To all my fellow Lear studiers in my class, if you’ve got a bit of time to spare amongst all your hard English revision I recommend watching this comedy film about an amateur dramatics club putting on King Lear with a faded Hollywood star. It really is amusing and I kept trying to work out which parts of which scene they were doing by the lines (just so I felt it almost counted as revision!!). It’s only up for a short while on iPlayer so do catch it while you can!:)
R.C. Sheriff’s ‘Journey’s End’ is a play written in 1929 based on Sheriff’s own experiences in World War One. The play is set in 1918 and focuses on the interaction between British soldiers in the dugout while they anticipate a charge.
The play is based around the premise of waiting for something to happen and Sheriff almost called the play “Waiting” or “Suspense”. Raleigh himself is surprised that they are not doing very much and the silence “I thought there would be an awful row here – all the time.” Sheriff creates tension throughout the whole play by mixing dark humour and solemn facts. The joking around between Hardy and Osborne at the beginning of the play illustrates perfectly how the men use humour to cover the fearful and anxious anticipation towards both the raid and the constant bombings, ““A dugout got blown up and came down in the men’s tea. They were frightfully annoyed.” As well as this the suspense and tension is heightened by the unpredictable and explosive nature of Stanhope’s personality that becomes more erratic, paranoid and argumentative as the play continues.
Stanhope’s overall character changes very little over the course of the play; however it is made very clear that his character has changed since Raleigh last saw him and his levels of anger and paranoia vary. When we are first introduced to Stanhope his clothes are “war-stained”, making it obvious that he has been in this trench for a long time. We also find out that none of the men that Stanhope originally came to war with are still alive, “There’s not a man left who was here when I came,” and the horrors that he has seen has driven him to alcoholism. When most of the soldiers fear war, Stanhope’s major fear is that he is not a hero and that he will not be remembered as one. This fear is more apparent when Raleigh joins his company as he gets very paranoid that Raleigh will tell his sister (Stanhope’s sweetheart) in a letter that he has has turned to drink. When Raleigh has written a letter Stanhope demands that he review it for “censorship” purposes and when Raleigh says that he will “just leave it” Stanhope harshly reprimands him “D’you understand an order? Give me that letter!” Despite Stanhope’s problem with drowning his cowardice in whisky many readers would still admire him for attempting to battle his cowardice instead of giving in and allowing himself to have leave and escape the trench.
Some would argue that Sheriff constructed Raleigh as a character to simply introduce the audience to the other soldiers and the situation they are in; however it seems more likely that the character’s true purpose is to show how war changes an individual. Raleigh shows this both through his reaction to Stanhope’s changed personality and through his own change in personality during the course of the play. Raleigh could be seen to represent the many thousands of boys who left school at the first possible opportunity to go to war. Due to Raleigh’s youth he seems very innocent, he is very obviously in awe of the situation he’s in and the “frightful bit of luck” he’s had in getting into the company of his hero Stanhope. This innocence is lost by the end of the play after he captures a German soldier in a raid that killed Osborne, he becomes much less enthusiastic and subdued. When Stanhope challenges this Raleigh stands up to him, stating that he can’t continue after seeing the things he’s seen, “How can I sit down and eat that – when – [his voice is nearly breaking] – when Osborne’s – lying – out there –”. Sheriff shows the difference in Raleigh through the stage directions, when he’s first introduced he gives a “smile”, does things while “laughing” and is obviously nervous, speaking “hastily”. However at the end of the play he is “lowering his head” and looking “horrified”, showing the obvious change in his physicality and well as his psychological self. After Raleigh gets injured Stanhope stays and reassures him, when Raleigh gets concerns and asks what’s on his legs that is “holding them down” Stanhope lies to him and says that it is only the “shock” to calm him down, showing his compassion towards the young dying boy.
Sheriff forces the audience to empathise with the other officers of the company by giving them distinctive characters and strong friendships that means that when they get injured or die the audience feels upset. Trotter is a stereotypical jolly fat Englishman, “His face is red, fat and round”, which is epitomised in the name ‘Trotter’ which gives connotations with pigs. As well as this the name has an association with butchery and thus one could argue that this is a subtle reference to how the men were butchered in battle and were lead like ‘pigs to slaughter’. Despite his jolly exterior Trotter seems to be the most resilient of the group due to his simple nature, not turning to alcohol for support or taking comfort in literature like Stanhope and Osborne.
Osborne seems to be a father figure, especially shown in his affectionate nickname “Uncle” and his advice to Raleigh, telling him to look at the war as “Romantic” and warning him that Stanhope will act differently compared to how he acted in school, “you mustn’t expect to find him – quite the same” “It – it tells on a man – rather badly –”. He is the eldest of the group, yet he finds comfort by reading and reciting Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, more specifically about a grinning “crocodile” who “welcomes little fishes” into his mouth. Some could argue that through these excerpts Sheriff is foreshadowing Osborne’s death in the charge against the Germans.
Hibbert seems to be a weak character who is very afraid of the charge to come and tries to get sent to hospital because of his “beastly neuralgia” however it could be argued that he is simply against the war effort, his rebellion against Stanhope, “striking a senior officer”, is the only sign of dissent towards authority in the play. At that moment Stanhope threatens to execute him however Hibbert stays strong and Stanhope doesn’t shoot him, stating that they “all feel like [Hibbert does] sometimes” and advises him to turn to alcohol too.
The uniqueness of ‘Journey’s End’ is that it is a war play not based around the action and battles of the war, but simply the interactions between the soldiers when not on duty. This in itself reveals a lot about the plight of the soldiers and the fight that’s occurring however Sheriff focuses more on the psychological effects of war on the soldiers and the friendships that form in the most unlikely place.
Thanks for reading,
When looking online for critic quotes for my essay I found these two resources really helpful as there is so much there!
Hope they are useful!
The novel ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks focuses on WW1 and its effect on society through the journey of the protagonist Stephen Wraysford and his family. The novel is structured around three time periods and Faulks uses these time changes and the characters in each to show the differences that the war made. The first section is set in France before the war and introduces Stephen and his affair with Isabelle. This whole section shows how little rights women had, especially shown in Isabelle’s unhappy and abusive marriage to Azaire. The next section contains the war and explores trench warfare, tunnelling and going over the top. The final section is set in 1970s Britain and concerns Stephen’s granddaughter Elizabeth who is researching WW1. This last section truly shows the change in society and women’s rights as Elizabeth is free to have a child despite being single.
The novel opens with a lush and Romantic description of Amiens and the “river Somme”, showing the nature that will soon be destroyed by the war. Faulks describes passages and tunnels multiple times in the opening paragraphs, giving the ideas of the tunnels of WW1 from the very beginning, “the river Somme broke into small canals”, “unregarded passageways”. It could be argued that Faulks does this to show how the actions of the society in “France 1910” caused the war. The natural elements of the description give ideas of the Garden of Eden, and thus you could see the war as symbolising the fall of man.
Houses are often used as outward manifestations of the family that lives within them in literature and the Azaire house in Birdsong is no different. The house is described in a gothic manner as having a “strong, formal front” with “iron railings”, this sturdy exterior shows that the family is respectable however the iron railings could be seen as a metaphor for Azaire trapping Isabelle within and seeing her as a possession. Isabelle is an obviously beautiful trophy wife, her beauty not shown through her husband’s admiration but Stephen’s curious thoughts about her, “her white hands”, “membrane of her lower lip”. Isabelle is a commodity to Azaire, her marriage was “sold” to Azaire by her “father” and he objectifies her, choosing to “display her to his friends”. This shows the patriarchal nature and capitalist views of Victorian society.
Azaire is not only an abusive husband but an exploitative business owner, representing the capitalist businessmen who contributed to causing WW1. We can see a socialist point of view in the character of Meyraux who plainly describes the problem with society in his argument with Azaire, “What the industry needs is… a less mean and timid attitude on the part of the owners.” Faulks links capitalism to war by having Azaire talk about his workforce using the semantic field of war, “we need to retrench”. In both war and industry the men are used merely as pawns to advantage those higher up in society.
The first things we encounter in “France 1916” are the tunnels, mirroring the opening passage of the novel, “forty-five feet underground”. Faulks uses the language of industry in this section “mechanical” “grinding” to show how the soldiers were merely cogs in a mechanism. Faulks introduces the men, giving them names and a back-story, allowing the reader to get to know them so that the reader empathises with Stephen’s pain when they die. He creates images using simplistic language with very little emotion to brutally describe the horrors of their injuries; “his head was cut away in section… ragged edges of skull from which the remains of his brain were dropping.”
Stephen doesn’t see war like the officials do, he almost poses as the voice of reason, “Every one of the men we’ve killed is someone’s son”. Faulks uses him to voice the views of many soldiers, including Wilfred Owen, “No one in England knows what this is like”. That thought is a theme of the whole novel, confirmed through Elizabeth’s naivety about the casualties of the war in the 1970s. The only outcome of war is the questioning of morality, which is exactly what Stephen does when talking to Wraysford, he expresses his newly damaged mindset weaved with both his opinion and societal opinions of war, “This is not a war, this is an exploration of how far men can be degraded”. He even speaks the truth when talking to his hopelessly optimistic superiors who believe that the battle will be “over at dawn”, Stephen thinks logically and questions both the “terrain” and the actions of the “enemy”.
When the soldiers wait for the command Faulks uses short sentences and phrases, “They were almost there. Stephen on his knees, some men taking photographs from their pockets, kissing the faces of their wives and children. Hunt telling foul jokes.” This slows down time and shows the panic of the anticipation. He uses short sentences again in the battle itself, this time to speed the action up, “It had not been cut.” Faulks personifies nature, “soil spat”, suggesting that nature is fighting back and joining the battle, a similar idea to those in “Futility”. The dehumanisation of soldiers is shown very specifically in the battle as the soldiers are described as “primitive dolls” and “humps of khaki”, giving the impression that they are less than human, dispensable. Faulks uses several semantic fields in the battle, this mix of semantic fields adds to the eclectic and crazed nature of the war. He uses the semantic field of machinery, “clog the progress”; horror, “his nose dangled”; and when Stephen survives the Romantic field of nature, “There are trees beyond the noise, and down in the valley is the fish-filled river.” Faulks later mixes the semantic field of butchery, “pink skin” “small joints of meat” with the semantic field of drowning, “wave breaking” “undertow of fear”. The semantic field of butchery makes the reader see that the soldiers were treated like animals, simply dying for a higher purpose. The semantic field of drowning insinuates that either the men were drowning in the noise of the war “sound of shellfire” “explosion”, or even that they were drowning in the bodies, unable to dispose of them all.
