Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The play Streetcar Named Desire portrays sexism and the disparity, prejudice, and stereotypes of men and women in an era where the chaos of Second World War and its offshoot in the economy largely affected the moral sensibilities and judgment of the people living at that time. As a result, struggles on norms and values afflicted the characters as the main protagonist lost sense of balance and reality and instead adapted extremities in interpreting truthfulness, deceit and delusion to cope with the skirmishes hounding her need to survive. Other characters, including her own sister, stuck sternly to their expected roles which left the main protagonist dejected, maladjusted, and worst, crazy in an asylum.
Like any work of fiction, playwright Tennessee Williams took inspiration from real personal circumstances in breathing life to the characters in the play. He was successful in delineating the gender roles of men and women. As portrayed by Stanley Kowalski, men are strong, flex muscles at work, earn the bread for the family, drink liquor and play poker with friends, and regard themselves as superior beings in the house. Men in the play, like Stanley and his friend Mitch Michell highly discriminate female sexuality. They believe that only pure, virgin and chaste women should be given marriage proposals while ‘experienced’ or those with shadowy past should be treated harshly like a prostitute.
On the other hand, women ought to be submissive, meek and silent in front of their husband. This was portrayed by Stella Kowalski, wife of Stanley and Eunice Hubell, wife of the building owner where the Kowalskis live. They should ever be willing to serve their husbands in any way, including their lustful needs and demonstrate their happiness for it. Their actions must show that they exist solely for their men. They should also be modest and chaste in the house and feel inferior to their male counterpart. They ought to expect physical and verbal lashings when they show resistance and disrespect.
Similarly, the play effectively presented the contrast of genders in terms of occupation, behavior and attitude. Common men or men of low degree like Stanley Kowalski and Mitch Michell should hold blue collar jobs while those who belong to the upper class should be doctors. They should be brusque and violent and cuss occasionally or speak foul language to show their manhood. They can be blunt and severe in deciding against an issue because they don’t beat around the bush. It is fine if they are untidy and smell of perspiration because these are signs of being manual laborers. They are also expected to be promiscuous by visiting brothels and other sleazy places.
On the other hand, women are housewives or housekeepers like Stella Kowalski and Eunice Hubell, and nurses or teachers like Blanche Dubois. They should be cultured, refined, yet simple and modest. They should bear children, stand for their man and believe on their side of the story when confronted with a controversial situation. They should cry in silence or go to a confidante to ventilate their sobbing. When inside the house, they must oblige themselves to step out of the house so that they husbands can enjoy time with friends at home. They listen to radio for enjoyment and dance to the music for self-entertainment.
What makes this play realistic and lively is the character of Blanche Dubois, sister of Stella Kowalski. She is the ambiguous persona in the play, the lady main protagonist who did not observe stereotypes of the gender roles to the letter. She was the experimental character who moderated the extremes of gender roles or broke the gender politics prevalent at that time.
Through Blanche Dubois, whose character was referred to as fading Southern Belle, playwright Williams took fancy of the so-called ‘Old South’ and its lost glory. Born and raised from aristocracy and sustained by passive money coming from the family’s cotton plantation, she regarded herself as upper class, elite and educated. But due to twists of fate, the old money gradually went down the drain as it expended the living and death expenses of up to the last older member of the clan. She was left penniless, good thing she acquired education and worked as English teacher. Subsequent misfortunes, such as the suicide of her young husband who turned out to be homosexual, worsened her emptiness to nymphomania. This split personality of being prude, stemming from her family culture and educational background to being promiscuous and prurient became apparent when she finally had to migrate to New Orleans to live with her sister. What followed was harsh interplay of strict gender politics and stereotypes which Blanche Dubois opposed against the rest of the characters.
The 1940s, characterized by post-World War II consequences, meant regrouping and picking up the pieces not just of tangible things for further use but of lives as well, to be salvaged and reconstructed. Collectively, it was the era of shallow machismo where men teased women sexually and treat them solely for their lustful consumption. They have bizarre, violent measures of putting a woman right into her ‘proper place’ either by physical assault or sexual molestations. Family men leave all the household chores to the wives but depend on them when they become jobless.
On the other hand, women empowerment gradually crept in against strict gender roles. They were filled in jobs normally dominated by men. They became the safety net of the American economy as they performed dual roles -- keeping the house while earning money at the same time. Because they had shown their aptitude to be equal with men in terms of becoming a force, they faced maltreatment from the men.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011
“In Westminster Abbey” is another dramatic monologue. It is a poem by John Betjeman. The setting for this poem is the beginning of World War II in Britain. The only character in this poem is a woman who enters the Abbey to pray for a short moment before she goes to a lunch date. The woman was not named but she appears to represent the people who belong to the upper class and lived in the classy Chelsea neighborhood of Cadogan Square.
The first character trait of this woman that was revealed is that she is a racist woman. This is apparent in this line, “Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans.” The setting for this poem was in Great Britain during the start of the World War II, the time when Germany joined forces with Italy and Japan to wage against the Allied forces of the United States and Great Britain. At this time, Germany had started to launch its attack by dropping bombs against Great Britain. In order to afford protection, the main character entered the church and asked that she be spared and that the Germans should be bombed instead. She asked the Lord to use His power to protect them and instead annihilate the Germans.
