Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature

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Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature



Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature


Jennifer McClinton-Temple Editor


Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature Copyright © 2011 by Jennifer McClinton-Temple All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher. For information contact: Facts On File, Inc. An imprint of Infobase Publishing 132 West 31st Street New York NY 10001 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data McClinton-Temple, Jennifer. Encyclopedia of themes in literature / Jennifer McClinton-Temple. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8160-7161-6 (hc : alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-4381-3268-6 (e-book) 1. English literature—Themes, motives—Encyclopedias. 2. American literature—Themes, motives—Encyclopedias. I. Title. PR19.M35 2010 820.9’303—dc22 2009047605 Facts On File books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk quantities for businesses, associations, institutions, or sales promotions. Please call our Special Sales Department in New York at (212) 967-8800 or (800) 322-8755. You can find Facts On File on the World Wide Web at http://www.factsonfile.com Text design by Kerry Casey Composition by Hermitage Publishing Services Cover printed by Sheridan Books, Ann Arbor, Mich. Book printed and bound by Sheridan Books, Ann Arbor, Mich. Date printed: December 2010 Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 This book is printed on acid-free paper.

CONTENTS ` List of Themes Included in This Book List of Authors and Works Included in This Book List of Works Included in This Book Introduction Part I: Themes A–Z Part II: Authors and Works A–E Part II: Authors and Works F–M Part II: Authors and Works N–Z Index

vii ix xvii xxv 1 123 423 815 1191

LIST OF THEMES INCLUDED IN THIS BOOK ` abandonment alienation ambition American dream, the childhood coming of age commodification/commercialization community cruelty death education ethics family fate freedom futility gender

grief guilt heroism hope identity illness individual and society innocence and experience isolation justice love memory nationalism nature oppression parenthood pride


race regret rejection religion responsibility science and technology sex and sexuality social class spirituality stages of life success suffering survival tradition violence work

LIST OF AUTHORS AND WORKS INCLUDED IN THIS BOOK ` Achebe, Chinua Adams, Henry Albee, Edward Alcott, Louisa May Alexie, Sherman Allende, Isabel Alvarez, Julia Amis, Kingsley Anaya, Rudolfo Anderson, Sherwood Angelou, Maya Anonymous Aristophanes Atwood, Margaret Augustine, Saint Austen, Jane Baldwin, James Bambara, Toni Cade Behn, Aphra Bellow, Saul Bierce, Ambrose Black Elk Blake, William Bradbury, Ray Bradford, William

Anthills of the Savannah Things Fall Apart Education of Henry Adams, The Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? Little Women Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, The House of the Spirits, The How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Lucky Jim Bless Me, Ultima Winesburg, Ohio I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Beowulf Frogs, The Lysistrata Handmaid’s Tale, The Surfacing Confessions of St. Augustine, The Emma Pride and Prejudice Sense and Sensibility Go Tell It on the Mountain Salt Eaters, The Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave Adventures of Augie March, The “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, An” Black Elk Speaks Songs of Innocence and of Experience Fahrenheit 451 Martian Chronicles, The Of Plymouth Plantation



Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature

Brontë, Charlotte Jane Eyre Brontë, Emily Wuthering Heights Browning, Robert “My Last Duchess” Bunyan, John Pilgrim’s Progress, The Byron, George Gordon Byron, Don Juan Lord Camus, Albert Stranger, The Cao Xueqin Dream of the Red Chamber Capote, Truman In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences Carroll, Lewis Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Carver, Raymond “Cathedral” Cather, Willa My Ántonia O Pioneers! Chaucer, Geoffrey Canterbury Tales, The Chekhov, Anton Seagull, The Chesnutt, Charles W. “Goophered Grapevine, The” Chopin, Kate Awakening, The Cisneros, Sandra House on Mango Street, The Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories Coetzee, J. M. Waiting for the Barbarians Coleridge, Samuel Taylor “Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The” Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness Lord Jim Crane, Stephen Open Boat, The Red Badge of Courage, The Dante Alighieri Divine Comedy, The Davies, Robertson Fifth Business Davis, Rebecca Harding Life in the Iron Mills Defoe, Daniel Moll Flanders Robinson Crusoe DeLillo, Don White Noise Dickens, Charles Christmas Carol, A David Copperfield Great Expectations Oliver Twist Tale of Two Cities, A Dickinson, Emily poems Dinesen, Isak Out of Africa Dos Passos, John U.S.A. trilogy Dostoyevsky, Fyodor Crime and Punishment Douglass, Frederick Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Written by Himself Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan Hound of the Baskervilles, The Dreiser, Theodore American Tragedy, An Sister Carrie DuBois, W. E. B. Souls of Black Folk, The

List of Authors and Works Included in This Bookâ•…â•… xi Edwards, Jonathan “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Eliot, T. S. “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The” Waste Land, The Ellison, Ralph Invisible Man Emerson, Ralph Waldo “American Scholar, The” “Divinity School Address, The” “Self-Reliance” Equiano, Olaudah Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself, The Erdrich, Louise Bingo Palace, The Love Medicine Tracks Euripides Medea Faulkner, William As I Lay Dying Light in August “Rose for Emily, A” Sound and the Fury, The Fielding, Henry Tom Jones Fitzgerald, F. Scott Great Gatsby, The Tender Is the Night Flaubert, Gustave Madame Bovary Forster, E. M. Passage to India, A Room with a View, A Frank, Anne Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl Franklin, Benjamin Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Frost, Robert poems Gaines, Ernest J. Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, The Lesson Before Dying, A García Márquez. Gabriel One Hundred Years of Solitude Gaskell, Elizabeth North and South Gay, John Beggar’s Opera, The Gilman, Charlotte Perkins Yellow Wallpaper, The Glaspell, Susan Trifles Golding, William Lord of the Flies Gordimer, Nadine Burger’s Daughter Grass, Günter Tin Drum, The Greene, Graham Heart of the Matter, The Haley, Alex, and Malcolm X Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Hansberry, Lorraine Raisin in the Sun, A Hardy, Thomas Jude the Obscure Tess of the d’Urbervilles Harte, Bret “Luck of Roaring Camp, The” “Outcasts of Poker Flats, The” Hawthorne, Nathaniel “The Birth-mark” House of the Seven Gables, The “Rappaccini’s Daughter”


Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature

Heller, Joseph Hemingway, Ernest Hersey, John Hesse, Herman Hinton, S. E. Homer Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki Hughes, Langston Hurston, Zora Neale Huxley, Aldous Ibsen, Henrik Irving, John Irving, Washington Ishiguro, Kazuo Jackson, Shirley Jacobs, Harriet James, Henry Jefferson, Thomas Joyce, James Kafka, Franz Keats, John Kerouac, Jack Kesey, Ken Kincaid, Jamaica Kingsolver, Barbara Kingston, Maxine Hong Kipling, Rudyard Knowles, John Kozinski, Jerzy Kundera, Milan Kureishi, Hanif Kushner, Tony Lawrence, D. H.

Scarlet Letter, The “Young Goodman Brown” Catch-22 Farewell to Arms, A Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, The Hiroshima Siddhartha Steppenwolf Outsiders, The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Farewell to Manzanar poems Their Eyes Were Watching God Brave New World Doll’s House, A Hedda Gabler World According to Garp, The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, The Remains of the Day, The “Lottery, The” Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself Daisy Miller Portrait of a Lady, The Turn of the Screw, The Notes on the State of Virginia Dubliners Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, A Metamorphosis, The poems On the Road One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest Annie John Small Place, A Bean Trees, The Poisonwood Bible, The Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book Woman Warrior, The Kim Separate Peace, A Painted Bird, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Buddha of Suburbia, The Angels in America Rainbow, The Women in Love

List of Authors and Works Included in This Bookâ•…â•… xiii Lawrence, Jerome, and Robert E. Lee Lee, Harper Lessing, Doris Lewis, C. S. Lewis, Sinclair London, Jack Lowry, Lois Machiavelli, Niccolò Malamud, Bernard Marlowe, Christopher Marshall, Paule McCarthy, Cormac McCullers, Carson McMurtry, Larry Melville, Herman Miller, Arthur Milton, John Mistry, Rohinton Molière Momaday, N. Scott Morrison, Toni Mukherjee, Bharati Nabokov, Vladimir Naipaul, V. S. Naylor, Gloria O’Brien, Tim O’Connor, Flannery O’Neill, Eugene Orwell, George

Inherit the Wind To Kill a Mockingbird Golden Notebook, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Main Street Call of the Wild, The White Fang Giver, The Prince, The Natural, The Doctor Faustus Brown Girl, Brownstones All the Pretty Horses Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The Member of the Wedding, The Lonesome Dove “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” Billy Budd, Sailor Moby-Dick Crucible, The Death of a Salesman Paradise Lost Fine Balance, A Misanthrope, The Tartuffe House Made of Dawn Way to Rainy Mountain, The Beloved Bluest Eye, The Song of Solomon Sula Tar Baby Middleman and Other Stories, The Lolita Bend in the River, A House for Mr. Biswas, A Women of Brewster Place, The Going after Cacciato Things They Carried, The “Good Man Is Hard to Find, A” Wise Blood Iceman Cometh, The Long Day’s Journey into Night Animal Farm Nineteen Eighty-Four


Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature

Paine, Thomas “Age of Reason, The” Common Sense Paton, Alan Cry, the Beloved Country Pirandello, Luigi Six Characters in Search of an Author Plath, Sylvia Bell Jar, The Poe, Edgar Allan “Fall of the House of Usher, The” “Murders in the Rue Morgue, The” “Tell-Tale Heart, The” Pope, Alexander Rape of the Lock, The Potok, Chaim Chosen, The Proust, Marcel Remembrance of Things Past Rand, Ayn Anthem Reed, Ishmael Mumbo Jumbo Rhys, Jean Wide Sargasso Sea Roth, Philip American Pastoral Rowlandson, Mary Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson Roy, Arundhati God of Small Things, The Rushdie, Salman Midnight’s Children Salinger, J. D. Catcher in the Rye, The Shakespeare, William Hamlet Henry IV, Part I Henry V Julius Caesar King Lear Macbeth Merchant of Venice, The Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Much Ado about Nothing Othello Romeo and Juliet Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, The Twelfth Night Shaw, George Bernard Pygmalion Shelley, Mary Frankenstein Shelley, Percy Bysshe poems Silko, Leslie Marmon Almanac of the Dead Ceremony Sinclair, Upton Jungle, The Smith, Betty Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Solzhenitsyn, Alexander One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Sophocles Antigone Oedipus the King Steinbeck, John Cannery Row Grapes of Wrath, The Of Mice and Men Pearl, The Red Pony, The

List of Authors and Works Included in This Bookâ•…â•… xv Stevenson, Robert Louis Stoker, Bram Stowe, Harriet Beecher Swift, Jonathan Synge, John Millington Tan, Amy Tennyson, Alfred, Lord Thoreau, Henry David Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolstoy, Leo Toomer, Jean Turgenev, Ivan Twain, Mark Updike, John Virgil Voltaire Vonnegut, Kurt Walker, Alice Washington, Booker T. Welty, Eudora Wharton, Edith Whitman, Walt Wiesel, Elie Wilde, Oscar Wilder, Thornton Williams, Tennessee Wilson, August Winterson, Jeanette Wollstonecraft, Mary Woolf, Virginia Wordsworth, William Wright, Richard Yeats, William Butler

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Treasure Island Dracula Uncle Tom’s Cabin Gulliver’s Travels Modest Proposal, A Playboy of the Western World, The Joy Luck Club, The In Memoriam A. H. H. “Resistance to Civil Government” Walden Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The War and Peace Cane Fathers and Sons Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, A “A&P” Rabbit, Run Aeneid, The Candide Cat’s Cradle Slaughterhouse-Five Color Purple, The Up from Slavery Optimist’s Daughter, The Age of Innocence, The Ethan Frome House of Mirth, The Leaves of Grass Night Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Our Town Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Glass Menagerie, The Streetcar Named Desire, A Fences Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Vindication of the Rights of Woman, A Mrs Dalloway To the Lighthouse “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” Black Boy Native Son poems


“A&P” Adventures of Augie March, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Aeneid, The Age of Innocence, The “Age of Reason, The” Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland All the Pretty Horses Almanac of the Dead American Pastoral “American Scholar, The” American Tragedy, An Angels in America Animal Farm Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl Annie John Anthem Anthills of the Savannah Antigone As I Lay Dying Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, The Awakening, The “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” Bean Trees, The Beggar’s Opera, The Bell Jar, The Beloved Bend in the River, A Beowulf


Updike, John Bellow, Saul Twain, Mark Twain, Mark Virgil Wharton, Edith Paine, Thomas Carroll, Lewis McCarthy, Cormac Silko, Leslie Marmon Roth, Philip Emerson, Ralph Waldo Dreiser, Theodore Kushner, Tony Orwell, George Frank, Anne Kincaid, Jamaica Rand, Ayn Achebe, Chinua Sophocles Faulkner, William Franklin, Benjamin Haley, Alex, and Malcolm X Gaines, Ernest J. Chopin, Kate Melville, Herman Kingsolver, Barbara Gay, John Plath, Sylvia Morrison, Toni Naipaul, V. S. Anonymous


Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature Billy Budd, Sailor Bingo Palace, The “Birth-mark, The” Black Boy Black Elk Speaks Bless Me, Ultima Bluest Eye, The Brave New World Brown Girl, Brownstones Buddha of Suburbia, The Burger’s Daughter Call of the Wild, The Candide Cane Cannery Row Canterbury Tales, The Catcher in the Rye, The Catch-22 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Cat’s Cradle “Cathedral” Ceremony Chosen, The Christmas Carol, A Color Purple, The Common Sense Confessions of St. Augustine, The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, A Crime and Punishment Crucible, The Cry, the Beloved Country Daisy Miller David Copperfield Death of a Salesman Divine Comedy, The “Divinity School Address, The” Doctor Faustus Doll’s House, A Don Juan Dracula Dream of the Red Chamber Dubliners Education of Henry Adams, The Emma Ethan Frome Fahrenheit 451 “Fall of the House of Usher, The”

Melville, Herman Erdrich, Louise Hawthorne, Nathaniel Wright, Richard Black Elk Anaya, Rudolfo Morrison, Toni Huxley, Aldous Marshall, Paule Kureishi, Hanif Gordimer, Nadine London, Jack Voltaire Toomer, Jean Steinbeck, John Chaucer, Geoffrey Salinger, J. D. Heller, Joseph Williams, Tennessee Vonnegut, Kurt Carver, Raymond Silko, Leslie Marmon Potok, Chaim Dickens, Charles Walker, Alice Paine, Thomas Augustine, Saint Twain, Mark Dostoyevsky, Fyodor Miller, Arthur Paton, Alan James, Henry Dickens, Charles Miller, Arthur Dante Alighieri Emerson, Ralph Waldo Marlowe, Christopher Ibsen, Henrik Byron, George Gordon Byron, Lord Stoker, Bram Cao Xueqin Joyce, James Adams, Henry Austen, Jane Wharton, Edith Bradbury, Ray Poe, Edgar Allan

List of Works Included in This Bookâ•…â•… xix Farewell to Arms, A Farewell to Manzanar Fathers and Sons Fences Fifth Business Fine Balance, A Frankenstein Frogs, The Giver, The Glass Menagerie, The Go Tell It on the Mountain God of Small Things, The Going after Cacciato Golden Notebook, The “Good Man Is Hard to Find, A” “Goophered Grapevine, The” Grapes of Wrath, The Great Expectations Great Gatsby, The Gulliver’s Travels Hamlet Handmaid’s Tale, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The Heart of Darkness Heart of the Matter, The Hedda Gabler Henry IV, Part I Henry V Hiroshima Hobbit, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The House for Mr. Biswas, A House Made of Dawn House of Mirth, The House of the Seven Gables, The House of the Spirits, The House on Mango Street, The How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Iceman Cometh, The I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Iliad, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself In Cold Blood: A True Account of Multiple Murder and Its Consequences Inherit the Wind

Hemingway, Ernest Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki Turgenev, Ivan Wilson, August Davies, Robertson Mistry, Rohinton Shelley, Mary Aristophanes Lowry, Lois Williams, Tennessee Baldwin, James Roy, Arundhati O’Brien, Tim Lessing, Doris O’Connor, Flannery Chesnutt, Charles W. Steinbeck, John Dickens, Charles Fitzgerald, F. Scott Swift, Jonathan Shakespeare, William Atwood, Margaret McCullers, Carson Conrad, Joseph Greene, Graham Ibsen, Henrik Shakespeare, William Shakespeare, William Hersey, John Tolkien, J. R. R. Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan Naipaul, V. S. Momaday, N. Scott Wharton, Edith Hawthorne, Nathaniel Allende, Isabel Cisneros, Sandra Alvarez, Julia O’Neill, Eugene Angelou, Maya Homer Wilde, Oscar Jacobs, Harriet Capote, Truman Lawrence, Jerome, and Robert E. Lee


Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature

In Memoriam A. H. H. Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself, The Invisible Man Jane Eyre Joy Luck Club, The Jude the Obscure Julius Caesar Jungle, The Kim King Lear Leaves of Grass Lesson Before Dying, A Life in the Iron Mills Light in August “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Little Women Lolita Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, The Lonesome Dove Long Day’s Journey into Night Lord Jim Lord of the Flies Lord of the Rings, The “Lottery, The” Love Medicine “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The” “Luck of Roaring Camp, The” Lucky Jim Lysistrata Macbeth Madame Bovary Main Street Martian Chronicles, The Medea Member of the Wedding, The Merchant of Venice, The Metamorphosis, The Middleman and Other Stories, The Midnight’s Children Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Misanthrope, The Moby-Dick Modest Proposal, A

Tennyson, Alfred, Lord Equiano, Olaudah Ellison, Ralph Brontë, Charlotte Tan, Amy Hardy, Thomas Shakespeare, William Sinclair, Upton Kipling, Rudyard Shakespeare, William Whitman, Walt Gaines, Ernest J. Davis, Rebecca Harding Faulkner, William Wordsworth, William Lewis, C. S. Alcott, Louisa May Nabokov, Vladimir Alexie, Sherman McMurtry, Larry O’Neill, Eugene Conrad, Joseph Golding, William Tolkien, J. R. R. Jackson, Shirley Erdrich, Louise Eliot, T. S. Harte, Bret Amis, Kingsley Aristophanes Shakespeare, William Flaubert, Gustave Lewis, Sinclair Bradbury, Ray Euripides McCullers, Carson Shakespeare, William Kafka, Franz Mukherjee, Bharati Rushdie, Salman Shakespeare, William Molière Melville, Herman Swift, Jonathan

List of Works Included in This Bookâ•…â•… xxi Moll Flanders Mrs Dalloway Much Ado about Nothing Mumbo Jumbo “Murders in the Rue Morgue, The” My Ántonia “My Last Duchess” Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Written by Himself Native Son Natural, The Night Nineteen Eighty-Four North and South Notes on the State of Virginia “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, An” Odyssey, The Oedipus the King Of Mice and Men Of Plymouth Plantation Old Man and the Sea, The Oliver Twist One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest One Hundred Years of Solitude On the Road Open Boat, The O Pioneers! Optimist’s Daughter, The Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave Othello Our Town “Outcasts of Poker Flats, The” Out of Africa Outsiders, The Painted Bird, The Paradise Lost Passage to India, A Pearl, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Playboy of the Western World, The poems poems

Defoe, Daniel Woolf, Virginia Shakespeare, William Reed, Ishmael Poe, Edgar Allan Cather, Willa Browning, Robert Rowlandson, Mary Douglass, Frederick Wright, Richard Malamud, Bernard Wiesel, Elie Orwell, George Gaskell, Elizabeth Jefferson, Thomas Bierce, Ambrose Homer Sophocles Steinbeck, John Bradford, William Hemingway, Ernest Dickens, Charles Solzhenitsyn, Alexander Kesey, Ken García Márquez, Gabriel Kerouac, Jack Crane, Stephen Cather, Willa Welty, Eudora Winterson, Jeanette Behn, Aphra Shakespeare, William Wilder, Thornton Harte, Bret Dinesen, Isak Hinton, S. E. Kozinski, Jerzy Milton, John Forster, E. M. Steinbeck, John Wilde, Oscar Bunyan, John Synge, John Millington Dickinson, Emily Frost, Robert


Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature poems poems poems poems Poisonwood Bible, The Portrait of a Lady, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, A Pride and Prejudice Prince, The Pygmalion Rabbit, Run Rainbow, The Raisin in the Sun, A Rape of the Lock, The “Rappaccini’s Daughter” Red Badge of Courage, The Red Pony, The Remains of the Day, The Remembrance of Things Past “Resistance to Civil Government” “Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The” Robinson Crusoe Romeo and Juliet Room with a View, A “Rose for Emily, A” Salt Eaters, The Scarlet Letter, The Seagull, The “Self-Reliance” Sense and Sensibility Separate Peace, A Siddhartha “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Sister Carrie Six Characters in Search of an Author Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, The Slaughterhouse-Five Small Place, A Song of Solomon Songs of Innocence and of Experience Souls of Black Folk, The Sound and the Fury, The Steppenwolf Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Stranger, The Streetcar Named Desire, A Sula Sun Also Rises, The

Hughes, Langston Keats, John Shelley, Percy Bysshe Yeats, William Butler Kingsolver, Barbara James, Henry Joyce, James Austen, Jane Machiavelli, Niccolò Shaw, George Bernard Updike, John Lawrence, D. H. Hansberry, Lorraine Pope, Alexander Hawthorne, Nathaniel Crane, Stephen Steinbeck, John Ishiguro, Kazuo Proust, Marcel Thoreau, Henry David Coleridge, Samuel Taylor Defoe, Daniel Shakespeare, William Forster, E. M. Faulkner, William Bambara, Toni Cade Hawthorne, Nathaniel Chekhov, Anton Emerson, Ralph Waldo Austen, Jane Knowles, John Hesse, Herman Edwards, Jonathan Dreiser, Theodore Pirandello, Luigi Irving, Washington Vonnegut, Kurt Kincaid, Jamaica Morrison, Toni Blake, William DuBois, W. E. B. Faulkner, William Hesse, Herman Stevenson, Robert Louis Camus, Albert Williams, Tennessee Morrison, Toni Hemingway, Ernest

List of Works Included in This Bookâ•…â•… xxiii

Surfacing Tale of Two Cities, A Taming of the Shrew, The Tar Baby Tartuffe “Tell-Tale Heart, The” Tempest, The Tender Is the Night Tess of the d’Urbervilles Their Eyes Were Watching God Things Fall Apart Things They Carried, The Tin Drum, The To Kill a Mockingbird Tom Jones To the Lighthouse Tracks Treasure Island Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Trifles Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book Turn of the Screw, The Twelfth Night Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Uncle Tom’s Cabin Up from Slavery U.S.A. trilogy Vindication of the Rights of Woman, A Waiting for the Barbarians Walden War and Peace Waste Land, The Way to Rainy Mountain, The White Fang White Noise Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? Wide Sargasso Sea Winesburg, Ohio Wise Blood Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories Woman Warrior, The Women in Love Women of Brewster Place, The World According to Garp, The Wuthering Heights Yellow Wallpaper, The “Young Goodman Brown”

Atwood, Margaret Dickens, Charles Shakespeare, William Morrison, Toni Molière Poe, Edgar Allan Shakespeare, William Fitzgerald, F. Scott Hardy, Thomas Hurston, Zora Neale Achebe, Chinua O’Brien, Tim Grass, Günter Lee, Harper Fielding, Henry Woolf, Virginia Erdrich, Louise Stevenson, Robert Louis Smith, Betty Glaspell, Susan Kingston, Maxine Hong James, Henry Shakespeare, William Kundera, Milan Stowe, Harriet Beecher Washington, Booker T. Dos Passos, John Wollstonecraft, Mary Coetzee, J. M. Thoreau, Henry David Tolstoy, Leo Eliot, T. S. Momaday, N. Scott London, Jack DeLillo, Don Albee, Edward Rhys, Jean Anderson, Sherwood O’Connor, Flannery Cisneros, Sandra Kingston, Maxine Hong Lawrence, D. H. Naylor, Gloria Irving, John Brontë, Emily Gilman, Charlotte Perkins Hawthorne, Nathaniel

INTRODUCTION ` cept, especially for less experienced students) seeks first to enumerate and explain the many different definitions of the word, and then to demonstrate how it might be used in various contexts, thus simplifying a complicated concept. The essay on success (a concept with which students will certainly be familiar) starts by providing a few alternative definitions of success, in order to complicate and enrich an ostensibly simple term. All the essays on themes endeavor to answer the central questions of how the theme has been used and why it has proven so appealing throughout literary history. The second part of the set contains essays on specific themes in more than 300 individual works of literature. Here, the essays are organized in alphabetical order, first by the author of the subject literary work, and then by the title of the work. (An appendix lists all the works covered in the book in alphabetical order.) Each section on a particular work contains a brief introduction to the work and then usually three essays, each on a different literary theme in the work. For instance, for the first work covered in the encyclopedia, Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah, we provide essays on the themes of gender, oppression, and social class in Anthills. This format allows students to examine the text from three of its most important vantage points, making connections and understanding details they might not have picked up by reading the text on their own. Each essay is relatively short (750 words) and is intended to provide not a comprehensive

Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature is unique among literature references in that it is general and specific. It offers both a survey of literary themes and a number of in-depth analyses of how these themes operate in individual literary works. The first part of this set contains essays on 50 literary themes. Each essay examines a specific theme in a general, accessible, interdisciplinary manner, usually describing how the theme has evolved over time, how it relates to other important themes, and most importantly, why the theme is powerful enough to recur so often in great literature. For example, the essay on abandonment begins with the origin of the word itself; goes on to explain how early literature, such as the Bible and various folktales, treated the theme; and finally discusses occurrences of the theme in more modern literature, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine. (Themes, authors, and titles are set in small capital letters the first time they appear in a particular entry to indicate a cross-reference to an entry on that subject in part 1 or part 2 of the set. Works cross-referenced in the text are discussed under the entries on the writers who wrote them; both the author and the work are set in small caps.) Along the way, the essay explains how various disciplines outside literature view the concept of abandonment and how those views relate to its portrayal in literature. Each essay is structured to fit its subject. For instance, the essay on nationalism (a difficult con-



Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature

examination of the theme in the work but, rather, enough information and context to encourage the reader’s own thoughts on the subject. The essays are also designed to help students think about these works in ways that are both traditional and unexpected. For instance, one might expect a discussion of gender in Bram Stoker’s Dracula; certainly Dracula’s manipulations of Mina and Lucy, and the attempts by Van Helsing and his crew to save them, are fraught with issues of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality, and the essay on gender in Dracula does indeed examine these issues. However, there is also an essay on nationalism in Stoker’s novel, a topic perhaps not so obvious. This essay asks students to think about how the English characters’ assault on Dracula could be seen as an assertion of their “Englishness” and how banishing Dracula is, metaphorically, an imperial act. In selecting themes, we used the Modern Language Association (MLA) Bibliography Database to determine the frequency of common themes in literature. In selecting works entries, we consulted anthologies, study guides, standard reading lists, and available syllabi to determine the most commonly assigned literary works in high school and college classrooms. Most works included here are novels, plays, or longer poems, which are more suited to this type of approach, but we also decided to cover the works of six essential poets: Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Butler Yeats. A few longer poems, such as Robert

Browning’s “My Last Duchess” and William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” have also been included on their own. Students will be able to use the set in two different ways. Some will want to research a particular work, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and will therefore head directly to the three essays on that novel in the second part of the set. After reading each of the individual essays—on the American dream, identity, and social class—they may then turn to part 1 to read more about those three themes and find other examples of great literature that use the same theme, but perhaps in a different way. Other students might want to begin their investigations by reading first about a particular theme. Some might be interested in writing on broader subject, such as childhood, and might want to begin by examining the theme as a whole and then turning to a number of works of literature that features the theme. Or some might simply be searching for a work of literature that addresses a subject that interests them. As a whole, Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature provides an unprecedented amount of information on literary themes, written in language designed to be accessible and appealing to students, yet at the same time challenging enough to encourage them to formulate their own ideas about literature. —Jennifer McClinton-Temple, Editor

part i

Themes A–Z `


The origins of the word abandon, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, demonstrate that it has not always had the wholly negative connotations it does today. In the Middle French, for instance, metre à bandon could have meant both “to proscribe” and “to release from proscription.” Thus, the term might apply equally to an outcast shunned from society and to the former outcast being welcomed back. Both are being “abandoned.” One may then abandon one’s child, one’s property, or one’s self. The common thread in these definitions in that there is an active choice being made and that the nature of this choice is absolute. Abandonment is never accidental, and it is never partial—it is deliberate and it is complete. It is, perhaps, these qualities that account for the recurrence of the theme in folklore and mythology, in social science, and in art and literature. In the Bible, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden. In being left to their own devices, being forced to provide for themselves, they are, in their eyes at least, being abandoned by God. Abraham casts off his wife’s maidservant Hagar and their son Ishmael, abandoning them to the desert and denying them Ishmael’s birthright. Baby Moses, cast among the bulrushes for his own protection, is abandoned by his biological family into the care of another. Folklore and fairy tales abound with stories of abandonment: Snow White is left alone in


the forest; Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome, are placed in their cradle in the Tiber River; and, of course, Hansel and Gretel are forced from their home and into the lair of a witch. In many foundational stories of abandonment, the abandoned child returns to his or her true family in triumph, either as a leader or having achieved great success in one way or another. This triumph seems to mitigate the trauma of the abandonment, implying that the abandonment resulted in some good and allowing for a happy, or at least a contented, ending. In the case of Moses, for instance, it is his abandonment that saves his life. As the pharaoh has ordered that all male babies born to Hebrews be drowned in the Nile, Moses’s mother hides him in a basket in the river where he would be found (and ultimately adopted) by the Pharoah’s daughter. In the story of Hansel and Gretel, the children return, having killed the witch, to find that their stepmother has died and they may live happily with their father. In other stories, however, the return from abandonment proves tragic. For instance, in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, perhaps one of the most famous stories of abandonment, Oedipus is abandoned as an infant because it has been prophesized that he will grow up to kill his father, the king of Thebes, and marry his mother, the queen. A servant is ordered to take the baby away and kill him, but the servant cannot carry out the order and leaves the baby at the

2â•…â•…˘2 abandonment 2â•…â•… gates of the royal family of a distant city, Corinth. As a young man, however, Oedipus hears the prophecy as well, thinks that it is in reference to his adoptive Corinthian parents, and flees. Ultimately, the prophecy comes true as he kills his real father, Laius, in self-defense and marries Laius’s widow, Jocasta, his real mother. Jocasta then hangs herself, and Oedipus blinds himself with the pins from her dress. Obviously, in this case, grave tragedy resulted from the child’s abandonment, implying that this fate might have been better avoided by keeping him close. Perhaps abandonment appears so frequently in art and literature because, as some philosophers and psychologists believe, the fear of abandonment begins at birth. Sigmund Freud, the Austrian psychiatrist regarded as the father of modern psychological thought, believed that when we are born, and thus physically separated from our mothers, this trauma becomes a central force in our lives. We must, according to Freud, spend a great deal of our lives coming to terms with this separation, which we internalize as an abandonment. Later psychologists would delve deeper than Freud into the fear of and effect of abandonment on our young psyches. In his highly influential three-volume work Attachment, Separation, and Loss (1973), the British psychologist John Bowlby discusses his decades-long studies of children and their attachment to their caregivers, specifically their mothers. Bowlby notes that infants seek to find their mother when she leaves the room as soon as they are able to crawl. Additionally, the child will follow any familiar adult in lieu of the mother if she is unavailable (200–202). Infants demonstrate distress upon their mother’s impending departure as soon as they are old enough to sense the signs that she is leaving, around six to nine months of age (204). For Bowlby, the infant is exhibiting the innate fear of abandonment, which produces anxiety. The psychologist Yi Fu Tuan calls fear of abandonment a “central childhood fear” and points to the frequent use of the motif in fairy tales as a method of playing on that fear and keeping control of children (Salerno 98). If this abandonment does happen and it is prolonged, the anxiety becomes a part of the infant’s, later the child’s, later the adult’s personality. Yi Fu claims that adult anxiety disorders can be attributed to

specific child-rearing practices; in particular, he says, frequent and regular separations, or even frequent and regular threats of abandonment have huge consequences later in life (Salerno 97). Modern philosophers have also considered the fear of abandonment as a central component to modern consciousness. Soren Kierkegaard, the 19thcentury Danish philosopher, defined modern angst or anxiety as a feeling of looming danger where the source of the threat is unknown. G. W. F. Hegel, a German philosopher of the same era, claimed that the true mark of becoming human is not to desire but to want to be the object of someone else’s desire. Combining these theories, then, and remembering as well Bowlby’s infants, can lead to the theory that humans innately fear being abandoned and that as we grow older, we are consumed by a feeling that we will lose our most prized object: another human being. In other words, we live as adults with a constant fear of being abandoned, and if we were indeed abandoned as children, either actually or metaphorically, this fear can be the source of debilitating anxiety. Twentieth-century philosophers have taken these ideas and demonstrated how the detached, impersonal modern world exacerbates the natural fear of abandonment. The Industrial Revolution— the 19th-century shift from rural, manual labor to automated, technologically advanced work in the Western world—took control of the future out of the hands of the family and placed it in the hands of a stranger. Philosophers such as Theodor Adorno have theorized that this led to the breakdown of the family, as the father figure, who perhaps felt abandoned himself, abandoned his own family in search of strong, authoritarian figures outside the family. The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, the primary figure in the school of philosophical thought known as existentialism, rejected the very idea that the world is ordered and that human beings can make sense of it. Thus, he argued, we realize that we are alone, abandoned in the world. In literature, we see this crisis of abandonment in the works of many different writers. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for instance, Victor Frankenstein, the doctor who creates the famous monster, wants only to intellectualize, to think, never to

alienationâ•…â•… ╅╅ 3 emote or to feel. He leaves his loved ones lonely and alone in search of individual, intellectual glory. In turn, he abandons the monster he has created and the creature spends the rest of the novel in search of a connection, resulting in tragic consequences. In Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, abandonment is explored on an individual level, as there are several characters who are left alone and helpless, but also on a community level, as the Indian tribes of North America were abandoned by the U.S. government, which had promised to protect and provide for them. This novel convincingly demonstrates why the theme of abandonment is so common in literature. On a personal level, all human beings feel a fear of abandonment stemming from our childhood separations from our parents. Additionally, however, in the modern world, whole communities might live in a general state of abandonment based on that world’s impersonal, disconnected nature. See also Alexie, Sherman: Lone R anger and Tonto Fistf ight in Heaven, The ; Angelou, Maya: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Euripides: Medea; Kingsolver, Barbara: Bean Trees, The; McCullers, Carson: Member of the Wedding, The ; Roy, Arundhati: God of Small Things, The; Silko, Leslie Marmon: Ceremony; Tan, Amy: Joy Luck Club, The. FURTHER READING Bowlby, John. Attachment and Loss. New York: Basic Books, 1973. Salerno, Roger A. Landscapes of Abandonment: Capitalism, Modernity, and Estrangement. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


Countless literary characters feel painfully alienated from the social institutions that surround them. Some, like Jake Barnes in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, feel alienated from their own communities. Others, like Caddy Compson in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, feel alienated from their closer connections, including family members and loved ones. Still others, like Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, feel alienated by the

religious institutions in which they have been raised; sometimes this type of alienation extends so far that the character or characters feel alienated from God himself. Perhaps the most extreme form of alienation lies in characters such as Meursault in Albert Camus’s The Stranger, who feels alienated from everything with which he comes into contact: his family, his society, and the whole of modern life. The proliferation of literary characters who struggle with alienation is a result of the real-life struggle many human beings have with feeling disconnected from, shunned by, and unrelated to other human beings and the societal institutions that shape and guide us. Alienation is a powerful force, one that moves humans toward the negative impulses of self-pity, vulnerability, and violence, but that can also result in the positive results of deep introspection and intellectual independence. Many would associate alienation primarily with the 20th century and beyond, and indeed, the modernist movement, dated roughly from 1890 to 1950, has as one of its central themes the idea that in the modern era, with its increased reliance on science and technology, and the gradual removal of the individual from rural community into urban isolation, the individual and society are at odds with one another. Modernism explores how our relationships with each other and with social institutions such as the church, school, work, and family have grown weaker, leading us to be increasingly individualistic in our thinking and thus, alienated. In fact, the works listed above are all works in the modernist tradition. In addition to those novels and their alienated characters, modernism produced works such as T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” both poems that explore at length human beings’ alienation from one another and from the world around them. For example, in “Prufrock,” even though the speaker begins by saying, “Let us go then, you and I” (l. 1), the poem never feels like it is telling the story of a couple, as though the speaker is pretending to be working under the misconception that he is part of a community but is actually quite alone. The “you” has been variously interpreted to refer to the reader, the author, or some missing part of the speaker himself. It is precisely this problem—that the speaker is not

4â•…â•…˘4 alienation 4â•…â•… alone but is clearly disconnected from his companion—that creates the feeling of alienation. Near the end of the poem, the speaker says, “I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each / I do not think that they will sing to me” (ll. 124–125). Again, he is alive and moving through the world, but he is disconnected from it, hearing but not listening. Other 20th-century works explore the general condition of alienation by depicting characters who are cut off from one another despite familial connections or close daily proximity. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, for instance, the title character, Jay Gatsby, born Jay Gatz, has cut himself off from his past, thus alienating himself from what might be called his natural place in the world. He has done this so that he may infiltrate Daisy Buchanan’s world—a world of wealth, society, and superficiality. Yet despite making this transfer, he remains alienated, as Daisy’s circle see him as foreign and out of place. He yearns to be a part of her world, but he does so because he thinks that is the way to win her love. Because he moves along this route, which is unnatural to him, his attempt is doomed to fail. The modern world Fitzgerald depicts in The Great Gatsby—with its artificial distinctions between West Egg and East Egg; its social caste system that leads Myrtle Wilson to have no more value than an animal; and its monumental Valley of Ashes, an artificial barrier separating the rich and the poor, brought about by capitalism and industrialization—suggests a world that will eventually alienate us all from one another by replacing honesty and emotion with facade and ambition. Although the 20th century is the primary home of literature exploring alienation, the concept is much older. The biblical story of the golden calf, for instance, shows us a populace who are alienated from God and from themselves. In the story, Moses has left the Israelites for 40 days and 40 nights to climb Mount Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments. Because they are disconnected from Moses, they also disconnect from the idea of God and immediately fear that they are alone in the world and need an idol to worship to focus their beliefs. They therefore convince Moses’ brother Aaron to forge a golden calf for them. As Erich Fromm points out, this story shows us how “man is in touch with himself only through

the worship of the idols” (quoted in Khan 196). This story, of course, comes from the Old Testament, before the arrival of Christ. One way to read the New Testament is that the coming of the Messiah saves the world from its state of alienation from God. In fact, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “Remember that ye were without Christ, beings alien from the Commonwealth of Israel” (Eph 2:12, KJV). This connection, then, is vital for Paul; for him, the alienated being naturally yearns for connection. The idea of alienation would remain chiefly theological for centuries. In Middle English, the word signified a kind of “transfer,” almost as though one owned oneself, and if “aliened” or “alienated,” one was transferring that ownership to someone or something else. This could be active and hostile, as if one was being forced into the transfer, or it could be passive and indifferent, as though one was giving up oneself voluntarily. Beyond transferring one’s will to God, the concept of alienation as we know it today did not exist. However, in the 18th century, the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau would postulate that alienation involves the giving of oneself freely, and that it benefits the individual by entering him or her into society, by freeing that person from the selfish state in which one serves only oneself. Although this might sound positive, for Rousseau it was the dependence on others whom society facilitates that created all vice. He believed that we must give up our rights and “transfer” them to the community. This creates in humans a state of alienation. In the 19th century, the German philosopher Georg Hegel took up Rousseau’s line of thinking, declaring that humans “live in a world shaped by his work and his knowledge, but it is a world in which man feels himself alien, a world whose laws prevent basic need satisfaction” (qtd. in Khan 26). Hegel is extending Rousseau’s ideas here, arguing that modern man will always feel the struggle between his own individual needs and participation in society, and that the result is a feeling of detachment or estrangement. Hegel centered in on work as a primary agent of this detachment, a move that was echoed in the writing of Karl Marx, who articulated ideas of alienation better than anyone had before and who is still considered one of the most important thinkers on the concept. Marx explained alien-

ambitionâ•…â•… 5 ation as the state that exists when things that should naturally go together are kept apart. Modern work, Marx argued, does this in many ways. The Industrial Revolution created workers who were alienated from their own essential humanity, because they were treated as “machines” as opposed to human beings. Further, they are alienated from one another because there is no social relationship involved in the production of a commodity. They are also alienated from the product they are producing, because it will be sold on the market with no relationship to the human that produced it, and from the act of work itself, because there is no satisfaction or meeting of desire involved. Preindustrial work did not have these attributes, as work was often performed in a family setting, with tangible results and, for many, a clear sense of pride and satisfaction. For Marx, and for many other philosophers of alienation, the farther society moves away from these more “natural” states, the more alienated we will become. See also Albee, Edward; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?; Bradbury, Ray: Martian Chronicles, The; Carver Raymond: “Cathedral”; Dos Passos, John: U.S.A. trilogy; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Tender Is the Night; Gaines, Ernest J.: Lesson Before D ying, A; Hesse, Herman: Steppenwolf; Kushner, Tony: Angels in America; McCullers, Carson: Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The; Miller, Arthur: Crucible, The; Momaday, N. Scott: House Made of Dawn; O’Neill, Eugene: Iceman Cometh, The; Shakespeare, William: Tempest, The; Toumer, Jean: Cane. FURTHER READING Khan, Nasir. Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings. Oslo, Norway: Solum Forlag, 1995. King James Bible Online. Available online. URL: http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org. Accessed January 22, 2010. Schacht, Richard. Alienation. New York: Doubleday, 1970. Stearns, Peter. From Alienation to Addiction: Modern American Work in a Global Historical Perspective. Boulder, Colo.: Paradigm, 2008.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


“Ambition” is a difficult trait to pin down because it is so human: On the one hand, we want to reward ambition, yet on the other hand, we want to warn against it. Literature, especially, has taken the latter interesting approach to examining ambition; however, the term itself was originally relatively neutral, coming from the Latin ambito or ambitus, meaning “going around, circuit, edge, border.” Initially, this referred to a “going around” in the early Roman republic as a means of collecting votes or of canvassing for various political positions. Over time, however, the word ambition would take on other connotations, such as when the Roman poet Lucretius stated, “Angustum per iter luctantes ambitionis,” referring to ambitious men who were “struggling to press through the narrow way of ambition,” usually in a desire for honor, popularity, and power. It is perhaps because of these very human qualities—to desire love, honor, knowledge, and power—that the theme of ambition has been so prevalent in literature. Whether in Greek mythology or a 20th-century novel such as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, literature often highlights the consequences of ambition gone awry. The dangers of ambition have been a popular theme not only in literature, but also through religious and mythological texts. In the book of Genesis in the Old Testament, for example, ambition is given much attention. The earliest consequence of ambition occurred when Adam and Eve decided to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, so that their “eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5), even though God had warned them that they would die if they ate of the tree. The result of such ambition? Adam and Eve were granted knowledge, but they were banished from the Garden of Eden. Later in Genesis, ambition is once again punished when the Tower of Babel is constructed, so that the people may “build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (11:4). The result of the Babylonians’ ambition was exactly what they had built the tower to defend against: God causes them to speak in different languages and to be scattered across the land, resulting in confusion.

6â•…â•… ambition Similarly, in Greek mythology we see the consequences of foolishly following ambition. In his Metamorphoses, Ovid tells the story of Phaethon, the son of the sun god Helios. Phaethon succumbs to his ambition for pride and reputation and brags to his friends that he is the son of Helios. Angered, Phaethon meets with his father and takes advantage of his father’s goodwill, securing permission to drive Helios’s chariot (the sun) for a day. Phaeton’s ambition exceeds his grasp, however, as he loses control of the horses, scorching the earth and turning Africa into a desert. The chariot is so out of control that Zeus is forced to intervene, striking down Phaethon with a lightning bolt. Phaethon was not the only character to “fall” due to his ambition, however. John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost tells the story of the fall of man, but also of the fall of Satan. Satan, filled with ambition and pride, wages war against God, thinking to supplant him. Satan is defeated and cast out of heaven; his ambition does not leave him, however, as he quickly decides to bring about “the fall of man” by introducing evil to the world. But beginning with the romantics in the 19th century, the character of Satan was not seen as an antagonist but as a protagonist, celebrated for his flawed but idealistic nature. In his 1932 essay on Dante, T. S. Eliot would refer to the character of Satan as a “Byronic Hero,” strengthening the image from 17th-century Britain to the romantic poets to the modern world. Since ambition is such a human struggle between making choices—and dealing with the consequences that result from these choices—philosophers, psychologists, and academics have been attempting to understand how and why we are driven by ambition. Perhaps one of the earliest examinations came when Plato presented his concept of the “tripartite soul” in Phaedrus (the concept of which he would later refine in The Republic). Plato’s analogy depicts the soul as a charioteer, noble horse, and base horse. Essentially, the charioteer (the individual) is always struggling to keep the two horses in control. In general, these three parts of the soul are taken to represent, respectively, reason, our noble desires (such as honor and courage), and our base or animal desires (such as ambition, lust, greed, avarice, and anger).

In many ways, this way of thinking about human desires and ambitions is quite similar to the model the Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud proposed in his 1920 essay “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” in which he argues that the human psyche is divided into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id represents the human unconscious, amoral desire to be satisfied, whether it is by food, sex, drugs, or power. The ego strives to mediate between the id and the superego—sometimes having to satisfy one or the other; the ego is a conscious attempt to balance primitive desires with a rational need to negotiate the “real world.” The superego essentially functions as an individual’s conscience, reminding him or her what the “real world” views as acceptable and moral—and what it does not; the super-ego is at odds with the potentially ambitious id. Shortly after Freud presented his model for the psyche, human desires—of which ambition is one of the most powerful—found itself being examined through the lens of psychology yet again. If we consider ambition as essentially a form of motivation, a manifestation of desires, then it was the American psychologist Abraham Maslow who, in 1943, first helped contextualize ambition within his “hierarchy of needs.” Within this hierarchy, Maslow argues that humans have several types of needs, ranging from the most basic to the most complex; these needs address physical (hunger, sleep), safety (housing, jobs), social (love, friendship), esteem (achievements, power), and self-actualization (wisdom and enlightenment) desires. Ambition can easily be considered a “desire for esteem,” which nicely aligns with the Oxford English Dictionary’s primary definition of ambition as an “inordinate desire.” No examination of ambition would be complete without considering potentially the most famous literary example of “inordinate desire,” Macbeth. Within William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth (the central, tragic figure) claims “I have no spur / To prick the side of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself / And falls on the other” (1.7.27–30). Macbeth faces an internal struggle between his noble, civilized desires (admirable ambition) and his more savage, primal desires (ambition as a tragic flaw). Perhaps Lady Macbeth

ambitionâ•…â•… 7 presents his struggle best when, pondering her husband’s character, she states: It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without, The illness that should accompany it. What thou wouldst highly That wouldst thou holily—wouldst not play false And yet would wrongly win. (1.5.17–22) Macbeth, in order to achieve his goals, gives in to his uncivilized desires and becomes a tragic figure: someone who made the wrong moral choice. Ultimately, this costs him not only the power that he desires but also his life. This trend of identifying ambition as a central character trait—sometimes a strength, sometimes a flaw—proceeded from the Byronic hero of the 19th century to the more modern antihero. Perhaps one of the best examples in modernism of an antihero is the character of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Dedalus even goes so far as to compare himself to Satan when he claims “non serviam,” or “I will not serve.” Like the character of Satan, Dedalus desires to be free from accepted constraints—in his case, family, religion, and country. Dedalus desires to be more, to be great. Indeed, at the conclusion of Portrait he presents himself as his namesake (Daedalus). Other modern texts also highlight figures with conflicting desires. In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Willie Loman struggles with his failure to achieve what he perceives as the modern, postWorld War II version of the American dream, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the ideal that every citizen of the United States should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.” In short, Willie’s ambition was to achieve success through owning his own business and making as much money as possible. But it is Willie’s ambition—or lack thereof—that makes the play an intriguing look at how ambition can affect our lives.

An earlier text, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, revolves around the misunderstanding of the main character, Jay Gatsby, whose business success during the Roaring Twenties was probably caused by his ambition to achieve the American dream, to “do better” than his modest beginnings seemed to allow him to do. Gatsby’s rise in power and acquisition of wealth stand in stark contrast to Willie Loman’s failure to attain any of these things. Both characters, however, seem uncomfortable with their ambition and its consequences, remaining conflicted characters throughout the telling of their respective tales. In Achebe’s Things Fall Apart we are presented with yet another example of a conflicted character and how the consequences of ambition can lead to ruin. In this case, Okonkwo (the main character) struggles with the past and the present, old cultural norms and new cultural norms, as British colonialism introduces itself to his home village in Nigeria, Africa. Okonkwo’s misguided ambition proves to be his downfall, likening Things Fall Apart to some of the Greek tragedies. In modern society and literature, ambition is no longer presented as a human struggle with gods (at least not solely) but as a struggle within the individual. However, while ambition has always been an internal struggle between an “honorable” approach or a “dishonorable” approach to a situation, our modern, globalized world presents new layers to this theme. Individuals no longer struggle only within themselves: They also struggle to understand how their ambition can—and should—be acted upon in a society that has new means of waging warfare, merging cultures, free-market economies, and evolving forms of communication. In such a world, ambition does not always need to be a tragic flaw. After all, without ambition the United States would not have pushed westward, eventually spreading from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Without ambition, the world would not have achieved spaceflight, prompting new questions and new discoveries. Without ambition, we would not have the wealth of knowledge available to us through the Internet. Without ambition we would not have had the Civil Rights movement. However, without ambition we also would not have had the Holocaust, the Water-

8â•…â•… American dream, the gate scandal, or the stock market crashes of 1987 and 2008. Ambition itself is not a “good thing” or a “bad thing,” but it is a human thing. Ultimately, it is up to individuals, whether through literature, politics, or daily life, to determine how they will use their ambition. See also Aristophanes: Frogs, The; Dreiser, Theodore: American Tragedy, An; Hardy, Thomas: Jude the Obscure; Ishiguro, Kazuo: Remains of the Day, The; James, Henry: Portrait of a Lady, The; Marlowe, Christopher: Doctor Faustus; Plath, Sylvia: Bell Jar, The; Shakespeare, William: Julius Caesar; Shelley, Percy Bysshe: poems; Steinbeck, John: Cannery Row. FURTHER READING King James Bible Online. Available online. URL: http://www.kingjamesbible.org. Accessed January 22, 2010. Maslow, A. H. “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Psychological Review 50, no. 4 (1943): 370–396.

Stephen Fonash

American dream, the

In his 1931 book The Epic of America, James Truslow Adams coined the phrase the American dream, which is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is .╯.╯. a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position” (415). Within the whole of the American psyche, there lies an eternal hope that the nation’s citizens will be afforded the opportunity for both monetary growth and social advancement. Of course, hard work and industriousness are embedded within this concept: In the traditional American mindset, any man or woman can achieve whatever he or she wants as long as there is the drive and will to obtain it. Indeed, although “the American dream” was not used by Truslow until 1931, the concept has always been an integral part within the consciousness of Americans. In the 1776 Declaration of Indepen-

dence, Thomas Jefferson laid out what may be the most important and well-known reference to the American dream. The Declaration maintains that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Along with the other Founding Fathers, Jefferson believed that the United States could and should be a nation giving every opportunity to individual progress and achievement. In contrast to Great Britain and its strict class structure, the United States represented to Jefferson the chance for all Americans, even those with poor economic backgrounds, to become pillars of their communities. To much of the world, Benjamin Franklin, another Founding Father, has come to embody the American dream. In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1793), Franklin states that he arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a nearpenniless youth. He describes walking down the streets with three bread rolls in his hands—those being all he could afford for dinner—and looking about him in order to gauge his opportunities. The remaining sections of the autobiography chronicle his emergence as one of the most influential men in the then-fledgling American nation. Through his diligence, Franklin transformed himself from a poor teenager into a successful businessman, inventor, and ambassador. He established the first library and first fire station, and he initiated the process of harnessing the power of electricity, so it could later be used for the public good. However, not all depictions of the American dream in literature have been quite so favorable. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby depicts the lure of the American dream as being a destructive force rather than a beneficial one. Jay Gatsby, the novel’s main character, believes that if he can move up in society by obtaining as much monetary wealth as possible, then he will be able to achieve the happiness he has always desired. Unlike Franklin, Gatsby is accused of having acquired his money through possibly disreputable means. He does not appear interested in working hard to achieve the luxuries of money; he is instead merely interested in obtaining the end results of actu-

American dream, theâ•…â•… 9 ally possessing it. These materialistic values, which he and the other characters in the novel uphold, serve to produce a general feeling of despondency throughout the text. By the end of the novel, this despondency leads to despair, and the greed that overruns the novel leads to Gatsby’s murder. In a similar vein, Arthur Miller’s 1949 play Death of a Salesman is also critical of the effects the American dream can produce in those who believe wholeheartedly in its monetary promise alone. Like Jay Gatsby, Willy Loman, the play’s protagonist, is obsessed with making money. Rather than finding a job as a physical laborer, which he enjoys, Willy devotes his life to selling. In other words, he devotes himself to the sole task of making money. Throughout the play, Willy experiences flashbacks in which he relives various incidents from his life. He is a constant daydreamer and therefore has a difficult time focusing on the reality of the moment he is currently experiencing. Ultimately, Willy’s obsession with the American dream makes him forget that he has a family who loves him and natural talents that he could employ. In the end, Miller’s depiction of the quest for the American dream is even more somber than is Fitzgerald’s: Willy kills himself, while his son Happy decides to follow along in his father’s footsteps, avenging what he sees as the wrongs society enacted against Willy. At his father’s funeral, Happy asserts: “Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have—to come out number-one man” (2049). This conclusion to the play indicates that Miller believes that what he views as the treacherous myth of the American dream will continually perpetuate itself, relentlessly casting its dark shadow on future generations of young Americans. Yet it can easily be argued that those who feel slighted by the promise of the American dream the most are minority groups—those who have been constantly disenfranchised by the American governmental system and who have been forced to view the hypocrisy they see as inherent within the Dream their entire lives. In his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, the African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., declared that his hope for the equality of all races in America was one “deeply rooted in the American dream.” King

believed that all Americans should be provided the opportunity to prosper to their fullest potential. Much like King, the Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes also lamented that minority groups were never given the opportunity to experience the hope the American dream supposedly provides to its nation’s citizens. In “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes juxtaposes the image of what privileged white Americans envision their country to be with his own experience in the country as an African-American citizen, remarking that “America never was America to me” (l. 5). Likewise, in his 1951 poem “Harlem,” Hughes asks the question, “What happens to a dream deferred?” (l. 1), ultimately suggesting that minority groups are denied the realization of their dreams in America. Deciding to mimic some of Hughes’s themes, Lorraine Hansberry adopted one of the lines from “Harlem” as the title to her 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry’s play follows the lives of the Youngers, an African-American family living in 1950s Chicago. In the drama, Lena Younger, the family matriarch, receives insurance money from the death of her husband. She puts a deposit down on a house and gives the rest of it to her son, Walter Lee. Almost predictably, Walter Lee quickly squanders the rest of the money on a “get rich quick” business scheme that fails. After all, as has been shown in many of the prior examples, a driving theme throughout much American literature is that the pursuit of monetary gain above all other factors almost inescapably leads to suffering. Because Lena does at least have the chance to put the money down for the house, the play actually concludes on a somewhat positive note. Though the family expects to experience racial oppression in the white neighborhood to which they are moving, they still decide to proceed with the move and to face that problem together. By the play’s end, then, the family is unified. They have all forgiven Walter, and they have come to realize that appreciating family relationships in the same way that Lena does should construct the basis of a “real” American dream. Further, in his 1993 short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistf ight in Heaven, the Native American writer Sherman Alexie shows that, like African Americans, Native Ameri-

10â•…â•… childhood cans experience the idea of the American dream in a unique way. Unlike other minority groups, Native Americans are left out of the American dream because the ideal of white prosperity and “industriousness” led to the destruction and seizing of what was once Indian property and land. Rather than simply being unattainable, the American dream in this case takes on an even more sinister connotation. Overall, whether they realize it or not, the American dream remains a fundamental factor in most Americans’ lives. Self-fulfillment through monetary satisfaction and whether or not that satisfaction was gained through sufficient hard work is constantly debated and discussed in the media, at neighbor’s houses, and over coffee with friends. Literature is just one venue Americans use to determine their own successes and the successes of those around them. Just as Willy Loman passed on his way of viewing the world to his son Happy, the lens that the idea of the American dream provides will continue to sustain itself for countless future generations of American citizens. See also Alcott, Louisa May: Little Women; Alvarez, Julia: How the García Girls Lost Their Accents; Cisneros, Sandra: House on Mango Street, The; Dreiser, Theodore: American Tragedy, An; Hinton, S. E.: Outsiders, The; Kerouac, Jack: On the Road; Naylor, Gloria: Women of Brewster Place, The; O’Neill, Eugene: Iceman Cometh, The; Sinclair, Upton: Jungle, The; Steinbeck, John: Of Mice and Men. FURTHER READING Adams, James Truslow. The Epic of America. Baltimore, Md.: Simon Publications, 2001. Brown, Lloyd W. “The American Dream and the Legacy of Revolution in the Poetry of Langston Hughes.” Studies in Black Literature 7 (Spring 1976): 16–18. Greenbie, Marjorie Barstow. American Saga: The History and Literature of the American Dream of a Better Life. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1939. Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. In Norton Anthology of American Literature. 4th ed. Vol. 2, edited by Ronald Gottesman and Laurence B. Holland. New York: Norton, 1994, 1995, 2,048.

LuElla Putnam


In 1960, the French historian Philippe Ariès advanced the hypothesis that the idea of childhood was practically nonexistent before the early modern period. The controversy about the existence or absence of the idea prior to that time in history gave rise to a host of studies on childhood. But what does the word childhood mean? Our awareness that it refers to a distinct period of human life is natural, but how do we determine its duration? How long does childhood last? Many psychologists and specialists in children’s studies conclude that childhood is an endlessly complex term. All have agreed that it refers to a set of experiences and behaviors, characteristic for the earlier part of our lives, meant to prepare us for adulthood and active life. As to its duration, individual differences should be taken into account. In this sense, childhood is defined in opposition to adulthood: One is no longer a child when one becomes an adult. However, this theory has not sufficed, and the growth of research on the subject is telling. The common denominator of many studies on childhood is the attempt to grasp its essence, to define the experience of being a child and to explain the nature of children. One of the most important conclusions these studies have drawn is that our notions of childhood have changed. They have adapted themselves to society and to its conception of what a child should be. Thus, the ideas about childhood during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries evolved continually. Writing and literature tell us more about this evolution. Childhood has for long been one of the central themes of English literature. Children were the subject of a great number of Elizabethan lyrics, and we can find them in the works of Dryden and Pope. However, childhood as a truly substantial theme arose with the novel, and its importance gradually increased through the 18th century. Later on, the theme developed and matured, and we can easily find its numerous ramifications in the literature of the 19th century as well as the 20th. Today, it is seen as essential for the critical understanding of the literary production of the 19th century and the Victorian period. In addition, the 19th and 20th centuries saw the steady emergence of a real literature for children, either for their instruction or entertain-

childhoodâ•…â•… 11 ment. Thus, the child has been either the subject or the object of a plethora of writings since the 18th century. These writings reflect the dichotomy of childhood, which was seen as a symbol of growth and development on the one hand and as a symbol of regression and ignorance of the world on the other. Authors such as James Janeway (A Token for Children, 1671–72) spread the doctrine of original sin during the 17th century and constructed highly moralizing, religion-oriented visions of childhood. All of these were based on the theory of the Christian “fallen state” and looked upon children with pessimism. Childhood was seen as the most decisive period for the acquisition of the fundamentals of spirituality and for the construction of true faith. However, the thinkers of the 18th century promoted reason as one of the highest virtues. The century became a period of transition, of which childhood was the supreme symbol, celebrating the cult of nature, the purity of mind and soul, and the triumph of innate goodness. Contrary to what was professed in earlier centuries, childhood was perceived in an increasingly positive light. Soon it became a favorite theme of the sentimental novel, and the poverty and misfortunes of guiltless, insightful, and virtuous children were an object of considerable import and frequent discussion in the works of many women writers (for example, Elizabeth Bonhote’s Hortensia; or, The Distressed Wife, 1769). The period saw the emergence of the idea that in childhood, the concepts of imagination, sensibility, and nature were joined in one. The influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his Émile (1762) on this representation of childhood in the literature of the times is undeniable. But sentimentality was not reserved to the 18th century only, and in her early novels, George Eliot molded childhood according to the same principles. Her children were portrayed as carefree and unencumbered with adult sorrow and the awareness of death. An interesting peculiarity of her work is the attention Eliot pays to baby-talk and children’s ways of talking. For William Blake (e.g., Songs of Innocence, 1789) and William Wordsworth (e.g., “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” 1807, or “We Are Seven,” 1798), the child became a theme of a certain weight. For

Blake, childhood signified innocence; for Wordsworth, the child had natural piety and wisdom, and his famous line “The Child is father of the Man” (“My Heart Leaps Up,” 1802) became an increasingly popular motif. The child and the process of growing up were common metaphors for the regeneration and renewal of society, while childhood was seen as the equivalent of humanity in its infancy. Gradually, children became symbols of hope and childhood synonymous to new beginnings. Such was the case in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860–61). The child in Dickens grew to be the incarnation of spontaneity, love, and innocence on the background of the ugliness, squalor and inhumanity of industrial London. Dickens offered his readers a view through the child’s eyes, creating a palpable experience of childhood. Indeed, many of his novels bear the names of children—Oliver Twist (1837–39), Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39), Dombey and Son (1846–48), David Copperf ield (1849–50), Little Dorrit (1855–57). Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre (1847) explored the victimization, loneliness, and isolation of children within a hostile environment. Virtually deprived of childhood, the girls at the Lowood school for poor and orphaned children are vowed to a life of slavery and an early death. Jane Eyre fed on a strong heritage of gothic villainy and persecuted femininity to denounce the rigid education and brutal practices of the schooling system. While Brontë chose to give the reader an account of the negative effects a difficult childhood might have on an adult’s life, Henry James focused some of his writings on children exclusively. James was mostly concerned with the innocence of childhood and how this innocence can be corrupted if the family circle is unbalanced. The major themes of both What Maisie Knew (1897) and The Turn of the Screw (1898) are knowledge and ignorance, and they explore a number of problematic Freudian concepts, among which are children’s exposure to sexuality and early contact with death. During the second half of the 19th century, Lewis Carroll was one of the authors who wrote extensively for and about children. His Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Through the Looking-Glass (1871) and Sylvie and Bruno (1889–93)

12â•…â•… coming of age were specifically produced for an audience of children and even their cover art was conceived in such a way as to please children. Carroll’s correspondence with his editors is one of the numerous testimonials that a real concern about children and childhood had developed. Moreover, Carroll’s writings contain a great deal of information about what it meant to be a British child during the Victorian period. Laden with political implications and comments on the British Empire, Alice’s world places a heavy burden on the shoulders of its youngest subjects whose childhood is to prepare them for servitude. Almost at the same time in America, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) appear as stories of childhood escape, of willful isolation from society and a continual struggle against conformity. In line with the tradition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s portrayal of children (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1852), Twain’s works discuss freedom and liberty in a reaction against the limits and constraints of society. All of these are themes that echo William Blake’s natural, joyful, carefree, and enlightened romantic child. During the 20th century, childhood developed into a favorite theme for an ever-increasing number of genres. The examples vary extensively, from C. S. Lewis’s indirect portrayals of children at times of war to the poems, diaries, and writings by children (e.g., Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl, 1947) and children writing of the various experiences of their own childhood. While in earlier centuries childhood was a preparation and a period of growing up, the early 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of the idea of holding on to childhood with authors such as J. M. Barrie (Peter Pan, 1902–06) and Ray Bradbury (Dandelion Wine, 1957; Farewell Summer, 2006). They represented the magic, wonders, and transience of childhood. The scope for the study of childhood in literature is wide indeed. Today, researchers are asking more questions. They are discussing problems that had never been looked into before, and their work has uncovered a remarkable variety in the portrayal of children and childhood in literature, beyond the fundamental polarities of the good and the bad child. Studies, among which are those of Jacqueline Banerjee, Andrea Immel, and Michael Witmore,

have shown that childhood stands at the heart of many works of literature from which it was initially thought absent. Thus, from the 20th century onwards, there has been a global and unprecedented interest in childhood. See also Augustine, Saint: Confessions of St. Augustine; Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird; Morrison, Toni: Beloved; Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace; Winterson, Jeanette: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. FURTHER READING Ariès, Philippe. Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life. New York: Vintage Books, 1962. Banerjee, Jacqueline. Through the Northern Gate: Childhood and Growing Up in British Fiction, 1719–1901. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1996. Coveney, Peter. The Image of Childhood: The Individual and Society: a Study of the Theme in English Literature. London: Penguin Books, 1967. Cunningham, Hugh. Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500. London: Longman, 1995. Immel, Andrea, and Michael Witmore, eds. Childhood and Children’s Books in Early Modern Europe, 1550– 1800. New York and London: Routledge, 2006. Pollock, Linda A. Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500 to 1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Margarita Georgieva

coming of age

Most scholars agree on a standard definition of the coming-of-age narrative: Simply put, it follows the development of a child or adolescent into adulthood. The roots of this narrative theme can be traced back to the bildungsroman, or “formation novel.” Late 18th-century German novels, such as Johann Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795), established a narrative pattern that would be followed by several other authors in the forthcoming centuries. This pattern typically features a young protagonist—either male or female—who undergoes a troubled search for an adult identity by process of trials, experiences, and revelations. This theme is prominent in several well-known European and American novels of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Charles Dickens’s David

coming of ageâ•…â•… 13 Copperf ield (1849–50) and Great Expectations (1860–61); Horatio Alger, Jr.’s Ragged Dick; or, Street Life in New York with the Bootblacks (1868); Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1869); Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884); James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916); and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951). The popularity of this narrative has continued into the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as shown in critically acclaimed books such as Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina (1993) and Jon Krakauer’s 1996 account of the life and death of Chris McCandless in Into the Wild, and through popular culture texts, such as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. While there is agreement on a standard working definition of a coming-of-age narrative, there is little agreement among scholars on the constituent elements of these narratives. James Hardin, a theorist of genre studies, argues that there can be no agreement about the elements of a coming-ofage narrative because of the various meanings of the word Bildung in German. While most scholars interpret the word’s meaning as “formation,” Hardin contends that this interpretation is unique to a series of 18th- and 19th-century novels, and to use that term and its meaning for an examination of 20thand 21st-century novels is to take it out of its proper context. Other interpretations of the German word Bildung, such as initiation, education, and building, have served to further complicate understanding of the coming-of-age narrative. In addition to a debate over the origin of the term, other scholars argue over the age group of protagonists coming of age in these texts. Most 18th- and 19th-century protagonists featured in these novels came of age in their midto-late teenage years. Throughout the 20th century, however, the range in years for a coming-of-age narrative widened from this age group to include protagonists in their early to mid-20s. It is for this reason that the genre studies scholar Barbara White limits the definition of a coming-of-age narrative to focus on protagonists between the ages of 12 and 19. Additionally, in the latter part of the 20th century, the works of anthropologists, such as Arnold van Gennup and Margaret Mead, have added to the debate over the elements of a coming-of-age

narrative. Through their research in rites of passage and social development and structure, the works of anthropologists such as van Gennup and Mead allow scholars to examine the sociocultural implications of these narratives. It is the sociocultural implications that cause the most debate among scholars. Indeed, since a coming-of-age narrative is dependent on a quest for an adult identity, this narrative is closely linked to other areas of identity development, such as gender, race, social class, and national identity (see nationalism). As Kenneth Millard argues, a recurring element of the coming-of-age narrative is the way in which a protagonist’s adult identity is framed by historical events and points of origin and conditioned by social obligations and expectations. Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn serves as an example of this theory. In the novel, a young Huck accompanies Jim, a runaway slave, on a trip down the Mississippi River to reach the free North. The novel’s climax occurs when Jim is caught by slave catchers, and Huck must make a decision between informing Miss Watson, Jim’s owner, about Jim’s location or attempting to free Jim from his bondage. In his decision, Huck must balance the social obligation of returning “property” to its rightful owner and his own conscience—during his trip, Huck has come to see Jim not as a piece of property but as a human. Ironically, Huck makes the decision to “go to hell” by following his conscience, attempting to free Jim from his captivity. Twain’s novel, of course, was published after the institution of slavery was abolished, but it serves as a historical point of reference, as Finn would have grown up in pre-Civil War America. Huck Finn’s adult identity is framed within these racist confines; although African Americans were free, they still were considered as inferior to whites. Thus, the socially acceptable and expected thing for Huck to do would be to turn Jim in to Miss Watson, and it is the deviation from this expectation that Huck believes will condemn his soul. The Huck Finn example also serves as a way to highlight three additional features of the comingof-age narrative. One of these features is the loss of childhood innocence. In Twain’s novel, although Huck naïvely misunderstands the consequences of his decision, his naïveté speaks volumes to readers.

14â•…â•… coming of age The consequence of his decision marks his transition from childhood to adulthood. Prior to the novel’s climax, Huck has been witness to the darker side of the adult world—from his father’s racist diatribe about the voting rights of recently freed slaves to a long and bloody family feud to the con artistry of the Duke and Dauphin. Unbeknownst to Huck—but abundantly clear to the novel’s readers—is the influence that these events have on his decision to attempt to free Jim—the first adult decision of his life. Because of his experiences and this decision, Huck realizes that he may be outcast from his society, as he has deviated from its expected adult norms, and he will no longer be able to go back to live his previous lifestyle of barefooted, pipesmoking truancy. This deviation from expected norms highlights another feature of the coming-of-age narrative: the realization of social expectations and norms. To once again use the Huck Finn example, Huck fully realizes the implications of his decision: He considers himself damned and acknowledges that he will be unable to fully participate in the adult world because of this violation. As such, he is able to recognize the social, adult world now laid out before him. While this realization further distances Huck from his childhood innocence, it also presents him with a choice: Either accept this adult world and conform to its norms and standards or decide on self-exile. Huckleberry Finn, of course, chooses the latter, as he decides to light out for the territories of the American West rather than conform to the rigid social obligations demanded by pre–Civil War rural Missouri. Huck’s choice to light out for the territories highlights a third feature of the coming-of-age narrative. His decision to leave is rooted in another choice: to accept a socially constructed identity, or to construct a personal sense of identity for oneself. While this idea is one of the oldest and most common themes of literature, when examined through the lens of a coming-of-age narrative, it takes on additional weight. Not all coming-of-age protagonists are as fortunate as Huck Finn, though. For some, their gender, race, and class serve as impediments to a sense of freedom. As the feminist scholar Rachel

Blau DuPlessis observes, most 19th-century female protagonists have two options presented before them when coming of age: marriage, the socially acceptable option for young women; or death, the end result for those young women who deviate from socially expected norms. Indeed, constraining one’s identity to social norms and expectations is the choice for one of 19th-century America’s most wellknown female protagonists, Jo March. In Alcott’s Little Women, the creative and headstrong Jo winds up married by the novel’s end. Race and class also serve as factors in these narratives. The unnamed narrator of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) comes to realize his situation very early on in the novel. After the narrator, a promising young African-American student, agrees to show a white benefactor the poor living conditions of sharecroppers living around the narrator’s college, he is expelled from school and is forced to decide between accepting society’s roles for an African-American man or developing his own identity. Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild features the real-life story of Chris McCandless, a college graduate from a well-to-do East Coast family. When McCandless realizes the limitations of the options set before him—continued graduate studies, a position in a well-paying job in the business world—he renounces his previous materialistic life and sets off on the roads of America in an attempt to discover who he truly is. National character is also an important factor in coming-of-age narratives. Some preeminent American literature scholars, such as Leslie Fiedler, Ihab Hassan, and R. W. B Lewis, have argued that the coming-of-age narrative is one of the most dominant narratives in American literature. For these scholars, a sense of history, or lack thereof, is key to their view of the importance of the coming-of-age narrative in American literature. At the heart of this contention is the argument that the American national identity shares several key characteristics with the coming-of-age narrative. The first of these characteristics is Lewis’s argument that the American national character is primarily based on renewal and innocence. His theory of the American Adam states that American culture is constantly going back to beginnings and new starts, an attempt to

commodification/commercializationâ•…â•… 15 revert to a lost childhood or return to a forgotten Eden. This theory, according to Lewis, is at the center of most American literature—a constant return to youth, with an emphasis on the experiences, revelations, and trials inherent in a coming-of-age narrative. Thus, in a sense, the focus on coming of age in American literature and in the national character can be argued as an unwillingness to acknowledge history: All events are subject to change and to reinterpretation, a kind of automatic “redo” where each generation must begin its task of the coming of age process. Like Lewis, Ihab Hassan sees the idea of innocence as a conscious denial of American history, but he contends that the denial is also firmly rooted in political ideology. The focus on a wide-eyed, naive innocence of each generation defining itself is not just a literary trope for Hassan; rather, it is deeply enmeshed in an ideology that offers no roots, no genealogies, and no sense of a permanent and static identity. For Leslie Fiedler, this focus on coming-ofage narratives underscores the preoccupation with youth found in American culture. Fiedler argues that this desire to return to a childlike, Edenic state is predicated on the idea that the American national character is constantly fluid and dynamic, youthful and energetic. To allow the national character to grow static and permanent would force American culture to grow old, and perhaps grow up. The coming-of-age narrative is quite simple to define; however, the implications of that definition are numerous and wide-ranging. What began as a way to fictionalize how a child became an adult became complicated throughout the centuries by other issues. Race, class, and gender all play a pivotal role in how a youth is expected to grow into an adult in various societies. Furthermore, the acceptance or rejection of social obligations and duties is another factor in how teens grow into adults. All of these factors expand a relatively benign textbook definition into a wide-ranging, thoroughly complex theme. See also Anaya, Rudolfo: Bless Me, Ultima; Anderson, Sherwood: Winesburg, Ohio; Austen, Jane: Emma; Chopin, Kate: Awakening, The; Crane, Stephen: Red Badge of Courage, The; Kincaid, Jamaica: Annie John; Knowles, John: Separate Peace, A; Marshall, Paule

Brown Girl, Brownstone; McCarthy, Cormac: All the Pretty Horses; McCullers, Carson: Member of the Wedding, The; Shakespeare, William: Henry IV, Part I; Steinbeck, John: Red Pony, The; Stevenson, Robert Louis: Treasure Island; Tolkien, J. R. R.: Hobbit, The; Updike, John: “A & P.” FURTHER READING Du Plessis, Rachel Blau. Writing Beyond the Ending: Narrative Strategies of Twentieth-Century Women Writers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. Fiedler, Leslie A. An End to Innocence: Essays and Culture and Politics. Boston: Beacon Press, 1955. Hardin, James, ed. Reflection and Action: Essays on the Bildungsroman. Columbia: South Carolina University Press, 1991. Hassan, Ihab. Radical Innocence: Studies in the Contemporary American Novel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965. Lewis, R. W. B. The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1955. Millard, Kenneth. Coming of Age in Contemporary American Fiction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. White, Barbara. Growing Up Female: Adolescent Girlhood in American Fiction. Westwood, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985.

