Monthly Archives: August 2020

Shakespeare vs Petrarch: Love Sonnets

                                                             

The Evolution of the Love Sonnet

It was usual for many 16th century sonneteers to continue the tradition of love poetry, wherein they lamented their heartbroken emotional state and unrequited love. The originality of their verses was astounding and became a competition of sorts. A man born in the 14th century, known as Francesco Petrarch was their respected inspiration. In his own time, he inspired many to read and write. Over two hundred years after his death, some of the greatest sonneteers strove to achieve, and in some cases, surpass his level of greatness. Petrarch wrote three hundred and sixty six love sonnets dedicated to his unattainable love, Laura. His sonnets were in awe of her supernatural beauty, grace, and elegance. He also made a craft of lamenting his own miserable state and the misfortune handed to him by life, fate, and circumstance. For many reasons, (particularly artistic) Laura could not be his.        

       (an artistic rendition of Petrarch’s beloved Laura)

 

Approximately three hundred years later, William Shakespeare sought to innovate the theme of love sonnets, and made the object of his affection a young man, to whom he would proffer wise advice, and affectionate compliments. His other object of affection was a mysterious dark woman. This particular variation set Shakespeare apart, as did his description of her and his state regarding her. Whereas Laura was the blonde-haired, grey-eyed ideal of beauty, possessing topmost qualities of charm, intelligence, and grace, Shakespeare’s “dark lady” was a mystery of sorts. Shakespeare’s speaker held her in high regard, yet the quality of his descriptions did not appear to be most complimentary. 

Petrarch’s 339th sonnet begins with a divine realization:

            I knew, when Heaven opened my eyes,
            when I learnt and Love unfurled my wings,
            new gracious things, but mortal,
            that the stars showered on one alone: (1-4)

The opening lines suggest that only something celestial could make him see the brilliance of his beloved. “Love unfurl[s] [his] wings” (2), and this line gives us the impression of a newly born angel bestowed the grace of a wondrous sight of such enormous magnitude, that you have to be an immortal to witness it. Even with the divine blessing, he cannot fathom all of her qualities, and he categorizes the ones he does see as “mortal” (3). She is alone in the gifts bestowed upon her persona and therefore unique and apart from every other woman. This is a gorgeous beginning and gives clear indication that this will be a lovely exultation of the speaker’s beloved. In comparison with Shakespeare’s beginning, it is easier to guess the course of the remaining lines.            

Shakespeare’s love was far from the conventional ideal. In My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”, Shakespeare appears to berate his lover, comparing ways in which considered objects of grandiose beauty are not at all like his mistress. At times, his description of her uses ugly words, and paints her in a seemingly common, ordinary way. The first reading of the sonnet induces the question of whether it is a love sonnet at all. It is possible to look at it as a satire on love sonnets in general, and perhaps a harsh criticism of the woman he supposedly loves. Yet, there is a lingering sense of admiration, as even some small words seem to indicate that there may be a genuine and loving affection. There are interposed lines hinting at a strong feeling, foreshadowing the powerful ending. Shakespeare forces the reader to question the love of perfection, and provides a very realistic alternative. He opens up the possibility that a human being is more capable of loving someone equally human, and because of that particular humanity, no less unique than a golden goddess floating in the sky of our dreams and regrets. This is a love sonnet, illustrating a depth of feeling, and genuine affection through a different and unique form of expression. It uses the conventions of the time and turns them around to portray a dissimilar love, a love not based on unrealistic comparisons and inconceivable standards.                 

The title of this sonnet takes is back to the usual comparisons between the object of affection and the sun. In romantic fashion, both shine on our minds and hearts, and fill us with energy and warmth. Shakespeare’s beginning line points out, that in a literal sense, the sun has little in common with the beloved’s eyes. While the beloved’s eyes can fill us with figurative warmth of emotion and can appear to “glow” in a distorted manipulation of the senses, the sun literally bequeaths heat and light upon the earth and other planets.            

In the second line, the speaker disparages another familiar comparison and states “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red:” (2). Red is the color of passion and figuratively relates to heat in the same way as the sun. Red coral is a stony piece of skeleton possessing a rouge complexion and is used for ornamentation as jewelry. Regular coral is deeply pink and is factually redder than the mistress’s lips. We can conclude, therefore, that her lips are almost bloodless and pale.             

In what is a complete reversal, Petrarch does not dote so sharply on purely physical description in comparison with traditional objects of beauty. His description of his beloved is otherworldly, and has the element of a dream:                     

            the rest of her was so other, so various
            in form, noble, heavenly and immortal,
            that my intellect was all unequal to it,
            my weak sight could not endure it. (5-8)

There is a heavy emphasis on his beloved’s “other [ness]” (5), she is “various in form, noble, heavenly and immortal” (6-7). This is a very stacked compliment, as she embodies perfection in every sense. She is god-like and awes him into a state of weakness through absolute and sheer flawlessness. The reader understands that the speaker is not the only one unable to “endure” (8), the brilliance of the beloved. She shines above everyone else, through the compliments of lines 5 and 6, and his “unequal intellect” (7) and “weak sight” (8) easily attributes itself to the reader. His description of her is purposefully vague, to enforce the idea that it is beyond humanity’s power to realize the glory of her being and existence. The speaker of this sonnet is not in control and lines 7 through 8 signal a breakdown. In a very stark contrast, Shakespeare’s speaker seems very calm, when further providing a detailed description of his mistress’s appearance.             

Lines 3 through 4 describe the quality of hair and snow in relation to the speaker’s mistress, as he pronounces, “If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; / If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head” (3-4). In the romantic sonnet, beauty is typically associated with fair skin and blonde hair. Therefore, the objects compared with the beloved are usually those that reflect those qualities. Snow is associated with pure and fresh fairness, and the speaker contrasts this color with the shade of his mistress’s bosom, which he calls “dun” (3). Dun is a yellowish, darker color, and not considered the standard of beauty. Next, the speaker evokes the similarity between hair and wires, and states that “black wires grow on [his mistress’s] head” (4). The imagery here does appear to be somewhat disparaging, as the growth seems to take the shape of an intertwining, thread like, and enveloping creature. The word “on” (4) seems to point to an inclining upwards growth. The word “wires” (4) is ugly and makes one think of cuts, and rough metal. Another point of shock is that her wires/hairs are black, a difference from the traditional blonde beauty ideal, celebrated by so many other sonneteers.            