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The second character trait of this woman that was revealed is that she is a hypocrite woman. Her hypocrisy is evident in the following lines, “I will labour for Thy Kingdom, Help our lads to win the war.” In these lines, the main character showed her hypocrisy by promising that she will obey the Church’s commandments and do something for the Church. She even stated at the start of the poem that she was willing to remover her glove commonly worn by women of her social stature and to clean the Abbey. However, she expected that she will get something in exchange for her promise to work for the Church. She hopes that Britain will win the war against the Germans. She also hopes that the Lord will bomb the Germans but let her survive the war. She also hoped that at the end of the war, the Lord will spare her of the damage and that her business investment will not be affected. This evident in the following lines, “So, Lord, reserve for me a crown. And do not let my shares go down.”
The third character trait of this woman that was revealed was that she is a selfish and self-centered woman who only cared about herself during the time of war. She went to church not to pray for the people in Britain who have been attacked by the Germans. In fact, she went to church only to ask that her prayers be granted which is for her to be able to survive the war and for her business investment not to be affected when the war is over. I think the poem sought to show that at this time in history there were many women saw the church as a place where they could benefit from. God was seen as someone who can grant their wishes like a genie in a lamp. For them, God was someone who existed for their benefit whom they can command as their servant.
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A dramatic monologue refers to a kind of poem in which a single fictional or historical character other than the poet is made to speak to a silent audience. In dramatic monologues only the main character is allowed to speak. The objective of the monologue is to reveal not the poet’s own thoughts but the mind of the lead character of the poem. (Christopher Baldick 1) In the process, the poet reveals to the audience the main character’s personality. Moreover, in a dramatic monologue the main focus is the personal information not the topic which the speaker happens to be talking about.
My Last Duchess
The two poems to be discussed in this essay are typical examples of a dramatic monologue. The setting of “My Last Duchess”, a poem by Robert Browning, is the palace of Duke of Ferrara during the 16th Century. Ferrara is in the northern Italy. The Duke of Ferrara in “My Last Duchess” resembles a historical character who was Alfonso II, the fifth and last duke. Meanwhile the deceased duchess in his poem refers to Lucrezia de Medici, the daughter of a Duke of Florence and Grand Duke of Tuscany.
As is common in many other dramatic monologues, “My Last Duchess” offers a glimpse of the personality of the Duke of Ferrara. The first line alone reveals that he is an art lover. In the first three lines, “That's my last duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder.” The portrait of the late Duchess of Ferrara is a fresco, which is a type of work painted in watercolors directly on a plaster wall. His statement about calling that piece a wonder emphasizes that he has in his possession many other paintings. It gives the impression that the painting of the Duchess is the one painting that is more valuable than the other.
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The second character trait of the Duke of Ferrara as shown in this poem is that he is a jealous husband. The following lines are relevant, to wit: “She had A heart - how shall I say? - too soon made glad, Too easily impressed: she liked whate'er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.” (lines 21 to 30) In this line, the Duke of Ferrara shows that he is a jealous husband who demanded no less than the complete attention of his wife. He gets annoyed with his wife every time he sees her pleased with things other than him. He did not want her to be happy with other things but only with him. The Duke wanted his wife to make him happy. He wanted his wife to focus her complete attention on him every time they are together. He hated it when his wife is distracted by other things when they are together.
The Duke of Ferrara’s jealousy was even highlighted when he intimated that the Duchess had an affair with other men. The following lines are relevant, “Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile?” By this the Duke of Ferrara implied that the Duchess smiled at men. He meant that the Duchess flirted with other man. He even suggested here that the Duchess did more than flirt with some man. He did not however elaborate how he came to know of this fact or whether he has proof of his allegation.
The third character trait of the Duke of Ferrara as shown in this poem is that he is an autocratic and cruel ruler. The following lines are relevant, “This grew; I gave commands; I gave Then all smiles stopped together.” In this line, the Duke of Ferrara nonchalantly reveals that he may have been responsible for the death of the Duchess. He stated without any hint of remorse or pity that when the flirtation did not stop, the Duke of Ferrara did something to her so that the flirtation will stop. This reveals the cruel side of the Duke of Ferrara that he can cause the immediate execution of any person in his kingdom without showing any kind of emotion. He has the power to give the orders and his orders will be obeyed.
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Sunday, September 18, 2011
Caveat Emptor is a common-law maxim that serves as a warning to the buyer of any property, real or personal, that he assumes the risk that the product he is buying might be either defective or unsuitable to his needs. Simply put, it imposes obligation upon the buyer of a property to examine and check for themselves the things that they intend to purchase. In case they comply with this obligation, they cannot later on hold the vendor responsible for the defective or broken condition of the thing bought.
It must however be stressed that the doctrine of caveat emptor is not designed to encourage the vendors to engage in fraud or bad faith in dealing with buyers. It only seeks to stress that the buyer has the obligation to examine, judge and double-check the product before it is purchased. In essence, it serves as a guide for the courts to determine whether the vendor or the purchaser should be held responsible for the damaged or defective goods (“From Caveat Emptor to Caveat Venditor - a Brief History of English Sale of Goods Law”, 2002, p.1).
