In What Ways Do Walt Whitman Anticipate the Modernist Movement? Essay
Updated: Jul 9th, 2021
Modernism is usually introduced as one of the most provocative and captivating periods in the literature. Its peculiar feature is the intention to deviate from traditions in order to save people from a coming civilization decline and discover new meanings of life. Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are usually called to be the founders of the modernism movement due to the impact on future modernists and readiness to tell the truth regardless of how dangerous or unpleasant it could be.
Their personal experiences, the chosen lifestyles, and propaganda of a free word make these two authors remarkable figures in the literature, as well as in the history. In this paper, special attention will be paid to Walt Whitman as one of major and the most effective anticipators of the modernism movement because of the chosen fearlessness, intents to promote equalities in everything, and abilities to break all the rules, contradict to themselves, and, at the same time, prove the correctness of their decisions.
Modernism in the Literature
Modernism is a well-known period in the history of the literature that was characterized by re-thinking about the role of religion and politics in social views and the necessity to understand the worth of truth through the prism of relativism and individualism.
The first waves of modernism were observed at the beginning of the 1900s and lasted till the middle of the 1940s. Modernists were united by their dissatisfaction with the current events and the necessity to participate in the war that destroyed so many innocent lives without any evident reasons. People felt like they were betrayed by the war and left without a possibility to change something. Industrialization and globalization continued increasing and influencing human lives, but the outcomes of the war made many questions and concerns to be opened and unsolved.
Fearlessness and Equality
If someone wants to find out a rhyme or connection between the ideas in Whitman’s “Soul of Myself”, it is necessary to be prepared for disappointment and failure. The goal chosen by the author is not to present a nice and simple story but to describe life as it is, without masks and entourage. Whitman states “the atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless” (“Soul of Myself”), meaning that people are free to define their own tastes and rely on their own preferences. It is high time to live and make independent decisions without fears and being “undisguised and naked” (Whitman, “Soul of Myself”). He does not want to hide behind something that is unnatural and is ready to instruct the reader on how to behave, react, and continue developing.
Some kind of premise to modernism and its impact on society is observed in many of Whitman’s works. For example, he believes in the “future use with its shows, architecture, customs, traditions” (Whitman, “Once I Passed Through a Populous City”). Innovation turns out to be an essential part of life, and people must respect everything offered to them. At the same time, Whitman leaves the right to make a final decision to people who should rely on their interests and priorities. In his turn, he decides to “remember only a woman I casually met” (Whitman, “Once I Passed Through a Populous City”).
He makes a choice and prefers to stay with one person he believes he is in love with instead of staying “in the rush of the streets” (Whitman, “Song of Myself”). There is no place for fear or other abstract things that distract people’s attention. Whitman is definite in his intentions and does not want to trust books or teachers who explain how to live and whom to love. He breathes in the air and defines its taste, using his personal experience and knowledge.
No Rules and No Mistakes
Although Whitman was not a modernist poet, his works contain some rebellion spirit and the desire to break all the rules that determine everyday life. He calls the reader to refuse the past and open a new page: “Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems/ You shall possess the good of the earth and sun” (Whitman, “Song of Myself”). It is a provocation for modern writers to demonstrate their powers and readiness to break the rules. It is high time to forget about the past that did not give an opportunity to discover a true potential.
Still, Whitman does not want to define himself as a perfect teacher for the reader. His experience and knowledge are enough and sufficient for him only, and people must rely on their own explanations and interpretations that can be either right or wrong. “You shall not look through my eyes either, no take things from me/ You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self” (Whitman, “Song of Myself”). There is no place for old rules, thus there is no place for mistakes or concerns. A person is free to live this life in accordance to their own principles and interests, and Whitman offers such a chance as the best anticipator of modernism.
Walt Whitman and His Overall Impact on Modernism
At the beginning of the 20th century, it was necessary for people to find out the truth about the world and the events that happened around, and the works of Walt Whitman turned out to be the helpful sources of inspiration and motivation for many authors and ordinary people. Although the works of Whitman were created in the middle of the 19th century when no modernist features were observed, his impact on modernism cannot be ignored.
As well as Emily Dickinson, Whitman demonstrated strong qualities as a poet and introduced interesting stories or even instructions on how to resist the cruelty of this world, how to use the word, and how to express personal feelings. Sometimes, people believe that there are weak or unconfident to take a step and discover what they can do at this moment. Whitman’s poems are based on contradictions that are evident in human life and the instructions on how to deal with everything in the best possible way.
In general, the role of Walt Whitman as one of the main anticipators of the modernist movement in the literature cannot be ignored or misunderstood. He showed how it is possible to resist the already established rules and prove the correctness of the choices made and how to contribute to the future and respect the experience of the past. At the same time, people should never forget about their personal demands and possibilities, and the poems of Whitman help to find out the necessary amount of inspiration and motivation to change something and be proud of the obtained meaning.
Whitman, Walk. “Once I Pass’d Through a Populous City.” The Walt Whitman Archive. Web.
Whitman, Walt. “Song of Myself.” Poetry Foundations. Web.
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Modernism in Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” Poem Essay
Updated: Jul 5th, 2021
Thomas Stearns Eliot, one of the acclaimed poets of the twentieth century, was not only one of the major authors of his time but a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His poems are monumental to the modernist style, with many of his works laying the foundation for further development of the movement. The modernists, war influenced and dealing with the terrors the First World War had inflicted upon people, attempted to transfer the general attitude of society through their work.
The literary characteristics of the style stem from horrors experienced in the First World War, which brought to life a distrust of authority, secular and religious, as well as a disassociation between soul and body. Effectively outlined in a paper by Palmer and Minogue, “from a fragmented modern world arose the fragmented subject of self” (228). “The Hollow Men” is an apt example of the modernist style in Eliot’s work, demonstrating all the core characteristics of it. Eliot develops the theme of fragmentation and broken things in the poem by describing anything surrounding the hollow men as damaged. From their voices characterized as “rats’ feet over broken glass” (Eliot I) to their idolatry in “Lips that would kiss / Form prayers to broken stone,” (Eliot III) the men exist in a fractured world. This scene of destruction indicates the spiritual devastation of the men, as the depiction of death and the afterlife connect with the Christian idea of the soul.
A profound sense of loss, through its direct experience, created a society that was disposed to questioning any authority, which sent them to their death, the most substantial being God. The poem, written in 1925, “emphasizes spiritual emptiness, entropy, despair and hopelessness” (Stolarek 235), which are all feelings typical of the interwar period. Displeasure towards religion shows in the portrayal of the afterlife, as the men reside “In this valley of dying stars / In this hollow valley / This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms” (Eliot, IV). This image is not paradise, and the poem ends with the men unable to finish the Lord’s Prayer, as their voices fade “For Thine is / Life is / For Thine is the” (Eliot, V). Written two years before Eliot’s conversion to Anglicanism, “The Hollow Men” displays the poet’s conflict with Catholicism, a religion that no longer lets him, and many others of his contemporaries, find solace within itself.