Damask roses are sweetly aromatic and possess a silky quality. When comparing his beloved’s cheeks to the roses, the speaker declares, “I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, / But no such roses see I in her cheeks;” (Shakespeare 5-6). This comment points out the quality of a damask rose and specifies that no such quality is observed on the cheeks of his mistress. She does not have a rose-like blush emanating from her face and may be rather ordinary in complexion. The next two lines continue on the theme associated with fragrance, and state “And in some perfumes is there more delight / Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks” (7-8). Notice, that the speaker uses the word “some” when saying that there is more delight in a few more perfumes than in his mistresses’ breath, indicating that his mistress’s breath is possibly superior to a few other perfumes. It is curious that he describes the breath as reeking. It is possible that “reek” signifies smoke, but generally, the word produces the association of a disagreeable, rancid odor. It is possible that his mistress suffers from halitosis. Petrarch’s speaker would be reasonably aghast at such a description, and would rather dwell on the amazing and unimaginable state of his beloved.             

In opposition to Shakespeare’s speaker, who seems to be intimately familiar with every crevice of his mistress and casually recounts her apparently negative qualities, Petrarch’s speaker is far from his love’s goal. His love is not near enough for him to dissect her features and he must ponder of his relation to her from a distance. She knows his thoughts, but can never accept his praise or love. In fact, his love of her could be considered a sin, as it would be between a mortal man and an immortal angel:      

            And whatever I have said of her or written,
            so that now for that praise she prays to God
            for me, was a little drop in an infinite ocean: (9-11)

There is a tenderness in her prayers for him that is beautiful and touching. She “prays” (10) for him and his kind appreciation, yet painful folly. She understands that he is enamored beyond reason and desires heavenly reprieve for his affected mental state. There is no callous familiarity here and it purports a mutual respect that is not easily evinced in Shakespeare’s sonnet. For Petrarch’s speaker it is a “little drop in an infinite ocean” (11), that his beloved cares enough to pray for him. The “little drop” (11) also signifies just the smallest part of her virtue and quality amongst an “ocean” (11) of incomparable wealth of beauty and virtue encapsulating her whole being. His love of her lacks subtlety and understands no bounds. It is a clear and piercing admiration without restraint. Shakespeare manages to somewhat admit that he loves to hear his love speak on line 9.                 

Shakespeare’s speaker exclaims, “I love to hear her speak, – yet well I know / That music hath a far more pleasing sound;” (9-10). This is a polite assessment of his situation, as he genuinely likes the sound of her voice, but admits that in comparison the sound of music is superior. However, the start of that line is very powerful and direct, and eclipses what might seem as negative language and imagery before this line. He strongly and directly, without the use of subtle hints or indirect allusions asserts his love for her voice. The first line is bold and dynamic, yet follows with a slowing dash and reflection, “- yet well I know”(9). It seems similar to a sad admission or an unwanted confession. It illustrates the honesty of the speaker, as he is not one to exaggerate or create falsity, as is seen throughout the rest of the sonnet.             

The lines after, again bring up a famous point of comparison for Petrarch and most other sonneteers. In Petrarch’s sonnet, the beloved having the qualities of a goddess help make her appear even more unattainable and grand, as this inserts a spiritual value into the professed love and give it the feeling of a holy quest. The goddess aspect also diminishes the speaker of this sonnet and gives us powerful imagery of something small and insignificant pleading to something of an unimaginable magnitude. The beloved, figuratively becomes larger than life and conquers the speakers mind, soul and body. Shakespeare’s speaker is not quite as dramatic when he asserts, “I grant I never saw a goddess go, / My mistress when she walks, treads on the ground;”(11-12). The usual associations of a goddess include the quality of hovering or floating encircled in a shining halo that blinds the vision and deafens the senses. The speaker admits that such a comparison would be possible, yet as he has never seen a goddess, he would be unable to compare. He still maintains that there is nothing special about the walk of his mistress. She simply steps and walks as any other mortal human being. Could this be an exaltation of her humanity?

Petrarch ends his sonnet with an idealism far out shirking the plain or ordinary. His speaker sadly laments his fate of incomparability to his love, yet understands, and admires the glory of his beloved:

            because our style cannot rise beyond our wit:
            and when a man fixes his eyes on the sun,
            the brighter it shines the less that he can see. (12-14)

Line 12 alludes to his shortcomings and forces us to acknowledge ours, in order to understand the futility of attaining something greater than naturally deserved. A mortal cannot attain the status of an immortal. A shrub cannot grow into a tree. When something that you look upon blinds you, you will never envision it in its full glory and likeness. His beloved is above and beyond him in every sense. The lapse between them is too great and therefore poetically tragic and beautiful. In his sonnet, Petrarch has elevated his beloved and diminished himself to elevate her even farther. Shakespeare’s ending differs dramatically in that he seems to have a grasp of his love. It is possible that he does not and simply extols her human qualities in his own manner. His claim is that this is no less important than a usual ideal and glorifies the unique aspect of his situation.            

The last lines sum up Shakespeare’s speaker’s sentiments and it can be argued that the second to last line contains the volta of the sonnet. The speaker stops describing the qualities of his beloved and instead strongly asserts his strong feeling in saying “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare / As any she belied with false compare” (13-14). His exclamation to the heavens is a strong one, and when he calls his love rare, it invokes a feeling of something that is unusual or infrequent. The word can also describe something that is valuable and amazing, therefore having a rare quality. The last line induces the thought that his love is as rare as her consideration for the compliments that are false and lack veracity. There is a clear turn here and the feeling is that of reconciliation.             

His mistress does not require common and unrealistic flattery, and is prone to scorn it. Her qualities might not be the standard of an epically amorous love sonnet, but this is not indicative of a lack of another type of beauty. Her hair is black, her cheeks lack fullness, freshness, her breath is not always the best, and her voice might be of a drawling, hoarse pitch. She is unlike the standard of beauty and therefore even more so captivating. An exoticism is attributed to her, and false compare would be an injustice to her true features and attributes. It is as possible that the speaker owns her love, as it is feasible that he cries out for her without response. The speaker of the sonnet does not tell us this, and leaves it for us to fill in the facts according to the comparison of what she is not. Not once does he tell us she is ugly or in any way deficient. Even if she is, it does not detract from the fact that his love is rare, and more importantly, existent. It is possible that this is both a criticism and a satire on the traditional love sonnet, but even that does not change the power, somberness, and sincerity of the last two lines.  Shakespeare makes us analyze the worth of comparing a certain beauty to something fantastic and awe-inspiring. The speaker loves in spite of the lack of Petrarchan values, and loves for the sheer humanity inherently present within his mistress. This is not a romantic declaration of love, but rather a brutally honest one. Shakespeare defies custom and convention and cries out for his right to love someone who is herself; even if this is, something not meant for her to read.            

