May 9, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Discuss how three authors you have studied bring an end to their narratives.

The ending of a literary work is one of the most effective plot devices used by authors and poets; but writers choose to bring an end to narratives in a number of ways. I will focus on the works of McCarthy, Auden and Fitzgerald and how the endings they produce not only differ but are similar.

McCarthy makes extensive use of foreshadowing in his novel ‘The Road’ in the build up to the conclusion of the story. The motif of the boy ‘carrying the fire’ presents the boy as a messianic figure of sorts, responsible for the transportation of virtues imparted to him by his father. The role of the boy directly relates to the ending of the novel because even when his father dies and he is seemingly left alone, the boy still understands he must carry on albeit without the assistance of his father. However, the Boy can be interpreted less literally. The fact that the child carries a proverbial ‘fire’ as well as the Father saying ‘they are gone and I am left’ reveals the notion that the two main characters are in fact some of the only living people remaining on the road – fire is representative of warmth, brightness and life itself. The boy may be a representation of life guided by ordinary morality, significantly different to the innumerable violent people who populate the road. Imagery is another prevalent narrative device employed by McCarthy, directly prior to the death of the Father it says ‘old dreams encroached on the waking world’; earlier in the novel it is explained that pleasant dreams are in fact a bad omen and allude to imminent death. The introduction of the ‘old dreams’ into the psyche of the Man show the transition from life to death. One aspect of the ending perceived to be out of place is the short text in which McCarthy makes reference to ‘line trout’ who are swimming around, this random unveiling of one aspect of life that has seemingly remained unaffected by the events that transpired resulting the apocalyptic events for one of the first times in the book presents a notion of viable hope. Juxtaposed with the death that occurred just a few pages prior, McCarthy is able to swiftly transition from a dark tone to one of emergent hope.

Auden also makes extensive use of imagery in his poems, more specifically the personification of abstract concepts such as time itself. In poems such as ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’ he refers to the ability of ‘Time’ to ‘deceive’ and break the ‘threaded dances’. The idea of time being not only human-like but also antagonistic is central to the macabre endings of his poems. The disappearance of the lovers and clocks ceasing to chime is indicative of the influence of time on the characters within poems. On the other hand, in the poem ‘Victor’ time is presented as a deified concept. Time is described as watching the eponymous Victor ‘as a cat watches a mouse’, the predatory analogy suggests that Time is able to anticipate future events: this in turn makes the murder of Anna at the end of the poem more profound. The contrast between the proximate Time and the absent yet omniscient Time adds a new facet to the malevolence of the character – Time opts not to intervene, regardless of circumstances.

Religion and mortality are the themes that pervade the ending of Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. Although there are no explicit references to ideas about religion the only figure akin to God is the opthamologist whose eyes appear in the valley of ashes and results in Wilson stating ‘God sees everything’. The idea of the only constant in the fast moving world of the novel being an advertisement seems representative of the apotheosis of materialism itself. Decline of religion seems to be reflected in the immorality of characters throughout the novel, the infidelity of Tom and the deceptive personality of Jay Gatsby. By presenting a correlation between decline in religious belief and the breakdown in virtue, Fitzgerald appears to be alluding to the importance of religion in creating and sustaining morality. It can also be interpreted as a didactic expression of the insignificance of money, especially considering that regardless of the opulence of Gatsby’s lifestyle nothing can prevent the inevitable, death. This directly relates to the themes of mortality, the guests at Gatsby’s party are described as being like ‘moths’ and his Rolls Royce is described as an ‘omnibus’ showing his popularity and status. There is a stark contrast at his funeral where there are only three attendants. Fitzgerald employs pathetic fallacy through the ‘ever present rain’ to show the melancholic emotions not outwardly expressed by the mourners at the graveside. Also the insipidity at the funeral compared to the effervescence of the parties shows how the death of Gatsby is reflected in the disinterest of his former guests, reiterating the idea of tragedy being relative and life continuing regardless.

Ultimately the overarching constant found in the works of all three writers is the theme of death, used as an agent of moral lessons. McCarthy shows that despite the sadness that the death of a loved one can inflict, life must go on because each life has a purpose; Auden continuously tries to tell his readers that life is short and is to be enjoyed but also that no single aspect of life should supercede all others and Fitzgerald warns that despite material wealth, personal possessions have no sway over the one inevitability in life which is of course death.

