Category: Classics

Author style in A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner

William Faulkner is identified as a Southern writer, showcasing the issues and peculiarities of this part of the USA. To this extent, his short stories and novels reflect the culture, language and religion of the American hinterland. A Rose for Emily is no exception. Although set in a fictional city named Jefferson in Mississippi, the details distinguish it as a southern city.

A clear indicator of a southern city is the style of language – the southern dialect as it were. Through all dialogues, especially those used by the illiterate or rural folk, the southern accent is evident. Faulkner’s style also captures the social hierarchy within the city. It is on account of Emily’s high social status that her tax evasions are tolerated and her privileged lifestyle permitted. The epitome of this is when the town police pour lime around Emily’s house to absorb the foul smell emanating, instead of actually going inside and investigating.

Faulkner uses tragic irony in . . . Read More

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Stalin’s Barber by Paul M. Levitt

Consciously or not, Stalin conjoins religion and politics. Why?

Religion, especially the monotheistic religions profess the idea of damnation and divine retribution for sinners. Stalin must have thought that where bullets and the baton are inadequate in suppressing dissent, the fear of God would serve as a complete deterrent. Another explanation for Stalin’s mixing of politics and religion is to develop cult followership. In religion, we find how the revealed word of God is never contested. It would suit Stalin’s totalitarian agenda quite well to have the citizens worship him as a cult figure. By encouraging religion, Stalin is promoting certain personality traits that are complementary to running a totalitarian regime.

What is the point of having numerous Stalins? (the plaster of Paris busts in the basement)

Although Stalin was a man in possession of enormous political power, deep inside he was very insecure. Some consider . . . Read More

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Notable similarities between Sarah Penn of ‘Revolt of Mother’ and Grace Ansley of ‘Roman Fever’

It is quite true that Sarah Penn and Grace Ansley come from contrasting social backgrounds and are separated in terms of place and period. Roman Fever is set at the turn of the 20th century and reflects the values and ethos of urban America at that time. Grace Ansley, though belonging to a particular historical era, cannot be said to typify all women of that era. The strongest proof of her uniqueness is obtained in comparison to her antagonist Alida Slade. Revolt of Mother, in contrast, is set in rural America. Its primary character, Sarah Penn, is a good representation of the homemakers of that generation. She shares the same problems that most women of her generation suffered, chief among them being male domination. While there are these undeniable differences in terms of their social mileau, the stories of the two women share many similarities. The rest of this essay will delve into these similarities.

The most common characteristic between Sarah Penn and Grace Ansley is . . . Read More

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How the ‘fuku’ is an obstacle to happiness for characters in Oscar Wao and how they try to solve this issue?

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has attained both popular and critical acclaim. The novel is a melange of several interesting stylistic features. It brings social history, science fiction and magical fantasy all together in an experimental narrative form. The copious use of footnotes and imaginative asides are also notable. The novel is also an exposition on Dominican culture, especially with respect to notions of masculinity. It is held in Dominican culture that supernatural curses (fukus) and remedies (zafas) are integral parts of an individual’s life. Sometimes these fukus can get transferred across various generations of a family. While factually speaking these are no more than superstitions, for the natives, they are an integral part of life. Dominicans treats fukus and zafas as if they are divine revelations. This essay will delve into some of the perceived instances of fuku in the story of Oscar Wao and how some of them are resolved through the grace of . . . Read More

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Why we should read To the Reader (from Fleurs du Mal) by Charles Baudelaire

Thesis: Charles Baudelaire expanded subject matter and vocabulary in French poetry, writing about topics previously considered taboo and using language considered too coarse for poetry. Analyzing To the Reader makes a case for why Baudelaire’s subject matter and language choice belong in poetry.

Dear Reader,

Any work of art that attracts controversy is also likely to be interesting. This can certainly be said of Charles Baudelaire’s Fleurs Du Mal (Flowers of Evil), of which Au Lecteur (To the Reader) serves as a preface. There are many reasons why I would recommend Au Lecteur to you. The utilization of sharp sensory imagery, deliberation of topics considered taboo and a freestyle choice of vocabulary are major attractions in the poem. But instead of detracting from the value of poetry, these facets of his art only enhance its appeal. Through the rest of the letter I hope to convince you of this, my friend.

