Category: Literature


A speculation on the most valuable book lost to humanity

Much of the knowledge which the world had at one time has been lost to us now.  Natural disasters, wars, fires, have destroyed books and the knowledge in them.  We know they existed once, but they no longer exist now.Suppose you could protect and save ONE of the things we’ve read this semester so people of future generations could read it and think about it, which one would it be and why?

There are several contenders for the title of the most valuable book lost to humanity.  Homer’s Margites is a strong candidate due to its philosophical richness.  Likewise, the Lost Books of the Bible leaves Christians wondering at possibilities.  Jane Austen’s Sanditon would have enhanced the author’s already formidable reputation.   But from several such worthy contenders, my choice for the most valuable book would be William Shakespeare’s Cardenio. If I am endowed with the power to save the book through . . . Read More

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William Shakespeare: A Question of Authorship

William Shakespeare and JS Bach are perhaps the two most important cultural figures in Western Civilization. This high pedestal that they occupy makes questions over their authorship almost blasphemous for their admirers. If Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor has come for scholarly debate in recent years, the question marks over Shakespeare’s authorship were raised four centuries earlier and cover a substantial part of his work. The Anti-Stratfordians (as those sceptical of Shakespeare’s authorship are called) prefer to attribute his works to one among the following contenders: Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Edward Dyer, the earl of Derby or especially Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford. In this backdrop, the challenge facing both the faithful and the doubters is the scarce historical record to either support or disprove their claims. If the late Baroque obscurity surrounding Bach’s primary documents lead to no definite conclusions, it is even more . . . Read More

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The Emancipation Proclamation & the Gettysburg Address: A comparative analysis

Abraham Lincoln’s greatness as President lies in his extraordinary ability to take crucial decisions that would prove pivotal to the nation’s history.  The Emancipation Proclamation, which essentially promised blacks of their right to equality and liberty, is one of its kind – not just in American history but in political history as a whole.  The proclamation and the Gettysburg Address are two exemplary documents whose appeal is intellectual, emotional and moral.  This essay will argue that the moral force of the two documents derive from the founding doctrines of the country as well as from scriptures.

The Gettysburg Address was delivered amid very tumultuous events.  The Civil War has already brought loss of human lives and material wealth.  Even the very conception of the nation is being questioned by the two warring factions.  Lincoln was clearly a shaken man due to the tragedy unfolding under his command.  Yet he was duty bound to . . . Read More

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Huxley’s effective use of conflict and control in reinforcing the dangers of technocracy in Brave New World

Brave New World is a profound literary work that encompasses themes of philosophical discourse, projection of societies in the future, the impact of technology on human relations, etc.  The major theme in the novel, however, is the link between dystopian societies and an underlying technocratic socio-political order.  Huxley uses conflict and control in the realms of politics, human relations, culture and technology to showcase all the malefic aspects of a technocracy.  This essay will flesh out this thesis in detail.

One of the constant undercurrents in Brave New World is the dehumanizing effects of technological progress.  It would be simplistic and false to blame technology per se for the situation, for there is a political angle to it as well.  In other words, if sophisticated technology is wielded by powerful political institutions for vested gains then the results can be disastrous for humanity.  Eugenics and scientific planning are two . . . Read More

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Massacre at Paris: Why does Marlowe decide to expand on the character of Guise at the expense of Navarre?

Despite no authentic version of the play extant, Christopher Marlowe’s play Massacre at Paris continues to be of importance.  The play is heavily drawn from real historical events happening in French politics at the time of it being written. The Massacre at Paris that was unleashed by the Third Duke of Guise upon all his suspected enemies is both brutal and real.  Marlowe portrays Guise as a thorough Machiavellian character who is bent upon usurping power through any means.  The killing of his father Francis when he was just 13 is a key event in the development of Guise’ personality.  Facing this calamity at a tender age impresses in his mind the motivations for revenge. This would later transpire into a more generic blood and power lust.  His immediate ascension to throne after his father’s premature death forced Guise to mature very fast.  His chief nemesis would be Henry of Navarre, who is an able and imaginative administrator.

Marlowe devotes so much more . . . Read More

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How does power of Higher Authority manifest in Antigone by Sophocles and Another Antigone by A.R.Gurney?