For instance in the sale of motor vehicle, it is presumed that before the buyer has delivered the purchase price to the vendor, the buyer has examined the motor vehicle and that he is satisfied of its present condition. It is also presumed that the buyer is purchasing the property at the same condition it was bought. The buyer cannot be heard to complain later on and ask for the recovery of the purchase price in case he subsequently finds out that the motor vehicle’s brakes are defective.
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In the sale of land, it is also presumed that the buyer buys the real property at its present state and condition. In the absence of an express provision in the contract or fraud the buyer is deemed to have purchased the land together with its defects. Defects involving land may either be patent, or those that that are obvious, or latent, those that are hidden from view. The doctrine of Caveat Emptor applies only to patent defects. This means that the buyer of a real property is under obligation for his own protection to examine the real property for any obvious defects. Such is the duty of the buyer since the vendor is under no obligation, in the absence of an express provision in the agreement or fraud, to communicate to the buyer any patent defects relative to the acquisition of the land.
For instance, the buyer has purchased a house and lot. After full payment of the purchase price, the purchaser cannot be heard to complain and seek to recover damages from the vendor on the ground that the house is made of weak materials or the roof is defective or the tiles composing the floor of the house is damaged since it is presumed that the buyer has examined the property he is buying. It is presumed that he has checked the house and lot for any obvious defects.
While the rationale behind the doctrine of caveat emptor is clear, there are some flaws in this principle that may prejudice the buyer of real property. One major flaw is that most of the time defects in the property one is buying are not always easily identifiable. Oftentimes, a basic inspection of the real property will not always be enough for the buyer to immediately discover its flaws. Most of the time defects in the property one is buying only manifest themselves after the contract has been concluded and after the purchase price has been fully paid. For instance, the defects in the roofing of the house may only become manifest during the rainy season when the excess waters starts to pour inside the house. In the same manner, the defects in the foundation of the house may not actually become obvious until the time that the purchaser has actually transferred to the house. It is possible therefore than a cunning vendor may hide any obvious defects so as to convince the buyer that the property he is buying is free from defects.
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The Ballad of the Sad Café, by Carson McCullers, is a story about a lonely and isolated town that is once the location of a thriving café. Nothing was happening in the town until the time when the dreary town became a witness to the love triangle among the three main characters of the story. Marvin Macy the handsome man who had a history of nefarious and sadistic activities married Miss Amelia Evans who was a wealthy and lonely woman. The two lived together only for ten (10) days before they separated because she refuses to consummate the marriage. When Lymon arrived, he and Macy lived together until the former was charmed by Macy.
There are other writers who say that “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe” represents the unconscious self of Carson McCullers. Just like the story of Amelia Evans and Marvin Macy, she and her husband both have extramarital affairs during their marriage. In addition, one of the couples also had a homosexual affair. Thus, for these writers, “The Ballad of the Sad Café” is Carson McCullers’ means of expressing her grief over her tumultuous married life.
The story takes place in an old abandoned city in a small and lifeless town. However, this town was not always so empty and dreary. Ms Amelia Evans suddenly had an idea of opening a café. For a while the town was alive. The people were also happy. For a while also Miss Amelia Evans was in love with the arrival of Lymon.
However, when calamity struck she was forced her to close down her café, the entire town became boring and lifeless once more. The only lively atmosphere in town was now desolate and boarded up. Miss Amelia Evans, the owner, now spends her time barricaded in the café, staring down at the empty city every once in a while with her scary crossed-eyes.
Because of her misfortunes, Miss Amelia made the decision to close her café and along with that went the last ounce of excitement in the abandoned district. The narrator has a very depressed tone of expression when describing the surroundings. It seems as though all hope has been lost. The loneliness of the town symbolizes the loneliness of the main characters in the story. Miss Amelia Evans was loved by Marvin Macy yet she never loved him back. Miss Amelia Evans loved Lymon yet he never loved her back. Lymon loved Marvin Macy who also never loved him back.
The café symbolizes the life of Miss Amelia herself. “It is a face like the terrible dim faces known in dreams--sexless and white, with two gray crossed eyes which are turned inward so sharply that they seem to be exchanging with each other one long and secret gaze of grief.”(3-5) She is described as colorless, grey, and lifeless, identical to her surroundings. The narrator explains that the café which used to be lively and full of people had been reduced to an abandoned building. This resembles the life of Miss Amelia because she went from being a rich and successful business owner to a lonely discarded lady who lived a life of solitude.
In conclusion, The Ballad of the Sad Café depicts a miserable small town plagued by absence of love, abandonment, depression, and dullness. The exuberance of the town was extinguished by the closing of the town’s centerpiece, which was the café. By analyzing the work of Carson McCullers, one can notice the many literary devices used by the author to enrich the story and give the reader a better sense of understanding and perspective.
