passage that reintroduces the listener as one gazing out at the freed bird as it flies away.

“Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;”: Repeating the literal phrasing of the poem’s first line, the beginning of the second verse is both literal and metaphorical. The voices sing higher and louder, but the ‘lifting’ of the voices here also suggests elevation here— a transcendental tone. This metaphor of “lifted” voices logically follows on from the prior image of flight.

“beauty came like the setting sun:”: Sassoon again uses conventional imagery, here that of the beautiful, setting sun. Sassoon uses a language here that in other hands might seem hackneyed or clichéd, but manages to convey a purity of experience. The simpler and more archetypal the imagery, perhaps, the better to evoke the emotional power of the singing men. The “setting sun” here suggests death, sublime beauty– and an end.

“My heart was shaken with tears: and horror drifted away…”: the emotional and spiritual power of the song moves the listener so that their worst thoughts and memories of the war “drifted away”. Through the singing they escape the war and rediscover their common humanity. This lifting of horror, like mist or fog, is captured in the pause denoted by the ellipses.

“O, but Everyone / Was a bird;”: the suggestive capitalisation of “Everyone” here seems to suggest that ‘everyone’ in the poem have for a short while have assumed the freedom of transcendence, of becoming more than themselves. Note the building intensity in this verse, as sub-clause follows sub-clause, leading to the cry of ‘O’, and sense of profound emotional release in the last two lines.

“and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.”: The sense that the listeners experience is sublime and timeless is profound; moving beyond words, to suggest here a religious image of the eternal singing of men.
Term
The Importance of Being Earnest
Definition
Author: Oscar Wilde; Genre: Comedy, Farce

Characters:
Mr. John Worthing, J.P, Mr. Algernon Moncrieff, The Rev. Canon Chasuble, D.D, Merriman, Lane, Lady Bracknell, The Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax, Miss Cecily Cardew, Miss Prism

it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae in order to escape burdensome social obligations. Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play's major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways. Contemporary reviews all praised the play's humour, though some were cautious about its explicit lack of social messages, while others foresaw the modern consensus that it was the culmination of Wilde's artistic career so far. Its high farce and witty dialogue have helped make The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde's most enduringly popular play.

Set in "The Present" (1895) in London, the play opens with Algernon Moncrieff, an idle young gentleman, receiving his best friend, whom he knows as Ernest Worthing. Ernest has come from the country to propose to Algernon's cousin, Gwendolen. Algernon, however, refuses his consent until Ernest explains why his cigarette case bears the inscription, "From little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack." "Ernest" is forced to admit to living a double life. In the country, he assumes a serious attitude for the benefit of his young ward, Cecily, and goes by the name of John (or Jack), while pretending that he must worry about a wastrel younger brother named Ernest in London. In the city, meanwhile, he assumes the identity of the libertine Ernest. Algernon confesses a similar deception: he pretends to have an invalid friend named Bunbury in the country, whom he can "visit" whenever he wishes to avoid an unwelcome social obligation. Jack, however, refuses to tell Algernon the location of his country estate.
Gwendolen and her formidable mother Lady Bracknell now call on Algernon. As Algernon distracts Lady Bracknell in another room, Jack proposes to Gwendolen. She accepts, but seems to love him very largely for his professed name of Ernest; Jack resolves to himself to be rechristened "Ernest". Lady Bracknell discovers them and interrogates Jack as a prospective suitor. Horrified that he was adopted after being discovered as a baby in a handbag at Victoria Station, she refuses him and forbids further contact. Gwendolen, however, manages covertly to swear her undying love. As Jack gives her his address in the country, Algernon surreptitiously notes it on the cuff of his sleeve; Jack's revelation of his pretty and wealthy young ward has motivated Algernon to meet her.
Act II moves to Jack's country house, the Manor House in Woolton, Hertfordshire, where Cecily is found studying with her governess, Miss Prism. Algernon arrives, pretending to be Ernest Worthing, and soon charms Cecily. Cecily has long been fascinated by Uncle Jack's hitherto absent black sheep younger brother, and is thus predisposed to fall for Algernon in his role of Ernest. So Algernon, too, plans for the rector, Dr. Chasuble, to rechristen him "Ernest".
Jack, meanwhile, has decided to put his double life behind him. He arrives in full mourning and announces Ernest's death in Paris of a severe chill, a story undermined by Algernon's presence in the guise of Ernest. Gwendolen now arrives, having run away from home. She meets Cecily in the temporary absence of the two men, and each indignantly declares that she is the one engaged to "Ernest". When Jack and Algernon reappear, their deceptions are exposed.
Act III moves inside to the drawing room. Lady Bracknell arrives in pursuit of her daughter and is surprised to be told that Algernon and Cecily are engaged. The size of Cecily's trust fund soon dispels her initial doubts over Cecily's suitability as a wife for her nephew. However, stalemate develops when Jack refuses his consent to the marriage of his ward to Algernon until Lady Bracknell consents to his own union with Gwendolen.
The impasse is broken by the return of Miss Prism. Lady Bracknell recognises the governess: twenty-eight years earlier, as a family nursemaid, she took a baby boy for a walk in a perambulator and never returned. Miss Prism explains that she had abstractedly put the manuscript of a novel she was writing in the perambulator, and the baby in a handbag, which she had left at Victoria Station. Jack produces the very same handbag, showing that he is the lost baby, the elder son of Lady Bracknell's late sister, and thus indeed Algernon's older brother – and suddenly eligible as a suitor for Gwendolen.
Gwendolen, however, remains firm that she can only love a man named Ernest. What is her fiancé's real first name? Lady Bracknell informs Jack that, as the first-born, he would have been named after his father, General Moncrieff. Jack examines the army lists and discovers that his father's name – and hence his own real name – was in fact Ernest. As the happy couples embrace – Jack and Gwendolen, Algernon and Cecily, and even Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism – Lady Bracknell complains to her new-found relative: "My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality." "On the contrary, Aunt Augusta", he replies,
"I've now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of being Earnest".

In contrast to much theatre of the time, The Importance of Being Earnest's light plot does not tackle serious social and political issues, something of which contemporary reviewers were wary. Though unsure of Wilde's seriousness as a dramatist, they recognised the play's cleverness, humour and popularity with audiences.[29] George Bernard Shaw, for example, reviewed the play in the Saturday Review, arguing that comedy should touch as well as amuse, "I go to the theatre to be moved to laughter".[30] Later in a letter he said, the play, though "extremely funny" was Wilde's "first really heartless [one]".