As unique as Shakespeare was, his inspiration for the form and theme lies in the origins of the sonnet form and theme. Petrarch’s genius lay not only in his astounding praise, but also in his extraordinary laments, the likes of which showed a subtle, and sometimes fierce resentment of his lovely beloved. He wailed about being imprisoned by love’s shackles, tortured by his own exquisite emotion, and beguiled by a cruel fate’s nasty whims. It was not easy for Petrarch’s speaker to be in love with an immortal goddess possessing the perfect figure, with skin that was pale and fresh as the morning snow, shining blonde hair, lips as red as ruby, and a brightness of expression and being eclipsing the sun itself. This was truly the ideal of a woman, and many sonneteers after Petrarch infused these faultless qualities into the name and being of their own beloved. The sonneteers also refined this love and turned it into something of their own, as demonstrated so aptly by Shakespeare, whose unique love might serve as an inspiration for many to follow.

Compare for yourself. Below is Petrarch’s sonnet, followed by Shakespeare.

339. ‘Conobbi, quanto il ciel li occhi m’aperse,’
By: Petrarch

I knew, when Heaven opened my eyes,
when I learnt and Love unfurled my wings,
new gracious things, but mortal,
that the stars showered on one alone:

the rest of her was so other, so various
in form, noble, heavenly and immortal,
that my intellect was all unequal to it,
my weak sight could not endure it.

And whatever I have said of her or written,
so that now for that praise she prays to God
for me, was a little drop in an infinite ocean:

because our style cannot rise beyond our wit:
and when a man fixes his eyes on the sun,
the brighter it shines the less that he can see.
Sonnet 130: My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun
By: William Shakespeare

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Analysis of Raymond Carver’s short story “Careful”

Analysis of Raymond Carver’s Careful

There are times when we are unsure of our final decision. We have pleasant memories of a fading past and seek to wade in an uncertain river for a second time. A hesitation arises and lingers in the bad recollections, which drives us to a final test. This examination reveals the initial instinct and reconfirms the alarming intuition driving us farther away in the opposite direction. This might be the reason Inez visits hapless Lloyd in the hour of his ailment and performs a careful operation intended to revive his hearing. Her success might lead to his redemption or further thrust him into imminent downfall, confirming her original pronouncement. It is possible, that Inez simply stops by to check on her unfortunate husband out of concern and pity. Perhaps she has not even considered a possible reunion and does not intend to perform any such test as will reveal the worthiness of her ill-fated husband. Raymond Carver’s story Careful seems to suggest otherwise. Lloyd’s disease is emotional, not physical. Therefore, Inez’s operation is not a surgery, but rather an attempt at revival. There is a pattern in Lloyd’s thoughts and actions, a pattern of weakness and failure leading him to a certain outcome, even when assisted by the caring hands of Inez, who seeks to test and examine her husband for even the slimmest chance of salvation.         

There are only small hints of Lloyd’s normalcy and competence as a man/husband prior and during his time with Inez. When having doughnuts and champagne for breakfast he remembers, “some years back, when he would have laughed at having a breakfast like this. Time was when he would have considered this a mildly crazy thing to do, something to tell friends about” (Carver 265). Now, his own state does not seem strange or unusual to him. This detail does not matter to him in one way or the other. His attitude is nonchalant and any judgment against his behavior solicits a careless “So what?” Lloyd’s other recollection takes place at the municipal pool. He compares the difficulty of curing his ailment with the ease of clearing his ears in the past:

But back then it’d be easy to clear the water out. All he had to do was fill his lungs with air, close his mouth, and clamp down on his nose. Then he’d blow out his cheeks and force air into his head. His ears would pop, and for a few seconds he’d have the pleasant sensation of water running out of his head and dripping onto his shoulders (carver 268).

This comparison is very significant in helping to understand why Inez dismisses Lloyd in the present, yet accepted him in the past .Not long ago; Lloyd cured his problem with ease, because he did not essentially have a problem. It was a little bit of water clogged in his ear, similar to a little bit of wax stuck in his ear presently. Lloyd does not have a problem with hearing, but rather a problem with listening. Inez takes great pains in helping Lloyd and undertakes a laborious process, comparable to coddling a sick child, yet sometime in an immediate past all he had to do was fill his lungs with air and clamp down on his nose.             

Though lacking in sound judgment, Lloyd senses his inadequacy and understands his need for redemption. He knows that he should not be an alcoholic, but attempts to cure his addiction by drinking champagne, a less potent alcohol. He thinks that he will better himself by being alone and instead deteriorates his mental state through isolation and carelessness. His incapacity drives him to a series of mental mistakes, but even these do not rob him from the realization of his wife’s importance. Sensing his wife’s presence, Lloyd “knew it was Inez and somehow he knew the visit was an important one” (Carver 266). Lloyd understands that his wife’s judgment will either save or doom him, and that she is his only hope of deliverance. He therefore hides his bottle of champagne and justifies himself being dressed in pajamas at 11 A.M. It is almost likely that he is lying about his ear condition to excuse his shoddy appearance and bad state. This seems even more possible with the consideration that later, when his ear is unclogged, he is still unable to hear Inez.              

Inez shifts from intense moments of action to reflective meditation. She looks for solutions and seeks to find different tools for her purposes. The times between are spent in smoking cigarettes and gazing at Lloyd and contemplating her next step. Similar to a physician, she gently tests different objects and tenderly inserts them into Lloyd’s ears, poking for any sign of a positive response. The ineffectiveness of her preliminary cures does not reflect badly on her, but rather on the stubbornness of Lloyd and his condition. At one point, “He turned his head to the side and let it hang down. He looked at the things in the room from this new perspective. But it wasn’t any different from the old way of looking, except that everything was on its side” (Carver 273). This is a perfect example of Lloyd’s ineffectiveness and for a lack of better word, perspective. After a while, the fluid flows from his ear and restores his hearing, yet no change has occurred internally within Lloyd. Whether or not he has wax clogged in his ear, everything remains the same for him. His room, situation, and mental state remain unalterable and hopeless. His endless addiction and justification lead him astray in every turn and he is tragically unable to respond to his wife, even with something so simple as sincere gratitude.             

Instead of realizing his true problems, Lloyd comes up with dim ideas of sleeping on his back instead of his side. Lloyd’s emotional turmoil is too heavy for him to bear, so he displaces it into a petty physical ailment. Meanwhile, Inez observes every reaction and response. Throughout the story, her pleas to talk to Lloyd are ignored and dismissed with incoherent and foolish replies. This is more so significant after the cure of his ailment and the return of his ability to hear clearly. On her way out, Lloyd asks, “Inez, where do you have to go?” “I told you,” she said and made ready to leave” (Carver 275). Further on Lloyd’s real condition becomes even clearer:   

 But at the door she turned and said something else to him. He didn’t listen. He       didn’t want to. He watched her lips move until she’d said what she had to say. When she’d finished, she said, “Goodbye.” (Carver 275).