Daniel G. Jones


Commodification is a multifaceted concept, having roots in political and economic theory as well as cultural and literary studies. Broadly defined, commodification is the transformation of immaterial, social relationships into commercial relationships that often utilize the language and ideological stances of a market driven economy and capitalist society (for example, terms and ideas surrounding “buying and selling,” “supply and demand”). In order to understand this important and complex idea, we need to understand the etymology of the word commodification. At the root of the word is commodity, which in modern language usage is defined as “a kind of thing for use of sale, an article of commerce, an object of

16â•…â•… commodification/commercialization trade” and “food or raw materials as objects of trade” (Oxford English Dictionary). The act of trading one good for another is an ancient one, and the act of using currency to purchase a grown or manufactured good is almost as ancient. The act of commodification (sometimes referred to as commoditization) is significant, then, because it is a modern metamorphosis of an ancient idea. Today, it is not only grown and manufactured goods that can be bought and sold: Ideas, social relationships, even individuals can now be viewed as commodities—goods available for trade or purchase. Commodification, in effect, turns people and ideas into goods and machines. The idea of commodification was first broadly explored when, in the Communist Manifesto (1848), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, noted that everything—not merely food, clothing, and other tangible goods—can become a commodity in a modern, industrial, capitalistic society. It is important to remember, however, that a commodity derives its value not from what it can do (use value) but from what it can be sold or traded for (exchange value), often in order to attain some sort of perceived cultural prestige or social status or identity. To Marx and Engels, people (more specifically, the modern working class), as well as the goods they produce, have become commodities themselves, since people “live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital.” In other words, industrialization has increased the amount of commodities that can be produced (and often increased their exchange value as well), but the machine cannot run without the human being. However, the commodity costs money to produce, and so it must always be sold at a set minimum price. The human being, though, has no set minimum price, requiring only “the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race.” As a result, the laborer himself becomes a commodity in that his wage is tied to his use in producing the original good. In other words, the “worth” of the laborer is directly associated to the worth of the good (and the exchange value of the laborer is nearly always lower than the exchange value of the good).

However, more and more the workers are separated from the means of production: Workers in a capitalistic society often have no connection to the commodity they are producing; the commodity will often not be purchased or utilized by the laborer’s own community. Rather, they work for a company that is not connected to their community, producing commodities that have no relationship to them, by using machines that they merely operate. Eventually, this leads to the Marxist concept of alienation, in which laborers feels disconnected from their own work, from what they produce, and ultimately from other human beings in their community (since the product of their work is purchased by others and made by machines). The idea of alienation is important to understanding commodification because it deflects the focus of production from the human being, making him a minor part of the process. When this happens, goods can take on a life of their own, almost seeming to appear magically on the shelf of a store, where someone will purchase the good, often without having any idea where, how, or by whom it was made. The process of production (including the human factor) is hidden, and the commodity itself appears as a “natural object,” as if its existence is a matter of natural means, as opposed to manufactured means. When this occurs, it is often referred to as “commodity fetishism” (Marx, Capital) or “reification” (Lukács, History and Class Consciousness), within which the material world is viewed as objectified and out of society’s control; the primary human actions in a reified world are those of buying and selling. In recent years, the concepts of commodification and reification have been analyzed within the sphere of popular culture. For example, theorists such as Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer (1944) have identified the emergence of “the culture industry,” which views popular culture as a “factory,” mass-producing goods for society’s consumption. This easy consumption of goods—being a “good consumer” in a capitalistic society—results in satisfying a perceived need for “culture,” and that being able to purchase and thereby participate in this culture will therefore create happy citizens.

commodification/commercializationâ•…â•… 17 A criticism of such a relationship, however, is that the culture industry does not accurately reflect true human needs; instead, it creates false needs—to own certain goods in order to belong as a functioning member of society—as opposed to fulfilling “true” human needs such as liberty, creativity, and community. In other words, the culture industry creates a commodity that it sells to society as a “need” (often through the effects of advertising); society purchases the commodity, which minimizes identity and creates new, similar needs for newer, similar goods. Along the way, the human aspect of society’s consumption is weakened, and culture itself becomes commodified, creating a “culture industry.” The need and the way of belonging and having identity in a culture industry is through ownership and image. Anything, it seems, can be commodified: art, music, footwear, ideas, “beauty,” human relationships, even dreams and ideas. The use value of the good becomes obscured, and the culturally manufactured exchange value is what compels the consumer to buy a Degas painting, an original pressing of The Beatles’ White Album, copyright a new idea or way of doing something, sell cosmetic surgeries and “fad diets,” participate in human trafficking, and even corrupt (or change) the American dream. Literature has long been society’s way of taking a close look at itself, and many literary works have taken a long, hard look at commodification and its related process, commercialization. Perhaps the most significant work to examine how something immaterial and human can be changed into a commodity—something to be purchased, or something that has an exchange value greater than its use value—is Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. In Death of a Salesman, the Loman family is struggling to find its identity and place in mid20th-century America. This struggle, however, is compounded by modern society’s generally uncaring attitude, best exemplified by Willy Loman’s heartless and dramatic firing by Mr. Wagner, and its obsession with material possessions and social status. While each character in the play is complicit in the commodification of the American dream, none exhibits it better than Willy Loman, who commodifies his personal image, especially in his perpetual desire to be “well liked” and his valuing of labels. For

example, he believes a punching bag to be of good quality because “It’s got Gene Tunney’s signature on it!” (1.1). Willy’s willing participation in the culture industry will not allow him to separate real, human needs from the reified, manufactured image of the American dream—in Willy Loman’s case, to be a successful, well-liked, and influential salesman. In a similar vein, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby’s pursuit of an idealized, successful image of himself—in short, the commodified version of the American dream—led him to a lifelong pursuit of buying an image and a reputation. Yes, Gatsby is a “self-made man,” part of the American dream mythos, but he is a self-made man who places greater exchange value on things and ideas than he should, and conversely, he places little value upon human friendships. The “pursuit of happiness” in Gatsby devolves largely into a pursuit of quick, greedy, superficial moments of happiness. It is money, possessions, and reputation—as well as being part of a social group (being invited to one of Gatsby’s parties, for example) that stand in as “needs,” not the traditional American dream ideas of rugged individualism, human connection, or liberty. Jay Gatsby, however, was not the only character to buy into the commodified American dream being produced by the early culture industry. Daisy, in how she views herself and how she is viewed by others, also acts as a commodity within The Great Gatsby. Daisy, married to her husband, Tom, but in love with Jay Gatsby, is a bright and progressive woman. However, in the commodified world of the Roaring Twenties, within which Gatsby is set, it is easier for her to “buy into” the image of the woman upon whom society has placed value: simple, fun, and beautiful. Putting such an exchange value on the image and role of a woman in this society has the consequences of Daisy wishing the following for her baby girl: “I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (Fitzgerald 12). Daisy hopes that her daughter will be “marketable,” and valued for her successful image within the society of Gatsby. But Daisy is not the only character commodifying women. Daisy’s husband, Tom, views her as a possession rather than as a human being—as he does many women in the novel, even having an affair, not out of love but out

18â•…â•… commodification/commercialization of exchange value. For Tom, women are merely something to be “owned.” In a different yet similar manner, Jay Gatsby also views Daisy as a commodity. While both Miller and Fitzgerald examined the commodification of ideas and ideals, Don DeLillo focuses not only on ideas, but also provides a strong critique of the culture industry in his postmodern novel White Noise. Within this novel, DeLillo examines modern suburban life. From the opening paragraph, the reader is bombarded with lists of goods being moved into college dormitories: “stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small refrigerators and table ranges; the cartons of phonograph records and cassettes; the hair dryers and styling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows; the controlled substances, the birth control pills and devices; the junk food still in shopping bags—onion-and-garlic chips, nacho thins, peanut creme patties, Waffelos and Kabooms, fruit chews and toffee popcorn; the Dum-Dum pops, the Mystic mints” (1). By presenting us with such an exhaustive list, we are immediately submerged into a materialist and image-conscious society—a society that has a department of Hitler Studies, taught by Jack Gladney, a professor who does not speak German and who is helping a friend establish a department of Elvis Studies; a society where the children are often more mature than the adults, where drugs are exchanged for sex, where the rearrangement of the supermarket is profoundly disorienting to the people of the community, and where the omnipresent television chatters in the background. Other literary works address commodification in different and interesting ways. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, for example, asks about the relationship between the use value and the exchange value of books and knowledge. In Catch-22, Joseph Heller presents an absurdist narrative of war within which soldiers and prostitutes alike are viewed as disposable commodities. In Beloved, Toni Morrison examines how human beings can be commodified, largely through the portrayal of characters who were born into slavery and who are not viewed as subjects but as objects or commodities. A good example of self-commodification can be seen in the character of Joshua, who changes his

name to Stamp Paid after he “handed his wife over to his master’s son” (124) in order to “buy” his life, and later his freedom. Stamp Paid spends the rest of the novel questioning notions of identity, obligation, and community. Commodification and the culture industry are part of modern-day society; they are built into our political, economic, and entertainment industries. While commodification can be difficult to identify, it is worthwhile to consider its role in everyday life. How does commodification change (for better or worse) how we see the world? How does it change how we view ideas and products? Most important, how does it change how we view each other? Literature, it seems, remains one of our best means of asking—and answering—these questions. See also Defoe, Daniel: Moll Flanders; Dinesen, Isak: Out of Africa; Erdrich, Louise: Bingo Palace, The; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: House of the Seven Gables, The; Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World; Kincaid, Jamaica Small Place, A; Kingston, Maxine Hong: Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book; Lawrence D. H.: Rainbow, The; Women in Love; Melville, Herman: “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street”; O’Connor, Flannery: Wise Blood; Pope, Alexander: Rape of the Lock, The; Roy, Arundhati: God of Small Things, The; Steinbeck, John: Grapes of Wrath, The; Swift, Jonathan: Modest Proposal, A; Tolkien, J. R. R.: Hobbit, The; Twain, Mark: Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, A; Updike, John: “A & P”; Wharton, Edith: House of Mirth. FURTHER READING DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York: Penguin, 1984, 1985. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 1999. Lukács, Georg. History and Class Consciousness. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1979. Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Center for Digital Discourse and Culture. Available online. URL: http://eprints. cddc.vt.edu/Marxists/archive/marx/works/1848/ communist-manifesto/ch01.htm. Accessed January 22, 2010. Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Knopf, 1987.

communityâ•…â•… 19 Tyson, Louis. Psychological Politics of the American Dream: The Commodification of Subjectivity in Twentieth-Century American Literature. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1994.

Steven Fonash


Community is an oft-invoked, seemingly simple term that has widely varying historical and current meanings dependent on sociocultural and discipline-specific contexts. As such, its meanings differ between everyday discourse and the specialized terrain of scientific, technological, and sociological discourse. Today, the fundamental notions of community are undergoing a sea change because of the emergence of new communication technologies, access to the Internet, and the formation of different kinds of Web-based communities that have paradoxically both expanded as well as made more intimate the connections between people. Blogospheres, chat rooms, Web sites such as YouTube and MySpace, and other such new avenues of expression in cyberspace have democratized and made the world more intimate in ways never imagined before. Local communities have been revived even as cyber-technology has been accused of destroying traditional bonds of community life. In its most commonly understood sense, community implies networks of solidarity and connection that attest to a primary instinctual need of humans beings as social animals. Community is thus an important source of meaning and validation in human lives and is predicated on a set of commonly held beliefs, values, interests, knowledge and information, and interpretive frameworks deemed as good by those who belong to the community. A sense of belonging to a collective is an integral aspect of community, and this sense of belonging may be located in a series of things, whether it be a common cultural heritage, religion, language, rituals, race, ethnicity, nation, or geographical territory. Indeed, a nation is merely a larger political form of community. In James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the young Stephen Dedalus inscribes his name in his geography book followed by a series of addresses that locate him in a chain of increasingly wider personal and community

networks: “Stephen Dedalus, Class of Elements, Clongowes College, Sallins, County Kildare, Ireland, Europe, the World, the Universe” (24). Here the widening circle of belonging extending from his class, college, county, country, and continent to the very universe itself traces Stephen’s expanding notion of self entrenched in a chain of being that ties the individual to the community. In 1887, German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies, in his book Community and Civil Society, developed the distinction between community—which he said is informal and ethically oriented, with mutual bonds of a traditional communal life—and civil society, which is impersonal, formal, and relatively more amoral, with merely administrative ties. The chief distinction in Tonnies’s view is that while the onus of pursuing the community’s goals of common well-being is on its members, in a civil society, the group itself becomes instrumental for its members’ individual goals and aims. Community may be exemplified by a family or neighborhood, while a modern state or industrial corporation arising out of an urban capitalist setting is an example of society. The former is romanticized as embodying more enduring, personal relationships while in the latter relationships are more impersonal, superficial, and motivated by professional and monetary connections. Tonnies’s theorization between the organic mutually sustaining holistic natures of a community as opposed to the individual-centered society has become central to debates on the sociological, moral, and political implications of community. The chief distinction between the two modes of organization or belonging can be seen as that between holistic communitarianism versus individual liberalism, and this has implications for citizenship, political participation, and notions of common good. However, communities, although they imply a largely positive social network based on collaborative ties and shared goals, can also be oppressive forces if they assume an identity that is oriented on exclusionary or supremacist principles in the guise of universal or community values. Nazi Germany under Hitler’s rule, guided by principles of Aryan supremacy, or Fascist Italy under Mussolini are examples of pathological community formations that pervert the generally benign and organic roots

20â•…â•… community of community. The relation between individual and community has to be one that is oriented toward the common good but still gives the individual space to exercise his or her own free will. The conflict between individual and the community is a common theme in literature and focuses on opposing forces, society, history, and the community at odds with individual subjectivity, desire, and will. In classical Greek drama, the community appears in the guise of the chorus of townspeople articulating the voice of common sense and reason. Whether it is the group of elders in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King who preach temperance and moderation to the hotheaded and arrogant Oedipus or the chorus of women in Euripides’ Medea who call upon her maternal instincts to subdue her desire for revenge against Jason, they both advocate the central principle of the golden mean which was such a cornerstone of Greek civilization. Literary theorists such as Northrop Frye have argued that tragedy as a form usually ends with the expulsion or death of the overweening tragic protagonist who threatens social norms and community well-being through his larger-than-life desires or hubris, while comedies end with community values being restored through communal celebrations, such as a wedding where the hero and heroine are finally united after a series of obstacles. These community values are affirmed in such works as William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Much Ado about Nothing. Twentieth-century literature has been marked by a critique of a postindustrial society that values efficiency and productivity over the more personal communal bonds. The themes of alienation and isolation amid the impersonality of the modern metropolis are recurrent in modernist literature and especially resonant in the poetry of T. S. Eliot in the figure of a much-misunderstood Alfred J. Prufrock, who yearns to communicate his spiritual insights but is spurned by the superficiality of society ladies who talk of Michelangelo (see “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The”). Similarly, W. H. Auden, in his poem “The Unknown Citizen,” bemoans the impersonal efficiency of the modern welfare state that is technologically advanced and has statistics on all its citizens but does not really know whether its individuals are free or happy. The poem implies that

for the modern state, even the question of freedom and happiness would be a quantifiable category, if it had thought of these as important variables on which statistics should be kept. While modernist literature’s innovations in narrative techniques, such as stream of consciousness, testify to the influence of Sigmund Freud and William James in shedding new light on human psychology and consciousness and hence the intense focus on subjectivity, they also function as a testament to the decline of a shared communal framework of values that underlines the decline of community. One could argue that the prevalence of the third-person narrative in the 18th- and 19thcentury novel that features an all-knowing, often judgmental narrator, who takes the reader by the hand and guides him or her through the world of the novel, underscores the existence of community with its assumption of shared moral values. As the world has become more fragmented, the narrative voice has also become more partial, personal, and prone to error. For instance, in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge from a miserly misanthrope to one who shares in the spirit of Christmas cheer and sharing is an assertion of the power of community over the individual. In more contemporary times, Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” traces the transformation of an insecure man, jealous of his wife’s blind friend who has come to visit them, from an alienated, somewhat misanthropic character to one who has an epiphany about the importance of human contact and shared community values shown in the building of ancient cathedrals. While overweening individualism threatening the stable social order and community well-being is a common theme, the obverse is equally true as well. In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid ’s Tale, the dystopian community of Gilead, a totalitarian pseudo-Christian theocracy that subjugates women in the service of the state, is clearly an example of a community that can only exist by annihilating individual free will and agency, especially that of women. Community is thus a complex concept possessing varying ethical, political, social, psychological, and epistemological dimensions, which finds recurrent expression as a literary theme.

crueltyâ•…â•… 21 See also Anonymous: Beowulf; Austen, Jane: Emma; Baldwin, James: Go Tell It on the Mountain; Black Elk: Black Elk Speaks; Bradford, William: Of Plymouth Plantation; Coetzee, J. M.: Waiting for the Barbarians; Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness; Crane, Stephen: Open Boat, The; Forster, E. M.: Passage to India, A; Gaines, Ernest J.: Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, The, and Lesson Before D ying, A; García Márquez, Gabriel: One Hundred Years of Solitude; Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the d ’Urbervilles; Harte, Bret: “Luck of Roaring Camp, The”; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: House of the Seven Gables, The; McCullers, Carson: Member of the Wedding, The; Miller, Arthur: Crucible, The; Mistry, Rohinton: Fine Balance, A; Naylor, Gloria: Women of Brewster Place, The; Orwell, George: Animal Farm; Paine, Thomas: “Age of Reason, The,” and Common Sense; Shakespeare, William: Twelfth Night; Silko, Leslie Marmon: Almanac of the Dead; Steinbeck, John: Pearl, The; Synge, John Millington: Playboy of the Western World, The; Twain, Mark: Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The; Wharton, Edith: Age of Innocence, and Ethan Frome. FURTHER READING Bauman, Zygmunt. Community: Seeking Safety in an Insecure World. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001. Hilde, Thomas C. “The Cosmopolitan Project: Does the Internet Have a Global Public Face?” In The Internet in Public Life, edited by Verna V. Gehring, Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004. 121–130. Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Penguin, 1987. Tonnies, Ferdinand. Community and Civil Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Rajender Kaur


The idea of cruelty, for most readers, calls to mind actions or behaviors that inflict suffering in ways that are especially coldhearted, depraved, or indifferent. Acts or words considered cruel seem to go beyond what is merely unkind or simply violent

in a way that harms the victim irreparably. Cruelty can be physical or mental; it can be inflicted upon human beings or upon animals; it can take the form of large-scale horrors such as the Holocaust or the September 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center; or it can involve only two people, as in cases of domestic abuse. The binding factor in all of these cases is the intent of the perpetrator. To willfully hurt others and to feel indifferent at the suffering of one’s fellow human beings, to enjoy or delight in the infliction of pain—these are acts of cruelty. Acts of cruelty such as torture, domestic abuse, terrorism, and genocide profoundly alter the victims’ sense of the world, how it works, and their place in it. Perpetrators attempt to take away the victims’ humanity, to reduce them to an object in a way that simple violence does not. At first glance, the definition of cruelty might seem straightforward, but upon further consideration, determining what is cruel and what is not is not so easy. Seneca, a Roman philosopher from the first century, wrote that the factor that determines cruelty rests in the mind of the perpetrator in exacting punishment. Excessive punishment or torture was, for Seneca, the opposite of clemency, or mercy, and leaders should avoid it. Seneca wrote his treatise De Clementia to the Roman emperor Nero, to whom he was an adviser. He encouraged the cultivation of mercy in the emperor, in what was probably an attempt to move him away from the brutality of his predecessors. St. Augustine (354–430), one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity, went beyond Seneca’s theories and wrote of cruelty as a reflexive evil that destroys its inflicter and should be judged by its effect on him or her. What is important here is that Augustine explored the connection between the body and the soul, understanding that cruelty goes beyond the physical pain it causes and alters the way both victim and victimizer see the world. In Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) relied heavily on Seneca’s work when he discussed cruelty, believing that “harshness of mind” in the inflicter of cruelty was the determining factor. For Thomas Aquinas, intention was all-important; in other words, an excessive punishment was certainly unjust, but not necessarily

22â•…â•… cruelty cruel. For Michel Montaigne, the French philosopher and essayist writing in the 16th century, intent was important, but it was not the only determining factor. Actions could be cruel in and of themselves even when allowed by law. For instance, many societies have allowed slavery, but as Montaigne pointed out, the fact that the practice is legal does not make it merciful. Like St. Augustine, the 18th-century British philosopher John Locke focused on the effect cruelty has on the perpetrator. Even when the victims were animals and not human beings, Locke believed cruelty had a destructive effect on those who inflicted harm. If it seems that much philosophical thought on cruelty attempts to define it, perhaps that is because one of the central philosophical questions on the topic has to do with whether or not cruelty is ever justified. In order to justify (or to condemn) cruelty, it must first be defined. For instance, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States in World War II was without question devastating and brutal, and many noncombatants, including children, were seriously injured and killed. Whether or not we are willing to call that action cruel, however, seems to have to do with whether or not it was justified. Psychologists, however, have argued that in the minds of many perpetrators of violence, any action may be justified. Roy Baumeister, for instance, argues that most acts of violence result from mutual, escalating provocations and grievances. This leads to a rationalization in the mind of the victimizer. For instance, people often feel victimized by other groups and convince themselves they are acting out of a justified need for a role reversal. Rapists, for instance, often claim to have been enacting a kind of revenge against all women (166). Incredibly, the Ku Klax Klan often claimed they were acting out of revenge when they burned down homes, raped black women, and lynched black men throughout the 20th century. These acts, they claimed, were in retaliation against freed slaves who had disrupted the system of white superiority and complacency (166–167). Ideology is often another justification for violence and cruelty. Even seemingly good, ordinary people who have convinced themselves they are “fighting for a good cause” have engaged in despicable acts of cruelty. The Crusades, for instance,

beginning in the 1100s, were led by soldiers who believed they were heeding the pope’s call to recapture the Holy Land. In general, these were ordinary men who believed they were serving their God, but they participated in the vast slaughter of innocent human beings and barbaric acts of brutality, such as burning people alive and mutilating and torturing noncombatants. In the Ukraine in the mid-20th century, soldiers under the orders of Joseph Stalin systematically confiscated the food of peasant farmers and their families all in the name of the “universal triumph of communism” (Baumeister 179). Ultimately, 11 million starved to death—a torturous, brutal way to die. But these soldiers, acting in the sway of an ideology, believed, or forced themselves to believe, that the ends justified the means. Indeed, many philosophers and psychologists would argue that driven by ideology, or in the pursuit of revenge, most human beings are capable of cruelty. In fact, two famous experiments seem to indicate that even being placed in a culture whereby such acts are acceptable and being given orders is enough for many ordinary people to cross the line. In 1963, the social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment that has come to be named for him. Participants were told to choose slips of paper from a hat, and they would be assigned either “teacher” or “learner.” The teacher would read word pairs out to the learner and then ask questions about what the learner remembered. When the learner made a mistake, the teacher was to administer an increasingly painful electric shock. In reality, there were no actual shocks; all the slips said “teacher,” and the “learner” was played by an actor. Even when the learner asked to stop the experiment, 65 percent of the subjects went on to administer the most powerful shock: 450 volts. In the 1972 Stanford Prison Experiment, the psychologist Philip Zimbardo staged an experiment in which undergraduate volunteers took on the roles of “prisoner” and “guard” in a mock prison. The “guards” became so sadistic and the “prisoners” so emotionally traumatized that the experiment, planned for two weeks, was halted after six days. In both of these experiments, the victimizers focused not on the human beings on the receiving end of the cruelty, but on the rationales they had been given. Cruelty must necessarily turn human

deathâ•…â•… 23 subjects into objects, and this transformation is the reason why the victims of cruelty experience such a disruption of their worldview. Victims of cruelty move from “life—to a kind of death” (Arnault 7). They feel they can never go back to the vision of life before. There can be no redemption, no happy ending. While life may go on, the meaning of life is forever changed for them. Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is an excellent example of how cruelty disrupts meaning. The family who are murdered in the story do not resist their deaths; the moments in which they are taken into the woods and shot seem surreal. The grandmother refuses to comprehend what is happening around her, exhorting The Misfit to “Pray!” and insisting, beyond reason, that he would not kill an old lady. In Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff endures cruelty throughout his life. He is, almost like a stray dog, brought home to Wuthering Heights by Mr. Earnshaw. Although he is fed and clothed, he is treated more as an animal than a human, with no one save Catherine encouraging him to have feelings. When Mr. Earnshaw dies, Heathcliff endures even greater cruelty at the hands of the sadistic Hindley. As he grows to adulthood, Heathcliff never establishes the human connections that would make it possible to be merciful. Instead, he learns that cruelty is the only way and turns that cruelty on Isabella, Hareton, Linton, and Cathy. Cruelty, and the evil that lurks behind it, has devastating consequences for both victims and victimizers. Victimizers tend to lose their humanity, even as they force themselves to view their victims as something less than human. Victims, on the other hand, tend to enter a new, incomprehensible world, one in which they have no rights, no agency, no dignity, no humanity. Ultimately, although they may move past the cruelty physically and emotionally, they are unable to see the world the same way ever again. See also Coetzee, J. M.: Waiting for the Barbarians; Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: Hound of the Baskervilles; Frank, Anne: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl; Golding, William: Lord of the Flies; Hinton, S. E.: Outsiders, The; Orwell, George: Animal Farm;

Poe, Edgar Allan: “Tell-Tale Heart, The”: Salinger, J. D.: Catcher in the Rye, The; Virgil: Aeneid, The; Williams, Tennessee: Streetcar Named Desire, A. FURTHER READING Arnault, Lynne. “Cruelty, Horror, and the Will to Redemption.” Hypatia 18, no. 2 (2003): 155–188. Baumeister, Roy F. Evil: Inside Human Cruelty and Violence. New York: Freeman, 1997. Edgerton, Robert B. The Balance of Human Kindness and Cruelty: Why We Are the Way We Are. Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen Press, 2005 Waller, James. Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


In Poetics, Aristotle recognized literature’s value for humanity when he stated that “the object of art is an imitation of life.” Writers have always used the situations and events of everyday life in their writing, and since death is just as much a part of life as anything else, it is arguably one of the most recurring themes in all of literature. In poetry, fiction, and drama, death is seen as a central theme that gives way to other themes ranging from justice to rites of passage to grief. Death is a crucial fact of life, and from the emotional response to death to the various religious frameworks through which it is interpreted, it is obvious why death is used as a theme in literature so extensively. In ancient literature, the theme of death is seen regularly. In Gilgamesh, the ancient epic of Mesopotamia, death is clearly illustrated through relationships, responding to the deaths of loved ones, and war. Once Gilgamesh comes to love Enkidu, he dies, and the reader is left with Gilgamesh’s thoughts and response to his friend’s death. In ancient Greek mythology, the Trojan War provided a framework for a myriad of stories, including Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey; both stories recount numerous lengthy battles and gruesome scenes of death. Later, Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides, the three great Greek tragedians, created death-driven plays, such as Sophocles’ Oedipus The King and Antigone,

24â•…â•… death which includes patricide, suicide, and fratricide. In Poetics, Aristotle highlights the value of tragedy, which compels an audience to feel a catharsis, or cleansing of the soul, by witnessing tragic acts, typically deaths of highly regarded characters—deaths those characters may not totally deserve. Even in ancient literature, authors were utilizing death as a theme to elicit an emotional response in the reader or audience. Later, in the Roman myths told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, death is one of the underlying themes present, in which characters face transformation, which for them is often the same as death. In the Roman poet Virgil’s The Aeneid, Aeneas is to establish the city of Rome, but this is only after his home has been destroyed and his family killed. Throughout the story, the reader witnesses constant death in battle. In book 10, after Aeneas takes the life of Lausus, his father, Mezentius, comes to Aeneas to avenge his son’s death. Mezentius calls out to Aeneas, why do you ridicule me, threaten me with death? Killing is no crime. .╯.╯. Let me rest in the grave beside my son, in the comradeship of death. (Virgil, The Aeneid, book 10:1,067–1,077) Here it seems that death would be a comfort to this father whose son has been killed in combat. In this perspective, a reader can understand how death is seen in battle as valorous and can even be consoling. Especially throughout literature of battle and war, death is faced with bravery and moral courage. In the Middle Ages, the theme of death often underlies the literature as well. In a lot of the romance literature, such as Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, the idea of chivalry is a prominent theme, and one aspect of chivalry was that a knight was expected to fight valiantly to uphold his king’s or his lady’s honor, even forfeit his life in battle if need be. One of the major European events in the Middle Ages, the bubonic plague, certainly had an effect on literature, as in Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, in which 10 people flee the plague in

Florence, and each tells a different story over the course of 10 days in order to keep his or her mind off of the deaths of friends and loved ones left behind. One of the biggest literary figures of the Middle Ages, Dante Alighieri, wrote The Divine Comedy, a story in which the poet is given a guided tour of life after visiting the inferno, purgatory, and heaven. This work seems reminiscent of Aristotle’s catharsis idea in that the reader’s soul is cleansed by seeing what Dante sees. Geoffrey Chaucer uses death as a central theme in several of his Canterbury Tales. In “The Pardoner’s Tale,” three men actually set out to find and kill Death, who has taken the life of one of their friends. The Wife of Bath, one of the most critically examined female literary characters, tells a story of a knight who faces execution unless he can find out what women truly want. In these stories Chaucer uses death as a theme to demonstrate several ideas: Humans are afraid of death; they sometimes become at once saddened and angry when loved ones die; and finally, something demonstrated in nearly all of these works is the idea that humans fear death because they value life so dearly and they do not know what comes after death. Not knowing what comes after death is significantly portrayed in Renaissance literature as well, especially in the poetry of England, in which the theme of carpe diem (Latin for “seize the day”) is so common. From Robert Herrick’s iconic “To the Virgins to Make Much of Time” to John Donne, the idea of “seize the day” is not so much an inspiration to enjoy life as it is a warning to enjoy life quickly before it ends. On the other hand, in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the title character makes a deal, transferring his soul to the devil for immortality because he does not want to die. Later in the Renaissance, John Milton composed one of the greatest epics in the English language, Paradise Lost, in which he sets out to “justify the ways of God to men” (book 1, l. 26). In doing so, he must explain death as much as life. However, any discussion of Renaissance literature must highlight William Shakespeare, who used the theme of death in many of his works. In Sonnet 73, he uses the traditional symbolism of seasons, in which spring represents birth and youth

educationâ•…â•… 25 while winter represents death with the lines “That time of year thou mayst in me behold, / When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang, / Upon those boughs which shake against the cold” (ll. 1–3). The speaker is calling for the reader to see how he is getting close to death. The sonnet ends with the line “To love that well, which thou must leave ere long” (l. 14), which again alludes to the carpe diem theme. However, Shakespeare incorporates diverse ideas about death in his works, and one that is different is in Sonnet 71, “No longer mourn for me when I am dead,” in which the speaker recommends forgetting about him, “Lest the wide world should look into your moan / And mock you with me after I am gone” (ll. 13–14). Here, Shakespeare proposes a different idea about death, mainly to forgo grieving and simply get on with life. Of course, he employs the death theme in his plays in various ways as well, from the suicidal Ophelia in Hamlet to the pretended death of Hero in Much Ado about Nothing to the deaths brought on by the evil Iago in Othello. Characters avenge deaths of loved ones, face death in battle, and even plot the betrayal of other characters. Shakespeare is perhaps unparalleled in all of literature in his ability to invoke the whole range of human emotion regarding death. Through later periods of literature all over the world, authors have continued to use death as a major theme, symbolically, metaphorically, and physically. Evident in such novels as Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, and Richard Wright’s Native Son, Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, death provides authors with the substance to create an emotional response in the reader like no other topic. Themes like betrayal, vengeance, greed, honor, justice, courage, and failure are almost always portrayed in conjunction with death. Some of the great novels have been born in a response to death, including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in which Victor struggles to create life out of his response to his own mother’s death, but in the ensuing action, he loses those most dear to him. Looking at more contemporary novels, some of the most famous American writers—Stephen King, John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks—are noted for their

riveting stories that revolve around mystery and death. Authors have all the material of life around them from which to draw, but nevertheless, death has always been and will continue to be one of the most prominent themes in literature, and for many reasons: There is a pervading symbolism attached to death in different cultures and religions. Death signifies an end and a great mystery about what comes next, and the range of human emotions surrounding it is so vast that authors are able to combine it with many other themes. See also Allende, Isabel: House of Spirits, The; Bierce, Ambrose: “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, An”; Brontë, Emily: Wuthering Heights; Browning, Robert: “My Last Duchess”; Camus, Albert: Stranger, The; Capote, Truman: In Cold Blood; Coleridge, Samuel Taylor: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The”: DeLillo, Don: White Noise; Dickens, Charles: Christmas Carol, A; Dickinson, Emily: poems; Eliot, T. S.: “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The”; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: “Rappaccini’s Daughter”; Keats, John: poetry; Miller, Arthur: Death of a Salesman; Poe, Edgar Allan: “Fall of the House of Usher, The”; Shakespeare, William: Romeo and Juliet; Welty, Eudora: Optimist ’s Daughter, The; Whitman, Walt; Leaves of Grass; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs Dalloway; To the Lighthouse. FURTHER READING Fiedler, Leslie. Love and Death in the American Novel. New York: Dalkey Archive Press, 1998.

Christopher Lessick


It is no surprise that education, which affects the relationship between the individual and society, should figure as a perennial theme in literature from the ancient classics of Greece and Rome to contemporary literature. The shadow of the Dark Ages is said to have lifted only after the ancient classics were rediscovered in the wake of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the dispersal of its famous libraries that housed these books. Education is not always delivered through the same channels, nor does it always serve the same purposes, and it is not

26â•…â•… education always a positive force. However, its ability to shape society is undeniable. Plato’s The Republic offers two models of education, one for warrior rulers and the other a more philosophical approach for the philosopher ruler, given through the pedagogical example and allegory of the cave. In this allegory, Plato describes a group of people who have been imprisoned in a cave all their lives. They see shadows of things passing in front of them and believe the shadows to be reality. The philosopher is like a prisoner freed from the cave who understands now the true reality of things. The highest goal of this form of education is knowledge of the good, and it is only through this that Plato’s enlightened philosopher rulers can rule a utopian community. Similarly, Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince is focused on the education of the sovereign or political leader of a state in the art of good governance through a strategic deployment of force and guile. Machiavelli uses the metaphors of the lion and the fox to underscore the strength, nobility, slyness, and shrewdness needed to retain power and triumph over one’s rivals. During the Renaissance, education found literary expression in the form of conduct books. The Renaissance was a golden age for the proliferation of conduct and etiquette books, which were an important aspect in the achievement of a well-rounded individual, especially in a feudal world where manners reflected the person. Unlike practical books that taught the martial arts or educated one in the sciences and arts, these books had a strong moral dimension that sought to inculcate ethical virtues and produce the ideal gentleman or gentlewoman. Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier (1528) is a prescriptive treatise on the ideal courtier and outlines the essential virtues that he should embody. Narrated through an engaging series of imaginary conversations between the real-life courtiers to the duke of Urbino, Castiglione’s speakers discuss qualities of noble behavior—namely, discretion, decorum, nonchalance and gracefulness—as well as wider questions, such as the duties of a good government and the true nature of love. Castiglione’s literary skill and sharp psychological insights make this guide to manners both an entertaining

and a definitive glimpse into the ideals and debates of Renaissance life. Advice and conduct books targeted at women were an especially popular genre in 19th-century England and America. These guidebooks recommended a broad education for women that also included French, drawing, sewing, and the ability to sing or play a musical instrument. They emphasized the importance of a sweet demeanor and courteous tongue, of good humor and wit. Jane Austen’s heroines, for example, embody the lightness of spirit and wit that all women could aspire to if they wanted to snare a suitable man. In America, Emily Thornwell’s The Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility (New York, 1857) was aimed at white women, The College of Life, or Practical Self-Educator [sic], a Manual of Self-Improvement for the Colored Race, shows that rules for good wifehood were proposed for both white and African-American middle-class women. Writings on education such as John Milton’s Tract on Education and Free Expression (1644), and John Locke’s Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) reflect the intense debates on education in the 17th and 18th century. Mary Wollstonecraft wrote Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1786), and her later A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is a radical political and educational treatise. She critiques Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s view on women’s education and argues that women are not naturally submissive and dependent creatures and that if they exercised their rationality through a good education, they could be equal partners of men. In emphasizing rationality in women, Wollstonecraft was extending the basic ideas of Enlightenment philosophy to women. Rousseau’s Émile, or On Education (1762) was the precursor of the education novel. In Émile, Rousseau advocates a system of education that would enable the natural man to survive corrupt society. Divided into five books, the novel traces Émile’s education from childhood to maturity. The first three books focus on childhood; the last two examine Émile’s youth and domestic and civil life as he falls in love with Sophie. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795–96) is a novel of upbringing and education and tells the story of Wilhelm’s disillusionment with bourgeois

educationâ•…â•… 27 life as he apprentices himself to the mysterious Tower Society comprising enlightened aristocrats who will guide him towards his true calling. In Plots of Enlightenment: Education and Novel in Eighteenth Century England (1999), Richard A. Barney argues that the conjunction of the early novel with theories of education reflects the cultural developments of the 18th century. He states that “educational theory during the late 17th and 18th century formed an indispensable source for the novel’s narrative form and its often contradictory representation of individual social identity” (2). Education is an important theme in Victorian fiction, not just through the bildungsroman, or coming of age novel, but also in the form of a critique of methods of education, of corporal punishment, and of inhumane boarding schools such as those portrayed in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847). The harsh and inhumane conditions of Lowood, the boarding school that Jane is dispatched to after she rebels against Mrs. Reed, reflect the desperate conditions of many real schools in England at that time. The hypocrisy of Brocklehurst, who lives a life of luxury while preaching the values of a Spartan life for the girls at Lowood highlights the hypocrisy of the moneyed patrons of many of these so-called charitable educational institutions run for the poor. The bildungsroman, or “novel of formation,” is essentially a novel of education as it traces the journey of a character from childhood to adulthood through education and the life experiences that he or she has. Charles Dickens’s David Copperf ield (1849–50) Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39), and Great Expectations (1860–61) are all novels that tell stories of rags to riches made possible through education and wealthy benefactors, but they also count the tragic toll in loss of friendships and self included in this process. In Dombey and Son (1846– 48), Dickens offers a critique of the emphasis on acquiring classical languages in schools as a passport to university admission and upward social mobility. The force-feeding of the boys is communicated through the aptly named Mr. Feeder’s method of instruction: “They knew no rest from the pursuit of strong-hearted verbs, savage noun-substantives, inflexible syntactic passages, and ghosts of exercises that appeared to them in their dreams” (11).

Contemporary cultural theorists recognize the vital relationship between power, knowledge, and cultural development. Literature as an expression and constituent of culture plays an integral role in the perpetuation of certain power relations, whether they are of class, caste, or gender relations. In Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid unmasks this colonial mission through the examination of colonial institutions such as the convent schools of various missionary orders. In particular, she excoriates the soft propaganda of British colonial rule through the widespread teaching of William Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils.” Generations of students from Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean have memorized “Daffodils” as the very epitome of romantic imagination and cultured sensibility, despite never having set sight on a daffodil. The daffodil only grows in temperate zones and is foreign to the tropical climes of these colonized places. If literature functions as a hegemonic tool to shape the sensibility of the colonized, it also functions as a counter-hegemonic tool by inspiring writings of resistance through the ideals of liberty, equality, and the brotherhood of man as set out in the works of Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx. Much of postcolonial literature embodies this ambivalent function of education, as in Tsi Tsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions (1988), in which the character Tambu aspires to wealth and status through education, but this very education becomes a culturally alienating force where she loses touch with her roots and family. Learning, knowledge, and culture are closely allied to literature, and consequently education and literature share a symbiotic relationship. By extension, adjectives such as literate, educated, cultured, and learned are synonyms of each other and reflect a conglomerate of desired attributes that are centered in and expressed through literature. Both education and literature work hand in hand as powerful transformative tools that can shape minds and hearts and in turn effect change for the better. See also Adams Henry: Education of Henry Adams, The; Amis, Kingsley: Lucky Jim; Bradbury, Ray: Fahrenheit 451; Byron, George Gordon Byron, Lord: Don Juan; Emerson, Ralph Waldo: “American Scholar, The”; Haley, Alex,

28â•…â•… ethics and Malcolm X: Autobiography of Malcolm X, The; Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World; Lawrence, D. H.: Rainbow, The; Plath, Sylvia: Bell Jar, The; Shaw, George Bernard: Pygmalion; Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein; Smith, Betty: Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A; Walker, Alice: Color Purple, The; Washington, Booker T.: Up from Slavery. FURTHER READING Barney, Richard A. Plots of Enlightenment: Education and the Novel in Eighteenth Century England. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. 1999. Dickens, Charles. Dombey and Son. New York: Penguin Classics, 1980. Hickling-Hudson, Anne, Julie Matthews, and Annette Woods, eds. Disrupting Preconceptions: Postcolonialism and Education. Brisbane: Post-Pressed, 2004.

Rajender Kaur


Ethics, as a branch of philosophy, seeks to explore rational decision making, with the hope of establishing standards for ideal behavior. Although most people believe that they have an inherent sense of right and wrong, thus making the study of ethics unnecessary, when ethics is examined across time and across various cultures, we see significant differences in how people interpret these concepts. Complicating things further, ethics is often taught alongside or as an extension of religion. For many, the answer to moral questions can be found in holy books or by consulting clergy. However, the way that Scripture is translated and interpreted has changed over time and is susceptible to different interpretations from one person to another. The study of ethics, then, seeks to explore the standards people have adopted for themselves, whether unconsciously or as part of moral or religious instruction, and to recommend a rational basis for these standards through this process. Because ethical positions are human constructs and because humans are capable of changing their conceptions of right and wrong, ethics is hardly a stable field of study. Rather, these debates are ongoing both among individuals and within larger, even global, communities.

Ethics and literature are intimately connected, having emerged simultaneously as humans developed language and began to communicate through stories. Literature is a particularly rich source of ethical reflection in that characters in imagined worlds can make decisions without hurting real people. There is also a level of ethical engagement outside of the story, on the formal level. How writers represent the world has an impact on how the reader thinks of his or her own world. Although fictional characters run the ethical spectrum (some positively evil, others absolutely good, most somewhere in between) stories very often involve characters making choices with ethical implications. Similarly, many philosophical texts dealing with ethics make use of small fictions to illustrate a point. For example, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) tells a story to help develop his position on being untruthful. If someone runs into your house to escape a murderer, and the murderer knocks at the door to ask if you have seen his or her intended victim, you are forced to decide between lying or telling the truth (and thus helping the murderer). For reasons that will be examined here, Kant argues that even in this situation it would be unethical to lie. If every ethical decision was clear-cut, there would not be much need for or interest in ethics. However, because so many decisions are not as clear-cut as people would like, often involving a choice between two conflicting principles that we believe in, it helps to think through and articulate not only what we believe to be right, but also the relative importance of the principles behind these decisions. While many philosophers have commented on these issues, there are a number of important positions that help to orient the novice. It should be noted, however, that although the Western tradition has been emphasized in American and British education, there are writers on ethics and ethical traditions from all over the globe, many of whom are gaining prominence in literary study. The English word ethics is derived from the Greek ethike, and in keeping with this linguistic borrowing, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) is often thought of as the first significant contributor to the Western tradition of ethics. In the Aristotelian view, everything has a reason for existence, or some end

ethicsâ•…â•… 29 that it is meant to achieve. For humans, this state is happiness and it is reached through the cultivation of virtues. In order to be happy, humans have to cultivate their potential, often by seeking what Aristotle called the golden mean, or, in other words, by seeking moderation in most things. People act ethically—for example, giving up some of their dinner to help feed a hungry child—not because it is in their self-interest (most probably their stomach wants the whole thing) but because it reflects the cultivation of the virtue of generosity. Put simply, in Aristotelian ethics, people act to demonstrate or work toward being better, more virtuous people. They show who they are, not what they want. Kant, one of the most influential writers on ethics, offered a different, though not unrelated, position. In the Kant view, every human is free insofar as he or she has the ability to exercise reason. Ethics, then, is something that each person imposes on him or herself freely. Kant developed what he called the categorical imperative to describe the basis for ethical action. Lying, according to Kant, is evil in that it deprives others of the ability to exercise their reason properly. Therefore, telling the truth is a categorical imperative—it is the right thing to do, no matter the circumstances. The other major 18th-century ethical philosophy is that of utilitarianism. Developed by Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806– 73), utilitarianism can be described as a philosophy seeking the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Unlike Kant’s philosophy, utilitarianism is concerned only with the results of actions, not the intentions of the people making the decisions. For these thinkers, lying could be justified if it did more good than harm. There are, however, objections to this philosophy; most people would have a hard time sacrificing a family member to try to save two strangers, for example. One important 20th-century ethical thinker was Emmanuel Levinas (1906–95). Unlike Aristotle, Bentham, or Kant, Levinas begins his ideas on ethics with an interaction with another human. For Levinas, each of us has an infinite responsibility to the other person, who will always remain a mystery to us. In fact, Levinas argues that it is precisely when we stop looking at one another as unique people

that ethical problems arise. As a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War, Levinas saw firsthand what people were capable of when they labeled others and thought of them as a group rather than as individuals. Precisely because his philosophy emphasizes the importance of language and labeling, Levinas’s thought demonstrates the importance of literature in either furthering bigotry or in exposing the workings of this procedure and warding against it. Few stories have remained in the popular imagination as long or as firmly as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and this, in large part, is because many of the ethical questions it raises are still being debated today. For example, is it right to take advantage of scientific advances to create new life forms? Is the genetic alteration of plants and animals safe? Is it right to clone humans? If we do, does the clone have the same rights as the original person? Relating to debates over abortion rights, when is a human a human? At what point do the rights of the child supersede the mother’s right to choose? Is it ethical to abort a pregnancy if the child has traits the parents consider to be undesirable? In the novel, Victor Frankenstein becomes obsessed with exploring the limits of his power as well as the limits of science and locks himself away from family and friends in order to create a being. Although he at first finds his creation to be beautiful, when the being finally awakes, Victor is horrified by his creation and runs away. Unlike his portrayal in many adaptations of the novel, Victor’s creation is hardly a monster at first; he begins his life by helping a poor family, learning their language, and reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Only after the monster, based solely on his appearance, is repeatedly rejected by those around him, including Victor, does he become evil and set out on a path of vengeance. The novel simultaneously taps into many ethical debates over the responsibility of parents to their children, the responsibility of society to those it superficially labels monstrous, the ethics governing experiments with science and technology, and many more. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) is another novel that resonates with many ethical debates. Clarissa Dalloway is an unlikely heroine according to traditional logic, in that the culmina-

30â•…â•… family tion of her day is a small party she is giving (rather than, say, an epic battle or journey). By conveying her thinking directly through stream-of-consciousness narration, Woolf exposes the complicated, nearly countless threads of Clarissa’s thought as she goes about her day. In this way, the novel challenges not only 19th-century novelistic conventions but a predominant sexist society that values the accomplishments of “great men” as well. The character who seems to most resemble Clarissa, the shell-shocked soldier Septimus Smith, commits suicide at the end of the novel. This grim conclusion brings up two debates: first, whether suicide is ever ethically permissible, and second, what responsibility society has to returning soldiers. Haunting the entire novel is World War I and questions about whether war is ever justified and what its relation is to sexism at home and imperialism abroad. One of the strengths of Woolf ’s writing is the way in which it subtly critiques misogynistic society, demonstrating, for example, how much of the thinking and writing deemed important (including the ethical philosophies discussed above) are written by men or assume a male agent and fail to account for the impact of emotions and the subconscious on reason. Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds (1939) extends the formal experimentation of Woolf and O’Brien’s fellow Irishman James Joyce, offering a much more humorous, though no less ethical stance on writing. One of the novel’s many plots centers on Dermot Trellis, a popular fiction writer who uses character types to create marketable fiction. When he sleeps, his characters come to life and, unhappy with the roles they have been given, work to keep the writer asleep while they put him on trial. In this sense, this highly self-conscious work dramatizes the argument forwarded by Levinas. Additionally, Trellis’s decision to write a moral tale that nonetheless includes enough smut and bad language to keep it interesting offers a satiric commentary on the genre of the novel, whose practitioners have time and again defended the inclusion of “unsavory” parts as necessary to the book’s overall moral purpose. While the decision in this instance can be ridiculed as self-serving, it does seem that works that are overly didactic lack the complexity and therefore the staying power of other stories. It is clear that ethics will

continue to play an important part in literature for some time to come. See also Chestnutt, Charles W.: “Goophered Grapevine, The;” Davis, Rebecca Harding: Life in the Iron Mills; Defoe, Daniel: Moll Flanders; Ibsen, Henrik: Doll ’s House, A; Hedda Gabler; Ishiguro, Kazuo: Remains of the Day, The; Kingsolver, Barbara: Poisonwood Bible, The; Machiavelli, Niccolò: P rince, The; Malamud, Bernard: Natural, The; McMurtry, Larry: Lonesome Dove; Molière; Misanthrope, The; Paine, Thomas: “Age of Reason, The”; Thoreau, Henry David: “Resistance to Civil Government”; Vonnegut, Kurt: Slaughterhouse-Five; Wollstonecraft, Mary: Vindication of the Rights of Woman, A. FURTHER READING Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. 2d ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Practical Reason. Translated by Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002. Levinas, Emmanuel. Otherwise Than Being: or, Beyond Essence. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1998.

Daniel Ryan Morse


Much has been written on the institution of family in the fields of sociology, psychology, and anthropology, but one of the most famous comments on the family comes from literature. Leo Tolstoy wrote, in Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This comment underscores the importance of family happiness in our lives as human beings. From our family, we get our beliefs and values—religious, political, social. From our family, we learn to function in the real world as adults. We spend an average of 18 years in this environment, and its atmosphere, positive and negative, cannot help but deeply affect us for life. Furthermore, it is not just the families in which we are raised that shape our worldview, but also the families in which we function as adults. As parents and spouses, we tend to prioritize our families over all other aspects of life, and also to see our families

familyâ•…â•… 31 as coherent units, united in solidarity against the outside world. These family ties can be a soothing, strengthening force, helping us to battle life’s trials. However, these ties, always complicated, can also work to destroy us, rob us of the emotional tools we need to survive, and provide us with no defenses when trouble sets in. The families into which we are born and the families we create as we get older hold such importance for us because they are our primary sources of identification. The answer to the question “Who am I?” lies, in large part, in who our families are. The sociologist Jerome Kagan notes that children identify most readily with their parents, and that before adolescence they believe they share the same basic qualities and values with their “parental models” (Kagan et al. 40). In Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, David struggles with his father’s identity as a rabbi and Reuven struggles with his father’s identity as an academic. Neither boy feels the chosen path is necessarily the right one for him, but because they identify so strongly with their fathers, they are confused about who they are and who they are supposed to be. Ultimately, although they will, in a sense, trade paths, with Reuven entering the rabbinate and David going to graduate school, the bonds they formed with their families in childhood will serve them well. Not all family identifications are positive, of course. In Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, the Tyrones all feel that they are doomed to never achieve their dreams and goals precisely because they are Tyrones. Brothers Edmund and Jamie, one a tubercular alcoholic and sometime merchant mariner and the other a failed alcoholic actor, are both trapped in a family system that will not allow them happiness, only dreams of happiness. Their father is a cheap, belittling alcoholic whose own dreams of vaudeville success died, and their mother is a morphine addict constantly in mourning for the son she lost as an infant and the “normal” life she gave up to marry Tyrone. For each of the Tyrones, “who they are” seems sadly predetermined. In addition to helping to identify us, family also provides us with a haven in times of adversity. Especially in the modern Western world, according to Edmund Shorter, there is a “special sense of soli-

darity that separates the domestic union from the surrounding community” (205). Families have a tendency to protect their own and to shut out the outside world if need be. Even families who participate heavily in the community, such as the March family in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, put family before others. For instance, when they receive a telegram that Mr. March is ill, Marmee goes off to Washington, D.C., to be with him, while Jo sells her hair to finance the trip. The entire family worries over Beth when she is ill and mourns her deeply when she dies, with Jo and Amy putting aside their differences for the sake of their beloved sister. In Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, the “safe” haven of family actually becomes a handicap to both Laura and Tom Wingfield. Because Laura has the security of knowing she can cocoon herself away from the outside world that terrifies her so much, she never overcomes her painful shyness and cannot function outside her family’s apartment. For Tom, because his mother expects him to take care of the two of them, the “haven” becomes a prison, and he can think of nothing but escape, first the metaphorical escape of alcohol and movies and finally the literal escape of a job that will take him far away. The Wingfield family are able to keep their troubles locked up in an apartment because that is how families work. If they so choose, they may stay behind closed doors. This domestic sphere, as it is sometimes called, is not subject to what society might want, but only what the family itself desires. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato spoke of this separation between the “public sphere” and the “private sphere,” saying that public people must be responsible and rational at all times because they participate wholly in both private life and the life of the community around them. Therefore, they must have the highest moral standards and the most exacting sense of justice (Elshtain 53). Private people, on the other hand, need not live up to high ideals; they need only possess a “limited goodness” as it applies to the sphere in which they dwell (54). The family, then, as the nexus of the “private sphere” is important, but only because it provides a sanctuary from public life. Those most closely associated with the family, women and children, need only aspire to this “limited goodness.” This view, unfortunately,

32â•…â•… family persisted well into the 20th century. In Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, Nathan Price drags his wife and four daughters to Africa, bent on converting the Africans to Christianity but uncaring and unmindful of how his family will survive there. Reverend Price, as a public figure, believes that only he has the answers to how life should be lived. However, it becomes clear that it is the domestic sphere that will prove to be the most important prong of life in the Congo. Providing food and shelter and avoiding deadly animals is the immediate necessity for the Price family, and Price cannot do those things. In contrast to Nathan Price, the characters in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town celebrate the domestic sphere and the importance of family in our lives. The Stage Manager does not exalt the work of Dr. Gibbs, providing medical care to the town, over the cleaning, cooking, and child-care duties of Mrs. Gibbs, his wife. In fact, he explicitly points out how important these day-to-day tasks are in the life of a human being. Emily Webb’s final speech in the graveyard emphasizes the beauty of these mundane elements of life, demonstrating that when we underappreciate the private in favor of the more flashy public, we miss out on the wonder of life. Not all families provide sanctuary or comfort, however; many make life harder for their members. In fact, it is common in Western society to blame the problems of adults on unhappiness in their families when they were growing up, whether there is good evidence of this causal relationship or not (Kagan et al. 41). Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of Richard Wright’s Native Son, would like nothing more than to get away from his nagging mother and his annoying sister, who, he feels (with good reason), are unsupportive of him. Bigger’s frustration and anger, of course, have more to do with being poor and black in Chicago in the 1930s than they do with his mother, but it is significant that he would allow himself to blame her at all for the way he feels. Despite evidence to the contrary, many children look to their parents as the source of their travails. Bigger finds himself an alternative “family,” albeit not a very functional one, in the form of a small gang of friends. This impulse, too, is

common. When family, for whatever reason, disappoints us, we turn to others to provide identification, support, comfort, and sanctuary. While some social commentators might worry that this is a product of the modern era, history shows otherwise. Families have always had to compete with “others” and family members have always sought time with same-sex peers (Shorter, quoted 15). In fact, because the community no longer actively participates in private ceremonies surrounding birth, marriage, and death, it can be argued that families are more stable in the 21st century than they were before the industrial age. The family, far from being weakened by the changes and problems that come with the modern world, has instead adapted to it, remaining a source of inspiration in our lives and our literature. See also Albee, Edward: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?; Anaya, Rudolfo: Bless Me, Ultima; Anderson, Sherwood: W inesburg, Ohio; Baldwin, James: Go Tell It on the Mountain; Cao Xuequin: Dream of the Red Chamber; Erdrich, Louise; Tracks; Franklin, Benjamin: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The; Hansberry, Lorraine: R aisin in the Sun, A; Homer: Odyssey, The; Houston, Jean Wakatsuki: Farewell to Manzanar ; Joyce, James: Dubliners; Kafka, Franz: “Metamorphosis, The”; Lewis, Sinclair: Main Street; Lowry, Lois: Giver, The; Molière: Tartuffe; O’Connor, Flannery: “Good Man Is Hard to Find, A”; Paton, Alan: Cry, the Beloved Country; Sophocles: Antigone; Steinbeck, John: Grapes of Wrath, The; Red Pony, The; Stowe, Harriet Beecher: Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Welty, Eudora: Optimist ’s Daughter, The; Wordsworth, William: “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.” FURTHER READING Elshtain, Jean Bethke. The Family in Political Thought. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1982. Kagan, Jerome, Alice Rossi, and Tamara Hareven. The Family. New York: Norton, 1978. Shorter, Edward. The Making of the American Family. New York: Basic Books, 1975.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple

fateâ•…â•… 33


Fate, according to modern usage, is an agency or power that orders and predetermines a future course of events. In the ancient world, the often inexplicable and unavoidable in the affairs of human beings were attributed to fate. In Greek mythology, the goddesses known as the Fates, or Moirae, spun out the destinies of men and women. With the resurgence of confidence in human agency in fifth-century Athens, the Greeks began to develop more subtle conceptions of the relationship between fate and free will, especially through the tragedies of their theater, which were grounded in religious ritual. Sophocles’s Oedipus the King presents the classical treatment of human action as determined by fate or free will, or a convergence of the two. Such a convergence is understandable through a thought of the early Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “Man’s character is his fate [daimōn]” (Fragment 119), or the more familiar “Character is destiny.” Since demon (Gr. daimōn) means both “supernatural being” and “ministering, or indwelling spirit” (Oxford English Dictionary), the statement allows a convergence of superhuman and human agency, fate and free will. In other words, the guidance of our actions derives from ourselves, our own character. Sophocles’ tragedy supremely illustrates this idea. Oedipus, a prince of Corinth who is led to doubts about his parentage by a stray comment from a drunken man, goes to Delphi, where he consults the oracle, which tells him that he will kill his father and marry his mother. Shocked by this prophecy, Oedipus immediately flees Corinth to evade the oracle, the illogic and inconsistency of his actions never occurring to him. Regarding the unresolved question of parentage, he is fleeing the king and queen of Corinth, who might not be his parents. Regarding his contradictory attitude toward the oracle, he believes in the oracle enough to react to its admonition but not enough to realize that he cannot evade his foreknown destiny. His destiny, however, is not necessarily predetermined by the powers above. Rather, his foreknowledge makes him act irrationally to fulfill his destiny. This irrational conduct is part and parcel of his hubris (the overstepping of the bounds of human conduct), as exhibited often in his killing of an older

man (his real father) in a fit of alpha male rage and his angry browbeating of both Creon, his trustworthy brother-in-law, and Teiresias, the revered seer, when they tell him that he himself is the murderer of the former king of Thebes—to him preposterous but, nonetheless, the truth. Ironically, Oedipus’s foreknowledge drove him to fulfill the very prophecy that he was trying so hard to evade. He broke the two cardinal rules of Greek ethics that would guide one toward good destiny: “Know thyself ” and “Nothing in excess.” In his version of Oedipus, Sophocles turns the standard story of the futility of trying to evade an inevitable fate dictated by the gods and transforms it into a veritable tragedy of a human agent through his own character flaws and actions. In a further exploration of fate and autonomy, human action, expanded to a wide sphere of civic enterprise in Virgil’s The Aeneid, translates itself into a founding myth, whereby personal good yields to the greater good of nation formation. It is Aeneas, fleeing to Italy after the fall of Troy, who, according to prophecy, will there found a noble and courageous race, which in time will surpass all other nations. At the same time, the fate of Aeneas and his descendants, the Romans, is influenced by the gods’ actions, particularly in the conflict between Venus and Juno, who respectively support and hinder the Roman enterprise for reasons that go back to Priam’s son Paris choosing Venus, goddess of love, as the most beautiful over Hera, goddess of marriage, and Athena, goddess of wisdom. Thus, in this nationalistic epic, divine agency and human aspiration—both personal and civic—constitute fate. Aeneas is the epitome of Roman piety—loyalty and devotion toward one’s homeland, family, and father—and his fate is synonymous with the future of Rome. In his wanderings, Aeneas finds shelter in Africa with the sympathetic Dido, the queen of Carthage. Later, the two fall in love and consummate their union. Aeneas is torn between his desire for a woman and his patriotic love: “hic amor, haec patria est” (“There is my love, there my country” [4.537]). Ultimately, both divine pressure and a sense of duty, as solemnized by prophecy, compel Aeneas to leave Dido, choosing Roma and its implicit amor (Roma spelled backwards) of patria—love of country—as his destiny.

34â•…â•… fate Virgil wrote his epic during a period of civil war and political and moral chaos in Rome after the fall of the Republic. Accordingly, The Aeneid reflects an attempt to revive Roman greatness by appealing to its mythic history and its basic moral values of piety, virtue, and constancy. At the same time, it sets out a political ideology that could be used beyond Virgil’s moral aims to justify imperialistic ambitions in the aggrandizement of the Roman Empire. In more modern times, the concept of manifest destiny, in the history of American expansion, worked in similar fashion to appropriate Native American land and to exploit indigenous people, in a “divinely ordained” mission to spread democracy. Both examples show how human beings have exploited “divine agency” and otherwise manipulated fate and destiny toward self-interest. As in the previously discussed works, the classical trope of superhuman prophecy figures importantly in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth to advance plot and human intention. Unlike Oedipus the King and The Aeneid, both of which revolve around a single, defining prophecy, Shakespeare’s tragedy operates with two, one propelling the rise and the other underwriting the fall. The prophecy of the three witches (a spin-off of the Fates) incites the protagonist into evil in the first half of the play; then, symmetrically in the second half, the suddenly unveiled prophecy regarding Macduff seals Macbeth’s defeat and death. In act 1, Macbeth, thane of Glamis, and his companion, Banquo, come upon three witches on the heath who respectively address Macbeth as thane of Glamis, thane of Cawdor, and “king hereafter” (1.3.50). To Banquo they enounce the following occult prophecy: “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. / Not so happy, yet much happier. / Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none” (1.3.67–68). With the partial fulfillment of the prophecy, his becoming thane of Cawdor, Macbeth is tempted against his better reason by the further fruits of “vaulting ambition” (1.7.27): kingship. When the she-man, Lady Macbeth, accuses him of unmanly cowardice in her infamous speech (of how she’d “[pluck her] nipple from [her baby’s] boneless gums, /And dash’d the brains out” [1.7.57–58]), she gives Macbeth the courage to kill the king. Though Mac-

beth chidingly affirms the moral position “I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares do more is none” (1.7.46–47), he goes along with the plan of regicide nonetheless, crossing from honor to villainy. After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth becomes king in his place, but the more he tries, like Oedipus, to adhere to the prophecy, the more it eludes him. Hence, one murder leads to further: He has Banquo killed to ensure the crown for his progeny rather than Banquo’s as the witches foretold. Again like Oedipus, Macbeth both acts upon and acts against the prophecy in ardent contradiction, incited by momentary megalomania, sealed by the murderous deed and, thereafter, the will never to submit in the downward spiral of violence and death. The fulfillment of the witches’ prophecy drives the events of further carnage fatefully and fatally with a peculiar vitality of their own—a concatenation of one violent act igniting the next. Ultimately, Macbeth’s final end comes in a showdown in act 5, scene 8 with Macduff, the man “of no woman born” (5.8.13), the only man whom, according to the witches’ prophecy, Macbeth must fear. Presenting itself as the fulfillment of fate, the duel between Macbeth and Macduff can also be seen, like the other preceding cases, as an example of self-fulfilling prophecy. The event materializes not so much through the agency of higher powers but more often through a human being’s reactions to his foreknowledge of the event. In Macbeth’s case, it is less a superhuman agency that controls the outcome and more a wearied Macbeth himself, who, finally facing his nemesis, is taunted by Macduff, who fights him with invincible fury to avenge the deaths of his wife and children. In Romeo and Juliet, fate again plays a defining role to induce tragedy, working as a force of fortuity to obstruct the best intentions of human beings. In Shakespeare’s early tragedy about star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet’s problems lie in that they have been born into two families engaged in an age-old feud. The deaths of the young lovers might have been prevented had there not been a plague, which kept Friar John from informing Romeo that Juliet was under a spell of faked death. They might have succeeded in living peacefully apart from their families, but such an outcome probably would not have effected an end to the feud that the chastening

freedomâ•…â•… 35 deaths of the two lovers apparently induced. Despite the role of fortuity in the tragic outcome, the more defining accountability rests in the human agents themselves. To this effect, the plague, seemingly fortuitous, precisely symbolizes the feud’s moral rottenness. In all these works, with the exception of The Aeneid, fate presents divine agency as muted, passively present, or altogether absent in the affairs of human beings. The emphasis, rather, is that events emerge through deliberate human action, not through chance. Such a conception prefigures the 20th-century philosophy of existentialism, which affirms a human being’s freedom to act and accountability for choices made, despite the nihilism to which random, meaningless, absurd events may lend themselves. Suzan-Lori Parks’s 21st-century Pulitzer Prize– winning play Topdog/Underdog further explores the themes of fate and free will through the experience of two African-American brothers struggling to get by and get ahead, the tragicomic absurdity of their underclass existence deftly balanced with the burdens placed by mythology and history on their autonomy. Their father, in a whim, named the brothers Lincoln and Booth, foreshadowing the antagonism that will plague their interactions within their instinctive alliance to assist each other in the plight of the African-American man: dearth of opportunity. Thus, they wrestle in the age-old struggle of Cain and Abel, representing the eternal clash between the topdog and underdog as both individuals and subgroups of society. Lincoln (Link) emancipates himself from his former lucrative but dangerous life as a three-card monte hustler and instead, ludicrously, becomes a black impersonator of Lincoln in an amusement park game, whereby he gets repeatedly “assassinated” by all the Booths in the world who have an “axe tuh grind” (46). Like President Lincoln, who single-handedly freed the slaves, Link tries to free his younger brother from the enthrallment of three-card monte—unsuccessfully because, like his namesake, he cannot offer Booth viable opportunities of gainful employment. His efforts to protect Booth only appear as actions of a rival and inexorably lead the two into a fatal face-off in the three-card monte. Again, as with all

the works previously discussed, in Topdog/Underdog it is individual action based on characteristic disposition, induced by the psychological, emotional, and economic urgencies of the dramatic moment, that bring Lincoln and Booth to the self-fulfilling prophecy presaged by fate, myth, and history. See also Bellow, Saul: Adventures of Augie March, The; Coleridge, Samuel Taylor: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The”; Conrad, Joseph: Lord Jim; Dickens, Charles: Tale of Two Cities, A; Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: Hound of the Baskervilles, The; Dreiser, Theodore: American Tragedy, An; Edwards, Jonathan: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”; Erdrich, Louise: Bingo Palace, The; Flaubert, Gustave: Madame Bovary; García Márquez, Gabriel: One Hundred Years of Solitude; Harte, Bret: “Outcasts of Poker Flats, The”; Homer: Iliad, The; Lowry, Lois: Giver, The; McCarthy, Cormac: All the P retty Horses; Naipaul, V. S.: Bend in the River, A; Shakespeare, William: Twelfth Night; Tolkien, J. R. R.: Lord of the Rings, The; Wilde, Oscar: Importance of Being Earnest, The. FURTHER READING May, Rollo. Freedom and Destiny. New York: Norton, 1981. Parks, Suzan-Lori. Topdog/Underdog. New York: Dramatist’s Play Service, 2004.

Unhae Langis


Close observers can see that, rather than standing still, the Statue of Liberty steps forward over broken shackles, representing how freedom progresses, its very definition changing over time. In the medieval worldview, freedom meant acting according to reason, and it focused on the discussion of free will. However, the modern definition of freedom primarily focuses on political and civil freedoms, having little to do with reason. This differentiation between medieval and modern conceptions of freedom follows the English philosopher John Locke’s 17thcentury divide between liberty and license. In his Second Treatise of Government (1690), Locke writes, “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it,

36â•…â•… freedom which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent .╯.╯. there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another” (4). Liberty, then, may be defined as actions that conform to reason, whereas license allows for acts of passion, which may subordinate or harm others or the self. The assumptions Locke makes concerning why humans should conform to reason adhere to the medieval notion of the universe—namely, that it has a Creator who endowed humans with reason. Locke writes that all humans are “the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise maker.” (4) Created by an omniscient, omnipotent being, humans struggle to understand how they also may maintain freedom. The tension between free will and predestination dominates the concerns of medieval writers from Saint Augustine to John Milton. In the middle of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, Dante the Pilgrim discusses the relationship between the freedom of human beings and the plans of the omnipotent creator. His dialoguing partner, Marco the Lombard, says that while “the heavens set your appetites in motion .╯.╯.╯, on greater power and a better nature you, who are free, depend; that Force engenders the mind in you, outside the heaven’s sway” (2.16.73, 79–81). In other words, God creates humans and provides them with reason, but he does not control them. As the “joyful Maker,” God gives the human soul motion, so “it turns willingly to things that bring delight” (2.16.89, 90). The will turns naturally to good objects. While the will should know the good objects by reason, the human souls, catering to their physical over their spiritual nature, often falter and choose earthly over heavenly goods. Thus, Dante the Pilgrim, representing “everyman,” has used his freedom for earthly delights and must learn instead to align his will with God’s. Describing the beginning of humanity’s fall from God’s will, John Milton writes about the first human beings in Paradise Lost. Adam and Eve, whom God labels as “sufficient to have stood, though free to fall” (3.99), succumb to Satan’s temptation to eat of the tree of knowledge. Before Eve commits the sin, Adam reminds her that “God left free the will, for what obeys Reason is free, and reason he

made right” (9.350–351), echoing Milton’s notion that freedom depends on reason. Despite Adam’s warning, Eve subordinates her reason to her desire; Adam then follows. In this act, they both lose their freedom. In his essay “Freedom and Necessity in Paradise Lost,” J. B. Savage writes that Adam “by becoming absorbed in the things of the world, he becomes governed and determined by them .╯.╯.╯; by neglecting the motive of moral obligation, by which alone he is free, he must unavoidably surrender his freedom” (305). The example of Adam can be illustrated in an analogy: If a man freely walks off a cliff, he gives up his freedom and surrenders to the law of gravity. In the same way that physical actions must comply with the scientific laws of reality, so must moral actions observe the laws of reason. This definition of freedom reiterates the Lockean idea of liberty, while the actions of Satan and the first human beings illustrate license. Though Satan argues that it is “better to reign in hell than serve in heaven” (1.263), he does not realize that since God’s will dictates the laws of the universe, only slavery and determinism are possible when acting against God’s will. Locke refers to these laws as natural laws engrained in every human person, laws that respond to reason and protect the equal and independent nature of human beings. His Second Treatise is written to the government, so his main objective is to convince civil authorities of these innate human freedoms. While this definition of freedom is invoked in the American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, it took almost two centuries to be properly enacted for all races, classes, and genders. African-American and feminist literature responds to this earlier oppression of the liberties of human beings, recognizing the need for what the 20th-century philosopher Isaiah Berlin categorizes as the two types of freedom—negative and positive freedom. While negative freedom is a freedom from oppression, coercion, or tyranny, positive freedom is a freedom for opportunity, ability, or privilege. In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the author tells his own story of his search for freedom from slavery and for education. Slavery is, first, an impingement on Freder-

freedomâ•…â•… 37 ick Douglass’s personal freedom and, second, a restriction on the positive freedom for education. Since freedom must correspond with reason, those restricted from education have greater susceptibility to slavery. As the English philosopher Francis Bacon famously said, “Knowledge is power.” Thus, the contrary also proves true: Ignorance is slavery. The two work with each other and against Douglass: His slavery keeps him from learning, and his ignorance keeps him a slave. When his mistress, Mrs. Auld, attempts to teach him to read, Mr. Auld forbids it, saying, “↜‘Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now,’ said he, ‘if you teach that nigger (speaking of [Douglass]) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave’↜” (Douglass 41). Mr. Auld realizes that learning frees human beings. Overhearing this dialogue, Douglass, too, understands that knowledge is the “path from slavery to freedom” (41). Thus, through education, he overcomes the subordination he has suffered. In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, her protagonist. Mrs. Edna Pontellier, overcomes her subordination as a woman through education as well, though of a different kind, education of experience. Similar to Douglass’s transformation, Edna begins by desiring negative freedom—freedom from the dominance of her husband. In a moment of selfawareness, she perceives “that her will had blazed up, stubborn and resistant” when her husband Léonce demanded that she come to bed. She wonders whether “her husband had ever spoken to her like that before, and if she had submitted to his command. Of course she had .╯.╯. But she could not realize why or how she should have yielded, feeling as she did then” (37). Edna then begins to seek positive freedom for individual autonomy—to use her time as she desires, painting, swimming, and taking a lover. However, these choices do not accord with reason but with desire, and thus they are not free. By the end of the novel, Edna has lost the respect of society, left her husband and her children, and has been abandoned by her lover. Realizing her solitude, she commits suicide, though this ending remains ambiguous as to its triumph. The modern interpretation of freedom, which could be categorized as license, exalts actions such as

Edna’s. In the 19th century, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declares that modern society has murdered God. Without a conception of God, all freedom is dictated by the autonomous individual. As the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre writes, “Man is freedom.” Each person must determine his or her own freedom by acting as he or she chooses, apart from the constrictions of family, religion, time, or even reason. In his article “Existentialism and Human Freedom,” John Killinger writes, “Man’s nature is not ‘fixed’ as a stone’s or a tree’s is; he is a creature with the ability to choose, and decides what he shall become” (304). Humans have no created essence, but they must create their existence by free actions. Fyodor Dostoyevsky rightly foresaw the problem with this philosophy, namely that every action then becomes permissible. In Dostoyevsky’s masterful novel Crime and Punishment, the main character Raskolnikov believes that extraordinary human beings may act not only above the laws of morality or reason, but also above civil laws. His examples of extraordinary human beings include Isaac Newton and Napoleon Bonaparte—men who felt free to remove any persons who obstructed their noble purposes. Considering himself such an extraordinary person, Raskolnikov murders the local pawnshop owner because she belongs to the lower, ordinary kind of people. To comfort himself against the encroaching guilt that follows this act, he exclaims, “it wasn’t a human being I killed, it was a principle!” (274). The woman is no more than an object to him. This subordination and harm imposed on others is exactly what Locke thinks stems from not subjecting freedom to reason, what African Americans and women overcame in the 20th century, and what still must be fought against in contemporary societies around the world. See also Capote, Truman: In Cold Blood; Chestnutt, Charles W.: “Goophered Grapevine, The”; Equiano, Olaudah: Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; Flaubert, Gustave: Madame Bovary; Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: Yellow Wallpaper, The; Hughes, Langston: poems; James, Henry: Daisy Miller; Portrait of a Lady, The; Kafka, Franz: Metamorphosis, The; Kerouac, Jack: On the

38â•…â•… futility Road; London, Jack: Call of the Wild, The; Morrison, Toni: Beloved; Mukherjee, Bharati: Middleman and Other Stories, The; Paine, Thomas: “Common Sense”; Steinbeck, John: Of Mice and Men. FURTHER READING Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Norton, 1993. Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Translated by Constance Garnett. New York: Bantam, 1996. Killinger, John. “Existentialism and Human Freedom.” English Journal 50, no. 5 (May 1961): 303–313. Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2004. Savage, J. B. “Freedom and Necessity in Paradise Lost. ELH 44, no. 2 (Summer 1977): 286–311.

