Western Literature in a World Context, Vol 2
Glossary of Literary Terms (click)
Peekaboo, hide and
seek--the area of human experience suggested by these common childhood
games will be the unifying idea of this course. The theme, however
childish you might think it, emerges as perhaps the essential concern
of human experience, especially as documented by literature, that quintessential
effort to capture the fleeting, the receding, the no longer present elements
in our lives. In Western Literature everything begins with something
like "the fall," the "loss" of paradise; love, poetry, art, identity--virtually
every human endeavor rehearses this seminal story. Our job is not
just to trace, but to activate the various permutations of this theme,
as we read a selection of works from the 18th to the late 20th century.
1. Assignment #1 (click)
2. Quizzes, In-Class Writings, and Successful Answers/Responses (click)
3. Sample Paper on Assignment #1 (click)
4. Notes about Your Papers on Assignment #1 (click)
5. Successful Papers on Assignment #1 (click)
6. Expectations on Re-writes (click)
7. Assignment for Group Work on Imagery Patterns in Faust (click)
8. Passages to Study for In-class Writing on Faust (click)
9. Romantic Art Links (click)
10. Assignment for Paper #2 (click)
11. Successful papers on Assignment #2 (click)
12. Assignment for Paper #3 (click)
13. Grade table (click)
14. Study Guide for Final Exam (click)
15. Final Exam (click)
|WEEK||DAY||READINGS||TOPICS AND ACTIVITIES|
|WK1||Jan 9||Introduction to Course||Survey on "Periods"|
|WK2||Jan 12||"The Enlightenment" (6-20)
Voltaire, Candide (20-41)
|Sense and Sensibility
Absurdity with a Purpose: Satire
|Jan 14||Candide (41-79)
|Travel Genre. Tending Gardens. Deism and Optimism|
|Jan 16||Pope, "The Rape of the Lock" (333-55) & from "An Essay on Man" (355)||Mock Heroic. Practical Reason|
|WK 3||Jan 19||NO CLASS--KING'S BIRTHDAY||R&R|
|Jan 21||Review (Review Exercise--click)||Enlightenment Themes. Lost thing?|
|Jan 23||Rousseau, Confessions (79-107)||Sensibility, Nature, Primitivism, Individual
In-class Paragraph (click)
|WK 4||Jan 26||Moliere, Tartuffe (complete)||The Unities and Tradition|
|Jan 28||Tartuffe (cont.)||Sense or Sensibility?|
|Jan 30||Swift, Gulliver's Travels (283-304)||Travel Genre. Naif Revisited/Misanthropy.|
|WK 5||Feb 2||Gulliver's Travels (305-33)
|Mr. Ed and Wilbur?? Rationalism. Utopianism|
|Feb 4||Franklin, Autobiography (357-78)||Individualism/Puritan Spiritual Autobiography|
|Feb 6||Paper #1 Due (click)||In-class editing|
|WK 6||Feb 9||Wollstonecraft, A Vindication ( 524-28); Jefferson, The Declaration (521-24); Review||Individual and Rights--and Reason. Discuss Papers (click). Review Englightenment Themes.|
|Feb 11||"The 19th Century" (536-47)||Romanticism--Did we see this coming?|
|Feb 13||Goethe, Faust (547-81)||Journey and the Divided Self|
|WK 7||Feb 16||NO CLASS--PRESIDENTS' DAY||R&R|
|Feb 18||Faust (581-651)||Sense (Male) and Sensibility (Female)|
|Feb 20||Faust (651-79)||Origins?|
|WK 8||Feb 23||Open||In-class Writing (click)|
|Feb 25||Review||Faust Themes; Imagery Patterns (click)|
|Feb 27||Open||Imagery Patterns, cont.|
|WK 9||Mar 1||Bronte, Wuthering Heights (679-766)||Sense (Restraint) and Sensibility (Passion)|
|Mar 3||Wuthering Heights (766-864)||The Gothic. Nature as Convention|
|Mar 5||Review||Bronte and Voltaire?|
|WK10||Mar 8||Blake, Songs (865-75) Images (click)||Convention vs. Nature|
|Mar 10||Preface to the Lyrical Ballads (click)||Nature as origin of meaning|
|Mar 12||Open||View Sense and Sensibility|
|WK11||Mar 22||Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey," etc.
(890-901) Turner's "Tintern Abbey"
(click) Also (link)
|Nature as consolation for loss|
|Mar 24||Coleridge, "Kubla," The Rime (902-22)||The fantastic and the imagination|
|Mar 26||Whitman, Song of Myself, 1000-16)||Individualism. The ordinary as remarkable|
|WK12||Mar 29||Review Paper #2 Due||In-class editing|
|Mar 31||Ibsen, A Doll's House (1054-1101)||Constraining Society|
|Apr 2||A Doll's House, cont.||Realism. What happened to P's Belinda?|
|WK13||Apr 5||Review||Characters' "stories"|
|Apr 7||Dostoevski, "The Grand Inquisitor," (1038-54) Matthew 4:1-11 (click)||The anti-hero. Religion?|
|Apr 9||Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyitch (1101-40)||Bourgeois Confinement. Religion!|
|WK14||Apr 12||"The Modern Age" (1352-64)
Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1364-1419)
|Modernism and Meaning(lessness)
Colonialism and Paternalism. Evil
|Apr 14||Heart of Darkness (cont.)||Point of View--Is that all there is?|
|Apr 16||Eliot, The Waste Land (1614-30)||Modern Journey|
|WK15||Apr 19||The Waste Land (cont.)||Modern Epic Hero|
|Apr 21||Kafka, The Metamorphosis (1582-1614)||Magic Realism|
|Apr 23||Rich, Poems (1869-76), Woolf (1573-82)||Feminism|
|WK16||Apr 26||Kundera, "The Hitchhiking Game" (1876-89)||Games, Identity, Power|
|Apr 28||Review||Discuss Final|
|Apr 29||Paper#3 Due (click)||Review|
|MAY8 (Sat)||Final Exam (1330, Sampson 217)||Open Note and Open Book Exam|
Notes on Goals, Policies, Grading, and Requirements
|a) To gain a useful understanding of some of the most important works of Western Literature|
|b) To develop your ability to read a variety of literary works with some critical awareness and pleasure|
|c) To become conversant with basic ways of distinguishing among genres and defining literary periods|
|d) To improve your ability to write clearly and convincingly about literature|
2. Instruction: Some short lectures, but mainly discussion shared among students and teacher.
|In class writings and quizzes||about 35% of final grade|
|Three short papers (about 3-4 pages; one on ruling theme of the course)*||about 45% of final grade|
|Final exam||about 20% of final grade|
4. Due Dates. Expect me to be capricious (totally arbitrary and unpredictable) in dealing with late papers. Papers are due during the class period, not anytime during the day.
Hours: MWF 3rd; T&TH: 8-11. I read my e-mail
frequently and I'll give you my home number, so you won't have any trouble
getting hold of me. My office phone is 36232.
1) If the re-write clearly improves on the original, the grade of the re-write replaces that of the original paper.
2) You will hand in the original with the re-write.
3) The re-write will have sharpened the paper's purpose and thesis. Go to this link (click) in order to see two examples of two clearly successful re-writes from HE217.
4) It will
have added to, reconfigured, or approached anew its development of the
thesis, which often
5) It will
have addressed the problem of dependence on "It is . . .," "There is,"
structures, on the "passive
6) And it will not have any of the following grammatical problems:
(a) sentence fragments (click)
Draft to Successful Final Paper"--2 Examples on Assignment #1
In both the Old Testament and The Odyssey there is a theme of sexuality, and both works seem to look disapprovingly on a so-called free love displayed by some of the characters. The scene that most clearly shows this admonition to control the amorous passions is Joseph in Potiphar’s house. This scene of success in this area is contrasted in the Odyssey with the scenes where the goddesses capture Odysseus and he lives as their sex slave. His lack of responsibility greatly hinders his journey home and almost brings ruin on his family. In these instances we are shown a condemnation of the indulgence of passion, but there is also proof that the marriage bed is a sacred thing as well by the love of Penelope and the entire Song of Solomon.
When Joseph is given free reign over Potiphar’s house, everything seems to work out in his favor as he gains more and more power in the everyday goings on. Potiphar even has no knowledge of what goes on in his house “save the bread which he did eat.” (Gen. 39:6). Joseph becomes the man of the house, quite literally. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s wife also sees his power. She is frustrated with the passive husband she has, one who willingly surrenders the reign of his household to this new capable servant. She is not satisfied by her current state of affairs, and a woman longs to be satisfied with a man. That is evident throughout the works. Penelope would not settle for any of the suitors unless they could measure up to her man, Odysseus. Job’s wife is frustrated that he keeps debasing himself instead of retaining some dignity. Rather than sit in the ashes and wail, she disgustedly tells him to “curse God and die.” (Job 2:9). So Potiphar’s wife longs to be satisfied by a real man. She chooses Joseph because her husband will not do.
Joseph refuses, however. He maintains that he cannot do such a thing in the sight of God, nor can he dishonor his master, Potiphar. Surely this woman, using all her schemes, must bring up the point of how much more a man Joseph is than her husband. Surely she plays to his male ego. Surely she appeals to his pride. It is precisely Joseph’s humility, however, that gets him to the top of the world. He learns a hard lesson in humility from his older brothers, all eleven of them, when he tries to tell them the simple truth about himself and how great he will become. Having even a shred of pride got him sold into slavery, and he learns his lesson like none of us should have to. After his younger, rasher days, however, in Potiphar’s house and afterward, he is humble. It is probably this reason that God pours so many blessings on him, because the God of the Old Testament likes to favor the underdog while humbling the proud. So when Potiphar’s wife appeals to Joseph’s pride she is not going to get far. She does not. He maintains his purity and his humility, and because of those two things God blesses Joseph immensely.
Odysseus, on the
other hand, does not control himself in this way. We meet him when
he is a sex slave on Kalypso’s island, and it is only an act of the gods
that frees him from her. Kalypso was missing what every woman wants
as well, alone on her island, until Odysseus comes along. The fact
that he cannot resist her (of course, she is a goddess, which must make
resisting her harder than simply an empty house, as in Joseph’s case) costs
him years of his life, which keeps him from his home, his wife, and his
son, and which also allows the suitors to almost destroy his house.
Kirke, when finding that Odysseus did not succumb to her drink, fell to
her knees in abject obedience. She felt his power when he drew his
sword on her, an action that could easily be taken sexually, and immediately
begs to be his lover. Once again she needs to be satisfied by a real
man, one who is not subject to her witch-powers, and she only finds him
in Odysseus. Had Joseph been there, he might have resisted and went
on once his men were free from the spell, but there is no such luck.
The men must stay on Kirke’s island for the entire year that Odysseus gives
in to the temptation, and while it is not a gulag they suffer through,
they still long for home. It takes a lot of convincing to finally
get Odysseus to leave, and the reason for his reluctance to leave is the
pleasures he was having in the bed of the witch.
All of this is not to say that sexuality is condemned. The Song of Solomon is a beautiful celebration of the love shared between a lover and his beloved, and rather racy in light of the sacred and religious nature of the rest of the Bible. We see how Adam “knew Eve his wife” (Gen 4:1), as well as other healthy unions that are sanctioned by God. Odysseus is eager to get back to his wife, because she is his wife. It could be argued that she is simply his primary possession or something like that, but the fact is that she is his wife, and their bed was important to him, if not sacred. When she mentions moving the bed, he becomes enflamed with rage. It is this way that she knows he is indeed her husband – the intimacy of the bed, their little secret (Odyssey, XXIII, 204-208). So in all these we see that the marriage bed is pure and celebrated in both of these works.
Both the Old Testament and the Odyssey present some suggestions and guidelines about sex and the indulgence thereof. Both celebrate it as a gift of God or the gods, while both show the virtues of controlling the passions and maintaining the sanctity of the marriage bed. Joseph shows restraint and is eventually blessed with half the kingdom of Egypt. Odysseus indulges and endures many hardships, not the least of which was separation from his wife, and was kept from “crossing into age together” with her (XXIII, 215). I think the lesson is pretty clear.
Sexual Imagery as
a Clue to Odysseus
The Odyssey thrusts two main sexual images at us over the course of Odysseus’s journey from Kalypso’s island to Ithaca. The first is that of the cave, which can represent the female genitalia, and the second is the bed, which is built on a tree trunk, or male genitalia. The struggle throughout is which one will gain mastery over the other, and which is most favorable. The predominant phallic imagery of masculinity and man’s strength is found in a rigid pole or sword, such as the spear Telemakhus takes with him when he firsts stands up to the suitors or the masts of Odysseus’s ships. This theme can give us some insight into the development of the main character in The Odyssey.
The tale of Odysseus begins with a description of the cave he is held captive in, which is Kalypso’s home. There is some strong sexual imagery used to create a mental picture of this “smoothwalled” (V, 74) cave, which serves to steer the audience’s minds toward that most secret and sought after part of the female form. “A deep wood grew outside, with summer leaves/of alder and black poplar, pungent cypress” (69-70). The listeners at the time must have shaken their heads at this and thought “’pungent’ indeed.” There is also a vine running around the cave (perhaps a vein?), and it bears “purple clusters” (75) of sweet grapes, which allude to wine and lovemaking. Further allusions to lovemaking here are the description of the birds that live in the forest as “long-tongued,” (72) while resting on their “stretched wings,” (71) or wings spread wide apart. These images all serve to prove that “Even a god who found this place/would gaze, and feel his heart beat with delight” (79-80). Odysseus, shipwrecked and dying on the sea, could not have felt differently. Indeed, when we meet him shortly after this description, he is weeping for home, desperate to leave now that “the nymph had ceased to please” (161). The fact that she had “ceased to please” implies that she had pleased him at one point, as could be predicted when one sleeps with a goddess.
The time for frivolity is over, however. Kalypso has sung, “that he should not… grow old” (142), but Odysseus pines for a time when he can once again be a man. He is kept in childhood here on the island, for between a woman’s legs lies not only sexual pleasure but childbirth and motherhood. Kalypso has effectively squelched Odysseus’s manhood and made him her child, whom she has complete control over. “Though he fought shy of her and her desire/he lay with her each night, for she compelled him” (162-3). “She turned and led him to her cave” (203). These two passages show how Odysseus has no control and leadership in the situation that he is in, and he has lived in these conditions for seven long years. The man inside of Odysseus chafes at that, and so we first see him weeping, staring off into the distance towards his home, where his tree-trunk bed resides.
Further imagery suggesting infancy comes from Telemakhus, at the moment he stands up to the suitors. It is here where he “drew on his tunic and his mantle/slung on a sword belt and a new-edged sword” (II, 3-4). This is the first mention of Telemakhus clothing himself, and we also see him grasping a new sword in the moment of his coming of age. He has been kept down by the suitors, just as Odysseus has been kept down by the goddess. Similarly, we do not see Odysseus dress himself before the day Kalypso lets him go from her cave (V, 238), and the image of the sword will reappear in the episode on Kirke’s island. Obviously infants are naked and unarmed, lacking the true strength of manhood, whereas grown men are expected to possess both.
When Kalypso allows Odysseus to leave, the gift she gives to him, besides the stores of food for his journey, is the gift of tall trees to make his raft from. After years of living in a cave, or a representation of the female genitalia and even of the womb, his salvation comes in the form of rigid wooden poles, easily seen as the male counterpart to the cave. This reunion of Odysseus to his manhood is the beginning of his long journey back to the ultimate symbol of his sexuality, the bed he shares with Penelope.
Odysseus soon trades his flimsy raft for ships with masts, a much firmer and upright symbol of manhood. Two episodes over the course of his journey that show his adherence to his newly found manhood are Kirke’s island and the scene with the sirens. Although these are both scenes normally called upon to show his distractedness, I think they both aptly display the ways he has grown since his enslavement on Kalypso’s island. First, he overcomes Kirke with his sword, and does not neglect to bring his spear along when first scouting out the island (X, 351, 154). His manhood subdues her, though he is distracted from his quest once he becomes her lover. In the episode with the sirens, his foresight allows him to survive the distraction he willingly undergoes. The act of this foresight is for him to be lashed to the mast of his ship, so that even when he longs to run from his manhood and sit at the feet of those singing goddesses (XII, 197-240), he cannot. Here again the rigid mast is a symbol of his masculine strength, and he is distracted from the main course home to his great bed, but does not completely lose his manhood the way he did on Kalypso’s island.
He comes home. He defeats the suitors. He is once again in charge of his household, a man victorious. Or is he? Penelope will not believe it is him until she tests the true source of his manhood. Sure, he can shoot his arrow through a couple of arrowheads (and he has been doing that with all kinds of promiscuity on his way home), but she only knows it is indeed her man when she asks him about their bed. “Who dared move my bed?” (XXIII, 187), he roars. “An old trunk of olive/grew like a pillar on the building plot/and I laid out our bedroom round that tree” (193-5), he continues, redefining not only to Penelope but also to himself the true, ancient source of his manhood rooted deep in antiquity. It is the bed that reveals all, that reasserts his manhood to the people who most need him to be a man, and it is the bed that no one can duplicate for him. “Could someone else’s hand/have sawn that trunk and dragged the frame away?” (205-6). Even the best efforts of two goddesses could not budge the true source of Odysseus’s manhood, and here at the end of his journey all is restored to him.
So we can see Odysseus’s character developed through the sexual images
given to us by the poet. He moves on a massive quest from the vagina
of Kalypso, even undergoing some kind of experience of being “born again.”
Along the way other goddesses seek to distract him, and while he succumbs
to the temptations he is not completely stripped of his manhood, and remains
in control of his sword or lashed to his mast. When he finally does
get home, it is only his bed that undeniably asserts his manhood, because
it is build around the enormous and deep-rooted trunk of a tree.
It is only after we learn of this sexual detail that we see Odysseus as
the man he always tried to be. He is not the man of the house until
he is reunited with the tree trunk and his great bed – the source of his
Homer in The Odyssey deals heavily with the concept of loyalty and its importance to many aspects of the ancient Greek civilization. Many different forms of loyalty pepper this work, but highlighting just a few specific examples allows for a deep understanding of why and how this concept has such a prominent place in the story. The most prominent form of loyalty exhibited is of course the devotion Penélopê and Telémakhos show toward their absent lord. In fact, the entire household’s varying degrees of loyalty to the wandering master have enormous implications in the justice- and vengeance-ridden conclusion of the epic poem, as Odysseus deals out death to those who fail him during his long voyage. Issues of loyalty pervade Homer’s epic to the degree that their importance is inarguably great. Instances or absences of both domestic and martial devotedness within the story play extremely important roles in shaping its thematic character, for Homer uses the arching theme of many forms loyalty or the lack thereof to build numerous other themes in his great poem.
One important theme of The Odyssey that relies heavily on the concept of loyalty involves the role the home plays in Odysseus’ long journey. His obvious commitment to his home is undoubtedly reciprocated in Penélopê’s devotion to him. Her allegiance is important because it complements Odysseus’ burning desire to return through horrible trials to the one place constantly on his mind: his home. Had she failed to uphold this allegiance, Odysseus would have returned to an unwelcoming manor, not the comforting home he has sought for so long. Penélopê characterizes herself as the ideal Greek wife upholding this home through her powerful expression of fidelity and love for her husband: “If [Odysseus] returned, if he were here to care for me, / I might be happily renowned! / But grief instead heaven sent me—years of pain” (446). After twenty years of separation, Penélopê maintains the kind of loyalty to Odysseus that complements his passionate yearning for her. She, as the wife and mother, is the primary embodiment of the Greek home, and her virtue and devotion sanctify her home as Odysseus tries so desperately to regain it. Homer’s prevalent theme concerning the importance of the home could not have been constructed so well without using Penélopê’s devotion to sanctify Odysseus’ manor.
Another theme which Homer develops by way of his concept of loyalty is the relationship between Odysseus and his son, Telémakhos. Their relationship is unique because they essentially meet for the first time when Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca. Telémakhos’ loyalty in a large part springs from his desire to prove his manliness and strength to a father who has been absent so long. He knows that to do so, he must take an active role in Odysseus’ last challenge to forcibly remove the suitors from the home. Because the situation at hand demands fast action and leaves little time for affection and conversation, Odysseus and Telémakhos get their first impressions of each other through planning and executing a battle. Martial skill is the primary criterion through which Telémakhos can prove his loyalty and Odysseus can assess his son’s worth. Thus, both Telémakhos’ expressions of devotion and Odysseus’ remarks of approval are war-oriented. As the three generations of Ithacan nobles fight side by side against the vengeful townspeople, Odysseus makes clear his expectations of his son: “I count on you / to bring no shame upon your forefathers. / In fighting power we have excelled this lot / in every generation” (512). Telémakhos is prepared to fulfill his father’s hopes as he counters: “If you are curious, Father, watch and see / the stuff that’s in me. No more talk of shame” (513). Loyalty, as proven through battle-bred mutual confidence, characterizes much of the very important relationship between the long-separated father and son. Later, perhaps, they will develop a relationship through less violent means, but for now, skill in fighting is the main link that establishes their initial bond. The importance of prowess in arms is highlighted throughout the poem, and the way loyalties forge the bond between father and son is a reflection of the violent culture Homer describes.
Many of Odysseus’ servants express a kind of loyalty that is of consequence on both the domestic and martial levels. Homer repeatedly emphasizes their unwavering devotion to their master, even after the long years of his wandering. Eumaios epitomizes this devotion as he reminisces to the disguised Odysseus:
“Never again shall I
This is the kind of loyalty that contributes to the sanctity of the home awaiting Odysseus as he returns from war. It will also prove valuable as Odysseus confronts the suitors in armed conflict. Servants like Eumaios also reflect the kind of master/servant or superior/subordinate relationships that are scattered throughout the poem. Speaking respectfully of one’s superior—be it god or human—is one of the many repeated motifs in the story and an important window into the culture the story describes. Eumaios, both by the speech itself and by consistently demonstrating the validity of it, earns the trust and confidence of his master. Loyal words alone cannot win Odysseus’ trust—his followers must stand by their claims of fealty with valiant acts of devotedness.