Triviality
Richard Ellmann says that The Importance of Being Earnest touched on many themes Wilde had been building since the 1880s – the languor of aesthetic poses was well established and Wilde takes it as a starting point for the two protagonists.[37] While Salomé, An Ideal Husband and The Picture of Dorian Gray had dwelt on more serious wrongdoing, vice in Earnest is represented by Algy's craving for cucumber sandwiches. Wilde told Robert Ross that the play's theme was "That we should treat all trivial things in life very seriously, and all serious things of life with a sincere and studied triviality."[37] The theme is hinted at in the play's ironic title, and "earnestness" is repeatedly alluded to in the dialogue, Algernon says in Act II, "one has to be serious about something if one is to have any amusement in life' but goes on to reproach Jack for 'being serious about everything'".[38] Blackmail and corruption had haunted the double lives of Dorian Gray and Sir Robert Chiltern (in An Ideal Husband), but in Earnest the protagonists' duplicity (Algernon's "bunburying" and Worthing's double life as Jack and Ernest) is undertaken for more innocent purposes – largely to avoid unwelcome social obligations.[37] While much theatre of the time tackled serious social and political issues, Earnest is superficially about nothing at all. It "refuses to play the game" of other dramatists of the period, for instance George Bernard Shaw, who used their characters to draw audiences to grander ideals.[29]
[edit]As a satire of society
The play repeatedly mocks Victorian mores and social customs, marriage and the pursuit of love in particular.[39] In Victorian times earnestness was considered to be the over-riding societal value, originating in religious attempts to reform the lower classes, it spread to the upper ones too throughout the century.[40] The play's very title, with its mocking paradox (serious people are so because they do not see trivial comedies) introduces the theme, it continues in the drawing room discussion, "Yes, but you must be serious about it. I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them" says Algernon in Act 1; allusions are quick and from multiple angles.[41] Wilde embodied society's rules and rituals artfully into Lady Bracknell: minute attention to the details of her style created a comic effect of assertion by restraint.[42] In contrast to her encyclopaedic knowledge of the social distinctions of London's street names, Jack's obscure parentage is subtly evoked. He defends himself against her "A handbag?" with the clarification, "The Brighton Line". At the time, Victoria Station consisted of two separate but adjacent terminal stations sharing the same name. To the east was the ramshackle LC&D Railway, on the west the up-market LB&SCR—the Brighton Line, which went to Worthing, the fashionable, expensive town the gentleman who found baby Jack was travelling to at the time (and after which Jack was named).[43]
Wilde managed both to engage with and to mock the genre. The men follow traditional matrimonial rites, but the foibles they excuse are ridiculous, and the farce is built on an absurd confusion of a book and a baby.[44] In turn, both Gwendolen and Cecily have the ideal of marrying a man named Ernest, a popular and respected name at the time, and they indignantly declare that they have been deceived when they find out the men's real names. When Jack apologises to Gwendolen during his marriage proposal it is for not being wicked:[45]
JACK: Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?
GWENDOLEN: I can. For I feel that you are sure to change.
[edit]Claims of homosexual subtext
The name Ernest, it has been posited, might also have an ulterior meaning. John Gambril Nicholson wrote in 1892, "Though Frank may ring like silver bell, And Cecil softer music claim, They cannot work the miracle, –'Tis Ernest sets my heart a-flame."[46] Theo Aronson has suggested that the word "earnest" became a code-word for homosexual, as in: "Is he earnest?", in the same way that "Is he so?" and "Is he musical?" were also employed.[47]
Contrary to claims of homosexual terminology, Sir Donald Sinden, an actor who met two of the play's original cast (Irene Vanbrugh, Gwendolen and Allan Aynesworth, Algernon), and Lord Alfred Douglas, wrote to The Times to dispute suggestions that 'Earnest' held any sexual connotations: "Although they had ample opportunity, at no time did any of them even hint that "Earnest" was a synonym for homosexual, or that "bunburying" may have implied homosexual sex. The first time I heard it mentioned was in the 1980s and I immediately consulted Sir John Gielgud whose own performance of Jack Worthing in the same play was legendary and whose knowledge of theatrical lore was encyclopaedic. He replied in his ringing tones: "No-No! Nonsense, absolute nonsense: I would have known" (it is relevant that Gielgud was well known in theatrical circles to be gay).[48] Russell Jackson agrees, noting that "nothing of the overtly Dorian mode is to be found in the finished play or its drafts."[49] Instead, Wilde may have transposed his apprehension into Lord Chiltern's (non-sexual) blackmailing situation in the darker, political play, An Ideal Husband. By contrast, the humour and transformation in The Importance of Being Earnest is much lighter in tone, though Algernon's protest at his putative arrest, "Well I really am not going to be imprisoned in the suburbs for dining in the west-end!" ironically foreshadows Wilde's incarceration a few months later.

Term
The Playboy of the Western World
Definition
Author: Irish playwright John Millington Synge; Irish Renaissance Play

The Playboy of the Western World is a three-act play written by Irish playwright John Millington Synge and first performed at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, on January 26, 1907.[1] It is set in Michael James Flaherty's public house in County Mayo (on the west coast of Ireland) during the early 1900s. It tells the story of Christy Mahon, a young man running away from his farm, claiming he killed his father. The locals are more interested in vicariously enjoying his story than in condemning the immorality of his murderous deed. He captures the romantic attention of the bar-maid Pegeen Mike, the daughter of Flaherty.

Synopsis

On the west coast of County Mayo[3] Christy Mahon stumbles into Flaherty's tavern. There he claims that he is on the run because he killed his own father by driving a loy into his head. Flaherty praises Christy for his boldness, and Flaherty's daughter (and the barmaid), Pegeen, falls in love with Christy, to the dismay of her betrothed, Shawn. Because of the novelty of Christy's exploits and the skill with which he tells his own story, he becomes something of a town hero. Many other women also become attracted to him, including the Widow Quinn, who tries unsuccessfully to seduce Christy at Shawn's behest. Christy also impresses the village women by his victory in a donkey race, using the slowest beast.
Eventually Christy's father, Mahon, who was only wounded, tracks him to the tavern. When the townsfolk realize that Christy's father is alive, everyone (including Pegeen) shuns him as a liar and a coward. In order to regain Pegeen's love and the respect of the town, Christy attacks his father a second time. This time it seems that Old Mahon really is dead, but instead of praising Christy, the townspeople, led by Pegeen, bind and prepare to hang him to avoid being implicated as accessories to his crime. Christy's life is saved when his father, beaten and bloodied, crawls back onto the scene, having improbably survived his son's second attack. As Christy and his father leave to wander the world, Shawn suggests he and Pegeen get married soon, but she spurns him. Pegeen then laments betraying and losing Christy, The Playboy of the Western World.

The "Playboy Riots"

The Playboy Riots occurred in January 1907 during and following the opening performance of the play.
The fact that the play was based on a story of apparent patricide also attracted a hostile public reaction. Egged on by nationalists, including Sinn Féin leader Arthur Griffith, who believed that the theatre was not sufficiently political and described the play as "a vile and inhuman story told in the foulest language we have ever listened to from a public platform", and with the pretext of a perceived slight on the virtue of Irish womanhood in the line "a drift of females standing in their shifts" (a shift being a female undergarment), a significant portion of the crowd rioted, causing the remainder of the play to be acted out in dumb show. Nevertheless, press opinion soon turned against the rioters and the protests petered out.
Years later, W. B. Yeats famously declared to rioters against Seán O'Casey's pacifist drama The Plough and the Stars, in reference to the "Playboy Riots": "You have disgraced yourself again, is this to be the recurring celebration of the arrival of Irish genius?".
The production of Synge's play met with more disturbances in the United States in 1911. On opening night in New York, hecklers booed, hissed and threw vegetables and stink bombs while men scuffled in the aisles. The company was later arrested in Philadelphia and charged with putting on an immoral performance. The charges were later dismissed.

Quotations

"... it's great luck and company I've won me in the end of time — two fine women fighting for the likes of me — till I'm thinking this night wasn't I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in the years gone by." — Christy
"Drink a health to the wonders of the western world, the pirates, preachers, poteen-makers, with the jobbing jockies; parching peelers, and the juries fill their stomachs selling judgments of the English law." — Sara Tansey
"It's well you know what call I have. It's well you know it's a lonesome thing to be passing small towns with the lights shining sideways when the night is down, or going in strange places with a dog noising before you and a dog noising behind, or drawn to the cities where you'd hear a voice kissing and talking deep love in every shadow of the ditch, and you passing on with an empty, hungry stomach failing from your heart." — Christy
"A daring fellow is the jewel of the world...." — Michael Flaherty
"...the blow of a loy, have taught me that there's a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed." — Pegeen
"You've turned me a likely gaffer in the end of all, the way I'll go romancing through a romping lifetime, from this hour to the dawning of the Judgment Day." — Christy
"Oh my grief, I've lost him surely. I've lost the only Playboy of the Western World." — Pegeen Mike

Characters in the play

Christy Mahon
Old Mahon, Christy's father, a squatter
Michael James Flaherty, a publican
Margaret Flaherty, called Pegeen Mike, Michael's daughter, and the bar-maid
Shawn Keogh, Pegeen's fiance
Widow Quinn, a widow of about thirty
Philly Cullen and Jimmy Farrell, farmers
Sara Tansey, Susan Brady, Honor Blake, and Nelly, village girls
A Bellman
Some peasants

Term
Heart of Darkness
Definition
Author: Joseph Conrad; Genre: Frame narrative, novella

The story centres on Charles Marlow, who narrates most of the book. He is an Englishman who takes a foreign assignment from a Belgian trading company as a river-boat captain in Africa. Heart of Darkness exposes the dark side of Belgian colonization while exploring the three levels of darkness that the protagonist, Marlow, encounters: the darkness of the Congo wilderness, the darkness of the Belgians' cruel treatment of the natives, and the unfathomable darkness within every human being for committing heinous acts of evil.[2] Although Conrad does not give the name of the river, at the time of writing the Congo Free State, the location of the large and important Congo River, was a private colony of Belgium's King Leopold II. In the story, Marlow is employed to transport ivory downriver. However, his more pressing assignment is to return Kurtz, another ivory trader, to civilization, in a cover-up. Kurtz has a reputation throughout the region.
This symbolic story is a story within a story or frame narrative. It follows Marlow as he recounts from dusk through to late night, to a group of men aboard a ship anchored in the Thames Estuary, his Congolese adventure. The passage of time and the darkening sky during the fictitious narrative-within-the-narrative parallel the atmosphere of the story.