The sections set after the war concern Elizabeth, Stephen’s granddaughter who is both coping with being pregnant with a married man and searching for her grandfather’s story. Part 3 unsurprisingly starts in the “tunnel of the underground”. The motif of introducing each timeframe using tunnels links all three, showing how the war affected all. Elizabeth visits France to try and find out what the war is like and is surprised by the scale and horror of it all, the “endless writing as though the surface of the sky had been papered in footnotes”. That image gives the reader an insight into Elizabeth’s head and the unfathomable number of names on the memorial. Because the reader has just got a taste of WW1 through ‘Part 2’ we sympathise with Elizabeth, however the tone of these sections seems ironic because we know we’ll never experience it like the soldiers did, which is why “My God, nobody told me” rings true with the readers.
Elizabeth gets impregnated by a married man, and the fact that she can do so and have the baby shows how the world has changed. Before the war this would be frowned upon by Victorian society but not even her mother minds now. The only one who’s unsure is Robert, her lover, and the novel ends with him finally accepting the thought of another baby and being overwhelmed with “great happiness”. A feminist reader would be glad of this ending as it truly shows that despite the deaths caused by World War 1 it propelled society into the future and promoted freedom. Faulks shows in this final section what the men in WW1 fought for, not for patriotic values or revenge but for the future.
So we’ve been here on WordPress for a whole year and now we’re starting looking at ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks!
The opening passage of ‘Birdsong’ describes the open passages of the canals of the river Somme as well as the Boulevard Du Cange in Amiens. The paragraph is really a display of what life was like before the war, a rich and idyllic description of nature “On the damp side were chestnut trees, lilac and willows, cultivated to give shade and quietness to their owners.” The description gives the idea of the Garden of Eden, which suggests that the fall of man must be close, and sure enough WW1 is around the corner. The idea of “small canals” with “water gardens” gives the first images of passages and tunnels, and thus the first idea of trenches and the tunnels below No-Man’s Land.
We are then treated to a description to the “Azaires’ house” which has a “strong formal front” behind “iron railings” . This represents the family itself, which is formal and separated from the workers. Azaire himself is a capitalist and doesn’t respect his workers. We could also look at the house in terms of its facade, the term facade could easily be applied to countries in Europe at that time, where tensions were running high due to the breaking down of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the subsequent power vacuum. However the idea of a front could simply be a term referring to the front line, where the most fighting occured.
The description of the inside of the house also concerns itself with the idea of mystery and passages, “it had unexpected spaces and corridors that disclosed new corners.” This is the second image of passageways, linking to the trenches and underground tunnels. The quotation “the house was always a place of unseen footsteps” gives the house a sense of intrigue. However it also highlights a major issue later on, in the tunnels Jack Firebrace and his men have to stop and listen for noises several times when digging to ensure the enemy isn’t close. These “unseen footsteps” are exactly what the soldiers in the tunnels needed to listen out for.
Later on in the book Azaire discusses his workers with Meyraux, a socialist. Parallel to this section of the book is the rise of socialism, unions and socialist governments, we hear of riots and Isabelle goes to feed the starving children. Meyraux says that industry needs “a less mean and timid attitude on the part of the owners.” Faulks uses the language of war in Azaires speech and Stephen’s thoughts to foreshadow the future and also show how he uses his men as pawns to get his own way, just like soldiers, “we can therefore only retrench”, “Stephen was surprised by the simplicity of Azaire’s asault”.
We can see the wealth and success of Azaire in his family, his children are “plump”, an outward display off his extravagance and his wife is beautiful, a typical trophy wife. All the descriptions of Isabelle make her seem attractive, formal and fragile, “Her clothes were more fashionable than those of other women in the town yet revealed less.” The idea of her being like a porcelain doll is reinforced by the description of “polished china” in the room.
Thanks for reading – be sure to comment your own ideas below!
Sorry for the lack of posts over the last week! I have been writing blogs however my internet connection on holiday down south wasn’t letting me upload things *shakes fist* – so unfortunately you’ll probably now get quite a few blogs over this weekend!! Lets begin with discussing whether WW1 poetry is it’s own genre!
To discuss whether WW1 poetry is a genre in itself is very difficult, and would mean that we’d have to compare the techniques with all genres to check that it doesn’t fit in any other genre. Now I don’t have time to do such a thing amongst reading books for next year and such, and thus the easiest way to determine the likelihood of WW1 poetry being a genre is to compare it with other war poetry. A poetic genre is a category of poems that share stylistic devices and techniques! To save the trouble of you guys reading large blocks of text (and to make this more imaginative and exciting!) I’ve compiled a list below of the themes, attitudes and techniques of WW1 poetry compared to war poetry before WW1. I’ve chosen not to compare WW1 poetry with poems from after WW1 for two reasons:
1) The change in attitudes to war (i.e. soldiers are heroes and war is something to be ashamed of) pretty much stay the same!
2) The range of poetry is so diverse it was hard to find a good example to represent them all!
I’ve chosen to compare Wilfred Owen’s WW1 poetry to Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Barrack-Room Ballads’ from the late 1800s.
As we can see the techniques and attitudes are very different from before and after WW1, however most war poetry after WW1 has the same attitude and similar techniques to the poetry from WW1 (despite changes over the years due to styles of writing changing!) – so I would say that WW1 poetry is a transitional genre of war poetry that has educated and inspired future war poets on what war is like.
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The similar themes and devices of Michael Morpurgo (in the film adaptation of ‘Private Peaceful’) & Wilfred Owen’s poetry.
In ‘Private Peaceful’ we can see the main characters experience a loss of faith, Tommo near the beginning when in the prison cell says “Why does this war happen”, he also feels bitter because his father died and he feels that if God was just he wouldn’t have allowed that to happen. Wilfred Owen in his poem ‘Futility’ demonstrates the loss of faith that the soldiers experienced by mixing the vocabulary of religion and evolution, “was it for this the clay grew tall”. We can also see in ‘Private Peaceful the futility of war by the spoken line “All that fighting, no gain on either side”, showing how lots of death resulted in no progress. In the poem we can see that the soldiers are mainly farmers, “whispering of fields unsown”, which makes the fact that nature is fighting back even more poignant, showing how far these people have gone. In the film we can see that the brothers are farmers, and how when they go to war they still talk about their farming (for example when at the French pub).
Dulce Et Decorum Est
In ‘Private Peaceful’ Morpurgo uses the character of the Colonel to show patriotism and jingoism, he believes that the soldiers are doing their duty to their country and God. In ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ Wilfred Owen mocks people (like the Colonel) who believe the “old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori” because he can see that dying for your country isn’t the best way to die. In the poem Owen talks about a gas attack :
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In the film we get visual context in terms of the struggle for gas masks and how people reacted to the gas. In one scene the soldiers were warned of a gas attack and we could see how they fumbled to put their gas masks on and how some choked and struggled to breathe while putting them on.
In ‘Private Peaceful’ the young men are persuaded to go to war by a sergeant or officer who says “Girls love a soldier”; we can see that they are tempting the men into the army by telling them that they’ll be more attractive when returning from war. However we can see Molly disapproves of Charlie going to war, showing how women didn’t want their husbands to leave them and their children. Wilfred Owen in his poem ‘Disabled’ also contains a character who believes that going to war will make him more attractive, “and maybe too, to please his Meg.” Owen expands on this by later talking about how the only women this young boy will ever encounter now are nurses who won’t glance twice at him “Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes Passed from him to the strong men that were whole”. We can visualise such events in the poems by looking at scenes in the film, especially those in medical tents, with nurses tending patients. Another theme in the film is that of young boys lying about their age to get into the army (and thus achieve such success with women). We can see this in the character Tommo who lies about his age to apply for the army, mainly because Charlie has gone off with Molly. In ‘Disabled’ we see this when the young boy tells the army that he is 19 “Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.” By showing this we can see how desperate the army were for volunteers.
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‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is a poem by Wilfred Owen written as an elegiac lament for the young soldiers who were slaughtered in battles that he too fought in. He delivers this message by shocking the reader in a variety of ways. The poem is almost written in sonnet form; Owen liked to misuse the sonnet form to show that he was anti-establishment and angry. Owen mixes the rhyme scheme of the Petrarchen and the Elizabethan sonnet by using “ababcdcd effegg” and uses a mix of half rhyme (“guns” & “orisons”) and full rhyme (“bells” “shells”). This misuse of the sonnet is a strong statement that would have shocked society, the sonnet was literally a poetic “anthem” (an anthem being a song to represent a nation) which the British society loved, by misusing it Owen expresses his raw emotion and hurt at the loss of life and the complacency of the public on the matter.
Owen asks why there are no funerals in Britain for the dead soldiers, why there are no “mockeries” or “passing-bells”. The passing bell was a bell that rung when someone died, and Owen uses this image to represent how nobody marked the deaths of some of these soldiers. The bell also provides us with a connotation with noise, especially with the idea of noise ringing in our ears, similar to the noise in the trenches. He also talks of how these “doomed youth” had no future; in the phrase “die as cattle” Owen uses connotations with the death of cattle and slaughter to evoke emotion in the reader. When the reader reads the word “cattle” immediately there are connotations with the slaughter of defenceless animals, thus Owen is suggesting that the soldiers going over the top of the trench may as well be “cattle” being slaughtered.
Owen uses onomatopoeic alliteration to create the noise of shells and bullets, especially in the line “the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle”. The next line is cleverly constructed, “Can patter out their hasty orisons”. When put in the whole sentence it simply states that the bullets cause the deaths of the praying soldiers however the word “patter” is the interesting word in this sentence. The word originates from ‘Paternoster’ (meaning ‘Our Father’, the most prominent Christian prayer) and came to mean repetitive noise, like how prayers are repeated in churches. Not only is this onomatopoeic and creates the idea of the repetitive sound of the shells but the idea of prayer continues as this “patter” of gunfire stops their own “hasty orisons”, literally translating as the repetitive prayer-like noise is cutting their hasty prayers short; thus linking religion and warfare, something that would have made Christians in society uncomfortable.
The poem contrasts the civilian life with the lives of the soldiers: for example he contrasts the “choirs” in funerals with the “demented choirs of wailing shells”. This personifies the shells and contrasts religious groups with the weapons that killed thousands of soldiers, once again upsetting society and defying the norm. Owen suggests that there is no “mourning” for the soldiers except for the “shrill” noise of the shells that reminded him of crazed choirs. He extends this idea by suggesting that the “candles” are no longer held in the “hands of boys” but in “their eyes”; they are no longer choirboys but soldiers fighting, and the candlelight is going out, “shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes”. Owen uses the burning light of the candles as a metaphor for their lives, however he also uses the last line “And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds” to represent the deaths of the soldiers. Some could argue that this last line links to the people back home, the “pallor of girls brows” is the only thing back home that shows the mass killing, there are no funerals, and it is these families who will remember their sons and husbands every “dusk”.
Thanks for reading,
This reading especially really helped me with the rhythm of this poem. When reading it in class I couldn’t seem to find the rhythm in my head and when trying to read it. There’s strong consonance in this poem which is really heard in this actor’s voice, as well as the onomatopoeia.
You can hear the alliteration so very well in this reading of ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, especially the onomatopoeic ‘rifle’s rapid rattle’.