The importance of this trust that Odysseus shares with his devoted son and servants is nowhere more emphasized than during his battle to reclaim his household. The same trust that sanctifies his home also gains him strong allies in his final battles. In placing both Telémakhos and Eumaios in great positions of responsibility during the fight, Odysseus demonstrates his unquestioning faith in their capabilities. Through this delegation of authority, they achieve mutual loyalty through verbal expression reinforced by faithful actions. The military success they achieve through their devotedness to one another serves as a foil to the complete lack of faith the suitors have demonstrated and the failure it brings them. Homer uses their unquestionable disloyalty to Odysseus to construct another of his important themes: vengeance and justice at the hands of the returning hero. The suitors’ treachery is referred to constantly throughout the narrative. The justification for killing them is built up as numerous characters express disapproval at their incredibly disrespectful behavior. Odysseus justly takes revenge on them for their disloyalty in “wantonly / raiding a great man’s flocks, dishonoring / his queen, because they thought he’d come no more” (511). Just as Telémakhos’ loyalty brings him a powerful ally in the battle, the suitors’ impudence and disrespect bring horrible death at the hands of the great Odysseus. A similar fate awaits the unfaithful maids, to whom Telémakhos proclaims: “I would not give the clean death of a beast / to trulls who made a mockery of my mother / and of me too—you sluts, who lay with suitors” (490). Their ignominious execution reflects the seriousness of their crimes of faithlessness to their master and his wife, and shows Telémakhos’ intolerance of those disloyal to his father. Homer uses their lack of loyalty to the true master of the house to justify their horrible deaths, again using the arching theme involving devotion to construct another important motif.
ability to use the concept of loyalty to shed light on many different themes
is a testament both to his skill as a storyteller and to the importance
of that loyalty in the culture surrounding the epic tale. He uses
the concept to develop themes like the sanctity of the home, the relationship
between a father and son or servant, and the justification for revenge.
Throughout the story, Homer weaves strands of theme involving loyalty and
devotion through the development of many other themes. Homer’s expert
use of this cultural reality allows him to paint a very detailed picture
of Hellenistic life around the time of the Trojan War. Even when
viewed specifically in relation to Odysseus’ homecoming, concepts involving
faithfulness and trust shed much light on important and oft-recurring themes
throughout Homer’s great epic.
In Homer’s The Odyssey, Telémakhos’ coming of age into manhood is a very important theme. Manliness plays a prominent role in Homer’s world of battle and guile. Telémakhos’ journey toward manhood is a process in which he approaches the epitome of Greek manliness: his father, Odysseus. How does this process take place? Telémakhos in fact begins the transformation into a man at the beginning of the poem, and will only complete it at the conclusion of the story. Telémakhos ascends to manhood through a series of both his personal attempts at proving himself and Odysseus’ contributions toward making him the model Greek warrior. His first sea voyage is his own attempt (with Athena’s help) to make himself known as a brave warrior. He further asserts himself through fighting alongside his father and grandfather in deadly battle. Another interesting aspect of Telémakhos’ rise to manhood is the role he plays with regard to women. By subjugating women and declaring his dominance over them, Telémakhos demonstrates his abilities in running a household as master. Through all of these stages, Telémakhos uses both his personal abilities and the already established greatness of his father as a guide.
Before I develop the ways in which Telémakhos rises to manhood, I must first explain his condition before he begins his coming-of-age transition. Homer immediately introduces Telémakhos as an impotent bystander, unable to protect his home and mother from the unwelcome suitors. The boy complains that “they squander everything. / We have no strong Odysseus to defend us, / and as to putting up a fight ourselves— / we’d only show our incompetence in arms. / Expel them, yes, if I only had the power” (221). Telémakhos describes himself as both inept at war fighting and powerless in general. He essentially emasculates himself with his lack of confidence in his own abilities. No self-respecting Greek warrior would ever admit to his own “incompetence in arms.” Confidence and martial skill are essential elements of the Greek male, but young Telémakhos has not yet developed these traits. Telémakhos also demonstrates his impotence through his conspicuous asexuality. All of the story’s main warrior figures—Odysseus, Meneláos, and Nestor—are models of virility and manliness. Each figure has a beautiful wife and a large and devoted household. Telémakhos has neither, and does not gain either within the bounds of the story. As I will address later in the essay, Telémakhos compensates for this bachelorhood through asserting his dominance over women. Until he can overcome the many challenges he faces, however, he remains an emasculated and boyish figure, unable to ascend to manliness.
The goddess Athena, a friend of the house of Odysseus, plays a key role in aiding Telémakhos on his quest for manhood. She inspires him to make his first voyage as a sea captain when she chastises him for tolerating the suitors’ behavior: “You need not bear this insolence of theirs, / you are a child no longer” (216). She knows Telémakhos needs to begin his transition to manhood soon—he will be a strong ally when Odysseus returns to kill the suitors. Athena must act where Odysseus cannot in guiding the young prince into manliness. She protects and advises him on his journey, for “by her design / [Telémakhos’] quest for news about his father’s wandering / would bring him fame in the world’s eyes” (232). Interestingly, Telémakhos begins his transition to manhood through a reflection on a smaller scale of the journey his father made twenty years earlier. Just like his father, Telémakhos gains fame and glory through a dangerous voyage.
Only when Odysseus returns can Telémakhos complete his transition into manhood. It is worth noticing that the pair’s reunion after twenty years is not marked by emotion or introspection, but by planning for more battle. Shared struggle between the father and son characterizes the bulk of Telémakhos’ transition into manhood. Odysseus and his son place almost no emphasis on contemplating the nature of war (as in many modern war movies, for instance) but focus their attention rather on the violent task at hand. While modern readers may have a problem with this lack of emotion, Homer understands that action, not emotion, is needed in establishing manhood. Battlefield prowess and competence in arms define manliness throughout the entire story and are especially emphasized as Odysseus and Telémakhos battle the suitors. Telémakhos again defines much of his manliness as a reflection of that most virile of warriors, Odysseus. As they enter the bloody battle for control of the house, “Telémakhos, true son of King Odysseus, / belted his sword on…in the forefront near his father” (478). Homer emphasizes Telémakhos as the “true son of King Odysseus,” an already established warrior-father figure. Homer continues to emphasize the generational link on the battlefield when three generations of the house of Laërtês battle the townsfolk. In joining his father and grandfather in a shared struggle, Telémakhos establishes himself as their equal. Odysseus has faith in his martial skills: “I count on you / to bring no shame upon your forefathers. / In fighting power we have excelled this lot / in every generation” (512). Laërtês joyously accepts Telémakhos into the brotherhood of arms when he “[sees his] son and grandson vie in courage” (513) together. By sharing a violent experience with his forefathers, Telémakhos completes his transition to manhood by defining both his prowess at arms and his status as their equal.
I addressed earlier the issue of Telémakhos’ impotence and asexuality. Without a wife, Telémakhos does not initially establish himself as capable of managing a household—an essential characteristic of the ideal Greek male. He compensates for this impotence through the forceful subjugation of many women in his father’s household. The first instance of this subjugation occurs when Telémakhos chastises Penélopê for silencing the minstrel. He clearly and directly orders her: “You must nerve yourself and try to listen” (218). Instead of asserting her motherly authority, Penélopê “gazed in wonder and withdrew, / her son’s clear wisdom echoing in her mind” (218). Telémakhos in rebuking his mother fills Odysseus’ role as master of the house (the oedipal implications could fill a much larger paper than this one). The point is, for the first time Telémakhos asserts his power over the women of the household. Telémakhos will again affirm his manly control as he “direct[s] the women” in cleaning up the blood and gore of the battle with the suitors (489). Odysseus places Telémakhos in charge of herding the suitors’ harlots around and eventually disposing of them. Telémakhos actually takes control of the women’s lives as he kills “those who made a mockery of [his] mother / and of [him] too” (490). His dominance over them compensates for his virginity and confirms that he can manage and control a household.
While Odysseus’ return to greatness is the primary focus of The Odyssey,
Homer spends a great deal of time in tracing the transition Telémakhos
makes from boyhood to manhood. In mimicking his father’s journeys
on the sea, Telémakhos begins the transition. He completes
it by assuming an equal place alongside his father and grandfather through
the exercise of arms. This shared struggle interestingly also involves
the subjugation and domination over women. Telémakhos’ rise
to virility, though certainly a personal accomplishment, is also a reflection
of the greatness of the father who came before him.
In Homer’s The Odyssey, Greek standards of manliness play an important role in the development of Telémakhos’ coming of age. Masculinity and the use of power and force are essential for any warrior in Homer’s world of battle and guile. Telémakhos, making his journey toward manhood, uses the epitome of the Greek warrior—his father—as a model to emulate. How does this process take place? Telémakhos in fact begins the transformation into a man at the beginning of the poem, and will only complete it at the conclusion of the story. Telémakhos ascends to manhood by way of both his personal attempts at proving himself and Odysseus’ contributions toward making him the model Greek warrior. He sets out, with Athena’s help, to make himself known as a brave warrior through a dangerous and high-profile sea voyage. He further asserts himself through fighting alongside his father and grandfather in deadly battle. His role with respect to women sheds light on another interesting aspect of his rise to manhood. By subjugating women and declaring his dominance over them, Telémakhos demonstrates his abilities in running a household as master. Through all of these stages, however, Telémakhos relies heavily on Odysseus’ reflected glory as the perfect embodiment of Greek manliness.
Before I develop the ways in which Telémakhos rises to manhood, I must first explain his condition before he begins his coming-of-age transition. Homer immediately introduces Telémakhos as an impotent bystander, unable to protect his home and mother from the unwelcome suitors. Although at a town assembly he takes a staff as a symbol of power and authority, the boy complains to those gathered that “[the suitors] squander everything. / We have no strong Odysseus to defend us, / and as to putting up a fight ourselves— / we’d only show our incompetence in arms. / Expel them, yes, if I only had the power” (221). He describes himself as both inept at war fighting and powerless in general. Telémakhos here throws the staff to the ground and symbolically relinquishes any semblance of control, “his eyes grown bright with tears” (222). He essentially emasculates himself with his lack of confidence in his own abilities. No self-respecting Greek warrior would ever admit to his own “incompetence in arms.” Confidence and martial skill are essential elements of the Greek male, but Homer is quick to stress that young Telémakhos has not yet developed these traits.
Telémakhos also demonstrates his impotence through his conspicuous asexuality. All of the story’s main warrior figures—Odysseus, Meneláos, and Nestor are good examples—are models of virility and manliness. Each figure has a beautiful wife and a large and devoted household. Telémakhos has neither, and does not achieve them within the bounds of the story. As I will address later in the essay, Telémakhos compensates for this bachelorhood through asserting his dominance over women. Odysseus’ boy faces these and many other obstacles along his journey to manhood, and until he can overcome them (i.e. regain the “staff”), he remains an emasculated and boyish figure unable to complete his quest.
The goddess Athena, a friend of the house of Odysseus, plays a key role in aiding Telémakhos on this quest to come of age. She inspires him to make his first voyage as a sea captain when she chastises him for tolerating the suitors’ behavior: “You need not bear this insolence of theirs, / you are a child no longer” (216). She knows Telémakhos must begin his transition to manhood soon—Odysseus needs him as a strong ally when he returns to kill the suitors. Athena must act where the absent Odysseus cannot in guiding the young prince into manliness. She protects and advises him on his journey, for “by her design / [Telémakhos’] quest for news about his father’s wandering / would bring him fame in the world’s eyes” (232). Interestingly, Telémakhos begins his transition to manhood through carrying out on a smaller scale the journey his father made twenty years earlier. Just like his father, Telémakhos gains fame and glory through a dangerous voyage.
Only when Odysseus returns can Telémakhos complete his evolution into manhood. Shared battlefield struggle between the father and son characterizes the bulk of this evolution, and the pair reunites through making plans for more battle, not through emotion or introspection. Odysseus and his son place almost no emphasis on contemplating the nature of war (as in many modern war movies, for instance) but focus their attention rather on the violent task at hand. While modern readers may have a problem with this lack of emotion, Homer uses action, not feelings, in establishing the ideals of manhood. Homer especially emphasizes military prowess and violent strength as Odysseus and Telémakhos battle the suitors. In the same way that he mimics his father’s sea voyage, Telémakhos fights the suitors as a reflection of that most virile of warriors, Odysseus. As they enter the bloody battle for control of the house, “Telémakhos, true son of King Odysseus, / belted his sword on…in the forefront near his father” (478). Homer emphasizes Telémakhos as the “true son of King Odysseus,” a reflection of the already established warrior-father figure.
Homer continues to emphasize the generational link on the battlefield when three generations of the house of Laërtês battle the townsfolk. In joining his father and grandfather in a shared struggle, Telémakhos establishes himself as their equal. Odysseus has faith in his martial skills: “I count on you / to bring no shame upon your forefathers. / In fighting power we have excelled this lot / in every generation” (512). Laërtês joyously accepts Telémakhos into the brotherhood of arms when he “[sees his] son and grandson vie in courage” (513) together. By sharing a violent experience with his forefathers, Telémakhos continues his transition to manhood by defining both his prowess at arms and his status as their equal.
I addressed earlier the issue of Telémakhos’ impotence and asexuality. Without a wife, Telémakhos does not initially establish himself as capable of managing a household—an essential characteristic of the ideal Greek male. He compensates for this impotence through the forceful subjugation of many women in his father’s household. The first instance of this subjugation occurs when Telémakhos chastises Penélopê for silencing the minstrel. He clearly and directly orders her: “You must nerve yourself and try to listen” (218). Instead of asserting her motherly authority, Penélopê “gazed in wonder and withdrew, / her son’s clear wisdom echoing in her mind” (218). Telémakhos, in rebuking his mother, fills Odysseus’ role as master of the house (the oedipal implications could fill a much larger paper than this one). For the first time in his life, Telémakhos asserts his power over the mistress of the household. Telémakhos again affirms his manly control as he “direct[s] the women” in cleaning up the blood and gore of the battle with the suitors (489). Odysseus places Telémakhos in charge of herding the suitors’ harlots around and eventually disposing of them. He purposefully allows his son to take on extra duties and therefore continue to develop as a man. By killing “those who made a mockery of [his] mother / and of [him] too” (490), Telémakhos actually takes control of the women’s lives, not just their behavior. His dominance over them compensates for his virginity and confirms that he can manage and control a household.
While Odysseus’ return to greatness is the primary focus of The Odyssey,
Homer spends a great deal of time in tracing the transition Telémakhos
makes from boyhood to manhood. He introduces the boy as an impotent
and childish figure, throwing down his staff in a tearful rejection of
power. In mimicking his father’s journeys on the sea, Telémakhos
begins his transition into manhood. He completes it by assuming an
equal place alongside his father and grandfather through the exercise of
arms. This shared struggle interestingly also involves the subjugation
and domination over women. Telémakhos’ rise to virility, though
certainly a personal accomplishment, at the same time certainly reflects
the greatness of the father who comes before him.
Due: 6 Feb
Length: 3-4 pages
instructor and your classmates, which means that your audience knows the
plot of the work you analyze and is seeking some interesting discussion
that goes well beyond observations from our class discussions.
General Guidelines: Use one of the approaches below as a guide to inventing a thesis and developing an analytical discussion that will help your classmates and me understand more fully some aspect of one of the works we will have read through the first five weeks of the course. Here's a sample paper that I wrote on Rousseau's Confessions (click) in order to illustrate one way, at least, of handling this assignment. You can also go to another sample paper I wrote on The Odyssey to illustrate for students in the first semester of this pair of courses the kind of narrow focus I want you to take in this assignment (click). Here are some successful student papers from that same course--another way to give you a sense of the kinds of approaches you can take (click). You can also view two more excellent papers from HE217 by going to this link (click) that illustrates the successful development of moderately successful drafts into fine papers.Remember, that you always have the option in any of these three out-of-class papers of writing about some specific aspect of our course's theme of loss.
Things to Avoid:
1) plot summary or retelling of what happens (remember your audience!);
One Hint: in order to give your thesis an edge, a purpose, try to couch it in terms of a problem your paper will define for me and your classmates and in some ways solve.
Approaches and Suggested Topics:
A. Thematic. Concentrate on the way(s) in which a theme emerges from one of the works and why paying attention to that theme is important and/or what place it has in the work. Examples of general areas of thematic interest in the works include the following, which you would modify, of course, so as to turn into a useful thesis:
B. Imagery, Motif, or Recurring Pattern:
Excrement and bodily functions in Gulliver's Travels
C. Style or structural feature:
in "The Rape of the Lock" or Confessions
D. Part to whole:
observation to simply cultivate one's garden in Candide
follows is a sample paper on Assignment #1 from HE217. It represents
the basic principle of the assignment, no matter which approach you choose:
to take something quite limited and explain as carefully as possible its
larger ramifications within the work . Please use this essay,
along with your issued Handbook, as a source for how to handle quotations
and citations. Quote from our antholopgy. Because your audience
consists of me and your classmates you do not have to cite
the book, just the page numbers.
As I read The Odyssey I find it amazing how well the parts seem to fit together--its focus on entry ways, hospitality, eating, and identity, for example, finally all make sense in and of themselves and also as they get mingled in the closing books. However, I can't so easily say the same thing for a lesser but nevertheless quite apparent pattern in the work: that of blindness and vision. It seems that blindness is both a good and a bad condition, at once a kind of power and also a fatal weakness. According to tradition, Homer was blind. In his poem, Homer understandably, then, depicts the highly praised Phaiakian poet Demodokos as sightless, and he also gives Tiresias, the "blind seer," an important and largely positive role during Odysseus' encounter with the dead in the underworld. On the other hand, Polyphemus' limited vision, with the single eye, and then his complete blindness as a result of Odysseus' escape from the cyclops' cave suggest that blindness symbolizes the brutal life and ignorance, everything antithetical to the Greek value system. This apparent problem--that blindness can be both a fault and favorable state--does, I think, have a solution, and that solution emerges from an understanding of man's limited knowledge in relation to the gods.
Before looking at that "solution," which emerges from Odysseus' advice to Amphinomos in Book XVIII, I would like to flesh out what I mean by this concern in the poem with vision and blindness. Generally the imagery follows an expected path: sight suggests understanding, awareness and some control of one's circumstances. Difficulty seeing and darkness suggest the opposite. Meneleus, for instance, uses the metaphor to describe his brother Agamemnon's death: he was "tricked blind, caught in the web of his deadly queen" (244). Unwary on his approach home, Agamemnon might as well have been blind. When Odysseus and his men approach the island on which the cyclops live, Homer emphasizes, as if to foreshadow the later weight given to literal blindness in the episode, the crews' limited vision: "Some god guided us / that night, for we could barely see our bows / in the dense fog around us, and no moonlight / filtered through the overcast" (306). Similarly, the remote, foreboding region in the North to which Odysseus journeys in search of the opening to the underworld almost entirely lacks light: "hidden in mist and cloud," the men in that region never see the "eye of Helios," "ruinous night being rove over those wretches" (331). Soon after this adventure, as Odysseus and his men face the threat of the Sirens, he levels with them about the threat they will face, and does so while using the metaphor of sight: "let me tell [Circe's] forecast: then we die / with our eyes open, if we are going to die, / or know the death we baffle if we can" (352). Even though he holds back telling them about Scylla, it is quite clear that entering a risky situation with eyes wide open is admirable, even makes the endeavor more heroic.
In a more concentrated way then these wide-ranging examples illustrate, light (and thus clarity of vision) as opposed to darkness functions as an overarching metaphor within the final books describing Odysseus' homecoming and his plotting against the suitors. The repeated motif of recognition, of course, involves sight--the nurse and Laertes, for instance, have to see Odysseus' scar, get ocular proof, that is, in order to confirm his identity. The fact that Athena, not only Odysseus' immortal backer but also goddess of wisdom, is invisible to all but Odysseus and, at times, Telemokhos also supports this theme: those two can see wisdom, in a sense. Also in this section of the poem Odysseus becomes thoroughly associated with light and vision. In Book XVIII, for instance, he--as beggar--tells the maids to retreat to the female quarters so that he can tend to the light as the suitors revel: "I stand here / ready to tend these flares and offer light / to everyone. They cannot tire me out, / even if they wish to drink till Dawn" (439-40). In Book XIX, as Odysseus and Telemakhos stockpile the weapons for their upcoming attack on the suitors, Athena holds up "a golden lamp of purest light" (443). Telemakhos exclaims, in fact: "Oh, Father, / here is a marvel! All around I see / the walls and roof beams, pedestals and pillars, / lighted as though by white fire blazing near" (444). And Odysseus underscores the importance of Telemakhos' vision by saying, "The Gods who rule Olympos make this light" (444). Essentially, then, Odysseus' return brings a renewed light and a renewed vision to his manor. Appropriately his killing Antinoos is described as an act of cutting him off from that light, that vision: it brings "darkness on [Antinoos'] eyes" (479). Finally, Penelope's words, on learning of the suitors' deaths, underscore the function of blindness: "Blind young fools, they've tasted death for it" (493).
Interestingly, the translator entitles one of these late books, the XXth, "Signs and a Vision." And this title fits with the point I'm trying to make. Not only does Homer associate Odysseus with light and renewed vision in these episodes at his manor, but he also intensifies the occurrences of omens, signs. Some occur outwardly (Zeus' thunder) and some inwardly in such dreams as Penelope has (see 457 and 460) while, interestingly enough, her eyes are closed. First someone has to recognize, has to see, these signs--something the suitors are incapable of doing. And then someone has to interpret, or see through to, their essential meaning. Already in Meneleus' country having proven himself to Telemakhos (399 & 417) as one who recognizes and interprets signs--in that case the one concerning the hawk clutching and plucking a dove in the air--Theoklymenos in Book XXI is referred to by the narrator as "the visionary." In this capacity he delivers a vision of the future to the reveling suitors. Importantly this prophecy unfolds in language that emphasizes his sight and the suitors' lack thereof because of the "darkness" in which they live. He tells them that "night shrouds [them] to the knees, [their] heads, [their] faces" as blood drips from and all round them (466). "And thick with shades," he continues, "is the entry way, the courtyard thick with shades / passing athirst toward Erebos, into the dark, / the sun is quenched in heaven, foul mist hems us in . . ." (466). The suitors' response is funny, as it takes up Theoklymenos' metaphor, but ultimately misguided and "blind": "The mind of our new quest has gone astray. / Hustle him out of doors, lads, into the sunlight; / he finds it dark as night inside!" (467). Finally, the seer's rejoinder continues this metaphor: "I have my eyes and ears . . . and a straight mind, still with me. These will do / to take me out. Damnation and black night / I see arriving for yourselves" (467).
I dwell on the details in this exchange between Theoklymenos and the suitors because they so clearly display the way in which the imagery of sight and lack thereof underscores the poems' judgment of its characters: Odysseus, who brings light to his manor, and Theoklymenos are good because they can see; the suitors are bad because they remain in the dark, incapable of seeing clearly beyond their basic, elemental desires to consume and possess. In this way, the epic ends by repeating the terms of the episode with Polyphemos, whose limited vision and then total blindness underscore his alienation from the dominant Greek culture described in the poem. Vision and all that it suggests, then, stands as a fundamental value within that culture.
