Joseph Conrad’s novella is an encapsulation of the experience of colonialism from the point of view of Europeans. Based on his own seafaring voyages across the colonies, Conrad attempts to picture the dichotomy of civility and barbarity. Through the characters of Kurtz, Marlow, the Russian and the natives, a composite picture of colonial Africa is presented.
Chinua Achebe’s controversial critique of Heart of Darkness condemns Conrad as a blatant racist. This is most evident in the fact that the steamboat’s crew is comprised of a native helmsman and twenty ‘cannibals’. There are also sightings of disembodied heads of natives intended to scare trouble-makers. Further depictions of barbarism come in the form of sudden attacks with arrows and spears that the sailors on the boat encounter. Achebe takes particular objection to the manner in which Conrad compares river Thames with river Congo. He remarks sardonically in his essay, “But if it [Thames] were to visit its . . . Read More
The reinvention of Twelfth Night by production company Shotgun Players has several interesting elements. The modern adaptation of the Shakespearean classic is ebullient with innovation and experimentation. The uniqueness of the play is in showcasing how Shakespeare could be transformed into a musical feature.
Director John Tracy presents a unique interpretation of the Shakespearean classic without sacrificing its essence. The numerous musical interludes and the over-the-top slapstick comedy are deliberate ploys on the part of the director. The purpose for these additions is to augment the entertainment value of the play. Given that Twelfth Night is an out-and-out comedy, these improvisations enhance, rather than detract from, the effectiveness of the play. The only thematic element in the sets used is that of a sea-side. All the props and costumes reflect a sunny coastal town without revealing any specifics. The free-floating placement of musical instruments serves as . . . Read More
Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron is a critique of overstated equality. As members of civil society we all agree upon the value of equal rights and equal opportunities. But when equality is taken too seriously, it can have counterproductive effects. All of us have experienced inequality of power, fortune and endowments in our personal and social lives. We accept it to be part of the game of life and adapt ourselves to the fact. In contrast, the political realm endeavors to offer equality of individual rights, liberties and entitlements. The eligibility to vote to elect our public representatives is one such right. The right of electoral franchise is equal to the extent that one person is allowed one vote and that each vote is weighted equally. It is telling that this fundamental observation of equality still does not make the United States an ideal model of democracy. Hence, there is disconnection between lofty principles and ground realities in both the short-story as well as . . . Read More
The two texts in question are foremost witty and profound pieces of literature. The artistry and element of fun induced in the two writings make them alluring to the readers. Within this attractive form they present important social comment. As for their content, they both illustrate various hues and shapes that constitute human oppression. This essay will argue that while both the stories take note of structural oppression, their emphasis is on individual oppression – the latter including even self-oppression.
There is substantial difference between how individual oppression is manifest compared to institutionalized/structural oppression. In the former, there is no historic ethnic conflict between the perpetrator and the victim. It is a random act of disparaging treatment of a fellow human based on prejudice or misconception. In twentieth century American history, for example, the blatant institutionalization of black slavery eventually eased to give blacks nominal . . . Read More
Following up on the impressive debut novel The Fisherman (published in 2015), Chigozie Obioma’s follow up work An Orchestra of Minorities has once again created a buzz. Set in rural Nigeria, the novel follows the life of Chinonso, a young poultry farmer, who struggles with the sudden loss of his father, having already lost his mother during his teenage years. His only sister had long eloped with an unsuitable man. Depressed and feeling ever so isolated, he has a chance encounter with a woman attempting suicide as he is returning home one evening. That event is the crux around which the course of Chinonso’s life will now flow.
For outward appearances, it was Chinonso who saved the young woman’s life. But it would prove to be the case that the act of saving a stranger’s life brings Chinonso’s own struggles into perspective. The mythic ‘Chi’ is an important non-human character in the narrative. . . . Read More
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s early twentieth century classic showcases several elements of literary art. The tale of romance and longing of the protagonist Amory Blaine is at once charming, poignant and rich in social comment.
In terms of literary elements, the novel is a bildungsroman, for being an exposition on the process of growing up. Not much emphasis is given to the childhood and adolescent years of Amory Blaine. However, the few years of his young adult life that is depicted is a process of maturation and coming of age. Through his romantic aspirations, with its attendant failures and successes, Blaine goes from boy to man.
In terms of style, Fitzgerald employs a restrained manner of expression. Though the romantic genre gives license for poetic and flowery language, Fitzgerald is shy of using it. Writing the novel in his early twenties, this shows tremendous literary maturity. In this sense, the novel itself can be reflexively seen as the bindungsroman of the . . . Read More
In His Steps is a rare work of fiction, which achieves a perfect balance of theology and social comment. The important characters in the novel each add their own perspectives to the town of Raymond. We find areas of convergence as well as divergence between their views on the town. But in synthesis, a composite picture of Raymond emerges.
Reverend Henry Maxwell, around whom the whole plot revolves, is an influential figure in the town, which is populated mostly by Christians. He was a sincere and honest clergyman, albeit with a degree of prejudice, as demonstrated in his initial attitude toward the shabby stranger. With Raymond hinted to be located in interior Illinois, this kind of class prejudice is not uncommon at the time of the novel’s setting. In this vein, Raymond’s distrust and distance toward the stranger is a statement about semi-rural America at the turn of the twentieth century. Moved by the shabby stranger’s passionate appeal to the members of the . . . Read More
Michel Houellebecq has the distinction of being the best known contemporary French litterateur across the globe. Houellebecq had never hesitated to call a spade a spade in his works of art, be it his novels or poems. The latest offering Serotonin is almost prophetic in that it deals with a phenomenon in France that is topical at the time of release of the book. We are talking about the Yellow Vest protests that have rocked France towards the end of 2018. Houellebecq could not have anticipated such events unfolding so as to coincide with the release of the book. But the fact of this coincidence nevertheless gives more context and urgency to the central themes of the book. The decision by the author to not give interviews or have media interactions in the lead up to the publication has heightened intrigue among French literature aficionados as well as followers across the rest of the world. The French government’s bestowing of Legion d’honneur (the . . . Read More
John Wesley’s explanatory notes on Genesis-3 throws light on the intricacies of the relationship between Adam and Eve. At the outset, the choice of Serpent as the incarnation of devil is explained. The serpent is a sly creature that can operate with subtly in capturing its prey. Since the serpent can strike a fatal blow, its choice as the agent of Satan is apt. The first few stanzas of Genesis-3 also states how reason and speech are deceptive and can lead humans on the path of immorality. Adam and Eve, our first parents, were thus deceived by the serpent’s persuasive discourse of words. Eve, having thus been seduced by the power of reason, bit into the forbidden fruit, thereby condemning all further generations of humankind as bearers of that sin. Wesley’s interpretation is elaborate, in that, he lays out the methods of logic employed by the serpent. For example, the serpent spoke the following falsities in convincing Eve to commit the original sin:
“He . . . Read More
Negro by Langston Hughes is neither technically complex not metaphorically rich. Yet it strikes a powerful chord in the hearts of the reader, mainly on the back of its emotional appeal. The poem is an illustration of how simple words and easy historical references can be synthesized into powerful art. This essay will argue how the medium of poetry is employed by the poet in conveying one of the blights of human history, namely, black slavery.
A prominent theme in the poem is the comparison between the status of blacks then and now. Written from the point of view of an enslaved American black, the poem is full of comparisons with slave experiences from history. Bet it in King Caesar’s empire or under the Egyptian Pharaohs or as captives in native Africa or under the hands of Belgians in Congo, blacks have suffered great oppression throughout history. What more, slavery of blacks had occurred in different corners of the earth, under various political and social contexts, . . . Read More