I really like this recital of ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ because it isn’t read by some Oxford scholar but an actor whose voice really expresses the sorrow of the poem; his voice also strikes a chord with me because his northern accent would be the accent of many of the men who died.
Wilfred Owen was a WW1 poet who wrote poems to show those back in England what trench warfare was really like. He wrote his poems to give the soldiers a voice and used a variety of techniques that make his poems widely recognisable.
Owen’s early poems have strong full rhyme whereas later on he develops into using half para-rhymes. In addition to this he uses consonance, for example in ‘The Last Laugh’ he uses “Dad” & “Dead” and “grinned” & “groaned”. This links the two lines but without the regularity of a full rhyme. Owen’s poetry is sometimes written in a form close to a sonnet, the Elizabethan sonnet rhyme scheme is ‘ababcdcdefefgg’ whereas in ‘How to Die’ Owen writes with this rhyme scheme: ‘ababcdcdefefghgh’. As sonnets are poems to argue then the reason for Owen’s poetry could be seen in a number of ways. It could be argued that because of Owen’s sonnet-like poems he could be arguing on behalf of the voiceless soldiers. However it could also be said that because his poetry isn’t in the form of a perfect sonnet that he is against arguing and conflict and thus against war, a major theme in his works.
Owen also uses onomatopoeic alliteration to create noise, in ‘Arms and the Boy’ the sound of bullets is created in the phrase “blind, blunt bullet-leads” and the sound of rifles being shot is represented by the “rifles’ rapid rattle” in ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. The noise reflects the sheer noise of constant shelling and gunshot, one of the primary reasons for shellshock. The punctuation is used to create pauses in his poetry. Owen famously said that the poetry is in the pity and that the pity is in the punctuation; he pities the subjects of his poetry, feeling sorrow, sympathy, compassion and a strong desire to help and alleviate the suffering that the soldiers have to endure.
Thanks for reading,
The last blog post of this academic year before “proper” A Level!! Sorry that analysis of Dorian Gray hasn’t been uploaded, it’s been on the computer for about a week but there’s been technical difficulties with WordPress as well as internet in general in school!!
- Dorian insists that Basil makes the decision to see the painting “You insist on knowing, Basil?”
- “A cold current of air passed them” could be symbolic of a change in wind and change in general. Feature of Gothic Literature, chilling
- “and he tore the curtain from its rod, and flung it on the ground” a very dandyish action, an overdramatic flourish
- The “hideous face on the canvas” was “grinning” – connotations with the devil,
- Dorian watches Basil’s viewing of the picture, a “flicker of triumph in his eyes” – he’s obviously enjoying showing Basil what his painting has become
- “crushing the flower in his hand” Dorian has removed the innocence from himself and this action represents that. Flowers are common symbols for dandyism and before crushing it he was “smelling it”, representative of his dandy life before his corruption.
- “No! the thing is impossible. The room is damp. Mildew has got into the canvas. The paints I used had some wretched mineral poison in them.” Basil goes through the same thought process that Dorian did when he first observed the change, he attempts to find some scientific reason.
- “It has destroyed me” almost a confession to Basil (the most priestlike character)
- Basil as the moral character tries to absolve Dorian’s sins by finding somewhere to “kneel down” and “remember a prayer” – he then quotes the Bible “Though your sins be as scarlet, yeti will make them as white as snow”. Dorian however doesn’t want forgiveness, “Those words mean nothing to me now”
- Dorian kills Basil with a knife. Basil is then referred to as “the man” and “the thing”- this shows how Dorian’s opinion of Basil has changed, he is very dispassionate.
- Dorian thinks of an alibi and realises that Basil was intending to go to Paris – this is very convenient as Basil had disappeared years before and thus nobody would be worried if Basil had gone again, they would merely assume that he had gone out of the public eye like he did the time before.
- Dorian’s very calm about his alibi, “but I had forgotten my latchkey” – he seems to think this up very quickly
- Dorian worries and is “biting his lip”, a characteristic trait of Basil.
- The chapter ends with suspense, “Yes; that was the man he wanted.”
- “The man had to touch him twice on the shoulder before he woke” – he slept almost too well, lost in “some delightful dream”
- “It was almost like a morning in May” – this gives connotations of spring and rebirth, a new life for Dorian now that Basil is dead.
- “He winced at the memory of all that he had done” note that Dorian is only concerned with himself, he is incredibly self absorbed. He is not concerned that his friend is dead, there is no care for Basil only for himself.
- “that had made him kill him” Dorian thinks that it isn’t his fault for what he did, it was an emotion that “made him” do it, he couldn’t have not done it as Basil was making him angry.
- “Hideous things were for the darkness” typical Gothic literature
- “He spent a long time also over breakfast” he indulges himself, ignoring what he’s done. Dorian then tries to distract himself by drawing but every face he draws “seemed to have a fantastic likeness to Basil Hallward.” This gives the ideas of ghostly omens as well as subconscious guilt. Dorian then reads about Venice, the city of masks, ironic as he wears a mask most of the time, he is immoral however he pretends to be an upstanding upper class gent.
- “Poor Basil! What a horrible way for a man to die!” finally we see a glint of conscience in Dorian.
- Wilde then personifies time as Dorian waits for Alan Campbell to arrive, “Time seemed to him to be crawling with feet of lead”, this shows how slow and heavy his thoughts were.
- Dorian obviously trusts Alan Campbell, he could be jailed for killing this man, “Yes: it is a matter of life and death.” He pleads with him and makes him feel like only he can help, “You are the only man who is able to save me.”
- Dorian and Alan obviously have history; they were probably past lovers, “Ah! I was waiting for you to call me Dorian”
- Once Alan complies Dorian doesn’t let him leave, he gets his servant to go and get the equipment, if Alan left the house he could change his mind and flee, or even go to the police.
- The picture has changed once again, with “red dew that gleamed, wet and glistening,” Dorian covers it up before Alan enters; he’s only worried about himself.
- Dorian is wearing “Parma violets” in his buttonhole, a very clean flower; complete irony considering Basil was disposed of and dissolved in the same house.
- Lord Henry notices immediately that Dorian isn’t in character “what is the matter with you tonight? You are quite out of sorts.”
- When Dorian gets home we see the secrecy of the upper classes when he opens the secret “triangular drawer” containing the “chinese box”, shows the double life.
- Dorian embarks on a long journey, paying the driver a lot of money to do so.
- Negative connotations with the working class are present throughout this chapter, I’ll list some quotes here rather than keep coming back to it, “horrible laughter” “drunkards brawled and screamed” “sordid shame of the great city”. In windows shadows appeared and they moved like “monstrous marionettes, and made gestures like live things” this associates animalistic ideas with lower classes, as well as making them seem like they’re not as good as others, “the driver beat at them with a whip”. The prostitutes are associated with the devil, “two red sparks flashed for a moment in the woman’s sodden eyes”, “greedy fingers”
- Gothic literature features, the area is dark, the moon “hung low” like a “yellow skull” an obvious death omen.
- Dorian’s double life becomes obvious, disguising himself as a poor man so he can feed his “hideous hunger for opium”. When Dorian sees those who have been taking opium he regards them as “grotesque things”
- Dorian “wanted to escape from himself” as his memories are too excruciating for him to endure, “he wanted to be where no-one would know who he was”.
- Dorian obviously has a reputation “There goes the devil’s bargain!”
- One of the prostitutes calls him “Prince Charming” and thus a “drowsy sailor” – James Vane, follows Dorian out and points a gun at him. James’ speech is very dramatic ironically considering how he was the least dramatic of the family, “Her death is at your door” “Make your peace with God, for tonight you are going to die”.
- Dorian grows “sick with fear”, it isn’t guilt, he is merely scared of his own death
- Dorian shows him that he looks too young to have forced Sibyl to suicide eighteen years ago, and he becomes confident, taking the upper hand, “You have been on the brink of committing a terrible crime, my man.”
- A prostitute then reveals to James that Dorian hasn’t changed for eighteen years, though he has obviously ruined her “since Prince Charming made me what I am”
- Dorian was whispering to Lady Narborough, charming her as she “pretended to listen” to what the Duke said. This is what marriage was like in those days, merely for money not love.
- Dorian says that Lord Henry’s name should be “Prince Paradox” and Lord Henry refuses “the title” – he doesn’t want to accept who he is.
- The upper classes chat and Lord Henry uses many witticisms, using his wit to argue with people. At the end of the chapter we are left with a cliffhanger, as Dorian faints, his conscience catching up with him “Am I safe here Harry?”, the main cliffhanger however is that James Vane was “watching him”. Oddly Dorian is very afraid but only because someone has exposed his secret.
- “The next day he did not leave the house” – he is obviously very paranoid, Wilde uses animalistic terms to show how he feels, “The consciousness of being hunted, snared, tracked down,”
- Dorian ventures out on the “third day” – religious connotations of Jesus rising on the third day.
- Nature “the clear, pine-scented air” “seemed to bring back his joyousness”, he has been cleansed and calmed
- Dorian doesn’t want Geoffrey to shoot the rabbit, because it “strangely charmed” him, however if Geoffrey had not shot again James Vane would not have been killed.
- Geoffrey is not compassionate for this man, the death has “spoiled” his “shooting for the day” – shows the little regard he has for the lower classes.
- Dorian believes the death is a “bad omen”, however once he sees the face of the man who was shot he lets out a “cry of joy” as it was James Vane. He then knew “he was safe” and was relieved.
- Lord Henry dips his “white fingers into a red copper bowl”, this could be interpreted as his corruption of Dorian, from “rose white boyhood” to the “sins of scarlet”. Lord Henry says “Pray don’t change” which is highly ironic as he already has due to Lord Henry.
- Dorian is trying to put things right, “I began my good actions yesterday”, he is very proud of himself as he chose not to corrupt a young girl, “Hetty”, a lower class country girl. Dorian was “determined to leave her as flower-like as I had found her”. However Lord Henry ruins his good mood by saying that he has broke this young girl’s heart, and that she’ll never be “content with anyone of her own rank”. Dorian is hurt, “You mock at everything”.
- Dorian tries to open up about Basil’s death, “What do you think has happened to Basil?” He almost tries to confess, “Harry, did it ever occur to you that Basil was murdered?” “What would you say, Harry, if I told you that I had murdered Basil?” Lord Henry brushes these off, saying that Basil was “really rather dull” and thus would not have been murdered and that it was not in Dorian to commit a murder.
- Narration in this section is not typical of gothic literature as there’s good weather “a lovely night”, free direct speech.
- A young girl told Dorian that he couldn’t be “wicked” because “wicked people were always very old and very ugly” – Dorian is now tired of being ugly in soul, he wants to reform and become better – he’s desperate to change back to his former self, “He felt a wild longing for the unstained purity of boyhood.”
- He looks in the mirror sees his face and realises what he really is, “His beauty had been to him but a mask”. He smashes the mirror, a bad omen, foreshadowing what will happen at the end of the chapter.