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Catch 22 is a rule invoked by the military as basis every time a soldier refuses to fly on the ground of insanity. The idea is that if a soldier claims insanity and asks to be grounded the request is immediately disapproved on the ground that the fact that he claims that he is insane makes him sane and is therefore eligible to fly. A truly insane man, on the other hand, disregards his own safety and would want to be assigned and would ask for more missions. The only way for an insane man to be grounded, however, is to ask for it. The funny thing is that when a person asks for it then he is considered sane. There is indeed no escape for this illogical military rule. Since a soldier has no escape from his assignment via Catch-22, it has been used to signify a no-win situation where one does not have control over the matter at hand.
Catch-22 is a novel by Joseph Heller which depicts the insanity of war and the difficulty every person encounters in view of the rules of the institutions. It stresses that individuals who seek to express their own individuality often find themselves at odds against the social rules and expectations which oftentimes are illogical and insane.
The setting of this story takes place during World War 2. Yossarian, the lead character who is a bombardier, exerts every effort throughout the story just to avoid flying. In one scene Yossarian fakes an illness just so he could be assigned in the ward of a hospital. While in the ward, he lands a job to censor the letters of the enlisted men ranked below him. As Yossarian becomes more and more uninterested in the “monotonous job,” the boredom begins to drive him to true insanity.(8-9) At first, he tries to pretend to be sick and insane to get out of army service, however now he is truly on the verge of lunacy. He begins creating games for himself where he increasingly alters the letters to a greater and greater extent until they do not contain anything comprehensible.
An analysis of the story will reveal that the censoring of the letters is a symbol of Yossarian’s need for freedom. Yossarian is confined in the hospital with no control over his own liberty while serving with the army. Altering the contents of the letters is the only form of expression he has: “When he had exhausted all possibilities in the letters, he began attacking the names and addresses on the envelopes, obliterating whole homes and streets, annihilating entire metropolises with careless flicks of his wrist as though he were God.”(8-9) Altering the letters gives him the sense of power and the false feeling of having authority.
When he modified the letters, Yossarian used the name of Washington Irving or Irving Washington in place of his own name. This also led the military to suspect that Irving Washington was the name of an insubordinate soldier. Washington Irving was a great American writer that lived from 1783-1859. This allusion made to Washington Irving was not done without any reason. Just like Yossarian, Irving once had a change of heart. During the war of 1812, Washington Irving very patriotically enrolled in the army but quickly lost his aspiration to serve but he withdrew after he had a change of heart. This is almost identical to Yossarian’s decision to withdraw from the war.
It is apparent that the author of Catch-22, Joseph Heller, had intended a deeper understanding to the context. By installing specific literary devices such as symbols, and allusions, he has allowed the reader to appreciate the text on a much greater level.
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Saturday, September 17, 2011
A. His Life
Robert Earl Hayden was recognized as the poet laureate of Senegal in 1966 and as America’s first black poet laureate in 1976.
Robert Earl Hayden was not the name that appeared in his birth certificate. His first name was Asa Bundy Sheffey and he was born on August 4, 1913. He was born in Paradise Valley in Detroit Michigan. His biological parents were Ruth Sheffey and Asa Sheffey who were separated before he was born. When he was only eighteen (18) months old, his mother gave him to William Hayden and Sue Ellen Hayden who lived next door. They were the ones who rechristened him to become Robert Earl Hayden but the Haydens never legally adopted him. (Pontheolla Williams 3) The Haydens never denied the Sheffeys to and visit their child in their home. In fact, the Haydens often took Robert to his biological mother’s home to pay her a visit.
Hayden had a good relationship with his biological mother. When he was a young boy, Ruth Sheffey often took him to theatres in Buffalo. They also enjoyed the board rides, theaters and the gifts and the time he spent with his biological mother. These experiences will later on shape his view about his world and give him a less ethnically centered view of art than that of the other artists.
Robert’s biological father also paid him a visit often. Asa Sheffey also took him shopping and gave him gifts. However, Robert noticed that when his father was drunk, he would often disparage his mother in front of him. (Pontheolla Williams 4) Because of his remarks, he developed feelings of resentment towards his father.
Robert Earl Hayden was a near-sighted from birth. He considered this impairment as his handicap. Because of his handicap, he did not engage in sports activities like the other children his age. He would often refuse to interact with other children who called him “old four eyes.” In this young age, he found solace in reading, day dreaming and drawing.
His neighborhood, Paradise Valley, was described as a racially mixed but predominantly black neighborhood. Hayden once described his neighborhood as “the most notorious part of town.” (Pontheolla T. Williams 6) Racial bias and prejudice was common in this neighborhood with issues such as segregation often being discussed. It was in this environment that is full of color prejudice that Robert Earl Hayden realized as a young boy born from black parents that he was vulnerable.
He recalled the days when his adoptive mother refused to let him play with his white friends. She admonished him not to run around with his friends who are white and reminded him that he was “coloured.” When he reached puberty, the whites warned him saying “You’re coloured I don’t want you playing with my girls.” (Pontheolla T. Williams 8) Hayden, however, emphasized that racial bigotry was not universal. He recalled the times when Jews and Italians extended credit to his family and the fun times he had with his white friends when they play together. The knowledge that not everybody was conscious about the color of their skin or the color of the skin of other people will soon play an important role in his life as a poet.
