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Posts from August, 2007

Comedy in Twelfth Night

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Shakespearean comedy is concerned with desire and its satisfaction; characters yearn for something, this leads to frustration but eventually satisfaction achieved and a happy conclusion. Twelfth Night, and Shakespeare’s other comedies, are concerned with love, desire, and overcoming barriers to the fulfilment of these desires and end in physical and emotional union, usually marriage. Shakespeare’s comedies are romantic. They have a certain mood and set of expectations; dealing with society rather than the individual, there does not tend to be a dominant character or Hero/Heroine. The theme is renewal; taken unexpectedly from ordinary life characters are placed in an unusual setting and allowed to escape from the repression within the society that is thwarting, for whatever reason, their desire. Twelfth Night is no exception; but there is an “emphasis on the pains rather than the pleasures of love” (Leggatt, 1974).

Northrop Frye identified three stages of a Shakespearean comedy: the play establishes a rigid rule-bound arbitrary society; this society descends into confusion and suffers a lack of identity. In the third stage, it is reborn as more liberal, issues that caused the loss of identity are welcomed. Marriage typically holds together this “new” society. (Frye, 1983).

The aesthetic philosopher Susan Langer analyses comedy, humour, and laughter. (Langer, 1953, pp. 338-341) “Laughter is physical, it occurs when one is tickled”. Humour merely “one of the causes of laughter” and “humor has its home in comic drama. Laughter springs from its very structure” and

“Humor is not the essence of comedy, but only one of its most useful and natural elements”. (Langer, 1953, p. 346)

Shakespearean comedy has patterns related to the renewal and rhythms of human life. As Langer says, the human race regenerates generation by generation in a rhythm of renewal, comedy celebrates this. Comedy is concerned with desire and fulfilment, tragedy with decline and death. (Langer, 1953)

The plots of Shakespeare’s comedies concern overcoming obstacles to love. In Twelfth Night characters fall in love quickly, Viola falling in love with Orsino at first sight and Olivia with Cesario/Viola. Obstacles are external or internal. External obstacles are usually a disapproving Patriarch, a powerful rival or a law. In A Midsummer Nights Dream, all are present. The plot involves escape from the “old” society that is preventing love: the characters leave Athens and go into the wood outside

Athens. In As You Like It the characters leave for the

Forest of Arden; the characters are closer to nature and resolve their difficulties away from the obstacles. In Twelfth Night obstacles are internal: Orsino’s love for Olivia is unrequited because she has sworn to mourn for seven years, so neither can achieve reciprocal love. Illyria, in a state of melancholy, caused by the characters, requires new characters to free it: Viola and Sebastian, shipwrecked, unexpectedly find themselves within the unusual surroundings of

Illyria. (Saccio, 1999)

Shakespearean love is a paradox: foolish and wonderful. Falling in love is moving and thus wonderful. Juxtaposed against this is the bizarre and artificial

behaviours of the participants in a courtship. The expression of love is something that an audience will find amusing and comic. In As You like It Shakespeare considers such behaviour in the Seven Ages of Man speech by Jaques:

And then the lover,

Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. (II, vii,146)

Shakespeare illustrates contemporary methods men use to express their love: ballads, poems, sonnets or love letters. Orsino, in Act I Scene I, rebuffed when sending Olivia a love note, dwells on this and in his melancholia says:

The instant was I turned into a hart,

And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,

E’er since pursue me. (

I. i. ll 22-24)

He refers to Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Greek Myth of Actaeon and Diana, in which Actaeon happens upon the naked and virginal Diana when hunting. Transformed into a hart (deer), by Diana, his own hounds devour Actaeon: if our desires are not satisfied they will devour us. Viola, playing a man, Cesario, is asked by Orsino to deliver a love note to Olivia. She immediately falls in love with Orsino: I’ll do my best To woo your lady – [aside] yet a barful strife –Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife. (I, v, ll. 40-41) This love faces a comic internal barrier: Viola is posing, implausibly, as a man. Cesario/Viola visits Olivia, as ambassador for Orsino, attempting to change Olivia’s mind and make her love again Viola mocks the method by which Orsino is stating his love. Viola interrupts herself saying she is not going to waste her time upon it for the wrong woman:I pray you, tell me if this be the lady of the house,for I never saw her: I would be loath to cast awaymy speech, for besides that it is excellently wellpenned, I have taken great pains to con it. (

I. v. ll. 151-155)

He/she is not behaving like the standard lover; this spikes the interest of Olivia. After the ladies in waiting leave Viola as Cesario tries again, this time Olivia mocks the convention:O, I have read it. It is heresy. Have you no more to say? (

I. v. ll.201) The formal convention established by both is mocked. Cesario/Viola during this scene speaks with two voices one a man and the other a woman. When speaking as a man he says:Good Madam let me see your face. (

I. v. 11. 202)
Olivia replies when unveiled:Look you sir, such a one I was this present. Is’t not well done? (

I. v. ll. 206)

Cesario/Viola in a man’s voice replies:Excellently done, if God did all. (

I. v. ll. 207)
This “man’s” voice complements Olivia on her beauty, suggesting that it is God made and not artificial. Later in the scene, Cesario criticises Olivia:I see you what you are, you are too proud,But if you were the devil, you are fair. (

I. v. ll. 219 – 220)
The first line is the female voice, the intuitive observation that Olivia is vain. The second line is a male voice complementing Olivia’s beauty again. The conflicting sexuality and the tension caused by Viola’s cross dressing is effecting Olivia, for by the end of the scene she has fallen in love with Cesario. Viola chides Olivia for locking herself away from love:What is yours to bestow is not yours to reserve (

I. v. ll. 167 – 168)
And later:Lady, you are the cruellest she aliveIf you will lead these graces to the graveAnd leave the world no copy (

I. v. ll. 211 – 213)

In other words, you should not die without having children (and thus sex – with me perhaps?). Viola would have been played by a teenage boy establishing an androgynous appeal to Orsino and Olivia. Olivia, like Viola and Orsino, faces a barrier to her love: differing social status and Cesario’s gender. Viola causes both Orsino and Olivia to transform themselves: from being melancholy and introspective to generous and kind. By the end of the play, the rebirth of these characters is complete: when both attain, apparently, the reciprocal love they desire. The situation is improbable, comedy allows this suspension of belief. The setting allows the foolishness of love to fully express itself and appear comic to the audience. (Saccio,1999)