- Everybody who could reveal his secret is dead, James Vane, Basil, Alan Campbell (who shot himself in his lab), all these people died because of him.
- “Basil had said things to him that were unbearable”- he still doesn’t accept full responsibility.
- Dorian thinks of Hetty and wonders whether the portrait’s changing back, he goes upstairs to look, and yet the painting has grown worse, “like blood newly spilt”. He realises that he only did his one good deed to appease himself and make himself feel better, a very selfish act. He realises there’s no escape and that he has to destroy the painting, “He would destroy it.”, this vow is so that he can try to escape
- Dorian uses the “knife that stabbed Basil Hallward”, symbolic as it kills the painter and the painting, “As it had killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work.” He feels that “he would be free”.
- Dorian stabs the painting and is dead on the floor, the painting has been reverted to his “exquisite youth and beauty” and on the floor was a “dead man” with a “knife in his heart.” He has changed to the image of the picture, “withered, wrinkled and loathsome of visage.”
Good luck to all of you who have the English Literature AS exam tomorrow like I do, you’ll all do great 🙂
Thanks for reading all this year and I look forward to writing new stuff for A Level!!
I’ve been instructed by my teacher to break the poems down into lines (using Excel Spreadsheet) and labelling them with the technique used so that I can then identify the main themes in each poem. I thought I would record them here as they are useful!
Among School Children
- Comparative Language (Comparing ‘present day Gonne’ to ‘child Gonne’ and Mothers with Nuns)
- Questioning Language (Questioning the point of life – specifically through childbirth etc)
- Mythical Imagery (‘Ledaean body’ etc, referring to Maud Gonne but still creating images)
- Language of Unity (How can we know the dancer from the dance?’)
An Irish Airman Foresees his Death
- Patriotic Language (Not interested in the war, “Those that I fight I do not hate” – he is only interested in his own country, “My country is Kiltartan Cross,”)
- Language of Choice (Chose to fight, he “balanced all”)
- Romantic Language (again referring to Maud Gonne)
- Repetition (to emphasise his “Vague memories” being “nothing but” that)
- Language of Aging (“old gaffer”)
- References to Gyres (Yeats hoping for a new start “all, shall be renewed”)
- Criticism of Society (“polite meaningless words” given to the complacent Irish)
- Repetition (“A terrible beauty is born”)
- Specific references to people’s lives and events (“MacDonagh and MacBride And Connolly and Pearse”)
- Metaphors (The “horse-hoof” sliding on the brim representing trouble starting etc, the “stone” troubling the “living stream” of Ireland)
In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Constance Markiewicz
- Imagery (Grotesque “skeleton gaunt”, Grandiose “Great Windows” “silk kimonos”)
- Metaphors (“raving autumn shears” representing the physical changes of aging; “strike a match” representing a new start, change and idea of Gyres)
- Repetition (“Two girls in silk kimonos”, emphasising topic)
- Language of Change, (“strike a match” representing ideas of revolution)
Leda and the Swan
- Language of Power (Representing Swan “great wings” “dark webs”)
- Language of Weakness (Representing Leda “helpless” “terrified”)
- Strong Imagery (“strange heart beating” – imagery showing the oddness of the situation)
Man and The Echo
- Critical Language towards Society (Yeats disapproving of “Wine or love” drugging people)
- Repetition (Echo repeating Man to show how words can be misinterpreted)
- Rhetorical Questions (“Shall we in that great night rejoice?” Whole poem questioning his life and life in general)
- Distracted language (“And its cry distracts my thoughts” ends poem on odd note)
Sailing to Byzantium
- Pastoral Imagery (First section, land of mortal men, “dying generations” “salmon falls”)
- Grandiose Imagery (Land of immortal art “gold” “Monuments”)
- Juxtapositions (Mix of different views, Religious “holy fire” in same sentence as the occult beliefs of “gyre”s – almost a mix of both to show doubt)
- Imagery (“fumble in a greasy till” – vivid images)
- References to Historical Events (“For this Edward FitzGerald died”)
- Criticism of Society (Disgust at the new Ireland)
- Repetition (“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone”)
The Cat and the Moon
- Language of Change (Idea of gyres and the idea that Yeats wants to change his and Gonne’s relationship – “changing eyes”)
- Rhetorical Questions (“do you dance?”)
- Metaphor (“dance” representing a courtship between Gonne and Yeats, the Cat and Moon being metaphors for them)
The Cold Heaven
- Oxymorons (“ice burned” – idea of two opposites coming together like him and Gonne)
- Reminiscent language (“Vanished, and left but memories” – his relationship with Gonne never started, just ideas)
- Sexual language (Representing the sexual relationship he wishes to have with Gonne, “Ah!” “To and fro”)
- Rhetorical question (Questioning religion “as the books say”)
- Pastoral Imagery (“freckled man” – idealistic readers)
- View of society (Critical imagery, the contrast, “living men that I hate”)
The Second Coming
- Language of Chaos (represents the apocalyptic ideas, “Mere anarchy”)
- Religious References (“Surely some revelation is at hand;”)
- Rhetorical Questions (Questions religion, almost blasphemy, “Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”)
The Stolen Child
- Repetition (Tries to emphasise the faeries point of view that they’re helping the child escape the “weeping”
- Mythical imagery and fantasy style language (Shows the ethereal nature – “faery vats” “reddest stolen cherries”)
- Pastoral imagery (“oatmeal chest” represents the warm home he’s leaving)
Wild Swans At Coole
- Language of Change (“Twilight” “Autumn” shows the changes since he was last there)
- Cold Pastoral imagery (Nature, “Mirrors a still sky;”)
- Lonely language (“nine-and-fifty swans” emphasises that one is alone, “my heart is sore” – Yeats is old and lonely)
- Onomatopeia (Shows power of swans, “bell-beat”)
Thanks for reading,
Notes and Analysis for the chapters 8-12
- Chapter begins with the idea of dandyism, Dorian waking “long past noon” showing his lax attitude, not having anything to do.
- Calling the valet by his first name “Victor” shows the familiarity Dorian has with him.
- Consistent detail throughout the novel, especially in regards to the possessions of the upper classes as Wilde had familiarity with these things, “olive satin curtains, with their shimmering blue lining”
- Significance of putting Lord Henry’s letter “aside”, if he had read it he would have known of Sibyl’s suicide
- “Unnecessary things are our only necessities”, shows the extravagance of the upper classes
- “silk embroidered cashmere wool” showing the richness and pomposity of Dorian,
- “Surely a painted canvas could not alter?” – Dorian’s doubt is a doubting of religion and the supernatural, wanting to trust the new ideas of science
- “He was afraid of certainty” – a very philosophical viewpoint
- “As he often remembered afterwards,” – this gives the passage a feeling of reflection, looking back on Dorian’s life, gives the narrator an almost omniscient presence, knowing the past and future.
- Dorian looks at the altered portrait with “scientific interest”, links to the scientific ideas in ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’
- “She could still be his wife” – Dorian still thinks that the change is due to his dismissal yet the portrait (like the narrator) is omniscient, it knows that Sibyl is dead.
- Dorian believes that this portrait would guide him “through life”, the fear of a change in the portrait would be like the “fear of God to us all” – he’s almost idolising the portrait, showing deep blasphemy. He thinks seeing a physical change will be more powerful than the fear of hell that is viewed in the Bible
- He lurches from one emotion to the other – “wrote a passionate letter to the girl he had loved”
- When Lord Henry thinks that Dorian would be upset he is only worried that he would tear that “nice curly hair” he possesses – very superficial.
- “I can’t bear the idea of my soul being hideous” – he now has the physical manifestation of his ugly soul, the portrait
- The fact that Lord Henry sent the letter by his “own man” shows the urgency of the situation
- “I was afraid there might be something in it I wouldn’t like” – irony as he wouldn’t like the idea of Sibyl’s death.
- Lord Henry is very parental when breaking the news to Dorian, “took both of his hands in his own”
- “Things like that make a man fashionable in Paris” – shows the loose morals of society
- Sibyl was obviously desperate as she’d swallowed something in her “dressing-room”
- Lord Henry quickly changes the subject and suggests that they go to “the Opera” as it’s a “Patti night”, a very shallow way to react to a death
- “If you had married this girl you would have been wretched” – Lord Henry has a very pessimistic and cynical view on marraige
- “I must sow poppies in my garden” – Dorian is mourning and this shows that he has some level of conscience at this point, is moral
- Lord Henry still has very dismissive views on women – “They have wonderfully primitive instincts”
- Lord Henry could see that Sibyl Vane had no personality of her own, “don’t waste your tears over Sibyl Vane. She was less real than they are.” Lord Henry suggests that Dorian remembers her as her parts, and celebrate her through the theatre
- Dorian is concerned that he may become “haggard, and old, and wrinkled” showing his growing vanity
- Dorian views Sibyl’s death almost as a romantic thing, “She had often mimicked death on the stage.”
- “This portrait would be to him the most magical of mirrors”, believes that his soul will be revealed
- At the end of the chapter he doesn’t care what happens to the “coloured image on the canvas” as he would be safe from public judgement, however immoral he was.
- Basil was worried that Dorian might kill himself too, almost like ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – “half afraid that one tragedy might have been followed by another”
- “Did you go down and see the girl’s mother?” – Basil is very feminine and matriarchal towards Dorian, very moral and almost priestly
- “as Harry says” Lord Henry’ opinions are slowly coming into Dorian’s mind
- Dorian quickly changes the subject from Sibyl, “tell me about yourself and what you are painting”, shows that he is cold and hard-headed
- “Something has changed you completely” – this ironic as it is Basil’s painting that has done exactly that, yet he thinks that it’s “Harry’s influence”
- “You only taught me to be vain” – this isn’t entirely true, Lord Henry taught him to be vain and the portrait that Basil painted helped reinforce this
- Dorian is adamant that Sibyl’s suicide (however shocked Basil may be “How fearful”) is one of the “great romantic tragedies”, and then talks about art and the significance of beauty (sounding very like Lord Henry) “I love beautiful things” sounds very shallow and cold
- Basil wishes to exhibit the portrait and Dorian is very certain that this should never happen, we can see how manipulative he has become (similar to Lord Henry) especially in this quote “if you touch this screen, everything is over between us”
- Basil explains how his thoughts have been dominated by Dorian and Dorian then wonders whether he would ever be”dominated by the personality of a friend” which seems ironic as his thoughts and ideas have been heavily dominated by Lord Henry’s points of view
- Basil is referred to as “the painter” again at the end of this chapter, showing his insignificance in Dorian’s eyes
- Dorian says he would sooner go to Basil if he were in trouble, most likely as he know he can manipulate him
- Dorian realises that the “portrait must be hidden away” – almost trying to hide his own sins.
- Dorian is paranoid about his servant at the beginning of this chapter as he feels that his servant knows what’s going on, “It seemed to him that as the man left the room his eyes wandered in the direction of the screen. Or was that merely his own fancy?”
