AD's English Literature : August 2014

General Notes on Tragedy, Classical Tragedy and Romantic Tragedy

In the Greek language, the word ‘tragedy’ means ‘Goat Song’ and the word came to be used for plays because of the practice of awarding goats to winners in a dramatic contest. The plays were generally serous in tone. For the Greeks, tragedy simply meant “A play with a sorrow ending,” usually, at least one death, “The action and the thoughts are create seriously and with a respect for human personality.”

The central character in tragedy, according to Aristotle is a person of admirable character and important position who is reined by single flaw of characters. Tragic flow or Hamartia, such as the ambition of Macbeth. The atmosphere of tragedy is sombre and serious. The tragedy arouses in us the emotion of pity and fear, but only to purge us of these and similar emotion and it has a spiritually gracing effect. And important feature of true tragedy in that we are left with a sense of greatness of man as well as of the suffering involved in human life.
In English literature there are comic interludes to heighten the effect by contrast. The tragedy gives pleasure and that of a high order. The spectacle of a noble character caught in the audience to a level for above the petty interest and troubles of its own everyday life. It feels exalted and ennobled rather than distressed.

Critical Analysis of Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines, Story of an Indian family and an English family in the Transitional Days of 1960's

Simply, Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines (1988), is about an Indian family and an   English  family in the transitional days of 1960's covering three  cities- Calcutta, London and Dhaka.  Ghosh primarily focuses on the meaning of political freedom in the modern world and the force of nationalism. One might struck by the  complexity of themes, destiny of narrative texture, or use of language in The Shadow Lines. But critics observe that Ghosh puts the very concept of nationalism and nationality, as it were, under the microscope, and analyses the ideologies, exigencies and implications inherent in it.  In fact,  Ghosh even questions the idea of nationalism and national boundaries while at the same time granting its existence an its operation upon human minds.  

Interpretation from “Louise” by W. Somerset Maugham: References to Conversations that takes place between the narrator and Louise

“I could never understand why Louise bothered with me. She disliked me and I knew that behind my back she seldom lost the opportunity of saying a disagreeable thing about me.”- “Louise” by W. Somerset Maugham
Introduction: # William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), one of the best known writers of the present day, was not only a novelist, but also one of the most successful dramatists and short-story writer. His short-story “Louise” , published in 1936, is about the woman who used to get everything what she wants using her “weak heart”.  So, the story is entitled by a woman’s name and is written in the first person. Thus, taking into consideration that the author is a man, even before the reading, it is possible to suppose that the story will be about a woman who has left a great impression about herself. The story is characterized by gripping narrative and deep emotional impact. It is permeated with irony. Narration is broken by ironical portrayal of the main character Louise.  In fact, the gist of the problem raised by the author in this story is relationship between people. This problem is always urgent. The main idea conveyed by the author is that some people can be so selfish that they ready to ruin the lives of others (even the members of their own family) in order to achieve their aims. 

Hidden Irony # As the author is a keen observer of human nature particularly the relationships between people, he is narrating the entire story of Louise in his own words. The story is framed in an ironic way, but at first it is a hidden irony. He says that Louise had a delicate and gentle nature and though she disliked the author, she never told him that directly but her delicate, ladylike gestures conveyed to him what she meant. They knew each other for twenty-five  years and according to her, he was a course, brutal, cynical and vulgar fellow. But one thing he could not understand, in spite of all that, why did she take an interest in him She invited him for lunch and dinner quite often and also asked him to spend a week-end at her country house. At last, the author thought to have understood her motive. It was the author alone who did not believe in her and could not be fooled by her. She knew it and was constantly trying to convince him and took it for granted that one day, she would succeed.

The prevailing moods of the story are ironical and emotional. This story is realistic in style. It is reveals human virtues and vices. The story “Louise” has a gripping and fast-moving plot. The plot of the story is complicated. The story has the following composition: there is no exposition. The development of the plot begins from the first paragraph. The climax is logically reached in dialogue between the narrator and Louise. The denouement is shown in the last paragraph. The elements of plot ordered chronologically. There are two main characters: Louise and the author himself, where Louise is a antagonist and the author is protagonist. There are also some flat characters such as Tom Maitland, the first husband of Louse; George Hobhouse, her second husband, and her daughter Iris.
A Second Marriage # One day, as they were sailing, Tom Maitland suffered from cold as he gave away to Louise all the rugs to keep her warm. He died and she was left with a daughter and a good fortune. Everybody thought that she would soon follow her husband to the grave, but she survived the shock. Iris was her daughter and fearing that she would be left an orphan, people were all the more concerned about Louise and she was not allowed to do anything tiresome or inconvenient. At first she refused a second marriage because of her weak heart, but after a year, she married George Hobhouse, who was an ambitious soldier and was happy to take care of Louise. But he resigned his commission because of Louise’s health; they had to spend the winter at Monte Carlo and the summer at Deauville.
Outlived # The entire story shows Louise’s usual behavior and produces the necessary effect on the reader. And even that fact that she always repeated to her husband that she wouldn’t live long and the fact that she “outlived” both of them produces an ironic effect. For example, “She had too much delicacy ever to make a direct statement, but with a hint and a sigh and a little flutter of her beautiful hands she was able to make her meaning plain”. 