From the very beginning, Lloyd does not want to listen, for he is afraid of what he will hear. His physical condition solely reveals his inner malfunction. For Inez it was necessary to heal the physical half in order to understand Lloyd’s true mental state. When she finishes the task, her realization is instant and immediate. She understands the futility, but still shows enough care to talk to the old woman living below Lloyd. Ironically, Lloyd listens with great care, as Inez parts with the old woman and drives away.            

The operation is a failure and Lloyd’s earlier sentiments might very well become a reality. “If this doesn’t work, I’ll find a gun and shoot myself. I’m serious. That’s what I feel like doing, anyway” (Carver 273). Unfortunately, for Lloyd it does not work, and though it is unlikely he will find a gun, it foreseeable that his end will be before long and more tragically dragged out than a swift gun shot. Inez’s comparable sentiments illustrate a more positive image, “Anyway, we need to try something. We’ll try this first. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. That’s life, isn’t it?” (Carver 269). Inez’s charming query falls on deaf ears and while she can try something else with a sensible outlook, it is a shame that such a good operator should fail because of such a poor patient.       

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130

Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

 

Poetry and Poetics: Shakespeare’s Unique Love in “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”

It was usual for 16th century sonneteers to write variations of Petrarchian love sonnets. The customary theme was the rejected lover writing of his unattainable love’s charm and grace. Laments and distressed grievances routinely filled these sonnets, and stated circumstantial injustice, personal flaws, or the indifference of the unmoved love interest. The mark of a great sonneteer was the ability to take this singular theme and infuse it with their creative originality. Here is an example of Petrarch exclaiming praises and regretting his sorry state, lead on by his love of Laura (his eternal, unattainable love):

the rest of her was so other, so various                                                                                  in form, noble, heavenly and immortal,                                                                              that my intellect was all unequal to it,                                                                                  my weak sight could not endure it.                                                                                because our style cannot rise beyond our wit:                                                                          and when a man fixes his eyes on the sun,                                                                          the brighter it shines the less that he can see. (Petrarch 339)

There is a heavy emphasis on his beloved’s “other [ness]”, she is “various in form, noble, heavenly and immortal”.  This is a very stacked compliment, as she embodies perfection in every sense. She is god-like and awes him into a state of weakness through absolute and sheer flawlessness. The last lines of the poem, famously link Laura to the brightness of the sun, the luster of which blinds the speaker into perpetual, sad worship of that which is so above him.

Petrarch’s genius lay not only in his astounding praise, but also in his extraordinary laments, the likes of which showed a subtle, and sometimes fierce resentment of his lovely beloved. He wailed about being imprisoned by love’s shackles, tortured by his own exquisite emotion, and beguiled by a cruel fate’s nasty whims. It was not easy for Petrarch’s speaker to be in love with an immortal goddess possessing the perfect figure, with skin that was pale and fresh as the morning snow, shining blonde hair, lips as red as ruby, and a brightness of expression and being eclipsing the sun itself. This was truly the ideal of a woman, and many sonneteers after Petrarch infused these faultless qualities into the name and being of their own beloved.  

 Shakespeare’s love was far from the conventional ideal. In “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”, Shakespeare appears to berate his lover, comparing ways in which considered objects of grandiose beauty are not at all like his mistress. At times, his description of her uses ugly words, and paints her in a seemingly common, ordinary way. The first reading of the sonnet induces the question of whether it is a love sonnet at all. It is possible to look at it as a satire on love sonnets in general, and perhaps a harsh criticism of the woman he supposedly loves. Yet, there is a lingering sense of admiration, as even some small words seem to indicate that there may be a genuine and loving affection. There are interposed lines hinting at a strong feeling, foreshadowing the powerful ending. Shakespeare forces the reader to question the love of perfection, and provides a very realistic alternative. He opens up the possibility that a human being is more capable of loving someone equally human, and because of that humanity, no less unique than a golden goddess floating in the sky of our dreams and regrets. This is a love sonnet, illustrating a depth of feeling, and genuine affection through a different and unique form of expression. It uses the conventions of the time and turns them around to portray a dissimilar love, a love not based on unrealistic comparisons and inconceivable standards.    

The title of this sonnet takes is back to the usual comparisons between the object of affection and the sun. In romantic fashion, both shine on our minds and hearts, and fill us with energy and warmth. Shakespeare’s title points out, that in a literal sense, the sun has little in common with the beloved’s eyes. While the beloved’s eyes can fill us with figurative warmth of emotion and can appear to “glow” in a distorted manipulation of the senses, the sun literally bequeaths heat and light upon the earth and other planets.

In the second line, the speaker disparages another familiar comparison and states “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red:” (Shakespeare). Red is the color of passion and figuratively relates to heat in the same way as the sun. Red coral is a stony piece of skeleton possessing a rouge complexion and is used for ornamentation as jewelry. Regular coral is deeply pink and is factually redder than the mistress’s lips. We can conclude, therefore, that her lips are almost bloodless and pale.      

The next two lines describe the quality of hair and snow in relation to the speaker’s mistress, as he pronounces, “If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; / If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.” In the romantic sonnet, beauty is typically associated with fair skin and blonde hair. Therefore, the objects compared with the beloved are usually those that reflect those qualities. Snow is associated with pure and fresh fairness, and the speaker contrasts this color with the shade of his mistress’s bosom, which he calls dun. Dun is a yellowish, darker color, and not considered the standard of beauty. Next, the speaker evokes the similarity between hair and wires, and states that black wires grow on his mistress’s head. The imagery here does appear to be somewhat disparaging, as the growth seems to take the shape of an intertwining, thread like, and enveloping creature. The word “on” seems to point to an inclining upwards growth. The word “wires” is ugly and makes one think of cuts, and rough metal. Another point of shock is that her wires/hairs are black, a difference from the traditional blonde beauty ideal, celebrated by so many other sonneteers.

Damask roses are sweetly aromatic and possess a silky quality. When comparing his beloved’s cheeks to the roses, the speaker declares, “I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, / But no such roses see I in her cheeks;” This comment points out the quality of a damask rose and specifies that no such quality is observed on the cheeks of his mistress. She does not have a rose-like blush emanating from her face and may be rather ordinary in complexion. The next two lines continue on the theme associated with fragrance, and state “And in some perfumes is there more delight / Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.” Notice, that the speaker uses the word “some” when saying that there is more delight in a few more perfumes than in his mistresses’ breath, indicating that his mistress’s breath is possibly superior to a few other perfumes. It is curious that he describes the breath as reeking. It is possible that “reek” signifies smoke, but generally, the word produces the association of a disagreeable, rancid odor. It is possible that his mistress suffers from halitosis.   

