Satire seems to be one of the most important and evident themes in “The Prophet’s Hair” by Salman Rushdie. Serving as quite the juxtaposition to the Heaney poem I read and analyzed earlier this week. While the Heaney piece seems to say that the person was unimportant because the tradition is what matters – this piece seems to say the opposite, the people are victims of a tradition and they are the ones that matter. While the message is buried under layers of comedy and parody, I think these aid in the delivery of satire. It also makes the piece more far-reaching. I think that humorous and entertaining stories or tales that have a "wow factor" to them are more memorable and make you want to read it again and again.
The traditional item in question throughout this piece is what leads to the family’s downfall and readers are left along for the ride as the family spirals downward. We know that Hashim is not religious himself and goes against practices of his religion as he tells us so much but once he obtains the relic, he seems to view himself to be a godly man once again. Even this transition is embedded with satire and serves as a commentary against religion to show that if Hashim can justify his theft, then what moral power does religion hold if it is so easily warped to suit one’s mold? By the end, when the entire family is dead, sans for the wife who has gone mad, the deaths are to show the powerlessness of the individual in terms of a greater, older, and more traditional system. Hashim is punished because he and his family are victims of a ritualistic practice much like the woman from the reading her this week but this time, we are hearing their story.
I think it can be difficult to view Hashim as a victim considering all of his actions but while he may not have been a great man before coming into the possession of the object, it serves to make him worse and create the man that destroyed his family. Was this to show that we all have the same badness within us? I don't believe so, I think it was to show what tradition and religion can lead us to do and how it has an impact on our lives. The entire time I read this, I could only think of the short story The Lottery which is not a commentary on religion but tradition specifically and how we get so caught up in the uniformity of things, we forget why we did them in the first place/don't call into question why we may do something. In the same way, Hashim is an empty symbol for religion and what can happen when we blindly follow.
If you would like to read “The Prophet’s Hair” by Salman Rushdie, here is a link to a web source: https://www.bolles.org/uploaded/2016-17_Summer_Reading/Upper_School/Sophomore_Summer_Reading/Prophet'sHair_Rushdie_2016.pdf
This week was another lyrical poem but after a bit of practice throughout the past few weeks, I think that I am better equipped to handle it. The first thing that I noticed about the piece was the interesting shift in perspective that occurs between the first three stanzas and the last three stanzas. The language shifts from “I” language that focusses on the feelings of the narrator and toward the object of the poem. This shift is apparent when you acknowledge the shift from “I” to “she” and “her” language. The tone of voice seems to be descriptive but unsympathetic at the same time. The read, or at least for me as a reader, does not feel any sympathy/complex emotions toward the drowning victim. It seems to be purely analytical but does not evoke any specific feelings. I think this coldness is particularly noticeable in stanzas like “I can see her drowned / body in the bog / the weighing stone, / the floating rods and boughs“ (Heaney Lines 9-12).
There also is a traditional aspect of the ritual that seems to be talked about in this piece. I think the thing that lends itself most to this language is the phrasing and the word-choice. Words like “weighing stone” and “her noose a ring” the imagery it provides is very symbolic and ritualistic. He seems to view the body as an object with little discretion for who she was or what happened outside of ritual punishment alone. Which I think contributes the voyeurism that he identifies with is perhaps less erotic (though he does make note of several erotic areas of her body) and more about the perspective of an observer. Yet he doesn't seem to show much empathy for the victim referring more so to her body and less so to her actions/individuality. Which I believe lends itself more so to the rites/ritual aspect of the piece. The dead woman is simply part of a process and her as an individual matters less than the act itself.
a link to Seamus Heaney's poem, Punishment: https://genius.com/Seamus-heaney-punishment-annotated
Admittedly, I have read this piece before, and overcoming some of the biases and the takeaways I took from the text originally made it difficult for me to take a new spin on the piece. It is particularly hard to analyze the perspective on imperialism with my understanding of global politics (I’m a political science major) and history. Needless to say, I have a few biases going into this piece that made my reading of this piece unique! The imagery in The Heart of Darkness has a lot of power and lends itself to the duality of the piece. One of the strongest themes that prevail throughout this piece is the light and dark imagery that can closely be connected to ideas about imperialism. Imperialism is often painted as a positive thing, particularly from colonizers as it’s seen as an evangelical mission, while it actually led to the brutalization of native cultures and individuals. This imperialistic venture led to the deaths and rape of indigenous peoples.