Two more details further emphasize that point. First, the brief description of the Greek ships as they approach the island of the cyclops. As Odysseus recalls this approach for the Phaiakians, he carefully emphasizes the difference between the Greek's forward, progressive, far reaching culture on the one hand and the cyclops' backward, unimproved, random one on the other. He uses his ships as an example: their isle is "unplanted and untilled, a wilderness" that is used only to "pasture goats alone. And this is why: / good ships like ours with cheekpaint at the bows / are far beyond the Kyklopes. No shipwright / toils among them, shaping and building up / symmetrical trim hulls to cross the sea . . . " (306). In a footnote to this passage, our editor points out that the cheekpaint on the bows would normally depict "a huge eye" (for examples, click and click). Not only the sleek hulls, but the eye depicted on the bow seems to mark off the Greek culture, the values that Odysseus represents. Just imagine how rich an episode this must have been to Homer's listeners/readers: the blinded, one-eyed Polyphemos tossing boulders at Greek ships that they knew had eyes painted on them! The other detail is Athena's sudden display of her aegis in Book XXII. Invariably images of Athena's aegis include the Gorgon (see click), which looks directly at the viewer, eyes and mouth wide opened. When they see the aegis, the suitors "stampede like stung cattle" (486). Not only does the Gorgon's gaping mouth aggressively mirror the suitors' uncontrollable consumption; those piercing eyes underscore the fact that vision, in all its suggestiveness, functions as their lethal enemy in these final books. Vision also stands as the quintessential value of Greek culture that Odysseus and his connection with Athena--the goddess of wisdom and combat--develop.
Just as this meaning of sight becomes clear, however, the problem with its overall use in the poem looms even larger. If sight is so valuable, why then are such blind figures as Domodokos and Tiresias given prominence? The answer lies in the fact that "wise vision" includes the real possibility that it cannot see all that is important. Look for instance at the key passage in Book XVIII in which Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, addresses one of the more moderate suitors, whom Athena nevertheless chooses not to spare:
"Of mortal creatures, all that breathe and move,
However much pride Odysseus--and the Greeks for that matter--take in the forward looking vision, in mastery of the seen world, that vision has profound limitations, even leads to a kind of misapprehension. The simplest example of this is the episode in which Odysseus is cast upon the sea by Poseidon's storm as he ventures from Ogygia. While he struggles far from land in rugged sees, Ino provides him with help--the veil that will prevent him from drowning (Is it merely a coincidence that the device is a veil?). However, he distrusts her and, instead, trusts his own eyes: "No I'll not swim; with my own eyes I saw / how far the land lies that she called my shelter. / Better to do the wise thing, as I see it." As it turns out, by trusting in his own devices he suffers much more than he otherwise would have. His eyes--and here they represent not only 20/20 vision but also the wariness and self-protective suspicion that is so much a part of Odysseus' character--lead him away from the easier course. Though no one can blame Odysseus for his suspicion in this case, just having gotten free of the crafty Calypso, the episode does display the uncertainty of human sight.
For the very reason
that such sight is limited by the miseries and confusion that gods can
at any time bring on, as suggested by the passage above, the poem depicts
those few who have an enduring perspicacity as blind, as entirely independent
of the human sight that can sometimes get them through trouble but at others
can get them into it! Demodokos' gift from the muse, his ability
as poet, his status as one "whom God made lord of song" (290) is his blindness,
oddly enough an ability that enables others to see even that
which is not present to the sight. Similarly, Tiresias can peer into
the future and is "forever / charged with reason even among the dead" because,
it seems, he is not distracted by normal sight. In fact the narrator
says, "of all the flitting ghosts, / Persephone has given [him] a mind
undarkened" (329). Though not blind, Theoklymenos shares this vision
of the numinous world that mere Greek awareness of the physical world,
as symbolized by the eye on Odysseus' ships, cannot reach. Because
of this emphasis on seeing the unseeable, dreams occur frequently in the
final books of The Odyssey, forewarning of what will come, of course,
but also dramatizing the very limitations of human sight. Dreams
come when the eyes are closed; and though some are illusory, others "may
be borne out, if mortals only know them" (457), as Penelope says.
Because of this at first perplexing imagery of sight and blindness, then,
Odysseus' final triumph as bringer of light and supplier of vision, remains
only a provisional one: after all, his mind, too, must remain as
"the days are, dark or bright, / blown over by the father of gods and men."
Successful Student Essays on Assignment #1 from HE217. These essays succeed because they focus on something quite small and explain convincingly--with details and argumentation--why it is important in the work. One deals with our class theme of loss.
by Rob Berry
The primary focus of our course this semester and of the world of literature in general is “lost and found,” the insatiable and desperate attempt by mankind to regain some missing aspect of life. This urge to find once more what we have lost invariably comprises the backbone of any work of literature as characters find themselves searching for innocence, truth, glory, or any number of other lost graces. In The Odyssey, Homer combines the theme of lost and found with another fundamental theme of humanity: the desire to know one’s own true identity and the answer to the most basic question of all ? “Who am I?” Because Homer begins the epic in medias res, Odysseus and Telémakhos have already experienced a loss of identity by the time we meet them, and the rest of the story focuses on their individual efforts to recover those lost identities. In other words, we see the effects of their lost identities before we know the causes. As a result, the struggles of father and son to regain their lost identities dominate the plot and provide the driving force for the story.
In no character is the theme of lost identity and restored glory more prevalent than in Odysseus himself, “son of Laërtês and the gods of old”(343). In Odysseus’ mind home and identity are inextricably linked, and so his quest to return to his homeland actually represents his fervent desire to regain his lost identity. At the start of his adventures following the sack of Troy, Odysseus sets out as a conquering hero laden with spoils of war and high spirits. Due to his men’s ignorance and disobedience in slaying Helios’ cattle, however, “he who moves all day through heaven took from their eyes the dawn of their return” even as they sighted the coast of their homeland (209). Odysseus and his ships are dashed apart on the open sea, and he washes up on the island of Kalypso, where we meet him in Book V. The island is a tropical paradise, inhabited only by a beautiful goddess whose only desire is to live with Odysseus forever. Yet Odysseus is not content to remain with Kalypso, even though he tells her “My quiet Penelope…would seem a shade before your majesty”(267), showing that not for lack of beauty or hospitality in his hostess does he desire to leave. Rather, his yearning to reclaim the part of his identity that he lost long ago, when Helios in his fury ripped Odysseus’ dreams of homecoming away from him, drives him to leave the enchanted isle and seek once more for home and identity. A similar situation occurs in the halls of Alkinoös of Phaiákia, after Odysseus has arrived and told his story to those gathered around the great table. The Phaiákian king declares that “my daughter should be yours, and you my son-in-law…a home, lands, riches you should have from me if you could be contented here,” (288) and this is not merely an empty promise made by one wishing to seem a gracious host ? Alkinoös means every word. Yet again we see Odysseus turn down a life of ease and comfort in favor of a perilous and toilsome journey home, despite the fact that he knows nothing of the state of his home or of his family. Odysseus knows that he could never replace his own home with another, just as he could never substitute another identity for his true one. When Odysseus sailed from Ithaka for Troy, he left a great part of himself behind with his wife and son; only by overcoming his challenges and returning to his home can he ever truly reclaim his identity.
Just as Odysseus’ identity is bound to his home, Telémakhos’ identity is entwined with that of his father. The young man has had no communication or interaction with his father since childhood, yet by his absence Odysseus has left an indelible mark on the identity of his child. The lack of a father has created a void inside Telémakhos filled with uncertainty about his own true self, so much so that when Athena asks him his identity, he replies “My mother says I am [Odysseus’] son: I know not surely…”(215). By saying this, Telémakhos reveals that his perception of himself depends so completely upon his father’s influence that in Odysseus’ absence the boy has lost his own identity. Athena is troubled by this response, observing “Ah, bitterly you need Odysseus, then!”(216). The goddess recognizes the link between Odysseus and his son’s sense of self, and realizes that Telémakhos suffers from an acute lack of identity as a result of his father’s absence. In response to this, Pallas Athena sends him on a quest to Menelaus’ halls in Pylos in order for Telemakhos to learn news of Odysseus and “win his own renown about the world”(212). The goddess knows that Telémakhos must venture out beyond the confines of Ithaka and the torments of the suitors if he hopes to recover his lost identity. Though Telémakhos has little hope of discovering good news of his father (indeed he claims he would not believe it if he heard it), because of the link between his identity and his father he must undertake the journey to bring closure to his lack of identity. Thus we see that the bond between Telémakhos’ identity and his father provides the impetus for his journey and the entirety of the first four books.
Because Odysseus’ identity lies with his home and Telémakhos’ identity lies with his father, the story’s resolution cannot occur until Odysseus returns to Ithaka and reunites with Telémakhos. Only then can father and son combine forces to drive the suitors from their home and purge it of the evil and disloyalty that have disgraced it for so long. Telémakhos seems particularly outraged by the offenses of the women who had slept with the suitors, refusing to “give the clean death of a beast to trulls who made a mockery of my mother and of me too…”(490). Yet the question of identity still lingers in the mind of Penelope, who has lived without hope for so long that she distrusts the image of her husband that stands before her. Not until Odysseus has divulged their bedroom secret can Penelope truly accept his identity and embrace him as her husband. In this way Penelope, like Telémakhos, regains her identity through the return of Odysseus, while Laërtês’ son regains his own identity by finally coming home.
The desire of
Odysseus and Telémakhos to recover their identities and the pains
they take to regain them comprise the driving force of The Odyssey.
Odysseus’ longing to return home and Telémakhos’ desperate need
to be with his father again fuel all the events of the story, as the two
characters struggle against men, gods, and giants to find again what they
had lost long ago. The theme of “lost and found” prevails in The
Odyssey and in virtually all of literature, as we too strive to regain
the grace that we once knew.
by Caroline Scudder
grasp \`grasp\ To take or seize eagerly. To clasp or embrace, esp. with the fingers or arms. The power of seizing and holding or attaining. Mental hold or comprehension.
take \`tak\ To get into one’s hands or into one’s possession, power, or control.
Grasping or taking are powerful actions. A man does not merely lay his hands upon his object: he takes hold of it; he clasps it and hangs on. Homer plays with this motif in The Odyssey, using gasping and taking as powerful symbolic acts with which his characters take control of their situation. This motif throughout Odysseus’s adventures helps build up the theme of control. Who has control? Who takes control? As I read I see how power and control of the situation are passed from character to character and I see each power exchange accompanied with some act of grasping.
The first act of taking belongs to Telemakhos as Athena stands in the doorway of his father’s house: “Straight to the door he came, irked with himself / To think a visitor had been kept there waiting, /And took her right hand, grasping with his left / Her tall bronze-bladed spear (212).” At this moment, Telemakhos joins his hand with Athena and gasps her spear. Athena’s spear is the symbol of her power and guile; part of her identity is with that spear according to traditional Greek mythology, which depicts Athena with a helmet, winged sandals, and that spear. Telemakhos takes that spear. Athena’s appearance on his doorstep marks the time when Telemakhos assumes responsibility for his destiny and begins to seek a way to take back control of his father’s household. Notice what Telemakhos does with Athena’s spear: he carries it into the hall and places it with his father’s weapons (213). Telemakhos initially takes control, but then relinquishes it to his absent father: introducing a power play between Telemakhos and Odysseus that I notice at the end of the story as well: Telemakhos initially takes control but relinquishes it to his father.
The next part of the story that has a notable instance of grasping is Odysseus’ struggle to clear the ocean after leaving Calypso’s island. As he is thrown into the rocks, “he gripped a rock-ledge with both hands in passing / and held on, groaning, as the surge went by, / to keep clear of its breaking. Then the backwash/ hit him, ripping his under and far out” (272). Odysseus, at the edge of land, is in a power struggle with Poseidon, the god of the sea. Odysseus seeks to grip the rocks and escape the sea god; Poseidon seeks to keep his grip on Odysseus.
Later, as Odysseus relates the story of his adventures to the Phaiakians, he vividly tells of how the Kyklops grabbed and ate “a brace” of his men in his cave in the evening and two more in the morning (310). From the moment the Kyklops enters the cave, Odysseus is in danger, but is in marginal control of the situation until the Kyklops takes his soldiers. At that moment, all dialogue and pretense of normal hospitality end and the monster is in life-and-death control of the hapless men imprisoned in his cave. When Odysseus blinds the Kyklops, I have a wonderful image of a bleeding, furious brute that despite his might has utterly lost control: “and his wild hands went groping” (312). Kyklops is unable to grasp anything! In fact he has lost all power! Then, to get out of the cave, Odysseus and his men cling to the underbelly of the goats “with fingers twisted deep / in sheepskin ringlets for an iron grip,” back in control and escaping the dread cave (313). Later in the same account, Odysseus takes also the plant “with black root and milky flower” that Hermes shows him on Kirke’s island, thereby failing to succumb to her drugged wine and taking control of the goddess (324). He takes the plant and it gives him power over even a sneaky witch-goddess. Odysseus’ later encounter with Skylla, underscores the power of grasping. Even as they approach the cliffs and catch sight of the whirlpool, they nearly loose control as they drop – loose their grasp on – their oars in terror (353). Barely kept organized by Odysseus, he commands them to retake control of themselves, to “Get the oarshafts in your hands” (354). They approach the perilous cliff and Skylla’s long tentacles reach out and grasp six of Odysseus’ sailors and bear them aloft to her cliff as they helplessly call Odysseus’ name. “She ate them as they shrieked there, in her den, / in the dire grapple, reaching still for me” (335).
The most resounding and significant acts of taking hold in the entire epic poem come in Book XXI and are centered on one object: Odysseus’ old bow. The attempts by the suitors to use the bow, Telemakhos’s attempt, and Odysseus’ final stringing are the culmination of Odysseus’ retaking of his home. First, though, before any of the men even see the bow, Penelope finds it in the storeroom. “Now Penelope / sank down, holding the weapon on her knees / and drew her husband’s great bow out, and sobbed / and bit her lip and let the salt tears flow” (469). Penelope is not in this case taking the power that the bow symbolizes; rather, she is crying over the power that her Odysseus once had over his household but lost through his prolonged absence. She does not know that Odysseus has returned and she believes that, in giving the bow over to the suitors, one of them will take the bow and the control that Odysseus once had – control over her, over his house, and over his holdings. She carries the bow in to the suitors and presents them with the bow; with Odysseus’ power, if they can grasp it. Leodes cannot take Odysseus’ place any more than he can string the bow and he casts it from him declaring it – the symbol of Odysseus’s role – “a bow to break the heart and spirit / of many strong men” (471). Considering the repetition so far of the motif of grasping or taking, I cannot ignore the symbolism implicit in the taking and casting of Odysseus’ bow.
I mentioned before the idea of a power struggle between Telemakhos and his father. I look only at the struggle as it is embodied in these taking actions: first Athena’s spear and then Odysseus’ bow. Both times Telemakhos has power in his grasp and each time gives it back to Odysseus. In the first case, Telemakhos puts the spear he took on his father’s weapon rack and in the second, Telemakhos unsuccessfully tries to string the bow thrice: “a fourth try and he had it all but strung – / when a stiffening in Odysseus made him check” (470). He then challenges the suitors: “Take over, / O my elders and betters, try the bow” (471). “Take the bow,” he says to the suitors. “Just try to take my father’s power. Just try and see if you can stand up to him. You will learn that he is in control” (my own). In releasing the bow, he releases power knowingly into Odysseus’ hands. On the bow and on the taking of the bow are centered all Odysseus’ power in the book: the power to reclaim that which is his. The culminating question of who is the most powerful is answered by the man who can take the bow.
Several special instances of specific grasping take place and demand my attention: when a character grasps the knees of another in supplication. The first of these occurs in Book VII: “[Odysseus] threw his great hands round Arête’s knees, / whereon the sacred mist curled back; / they saw him; and the diner hushed amazed” (284), although there is much talk beforehand of performing that act. Odysseus considers whether or not to grasp Nausikaa’s knees – and decides not to, for fear she will panic – and she subsequently advises him to take her mother’s knees in pleading for aid (278-280). Odysseus tells of his own knees being grasped at Circe’s island; she attempts to cast her spell on him, but he draws his sword “and in one bound held it against her throat. / She cried out, then slid under to take my knees” (324). Next turning events around, Odysseus grasps Circe’s knees when he asks to leave the island (328). The last case of knee grasping happens during the battle for Odysseus’ household. Leodes crawls out from under the table where he is hiding and “threw himself at Odysseys’ knees- / Leodes, begging for his life” (486). Instead of assuming power in these instances grasping, there is a distinct effort to bestow it or perhaps acknowledge that person who has it. In all these cases, the grasper is helpless. Odysseus is helpless at the Phaiakians’s shores, Circe is helpless at Odysseus’ sword, Odysseus is again helpless to leave Circe’s island, and Leodes is helpless against the avenging father and son team. The physical symbolism of hands being held to the knees must be where this significance lies. The hands are the most useful part of the body and the means by which one takes power. The knees are a very low location on the body, superior only to the feet which people use to tread on the dirt and whatever else litters the ground. So when a supplicant puts his power-holders upon the earth-treaders of his supplicatee, he effectually nullifies his own power and enhances that of his conqueror. Grasping the knees is an interesting concept in light of Homer’s motif of grasping and taking.
is assuming power. Homer uses the literal action throughout The
Odyssey to create the motif of grasping and taking when assuming power
and asserting control and furthers the control theme of the story.
The question of “who is in control?” throughout the story, when taken in
small pieces, can be answered by “the one who grasped or took.”
by Aaron Robinson
The nature of hospitality in The Odyssey causes me some degree of consternation. I come to the conclusion that in order to understand why some follow this ‘virtue’ of hospitality it is vital to consider Odysseus’s encounter with Polyphemos and the Kyklops. After a close comparison of the Kyklops’ episode to Odysseus’s reception by Aiolos, Kirke, Kalypso, and the Phaiakians, and even Nestor and Menelaos’s greeting to Telemakhos, I find that hospitality hides under the title of virtue, but in reality exists only as an application of self interest.
The Kyklops completely ignore any of the obligations a host has toward a guest. Odysseus has no notion of this possibility and so he “wished / to see the caveman, what he had to offer” (IX, 240-241). The lack of ability on Odysseus’ part to conceive that Polyphemos could ignore this code forces me to analyze what motivates the Kyklops to abandon the tradition of hospitality. The first clue rests in the fact that their kingdom has “no consultation or old tribal ways” (IX, 118) and that “no shipwright toils among them” (IX, 131). They exist entirely separate from the world: no outside contact, no trade. They do not even follow the ancient traditions, with which hospitality can be grouped. Their customs produce an environment in which hospitality is superfluous. The Kyklops do not travel to visit others, nor host guests. There is no need for a concept of generosity towards strangers wandering into their lands, as they do not venture out into the world to receive offers of hospitality from other hosts.
Odysseus attempts to subtly remind Polyphemos that “Zeus will avenge / the unoffending guest” (IX, 283-284). This gets him nowhere. The “Kyklops / care not a whistle for your thundering Zeus / or all the gods in bliss; we have more force by far” (IX, 287-288). Throughout the epic, Homer makes it clear that travelers and beggars are sent by Zeus, implying that Zeus commands the host to deal fairly and generously with the guest. That the Kyklops completely disregard Zeus’s authority negates any threat of Zeus’s wrath. Thus the Kyklops have nothing to lose by ignoring the rules of hospitality, unless one is unlucky enough to be the Kyklops whom Odysseus repays with blindness for the hosts inhospitality. Furthermore, by following the concept of generous hospitality they only diminish their own flocks and stores. From a purely egoistic approach, the Kyklops cannot gain anything from a nature of hospitality.
When I analyze Odysseus’s other encounters I find they all agree with the notion that self interest is the driving factor. The wind god, Aiolos Hippotades, “stinted nothing” when Odysseus begged leave to sail (X, 20). You could find this to be a very generous act, especially since Aiolos sent Odysseus sailing in perfect weather with all the other winds ‘tied up’ in a bag. The only problem I have with this view of generosity rests in the fact that Odysseus earned this treatment: “He kept me / one full month to hear the tale of Troy, / the ships and the return of the Akhaians, / all which I told him point by point in order” (X, 15-18). Confirmation of this arrives when Odysseus returns to Aiola Island and is turned away by Aiolos, “now turned cold and still” (X, 76). Aiolos is no longer willing to help; because Odysseus no longer has anything Aiolos wants to offer his hospitality in exchange for. The wind god has nothing to gain, only wealth to lose.
Aiolos is a god, though, so perhaps this is an isolated incident. What about the demigods? I look at Kirke’s reaction to Odysseus’s arrival and only find more support. Initially she turns his men into swine, clearly not an overture of kindness. Odysseus first must exert his power of manhood over her before she assents to his demand for an oath of safety. Thus after a year of dalliance, Odysseus can tell Kirke that “now you must keep your promise” (X, 520). She does not act because of a generous heart. She is compelled by an oath she swore.
Moreover, Kirke feels bounds of prophecy. Hermes foretold Odysseus’s arrival on Aiaia and his conquering of Kirke. Since she is related after a fashion to the gods of Olympos, it is natural that she puts weight into their prophecies. Kirke’s encounter with Odysseus only strengthens my argument that she does not act out of any sense of hospitality, but rather out of her own self interest in going along with the rules set out by the Olympian gods, to whom she can be connected. If she broke with these two rules, oaths and prophecy, she would be betraying the system that allows her the power and pleasures to which she is accustomed. Kirke can only lose by refusing to aid Odysseus, since the gods ordered her.
The gods also turned the tide in another incident for Odysseus. Kalypso completely traps Odysseus on Ogygia without any hope for him to escape, after he has been shipwrecked, the lone survivor of his crew. She does feed him and tend to his physical needs, but nowhere does she display the generosity that typically accompanies the Greek ‘virtue’ of hospitality. “Then came… word to her from Zeus” and Odysseus gains his freedom, and her true generosity (VII, 279-280). Now the reader sees the common signs of the benevolent heart: aid in returning home, magnificent gifts, and provisions. I am left pondering why it takes Kalypso until this point for her to act. The conclusion I reach follows the tune of the previous incidents: she now has something to gain if she acts: the removal of her fear that Zeus will take matters into his own hands or look upon her with displeasure. Even gods do not get away with ignoring Zeus’s commands for long. Before Zeus speaks to her, Kalypso risked nothing in detaining Odysseus, but after he speaks, the price rises too high for her to keep him there any longer, and so she pours out her favor upon him as he departs. This is not true hospitality or virtue, but just desire to obey the King of the Gods.
Following the gods' desires forms a core reason why men who are hospitable carry out their generosity. They fear the wrath of Zeus. Homer writes of the Phaiakians invoking “our father Zeus, Athena, and Apollo” numerous times (VII, 333). Indeed both Nestor and Menelaos call upon the gods in Olympos frequently throughout Telemakhos’s stay with them. These invocations clearly establish a sense of respect and fear for the gods and their commands. Fear of the gods’ wrath, then, forms one of the motivations for these men to provide a hospitable stay for guests.
