1st Component:“The Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad is one of the great novels of English literature.
This novel exposes the greed, malice and selfishness of the European men. They exploit the wealth of Africa in the name of civilizing the natives. They take away their ivory and in return gave them hunger, destitution, poverty, degradation and death. The English men of this novel lack morals and conscience. Conrad observed the hypocrisy of his country men and exposed it in a marvelous way in this short piece of art.
Heart of Darkness is an allegory that takes into account the soul’s journey through purgatory and hell to salvation, and that expedition is analogous to the pursuit for the Holy Grail or is equivalent to expedition of Dante’s Inferno. Conrad major objective in writing a sea-voyage is best expressed in one of his letter that manifests that his major concern was that the “public mind fastens on externals, on mere facts, such for instance as ships and voyages, without paying attention to any deeper significance they might have.” (Jean-Aubry 1927, 320-321) I like the novel due to its variety of themes as mentioned above and symbolic representations of these themes.
I especially adore the way Conrad exposes the greed, malice and selfishness of the European men in the name of enlightenment and civilization. They exploit the wealth of Africa in the name of civilizing the natives. They take away their ivory and in return gave them hunger, destitution, poverty, degradation and death. The English men of this novel lack morals and conscience.
Conrad observed the hypocrisy of his country men and exposed it in a marvelous way in this short piece of art.My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun by Emily Dickinson is a beautiful symbolic poem that takes into account various contemporary themes. Historically, it considers the themes of civil-war torn American society and its socio-cultural values. I liked the poem due to the fact that its different from Emily Dickinson’s other poems that merely represent loneliness, solitude, death and a melancholic environment. Furthermore, I liked the poem due to its symbolic subtlety. She describes the vigor and enthusiasm of a section of American people to safeguard their property and land during the civil war days.
It is fairly understandable that a general insight is provided by the poet that is not result mere speculative drifts but is based on real-life experiences. Emily Dickinson blends the same insight into the historical experiences of her time.“Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller is a modern tragic play that takes into account the story of a salesman who is now in the dusk of his lifetime. Willy Loman is a salesman who lives in Brooklyn but travels extensively for his job. He is sixty-three years old. He is completely exhausted both physically and mentally and is on the verge of collapse. He has a feeling that he can no longer fulfill the demands of his profession. His wife Linda is his sole support.
There are of course flashes of courage and bravery at times; but it is just like occasional lightening in a life behind which the shadows of self-destruction in stint loom large. He feels hollow and terribly lonely. Depression, as a result, kept on piling up on him.
He also feels that failure has become family inheritance. Even his sons are not able to fulfill what they aspired for. His son Happy is happy-go-lucky person. He is shallow and vain and is not serious about life. Willy had pinned most of his hopes and faith on his elder son Biff, who is nothing more than a petty thief and at the age of thirty-four, he is still wandering about aimlessly. Willy constantly tries to instill his own values of salesmanship in his sons. Willy lost his respect with his elder son because of the discovery of an affair of his with a woman.
It is only towards the end that they reconcile. His sons come home and the father considers it as an opportunity to bring the family together again. The sons go back to their employees but their endeavors ended in failure. Willy asked his employer for an increase in pay but got himself fired. Biff confided his disillusionment to his father and weeps realizing the pitiable condition of his father.
His weeping made his father realize that his son still love him. In order to make atonement for the past lapses and misgiving the father decided to kill himself so that with the help of the insurance money the sons could start a new life. I also liked the play due to new concept of tragedy introduced by Miller in the modern drama. Miller’s concept of tragedy was new and different from Aristotelian tragic conception as Miller was indeed sensitive to contemporanaeity and meant his play to be a tragedy. I think his theory of tragedy is more relevant in the contemporary world than the Aristotelian tragedy. At about the time of play’s opening, Miller himself, when interviewed, stressed the tragic intention: “The tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing his sense of personal dignity.” (Miller, 1949)His [Willy’s] refusal to accept reality is a tragedy bigger than his dismal life, and it exasperates his son Biff with whom he had a troubled relationship.
Willy refused to accept that his sons are also ‘failures’ such as him, and in order to make their lives better he falls into a trap of further hopelessness. Kilnghoffer sums up this phenomenon in this way;“A man’s descent to failure is horrendous to contemplate. Whatever line of work you are in, we are all salesmen, selling our products, our services, our selves”. Says Will’s meighbor Charley , in a line that crystallizes the anxiety of uncountable men everywhere, not just in America: “ And when they start not smiling back.” –employers, partners, customers- “ That’s an earthqauke.” (Kilnghoffer).