The Afro-American church served as one of the most crucial influences in Hayden’s life. Hayden once said that the church was the center of his family life. Hayden also said that he had experienced a genuine, even near-mystical conversion, and became a member while he still a child. His activities with the church such as acting, writing and speaking all helped him in his development and would later be part of his poems such as the “Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday.”
The Afro-American church served as one of the most crucial influences in Hayden’s life. Hayden once said that the church was the center of his family life. Hayden also said that he had experienced a genuine, even near-mystical conversion, and became a member while he still a child. His activities with the church such as acting, writing and speaking all helped him in his development and would later be part of his poems such as the “Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday.”
In 1930, he graduated from the Northern High School in Detroit which he described as a “sight saving” school. It was in this year where he became familiar with modern poetry. He discovered both the mainstream American literary tradition and the Afro-American literary tradition through the Harlem Renaissance poets in the likes of Elinor Wylie, Alain Locke and Countee Cullen. Soon, he would follow Cullen who declined to call himself the Negro poet. In 1931, Hayden’s first poem “Africa” was published in the 1931 issue of Chicago’s Abbott’s Monthly. “Africa” reflects the extent of influence of Cullen in Hayden. The poem “Africa” gives praise to Africa which Hayden considered as a cradle of human race. The structure and style of the poem was patterned after Cullen’s “Heritage” which also discusses about Africa. Cullen also influenced Hayden who wanted to be labeled as a poet rather than a “Negro poet.” In his poem, Cullen refused to be restricted to racial themes which were common among coloured poets during his time.
It was also at this age that he attended the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts where he took violin lessons. He enjoyed the lessons and continued attending the school until his family could no longer pay for it. At the same time, he was forced to quit when his vision had become worse that he had to sit so close to the music which obstructed the view of his classmate. It was his love of music that would later cause him to be attracted to the woman that he would later marry. (Pontheolla T. Williams 8)
In 1932, Hayden entered the Detroit City College through scholarship from the State Rehabilitation Service. In 1936, Hayden secured a job as a researcher and writer for Detroit Writers Project Administration. Later, he was recognized at a Detroit United Auto Workers Union rally where he was called the People’s Poet.” (Christopher Buck 177)
In June 1940, Hayden married Erma Inez Morris who was a musician. Maia, their daughter, was born two years after. In 1942, Hayden started his full time graduate study at Michigan and completed his Master’s degree in 1944. He also started his working as a teaching assistant in Michigan from 1944 to 1946 and taught at Fisk University from 1946 to 1969.
Despite his skills, talents and the recognition that he has received as a poet, Robert Hayden, together with Countee Cullen, were often criticized by their colleagues for their lack of political involvement and for refusing to be called a Negro poet. In fact, while his poetry was being recognized in Senegal, Hayden was being criticized at his own hometown for refusing to be labeled as a Negro poet. Hayden, for his part, did not deny and insisted that he was an American poet. He refused to be called a Negro poet but “a poet who happens to be a Negro.” (Bryan Conniff 1) Many of these critics believed that coloured poets should write about the coloured men and women and their situation in life.
The criticisms are understandable because during this time, it had become the trend among many artists to write about the situation involving the whites and the coloured persons. Many poets discussed about the discrimination they had experienced and the difficulties of being a coloured poet. The poem was considered as a vehicle among these poets to raise the social awareness about the coloured people and to instill to them a sense of pride.
However, Robert Hayden believed that poets “are the keepers of a nation’s conscience, the partisans of freedom and justice, even when they eschew political involvement. By the very act of continuing to function as poets they are affirming what is human and eternal.” He stressed that poets should not be restricted to write about racial issues. Hayden believed that there are poets who want to write about racial injustice and there are poets who want to write a more personal kind of poetry. These poets, for him, should be left alone. He also wanted to correct the perception that coloured people only want to read about racial injustice. He admonished his critics that they should not downgrade the coloured people and that poetry regardless of its topic is to be enjoyed by everybody regardless of the color of their skin.
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Character Analysis of "The Lady with the Pet Dog"
Dmitri Gurov is a Moscow banker who is intrigued by the sudden appearance of a young woman walking alone along the sea front of Yalta. He is a married man with children. While it may appear that he lives an ordinarily life, he is a discontented married man. He despises his wife whom he thinks is unintelligent and inelegant. He develops a strong attraction to Anna Sergeyevna, a woman whom he sees one day walking alone with her dog. He eventually develops an affair with her. At first, he thought that she is just like another woman with whom he will have an affair. Little did he know that because of Anna he will find out more about himself.
Anna Sergeyevna is a young and naïve woman who is married to a government official. She describes her husband as flunkey. Just like Dmitri, she is unhappy with her married life. She becomes attracted to Dmitri and falls in love with him. At first she feels guilty for sleeping with him but she soon realizes that she is very much in love with him such that even after they parted ways at Yalta, they still decided to see each other at Moscow.
At first glance, “The Lady with the Pet Dog” may be considered as a story about moral corruption, infidelity, disloyalty, and sin since this is essentially a story about two married people having an affair. A deeper reading of the story will reveal that this is more than just about morality but about life.
