Friday, September 26, 2014

Summary of 'Dance Like a Man'

The play Dance Like a Man tells the story of three generations; their personal ambitions, sacrifices, struggle, compromises, internal conflicts and the way they try to cope up with the life; and mainly focuses on a dancing couple. In this play reader comes across many emotions and is taken virtually into the world of the characters that is flooded with their dreams, success, failures, frustrations, anguish, manipulations, conflicts and unseen hopes that are too far to achieve. Every character manages to come to terms with the situation and eventually creates an individual Ivory Tower to live in. Here the Researcher would discuss every aspect in detail that deals with the play and the characters. 
Meaning of Dance: 
Dance is a very significant factor in this play that means different things to different characters. Jairaj and Ratna wants to develop their career as dancers and for them Dance is not only a hobby but also life and soul. It is not only their passion but also a tool that will help them to gain desired success. Personally for Jairaj, Dance is a form or a means to express emotions and stands as the tool of defiance, revolt, negation of a particular way of life that was decided by his father, Amritlal. He starts dancing as a hobby or rather a fancy that his father thought would perish after a period of time but it does not happen that way. Jairaj continues his practice of traditional dancing in spite of all the opposition from his father and overtly presents himself as a rebel. He becomes more headstrong because of the support of his wife, Ratna who also was interested in traditional form of dancing. The reason behind Amritlal’s opposition suggests that his mind was not ready to accept his son as a Bharatnatyam Dancer. More than that he was shocked on knowing the fact that Jairaj was planning to grow his hair long just like his Guru, which would enhance his Abhinaya. Amritlal saw dance as something that was practiced by prostitutes, which was turning Temples into Brothels. If we see Amritlal as a father his oppositions were not so very illogical. He gave his son the freedom to practice dance but he was worried that the passion of dance would not lead his son anywhere and he would not be able to support his family in future. In the society everyone wants the Male to earn that much so that the house would run properly but Amritlal knew that dance would not help Jairaj to earn enough money and that would make him unworthy in the eyes of his wife Ratna. For Amritlal, dance was good as far as it remains a hobby but it was not proper to be taken as a profession. And we should not forget that traditional dance, especially for Male was not considered a respectable profession in the olden days in India. Asha Kuthari Chaudhuri says,
“The underlying fear is obviously that dance would make him ‘womanly’ – an effeminate man – the suggestion of homosexuality hovers near, although never explicitly mentioned.” (p. 68)
Dance, for Ratna, serves as an undying passion that drives her character throughout all the actions of the drama. Behind all her moves in the drama, Dance was the main factor. After reading the play one may coin her character a selfish one as she lives only for herself and uses others as a mere tool or a step to go ahead. Her character has a negative shade and that makes her different than others. She involves herself in a relationship with Jairaj and that was a clear self-centered decision on her part. No love or attachment with Jairaj was there on the outset of the relationship. Her overconfidence and faith in her own talent was so much that she hesitated not even once to destroy Jairaj’s career as a dancer joining hands with her father-in-law, Amritlal. She single-mindedly follows her heart overpowered by mind; and tries to be famous using Dance as a medium. Traditional Dance stands as a thing that will help her in earning fame and money along with respect in the world of dancers. Her machinations were so lethal that when Jairaj came to know about her inner desires the purpose was already achieved; leaving Jairaj a failure; mere mediocre dancer. In a way she took the advantage of Jairaj’s love for her and her status as a wife. In the process of having name and fame she sacrificed Jairaj’s life and his substance as a Male. She was a constant force pushing Jairaj towards the world of Dance even when she was aware that he was not talented enough to reach the zenith of success. She was the person responsible for Jairaj’s undoing as a character as well as a dancer. Unfortunately she did not stop here only but went beyond and consciously shaped her daughter’s life also as a Traditional Dancer. Lata, her daughter, was used by her to fulfill her inner suppressed desires to earn fame and money nationwide and abroad. Unknowingly Lata falls in the whirlpool created by Ratna and becomes the object only. Ratna’s endeavors seem very ambitious and manipulative. She was ready to establish her daughter’s career on the right track right from the very beginning and for that she schemes, manipulates and uses all her contacts and links. It is very clear that Ratna saw her own self in her daughter Lata and therefore acted so violently to create a firm, concrete base for her. Symbolically, Lata in the play is none but Young Ratna, who succeeds with the help and support of his mother.
Mahesh Dattani uses Traditional Dance as a medium that creates conflict in the play within the minds of the other characters. As the play goes forward and the actions take place; Dance takes the center stage and pushes the characters outside. Traditional Dance, in the play, is not only a form or a tool that enables the writer to tell his story but it creates its own psyche that guides or misguides the actors on the stage.
Meaning of MAN:
Asha Kuthari Chaudhuri writes, “Dance like a Man is a play that deals with one of Dattani’s pet concerns – gender – through one of his principal passions, dance.” In this play, as a reader, one may find that the play poses some delicate questions among which one surely is of MALE idea. In India people think that traditional dance is meant only for women and it is a land on which no Male should ever tread. Here the question is not of mere dance form or hobby but it has very deep roots in our culture too. It is about the whole conditioning of a Nation that boasts of having the most ancient cultural tradition. Here, dancers are identified as ones who have long hair, womanly gait and effeminate speaking style. It has some homosexual undertones also woven in it but here in the play they are not mentioned directly.
When Jairaj takes up Traditional Dance as a hobby and lifelong craze he takes it as something that gave him pure delight. He never thought Traditional Dance as something that is ‘Proper’ only for women: Here we can say that the decision was brave and daring. He was perfectly convinced with the idea and allows Ratna also to dance. He respected his teacher who was with ‘long hair’ and ‘womanly gait’ as expressed by Amritlal. Jairaj’s approach towards Traditional Dance was sincere and honest; and somewhere his character conveys that he believed in Art for Art’s Sake. When Amritlal expresses his disapproval for the Dance teacher’s coming home and shows contempt for his walk, Jairaj favors the teacher and dance. The radical act of Jairaj, having dance as a hobby, shows that he believed in carving a new path and had the ability and mettle to cling to it. He faithfully follows his hobby only to realize afterwards how he was used by Ratna joining hands with Amritlal. For Ratna Dance was a medium to gain popularity and status and for that she married Jairaj who would never stop her from dancing. Ratna’s selfish inner desire was so powerful that she cold-bloodedly plays with the emotions of Jairaj by misguiding him constantly. In the guise of a true life companion she deceives her husband and tries to curb his potential as a dancer. In order to gain personal aims she sacrifices Jairaj’s abilities. Ratna not only spoils Jairaj’s life but tries to mould her daughter Lata’s life also by making her a traditional dancer. In spite of being a Male member of the family Jairaj never tries to command his authority over Ratna and instead, she, very deliberately plays with his emotions. When Jairaj returned to his father’s house, Ratna disliked it and she says in the play ones,