The imagery is most strongly reflected in the ivory material that the colonizers were searching for. Ivory itself is highly valuable and pretty to western and native peoples. For that reason, Kurtz is present in the Congo to procure this good. The dark side of the ivory trade is obviously reflected throughout the story as Marlow is exposed to the damage and destruction that has wrecked the landscape. As Marlow traverses deeper and deeper into the jungle, he sees more and more of the scars of imperialism on the land and its people. Marlow realizes that the darkness in question is also within all humanity and is realized by imperialism. Not only is there duality in imperialism but also within us. Marlow finds himself susceptible to these influences and falling deeper and deeper into darkness as he sees the havoc of imperialism and the power that colonizers hold over those that suffer from their practices.
Ultimately, while the text is reflective of the war between light and darkness within ideologies, it is also reflective of that same duality in ourselves. Human nature lends itself to corruption and as it sees the potential in darkness, the human psyche falls deeper, much as Marlow does. If you would like to read the text, a link is below.
While reading through Penelope, I had a few thoughts. Some themes that stood out to me most heavily were sexuality and the dynamic between men and women in this piece which must have been some reflection on the period. Molly’s character seems to be so contradictory of itself at some points that I think it is hard to pinpoint her opinion on things. For example, she seems to have empowering views on women at certain points of the excerpt, but she also seems to have issues with them as well. She states that "some woman ready to stick her knife in you … we are a dreadful lot of bithces" (Forster). Yet, she also seems to think the best of women stating that "it's much better for the world governed by the women in it” (Forster). Additionally, I think that Molly represents a really interesting character as she has a very obvious sexual desire but still relies on others for a sense of confidence.
It's strange though because as she is connected to nature throughout the passage, I wonder if it is to place emphasis on the natural beauty or allure that women possess or the nature for outsiders to observe such beauty. We know that from her interactions with Leopold and Boylan who both are attracted to her but in a way of observing and enjoying beauty that she has a specific role to these two men. It makes me think about the early push in the American Women’s Rights Movement as sexual freedom was something that many advocated for but in actuality, women often just became the objects of the male sexual revolution. I have to wonder if Molly is simply a victim of that (not the same movement but the same intention). I wonder if Molly places power in sex and being sexual activities but only in certain situations, especially considering her view of prostitutes.
Aside from the observation aspect of the nature connection, I wonder if the greater underlying intent is the delivery of power. She is given options throughout the piece as it is her final decision to have an affair with Leopold. This power dynamic is furthered by the structure of the piece alone as the excerpt is a telling from her string of consciousness. While the lack of punctuation could symbolize a rushed tone of voice, with no pauses it could also relate to an overarching tone of excitement and enthusiasm to express ideas. I'm unsure of how to interpret it fully but based on her character, I think it lends itself more to a conveyer of confidence in what she is saying as she speaks continuously on her thoughts.
If you would like to read Forster’s Penelope, here is a web link: http://www.online-literature.com/james_joyce/ulysses/18/
I’m trying my hand again with some poetry this week and this one was definitely a bit of a doozy (even more than the Field piece from last week). I find that whenever I am reading through poetry, especially some that are more challenging where I struggle to decipher anything on the first read-through, additional information on the author and referring to other's analyses can make things a lot easier. On the first read-through of the piece, I had a lot of trouble deciphering what exactly was happening. The first stanza seems like a whirlwind of chaos and the second is somewhat hopeful but also an air of uncertainty. While identifying the overall tones of the piece was easy to note, I did struggle with having a deeper comprehension of the piece.
I find that is useful to consider the period (yep, again! Just like the two pieces from last week) which was marred by turbulence throughout the world as this was written in 1919, not long after World War I and the chaos that surrounds the end of the Great War left a scar on the people of the planet. I think with the applied context, the first stanza may be about the war itself as he refers to many of the horrors that people expressed about the war in a lyrical form stating, "The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned” (Yeats lines 5-6). With that analysis, I think that the second stanza may be focused on the world following the end of the Great War, a world that was anxious and uncertain. After observing the horrors of WWI many feared the aftershock and were unsure of the world that would emerge from the ashes of destruction.
Aside from a historical lens that can be applied there is also a Christian lens that can be used to observe the piece. I think the word choice particularly lends itself to this as he uses terms such as revelation, Second Coming, and Bethlehem. The 2nf stanza certainly containing more vivid imagery the first. The “Second Coming” that he is referring to be a part of the end of the world in Christian faith where the righteous and holy ascend to heaven. This does tire into the first stanza, line 6 “The ceremony of innocence is drowned” (Yeats line 6). If the innocence has been removed from the world, he is recalling in the first stanza, then what shall remain? It seems that the idea is conflicted later on though as he overturns the traditional concept of ascension stating, "It seems that the ascension has begun in the first stanza and there is uncertainty over the new world that will emerge.
