The Value of Realistic Heroes Essay
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a supernatural person wearing colorful tights! The contemporary vision of the concept of a hero is very similar to that of ancient mythology and legends (Winterbach 114). To be more precise, the contemporary hero is, in most cases, a superhero – an individual with unusual abilities selflessly dedicating his or her entire life to serial life-saving. Numerous positive qualities that make the superheroes stand out from the rest of the society are present in their character compositions and descriptions. However, one has to wonder whether or not their bravery, resilience, generosity, loyalty, and ever-present readiness to help others are there primarily because these individuals are supernatural and are practically just as unique as their other powers.
In other words, the integrity, bravery, and self-sacrifice of superheroes are diminished by their supernatural abilities and can be attributed to their superior nature and special background. Compared to the cartoonish and unrealistic heroism of superheroes, that of regular people seems not as spectacular but much more demanding and difficult. It can be hard to notice realistic heroes in the contemporary world focused majorly on comic book action, massive explosions, and implausible last-minute saves. Discussing the concept of a hero in literature, it is important to stay detached from the stereotypes driven and dictated by superheroes from comic books because they can serve as a distraction from the true essence of a hero that, in fact, is quite simple and minimalistic. The uniqueness of a real hero is in their heroism that can be controversial, flawed in nature and outcomes, and harder to detect in general.
Discussing the concept of a hero and heroism, it is important, to begin with, the definition of the two concepts. Due to the vagueness of these notions, it seems to be very difficult to provide a definition that would be satisfying and acceptable for all scholars (Wei and Xu 1458-1459). As a result, many go back to the definitions applicable to the literature and mythology of Ancient Greece where heroes were portrayed as demigods with supernatural powers encountering otherworldly events and struggles.
This image matches the contemporary cult of superheroes and their descriptions in stories. Evaluating realistic heroes, Zimbardo provided the following definition: “Heroes are people who transform compassion (a personal virtue) into heroic action (a civic virtue). In doing so, they put their best selves forward in service to humanity” (1). As a result, including the potential for flaws and imperfection in realistic heroes, it is possible to propose a new definition – heroes are people who act aiming at the achievement of positive outcomes for others and themselves employing the available means and promoting strong ethics. This definition takes into account the possibility of errors and misjudgment.
In order to be realistic, a hero has to possess controversy as a part of their character and nature. In particular, one of the good examples of a controversial hero is Michael from the poem Crazy Courage by Villanueva. The heroism of Michael is based on the bravery of this person in regard to self-expression – “man/woman/man” (Villanueva 11-12). Judging from the year, in which this poem was written, Michel was one of the people struggling with their gender identity in the 1990s – the time when awareness of this issue was not as high as it is these days. Bravely communicating his unique and complex true self to the audience, Michael fought for his own freedom and promoted the acceptance and tolerance to others like him acting like a real hero.
Apart from controversial scenarios, realistic heroism and heroes can be characterized by the presence of flaws in their actions and outcomes. In realistic heroes, flaws do not represent an allergy to a piece of green space rock. An example to flawed heroism is presented in Bodega Dreams where there are three different types of heroes – Mr. Tapia who attempts to protect Sapo from Juvie and tells him to lie and pretend, Mr. Blessington whose attempts to educate his students ultimately pursued a good purpose but failed due to the means he chose, and Sapo who was willing to stand up for himself and his peers but instead ended up getting hurt and misguided (Quinonez 121-125). All of these characters are real heroes; however, to see that, one has to look at them from different perspectives and apply critical thinking because their flaws and errors take away from their ability to fit into stereotypical images of flawless and perfectly reasonable heroes.
Due to the subtle and disguised nature of their actions, realistic heroes can be hard to detect. Unlike superheroes, realistic heroes do not always fly into burning buildings to reappear with a handful and unconscious women, screaming babies, and cute puppies. For example, the mother from The Train from Hate became a hero for her son by making a single statement about the nature of racial segregation and its irrelevance to the true value of people whose rights are oppressed (Franklin 150). Her heroism may be undetectable to anyone apart from her son to whom her words served as one of the most vital lessons about life.
The supporters of an opposing opinion may state that superheroes are better representations of heroism and the concept of hero due to their flawless nature and quintessential image based on great deeds, ultimate self-sacrifice, and endless bravery. In fact, the clearly established values and thought processes of this kind of heroes are interesting from the educational perspective and impact on the young audience. In that way, superheroes should not be considered completely pointless.
However, realistic heroes teach readers to do much more than to admire epic battles and last-minute saves. The global importance of the flawed, controversial, and hard to detect heroism is in its complexity. To be more precise, the complicated stories such as Bodega Dreams where there are many points of view, goals, and purposes leave readers wondering whether or not there were right and wrong choices made by characters and if these choices could result in different, more positive outcomes. Such stories teach readers to wonder what if everyone is a hero and everyone has to take risks, make hard choices, and responsibly face outcomes. Taught by works of literature and their authors, such perspective is highly valuable in the real world when people such as Villanueva, seeing a person like Michael B., are able to perceive their struggles, fears, and hardships, and understand the true nature of their controversial and hard to detect heroism. Practically, the complexity of a real hero in literature prepares readers to view the real world around critically, see complex and disguised heroism in ordinary people, and treat it with respect, sensitivity, and appreciation.
Franklin, John Hope. “The Train from Hate.” Reading Literature and Writing Argument. 6th ed., edited by Missy James, Alan P. Merickel, Greg Lloyd, and Jenny Perkins, Pearson, 2016, pp. 150-151.
Quinonez, Ernesto. “Bodega Dreams.” Reading Literature and Writing Argument. 6th ed., edited by Missy James, Alan P. Merickel, Greg Lloyd, and Jenny Perkins, Pearson, 2016, pp. 120-125.
Villanueva, Alma Luz. “Crazy Courage.” Reading Literature and Writing Argument. 6th ed., edited by Missy James, Alan P. Merickel, Greg Lloyd, and Jenny Perkins, Pearson, 2016, pp. 148-149.
Wei, Xiaohong and Jian Xu. “A Comparative Study on Heroism in Shooter and Water Margin.” Theory and Practice in Language Studies, vol. 2, no. 7, 2012, pp. 1458-1464.
Winterbach, Hougaard. “Heroes and superheroes: from myth to the American comic book.” The South African Journal of Art History, vol. 21, no. 1, 2006, pp. 114-134.
Zimbardo, Phillip. “Understanding Heroism.” Heroic Imagination Project, pp. 1-5.
Odysseus’ Personal Qualities and the Epic Hero Image Essay
Homer’s The Odyssey contains the most extensive account of the adventures of an epic Greek hero Odysseus. However, for many decades critics have argued whether or not Odysseus is, indeed, a hero. Reading The Odyssey, one notices many differences between Odysseus and the typical heroic images in other ancient myths, such as Achilles in The Iliad.
Odysseus shares some characteristics with other epic heroes, for instance, his physical strength, but also has many other qualities, which distinguish him from a traditional epic image, such as wit, cunning intelligence, patience, and stateliness; moreover, he also possesses some negative qualities that are not generally attributed to epic heroes: for example, pride, unfaithfulness, and poor leadership qualities. Positive traits help Odysseus in his journey and grant him the support of higher powers, whereas other, less exemplary qualities, halt him on his way to Ithaca by creating various obstacles.
Odysseus’ wit has been the subject of many critical studies and explorations. Indeed, legendary epic heroes are not typically shown to be fluent in words. Odysseus, on the other hand, freely uses rhetoric to achieve his goals. For example, Zerba discusses the episode in the land of the Phaeacians with regards to Odysseus’ wit and his use of language: “his performance impresses Alkinoos, lord of the Phaiakians, so much that the king likens him to a singer of tales […] who has spoken both knowingly […] and with a pleasing form […] in his words” (314-313).
Zerba argues that it is Odysseus’ story that helps him to get a new ship and crew from the Phaeacians: “Odysseus’ tale of his wanderings in the court of the Phaiakians […] is delivered in the effort to secure safe passage to Ithaka and to acquire guest-gifts that will enhance his status, is in this sense provisional” (317). However, despite the need to win the audience, Odysseus also uses rhetoric to establish his authority; in his storytelling, he is always somewhat distant from the listeners: “Odyssean charisma, in both the personal sense attached to the character of the man and as a predominant mode of discourse in the epic as a whole, involves standoffishness and deferral” (Zerba 324).
The distance establishes a particular kind of hierarchy and the audience’s respect towards Odysseus, which is vital for him to gain help from the Phaeacian king and to earn a passage home.
Another quality, which is, on the contrary, typically heroic, is Odysseus’ strength. It is also crucial in the Phaeacian episode, as Rankine shows in her article “Odysseus as a Slave.” According to Rankine, having no status or resources upon arrival to Phaeacians poses a substantial threat of enslavement for Odysseus: “The structure, however, follows that of our examples of enslavement: the entry of an outsider, the mock cooption of the outsider into the community, and the trial of this potential opponent, which leads to his domination” (44).
In this case, the contest becomes a way for Odysseus to establish his authority and prove himself a strong opponent. Despite the fact that The Odyssey does not elaborate on the fighting skills of Odysseus until the later books and the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors, during the contest Odysseus proves his physical strength in front of the audience, including the Phaeacian king Alcinous (Homer VIII.216-223):
Up he sprang, cloak and all, and seized a discus,
huge and heavy, more weighty by far than those
the Phaeacians used to hurl and test each other.