“You! You are nothing but a spineless boy who couldn’t leave his father’s house for more than forty-eight hours.” 
Shockingly for the readers, Ratna herself discards Jairaj’s Maleness openly and he accepts it without any offence. In the play Maleness of Jairaj was not that much a question of Body than that of mentality. Researcher found that for Ratna Maleness might have meant one’s independent decision making power, doing the work that one liked, living on one’s own conditions, standing on one’s own feet without any support and some other that Jairaj lacked. Interestingly even Jairaj was trying to prove himself an able MALE to Ratna. When Ratna was worried about finding a mridangam player for her daughter he says,
“Will finding a musician make me a man?” 
Through out the play Jairaj appears as one who suffers on account of choosing his own path, which was untrodden by others. His portrayal is so noble that he never blames Ratna for the death of their son Shankar that was the result of her carelessness or insincerity. Opposite to general understanding or expectation here Amritlal, the father-in-law of Ratna, tries to curb Jairaj’s passion for Traditional Dance and for that takes her help. In the play, Dattani puts Jairaj on the end where not the woman but man is targeted. In the play we witness the psychological manipulation of a man by his wife and father. 
Role of Ambition, Revolt, Compromise and Manipulation:
Ambition, revolt, compromise and manipulation are four very essential components of the play Dance Like a Man. In each character the reader will be able to find either of them. The actions of the play are guided by them and because of that only it has become so complex and therefore interesting. The characters have many shades and they are not easy to understand.
Amritlal wants his son Jairaj’s life to move in a particular direction but he has some different likings. Amritlal tries to control him all in vain and there starts the clash of the two ideologies. Jairaj’s mind was inclined to Traditional Dance and his unflinching desire was not extinguishable. His ambition to establish himself, as a well-known dancer was so strong that he staunchly protests against his father’s demands and uses dance as a tool to revolt. To him dance serves as a weapon that helps him in defying the way of life that his father wants him to follow. He rejects the normal conventions by choosing Traditional Dance as his life long passion and presents himself as a Male who believes in leading a new path. It is notable that for him dance was not a profession to earn money but it was something that gave him self-satisfaction. He was not happy by the ways that Amritlal adopted in life to make money. He saw Amritlal as one who was pretentious and deceiver. He was not convinced with the idea of progress in which his father believed. The clash and conflict led them to such an extent from which it was impossible to connect a cord. At one point of time, in a state of anger he leaves his father’s house but ultimately was forced to compromise and returns to him. Amritlal tried to divert Jairaj’s attention from Traditional Dance but failed and then he was forced to join hands with Ratna. Ratna, who was in favor of her husband earlier made a compromise and helped Amritlal just to secure her ambition in his house. She became a partner in the process of Jairaj’s undoing; revealing her negative side. She kept on building her bright future crumbling Jairaj’s talent and enthusiasm. Unlike Lata, her daughter, she exhibits every ill emotion through out the drama and presents herself as one who ends up doing everything to get what she wanted. Her entire character makes the play what it is and Dattani dexterously conveys the things that he wanted to put forward. Ratna’s character manages to grow and blossom despite of all the odds in the life and reaches from which only backward journey was possible. She was led by her ambition at such a speed that never allowed her to reflect on her own doings. The dance, that gave her the aim to succeed eats up the core of her being and personality. Even when Ratna married Jairaj, she had dance in mind and that passion was inextinguishable. Lata knew that Jairaj would not stop her from dancing and that is why she made Unison with him. The very establishment of her married life was rooted in her ambition driven actions and therefore destined to bear bitter fruits. Her mission oriented mind and psyche harmed her in life and never gave the serenity. She not only sacrificed Jairaj’s career but also tried to lead her daughter, Lata’s abilities. She was violently possessive about Lata’s career to succeed and for that she does all the menacing acts. She uses her influence on critics and gets appreciative reviews for her. Ratna’s not so successful career gave her much pain in her young age and she desired to make up for all that by establishing Lata as a promising dancer. Her own dissatisfaction caused her to take all such actions and that made her life full of tensions and disturbance. Her over ambitious nature forced her to say,
“We were never anything great, never will be, and nor will our daughter be anything but an average human being.” 
For her, professional success was everything and humanity was on the backstage. Therefore, in efforts of gaining that trivial professional success she loses her humane element somewhere. In the whole play Lata was the only character that was relatively realistic and content. It is this quality that makes her different from others. For her Traditional Dance was important but it never became a wild passion at any point of time. The desire to take dance, as a hobby was very clear in her mind as she tells Vishwas,
“When I was a little girl, I used to stand near the door and watch mummy and daddy practice. It was magic for me. I knew then what I wanted to be.”
She takes dance as a pure art form and does not link it to any gender. She wanted to pursue dance but her desire was not blended with any passion or force. For her, marrying Vishwas was also important and she wouldn’t sacrifice her love for the dance. Her balanced mind makes her likable and different from her parents. Actually she is away from the circle in which her parents were trapped which was too vicious to believe. She dances and continues to do so because it is a hobby for her and not a way that leads to the path of success. There is no malice, over ambition or misled want in her that keeps her interest in dance. Considering this aspects reader can conclude that Lata stands in stark contrast with other characters.
Dance Like a Man is a play that does not present the character as pure White or Black but it shows their different shades in all possibilities. The characters are capable enough to take the readers along with them in the flow of the dialogues and leave them thinking. The play poses fundamental questions and presents the actors with the best of their talents. It demands the answer whether the world is progressive in real sense or we are still in search of that utopian era where no dance form is actually attached to any gender of the dancer but considered as a pure form of Art.