- The fabric he uses to cover the painting is a “purple satin coverlet”, purple is the colour of easter in the Catholic Church and thus this could repesent a rebirth, Dorian feels safer with the painting hidden away. It was maybe used as a “pall for the dead” and now it was to be used to wrap the sins of Dorian’s soul.
- Dorian instructs Lord Henry that “they were to meet at eight-fifteen that evening.” – this shows the control that Dorian now has over Lord Henry
- The painting is to be sealed in the room where Dorian grew up, and the room is full of childish memories of Dorian’s past and old toys – it’s odd that his immorality and corruption was stored in a place of purity and innocence.
- Dorian’s interior monologue about the changes that would happen to the portrait are reminiscent of Lord Henry’s grotesque speeches about aging – “The cheeks would become hollow or flaccid”
- When Dorian finds the article about Sibyl’s death he once again becomes paranoid about his servant and is worried that “he had read it and had begun to suspect something”. Dorian then has to reassure himself, oddly by referring to himself in the third person “Dorian Gray had not killed her.”
- The little yellow book was “À Rebours” – a novel concentrating on the pursuit of pleasure. Dorian’s thoughts on the book echo the type of writing, he says that the writing was “jewelled” and then talks about the book in an embellished way, such as the metaphors as being like “orchids” and that the “heavy odour of incense seemed to cling about its pages”
- Dorian spends many years becoming more and more corrupt, he buys “nine large-paper copies of the first edition” of the yellow book and he had them bound in different colours to suit his “various moods”. This shows his extravagance and obsession with this book.
- Idea of gothic and supernatural influences in the similarities between the protagonist of the book and Dorian himself “the whole book seemed to him to contain the story of his own life, written before he had lived it”
- “Men who talked grossly became silent when Dorian Gray entered the room. There was something in the purity of his face” – this shows how people are deceived by looks and how they put a lot of stake on beauty. Also shows how Dorian’s immorality has gona unnoticed.
- Dorian obviously enjoyed examining the changes and viewing his evil state – “He would examine with minute care, and sometimes with a monstrous and terrible delight, the hideous lines that seared the wrinkled forehead”. Aging frightened him, yet he enjoyed watching it happen to his alter-ego in the portrait.
- The double standards of the time are displayed in Dorian’s trip to the “sordid” rooms near the “Docks” where he led a double life “under an assumed name”. Many people did this to pretend to be poor and see how people reacted.
- The descriptions of Dorian’s doings shows that he seems to be at the heart of Victorian society, he could have been a great influence for good – yet he chose evil.
- Dorian has parallels with Wilde – that he was rumoured to join the “Roman Catholic Communion” – yet Dorian only liked religion for its flamboyant ritualistic ideas.
- The passages that follow show Dorian’s total self indulgence in researching, studying and doing anything he pleases.
- Dorian doesn’t want to be too far from the picture, and gives up the villa that he owns with Lord Henry (he seems to be getting too close to him now and needs space – they spent the winter together in the villa “more than once”).
- There are lots of scandalous rumours going around about Dorian, he was “nearly blackballed at a West End Club” and “curious stories” abounded. This shows how despite his outward innocent facade people didn’t trust him.
- The end of the chapter admits the truth: “Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book” – showing the simple facts of his corruption.
- The setting is very conventional of gothic literature – “cold and foggy”
- When Basil reveals that the most “dreadful things are being said” about Dorian, yet Dorian isn’t interested about scandals about himself as they don’t have the “charm of novelty”.
- Basil’s views seem to be the opposite of Lord Henry’s – “position and wealth are not everything”, and his comment “Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face” is very ironic as it would be all over Dorian’s face if it were not for the portrait.
- Basil later says “to see your soul. But only God can do that.” This is ironic as he caused Dorian to see his own soul, Basil himself is about to see the painting again that caused Dorian’s downfall.
- Dorian goads Basil and plays God, telling him that he can show him his soul, “You shall see the thing that you fancy only God can see.” – Basil, being very moral, is very shocked at this “blasphemy” as it’s “horrible”
- Dorian enjoys teasing Basil and tells him to “come upstairs” to see his “diary” – obviously his painting. He has a “curl of contempt in his lips” – almost the opposite of Basil’s trait of biting his lip
Thanks for reading
Once I get to five of these I think I’m officially allowed to call it a series!! If you haven’t read one of these I relate songs very easily to literature, I’ll be reading something and think, “Ooh that’s reflected in this song really well!” and so here are some more videos of songs for you to watch and enjoy.
Racism and Defying the Norm
This seems far fetched, but in my personal opinion ‘Defying Gravity’ is the anthem for being yourself. In ‘The Help’ Skeeter is a strong independent white woman who chooses to go against her friends and do what she knows is right. To me this rings true with Elphaba, the protagonist in ‘Wicked’. She is a character who was born green and was thus bullied and thought of as wicked, when all she wanted to do was stand up for animal rights and stand against the Wizard, a character who is easily manipulated by the evil Madame Morrible into ruling the nation of Oz. In ‘Defying Gravity’ Glinda and Elphaba say goodbye, as Glinda chooses to stay with the Wizard to protect the people and Elphaba flies off in rebellion. As we can see in the video Glinda is dragged away by guards and if Skeeter had been caught trying to integrate she would most likely be imprisoned too!
Enjoy the song, it’s one of my favourites!! (People in the UK by the way, Wicked is on tour at the moment and it is brilliant, well worth the money – I recommend it whole heartedly!!)
Life is for the living
In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Lord Henry persuades Dorian that life is worth living when you are young, and that youth is important. Whenever I read this I think of Fiyero from Wicked, a carefree layabout who only wants to live his life while he is young and do what he pleases. Fiyero seems almost corrupt at the beginning of the show, as he seems only to do what he wants. He reminds me slightly of Dorian when he grows more influenced by Lord Henry and lives his life in pursuit of pleasure alone. This song is Fiyero’s principle song, ‘Dancing Through Life’.
Thanks for reading,
So here are some notes on ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ from the Preface through to Chapter 2! Hope these help if you’re studying ‘DG’ too!
There will be references to the WHOLE of the book so if you haven’t finished the book and don’t want the ending spoiled then read no further!!
- The preface is basically a retaliation to the critics of the book, with Wilde’s observations on art and the meanings of art.
- “To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim” – This shows immediately that this book was not meant to be about Wilde. Many people suggested that the book was near autobiographical.
- “Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming” – Thus those who claim the book had latent homosexual messages are themselves the ones thinking the ‘corrupt’ thoughts, as they are the ones who noticed the homosexual messages that were ‘not meant to be there’
- Wilde speaks of the ‘dislike of Realism’ which he suggests is like “the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.” Caliban is an ugly and ignorant character from ‘The Tempest’, and thus Caliban would be upset to see how he really looks, just how the people of the 19th century would be upset to see how they really act.
- Wilde also speaks of the ‘dislike of Romanticism’ which he suggests is like “the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.” This suggests that people disliked Romanticism as they thought it was too much like fantasy, and couldn’t see anything of real life in it, however this was obviously the point of Romantic works.
- “No artist desires to prove anything” – thus Wilde never intended to offend or insult anyone by the themes of the book that were shocking at the time.
- “All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.” – Again Wilde shows how the homosexual themes were laid very deep under ‘symbol’ and thus if the critics dug that far down then it’s their own fault if they disliked what they read. The findings of the critics reflects the mind of the the readers not the mind of Wilde, as THEY interpreted it that way, he didn’t present it openly.
- “All art is quite useless” – art is there to be admired only, no deeper meaning is necessary, reflecting the ideas of the aesthetic movement of the time.
- This chapter opens with artistic artisan imagery, especially of nature: “rich odour of roses”, “light summer wind”, “heavy scent of the lilac”, “more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.” Gives idea of Eden, and thus later on Lord Henry tempts the innocent Dorian out of this heavenly place, and this reflects the fall of man, the first sin, and the tempting snake. Talk of nature seems ironic in a place that is so full of art.
- “The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.” gives an industrial feel to London, the word “organ” especially giving the idea of machinery.
- “Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.” This former scandal lends itself almost perfectly to the ending where Basil gets murdered. It is merely assumed that he has disappeared again, just like the last time.
- “a smile of pleasure passed across his face” – is this a smile of pleasure because of his masterpiece or due to Dorian himself?
- “You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar.” immediately shows his judging and opinionated nature
- “No, I won’t send it anywhere.” The painting was painted for himself alone, just like he wants Dorian for himself alone.
- “thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy, opium-tainted cigarette.” this sentence gives a sense of heaviness and effort to everything.
- “I have put too much of myself into it.” – Does this phrase also relate to the novel itself? Has Wilde put too much of his own sexuality in the themes of the book? Is the book almost autobiographical in nature? The painting could condemn Basil like the book eventually condemns Wilde.
- “we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.” – Our lives are in the hands of ‘the gods’, Wilde is almost saying that if he is homosexual then it is God’s fault, not his.
- “When I like people immensely, I never tell their names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them.” This is similar to Sybil later on, who only ever refers to Dorian as “Prince Charming”
- “the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.” Lord Henry is a very witty and cynical person
- “I believe that you are really a very good husband, but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues. You are an extraordinary fellow. You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose.” Basil always thinks the best of everyone, Lord Henry is the immoral tempter in the book, yet Basil has nothing bad to say about him.
- “every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul.” This could reflect Wilde’s opinions being reflected in the book. The attitude of this passage seems to contradict the preface directly, suggesting that art reveals the artist.
- “With an evening coat and a white tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stock-broker, can gain a reputation for being civilized. Well, after I had been in the room about ten minutes, talking to huge overdressed dowagers and tedious academicians” – Basil doesn’t seem to like the times he’s living in, making such comments on society.
- “Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty,” appears rude, but Basil thinks his cynicism is a pose
- “oh, yes, plays the piano–or is it the violin, dear Mr. Gray?” Dorian presented as educated
- “I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.” Seems very shallow in his opinions of people,
- “My elder brother won’t die, and my younger brothers seem never to do anything else.” His speech is almost always orientated with the aim to shock.
- ‘ “Tell me more about Mr. Dorian Gray. How often do you see him?” “Every day. I couldn’t be happy if I didn’t see him every day. He is absolutely necessary to me.” ‘ Basil seems obsessed and besotted with Dorian.
- “As they entered they saw Dorian Gray. He was seated at the piano, with his back to them, turning over the pages of a volume of Schumann’s “Forest Scenes.” “You must lend me these, Basil,” he cried. “I want to learn them. They are perfectly charming.” “, the fact that Dorian has his back to them causes suspense. The inclusion of the “Forest Scenes” gives a sense of nature and innocence.
- ” “That entirely depends on how you sit to-day, Dorian.” “Oh, I am tired of sitting, and I don’t want a life-sized portrait of myself,” answered the lad, swinging round on the music-stool in a wilful, petulant manner.” Basil seems like a parent chiding Dorian, and Dorian seems like a sulky child throwing a tantrum.