A widespread technique used by modernists in their undermining of authority was not only the focus on common, as opposed to dignified, objects, or misuse of punctuation. Eliot, to demonstrate his stance on those in control, uses citations as “[he] distorts certain quotations according to his poetic needs” (Ducroux 4). Stemming from the aforementioned religious contempt, he rephrases Dante’s description of heaven in “Divine Comedy” as a “Multifoliate rose / Of death’s twilight kingdom” (Eliot IV). This subversion of a classical view of the afterlife demonstrates the drastic change that has come about in the perception of paradise and, by allusion, religion.
A man of his time, Eliot created works deeply reflective of the time after the end of the First World War. The war lasted four years and produced causalities that secured it as one of the deadliest conflicts in history, creating a society traumatized and broken by chemical and trench warfare. Modernism, as a literary style, relayed the growing social sentiment and reassessed that, which was labeled as commonplace in a new, post-war light.
Ducroux, Amélie. “The Feeling of Thought: T.S. Eliot’s Programmatic Poetry.” Transatlantica, no. 2, 2014, pp. 1-15. Web.
Eliot, Thomas Stearns. “The Hollow Men.” All Poetry, Web.
Palmer, Andrew, and Sally Minogue. “Modernism and First World War Poetry: Alternative Lines.” A History of Modernist Poetry, edited by Alex Davis and Lee M. Jenkins. Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 227-252.
Stolarek, Joanna. “Quest for Values in T. S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men and Ash Wednesday.” Fides et Ratio, vol. 1, no. 17, 2014, pp. 234-243, Web.
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Modernism in “Death of a Salesman” Play by Miller Essay
Updated: Jul 5th, 2021
Death of a Salesman was introduced to readers in the middle of the 20th century. This play was written by Arthur Miller and considered to be one of the best works of that time. While reading it, people have an opportunity to observe the realities of both modernism and postmodernism.
Modernism can be seen in several elements of the play. First of all, it rejects totality, which is characterized by increased guidance. The concept of the American dream seems to be nonsense in this way since modernism treats the existence of societal structures (national identity, for instance) as something useless and fruitfulness. A similar situation can be observed in the play Death of a Salesman. One of its characters, Willy Loman, speaks about the American Dream, stating that this concept has no sense if it is considered only from a financial point of view, but it is actually so. Hence, Willy fails in his life because he does not manage to become rich. In addition to that, it is possible to observe the reality of modernism in Miller’s work when focusing on the influence of technology and progress on a workplace. Willy is a salesman who uses those selling approaches that are out of fashion. He does not understand the necessity to emphasize individualism and sticks to generalized concepts. The man fails to keep up with the time, which makes him uninteresting for buyers (Miller 6). As a result, he does not have an opportunity to reach success in his business. In this way, it can be seen that Willy lives in the modernist world, but he does not yet realize its features and is not willing to follow them.
According to postmodernism, metanarratives, such as the American Dream, are also treated as a great lie. The protagonist lives in a world of false dreams, which prevents him from reaching them and becoming satisfied. The same is true for the relationships between the characters. Willy has good contact with his two sons from the very beginning, but the situation worsens with the course of time. Therefore, the protagonist faces one more failure because of his inability to understand the realities of the postmodern society. The love of his family also turns out to be a concept that is measured by money. As Willy becomes unable to support his relatives, he decides to commit suicide in order to allow them to obtain insurance costs.
The postmodernist era is characterized by the consumer and technological society. The sense of isolation is spread, and human power is substituted by the advanced equipment, which leads to depression (Miller 12). Willy is frustrated since he becomes a victim of technology. He is not perceived as an individual and serves as an element that connects production and consumption. The major issue is that the man does not have a chance to return to his previous life. He is an average citizen of a postmodern society who is not ready to live in the new materialized world and fails to become successful in it. Because of social pressures, the protagonist faces the necessity to alter his way of thinking. The stream of conscious is observed in the play, which allows understanding Willy’s experiences. It is typical for postmodern works, so it is not surprising that Miller makes use of it.
Thus, it can be concluded that Miller’s play can introduce modernism and postmodernism to its readers. The author uses the protagonist, Willey, to show the word he created, which was a new type of narrative for that time. Miller emphasizes that it was significant for people to reject their traditions and initial perceptions of different concepts to find a place in the new word. Those who fail to implement such alterations, including Miller, do not become prosperous and cannot reach the success of the materialistic society.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Penguin Plays, 1998.
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Alienation in Modernist Short Stories and Poems Essay
Updated: Feb 2nd, 2021
In modernist texts, different writers treat the theme of alienation differently in their works based on the conditions and the situations they are expressing in the works. As the paper unfolds, the treatment of the theme of alienation as per different writers will be looked into to establish whether there exists a common denominator in the treatment of the works or not. Allen Ginsberg has his format of addressing the theme in his story ‘Howl’.
Ginsberg addresses the desperation and the alienation felt by the Americans by the mechanization and the intellectual conformity that the authorities thought the American society demanded. In the second part of the poem, Ginsberg introduces the god character Moloch to who powerful people sacrificed children to satisfy their desires to remain in power. In a more personal tribute, he seeks to bring about a balance in the poem in part III (Ginsberg 34). The form of alienation displayed here introduces the sense of rebellion to end the state. Frost’s story ‘Mending Wall’ presents its style of handling the theme.
Frost’s “Mending Wall” gives an insight into the alienation that a person welcomes him/herself when he or she introduces barriers. These barriers exclude other people and make the ‘neighbor’ aloof as he or she insists on keeping the barrier.
The separation that the neighbor introduces between him and the narrator portrays the nature of self-inflicted alienation. A person puts up barriers, which to him seem intended to maintain a good relationship between them and the neighbors. The neighbor argues that ‘A good fence makes a good neighbor’ (Frost lines 10 and 34). The narrator sarcastically evaluates the reason behind his neighbor maintaining the importance of a wall between them.
Paul in Willa Cather’s story is alienated as a child since he is motherless. He sets out to seek meaning in life that is different from the treatment he gets from his father and the yellow wallpaper in his room. He has a disinterest in school stems from his alienation as a child. This alienation is characteristic of the modernist portrayal of desperation as Paul gets unusual attention at school and never gets any attention from his father at home. It is his attitude towards schools that portrays the boy’s sense of alienation (Cather 34). Robinson further presents the theme of alienation in his story ‘Mr. Flood’s Party’.
Eben in “Mr. Flood’s Party” is friendless and isolated for most of his life. Despite having lived for long and witnessed many changes, his life seems filled with a sense of alienation. He compares his life cycle with that harvested crops that are of use when they end their cycle (Robinson lines 1-24). He has lived the last autumn stage of his long life and yet he is of no use to anyone not to even himself. He leads a desperately lonely life to the extent that he even talks to himself. This alienation is characteristic of the disillusionment portrayed in most modernist texts. The ‘Love Song of Alfred Prufrock’ by Eliot portrays further the subject of alienation.