Summary of Resolution and Independence

The poet establishes in the first two stanzas the mood of nature when he traveled on the moor. The tense can be confusing. Wordsworth begins in the simple past, but the past serves here the uses of the present in the sense of active recollection of emotion in present tranquility. The BUT at the beginning of stanza four introduces the contrast that exists between the joy of nature and the dejection of the poet. The time that he recalls was one of a rising sun, " calm and bright," singing birds " in the distant woods," the " pleasant noise of waters" in the air, the world teeming with " all things that love the sun," the grass jeweled with rain-drops, the hare running is his glee. But the poet's morning is one subjectivity of dejection; on this morning did " fears and fancies" come upon him profusely. In the midst of " the sky-lark warbling in the sky," he likens himself unto " the playful hare"; even such a happy child of earth am I / even as these blissful creatures do I fare; / far from the world I walk, and from all care….' This is the joyous side of his life. But, in the midst of the joy, he thinks of that other kind of day that might come to him, that day of ' solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty." In stanza 6 he recalls how his life has been as " a summer, mood," how the sustenance of life in all its nourishing variations has come to him so gratuitously. But, then he thinks also of the possibility that it will not continue so for one who takes no practical thought for his own care and keep. The question is, how long will nature continue to give freely to one who does not with diligent responsibility harvest grain for the garner of future days: " but how can He [ in this case the poet himself] expect that others should / Blind for him, sow for him, and at his call / Love him; who for himself will take no heed at all?" the poet thinks of himself as poet, one endowed with his own privileged, joyous place in life, there comes to his mind the names of Thomas Chatteron and Robert Burns, poets in the English tradition that Wordsworth would admire. The association that he makes of himself with them is at one and the same time joyous and imminent: we poets in our use begin in gladness;/ but thereof come in the end despondency and madness." The universal joy of the poet's life is contemplated in range of potential sorrow.
The beginning of stanza 8 marks a turning point in the poem. From this juncture to the end, the poet will tell how he learned what we find in the title, resolution and independence, and he learns significantly from a wanderer, a man who has subsisted on the gathering of leeches, a man who is now a beggar. As the poet thinks his " untoward thoughts" about life and struggles with all their depressing suggestions, he meets in a lovely place " beside a pool bare to the eye of heaven," a solitary man, the poet says" the oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs." The poet interprets his meeting with him to be verily a gift of Devine Grace. Stanza nine is Wordsworth's long simile for the old solitary. The purpose of the simile is to describe the leech gatherer as alive but almost not alive. Wordsworth compares him to " a huge stone…/ couched on the bald top of an eminence," and to " a sea- beast crawled forth" through using the sea beast as simile for the stone. The old man is virtually one with the scene amidst which he sits; he has very nearly become one with nature: " motionless as a cloud the old man stood, / that hearth not the loud winds when they call…." The encounter reveals to the poet a man of great age, bent double, " feet and head / coming together in life's pilgrimage…." He looks as if he might be made taut in his bent posture by the tight strain of some past suffering, rage, or sickness. The poet is picturing him as very nearly supernatural, at least somehow beyond the usual scope of human experience: he seemed to bear " a more than human weight…."
In stanzas 12- 15, the old man finally moves. The poet sees him stir the waters by which he stands and then looks with fixed scrutiny into the pond, " which he conned , / as if he had been reading in a book…." The poet greets him, and the old man makes a gentle answer, " in courteous speech which forth he slowly drew…." Wordsworth uses the whole of stanza fourteen to describe his speech, " lofty utterance," " stately speech." In lines 88 and 89, the poet asks him what his occupation is, and suggests that the place in which he dwells may be too lonely for such a person as he. The old man identifies his work as leech- gathering; this is why he is in such a lonely place. He must, " being old and poor," finds his subsistence here, though the work may be " hazardous and wearisome." He depends on God's Providence to help him find lodging. But in all, he can be sure that he gains " an honest maintenance," however much he may have to roam " from pond to pond… from moor to moor."
In lines106-119, the poet's responses to the old leech-gatherer are told. While the old man had been answering his question about employment and placement in so lonely a setting, the poet becomes absorbed in the strange aspects of him who speaks. He loses the detail of answer the leech-gatherer is making; he cannot divide his words one from another. Lines 109-112 contain the essence of the poet's articulation of his feelings. They should be read carefully and compared to other passages in Wordsworth's poetry where he attempts to give voice to experience that is very close to mystical absorption. Observe here that the poet finds himself absorbed in the being of the solitary:
And the whole body of the man did seem
Like one whom I had met with in a dream;
Or like a man from some far region sent,
To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.
But the poet's dejection returns. He thinks again the heavy thoughts of fear, of resistant, recalcitrant, " cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills," and of those poets who have been mighty, but who have died in misery. He yearns to find some message of strength and hope in the leech-gather's words, so he asks again, " ' how is it that you live, and what is it you do? "'
In lines120-126, the leech-gatherer repeats the nature of his work, but he adds that whereas he once could gather the object of his industry easily, he now because of the growing scarcity of leeches must travel more extensively- still he perseveres.
In lines127-133, the poet relates more of his private, unspoken response to the old Man. Against it happens that his mind wanders, as in stanza 16, while the leech-gatherer is answering his question. The poet pictures him as even more a solitary than he is in his present state; the poet's imagination working on the figure before him makes of the wandering solitary very nearly a transcendent being, silent and eternal: " In my mind's eye (the poet affirms) I seemed to see him pace / About the weary moors continually, / wandering about alone and silently." The poet is troubled by his own imaginative responses to the Man before him, but not troubled in a bad sense. This is the ministry of fear that we find so often in Wordsworth's work.