May 6, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Write about the ways Rossetti tells the story in ‘Maude Clare’ (21 Marks)

Rossetti initially tells the story through setting, that of the wedding as well as flashbacks detailing experiences within natural surroundings. The poem opens with the description of ‘the church’ this is indicative of the wedding which is running theme of the poem. Presenting the scene so abruptly shows the reader the basis for most of the subsequent events. Furthermore references to blessing the ‘hearth’, ‘board’ and the ‘marriage-bed’ all important aspects of conventional Victorian life express the feelings of Maude wanting to be an important element in the life of her former love; also the intention of blessing the bed seems an almost rude notion due to the emotional and intimate nature of a marriage bed. During the period of flashbacks Maude talks of wading ‘for lilies’, the symbolism of associated with the lily is of purity so the talk of wading for lilies with Thomas is indicative of the purity they once possessed as well as the love they felt whilst children. Leading on from the collection of the lilies, returning the ‘faded leaves’ has connotations of death in an emotional sense: the fading away of the love between Maude and Thomas. In the final line of the seventh stanza, the revelation that the said lilies are ‘budding’ seems to be an expression of a hope for reconciliation despite the circumstances. Presentation of physical developed settings, as well as nature itself, allow Rossetti to not only provide a background for the story but also convey symbolic emotions.

Language is another narrative method employed by Rossetti in telling the story of Maude Clare. Within the poem the language fluctuates between the perspective of the omniscient narrator and the voices of characters within the poem itself. The early comparison between Nell whose is like a ‘village maid’ and Maude described as being ‘like a queen’ is the first insight into the conflict between the aforementioned characters as well as the apparently prominent differences between them. The choice of Thomas to marry the lesser of the two portrays him as a de facto villain rather than Maude Clare as a bitter former lover. Thomas’ mother blessing the marriage with ‘smiles, almost tears’ and him being ‘pale with inward strife’ makes it seem that Thomas is less to blame for the occurrence of his wedding than his bride but also justifies the sense of regret as well as anger felt by Maude. As well as Thomas’ obvious indecisiveness and worry there are allusions to Nell being fully aware of his half-hearted nature, she explains that she will love him ‘till he loves me best’: the use of a conjunctive shows that Nell understands that Thomas does not love her to the fullest extent but believes that he will eventually come to do so. Finally the scornful comments made by Maude are a progression from her desire to hurt the newly married couple, to acquiescence. Maude returns her ‘share of a fickle heart’ representative of Thomas easily altered affections before stating ‘I wash my hands thereof’ which is the final stage in schism between the two. Rossetti’s use of third-person narrative as well as dialogue allows the poet to tell the story but also sufficiently include character progression.

Form and structure are also an important narrative method employed by Rossetti. Maude Clare is written in the form of a ballad, but not without specific deviations from convention. The poem features an ‘abcb’ rhyming scheme as opposed to a ‘abab’ rhyme scheme, this subtracts from the ordinarily predictable structure
normally found in ballads. In addition the deviation from normality is also clear in the nature of the story itself, ballads tend to be perceived as telling stories of love or fairytale-like stories. Maude Clare does the contrary; love is retained as the main theme around which the events revolve. But rather than the story ending in reconciliation of lovers or in fact the creation of a new romance, Maude Clare ends in a bitter split between former lovers. Structurally the poem is largely chronological but the insertion of flashbacks provides background for the events that occur. Also the random interjection of unnamed characters such as Thomas’ mother allows the reader to understand the goings-on from numerous perspectives and surmise the emotions of characters despite the text being short. Both the form of the poem as a ballad and the chronological order are important methods of Rossetti’s story-telling.

