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
The Journey of Man, presented by Dr. Spencer Wells, is a very important documentary film that sends out a message of human solidarity. As Dr. Wells says in the introduction, it is the retracing of the all routes of human migration out of Africa in the last 50,000 years. It is a fascinating story constructed on a grand timescale. The drama and significance of this story lies in the high stakes involved for those early humans who ventured into alien territories. There are several facets and themes to the documentary film. But the most striking and profound is that of human solidarity amidst diversity. This essay will expound on this thesis.
In this most compelling story of natural history, the pivotal moment was the great Ice Age that set in 50 thousand years ago. Up until this point, the entire human population (technically of the species Homo sapiens) were confined to just the African continent. This is understandable, for . . . Read More
Ludwig van Beethoven’s music is generally understood as the composer’s personal expression of his deep-felt emotions. The mercurial composer not only suffered from a progressively worsening deafness but also turbulent romantic relations. His music is said to capture the high and low moments of his personal and professional lives. His music is also divided into those that were meant for public performance and those that were written for private/intimate enjoyment. The Moonlight Sonata falls into the latter category. The first movement, which is set as Adagio sostenuto sets the romantic mood to perfection. It is very intimate and an expression of longing and anticipation. This is followed b the second movement which is a short Allegretto that provides sharp contrast in tempo and rhythm to the first movement. And finally the third movement, set as Presto agitato, offers an apt conclusion to the sonata. The meaning of the third movement can be . . . Read More
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
It is fair to state that the status of Asian American women before 1950s was not any better than that suffered by minorities from any racial-ethnic group during this period. This is amply attested by first-hand accounts of discrimination and maltreatment by early immigrants. We also have copious legal indictments handing penalties, jail sentences and deportations to early wave of Asian immigrants to the ‘land of the free’. Considering that it was beginning from the second half of the 19th century that steady streams of Asian immigration poured into America, it is apt to claim that their struggle spanned a century, ending with the Civil Rights movement of 1960s. Prior to this the community endured a century of hardships that mitigated their integration into mainstream American socio-culture. If racial prejudice was a sizeable challenge on its own, the issues were compounded for womenfolk. The rest of this essay is an overview of the Asian American experience . . . Read More
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
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
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 monsters, . . . Read More
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
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 . . . Read More