In lines 134-140, the leech-gatherer's resolution and independence is obvious to the poet in the way he moves from economically precarious condition to more cheerful utterances. The old Man before the poet is obviously a person of firm mind, however decrepit he might in appearance seem. He remains in the midst of whatever misfortune the society of man or isolation with the bare elements bearing him, a person of kind demeanor and stately bearing. The poet compares himself to the leech-gatherer and scorns himself for his dejection. He takes the old Man into his memory as an another point for future days and asks that God will help him to preserve what he has learnt: " 'God,' said I, be my help and stay secure; I'll think of the leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!' "
As suggested in other places in this study, most of Wordsworth's solitaries live as a part of the nature in which they move. There is the effect in this poem of the leech-gatherer going in and out of nature; the poet is for a time aware of him as a person confronting him face-to-face, but then he loses touch with him, as if he had blended back into the nature out of which he had momentarily stepped. One might profitably compare stanza sixteen, where Wordsworth speaks of the leech-gatherer as coming to him as if out of dream, which the Simplon Pass episode in Book Sixth of The Prelude. About line 600 of that book Wordsworth speaks of an imaginative experience in the following terms:
in such strength
of usurpation, when the light of sense
Goes out, but with a flash that has revealed
The invisible world, doth greatness make abode,
There harbours… .
Wordsworth's light of sense near to going out at least twice while he is talking to the leech-gatherer. One may also interestingly compare Wordsworth's responses to the vision on Mount Snowdon in Book Fourteenth of The Prelude with his experiences while talking to the old Man he met on the moors. He certainly intends for the reader to be impressed with the leech-gatherer's insistence on survival, survival that comes to him, we feel, to great degree because of a sheer act of will. Again, as with many of Wordsworth's solitaries, courage is presented as with many of Wordsworth's solitaries, courage is presented as the capacity to endure. There is a notable difference, however, between the courage of Michael and the courage of the leech-gatherer; never being sure he will find them, as she has been to Michael, who, though his farm is eventually lost after his death to owners outside his family, can live the total of his years on land that has been made his been own. Michael draws continual sustenance more from his own deep wells of unyielding fortitude. There is an obvious contrast also in this regard between the leech-gatherer and the Old Cumberland Beggar. The leech-gatherer accepts housing from those who will help him, but he does not have the regularity of affection and acts of kindness that the persons in the community of the Old Cumberland Beggar an area of nature in which he can live and die, in which he can make his home, Those who care for him are almost neighbors to him. The leech-gatherer is much more thrown on his own resources. It is in this that the poet learns his greatest lesson from him.
There is in the encounter between the poet and the leech-gatherer the work of Providence. Wordsworth seems to say in the poem (and in the letter he wrote about the poet) that this old Man was sent to him for his own rehabilitation. This may seem in some ears to be very close to blaspheming the preciously human, that one human being would be so sacrified fro the instruction and welfare of another. But the rediscovery of stability and hope in the midst of dejection for the poet who writes the poem is certainly the direction of things from the early stanza of the poem, where the glory of the natural surroundings seem to be functioning expressly for the poet's interesting. The hare that leaps joyfully through the first five stanza of the poem (mentioned three times in the five stanzas, in the second, third, and fifth) becomes in a way emblematic of the poet's life. The hare is also a servant of the benignant Grace of God, bringing to the poet reminders that he is "…such a happy child of earth… ." There may be in the background the biblical records of God's directly expressed mercy for man, even as incursions that cut with the particularity of biographical facts. But the leach- gatherer comes not so much in the mood and manner of historical encounter as he comes in the form of nature's extension of herself, ministering through an agency that is close to being more a natural agency than a human one.
With regard to the language of the poem, Wordsworth is working with a seven- line stanza or rhyme royal. The longer last line has the effect of slowing down the narrative and giving more time to the reader for consideration. Wordsworth's highly conscious artistry can be seen in his careful use of similes that describe the old man of the poem. The stone and the sea- beast of stanza nine, and the cloud in stanza eleven convey a sense of life that is highly worthy of the word.
On the subject of the language of the poem, one may question whether the diction that the poet attributes to the leach- gatherer is " a selection of language really used by men…." In stanza fourteen, the old man's speech is described as " choice words and measured phrase, above the reach / of ordinary men…."
Wordsworth as a narrative poet has most of his characters as active, persons committed to action. He consistently draws his characters so that they are easily recognizable as human beings. They are usually three- dimensional characters that have definite features. For all of his shared identity with nature_ which is to a very great degree_ we still meet the leach- gatherer as man, not as thing. Stanza ten and eleven are examples of Wordsworth's ability to create character in a relatively few lines; in this he shares a fame that is owned by only a few artists. The leach- gatherer is easily visualized, with his body bent double, "propped, limbs, body, and pale face. / upon a long grey stuff of shaven wood… ." such vivid character drawing is necessary to give the old man the action of personality that he has, an action essential to his being for the poet a model of resolution and independence. Wordsworth's characters are real because we can think of them as human beings. However heroic the leach- gatherer may be, his heroism does not take him beyond the limits of the human. We have in him no Achilles. His heroism is the kind that can be attained by human beings we know and meet. Generally Wordsworth's character's are real because we can think of them as human beings. The leach- gatherer shares much more with Abraham than with Achilles.