Shakespeare uses comedy to make profound points about love and relationships, in this case unrequited homosexual love. The play exhibits many of the characteristics of “Shakespeare’s festive comedies” what Cesar Lombardi Barber sees as the spirit and the tradition of festivals that Shakespeare’s contemporary audience associated with festivals celebrated during their youth and prior to their new urban existence. Barber expounds: “I have been led into an exploration of the way the social form of Elizabethan holidays contributed to the dramatic form of festive comedy [and] we can see here” the way in which “art develops underlying configurations in the social life of a culture” (Barber). Twelfth Night is a celebratory comedy, set during a holiday: The Lords of Misrule traditionally would take charge on this day, the Feast of Fools, involving a reversal of roles; reflected in the gender role reversal of Viola, “For Elizabethans this title [Twelfth Night] would have stirred…associations with…time in which normal rules were suspended” (Barton, 1994, 105).

The characters in Twelfth Night placed in comically preposterous scenarios, the improbability of which we accept, and Shakespeare has freedom to explore issues of sexuality behind this veil.

Illyria, “the society” of the play, is undemanding: time is spent on singing and dancing, leisurely courtship, drunkenness and practical jokes; Malvolio, ridiculed for being out of place, behaves like a puritanical pessimist, intent on ruining the carefree atmosphere. However, Malvolio is just a nuisance not a barrier to love and romance; the victory of love in the play is dependant upon overcoming

other obstacles. Orsino and Olivia create internal obstacles; they assume the mantles of romantic lover and grieving Lady. Viola because of her disguise becomes an obstacle to her own fulfilment. The outwardly comic fool, Feste, displays a degree of tired cynicism on occasion: for example in the final song: a mocking of these artificial marriages: Olivia and Orsino would rather have married each other’s spouses. The humiliation of Malvoli and his subsequent incarceration, as a lunatic, is totally out of proportion to his transgression. This sub text gives the play a darker edge than is outwardly apparent from the frivolity and implausibility of the setting, suggesting darker undercurrents. (Leggatt, 1974, pp. 221 – 254)

The play, as a comedy, conforms to convention and is concerned with marriage in the same way that, conversely, tragedies consider death (Romeo and Juliet

is an exception and considers both death and marriage). Viola, like Rosalind, in As You Like It, dresses as a man. As in The Comedy of Errors there is a shipwreck and mistaken identity of a pair of twins. The Comedy of Errors has same sex twins. By contrast, in Twelfth Night, by utilising different gender twins, Shakespeare is able to subtly consider sexual and gender ambiguity. The title of the play Twelfth Night or As you Will, gives a hint to the homoerotic imagery in the play: anything goes on the Feast of Fools.

Boys played women and girls in Elizabethan times; the introduction of gender ambiguity provides a subtle, homoerotic subtext. Comic effects of role-play are used to explore this. Viola is a boy playing a woman in turn playing a man; Olivia is a boy playing a grieving and cloistered nun and confusion over sexuality is established.

Consequently, closely entwined within the plot are issues of heteroeroticism, Viola courting Olivia on behalf of Orsino, and homoeroticism, Olivia’s love at first site for Cesario. When Orsino is speaking with who he believes to be a man, Cesario, he declares his homosexuality:

Dear lad, believe it;

For they shall yet belie thy happy years,

That say thou art a man: Diana’s lip

Is not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe

Is as the maiden’s organ, shrill and sound,

And all is semblative a woman’s part. (

I. iv. ll. 29 -33)

Act II scene II considers female homosexuality, and Viola’s subsequent difficulties:

How will this fadge? My master loves her dearly;
And I, poor monster, fond as much on him;
And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me.
What will become of this? As I am man,
My state is desperate for my master’s love;
As I am woman,–now alas the day!–
What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!
O time! Thou must untangle this, not I;
It is too hard a knot for me to untie! (II. ii. ll. 31-39)

Furthermore, Antonio appears to have a homosexual attraction to Viola’s male equivalent, Sebastian:

But come what may, I do adore thee so

That danger shall seem sport, and I will go. (II. i. ll. 41-42)

The ambiguity of sexual attraction due to the comic cross dressing of Viola blurs gender boundaries. Allowing consideration of sexual and emotional possibilities normally repressed by strict rules imposed by the “old” society. Shakespeare uses comedy to do this. The imposed barriers, of the “old” society, prevent Orsino and Olivia enjoying full expression of their repressed homosexuality. Biological limitations, and economic necessities, conspire against Orsino and Olivia internally: sexual attraction normally leads to marriage and financial consequences and must, even in the “new” society, be a cross gender union. However, in a romantic comedy, set in the carefree magical region of

Illyria, when it always seems to be a holiday, barriers to these attractions are removed. There is confusion in the “old” society concerning sexuality. The freedom and carefree nature of a festival makes everything seem possible. So, temporarily at least, the audience see sexual love unrestricted by the “old” society rules of gender and status, before heterosexual conformity is re-imposed at the end of the play. Northrop Frye’s three-stage dynamic of comedy is evident here: deadlocked and unproductive social pressures transform to a freedom facilitated by comedy prior to nature and convention returning to an acceptable “normality”. Olivia and Viola attain their desires. Malvolio and Orsino do not. Orsino fails in his courtship of Olivia and his desire for Cesario thwarted by virtue of the fact

that “he” is female. Sebastian, Toby and Orsino “acquiesce to the role of object of female desire” (Dympna, 2001, p. 138). Both Olivia and Orsino do not achieve the original objects of their desire. Olivias marriage to Sebastian and Orsinos to Viola, diverts attention away from the homosexual attraction that both exhibit to their respective partners earlier in the play. (Suzuki, 2001)

Word Count: 2174

Shakespeares’s The Tempest and John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

This essay will consider whether the poetry and drama of the early modern period is more concerned with transgression or with order. In reaching a conclusion Shakespeares’s The Tempest and John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV will be considered, taking into account genre, theme, form and conventions of the period.