Wheeling around, he let loose with his great hand
and the stone whirred on—and down to the ground they went,
those lords of the long oars and master mariners cringing
under the rock’s onrush, soaring lightly out of his grip,
flying away past all the other marks.
Rankine claims, “Athletics amount to surrogate warfare and the captors want a formidable opponent they can claim to have dominated, as they would have done in war” (43). However, this scene shows Odysseus not as an equal to Phaeacians, but as their superior, and thus earns him respect and freedom instead of a threat of captivity.
Being the rightful King of Ithaca, Odysseus is shown as a majestic figure throughout the story. The importance of his stateliness is highlighted by the influence of Goddess Athena on Odysseus’ appearance. She casts a veil to make Odysseus seem broader and more beautiful at several points during The Odyssey. Firstly, when Nausicaa’s maids find him by the river (Homer VI.237-246):
And then, once he had bathed all over, rubbed in oil
and donned the clothes the virgin princess gave him,
Zeus’s daughter Athena made him taller to all eyes,
his build more massive now, and down from his brow
she ran his curls like thick hyacinth clusters
full of blooms. As a master craftsman washes
gold over beaten silver—a man the god of fire
and Queen Athena trained in every fine technique—
and finishes off his latest effort, handsome work,
so she lavished splendor over his head and shoulders now.
The change in Odysseus’ appearance is noticed by the princess, who becomes attracted to him and thus decides to take him to her father, the Phaeacian king.
The second time when Athena influences Odysseus’ appearance to make him appear more majestic occurs towards the end of the story (Homer XXIII.174-184):
And Athena crowned the man with beauty, head to foot,
made him taller to all eyes, his build more massive,
yes, and down from his brow the great goddess
ran his curls like thick hyacinth clusters
full of blooms. As a master craftsman washes
gold over beaten silver – a man the god of fire
and Queen Athena trained in every fine technique –
and finishes off his latest effort, handsome work…
so she lavished splendor over his head and shoulders now.
He stepped from his bath, glistening like a god,
and back he went to the seat that he had left.
Odysseus’ appearance is important here, as it is a moment of revelation when he shows Penelope his true identity after spending the day in disguise. Penelope admits that he looks “the way he looked,/ setting sail from Ithaca years ago/ aboard the long-oared ship” (Homer XXIII.196-198). The revelation is significant not only because it marks the hero’s return, but also because Penelope’s cooperation eventually helps Odysseus to defeat the suitors and to re-establish his authority as the king.
Arguably the most important quality Odysseus possesses and the one that helps him the most on his journey is his cunning intelligence, and there are two factors that account for such importance. Firstly, Odysseus’ intelligence is one of the main reasons for Athena’s affection towards the hero and thus, her help, which saves Odysseus’ life on numerous occasions and grants him safe passage home. Athena admits the fact that she favors Odysseus’ for his cunning intelligence: “That’s why I can’t forsake you in your troubles— /you are so winning, so worldly-wise, so self-possessed!” (Homer XIII.376-377). Athena comes to Odysseus’ aid right from the start of the poem, allowing him to escape from Calypso’s island.
She also saves his life from Poseidon’s wrath after Odysseus blinds his son Polyphemus, helps Telemachus to grow from boyhood into manhood so that he would become a reliable ally to Odysseus after his return, negotiates with the gods that want to inflict harm on Odysseus, and so on. The Goddess’ influence on the story is substantial, which makes Odysseus cunning intelligence an essential quality for his return home: “Athena and Odysseus are the perfect partners in the cunning arts (kerdea)” (Mitova 2).
Zerba stresses another important aspect of Odysseus’ intelligence: his skepticism. In Odysseus’ wanderings, Zerba argues, his skepticism and mistrust are vital for him to stay alive: “As an instrument of survival for those who have been alienated from the ones they love and exposed to the ebb and flow of rumor, skepticism offers a way of coping with a world that is deeply contingent, opaque to understanding, and fraught with competing views” (317). For instance, Odysseus’ skepticism prevents him from falling under the spells of Circe and Calypso (Homer IX.29-33):
Calypso the lustrous goddess tried to hold me back,
deep in her arching caverns, craving me for a husband.
So did Circe, holding me just as warmly in her halls,
the bewitching queen of Aeaea keen to have me too.
But they never won the heart inside me, never.
Despite the fact that Odysseus still had to spend several years on Calypso’s island and over a year with Circe, his intelligence has prevented him from sharing the fate of his teammates, who remained in captivity for the rest of their lives.
Patience is another characteristic that helps Odysseus in his journey, particularly due to the numerous cases where he uses a disguise to conceal his identity. For example, even as he finally reaches Ithaca, he cannot appear at his palace’s doorstep in his real appearance; he has to disguise himself as a beggar in order to devise a plan to slaughter Penelope’s suitors who have been taking residence at his home.
Disguise allows Odysseus to penetrate into the palace, to get enough support by revealing his true identity to Penelope, Telemachus, and some other trusted characters, and then to take the suitors by surprise, murdering them and reclaiming his power over Ithaca. While in disguise, however, he experiences a lot of humiliation from the ignorant suitors and the maids who sleep with them. For instance, Odysseus is mocked and insulted by Melantho (Homer XVIII.366-378):
She was Eurymachus’ lover, always slept with him.
She was the one who mocked her king and taunted,
“Cock of the walk, did someone beat your brains out?
Why not go bed down at the blacksmith’s cozy forge?
Or a public place where tramps collect? Why here—
blithering on, nonstop,
bold as brass in the face of all these lords?
No fear in your heart? Wine’s got to your wits?—
or do you always play the fool and babble nonsense?
Lost your head, have you because you drubbed that hobo Irus?
You wait—a better man than Irus will take you on,
he’ll box both sides of your skull with heavy fists
and cart you out the palace gushing blood!”
A similar scene happens during the suitors’ feast, when Ctesippus insults Odysseus, throwing an ox hoof in his face (Homer XX.321-339). In both scenes, patience and self-restraint are vital for Odysseus not to disclose his real identity too soon, which would ruin his plan and put his life in danger. Thus, patience is a beneficial quality that helps Odysseus to return as the King of Ithaca in the conclusion of the story.
Odysseus’ pride acts as the counterpart to his patience, and it is one of the few negative qualities that cause substantial trouble to Odysseus and show his less heroic side. The best part of the story to examine the portrayal of Odysseus’ pride is the Cyclops episode in Book IX, which “presents a conflict between civilized humanity and a subhuman culture trapped in a primitive pastoral stage” (Dayton 1). Odysseus and some of his crew members are captured by Polyphemus.
The Cyclops eats two of Odysseus’ men each day until Odysseus develops a plan to escape. He and his men blind Polyphemus with a wooden staff and manage to flee from the cave. Before blinding the Cyclops, Odysseus tells him that his name is Nobody, which helps them escape: when Polyphemus calls to his neighbors for help and tells them that Nobody injured him, the other Cyclopes disregard the alarm and don’t help Polyphemus to catch Odysseus. However, as soon as Odysseus feels safe on board of his ship, his pride takes over, and he calls to Polyphemus again (Homer IX.558-562):
if any man on the face of the earth should ask you
who blinded you, shamed you so—say Odysseus,
raider of cities, he gouged out your eye,
Laertes’ son who makes his home in Ithaca!
Odysseus’ pride would not let him leave his heroic actions unknown, so he reveals his name to the Cyclops. Such arrogance is punished straight away: Polyphemus prays to his father Poseidon to punish Odysseus. For the rest of Odysseus’ travels, Poseidon represents the main opposing force to Odysseus: “Poseidon, after delivering an angry monologue, causes a storm, and Odysseus reacts with a despairing monologue in which he wishes he had died at Troy […] The raft is then hit by a wave that knocks Odysseus off and destroys the boat’s rudder and superstructure” (Scodel 9). Thus, Odysseus’ pride is a negative quality that causes a lot of trouble for the hero.
As Rankine notes, “It has not been unusual for modern readers (such as Toni Morrison) to raise the question of Odysseus’ polygamy” (41). Indeed, whereas there are numerous occasions in the text that show Odysseus’ love for his wife Penelope, he has sexual intercourse with both Calypso and Circe. Despite the fact that Calypso held Odysseus captive, which implies that “to assume Odysseus is free to act as he wants with Calypso would be as inappropriate as reading the American slave woman’s coitus with her master as voluntary” (Rankine 41), his last intercourse with the Nymph can hardly be deemed forced (Homer V.248-251):
Even as he spoke
the sunset and the darkness swept the earth.
And now, withdrawing into the cavern’s deep recesses,
long in each other’s arms, they lost themselves in love.
Odysseus also spends over a year with Circe, despite not being affected by her guile. At first, he appears with the intention to kill Circe and to free his men, however, he decides to spare her life and becomes her lover instead (Homer X.383-386):
she began to swear the oath that I required—never,
she’d never do me harm—and when she’d finished,
then, at last, I mounted Circe’s gorgeous bed …
Overall, Odysseus’ infidelity to Penelope causes a significant delay in his return to Ithaca and poses a danger to his men and his life, too.