Men also concern themselves with pride. The gods do as well, of course, but since the gods can do everything, bestowing gifts does not spread their fame, at least not as much as one man giving a visitor a king’s ransom. “Come, let him feel our bounty as he should” calls out Alkinoos, the Phaiakian king, to the other lords (VIII, 406). In other words, he told the other 12 men to show off the nation’s wealth, and let Odysseus spread the word of their success: “how rich, by heaven’s will, [their] possessions are” (XI, 376). Men exist as social animals, and pride is a part of the social world. We all seek fame in some way or another. I see in the Phaiakians’ generosity a self serving quality and an attempt to spread the fame of Phaiakia. They exchange some of their wealth for an increased reputation. This is not a virtue.
I find the last reason to be the strongest though. Menelaos, however, puts it better than I could: “could we have made it home again—and Zeus / gave us no more hard roving!—if other men / had never fed us, given us lodging?” (IV, 34-36). Why are men so generous to visitors, I ask? Because they want someone else to be as generous to them, or more so, when they are in need. The golden rule in practice or is it? It costs these ‘generous’ lords relatively little to give away a silver vessel or a pair of horses when they have a hundred more stored in a room gathering dust or standing in stalls getting fat. These men do not act out of ‘virtue’ or sheer kindness, but instead of self interest. It is a system of trade. The host gives freely and generously when visitors arrive at his door. He stores up a high reputation among men that he can exchange for hospitality whenever his own fortune abandons him. He gains more by just the possibility of getting some of his fortune back should it disappear, than he loses by parting with tiny portions now.
Returning to Odysseus’s encounter with the Kyklops, I find more support for the notion of hospitality as a system of exchange. “No shipwright toils” on the Kyklops’ shores and they do not host visitors. In other words, the Kyklops do not trade. Their unfamiliarity with an economic system, barter or coin, provides further reasons for them not to take part in the virtue of hospitality. The Kyklops have no idea that they could store up a reputation, which would then provide them with hospitality when they visited others. They could be trading wealth for name recognition, which in turn can be traded for hospitality when they are visiting others. This creates a complicated system of exchanges that to a group completely unfamiliar with trading would not possibly understand, yet a nation experienced in trade and barter would be totally at ease carrying out these transactions. Is this not the very thing that the Phaiakians are attempting to do? Is this not what Odysseus is living off of? Odysseus earned his name’s honor and now makes use of that reputation to receive even more generous gifts and aid then he would have otherwise. The Kyklops have no experience with this sort of system and cannot follow it.
I also discover a darker side to the virtue of hospitality in light of a system of exchange. The ‘persuasion’ of the gods begins to appear more like the extortion of individuals by Zeus. Kalypso cannot do anything but aid Odysseus’s departure or else the King of the Gods shall make her suffer. Even the actions of Odysseus support a refined notion of what sort of consequences refusing to grant hospitality include. Odysseus gouged out the eye of Polyphemos. He then took away all Polyphemos’ sheep. This may pale in comparison to the loss of Odysseus’ comrades, yet this will leave lasting effects upon Polyphemos. A generous host accrues certain privileges and honors over time, yet refusing to grant hospitality may cost a host everything he has. This does not sound very virtuous to me.
The Greek ‘virtue’
of hospitality exists as nothing more than a system of providing hospitality
for protection from a god’s or a man’s wrath, the receiving of some service,
or the increase of reputation. It is not truly a virtue, but an act
of egoism: what is the best for each individual. Polyphemos and the
Kyklops do not follow this code because they have nothing to gain from
it. The real question now must be: Would the Kyklops adopt this system
if they knew the consequences that they may suffer by ignoring it?
In The Odyssey, Homer articulates in painstaking detail the plight, pain, and hardship that Odysseus endures, but he neglects to emphasize the hardship that the lesser characters experience. The most prominent victim of this neglect is Odysseus’s wife, Penelope. She suffers perhaps more than any other character, including Odysseus, yet she suffers on the sidelines. Her tears gain no mention on their own, but are only shown as a mere side effect of her loyalty to the very man held most guilty for her neglect. Odysseus is very selfish in his own suffering in failing to recognize, sympathize with, or even mention the plight of his wife.
While several episodes document Odysseus’s longings, his wife is never one of those things he mentions longing for. When Calypso asks him, after Zeus ordered her to let him leave, if he still longed for his old home and “that bride for whom [he pines] each day” (267), his answer was “My quiet Penelope…would seem a shade before your majesty…I long for home, long for the sight of home” (267). Several times during his stay with the Phaiakians he expresses his longing for home. He mentions “home and friends” (284), “home and his parents” (304), “home and gifts” (361). He even mentions that the “flower of life” is the banquet (303). He describes food and music and everything except his wife.
He does mention Penelope twice. In his final toast to the Phaiakians, he prays “god grant I find my own wife in my hall with everyone I love best” (361). While it might appear that he has somewhat redeemed himself by choosing to finally mention Penelope, he only appears more insensitive in that he mentions her as if she were just another of his possessions rather than included in ‘those he loves best.’ In fact, it is not out of character for Odysseus to refer to Penelope in such a way as evidenced by his conversation with his mother in the underworld. His mother asks him, “Have you not gone at all to Ithaka?/ Have you not seen your lady in your hall?” (334) He answers that he had not seen Ithaka since he embarked for Troy. He then asks her “Tell me of Father, tell me of the son/ I left behind me; have they still my place,/ my honors, or have other men assumed them?” (335) He then asks how his mother came to the underworld, and finally he says “And tell me of my wife” (335). I feel that the order of these inquiries is significant in that he asks about his wife after he asks about his father, son, and mother. Also the use of the word and makes this fourth inquiry sound like an afterthought. Odysseus doesn’t ask of her condition or of her suffering. His concern lies only in whether she remains in his house or if she has remarried. In her answer, Odysseus’s mother speaks of Penelope’s anguish at his prolonged absence, but only as a preface to the real answer to his question about whether or not she has remarried. Another minor detail that I feel carries some weight in the way Odysseus asks these questions is his use of the possessive pronoun my only in reference to his wife. He asks ‘of Father’ and ‘of the son he left’ as if implying that they are each autonomous persons, but he asks of ‘my wife’ implying that she is a possession of his and not a whole person apart from him. As if neglect does not suffice to injure her, the greatest onslaught to Penelope comes in Odysseus’s conversation with King Agamemnon. Although Agamemnon had good reason for the wary and hateful sentiments toward his own deceiving, murderous wife, his universal curse upon women, his warning to Odysseus, and his statement that “the day of faithful wives is gone forever” only amount to mockeries of Penelope’s pain and faithfulness (342). Despite the fact that Agamemnon’s warning was well intentioned, Odysseus’s resultant suspicion of his own wife completely counters Penelope’s loyalty. Odysseus is going to continue his journey henceforth thinking only of Penelope in terms of what horrible things she might have planned instead of how sorrowfully she awaits his return.
Odysseus’s trials do not end when he reaches his familiar shore, but neither do his abuses of his wife. When Athena approaches him at the waterfront and warns him of the presence of the suitors, despite which Penelope remains loyal, “forever grieving for [Odysseus], missing [Odysseus’] return,” he responds by praising Athena for saving him from “an end like Agamemnon’s”(370). This statement only slanders Penelope, especially after Athena’s assurance of her continued faithfulness. The distinguishing feature of Agamemnon’s death was the involvement of his scheming, unfaithful wife. If Odysseus had returned home to a slaughter, however, it would not have been the doing of Penelope. The only likeness between the two events would be the death of the master of the house on his return by people who had no right to occupy his house.
After concealing his identity and forming his plans, Odysseus sets out to approach his own hearth. He proceeds with great caution, for which he cannot be faulted. He does, however, allow his emotions to run unchecked in certain situations while maintaining control over them in others. For instance, consider the difference between the episode where he first sees his old hound, Argos, and the episode in which he first sees his wife. Apparently overwhelmed at the way his faithful dog recognizes him and saddened at the fate that had befallen the animal, he sheds a tear at the sight of his old hound. When Penelope first enters the hall in his presence, no tears fall. In fact, Odysseus’s only responds to her presence by “laugh[ing] when he heard all this- her sweet tones charming gifts out of the suitors with talk of marriage, though she intended none” (439). It appears that the difference implies that he was more moved at the loyalty of his dog than at the loyalty of his wife. This opens an interesting window into Homer’s intentions. Very rarely do unintended implications survive unstudied in so ancient a work, so an audience must accept that the implication is intentional, but it is unreasonable to believe that Odysseus really cared more for the dog than for his wife. Perhaps Homer thought his reactions were justified in that Odysseus expected his wife to be loyal whereas he was surprised that the dog would remember him. Regardless, one would expect the mention of at least a pang of longing upon seeing his wife again after twenty years.
Then, in the episode where she questions him about any news he might have of her husband, he remains unmoved. Here, there are no suitors present to prevent him from showing an emotion, “yet he never blinked”(448). I believe this cold reaction toward his wife can be summed up in four words from this episode: “if he willed to” (448). He had to hide his emotions to not betray his identity and risk compromising his revenge; but, skipping ahead in the story a little, he also tries to hide his identity from his father, but finds that he cannot once he sees his father’s anguish, which causes him to reveal himself and weep even before Laertes is convinced of his identity. Even though his wife laments, he maintains his granite composure and “wept, if he willed to , inwardly” (448). If is the word that vexes me. Here again, Homer implicates Odysseus’s insensitivity. It is impossible for me to believe that, after not seeing a wife he loves for twenty years and upon seeing her openly weeping for him, he could not but be moved to weep at least inwardly. “If he willed to” implies that he might not have felt such a compulsion. Only after the restoration of his house, and position, and possessions, does he finally show any emotion toward his wife.
Even after the suitors are destroyed and any threat to him removed, there remains one last test. Penelope still feels the need for Odysseus to prove his identity, but she doesn’t do this to spite him. She does it to remain faithful because “long ago [she] armed [her]self against the frauds of men” (496). She tests Odysseus on the premise that only he would know that the master bed could not be moved. While having great potential to be a very intimate and romantic test, Odysseus rages against that intimacy in his outburst asking “Who dared to move my bed” (496). Again, the words he uses show his selfishness: not ‘our bed’, or even ‘the bed I built for us’, but ‘my bed’.
I submit that
Odysseus, throughout the work, regards Penelope as merely a possession.
He never considers her grief. He inquires of her loyalty only to
be sure that his possessions have not been divided as dowry had she remarried,
and he is more suspicious of her rather than loving upon his homecoming,
despite Athena’s reassurance, having taken to heart Agamemnon’s warning.
After all of her tears and years of anguish and uncertainty, her only reward
is the restoration of another possession to its rightful owner.
Like the swirling Charybdis in The Odyssey, American’s lives are an intensifying vortex of activity. With schedules skyrocketing, and the concept of family faltering, it is no wonder the modern home is little more than a place to sleep, eat, and watch American Idol. It has been said that “home is where the heart is,” but you couldn’t tell it from typical contemporary lifestyles. Millennia ago, the home was a cherished refuge from the outside world, a place of family and honor. As a record of ancient Greek values, The Odyssey, by Homer, presents the domestic facet of Mediterranean culture. In the story, the hero’s quest for Ithaca shows just how beloved home is. More specifically, Odysseus’ enduring obsession with home results from a feeling of weakness without it, as if it is a projection of himself. The Odyssey thematically explores the idea of the home as a sanctuary -- and how characters are sensitive to, and dependant, on its sanctity.
The saying “a man’s home is his castle” would not be lost on Greek homeowners. The characters’ homes in The Odyssey are not just places to eat and sleep, but sanctuaries from the outside world. Being sanctuaries, it is only natural for them to reflect an image of strength and solidarity. Emphasis on the structure of the home gives tangible icons to this idea. Odysseus men are on Circe’s beach after their prolonged stay and implore Odysseus to return home: “Captain shake off this trance and think of if we shall ever see your own well-timbered hall on Ithaca (328).” The men desire the permanence of their homes. To further this image, Odysseus’ bedroom is built around a tree, a symbol of permanence and life. Interestingly, showing how the structure of the home is changed represents a breach in the sanctity, or reverence, to its ownership. Breaking wood comes to represent a disruption in a character’s power over their home. Examples include a chair being broken across Odysseus back by the rowdy suitors, the Cyclops assortment of boat wreckage, and debris spouting from Charybdis. Wood comes to symbolize the strength of the home in the Odyssey, being the stuff that homes are made of. As the focal point of the bedroom, the tree in Odysseus’ bedroom suggests the solidarity Penelope afforded him in his absence. Another important example of the structure of the home being associated with strength is when Odysseus journeys to the Land of the Dead, a place where walls no longer have use but retain their meaning to the ethereal and sickly shades. Circe tells Odysseus “to take [his] ship to shore to find the crumbling homes of death (354).” Even in death, characters do not seem to be able to break the association of strength with a sanctuary. On Circe’s island, one of Odysseus’ companions falls from her roof to his death (330). As if he is outside of the security that is granted under a home’s roof, he dies only to remain unburied until Odysseus returns to make him a proper grave, at the request of his shade. It would seem that the sanctity of the home rests on the need people have for the security of its walls.
The home is more than the strength the walls grant, however. Each home seems to be imbued with the very personality of the homeowner. The fact that Penelope asks him to identify their secret carving in the trunk when she is skeptic of his return is highly symbolic (496). Other characters have similar customs which illustrate the ownership of their sanctuaries. Circe carries a wooden staff in her home, which is representative of her power. The Cyclops home captures his brutish, hermit-like lifestyle, with the normally ornate doors often seen in the Odyssey replaced by a monolithic stone slab, which can be heaved into place only by him(309). Odysseus’ home is full of images of his personal strength. Not only does he demonstrate his physical prowess at the bow competition, he is described in this way by a servant after slaughtering the suitors: “to see this would have made your heart grow hot, a lion splashed with blood (492).” Just before his first encounter with Penelope as himself, Odysseus is “bathed in light” by Athena, making him taller and more youthful, an image specifically intended to enhance his final “homecoming” (495). A character’s dependence on the sanctuary goes beyond the idea of strength, however.
Being a sacred place, the home is afforded a great deal of honor. Honor is expected to not be broken and can have devastating consequences when it is. When one thinks of honor, they naturally think of one’s “good name.” One of the distinguishing characteristics of the home in the Odyssey is its use as an identifier in the name. For example, many characters have a location identifier attached to their name (e.g. Odysseus of Ithaca, Poseidon of the wine-dark sea, seafarers of Phaiakia). In that same vein of thought, honoring someone also involves honoring their homeland; a symbol of pride. After Circe’s power is nullified by Odysseus, she desperately asks “Where do you come from? Where is your city? (324).” Young Telemachus even questions Athena’s homeland when she is disguised in Odysseus’ palace: “…But tell me now and put it for me clearly –who are you? Where do you come from? Where’s your home and family (213)?” Zeus as “God of the Stormy Skies (364),” also represents an example of an identifying tag. The home represents something important, an essential part of someone’s personality. Similarly, Odysseus is disguised as the beggar and boasts “Here is Odysseus’ Hall! There is no hall like his (420)!” Not coincidentally, he disguises himself in this episode as a person who would seem weakest, being one with no home. No doubt the poem stresses the importance and uniqueness of the home as an integral part of personality and honor. However, the idea of the home representing strength relies upon the fact that its honor is not broken. What effect would saying “Odysseus of Ithaca” have if its name was sullied, specifically by marauding suitors? This becomes the motivation for a man like Odysseus – who has slept with goddesses and lived like a king far away from his kingdom – to return to wife and home, no matter what the cost. Maintaining the integrity of the sanctuary is paramount to characters in the Odyssey.
Repeatedly, examples surface of characters willing to break the sanctity of one another’s homes. In the Odyssey, betrayal in the home is the most serious of these dishonors. Agamemnon, the corps commander of Odysseus’ expedition to Troy, is killed on his return home by his wife and her lover. He tells Odysseus “[They] killed me after feeding me…like cattle in rich landlord’s household (342).” Home represents safety, and this trust was betrayed. Throughout the story, characters commiserate over invasions into the home. Eurylikas, the servant, tells Odysseus of Penelope’s activities in the palace while he has been away, adding “She knew how they plotted against her son in her own home (411).” Repeatedly, we find characters using the phrase “in his/her/their own home” to describe an act. To the Greek people, an act is more despicable when committed in the home. At one point, Odysseus seethes over the intrusion of his home: "The young men, yes. And may the gods requite/those insolent puppies for the game they play/in a home not their own. They have no decency" (462). Homer justifies the slaughter of these suitors by detailing their corruption of his home, in an aside from Telemachus to Athena –
Dear guest, will this offend you, if I speak?
In the same respect the suitors desecrate the honor of Ithaca, so do Odysseus’ men dishonor Polyphemus’ abode. The Cyclops incident represents a dishonor Odysseus commits that is paid in kind back to him, a punishment from the gods. “Are you wandering rogues who cast your lives like dice and ravage other folk by the sea?” asks the Cyclops (308). Odysseus answers no, even though he has come unannounced and uninvited into the domain of the Cyclops. “Why not make a run for it?” suggests one of Odysseus’ men (308). Initially, it is actually Odysseus who enters the Cyclops’ home, and is essentially a glorified pirate. It is made painfully obvious that the figures in the Odyssey are dependant on a strict “code” of honoring the home, because doing otherwise results in situations they are hurt by, even killed. Such was the case with the suitors deaths, the trespassing soldiers from Odysseus’ crew, and the other punishments the hero Odysseus himself receives.
An interesting parallel exists between the dishonorable acts Odysseus commits and the dishonors heaped upon him. On Helios’ island, Odysseus men commit an infraction on ground so special it can only be described as sacred. Helios’ beloved cattle were butchered against his will. Like Telemachus observing the pillaging suitors from his lofty tower above the palace, Helios’ eye (the sun) watches to let “no man avoid his eye (356).” In both cases, an act of actively trespassing and consuming took place which took advantage of assets of the home that were both material and emotional. In any case, a host expected a guest to observe certain rules, and those guidelines were not followed. The insult that is conveyed with these violations transgresses disappointment and turns into spite. We know this because we can look at the effect of Odysseus trespasses on both Poseidon and Helios. Zeus said “Poseidon must relent, for being quarrelsome will get him nowhere (211).” The reader can infer from this type of discourse that though gods and having the power to will the repair to Odysseus’ crimes, there remains a wound beyond the physical, a breach in something sacred. As Achilles’ vulnerability allowed him to be killed, so did Odysseus’ weakness for his home allow the otherwise stoic hero to show his own soft spot. It is interesting comparing their weaknesses. Achilles was a powerful warrior felled at Troy, when an arrow hit the only spot on his body susceptible to physical harm: the heel. What is Odysseus’ Achilles Heel? Despite the best efforts of the courageous Odysseus, the God’s find his weakest point, and that is his home. A man who stoically braves Scylla and Charybdis ends up weeping at the prospect of never seeing home again.
every character in the story was affected in some small part at least by
the invasion of his home. Looking over The Odyssey, the reader
can see how maintaining reverence for the sanctuary that is the home becomes
the galvanizing force behind a majority of the story. When Odysseus
is disguised as the beggar at the end of the story, he swears to the swine
herder that Odysseus will return. “I swear…by the table set for friends
and by your King’s hearthstone to which I’ve come…Odysseus will return
(463).” It is an interesting phrase that he uses, since the hearth
is considered the “heart” of a home. Truly, home is where the heart
is in Homer’s The Odyssey.
|1. "The Rape
of the Lock" Quiz (click).
2. Rousseau Paragraph (click).
3. Tartuffe Quiz (click)
4. Franklin's Autobiography (click)
5. Faust Quiz (click)
6. Faust Quiz 2 (click)
7. In-class writing on passages from Faust (click)
8. Wuthering Heights Quiz (click)
9. Coleridge Quiz (click)
10. A Doll's House Quiz (click)
11. Grand Inquisitor & "Realism" Quiz (click)
12. Paragraph Assignment on The Death of Ivan Ilyitch (click)
13. The Metamorphosis Quiz (click)
1. Write a short--2-3 sentences--paraphrase
of the poem.
2. What happens to the severed lock
at the end of the poem, reportedly?
3. What is the purpose of the poem,
its rhetorical aim?
The poem's purpose is for satire and amusement. Pope was implored to write this poem by a friend in order to reconcile the dispute between the belle and the beau, the one who cut off her lock. The poem also is Pope's attempt to ressurrect an ancient form of poetry.
4. Use a word or a short phrase to describe as accurately and as comprehensively as you can the tone of the the poem.
5. Use a single term to describe the poem's overall method. Justify your choice.
Pope uses exaggeration. The lock of hair seems to be so important. "Rape" is such a serious term in our society today that when I realized the woman was only violated in that her hair was cut off, I was amused.
"Mock emotion": Pope shows mock horror at the snipping of the lock, mock admiration at Belinda's toilet, and mock fascination at the changing of the hair into a celestial body. In short, he uses emotions that are appropriate to a classical epic poem in a sarcastic manner.
"Satire"--Pope is using satire to make fun of these nobles. They waste their time sleeping in, playing cards, and worrying about trivial things such as hair. He makes the situation seem like it's the end of the world: people die and a gnome takes a trip to a hell-like place. He mocks them so they can see how trivial their actions really are.
Rousseau’s regretful claim at the end of Book 1 of Confessions that nothing suited his disposition as well as “the quiet and obscure lot” of an engraver seems entirely out of place. It especially sticks out because of the very terms he uses to describe how that lot would have made him happy. He writes, it “would have limited my ambition for the rest of my days, and, leaving me an honourable leisure to cultivate modest tastes, would have confined me within my own sphere, without offering me the means of getting out of it” (101, emphasis added). Perhaps not disingenuous, the claim nevertheless does display a remarkable blindness to self, especially in a work professing to open up the self to inspection. After all, Book 1 is saturated with images of confinement and repeated attempts to escape confinement, to break through boundaries. And that desire to escape boundaries even bleeds into the narrator’s handling of his relationship with his readers, his sense of place within his own book.