Apr 15, 2013 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Write about McCarthy’s methods of telling the story from the top of page 284 to the end of the novel

One of the main methods employed by McCarthy in bringing the story to a close is tone, for the majority of novel the tone varies from emotional to to factual through which McCarthy is able to convey the most minute details pertaining to the daily lives of the two men as well as showing their relationship. However towards the end the tone cascades from an almost hopeful tone to a more drab reflection of the goings on. After the man is injured and needs to tend to his wounds it is explained that he takes the first aid kit ‘without comment’ in the light of the his treatment of the boy earlier in the book the father appears cold and unfeeling as opposed to his previous seemingly joyful demeanor. Furthermore prior to this display of stoicism from the Father he is described as shouting to the boy ‘Get the first-aid kit, damn it’ this random outburst of anger adds to the tone of hopelessness and the emergence of what appear to be true emotions. McCarthy also provides a dark omen in the dialogue, earlier in the book a hopeful tone is maintained through the reassurances of the father but on page 298 there is a swift change. The boy says ‘You said you wouldn’t ever leave me’ which is met with a reply of ‘I know. I’m sorry’. This piece of dialogue is drastically different from other examples, there is no reassurance and no motivational response, the Man has accepted his fate and wants to make peace with the Boy before his death; this dark, macabre tone continues on to the point of the Father’s death when the child awakes to find his dad lifeless and ‘stiff’. During the ending few pages of the book McCarthy does return to the hopeful tone in both the character of the long-awaited ‘good guys’ and the unseemly discourse on ‘brook trout’ both of which giving the idea of a new beginning or evolution into something greater and better.

McCarthy also makes use of third-person narrative that doesn’t only give the reader an outside perspective but at times appears to show the goings-on through the eyes of the two characters as well. One of the most profound examples of the transition into a first-person view is on page 299 when the Father wakes up a short time before passing away: the narrator states ‘He woke in the darkness’ but a short while after the perspective morphs into that of the Man ‘Drip of water. A fading light. Old dreams encroached upon the waking world’ these short sentences from the psyche of the older protagonist are indicative of him understanding that his death is imminent, proven true by the fact that his last part of dialogue follows on from the passage. The third-person, pansophical narrator also proves to be an effective story-telling method, the freedom because of the narrators steady presence means that McCarthy is able to describe what happens to the characters but also go into descriptions of the landscape.

A final, less explicit method employed by McCarthy is that of imagery and symbolism. Despite the eponymous road being an actual physical structure it can be perceived as what is also a reflection of the characters’ mindset. From the opening of the book it is made clear that the aim of the two is to travel south and reach a warmer climate, such a concrete objective is popular within post-apocalyptic novels but the road seems to be a constant presence throughout the events that transpire on their journey. Also regardless of what happens to the pair they always seem to return to the road and continue along it as if intense events did not occur beforehand which does seem to insinuate that the road might not only be a structure but additionally some sort of entity that draws in all manner of individuals. The Road serves not only as a major plot device but as a symbol of all the novel represents, change, transition and seeking new beginnings. The concept of ‘carrying the fire’ is also an allegory reiterated throughout the book, obviously the named fire is not physical but most likely a way of referring to the principles passed onto the boy by his father, this depicts the boy as a sort of messianic child responsible for transporting a code of ethics and passing it on this brings an optimistic end to an otherwise dark novel but also gives the reader a chance to develop ideas about what would happen after the book comes to a close.

Mar 18, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

The Road and Nuclear War

1. One of the most prominent ways in which the contents of the novel suggest that the post-apocalyptic world is the result of nuclear war is in the ubiquitous presence of ash. The man and boy are explained to be ‘shuffling through the ash’, taking into account that often the most identifiable effect of nuclear weapons is destruction mainly through burning suggests that perhaps the extent of ash is a remnant of widespread destruction stemming from the detonation of a nuke. Also, when the man and boy pass through the city, it is described as ‘mostly burnt’. This follows on from the supposed origins of the ash: burning caused by a bomb, for an area as large as a city to be noticeably burnt can only point to one source, a nuclear warhead; furthermore in the occurrence of a nuclear war its likely metropolitan areas would make prime targets for weapons of mass destruction.

2. By assuming that a bomb was the cause and comparing it with the horrors experienced by those in the novel it seems the main message McCarthy is trying to convey is one of anti-war. In times of disaster or war, often statistics play an overbearing role in reports about such events, but by focusing on two ordinary characters McCarthy shows just how devastating war can be on individuals. Additionally the depiction of a complete breakdown of society and values as we know them suggests that war can not only do great damage to particular groups of people but is detrimental to a nation in its entirety. Overall I think the themes present in the book and the traumatic events the reader is exposed to are a reflection of McCarthy’s fervent anti-war sentiment.