 It is possible to say that all Louise’s life is one big antithesis, because she has lived more than forty years softly making other people do what she wants but constantly repeating “I hate the thought of anyone sacrificing themselves for me.”
She might have a heart-attack!! Author knew Louise to be a weak and thin girl who was taken extreme care of by her parents because she had suffered from scarlet fever which left her with a weak heart. She married Tom Maitland, who was both good-looking and rich and who was ready to do anything in the world for her and make her happy as long as she lived. He was a fine athlete but gave up his games because he thought that if he had to leave her for a day, she might have a heart-attack. She yielded to him whenever there was a difference in opinion because she was supposed to be the most submissive wife. Due to her weak hear, he could not think of upsetting her. So she had her own way as was persuaded by him. Once, the author saw her walking eight miles on an expedition, and he said to Tom Maitland that she was stronger than one could have thought. To that he replied that all the best heart specialists in the world said that she had a very delicate heart. But she had an unconquerable spirit. The author also noticed that an amusing party enabled her to dance till five in the morning and a dull party made her sick and she went home early. The author always commented on her being strong enough, and she didn’t like him to say so.
Louise-antagonist and the narrator -protagonist # Coming to the point, there are two main characters: Louise and the narrator himself, where Louise is an antagonist and the narrator is a protagonist. There are also some flat characters such as Tom Maitland, the first husband of Louse; George Hobhouse, her second husband, and her daughter Iris. Maugham was a shrewd observer of life and keen student of human nature, he was a highly intelligent man of the world, cherishing few illusions, and rarely admitting any trace of sentimentality into his works. As a playwright, his best plays are the ironical comment of a cynically humorous observer, aiming to present life as it really is.
A True to Life # This is a true to life story , which can happen anywhere (the author does not even point to a place where the actions have been developing).  we can easily presume that he decided to write this story because Louise really had impressed him much. It seems to me that in some cases he even admires the ability of this woman to make everything in a way she wants it to be done. It produces such effect that she dies at the day of her daughter’s wedding only because she wants to show that she is really ill and has had right that her daughter’s wedding will kill her.
Hospital for Convalescent Officers# Louise, in spite of her weak heart, enjoyed the next two or three years- dressed beautifully, attended parties, gambled heavily. When war broke out, George Hobhouse rejoined his regiment and was killed after three months. Louise kept herself busy by turning her house at Monte Carlo, to a hospital for convalescent officers. The strain did not kill her, as her friends and Louise herself thought it would. Her hospital became most popular in France.
A Monstrous Woman? The author took the opportunity to speak to Louise about it. He blamed her for being so selfish. He told her that for twenty five years, she had been fooling people—she buried two husbands, and now she, was about to ruin her daughter’s life. She was a monstrous woman. He thought that these words would give her a heart attack but it didn’t. She gave him a ‘gentle smile’ and said very soon he would be dreadfully sorry to have said that to her. Finally, on the author’s insistence, she agreed to get them married within a month, even though it would kill her She blamed the author for having no pity for her weak health and that she would die Louise kept her word. On the day of the wedding, in the morning, at ten o’clock, Louise died due to heart attack. “She died gently, forgiving Iris for having killed her.”
  When she was proposed by Tom Maitland, they thought that their daughter was much too delicate for the strenuous state-of marriage. But when Tom was determined to do everything for her, they handed her to him ‘as a sacred charge.’
No Submissive# Actually, Louise was not submissive. She pretended to be submissive and whenever there was a difference in opinion or a tussle about anything with her husband, initially she would yield:: But then her heart would fail her and then she would be laid up, in her usual sweet nature, without any complaints, for a week. Tom would be frightened to cross her and at last would persuade her to have her own way.  One day, when they were sailing, Louise needed all the rugs that were there to keep herself warm. Therefore, poor Tom died due to cold.
Stronger than One# Seeing Louise walk eight miles on an expedition the narrator remarked that she was stronger than one would have thought. Louise said that she would pay for it the next day and be at death’s door. The narrator told her that he thought she was strong enough to do what she wanted to; Louise retorted that he should not expect her to fall down dead just to please him. After the death of her second husband the narrator asked her if her heart was much better. She said that it was not, and that a specialist had told her that she must be prepared for the worst. The narrator commented that she had been prepared for that for nearly twenty years. Apparently the narrator was sarcastic, and Louise did not like him because she suspected that he did not believe in her.

How to the Reading of the History of English Literature?

"All of Stratford, in fact, suggests powdered history—add hot water and stir and you have a delicious, nourishing Shakespeare."
Margaret Halsey (1910 - 1997)

The history of English literature is invested with great importance, indicating as it does a landmark or development and expansion in the study of English literature as a whole. Indeed, from the ancient tribal worlds of Anglo Saxon to the present century space-age English literature has found a vivid and panoramic reflection in the history of the ages. Even a closer observation of the wide range and astonishing variety of the history of the ages is a formidably stupendous task, not to speak of scrutiny and analysis.

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