The Heart of Glory: Children, Humanism, and Character in Greene’s Novel

In Graham Greene’s dynamic novel The Power and the Glory, we follow the Whiskey Priest throughout his harrowing journey as he runs for his life, avoiding capture and death at the hands of the Lieutenant. This novel shows the development of the priest as he turns from a previously selfish man before meeting his daughter, into a man who gives everything including himself to trying to help children after meeting Brigetta. Greene shows the diversity and parallels between the Lieutenant and the Whiskey Priest as they both struggle with theological beliefs while embarking on their journey of making a better world for children, both handling it in extremely contrasting ways. We follow the Priest while on the run from persecution in Mexico; from watching him meet his love child to helping a woman carry her dead son along a dangerous path to a church. The Lieutenant and the Whiskey Priest dance around each other from place to place but the Priest is finally caught when he steps back into a dangerous territory to deliver the last rights to a murderer. A major distinction that grows larger throughout the progression of the novel is how the Whiskey Priest changes drastically throughout the novel and is a person who has immense influence, even after death. Both the Lieutenant and the Whiskey Priest care greatly for the children; however, the Whiskey Priest’s Christianity influences more people than the lieutenant’s humanism. Throughout the novel, both the Whiskey Priest and Lieutenant love children and are willing to devote their existence to the children’s future.

While on the run from the Lieutenant the Whiskey Priest travels to a village where he meets his illegitimate daughter Brigetta. The Whiskey Priest knows it’s a sin but he can’t repent for having his daughter whom he loves but feels condemned by Christianity, “He said, I don’t know how to repent.” That was true: he had lost faculty. He couldn’t say to himself that he wished his sin had never existed, because the sin seemed to him now so unimportant and he loved the fruit of it” (Greene 152). From that point on the “bad” priest evolves rapidly from a man who reluctantly returns to hear a confession to a man who walks into certain death to hear the confession of a murderer. In contrast to the Whiskey Priest, the Lieutenant does everything for the children from the beginning, but does it for all children. His need to create a better world for children steams from his own childhood which “seemed to him like a weakness: this was his own land, he would have walled it in if he could with steel until he had eradicated from it everything which reminded him of how it had once appeared to a miserable child. He wanted to destroy everything: to be alone without any memories at all” (49). In an attempt to make the world a better place the Lieutenant attempts to rid Mexico of the corrupt evil that is associated with the deceitful ‘fairy tales’ the Church has weaved. By killing priests and religious figures the Lieutenant found a purpose but more importantly “he had [found a way to try to] give the children a bright material future and his lonely failure is endorsed” (Sharrok109). Each man devotes his life to children but both go about it in drastically opposing ways. The Whiskey Priest focuses his love on a single child, Brigetta, while the Lieutenant focuses on all children.

Continually, due to the Lieutenant’s humanist beliefs he tries his best to care for children but rejects the church. The Lieutenant’s actions are motivated by his humanism views. He believes that all of the children will be better off without the corrupt Catholic Church. His views become perfectly clear when he questions the Whiskey Priest about how he could possibly support a Church that disregards the ones who are actually in need of help but instead “supports the rich and ignor[es] their brutal oppression and continual plundering of the poor [and] blames the Whiskey Priest for deceiving the poor about the evident reasons for their suffering” (Gordon 50). The Lieutenant fights in order to care for the physical needs of the children, which correlates to his atheist belief that only accepts the physical world. He becomes increasingly frustrated however, because he can’t comprehend how people can have faith in a God that he doesn’t believe could exist as there is only vacantness as a result of evolution from animals (Greene 48). Thus, the Lieutenant believes he is purging the citizens and making way for a better future as he tries to “eliminate from their childhood everything which had made him miserable, all that was poor, superstitious, and corrupt. They deserved nothing less than the truth” (58). The Lieutenant does everything in order to deconstruct the Catholic Church as he sees them as the source of everything that could harm the children and their innocence.

In contrast to the Lieutenants humanism, the corrupt Whiskey Priest has strong Christian beliefs. Due to his theological beliefs he attempts to care for the children in a spiritual and moral way while fighting for eternal goodness for each child. In a contrast to stereotypes, the Priest feels he is “even less worthy in the sight of God” (Leah 19) yet still continues to minister to people throughout his personal struggle and his physical journey through spiritual, moral and mental support. Continually, the Whiskey Priest is motivated by his Christian beliefs even if he is corrupt he still believes that God is good and that He is incorruptible which he specifies “in his conversation with the Lieutenant after his arrest, [he] affirms his faith. ‘God is love. I don’t say the heart doesn’t feel a taste of it, but what a taste. The smallest glass of love mixed with a pint pot of ditch-water. We wouldn’t recognize that love… it would be enough to scare us—God’s love. It set to a bush in the desert, didn’t it, and smashed open graves…’” (21). Regardless of his personal sin and struggles, the Whiskey Priest still holds strong in his faith and is unfaltering which assists him in difficult decisions to come as he finds the love for his daughter, and a new flame is enlightened within him. Even when the Whiskey Priest was half-starved, assaulted by fever and the police carried him, he still carried out God’s will. Even from within the thick walls of a jail cell, the Whiskey Priest still finds Gods light and spreads it to everyone who needs it and even admits to being a Priest so that he can minister to those who desperately need a priest (Greene 123-134). Even though the Priest does not see it, he is a self-less and Godly man yet believes he is not a good priest; however, he still ministers to those in need while he demonstrates that “Christ is intimately linked with every sinner” (Bosco 50) and does what he can to foster the children’s spiritual and mental needs as opposed to their physical needs

Moreover, while the Lieutenant believes that the measures he takes through humanism make a large-positive impact, he actually ends up harming them physically and mentally. The Lieutenant does everything for the people but they still fear him and do not respect him as a person or what he stands for but rather makes people follow him through fear. This is because he harbours deeply rooted hatred for Christianity and is not hesitant about taking hostages to kill from the villages he claims to protect as “his brutality and persistence in wishing to kill the fleeing Whiskey Priest is leading him astray, away from the people whom he wants to assist, away from the poverty stricken Mexicans to whom he wishes to restore their stolen property and integrity” (Gordon 50). Regardless, the Lieutenant believes all his efforts will pay off because it is for the benefit of the people he cares about; however, “When the boy Luis who had hero-worshipped him spits on his polished boot” (Sharrok 109) it becomes clear that the Lieutenant is not as influential as he believed. The Lieutenant didn’t see the harm in what he was doing as his views blocked the reality from his consciousness, “A man like that… does no real harm. A few dead men. We all have to die” (Greene 34). The Lieutenants one-track-mind is a hindrance to seeing how scared the people are but also distracts from how he is attempting to do everything for the people but is actually making them, and himself suffer which he demonstrates after ‘wining’ as “he [goes] into the office. The pictures of the priest and the gunman were still pinned up on the wall: he tore them down- they would never be wanted again” (207). Once the two men are gone, the Lieutenant no longer knows what to do since he thought purging would assist the future of Mexico’s children but in reality he has murdered countless people, many of whom are innocent which created a state of fear for the children. The Lieutenant devotes his entire life to trying to make Mexico a better place for the children but has little positive impact and ends up emphasizing what he tried to drive out.

Although the Whiskey Priest believes he and his Christianity beliefs make no impact on the people, he actually influences the children for the better. His life and even in his death are caused by his sense of duty. The Whiskey Priest could have stayed across the mountains in safety, but he chose instead to administer Last Rites to the dying outlaw, who murdered countless. Even though he sensed that he would be wasting his time and that the message summoning him was almost assuredly a police trick, he still went (Greene 188-90). The Whiskey Priest does all in his ability to do God’s will, even though his spiritual situation is unnecessarily complicated by issues that targeted priests such as himself; however, through this “daily acquaintance with acute suffering and death that allows him to save his own soul and to dispense aid and comfort to the souls of others” (Bosco 50). Both before and after his death the Whiskey Priest influences many for good. After meeting with the Whiskey Priest Mr. Tench “[has] an odd impulse [come] to him to project this stray letter towards the last address he had [for his wife]… he tried to begin… he started to write” (Greene 45-46). Similarly, during the Whiskey Priest’s brief interaction with young, ex-Christian Coral, “‘has turned her mind back to God in time’ –i.e., in time to earn her eternal salvation—for ‘the sesame’ to the future, as the Priest’s dream suggests” (Baldridge 63). The Whiskey Priest does not seek power nor glory but still has a large effect on the children including Louis. When Louis is introduced he does not care about the stories his mother attempts to tell him but after the Whiskey Priest, he “begins to see the pious tale of the martyr Juan read to him by his mother in a new light: he is a convert from the Lieutenants party to the Church” (Sharrock 118). Even through his death, he made a way for a new Priest and consequently Christianity, as the boy opens the door wide for the new Priest after watching the Whiskey Priest’s execution. In contrast to the Lieutenant, the Whiskey Priest does not try to be influential towards the children but is actually the most influential character in the novel. Throughout the novel the Power and the Glory, the Lieutenant and the Whiskey Priest are intertwined and connected through their journey, beliefs, and love for the children. The Lieutenant attempts to care for the children’s physical needs as he is motivated by his hate for the Church and his humanism beliefs. By contrast, the Whiskey Priest is motivated by his Christianity and his desire to love and nurture souls and thus cares for the spiritual aspects. Throughout the novel, the Lieutenant makes it clear through his actions and words that he desires to have a positive influence over the children and to make the world a better place solely for them. However, his actions have the opposite effect and the Lieutenant remains an uninfluential character who negatively effects Mexico.

Despite the Whiskey Priest being a ‘bad’ priest, he is actually one of the most positive and influential people in the novel. He is able to minister to the broken and lost souls since he himself is a broken and lost soul. The Whiskey Priest is a self-less, courageous man who is too hard on himself and does not recognize the good he has fostered in Coral, Louis, Mr. Tench, and countless other citizens thus paving the way for Christianity to begin to flourish once more. Both the Lieutenant and the Whiskey Priest care greatly for the children; however, the Whiskey Priest’s Christianity influences more people than the lieutenant’s humanism.