3. Keeping in line with some of the Christian themes in the book the description of a scorched landscape covered in ash might be the aftermath of an apocalyptic event (i.e. ‘fire and brimstone’) in which most of the world which didn’t live up to Judeo-Christian ideas about morality. Also the Bible espouses that ash is the source of life and the manifestation of the finality of death (ashes to ashes, dust to dust) which suggests that a prosperous country had reached the pinnacle of development was forcibly returned to its humble origins. The reference to a deficiency in ‘godspoke men’ is presumably a reference to the breakdown of organised religion as such and the patrons who represent it which ergo presents the man and boy as some sort of forsaken sinners who weren’t rescued before the onset of the apocalypse.

Mar 6, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

The limited linguistic palette and repetitive techniques echo the monotony of the post-apocalyptic world that is described

The Road is a harrowing tale of the journeys of an unnamed man and his son, it features major themes including spirituality, violence, isolation and a continuing idea of good vs. evil. However one thing that remains constant is the structure within the book which all revolves around the continuing journey of the dual protagonists.

One example of repetitive language is the repeated reference to the road itself; the word is used 25 times in the novel and is also the inspiration for the title. Despite the momentary diversions from travel, such as when the two find a bunker, the entirety of the novel is based on travelling along the road and stopping for short periods of time for rest. The fact that such a vague word, and subject in fact, is repeated so much time makes clear to the reader the importance of the road itself transforming it from a physical structure to almost a deity which is the only constant existence in a world permeated by death, destruction and deterioration.

Furthermore, the other concrete nouns tend to consist of objects necessary for survival with words like ‘tarp’ and ‘cart’ being mentioned almost 200 times collectively. In a novel of a different genre McCarthy would have been criticized for being repetitive, but within the post-apocalyptic genre not only is monotonous nature of living shown which suggests how desolate the landscape. Also the constant repetition of these words is indicative of just how essential the items are because at any point where the cart is lost or there is no means of building shelter then the man and his son will effectively be condemned to death.

The monotony of events in the post-apocalyptic world is also repeated in the dialogue, most of the communication between the man and the boy is composed of questions asked by the boy, met with answers which he accepts with the phrase ‘okay’ which is repeated a total of 195 times in the novel. As with the nouns used in normal cases such an excessive use of a simple term would be met with criticism but it functions as a means of showing how isolated the people and place is. The difference in age between the two characters means that regardless of mutual understanding the conversational ability is largely limited and with little choice both have to be happy with what they have.

Finally, the emotional descriptions provide insight into how the characters perceive the situation they have to deal with. Emotions like despair and terror are mentioned but oddly enough the word sadness is not used a single time in the novel. This does not directly show how monotonous life is, but the fact that the characters cease to feel sadness suggests that the experiences along the road have become so repetitive that reactions have become near non-existent: fear and desperation remain but there is no proverbial ‘licking your of own wounds’.

As a whole, McCarthy’s deliberate choice to restrict his use of words adds to the themes presented in the novels, a flamboyant medley of unnecessary language would have defeated the ideas within the genre the novel belongs in, so the limits McCarthy has placed on his writing definitely have been instrumental in making clear the monotony of life on the road.

Mar 6, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Write about the significance of the ways three writers you have studied have used places in their narratives

Place is a narrative device paramount to effectively helping the plot progress but also conveying ideas about mood, themes and time-period. Rossetti, Fitzgerald and McCarthy are three writers with three very different writing styles however the one constant is the importance of location in their writing.