The dramatic monologue centers on the narration of an insecure intermediary who leads a mediocre life for the fear of taking risks especially when it comes to issues related to women. Prufrock alienates himself with his manhood due to his fear of taking risks (Eliot Lines 1-4). The juxtaposition of this lyricism in the narration that elaborates the alienation is characteristic of the modernist texts.
Based on the evident similarity in which the different writers address the theme, it suffices to declare it possible to come up with an effective way that adequately looks at the theme. The theme of alienation cuts across all works by modernist writers. The treatment of the theme in the literary works portrays the thematic concerns inspired by desperation, loneliness, and aimed at portraying human life as filled with these characteristics.
Considering how modernist texts treat the theme of alienation, it is clear that modernism has a particular way of treating alienation through the portrayal of alienated characters struggling with their situations. Therefore, given a chance to address the subject of alienation, my thesis statement would declare alienation as a situation dominated by struggles in the lives of the affected.
Cather, Willa. Paul’s Case: American Short Story Collection. New York: Kessinger Publishing, 2005.
Eliot, Tony. The Love Song of Albert Prufrock: An Anthology of Modern Poetry. London: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Frost, Robert. Mending wall: Modern Poetics and the Landscapes of Self. 1975 New York: Duke University Press, 1975.
Ginsberg, Allen. Howl: Howl and Other Poems by Ginsberg. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005.
Robinson, Arlington. Mr. Flood’s Party: Poems by Arlington. New York: Penguin Books, 1972.
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Dystopian Fiction for Young Readers Essay (Critical Writing)
Updated: Aug 29th, 2020
First of all, it must be noted that the article of the current analysis is devoted to the impact of dystopian fiction on young people. Keeping in mind the list of dystopian books the author provides us with, one can probably conclude that modern teenagers are interested in nothing, but crime, violence, and cruelty. No, they do not afraid of the listed issues but accept them as the ordinary things the contemporary world is filled with.
Laura Miller gives readers an opportunity to trace back a variety of issues many writers of dystopian literature draw their young readers’ attention to. We, in turn, have a chance to define the overall aim of such publications. There is no need to neglect Miller’s conclusion that “The books tend to end in cliff-hangers that provoke their readers to post half-mocking protestations of agony” (par. 3).
It seems to be evident that the author is deeply concerned with the things she reveals. To protect and prove her ideas, Laura Miller relies on a wide range of rhetorical strategies, which most vivid are:
- exemplification (she provides us with the readings “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead, “Uglies” by Scott Westerfeld, “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner, etc.),
- description (Miller clarifies the importance and meaning of these books in young people’s lives; she provides readers with detailed depictions of teenagers’ emotional states which dystopian books cause),
- narration (every part of Miller’s essay includes the retelling of a dystopian story),
- process analysis (the author evaluates the processes young readers are involved in and shows the way readers react to dystopian publications),
- comparison and contrast (Miller depicts the differences and similarities between the books she analyses),
- division and classification (the author tries to disclose a variety of hidden things such broad and complicated subject as dystopian literature reflects),
- definition (Miller’s article is related to specialized terms, which she further explains in order to clarify the main purpose of her discussion; she focuses on the threats dystopian books contain and wants her positions to be clear to readers),
- cause and effect analysis (the author depicts the interdependence between contents of dystopian books and their outcomes, i.e. she reflects a variety of negative consequences the kind of literature brings about),
- argumentation (when reading the article it becomes evident that Miller tries to convince her readers through reasoning).
When analyzing the limitations of the current subject of discussion, one can probably notice that Miller is limited by her own knowledge, emotions, and moral values. The listed three variables can be regarded as the key limitations, as they reflect the importance of readers’ background knowledge, their own beliefs, and expectations. In other words, one can state that Miller and her readers may have different attitudes and viewpoints on the same things. Thus, if young people are fond of reading dystopian literature, it means that there are some gaps in Miller’s judgment. She does not want to understand and accept the new values many young people support and comprehend in their own way.
Despite the fact that there are certain cultural contexts that constrain Miller, one can conclude that the article is well-written. Thus, in her work Laura Miller concentrated on readers in terms of age and pointed out the most crucial elements of dystopian literature. Finally, the author gave readers an opportunity to determine the nature of her reasoning.
Miller, Laura. “What’s behind the Boom in Dystopian Fiction for Young Readers?” Newyorker.com. 2010. Web.
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Modernism in Symbolism and Imagery as Presented in the Works of W.B. Yeats Analytical Essay
Updated: Jun 17th, 2019
Modernism is a term that refers to a movement in art and literature that began in the late 19th century and extended through the early days of the 20th century (Coughlan and Davis 5). The proponents of this movement sought to distinguish themselves from traditional and classical artists and writers.
The movement initially emerged as a form of rebellion by artists and scholars to the 19th century standards of artistic and literally practices (Perloff 13). This essay seeks to show how imagery and symbolism as elements of modernistic writing are presented in the works of poet William Butler Yeats.
The main intention is to come up with a paper that can be used for reference purposes when it comes to the subject of modernism in literature. To this end, three of the popular symbols in the writer’s premier works shall be analyzed in consideration to their relationship with modernism. For the purposes of this research various forms of scholarly material including books and journals shall be consulted.
In laying down the foundation of the essay, the key terms that pertain to the discussion shall be briefly discussed. Among the items to be covered in this section includes an explanation of how Yeats managed to escape romanticism to build a name as a modernist. The themes and motifs that guided the poet’s works shall be described here.
After this groundwork, the essay shall delve into the main discussion citing the works of different authors and the poet himself. Finally, a conclusion that wraps up the entire paper will be made alongside recommendations.
The primary aim of this research process is to illustrate that through the embracing of different strategies, Yeats managed to come out as modern poet. This is irrespective of the fact that the strategies were conscious or subconscious.
Characteristics of the modernist movement
Modernism, as presented in literature came with its own style of writing, which mainly required that reality be presented in a creative and indirect way. In modernist literature, different forms of writing could have different interpretation depending on the point of view of the reader (Redman 41). However, the information contained in any piece of writing had to be immediately discernible by the target audiences.
Modernist literature was also subjective in nature and placed emphasis on impressionism. Writers of the time had an apparent shift from objectivity and they introduced an omniscient third-person narrator as well as fixed narrative points of view (Croft 78; Paul 19). In the telling of the story, the writers broke down their narratives into fragments and introduced some element of discontinuity.
Modernism also married the various genres of writing with each other in such a way that poetry appeared like prose and prose assumed the form of poetry (Kenner 157; King 73). Different pieces of writing even by the same writer called for uniqueness. The movement was also characterized by liberalism in both literary and artistic fields. The artists and writers of the time were permitted to experiment with newer styles of writing.