Almost two and a half millennia separate the ancient Greek version of Antigone (attributed to Sophocles) and its modern adaptation written by A.R. Gurney. The classic version is part of Sophocles’ trilogy of Theban plays: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. The great Greek myth of Oedipus continues to be integral to the Western literary canon even today.  Starting from 5th century B.C., various ancient writers of the Hellenistic era made references to Oedipus in their works.  The modern adaptation for theatre by A.R. Gurney offers an interesting contextualization of heroine Antigone’s fight against authority.  In both the cases, the theme is the same, one of confrontation of the individual will against a powerful authority figure.  In Sophocles’ Antigone, this antagonist was Creon the King. In Gurney’s play it is the Professor in Classics Department George Henry Harper.  But the nature of struggle of the two heroines is the same. This essay . . . Read More

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Is Ahab the uncivilized one in Moby Dick?

There is no doubt that Ahab is the most uncivilized and barbaric of the sailors.  Although he is the captain of the ship and holds authority over the entire crew, his actions do not merit him respectability.  The harpooners carry a tarnished image by virtue of their profession – they are obligated to massacre the whales.  But Ahab’s livelihood is more of his own choice. He could easily have chosen a merchant’s life and look at fishing and hunting as merely commercial opportunities.  Indeed, Ahab was reminded of this saner and safer option by his lieutenants in the Pequod. But his vanity is too big for such humbling decisions.  Even before the grand ship set sail, Ahab was deep in his ambition of killing Moby Dick the white whale.  His battle cry is full of vehemence and bloodlust, as his final moments spent fighting the giant beast clearly reveal: “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from . . . Read More

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Myth and Superstition in Moby Dick

The white whale Moby Dick can be looked at as a metaphor or an illusion.  It is true that Ahab’s pursuit of it is real and the whale’s sightings by other ships equally honest.  But the highly exceptional skin colour for a whale is a deliberate literary device employed by the author. What Melville is trying to convey is the ultimate futility and folly of Ahab’s stated mission.  Though Moby Dick the white whale is real and its history well documented within the fiction, its very existence is highly improbable.  Zoological knowledge concurs that white whales are very rare and elusive.  This fact of nature throws light on the precarious and absurd mission of Ahab’s revenge. Not only is he hunting a dangerous beast of the wild oceans, but spotting and getting near it is highly dicey.  Just as ancient myths are events that are plausible yet never true, Ahab’s mission is theoretically possible but is never likely to succeed.  It is in this respect that myth is expressed in . . . Read More

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Theme of Personal Obsession in The Emperor’s Babe and Purple Hibiscus

Both the stories in question have a female, colored protagonist.  The two central characters Zuleika and Kambili are also similarly aged – it is their teenage years that are being explored.  Even before they reach adulthood they go through enormous upheavals in their lives. Moreover, their stories fit into a colonial discourse with attendant features of cultural displacement, social alienation and economic exploitation.  There is yet another interesting similarity between the two heroines, namely, their personal obsessions. But the objects of their obsessions are not the same. Likewise, secondary characters in the two stories have obsessions of their own. This essay endeavors to show how there are a range of psychological dispositions among various characters which account for their obsessions  and how the authors’ own obsessions bear upon them.

The Emperor’s Babe is a fresh and vivid verse narrative of a young woman in Ancient Rome.  Born into poverty and . . . Read More

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Roald Dahl’s Villains: An analysis

Roald Dahl is one of the most widely read children’s book authors of the twentieth century. Although he wrote several forms of literature, including adult novels and essays, he is most renowned for his children’s books, including popular books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG. Beyond proving to be accessible and engaging to children, his works reinvigorated this genre by making it more accessible and realistic for children to identify with. His penchant for understanding child psychology and composing a complex, intriguing plot contributed to his renown. More specifically, one of the defining features of Dahl’s fiction caused by Dahl’s personal childhood is its macabre characterization of several adult characters juxtaposed with good natured characterization of other adult characters.

In Roald Dahl’s literary style, the story is mostly constructed from the point of view of the child protagonist, who is pitted against a few imposing adult . . . Read More

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