Christina Rossetti was a notoriously religious poet known for her writings which often feature bohemian re-makings of literary archetypes. One poem which features heavy use of place is ‘the Convent Threshold, rather than expected Rossetti’s references to place are not actual physical locations but allegories for her christian worldview. In the poem the protagonist states ‘I choose the stairs that mount above, stair after golden sky-ward stair’ this shows that the unnamed narrator has chosen to live a moral life which reflects in her ascent to paradise; this contrasts with her lover whose ‘eyes look earthward’. Presumably the protagonists lovers’ choice to maintain ‘worldly’ wants results in his condemnation to hell as opposed to her salvation. Through descriptions of not only places but character perceptions of them Rossetti is able to write an engrossing narrative with implicit suggestions about morality. A second poem in which place plays a considerably large role is the famous ‘Goblin Market’ which charts the exploits of two sisters which results in a fall from grace, descriptions of the ‘brookside rushes’, ‘the glen’ make the area seem comparable to paradisaical Garden of Eden with the ‘goblin men’ fulfilling the role of the serpent who coaxes the well-meaning protagonist(s) into consuming forbidden fruit: this relates to Rossetti’s connection with nature because the juxtaposition of enticing appearance with sinister undertones further reiterates her idea that nature is beautiful and admirable but at the same time dangerous. Overall the significance of place within the writing of Rossetti is largely symbolic with the aim of conveying ideas only obvious when looked at in context.

Similarly to Rossetti but in a more metropolitan context McCarthy and Fitzgerald also make great use of place in their writing. In the novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ the antithesis to the beacon of upper-class living is the drab, grey ‘Valley of Ashes’ and in McCarthy’s ‘the Road’ ash is one of the few constants in the novel. In terms of symbolism relating to the substance, the most obvious of which is seeing ash as destruction physically manifest. Ash can only be produced by the burning of a material, within the context of ‘the Road’ the situations suggests that the ash may be the by-product of some sort of conflict or major natural disaster but as with ‘the Great Gatsby’ the ash may also be symbolic of the breaking down of morality, societal conventions and society itself. Furthermore both of the novels are based in the USA, a nation famous for promises of opportunity however the contrast between excessive wealth and disadvantage in Gatsby; and the swift decline from global superpower to lawless state are a more ‘warts and all’ depiction of the country in two different time periods.

Ultimately whilst in differing contexts the writings of Rossetti, Fitzgerald and McCarthy all make use for descriptions of place as not only a plot device but a discreet means of conveying ideas.

Mar 3, 2013 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Nietzsche and Dystopia

The value attached to hardship by Nietzsche at times seems overbearing and harsh, however it can’t be argued with that the views espoused by Nietzsche and his approach to life are undoubtedly true.

The theme of suffering being a catalyst to greatness permeates innumerable philosophies and views of life,the great ‘prophets’ of Abrahamic religions and the enlightened ones of Eastern religions, but even in a secular context the idea is still prevalent. Homeric heroes like Hercules and Odysseus undergo trials and tribulations but emerge from the proverbial ‘tunnel’ victorious in the end.

Especially within Cormac Mccarthy’s ‘the Road’ moral nihilism, the idea that there is no right or wrong but only survival or death, is a key theme and arguably the reason why the man and the boy remain alive for such a long period of time. Within an orthodox society taking food from abandoned homes would still be seen as morally dubious however the dismissal of such opinions means that the two characters are able to find nourishment. Furthermore the lack of overbearing theology means that in deciding that suicide is the best option if circumstances encourage it, there is no sense of guilt or fear of being condemned to some sort of spiritual punishment.

Ultimately Nietzsche was correct in viewing suffering and pain as a defining factor in the life of human beings, because whilst the reader parts with the boy when he meets the almost Messianic ‘good guy’ it is highly likely that were the story to continue the boy who has become wise beyond his years would be instrumental in rebuilding and re-establishing society.

Mar 3, 2013 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Analysis of ‘The Road’