It may seem that Anton Chekhov wanted the readers to despise Dmitri as he was depicted as a philandering man who did not love his family. It must be emphasized here that Dmitri was married to a woman who was not even named in the story. Perhaps, Anton Chekhov wanted to emphasize how unimportant Dmitri’s wife is to his life. She was however described as a “tall, erect women with dark eyebrows, staid and dignified, and, as she said of herself, intellectual.” Yet Dmitri considered her “unintelligent, narrow, and inelegant.” His scorn and despise for his wife was made evident as it was emphasized that Dmitri did not like to be at home with his family. It was also described that he had extra-marital affairs many times in his life. He was not only described as an irresponsible husband and father but he was also chauvinistic as he considered women as “the lower race.” This arrogant attitude towards women was highlighted in the first part of the story. Even if he had not even talked to Anna, he was already excited about the thoughts of him conquering the woman whom he thought was young and naïve, to wit:
but when the lady sat down at the next table three paces from him, he remembered these tales of easy conquests, of trips to the mountains, and the tempting thought of a swift, fleeting love affair, a romance with an unknown woman, whose name he did not know, suddenly took possession of him.
On the other hand, Anna was depicted as a young and naïve married woman. One may think that she was living a normal life yet she secretly despised her husband whom he described as “flunkey.” She revealed to Dmitri that she had been unhappy with her husband for a long time. She tells him that she had been deceiving him for a long time. She even considered her marriage as a mistake, to wit:
I was twenty when I was married to him. I have been tormented by curiosity; I wanted something better. 'There must be a different sort of life,' I said to myself. I wanted to live! To live, to live! . . . I was fired by curiosity . . . you don't understand it, but, I swear to God, I could not control myself; something happened to me: I could not be restrained. I told my husband I was ill, and came here. . .
Yet, the storyline radically shifted to a new direction towards the end of the story. What was previously thought of as a story of moral corruption and degeneration was in truth an accurate picture of the realities of life. Anton Chekhov wanted to tell the readers that the things that happened to Dmitri and Anna may very well happen to every one of us. People do fall in love even if they are already married. As married couples interact with other people there is always the possibility that they may be attracted to other people. The married couple need not be unhappy or discontented with their marriage to have an extra-marital affair. In fact, there need not be a reason to be involved in an affair. Even happy and contended couples may by accidental chance meet somebody else and develop passionate feelings for them.
What Anton Chekhov had shown in this story was that he was not a conventional moralist. He treated morality from a different perspective in this story. Though he did not say that engaging in adultery or promiscuity is good, he did emphasize that this is a reality of life that we must deal with. He was in fact a realist.
The underlying message of the story is that Dmitri was unhappy with his married life. Anna was likewise unhappy with her married life. By some stroke of chance, they met and found each other. Though it may be possible that they their attraction for each other in the beginning of their story was brought about by their unhappy marriage, they soon developed deep feelings for each other. In the end, the feelings they had for each other was more than mere passion or lust but even friendship. This was made evident towards the end of this story, to wit:
Anna Sergeyevna and he loved each other like people very close and akin, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate itself had meant them for one another, and they could not understand why he had a wife and she a husband; and it was as though they were a pair of birds of passage, caught and forced to live in different cages. They forgave each other for what they were ashamed of in their past, they forgave everything in the present, and felt that this love of theirs had changed them both.
His realistic attitude towards life and its endless possibilities were shown in this story. The characters were depicted in a very realistic manner. His characters were very real as they had their own strengths and weaknesses. Dmitri was a male chauvinist who did not love his wife. He was consumed with his desire for sex with random women. Anna was a young and innocent woman who was having second thoughts about her marriage. She went to Yalta hoping to take a break from her sad married life. They were both trapped in a loveless marriage. Towards the end of the story, Dmitri’s character was transformed from a carefree and unsympathetic character to a loving and caring man. He fell in love and deeply touched by the strong bond and connection he had with Anna. He chased her to her province. He became vulnerable by revealing to her his true feelings for her. This was something that Dmitri had not done with the other sexual escapades he had in the past with other women. He even acted stupidly in kissing Anna in public forgetting that her husband may be in the vicinity. Verily, all people who have experienced being in love may truly relate with the character of Dmitri. We will all go out of our way, make ourselves vulnerable and act stupid at times because of love. Truly, this is the power of love as realistically portrayed by Anton Chekhov.
While being realistic, Anton Chekhov was not judgmental. He simply wanted to tell the realities of life without convincing his readers that a character or an act is immoral. He just wanted to tell a story while at the same time refusing to judge the characters or attempt to offer suggestions on how to improve their situation. This was evident in this story, to wit:
And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be found, and then a new and splendid life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that they had still a long, long road before them, and that the most complicated and difficult part of it was only just beginning.
It was very typical of Anton Chekhov’s style to give an open-ended ending to a story. The ending was written with ambiguity leaving the readers to try to think for themselves what may eventually happen to the couple.
Though the future remained uncertain for Dmitri and Anna, they both willingly accepted their situation. Both of them were living two separate lives. One life is open, seen and known by their families and friends. The other life is known only to both of them. They were happy but they also know that they could not openly enjoy it for a long time. They also knew they may not have a happy ending but what mattered to them was they were enjoying each other’s company. Truly, these are the realities of life.