The Tempest is probably Shakespeare’s last play, King Lear was his longest; the two plays both deal with family relationships, power, transgression and order. King Lear longs to be reunited with his daughter Cordelia even if in a prison cell, having lost everything because of the treachery of his two other daughters. The Tempest sees father and daughter marooned and exiled on an island, alone apart from beasts (which would include Caliban). It is the transgression of his brother that is the cause of his predicament. The storm that sees King Lear thrust into the darkness as an old and powerless man is echoed in The Tempest. The power of nature, to destroy the ordered world of man, is amply demonstrated in both plays. In The Tempest the storm is caused by the old man, who in adversity has acquired power, that of a sorcerer, from books, King Lear lost all power. The theme of fragility, inherent in human order when confronted by the power of nature, and thus god, is made clear by the Boatswain when he shouts “What cares these roarers for the name of king?” (1.1.16-17) The theme of fraternal envy is also repeated in The Tempest, Antonio has betrayed and usurped his brother Prospero. In King Lear Edmund, the bastard child of

Gloucester, betrays his father and brother. He and his father are punished by blinding and death. The transgression of infidelity punished to enforce the order of legitimacy.

The Tempest belongs to the class of plays commonly grouped as Shakespeare’s Late Romances: Pericles, Cymberline and The Winters Tale making up the quartet. In these plays, Shakespeare considers family relationships and reconciliation in a mythical and fantasy setting, elements of magic, mystery and nature are theatrical devices. The modern interpretation of “romance” refers to those with comic and tragic elements, developed and popularized by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher between 1607 and 1613. Philaster combines the tragic with the comic to deal with redemption and transgressions, it is a collaborative work, and Francis Beaumont’s Knight of the Burning Pestle is an example of farcical comedy. Comedies, like Twelfth Night and Knight of The Burning Pestle focus on youth and happy endings. Romance, like The Tempest often has middle-aged and older protagonists in central roles, Prospero, Antonio and Gonzalo. Ferdinand and Miranda are completely controlled by Prospero, like pawns, underlined by the game of chess they play, showing the audience that beneficent wielding of power is a prerequisite of order. The Tempest highlights community, using Kings, Princes and Nobles as characters inherently powerful and show order can be restored even in the midst of a tempest, albeit completely controlled and manipulated by Prospero. Romance emphasises the role and power of nature rather than human nature, the storm at the beginning of the play shows how fragile order imposed by men can be. In The Tempest characters experience events with a symbolic effect beyond rational understanding, requiring a suspension of belief and acceptance of the existence of magic, magical figures together with the ability of Prospero to create a storm, as a Sorcerer. Themes of order, transgression, atonement and subsequent redemption rather than punishment are constant throughout, symbolic of the forgiving nature of God rather than that of vengeance.

Knight of the Burning Pestle pokes fun at contemporary theatre, involving the audience to question clichéd literary devices in a farcical way. A precursor to what is now satire. The play shows us we all have idiosyncrasies, bad habits and our own perspectives, that may not reflect reality and our values could be of exaggerated importance. The message of the play is to ask us to reconsider the status quo, to reflect on order and how our sense of order is moulded by those around us and accepted conventions of behaviour. It actually transgresses the conventions of contemporary theatre and by implication criticises Shakespeare’s work as too fantastical and ordered.

Power, betrayal and treachery are recurring themes in The Tempest: Antonio betrays Prospero; Caliban accuses Prospero of betraying him, by gaining his trust and then taking the island; Sebastian conspires with Antonio to kill Alonso; Stephano and Caliban plot to kill Prospero and become “king o’the isle.” These themes of betrayal are portrayed as negative and as undermining order, Prospero was a good Duke but his brother by implication bad. Treachery is thus portrayed as sinful and to result in punishment, Judas betraying Jesus is an obvious example. Donne betraying Catholicism is another example, which he explores in Holy Sonnet XIV.

The Tempest presupposes that kingship is required, even a commonwealth, as Gonzalo describes it, needed a King[quote]. The play shows that hierarchical political superstructures ruled by a King, and Aristocracy, are a paradigm of social existence. We must not consider changing the order; merely consider that which makes a good King better. All of the characters are subject to beneficent control by Prospero. Power and order in all forms is considered. Prospero is symbolic of Statehood and the Divinity of Kings, exemplified by his mastery of Arts and his use of magical books and words to control and scrutinise events. Prospero’s manipulation of the other human characters and Caliban with the magical sprite Aerial, together with his power to control the weather with Art, symbolises political control and manipulation of people, facilitated by a superior knowledge, gained from magic books. The mystery encompassed in books Prospero “valued above my Dukedom” is central in The Tempest. The power of knowledge, gained from reading, is portrayed as magical, this knowledge is used by Prospero to wield power and manipulate events to restore power to himself and order in the aftermath of the storm. Superficially he uses power for benevolent purposes eventually reconciling his differences with old adversaries and restoring the status quo. His apparent benevolence is questioned in his treatment of Caliban. However Caliban is portrayed as a stupid drunk, casting doubt on his version of events that is also contradicted by Prospero. In Caliban the morality of colonialism and the imposition of order upon the savage native is explored, alternative views of the

New World are put forward Gonzalo’s Utopian vision of social order contrasted with Prospero’s tricking, enslavement and violence towards Caliban, who is symbolic of natives oppressed by Imperialism. Caliban tells Trinculo that Prospero he will be tortured if he does not comply with Prospero’s wishes. Thus are we shown that pain, and the fear of it is the controlling force behind social order and colonisation. The disposability of an artisan’s life is exposed at the beginning of the play when the Boatswain is threatened with death for being rude. Caliban’s hatred of Prospero symbolises the effect of attempting to impose order on an indigenous population by fear and torture. Caliban as a native is shown to empathise and appreciate nature more than the other characters

“… the isle is full of noises,

Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.”

The importance of conformity is underlined when Prospero orders Ferdinand and Miranda to be temperate in their love, and for Ferdinand, unlike Adam to avoid temptation, warning him harshly :

“If thou dost break her virgin knot before

All sanctimonious ceremonies may

With full and holy rite be minister’d

Sour-ey’d disdain, and discord, shall bestrew

The union of your bed”.

The theme of chastity is continued at the masque, which features Juno, who is the Greek goddess of marriage and home; Prospero specifically excludes Venus and Cupid, goddesses of beauty and love. The need to follow rules and the perils of transgressions are replete throughout the play. Stephano and Trinculo, portrayed as hopeless drunks are brought to justice and Caliban tortured for attempting to rape Miranda. Prospero is himself intemperate “with anger so distemper’d”, but eventually controls it, clearing the sky of the tempest and forgiving his adversaries, for the sake of future order. The themes of transgression and redemption are powerfully explored in Holy Sonnet XIV.