Number Crunching

  • Connectives – the connectives within the books sentence structure seem to be quite consequential; words like ‘although’ and ‘but’ suggest that following a main point there is another side which in-line with the general structure of the book is almost definitely negative. Aside from consequential negatives there are also leading connectives which make way for additions to events.
  • Adjectives – these tend to be largely bleak and in a sense pessimistic as the negative adjectives greatly outnumber the examples of positive negatives which are only found in the more idealised areas of the novel (i.e. the dreams)
  • Other Patterns – the patterns of terms such as ‘okay’ and ‘said’ in comparison to the non-existence of the phrase ‘replied’ show that the dialogue is largely simplified, this is generally because of the depth of the relationship between the twin protagonists. Furthermore the prevalence of words referring to others like ‘somebody’ and ‘someone’ reiterate just how prominent the father and son are within the story arc and also the extent of isolation and suspicion towards any individuals outside of the duo.
  • Nouns – in terms of number there is a fairly balanced distribution of concrete and abstract: the concrete nouns tend to refer to either the landscape ‘ash’ and ‘road’ are examples or refer to items necessary for survival i.e. ‘cart’ and ‘tarp’ whereas the abstract nouns generally refer to emotions such as ‘despair’ .and ‘terror’. This shows how the environment presented tends to have direct influence on the emotions experienced. Also the concrete nouns relating to survival are the most often repeated which gives insight into survival being the ubiquitous theme. Overall the nature of the concrete nouns and the rarity of pronouns appears peculiar but is reflective of the genre because it further hammers home the prominence of the major theme: survival in extreme circumstance.

 

Key Episode – Questions about mortality (pg. 9)

 

  1. This episode is the first in which I learned just how strong the bond is between the ‘Man’ and the ‘Boy’ actually is, within a simple page of dialogue between the them, the two are able to have a feasible discussion about death and the implications of it which in itself to me appeared ominous ergo giving me a slight sadness because the naivety of the boy compared with the affection of the father makes the notion of them being separated quite depressing. In order to evoke these emotions McCarthy makes the boy ask multiple questions which are met with fairly simples answers, also the fact that the child asks questions about death despite his blatant innocence shows that the experiences are not befitting of a child and the father is paramount to his survival.
  2. Conforming to dystopian genre it is likely that the moment of relative peace and quite will be followed directly by a violent or tumultuous event. Emotionally it will probably change from sadness to a tense, fearful atmosphere.
  3. This episode, as I mentioned before, is the first in which it is made clear that the relationship is an idealised representation of a father-son bond because they understand one another without need for much verbal communication. Through the events within this episode the individual personalities of both characters are established as well as the nature of their relationship.
  4. The main story-telling device employed by the author in this particular episode is language, the episode almost completely consists of language and is similar to other parts of language in the novel: specifically how the boy proceeds to ask numerous questions that are met with fairly simple answers that still manage to satiate his curiosity.
  5. I think that this is a key episode; it merges well into the story progression particularly as the novel manages to flow well without chapters and this event does not stray from the structural integrity of the story. In addition to this ominous nature of the episode greatly contributes to the reader’s understanding of events as well as being a major vehicle for character and relationship establishment.
Mar 3, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Discuss the Relationships in the ‘Sister Maude’

The foremost relationship presented in the poem is that of the unnamed protagonist and her sister Maude, the narrator seems to have a deep-seated resentment towards the aforementioned sister. The poem begins with a rhetorical question which is answered with the revelation ‘Oh who but Maude, my Sister Maude’: although a simple answer the fact that her name is not only referred to once, but repeated, suggests that the narrator has strong feelings about what happened as well as being hurt even more knowing that the source of her distress is her own sister.

 

In addition to this the narrators condemnation of Maude to hell ‘Bide you with death and sin’ and ‘Sister Maude shall get no sleep, Either early or late’ is indicative of the narrators belief that Maude is deserving of an eternity and hell but also her desire for Maude to go to hell because of her betrayal, a punishment she hopes and wants to be eternal and without reprieve.

 

As well as the betrayal itself perpetrated by Maude the narrator appears to resent her also because of the motives for betraying her saying ‘Though I had not been born at all, He’d never have looked at you’ this choice of words implies that the only reason why Maude did what she did was out of jealousy aimed at the protagonist.

Another relationship within the poem is between the protagonist and her deceased lover. Some of the ways in which she refers to the man seem to convey a sense of regret. ‘You might have spared his soul sister’ by saying this, the narrator seems to believe that her lover may have committed some sort of sin, but still manages to deflect the blame for his shortcoming onto Maude, this seems fairly rational considering that presumably Maude did have a part in the failure of the protagonist’s lover however her ignorance regarding the responsibility of the lover himself shows that whilst to an extent the hate directed towards Maude is justified but may be a accentuated by the narrators view of her lover as being almost infallible.

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