Born on 31st May, 1819, Walt Whitman is an iconic figure in the history of American literature. His lifetime’s work, especially his poetry, has come to define the sentiments, aspirations and experiences of American citizens in the nineteenth century. Although Whitman was not active politically, he expressed his political views through his poetry. Having lived through the turbulence of the Civil War, he developed passionate views on the nature and complexion of American polity. Whitman envisioned America to be a vibrant multicultural society. This vision he expressed in many of his poems. The poem Passage to India is a good example of this idealism, which perhaps waned a little during the excesses of the Gilded Age. (Pannapacker, 2004, p.45) Through the medium of this art form, Whitman synthesized his notion of the American identity, encompassing within it concepts such as national sovereignty, individual freedom and democratic polity. For example,
“During this . . . Read More
Socrates is one of the most prominent Greek philosophers of the Hellenistic Age. His powers of logical reasoning and the invention of the Socratic Method have left an enduring legacy on Western philosophy. The ideas spawned by him were given further life and shape by his bright pupil Plato, who also documented much of what Socrates orated to his audience. Although he was a prominent member of the Aristocratic class, his lack of deference to authority would ultimately lead to his tragic end. In this tragedy lies heroism and moral fortitude. Although deemed guilty by the then prevailing laws of Athens, he stands righteous in spirit. Even when given the choice between a life in exile or immediate execution, he chose the latter as a matter of adhering to principle. The following passages will elaborate this assessment.
Socrates was brought to trial by the democratic Athenian jury, which had scores to settle with prominent members of the previous regime. . . . Read More
Being the most visible voice among contemporary African American women, Maya Angelou’s works deal with subjects such as racism, sexism, civil rights, etc. She has also embraced various literary forms and genres to convey her creative thoughts. While ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ and its sequels are autobiographical novels, she has also written numerous plays and poems. Her poems are known for their rhyme, metric and the tone of informality. The poem chosen for this analysis is titled Weekend Glory, a discussion of which follows.
Weekend Glory is, in short, a celebration of work and life and the ideal balance between the two. Angelou contends that many people slog away at their office desks on weekdays and beyond, only because they lend themselves to be participants of a consumerist culture. For example, they buy expensive condo apartments, luxurious cars, etc, which places them in a perpetual debt cycle. The lines . . . Read More
Margaret Atwood has never shied away from controversial subjects and issues and her widely acclaimed novel Oryx And Crake contains its fair share of hard-hitting questions. Moreover, Atwood seldom gets into controversies for the sake of gaining publicity. Her bravadoes have always been to reflect on contemporary social, political and economic problems and this book too maintains this standard. Not quite a full-fledged science fiction novel, while at the same time not confining to the realist norm, the book can be loosely classified as ‘speculative with a tinge of dystopia’. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the book re-invokes the themes found in Aldous Huxley’s masterpiece A Brave New World. Just as in the latter, Oryx And Crake ponders on the darker aspects of technological development such as xenotransplantation, genetic engineering and creation of transgenic life forms. With a little creative license, Atwood presents readers with animals such as ‘wolvogs’, . . . Read More
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain toward late nineteenth century is a vital contribution to the American literary scene. Criticized from various quarters for its overtly racist tone, the book, if anything, stands against racism and slavery. The rest of the essay will argue that there is no need for censoring or modifying the contents of the book to suit modern sensibilities.
One of the target areas for modern critics of the book is its explicit and copious use of the word ‘nigger’, which is a slur reference to black slaves. There are two reasons why censorship of the book should not be allowed. First, it goes against the spirit and letter of the Freedom of Speech provisions in the constitution of the country. Second, there is nothing inherently sinister about the word ‘nigger’. In other words, the author, instead of reinforcing the negative stereotype of black people, is only showing the abusive usage of language by . . . Read More
Written by Samuel Beckett originally in French in 1948, the translated English version was first enacted on stage in 1953. One of the masterpieces of the absurdist tradition, the play is infused with psychological, political and philosophical symbolism. It is also rich in its layered themes and motifs. The plot is outwardly quite simple, involving interactions between two friends Estragon and Vladimir as they both wait for another friend named Godot to arrive. Although Godot does not arrive during the course of the play, his anticipation sets up the context for the musings and conversations of Estragon and Vladimir. Author Samuel Beckett creatively exploits this open ended plot structure to ponder over important questions about the human condition. Given that it was published in the aftermath of the Holocaust, it asks deep and compelling questions of the state of human civilization and the nature of our species.
Such utterances from the two lead characters as “to hold the . . . Read More
The three literary pieces being referred for this essay all deal with human emotions, especially that of love (or lack thereof). But their portrayal is far from homogeneous. In the poem To My Dear And Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet, there is little doubt as to the total and unconditional love displayed by the lady toward her husband. The poem Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers by Adrienne Rich presents the opposite situation, where lack of love in a relationship stifles and oppresses Aunt Jennifer. The epistolary piece Last Letter to His Wife, Major Sullivan Ballou is unhesitant in his show of appreciation and love toward his wife. With the likelihood of impending death in the battle-field, his thoughts are a mixture of nostalgia, apologies and hopes with respect to his family. This essay will argue that although love can cause much hurt and although its loss can cause much grief, it is the essence of human lives; and to this extent it has to be sought, experienced and . . . Read More
(Introduction) Eudora Welty has made vital contributions to twentieth century American fiction. Renowned for her insight-filled short stories, she focuses on women and minority issues in her works. The short story A Worn Path is also about women’s issues but but is also about old age and poverty. This essay will argue although A Worn Path is a work of fiction the issues raised in it are pressing realities in contemporary American life.
(Background) One prominent theme in the story is the perseverance of Old Phoenix in crossing so many hurdles on her way to the town hospital. Adding to the dramatic effect of this journey is her very old age (possibly in her eighties or nineties). Despite the physical challenges of the long journey she trudges on with a cane stick as her only aid. The distance from her place to the town hospital is so long that even the young White man she encounters en route admits to the arduousness of covering that distance. The author is . . . Read More
The notion of the American Dream, whereby through hard work and earnest enterprise a citizen could rise to a comfortable standard of living is an exaggeration. Despite being the richest country in the world, the United States also has the greatest disparities in distribution of wealth. Moreover, public institutions in the country have failed to provide basic social welfare for the underprivileged section of the population. (Thesis) As the two poems – The Reservation Cab Driver and Mexicans Begin Jogging illustrate, the achievement of the American Dream remains elusive for a majority of Americans.
Of the 300 million American citizens, close to 50 million of them do not have basic health insurance. This is such a travesty in a country that is the sole superpower and the most prosperous. With the onset of the latest episode of economic recession, the unemployment rate has touched an alarming 10 percent. The main characters in the two poems have highly insecure jobs . . . Read More
One of the hallmarks of good literature is its incompatibility with any of the recognized genres. In pulp fiction, commonly identified genres are horror, romance, mystery, adventure, etc. But these genres do not qualify for serious literary discourse. Being one of the pre-eminent writers of the twentieth century, Italo Calvino’s works generally defy being classified under these genres. This is an obvious way in which genre is questioned in If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller. (Broderick, 2000, p.11)
The novel in question employs a radical new narrative structure, where not only are events shuffled across time-scales, but also the narrative perspectives. In conventional novel structures, either a first-person or a third-person narratives are used consistently through-out the work (with varying degrees of omniscience on part of the narrator). But in If On A Winter’s… address to the second-person is made, bringing a new dimension of reader-interactivity . . . Read More