The story opens with an unnamed narrator on board a sailing yacht anchored in the Thames Estuary downstream from London and near Gravesend. He is with four friends, and dusk is falling as they wait for some hours for the turning of the tide. The narrator briefly describes the others, all of whom seem to be middle-aged men. One is called Marlow – the only one who "still followed the sea." Marlow makes a comment about London having been "one of the dark places on earth", and then begins a story of how he once took a job as captain of a river steamboat in Africa.
Marlow begins by ruminating on how Britain's obscure image among Ancient Roman officials must have been similar to Africa's image among 19th-century European officials. He describes how his "dear aunt" used many of her contacts to secure the job for him, calling him an "emissary of light."
When he arrives in Africa at the job, the other white men he encounters, the company agents, he dislikes as they strike him as shallow and untrustworthy – one is like "Papier-mâché". The company's main business seems to be buying ivory from the natives with beads, cloth and bits of brass. They speak often of one of the company's agents named Kurtz, stationed further up-river, who has quite a reputation in many (and somewhat mysterious) ways. Kurtz seems to be a rogue ivory collector, "essentially a great musician", journalist, skilled painter and "universal genius".
Marlow arrives up river at the Central Trading Station run by a manager who is an unwholesome conspiratorial character. He finds that his steamship has been sunk and suspects the manager of causing the "accident," and spends three months repairing it, including a frustrating wait for spare parts. His first assignment is a voyage up-river to Kurtz's station to collect ivory and Kurtz himself. There is a rumour regarding Kurtz being ill; this makes the delays in repairing the ship all the more costly. During the delay, Marlow overhears the manager talking about his fearful dislike of Kurtz, who appears to be a threat to the manager's powerful position, and how he wishes to execute a particular one of Kurtz's minions. Eventually Marlow, the manager and three other white agents set out with a crew of blacks from a cannibal tribe on a long and difficult voyage up the river.
As they near Kurtz's station they find an unexpected hut by the river with stacked firewood together with a note saying that the wood is for them but that they should approach cautiously. Shortly after the steamer has taken on the firewood it is surrounded by a dense fog. When the fog clears, the ship is attacked by an unseen band of natives, who shoot arrows from the safety of the forest, killing one of the crew. When they later reach Kurtz's station, which is surrounded by a collection of natives' severed head on poles, they are first met by a guileless Russian traveler, sometimes referred to as the harlequin because of his motley-like clothing. The Russian assures them that everything is fine and informs them that he is the one who had lived in the downstream hut and who had left the firewood. The Russian, a lone and aimless trader in the wilderness, came across Kurtz's station unexpectedly and has become a "disciple" of Kurtz, who seems to have the power to dominate anyone he meets. Marlow and his companions find that Kurtz has persuaded the natives to treat him as a god, and has led brutal raids in the surrounding territory in search of ivory. Marlow also recounts the brief appearance at the station of an awe-inspiring and enigmatic African woman, who may be Kurtz's mistress. The Russian, learning through Marlow of the manager's prior talk of punishing him, quietly flees the station, though not before admitting that it was Kurtz, refusing to be taken away from his god-like place in the wilderness, who ordered Marlow's boat to be attacked.
Due to Kurtz's ailing condition, however, Marlow and his crew take him aboard their ship themselves and depart. Kurtz is lodged in Marlow's pilot-house and Marlow begins to see that Kurtz is every bit as grandiose as previously described, especially with regards to the enthralling tone of his speech. However, Marlow finds himself disappointed with Kurtz's childish schemes for fame and fortune. During this time, Kurtz gives Marlow a collection of papers and a photograph for safekeeping, as both had witnessed the Manager going through Kurtz's belongings. The photograph is of a beautiful young woman whom Marlow correctly assumes is Kurtz's fiancée, or as Marlow calls her, "his Intended."
One night Marlow happens upon Kurtz, obviously near death. As Marlow comes closer with a candle, Kurtz seems to experience a "supreme moment of complete knowledge" and speaks his last words: "The horror! The horror!" Marlow believes this to be Kurtz's reflection on the events of his life. Marlow does not tell the others immediately of Kurtz's death; the news is instead presented to the whole crew scornfully by the manager's child-servant who has peered inquisitively into the room with Kurtz's body.
Marlow later returns to Europe and is confronted by many people seeking things and ideas of Kurtz. Marlow visits Kurtz's fiancée about a year later; she is still in mourning and strongly maintains naïve notions of his virtue. When she asks him about Kurtz's death and his final words, Marlow is unable to tell her the truth, instead telling her that his last words were "your name," and not "the horror! the horror!"
The story concludes back on the boat on the Thames, with a description of how the river seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.

Motifs

He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath—"The horror! The horror!"

— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

T. S. Eliot's use of a quotation from The Heart of Darkness—"Mistah Kurtz, he dead"—as an epigraph to the original manuscript of his poem The Hollow Men contrasted its dark horror with the presumed "light of civilization," and suggested the ambiguity of both the dark motives of civilization and the freedom of barbarism, as well as the "spiritual darkness" of several characters in Heart of Darkness. This sense of darkness also lends itself to a related theme of obscurity—again, in various senses, reflecting the ambiguities in the work. Morality is ambiguous, that which is traditionally placed on the side of "light" is in darkness and vice versa.
Africa was known as "The Dark Continent" in the Victorian Era with all the negative connotations attributed to Africans by many of the British. One of the possible influences for the Kurtz character was Henry Morton Stanley of "Dr. Livingstone, I presume" fame, as he was a principal explorer of "The Dark Heart of Africa", particularly the Congo. Stanley was supposedly infamous for his violence against his porters while in Africa, although records indicate this was perhaps an exaggeration[5] and he was later honoured with a knighthood. An agent Conrad met when travelling in the Congo, Georges-Antoine Klein, could also have served as a model for Kurtz (in German klein means "small" and kurz means "short"). Klein died aboard Conrad's steamer and was interred along the Congo, much like Kurtz in the novel.[6] Among the people Conrad may have encountered on his journey was a trader called Leon Rom, who was later named chief of the Stanley Falls Station. In 1895, a British traveller reported that Rom had decorated his flower-bed with the skulls of some twenty-one victims of his displeasure (including women and children) resembling the posts of Kurtz's Station.