The details concerning confinement I have in mind cover a wide range. One type includes, simply, Rousseau’s frequent expressions of his dislike for restriction and his desire for freedom. He says, for instance, that a dislike of restraint (88) and a desire for liberty (88) mark his entire life. In the last section of the book, also, he remarks on the horrible confinement he felt under the control of the engraver M. Ducommun, even after having written of his “feeling of servitude” (98) under the lawyer M. Masseron. In the control of M. Ducommun he felt the “abject servitude” coming from “excessive restraints” (101). Here, “incessantly fettered to [his] work, [he] saw only objects of enjoyment for others and of privation for [himself], where the sight of liberty enjoyed by [his] master and companions increased the weight of [his] servitude . . . “ (100). He feels this restraint so poignantly because his earlier childhood lacked anything like it: he grew up being treated as an equal to his “superiors, knowing no pleasure which was not within [his] reach, seeing no dish of which [he] could not have a share, having no desire which [he] could not have openly expressed . . . “ (99). Hardly subtle, these examples of Rousseau’s direct observations about how he sees his life in terms of the opposition between restriction and freedom do suggest that his easy claims at the end of the book about his willingness to accept restraint, even if self-imposed, require some interrogation.
Another kind of descriptive detail has less to do with Rousseau’s commentary and more to do with the actual events he chooses to describe. These details largely relate to his confinement under M. Ducommun. The first involves his attempt to recover the tempting apple from the store room. Young Rousseau must overcome the barrier—a grating—between himself and the apples. He fails, of course. Though the event is autobiographical it also has a mythic tinge, especially when he refers to the store room full of apples as “the garden of the Hesperides.” “Garden,” in itself and in light of an earlier, obviously developed allusion to “ the earthly paradise” (93), suggests Eden and thus colors Rousseau’s attempt to possess an apple as a longing to return to a place of loving confinement and also freedom—the very kind of paradoxical place he describes in the penultimate paragraph of Book 1. The second of these events dealing with transgression of borders—or the attempt to transgress—is the rather undeveloped one about his having discovered access to his mater’s private room, “the door of which [he] found means to open and shut without being noticed” (102). Another such event, perhaps even the climactic one of the book, concerns his being locked outside Geneva’s city gates. Two details deserve mention: one, he had twice before found himself outside the locked gates and, two, he had a habit, once outside the wall with his acquaintances, of going “further than any of them without thinking about [his] return” (106), another suggestion certainly of his disdain for limits. On the third time, he rushes back only to find the gates closing before him, “a sinister and fatal omen of the destiny which the moment was opening for [him]," as he describes their shutting. Notice the detail, though: as the gates shut on him they open a destiny for him, and of course destiny is, in a sense, confining. As we know, Rousseau decides not to enter through those gates again, not to return to his life of servitude under M. Ducommun. The conflicting, paradoxical, perhaps even confused sense of the border and of confinement here is remarkable. The door’s closing opens up a confining destiny. This climactic even of Rousseau's youth underscores an important pattern within the first book.
This pattern emerges in other ways as well. One important recollection Rousseau has of his father is related to walls and confinement. A man falsely accused his father of carrying a sword illegally within the city walls. Instead of languishing in prison because of this injustice, he quit Geneva. Like father like son! Rousseau’s reading habits, too, serve as an example: while reading he transcends boundaries of time and place. Reading Plutarch he becomes a Greek or Roman; and he is thus transported even while reading within the confines of his father’s work room (86). Before that, he and his father become so transported by the romances they read together that they ignore “bed time,” listening to each other in turn right through the night to morning. Later in his childhood Rousseau compensates for his feeling of restriction under the engraver by reading compulsively from books he purchased at La Tribu’s book shop. Through reading he supplies himself with a realm into which he can imaginatively flee in order to get out of his enclosed state: he feeds himself “upon the situations which had interested [him] in the course of [his] reading,” and by recombining them in his imagination creates a “fictitious state . . . that made [him] forget [his] actual state with which he was so dissatisfied” (105).
Not an actual escape from confinement, this habit of reading in order to transcend boundaries nevertheless fits in with the other, more physical examples of border-breaking, and again suggests his strong predilection for escaping his state, for behaving in a way opposite of that which he claims to prefer in the next-to-last paragraph of this book. In fact, when describing this tendency in himself for imaginative escape, he even says that it ends by “disgusting [him] with everything around [him] . . . (105). If that is the case, there is no place that will not become disgusting, even that little sphere in which he imagines himself happy (107). Money, too, amounts to a confinement. For Rousseau money and buying items involves an intermediary state: “between money and the possession of a desired object there is always an intermediary, whereas between the thing itself and the enjoyment of it there is none” (104). What is this intermediary if not a border, a wall, a barrier that Rousseau wants to eliminate? But the longed for state is fundamentally that of the infant where there hardly exists a delay between desire and gratification. This world does not exist for any adult.
Even Rousseau’s relationship with us his readers becomes transgressive. He tries, as it were, to leap out of the page and address the reader directly. One time he “speaks” directly to the nurse who cared for him at his birth: “Dear aunt, I forgive you for having preserved my life . . . “ (85). Another time he bargains with the reader, saying he will not trouble him with describing six events if he can describe just one in detail: “I wish to tell you one, only one, provided that you will permit me to tell it in as much detail as possible, in order to prolong my enjoyment” (93). Amid his description of the attempted theft of the apple, he twice breaks down the conventional barrier between narrator and reader, acting as if there is no intermediary, to use the term from his discussion of money, and talking directly to his audience when he loses the apple. He says, “compassionate reader, share my affliction!” (101). When his master catches him the next day, on his second attempt at retrieving the apple, he again activates his almost palpable presence before the reader by capturing the horror of merely recalling the event: “ . . . the pen falls from my hand” (101). Perhaps these examples of the narrator trying to transgress borders between himself and his readers are even more telling then the other kinds of examples: if Rousseau cannot even keep himself contained within the confines of a book, how can we believe that he ever would have been happy as a modest engraver “confined within his own sphere”?
Referring mainly to the first two paragraphs
in Rousseau's Confessions, write a well organized, thoroughly developed
paragraph in which you address the question of how this new voice fits
in or does not fit in with what we've read so far in the course.
A Sampling of Successful Responses
compared to the other pieces we have thus far read in the course, it seems
that the one thing that really sets it apart from Voltaire and Pope is
the author's self-knowledge (and possibly his self-conceit). Within
the first two paragraphs, Rousseau establishes himself as the main character
and in a superior tone asserts that he "venture[s] to believe that [he]
is not made like any of those who are in existence." If our first
two major writers wrote of ridiculous or larger-than-life characters with
exaggerated personalities, Rousseau does the same, but in his case, he
turns himself into one of those characters, perhaps without meaning to
do so. In fact, it is doubtful that he had any intention of recording
so unlikely a personage for himself: his plan, as he puts it, is
"to set before my fellows the likeness of a man in all truth of nature."
In some ways, he and Candide are strikingly similar: both ingenuous,
both unconventionally educated, both lost in a world that challenges their
earlierst ideas. The difference: Candide was fully fictional,
a basically flat character used as a vehicle for the all-knowing satirical
voice of Voltaire; Rousseau was writing of himself as he was himself, and
the image seems inflated. And so, while Confessions shares
many traits of other Englightenment-age writing, Rousseau differs in his
focus on himself and his feelings; both approaches lend an air of unreality,
although for Rousseau this seems to be
The main difference presented in Rousseau's Confessions, particularly the first two paragraphs, in comparison to the other works of the Enlightenment is the focus placed on one individual's thoughts and emotions. While pieces such as "The Rape of the Lock" and Candideare limited in their emotional expression and focus on satirizing a larger group of people, Rousseau simply writes in order to portray "the likenesss of a man." He even states in the first paragraph how this work, his "undertaking," is executed "without precedent." Rouseau was well aware his intentions were original. References to feelings and the author's heart are topics which have not been discussed until now. Furthermore, Rousseau does not only suggest that his work is original, but rather that he himself is original as well. He acknowledges his individualism, stating that he is unlike othe men. Until now, the individuality of man was not readily discussed. Previous works treated characters as homogeneous specimens with little or no distinction in personality or emotion. Rousseau defies this conept, venturing to create not only a character whose innermost thoughts and desires are revealed, but a complete portrait of a man.
It is clear in the first two paragrpahs of Confessions that Rousseau developed a new voice in his writing distinctively different from writers such as Voltaire and Pope. Rousseau begins by using the first person, speaking directly to the reader. The other two authors previously mentioned wrote stories about characters, but did not narrate a story addressing themselves. This is a change from a story told, to the honest truth of a man, assuming that his is being honest. The number of times Rousseau uses "I" in the first two paragraphs indicates that he will be exploring the self, specifically himself. Next Rousseau explains that he is going "without precedent." These two previous writers used forms of writing that had already been seen, a story in prose and an epic tale. Rousseau admits from the beginning that the ideas in his writing have not been considered before. Seubsequently he addresses the plot in the first two paragraphs and explains that it will be a journey of human emotions: "I know the feelings of my heart, and I know men." Rousseau is treading on new territory by exploring human emotions and his own feelings. Formerly the exterior of a person was surveyed where the interior is looked at in Confessions. The emotions of previous characters were not explored or developed; Rousseau was the first to delve into this idea of self, and the human emotion. Finally, he describes himself as being molded by nature, an idea not seen before in either Voltaire or "Rape." He does not consider himself a member of society but a result of Nature. Rousseau sgnifies in Confessions a new style of writing and a new expression of self that was not explored before.
1. Build a family tree from the following list, leaving out the names that do not belong by "blood" on that tree (3 pts):
Per Nelle Orgon Elmire Damis Mariane Valère Cleante Tartuffe Dorine
Nell --------- __?__
__?___ --------- __?___
2. What is Elmire's deal with Tartuffe, spoiled by Damis (1 pt)?
Tartuffe persuades Orgon to let Mariane marry Valère, in return for which Elmire will not disclose Tartuffe's attempted seduction of Elmire to Orgon.
3. What do you consider the pinnacle of Orgon's folly? Argue your choice (2 pts).
The reader can tell that Orgon has been sufficiently duped when he returns home after two days and thinks nothing of his wife's illness, but grieves for the over-indulgent Tartuffe. From this point, his actions continue to reflect his lack of sensibility and become more momentous as the play continues.
When his son, Damis, finally gains evidence proving that Tartuffe is a horrible human being, Orgon refuses to believe him and kicks him out of the house and gives his inheritance to Tartuffe. He signs away all of his property.
I would argue that he was most out of sorts when he threatened to tear his son "limb from limb" for the sake of Tartuffe's good graces. We find later that he loved his son very much; he was obviously a family man, and to make such a threat points toward complete insantity.
4. What from Rousseau's work--what value, trait, or world view--do you see operating within Tartuffe? Explain (2 pts).
I see the value of individualism operating in Tartuffe. The focus of this play is on individual people; and though they operate in a family, each has his/her own goals and methods. Tartuffe offers social commentary by focusing on the individual and the flaws and virtues of each specific person.
The most prominant trait of this play that "carries over" from Rousseau is excessive feeling. For example, Tartuffe brainwashes half of the cast and causes them to become deeply and emotionally involved in his life story.
Perhaps I am unfair to Rousseau (although Dostoevsky didn't seem to think much of Confessions either), but I see the same blind faith in convictions that Rouseau holds operating in both Orgon and his mother, Madame Per Nelle. All three have an arrogant belief system; Rousseau believes that nature broke the mold when it made him; Orgon and Madame simply cannot be srong about this man who is pious beyond the bounds of human ability. In my mind, it seems that Rousseau holds the same convictions about himself that Orgon and Madame Per Nelle hold about Tartuffe, until shown the depths of his treachery.
5. Who is the hero/heroine of the play? Argue your case (2 pts).
Cleante, the King--these were the candidates offered up and almost without
exception, the rationale for the selection hinged on the degree to which
the character operated independently, constructively, and effectively.
The king, of course, trumps them all.
Bonus question (4 pts): What is
the ruling metaphor throughout Franklin’s revision of his life?
--The metaphor that re-appears is that o of the newspaper, or profession of journalism. He refers to errors in his life as "errata" and portrays himself as the typesetter and proofreader of his own story.
--Revision is a virtue in Franklin's revision of his life. He consistently defines his problems and then works to revise them and eventually eliminates them. For example, he revises his work on writing for the publication to become a good writer. He revises his daily habits through his list of virtues.
1) Who is Franklin’s audience (1 pt)?
His son (359).
2) He locates the origin of his interest in writing to one specific event. What event is that (1 pt)?
--He began passionately debating with another young man, and this drove him to attempt to write, which at first was not one of his talents (364).
--Taking sides and writing letters in factor of women's rights to a friend.
3) What was the original number of Franklin’s list of virtues that he imposed upon himself (1 pt)?
4) Which virtue did he add to his original list and what caused him to add it (1 pt)?
--Humility--a friend told him and cited instances in which he was so adamant about winning arguments that he was boastful.
5) Into what profession does Franklin enter in Philadelphia (1 pt)?
6) Write a well developed paragraph in which you explain how this selection from Franklin’s Autobiography fits in with what we’ve read so far. In contemplating your response, consider the following oppositions—and perhaps others if you would like––that have marked our readers so far:
tradition vs. originality
Also refer as specifically as you can to at least three other works(5 pts).
--Although he does not exhibit all of the traits common to most of his contemporaries, Franklin essentially is an Enlightenment thinker. Unlike Rousseau, who relates to the age of Enlightenment by good timing rather than philosophy, Franklin has an honesty about him that suggests he has spent a great deal of time contemplating human nature. Looking back, he realizes that his "Virtue Diet" was an unattainable goal, but he recognizes the good that comes from trying. In accordance with Enlightenment thought, he detaches emotion from his work. Voltaire allows Candide and his comrades no sentiment, and Pope satirizes it by allotting it to his characters in abundance. Franklin mentions certain regrets, but quickly moves on. His own wife is simply briefly mentioned in his autobiography, while his children are given a passing glance. Like Swift, he acknowledges the error in having too much pride. Franklin's addition of the virtue of humility because of his pompous arguing style is reminiscent of Swift's satire of Gulliver's disdain for his own kind. Franklin, although stylistically very different from his European counterparts, is very much the embodiment of the Enlightenment.
--Franklin's Autobiography fits well with many of the works we have read so far, particularly in its focus on the individual. Like Rousseau, Franklin was writing to set down the course of his life in an orderly progression, to show how one man got from there to here, but with more focus on facts than emotions. Like Gulliver, he is extremely concerned with personal virtue. The bulk of differences lies between Autobiography and the works of fiction we have read. Unlike Candide and Gulliver, unlike even Belinda, to whom the world happens, Franklin is an active participant in creating his destiny. The world has its say, of course, but Franklin turns everything into opportunity, whether it is the short-term imprisonment of his brother or the secret apprenticeship he breaks to go to Philadelphia. And unlike Belinda and other characters, Franklin is more concerned with virtuous living than extravagance.
1) Some papers suffered from grammatical problems. Most of those were "agreement problems" of one kind or another--pronoun, pronoun-noun, and subject-verb. Here are some links to explanations by the Purdue On-line Writer's Labratory (OWL) of common grammatical problems (and of course you can also consult your Handbook):
(a) sentence fragments (click
2) Apart from some debilitating troubles with constructing a narrowly focused thesis, the most prevalent problem in the papers was graceful integration of quotations into your text. One advantage of the sample papers that I provided on Assignment #1 is that they illustrated the proper way to handle this technique. Take a look at those sample papers to see how to indicate the by "[ ]", for instance, the slight change in a word in a quotation so that it fits the point of view of your sentence. Also look up quotations and how to handle them in your handbook--placement of the comma, for instance, inside rather than outside the quotes is a common problem.
3) As might be expected, heavy dependency on forms of the "to be" verb also emerged as a problem. Below I list some sample sentences from the batch of papers with examples of how to revise them:
a) Off the coast of Lisbon,
variances of kindness are shown when a storm
strikes the protagonist's boat and an earthquake strikes the mainland.
Candide's simplicity which entices the reader to care even a bit as to
what happens to him.
human excrement is
offensive to Gulliver.
for Swift is
representative of part of his dislike for mankind.
the detrimental effects produced by each violation, something
gained from the horrific act which ensues . . .
kind of exploitation is
the very essence of the Englightenment.
Jacquelyn Hanna, "Reason and Humanity: "Lost and Found" in Swift's Gulliver's Travels" (click)
Knight Campbell, "Swift the Traitor" (click)
Jillian Danback, "Enlightened Violation" (click)
Adam Tisdall, "Not a Load of Crap: Excrement in Gulliver’s Travels" (click)
Bobby Wayland, "Horribly Human or Wholly Houyhnhnm" (click)
Larua Montoya, "Practice
What You Preach: The Couplet as the Mark of Reason" (click)
by Jacquelyn R. Hanna
The Enlightenment was a time of great emphasis on reason, and many writers of the time celebrated the power of reason to lift humanity to the heights of equality and brotherhood. In this era of rationality, writers often used satire to condemn the irrational. Upon a cursory first glance, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels would appear to carry on this tradition. After more closely examining the fourth part and second half of the third, I propose that Swift actually warns his readers about rationality carried to excess; that in fact, he suggests extreme rationality can lead to the loss of certain characteristics--purpose, compassion, and perspective--and thereby effectively strip us of our humanity.
The scientists and engineers in the Grand Academy of Lagado are the first in our selections to fall prey to the fruitlessness of senseless reason. These men are so caught up in attempting to accomplish great feats of science for the advancement of human kind, and their experiments seem so perfectly rational, that they completely fail to see that they have lost any purpose. Not only are their plans impossible, but even if they succeed, the utility and aesthetic agreeability of their results is questionable. For instance, Gulliver gives an account of a blind man with several students whom he teaches to mix paint on the basis of feel and smell. Gulliver regrets that he comes upon them whilst still in the learning stage, for “this artist is much encouraged and esteemed by the whole fraternity” (288). Another inventor has created a method that uses pigs to plough farmland; a brilliant idea, sure, but the method involves first “bury[ing], at six inches distance and eight deep, a quantity of acorns, dates, and chestnuts...” before releasing the pigs to dig up the foodstuffs while enriching the land with their manure (288). The ideas themselves are not at fault; pre-mixed paints and simplified ploughing methods are certainly noble goals. However, in complicating the entire process of whatever they are attempting to improve, the uselessness of their solutions to various common problems undermines the reasonable goals of the scientists and engineers of the Grand Academy.
Next we come across the Houyhnhnms, whom Gulliver extols as paragons of virtue that is the result of perfect reasoning. We as readers see what Gulliver does not: in aspiring to empirical reasoning as the sole guide in their sheltered lives, the Houyhnhnms have lost a virtue considered very important to many humans: compassion. Take, for example, the Houyhnhnms’ treatment of their offspring. Gulliver is delighted to note that his “master...show[s] the same affection to his neighbour’s issue” as to his own (317). Although this seems an admirable virtue, as Gulliver goes on his argument seems to imply that there is little attachment to any of the young, regardless of their origin: “They have no fondness for their colts or foals,” caring only that their progeny receive a proper education (317). Love does not decide their marriages; mates are chosen according to their physical characteristics to protect the strength of the species (318). They feel no compassion even for the ignorant and beastly Yahoos; the Houyhnhnms, instead of feeling a sort of condescending benevolence such as we may show to a dog or other creature, debate destroying all Yahoos, agreeing finally that instead of killing them outright the Houyhnhnms will simply castrate the young ones, so that the population dies out naturally (319-320).
Gulliver himself falls into the same trap of vain, blind reasoning. As he relates stories of his native land to his Houyhnhnm master, as he observes the staid, rational Houyhnhnms and the abhorrent humanesque Yahoos, he loses all perspective in regards to the human race. He considers himself to be very reasonable, having learned much from his idolized Houyhnhnms; from outside, we see the ridiculous extremes to which this excessive and sightless rationality leads him. One example easily seen is Gulliver’s poor treatment of his wife and children upon his return to human civilization. He is unable to see them as anything but brute Yahoos, despite the fact that his wife seems to have been a perfect Penelope when Gulliver was so long away and perhaps forever lost. He so abominates humanity that he cannot stand the sight of his own face in the looking glass (332); he has lost sight of the plain fact that he is not a Yahoo; even the Houyhnhnms treated him at least as well as they treat the servile bays and sorrels (311).
On this basis, I am confident in saying that Swift is, at least in part, proposing moderation of reason, so that Enlightenment thinking doesn’t lead to a great loss of humanness in contemporary society. As the Western world found reason, it was important not to lose purpose, or hope; not to abandon compassion and emotion; not to let the world get out of perspective and thus give up contentment. When Swift exposes Gulliver for letting himself be dazzled by the unfeeling rationale of the Houyhnhnms and now preferring barn animals to a steadfast wife (329), he exhorts us not to let nature be completely overcome by intellect. In this light, Swift can be seen as precursing the reactionary Romantic period that followed the staid Enlightenment.
by Knight Campbell
Jonathan Swift should be considered a traitor to his own kind for using his main character Gulliver to paint such a grim picture of humanity in Gulliver’s Travels. This ill and unfair representation is most apparent to me when Gulliver returns home and “[his] wife [takes him] in her arms, and [kisses him]” (329). He faints! A true kiss to me is one of the most beautiful moments in life and shows the even greater beauty of love, yet Gulliver is thoroughly disgusted by it. This is where I lose all faith in Jonathan Swift and his main character. He is hypocritical and naïve in relating such a black and white account of the two species. He portrays humans as completely disgusting and comparatively describes the Houyhnhnms as perfect. In his polar description, Gulliver fails to point out any strong points of humanity and does not include a single criticism of the Houyhnhnms. In his naivety Gulliver misses many observations that disprove his argument, and so perhaps does Swift.
Houyhnhnms admittedly have many virtues in their lifestyle that make them appealing. According to Gulliver they have reason beyond any other animal’s capacity and are never cruel. The do not know the meaning of a lie, and except on rare occasions, converse only about happiness and benevolence. They care for each other as much as they care for themselves and know no sadness or anger. Gulliver claims that “… these noble Houyhnhnms are endowed by nature with a general disposition to all virtues, and have no conceptions or ideas of what is evil” (317).
Although his description of the Houyhnhnms is enticing, almost every argument Gulliver makes for the Houyhnhnms contradicts itself. He claims that they contain all that is virtuous and yet their reason is not “discolored by passion and interest” (317). Certainly passion and interest are virtues, for if humanity were not saturated with interest and passion, what would motivate them to go beyond eating grass and discussing friendship? Would Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata be captivating if he had not been moved by passion when writing it, or would we still be amazed by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel if he had not poured his soul into it? I submit that without the virtue of passion the better half of our lives would be lost. A purely mathematical world in which everything is known seems a bland place indeed.
An example of how the lack of passion affects the Houyhnhnms’ lives is
the shallowness of their relationships. Houyhnhnms have mates solely
to reproduce a certain number of children, and “they have no fondness for
their colts or foals” (317). After producing offspring the females
leave their mates. How could a society without love within a family
be close to perfect? I assume Gulliver loved his wife until he was
brainwashed by the Houyhnhnms’ complacency in relationships. When
he comes home the sight of his family fills him with “hatred, disgust,
and contempt” despite the welcome his family gives him with “great surprise
and joy” (329).