I can’t say with certainty which of these lenses is more accurate to apply but I think that they both have potential. Perhaps it is a combination of the two as, based on the research I was able to conduct, Yeats had complex feelings toward religion and so it is hard to say one way or the other. Because of that, while the second stanza is consumed by what I interpreted as uncertainty, I think it is hard to determine if it is optimistic or not. I was led by Hope Jennings's notes for my analysis and have also linked the poem below!
Hope Jennings’s notes: https://prezi.com/sukukyvjkbdi/gender-modernism-and-war/?utm_campaign=share&token=2ee384eafebf2e7325f54dad3f3dce1f8b181eee6d343eb62ff0a4a93bb2af7c&utm_medium=copy
In addition to the Sapphic lyrical piece I got to read this week, I endeavored The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I was pretty excited to start this piece because the exploration of the duality of man is something that I have always found to be an interesting aspect of literature (not even just in literature, cinema, music, all forms of art seem to have their own way of expressing this concept). I find it particularly fascinating because it is one of those things that make art so innately human and can appeal to all readers. We have all struggles with the bad and good within us and think that it is safe to say many wish we could just remove the ugly parts. sometimes. While there is a moral to the story of balance in the individual, it’s also relevant that we look deeper; we can see that this piece also serves to make a comment on society.
To provide some backstory, Dr. Jekyll seeks to separate the “bad” parts of himself which ultimately leads to his downfall. The piece brings up an excellent point of light in the darkness and the necessity of one for the existence of the other. But that is the obvious aspect of the story that most people can interpret from the piece upon their read through. Instead, it can be beneficial to interpret the transitions that were occurring in Europe as there was increased class mobility and changing gender roles but there was also anxiety surrounding much of the continent as a result of an economic depression so we can understand how and why this may have actually been a conversation about societal expectations. Not only were there many transitions that took place during this time, but this was an era of scientific advancement and we can see the push and pull of humanity regarding science between Hyde and some of the other characters in the story.
A good example of Jekyll struggling with his humanity, or perhaps better stated is the characters that represent humanity, are his interactions with Lanyon and Utterson. Utterson, tasked with executing Jekyll’s will, brings up his dislike for Hyde stating, the he “never approved of [the will] … [and has] been learning something of young Hyde … [and what he] heard was abominable” (Stevenson). In this scene, Jekyll asks Utterson to change subjects and promises that the moment he chooses, he “can be rid of Mr. Hyde” (Stevenson). Of course, as readers, we know that Jekyll will not be rid of Hyde, but this is a great example of the struggle we talked about earlier. Jekyll ignores calls of his friends and instead continues to pursue science (and as we later discuss, indulgence) leaving his humanity behind. There are many examples of Lanyon’s disdain for Hyde and honestly, too many to count – Afterall, Lanyon and Hyde essentially end their friendship over the dispute of Hyde’s existence. Lanyon refers to Jekyll's practice as "unscientific balderdash" and Jekyll pushes comments such as that off, referring to his old friend as an "ignorant, blatant pedant [and that he] was never more disappointed in any man than Lanyon” (Stevenson). These exchanges are great examples of Jekyll ignoring the call of humanity and resigning into his experiments and indulgence.
Moving past the battle between humanity and science, this text and the characters of Jekyll and Hyde serve to comment on society. Jekyll, is an example of the model Victorian man: educated, wealthy, respected in his community, and well-liked while Hyde is the opposite of that. While we don't know exactly what Hyde gets up to in his free time, we do know that he kills someone and that is a decent basis to start analysis for the character. We know Hyde appeals to two base passions: fear and hatred as learned from Jekyll as he states that “that child of Hell had nothing human; nothing lived in him but fear and hatred” (Stevenson). So, on one side of the coin we have the ideal Victorian man and on the other, some hell child. Jekyll has responsibilities as a result of who he is in society so when he notices these desires he has; he creates Hyde as a way of escaping these responsibilities and allowing himself to indulge in whatever he may like. So, this story serves as a way of commenting on the expectations of society – because Jekyll feels he can’t indulge, he creates a monster that ends up taking over his life.