The Petrarchan sonnet form, that Donne utilised, consists of an octet, which puts forward an idea, obstacle or scenario, followed by a sestet that provides a solution or commentary. Iambic pentameter is required to adhere to the form and the rhyme scheme should be abbaabba or abbacddc followed by xyzxyz or other variations using two or three rhyme sounds.

While Donne utilised the form in Holy Sonnet XIV he incorporated enjambment, running one line into another and half rhyme in lines 10 and 12. Taking the half rhyme into account the rhyme order is abbacddc efefgg, on the face of it conforming to the rhyme order. Poetic form and the strictures imposed thereby inform the poem, the structure becomes part of the language, the pattern of which may influence the meaning. The half rhyme highlights the words “enemie” and “I”, this emphasises that the narrator is a sinner and also counteracts the use of “you” in the poem to focus the reader’s attention on the narrator. These transgressions of form thus convey meaning and shift emphasis. He also transgresses acceptable norms in his vivid depiction of sexuality within a religious sonnet. But for the fact hat the poem is included within the Holy Sonnets it would be possible to interpret it as an erotic poem with subtle references to Christianity, the title Holy Sonnet XIV reverses this conception. Petrarchan sonnets were usually concerned with love of a man for a woman. The use of this form in the genre with such sexually charged language transgresses the accepted rules of form and convention to produce a powerful effect. Freeing the poem from the meditative form of traditional religious poetry of the time is the use of irregular metre and random caesuras,

The opening line utilises enjambment and is a mixture of trochees and iambs. “Batter my heat” can be read as two spondees or a trochee and iamb. The provocative nature of the poem is enhanced by the use of the word heart, which was common slang for vagina. The congruence of rape and Godly redemption within an explicitly violent sexual poem would trouble many Christian readers. Donne converted to Anglicanism, betraying his Catholic faith. The anger at this transgression is vividly portrayed metaphorically as a bereft lover who craves his lover’s touch even if this is forced masculine sexual violence.

The Tempest in form is written in lyrical iambic pentameter, utilising rhyme and blank verse. It is a romance consisting of five Acts. The themes running though the play deal with chaos and order, power and pain, transgression and redemption. The structure does not transgress conventions of form; the substance shows us that transgression will always be countered by the power of order. Transgressions in this setting are both punished and forgiven and occur in equal measure. The play is not more interested in order or transgression but shows us one cannot exist without the other. Holy Sonnet XIV challenges the conventions of the sonnet form and makes the reader consider God in an erotic context. This deviation from accepted form and convention of the time deals with Donne’s conversion and is symbolic of the chaos caused in his psyche because of it. It invites the reader to experience a questioning of religious belief and the conception of it in a raw and powerful appeal to base emotions. It is the transgressive form that makes the poem so powerful. To that extent the poem is concerned with transgressing order. The poetry and drama of the early modern period is equally concerned is equally concerned with transgression and order

Donne, John. “Batter my heart, three personed God…” The Norton Introduction to Poetry.

Ed. J. Paul Hunter.

New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 1996. 154-155.

Guibbory, Achsah. The

Cambridge Companion to English Poetry Donne to Marvell.

Ed. Thomas N. Corns. Cambridge:


University Press, 1993.

Kerrigan, William. “The Fearful Accommodations of John Donne.” English Literary Renaissance.

4(1974): 337-363.

Marotti, Arthur F. Critical Essays on John Donne.

New York: Macmillan

Publishing Co, 1994.

Payne, Craig. “Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV.” Explicator. v54 (1996) 209-213

Steig, Michael. “Donne’s Divine Rapist: Unconscious Fantasy in Holy Sonnet XIV.”

University of


Studies in Literature: A Journal of Interdisciplinary
Criticism. 491972):52-58. Wanninger, Mary Tenney. “Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV.” Explicator 28(1969): Item 37.


Jung, C. G. Man and His Symbols (also von Franz, Henderson, Jacobi, Jaffe London: Picador, 1964.

Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Glasgow: William Collins & Sons, 1963.

Synchronicity – An Acausal Connecting



University Press, 1973.

Palmer, D. J. (Editor) The Tempest – A Selection of Critical Essays

London: MacMillan Press Ltd., 1977.

Shakespeare, The Tempest (the play with textual notes and commentaries)

New York: Signet Classics, 1964.

Tillyard, E. M. Shakespeare’s Last Plays

London: Chatto and Windus, 1938.

Traversi, Derek Shakespeare: The Last Phase

London: Hollis and Carter, 1979.

Also: John Wilders’ lecture on The Tempest given at


University -


College – August 4th, 1993.

Also: Paul Rickard’s Thinking Points and other handouts and class discussions.

Donne, John. “Batter my heart, three personed God…” The Norton Introduction to Poetry.

Ed. J. Paul Hunter.

New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 1996. 154-155.

Guibbory, Achsah. The

Cambridge Companion to English Poetry Donne to Marvell.

Ed. Thomas N. Corns. Cambridge:


University Press, 1993.

Kerrigan, William. “The Fearful Accommodations of John Donne.” English Literary Renaissance.

4(1974): 337-363.

Marotti, Arthur F. Critical Essays on John Donne.

New York: Macmillan

Publishing Co, 1994.

Payne, Craig. “Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV.” Explicator. v54 (1996) 209-213

Steig, Michael. “Donne’s Divine Rapist: Unconscious Fantasy in Holy Sonnet XIV.”

University of


Studies in Literature: A Journal of Interdisciplinary
Criticism. 491972):52-58. Wanninger, Mary Tenney. “Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV.” Explicator 28(1969): Item 37.