The text does not wholly support Gulliver’s claim that the Houyhnhnms have
an unending pool of benevolence, nor does it make it clear that they know
no evil. The Yahoos and ultimately his own kind bear the brunt of
hatred from the Houyhnhnms. They are constantly berated and held
in contempt by the beings who claim to be the ultimate creatures of reason
and benevolence. Gulliver explains that the Yahoos could not be natives
of the land because of the “violent hatred the Houyhnhnms… bore them” (319).
Hatred is a strong emotion to be felt by such a benevolent group of horses.
The Houyhnhnms constantly point out the vices of Yahoos and yet not once
do they try to help the Yahoos become civilized or be more benevolent.
Instead they enslave them and contemplate genocide as an answer to the
Yahoo infestation their island.
Gulliver and Swift go even farther in belittling their own race when they begin to make it seem that the Yahoos, which they have described as the most despicable creatures in the world, are still better than humans. In describing the Yahoos, Gulliver says that he “never saw any sensitive being so detestable on all accounts” (297). Not once is a good thing said about the Yahoos, and yet later in the book Swift begins to make allusions that Yahoos are superior to Humans. Gulliver’s master observes that humans might be cleaner and less deformed, “but, in a point of real advantage, he [thinks humans differ] for the worse” (303). He points out that most of the parts of the human body, such as finger nails, teeth, and arms, are underdeveloped and useless. Later Gulliver states that “when [he] happened to behold the reflection of [his] own form in a lake or fountain, [he] turned away [his] face in horror and detestation of [himself], and could better endure the sight of a common Yahoo, than that of [his] own person” (323). He claims that humans may have some reason, but they only use it to further the vices that create their evil nature. This cannot be true. If it were we would not have music, art, or religion. No great philosophers would have bothered to think of natural law or principles of freedom. The list goes on.
Swift best shows his design in trying to belittle his fellow humans by allowing Gulliver to blatantly lie. Gulliver says:
However, it is now some comfort to reflect, that in what I said of my countrymen, I extenuated their faults as much as I durst before so strict an examiner, and upon every article gave as favorable a turn as the matter would bear. For, indeed, who is there alive who will not be swayed by his bias and partiality to his place of birth (312)?
Indeed. In fact I can not honestly cite any place that Gulliver actually gives his fellow humans credit for any virtue. He does constantly berate humans and their vices of dishonesty, greed, malice, and a long list of other evils, which Gulliver continually seems to formulate. Swift uses this lie to further demonstrate his point that humans are immoral and saturated with vices. If Gulliver is a representative of humans, Swift has used him to prove his point about human nature. Gulliver represents a man, who through the tutoring of the wise Houyhnhnms is much more virtuous than his fellow humans, yet he still blatantly lies. If Gulliver is a virtuous man as Swift suggests, and can still be dishonest, we must all be truly horrible beings. Swift’s subtle message here helps to prove that he is something of a misanthrope.
In the introduction to Jonathan Swift and Gulliver’s Travels, a
letter from Swift to his friend Alexander Pope is cited. In it Swift
says, “But principally I hate and detest that animal called man, although
I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth” (283). He may
like individual men, but he cannot stand humanity. Therefore he uses
his talent to write a scathing criticism of man and his society, voicing
his opinion through his main character, Gulliver. He misses his mark
of winning the audience’s disapproval of humanity, because he overstates
his case in a gross way. Most people cannot agree that humans are
so horrible that it is disgusting for them to kiss a loving and faithful
wife upon returning from a five year voyage.
“Let Atheists make that foolish interference/ Learn to distinguish virtue from pretense/ be cautious in bestowing admiration/ and cultivate a sober moderation.” Tartuffe, Act V, scene 1, lines 49-52.
A common theme of violation appears in three Enlightenment works, Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, Jean-Baptiste Moliere’s Tartuffe, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions. In each work, a seemingly trivial event has serious repercussions, which affect the plot, the characters, or both. However, there is hope for redemption after such an event occurs. Despite the detrimental effects produced by each violation, something is gained from such a horrific act, creating a balance of positive and negative consequences. If moderation is considered a characteristic virtue of the Enlightenment, the theme of violation suggests that in nature, there exists a harmonious marriage of good and bad results from even the worst events. Additionally, this trend further implies that certain virtues, abilities, or events can only be achieved through a humbling experience.
Although it is a satire, there is merit in the seriousness of the violation of Belinda’s lock of hair in Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. Presented as an epic heroine, Belinda possesses perhaps the most important virtue any epic hero could desire- honor. She is revered by both mortal and sylph alike. Pope demonstrates this reverence in his descriptions of her fairy like protectors (“Fairest of Mortals, thou distinguished care/ of thousand bright Inhabitants of Air!” (338)), and her human admirers (“Fair Nymphs, and well-dressed Youths around her shone/ But every eye was fixed on her alone” (341)). Belinda’s honor resides in her value and respectability within her society, regardless of this society’s artificiality. By cutting off her favorite lock of hair, the Baron essentially offends the root of her honor. He mars the beauty which places her above other belles, disturbing her source of power. Additionally, Belinda views her hair as something of dire importance: after all, most of the first canto is dedicated to her cosmetic preparations. Although she flaunts her beauty for all to see, frequent references to Belinda’s chastity and obedience to “Diana’s law” (341) imply that touching such beauty is a violation of something immensely personal and respected. Her deportment becomes a representation of her purity, especially since it can be concluded in this poem that one’s value is derived from outward appearances. Damaging her outward purity suggests an even greater violation of her personal honor and respectability. After the baron’s act, she is embarrassed in front of the society which revered her so highly, a response that parallels the shame of a sexual violation. However, even more fame ensues from her insult. The resulting battle between the belles and the beaus declares the women’s beauty as the superior force, and allows Belinda to defeat her nemesis. Furthermore, her lock of hair is immortalized as a comet in the heavens. As unrealistic as the scenario may be, the violation of the lock is legitimate in the context of the work. The lock’s immortality and the baron’s defeat are dependent upon Belinda’s violation. Essentially, the poem suggests that superficiality and artificiality are short lived; life consists of both good and bad moments which counteract each other for a moderate, and ultimately more meaningful, result.
In Moliere’s Tartuffe, trust and family structure are violated by Tartuffe’s hypocritical actions. The main problem at the beginning of the play, Orgon’s unwarranted trust in Tartuffe despite the urging of his family, multiplies into a situation which almost ruins Orgon and his family. Orgon denounces the importance of his family, stating that “My mother, children, brother, and wife could die/ and I’d not feel a single moment’s pain” (117). He realizes his irrational detachment from his family only after he witnesses Tartuffe making advances on his wife, consequently destroying the trust Orgon bestowed in him. Furthermore, Tartuffe attempts to expose a secret which would place Orgon in prison. This violation of secrecy in addition to Tartuffe’s infiltration into Orgon’s family demonstrates a clear violation of intimacy. Unfortunately, Orgon must witness the bonds of intimacy he believed to exist get violently severed before he recognizes his folly in ignoring the pleas of his wife, son, and daughter. An equally hard lesson to learn through this experience is that Orgon’s own intemperate and drastic decisions precipitated the entire conflict. Orgon’s lesson in moderation is harsh. In order to realize the need for stability in his life, Orgon needed to first witness his life decay into a state of unnatural disorder. He can only realize the need to amend his rash impulses after they almost destroy him. Another issue in Orgon’s life is the addition of another family member through marriage to his daughter. Although Valere is the rational choice, Orgon further allows his family to be violated by forcing Mariane to marry Tartuffe. In order for Mariane to achieve a happy marriage, and Valere to be assimilated into the family, Orgon needed to first witness the atrocious possibility of Tartuffe as a family member. His family was practically torn apart; however, this violation of family bonds eventually lead to the reestablishment of Orgon’s family as a solid and affectionate group.
In Rousseau’s Confessions, the author tells of his transition from childhood to adulthood as a result of a violation of justice. The child Rousseau is incredulous at the concept that an adult he knows and trusts would wrongfully accuse him. In the larger context, Rousseau’s accusation represents the realization of injustice in the world. His childhood naivety is shattered by the idea that no one will believe his innocence. Rousseau implies that with the occurrence of this incident, “the tranquility of [his] childish life was over” (93). He can not grasp the concept that no matter how good or innocent someone is, he is still subject to unwarranted anguish. Furthermore, his wrongful accusation revealed an imperfect side of human nature. Until this point in his life, Rousseau was relatively sheltered. He was well cared for, shown affection, and well educated. He can not fathom that his instructors, the people whom he admired the most, could cause him such distress and possess such little trust in him. As a rational child, he can not sort out how injustice can possibly exist. Rousseau believes it is illogical for him to be punished for a crime he did not commit; however, such an anomaly occurs. It is hard to imagine being bereft of one’s childhood ideas that the world is an accepting and fair could ever result in something positive. Rousseau, too, had a difficult lesson to learn. In exchange for childhood innocence, Rousseau grows up, gaining precocious wisdom and insight. He can now view the world for what it is, free from the deceptions of a sheltered life. The price of knowledge is dear, though necessary to live according to the natural progression of life, or in short, in order to grow up. Rousseau’s innocence paired with his extreme disillusionment creates an interesting contrast which eventually establishes a balance between passion and a moderate view of reality.
The drastic incidents
presented in each work, resulting from a violation of some virtue, imply
moderation will prevail, even if it is achieved through the neutralization
of two extremes. The aforementioned examples demonstrate how, in
Enlightenment literature, the focus on moderation is so great that even
in literature, a violation of specific virtues is balanced with the development
of some positive outcome. There is an auspicious side to even the
most egregious offense, since there are positive and negative effects to
every situation. Unfortunately, to earn the good, one must first
experience the negative and offensive aspects of life.
The story of Gulliver is commonly portrayed in modern society as a charming tale of a wayward sailor who bumbles through adventure in several magical lands. The story told by Swift is in fact a disturbing and dark commentary and examination of human nature. Nowhere is this perhaps more shocking to the modern reader than in Swift’s apparent vulgar and excessive use of bodily functions, most notably the anus, farting and excrement. Each use of excrement by Swift is deliberate, and serves to further depict the bad side of human nature. Perhaps not as readily noticeable, but certainly as important, is the lack of excrement concerning the Houyhnhnms. The existence and lack of excrement in Gulliver’s Travels adds an important clue to the debate between where human nature lies in the Yahoo – Houyhnhnms debate. It suggests that humans are like Yahoos, and that human nature is lustful, greedy, selfish, and violent.
establishes the nature of excrement and its negative relation to humanity.
Gulliver is taken to the Grand Academy of Lagado, and the second scientist
he comes across was engaged in an operation to return excrement to its
original foodstuffs. Gulliver’s first reaction upon entering the
room was to start back, “being almost overcome with a horrible stink. (287)”
Clearly human excrement is offensive to Gulliver. The character of
Gulliver is awed by the work of the Academy, they are “ingenious” (287),
“highly pleasing,” “illustrious,” “wonderful” (288) and “great” (289).
Yet even Gulliver cannot overcome his repugnance to the scientists who
deal with excrement.
In Book Four Gulliver is dumped on the island of the Yahoos and the Houyhnhnms and forced to make his way inland. He soon stumbles upon a troop of Yahoos. He says, “I never beheld in all my travels so disagreeable an animal, nor one against which I naturally conceived so strong an antipathy. (294)” From the start we know therefore that Gulliver hates these creatures. After smacking one with his hanger, he is forced to retreat to the lee of a tree, where he can keep them at bay. The Yahoos respond by climbing the tree and “began to discharge their excrements on [his] head. (294)” This behavior, similar to that of wild monkeys caged in zoos, is meant as an insult to Gulliver. The Yahoos, those “ugly monsters,” “cattle,” and “cursed brood,” rather than attempting to kill or maim Gulliver, are shitting on him. (294) Gulliver escapes, but is “almost stifled with the filth.” (294) Gulliver tries, in a sense, to escape the bad parts of human nature: that what Swift has the Yahoos coat him with. When Gulliver attempts to capture and tame a young Yahoo, he reveals his final insult, the one he almost refrains from telling his audience because of the humiliation: “it voided its filthy excrement of a yellow liquid substance, all over [his] clothes. (316)” Symbolically, the youngest Yahoo coated Gulliver with the nastiest excrement. Yahoos are not born into innocence, and because of society grow into monsters, but are born already full of excrement, already offensive and filthy. Indeed, when the lackey to the minister is replaced, the entire tribe comes and “discharge their excrements upon him from head to foot.” (314) The former favorite is now the most despised, and the tribe shows their disdain by shitting on him. Yahoos represent the bad in human nature, and are constantly trying to cover Gulliver in the representation of their evils.
Later, Gulliver learns from his master the nature of the Yahoo constitution. If they stuffed themselves with food, “nature had pointed out to them a certain root that gave them a general evacuation. (314)” Yahoos attempt to cure their diseases by “a mixture of their own dung and urine forcibly put down the Yahoo’s throat. (314)” The foulness of this image serves to highlight the evilness of their nature. Humans, as Gulliver tells his master, to fix a disease think “that a great evacuation of the body is necessary.” (310) This evacuation is forced out of the “natural passage,” the anus (310). It is natural that humans have evil tendencies and natures, represented by their diseases. For physicians to cure them, “the body must be treated in a manner directly contrary.” (310) The Yahoos are simply the extreme of this contrary treatment: they force what should come out the anus down the throat to try and cure their ills. If Yahoos are the extreme negative of behavior, Swift seems to suggest that humans are not far behind.
The Houyhnhns are the antithesis of the Yahoos. In all of Gulliver’s description of the Houyhnhnms, there is not a single reference to excrement or anus. Indeed, the only time Gulliver even mentions excrement was in his desire to rise and air his clothes of the excrement of the young Yahoo before coming into the presence of his master. (316) For Gulliver at least, excrement and Houyhnhnms do not mix. Therefore, the Houyhnhnms can be said to not have any of the human evils, as Gulliver portrays them. Because we can only judge these creatures through the eyes of Gulliver, we are forced to accept his judgments of what they represent. Yahoos represent the evil in human nature, are constantly shitting, and are constantly trying to cover Gulliver with their evil. The Houyhnhnms, by contrast, are never linked to these evils, and Gulliver even washes, symbolically and literally ridding himself of the evil the Yahoos represent. Ultimately Swift leads us to conclude that the Yahoos and their vices are closely linked to humanity.
“Principally, I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas and so forth.” - Jonathan Swift (283)
In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift takes not a second’s leave lacerating his fellow man; he skewers so many human traits, professions, endeavors and traditions that few in the pasture of humanity are spared his lightning. His observations cut so sharply, and shred so intensely, that they belie a powerful, deep love for humans that rises above his verbal vitriol. It is paradoxical, to be sure – but Swift could not be sustained without humanity any better than his Houyhnhnms could without oats, for humanity was the sustenance that fed his satirical genius. And so ultimately, Swift makes a strong case that it is better to be human than Houyhnhnm.
Swift is clearly torn between his disdain for so much of humanity and his fascination for it, and the dichotomy is apparent in nearly every part of Gulliver’s tale. We are first shown the ludicrous laboratory of the Grand Academy of Lagado, where the folly of science is his pincushion, and prick it he does. And yet, there is the issue of his obvious curiosity for it, because his wild descriptions fairly run the gamut of the human imagination, wondrously at that, even if pointlessly employed in his anecdotes. There is no doubt that the Houyhnhnms would never be able to fill a lab with such nonsense, or brilliance.
Swift bookends Gulliver’s experience in Houyhnhnm Land with contrasting portraits of humans, during his voyages to and from the lost island. His adventure with the Houyhnhnms begins when his surly crew decides that pirating would be a more lucrative career than sailing as a merchant and kicks Gulliver off his own ship. In this way, his time with the Houyhnhnms begins with the worst that people can do, for he is betrayed, disobeyed and left to survive on his own, all for the greed of a few men. This is the taste of man that the reader is left with as Gulliver walks into Houyhnhnms Land, and it is immediately supplanted by the most odious images of Yahoos, who, shortly after meeting their first human, “began to discharge their excrements on [his] head.” Gulliver has been treated by the Yahoos just as he had by his crew, perhaps just more explicitly.
The next humans we meet, several years later, are better by bounds. They too, are sailors, Portuguese, but are described as “honest” and possessing “great humanity.” (327) They quickly offer Gullliver a free ride back to Lisbon. Their captain, Pedro de Mendez, bests them all in dignity and compassion; he is a “very courteous and generous person” (327), and, given the difficulty Gulliver gives him, quite a patient man, too. If Swift were so angry, so upset with the failings of humanity, why would he paint such a lovely man in Pedro de Mendez? For he could just have easily had Gulliver scooped from the sea by another scurvy set of sailors, thereby cementing the connection between Yahoos and humans. What would be more convincing of humanity’s complete depravity, if, upon Gulliver meeting the first man in five years, he were indistinguishable, physically and socially, from the loathsome Yahoos? It has been suggested that Pedro is representative of the church, and the care he receives is from the morality of religion. Yet this in no way diminishes the kindness Gulliver enjoys at the hands of man. These acts stand in sharp contrast to the mutinous men of his first crew; ultimately, it is man who deserts him, as well as man who saves him. In this way, Swift illustrates the entire spectrum of human behavior, which can be both shamefully wicked and gloriously loving.
This spectrum, these wild extremes – this is what the Houyhnhnms lack completely. Perhaps the most telling failure of the Houyhnhnms is that they have no written language. As a man of letters who survived on his ability to electrify his audiences with words, a society without literature must, to Swift, be lacking. Houyhnhnms lack imagination, or any yearning to expand their civilization beyond what they already know it to be. Gulliver, by contrast, explains the princely ambitions which tear apart his homeland. Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of his countrymen’s successes, the art, the literature, the science. Had Swift wanted to completely damn men, he would have had to contend with their achievements as well as their downfalls, and he doesn’t even address the better side of humanity. Therefore, any careful reader naturally objects. “What of the cathedrals?” she might ask. “Medicine?” And so either Swift failed in his indictment of humanity, unlikely for a author of his skill, or he never intended to make Houyhnhnms appear the superior race.
The most damning evidence of the Houyhnhnms ultimate inadequacy is Gulliver’s fervent, foolish love of them. Gulliver is certainly not Swift, who was neither gullible or irrational. In the conclusion, Gulliver is made to be a fool, for he cannot differentiate his wife and loving children from the ugliness of Yahoos. This, more than any other device, illustrates emphatically that humans are not Yahoos, apart from their physical description. Just as significantly, Houyhnhnms are not ideal humans in equine form. They are a humanly unattainable serenity and decency, which Swift may wish for man, but they are also fatally dispassionate. When Houyhnhnms pass away, “their friends express neither joy nor grief at their departure…” and Swift, a passionate man, could never have idealized a total muting of emotions. Gulliver notes that Houyhnhnms are “wholly governed by reason,” and the results are dull. (320) For good or worse, it is the wicked inversions of humanity that crystallizes our brilliances and failures.
Whether or not it is the central question of Gulliver’s Travels, it is better to be creatively and awesomely flawed than emotionally and intellectually staid; for that reason, humans are better than Houyhnhnms.
The Enlightenment is defined as having been a time of progress, growth, and stability. During this period intellects were highlighting, mostly through satire, the hypocrisy and lack of reason observed in human nature. Many Enlightenment thinkers were proponents of balance and their work reflects this theme. This rejection of what Alexander Pope describes as “Chaos of Thought and Passion” in favor of logic presents itself in works such as Moliere’s Tartuffe, but it is also seen in Alexander Pope’s "The Rape of the Lock" and "An Essay on Man" (6). Linguistically speaking, Moliere and Pope express the same ideas with different expression. Moliere directs his audience through observable and omniscient absurdity, whereas the language of Pope’s mock heroic might at first confound a reader. However, in order to reinforce their similar belief in balance, they structure their work in forms of couplets which, with their intentional inflexibility, lend the works a sense of reason.
In his perpetual quest to expose the irrationality hypocrisy creates, Moliere provides an answer to every argument through couplets. Orgon speaks in defense of his dear Tartuffe, saying “You do not know the man of whom you speak,” and Cleante responds, “I grant you that. But my judgment’s not so weak…,” replying to the contention of Orgon’s by completing his couplet (117). Though two juxtaposed characters create unresolved conflict in their arguing, the structure of the couplet remains constant. This tension between disorder and order happens throughout that scene and also in others, including in the exchange between Mariane and Dorine after Mariane discovers she is to wed Tartuffe. Mariane, in this instance the one blinded by loyalty to her father, cries “No doubt I’m timid, but it would be wrong…,” and Dorine, aghast at the behavior of her master and mistress, answers, “True love requires a heart that’s firm and strong…” (128). Contained by a completed couplet, the characters’ emotional folly does not offset the rationale imposed by the play’s structure. Like Moliere, Pope represents order using the couplet as well. The language Pope employs in The Rape of the Lock is so dramatic and the action in the “epic” happens so fast that the reader would be lost in contemplation without the rigid structure of the couplets.
In Tartuffe the balance is thrown off and lines are left unrhymed only those places in which a revelation is being made. In instances where a phrase is left without a pair, either an undisputed fact has been presented, or the irrational arguer has proved hislack of common sense by their own accord and no rhyming rebuttal is necessary. Following and including his first line in the play, Cleante, the voice of reason, claims the most incomplete couplets. When Organ asks if he is finished giving his warning against hypocrites, Cleante responds “Why, yes” (120).
Immediately following, Orgon changes the subject as well as the rhyme scheme. In fact Orgon is often found leaving lines and arguments unanswered. Dorine voices her sound opposition to Orgon’s decision to have Mariane wed Tartuffe, to which Organ has no rhyming response:
me your affection.
Dorine responds here with her own formed couplet and the argument continues in couplet form. In all instances of unpaired lines, there is undeniable fact, opposing the irrationality created by Tartuffe’s hypocrisy, somewhere within the immediate conversation. This idea can be applied to The Rape of the Lock: Pope’s sarcasm suggests that there is consistency or reason in human frivolity and, therefore, lines are not left without a pair because there is no logic within the text itself.
Pope mirrors Moliere’s technique in "An Essay on Man." He uses valid observations to convince the reader of his position, and he reinforces it with the couplet structure. Just as every dispute is resolved (as far as couplets are concerned, at least) in Tartuffe, every thought of Pope’s is complete: “Nothing is foreign: Parts relate to whole; / One all-extending, all-preserving Soul…” (356). There are no unanswered questions: “Is it for thee the lark ascends and sings? / Joy tunes his voice, joy elevates his wings” (356). There is a theme of “connection” present throughout the work, and with the cyclic argumentation of the couplet, he illustrates that “…nothing stands alone; / The chain holds on, and where it ends, unknown” (356). This connection pervades both Tartuffe and The Rape of the Lock and suggests an objective order that precludes the “Chaos of Passion” within the text of both works. Though stylistically different, they maintain the same goal and realize that goal of reasonable and enduring order through couplets.