Works Cited

Baldridge, Cates. Graham Greene’s Fictions: the Virtues of Extremity. University of Missouri Press, 2000. Bosco, Mark. Graham Greene’s Catholic Imagination. Oxford University Press, 2005. Diemert, B. Graham Greene’s Thrillers and the 1930s. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014. Gordon, Hayim. Fighting Evil: Unsung Heroes in the Novels of Graham Greene. Greenwood Press, 1997. Greene, Graham, and John Updike. The Power and the Glory. Penguin Books, 2015. Leah, Gordon. “A Bad Priest? Reflections On Regeneration In Graham Greene’s Novelthe Power And The Glory.” The Heythrop Journal, vol. 51, no. 1, 2010, pp. 18–21., doi:10.1111/j.1468-2265.2009.00510.x. Salvatore, Anne T. Greene and Kierkegaard: the Discourse of Belief. University of Alabama Press, 1988. Sharrock, Roger. Saints, Sinners and Comedians: the Novels of Graham Greene. Burns & Oates U.a., 1984. Word Count without Sources, References or Header/Title page: 1,205

Kingsolver’s Construction


“The Poisonwood Bible,” by Barbara Kingsolver, uses the character of Nathan Price to address the effects of western supremacy and one’s personal superiority, specifically fueled by religion. The Price family travels to the Congo on a mission trip, is only a year before the country secedes from Belgium, leaving them in great need of assistance. Nathan was determined to give them this help by will or by force, all while dragging his family along with him. The way each child handles this is dependent on their personality and viewpoints. Kingsolver uses Nathan’s three daughters and their personal perspectives to address the dangers of disregarding others’ viewpoints with the idea of one’s own superiority.

Leah’s Perspective

The morality of imposing one’s personal values onto others without regards for opposing viewpoints creates a toxic circumstance that can lead to closed minds forming dangerous misconceptions. Kingsolver addresses this by using the narrative structure of switching between perspectives to make the toxicity of superiority evident throughout the text. However, she specifically leaves out Nathan’s perspective so that readers can see how his behavior affects different types of people. Nathan Price is almost immediately introduced as a radical Christian, close minded individual who believes he owes his entire existence to the pleasing of God. The delusion that his God sees a strict divide between right and wrong is very dangerous for someone like Nathan – a man who is determined to spread the word of God for his own personal gain. When the Price family ventures to the Congo, they are not welcomed as Nathan’s western superiority is very evident in the way he treats the Congolese but the way that he reacts to them during a time of need. The fact that they are not quick to accept him and the word of God only intensifies his personal feelings of superiority and makes him even more defiant than before. However, the way that this intensity is accepted is different with each character. Leah, a teenage girl that holds her image of her father close to her heart, thinks highly of her father – even stating that “[Nathan’s] devotion to the church, was the anchoring force” in her life” (Kingsolver 64). She even goes as far as to state that “his wisdom is great” (42). This hero-like view that she has of her father makes the church and her faith something of great importance in her life, only fueling Nathan and his idea of himself as someone of notable value. This egocentric characteristic leads Nathan to overlook not only the “centuries of customs and survival” but the reality that “daily struggles focus on survival, not redemption” (Ognibene).

Despite all of this, Leah still has a positive view of her father, and her childlike perspective leads her to truly believe all that he does is for the betterment of the Congolese. She believes the world is beautiful through her naïve eyes and longs to “exult in God’s creation” – a viewpoint that is very different from the perspective of the Congolese as their society is in chaos (Kingsolver 149). The world is not beautiful to the Congolese, and they believe God has given them nothing – something that Leah’s sister Rachel also seems to agree with. As Leah grows older, she begins to resent her father, and the guilt within her heart is nearly crippling. She mentions the “stirring of anger against [her] father for making [her] a white preacher’s daughter” because it set her so far apart from the Congolese (115). It is difficult for her to process the fact that it is “frightening when things that you love appear suddenly changed from what you have always known,” (236). Her whole life she had seen her father as a hero, “walking in his footsteps her whole life” and now her whole perspective changed, leaving her to “fall in line behind [her] mother” (393). As she grew, Leah began to see her father’s inability to accept other cultures and embrace the differences in those that were different than him.

Rachel’s Perspective

While Leah had a tendency to see the good in the people around her, including her father, Rachel’s viewpoint of the Congolese is very negative as she tends to only see the beauty in herself. She is very in character with the stereotypical teenage girl in that she is very concerned with herself and her appearance. She finds no interest in things that do not benefit her in some way or another. Upon arriving in the Congo, she complains of being “sore at Father…for having [them] be there in the first place” (49). Rachel also speaks negatively of those who do not share her western idea of fashion and privilege, referring to the Underdowns as “plain janes” with their “economical home haircuts and khaki trousers,” (Kingsolver 159). Even though the Underdowns have English-speaking in common with the Price’s, Rachel still refuses to accept them as her equals – a trait that is very similar to the way that her father behaves when in contact with those unlike him. This leaves no surprise when she speaks poorly of the Congolese and their customs, even complaining about their tradition dress. She states that there was no need for them to be “so African about it,” making it clear that she rejects the thought trying to accept or validate cultures that differ from her own (45).

Not only is Rachel unaccepting but she is rather insensitive to the cruelties that take place around her. Ruth-May’s death was something that took a toll on every member of the family, no matter how they dealt with it. However, Rachel’s personal superiority does not fail to shine through even during this tragedy as she declares that she is “still alive and not dead like Ruth May” leaving her to believe that she “must have done something right” insinuating that Ruth May had done something to cause her own death (405). This insensitivity and self-entitlement are a derivative of her father’s behavior and lack of exposure of other cultures for his children. Rachel even declares that her own father would “sooner watch [them] all perish one by one than listen to anybody but himself” (169). Nathan is so involved with his faith and his mission to spread the word of God that the family is able to pick up his traits, good or bad, and create their own personal agendas. Rachel’s mission is to be in a place of superiority compared to those around her. She sees things the way she wants to as long as it benefits her, and this trait does not leave her even as she gets older. On her way to leave the Congo, she states that she “cannot remember giving a second thought to when I would ever see [her family] again, if ever” because at the end of the day, if it does not involve or benefit her in some way, it does not matter.

Adah’s Perspective

The view Adah has on life is very different than the viewpoint of her other sisters. Being disabled physically does not at all hinder her mental ability to process and understand the world around her – in fact, she could be referred to as the most insightful of the entire novel, though she rarely speaks for a majority of the book. This may, however, be on purpose as she refers to herself as not being able to “speak as well as [she] can think” (Kingsolver 34). Having a disability that made her seemingly ‘less superior’ than her family left her heart open for the people of the Congo, viewing them as people similar to her with bodies that were more vessels rather than another way to prove her self-worth. She even states that she has a “strong sympathy for Dr. Jekyll’s dark desires and Hyde’s crooked body” (55). She believes the Congolese “have their own handicap”, making her perspective very different than that of her family (11). Her belief that a handicap is not a curse makes it even more miraculous when she ages and discovers that she was not diseased at all, and her limp was simply “a misunderstanding between [her] body and [her] brain” (312). All these realizations are in complete contrast to her father and his behaviors, something that was admittedly unexpected as she spent a majority of the novel simply watching those around her. Adah describes herself as “a voice screaming in the desert,” as no matter what she does or says, it tends to be undermined by her father’s inability to sympathize with others and her sisters’ talkative and opinionated personalities. However, as the novel continues on, Orleanna practically goes mute leaving Adah to use speaking as “a matter of self-defense” (407). Between her mother not speaking and Adah’s own inevitable personality change, it is clear that Nathan’s behavior is negatively effecting the people around him with or without his own awareness.


Kingsolver’s, “The Poisonwood Bible,” expresses the dangers of imposing viewpoints on others without regards for others’ personal values through the character of Nathan Price and the effect he has on the people around him. By dividing between the perspectives of characters, the book shows that the marks that Nathan leaves on those that he tries to touch are just as negative as it is strong. Kingsolver uses the narrative structure of multiple first person perspectives to address the idea that the morality of imposing one’s personal values onto others without regards for opposing viewpoints is a toxic circumstance which can lead to closed minds forming dangerous misconceptions.

The Pen is Truly Mightier Than the Sword

Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief follows the life of the once illiterate Liesel Meminger and her progression into literacy set primarily during WWII in Molching, Germany. Liesel is adopted by a German couple in Molching, Germany after the death of her brother on the way to Molching and the implied death of her own mother. She begins to form relationships with town folk such as her adoptive parents, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, Max Vandenburg, a Jew the Hubermanns hide in their basement, Rudy Steiner, her childhood friend, and many other denizens of Molching. As she forms relationships with said town folk and develops her literacy, the double-edged nature of words becomes apparent, which bring both desolation and consolation. Adolf Hitler, the unseen antagonist of the entire novel, exemplifies the desolation of words and their impact on an entire country of impressionable people and an entire race of Jewish people during the Holocaust. As a result of widespread desolation, Liesel realizes the consolation of words, as they are able to comfort her bereaved soul by developing friendships with others. However, the fullness of human experience in Zusak’s The Book Thief is captured through a mixture of consoling and desolating words; words can demonstrate healing out of a place of destruction. Therefore, words can be a double-edged sword, bringing both desolation and consolation to a speaker and observer, and The Book Thief exemplifies this quality, displaying qualities of desolation in Hitler’s rhetoric as seen in Max Vandenburg’s The Word Shaker, consolation in a growing relationship between Liesel Meminger and Max Vandenburg through The Standover Man, and a mixture of both in a father-daughter relationship between Hans Hubermann and Liesel through The Gravedigger’s Handbook.

