Literary Criticism as a Study with Its Functions
Literary criticism is a hard study to grasp because of the numerous explanations that must make sense for the critic’s view to be comprehensible to readers. Understanding the role of the critic is vital. The critic is second most important aspect, next to the author and the work itself. In this course, we have read many critics, that all have valid points. The critic’s prospective is the second most important element of literary criticism, next to the author and the work itself. In this course, we have read many critics’ opinions who all have valid points. The critics are what make the works understandable sometimes. Most, if not all, of the critics have particularly interesting ideas on the purpose of the critic. The materials in this course give the reader many things to ponder, concerning the role of the critic. In class, we discoursed how nothing is original, and one must agree with that statement; however, the critic’s opinion is valid in the sense that it is told from a different angle or perspective. This reader feels that the critics can be harsh in some cases, but the harshness may be necessary. The purpose of the critic is not always viewed as black and white; but may be gray by nature. The uneasiness about the critic is so complex that it forces the readers to rely on other critics’ profound knowledge of the material. Literary scholars Matthew Arnold and Alexander Pope both have differing views concerning the necessity of the critic, his role, and his power that he wields over the work/text. While Pope and Arnold are excellent critics, they each bring something different to the playing field. Arnold brings the idea of disinterestedness and Pope outlines the true characteristics of a “good” critic.
Although, both critics have valuable and necessary opinions regarding the critic, Matthew Arnold’s familiarity and concern for the critic is the most stunning to the reader. The essay “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time” he outlines the strong feelings that he has against the critical power, he believes “everybody, too, would be willing to admit, as a general proposition, that the critical faculty is lower than the inventive,” with that being said, one derives from the statement his true feelings toward the critic (Arnold 696). Even though, Arnold later discusses the requirements one should possess to be a true critic, the main thing he must possess is curiosity, “But criticism, real criticism, is essentially the exercise of this very quality” (702). Curiosity is a taboo virtue to possess in the American culture, at times, while in many other cultures it is seen as a great attribute to have. Arnold even agrees with the notion that the word “has in our language no sense of the kind, no sense but a rather bad and disparaging one” (702). The idea that the word curiosity has a negative connation speaks volumes of his innate feelings toward the critic’s opinion. It seems his negative idea of curiosity stems from the danger of lurking too hard. He also argues the idea of free play, which the critic must have. We discussed in class what free play actually consists of, which is one must permit the material to flow freely through the mind in order to have a precise or non-biased point of view.
However, now that the idea of free play is known, Arnold introduces the concept of disinterestedness, which is “keeping aloof from what is called ‘the practical view of things’; by resolutely following the law of its own nature, which is to be a free play of the mind on all subjects which it touches,” the idea is great because it gives the critic something to hold on to while criticizing the work (703). The main concept of disinterestedness, is that one must be extremely proficient, in order to understand and make a proper judgment regarding the material in question. A great indication from Arnold’s essay is the theory of outside influences ruining the critic’s judgment because it brings preconceived notions to the work. While Arnold believes the creative power is greater than critical power, he assures the critic that he must present “fresh and true ideas” (712). Arnold concludes, “to have the sense of creative activity is great happiness and the great proof of being alive, and it is not denied to criticism to have it; but then criticism must be sincere, simple, flexible, ardent, ever widening its knowledge,” and with this conclusion the reader is forced to dig deep inside themselves to understand the logic Arnold presents (713).
While confusing the reader, “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time” offers great insight into the realm of criticism and the role of the critic. Arnold’s concept of curiosity is valid and it makes sense because without it, one may not have the mettle to want to understand the material. Taking Arnold’s curiosity approach, one must try to understand his essay. Although the essay is methodical, it lacks in simplifying the concept of the critic. Arnold states the critic’s job is to make the material understandable to the simple man. Well if that is the case, he lacks in that area. One cannot fathom how he can issue guidelines on what his fellow critics should do, when he clearly fails to follow them at times. The guidelines appear to be simple, but somehow an intelligent man, such as himself, could not follow them and that is astonishing. The reader looks to Arnold to make the idea of criticism more relatable, but he fails and it causes one to criticize him. Maybe Arnold’s intentions are to bring out the inner critic in his readers. If so, he does a magnificent job in making this reader question his creditability and intent.
Using Arnold’s logic, I can analyze a movie entitled, For Colored Girls, in which I witnessed the intersected lives of nine black women, who all have tremendous turmoil they must overcome. Each woman has a name and a color. The character in question is the Lady in Red. The movie is powerful and yet one of the most criticized movies, in the African-American culture because of the taboo characteristics the characters exhibit. Using Arnold’s idea of criticism opens up the realm of the creative power; I can acknowledge the need for the art. The movie provides an insight into the troubled world of the black woman, and with that insight, criticism is bound to occur. The Lady in Red is married and her husband is a “down low” man. I cannot fathom how she did not know that he was attracted to men, but she knew he was having an affair. Nevertheless, I am forced to realize that I must stay disinterested, and while doing that, I will realize there is more to the wife’s logic. While her husband does cheat on her, she refuses to leave him. Upon discovering, they both have AIDS, she ponders on the idea of leaving him, but she sticks by his side. Keeping the disinterested view in mind, I can only conclude that the love within the marriage is stronger and deeper than one can imagine. Knowing that love is strong and flexible, it allows me to understand her reaction. I cannot help but to contend that Arnold’s theory concerning disinterestedness does work with a little time and dedication taken to understand the intent of the material being analyzed.