Poor Leadership Qualities
Another character flaw that can be found in Odysseus is his poor leadership qualities. Despite being respected and even feared by his teammates, Odysseus fails to be an effective leader throughout the story, which causes significant troubles and delays. For instance, instead of sailing straight to Ithaca after the victory in Troy, Odysseus and his crew sail to Cicones. After killing the men of Ismarus, Odysseus and his men share their gold and their wives; however, when Odysseus commands his crew to go back to the ships and set sail, they do not listen, and this results in other Cicones coming to avenge the murdered men and killing many of Odysseus’ teammates (Homer IX.50-62):
Then I urged them to cut and run, set sail,
but would they listen? Not those mutinous fools;
there was too much wine to swill, too many sheep to the slaughter
down along the beach, and shambling longhorn cattle.
And all the while the Cicones sought out other Cicones,
called for help from their neighbors living inland:
a larger force, and stronger soldiers too,
skilled hands at fighting men from chariots,
skilled, when a crisis broke, to fight on foot.
Out of the morning mist they came against us—
packed as the leaves and spears that flower forth in spring—
and Zeus presented us with disaster, me and my comrades
doomed to suffer blow on mortal blow.
Another Odysseus’ leadership failure can be seen in the episode with the Cattle of the Sun. On the island of Thrinacia, where Odysseus and his crew were beached for over three weeks, Odysseus’ men disobey him and slaughter the cattle of Helios, causing the Gods’ wrath as Zeus punishes them, inflicting another shipwreck, which no one but Odysseus survives. In the end, Odysseus returns to Ithaca alone, having lost both of his crews, which once again proves his poor leadership qualities.
Some critics have also mentioned Odysseus’ weakness and passivity throughout the story: “From the moment Poseidon raises the storm until he reaches the river, Odysseus is unable to plan effectively […] Odysseus’ inability to make and carry out a reasoned decision is a pointed demonstration of his broader inability to act effectively” (Scodel 11). Indeed, at times it seems like the only force that drives Odysseus home is the divine help of Athena and other gods.
For instance, when Poseidon casts waves to wreck Odysseus’ raft, the hero is aided by Athena, Ino, and the river god consecutively (Scodel 13). The help of the gods follows Odysseus through his journeys, implying that he would not be able to survive and reach Ithaca on his own: “He is helped by both gods in a way that makes him less of ‘a hero developing with his circumstances’” (Mitova 4), mainly due to his character flaws that cause significant troubles throughout The Odyssey.
Mitova argues that the multi-dimensional nature of Odysseus’ character is implied by the hero’s name: she explains how the name Odysseus comes from Greek ôdusao, “which can have both an active and a passive meaning” (3). The closest alternative in English would be the word ‘trouble,’ therefore meaning that Odysseus can both cause trouble and be the trouble: “Odysseus has two aspects, a victim and a victimizer” (Mitova 3).
The diversity of character traits, positive and negative, seems to be a feature that distinguishes Odysseus from other epic heroes to the extent that makes the audience wonder if he can be named a hero at all. To me, the plot of the epic answers the question conclusively: the constant divine help, for example, is a strong indicator of Odysseus’ righteousness by the ancient order, whereas his successful return to Ithaca’s throne establishes his status as an epic hero, who has successfully combatted his enemies and obstacles on the way to his goal.
It is true, however, that “Odysseus does not represent ‘the commonest aspirations and failures of human nature’ – he is like no other mortal man in the Homeric epics” (Mitova 4). The fact that the poet decides to show his beneficial qualities, as well as the less exemplary characteristics, creates a new concept of the epic hero portrayal, making the character more believable and more relevant to the real world.
Dayton, John. “The Negative Banquet of Odysseus and the Cyclops.” Web.
Homer. The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fagles, edited by Bernard Knox, Penguin, 2006.
Mitova, Katia. “The Makers of the Odyssey: Athena and Odysseus.” Web.
Rankine, Patrice. “Odysseus as Slave: The Ritual of Domination and Social Death in Homeric Society.” Reading Ancient Slavery, edited by Richard Alston, Edith Hall and Laura Proffitt. Bristol Classical Press, 2011, pp. 34-50.
Scodel, Ruth. “Odysseus at Sea.” Papers and Monographs from the Norwegian Institure at Athens, series 4, vol. 2, 2014, pp. 9-15.
Zerba, Michelle. “Odyssean Charisma and the Uses of Persuasion.” The American Journal of Philology, vol. 130, no. 3, 2009, pp. 313–339.
“Peter Pan” a Story by James Matthew Barrie Essay
“Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie is a unique story, which tells tales about children in a tone more typical for an adult literature. The main character of Barrie’s books is a magic boy who does not grow older. There are three main propositions concerning Peter Pan. The first one is the result of his unique ability – the time does not pass for him (there is no past and no future). The second proposition is that he doesn’t differentiate between what is “real” and what is “make-believe.” The third proposition is that Peter doesn’t love anybody except himself. All the above-mentioned propositions are interrelated in Barrie’s depiction of Peter in a way that often creates new qualities of the character and violates initial propositions.
Barrie introduces his character as an ordinary boy. In his physical appearance, Peter Pan does not differ greatly from the ordinary children. He is described as “a lovely boy, clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that ooze out of trees but the most entrancing thing about him was that he had all his first teeth” (Barrie 10). The character of the boy is determined by his connection with the world of magic and the Neverland island in particular. Numerous adventures disclose different traits of Peter’s character, showing him as an adult person rather than a “lovely boy.”
The first proposition about Peter Pan is a little boy who whom there is no past and no future. Peter is self-centered to the extent that prevents him from following the course of events. Peter does not have a concept of exact time and time flow. When he is asked about his age, he replies “I don’t know… “but I am quite young” (Barrie 23). Specific perception of time that Peter possesses is closely connected with his self-consciousness. The boy easily forgets what happened to him and lives in the now. For example, when Wendy warns him that sewing his shadow might hurt, the boy replies “Oh, I shan’t cry”. Peter says this because he “was already of the opinion that he had never cried in his life” (Barrie 10). Peter utterly forgets that he was crying a moment ago. Peter’s special perception of time influences his memory it is difficult for him to remember his friends.
The second proposition concerning Peter Pan is that he doesn’t differentiate between what is “real” and what is “make-believe”. For Peter imaginary and unnatural things and actions are quite natural. The entire world around him is the reflection of himself. Peter easily perceive the idea of sewing his shadow to his feet, he talks to fairies, fights with pirates and flies in the most natural way and teaches his friends to fly with the help of fairy powder. For Barrie’s character the world is not divided in to real and unreal. Everything exciting and created by imagination is real. A good example of a “make-believe” reality is the Neverland where Peter brings his friends. The unreal island often becomes the stage for rather mundane events.
The third proposition about Peter Pan is that Peter doesn’t love anybody except himself. This quality of Peter’s character is revealed in his communication with children. When Wendy helps Peter to attach his shadow he does not reveal any gratitude. “How clever I am!” he crowed rapturously, “oh, the cleverness of me!” (Barrie 22). The author points out that “It is humiliating to have to confess that this conceit of Peter was one of his most fascinating qualities” (Barrie 23). Barrie clearly states that “there never was a cockier boy” (23). Peter’s selfishness is revealed in his careless and even ruthless actions when they fly across the sea. He lets his friends fall asleep and start to fall down and saves them at the last moment. The author states on the subject “it was his cleverness that interested him and not the saving of human life” (33).
The complicated character of Peter Pan sometimes reveals qualities contrary to the initial propositions. For example, the proposition that Peter loves nobody but himself is violated when Peter says to Wendy that “… one girl is more use than twenty boys”(Barrie 23). Peter’s caring attitude to fairy Tink also contradicts with his selfishness. Peter reveals his affection to Wendy when she is believed to be dead, which also proves that he is not indifferent to others.
The violation of the “real” and “make-believe” rule can be revealed in Peter’s attitude to mothers. On the Neverland island, many boys miss their mothers, but Peter prohibits even to talk about mothers. Peter “despised all mothers” (Barrie 62). Nevertheless, Peter asks Wendy to be his mother, and mother for all of the boys. This awkward request shows how vulnerable Peter Pan is. It explains that Peter’s love for himself is a compensation for not being loved by anybody, especially his mother.
Barrie creates Peter Pen as a real human with bad and good traits of character. The bad qualities are easily seen from the very beginning of the story, but as the narration develops positive traits of character and new propositions appear. The author creates the propositions about his main character to make the story easier to read. He violates those propositions to engage the reader’s interest, to apply the reader’s personal experience to the perception of the story. “Peter Pen” is written in a way that helps every adult recognize himself in a certain period in life.
Barrie, James Matthew. Peter Pan. Collector’s Library, 2008.
Protagonist in Hamid’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” Essay
The Reluctant Fundamentalist novel written by 35-year-old Pakistani Mohsin Hamid provides some insights on the nature of the capitalism and attempts of a person to integrate into a new world. The novel describes a story of a young Pakistani that tries to assimilate in the USA accepting its general views and values eagerly. The man considers himself to be “a lover of America,” however, the reader is sure to understand how contradictory this claim is. The events of September, 11 serve to be the pivot point of the character’s “Americanization” (Cilano 71).