Even though Hitler was never a tangible character in The Book Thief, his omni-presence looms over the characters of the novel, demonstrated through his depiction in Max Vandenburg’s novella, The Word Shaker. Vandenburg is a German Jew hiding in the basement of the Hubermanns and acts as a physical representation of the displacement and impending destruction of an entire race because of Hitler’s social Darwinism. As a gift for Liesel, he writes a novel called The Word Shaker which provides a Jewish perspective on Hitler with imagery of Hitler’s use of rhetoric as a tool for world domination in its exposition. Max muses that “Yes, the Führer decided that he would rule the world with words. ‘I will never fire a gun,’ he decides…His first plan of attack was to plant the words as many areas of the homeland as possible…It was a nation of farmed thoughts” (Zusak 445). Hitler never directly affects anything, but he indirectly directs the destruction and the terror of the events of the novel through his rhetoric according to The Word Shake; his rhetoric creates forests of rampant nationalism throughout Germany, causing the sons of the Holtzapfels, neighbors of the Hubermanns to die, drawing the Hans Jr. Hubermann, a Nazi soldier to die in the brunt of a Russian invasion, and ultimately provoking Allied nations to kill innocent Germans, including those in Molching. His words serve as weapons, uniting the nation under his racially driven demonization of Jews in Mein Kampf; his words farm a forest of concentration camps sprawled throughout Germany and Poland, including Dachau and Auschwitz. Book burnings, air raids, hate crimes, and concentration camps are all a product of the machine-gun like words of Hitler’s machinations. He never needed to fire a gun because his words drove others to fire guns for him. The destructive words set into motion the misfortunes of Molching and abroad, create tension between people and people groups, and significantly shape the lives of the souls on Himmel Street.

Despite the destruction created by Hitler, words also bring consolation to both Liesel and Max, evidenced by Max’s The Standover Man. The pair’s relationship begins with Max’s moving into the Hubermann household away from his entire family in fear of Hitler. The German Jew has nightmares, very similar to the nightmares of Liesel herself, and they form a strong relationship that lasts until the end of the novel. Because of their strikingly similar experiences, the two begin to discuss their similarities when she asks him to explain his dreams. Not only is he just a lucky survivor left alone in a dark basement, unexposed to the world, he develops a multi-dimensional character to Liesel, not simply a foil Liesel’s personality traits. Vandenburg encapsulates this sentiment to Liesel through his self-written novel, The Standover Man. The novella of sorts demonstrates Max’s constant fear of men standing over him, except when Liesel stands over him herself, soon sharing her similarities including the stuff of her dreams, writing, “She said, ‘Tell me what you dream of…’ In return, she explained what her own dreams were made of. Now I think we are friends, the girl and me…the best standover man I’ve ever known is not a man at all” (Zusak 233-235). Because of their exchange of words, they achieve a certain level of consolation juxtaposed against such a desolate epoch of time; because of their exchange of words, Max no longer becomes afraid of standover men, be it his father, a boxing opponent, or a Nazi officer because he realizes that some standover men, like Liesel Meminger, are able to bring him to a degree of happiness when everything is falling apart; she is the best standover man of them all. Instead of tearing apart the fabric of a racial group, words stitch the damaged fabric with a meaningful relationship.

Despite the seemingly mutually exclusive factors of desolation and consolation, at times, both are necessary for the fullness of the human experience, demonstrated by the beginning of Hans and Liesel’s relationship through The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Before Liesel reaches the Hubermann household, she witnesses the death of her own brother, Werner and takes a book near her brother’s buried corpse entitled The Grave Digger’s Handbook perhaps as a memento or an impulsive action in an emotionally charged moment. In her first few nights at the Hubermanns, her adoptive parents, she urinates in her sleep because of the nightmares that were borne out of her traumatic experience. However, Hans Hubermann, her adoptive father, helps her read the morbid handbook to ease her nightmares, described as, “…Liesel could tell exactly what her papa was thinking…he was clearly aware that such a book was hardly ideal…as for the girl, there was a sudden desire to read it…perhaps she wanted to make sure her brother was buried right” (Zusak 66). Despite her traumatic experience, she seeks for comfort with her father with a particularly morbid guidebook. The desolation of her nightmares and the traumatic experience contributed to the consolation she experienced through building a relationship with Hans Hubermann. Her adoptive father eventually teaches her to read out of this seemingly inappropriate book. The gateway to her experiences with words, both desolating and consoling, is this guidebook on the digging of graves. On a microscopic scale, Liesel is able to turn an embarrassing and uncomfortable moment into a consoling relationship involving her progression into literacy. The handbook with such powerful memories tied to it ironically allowed Liesel to reach closure with the death of Werner, as the fragment of the tragedy brought her closer to Hans Hubermann. However, on a grander scale, The Grave Digger’s Handbook serves as a gateway to her experiences with more and more books that shape her as a character and introduce her to more instances of consoling and desolating words.

All of the novels mentioned in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak have both a desolating and consoling effect on the protagonist, Liesel Meminger. She experiences a range of emotions tied to some books like The Word Shaker, The Standover Man, and The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Often, the adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” coined by English author Edwin Bulwer-Lytton, becomes contrite in the today’s vernacular. However, Zusak illustrates this adage well in this novel, as Hitler’s rhetoric is able to build up and destroy whole nations and cause the everyman to take arms against a fellow human. However, Liesel’s friendship with Hans or Max allows her to feel friendship, a rare emotion in a time of hatred and discrimination. The important lesson from this thematic facet of The Book Thief is to be wary of how one utilizes words and understands another’s words. For example, the political arena becomes a hotbed for rhetoric in speeches, especially with the previous 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. When one listens to a speech, he has to be cautious of ideas sugarcoated with anaphora, alliteration, praeteritio, and the like. Yes, rhetoric is an effective tool designed to capture an audience’s attention, but it can also build up or destroy because of its sheer power in alluring people with often faulty ideas. Furthermore, people have to be mindful of how words can be used to comfort the suffering. An important facet of the human experience is sadness, so others should be equipped with the knowledge of how to make amends or sympathize with consoling language. All in all, the power of words comes as a double-edged sword, having the two qualities of being both comforting and disquieting. Everyday people should be aware of the power of words, lest another Hitler comes along to rally them up for an unethical purpose.

Zola’s Use of Setting in Therese Raquin

Emile Zola uses the setting within the novel Therese Raquin in order to deepen the meaning in the text, specifically focusing on the reoccurring imprisonment versus freedom theme. Interestingly, Zola often uses his freedom with choice of setting to display Therese’s imprisonment within her life. 

Zola starts the novel with the description of the Passage du Pont-Neuf in order to emphasize Therese’s imprisonment. The sky is described as “black and coarsely rendered, as if covered with leprous sores and zigzagged with scars” (7), negative connotations that symbolizes Therese’s unhappy life, marked by her oppressive childhood and arranged marriage.The description of the sky as “covered with leprous sores and zigzagged with scars” is an allusion to the decay of Therese’s spirit and passion, and the emphasis on the sky’s darkness suggests Therese’s inability to escape her situation. The light that does appear is “only a pale glow [which] falls on the pavement below in dim, flickering pools which sometimes disappear almost completely” (8), suggesting again the gloom that overwhelms any life or passion for Therese, who cannot live freely in her native Algeria. Just as the light is pale and flickering, Therese’s liveliness is repressed. Zola goes on to describe the Passage du Pont-Neuf as “like some underground gallery dimly lit by three funeral lamps,” another allusion to Therese’s virtual imprisonment.

Zola continues to portray Therese’s imprisonment as he describes the haberdashery within the Passage du Pont-Neuf: as she “walked into the shop which was to be her home from now on, she felt as if she were dropping into the clinging earth of a grave” and as she looks over the rooms “the loneliness and dilapidation of this bare, unfurnished apartment was terrifying” (19). Entrapment in a grave, a seeming prison of solitude – the setting conveys and emphasizes Therese’s feelings about her life and illustrate her pitiful situation: “Living amidst the damp and gloom, in an oppressive, dismal silence, [she] saw life stretching out pointlessly ahead of her” (21). By describing Therese’s physical setting as oppressive, he is alluding to her whole life as an oppressed woman.

These two examples demonstrate Zola’s effective use of description and setting to emphasize the imprisonment of his unfortunate protagonist, a tactic he uses successfully throughout the novel.

Milton and Shakespeare: A Contrast of Love and Death Through the Sonnet Form

John Milton and William Shakespeare both address topics of love and death in their respective sonnets, but do so in radically different ways. They employ different structural techniques and subjects within the realm of love and death, and in doing so reinforce radically different points, but their differences only reinforce the skill with which both discuss their subjects. Milton’s “Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint” and Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73” both display a masterful use of the sonnet form because they are able to convey their messages about love, death and the place of humans in the world in such strong, but such radically different, ways.

Milton’s poem structure and carefully-constructed couplet aid in the final message of death and gloom he delivers at the end of the poem. While “Methought I Saw” initially contains relatively pleasant imagery, describing how “love, sweetness, goodness” (11) shines in his wife the couplet immediately reverses any positivity Milton’s audience would have associated with the poem. He describes how, when he went to embrace his wife, “I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night” (14). While the first three quatrains of the poem discuss the beauty and purity of the wife who has been brought back to him “like Alcestis from the grave” (2), the couplet serves as an effective turning point in establishing the poem’s true message: one of death and despair, speaking of unspeakable loss in a jarring departure from the otherwise pleasant imagery of the poem. Through this couplet Milton establishes an effective use of the sonnet form; he is able to quickly turn the message of the poem in a way that surprises readers and changes the earlier meaning entirely.

Shakespeare displays an equally effective use of the sonnet form through his couplet, though his does the total opposite of Milton’s: it establishes a tone of hope in an otherwise gloomy poem. While the first three quatrains depict how “those boughs which shake against the cold // bare ruined choirs” (3-4), and describe how the poem’s speaker is aging and will die soon, the couplet turns from this sadness to state that “this thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong” (13). The first three quatrains of Sonnet 73 are a depiction of slow and eventual death, but upon reaching the quatrain, a sharp change is made, to establish a tone of hope even in the light of death, and of love lasting up to the point of death and after. While Milton and Shakespeare have completely opposite approaches to the use of the couplet, with Milton employing a tone of love up until the couplet, where his tone shifts to a tragic one, and Shakespeare depicting tragedy in his first three quatrains until he turns at the couplet to provide hope and lightheartedness, both effectively use the couplet as intended: to make a dramatic turn at the end of the poem, which surprises its audience and dramatically changes the overall meaning of the poem.

Both Shakespeare and Milton utilize contrasting images of light and darkness to aid in their contrasting images of love and death. When discussing his wife, Milton employs images of whiteness and purity, saying that she is “pale and faint” (4), but “came vested all in white, pure as her mind” (9). He constructs a pure, ethereal image around his wife, one heavily associated with ideas of whiteness and light, and when she finally leaves, he says that “day brought back my night” (14), conjuring images of darkness to aid in his depiction of death. Shakespeare has a similar approach: he employs a transition from light into darkness as a symbol for death, describing how “sunset fadeth in the west // which by and by black night doth take away” (7-8). Both Shakespeare and Milton employ similar images to strengthen their contrast of love and death, and while their ultimate messages are starkly different, their strong usage of the same images builds the effectiveness of their sonnets.