 The next line reaffirms the notion of his love for her, as he exclaims, “I love to hear her speak, – yet well I know / That music hath a far more pleasing sound;” (Shakespeare). This is a polite assessment of his situation, as he genuinely likes the sound of her voice, but admits that in comparison the sound of music is superior. However, the start of that line is very powerful and direct, and eclipses what might seem as negative language and imagery before this line. He strongly and directly, without the use of subtle hints or indirect allusions asserts his love for her voice. The first line is bold and dynamic, yet follows with a slowing dash and reflection, “- yet well I know”. It seems similar to a sad admission or an unwanted confession. It illustrates the honesty of the speaker, as he is not one to exaggerate or create falsity, as is seen throughout the rest of the sonnet.

The lines after, again bring up a famous point of comparison for most sonneteers. In other sonnets, the beloved having the qualities of a goddess help make her appear even more unattainable and grand, as this inserts a spiritual value into the professed love and give it the feeling of a holy quest. The goddess aspect also diminishes the speaker of these sonnets and gives us powerful imagery of something small and insignificant pleading to something of an unimaginable magnitude. The beloved, figuratively becomes larger than life and conquers the speakers mind, soul and body. Shakespeare’s speaker is not quite as dramatic when he asserts, “I grant I never saw a goddess go, – My mistress when she walks, treads on the ground;” The usual associations of a goddess include the quality of hovering or floating encircled in a shining halo that blinds the vision and deafens the senses. The speaker admits that such a comparison would be possible, yet as he has never seen a goddess, and would be unable to compare. He still maintains that there is nothing special about the walk of his mistress. She simply steps and walks as any other mortal human being. Could this be an exaltation of her humanity?

The last lines sum up the speaker’s sentiments and it can be argued that the second to last line contains the volta of the sonnet. The speaker stops describing the qualities of his beloved and instead strongly asserts his strong feeling in saying “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare / As any she belied with false compare.” His exclamation to the heavens is a strong one, and when he calls his love rare, it invokes a feeling of something that is unusual or infrequent. The word can also describe something that is valuable and amazing, therefore having a rare quality. The last line induces the thought that his love is as rare as her consideration for the compliments that are false and lack veracity. There is a clear turn here and the feeling is that of reconciliation.

His mistress does not require common and unrealistic flattery, and is prone to scorn it. Her qualities might not be the standard of an epic sonnet, but this is not indicative of lack of another type of beauty. Her hair is black, her cheeks lack fullness, freshness, her breath is not always the best, and her voice might be of a drawling, hoarse pitch. She is unlike the standard of beauty and therefore even more so captivating. An exoticism is attributed to her, and false compare would be an injustice to her true features and attributes. It is as possible that the speaker owns her love, as it is feasible that he cries out for her without response. The speaker of the sonnet does not tell us this, and leaves it for us to fill in the facts according to the comparison of what she is not. Not once does he tell us she is ugly or in any way deficient. Even if she is, it does not detract from the fact that his love is rare, and more importantly, existent. It is possible that this is both a criticism and a satire on the traditional love sonnet, but even that does not change the power, somberness, and sincerity of the last two lines.  Shakespeare makes us analyze the worth of comparing a certain beauty to something fantastic and awe-inspiring. The speaker loves in spite of the lack of Petrarchan values, and loves for the sheer humanity inherently present within his mistress. This is not a romantic declaration of love, but rather a brutally honest one. Shakespeare defies custom and convention and cries out for his right to love someone who is herself; even if this might be something, she is not meant to read.            

The fascinating quality of this sonnet attributes itself to its originality, satire of other sonnets and ambiguity of the speaker’s true intention and feeling. The last lines of the sonnet leave the impression that the rest of the sonnet was in actuality complimentary in spite of the seemingly negative imagery and language. It could very easily be construed as praise to the rare, unique, and human quality of the beloved. She does not have to have the unrealistic features of celestial and unearthly objects and instead captivates the speaker with her earthly, original attributes. She is of a dark complexion, possesses flowing black hair, and a sensuous mesmerizing voice. The first twelve lines could also be a bitter degradation of the beloved, in spite of her beauty, to conciliate the rejection faced by the speaker. Most likely, it is a declaration of love, not only original in its language of praise, but also in the description of the beloved, and in the reversal of the traditional love sonnet. Shakespeare forces us to question the standard of beauty, and makes us think about the beauty of reality and common feature, and the artistry of Shakespeare reveals this with magnificence and mastery.

           

           

             

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea and its Connection to Taoism

A Wizard of Earthsea Cover

The Role of Wizardry in Earthsea

Ged’s childhood associations with magic are comparable to those of any child hoping to engage in fantastic and magical acts. A child wants to summon the animals, control the elements, change shapes, and become something other than himself/herself. Their desire for power and fame and the ability to achieve something extraordinary are only matched with their imaginations, one of the greatest assets they possess. 

As with all children approaching the cusp of preliminary knowledge, Ged’s ideas of magic are challenged during his apprenticeship with Ogion. The master mage lets the rain beat on his face and bears the strife of wind with calm acceptance. He spends his time in meditation and meticulously observes everything around him. Even though it is evident he wields great power, no one sees him use it. Unsatisfied with his slow training, Ged is given the choice to go to Roke, where the “air was bright with enchantments and the Archmage walked amidst wonders (24).” The students of Roke celebrate and demonstrate their magic freely, playing pranks and creating illusions frequently. The Nine Masters of Roke and the Archmage are less apt to demonstrate their powers and when pressed to reveal their magic, they would “always talk, like Ogion, about balance, and danger, and the dark (44).” Part of Ged’s studies involve being sent to the Isolate Tower, where lives the Master Namer whose own name is Kurremkarmerruk, allegedly “a name that had no meaning in any language (46).” Ged’s sole duty in the tower is to learn the true names of as many places, things and beings as he can. 

Ged’s personal turning point is the loosing of the shadow, which can be interpreted as the adolescent loss of self. Children have a clear conception of whom they are, until faced with the travails of adolescence, awareness of peer scrutiny, and the emergence of self-consciousness, self-interest, pride, conceit, and most importantly lack of interest in anything else besides the self. While children still desire to appear impressive in front of peers, they have an equal interest in those who they attempt to impress. Children make friends easily and without reservations. They do not need the vehicle of an event or an activity in order to spend time with someone and instead find friendship in just the simple act of being together. Children are known for their sponge like abilities and can learn languages, and mimic the most complex of actions because of the uncorrupted state of their interest in the world and their limitless imagination. The facets of adolescence cloud the true being and mark the beginning of a slow journey to reclaim what is lost and reshape it into the formulation of wisdom. This expedition can last a lifetime and mastery is achieved when you understand your role and purpose in life in conjunction with the rest of the world.  