However, Alexander Pope also has great ideas concerning criticism in “An Essay on Criticism.” The essay is in the form of a poem and it takes some time to analyze it. Nonetheless, once the process begins, it is accurate in its intentions. Pope’s intentions are simple, in the sense that his points are thorough. The main entity a reader can take from Pope is that judgment is universal, and with that being the case, no one critic is wrong. Nevertheless, he does mention one cannot judge without knowing the whole truth. On page 349, Pope states, “Most have the Seeds of Judgment in their Mind / Nature affords at least a glimm’ring Light; / The Lines tho’ touch’d but faintly are drawn right” (lines 20-22). The aforementioned statement allows the critic to realize it is okay to judge a body of work. He later indicates the idea of nature as the source of art, so therefore, art can be judged, but it must be done properly. Pope also discusses how the failure to learn can damage ones perception:
A little Learning is a dang’rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again. 215-218
By stating the above, he assures the reader that human nature is imperfect. The principles drawn from the quote are it is extremely dangerous to assume one knows a lot, when they know very little, because it can ruin ones judgment.
However, Pope also assures the reader that taste is determines how one judges something. Additionally, Pope warns the reader to be careful because her perception can be misperceived. In a scholar’s true fashion, Pope delivers the following message:
‘Tis best sometimes your Censure to restrain,
And charitably let the Dull be vain:
Your Silence there is better than your Spite,
For who can rail so long as they can write? 596-599
The message allows the reader to understand that is it better to be silent than to embarrass oneself. The lack of knowledge one presents will do more harm than good. Pope also outlines the general differences between good and bad critics. A good critic knows that he may not necessarily be fond of the material, but they can appreciate the value of the work. Whereas, the bad critic is one who thinks he knows something, but he lacks complete understanding of the material, yet he continues to place judgment.
Using Pope’s method of criticism, I can re-evaluate the movie For Colored Girls. When I first saw the movie, the points the director was transmitting were difficult to understand. Upon completing the movie, I discovered the movie was actually a play from the 1970’s entitled For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Isn’t Enuf, and I researched to learn more history regarding it. After I learned the history behind the project, I understood the intentions of it. When I watched it for the first time, my perception of the movie was biased, and I believed that it was horrible because of the intersecting plots. Nevertheless, I discovered that the production used the technique “six degrees of separation,” and I began to understand why. According to Alexander Pope, I am a “good” critic because I was willing to learn more about the production before I judged it. Because I am an inquisitive person, being a good critic may just be second nature. If I had taken the” bad” critic approach to the production, the wonderful piece of art would have been damned in my mind due to lack of knowledge. Being a “good” critic allows me to appreciate art and to grow from the lesson that art has taught.
Although literary criticism is a hard study to comprehend, it teaches the reader to appreciate art. Without critics, the world of literature is dull and sometimes disconcerting. Albeit, some critics’ investigations are bursting with harshness and lack of appreciation for the texts, but Alexander Pope and Matthew Arnold differ from the ordinary. Both of the critic’s ideas come full circle, in the sense that the reader now understands more than she did before. Nonetheless, the purpose of the critic is not always viewed as black and white: It may be gray by nature, but Arnold and Pope present their readers with knowledge that make the concept of the critic more understandable. Each critic leaves an indelible mark in the reader’s mind. Matthew Arnold’s mark is the concept of disinterestedness and Alexander Pope’s is the idea of a “good” critic. One must contend that without such scholars as, Arnold and Pope, literary criticism would remain a mystery to readers. Arnold and Pope make the uneasiness about the critic dissipate enormously.
Moral Ambiguity in Frankenstein
Although each character goes through completely different experiences Alex’s, Meursault’s, and Victor’s moral ambiguity forces them each to make unethical decisions that destroy their own lives and those around them.