Preface to Shakespeare

Samuel Johnson’s preface to The Plays of William Shakespeare has long been considered a classic document of English literary criticism. In it Johnson sets forth his editorial principles and gives an appreciative analysis of the “excellences” and “defects” of the work of the great Elizabethan dramatist. Many of his points have become fundamental tenets of modern criticism; others give greater insight into Johnson’s prejudices than into Shakespeare’s genius. The resonant prose of the preface adds authority to the views of its author.
Perhaps no other document exhibits the character of eighteenth century literary criticism better than what is commonly known as Johnson’s Preface to Shakespeare. Written after Johnson had spent nine years laboring to produce an edition of Shakespeare’s plays, the Preface to Shakespeare is characterized by sweeping generalizations about the dramatist’s work and by stunning pronouncements about its merits, judgments that elevated Shakespeare to the top spot among European writers of any century. At times, Johnson displays the tendency of his contemporaries to fault Shakespeare for his propensity for wordplay and for ignoring the demands for poetic justice in his plays; readers of subsequent generations have found these criticisms to reflect the inadequacies of the critic more than they do those of the dramatist. What sets Johnson’s work apart from that of his contemporaries, however, is the immense learning that lies beneath so many of his judgments; he consistently displays his familiarity with the texts, and his generalizations are rooted in specific passages from the dramas. Further, Johnson is the first among the great Shakespeare critics to stress the playwright’s sound understanding of human nature. Johnson’s focus on character analysis initiated a critical trend that would be dominant in Shakespeare criticism (in fact, all of dramatic criticism) for more than a century and would lead to the great work of critics such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Lamb, and A. C. Bradley.
The significance of the Preface to Shakespeare, however, goes beyond its contributions to Shakespeare scholarship. First, it is the most significant practical application of a critical principle that Johnson espoused consistently and that has become a staple of the practice since: comparison. His systematic attempt to measure Shakespeare against others, both classical and contemporary, became the model. Second, the Preface to Shakespeareexemplifies Johnson’s belief that good criticism can be produced only after good scholarship has been practiced. The critic who wishes to judge an author’s originality or an author’s contributions to the tradition must first practice sound literary reading and research in order to understand what has been borrowed and what has been invented.
Characteristically, Johnson makes his Shakespeare criticism the foundation for general statements about people, nature, and literature. He is a true classicist in his concern with the universal rather than with the particular; the highest praise he can bestow upon Shakespeare is to say that his plays are “just representations of general nature.” The dramatist has relied upon his knowledge of human nature, rather than on bizarre effects, for his success. “The pleasures of sudden wonder are soon exhausted, and the mind can only repose on the stability of truth,” Johnson concludes. It is for this reason that Shakespeare has outlived his century and reached the point at which his works can be judged solely on their own merits, without the interference of personal interests and prejudices that make criticism of one’s contemporaries difficult.
Johnson feels that the readers of his time can often understand the universality of Shakespeare’s vision better than the audiences of Elizabethan England could, for the intervening centuries have freed the plays of their topicality. The characters in the plays are not limited by time or nationality; they are, rather, “the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will always supply, and observation will always find.”
Implicitly criticizing earlier editors of Shakespeare, who had dotted their pages with asterisks marking particularly fine passages, Johnson contends that the greatness of the plays lies primarily in their total effect, in the naturalness of the action, the dialogue, and the characterization. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

THE SOLITARY REAPER

SUMMARY
The poet orders his listener to behold a “solitary Highland lass” reaping and singing by herself in a field. He says that anyone passing by should either stop here, or “gently pass” so as not to disturb her. As she “cuts and binds the grain” she “sings a melancholy strain,” and the valley overflows with the beautiful, sad sound. The speaker says that the sound is more welcome than any chant of the nightingale to weary travelers in the desert, and that the cuckoo-bird in spring never sang with a voice so thrilling.Impatient, the poet asks, “Will no one tell me what she sings?” He speculates that her song might be about “old, unhappy, far-off things, / And battles long ago,” or that it might be humbler, a simple song about “matter of today.” Whatever she sings about, he says, he listened “motionless and still,” and as he traveled up the hill, he carried her song with him in his heart long after he could no longer hear it.