Milton’s description of his lover invokes images of heaven and otherworldliness, while Shakespeare’s images are grounded in the natural world and the home. When discussing the end of his speaker’s life, Shakespeare describes a forest where “yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang” (2), and later describes a fire in a home where “the ashes of his youth doth lie” (10). He attempts to ground the poem in the places where humans are most at place. Shakespeare emphasizes the domesticity of the home, which provides comfort and warmth even in the darkest of times, as the ultimate safe haven for humans. He also discusses the forests of nature, full of trees and birds, as a place where humans are able to feel free even when death hangs over them.

Milton, in contrast, consistently utilizes images of heaven and mythology, referring to his wife as the fictional Alcestis and describing how he “trusts to have // full sight of her in heaven without restraint” (7-8). He creates an extremely idealized version of his wife and associates this perfect love with images of otherworldliness utterly separate from the human realm, and in doing so solidifies a point that both he and Shakespeare make: that humans are only ever at home in the mortal world, and that not only will they be unhappy in other realms, existing in those other realms is completely impossible. Shakespeare explores death as something that will inevitably come to his speaker, and explains that the speaker’s love will love him through the end of his life because they are mortal, but Milton explores what happens when the barriers between life and death are blurred. While his wife may appear to him in a dream, she has to return to the afterlife when he wakes up, because crossing those barriers is impossible. Through their separate depictions of the natural, human world and the mythological world of the afterlife, Shakespeare and Milton both show that it is impossible for humans to be happy, or to even exist, in any dimension other than the one they were intended to exist in. Milton’s wife is dead; she returns to heaven because the dead cannot come back to life. Shakespeare’s speaker knows that he must die because all humans must die. Both poets effectively use the sonnet form to express the strength of boundaries between the human world and the inhuman world, in creating strong images of the radically different interactions of humans with the natural world and the afterlife.

Shakespeare approaches death as inevitable, but something that strengthens love. He explains that “in me thou seest the twilight of such day” (4) and that the fire of his life is “consumed with that which it was nourished by” (12), but also that while he may be dying, his lover stands by him even in the wake of death. In fact, the prospect of his death “makes thy love more strong” (13), his lover being even more loyal to him in his old age, rather than abandoning him in favor of someone young and healthy. Shakespeare argues that the prospect of death makes love stronger in most situations, because people in love know that their love is not forever and that eventually they will die: he states that it is important “To love that well, which thou must leave ere long” (14). While the prospect of death can induce fear and despair, Shakespeare claims that it can strengthen romantic relationships as people attempt to love with the time that they have.

In contrast to Shakespeare’s view of death, Milton discusses the horror and tragedy associated with the death of loved ones. He explains how in his dream his love was “Rescued from death by force” (4), as if death was a physical enemy to be fought. He describes how he hoped to once more “have // full sight of her in heaven without restraint” (7-8), because he has been parted from her by death and wants nothing more than to see her again. While Shakespeare explores how death is an ordinary part of life and can even strengthen love, Milton depicts it as something horrific that pulled a loved one away from him. He does not attempt to reconcile any fears that his audience may have about death, or reassure them that love will persist in the face of death. Instead, he shows that death can destroy love, and, rather than focusing on a dying subject, explores the person who is left behind: he describes that his wife “fled, and day brought back my night” (14). To Milton, the inevitability of death does not matter; he instead focuses on how death harms him and the people close to him. Through their different approaches to the same subjects, Shakespeare and Milton show masterful applications of the sonne. They are both able to discuss two common themes of the sonnet – love and death – in ways that deliver vastly different final messages, but still manage to express deep human emotions in a way that fosters a complex understanding of love and death.

Through their poems Sonnet 73 and Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint, William Shakespeare and John Milton explore the complex themes of love and death in radically different ways. While they utilize rhyme scheme and the sonnet form to deliver different effects, and address love and death in ways that are polar opposites, the strength of their poems lies in the differences between them: their respective depictions of the natural and unnatural worlds solidify the same point about the place of humankind in the world, a point aided in the contrasting images of light and death they employ, and while their dealings with love and death are radically different, they depict emotion, both love and grief, in all of its pure complexity.

The Transformative Power of the Character of Sebastian in “Twelfth Night”

The character of Sebastian in “Twelfth Night” represents the dynamic factor in an otherwise static equation. Illyria is an immutable place, and the people who live and visit the land become ensnared in a stasis. Shakespeare uses the device of twins to resolve the static tension in “Twelfth Night”. Separated at sea, the twins end up shipwrecked in Illyria, each believing the other has perished. The first sibling, Viola, falls into the stasis that permeates Illyria. It is not until she is reconciled with her brother, Sebastian, that the stasis is dissolved.As we learn from the character of Proteus in Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, the sea has transformative powers. Another of Proteus’s powers is his ability to change shapes. In “Twelfth Night”, Shakespeare applies both themes to Viola and Sebastian. As twins, they represent two halves of a whole. Separated, they are both powerless; reunited, they have the power to control their own destinies and break the static tension of Illyria.The “static tension” in Illyria is most obviously manifested in the grid-locked situation of Duke Orsino’s unrequited love for the Countess Olivia. Orsino pines for the Countess, but she is lost in mourning for her brother, and has sworn herself from the company of men for seven year’s time. All other Illyrian characters in the play serve either Orsino or Olivia, and are thus pulled into the vacuum of their stagnant situation. When Viola is shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria and decides to disguise herself as a man, she falls into the trap. Although she loves Orsino, she cannot reveal herself to him, because he believes she is a man. It is not until her brother, Sebastian, appears in Illyria, that things begin to change.Sebastian’s character is surrounded by a motif of sea-imagery. The first mention of Sebastian is in Act I, Scene II, when Viola laments for the loss of her brother. The Captain, in an attempt to comfort her, alludes to the mythological figure Arion: in classic mythology, Arion was a famous musician (music is another prominent theme in “Twelfth Night”) who escaped certain death by murder aboard a ship by diving overboard, lyre in hand. Hearing the beautiful melody, dolphins came to his rescue and carried him ashore. In Act II, Scene I, when Sebastian and Antonio are washed ashore, Sebastian refers to the sea as the power, which has separated his life from his sister’s: “[we were] both born in an hour. If the heavens had been pleased, we would so had ended. But you sir, altered that, for some hour before you took me from the breach of the sea my sister was drowned” (2.1.17-20).The operative dynamic that first begins to disturb the ceaseless stasis of Illyria begins when Antonio and Sebastian are separated in Act III, Scene III. Sebastian wishes to explore the city; Antonio cannot safely accompany him on the streets of Illyria, due to his involvement in a sea-fight (3.3.26). Antonio, however, is the only variable that distinguishes Sebastian from Viola, who, disguised as a man, is almost identical to her twin brother.In the following scene (Act III, Scene IV) Antonio mistakes Viola (as Cesario) for Sebastian, attempts to defend her in a brawl, and is incarcerated as result. When Viola refuses him the purse for which he implores her (and which he lent to Sebastian) he is confused and hurt by her refusal. After he has gone, Viola reflects: He named Sebastian. I my brother knowYet living in my glass. Even such and soIn favor was my brother, and he wentStill in this fashion, color, ornament,For him I imitate. O, if it prove,Tempests are kind, and salt waves fresh in love! (3.4.366-371).In this lyrical passage, Shakespeare alludes to the changeable powers of the sea, manifested in Viola and Sebastian. Viola also foreshadows her reunion with her brother. Moreover, the dual identity of the figure that appears to be one and the same in Sebastian and Viola – Cesario – ignites a dynamic changeability that effects the other characters in Illyria. The major changes begin to occur in Act IV, Scene I, when Olivia mistakes Sebastian for Cesario. She implores him to come with her, and he responds, “What relish is in this? How runs the stream?/ Or I am mad, or else this is a dream./ Let fancy still my sense in Lethe steep./ If it be thus to dream, still let me sleep” (4.1.58-61). As Feste articulates in Act II, Scene IV, the sea makes one’s destination “everywhere, for that’s it that always makes a good voyage of nothing” (2.4.76-7). The change here from sea to stream imagery (as in, “How runs the stream?” and “Lethe”, which is the “mythical river of oblivion”) thus implies a newfound sense of direction in the play. This imagamatic language employed by Sebastian parallels the conceptual development of the plot. Now that Olivia has Sebastian to focus her attentions on, the static situation, which previously dominated, will be overthrown. Sebastian can requite Olivia’s love, a task that had been impossible for Viola, as Cesario. Also, with her brother present, Viola will be able to reveal her true identity. Thus, Orsino can break off his love for Olivia, when he realizes that love for Viola (to whom, as Cesario, he is already greatly attached) is possible. Sebastian foreshadows this multitude of events as “a flood of fortune” (4.3.11). This “flood of fortune,” eventually comes to pass in Act V, Scene I when, amidst a myriad of sea references, Viola and Sebastian’s identities are revealed, each taking on their own shape, and dissolving the static tension. Both believed that they alone had survived the wrath of the stormy sea, whilst the other had been drowned. On seeing Viola, an astonished Sebastian asks, “I had a sister,/ Whom the blind waves and surges have devoured./ Of charity, what kin are you to me?” (5.1.226-8). Viola replies, “Sebastian was my brother… /So went he suited to this watery tomb” (5.1.231-2). By reconciling their true identities with themselves and establishing for the other characters that they are in fact two separate individuals, they are able to break the static bond between Orsino and Olivia. In this manner, they free the other Illyrian characters, as well. Feste ends the play with a song about a storm, “the wind and the rain” – the element that catalyzed the main action in the play. Shakespeare employs the power of the sea in “Twelfth Night” in a manner similar to the power of the forest in “As You Like It”. The sea has changeable, transformative powers, which allow people to disguise their true identities in order to ignite change in the other characters. The characters that are brought to Illyria from the water bring with them the power of the sea. Once they are reunited, that power is unlocked and it destroys the Illyrian stasis that has previously prevailed.