Jessica Hooten


The theme of futility or overriding hopelessness in literature has been driven by philosophical concepts regarding life and how we live it. The later decades of the 19th century saw rapid industrialization, which helped support Karl Marx’s theories of alienation and the consideration of all history as a battle between opposing economic forces—an eternal class struggle between the new industrialists and their workers. If Marx was right, then human history is robbed of any emotional or superlative value and God is unnecessary. Thus, human life becomes valueless and life after death just so much dust and myth. In 1859, Charles Darwin (1809–82) wrote On the Origin of Species, in which humans were shown as descending from primates. The long-held idea that man was simply made in the image of God was challenged by science. Thomas Huxley (1825–95), the grandfather of the novelist Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) was one of the eminent men who took upon himself to refute religion and establish this new Darwinian idea. Marx and Darwin, though perhaps not intentionally in the latter’s case, called the idea of God’s existence into question. This naturally had the effect of extinguishing any hope that people had of better lives after death. This sense of futility and utter hopelessness was expressed in

British literature by Matthew Arnold (1822–28) in Dover Beach (1851): The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d. But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear And naked shingles of the world. This is further reflected in Thomas Hardy’s pessimistic novels The Return of the Native (1878), Tess of the d ’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). This line of thinking was continued by the likes of the French author Albert Camus (1913–60), who had written on the monotonous absurdity of daily life in The Myth of Sisyphus (1942). The novel is a retelling of the ancient myth of Sisyphus, who has to forever push a stone up a hill. Our lives are like Sisyphus’s: No matter what we do, we are bound to fail. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (1604) is a well-known study in futility. Faustus loses all hope in both the Renaissance and Christianity. He can only lament when he hears Satan answer about life: Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God, And tasted the eternal joys of heaven, Am not tormented with ten thousand hells In being deprived of everlasting bliss? (3.74–78) Even in the 17th century, Marlowe anticipated the intensity of futility’s pain that the modern era would explore in depth. The irony of the critiques of futility, both literary and philosophical, lies in their ultimately revealing the “charm” of despair and how futility almost always gives way to inner spiritual freedom. We see these kinds of Romantic meditations on futility in such diverse works as William Shakespeare’s Mac-

futilityâ•…â•… 39 (1603) and Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940). Tragedy, according to Aristotle, is a journey by the audience into futility and then a rebirth from despair. Macbeth goes insane when accosted with the pointlessness of action: beth

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. (5.5.19–23) These famous lines are glossed as the essence of futility and how, being aware of the deceptive nature of time, we will surely be wary of actions similar to Macbeth’s. The underlying idea is that there still remain ways to make our lives less than futile, if only we can avoid imitating Macbeth. After all, according to Aristotle, tragedies purge us even of despair. When, by definition, the awareness of futility cannot conceive of anything beyond the limitations of the present moment, this leaves alone any soul whose freedom is worth attaining. Futility in literature is not an isolated concept. Rather, it is located firmly within the repressive process of Sigmund Freud’s pleasure principle, or the id. According to Freud, when our desires are thwarted, we start sinking into despair, which creates within us a sense of uselessness or futility. This is not to be confused with the ideas of existential philosophers such as Jean Paul Sartre (1905–80), who saw the world as a stage where every action is meaningless. Existentialism posits that while our actions may be meaningless, they are influenced by inner spiritual struggles. Much later, after the great surge of existentialist writings, we find the French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) establishing futility as the end result of his forays into literature and texts. Derrida argued that it is futile to search for ultimate meanings in texts, including patterns in historical thought. Futility, then, has a long ideological history, from the laments of the preacher in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” (1:2–3); listless-

ness to St. Augustine of Hippo’s concept of acedia which had such a hold on the British romantics; to the agnosticism that we find in Friedrich Nietzsche, Émile Durkheim (Suicide, 1897), Freud, Sartre, and Ludwig Wittgenstein; and then through Michel Foucault, Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, and their disciples to such present-day classics as the best-selling writers Stephen King (The Stand, 1978) and Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian, 1985; The Road, 2006). We find deep despair in the heroic codes of old: The Babylonian Gilgamesh, the Scandinavian Beowulf (Anonymous), Widsith, The Wanderer, and The Ruin seamlessly spill over to the famous “Dance of Death” poems in the Middle Ages. In Europe we find the uselessness of trying to find meaning in life in the works of Franz Kafka (1883–1924; especially The Trial, 1925) and Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936). American literature, too, obsesses about the uselessness of life and its struggles. Famous examples are Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) and, to an extent, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Salinger’s teenage protagonist, Holden Caulfield, even finds it futile to consider people as individuals. He just calls everyone he meets “phonies,” much in the same way as Antoin Roquentin, the main character of Sartre’s Nausea (1938), continually feels nauseous in his utter disgust at the futility of breathing to live on. Futility also figures as a theme in non-Western literature. Whereas the Christian concept of history is forward-looking with clear divides, the Eastern sense of history is circular. In the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions, events are considered as repeating themselves endlessly. As such, God is not thought of as a separate entity as in Christianity and Islam. Hinduism sees the world itself as an emanation of the godhead, or Brahma. Thus, all sorrow is momentary and born of ignorance of our final ends and our true natures. We indeed are “amritasya putra” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad, 2.5) or “sons of the Immortal.” While Buddhism is silent about the presence of God, Jainism denies it. But in both these systems of thought, what occurs now will repeat itself in some manner later, giving eternal scope for personal and social improvements. Thus, there is present a conscious negation of futility in Eastern ancient literatures, including those written

40â•…â•… gender in Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit. As a result, nothing is seen as futile in the end; there are salvation and hope that every single living and nonliving being will ultimately be set free from the bondage of repetitive historical processes or Karma. This is why Sanskrit poetics eschew tragic endings, and tragedy as a genre is nonexistent in ancient India. Abhijñānashākuntala’s tragic heroine Shakuntala is saved from ultimate despair right at the last moment by the fourth- or fifth-century playwright Kalidasa. This is the norm in ancient Indian literature. While the West has a rich tradition of meditating on futility, the East has struggled to show futility as a paralyzing emotion to be discarded by the individual at all costs. The Buddha sees futility as a disease to be disposed of. We know of an anecdotal story where the Buddha exhorts one not to analyze life in a morbid manner but rather to find out ways to come out of the resultant inertia brought about by depression. The Buddha draws an analogy between an arrow-struck man and the need to heal him rather than telling him of the arrow’s origins. This is the hallmark of Eastern ancient literatures. There is no scope for Dante Alighieri’s “All hope abandon, ye who enter here” (The Divine Comedy). Futility is thus seen as a luxury we can ill afford. See also Byron, George Gordon Byron, Lord: Don Juan; Camus, Albert: Stranger, The; Eliot, T. S.: Wasteland, The; Greene, Graham: Heart of the Matter, The; Hemingway, Ernest: Sun Also Rises, The; Vonnegut, Kurt: Slaughterhouse-Five; Williams, Tennessee: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Yeats, William Butler: poems. FURTHER READING King James Bible Online. Available online. URL: http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org. Accessed January 22, 2010.

Subhasis Chatterjee


In common usage, the word gender most typically refers to the perceived and natural differences between men and women. In literary studies, the term more specifically refers to how individuals define themselves and how they are evaluated by

others on the basis of gender. Gender is often associated with feminism (women’s activism against gendered oppression), feminists (those who study and advocate women’s equality), and Women’s Studies (interdisciplinary academic programs dedicated to the study of gender and women’s gendered oppression) because one must understand how gender functions before one can examine the oppression or lack thereof that gendered behavior entails. The study of gender is then also the study of power relationships—of how one’s gender, typically the male gender, gives one a power advantage over the other gender. Thus, founders of Women’s Studies and feminist theory such as the French psychoanalytic feminist theorists Simone de Beauvoir, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, and Luce Irigaray have helped to formulate our current understandings of gender. At the most basic level, the theories of these early psychoanalytic feminists assume that human behavior is learned and not innate. In other words, men are not necessarily more naturally aggressive. Instead, a critic applying gender theory would argue that if the majority of the men in a particular group are aggressive, this aggression is learned as part of their “gender identity” as a man. “Gender roles,” in turn, are the codes of behavior that a society expects for one gender or another. These codes are learned in childhood. According to this theory, children see adults model gender-appropriate behavior, and then their desire to be a member of that society impels them to accept the modeled behavior as the best and most appropriate for themselves and others. Adopting and practicing a “gender role” is therefore what helps an individual to construct a “gender identity” of who they are. The American philosopher Judith Butler builds on the work of these French theorists by arguing that gender is performative. Butler’s premise is that since gender entails a role, and roles are the culmination of actions, gender must also be a culmination of actions. In making this claim, Butler extends the idea that there is nothing intrinsic to gender identity by showing that an individual can vary his or her performance of gender from moment to moment. In other words, every action, every choice, be it the clothes we choose or the way in which we speak to

genderâ•…â•… 41 authority figures, is an act of choosing to perform a gender. One of her most controversial theories is that individuals only perceive themselves as having constant gender identities, when in reality every action and every choice they make is one that either confirms or violates the gender roles of a particular group. Because gender is basic to human behavior, the study of gender can be applied to any (or virtually any) social context or literary work. Thus, the focus on gender as a role has recently expanded to the social and cultural forces that shape men’s gendered behavior. Therefore, one could carry out a gender study on the masculinity of men in power, exploring how they enjoy and benefit from their performance of masculine-coded behavior. More typically, however, theorists look at male gendered behavior among oppressed groups, the ill-effects of the performance of masculinity among dominant groups, or how the male performance of gender roles has the potential to harm both men and women. Three examples of literary works—Suzan-Lori Parks’s Topdog/Underdog (2002), David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly (1998), and William Shakespeare’s Othello—as well as selected criticism on these works provide examples of scholarly gender study. In Topdog/Underdog and M. Butterfly, the authors consciously incorporate a study of gender into their creative processes. Topdog/Underdog is a play that works to explain the ill-effects of contemporary lower-class African-American male gendered roles. Because the play’s two male characters, the brothers Booth and Lincoln, are poor and largely uneducated, they face restrictions in the performance of their masculinity that wealthier, and especially wealthy Caucasian, men do not. All the men in the larger American culture depicted in the play may display their masculinity through acts of sexual virility and by dominance over men lower in status themselves. Only middle- and upper-status men can demonstrate their masculinity by flaunting their high work incomes. Because the brothers are poor and extremely low-status, they are restricted to sexual prowess and the domination of one another as the means of defining their masculinity. The ill-effects of the encompassing cultural system are shown

when their mutual attempts at domination culminate in Booth shooting Lincoln to death. M. Butterfly also looks at the expression of masculinity within oppressed groups and, as in the case of Topdog/Underdog, explores the issues of gender in combination with those of race. Here the comparison is between a sexist and racist male French diplomat, René Gallimard, and a transsexual (a person of one gender who adopts the clothing and often the mannerisms of the opposite sex gender but retains their original sexual organs) Chinese male spy, Song Lilling. The two have an enduring love affair, during which time Lilling steals various diplomatic secrets and completely conceals his male sexual organs from his French lover, despite many occasions of sexual activity. The cause of Gallimard’s misreading of Lilling’s sex is shown to be the result of Lilling’s perfect performance of what Gallimard believes to be Asian femininity. For example, Lilling apologizes for her breastless chest and begs Gallimard to love her anyway. Gallimard is so attracted to this performance of self-denigration and subordination that he fails to explore the likely physical causes for Lilling’s lack of breasts. Similarly, Lilling claims to be so shy and ashamed of her body that she will not allow Gallimard to touch her genitals or to see her/him naked. Again, Gallimard is so attracted to what he perceives as the feminine performances of shame that he does not explore other likely explanations for Lilling’s behavior. The plot’s obvious twist is that the transsexual Lilling uses the performance of subordination and femininity to gain power over a heterosexual man who enjoys performing masculine dominance. Thus, while Lilling’s behavior is not traditionally masculine, and thus would be disempowering for many men, for the character of Lilling, such performances of gender are nonetheless his means of expressing power and dominance over another man, and thus they express his masculinity. In “Men and Women in Othello,” from her book Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare’s Plays, Carol Thomas Neely looks at the gendered behavior of the men in Othello and compares it to the women’s gendered behavior. Neely evaluates a 16th-century play in terms of seeming universal gender roles and finds the men of the play to be too concerned with male honor, their ability to dominate other men, and their

42â•…â•… gender control of women’s sexuality. For example, Othello believes Iago’s lies about his wife Desdemona’s chastity because Othello is too preoccupied with what other men think of him. This need to protect his honor leads him to first murder his wife and then to commit suicide. Similarly, the play’s women are too trusting of the men and refuse to see their faults clearly. For example, Neely implies that if either Desdemona or Emilia had been able to be honest with themselves about the limitations of their husbands, Othello and Iago respectively, before Othello murdered Desdemona, the play’s tragic ending would have been averted. Despite their shared interest in gender roles and issues of race and ethnicity, a key difference between Topdog/Underdog and M. Butterfly and Shakespeare’s Othello is that in the two former plays, the authors and today’s readers are responding to the same contemporary cultural issues and influences that help to shape gender. In the case of Othello, the distance in time between author and reader means that the modern reader will almost certainly not share the same assumptions regarding gender roles and gendered behavior as the author. Critics such as Ania Loomba, following the historicist theories of Stephan Greenblatt (a school of thought often referred to as New Historicism, which holds the premise that literary study has to be based on the historical beliefs of the author’s time period), has argued that the critic always needs to keep in mind the attitudes toward gender and race in the author’s time. Indeed, the historicist argument has so resonated within the academic community that today it is the dominant factor in studying gender. Future study is likely to continue these trends, balancing the need to assess what are common gender roles over time and geographic space and what roles are more specific to one time and one place. See also Achebe, Chinua: Anthills of the Savannah; Alvarez, Julia: How the García Girls Lost Their Accents; Aristophanes: Lysistrata; Atwood, Margaret: Handmaid ’s Tale, The; Surfacing; Austen, Jane: Pride and P rejudice; Sense and Sensibility; Behn, Aphra: Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave; Brontë, Charlotte: Jane Eyre; Brontë, Emily: Wuthering Heights; Cao Xueqin: Dream of the Red Chamber; Chaucer,

Geoffrey: Canterbury Tales, The; Cisneros, Sandra: Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories; Dos Passos, John: U.S.A. trilogy; Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; DuBois, W. E. B.: Souls of Black Folk, The; Euripides: Medea; Forster, E. M.: Passage to India, A; Gaskell, Elizabeth: North and South; Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: Yellow Wallpaper, The; Glaspell, Susan: Trifles; Harte, Bret: “Luck of Roaring Camp, The”; Hemingway, Ernest: Sun Also Rises, The; Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God; Ibsen, Henrik: Hedda Gabler; Irving, John: World According to Garp, The; Irving, Washington: Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, The; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself; Kingsolver, Barbara: Bean Trees, The; Kingston, Maxine Hong: Woman Warrior, The; Lawrence, D. H.: Rainbow, The; Women in Love; Lessing, Doris: Golden Notebook, The; Malamud, Bernard: Natural, The; McMurtry, Larry: Lonesome Dove; Morrison, Toni: Sula; Naylor, Gloria: Women of Brewster Place; O’Brien, Tim: Things They Carried, The; Pope, Alexander: Rape of the Lock, The; Rhys, Jean: Wide Sargasso Sea; Rowlandson, Mary: Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson; Shakespeare, William: Much Ado about Nothing; Taming of the Shrew, The; Shaw, George Bernard: Pygmalion; Stoker, Bram: Dracula; Tan, Amy: Joy Luck Club, The; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs Dalloway; To the Lighthouse. FURTHER READING Abrahamson, Myka Tucker. “The Money Shot: Economies of Sex, Guns, and Language in Topdog/ Underdog.” Modern Drama 50, no. 1 (2007): 77–97. Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Translated and edited by H. M. Parshley. New York: Knopf, 1953. Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge, 1990. Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Translated by Paula Cohen. Signs 1, no. 4 (1976): 875–893. Greer, Germaine. The Female Eunuch. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971.

griefâ•…â•… 43 ———. Sex and Destiny. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. Irigaray, Luce. This Sex Which Is Not One. Translated by Catherine Porter with Carolyn Burke. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985. Neely, Carol Thomas. Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare’s Plays. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985. Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. New York: Norton, 1976. Rossini, Jon D. “From M. Butterfly to Bondage: David Henry Hwang’s Fantasies of Sexuality, Ethnicity, and Gender.” Journal of American Drama and Theatre 18, no. 3 (2006): 54–76.

Silver Damsen


Grief is arguably life’s greatest source of stress and turmoil. Our relationships with others play important roles in the development of our identities, and when those people are lost, we can feel as if we, too, are lost, unsure of who we are and how we will continue to function in a world that seems to have changed irrevocably. Grief, in short, is the mourning of a loss, usually the loss of a loved one but easily expanded to cover any loss that represents a core part of our lives. The loss of careers, mental or physical health, and pets can also trigger the difficult grieving process. This process is often disorderly and confusing, throwing the mourner into a whirlwind of emotion over which he or she has little control. Unlike other stressful emotions, grief carries such power because it calls into question how the mourner finds meaning in life. An important loss can induce us to feel that life has no meaning, because every facet of our lives—every memory, every sound, every gesture—reminds us of what we have lost. One of the difficult parts of the grieving process is putting what we are feeling into words, not just to explain our thoughts to others but also to understand what we are feeling ourselves. Literature, then, is an invaluable tool for expressing grief. Literature can employ figurative language to go deeper and to convey indescribable emotions in a way that plain language cannot. Art is one of our most valuable tools in life for expressing that which we cannot find the words to explain.

In fact, literature, especially poetry, has historically helped people to work through their grief. Elegies, poems written to commemorate a person’s death, can be great sources of solace and understanding to those in mourning. That we might need the help of poets in understanding our grief process has been long understood in the psychiatric community. Grief, by its very nature, disrupts us, places us at a loss for words. In fact, early on grief was thought of as a “psychiatric disorder,” and indeed there is evidence that grief can induce physical illness in mourners (Gilbert 255). The standard symptoms of grief are bodily distress, guilt, hostility, a preoccupation with the image of the deceased, and the alteration or loss of normal patterns of conduct (Kamerman 66). It is these last two that make grief so disruptive to the functioning mind. Because we are preoccupied with the image of the lost loved one, we find it very difficult to imagine life ever returning to normal. C. S. Lewis, in his chronicle of the loss of his wife, says, “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything” (13). Lewis points out here that there is not one time of day or one activity or one occasion that reminds him of his loss, but that the loss pervades his every waking moment. W. H. Auden, in his poem “Funeral Blues,” explains this well, saying of his lost loved one, “he was my North, my South, my East, and my West / my working week and my Sunday rest” (ll. 9–10). Moving through grief requires a great deal of hard work on the part of the mourner. The Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud noted in his influential 1917 essay “Mourning and Melancholia” that mourning takes time and mental labor to “revive, relive, and release” (quoted in MacKenzie 131). Although Freud himself did not propose the theory that the process of grief moves in stages, this essay laid the groundwork for that now commonly accepted theory. The most famous theory involving “stages of grief ” is that of the Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Her theory actually deals with terminally ill patients dealing with their own deaths, a process that might be called anticipatory grief, but she and others later realized it could apply to those mourning for others as well. Although different theorists have different ideas about the stages, in

44â•…â•… grief general, most agree that the opening stage is one of denial, followed by a period of anger, followed by some kind of depression or disorganization, with a final period of acceptance or reorganization. The stages do not necessarily occur in order, and they can and do overlap with one another. We can see these stages played out in works of literature. For instance, when Laurel must deal with her father’s death in Eudora Welty’s The Optimist ’s Daughter, she embarks on a journey that begins with her idealizing her childhood, includes misplaced anger at her stepmother, and ends with her acceptance of her life in the present. In one of the most famous literary expositions on grief, In Memoriam, A. H. H. by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, we see meditations on the denial of his friend’s death when he says he is having trouble accepting reality. He says, “By faith, and faith alone embrace, / Believing where we cannot prove” (ll. 3–4). By the end of the poem, however, he seems to have moved toward acceptance, saying, “Ring out the old, ring in the new / Ring happy bells, across the snow / The year is going, let him go” (ll. 103–105). Sometimes one stage or one phase of grief dominates the literature, as Homer’s The Iliad, when Achilles, in his grief over the death of Patroclus, vents his anger by cutting the throats of 12 Trojan youths, or when the soldiers in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried savagely kill the water buffalo and burn the village in a misguided attempt to avenge the deaths of their fellow soldiers. Denial, on the other hand, takes center stage in John Updike’s Rabbit, Run, when Rabbit refuses to fully acknowledge the horrific death of his infant daughter, and in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, when Macon finds Ruth alone and naked with the body of her dead father. Both Rabbit and Ruth may have a hard time dealing with these deaths because they live in a culture that finds grief, mourning, and their expression embarrassing. Grief has been defined by many as an “open wound”—and others want to look away from that wound, because to acknowledge it is invariably difficult and confusing. Sandra Gilbert says about this phenomenon that “even while it wounds the mourner, the embarrassment of the

comforter is a sign of a wound for which neither mourner nor comforter has the proper language” (254). Bertha Simos calls Western society a “deathdenying culture,” noting that the social psychologist Erich Fromm has gone so far as to “suggest that the increase in violence in society today is directly related to our inability to grieve” (5). We see death denial in literary characters such as the Tyrone family in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, who avoid the topic of their long-dead infant son and brother and ignore their mother’s obvious grief (and subsequent morphine addiction). We see it also in the reactions others have to Septimus Warren Smith, the disturbed war veteran in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Smith’s pain is an embarrassment, a fact that no one wants or knows how to deal with, and ultimately this denial kills him. The expression of grief is crucial to moving through its process, as Toni Morrison says in Sula, “The body must move and throw itself about, the eyes must roll, the hands should have no peace, and the throat should release all the yearning, despair and outrage that accompanies the stupidity of loss” (135). Occasionally, even when grief is acknowledged, mourners are unable regain a sense of normal, functioning life without their object of loss. Psychologists call this “exceptional” or “pathological” grief, and characters entrenched in this state make appearances in literature as well. Ophelia, for instance, in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, cannot fathom the death of her father, Polonius, especially coupled with the emotional torment she is receiving from Hamlet, and, losing her grasp on reality, she drowns herself. Sethe, in Morrison’s Beloved, is so disturbed by her grief over having killed her daughter that she is haunted by the ghost of this loved one for most of her adult life. Perhaps most disturbing is when the adult ghost of Beloved returns to wreak havoc on Sethe’s life, to demand complete subservience to her at the expense of Sethe’s relationships with Paul D. and with Denver, her living child. Sethe should recognize this, that Denver, a child fully part of this world, should take precedence over the otherworldly Beloved; that she takes so long to do so demonstrates the depth of her grief. Of all the themes in literature, grief is perhaps the only one that can serve to illuminate the nature

guiltâ•…â•… 45 of the theme itself by acting, as a form of therapy to readers who might be in mourning themselves. See also Chaucer, Geoffrey: Canterbury Tales, The; Faulkner, William: Sound and the Fury, The; Shelley, Percy Bysshe: poems. FURTHER READING Gilbert, Sandra. Death’s Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve. New York: Norton, 2006. Kamerman, Jack B. Death in the Midst of Life: Social and Cultural Influences on Death, Grief, and Mourning. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1988. Kirkby, Joan. “A Crescent Still Abides.” In Wider than the Sky: Essays and Meditations on the Healing Power of Emily Dickinson, edited by Cindy MacKenzie and Barbara Dana, 129–141. Kent, Ohio: Kent University Press, 2007. Lewis, C. S. (as N. W. Clerk). A Grief Observed. London: Faber, 1961. Morrison, Toni. Sula. New York: Plume, 2002. Simos, Bertha G. A Time to Grieve. New York: Family Service Association of America, 1979.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


When we hurt someone, we usually feel guilty. If the hurt was committed deliberately, this is understandable. However, many of us can feel guilt even when the hurt is inadvertent. Human beings are also capable of feeling guilt merely for existing when others have died, or for being born wealthy when others live in poverty. Guilt, at its heart, reflects a transgression, a crossing of boundaries. Societies have rules, written and unwritten, and when we break those rules, we often feel guilty unless and until we can effect restitution or restore harmony. Guilt is so fundamental to human existence that it makes an appearance as early as the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. God tells Adam and Eve that they are free to do what they wish, as long as they keep his only rule: that they will not eat from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden. Yet they do, thanks to the serpent’s temptations, and they are banished from the garden forever. Their lasting punishment, though, is that the “eyes of them both were opened” (Gen. 3:7). Further, they have generated what would come to be known

as original sin. The notion of original sin is that because of Adam’s and Eve’s transgression, we are all born as sinners, guilty from the start. Adam and Eve had only one rule to follow, and they broke it. For the rest of us, the rules we must follow in life are legion, as well as far more difficult to know and discern at all times throughout our lives. Because we cannot control when and if we might be transgressing, guilt pervades human existence. We can be under the thrall of collective guilt, as is the society depicted in Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum. Guilt over the Holocaust is so pervasive in Grass’s post–World War II Danzig that his protagonist, Oskar, refuses to grow up and enter the world of complicitous and duplicitous adults. We can also be following the “rules” of our society and still find ourselves feeling guilty. For instance, soldiers who kill in battle have, on the surface, done nothing for which to feel guilty; they are merely doing their jobs, following their orders. However, many of them can and do feel guilty about the killing they do, as exemplified by Paul Berlin in Tim O’Brien’s Going after Cacciato. Berlin is following the rules, and yet he feels guilty; Cacciato has broken the rules by going AWOL, and yet he is depicted as happy and free. We may also, like Dunstan Ramsey in Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business, feel guilty about events that we were involved in but were not our fault. Dunny feels guilt his whole life for ducking the snowball that hit Mrs. Dempster. That he is never able to fully make restitution to her is most likely a result of it not having been his fault in the first place. That guilt is a complicated concept, often felt irrationally, is clear. That it pervades Western culture is no less so. As recounted above, the concept of original sin makes us all “born guilty.” Christianity certainly bears a good deal of responsibility for making guilt so important in our lives. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argues that guilt has its origins in a creditor and debtor concept of human relationships. He argues that it is in these types of relationships that we break the rules for which we must make restitution. He further argues that Christianity is based on such a relationship, with Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross serving to put all humanity in “debt.” If Nietzsche is correct,

46â•…â•… guilt then the guilt we feel due to original sin is compounded by our need to repay Jesus for his sacrifice. Indeed, religion has historically played an important role in the development of the concept of guilt. Arthur Dimmesdale, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, is a good example of guilt driven by religious beliefs. The Puritan code under which Dimmesdale lives confines him so that he cannot admit his affair with Hester (who cannot hide the evidence that she has sinned). Although engaging in adultery would certainly break the rules of his society, he is so stifled that he further compounds his guilt by refusing to admit the truth and claim Pearl as his child. Hester, on the other hand, is not consumed with guilt, adhering to her own moral code, which appears more natural in comparison. For some, Christianity puts too much emphasis on the sinful (and thus guilty) nature of human beings. This is arguably a distortion of the message of Jesus Christ, which emphasizes love and goodwill toward other humans. One explanation for this distorted emphasis is that for Christian leaders, keeping their flocks “in line” is one of their most arduous tasks. Convincing the faithful that they must constantly atone in order to be admitted to the kingdom of Heaven keeps them from complacency. In “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jonathan Edwards elucidates the horrors of hell, invoking the wrathful Old Testament God rather than the New Testament Christ. This has the effect of scaring the listeners into prayer, which will help to balance their inherently guilty natures. This balance, which can also be described as a kind of repayment, is what differentiates guilt from its close counterpart, shame. The American philosopher John Rawls believed that in order to experience guilt, another must have been harmed in some way. Guilt, said Rawls, is also localized—that is, it is about our transgressions—whereas shame is about who we think we are as people. Thus, repayment and punishment are appropriate only to guilt, not shame. Hamlet, in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, feels guilty that he cannot immediately avenge his father’s death. He says, Yet I, A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,

Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause, And can say nothing; no, not for a king, Upon whose property and most dear life A damn’d defeat was made. (2.2.566–571) He resolves to reveal Claudius’s guilt and kill him, thus ending his own guilt, repaying his father as it were. In Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, Ethan spends his entire life unable to escape his loveless marriage. He feels guilty, first because he does not love Zeena and then because he has fallen in love with Mattie. He then spends his life punishing himself by staying married to Zeena. Ironically, when he tries to end his life (and Mattie’s) things go horribly wrong and he is further doomed, trapped as an invalid being taken care of by Zeena, consumed by guilt over what has happened both to her and to Mattie. Ethan ends his life unable to restore the balance created by his transgressions in love. Sethe, in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, is also unable to restore the balance. She murdered her child to keep her from slavery, and her guilt haunts her, literally, in the form of Beloved. Sethe tries to assuage this guilt by showering Beloved with attention, but her growing obsession with this manifestation of her dead daughter threatens to kill her. The horrors of slavery have wrought crimes so great no balance can be restored. The community comes together to exorcise the ghost and help Sethe to move on. The destructive behavior that Sethe exhibits is common for those suffering from guilt feelings. According to the psychologist E. Mark Stern, guilt that is long-lasting and preoccupying can interfere with our cognition and promote additional self-destructive behaviors. Stern demonstrates that this behavior contributes to a vicious cycle, stating that “the more a person blames himself or herself for unacceptable behavior, the more unacceptable behavior the person will perform” (260). The Scarlet Letter’s Dimmesdale is an example of this kind of self-destructive cycle. He tortures himself, carving his own scarlet letter into his breast and wasting away from the torments through which he puts himself. In Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester, too, hides himself away in lonely despair

heroismâ•…â•… 47 after he is blinded by the fire at Thornfeld Hall. His guilt stems from his locking away Bertha, as well as from his deception of Jane, and he compounds his guilt by hiding in his damaged mansion, doing nothing to restore the balance upset by his transgressions. While some literary characters are undone by guilt, others seem impervious to it, acting as if they are conscience-free. In fact, the sense of guilt is so fundamental to the human condition that one must assume something is wrong at the core of those who can commit evil and feel nothing. For instance, Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello and Chillingsworth in The Scarlet Letter wreak havoc on all those around them, bent only on achieving their own goals, which in Iago’s case is power and in Chillingsworth’s is revenge. Given Sigmund Freud’s theory of the id, the ego, and the superego, in which the id is our primitive impulses, the superego is morality tempering those impulses, and the ego is the mechanism that mediates between the two, these characters would seem to be missing an important part of their psyches. Characters such as these, as well as characters whose lives are spent controlled by guilt, can function as cautionary tales for the reader. Guilt is an important part of human personality, but when it takes over a life, that life may not be worth living. See also Bunyan, John: Pilgrim’s P rogress, The; Davis, Rebecca Harding: Life in the Iron Mills; Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment; Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the d ’Urbervilles; Irving, John: World According to Garp, The; Kingsolver, Barbara: Poisonwood Bible, The; Knowles, John: Separate Peace, A; O’Brien, Tim: Things They Carried, The; O’Neill, Eugene: Long Day’s Journey into Night; Poe, Edgar Allan: “Tell-Tale Heart, The”; Shakespeare, William: Julius Caesar; Macbeth; Turgenev, Ivan: Fathers and Sons. FURTHER READING Stern, E. Mark. Psychotherapy and the Remorseful Patient. New York: Haworth, 1988. Taylor, Gabrielle. Pride, Shame, and Guilt: Emotions of Self-Assessment. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


The word hero is commonly applied to many different types of people performing wildly varying acts. For instance, extraordinary acts of physical strength and courage, such as saving a stranger from a burning house or standing up to an armed assailant, are feats we would typically label heroic. Physical courage is not the only component of heroism, however. Those who exhibit moral courage, such as people who put their own lives or reputations at stake to do or say what is right, rather than what is merely popular, are also called heroes. Heroes can also be those close friends or loved ones whom we admire and treat as role models, calling such a person “my hero.” We routinely use the term for our popular and talented sports figures as well, whether or not their behavior off the playing field can be considered heroic. We even use it to refer to people who are inspirations to others, inspirations that do not necessarily hinge on physical strength or moral superiority. With all of these varied uses, clearly explaining the allure of heroism as a literary theme is difficult. Compounding that difficulty is the fact that in literary studies, the term hero is used to refer to the central character of a work. John Dryden first used the term this way in 1697, and it is still commonly accepted as a synonym for protagonist, even when the protagonist does nothing particularly heroic. We have long used the word heroic to refer to acts that are special or extraordinary. The exploits of professional athletes, the life-saving missions of soldiers and firefighters, the bravery of whistleblowers, and even the lives of fictional characters in our most cherished works of literature seem, in our minds, to certify them as “heroes.” Getting at the heart of what qualifies behavior as heroic may explain why Dryden’s arguable misuse of the term has had such staying power. The word hero is of Greek origin, and in Greek mythology it referred to those who were favored by the gods or had “godlike” qualities. The Oxford English Dictionary describes heroes as “men of super human strength, courage, or ability.” The emphasis here is on super, an adjective that suggests heroism goes beyond what human beings are expected to do. Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of the übermensch (sometimes translated as “superman”) speaks to this concept of going beyond

48â•…â•… heroism human ability. Nietzsche, a 19th-century German philosopher, wrote in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883) that in the modern world, God, or the concept of God, had ceased to give life meaning. This void, he wrote, could be filled by the übermensch, a superior, transcendent human being who would give new meaning to life. All could seek to reach this status, thus creating a world in which all were motivated by a love of the present world and the present time. The Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle, writing in 1840, would agree that the heroism must be lifeaffirming, although he would not agree that religion had ceased to give life meaning. In fact, in On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, he wrote that “all religions stand upon” the worship of heroes, and that Jesus Christ could be considered the “greatest of all heroes” (249). Carlyle goes on to set up criteria for what makes a hero or a heroic action: He says a hero must conquer fear, otherwise he is acting as but a “slave and coward” (268). Further, he must be earnest and sincere and have a vision that penetrates beyond what the average eye might see (281, 325). Finally, he must be an inspiration to others, someone who can “light the way” (347). As Carlyle was one of the first to write on the subject seriously, many of his criteria have lasted and are reinforced by theorists of the present day. Joseph Campbell, who has written some of the best-known works on mythology and heroism, echoes Carlyle when he says: “The hero, therefore, is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his [or her] personal and local limitations to the generally valid, normally human forms” (30). In other words, heroes begin life as normal people, but through some extraordinary gift, they are able to begin on and succeed at the journey upon which they will prove their heroism. Carlyle and Campbell both stress that human beings need heroes—that our response to them satisfies a basic human impulse. We need, apparently, the inspiration and motivation derived from believing there are heroes in the world to whose example we may aspire. The psychologist Miriam F. Polster, writing in 1992 about female heroes, compiled a roster of qualities culled from qualities ascribed to heroes over time. Recalling Nietzsche’s übermensch, she notes that they are “motivated by a profound respect for

human life,” that their vision of what is possible goes beyond that of others, that they possess great courage, and that they are not motivated by public opinion (22). She cites as one of her examples Antigone, from Sophocles’ play Antigone, who at great personal risk to herself buries the body of her brother Polynices against the wishes of her uncle, the king. Antigone is a hero here because her driving motivation is respect for her brother’s life. She knows she must honor this life, even in death. Polster goes on to note that hero and heroism are words that have long been associated with men because of the popular focus on physical courage and strength. Indeed, the word first appeared in Homer’s The Iliad, when the name was given to all those who had participated in the Trojan Wars and about whom a story could be told. But, as Carlyle and Campbell both stress, possessing great moral courage is just as rare and should be honored with as much fervor. For example, in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Jane displays more moral courage than anyone in the novel, standing by her friend Charlotte Temple, standing up to her evil Aunt Reed, refusing to marry St. John Rivers because she is not in love with him, and returning to the injured Mr. Rochester. Jane’s efforts are consistently heroic because they affirm life, they are selfless, and they inspire others to good. In contrast, Henry Fleming’s actions in Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage are not so consistent. Fleeing his first battle, Fleming acts only out of fear. However, when he returns to battle a changed man, Crane seems to suggest that he is still acting out of fear. He is now motivated by his desire not to be seen as a coward. Tim O’Brien, author of the Vietnam War novels Going after Cacciato and The Things They Carried, has asserted that men have killed and died “because they were afraid not to.” This is exactly the point of Crane’s treatment of heroism: that it is complicated, is hard to discern, and can carry with it a great deal of ambiguity. Henry Fleming is a soldier, and physical acts of courage such as those displayed in war have long been the province of heroism. But what of ordinary people, those whose daily lives do not place them in typically “heroic” situation? Can these people exhibit heroism as well? For example, in John Updike’s

hopeâ•…â•… 49 “A&P,” Sammy, the supermarket cashier who tells the story, abruptly quits his job when his manager is disrespectful to three teenaged girls who enter the store. In the grand scheme of things, this action might not seem noteworthy. But in the world of the A&P, it certainly is. To return to some of the criteria discussed above, Sammy has respect for life and respect for the present in that he does not want to simply carry on as though nothing has happened. He wants to acknowledge the girls’ worth as human beings and not simply see them as “sheep” like the other people in the store. Also, Sammy has vision. He does not want the A&P to be his life; he is thinking of the future and how he can contribute toward it in a more meaningful way than he would standing behind the cash register. Heroic behavior can also come from those whom we might not see as typically “good” people. Sometimes, the term antihero is used for these characters. In John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, Macheath is a thief and a murderer. He “marries” several women under false pretenses and exhibits little regard for the laws of the city. However, Macheath is arguably a hero because the system within which he operates is so corrupt and bereft of compassion itself that the audience actually roots for him to beat that system. He has his own moral code, and he sticks by it. Looked at from this perspective, one can easily see how Macheath’s daring actions might be seen as heroic. There is quite a leap from a character such as Macheath to a character such as Sammy the checker. And again, there is another great leap from Sammy to characters such as Jane Eyre and Antigone. However, all of these characters exhibit behavior that is inspirational, courageous, and extraordinary, and in doing so all of them exemplify the theme of heroism. See also Achebe, Chinua: Things Fall Apart; Allende, Isabel: House of the Spirits, The; Atwood, Margaret: Handmaid ’s Tale, The; Behn, Aphra: Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave; Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: Hound of the Baskervilles, The; Conrad, Joseph: Lord Jim; Dickens, Charles: Tale of Two Cities, A; Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; Fielding, Henry: Tom Jones; Heller, Joseph: Catch-22;

Hersey, John: Hiroshima; Homer: Odyssey, The; Hinton S. E.: Outsiders, The; Kesey, Ken: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Lewis, C. S.: Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The; Malamud, Bernard: Natural, The; McMurtry, Larry: Lonesome Dove; Orwell, George: Nineteen Eighty-Four; Rand, Ayn: Anthem; Sophocles: Oedipus the King; Stevenson, Robert Louis: Treasure Island; Synge, John Millington: Playboy of the Western World, The; Tolkien, J. R. R.: Hobbit, The; Lord of the Rings, The; Virgil: Aeneid, The. FURTHER READING Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1949, 1968. Carlyle, Thomas. On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History. 1908. Reprint, London and Toronto: J. M. Dent, 1924. Polster, Miriam F. Eve’s Daughters. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


Hope is closely related to desire, faith, and possibility. Stories about hope are central not only to the study of literature but also to psychology, social movements, and religious studies. In literature, hope tends to center on the belief that positive change— either individual or societal change—can or will occur. Hope is an exceptionally common theme in literary works for several reasons. The theme of hope directly addresses one of the foremost characteristics of human experiences: anxiety about the uncertainty of the future. Furthermore, many literary works have plot events spurred on by characters that pursue something they want. Hope of attaining a goal is thus a central part of almost any traditionally structured novel or play. Holding onto hope when confronting seemingly impossible odds is another important theme in many texts; hope in these cases may be closely related to faith in human nature, faith in oneself, or religious or spiritual faith. Additionally, hope can be both an emotional state and also a perspective on reality; as the latter, hope is an example

50â•…â•… hope of how a worldview can shape one’s actions, often in profound and life-affirming ways. In Greek mythology, “Hope” is part of the story of Pandora’s box. After Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, Zeus gave Pandora as a “gift” to Prometheus’s brother, but she was actually a punishment for Prometheus’s crime. Out of curiosity, Pandora opens a box (or jar) containing all the world’s evils—diseases, envy, vengeance, and more—and thereby lets them loose upon the human race. The evils spread throughout the world, but Pandora manages to close the lid before the last one—Hope—escapes. The myth provides an explanation of why hope remains even when all other ills seem to be insurmountable. Some versions also suggest that Hope was by far the most important to keep in the box; if Hope escaped from human possession, human beings would have no way to cope with all the other ills, because without hope human existence would be unbearable. Hope is also a central theme in the JudeoChristian tradition, and it is especially notable in the Bible in Exodus, Psalms, and the Gospels. Other hope-centered works include stories of the lives of saints as well as the larger body of religious-themed works in Western and related literatures. Often the emphasis is on the hope for salvation or deliverance; this may be the hope for eternal life, for the coming of the Messiah, for deliverance from sin, or for other forms of spiritual or religious salvation; these narratives are often connected to hope for earthly deliverance from persecution, one’s enemies, great hardships, or even the material world and the limitations and desires of the human body. Narratives of the miraculous often emphasize that hoping for the impossible, or for what merely seems impossible according to earthly knowledge, is a sign of one’s moral rectitude and spiritual faith. This emphasis can also be seen in genres that lean a little more toward the secular, such as medieval romances about the quests of Arthurian knights. In these stories, hope is an important part of moral character because it stands fast in times of great adversity, and because it allows courage to triumph over fear. Hope in the Western Christian tradition is also one of the three Christian virtues (or the three

theological virtues), which are faith, hope, and charity. These virtues are sometimes personified as three sisters whose mother is Wisdom. The personification of the virtues (of varying number) is also found in many medieval works of literature. For example, Hope is a character in Hildegard von Bingen’s Order of the Virtues (ca. 1151), which is sometimes called the first morality play as well as the first European opera. In it, a human woman must choose between the virtuous way of life and the temptations of the devil; Hope therefore is part of the victory of good over evil. St. Thomas Aquinas, who founded the discourse on the three theological virtues, similarly argues that hope is a virtue that keeps one tending toward the divine and spiritual rather than focusing on fear and despair. It is notable in these religious traditions that despite the importance of hope to individual believers, the fundamental or underlying hope is for the ultimate deliverance to or reconciliation with God of all of Creation. The use of light or fire as a symbol for hope is seen in both Judeo-Christian and other traditions. Light is used as a symbol not only for life but also for the hope of renewal or restoration of what has been lost or separated; it may be for this reason that winter celebrations often use light or fire to symbolize hope that the spring (and new life) is on its way. This imagery of light as a symbol for both hope and life may also be seen in the metaphorical use of the phrase “the light at the end of the tunnel,” as well as literary works such as Dylan Thomas’s villanelle “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” (1951). Many authors and scholars have considered the nature of hope. In his 1732 Essay on Man, Alexander Pope writes: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” (1.95) Emily Dickinson writes of the beauty, comfort, and constancy of hope in a poem usually identified by its first line, “↜‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers.” More recently, the author Barbara Ehrenreich has argued that the constant pressure to demonstrate a hopeful attitude is part of the “cult of positivity” that places an undue psychological burden on those who must suffer silently and absolves those with the power to lessen suffering; she uses her experiences as a cancer patient to argue that “[t] o be hope-free is to acknowledge the lion in the tall

hopeâ•…â•… 51 grass, the tumor in the CAT scan, and to plan one’s moves accordingly” (11). The Czech playwright and essayist Václav Havel defines hope differently, however, describing it as “a dimension of the soul .╯.╯. not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation.╯.╯.╯. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.╯.╯.╯. Hope .╯.╯. is not the same as joy that things are going well .╯.╯. but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed” (181). The American philosopher Cornel West cites Havel to expand on the distinction between hope and optimism, arguing that hope is far more profound and significant, and that it is acting in a belief even when there is no reasonable expectation of success. Clearly, the more dire the situation, the more important it is to maintain hope; wilderness survival experts often emphasize that keeping one’s hopes up is absolutely imperative. A literary example that shows the importance of hope to survival is Homer’s The Odyssey. Odysseus must maintain hope for his eventual return home, and for reunification with his wife and son, through 10 years of war followed by 10 years of hardship and danger while lost at sea. Even as gods and various supernatural beings conspire against his return, as disaster after disaster hits him, and even when every other member of his crew is killed, Odysseus keeps his eye set on his homecoming. His wife, Penelope, undergoes a similar story at their home in Ithaca as she holds on to hope that her presumed-dead husband will return, and she cleverly works to stall the aggressive suitors who conspire against her family. Again, hope is necessary for maintaining courage, dedication, and perseverance, which suggests that it is a fundamental survival skill. On the other hand, some works of literature critique or even mock those who cling to foolish or unrealistic hopes. Often, those who encourage false hope are portrayed as cruel, while those who refuse to let go of their futile hopes are portrayed as pompous or lacking in self-awareness. In William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, for instance, several characters play a prank on Malvolio, a self-

important steward, by fooling him into thinking he might reasonably hope to woo Olivia, a countess. Ironically, one of the pranksters, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, is also completely mistaken when he believes that he might succeed in wooing Olivia, and he is encouraged by his “friends” who hope to take advantage of his wealth. Olivia, after a long period of mourning and despair for a deceased family member, finally finds hope for a happy future in her infatuation with “Cesario”; she, of course, will never be able to marry “him” because “Cesario” is actually a woman disguised as a man, and such a marriage would have been impossible. Through these and other relationships, the play portrays love and romance as a series of false and foolish hopes followed by confusion, compromise, and often bitter disappointment. Closely related to false hope are the themes of hopelessness, futility, and despair. In literature, hopelessness may be portrayed as an internal obstacle a character must overcome (or be destroyed by). Alternately, literary works with a more cynical or even a nihilistic perspective may portray hope as a foolish or childlike trait with no basis in reality. For example, in Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot (1953), Vladimir and Estragon wait, futilely, for the arrival of Godot. They are stuck in the same place, longing for meaning, movement, or answers, but their hopes and words are useless in altering their situation. The play suggests that existence itself is absurd and without meaning, like a game of language, and to hope otherwise is foolish. Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966) which is heavily influenced by Beckett, portrays the futility of hope in a similar fashion. The title characters, which were originally very minor characters in Hamlet, are both sympathetic and absurd in their attempts to evade their fate, but their ending has already been written (literally). Hope for the future, however, is necessary for courage and perseverance, especially when one’s cause seems dangerous, unsustainable, or impossible. Social movements of all kinds therefore depend on the hope that their efforts and sacrifices have not been and will not be for nothing. Especially important is the hope that the actions of a person or group can make the leap to actions of historical import; a

52â•…â•… hope sense of hopelessness, on the other hand, makes it nearly impossible—and seemingly pointless—for groups or individuals to continue their efforts. It is no surprise, then, that hope is an important theme in many works of social or political commentary in literature. Readers often expect that books that critique the status quo will offer suggestions for change and encourage a sense of hope for the future. Some literary works do so, while some actively subvert this expectation. Utopian literature is often quite hopeful about the possibility of a far better world, whereas dystopian literature, such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, often portrays a future world that seems hopeless. The very premise of dystopian fiction may, however, imply hope for change; the books stand as calls to action to prevent such a dystopian future from ever coming about, which suggests that some degree of hope remains. One complication in the representation of hope in politically oriented books is that literary works are often intended less as conventional arguments and more as explorations, or experiments in imagining possibilities; in simpler terms, literary genres may be better suited for raising new questions than for arguing for a position without ambiguity or contradiction. Furthermore, socially engaged literature often reveals the inequalities, injustices, and power relations of everyday life, many of which go unnoticed or are thought irrelevant to larger historical factors. When showing the extent, degree, and pervasiveness of these injustices, books often must address how (or whether) one preserves hope in the face of such farreaching problems. Some authors who discuss social change end their books not with a stereotypical sense of upbeat hope but with a more complex discussion of hope and possibility. Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place discusses the lasting impact of British colonialism in Antigua and elsewhere, as well as issues such as globalization, class inequalities, racism, and government corruption. The book ends with a meditation on the ambiguity of hope; it suggests that the global changes and individual failings that make oppression harder to identify, harder to resist, and harder to escape may also allow for new possibilities for human (and humane) connections.

Clearly, many works of literature explore how hope relates to imagination; hope, after all, fundamentally depends on the ability to see beyond the present circumstances. Tony Kushner’s two-part play Angels in America is particularly concerned with this relationship as it depicts the character of Prior Walter, who faces AIDS, his ancestors, angelic visitors, and abandonment by his partner. Other characters also struggle for hope and restoration as the play deals with sexuality, politics, history, and religion, as well as the medical and institutional limitations of the 1980s that made treatments for AIDS largely ineffective. In addition to angels, there are ghosts, hallucinations, and a visit to heaven, all of which push characters into expanding their sense of what is possible. More down-to-earth confrontations among characters have this effect as well, often throwing characters’ worldviews into tumult. The spiritual and psychological value of imagination, and the ability to envision what others cannot or will not, relates directly to these characters’ experiences of hope or of despair and fear. Furthermore, in this play, hope often springs from the capacity to imagine and acknowledge surprising connections between vastly different individuals—and also the connections between heaven and earth, between sex and politics, and between the past, present, and future. By the end, many of the characters break into a new stage in their lives that they never imagined possible; most notably, Prior not only copes with the abandonment but also fulfills the prophesy that he would live years longer than anyone thought possible. Angels in America is thus part of a larger trend in which authors find hope in times of great upheaval by suggesting that chaos, in addition to its ill effects, offers many opportunities for transformation. The connection between hope and imagination is thus bound tightly to the relationship between hope and survival. For this reason, it may be possible to generalize that books that discuss the relationships among hope, imagination, perseverance, and the capacity to survive and thrive implicitly argue that works of the imagination (such as literature) are vital to the wellbeing of individuals and societies. See also Aristophanes: Lysistrata; Bierce, Ambrose: “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, An”; Chekhov, Anton: Seagull, The; Davis,

identityâ•…â•… 53 Rebecca Harding: Life in the Iron Mills; Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations; Frank, Anne: Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl; Hersey, John: Hiroshima; Lawrence, Jerome, and Robert E. Lee: Inherit the Wind; Naipaul, V. S.: Bend in the River, A; O’Neill, Eugene: Iceman Cometh, The; Tolkien, J. R. R.: Lord of the Rings, The; Voltaire: Candide. FURTHER READING Cartwright, John. “From Aquinas to Zwelethemba: A Brief History of Hope.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 592, no. 1 (2004): 166–184. Ehrenreich, Barbara. “Pathologies of Hope.” Harper’s Magazine (February 2007): 9–12. Eliott, Jaklin. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Hope. Hauppauge, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers, 2005. Havel, Václav. Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvížd’ala. Translated by Paul Wilson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990. Keyes, Flo. The Literature of Hope in the Middle Ages and Today: Connections in Medieval Romance, Modern Fantasy, and Science Fiction. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, 2006. West, Cornel. Commencement Address at Wesleyan University. Middletown, Conn., May 30, 1993.

Ellen Moll


The nature of textual creation from a blank page— of all creation, really—is an exercise in identity politics: Each entity fashioned depends on inclusions and exclusions. Thus, literary texts achieve selfhood via the delicate balance of their various constituent parts; just as humans are products of their DNA, so are literary texts the result of the countless phenomena occurring between their covers. They are unique entities, themselves possessing a sort of identity to which we, as readers, bring our own experiences and resultant identities, therewith interacting to produce a distinct and original product: our individual, respective interpretations of a text. Hence, literature serves as a conduit not only to the world in which an author writes but also to our very selves. Naturally, this idea of self—of who we are—plays an important role in the dissection of literature as it is very

active during our consideration of texts. Examining this interaction further, literary theorists and critics add another wrinkle by advocating myriad different critical approaches by which to dissect a given document. Marxists focus on the manner in which societal institutions determine consciousness, and, therefore, identity: New Historicists view the text as a representative product of a certain time and place; psychoanalysts seek the unwritten text, interpreting the significance of absence; and many, many more urge their respective techniques for interrogating literature, which is, after all, a function of identity formulation. Regardless of approach, however, one thing is clear: English letters have, throughout the years, approached questions of identity in myriad different ways. The texts that constitute the genesis of Western literary studies pose questions of identity via their rootings in conflict. Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, Beowulf (Anonymous)—the cornerstone documents of the field wage war with nearly every word. And while bloodshed presents itself often in these seminal works, on a more abstract level, it is the struggle that has prime significance. The drawing of battle lines and national boundaries affords both the author and the reader the opportunity to choose sides—to ask: Where do I stand? With whom am I? And concurrent to consideration of these spatial and philosophical concerns is the broader question of, simply, who am I? Along with battle, another way humans attempt to define themselves is through religion, and this has certainly been demonstrated in literature. Of course, the significance of the Bible itself cannot be overstated, but neither can the subsequent works of fiction that sought to allegorize Christianity for the purpose of providing direction and, concurrently, identity to their readers. Texts such as William Langland’s Piers Plowman and John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s P rogress feature “everyman” protagonists struggling against the pressures of temptation and sin in a post-Fall world, whereas religious ecstasy is sought in the poetry of George Herbert and Robert Herrick. Thus, whereas conflict for one’s selfhood can, as demonstrated by Homer and others, present itself externally, strife can nevertheless rage within as

54â•…â•… identity well, and religious commitment has played a major role in this issue. Identity as a product of one’s relationship with the Almighty aside, temporal matters persist nevertheless. As geography, racial identity, and religious fervor organized cultures into nation states that legitimized themselves across Europe, people began to focus on their immediate surroundings in order to establish a more stable sense of self. Enter William Shakespeare, whose examination of British (and greater European) court life in many of his plays closely inspects not merely how we have come to occupy our places in society, but the economic, political, cultural, and social repercussions of the manner in which we have arranged ourselves. That is, the army of Rome or God aside, identity can also be derived from one’s societal position. In the 17th century, however, the poet John Donne, called this entire social framework into question with his own metaphysical take on existence and identity. As the Renaissance, during which Shakespeare and Donne wrote, ushered in various scientific and technological innovations, the speed of life increased, and this acceleration eventually resulted in the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century. The romantic period, led by William Wordsworth, sought to counter this movement grounded in commercialism, doing so by harkening back to simpler times, places, and lifestyles. The rebellion against ever-expanding industrialization romanticized the simplicity of yesteryear, and in favoring the rustic cottage over urban bustle, reactionary romantics promoted an identity based on the pastoral and the past—an identity, they maintained, that was worth resurrecting. Romanticism in the United States prospered as well, as authors looked to the past to answer a fundamental question plaguing the new nation: Just what—who—is an American? Unlike Britons, whose country had demonstrated sovereignty for more than half the years since Christ, Americans had problematic issues with which to contend: They were, after all, a nation born of Great Britain but liberated with the help of France; a place rooted in equality, yet devoted to slavery and class divides; and a state inspired by a yearning for religious freedom that already sported a less-than-tolerant record on

tolerance. These early obstacles to a cohesive identity demanded consideration, and the country’s early literary endeavors did not disappoint. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s interest in history facilitated his own approach to this enigma, producing introspective tales such as The House of the Seven Gables, and Herman Melville’s fictive microcosms endeavored to inspect the American identity as well (Moby-Dick, “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” Billy Budd, Sailor, and Benito Cereno come readily to mind). The romantic mindset also fostered the American transcendentalist movement, which radically challenged contemporary religious thought by proclaiming that divinity presided in each and every person. But times change, and violent conflict and its pursuant debilitating recessions tend to alter the way a citizenry views itself. Therefore, transcendentalism, with all its hope and possibility, gave way to the prostitute- and drunkard-ridden slums of the realists Stephen Crane (The Open Boat and The Red Badge of Courage) and Theodore Dreiser (An American Tragedy and Sister Carrie) and the harsh reality of 19th-century London we find in Charles Dickens. In a few deft literary strokes, humans went from Gods to insignificant specks. War, however, need not always precipitate humility. Whereas the Civil War rattled America’s literary girders, the interwar period of the 20th century inspired the dynamism and innovation of the modern period. T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Langston Hughes, Robinson Jeffers, and others rewrote national myths, questioning the very notion of patriotic allegiance itself. Coping with a dramatically and rapidly changing world left them eager for new ways to artistically express an ever-morphing self they sought to articulate. Hence, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway seems lost in both his adopted home on the eastern seaboard and back in his native Midwest in The Great Gatsby, thereby anticipating J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, in which Holden Caulfield ambles, stupefied, through a New York City that, while geographically holding true to his home, nevertheless seems odd, off—different. In The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner’s Compsons and McCaslins even seem out of place in their own

illnessâ•…â•… 55 Mississippi homes, which have been in their respective families for generations. Modernists entertained new approaches to a newly emergent self, which, although complex (as in Ezra Pound’s epic, and fittingly, unfinished, Cantos), at least presupposed that definable identity could exist. For the postmodernists who followed, this was not necessarily a given. The postmodern age, in which most would agree we now live, takes nothing for granted, rejecting the notion that an underlying absolute truth inevitably exists. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, for instance, features a central character named Tim O’Brien who is not necessarily the author (but is not necessarily not the author, either); claims that the most far-fetched tales are “real,” whereas those that sound the most believable are pure invention; includes stories of soldiers in Vietnam that have nothing to do with war and accounts of men in Minnesota that have everything to do with conflict; and even defies simple generic classification as either a novel or a short-story collection. Toni Morrison’s Beloved deconstructs the objectivity of time, agency, and place. Burgeoning magical realism, as found in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude routinely presents seemingly supernatural events as quotidian, based on the idea that assumption—of fixity, of consistency, of identity—is ultimately quite dangerous. Attempting to capture something as ambiguous as identity via a literary medium is truly an exercise in frustration, for as words are committed to paper, and therefore rendered static, identity has consistently proven dynamic. Authors continually attempt to pin down the moment, to speak a word for the present; hence, as history unfolds and we continue to evolve as a species, works change over time—not only in the styles employed in their composition but also in the manner by which we approach them. That is, while a text’s words may never change, we do, and hence the interaction between text and reader is, like our identities, ever-evolving. Tomorrow, a breakthrough development in space exploration or biomedicine may change how we interpret a novel finished yesterday, thereby altering our estimation of just who we are and what our place or our role—our identity—is. Thus, as long as works of literature and humankind coexist, they will continu-

ally seek new ways to define themselves—and each other. See also Alvarez, Julia: How the García Girls Lost Their Accents; Angelou, Maya: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Aristophanes: Frogs, The; Bellow, Saul: Adventures of Augie March, The; Bradford, William: Of Plymouth Plantation; Cisneros, Sandra: House on Mango Street, The; DuBois, W. E. B.: Souls of Black Folk, The; Eliot, T. S.: “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The”; Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man; Equiano, Olaudah: Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; Erdrich, Louise: Bingo Palace, The; Grass Günter: Tin Drum, The; Ibsen, Henrik: Doll ’s House, The; Kesey, Ken: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Kincaid, Jamaica: Annie John; Kingston, Maxine Hong: Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book; Kozinski, Jerzy: Painted Bird, The; Kundera, Milan: Unbearable Lightness of Being, The; Lessing, Doris: Golden Notebook, The; London, Jack: Call of the Wild, The; White Fang; Mistry, Rohinton: Fine Balance, A; Momaday, N. Scott: House Made of Dawn; Way to Rainy Mountain, The; Morrison, Toni: Bluest Eye, The; Pirandello, Luigi: Six Characters in Search of an Author; Poe, Edgar Allan: “Fall of the House of Usher, The”; Potok, Chaim: Chosen, The; Roth, Philip: American Pastoral; Rowlandson, Mary: Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson; Rushdie, Salman: Midnight ’s Children; Shakespeare, William: King Lear; Stevenson, Robert Louis: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The, and Treasure Island; Wiesel, Elie: Night; Wilde, Oscar: Picture of Dorian Gray, The. David Visser


In her well-known 1978 book Illness as Metaphor, Susan Sontag says, “Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place” (3). Illness affects all human beings in some way, whether it is a simple

56â•…â•… illness bout of the flu, a chronic painful condition, a disability, or a life-threatening disease. Because all readers, even if we have not ourselves been severely ill, can relate to the idea of Sontag’s two kingdoms, illness is a frequent and powerful theme in literature. When we are sick, we have a feeling of not being part of the mainstream; we can concentrate only on the sickness, the pain, and the discomfort, and in doing so, we remove ourselves from life for a while. The sick, then, are deviant; they are not normal. Literature has a history of using illness to highlight deviations from what is normal, both positive deviations and negative ones. Sociologists and medical professionals have several different ways of explaining why illness has such a powerful hold over our imaginations. Echoing Sontag’s metaphor, the physician Michael Stein says in The Lonely Patient that illness is a kind of travel into a “foreign kingdom” or an “unrecognized neighborhood” (10). The sick person is confused and anxious, asking many unanswerable questions about how to act, what to say, and how long the stay in this “foreign kingdom” will be. Illness, then, can symbolize a journey, albeit a frightening, disorienting one. The writer and physician Oliver Sacks notes that the word we use to describe that journey—sickening—has no counterpart: There is no “healthening.” We usually use the word recovery, which indicates we are retrieving our lost health from somewhere, but it is the “sickening” that provides the powerful metaphor (quoted in Stein 96). This metaphor is so powerful, claims David B. Morris in Illness and Culture in the Postmodern Age, that “almost every era seems marked by a distinctive illness that defines or deeply influences it” (50). In the Middle Ages, the bubonic plague changed the face of Europe, killing millions of people, approximately one fourth of the population. Not only did millions die, but millions more lived in constant fear of contracting the dreaded plague. In the Renaissance, what was known at the time as “melancholy,” but what today we would call depression, pervaded. In the late 17th and 18th centuries, sometimes referred to as the Enlightenment, gout, a kind of arthritis, and syphilis, a deadly venereal disease, held sway. Doctors attributed both of these diseases to the loosening morals of the upper classes, as gout

was mostly diagnosed among the wealthier citizens who could afford treatment, and syphilis was the product both of aristocratic promiscuity and the urban poverty of the prostitutes they frequented. In the 19th century, tuberculosis was the dominant illness. With its victims weak, pale, and bedridden, the disease seemed to indicate that the suffering it brought purified those whom it struck, or at least returned them to a natural state. Many artists and writers of the 19th century died from tuberculosis, including the writers John Keats, Emily Brontë, and Robert Louis Stevenson and the composer Frédéric Chopin, leading to the assumption that those of artistic temperament were especially susceptible. In the 20th century, cancer took over as the defining illness. Cancer is a brutal, seemingly indestructible enemy that can attack out of nowhere and that often must be fought by further brutalizing the body with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. It dehumanizes the patient. As such, it is an appropriate metaphor for the 20th century and the rise of technology. Many authors have harnessed the power of illness—its anxiety, its dread, its ability to drive people apart and to bring them closer together—to tell their stories. In Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, for instance, Beth, the sweetest of the March sisters, contracts scarlet fever while nursing a poor family. Although she recovers, she lives life in a weakened state and eventually succumbs. Her death reminds the March sisters, especially Jo and Amy, of the importance of family unity despite disagreement. In Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Dickens uses the sickly, disabled figure of Tiny Tim to illuminate the joy of Christmas. If this poor creature can be happy, Dickens seems to say, then so should we all be. A 20th-century take on illness can be found in Don DeLillo’s White Noise. Jack and his family have come simultaneously to fear illness and to see it as inevitable. They take pills for reasons they do not understand and receive vague diagnoses that only serve to frighten them. In addition to serving as a useful vehicle around which to tell a powerful tale, illness has also functioned as a more specific metaphor. For example, illness can also represent failure. The noted American sociologist Talcott Parsons has described health as

illnessâ•…â•… 57 a “gatekeeper” to success. A healthy body and mind is the basic condition, he says, for functioning in a democracy and “too low a general level of health is dysfunctional” (quoted in Gerhardt 7). When illness stands as a metaphor for failure, it symbolizes deviancy. The sick person has failed to keep well, failed to keep personal commitments, and failed to adequately garner support and admiration from others (Gerhardt 22). The ill in this scenario are necessarily passive, helpless, and detached from reality. Therefore, they lack the characteristics to succeed in the modern world. In Eugene O’Neill’s play Long Day’s Journey into Night, half of the Tyrone family suffers from chronic illness. At the play’s start, Edmund has just learned he suffers from tuberculosis. His many attempts to find his place in the world have failed and now, O’Neill seems to be suggesting, he will find his true calling in death. His mother, Mary, suffers from a debilitating morphine addiction; she has failed to face the problems in her real life, so she uses morphine to dull the emotional pain this gives her. The morphine, in effect, paralyzes her, highlighting the metaphorical paralysis in which the whole family is trapped. While the idea that illness represents a kind of failure is common in discussions of physical illness, in discussions of mental illness it is practically normative. Mental illness, as the literary historian Shoshana Felman has theorized, is like a kind of blindness, a literally inability to see what is actually happening. As such, those who are mentally ill are often shunned because they are incapable of acting in a way we consider reasonable. In Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, loses her ability to function in the real world as the novel progresses. She cannot “see” who she really is—a young woman with talent and intelligence. She feels trapped, not only by her skewed view of the world but also by the assumptions of those around her that she could just “decide” to be all right. That those who, like Esther, are sick because they want to be or because they deserve it is another common portrayal of illness in literature. Disease has long been seen as a form of divine punishment—a curse well deserved by those who have fallen sick. Susan Sontag explains that the ancient Greeks believed illness sprung from super-

natural punishment or demonic possession and that the accursed must have done something to warrant this affliction. Early Christians, she writes, had more moralized notions of disease. Disease was still viewed as a divine punishment, but now the specific disease was thought to express the deviant character of the patient. This view of disease can be seen well into the 20th century. Tuberculosis, for instance, was long believed to result from too much passion, while cancer was thought to result from the suppression of passion (Sontag 21). AIDS, with its most common methods of transmission involving behavior considered deviant by most (homosexual intercourse, the use of intravenous drugs), has been referred to as a “punishment from God” by ignorant, fearful critics. In Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Roy Cohn, the closeted homosexual lawyer diagnosed with AIDS, certainly feels this way. He is ashamed of his disease and does everything he can to hide it. Prior Walter, on the other hand, also diagnosed with AIDS, gains confidence as he embraces his past and his present, being visited by an angel and dead relatives and being declared a prophet. In the end, perhaps Cohn is being punished—not for being gay, but for hiding his true identity. Although there are many different methods by which authors deal with illness in their texts, it is such an important, unavoidable part of real life that it always serves as a powerful device. Depictions of illness can carry hope, despair, and grief; they can illuminate difference and similarity; and they can most powerfully display the experience of being human. See also Capote, Truman: In Cold Blood; Cather, Willa: O Pioneers!; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: House of the Seven Gables, The; Ibsen, Henrik: Doll ’s House, A; Lessing, Doris: Golden Notebook, The; Poe, Edgar Allan: “Fall of the House of Usher, The”; “Tell-Tale Heart, The”; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Tender Is the Night; Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: Yellow Wallpaper, The; Rhys, Jean: Wide Sargasso Sea; Silko, Leslie Marmon: Ceremony; Sinclair, Upton: Jungle, The; Turgenev, Ivan: Fathers and Sons; Steinbeck, John: Of Mice and Men. FURTHER READING Felman, Shoshana. Writing and Madness (Literature/ Philosophy/Psychoanalysis). Translated by Martha

58â•…â•… individual and society Noel Evans and the author with the assistance of Brian Massumi. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985. Gerhardt, Uta. Ideas about Illness: An Intellectual and Political History of Medical Sociology. New York: New York University Press, 1989. Morris, David B. Illness and Culture in the Postmodern Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Sontag, Susan. Illness as Metaphor. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1978. Stein, Michael. The Lonely Patient: How We Experience Illness. New York: William Morrow, 2007.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple

individual and society

Human beings have always tried to come together in groups, not only to live in a way that ensures an escape from pangs of solitude but also to attain a collective strength against a common enemy, be it animals, other humans, or the wrath of nature. Even so, the relationship between the individual and society has always been simultaneously rewarding and conflicting. An endless debate exists over whether an individual—the basic unit of the society—should be able to claim greater attention to his personal rights and privileges, or the society—the alliance of individuals strengthened by their mutual consent— should be empowered to overlook one for many. The tension inherent in such a puzzling relationship becomes apparent from the subtle contradiction in defining each. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (8th edition) defines an individual as a “single human being as distinct from a family or group,” whereas a society is the “sum of human conditions and activity regarded as a whole functioning interdependently” (emphases mine), and this “distinctness” of an individual struggles against the societal stipulation for a merging “interdependence.” The brightest minds have long endeavored to solve this conundrum. Every age has generated theories with clashing conclusions on this subject. The Greek philosopher Plato argued that an individual, not being self-sufficient, cannot live alone. Aristotle more considerately highlighted not just man’s “need of ” but also his “desire for” society. Nevertheless, for both the society was more important than the individual. The Stoics envisaged a brotherhood of

mankind; the Epicureans instead openly avowed an individual’s conscious self-interest, which was strikingly individualistic for its time. The Roman statesman Cicero rejected Epicureanism in favor of the Aristotelean view. The Middle Ages, under the banner of Christianity, revived the idea of a universal brotherhood and emphasized the society’s being a “natural product” since it arises out of an individual’s “natural” sociability. Even during the transition from the medieval to early modern times, society was prioritized over the individual. The early modern era promoted the social contract theory. The 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, believing the pre-social man to have been antisocial, averred that mutual fear produced society. For John Locke, who dismissed this theory, man merely executed the laws of nature in a pre-political rather than a pre-social situation. To the French philosopher Montesquieu, societal structure depended on a proper balance between such factors as climate, religion and customs. The 18thcentury philosopher David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau blamed property and social classes for creating inequality among individuals in a society. Immanuel Kant and George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, opposing the egotism of contemporary German romanticism, discouraged “pure” individuality. After the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the French philosopher Claude-Henri de Rouvroy Saint-Simon thought that the “industrial society” of the 19th century was “healthier” since it created partners, not subjects. Karl Marx, in contrast, famously prophesied the bourgeoisie’s downfall due to modern industry and the consequent rise of a classless society. Utilitarianism advocated “greater good for a greater number.” Yet individual rights had already started gaining priority over those of a group, and the term individualism was also coined. Moreover, with the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declaring the death of God, all binding factors that had kept social obligations alive so far seemed to crumble, and individuals were suddenly left with a dangerous kind of freedom encumbered with a responsibility for every decision taken. With the two devastating world wars of the 20th century, no wonder older traditions lost their worth for the trauma-ridden individual. Such despair of

individual and societyâ•…â•… 59 “isolation amid crowds” understandably gave rise to Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism and Albert Camus’s sense of the absurd. All age-old conflicting theories finally seem to endorse a paradox: An individual is both “the creature and the creator of society” (Hawthorn 27). The individual, the French sociologist Émile Durkheim declared in the latter part of the 19th century, is defined by his social relations. By playing his “social role,” he metamorphoses from an individual into a person (persona is a Latin word for the ancient theatrical mask). Since this “person” is a social being, his every act is invariably a social (because human) act. So is his literary venture. He writes in a language which, the 20th-century British sociologist Anthony Giddens would argue, he did not even create. Even in satirizing society, he may distance himself from the society he criticizes, but that again underscores the inseverable link between himself and his society. An individual can never be completely divorced from society. The society allocates roles for each individual and prescribes rules for each role. The violation of “formal” rules is punished by judiciary and police; that of the “informal” ones by shame and ostracism. Meursault, in Camus’s The Stranger, is condemned when he refuses to conform to the unwritten norm of showing grief at his mother’s death; his society is unwilling to condone a murder committed due to the glare of the sun. For his former offense, he reaps societal suspicion and dislike; for his latter crime, he gets capital punishment. In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov’s punishment for murder is more personal than judicial. The judiciary comes to know of it only when he confesses of his own accord, and that very confession is the outcome of a thorough internalization of his society’s morality. Conditioned by social expectations, Beowulf (Anonymous), as the hero of his people, must show extraordinary courage. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, for all her radical thoughts of emancipation, may still be redeemed by her ultimately not flouting the social dictates of feminine tenderness, faithful love, and Christian kindness. But in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, the title character’s violation of norms in the form of an extramarital

affair cannot be exonerated by her conservative society. Her husband forgives her, yet she must still die in the end to maintain the societal status quo. A society inevitably dooms an individual to a divided self. Various social positions and phases demand various social roles to be played. To do so, the anthropologist Margaret Mead argued, I (the real self ) must give in to Me (the social self )—willingly or otherwise. The uncoordinated instincts of the id (the dark, unconscious part of human psyche), to use Freudian terms, must be reined in by the rationality of the ego (the polished part modified by external influences) and the moralizing function of the superego (the critical conscientious part). A fantastical allegorical representation of this dichotomy of self is seen in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where Dr. Jekyll is the “social” face of the named individual and Mr. Hyde is the “real,” untailored part of him that defies social conventions and performs deadly acts contrary to a doctor’s healing duties. The healer by day horrifyingly transforms into the killer by night, symbolizing the hideous image of an individual when uncontrolled by society’s leashes. “Without a social environment no self can arise” (Aubert 58) because self-analysis is possible only by considering others’ perception of it. Hence, extended isolation may “threaten to disturb or destroy the perceptions of the self ” (58). Though Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is portrayed as the sole shipwreck survivor, rebuilding his world on a remote island with the morals and customs of his civilization indelibly etched in his nature, William Golding takes a more skeptical approach. His Lord of the Flies instead subverts Defoe’s world to illustrate how something goes very wrong with human “culture” when segregated from the civilizing influences of society by showing a swift degradation of morals in a band of boys left stranded on a deserted island. Not just total isolation but confrontation with other cultures may also challenge the stability of one’s own cultural values. In the absence of the restraining measures of his compatriots, Kurtz, in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, “goes native.” Chinua Achebe, on the other hand, depicts the doomed struggle of an individual, Okonkwo, to hold together his dilapidating traditional society