Having known you for many years . . . Read More

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In what ways is WH Auden’s In Memory of WB Yeats typical of the tradition of elegy, and in what ways is it distinctive?

WH Auden’s classic elegy of his contemporary WB Yeats has withstood the test of time. Even after five decades of its first publication, the poem is fresh in its invocation of feelings of loss and suffering. The loss and suffering are so much at the deceased artist and the cessation of his work, but more pointedly at the larger lamentation of the futility of poetry as an instrument of social change. This is one area where Auden transgresses the traditional elegy form.

Auden’s work is atypical of the elegy genre in many other ways. Firstly, he makes no attempt to praise the object of his attention. Nor does he overtly express a sensation of loss at the demise of the artist. Instead, Auden uses the scaffolding of the three part elegy form in putting forth his observations on the nature of poetry. Although it is a fairly pessimistic viewpoint it does not lack in merit. Using the imagery in a redemptive fashion, the elegy

“begins in a frozen landscape, as . . . Read More

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The Great Man Theory of History as evidenced in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance

Applying the Great Man theory of History as a subtext to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s classic essay Self-Reliance makes for an interesting synthesis. The Great Man theory was brought into public discourse by Thomas Carlyle in the 1840s. But most of the later commentators pointed out to some of the misassumptions and flaws in the theory. Chief among them was Herbert Spencer who viewed that great individuals were products of their culture, history and environment and the inverse is seldom true. Yet the idea of the Great Man holds an intuitive appeal to readers. As people sharing a sense of community we are all looking for leaders and role models to provide us guidance. It is this intuitive appeal for leadership that sustains the value of the Great Man Theory, although it had somewhat become unfashionable in the last century.

Great men are thought to be path-breakers and independent thinkers. (James, p.114) In Emerson’s text, we find a powerful invocation of individuality. He . . . Read More

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Literary theoretical analysis of Virginia Woolf’s To the Light House

Woolf’s novel was a ground breaking work at the time of its publication in 1927.  It broke away from the literary tradition of narrative, plot based story-telling. Instead the work experimented with impressionistic and modernist methods of art, borrowing from their successful implementation in the visual arts. In his insightful essay, Jonathan Culler enlists five observations on the nature of literature. It makes for an interesting scholarly exercise to examine which of these points apply to Virginia Woolf’s novel.  This essay will argue that the presence of both the properties and consequences of the language of Woolf make it a characteristically literary.

Woolf’s novel was a ground breaking work at the time of its publication in 1927.  It broke away from the literary tradition of narrative, plot based story-telling. Instead the work experimented with impressionistic and modernist methods of art, borrowing from their successful implementation in the visual arts. In . . . Read More

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Ken Loach’s articulation of social concerns in Kes

Ken Loach’s 1969 masterpiece Kes is rich in social narratives. The 1960s was a decade of cultural and political upheaval in Europe and America. Some of these changes were captured in the film within the structures of narrative story telling. The late 1960s witnessed an end of an era in British economics, for it marked a turning point (arguably a turn for the worse) in British history. From that point onwards Britain, following suit American economic policy, had opened up its economy for global investiture. What is now called the global neo-liberal regime was adopted then and continues till date. It is undoubtedly a momentous occasion for not just the British economy but for British politics, culture and social life as well. In many ways the old bastion of solidarity and nationalism was coming to an end. The coal mining communities that are portrayed in Kes were perhaps that of the last generation of miners. In a span of a decade the complexion of British industry would change from . . . Read More

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American writers as critics of war, women’s status & slavery: Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass and Margaret Fuller

All the authors in the title have made key contributions to American literature, culture and politics. They used their literary talent as a means to not only create art but also to transform society. The 19th century was a period of great upheavals in American history. The nation was still young and uncertain of its own identity. It is quite natural that this milieu gave rise to several undercurrents of unrest. On the political front was class struggle between the propertied and un-propertied whites. In terms of social equations, the blacks were hoping for the abolishment of slavery. Women were still thought of as ‘property’ of their fathers or husbands or sons, let alone having the right to vote. In terms of general culture, the population was highly illiterate. It is these pressing issues that writers such as Melville, Douglass and Fuller sought to address through their work. It can be claimed that their efforts were not in vain, given how much the country has progressed in . . . Read More

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