Commentary

Along with “I wandered lonely as a cloud,” “The Solitary Reaper” is one of Wordsworth’s most famous post-Lyrical Ballads lyrics. In “Tintern Abbey” Wordsworth said that he was able to look on nature and hear “human music”; in this poem, he writes specifically about real human music encountered in a beloved, rustic setting. The song of the young girl reaping in the fields is incomprehensible to him (a “Highland lass,” she is likely singing in Scots), and what he appreciates is its tone, its expressive beauty, and the mood it creates within him, rather than its explicit content, at which he can only guess. To an extent, then, this poem ponders the limitations of language, as it does in the third stanza (“Will no one tell me what she sings?”). But what it really does is praise the beauty of music and its fluid expressive beauty, the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling” that Wordsworth identified at the heart of poetry.By placing this praise and this beauty in a rustic, natural setting, and by and by establishing as its source a simple rustic girl, Wordsworth acts on the values ofLyrical Ballads. The poem’s structure is simple—the first stanza sets the scene, the second offers two bird comparisons for the music, the third wonders about the content of the songs, and the fourth describes the effect of the songs on the speaker—and its language is natural and unforced. Additionally, the final two lines of the poem (“Its music in my heart I bore / Long after it was heard no more”) return its focus to the familiar theme of memory, and the soothing effect of beautiful memories on human thoughts and feelings.“The Solitary Reaper” anticipates Keats’s two great meditations on art, the “Ode to a Nightingale,” in which the speaker steeps himself in the music of a bird in the forest—Wordsworth even compares the reaper to a nightingale—and “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which the speaker is unable to ascertain the stories behind the shapes on an urn. It also anticipates Keats’s “Ode to Autumn” with the figure of an emblematic girl reaping in the fields.


THE WORLD IS TOO MUCH WITH US

Lines 1-2
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers
.
·         The poem opens with a complaint, saying that the world is out of whack and that people are destroying themselves with consumerism ("getting and spending").
·         "The world is too much with us" sounds odd, and could mean several things. It could mean that the world – life in the city, contemporary society – is just too much, as in "This is too much for me, and I can't take it anymore."
·         The "world" might refer to the natural world instead of the city, in which case it would mean that humanity is so busy that they don't have time for the natural world because "it's too much."
·         It could also mean mankind or society is a burden on the world, as in "there's not enough space for both man and the earth" or "mankind has upset a delicate balance."
·         "Late and soon" is a strange phrase. It could mean "sooner or later," or it could mean we've done this recently or in the past ("late") and will do it in the future as well ("soon").
Lines 3-4
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
·         The poem's tone of complaint continues as the speaker describes a rift between nature and humanity.
·         We get a potential clue as to the identity of at least one of those "powers" described in line 2: the ability to feel, which we've lost because we've given our hearts away.
·         The phrase "little we see in Nature that is ours" is tricky, and can mean several, related things. We've become so absorbed in consumerism – in another world – that we no longer seem a part of nature.
·         Alternatively, "Nature" can't be "got" or "spent" – because it is isn't a commodity that is manufactured – so it doesn't seem like it has anything to offer us.
·         A "boon" is a reward, a benefit, or something for which to be thankful. "Sordid" means "base" or "vile." The speaker is being sarcastic here, almost as if he were saying "wow it's so great that we've handed over our hearts…not!"
Lines 5-8
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
·         The poet elaborates on man's alienation from nature, claiming that humanity is no longer susceptible to the influence of the "Sea," the "winds," and basically everything else in nature.
·         "Tune" is interesting. It can mean "out of tune," in the sense that we're out of touch with nature, but it also suggests something like "attuned."
·         The sea isn't literally taking her shirt off here; the speaker is elegantly describing the ways in which ocean-tides are affected by the moon, or just how the sea appears to him in its relationship with the moon.
·         The speaker describes the winds at rest; they are "sleeping flowers" that will howl when they wake up. Wait a minute, flowers? Howling? Weird.
·         "For" is more complicated than it looks. It can mean both that we're not in the right tune "for" the natural world, in the right frame of mind to "get it."
·         It could also mean "because," as in "because of these things we're out of tune." The plot thickens…
Lines 9-10
It moves us not. – Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
 
·         In some sonnets, including this one, important things happen in the ninth line; there is a shift or "turn" that moves the poem in another direction.
·         While the speaker reiterates the claim he's been making all along – humanity and nature are alienated from one another – he also tells us how he wishes things were, at least for him, personally.
·         He appeals to the Christian God (the capitalization means he has a specific, monotheistic deity in mind) and says he'd rather be a pagan who was raised believing in some antiquated ("outworn"), primitive religion ("creed").
·         To wish to be a pagan in 1807 – when the poem was published – would be like saying, "I wish I could wear clothes or do things that were in fashion a thousand years ago."
·         Wait a second, he'd rather be a pagan than what? Than someone who isn't moved by nature? Seems like it.
·         "Suckled" just means "nursed at a breast" or "nourished."
Lines 11-12
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
·         The speaker explains why he would rather be a pagan. If he were, then he could look at the land in front of him and see something that wouldn't make him feel so lonely and sad ("forlorn").
·         A "lea" is a meadow or open-grassland. Wait a second, wasn't the speaker just telling us about "this sea"? How did we get to the meadow? Maybe he's standing in a meadow overlooking the sea.
·         The speaker wants "glimpses" of something, but we don't know what; he suggests that if he were a pagan he would only see things in snatches, for a brief moment, in the blink of an eye.
·         And this isn't even guaranteed; he says he "might" have "glimpses."
Lines 13-14
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn
.
·         The speaker elaborates on those potential "glimpses." He says he might see Proteus coming out of the ocean or Triton blowing his horn.
·         Proteus is a sea god in Greek mythology. He had the ability to prophesy the future, but didn't like doing it. If someone grabbed a hold of him and tried to make him predict the future, he would change his shape and try to get away. The modern word "protean" – meaning variable or changing a lot – comes from his name.
·         Triton was a son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. He had a conch shell that he blew into in order to excite or calm the waves.
·         "Wreathed" means something like twisted, sinewy, having coils; the "wreathed horn" is a reference to Triton's conch shell.