Duality of human nature
To emphasize the theme of darkness within mankind,[8] Marlow's narration takes place on a yawl in the Thames tidal estuary. Early in the novella, Marlow recounts how London, the largest, most populous and wealthiest city in the world, was a dark place in Roman times. The idea that the Romans conquered the savage Britons parallels Conrad's tale of the Belgians conquering the savage Africans. The theme of darkness lurking beneath the surface of even "civilized" persons appears prominently and is explored in the character of Kurtz and through Marlow's passing sense of understanding with the Africans.
Kurtz embodies all forms of an urge to be more or less than human. His writings show in Marlow's view an "exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence" and they appeal to "every altruistic sentiment." His predisposition for benevolence is clear in the statement "We whites...must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings....By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded". The Central Station manager quotes Kurtz, the exemplar: "Each station should be like a beacon on the road towards better things, a centre for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing". Kurtz's inexperienced, scientific self in the fiery report is alive with the possibility of the cultivation and conversion of the savages. He would have subscribed to Moreau's proposition that "a pig may be educated".[8]
Themes developed in the novella's later scenes include the naïveté of Europeans (particularly women) regarding the various forms of darkness in the Congo; the British traders and Belgian colonialists' abuse of the natives and man's potential for duplicity.[10] The symbolism in the book expands on these as a struggle between good and evil (light and darkness), not so much between people as in every major character's soul.

Reception

In a post-colonial reading, the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, famously criticized Heart of Darkness in his 1975 lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", saying the novella de-humanized Africans, denied them language and culture and reduced them to a metaphorical extension of the dark and dangerous jungle into which the Europeans venture. Achebe's lecture prompted a lively debate, reactions at the time ranged from dismay and outrage—Achebe recounted a Professor Emeritus from the University of Massachusetts saying to Achebe after the lecture, "How dare you upset everything we have taught, everything we teach? Heart of Darkness is the most widely taught text in the university in this country. So how dare you say it's different?"[11]—to support for Achebe's view—"I now realize that I had never really read Heart of Darkness although I have taught it for years,"[12] one professor told Achebe. Other critiques include Hugh Curtler's Achebe on Conrad: Racism and Greatness in Heart of Darkness (1997).[13]
In King Leopold's Ghost (1998), Adam Hochschild argues that literary scholars have made too much of the psychological aspects of Heart of Darkness while scanting the horror of Conrad's accurate recounting of the methods and effects of colonialism. He quotes Conrad as saying, "Heart of Darkness is experience ... pushed a little (and only very little) beyond the actual facts of the case."

Term
Passage to India
Definition
Author: E.M. Forster; Genre: Novel; Critic of Imperialism

A Passage to India (1924) is a novel by E. M. Forster set against the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. The novel is based on Forster's experiences in India.The story revolves around four characters: Dr. Aziz, his British friend Mr. Cyril Fielding, Mrs. Moore, and Ms. Adela Quested. During a trip to the Marabar Caves (modeled on the Barabar Caves of Bihar),[2] Adela accuses Aziz of attempting to assault her. Aziz's trial, and its run-up and aftermath, bring out all the racial tensions and prejudices between indigenous Indians and the British colonists who rule India.

A young British schoolmistress, Adela Quested, and her elderly friend, Mrs. Moore, visit the fictional city of Chandrapore, British India. Adela is to marry Mrs. Moore's son, Ronny Heaslop, the city magistrate.
Meanwhile, Dr. Aziz, a young Muslim Indian physician, is dining with two of his Indian friends and conversing about whether it is possible to be friends with an Englishman. During the meal, a summons arrives from Major Callendar, Aziz's unpleasant superior at the hospital. Aziz hastens to Callendar's bungalow as ordered, but is delayed by a flat tyre and difficulty in finding a tonga and the major has already left in a huff.
Disconsolate, Aziz walks down the road toward the railway station. When he sees his favourite mosque, a rather ramshackle but beautiful structure, he enters on impulse. He sees a strange Englishwoman there, and angrily yells at her not to profane this sacred place. The woman, however, turns out to be Mrs Moore. Her respect for native customs (she took off her shoes on entering and she acknowledged that "God is here" in the mosque) disarms Aziz, and the two chat and part friends.
Mrs. Moore returns to the British club down the road and relates her experience at the mosque. Ronny Heaslop, her son, initially thinks she is talking about an Englishman, and becomes indignant when he learns the truth. He thinks she should have indicated by her tone that it was a "Mohammedan" who was in question. Adela, however, is intrigued.
Because the newcomers had expressed a desire to see Indians, Mr. Turton, the city tax collector, invites numerous Indian gentlemen to a party at his house. The party turns out to be an awkward business, thanks to the Indians' timidity and the Britons' bigotry, but Adela does meet Cyril Fielding, headmaster of Chandrapore's little government-run college for Indians. Fielding invites Adela and Mrs. Moore to a tea party with him and a Hindu-Brahmin professor named Narayan Godbole. On Adela's request, he extends his invitation to Dr. Aziz.
At Fielding's tea party, everyone has a good time conversing about India, and Fielding and Aziz even become great friends. Aziz buoyantly promises to take Mrs. Moore and Adela to see the Marabar Caves, a distant cave complex that everyone talks about but no one seems to actually visit. Aziz's Marabar invitation was one of those casual promises that people often make and never intend to keep. Ronny Heaslop arrives and rudely breaks up the party.
Aziz mistakenly believes that the women are really offended that he has not followed through with his promise and arranges the outing at great expense to himself. Fielding and Godbole were supposed to accompany the little expedition, but they miss the train.
Aziz and the women begin to explore the caves. In the first cave, however, Mrs. Moore is overcome with claustrophobia, for the cave is dark and Aziz's retinue has followed her in. The press of people nearly smothers her. But worse than the claustrophobia is the echo. No matter what sound one makes, the echo is always "Boum." Disturbed by the echo, Mrs. Moore declines to continue exploring. So Adela and Aziz, accompanied by a single guide, a local man, climb on up the hill to the next cluster of caves.
As Aziz helps Adela up the hill, she innocently asks him whether he has more than one wife. Disconcerted by the bluntness of the remark, he ducks into a cave to compose himself. When he comes out, he finds the guide sitting alone outside the caves. The guide says Adela has gone into one of the caves by herself. Aziz looks for her in vain. Deciding she is lost, he angrily punches the guide, who runs away. Aziz looks around again and discovers Adela's field-glasses (binoculars) lying broken on the ground. He puts them in his pocket.
Then Aziz looks down the hill and sees Adela speaking to another young Englishwoman, Miss Derek, who has arrived with Fielding in a car. Aziz runs down the hill and greets Fielding effusively, but Miss Derek and Adela have already driven off without a word of explanation. Fielding, Mrs. Moore, and Aziz return to Chandrapore on the train.
Then the blow falls. At the train station, Dr. Aziz is arrested and charged with sexually assaulting Adela in a cave. She reports the alleged incident to the British authorities.
The run-up to Aziz's trial for attempted sexual assault releases the racial tensions between the British and the Indians. Adela accuses Aziz only of trying to touch her. She says that he followed her into the cave and tried to grab her, and that she fended him off by swinging her field glasses at him. She remembers him grabbing the glasses and the strap breaking, which allowed her to get away. The only actual evidence the British have is the field glasses in the possession of Dr. Aziz. Despite this, the British colonists firmly believe that Aziz is guilty; at the back of all their minds is the conviction that all darker peoples lust after white women. They are stunned when Fielding proclaims his belief in Aziz's innocence. Fielding is ostracized and condemned as a blood-traitor. But the Indians, who consider the assault allegation a fraud aimed at ruining their community's reputation, welcome him.
During the weeks before the trial, Mrs. Moore is unexpectedly apathetic and irritable. Her experience in the cave seems to have ruined her faith in humanity. Although she curtly professes her belief in Aziz's innocence, she does nothing to help him. Ronny, alarmed by his mother's assertion that Aziz is innocent, decides to arrange for her return by ship to England before she can testify to this effect at the trial. Mrs. Moore dies during the voyage. Her absence from India becomes a major issue at the trial, where Aziz's legal defenders assert that her testimony alone, had it been available, would have proven the accused's innocence.
After an initial period of fever and weeping, Adela becomes confused as to Aziz's guilt. At the trial, she is asked point-blank whether Aziz sexually assaulted her. She asks for a moment to think before replying. She has a vision of the cave in that moment, and it turns out that Adela had, while in the cave, received a shock similar to Mrs. Moore's. The echo had disconcerted her so much that she temporarily became unhinged. She ran around the cave, fled down the hill, and finally sped off with Miss Derek. At the time, Adela mistakenly interpreted her shock as an assault by Aziz, who personifies the India that has stripped her of her psychological innocence, but he was never there. She admits that she was mistaken. The case is dismissed. (Note that in the 1913 draft of the novel EM Forster originally had Aziz guilty of the assault and found guilty in the court, but later changed this in the 1924 draft to create a more ambiguous ending).
All the Anglo-Indians are shocked and infuriated by what they view as Adela's betrayal of the white race. Ronny Heaslop breaks off their engagement. Adela stays at Fielding's house until her passage on a boat to England is arranged. After explaining to Fielding that the echo was the cause of the whole business, she departs India, never to return.
Although he is free and vindicated, Aziz is angry and bitter that his friend, Fielding, would befriend Adela after she nearly ruined his life. The two men's friendship suffers in consequence, and Fielding soon departs for England. Aziz believes that he is leaving to marry Adela for her money. Bitter at his friend's perceived betrayal, he vows never again to befriend a white person. Aziz moves to the Hindu-ruled state of Mau and begins a new life.
Two years later, Fielding returns to India and to Aziz. His wife is Stella, Mrs. Moore's daughter from a second marriage. Aziz, now the Raja's chief physician, at first persists in his anger against his old friend. But in time, he comes to respect and love Fielding again. However, he does not give up his dream of a free and united India. In the novel's last sentences, he explains that he and Fielding cannot be friends, at least not until India is free of the British Raj. Even the earth and the sky seem to say, "Not yet."