While one can argue that the moral of this story may be that by indulging in shameful acts can lead to one’s total submission to such, I don’t think that’s the main point being made here. I believe that Jekyll felt forced by his responsibilities to create a whole different person to partake in activities that may be deemed shameful (I'm talking about things outside of the blatant murder that occurs—I don’t believe Jekyll create with the intention of committing murder). I think the text serves better as a commentary on society and how it forces people to make decisions as Jekyll does that it does as cautionary tale of indulgence. There are also blatant references to the duality of mankind, but I don't think that the main purpose of the Jekyll/Hyde persona (I think that it may be a function of the duo, but I think they better serve as juxtaposition to each other in commenting on society). Instead, I think that it is better reflected in the push and pull between science (or I should better state "bad science" as we are specifically referring to the unstable practices of Jekyll) and humanity. Ultimately, I believe the text strives to show how society's impositions can lead people to create greater monsters within themselves when they are unable to act freely.
Here is a link to the text, unfortunately, there are no page numbers to reference: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/43/43-h/43-h.htm
I also used some of Hope Jennings’s notes to steer my analysis: https://prezi.com/nuscplrwmx5n/fin-de-siecle-masculinities-monsters-doubles-and-male-friendships/?utm_campaign=share&token=cba0e6ad1ec3815171c6bd752e9238fccdacf96e0fa45a47f291d2c35a0111a1&utm_medium=copy
This week, I am trying my hand at some poetry analysis. This is normally quite scary because poetry can be really ambiguous and confusing. I have chosen the poem, "Maids, Not to you my Mind Doth Change" by Michael Field. I was pretty jazzed to read about this piece because, Michael Field is a pen name for two female lovers, Edith Cooper and Katharine Bradley. This piece not only dismantles gender stereotypes that were pressured at the time, but it also serves to express the push for the sexual freedom of women. It is somewhat important to keep in mind that these are two female poets as it helps us to envision the potential societal pressures the lovers were under but also advises on how we should interpret some of the lines.
An example of how this could impact analysis is in the first few lines "Men I defy, allure, estrange, / Prostrate, make bond or free" (Field lines 2-3). Which, before doing my own research on the authors, led me to believe that this was potentially falling into the trope of the monstrous woman. Where an independent or powerful woman is depicted as being evil as a result of her attributes. While evil may be a stretch, “manipulator” could still apply. However, once we apply the context of the writers, it’s obvious that this wasn’t meant to be a negative depiction of women but to simply state their disinterest for men despite potential suitors. The lines later in the same stanza serve to aid in that depiction as we see that it’s intent is to express disinterest in men and emphasize their attraction to each other, “soft as the stream beneath the plane / to you I sing my love’s refrain; / between us is no though of pain, / peril satiety” (Field lines 4-7).
This context also helps us deeper analyze, “Soon doth a lover's patience tire, / But ye to manifold desire / Can yield response, ye know / When for long, museful days I pine” (Field lines 8-11). Without context, it could be simply interpreted as a pining to be able to spend with a loved one that you have not seen for some time. However, in the context of Bradley and Cooper’s lives, this mean so much more, as a result of societal pressures they likely couldn’t have been affectionate with each other outside of their home and therefore the “museful days” she pines for may just be being able to spend time outside of the home with her partner. There is also the issue of limitations for sexual intimacy as again, this would have been opposed by others in society at the time. “And if care frets ye come to me / As fresh as nymph from stream or tree, / And with your soft vitality / My weary bosom fill” (Field lines 18-21) gives a bit of a glance into what it was likely like for them to be lovers at this time. Meetings were inconsistent and affection had to be hidden and love reserved for only their shared space. This poem does a beautiful job of showing forbidden love in a way that conveys the pure adoration and love they held for each other as well as throw a few punches at the impositions on society.
Honestly, this piece could be so much deeper analyzed (by someone more gifted in that department than me) but I think that the background information and the context are very important as I truly wasn't sure how to interpret the piece. Bradley and Cooper's love and life is a really interesting piece of literary history so I have linked some sources below so you can read through that should you want to, and I also have linked the poem for line references and in case anyone wanted to read their work.
Some cool links about Bradley and Cooper:
Link to “Maids, Not to you my Mind Doth Change”
For this week, I have chosen to focus on the Characteristics of the Women of England written by Sarah Stickney Ellis. Whenever I engage with literature, and I think this is the case for most readers, I have a lens that I more often than not apply to a piece. Through years of reading and after noticing the general theme that my literary analyses take, I noticed that I almost always apply the feminist lens to my reading. For that reason, the title of this piece stood out to me a lot. Obviously, this piece is written in the 1900s and so I was interested to see what has changed in terms of expectations for women. While we as a society like to believe we have made progress toward a unified, equal society, there are still many shortcomings and many of them have been ingrained in society as a result of historical precedent.