Due to his lack of morality, Alex acts in a violent and destructive manor that leads to multiple deaths and had the potential to destroy his own life and sanity. Alex feeds off of sex and violence, which in most cases is extremely unethical on its own. Alex has no fear for society’s standards therefore he acts without thinking. There are multiple instances through the novel where Alex asks the simple question “What’s it going to be then, eh?” (3.1.1) reflecting he is unable to distinguish right from wrong. Alex is extremely violent, demanding and offensive with his “droogs” Georgie, Pete, and Dim. All of his friends take a lot of heat from Alex because they know he is the so-called boss, the one in charge. When Alex feels threatened by Georgie over who should be a leader of their group, he attacks all of the droogs by physically punching and cutting them. After the incident Alex regains control and decides to cause even more havoc. He feels that the boys should break into an elderly women’s home. Alex rapes and kills the many women he encounters throughout the novel due to his lack of moral standards. Ultimately, these actions lead to his arrest during the altercation with the old woman. Alex has unfortunately “(deprived himself) of the ability to make an ethical choice” (2.3.13). Alex has reached a point at which he can no longer make the choice between good and evil.
While most would commit a crime and chose to hide, Alex goes against the norm, and feels the need to express his feelings through music. His actions and interest in the music acts as an outward and positive seeming outlook on the horrible sins he commits. Alex has an obsession with classical music and has grown to associate his criminal activity with the music. Alex’s love of classical music is indivisible from his love of violence, and he rarely thinks of one without the other. Alex’s struggle with moral ambiguity intervenes with the government’s process to fix him. By using classical music to try to reverse his actions and temptations the government is attempting to get inside of his head and take the morally ambiguous character and turn him into a decent human being. Luckily for Alex and society he transforms by the end of the novel. As for his younger self, he is an extremely volatile character that destroyed many lives around him and had the potential to destroy his own.
Victor Frankenstein creates the creature using pieces of dead corpses. Although his cause and determination to create a blurred line between life and death the consequences were far worse than he could have ever imagined. Had Victor been able to make the moral decision in regards to his creation the story may not have unfolded in the gloomy way it did. Victor’s moral ambiguity for leaving his “child” and not upholding the proper responsibilities of a parent led to fatalities throughout the whole novel. It has been said “treat a person ill, and he will become wicked.” By abandoning the creature Victor leaves the creature to fend for himself and the creature turns to a life seeking revenge on his creator. The creature kills numerous characters and becomes what some would consider “wicked.” Unfortunately the creature was born with the mind of a baby so he does not know that his actions are turning him to a life of murder. When the creature says “My protectors had departed and had broken the only link that held me to the world…feelings of revenge…filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them,” (16.12) this is a direct response to Victor’s inability to make choices based on right from wrong because he left the creature. If Victor had moral standards he would not have left the creature alone and his family members would not have been killed. If you deprive someone from society then they will become selfish. Victor was extremely selfish by leaving the creature, therefore he is responsible for the deaths of Justine, Elizabeth, his brother etc. Victor made an extremely unethical decision by abandoning and neglecting his responsibilities of a parent because it caused the creature to act violently and seek revenge without knowing better. At several points in the novel Victor can even be considered the monster because it is his unethical decisions that cause the most trouble. Victor knows that he is “dependent on none and related to none” (15.5) yet is still unable to decipher between right from wrong. Victor had the choice once he created the creature of the path the two could go down. Victor did not choose a life of nature and care but life of isolation and destruction due to his moral ambiguity.
Right from the first page Meursault’s moral ambiguity stops him from showing compassion toward his own mother, even during the sad time of her passing. Meursault explains, “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know”(1.1.1) which is completely immoral and unusual. A typical person would not have the same reaction to a passing. At a funeral there are certain moral standards that society has set in order to keep balance and normality. Meursault goes against every single one of these by smoking a cigarette, falling asleep, and by not shedding a tear he shows his distance and lack of care for his mother. He is considered an outsider, a stranger, to the rest of the characters and this leads him to treat people without the respect they deserve. Meursault was “surprised they all shook (his) hand … as a single word had somehow brought us closer together” (1.1.18) proving he is an outsider and has not made an effort before. It would be polite to care about making relationships with people but Meursault’s moral ambiguity stands in the way of his decision-making. When Marie asks him to marry her he is indifferent and acts as though nothing important or monumental is happening in his life. In Meursault’s eyes the truth is that everyone has to die eventually so why should he care? There is no right or wrong answer to Marie’s question according to Meursault so he asks as if it does not even matter. Meursault does not believe that love is anything important. What he does not understand is his honesty is overpowered by his ignorance and he cannot attach and maintain emotions with his actions and words.
After being sentenced to the death penalty Meursault even goes as far as to say that he wishes people surrounded him so they could watch. “I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate” (123). He is free to live in his own world away from the standards of society and the care that most people have. Death is inevitable according to Meursault so he has no fear and no drive to act in regards to right or wrong. His actions prove his indifference and he is happy knowing that his does not have to care.
The Mohicans: Past and Present
When we finished the book the Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, most of us will wonder that can the Mohicans tribe still thriving when Chingachgook was the last one? That pushed me to do research about Mohicans and I found that they are still in existed. How amazing that the Mohicans people, today are known as Stockbridge-Munsee, is living in Bowler, Wisconsin. Their name meaning is “from the waters that are never still” (Stockbridge Indian Massacre par. #2) from the word Muheconneok. The Mohicans tribe have a lot of fantastic things to get to know, such as their culture, descendants, and lifestyle. Let’s take a trip to more understand about the Mohican people today.
