Both the Iliad and the Odyssey remain the oldest known literary works in Western Civilization. Written around eighth century B.C. the Iliad is an epic poem totaling 16000 lines. Its central theme is warfare in ancient Greece, especially those waged by King Agememnon and his rivals. It also has several references to the Trojan War. This work is commonly attributed to the poet Homer, although there is no conclusive evidence toward this end. The other major work attributed to Homer is the Odyssey which followed the Iliad and is considered to be its sequel. Composed in the dactylic hexameter poetic style, this too is a lengthy poem, stretching to 12,110 lines. The plot of Odyssey is centered on Greek war hero Odysseus and his beautiful wife Penelope.
Although both these masterpieces of Western literature were written in pre-Christian times when the written tradition was still in its infancy, they still remain relevant today. Events such as war, love, betrayal, . . . Read More
The two works of literature discussed in this essay have several similarities in their underlying themes and narratives. The Street Car Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams in 1947, was not only well received by critics, but also adapted into several stage productions. The post Second World War period in which the play is set was a period of rapid social transformation. The United States had emerged as one of two superpowers and there is unprecedented growth in the manufacturing industry. This alters the conventional equations of power between men and women, cities and country sides, northern states and southern states, etc. It is in this shifting and evolving milieu that the lives of Stanley Kowalski and Blanche DuBois cross paths, which ultimately leads to much interpersonal turmoil. Similarly, the novel ‘The Reader’ written by Bernhard Schlink is a work of high literary standard. The movie version too got several nominations in the Academy Awards. The . . . Read More
The poem titled “The Moment” is a beautifully illustrated and compactly presented work, and its meaning is especially relevant for contemporary societies. The poem is organized in three stanzas of six lines each. The first stanza sets up the narrative by making the claim about human beings’ ‘ownership’ of earth. The second stanza counters the first stanza by explicating the inherent folly behind the notion of ‘ownership’. The final stanza qualifies the second stanza by giving reasons for why human beings cannot be owners of the planet. The poem can be summed up thus: Whenever human beings start believing that they have mastered their environment and start believing in a misplaced sense of superiority over mother nature, then they are setting up their own doom. We as a species will always remain products of nature and to that extent subordinate to the wellbeing of our natural environment. Through the course of our planet’s history, we as a species are only recent . . . Read More
John Steinbeck is arguably the most prominent littérateur of his generation to have adopted the cause of working class America. His most famous work The Grapes of Wrath depicts the everyday travails of a westward migrating white American family in search of better economic opportunities. Of Mice and Men, another prominent work, is a much smaller novel both in terms of the number of characters as well as the social situations they find themselves in. Steinbeck started his career as a journalist before taking up novels and poetry as his primary avenue of writing. Steinbeck’s books generally deal with the desperation and resilience of poor Americans in the early decades of the twentieth century. His works also serve the purpose of a social documentary and present a picture of systemic injustices in the United States. His outstanding literary life culminated with the conferring of Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, four years before his demise . . . Read More
Both Walt Whitman and Thomas Bailey Aldrich are important poets in the American literary canon. While Whitman continues to influence and contextualize contemporary American poetry, the popularity and reference to Aldrich have greatly diminished. One can see why this disparity has come about from the two poems dealt with in this essay. Whitman’s poem titled A Broadway Pageant is one of appreciation and warmth toward the people of the Orient and beyond. The poem was written in the year 1860 on the occasion of a Japanese envoy’s visit to United States. Consistent with the spirit of the country’s founding principles such as liberty and freedom, the author welcomes the envoy with enthusiasm. His enthusiasm overshoots his subjects, as Whitman makes references to different races, ethnicities and cultures of the world with poetic grace. This is in sharp contrast with Thomas Aldrich’s poem, titled Unguarded Gates, which takes on hues of Xenophobia and White . . . Read More
The book Reviving Ophelia, which is written by Mary Pipher, deals with the topic of adolescence in girls. The author peruses widely accepted concepts in the fields of psychology, sociology and gender studies to illuminate her thesis. At the outset, Pipher talks about the numerous challenges imposed on adolescent girls by the society of today. For example, she sees contemporary society as a ‘girl-poisoning’ one, which essentially forces young girls to turn into “female impersonators who fit their whole selves into small, crowded spaces”. Instead of letting the girl find her true calling through a process of exploration and experiment, the strictures of American society narrows down the scope of their individual expression. The author cites numerous anecdotal examples in the book, by way of which she throws light on key psychological insights on female adolescence. Reviving Ophelia does not stop with illustrations of the state of young women in the United . . . Read More
The novel ‘The Reader’ written by Bernhard Schlink as well as its movie adaptation starring Kate Winslet as Hanna received critical acclaim. The movie version got several nominations in the Academy Awards. But, as is the case with motion pictures based on works of literature, certain aspects of the written work tends to manifest itself in a diluted form in the celluloid version. This is true with respect to The Reader as well. While the movie certainly deserves its acclaim, especially on its technical aspects, there are crucial differences between the two versions. This essay will argue that the movie The Reader fails to capture the central thrust and focus of the novel in terms of capturing the personalities and thoughts of Hanna and Michael in their entirety. As a result of this deviation, it would stand second to the novel in terms of its aesthetic and moral significance to the audience.
When evaluating the novel, one has to see it in the context of the . . . Read More
Iago’s hatred of Othello emerges from a variety of reasons. At the outset, Iago is Othello’s servant and there is bound to be a systemic hatred against one’s masters. Then there is Desdemona, the most gracious and virtuous wife of Othello. The intimate and exemplary nature of their mutual love and devotion inspires envy and none more strongly from Iago himself. In the play, Iago is so placed that he sees opportunities to improve his station in life by bringing about his master’s demise. Seen from this perspective, Iago holds no special grievance against Othello, but rather the latter happens to be a mere hurdle to Iago’s social and economic progress. Shakespearean scholars through the centuries have forwarded a variety of reasons for Iago’s apparent hatred of Othello. This essay will provide the whole gamut of reasons offered by scholars, namely sexual envy, material opportunity, religious belief, ethnic and racial prejudice, social and economic progress, etc; but it . . . Read More
The novel Anton Reiser by Karl Philipp Moritz deals with issues of growing up in Germany toward the end of the eighteenth century. This semi-autobiographical work traces the first twenty one years the author’s own life. The author performs a retrospective analysis of his psychological development during these years. This essay will pertain itself to one particular aspect of the work, namely, the analogy between Anton Reiser’s resort to reading books with the modern day teen phenomenon of using recreational drugs.
A careful scrutiny of the early life of Reiser gives clues to his psychological development and his propensity to fall back on escapist activities. Foremost among the conditions was the family environment in which he grew up. He has a very unpleasant childhood as his parents never get along. From this backdrop of a dysfunctional family he is apprenticeship with a pietistic hat-maker proves equally troublesome and is forced to go back to school. His . . . Read More
King Lear is widely acknowledged as one of William Shakespeare’s great tragedies. This essay will identify and analyze a couple of key scenes from the play which makes a significant contribution to the overall development of plot, its character and the theme.
Act 1 Scene 1
The very first scene from the first act is important for various reasons. Firstly, it introduces all the central characters in the play and gives an indication as to their dispositions. Of the three daughters of King Lear, the two elder ones Goneril and Regan play the roles of antagonists along with the ever conspiring illegitimate son of Gloucester, Edmund. King Lear assembles in his court his heirs-apparent and key members of the nobility as he decides to announce the details of inheritance of his Kingdom. The ensuring dialogue between King Lear and his three daughters sets the tone for subsequent developments in the plot and also captures the . . . Read More