As one could assume from the title, this text focusses on defining the roles of women through a traditional lens as they grew to be more independent throughout the 19th century. The degradation of the newfound surge for independence is evident on page 10 in the lines, “I ought, perhaps, in strict propriety, to say what were their characteristics; because I would justify the obtrusiveness of a work like this, by first premising that the women of England are deteriorating in their moral character and that false notions of refinement are rendering them less influential, less useful, and less happy than they were” (Ellis 10). As nauseating as that line may be, it does, in fact, get worse as Ellis goes on to state, “When the cultivation of the mental faculties had so far advanced as to take precedence of the moral, by leaving no time for domestic usefulness, and the practice of personal exertion in the way of promoting general happiness, the character of the women of England assumed a different aspect, which is now beginning to tell upon society in the sickly sensibilities, the feeble frames, and the useless habits of the rising generation” (Ellis 11). These statements implicate that a woman's place is within the domestic sphere, and her work outside of such assignments distracts and limits or degrades the power they may hold in this field.
It’s easy to observe that Ellis does not necessarily view women as powerless individuals but instead believes there are limitations and regions (or more aptly in her opinion, region -singular) that they hold influence over. She calls upon women in England by stating "you have deep responsibilities; you have urgent claims; a nation's moral wealth is in your keeping" (Ellis 13). This excerpt allows us to see how Ellis characterizes women's role and power in society. In slight defense of Ellis's writings, she states "class must include so vast a portion of the intelligence and moral power of the country at large, that it may not improperly be designated the pillar of our nation's strength" (Ellis 14), implying that societies power is separated into two sects one of which is intellect and the other morals, implying the gatekeepers of each respective group. Intelligence, belonging to men and morals belonging to women. We know that she holds these two groups to be equal in the pillars of society as she warns that “England should beware any deviation from the order and symmetry of her national column” (Ellis 15). However, her statement seems to be downplayed by her next statement on how “There never was a more short-sighted view of society, than that by which the women of our country have lately learned to look with envious eyes upon their superiors in rank” (Ellis 15), drawing a power divide between men and women.
For a moment, I believe it is important to address the use of logical fallacies in this text. Most often used are the appeals to tradition and the famous, faulty analogy. In some cases, we get to observe both being used at the same time! On page 25, Ellis states that “the customs of English society have so constituted women the guardians of the comfort of their homes, that, like the Vestals of old, they cannot allow the lamp they cherish to be extinguished or to fail for want of oil, without an equal share of degradation attaching to their names” (Ellis 25). The appeal to tradition being obvious in the direct reference to customs of English Society and the faulty analogy is perhaps less obvious. To use the comparison to the oil lamp is to imply that one can only watch over, waiting for the oil to run low and if it were to burn out, their name shall be sullied. However, this disregards the chance for new ideas, one must not watch the oil burn out if they can find another source of light instead, continuously progressing as opposed to remaining stagnant (with an understanding of historical context, this analogy would make a bit more sense as lightbulbs were not patented until 1879 – 7 years after Ellis's death. However, this does show the narrow-minded aspect of her argument and brings us back to this piece relying predominantly on a conservative plot towards tradition).
So, coming from a feminist perspective, how should one look at Ellis's work? While in a period of third-wave feminism, how can we observe the works of a female writer that published before the first wave of feminism had even started? We may be quick to disregard the views of Sarah Ellis because, in our modern view of the world and women, this is frankly offensive. Ellis's writing conveys that women have one place in society and "if she looked abroad for her happiness, she would be less disturbed by any falling off at home” (Ellis 33). I will admit that I was quick to dismiss her argument as the ideals she imposes are so contrary to those of today but, I suppose small victories can be granted in her ability to recognized some influence that women hold (though this defense is diminished by her imposition that this sphere of power is only within the realm of domesticity). The previous excerpt ties very well into what I think is the greatest downfall of this piece, narrowmindedness. Ellis has one ideal vision for women, and should they go beyond that visage, then they shall be deemed morally corrupt. She has very little imagination for how diversity and progress can aid the home and the individual. While there is nothing wrong with a stay-at-home mother or a child-free worker, there is something wrong with the degradation of one or the other. By being unable to identify the benefits of the two groups, Ellis has woefully undersold the capacity of an entire gender. Beyond that, we should consider how things have changed, while women outside of the household have become more commonplace there are still those that believe women’s place is in the household – for that reason, I believe that this writing still very much applies to the mentality of some in society, even about 180 years later…
To read Sarah Stickney Ellis' work and reference page numbers: http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/vwwp/view?docId=VAB7198&chunk.id=d1e561&brand=vwwp&doc.view=0&anchor.id=#VAB7198-008