From the very first lines of the book, one might notice the mixed feeling that the main character has towards America. On the face of it, the story of the young Pakistani Changez might appear to look like a dream. Changez received a scholarship to study in one of the most prestigious universities in the USA -Princeton University, got an upmarket job on Wall Street that supplied him with a high salary and allowed renting an apartment in an elite area, fell in love with a beautiful girl, Erica.
Meeting with friends, going to cafes and sporting events blurred the line between Americans and Pakistani – the Americans admitted him to their team. Changez characterized this course of events as “a film in which I was the star and everything was possible” (Hamid 1).
In the meantime, it is evident that the young man had little illusions about his place in the American society. Thus, Changez noted, that from the very beginning, he realized that people like him were welcomed to the country on a particular condition – “we were expected to contribute our talents to your society, the society we were joining” (Hamid 1). Therefore, from the first days in America, the main character experienced contradictory feelings. On the one hand, he was inspired by the new chances that the country opened in front of him; on the other hand, he knew that he was expected to contribute significantly in order to receive access to these opportunities.
Although Changez appreciates the opportunities that the United States have opened in front of him, as time passes, he starts experiencing love-hate emotions toward the country and its culture due to the social pressure, the attitude of the U.S. citizens, the prejudice that they have toward foreigners, a and the overall atmosphere of the state.
Taking the First Step
Defining the point, at which the lead character is being shaped into both an admirer and a critic of the United States, including its culture and its attitude, one must mention the point at which Changez identifies certain chill in the way that he is being treated by the fellow Americans: “’’We’re a meritocracy,’ he said. ‘We believe in being the best’” (Hamid 6). It would be wrong to assume that the character is ostracized to the point where he becomes an outcast; quite on the contrary, he integrates into the American society rather successfully, as his life story shows.
However, Changez still experiences a rather strong feeling of being looked down and as he communicates with Americans: “That is good, he said, and for the first time it seemed to me I had made something of an impression on him, when he added, but what else?” (Hamid 1). The unwillingness to accept him as a member of their society that the local residents display along with the unsuccessful attempts to conceal their emotions makes Changez experience borderline disdain, leaving him disappointed and lost.
Therefore, the author displays the progression of the character from the confident and inspired foreigner, who was going to integrate into the American society and share his cultural heritage with the rest of the people around him to the immigrant with rather mixed feelings about the state that welcomed it so wholeheartedly yet refused from accepting him as one of the members of the American society (Schlesinger 20).
Particularly, the American attitude towards Muslims as potential terrorists was analyzed and criticized by the main character. For example, flying to New York, he was “aware of being under suspicion” (Hamid 7). Under the pressure of the public opinion, Changez felt guilty, even though, there were no objective reasons for that. It indicated society’s prejudgment that had considerable power over both the Americans and immigrants. After September 11, 2001, US Muslims were considered to be potentially dangerous (Roiphe par. 3) Therefore, it was the first time that the young man had to be concerned about his religious beliefs.
Teaching the Right Ideas
However, as the story progresses, Hamid displays the change in the lead character’s perception of America, making him realize that the land of opportunity can, in fact, be a rather hostile environment (Nair 17). In general, the phenomenon above manifests itself in full force as Changez realizes that the American education is as far on the opposite from flawless as it can be: “Every fall, Princeton raised her skirt for the corporate recruiters who came onto campus and as you say in America, showed them some skin” (Hamid 3).
The corruption lying at the heart of the American education, as well as the lack of influence that the student community had on the subject matter, is the first nudge in the love-hate-relationship direction that the author leads the main character to. Indeed, as soon as the lead character learns that the information provided to him at the university should, in fact, have been taken with a grain of salt, it hits him that America can be a rather hostile environment.
Therefore, the identification of the issues in the educational system of the United States can be considered the pivotal point of the character’s realization of the problem at the heart of his admiration for the USA.
The Power of Persuasion
The lead character, therefore, finds the way, in which the American people push him to change his traditional behavioral patterns and becoming an integral part of the American society riveting. On the one hand, the emotional struggle that the narrator goes through as he experiences the social pressure can be viewed as his unwillingness to acclimatize to the new environment and tolerate the convictions and traditions of the people living next to him.
On the other hand, what the society wants him to do is not to put up with the above traditions and ideas but to accept them as an integral part of his being, which means abandoning his beliefs. Consequently, it is when experiencing the pressure of the society and feeling forced to abandon the foundations of his own culture that the lead character finally starts to rebel and develop the dual impression of living in the United States. The suffocating environment, in which the character is forced to exist, and which he has no escape from finally starts to take its toll on him:
It was not the first time Jim had spoken to me in this fashion; I was always uncertain of how to respond. The confession that implicates its audience is as we say in cricket a devilishly difficult ball to play. Reject it and you slight the confessor; accept it and you admit your own guilt (Hamid 11).
One might argue that the process of acculturation and even assimilation is typical for the people that are forced to live in a different cultural environment and communicate with the representatives of another culture. After all, the process of experience sharing is a crucial part of communication that allows building strong relationships and create trust between the participants of a conversation.
However, the phenomenon above may occur only once the process in question is mutual and consensual. In Changez’s case, however, the stifling environment, which he had to survive in, did not invite many opportunities for intercultural sharing of ideas and experiences.
On the contrary, the persuasion that the American culture was foisted on the lead character triggered an increasing rage. Although designed in an admittedly elaborate and exquisite manner, the way, in which the acculturation process was inflicted upon the lead character triggered an immediate repulsion and the following hatred of the United States. Combined with sincere affection for the supportive nature of the American culture, the experience can be defined as highly controversial.
Amidst Chaos and Destruction
However, when it comes to pinpointing the stage at which the lead character becomes completely engulfed into the love-hate relationship that he has with the United States, one must address the awkwardly honest way, in which Changez portrays his emotions after 9/11: “I stared as one and then the other of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed. And then I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased” (Hamid 12).
The fact that he was incapable of the mere act of sympathy toward the people perished during the terrorist act, pain for the destruction that it brought, and the fear for the lives of the rest of the American population shows that he denied the United States the title of his homeland (Keeble 115).
Although the feeling of content that Changez mentions as he talks about the terrorist act is, in fact, not as sickening as it might seem once approached from a rational point of view, it still creates a rather uncomfortable impression, making it clear that he did not identify himself as a part of the American society. However, the feeling of pleasure that Changez experiences does not make him the critic of the United States; instead, it is the interpretation of these emotions that allows Changez to become one. As the lead character explains, “I was caught up in the symbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees” (Hamid 12).
Thus, Changez puts the very essence of the American society through a thorough scrutiny. The process brings him to understanding why the United States have become so vulnerable to the external threats; as a result, the character becomes capable of evaluating the problems of the American society from an objective viewpoint (Randall 117). The understanding of the above problems, in its turn, brings Changez to hating the state and the principles that it is based on. In a very weird way, the chaos that America was in on the specified time slot made it possible for Changez to locate the details of its functioning, nailing down the exact problems that the American society had.
In my opinin, the novel elucidates a critical problem of cultural assimilation. The author tries to describe the contradictory feelings of a foreigner that, on the one hand, Changez is decisive to start his life from a scratch in a new homeland, and, on the other side, he experiences powerful impact of his background and traditions. It is also crucial that the author shows the common mistake when a love for particular people and facilities is mistaken for the love for a country. It is wrong to accuse the main character of insincerity when he calls himself “a lover of America.” Meanwhile, it is important to understand what this feeling stands for.
In conclusion, the novel reveals an actual problem of the modern world – the relations between America and Muslim immigrants in the United States. Changez was considered to be a potential terrorist only because he was a Muslim. Although he loved New York at the beginning, it is evident that he failed to assimilate in the United Sates. America offered plenty of opportunities to Changez, but, at the same time, considered him hostile, making him change his vision of American dreams and values as well as to rethink his identity.
Cilano, Cara. From Solidarity to Schisms: 9/11 and After in Fiction and Film from Outside the US. New York, MY: Rodopi, 2009. Print.
Hamid, Moshin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2008. Print.
Keeble, Arin. The 9/11 Novel: Trauma, Politics and Identity. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. Print.
Nair, Mira. The Reluctant Fundamentalist: From Book to Film. London, UK: Penguin, 2013. Print.
Randall, Michael. 9/11 and the Literature of Terror. Edinburg, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2011. Print.
Schlesinger, Keren. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Insight Publications, 2010. Kilda, VIC: Print.
“The Stranger” a Book by Albert Camus Essay
Meursault’s crime in Albert Camus’s The Stranger is of murdering a man. He murdered an Arab and was arrested by the police for his crime. Nevertheless, as the story progresses it becomes apparent that Meursault’s crime of murdering a man was insignificant to his detachment and indifference to life’s moral codes. Thus, Meursault was judged for both his actions and his nonchalant disposition.
Guilt or innocence of the crime was not the main concern of the magistrate in The Stranger. Contrarily, his foremost concern was Meursault’s social behavior. Meursault was not being tried as a man who had committed a crime. Instead, the magistrate showed more interest regarding the protagonist’s demeanor. Society’s judgment of the accused gains predominance in the book than his actual crime. In other words, how the society perceives the protagonist assumed precedence over his alleged crime.