It was also permissible for the writers and artists to merge different styles to come up with unique styles that easily distinguished their works from those of other works (Weinberger 23, 56). Writers who subscribed to this art movement at times deliberately disregarded the established rules of writing to adopt those that met their desired purposes.
In this regard, there was no specific set of rules that writers had to follow in order for their works to be considered modern. Finally, modernism embraced themes based on daily living. The writers who subscribed to the movement addressed the issues that plagued society at the time, as opposed to dwelling on fantasies.
Imagery and symbolism
Imagery and symbolism are both stylistic elements of literature, commonly used in poetry (Guest 14). Imagery is the description of an object or situation with the aim of helping the reader create a visual of the same in his mind. To achieve this, the writer needs to pay attention to vivid description and keenly lay down all the necessary details.
In order to create a clear mental picture, the author has to ensure that the tone he uses is representative of the events happening in the scene. The writer also needs to ensure that the point of view from which the description is being made suits the situation.
A description made from the first person and omniscient narrator points of view will be easy to relate to from the reader’s perspective as compared to one made from the third person point of view. Symbolism on the other hand is the usage of one object or scene to describe something else. For instance, a hare may be used in a piece of writing to represent a very crafty person.
In writing, the author can use anything whose attributes are well known to the prospective readers to describe another. The two elements can be used independently or together with each other to help make the writers work both interesting to read while at the same time conveying the intended message.
Regarding the usage of the two elements of writing in modern work, both were extensively used to give further explanation to the ideas raised by the authors.
Yeats and his break from romanticism to modernism
Yeats is fundamentally considered a modern poet. However, his earlier works contained many elements associated with Romanticism. These include escapism, high imagination, subjectivity, romantic melancholy, interest in myth and folklore (Jeffares 121). A keen evaluation of his ealier poems indicates that he heavily borrowed from Romantic poets Keats and Shelley.
One of Yeats’ most renowned romantic poems was the The lake Isle of Innisfree. In the poem, Yeats lays down the theme subjectively and imaginatively. The isle is his ideal place of romance, with its associated elements of beauty being creations of the poets’ imagination.
The poem titled The Stolen Child is another of Yeats’ works that are laden with features that put in the romanticism era (Vendler 130). Yeats, by his imagination, creates a dreamy world, Sleuth Wood, where people seeking to escape from the troubles of the world seek solace.
The Wild Swans at Coole is another of Yeats’ works that fits in the Romantic generation of writing. In the poem Yeats paints the image of a highly romantic environment, whose beauty is defined by the image of Swans perched on stones.
Speaking of the swans, the poet says, “Their hearts have not grown old; Passion or conquest, wander where they will; Attend upon them still,” (Yeats 91). In these lines, Yeats tries to present the swans as the basic representatives of the high quality life he desires.
In works done after 1910, Yeats borrowed on the influence of Ezra Pound, in regards to the extensive usage of imagery and the conciseness of facts. In this regard, he abandoned the usage of traditional poetic diction and began presenting his themes in a more direct and concise manner.
He also started addressing public themes instead of placing emphasis on the elements of his own imagination. Most of the works that introduced him as modernist were linked to the First World War and the civil turmoil happening in Ireland.
Yeats was against the war and in the poems written towards the end of his life he made sure he presented this view in an explanatory tone.
In The Second Coming, Yeats tries to explain why people have turned against each other saying, “Things fall apart; the entire world cannot hold…The best lack all conviction, while the worst…” (Vendler 170). In these lines Yeats indicates that the world is crumbling because of people’s disregard for respect to each other.
Pessimism is one of the identifiers of modern poetry and it is by extensive usage of the feature in some of his poems that Yeats receives attention as a Modernist.
The end of his relationship with Maud Gonne and his break up with the Irish National Movement led the bitterness that is presented in the poem in Poems such as Adam’s Curse and To a shade (Ryan 19;65). For instance the last two lines of To a shade read, “You had enough of Sorrow before death-Away, away; you are safer in the tomb,” (Vendler 113)
These lines clearly indicate the pessimistic views that Yeats had developed and by presenting them in his poem, he ended up passing as modernist. Poets from the modernist era were fundamentally scientific.
However, there was some elements of mysticism in some of their works, something that was well defined in poems by Yeats. Yeats fronted the idea of spiritual exaltation in the poem titled Sailing to Byzantium (Vendler). This is evidenced in the line that says, “Soul clap its hands and sing,” (Yeats 95).
Another element of poetry that characterized Yeats’ later works as modern was humanism. The grim realities of life under the shadow of the war made Yeats and other poets of his time focus on works that touched on the humanistic side of life. For instance, in the poem Easter 1916, Yeats wrote, “He had done most bitter wrong, To some who are near my heart,” (Finneran 181)
In these two lines, Yeats comes out as a human being who has to deal with the challenges that life bring along on a day to day basis. Yeats inculcation into modernism came gradually and with some resistance, but by the time of his death, he had gotten into the system as has been exemplified above.
In order to fully grasp the usage of various elements of modern writing in Yeats works, it is first important to grasp the themes and motifs that defined his poems. The two elements have been briefly discussed below, with their manifestation in different works by the author given mention.
Politics and art as compatible partners
Yeats started off as an artist. He later ended up in politics, something that greatly influenced the presentation of his poems. Yeats was of the belief that art and politics were inseparable and that is why he used his latter day works to teach his audiences on the politics of the day. As a young poet, Yeats was not impressed by the impact that British rule had placed on his country of birth, Ireland.
According to him, Ireland was a beautiful uncorrupted land which would have remained peaceful had the British not come on to exert their influence. In his early poems, Yeats was committed to praising the beauty and mystery of Ireland. Because of his fascination with the myths, his works continually made references to the mythic figures such as Oisin.
With time, Yeats had completely adopted a political stance, with his poems greatly representing his political views and proposals. Questioned about this approach, Yeats hinted that poems could be used as avenues for making political commentary as well as platforms for educating the masses.
Because of the strong support that Yeats had, his earlier works were grounded on a philosophical structure that placed emphasis on the fact that all events in life happen as a consequence of a series of events.
Yeats shunned Christianity but in dedicating time to understand the elements of spirituality, he ended up founding a new concept of spirituality that was mainly defined by usage of gyres to show the direction that a person’s life would take. Jordan explains that in poems such as Leda and the Swan and The Second Coming Yeats presents a situation that is uniquely determined by fate, and which cannot be avoided (Jordan 145).
Through such concepts, Yeats asserts his belief that history is a component of fate and that it cannot be simply altered.
Growing up in England, Yeats developed a keen interest in poetry and the literature of the occult. This led to him adopting mysticism as definers of his poetic style. For instance, he commonly used gyres to explain the path that the soul takes and the passage of time.
Nationalism and Politics
Having been born in Ireland, Yeats had the interest of the country at heart and this was reflected in the way he incorporated Irish themes in his poems. In most of his works, Yeats made a point to educate the readers on Irish history. This was mainly illustrated in the way he introduced Irish mythical characters in his works. Over time, and as he entered into the political arena, Yeats made sure that his poems were patriotic in nature.