I love the play as it is a tragedy of our time and of our society. Willy’s reveries are parallel to those of any twenty first century American national. But fault lies with his direction i.e. completely opposite to the common social current and hence he meets his catastrophic fortune. The most dominating theme of the story is that of “American Dream” or rather “Perverted American Dream”. It is very symbolic story of “Roaring Age” of later 1940s America, particularly the story of shattering of American Dream in that era of economic prosperity and material abundance. It exposes how the American people adulterated American Dream and how energy to be burnt in noble purpose gets started to be burnt in show off and individual pleasure, fame and success.
The people become selfish, indulge themselves in vulgar means of wealth, disloyalty is at its peak and the most important of all.2nd Component:My Life had stood – a Loaded GunAlthough minute particulars of Emily Dickinson’s life is not known well yet is obvious that her poetry is widely affected by her life. It must be noted that her poetry does not merely contains ordinary depiction of events of autobiographical elements but it takes into account entirely novel manifestations of her life and places it in the context of contemporary socio-political milieu.
Although Emily Dickinson’s poetry remained obssed with themes of seclusion and death but her poem “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun” depicts themes of feminine power and cravings, her paradoxical (conventional and unconventional) feministic approach, and depiction of strife of contemporary American socio-cultural life in general and pathos and miseries of civil war in particular, which are directly derived from her personal experiences and the socio-cultural milieu in which she was living.Emily Dickinson was born Amherst, a serene and quiet village in Connecticut valley of Massachusetts in 1830 and died in the same village in 1886. “Very few people beyond her neighborhood heard about her during her lifetime.” (Meltzer 2004, 9) Her life is marked by physical withdrawal from the outer world. Year by year her indifference to the outer world grew more arctic. Emily Dickinson’s physical seclusion was a sign of her emotional and psychological withdrawal from society around him.
Most of her poetry is a manifestation of this phenomenon of her life. “The Soul Selects Her Own Society” has some relation to her choice of a life of seclusion made about this time (1862), preferring her own small circle ands closing the door on the general world as the opening line suggest. In the poems of this period, there is certainly a fusion of three great events in her life that seems to have taken place simultaneously: withdrawal onto solitude and dedication both to poetry and to the image of a beloved.In last years, Emily was obsessed with the idea of death and as her close associates who departed to “that bareheaded life under the grass”, she expressed her sympathies with deceased in verses that are morbidly questioning the true nature of death.
Her poetry reflects many times her poetic insight into the nature of death. Her understanding of death is illustrated in more that 500 lyrics. As she suffered from dreadful isolation, so death was darling to her and was the only solace to the pathos and miseries of her life. This is clearly manifested in “Because I could not stop for Death”.Her contemporary era was a critical phase in American history and she was not oblivious to it.
Her life was affected by the socio-political affairs of the times and this aspect of her life is also depicted in her poetry. “Emily Dickinson was writing at an explosive time in American history.” (Martin 2007, 24) For example, “My Life stood a Loaded Gun” was written in age when American society was torn with civil war.Emily Dickinson’s “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun” is a powerful poem that takes into account various thematic expressions. Its comprehensiveness in brevity is another essential feature of this poem. Emily Dickinson has utilized the powerful literary technique of symbolism throughout the poem.
This poem symbolizes power and unconventional feminist urges on the art of the poetess. In this poem, Emily Dickinson finds an instrument adequate enough to render her need for fulfillment through absolute commitment to love’s service. The poem begins with a brilliant conceit.
Fused from the ambiguous abstraction of life and the explicit concretion of loaded gun, it expresses the charged potential of the human being who remains dormant until “identified” into a conscious vitality. And after hat identification, we observe the start of a new poem i.e. the start of a new life.Historically, it was written in age when American society was torn with civil war. The symbol that Emily Dickenson has used is an essence of an experience. It is quite obvious that a universal insight that the poet tries to express in not obtained merely by imaginative wandering, it is based on concrete experiences. Emily Dickinson presents the same insight into the historical experiences of her time.
The very first stanza symbolizes the paradox of finding oneself through losing oneself. It is rendered in the poem by one word: identity is claimed when someone claimed the gun as her own. The American civil war was also the process of finding ones own identity by losing ones own identity. The internal rivalries and petty identities were to be removed to achieve a national reconciliation. This national reconciliation ultimately brought the national identity. Although this process was on halt and stayed “in corners” for many decades till a day came. Now they “roam in Sovereign Woods”.So Emily Dickinson has epitomized a national experience.