Both Moliere and Pope call attention to the need for order in thought and
emotion through their use of the couplet and writing style. Jonathan Swift
described satire as a mirror, “…wherein beholders do generally discover
everybody’s face but their own…” (Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms
and Literary Theory, 780). Moliere and Pope both succeed in creating
that mirror; Pope with a sarcastic portrayal of emotion, and Moliere through
argumentation and character conflict. The reader is granted insight into
the recklessness of illogicality, not considering whether or not it is
stated implicitly within the story. By staying consistent in form
— in conversations between two different characters, or in moving from
one elaborate description to another—the authors enforce implicitly the
precedence of the order of reason over the chaos of passion.
Part 1 (5 pts)
1. Identify Margaret.
The young women who is "corrupted" by Faust; she is also called Gretchen.
2. Identify Valentine.
Margaret's brother, killed by Faust.
3. What is the Walpurgisnacht?
Demonic Holiday on the night of April 30, when spirits emerge from the earth. A kind of orgy of demons.
4. Name at least three "bad" things that happen to Gretchen?
"Kills" her mother and child, is imprisoned and presumably dies there, and is victimized, of course, by Faust.
5. Early in the play, Faust is about to drink a potion that will kill him. Identify another "drink" taken or administered in the play.
Witch's potion that makes Faust fall in love with Gretchen; the potion that Gretchen slips to her mother to make her sleep during the secret night of love-making that Gretchen arranges with Faust; the hearty drink given to Faust by the old peasant soon after his attempted suicide (568); and the allusion later to the Samaritan woman giving Christ a drink at the well.
Part 2 (5 pts)
6. Identify two patterns of imagery and/or a motif that run through the play. Write a paragraph explaining the importance of one of these patterns.
Two prevalent images in the play are dusk and darkness. Perhaps no such image is more poignant in the final act of the play than the darkness motif. Light is viewed in heavenly terms. Not only will it determine Margaret's fate, but it also threatens to expose Faust's evil and misguided deeds. Margaret readily laments her evil acts in the dark, yet expresses more and more hope with the coming of daylight. Faust and Mephistopheles' reactions are much different. Faust's plans are ruined with the approach of day, when he risks capture. Mephistopheles, too, cannot move by day. Faust and Mephistopheles are creatures of the night. The evil deeds they cause reflect this idea. Darkness, however, is not limited to this final scene: not only does it serve a dramatic purpose for the stage, it indicates an incident when some evil act is about to be executed, such as Valentine's murder, the Walspurgesnacht fair, and Faust's initial surrender of his soul. Since it is considered natural to be awake by day and have a peaceful night, such actions in the dark suggest the unnatural evil which Mephistopheles leads Faust into.
Faust initially calls the devil because he possesses a large amount of
knowledge. However, he desires to know everything. This initial
whole versus parts theme is prevelant throughout the course of this long
poem. Faust's apprentice also desires to know everything; and is
not satisfied with just a portion of knowledge. There are many other references
to this whole/part theme in the play. The devil's powers are not
complete or total, and Faust sometimes must complete things that the devil
cannot do, such as walk into the jail cell to try and get Margaret out.
The devil tells Faust that while he desires everything, "the whole," that
man is not capable of this, is not prepared or made to be able to handle
what Faust desires. Additionally, when Faust meets Margaret he makes
the impression that he is whole, or complete. When he leaves Margaret
in the cell, he feels torn, not whole, and feels destitute and guilty.
This theme is also present in the oeverall structure of the play since
Goethe never truly completed it. It was his life's work that he never
really finished. Each separate part of the play is a fragment, and
it is hard to logically fit them together.
|To prepare for Wednesday, 25 Feb, I
want you to work in groups to come up with comprehensive lists of passages
from Faust containing details spelled out below. Each
group will hand in its comprehensive list of passages identified by page
and line numbers on Wednesday, 25 Feb. I'll post these lists
on our syllabus. We'll devote Wednesday's class to a discussion
of how these patterns help to develop the major themes of the "play."
[Worth 20 quiz points. The criteria are a) accuracy, which means identifying only instances that pertain to the imagery pattern, and b) comprehensiveness, which means identifying all those instances that pertain to it]
and references to fragmentation (click)
of streams, brooks, water
to words, writing, language, etc. (click)
related to children, childhood
of the Enlightenment
1. Does Margaret ever reappear in the work? If so, why? If not, why not?
Yes, at the end
as a penitent angel who guides Faust onward toward heaven.
2. How do the angels drive the demons from Faust' grave?
them with rose petals.
3. What causes Mephistopheles to fail to catch Faust's spirit as it leaves the body?
His lust for the
4. In what frame of mind, with what notion in mind, does Faust die?
forward to opening up land for millions by draining a swamp. Almost
sees himself a a godly creator. He dies in "joy supreme." (667)
5. What physical change does Care bring upon Faust?
Bonus questions, each worth 2 pts (You have to answer all parts of each question to get the points):
A) What is apotheosis? How does it occur in Faust and in what other work we've read does it occur?
Ascension of spirit or some token of a character to heaven. Faust's sould ascends as does Belinda's lock in Pope's satire. Interestingly, the ascension is serious in Faust but is "over the top" in Pope. The different tones imply something about the different periods' "attitude"--the one moderate and leary of enthusiasm and anythin close to ecstasy and interfention of the diety into the eternal; the other fully given over to strong feelings and open to mysteries outside the observable realm.
B) What are the three unities, what happens to them in Faust, and in what other work are they consciously enforced?
Time, place and action, all three of which are violated in Faust. They are not violated in the Englightenment piece, Tartuffe; in fact there they are rigidly enforced, with the possible exception of the deus ex machina ending. The difference betwee these two dramas on this matter of the unities suggests much about the difference in their world views.
Look over these
passages, asking yourself how each helps to develop some major theme in
I'll select one, maybe two, on which you will write during class on Monday.
Write a short essay on one of the passages below. Your aim is to help your classmates and me understand how that passage picks up on and develops an important theme in the play. Because your audience has read the passage you do not need to tell what it says; however, you do need to explain how in its details enrich an important theme and pattern(s) running throughout the play.
a) p. 654, ll. 4715-27 See a sample successful response (click)
b) p. 679, ll. 12104-11
c) p. 618, ll. 3217-34 See a sample successful response (click)
d) p. 590, ll. 1929-41 See a sample succesful response (click)
e) p. 667, ll. 11563-86
f) p. 621-22, ll. 3345-65
A humble student, seeking to learn under Faust, stumbles into perhaps the most cynical professor alive (or maybe not alive) as Mephistopheles, wearing Faust's gown, offers his thesis on human philosophers: "They will spend days on teaching you/About how things you used to do/Like eating, drinking--just like that. Need One! Two! Three! For getting at." AFter glibly dismissing philosophers' importance, he elaborates a bit more: "Whoever wants to know and write about/A living thing, first drives the spirit out." In this passage, Mephistopheles argues that the tendency of human reason, or enlightenment, to separate nature from logic is, in fact, illogical.
The Devil, who is because of his marketing in human spirits uniquely suited to this sort of observation, believes that attempting to dissect the meaning of a living being without taking account of its "spirit" will result in a poor understanding of the subject; for that spirit is the "holding clasp" of humans and living things. In addition, Mephistopheles compares the profession of philosophy to unraveling a woven cloth, implying that someone (God, probably) wove the cloth to begin with. And yet, the devil notes that he has never met a scholar who has become a weaver. The meaning of that is two-fold: first, it underscores his point that to classify something without examining its creator and his spirit is narrow-minded and probably results in incorrect analysis; and second, it suggests that humans might not be able to understand what God the weaver meant to do in the first place, since humans are not capable of "weaving." Either way, the whole business of learning, and seeking the truth as a human, is ultimately a fruitless endeavor--at least according to the Devil.
This them of the
frustration of learning ties in nicely with Faust's own frustrations at
the start of the play: as a very learned man, he is still
unhappy, and convinced that despite his education, he is no closer to knowing
the truth than when he started. It is sublimely ironic, then, that
the disconsolate human ultimately reaches understanding with the aid of
a jaded Devil. This thesis, that philosophy and "enlightenment" are
simply too myopic, is a very romantic belief, and only the more interesting
for how logically it is proved my Mephistopheles.
There are many complex themes in Faust's final speech. The creation myth, how humanity can achieve joy, and Faust's own attempts to achieve immortality. These themes, however, all run through a conflict between man and nature. Given the importance of Faust to the Romantic movement, I intend to explore nature in this passage.
Faust intends to "open spaces," and create "a land like Paradise." This is a description of Eden, though populated by all humanity, not just two. Interestingly, though, the people will live on a hill created by their own will. If this were truly a creation story, Faust (the creator) would be the one to raise the hill. This area is not a natural garden, but one created by man. The Romantics believed everything natural and primitive to be best, yet Goethe seems to be ignoring that tradition with his description of a man-made Eden. Indeed, not only an Eden, but a fortress too, trying to resist a flood ready to crush it by force. Nature is fighting to enter the man-made garden, and humanity is trying to resist it. Most Romantics would side with nature, yet here Goethe directs our sympathies to FAust and humanity.
In the larger context of the play, this passage is Faust's final say, his chance for redemption. Though he has sold his soul to Meph. and sometimes acted evilly, he will still go to heaven. Therefore, what he says here, what he believes here, must play a large part in his returning to God, to good. Goethe, therefore, seems to be rejecting the idea of a primitive and pristine Nature as an ideal. Taming nature, introducing people, and fighting outside elements are here represented as worthy and positive values.
In the second half of this passage, Faust (and Goethe?) offer "wisdom's final say." From an author as subtle and metaphorical as Goethe, this is a frying pan to the head to pay attention to the next lines. He claims freedom and life can only be obtained by struggle and overcoming peril. Interestingly too, he mentions "child and man and old man," and though elsewhere he refers to humanity and people, he never explicitly mentions women. This new Eden is a domain of men. Given the common characterization of nature as feminine (i.e. pg 556, lines 455-456), Goethe is establishing a gender struggle. Men are on the inside, defending against the onrushing force of nature (a reversal of traditional gender roles).
Faust's final few lines, spoken at the moment that his Eden occurs, add to the ambiguity of the play and question his character. He says that Eden should liner on as long as possible, so that the trees of Faust's life will continue for many eons. Faust did not build this Eden solely to bring joy to the masses, to try and fight nature, or because he has repented. He wanted to achieve immortality, a type of divinity, to have his memory linger on earth. He is not concerned with reaching heaven, or repentance, but simply in his own feelings of joy. In his first lines, FAust tells us he wants to improve mankind, but also to gain riches, honor, and "spender in the world." Despite his years of dealing with Meph., his mistakes and his lessons, at the end of his life he is still concerned with exactly the same things as when he is introduced. Whether this is a message by Goethe that men are dual-natured and selfish or a refutation of the previous characterization of man versus nature, we are left unsure and puzzled. This ambiguity about human nature and the divine is one of the common themes of the play. Nature, and the feminine, are also both common themes of Faust. This passage offers several interesting observations on their character.
"a" and "e"
A Rainbow over a Swamp
A major focus of Faust is his struggle to achieve more in his life. He rejects all his learning, although it is considerable and far-reaching. He even bets his soul for his own gain. He is horrified by the ruin he brings upon Gretchen and her family. The passage in which Faust compares man's effort to the fleeting rainbow illustrates his attitude towards the ideals and goals he strives for; the passage in which he is dying shows how he wishes to extend that struggle for achievement to others of the human race, as it has made his life more meaningful and given the fruits of his strife a more permanent influence on earth.
The first passage is Faust's very poetic struggle with accomplishment. Even as he strives to do more and make an ever-lasting impression on earth, as he struggles to learn more and become more important, he realizes that his achievements will not stand the test of time the way the sun does. His achievements are only the ephemeral beauty of the rainbow, which is caused by the sun but cannot last and can only follow a storm. He seems to see a beauty in life, but the image of the rainbow emphasizes that human triumphs mean little and fade in the ongoing march of time.
The second passage has two purposes: it shows that Faust now believes, as he is dying, that it is the struggle that makes life what it is and gives us liberty, and it shows that he now believes that his accomplishments, because of the effects they will have on others, will last longer than had he continued only to seek selfish goals. Faust drains the swampland to create new space for humans to build their homes, but also to give them something to struggle against every day of their lives: the constant threat of the water which longs to retake its old terrain. They will be "not safe but active-free," not secure, but able to stand alone and do as they wish. He thinks that in doing this he is giving the people who settle in this territory a great gift, the struggle that makes life worthwhile. At the same time, his gift of strife will take his life's endeavors to a level above the short-lived spectrum of the rainbow, because it will effect generations of humans to come. It is this vision that gives him "joy supreme."
John Constable 1776-1837
1. "Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows"
Sublime vs. Picturesque (click)
Other requirements: a) double-space; b) title on first page, no title page.
Try not to repeat the problems marking the first set of papers. Click hereto review those problems.
As in Paper #1, the task here is to discover some small element in one of the works (or in a couple of the works if you want to use one, say, to help explain your point about the other) and to explain carefully and thoroughly the ways in which it functions to develop an important theme and/or method of that work.
Scope: choose from the works you have read from the 6th through the 11th week of the term, including art work on the syllabus or the film version of Sense and Sensibility.
Some suggested topics from which you might develop a thesis:
2. Role of Gretchen
3. A particular episode--the opening scene in heaven or a particular passage from it, Gretchen in prison, etc.
2. Landscape as expression of character
3. The written and the oral; story-telling; reading
4. Structures such as containers, windows, doors, and/or fences
5. The function of Lockwood
Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge
1. Dorothy in "Tintern Abbey"; maternal imagery in that and the "Ode"; imagery of light and dark in the "Ode"
2. Eyes in Wordsworth or Coleridge
3. The wedding guest in "Ancient Mariner"
4. The body in Blake's lyrics
5. Some interesting pattern, contradiction, or problem in Blake's lyrics
light" and "noisy years in eternal silence," for
7. A single,
vital word such as "fugitive, "roll," "remain," or "wake," for
1. (6 pts) Construct a family tree--or family trees--using the relevant names in the following list:
Earnshaw -- _______
? Mr. Linton
--------- Mrs. Linton
2. (1pt) Why does Heathcliff run away?
He heard Catherine tell Mrs. Dean that marrying Heathcliff would degrade her (p. 725).
3. (1pt) Why does Catherine want to marry when and whom she does?
She wants to be well-off, the richest woman of the neighborhood, and secure; and what's more she thinks by marrying Edgar she can elevate Heathcliff and place him out of her brother's tyrannical power. If she married Heathcliff, they would both be baggars (p. 726).
4. (1pt) Where does Heathcliff come from?
A starving fondling picked up off the streets of Liverpool and brought home by Mr Earnshaw (p. 701).
5. (1pt) Who is called “a dog in a manger?”
Catherine by Isabella (p. 739)
Extra Credit (2 pts): Characterize as exactly and thoroughly as you can the method of narration in the novel.
includes recognition of multiple narrators beyond just Mr Lockwood
and Nelly ( there's also Catherine's diary, Heathcliff about C and his
expedition to the Linton's, 707-09, multiple dreams, Isabella's letter,
Cathy, Zillah); an attempt to explain how that multiplicity of narration
relates to theme(s) (story-telling as part of life, the uncertain and uncanny
of the Romantic view, etc...)
551 line 4 “Completing its appointed round”
552- line 275 “Behold me also here among this crew”
Pf 554, line 355 (It seems that all of these studies, philosophy medicine etc. Faust expects to come together into a whole, knowledge)
555- Line 382 So may I learn the things that hold/ the world together at its core. (all the parts in the world)
556 line 447 How all things interweave to form the whole/each in another finds it life and goal!
560 line 601- I know a lot, but would like to know everything
569, line 1030- Praise sounds like mockery on the people’s part
570, 1061- I f you respect your father in your out, / you will receive his fund of knowledge whole
577, 1345- You call yourself a part, yet you stand quite whole before me there?
577, lines 1346-1350
584, line 1661 Once you have smashed this world to pieces
591, line 19990- Cling hard and fast to words, in sum.
Line 2053- We’ll see the small world first, and then the great one
2047- That is the world… it breaks into pieces… and splinters fly (2415)
3229- And the giant fir comes crashing down, and, falling…. Crushes
3358- It ruins as they are shattered
3364- Let her fate crash in ruins over me
P 633-634- Gretchen’s cathedral scene includes fragments of prayer, guilt. These serve as glimpses into a much deeper situation- only parts of the prayer are heard and seem to affect her.
P 651- The ‘voice from above’ prompted in the stage directions indicate a part of heaven’s influence on earth, fragments (remnants) of Gretchen’s virtue.
652- lines 4625-4631 Spirits of nature speak of reassembling Faust’s weary parts- they want to make him whole again through nature.
P. 653, line 4676 Lie there still in deepest part
P 654, Top paragraph- Fausts reflects on the sun and a rainbow, and calls the rainbow’s radiance “our life”- life is represented in a moment, or a fragment of time. Also, ‘mist veils soar’, or the cloud is partly covered. Only parts are revealed.
P. 658- the sailors discuss with Mephistopheles what is their deserved share or part of the bounty they collected for Faust on the sea
P666-667, lines 11559-11586: Faust discusses his plans for the future, even though he is about to die. He refers to his life’s work, which is largely incomplete. A brief part of his life is demonstrated, and only a part of his complex nature is revealed.
P. 667- Mephistopheles’ paragraph on the bottom of the page- He discusses how nothing is ever over. He refers to “eternal emptiness”, and explains that man’s life is but a fragment of a larger order.
639, 642, 653,
4185 Whole Part
Passages Concerned with Words and Language
574 1219, 1223, 1226-1237
588 1836-1837 * just funny
637 3945-6, 3954
638 3991, 4002
639 4016, 4021, 4039-40
640 4057, 4072, 4087-8
642 4132 (biblical), 4155-6
643 4170, 4193 (classical)
644 4206-7 (classical), 4214-7, prose “You will lull me...”
645 prose “the ghastliest of curses on you...”
654 11051, 11059
655 11085-6 (biblical)
660 11286 (biblical)
661 11339, 11371
663 11400-1, 11407, 11415, 11423
664 11469-70, 11481-2
665 11496, 11515, 11521
666 11555, 11557-8
667 11569 (biblical), 11573-4, 11581, 11594-7, 11600
668 11613, 11631, 11633, 11642
671 11731, 11735, 11766, 11780
672 11815-6, 11822, 11830
Contents/Page/ Line #
"The sea in foam from its broad source" 552 255-258
"From sea to land, from land to sea," 552 260
"And, clear of learning's fumes, renew/Myself in baths of healing dew!" 555 397
"In tides of life, in action's storm" 557 501-507
"The flood tide of my spirit ebbs away." 562 698-701
"And down the river watch the painted vessels glide," 566 865
"From ice are released the streams and brooks" 567 903
"And how so many merry boats/The river's length and breadth there floats," 567 931-933
"Oh happy hs who still can hope/To rise out of the sea of errors here!" 570 1065
"And silver brooks with golden rivers meet." 570 1079
"And soon the sea with its warmed bays" 570 1082
"With waves down under me and over me the sky." 571 1088
"And when across the seas and plains" 571 1098
"The brooks of life we yearn to seek" 573 1200
"Gush now as brooks" 579-580 1475-1481
"Islands that gleam" 580 1488-1490
"Skimming, some,/Over the lakes," 580 1494-1500
"And steep him in a sea of fancy;" 580 1510-1511
"Let us plunge in the flood of time and chance," 586 1754
|Key Word or Detail
Images Related to Loss
word or subject
F loses delight in knowledge
Representations of the Enlightenment
1. Identify an element of the Romantic aesthetic that occurs in "Kubla Khan."
KK is an incomplete work, which makes ita fragment, an element that has be stressed as part of the Romantic aesthetic. It also describes a fantastical, natural setting with hills, valleys, forests, and a cave of ice.
The descriptions of nature in KK and implications of the subconscious (using part of the mind which is not for rationale aptitude) are examples of the Romantic aesthetic.
Fragmentation is a major theme in KK. Coleridge leaps briskly from one image to the next. The poem itself is a fragment, purpostedly written during an opium reverie interrupted by a visitor.
2. In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" what causes the albatross to fall from the speaker's neck?
When the Mariner blesses the sea snakes, without being able to speak that blessing, but only feel it is if it gushed from his heart, the Albatross falls from his neck into the sea (913).
3. Why does the ancient mariner kill the albatross?
The poem offers no motive for the act.
4. What aesthetic and/or thematic purpose do the marginal notes serve? In terms of "meaning" why are they there?
They are an almost
rational summary of the Mariner's story. They might be almost a comparison
of the way the story could be told as opposed to the more meaningful
and romantic way the story is told.
5. What kind of poem is the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"?
"Lyrical Ballads" (see p. 903).
Bonus question (3 pts)
What body part functions, what element of the anatomy becomes, by virtue of repetition, the dominant image of the poem?
1. Name at least two secrets that
Nora has (1pt).
2. What's the accepted explanation
of Rank's physical problems? In other words, from where do they originate
3. What specifically does the card
with the black cross mean (1pt)?
4. Why does Mrs. Linde NOT let Krogstad
retrieve his letter to Helmer (1pt)?
5. How does the play's title fit
with the play? Explain exactly (1pt).
6. Identify an imagery pattern or
repeated motif in the play. Briefly explain its relevance (1pt).
7. Identify two major conflicts in the play. Do not respond by identifying conflicts between characters. Move toward theme, values, motifs, or the opposition within a single character (2pts).
vs. desire to control
Responsibility to self vs to others
8. Write a short paragraph explaining
which character in the play you most identify with (2).
Bonus question (2 pts): Who is Anne-Marie?
|Jacquelyn Hanna, "Like a
Shady Grove: The Interplay of Light and The Physical in
Blake's Songs" (click)
Jillian Danback, "The
Morning After: An Analysis of Gretchen's Scenes of Prayer in
Bobby Wayland, " Building
An Argument Against Rationality : Aedificia in "Lines Composed
The Interplay of Light and The Physical in Blake’s Songs
“And we are put on earth a little space, / That we may learn to bear the beams of love” (871; ln. 13-14). The excerpts we have read from Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience are filled with references similar to the one above, of light and dark; Blake frequently relates these references to the body. The Little Black Boy is “black as if bereav’d by light;” the chimney sweepers wash and are “naked and white;” the Earth herself is plunged in darkness and misery (870; ln. 4. 872; ln. 17. 873; ln. 1-5). By studying several of the Songs, we will show that Blake believed that the body harbors darkness that keeps us from God, and that light allows our souls freedom from our earthly bodies.
Three of Blake’s Songs of Innocence deal with his ideas on light in specific detail. In “The Little Black Boy,” Blake makes a stark contrast between the human body and the light. The boy tells of the lesson taught by his mother, who explained that “these black bodies and this sun-burnt face / Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove” (871; ln. 15-16). Only when we learn to “bear the beams of love” sent to earth from God, who lives in the sun, will God’s love succeed in freeing us from our bodies, which are the clouds over our souls.
A similar removal of darkness from the body occurs in “The Chimney Sweeper.” The sweepers, all young boys without families or proper beds to sleep in, are a sad and pitiful lot. However, one night a chimney sweep dreams of all the “thousands of sweepers...lock’d up in coffins of black” (871; ln. 11-12). “An Angel who had a bright key” then frees all the boys and their sooty bodies from the darkness of the grave; they go wash themselves until they “shine in the Sun / Then naked & white...rise upon clouds” (871-872; ln. 13-18).
Blake repeats the theme in “Holy Thursday,” when the poor children of London walk in rows to St. Paul’s Cathedral. There “they sit with a radiance all their own,” compared to lambs (872; ln. 6-7). Blake then admonishes all of us to “cherish pity, lest [we] drive an angel from [our] door” (872; ln. 12). By having pity on the penniless children, we can have a hand in the peace they radiate and propagate their angelic light.
Although the theme varies slightly in each of the three poems, Blake makes clear his basic premise: the body is darkness and separates us from glory, and light, whether spreading from the far away sun or glinting from clean innocent faces, cures us and frees us from our physical traps. Life is an extended period of darkness that in the end is somehow broken, whether destroyed by the white-hot love of God or the emancipating hand of the angels or even a simple rinsing away of its residue. Light has the power to reconcile imperialists and their subjects, to free the miserable near-slaves from the marks of their bondage and spirit them to the clouds, and even to convince Blake that the poor children of the charity-schools may themselves be angels.
By continuing to look at the poems of Songs of Experience, we receive additional confirmation of Blake’s theories on light when we explore the role of darkness. In “Earth’s Answer,” we see Earth “[raise] up her head, / From the darkness dread & drear. Her light fled” and we see that she is sunk into a gray depression (873; ln. 1-4). Earth has no answer; she says nothing in reply to Blake’s earlier challenge to “[a]rise from out the dewy grass” for no dewy grass exists, only gray night (873; ln. 11-12). Even “her locks [are] cover’d with grey despair” (873; ln. 5). Blake here gives Earth a body, or at least a head, and refers to the planet as a woman; in this almost-human, physical form, lightless Earth suffers in the same way as her inhabitants.
“The Sick Rose” also shows us this theme of despair in a person whose very body is devoid of light and sunk into darkness. Although it at first seems to be a simple nature poem, a battle between a fragile flower and a parasitic intruder, “The Sick Rose” can best be read as symbolic of a young woman who has fallen ill, whether mentally or physically, after a sexual affair. The worm that wields love as a murderous weapon came through the “night/ In a howling storm” (874; ln. 3-4) Even his love is destitute of light; it is described as a “dark secret love” (874; ln. 7). As such, it has attached itself to her body somehow and saps her of life.
One poem in the set seems to contradict the recurring theme of light and dark. The first lines of “The Tyger,” another of the Songs of Experience, read:
“Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
The Tyger’s very body is depicted as brilliantly aflame. However, if we continue further into the poem and delve into the imagery, the vision of the luminous Tyger as the product of a dark red-hot furnace, marked not by the gently warming rays of light and holy radiance of the souls of the Songs of Innocence, but by fire in “the forests of the night” (874-875; ln. 2, 14), greets us. Blake goes on to repeat his original question, with a slight variation:
“Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
Clearly, he does not believe in the possibility that the God who lovingly frees us of our dark bodies with heavenly light could have made the same blazing Tyger. He refuses to assume that God would conceive of creating such a fearsome animal, and instead sets the open-ended question to the world.
In these three poems, we see darkness equated with despondency, illness of the body, and evil. Earth is sunk so deeply into darkness that despair itself lies upon her physical head; a disease brought through the darkness of a stormy night attacks the glorious but weak and lavish Rose; and the Tyger, although literally on fire, was wrought in darkness and resides still in unfathomable forests. Blake thereby unequivocally links darkness with the body and, more specifically, the woes of the body.
Through his use of light and dark, Blake’s ideas about the body are explained. As we saw in the poems from Songs of Experience, he considers the body a well of darkness, pain, and misery; in Songs of Innocence, he writes of those freed of the body as liberated by the lights of God’s love and his brilliant messengers, and of the radiance of innocent faces that just may be angels. The physical and spiritual aspects of humanity are therefore played out in his writings as an interaction of darkness and light, ongoing throughout life until we are finally freed from our shadowy bodies and allowed to ascend into the realm of illumination.
The Morning After: An Analysis of Gretchen’s Scenes of Prayer in Goethe’s Faust
In Goethe’s Faust, there are two significant scenes of prayer involving Gretchen. The Zwinger scene (lines 3586-3618) and the Cathedral scene (lines 3736-3834) reflect not only several of the play’s major themes, but illuminate Gretchen’s inner wrastlings before and after her rendezvous with Faust, where she ultimately loses her innocence. The insight into her mind provided in these two scenes illustrates the complexity of a character of outward purity and simplicity. For example, Faust considers her to live in “her small world’s narrow scope” (line 3355) and have a “childlike mind” (line 3352). Mephistopheles, however, who can read men’s souls, recognizes that despite her chaste simplicity, she possesses a keen intuition: “She’s mighty clever at physiognomy. / When I am present, she feels –how she’s not sure, / my mask bodes meaning at a different level (lines 3537-3539). These two images of prayer serve as monologues for Gretchen’s character, revealing her struggle between the rational and the emotional. Considering the definition of a Romantic hero is one who contends against societal norms and dictates of reason for the sake of his emotions, it is precisely this struggle reflected in the two aforementioned scenes which establishes Gretchen as the play’s Romantic heroine.
In the Zwinger scene, Gretchen ventures to the outer reaches of the city to pray to the Mater dolorosa, a statue of the Virgin Mary which depicts her grieving countenance as she witnesses her son’s crucifixion. She begs for mercy from the grief she hides from all but the Blessed Mother. In her supplication, it is revealed that “Who knows/ What throes/ Wrack me, flesh and bone?/...Only you know, you alone! (Lines 3595-3597, Line 3600) This statement implies how closely guarded her inner conflict is, since she not only reveals them to a heavenly figure, but does so in the most secluded place in the entire city. The location of her prayers also reflects her status as outsider. Moral propriety is, no doubt, a societal standard in Gretchen’s life. Reason suggests any immoral action with Faust will ostracize her, however, her emotional temptation proves too strong, and she chooses to disobey societal norms. Her position as an outsider, and her defiance of convention in order to embrace emotional rather than the rational, establishes her as a Romantic hero.
Ironically, Gretchen is essentially a corrupted version of the Virgin. She appeals to Mary on the eve of her rendezvous with Faust, still maintaining her innocence and purity. However, her initial act creates a ripple effect of sin, ending with the murder of her own baby. The grief captured by the Mater Dolorosa figure foreshadows Gretchen’s grief after watching her child die. However, unlike the pure and sinless Mary, whose son died to exonerate the world from sin, Gretchen’s child dies at its mother’s hand in an attempt to mask her sinfulness. Her prayers, however, beg for mercy from suffering and exoneration from sin, not strength to refrain from committing adultery with Faust. Despite her struggle with the moral and rational implications of her actions, she is firmly resolved to continue with their plans. By omitting to ask for strength to resist temptation, it is implied she will let nothing stand in the way of the events to follow, not even Divine intervention. Guilt and fear of shame deter her from expressing happiness about the event which is to unfold, and consequently, she prays in hope that these emotional burdens will fade away. This further complicates her inner struggle, since it is her passionate impulse which leads to the additional emotional problems of shame, guilt, fear, and grief. Despite the complexities of her situation, Gretchen still pursues the passionate path rather than the logical, further classifying her as a Romantic heroine. Her supplication is therefore a call for inner comfort rather than outward assistance.
In the Cathedral scene, Gretchen never directly addresses a heavenly figure, despite the fact that she is in church, where in the Zwinger scene, she openly appeals to the Virgin Mary. Prayer offers no hope for comfort, and the prayers carried out by the cathedral priest condemn rather than consoling. An evil spirit now addresses her, and reminds her of her inner torment. This scene occurs, obviously, after her meeting with Faust, which inadvertently results in Gretchen causing her mother and brother’s deaths. Goethe presents several images of innocence in this scene (the purpose of the Mater Dolorosa in Zwinger), serving as means to contrast the innocence from which she strayed. The evil spirit torments Gretchen, presenting her with images of her as a child approaching the alter, and asks her “- And underneath your heart/ does not a new life quicken” (Lines 3789-3790), alerting her of the innocent creature created inside her through her sin, and foreshadowing its destruction by another sinful act. Gretchen now experiences a new, more severe internal struggle. Her suffering is not entirely presented through her own words, as in Zwinger, but is dictated to her by the evil spirit, indicating that since she has succumbed to evil, her emotions are no longer her own.
One assumption is that the evil spirit is a manifestation of her guilty conscious. Her super ego, essentially cries out “I told you so” and denounces her passion-driven id. This extends her struggle from a battle between rational and reasonable decisions, to a conflict between psychological restraint and impulse, similar to the warring factions of good and evil present through out the play. This psychological conflict indicates that autonomy over Gretchen’s emotions is now entirely forfeited. Although Romantics believed in embracing one’s emotions, Gretchen is now entirely consumed by hers, which is demonstrated when she states in Lines 3794-3797, “Alas! Alas! / If I could be rid of the thoughts/ that rush this way and that way/ Despite my will!” Considering that her superego is a product of her socialization, there is then evidence of a struggle between her wishes and societal standards. Since what is good and bad is determined within a societal context, her super ego punishes her in the form of the evil spirit- a reflection of her society’s anticipated condemnation. The inculcation of societal values manifests itself within Gretchen’s subconscious as a form of unbridled guilt. She consciously struggles against this horrific guilt, as well as the fear of her deeds being exposed. The evil spirit illuminates for the reader the extent of her guilt when he states that Gretchen’s sins were indeed so grave, people are repulsed by her wickedness: “The clarified avert/ their countenances from you. / The pure shudder to reach/ out hands to you” (lines 3828-3831). He augments her fear of public condemnation when he states “Concealment! Sin and Shame/ are not concealed!” (Lines 3820- 3821). However, on a subconscious level, this is actually Gretchen’s superego speaking, informing her that she breeched the rules society which provided, not her own, since the spirit utilizes references to other people as means to cause her guilt.
The play’s major theme of confinement is also reflected in this scene. Gretchen fears her sins will be exposed to the public, so she stifles them within herself, such as she did with her grief in the “Zwinger” scene. Entrapped within her is also the shame and guilt of her actions. Gretchen is imprisoned by her own sinfulness, leaving the reader to infer that sinfulness is synonymous with confinement, while morality equates to freedom from emotional angst. She feels “…as if the organ were/ stifling my breath, / as if the choir dissolved/ My innermost heart” (Lines 3808-3811), suggesting that all that is natural, including breathing, is disturbed by the presence of evil and subjection of sin.
Both scenes of prayer serve as means to access Gretchen’s inner strife, as she contends with precepts of reason, emotion, and shame. While her struggles eventually lead to her downfall, she is the ideal Romantic heroine as a result of her inner strife. The “Zwinger scene” presents a greater duel between emotion and reason, while the “Cathedral” scene represents the deeper inner struggle which ensues as a result of her sinful acts. Essentially, these two images of prayer encompass how Gretchen’s inner struggles only worsen after embracing a passionate, emotionally driven decision.
Building An Argument Against Rationality :
Aedificia in "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey"
The act of building is a very human activity, one in which we often place our brightest ingenuities, creativities, sciences, and our pride. We will build for almost an infinite number of reasons, from the essential to the memorial; we devote years of our lives and large amounts of our resources to the construction of our edifices. They are the mark of civilization and the thumb tack of history, pinpointing temporalities as if they might evaporate if they are not weighed down by granite and iron. We strive to build immortality, yet we fail every time; the drooping remains of the Coliseum chide the decadence of Rome, the chipped pyramids crumble in spite of the mass of humanity that slaved to build them, and Babel is a ruined testament to our arrogance. In "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth uses the imagery of physical human constructions and ruins, in contrast with the permanence of nature, as a method of highlighting the ultimate dominance of the Romantic ideals over any other.
Tintern Abbey appears in the title as a suggested inspiration for Wordsworth’s thoughts but nowhere else in the poem, as if the abbey in the title had already diminished into the landscape. The ruined church, roped with vine and fuzzed with moss, is the union of the rational process of construction and the natural elements of the Romantics, and yet the Romantic are overtaking the rational. Perhaps this was Wordsworth’s vision of man’s harmony with nature: allowing nature to caress and restore our souls. By not discussing the abbey, he highlights its temporary existence as well as his own.
Other buildings are briefly mentioned, however. He speaks of “plots of cottage-ground,” a reference to places where cottages once stood, but, like the abbey, are either gone or dilapidated. He mentions “pastoral farms,” which may be standing, but are noted because they are “green to the very door;” these structures are nearly consumed by nature. Vagrants live at the whim of nature in “houseless woods,” another instance of the lasting insignificance of human constructions.
In Wordsworth’s work, he speaks at length of nature – the rocks, trees, mountains and cliffs that make up the environment around the abbey. Yet the “sweet sensations” he talks about stem from the larger concept of “Nature”, an idea that evades obvious description, but inescapably shades the colors of Wordsworth’s life. The concept of Nature is, in turn, a major facet of Romanticism as well as emotion, love and a sense of eternal beauty.
Nature lends these remnants, as well as his own work and life, their only hope of permanence and meaning:
These beauteous forms,
Nature, Wordsworth says, is what shaped the best of his intentions and works in life. While his acts may be quickly forgotten, the force which created them is everlasting. In this passage, towns and cities are simply islands of lonely rooms that only distance humans from the magnificence of Nature.
of buildings serves to support his claim that physical human structures
as well as mental, rational constructs, are subservient to Romantic powers.
Ironically, by this logic, his own poem will fall victim to the ages, its
message survived only by the inspiration that created it.
And let the misty mountain-winds
The passage also implies that the best purpose for a mind – the one he has planned for his beloved sister is not divining mathematical formulas or constructing cathedrals – but as a “dwelling place” for the inspiration of Nature. Wordsworth may believe that the ultimate purpose of humanity is to be a vessel of the power of Nature. This is the closet we can come to fulfilling the Romantic ideal. This is echoed in Stanza 10 of Intimations of Immortality where he encourages the reader to find “strength in what remains behind; / In the primal sympathy / Which having been must ever be.” Dorothy, like the abbey, cannot stand forever, but if one understands the quiet but overwhelming power of Nature they will be, in essence, immortal.
Wordsworth is a man who has come to appreciate his mortality and the fragility of human constructs. Perhaps through the turmoil of his experiences in the French revolution, he sought a stability that he found in the natural world. Paradoxically, the argument he artfully discovers and constructs is nearly rational, as the ruins of man’s weak attempts at immortality, dwarfed by the greatness of nature, are ultimately fated to fall, just like their creators.
1. Identify two conventions of "realism"
2. What is the Inquisitor's secret (1pt)?
That he's an atheist. (He is actually pious?)
3. What is Christ's response to the Inquisitor's extended accusations against him (1pt)?
He calmly kisses him and departs.
4. Name two of the three things that humans need, according to the Inquisitor (2pts).
5. Write a short paragraph suggesting how this excerpt fits in with and/or departs from the kinds of literature we have so far read (3pts).
In some way, it
fits in with the Romantic literature very well. Many of the Romantic
period pieces we read were stories told, and this is no exception.
Just as Nelly Dean relates to Lockwood the story of the Earnshaws, Lintons,
and Heathcliffs, just as the poet repeats a story told to him by a traveler
in Ozymandias, so to does Dostoevsky's Ivan tell his younger brother,
Alyosha, a story that comes through the words of a character within his
story--so again we have the idea of a narrator narrated to us. However,
I feel a shift of mood in this piece that subtly and not-quite-explicitly
sets it apart from the Enlightenment and Romantic works we have read.
I think that it is perhaps best described as a bleakness; neither the triumphant
rationality of the Enlightenment nor the celebrated emotionality of the
Romantic but a more somber, disenchanted aura is the impression I get.
Ivan writes a poem that celebrates Christ by condemning him for failing
to play on the faults of humanity and talks about his plans to end his
life if he feels it becomes necessary; Alyosha's emotions are brushed aside.
Perhaps this change is a figment of my imagination, but I do see a changing
worldview in this piece.
Valuable excerpts from other paragraphs:
I think the literature departs from what we're used to because the story is one of submission and obedience.
This excerpt fits into what we have been reading thus far, because it is someone's questioning of accepted tradition or practices . . .
As opposed to what we get in the romantics, there is little appreciation for the simper beauty of things.
This excerpt fits
in with what we have been reading because the Grand Inquisitor is coping
with th eloss of innocence. He will make people happy by keeping
them ingnorant of good and evil. He takes the burden upon himself.
He intends to make a "new paradise" where the few rule the many, and the
few are the providers. The many will return to their innocence.
Select one of the following options as a prompt for a well-written paragraph:
1) Analyze the touching image of Gerasim holding up Ivan's legs for hours on end.
2) Explore the signifcance in the circumstances of Ivan's injury. What is he doing when it happens and what's the thematic appropriateness of that?
3) Analyze the image that dominates Ivan's last days--that of the black sack or hole.
Other requirements: a) double-space; b) title on first page, no title page.
Try not to repeat the problems marking the first set of papers. Click here to review those problems.
Type of Paper: a short, analytical essay, analyzing some element or problem (a particular episode, a repeated pattern a character, a structural feature, for instance) in one of the works you have read since the 11th week in the course.
** For most of you, the topic has to address the issue of loss in some way or another.
Here are some prompts if you have already done a paper on "loss":
Mrs. Linde in
1. On what day did the metamorphosis occur? (1pt)
2. During what time of year does Gregor die? (1 pt)
3. What does Gregor do for a living? (1 pt)
4. How man paying lodgers stay with the Samsa family? (1 pt)
5. Is Metamorphosis a tragedy or
a comedy--or what? Explain. (3 pts)
6. Discuss the "position" the story
puts you in as reader. (3 pts)
etc so far
|Total so far||%|
PURPOSE OF THE FINAL EXAM. The purpose of the exam will be to test your ability to work with the literature we have read--to interpret parts of individual works, to trace themes and their permutations through works from different periods, to say something cogent about the literature's ruling stylistic/structural feature(s), and to be able to explain how the works you have read represent their periods--Romanticism, the Enlightenment, Realism, Modernism, Post-Modernism, for instance. To that end, I'll ask you to be able to engage in most of the activities outlined below..
Part 1. Analysis of passages. One of the tasks on the exam is to identify and then analyze the importance of passages we have looked at or referred to during the term. You will need to explain how the passage represents some major theme(s), how it raises a problem, how it picks up on a motif or line of imagery within the work, and/or how it reveals character. You might also be asked/invited to say how one of these passages captures a theme that runs across much of the literature in the course.
What follows is first a sample passage from an HE217 exam of this sort, with a sample of a complete and perceptive analysis of it.
Act 3, iii Iago continues his "work" on Othello's mind, saying this about
This passage develops almost all the themes in the play: the conflict between generations, the difference between appearance and reality; blindness; magic; and the rivalry between male brotherhood and heterosexual love. In a nutshell, though, the passage builds upon what I think is the central concern of the play: the haunting fear of always being an outsider. Iago's speech plays on this concern by bringing up many of those other themes. For instance, by emphasizing Desdemona's youth, Iago reminds Othello of the difference between Othello's and Desdemona's generations, and thereby suggests Othello's inevitable distance and difference from his own wife. By bringing up the issue of blindness--and perhaps recalling Brabantio's parting words to Othello ("Look to her, Moor, if though has eyes to see:/She has deceived her father, and may thee")--Iago further emphasizes this sense in Othello of alienation from what's commonly known, this sense of being the outsider. After all, if you can't see what's going on under your nose and everyone else can, you remain on the outside. Interestingly, the allusion to Brabantio's words also suggestively lodges Othello more completely in the generation older than Desdemona's. Even Iago's allusion to witchcraft echoes the speech in which Brabantio depicted Othello as an outsider because of his blackness, an outsider only capable of gaining his daughter's affections in an unnatural way, through witchcraft or sorcery. Finally, Iago's backing off from the accusations against Desdemona on the basis of his love for Othello subtly establishes a kind of "us against them" attitude, the males bonded in their soldierly love vs. those--Desdemona and perhaps the civilian Venetians generally--who aren't part of that brotherhood. The more Othello feels alienated from the world around him, the more he depends on "the world according to Iago." This dependency is central to the plot. But the feeling of alienation also remains the most important, the most essential theme in the play, and this passage does much to sustain that theme in all its variations.
Here are some
sample passages from our readings:
Part 2. Thematic
Approach. Here you will examine the occurrence of a theme
in works from at least three different periods. The inflections of
the theme in different works ought to suggest something about the differences
in the values and aesthetics of the periods. Here are some themes
we have noticed during the term:
Part 3. Stylistic/Structural Approach. Be able to identify, illustrate and explain the primary stylistic feature/literary device(s) of each work you've read. For example, Candide, you might argue, has as its main M.O., irony. Obviously in doing this task you will have to exercise judgment and be able to argue your point--and you will also have to work toward some notions about the relationship between style and periodicity.
"Fanciful Projection, or Time Machine."
Place a character from one period into another period and discuss the dislocation
that might occur. For instance, put Faust or Whitman, say, into Pope's
world; put Wordsworth into Eliot's. It's your choice. Think
of something both interesting and revealing about the clash of values and
aesthetics that might occur.
HE218, Spring, ‘04
(20 out the course’s possible 100 points)
Do three things:
1. (5 pts) Write separate fully developed paragraphs on two of the passages in Part 1 of the Study Guide. Those two passages have to be from different periods. For guidelines on the paragraph see the description in Part 1 of the Study Guide.
2. (10 pts) Write a nicely developed, narrowly focused essay on one of the themes listed in Part 2 of the Study Guide. Guidelines for the essay are included in the Study Guide’s description of Part 2.
3. (5 pts) Write an essay on either
Part 3 or Part 4 of the Study Guide. Again for guidance, see descriptions
of Parts 3 and 4 on the Study Guide.