For instance, in the poem An Irish airman foresees his death, Yeats tries to condemn the usage of Irish soldiers to fight for the British, terming the British as hypocritical (Pritchard 73). In the poems The Second Coming and Leda and the Swan Yeats uses images of violence to condemn the chaos and disorder happening around the world as a consequence of the ongoing war.
Symbolism in Yeats’ works
This section shall critically evaluate the usage of three symbols in Yeats’ works. These symbols are: the Gyre (in The Second Coming), the Swan (in Leda and the Swan; The Wild Swans at Coole) and the Great Beast (in The Second Coming).
The Second Coming is one of Yeats’ visually-symbolic poems of all time. The poet uses a combination of symbols and an emotional element to pass his message across to the reader. In the poem, we are first introduced to imagery representing disaster.
Destruction is happening all around, with everything falling apart. The speaker in the poem exclaims that the second coming is looming. His voice ends up summoning a sphinx-like animal in the desert to emerge from a sleep last two millennia. With the night coming, the creature advances towards Bethlehem.
After vividly describing an apocalyptic end to the world, Yeats presents a unique turn of events, coming in the form of a sphinx, which has been asleep for 2000 years. The lion with a human’s head is a symbolic image that comes from the Bible (in the Book of Revelation). The lion is known for brute strength while the human head represents intellect.
Because of the emotionless gaze in its eyes, the reader is repelled by the creature, which to some extent represents death. And there is pending death on its arrival at its set destination, a symbolization of the destruction of old ideas and the birth of new ones. The work is highly symbolic with conscious creativity and imagery presenting in the style of writing.
In the poem, Yeats makes subtle references to events mentioned in the Bible but because of the creativity employed in getting the message across, everything comes out as creations of his imagination.
For example, the sphinx he makes reference to has previously been mentioned in the Bible, but because he uses it to symbolize the evil that is about to come to an end, it easily passes as his creation. This mix of vivid description and reference to things that have meaning in society allows the poem to fall in the modernist era.
The poem title The Second Coming was published immediately after the end of the First World War (Longenbach 25). Having witnessed the chaos, Yeats came to a conclusion that the world was coming to an end. He chose the title the second coming derived from the Christian belief that at when the world comes to an end, Jesus will come through to rule.
However, having been influenced by theories of the occult, Yeats had a different view of how the world would come to an end, which was very different from the Christian version of the apocalypse (Woods 74).
In the poem, Yeats’ paints a scene in which the falcon is spinning in the movement of gyre, with the motion causing it not to hear the falconer. This is presented in the first stanza which reads, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre; The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;” (Yeats 91).
A gyre is a concept in Yeats’ later writing describing a whirling motion that starts at the tip of a cone and moving towards the wide end. At the broad end, the movement changes direction to go the other way, while at the same changes the direction in which the cone spins. Yeats fronted the philosophy that everything in the universe could be described using cycles.
Initially, he explained the different phases of life using the varying phases of the moon, but later he adopted the concept of gyres as a more appropriate base for presening his ideas. The gyres present Yeats’ belief in the fact that fate dictates how life presents as well as his spiritual views towards the growth of the soul.
Yeats tells of a situation in which the falcon cannot hear the call to move to safety and as it wanders around it begins to spiral out of control. Yeats tells that with the sweeping tide of events, the centre of the gyre is weakened immensely. The gyre’s centre is the modern society whose weakening is represented by a laxity in morals. In fourth line, Yeats says that mere anarchy is let loose upon the world (Harper 124).
This anarchy refers to the confusion and chaos currently going on, with the entire world bound to fall to its consequences. In subsequent lines, the poet vividly describes a society that is coming to a tragic end, with “the best becoming bad and the worst becoming good” (Jeffares 59).
Jeffares, in his writing, asserts that in this line Yeats confirms that society has turned upside down, with good morals being shunned in favor of immorality. Unfortunately, this situation is leading the society to self-destruction.
In the development of the plot, this description is used to illustrate to show that the world is falling apart with the evil emerging triumphant. Destruction is happening all around, with everything falling apart. The vivid description Yeats gives helps the reader vividly visualize the damage caused.
The significance of the gyres in the poem has been well studied by various scholars. Richard Finneran in his definitive edition of Yeats’ poems borrows from Yeats’ own saying:
The end of an age, which always receives the revelation of the character of the next age, is represented by the coming of one gyre to its place of greatest expansion and of the other to its place of greatest contraction… The revelation [that] approaches will… take its character from the contrary movement of the interior gyre… (Finneran 493)
In this statement, Finneran asserts that the world’s motion in the gyre of democracy and heterogeneity is breaking apart in the same way that the falcon is on a destabilizing whirl. In essence, Finneran provides a further explanation of the working of gyres, while at the same time tries to give relevance to its application in the poem.
The Swans in different poems by Yeats have been taken by different scholars to mean different things. For example, Cleeve indicates that in the poem Ninteen Hundred and Nineteen, the swans are representatives of the subjective person (Cleeve 101). In contrast, Jeffares, speaking of the same symbol syas that it represents the isolated soul (Jeffares 49)
Swans are beautiful and peaceful birds which are commonly used in poetry to describe an ideal situation. In The Wild Swans at Coole Yeats uses the swans to describe a unique and static ideal. Yeats says, “I have looked upon those brilliant creatures, And now my heart is sore,” (Finneran 131).
In these lines, Yeats defines the swans as creatures that bring peace to a person’s heart by just looking at them. In the poem, Swans are used to represent the youth, with their vibrant enthusiasm and excitement.
The poem Leda and the Swan tells the story of Leda, who was raped by the god Zeus. Zeus had taken the form of a swan and after the encounter Leda laid eggs which later hatched to give rise to Clytemnestra, Helen, Castor and Polydeuces (Foster 58). In this poem, Yeats uses the swan to describe a destructive creature, whose actions lead to war and destruction.
Common knowledge has it that swans are harmless water birds, whose gracefulness is traditionally used to symbolize love. The description of the Swan by Yeats as violent and terrifying, instead of graceful and peaceful, ends up manipulating common poetic conventions ultimately ensuring that the poem falls squarely in the modernism era. In the poem, Yeats had set out to define the evils that were affecting Ireland.
At the time a society that had appeared calm and peaceful had turned into one full of chaos and disharmony. It is with this backdrop in mind that Yeats decided to use a swan gone bad to represent the discord. He also shows that the evil landed in the society without prior warning, when he says:
“A sudden blow: the great wings beating still; Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed; By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill, He holds her helpless breast upon his breast,” (Finneran 214).
The swan caught the girl by surprise and went on to take advantage of her because of its overwhelming power. This is much the same way that societal wars came to affect Ireland in the early 20th century. The undesirable traits entered the country without prior warning and when they struck, they struck hard.