How does We explore the communist ideology through the use of “we” and “I” and how are these used to strengthen the reading of this text?

When are “we” and “I” of the same importance and have the same meaning? Is it possible not to distinguish these two from each other? The dystopian work We by Yevgeny Zamyatin explores a society in which these two words have been merged in order to produce one distinct mass, free from any individuality. Although each citizen is his or her own self, everyone exists uniformly to create an invariable “we”: the main ambition of OneState. When viewing this work critically, several parallels between OneState and the communist ideology supporting Soviet Russia can be deduced, strengthened by descriptions of “we”, “us” and “I” that are prevalent throughout We, as communism encompasses equality void of prejudiced treatment. This essay will explore how We scrutinizes the communist ideology through the linguistic comparisons between “we and I”, as well as how the plentiful religious allusions strengthen the reading that Zamyatin proposes, which is that communism may easily become a tyranny under which no true happiness can be found.

We addresses OneState as a society far into the future, long after potential readers of this novel have passed away. Notwithstanding this, the real referent of We is his “historical present” (Booker), as a clear dichotomy between the reader and “unknown beings who live on other planets” (3) is provided, developing a clear distinction between “you”- the reader, and “they” or “them”- the unearthly. In the Russian language this novel has originated from, the words “us” and “you” are of a similar origin and are pronounced similarly: “mui” and “thui”. However, a polarity is prominent when examining the terms “us” and “them” within Russia, the “us” being “mui” and the “them” being “oni”. While these differences do not come across very well in the English translation of the text, they are very prominent in the Russian version. When regarding these subtle changes in language use, it is clear that the reader has been placed within the pool of “we” whereas any other addressees are dismissed. The narrator attempts to create a distinct barrier between the two groups: welcoming one group and shunning the other. Readers are meant to feel a greater spiritual connection towards OneState, basking in this sense of nationalism that attempts to envelop them, skewing the reader’s perception of what is actually occurring within this society. However, the tables are turned once more when politics are brought into play. Although the reader as a past citizen is at first regarded as a part of the whole, of “we”, they are ostracized when democracy is brought into question. “It goes without saying that this has no resemblance to the disorderly, unorganized elections in ancient times…. To establish a state on the basis of absolutely unpredictable randomness…could there be anything more idiotic? (132) Those that were once a part of the whole, the readers who have lived before the time of OneState, are addressed as “they”. The bitter, biting tone used during this reflection upon past regimes adds another level of segregation amongst consanguineous individuals. The diction used, particularly the harshness of the “d” and “g” in the words “disorderly”, “unorganized” and “idiotic” melds into one image of synesthesia as one can visualize and hear the harshness of what as being expressed. Zamyatin proposes alongside this the notion that the – that a potential degeneration of the Russian revolution into a stagnant autocracy is highly likely. Zamyatin’s work, in its simplest form, is a warning towards the possible outcome of a communist uprising – how although communism promotes egalitarianism, a common enemy is recognized and exploited. While

While We is follows a first person narrative from the perspective of the main character, D-503, issues between D-503 as an individual and the mass he belongs to arise as the plot progresses. Only one sense of “I” exists within this novel, and this is of the narrator, yet four levels of “we” can be found in this text. The first being the whole human race, including the reader, then all the people of OneState (excluding those living outside the green wall), followed by the individual circles within the larger “we” (such as the characters I-330 and O.) Lastly, the “we” whom D-503 really seeks, the “we” between him and I-330, exists. While D-503 is his own person, he understands the importance of unity and synchronization and how his own self, his “I”, is insignificant in relation to the state. “So, take some scales and put on one side a gram, on the other a ton; on one side “I” and on the other “We”, OneState. It’s clear, isn’t it? – to assert that “I” has certain “rights” with respect to the State is exactly the same as asserting that a gram weighs the same as a ton…Forget that you’re a gram and feel yourself a millionth part of a ton” ( 111.) This clearly illustrates the second level of “we”- the “we” of everyone within OneSate. It reflects the correlations between OneSate and Soviet communist ideology. Instead of the existence of individuality, as evident in liberal Russia before the revolution, an authoritarian state prevails. Although D-503 agrees with the sentiment that OneState must be followed, he is conflicted on this inside due to his growing feelings for I-330. D-503 does not understand the concept of love that is irrational, outside of the rational OneState he lives in, where control and likeness is preserved. His sense of “I” is less prevalent than his sense of “we”, yet it is still present and this bothers him- D-503 goes on a tangent about his growing feelings about I-330 more and more often, and yet he is puzzled by these feelings and cannot express them properly. Although D-503 attempts to accept his feelings, he is ultimately caught and reverted to his past self. Notwithstanding the fact that is an exaggerated representation of that which Zamyatin critiques, there is a confluence of important ideas within this: Zamyatin proposes that there lies danger in attempting to fully sacrifice oneself for a greater whole – it is just not possible as individual thought always persists. The dystopia within We is a clear indication of this. Within the USSR’s communist ideology, Christian religious belief was greatly discouraged. The metaphysical and spiritual features of religion were ostracized, and instead the physical, industrial aspects of life replaced the metaphysical as religion. It is evident while reading this text that Zamyatin subtly critiques this aspect of Soviet Russia through his intertwining of religious symbolism into

Within the USSR’s communist ideology, Christian religious belief was greatly discouraged. The metaphysical and spiritual features of religion were ostracized, and instead the physical, industrial aspects of life replaced the metaphysical as religion. It is evident while reading this text that Zamyatin subtly critiques this aspect of Soviet Russia through his intertwining of religious symbolism into We. Firstly, several parallels between God within the Christian faith and the Benefactor within OneState can be drawn. Whenever the Benefactor is mentioned within the book, his title is capitalized, and when addressed, the “Him” is capitalized. This parallels the way God is addressed in the Christian faith- his name capitalized, outlining his importance and position of power. Additionally, the OneState ceremony (or execution) held near the beginning of the book parallels the Liturgy Christian ceremony. For the character D-503, this execution is a holy act, an act where the great Benefactor determines the final fate of these individuals. Within Russia, this sense of “we” is not given through spiritual means, as the metaphysical experience is often a very personal and individual one, clashing with the communist definition of “I”, which really means “we”. The difference in tone that is used to describe the OneState ceremony compared to D-503’s working days express how the religious undertones of society do exist. When the execution is being described, the tone used is one of excitement and almost this sense of breathlessness exists. During other sections of the book, the tone used is more robotic and rational. The criticism that Zamyatin applies here is that communism does not eliminate faith, more so that communism replaces faith – the Party becomes all that which is holy and the Benefactor God. All metaphysical ideas, which are associated with faith, have not been replaced; they have been merely modified to encompass the ideals within communism.

We largely presents its parallels with a communist state, particularly the Soviet state, through the contrasts between the terms “I” and “we”. These differences shape the world in which the characters of OneState live, and greatly challenge their sense of identity (particularly that of D-503), when “I” becomes more prominent than “we”. The distinction between these two terms is meant to control the people and their thoughts, goals and inspirations of life. The two terms “we” and “I” is what shapes this work as direct critique of the communist authoritarian state that is Soviet Russia, as the two terms lead to D-503 having free thought, yet ultimately falling at the hands of this left-wing state when “I” and “we” are not balanced.

The Conflict Between Duty and Heroism in The Plague

In The Plague itself, Albert Camus uses the concept of a plague to allegorically represent the wartime occupation of France during World War II and symbolize the absurdity of nature. The coastal town of Oran, located in Northern Africa, is burdened by this unstoppable pestilence that threatens the townspeople’s humanity. Camus’ “symbolic plague represents a multitude of ideas, but its purpose is to put humans to thought and action whereby they rise above themselves” (Payne). Despite the Absurdity of Oran’s state, Camus holds an optimistic view of human nature through his characters’ selfless struggle against death. However, in the case of The Plague, there is a significant distinction between heroism and duty. The ambiguity of Camus’ characters creates this conflict as they face an array of emotional, moral, ethical, legal, and religious challenges. The Plague demonstrates that duties do not always equate with heroics, because man is expected to support the common decency of a society.

The setting of Oran is introduced in the first paragraph of the novel; this locale is presented as a French port on the Algerian coast. This clarity sets the stage for the narrative while providing an actuality for the reader. Camus continues his description by juxtaposing the ordinariness of Oran to the extraordinary character of the plague. By establishing this contrast, Camus’ perception of the universe is more easily understood. He believes individuals must live a meaningful life, despite the fact that life itself has no ultimate meaning. This contrast immediately sets the tone for the novel through its many themes. The absurd setting of the plague allows individual behavior to be examined and the way they respond to their conflicting duties. Duty in its literal sense is “something that you must do because it is morally right or because the law requires it” (Merriam-Webster). It is unquestionable that the characters in The Plague were called to duty. Whether that duty was to the self, religion, love, occupation, or mankind in general, it was expected for individuals to oblige accordingly. Therefore, if duty is an expectation for the common good, what establishes the heroic individual? Engaging in selfless struggle is not a “heroic” deed. Camus undermines any “heroic” endeavors in the plague stricken town because of his theory that humans are predominantly good. By responding to their duties, characters are simply carrying out a meaningful life during a hostile time. The only character that Camus explicitly refers to as a hero is Grand. Some believe he was brought into this world to perform the needful duties of an assistant municipal clerk. To the surprise of many, he revolted against the plague through his writing and volunteering. Grand was a mediocre man and a failure of love, yet he “was the true embodiment of the quiet courage that inspired the sanitary groups” (134). Grand, like Camus, interprets duty to be a role of man in society, not a heroic deed. He rebels by seeking the perfect sentence, refusing to let the plague deprive him of language. Grand may not hold a “heroic” role as secretary of the sanitary groups, but his quest for a meaningful life gives him the courage to fight. His courage to surpass the social structure also diverges from the development of other characters. Grand’s insignificance prior to the outbreak and commitment throughout the duration of the pestilence makes him a hero.