Character list

Dr. Aziz
A young Muslim Indian Physician who works at the British hospital in Chandrapore. He relies heavily on intuition over logic, and he is more emotional than his best friend, Fielding. He makes friends easily and seems quite garrulous at times. His chief drawback is an inability to view a situation without emotion, which Forster suggests is a typical Indian difficulty. Despite being the protagonist of the novel Aziz does have some vulgar notion about women's physicality. Aziz seem to possess a profound love for his late wife but forgets her due to his overshadowing impulsiveness.
Cyril Fielding
The 45-year-old, unmarried British headmaster of the small government-run college for Indians. Fielding's logical Western mind cannot comprehend the muddle (or mystery) of India, but he is highly tolerant and respectful toward Indians. He befriends Dr. Aziz, but cultural and racial differences, and personal misunderstandings, separate them.
Adela Quested
A young British schoolmistress who is visiting India with the vague intention of marrying Ronny Heaslop. Intelligent, brave, honest, but slightly prudish, she is what Fielding calls a "prig." She arrives with the intention of seeing the real India. But after a frightening trip to the Marabar Caves, she falsely accuses Aziz of sexually assaulting her.
Mrs. Moore
The elderly, thoughtful mother of Ronny Heaslop. She is visiting Chandrapore to oversee her son's engagement to Adela Quested. She respects Indians and their customs, and the Indians in the novel appreciate her more than they do any other Briton. After undergoing an experience similar to Adela's, she becomes apathetic and bitter.
Ronny Heaslop
The British city magistrate of Chandrapore. Though not a bad man, he shares his Anglo-Indian colleagues' racist view of Indians. He breaks off his engagement to Adela after she retracts her accusation against Aziz. He considers it a betrayal of their race.
Professor Narayan Godbole
An elderly, courteous, contemplative Brahmin who views the world with equanimity. He remains totally aloof from the novel's conflicts.
Mr. Turton
The British city collector of Chandrapore. He does not hate Indians, for that would be to negate his life's work. Nevertheless, he is fiercely loyal to his race, reviles less bigoted people like Fielding, and regards natives with thinly veiled contempt.
Mrs. Turton
Mr. Turton's wife. Openly racist, snobbish, and rude toward Indians and those Anglo-Indians who are different, she screams at Adela in the courtroom when the latter retracts her accusation against Aziz.
Maj. Callendar
The British head doctor and Aziz's superior at the hospital. He is more openly racist than any other male character. Rumors circulate among Indians that Callendar actually tortured an injured Indian by putting pepper instead of antiseptic on his wounds.
Mr. McBryde
The British superintendent of police in Chandrapore. Like Mr. Turton, he considers dark-skinned races inferior to light-skinned ones. During Aziz's trial, he publicly asserts that it is a scientific fact that dark men lust after white women. Nevertheless, he is more tolerant of Indians than most Britons, and he is friendly with Fielding.
Miss Derek
An Englishwoman employed by a Hindu royal family. She frequently borrows their car—and does not trouble to ask their permission or return it in time. She is too boisterous and easygoing for most of her compatriots' tastes. She has an affair with McBryde.
Nawab Bahadur
The chief Indian gentleman in Chandrapore, a Muslim. Wealthy (he owns a car) and generous, he is loyal to the British (he lends his car to Ronny Heaslop). But after the trial, he gives up his title of "nawab," which the British bestowed on him, in favor of plain "Mr. Zulfiqar."
Hamidullah
Aziz's uncle and friend. Educated in law at Cambridge University, he declares at the beginning of the novel that it is easier to be friends with an Englishman in England than in India. Aziz comes to agree with him.
Amritrao
A prominent Indian lawyer from Calcutta, called in to defend Aziz. He is known for his strong anti-British sentiment. He takes the case for political reasons and becomes disgusted when the case evaporates in court.
Mahmoud Ali
A Muslim Indian barrister who openly hates the British.
Dr. Panna Lal
A low-born Hindu doctor and Aziz's rival at the hospital.
Ralph Moore
A timid, sensitive and discerning youth, the second son of Mrs. Moore.
Stella Moore
Mrs. Moore's daughter and Fielding's beautiful younger wife.

Themes

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
The Difficulty of English-Indian Friendship

A Passage to India begins and ends by posing the question of whether it is possible for an Englishman and an Indian to ever be friends, at least within the context of British colonialism. Forster uses this question as a framework to explore the general issue of Britain’s political control of India on a more personal level, through the friendship between Aziz and Fielding. At the beginning of the novel, Aziz is scornful of the English, wishing only to consider them comically or ignore them completely. Yet the intuitive connection Aziz feels with Mrs. Moore in the mosque opens him to the possibility of friendship with Fielding. Through the first half of the novel, Fielding and Aziz represent a positive model of liberal humanism: Forster suggests that British rule in India could be successful and respectful if only English and Indians treated each other as Fielding and Aziz treat each other—as worthy individuals who connect through frankness, intelligence, and good will.


Yet in the aftermath of the novel’s climax—Adela’s accusation that Aziz attempted to assault her and her subsequent disavowal of this accusation at the trial—Aziz and Fielding’s friendship falls apart. The strains on their relationship are external in nature, as Aziz and Fielding both suffer from the tendencies of their cultures. Aziz tends to let his imagination run away with him and to let suspicion harden into a grudge. Fielding suffers from an English literalism and rationalism that blind him to Aziz’s true feelings and make Fielding too stilted to reach out to Aziz through conversations or letters. Furthermore, their respective Indian and English communities pull them apart through their mutual stereotyping. As we see at the end of the novel, even the landscape of India seems to oppress their friendship. Forster’s final vision of the possibility of English-Indian friendship is a pessimistic one, yet it is qualified by the possibility of friendship on English soil, or after the liberation of India. As the landscape itself seems to imply at the end of the novel, such a friendship may be possible eventually, but “not yet.”

The Unity of All Living Things

Though the main characters of A Passage to India are generally Christian or Muslim, Hinduism also plays a large thematic role in the novel. The aspect of Hinduism with which Forster is particularly concerned is the religion’s ideal of all living things, from the lowliest to the highest, united in love as one. This vision of the universe appears to offer redemption to India through mysticism, as individual differences disappear into a peaceful collectivity that does not recognize hierarchies. Individual blame and intrigue is forgone in favor of attention to higher, spiritual matters. Professor Godbole, the most visible Hindu in the novel, is Forster’s mouthpiece for this idea of the unity of all living things. Godbole alone remains aloof from the drama of the plot, refraining from taking sides by recognizing that all are implicated in the evil of Marabar. Mrs. Moore, also, shows openness to this aspect of Hinduism. Though she is a Christian, her experience of India has made her dissatisfied with what she perceives as the smallness of Christianity. Mrs. Moore appears to feel a great sense of connection with all living creatures, as evidenced by her respect for the wasp in her bedroom.