In The Stranger, the protagonist is remarkably detached from life even though he is involved in all its activities. He is nonchalant and indifferent to others’ affairs. He even seemed unable to grieve when his mother died. The book opened with his casualness towards his mother’s death: “Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.” (Camus 4). At his mother’s funeral, Meursault remains unmoved by his mother’s death.
He felt uncomfortable at the funeral when he realized that the manager and one of his mother’s friends from the old age home were judging him. Even Meursault’s romantic relations are marred with detachment. He remained dispassionate towards Marie despite the fact that he enjoyed her company. When Marie told him to marry her, he replied that he did not mind but when the former inquired if he loved her he said, “that her question meant nothing or next to nothing” (Camus 28).
The magistrate’s interest in Meursault’s character was evident as he said “what really interests me is – you!” (Camus 42) When Meursault was interrogated by the magistrate, the first question that the latter asked was related to the protagonist’s character and not about the crime: “He led off by remarking that I had the reputation of being a taciturn, rather self-centered person, and he’d like to know what I had to say to that” (42). The magistrate’s interrogation oscillated between whether Meursault loved his mother to whether he believed in God as these two facts seemed more important to the jurors than the details of the crime.
When Meursault told the magistrate that he was an atheist, the magistrate refused to accept it: “all men believe in God, even those who reject Him” (Camus 43). The magistrate is more intrigued with his blasé personality than the crime he had committed. Disbelieving in God was “unthinkable” for the magistrate but murder was not. Murder was a crime, but Meursault’s dispassionate, unattached way of looking at life was unacceptable. Thus, the examination turns into a moral inquiry of the protagonist’s personality instead of a murder trial.
The prosecutor accused Meursault of murdering his mother and “unfit” to live in “the community” (Camus 64). He was “morally guilty” of flouting the “basic principles” of society (64). Meursault was a social renegade. He was a deviant soul who did not believe in or adhere to the societal codes. This made him more undesirable than the fact that he had committed a murder. Meursault was found guilty of murder, as he had confessed to the act.
However, his nonchalance and indifference were a greater crime in the eyes of the court and the society who believed that his behavior towards society and his nonattachment towards life was deplorable. Thus, Meursault was convicted for his crime of being a social nonconformist, a stranger, than his wrongdoing.
Camus, Albert. The Stranger. Trans. Stuart Gilbert. New York: Vintage, 1942. Print.
Religious Gullibility in Molière’s Tartuffe Essay
The exploitation of religion and piety to fulfill one’s needs is a controversial topic that may be hard to use in a comedic setting without raising backlash. In 1664, a French playwright Molière, created Tartuffe, one of the classic comedies of all times and a poignant satire of religious gullibility. As the play with such controversial themes was written in a contemporary setting and described the events happening in France in the 1660s, the Church was able to exercise its influence and ban the play from being performed. However, the ways in which the French playwright presents the themes of hypocrisy and credulousness through its main characters – Tartuffe and Orgon – leave little room for doubt that Molière’s original intent is far from trying to offend the church. The cunning behavior of Tartuffe, the credulous nature of Orgon, and the rational perspective of Cléante represent different sides of the author’s argument against hypocrisy and blind trust.
Tartuffe, the central character, also called the impostor in other versions of the novel, is a religious hypocrite who uses the piety of others to achieve his goals. His antagonistic nature is not hidden from the audience from the very beginning, as the author describes him as a “bogus holy man” in the list of dramatis personae (Molière 7). Here, readers are presented with the first description of this man. Then, Tartuffe’s personality is described to the audience by other characters to set the opposition between the family’s opinions. To some of them, he is a humble and pious man, a “blessed soul” and a man who “should be listened to” (Molière 9). To others, he is a pretender, whose words do not have any truth or credibility behind them. Throughout the play, this opposition creates the central conflict and becomes the primary source of satire. The actions of Tartuffe that are visible to the audience escape the sight of characters who believe him, as Tartuffe continues to use his two-sided nature.
The pivotal scene in which Tartuffe’s hypocrisy is unmasked is also a moment where the playwright reveals the man’s flawed human nature. Tartuffe’s almost ethereal personality, disconnected from the desires and pleasures of life, that he shows to Orgon and Madame Pernelle shatters when Tartuffe’s lust for Elmire, Orgon’s wife, makes him contradict himself and his created guise. Elmire notices Tartuffe’s advances and questions his earlier statements by saying “you love no earthly things” which makes Tartuffe abandon his appearance to appeal to her (Molière 29). Later, when Tartuffe says “the scandal of the world is what makes the offence, and sinning in private is no sinning at all,” even Orgon, who is so fascinated with every word of the hypocrite, realizes his dual nature (Molière 40). Here, the playwright uses a contrast between the disdain that Catholic Church often expresses towards carnal desires and Tartuffe’s readiness to seduce a married woman while posing it as sinless behavior and using religion as the primary excuse.
The level to which religion can be used as an argument in making decisions and choosing the authoritative figure is the main weakness of Orgon, another central character of the play. Here, Orgon’s flaws lie in his inability to see through Tartuffe’s mask and his fear of doubting a religious figure. It is clear that his relationship with religion is based on blind trust which often transfers from the faith itself onto every object and character connected to it. He is enchanted by Tartuffe’s supposed humbleness and his persistent attempts to be pious. Orgon considers Tartuffe’s actions as genuinely religious, although to others they may seem superfluous and even bizarre. Orgon’s enthusiastic descriptions of Tartuffe’s exaggerated piety such as: “he’s scandalised at the smallest thing imaginable” and “he acquaints me who ogles her, and is six times more jealous of her than I am” show that he cannot separate real faith from the exploitation of religion (Molière 13). His misunderstanding of what is good and bad strengthens the conflict of the play.
Orgon’s description of Tartuffe is one of the scenes that could have been seen not as satire but as a mockery of Catholic religion by the Church. After Molière presented his play to the audience, it was banned under the influence of the Catholic Church due to it supposedly critiquing the Church and religion as a whole. However, this scene is a perfect example that disproves this idea, because Tartuffe’s actions are obviously disconnected from any religious context. On the contrary, through Orgon’s words, Molière comments on one’s lack of awareness and ability to critically appraise information due to it being connected to respected ideas and sacred beliefs. When Orgon says that Tartuffe is “very good” and that Cléante can “draw down some heavy judgment on … [his] head one day or other,” he reveals his fear to be deemed unfaithful (Molière 13). Orgon’s dialogue with Cléante shows the difference between critical thinking and blind following. Molière could have used other settings to present the same contrast. However, people’s vehement denial to question anything connected to religion may show this opposition most vividly.
One can assume that Cléante is a character through whom Molière attempts to explain his attitude towards the two problems of the religion’s exploitation. His ability to challenge notions that seem unapproachable to Orgon paints him as an intelligent and logical character. Therefore, his conflict with Orgon can be perceived as a debate between rationality and clouded thinking. Cléante’s solutions to the problems of the play lie in thoughtful consideration of every step and reasonable approach to all situations because “to be clear-sighted is libertinism” (Molière 13). For instance, his discussions with Orgon are not based on him presenting his opinion as the only reasonable one. On the contrary, Cléante attempts to teach his brother-in-law to think for himself. In fact, Cléante is a character who summarizes the main idea of the play in one question by asking Orgon if he would “make no distinction between hypocrisy and true devotion” (Molière 13). In this moment, Cléante separates himself from the two sides of the conflict showing that one can detect hypocrisy by educating oneself.
Supporting the idea that the playwright does not want to criticize the Church, Cléante does not undermine Orgon’s faith. Moreover, he does not believe that Orgon should “renounce all pious folks” after his brother-in-law learns about Tartuffe’s guise (Molière 43). Cléante remains logical, stating that there is no need to throw oneself “out of one extreme into another” (Molière 43). This scene shows that the author’s intent is not to denounce the Church or portray religious people as illogical and oblivious to hypocrisy but to critique those people who do not attempt to “distinguish between virtue and the appearance of it” (Molière 43). In this moment, his speech can be seen as the author’s attempt to display a religious person who can make that distinction and remain faithful. Throughout the play, Molière often shows that Cléante is a religious man just like his brother-in-law. Here, Cléante gives his advice to the main characters and the audience as well – to be mindful of impostors but not to “injure true zeal” of honest people (Molière 44). This is a clear message of the playwright to religious critics who, similarly to Orgon, may fall into extremes while defending their faith.
Molière’s comedy, Tartuffe, offers a sharp-witted satire of those who are hypocritical and those who fall victim to the hypocrites’ charm. Its use of religious themes creates controversy as some misinterpret the author’s message and think that he is undermining their beliefs. However, the interactions between Tartuffe, Orgon, and Cléante show that Molière focuses more on people’s unwillingness to rationalize and keep their mind clear from unnecessary extremes. The religious theme could have been omitted by the author. However, its sacred nature and the passion of its followers make the play even more impactful. Molière uses exaggeration and humor to show the hypocrisy of Tartuffe and the gullibility of Orgon, portraying Cléante as a person who can adhere to his religious beliefs while staying true to himself. The author’s message to readers expressed in Cléante’s words remains applicable to this day because it encourages one to think and remember to stay grounded instead of choosing between the conflicting sides. The rationality of this advice can be employed in many situations of the modern world, as people are now surrounded by uncorroborated information and controversial issues.
Molière. Tartuffe. Dover Publications, 2000.