60â•…â•… innocence and experience against the superior power of the white man in Things Fall Apart. Nonetheless, society is not an unmixed blessing. Pip, in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, loses his essential innocence and goodness in the urge to rise in an ambitious and mercenary society; while A Tale of Two Cities shows a Sidney Carton distraught with disappointments, although his innate capacity to love cannot be killed even amid the bloodthirsty fury of Paris in the grip of the French Revolution. George Eliot’s Silas Marner suffers wrongly in the hands of his fellow beings and becomes an embittered recluse but is later rescued from the unenviable fate of a misanthrope by the love of a castaway child. That man cannot live alone is depicted, consciously or unconsciously, even in texts where this theme is least expected. It is an utter lack of communication with his family and society who have forsaken him, terrified at his vermin form, that eventually kills Gregor Samsa in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Estragon and Vladimir, in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, decide not to even playfully attempt suicide to pass their time because if one dies accidentally, the other will be left alone. So, even amid existentialist angst and in an absurdist limbo, an individual’s minimal necessity for company cannot be disregarded. A society is a “natural” product, and an individual, in turn, is a “social” one. See also Anderson, Sherwood: Winesburg, Ohio; Bradbury, Ray: Fahrenheit 451; Bunyan, John: Pilgrim’s P rogress, The; Byron, George Gordon Byron, Lord: Don Juan; Dickens, Charles: Christmas Carol, A; Emerson, Ralph Waldo: “American Scholar, The”; “Self-Reliance”; Faulkner, William: Light in August; Gay, John: Beggar’s Opera, The; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: Scarlet Letter, The; “Young Goodman Brown”; Hesse, Herman: Siddhartha; Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World; Irving, Washington: Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, The; Jackson, Shirley: “Lottery, The”; Kerouac, Jack: On the Road; Kipling, Rudyard: Kim; Kozinski, Jerzy: Painted Bird, The; Lewis, Sinclair: Main Street; Melville, Herman: Billy Budd, Sailor; Molière: Misanthrope, The; Naipaul, V. S.: House for Mr. Biswas, A;

Orwell, George: Nineteen Eighty-Four; Poe, Edgar Allan: “Murders in the Rue Morgue, The”; Rand, Ayn: Anthem; Shakespeare, William: Romeo and Juliet; Taming of the Shrew, The; Solzhenitsyn, Alexander: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; Sophocles: Antigone; Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver’s Travels; Thoreau, Henry David: “Resistance to Civil Government”; Walden; Vonnegut, Kurt: Cat ’s Cradle; Wharton, Edith: Ethan Frome; House of Mirth; Winterson, Jeanette: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. FURTHER READING Aubert, Vilhelm. Elements of Sociology. London: Heinemann, 1968. Hawthorn, Geoffrey. Enlightenment and Despair: A History of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

Susmita Roye

innocence and experience

Perhaps because literature so often focuses on human experience, it frequently covers the themes of innocence and experience. Just as there are many stories, so too are there many forms of both innocence and experience. For many centuries, innocence and experience were interpreted primarily in terms of religion, with innocence denoting a state free from sin. As European civilization became increasingly secularized, however, these terms took on more general usage wherein innocence came to denote roughly a state of naïveté or simplicity without necessarily implying religious overtones (though these had not vanished). One of the most frequently depicted changes, and one that became a touchstone of romanticism, is that from the optimism of childhood to the realities of adulthood. William Blake’s popular set of poems Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) helps to illuminate the interdependence and relative value of both terms. At first, childhood may seem like a time of innocence and freedom from the responsibilities of maturity, whereas adulthood is a time when experience, education, and exposure to the world taint one’s sense of innocence. Even in this straightforward account, the two terms are interdependent, as a

innocence and experienceâ•…â•… 61 time of innocence can only be recognized retrospectively, from the vantage point of experience. Blake takes this tension between the two terms to new heights in his poems, however, demonstrating that people are capable of either state at various times in their lives. Furthermore, either state might take the form of the other. For example, in “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence, the young chimney sweep Tom Dacre has a dream wherein he and his friends are freed from their coffins by an angel, who leads them to play happily in the clouds. On the one hand, the dream epitomizes innocence in that it takes the form of a fantasy in which Tom gets to escape from work to play with his friends. This thought, that he would be rewarded at the end of his life, keeps him going: “Tho’ the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm / So if all do their duty they need not fear harm” (ll. 23–24). On the other hand, this vision of innocence seems to simultaneously convey a darker point from the side of experience. In one sense, Tom’s vision suggests that the only way for these children to be released from their horrible working conditions is through death. Inverting the closing line, it is precisely by doing their duty (cleaning chimneys) that they need to fear harm (black lung, cancer, accident). This final line turns out to be ambiguous indeed, because it could equally serve as a kind of threat to the people who mistreat the children: If they do their duty to the children, then they need not fear harm. The companion poem (also named “The Chimney Sweeper”) from Songs of Experience reinforces this point. The speaker of this poem fully recognizes what might only be hinted at in the other. Of his parents, who put him to work, he says, “They think they have done me no injury: / And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King / Who make up a heaven of our misery” (ll. 10–12). These lines serve as a great example of how Blake’s poems complicate the narrative of growth, because here it is the adults who are innocent and naive whereas the child is burdened by the harsh realities of his experience. In another sense, however, the adults could be to blame for purposely trying to minimize their responsibility by inventing the idea of heaven to justify their exploitation of children. In other words, adults fully realize how horrible their actions are but seek to

cover up their knowledge with narratives of earthly suffering and heavenly reward. Like poetry, fiction often deals with issues of innocence and experience. In fact, one of the major genres of the novel, the bildungsroman, tells the story of a character’s education and growth. While these stories ostensibly focus on a single protagonist, the growth of the individual is often linked to and helps to illuminate larger societal changes or conflicts. In this sense, the bildungsroman often tells the story of a particular character in a way that also ties into the development of his or her community. Both Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) and James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man (1916) are examples of the genre, although Portrait resists the kind of closure typical of the genre. One novel that resonates on both personal and societal levels in terms of the relationship between innocence and experience is Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The story is initially narrated by a sailor who listens to the mysterious Marlow, who in turn recounts his experiences piloting a steamboat up the Congo River. Marlow begins as an idealistic youth, looking to a life at sea as a chance to explore new lands or, as he phrases it, the blank spaces on maps. Taking a job with a Dutch trading company, Marlow heads to Africa with high hopes. Through a series of events in which he witnesses firsthand the cruel and senseless behavior of the Europeans, culminating in his meeting with Kurtz, Marlow is forced to question many of the traditional narratives he started out with, including that of the moral and spiritual superiority of Europeans compared to the native African peoples. Marlow’s physical journey up the Congo, into the heart of Africa, can be said to correspond with his spiritual journey, in which he investigates the “heart” of humanity. Kurtz’s dying words, “the horror,” coupled with his barbaric behavior (note, for example, the skulls on the fence around his house) suggest that there are terrible passions in each of us waiting to be released. Marlow’s encounter with Kurtz is immensely disappointing in that Marlow had heard nothing but fantastic tales about how intelligent, cultivated, and efficient Kurtz was. Kurtz turns out to be a disappointing hero to say the least. In a much broader

62â•…â•… isolation sense, however, Marlow’s transition into experience can be seen to represent the larger experience of European colonialism. As he points out to his listeners, “The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much” (7). Marlow’s personal disillusionment signals a growing awareness of the violence and cruelty that underpinned the supposedly beneficial process of colonization. James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man tells the story of the growth and development of Stephen Dedalus. Like Marlow, Stephen slowly gains knowledge about the effects of imperialism, though in his case he does so as a member of the colonized people. Portrait presents a more complex picture of the interrelationship of innocence and experience, as Stephen moves from one pole to another within each of the novel’s five sections. For example, at the end of the third section, Stephen has become convinced that he must repent his sins and dedicate his life to serve within the Catholic Church. In the next section, however, he begins to implement this plan only to abandon it in favor of his calling to become an artist. Each section presents a crisis that Stephen responds to by adopting a new goal, which is then replaced in the face of the next crisis or problem that he faces. In this sense, Stephen is constantly passing through stages of innocence and experience, but each version of experience is subsequently revealed to be yet another form of innocence. Accompanying each new goal or level of experience, Stephen employs an increasingly complex vocabulary and style. For example, the simple language of the children’s tale at the beginning, “Once upon a time and a very good time it was” gives way, in the final section, to Stephen’s elaborate arguments about aesthetics. In keeping with the restless mental development of its protagonist, Portrait is difficult to read as a straightforward national allegory for Ireland. While Stephen recognizes the power structures behind the use of the English language, for example, he also flatly rejects the calls of nationalism in favor of a European cosmopolitanism in the form of his pending trip to Paris. Stephen’s dedication to further his education and to escape

from the confines of his country demonstrates a commitment to continue the process of discovery that is at the heart of literature. Precisely by reading and thinking about literature, we are able to evaluate our own sense of experience and, hopefully, to enrich it as well. See also Adams, Henry: Education of Henry Adams, The; Austen, Jane: Sense and Sensibility; Carroll, Lewis: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Cisneros, Sandra: House on Mango Street, The; Defoe, Daniel: Moll Flanders; Dreiser, Theodore: Sister Carrie; Forster, E. M.: Room with a View, A; Harte, Bret: “Outcasts of Poker Flats, The”; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: “Young Goodman Brown”; James, Henry: Portrait of a Lady, The; Turn of the Screw, The; Kincaid, Jamaica: Annie John; Nabokov, Vladimir: Lolita; O’Brien, Tim: Things They Carried, The; Poe, Edgar Allan: “Murders in the Rue Morgue, The”; Salinger, J. D.: Catcher in the Rye, The; Twain, Mark: Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The; Voltaire: Candide; Wharton, Edith: House of Mirth, The; Wiesel, Elie: Night; Wilde, Oscar: Importance of Being Earnest, The; Picture of Dorian Gray, The. FURTHER READING Brivic, Sheldon. Joyce between Freud and Jung. Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1980. Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Norton: 1988.

Daniel Ryan Morse


Isolation is a powerful force. Human beings live, work, and play in groups, and to be separate from the whole of humanity can disorient us, debilitate us, and even make us question our place in the world. Isolation is easily confused with other forms of aloneness such as loneliness and alienation, but the condition of being isolated requires that one be detached from others through reasons not in one’s control. Isolation produces devastating consequences for many people, leading to lifelong emotional problems and difficulty in relationships with others. Conversely, the condition can move

isolationâ•…â•… 63 others toward extraordinary creativity and innovation as a result of having been forced to rely solely on their own minds as a source for meaning. As one might suspect, these two sides of the coin are not mutually exclusive; many people experience both positive and negative effects of isolation, deriving inspiration from it while at the same time feeling hurt and disturbed. Obviously, not all who feel isolated are literally alone, and not all who are alone are isolated. In an essay on isolation in literature, Mark Conliff points out that the condition hinges on the individual having once been part of a whole. The isolated person is not really a “stranger” or an “outsider,” words that might come to mind when thinking of this solitary state. Isolation requires that one was part of the group (at least at one time) and that he or she continues “to be defined, however subtly, by his association with his usual world” (121). That identification is what makes isolation so powerful. The stranger might long to be part of the group but, having never been a member, will not derive meaning or shape her identity based on this association. The isolated soul, however, cannot escape the connection. Whether the isolation is voluntarily imposed on the self or forced by some other entity, it is a condition that is objective in that it is not merely a feeling, and that is created by an outside force, not by happenstance. When human beings are genuinely isolated from others, serious psychological consequences may result. This is due to the basic human need to belong, to depend on and be accompanied by others throughout life. When human beings lived in hunter-gatherer societies, survival required these affiliations. As humans have evolved from that period in their history, they have not lost that need. The English psychiatrist Anthony Storr noted that these connections need not be intimate ones, but that they must be there: “[W]hether or not they are enjoying intimate relationships, human beings need a sense of being part of a larger community than that constituted by the family” (13). Kipling D. Williams, in his study of ostracism and its effects, notes that the need to belong is fundamental, and that “an absence of affiliation .╯.╯. with others produces a host of negative psychological consequences, including depression, anxiety, stress, and physical and mental

illness” (60). Being isolated from others, Williams goes on to argue, can also effect other fundamental needs, such as the need for self-esteem, the need to feel in control of one’s own life, and the need for meaningful existence (59–60). Being apart from others in any kind of systematic way can, in fact, alter the way we derive meaning from our lives. Isolation, forced or voluntary, can be as a window into what life would be like if we did not exist. When there is no one to take notice of us, no one to see us, talk to us, or respond to us in any way, it is as though we are dead, for there is no one there to remind us that we are alive. William James, in his groundbreaking Principles of Psychology (1890) says, “No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by all the members thereof ” (quoted in Williams 2). To be cut off like this, or “cut dead” as James puts it, is one of the most powerful weapons humans wield against one another and the basis for one of our society’s most common punitive actions: incarceration. When isolation is forced, as in incarceration or ostracism, its victims can undergo enormous pain and stress. For example, in Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles, Minnie Wright has been isolated by her cruel husband for many years. She sees no one, talks to no one, and must live out her days in only his infrequent and reticent company. Thus, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters surmise that when John Wright kills her only source of comfort, and indeed her only source of identification, her parakeet, she snaps and turns to murder, a completely uncharacteristic move. This parakeet is the only way Minnie knows she is alive, because it responds to her by singing, which she herself used to do in church with other members of her community. Minnie’s isolation is created by her husband; many characters in literature suffer forced isolation at the hands of family members. In The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, Celie is isolated first by her father and then by her husband, Mister. She is given no access to those who love her and those who would give her life intimacy and connection. First her father takes away her babies moments after they are born, then he marries her off to Mister, separat-

64â•…â•… isolation ing her from her beloved sister, Nettie. After Celie goes to live at Mister’s house, he in turn isolates her, keeping her like a prisoner, forced to cook, clean, and have sex, but receiving no comfort or love from anyone. Briefly, when Nettie lives with them, Celie feels joy again, but Mister literally tears them apart from one another and forces Nettie out of the house. Significantly, Mister tries to keep Nettie from teaching Celie how to read—and once she is gone, he hides the letters Nettie sends. These letters, had they been delivered, would have given Celie the human connection she so desperately needed. Her isolation cultivates in her feelings of worthlessness—feelings that leave her to wonder if she is even human. Forced isolation such as Celie and Minnie experience may also be brought on by society or by the circumstances of one’s life. In William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Ariel and Caliban have been isolated for years, alone on an island, until a shipwreck brings others into their lives. Both of them react based on their previous isolation. Ariel, who has been imprisoned in a tree, is willing to do Prospero’s bidding because he is grateful to have the company of others once again. Caliban, on the other hand, is horrified to have to share “his” island. His years alone have made him rough and unable to communicate well—and thus he appears to the shipwreck survivors as a beast, unfit for human interaction. While isolation often produces effects that dehumanize people, positive changes may also result from extended solitude. As Anthony Storr argues, “The capacity to be alone is a valuable resource when changes of mental attitude are required” (29). He relates stories of such isolated souls as the children’s author Beatrix Potter and the 17th-century explorer and nobleman Sir Walter Raleigh. Schooled at home by a nanny, Potter was isolated as a child, with no opportunity to mix with other children. She made “friends” with the animals she encountered—rabbits, mice, ducks—and spent hours drawing them. As an adult, she would go on to produce the famous and beautifully illustrated Peter Rabbit stories. Storr theorizes that the isolation she experienced as a child forced her to create companions, and that is what led to her ultimate creativity (111–112). Raleigh wrote the first volume of his Historie of the World, about ancient Greece and Rome, while

imprisoned in the Tower of London. Again, Storr theorizes that like Potter, Raleigh devised something for his mind to do while his body was physically isolated. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator is confined to her room for what her husband and her doctors have declared a “nervous” depression. With nothing else to do, she becomes obsessed with the room’s wallpaper, eventually believing she is one of the women on the wallpaper. In the end, the narrator does reach psychosis—but one can read this ending as a kind of freedom from her husband’s control. Her isolation forces her to think in a new way, and ultimately he frees her from the room because of this. Isolation, while mostly a difficult, debilitating force for human beings, can also produce interesting, creative results in its victims. By and large, however, being isolated challenges our basic human needs and calls into question the meaning of our lives. Literature, with its windows into the thoughts and feelings of the characters it portrays, allows us a glimpse into the isolated mind. See also Bierce, Ambrose: “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, An”; Chopin, Kate: Awakening, The; Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness; Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe; Frost, Robert: poems; Harte, Bret: “Luck of Roaring Camp, The”; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: “Rappaccini’s Daughter”; Hemingway, Ernest: Old Man and the Sea, The; Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God; James, Henry: Turn of the Screw, The; Joyce, James: Dubliners; Molière: Misanthrope, The; Morrison, Toni: Bluest Eye, The; Salinger, J. D.: Catcher in the Rye, The; Steinbeck, John: Of Mice and Men; Twain, Mark: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Wharton, Edith: Frome, Ethan; Williams, Tennessee: Streetcar Named Desire, A. FURTHER READING Conliffe, Mark. “On Isolation.” Midwest Quarterly 47, no. 2 (Winter 2006): 115–130. Storr, Anthony. Solitude. New York: Free Press (1988). Williams, Kipling D. Ostracism. New York: Guilford, 2001.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple

justiceâ•…â•… 65


The desire to be treated fairly, and to see others treated fairly, is a fundamental human impulse. We seek justice in our own lives, and many of us promote it in the lives of others. Injustice strikes us as unnatural, an imbalance that should not be tolerated in moral, humane societies. Some would even argue that justice is the most important factor in making a moral society, saying that without justice, there can be no true moral authority. Philosophers do not agree, however, on virtually any aspect of justice. There are controversies involving whether or not actions can be considered just, what intellectual paths we must take to make those determinations, how justice should be carried out, and whether or not there can be such a thing as “natural” justice— that is, universal principles that all societies should follow. Justice is a complicated subject because what is “right” may not always be what is “just,” and what is “just” may not always be “right.” For instance, a culture that follows the Old Testament precept of “an eye for an eye” might call killing an innocent person to avenge the death of another innocent person “just.” Few of us, however, would call that the right course of action. Conversely, the institution of slavery might help a local economy function well, leading some to label it “good,” but it would be impossible to argue that slavery is ever “just.” Literature explores the complexities surrounding the concept of justice often. For instance, when the lion Aslan agrees to be sacrificed in place of the traitor Edmund in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he is conforming to the laws of Narnia, laws whose stated role is to deliver justice. Edmund, after all, did commit treason, and treason should be punished. For Edmund to die at the hands of the White Witch might be justice, but Aslan knows it would spell disaster for the future of Narnia, so he dies in Edmund’s place. Conversely, the women of Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles subvert justice, becoming criminals themselves in the process when they hide evidence that might convict Minnie Wright. What they do may not be just, but Glaspell definitely wants us to believe that what they do is right.

This question of what is “just” and what is “right” is one of the questions philosophers grapple with when they discuss justice. Serious explorations of the problem must examine first whether or not we can ever rationally justify these terms, which seem so very subjective. If we can justify them, then we are left asking the equally difficult questions of “How ought we to act in order to be just?” and “How ought social institutions be structured so as to achieve justice?” (Buchanan and Mathieu 12). Some theories of justice are retributive—that is, they are concerned with using punishment to restore the imbalance created by the injustice of crime. This type of justice is almost exclusively associated with criminal justice. When it is properly retributive, those who have taken “unfair advantage of the law abiding populace” are punished in proportion to their crime (12). The killers depicted in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, brutally murder a family of four. They performed this deed, as Capote notes through his title, “in cold blood.” What this phrase indicates is that there were no mitigating circumstances to explain why they committed this crime. In William Shakespeare’s Othello, the title character kills his wife, Desdemona, because he believes she has been unfaithful; it is a crime of passion that he commits in a fit of rage. But Hickock and Smith kill the Clutter family calmly and without remorse. When society seeks justice for this offense, then, it seeks the highest penalty. Because Hickock and Smith took lives so coldly, they must pay with their own. This is retributive justice. While we may not always agree on just how to make all punishments fit their crimes, the concept itself is relatively simple. Distributive justice, on the other hand, is a much more complicated concept. Theories of justice that are distributive seek to regulate social and economic inequalities. The distribution of goods in a society can never be perfectly equal: Some will always have more than others, due to differences in intelligence, skill, personality, or sheer luck. Distributive justice asks us to determine how this inevitable imbalance might be most fairly corrected. One of the foundational principles of distributive justice, sometimes called the “formal principle” and usually attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, is that

66â•…â•… justice “equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally—but in proportion to their relevant similarities and differences” (Buchanan and Mathieu 15). Applying that principle to real-life situations is complicated. Most philosophers of justice agree that we must focus on certain material principles in our consideration of whether or not inequality is just: need, ability, effort, productivity, public utility, and supply and demand. In other words, when we try to determine whether or not a particular state of inequality is just or unjust, we must consider the above categories. One system of distributive justice is known as utilitarianism. This system asks one question of actions and policies concerned with distribution: Does it maximize overall utility? For example, for utilitarians, “maximizing overall utility might permit or even require members of one segment of society to lead live of impoverished slaves, lacking even the most basic civil and political liberties” (26). In the system of apartheid depicted in Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa, the black Africans live lives in just such a position. Dinesen is able to justify this situation because she sees them as childlike and unable to handle their own affairs. She truly sees this clearly unfair situation as being better for society as a whole; thus, she is adopting a utilitarian position. John Rawls, perhaps the best known philosopher of distributive justice, rejects this utilitarian mindset. His principles of justice, outlined in his 1971 book A Theory of Justice, are threefold. First, each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive system of equal basic liberties. For Rawls, these basic liberties are freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom from arbitrary arrest, the right to hold personal property, and freedom of political participation. Second, offices and position are to be open to all; people with similar abilities and skills should have equal access to positions of power and importance. Third, social and economic institutions are to be arranged in ways that maximize the benefits for the worst off. Rawls’s ideas are controversial, to be sure, as adhering to his principles almost guarantees a redistribution of wealth. Another school of thought, libertarianism, would declare that any redistribution of wealth is theft.

So how can we assure ourselves that our societies are just without becoming Robin Hoods, robbing the rich to give to the poor? Or maybe Robin Hood, despite his criminal ways, was acting in the name of justice. Criminal justice, of course, would punish Robin Hood for stealing from others, but it is social justice we discuss here. The basic question is whether or not those at the top of the social heap have a moral responsibility to share with those at the bottom. Samuel Clemens, writing as Mark Twain, seems to have felt that they did. In his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Clemens uses the story of a child, Huck, who has been forgotten by his society, to “argue for the ethical and moral treatment of children” (Kiskis 67). If it is incumbent upon us as Christians to physically and spiritually comfort the poor, how can we let a child like Huck forge his way alone? He is abused by his father, isolated by society, treated as an outcast, and finally left to fend for himself. The community sees this as Huck’s own choice, but Twain wants us to consider how we can let a child make such a choice. Twain’s Huck “reminds us of our complicity in a society that disposes of people” (71). If we accept that complicity, then we might also consider the possibility that our society should mandate reversing such injustice, and this would inevitably require some type of redistribution of wealth. We give up some rights, then, if we are willingly a part of such a society. If in order to right these wrongs, we have to give up some of our own basic liberties, or allow those liberties to be infringed upon, then perhaps that is the way we achieve justice as a society. See also Carroll, Lewis: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Conrad, Joseph: Lord Jim; Dante Alighieri: Divine Comedy, The; Edwards, Jonathan: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”; Fielding, Henry: Tom Jones; Gaskell, Elizabeth: North and South; Gay, John: Beggar’s Opera, The; Gordimer, Nadine: Burger’s Daughter; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself; Kincaid, Jamaica: Small Place, A; Lawrence, Jerome, and Robert E. Lee: Inherit the Wind; Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird; McMurtry, Larry: Lonesome Dove; Molière:

loveâ•…â•… 67 Tartuffe; Paine, Thomas: Age of Reason, The; Pirandello, Luigi: Six Characters in Search of an Author; Shakespeare, William: Hamlet; Othello; Silko, Leslie Marmon: Almanac of the Dead; Sophocles: Antigone; Twain, Mark: Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The. FURTHER READING Buchanan, Allen, and Deborah Matthieu. “Philosophy and Justice.” In Justice: Views from the Social Sciences, edited by Ronald L. Cohen, 12–36. New York: Plenum Press, 1986. Kiskis, Michael J. “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Again!): Teaching for Social Justice or Samuel Clemens’ Children’s Crusade.” Mark Twain Annual 1 (2003): 63–77. Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. 1971. Reprint, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


There is perhaps no other theme in world literature as prevalent, provocative, diverse—and perennially compelling—as that of love or its absence. An integral part of the human experience in its various forms, love is also a key if highly complex component of what writers and critics have tried to express for their readers. Exploring different kinds and consequences of love in literary works can thus serve to define what it means as a theme within particular cultural contexts and genres as well as in our lives. But a distinction must first be made between the word love’s common usage (as in, “I loved lunch”) and its deeper, more intense and abstract meanings with which we are primarily concerned here. Among the most common kinds of love depicted in literature is that between family members. Marriage, a familiar ending of many comedic plays, tends either to be the culmination of romantic love (discussed below) or a matter of convenience, such as money and social status, often by parental, political, or economic arrangements. Jane Austen’s novels, such as Sense and Sensibility and P ride and P rejudice, are prime expositions of the theme of tensions that can arise between the two marriage motives, one love-based and the other not. Sustained lack of love in a marriage can lead to estrangement,

separation, divorce, or extramarital affairs (adultery, considered a sin in many religions), in which one spouse seeks out the love, affections, or opportunities denied by the other elsewhere, frequently tragically. The misadventures of Emma, the namesake character of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, are a case in point. A second kind of familial love, that between parents and their children, usually differs greatly depending on the genders, personalities, and cultural circumstances of the individuals in the relationship. Motherly love is generally described as being boundless, tender, and attentive, while paternal love, in contrast, is commonly depicted as unemotional and contingent, and it often has to be earned. In the psychologist Sigmund Freud’s analysis of Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King, such stereotypes of parental love lead boys to seek out women like their mothers and rebel against their fathers (or father figures) later in life, and girls to see their mothers as competing for their father’s love; by extension, this makes all women jealous of their lovers’ attentions. Many literary works follow these basic patterns, purposefully or not. Sibling love between brothers and sisters is not only used literally by writers and critics; it can also be a metaphor for specific kinds of relations between characters unrelated by blood. The relationships between the two twin hobbits Merry and Pippin and between Frodo and Sam in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings draw attention to the similarity between biological and nonbiological sibling love. Big Brother totalitarianism in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is a satirical extension of brotherly love, often overly protective. Fraternal love, on the other hand, develops through bonding experiences among men of all ages, as with certain of the teenagers in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Sisterhood is likewise not limited to the love between biological sisters but is a thematic term also applied to close and affectionate relations between women friends—as, for example, between the sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women or the sisterly bond among the women of the older generation in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. Another kind of love quite unlike familial love is that which characters and people can have for

68â•…â•… love the nonhuman, whether animals, things, or ideas. Pastoral works of poetry and fiction, for instance, celebrate the relationships between farmers and their animals or shepherds and their flocks, while other narratives focus on the love between pets and their owners, as in John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony. Some of the most cherished children’s stories, such as A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, use love and affection between animals to reflect on their human equivalents. Love of money, maybe more accurately described as an obsession, as well as of other tangible things—from cars and clothes to places—frequently plays pivotal thematic roles in life as in literary works. The main character in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is so enamored with the idea of his youth and beauty that he debauches his life in preserving them, as others have sacrificed theirs for ideas and ideals such as nation, freedom, and loyalty. Philosophy, it should be remembered, literally means a love (philo) for or friend of knowledge (sophia). As a primary thrust or secondary incidental occurrence in literature, however, it may be safe to say that no theme is as ubiquitous and variously treated as romantic love. For example, the theme of courtly love, or passion between two members of the nobility, began circulating in Europe as early as the 11th century, and by the 19th century, it was an object of ridicule in fiction in some circles. Still, certain elements within the theme of romantic love are constant and unchanging, as in its progressive stages. First comes the discovery of one lover by the other or both at once—hence the expression “lovestruck,” as when the war-injured Henry meets the nurse Catherine in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. The second stage is courtship, when one potential partner attempts to woo or seduce the other. Some of the best-known examples of this are contained in the large corpus of chivalric poetry, in which knights euphemistically persuade ladies to accept their overtures, ostensibly without losing their virginity or “virtue.” If the courtship is successful on both ends, then the third stage is consummation; if it is unsuccessful, then there is rejection by one or the other, or unrequited love. Thus, romantic love as an emotion must be distinguished from love

as activity, just as love as a biochemical process must be distinguished from love as thought. The thematic process of romantic love is everywhere circumscribed by the identities of its participants and the cultures in which their escapades take place. Forbidden love, sought after by participants but scorned by others or the culture, is epitomized by that between the title characters of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as their meeting, courtship, and tragic consummation take place against the backdrop of their feuding families. Racial, national, and class disparities between potential or actual lovers have proven to be considerable cultural obstacles that they can or cannot overcome. Pederasty, the love and mentorship of older men for younger, was commonplace in ancient Athens but would now be considered pedophilia. It is in this context that the notion of platonic love, so named after the philosopher Plato, came to be a spiritual and intellectual union rather than physical, considered base within this paradigm. Love between two people of the same sex, or homosexual love, is depicted without hesitation in the fragments of the ancient Greek poet Sappho of Lesbos, but its trials and tribulations in more contemporary times are made clear in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. A final kind of love to be mentioned here is that which is sometimes called “universal love,” an acknowledgment of the value of all life and commitment as being unconditionally benevolent. Religious texts such as the Torah, Bible, and Quran equate this kind of supreme love to that which the Deity holds for believers and vice versa, and which enables believers to love others in the same way. It is in these senses that love is sometimes said to be blind (that is, in overlooking the faults of others) or that individuals are instruments of an independent force of love, not the other way around. But thinkers and writers such as the Russian Leo Tolstoy and the American Ralph Waldo Emerson have also described equivalents to universal love that do not require religious foundations, although they are free to have them. In an allegorical sense, then, no matter which kind of love a character or person experiences, it ultimately brings him or her closer to, or makes them more a part of, this ultimate theme of universal love.

memoryâ•…â•… 69 See also Augustine, Saint: Confessions of St. Augustine, The; Bambara, Toni Cade: Salt Eaters, The; Bradbury, Ray: Martian Chronicles, The; Brontë, Charlotte: Jane Eyre; Brontë, Emily: Wuthering Heights; Chekhov, Anton: Seagull, The; Dante Alighieri: Divine Comedy, The; Faulkner, William: Sound and the Fury, The; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Tender Is the Night; Gay, John: Beggar’s Opera, The; Hardy, Thomas: Jude the Obscure; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: “Birth-Mark, The”; Hesse, Herman: Siddhartha; Keats, John: poems; Kundera, Milan: Unbearable Lightness of Being, The; McCullers, Carson: Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The; Milton, John: Paradise Lost; Morrison, Toni: Tar Baby; Nabokov, Vladimir: Lolita; parenthood; Proust, Marcel: Remembrance of Things Past; Shakespeare, William: Hamlet; Othello; Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace; Wharton, Edith: Age of Innocence, The; Yeats, William Butler: poems. FURTHER READING Fiedler, Leslie. Love and Death in the American Novel. New York: Dell, 1966. Hagestrum, Jean. Esteem Enlightened by Desire: The Couple from Homer to Shakespeare. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Siddall, Stephen, ed. The Truth about Love: A Collection of Writing on Love through the Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Antony Adolf


Memory in literature is the written form of that which has come before. Memories come from the historical past but are also formed by social, political, and religious events in the lives of literary characters. Memory is employed in three distinct fashions, which often exist concurrently in a text: first, to establish the validity and importance of a text based on the expertise and reputation of past writers; second, as a means of instilling a feeling of nostalgia in a text; and third, and most universally, as a method of constructing individual and cultural identity. The first construction is particularly prevalent in the literature of the English Middle Ages and the

romantic movement of the 19th century, while the second has been employed throughout the 20th century by writers of both British and American origin in the wake of the sociopolitical upheavals caused by World Wars I and II. The third construction is ubiquitous in all written works dealing with individual or cultural issues, and because of this, memory serves as a literary theme of profound importance. The earliest written epic works establish memory as a central literary theme. Homer’s The Iliad and Virgil’s The Aeneid serve to establish the character and ideology of the Greek and Roman nations, respectively, through the blending of fictional elements with the recording of great men, heroic battles, and important, long-past events. It is here that the use of the catalog, or list of important historical figures, is employed not only to give the work authenticity through the presence of verifiable historical names and places, but also to convey a sense of historical memory to works that are primarily fictional in nature. Through the heroic actions of Achilles and his comrades in arms on the battlefields of the Trojan War, Homer sets down his view of the national identity and character of ancient Greece, a view that prevails today. Deliberately crafting his work on the model of Homer’s by incorporating elements both from The Iliad and The Odyssey, Virgil constructs a national history of Rome, linking Augustus himself to the ancient world and thus reinforcing his provenance to rule through the tale of Aeneas’s journey from the ruins of Troy to found Rome. Virgil, however, takes memory further in the Aeneid: Making use of the catalog and of the presence of events from Homer’s work, he expands on the theme through the instance of Aeneas’s dalliance with Dido. Sworn to travel to the location of the future Rome and establish the foundations of that great city, Aeneas finds himself delayed by an affair with the queen of Carthage; he seemingly forgets his purpose and must be reminded of his destiny by Mercury, messenger to Jupiter, the king of the gods. In this manner, Virgil adds the importance of individual memory to his text, expanding the role of memory in his writing from a collective to an individual construction. Medieval writers, steeped in the Scholastic tradition of thought, which required proof based in

70â•…â•… memory Scripture or other foundational texts of each point or idea presented within a text, probably did more than any other group to construct memory as a literary theme of supreme importance in its own right. Through compendia, or collections of writings, religious authors sought to establish validity of thought in their writings; through catalogs based on ancient Greek and Roman models, religious and secular authors alike sought to establish textual authority and to craft a memory tradition of thinking and cultural identity. Geoffrey Chaucer provides an excellent example of this in The Canterbury Tales, in which assorted travelers on pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas à Beckett at Canterbury Cathedral stop at an inn and conduct a storytelling contest. In this work, Chaucer not only creates a fictional cross-section of British society in his time but does so by having each of his travelers tell his or her story in a literary genre suited to his or her station in life. For example, the Knight, a noble, tells a romance; the lower-class Miller tells a fabliau, or dirty tale; the middle-class Wife of Bath tells an Arthurian legend; the Nun’s Priest tells a beast fable, or story with personified animals as the main characters; and the Second Nun tells of a saint’s life. In this fashion, Chaucer creates a compendium of literary genres fashionable in his time, in addition to providing a glimpse of British attitudes toward social, political, and religious issues in his day, and his work therefore serves as an excellent example of the use of memory to construct collective identity. The British romantics transformed the use of memory in literature, often basing their writing on earlier forms and themes, upon which they embroidered a highly personal nostalgia and quest for identity. William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed A Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” is widely acknowledged as the work that ushered in the romantic movement. As the narrator returns to a spot he visited years earlier, he is swept away by the changes in the abbey and in himself, while simultaneously delighting in the eternal quality of the countryside surrounding him. The inclusion of personal memory in the form of nostalgia, married to collective memory in the public form of the abbey itself, demonstrates the power of memory to evoke strong emotion. John Keats similarly makes

use of the individual/collective dichotomy in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which he observes the eternal images painted on an ancient vase, constructs stories about them derived from his knowledge of ancient culture, and simultaneously considers his own ephemeral place in time. His recollection of history, fused with his own mortality, render the poem highly emotional. Rather than using memory to underscore textual legitimacy or to convey national ideology, the romantics employed it to evoke nostalgia and to highlight personal conflicts in the search for identity. Marcel Proust furthered the evolution of memory in his monumental autobiographical novel Remembrance of Things Past. In this work, Proust is plunged into memories of his childhood through the taste of a madeleine (small cake) dipped in tea. From the original flashback evoked by the taste of the cake, he maps an inner landscape of the mind through further mental associations with that first, sense-based moment, thus evolving the story from a single memory to a vast panorama of identity constructed through memory. This work more than any other has profoundly impacted the use of memory in modern literature; with it, Proust wrested memory entirely from its original use as a means of establishing textual authority and national character, recreating it as a means of personal exploration of self and the world. Twentieth-century writers have tended to follow Proust’s use of association in the construction of memory. Perhaps the single best example of this is T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” A modern poem about the collapse of tradition and history and the struggle for identity in the wake of World War I, “The Waste Land” is a masterwork of association, employing allusions to historical events, contemporary affairs, literature, music, art, the occult, science, astronomy, important centers of learning and culture, and various figures (both real and fictional) to underscore the impoverished state of postwar society. Eliot’s use of memory is a subversion of the traditional; his is a construction of memory as that which has been forgotten. He employs vast references to the past in order to underscore their absence in the present. Panoramas of ancient cities such as Alexandria and cultural centers such as

nationalismâ•…â•… 71 Vienna, the pageantry of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra on the barge, the splendor of Elizabeth I’s reign, the glory of King Arthur’s legend, and the foundational humanity of Ovid’s mythological figures are juxtaposed with the garbage of modern picnickers floating down the Thames River, with throngs of dejected workers filing down the streets of London and with an overall barrenness in the modern landscape, in order to highlight the national and personal crises of identity that for Eliot marked the modern era. His work, then, not only serves as a sort of compendium of European culture but also as a call to mindfulness in the reader; through the authority of the objects, events, and people incorporated in his allusions, the reader is free to indulge in nostalgia for the great moments of the past as well as to make associations with them, leading to highly personal questions of identity and nationalism. In the modern world, then, memory is as important as ever as a means of establishing authority, evoking nostalgia, and helping to forge personal and national identity. See also Bambara, Toni Cade: Salt Eaters, The; Cather, Willa: My Ántonia; Dickens, Charles: David Copperf ield; Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man; García Márquez, Gabriel: One Hundred Years of Solitude; Joyce, James: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, A; Momaday, N. Scott: Way to Rainy Mountain, The; O’Neill, Eugene: Long Day’s Journey into Night; Rhys, Jean: Wide Sargasso Sea; Rushdie, Salman: Midnight ’s Children; Welty, Eudora: Optimist ’s Daughter, The; Wiesel, Elie: Night; Wilder, Thornton: Our Town; Williams, Tennessee: Glass Menagerie, The; Woolf, Virginia: To the Lighthouse. FURTHER READING Carruthers, Mary. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Ender, Evelyne. Architexts of Memory: Literature, Science, and Autobiography. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. McConky, James, ed. The Anatomy of Memory: An Anthology. Oxford University Press, 1996. Middleton, Peter, and Tim Woods. Literature of Memory: History, Time and Space in Post-War Writing.

Manchester, Eng.: Manchester University Press, 2001. Nalbantian, Suzanne. Memory in Literature: From Rousseau to Neuroscience. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Melissa Ridley-Elmes


Many scholars have struggled to define the term nationalism in a way that encompasses and makes sense of all the different situations in which it is employed. In general, it is an ideology in which nationality is a category by which humans define themselves. Nationalism necessarily categorizes people—one either is or is not a member of “my nation.” It thrives through the use of such elements as national folklore, symbols, heroes, sports, music, religion, and the idea that there is a national identity or character. Anthony D. Smith, a theorist of nationalism, has suggested that there are criteria that must be in place for nationalism to exist. His list includes a physical homeland, either current or ancient; a high degree of autonomy among the citizens, hostile surroundings, memories of glory or defeat in battle, special customs, historical records, common languages and scripts, and what he calls sacred centers or places (17). This sort of nationalism is highly dependent on the concept of the nation-state and probably represents the most common use of the term. It has been used to justify imperialism, to unite countries in times of war, and to describe the struggles for nationhood in colonized countries such as Ireland and India. However, nationalism has also been used to describe movements within sovereign nations, such as the black nationalist movement in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s and the Hindu nationalism currently seen in India. American Indian activists have also called for American Indian nationalism, especially given that many of their tribes are sovereign nations themselves. One of the reasons nationalism is so difficult to define is that any discussion involving the subject necessarily spills over into cognate subjects such as race and racism, fascism and other ideologies, language development, international law, genocide, and immigration. In addition, nationalism can take

72â•…â•… nationalism many different forms, with the central factor upon which a movement is based being, for instance, religious, political, ethnic, or cultural. This further confuses the way the term is used and defined. In the latter half of the 18th century, for instance, the people of France had successfully united under such symbols as the tricolor flag, the sentimental power of the anthem “The Marseillaise,” and the ideals of liberté, egalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity). This type of patriotism allowed the nation to feel as one in a way that had not been possible before the French Revolution. For the French, at least in overthrowing the monarchy, the loyalty inspired by nationalism helped to create a “free” society, the goal of the Revolution. Throughout the 19th century, however, nationalism would be used to justify imperialism, jingoism, and xenophobia in countries such as Great Britain, the United States, Italy, and France itself. Some scholars also attribute the 20th-century rise of fascism to nationalism taken to its extreme. In the late 20th century, the term came to be used most often to describe indigenous movements seeking autonomy, equality, and recognition. Most broadly, the term has been used to describe the way the people of a country define themselves. The idea that a “nation” is an entity, an identifiable thing moving forward through time, is a relatively new one, having only been around since the 18th century or so. Although some historians believe that the “concept” of nationalism existed even in tribal communities and has probably been around since the beginning of humanity, modern theorists place its origins at the beginning of the 18th century. Before that period, they say, no one had more than local interests. Nationalism, for these theorists, was made possible by the Industrial Revolution, the widespread use of the printing press, and the rise of capitalism. All of these things relied on a large, literate, and culturally homogeneous population for their success. These theories, expounded by people such as Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner, argue that nationalism is a “socially constructed” phenomenon. In other words, they believe that it is an artificial designation, imposed on the denizens of a country for social or political purposes. This belief does not reduce the power of the concept but merely suggests that it is not a real, organic phenomenon arising

from the true feelings and motives of the country’s people. As viable political entities, nations must concern themselves with defining what it means to be a nation. This is a challenge even for the most homogenous linguistically and historically bound people, but it is a concern that is crucial to their existence. Literature, as a vehicle, helps to express nationalist ideas particularly well. If nations or nationalist movements are indeed identifiable entities moving forward in time, they need to speak, and literature gives them a voice to do just that. Postrevolutionary America, for instance, needed to come to terms with its independence, as well as to establish and put forward a national character. Washington Irving’s The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon (1819) depicts characters struggling with these ideas. In one of Irving’s most famous stories, “Rip Van Winkle,” the main character goes to sleep for 20 years and wakes up in a world unfamiliar to him. What was once a pleasant, sleepy community now seems, to Rip, like a busy, contentious place, rife with disagreement. The American Revolution has taken place while he slept, but instead of focusing on political matters, Irving uses Rip to show the reader how daily life has changed in those lost years—daily life being more important than politics in the life of an ordinary man. This reading helped early Americans take a step toward defining the national character of the fledgling country; it also helped readers understand the pain of independence from the mother country. Similarly, in William Butler Yeats’s poetry, metaphors for national character and the struggle toward independence abound. In poems such as “The Stolen Child,” “Chuchulain’s Fight with the Sea,” “Who Goes with Fergus?,” and the long poem “The Wanderings of Oisin,” Yeats strives to invoke old Ireland, mystical and Celtic, in order to create for the modern country a precolonial image to which it might aspire. Ireland was the oldest of England’s colonies, held for nearly 800 years, and an obstacle for Irish nationalists was finding a way to clearly distinguish what was Irish from what was English. Yeats was such a nationalist poet, however, that he did not merely speak in metaphors. Much of his commentary on nationalism is not figurative at

natureâ•…â•… 73 all but is explored literally, in largely unambiguous language. In poems such as “Easter 1916,” “To Ireland in the Coming Times,” and “The Irish Airman Foresees his Death,” Yeats is explicit, mourning the loss of lives in the struggle for independence and noting the toll that years of oppression have taken on the Irish character. While both Irving and Yeats were working with countries struggling with defining their identities against the specter of English dominance, in 1897 Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula addressed the difficulty of nationalism and England itself. Count Dracula, whom Stoker portrays as everything that is foreign to England and the English characters, seeks to capture Mina, whose purity, intelligence, and kindness make her a perfect symbol of Victorian womanhood. In contrast, Dracula is mysterious, speaking in heavily accented English and living in a remote castle in Transylvania. He is Eastern as opposed to the very Western Mina, and worst of all, he is believed to be a vampire, the undead creature from eastern European folklore. In his quest, Dracula purchases various pieces of real estate around London so that he may have resting places to protect him should he be caught outside as the sun rises. He has transported native soil from his homeland to deposit in these locations. This represents a kind of reverse colonialism, with the foreigner imposing himself upon England during the heyday of Victorian imperialism. The “good” character—that is, the English—must unite to destroy the foreign menace and thus save the character of their nation. Other literary works, such as Salman Rushdie’s Midnight ’s Children (1983), are openly critical of nationalist movements, portraying them as dehumanizing groups that stress unity over humanity. In Midnight’s Children, both the Indian nationalist movement and the Indo-Pakistani War (a nationalist-driven war) come very close to destroying the future of India, all for the advancement of the idea of a strong, homogenous, modern nation. Just as nationalism itself is a term that is difficult to define, literary portrayals of nationalism take many different forms and approach the subject from many different angles. Minority groups, dominant religions and ethnicities, and political entities (both new and long-established) may all embrace the ide-

ology of nationalism. Literature, with its many layers of meaning, can express this ideology in support of all these different groups. See also Atwood, Margaret: Surfacing; Fielding, Henry: Tom Jones; Forster, E. M.: Passage to India, A; Hemingway, Ernest: Farewell to Arms, A; Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki: Farewell to Manzanar; Kipling, Rudyard: Kim; Machiavelli, Niccolò: P rince, The; Naipaul, V. S.: Bend in the River, A; Poe, Edgar Allan: “Murders in the Rue Morgue, The”; Shakespeare, William: Henry V; Merchant of Venice; The; Much Ado about Nothing. FURTHER READING Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Rev. ed. London and New York: Verso, 2006. Corse, Patricia. Nationalism and Literature: The Politics of Culture in Canada and the United States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Ignatieff, Michael. Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism. London: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1995. Kohn, Hans, and Craig Calhoun. Nationalism: A Study in Its Origins and Background. Edison, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2005. Smith, Anthony D. Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History. London: Polity Press, 2001.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


Nature, taken broadly as the earth’s physical phenomena, is omnipresent, in literature as in life. Just as we do not live and function in a vacuum, literary events cannot transpire without some type of space, some sort of environment, however basic or unconventional it might be. But other than this initial stipulation that nature pervades all literature, further universals are difficult to defend. Perhaps the only other truth ascribable to the role of nature in literature is that it has demonstrated near-constant fluidity, from the dawn of English letters to the contemporary era. Many early texts utilize nature to describe origin. North American Indian tribes such as the Iroquois and the Pima told nature-focused creation stories.

74â•…â•… nature Homer in The Iliad and The Odyssey, Virgil in The Aeneid, and the early English poet Caedmon explain how a people came to inhabit the specific landscape they do. Beowulf (Anonymous) dramatizes the defense of one’s turf. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales lend further to the trope of journey as tale, tale as journey, thereby paralleling nature and the act of storytelling itself. John Milton’s Paradise Lost even details heaven and hell as determinants of human consciousness, thereby deeming the eternal and ethereal as influential spaces as well. But throughout the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Restoration, nature was, for the most part, allocated the role of backdrop—a mere canvas upon which the acts of humans were transposed. Occasional personification aside, nature was rarely afforded the power of agency. The romantic period (1785–1830) saw nature utilized as more of a primary subject matter than previously. William Shakespeare’s comparisons of women to summer’s days yielded to the direct treatment of seasonal splendor by William Blake (Songs of Innocence and of Experience), William Wordsworth (“Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”), and Percy Bysshe Shelley, who celebrated nature as an inspiration and thereby ascribed it the role of muse, a position previously allocated to the divine. But while nature certainly plays a part in writings of the “Old World,” it was truly the genesis and flourishing of American literature that eventually repositioned it as a central, rather than merely a peripheral, thematic element, replete even with agency. As opposed to the letters produced in the well-known, exhaustively mapped countryside of Great Britain and Europe, those of the Western Hemisphere were recorded by pioneers in the throes of attempting to explore—both physically and intellectually—the immensity of an unforgiving foreign wilderness. These prenational, or colonial, writings are most recognizable by the strong and overt religious sentiment they propound. Tracts drafted by Puritans emigrating from Europe to New England promulgated strict Calvinism, by which humankind was placed on a pedestal above the natural world due to the favor shown it in the Bible, particularly in

the creation of man as the pinnacle of God’s work. This anthropocentric worldview traveled across the Atlantic with emigrants who sought to civilize the “savage” wild into which they were moving: The wilderness was seen as being in need of the doctrine they promulgated, as salvation was to be found not in the forests but in civilization, a divergent absolute from the “trickster” tales of the Winnebago, Sioux, Navajo, and other Native American tribes, in which natural elements and creatures display, paradoxically, a certain consistent unpredictability when interacting with people. The Puritans frowned on this subjectivity, maintaining instead that wilderness was the realm of beasts, of evil—this was the scene of Christ’s temptation, after all, the post-Fall wasteland. The key, they believed, was to carve out their own space and to introduce the word of God to the deprived landscape that lay before them. If paradise could be regained, it was not in the trees themselves but in their felling. Churches were needed to subordinate the wickedness of the uncouth wilderness to Providence, illustrated efficiently by the shining “city upon a hill” envisioned by John Winthrop in his sermon A Model of Christian Charity, delivered as a mission statement of sorts while en route from England in 1630. The concrete physical situation of the suggestion conveys the goal of these refugees: The realm of humans, the organized city, will be, quite literally, constructed above nature. Following independence, a new challenge presented itself to the now “American” authors. As former British subjects became pioneering patriots, the question of their interaction with their surroundings followed logically—that is, we know how subjects of the Crown treat nature, but what of American citizens? Merely regurgitating the ideology of those against whom they had fought so hard and long for independence lacked ambition at best, and seemed dangerously cyclical at worst. Hence, the initial American literati focused primarily on this new man, this fresh being (whom the 20th-century literary critic R. W. B Lewis would deem “the American Adam” in his work of the same name) reborn on a still largely unknown continent. The French-American writer J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur explored this creature as a product of its space. Washington Irving’s fiction, especially

natureâ•…â•… 75 The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, depicted the ever-evolving Dutch settlements of New York. James Fenimore Cooper’s five-volume Leatherstocking Tales follow Natty Bumppo—a European emigrant who consistently becomes more native in his lifestyle and politics—from the East Coast into the wilderness, all the way to the Rocky Mountains. And while all three writers concern themselves with the overarching issue of what it means to be American, they do so by deliberating specifically on the individual’s position within his or her environment. Quite literally, they focus on the situation of the early American. Furthermore, tough questions regarding Puritan fervor began to intensify (as demonstrated, most prominently, in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne), leaving the door open for a new consideration of humankind’s relationship to nature, one which would be provided by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson, a Unitarian minister living in Concord, Massachusetts, was notably affected by the romantic movement and desired, for his young country, a literature of its own. His consideration of European idealism—thoughts advanced by Immanuel Kant, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Carlyle, among others—led to his own brand of American transcendentalism, an ontological inspection in which nature factored centrally. Emerson believed that humankind had strayed from its course, thereby blurring the innate divinity by which all souls relate to each other and to God. The way to recover this lost relationship was present in nature, which, Emerson maintained, functioned as a sort of blueprint through which we could witness the mind of God. His ideas, though initially quite controversial when published in his long essay Nature (1836), gradually became more mainstream, particularly since they were advocated by the stable of talented writers with whom he surrounded himself in Concord. Margaret Fuller augmented her feminist societal critiques with natural observations. Henry David Thoreau lent Emerson’s abstractions practical examples in Walden, his account of two years spent living in the woods. Walt Whitman poeticized Emerson’s promotion of nature in his passionate tome Leaves of Grass. Emerson even sought to take the future outdoorsman and “wild man” John Muir under his

wing, but Muir preferred his California home. But just as the movement that sought to rewrite nature as sacred rather than subordinate began gaining momentum, the Civil War and the resultant economic slump, coupled with urbanization, instead led writers concerned with the natural world in a new, less hospitable direction. And so while nature was portrayed as an enlightening, esteemed realm for much of the mid-1800s, by the turn of the century this favorable depiction was replaced with caustic naturalist depictions that reflected the acerbic times. Literary naturalists refuted the pessimistic and optimistic natural views employed by the Puritans and transcendentalists, respectively, opting instead to allow nature to define itself. Previously popular natural personifications were eschewed in favor of more objective environmental renderings. These purportedly more realistic representations envisioned the outdoors as neither malevolent nor beneficent, but instead indifferent. Jack London’s tales, including The Call of the Wild and White Fang, depict an Alaskan interior unforgiving to both man and beast, whereas Stephen Crane’s works illustrate similar themes within the context of a gritty metropolis. Over the last century or so, the growth of the environmental movement has increased—and politicized—the role of nature in literature. John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892. The First World War inspired T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, an exposé of a once-promising landscape rendered dismal and hopeless at the hands of humankind. The ecologist Aldo Leopold, seeking to heal, at mid-century proposed his “land ethic,” asserting that decisions affecting nature should be considered neither economically nor commercially but morally. The environmentalist Edward Abbey scolded civilization’s convenience-based impingement on the wilderness. The writer and scientist Rachel Carson, in Silent Spring, warned against the lasting effects of chemical inundation. Transcending the strictly literary, the Wachowski brothers’ postmodern film The Matrix trilogy implores us to call into question the very validity of our perceived surrounding, and the politician Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth has proved a powerful ecocritical text. Thus, while the precise future of natural literature is uncer-

76â•…â•… oppression tain, it seems quite clear that as global warming, overpopulation, and general environmental degradation continue, themes of nature will play increasingly important roles not only in the literature we study but also for the planet on which we live. See also Atwood, Margaret: Surfacing; Bradbury, Ray: Martian Chronicles, The; Cather, Willa: My Ántonia; O Pioneers!; Coleridge, Samuel Taylor: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The”; Crane, Stephen: Open Boat, The; Dante Alighieri: Divine Comedy, The; Dickinson, Emily: poems; Dinesen, Isak: Out of Africa; Emerson, Ralph Waldo: “SelfReliance”; Forster, E. M.: Room with a View, A; Frost, Robert: poems; Harte, Bret: “Luck of Roaring Camp, The”; Hemingway, Ernest: Old Man and the Sea, The; Jefferson, Thomas: Notes on the State of Virginia; Keats, John: poems; Kingsolver, Barbara: Bean Trees, The; Lewis, C. S.: Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The; McCarthy, Cormac: All the P retty Horses; Shakespeare, William: Midsummer Night ’s Dream, A; Steinbeck, John: Pearl, The; Red Pony, The; Wilde, Oscar: Picture of Dorian Gray, The. FURTHER READING Anderson, Lorraine, Scott Slovic, and John P. O’Grady. Literature and the Environment: A Reader on Nature and Culture. New York: Longman, 1998. Keegan, Bridget, and James M. McKuzick, eds. Literature and Nature: Four Centuries of Nature Writing. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2000.

David Visser


As a concept frequently found in historical and sociological texts, oppression is typically defined in terms of a dominant group subjugating another minority group. In Race and Ethnic Relations (1985), Martin N. Marger explains that a sociological minority and a mathematical minority are not the same. Mathematically, a group can be the majority and yet still be victims of an oppression imposed by a more powerful yet numerically smaller dominant group. He goes on to delineate the qualities of oppressed minorities by detailing how they receive differential treatment,

as they are not afforded the same rights and privileges as the dominant group. Additionally, Marger notes that minority groups are socially denied, have differential power, and are treated categorically (all members are defined by group status as opposed to individually) (37–38). Also, dominant groups can be distinguished culturally, economically, and politically (41). With this diversity in mind, the theme of oppression would include all of the “-isms” we have come to identify with prejudice. It can be based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political or national affiliation, age, physical or mental disability, religion, and other factors. In his authoritative The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), Paulo Friere identifies several characteristics of oppressive societies. For example, oppressors often refer to the oppressed in nonhuman terms. Correspondingly, oppression is against the ideals of humanity because it prevents people within the oppressed group from being fully human (43). In her article “Oppression,” Marilyn Frye expands on this: “The experience of oppressed people is that the living of one’s life is confined and shaped by forces and barriers which are not accidental or occasional and hence avoidable, but are systematically related to each other in such a way as to catch one between and among them and restrict or penalize motion in any direction” (40). This definition helps bring about a distinction between injustice and oppression. Whereas injustice can occur at any level, the more specific concept of oppression involves a systemic structure that shapes and restricts the life of an oppressed population. In Privilege, Power, and Difference, Allan G. Johnson describes the two sides of the oppressive society as the privileged and the oppressed. This terminology implies that the members who are receiving the benefits of the societal structure may not be actively oppressive toward others. Sometimes one is a member of a privileged group without feeling particularly dominant. However, membership in the majority group opens doors for members while membership in oppressed groups tends to shut doors. Interestingly, Friere asserts that the oppressed, rather than standing up against all tyranny, often become “sub-oppressors” against others within their minority group (45). This can be seen in Alice

oppressionâ•…â•… 77 Walker’s The Color Purple and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, where the oppressed black men further subjugate the black women. Thus, the black women in the novels are doubly oppressed in their rural southern societies. This is specifically addressed in Their Eyes Were Watching God when the protagonist Janie is told by her grandmother that black women are the mules of the world. While the black men are oppressed by white society, according to Nanny, the black women are oppressed by both the white power structure and black men. This is also seen in the experiences of Celie, who for much of The Color Purple is beaten and oppressed by her husband, Mr. ——. In this novel, even Celie, who is subjugated for most of her life, encourages her stepson Harpo to beat his strong-willed wife, Sofia. In Friere’s view, Celie has become so enmeshed in a culture of oppression that she does not see it as aberrant. Oppression, with all its diverse implications, has been apparent throughout much of time. For example, in the Bible, not only are the Jews oppressed by the Egyptians and the Syrians, but the women of the Old Testament are also faced with laws that are inequitable. In fact, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest recorded use of the word oppression in the English language was in a 1382 version of the Bible. As an example of female oppression, in the book of Exodus, it is indicated that it is permissible to sell one’s daughters into slavery. Unlike sons who were sold into slavery, daughters were not released after a six-year period; they remained slaves. Similar to examining the religious text of the Bible, one needs only look at various historical periods to see countless examples of groups oppressed by others. Two modern examples of oppression are the apartheid of South Africa and Adolf Hitler’s oppression and persecution of the Jewish people. South African apartheid was a system of legalized racism and segregation enforced by the National Party government. In this society, marginalized populations, particularly “black” and “colored” (which was a mixed-race designation), were subjected to laws restricting where they resided, their right to voting, their ability to marry or engage in sexual relations with members of other races, where they

could work, and eventually their ability to be citizens. Similarly, the Jewish people of Hitler’s Germany were subjected to extremely differential treatment. The Nuremburg Laws prohibited marriage and sexual relations between Jews and Germans and stripped Jewish people of citizenship. Laws prohibiting where, and eventually if, Jewish people could work and be educated were part of the path that led to the Holocaust. The memoirs Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, and Night, by Elie Wiesel, document the oppressive experience of subjugated people living in Nazi Germany. Both of these periods are emblematic of the oppression that permeates history. Since the works written in each era can be seen to reflect the zeitgeist of that period, and since oppression is so prevalent in history, it makes sense that it can be identified in works from multiple eras, countries, and cultural/social groups. At times, the works have been written purposefully to demonstrate the evils of the oppression, as in Richard Wright’s Native Son, a novel in which the author presents the oppressive racism of America in the 1930s, as experienced by his protagonist, Bigger Thomas. Sometimes, the works studied will not intentionally describe the oppressive system; instead, through their illustration of the social structure and mores of their times, they depict oppressions that critics can analyze. For instance, literary scholars frequently examine William Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew and analyze the oppression of women. Whether or not Shakespeare intended to subvert or uphold the patriarchy of his time, his play can still be studied to analyze the oppression of women. In terms of literary theory, critics did not always address the oppression in works. It became most apparent with the emergence of fields of criticism that are sociologically and culturally based. Because of its diverse dimensions, the theme of oppression is evident in many of these fields of literary study. For example, analyses of oppression are explored in gender studies, cultural studies, Marxist criticism, feminist criticism, postcolonial criticism, queer theory, and other sociologically influenced branches of criticism. To illustrate, books addressing South African apartheid would be of particular interest

78â•…â•… parenthood to postcolonial critics, who examine the works produced in or written about countries that have been subject to European colonial powers in their history. Since apartheid was instituted in a colonial area, where the colonizer was oppressing the native residents, works addressing this area would fall within the scope of postcolonial studies. Similarly, in feminist criticism, works would be examined to see how the patriarchal society dominates women. Historically, an admonition of patriarchal oppression can be found as far back as Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). In this manifesto, Wollstonecraft contends that familial tyranny is unjust, that women should be educated, and that the differentiation of the sexes should cease. Many feminist texts have emerged over the years. The works of Virginia Woolf, Kate Chopin, Margaret Atwood, and Toni Morrison are often analyzed to demonstrate the oppression of women. Racial oppression is frequently treated in literature. While this includes much of postcolonial studies, it is not limited to them. In American literature, there are poignant examples of racial oppression. As a documentation of the slavery of blacks in America, Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, authenticates the experience of living in a dominated minority during the 1800s. Poetically, Langston Hughes’s works arising out of the Harlem Renaissance illuminate the oppression of black Americans at that time. One of the best examples of this is seen in his poem “I, Too,” which is an answer to Walt Whitman’s famous “I Hear America Singing.” In this, as in many of his works, Hughes asserts black humanity, one of the major focuses of the Harlem Renaissance. Remembering Friere’s point that oppressors dehumanize the oppressed, the need for the dominated to assert their humanity is understandable. In the poem, Hughes uses the metaphor of being sent to eat in the kitchen when company comes to represent the differential treatment of this era. The poem clearly subverts the current social system, and Hughes writes that the oppressed will grow stronger, indicating that one day they will bring down the oppressors. However, although the poem indicates the oppressed will rise

up against the dominant, it ends with the hopeful wish that the oppressors will see their mistake and change the system themselves. These works present a small sampling of oppression evident throughout much of literature. See also Achebe, Chinua: Anthills of the Savannah; Things Fall Apart; Allende, Isabel: House of the Spirits, The; Atwood, Margaret: Handmaid ’s Tale, The; Black Elk: Black Elk Speaks; Kesey, Ken: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Kincaid, Jamaica: Small Place, A; Kundera, Milan: Unbearable Lightness of Being, The; London, Jack: White Fang; Mistry, Rohinton: Fine Balance, A; Paine Thomas: Common Sense; Rand, Ayn: Anthem; Reed, Ishmael: Mumbo Jumbo. FURTHER READING Awkward, Michael. Negotiating Difference: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Positionality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Friere, Paulo. The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1993. Frye, Marilyn. “Oppression.” In Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology, edited by Margaret L. Andersen and Patricia Hill Collins, 37–41. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1992. Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. New York: McGraw Hill, 2001. Marger, Martin N. Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 2006. Oppenheimer, Martin. The Hate Handbook: Oppressors, Victims, and Fighters. New York: Lexington Books, 2005. Smith, Barbara. “Toward a Black Feminist Criticism.” In All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies, edited by Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith, Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist Press, 1982, 157–175.

Tracey L. Marticek-Raimondo


Parenthood has been defined as a process of rearing children. According to contemporary standards, “parenthood” involves a number of daily responsi-

parenthoodâ•…â•… 79 bilities and financial and affective obligations such as the education and instruction of one’s children. The notion of “parenthood” also presupposes an active concern for a child’s welfare and physical and intellectual development. Initially, parenthood was concerned with teaching the taboo—what is forbidden—and with inculcating basic rules and restrictions to the young. Later on, parenthood began to be seen as a longer process of nurturing that was increasingly centered on the concept of caring. Such was the case with certain utopian societies founded on the American continent (for example, the Owenite societies of the 19th century), which developed some of the first kindergartens. Children were raised and educated together, and society itself was engaged in a collective effort of parenting. The same concept was developed in Europe at almost the same time. In fact, defining parenthood is a recent preoccupation, but the concerns and worries of parenthood are as old as the world. As early as ca. 440 b.c., the Greek tragedian Sophocles produced a series of plays—Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. Without mentioning “parenthood” explicitly, the trilogy’s plots develop a familial tragedy, based on a hereditary curse, and discuss the problems of knowledge, ignorance, destiny, and personal choice as related to the denial/rejection of parenthood and abandonment. Oedipus is a victim, an abandoned child, threatened with death by his father, while Antigone is the daughter of the incestuous relationship between Oedipus and his mother, Jocasta. Epitomizing the major family taboos, the figure of Oedipus is extensively referred to in child psychology since the Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud explored the myth in the light of a father and mother’s unconscious feelings regarding the early stages of parenthood. Antigone, on the other hand, is in total opposition to the will of the king. She acts against the orders of the “parent” of the nation, obeying her instinct of filial duty. It has also been suggested that her name means “opposed to motherhood.” Her behavior engenders destruction, while the outcome of the tragedy implies that there are different levels of parental allegiance. In the same fashion, English literature of the 16th and 17th centuries was concerned with the

structure of the world as God’s supreme creation and introduced a complex, layered structure of parentchild relationships. The political and religious climate favoured biblical examples of parenthood; the attempted sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham is a case in point. It demonstrated that God was the father of humanity and that humanity was to obey. Humanity’s allegiance to God was likened to a child’s obedience to its parents. This reasoning was a part of what is known as “the great chain of being,” a conception of the world as a strictly hierarchical system composed of intricate links and interactions. It was frequently alluded to in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and it was also much utilized by William Shakespeare in his tragedies, including Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. Both plays introduce us to strict, forbidding parents whose word is law. Every opposition to their wishes on the domestic or public level has diverse implications on the scale of the great chain of being. Hamlet’s revolt brings political change, while Romeo and Juliet’s deaths launch a reconciliation of the feuding families. The authority of parenthood in both plays is the highest authority conceivable. In Macbeth, on the other hand, the fear of disobedience to the king is essentially a fear of causing imbalance on a natural and divine level. The fragile balance of power is disturbed by the murder of the kingdom’s wise and just parent, and even the supernatural demonstrate their fury at the deed. The 18th century was the century of reason, and concepts of parenthood were significantly modified. The anxiety and fear of confrontation were transposed from the level of the state to that of the family cell, and the notion of exercising effective parental control on the child’s development gradually emerged. Conduct and advice books, written for both parents and children, were very common throughout the 18th century and well into the 19th. The correct methods for educating one’s children and the basics of good behavior in society were the main concerns of such works. Concurrently, a strong tradition of educational theory was founded with the publication of John Locke’s Thoughts Concerning Education (1692), and it spread to the writings of Daniel Defoe (e.g., The Family Instructor, 1715), Anna Laetitia Barbauld (Early Lessons, 1781), Maria

80â•…â•… parenthood Edgeworth (Parent’s Assistant, 1796, and Practical Education, 1798), and many minor authors of the late 1780s and the 1790s. An interesting but also extreme example is the moralizing of the notorious Thomas Day (Sandford and Merton, 1783–89) who adopted two sisters with the hope of raising one or the other as his wife. His purpose was to instill in their minds all the characteristics that made the perfect woman as he saw her. Rumors of mistreatment and even torture were circulated, and he abandoned the experiment. In 1719, Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe and suggested that a child’s flight from paternal authority and protection is not a solution. His economic man established a new paternalistic state, and the father-son relationship between Crusoe and Friday have been interpreted as economic, political, and social ideals, though they can actually be seen as a simulation of perfect, natural parenthood. Crusoe enlightens Friday on moral and religious matters, while Friday demonstrates submission to his spiritual parent. Twenty years later, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded presented a very interesting form of passive parenthood. This epistolary novel insists on the fact that even though outside the sphere of parental protection, the virtuous offspring should follow her parents’ moral principles in her quest for happiness. In a series of letters, Pamela complains of the treatment she receives, only to be rewarded by matrimonial happiness and parenthood herself. The later 18th and earlier 19th centuries saw the rise of new fears and quite a few revivals of the incest taboo, a widespread gothic theme. The gothic novel of the second half of the 18th century was very much concerned with parenthood; with issues of succession and usurpation of birthright; and with heritage and extended, increasingly complex family ties. It depicted the dissolution of the nuclear family and the psychological instability generated by guilty or adoptive parents. As a natural fin de siècle continuation of this literary current, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) is about the monster made by man, reflecting Shelley’s own childbirth and parenting fears. It also introduces a new literary theme that would be explored throughout the 19th and 20th centuries: The creator is also a parent

to be held responsible for his creation. The period also saw some pre-Freudian, post-gothic musings by Edgar Allan Poe. In his “Ligeia” (1838), Poe reflects on the obsessive behavior of a father figure, linking eroticism and parenthood into a narrative of morbid incest. The 18th and 19th centuries were concerned with establishing models for the roles of parents of both sexes, consigning the women to the domestic sphere and the men to the public sphere. Such ideas of parenthood were driven by family narratives, autobiographies, and instruction booklets but also by many novels. The mothers would provide care to the younger children and girls, while fathers were considered responsible for the education of elder children—boys in particular. Parenthood became at once a duty and an obligation. Some of the paintings and drawings of J. E. Millais depict the ideal family and present the image of successful parenthood (e.g., The Young Mother, 1857; The Crawley Family, 1860; The Ruling Passion, 1885). Much in the same fashion, the beginning of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women announces the typical family structure with Beth’s famous “We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other.” Alcott’s book is said to represent the female revolt against 19th-century assumptions that a “female genius” cannot be a parent, but it also explores the cult of femininity, of childbearing and parenting—roles to be contested by some feminists but advocated by others. In this respect, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter displays a challenging plot based on an innovative theme. Beyond the most obvious problem of original sin lies a discussion of the hardships of single parenthood. It also develops the stereotype of the “Madonna with Child,” raising parenthood to a higher level. In The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne goes back to the theme of the heritage parents leave to their children, much in line with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764). However, Hawthorne is more concerned with hereditary transmission of sin than with the practical problems of parenthood. Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) also goes back to an old theme, that of the abandoned child. Instead of focusing on the child itself, Hardy depicts the life of the parent, haunted by guilt and the painful souvenir of past parenthood.

prideâ•…â•… 81 In an attempt to expiate the sin of abandonment, the main character becomes mayor. The impulse to compensate for his wrongdoing makes him the parent of an entire town. Here we notice a change in perspectives: While the sentimental and gothic novel would focus on the life, adventures, and growing up of the abandoned child, later 19th-century authors chose a perspective that permitted them to explore the psychology of the abandoning parent. Another late 19th-century author who is frequently associated with the intricacies of the parental psyche is Henry James. His The Turn of the Screw is a story told by a governess, concerning dead parents, neglected children, an absent uncle, and disturbed guardians. The psychological frustration accumulates and causes the death of a child, a death that can be taken literally or as a metaphor of the premature death of childhood and innocence. The 20th century saw a number of literary developments and experiments. On the one hand, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World propose dystopian visions of parenthood. In the first novel, parental control is totally absent from an aggressive, deathly world. The second presents twisted political machinery, as a result of which children send their parents to their deaths. The third speculates about the implications of planned parenthood if carried too far. On the other hand, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid ’s Tale (1985) focuses on birth as a metaphor of writing and artistic creation. Atwood likens the conception of a story to the conception of a child, and the writing process to a painful delivery. As we have seen, the image of the parent in literature is far from immutable. The relationships and conflicts between parents and children have become recurrent themes in world literature. Some of them are not developed explicitly or intentionally, but they are present nevertheless, and through them we can try and imagine what parenthood was like throughout past centuries. Through diverse forms of literature, society gradually came to conceptualize parenthood, often without making direct reference to the word itself. However, the ramifications of the theme are numerous and provide a rich background for innovative academic research.