First of all, I would like to introduce about the most amazing thing we would to know about them is the Mohican culture. After the Mohican tribe helped the British in the Indian and French Wars, the Mohican people were reduced from 1782 to 138 and they merged to Oneida people (Mahican-Native Americans of the Northeast Woodlands, par. #3). In the early 21st century, they estimate there are approximately 3,500 Mohican descendants (Mohican People, par. #4). In the Mohican tribe, their leader had a strong political sachem. The leader will be supported by a tribal council to run the tribe. To make their religions accepted by the Christians live among them, they had to fight to have their right in their worship.
The next interesting thing about the Mohican people is their descendants. In the past, the Mohican people spoke Mohican language, but it does not continue today. Now they all speak English. The last Mohican Indians person could speak their own language was around 1933. The Mohican Indian kids in the past did not have a lot of chores and played less, but now, their children go to school, helping around their parents, and play as every child in the world. The Mohican women can do what they desire nowadays, but in the past, they had to stay at home, work on farm, take care their kids, and support for the Mohican men that went to hunt or war.
Three members of the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Council
The last amazing thing about Mohican people is the changing in their lifestyle. “The Mohicans did not live in tepees. They lived in small round houses called wigwams. Some Mohicans built rectangular lodges instead” (Mohican Indian Fact Sheet, par. #10). Most Mohicans do not live in that wigwams anymore. They live in apartment or house like us. Sometimes the Native Americans built wigwams not for living, but for connecting with their heritage. They hunted and farmed for living in the past, but now they can work in most of work fields. They made their own tools for hunting and farming form wood. Their clothing were made from finely tanned animal skins. They painted their face, women wore skirts, and men wore breechclouts. Mohican people used canoe to travel along the Hudson River and dogs as pack animals.
The Mohican tribes fortified villages
In conclusion, Mohican people have amazing history. They have changed and adapted very well. Mohicans culture, descendants, and lifestyle are three of the things makes their stories more interesting. It is so great to discover about one of the most famous tribes in Native American Indians. When we know more about them, we can feel their spirit and culture. Mohican people have their own stories and they are proud of that. Mohicans’ spirit still stay strong in Mohican descendants today. That helps them move up and become stronger and stronger day by day.
George Eliot Wrote Silas Marner: the Weaver of Raveloe
It is her third novel which was published in 1861. Silas Marner is a tale of a linen weaver, who was highly sought after as he was highly skilled in his trade. The tale’s heavy emphasis was on morality and justice which were common themes in George Eliot’s writings – perhaps attributed to her upbringing and how she was greatly concerned with the good and bad in social & human relationships. The book also touches on how consensus of justice in communities work – predominantly by how popular or powerful the character is being portrayed. And how she weaves the tale to end with how justice over rules the injustice inflicted upon Silas Marner.
Silas marner is the linen weaver and the main character of the story… who settles in Raveloe from Lantern Yard after the betrayal of his best friend. He tries to hide the pain of his past by burying himself in his work and saves quite a lot of money/gold. When his money/gold was stolen, he was mortified and bitter. However, all his bitterness was replaced by love for the child whom he adopted. Being a person of high morales, the story ends with Silas wanting to seek the truth from his past when he visited his old village – Lantern Yard – to find his old villagers to tell them the truth of what happened. However, his old village was gone and although he could not find a closure – he still has a happy ending with his daughter by his side.
The author, George Eliot, was a woman born into an era whereby women were less respected. Thus she hid her real name – Mary Anne Evans. Her father, Robert, was a man of legendary physical strength, great practical ability and unimpeachable honesty. It is said that she was her father’s favourite and most faithful companion. At a young age, her mother fell gravely ill and passed away not long after the birth of her twin brothers. The idea of being abandoned as a child is re-lived in her tale during the point where Eppie loses her mother to drug abuse. This background history would enable us to further understand the perspective from which the author was trying to portray. This historical background could be the factors that molded the tale of Silas Marner.
The author manages to weave interesting facts surrounding morality and ethical boundaries in the story, Silas Marner. With many efficient literary devices like imagery, symbolism, repetition, contrasts etc, George Eliot was successful in delivering a tale that relates to many of us – tugging at our heartstrings . Her story also dwells on delivering justice to those who had integrity issues. It also drew our attention to the fact that one’s ambitions and greed could lead us astray and make us lose our values as a human being. As such, this would be the main focus of my investigation. Unlike most moral and justice criticisms, i would be focusing on the third person narrative – omniscient – and how it effectively brings the ideas of morality in the tale.