The Imperative of Good-Doing in “The Arabian Nights” Essay
The translation of “The Arabian Nights” by Haddawy is sophisticated yet comprehensible, which is specifically useful when one has to discuss the motives that imbue the storyline. The collection itself is rich with subtexts and themes: it can be analyzed in terms of fictional elements, narrative within narrative, poetry and poetics, and moral. Particularly the latter serves as a baseline for the present paper. The imperative to do good can be traced throughout the text, as well as the motive of punishment that logically follows a crime.
The reward for virtue as well as the punishment for misconduct are within the domain of God who is worthy and who is not. Considering the importance of religion and its postulates in “The Arabian Nights,” it is possible to say that the text moralizes the imperative of good-doing from the religious perspective. “The Second Old Man’s Tale,” “The Tale of the Enchanted King,” and “The Tale of the First Lady, the Mistress of the House” particularly can provide the evidence for such statement.
The pretext of “The Second Old Man’s Tale” is a question of life and death: the demon determined to kill a man would spare his life for three amazing stories. Among the three, the story of the old man with two black dogs stands out. The dogs turn out to be the old man’s enchanted brothers. After the man had taken mercy on them in their poverty and agreed to travel to trade, they envied his success and, possibly, his wife; they attempted to murder both. The old man’s wife turned out to be a demon, saved him from death and turned his brothers into dogs for ten years (“The Second Old Man’s Tale” 26-30).
Apart from other motives that are present in this story, one can single out the imperative of doing good as the refrain. In turn, the concept of every crime being punished is also pressed in the text. The first imperative is realized through the line of the old man and his wife: he takes pity on her when she appears in disguise of a poverty-stricken woman and comes to love her. For his kindness, she saves him from drowning.
The man’s brothers, on the other hand, abuse his indiscriminate forgiveness and get punished for their wrongdoing. An important moment here is that despite the brothers’ betrayal, the man does not wish their destruction, “for I will not behave like them” (29). The character that gets saved and rewarded for his deeds is presented as the ultimate virtue. A virtuous person gets protected by godly superpowers, as represented by the wife: a demon who abides with God (29). The mischievous, in turn, are punished by the same omnipotent powers, as is the brothers’ case.
“The Tale of the First Lady, the Mistress of the House” has a plot that, by and large, resembles the previous story discussed. The lady relating her story comes with two black dogs that, incidentally, turn out to be her sisters. The lady is a successful businesswoman who has helped her older sisters in need after they were impoverished by unlucky marriages. On their travel, they find a city devastated for the sins of its inhabitants; a faithful young man is the only one worshiping God.
The lady takes him with her to be her husband and lord. In spite of her kindness, the sisters betray her, throwing her lover and herself into the sea. After the lady finds herself on an island, she helps a serpent that takes revenge for her, turning her mischievous sisters into dogs (“The Tale of the First Lady” 133-140). In this story, the motive of betrayal plays a significant part. What is more important, the imperative to do good is yet again underlined through a naturally virtuous character. The lady has mercy over her sisters, the young man, and the serpent; she is, thus, depicted as the one that possesses absolute virtue.
She does good things and, despite all her hardships, she manages to stay alive with the help of godly powers – in this case, the magical serpent. These godly powers have more significance in this story: they not only punish the malignant sisters but also chasten a whole city for worshiping the wrong god (137). The motive of crime and punishment, therefore, is depicted not only through the sisters but through the unlucky Zoroastrian priests. Any crime is witnessed by the God, as well as virtue – which, in its turn, is rewarded by fortune, e.g., escaping death, getting money back, and having the rivals punished.
“The Tale of the Enchanted King” is yet another example of crime-punishment motive and good-doing imperative. The plot is concerned with a prince whose wife commits adultery with a slave. The prince strikes the slave with a sword but only half-kills him. Turned into half-stone – half-person, he is forced to stand near the half-dead slave whom his wife laments daily. In the end, the prince is rescued by the king who tricks his wife into releasing the city from under the charm (“The Tale of the Enchanted King” 56-65).
Interestingly, the prince’s feelings and conduct can be interpreted as being insecure and unsure about anything (Marzolph, van Leeuwen, and Wassouf 48). From the perspective of good-doing imperative, the prince’s misfortunes are the direct result of his indecisiveness. He fails to act firm in relation to his wife who cheats on him and turns out to be a witch, he does not thoroughly kill the evil (as represented by the slave), and ends up only a half-person.
The king who rescued the prince and the city, on the other hand, is a decisive good-doer. His wit and his bravery defeats the evil and saves the prince. In return for his good deeds, “God granted them safe passage” as they journeyed (65). Furthermore, the king ends up quite successful in his reign and personal life, marrying a fisherman’s daughter. The fisherman, who also committed a good deed resulting in the city’s salvation, has fortune bestowed upon him as well: both his daughters marry into royalty and his son gets a high position at court. The evil-doers, thus, have their punishment. At the same time, the moral subsumes that one has to be decisive in their righteous conduct to get a just reward in the end.
To conclude, the motive of good fortune accompanying good deeds is presented in the “Arabian Nights” as well as bad luck following any misconduct. The reward and punishment are bestowed primarily by omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent godly powers who judge the righteous and the mischievous by their deeds and give them their due accordingly.
Heller-Roazen, Daniel. “The Second Old Man’s Tale.” The Arabian Nights (Norton Critical Editions). 1st ed. Ed. Mushin Mahdi and Husain Haddawy. Trans. Husain Haddawy. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009. 26-30. Print.
—. “The Tale of the Enchanted King.” The Arabian Nights (Norton Critical Editions). 1st ed. Ed. Mushin Mahdi and Husain Haddawy. Trans. Husain Haddawy. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009. 56-65. Print.
—. “The Tale of the First Lady, the Mistress of the House.” The Arabian Nights (Norton Critical Editions). 1st ed. Ed. Mushin Mahdi and Husain Haddawy. Trans. Husain Haddawy. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009. 133-140. Print.
Marzolph, Ulrich, Richard van Leeuwen, and Hassan Wassouf. The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia, Volume 1. Santa-Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Print.
Unreliable Narrator: “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov Research Paper
All fictional narrations focus on influencing the perception of the readers. The main challenge that the author or the narrator faces is to convince the readers. This challenge becomes more difficult when the narrator is also a character, and the readers perceive a degree of unreliability due to inconsistencies in his/her statements (Olson 97). A narrator/character is often considered to have the scope to manipulate the text to express his/her point of view.
In the case of Nabokov’s Lolita, the problem intensifies as the narrator presents the novel in an autobiographical form (Moore 73). Thus, staging Humbert as the narrator, as well as the hero of the book, presents a unique problem of justification of the facts presented. Further, the authors put readers in a dilemma as they do not know if they should believe the narrator because he says that he has written the book in fifty-six days when confined in a psychiatric ward (Durantaye 43).
The question of the narrator’s reliability automatically invades the readers’ minds, and their unwitting identification with the pervert narrator enrages them (Tamir-Ghez 65). This intensifies the task of manipulation of the readers’ perception. In a way, Nabokov openly declares to the readers that the narrator is manipulating them, thus, making them more skeptical and doubtful of the reliability of the story (Zerweck 152).
In this paper, I argue that the narrator consciously creates unrealistic, inconsistent, and unreliable accounts to blur the line between fiction and reality, thus manipulating the perception of the reader to actively participate in the unraveling of the riddle presented in multi-textual narration within the novel. In this unparalleled meta-fictional novel, Nabokov removes himself completely from the text and presents textual authority to Humbert, the unreliable narrator/hero of the story, in order to defend his pedophiliac inclinations (Durantaye 33). Thus, this separation of the author from the text establishes a narrative level that lies between him and the text.
The separation of the author and the text and the presence of an unreliable narrator who is also the pedophiliac hero of the story put the readers in a dilemma, and they have to actively participate in the narrative to unravel the truth.
The creation of reality through fiction gives credibility to the narrator. The readers are convinced that the narrator is unreliable, but he has created a world of his own within the fictional boundaries of the novel. Humbert tells histories from his point of view. Thus, creating two realities – one that of the narrator and that of the hero (Durantaye 36). The contradiction that arises is because of a clash in the point of view of these two types of narrations.
He distorts reality because the external world has failed him, and so when he cannot achieve his desires in reality, he creates his own reality to achieve it. That is why Humbert, the narrator, has failed to capture his Lolita, and so he tries to immortalize her through his fiction. Thus, memory and imagination intertwine in Lolita when Humbert recounts his tale as an autobiographical memoir.
The fictional editor of Humbert’s book, John Ray Jr., frames the readers to perceive the author as unreliable and hence not to believe in what he suggests completely. However, the readers are aware of the fact that John Ray is a fictional character, just like Humbert himself, that Nabokov uses as a parody of the classic meta-fictional trope.
John at one point justifies the novel as a true account of Humbert while in the next moment derides Humbert’s abject pedophilia: “The cynic may say that commercial pornography makes the same claim; the learned may counter by asserting that ‘H.H.’s impassioned confession is a tempest in a test tube” (Nabokov 6). He further criticizes Humbert as “horrible,” “abject,” and a “shining example of moral leprosy” (7). Thus, the fictional editor of the novel criticizes the text within the text, thus putting the readers in the position of judges, ensuring that they critically analyze the text.