See also Hemingway, Ernest: Farewell to Arms, A; Irving, John: World According to Garp, The: Kureishi, Hanif: Buddhist of Suburbia, The; Morrison, Toni: Song of Solomon; Sula; Potok, Chaim: Chosen, The; Silko, Leslie Marmon: American Pastoral; Turgenev, Ivan: Fathers and Sons. FURTHER READING Backus, Margot Gayle. The Gothic Family Romance. Heterosexuality, Child Sacrifice and the Anglo-Irish Colonial Order. Durham, N.C., and London: Duke University Press, 1999. Erickson, Robert A. Mother Midnight. Birth, Sex, and Fate in Eighteenth-Century Fiction (Defoe, Richardson, and Sterne). New York: AMS Press, 1986. Flint, Christopher. Family Fictions: Narrative and Domestic Relations in Britain, 1688–1798. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998. Hilton, Mary. Women and the Shaping of the Nation’s Young: Education and Public Doctrine in Britain 1750–1850. Aldershot, Eng.: Ashgate Publishing, 2007. McKeon, Michael. The Secret History of Domesticity— Public, Private, and the Division of Knowledge. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. Pollock, Linda A. Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500 to 1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Rashkin, Esther. Family Secrets and the Psychoanalysis of Narrative. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Margarita Georgieva


Literature grapples with the question of how and where human beings fit in the scheme of things and how they should best live. Philosophers, religious thinkers, and writers in the Western tradition have seen the human being in an intermediary position between divine beings and lower animals. The ethical teachings of religion and philosophy and their offshoots of drama and literature have emphasized piety: conducting oneself within the proper sphere of human action and in proper relation with fellow human beings. Exceeding those bounds upward would be to aspire to be a god; exceeding those

82â•…â•… pride bounds downward would be to become a beast. In this ethical scheme, pride, understood negatively as an overly high opinion of oneself, figured as a principal human flaw in societies in which divine and human authority were well established. It kept human beings in their place and subjects in order. “Pride goes before a fall,” teaches one famous Hebrew proverb, representative of the cautionary warnings against human overreaching so richly documented in the tradition of the medieval De casibus, Giovanni Boccaccio’s chronicles of the fall of great men. Besides the Judeo-Christian tradition, other great religions of the world—Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism—seem to have their own variant against the sin of pride, suggesting a universal bias against any action that places self-love before universal love, the basis of most religious systems. At the same time, despite these constraints on mortal aspiration, early heroic societies worshipped human excellence, especially in the form of military prowess. Honor in these ancient and medieval warrior societies was achieved through physical strength, skill, and the courage to die in battle for one’s cause. Pride, as an excessive regard for honor, became a focal point in the great epic poems of Homer, who, in particular, was able to capture the psychological drama of heroes acting as human beings with virtues and flaws in situations of crisis. Because of his superior qualities, the Homeric hero was more easily prone to exhibit hubris, roughly translated as excessive pride—as though one is greater than the gods—often expressed through violent acts. A prime example is Achilles in The Iliad, the Greek warrior in the Trojan War, considered to be the first tragic hero in literature. This epic poem explores the consequences of its principal conflict of egos between the Greek commander Agamemnon and Achilles, his greatest warrior, in which both behave in hubristic ways, resulting ultimately in increased harm and death to many on their side. Flaunting his power, Agamemnon shames Achilles publicly by forcing Achilles to deliver to him Briseis, the maiden he has claimed for his own. Despite his righteous anger, Achilles’ decision to withdraw from battle cripples the Greek army and causes thousandfold pains on his comrades, notably his best friend, Patroclus, who, mistaken for Achilles, is killed by the Trojan

commander Hector. Despite his worthy qualities of military prowess, capacity for compassion, and understanding of the human condition, Achilles, in his wrath, commits what is to the Greeks an intolerable insult: the outrageous treatment of slain Hector of dragging the dead body behind his chariot for 12 days before returning it to the Trojans. As in the epic, pride figures importantly in Greek drama, which further explored the ambivalent qualities of the tragic hero in powerful ways. Sophocles’ Oedipus the King explores the religious and social function of myth by examining this Greek hero as an archetype of the scapegoat and the usurping son, centered on the theme of hubris. A close comparison of an oral version of the myth with Sophocles’ dramatic interpretation amplifies not only the tragic vision by which the culture grappled with the limitations of human life but also the playwright’s aesthetic achievement: to get the audience, in Aristotle’s words, both to pity and fear Oedipus’s tragic situation. After hearing the oracle predict that the plague upon his city will not lift until the murderer of his predecessor is punished, Oedipus, king of Thebes, initiates a methodical investigation of the death of the king, only to find out in his role as responsible ruler that he himself is culpable for the murder. This discovery reveals the key irony of Oedipus’s hubristic actions as a young man: his decision to evade a horrible prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother only leads him to fulfill it. This very human response reveals an irrational double-mindedness. If he believed the oracle to be true, he should have also believed that it was futile to evade it. Instead, Oedipus hubristically tries to evade the oracle but proceeds so carelessly—reflective of youth’s delusion of invincibility—that he does precisely what he should have forbidden to himself: kill an older man his father’s age, let alone kill anyone, and marry someone his mother’s age. Through his past and present actions, Oedipus gravely transgresses the Delphic oracle’s prescriptions for virtuous life: “Know thyself ” and “Nothing in excess.” Pride is further explored through the myth of Prometheus, the Titan advocate of man, who incurs eternal punishment for his act of bringing fire to humankind. Whether Prometheus is a heroic rebel, a savior, or a hubristic overreacher is a ques-

prideâ•…â•… 83 tion to ponder as one compares Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound with its later variants, Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus. While Aeschylus presents a philanthropic Prometheus, disobeying the gods’ orders for the benefit of the helpless human race, Marlowe’s tragedy of Faustus plays on both the heroic and the comic tradition, turning the intellectual hero into a trickster, whose desire “to gain a deity” (1.1.65) inevitably shrinks to horseplay as, at the end of Mephistopheles’ indenture period, he himself dissolves into the void of death. Marlowe’s rebellion against God cannot succeed within the prescripted confines of a Christian morality play. In signing away his soul to Satan, Faustus reenacts Lucifer’s revolt against God, filled with “Vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires/ Blown up with high conceits engendering pride” ( John Milton, Paradise Lost, 4.809), the queen of sins. Faustus’s victory is rather one of principle: opposing God to satisfy his desire for omnipotence and not backing down in the face of certain defeat. Despite the Christian lesson of the vanity of human pursuits, instructed through the increasing trivialization of his heroic endeavors, Faustus, through Marlowe’s rendering, retains his heroic status simply by undertaking the impossible. Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein, however, is a self-deluded Prometheus who is as unsuccessful as Faustus without the latter’s attribution of heroic rebel. The scientist’s philanthropic endeavors to advance knowledge for humanity’s benefit—or more accurately, his solipsistic fantasies of fathering a new race—are belied by his foolish neglect of the loved ones around him, thus his inability to prevent their deaths, a direct result of his hubristic creation of a humanoid without assuming the consequent parental obligations toward him. As many of these literary examples indicate, pride entails not only transgressions against divine authority but also infractions against fellow human beings. Jane Austen insightfully dramatizes the woes that come when pride and prejudice rule in Pride and P rejudice. Fitzwilliam Darcy, a wealthy member of the landed gentry, acquires the reputation in Hertfordshire of being a proud aristocrat when he arrogantly refuses to dance at the Netherfield ball and slights Elizabeth Bennet as being only

“tolerable” (7). Her friend, Charlotte Lucas, defends Darcy’s pride by claiming that “so very fine a young man [as he], with family, fortune, every thing in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud.” With her vanity wounded, Elizabeth replies, “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine” (13). After setting up this misunderstanding, Austen takes 59 chapters to bridge the gap between Darcy’s arrogance vis-à-vis Elizabeth and her prejudice against him toward reconciliation and marriage. According to Aristotle, pride is the proper mean between humility and vanity, for the rightly proud man “claims what is in accordance with his merits, while the others go to excess or fall short” (Nicomachean Ethics, book 4, 2.1123b12–14). The difficulty in this assessment lies in the numerous interpretations of merit: wealth, noble birth, and/ or personal virtue. While Charlotte believes that Darcy has a right to be proud simply because of his rank and money, the crux of the novel is that gentle birth does not always entail personal nobility. At one side of the amorous discord, though Darcy is born into the upper class, his demeanor is construed by the social circle of Hertfordshire as less than noble. At the other side, Elizabeth is born to lower gentry, but her superior “understanding” (Austen 43) in mental and moral capacities distinguishes her as a true gentlewoman above both her family of meaner understanding and haughty aristocrats like Lady Catherine. The pride and prejudice of both Darcy and Elizabeth abate when Darcy is irresistibly wooed by her personal merits and when Elizabeth comes to know Darcy as “perfectly amiable” (282), always acting in principled honor. In this manner, for both of them vanity becomes humbled and pride affirmed. As discussed above, pride, as hubris, can be a negative force disrupting social bonds and affronting the gods, fellow beings, and oneself. Pride is, nonetheless, also a positive force, affirming one’s achievements and promoting self-worth and self-contentment. According to Aristotle, pride, as opposed to hubris, is grounded in virtue (NE, book 4, 3.1124b30). “[W]here there is a real superiority of mind,” Darcy claims, “pride will be always under good regulation” (43), and that is Darcy and Eliza-

84â•…â•… race beth’s path to a deep-rooted happiness rather than the mere fairy-tale assurance of “happily ever after.” See also Browning, Robert: “My Last Duchess”; Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: Hound of the Baskervilles, The; Gaskell, Elizabeth: North and South; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: “Rappaccini’s Daughter”; Miller, Arthur: Death of a Salesman; Poe, Edgar Allan: “Murders in the Rue Morgue, The”; Roy, Arundhati: God of Small Things, The; Shakespeare, William: Henry IV, Part I; Julius Caesar; Much Ado about Nothing; Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver’s Travels; Williams, Tennessee: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. FURTHER READING Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by David Ross. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Bantam, 1989. Lattimore, Richmond Alexander. Story Patterns in Greek Tragedy. London: Athione Press, 1964.

Unhae Langis


The theme of race has been and continues to be hotly debated in the modern world. Questions of whether race is a biologically determined grouping of characteristics or whether it is merely a socially constructed means of classifying and dividing people are still asked in every field imaginable, including science, legal studies, politics, and literature. Even defining the term race is a complicated and sensitive task, particularly since race has been a justification for suppressing and oppressing large groups of people across the globe and throughout history. Two main schools of thought exist regarding the definition of race, and importantly, both developed in the modern era. One belief asserts that race is a genetically determined factor that influences external and internal characteristics, such as skin color, features, and predispositions to illnesses. The other philosophy contends that race is a socially constructed characteristic, arbitrary and hurtful in its exclusionary application. Whichever school one believes, and many scholars and critics acknowledge some truth in both, the use of race as a characteristic to divide groups of people and to control or elimi-

nate them is the central problem bound up in the theme of race. The concept is instantly polarizing— whether or not one believes race is a significant biological issue, it is clear that as humans we tend to separate according to race. In some cases it is selfseparation, while in others it is forced separation. In their introduction to Theories of Race and Racism, John Solomos and Les Back suggest that while race is still a primary theme in our daily lives, it has shifted somewhat in focus all over the world. Throughout the years leading up to and including the 20th century, institutionalized racism—slavery, disenfranchisement, lynchings—was the primary way in which racism was expressed, but according to Solomos and Back, “in recent times questions about race and racism have been refashioned in ways that emphasize cultural difference” (4). This move toward seeing a larger, more globalized picture of race and racism coincided with the end of colonialism and the creation of postcolonial literary criticism. Scholars who focus on the theme of race and related issues in postcolonial studies analyze literature from the perspective of the underprivileged, the suppressed, and minority characters and people. Thus, race becomes an underlying—or, in many cases, overarching—theme in works that may not include minority characters or “colonial” locales. For example, race becomes an unsettling theme in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as the Eastern European “other” makes his way to England and engages in a process some have called “reverse colonization,” by taking victims and making them into vampires like himself. In countries that were former colonies of imperial powers, literature addressed the issues of race that surrounded independence movements and the winning of autonomy by nations such as India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, to name just a few. In literature, race often takes on characteristics of being divisive or oppositional. Frequently, stories involving themes of race involve “clashes” or struggles between white groups and minority, or “native” groups. Rudyard Kipling coined the phrase “the white man’s burden” in his poem of the same name, in 1899. The phrase, at the time a description of the stated motivations of colonial behavior, has come to also refer to white support for minority individuals

raceâ•…â•… 85 and the “civilizing” effect it is purported to have on native peoples. In addition to postcolonial politics, race has been a recurring theme in literature, most pointedly beginning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An early novel to deal with the issues and effects of race was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a story about slavery in the United States. While Stowe’s novel has endured its fair share of criticism and close study, the author always maintained that she wanted to engage readers’ sympathies and change their minds about slavery. Certainly, novels and other literary works that featured black characters or were written by black authors gained prominence before Stowe’s work—from the English writer Aphra Behn’s novel Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave to the former American slave Phyllis Wheatley’s poetry, both of which were written in the 18th century. Mark Twain’s famous novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn features an AfricanAmerican character named Jim who escapes slavery himself. From the 20th century onward, race moved to the forefront of politics, especially in the United States, where institutionalized racism was the law of the land until the late 1960s. In 1903, the AfricanAmerican writer W. E. B. DuBois suggested that the biggest problem of the 20th century would be the problem of race. As the 20th century progressed, race became a key theme for writers, especially writers of color. In 1940, the African-American author Richard Wright published Native Son, the story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man who, largely on the basis of his race, gets caught up in poverty, violence, and judicial mistreatment. All the actions Bigger takes are directly related to or motivated by race in some way. He comes into his first job because his employer wishes to help African Americans improve their lives. He accidentally smothers Mary Dalton to prevent her blind mother from noticing Bigger in Mary’s bedroom late at night. Fearful of the punishment he might receive as a black man who murdered a white woman, Bigger tries to dispose of the body in the family furnace, and his situation continues to worsen. Native Son graphically represents the deep divide between white America and black America while illustrating

how pervasive the theme of race is in our lives. For Bigger, it is inescapable in the mazes—literally and figuratively—of Chicago. Race and the divide we allow it to create are not merely an American invention, however. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, white missionaries arrive in Nigeria and begin to set up a new religion, law, and justice among the Umuofia clan. What results is a confusing and violent clash between cultures, with the white colonists taking power by force and manipulation in order to “civilize” the native Africans. Unlike Native Son, which portrays the youth of color as one against overwhelming forces beyond his control, Things Fall Apart is about invasion from without: An entire society crumbles in the face of the violent threat of colonialism. The race of the colonizers becomes important to the story because it is their version of law and order that ultimately controls the African village and forces the villagers to cooperate. Okonkwo is unable to reconcile the two clashing ideologies—he does not want to be punished for his crimes by white men from another continent. Thus, race becomes a basis for the threatening relationship between interloper and native. As the 20th century progressed, race pride and power became a dynamic facet in literature, building on progressive political movements around the world. In the United States in particular, the progressive movements of the 1960s and 1970s were key for a new wave of race pride. In the poetry and drama of Amiri Baraka, for example, the theme of race becomes a source of strength and power for African Americans. In Baraka’s play Dutchman, a white woman and a black man enter into a verbal sparring match over racial difference that ends with the woman’s murder of the man. Race is figured in Dutchman as an insurmountable barrier, a theme as old as time itself. While Dutchman examines race relations in the supposedly free and equal American society of the late 1960s, Athol Fugard’s play Master Harold .╯.╯. and the Boys takes apartheid-era South Africa for its setting for exploring the theme of race. The play centers on the young Master Harold, a white South African teenager who discusses life, love, literature, and history with his family’s two black

86â•…â•… regret servants, Sam and Willie. Sam and Harold have an equal footing—a long relationship that goes back to Harold’s childhood, in which Sam often stood in for Harold’s own father. The two are so familiar with one another that Sam calls Harold by the nickname “Hally.” However, the relationship sours over the course of the play, until Harold insults Sam and tells him to only address him as Master Harold from then on. The heretofore amicable relationship crumbles in the face of authority, represented by the return of Harold’s father, and the racial schism created through apartheid is reestablished—even though the characters had earlier proven it to be a false schism. Literary considerations of race continue to challenge, inform, and surprise, even as the Internet age continues to decrease the separation among people of all racial backgrounds. Race, whether as a source of pride, strength, pain, or sadness, will remain a dynamic element in literature. The debates over race as social construct versus race as biological feature may never be settled, but literary explorations can help readers understand their own place in the debate as well as others’ positions. Indeed, literature will undoubtedly provide entirely new perspectives as time goes on—perspectives that may change everything we understand about race today. See also Angelou, Maya: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Chestnutt, Charles W.: “Goophered Grapevine, The”; Coetzee, J. M.: Waiting for the Barbarians; Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness; Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; DuBois: W. E. B.: Souls of Black Folk, The; Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man; Faulkner, William: Light in August; Gaines, Ernest J.: Lesson Before D ying, A; Gordimer, Nadine: Burger’s Daughter; Hansberry, Lorraine: Raisin in the Sun, A; Hughes, Langston: poems; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself; Jefferson, Thomas: Notes on the State of Virginia; Kingston, Maxine Hong: Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book; Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird; Melville, Herman: Moby-Dick; Morrison, Toni: Bluest Eye, The; Song of Solomon; Sula; Tar Baby; Marshall, Paule: Brown Girl,

Brownstones; Paton, Alan: Cry, the Beloved Country; Shakespeare, William: Merchant of Venice, The; Othello; Tempest, The; Toomer, Jean: Cane; Wright, Richard: Black Boy. FURTHER READING Carby, Hazel. Race Men. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998. Hooks, Bell. Killing Rage: Ending Racism. New York: H. Holt and Co., 1995. Kipling, Rudyard. “The White Man’s Burden.” McClure’s Magazine 12 (February 1899). Solomos, John, and Les Black, eds. Theories of Race and Racism. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Sharyn Emery


“I have no regrets.” Surely we have all heard this announcement made at one time or another, however implausible it might be. We may have even made it ourselves. Living a life with no regrets, however, seems impossible. Since regret is a feeling generated by looking back on our mistakes, omissions, lost opportunities, and bad behavior, and since one may feel regret over something as trivial as the purchase of a sweater, the person with no regrets is either flawless in every regard or has no conscience. Regret is a complicated emotion capable of leading to various consequences, both good and bad. Sometimes it can make us grow by helping us learn from our mistakes. For instance, in John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, Gene’s lifelong regret at having hurt his friend plagues him, keeping him from living his life freely. When the truth finally comes to the surface, Gene takes responsibility. Thus, when Finny tragically dies in surgery, Gene is at peace, knowing he did the right thing by being honest. On the other hand, regret can lead us to paralysis, when we are consumed by it, but can do nothing to rectify the past. In William Shakespeare’s King Lear, Lear regrets his ill-treatment of Cordelia, his only truly loyal child. However, he cannot reverse the events his bad decisions set in motion, and madness destroys him in the end. While there is some disagreement over the nature of “true regret,” most psychologists and philosophers agree that, first and foremost, it is

regretâ•…â•… 87 cognitive. That is, to feel regret requires that we think about what we have done (or failed to do). Regret, by its very nature, requires us to assess the past and our role in it. It is associated with what psychologists call “counterfactual” thought, or thinking about “what might have been” (Landman 37). This counterfactual thinking connects regret with the intellectual process of decision making, setting it apart from other emotions such as sadness, happiness, and love: These may all be safely rooted in the present and require only that we “feel” what is right in front of us. Pure emotions generally stem from a less cognitive impulse. Whether or not regret is an emotion at all is a source of disagreement among scholars. However, the psychologist Janet Landman argues persuasively that because regret is well known to have physiological effects (some refer to feelings of regret as a sharp “pang”) and because it entails making judgments about oneself, it undoubtedly qualifies as an emotion (37). Thomas Gilovich and Victoria Husted Medved echo Landman by calling regret a “cognitively determined emotion” (379). Regret is easily confused with other emotions and patterns of thinking, such as remorse and guilt. In general, scholars agree that these terms are related but different. Remorse is typically used when referring only to one’s own past acts or failures to act, and only when these acts were within one’s control. Regret is broader and refers to those types of situations, but also to situations over which we have no control, such as the passing of summer (Landman 52). In addition, we may feel regret for events or policies in which we personally were not involved, such as the segregationist Jim Crow laws that lasted in the United States from 1876 to 1965. Guilt, too, is closely associated with, although not identical to, regret. Guilt, like remorse, comes from thoughts and feelings resulting from one’s own actions. While there is a popular notion of “collective guilt” over tragic events such as the Holocaust or slavery, the philosopher Hannah Arendt has argued that collective guilt simply justifies the evil done: if everyone is guilty, then no one is (Landman 55). In addition, it is difficult to imagine guilt without regret. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth feels horrible guilt over his murder of Duncan; that he feels regret as well seems obvious. The opposite,

regret without guilt, is not so difficult to imagine. One may regret having turned down an opportunity to lunch with friends, but such a regret seems unlikely to produce guilt. Regret, then, is complicated. It has the qualities both of a cognitive process and an emotion. It can be felt for actions and events both within one’s control and beyond it, as well as over decisions ranging from quite serious to hopelessly trivial. The characters in Jane Austen’s novels and their varying degrees of regret help to illustrate this complicated theme. Emma Woodhouse, for instance, the title character of Emma, is a creature full of regrets. She regrets that her dear governess, Mrs. Weston, has married and so no longer lives with Emma, although she is very happy for Mrs. Weston. She regrets her friend Harriet Smith’s poor station in life, a station that has destined her to depend on the kindness of others and to marry someone no more important than a farmer, a state of affairs over which she has no control. She most deeply regrets her unkind treatment of Miss Bates, and for this she feels true remorse. Regret, for Emma, helps her to become a better person. It helps her understand her own actions and her role in society (of course, Mr. Knightley helps her come to that understanding) and thus to mature and grow. Emma’s case shows us that while regret is painful and often forces us to admit failure, it can be a constructive force in our lives. It requires us to reflect, to imagine how things might have gone differently, so that we do not repeat our mistakes in the future—or at least we hope so. As it can come both from wishing we had acted and wishing we had not, it helps us make life changes and identify silver linings, a process that can be a very positive force (Gilovich and Medved 379). Regret also helps others see us as moral people, capable of contributing positively to society. When F. W. de Klerk, president of South Africa from 1989 to 1994, issued an official apology from the National Party for the system of apartheid that had held sway in his country for decades, he said, “Apartheid caused misery and deprived people of their rights” (quoted in Lazare 105). He did not attempt to justify the policy or to mitigate the pain it caused. This regret, publicly acknowledged, along with the South African Truth and Reconciliation

88â•…â•… rejection Commission, helped to partially heal the country’s deep wounds and allow citizens to move forward together. In Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, Pip regrets much. He regrets that which is beyond his control: his parents’ death, his difficult upbringing, his meeting Magwitch in the cemetery. This type of regret does nothing good for him; it makes him bitter, greedy, and distrustful of others. But more important, he feels regret for things that were of his own doing. He regrets abandoning Joe and Biddy; he regrets the way he acted after receiving the money from his mysterious benefactor; and most of all, he regrets the way he treated Magwitch upon the convict’s return from Australia. Pip learns from this regret, however; he reforms his ways and ends the novel treating Magwitch as only a son would. Even more important, the novel ends with hope, as Pip has developed a stronger moral compass than before and will undoubtedly make better decisions in the future. In general, Pip’s sense of regret helps him to grow. For many, however, regret is a destructive, paralyzing force to be avoided at all costs. Harry Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, said, “Never, never waste a minute on regret. It’s a waste of time” (quoted in Landman 9). Regret can keep us from looking forward and experiencing life to the fullest extent. It can also play a destructive role in decision making. As we are apt to worry about what effect the decisions we make now will have on us later, fear of future regret may keep us from acting as we know we should. Such is the case for both Clarissa Dalloway and Peter Walsh in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. As a girl, Clarissa loved both Peter and her free, wild friend Sally. Fear of bucking convention made her seek stability over lasting attachments with them. She regrets those decisions now but attempts to live her life as though she has no regrets. The result is that she is a person who moves through life without feeling much of anything. Avoiding the pain of regret is so paramount that she must block out all other feelings as well. Peter, on the other hand, feels the pain too much. After many years, his regrets over his failed relationship with Clarissa still sting as though it happened yesterday. This pain prevents Peter from

truly moving on in life; his obsession with what might have been has paralyzed him. Despite our admonitions to the contrary, few of us could truly live a life without regret. Indeed, since regret can function as a catalyst toward change, redemption, and reform, it would be unwise for human beings to avoid this emotion entirely. Healthy regret—that is, regret that does not consume us but allows us to move forward—is undoubtedly an integral part of life’s journey. See also Alexie, Sherman: Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistf ight in Heaven, The; Eliot, T. S.: “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The”; Ishiguro, Kazuo: Remains of the Day, The; Morrison, Toni: Song of Solomon; Tan, Amy: Joy Luck Club, The; Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace; Williams, Tennessee: Streetcar Named Desire, A. FURTHER READING Gilovich, Thomas, and Victoria Husted Medved. “The Experience of Regret: What, When, and Why.” Psychological Review 2, no. 2 (1995): 379–395. Landman, Janet. Regret. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Lazare, Aaron. On Apology. London: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


In Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, Miss Havisham is rejected by her would-be groom before the novel’s action begins. For many years, she has sequestered herself in her mansion, surrounded by the aging relics of her doomed wedding ceremony. More important, though, is the effect this ancient rejection has had on Miss Havisham. She is bitter, to be sure, but the bitterness goes so far and runs so deep that she is eager to raise her ward, Estella, to exact a kind of revenge for her by hurting others, specifically men. Great Expectations is somewhat of a treatise of the effects of rejection on the human psyche. In addition to Miss Havisham, Pip, Joe, Biddy, and Magwitch all experience this deep pain. Pip is rejected by his sister and Estella, Joe, and Biddy by Pip, and Magwitch by his country. For these and other literary characters, rejection creates a void that is difficult to fill and that is capable of

rejectionâ•…â•… 89 distorting their personalities forever. This theme is powerful because of these far-reaching consequences. Rejection is a powerful force in works from a myriad of time periods and genres, including the Bible, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Jane Austen’s P ride and P rejudice, Richard Wright’s Native Son, William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. Social scientists have shown time and again that human beings need social connections. According to the psychologist Mark Leary, this need is an adaptation that evolved because it promoted survival and reproduction (3). In the early days of the human race, we needed each other with an intensity that industrialism and technology have taken away. Humans lived in small groups, far away from other groups. In order for our species to reproduce, we had to choose from the mates who were available. In addition, because we do not have the natural defenses possessed by other animals (such as claws, antlers, and sharp, powerful teeth), we had to work together to defend ourselves. This evolutionary adaptation has stayed with us. Research demonstrates that we still need human contact in order to thrive, with some studies even showing that social isolation can do damage to the immune system, threaten cardiovascular health, and even hasten death (Fiske and Yamamoto 185). Because this contact is a good thing, and because we are drawn to make connections, when a specific connection is refused, as is the case in acts of rejection, the result can devastate us. Those who are rejected feel worthless, have pronounced feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, and move through life never showing their “real selves” (Evoy 54, 57). In other words, rejection, to the human animal, does not make sense, and our bodies and minds do not know how to handle it. Knowing this about rejection helps to explain why it is such a powerful theme in literature and culture. Several stories in the Bible explore rejection in depth, and because the Bible is a foundational text of Western culture, these stories help to establish the larger context in which the concept of rejection may be considered. The story of Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, is a good example. Abraham and Sarah were,

for many years, unable to conceive children. Sarah presented her maid, Hagar, to Abraham in the hope that she could produce a son for him. The plan worked, and Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. However, God declared to Abraham that he and Sarah, despite their advanced age, would have a son as well. Isaac, son of Sarah and Abraham, soon followed. Ishmael and Hagar were eventually sent out into the desert, rejected by Abraham. This story is significant for many reasons, perhaps the most important of which is that Isaac is considered a patriarch of the Jewish religion, and Ishmael is considered the progenitor of Arabic peoples. Certainly the centuries-long conflict between these two groups is not caused by the biblical story, but the story does provide a foundation by which we may understand the lasting power of rejection. The rejected feel like outcasts, and in many cases they are literally outcasts, driven from others, just as Ishmael and Hagar were. The Bible is not the only early document that deals with rejection. Monica Melancthon explains that the motif, manifesting itself as a rejection by God or other divine beings, is found in other Semitic languages of the time. The lamentation, a vocalizing of the pain of rejection, is a commonly found form in ancient Semitic literature. For instance, in The Curse of Agade, composed around 2000 b.c., a rebellious act by King Naram-Sim kindles the fury of the deity and leads to the destruction of the city. Similarly, in Lamentations 3, the city of Jerusalem, the “nerve center of religious activity” in 587 b.c., lies in ruins. Lamentations 3 reads, in part, “He has driven me away and made me walk / in darkness rather than in light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me / again and again, all day long” (3:2–4). Its people, rejected by their God, are devastated. As Melancthon notes, this destruction showed their status as God’s chosen people and Jerusalem’s status as God’s chosen city were in question. They associated this perceived rejection with human guilt and disobedience. In other words, they felt they must have done something wrong to deserve God’s wrath. Much like the early citizens of Jerusalem, children who have been rejected by their parents often internalize feelings of guilt and wrongdoing. Parental rejection is so powerful, research shows, that its victims never completely get over it; it remains with

90â•…â•… rejection them in some form for life. These children, denied the love of one or both parents, carry “feelings of emptiness where that love should have been—often for the rest of their lives. The rejected live with an emotional hole in the center of their being” (Evoy 72). They experience guilt, depression, anger, hostility, and aggression, and they actively seek out, sometimes in dangerous ways, situations in which they are valued (66). In Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, for instance, June Morrisey is rejected by her mother as a young child. As she grows into a woman, she exhibits many of the signs listed above. She tries to hang herself during a game with her cousins, convinced she has no real worth. She cannot truly accept the genuine love Marie gives her, fearful as she is of yet another rejection. June lives her entire life aggressively and angrily hurting others, and she frequently puts herself in precarious situations, one of which ultimately kills her. In Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck is rejected by his father and then again by the society at large. While he is a resilient, confident child, he believes himself to be, quite naturally, worth less than other children. He seems to be most comfortable when he is alone and acting independently. While this may be part of his perceived charm (and also why he is seen as so incorrigible by the townspeople), Twain’s characterization here highlights Huck’s state of rejection. Children should not seek to be independent; they should not have to. Childhood is naturally a state in which we should seek the help and guidance of our elders. When we are shown, as Huck was, that the help and guidance is either not forthcoming or will lead to more pain, we learn to stop asking for it. For Huck, rejection made him (rightly) suspicious of society at large. He simply did not trust people, even those who claimed to want to help him. A pattern of rejection can force victims into irrational states, where they see and feel rejected from all angles. Mark Leary points out that feelings of rejection can become so pervasive that even “slights or inconsiderate behavior” can be taking as wholesale rejection, further driving the rejected person away from society at large. In Native Son, we see this in Bigger Thomas. Society has rejected him because he is black; that is his reality. However, his mother

is angry with him because of what she sees as his laziness and lack of ambition. Bigger simply adds this to the mountain of rejection he already feels. In addition, when Mary and her boyfriend are kind to him, he does not know how to take that behavior. Rejection has inured him to real feelings. He, like many of the rejected, must close his “real self ” off. Of all the varieties of rejection, romantic rejection, such as the type felt by Miss Havisham, provides perhaps the most immediate, crushing blow. Romantic rejections are difficult to weather because if we are hard-wired to create connections, the connections we seek with potential mates are the most important connections of all. Being rejected on those occasions makes the least sense to us biologically. Indeed, when Marianne is rejected by Willoughby in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, her devastation sends her into a physical illness that almost kills her. Marianne’s whole sense of self and sense of purpose are shaken. Even though Willoughby is revealed to be a cad, Marianne’s grief is not generated by his obvious mistreatment of her, but rather by the loss of what she thought was a perfect love. As much as she later learns about him, she cannot bring herself to truly blame him. Being rejected by others is an experience that can change human beings at their core. It can call into questions what we think we know about our own intelligence, beauty, personality, and overall worth. Rejection can absolutely devastate us, causing us to hide our real selves and operate as mere shells of human beings. Because these experiences are so powerful, it is no wonder literature explores the subject again and again. See also Kureishi, Hanif: Buddha of Suburbia, The; Shakespeare, William: Twelfth Night. FURTHER READING Evoy, John Joseph. The Rejected. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981. Fiske, Susan T., and Mariko Yamamoto. “Coping with Rejection.” In Interpersonal Rejection, edited by Mark Leary, 185–198. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Holy Bible. New International Version. New York: Biblica, 1967.

religionâ•…â•… 91 Leary, Mark, ed. Interpersonal Rejection. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Melancthon, Monica J. Rejected by God: The History and Significance of the Rejection Motif in the Hebrew Bible. New York: Peter Lang, 2001.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


Religion and literature are inextricably intertwined. Many of the world’s major religious texts, such as the Bible, the Quran, and the Bhagavad Gita, are studied not just for their philosophical and spiritual truths but for their literary aesthetics as well. Both religion and literature spring from a common impulse to explore and explain the fundamental mystery of human existence—of humankind’s place in the world and our relationship to the created universe, to the Divine, and to our fellow human beings. Religion, like literature, mirrors the ruling cultural paradigms of the day while also taking issue with them, interrogating and interpreting social and cultural mores and offering compelling new visions of being in the world. They offer both comfort to the troubled and the joys of quiet repose, and they are intimately personal and reassuringly or troublingly (as the case may be) public at the same time. Not surprisingly, religion is not only a key theme in literature but has functioned as the very fountainhead of much literature from antiquity to the present time. The ancient epics of the world, from Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey to the Mahabharata and the Ramayana from the Indian subcontinent, give us a revealing glimpse into the cultural makeup of their peoples. They also feature an elaborate parallel universe of gods and goddesses who are intimately involved in the world of mortals and, indeed, mirror some of the same vanities and foibles of the human world. For example, Athena is Odysseus’s patron deity and assists his return home, helping him to, among other things, fight the houseful of suitors who are pursuing his wife Penelope and living the good life at his expense. Similarly, Krishna, an important deity in the Hindu pantheon of gods, helps the righteous Pandavas defeat their cousins, the immoral Kauravas, and regain their kingdom. In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Antigone risks Creon’s wrath and becomes a

tragic heroine by virtue of her determination to perform her brother Polynices’ burial rites. She acts not just out of filial duty but also because proper burial rites for the dead, whether they are foe or friend, are demanded by the gods. In more modern times, John Milton set out to accomplish the ambitious task of writing a contemporary epic for England in the 17th century by choosing to write a Christian depiction “of man’s disobedience of God” and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. The Bible is the inspiration for his great epic, Paradise Lost, and biblical themes of good, evil, the nature of sin, and the power of redemption with true repentance that is available through religion stem from the core of this text. Similarly, Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus, based on the Faust legend, explores the pitfalls of the arrogance of knowledge as Faustus signs away his soul to the devil in exchange for the fleeting pleasures of necromancy and magic for a brief 24 years. The play is notable in the way it explores Faustus’s battle with his conscience (imagined as his good and bad angels), and then sketches in moving detail the plight he faces with the prospect of eternal damnation. But more profound is its depiction of Mephistopheles, one of Satan’s chief emissaries, sent to interact with Faustus. The very origins of British drama can be located in religion in the shape of the medieval miracles and morality plays that featured stories from the Bible and were concerned with moral education. In fact, scholars have traced the origins of fool characters common in Shakespeare back to the portrayal of Satan as a bawdy and buffoonish character in the Morality plays. In the West, religion has been the inspiration for much of its most acclaimed art and architecture, as well as its literature. The work of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo Da Vinci, to name a few of the most acclaimed painters of Renaissance Europe, as well as the most exquisite churches and cathedrals in Europe, owe their origin to the religious impulse. In addition, the church has always been a major patron of the arts, commissioning some of the most profoundly important works, whether they be painting, religious manuscripts/treatises, or the buildings of western civilization. In the Dark Ages in medieval

92â•…â•… religion Europe, it was the monks who preserved some of the most valuable books of ancient Greece and Rome by diligently copying them on vellum by hand before the advent of the printing press. Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, and Saint Augustine’s Confessions and The City of God are all intensely religious in content. While Dante presents a complicated three-tier system of the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, an imaginative and allegorical imagining of the afterlife, Augustine’s autobiographical text presents a compelling view of the journey to religion and selfhood. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century, is structured around the tales told by a group of 23 pilgrims on a pilgrimage from London to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury. Although Chaucer presents a fairly wide cross section of medieval English society from the noble Knight to the humble Yeoman, a majority of the pilgrims, such as the Monk, the Pardoner, the Friar, the Prioress, and the Summoner, among others, belong to the Christian orders. These characters are some of the most interesting in The Canterbury Tales, and Chaucer satirizes corruption among the church’s functionaries through them. Some of the most emotionally resonant wrestling with questions of faith can be found in the metaphysical poetry of 17th-century poets such as John Donne, Andrew Marvell, and George Herbert, in appeals such as Donne’s “Batter my heart, three personed God” or in Herbert’s poems “The Affliction” and “The Collar.” In 19th-century Victorian literature, the question of faith and doubt that afflicted people after Charles Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species, which declared that man is not made in the image of God but is descended from apes, is a recurring theme. In different ways, Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam, A. H. H., Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d ’Urbervilles, all express the painful incomprehension and angst of a world suddenly deprived of the certitudes of religion expressed so well in Robert Browning’s “Pippa’s Song”: “God’s in His Heaven— / All’s right with the world” (ll. 7–8). Religion may seem to have been in slow retreat because of the onslaughts of industrialism, the coming of the railroads, the depopulation of the coun-

tryside, the findings of the geologist Charles Lyell and the psychiatrists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and Karl Marx’s declaration that “religion is the opiate of the masses,” but it nevertheless has continued to preoccupy writers, whether they be poets, novelists, or dramatists. T. S. Eliot’s modernist masterpiece The Wasteland articulates a deep sense of the loneliness and alienation experienced by people lost in the facelessness of the modern metropolis, but it also closes with a heartfelt prayer of “Shantih, Shantih, Shantih,” invoking the ancient mantra of peace from Hindu religious traditions. In his later work “Burnt Norton,” and particularly in his poetic dramas, Eliot turned to religion in his quest for answers to the modern malaise of isolationism and loss of faith. Murder in the Cathedral, his best-known play, centers on the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket and explores with insightful nuances the nature of temptation for one even so deeply steeped in Christ as Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury. Even the desire to martyrdom, as long as it springs from an earthly desire to garner spiritual capital, can be corrupt and compromised. Becket’s union with God can only come once he transcends this greed for spiritual acclaim and annihilates all egotism. Beyond spiritual and ethical explorations, literature also portrays religion as a great source of discord and dissension in the world and thus critiques the violence and fanaticism that results from a narrow-minded adherence to creed. Much of Salman Rushdie’s work, for instance, refers to the violence arising from the conflicts between the Hindu and Muslim communities in India, such as his Midnight ’s Children. But the power of religion to inflame passions is most aptly demonstrated through the controversy surrounding the publication of his The Satanic Verses in 1988. The Satanic Verses is a part-fantasy, part-realist novel in which Rushdie presents a fictionalized story related to some apocryphal verses from the Quran, and consequently makes references to the life of Muhammad, the Prophet. The creative liberties taken by the text upset some sections of the Islamic community, which widely condemned it, and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious decree, condemning Rushdie as an infidel. Rushdie went into hiding in fear following much violence involving the publication of this

responsibilityâ•…â•… 93 book around the world, and he suffered threats to his life. Countries such as Pakistan and India with large Muslim populations banned the book in the interest of public safety. Religion is a powerful source of both succor and conflict, emerging from the wellsprings of our most deeply human impulses and arousing our most passionate responses. It becomes a lens through which issues of race, ethnicity, and identity are parsed. Literature, in its extraordinary power to mirror and mediate these passions and conflicts, finds both its source and its substance in religion, in the shape of themes, images, symbols, and the very language it uses to appeal to us. See also Anonymous: Beowulf; Bunyan, John: Pilgrim’s Progress, The; Crane, Stephen: Red Badge of Courage, The; Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe; Emerson, Ralph Waldo: “Divinity School Address, The”; Faulkner, William: Light in August; Greene, Graham: Heart of the Matter, The; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: Scarlet Letter, The; Young Goodman Brown; Hemingway, Ernest: Farewell to Arms, A; Jefferson, Thomas: Notes on the States of Virginia; Joyce, James: D ubliners; Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, A; Lawrence, Jerome, and Robert E. Lee: Inherit the Wind; Melville, Herman: “Bartleby the Scrivener”; Moby-Dick; Molière: Tartuffe; O’Connor, Flannery: “Good Man Is Hard to Find, A”; Wise Blood; Potok, Chaim: Chosen, The; Rowlandson, Mary: Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson; Steinbeck, John: Grapes of Wrath, The; Stowe, Harriet Beecher: Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Twain, Mark: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Winterson, Jeanette: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit; Wright, Richard: Black Boy. FURTHER READING Detweiler, Robert, and David Jasper, eds. Religion and Literature: A Reader. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. Frye Northrup. The Great Code: The Bible and Literature. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982. Jasper, David. Images of Belief in Literature. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984.

Rajender Kaur


The word responsibility has two connotations in modern English. We can be responsible for something, which means we are accountable and we will take the blame or reward should there be any. This connotation can apply to a person, as in the way that parents are responsible for their children or coaches are responsible for their players, or it can apply to a thing, as in the way someone might take responsibility for a car accident or an accounting mistake. We can also be responsible to people or organizations. This connotation implies that we “report” to someone, or more accurately that we must “respond” (the root of responsibility) to them. The parent who is responsible for her children, in that she will take responsibility should they break a neighbor’s window or skip school, is at the same time responsible to her children in that she must account for the decisions she makes that affect their lives, such as distinguishing right from wrong and providing a stable home life. These two connotations work well together in that they both derive from the same idea. As noted above, the root of responsibility is “reponse.” To “respond” is an action. In life, being “responsible for” or being “responsible to” both require responding to situations—in other words, acting in the best interests of those in our sphere, including ourselves. However, there are no clear-cut answers to questions regarding just what those best interests are and just how far we are required to widen that sphere. It is only in the 20th century and beyond that these questions about responsibility have become so difficult. Prior to this period, the emphasis was always soundly on being responsible to, and responsibility was not thought of as being particularly virtuous (Moran 35). Being responsible to people, or things, or God, simply meant that these were the entities to whom you would be held accountable. This simpler interpretation of the word may have made it easier for a society to know how to be accountable and what the implications of that were. But as the shift occurred in the 20th century toward responsibility for, and its accompanying blame and punishment, these questions became more complicated. For example, in Gilead, the dystopian society Margaret Atwood depicts in The Handmaid ’s Tale, the concept of responsibility has

94â•…â•… responsibility become grossly distorted. First, the ruling powers hold humanity (women in particular) responsible for the decline in fertility that has led to the population collapse. They then take all responsibility away from the Maids, making them of the men but having no relationships with them. No one is actually responsible to or for anyone, other than the state, which apparently takes no responsibility for its people, as evidenced by the killings in the stadium and the presence of the forbidden “clubs” to which the Commander takes Offred. It is an experiment that is doomed to fail because humans have no accountability to each other, they are only forced to take accountability for things that may or may not be their fault. As in Gilead, the characters in Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor focus on blame, rather than on being responsible to one another, and Billy dies because of it. Captain Vere and the others should take responsibility for Billy both before and after the incident with Claggart, instead of simply forcing all the responsibility on him, as they do by revering the law over what they know to be the truth. The idea of being responsible to someone is analogous to having an obligation. Originally, obligation meant “something owed,” and a similar word, duty, meant a “debt.” Richard Swinburne, in Responsibility and Atonement, describes our responsibilities in life as obligations: “By our words and actions we undertake to do certain things” (20). If we become parents, we undertake the obligation of taking care of our children and teaching them right from wrong. We make other such obligations in our roles as members of communities and in our jobs. For instance, in Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!, Alexandra believes she is obligated to care for the family, especially Emil, as well as for the land on which the farm sits. It is her sense of responsibility that causes her father to choose her, rather than her brothers, to carry on his legacy. In William Shakespeare’s Henry V, King Henry is obligated to carry on the cause of his father, King Henry IV, and improve England’s fortunes on the world stage. He also feels a heavy sense of responsibility to the crown itself and, by extension, to the people of England. Thus, he turns his back on Falstaff, the mentor of his

reckless (and irresponsible) youth, and has Bardolph hung for stealing. He also feels a responsibility for the men who are killed by the French, as they were there in England’s—and thus his—service. King Henry feels responsible for his men in the same way a parent feels about his children. But unlike Henry, nonroyal parents are expected to take as much responsibility when their children err as when they do well. It is here and in other situations where there is blame to be assigned that the more common modern usage of responsibility looms large. Peter French, in Responsibility Matters, notes that we “spend a lot of time trying to avoid responsibility.” He also notes that this is as true for positives as it is for negatives, leading to the conclusion that responsibility is a burden in any situation (18). Perhaps, French argues, this is because we do not want the worry that comes along with membership in a morally responsible community. French says that we seek to obscure accountability, even when the consequence would be praise, not blame, because it signifies a loss of innocence merely to acknowledge that someone—anyone—is responsible. He says, “The practice of holding people responsible for things that happen, hence the concept of responsibility itself, depends for its sense on the purposes or ends to which we put it” (19). In other words, if there are no consequences, there is no point in assigning responsibility. And to be truly responsible, we must also be consistent, a burden in and of itself. Albert Jonsen, in Responsibility in Modern Religious Ethics, says “The responsible man is not merely the one who is able to perform good actions; he is, in fact, the good man. His goodness consists precisely in his responsibility” (5). In Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa is heavily burdened by the responsibility placed on him by his family. He accepts that responsibility, however, and goes to work every day to a job that he loathes. Gregor, unlike the rest of his family, who sit home, irresponsibly allowing Gregor to support them, cannot pretend innocence of the world and its workings. However, when one day he wakes up as a giant cockroach, he is gradually freed of this burden. He cannot work in this condition, so the responsibility is lifted from him. As his family slowly takes on the burdens of taking care of Gregor

science and technologyâ•…â•… 95 and supporting themselves, they grow more and more resentful, with Gregor’s father even resorting to violence. Gregor’s death sets them all free, and the family ends the story with thoughts of finding sister Grete a husband, who presumably will take responsibility for them all. Unlike Gregor, Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has lived a life of bliss and privilege. Sadly, he uses this privilege irresponsibly and becomes obsessed with creating life. The creature he creates kills everyone whom Victor loves, and when he comes to the realization that it is he, not the creature, who is truly responsible for their deaths, the pain is almost too much for him to bear. It is only at this point in the novel that Victor actually takes on the mantle of responsibility and hunts the creature until his death. Additionally, in his faithful telling of the story to Walton, Victor passes on his cautionary tale, another act that demonstrates his newfound accountability. Although Frankenstein was written in the 19th century, its themes regarding the responsible use of science and technology echo loudly here in the 21st century. Some philosophers have argued that in the contemporary era, everything has become our responsibility—nature, war, death, global poverty. As the range of human action is much broader than it ever was before—that is, what we can do is greater and more fantastic than what could have been imagined in the past—our responsibilities have widened to an almost limitless point. While the need to do the right thing by those to whom we are responsible has not changed, what that right thing might be has grown more confusing, and the number of those to whom we might be held responsible has increased exponentially. See also Davies, Robertson: Fifth Business; Dinesen, Isak: Out of Africa; James, Henry: Daisy Miller; Machiavelli, Niccolò: P rince, The; Shakespeare, William: King Lear; Virgil: Aeneid, The; Vonnegut, Kurt: Cat ’s Cradle; Thoreau, Henry David: “Resistance to Civil Government”; Wilder, Thornton: Our Town; Williams, Tennessee: Glass Menagerie, The. FURTHER READING French, Peter A. Responsibility Matters. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992.

Jonsen, Albert R. Responsibility in Modern Religious Ethics. Washington, D.C.: Corpus Books, 1968. Swinburne, Richard. Responsibility and Atonement. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989. Moran, Gabriel. A Grammar of Responsibility. New York: Crossroad, 1996.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple

science and technology

While science and technology play key roles in human affairs, they tend to recede into the background of daily life. We seldom think about the structures and practices of scientific institutions or about the social and environmental costs of our technologically textured lives. But as canonical literature from medieval times to the present makes abundantly clear, cultural responses to and attitudes about scientific developments and engineering breakthroughs have always been potent, complex, and multiple. Literary works by authors from Geoffrey Chaucer to Don DeLillo have variously reflected, reinforced, and (in some cases) destabilized these larger societal responses and attitudes. Studying this literature, therefore, occasions valuable opportunities to better understand the taken-for-granted background of science and technology. Many literary texts foreground the complex relations between science, technology, and society by calling attention to fundamental problems of definition and recognition. The term science, for instance, poses considerable problems precisely because of its privileged status in mainstream culture. We associate it with “reality,” “truth,” and “reason,” and when individuals or institutions speak on behalf of science, lay audiences often assume that what is being conveyed is factual, trustworthy, and authoritative. Unfortunately, distinguishing between “genuine” and “mock” science is no easy matter; scores of unscientific practices and products announce themselves as thoroughly scientific simply to gain acceptance or to influence consumers. Even in early modern times, when science referred generally to any systematic acquisition of knowledge, differentiating between real and fake science could be tricky. Geoffrey Chaucer dramatizes this problem in “The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale” of The Canterbury Tales by critiquing mutually reinforcing entities within medieval

96â•…â•… science and technology society: devious alchemists, armed with a bewildering scientific vocabulary and an arsenal of laboratory technologies, who promise to transform base metals into gold; and greedy clients whose materialistic desires perpetuate the existence of charlatan science. In so doing, this satiric tale foregrounds fundamental problems of “validity” and “misrecognition” that arise any time science is invoked. Significantly, Chaucer links these problems to cultural ideas about technology. Prior to the 19th century, this term could refer broadly either to material instruments or to any systematic technique. Chaucer’s text suggests that any technology—whether instrumental or methodological—should be understood as an extension of the culture that produces and employs it. The early laboratory implements of this tale—fire, crucibles, chemical elements—are not value-neutral: They establish and confer authority, and their use and abuse reflect and shape particular human interests and cultural values. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the term science gradually lost cultural and professional currency and gave way to natural science, a phrase denoting only those enterprises that advanced our understanding of the physical world. The circulation of this phrase was largely an attempt to distinguish “real science” from other forms of systematic inquiry (philosophy, history, theology, and so on) whose methods did not require observation, experimentation, and replication. Because this new emphasis on discovering nature’s secrets called into question long-standing theological explanations of the universe, many writers explored the ethical and philosophical implications of natural science’s goals. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, for example, takes place in a theocentric universe, but it registers profound anxiety about scientific ambitions. Inquiries into the laws of nature, the play suggests, can give way to scientific hubris, to an immoral aspiration to attain godlike wisdom. For the play’s protagonist, seeking such knowledge comes at the expense of his moral decency. Thus, when Faustus bargains away his soul for ultimate knowledge, he sinks deeper and deeper into despair until his final dismemberment by the devil’s brutal agents. Of course, many other writers saw promise, nor corruption, in the natural sciences. Francis

Bacon’s The New Atlantis (1627) conjures a mythical island replete with a compassionate citizenry and an expansive scientific institute aimed at studying physical laws and taming an inhospitable natural world. Still, while proponents of Bacon’s ambitious scientific vision increased in number, many writers in the 18th century would nevertheless continue to examine the consequences of imperialistic science. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, for instance, depicts astronomers as a dark embodiment of humankind’s growing preoccupation with the physical world, suggesting, as Marlowe did, that such concerns come at the expense of moral and spiritual growth. Most 19th-century literary texts concerned with science and technology are probably best understood as responses to the so-called Age of Enlightenment of the previous century. Philosophical and scientific thinkers of the Enlightenment generally asserted that reason and science provided the means of overcoming superstition, controlling nature, and achieving social and political progress. Against such assertions stands Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, whose scientist embodies the Enlightenment faith that all laws of the physical universe can be known. While this novel condemns detached intellectualism, it also raises serious questions about the motives and consequences of scientific work. Lured less by “knowledge for its own sake” than by the promise of power that knowledge confers, Victor Frankenstein signifies the negative potential of science. He functions as a nightmarish counterexample to the idealized image of the Enlightenment scientist dedicated to cool, dispassionate observation and truth seeking. Victor’s success in animating an assemblage of dead body parts is undone by his subsequent inability to ease the torment endured by his monstrous creation; their entwined lives serve as a dramatic argument for responsible science that properly accounts for the social costs of so-called breakthroughs. Similar critiques of Enlightenment values can be found in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fiction. In “The Birth-mark,” a chemist’s clinical obsession with his wife’s birthmark threatens her well-being and eventually leads to her death. Similarly, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” features an inhumane scientist whose isolated horticultural experiments leave him

science and technologyâ•…â•… 97 emaciated, sallow, and sickly looking. His work also transforms his daughter, who develops immunity to the poisonous flowers he cultivates but renders her toxic to anything or anyone in proximity of her breath. Collectively, these texts argue for a mode of science that critiques and limits its own ambitions and takes into account the social costs of scientific work once it leaves the laboratory. These literary arguments, however, did little to curtail the degree to which science and technology propelled larger processes of urbanization and industrialization. Many late 19th-century literary texts responded to this nagging realization by juxtaposing pastoral and industrial imagery. Huck’s desire to embark on a journey into unspoiled territory, near the end of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for instance, might reflect a growing ambivalence about the purported civilizing effects of an increasingly urbanized world. And in Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the protagonist’s failed attempts to industrialize Arthurian England offers a stark rejection of Enlightenment notions that time and scientific initiative result in progress. By the 20th century, science no longer needed the qualifying term natural to denote methodological research capable of generating certainty about aspects of the physical world. Nevertheless, the definitional instability of the term remains to this day as the intellectual writings of social scientists, historians, and philosophers have increasingly questioned the supposed boundaries dividing science from other forms of intellectual and cultural work. Such writings argue that scientists belong to a distinct culture with its own ethics, politics, languages, and rituals, and that their work is shaped, in direct and indirect ways, by larger national and international pressures. Much 20th-century literature reflects and informs these observations by questioning science’s autonomy and objectivity. In many texts, scientific research and its technologies become driving forces behind the growth of consumer culture, corporations, economic systems, and political entities. In his U.S.A. trilogy, John Dos Passos employs a narrative technique that interweaves documentary sources, newspaper collages, fiction, montage techniques from film, and biographical sketches to depict the lives of working

Americans in an industrial culture. His rapid narrative transitions emphasize the role of communication, entertainment, and information technologies in shaping lived experience. A few decades after Dos Passos’s trilogy, Ray Bradbury’s fiction would consistently imagine future worlds in which consumer culture and entertainment technologies render the critical imagination obsolete and undesirable. His Fahrenheit 451, along with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, dramatize how computer and surveillance technologies disseminate and enforce values compatible with the dominant power structures. These nightmare worlds depict entire populations that come to see individual conformity as an acceptable price to pay for national security. Other texts reveal a growing ambivalence toward the seeming omnipresence of military and information technologies in our lives. An atomic war might be the cause of the airplane crash that strands a group of schoolboys on a deserted island at the beginning of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, but details of the cataclysm are mentioned only in passing. Later in the novel, the bestial violence that erupts on the island suggests that military technologies might be little more than extensions of an inherently violent and combative human nature. Published a few decades later, Don DeLillo’s White Noise employs an ironic and ambivalent narrative voice for a plot that juxtaposes consumer excess, unstable identities, omnipresent information technologies, and looming threats of ecological disaster. In complex ways, these texts contribute to the always unfinished work of historicizing and theorizing the relations between society, science, and technology. They reflect and contribute to larger cultural debates about how best to understand the impact of science on our present circumstances and how to approach an uncertain future in which technology and science will unquestionably play a role. See also Adams, Henry: Education of Henry Adams, The; Lowry, Lois: Giver, The; Poe, Edgar Allan: “Murders in the Rue Morgue, The”; Silko Leslie Marmon: Ceremony; Steinbeck, John: Cannery Row; Stevenson, Robert Louis: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.

98â•…â•… sex and sexuality Hyde; Vonnegut, Kurt: Cat ’s Cradle; Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass. FURTHER READING Daly, Nicholas. Literature, Technology, and Modernity, 1860–2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Marx, Leo. The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964. Scholnick, Robert, ed. American Literature and Science. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1982.

Neal Bukeavich

sex and sexuality

Many classic works of literature have been banned because of their treatment of sex or sexuality. School boards, parents, and governments have tried to stop children and adults from reading such works as Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, and a long list of others, because these books were felt to deal with issues involving sex in ways that were deemed inappropriate or obscene. Objections range from a “too frank” discussion of rape, as in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; to depictions of promiscuity thought to be too suggestive, as in Moll Flanders; to descriptions of consensual sexual intercourse labeled too “explicit,” as in Women in Love. Sex, both the physical act and the broad range of feelings involved in sexual desire, is an important part of human life. It is, of course, the way in which we procreate and thus the method by which our species survives, but outside of procreation, sex and sexual desire are vital components of what it means to be human. All healthy human beings have sexual impulses and sexual desires. Our sexual histories, fantasies, and relationships (or the lack thereof ) are a part of our identities. Literature, as a mirror on the human condition, therefore must address the subject of sex and sexuality, but there are great variations on how and to what extent.

The human need to procreate is one obvious reason why sex is so important to human beings, but it is by no means the only reason, or even the primary one. Sexual desire—even merely feeling it, not necessarily acting upon it—has been seen as inspiring as well as impure, as a generator of creativity but also as an initiator of debilitating guilt, as the source of life’s greatest pleasures, and as the cause of life’s greatest pain. From the beginnings of Western civilization, discussing and writing about sex has been controversial. In Desire: A History of European Sexuality, Ann Clark explains that Western thought regarding sex has traditionally been divided into two competing threads: one that sees sexual desire as “polluting and dangerous,” and one that sees it as “creative, transcendent, and transformative” (1). Some ancient Greeks worried that reason and sexual desire were incompatible, but in general the Greeks did “not see sex itself as shameful or honorable” and believed that “aggressive sexual energy could be a force for fertility, culture, and spirituality” (15). They even used “the language of erotic love to describe the ascent from earthly love to spiritual love” (1). In fact, sex for the ancient Greeks only became a “problem” when it transgressed the boundaries of the social order, as when a man had sex with another man’s wife (i.e., his property) or if a man of the upper class took a submissive role in sex with a man of the lower classes. The early church, however, had a largely negative attitude toward sex and sexual desire, seeing celibacy as a better, more pure way of life. In Jewish life, sexual desire was not seen as inherently evil, and sex within marriage was a definite good. However, early Christians, such as the apostle Paul in the first century, saw sex, even sex within marriage, as a dangerous corruption that would lead believers away from God (39). Saint Augustine, for example, writing in the fourth century, greatly admired celibates and felt much guilt about his early pagan life. This attitude, that sex is polluting, corrupting, and dirty, is present even today. In literature, we see this attitude in many works. In William Shakespeare’s King Lear, for instance, men who pursue their sexual desires are clearly painted as fools, doomed to eventual ruin. In Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Sue Bride-

sex and sexualityâ•…â•… 99 head sees the act of sex as the road to disaster, avoids it whenever she can, and blames her sexual relationship with Jude for their tragic end. Other works of literature hold the opposite view, however, treating sex as a positive force, even sometimes as a useful metaphor for things such as ambition, transcendence, and crossing difficult boundaries. In Lysistrata, for example, the women know that they can use sex as a weapon for peace. Thus, sex is seen as wholly positive. The men want sex because it delivers pleasure, and the women know that its power is so great that it can end the wars they so despise. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night ’s Dream shows the reader that while a surrender to lust can be destructive, as when Oberon tricks Titania into sleeping with Bottom, sexual union within marriage brings about great things: fertility, spirituality, and creativity. Similarly, the relationship between Rupert and Ursula in D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love is portrayed as an ideal sexual relationship, transcendent and mystical, that unites the two lovers while still leaving them as individual beings. Women in Love is only one of the many Lawrence novels that treat sex and sexuality so frankly. The Rainbow, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Sons and Lovers all contain plots that emphasize the important role of sex and sexuality in the lives of human beings. Lawrence was heavily influenced by the psychosexual development theories of the Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud. Freud’s theories on how we develop as sexual beings are so important to the way in which we think about sex and the brain that they cannot be ignored. He argues that all adult neurosis is borne from childhood sexuality. According to his theories, we have instinctive sexual appetites, even as infants, and these appetites mature in a series of changes, with the object of our affection being the primary change. Freud believed that getting “stuck” in one phase was the source of psychological problems in adults. He even used a work of literature, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, to name the complex in which an adult remains fixated on his mother as the object of affection. Freud’s theories on psychosexual development received an enormous amount of attention throughout most of the 20th century. However, other

scientists have criticized his theories for being focused on sex to the exclusion of other elements that influence our personalities, and feminists have pointed out that his theories focus heavily on male sexuality. Nevertheless, his attention to sexual desire as an important part of our personalities was an invaluable step in terms of transforming the ways in which we talk about sex and sexuality. The French theorist Michel Foucault points out this importance in his own influential work The History of Sexuality (1976–84). Foucault’s argument counteracts the generally accepted narrative that in Western society, talk of sex is repressed. Instead, he claims that since the 19th century, discourse about sex has exploded, in venues such as the doctor’s office and the church confessional. As in those two examples, however, this discourse has been controlled by those in power, keeping those not in power marginalized. Part of this control involves labeling certain sex acts, or even sexual urges, pathological. Foucault’s own identity as an open homosexual to his friends, but not open to the rest of the world, may have influenced his thinking here. In fact, briefly surveying the treatment of homosexuality in literature, one might be left with the mistaken impression that there were no open homosexuals well into the 20th century. Homosexual themes and story lines abound in this history, but they are almost always coded and indirect. One of the most famous examples is in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam, A. H. H, an elegiac poem written after the death of his dear friend Arthur Hallam. Tennyson speaks of his loss in intense terms, some of which have become famous for speaking of heterosexual love: “↜’Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” (Canto 27, 15–16). That the object of his love and his loss was another man was not considered scandalous, precisely because Tennyson was indirect here, rather than explicit. In fact, describing close, intense friendships between same-sex pairs is one of the most common ways in which homosexuality has historically been expressed in literature. Writers as diverse as Edmund Spenser, Lord Byron, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Virginia Woolf have written of these devoted friendships in a way that allows the spirit of same-sex love to be expressed without

100â•…â•… social class explicitly naming the relationship as a sexual one. In addition, literary critics have long found homoerotic undertones in works that involve “male bonding,” even when that was not necessarily the author’s intention. The American critic Leslie Fiedler noted these undertones between Huck and Jim in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in his famous essay “Come Back A’gin to the Raft, Huck Honey” (1948). Fiedler and others have pointed out similar relationships between Ishmail and Queequeg in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, the vampire hunting crew in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Finny and Gene in John Knowles’s A Separate Peace. Openly homosexual characters in literature were rare until the late 20th century. Society’s prohibition against same-sex relationships, as well as the probable desire of some homosexual authors to keep their sexuality hidden, limited the direct display of any sexual orientation that was not heterosexual in all forms of art. In fact, when the lesbian author Radclyffe Hall published the lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness in 1928, she was put on trial for obscenity. When homosexuality did make an open appearance in literature before this point, it was usually mocked, as in many English plays of the 18th century, or clearly considered a failing, as in Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The end of the 20th century saw a somewhat more open attitude, with texts like James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain and Jeannette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit treating homosexuality as one important facet of a character’s identity. While sex and sexuality are clearly vital to human existence, their treatment in print has often been oblique, requiring the reader to read between the lines and tease out meanings from indirect references and suggestive metaphors. Obviously necessary for the continuation of the species, sex is also of paramount importance in terms of identity and can have a profound effect on our health and our emotions. Literature, therefore, has always addressed the issue and will continue to do so (perhaps more openly) as we move into the 21st century. See also Chopin, Kate: Awakening, The; Cisneros, Sandra: Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories; Dreiser, Theodore: Sister Car-


Erdrich, Louise: Love Medicine; Hesse, Herman: Steppenwolf; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself; James, Henry: Turn of the Screw, The; Marshall, Paule: Brown Girl, Brownstones; Shakespeare, William: Taming of the Shrew, The; Silko, Leslie Marmon: Almanac of the Dead; Smith, Jean: Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A; Toomer, Jean: Cane; Walker, Alice: Color Purple, The. FURTHER READING Clark, Anna. Desire: A History of European Sexuality. New York and London: Routledge, 2008. Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1. New York: Vintage, 1978.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple

social class

Contemporary and historical studies of varied social structure systems suggest that stratification of wealth and status is inevitable. When people come together to form a community, one of the results is an intricate organization wherein we notice a continuum of wealth and status ranging from the most deprived street beggar to the most privileged administrator of that society. Currently there are many types of these stratified systems in existence, and a cursory understanding of a few of them will give a reader insight into his or her own society’s hierarchical structure. And with a closer look at many postindustrial societies’ class systems, we are better able to understand why and how writers find the inspection of this type of social hierarchy so valuable. Social stratification takes many forms, and the class system with which we are familiar in the United States is only one of many. While there are infinite other divisions that separate groups from one another, we might relate these divisions to three qualities that give a group more privilege than another: power, status, and wealth. A few categories of these stratifying structures are those of the caste, estate, and slavery systems (Schaefer 187–188). India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan have a long history of the caste system, wherein people’s occupations, earning capabilities, and life opportunities are determined by ancestral background. Once

social classâ•…â•… 101 born into a caste, a person will face many obstacles in attempting to maneuver beyond certain stigmas or narrowly defined possibilities dictated by caste membership. Alternatively, the estate system, or feudalism, is based on land ownership, as well as the power and wealth that come with such ownership. Under this system, a lowly serf might serve a life of physical labor with little hope of owning land, while a lordly landowner would pass down property through familial inheritance. Thus, families maintain powerful status in the feudal system. The slavery system also encourages the power of families in maintaining ownership of land and slaves. Until the mid-19th century in the United States, the slavery system enabled families in the Confederate States to exercise much economic and political power. This power did not wholly dissipate after the abolition of the slavery system. The caste, estate, and slavery systems are all examples of “closed systems” of social ranking (Schaefer 536). Alternatively, an “open system” is one that offers individuals opportunity for greater mobility between levels in the hierarchical social structure. The class system falls under this “open system” category. Max Weber, an influential German sociologist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, proposed three distinctions for the purpose of analyzing and categorizing people and groups within this system: class, status, and wealth (Schaefer 191). People in this system are stratified into social classes that we normally subdivide based on families’ and individuals’ monetary income. Along with greater monetary income comes the capability to access certain luxuries and amenities that a lesser income may not allow. Accordingly, the stratified levels of this system are labeled along a continuum of wealth, which, as we have seen, is concomitant in most cases with continuums of power and status. W. Lloyd Warner, in his book Social Class in America, recommends a six-level ranking system of social class divided into the (1) upper-upper, (2) lower-upper, (3) uppermiddle, (4) lower-middle, (5) upper-lower, and (6) lower-lower classes (14). Along with these differing class levels and their respective access to wealth and earning power come capabilities and deprivations closely associated with

such rankings. Literature that deals with social class often comments on these capabilities and deprivations. According to Warner, authors who focus on class characteristically give their attention to the phenomena of social inequality—the tragic or comic, but always strained, relations between the members of different social strata, and the rise and fall of individuals and families, particularly emphasizing the strivings of people to climb into the class above and the efforts of those above to keep them out. (231) In conjunction with this type of commentary, an author might focus on divisive group characteristics that are necessarily linked to social class. Gender, race, genealogy, and locality are among some of the characteristics that might affect, at least in part, one’s social class. In their study Women and Social Class, Pamela Abbot and Roger Sapsford ask a question, specifically with regard to women: Are open systems really open? According to these scholars, current theoretical analyses of social class do not thoroughly explain “the subordinate position of women” or “adequately reflect the full range of stratification, social mobility and class awareness” of those living within class systems (1). We can easily expand Abbot and Sapsford’s viewpoint to apply to other groups that are similarly limited in their abilities to move from lower social strata to higher class status. Various authors, poets, and playwrights establish similar perspectives. In William Faulkner’s Light in August, we see the struggles of a young man with a multiethnic background. The protagonist, Joe Christmas, lives in early 20th-century Mississippi and falls victim to a local community’s rumors, prejudice, and violence. He meets one frustrating situation after another in his effort to evade the history of exploitation and hatred directed at him and others of African-American ancestry. Though coming, in part, from Anglo-European lineage, he cannot evade victimization and prejudice. As a result, he sees no prospects of rising out of the lower class, even though Joanna Burden, his clandestine lover and sympathizer, encourages him to pursue an

102â•…â•… social class education. Christmas internalizes the racial “glass ceiling” and sees it at each possible opportunity. Addressing issues of social class has been a pattern in literature for some time, yet facing the realities of the lower class’s plight has been a somewhat recent development in literature. Novels focusing on the lifestyles and scandals of those in the upper classes were common during the Victorian Age (1837–1901) in Europe and the United States. Members of the upper classes steeped in luxury appear in novels such as Henry James’s Daisy Miller and Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. However, Dickens also focuses on the plight of the lower classes, a focus uncommon in the early 19th century. Dickens’s open-eyed awareness and experience of poverty motivated him to tell tales that depicted the struggles of the poor: a primary theme in many of his novels. The late 19th and early 20th century (sometimes known as the Gilded Age) saw an increase in literary attention on laborers and vagabonds of the lower class. Eric Shocket describes this focus as the “gaze over the divide at the Other” (2), suggesting that those who read these texts are more privileged than those under inspection. Stephen Crane, a popular and groundbreaking author of this period, created works that exposed the reading public to degraded images of the underprivileged. In his works, he paints grim pictures of those who endure many of the hardships associated with ghetto life. He and other writers of the naturalist movement likewise comment on the struggles of similarly deprived groups: those thought to be racially inferior and those from purportedly less-refined gene pools. During the Gilded Age, cultural views of gender, race, and ethnic equality were much less egalitarian than those of contemporary Europe and America, and these dated views are apparent in works of the period. Crane’s short novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) shows the heart-wrenching trials of a poverty-stricken adolescent and the abuse she endures at the hands of her family, and eventually at the hands of seducers. The lamentable qualities of the living conditions in the San Francisco slums compound our sorrow at her demise. Many works that deal with social class tend to take on a “rags to riches” theme by showing

characters striving to move from a lower to higher social stratum. The American media is particularly strewn with this trope. “[M]ass magazines and newspapers print and reprint the legendary story of rags to riches and tell over and over again the Ellis-island-to-Park-Avenue saga in the actual lives of contemporary successful immigrant men and women” (Warner 4). Some might question the degree to which this ideal is attainable, though we may quote multiple well-known examples. By way of challenging this trope, authors such as Theodore Dreiser have shown the damaging effects of such an ideology. Drieser’s novel An American Tragedy shows a young, intelligent, and energetic member of the lower class striving to reach the upper class by becoming a successful businessperson. Elitist ostracism, spite, and misfortune lead to Clyde Griffith’s eventual downfall after his attempt to climb the social class ladder. Inner turmoil, failed attempts at corporate climbing, and a confusing murder prosecution finally cause Griffith to regret his efforts. In depicting the protagonist’s ruin, Dreiser seems to suggest that one cannot easily abandon the learned tendencies of the lower class, nor climb easily upward in the social hierarchy. Today, fiction focusing on social climbing and plights of the lower and middle classes is very common. Much more than in literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries, we see novels combining issues of class with race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and locality. Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner (2003) is a prime example of a novel which confronts these issues in a tale of a family’s struggle to survive in cold war–era Afghanistan. A Sunni Muslim father and son, after enduring unabated turmoil in Afghanistan, immigrate to California, where they must make a new start, emotionally and financially. Louise Erdrich’s Tracks confronts the desperate situation of a group of Native Americans in northern Minnesota. Her characters must come to terms with a new, dominant culture’s policies of land ownership and commerce. Nanapush, Fleur Pillager, and their immediate relatives must confront troubling changes to their local community; they face difficulty adapting to foreign concepts of property rights and class division. In the novel, the Indians are relegated to a remote area on the banks of a lake,

spiritualityâ•…â•… 103 where they attempt to sustain themselves. However, the local authorities confiscate their land because, by an unfortunate mishap, they have neglected to pay property taxes. They resist the foreign concepts of a highly organized class system. The local community subjugates them and eventually pushes them off the land they once inhabited. In the end, we see their way of life vanishing as a newer system takes its place. Partly as a result of these expanded and multitudinous considerations of societal inequality, some theorists question the efficacy of assessing social class as the primary source of stratification. The postmodernist movement encourages us to see aspects of culture as fragmented and uneasy to categorize or discern. Accordingly, some contemporary sociologists argue that social class is an “outmoded concept” and that we must consider the increasingly “fragmented” quality of social stratification (Devine 1). For these scholars, traditional class stratification concepts are changing and possibly no longer applicable to a postindustrialist society where the majority of people are preoccupied with lifestyle and amenity concerns. However, these theorists are currently on the margins of contemporary sociological study. They focus on a demographic that does not represent the myriad nations and communities characterized by highly varied stratification. Social class remains a prevalent reality for those living within its characteristic open system. Class greatly affects the way individuals, families, and communities prioritize particular ways of living. And where one falls within this stratified hierarchy is closely and irrevocably related to one’s intimate and outward identity. See also Achebe, Chinua: Anthills of the Savannah; Amis, Kingsley: Lucky Jim; Austen, Jane: Emma; Bellow, Saul: Adventures of Augie March, The; Cao Xueqin: Dream of the Red Chamber; Cather, Willa: My Ántonia; Dickens, Charles: G reat Expectations; Tale of Two Cities, A; Dreiser, Theodore: Sister Carrie; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Great Gatsby, The; Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the d ’Urbervilles; James, Henry: Daisy Miller; Lewis, Sinclair: Main Street; Naylor, Gloria: Women of Brewster Place, The; Proust, Marcel: Remembrance

of Things Past; Shakespeare, William: Henry V;

Merchant of Venice, The; Midsummer Night ’s Dream, A; Shaw, George Bernard: Pygmalion; Smith, Betty: Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A; Swift, Jonathan: Modest proposal, A; Updike, John: Rabbit Run; Wharton, Edith: Age of Innocence, The; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs Dalloway. FURTHER READING Abbot, Pamela, and Roger Sapsford. Women and Social Class. London: Tavistock Publications, 1987. Devine, Fiona. Social Class in America and Britain. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997. Schaefer, Richard T. Sociology. New York: McGrawHill, 1983. Shocket, Eric. Vanishing Moments: Class and American Literature. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2006. Warner, W. Lloyd. Social Class in America: A Manual of Procedure for the Measurement of Social Status. New York: Harper & Row, 1960.