- When Dorian sees Lord Henry a “faint blush coloured his cheeks”, giving Dorian a feminine character and showing that he is already slightly attracted to Lord Henry
- “I promised to go to a club in Whitechapel with her last Tuesday, and I really forgot all about it.” shows that Dorian is essentially good but is weak minded and willed and this will be weak willed.
- ” “That is very horrid to her, and not very nice to me,” answered Dorian, laughing.” Dorian is shocked but amused by Lord Henry’s quips about Lady Agatha
- Dorian described like a young Adonis/Narcissus and this shows why he is trusted by many and why he gets away with things: “Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity.”
- ” “Would you think it awfully rude of me if I asked you to go away?” Lord Henry smiled and looked at Dorian Gray. “Am I to go, Mr. Gray?” he asked. “Oh, please don’t, Lord Henry. I see that Basil is in one of his sulky moods, and I can’t bear him when he sulks. Besides, I want you to tell me why I should not go in for philanthropy.” ” Basil is very protective of Dorian, and Lord Henry knows that he can use Dorian to manipulate Basil. Dorian is already fascinated by Lord Henry.
- “If Dorian wishes it, of course you must stay. Dorian’s whims are laws to everybody, except himself.” Basil is battling Lord Henry for Dorian’s affection.
- “He has a very bad influence over all his friends, with the single exception of myself.” Warning Dorian Gray subtly about the influences of Henry, and then as if on cue Henry begins influencing Dorian with a long speech, “Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed.”
- “People are afraid of themselves, nowadays.” reflects how people are afraid to be themselves, especially if they’re homosexual.
- Basil is almost always referred to as “the painter” in the rest of this chapter as that is now all he is, Dorian’s affections have been taken by Lord Henry.
- In that day many people would be Christian, yet Lord Henry talks about the powers of the “brain” – showing his scientific and anti-religious side.
- “Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them!” This shows how much of an influence Lord Henry has had over Dorian, as his “mere words” have gotten him into a confused stupor, contemplating life and death and all in between.
- “Why had it been left for a stranger to reveal him to himself? He had known Basil Hallward for months, but the friendship between them had never altered him.” Lord Henry has now shown Dorian that he is homosexual. Dorian wonders why he’s attracted to Lord Henry but not Basil.
- Henry starts to show Dorian that beauty and youth are the only things worth having, saying it would be “unbecoming” to get sunburnt, and that “youth is the one thing worth having.” He continues to talk to Dorian, persuading him that he needs to live while he has youth: “But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it,”
- Lord Henry exaggerates the effects of aging to show Dorian how youth is the most vital thing: “Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to. Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!”
- “A furry bee came and buzzed round it for a moment. Then it began to scramble all over the oval stellated globe of the tiny blossoms.” Very childish language ‘furry bee’ to represent the youthful and innocent nature of Dorian. There are sexual overtones however as the bee is pollinating.
- When Dorian sees the picture he has a shocking realisation: “Yes, there would be a day when his face would be wrinkled and wizen, his eyes dim and colourless, the grace of his figure broken and deformed. The scarlet would pass away from his lips and the gold steal from his hair. The life that was to make his soul would mar his body. He would become dreadful, hideous, and uncouth.” This description is very like Henry’s over-dramatic interpretation of what aging does, showing how much Dorian has been influenced.
- Dorian still seems childish: “a mist of tears” and Basil is concerned, ” “Don’t you like it?” cried Hallward at last, stung a little by the lad’s silence,”
- Dorian expresses how the Dorian in the painting will never be older “than this particular day of June”, this day could have been the summer solstice, a day of magic, which could explain the supernatural element. He states that he “would give everything” for the painting to grow old and himself to stay young forever. He then states “I would give my soul” which seals the deal and is reminiscent of Faustus.
- Dorian seems to become bitter and jealous of the painting and starts to think that Basil only likes him for his art, “I am less to you than your ivory Hermes or your silver Faun. You will like them always. How long will you like me? Till I have my first wrinkle, I suppose.” Art is immortal and man is not, and Dorian realises this. He grows rather over-dramatic, almost like a hormonal teenager when he states “When I find that I am growing old, I shall kill myself.”
- Basil blames Henry, ” “This is your doing, Harry,” said the painter bitterly.” and Henry defends himself. Basil has already resigned himself to the fact that Dorian has changed.
- Basil goes to stab the painting, despite the fact that it’s his masterpiece – this shows how much he loves Dorian. However Dorian realises that there’s life in the painting and stops him, ” “Don’t, Basil, don’t!” he cried. “It would be murder!” “. Dorian is in love with the painting as he is now vain and loves himself.
- Dorian pours out the tea, a woman’s role in that day and age, showing his feminine nature
- We can see that Lord Henry is not a loyal person when he discusses cancelling his meal with his old friend, “I have promised to dine at White’s, but it is only with an old friend,”
- Basil calls the painting the real Dorian, as the painting was painted before Dorian was negatively influenced by Lord Henry. Basil bites his lip, something he does constantly in this chapter as he is worried that Dorian is being stolen from him by Lord Henry. Basil then explains that Dorian and the painting are alike in “appearance” – suggesting that Dorian’s soul has been tainted by Lord Henry’s influence.
- Basil begs Dorian not to go as he is besotted with him and cannot bear the idea of losing him: “He won’t like you the better for keeping your promises. He always breaks his own. I beg you not to go.” Lord Henry looks on “with an amused smile” as he has caused this argument.
- When Dorian and Lord Henry leave together a “look of pain” came into Basil’s face, as he has been rejected and has lost Dorian.
This was a long blog post but I hope you got something out of it! I know I did!!
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It is important to note that the 2011 film version of “The Help” is but an interpretation of the novel. It is not ‘the film of the book’, it is ‘a film interpretation of the book’. Films can use a multitude of different devices to present the story that a novel can’t, such as voiceovers, camera angles and the physical look of the settings and characters in full (in the book we obviously get description, but not the same form of atmosphere).
I felt the contrast between the Bridge Club members and the Help were very well defined in the film. By way of appearance the Help wore very basic uniforms in dull pastel colours and had their hair in buns, whereas the Bridge Club members had very exuberant brightly coloured (almost neon) outfits, with ridiculously over-sized hair. Skeeter however wears much more basic clothing, and her hair is not as well kept. This almost immediately displays that she does not share the same bigoted attitudes as the other members, such as Hilly. When you read the book you do not ‘hear’ the accents of the snobbish Bridge Club, however the use of punctuation and slang in the book means you read the dialogue of the Help in their ‘accent’. Thus in the film we notice the slow southern drawl of the Bridge Club more, which is almost sweet and sickly, contrasting harshly with the comments that they make. There is also a contrast in their clothes as they are so fashionable and modern, yet their views are archaic.
The settings were also physically viewed in the film which also helped contrast between the black and white members of society. We can see that the posh Bridge Club members had large country houses (described in the book too, but having a physical appearance helps the contrast) whereas the Help lived either in large cramped apartment blocks (which only had a sweeping shot, but showed the poor conditions) or small ramshackle buildings. Aibileen’s house is very dark with dull colours, and both the exterior and interior look worn down. The kitchen is a heavily shown place to contrast. Aibileen’s kitchen was very small and could hardly fit a few people in, whereas Miss Leefolt’s kitchen was almost too big considering her small family. Gadgets were shown in the houses, such as mixers and hoovers; this isn’t heavily shown in the book, it was only briefly mentioned. The Help were originally employed to perform labour intensive tasks, like brushing floors etc, now there’s hoovers and other gadgets there are no longer many labour intensive jobs. This shows how the Help were really only there as glorified babysitters, as their only major task was looking after the children.
There are only a few flaws in the film. The film is a very humourous interpretation of the novel, and thus that reduces the serious impact of the novel, as it seems only a ‘feel good’ film. Also the atmosphere of the film is cheery, the colours are sometimes brighter than they should be (e.g. the bus for the Help is a very bright yellow and is too clean, it would be more run down). Also the weather (something you don’t really consider when reading the book) is very sunny and bright, and makes some of the film seem too cheery.
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Oscar Wilde was a playwright, poet and novelist born in 1854 in Dublin. He was born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wilde to a prosperous mother and father. His father was a great doctor, who spent most of his time in London and was thus absent for some of Wilde’s early years and his mother was a poet and Irish Nationalist. Wilde had the best education possible and was obviously very bright. He was an impressive linguist, he was taught French and German and also had a working knowledge of Italian and Ancient Greek. He attended Trinity College in Dublin and graduated in 1874.
Wilde received a scholarship so that he could study further at Magdalen College in Oxford. At Oxford Wilde made his first attempts at creative writing. In 1878 (the year of his graduation) his poem “Ravenna” won a prize for the best English poem composed by an Oxford undergraduate.
After graduating from Oxford, Wilde moved to London to live with his friend, Frank Miles, a popular portraitist among London’s high society. He continued to focus on writing poetry, publishing his first collection, “Poems”, in 1881. The book established Wilde as an up-and-coming writer. In 1882 he embarked on a tour of America, lecturing on a variety of subjects from “The English Renaissance” to “Decorative Art.” He delivered 140 lectures in only 9 months.
Through his lectures and his early poetry Wilde established himself as a leading member of the aesthetic movement (I have another blog explaining the concepts behind the aesthetic movement). In 1884 Wilde married Constance Lloyd and continued to have two children. He wrote beautiful fairy stories for his children and in 1888 published a collection of them, “The Happy Prince and Other Tales”. In 1891 he published his only novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. I will be writing much more about this novel in the coming weeks as this is the novel I’m studying for AS Level. The book was received with negative criticism which surprised Wilde, so he wrote a preface and extra chapters to retaliate, hoping that the new additions would improve people’s opinions of the book.
Wilde wrote a variety of plays, such as “A Woman of No Importance” published in 1893, “ An Ideal Husband” published in 1895, and his most famous play: “The Importance of Being Earnest” which was published in 1895. Around this time Wilde was enjoying a homosexual affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. Lord Douglas’ father then publicly accused Wilde of sodomy (non-procreative sex) and Wilde was arrested on the grounds of “gross indecency” in 1895. He was kept in Reading prison for two years.
After he was released he moved to France and wrote a poem about his time in prison “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” in 1898. In late 1900 Wilde developed meningitis and on the 29th of November called for a priest and was baptised into the Catholic Church. On the 30th of November he died, and his last words (one of my favourite quotes) were:
“My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.”
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We can see that class is a principle theme in ‘Mansfield Park’ from the very beginning, where the three Ward sisters marry different men from different classes. One marries above her station, to Sir Thomas Bertram, one marries at her appropriate rank , to the middle class Revd. Norris and the other below her station, to a sailor who becomes an unemployed drunkard, Mr Price.