DARKLING THRUSH

  • ‘The Darkling Thrush’ opens with a picture of the poet looking at sunset as night falls. It is dusk on the last day of the nineteenth century.
  • When Hardy speaks the poem he is leaning on a wooden gate looking at the darkening countryside.
  • At the same time, frost takes over the land like a grey ghost.
  • Hardy compares the shadows of sunset to the last drops or ‘dregs’ of a drink.
  • He describes a desolate scene. Though it is sad, he is attracted to the sorrowful mood of the place.
  • Hardy compares the sun to an eye that is losing power at sunset. This image suggests that sunlight is like a god.
  • As Hardy looks across the countryside, the dark outlines of trees and sticks seem to stand out. They contrast to the brighter sky in the west.
  • These upstanding stems of trees remind him of the strings of broken harps.
  • At the end of the first stanza it is clear Hardy is alone. Hardy shows he is alone by claiming that the people who had been out and about before sunset have all gone home to the comfort of their open house fires. The poet therefore feels alone. He likes this.
  • In the second stanza, Hardy imagines that the dark outline of hills and rocks form the shape of a giant corpse laid out for burial. The cloudy sky forms the roof or canopy of the tomb or crypt. He enjoys feeling this spooky atmosphere.
  • Because it is the last day of the year and century, Hardy makes a connection between the shape of the landscape and a corpse at a wake. He has a vivid mind.
  • The wind blowing through the harp-like stems and trees makes funeral music, a bit like a creepy harp at a funeral service.
  • The fact that nothing is growing in the earth due to winter makes the land seem dead.
  • All creatures on the earth seem to be lifeless or ‘fervourless’. The spirit of life seems to have died.
  • Suddenly, in the third stanza, at this gloomy moment a frail old thrush begins to sing its sweet song.
  • The song of the bird, perched in the twigs, seems infinitely joyful or ecstatic.
  • Hardy is struck that the nearby thrush looks old and frail. Its feathers are ruffled by the strengthening evening wind. Yet it has joy in its heart.
  • The poet imagines that the bird through its song is throwing its soul out to the spreading darkness.
  • In the last stanza, Hardy claims the surrounding dark land provides little reason for this outburst of joyful singing.
  • It reminds him of a carol. The song begins to sweeten his gloomy mood.
  • Hardy suddenly realises the song of the thrush in the falling darkness represents hope.
  • The poet is in a pleasantly sad mood as he leans alone on the gate watching the century fade into darkness. But he clings on to the sad mood. He is addicted to it. The hopeful song of the bird adds a new mood. Hardy becomes aware for the first time that evening of a new hope of things to come.
  • He realises that there is a reason to hope, without knowing what that reason is. It is clear that the thrush alone senses this hope and expresses it.
  • This is probably nature’s way of reminding him that spring always follows winter. Or it may be a spiritual message from nature. It is certainly uplifting.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Jane Eyre - themes and motifs