Liam Conway Nesson


The term spirituality has been used in a great variety of ways, both religious and secular. When associated with religion, the term is practically inextricable from “God” and the myriad concepts connected with a belief in a higher power that guides, directs, and rewards human beings for leading a life in accordance with religious principles. From a secular perspective, the term is aligned with the workings of the mind, the senses, and the perceived material and, in some cases, immaterial world. For instance, the American transcendentalists used spirituality as a special mark of those superior intellects able to perceive a reality beyond the material world, a world of the “spirit” which is not necessarily dependent on the physical senses to interpret. Evangelical Christianity reserves the term to describe tender religious emotions, while, in contrast, the French have appropriated it as the name for the finer perceptions of life, which implies a firm link with the material evidence of reality around us. Various derivatives of the term include spiritual, spiritualism, spiritualist, spiritism, and the spirit, all words implying slightly

104â•…â•… spirituality more nuanced interpretations of the disconnect between the perceived reality of the physical world and a conceived reality of a realm beyond it—one that is not relative to, nor dependent on, the senses reacting in conjunction with the mind. If all of this sounds rather mysterious, it is primarily because the conceptual nature of the term has its etymological roots in the Hebrew word ruach, which refers to the ethereal or elusive nature of spirit, breath, or wind, as that which gives life and animation to something. Further, the term gets its modern implications from the Latin definition of immaterial (immaterialis, late Latin, 14th century) which consists of an essence that cannot be seen, contained, or even proven in a validated manner (i.e., scientifically). Thus, spirituality is a quality that is associated with persons or things but is paradoxically distinct from material or worldly concerns. Indeed, as the Scottish evangelist Henry Drummond stated in Natural Law in the Spiritual World (1883), “No spiritual man ever claims that his spirituality is his own” (89). This distinction between the material or natural world and the immaterial or spiritual world is central to the history of the debate regarding the nature of spirituality. By the 19th century, this debate assumed even greater proportions after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, which posited man’s descent from apes through a process of natural selection, thereby calling into doubt the validity of man’s creation by God as depicted in the book of Genesis in the Bible. The struggle to define spirituality in terms that account for this ongoing debate has continued ever since. However, what can be stated with assurance is that the concept of spirituality relates directly to the conception of faith and arises from a creative and dynamic synthesis of faith and life. Broadly interpreted, fiction is about the human condition, and spirituality is that sense of our selves as linked in some relational way to the larger concept of the universe. As such, this theme permeates nearly all fiction in ways that can be either subtle or dramatically overt, depending on how we as readers react to the conceptual, and frequently nonmaterial, clues provided by the author. Concepts such as the divine (or divinity), the soul or spirit, the mystical, transcendence, suffering, love, ecstasy, and even

human egotism are linked in multiple complex ways to our understanding and practice of spirituality. Among the Christians (especially the mystics) and the Sufis (a Muslim sect), the main concern of spiritual life is with the human mind and its divine essence. As Saint Catherine of Genoa, a renowned Christian mystic, wrote, “My Me is God, nor do I recognize any other Me” (quoted in Huxley 11, italics added). Within a religious context, there are myriad guides to understanding what constitutes the “spiritual” since religious history provides us with textual references that document, historicize, and instruct the individual’s understanding of the universe and their place in it. These guides include the Bible; the Torah; the Quran; and the writings of Buddha, the Hindu gods, and Confucius, to name but a few. Yet the spiritual cannot be confined to merely the religious and textual foundations of belief, since the spiritual also puts us in touch with that center of ourselves that is silent, mystical, and profoundly aware of the awesome beauty and power of what is clearly felt, yet beyond our control—the emotive force and energy of love; the symmetry and perfection of nature; and, not least of all, the passions and beliefs that ignite the soul. In more explicitly fictional terms, spirituality can be thematically reflected in texts through a number of literary devices that evoke specific spiritual responses from the reader. Readers may feel transformed in their consciousnesses or their lives, either vicariously through the fictive experience of one or more characters or more directly through a cathartic (energizing or healing) response to the work as a whole. Readers might also experience and know God through the creation of a fictional world; these works serve as allegories and are frequently imitative of previous works. Some works describe quest narratives that take one or more characters through the stages of a spiritual journey toward greater understanding of themselves; of the world around them; and of the nature of faith, hope, and love. Works that describe spirituality on this level may involve actual or imaginative travel to realms of otherworldliness, flights of fancy, or human physical/mental transport that defies the limitations of time and place. Other works infuse mystical feeling into their settings and natu-

stages of lifeâ•…â•… 105 ral worlds, such that a divine influence or presence is rendered as an aesthetic sensibility (an artistic, visual representation of beauty). Poetry, in particular, abounds with examples of natural imagery that is imbued with an ethereal quality reminiscent of spiritual perfection. Writers might also include symbols and motifs that emphasize aspects of faith particular to one or more sets of religious beliefs and values (the theology that can give rise to different spiritualities). Such references are usually universally identifiable by virtue of their iconic significance or historical prevalence, and they can include both occult as well as monotheistic images, such as angels, the all-seeing eye, butterflies, the cross of Christianity, the Celtic cross, the dove, the circle (or ring), the evil eye, the hexagram (or six-pointed star), the serpent or snake, the trident, and the triangle (or pyramid). For example, works such as Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s P rogress, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost address the theme of spirituality within an exclusively religious or ecclesiastical context, since each work is essentially an allegory or parable that posits a fictional account of the respective Catholic, Puritan, and Episcopal traditions of religious life and afterlife as described by believers. Indeed, the function of parable in religion is to exhibit “form by form”; thus, natural phenomena serve mainly an illustrative function in religion. Accordingly, within each of these works, the path to spiritual awareness is well documented and the lines between good and evil are clearly drawn; the individual’s experience in life and on earth is characterized as a precursor to the progress of their soul after death. Similarly, works such as Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor; Arthur Miller’s The Crucible; George Eliot’s Silas Marner; and William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience can also be considered parables in which the individual is subjected to external, natural, and social forces characterized as both good and evil in order to illustrate the power of the spirit over the materiality and grossness of the world, albeit at a price. See also Anaya, Rudolfo: Bless Me, Ultima; Black Elk: Black Elk Speaks; Carver, Raymond: “Cathedral”; Davis, Robertson: Fifth Busi-


Dickinson, Emily: poems; Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment; Emerson, Ralph Waldo: “American Scholar, The”; “Divinity School Address, The”; Equiano, Olaudah: Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, The; Hesse, Herman: Siddhartha; Ibsen, Henrik: Hedda Gabler; Kipling, Rudyard: Kim; Kureishi, Hanif: Buddha of Suburbbia, The; Reed, Ishmael: Mumbo Jumbo; Thoreau, Henry David: Walden. FURTHER READING Blythe, Ronald, et al. Ink and Spirit: Literature and Spirituality. Norwich, Eng.: Canterbury Press, 2000. Drummond, Henry. Natural Law in the Spiritual World. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1892. Huxley, Aldous. Perennial Philosophy. New York: HarperCollins, 1945.

Colleen Pauza

stages of life

If, as the American mythologist Joseph Campbell has suggested, a primary purpose of storytelling is “the reconciliation of consciousness with the preconditions of its existence” (180), then, given the undeniable precondition of mortality, it is to be expected that the journey a life makes in its arc from cradle to grave is a common concern of literature. Indeed, most of the world’s religions include in their respective mythologies ideas concerning life comprising segments or movements. For instance, Hinduism teaches that a life span consists of three primary stages: the student, the householder, and the retiree. The Talmud instructs that a man will find himself playing seven roles in his life: infant, child, boy, young man, married man, parent, and old man, each in regular succession. Cree Indian spiritualism holds that there are seven “times” that demarcate one’s existence, each characterized by a condition (e.g., confusion) or an action (e.g., planting). Similarly, when we look at traditional folktales, we find a persistent concern with stages of existence. From Aesop we have the story of the horse, the ox, and the dog who bestow upon man the gifts of their natures with which to divide up his life. Included in Grimm’s Fairy Tales is the narrative of God decid-

106â•…â•… stages of life ing the life span of each living thing, with man in his greed receiving the rejected remainder from the more humble donkey, dog, and monkey. Hence, working is burdensome, retirement is suspicious, and old age is foolish. The best description in a literary masterpiece of this tradition of inevitable progression through stages of life is the “All the world’s a stage” monologue of the cynical courtier Jaques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (act 2, scene 7): All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms: Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning-face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation, Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lin’d, With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side; His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness, and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. In Edgar Allan Poe’s masterful allegory “The Masque of the Red Death,” Prince Prospero vainly imagines he can first wall out and then defeat death. The arrangement of the abbey within which Prospero and his guests imagine themselves to be invulnerable is symbolic and also highly evocative of Jaques’s speech: seven rooms, each of a different hue and thus character, each imperceptible from the vantage point of the others. There is a sense in which the concept of life comprising stages is less a theme of literature than a precondition itself, an assumed norm, and many thematic concerns arise from the frustration, retardation, or inhibition of the process. That is, characters who fail to progress in a timely fashion experience considerable turmoil and anguish due to their unnatural state. This posits the notion that the stages are contingent on volition, the character’s capacity to make the proper choices or draw the correct conclusions from experience. Consider, for instance, the number of memorable characters who are, in essence, stuck as adolescents. Holden Caulfield in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is, though still young, unnaturally bent on dividing the world into “phonies” (nearly every adult) and those more like his sister Phoebe and late brother Allie, whom he imagines to be uncorrupted and static in a wholly unrealistic way. His inability to function at a level appropriate to his age (failure at a succession of preparatory schools, childish infatuation without any overt action with Jane Gallagher, impotent response to the prostitute Sunny) could all be seen as inevitable consequences of his untenable mental/emotional/spiritual stage/age (roughly 12, instead of 16). Similarly, though in many respects more egregiously, Harry Angstrom from John Updike’s Rabbit, Run cannot bring himself to accept the preconditions of life as a 26-year old husband and father-to-be. Just as his nickname implies, he runs, toward irresponsibility and what he imagines to be inconsequential hedonism with a prostitute. However, as the tragedy of his denials unfolds, we are

successâ•…â•… 107 made to understand that Harry’s flight from young adulthood is not only futile but also destructive. Interestingly, Updike’s three subsequent installments of Harry’s life all find him at least one step behind (and he dies where he essentially began—playing basketball). Just as striking are the sundry literary characters whose progress through the latter stages of existence is thwarted by magic, addiction, attachment to the past, or a simple lack of faith. In his poem “Tithonus,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson memorably depicted the story of Tithonus, Aurora’s beloved, doomed to “wither slowly” in her arms because he cannot die. His is the story of the dark side of immortality, of course, the realization that our fear of death often obscures its necessity. T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock, in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” offers the figure of one who seeks to arrest the progress of time by never choosing (“Do I dare?”). He grows old, but he cannot “force the moment to its crisis”—that is, he remains more observer than agent in his own life. Like Tithonus, he has come to realize that there are worse things than the surrender to the inevitable conclusion of life—namely, that one can live out a spiritual death of excruciating torture. Fiction writers subsequent to the advent of modernism at the turn of the 20th century seemed increasingly inclined to suggest that, far from inevitable, progress through life necessarily involves struggle and, ideally, a crucible or challenging ritual that forces graduation to the next stage. Later in the century, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony offered the compelling portrait of Tayo, whose alcoholism and inner turmoil keep him rooted in the crucible of his youth, World War II. Through the help of Betonie, the shaman, he is able to see a way forward by accepting the crucible of the moment. Tayo realizes “there were transitions that had to be made in order to become whole again” (170). Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is another example of this concept of conditional stages at work. Santiago’s crucible of more than 80 days of fishing without a catch becomes the ultimate test of faith in himself, his traditions, his beliefs, and his capacity for endurance. By implication, Santiago’s great struggle is the struggle we all must face as the time of our thriving inevitably

passes, when the world is unlikely to offer much in the way of affirmation. For Santiago, the passage through is not a form of surrender nor, certainly, a turning away from the moment toward fantasy. Rather, his essence is reaffirmed by the fact of his endurance, his ultimate landing of the great marlin. Although the marlin is stripped of its tangible value by sharks, Santiago’s victory is ensured by the enormity of the skeleton. In a sense, Santiago’s triumph unifies all the stages of a life lived in obedience to a code. Ironically, had he changed with the times, he would have negated his very existence. His ultimate test of faith in himself comes when he has the least reason for faith, which Hemingway strongly suggests is the nature of life when he has Santiago tell the young Manolin that September is the time of the great fish, and thus “anyone can be a fisherman in May” (18). See also Carroll, Lewis: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Frost, Robert: poems; Gaines, Ernest J.: Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, The; Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki: Farewell to Manzanar; Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God; Shakespeare, William: Tempest, The; Shelley, Percy Bysshe: poems; Wilder, Thornton: Our Town; Williams, Tennessee: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Wordsworth, William: “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”; Wright, Richard: Black Boy. FURTHER READING Campbell, Joseph. The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays 1959–1987. Edited by Antony Van Couvering. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1997. Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Scribner, 1975. Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. 1977. Reprint, New York: Penguin, 2006.

Daniel Ryan Morse


What does it mean to be successful in life? Many people would equate success with wealth, but some wealthy people are profoundly unhappy. Others would equate success with power or fame, which are equally problematic. If we assume that being successful is about attaining goals, few would pur-

108â•…â•… success sue goals that were geared toward making them unhappy. It seems, then, that success might best be equated with, or at least linked to, happiness. Indeed, when we look at differing accounts of the “successful” over time, we see that one thing they have in common, whether we are discussing a simple, yeoman farmer from the 18th century, or the 20thcentury steel baron Andrew Carnegie, is that they were pursuing their dreams in order that they might achieve excellence and be fulfilled. In other words, they were tying success to personal happiness, not to wealth, power, or fame. Those things might come as accessories to success, but they are not the primary motivators. Literature is full of characters for whom those empty dreams are the driving forces, and those characters usually meet bad ends. In order to see the truly “successful” among the pantheon of literary characters, we must first explore exactly what we mean by success. Although thoughts on success and its nature are quite common in literature, often the characters who embody it or seek it are deeply unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives. The philosopher Tom Morris might argue that this is because these characters are confusing true success with something else, something destructive in its emptiness. In his 1994 book True Success, Morris argues that we misconceive the meaning of success, confusing it with fame or with power or, most often, with wealth. But, he says, we can all think of wealthy people who are unhappy or who did nothing on their own to attain their wealth. Both of these qualifications seem to go against the basic definition of success: obtaining the object of one’s desire. In Silas Marner, by George Eliot, Silas hoards the gold he earns, becoming very wealthy but very unhappy. It is not until he has a fulfilling purpose in life, raising Eppie, that he can truly be called successful. The extreme unhappiness and dissatisfaction of the wealthy Sutpen family from William Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom! demonstrates how inherited wealth does not automatically bring success. Thomas Sutpen is a self-made man whose outward appearance might be the picture of success. But although he is wealthy and powerful, he not only guarantees his own unhappiness by denouncing his part-black son but also passes that unhappiness on to his chil-

dren. He ends his life an alcoholic, murdered by the grandfather of his 15-year-old mistress and largely forgotten by his community. Like wealth, fame and power do not guarantee success either. Both can be fleeting, and if our only end is to achieve them, not to find fulfillment in the pursuits that led to the fame and the power, then we are doomed to fail. In our tabloid rich society, it is not difficult to think of people whom power and fame had seemingly put on top of the world, but who quickly descended to the depths of failure. In lieu of the dubious pursuits of wealth, fame, and power, Morris posits a new conception of success, one requiring that we incorporate certain conditions into our daily lives. He says, “Our idea of success should be more closely related to our ideas of excellence and fulfillment. And to our idea of happiness” (32). He claims that to truly be successful, we must have a clear idea of what we are seeking; we must be confident and consistent, committed to the pursuit and the concentration it takes; and finally, and perhaps most interestingly in light of literature, we must have character of “high quality” and the capacity to enjoy our success. Morris contends here that if “success” is pursued for immoral means or if the spoils of success are the only motivator, then that is not “true success.” Morris is (understandably) working against the popular 20th-century concept of success. Interestingly, definitions of success prior to this period were more in line with Morris’s thinking. Rex Burns, in Success in America, explores older ideas of success, focusing on the yeoman farmer, the epitome of success in the 18th century. He explains that under this conception, there were three major elements in order to claim success: competence, independence, and morality. This farmer needed not wealth, and certainly not fame or power, to be considered successful. In fact, Jeffrey Decker explains in Made in America that in the 18th and 19th centuries, success was “character based.” There was an explicit link between productive enterprise and religious faith that came to be known as the “Protestant work ethic,” which informs the stories of Horatio Alger, popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These stories, sometimes called “rags to riches” or “luck and pluck” stories, usually involve a poor adolescent boy

successâ•…â•… 109 who manages to rise to prosperity on the strength of his character and determination. Decker believes that these stories allowed turn of the century readers “an outlet for reinforcing their belief in the residual concept of character based success” (2). American literature from this period and into the 20th century is full of examples of characters who, because they lack character, cannot be truly successful. Besides the aforementioned Thomas Sutpen, there is Jay Gatsby, the title character of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Gatsby earns his wealth through questionable associations with unscrupulous people, all so that he may win the love of Daisy Buchanan. Even were he to achieve this goal, he would not be truly successful. He would be unable to enjoy his achievement, because he showed poor character in its pursuit, and because he is denying his true identity in the entire enterprise. Like Sutpen, Gatsby ends up a victim of murder. Willy Loman, from Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman, is an excellent example of a character who strives his whole life for success, but because he does not really understand what success is, he is doomed to never achieve it. Willy wants only to be “well-liked” and takes no joy from the job he thinks will help him to achieve this end. He interacts with his family only in the context of how successful he is, and since this existence is a lie, his relationships with them are empty. Like Willy, Rabbit Angstrom in John Updike’s Rabbit, Run desperately bemoans the life he sees as mundane and stagnant, thinking that his only successes in life are behind him, with the glory of his high school basketball career. Because he puts no focus, concentration, or passion into his current life, he cannot feel, even to mourn the death of his baby daughter. On the other hand, a character such as Jo March, from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, despite a distinct lack of wealth, power, and social status, ends the narrative very happy and, because she achieves her aims, successful. Jo wants to be an intellectually independent woman, and in 19th-century New England, this was not a common or easily attained goal. She rejects the love of Laurie because, despite her affection for him, she knows he will want a traditional marriage. She moves to New York to pursue her love of writing and gain independence,

and there she meets her true mate, Professor Bhaer, who understands and respects her forthright, determined nature. She opens a school, marries Bhaer, and ends the novel the epitome of success. While success as a theme is common in all American literature, it is perhaps most common in African-American literature. This is perhaps because, as Audrey Edwards and Craig K. Polite argue, for black Americans, success is “a relative” phenomenon, “measured as much by what has been overcome as by what has been achieved” (3). Often systematically denied a level playing field, such as equal educations, equal access to certain careers, and equal opportunities to live and work in desirable places, African Americans have been forced to define success differently than whites. In addition, the specter of failure has been so internalized among African Americans that many may feel that they are inferior and cannot truly compete in the white world. Thus, success and its pursuit are frequently explored in texts by African-American writers. Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery presents one view of African-African success, albeit a controversial one. Washington believed blacks’ road to success was to be found in learning to work hard, have good manners, and participate in the rank and file of the working class. At the Tuskegee Institute, a school he founded, all students had to participate in menial chores as well as their studies. Although many students rebelled, Washington was resolute in his view that blacks had to build a modest foundation before they could reach for the heights of success. Ralph Kabnis, in Jean Toomer’s Cane, represents the rebellious students who did not agree with Washington’s plan. Educated in the North, he does not anticipate that despite his credentials and social standing, he will be forced to act deferential around all whites, even those who are less educated than he and who hold a less prestigious place in society. Like many African Americans both before him and after him, he finds that he must begin in a metaphorical hole and dig his way out just to get the respect any human being deserves. Characters like Ralph chafe against Washington’s idea that blacks should prove their worth to whites. Instead, they want that worth to be assumed from the beginning.

110â•…â•… suffering Feeling worthy of success in this way is, perhaps, a criterion for achieving it. The underlying reason why many literary characters who are focused on wealth, power, and fame fail spectacularly in these pursuits is because there is no intrinsic value in their quest. When we strive for wealth just for wealth’s sake, and not because what we are doing to achieve it fulfills us, we are doomed to fail. See also Angelou, Maya: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Dos Passos, John: U.S.A. trilogy; Franklin, Benjamin: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The; Morrison, Toni: Tar Baby; Mukherjee, Bharati: Middleman and Other Stories, The; Naipaul, V. S.: House for Mr. Biswas, A; Steinbeck, John: Cannery Row; Wilde, Oscar: Importance of Being Ernest; The. FURTHER READING Burns, Rex. Success in America. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1976. Decker, Jeffrey. Made in America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Edwards, Audrey, and Craig K. Polite. Children of the Dream. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Morris, Tom. True Success. New York: Putnam, 1994.

Jennifer McClinton-Temple


Human beings shrink from suffering. We avoid confronting the afflictions of others because it is unpleasant, and if we focus on suffering for too long, it could give us a pessimistic view of the world. Nevertheless, we remain avid fans of television dramas, intense and violent movies, and works of literature that speak to the truest of human experiences. We read stories of the tragedies of others, partly as a form of escapism from our own troubles but also to reinforce our conviction that suffering is meaningful, as the conflicts in literature are almost always resolved (though perhaps not always to our satisfaction). In this way, literature involving suffering often restores our faith in justice and aids us in grappling with the question of why we suffer at all. At times characters’ trials are a tool authors use to reveal truths about the human condition, address flaws in society, or identify ways in which suffer-

ing can function as a motivator for progress (either individual or large-scale). Portrayals of suffering in literature also add realism and drama to the work while involving, influencing, and at times even challenging the reader. The theme of arbitrary, undeserved suffering has been taken up by a number of writers, including Shirley Jackson. In her short story “The Lottery” (1948), a quaint town prepares for an annual tradition. All of the families are present, and everyone draws a piece of paper out of a box. Tessie Hutchinson picks the one with the mark on it. The story ends abruptly and morbidly, with Tessie being stoned to death by her family and other members of the town. Her death is not redemptive, not meaningful except insofar as it constitutes in itself the meaning or essence of life. It is merely the result of a backward, empty ritual that the characters refuse to challenge. The town can also be interpreted as a microcosm of the world, in which people are capable of inflicting harm on others for no apparent reason. “The Lottery” is thus a parable about the arbitrariness of suffering, many of the traditions we hold, and of life itself. The cruelty inflicted by people or institutions, like that in “The Lottery,” is addressed in many other literary works as well. In such cases, depictions of suffering are often used in the service of social critique. For example, in her novel The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison confronts the reader with the harsh realities of growing up in a dysfunctional African-American family during a time of lingering discrimination and racism. The novel tells the story of a young girl, Pecola, who is tortured by abusive parents and deeply rooted feelings of inadequacy. As a result of her being raped by her father and becoming pregnant with his child, Pecola’s childhood is cut short, and she eventually slips into madness. Her self-esteem is virtually nonexistent from having grown up with the notion that whiteness is inherent in the definition of beauty. Her suffering, however, is merely the latest in a chain of human suffering as a result of the cruelty of others. Her father was abandoned by his parents and tormented by white men from early on. He is apathetic toward his marriage and life in general, while his wife, Pecola’s mother, is physically disabled and endures her husband’s abuse

sufferingâ•…â•… 111 because she feels she is deserving of it. Like Pecola, she is vastly insecure and has adopted society’s limited standards for beauty. She refuses to believe Pecola’s account of the rape and beats her. Many of the characters in Morrison’s novel are both victims and perpetrators of suffering, which contributes to its realism. We learn behavior from figures of authority, and after being affected repeatedly by the cruelty of others or of society, it is hard not to react by mimicking that behavior for self-preservational reasons, thereby continuing the cycle. Accounts of suffering as a result of human cruelty are most powerful in stories that are based in truth. This is the case in Elie Wiesel’s account of the Holocaust, entitled Night. The atrocities described through Wiesel’s narrator are all the more poignant because we know them to be real. The novel, which is in part a memoir, also addresses how suffering can lead to a crisis of (or loss of ) faith. In Night, the main character, Eliezer, is a devout Jew who endures the horror of the Jewish concentration camps. As a youth, he learned about God’s goodness and omnipotence; however, after being separated from his mother and sister, seeing babies burned alive and children hanged, and being forced to work long days with little or no food, his faith in a compassionate God wavers, understandably. The cruelty of the Nazis and even of the other prisoners is at odds with his religious teachings. He doubts and questions the existence of God but still references biblical passages. Although his intense suffering causes a crisis of faith, he never abandons his faith, but he grapples with reevaluating it to better explain his experience. Suffering, then, can act as a catalyst for learning and for spiritual and mental renewal. Suffering can also result from social institutions and philosophies, rather than from direct physical cruelty or arbitrary, superhuman forces. Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun illustrates the suffering that is caused by class stratification and the illusions inherent in both class divisions and the striving to ascend to a higher class. The Youngers are trapped by their social class and unable to move up in the world. They hungrily look forward to a $10,000 insurance check from the deceased Mr. Younger’s life-insurance policy. Each member of the family has his or her own personal plan for where

the money should go, but they ultimately decide to spend it on a new house in a white neighborhood. They are soon approached by a man who is willing to pay them to keep them from moving in. The Youngers are limited not only economically but also as a result of latent discrimination. They are unable to attain the American dream: that with hard work and perseverance, one can achieve anything. Rather, they are only able to improve their situation when they collectively decide to put the well-being of the family as a whole before their individual wishes. By cooperating and working together, they can transcend those boundaries that limit them, if not materialistically then in their outlook on life. Portrayals of suffering also often serve as vehicles to redemption or moral growth. This is true in Richard Wright’s novel Native Son, in which the main character, Bigger, only realizes the motivation behind his violent crimes after he is caught and doomed to execution. Bigger’s whole life has been spent suffering under the thumb of a “superior” white society, limited in what he could achieve from the start because he was black. The anger and resentment against the forces oppressing him build up and manifest themselves in violence against his friends, his girlfriend, and the daughter of the white man who employs him. The murders he commits empower him and give his life meaning for the first time, and he feels little guilt as a result. Before the end of the novel, though, he realizes that his behavior is a direct result of the racism he has experienced, and that equality is something to be strived for. Rather than defying the status quo, Bigger’s actions contribute to the cycle of racism by reaffirming the fears whites have of blacks. It is only by acting on his frustration that Bigger comes to realize the cause for them, and he finally feels remorse. Suffering is a key theme in literature because it unlocks the ethical possibilities of almost any literary text. Literature nurtures the reader’s ethical awareness and compassionate faculty with characters who may be quite different from the reader but inspire affinity and sympathy nonetheless. The emotional and intellectual responses to these characters’ suffering help increase a reader’s awareness of what is possible, and inherent, in this world—that is, suffering caused by others or by institutions. Literature

112â•…â•… survival depicting suffering also inspires hope and confidence in the resilience of the human spirit. In most stories, suffering is temporary and usually resolved by the end, even if the resolution is simply death or justice served for those who have suffered. Literature involving suffering, then, is often true to life, in that it portrays suffering as inevitable and sometimes inexplicable, but often endured and overcome. See also Bradford, William: Of Plymouth Plantation; Cather, Willa: O Pioneers!; Cisneros, Sandra: Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories; Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment; Edward, Jonathan: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”; Faulkner, William: Light in August; Greene, Graham: Heart of the Matter, The; Haley, Alex, and Malcolm X: Autobiography of Malcolm X, The; Heller, Joseph: Catch-22; Hersey, John: Hiroshima; Kafka, Franz: Metamorphosis, The; O’Connor, Flannery: W ise Blood; Orwell, George: Nineteen Eighty-Four; Paton, Alan: Cry, the Beloved Country; Pirandello, Luigi: Six Characters in Search of an Author; Shakespeare, William: King Lear; Swift, Jonathan: Modest Proposal, A; Voltaire: Candide. FURTHER READING Bending, Lucy. The Representation of Bodily Pain in Late Nineteenth-Century English Culture. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000. Noble, Marianne. The Masochistic Pleasures of Sentimental Literature. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000. Nussbaum, Martha C. Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Kristy Cerullo


As with any thematic approach to literary study, consideration of the role of survival in literature requires an acknowledgement of the ever-evolving nature of the theme itself. Of primary importance, then, is recognizing that at different times, in differ-

ent places, and to different people, the word survival has taken on myriad different meanings. Our very understanding of the term fluctuates. Centuries before the printing press, when written texts were far less common, oral transmission was often utilized as a means of relaying a text, thus literally tying the survival of texts to the living, breathing carriers thereof. The fate of people and texts were parallel. Numerous works, including Beowulf (Anonymous), when eventually recorded, sustained damage or were lost or consumed by fire. Therefore, concomitant to examining survival in literature, we have also to acknowledge the necessary survival of literature, an issue which, even with the technological advances that have taken place over the epochs, is again presenting itself. Literature, of course, cannot be without language, and this basic concern is not lost when we consider the founding documents of the English language. Early Anglo-Saxon pieces such as Bede’s Caedmon’s Hymn (ca. seventh century) are, in and of themselves, testaments to a fledgling language struggling for its very existence. Works like Bede’s faced an uphill battle against the preeminence of Latin, a language to which most deferred due to its association with the church. Hence, the survival of any language is, in and of itself, the survival of familiar ideas and expressions, of connective provincialism. The early forms of English thus served as a sort of cultural conduit to crude patriotism. Correspondingly, the texts that utilize these forms concern themselves often with defense and survival, whether focusing on the tribe or on the nation-state. The Arthurian legend serves as an early example of literature concerned with survival beyond merely that of the individual, as does Sir Gawain and the Green Knight centuries later (although as Gawain’s head is literally at stake, individual survival is not entirely dismissed). Given the ties between the church and Western states, especially since the rise of Christianity, the intermingling of religion, the state, and the texts that carried their respective messages was of the utmost importance. The middle of the second millennium in particular saw monumental struggles between Catholics and the newly emergent Protestants for control of the hearts, minds, and truly the states

survivalâ•…â•… 113 and texts of Europe. The inception of the printing press in the 15th century facilitated the transmission of Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s iconoclastic Protestant ideas and encouraged vernacular translations, sentiments that clashed with Catholicism’s insistence on Latin. Both biblical translations deemed unacceptable and those propounding them were subject to destruction via fire, and thus, the survival of both people and texts were again aligned. Dynamic both politically and textually, this era saw Henry VIII’s refutation of papal authority and his subsequent founding of the Anglican church; Elizabeth I’s rise, rule, and promulgation of Protestantism; and the ascension of King James I and creation of his conservative new Bible. The boundaries of these disputes, however, were continually expanding, as the dictums of the early modern age insisted that to be prosperous at home meant being prosperous abroad, and that meant the maintaining of colonial empires. As the struggle of the dominant ideologies in Europe quickly spilled over into its ever-expanding imperial holdings abroad, different views on survival presented themselves. John Milton’s Paradise Lost applied the Christian mythos as a means of examining survival in new worlds—Eden for Adam and Eve, and Hell for Lucifer. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels explored the notion that, sail where one may, survival—however one chooses to define it—is only ultimately possible through selfknowledge. Tales pouring back to Europe from the Western Hemisphere, including those of Cabeza de Vaca and John Smith, told harrowing tales of survival amid unfamiliar new environments. Captivity narratives such as Mary Rowlandson’s Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson, further underscored the dangers incumbent upon usurpation-based foreign settlement. The attendant horrors of “progress” helped, over the course of time, to spawn the romantic movement. Writers such as William Wordsworth (see “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”), John Keats, and Sir Walter Scott sought survival in and pined for a departed day that favored bucolic simplicity in tried locales over the ever-advancing technology utilized to conquer alien landscapes, cultures, and people.

But neither colonial exploitation nor its attendant cultural emphases would survive in the New World. Shortly after gaining independence, the United States produced its own literary examinations of just what it meant to survive. Early American writers—not merely those reproducing British fiction, but those with whom others identified the young country—such as James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving (see Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, The), and Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecoeur deductively chronicled the survival of the state by examining parcels thereof: ostensibly, the small villages and hamlets ranging across the frontier and the manner in which they were configured, governed, and threatened. From a spiritual perspective, Calvinist notions of predestination, which seem to take away our ability to act on our own, became the target of more and more disdain, as Americans inundated with notions of new horizons leveled mounting attacks on what they believed to be the domineering beliefs of their forbears, a system that essentially attributed the nature of one’s soul’s survival to luck. Such is the nature of Emily Dickinson’s probing, almost haunted poetry; hers is unsatisfied verse, work permeated by restlessness, want, and a need for a new savior. Her yearning for something new was largely representative of the mid-19th-century atmosphere that gave way to a more liberal unitarianism and, finally, transcendentalism. Spearheaded by the disheartened Unitarian preacher Ralph Waldo Emerson and his 1836 essay “Nature,” transcendentalists advanced the idea that surviving and flourishing were merely functions of recognizing one’s own innate divinity, an endeavor undertaken not via the intermediary of a preacher or priest in a church house, but alone. Hence, although the number of transcendentalists within the United States never exceeded that of an infinitesimal minority, their legacy survives and is celebrated as integrally American due to the manner in which emphasis on individuality and independence mirror the country’s stated goals. For example, Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself ” (see Leaves of Grass) is an inductive celebration of the nation-state as construed by each and every one of its respective constituent citizens and environs. His

114â•…â•… survival is truly poetry of inclusion, stressing both his spirit and body; by commemorating, rather than debasing his physicality, Whitman marvels at the manner in which matter only changes form, thereby ensuring its survival, be it as human, grass, or dirt beneath one’s boot soles. Henry David Thoreau took Whitman’s ebullience even further, specifically positing the wilderness as savior by writing in his essay “Walking” (1862) that “in wildness is the preservation of the world,” a sentiment that would come to serve as a mantra for environmentalists. The idealism of transcendentalism, however, would last only until the time of the Civil War, as national survival quickly advanced to the forefront of public consciousness. Slave narratives penned by Harriet Jacobs (Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl, Written by Herself ) and Frederick Douglass (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave), along with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, intensified the debate over slavery that threatened to destroy the country. Yet amid all the politics of division, the transcripts of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches reveal a president concerned, first and foremost, with the survival of the Union. In 1890, the American frontier was declared “closed,” thus effectively ending what had until then been the country’s most enduring myth: that of the West. Suddenly, the United States and her authors had to acknowledge the philosophical significance communicated by this spatial reality: There was, indeed, no more second chance. What remained was to turn back around and re examine the manner in which the continent had been settled. Furthermore, the Industrial Revolution and its attendant advances in transportation had shifted the American economy from agrarian to mechanized. This phenomenon, along with tough economic times following the war, facilitated the rise of naturalists like Theodore Dreiser (An American Tragedy) and Stephen Crane (The Open Boat), whose writing highlighted the manner in which survival now pertained more to getting along in bustling capitalist metropolises than on sun-drenched prairies. Modernists sought solace with this increasingly unrecognizable world. Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner all wrote eulogistically of a

country they were not certain they really knew. Jack Kerouac and Kurt Vonnegut followed suit. Postmodernism interrogated what surviving in the 20th century necessarily entailed. Most recently, however, the ecocritical movement, a critical literary approach aiming to treat nature, according to the scholar David Mazel, as if it were consequential has added further nuance to survival’s role in literature. Citing environmental degradation, including groundwater contamination, overuse of pesticides, deforestation, pollution, and global warming, authors (beginning ostensibly with Rachel Carson in Silent Spring [1962] and still gaining momentum from scholars like Glen Love) have stressed the seemingly rudimentary concept that the survival of literature—indeed, that of all art—is integrally dependent on the survival of an environment able to sustain humanity itself. This basic assumption refutes the postmodern maxim that there are no absolutes, and it emphasizes that the theme of survival in literature is a very fundamental one; indeed, as people and texts are paralleled, they share a similar fate. See also Bradbury, Ray: Fahrenheit 451; Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe; Dickens, Charles: Oliver Twist; Erdrich, Louise: Love Medicine; Tracks; Frank, Anne: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl; Golding, William: Lord of the Flies; Gordimer, Nadine: Burger’s Daughter; Harte, Bret: “Outcasts of Poker Flats, The”; Hemingway, Ernest: Farewell to Arms, A; Kingston, Maxine Hong: Woman Warrior, The; Mukherjee, Bharati: Middleman and Other Stories, The; O’Brien, Tim: Going after Cacciato; Solzhenitsyn, Alexander: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; Steinbeck, John: Pearl, The; Tennyson, Alfred, Lord: In Memoriam A. H. H.; Wright, Richard: Native Son. FURTHER READING Dailey, Kate. “Literature of Survival: A Literature Class as a Place of Healing.” Teaching English in the TwoYear College 34, no. 2 (December 2006): 196–201. Mazel, David, ed. A Century of Early Ecocriticism. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001.

David Visser

traditionâ•…â•… 115


Although most people today might think that the word tradition is a reference to things from the past that are fixed and therefore must be replicated, the English word tradition actually comes from the Latin infinitive tradere literally meaning “to hand across.” However, the same word frequently meant “to surrender.” The various meanings of the Latin tradere can also be found in Greek words that translate as “tradition.” In both languages, the idea of “tradition” is at once a handing on of customs, rituals, expectations, and methods of doing things outside of written documents and a rejection of such customs or even a betrayal of them. This doublesided meaning of the word, which gives a truer picture of what tradition actually is, can be traced throughout the Western literary canon. From the earliest examples of literary art, the issue of tradition can be seen. For example, in the Babylonian poem Gilgamesh, the goddess Ishtar is outraged that Gilgamesh dishonors her; to punish him, she sends a bull to destroy him. This early example of a god expecting “traditional” behavior from a human, and the human responding by breaking the tradition, sets the stage for conflict found in nearly all classical and biblical literature. Yet the idea of tradition implies an appeal to stability, an unchanging order of expectations and events that makes human life possible because tradition presumes that tomorrow will be more or less like today. If the breaking up of expectations is also part of the idea of tradition, then one may question when such rejection is warranted and when it will introduce chaos into ordinary life. This problem of tradition—knowing when to maintain it and when to reject it—is a subject for political philosophy. Plato’s dialogue The Republic is structured around an argument in three waves, each of which contradicts the argument presented up to that point. The establishment of a proposition that is then contradicted is very much like the idea of a word, custom, or ritual handed down and then rejected by another contradictory word, the basic meaning of tradition. According to Plato, the wise statesman is the one who knows when to maintain a political order and when to initiate a change that will cause the city to more closely resemble its ideal.

Thus, at the very beginnings of Western literature, in Gilgamesh and in The Republic, the idea of tradition contains both a thematic and a political meaning. A third meaning, of intertextuality, can also be seen in ancient literature: the relationship between an earlier writer and a later one. Intertextuality is the influence of a set of written signs on later literary productions; it is neither allusion, allegory, nor a collection of earlier sources but a transposition of elements found in earlier literature and “carried across” to later compositions to create something new. The best example of intertextuality is Virgil’s use of Homer in The Aeneid. Although The Aeneid is sometimes described as The Odyssey first and then The Iliad, with actions merely lifted from Homer, in fact Virgil’s transposition of elements found in Homer’s epics forces readers to reinterpret meanings and thereby imaginatively create new understandings from an epic poetic form that seems “traditional.” For example, the images on Achilles’ shield in The Iliad signify the meaning of the war from the Greek perspective: the city of war, governed by Apollo and Athena; the city of peace, centered on a human marriage, with no gods present; around them plowing, harvesting, dancing, and the ocean. In The Aeneid, the images on Aeneas’s shield also function as symbols of the meaning of the battle about to begin: Romulus and Remus; the Sabines; Manlius; Catiline; Julius Caesar; Augustus; and, in the center, the Battle of Actium, which ended the republic and established the Roman Empire. The implication is that these images represent the same civilizational values for the Romans as the cities of war and peace for the Greeks. Yet the changes in the images on Aeneas’s shield do more than merely fit a different plot; these changes affect the audience’s expectation of the meaning of symbol because the entire poem is meant to change their expectation of themselves and their situation after the civil war. Though both shields contain images important for each civilization, those on Aeneas’s shield have not happened yet as far as Aeneas himself is concerned, but the audience knows they have happened as they show the major events in Roman mythological history. The purpose of such double-sided representation is exactly what tradition, in the form

116â•…â•… tradition of intertextuality, does. The question Virgil raises for the characters within the story is whether their virtue will be enough to “spare the conquered and battle down the proud,” the rule of law given to Aeneas so that Rome may be founded. Will Aeneas be strong enough and wise enough to show the wisdom necessary for a true ruler of a great city, or will his desire for the past in Troy still affect his judgment? Because the images on the shield remind the audience of the glory of republican Rome, the question being asked of them is whether they have the strength and wisdom necessary to go forward into the imperial future in order to create, through their own practice of virtue, an even greater city than the one Aeneas founded. Can they go forward and not look back to the past, to “tradition”? Thus, in The Aeneid, Virgil combines the thematic and political meanings of tradition through intertextuality by changing the significance of an important literary symbol. In contrast to what has been handed down, these three actions—conflict, wisdom, and intertextuality—can be seen in later literature. In his book The Anxiety of Influence, the literary critic Harold Bloom attempts to describe the stages of change that take place as the ephebe (the younger artist) asserts his voice over the father (the precursor: the elder artist or the tradition). These are: clinamen, or poetic misreading; tessera, or antithetical completion—that is, finishing the misreading in a logical way; kenosis, a turn away or break from the logical implications of the precursor; demonization, an inspiration derived from the ephebe’s reaction to the precursor, but not contained in it; ascesis, the solitude derived from a movement toward a completed vision; and apophrades, the revisionary image held up to its precursor. Although Bloom’s language derives from Neoplatonism and gnosticism, his description follows the classical tradition as shown above. An earlier critic, T. S. Eliot, also describes the relationship between a new work of literary art and its predecessors in his essay “Tradition and the Literary Talent” (1919). Eliot shows the necessary interaction between a new work and the context in which it appears. For him, the new work is accepted as literary because it fits into the context of which it is a part; in turn, because it is a literary work of

art, the new work changes readers’ understanding of the entire tradition by its refiguring of the whole context. Unlike Bloom’s esoteric description, Eliot’s understanding of the literary tradition adds a new component to the term tradition by showing that tradition itself is constantly changing and unstable. In other words, the “tradition” of literary tradition is the constant production of new works added to the canon. The critic must develop the wisdom to decide which new works of art deserve to move the tradition forward and which do not rise to that level. One question that Eliot’s essay raises is, of course, what is meant by a literary tradition. As we have seen, authors read earlier authors and derive inspiration and innovations from them. The rejection of both subject matter and form creates new subject matter and form for new audiences. The texts that make up this development are called a “tradition” as well. Thus, every linguistic group has some sort of literary tradition, whether oral or written, by which stories give meaning to experience. The particular groupings for literary traditions can be national (English, German, Chinese), formal (epic, tragic, comic, lyric, narrative, poetic, dramatic), or periodic (ancient, medieval, modern.) Within each of these groupings are particularities of form, language, subject matter, worldview, and so on, which identify the work as part of its “tradition” even though, as discussed above, each work will also be unique because of its rejection of some aspect of its tradition. The example of Virgil’s changing Homer is part of the classical tradition, which in turn forms the basis of Western literary tradition, but there are many more. In our global environment, the dynamic meaning of tradition is perhaps more important than ever, for authors writing in their national “traditions” are now borrowing from each other at a very rapid pace, producing a literary environment that in time may change our understanding of literature itself. For example, postcolonial literature borrows from European models but adds native experience and forms into that tradition; Salman Rushdie is perhaps the best-known writer in this tradition. See also Alexie, Sherman: Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistf ight in Heaven, The; Alvarez, Julie: How the García Girls Lost Their Accents;

violenceâ•…â•… 117 Aristophanes: Frogs, The; Browning, Robert: “My Last Duchess”; Dickens, Charles: Christmas Carol, A; Dreiser, Theodore: American Tragedy, A; DuBois, W. E. B.: Souls of Black Folk, The; Eliot, T. S.: Waste Land, The; Emerson, Ralph Waldo: “Divinity School Address, The”; Erdrich, Louise: Tracks; Euripides: Medea; Faulkner, William: Light in August; Sound and the Fury, The; Forster, E. M.: Room with a View, A; Jackson, Shirley: “Lottery, The”; Kingston, Maxine Hong: Woman Warrior, The; Momaday, N. Scott: House Made of Dawn; Way to Rainy Mountain, The; Naipaul, V. S.: House for Mr. Biswas, A; Reed, Ishmael: Mumbo Jumbo. FURTHER READING Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Booth, Wayne C. Critical Understanding: The Powers and Limits of Pluralism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. Eliot, T. S. “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Edited by Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer. New York: Longman, 1994, 27–33. Maritain, Jacques. Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1953. Perl, Jeffrey M. The Tradition of Return: The Implicit History of Modern Literature. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Lylas Rommel


The term violence originates from the Latin violentia, meaning vehemence, which in turn implies an intense force. Etymologically, “violence” is akin to “violate” and thus is suggestive of damage and destruction that would characterize a violent storm or a traumatic experience such as rape, terrorism, or war. In its primary sense, therefore, violence denotes injury and also violation involving people or property. Though the concept of violence has always intrigued philosophers, psychologists, and literary artists, it is only in the 20th century that it has

gained currency in most cultural discourses. Perhaps this is owing to the exponential increase in the incidence of violence in the modern era, to the unprecedented carnage the world has witnessed in the course of the century, and to the emergence of crusaders of nonviolence such as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Beyond defining what violence is, social thinkers have lately turned their attention to its moral and cultural justifiability as a means to achieve personal, social, or political ends. While the concept of violence itself has undergone considerable philosophical analyses since ancient times, thus far there has been no consensus about its precise character. Simply put, violence is the overt physical manifestation of force on individuals, groups, or nations. Its definition, however, has been continually evolving with an increasing philosophical interest that goes beyond its overtly physical manifestations to more covert psychological and institutional practices. Broadly speaking, racism, sexism, economic exploitation, and ethnic and religious persecution are all possible sources of violence involving constraints that abuse people psychologically, if not physically. Philosophers also disagree on the moral and political justifiability of employing violence to achieve personal or social ends. While some thinkers view violence to be inherently wrong (e.g., murder), others defend it. The philosophical positions rationalizing violence tend to focus on ends that outweigh the evils of injury or violation involved. Conversely, proponents of nonviolence challenge the claims of advocates of violence, citing the misery and mayhem it brings about. Significant philosophical debates on violence include the French philosopher Georges Sorel’s Reflections on Violence (1908). In this text, Sorel worked with Karl Marx’s ideas on the proletariat, or the working class, and their ability to overthrow the middle class. By advocating violent general strikes, Sorel sought to inaugurate a class warfare against the state and capitalistic industrialists. The political theorist Hannah Arendt’s On Violence (1970) is another landmark treatise on 20th-century apologists for violence from a New Left perspective. Arendt concedes that violence can be justified only in defense against perceived threats to life, when it does not exceed necessity and its ends are patently

118â•…â•… violence positive. Drawing on notions of power developed by the French philosopher Michel Foucault, Newton Garver’s essay “What Violence Is” (1975) includes covert, psychological, and institutional forms of violence in declaring, “Any institution which systematically robs certain people of rightful options generally available to others does violence to those people” (420). Despite his sympathies with nonviolence as a stance, Garver does not advocate it as a viable social goal and posits that conflicts between nations may be minimized but not always eliminated. Obviously, thinkers differ in their approach to defining violence and continue to examine its apocalyptic manifestation in contemporary times. The problem of violence has also been of considerable interest to psychologists. Sigmund Freud was the first to diagnose the origins of neurosis, including violent behavior in human subjects. According to Freudian psychoanalysis, repression of the instinctual id leads to the “psychopathology of everyday life,” which in turn makes violent behavior commonplace. Likewise, Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization (1955) combines Freudian and Marxist theories to undercut the cultural codes that overdetermine and repress human psychology and sexuality, resulting in deviant tendencies. Following the psychoanalytic paradigms of repression, the complexity of human violence has been studied by modern psychiatrists such as James Gilligan in Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic (1996). Asserting that “violence, like charity begins at home” (5), he demonstrates how home as a microcosm reflects the cultural and historic macrocosm in which violence thrives. While he celebrates civilization as the greatest blessing of humanity, Gilligan condemns its “tragic flaw—the violence it stimulates” (267). He attributes violence in humans to a life bereft of love, either from without (resulting in feelings of rejection) or from within (resulting in shame). Thus, both these deficiencies are an outcome of the patriarchal structure of civilization that assigns codified and often repressive roles to each of the sexes, reinforcing traditional ideas of honor and dishonor, pride and shame. For psychoanalysts from Freud to Gilligan, violence remains a disturbing subject whose origin as well as cure lies within the complex cultural network that fashions human subjects.

Owing to its omnipresence and the human mind’s obsession with it, violence has had ubiquitous representation, from cave paintings to the contemporary television drama The Sopranos. Beginning with epic narratives like The Mahabharata, the Homeric verses, and Beowulf (Anonymous), among others, literature has always attempted to represent violence as a trope for relationships of power and domination. In many respects, Western literature, ranging from Sophocles’ Oedipus the King (429 b.c.), the biblical stories of Cain and Abel, Dante’s Inferno (14th century), William Shakespeare’s King Lear (1608), and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851), seeks to define itself by the tragedy arising from human violence. For most 20th-century artists, violence, ranging from the destruction of large-scale warfare to individual crimes of murder, rape, and abuse, is an inevitable aspect of their visions. Unable to accept a fallen world, modernist writers often employ destructive violence as the central motif in their works. For instance, the poetry of Sylvia Plath and John Wain attempts to discern the sources and effects of modern violence culminating in anger, frustration, despair, and even suicide. For some modern poets, however, violence has provided an ironic source of creativity and change, a view articulated by William Butler Yeats in poems like “The Second Coming” and “Easter 1916.” Critics generally attribute the predominance of violence in modern literature to both its sensational appeal and its potential to shock readers, leading them to question their beliefs. Critics also emphasize the historical significance of violence in the period following World War II, when poets and novelists bemoaned a world mired in conflict, and in which aggression threatened to destroy all humane qualities. The Holocaust has been a common subject with American literary artists ranging from Sylvia Plath to Saul Bellow. Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl (1947) is a significant Holocaust document on the experiences of a war victim during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. Other postwar novels, such as George Orwell’s dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) condemn totalitarianism in an essentially meaningless world. Likewise, Kurt Vonnegut’s deeply pessimistic vision pervades his novels, including Player Piano

violenceâ•…â•… 119 (1952) and Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), which portray the violent decay of the modern world. Racial violence is apparent in novels like Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970). The universality of women’s experience of sexual violence has provided grounds for feminist contributions from writers such as Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates. With the close of the 20th century, imagistic representation of violence in all forms of media has become commonplace. Films, television, art, and print media are saturated with images of familial violence involving women and children; issues of community violence directed toward ethnic and minority groups; the practice of institutional violence in workplace, schools, hospitals, police and law enforcement agencies; and incidents of state violence, such as the repression and surveillance practices after the September 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center in the United States, the legitimation of violence through state support witnessed in the communal riots in Gujarat, and the Nandigram massacre in West Bengal, India. Though the media plays an active role in recording, portraying, disseminating, and reflecting on violence, its methods and intentions are often suspect because the politics influencing it may engender newer forms of violence. Plagued by violence, the contemporary era views nonviolence as a redeeming idea and the need of the hour. Though the history of nonviolence as a religious or philosophical doctrine has been traced as far back as the Chandogya Upanishad of ancient Hinduism, the Chinese Tao Te Ching, the Bible, and the early Christian prophets, the dramatic advent of nonviolence as a favored alternative position occurred in the recent past with Mohandas Gandhi’s “Satyagraha” campaigns for India’s independence in the 1920s, and the struggle for racial justice in the United States during the 1960s. Contemporary discourses on nonviolence not only advocate traditional ideals such as love and tolerance to protect both human and animal rights; they also focus, paradoxically, on the use of violence to achieve peace through enforcement and prosecution. Besides, the modern practitioners of nonviolence seek to strengthen the role of nongovernmental organizations that pro-

mote education to prevent violence. Significantly, pacifist propaganda, too, is embedded in the matrix of human civilization and continues to be a cause worth fighting for in a world with ever-escalating incidences of violence. See also Albee, Edward: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?; Bambara, Toni Cade: Salt Eaters, The; Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness; Dickens, Charles: Tale of Two Cities, A; Grass, Günter: Tim Drum, The; Hesse, Herman: Steppenwolf; Jackson, Shirley: “Lottery, The”; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself; Knowles, John: Separate Peace, A; Kozinski, Jerzy: Painted Bird, The; Melville, Herman: Billy Budd, Sailor; Morrison, Toni: Song of Solomon; O’Connor, Flannery: “Good Man Is Hard to Find, A”; Pope, Alexander: Rape of the Lock, The; Roth, Philip: American Pastoral; Shakespeare, William: Hamlet; Henry IV, Part I; Twain, Mark: Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, A; Walker, Alice: Color Purple, The; Williams, Tennessee: Streetcar Named Desire, A. FURTHER READING Arendt, Hannah. On Violence. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1970. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books, 1977. Freud, Sigmund. Psychopathology of Everyday Life. Classics in the History of Psychology. Available online. URL: http://psychclassics.asu.edu/Freud/ Psycho/. Accessed March 17, 2010. Garver, Newton. “What Violence Is.” In Today’s Moral Problems, edited by R. Wasserstrom, New York: Macmillan, 1975. Gilligan, James. Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. New York: Vintage Books, 1996. Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. New York: Vintage Books, 1955. Miller, William Robert. Nonviolence: A Christian Interpretation. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964. Sorel, Georges. Reflections on Violence. Translated by T. E. Hulme and J. Roth. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1950.

Srirupa Chatterjee

120â•…â•… work


The concept of work is notoriously difficult to define. The payment of wages cannot be the sole criterion in determining whether an action counts as work, since men and women throughout history have often labored without compensation. The physical efforts expended by a slave in ancient Greece, for example, or by a homemaker today certainly qualify as work even though neither worker would be paid. Additionally, an individual can undertake many demanding tasks with little or no hope of payment: A would-be writer might spend weekends working diligently on his novel, while a hobbyist could spend evenings in her workshop making furniture that only her family will use. These examples might suggest that physical or mental exertion in pursuit of a goal, whether paid or not, is sufficient to qualify an activity as work. But not all purposeful action—exercise and recreational sports, for example—is considered work. While it is true that we call vigorous exercise a “workout,” a sense of fairness suggests that there is an essential difference between lifting weights in a gym and loading boxes onto the back of a truck. Many people detest work and avoid it whenever possible, but these subjective attitudes are useless in forming a definition (such as “work is activity we find unpleasant”) since just as many people find pleasure in their work; “workaholics,” in fact, find labor more attractive than leisure. Keith Thomas, editor of The Oxford Book of Work, provides a definition that, while necessarily limited, covers many activities that we recognize as work: “Work has an end beyond itself, being designed to produce or achieve something; it involves a degree of obligation or necessity, being a task that others set us or that we set ourselves; and it is arduous, involving effort and persistence beyond the point at which the task ceases to be wholly pleasurable” (xiv). We might abbreviate this definition to say that work is productive, necessary, and difficult. Work, so broadly defined, has long been a theme in literature, but rarely is it the main theme of literature written before the 18th century. The work done by soldiers—who labor to achieve victory or exact revenge, engage their tasks under obligation, and persist under the most unpleasant conditions—is one of the subjects of both Homer’s The Iliad and Virgil’s The Aeneid. Mythical heroes frequently

endure difficult tasks: Hercules accomplishes 12 labors to atone for killing his children and later joins Jason in his arduous search for the golden fleece. These battles, punishments, and quests, however, differ from what we normally consider work, such as toiling in fields and households. Ancient writers, like their counterparts in philosophy, would have considered such manual laborers unworthy of serious attention. In fact, the negative attitude toward manual labor is echoed in Genesis 3:16–19, where hard work is depicted as punishment for humanity’s sinfulness in the Garden. Adam’s transgression earned men a lifetime of “painful toil,” while Eve’s earned women “pains in childbearing.” After the Fall, humanity would survive only through very hard labor. When laborers do show up in classical literature, they are often little more than stock characters, such as shepherds, used to idealize rural life, a literary custom continued in medieval literature, where workers serve primarily as allegorical symbols meant to encourage humility, patience and devotion to Christian principles. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer’s Plowman, “a true worker .╯.╯. living in peace and perfect charity,” exemplifies that tradition, but unlike his predecessors and many of his contemporaries, Chaucer describes his working characters in highly realistic terms. His company of pilgrims, all of them identified by their occupations (even the Wife is a professional of sorts), are drawn in exquisite and differentiating detail. With Chaucer, workers in literature have faces and personalities. Although the tales’ prologue includes a number of themes regarding work (our words should be matched by our actions; the most honorable labor is done in the service of humanity), the poem is not about work. Work as a central subject in literature was still very rare at this time, and while writers after Chaucer were more inclined to portray workers as individuals rather than as symbols, the portraits were often dismissive and unflattering. Writers, who tended to come from the educated and moneyed classes, seldom looked with much empathy on manual laborers. In the 18th and 19th centuries, writers in England and America begin to devote more attention to the lives and experience of workers (maids, shep-

workâ•…â•… 121 herds, stable hands, miners, factory workers, and so on). One cause for the foregrounding of work is a change in attitude toward the nature and value of work, which came to be seen as both a blessing and a curse. For perhaps the most prominent philosopher on labor, Karl Marx, work could be a liberating activity. Freely chosen productive labor would lead to self-realization and fulfillment for both the individual worker and the laboring community. A farmer’s well-tended fields reflected his discipline and knowledge, and in working those fields, the farmer might feel a sense of connectedness to the land and a sense of purpose in providing food for his family and neighbors. People who worked the land collectively would also see their social cooperation mirrored in the results of their work. This concept of self-realization was important for Marx primarily in how it is violated in work that is not freely chosen, especially in work done under capitalism, in which self-realization and fulfillment are replaced by what Marx termed alienation. Alienation is especially evident when human beings are forced to sell the only thing they own— their labor—in a system imposed upon them by those who own the means of production (land, factories, machinery, etc.). A migrant worker on a huge corporate farm hardly sees her best qualities reflected in the backbreaking, miserable, monotonous work she does; she may be scorched by the sun, exhausted by the pace and physical movement, unable to talk to her fellow workers during her shift, and paid so little that even the crop she picks would be a luxury. In Marx’s terms, she is alienated from nature, her community, the product of her labor, and especially from herself. Her work satisfies no intrinsic need or desire; she works only to satisfy other needs. In contemporary terms, she might say of her work, “This is not who I am.” It is easy to see how a production-line worker or anyone toiling for low wages in a dangerous, tedious job may be considered alienated from himself, but even an office worker suffering through a dehumanizing job that strips him of his identity and makes him feel out of sorts can be considered a member of Marx’s exploited, alienated class. These two concepts—the blessings of work as a path toward self-realization and the curse of toiling

in an exploitative system—provide the themes for many works of literature written in the mid-19th century and later. Whether a work of literature includes only passing mention of workers and the laboring life or takes work as its central topic and theme, it might examine any number of specific concepts: the struggles of immigrant, African-American, and female workers; the dangers of manual labor and the effects of work on the bodies and psyches of laborers; the way in which work infiltrates and affects domestic life and leisure; the ethical and moral issues associated with slavery and with other forced labor; the camaraderie and interdependence in the working community; the struggle to unionize and the battle between collective and individual values; the personal and psychological rewards of freely chosen labor; and the degree to which a worker is alienated from himself, his work, his community, and the natural world. And while some popular literature, treating useful toil as empowering, preaches a gospel of self-improvement and celebrates the work ethic of committed laborers, much serious literature centers on the exploited worker and the miserable conditions endured by individual workers and by the working class. The so-called industrial novel, a genre that includes works by Elizabeth Gaskell (North and South) and Charles Dickens, depicts the harsh conditions endured by factory workers in Victorian England. Thomas Hardy reveals in Jude the Obscure the many forces that appear to be allied against members of the working class. Poverty and exploitation among workers has drawn the attention of numerous American writers, including Herman Melville; Walt Whitman; Rebecca Harding Davis (Life in the Iron Mills); and, perhaps most famously, Upton Sinclair, whose The Jungle exposed the poverty, injustice, and unsanitary conditions of life in the slaughterhouses of Chicago. The “proletarian novel” of the 1930s in America promoted Marx’s notion that only a socialist revolution could bring about a system conducive to selfactualizing labor, while John Dos Passos (U.S.A. trilogy) saw nothing to be gained under socialism, a system as destructive of individual identity as capitalism. In The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck strikes a few astounding notes of hopefulness

122â•…â•… work that result from collective values and individual resilience. And without overlooking the profound damage done by Willy Loman’s personal lapses in judgment and morals, readers of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman cannot help recognizing that his status as a lowly worker in a coldhearted alienating business has contributed greatly to his downfall. Although few writers today take work as the main setting or plot of their stories, the theme has by no means disappeared from literature. In addition, scholars interested in cultural studies, labor studies, and feminist theory have in the past few decades unearthed the literary accomplishments of many laborers whose poems, songs, stories, and essays provide an insider’s look at the world of work. And the plight of the struggling employee continues to be told, often very comically, in film and television. See also Amis, Kingsley: Lucky Jim; Chekhov, Anton: Seagull, The; Dickens, Charles: Oliver Twist; Emerson, Ralph Waldo: “SelfReliance”; Frost, Robert: poems; Gaines,

Ernest J.: Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, The; Haley, Alex, and Malcolm X: Autobiography of Malcolm X, The; Hawthorne, Nathaniel: “Birth-mark, The”; McCullers, Carson: Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The; Melville, Herman: Billy Budd, Sailor; Orwell, George: Animal Farm; Solzhenitsyn, Alexander: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; Thoreau, Henry David: Walden; Washington, Booker T.: Up from Slavery; Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass. FURTHER READING Hapke, Laura. Labor’s Text: The Worker in American Fiction. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001. Marx, Karl. The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto. New York: Prometheus Books, 1988. Thomas, Keith, ed. The Oxford Book of Work. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

James Wallace

part ii

Authors and Works A–E `

ACHEBE, CHINUAâ•… Anthills of the Savannahâ•… (1987)

different forms, but he also holds out the possibility of an alternative, more inclusive and hopeful vision. Kerry Vincent

The Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, is considered by many to be the prototype for modern African literature. In June 2007, his monumental standing in the world of African letters was recognized when he was awarded the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction. Many of the themes introduced in that novel, such as colonialism, language, the clash between tradition and modernity, various forms of inequality and corruption, and the abuse of power are important issues that Achebe (b. 1930) has continued to develop and probe in his other novels, including his last to date, Anthills of the Savannah. His belief that the primary responsibility of the African writer should be to educate the people is clearly evident in the way in which he portrays social injustice in many of its manifestations. In Anthills of the Savannah, Achebe takes aim at a corrupt postcolonial African regime and shows how government self-interest and power politics isolate those who should be working on behalf of the people. This corruption, the novel demonstrates, spreads and repeats itself in various ways throughout society in forms such as the wide gulf between the rich and the poor or the educated and the illiterate, and between males and females. In the novel, Achebe scrutinizes unequal power relations as they are practiced in their

Gender in Anthills of the Savannah

The opening chapters of Anthills of the Savannah introduce readers to a country that is shaped and defined by male power politics. By the novel’s closing chapter, however, these aggressive and cynical male voices have given way to the inclusive and reconciliatory voices of female characters. This shift in emphasis reflects a key recognition in the novel of the need to reconfigure assumptions of male domination that are deeply embedded in this traditionally patriarchal society. Achebe conveys this need for more equitable gender relations particularly through the gradual development of Ikem, a key male character, and through the presence of Beatrice, an equally important female character. During a conversation with Chris, in which he is attempting to explain his relationship with Sam and Ikem, Beatrice interrupts him to exclaim, “Well, you fellows, all three of you, are incredibly conceited. The story of this country, as far as you are concerned, is the story of the three of you .╯.╯.” This “story,” of course, is exclusively male and singularly elitist, and it is one that Achebe examines during the course of the novel. The correlation of institutional power with male dominance is perhaps best articulated


124â•…â•… Achebe, Chinua through Sam’s derisive and indulgent quip, “African Chiefs are always polygamists.╯.╯.╯. Polygamy is for Africa what monotony is for Europe.” Sam’s remark reflects a complacent chauvinism. Other male figures besides the politically and morally corrupt character of Sam make equally patronizing and sexist remarks, and these are intensified by the more vicious physical violence toward women encountered with the attempted rape of a young woman by a police sergeant near the end of the novel and Beatrice’s remembering that when she was growing up, her mother was very often beaten by her father. Even the worldly Ikem is associated with various forms of female abuse, until he gradually gains insight into his biased assumptions. His detached interest in the violent beatings of a wife in a neighboring flat, or his own devaluation of women as only being useful as, in Beatrice’s words, “comforters,” mark Ikem as a product of a deeply embedded masculinist world view. With Beatrice’s guidance, however, he slowly comes to apprehend that women are “the biggest single group of oppressed people in the world .╯.╯. and the oldest,” who also have a potentially pivotal role to play in society. While Ikem’s girlfriend, Elewa, plays an important role in changing his attitude toward women, Beatrice acts as the catalyst for his dawning awareness. The tenuous status of females in this society is emphasized by one of the birth names she is given: Nwanyibuife, or, “A female is also something.” Despite growing up in a rigid patriarchal household where females were considered secondary (as her other name suggests), Beatrice manages to obtain a university education and fairly prominent social status with a mid-level government job, and throughout the novel her voice insists on the recognition of women as being equal to men. Through Beatrice, Achebe also draws a link between the traditional and the modern in order to suggest that the high esteem with which some females were held in the past has largely been forgotten in the present because of a male desire for power. Beatrice is repeatedly referred to as a prophetess and associated with Idemili, a powerful female goddess—if not displacing, then certainly disrupting the primacy of the male characters.

Beatrice’s ceremonial role carries into the present in the novel’s final chapter as she presides over the naming of Elewa’s new baby girl. In the absence of a male figure to conduct the ceremony, Beatrice improvises and leads a new ritual, and the female infant is given the name Amaechina, conventionally a boy’s name meaning “May-the-path-never-close,” and in direct contrast to the demeaning Nwanyibuife (“A female is also something”). This disregard for gender-specific names and for the customary forms of the ritual during the novel’s closing moments signals the possibility for a reshaping of traditional perceptions of gender roles that have ossified and been carried forward into the modern world. While it might be argued that Achebe idealizes the character of Beatrice, he does manage, nonetheless, to depict a female character who demands to be heard. As a result, the novel goes further than simply depicting gender conflict; it also attempts to offer a tentative alternative vision of a more equal society. Kerry Vincent

Oppression in Anthills of the Savannah

Almost midway through Anthills of the Savannah, Ikem Osiri exclaims that his friend Beatrice has forced him to think about “the nature of oppression—how flexible it must learn to be, how many faces it must learn to wear if it is to succeed again and again.” The many faces of oppression is a key theme in Achebe’s novel, which follows the rise and fall of a dictator in the fictional African country of Kangan, and references to separate coups (short for coup d’état, meaning the often violent overthrow of a government) near the novel’s opening and conclusion warn of its potential to resurface. Whereas the first coup brings His Excellency, Sam, to power, the second one brings about his death. In between, Sam’s two old friends, Ikem Osiri and Christopher Oriko, witness and become victims of Sam’s degeneration from a relatively well-meaning military officer to a dictator who will go to any lengths to realize his obsession with becoming president for life. Sam’s rebuke to Chris at the opening of the novel—“But me no buts, Mr Oriko!”—immediately reveals much about his character. While its unintentionally humorous clumsiness reflects something of Sam’s endearing lack of sophistication, its

Anthills of the Savannahâ•…â•… 125 impatient aggression marks someone who will allow no contradictions and tolerate no alternatives, nor accept any conditions that might seem to threaten his authority. His refusal to take counsel is further reinforced on the same page with his declaration, “Kabisa!,” a Swahili word that Achebe translates into English as “Finished.” As a result of Sam’s lack of political experience, the dubious means by which he has attained power, and the false adulation poured on him by sycophantic advisers, personal insecurities drive him to imagine subversive plots are being hatched against him. Sam’s paranoia leads him to curtail the freedom of the press by placing both the print and electronic media under government censorship and control, and to appoint a director of a secret police force (euphemistically called the Directorate of State Research) that restricts individual and community voices. For example, Sam forces Chris, his commissioner for information, to muzzle the dissenting views expressed by Ikem, the editor of the National Gazette. Following a speech that Ikem makes to students at the university, the government-controlled radio announces a series of manufactured charges against him and later describes his subsequent death while supposedly resisting arrest. After his own attempt to reason with Sam, Chris is perceived as a threat and is forced to go into hiding as the police hunt for him throughout the city. Eventually, he secretly flees the city, heading for the northern provinces by bus. Meanwhile, the legitimate concerns of a delegation from the drought-stricken northern Abazon Province are brushed aside as Sam refuses to meet with them, and he eventually has them placed in detention for supposedly plotting against the government. As the state-controlled oppression of individuals and groups accelerates, Sam’s physical presence recedes, suggesting just how out of touch he is and how much he has isolated himself from the people of Kangan. He last appears in chapter 11, the same chapter that concludes with a description of the arrest and, it is implied, torture, of the Abazon delegation. Sam’s physical absence from the scene reflects the need to speak out against oppression. Besides the dominant forms of oppression practiced by a dictatorial military government, Achebe

also introduces the equally destructive abuses of power caused by males against females, and by the privileged, educated classes against the less educated working classes. During the course of the novel, Chris and Ikem move from differing degrees of isolation—Chris has a “detached clinical interest” in the workings of the state, while Ikem confesses to finding a neighbor’s brutal beatings of his wife “satisfyingly cathartic”—to a greater awareness, sympathy, and even admiration for the oppressed. At one point in the novel, a creation myth is described in which Idemili, the daughter of the Almighty, is sent “to bear witness to the moral nature of authority by wrapping around Power’s rude waist a loincloth of peace and modesty.” In Anthills of the Savannah, Achebe not only presents a biting critique of power in its various forms and its capacity to abuse and oppress individuals, groups, and nations; he also reminds us of the urgent need to bear witness to its existence and act against it, if freedom from oppression is to be achieved. Kerry Vincent

Social Class in Anthills of the Savannah

In his first novel, Things Fall Apart, Achebe includes many proverbs, folktales, and rituals in order to reinforce his depiction of a rich and ancient traditional African society. He continues this practice in Anthills of the Savannah but incorporates a much wider variety of texts and registers, as a means of projecting his ideal vision of an inclusive and equitable postcolonial society that recognizes and acknowledges the legitimacy of diverse voices from different social classes, and not just those of a primarily male elite. As Chris, Ikem, and Beatrice are increasingly alienated from Sam’s manic exercise of power, they gradually become more attuned to the voices of the less privileged peasants and workers. The catalyst for the sequence of events that lead to Sam’s defeat and the deaths of Ikem and Chris is the visit by the delegation from Abazon, which very early in the novel highlights such oppositions as rural-urban, uneducated-educated, poor-rich, and traditional-modern. More than anyone, Ikem appreciates the integrity of this peasant class, even as he puzzles over how their values can be adapted to the modern world.