We see that high social status doesn’t necessarily mean high morals. Tom goes to London where the hustle and bustle of city life corrupts him into gambling and drinking. The Miss Bertrams are spoiled, selfish and the married Maria even runs off with Henry Crawford, showing the immorality of the upper class. The reason that the upper classes are usually the most immoral is due to the want of rebellion and the fact that there are little to no consequences. If a working class lady got pregnant without marriage she would have nothing to live on, as nobody would wish to marry her, whereas in an upper class situation the lady would be able to live off of her inheritance alone. Even Edmund, who’s a minister, isn’t completely moral in the book as he gets distracted by desire for Mary Crawford.
The immorality of the upper class is shown through the theatricals and the play of ‘Lovers Vows’. This is obviously an unsuitable choice of play due to the sexual content and the reputation the household has to keep up, especially with Maria’s engagement. Sir Thomas Bertram seems more moral than the rest of the household, as he halts the play immediately, as he obviously saw the trouble it would cause and how improper it would be. However we, as readers, need to remember that however moral Sir Thomas may be in his actions in the novel he makes his profits from plantations in Antigua, and thus from the slave trade, an obviously immoral way of making money. The Crawfords are the upcoming business middle class, who made their money in the city. They also bring bad morals as they encourage the play and its content and are also immoral sexually, Henry is quite clearly a “terrible flirt” and runs off with Maria, and Mary distracts Edmund from his life of ministry.
The most moral of the Bertram family is Fanny Price, who comes from the working class. She is patient, helpful and definitely knows right from wrong. She becomes socially mobile as she marries Edmund at the end of the novel and becomes upper class. Austen quite often rewards the deserving in her novels, and Fanny could one day replace Lady Bertram as the mistress of Mansfield Park.
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‘Man and the Echo’ is a poem by W.B. Yeats in which he talks with his Echo about how words can be manipulated to have an alternate meaning. The poem consists of 3 long stanzas, with an echoing line at the end of the 1st and 2nd that echoes the last line. The poem is made up of rhyming couplets. This emphasises the relationship between the Man and the Echo, but also gives the poem a repetitive feel, which gives the idea of an echo. The use of enjambment makes the poem sound like a rush of random thoughts. The poem is almost like a dialogue between the Man and the Echo, with either ‘Man.’ or ‘Echo.’ to introduce who is speaking, like a script.
The Echo could be interpreted in many ways. It only ever repeats what the Man is saying, almost agreeing with him. We could see the Echo as a spirit guide or a deity reassuring Yeats that what he thinks is true. The repetitive nature of the Echo brings the idea of gyres and the occult, something Yeats was fascinated in. As the Echo is only repeating the Man’s words it could be seen as a part of the Man himself, as if he is doubting himself and he is reassuring himself. This seems more plausible when you see the many rhetorical questions, “Shall we in that great night rejoice?” However the Echo’s repetition seems to twist the phrase and makes it seem much darker, “Lie down and die”. This could suggest that the Echo is showing the Man what he is really suggesting. This could show how Yeats’ poems were twisted in meaning, and that Yeats is frustrated by this.
The poem is one of Yeats’ later poems, and we can see this in the more elegaic tone, he is looking back into the past. He looks back at certain things in a regretful way, the phrase “Did words of mine put too great strain on that woman’s reeling brain?” could show how his many love poems may have intimidated Maud Gonne, the love of his life. Yeats is questioning his past, and his actions, and may even be asking the Echo for it’s opinion. The rhetorical question “Did that play of mine send out certain men the English shot?” shows how he looks back and realises what the impact of his poems were, they could have encouraged men to run and fight in the Easter Rising, and maybe even get killed. This seems odd, as for most of his life in his poems he is upset over how his poems have little impact, and that only the apathetic Irish at the time read them, as in ‘The Fisherman’. Man has no control over how people interpret his work, and these interpretations could create “great strain” or inspire wrong deeds, and this frustrates him.
Yeats in the second stanza goes off topic, and has “lost the theme” and goes on to write about broader philsophical topics, such as the abuse of alcohol, or affairs, “Wine or love drug him to sleep”. The phrase “cleans man’s dirty slate” could be a reference to the common idiom ‘wiping a slate clean’ to represent being forgiven. By making man’s slate “dirty” it shows the many sins that men have committed, and how Yeats disapproves of these. In the last stanza Yeats questions God and the afterlife, “Shall we in that great night rejoice?”. He is now accepting death, no longer questioning the past but questioning the future.
The end of the poem has a violent distraction to Yeats’ thoughts:
“Up there some hawk or owl has struck,
Dropping out of sky or rock,
A stricken rabbit is crying out,
And its cry distracts my thought.”
This makes the poem truly seem like thoughts, and Yeats has now stopped pondering life as these animals have made themselves known. The use of animals, rather than another man, makes the end of the poem seem very pastoral and natural.
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‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Constance Markiewicz’ is a poem by W.B. Yeats in which he remembers two friends whose principles and beauty had fallen victim to time. This poem is elegaic but also has features of a first person narrative. The use of enjambment makes the poem sound like memories. The rhyme scheme is fairly regular and contains many rhyming couplets. These couplets could represent the unity of the two women, Eva and Constance. The tone is world weary, sad, yet knowing and accepting. The poem shows how human innocence and beauty will be found out by and disapproved of by time.
There is a real tone of memory in the poem, Yeats seems to enjoy recalling “pictures of the mind” of the past. Yeats shows that all he thinks about is the past, which gives a sense of time gone by, “talk of youth”. Yeats contrasts these ideal old days with how the women are today (similar to how he compares “Romantic Ireland” with the Ireland of 1913 in ‘September 1913′). The women were “both beautiful” and we can see that Yeats held them in high esteem. There is a sense of glamour, opulence, aristocracy and grandure associated with them and Lissadell, “silk komonos”, “Great windows”. Yeats doesn’t want both their political and physical beauty to die. He reflects on the old days of the Easter Rising – “Conspiring amongst the ignorant”. The “ignorant” were the apathetic Irishmen and women of the time. This shows the womens’ political beauty.
As the poem progresses we can see that the women are still holding on to the ideal of a perfect world, a political “Utopia”. However time has passed by and “raving autumn shears Blossom from the summer’s wreath;” the use of the word “autumn” rings change, as autumn is a changing time, and the harsh word “shears” has connotations with death. In stark contrast the words “Blossom” and “summer’s wreath” have connotations with freshness and even fresh new ideas. We can see that only the memory of politics can comfort them now, “When withered old and skeleton-gaunt, an image of such politics”. The physical decay of Eva “withered” is a metaphor for their politics and ideals which have been forgotten.
There’s a tone of defiant anger in the poem, as Yeats is not going to give up the memory and the women aren’t going to give up who they are. The idea of the “match” symbolises the relighting of the passion, to commemorate and highlight their lies. The poem could be seen as ending irrationally, compounding bitterness with another futile gesture of striking a match. The fire could represent a violent change or revolutionary action. It could also symbolise the lighting of a beacon of hope. The idea of relighting the fire shows rebirth and change, which brings the image of gyres, a common symbol in Yeats’ poetry. The use of the supernatural in this poem is less than in some of his other works, but is nonetheless there, the rhyming couplets sound like simple mystical spells and the idea of “shadows” and “sages” also brings about the idea of the occult.
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‘The Stolen Child’ is a poem showing Yeats’ longing to escape from the world, as well as his realisation that despite the world’s flaws, it is still home. Yeats writes a poem in which a human child is taken to the supernatural world, an enchanting, playful and ethereal place. There’s a sense of languid flow which disguises the strong metre. It’s a narrative viewpoint with ballad-like qualities, almost similar to a monologue. The structure of the verses rings change, each stanza has a different number of lines. The rhyme scheme is regular to show the stability of home, and this contrasts with the cold changes of the new world.
Yeats’ early work is often concerned with romantic world and Irish folklore. Ireland as a nation was struggling for independence and trying to assert it’s own identity against the British and the Empire. A returns to local traditions is a way of asserting and creating a sense of Ireland as both different but also ancient with it’s own roots.These early writings see Yeats turning away from the realistic political imperialism in seeking the truths of older tales and legends (tales of morality etc).
The title is key to the poem, ‘The Stolen Child’ as a phrase explores the idea of a changeling, or a child stolen by faeries, a common myth to many cultures which owes it’s tale to Sligo. Yeats was fascinated with the occult and the supernatural. He drew much inspiration from tales associated with Sligo in the Romantic West of Ireland. The faeries in the poem seem to lament the tears and tragedies of the human world. The poem ironically presents the supernatural as something sinister, luring the child away from the wholesome into the unconscious depths of the “wild waters”. The faeries in the poem aren’t good ones. The voices may be those of the pagan Sid Hi – spirits of gaelic mythology that lure the Child from his world. They are evoked in a mystical way and yet their purposes are obviously sinister.
Much of the poem’s delight comes from it’s lyricism, each verse except the last begins with the enchanting word “Where”. The words are strong, song-like and romantic with alliteration and assonance. Rhythm and flowing full rhymes evoke a mystical atmosphere and the use of the word “we” expresses a sense of a separate exotic magical identity of shared doing and being.
The phrase “hid our faery vats” anticipates the human theft at the end of the poem. The idea of theft is also shown in the phrase “reddest stolen cherries”. This also suggests the hoarding of the most precious things and the colour may suggest the shedding of blood or some act of violation against innocence.
There’s irony in the refrain:
“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.“
The faeries are drawing the child from the world, and they appear to be saving the child from the “weeping”, yet they actually cheat and deceive. The phrase “Come away, O human child!” offers the troubled child a rescue from the sorry world to a kingdom of riches and delight. This musical refrain also shows an alluring cadence, the falls and closes in rhythm and rhyme show a sense of shared delight.
The delicacy of sound weaves a spell, evoking a landscape and a world in a dream in which the faeries can even enchant the fish, “slumbering trout”. There are lots of adjectives which gives a sensuous honeyed quality to the poem, “leafy island”, “frothy bubbles”, this makes the poem seems childlike and attractive to children.
In the third stanza the sibilance of the letter ‘s’ conjures up a sense of stillness and mischief as the faeries set their trap, “That scarce could bathe a star”. The action anticipates the more sinister ending of the poem where the “solemn eyed” boy is captured by the faeries spell.
In the fourth stanza Yeats writes about what the boy will lose when he falls the the faeries.
“He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,”
These are warm pastoral images that are a reassuring representation of home for the child. The “oatmeal chest” shows the peace and fulfillment of the natural world. It presents a contrast between the human and the ethereal faery world. It shows abundance and plenty. The “waters and the wild” shows how the boy is lured from the warmth of his home for the cold alien reality of the faeries. The human world may be full of “weeping” but it is still his world.
In the last stanza “you” is changed to “he” which sounds more sinister and removed, as if the child is now distant and caught in the faery world. It’s almost mocking the parents. The use of “he” also shows how the faeries are evil as they don’t even know his name, yet it could also show how “he” represents many children.