Now this “gun” is “foe of His – I’m deadly foe”. “His can be described in various connotations. “His” is emblem of nation state that is fully sovereign. “His” is an integrated society or the one who longs to be integrated after the pathos and miseries of Civil war. Poetess further emphasize that “None stir the second time -/ whom I lay a Yellow Eye -/ an emphatic Thumb”. All these gestures are for those who are internal or external antagonists to the new national experience.
This poem has also captivated the feminist attention who has given it a new evaluative dimension. Some critics are of the view that thorough this poem, Emily has tried to present a woman that she was not primarily in the second half of the 19th century whereas other feminist critics holds the view that poem totally negates the feminine qualities and the main metaphor considers “everything [that]”woman” is not: cruel not pleasant, hard not soft, emphatic not weak, one who kills not one who nurtures.” (Bennet, 1986)But Emily Dickinson has provided a framework of power i.e. feminine power and established certain pattern on which women power can grow and has shown certain direction where women power can direct itself.
It must be kept in mind that all the action verbs in the poem are not destructive or of insidious nature. It expresses powers to “hunt” “speak” “smile” “guard” and “kill”. So this power has paradoxical nature and a balance mix of these powers is necessary as shown and done by Emily Dickinson.
Furthermore, Miss Dickinson does show a longing for deadliness but in actuality it is only for safeguarding. Wrath is a part of her being but she does not let it go if not invoked or incited. So her aggression and anger and the consequences as a result of it(killing and deaths) are not unwomanly but are an extension of her very personality. These feelings are not uncommon but are surely unpredictable.In the second half of the poem, she is only providing guard to one who has helped her to get rid of her alienation and had blessed her with intimacy. Here Emily Dickinson seems conventional in her feminist approach that a woman can do everything unwomanly for the one who is her companion in true sense of the word. Christine Miller (1987) says in this regard that “In the second instance, the speaker prefers guarding the master to having shared his pillow, that is, to having shared intimacy with him–primarily sexual, one would guess from the general structure of the poem.”On the other hand, this poem expresses the agonies of a female poet that was restricted by her family and society to a narrow life devoid of any intellectual and/or literary independence.
These social and familial compulsion produced rashness in Emily’s attitude. She was forced to produce art in seclusion and to it keep to herself only. So language becomes her only mean and tool to bear the torments of her intellectual beings. She embodies language as gun and is of the view that this loaded gun accompanied with her literary beings is fatal for socio-cultural compulsion against women. It provided her a sense of power and control. She further eulogizes language and considers it a safeguard to her literary being.
And her language is enemy to al those traditions, norms, people and things who are against her poetical endeavors.This poem can further illustrate the conflicts between two classes with their interest. Although this conflict is not materialistic or monetary but it exists in the socio-cultural domain. One class adheres to the conventions and does not allow female members to express their view on any issue especially in the form of poetry whereas other lass are comprised of the intellectual beings who consider it their right to create and disseminate their thoughts and ideas in the literary form. This poem symbolizes the struggle of the latter class and demonstrates that they are more powerful than the convention-ridden society.The poem starts with an individual quest for his/her identity but it changed into a capitalized “We”.
Now the concern of the poetess is no more individualistic and sentimental, rather it has been transformed into something collective, societal and concrete. The identities have been mingled up with each other. Both owner and the “owned” perform the same masculine activities. They are no more individual but become a part of the larger whole i.e. society.
Overall the poem captures a variety of themes through various thematic expressions. Although the conclusion is disturbing but it has relevance to the thematic expressions as it tries to resolve the problem initiated in the first half. Powerlessness or even fear of that is death to the poetess has no other option but “to die” without powerlessness. Last stanza is not a moralistic commentary but is identification of a wider truth.So it is clear that her life and environment deeply affected her poetical endeavors. She “was not writing in a vacuum: she was both a product of her culture and an active participant through discussions, letters, and poetry” (Martin 2007, 24) and she skillfully reflected all these individual and social experiences in her poetry.
In the history of American literature, Emily Dickenson occupies a pivotal role. Her poetry is rich in themes and had a sharp stabbing quality which disturbs and overthrows the spiritual ease of her readers. Her comprehensiveness in brevity is another essential feature of her poetry. Almost all her poems are written in short measures. The secret for Dickenson wayward power seems to lie in her intensity of spiritual experience.Works citedBennett, Paula. My Life a Loaded Gun: Dickinson, Plath, Rich, and Female Creativity.
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