The poem presents Yeats as a modern poet by the fact that it seeks to address a serious social issue and not a subject of fantasy as would have been the case had he still been committed to Romanticism. However, the fact that he still sticks to an established poetic arrangement, mildly presents him as a romantic writer. The modernism elements outweigh the features of romanticism.
This study had set out to illustrate how modernism manifests in literature and particularly in poetry. The works of renowned poet William Butler Yeats were used to illustrate how imagery and symbolism, the two key literary elements of the modernism movement, manifest in written work. From the research and subsequent writing, it has been shown that Yeats had mastered the usage of symbolism in his poems.
Three of the symbols presenting in the poet’s premier works had been selected for analysis and were given and in-depth evaluation, particularly in their relation to the current study. Their meanings in the development of the plot of the specific poems in which they appear have been well expounded on, with a linkage provide to their relevance in defining the writer as a modernist.
In this regard, it has been concluded that Yeats was one of very many poets of his day who applied the elements of modernism to their works. It has also been shown that he was one of the most influential and whose poems have been the subject of analysis by many a scholar.
It is worth noting that even though this essay has met the objectives it had initially set out to meet, it is by no means exhaustive. More analysis on the same topic can be done using the works of different poets or other works by Yeats.
Cleeve, Brian. W.B. Yeats and the Designing of Ireland’s Coinage. New York: Dolmen Press, 1972. Print.
Coughlan, Patricia and Alec Davis. Modernism and Ireland: The Poetry of the 1930s. Ireland: Cork University Press, 1995.Print.
Croft, Barbara L. Stylistic Arrangements: A Study of William Butler Yeats’ A Vision, USA: Bucknell University Press, 1987. Print.
Finneran, Richard. The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats Volume I: The Poems: Revised. United Kingdom: Simon and Schuster, 1996. Print.
Foster, Roy. W. B. Yeats: A Life, Vol. II: The Arch-Poet 1915–1939. New York: Oxford UP, 2003. Print.
Guest, Barbara. Herself Defined: The Poet H.D. and Her World. New York: Collins, 1985. Print.
Harper, George Mills.Yeats and the Occult. Canada: Macmillan of Canada and Maclean-Hunter Press, 1975. Print.
Jeffares, Norman. A New Commentary on the Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984. Print.
Jordan, Anthony J. The Yeats Gonne MacBride Triangle. Connecticut: Westport Books, 200. Print.
Kenner, Hugh. The Pound Era. United Kingdom: Faber & Faber, 1973. Print.
King, Francis. The Magical World of Aleister Crowley. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1978. Print.
Longenbach, James. Stone Cottage: Pound, Yeats, and Modernism. New York: Oxford UP, 1988. Print.
Paul, Catherine. Poetry in the Museums of Modernism: Yeats, Pound, Moore, Stein. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2002. Print.
Perloff, Marjorie. The Poetics of Indeterminacy. Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1999. Print.
Pritchard, William. W. B. Yeats: A Critical Anthology. UK: Penguin, 1972. Print.
Raine, Kathleen. Yeats, the tarot, and the Golden Dawn. Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1972. Print.
Redman, Tim. Ezra Pound and Italian Fascism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Print.
Ryan, Philip. The Lost Theatres of Dublin. Wiltshire: The Badger Press, 1998. Print.
Vendler, Helen. Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2007. Print.
Weinberger, Eliot. The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2004. Print.
Yeats, William. W.B. Yeats: The Major Work. OUP, 2001. Print.
Woods, Tim. The Poetics of the Limit: Ethics and Politics in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Print.
This analytical essay on Modernism in Symbolism and Imagery as Presented in the Works of W.B. Yeats was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Richard Rodriguez’s Writing Style Essay
Updated: May 13th, 2019
Richard Rodriguez has become one of the most controversial figures of study today. In his writing, “The Achievement of Desire” Rodriguez gives a narration of his life while recounting the reasons and the ways in which he educated himself. Notably, he is not the only author who narrates about his life.
Malcolm X also wrote a narrative about his experiences. However, it is necessary to note that Rodriguez’s writing as well as the work by Malcolm X is very intimate. However, Rodriguez’s writing is more efficient as the author uses winning writing strategies. Thus, this essay aims to argue that Richard Rodriguez is a more effective writer by considering issues of word choice and writing style.
Rodriguez gives a narration of the path of his educational career in his writing. The author uses emotional appeal to incorporate writing styles such as first person narration, comparison and contrast, and evidence: aspects of writing with style that makes his revelations fascinating, thus an excellent writer (Vonnegut 27).
Having laid down the fact that he was a scholarship boy, Rodriguez, in a strategic manner, makes use of the first person narration technique to underline his inner struggles as a scholarship boy. He plays his own informant by using his voice to narrate what he went through, “I intended to hurt my mother and father. I was still angry at them” (Rodriguez 601). Additionally, by using his own voice, he makes the story even more original.
Malcolm X also uses first person narration. His writing is intimate as he reveals his emotions and ideas, “I became increasingly frustrated at not being able to express what I wanted to convey in letters that I wrote” (Malcolm X 78).
The author highlights the time he spent in jail. Of course, such kind of experience makes the reader sympathise the writer. With the help of the first person narration, the author achieves a very special effect. He shares his emotions and he does not alienate himself from the events he is revealing. Of course, this is one of the most effective writing techniques.
It is possible to note that Malcolm X manages to write a more appealing paper. Thus, Rodriguez simply narrates about his experiences. However, Malcolm X addresses the reader, “As you can imagine, especially in prison… an inmate was smiled upon” (80). It seems that Malcolm X is simply having a friendly and even frank conversation. This is a very strong writing technique. It is possible to note that Rodriguez’s writing lacks this technique.
However, Rodriguez’s writing has features that make his writing more effective than that of Malcolm X. Thus, a common writing strategy that Rodriguez employs in his essay is comparison and contrast. The author uses comparison when contemplating his relationships with parents and teachers.
At the beginning of the essay, Rodriguez compares his father with the scholarship boy when he cites the statement of Hoggart that “[f]ather says intermittently whatever comes into his head…” (599). Relatively, Rodriguez talks about the scholarship boy that “the boy must rehearse his thoughts and raise his hand before speaking out” (599).
These instances depict the father as being unthinking, unpredictable, and confused as he speaks whatsoever comes into his mind. The scholarship boy, on the other hand, is by contrast a well-behaved, contemplative and tolerant person. These statements point out how the scholarship boy and his father are enormously dissimilar. The boy is advanced and civilized, whereas the father is unenlightened and uncivilized.
Another example of comparison and contrast is that of the school and the parents of the scholarship boy. The author reveals the difference between the two spheres, his family and his school:
From his mother and father the boy learns to trust spontaneity and non-traditional ways of knowing… Teachers emphasize the value of a reflectiveness that opens a space between thinking and immediate action. (Rodriguez 599)
This assertion illustrates the decreasing relationship between the boy and his parents. When it comes to the writing of Malcolm X, there are almost no comparisons. The author simply provides some of his ideas on various topics. He uses comparison occasionally and this makes his writing a bit plain.