Dr. Bernard Rieux is the narrator of the chronicle who attempts to provide an objective account of Oran during the time of pestilence. In Part 1 of the novel, Rieux believes the plague can be stopped but to his dismay, he uncovers the devastating reality such absurdity will instill on his town. As a doctor, he fears the panic that the implication of plague will create. As a doctor his duty is to his occupation. He is expected to combat the plague with his extensive knowledge and talent. He tells Father Paneloux “Salvation’s much too big a word for me. I don’t aim so high. I’m concerned with man’s health; and for me his health comes first” (219). While Rieux does express a sense of atheism, he does not negatively construe his opinion of God. Rather, he uses God’s absence as grounds to continuously tend to the plague-stricken. He adheres to his duty throughout the epidemic but disregards a conflicting duty. It is understood that Rieux’s wife is ill and recovering in a sanatorium outside the boundaries of Oran. In choosing to aid the infected citizens, he ultimately neglects his wife and his duty to love. When the pneumonic plague develops, Rieux’s work seems hopeless but he continues to contribute to the battle despite the certainty of defeat. In a world of abstractions, he understood that reality dissipated during the “never ending defeat” (128) of the plague. He maintained that his fight against the plague was an act of common decency and not of heroism or sanctity. Although he opts for the good of society over his individual duty, he cannot be considered a hero because a doctor is morally required to care for the sick.

Tarrou notices many developments of the plague as he keeps a diary of the ongoing events throughout the duration of the epidemic. He proclaims that “Each of us has the plague within him; no one, no one on earth is free from it. And I know, too, that we must keep endless watch on ourselves lest in a careless moment we breathe in somebody’s face and fasten the infection on him. What’s natural is the microbe. All the rest – health, integrity, purity (if you like)- is a product of the human will, of a vigilance that must never falter.” (253) The emphasis on maintaining peace is the moral responsibility of humans to aid when disaster strikes. It cannot be observed as heroic. Tarrou is aware of his sense of duty to the people and proposes the idea of the sanitary groups. The plague is a collective disaster that Tarrou alongside Rieux struggles to fight against in order to protect humanity. Tarrou refers to his comprehension as a moral guide to his duties. From this understanding, Rieux, Grand, and Tarrou and their awareness of the plague results in a strong fight against it. In a world where humans are constantly suffering from some variety of plague, Tarrou does not seek heroism. He hopes to attain peace by siding with the victims of pestilences and discovering how to become a healer.

In normal times, the people of Oran were not devout. In waiting for a turn of events, however, they took part in Father Paneloux’s Week of Prayer. His sermon ultimately shifted the people’s attitudes and created widespread panic by his declaration that the plague was a punishment created by God. He interprets his sermons to be a beneficial provision to the suffering townspeople. His duty to God makes him inadequate and ignorant to the severity of the plague. He clings to his faith even after witnessing the horrifying death of the police magistrate’s son. Paneloux eventually succumbs to death. He certainly fulfilled his duties to his religion but ignored his duty to himself by initially objecting doctor care when he became sick. As a priest, his duty to religion led him to advocate for faith in God but created no sense of heroism because he refused to physically combat the plague.

A journalist from Paris, visiting Oran for an assignment, Rambert finds himself trapped when the town is quarantined. Having a wife back home, he fears that his duty to her will be forgotten. In the absurdity of the plague, Rambert seeks happiness through love and initially argues that his personal suffering is most important. He attempts many routes of escape, legally and illegally, but eventually comes to terms with being exiled. He slowly begins to understand the collective nature of the epidemic. Unlike Cottard, Rambert is able to see past his individual suffering and realize the distress of others. In his time fighting in the Spanish Civil War, he explains to Rieux and Tarrou how he lost his belief in heroism. Abstractions cause people to fight but Rambert stresses the importance of emotions, specifically love. In response to his contradiction, Rieux replies with “there’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is – common decency” (163). This response, Rambert’s conscience, and the reveal of Rieux’s similar situation with his wife foster Rambert’s decision to stay in Oran. He ignores his duty of love with hopes of attaining happiness when reunited with his wife. Under the precedent of Rieux, Rambert realizes his duty to the people of Oran and proceeds to work alongside the doctor and his associates.

In the case of Cottard, his lack of duty directly linked to his cowardice. In normal conditions, he would be considered a criminal but the plague allowed him to disregard his duty as a citizen. Cottard is at ease under the plague’s “reign of terror” because he relishes in the overarching sentiment of fear among the citizens. He believes it is not his “job” to assist the sanitary groups efforts. While adhering to one’s duty does not necessarily produce heroism, Cottard’s lack of duty secured him as a pariah. He monopolized on the devastating lifestyle and refused to fight against the plague. He is not an antagonist of the story, but he is unable to disregard his prior suffering as a criminal. The plague does not concern him and he feels no obligation to help. The protagonists in The Plague possessed varied backgrounds that contributed to their similar views of life. As Tarrou professed, “All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.” (254) Aside from Cottard, none of the characters found pleasure in the plague and in some way worked towards ceasing the epidemic.

In The Plague, Camus asserts that it is one’s perseverance in times of calamity that is most reputable. Individuals are tested to act advantageously, but can be torn between social duty and self-interest. The characters Grand, Rieux, Tarrou, Paneloux, and Rambert complied with their duties as men, doctors, and priests; all displayed an inherent potential for good. Yet even as they work towards a common decency, such “heroes” cannot be applauded because individual suffering for the greater good is an expectation of mankind.

Works Cited

Camus, Albert. The Plague. New York: Vintage, 1947. Print. Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2015. Payne, Melissa, “Discussion of the Absurd in Albert Camus’ Novels Essays and Journals” (1992). University of Tennessee Honors Thesis Projects.