However, as the text progresses, the readers realize that John ray is just another figment of the author’s imagination and is unreal. This makes them realize that Nabokov was actually teasing them all through this ironic representation of John Ray. He is the editor that further blurs the line between reality and fiction creating an ironical truth. The readers are left confused as they cannot decide if John Ray is a reliable narrator or an unreliable witness.
Therefore, Nabokov brings the readers out of their comfort zone of passive reading wherein they assume that the narration is real. Nevertheless, Lolita poses the problem of infusion of fiction in real accounts thus making it exceedingly difficult for the readers to judge the validity of the text or the characters/narrators. This element of unreliability infused in the text by Nabokov ensures the readers that this account is actually a work of fiction and not a true autobiographical account as proclaimed by John Ray.
The pedophiliac nature of the narrator already makes him a social outcast and hence unacceptable narrator for the readers who believe that his main aim to garner sympathy from them for his afflictions. Humbert uses the form of a diary to attach accounts in his autobiography. Thus, Nabokov uses the tropes of a realistic novel wherein the narrator substantiates his claims from the entries in his dairy to increase authenticity.
Diary is usually used as notes for autobiographical memoir writings. Humbert uses the diary to narrate intimate secrets that he just told himself in his prior life is presented through the diary entries. However, the readers cannot be sure of the validity of the entries that Nabokov uses them to mock the readers. For example, Humbert recounts mundane daily events to show the daily life of Humbert: “Saturday. For some days already I had been leaving … Sunday. Changeful, bad-tempered, cheerful, awkward, graceful … Monday. Rainy morning” (Nabokov 48-49).
These commentaries disassociate the narrator from the text. Humbert further creates distance between the reader and himself by stating that he is writing the novel while in jail and therefore, is under observation. This is another way of manipulating the reader’s perception and putting them in a dilemma. Should the readers believe this unreliable narrator, who is presumably under supervision while he writes this account and is on trial for pedophilia and murder? Should the readers believe a narrator who is a criminal, a murderer, and a reprobate or should they rely on their judgment about the validity of what the man speaks? Clearly, Nabokov leaves the decision to the readers who are to become the judge of Humbert’s character.
The narrator at times presents his thoughts and explanations for his behavior, using parenthesis within the text thus giving Lolita a feel of a realistic novel. He uses the format of a diary to make the readers feel that the novel is actually an account of his life. These entries are the ones he took while living with Charlotte Haze. Some of them are ”boring” entries. This was done to enhance the realism of the autobiography. Diaries and confessions deal with intimate subjects and Nabokov uses them to mock the form and thus, the readers, to dissociate them with the reality and the fiction.
Further, Humbert tells the readers that he was in jail: “I am writing under observation” (Nabokov 10). He further adds that he has to follow his lawyer’s instructions. This makes the readers believe that the narrator is not free to reveal whatever he wants to. Humbert writes: “My lawyer has suggested I give a clear, frank account of the itinerary we followed, and … I cannot avoid that chore” (151). This comment blurs the line between fiction and reality where Humber intentionally includes the lawyers as a part of the story as he does with the people of the jury (where they are the people who are reading his memoir).
There are contradictory narrations used in Lolita. For instance, the story is mostly written in first-person. The first-person pronoun used in the story refers to the narrator or Humbert. However, there are passages where the story is written in third-person, even when Humbert remains the narrator. Hence, there is a change in perspective of the narration. Thus, at one point Humbert uses internal focalization wherein he is aware of his thoughts and perceptions while in another passage he uses external focalization that helps him to explain what is happening to him (Phelan 233).
When Humbert writes, “You can count on a murderer for a fancy prose style” he mockingly draws the reader’s attention to the stylistic narration her has written in the beginning of the story when he first describes Dolores, with the aid of crafted alliterations: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul” (Nabokov 9). Phelan points out Nabokov’s use of tongue movement to show the robustness of the nymphet persona built by the narrator through the playful articulation of the name Lolita (233).
Therefore, the name is enunciated as: “Lo-lee-ta. The tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta” (9). The linguistic play with the name is continued in the second paragraph of the first chapter of the story where Humbert describes the different variations in the name of Lolita: Lo, Lola, Dolly, Dolores, and back once more to Lolita. “She was Lo, plain Lo in the morning, standing four foot ten in one sock.
She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita” (9). Thus, use of these fancy prose style mocks the reader with the narrator’s linguistic skills and presents a playful comparison between the narrator and the author of the story i.e. Humbert and Nabokov. Thus, the perception of unreliability of Humbert in the mind of the readers is etched from the very beginning.
Thus, an active reader would constantly be suspicious of the words he/she reads in the text. For instance, when Humbert describes the four foot ten Lolita in his arms, the readers are hesitant to accept this as the line between reality and fiction has been completely blurred.
In chapter five of the story, Humbert presents his explanation and difference between a girl and a nymphet. He describes them to be girls with a certain age group: “Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens … I propose to designate as nymphets” (17). He also states they possess a certain demonic character: “who… reveal their true nature which is not human but nymphic (that is demoniac)” (17).
However, Humbert clearly states that not all girls within that age group are nymphets as they lack that “the fey grace, the elusive, soul-shattering, insidious charm that separates the nymphet from such coevals of hers” (17). This explanation is definitely unacceptable, as there is no literary basis to the definition of nymphet presented by Humbert and this is where Nabokov intrudes to show the reader that Humbert is an unrealizable literary narrator.
Humbert is an unreliable narrator. His situation (i.e. jailed in a psychiatric ward and impending trial) makes him more of an unreliable narrator as the social discourses have taught us not to believe a deviant. The readers are prepared from the very beginning to distrust Humbert and this accentuates as the story progresses. Nabokov constantly mocks the readers into believing that the narrator is unreliable and reading the story from an unreliable source makes the whole situation more ironic. The readers do not believe Humbert but are even drawn into the linguistic mastery that he shows, though they are aware that the accounts may be untruthful. Blurring the line between imagination and reality also creates a dilemma among the readers to differentiate between fantasy and realism.
Durantaye, Leland De la. Style is Matter: The Moral Art of Vladimir Nabokov. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007. Print.
Moore, Anthony R. “How unreliable is Humbert in Lolita?” Journal of Modern Literature 25.1 (2001): 71-80. Print.
Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. New York: Vintage, 2008. Print.
Olson, Greta. “Reconsidering unreliability: Fallible and untrustworthy narrators.” Narrative 11.1 (2003): 93-109. Print.
Phelan, James. “Estranging unreliability, bonding unreliability, and the ethics of Lolita.” Narrative 15.2 (2007): 222-238. Print.
Tamir-Ghez, Nomi. “The Art of Persuasion in Nabokov’s Lolita.” Poetics Today 1.1/2 (1979): 65-83. Print.
Zerweck, Bruno. “Historicizing unreliable narration: unreliability and cultural discourse in narrative fiction.” Style 35.1 (2001): 151-176. Print.
The Book “The Adventures of Amir Hamza” Essay
To say that “The Adventures of Amir Hamza” or “Hamzanama” is a text of critical importance to Indo-Islamic and global culture would still be an underestimation. Generations of children marveled at the epos; generation of researchers picked the text to pieces. A signature work of the dastan genre, the text features adventure, bawdiness, magic, love, war, and above all, a multitude of characters.
The eponymous character stands out as an epitome of everything elegized in epos – and at the same time, a distinct and realistic personality. Indeed, Amir Hamza is a character in which multiple other characters’ attribute is embedded: he is a trickster, a warrior, a hero, a spiritual person, a lover, and a mature man; as his personality evolves, Hamza demonstrates a life of a real person in a fictional setting, which determines his not entirely epic role in the epos. To support this claim, the following paper presents an analysis of the character’s evolution.
Among the analysts and reviewers, there is a general appraisal of the character of Hamza as a charismatic personality that intoxicates the young reader with the spirit of adventure. A possible explanation of such catchiness and charm is the feasibility of the character, the touch of true-to-life authenticity that a reader can relate to. There are some distinct features and traits of Hamza’s personality that make such a relation possible.
Firstly, Amir Hamza’s birth is prophetically marked as that of a man to conquer the world and achieve unsurpassed greatness. The prophecy sets the tone to the whole text and gives a clear understanding that Hamza is going to be involved in heroic acts. Upon further analysis, one can distinguish some traits that are typical and atypical for an epic hero. Hamza establishes himself firmly as the man alluded in the prophecy: he is a courageous fighter, he is fantastically strong, faithful, and handsome. His lovability and, consequently, multiple relationships with women, deserve a special space.
The heroic looks and charm get Hamza into various love affairs and marriages – as per the rules of the genre. According to the same rules, there must be a single true love for life, which the hero finds embodied by the woman par excellence, Mehr Nigar (Lakhnavi and Bilgrami 105-109). That said, Amir Hamza appears to be a compilation of various Eastern stories and legends.
Yet, as the text evolves, Amir acts strange at times; the reader gets the impression that Hamza might not always be explicitly and essentially good. Such behavior, atypical for an epic hero, is featured in the episodes where Amir and his allies engage in cruel and not entirely moral actions; besides, Hamza sometimes comes across as a self-interested and egoistic personality. At times like these, he is an unheroic hero – which is, arguably, what makes him so real. More plausibly, the main reason for Amir’s tangibility is the evolution of the personality that is visible in the episodes discussed further.