Moreover, Rodriguez makes use of short phrases to display his lonesomeness and some other feelings he experiences. Oftentimes, he uses single-sentence words like “Sad… Enthusiastic… Eager… Enthralled and Nervous…” (602).
Separation of these phrases represents the state of solitariness that he feels while simultaneously expressing the mixed feelings resulting from his educational achievements. This pithy style describes the vague plight of his state of affairs and sets a tone of incertitude. He is eager to study yet refuses to acknowledge his withdrawal from his onetime family lifestyle (Rodriguez 602).
In contrast to Rodriguez, Malcolm X uses quite difficult structures and ‘smart’ words. Of course, the author is writing about serious things but he choose quite complicated words:
I perceived, as I read, how the collective white man had been actually nothing but a practical opportunist who used Faustian machinations to make his own Christianity his initial wedge in criminal conquest. (Malcolm X 83)
In fact, the entire writing consists of such sentences, which are quite difficult to comprehend. It is important to note that this is one of the major shortcomings of the writing by Malcolm X. He uses too many long and difficult words instead of using short words and simple structures. The use of difficult words makes the writing quite difficult to follow. The reader has to make extra effort to follow the writer’s ideas.
This makes the writing quite ineffective. The reader can fail to understand the author’s idea while struggling with the words and structures. Of course, over simplicity is also bad, but Malcolm X is too deliberate while choosing words. On the contrary, Rodriguez writes in simple words, which makes his paper easy to follow. The reader feels relaxed and enjoys reading it. Of course, Rodriguez’s writing is more effective.
In conclusion, Rodriguez has shown effectual use of writing styles such as use of short phrases, first person narration, comparison and contrast, and evidence. Therefore, in my opinion, Rodriguez is really an efficient writer as his writing makes the reader understand how scholarship students will ineluctably belittle their relationship with their family eventually forgetting their background, as they become newly learned individuals. Notably, Malcolm X is very intimate.
He uses the first person narration quite effectively. He also addresses the reader, which enhances the effect of certain intimacy and frankness. However, Malcolm X does not use comparison and this makes his paper a bit plain. Finally, Malcolm X uses complicated structures, which makes his writing difficult to follow. Therefore, Rodriguez is indeed a more efficient writer than Malcolm X.
Malcolm X. Learning to Read. n.d. Web.
Rodriguez, Richard. Hunger of Memory: An Autobiography; the Education of Richard Rodríguez. Boston, MA: Godine, 1982.
Vonnegut, Kurt. How to Write with Style. New York, NY: International Paper Company, 1980.
This essay on Richard Rodriguez’s Writing Style was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Why is it an Enjoyable Story? Essay
Updated: Apr 12th, 2019
In literature, stories are very common. Since the time of William Shakespeare, many authors have delved into writing romantic stories. This is because most of works of William Shakespeare were considered very successful and were romantic.
However, the biggest question that most literature students, as well as other professionals would have is when a piece of writing is to be considered enjoyable. For instance, an individual would ask whether to consider a piece of writing enjoyable if it discusses characters only.
These questions could only be answered by looking at some of the factors that would make a piece of writing exciting. This essay is meant to look at the factors that would make a piece of writing enjoyable.
An enjoyable piece of writing is that which has a clear logical flow that is easy to follow. A story would be enjoyable if it follows the basic rule mentioned above. There should be a sequence of events.
For instance, in the morning, an individual would wake up, take a bath, take breakfast, and leave for work or school. It would not be logical to start a story by explaining how an individual took breakfast before waking up because this would not make sense.
It is also important that a story create a picture in the mind of the reader. Take for instance the story ‘The Use of Force’ by William Carlos Williams. The author creates a clear setting of the room in which the patient is.
The mood in the house including the facial expression of parents, the agony that the patient is going through, and her fear of medical instruments are clearly brought out in the narration. One reading this story would have a clear picture of the environment.
An enjoyable piece of writing should have a mix narration and dialogue. It would be very boring to read or listen to a story that does not have any form of dialogue. Writing a story as if it were a report would make it very boring to readers.
In the story stated above, there is dialogue between the mother and the doctor. This makes the story lively and more realistic. Good stories should also include such literary devices as symbolism (simile and metaphors), personification, flashback, and rhetoric.
These devices are very important because apart from giving the story a sense of humor, they also help in bringing out some features that would otherwise been left out. However, the stylistic devices should not be overused. Misuse of the stylistic devices would spoil the tone of the story.
A good story should have a form of conflict. The conflict keeps a given story going. The conflict should be logical and it should be comprehended easily. It would be illogical for an author to create a conflict that is too complex to be understood by the target audience.
A story written from a third party perspective would be considered good if it is capable of capturing other characters in the play, including thoughts. This way, it would be possible to capture all-important factors. A good story is not just a romantic story.
It should be the one, which has the above core elements. Listeners would be bored if the story does not contain various stylistic devices such as similes and metaphors. Apart from stylistic devices, the author must incorporate simple, compound, and complex sentences into the story.
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Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” and Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye Berlin Report
Updated: Jul 1st, 2020
Variety of factors can have impact upon the readers’ perceptions of particular works of literature. According to Barthes’ theory, the author cannot predict all the reactions to his work because he/she is dead after the novel is completed. In other words, being interpreted by masses, a novel starts a life of its own.
Barthes’ premise concerning the inappropriateness of author-centric interpretations of works is reasonable, but can limit our perception and understanding of the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood.
Claiming that his narrator of the same name is only a camera reproducing the real life scenes, Isherwood directly expresses his intentions to enhance the feasibility of his narration by using a complex of techniques (Isherwood 193).
Additionally, stating that he is a camera, which is only recording and reproducing, but not thinking and interpreting, the author pursues the goal of affecting the readers’ minds and making his text to seem more reliable to readers and seemingly provides readers with opportunities for free interpretations of the depicted events and the variety of their meanings.
However, the perspective and focus of this imaginary camera is chosen by the author. Isherwood is free to show only one side of the phenomenon and conceal its reverse or exaggerate a certain phenomenon by shedding light upon it in a proper way.
By selecting the words from a wide range of existing synonyms, the novelist inevitably expresses his personal attitudes to the depicted plot line. On the other hand, Isherwood cannot predict or control the readers’ responses to the pictures he views through his lens.
The readers are free to decide whether the events depicted by the novelist look as feasible or fictional and look at the details emphasized by the author or look beyond the words and see the meanings which were not initially implied by the novelist.
In that regard, Barthes’ premise is reasonable and justifiable because regardless of all Isherwood’s efforts, he cannot control all the reactions to his text in every reader. Thus, using Barthes’ terminology, it can be stated that the author of this novel remains dead.
Being reasonable, Barthes’ thesis imposes limits on our perceptions of Goodbye to Berlin and can be regarded as a hindrance to the realization of the novelist’s project. Isherwood intentionally uses his biographical name for the main protagonist of his novel for producing a particular impression upon readers.