First aspect to explore:
Morality is a fragile standard molded and bent by the society we live in. In many cases, morality and justice come hand in hand as is the case in Silas Marner. Upon further exploration, after re-reading some chapters in Silas Marner, moral standards is a recurring theme that within its fairytale like formatting.
For a long time, Politicians, Philosophers, religious figures etc have been debating about whether morals are something we are “born with” or whether we acquire it as we are growing up. So that brings us to the question on whether our moral standing is acquired through – “nature” or through “nurture”. To answer this question – firstly we have to understand that different moral standards exist in different cultures and communities. Since moral standards are incorporated differently in each culture and community, this leads to each person having differing set of beliefs and their related actions. For example, in some communities, young children can do almost whatever they wish and get away with it – probably due to the fact that that society believes children are children and know not what they are doing. While in other stricter communities, children are treated like adults and punished in almost the same way – with the belief that they must learn at a young age.
In the adult world, adults often acquire their moral standards from a higher authority or acquire their own moral system based on what seems right to them or through their own learnings and teachings from their parents. However, a person’s morals can be changed as they grow up example, a Where people’s’ morals come from and what the specific morals are can change independently. For example, if a pious person has grown up with a certain set of moral standards but joins a cult which teaches them to steal or beg on the streets or even to prostitute themselves to fund the church – they might adapt their morals to abide by their newly acquired beliefs. In the case of Silas Marner, the scene in chapter ___ where Molly, Eppie’s drug addicted mother passes away in the snow near christmas time, Godfrey Cass the husband, abandoned both eppie and her mother, just to pursue his new lover, Nancy Cass.
Besides morality, some critics, speaks about how George Eliot’s concern about sympathy changed her entire treatment of social and moral issues during a certain period in time. In her work, the sympathy there depended absolutely upon a ‘division in the psyche a split in consciousness that permits two conflicting views to exist simultaneously’. This mental division is the material of conscience. By using the third person narrative, she – the narrator – is looking at this tale from an ‘outsider’ point of view. With such, it could also portray the dilemma one could face such as the idea of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ in our heads, the angel and devil in us. The usage of Authorial Intrusion can be of great aid to such portrayal due to it being a literary device wherein the author penning the story, poem or prose steps away from the text and speaks out to the reader. The Authorial Intrusion establishes a one to one relationship between the writer and the reader where the latter is no longer a secondary player or an indirect audience to the progress of the story but is the main subject of the author’s attention.
Role of Gender and Feminism Issues in Showvalter’s Book
As both theories of Feminism and Historicism are deemed to be essential parts of this paper, they should be explained. Elaine Showalter argues that women’s writing was underestimated by the male commentators. She separated feminist criticism into two particular assortments. The first is entitled ‘women as reader’ or ‘Feminist Critique.’ Feminist Critique concentrates on women as a peruser who is using up the male-delivered literature. It is a method for excoriating in which a female peruser changes the given content, arousing it to the noteworthiness of sexual codes. They are worried about the photographs and stereotypes of women in writing, the exclusion of as well as misguided judgments about women in criticism and also the control of the female viewers. The second is called ‘woman as writer’ which stands for women as the maker of printed meaning. However, Feminist Critique is male-oriented. We eventually learn only what men thought the opposite sex was experiencing and feeling. Showalter’s Gynocriticism came to build a female concept for the study of women’s literature hinge on female circumstance instead of readjusting male theories. She argues that women have their own personal style of writing. (see Showalter 216-7)
In her book, A literature of their Own, Showalter states three phases of female writing namely ‘‘Feminine,” “Feminist” and “Female” phases. “Feminine” occurs from 1840 to 1880. She announces that this stage is portrayed by women in an exertion so as to achieve highbrow equality with the manly culture. It applied an unpredictable weight on the story, tone, style, structure, and portrayal. The second stage is called “Feminist.” It occurs from 1880 to 1920. Women won the vote and utilized writing in order to exhibit the agony of wronged womanhood. The last stage is ‘‘Female’’ stage which started in 1920. In this stage, women abnegated “imitation’’ and “protest’’ which are two sorts of reliance. (see Showalter 217-8) It is imperative to see this literary tradition in connection to the advancement of women’s mindfulness and the battle to vanquish their place in a male commanded world. The errand of feminist critics is to locate a new dialect, a new method of reading which can incorporate their knowledge, experience, rationality, cleverness, perception, and affliction. I argue that Haywood’s novel fits into the feminine stage. Haywood defends and supports women’s own independent perspective. She demonstrates the role and the maltreatment of women of that time. Showalter’s feminist criticism was able to influence the principle of British literature. It brought a new perspective to female writers who, during this period, used to write under a male name.