Yet, through Mrs. Moore, Forster also shows that the vision of the oneness of all living things can be terrifying. As we see in Mrs. Moore’s experience with the echo that negates everything into “boum” in Marabar, such oneness provides unity but also makes all elements of the universe one and the same—a realization that, it is implied, ultimately kills Mrs. Moore. Godbole is not troubled by the idea that negation is an inevitable result when all things come together as one. Mrs. Moore, however, loses interest in the world of relationships after envisioning this lack of distinctions as a horror. Moreover, though Forster generally endorses the Hindu idea of the oneness of all living things, he also suggests that there may be inherent problems with it. Even Godbole, for example, seems to recognize that something—if only a stone—must be left out of the vision of oneness if the vision is to cohere. This problem of exclusion is, in a sense, merely another manifestation of the individual difference and hierarchy that Hinduism promises to overcome.

The “Muddle” of India

Forster takes great care to strike a distinction between the ideas of “muddle” and “mystery” in A Passage to India. “Muddle” has connotations of dangerous and disorienting disorder, whereas “mystery” suggests a mystical, orderly plan by a spiritual force that is greater than man. Fielding, who acts as Forster’s primary mouthpiece in the novel, admits that India is a “muddle,” while figures such as Mrs. Moore and Godbole view India as a mystery. The muddle that is India in the novel appears to work from the ground up: the very landscape and architecture of the countryside is formless, and the natural life of plants and animals defies identification. This muddled quality to the environment is mirrored in the makeup of India’s native population, which is mixed into a muddle of different religious, ethnic, linguistic, and regional groups.

The muddle of India disorients Adela the most; indeed, the events at the Marabar Caves that trouble her so much can be seen as a manifestation of this muddle. By the end of the novel, we are still not sure what actually has happened in the caves. Forster suggests that Adela’s feelings about Ronny become externalized and muddled in the caves, and that she suddenly experiences these feelings as something outside of her. The muddle of India also affects Aziz and Fielding’s friendship, as their good intentions are derailed by the chaos of cross-cultural signals.


Though Forster is sympathetic to India and Indians in the novel, his overwhelming depiction of India as a muddle matches the manner in which many Western writers of his day treated the East in their works. As the noted critic Edward Said has pointed out, these authors’ “orientalizing” of the East made Western logic and capability appear self-evident, and, by extension, portrayed the West’s domination of the East as reasonable or even necessary.

The Negligence of British Colonial Government

Though A Passage to India is in many ways a highly symbolic, or even mystical, text, it also aims to be a realistic documentation of the attitudes of British colonial officials in India. Forster spends large sections of the novel characterizing different typical attitudes the English hold toward the Indians whom they control. Forster’s satire is most harsh toward Englishwomen, whom the author depicts as overwhelmingly racist, self-righteous, and viciously condescending to the native population. Some of the Englishmen in the novel are as nasty as the women, but Forster more often identifies Englishmen as men who, though condescending and unable to relate to Indians on an individual level, are largely well-meaning and invested in their jobs. For all Forster’s criticism of the British manner of governing India, however, he does not appear to question the right of the British Empire to rule India. He suggests that the British would be well served by becoming kinder and more sympathetic to the Indians with whom they live, but he does not suggest that the British should abandon India outright. Even this lesser critique is never overtly stated in the novel, but implied through biting satire.

Motifs

Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
The Echo

The echo begins at the Marabar Caves: first Mrs. Moore and then Adela hear the echo and are haunted by it in the weeks to come. The echo’s sound is “boum”—a sound it returns regardless of what noise or utterance is originally made. This negation of difference embodies the frightening flip side of the seemingly positive Hindu vision of the oneness and unity of all living things. If all people and things become the same thing, then no distinction can be made between good and evil. No value system can exist. The echo plagues Mrs. Moore until her death, causing her to abandon her beliefs and cease to care about human relationships. Adela, however, ultimately escapes the echo by using its message of impersonality to help her realize Aziz’s innocence.

Eastern and Western Architecture

Forster spends time detailing both Eastern and Western architecture in A Passage to India. Three architectural structures—though one is naturally occurring—provide the outline for the book’s three sections, “Mosque,” “Caves,” and “Temple.” Forster presents the aesthetics of Eastern and Western structures as indicative of the differences of the respective cultures as a whole. In India, architecture is confused and formless: interiors blend into exterior gardens, earth and buildings compete with each other, and structures appear unfinished or drab. As such, Indian architecture mirrors the muddle of India itself and what Forster sees as the Indians’ characteristic inattention to form and logic. Occasionally, however, Forster takes a positive view of Indian architecture. The mosque in Part I and temple in Part III represent the promise of Indian openness, mysticism, and friendship. Western architecture, meanwhile, is described during Fielding’s stop in Venice on his way to England. Venice’s structures, which Fielding sees as representative of Western architecture in general, honor form and proportion and complement the earth on which they are built. Fielding reads in this architecture the self-evident correctness of Western reason—an order that, he laments, his Indian friends would not recognize or appreciate.

Godbole’s Song

At the end of Fielding’s tea party, Godbole sings for the English visitors a Hindu song, in which a milkmaid pleads for God to come to her or to her people. The song’s refrain of “Come! come” recurs throughout A Passage to India, mirroring the appeal for the entire country of salvation from something greater than itself. After the song, Godbole admits that God never comes to the milkmaid. The song greatly disheartens Mrs. Moore, setting the stage for her later spiritual apathy, her simultaneous awareness of a spiritual presence and lack of confidence in spiritualism as a redeeming force. Godbole seemingly intends his song as a message or lesson that recognition of the potential existence of a God figure can bring the world together and erode differences—after all, Godbole himself sings the part of a young milkmaid. Forster uses the refrain of Godbole’s song, “Come! come,” to suggest that India’s redemption is yet to come.

Symbols

Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
The Marabar Caves

The Marabar Caves represent all that is alien about nature. The caves are older than anything else on the earth and embody nothingness and emptiness—a literal void in the earth. They defy both English and Indians to act as guides to them, and their strange beauty and menace unsettles visitors. The caves’ alien quality also has the power to make visitors such as Mrs. Moore and Adela confront parts of themselves or the universe that they have not previously recognized. The all-reducing echo of the caves causes Mrs. Moore to see the darker side of her spirituality—a waning commitment to the world of relationships and a growing ambivalence about God. Adela confronts the shame and embarrassment of her realization that she and Ronny are not actually attracted to each other, and that she might be attracted to no one. In this sense, the caves both destroy meaning, in reducing all utterances to the same sound, and expose or narrate the unspeakable, the aspects of the universe that the caves’ visitors have not yet considered.

The Green Bird

Just after Adela and Ronny agree for the first time, in Chapter VII, to break off their engagement, they notice a green bird sitting in the tree above them. Neither of them can positively identify the bird. For Adela, the bird symbolizes the unidentifiable quality of all of India: just when she thinks she can understand any aspect of India, that aspect changes or disappears. In this sense, the green bird symbolizes the muddle of India. In another capacity, the bird points to a different tension between the English and Indians. The English are obsessed with knowledge, literalness, and naming, and they use these tools as a means of gaining and maintaining power. The Indians, in contrast, are more attentive to nuance, undertone, and the emotions behind words. While the English insist on labeling things, the Indians recognize that labels can blind one to important details and differences. The unidentifiable green bird suggests the incompatibility of the English obsession with classification and order with the shifting quality of India itself—the land is, in fact, a “hundred Indias” that defy labeling and understanding.