The Function of Parody in Ulysses

The word “parody” comes from the Latin parodia, meaning “burlesque song or poem”, but it has come to refer to any artistic composition in which “the characteristic themes and the style of a particular work, author, etc., are exaggerated or applied to an inappropriate subject for the purposes of ridicule.” Parody is used throughout Ulysses both as a form of comedy and as a critique. In the “Cyclops” episode, parody functions as a critique of the grand narrative, specifically in terms of history and the discourse of the nineteenth century. Parody is further used in order to subvert existing structures and hierarchies, as is apparent through the elements of Bakhtin’s conception of the Carnivale, which are present in the episode. In “Nausicaa”, Joyce parodies aspects of popular culture, particularly romance fiction and the censorship debate. This technique serves to highlight the relationship between language and consciousness, as well as the way in which discourses are constructed and interact with each other. By using parody, Joyce appears to be critiquing aspects of society and questioning the manner in which language is used to convey meaning.Parody in “Cyclops” serves to disrupt conventional notions of narrative. In particular, Joyce appears to be critiquing the notion of history as a grand narrative. The elevated language of the episode, as can be seen in the passage describing “a historic and a hefty battle,” acts as a parody of the literature drawn on by Irish nationalists in order to idealize Ireland’s heroic past. These writers offered popular versions of mythology using writing styles similar to nineteenth-century writers such as Carlyle. For the twentieth-century reader, however, these allusions might seem pretentious and inflated; Joyce appears to be parodying the passionate nationalists who celebrated the heroic past of the Irish people in this manner. The list of names of heroic leaders in “Cyclops” descends into complete farce, as it lists figures completely unconnected with Ireland, such as “Gautama Buddha” and “Jack the Giant Killer”, as well as some names that are simply invented. Joyce likewise parodies this idea of mindless drivel by concluding the narrator’s speeches with phrases such as “and so forth and so on”, “this phenomenon and the other phenomenon”, and “new Ireland and new this, that and the other”. These parodies reveal that extreme Irish nationalists grasped at almost anything to further their mission. Thematically, Joyce establishes an ongoing dialogue between Bloom’s “humanistic universalism” and the citizen’s narrow nationalism. The citizen refuses to acknowledge the possibility that Bloom can claim Ireland as his nation whilst also being a Jew. Bloom, on the other hand, postulates the humanistic view that “force, hatred, history…that’s not life for men and women…love…the opposite of hatred…that is really life.” Joyce seems to be critiquing the often fanatical nature of Irish nationalism, specifically the manner in which heroism is figured in terms of violence, and the fact that this fanaticism is encouraged at a cost to humanity.Furthermore, Joyce appears to be critiquing the grand narrative of nineteenth-century discourse. He does so firstly by juxtaposing colloquial passages narrated by an anonymous Dubliner with grandiose mythic passages such as “the nec and non plus ultra of emotion were reached when the blushing bride elect burst her way through…and flung herself upon the muscular bosom of him who was about to be launched into eternity.” The ridiculousness of this bombastic style is furthered by the subject matter: a wedding of trees. Indeed, the juxtaposition of this language with the narrator’s colloquial “God blimey if she aint a clinker” highlights the pretentiousness of the elevated form. Joyce uses an exaggerated multiplicity of adjectives such as “broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed redhaired freely freckled” to parody an overly descriptive style of writing and critique the imperialist nature of grand narratives that claim to offer a comprehensive view of events. In doing so, Joyce demonstrates an awareness that aspects of nineteenth-century literature cannot be translated. He appears to be critiquing the extent to which people who sought independence for Ireland attempted to translate to the twentieth-century notions that belong to the past and could not be recovered – especially not via inflated language.There is no clear narrative voice in this episode, as Joyce rapidly transitions from one narrative style to another. The shifting narrative also serves as a parody of the pretentious writing of the nineteenth century. Like the one-eyed Polyphemus in the Homeric parallel, each narrative presents a single view, offering the reader separate eyewitnesses who interrupt and contradict each other. This enables the characters to undergo a metamorphosis between various narrative frames. The medical journal parody, for example, transforms Bloom’s muddled scientific knowledge into a precise explication of physiology, as he becomes “Herr Professor Luitpold Blumenduft.” Through other narratives, the reader gets a vision of Bloom as a hero “O’Bloom, the son of Rory,” Bloom the “distinguished phenomenologist,” and ultimately “ben Bloom Elijah.” Joyce also appears to be engaging this type of narration in an effort to both define and limit it to a narrative structure. In doing so, he explores the breakdown in narration. At times, this occurs in the midst of a sentence, as in the episode’s final words: “ben Bloom Elijah, amid clouds of angels ascend to the glory of the brightness…at an angle of fortyfive degrees…like a shot off a shovel.” The sentence begins as a Biblical epic, shifts to a quasi-science journalistic style, and then shifts once again to colloquialism. The structure resembles a comic routine, with different voices presenting different views, which in turn highlight the unreliability of each individual perspective. Interestingly, Homer’s Polyphemus is both one-eyed and multi-vocal, echoing the ambiguities that Joyce explores in the episode. The parody in “Cyclops” can thus be seen as a microcosm of the parody of Ulysses the novel; that is to say, a parody of the epic form.Parody further functions to subvert existing structures and hierarchies. The events in “Cyclops” echo the revelries of the Carnivale as conceptualised by Bakhtin. Bakhtin underlines the predominance of “the material principle and the physical life with images of the body, or eating and drinking, and with the satisfaction of the natural urges.” The pub is site for informal socializing – the characters are tipsy from drink, and the environment is conducive to the kind of revelry associated with the Carnivale. There is a sense of anarchy about the episode, with characters indulging in excess, “[nearly eating] the tin and all,” and laying emphasis on the nether parts of the body, such as Molly Bloom’s bottom and the hanged man’s erection. Joyce appears to be staging a verbal carnival, first through the polyphony of voices, specifically the alternation of the lofty and vulgar styles, and secondly through the wordplay that characterises much of the episode. Within the episode are examples of antanaclasis (“Good Christ!…Who said Christ is good?”), etymology (“barber/barbarous/barbarian”), puns (“foul/fowl”), neologism (“codology”) and non-sequiteurs (“talking about new Ireland, he ought to go and get a new dog so he ought”). Parrinder characterises a carnival as a “world…turned bottom upwards…a forum in which a behaviour that is normally frowned upon…becomes sanctioned and overt.” In a carnival, the highest authority (usually the King) is insulted and beaten by the people. In “Cyclops”, Bloom is presented as this figure, the image of him “on point duty up” suggesting his superiority, which is highlighted by his refusal to join in the drinking session. It is thus significant that the end of the episode finds him being insulted and set upon by the dogs. The carnival is also a place where religion is parodied, and in this episode God undergoes a plethora of irreverent metamorphoses: “begob…Christ M’Keown…dog.” Here, the parody functions as a subversion of these figures of authority.In “Nausicaa”, parody serves as a critique of popular culture and highlights the manner in which aspects of popular culture seep into our consciousness. Gerty McDowell’s language and consciousness is an amalgam of romance literature, fashion magazines, advertising, and folk wisdom. The first half of “Nausicaa” is often read as a parody of the sentimental novel, and particularly The Lamplighter, written by Maria Cummins in 1864, which features a heroine named “Gertrude”. The frequent usage of exclamation marks, as in “O so lively! O so soft, sweet, soft!” and exaggerated use of “O!” parodies the emotive, heightened language of romance fiction. Joyce himself referred to the language of this half of the episode as “namby-pamby jammy marmalady drawsery.” Interestingly, many of the references to fashion magazines and advertising occur in parenthesis, such as “(because it was expected in the Lady’s Pictorial that electric blue would be worn),” suggesting a kind of ‘aside’, as if these aspects of popular culture create resonances that infiltrate our consciousness at particular moments.Gerty herself is a parody of the romantic heroine, one who “completely [represses] all sexual desires and awareness of her own physical being…she must be an object.” Gerty, however, is aware of her sexual desires and cannot keep her fantasies pure, imagining that Bloom’s “hands and face were working and a tremor went over her.” She is further aware that she is being watched, and seems to enjoy being seen, deliberately “[revealing] all her graceful beautifully shaped legs” to Bloom. This awareness of her sexual power is at odds with the stereotype of this sort of heroine, and as such, Gerty becomes the antitheses of the romantic heroine. Parody also serves to critique the censorship debate. The idea that young women were vulnerable to any moral deviance in works of fiction was particularly highlighted by the sensational novel outrage of the nineteenth century. These “sensational” novels were considered dangerous because they “made readers read with their bodies.” Gerty is a virgin who is aware of her own sexuality because she reads – exactly what advocates against sensational novels feared. Joyce’s ironic twist, however, is that Gerty read a romance novel with a typically asexual heroine, rather than “sensational” fiction, seemingly mocking the whole censorship debate. Perhaps Joyce is critiquing the readiness with which people vilify literature in order to create a scapegoat for societal problems. The issues facing Irish society during Joyce’s time are revealed through the virgin/whore dichotomy. On one hand, Irish Catholicism postulated the doctrine of Mary-olatry, but on the other, Ireland had a sizeable population of prostitutes. In The Lamplighter, Gertrude models herself after the Virgin Mary. Likewise, in the “Nausicaa” episode of Ulysses, Gerty tries to see herself in this light, as the “refuge of sinners…comfortress of the afflicted” – allusions to the Holy Virgin. However, her sexual awareness means she must fail as this figure. The juxtaposition between Gerty’s sexuality and the Virgin Mary’s takes on a comic element as the discrepancy between Gerty’s vision of herself and what she really is becomes wider. Joyce’s parody of the would-be virgin seems to allude to the hypocrisy of societal attitudes at the time. The doctrine of Mary-olatry also suggests transubstantiation. It is thus interesting that Gerty’s stockings are a diaphanous object, recalling the motif of the diaphane that permeates previous episodes in Ulysses. Aristotle spoke of the diaphane as a medium that enables things to show their actual selves only in light, begging the question of where the source of the light is located. This parallels the question of the where the source of creativity – and particularly the creation of language – can be found.This question is explored through parody, as it highlights the relationship between language and consciousness. This is firstly considered through the construction of character-specific discourses. Gerty may be a typical example of “winsome Irish girlhood,” but that is because she is a composite of the discourses that construct the ideal Irish female. The parody occurs through Joyce’s subversion of this ideal construct, wherein Gerty appears to be deluding herself into believing that she is this ideal. There are several images in the episode that suggest Gerty’s narcissistic delusions, including her placement, like Narcissus, near “the little pool by the rock,” and her bedroom mirror, in front of which she “[smiles] at the lovely reflection which the mirror gave back to her!” Gerty appears to be deliberately constructing this image of herself, perhaps in order to mask her insecurities about her role as a woman, and it is thus significant that we discover that she is lame, as we realise that she is not the ideal female form she makes herself out to be.Gerty thinks of Bloom in terms of masculine stereotypes: “her dreamhusband…[who] would embrace her gently, like a real man, crushing her soft body to him.” She is portrayed as a “typical” woman, who imagines the possibilities of marriage and children, whilst Bloom is the “typical” man, who sees Gerty merely as an object of desire. In this sense, Bloom’s narrative is very much part of his character. This raises the question of linguistic determination, and of whether we can think outside of our own language. Bloom acknowledges this question when he describes his erotic communication with Gerty as “a kind of language between us.” He is aware that something has taken place, and wonders whether or not that is a language. Joyce seems to be engaging with those points of nexus between thought and language, and makes the reader question whether it is possible to document them. The two voices in this episode create an intratextual parody. Gerty is observing Bloom as he observes her, and as such, the characters function simultaneously as both the representor and the object of representation. Bakhtin claims that this dialogical relationship can be regarded as a parodic relationship, stating that “in parodic discourse two styles, two ‘languages’ come together…the language being parodied…and the language that parodies.” Likewise, the two voices of Gerty and Bloom critique and comment on each other. The unreliability of Gerty’s account of what happened between herself and Bloom is highlighted by the juxtaposition of Bloom’s discourse against her own. Gerty romanticises her physicality, and subsequently Bloom’s reaction to it, claiming that “his eyes burned into her as thought they would…read her very soul.” This stands in direct contrast to Bloom’s matter-of-fact, coarse reaction, “I saw your. I saw all. Lord!” and after masturbating, “for this relief much thanks.” At one time, both discourses act as parodies of the other. Bloom appears preoccupied with the coarse physicality of females, thinking about them in terms of menstruation, orgasms, and their bodies, and in this manner enables us to laugh at Gerty’s romantic view of her physicality while simultaneously critiquing her constructed discourse. Indeed, Bakhtin cites critique through laughter as the first foundation of novelistic discourse, because “these parodic-travestying forms…destroyed the homogenising power of myth over language.” In these two episodes, parody serves to critique the values of Joyce’s society both present and past, and to explore the different facets of language. In “Cyclops”, parody functions specifically as a critique of the grand narrative, and is used to subvert existing structures and hierarchies. Joyce parodies aspects of popular culture in “Nausicaa” to highlight the relationship between language and consciousness, and to reveal the manner in which discourses are constructed and interact with each other.SourcesBakhtin, M. Rabelais and His World (trans. H. Iswelolsky). Indiana UP, Bloomington, 1984Bakhtin, M. “The Pre-history of Novelistic Discourse”, from The Dialogic Imagination: Four EssaysBennett, A and Royle, N. An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory: Key Critical Concepts. London: Prentice Hall, 1995Bullocks, A and Stallybrass, O. The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought. London: Fontana/Collins, 1977Cohen, L. “Sensation Fiction of the Nineteenth Century”, from 12/10/2002, accessed 29/5/04Devlin, K. “The Romance Heroine Exposed: Nausicaa and The Lamplighter.” James Joyce Quarterly, 22.4 (1985)Goldman, A. The Joyce Paradox. Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, London, 1966Henke, S. James Joyce and the Politics of Desire. Routledge, London, 1990Joyce, J. Ulysses. Penguin Classics, London, 2000 (ed. Declan Kiberd)Leckie, B. “Reading Bodies, Reading Nerves.” James Joyce Quarterly, 34.1-2 (1996)Newman, R. Pedagogy, Praxis, Ulysses. University of Michigan Press, Michigan, 1996Parrinder, P. James Joyce. Cambridge UP, Cambridge, 1984Tymoczko, M. The Irish Ulysses. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994

Nature in The Old Man and the Sea: From Transcendentalism to Hemingway’s Modernism

Thoreau writes that “This curious world we inhabit…is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used.” This seems to be a philosophy that Hemingway’s character, Santiago, would adopt. Throughout the novella, “The Old Man and the Sea”, Santiago is constantly on the same existential plane as nature. He views the sea and nature itself as an equal and arguably as a superior. Whether the origin is out of senility, out of loneliness, or out of genuine brotherhood with nature, Santiago treats nature (more specifically, the sea and the wildlife that it shelters) as an actual entity in which he harbors genuine love for.