The Connection to Taoism

The wizardry and magic of the world of Earthsea, as well as the traits of those who practice it have familiar parallels on our world. One philosophical and spiritual Chinese tradition in particular seems to display similar concepts and ideas. In Taoism, there is an intertwining between people and nature. The chaotic disposition of nature should not trouble the people, but instead be something they can adapt to and become a part of, like the earth and the sea. There should not be any resistance, but rather a lessening of rules and order, a philosophy of inaction emphasizes this discipline         

One of the central concepts of Tao is called wu wei, which can be translated as without action. Sometimes the concept is called wei wu wei, which would be action without action. In this system of thought a man is believed to have a lot of power and will, but in many cases is misdirected and therefore must find the “way” that will lead him in tune with the will and power of the universe. This causes a prominent association with Ogion and his ways. When first entering his apprenticeship with Ogion, Ged is surprised of his inauspicious beginning:             

They wandered, first down into the Vale and then gradually south and westward   around the mountain, given lodging in little villages or spending the night out in          the wilderness, like poor journeyman-sorcerers, or tinkers, or beggars. They entered no mysterious domain. Nothing happened. The mage’s oaken staff that Ged had watched at first with eager dread was nothing but a stout staff to walk with. (16)In harmony with the world, Ogion wanders around a mountain and uses his “magic” staff as a walking stick. Nothing happens and there is no “mysterious domain”, because Ogion knows his surroundings well and can travel around them with ease. He has no problem spending the night out in wilderness and is not bothered by the various hassles of nature. Ogion’s particular “inaction” indicates an intricate amount of experience and preparation. The text gives you the feeling of him having an abundant amount of power and one feels sure that there is a purpose in him not using it.           

At one point Ogion asks Ged what a certain flower’s name is. Ged does not know and asks Ogion what the flower’s use is. Ogion responds, “When you know the fourfoil in all its seasons root and leaf and, flower by scent and seed, then you may learn its true name, knowing its being; which is more than its use. What, after all, is the use of you? or of myself? Is Gont Mountain useful, or the Open Sea? (18)” Ogion’s statements highlight the knowledge of essence over function. One has to recognize the scent and the movement and understand what it is. All the other aspects come along with that knowledge and reveal themselves with experience. Elements and people not having a use is not a negative, and Ogion values the essence and the existence of a certain object, rather than its utility and use. The existence alone fulfills a certain natural order and has a role in the universe.              

This rare outburst of Ogion’s thoughts is similar to another concept of Tao, named P’u. According to Slingerland and Kraemer:

P’u is translated as “uncarved block” or “simplicity,” It represents a passive state of receptiveness. P’u is a symbol for a state of pure potential and perception without prejudice. In this state, Taoists believe everything is seen as it is, without      preconceptions or illusion. In the state of p’u, there is no right or wrong, beautiful          or ugly. There is only pure experience, or awareness, free from learned labels and definitions. (Slingerland, Effortless Action: Wu-Wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China, 2003, p. 233) (Kraemer World Scriptures: An Introduction to Comparative Religions, 1986, p. 286)

Ogion’s opinions resemble these Taoist sentiments and he is a loyal follower of the discipline. Later, when Ged reclaims his shadow, he is closer to understanding his own essence and gains wisdom from his newfound knowledge. These are all steps leading to understanding your role in the universe as a microcosm (a small part of a larger body).              

One of the main themes of the book is the danger of shape shifting, or changing into something else for a longer period of time. When Ged turns into a dragon, he instinctively knows he must finish his battle with the other dragons quickly. When escaping the court of Terrenon, Ged changes into a hawk and flies across the seas for an extended amount of time, eventually returning to Ogion. Upon his return, he is unable to revert shapes and is stuck in his eagle’s body until Ogion manages to turn him back into Ged. By becoming the eagle, Ged has tampered with the balance and forgotten who he truly is. This falsification of the self represents lack of self-knowledge and foreshadows an eventual doom. For Ged to be a part of the universe and not an outcast (as he often sees himself), he must know his true self, every aspect of it, similar to the way he knows a fourfoil in all its seasons root and leaf and, flower by scent and seed. This ties into his reunification with the shadow, regardless of it being good or bad, ugly or beautiful (labels that have no meaning within p’u).            

Essentially, through the concepts of Tao, your quest is to understand the vastness of the universe, which in turn brings knowledge of self. Ged’s journey through Earthsea is an unconscious fulfillment of that quest. Roke is a stepping-stone to Ged’s education. The masters of Roke are wise and learned, but in comparison with Ogion seem at a less advanced stage of the discipline. Their steps are ones that need to be taken and experienced, but fuller knowledge and understanding has not been completely garnered. When the Master Namer is convinced that there are no names for some things, Ogion is sure that there is a name for everything, being correct in the case of the Shadow. The Isle of Roke is still fascinated by the view of magic and dazzles the eyes with student illusions, magical fields, and trick doors. Ogion is beyond that, and lets nature take its course, convinced of its essence and role.            

Unwittingly absorbing Ogion’s early teachings, Ged went to Roke and learned the importance of “inaction” through a dangerous and sobering consequence, studied the names of all things in the Isolate Tower and became one with the sea through the crafts of sailing and voyage. His education of the discipline is hectic and dramatic, but his ending is closely similar to that of his beloved instructor.   

 

 

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Analysis of Tibor Fischer’s Under the Frog

 

Under the FrogThe Tears of Episodic Laughter

Tibor Fischer’s Under The Frog, ends with a scared, beaten-down, young man treading through the cold snow behind an injured countryman. Gyuri walks behind Kurucz in order to hide the tears streaming down his cheeks. Gyuri is defeated and depressed; he has left his small family behind, and the violent incursion of the Soviets has left his country in shambles, killed the love of his life, and further reinforced a regime Gyuri has detested and feared all his life. Even though Gyuri has finally accomplished his goal of escape, he does not have many things left to laugh about. In retrospect, there has never been too much to laugh about, yet the majority of the novel is in the form of a collection of sardonic, biting, and anecdotal clips of a life under the communist regime. The humor has the ability to make the reader laugh, but more often gives the impression of a bitter lament expressing the absurdity of the human condition when immersed in this particular place (Budapest) at this particular time (1946-1956). While some clips of Gyuri’s life are genuinely funny and honestly describe the travails of an adolescent’s coming of age, there are also stories that emit an ominous sense of unease and foretell a sad ending, despite a sharp and sarcastic humor. Slowly the stories merge in their commonality and carry over past occurrences and characters into the final installments. The characters begin to abide by the dictates of their past behavior and their past actions start to reveal consequences.