It is prominent to consider the historical context of the novel as the eighteenth century eyewitnessed crucial changes in the institution of marriage. Haywood’s The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless demonstrates how women are depicted socially, sexually, and economically especially with the dominance of men in the social system. She argues that the social restrictions on women have to be removed in order to bring equality of both sexes in the public as well as in the private life. Haywood shaped her characters and plot so as to demonstrate her attitudes towards women’s treatment and her empathy with other women. She raises awareness of the demerits society laid on women of that time. Haywood uses authorial narration in her novel. The narrator knows about all the characters’ motives, conscious and unconscious thoughts. To put it differently, the narrator has a wider knowledge of the story and is in a position of authority which enables her/him to know all about the events, beyond those described in the novel, as well as the characters. The narrator uses retrospection and does not merely focus on the consciousness of one character. Haywood’s use of epistolary discourse throughout the entire novel not only pushess the story forward but also enhances the reader’s comprehension. Epistles are used as a mean of communication between lovers and siblings. Letters provide the reader with the characters’ motives and make the reader feel connected to the characters. Equally important, the historical background is imperative in order to comprehend the marriage perspective in The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless.The novel was written in the eighteenth century when perspectives towards matrimony switched. Haywood presents the eighteenth century world through women’s eyes and gives expression to women’s experiences. In her work, she demonstrates the characters’ conflict between their obligations to members of their families and their own desires.
Once a woman enters into the institution of marriage, she is submssive and a servant to her husband. In the eighteenth century, women’s life turned around the domestic sphere. (Browne 30) Married women were deprived of property and the husband has full authority in the household. The wife’s duty is to obey the husband and fulfill all his needs as well as her children’s: ‘‘[…] the married woman or femme covert continued to be the sole property of her husband once the marriage contract was signed […] and occasional access to divorce under exceptional circumstances in England’’ (Roulston 21) Women’s voice was unheard and once married they were manipulated by the husband. The position of married women legally and economically, in the eighteenth century, was in the possession of their husband. The law gives the husband full control and rights allowing him to be dominant over his wife. Married women who stayed at home felt different and lonely because their husbands went out to work. In other words, the housewives who sat at home every day knew that they were unhappy living an unfulfilled life. Additionally, women felt incomplete and relatively worthless. They were truly unhappy with their role in society.
“The Grass Eaters” Analysis
In Krishna Varma’s story “The Grass Eaters”, story takes place in the past in Calcutta, India. Basically, The Grass Eaters set at the time of religion dispute between Hindu and Muslim also when independence in India was big issue. Whereas, in “A Women Like Me” by Xi Xi, is slightly different because story held in Hong Kong during the end of 20th century where people had fear of unknown mysteries of life. However, both story occur in different time and place but their thinking and way to see the world makes difference in each story that catches the reader’s till the end.
To commence with, in story “The Grass Eaters” basically reflects that Ajit babu and his wife who has seen almost all kind of struggle in their life from living in a pipe and by eating grass as a staple food. Moreover their hunting for a proper house and food never end throughout their life, but in worst situation he never lose his belief of their life Ajit always stayed positive even though his wife rejected his offer to stayed in an abandoned freight wagon. “For the first time in weeks Swapna smiled, a very vague smile. Then, slowly, she drew the edge of her sari over her head, cast her eyes down, turned her face from me, and said in a tremulous, barely audible whisper that she (short pause) did (long pause) not want (very long pause) her (at jet speed) baby-to-be-born-in-a-running-train”. From this speculation we can identifies that also in worst situation Ajit can find bunch of happiness which can give his life some kick to face the world and stay positive in any kind of situation. Furthermore, Krishna Varma has also focused Swapna’s character as a biggest supporter in Ajit’s babu life because in any hardship he remains with him weather they to stay in pipe or in empty wagon. She also sacrificed her dreams and adjust with what they have; in fact, just imagine if Ajit wife was a negative thinker and demanding wife and Forcing Ajit to buy jewelry, clothes and proper food Ajit would have not fulfill her demands then she might left Ajit in arduous situation and there will be no one in Ajit hard time to support. It is so important that you need perfect partner to survive in Catch 22 situation and to face challenges to move forward with each other support. Nevertheless his so Prodeep might not come again as he engaged in Naxalite activities, but sill he is living with a hope that after his death “we have a son to do our funeral rites when we die”. This statement makes picture clearer that he was happy with what he have.
On the contrary, “A Women Like Me” is completely different story Xi Xi herself writes, “I feel that the blame for my having fallen into this trap, from which there is no escape, rests solely with Fate, which has played a cruel trick on me. I am totally powerless to resist Fate”. Xi Xi is insisting that and I personally feel that Xi Xi is not satisfied with her life. She is afraid of her destiny before coming to any conclusion of what future might be or what will happen in her future life? Due to this type of question she directly decides herself that Xia will reject him after knowing her job. Besides, this from her personality I can imagine that she has no clue where her life is going and she is completely a negative thinker, just because what other think about our profession and doubting on her own will led to see only on negative side on her job. No doubt her profession was gifted by her mother but, her aunt Yifen gifted her skills to be a professional makeup artist; However, Xi Xi says “I had become another Aunt Yifen; the two of us were, in fact, one person-I had become a continuation of Aunt Yifen”. According to this statement I think that she was comparing her life with her aunt Yifen and this also shows that all the fears and worries derive Tragic story of aunt Yifen is might happens in her life also. Overthinking, fear of destiny and afraid to be a single these kind of thoughts demolishing her from inside; while, she never thought on the flip side of coin maybe she would be living successful life with her boyfriend and still she will be doing her same job as before. Well narrator leaves reader in middle of the ocean where they were curious to know about her future.