Hemingway himself was often intimate with nature; it is no secret that nature has had enormous influence on his prose. Important to note is that, “…of all the Hemingway protagonists, Santiago is closest to nature–feels himself a part of nature; he even believes he has hands and feet and a heart like the big turtles’.” (Hovey). There is a sense of unity amongst Santiago and the natural world. Crucial to the understanding of Santiago is Hovey’s saying that he “feels himself a part of nature”. There are several nods to this unity in the text itself in which Santiago’s behavioral patterns are paralleled with nature’s. The book reads regarding Santiago before his voyage, “His hope and his confidence had never gone. But now they were freshening as when the breeze rises.” (Hemingway 13). Hemingway shows the correlation between the breeze and Santiago’s refreshed confidence because of it. The related connotations between “freshening” and “the breeze” are likely not accidental either. The implication here is that the weather has a direct impact on Santiago’s mood. The refreshing breeze rolls in, thus Santiago’s attitude is refreshed. The reader may see another example of this relationship in yet another quote in which the old man is sleeping the night before he plans to go far out into the ocean: “…the old man was asleep in the chair and the sun was down.” (Hemingway 18). A more subtle example, it is still difficult to ignore that Santiago’s sleeping patterns mirror the cycle of the sun; the same sun which gave Santiago earlier in his life, “[the] skin cancer [that] the sun [brought] from its reflection on the tropic sea [unto] his cheeks.” (Hemingway 10). The sun has left a physical imprint on Santiago’s body. That, however, is not the only physical relationship between him and nature. The book reads, “…[his eyes] were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.” (Hemingway 10). Santiago also walks around barefoot and urinates outside. Even his house is constantly open to the elements, as he leaves all of the openings ajar. When Manolin talks to Santiago, he says, “…you went turtle-ing for years off the Mosquito Coast and your eyes are good.” (Hemingway 14). When all of the other fishermen that went turtle-ing had poor eyesight, the sun spared Santiago’s for no reason that is apparent to the reader. Yet another example of the synchronicity between Santiago and nature is seen regarding, once again, the old man’s sleeping patterns: “Usually when he smelled the land breeze he woke up and dressed to go and wake the boy.” (Hemingway 25). There is a plethora of examples that show Santiago and nature being unified or, at the very least, connected behaviorally and physically.

This gives us some insight too as to why Santiago is such a skilled fisherman. Manolin says, “There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you.” (Hemingway 23). The reader may be asking himself why is there only Santiago? What separates him from any other fisherman? It is subconsciously implied that no other fisherman could have handled the marlin; so why Santiago? Besides his experience (which several of the other “old fishermen” share), there is no real defining feature that he owns that separates him from anyone else except for the fact that he has a deep affinity with nature. Beegel takes it a step further in saying, “Given the nature of the sea in Hemingway’s novella, this is not a “safe” romance at all but a story about the tragic love of mortal man for capricious goddess.” He suggests even that there is romance between Santiago and the sea. Hediger further enforces this claim in saying, “With such cognizance, Hemingway treats animals neither as pawns in a human competition, nor as beings so entirely foreign that he believes himself outside of the natural economy in which life depends upon other forms of life.” Despite the extent of the relationship, it cannot be denied that there is, in fact, a relationship; and this relationship appears to be the only thing which allows Santiago to reach legendary status as a fisherman.

Even before the reader gets into the real meat of Santiago’s journey with the marlin, the relationship is clear. However, once one does get further along in the novella, it is enforced almost to excessiveness. The duration of his trip with the marlin was almost a sort of communion between him and the other animals of the sea. Santiago is constantly referring to fish as his brothers: “They [dolphins] play and make jokes and love one another. They are our brothers like the flying fish.” (Hemingway 48). He also says that, “He was very fond of flying fish as they were his principal friends on the ocean. He was sorry for the birds…” (Hemingway 29). Regarding these seabirds, Santiago extends a helping hand: “‘Stay at my house if you like, bird,’ he said. ‘I am sorry I cannot hoist the sail and take you in with the small breeze that is rising. But I am with a friend.’” (Hemingway 55). About his “friend”, the marlin, Santiago has much to say: “Now we are joined together and have been since noon. And no one to help either of us.” (Hemingway 50) and that “I wish I could feed the fish, he thought. He is my brother.” (Hemingway 59).

Santiago throughout his journey refers to the marlin as his brother and asks how he is feeling. And for this fish that he is slowly killing, he feels vast sympathy and even shame. The ocean or, perhaps more appropriate: la mar (“He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her.”), seems to be his true “home” (Hemingway 29). The floorless shack he lives in with the ajar openings is merely a rally point; a place to rest until he can go back out to the ocean. In his little town, the old man is mostly sad: people pity him, he is (in a general sense) incapable, he is alone but for Manolin, and he is poor. Santiago has spent all of his life in the ocean. It is crucial to note that Santiago spent nearly four days out at sea with nothing for nourishment except what he had eaten the morning of his voyage and a single bottle of water. It can be difficult to truly realize the scope of what an expert Santiago was at sea since the readers only hear remarkably meek complaints; thus, this fact seems to get set to the wayside. But put it into perspective: this old man who is pitied goes out to sea for almost four days, with the majority of the trip spent wrestling with an absolutely massive marlin. He had a bottle of water for nourishment, and, by means of the ocean, he resourcefully and skillfully managed to get enough food to sustain himself. To emphasize once more: all of this was done by the old man while struggling with a marlin whose size met legendary standards. This, among other things, shows the immense skill Santiago has for his trade (he says he was simply doing, “That which [he] was born for [to be a fisherman].”); however, it goes beyond that (Hemingway 40). Santiago’s journey, and more importantly his utter complacency in it, shows his supernatural connection with nature, for if anyone else had been in his place, they surely would have failed.

Santiago shows love for many of the sea animals: the birds, the flying fish, the dolphins, the turtles. But the animal, that is the one he felt the deepest connection with, was the marlin. He is non-stop talking to the marlin: whether he is apologizing to it, telling it that it his brother, or merely conversing with it for conversation’s sake. The death of the marlin, however, is when the raw intimacy between the two comes out. Hemingways writes during Santiago and the marlin’s final bout that, “There are three things that are brothers: the fish and my two hands.” (64). This is near the end of the marlin’s life, and, when speculating what will become of the fish’s life, Santiago calculates how much the fish will be worth. Following this he says, “But are they worthy to eat him? No, of course not. There is no one worthy of eating him…” (Hemingway 75). Santiago bestows upon the marlin a sort of honor; and since this fish is his ultimate catch, his final masterpiece, the honor given to the marlin could be a scapegoat for Santiago’s “pride long gone” (Hemingway 93).

Their relationship is by all means a close one, but upon the climax of their struggle, the reader sees something that almost transcends a two-way relationship and becomes a sort of unity. Santiago says, “But you have a right to [kill me]…brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.” (Hemingway 92). This interchangeability and complete indifference to something as significant as death shows an immense sense of unity. To Santiago, it does not matter who kills who since they are one in the same. Continued on the same page, Santiago talks about “…how to suffer like a man. Or a fish, he thought.” (Hemingway 92). On a much more subtle scale, Santiago still shows the interchangeability and synchronicity between him and the fish. He does this by putting the act of suffering as equal between a man and a fish, more specifically himself and the marlin. In this short, seemingly insignificant, sentence (or rather sentence fragment), Santiago shows that their suffering is equal. To suffer like a man or to suffer like a fish are the same for him. Not only does this show his unity with the fish, it shows Santiago as being almost more a part of the animalistic nature rather than the humanistic nature. To further concrete this unity, Hemingway writes about the fish after it had been attacked by sharks: “He did not like to look at the fish anymore since he had been mutilated. When the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit.” (103). Santiago felt the blow in his honor vicariously through the fish’s suffering and mutilation, which was in turn parallel to his own. Though he himself was not physically altered by the sharks, it did not matter. In the same sense that it did not matter who killed who, it did not matter who was mutilated. Once the marlin was completely stripped of everything, Santiago says, “…you’ve killed a man.” (Hemingway 119). “Fish” and “man” are interchangeable in this. Santiago himself did not receive a single bite from the sharks; however, he stills says “you’ve killed a man.” A final note is this: though Santiago did not die in a physical sense, he returned to his town days later with several physical ailments. His hands were sliced with fish wire, he was dehydrated, his back was in severe pain, and he was coughing up something that he described as tasting like pennies. The fish, who he was physically and spiritually connected to, died; the final passage of the text describes Santiago dreaming his recurring, paradisiacal, and clearly symbolic dream, that emerges only upon Santiago nearing old age, of the heaven-like and youthful lions playing on the beach.

To Santiago, nature is not a concept; it is an entity. One that is, if not equal and if not superior, one in the same with him. Their behaviors are in sync, their social actions are existentially equal, and Santiago considers himself a part of nature, as opposed to an outsider that believes that he, more or less, exercises control over it. This synchronicity and admiration for nature that is embedded in The Old Man and the Sea is reflective of Hemingway’s contact with nature and transcendental influences. Hemingway, like Thoreau and Emerson and several others, believed that nature was something more than just that; it was something to spend time with, to love, and to treat as a part of yourself. They looked at nature as something that transcends the physical world into the mental and the spiritual.

Works Cited

Beegel, Susan F. “Santiago and the Eternal Feminine: Gendering La Mar in The Old Man and the Sea.” Children’s Literature Review, edited by Jelena Krstovic, vol. 168, Gale, 2012. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 15 Feb. 2017. Originally published in Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice, edited by Lawrence R. Broer and Gloria Holland, The University of Alabama Press, 2002, pp. 131-156.

Hediger, Ryan. “Hunting, fishing, and the cramp of ethics in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Green Hills of Africa, and under Kilimanjaro.” The Hemingway Review, vol. 27, no. 2, 2008, p. 35+. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 15 Feb. 2017.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Hovey, Richard B. “The Old Man and the Sea: A New Hemingway Hero.” Short Story Criticism, edited by Anna Sheets-Nesbitt, vol. 36, Gale, 2000. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 15 Feb. 2017. Originally published in Discourse: A Review of the Liberal Arts, vol. 9, no. 3, Summer 1966, pp. 283-294.