Amir Hamza does not, in fact, start his life as a hero. Nor is he the actual trickster – Amar Ayyar is. The episodes of Amar’s trickery take up the best part of Book 1 where he messes up with people’s minds and pranks them quite cruelly at times. Such episodes are the bawdiest, as a rule: they feature quite an amount of irritated bowels and purgatives (47). At that, Hamza does not appear to be a hero.
Despite his urge to protect Amar from due punishment, he is a young happy-go-lucky who is just as pleased with Amar’s tricks as the trickster himself. On the other hand, the episodes with Hamza repeatedly defending Amar speaks of him as a person willing to help the needy. This feature is at the embryonic stage as yet, but it is visible: Hamza rescues their Mulla from the destructive effect of the purgative by sending for the buttermilk that heals him (47).
Despite the nobility, his disagreeable features – expressed through his deeds – are also worth considering. The episode with the fight where Amir sends out his son Amar is not entirely attributable to a hero (363).
Another episode it that of Aadi raping a twelve-year-old from the foes’ camp. Hamza appears to be outraged at first, but somehow the matter is dropped, leaving a nagging sensation of blatant cruelty not punished as the epic genre would. In relation to this, the matter worth discussing is that the traits demonstrated by Hamza are not heroic – rather, they are human. Every human has their dark sides, lame excuses, and forbidden thoughts. At that, Hamza is no exception. As a result, even before his 18-year-long quest to the mount Qaf, Amir Hamza is depicted as a complex personality, rather than a trite compilation of heroic features.
After leaving the human world, Amir was put to fight in the prophetic war on the mount Qaf. His heroism is evident in his battles; apart from that, he evolves to finally become a complete person. The realm of the supernatural, at that, makes Hamza the instrument to fulfil the prophecy – and make him the conqueror of worlds, the absolute hero. Helping King Shahpal regain his kingdom, Amir Hamza becomes the ideal of manhood (336).
There are, however, two more dimensions of the quest. Firstly, Hamza’s contradictory nature is revealed, at times powerful – at times, lame. Helping the weak and wronged (the old and frail, the enslaved, the impoverished, etc.), he represents the ethics and values of “a good person,” not “a good warrior.” At the same time, his personality becomes more realistic in that he demonstrates human traits, which are not always agreeable.
The impression Hamza produces is exactly the opposite of the villain Afrasiyab – who, despite being the villain in the dastan, is capable of kind gestures. It is possible to say that an archetype of an amiable villain (and a despicable hero) is rooted within the dastan in these two characters. Thirdly, and more importantly still, Amir’s quest in the realm of spirituality hints his evolution as a faithful, god-abiding person. The epos, therefore, depicts Amir Hamza as a hero – but as a humanized hero, a real person in a fictionalized historical setting. Hamza’s role, therefore, is to demonstrate the extraordinary capabilities of a real person: a hero, a lover, a person helping those in need, a sinner, a believer – and above all, a human.
To conclude, Amir Hamza has come a long way to evolve. His changing personality renders a life of a person, which can be seen through his virtues and sins. Propelled by his entirely human charm, the epic value of Hamza as a hero is hard to overestimate.
Lakhnavi, Ghalib, and Abdullah Bilgrami. The Adventures of Amir Hamza: Special abridged edition. Trans. Musharraf Ali Farooqi. New York, NY: Modern Library, 2012. Print.
Consumerism in “The Ladies’ Paradise” and “Madame Bovary” Essay (Critical Writing)
Consumerism has been a part of human culture since the man has obtained the possibility to own more goods than it was necessary for his basic needs. On a large scale, this phenomenon was introduced with the industrial revolution, when such goods became cheap enough to be affordable not only to the elite but also to the general public. A lot of effort has been put into studying it from a psychological, social, and anthropological perspective.
Naturally, the literature, which is among the first representatives of art when it comes to social commentary, has been exploring the issue of consumerism extensively. This paper deals with two prominent works that explore consumerism: The Ladies’ Paradise by Émile Zola and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. These two works, while using different approaches and tone in addressing the issue of consumerism in contemporary society, offer similar commentary and treatment of the issue, depicting consumer behavior as a vain and mindless activity that gives consumers the false sense of fulfillment while stripping their life of true values.
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert is often regarded as a milestone of the Realistic literature and his masterpiece. The novel gained much notoriety upon its release because of its explicit depiction of the underside of the bourgeois life. The author contrasts the outer higher aspirations of the middle and higher class to the actual deception of moral code and vanity endorsed by it. Consumerism plays an important part as one of the key vices of the titular character, Emma Bovary.
While not being defined as an isolated phenomenon before the first half of the twentieth century, its motives and key features are recognizable even in the European society of the 1850s. Emma, the wife of a country doctor Charles Bovary, is experiencing disappointment in life as she is constantly facing the boredom and emptiness of rural life. In an attempt to battle it, she turns to adultery and luxury lifestyle, which quickly exceeds her husband’s capabilities and eventually leads to his financial ruin. This overconsumption is one key characteristic of the disruptive behavior exhibited by Emma and apparently disproved by the author.
An interesting thing to note here is the fact that while her spending is only limited to items like firewood, candles and sugar,1 She subsequently falls to the clever scheme by Monsieur Lheureux, a merchant who offers loans and buying goods on credit.2 It is an easily recognizable pattern that is familiar to the public today – aggressive marketing and crediting policies used by modern companies are often accused of being deceptive and disruptive for the consumers. It is also worth noting that while the novel is often cited as a commentary on moral degradation, the reasons for Emma’s suicide and Charles’ ruin are financial in nature.
Flaubert is unambiguous in his treatment of consumerism. He openly points to its adverse effects, depicting the characters unsympathetically and with irony, often adhering to stark contrasts between the proclaimed elevated ideals and the grounded reality, such as the scene of passionate exchange of words of love between Emma and one of her lovers which is followed by the scene of sale of a cow.3 The author’s accusative stance on consumerism was so evident and concrete that his novel has become a trope namer, leading to the emergence of the informal term “Bovary syndrome” to characterize a woman who leads an excessive and extravagant lifestyle that prompts her massive financial debt.
The Ladies’ Paradise by Émile Zola takes a different approach, both in tone and narrative, but addresses the same phenomenon. The novel follows the life of Denise Bandu, who comes to Paris with her two little brothers. Denise starts working in a department store and experiences the world of commerce from the inside.
The store’s owner, Octave Mouret, is using the progressive sales techniques, like aggressive marketing, large-scale advertisement, the innovative customer services, such as refunds and goods delivery, and recreational rooms and novelties.4 Each of these techniques is displayed through the eyes of the customers and is thoroughly explained, like reorganizing of goods which, according to Mouret, will cause customers to wander around the shop rather than exit after the intended purchase, boosting sales.5
However, rather than scorning at the society permeated by the consumerism, Zola depicts it with joyous admiration. He often adheres to recounting the goods on display in stores’ windows, emphasizing the variety of color, fabric, fashion,6 And even types of umbrellas7 And focusing on the character’s admiration with this abundance. It is important to note that these descriptions are more often than not accompanied with the prices either in the form of a price tag, or just a description of “cheap” or “expensive.” By doing this, the author emphasizes the inevitable additional category of modern society. However, unlike Flaubert, he is not openly bitter about this.
Rather, he sees it as an inevitable change that has come and is here to stay. His characters, while consuming wildly and uncontrollably, still retain the complexity of character, rather than serve as an example of vanity and moral decay. They are often seen arguing against succumbing to mindless buying spree, which implies that consumers at that time already demonstrate the understanding of inner works of commerce. In one lengthy scene, one of the characters, Madame Marty, is seen buying two scarves and a pair of gloves8 Despite being vocal about her determination to buy a braid and leave.
Her companion, Madame de Boves, is supposedly contrasted to her, being described as detesting such techniques. Yet another customer, Madame Bourdelais, explains to Madame Marty her understanding of “exploiting” stores’ discount policies, buying only what is necessary, and being impenetrable to manipulation.9 The whole scene is ironic, given the conversation is taking place in the middle of the frantic shopping spree, and all three women were previously hypnotized by the goods and sales pitches.
Despite being much more detailed than Flaubert in describing the workings of salespeople and consumers, Zola instead offers little judgment on this part. He depicts consumerism as an integral part of the modern world, comical, wild, yet beyond the categories of good or evil.
His description of marketing strategies lacks the pejorative attitude that is common today. Instead of putting consumption in the category of moral vices, he offers an amusing insight into it, and possibly arranges it to look more entertaining to the reader, like the ability for humankind to watch itself from the new perspective and make its own decision about if it is alarming or just pleasant.
In all, both works can be seen as a social commentary on the consumerism. However, while Flaubert’s work offers its conclusions, Zola’s novel can only serve as a source for reaching it by reader’s own means without providing definitive clues or justifications.
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005.
Zola, Emile. The Ladies’ Paradise. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
- Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005), 36.
- Ibid., 88.
- Ibid., 211.
- Emile Zola, The Ladies’ Paradise (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 243.
- Ibid., 237.
- Ibid., 6.
- Ibid., 243.
- Ibid., 244.
- Ibid., 245.