The Scarlet Letter and Guilt

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

This essay will consider how the theme of guilt is represented in The Scarlet Letter, by discussing how it is portrayed and symbolised within the text. To do so it will be useful to have a working definition of guilt. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines guilt as being “culpability” and a guilt complex as “a mental obsession with the idea of having done wrong”. Obviously there are various levels of guilt depending upon the seriousness of the transgression. In the case of The Scarlet Letter the wrong, or sin, is adultery: a very serious breach of Christian morality. The way in which each of the parties, to the sin, deal with their guilt is different, the female, Hester, has no option; she cannot conceal the sin, for obvious biological reasons. Dimmesdale has a choice; however, his choice of secrecy is dependant upon the complicity of Hester. He chooses to remain quiet supported in this by Hester. Nonetheless, this sin causes Dimmesdale to suffer an immense guilt complex, consumed with guilt it becomes a “mental obsession” which ultimately destroys him. He does however seek to rationalise it. At one point in Chapter X Dimmesdale asks the Physician:

“Why should a wretched man, guilty, we will say, of murder, prefer to keep the dead corpse buried in his own heart, rather than fling it forth at once, and let the universe take care of it!” To be answered:

“Yet some men bury their secrets thus,” Dimmesdale then attempts to excuse this concealment:

“True; there are such men, but, not to suggest more obvious reasons, it may be that they are kept silent by the very constitution of their nature.”

He then continues to excuse his secrecy as being to the benefit of all, by allowing him to continue to preach, but it is clear it is causing him considerable internal conflict: a guilt complex.

Hester deals with her guilt in an open way, wearing elegant clothes when leaving the prison and embroidering a fancy letter ‘A’ to wear on her chest. She wears this letter on her chest long after she is required to do so. She is clearly not suffering from a “guilt complex”; she has confronted the transgression for which she has “culpability”. She does not suffer from a guilty conscience in the same way as Dimmesdale, so does not suffer the same physical and mental deterioration suffered by him.

To consider the way in which

Hawthorne intended to represent the power of guilt it is useful to consider his own beliefs. He was arguably considering a puritanical view of guilt and seeking to represent its different forms. The issue was considered in some depth by Herman Melville, in his essay, “Hawthorne and His Moses,” Melville describes

Hawthorne’s soul as “shrouded in a blackness” (Melville, H., 1994). Melville believes that the origin of this darkness and black mode of thinking derives from that:

“…Touch of Puritanical gloom… [which] derives its force from its appeals to that Calvinistic sense of Innate Depravity from Original Sin, from whose visitations,

in some shape or other, no deeply thinking mind is always wholly free.” (Melville, H., 1994)

Melville’s view that

Hawthorne’s darkness is rooted in Puritanism is reasonable. The implication, by Melville, being that Hawthorne represents guilt in The Scarlet Letter as something from which no-one can be truly free, whether it is accepted head on, and confronted, or not.

Hawthorne arguably identified himself with the theories of John Calvin, which are fundamental to the to a Calvinist Puritanical faith. Henry James states that:

Hawthorne found the necessary darkness… in his Puritan heritage… and [would] capitalize on the darkness latent in

America’s Puritan history and heritage”.

It would be an error to argue that

Hawthorne was preaching a wholly puritanical message in the Scarlet Letter with guilt as a symbol for it. For while Puritans do believe that Original Sin effects the whole of society, and that we are all sinners, they nonetheless believe in the possibility of redemption from this Original Sin. That redemption is possible: with the appropriate behaviour and a sense of guilt, shame and conscience. However, they also believe that the method of expression of guilt is important in this regard.

Hawthorne, in the text, did not represent that all members of society can purged of the guilt of sin: even though Dimmesdale did eventually confess, and suffered from a deleterious guilt complex, the sin he committed is represented as being ultimately responsible for his death. This representation of the power of sin and guilt opposes the Transcendentalists view, with which Melville sympathised, that all members of society can be redeemed through the power that is innate within all individuals. (O’Toole, H., 2003). They do not believe in the ultimate power of evil, which is represented by

Hawthorne in the demise of Dimmesdale. The text represents a belief that evil, sin and guilt must be confronted head on. In the depiction of the differing effects that guilt have upon Hester and Dimmesdale, the text argues that the only way to deal with sin, guilt and a guilt complex is to confront it, but not all can do this, and even if done, not all are truly redeemed. In the depiction of Pearl as being a quirky individual, fond of the woods (a suggestion of evil) and in some way different is another representation of guilt and sin as being pervasive in the damage that it can cause. The message is that even third parties, who are themselves innocent of the sin but nonetheless products of it can suffer. It is represented in the same way that all humans suffer because of Original Sin. (Melville H., 1994)

It is clear that one of the main themes of the book is guilt and conscience. Furthermore hidden guilt is represented as more harmful than open guilt. Hester is labelled as openly guilty of a transgression, with a scarlet letter ‘A’ and imprisoned because of it. Initially she is mocked and badly treated by her small community, but as the years pass she earns the respect and forgiveness of those who initiated the punishment. Kinkead-Weekes makes the point that there is a suggestion, in the text, that open acceptance of sin and guilt is represented as empowering:

“By accepting punishment and guilt, Hester is educated and strengthened by suffering, and acquires a power for good beyond the scope of the rebel of the opening.”

However, she accepts responsibility more so than suffering from guilt as a mental obsession. The fact that she embroiders a fancy letter ‘A’ and wears it long after she is required to do so suggests pride more than guilt.

Dimmesdale, in refusing to admit to his sin, is condemned to suffering from a guilt complex, a secret that he can share with no one, except God. This guilt complex is added to because Hester, whilst accepting guilt and punishment, is keeping it a secret as well. She is being punished while he continues to retain the respect of the community. By not confessing he is able to continue in his pastoral role, albeit riddled with guilt; this makes him a hypocrite also. He is aware that he will never be free of this guilt complex until he confesses, however, he keeps the secret and his mental and physical health deteriorate to such an extent, because of the guilt complex and shame, that when he does finally confess he dies. His character is portrayed as quiet and pious, but his failure to confess and his continuing to preach the importance of confessing sin render him a coward as well as a hypocrite. He rationalises that, were he to confess, he would not be able to help anyone and thus excuses himself; this representation of guilt is manifested as a fundamental weakness to his character. Occasionally he contemplates his hypocrisy but never finds the courage to confess, he begins to suffer considerable anxiety because of this weakness. The guilt in Dimmesdale is represented as a powerful force for harm; this is because it is hidden, not accepted and furthermore, is compounded by hypocrisy. The power of guilt is further represented

when Dimmesdale subjects himself to self flagellation, and by carving an ‘A’ onto his chest hidden from view, like his guilt. Notwithstanding this punishment he still suffers, the point being made that guilt and secrecy are deleterious. Contrast this with the open guilt of Hester, she is openly labelled, which is ultimately empowering, allowing her to rise above her sin, guilt and shame and to emerge with the respect of her community, and the love of her daughter. Dimmesdale suffers for seven years before finding the moral courage to confess and overcome the weakness in his character. The confession is public and made during a sermon. It is also the conclusion to the plot and the climax to the text, but shortly after relieving himself of this burden he dies, in Hester’s arms. The ultimate power of hidden guilt, and the resultant guilt complex and shame, to destroy a person, is amply made. Kinkead-Weekes makes the point that an acceptance of sin and a feeling of guilt are represented within the text as a positive power for good, when he says of Dimmesdale:

“…his most guilty suffering produces his greatest power for good”

Guilt in the Scarlet Letter is being represented as both a positive and negative but inevitable human emotion. The text represents guilt as an emotion from which all must suffer in a Calvinistic puritanical way, that is, as fundamental to the human condition. The text demonstrates that confrontation of sin and the acceptance of punishment lead to redemption in the guise of Hester. Hiding sin and a refusal to openly accept guilt cause shame, misery and, in its ultimate manifestation, death in the guise of Dimmesdale.


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Bartleby the Scrivener “I prefer not to” A consideration

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

This essay will explore the significance of Bartleby’s words “I would prefer not to” when seeking to understand the text, Bartleby the Scrivener.

The lawyer narrates the story from his own perspective and employs Bartleby. In order to understand why Bartleby was actually declaring his preference not to conform it is necessary to examine how he should have behaved. The narrator employed Bartleby because he could read and write, whilst he would be a professional writer unlike Melville, however, his work would be completely unoriginal and would involve mindless copying. The nature of such employees was such, at the time, that the lawyer did not even check his references, judging on appearance and manner alone. This makes the point that Bartleby was effectively no more than a machine, one among many thousands of similar white-collar workers in Wall Street. As such, his individuality and his uniqueness had no point within the society within which he had to exist, whether he preferred to or not. Melville is, of course a Transcendentalist. As such, he considered intuition to be highest form of reason and imbued with divinity, one’s individual potential will facilitate an individual path to God. (O’Toole H., 2003.)

As Heather O’Toole states:

”Transcendentalism depends on a complete adherence to the self and individual experience. This premise is a highly democratic concept, for it regards the importance of internal authority and individualism over external authority and mass consciousness.”

Transcendentalists believe in the possibility of positive change and the ability of each individual to attain divinity or communion with God from a reliance on their innate goodness and reliability and faith in their own instinct. This is in direct contrast to the Calvinistic Puritanical view that man is inherently evil and all but irredeemable. They believed that everyone had within himself or herself divine reason and must be free to achieve their full potential. Because of this fundamental philosophy, Transcendentalists favoured reforms. Many effective opponents to war, capitalism, and slavery were Transcendentalists. They argued that right and wrong are perceptions of the mind and not matters of reason. Transcendentalist believe that only one God exists and is manifest in all religious traditions; if every man has within him Divine reason, they contended, every person must be free to realize their fullest potentiality. If people could do so, then it would be possible to realize Heaven on Earth. (Sten, C. W., 1974)

The story effectively takes place in three phases: these being the appointment of Bartleby and his increasing resistance to the Wall Street routine, followed by attempts at cajoling his conformity by the lawyer and concluding with the retribution meted out by that society when Bartleby fails to conform. Throughout the story Bartleby is portrayed as being isolated, mysterious, and surreal almost. He is also portrayed as being different and alone, but not in the sense of being lonely, to emphasise the fact that he is exercising his own free will, he is not associated with anyone and thus not subject to undesirable influence, he is relying on his own instincts to make his own decisions. The phrase “I would prefer not to” is an understated way of refusing to conform, he is demonstrating the power of the individual to resist a communal pressure to comply. The activity that he is employed to carry out, writing, is on the face of it, intellectual, stimulating and original, however, it is reduced to “mechanical reproduction ruinous to the minds and bodies of the workers”. (Weinstein, C., 1998) What should be a deeply personal and individual activity is corrupted by capitalism. There is a good deal of irony in the fact that he and his colleagues are hired to copy but that his colleagues in Wall Street do not copy his behaviour, and as such his actions are ultimately futile, in so far as they achieve no change.

Bartleby, by uttering the words “I would prefer not to” effectively, as Cindy Weinstein states, “goes on strike without ever asserting that he has done so”. By using this phrase, Bartleby forces the employer, and narrator, to think carefully, and in some depth, about his expectations of his employees and the power within that relationship that up until that time he had taken for granted. The phrase is the driving force for the whole story. The narrator becomes more and more frustrated as Bartleby uttering this phrase defies him repeatedly. The narrator actually reconsiders his role and “begins to stagger in his own plainest faith”, doubting the rules upon which his own society, as he perceives it, is at fault. (Weinstein, C., 1998).

There is an element of irony given the narrator’s profession, which of course deals in rules, protects capitalism, and defends the principal of ownership. As the story progresses the narrator actually comes to believe that Bartleby may have a point and that “all the justice and all the reason is on the other side” (Melville H., 1853). He even begins to view the conditions in which the scriveners work as being oppressive, detailing other men’s wealth in writing and copying endless documents to protect the principle of ownership in the political superstructure of capitalism; which is of course epitomised in Wall Street itself. The phrase “I would prefer not to” also suggests a mooted rebellion against capitalism, and many Transcendentalists were opposed to Capitalism on philosophical grounds.

Melville’s vivid use of imagery in the description of the office in which Bartleby is “entombed” allows the reader to imagine a lifeless, claustrophobic room, as the narrator states “deficient in what landscape painters call ‘life’”. The use of the green flimsy screen, to separate the narrator from the workers, symbolises the fragility of the class divide. This is emphasised when the narrator considers the alternative should Bartleby’s actions prove to be copied (again symbolic irony) by others in Wall Street. Of course, the entire system of property owning, and the principle of ownership itself, is dependent upon accurate and reliable record keeping. Bartleby in “preferring not to” check his work and thus safeguard the reliability of the information that they are recording is highly significant. The narrator eventually abandons Bartleby by moving away from him. (Marx L., 1953)

The symbolism of the green flimsy screen is important: it demonstrates the delicate nature of that which separates the classes, rendered even more precarious when Bartleby utters the words “I would prefer not to”. It also evokes an obvious image of something green and thus nature, this in turn is juxtaposed against the dim almost dingy image of the office environment that Melville describes. This negative description of the working environment, for Bartleby his home, together with the negative portrayal of the tedious nature of the work is an indictment of capitalism. Humans, reduced to the role of machines, forced to comply with a way of living that will not allow them to achieve their full potential, become subsumed within a group. The character of Bartleby neatly portrays the fundamental beliefs of Transcendentalism at the same time as showing that they may ultimately not be achievable. The ultimate tragic demise of Bartleby demonstrates that his stand was futile. (Widmer K., 1969)

The phrase “I would prefer not to”, on a close reading and consideration of the text, conveys the message of the whole story in one phrase: It is saying that as humans we should all be able to live as we would prefer and emphasises the importance of self in striving for divinity. It is therefore extremely useful, and important, when analysing the meaning of the text.

BibliographyAnderson, Walter. “Form and Meaning in ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener.’” Studies in Short Fiction 18 (Fall 1981): 383-93.

Marx L., 1987, “Melvilles Parable of the Walls”, in Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Benito Cereno, Bartleby the Scrivener and Other Tales, Chelsea House Publishers, Philadelphia, pp.11-29

Melville H., 1853, Bartleby the Scrivener : A Story of Wall-Street

O’Toole H., 2003.The Blackness of Men’s Souls: Why Nathaniel Hawthorne could not Embrace Transcendentalism. Bridgewater, Virginia,


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Sten, C. W., 1974, “Bartleby, the Transcendentalist: Melville’s Dead Letter to Emerson.” Modern Language Quarterly 35: 30-44

Weinstein, C., 1998, “Melville, Labor, And The Discourses of Reception”, in The Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, ed. Robert S. Levine, Cambridge, England, Cambridge University Press, pp. 202—223

Widmer, K., 1969, “Melville’s Radical Resistance: The Method and Meaning of ‘Bartleby.’” In Studies in the Novel 1 (1969):pp 444-58.

Waterland by Graham Swift: Analysis of Chapter Fourteen

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

This essay will critically analyse chapter fourteen of Waterland by Graham Swift and establish that it is in the style of a self-conscious lesson in history directed at the reader. In its form it will be shown to be metafiction linking history telling and story telling (Hutcheon 1989). That as a chapter it is a lesson about history and post modernist literary theory. Form, content and literary devices, used by the text, will be considered in making this argument, and establish that the key preoccupations of the whole text are encapsulated within it. These are metaphoric devices of the river representing the circularity of history; silt as representative of progress and history; the French Revolution, grand narratives and the destructive nature of society are also considered in the text.

The title of the chapter “De la Revolution”, French for revolution refers to the French Revolution which is linked to the age of enlightenment and Jean-Jacques Rousseau who considers the nature of man and his environment in the eighteenth century. He argues that it is not natural for humans to live in society. Rousseau considered a division between society, which he sees as negative, and human nature. He considers human nature fundamentally good but corrupted by society. He considered humans living in a natural environment, free from the trappings and rules of civilization as independent, self-sufficient and good, in his essay, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences written in 1750. The text refers to it as “Rousseau’s cry of back to nature” (Swift 1983 p.137). All the major characters in the text are in some way corrupted by civilization’s touch. For Rousseau society is artificial, like the land reclamation in the text, and social interdependence, which he considered destructive of humanity, is symbolized by Mary’s abortion. The power of the Atkinsons and Tom Crick’s lack of it is symbolic of the inequalities of society first exposed by Rousseau. This is referenced in chapter fourteen when Crick is telling the reader in the form of a lesson, that

“So-called forward movements of civilization, whether moral or technological, have invariably brought with them an accompanying regression.” (Swift 1983 p. 135).

Crick explains how printing presses led to propaganda, steam engines to “ten year olds working sixteen hours a day in coal mines” (Swift 1983 p.136) and airplanes to the destruction of European cities. He refers to the splitting of the atom: “And as for the splitting of the atom—” (Swift 1983 p.136). The text in this phrase is in its own paragraph, an encapsulation of the grammatical and punctuation devices used throughout the text. This phrase shows the metafictional nature of the text, self-consciously narrating history as a series of stories; Linda Hutcheon calls it “historiographic metafiction”.

“And” beginning a sentence is generally considered bad grammar, but it is a device used throughout the text. Deviations from accepted rules of textual structure are typical of postmodern metafiction questioning established norms. Patricia Waugh defines metafiction as:

“fictional writing that draws attention to itself as an artefact” (Waugh 1984 p.2)

Metafiction self-consciously and regularly draws attention to itself as a book in order to examine the interface and dynamic between fiction and reality. This definition assists in understanding Chapter fourteen. It is written in the form of a lesson, addresses both readers and students in the class, it switches points of view and from addressing the reader to the scene in the class. This exploration of the narrative structure and consideration of the nature of the world outside the text as potentially fictional or misrepresented is typical of metafiction as defined, written in a postmodern style. It helps in understanding that issues are explored in the text by using “the metaphor of the book as world” (Waugh 1984 p.3) environment or grand narrative and then reshapes it in terms of contemporary thought in fields of philosophy, literature and language. It aids our understanding of the impication implied in postmodern metafiction like Waterland that says people have roles rather than self will and the consequences of other’s actions are a predominant feature of their lives (Rousseau refers to self will as self-sufficiency). This leads the reader to the logical conclusion that worlds and environments formed entirely from words are legitimate models for the examination of reality as a construct. This is what Waterland does in this chapter and is what Crick is teaching us, and does throughout the text as a whole, in terms of structure, content, style and grammatical devices – especially unexpected uses of grammar and punctuation – which draw attention to the metafictional voice of the text.

The metaficional lesson of this chapter and the text as a whole concens the negative impact of progress, supported by referring to the French Revolution, demonstrating the nature of history to distort the past, showing it to Modernists at least as a golden age: leading to a natural desire to revert to it. The title of the chapter refers to revolution, which also means circular and recursive, the lesson about history, Crick teaches his readers and pupils, is that a revolution involves going backwards in history to something better that exists, for post modern texts only in stories, no more reliable than the text that is speaking to the reader. The River Ouse is recursive potentially able to spread causing destruction unless contained by humans, like history and progress. The French Revolution is a symbol of attempts by society to retreat back into history and the destructive consequences of that. The theme of the text as a lesson continues in lessons, elsewhere in the text, about eels, land reclamation, the Ouse and silt. The message that the historical metaphor silt, inevitably returns to change the course of progress or the river, causing causes recursion or changes in direction, is constant throughout the text and present in this chapter. It describes history as an “Impedimenta” (Swift 1983 p.136) an “ever-frustrating weight”(Swift 1983 p.136), furthermore that it “…accumulates, because it gets always heavier…” (Swift 1983 p.136) this is also a description of silt; silt that “potato-heads”, like Dick, dredge up but becomes harder and harder to bring to the surface as it becomes ever larger and unmanageable, like history. Dick is the metaphorical hapless historian, dredging, the consequences “become more violent and drastic” (Swift 1983 p.137) the more dredging is done: Dick dies on the dredger. This is how Crick explains the “periodic convulsions” (Swift 1983 p. 137) of history. He refers to it as Natural History that seeks to take humanity back to “where we were” (Swift 1983 p.137), a reference to Rousseau’s view that humans are happiest living naturally. Crick considers the French revolution in some detail. The chapter, up to this point is delivered in third person limited to the perception of Crick. When the text begins to be more specific and consider the French Revolution the narrative voice becomes first person, as Crick, and is addressing the reader, the narrative is extremely self conscious at this point and addressed directly to the reader as a pupil. These shifts reflect the river, perception and reality as chaotic. At the end of this passage is another long dash which then leads into a first person narrative that utilizes mainly dialogue between Crick, now teaching in the classroom, and Price. Price is questioning the relevance or use of history. This is a metafictional device used by the text to consider post modernist theories of history and the importance of grand narratives. The voice of the chapter and the text is male, history and its relevance is considered from a male perspective, it is implicit from this that history itself is a male construct. The main characters in the French revolution were male. The lone female voice in this chapter is that of Judy Dobson who is described as a “perky answerer” (Swift 1983 p.139) she says “the voice of the people is the voice of God”(p.). A phrase used in the media to describe the opinions of “the man on the street”, quotes of which are usually edited. This girl in the book is portrayed then as an untrustworthy commentator, symbolic of the distain with which historical grand narratives consider female opinion and experience. Crick considers the meaning of “the people” by completely ignoring the girl’s opinion. Crick explains the pliable nature of history and its unreliability. The lesson directed at Price, emphasizes that history is for men. Crick says

“Price…the more you try to dissect events, the more you lose hold of them – the more they seem to have occurred largely in people’s imagination…” (Swift 1983 p. 140)

The theme, that history is male and both men and women suffered because of progress, is underlined by the fate of the female characters in the text: Mary losing a child, becoming infertile and then being committed, her mother’s and grandmother’s suffering. The text tells us that Dick is the product of a powerful, perverted and controlling man – a symbol of the corrupting nature of society. Dick’s father is a symbol of the futility of progress as he oversees the decline in his family fortunes and the beginning of the demise of the lock, control of the

Fens, the Ouse and Silt, ultimately arriving at Tom Crick, the narrator. The major premise of Post Modern metafiction is skepticism at the representation of history in grand narratives.

Enlightenment philosophers, like Rousseau, argued scientific thinking could examine all human activity and question everything – religion and authority especially. Prior to The Age of Enlightenment it was forbidden to challenge dogmatic, usually religious, theories. The Age of Enlightenment advanced ideas that reason and logic are able to establish an objective understanding of the universe.

Modernist writers have a mournful view of history as fragmenting and mourn its passing and do not question the validity of history and progress. Modernist literature considers that there is an overall purpose to human existence and views history and the loss of old values as a critical. The text obliquely criticises this view: “History is the record of decline. What we wish upon the future is very often the image of some lost, imagined past.” (Swift 1983 p.141)Price is mocking of the post modern approach to Crick taught in the lesson, he argues that to want a future does not equate to a yearning for paradise lost:“Never said anything about paradise. But – I want a future.”Price completely misunderstands Crick’s critique of Modernism. Modernists utilize narratives with multiple narrators, for example William Faulkners As I Lay Dying, showing an event from multiple perspectives as subjective and fragmentary and so history as fragmented and presenting this as a loss. Post Modernism celebrates this fragmentation. Crick is an example of it when narration changes from first to third person. Linda Hutcheon explains that Post Modernism is “not so much a concept as a problematic: a complex of heterogeneous but interrelated questions which will not be silenced by any spuriously unitary answer” (Hutcheon 2002)Jean-François Lyotard in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, explains the grand narrative. Stories are the original historical narratives. History once consisted of them leanding credibility to “facts” recorded, establishing social norms of behavior to protect existing power structures. Grand Narratives refer to the Koran and Bible. In his view these books confer credibility to the opinions and rules expressed. “Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives”. (Lytotard, 1984)Post Modernism rejects the mourning of a lost past. Chapter fourteen demonstrates that progress is inevitably damaging:“Why is it that every so often history demands a bloodbath, a holocaust, an Armageddon? And why is it that every time the time before has taught us nothing?” (Swift 1983 p.141)Post modernism accepts natural chaos and disorder as inevitable symbolized in the text by the bloodbath that is Mary’s abortion and in this chapter by referring to the Reign of Terror orchestrated by Robespierre. The idea that grand narratives can organize humanity socially is discredited in this text and reality. The collapse of communism in Russia and the secular nature of the

United Kingdom are examples of rejection. Changes in

China consequent to Mao’s death and the Polish shipyard strikes were the first signs of these changes that were contemporary to Waterland. The chapter concludes as the narrator, in first person poses a series of questions. Then says the French Revolution resulted in Napoleon, ironically referring to Rousseau’s Golden Age. The circularity of history is once again explained by Crick who ends by running straight into the next chapter, like water, into the Ouse, a vast expanse of history that will swallow this story with all the others.

This chapter highlights the mythological and potentially fictional nature of the past as a golden age; it questions the reliability of history, as recorded in grand narratives, in the post-modern tradition, utilising the device of metafictional narration. The chapter and text argues and demonstrates that preoccupation with the past can be damaging, and that one can never fully know what the past is because it is a collection of stories surrounding events, like the text. The end of the chapter leads straight into a chapter about the Ouse, emphasising the unending, but all consuming power of an unreliable history to shape the future. This failure to end the chapter occurs in the whole text as there is no final resolution to narrative.

Word Count 2100


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