126â•…â•… Achebe, Chinua Ikem conveys his recognition of the disparity between social classes during a speech at the university that he entitles “↜‘The Tortoise and the Leopard—a political meditation on the imperative of struggle.’↜” This traditional story, first told to Ikem by the chief of the Abazon delegation, emphasizes the importance of resistance and of leaving a mark to act as inspiration for those who follow. Ikem, then, draws on and updates traditional folk wisdom to address an urban student body and challenge them to acknowledge his earlier insight that “It is the failure of our rulers to re-establish vital inner links with the poor and dispossessed of this country, with the bruised heart that throbs painfully at the core of the nation’s being.” Ikem’s challenge represents a culmination of his own recent awareness of the distance between the educated elite and the working poor and the peasants. His initial complacent belief in a kind of solidarity with the underclass is humorously enacted when he finds himself locked in a battle against a determined taxi driver during a traffic jam. Ikem wins the contest because he is not afraid to damage his already beaten-up car, but he subsequently comes to realize how petty his victory was when the taxi driver later finds him and apologizes for daring to challenge such an eminent figure. During their meeting, conducted in the largely working-class language of pidgin English, Ikem feels exhilaration over “this rare human contact across station and class,” but he wonders, nonetheless, about the huge divide between the privileged and the poor. A taxi driver also figures in Chris’s forced plunge into the world of the lower classes, a transformation that is realistically and figuratively conveyed by the worker’s clothing that he puts on as a disguise to help him negotiate roadblocks set up throughout the city. Chris also realizes that his own educated speech is now a liability, and his switch to pidgin reinforces his immersion in a class that he had previously taken for granted. He is only saved from detection by his taxi driver’s interventions, and once out of danger he announces, “To succeed as small man no be small thing.” Beatrice, too, learns some humility during the hunt for Chris, to the point where she is even able to recognize something of the unhappiness of Agatha,

her domestic worker, and to break down the rigid employer-employee relationship with the simple words, “I am sorry Agatha.” She is further humbled after recognizing the sacrifices made by a very poor family to shelter and protect Chris. Her concern for Chris and desire to be with him comes at the expense of the family’s own privacy, and her awareness of their generosity is partly what allows her to reassess her relationship with Agatha and recognize “the absurd raffle-draw that apportioned the destinies of post-colonial African societies.” In the novel’s final pages, Beatrice decodes Chris’s dying words, “The last green,” which alludes to just how tentative the assumed heights of the powerful elite really are, and she concludes, “This world belongs to the people of the world not to any little caucus, no matter how talented.” In light of Achebe’s scathing critique of the powerful, educated elite, it is certainly appropriate that he chooses to use pidgin English and give the novel’s final supportive and comforting words to the half-literate salesgirl, Elewa. Kerry Vincent

ACHEBE, CHINUAâ•… Things Fall Apartâ•… (1958)

In 1958, Chinua Achebe published Things Fall Apart, which depicts the tragic downfall of a strong African clansman faced with the budding presence of colonialism. Okonkwo, Achebe’s central character, represents a man tied to his clan’s culture; moreover, Okonkwo represents the essence of male vigor within the tribe as he strives to lead the clan with strength and stoicism, persistently avoiding the appearance of weakness. Yet Okonkwo’s strength falters under the weight of an ever-changing Africa when his family and his clan encounter a new way of living through the white man’s Christian religion. The first part of the novel centers on Okonkwo, his family, and the rituals of his tribe. Achebe depicts how Okonkwo’s relationships with his father, Unoka; his son, Nwoye; his daughter, Enzima; and Ikemefuna, a boy who calls Okonkwo father, all define Okonkwo’s identity. Despite his trials in the beginning of the novel, including his exile from the clan, the true test of Okonkwo’s strength comes

Things Fall Apartâ•…â•… 127 with the entrance of Mr. Brown, Reverend Smith, and the other white characters. As Christianity begins to spread through the clan, Okonkwo’s eldest son becomes a missionary, conflict arises between the clan and the government of the colonists, and Okonkwo’s desire to lead the clan results in violence as he kills a white man. Yet the tribe does not partake in his violence, and Okonkwo reacts by taking his own life. His tragic story probes into themes of heroism’s validity, the solidity of tradition, and the relationship between an individual and a society in flux. Lindsay Cobb

Heroism in Things Fall Apart

In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe immediately asserts the main character Okonkwo’s status as a heroic figure. Okonkwo’s position as a pillar of strength throughout nine villages and “even beyond” solidifies his laudable identity. However, it is Okonkwo, more than any other character, who aims for self-definition as a hero—a hero defined by personal triumphs and masculinity. This definition problematizes the theme of heroism because Okonkwo’s definition of a hero lacks the substance to prevail in Achebe’s work. In fact, Okonkwo’s pursuit to attain extraordinary status as the leader of a healthy tribe occurs alongside the tribe’s own attempt to retain its strength against the threat of the white man’s government and religion. Okonkwo, indeed, represents the human embodiment of the failing strength of his tribe, Umuofia. As tensions between Umuofia and the white man’s society test Okonkwo’s greatness, his fear of failure and desire to succeed supersede his ability to thrive as a hero. Moreover, Okonkwo’s need to prove his masculinity serves as a catalyst to his inability to understand not only the world of the white man but the needs of his own tribe, thus resulting in his loss of heroism. Okonkwo’s definition of heroism exists primarily as an exact opposite to his father, Unoka. During his childhood, Okonkwo felt shame over his father’s status as an agbala, a term meaning both “woman” and “man without titles.” Okonkwo, as a result of his father’s idleness and gentleness, did not enter the world with prosperity; he had neither a barn nor a wife to inherit. Thus, even at a young age, he

endeavored to build a prosperous future—to achieve a heroic life—by representing everything his father did not. He therefore valued emotional strength and physical strength above all else, and he ruled his lands, wives, and children with a heavy hand. Yet this strength overextends into brutality when Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna, a boy who calls him father—an action that begins to damage Okonkwo’s heroic identity. Ikemefuna came under Okonkwo’s care after Umuofia helped make a settlement with a neighboring tribe, and his presence brought a subtle shift in Okonkwo’s house. Despite the fact that Okonkwo did not show Ikemefuna any outward affection, for to him such affection would denote weakness, he develops great affection for the boy. Nevertheless, when the tribe decides that Ikemefuna must die after three years, Okonkwo’s hardness overshadows his ability to gently love a new son. In order to not seem weak in front of his peers, he kills the boy with his own hand. After Okonkwo’s decision to kill Ikemefuna, his status as the tribe’s hero seems to crumble. First, his close friend Obierika bemoans his action; then, at a tribal meeting, Okonkwo accidentally kills a 16-year-old boy, and for atonement he must leave the clan for seven years. This series of events eventually exposes the message Achebe folds into the relationships between fathers and sons—a message concerning heroism. Okonkwo’s great flaw, then, derives from his obdurate passion for strength and thus heroism. His zeal stems from his own disappointment in his father; moreover, this fervor damages his relationship with, first, his eldest son, Nyowe, and then his own clan. After Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna, Nyowe questions the clan’s practices, and his doubts fuel his decision to follow the new Christian religion. Nyowe’s departure from the clan marks an irrevocable gap between Nyowe and his father. When Okonkwo notices Nyowe’s growing interest in the Christian faith, he reprimands his son through violence and threatens to kill him. Though Okonkwo does not kill Nyowe, this exchange leads to Nwoye’s permanent departure and Okonkwo’s own perception of his son as degenerate and effeminate. He extends this perception to his own tribe when he feels that they will not stand up against the ever-growing presence

128â•…â•… Achebe, Chinua of the white man and his religion. This view eventually results in Okonkwo’s separation from the tribe when he kills a court messenger, thus choosing to act alone—to act with his definition of heroism, rather than the clan’s. Yet this act does not result in heroic triumph, and Okonkwo realizes that his reliance on strength and manliness has overreached the best of his intentions. Thus, as he chooses to kill himself, he dies a death which his clansmen cannot sanctify, alone and unheralded like his father, and he loses his potential to be remembered as a hero of Umuofia. Lindsay Cobb

Individual and Society in Things Fall Apart

From the initial pages of his novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe makes it clear that the main character, Okonkwo, represents an individual deeply aligned with his society. Okonkwo’s strength and presumed heroism within the novel derive from his ability to fully accept the clan’s culture and follow faithfully in its traditions. Yet as his society begins to change with the expansion of colonialism in Africa, Okonkwo’s relationship with his society begins to evolve—and eventually fall apart. Achebe’s novel investigates the complex relationship between an individual and his or her society; moreover, it reveals the damaging strains this relationship undergoes when faced with drastic and inevitable changes. Part 1 and part 2 of the novel define Okonkwo as a follower of his clan, Umuofia. Regardless of the painful actions the traditions of the clan require of him, he never wavers in his devotion. In spite of his high regard for Ikemefuna, a young boy sent to live with his family after a clan dispute, he accepts Umuofia’s declaration that Ikemefuna—who calls him father—must die. Later, after he accidentally murders a member of the clan, Okonkwo dutifully allows Umuofia to burn his home, and he leaves for a seven-year exile in his motherland. Nevertheless, signs of his fierce independence pepper the story. He does not dispute the clan’s decision to kill Ikemefuna, but he goes so far as to kill the boy himself to show his own strength as a clansman. Here, then, Okonkwo tries to set himself apart from the clan as an individual member. His endeavor to prove himself as Umuofia’s strongest member shows itself dis-

tinctly in this moment, and it is this endeavor that contributes to his tragic separation from the clan. As the violence mounts between the colonists and Umuofia in part 3, Okonkwo’s frustration with the clan’s lack of action increases. He does not understand why Umuofia does not act aggressively against the changes the colonists wish to impose on their society. Moreover, he wishes the clan to remain dedicated to its traditions and not bend to the potential of change. Thus, he comes to the novel’s final clan meeting with the goal of convincing Umuofia to fight back against the colonists. He declares to his friend Obierika that if the clan does not fight, he will fight alone—and he does. Yet after he kills one of the colonists and realizes that the clan will not follow his actions, Okonkwo forsakes his society and chooses to commit suicide. Though he had chosen to act alone, he cannot stand to live alone—apart from his clan. Umuofia, however, cannot honor his death because suicide represents an abomination and a sin against the gods. Thus, not only does Okonkwo choose to act independently of his society, his society—his clan—must spurn him as well. In this moment, Okonkwo represents an individual deeply disconnected from his society. Yet Achebe does not conclude the novel with Okonkwo’s death. In the closing paragraph, the narrator explains that the commissioner of the colonists plans to write a book entitled The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger. He first considers writing a chapter concerning Okonkwo, but then he determines that a “reasonable” paragraph will suffice in order to tell Okonkwo’s story, which he witnessed firsthand. Achebe’s choice to end the novel with this information further complicates the relationship between an individual and society in a land beset with change, because this revelation starkly contrasts with Okonkwo’s decision to end his own life. Thus, the novel—which Achebe devotes primarily to the story of Okonkwo—may, in the hands of the colonizers, find itself reduced to one paragraph in the midst of many. Okonkwo loses his individuality and, despite his lifelong dedication to strength and thus fame, becomes a mere paragraph among others in his evolving society. While the commissioner decides to group Okonkwo deep within a community of stories, Okonkwo’s purely individual decisions lead

Things Fall Apartâ•…â•… 129 to his tragic death. The novel’s conclusion, therefore, represents an ironic truth concerning Okonkwo’s existence: Though he died putting his individual decisions above those of his community, the commissioner refuses to see his individuality as worthy of an entire novel or even a chapter—just a paragraph. Lindsay Cobb

Tradition in Things Fall Apart

In his novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe tragically illustrates the collision between tradition and change through the story of Okonkwo. Achebe’s main character represents a man devoted to his culture’s tradition. Yet his devotion does not yield to change, and he ultimately succumbs to his own unwillingness to accept the changes his clan faces with the arrival of the white man and Christianity. Achebe further complicates the novel’s perceptions of change and tradition by including characters that mirror and oppose Okonkwo’s attitude, such as Mr. Smith, whose own devotion to his culture exacerbates the hostile situation between the Christians and the clan leaders, including Mr. Brown and Akunna, who show the promise of respectfully discussing each culture’s varying traditions in a move toward peaceful change; and Obierika and Nwoye, who demonstrate the ability to question traditional customs. Achebe first asserts the dominance of tradition in the clan, Umuofia, by showing how steeped in convention Okonkwo and his family remain. The clan values strength; therefore, Okonkwo becomes the strongest. The clan values manliness; therefore, Okonkwo shuns all effeminate behavior. When the clan’s oracle declares that Ikemefuna, a boy who lived in Okonkwo’s home for years like a son, must die, Okonkwo follows dutifully and even uses his own hand to kill Ikemefuna in order to show his strength and dedication to the clan’s mores. Yet with the death of Ikemefuna also comes the first signs of doubt in Okonkwo’s eldest son, Nwoye. The narrator reveals Nyowe’s doubts following his realization that Ikemefuna—whom he thinks of as a brother— has died according to the traditions of the clan. Nwoye feels something snap within him and doubts the justice of this action. This revelation, then, marks the first example of a clansman questioning the long-held traditions of Umuofia.

Another example of questioning occurs after Okonkwo accidentally shoots a member of the clan and thus must leave the clan and go into exile for seven years; according to custom, after he leaves, other clansmen must destroy his homes, land, and animals. In this moment, Okonkwo follows dutifully without questioning the clan’s ways. However, Obierika, Okonkwo’s closest friend and a respected member of the clan, has a head full of questions as he completes these traditional duties. Obierika’s questions probe the logic and justice of the clan’s traditions; more important, his questions end the first section of Achebe’s novel. These are the final thoughts before the white man and Christianity enter both the novel and Umuofia’s culture. As stories of violence become more prominent in the region, and as Okonkwo’s own son, Nwoye, chooses to follow the Christian missionaries, tensions mount irrevocably between the ever-growing Christian population and the traditional clans. Nevertheless, though the Christians represent change to the clansmen, Achebe also illustrates their own devotion to tradition through the figure of Reverend Smith, the missionaries’ second leader. The narrator describes Smith as a man who only sees the world in black and white, and his actions reflect his unwavering belief in the ways of his own culture and religion. Mr. Smith, much like Okonkwo, refuses to see value in other cultures, other traditions. Both Okonkwo and Mr. Smith starkly contrast the actions of Mr. Brown, the missionaries’ first leader, and Akunna, a great man in one of Umuofia’s neighboring villages. Mr. Brown and Akunna spend hours respectfully discussing their respective religions, and though neither of them convert to a new religion, both men begin to develop a sense of understanding for the other’s beliefs. Okonkwo and Mr. Smith, however, never develop a sense of understanding, and neither man allows his traditional belief system to change. Moreover, both Mr. Smith and then Okonkwo react to the potential of change with violence. Okonkwo’s ultimate demise occurs when he is so overwrought with aggression and violence that he slays a court messenger in order to protect Umuofia’s sanctity. When he realizes that his clansmen will not follow in violence, Okonkwo decides to take his own life

130â•…â•… Adams, Henry rather than face the changes his clan will inevitably undergo. Therefore, his obstinate devotion to tradition leads to his shameful death. Perhaps, then, the best solution Achebe includes in the novel comes through the quiet discussions between Mr. Brown and Akunna—two men who do not act in violence or hatred in order to guard their respective traditions, but instead strive to understand. Lindsay Cobb

ADAMS, HENRYâ•… The Education of Henry Adamsâ•… (1907)

The Education of Henry Adams, first published privately in 1907, remains Henry Adams’s best-known work and one of the greatest autobiographies ever written. In it, Adams (1838–1918) tells of his own life in the third person, covering the period of his early childhood to his later life. The Education, richly filled with symbolism, contains his systematic view of history as a force of progress. The main character of the Education is Adams, narrated in the third person by the author, born into the great Adams family (the same family that produced the U.S. presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams) in the early 19th century. As a young boy, Adams grows up in luxury, and he encounters a number of famous Americans, beginning with those in his family, to whom he gives heroic status. He later attends Harvard and embarks upon a career. During this time, as he moves out of the comfort of New England, young Adams finds a number of new heroes, especially the English. Throughout his “education,” the young Adams explores such themes as education, science and technology, and innocence and experience. The Education tells the story of one man’s engagement with his culture and society. Henry’s experiences allow the author Adams to step back and evaluate his life in relation to the larger movement of history and the growth of America toward the turn of the century. Michael Modarelli

Education in The Education of Henry Adams

Education in Henry Adams’s autobiography is a quest for a specific doctrine—perhaps a specific

plan of action or worldview—by which he can live his life. In contrast to other famous autobiographies, such as the Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau or The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Adams’s work does not end as a success story. In fact, the quest for education carries Adams through to the final chapters. Never culminating in a heroic apex, the work describes the protagonist’s attempt to reconcile ideas of past learning with the new technological and industrial world. Indeed, education serves to bring the author to the unfolding nature of learning and knowledge as it plays out in progressive civilizations. The Education of Henry Adams begins as Adams is born in Boston, Massachusetts, in privileged circumstances as a member of the illustrious Adams family; his father was the diplomat Charles Francis Adams I, and his grandfather was the former U.S. president John Quincy Adams. To distance himself from the narrative, however, he writes the story in the third person, calling himself Henry. From the outset, Adams notes that the “problem” of education began at a very early age. He traces his first rudimentary forays into education from the beginning when, as a child living in Quincy, just south of Boston, he learned color and taste. From here, he begins to notice divisions—marked separations in the world, starting with summer and winter—and these notions would permeate his more formal education. Isolated in his Quincy home, young Henry knew little of the exterior problems of the world. When his grandfather puts on his hat and walks young Henry to school, this marks the boy’s entry into formal education. Of his formal education he says little—he disliked the formalities of education and rote memorization. Of entering a symbolically American institution, Harvard, he notes only that his four years there left him with an autobiographical “blank.” Adams continues to remind the reader, however, that his narrative is a story of education. The places and people who figure in the narrative only have value insofar as they pertain to Henry’s education. His early heroes were John Quincy Adams and George Washington, as well as 18th-century historians. Soon he widens his horizons, geographically speaking, by moving out of Massachusetts, and he

The Education of Henry Adamsâ•…â•… 131 seeks out new heroes from whom he can learn. As secretary to his father, ambassador to Great Britain (1861–68), Adams finds little redeeming in Englishmen and British politicians. In England, he learns the Englishmen show more compassion for the American confederacy than he initially thought. And, upon returning to the United States, he finds little in the people that he can salvage for his education. Henry votes for Ulysses S. Grant after the war because he thinks a decorated military hero will lead well, but, in an entire chapter devoted to Grant, he ends up finding the president distasteful. All in all, Adams sees a decline in the United States from Washington to Grant. Once again, he returns to Harvard, this time to teach medieval history, but his educational idealism finds university life mediocre at best, and he considers this more education lost. The book jumps forward at this point 20 years because, as Adams reminds the reader, his is a story of education, and only matters pertinent to education are noted. This is a new educational starting point for Adams, he writes. At this time in his education, he wishes to drop studying what the world does not care for anymore and concentrate his education on what interests people. At the Chicago Exposition of 1893, he notices the dominance of wealth and science. Clearly, it seems to Adams, the country is moving in a path that favors capitalism and technological power. These are contrasts to what Adams calls his 18th-century education, and as symbols of power and wealth, they contradict his ideas of medieval art. At the Paris Exposition seven years later, Adams once again comments on the importance of these symbols, specifically in the demonstration of the dynamo, an electrical generator invented for producing power. In the famous chapter entitled “The Virgin and the Dynamo,” Adams compares the Virgin Mary’s power for stimulating human energies with the dynamo’s power. Believing the dynamo might somehow provide a specific world plan for him, much as writing about the Romans had stimulated the 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon, Adams believes he has finally found a satisfactory way of looking at history. By placing the medieval expression of art into a system of history, he finds a way that he, and he hopes other people, might better cope with historical pattern and change.

Although much of the Education bases itself on Adams’s personal learning, the book is an attempt to come to grips with the larger ethos of education. What Adams sees in the Virgin, for example, is a symbol of force; in the dynamo, he envisions the same notion of force, as comprehended by modern man. The medieval mind symbolized its power of force in the Virgin, so this forms the connection to Adams’s idea of the dynamo—a symbol of the technology of the oncoming 20th century—and its effects on his life, which began in Quincy and Boston, symbols of the young America. Michael Modarelli

Innocence and Experience in The Education of Henry Adams

The symbolism in Henry Adams’s autobiography clearly marks his progression from innocence to experience. As Adams traces the paths of symbols from his childhood home in Boston, he essentially delineates his route from innocence to experience. Born in an upper-class home in Boston and raised in Quincy, where his grandfather, John Quincy Adams, walked him to school, young Henry becomes immediately influenced by his illustrious relative. For Henry, his grandfather represents the shaping of America, the glorious common sense of the 18th century, and he often thinks of John Quincy’s role in the formation of the country as well as his journeys to foreign lands as a diplomat. John Quincy Adams was not Henry’s only hero—in his youth he idolized George Washington, Edward Gibbon, his great-grandfather John Adams, and others. In these heroes Henry found men whose interests lay in wide realms; these were men of action and, most specifically, men whose values reflected conventional New England attitudes of self-discipline, character, and accomplishment. But Henry’s life, which means his education, forms the kernel of the Education, and it is John Quincy Adams who precipitates this journey, taking young Henry by the hand and walking him in silence to the school on a hot morning. Symbolically, then, his grandfather ushers Henry into the Adams fold and into education at a very young age, marking the gradual transition from innocence to experience.

132â•…â•… Adams, Henry In his youth, however, Adams hates the rote memorization and formalities of school. He would rather go to see Washington than read about it, which he does at age 12, and he seems to think application lies in actual experience and not formal schooling (although he does have a predilection for languages and mathematics). Eventually, like all upper-class New England boys, Adams enters Harvard, where he later concludes that he learned nothing, or all that he learned could have been done in four months’ time. Harvard, then, does nothing to improve Adams’s transition to experience—it seems it was still the beginning point. And teaching provides him with no relief. As a professor of medieval history at Harvard, he is successful, producing many respectable students; however, his upbringing in the Adams fold has taught him never to be satisfied with mediocrity, which he finds in his education. And although he has the experience of education behind him, Adams feels his journey is not done. In fact, all of Adams’s life as documented in the Autobiography is a progression from innocence to experience. Adams often reflects on his early heroes, not necessarily acquiring new ones but comparing the old ones to the heroic figures of his day. He compares Ulysses S. Grant to Washington, claiming a sad degeneration of mankind in the former from the latter. And although his life progresses throughout his education and he moves through a succession of careers with success, he constantly notes that his education has come, sadly, to some kind of end. Still, by the Chicago Exposition of 1893, Adams admits he is still innocent in a certain way. He knows how to look at art, he knows how to study history, and he has a storehouse of information and a wealth of 18th-century values. However, he has no way to assimilate the new technology at the exposition—he cannot reconcile these exhibits with any experience he has had. Adams is completely innocent in the ways of the changing world. This is especially evident when he encounters the dynamo, the newest power generator. What Adams finds he has to do is to somehow find a link from the past to the present—to, in this case, the powerful and awesome dynamo—so that he can understand the shift the world is making.

The narrative in the Autobiography leads up to this culminating point, where Adams must move from innocence to experience by coming to a historical understanding of mankind. From this understanding, he can then find the natural shifts in his own life, prompting him to write the Education. And he finds the answer in his use of symbols, which have played such an important part of his life. What Adams discovers is that although the dynamo is a relatively new force, forces have been around since the beginning of time. The dynamo is, in effect, the symbol for a new era. Past eras such as the Middle Ages, Adams concludes, found their symbols in religion, especially the Virgin Mary. In order to come to an awareness of some kind of force, he contends, man symbolized it, much like Adams had done in his youth with the forces around him. The concept of force, then, plays a fundamental role in his view of history and life—force becomes symbolized to represent its power on and within the lives of people. In a sense, Adams’s Education comes to represent the forces exterior to his own life, and the book becomes a symbol for his progression from innocence to experience. Michael Modarelli

Science and Technology in The Education of Henry Adams

As a child, young Henry grows up with what he describes as an 18th-century mind-set, but his view must soon change to accompany the introduction of new science and technology in the 19th century. The Adamses, a lineage tracing back to the United States’s foundation as a nation, were symbolic of America, and young Henry sees the connections between his family and American nationhood. The Massachusetts State House, New England, his grandfather John Quincy Adams, and the entire Adams family symbolize the educated mind and its entry into a new world. Adams reflects on this especially as his grandfather walks him to school, a symbolic entry into education. Adams links the mind and its application to changing epochs in symbols. As a historian, Adams has studied the Middle Ages, and he notices the power of the symbol in the Virgin Mary. Later, at the Chicago Exposition of 1893, he notes the grow-

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?â•…â•… 133 ing symbolism of money inherent in capitalism. However, the symbolism of science and technology remains the greatest influence for his theory of history. While at the Paris Exposition of 1900, Adams connects this power of symbolism to the science and technology of his day. He sees the power of the dynamo much as he suggests people of the Middle Ages saw the cross or the Virgin Mary: The power of both represent a symbol of infinity, or a great moral force. Adams sees the Virgin as her time’s dynamo; she was a power of force, a mysterious bundle of energy. Similarly, the burgeoning inventions in science and technology of the 20th century represent a phenomenon of new force, which the individual must learn to grasp. Since science and technology represent, for Adams, a large shift from his 18th-century upbringing, he feels he must understand the movement of history. His ideas of history are found in two chapters in which Adams becomes enamored with the complexity of the 20th century. The two chapters in the Education, “A Dynamic Theory of History” and “A Law of Acceleration,” are his solution to this complexity. Here, he argues that the solution is the mind. According to Adams, man has always conceptualized force into symbols. Since man can conceptualize force, he can control it. Adams sees the progress of great ancient civilizations, such as Rome, as a result of this conceptualization of force. However, the breakdown of cultures occurs when man can no longer symbolize force. The Roman Empire broke down because the symbols did not keep up with the technological progress. Similarly, the Middle Ages’ identification with the cross led to a breakdown, as man no longer conceptualized the force in the cross. So, Adams contends, the burst of scientific thinking that led to the Paris Exposition of 1900 was a direct result of man’s free thought away from any conceptualization of force. The age’s scientific and technological advances frighten Adams. He sees the scientific achievements and technological prowess of his day at Paris, and he envisions a chaotic future. What members of the 20th century must do, he thinks, is achieve some kind of symbolization which individuals might apply to the present. Adams’s search for symbols leads him from antiquity to his present day. All of

the progresses of civilization that culminated in the scientific and technological advancements of the 20th century require a symbol, because symbols are man’s way of apprehending the idea of these forces. Ultimately, Adams’s theory of history rests on the power of the mind to apprehend these symbols. Again and again, he acknowledges this fact throughout the Education. His symbolic entrance into education provided the point of entry for Adams. As Adams the boy recognized the force of his educational life in symbols, so must mankind harness the force of science and technology in some kind of symbol. At the end, Adams suggests the comet, a force that heads to the sun, accelerating its motion toward a new equilibrium. Like science and technology, the comet represents a force that has the power for its own destruction, yet it reverses itself and embarks on a new course before it collides with the sun. The journey of the Education is a journey to understand the power of change. Adams believed the power of change in civilization necessitated a balance between the individual and the innovations of the day. He thought science and technology needed a symbol to which man could ascribe this force of progress, and he thought this was the only possible route to harness this power. Michael Modarelli

ALBEE, EDWARDâ•… Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?â•… (1963)

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? is Edward Albee’s most successful play, one which has enjoyed a healthy production history. The original 1963 Broadway production won the Tony Award and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for best new play, a 1966 film starred the acting legends Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, and a recent production (2004–07) played successfully on Broadway and in London’s West End. While being a box office success (the original production ran 644 performances) and a popular vehicle for major performers, in the 1960s it was one of the most controversial of Albee’s plays. The nominating jury selected the play for the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, but the Pulitzer Prize Board refused to give its approval, citing

134â•…â•… Albee, Edward Albee’s “filthy” use of sexual themes and profanity. Two of the jury’s members resigned in protest. In the 21st century, the play’s content no longer shocks, leading Albee (b. 1928) to create a 2002 update, which includes even more intense language. Language and sex and sexuality may have been the most unsettling qualities of the play in the 1960s, but it is the play’s unrelenting exposure of violence at the heart of marriage that continues to challenge its audiences. Family, specifically marriage, is treated as a destructive institution, built on lies. Violence is a constant of the relationships in the play. Indeed, the play is an act of violence: It is a “murder” of George and Martha’s imaginary son. George has told Martha that if she ever speaks of their “son” to others, he will “kill” him. In the midst of these brutal relationships, Albee employs alienation as a symptom of the violence at the heart of institutions, in this case marriages. Thus, he does what he has regularly claimed is the act of a good writer: understands the hopelessness of existence and yet struggles for a hopeful angle on it. In Woolf, the hopelessness centers on the brutal communications and manipulations at the heart of marriage. Ben Fisler

Alienation in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?

Were it not for the sacrificial psychic murder of the fictional child, Edward Albee’s play might read as true theater of the absurd, a style of theater popular in the mid-20th century that grew from the concept that life has no meaning. The play encapsulates the communication breakdowns, disconnected conversations, and identity confusions of the absurdists Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, or Samuel Beckett. The death of the boy, however, disrupts the existential despair as clearly as it disrupts the violence inherent in George and Martha’s verbal exchanges. By killing the boy, George destroys the most dominant lie at the core of their failed marriage. The ritual sacrifice of the child allows the dawn to rise on a new world. However, that new world is not necessarily one of simple hope. Martha is terrified to look on the new day, prophetically answering the question of the play, “who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf,” with her paralytic, fearful “I .╯.╯. am .╯.╯. George .╯.╯. I .╯.╯. am .╯.╯.” (Act 3). If Albee’s indictment were

merely against a dysfunctional marriage, or some dysfunctional marriages, the new world might come into clearer focus. But, as it is Albee’s view that the fundamental destructiveness of family discourse is itself the problem, he is no more certain than his characters what the new world will look like. He is sure that the destructive institutions need to be demolished if anything better is to be uncovered, but he cannot tell us what the alternative will look like, if indeed an alternative exists. Clearly, however, institutions are themselves the problem. As Albee focuses his sardonic wit on marriage, he incorporates attacks on the educational system, career, and fatherhood. Martha thinks Nick is a math professor, even arguing about it with Honey. George likewise questions Nick’s certainty about his profession, admonishing him; “Martha is seldom mistaken .╯.╯. maybe you should be in the math department, or something” (Act 1). George refers to his degrees, combining A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. to make the distorted acronym ABMAPHID, which he then reflects “has been variously described as a wasting disease of the frontal lobes and as a wonder drug. It is actually both” (Act 1). He then suggests that Nick might run the history department when he is 40 and looks 55, prompting Nick to remind George once more that Nick is a biologist. George tells of the time he briefly ran the history department while the other faculty fought in World War II. He is bitter that they returned: “Not one sonof-a-bitch got killed” (Act 1). He also states that a faculty member who died in the cafeteria line was buried in the bushes around the chapel, commenting that faculty members “make excellent fertilizer” (Act 1). It is only one of many lashes at Martha’s father, whom he variously calls a “god” and someone who “expects his .╯.╯. staff .╯.╯. to cling to the walls, of [the university] like ivy” (Act 1). Martha’s father, of course, appears to have always been cruel to George, mocking his novel about his own horrific childhood experience and threatening to fire him if he publishes it. Yet he has also exerted tyrannical control over Martha, forcing her to annul her marriage to the gardener who was her first real love. The combination of these secondary stories of abuse and humiliation, from George’s contempt for his own education to Martha’s overbearing father meddling

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?â•…â•… 135 in both their lives, suggests that all family, career, and social institutions are fundamentally destructive to the human beings engaged in them. The result of the many acts of violence is a painfully introspective, existentially detached series of dialogues that mix into the more brutal, direct exchanges. The specter of alienation first appears subtly when George asks Nick if he “like[s] it here,” meaning the university, and Nick replies that “it’s fine” in reference to the room. The men also repeatedly confuse each others’ wives in conversation. Nick: [S]he .╯.╯. gets sick quite easily George: .╯.╯. Martha hasn’t been sick a day in her life Nick: No, no; my wife .╯.╯. my wife gets sick quite easily. Your wife is Martha. George: Oh, yes .╯.╯. I know. (Act 2) At the top of act 2, the repeat of this miscommunication becomes a preamble for a lengthy discussion of each other’s personal pains in relation to their wives, in which neither really listens to the other, except to cause small hurts. Later, the alienation factor increases. At the end of act 2, Honey describes a fantasy about children and feeling exposed while George unsuccessfully tries to make her aware of her husband’s liaison with his wife. At the top of act 3, Martha has an entirely rhetorical conversation about her feeling abandoned and constantly crying, while violently searching for “the bastards” who are hiding from her, which eventually degrades into her mimicking the sound of the ice in her glass, with “clink.” The most terrifying of these moments occurs immediately before the boy’s death is made official. Martha rants about her attempts to protect the child from every “failure”; George counters by reciting the Libera Me, a responsory portion of the Roman Catholic funeral mass. Increasingly, Albee’s characters illustrate the alienation imposed upon human beings by the destructive institutions of their worlds, preparing the audience for the needed “exorcism” of the fictional child. George prepares to destroy the child by returning to his use of the Latin mass. When he tells Martha that Crazy Billy delivered a telegram that

their boy has been killed in a car crash, she screams, “YOU .╯.╯. CAN’T .╯.╯. DO .╯.╯. THAT.” He engages the others in the exorcism, first by fooling Nick into reinforcing the idea that the boy’s death is not within George’s “power,” then by looking to Honey to verify that he did indeed consume the telegram (the only evidence) before her eyes. Martha continues to explore the stages of grief—first denial, then anger, then bargaining (“you didn’t have to push it over the EDGE,” then depression as she sinks into a sudden awareness of her fatigue and lack of interest in drinking, and finally reaches acceptance (“You had to?” and “Just .╯.╯. us?”). The sacrifice and the aftermath are complete as George and Martha face the dawn of a new day alone. Albee’s delicately constructed murder, revelation, and mourning clearly attest to what the author sees as the need for destructive human institutions to be destroyed. But killing the lie on which George and Martha’s marriage has been built does not leave behind a nurturing marriage. Rather, it leaves behind a world of uncertainty and terror. Within that terror, however, is the hope for a better existence, one that leaves behind destructive institutions like marriage, with their violent, manipulative, and treasonous acts of communication and interaction and the deep psychic alienations experienced by their participants. In the dawn at the end of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? is the possibility, despite Albee’s inherently cynical and sardonic view of the world, that human beings may indeed be able to care for one another. But only by obliterating the institutions that compel them to control, alienate, and abuse each other will that possibility ever be realized. That is a Virginia Woolf of which to be afraid. Ben Fisler

Family in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?

Lies, misunderstandings, and betrayals are the backbone of relationships in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?. So unrelenting and broad are the assaults that neither Martha or George can be named the aggressor in their cruel games. Simultaneously, Nick and Honey reveal that while some couples might not attack each other publicly, they are still victimized by the fundamental destructiveness of relationships. All couples are destroying each other with lies, manipu-

136â•…â•… Albee, Edward lations, and betrayals. Those most visibly showcased in Woolf are referred to fancifully in the text as “the bit about the kid,” “the mouse [that] got all puffed up,” and “hump the hostess.” It is unclear whether Martha and George were unable or unwilling to conceive a child, but ultimately this is an irrelevant question. The creation of the fictional son is not a delusion meant to fill some maternal/paternal gap in their lives, as there is no evidence that either partner believes the child to be real. Rather, the son is a lie that they created to be the ultimate game. A son allows for limitless possibilities in their ongoing assaults on each other. Being a completely fictional human being, he can be anything they want him to be that is convenient to the current abuse. He can be disappointed in his father; be an estranged but successful student; be ashamed of his mother; or, as George finally, coldly, determines, he can be dead. Throughout the play, the couple manipulate the gamut of the boy’s potential. In the first act, subtitled “Fun and Games,” Martha decides their son’s birthday is coming soon and reveals this to Honey privately. Then the question of when the boy is coming home is raised, and Martha tries to change the subject. Suddenly, she turns the discussion to the problems that George has. He expresses confusion over who has the problems, himself or the child. Then Martha suggests that “the little bugger” might not be George’s before quickly putting that suspicion to bed: “I wouldn’t conceive with anyone but you.” Near the end of the second act, subtitled “Walpurgisnacht” (a reference to the pagan/Roman Catholic festival that has variously been a time of games and tricks, a time when demonic forces walk the earth, or the celebration of Walpurg is, one of the saints who brought salvation to Germany), George invents the telegram of their son’s death. In the third act, “The Exorcism,” they battle over the boy’s entire life story, from his birth to his adulthood. Each fiction about the boy is directed as an attack on the other’s spouse. George states that Martha had a difficult labor, questioning her health and suitability for motherhood. Martha claims that when the boy broke his arm, George cried and was of no help, while she fashioned a sling and carried him to safety. They argue whether the child was

ashamed of his father or his mother, trading blows over Martha’s drinking and George’s career failings. Even mentioning the child to a stranger is an act of violence, a breach of protocol, which George decries in his outburst “You goddamn destructive.” Albee uses these verbal acts of violence to reveal how individuals in marriages pit their careers, their communications, and even their children against one another. The choice to make Martha and George’s child fictional underlines the symbolic meaning of their marriage, already suggested in their names (an allusion to George and Martha Washington). Such is the cruelty at the heart of this marriage that the couple has invented a child simply to abuse each other. Albee is determined not to allow the play to describe only one disturbed couple. When George learns of the lies at the source of Nick and Honey’s marriage (the hysterical pregnancy and the wealthy missionary), he waits a mere 30 minutes of stage time (approximately) to play “Get the Guests.” Cruelly twisting Nick and Honey’s personal pains, he transforms their story into a tale of a “scientist and his mouse.” He turns the story into an exposure of those lies, calling her “money baggage amongst other things” and then revealing the lie that built their marriage initially: “The Mouse got all puffed up one day .╯.╯. and she said .╯.╯. look at me .╯.╯. and so they were married .╯.╯. and then the puff went away .╯.╯. like magic .╯.╯. poof.” While it is George who exposes the lies at the heart of their marriage, it is the institution of marriage that created them. The unsuccessful infidelity referred to by George as a game of “hump the hostess” begins as an expansion of Albee’s efforts to expose the betrayals in Nick and Honey’s marriage and then expands to indict all marriages at the university. After Nick fails to “perform,” Martha begins a long speech complaining about: Boozed-up .╯.╯. impotent lunk-heads .╯.╯. [who] roll their beautiful, beautiful eyes .╯.╯. and .╯.╯. bounce .╯.╯. over to old Martha .╯.╯. [and then] back to the soda fountain again where they fuel up some more, while Marthapoo sits there with her dress up over her head .╯.╯. suffocating .╯.╯. waiting for the lunk-heads;

Little Womenâ•…â•… 137 so, finally, they get their courage up .╯.╯. but that’s all baby. (Act 3) Nick is not an unfaithful husband who attempts, albeit without consummation, to cheat on his young wife. Rather, he is a reminder that there are not better husbands than George or better marriages than George and Martha’s. All husbands described in the play are unfaithful; the implication is that all marriages are built on infidelity, lies, and betrayal. For Albee, family, specifically marriage, is a destructive institution with violence at its core. Ben Fisler

V iolence in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?

In Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?, violence is a constant, culminating in the murder of the fictional child. George’s murder of the child is an act of the most deadly violence, but contradictorily it becomes a kind of ritual sacrifice. Faced with the constant barrage of insults, humiliations, and occasional physical attacks, killing the imaginary child seems the only way to save George and Martha from the never-ending cruelties of marriage. As the sun rises, his death is left behind in the night, and the couple look to the obvious symbol of a new world about to dawn. From the moment they arrive home, Martha is calling George a cluck and their home a dump, while George is correcting her grammar as part of his own passive/aggressive strategy. Martha accuses George of never getting involved in the parties, while George mocks her behavior at the party as “braying.” They continue in the presence of Nick and Honey. George refers to an abstract painting as “a pictorial representation of the order of Martha’s mind”; Martha mocks him with the story of her besting him in a “boxing match.” Both spouses drag the guests into their abuses. Martha becomes increasingly aggressive in her flirtations with Nick to threaten George, while George attacks Nick’s profession on the basis of obscure fantasies of eugenics. When Martha and Nick’s liaison is imminent, George chooses to ignore her, claiming that it is four o’clock and time for him to read. This makes Martha even more furious. As she prepares to join Nick, she threatens to make George “sorry that

[he] made [her] want to marry [him]” and “sorry that [he] ever let [himself ] down” (Act 2). To ensure that the viewers do not think that violence is unique to George and Martha’s relationship, Albee gives Nick and Honey their moments of abuse as well. Nick claims to be ignorant of how his words could be hurtful, but he is unrelenting in calling George “sir” (which George takes as a comment on his age) and tells him he does not know much about science. Nick seems aware from the beginning that he is being pulled into their games: “Do you want me to say it’s funny, so you can contradict me and say it’s sad .╯.╯. [Y]ou can play that damn little game any way you want to, you know[?]” (Act 2). However, he continues to play the games even as he repudiates them. Honey is as close to being the victim in this tragedy as any of the four characters, being collateral damage at the end of the first two acts (she vomits and collapses in the bathroom). Yet even she has her cruel streaks. She explodes with delight during the acts of violence at the end of the second act, even though they include George’s attempted strangulation of Martha. Perhaps her worst moment in the play occurs when she decides to verify George’s murder of the imaginary son, attesting to the arrival of the telegram and even to George’s ludicrous claim that he ate the message. Violence is a constant in the play, but it is not the sickening behavior of an emotionally unstable, alcoholic wife or a passive/aggressive, crypto-misogynist husband. Albee does not allow the attentive viewer to merely dismiss George and Martha as a dysfunctional couple. In Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?, all couples are victims and purveyors of the violence at the heart of marriage. This violence makes meaningful connections or a nurturing family unit impossible. The violence produces the alienation that we see revealed throughout the play. Ben Fisler

ALCOTT, LOUISA MAYâ•… Little Womenâ•… (1868–1869)

Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1832 and died in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1888. Little Women is semiautobiographical in nature, based

138â•…â•… Alcott, Louisa May primarily on Alcott’s happy childhood in a large, formerly upper-class family who have fallen on hard times. Alcott’s novel follows the sisters of the March family in their transition from adolescence to adulthood. She models Meg, Beth, and Amy on her sisters and endows the character of Jo with much of her own independent spirit, personal struggles, and love of writing. The novel is a window into Victorian life, especially in respect to the lives of women. The March sisters must learn to accept the expected, but often restrained, role for women as mothers and wives. Jo especially has to struggle with her desire for an independent life as a writer and the accepted role of women during her time. Yet even Jo finds comfort in the closeness and security family life creates for the March girls. The sickness and eventual death of beloved Beth, the European travels of Amy, and the marriage of Meg test, but cannot break, these close family bonds. Despite the tragic elements present in Little Women, the book remains an uplifting moral work, designed to both entertain and impart moral lessons to the reader. At the end of the novel, the characters are left leading fulfilled, upright lives as mothers in their own families. The domestic sphere that is romanticized in the Victorian period is also idealized in the novel, and Little Women is at its heart a celebration of family. Cheryl Blake Price

The American Dream in Little Women

The American dream has long symbolized a change of fortune and the hope that through hard work or luck, even the poorest person can prosper. Immigrants flooding into America in the 19th century came looking for new opportunities that would lift them out of the poverty they had experienced in their home countries; for them, the American dream was inseparably linked with material wealth. In Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the March family offers a different view of the American dream—a vision of prosperity based not on material gain but on moral and spiritual wealth. At first, the American dream seems to have failed for the March family. Mr. March has lost the family fortune in some unfortunate business invest-

ments. The four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—are caught between worlds; by birth, they are expected to associate with their wealthy neighbors. However, their poverty creates a distinct difference between them and their friends. Much of Little Women deals with the temptations and frustrations the March sisters feel as a result of their altered situation, and from their trials the sisters learn that “love, protection, peace, and health, the real blessings of life” are “things more precious than any luxuries money could buy.” While each of the family members strives to become a better person and overcome individual faults, their piety and charity does not protect the family from tragedy. Yet a silver lining exists behind every difficulty because bad experiences usually help teach the girls about the important things in life. In order to strengthen her moral argument, Alcott provides some foils to the March family in the form of the Gardiner and Moffat families. Both of these families represent the traditional American dream of social mobility gained through material wealth; however, when compared to the Marches, they are portrayed as lacking the happiness and blessings of the March family. The wealthy Moffats are described as “not particularly cultivated or intelligent people, and that all their gilding could not quite conceal the ordinary material of which they were made.” During a short visit to the Moffat home, Meg overhears some hurtful gossip about her family and gladly leaves the Moffats to return to the quiet sanctuary of her home. While this episode does not completely cure Meg of coveting items such as Sallie Gardiner’s fancy clothing and trinkets, by the end of the novel she realizes that her life with John in the “Dovecote” is far happier than the rich life Sallie and Ned Moffat lead in their mansion. The Marches’ poverty is often presented as having advantages, and the relative independence the girls receive from their situation is one of these advantages. As the family fortune has been lost, Meg and Jo offer to work to help support the family. These two sisters obtain jobs outside of the family, but Jo’s writing soon becomes a welcome source of extra income and allows a few luxuries. Eventually, Jo’s successes inspire her to leave her family and move to New York to pursue literary prospects, an

Little Womenâ•…â•… 139 opportunity that would not have been available at home. As time passes, she heeds the advice of Mr. Bhaer and writes a successful novel based on her life experiences. The opportunity that America symbolizes for so many, as well as the idea that hard work pays off, is illustrated here. Instead of restoring wealth to the March family, Louis May Alcott’s girls learn that true wealth cannot be purchased, but other blessings enhance life. Especially when Beth succumbs to heart damage caused by scarlet fever, the family comes together in the realization that love and family are more important than material objects. By the end of the novel, the surviving March girls are all happily placed with caring husbands, and while Meg and Jo cannot be considered wealthy, they lead rich and fulfilling lives. Through their hard work and devotion to family, the girls do realize their own form of the American dream: a good husband, a close family, and a comfortable, if not extravagant, lifestyle. Cheryl Blake Price

Illness in Little Women

Before antibiotics and immunization, health and illness were daily concerns for many people. Little Women reflects the preoccupation with wellness that was present in the Victorian age and illuminates the ways in which illness was perceived during this time. The threat of disease hovers over the March family, and the tragic illness and subsequent death of beloved Beth serves many purposes in the novel. It mirrors Louisa May Alcott’s own experience with death, sheds light on Victorian beliefs about health, and imparts a moral lesson on the nature of sacrifice and the importance of Christian faith. Even though Beth’s death is heart-wrenching, Alcott instills the misfortune with hope, providing an optimistic vision of the strength of family bonds. In the Victorian period, death from infectious diseases and other illnesses that are easily treatable today were frequent. Little Women reflects Victorian beliefs about illness and shows how disease was viewed and treated in this time. These concerns were real for Alcott, who saw injury and disease daily as a Civil War nurse and experienced loss through the sickness and death of her sister Elizabeth. In America, ill health was especially prevalent for immi-

grants, who often lived in poor conditions and had inadequate nutrition. In the novel, the plight of the immigrant family is represented by the Hummels; it is through tending the sick Hummel children that Beth contracts scarlet fever. However, even prior to her illness, Beth is represented as having a weak constitution, something the Victorians believed made people more susceptible to disease. Beth’s illness is doubly troubling for the March family because Mr. March has also become unwell during his service for the Union Army. Mrs. March is away nursing her husband in Washington, D.C., when Beth gets sick, leaving her caretaking to Jo and the servant Hannah. While Mr. March goes on to recover fully, Beth’s constitution is further weakened by the scarlet fever and the development of rheumatic fever. Jo’s earnings from writing allow Beth and Mrs. March to travel to the seaside; the Victorians commonly believed that ocean air had curative powers. Despite these attempts, Beth never regains her health and comes to the realization that she will die. She retires to a sickroom, and, leaning upon her parents for support and guidance, Beth looks to her Christian faith to die at peace. Naturally, Beth’s death has a profound impact on the family, but in the sadness there comes an emphasis on the joys of life along with the misfortune. Jo, who has always struggled with her temper, finds that nursing Beth provides “lessons in patience [that] were so sweetly taught her that she could not fail to learn them.” Beth’s own struggles with her impending death also provide lessons in faith. At first overcome with sorrow, Beth becomes serene in her final illness, giving herself over to God. Beth’s illness highlights the important place Christianity holds in the text; much of Little Women is devoted to imparting Christian beliefs and improving moral character. Beth’s passing is hard for the family, but it teaches them life lessons and brings new appreciation for the blessings that they do have. Beth’s reliance on her faith is another important feature in the novel, as it allows her to die peacefully and promises a relief from her worldly suffering; it reaffirms the Christian ideology that is present throughout the text. Beth’s illness, modeled on Alcott’s own sister’s death, also highlights the fragility of life and gives

140â•…â•… Alcott, Louisa May the reader a glimpse of the real dangers illness presented in the Victorian period. The idea that Beth’s death highlights the blessings of life is further reinforced by the final chapter of Little Women. The chapter, entitled “Harvest Time,” signifies the bounty and good fortune of the harvest, but it also inspires images of transition and death. It is here that Alcott reveals that Laurie and Amy’s only daughter, also named Beth, is a frail, sickly child. The similarity in the name “Beth” is not a coincidence; like her aunt, it seems that little Beth’s constitution is under constant threat. However, fear of Beth’s fragility is bringing her parents closer and even causing improvements to their characters. Amy is “growing sweeter, deeper, and more tender,” and Laurie is “more serious, strong, and firm.” The lesson that both parents learn is that “beauty, youth, good fortune, even love itself, cannot keep care and pain, loss and sorrow, from the most blessed.” Cheryl Blake Price

Parenting in Little Women

Unsurprisingly, parenting plays a large role in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a book that primarily chronicles the maturation of four sisters from young adolescence to adulthood. Just as Little Women can be seen as a guidebook for young adults (especially girls) on proper moral and social behavior, it can also serve as a primer for raising children. The parents of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy have a very specific task: to mold their girls into industrious, helpful, and cheerful Christian women. Through personal example, daily lessons, and Christian teachings, Marmee and Father succeed in this goal, but not without some difficulties. Despite the hard work that parenting entails, it is presented as the epitome of a woman’s— and, to a large part, a man’s—life. The second part of the book continues to follow the lives of the girls once they marry and begin to have children of their own, which affords the novel another opportunity to model appropriate child-rearing practices and to present parenting as a joyful, necessary, and fulfilling experience. At the novel’s opening, the March family is, in effect, a one-parent household, as Mr. March is away from home fighting in the Civil War. With her eldest daughters growing rapidly, Marmee must

balance preparing her girls for adulthood with household duties, charitable work, and money matters. However, she does have some help from her two oldest daughters, Meg and Jo, who each “adopt” one of the younger siblings to watch over and care for. Although the novel certainly promotes the traditional nuclear family, it also shows that caring, successful families can come in other forms as well. Mr. March’s absence in the early part of the novel proves this, as does the example of the neighboring Lawrence family. The elderly Mr. Lawrence has lived through the loss of his wife, son, daughterin-law, and granddaughter, and he is left only with his grandson, Laurie. While the Lawrence household appears to be more disharmonious than the Marches’ at times, it shows that a nontraditional family can also flourish if proper parenting exists in the home. The biggest key to the Marches’ child-rearing success is that they parent through example and gentle guidance. Marmee’s management of Jo’s temper is a good example of this parenting style. Jo’s temper is infamous in the house, and she often has a hard time controlling it. When Jo’s anger leads Amy to have a life-threatening accident, Marmee steps in and confides to Jo that she has a similar anger problem. Showing Jo how she has overcome her temper, Mrs. March prompts Jo to conquer her own faults. Through parenting by example, little punishment is called for; remonstrance, if given, is usually a gentle shaming rather than harsh words or criticism. For the Marches, corporal punishment is out of the question. When Amy receives “several tingling blows” on her palm as punishment for breaking a school rule, Mrs. March states, “I don’t approve of corporal punishment, especially for girls.” The novel makes clear that children are to be raised with love and kindness, not harsh words or spankings. Rather than be sent back to a school that endorses corporal punishment, Amy is immediately withdrawn and is home-instructed by her mother and older sisters. Much of the girls’ education has been received at home, with Mr. March initially overseeing instruction and the girls carrying on their learning once he leaves to serve in the Union Army. Yet there is another sort of education that Mr. and Mrs. March are responsible for, and that

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistf ight in Heavenâ•…â•… 141 is the religious education of their children. As the family patriarch and as a minister, Mr. March takes the condition of his daughters’ souls seriously and is primarily responsible for ensuring that his daughters become Christian women. This becomes most apparent during Beth’s last illness, in which her “Father and Mother guided her tenderly through the valley of shadow, and gave her up to God.” Faced with a family crisis, Mr. March looks to his faith to keep the family strong and together. Although Beth’s death casts a shadow over the family, the novel is firm in the idea that life goes on. The surviving girls go on to marry and have families of their own, and Meg, Jo, and Amy soon discover the challenges new parents face. Yet Marmee and Father remain important figures in their daughters’ lives, helping to shape the new mothers into successful parents. Particularly in the chapters dealing with Meg and the twins, the novel shows the girls adopting the techniques of their parents to become loving, responsible mothers. Family takes central importance in Little Women, and by detailing the parenting styles of Mr. and Mrs. March, the novel illustrates both the importance of parenting and how to parent well. Cheryl Blake Price

ALEXIE, SHERMANâ•… The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistf ight in Heavenâ•… (1993)

Sherman Alexie (b. 1966) describes The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven as “a thinly disguised memoir” in his introduction to the book’s 10th anniversary edition. It certainly is, though less selfconsciously so than more formal autobiographies. The book is a series of episodes: short, insightful explorations of contemporary Native American life. Set on a reservation in the Pacific Northwest, Lone Ranger and Tonto includes recurring characters such as Victor, the angry grown-up child of alcoholics whose life never seems to be on track; Thomas, a storyteller and outcast; and Junior, a kind, generous underachiever. These stories are never uplifting, though they are not without hope. They are never generous, though not without promise. They are never kind, though not without sympathy. Alexie’s tales are stories, in the best sense and in the classic

poetic tradition. They show us, always outsiders and after the fact, a world we cannot touch or even truly understand. And he speaks to us intentionally. He is a voice in our wilderness whose prophetic speech warns of our collective ignorance. We are introduced to his world through myths culled from life as he knows it: boys whose basketball days are over before they begin, men whose lives cannot reach beyond the boundaries imposed upon them, women who are alone even when they are with their companions. The stories comprise a totality, an impression of a life condemned and still struggling for a voice, one who can only find hope in the words that make it off the reservation. Aaron Drucker

Abandonment in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistf ight in Heaven

The narrator calls the mother of his child a year or so after he left. Or maybe he does not. It depends on which version of the story you believe. There are several: some in passing, others consuming the narrative. All are true; none are true. It does not really matter whether he picked up the phone, the leaving is real just the same. “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” is a story about leaving. The titular story of Sherman Alexie’s collection, it tells the story of the end of the narrator’s relationship with the outside world, his coming home after the failures of college and relationships, and the finality of indecision. Abandonment is not, as some might think, an act of will, the assertion made by a final choice. Abandonment is the slow disintegration of the connections through too many inactions, too many failures to choose, of not deciding, of not doing. Abandonment is the natural consequence of ambivalence. The memory the narrator shares is sparked by a Creamsicle, given to him by a 7-11 night manager: “[T]hose little demonstrations of power tickled him. All seventy-five cents of it. I knew how much everything cost.” Everything has a price. The narrator is torn between his life in the city, the desire to assimilate and succeed, and his history—the Indian off the reservation, lost in the oppressive, commercial white world. The desire to succeed in the city is palpable; the drive toward gentrification is tangible.

142â•…â•… Alexie, Sherman He moves in with a white girl, gets a clerk job at a 7-11, and runs the graveyard shift. When he and his girlfriend fight, he drives away, learning the streets of Seattle in midnight tours of empty hills. He can never decide what he wants more: a life in the city, capitulating to the commercial and capitalist processes of a gentrified life, or a life back on the reservation, a hero in remission, the most successful failure of his generation. He turns first to drinking, the oblivion of the alcoholic haze that dulls the need for a decision, but his girlfriend will not let him find the answer at the bottom of a tall glass. “You’re just like your brother,” she yells. “Drunk all the time and stupid.” He knows exactly how much everything costs: “And she was a genius, too. She knew exactly what to say to cause me the most pain.” So, unable to face the choice, a sober life of capitalist striving or the sequestered oblivion of the reservation, he leaves. This choice is not a choice (she tells him not to return as he leaves), but he leaves the city, his only solution to his twin desires of being Indian and being accepted in the larger world, and abandons the life he began to build. He will never go back. In the book’s 10th anniversary edition, a story called “Junior Polatkin’s Wild West Show” was added by the author, who claims in his introduction that “it contains themes more adroitly covered in other stories.” Like the previous stories, “Junior Polatkin” also addresses a theme of being abandoned. However, instead of abandoning tradition or self, Junior acts in a more traditional mise-en-scène of abandonment. He moves off the reservation to go to college in Spokane, “the only Indian at Gonzaga, a small Jesuit school originally founded to educate the local tribes.” By Christmas break, he has fallen in love with Lynn, rebellious and outspoken, blonde and white. He overcomes his own difficulty and defensiveness, courts her, and has an affair with her. Sean Casey, “with dark skin and blue eyes, webbed toes” is born nine months later. But instead of the movie romance Junior imagines, Lynn is sequestered by her parents, and though he has “minimal visitation rights,” by the time Sean is three, Junior no longer has contact with him. He attempts to recover his ardor for education and his desire to become more than squandered potential, but even with some success, he finally leaves the city and returns to the

reservation, returning to the absent dreams and failed promises he had sought to overcome through college, career, and a life beyond being “just” Indian. For Alexie, abandonment is the underlying state—the affective cause for the fragmentation of the individual from community, tradition, and family. It is the continuous state of the Indian in a society that cannot integrate its past and its present, and as such it cannot conceive its future. When faced with the possibility of tomorrow, the only choice is retreat: to run away from the city, the world, and the senses, and to remember only how it all left you behind at the bottom of a bottle on the reservation. Aaron Drucker

Regret in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistf ight in Heaven

Regret means that one wishes that something had not happened, that the result had been different. Regret expresses the desire that one’s action resulted in a different outcome. It is a deep longing for the alternative. For Sherman Alexie, regret is a poignant tool for reflection on the environment the contemporary reservation Indian inhabits. Junior, Alexie’s protagonist in “A Good Story,” writes stories about Indians. His mother reads his stories, but one day she asks, “Don’t you think your stories are too sad?” She makes a request: “You should write a story about something good, a real good story .╯.╯. Because people should know that good things always happen to Indians, too.” Junior obliges. The story is a simple one. Uncle Moses is a fixture of the reservation: old—very old—and like his ramshackle home, he seems to survive on determination and stubborn will. He is well known throughout the reservation, but few engage with him. Only Arnold, a chubby, pale boy, takes the time to really be with him. On this day, in this “good story,” Arnold skips a class field trip, instead meeting Uncle Moses for a sandwich and a story. Reflexively, Uncle Moses tells him the story of Arnold skipping a class field trip to share a sandwich and a story with Uncle Moses. Junior’s story is charming on its surface, but it is tinged with several layers of regret. First, and most apparently, is his mother’s initial request. While quilting, she ruminates on Junior’s stories of crying

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistf ight in Heavenâ•…â•… 143 and (sadly) laughing Indians, and she wants to hear a different kind of story, without loss and without failure. She needs to hear that things can be okay, that things are not the way Junior depicts them. She feels that Indians are not always on a downward spiral, that good things happen all the time, and so Junior picks a good thing. The events of the story are small, intimate, personal—a moment of joy in a life literally collapsing. Uncle Moses’s house represents a central emblem of the story. Hand-built and structurally unsound, it is a monument to Uncle Moses’s achievement and his limitations. The house is not held together by sound engineering, and it will not outlast the life of the tribe like the pyramids of Egypt or the Pueblo rock dwellings, but it will hold together as long as willpower and memory can graft its oddly aligned walls together. Like the figure of Uncle Moses or the mother who requests Junior’s story, the house exists on tenuous strings of hope, struggling against the apparent failure of its faulty edifice in order to survive in its own right. It takes little to prop these figures up, but they are not strong in and of themselves, and they are aware of their frail state. This knowledge leads to a sense of what should have been, what could be, and ultimately a struggle against regret: holding one’s head high in the face of impending collapse. “A Good Story” binds Alexie’s collection together by signifying the instinctive tribal resistance to the almost overwhelming sensibility of regret throughout the rest of the novel’s episodes. Significantly, “A Good Story” is presented as a story within a story, framed by Junior’s mother’s request while she is quilting. Quilting is a curious activity. It is expressly concerned with bringing disparate, yet complementary, elements together to form a cohesive, comforting whole. Junior’s story— and the story he tells—serves much the same literary action. Lone Ranger and Tonto is a series of difficult episodes which the mother accurately describes as sad and, alternately, Junior adds, hysterical. They are often both funny and terrible simultaneously, and while Alexie’s work can be sympathetic and interesting, it also relates tales of loss, failure, death, or (worst of all) hopelessness. Each separate story adds its distinct element to the whole of the work; each tells its story of Indian experience. “A Good Story”

is much like the central patch of a quilt, the linchpin patch that is the key to the quilt’s narrative. That moment of hopeful camaraderie between the elder generation and the youngest, between mother and Junior and Uncle Moses and Arnold (significantly named, as well), highlights the possibilities for hope in the Indian reservation. These hopes are small, limited, personal, and temporary: a sandwich, a story, an afternoon of dawdling time. The loss of hope apparent in this limitation is staggering. There is nothing left for the tribe, for the reservation, or for the future to create tradition, history, or reverence. All that remains is the passing of time. In producing such a moment in “A Good Story” as the “good things” that happen to Indians, too, Alexie poignantly highlights this central regret of the overall narrative. Like the grandmother, Alexie seems to desire more than the grim truths of his sad stories, but he can only satisfy this need with the smallest of stories, without tradition, without history, and without mythology. Only in the stolen moments are there good stories in a world permeated with the regret of what was, what could have been, and what will never be. Aaron Drucker

Tradition in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistf ight in Heaven

Tradition plays a central role in the stories of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. But tradition conceives a cultural identity that is both ever-present and perceptibly lost in Alexie’s vision of his people. While the iconic images of the Native American healer and dreamer appear, and images of the “fancydancer” and the storyteller are repeated throughout the novel, our conventional notion of tradition is usurped by the “new,” the present reality of the Indian nation. In the new tradition, a boy learns early that he has already failed, just by being born on the reservation. Like his ancestors, he will strive, he will dream, he will find his first drink, and he will settle into a life of restless failure. Tradition, often a source of a people’s pride, is instead called a “drug,” a placebo against the tide of injustice and despair inflicted upon (and buoyed by) Alexie’s picture of Native American life.

144â•…â•… Allende, Isabel Alexie deals with the misplaced assumptions of a positive tradition transparently in “A Drug Called Tradition.” His position is clearly stated: “Indians never need to wear a watch because your skeletons will always remind you about the time. See, it is always now.” There is no past, no future; there is only the present reality of circumstance. After a hallucinogenic round of storytelling (the “new drug” the protagonists take, while never named, may be the “traditional” Indian hallucinogen, peyote, but it could just as easily be mushrooms or LSD), Alexie’s narrator asserts that there is no real past for today’s Indians, nothing to reach back to but fictions created by deluded minds. The most potent stories come from a drug-induced haze, based on legends that are not theirs but have roots in Anglo mythology and iconography (as one boy says, “Van Gogh should’ve painted this one”), making ownership of an authentic past impossible. Without an authentic past, they cannot have real traditions, only fictions conglomerated from the pictures on television. They are reflected in Tonto, the loyal, semiliterate sidekick of the heroic Lone Ranger, spiritually bonding with the horses they steal; in Geronimo, sitting lonely in long-forgotten pictures; in the “young warrior,” an icon without name or resolution, archetypal but empty. But the story, as always, is more complex than the author’s apparent claim. While Alexie asserts that the conception of “Indian” has been usurped by the image of “the Indian,” the authentic replaced by the (Anglicized) image in the broader cultural identity, he identifies (purposefully) a more subtle, less idiographic but also more personal idea of the traditional at the very end of the story. Big Mom, the spiritual leader of the Spokane tribe, hands the narrator a small drum. “It looked like it was about a hundred years old, maybe older,” he writes. It is a small gift, a memento from the past that physically connects him to the spirit of his tribe. It is not an image, does not do great deeds of warriors, does not overthrow those who would oppress the tribe. The drum will not subvert the inexorable march of time and entropy, or so it seems. “I guess you could call it the only religion I have,” he says, “one drum that can fit in my hand, but I think if I played it a little, it might fill up the whole world.”

Tradition can be a drug, a destructive denial of reality. As Native Americans try to construct an identity culled from a tradition that is both theirs and not theirs, both Indian and media-imaged, “tradition” becomes meaningless. It is a present thing, a television presentation of an ancient myth that never was. Thus, the conventional role of tradition is fatally flawed for the Native American, as destructive as the hallucinogenic enterprise that initiates the story. But in the end, there remains a history that is real, and that is the narrator’s own. The old stories can no longer fulfill their function—they cannot inspire warriors to be great seekers of renown—but there remains a powerful history, a real past that can be held in the palm of the hand, from which the narrator derives the promise of a hopeful future where his stories, the drumming of his words, fill the world. In this sense, a personal tradition that rebuilds the stories one voice at a time resonates throughout Alexie’s book. His world of stories, the powerful rhythms of his narratives, reconstruct the potential of the promise the old traditions typified. Like the old stories, he weaves a world of possibility, illuminating the pitfalls of the present in the hopes of a future in which warriors can be proud to ride through the world outside the confining boundaries of the reservation. Aaron Drucker

ALLENDE, ISABELâ•… The House of the Spiritsâ•… (1982)

Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, published in 1982, tells the history of several generations of the Trueba family against the backdrop of Chile’s socialist government and the 1973 military coup that gave rise to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Clara, who regularly converses with the spirit world, marries Esteban Trueba, a wealthy landowner who regularly rapes peasant women working on his hacienda. Trueba becomes enraged when his daughter, Blanca, falls in love with one of the hacienda’s workers. Despite Trueba’s efforts, Blanca and her love are eventually united, but the circuitous path of their relationship is repeated in the lives and loves of other characters.

The House of the Spiritsâ•…â•… 145 Revenge parallels love. Trueba’s first illegitimate son, Esteban García, is directly responsible for the imprisonment, torture, and rape of Trueba’s granddaughter, Alba. At the end of the novel, Alba, uncertain as to whether the father of her unborn child is her true love, Miguel, or her archenemy, Esteban García, decides that she must break the violent cycle through forgiveness. Alba’s realization suggests that Latin America must break the trap of repetitive violence. Her name, which translates as “dawn,” implies that forgiveness is the necessary ingredient for a new era of Latin American history. Themes in the novel include love, oppression, heroism, death, violence, and hope. Alba’s forgiveness and implicit hope contrast sharply with the pessimism of other late 20th-century Latin American novels and place Allende’s work in a new literary movement known as the post boom. Anne Massey

Death in The House of the Spirits

Death in The House of the Spirits is a battle between despair and hope. It can be a fearful unknown at the end of mortal existence or an extension of life that parallels the mortal realm. It appears as fear and reassurance, associated both with the destruction of society by political and social ills and with the comfort of eternal connection to beloved friends and family. In the beginning, death equals suffering. At Easter Mass, the statues are deathly pale and covered with funeral shrouds. Rosa, whose green hair symbolizes life, dies early in the novel after drinking poisoned brandy. Trueba, Rosa’s beau, feels angry that death has stolen her away and begins to shrink as a physical representation of his disappointment and ire. Tres Marías smells like a tomb when Trueba first moves in. Trueba’s mother, Ester, is described as a living corpse, and in her last days, the odor of her decomposing flesh permeates the house. Later, secular and religious elements overlap. The plague and unemployment appear to be divine punishment for which pleas to God for mercy are to no avail. Severely ill peasants who die in the hospital are buried next to the church. Barrabás, Clara’s oversized stray dog that arrived on Holy Thursday, dies the night of her engagement party.