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“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us...We need the kind of books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” – Franz Kafka.
The statements quoted are very apt as “The Metamorphosis” is like an axe that shatters and destroys the hard and frozen sea that we all call life. In the tradition of the greatest Existentialist Philosophers, like Jean-Paul Sartre, Arthur Schopenhauer and Soren Kierkegaard, “The Metamorphosis” is a story that deals with the reality, or even the absurdity, of the human existence. For some of us, life is all about the monotony of work. Life is all about working so that there is enough money to buy food and so that the next day one has the strength to go to work once more. For some us, life is all about supporting our relatives who consider us important only insofar as we are able to help them with their needs. For existentialist philosophers this monotony in life is like an endless cycle. One in which is there is no escape except the realization that we are trapped in this cycle.
“The Metamorphosis” attempts to awaken us and make us realize the absurdity of human life. The absurdity is evident in the following themes of the story. The first is the economic effects on relationships with people. The reality is that people need to work. Oftentimes, a person does not only work for himself but for other persons as well. The worse part is when a person ceases to work for himself but only for other people, like his family. The question is does the people whom a person supports and provides for their needs see him as human being who also have his own needs. Is his contribution the family being recognized as an act of kindness or does the other members of the family see this as an act of duty to them?
Secondly, the absurdity is evident in the theme of family duty. Up to what extent is a person obligated to support his family? Should the needs of the family come first before the person’s personal needs? What is the extent of duty of the other members of the family towards the sole provider? What if the sole provider gets sick can he expect the same act of kindness he gave from his family?
Thirdly, the absurdity is evident in a person’s alienation. The society can be very unforgiving and oppressive to some people as people have to compete with each other in order to survive. Because of the immense competition for survival, oftentimes people get lost in the struggle. In the process they are alienated not only from their family, from their job, from their friends and even from themselves. One forgets to notice that he has changed, his family has changed, and his employers have changed.
The title of the story “The Metamorphosis” is actually a misnomer. A closer reading reveals that there is actually no metamorphosis that took place. Merriam-Webster defines metamorphosis as the “change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means; a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.” While there seems to be a change in the appearance of the story’s main character, it is evident that physical change is not the center of the story.
While reading the story, the reader will immediately conclude that the story does not dwell on how Gregor Samsa physically transformed to a giant bug. In fact, it is surprising that the main character was hardly interested about how he physically transformed instantaneously into bug and instead he immediately accepted his situation. If the physically transformation is not issue in this story, then the only conclusion is that it is something other than the physical transformation but a mental one.
Gregor Samsa did not actually turn into a bug but rather he was only awakened to the reality that he had been a bug for a long time. He reached a state of awakening or realization. Just like other insects which are purposely designed by nature to work for the survival of the entire colony, Gregor Samsa has been living a life of an insect as he himself had been working for the survival of his family. In the process he lost sight of his relationship with them. He has no friends. He hates his boss, his work and his colleagues. He has no life. He does not even have a pleasant relationship with his family. He could not even see the external world as he attempts to look at it through the window. He realizes that he had alienated himself from his society and from himself. The real transformation actually happened is in his mind as he was awakened to the reality that he has been a slave of his family.
The concept of power was also evident in the story. It is very ironic because before Gregor Samsa’s awakening, he is supposed to have a position of power and authority within his family. As the sole provider and earner for the family, he is obeyed by the members of his family. Money translates to power in the household of Gregor Samsa. He is the one who made the decision for the family. However, it is clear that the power being discussed here was only superficial as he is only seen by his own family as a person who delivers the fat paycheck for the family’s survival. Until his realization that he was a bug, he actually did not hold any power in the family.
Eastern philosophy deals with the concept of Samsara and Nirvana. For the Eastern philosophers we are trapped in a Samsara or the constant transmigration of souls where our souls transfer from one body to another as a form of punishment for our past sins. What a person does in his previous lifetime will determine the body or form that he will take on his next life. Thus, if a person lives a sinful life in the past, he can expect that he will have a lower body or form for his next life. If a person lives a sinful life then he may become an insect in this next life. The goal of the human life, therefore, is to do great things during his life so that the ultimate death will be attained and the transmigration will finally cease - Nirvana.
I think Gregor Samsa is trapped in the endless cycle of life before his metamorphosis or awakening. He has been living the life of everyone else which is very monotonous and routinary without even knowing the essence of his existence. The paradoxical part is that Gregor Samsa achieved Nirvana after he noticed his physical transformation. He achieved power after he changed into a bug. It may be true that he had difficulty even getting up on bed. It was also true that his metamorphosis was also followed by the loss of his job. It may be true that Gregor Samsa became a burden to his family after he lost his job. Though his family saw him as a mere pest after his transformation, it is my view that it is at this point where he achieved real power – Nirvana.
At this point, the family began to look for work. His father began to take care of the family. His mother, father and sister acquired their own jobs and began helping around the house. Communication around the household likewise improved – something which was lacking before his physical transformation. We could after all reach Nirvana.