Ø Love Versus Autonomy
Jane Eyre is very much the story of a quest to be loved. Jane searches, not just for romantic love, but also for a sense of being valued, of belonging. Thus Jane says to Helen Burns: “to gain some real affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love, I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it dash its hoof at my chest” (Chapter 8). Yet, over the course of the book, Jane must learn how to gain love without sacrificing and harming herself in the process.
Her fear of losing her autonomy motivates her refusal of Rochester’s marriage proposal. Jane believes that “marrying” Rochester while he remains legally tied to Bertha would mean rendering herself a mistress and sacrificing her own integrity for the sake of emotional gratification. On the other hand, her life at Moor House tests her in the opposite manner. There, she enjoys economic independence and engages in worthwhile and useful work, teaching the poor; yet she lacks emotional sustenance. Although St. John proposes marriage, offering her a partnership built around a common purpose, Jane knows their marriage would remain loveless.
Nonetheless, the events of Jane’s stay at Moor House are necessary tests of Jane’s autonomy. Only after proving her self-sufficiency to herself can she marry Rochester and not be asymmetrically dependent upon him as her “master.” The marriage can be one between equals. As Jane says: “I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine. . . . To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. . . . We are precisely suited in character—perfect concord is the result” (Chapter 38).
Ø Religion
Throughout the novel, Jane struggles to find the right balance between moral duty and earthly pleasure, between obligation to her spirit and attention to her body. She encounters three main religious figures: Mr. Brocklehurst, Helen Burns, and St. John Rivers. Each represents a model of religion that Jane ultimately rejects as she forms her own ideas about faith and principle, and their practical consequences.
Mr. Brocklehurst illustrates the dangers and hypocrisies that Charlotte Brontë perceived in the nineteenth-century Evangelical movement. Mr. Brocklehurst adopts the rhetoric of Evangelicalism when he claims to be purging his students of pride, but his method of subjecting them to various privations and humiliations, like when he orders that the naturally curly hair of one of Jane’s classmates be cut so as to lie straight, is entirely un-Christian. Of course, Brocklehurst’s proscriptions are difficult to follow, and his hypocritical support of his own luxuriously wealthy family at the expense of the Lowood students shows Brontë’s wariness of the Evangelical movement. Helen Burns’s meek and forbearing mode of Christianity, on the other hand, is too passive for Jane to adopt as her own, although she loves and admires Helen for it.
Many chapters later, St. John Rivers provides another model of Christian behavior. His is a Christianity of ambition, glory, and extreme self-importance. St. John urges Jane to sacrifice her emotional deeds for the fulfillment of her moral duty, offering her a way of life that would require her to be disloyal to her own self.
Although Jane ends up rejecting all three models of religion, she does not abandon morality, spiritualism, or a belief in a Christian God. When her wedding is interrupted, she prays to God for solace (Chapter 26). As she wanders the heath, poor and starving, she puts her survival in the hands of God (Chapter 28). She strongly objects to Rochester’s lustful immorality, and she refuses to consider living with him while church and state still deem him married to another woman. Even so, Jane can barely bring herself to leave the only love she has ever known. She credits God with helping her to escape what she knows would have been an immoral life (Chapter 27).
Jane ultimately finds a comfortable middle ground. Her spiritual understanding is not hateful and oppressive like Brocklehurst’s, nor does it require retreat from the everyday world as Helen’s and St. John’s religions do. For Jane, religion helps curb immoderate passions, and it spurs one on to worldly efforts and achievements. These achievements include full self-knowledge and complete faith in God.
Ø Social Class
Jane Eyre is critical of Victorian England’s strict social hierarchy. Brontë’s exploration of the complicated social position of governesses is perhaps the novel’s most important treatment of this theme. Like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Jane is a figure of ambiguous class standing and, consequently, a source of extreme tension for the characters around her. Jane’s manners, sophistication, and education are those of an aristocrat, because Victorian governesses, who tutored children in etiquette as well as academics, were expected to possess the “culture” of the aristocracy. Yet, as paid employees, they were more or less treated as servants; thus, Jane remains penniless and powerless while at Thornfield. Jane’s understanding of the double standard crystallizes when she becomes aware of her feelings for Rochester; she is his intellectual, but not his social, equal. Even before the crisis surrounding Bertha Mason, Jane is hesitant to marry Rochester because she senses that she would feel indebted to him for “condescending” to marry her. Jane’s distress, which appears most strongly in Chapter 17, seems to be Brontë’s critique of Victorian class attitudes.
Jane herself speaks out against class prejudice at certain moments in the book. For example, in Chapter 23 she chastises Rochester: “Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you—and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.” However, it is also important to note that nowhere in Jane Eyre are society’s boundaries bent. Ultimately, Jane is only able to marry Rochester as his equal because she has almost magically come into her own inheritance from her uncle.
Ø Gender Relations
Jane struggles continually to achieve equality and to overcome oppression. In addition to class hierarchy, she must fight against patriarchal domination—against those who believe women to be inferior to men and try to treat them as such. Three central male figures threaten her desire for equality and dignity: Mr. Brocklehurst, Edward Rochester, and St. John Rivers. All three are misogynistic on some level. Each tries to keep Jane in a submissive position, where she is unable to express her own thoughts and feelings. In her quest for independence and self-knowledge, Jane must escape Brocklehurst, reject St. John, and come to Rochester only after ensuring that they may marry as equals. This last condition is met once Jane proves herself able to function, through the time she spends at Moor House, in a community and in a family. She will not depend solely on Rochester for love and she can be financially independent. Furthermore, Rochester is blind at the novel’s end and thus dependent upon Jane to be his “prop and guide.” In Chapter 12, Jane articulates what was for her time a radically feminist philosophy:
Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.
Ø Fire and Ice
Fire and ice appear throughout Jane Eyre. The former represents Jane’s passions, anger, and spirit, while the latter symbolizes the oppressive forces trying to extinguish Jane’s vitality. Fire is also a metaphor for Jane, as the narrative repeatedly associates her with images of fire, brightness, and warmth. In Chapter 4, she likens her mind to “a ridge of lighted heath, alive, glancing, devouring.” We can recognize Jane’s kindred spirits by their similar links to fire; thus we read of Rochester’s “flaming and flashing” eyes (Chapter 26). After he has been blinded, his face is compared to “a lamp quenched, waiting to be relit” (Chapter 37).

Images of ice and cold, often appearing in association with barren landscapes or seascapes, symbolize emotional desolation, loneliness, or even death. The “death-white realms” of the arctic that Bewick describes in his History of British Birds parallel Jane’s physical and spiritual isolation at Gateshead (Chapter 1). Lowood’s freezing temperatures—for example, the frozen pitchers of water that greet the girls each morning—mirror Jane’s sense of psychological exile. After the interrupted wedding to Rochester, Jane describes her state of mind: “A Christmas frost had come at mid-summer: a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hay-field and corn-field lay a frozen shroud . . . and the woods, which twelve hours since waved leafy and fragrant as groves between the tropics, now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine-forests in wintry Norway. My hopes were all dead. . . .” (Chapter 26). Finally, at Moor House, St. John’s frigidity and stiffness are established through comparisons with ice and cold rock. Jane writes: “By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away my liberty of mind. . . . I fell under a freezing spell” (Chapter 34). When St. John proposes marriage to Jane, she concludes that “[a]s his curate, his comrade, all would be right. . . . But as his wife—at his side always, and always restrained, and always checked—forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital—this would be unendurable” (Chapter 34).