Additionally, including the diaries and differentiated sketches and novellas depicting people he meets, Isherwood attempts to produce the effect of memoirs of the actual participants of the events.
Therefore, the coincidence of the names of the author and the main protagonist is only one of the techniques used by the novelist for making his readers to believe him.
Then, Barthes’ premise concerning the death of the author contradicts Isherwood’s intentions to enhance feasibility of his text by associating himself with the main protagonist and limits the options for viewing the novel in complexity of its historical context as it was implied by the author.
Reading this novel, readers may want to get insights into the personal life of the novelist which can add value to the work.
The voices of Isherwood as the author and Isherwood as the protagonist of the novel Goodbye to Berlin are inseparable due to the techniques used by the author for affecting the readers’ perception of his work. Barthes’ premise concerning the death of the author is applicable to this novel, but can be limiting for deciphering the variety of meanings implied by the author.
Isherwood, Christopher. “Goodbye to Berlin”. The Berlin Stories. Ed. Christopher Isherwood and Armistead Maupin. New York: New Directions Publishing, 2008. 193 – 215. Print.
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The Realm of reality: Smoking Essay
Updated: Dec 5th, 2019
Today, it is evident that the society has made a distinction between a man and a woman. Ideas concerning these two gender roles have changed over time, but still have particular beliefs attached to them that reveal issues defining a particular gender, and the way such gender is ought to behave.
These beliefs and ideas have been presented in the book The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan. Particularly, his poem “Smoking” exposes the author’s perceptions about gender and sexuality which other authors create their own arguments about.
Sexuality/Gender in the Poem
In the poem “Smoking”, David Levithan describes his first experience in smoking with his lover Jed. The author is gay bringing in the issue of how a man should behave and what defines him. The fact that he is male does not necessarily make him have the same feelings as the society expects from men.
The author is deeply in love with a fellow man who gives him happiness more than what the society would think of him.In stanza 2, the author reveals the fact that he is gay, while in stanza 3 he reveals that he never wanted to be a cowboy like most young boys usually do. But the author still goes ahead and asks for Marlboros to be perceived as a man by others (Levithan 2-11).
The poem shows how the person who has never tried smoking. On the other hand, he has only known the vanilla scented smoke. In our society today, such a scent will most likely be known to a girl rather than male. Society has different expectations from the person when it comes to gender and sexuality matters.
This is why the person and his lover dare not hold hands in public unless they are out of sight. The female gender is generally or rather scientifically said to be more emotional as opposed to being logical like men. However, in the poem we establish that the person who is a man is also emotional like a woman is.
He displays his emotions when Jed asked him for a date the first time. The person says that he almost cried and became dreamy about the whole idea with his new lover (Levithan 2-11). The poem “Smoking” therefore brings out the issues of sexuality and gender that have become the matter of concern in the society.
Other Author’s perceptions on the Poem
According to Monique Wittig, one is not born a woman but becomes a woman. However, it is also argued that what defines a woman is her capacity to give birth. The author reveals how women were oppressed in earlier days and seen as a weaker sex which was treated inferior to men.
This is said to have been a political sort of constraint and therefore any woman who resisted was not viewed as a real woman. The author belongs to the lesbian group and wishes to destroy the ‘woman’ class because it is an oppressive terminology by virtue of its historical attachment. The author seeks to destroy “woman” because lesbianism does not category sex and thus has no oppressive gender affiliations.
It is further revealed from the article that, a lesbian is not a woman because for one to be considered a woman, she must have a relation in the social world with a man. This social relation is referred to as servitude in that one would have both physical, economic, personal obligations, conjugal rights and other domestic obligations.
Lesbians escape all this because they decline from being heterosexuals in order to join hands in destroying the class ‘women’. The author believes this class has to be destroyed because it is considered inferior; heterosexuality ought to be destroyed first (Wittig 128-134).
Monique Wittig has evidently a different perspective of what defines a woman. In relation to the poem in ‘realm of possibility’, this author would agree with the gay relationship in the poem.
This is because she does not believe that sexuality has to involve opposite sexes but rather that it can be of same sexes just as she is a lesbian. Sexual freedom is what she believes in, for purposes of destroying this society that has placed ‘classes’ of inferiority based on gender. This means that, as long as the relationship does not support the ‘woman class’, then it is acceptable (Wittig 128-134).
Another author (Williams 15-60) in his book highlights the resentment gay people have when it comes to payment taxes for married people. Married people are said to acquire lower taxes and thus unfair to the gay people who are also married. The fact that heterosexuals are given more privileges is annoying to the gay community, and they would also like to have such privileges.
The heterosexuals also have the right to divorce while the gays do not posses that right and can thus remain unhappy when their marriages fail to overcome difficulties of married life. In relation to the poem “Smoking” in the book ‘Realm of possibility’, Williams would also have agreed with the way the gay are being treated differently in society.
In the poem, it is evident that, the two gay partners try hard to appear as normal males by buying Marlboro and also not holding hands in public. The gay community is not free to enjoy the rights that heterosexuals enjoy. This is because the society disagrees with same gender sex relationships thus making such relationships less valued and less accepted.
Keddie also brings out her perception of gender and sexuality (Keddie 20-34). In her book, she argues that there ought to be more attention given to childcare as well as birth, which are the roots of women inferiority and low income.
The author attests that, these problems still exist today and that employment equality that is advocated by feminists, cannot alone be a solution. Women are assumed to have the responsibility of making new beings and taking care of them.
This has for long been taken for granted and instead left women to be subjected to oppression. Just like the first author, Nikki feels that women are subjected to oppression and inferiority which ought to be addressed and thus same sex relationships would be perceived as normal.
In relation to the poem, this author would have agreed with the gay partners because there is no form of oppression involved (Keddie 10-64).
My personal view about the Poem is that women have for some time not enjoyed the rights that men enjoyed. Historically, women were considered less important or rather a weaker sex whose duty is to nurture children and cater for men.
In fact, the term ‘woman’ in some cultures is like an insult. This means that, what is taken to define a woman does not match or fit the gay relationship where the position of a woman has been given to a man.
The gay couple might continue with their relationship in secret because the societal expectations of the way a man should be like, are different. In a nutshell, it can be argued that the definition of a man or a woman is different and not the same as in earlier days.
Today there exists some equality before the law between the two genders, to a large extent. However, where there are loopholes, sexuality has been a problem especially with the lesbians and gay people. These groups do not enjoy freedom and equal rights with homosexuals because they have different sexual perceptions.
Keddie, Nikki. Debating gender, debating Sexuality, London: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.
Levithan, David, the Realm of Possibility, Knop Books for Young Readers, 2006
Williams, Christine, Sexuality and Gender, London: New York University Press 2002.
Wittig, Monique, “One is not a Woman”, Feminist Issues 1, no 4 (1981):128-134
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