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Stephen King is known for his works about psychological thrillers, paranormals, horrors and science fiction. Born in 1947 in Portland, Maine, he was the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. He was raised solely by his mother after his father left the family one day. Because his mother was left alone to provide for the needs of the family, she was always working day and night just to make ends meet. He briefly stayed in Stratford Connecticut which is where his father’s family lived. When he was eleven he returned to Durham, Maine together with his mother where he stayed most of his adulthood.
It is said that Stephen King’s fascination with horror stories started as a young child when he saw one of his mother’s books entitled “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Because of his interest he asked his mother to read the book to him. He was immediately attracted to the story that he asked his mother to read the story to him several times.
Stephen King studied at a grammar school in Durham and then transferred to Lisbon Falls High School. In high school, he showed his writing skills when he wrote weekly for the school newspaper. He became deeply involved in student politics oftentimes expressing his anti-war sentiment at school campus. He graduated with a degree in B.A. English at the University of Maine in 1970.
In 1967, Stephen King was able to sell his first short story to Startling Mystery Stories. He used his earnings to support Tabitha Spruce whom he married in January of 1971. He augmented his meager income from writing short stories by teaching high school English at Hampden Academy.
In total, Stephen King was able to publish more than one hundred short stories and eight novellas which are indications of his accomplishment. He is now recognized as the highest earning author in the world after he has published more than thirty novels and sold more than 150 million copies. (“The Body: Teacher’s Notes” 1) It is also reported that he earns $2 Million a month from the sales of his books and returns from films. Stephen King’s story is indeed a success story.
II. Themes of Works of Stephen King
One of the common themes in Stephen King’s books is fear and revenge. This is emphasized in the novel Carrie. The novel Carrie is a story about the 16-year old Carrietta or Carrie, the novel’s leading character. She was a lonely young girl who was an outcast at home and at school. She was hated not only by her classmates but even by her mother. The novel begins with a scene in the shower where Carrie is shown to have her first menstrual period. Her friends start to ridicule her because of the blood they saw. Carrie was afraid because it was the first time that blood came out from her. She did not know what to do as her mother did not explain her anything about menstruation. She was terrified and was afraid of the changes that were happening to her. Meanwhile, she discovers that she has telekinetic power. She tries to control her powers so that she will not hurt or harm anybody. However, she lost control during a school dance when her classmates threw a bucket of pig’s blood on her. Because of shame she left the dance only to come back later on after she realized that she would use her powers to exact revenge against the people who tormented her. She then used her powers to burn the school killing everyone inside.
Fear and the individual or the public’s reactions to fear are the themes in Salem’s Lot. At the start of the novel, Stephen King made a clear description about the town. It was a quiet little town that hides the deepest and darkest secrets of the townspeople. It hides child abuse and neglect, infidelity and betrayal, rumor mongering, school bullies and physical abuse. It was clear that the people within the town are described to be leading separate and independent lives from each other. They are isolated from each other’s problems. One day, however, some of the townspeople start to mysteriously disappear and die. Fearing for their own lives and safety, the townspeople start to break down the barriers that keep them apart from each other so that they could fight a common enemy.
Fear and the individual’s response to fear is also the central theme in the Shining. The only difference is that the main character succumbed to his fear by becoming insane and turning against his own family. In The Shining, the father Jack Torrance accepted work to oversee a mountain resort during the winter as it was close due to the snow. He moves to the Overlook Hotel together with his family hoping that he could start a new life and begin writing his play. However, the mysteries inside the house started to haunt him. He became insane and attempted to kills his family. Fortunately, his wife and child escaped from him.
For instance, The Shining is the story about a man who was initially good and responsible. He wanted to start a new life and focus on his writing which is one of the reasons why he accepted the job as a caretaker. However, his losing battle with alcoholism was taking its toll on him that he could no longer resist alcohol. When he gave in to alcohol he became insane. It became apparent that at the time Stephen King was writing The Shining he too was having his own battles with alcohol. It is one of the reasons why he did not appreciate the movie adaption of his novel since the director disregarded the issue of alcoholism which Stephen King wanted so dearly to be highlighted. It was an issue that was very personal to Stephen King which he wanted to be emphasized. (“FAQ for The Shining 1)
Fear is an element that contributes heavily to the theme. Stephen King first highlights the paranormal and the metaphysical in his works as basis for fear. In Carrie, Stephen King considered that the transition to womanhood was the source of fear. In The Shining, the hotel was the source of fear. In Salem’s Lot, the sudden disappearance of the townspeople was the source of the fear.
Eventually, he lets his characters determine their fate based on how they respond to their own fears. In the novel Carrie, the main character may have become a better individual. She may have used her powers for the benefit of humanity. Yet, she allowed her fears to take over her whole personality. She became evil when she allowed fear to take control.
Everybody can learn from the themes discussed by Stephen King in his novels. First, everybody has a fear of something. It could be fear of a person, an object or an event. While a person may hide his fears or run away from his fears for a while. It will continue to haunt him and to follow him forever. The only solution is to face these fears and deal with them so that one can start to lead a normal life. Running away from fear is not the solution. It is only by accepting these fears and embracing them that one can begin to live with these fears.
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