Category: Literature


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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Jean Renoir’s film ‘A Day in the Country’ and Guy de Maupassant’s story ‘A Country Excursion’: A comparative analysis in the context of Dudley Andrews’ three adaptation strategies

Introduction:

A Day in the Country is one of Renoir’s early forays into narrative story telling.  One can see the tentativeness of a filmmaker finding his feet in the new medium which was only a few years past the silent films era. A characteristic of the fledgling days of cinema was its seeking of ideas and stories from classic literature and theatre.  In the context of French cinema, works of such iconic writers as Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Alexander Dumas were heavily drawn upon.  Guy de Maupassant’s short story A Country Excursion is one among many instances of early cinema embracing literature.  But there are numerous challenges in adapting a work of art to a radically different medium.  Theatre and cinema can be said to share some affinity in terms of principles of mise-en-scene, accepted rules of screen-play, shared exploration of genres, etc.  But literature to film is a big leap and film theorist Dudley Andrew identifies three basic types . . . Read More

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How can Plato’s Allegory of the Cave be read in a contemporary social, geo-political milieu?

Plato’s Republic is one of the most influential works on political theory.  The book is rich in logical deliberations and thought experiments in its endeavor to identify the ideal form of government for any society.  Some of the ideas and theories articulated in the work include ‘theory of forms’, ‘definition of philosopher’, ‘immortality of the soul’, ‘metaphor of the sun’, ‘role of poetry in society’, ‘allegory of the cave’, etc.  Of these, the most commented and profound idea is the ‘allegory of the cave’ that is presented in Book VII of the Republic.

The ‘allegory of the cave’ is a richly allusive and multiple layered illustration of the value, nature and consequence of knowledge.  Though Plato is the author of the book, his role is one of committing to text the conversation between his mentor Socrates and his brother Glaucon.  Socrates equates the darkness intrinsic to a cave to ignorance. To the contrary, the shining light is . . . Read More

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The Origins of Negro Slavery by Eric Williams

1. In sum, what is the Williams thesis? What is his main point and central argument?

Eric Williams is an important black intellectual who witnessed, documented and analyzed African slavery in America firsthand. His main argument is that multiple factors were behind the origins of Negro slavery. The powerful papacy of the Roman Catholic Church, in collusion with powerful European Kingdoms of Spain, Portugal, and later Britain and France, permitted the practice of slavery. Since African Negroes were not of Christian faith, they were deemed infidels by the Catholic Church along with Muslims, Pagans and the rest. Williams contends that economic exploitation went hand in hand with religious dogma in perpetrating slavery. Theories of white racial supremacy were another source of this hideous institution.

2. The Williams thesis critiques which interpretations of the origins of plantation slavery? In other words, which other explanations of the origins . . . Read More

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Mythological Creatures from Dante’s Inferno

The Inferno (Hell) is the first part of The Divine Comedy, followed by the Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Heaven). It is a classic Christian theological text that uses strong poetic imagination and allegorical allusion.  Though originally written in Italian between 1308 and 1321 AD, the work is widely translated and its themes are drawn upon by generations of writers since.  Written in first person narrative, the comedy is about the imaginative events and experiences of Dante (and his companion poet Virgil) as he traverses through Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso in his afterlife. Dante meets both mythological and real people during his long voyage.  He also comes across mythological creatures that pose moral dilemmas and questions to him.  By successfully resolving such challenges, Dante (and by extension anyone with faith in Christ) steadily attains spiritual salvation.  The rest of this essay will dwell on the mythological . . . Read More

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Ah Q and Hsiang Tzu: Two Symbols of a Society in Transition

It is fair to claim that the first half of the twentieth century was the most turbulent in modern Chinese history. The revolutionary fervor, mixed with the wave of Western cultural influences, created a national identity crisis in these decades. The two characters in question transcend their fiction and represent the society at large during this period.  They stand for two contrasted Chinese identities that speak of the good and evil in the Chinese character. This essay will elaborate on how Ah Q and Hsiang Tzu symbolically represent a nation, culture and society that was in transition.

Ah Q is a powerful yet critical portrayal of young Chinese men at the turn of the twentieth century.  As the novelist Lu Xun introduces him, he is full of folly and vainglory. He is also shown to possess the vice of sloth and lack meaningful goals in life.  Lu Xun’s main concern with the novella is not the moral dimension but the social and political ones.  In this view, Ah Q is the . . . Read More

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A Hanging by George Orwell: An analysis

The short story is based on the author’s first hand experiences as an imperial police officer in Burma.  It has all of the trademark Orwellian touches, including the futility and the dehumanization that the imperial project entails. Moreover the story is a strong indictment of the practice of capital punishment.  There are numerous clues that this is the author’s moral stance.  First the dog that strays into the gallows obviously does not find the prisoner guilty. It is a mark of its love for its master and loyalty the dog jumps on the prisoner and licks his face.  Here Orwell is hinting that guilt is a morally relative judgment.

Another point Orwell implies is the shared common humanity between the unfortunate prisoner and his persecutors. This insight comes through at the moment when the prisoner steps aside from a puddle of water. It was a powerful moment that revealed his capacity for rational thinking and action.  The other instances of hangings narrated by . . . Read More

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The Gospel According to Mark by Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges is famous for his short stories.  The Gospel According to Mark is an allegorical take on the time-worn story of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  It excels in all the essential features of good short fiction.  In particular, as this essay will argue, its theme, symbolisms, tone and style showcase the Borges’ mastery of the form. These elements unite and complement one another to produce a cohesive and powerful piece of fiction.

The most powerful element in The Gospel is its theme. The writer draws upon an ancient and codified biblical theme of sacrifice.  Just as Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for the salvation of his fellow brethren so does Espinosa end up being crucified.  But in Espinosa’s case it was involuntary and much to his shock.  This deviation from the original story comes to define the short story, for by transposing an eternal religious myth upon a real-life situation it questions the significance and meaning of the original . . . Read More

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What is the source of law’s legitimacy for Antigone and Creon?

The confrontation between Antigone and her uncle Creon (the ruler of Thebes) begins with the demise of her two brothers Eteocles and Polyneices. Since Creon was on the side of Eteocles during the combat between the two brothers, he decrees to honor him in death.  In sharp contrast he decrees that Polyneices be left rotting in the battle field sans a proper burial.  This is the highest form of punishment in ancient Greek and its evocation is a measure of Creon’s hostility toward Polyneices.  In Creon’s own view, what legitimizes his decree is his authority as the supreme ruler of Thebes.  He performs very little moral deliberation before setting his order to execution.

But Polyneices’ beloved sister Antigone is a balanced, intellectual and humane person (as evidenced from allusions in the play). Her love for her brother impels her to bury him properly. Though this action would invoke the wrath of Creon and jeopardize her life, her humanity and love supersedes all . . . Read More

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A response to ‘I Want a Wife’ by Judy Brady

This essay is a classic in feminist discourse and is rich in irony.  The foremost of the ironies is the fact that the author is a woman and yet longs for a wife. There is no homosexual connotation here, but this device is employed to convey the ordeals and drudgery facing housewives.  Author Judy Brady attempts to transcend her gender and sexuality in order to gain a new perspective on the role of married women within the household.  She looks at women from the point of married men and their expectations.  The point of this exercise is to show how men’s needs and wants dominate interpersonal relations with their wives.  Married women, on the other hand, submit to the pressures of social conformity and economic dependency on men, thus incurring a big sacrifice.  What stands out in this essay is the whole litany of chores and responsibilities that a married woman carries out in her home and workplace.  This list, by virtue of seeming endless, aptly captures the realities of . . . Read More

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