The poem can be interpreted as a parable for the loss of innocence, a dream that lures then betrays us. It shows the dangers of the supernatural; of powers that serve their own purposes; and of the illusory nature of beauty. The poem isn’t simple escapism where the poet turns his back on reality for a romantic world, the poem shows us how the Child can sometimes be lost in such dreaming.
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In Chapter 4 of ‘Mansfield Park’ we see the introduction of the Crawfords. These characters highlight the relationship between social class and marriage, as everything about the characters seems to be about these two things. In the time of ‘Mansfield Park’ marriage was very important as the only way to change social classes was through marriage.
The Crawfords are introduced through the fact that their mother had a “second marriage”. Austen talks about their fortune, “The son had a good estate in Norfolk, the daughter twenty thousand pounds” and their beauty, “Mary Crawford was remarkably pretty”. Austen is showing that the upper classes are obsessed with marriage and their suitability for marriage. They are delighted with the idea of living so close to the Bertrams as they could be suitable companions, “she had fixed on Tom Bertram; the eldest son of a Baronet was not too good for a girl of twenty thousand pounds,” they’re only concerned with marriage, especially Mary, “matrimony was her object”.
Austen seems to dislike the upper classes and their material extravagances: “filled her favourite sitting room with pretty furniture”. The phrase “choice collection of plants and poultry” shows her negative attitudes towards these classes, plants and poultry are unnecessary things to have a “choice collection” of, and this is why Austen uses them.
Mrs Grant suggests that Henry marries the “youngest Miss Bertram, a nice, handsome, good-humoured, accomplished girl.” This suggestion itself shows how conversations were based around marriage and suitability, this makes it seem like the upper classes think of nothing else. Henry is established by Mary as the “most horrible flirt”, introducing his attitude to love. She also shows how the whole families (“very clever women” apparently) of some girls have tried to “reason, coax or trick him” into marrying the girl. This shows how desperate women are to ascend the social classes.
The phrase that a wife is “Heaven’s last best gift” shows how God bestowed wives almost as free servants to men. God’s last ‘best gift’ was Eve, who was given as a companion to Adam. This alludes to religious ideas about gender roles and females being inferior to males. Mrs Grant says that she pays “very little regard” “to what any young person says on the subject of marriage. If they profess a disinclination for it,” she assumes “that they have not yet seen the right person.” She suggests that all young people want to get married and they are lying if they say that they don’t. It shows the attitudes towards marriage of the upper classes. The chapter ends with Miss Crawford saying that marriage is necessary if the woman can do it “to advantage”. This almost suggests that marriage isn’t due to love, it’s only to progress in social class.
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As you may have noted I am plodding through analysis of the chapters of ‘Mansfield Park’ at a seemingly slow pace. I am reading it much quicker than I’m blogging it, but I am only writing blog posts on chapters we’ve looked at in class so far.
In this chapter Fanny is brought into the household of Mansfield Park and we see her being welcomed (or not, as the case may be) into the family. We can see immediately that Mrs Norris is classist – prejudiced against lower classes, a snob. She doesn’t empathise with Fanny, being annoyed that she doesn’t seem gracious of her new home, not even noticing that she’s homesick.
We can see that Austen dislikes the ‘Miss Bertrams’ and their silly pass-times: “making artificial flowers or wasting gold paper”. She presents the two sisters as a complete contrast to Fanny, confident young women who are not the most kind. Austen shows that the sisters notice that Fanny isn’t like them, and distinguishes her from them, “my cousin cannot put the map of Europe together”. They assume that she is ignorant and stupid, and the adults seem to agree, suggesting that some people “were stupid” and expressing that it was just a shame that Fanny had to be like that too. This shows the attitudes to the working class.
Edmund is the only character who accepts Fanny and treats her as equal. He helps her write to William and becomes someone she can confide in. Immediately there is a distinction between Tom and Edmund, Tom is described as “careless and extravagant”, yet Edmund is described as “good” and to be a “clergyman”. The fact that he is going to be a clergyman shows his goodness, as in those days your goodness was shown through your Christianity. The chapter ends telling us that Fanny loves Edmund very much, and that “her heart was divided” between him and William (her favourite brother).
The first passage shows the financial affairs, and that Tom has wasted money. Tom’s character is shown through two phrases, that he has “some shame” showing his regret, yet this is undermined by the phrase “cheerful selfishness”.
Mrs Norris is expected to now take care of Fanny, to “claim her share in their niece”. Fanny doesn’t want to go, and goes to Edmund to talk to him about the matter, saying “I love this house”. This shows how her attitudes to Mansfield Park had changed now she had grown up. Edmund mentions that she is important, and she is surprised by this fact. Fanny had obviously not been called important before, her mum had given her away and the residents at Mansfield generally considered her inferior. Edmund suggests that she “will necessarily brought forward as you ought to be”, that she’d be raised up properly. At Mansfield she would have people to hide behind, yet at the Parsonage with Mrs Norris she’d have to speak for herself , her life would change with social circles etc.
Mrs Norris obviously had no intention to do so (much to Fanny’s relief), “Mrs Norris had not the smallest intention of taking her”. She only suggested the Bertrams adopt her to look Christian and benevolent. She uses many excuses to show how she couldn’t possible take Fanny, that she is a “poor desolate widow” and must have a “spare room”. She turns it back onto Sir Thomas, suggesting that “Nobody that wishes me well, I am sure, would propose it.” and persuades the Bertrams to keep her.
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When Fanny Price goes to Mansfield Park she is obviously very homesick. This fact isn’t helped by her relatives not welcoming her in the most gracious way. The only cousin who welcomes her is Edmund, who acts affectionately towards her: ” ‘My dear little cousin,’ said he with all the gentleness of an excellent nature , ‘what can be the matter?’ “. Edmund is her hero at the beginning of the novel and becomes a brother almost equal to William, and Fanny’s heart is divided. The other cousins act differently towards Fanny. Maria and Julia act as if she is ignorant, ” ‘Dear Mamma, only think, my cousin cannot put the map of Europe together’ “. This seems ridiculous to us, yet because the Miss Bertrams have been brought up in such an educated manner and upper class household they know no better, they genuinely think that she is stupid. Mrs Norris, however, has no excuse as she wasn’t brought up in such a fashion. She acts as if she is constantly disappointed and annoyed with Fanny. When Fanny first arrives at Mansfield Park Mrs Norris seems annoyed that Fanny isn’t gracious, not being empathetic to the fact that she’s obviously homesick: “the idea of it being a wicked thing for her not to be happy”. Tom Bertram is the only character who doesn’t seem to have much of an attitude towards Fanny, having very little interest as a 17 year old would towards a 10 year old. The only interaction he has with her when she’s young is to tease her slightly, “laughed at her”. Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram “received her very kindly” and yet they still intimidated Fanny, “She was disheartened by Lady Bertram’s silence,” and “awed by Sir Thomas’ grave looks”.
Due to this treatment, Fanny at her time in Mansfield Park learns only that she is inferior to the Bertrams and Mrs Norris, as she is constantly treated in that way. She must think that she is only there due to charity and so that the Bertrams (and more likely Mrs Norris) look Christian and benevolent. Fanny would also think that she is “ignorant” and “prodigiously stupid” (mainly due to Maria and Julia), despite her obvious love for reading, “books which charmed her leisure hours”.
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‘The Cat and the Moon’ is a poem by W.B. Yeats that on one level celebrates a cat dancing in the moonlight in a childlike ways. On a deeper level it suggests forces at work in life: instinctual, mystical, and spiritual forces that exist beyond many simple and rational views. The poem shows how relationships and perceptions are a changing mix of the objective and subjective. The poem is one, long, continuous stanza and Yeats uses enjambment to give the poem a mystical flow. There is a regular rhyme scheme and this coupled with the rhythm makes the whole poem sound like a song. This reflects the dance element of the poem, as if the poem is a song that the cat, Minnaloushe, is dancing to. The rhythm reflects the hidden rhythms and secret parallels in the natural world of animals, men and the moon, suggesting a wider sense of nature that may exist in philosophies of the time.
This is a playful, delightful and symbolic poem that can be seen as simple, and yet it draws similarities and distinctions between the Cat and the Moon. There is a delight about the poem in it’s conception of a mysterious symmetry between two things in nature that seem so different. There’s a kind of childlike appreciation of the moods of the Cat and it’s energies in a way that is pleasingly magical and mysterious. He is free from rational explanation, yet at the same time potent and real in a different way.
Yeats is fascinated with the occult and all aspects of the supernatural. He worked out his own systems and visions. and believed in the power of different things such as the phases of the moon. There’s an almost mystical sense of communion between the Cat and the Moon and life and the universe. This brings about the image of the gyre, and that everything is linked. This idea also comes into mind when we think of the moon, it changes it’s phase and yet is constant. Minnaloushe initially ignores the Moon, then they become mirrors of each other at the end. This is similar to how Yeats’ ideas of how real and supernatural worlds share links and connections.
The cat, Minnaloushe, is Maud Gonne’s cat. In this poem Minnaloushe represents Yeats, and the Moon represents Gonne. Thus Yeats is dancing childishly around Gonne, trying to attract her attention. The Moon is a traditional symbol for women, the phases of the moon have long been associated with the menstrual cycle. The Moon is behind Minnaloushe, which could be interpreted to suggest that Gonne is behind all of Yeat’s poetic inspirations.
There are distinct contrasts between the Moon and Minnaloushe. The movement of the cat “here and there” and the Moon “spun round like a top” are very different and can’t be synchronised, showing the differences. This description could also show how the Moon wants to be like Minnaloushe, dancing alongside him. The cat is black and the moon is “pure” and “cold”, suggesting it’s white. These two colours are the stark opposites. The phrase “pure cold light” is also ethereal, suggesting a mystical side to the poem. These contrasts show the differences between Minnaloushe and the Moon and could show that Gonne and Yeats are very different. However despite these differences Yeats describes them as “two close kindred” – showing his longing to be with Gonne. There are many apparent differences between the Cat and the Moon, and yet these are superficial as they are both connected by nature.
There’s a strong theme of change in this poem, the change in the moon is reflected in Minnaloushe’s eyes:
“The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.
Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent,
From crescent to round the range?”
This suggestion shows that however they may never be one and the same, they are very similar and have similar aspects: their changing. The change occurs so that the shapes are the same, “round to crescent”, this shows that they change together. These changes in the Moon could show Gonne’s changing attitudes to Yeats and men in general, she would have many relationships with many men.
The “dance” is most probably a metaphor for a relationship. Yeats, as the cat, is desperate to dance and have a relationship with Gonne. Yeats wants the Moon to “learn” this fact, and even though she may be tired of this “courtly fashion” he hopes she may join him in a “new dance”. We can see Yeats’ attitude to the idea of a relationship with Gonne by the use of the word “sacred”. This places Gonne in a divine place in his heart.
Thanks for reading,
(For the people who are reading who are not in my English class you may not understand the picture. The girl in the picture is a friend of mine called Cat. :D)