How Does One Paint a Scene?

A scene is painted by creating a very particular environment. To elaborate briefly, one puts a larger picture on the main wall of a room to draw attention to that particular location. It magnetizes one’s eyes in a manner that allows the painter to build an aura around this one centerpiece. This one item becomes more important than the story behind it, simply because it creates a story all on its own. Such is the manner in which Rebecca West creates her own scenes in the novel ‘The Return of the Soldier.’ As a reader progresses through the pagers of the novel, they note how it is teeming with descriptive imagery, often created by the mention of one essential item – or a group of items – in any particular scene. Whether West wants to describe the visceral feelings of characters such as Kitty or Jenny, or illustrate the power of love between two people, the mentioning and description of certain items in any particular scene is certainly her modus operandi.

Towards the beginning of the novel, West uses particular items worn by Margaret Grey to create a scene that highlights the emotions of Kitty and Jenny while simultaneously creating a darker, more awkward atmosphere. Even before Mrs. Grey begins her discussion with the two ladies of Baldry Court, West describes Jenny’s account of what she is wearing. The account is very dreary and makes Mrs. Grey out as someone who is very low in status, perhaps poverty-stricken: “She wore a yellowish raincoat and a black hat with plumes [of] sticky straw…she could turn her grey alpaca skirt well above her muddy boots and adjust its brushbraid with a seamed red hand” (West, 53). Compared to the ladies of Baldry Court, this was very unbecoming and twisted the scene in a manner which makes the reader either very wary of Mrs. Grey, or full of pity towards her. This mix of potential emotions is important as, by this point in the novel, we have not yet been introduced to the past of Mrs. Grey and cannot actually understand her role in the story. Juxtaposed with the very prim and proper adornment of Baldry Court, West uses this grey atmosphere to paint a scene full of mystery and the looming sense of the threat of change. Additionally, this description also allows us to understand the feelings of Kitty and Jenny at the time, before it was discovered that Chris had amnesia, and how they loathed Margaret’s company due to her appalling appearance. This same descriptive factor would come into play later in the novel when Margaret was being fetched to see Chris.

By the very end of the novel, similarly, a critical group of items, the ball and jersey of Chris and Kitty’s deceased son Oliver, surface that bring an impending sense of doom and threatening change. Two items that normally create thoughts of nostalgia and a faint sense of joy instead play the role of antagonist as the reader is force to understand that these items will force Chris to sacrifice all his bliss for a contorted sense of what is normal or just. With this in mind, West describes the items in the following manner: “[Margaret] nursed the jersey and the ball…she kissed them…and regarded them with tears” (114). Unlike the previous description, this one is short and sweet, as it should be. Where the reader may initially have the notion that these items will bring back Chris’s memory and all will proceed for the better, West very swiftly knocks the notion aside. With this quick mention of the reaction that the items create in Margaret, the reader understands now that this is a melancholy, stressful event, that will lead to Chris and Margaret’s downfall. As Margaret describes: “Put it like this…if my boy had been a cripple…and the doctors had said to me, ‘we’ll straighten [his] legs for you, but he’ll be in pain all the rest of his life,’ I’d not have let them touch him” (114). This analogy to the power of the items is powerful and alarming; the choice being to simply spare Chris or damn him. By the end, when we are told Margaret has shown him the items, the reader does not need to know what is written further to understand the conclusion. The dark and brooding description behind the power of these items allows one to understand that their heroes’ love story has come to an end.

In summation, one may come to understand the power of the items spread all throughout the novel by West. By simply describing the effects of one group of items, the scene is amply created and fulfills its role substantially, whether creating a sense of wonder or threatening inevitable downfall. I find it meaningful here to make one quick aside as I describe my own personal feelings towards one particular item, the mackintosh rug that Chris and Margaret rested on in the garden in chapter five. West allows Jenny to describe the rug and scene as such: the rug was “spread on [a] little space of clear grass…it lay quite smooth and comfortable under him…the woman has gathered the soul of the man into her soul and is keeping it warm in love and peace so that his body can rest” (100). This scene is the epitome of love and peace. West allows for the rug to be one small item isolated from the world on one clean square of grass where two people in love can go to escape and seek happiness in a universe so full of distress and darkness. West allowed for both the beginning and end of the novel to include items that created a gloomy atmosphere, but for one brief period in the middle, she allows for small pieces such as this rug to manifest themselves and create these all-too-short moments of peace. As West ends the novel by creating an ironic scene where a woman is bound by societal norms to damn herself and her lover to despair, it’s as if she uses this novel as a critique to society itself. What is the rationale behind sacrificing our own happiness to submit to a societal norm of complacent neutrality? Whatever one’s opinions might behind the writing of this novel, it is still a steadfast understanding that it is only through West’s masterful use of items and imagery that one is able to come to any understanding whatsoever.

 

How Might One Be So Confident, Yet So Uncertain?

In Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ‘Lady Audley’s Secret, the reader is presented with multiple scenarios where one must, for lack of a better phrase, “play detective.” For example, it becomes apparent very early on in the novel that the woman of interest, Lucy Audley, has some past with Mr. George Talboys, and it is the reader’s job to weigh the materials presented to come to a conclusion regarding the nature of the relationship. In addition, once Mr. Talboys goes missing, we have the barrister, Mr. Robert Audley, take it onto himself to discern the cause of his friend’s disappearance and where he might be located. Regarding the evidence presented, the reader may take notice of the varying degrees of rationality characteristic of each individual piece. Potentially a product of her time, Braddon includes many examples of ’empirical evidence,’ in that most of the clues within the novel make mention of some physical quantification; they may all be proven or felt, etc. It is also important, however, to analyze the pieces of information gathered that have, perhaps, very little tangible qualities; how they present a certain knowledge that takes serious consideration and may, in fact, lead one astray. By analyzing both of the scenarios mentioned earlier in this introduction, the reader is able to observe how Braddon effectively uses empirical evidence to guide us to one particular conclusion, but also how she employs non-empirical evidence to present a sense of greater mystery.

By observing Lady Audley – her mannerisms, her keepsakes, physical characteristics, and people she associates with – one can pick out evidence of her relationship with Mr. Talboys that is both of an empirical nature and of a less direct nature, and come to conclusions that she might be both deceitful and genuinely graceful. One such example of direct physical (empirical) evidence arises when Phoebe and her lover enter the Lady’s chamber while she is away from the Audley Court. Upon examination of the Lady’s jewelry box, the two eventually find a hidden compartment containing “a baby’s little worsted shoe…and a tiny lock of pale and silky yellow hair, evidently from a baby’s head” (Braddon, 70). As the reader is told throughout the first volume of the novel, George Talboys and his wife had a child, and the child – his mother said to be deceased – is noted as having blonde curly hair, similar to that in the box. Here is what the reader is led to believe as direct evidence of some relationship between the two, and the effect of such evidence is simple; it makes Lady Audley seem deceitful – a direct contrast to the whimsical persona she puts on. One other piece of direct evidence, is that of the bruise marks on the lady’s arms towards the end of the first volume. “It was not one bruise, but four slender, purple marks, such as might have been made by four fingers…across one…there was a darker tinge, as if a ring worn…had been ground into the tender flesh” (123). This physical evidence can speak to the reader in multiple ways. It can speak to them as if saying Talboys had confronted Lady Audley at some time and the bruise was a result of the confrontation, or it could simply speak to the fact that she has been caught in a “little white lie” when she waves it off as the result of tying a ribbon around her arm. Either way, once again we have direct evidence of the Lady’s deceitfulness and are thus drawn to doubt her. One example of the indirect variety of evidence is present in the lady’s mannerisms herself. Throughout the first volume of the novel, we are told of her gracefulness; how she spent a long time in Essex without being overbearing and taking joy in the smallest things, and how she was agreeable to virtually everyone she met, save Alicia Audley and her dog. In small intervals, however, we are also shown mannerisms that show doubt, melancholy, and fits of radical temperament (such as that during the storm). These all draw question to the Lady, yet she is seen as so agreeable the rest of the time. Such is the nature of indirect evidence; it creates an aura of mystery and uncertainty – an element tactfully used by the author to force the reader into a sense of disarray amidst such seemingly secure evidence.

Finally, and briefly, one may similarly approach Robert Audley’s investigation into the absence of his friend George with the same degree of analysis, and also discover how Robert, like the reader, finds evidence that is both of empirical nature and contrasting nature. First and foremost, the first direct bit of evidence comes from the servant at the Audley Court when Robert stops by to inquire about George. When asking the servant if he was sure that the man he talked to earlier that day was George Talboys, the servant responded: “Yes, perfectly sure. He remembered the hour because it was the servants’ dinner hour” (117). This may seem superfluous, but in effect, this is the only direct account of Mr. Talboys that Robert will find; it is the only guarantee that Robert is given of George’s whereabouts throughout the day. Afterwards, the other accounts of where George may be were disreputable and unclear. When talking to the railway station clerk, all he received was a  vague description of someone who could be George. When talking to George’s father-in-law, an air of elusiveness perforated Robert; was the man being genuine or was he being blinded by a promise of money given by George Talboys? Regardless, Robert was directed to Liverpool, where once again he was met with a vague description of someone who could have been George, and ultimately came to the conclusion that his friend was still in England, but missing nonetheless. This indirect evidence led Robert on a  wild goose chase. Again, such is the effect of this type of evidence. Where direct evidence creates a direct relationship with something, indirect evidence creates a dubious atmosphere that may perhaps lead one to false conclusions. Is this, potentially, an underlying message being provided by the author to not be lead astray by ‘false leads?’

Whatever the case may be, the reader is able to discern the differences between what may be determined as empirical evidence and what may be determined as indirect evidence. Braddon’s use of both these elements is masterful in creating a gripping tale of mystery/discovery. Where she employs empirical evidence, she effectively leads the reader to a prescribed conclusion. Where she uses indirect evidence, she effectively forces the reader’s thoughts into doubt and disarray. Thus we may parallel our own situation with the situation that Robert Audley found himself in; where he is so sure of certain facts, he is simultaneously so unsure of the greater picture surrounding them.

Where Does the Difference Between Word and Action Lie?

Following the recount of the Monster’s story in Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ the reader finds themselves quarreling with varying degrees of emotions and mental capacity that range from elation and desperate hope, to disgust and utter despair. These emotions invariably arise from the unfortunate actions that had been taken towards the monster as he attempted to fixate himself in a society that accepts him; where he might be considered a friend instead of a fiend. It is important, in the reflection of this portion of the novel, for one to consider a point that the monster himself relates as an enigma of the human race: “Was man, indeed, as once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base” (Shelley, 135)? Just as we are told of the times where humans have been so kind and, in contrast, so malignant, so too does the monster witness first-hand the differences between a kind treatment and – more commonly – an unkind one. From these instances, Shelley shows how distraught one may become when treated unfairly; how the monster becomes a being of vengeance. Thus, the reader is forced to consider how the monster was treated and whether or not said treatment was rational and/or ethical. With careful consideration, the reader begins to notice how, in simple discourse/dialogue, the monster is met with fair treatment and consideration, but when an impulsive action is taken towards the monster, the action is almost always one of immoral status.

As mentioned in the closing of the opening statement, it is apparent that, when given the opportunity to verbally express himself, the monster is almost always met with agreeable treatment. The first notable mention of this phenomenon occurs when the monster decides to approach Mr. DeLacey, the blind elder residing in the cottage that the monster observes. Taking the time to relate the tales of his misfortune (through in an indirect manner), the monster is met with a degree of pity from the gentleman, who replies as such: “I am poor, and an exile; but it will afford me true pleasure to be in any way serviceable to a human creature” (148). Shelley passively shows us the folly of our ways by making a blind man the first to willingly talk with the creature. Here, the manner in which our monster composes himself with his dialogue shows him to be rather agreeable, as the elderly gentleman relates, thus he is treated in moral fashion. But, as will be revealed later, once the others return to the cottage and behold the repugnant appearance of the creature holding the man, they allow his appearance to control their behavior. One other example includes the moment where the monster has concluded the relation of his tale to Victor and beseeches his Creator to fashion a woman after his own design so that he might have a companion. Following his speech, Victor’s reflections on “the subsequent blight of all kindly feelings by the loathing and scorn of [the monster’s] protectors…concluded that the justice due [to the monster]…demanded that [he] should comply with his request” (159). Whether or not Victor creating another monster is considered moral, the method with which he came to the conclusion should be considered as such. Through dialogue, Victor came to the conclusion that the monster had experienced tremendous sufferings and was thus deserving of some kindness.

Following words, comes action, and, as is seen throughout the novel, action towards the monster is just about always bred by immoral impulse. We return to the scene at the cottage. Following the monster’s amiable interaction with the blind, elderly gentleman of the house, the younger family members arrive and immediately begin to take some sort of action against the monster. “Agatha fainted; and Safie, unable to attend her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and…dashed [the monster] to the ground, and struck [him] violently with a stick” (148). Fainting and running is perhaps, a more understandable reaction to perceiving a monster, but with no apparent harm having been done, we are conflicted with the consideration of whether or not attacking the monster is an appropriate action. Regardless what side should be taken on this, we have to approach this from the monster’s perspective, where we come to the conclusion that this is, in fact, a detestable response. The monster had already testified to his misfortunes and griefs, and is met ultimately with pain, as those who he held in such high esteem immediately attacked him without thought upon perceiving him. There was no attempt at dialogue between the two parties before fighting erupted. Almost immediately following this, the monster sees a young girl fall in a rapidly flowing stream. He saves her, but someone following her tore her from him and eventually shot him. Seeing a monster holding a young child rightfully would spark the thought that the child is in need of saving, but, again, from the monster’s perspective, he just saved a young girl’s life, and instead of being thanked or at least questioned by the person who came for her, he is shot. Granted, this is not a reaction by the DeLacey family or Victor themselves, people who were much more important in the monster’s life, and thus more influential, but it is an occurrence that is important in showing how unethical responses shaped the monster’s development.

The final conclusion comes down to an overall consideration of the history of mankind. Where misery has proliferated, we see unchecked action dominate. Where kindness and overall virtue are seen, peaceful discussion and calculated, beneficial actions have dominated. Mary Shelley shows that the treatment of this monster is no different. When people actually took the time to talk with and listen to the monster, he was met with more ethical, considerate responses. But when people allowed unchecked impulses to fuel their actions towards the monster, he was met with immoral responses. After experiencing a much greater degree of the latter, he thus becomes a creature of vengeance. With this in mind, the reader is forced to reflect upon their own actions in how they treat others. Rather than making immediate distinctions about someone, perhaps thoughtful consideration and dialogue can end in a favorable scenario that would otherwise be devastating.

Is Knowledge Power?

In Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ as the reader becomes introduced to Victor Frankenstein, they simultaneously become exposed to the ironically detrimental effects of knowledge. Where Shelley takes the time in the first few chapters to paint the picture of Victor’s family – how tight knit they seemingly are – she also makes sure to include references to Victor’s inherent addiction to knowledge. As Victor progresses throughout his studious endeavors, the reader begins to take notice of Victor’s deterioration in both physical and mental health. By the end of our introduction to Victor, following the moment of the birth of his creation, the reader may come to the conclusion that Victor himself was addicted to the unknown and was emotionally scarred by the death of his mother and the overall fragility of the human condition. These factors, combined with his stubborn attitude and fanciful dreams of grandeur, all amount to the eventual downfall of Frankenstein – his creation story.

In Victor’s account of his life to Walton, he attempts to paint himself as an individual who was enamored by the discovery of uncharted territory; as an adventurer in the realm of academia. He places great importance on his ties to family and seems to be setting himself up for a story that serves as a lesson to be cautious about how far one allows their ambitions to carry them. Where this is indeed a lesson to be proven within the context of his story, however, it is important to analyze Victor’s account of himself to attempt to elucidate the factors that attributed to this important discovery. Victor does indeed paint himself as a family man – perhaps to gain some degree of admiration or respect from his audience – in his account of his father, mother, and sister. He lovingly states how “no creature could have more tender parents than [his]” (Shelley 65), and describes his sister as “luxuriant…and possess[ing] an attractive softness” (66). These accounts are important as they help the reader understand how Frankenstein held his family in the highest esteem; how things they said or did affected him greatly. Perhaps the most important scene in the depiction of Victor’s character occurs during the family’s trip to some baths near Thonon. During his time here, when Victor took a liking to the outdated philosophical teachings of Agrippa, he makes mention of the importance of his father’s input about the author’s philosophy. The quick, distant remark that what Victor read “is sad trash” (68) left Victor feeling dissatisfied and yearning for more knowledge. Victor himself mentions how, had his father given him some explanation for why the teachings were outdated, he would have accepted his greater wisdom and tossed the outdated teachings aside. Here marks a slight deviation from the picture Victor is attempting to paint. Instead of respecting the knowledge of his father, Victor shows an idealistic stubbornness and even takes time to give some partial blame to his father for his eventual downfall. This is not to say that Victor blames others entirely for his faults. On the contrary, Victor does show how he is willing and able to take responsibility for his actions: “The raising of ghosts or devils was a promise…of which I most eagerly sought; and if my incantations were always unsuccessful, I attributed the failure rather to my own experience and mistake” (69). This section is important in laying the grounds for what is to come. Victor shows himself as holding high respect for his family members but also holding an innate desire for an explanation to the mysteries of life. His zeal for knowledge paves way for his stubbornness and idealism to eventually possess his spirit.

When his mother passes, Victor reveals the despair and grief he felt, as anyone would, but the passage elucidates a triggering point for Frankenstein’s adamant desire to bring the dead to life. “I need not describe the feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent by that most irreparable evil…why should I describe a sorrow which all have felt, and must feel” (72)? Here, Victor lingers. The passing of his mother forces him to reflect even more on the fragility of life and it is these thoughts that allow for the idealistic philosophies of Agrippa, Magnus and Paracelsus to compound in his mind and eventually spark the discovery of reanimation. Once he is introduced to the foundations of natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy, and death and deterioration, he then begins his plunge into the darker depths of his character. “My cheeks had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement…and the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me to also forget those friends who were so many miles absent” (81). This description shows the greatest point of degradation that Victor faced in his pursuit for knowledge and fulfillment. He sought success and understanding to such a great degree that, for the first time in his life, he allowed himself to suffer and neglect those whom he held in the highest regards.

By the end of the first few chapters, the reader already senses and understands, at least to some degree, the pain and regret that Victor faces. Whether Victor intended to or not, he effectively related all his inherent faults and how they led to his eventual plunge into despair. His lust for knowledge and the excitement of a grand discovery narrowed his mind such that he began to focus only on one goal, and, consequently, allowed other things to suffer for it, whether it be his family or his own health. Victor’s deep love and respect for his own family, particularly his mother, led to such shock and suffering from her passing that his mind became fixed on the phenomenon of life and death even more-so than it had before. Thus far is Victor’s warning to his new friend Walton. Realizing his own stubbornness and radical idealism, Victor begs Walton to reflect on the question, which is the truer statement: knowledge is power, or ignorance is bliss?

It’s All in Good Fun, Right?

In Eliza Haywood’s ‘Fantomina,’ our protagonist, The Lady (or Fantomina/Celia/Mrs. Bloomer/Incognita), takes a walk on the more exotic side, to put it nicely, as she investigates the phenomenon of sexual behavior. Where, during the first half of the novel, a reader is told that her motivation for adamantly pursuing her preferred lover is potentially an acquired sense of actual love, by the latter half, one really needs to analyze the change in The Lady’s attitude and actions to come to the conclusion that perhaps her drive comes from an adherence to a more animalistic instinct; perhaps she is merely having fun. The most direct way that one may observe this metamorphosis is to pay attention to the themes and behaviors behind her varying personas.

During her time as Fantomina, though this persona was a prostitute, the reader still senses a degree of moral attachment as she felt true moral anguish after having lost her virtue: “Oh! no, I am undone beyond the power of heaven itself to me” (Haywood, 2570)! This scene itself reveals that it is not entirely the pursuit of fun that governs The Lady’s actions, rather, with the revelation that “her eyes resumed their softening glances” (Haywood 2570) towards Mr. Beauplaisir, one might consider her motivation to be a legitimate want and attraction – a type of love – for her “partner.” By the time The Lady switches to her country girl persona in Celia, one notices that she is still very concerned with embodying a person who exhibits genuine decency and a higher devotion to moral attachment. For example, when Beauplaisir approached this woman and made his advances, “she answered with such seeming innocence,” and showed a face painted with “blushing beauties” (Haywood, 2573), all lending to a more angelic, young woman. After having been scarred twice now by her lover’s eventual indifference with his partner(s), her third transformation into Widow Bloomer is one that is made with a much greater degree of deviousness and lack of decency. Rather than attempting to appear young and innocent, now she embodies a personality that seems more experienced and distraught with her situation. Simultaneously, however, she allowed him to make his pursuit of her by letting him believe that – as a widow mind you – “joy-giving passion was indeed the subject she was best pleased to be entertained with” (Haywood, 2575). This paints her as indecent to a reader by many accounts. Now, no longer is she merely engaging in sexual behavior with a man she is not officially promised to and who is outside of her social strata, but she is also disrespecting the dignity of a widow and her devotion to her husband. If this is not where the reader might begin to suspect her actions as being driven by a desire for fun, then her final persona, Incognita, will surely help to do so. This whole chapter represents a great shift in the dynamic of The Lady’s character at the beginning of the story. She goes as far as to hire two complete strangers to help her in her act and sends out a letter straight to Beauplaisir inviting him to her place for another sexual encounter. When he responds confirming the date, she makes quite the revealing statement: “Possession naturally abates the vigor of desire…O that all neglected wives and fond abandoned nymphs would take this method” (Haywood, 2580)! Here she boasts of her discovery of never-ending passion. It’s almost as though she relinquishes the feelings of true love, throwing such thoughts aside as mere fantasies, and instead fancies her ability to trick Beauplaisir into feeling the ultimate degree of satisfaction every time he partakes in intercourse. That night she takes joy in having complete control over the situation. She clearly is not so much concerned with his pleasure as she is with hers, which can be seen by her consistent disregard for his wishes – those mainly being to take off the mask she wore. It is not until her mom comes back into town and she is discovered to be with child that the fun ends for her and reality comes crashing back down.

In the end, one might argue that The Lady allowed herself to be swept up by her lover’s actions so, that she ultimately became a very similar being to him. Where, at first, she harbored feelings of love and a genuine desire to be with Mr. Beauplaisir, towards the end she began to become more concerned with taking joy in the action of sexual intercourse instead. It is conceded that, even with her eventual lust for fun, she still stuck to one man and never moved on to another. With this being said, perhaps there truly was still a dormant desire for attached love, but one cannot ignore the metamorphoses that The Lady undergoes with her various personas, and how she eventually became a creature who, unchecked, gave in to her desires and sought mere pleasure by the culmination of her adventure.

 

How Did Two Women Overcome Society?

In Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market,’ the reader is introduced to a variety of motifs in what is, at first, a seemingly straightforward tale of the love between two sisters. After analyzing the context and diction inherent within – as well as taking a look at the state of England upon the drafting of this poem – one comes to realize just how many messages are actually laid out throughout the work, the most prominent perhaps being the presence of high expectations in the world for young women, and the one thing that will always be present as a beacon of hope/relief; sisterhood. Yes, sisterhood is a theme that has to be addressed when analyzing this poem, but one must also consider a bigger picture – one that Rossetti provides with her strong use of imagery and diction/context – that the difficulties surrounding the status of young women during this time of England’s history run rampant in almost theatrical fashion.

Rossetti’s use of imagery from the very beginning allows readers to immediately be exposed – after a little analysis – to the underlying message of overbearing young female oppression. For instance, we are given a list of fruity images as we are introduced to a group of Goblins trying to sell produce: “Come buy, come buy…apples…swart-headed mulberries…pomegranates full and fine…” (Lines 3 – 21).This list of produce reads as being almost whimsical and alluring, but at the same time quite ludicrous, as certain things like pine-apples shouldn’t be available at the same times as pomegranates. This immediately draws confusion and, potentially, caution towards this groups of Goblins as they seem to be making impossible promises; just what could these promises really be? After being told of this exhaustive list, our two female protagonists make their debut and are very quickly revealed as the morally astute sister, Lizzie, and the more rambunctious sister, Laura, and eventually, Rossetti has Lizzie make an interesting remark that highlights how this poem focuses on young women of the time rather than the general populous: “Twilight is not good for maidens; should not loiter in the glen in the haunts of goblin men” (Lines 144 – 146). Here, Lizzie does not say that man should not roam in the territory of Goblins – nor does she even mention older women – just maidens. Thus, some reflection can begin here. The exhaustive list of fruits is too wide in variety and could be viewed as a metaphor for the list of societal pressures a young woman faced in this age of English history. Given how these young women are told not to have any dealings with these Goblins, we can further conclude that this entire list is a list of things not to do. This comes across, as Rossetti intended it to, as a seemingly impossible task that very few could ever accomplish. This allows for the progression of Laura’s story, as we observe her degradation and subsequent revitalization.

The scene where Laura partakes of the Goblins’ fruits is full of imagery that tickles the response of gratification that anyone would have after indulging in something. “[She] sucked their fruit globes fair or red: sweeter than honey from the rock. Stronger than man rejoicing wine…” (Lines 128 – 130). It is unclear whether or not Rossetti is intending for this scene to be one of explicitly sexual connotation or of biblical allusion (partaking of forbidden fruit), or perhaps indulgence in all possible taboos for women of the era, but whatever the case may be, the reader is now aware that something bad will happen to Laura. As this fall progresses, we discover that Laura can no longer hear the songs and voices of the Goblins, but Lizzie still can. This scene provides the context and imagery of a pure, untouched young woman, Lizzie, juxtaposed with a now calloused, dirtied woman, Laura. What this image serves as is a sign that, if one toys with what society prevents or says is wrong, they will eventually become shunned by everything else that society has to offer. Laura’s progressive decline serves to relate how being shunned from society affects a woman in ill fashion, as they seem to become both physically and emotionally undesirable.

Noticing this degradation, we see Lizzie choose to act in a manner that symbolically mocks the standards set forth by society as she willingly approaches the Goblins in order to obtain their fruits to help heal her sister. When the Goblins beseech Lizzie to stay and partake of the fruits herself and she refuses, the scene turns grim and violent: “Their tones waxed loud, their looks were evil…they trod and hustled her…tore her gown and soiled her stockings…like a royal virgin town…beleaguered by a fleet mad to tug her standard down” (Lines 396-421). This long list of forces thrown at Lizzie by the Goblins serves to illustrate the reaction given by a society that has its norms questioned. Though it is revealed how Lizzie never actually tasted the fruit, she still felt the sheer force of the Goblins, of society, as she fought to gain her sister’s innocence back. Returning triumphant, covered in the juices of the Goblin fruit, the lashes of society, Lizzie is kissed by Laura to the point that Laura takes back the respect/vitality she had lost as she partakes once more of these juices that sent her spiraling downward. This scene could serve one of two purposes: one, that Lizzie’s act of courage woke Laura up from a self-inflicted depression to a realization that society’s norms truly are ridiculous, or two, that the fight against societies constraint was beginning to give progress, and Laura would be allowed back in and not be exiled for her “mistakes.” Either way, the love between sisters is a prominent and indisputable entity throughout this tale/scene.

In essence, one can see how the superfluous amount of imagery provided by Rossetti allows for the realization that England had overbearing standards for younger women. Upon breaking these standards, one was critically scrutinized and affected immensely, just as we saw with Laura. Despite all this, however, the one source of relief was found inherent between the love of two sisters. Thus, ‘Goblin Market’ is truly a tale of transcending the pressures of society through the bonds of sisterhood.

When Does Perspective Begin to Resonate With Reality?

In Thomas Hood’s ‘Song of the Shirt,’ the reader is presented with the story of a worn seamstress burdened by the demands of her employers and the upper class of society. We are introduced to this woman initially by the voice of an outside narrator who paints this picture of desolation, and then the woman’s voice takes over as she sings this “Song of the Shirt.” When, at the ending of the song, the outside narrator once again takes over to end the poem, the reader is left wondering exactly how this relationship between the narrator and the seamstress truly illustrates the context of the work. In essence, where one initially understands the difference between themselves and the woman due to the sheer aspect of poverty, analyzing the perspective of the narrator and what he/she has to say gives the reader an even greater understanding/sympathy for the woman as we come to realize how she may not have any money, but she also has no voice. It is the simple switch in perspective that allows this understanding to resonate, as the tone switches from sympathetic, to the sense of forlornness, and back to sympathetic once more.

The perspective presented by our narrator at the beginning of the poem serves to radiate the feelings of dreariness and melancholy, as the physical conditions of our main character are presented in harsh, yet simple terms such as “worn” and “heavy” (Lines 1-2). Though the scene depicted is indeed desolate, the tone that the reader picks up is not necessarily one of being encumbered themselves, rather, being sympathetic towards the woman. Because the woman herself is not yet relating the story, the reader perceives the narrative a little differently; they are not living the story through the eyes and ears of the woman, but through the words of someone else. This perspective allows one to feel sympathy, but not pain. “A woman sat…in poverty, hunger and dirt” (Lines 3-6). The image of a woman sitting in the dirt is indeed disheartening, but perhaps the most influential word presented in this quote is the word “she,” and this is because of how impersonal it is. The narrator has not lived this experience, and cannot begin to completely fathom the true pain behind her eyes. How can the reader then begin to feel anything greater? They may feel sympathy, but they don’t feel true pain…yet.

“Work – work – work” (Line 9). These are the first words we hear from the woman, and these words serve to illustrate exactly how the rest of the woman’s perspective will resonate with the reader, forcing them to feel at least a smidgen of her burden. Here, the switch in perspective forces the reader to expose themselves to the senses that are felt, seen, and heard by this tortured soul, allowing the sense of forlornness and destitution to overcome them. In one noteworthy account, the woman relates the extent of her labors by saying how her “eyes are heavy and dim,” and how “over the buttons I fall asleep, and sew them on in a dream” (Lines 12- 16). She’s exhausted, but the reader doesn’t just know this from the words “heavy” and “dim,” they know it because of the word “I.” This word is personal, and it resonates with anyone who sees or hears it. When someone hears “I,” they immediately begin to attribute something to their own lives. As one reads that previous sentence, their eyes begin to sag if even just slightly; they experience a piece of the burden. It isn’t a feeling/tone of sympathy anymore, it’s one of understanding. Now they too feel forlorn, along with the woman. It does not end here, however. After the woman tells of her living conditions, we also begin to feel a sense of emptiness and isolation: “A bed of straw…the shatter’d roof…[and] a wall so blank, my shadow I thank for sometimes falling there” (Lines 36-41). And after this, we even sense despair as we feel that “a little weeping would ease my heart, but…my tears must stop, for every drop hinders needle and thread” (Lines 70-73). With these final hopeless thoughts, we are finally freed from the shackles Hood placed us in by letting us live through the mind of this woman, but we are left scarred. Hood will end the same way he began, giving a quick description of the woman at work. We again feel detached sympathy, but now we have the latent ache left dormant in our own souls from the short experience we had.

Where this shift in perspective throughout the poem allows us to not so much see but feel the pains of the woman, it also allows us to understand an even deeper grief. Not once did we ever see the woman, by her own account, seek actual help and call out to someone. The only person noted as speaking for her was this one narrator whose account left no permanent mark in our hearts. With this understanding, the reader now sees the giant chasm that separated themselves from this woman and themselves. She has no voice, and with this despair has resigned herself to her fate. By feeling things through her own thoughts and experiences we drew that chasm just a little closer but immediately withdrew ourselves again once the narrator took over. The shift in perspective provided by this poem allowed Hood to show how anyone can feel sympathy, but without truly feeling the pains of another, we can never understand their burden. And, if by chance, we are given the opportunity to understand their torture, we will immediately step away, distancing them from us and forsaking them to their toils. Such is the cruel difference between perspective and reality.

Is Life Liberty or Longevity?

In William Butler Yeats’ ‘Easter, 1916,’ we see the author quarrel with his emotions over the phenomenon that was the Easter Rising of 1916. Over the course of the poem, we observe Yeats as he seemingly evolves from feelings of flippancy towards the subjects of his poem, to feelings of respect and understanding, eventually ending with a cocktail of emotions that really don’t convey any ultimate sentiment that the author may feel other than confusion. What one might be able to extrapolate more readily from this poem, however, is Yeats’ intent in writing it. Though difficult to discern the final position the poet takes, reading through this work leaves the reader struggling with the idea of adamantly adhering to a cause such that they follow said cause to their ultimate demise. Just as Yeats ponders on the simultaneous frivolousness and hints of valor behind the actions of the rebels during this time, he similarly poses the question: when it comes to defining a true meaning to life, does one focus on liberty or longevity? With all the mixed emotions, Yeats’ intentions in writing the poem were not likely to have the reader judge the actions of the individuals and their actions discussed, but to instead force readers to think long and hard on the values that they hold highest in their lives: life itself, or the passions behind our ideals?

As mentioned previously, Yeats displays a variety of emotions/beliefs throughout this work. In beginning the poem, he describes his relationship and attitude towards people around him prior to the revolution: “I have passed with a nod of the head or polite meaningless words…and thought…of a mocking tale or gibe” (Lines 5-10). At this time, we note the use of diction that relates a feeling of disconnection with those around him; Yeats cares not about creating/maintaining a relationship with these individuals, and perhaps, in some cases, looks at them in a rather demeaning fashion (below him, so to speak). The comedic nature of his first fourteen lines enforces this aura of separation and mockery, even going so far as to compare the world around him to a “motley.” The ending of this first section, however, foreshadows an eventual change in attitude, as Yeats drearily relates what would become the chorus of this poem: “A terrible beauty is born” (Line 16).

As Yeats delves deeper into his message, we notice a change in style, as where he first referred to people as a collective group, now he will begin focusing on individuals and their traits as he sees them. First, he describes a woman whose “days were spent in ignorant good-will” (Line 18), and whose “voice [was] more sweet…when young and beautiful” (Lines 21-22). Notice, here, how the diction being used is different as well as the style; from disconnected, to analytical and partially judgmental. These descriptive lines of the woman serve to tell the reader how Yeats once thought well of her, but that something had changed her from her once young and beautiful self. Being that this poem is written in reference to the Easter Rising of 1916, the reader may accurately assume that this individual became involved in the political realm and thus became “shrill” in his eyes. This introduces us to Yeats’ initial thoughts of the revolution and the people involved in it as frivolous and undesirable. He goes on to describe a few other individuals, all of whom serve to compound this position: “This man had kept a school…this other his helper and friend…he might have won fame in the end” (Lines 24-28). Again, here we see how people who once, in Yeats’ eyes, had done so much or were capable of so much, eventually became degraded due to their involvement in the revolution.

Of course, however, after writing out his thoughts and thinking more and more on the subject, now Yeats changes his attitude once again. Starting in lines thirty-one through thirty-two, he begins describing a man that he never thought highly of; “a drunken, vainglorious lout.” In ending his description of the individual, however, he makes a remark that tends to make a reader think that he eventually gained a respect for him: “Yet I number him in this song…he, too, has been changed in his turn, transformed utterly; a terrible beauty is born” (Lines 35-40). Now, though Yeats still refers to the revolution as a “casual comedy” (Line 37), he uses commemorative diction to show how one person evolved from a drunkard to a respectable man.

Following his description of these characters, the style shifts once again to now focus on the imagery of nature to depict his viewpoints on the actions and effects of these rebels. “Hearts with one purpose alone…enchanted to a stone to trouble the living stream” (Lines 41-44). Here lies that sense of valor that we introduced in the beginning, as Yeasts compares these individuals to sturdy rocks enduring the rigorous currents of the oncoming stream of time. Simultaneously, one could determine this imagery of a stone as one depicting immortality. Though the rebels met their end due to their deeds, they still remain steadfast as symbols of ambition for liberty. On this note, however, Yeats begins to discuss a contrary viewpoint, still using nature as his metaphor: “And hens to moor-cocks call; minute by minute they live; the stone’s in the midst of it all” (Lines 54-56). Here, Yeats seems to argue, though they are immortal in their ambition, life continues, often times in ignorance of the price paid by individuals such as these rebels. And even for those who remember, the memory becomes a stone of burden needing to be placed to rest “as a mother names her child when sleep at last has come” (Lines 62-63). “Was it needless death after all” (Line 67)? Now, Yeats turns full circle and once again questions the validity of the rebels’ sacrifice. The tone has effectively changed from admirable and almost whimsical, to dark and pessimistic. Now we begin to wonder just what the impact of the rebellion is, “for England may keep faith for all that was done and said” (Lines 68-69), meaning that, despite all that has happened, England may still honor a promise that was made to liberate Ireland after the ongoing world war. Yeats goes on to postulate what exactly drove the rebels to their cause, be it excessive dreaming or blind love, but eventually concludes that, if anything, these rebels, “wherever green is worn, are changed, changed utterly” (Lines 78-79). This reference to a green uniform, the representative color of Ireland, represents the shift from a motley garb, to a united, powerful image. Once again, however, Yeats must reiterate his doubts/confusion by reiterating how “a terrible beauty is born” (Line 80).

By including that last piece of doubt, the reader is left to arrive at their own conclusion as to whether or not the price paid by the rebels was worth it. We can understand, however, that Yeats himself struggles to take any position, thus, it is perhaps not our place to make any decisions/judgments on the status of these individuals and their choices, rather, to discover for ourselves what is more important to us, be it living to see the next day, or taking a stand for positions we believe in. Where at first it may seem morally obvious what choice should be made, this poem presents cons for both decisions. Living to see the next day may make one feel regret or even guilt for refraining from having a part in revolution, and fighting for your cause could potentially turn out to be a frivolous notion that would come to fruition at the same time and manner, with or without your input. This is a daunting thought for certain, but it’s one that Yeats implores us to consider. It was his intent to create a poem that forced readers to genuinely consider what matters most in their life: liberty/passion or longevity?

Passion, Pain, and Capitalization. How Do These Connect, and How Are They Represented in Two Contrasting Works?

In their works, ‘The Negro Girl’ and ‘The White Man’s Burden,’ Robinson and Kipling, respectively, have differing positions on an issue that has seen heavy consideration throughout the past and the modern day; an issue dealing with the perception behind racial superiority. The prior despairs in the consequences of this racial intolerance while the latter seems to embrace its existence and yearns to turn it from a sign of racism, to a sign of progress and prescribed duty. It is clear that Robinson uses her poem to highlight the great injustices of slavery, and that Kipling sees American dominance as a symbol of humble sacrifice, but it is perchance overlooked how both authors use very similar means to relate their outlooks to their readers.

By reading through Robinson’s telling of the experiences of an African woman – her love and past – one very quickly catches onto the strong use of passion and emotion which the author predominantly uses to reach her audience. Stanza five of ‘The Negro Girl’ provides one of the first mentions of this, as Robinson seems to create a parallel between an ongoing storm that torments the main character’s lover, who is currently at sea, and the status of slavery and social injustices of her time: “Does Heav’n’s high will decree that some should sleep on beds of state, – Some, in the roaring Sea? Some, nurs’d in splendour, deal Oppression’s blow…in Slavery and woe” (Lines 26-30)! Here, Zelma, our heroine, cries to heaven, yearning for an answer to why it has allowed for the seeds of racial inequality to set root and cause so much pain and difficulty for those oppressed. Robinson herself seems to prefer using painful diction to arouse the emotions of her readers. From the previous stanza, for example, she employed words such as “roaring,” “oppression,” “slavery,” and “woe.” She continues this pattern in later accounts such as when she has Zelma tell of her own personal experiences in stanzas twelve and fourteen: “Torn from my mother’s aching breast, my Tyrant sought my love…with jealous rage he mark’d my love…and prison’d in the plantain grove – poor ZELMA…” (Lines 67-82). As Zelma relates her own experience with slavery, she allows for the pain of her tortured soul to rain out. Though, in stanza thirteen, Zelma uses a few softer words to describe the “Tyrant WHITE MAN,” it could be viewed that Zelma is describing a time when she allowed her guard to be lowered by the perceived kindnesses of her “Tyrant,” only to be betrayed by jealousies resonating from love and inequality. Being betrayed after giving out trust can be seen as the worst pain one can endure, which is exemplified throughout the remainder of the poem. One last point of interest includes the structure of Robinson’s words; when she capitalized letters or words: “GOD,” “DRACO,” “ZELMA,” “TINTS,” “SOULS,” WHITE MAN.” All of these entities seem to share a profound impact on either the author, our heroine, or both. Providing readers with this stylistic device communicates their importance and again invokes their passion and emotion so that they might better connect with what is being related.

Practically all of the rhetorical and stylistic devices listed throughout the previous paragraph’s discussion on ‘The Negro Girl,’ also, ironically, apply to Kipling’s, ‘The White Man’s Burden.’ In his attempt to persuade readers of the importance of the White Man’s role/burden, Kipling most certainly attempted to invoke moral/ethical values in his readers by discussing duty and necessity. More so, however, one could argue that it is his attention to emotion that truly captures the reader’s attention. From the very beginning, Kipling invokes two potential levels of passion from his reader; resentment or patriotism: “Take up the White Man’s burden…go bind your sons to exile to serve your captives’ need…to veil the threat of terror and check the show of pride…” (Stanzas 1 & 2; Lines 1-12). By referring to a race as a captive breed, those who are disgusted by the existence of social inequality immediately have their attentions drawn to, at first, listen to the babbling of a prejudiced man; likely to judge. By referring to the actions of the White Man (the American in the context of this poem) as one who dispels fear and has the self-control to abandon his pride, Kipling evokes the passions of the patriots, eager to hear more about his beliefs regarding the necessity of imperialism. It should also be quickly mentioned that, just as Robinson used capitalization to relate significance, so too does Kipling, as he consistently draws attention to “the White Man.” Along with this highlighting of the significance of this people, Kipling never really abandons his ethnocentric idealism throughout his account of the burdens of a powerful race/entity, but he does begin to focus on innate human characteristics rather than racial inadequacies (for lack of a better term), that could perhaps turn his skeptics into, at the very least, neutral parties, while increasing the fervor of his patriotic companions who picked up on the intended message from the beginning. This change of pace occurs particularly in stanza seven: “Take up the White Man’s burden – have done with childish days…comes now to search your manhood, through all the thankless years…dear-bought wisdom, the judgment of your peers” (Lines 49-59). Here, Kipling implores his audience to let go of luxuries and instead embark on a humanistic path of helping the world; taking the insults to their person in the present, and instead be honored in years to come by deeds that would prove to be beneficial (in Kipling’s eyes). Even for those who despise racial inequality, the idea of self-sacrifice in pursuit of educating another people is something that could come across as altruistic and desirable. In order to grasp the attention of these individuals, however, Kipling would have had to invoke their emotions of disdain so that he might have enough time to reveal his true message (a message which could definitely be considered debatable).

Following this discussion, one might see the credibility behind the idea that both authors used similar means to convey their ideas. It is also worth mentioning, however, that there were differences in rhetoric and stylistic devices employed by both authors as well. For example, Kipling uses a biblical allusion in his reference to people being taken “from bondage” in Egypt (Lines 39-40). Even with differences such as this, however, the similarities are still too unique to be disregarded. Passion, painful diction, and capitalization were components of both works, all of which truly helped a reader to come to an educated conclusion regarding what the author intended to communicate, however different said conclusion may be.

What Presides: ‘The Power of Love’ or ‘The Power of Control?’

Before we begin with this analysis of the theme of power and a couple of its different facets that are brought up throughout Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest,’ it is necessary to first describe exactly what the facets in question are; how we shall define them in this post and how they pertain to the overall plot of the story. As the title of this post suggests, the two types of power up for debate are those of the power of love and the power of control. Too often in today’s time is the phrase “power of love” employed. In the modern sense, the phrase is used to communicate the power of intimate affection between two people, however, in this discussion, we will use this phrase to instead imply a love for man; love for humanity and all its faults and frailties. In addition, this idea must be juxtaposed by the ever-looming desire for, and power of, control over one’s affairs, which inevitably comes to include the affairs of others. To provide a connection between these ideas in the text, we will look towards certain scenes of ‘The Tempest’ where the application of these facets of power is seen through the character Prospero.

For those reading this in need of background, it is revealed through the play that Prospero, once Duke of Milan, had been wronged by his brother and fate, etc., as he was stranded on an island with his daughter some time well before the setting of this story. Over time, he became versed in magic and was able to eventually take control of the island and its inhabitants; a handful of spirits (one of notable mention going by the name Ariel) and a homely impish creature named Caliban. With this ability, Prospero seeks to once again gain dukedom by forcing his brother, present Duke of Milan at the time of the play, the King of Naples, and the rest of their entourage to become stranded on the same island by his command of nature (the spirits, etc.).

Now the plot begins, as does our discussion. There are many notable portions throughout the play where Prospero is either noted as yearning for control, or using this power to bend things to his liking. For the sake of remaining as brief as possible, we will only highlight a few in this paragraph. Early on, in Act 1; Scene 2, we see Prospero and his servant, Ariel, exchange a series of remarks regarding how the latter followed Prospero’s orders to strand the aforementioned individuals on the island, insinuating that Prospero has cooked up a plan for these people, where he is the center of control. Ariel’s comments within this scene yield a pride-seeking tone, leading the reader/audience to believe Prospero to initially be someone seeking absolute obedience and perfection. One more section from this scene has Ariel bring up a promise that he would be set free. Prospero responds as follows in lines 345-350: “It was mine art, when I arrived and heard thee, that made gape the pine and let thee out…if thou murmur’st, I will rend an oak and peg thee…” This dialogue is important for this section as it shows a certain side of Prospero that relies on the power of control. Once confronted about a promise to set Ariel free, Prospero immediately “reminds” Ariel of how he saved him from a life of torture. Using this tactic forces the audience to paint a selfish picture of Prospero early on; one obsessed with control and dominance. Later, we are introduced to a love interest between Miranda, daughter of Prospero, and Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples (who was of the group stranded on the island, but was separated from his father). In Act III; Scene I, Ferdinand and Miranda exchange a series of dialogue that has them betrothed to one another; a promise they believed was being kept in secret, where, in actuality, Prospero effectively eavesdropped on the conversation and afterwards says to Ariel: “So glad of this as they I cannot be…but my rejoicing at nothing can be more” (Lines 111-112). With this, the reader is left to question what his motives are, as it is understood that this relationship was secretly arranged by Prospero, so what could his game be? Does he seek happiness for his daughter, or is this a scheme for gaining control in having his daughter marry the heir to the throne of Naples? Based off earlier interpretations of Prospero’s character, it’s easy to cling to the latter notion, though an argument could certainly be made for the prior as Prospero does seem to have a change of attitude by the end of the play.

“Shall not myself, one of their kind, that relish all as sharply passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art” (Lines 29-31)? Thus, Prospero himself says to Ariel in response to the latter’s comments on the condition of individuals such as Alonzo, the King of Naples and his entourage after having been surprised by spirits sent to tease them in a previous scene (by Prospero, of course). As mentioned at the close of the last paragraph, Prospero seems to grow a sense of remorse/empathy. Quite literally he asks here: “am I not human; do I not share their feelings and desires?” This is, potentially, quite a moment of growth, looking to connect with his past, rather than completely rule over it. The word “potentially” is the key to that previous sentence. Is this truly a reformation? Before concluding the play, Prospero stars in an epilogue to the audience where he beseeches his viewers through lines 19-20: “As you from crimes would pardoned be, let your indulgences set me free;” begging to be forgiven. We, as readers, are not present for a live presentation of Shakespeare’s actual vision for the play, so how might we be able to accurately conclude the tone embedded in Prospero’s phrases throughout Act V and the Epilogue?

In conclusion, we are left with quite the extrapolation to be made. Do we allow that Prospero see growth over the course of the single day that this play takes place? Was there really any reason for him to be apologetic for anything? Let’s look back briefly. Prospero had his dukedom stripped from him, and, by the end of the play, had it given back to him by the King of Naples himself. As an added bonus, his daughter is promised to the heir to Naples, and he still holds on to Caliban as a servant, though reluctant he acts. Control, in the end, is maintained in these three ways: dukedom, family connection to the throne, and the ownership of a servant. Sure, Prospero gives up magic, but is this really a sacrifice? Is this penitence? On the other hand, Prospero does seem to genuinely seek camaraderie with these people he previously played puppeteer with. A brief moment where he connects his present state of affairs with those of his victims might just be what is needed for Prospero to find a love for his peers; a love for the frailty that is humanity. Thus, we come full circle. What presides: ‘the power of love’ or ‘the power of control?’