The novel is in an everlasting transition and tightens the plot up as it approaches the end. The gaps between the years become shorter and the chapters begin to divide themselves in months as the story picks up in intensity and the reader starts to suspect that the end is not going to be as comedic as the beginning and the middle of the novel. The plot begins to tighten on page 157, at the beginning of the chapter named November 1955. It is important to note the time and month separations between each chapter. The beginning chapter starts on November 1955, the date close to the climax of the novel. The story then shifts back to December 1944, October 1946, September 1948, January 1949, September 1949, August 1950, August 1952, and July 1954. Notice that in some cases there are gaps of almost up to two years. After page 156, the gaps are as follows. November 1955, September 1956, and 23rd October 1956. There is a dramatic change, particularly in the last two chapters, as the separation in the story is marked by only a single month.

There are very complex and intended reasons for the duality in the book’s structure. The beginning appears unfocused and confused. The events separate themselves by large gaps in time and show consistency in the characters; yet do not lead to any coherent conclusion. The times are as mixed and confused as Gyuri and his direction and focus. Near the climax, and particularly in the last three chapters, the structure changes, becomes less episodic, yet similarly fragmented and more sharply marked by events and actions leading to serious consequences. The change in Gyuri and his focus and commitment translates itself into the format of the novel. This change also brings out a more serious tone and prepares itself for an oncoming tragic end. The effect of the ending enhances as a result of the previous episodic chapters and the tightening of the plot as it approaches the end. The transitions are sometimes tricky and subtle, as with the repetition of the beginning chapter.

November 1955 is a title of chapter that repeats itself in the beginning and near the climax of the novel for particular reasons. This month marks Gyuri’s introduction to Jadwiga. The first 1955 chapter introduces the characters and sets a light tone to Gyuri’s adventures and life. He rides naked on the basketball team train, has eccentric and quirky friends, and there is poignant sarcasm in the quality of their play, their opponents and surroundings. This chapter teases the attraction he will eventually form for Jadwiga:

[H]e was disappointed that Jadwiga didn’t seem more delighted to meet him…                  Jadwiga only scored a keep-on-file anyway and he had more pressing Swedish                 women to phone. (20)

Despite this initial dismissiveness, Jadwiga becomes the cornerstone for a transition in Gyuri’s life and initiates the change of tone and pace of the novel. Her appearance in the beginning chapter is telling of Gyuri’s condition and the pace of the novel three quarters of the way through. So far, Gyuri is not ready for a change, and his youthful adventures and miseries will provide mirth and reflection. As soon as he gains something worth losing, his life as well as the tone and format of the novel will change. This chapter also reveals the type of regime the characters are under, as they worry about informers, and army recruiting. It also reveals Gyuri’s anxieties as he longs to escape and do even the most menial and meaningless of tasks, as long as they are in a different surrounding. It is important to note that the comic effects of the beginning chapter outweigh the perceived severity of the characters’ lives, and sets the tone for the following chapters.

In a similar fashion, the second 1955 Chapter sets itself apart from the other chapters beginning in a lighter tone, describing Gyuri’s ride on a train with a snoring passenger, comically aggravating the rest of the disturbed passengers. This beginning anecdote takes us back to the beginning of the novel and reminds us of the comedic aspects of a growing youth’s life. The mood darkens, when the story after, describes the creation of propaganda and the cruel absurdity of a corrupt regime, as a director utilizes a dying old man to push across an agenda that will only work because of the old man’s moustache. Sadly, the man passes and leaves us with a foreboding of an even more staggering tragedy:

According to Pataki, Uncle Feri survived his moment of posterity but not for                      long. Well-mannered, he waited till he was returned home before pegging out                  while Gati loaded up the van with crates of wine, reiterating ‘Did you see that             moustache?’ (165)

The insensitivity and baseness of the party represents itself in the callousness of Gati. He cares only for spreading an ideological message, as opposed to caring for the people he is supposed to exalt and raise together with the prosperity of the regime. The story then transitions and describes Gyuri’s courting of Jadwiga and emphasizes the validity of his attraction towards her, and thereby shifts the novel into a more serious domain, as the reader notices a lack of sarcasm and begins to suspect that Gyuri has become emotionally vulnerable.

The following passages leave little room for humor and depict the gladness and excitement of love. After visiting Jadwiga in the library and meeting her in the café under pretences of needing to find Solyom-Nagy, Gyuri’s rising feeling for Jadwiga reveals itself through unusual behavior. When coming to Jadwiga’s dwelling, upon seeing her he exclaims that he missed her (170). In any of the previous chapters, there is little evidence of Gyuri expressing any sort of affection. He is on friendly terms with Elek and Pataki, yet never emits any signs of appreciation for their existence in his life. Mostly Gyuri is melancholic, and sarcastic. His unsuccessful pursuits of women are not for love, but rather for unsatisfied lust. The sense that Gyuri is genuine in his affection towards Jadwiga further reinforces itself in these reflections:

The second thing that barged into Gyuri’s attention was the certitude that                         he wanted to marry her. That was surprising. He had never felt wedlockish                         before; indeed the idea of an additional bond to Hungary, anything that would                 make his flight less streamlined, was anathema. (171)

Gyuri develops something akin to close commitment, a concept unbeknownst to him thus far. This lack of commitment stems from the absurdity of the regime that rules his life and thence develops into the desire to flee. His life is therefore episodic, a series of events waiting for the next set. A commitment would categorize these events and force them to flow together fluidly in a single direction. Before his love has developed, Gyuri was aimless, concocting vain hopes for escape and abstract notions of what he wants and seeks. His mentality therefore shapes the format of the novel into episodic events, marked by the effect the occurrences on Gyuri. Ironically, Gyuri regrets that he has now a tighter bond with Hungary and fears that his “flight [will be] less streamlined (171).” Reversely, Gyuri’s flight out of Hungary
is now fated, as the events increase in intensity. Gyuri’s love is not something he is willing to take lightly or sarcastically. The revolution and the breaking point of the citizens of Hungary loom in the near distance. The multiple paths possible converge into three existing possibilities, continued oppression or death, liberation, or escape.