To a greater extent, if we compare life of Ajit babu and Xi Xi then I believe both character some correspondence. No doubt, writer has shown both a character as a hardworking in life but they have not taste the success till the end of story. In addition both are looking for a chance of fate and hoping that one day their life might change. Also, both had and supporter like “Ramaniklal Misrilal” and “aunt Yifen” both has showed their support when they were facing hard times in life. Beyond, this both character are waiting for perfect time to change their fate on their side one day.
To conclude, both narrator has described their character in their own way as the belong to different culture; but, as per my inclination Ajit babu character was more strong that Xi Xi because in life Ajit babu has proved himself and survive in situation were his fate asked and question and every time he perfectly replied; while, Xi Xi failed. So ultimately both help us to realize that our life is totally depend on how we approach towards our life.
Emile Zola’s the Ladies’ Paradise
Emile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise, published in 1883 is an important text in which Zola explores social perspectives and depicts extensive socio-economic experiences through his representation of the department store, based on Paris’ first department store of the Second Empire. Zola expressed that he wanted to write about the modern activity and having a complete shift of philosophy and shifting relationships between classes, businesses, genders and even industries. Zola is able to do so by depicting the differences in sexual standards and gender roles, and displays that the advance of capitalism has led to both “social” and “consumption” modernity.
Although the development of varied modernity arises at the price of changing tradition and morality, the loss of these aesthetics is the unavoidable result of the development of this historical trend. Zola’s portrayal of gender roles in The Ladies’ Paradise publicized the unfair treatment of women and the opposing stereotypes concerning sexual behaviour. The facet about sexuality was prominent throughout the book and was strategically incorporated to highlight the need for gender equality within the society of the Second Empire. Zola even focuses on analyzing the double sexual standards by describing the shame women received for having affairs, compared to men, this, in order to draw attention to the societal need for gender neutrality. The higher moral expectations that surrounded women became much more obvious when it was revealed that the widower owner of The Ladies’ Paradise, Octave Mouret, had multiple romantic partners but still maintained a positive image within society; it even appeared to be expected that a prominent and wealthy man such as Mouret would have many mistresses. He is a symbol that represents the male side of the double standard and how they were not faced with societal shame when they were known to be in multiple open relationships.
One of these mistresses, Madame Desforges declared that he had bought a house for a chorus girl and, at the same time, was being milked by two or three others . This revealed that Mouret had multiple mistresses who were aware of the others, however, while the language used by Madame Desforges made it appear as if she felt superior over the others, the reality that the mistresses knew they were not the only women in Mouret’s life and continued to meet with him implied that his elite status was still intact. Instead, Denise Baudu, newcomer to Paris, represented the female version of the same double standard that was conveyed throughout the novel and the biased burden placed on women. As an independent young woman who came to Paris and trying to look after her brothers, Denise was forced to handle the pressures of avoiding the negative undertones associated with sexual behaviour; since it was difficult for women to avoid prostitution during the nineteenth century as it was easy and it was said everyone did it in the end because in Paris a woman could not live on what she earned.
Prostitution was very common, and women were desperate to provide for themselves; Zola used the historical idea of female prostitution to show how difficult it was for Denise to not give into this trend and attempt to lock out sexual relationships. Women were held to a more difficult standard than men, proved by how many women in the story who are accused of having open sexual relationships are shamed and discredited almost immediately. Denise is a great example of this, since she is instantly dismissed and not even allowed to explain herself when she is found fraternizing with a male at the Ladies’ Paradise; a male whom we find out is her brother. The effect of the emotional appeal she exclaims as she is dismissed, contributes to Zola’s depiction of how it needed to be understood that women did not deserve the sexual scrutiny they received and of the bigger picture regarding gender equality of the time. Through the the novel, the idea of the double sexual standard was incorporated to prove that women and men were not treated the same way and how difficult it was for women to handle the additional pressure. This double standard, this contrast between men and women, even appears in the consumerism of the characters and of the people, leading to modernity but not yet gender equality. The rise of the department store, which is a symbol of capitalism and the modern city, changes the mode of consumption of every character; the department store changes the shopping atmosphere and marketing installations.
The iron frame construction and plate-glass windows fill the Ladies’ Paradise with the essence of modern technology and light, compared with the small retailers’ narrow and dark stores. The department store was the cathedral of modern business, strong and yet light, built for vast crowds of customers , and its owner, Mouret, was akin to the conductor of an orchestra, directing staff from his office as one does in a symphony. While these modern facilities are despised by the small tradesmen, Mouret always puts his most beautiful dresses there, creating a real circus parade to catch the girls — stimulating people’s desires of consumption. Mouret, while a model of all smart merchants during that period, seizes the chance and introduces a new business management model – the department store. The department store, by consolidating many different goods such as fur, fabric, umbrellas and colourful, trendy clothing under one roof begins a new type of selling.
This is a good depiction of the commercial operations beginning to enjoy greater freedom during the Second French Empire. In Mouret’s opinion, the idea that business depends on making as much profit as possible in every single transaction is already out of fashion; traders must sell goods as quickly as possible in order to exchange for new goods — only by increasing the turnover rate can one maximize profits. And in order to accelerate this circulation of goods, Mouret develops many creative selling strategies, such as he dumping the cheap goods to attract more customers and using tempting advertisements to increase sales volume. While Mouret is realizing this ambitious plan, the small tradesmen cannot do anything other than closing their stores due to their inability to win against this new mode of production. Bourras, one of the struggling small tradesmen, sold walking-sticks and umbrellas, did repairs, and even carved handles, a skill which had earned him quite a reputation as an artist . He sees the umbrella as an artistic opportunity to display his hand carved handles, which always present an elegant fantasy, and as such, he disdains the mass production in Ladies’ Paradise. Even when his business unavoidably declines, he still does not despair and invents a popular automatic umbrella with romantic decorations. Yet, the Ladies’ Paradise immediately improves his invention, decorating the umbrellas with beautiful silk. Bourras’ failure is one of dozens and his inevitability fails in the price competition; his failure symbolizes the extinction of hand-craftsmanship and also shows that machines are progressively replacing manual production, as seen in the Second Industrial Revolution.
Though Mouret occasionally feels a some compassion concerning the small tradesmen who become victims in this transition period, he still thinks this result is a necessity and no one can stop the progress. He knows that the old fashion trading will inevitably collapse, even if he were to close the Ladies’ Paradise. While Mouret’s thoughts may seem cruel, they really show Zola’s attitude towards the change of monopoly capitalism and modernity. Zola uses his profound observation to grasp the essence of the capitalist insider: centralized monopoly capital is developed in the brutal competition and improved by bankrupting the contenders. It is always futile to try to hold back the progress of history. In fact, Zola has already shown his opinion implicitly through the repetitive comparison between the gloominess of Uncle Bourras’s shop and the commodious and bright Ladies’ Paradise. Zola also spends a lot of space describing social modernity, which is the result of the rise of department store. From the family and physical levels, the liberation of women is undoubtedly the main feature of the Second Empire. Women’s products start to take a crucial role in the consumption market and women gradually become main forces in the flow of capital. Although women are of great importance in consumption market, they do not necessarily gain respect. Mouret always conducts himself in a most gracious manner and behaves tenderly to women in all kinds of occasions.
However, he disdains them in his heart and treats them as the source of his financial success. Moreover, he takes advantage of women’s psychological weaknesses to accumulate his fortune. His conversation with his friends unveils his stratagem: “It was Woman the shops were competing for so fiercely, it was Woman they were continually snaring with their bargains after dazing with their displays” (76). In fact, although five female clients in the novel seem to enjoy shopping in the department store, compared with the smart and resourceful Denise, the material comforts alone will not bring the spiritual peace and real happiness. Zola not only demonstrates the life-and-death struggle on the society, he also stresses the disadvantage of rationality on the modern life—the life which is manipulated by the logic of economic and mass- production will not bring true happiness. Moreover, women also have an important effect on determining the social status of men. During this period, most ambitious men had lovers with important husbands. With the help of their lovers, men could easily achieve success. Mouret’s story with his lover is a good example to illustrate the importance of this kind of improper relationship. He takes advantage of his lover and enlarges his company.
This woman is not only his lover, but also his customer. Mouret creates a relationship between women’s consumption and their status as lovers—they both act as a source of revenue. For female customers in this novel, luxury always connects with extramarital affairs. However, we should not simply judge the right and wrong of their behavior, for they are all victims and they do promote the development of capitalism. The enormous wheels of the development of productive forces do not care about a code of ethics; instead, their hurtling destroys all obstacles in their way. From what has been discussed above we can easily find that although Zola sympathizes with small tradesman’s bankruptcy, he does not support the opposite sides of the development of capitalism. He believes that the small tradesman’s business is originally not the business of freedom, peace and honesty; moreover, small tradesmen must perish along with the old form. Thus, The Ladies’ Paradise not only affirms the commercial, industrial and technological progress of that era, it also exposes and castigates the cruel development of capitalism and barbaric means by which it supplants the older economy. Furthermore, it describes the heinous and ugly reality of a society that supports consumption over all other aesthetic virtues.