The Use Of Language To Influence The Reader In Frankenstein And Hamlet
The author Julia Penelope once said “Language is power, in ways more literal than most people think. When we speak, we exercise the power of language to transform reality. Why don’t more of us realize the connection between language and power?” It is fair to say that language can be really powerful when it comes to communicate and spread a message. Though, this is not the only accomplishment language can do. In fact, language can be used to empower or disempower someone in many ways. For example, you could encourage someone to do something they believe in, or you can disintegrate a person by telling them they are not good enough. In literature, there are many ways for authors to use their words to implant an idea in the reader’s mind. The use of motifs, symbols, and stylistic techniques in Frankenstein and Hamlet bring us to question and change our world.
In Frankenstein, motifs and symbols are used to help develop and inform the text’s major themes and to represent abstract ideas or concepts. In this novel, light is a very important symbol. It symbolizes knowledge and discovery. Our natural world is a place of dark secrets and hidden passages. Then, the goal of any scientist is to reach the light. “What could not be expected in the country of eternal light?” asks Walton, displaying a faith in science. Fire is the dangerous and more powerful cousin of light. The monster discovers excitedly the dual nature of fire; that it creates light in the darkness, but also that it harms him when he touches it. The presence of fire in the text automatically refers to the title of Shelley’s novel; Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was a Greek God from ancient Greek pathology and he was credited with having created mankind. He made humans out of clay; a lifeless matter. Now, in order to give life to humans, Prometheus stole the vine fire from the Gods and inserted it into his creation. Likewise, Dr. Frankenstein takes on the role of God as he also creates life in the book. He created life out of a lifeless matter, which is a dead body in this case. So, Frankenstein messed around with nature in order to do something divine; he created life, something he no one should be able to do except God. Therefore, both Prometheus and Victor went against the Gods to artificially create life. As a result, both of these characters suffered in different ways. Prometheus died and Frankenstein is punished in the book by having all the loved ones around him murdered. To add on, in chapter 4, when Victor describes the dangers of striving to be “greater than nature will allow,” he explains the dangers of a human being who tries to play God. The Greek god Prometheus gave the knowledge of fire to humanity and was then severely punished for it. Victor, attempting to become a modern Prometheus, is certainly punished, but unlike fire, his “gift” to humanity (knowledge of the secret of life) remains a secret. Thus, Shelley used good symbols and motifs, light and fire, to represent abstract ideas and to inform the readers of the main themes to warn them and let them question themselves of the consequences and the dangers of experiencing the unknown.
In Hamlet, the difficulty of attaining true knowledge is due to slipperiness of language. Words are used to communicate ideas, but they can also be used to distort the truth, manipulate other people, and serve as tools in corrupt quests for power. Claudius is the most obvious example of a man who manipulates words to enhance his own power. The sinister uses of words are represented by images of ears and hearing, from Claudius’s murder of the king by pouring poison into his ear to Hamlet’s claim to Horatio that “I have words to speak in thine ear will make thee dumb”. The poison poured in the king’s ear by Claudius is used by the ghost to symbolize the corrosive effect of Claudius’s dishonesty. Also, integrating puns in the play is useful and interesting as it brings the readers to think of possible meanings. For example, when we first met Hamlet in Act I, scene 2, Claudius has asked him, “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” He means to ask Hamlet why is he still depressed. Hamlet’s response to this, “Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun.” is a pun on the word ‘son.’ Hamlet uses this pun to express his dissatisfaction of being a ‘son’ to too many people; his dead father, his mother Gertrude, and now his uncle/stepfather, Claudius. In fact, Hamlet is full of puns in this scene and they reveal his depression and disapproval of the new marriage between Claudius and Gertrude. Metaphors are also often used in the play Hamlet for literary comparison. For example, in Act I, scene 1, Horatio notices that the sun is coming up and says, “But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, walks over the dew of yon high eastward hill.” Here, they used a personification; an object is compared to a person. In this case, Horatio is calling on the poetic similarity of the dawning sun to a person wrapped in rust-colored garments walking over the distant horizon. The result is a more vivid description of the morning sky. Thus, the use of motifs (ears and hearing), puns, and metaphors make us question the play. Therefore, language is an important tool.
To compare, language plays an enormous role in the monster’s development. By hearing and watching the peasants, the monster learns to speak and read, which enables him to understand the manner of his creation, as described in Victor’s journal. Likewise, the works of William Shakespeare dwell mainly in the world of the latter, high drama and amplified emotions. Figurative language is very common and important in the play Hamlet. As I mentioned examples earlier, some types of figurative language include metaphor, simile, imagery, and puns. Therefore, I believe these two texts demonstrate clearly how language empower us to understand, question and change our world by the use of different motifs, symbols, and different stylistic techniques. Indeed, language is so powerful and can change our world. For example, Malala Yousafzai wrote a bibliographic novel to tell her story. In fact, she was shot by a Taliban because she stood up for education. Malala used her story to denounce the issue about the children’s education all around the world. “Let us pick our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world” (Yousafzai 310). She wrote a book, gave speeches (check the end of the research) and created the Malala fund, which is a fund established in order to ensure that tangible results are reached in the fight for the access to education, to denounce this crisis. Her words of wisdom transformed one world because after she delivered her speech, the United Nations provided education to all children in the world. I believe this is a strong example of how language can change our world.
In conclusion, language is an amazing device that can be used in various ways. In orals or in prints and texts, language can affect our perceptions and make us question our environment, values and more. It doesn’t only help us understand the world we live in, but pushes us to question it as well. It can either raise a person’s confidence or tear it down. Thus, it is fair to say that language is the most powerful tool that mankind has, even in literature. The motifs, symbols, and stylistic techniques used in the two texts that I analyzed and in the example of Malala make us question and change our world. I believe language is still transforming to change our world in order to make it better.
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