In the second to last chapter September1956, Gyuri’s exaltation of Jadwiga reoccurs frequently and the episodic gaps tighten even further to reflect Gyuri’s impatient yearning for her. Page 182 commences Gyuri’s attainment of Jadwiga and with that a small break. After that gap, the three pages following express all of Gyuri’s affections and praises towards Jadwiga:

He wanted to make her pregnant… It was very, very unlikely that he would                      achieve anything more important or significant than this, making one person                  feel full happiness, manufacturing a  roomful of ecstasy. (183)

The praises of Jadwiga surpass any feelings Gyuri has towards his country or regime. She is the most important thing in his life and the purpose of his existence. For her, he later refuses to flee the country with Pataki and spends the final chapter in search of her through the tempestuous streets of Budapest, where the revolution takes a backseat and serves rather as a backdrop for Gyuri’s furious search of Jadwiga.

The travails of his search and anxiety serve to make Jadwiga’s death even more tragic. In the aftereffect of the tank’s shot, when Gyuri notices Jadwiga “two thoughts raced through him, the axiom that stomach wounds were always fatal, and the other that his sanity couldn’t cope with this. (240)” Gyuri’s pain intensifies and forgets the war around him. This episode ends quickly and furiously, allowing the next fragment to remind the reader of the war and the different effect it has on Nigel and perpetually the rest of the city.

The fragments in the last chapters become sporadic and represent the many different aspects of the city, as well as the scattered and upset mindset of Gyuri. In the sporadic episodes there is a certain fluidity denoting a natural and inevitable course. Gyuri’s realization of escape unleashes a torrent of tears that is as mixed and jumbled as his emotions. The tumult of Gyuri’s life translates itself in to the structure of the novel. The beginning and middle of the novel provides a calm heartbeat mingled with reflection and comedic comment. The fragments are prolonged and the breaks in chapters are yearly and denote certain aspects of growing up and occurring change. The last three chapters become more fluid, yet very fragmented. The fragmentation does not take away the cohesiveness and tightness of the novel, but rather reinforces the quickening heartbeat and pace of Gyuri’s life during those two months. Many significant events occur. Gyuri consummates his love, yearns for Jadwiga, and experiences the throngs of the revolution. He experiences anxiety of loss and fear of retaliation. He faces the direct loss of his love, endures the assault of an army, leaves his home, and finally escapes. These events are quick and loaded with emotion. The novel recreates the pace of his feelings with the fragmentary structure and achieves the same anxiety within the reader.

The humor plays a large role in the novel and the frequency of it serves as a great contrast to the tragic end. The picaresque structure of the novel undergoes a change. It is certainly episodic throughout, but the beginning merges the clips with the humor and serves to accent the humor and to illustrate the growth of Gyuri. The ending fragments correlate the pace of an eventful period with the pace of Gyuri’s anxieties, emotions, and feelings. This method certainly connects the reader with Gyuri and in some cases elicits the same abseil of tears.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Making sense of Bartleby

Bartleby

Imagine yourself in an empty room, with nothing in it, except a window and a desk. You go to the window and see nothing apart from a small ray of sunshine and a brick wall of another building exactly like yours. You go to your desk and open a drawer. Inside you see a stash of papers, and you examine their contents. You see nothing but legal jargon and realize that five of those papers are identical in every word. The sense of emptiness overwhelms you and you decide to go outside. On your way down, you notice rooms that are like yours, with someone sitting at a desk, writing the contents of one paper on another. You finally make it outside and have difficulty distinguishing one building from another and as far as you can see, the rows of the same structure depart for several blocks. You listen to a conversation and it is similar to a conversation you heard yesterday and the day before.

Prefer Not To

The sense of emptiness in Herman Melville’s Bartleby is frighteningly apparent in every description of the office and work duty involved. The reaction and decline of Bartleby appears more natural, as the setting of a fast paced, economically booming Wall Street makes itself perceptible. This work is an allegory for corporate discontent. Bartleby is a sensitive, timid soul who only shows firmness in his utter abandonment of any sort of occupation. It is pleasantly convenient that the narrator is also a meek man who tends to avoid conflict and rather adjusts to his environment and the people within it. This capability allows him to survive the travails of a soulless working establishment, where everyone is expendable and sympathy lasts a short time. Bartleby drowns his apprehensions in diligent and precise work, until that can no longer emotionally uphold him. His “preference not to” do little tasks or errands, nor later on to change professions, signifies his lack of enthusiasm and excitement for any task in an empty environment and life. The descriptions of Bartleby become linked to that of a phantom or a ghost, further delineating him as an outsider, or someone not of this world.

Bartleby’s inability to cope and adapt to this life doesn’t, at a second glance, seem overly unnatural. Rather, the state of Turkey and Nippers comes into question, as their strange parallelism comes into view. Their temper switches back and forth between them as morning turns into afternoon. Their temperaments and eccentricities are unsympathetic and repellent. Their behavior seems to be a result of their coping with their environment and seems in that sense as a bigger negative than the outcome of Bartleby’s conflicted and tragic personal battle.

It is unfortunate that poor Bartleby’s setting transforms from a closed office to an actual jail. This sad shift illustrates that corporate and professional captivity does not differ much from actual captivity and contains the same sort of hopeless emptiness as an empty room you are not allowed to leave.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Analyzing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73

Shakespeare

SONNET 73

That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Analysis

The speaker addresses his listener and suggests that he, the speaker, resembles a certain time of year, when elements of nature wither, dry up, and decay (the time of year indicated is autumn or the fall). He compares himself to a sunset taken away by the night, indicating the process of aging. He expands on this theme through mentioning the ashes of youth and their expiration on a deathbed. He exclaims that the listener perceives these processes and it makes his/her love stronger towards that which he/she must leave or lose shortly. The departure strictly indicates youth itself.

The personification of a yearly season in the speaker is a dramatic and powerful image. His elegant description of fall nicely corresponds with the travails of age, and the correlation is attractive and grand. Shakespeare goes on to personify the onset of the night as that which takes the daylight or in this matter youth away. This is easily recognizable by the reader as it recalls the eternal cycle. In life, we are born, reach our childhood, adolescence, and youth. We then reach our middle years, senior years and begin to near extinction, a state that will resemble the time shortly after birth. Similarly, the early morning disperses night, becomes the afternoon, and dawns into the beginning state of a dark night.

Shakespeare’s stylish symbolism is very apparent in the lines describing the speaker lying on the ashes of his youth, as if ravaged by fire, which in this sense parallels the process of life. This is a beautiful concept and is elaborated with the lines describing the nourishment of life, or in association, the fuel which fire provides as the same cause, which will eventually drain and lead to a steady demise.

Shakespeare mentions the word death only twice in this sonnet, and both times it refers to the death of youth rather than the death of the person. At first reading, this can be somewhat misread as our associations might place the somber tone, and grave words as an indication of someone sick uttering their last words. At a closer reading, it becomes clear that the speaker understands the listener’s awareness of his state and knows that the listener has a stronger love for his own youth and treasures it even more knowing it will one day disappear as in the case of the speaker.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail