Is it just a chair?

In Return of the Soldier, West uses inanimate objects to aid in emphasizing attributes of her characters. For instance, she begins the story with a detailed description of a child’s nursery. This at first seemed odd and strange to me, but after finishing the story, I see how relevant her descriptions were. A particular object that I found a sort of interest in was the chair Kitty frequently sat in. It was called, “Nanny’s big chair” in both chapters I and IV and was located by the window in the nursery.

So what is the big deal about a chair? Maybe I’m strange, but I find chairs to be symbolic of the human individual. Chairs come any many forms, such as wood, plastic, or wicker, and they can be decorated in many different ways. This is symbolic of the diversity of humans. More applicative to the story, however, is the use of chairs. They steadfastly endure great weight in support of what is sitting on them. Kitty is frequently sitting in the story, such as the times when she was lounging in Nanny’s chair or hopelessly laying on the couch with her arm hanging down. I think that this represents the emotional load Kitty is bearing on her shoulders. She seems to still be grieving the death of her son and she has to find a way to cope with her husband having no recollection of her or their marriage. In essence, it is as if she is bearing the weight of another person. Chris’s memory loss does not only affect him, but greatly affects Kitty too. She has to carry the emotional load along with him, if not more so than Chris since she is the one who remembers their relationship.

Maybe the chair does not actually mean much in the context of the story. I do, however, see significance in how Kitty is sitting throughout most of the story and she, of course, must sit in a chair.

She’s got a secret…Can she keep it?

In Braddon’s, “Lady Audley’s Secret,” she holds back much detail about her main character, Lucy Audley. All descriptions of Lady Audley have either pertained to her outward appearance, or the thoughts of what other people think about her and they seemed to only think good things. The novel even says, “Everyone loved, admired, and praised her” (Ch. I, p. 47). But even though everyone admired her, nobody seems to know her past. The novel states, “No one knew anything of her except that she came in answer to an advertisement” (Ch I, p. 47). The story of Lady Audley is shrouded in mystery. She’s the typical figure of someone who puts up a wonderful façade, but leaves people wondering what secrets she holds.

Braddon leaves the reader guessing what Lady Audley’s story is. Chapter II indicates the Lady is possibly Miss Morley, but that is never confirmed. We are told the Lady travels to England to visit a dying friend, but we know nothing of what actually occurred on the trip. The most mysterious thing about the Lady is why she keeps avoiding Robert and George. We do not know why she keeps avoiding him, but one day, she goes on a walk, but returns in the opposite direction of where she was going. What was she doing on this walk? Possibly corresponding with her acquaintance, George? Based on Braddon’s lack of detail of the Lady’s actions, the reader cannot determine what to think of her. One can only assume that she’s devious because her actions are suspicious, but the reader does not know for sure.

Sorry this is a few minutes late! I forgot that Julia and I switched until late this morning. Also, I know I didn’t talk about Lady Audley keeping her secret, as was indicated in the title, but I wanted my title to rhyme.

Responsibility: Victor or His Creation?

Frequently in the novel Frankenstein, Shelley presents the idea of Victor’s responsibility with respect to his creation. Earlier in the reading, we discussed Victor’s responsibility to the monster, but near the end, we are presented with the question of Victor’s responsibility for his creation’s actions, particularly the death of his loved ones. Victor definitely considered himself responsible for their deaths. He carried a heavy weight of guilt on his shoulders for the deaths and so much so that he made himself sick. I believe that one of the driving forces in Victor’s pursuit to kill the monster was guilt, along with anger and grief.

The question of whether Victor is responsible for his creature’s actions or not is one that has two strong opposing arguments. Automatically, my logic says, “yes.” The monster is the result of Victor’s actions and, therefore, the result of the monster’s action is also Victor’s fault. As a chemist, when one of my reactions goes wrong, such as an explosion or overflow occurs, it is my fault. Nobody blames the chemicals. This leads me to ask myself, “Why do I not blame the chemicals? After all, their interactions are what caused the disaster to happen.” Well, the chemicals are not in control of themselves; the scientist is in control of the experiment through setting parameters for the reaction to safely occur. Because of this, the scientist is blamed.

Does the same apply to Victor? One could argue that it does not. Yes, Victor was the scientist who made the monster, but he didn’t make a generally inanimate entity; he made life. He made a creature who can think and learn. He brought about a creature who has the ability to think for himself. The monster decided to kill William, Clerval, and Elizabeth. Do we blame a murderer’s parents for his actions? No, the murderer is the one who goes to jail.

The topic of Victor’s responsibility is not a black and white argument. I think that Victor should feel guilty for his creation’s actions. I would also argue that he should feel especially guilty for the deaths of Justine and his father as those were not directly at the hand of the monster. Victor is the one who gave life and those actions would not have occurred had he not made his creation. However, because the monster clearly has decision making capabilities, he is ultimately responsible for the murders

Different stories, different people, same purpose?

In Shelley’s Frankenstein, she loves to use the method of storytelling within her own story. So far in our readings, she has done this with Walton to his lady friend, with Frankenstein to Walton, and with the creation to Frankenstein. The two latter situations are incredibly similar to each other. Both are telling their story so that their hearers will learn something. In the case Frankenstein to Walton, it was to advise him of the consequences of the consuming and obsessive ambition to gain knowledge. In the creation’s story to Frankenstein, the desire seems to be the same. The creation gives an account of events that have occurred since he was given life, although it seems more like a list of grievances.

Not only are the story-teller’s motives similar, but the hearers are similar as well. Walton’s reason for hearing Frankenstein was a mix of sympathy and curiosity. He thought to himself, “I felt the greatest eagerness to hear the promised narrative, party from curiosity, and partly from a strong desire to ameliorate his fate, if it were in my power” (p. 62). What is interesting to me, is Victor had practically the exact same response of sympathy and curiosity when his creation desired to tell his tale. Victor also thought to himself, “I was partly urged by curiosity, and compassion confirmed my resolution” (p.120).

I think these similarities confirm the idea that Frankenstein sees much of himself in Walton. Both are ambitious and are willing to sacrifice companionship in the pursuit of knowledge. Both seem to be very close with their families. So far, Shelley seems to be presenting identical people, but in different stages of life and their journeys to knowledge.

Proper Woman with and Inquiring Mind?

In Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina, she constructs a woman that is typical of the 18th century, but with an element of curiosity. She begins her story by describing the nameless woman as “A young lady of distinguished birth, beauty, wit, and spirit,” (p. 2566). Just in this sentence, Haywood presents a woman that is to be desired by the standards of the century, but as one continues through the paragraph, it is clear she is not the perfect representation of such a lady. She observes the crowd around her, particularly the men who were flirting with the women around her. She first despises the way they so easily fall for women, but she then begins to become curious about what it is that draws the men to them. Based on what we have learned and read in class so far, this sort of curiosity is not typical or acceptable behavior of a woman in that time.

Haywood contradicts the idea of the typical 18th century woman by giving the character a mind that is not bound by societal construction. This woman does not seem to care that acting like a prostitute, even temporarily, could lead to her reputation being damaged. Her goals are also not focused on obtaining a husband, although it obviously is on obtaining men in general. She has an independent mindset, which is not common of woman of that time. She decides to act as a prostitute just because she’s curious and later in the story, she follows Beauplaisir to Bath and disguises herself as a country maiden in her further pursuit of him. Even though she is making choices that revolve around a man, which is a stereotypical description of 18th century women, she’s doing it to satisfy her own desires of curiosity and, possibly, obsession. Haywood presents a woman who clearly had the upbringing in an 18th century society but she makes this woman different by giving her an inquiring mind into things that she probably should not be curious about.

The Duke’s Disdain: A Result of Pride or Love?

In Browning’s the The Last Duchess, he provides a monologue that is given by a Duke explaining what I inferred to be a loveless relationship between him and his Duchess. In many of his descriptions, he seems to hold disdain for her. She was “too easily impressed; she liked whate’er She looked on, and he looks went everywhere” (line 23-24). He clearly thought of her as flirtatious and clearly a lover of many things; but she did not seem to love him. He states, “She thanked men-good! but thanked Somehow-I know not how – as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name With anybody’s gift” (line 31-34).

I think these lines are the most revealing of the monologue. It shows that he felt jealousy, dislike, pride, and maybe love. It makes sense that he would be jealous; I would be too. Further along in the monologue he states, “Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene’er I passed her, but who passed without Much the same smile?” (line 43-45). He seemed to want to find satisfaction in her smiles at him, but he knew that all received the same expression so he smiles at him were not unique. He did not feel admired by her. It made me wonder if it is pride that made him want to be admired by her or did he love her? The rest of the monologue seems to imply that it was because of pride. In line 43, he says that refused to “stoop” (line 43) and tell her his displeasure. I think that if he loved he, he would have voiced his concerns rather than letting the dislike grow into a monster.

Another confirmation of his pride and jealousy is the way he abruptly ends his description of her. He says, “I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands As if alive” (line 54-47). He indicates that he became more unhappy, she began to show the same sentiments, she died, and then he moves on to the next thing in his house. Does he feel remorse for her passing? Does he maybe feel guilt for her death? The manner in which he ends the story implies that maybe he feels some regret, or maybe he really does dislike her so much that he gives her no honor in her passing.

This poem left me wondering, did the Duke love the Duchess and simply want her to resonate his feelings or was he a prideful, slightly abusive man who wanted submission?

Two Poems, Same Title, Same Purpose?

In Swift’s The Chimney Sweeper poems, he gives two poems, one being long and the other much shorter. Though these poems share the same title, they differ in a major way. The longer version seems to tell a literal story of a boy who is a chimney sweeper whereas in the shorter version, the term “chimney sweeper” is used as a symbolic description.

When one visions a chimney sweeper, they probably think of Dick Van Dyke’s character in Mary Poppins. He’s dressed in all black and is covered in soot and dirt. Swift even says in the long poem, “So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep” (line 4). It is an image that is easily associated with dirt, and to use a word that encompasses all possible adjectives, the color black.

In the short version of the poem, Swift uses the characteristics of a chimney sweeper to describe the emotions the character is feeling. He states, “A little black thing among the snow,” (line 1) and, “They clothed me in the clothes of death” (line 8). Instead of literally describing a chimney sweeper, he uses those same characteristics to describe emotion. Instead of someone being outwardly covered in dust and soot, it is inward.

In the longer poem, Swift describes a dream of heaven and how it uplifts Tom the chimney sweeper. He states that, “Tho’ the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm” (line 23).  From this poem, I would infer that Swift is happy with the church and with religion. However, in the shorter version, he seems to describe putting on a façade of contentment while actually being unhappy. He describes God and the clergy as making up a “heaven of misery” (line 12).

So why the contrast? I think the emotional effect was stronger with the differences in the poems. In the reading of the longer poem, one begins to empathize with the boys in the story. With that empathetic mindset going into the reading of the shorter poem, it made Swift’s intention stand out. It made his emotions translate more clearly, as if the words were gliding off of the page and into my soul. I felt the depravity inside of him. I felt his “notes of woe” (line 8). By having the two different but similar poems, he ensured that the emotions he desired to be conveyed were felt by the reader.

Do You Hear The People Sing?

In Shelley’s England in 1819, he seems to discuss a tempestuous (word choice intended) time in England. He begins with a sestet where he discusses the insanity of their king, George III, and the selfishness of the other rulers. He writes, “Rulers who neither see nor feel nor know, But leechlike to their fainting country cling Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow” (lines 4-6). It is clear the distaste the Shelley has for the leaders of England. He refers to them as selfish men who “leech” off of their country for their own gain.

In the second half of the poem, Shelley uses an octave form in which he discusses the further wretchedness of England. In lines 7 and 8 he tells of an event when the army murdered individuals partaking in a peaceful protest, of which the footnotes referred to it as the Peterloo Massacre. In line 10, he says, “Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay,” which means that the laws favor the rich and enslain the poor. In lines 11 and 12, he wraps up his summary of the state of England by pointing out the corruptness of the church and of parliament.

Shelley makes the disfavor he, and assumedly the rest of the common people, have for those ruling England. He spends the majority of the poem outlining the issues with beautiful and captivating narrative. In the last two lines, he uses a rhyming couplet to present the result of the continued despotism of the leadership. He states, “Are graves from which a glorious Phantom may Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day” (lines 13-14). He believes that a revolt is necessary to end the reign of what he implies to be an oligarchy. What is interesting to me is that he does not see a revolution as a bad solution to problem, but as a wonderful one. He compares it to the sun coming out after a severe storm. I would think that most people would see a revolt as a last resort and not something that is beautiful. Why would he desire to see more innocent blood shed? Based on the year, I assume he has the French Revolution in the back of his mind. While it was successful in abolishing the monarchy, many people died (approximately 50,000 I think?). Maybe he thinks that England could have a “classier” revolution than the French and less blood would be shed? Or maybe he thinks that the cost is great; but that the overall state of being and future of England is worth more than any number of lives that may be lost. Maybe the people are living in such a wretched state that they would rather die for something they believe in rather than live a miserable life. As I am an avid fan of the musical theatre, I am going to take this opportunity (that I purposefully made for myself) to quote Les Miserables: “Will you give all you can give so that our banner may advance? Some will fall and some will live, will you stand up and take your chance? The blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France!” Shelley knows that it may require blood to grow the flowers of freedom, but the result is worth more than those lives that will be lost.