The Wasp

The wasp appears several times in A Passage to India, usually in conjunction with the Hindu vision of the oneness of all living things. The wasp is usually depicted as the lowest creature the Hindus incorporate into their vision of universal unity. Mrs. Moore is closely associated with the wasp, as she finds one in her room and is gently appreciative of it. Her peaceful regard for the wasp signifies her own openness to the Hindu idea of collectivity, and to the mysticism and indefinable quality of India in general. However, as the wasp is the lowest creature that the Hindus visualize, it also represents the limits of the Hindu vision. The vision is not a panacea, but merely a possibility for unity and understanding in India.
Term
"Odour of Chrysanthemums"
Definition
Author: DH Lawrence; Genre: Short Story

Plot Overview

A locomotive engine comes chugging along the tracks, pulling seven loaded cars behind it. It is late afternoon in the autumn, nearing dusk, in England’s coal country. The locomotive pulls into the colliery’s loading area, as various miners make their way home. Nearby is a low cottage with a tiled roof and a garden, a sparse apple orchard, and a brook beyond. Elizabeth Bates emerges from the chicken coop, watching the miners walk along the railroad. She turns and calls her son, John, who emerges from the raspberry patch. She tells him that it is time to come in. The locomotive her father is driving appears in the distance. As John makes his way to the house, she chides him for tearing off the petals of the chrysanthemums and scattering them on the path. She picks a few of the flowers and, after holding them against her cheek, sticks a sprig in her apron.


The train comes to a stop near the gate, and Elizabeth brings her father tea and bread and butter. He tells Elizabeth that it is time he remarried. He also informs her that her husband, Walter, had gone on another drinking binge and was heard bragging in the local pub about how much he was going to spend. Done with his tea, the old man drives off. Elizabeth enters the kitchen, where the table is set and awaiting Walter’s return so that the family can have their tea. With no sign of Walter, Elizabeth continues preparing the meal. Her daughter, Annie, enters the room, and Elizabeth mildly scolds her for being late. She asks Annie whether she has seen Walter; she has not. Elizabeth fears that Walter is again at the pub, and at Annie’s urging, they start to eat. Annie is transfixed by the slowly dying fire. Eating little, Elizabeth grows increasingly antsy and angry.

Elizabeth goes to get coal and drops a few pieces on the fire, which snuffs out almost all the light in the room. John repeatedly complains about the darkness, and Elizabeth lights the overhead lamp, revealing for the first time that she is pregnant. Annie exclaims at the sight of the chrysanthemums in Elizabeth’s apron. She removes them and puts the flowers to her lips, enthralled by their scent. Looking at the clock, Elizabeth realizes that Walter will not get home until he is again carried in, intoxicated, by his friends. She vows not to clean him after his day of work and to leave him lying on the floor.

The children play quietly, afraid of angering Elizabeth, who sews in her rocking chair. After a while, she sends them to bed, although Annie protests, as Walter has not come home yet. Elizabeth states that when he does appear he will be all but unconscious from drinking. Putting the children to bed, she angrily and fearfully resumes her sewing. At eight o’clock, she leaves the house. She makes her way to a row of dwellings and enters a passage between two of the houses, asking Mrs. Rigley whether her husband is at home. Mrs. Rigley answers that he has had his dinner and then gone briefly to the pub and that she will go find him. Mrs. Rigley soon returns, with her husband in tow. He tells Elizabeth that he last saw Walter at the coal pit, finishing a job. Elizabeth suggests that Walter is simply at another pub, and Mr. Rigley offers to go and find out. He walks her home, as Mrs. Rigley runs immediately to her neighbor’s house to spread the fresh gossip.

After Elizabeth has waited for another forty-five minutes, her mother-in-law enters the cottage, crying hysterically. Elizabeth asks whether Walter is dead, but all her mother-in-law tells her is that he has been in a serious accident. As the mother-in-law laments and defends her son’s gradual slide into debauchery, a miner arrives to inform the women that Walter has been dead for hours, smothered after a cave-in. Elizabeth’s mother-in-law dissolves into tears, and Elizabeth quickly silences her, afraid that her wailing will wake the children. She moves into the parlor to clear a space on the floor where the body can be laid. She spreads cloths on the floor to protect the carpet, takes out a clean shirt to air it, and then waits in the pantry.

Shortly, the pit manager and another man arrive with the body on a stretcher. As they bring Walter into the parlor and lay him on the floor, one of the men accidentally tips over a vase of chrysanthemums. Elizabeth quickly cleans up the water and broken glass. Annie, who has woken up, calls from upstairs, and Elizabeth rushes up to comfort her. The men try to silence Walter’s mother, who is still sobbing loudly. With Annie finally calmed and the men gone, Elizabeth and her mother-in-law prepare to undress, clean, and lay out the body. Elizabeth embraces the body, trying to make a connection to her husband’s still-warm corpse. She and Walter’s mother wash the body. Elizabeth presses her cheek against the body but is repulsed by the dead flesh. She laments her marriage and the hand she had in its failure. Walter’s mother rouses Elizabeth from her musing. Elizabeth, unable to weep, goes to fetch a shirt. With difficulty, she dresses Walter. Covering him in a sheet and locking the parlor door, she tidies the kitchen, afraid and ashamed of the harsh realizations she has come to as a result of Walter’s death.

Character List

Elizabeth Bates - The protagonist of the story. Stern, cold, and pragmatic, Elizabeth is deeply resentful of finding herself married to an alcoholic and living in a coal community. A good mother, she feels she cannot afford to indulge emotional weakness or sentimentality but must be strong for the sake of her children. Elizabeth attains a deep understanding of her life, husband, and marriage only when Walter is dead and she is forced to confront her circumstances and her own role in her fate.

Walter Bates - Elizabeth’s alcoholic husband who has just died in a cave-in. Walter was a handsome man, blond and fleshy, with strong limbs and a moustache. Although he never appears in the story alive, he casts a dark shadow over the story’s proceedings. He emerges as a caricature, the monstrous drunken husband, who is gradually redeemed by Elizabeth’s growing recognition of the ways she has denied or ignored his essential humanity.

Walter’s Mother - An emotional woman of sixty who is with Elizabeth when Walter’s body is brought home. Walter’s mother laments Walter’s louche tendencies and the gradual shirking of his responsibilities to his family, while at the same time justifying his irresponsible behavior. She is slightly competitive with Elizabeth when it comes to ministering to her son’s body.

Annie Bates - Elizabeth’s young daughter. Annie has large blue eyes and curly hair that is changing from blond to brunette. A sensitive girl, she is attached to her father but deferent to her mother’s harsh opinions of him and his carousing. Annie is drawn to the scent of the chrysanthemums.

John Bates - Elizabeth’s five-year-old son. A small and sturdy boy with black hair, John wears clothes made from a man’s suit that has been cut down to fit him. Childishly self-absorbed, and often indifferent to what is going on around him, he reminds Elizabeth of Walter.

Elizabeth’s Father - A short man with a gray beard and cheerful disposition. Pragmatic like Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s father is resigned to remarrying in an effort to fill the domestic void in his life. He appears only briefly at the beginning of the story, when his train passes Elizabeth’s house.
Mrs. Rigley - A miner’s wife with twelve children. Mrs. Rigley offers Elizabeth a sympathetic ear while at the same time exploiting the gossip potential of the Bates’s shaky marriage.
Mr. Rigley - A miner who helps Elizabeth look for Walter. Mr. Rigley is a large man with a bony head and blue scar on his temple, which he got from working in the coal pits. Kind and helpful, he is alert to the potential dangers of life as a miner.


Themes

The Isolation of the Human Soul

As Elizabeth tends to Walter’s body, Lawrence writes that she feels “the utter isolation of the human soul,” and this sense of isolation permeates the entire story. Early on, Elizabeth is isolated in her home as she waits helplessly for Walter, and she is further isolated when she seeks help in finding him and thus becomes the subject of gossip among the other wives. Pregnant and left alone with her other two children, Elizabeth loses herself in anger and resentment. When Walter’s mother arrives and the two women learn of Walter’s death, both women are isolated in their own way. Walter’s mother is lost in grief for a man she knew best as a child, whereas Elizabeth must face the fact that her husband was little more than a stranger to her.

With Walter’s corpse unclothed and stretched out on the parlor floor, Elizabeth finally understands, when it is too late, the grave injustice they have done each other in respectively giving up on their marriage. For years, Elizabeth has perceived herself as a victim of her husband’s habits, failing to see her own possible role in their strained relationship. She has willingly given up on their partnership, separating herself from Walter while also lamenting her solitude and isolation. Although we know nothing of Walter beyond what Elizabeth and her mother-in-law reveal, we can assume that Walter felt isolated in his marriage as well, unknown and unseen by Elizabeth. In death, he has achieved the ultimate isolation, and widowed, Elizabeth is now even further isolated than she was before.

The Nature of Love

The nature of love between mother and child and between husband and wife stand in sharp contrast to each other in “Odour of Chrysanthemums.” Although she is often short with them, Elizabeth clearly loves her children, John and Annie. She protects them from Walter’s indiscretions whenever she can and shields them from seeing his dead body. When she struggles to figure out how to carry on when she fears that Walter is dead, she understands that, first and foremost, she must worry about her children. Similarly, Walter’s mother indulges Walter’s weaknesses because he is her son, and her deep love for him overshadows his adult flaws. More complicated is Elizabeth’s relationship with her unborn child. It was conceived not out of love but out of a cold coupling between isolated individuals, and the child is described as “a weight apart from her” and “ice.” At this point, Elizabeth seems to connect the unborn child to her relationship with Walter rather than to her life as a mother. The baby seems less a part of her than a part of her distant relationship with Walter.

The nature of love between Elizabeth and Walter is much darker than the love between Elizabeth and her two existing children. Little is left of their love, having been replaced by resentment, disgust, and anger, and not even physical intimacy can overcome the fact that they are “two isolated beings, far apart.” Neither spouse was willing to try to forgive or understand the other, and this inflexibility resulted in permanent estrangement. Until she ministers to Walter at the end of the story, Elizabeth seems unable to see Walter beyond her own disappointments. As she waits and waits for him, she berates herself for being a “fool” and says, “And this is what I came here for, to this dirty hole, rats and all, for him to slink past his very door”—neglecting entirely any love that may have once existed between them and that drew her into the marriage.

Motifs

Suffocation

Suffocation brings about Walter’s death, when he is trapped in the coal pits after a cave-in, but the idea of suffocation also appears throughout the story in Elizabeth’s domestic unhappiness. In a way, the coal pits have smothered Elizabeth, because she came to this remote community only because she married Walter. Rather than advancing her interests or opening up new possibilities, the role of wife has been a diminishment, a slow, agonizing humiliation and gradual suffocation. Elizabeth is trapped in the confined and parochial world of the cottage and community and sees no way out. Before she knows that Walter is dead, she speculates on what may happen if he is simply injured, and she feels a fleeting moment of hope as she envisions this as her chance to rid Walter of his drinking habits. But this moment quickly gives way to the news that Walter is dead, and Elizabeth, shocked, is almost suffocated by the erratic rushing of her heart once it “surged on again.” Elizabeth must now carry on in an even weightier, more burdensome situation than before.

Darkness

“Odour of Chrysanthemums” takes place almost entirely under the cover of darkness, and natural light appears only at the beginning, when Elizabeth’s father rolls through town. Once he leaves, Elizabeth retreats to her home, lit only by candles and a waning fire. She scolds Annie for coming home after dark, although Annie claims it’s “hardly a bit dark.” John complains of the lack of light in the cottage as the children eat their dinner, and Elizabeth can barely see their faces. Darkness obscures various dangers: when Elizabeth ventures out into the darkness to find Walter, rats scuffle around her; she senses eavesdropping housewives who are prone to gossip; and as Mr. Rigley escorts Elizabeth home, he warns her of the ruts in the earth that she cannot see in the blackness of the night.


Darkness has a life-giving element as well as a dangerous or threatening one. When Elizabeth prepares to receive Walter’s dead body in the parlor, the one paltry candle she brings does little to dispel the gloom. She can barely see Walter in a literal sense, but now, for the first time, she gets a glimpse of who he is as a person. In life, she knew almost nothing about Walter, and even their closest physical encounters took place in the dark. Now, with darkness surrounding her and with Walter in the permanent darkness of death, startling truths come to light for Elizabeth. In this sense, darkness serves as a kind of renewal. Morning will come for Elizabeth, but her life will be very different.

Symbols

Chrysanthemums

Throughout the story, chrysanthemums primarily suggest unpleasantness and death, and Elizabeth cannot look at or smell them without being plagued by unhappy associations. We first see chrysanthemums as Elizabeth’s son, John, strews them over the path toward the house, and Elizabeth chastises him because the petals look “nasty.” At home, waiting for Walter to return, Elizabeth remembers bitterly the first time Walter came home drunk, sporting brown chrysanthemums in his buttonhole. When Elizabeth is told that Walter is dead, she notices two vases of chrysanthemums and their “cold, deathly smell” in the parlor, where she plans to lay out Walter’s body. When the men eventually carry him in, one knocks over a vase of chrysanthemums, and Elizabeth tidies up the mess before she turns to face the body.

Chrysanthemums, although primarily a symbol of death, occasionally have life-affirming associations as well. Annie, Elizabeth’s daughter, is enamored with the chrysanthemums that Elizabeth has placed in her apron and thinks they smell beautiful. When Elizabeth tells her daughter about the time Walter came home drunk, she prefaces the memory with other celebratory moments when chrysanthemums have punctuated her life: her marriage and the birth of Annie. The fact that Elizabeth keeps vases of chrysanthemums in her home suggests that Elizabeth continues to have mixed feelings about the flowers, both resenting and embracing the memories they evoke.
Term
"The Horse Dealer's Daughter"
Definition
Term
"The Garden Party"
Definition
Author: Katherine Mansfield; Genre: Short Story

The Sheridan family is preparing to host a garden party. Laura is supposed to be in charge, but has trouble with the workers who appear to know better, and her mother (Mrs. Sheridan) has ordered lilies to be delivered for the party without Laura's approval. Her sister Jose tests the piano, and then sings a song in case she is asked to do so again later. After the furniture is rearranged, they learn that their neighbor Mr. Scott has died. While Laura believes the party should be called off, neither Jose nor their mother agrees. The party is a success, and later Mrs. Sheridan decides it would be good to bring a basket full of leftovers to the Scotts' house. She summons Laura to do so. Laura is shown into the poor neighbors' house by Mrs. Scott's sister, then sees the widow and her late husband's corpse. The sight of his dead body brings her to tears, and she runs off back to her own house, where she falls sobbing into her brother's arms.

Characters in The Garden Party

Mrs. Sheridan,
Laura Sheridan, one of three girls(main)
The workers, who put up a marquee in the garden
Meg Sheridan, a second daughter
Jose Sheridan, a third daughter
Laurie, a brother
Kitty Maitland, a friend of Laura and a party guest
Sadie, a female house servant
Hans, a male house servant
the florist, who delivers lilies ordered by Mrs Sheridan
Cook, a cook
Godber's man, the delivery-man who brings in the cakes
Mr. Scott, a lower-class neighbor who has just died
Em Scott, the deceased's widow.
Unnamed referred to as 'Mrs. Scott's sister'

Major themes

Class consciousness. Laura feels a certain sense of kinship with the workers and again with the Scotts. Her mother thinks it would embarrass them to receive flowers. An omniscient narrator also explains that as children Laura, Jose, Meg and Laurie were not allowed to go near the poor's dwellings, which spoil their vista.
Illusion versus reality. Laura is stuck in a world of high class housing, food, family and garden parties. She then discovers her neighbour from a lower class has died and she clicks back to reality upon discovering death.
Sensitivity and insensitivity Death and Life. The writer masterfully handles the theme of death and life in the short story. The realization of Laura that life is simply marvellous shows death of human being in a positive light. Death and life co-exist together and death seems to Laura merely a sound sleep far away from troubles in human life.