Eve is judicious?

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, he gives an account of what is colloquially considered the creation story. Most people summarize it by saying the God created the Earth, he created Adam and Eve, then they sinned. Book 9 gives the account of when Eve was tempted by Satan to partake of the forbidden fruit. Milton’s portrayal of these characters was interesting to me because he seemed to make Satan cunning, which is not unexpected, but he makes Eve a thoughtful and judicious character. I grew up in church and heard the story of Adam and Eve on a monthly basis and I never considered Eve to be one who thought through her decision to eat the fruit.

Satan approaches Eve as serpent and manipulates her into disobeying God by eating an apple from the forbidden tree. Milton present’s him as clever creature with an ability for flattering rhetoric. Satan convinced Eve to eat of the tree by subtly referring to her by powerful names. His first address to her is, “Wonder not Sovereign Mistress,” (9.532) and then further describes her “celestial” (9.540) beauty. He uses terms that are associated with being a goddess or a great ruler so as to make her feel more powerful than what she actually is. These descriptions help set up his argument that God only forbids the fruit because he wants her to partake of it in an act of independence. By subtly planting seeds of greatness in Eve’s mind through flattery, Satan was able to, essentially, convince her that she does not need God and is herself a powerful creature and should, therefore, eat the fruit to show her strength.

Eve was a fascinating character to me. I grew up in church and she was never presented as having a judgmental thought process. She was always portrayed as a weak woman who easily succumbed to Satan’s temptation without thinking about the consequences. Milton, however, gives Eve realistic characteristics of discernment. She first refutes Satan’s argument, but seems to become more curious as he progresses and eventually ask him to lead her to the tree he speaks of. Before she ate the fruit, she analyzed Satan’s reasoning. She first questioned She says, “He hath eat’n and lives And knows, and speaks, and reasons and discerns,” (9.764-765). She looks at Satan and sees him as an intelligent creature who did not die after he ate the fruit, but seems to have gained more knowledge. She further goes on to analyze what death is, stating, “What fear I then, rather what know to fear Under this ignorance of good and evil, Of God or death, of law or penalty?” (9.773-7750). Eve considers the consequences, given by God, for eating the fruit but concludes that she doesn’t herself understand what death is. Because of this, she should eat the fruit to gain the knowledge of what death and virtue are. As expected, she then takes a bite of what is referred to as an apple.

AEve seems to represent the typical human: a creature with judgment but has a great desire for the knowledge all and also easily succumbs to flattery. Most humans would react well to being compared to a god or a goddess and most would have eaten the fruit.  I think Milton’s goal in the portrayal of Eve was to present her as a character that resonates with the human reader by giving her comparable attributes. Her thought process is similar to one that I might have had in her situation. This does make sense though, since Eve is considered the mother of humankind.

Caliban: boozy and helpless or manipulative and cunning?

In Acts 2 and 3 of The Tempest, the reader gets a closer glimpse into the character of Caliban. In Act 1, he is presented as Prospero’s mistreated and powerless slave with no indication of his physical form. His interactions with Stephano and Trinculo reveal much about his attributes. They refer to Caliban as a “strange fish” (2.2.28) and as a “servant monster” (3.2.3), revealing that he does not have a human form, but that of a strange creature. Because of his appearance, Stephano and Trinculo take an interest in him, with the hope to use him for monetary gain back in Naples. They shove liquor down his throat and the pitiful Caliban seeks to worship Stefano as a god with a promise to show him around the island. He seems like a helpless slave who enjoys the liquor given to him; but is he? This is what Act 2 wants the reader/audience to think, but Act 3 indicates that Caliban is more cunning than he appeared.

While Caliban continues to partake in the “celestial liquor,” (2.2.121), he tells Stephano of his mistreatments by Prospero and desire for revenge. He convinces him to kill Prospero by promising that he would be the king of the island and that he could have Miranda. This leads the reader to wonder if Caliban is a sad drunk who has pity parties while under the influence or is he manipulating two fools into enacting the revenge he cannot do himself? The idea that he actually has a master plan in the works could further be confirmed by the last part of the scene. In lines 147 – 156, he gives a beautiful description of the noises on the island, showing the love he feels for his homeland. It would make sense for Caliban to want Prospero dead because he, essentially, took the island away from him and made him his servant. I think Caliban saw an opportunity to manipulate some drunkards (while also enjoying the drinks himself) into aiding him in his seek for revenge, of which I cannot blame him. I would be inclined to do the same if I were in his situation. I am curious to see what happens to Caliban and his new acquaintances.