In contrast to the concept of death as brutal end is the perception that death is a welcome parallel to mortal existence. The Mora sisters have a photo proving that the souls of the deceased can take on a physical form. The appearance of Férula’s spirit, accepted matter-of-factly, forces Trueba and Clara to travel to her impoverished neighborhood in order to confirm her death. The Trueba family thinks nothing of eating at the table once used for wakes by Clara’s parents. After announcing her own death, Clara describes the process as similar to being born, feared only because people tend to be afraid of the unknown. Trueba sees Clara’s death as a natural transition and feels reconciled to her passing, realizing that she has completed her mission. He even makes plans to be with her in the hereafter, building a mausoleum to ensure this. Yet it is obvious that Clara, as her name meaning “clear” implies, was the window that allowed mortals a glimpse into the spirit world. After her death, the plants die and the cats run away. Only Clara’s room remains untouched by decay. And when Trueba opens Rosa’s casket as he transfers her to the mausoleum, her corpse, preserved in death as it had been in life, disintegrates into a fine powder. By contrast, life and death are viewed as parallel states but with a frightening, foreboding tone. As Pedro García lies dying, his grandson punches out the eyes of chickens and fantasizes about Trueba’s death. He would have punched out Pedro García’s eyes had Blanca not prevented it. Later, Blanca is disturbed by the artifacts her husband collects— mummies with necklaces of teeth. Blanca also worries that her daughter, Alba, does not play with dolls, but Alba sees the toys as miniature corpses. Nicolás tries to teach Alba not to fear death, having her imagine her mother lying in a coffin. His efforts fail; tortured by the military, Alba cannot quell her fears using her uncle’s methods. During the coup, Blanca and Alba rescue Pedro Tercero García, concealing him in a car resembling a hearse. Luisa Mora predicts that this moment in history will be marked by pain and innumerable dead. From the great beyond, Clara tries to protect Alba, but she, like all spirits, is useless in the face of cataclysmic events. The last chapter of the novel describes the destruction and death wrought by the

146â•…â•… Allende, Isabel military, a reality symbolized by the passing of the Poet, whose death represents the fall of freedom. In the end, however, Trueba’s death offers renewed hope, a return to the supportive intertwining of life and death. Clara appears at his bedside, and as he dies, relinquishing his anger, her spirit glows brighter. It is with Trueba’s death that Alba realizes she must forgive her father’s son, Esteban García, who raped her and whose child she may now be carrying. Death, then, seen through Clara’s eyes, is a comfort to the living and offers spiritual healing. For those wielding the weapons of destruction, it is punishment, a bitter finality without salvation. But, as the epilogue implies, the darkness of war cannot snuff out the light of hope. Anne Massey

Heroism in The House of the Spirits

The term heroism describes individuals who inspire others through physical, moral, or intellectual fortitude. In classical Greek and Roman literature, heroes not only possessed such strengths but also had a tragic flaw, some insurmountable internal element to remind them of their humanity and distinguish them from the omnipotent gods. The characters of The House of the Spirits are heroic in both the general and classical senses. Events in the opening chapter presage the heroic theme. Despite community disapproval, Clara speaks out against church oppression. Uncle Marcos’s behavior is reminiscent of Christ’s life. Marcos takes off in his flying contraption amid praise and the sprinkling of holy water, is forgotten after three days, and appears to die twice. Moreover, both he and Clara seem able to change fate. Esteban Trueba, Clara’s husband, sees himself as his family’s hero, lifting them out of poverty and rebuilding the family estate in what he declares to be a Herculean undertaking. Other characters demonstrate heroic traits. Clara’s mother is a suffragette. Férula, Trueba’s mother, caters to the poor and is described as sublimely heroic. The prostitute Tránsito Soto decides to overcome her fate as a streetwalker. The count de Satigny chivalrously rescues Blanca, who is pregnant with the child of her father’s enemy. Pedro Tercero

García is a hero of the socialist movement. Jaime, Clara’s son, gives away his clothes to the poor, while his brother, Nicolás, studies alternative medicine, eventually helping more people than his physician brother. Finally, Alba, Trueba’s granddaughter, opposes the military coup and is tortured for her efforts. However, among these characters, only Alba seems immune from the challenge of a tragic flaw. Clara’s clairvoyance is both a blessing and a shame. Marcos’s apparent double death is a case of mistaken identity rather than a resurrection and negates his godlike image. Esteban suffers from hubris, the Greek notion of excessive pride, which eventually destroys his work at Tres Marías and his relationships with those he loves the most. Nívea, Clara’s mother, is hypocritical, enjoying the comforts of the tearoom after charitable visits to the poor. Nívea also enjoys modern conveniences, such as cars that fly at a suicidal pace. Eventually, Nívea and her husband are killed in a car crash, dying from their attraction to modernity and wealth. Férula, despite her goodwill, lives in fear of her sexual fantasies, while Tránsito Soto, rather than escaping prostitution, turns the sex trade into a booming enterprise. Sex is also the count’s downfall. He loses everything when his wife discovers his pornographic photographs revealing his sexual obsession with his servants. Destruction arises out of other obsessions. Jaime’s charity is described as madness, a madness culminating in his death by a firing squad because of his socialist beliefs. More dramatic than Jaime’s death is his agreeing to perform an abortion on his brother’s girlfriend. He agrees out of his obsessive but unrequited love for the woman, even though the act contradicts his beliefs. In a separate series of events, Nicolás leaves home to find peace in Eastern spiritual practices, but he eventually sells his religion at the ironically named Institute for Union with Nothingness. The socialist fight is clearly a heroic effort, but Pedro Tercero García, despite his efforts, is plagued by human flaws. His love for Blanca outweighs his desire for justice. He allows her to hide him in the labyrinth of her home, even as he feels imprisoned there. Eventually, he allows his enemy, Trueba, to

The House of the Spiritsâ•…â•… 147 help him and Blanca flee into exile, away from the fight for human rights. Alba is the only character who manages to surmount her tragic nature. Raped and tortured for her part in the socialist rebellion, she survives because her grandfather intercedes on her behalf. She appears to reject her beliefs, succumbing to the temptation of wealth. But she is saved from tragic destruction by her decision to become an agent for change. Carrying a child whose father is either an extremist rebel or the man who tormented her in jail, Alba decides to break the chain of vengeance and to forgive her captor, ensuring a safe haven for her child no matter who the father is. As Alba observes, she is part of a grand design that determines her family’s fate. Because of fate, the heroes in The House of the Spirits are destined both to great and charitable acts and to their own destruction. Only Alba, whose name signifies dawn, is able to surmount her tragic flaw and offer hope. Anne Massey

Oppression in The House of the Spirits

It is no surprise that oppression is a major theme in Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. Although no specific reference is made to the country or time frame in which the story is set, the reader can guess that the tale unfolds against the backdrop of Chile’s 1973 military coup, an event that established a regime known for torturing and eliminating those who opposed it. However, oppression in Allende’s work does not take place solely in the political realm; rather, it takes the form of religious, economic, sexual, and racial dominance. Political control is the novel’s most obvious form of oppression. In an effort to eradicate the socialist regime, the military tortures Alba. The Poet—a clear reference to Pablo Neruda, famous for both his political advocacy and his verses, many of which exemplified Marxist ideology—dies after political events, including the exile and assassination of his friends, exhaust his will to live. Jaime is interrogated before being killed by a firing squad. The novel opens with references to religious oppression. In church on Holy Thursday, the priest names the parishioners he believes to be sinners, and Clara and her family are ostracized after Clara,

during Mass, critiques the church’s take on hell. Even Father Restrepo feels the oppression of the church, observing that his wages appear to have been established by the Inquisition. Férula perceives her humble suffering in caring for her mother as a pathway to heaven, yet she blames her torturous existence and failure to marry on her mother. Férula, in turn, uses guilt and religion to control her brother, Esteban Trueba. When Trueba arrives home soaking wet after spilling a cup of Viennese coffee proudly purchased with his first paycheck, Férula warns him that God is punishing him for wasting their mother’s medicine money. And as a child, Trueba wore a rope of Saint Francis around his waist to symbolize the promises tying him to his mother and sister. Having grown up poor, Trueba feels the burden of economic oppression, but he overcomes this through his mining enterprise. He then proceeds to use his newfound power to dominate, through violence, the servants at Tres Marías. When two peasants are found dead, the community is certain that Trueba, the patrón, is culpable. In Trueba’s eyes, his workers are children, and he ignores pleas to offer them wages instead of shelter and vouchers for purchases at the company store. Trueba’s life at Tres Marías exemplifies sexual oppression. He rapes Pancha García and other women at both Tres Marías and neighboring haciendas. When Clara arrives at Tres Marías, she tries to spread her mother’s slogans of gender equality among the peasant women, but her ideas are met with laughter. The women tell Clara that men will always be in charge and that the men would beat them, and rightly so, for subscribing to Clara’s whims. The proof of the women’s words is seen in Trueba’s violence toward his wife. Angered, he attacks Clara. Ethnic dominance permeates life at Tres Marías. The servants and workers are perceived as children who would not survive without the landowner’s generosity. Pedro Segundo García, the hacienda’s foreman, knows that he will never confront the patrón, and Pancha García is merely seen as an instrument for Trueba’s physical relief at the end of the day. Blanca is forced to hide her relationship with Pedro Tercero García, a peasant, and is forced into an loveless marriage in order to hide her having become

148â•…â•… Alvarez, Julia pregnant with the offspring of such an unworthy suitor. Blanca’s husband, the count, oppresses the servants in his employ, forcing them to pose in lewd sexual acts for his photography. Of all the characters, only Clara avoids oppression, taking refuge in her magic and her aloofness. When her magical powers become the object of shame, she chooses not to speak. She endures her husband’s tirades and then responds with a ridiculous non sequitur that demonstrates her unflappable nature. When her husband hits her, she refuses to speak to him, an act that isolates her from his abuse. Finally, her labyrinth of a home and her ability to become part of the spirit world at will separates her from the oppressive reality surrounding her. She, unlike any other character in Allende’s work, avoids the political, sexual, religious, and economic dominance faced by the other characters by living in her own world—the house of the spirits. Anne Massey

ALVAREZ, JULIAâ•… How the García Girls Lost Their Accentsâ•… (1991)

Julia Alvarez (b. 1950) is best known for her first novel, How the García Girls Lost their Accents, which received the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award. Told chronologically backwards, the 15 stories tell of how the four García sisters leave their home in the Dominican Republic to be challenged in the United States through language, cultural difference, education, race, ethnicity, and gender. Alvarez’s novel introduces the reader to the quandary that faces the four García girls: how to “fit in” in American society while retaining a sense of their identity as Dominican women. The narrator changes in the 15 stories, thus allowing all four women to render their versions of what has happened between the time they lived in the Dominican Republic and their maturation into women in New York. The women write of their Latino family, their American friends and significant others, and their own identities as something in between. The chronological order reflects going back to their “roots” on the island in order to understand the people they have become. In the first story, one of the older

sisters returns to the island with the intention of remaining there. How the García Girls Lost Their Accents tells a funny but difficult story that examines the difficult issue of identity in a foreign land. Because this process is never a solitary one, it is fitting that the four sisters tell their stories together rather than as lone individuals. Nancy Cardona

The American Dream in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

Most people believe that attainment of the American dream involves the acquisition of material objects. Julia Alvarez’s novel questions this notion, having her immigrant García family attain the American dream in terms of objects, but the dream eludes the family in terms of their ability to see themselves as wholly American. The García family begins their story in the Dominican Republic where they live a fairly privileged life. Mr. García owns a factory, and the families live behind compound walls in order to protect them from the disadvantaged. They have servants to cater to their every need, and some of the men in the family maintain two families. Even though the family lives with great privilege, they do so under Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican Republic’s ruthless dictator who ruled the island for more than 30 years. To escape the country’s dangerous political situation, Mr. García participates in the underground resistance movement and is given an opportunity to leave the island with his family via a CIA contact known as “Uncle Vic.” When they arrive in the United States, the family is poor, and they struggle to make ends meet despite the fact that Mr. García has been a successful businessman and has training as a doctor. The four daughters are given a stereotypical American childhood, wearing braces to “straighten their teeth” and “smooth[ing] the accent out of their English in expensive schools.” If anything, Mr. García believes that his ability to provide this kind of childhood to his daughters has actually distanced them from him. One daughter elopes with a German man, two of them get divorces, while the last one suffers a nervous breakdown. The attainment of the American

How the García Girls Lost Their Accentsâ•…â•… 149 dream seems to have worked against the four García “girls,” rather than helped them. What the four García women have learned is that there are inconsistencies in the American dream. As Sandra learns early on, looking like an American does not mean that you are accepted as one. “Being pretty, she [Sandra] would not have to go back where she came from. Pretty spoke both languages. Pretty belonged in this country .╯.╯.” This is despite Sandra’s own experiences with children at school who shout at her, “Spics! Go back to where you came from!” The women’s ability to attain the American dream is not enough to make them feel “American.” Emphasizing just how foreign the girls feel, upon the family’s first anniversary in the United States, Carla wishes that they be allowed to return to the Dominican Republic. The one thing that gives Carla solace in this foreign land is her family, including those she left behind on the island. When she recalls those children who chase her, screaming that she “Go back! Go back!,” she recites to herself “the names of her own sisters, for all those she wanted God to especially care for, here and back home. The seemingly endless list of familiar names would coax her back to sleep with a feeling of safety, of a world still peopled by those who love her.” The attainment of the American dream, therefore, has nothing to do with material objects that can be photographed. Rather, the women must learn to own themselves and their culture, even as it might be rejected by “real Americans.” Nancy Cardona

Gender in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

Julia Alvarez’s novel describes the lives of four Dominican daughters of a man who escaped the Trujillo regime to relocate in the United States. While they are all “strong” women in their own rights, each one struggles with how to be a “good” woman. Over the course of the novel, Alvarez describes two major obstacles that these women struggle with as they grow up: First, how do they become American women when they are foreigners, and second, how do they balance the values with

which they have been raised and their desires to be “American” women? One of the first major struggles that the García women must confront is their status as “outsiders” as they are born in the Dominican Republic and yet are raised in the United States. Sandra, the secondborn daughter, struggles with this while in graduate school. Shortly after the family arrives in the United States, they go out to dinner with another family that is helping them. She stops in the bathroom to look at herself in the mirror and observes that “she was surprised to find a pretty girl looking back at her. It was a girl who could pass as American, with soft blue eyes and fair skin .╯.╯.” (emphasis added). Here, Sandra begins to understand the importance of looking like an American. She believes that “looking” American is a key to being accepted as one. However, this initial understanding betrays her when she is in graduate school and innocently goes on a diet because she wants to “look like those twiggy models. She was a looker, that one.” Sandra’s desire to emulate the American epitome of beauty, in this case a physically thin woman, becomes a struggle for her mental stability. Instead of succeeding with the diet and becoming a confident, self-assured woman, Sandra has a nervous breakdown, believing that she is slowly devolving and will become a monkey. Her inability to truly embody this beauty ideal leads to her mental collapse. The second struggle is related to the first. Even as the four García women may consider themselves to be wholly American women, how do others perceive them? This theme is explored in Yolanda’s story. At several junctures in the novel, she must contend with others’ perceptions of her as a Latina in terms of her sexuality and the reality of how she sees herself. As her college boyfriend, Rudy Elmhurst, says, he expects her to “be all hot-blooded, being Spanish and all, and that.╯.╯.╯. [Y]ou’d be really free, instead of all hung up.╯.╯.╯. [Y]ou’re worse than a .╯.╯. Puritan.” Rudy’s expectations of Yolanda have more to do with his own stereotypes about Latinas than about who Yolanda is. Yolanda, like many college-age people, is torn between the woman she wishes to become (a liberated woman who makes decisions for herself ) versus the woman she has been

150â•…â•… Amis, Kingsley trained to be (a good Catholic girl who is deferential to her husband). Even as an adult, Yolanda continues to struggle with this stereotypical understanding of who she should be. Her partner at one point explains that he feels “caught between the women’s libber and the Catholic señorita.” This struggle between her “morals” of chastity before marriage and rejecting those values because they oppress women plagues Yolanda in her struggle to be her own woman. Indeed, as the novel opens, she has returned to the Dominican Republic in the hope of symbolically returning to the person she left behind. What she hopes for is to attain the same “authority in their voices” that her Dominican aunts and cousins have. But in order to do that, Yolanda knows that she must be able to “let the mighty wave of tradition roll on through her life and break on some other female shore.” If Yolanda were to be able to do that, she would have to make a choice between the two women that she is aspires to be rather than to find a way to combine these identities. Nancy Cardona

Tradition in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

Julia Alvarez’s novel about four Dominican women who arrive in the United States as girls explores the clash of traditions as the girls grow up straddling two cultures. The novel begins with the third daughter, Yolanda, as she travels to the Dominican Republic in an effort to return to her “roots.” But this return is more about how the women have dealt with the traditions with which they were raised, as the novel shows how the women have strayed from these roots even as they believe they are held hostage to them. Yolanda’s return to the island illustrates her discomfort with the tradition that the island represents. Although she hopes to be able to return to the island permanently, she recognizes that this move will be difficult, as she thinks that she has learned “at last, to let the mighty wave of tradition roll on through her life and break on some other female shore.” In many ways, Yolanda idealizes the island and the life it represents, as she can only see the struggle that she and her sisters have waged in order to fit in in the United

States. Her parents, too, idealize the island, sending their daughters there for the summer to ensure they do not become too Americanized. Over the course of the novel, the reader sees that the four daughters struggle with sex and sexuality, ethnicity, and language. The first stems from a number of different sources, but other characters in the novel all seem to believe that it is a combination of ethnicity and religion that forbid them from being true to themselves sexually. As one of Yolanda’s lovers notes, he “[feels] caught between the woman’s libber and the Catholic señorita.” These two identities focus on the clash between the two traditions with which the women have been raised, an understanding of the status of women based on U.S. standards and those of the Dominican Republic. It is this ability to live up to these two standards that causes problems for Sandra. She can “pass” as a woman of European ancestry with her fair complexion and blue eyes, but even she cannot escape the feeling of being between two cultures. When she is in graduate school, Sandra suffers a nervous breakdown, eventually starving herself by feeding herself with books, believing that she is becoming a monkey. Her crisis is one of feeling fully human. Sandra’s breakdown symbolizes the women’s struggle with language as well. Language becomes a marker of inclusion that allows the women to be fully accepted as Americans. When Yolanda is dating a young man in college, his parents note that Yolanda does not have an accent, which would mark her as an outsider, a foreigner. As the narrator explains, their accents had been “ironed out.” At one point, language is seen as a comforter, a place of safety, where others cannot “catch” her. Nancy Cardona

AMIS, KINGSLEYâ•… Lucky Jimâ•… (1954)

Kingsley Amis’s first novel, Lucky Jim, remains one of his best-known works as well as a superb example of the comedic novel of manners. Published in 1954, Lucky Jim is often credited, along with Mary McCarthy’s Groves of Academe (1952) and Randall Jarrell’s Pictures of an Institution (1954), as crystallizing the form of the academic novel genre, particu-

Lucky Jimâ•…â•… 151 larly in its use of satire to critique and ridicule higher education. Equally, it is credited with instigating the “angry young man” movement in the 1950s that also included the writers John Osborne, Alan Sillitoe, and Colin Wilson. Amis’s protagonist, Jim Dixon, encapsulates the “angry young man” with his biting sarcastic attitude, especially in response to the overt class inequities and foibles lampooned by the novel. In his first year as a junior lecturer of history at a provincial, “red-brick” English university in the postwar period, Dixon is forced to pander to his absentminded, socially and culturally pretentious supervisor, Professor Welch. Much of the charm of Lucky Jim resides in following Dixon’s internal commentary and fantasies of revenge on those he encounters, especially Welch and his family. The novel follows Dixon’s comic exploits as he struggles with his job, his students, his would-be girlfriend, and the entire social fabric of postwar Britain. Set against the background of the university and Dixon’s attempt to secure a job he is not even sure he desires, Lucky Jim deals with such themes as work, social class, and education. Eric Leuschner

Education in Lucky Jim

As one of the first widely acknowledged academic novels, Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim features the exploits and misadventures of a university faculty member in an educational system that has become the target of satire and ridicule. The description of the unnamed university that serves as the novel’s setting demonstrates the changing views of academia: “An ill-kept lawn ran down in front of them to a row of amputated railings, beyond which was College Road and the town cemetery, a conjunction responsible for some popular local jokes.” But it is the characters that best serve the novel’s satirical purposes, particularly the contrasting figures of Jim Dixon and Professor Welch. The novel’s protagonist, Jim Dixon, is a newly hired junior history professor at a provincial British university. Unlike many of his older colleagues, Dixon hails from a working-class family and background and so feels he does not fit in with the other faculty, subscribing neither to the social nor the cultural values of the Oxford or Cambridge set. From

the beginning, Dixon challenges the traditional educational culture of the university, even choosing his specialization in medieval history because it was a “soft option in the Leicester course,” not because of any real interest. He admits to a policy of reading “as little as possible of any given book” and has violent fantasies of what he might do to his superior. He has little regard for even his own academic research, the title of which, “The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450– 1485,” reflects what Dixon describes as the “niggling mindlessness” of such scholarship. Yet he places his future hopes in attempting to get it published and is elated when he receives a vague promise of a publication by a new journal, even though the letter is addressed to “J. Dickinson” instead of “Dixon.” Desiring some sense of stability and job security, Dixon plays the game with halfhearted teaching and research and continual attempts to socialize and to please Welch and his ilk as he participates in university politics. As the novel’s major antagonist, Professor Welch epitomizes the absent-minded, stodgy, overly pretentious academic. In the novel’s introductory scene, Dixon notes that “no other professor in Great Britain, he thought, set such store by being called Professor.” Dixon even questions Welch’s qualifications: “How had he become Professor of History, even at a place like this? By published work? No. By extra good teaching? No in italics.” Dixon leaves the question unanswered, recognizing the fact that Welch ultimately possesses the power to control his future. What Welch and his family, in particular his dilettante sons Bertrand the painter and Michel the writer, also possess, however, is a cultural affectation that consistently irks Dixon’s working-class sensibilities. Welch constantly talks about performing Renaissance music at his home with colleagues and friends and even attributes to his home “some sort of healing effect,” undoubtedly caused by the apparent cultured ethos. Even though Dixon attempts to endear himself to Welch in order to be retained on the faculty, the sincerity of Welch’s concern is often questioned, particularly as he, similar to the journal editor, mistakenly addresses Dixon as Faulkner, Dixon’s predecessor in the position, several times.

152â•…â•… Amis, Kingsley The novel’s climax, Dixon’s drunken lecture on “Merrie England,” encapsulates the contrast between the characters and the satire on education. Standing to deliver the lecture, Dixon begins with a “preludial blaring sound” imitative of one of Welch’s habitual mannerisms. Partly unconsciously, partly in an attempt to placate Welch, he further imitates Welch’s manner of speech: “He’d inserted an ‘of course’ here, a ‘you see’ there, an ‘as you might call it’ somewhere else; nothing so firmly recalled Welch as that sort of thing.” In a pointed jab at academic speech (as represented by Welch), Dixon also uses “a number of favourite Welch tags: ‘integration of the social consciousness,’ ‘identification of work with craft,’ and so on.” Trying to break the imitation of Welch, Dixon begins to sound like the university principal, then affects an “exaggerated northern accent,” followed in turn by someone sounding like “an unusually fanatical Nazi trooper in charge of a book-burning reading out to the crowd excerpts from a pamphlet written by a pacifist, Jewish, literate Communist,” and finally speaking in an “unnameable foreign accent╯.╯.╯.╯punctuating his discourse with smothered snorts of derision╯.╯.╯.╯spitting out the syllables like curses, leaving mispronunciations, omissions, spoonerisms uncorrected.” Dixon’s speech (in his description, “conjectural, nugatory, deluded, tedious rubbish”) critiques the nostalgia-infused, nonworldly nature of higher education and ensures his dismissal. However, in the end Dixon finds himself in better company outside the university, concluding the novel’s negative assessment of the world of higher education. Eric Leuschner

Social Class in Lucky Jim

Although Kingsley Amis, in a letter written in 1986, denied the suggestion that Lucky Jim was intended as a critique of the class conflict in postwar Britain and was never comfortable with his identification with the “angry young man” movement, it is difficult not to read the novel without seeing such characters as Professor Welch and his son Bertrand as being caricatures of a pretentious, class-conscious type or Jim Dixon as the reactionary working-class hero. As a comedy of manners, Lucky Jim’s humor

stems directly from its targeting of social foibles and behaviors. The novel opens with a conversation between Dixon and Professor Welch that encapsulates Welch’s characterization as someone obsessed with trivialities, testifying to a snobbish, pseudo-cultured person. Recalling a Post review of a recital, Welch notes that the “reporter chap” mistakenly stated that the concert was for “flute and piano,” not “recorder and piano.” Opening with Welch’s long-winded explanation of the difference between a flute and recorder immediately establishes Welch as knowledgeable, but it is evident that this type of knowledge is not useful. Later, after Welch goes on about the welfare state, “so-called freedom of education,” and retributive punishment to Dixon while driving, Dixon looks at the window and sees his barber, for whom he “felt a deep respect” because of “his impressive exterior, his rumbling bass voice, and his unsurpassable stock of information about the Royal Family.” For Dixon, the low-brow gossip trumps the niggling distinction between recorder and flute. Not only is Professor Welch, with his passion for amateur musicals, singled out for criticism, but his sons are as well, especially Bertrand. Tagged as elitist, Bertrand affects a cultured and cosmopolitan attitude, which consistently irritates Dixon. While the primary conflict between Dixon and Bertrand is over Christine Callaghan, the tension between the two results from the difference between appearance and reality. In one of their final confrontations, Dixon calls Bertrand on his behavior: You think that just because you’re tall and can put paint on canvas you’re a sort of demigod. It wouldn’t be so bad if you really were. But you’re not: you’re a twister and a snob and a bully and a fool. You think you’re sensitive, but you’re not: your sensitivity only works for things that people do to you. Touchy and vain, yes, but not sensitive.” Primarily, the criticism in store for Welch and his family lies in their pretentiousness, summed up most succinctly in their affected clothing choices. From the beginning, Professor Welch is seen wearing a fishing hat, despite the fact that he is never seen

Lucky Jimâ•…â•… 153 actually fishing or even discussing fishing. Just as he has a romanticized view of “Merrie Old England,” he has a certain condescending attitude toward the rural life. Likewise, Bertrand is never seen without his blue beret. Although Welch’s fishing hat suggests some practical purpose, Bertrand’s beret is simply faux artistic pretension. Upon seeing the beret, Dixon wonders, “If such headgear was a protection, what was it a protection against? If it wasn’t a protection, what was it? What was it for? What was it for?” Ultimately, the criticism of the class represented by the Welches falls to the pragmatic aspect, and the symbolism of the hats is reinforced by the concluding scene when Dixon and Christine spy the Welches on the street; they are wearing the hats, but now Bertrand is wearing the fishing hat and the professor is wearing the beret, as if they are interchangeable. Welch’s other son, the conspicuously absent Michel, who is usually denigrated as the “effeminate writing son,” is finally present and is wearing, in contrast, a pale corduroy cap. While the reader is never sure about Michel, this detail suggests that he somehow differs from his father and brother and is perhaps actually cultured and artistically sensible. In contrast to the Welches, who represent the worst of the aristocratic class, Christine suggests that there is not a simple opposition between the classes. When Dixon first meets Christine, he reacts ambivalently, put off by his own class consciousness: “The sight of her seemed an irresistible attack on his own habits, standards, and ambitions: something designed to put him in his place for good.” Yet she turns out to be the most earnest character in the novel. While Dixon assumes she’s associated with the ballet, in fact she works in a bookshop, and her dress is consistently plain and unostentatious. Like her uncle, Gore-Urquhart, she avoids the excesses of the upper-class society while maintaining the most genuine claim. Eric Leuschner

Work in Lucky Jim

Set in the period immediately following World War II, Lucky Jim witnesses the transformation of the concept of work in British society. Primarily, Kingsley Amis contrasts the ineffectual, elitist idea of academic work with the more real work of business and

industry. In the 1980s, David Lodge, one of Amis’s literary heirs with the academic novel, picks up the contrast between types of work with his aptly titled novel Nice Work (1988) as he describes the interactions between a university professor and an engineer. As Lucky Jim follows the exploits of Jim Dixon, a junior lecturer of history at a provincial British university, Dixon’s academic work is characterized as marginal and worthless. Dixon has little interest in the research he is engaged with, describing its “niggling mindlessness” and “its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts.” For Dixon, the problem is so far removed from any real concern that it is essentially a “non-problem.” Yet it is in line with all the other published research he is familiar with, all “convinced of its own usefulness and significance.” Even Dixon’s superior, Professor Welch, cannot judge the work on its own merits and must rely on its acceptance in an academic journal, no matter how obscure, for a sense of worth. One subplot of the novel concerns Dixon’s attempts to forestall the demands of one of his students, who repeatedly pesters him about an upcoming seminar. Dixon’s avoidance stems from his own uncertainty about his capabilities on the subject as well as his disdain for the work itself. The irony of his academic work is revealed when the research project on medieval shipbuilding techniques he submitted to a journal is plagiarized by the journal’s editor, who uses it to be hired as a department chair at another university. In a similar way, Professor Welch represents the elitist idea of the university and its work. Welch promotes himself as a cultural connoisseur, hosting weekends at his country home, where visitors participate in impromptu madrigal singing. Despite his bluster about traditional, ruralized England, Welch’s work habits are less than hardy. At the beginning, Dixon wonders how he achieved and maintains his position at the university, as he neither teaches well nor publishes. Even academic work is absent from Welch. Welch’s seeming hypocrisy runs the other way as well, as symbolized by the fishing hat that he wears even though he does not do the work of fishing, either. The characterization of Bertram, Welch’s eldest son, also suggests Amis’s critique of work. Asked by Dixon about his “work,” Bertram, the socially superior, cosmopolitan-styled artist,

154â•…â•… Anaya, Rudolfo answers that he is a painter, but he is quick to qualify his answer by distancing his painting from any sense of practicality: he does not paint houses, nor does he paint “pictures of trade unionists or town halls.” For Bertram, the goal of art should not be political or useful. His paintings range from an eight-foot nude whom he describes as a “real smasher” and a self-portrait set against a brick wall (“more wall than Welch”) to a small painting just started of three workman in a pub reading a newspaper. The trivialization of the latter subject reiterates the Welches’ disdain for actual work. On the other hand, Julius Gore-Urquhart appears to represent an opposing conception of work. Although the novel indicates that GoreUrquhart is a member of the upper class, there is the sense that there is something more substantial to him that the class snobbery of the Welches. While Gore-Urquhart possesses formal, refined manners (“quite the real thing,” according to Margaret), he is also marked by his accent and accepted demeanor of a Scottish lowlander. It is the job of personal assistant to Gore-Urquhart in London that appeals to Bertram throughout the novel, but it is clear that Bertram believes that the job would not entail much work. In the end, however, Dixon gets the job after he is fired from the university and freed from its odd conception of work. Discussing his position in the university earlier, Gore-Urquhart diagnoses Dixon’s unhappiness with the position: “Where’s the trouble? In you or in it?” His question suggests that there is a very real concern with a personal propensity for work, but at the same time, there is an understanding that some jobs are not worthwhile. Dixon’s reply encapsulates the attitude toward effectual and ineffectual work as he claims that it is both: “They waste my time and I waste theirs.” When Gore-Urquhart offers Dixon the job, he notes that many have the qualifications for a job, but few do not have the disqualifications, referring offhandedly to Bertram. The novel does not make clear that the job with Gore-Urquhart will be any more satisfactory for Dixon than his previous position, but GoreUrquhart’s lack of pretension contrasts completely with Welch and academia. Eric Leuschner

ANAYA, RUDOLFOâ•… Bless Me, Ultimaâ•… (1972)

Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima has been extremely popular—and controversial—since its publication at the inception of the Chicano arts movement. Celebrating a rich continuum of ancient indigenous Southwest/Mexican cultural inheritances, along with innovations in language, art, and spiritual expression, Chicano artists and writers like Anaya (b. 1937) rebelled against the previous erasure of Hispanic American history and culture in U.S. arts and education. Set in rural New Mexico during World War II, Bless Me, Ultima is reminiscent of Anaya’s own childhood. Six-year-old Antonio, confronted by identity conflict within his family and community, discovers his true self with the help of the curandera (midwife/spiritual healer) Ultima. Against the proscriptive Catholic Church, which controls the pious farmers (represented by Antonio’s mother’s family) and the equally limiting “cowboy” mentality of the vaqueros (represented by Antonio’s father’s kin), Anaya suggests through Antonio’s tale a new cultural frame of mind rooted in the spiritual “presence” of nature, a way of thinking and being that resists labels and restrictions on personal free will. Bless Me, Ultima received the prestigious Premio Quinto Sol literary award in 1972, but the novel has also been censored in several municipalities in the United States—burned or otherwise disposed of— as recently as 2005. It appeared on the American Library Association’s most commonly challenged books of 1990–2000. The young boys’ innocent use of certain curse words in Spanish and the discussion of witchcraft have been considered threatening by some community leaders, who may also object to Antonio’s ambiguous, independent spirituality in the novel. Elizabeth McNeil

Coming of Age in Bless Me, Ultima

Published during the final years of the Vietnam War, Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima is set during World War II in a New Mexico mestizo (SpanishIndian) community at odds with itself as well as with the greater Anglo society. The novel’s coming-

Bless Me, Ultimaâ•…â•… 155 of-age theme works on several levels. Through the six-year-old protagonist, Antonio, Anaya affirms a new Chicano literary, social, and spiritual identity for the individual and community. In addition, Anaya’s Chicano cultural assertion echoes the work of the multiple other counterculture movements during the civil rights era that similarly sought to draw out the widely various narratives comprising American experience. Antonio’s family has settled by the river, which serves as a liminal border between the llano (plain) and the town. Antonio is caught in a tug of war between the values and lifestyle of his vaquero (cowboy) father, a member of the Márez family (mar meaning the sea, which represents the bold seafaring Spanish conquistadores and the open life of the llano), and farmer mother, a Luna (luna, the moon, is indicative of peaceful indigenous farmers in tune with planting cycles dictated by the moon). His father wants Antonio to grow up to work livestock from horseback, free on the llano, while his pious mother, who cries every time she thinks Antonio might choose his father’s Márez ways, wants him to become a priest, to help the villagers. Mature for his age, Antonio clearly is not attracted to the macho life of the vaqueros and sees hypocrisies in the Catholic religion. Although he desires a life in relationship to family and community, Antonio does not seem destined to become a vaquero, farmer, or priest. In order to widen and complicate his protagonist’s (and reader’s) choices of identity, Anaya constructs an alternative in the person of the aged curandera Ultima, who has been invited to live out the end of her life with Antonio’s family. Ultima’s authority and wisdom come in large part from her knowledge of and relationship to nature. Townspeople who fear her power call her a bruja (witch), though they also turn to her when the evil actions of real brujas cannot be dispelled by the Catholic priest. As the midwife who helped Antonio into the world, Ultima is cognizant of the forces at play on the occasion of his birth and the identities afforded him, including what she offers. Living with the family, she helps Antonio to discern more than just the obvious choices of his dual competing lineages, and to reach deeper into the wisdom and

magic all around him in nature—especially via his observances of the mythic wisdom of the “Golden Carp” in the river. Antonio comes of age through various encounters with death, danger, nature, spirituality/the supernatural, sex and sexuality, and Catholicism. Ultima consistently reminds him that life cannot be reduced to dualistic good-bad/either-or Western/ Christian thinking; life is, instead, an interconnected cycle of existence that binds one and all. Under Ultima’s calm tutelage, Antonio will grow up to become a new kind of leader following a new religion rooted in nature, healing, and peacemaking. Anaya suggests that the only way the adult Antonio can care for the world is to be at peace in himself, and the only way to be at peace (which his parents and the other townspeople are clearly not) is to be aligned with the real authority of nature rather than with abstract Catholic dogma. Antonio’s coming of age is tied to various values of the Chicano movement: the love and support of family; the presence of and belief in the land; a sense of human dignity in all social strata; and a grace that is rooted in nature and the human body, neither any longer viewed as vile or uncontrolled and in need of conquering, as European Christian colonialism had insisted were intrinsically true of the “New World” and her indigenous inhabitants. At the time of Bless Me, Ultima’s publication, the United States was involved in yet another war (Vietnam), and the cold war’s threat of nuclear annihilation was still looming. Liberal members of society recognized nature as the ultimate authority that could bring humanity back to its senses. Bless Me, Ultima is set during World War II, which means Antonio’s vision would be mature by the time of the peace, environmental, and civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s. As an adult, then, Antonio’s leadership and cultural contributions—like that of Anaya and of Anaya’s readers—could help awaken others to a peaceful recognition and appreciation of the diverse American story. Elizabeth McNeil

Family in Bless Me, Ultima

In keeping with the primary importance of la familia in Hispanic American life, immediate and

156â•…â•… Anaya, Rudolfo extended family are the focus of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima. The parents of the six-year-old protagonist, Antonio, are opposites in terms of their own upbringing, and both familial lines attempt to influence Antonio’s future. Antonio’s mother comes from pious Catholic peasant farmers who insist the boy must become a priest. On the other hand, Antonio’s father’s kin, restless vaqueros who claim descent from Spanish conquistadores, want him to be like them, macho, freedom-loving cowboys. In the novel, the Márez family is a microcosm representing conflicting pressures to conform to colonial European and modern Anglo influences, all of which threaten the centrality, solidarity, spiritual essence, and continuity of la familia, and so of the individual. Demonstrating a new (though ancient) way of being to readers, Anaya’s young protagonist rejects the opposing life paths presented to him in favor of the much more encompassing earth-oriented spirituality and healing practice of the ancient curandera Ultima, who was there at Antonio’s birth and who has now come to live out her remaining days with the family. Anaya’s suggestion of a place-based mystical connection unmitigated by colonial social institutions, like the Catholic Church, or modern-day Anglo capitalist influences is an important statement of identity politics that helped make Bless Me, Ultima a hallmark text of the burgeoning Chicano civil rights movement of 1970s America. The novel is set at the end of World War II, after the confrontation between (and new confluences resulting from the contact of ) American subcultures, as well as world populations and cultures, that occurred because of the war. Early in the novel, having survived the global slaughter intact, Antonio’s three older brothers arrive home. The war, they admit, has made them men too soon. After returning home, the promise of decadent pleasures to which they had become accustomed as soldiers (for example, alcohol and prostitution) make them reject the boredom of small-town living, along with their father’s dreams of establishing a family vineyard in California. For these young men, their family focus and perhaps, Anaya strongly suggests, even their spirits have been lost to the “war sickness.” Feeling hemmed in by their father’s expectations, they fragment the family by restlessly seeking fulfillment in

urban living, rather than in the hard work and unity of la familia and the land. Antonio’s sisters, like his older brothers, have learned English and Anglo culture in school and are thus, Anaya shows, at a remove from the language and heritage of their family and home. However, Antonio himself, who begins to attend school during the time span of the novel, resists the loss of identity he innocently observes in his beloved brothers and distanced sisters, instead finding a selfdefining rootedness in the “presence” of the river and land through Ultima’s clarifying guidance. The character of Ultima speaks to the importance of indigenous cultural heritage that predates brutal colonial influences, a sense of belonging to the land and, by extension, to one’s natural (as opposed to culturally constructed) self. The sense of personal autonomy creates a sense of peace in the novel that also equates to a supremely strong and effective resistance to evil, as demonstrated by Ultima’s protective actions on behalf of the family—especially Antonio—and greater community. Loyalty, respect, and an acknowledgement of human interdependence are the marks of the extended familial connections Anaya emphasizes through Ultima’s physical and spiritual work in the community. Every community needs its seers, its prognosticators who are so sensitive to occurrences and relationships in the present that they can foretell and therefore positively guide the people’s future. In Bless Me, Ultima, Antonio is already astonishingly insightful and emotionally strong for his six-plus years. His spiritual receptivity and the promise of his leadership abilities as he matures suggest a new mystic awareness of self powerfully connected to indigenous beliefs and the land itself. This earthly appreciation of Chicano identity and purpose in the new generation of leaders would, as Anaya and other visionaries of the Chicano movement emphatically suggested, allow Mexican Americans to confront the degrading influences of Anglo culture that threaten Chicanos’ daily survival and, even more important, cultural autonomy. Instead, Bless Me, Ultima, as a key text in the great range of literature, oral performance, visual and public art, and music produced by Chicanos during and since the civil rights era, has

Winesburg, Ohioâ•…â•… 157 offered a renewed sense of pride in la raza (the race) and its most intrinsic unit, la familia. Elizabeth McNeil

Spirituality in Bless Me, Ultima

The most intense theme in Bless Me, Ultima is the definition of one’s own spirituality. Although the protagonist, Antonio, is only six years old—which is extremely young for a coming-of-age novel— Rodolfo Anaya convincingly represents the tender, gifted psyche of the young protagonist and his spiritual awakening. The story is also convincing because Antonio does not undergo his transformation to independent spiritual selfhood alone. He is guided by the powerful curandera Ultima, who had helped bring Antonio into the world. Immediately following Antonio’s birth, the two factions of his family—the pious Catholic peasant farmers on his mother’s side, and on his father’s side the lusty, freedom-loving vaqueros—had begun warring over Antonio’s destiny. Ultima had stopped the fighting, firmly asserting that only she knew his destiny, a proclamation that plays out over the course of the novel. Representing the dual strands of Chicano identity, Antonio and his family live between two worlds in a number of ways, including the spiritual orientations of the parents’ disparate upbringings. The family’s home is situated near the river, set off on its own between the town and the llano. The children speak only Spanish before they begin their schooling, and in school will be forced to speak only English. Antonio’s mother hopes he will become a priest, and his father dreams this youngest son will travel west with him—as his older sons have refused to do—to make it big in the vineyards of California. As the novel opens, it is immediately clear that, although Antonio’s free, pure spirit is at imminent risk, his innocence and openness to the world are still intact. He is just beginning to attend school, where the language and culture of his upbringing will be replaced by English and by Anglo knowledge, and he has not yet been subsumed by the Catholic Church’s intense behavioral restrictions and attendant shame and guilt. When Ultima, who is reaching the end of her life, comes to live with the family, her renewed con-

nection to Antonio is something the still spiritually receptive young boy has been expecting. Ultima becomes Antonio’s guide as he learns the magic and peace of nature, a commonsensical knowledge base that also allows him to begin to understand the life-and-death struggles of the adults around him who are affected by war sickness (a spiritually nullifying stress that drives one man from the town to commit a random murder, thereby setting himself up to be killed as a result); the clash of indigenous and colonial ways of being, and conflicting Hispanic and Anglo cultural expectations; and, as represented especially by Antonio’s father, the people’s lack of access to the (Anglo) American dream of unlimited prosperity. Antonio is not pulled to either his mother’s or his father’s hopes for his future, nor does he feel the need to strike out on his own and abandon the family, as have his older brothers, who grew up too quickly through their involvement in the many ugly facets of World War II. With the gentle guidance of Ultima, six-year-old Antonio finds his identity and purpose in the powerful “presence” of the river and the mystic golden carp. Nature, Ultima, and Antonio’s strong sense of place all guide him to his destiny, which is to love life in spite of the tragic obstacles that are put in his path—to remain spiritually strong, in other words, no matter the circumstances. Antonio’s discovery of a spiritual identity that is rooted in nature and indigenous mysticism suggests an alternative to both the submissive Catholicism that rules the humble farmers’ lives and the spiritual void of the lustful vaqueros who revel in their descent from the brutal conquistadores. Through his protagonist’s spirituality, which is independent of Catholic dogma or the hypocrisy of some of its practitioners, Anaya emphasizes that metaphysical strength comes from an autonomous spirit that is connected to the land. Elizabeth McNeil

ANDERSON, SHERWOODâ•… Winesburg, Ohioâ•… (1919)

Winesburg, Ohio, is a cycle comprising 21 short stories plus one prefatory story, “The Book of the Grotesque.” That initial story introduces the concept that runs through the rest of the stories: People

158â•…â•… Anderson, Sherwood dominated by one idea become grotesque, even if that one idea is true. The stories, each focusing on a particular resident, comprise a mini-population or representation of the town itself. Because Winesburg, Ohio, is of the genre of a short-story cycle, the stories within it are bound to each other by many similarities, repetitions, and links. One link is the presence of writers among the characters. “The Book of the Grotesque” relates the dream an old writer had about the transformation of truths and people into grotesques. George Willard, a young man who figures in many of the stories, wants to be a writer. Other realizations by the characters include repeated instances of women being disappointed by men, by sex and sexuality, by romantic relationships, and by marriage. These women include George’s mother as well as Louise Bentley. However, two female characters without a male partner, Louise Trunnion and Kate Swift, are also disappointed. Finally, many male characters also express disappointment about their relationships with women. In a few instances, male and female characters achieve temporary communication: George’s mother with her male doctor; George with Helen Foster, the girl he loves. However, George’s mother fails to communicate her dying wish to George—that he make use of money she has hidden in the plaster wall at the foot of her bed—and Helen White fails to say goodbye to George at the railway station. Natalie Tarenko

Coming of Age in Winesburg, Ohio

In the next-to-last story in Winesburg, Ohio, coming of age is defined as “Sophistication,” in the story of that title. Within “Sophistication,” coming of age is further defined and refined as a young person’s epiphany or realization about the nature of time and self. Time, which brought the young person to this realization, will continue to pass, like leaves blown by the wind or like corn that will be cut down. So, also, will the life of the young person someday end; and so, too, have the lives ended of all the people who have ever lived. Specifically, the young person is George Willard. Winesburg, Ohio, largely tells the circumstances that brought George to this state of “sophistication.” In

many of Winesburg’s stories, other characters think back to their own epiphanies or realizations; usually, they feel compelled to tell George about it. Some characters try to wake him up: his father; Tom Foster; and his former teacher, Kate Swift. Each intends to wake George up to a different reality: his father to the sharpness required of a successful businessman, Kate Swift to a writer’s use of words. In addition, George’s mother seeks to save him from her own fate: not to be a failure by killing or allowing one’s youthful dreams to be killed. George dreams of being a writer and often boasts about how easy a life it will be. George’s naïveté is dangerous in that the narrative shows that words can be empty. One character who never has a coming of age, who never grows up, is Enoch Robinson (“Loneliness”). Even though old, he is childlike in preferring his made-up people to real ones, such as his wife and children, whom he had earlier abandoned. The danger of becoming mesmerized by one’s own words and ideas is underlined by the parallels between Enoch, who talks to himself, and George, who also often talks to himself and imagines himself in grandiose situations. George Willard is not the only character who gropes toward adulthood. Tom Foster also tries to learn things from and about life, which is another description of coming of age. Tom has fewer material resources than George, who has a satisfying job on the town newspaper and his father’s sometimes meddlesome conniving to help him. Tom sets out to get drunk, just once, so as to feel pain and grow from it; his language expands, and he is quite poetic in the metaphors he creates about Helen White, whom many of the young male characters love. In the last story of the book, “Departure,” George succeeds in leaving Winesburg; getting away from his hometown is another aspect of coming of age. Other young characters, such as Seth Richmond, also express interest in leaving town, possibly symbolizing leaving their childhood. Natalie Tarenko

Family in Winesburg, Ohio

In many of the stories in Winesburg, Ohio, an unhappy family can be the unfortunate result of the misunderstandings of coming of age. Women, in

Winesburg, Ohioâ•…â•… 159 particular, are led by society to believe that they can find what they long for by becoming involved with a man. However, male characters also feel misled or “tricked” (204), as Ray Pearson terms it in “The Untold Lie.” “Mother” is an early story in the sequence. “Mother” concerns Elizabeth Willard, the mother of the male protagonist, George Willard, who is the novice reporter to whom many of the characters relate their grotesquely obsessive ideas. In her girlhood, Elizabeth had been restless and longed to go on the stage, but because these longings were thwarted, she channeled them into encounters with men. One of these men, Tom Willard, became her husband in an unhappy marriage; together, they are the parents of George. In some of the stories in Winesburg, Ohio, the frustrated parent figure transfers his or her thwarted hopes onto another generation. In “Mother,” Elizabeth Willard hopes that her son George will achieve some of the transcendent longings she has failed to achieve. George’s father, too, has transferred some of his unrealized political ambitions onto George. However, George rejects his father’s more commonplace ambitions for power and status. The frustrated parent can transfer his or her thwarted hopes onto his or her offspring with such vehemence that the child is terrified by the parent figure. In “Godliness II,” David Hardy is the grandson of Jesse Bentley, a successful farmer who had longed for a son instead of his daughter, who became David’s mother. One of the ideas that dominates Jesse’s personality is a desire to be a biblical-style patriarch. When David was 12, his grandfather took him to the woods and begged God to show them a sign. David was so frightened by his grandfather’s demeanor that he ran off and fell, hitting his head. In “Godliness IV, Terror,” three years have passed. This time, it is the grandfather, Jesse Bentley, who falls. When Jesse tries to conduct a biblical-style sacrifice of a lamb, David becomes terrified; the situation has overtones of the intended sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. David hurls a stone at Jesse from his slingshot. David runs away and is never seen in Winesburg again; his grandfather is permanently disabled, physically and mentally, from the incident.

In Winesburg, Ohio, parents fail to communicate with their offspring. In “Mother,” Elizabeth Willard has a bond with her son, George, in that she longs for the hopes that have died in her life with her unhappy marriage to live on in her son. In spite of the bond between her and George, however, she fails to communicate with him, even on her deathbed. In a story placed next to last in the sequence (“Death, Concerning Doctor Reefy”), the death described is that of Elizabeth herself. She is one of the female characters who have been disappointed in marriage and family life. During the last six days of her life, she is unable to speak or communicate with anyone, and she anguishes over her not being able to tell George about the money she has hidden away behind the plaster in the wall at the foot of her bed. This money was a legacy from Elizabeth’s father years earlier. Near death, he mulled over his own regrets and urged Elizabeth not to marry the young man she was seeing. However, Elizabeth did marry that young man, Tom Willard, with whom she had her son, George. Thus, failed communication, like the walled-up money, is a legacy from generation to generation. Natalie Tarenko

Individual and Society in Winesburg, Ohio

The central character in Winesburg, Ohio, is young George Willard. George’s work in the newspaper office in town brings him into contact with many other people who long to achieve communication. Like them, George talks more to himself than with anyone else about his own dreams, ideas, and impressions. What is true of one of them is true of all of them: “He could master others but he could not master himself.” Individual characters feel walled off and long to make contact with others; this longing to communicate leads them to attempt to find something in romantic relationships, an attempt that largely fails. George’s parents are one of these failed couples; both women and men express bitterness that their loneliness was not only not assuaged by society in the institution of marriage but had actually increased. George’s mother, Elizabeth, hopes that she can save her son from her own unhappy fate: “Within him

160â•…â•… Maya Angelou there is a secret something that is striving to grow. It is the thing I let be killed in myself.” On rare occasions, the individual can succeed in reaching out and having a dialogue with someone else. George’s mother succeeds in communicating not with her husband but with Dr. Reefy, and he with her, during conversations. However, not only is this release temporary, but even Elizabeth’s doctor friend “did not listen” to her. Another instance of achieved communication occurs between two male friends; the one who is married and having difficulty feeding his family tries to warn the other against married life. The married one momentarily feels a blaze of kinship with nature. So, too, George sees the residents of Winesburg “must be brothers and sisters to him”—but only temporarily. When he succeeds in taking a walk with Helen White, the girl for whom he has the most feeling, atoms are a metaphor for the separateness of the individual characters; they cling together for a short time, but then go their separate ways. In addition to being main protagonist, George Willard is also associated with the different aspects of local society: the newspaper that seeks to mention as many residents in each edition as possible; the New Willard House, his parent’s shabby hotel, in which many characters stay; Winesburg; and the judgments passed by Winesburg’s residents. Individuals possessed by an idea are grotesque, as are all the residents in Winesburg. The book begins with a procession of grotesques in a section titled “The Book of the Grotesque.” This section is the frame story that gives rise to the rest of the stories. Winesburg, Ohio, is a short-story cycle. Each chapter can stand alone and has the features of a short story such as epiphany and one main character; on the other hand, the chapters are related by means of links and repeated characters and situations. Thus, the genre of Winesburg, Ohio, is itself a model of individual (story) and society (whole work). Both the most prominent individual (George Willard) and the most prominent descriptor of society (grotesques) function as links to tie the book together. Natalie Tarenko

MAYA ANGELOUâ•… I Know Why the Caged Bird Singsâ•… (1970)

In Maya Angelou’s autobiographical story I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, we follow the protagonist, Marguerite (whom her brother calls Maya), from the age of three until the birth of her son. The story starts when Maya and her brother Bailey are sent away to live with their paternal grandmother, Momma, and their crippled uncle, Willie. The siblings spend their early years helping out in their grandmother’s store, which is the heart of the poor black southern town in which she lives. Eventually they are sent back to their mother, who, they discover, is a striking beauty. The story provides detailed descriptions of what it was like for a black girl to grow up in a deeply racist society. The story conveys Maya’s sense of displacement and illustrates how she experiences her supposed ugliness—in comparison to her mother and brother—to be visible proof of her outsider status. Maya’s father, Daddy Bailey, appears on the outskirts of the story, but the big influences on her life are, according to her, her two mothers; her beloved brother; Mrs. Flowers, a sophisticated black friend of her grandmother’s, who draws her out of her self-inflicted muteness through the recitation of poems; and Miss Kerwin, a teacher who is particularly impartial in matters of race. Although indignation over injustices and harsh descriptions of a bleak and painful reality are inevitable parts of Maya’s story, it is also a tale about the possibility of keeping one’s dignity in the face of insults and of overcoming injustices through perseverance. Eva Lupin

Abandonment in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou’s autobiographical novel opens with three-year-old Maya and her four-year-old bother Bailey traveling alone across the United States wearing wrist tags that read “To Whom It May Concern.” The siblings are being sent away from their newly divorced parents to live with their paternal grandmother, and Maya reacts by pretending her parents are dead. “I couldn’t believe that our mother would laugh and eat oranges in the sunshine without

I Know Why the Caged Bird Singsâ•…â•… 161 her children,” she explains. When, one year, the siblings suddenly receive Christmas presents from their parents, it is a painful reminder that they have chosen a life without their children, rather than a cause for joy; and in a manner typical of children, Maya feels guilty and wonders what she has done wrong. The initial act of abandonment committed by her parents affects Maya’s sense of belonging and results in her not feeling at home anywhere. While living with her grandmother, she does not mind being taken for her uncle Willie’s child, since she does not “feel any loyalty” to her father and suspects she would have been better treated as Willie’s daughter, anyway. And when it is decided that the siblings are to live with their mother, after residing for a time with their maternal grandparents, Maya’s reaction shows how constant relocations give rise to feelings of detachment: “Moving from the house where the family was centered meant absolutely nothing to me. It was simply a small pattern in the grand design of our lives.” Never knowing how long she is to stay in one particular house, Maya avoids creating strong bonds with anyone but her brother. Maya’s reflection that her mother “was competent in providing for us. Even if that meant getting someone else to furnish the provisions” reveals her desire for parental care; and this need makes her especially vulnerable to the advances of Mr. Freeman, the man living with her mother. After a first incident of physical closeness with him, she is reassured by his embrace and convinced that he is her “real father”; and subsequently, Freeman takes advantage of this closeness and rapes Maya. Discovering what has happened to her daughter, Maya’s mother has her boyfriend killed; the traumatic incident and her feelings of guilt cause Maya to withdraw into complete silence. She refuses to speak to anyone but Bailey, and when she feels them growing apart, she retreats into the world of books, reflecting that “the long-lost children mistaken for waifs, became more real to me than our house, our mother, our school or Mr. Freeman.” A sense of loneliness, then, prevails in Maya’s life, and she is constantly aware of the possibility of abandonment. On a trip to New Mexico with her father, upon losing sight of him, she finds herself in a “fog of panic,” which, she says, “nearly suffocated

me.” She becomes convinced that he has sold her to a man and left her; her anxiety is relieved only upon finding his car parked in the yard. Back at home, she has an argument with his girlfriend, which results in a wound on her arm, and her father therefore decides to leave her with friends. Waking up in an empty house, Maya does not want to wait around for anyone, and, afraid to show her mother her arm, she spends a month on the street with a group of other abandoned children, who, she says, “set a tone of tolerance for my life.” Maya’s experience of abandonment makes her sensitive to the other children’s emotional limitations, and she is therefore not surprised that her friends are “undemonstrative” and receive the news with noticeable “detachment” when she decides to leave them. Although the theme of abandonment pervades the novel, the story concludes on a note of hope. As the story nears its end, Maya has just delivered her firstborn and is persuaded by her mother to let the baby sleep in her bed. Overcome by tiredness, she falls asleep, only to be awakened by her mother, who shows Maya that her baby lies fast asleep, touching her side in the secure space of her folded arm. The blanket covers him like a roof that completes the symbolic home Maya creates for her baby with her own body. In this way, convinced that Maya will not repeat the abandonment she herself suffered, readers are left confident of her little boy’s prospects of growing up with his mother. Eva Lupin

Identity in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou’s autobiographical story depicts the childhood and adolescence of Marguerite, or Maya, a black girl growing up in a deeply racist society. The novel opens with words that well illustrate Maya’s existence and that also come to influence her state of mind: “What you looking at me for? I didn’t come to stay .╯.╯.” When she is three years old, Maya’s parents decide to get divorced, and as a result she and her four-year-old brother, Bailey, are sent on a bus crossing several states to their paternal grandmother in the South. The porter who has been paid to accompany them deserts the children after a day, and they are forced to take care of themselves. This is the first time they are separated from their

162â•…â•… Maya Angelou mother, but before the novel ends, the siblings have moved back and forth a couple of times. The instability of her existence makes Maya feel a lack of control, which is further emphasized by her being raped by her mother’s boyfriend when she is only eight years old. Feeling guilty for having allowed the man to come near her, Maya does not dare to admit in court that he has touched her once before, and when she realizes that her mother (after finding out what has happened) has had her boyfriend killed, Maya is convinced that his death is the punishment for her lie. Her feelings of guilt become so unbearable that she withdraws into silence, refusing to speak to anyone but her brother. As a child, Maya fails to comprehend why the siblings are being moved around, and the adult Marguerite expresses her confusion: “There was an army of adults, whose motives and movements I just couldn’t understand and who made no effort to understand mine.” The experience makes her feel powerless, and the feeling of lacking control is emphasized by her race. On her graduation day, for example, Marguerite alternates between hope for her future and deep despair for the whole of her race, as well as for the lack of opportunity they are all facing. The ceremony in school, however, ends on a note of hope with the congregation singing the black national anthem. But the words that speak most clearly to Marguerite are those of a white man, Patrick Henry: “Give me liberty or give me death.” Marguerite feels a strong sense of powerlessness and displacement at home, as well as in society for reasons of race, and Henry’s words become symbolic of the determination she forms as a result of her experiences. On a trip to Mexico with her father, Marguerite overcomes circumstances for the first time, and she revels in the feeling of accomplishment and control this gives her. Although she has never driven a car before, she finds herself in the middle of the night, her father lying drunk in the backseat, maneuvering his vehicle from a small village in Mexico to the American border. Driving on winding paths dangerously close to the mountain edge, she finds the experience “exhilarating” and recalls how “[i]t was me, Marguerite, against the elemental opposition .╯.╯. I was controlling Mexico, and might and alone-

ness, and inexperienced youth and Bailey Johnson, Sr., and death and insecurity, and even gravity.” The experience empowers her to take charge in all parts of her life, and a few years later, after extreme perseverance, she becomes the first female Negro conductor on the San Francisco streetcars. Marguerite develops through the novel from a person unsure of her place—both in her family and in the greater society—to a person who is able to set goals for herself and fulfill them against all odds. Her first job is the result of an unrelenting insistence on her right to work where she pleases; and, similarly, she sets the time and place for her first voluntary sexual experience, thereby reclaiming ownership of her own body, and to the right to make her own decisions. The novel ends with the birth of her son and her mother’s assurance that there is no need to worry about doing the right thing: “If you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking.” Eva Lupin

Race in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The title of Maya Angelou’s autobiographical story is a line from a poem called “Sympathy” by the African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. By choosing a line from a poet who is considered representative of the black community, Angelou implies that her personal story has social implications. Furthermore, the author’s dedication, which appears on the opening page of the book, to her son “and all the strong black birds of promise who defy the odds and gods and sing their songs,” emphasizes the collective sense of her experience. The novel confronts the issue of race gradually, similar to the way a child discovers the powers that control his or her being. When Maya is young, she moves mainly in the black community, and her interaction with white people is scarce: “In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn’t really, absolutely know what whites looked like.” This does not mean, however, that white people’s power over the blacks’ existence went unnoticed. Maya painfully recalls how she and her brother were told to empty the vegetable bin one night, after the sheriff had warned them that the Klan was coming around. Once the bin was empty, Uncle Willie climbed in, and they covered him with

Beowulf â•…â•… 163 vegetables. All night they heard him mourn from his hiding place “as if he had, in fact, been guilty of some heinous crime.” Reflecting on the story, Maya concludes that she would have nothing to say in defense of the sheriff who, after having warned them, self-righteously believed “that things were as they should” and “that he was a gentle squire, saving those deserving serfs from the laws of the land, which he condoned.” Apart from the times that blacks and whites are forced to interact, there is a feeling in the novel that they live in parallel universes. The social organization that separates “powhitetrash” from respectable people is duplicated in Stamps, and Mrs. Flowers—who Maya says “made me proud to be a Negro, just by being herself ”—is described as “our side’s answer to the richest woman in town.” Maya reflects, however, that it is lucky she never encountered Mrs. Flowers near “powhitetrash,” because she would have heard her being addressed as “Bertha,” and Maya’s “image of her would have been shattered like the unmendable Humpty-Dumpty.” The clash between the black and the white societies culminates in the scene where Maya/Marguerite describes her graduation. She starts the day with a sense of great achievement, aware that she is graduating at the top of her class. But what begins as a gay celebration of an important event is symbolically interrupted by the appearance of a white man. The usual order of the ceremony, which is to begin with the American national anthem, followed by the pledge of allegiance and then what is known as the Negro national anthem, is interrupted by the white man, who gives a speech before the assembled congregation has had a chance to sing “their” song. The man is a high official who informs them that the central school—“(naturally, the white school was central)”—has been going through improvements, and that he intends their school to follow suit; he then leaves as if their graduation ceremony “had been a mere preliminary” and he now was “off to something really important.” The speech has reminded Marguerite and her friends of the limitations put on black people’s existence, and suddenly their festive mood is gone, and they are only aware of the lack of control that characterizes their lives.

Angelou’s tale exposes the great injustice with which blacks were treated. It also, however, induces in its reader the knowledge that even in the face of great injustice, individuals choose how to react. In one scene, for example, Maya witnesses Momma being abused by white girls, who call her by her first name and expose their genitals to her. Momma remains calm throughout the incident and politely addresses them as “Miz” when they leave. Maya bursts out crying, but when her grandmother patiently waits until she meets her eyes, Maya discovers that Momma is happy and comments: “Whatever the contest had been out front, I knew Momma had won.” Eva Lupin

ANONYMOUSâ•… Beowulf â•… (ca. 1000)

Beowulf is the longest and most complete surviving poem in Old English. The work probably circulated orally for centuries before being written down by scribes around the year 1000. It consists of 3,182 lines of alliterative verse. The poem’s plot, is straightforward and has the quality of a folktale, following recognizable patterns of myth: A young hero sets out on a sea journey to battle monsters. After dispatching two humanoid horrors in deadly combat, the victorious hero journeys back home to rule his own kingdom until he finally clashes with a dragon who kills him, though he wins glory and fame. But Beowulf also alludes to several battles and events in the past and future, at times digressing for several lines to narrate the action of a feud, battle, or heroic event; the poem’s allusive, interlacing quality makes it difficult and complex. But Beowulf is worth the struggle. For generations, teachers and students have enjoyed this tale of dragon slaying and troll combat set against the background of human feuding and warfare among the Danes, Frisians, Jutes, Swedes, and Geats. Legendary heroes like Beowulf and Wiglaf stand toe to toe with figures from history such as Hygelac, Hrothgar, and Ingeld. Though the poem cannot be considered historically accurate in a modern sense, Beowulf offers an uncannily familiar window into the alliances, truces, feuds, and political intrigues taking place in the Germanic heroic world. It continues to fascinate readers also because of its expression of

164â•…â•… Anonymous such prominent themes as community, religion, violence, and revenge. Tony Perrello

Community in Beowulf

The basic communal organization depicted in Beowulf and described by the first-century Roman historian Tacitus in his Germania (ca. 98) is the comitatus, or clan structure. Central to the function of the clan is the relationship between the lord and his retainers. Gift giving solemnizes the bond between lord and retainer, and in return for goods received, the retainer takes a solemn oath of fealty. Time and again, the poet refers to Hrothgar, Hygelac, and Beowulf—good kings—as “ring-giver,” “helmet of the Danes,” and “giver of treasure.” Hrothgar’s success is marked by the poet’s acknowledgment that he “doled out rings / and torques at the table” (ll. 80–81). This social contract solemnizes allegiance in the heroic world. The so-called Finn digression (ll. 1069–1158) shows the tragic and shameful consequences of a group of retainers who choose to follow their lord’s slayer rather than die trying to avenge him. Revenge is the most powerful bond that held Anglo-Saxon communities together. The members of a comitatus had a moral obligation to avenge the slaughter of kin. Compensation took the form of a wergild, or “man-price.” Each member of the comitatus had a precalculated worth. If someone was slain, the offending party had to pay the wergild, or life would be taken in return for life, even if the slaying was accidental. Though the onus for exacting revenge fell upon the victim’s family, it had the support of the lord and the force of law behind it (hence the modern legal term posse comitatus). Failure to gain retribution was the source of terrible grief and shame. Indeed, the most distressing aspect of Grendel’s depredations is, as the poet tells us, that “he would never / parley or make peace with any Dane / nor stop his death dealing nor pay the death-price. / No counselor could ever expect / fair reparation from those rabid hands” (ll. 154–158). On the Geatish side, King Hrethel’s son, Herebeald, is accidentally slain by his brother, Haethoyn, who fires an arrow at him. Hrethel pines away in despair because no reparation can be taken, and the king’s

death results in the first Swedish/Geatish war (ll. 2,435ff., 2,472ff.). Beowulf begins with the genealogy of the Danish royal house and highlights the ways successful communities were formed. Lines 67–83 recount Hrothgar’s rise to power and the building of Heorot, the mead hall of the Danes. Heorot is a large, centrally located hall in which the Danes gather to eat, drink beer or mead, hear the songs of the scop (a combination poet, musician, and historian), boast of their exploits, and receive gifts at the hands of their lord. In building a mead hall, a lord walls in his people and offers a sense of warmth and communal belonging. He also walls out the dark, chaotic, and uncontrollable forces of nature. The lavish descriptions of treasure and gifts that occur time and again in the poem—right down to Beowulf ’s dying wish to behold the dragon’s treasure hoard—always bring readers back to this early moment when Hrothgar builds a hall and blocks out nature and his enemies. The immediate threat to this sustainable community is Grendel. The monsters of Beowulf represent more than simply a threat to the safety of the Beowulfian community. These creatures and the horror they inspire represent the deep-seated anxieties of a warrior culture. Grendel represents, on one level, the monstrous principle of kin killing: He is the product of Cain’s murder of Abel. Fratricide runs counter to everything the comitatus stands for. Gerendel is a “lonewalker” who stands apart from the community. He does not use weapons, pay reparations, speak, boast, or enjoy hall noise. Grendel is the dark-side manifestation of everything a heroic warrior and model community member—like Beowulf—ought to be. Grendel’s mother represents a more vexing problem. Women in this community have certain limited functions: They are “peace-weavers” and “cup-bearers,” like Wealhtheow and Hygd, or mourners beside the funeral pyre, like the wailing woman at Beowulf ’s tomb. Grendel’s mother threatens the gender-specific revenge code of Anglo-Saxon society by leaving her home beneath the water to invade Heorot and avenge the death of her son. She may be a “natural” mother, but she represents the opposite of what that culture seems to have valued in women.

Beowulf â•…â•… 165 Grendel’s mother proves a tougher challenge for Beowulf than does her son, but the dragon costs him his life. The dragon is the opposite of the good king the poet takes such pains to construct for his audience. Instead of freely giving treasure, it hoards it. It is miserly and greedy, sitting alone atop its hoard in a cold and dark anti-hall. These monsters are both exterior threats to the community and projections of repressed evils within that community. Tony Perrello

Religion in Beowulf

Religion is a source of mystery in the poem Beowulf and a divisive issue among its readers. Christianity plays an ambiguous role in this poem about pagan heroes and monsters, but it is ultimately responsible for the poem’s preservation. As Roy Liuzza has noted in the preface to his 2000 translation, many scholars see the hero, Beowulf, as a Christ figure, one who gives his life for his people in a struggle with a serpent hostile to mankind. Others have argued that the poem—with its ultimate vision of doom and futility in the face of human greed and ongoing violence—is a condemnation of a pagan world that thrived on domination and conquest. Beowulf certainly offers a portrait of a world before Christ. In lines 175–188, the poet condemns the heathenish Danes, who turn to idol worship when plagued with Grendel. The burial rites depicted in the poem, usually involving a burning pyre, are markedly pagan. Christ is never mentioned. Fate is stern and implacable, and worldly glory seems to be the only lasting virtue, leaving the final words of the poem ambiguous—was Beowulf a humble Christ figure or one eager for earthly fame? There is only one historically datable event in the poem: the death of Hygelac, lord of the Geats, sometime between 521 and 526 (the Frankish historian Gregory of Tours recorded the death of “Chlochilaichus”—the Latin form of “Hygelac”—in 521). Although the Roman emperor Constantine had converted to Christianity in the fourth century, it was not until the year 597 that Saint Augustine of Canterbury undertook his mission of conversion in the southern reaches of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The Northern Anglo-Saxons had previously received the word of God from Irish missionaries,

and within less than a century after Saint Augustine set out, the entire island had been converted. The scribes who wrote down Beowulf sometime around the year 1000 were Christian. At the time of the poem’s composition, “writing” was done exclusively by monks working in monasteries. Since parchment (sheepskin) was expensive, only works deemed valuable were copied and preserved. The manuscript that contains Beowulf also contains a saint’s life (The Passion of Saint Christopher) and a versified story from the Bible (The book of Judith). Although references to the Bible are exclusively from the Old Testament, the “poet” (or is it the scribe?) expects his audience to be familiar with biblical stories, such as that of Cain in Genesis, whose fratricide gave rise to Grendel and thus makes Unferth sinister through association. When Hrothgar examines the sword hilt taken from the lair of Grendel’s mother, the poet alludes to the apocryphal Old Testament story of God’s destruction of the race of giants by flood (ll. 1,688ff.). For centuries Beowulf was sung, by memory, to the accompaniment of a harp. This oral formulaic poem of the sixth through 10th centuries, then, received its Christian coloration when recorded by monastic scribes around the year 1000. Sometime in the late seventh century, a monk known as the Venerable Bede recorded what is perhaps the first English poem—“Caedmon’s Hymn.” Caedmon, an illiterate cowherd who worked in a monastery in Whitby (northeast England), was, legend has it, visited by an angel in a dream and given the power of song, spontaneously singing a song of creation— “Caedmon’s Hymn.” Caedmon refers to God by such epithets as “Master Almighty,” “Mankind’s Guardian,” “Eternal Lord,” and “Measurer”—hardly the meek lamb of the New Testament. For the first time in history, heroic language and the meter of heroic battle poetry were applied to a religious text, a literary moment known as the Caedmonian Revolution. The Beowulf poet applies this strategy time and again, referring obliquely to God with heroic terms such as “Wielder of All” or “Father Almighty.” And for some readers of the poem, Beowulf is a type of Christ, and his actions sometimes parallel biblical or apocryphal events. For instance, Beowulf “harrows hell” to confront Grendel’s mother in a lair

166â•…â•… Anonymous described with language recalling hell in Old English homilies. More obvious is Beowulf ’s journey to seek out the dragon, an adversary of mankind who lives underground, smells of brimstone and fire, and exemplifies greed and hatred. Wyrm, the Old English word for dragon, also meant “snake,” so it is clear whom this king of men is fighting. Beowulf took 11 comrades on his journey, plus “the one who had started all this strife” (a thief who had awoken the dragon by stealing a cup from its hoard), which parallels Christ’s 12 apostles. Beowulf suffers before the battle, “sensing his death” (l. 2,420), and indeed, his men abandon him in his hour of need. He dies, sacrificially, for his people. The language of Beowulf is often the language of a distant past, “in days gone by” (l. 1). Perhaps the poem’s religious language and impressionism is meant to link its legends, and its great hero, to the Christian “present,” the world of the scribes who recorded it. Tony Perrello

Violence in Beowulf

The modern reader of Beowulf may be excused for mistranslating line 18b of the poem—blæd wide sprang—as “blood spread wide.” The correct translation is “glory spread wide,” but in this poem, both blood and glory spring from bodies. And Beowulf is a poem about bodies—crushed, cut, torn, dismembered, beheaded, burned, gulped down in gobbets, and tossed about on frosty seas, prey to voracious sea monsters. The main action of the poem circles around mortal and bloody combat between the hero, Beowulf, and three formidable monsters, and also around ongoing bloody conflict between nations. The poet interlaces these narratives with songs of past battles, monster fights, and reprisals of the primal murder. Beowulf warns that no act of violence occurs in a vacuum, but it is the consequence of some violent act and will cause future bloodshed. Peace is transitory and can only be established by those most adept at causing violence and spreading terror—like Beowulf, and Hrothgar before him. A nation’s survival in Beowulf requires a leader who can strike terror in his neighbors and subjugate outlying tribes. The poem begins with the genealogy of the Danish royal house, and we quickly learn that Hrothgar, like Scyld before him, enjoyed “the

fortunes of war,” finally assembling a “mighty army” (ll. 65–67). Only then could he construct a mead hall where he could dole out treasure and enjoy a respite from the ravages of warfare and slaughter. As a successful, violent warrior like his ancestors before him (Scyld was a “scourge of many tribes” and “a wrecker of mead benches”), Hrothgar has inspired fear in those around him and so is able to enjoy temporary peace. Hrothgar’s very name points to the lust and glory promised by battle (hroth = joy, benefit, glory; gar = spear). The benefit of war, in this case, is the building of Heorot, the mead hall of the Danes. Heorot means “hart,” or stag, probably a reference to the horns that adorned the doorway of the building. However, there is a haunting reference to the name after the attack by Grendel’s mother: the water burns. The mere bottom has never been sounded by the sons of men. On its bank, the heather-stepper halts: the hart in flight from pursuing hounds will turn to face them with firm-set horns and die in the wood rather than dive beneath its surface. That is no good place. (ll. 1,366–1,372) This passage offers one of the many descriptions of a hostile, brutal nature—a nature “red in tooth and claw”—precisely the kind of world walled-out by the construction of Heorot. But we also see the hart—symbol of the Danish nation—beleaguered by ravenous forces and driven to self-destruction. We are told that Heorot is doomed to suffer a “barbarous burning” in the Heathobard feud, despite the marriage of Freawaru and Ingeld. Such is the fate of a kingdom ruled by a king who does not use violence and terrorism as tools. One way to turn violence to political advantage in Beowulfian society is to use women as pawns to broker peace, but such an approach is invariably doomed to failure, as Beowulf indicates after his return to Geatland: “But generally the spear / Is prompt to retaliate when a prince is killed / No matter how admirable the bride may be” (ll. 2,029–2,031). Wergild—literally “man-price”—was another way the Anglo-Saxons capitalized on violence,

The Frogsâ•…â•… 167 substituting gold in its stead. The threat of revenge afforded some safety in Anglo-Saxon culture, a world where each member of a tribe had a precalibrated worth. If a clan member was killed, his particular man-price must be paid, or a blood feud would go into effect. The 12 winters of Grendel’s anarchic violence, of hall floors “slick with slaughter,” is terrible precisely because the monster does not pay reparations for those he kills. He is violence itself, all claw and mouth, and destroys the order represented by Heorot, grinding and consuming and reducing the human element to gore: “he grabbed a man and mauled him on his bench, / bit into his bone-lappings, bolted down his blood / and gorged on him in lumps, leaving the body / utterly lifeless, eaten up / hand and foot” (ll. 740–744). Grendel’s violence erases distinctions and individuality and threatens a system that sprung from violence in the first place. And Beowulf is strikingly like Grendel: He, too, has the strength of 30 in his handgrip; he fights Grendel (and Dayraven) without weapons, and in the death match with Grendel, he breaks bone lappings and dismembers his opponent. He is heroic because he out-monsters Grendel—outdoes him in doing violence. Like Grendel, the dragon is a force of seemingly unstoppable chaos that reduces great halls and human achievement to indistinguishable rubble and ash. However perverse this night-flying “wyrm” may be, though, it is not unlike the hero of the poem. It guards its treasure in a hall, peacefully, until a cup is stolen, at which time it ventures out for revenge, destroying outlying villages and deterring through terrorism. After Beowulf kills the dragon—this time with the help of Wiglaf—the dying hero predicts a new bout of violent incursions from the Swedes. Beowulf ’s ability to make violence is no longer at hand to help his nation. Like Hrothgar 50 years earlier, Beowulf ’s strength is no longer a match for the brutality of the Anglo-Saxon world. The audience of Beowulf is treated to particularly graphic battle scenes, such as Beowulf ’s description of the death of Ongentheow at the hands of Wulf and Eofor during the battle of Ravenswood (ll. 2,946–2,984). In fact, the human-on-human violence in the poem is as devastating as that wrought by monsters: We are told of Heremod’s and

Unferth’s Cain-like kin killing; the perverse Finn episode, where retainers are forced to join with their lord’s slayer, only to have violence reawakened by the laying of a famous sword in Hengest’s lap; the future strife to be visited upon Hrothgar’s children by his nephew, Hrothulf, and so on, on and on. The violent attack that inevitably comes from the Swedes makes for a somber ending to the poem. Humans are the worst monsters, war and hardship are a way of life, revenge holds groups together, and the only good king is a strong one willing to decimate his neighbors. The specter of wyrd, the Old English word for fate, overshadows Beowulf. Anglo-Saxon wyrd is stern and implacable: Life is transitory, and only the glory that springs from violence and battle can outlast the human bone-house. Tony Perrello

ARISTOPHANESâ•… The Frogsâ•… (405 b.c.)

The Frogs is a comedy by the ancient Greek dramatist Aristophanes (ca. 450–ca. 388 b.c.), typically treated by modern translators as a play in two acts. In act 1, Dionysus—in whose honor drama festivals were held—journeys to the underworld to find the great poet Euripides, whose political wisdom he believes can save Athens, thereby ensuring the city’s drama festivals will continue. This was a pertinent search to represent at the time, with Athens suffering internal strife and extreme pressure from the adversarial Spartans. Act 2 is dominated by a contest between Aeschylus and Euripides for the honor of best poet, eventually decided on the merit of their political advice. The contemporary political backdrop to The Frogs is of central importance to its meaning. The play’s purpose presents striking alignment with its content, for Aristophanes used it to deliver his own political message. This message is the very same political strategy that Dionysus elicits from Hades’ wisest tragedian, whom the contest ultimately reveals to be Aeschylus: Recall from voluntary exile the figure Alcibiades. In Aristophanes’ view, to issue this kind of instruction to the audience is one of two critical

168â•…â•… Aristophanes functions served by poets; the other is to provide entertainment: “We chorus folk two privileges prize: / To amuse you, citizens, and to advise” (l. 2). Humor is integral to The Frogs’s entertainment value, which arises from antagonistic relationships between the rivals Aeschylus and Euripides and between Dionysus and his slave, Xanthias; from repeated switching of identities; and through the evocation of ancient Greece’s rich poetic tradition. These three thematic concerns—ambition, identity, and tradition, respectively—also condition the text for the fulfillment of its instructive function. With its humor and pointed political message, The Frogs is a lively and sharp work, the cleverness and sophistication of which is elevated by selfreflexive framing structures and devices. Kate Concannon

Ambition in The Frogs

The force that drives the action within The Frogs is ambition—namely, personal ambition. This force directs the plot’s course and functions as a dramatic catalyst, spurring contest and conflict as ambitions clash. There are two main conflicts of ambition within The Frogs: that between Dionysus and Xanthias and that between Aeschylus and Euripides. Both conflicts produce humor to satisfy the play’s entertainment function. But more important, the conflict between Aeschylus and Euripides produces the play’s final take-home message, achieved through reasoned argument revealed by dialogue, to satisfy its higher function of imparting wisdom—in this case political. Additionally, the play displays self-reflexive qualities, through which it appears conscious of itself as a literary text and creates frames of texts within texts. This heightens awareness of the existence of a further frame beyond the play itself and within which it was written—a frame shaped by Aristophanes’ own personal ambition. Xanthias and Dionysus’s relationship is characterized by the struggle for power that ensues as each pursues his personal ambition. To attain selfdetermination and autonomy, Xanthias must resist the instances of subordination by which Dionysus attempts to exert dominance over him. To secure the optimal position for himself throughout the shifting

circumstances of the play, Dionysus frequently relies on Xanthias to swap identities temporarily, often to Xanthias’s own disadvantage. Dionysus invokes his socially endorsed advantage as master in this master-slave relationship to procure Xanthias’s obedience; however, Xanthias’s own ambition means he is not always compliant, altruistic, and unquestioning. In fact, Dionysus’s formal authority as master—as well as god—is frequently undermined by Xanthias’s insubordination and by his opportunistic attempts to subvert this authority when the situation permits. This quick-witted opportunism is in precisely the same vein as his master’s self-interested maneuvering around situations and is neatly described by the chorus: If you want to be comfy just roll with the ship! Don’t stand like a fool with a stiff upper lip, But learn from Theramenes, that shrewd politician, To move with the times and improve your position. (1.2.522–588) Their struggle produces comical effects, such as where Xanthias, dressed as Heracles while Dionysus is dressed as his slave, invites Aeacus to torture Dionysus. The comedy escalates as Dionysus in turn manipulates the situation such that Xanthias is forced to defend the credibility of his assumed identity by enduring this torture, too; if he is the god he claims to be, Xanthias should feel nothing. The result is literal slapstick as they are repeatedly caned and struggle to conceal their pain. The turns each takes in dealing (nonphysical) blows to the other as they pursue their individual ambitions gives the struggle the quality of a game, enhancing the playfulness of their scenes and rendering amusing both the oppression of the master-slave inequality and the brutality of physical violence. For Aeschylus and Euripides, their shared ambition to hold the title of best poet naturally results in conflict, which is resolved through a witty, umpired contest. Dialogue provides the dramatic structure for exploring conflict through debate. This debate reveals the contesting arguments—literary and eventually political—and presents them for evalu-

The Frogsâ•…â•… 169 ation by Dionysus, whose concluding judgment is the vehicle for the author’s take-home political message. Dionysus’s decision to bring Aeschylus back from Hades is disinterested as far as the ambitions of Aeschylus and Euripides to return to the living realm are concerned, for his actions are determined solely in accordance with the furthering of his own ambitions: to return to life a great tragedian who, through sage political advice, can save the city and so enable the continuance of drama festivals in Dionysus’s honor: Euripides: What do you want a poet for? Dionysus: To save the City of course. If the city isn’t saved, there won’t be any more drama festivals, and then where shall I be? (l. 2.1) The implicit political role of the poet here is important and ties in with the play’s self-reflexivity, which is constituted in significant part by literary criticism—here the form’s content comments on what makes for good content within the very literary form—and by the framing of plays within the play. Extracts from canonical plays are quoted, and The Frogs even opens with characters devising a play opening. These devices create frames for the action and point the reader to consider the frame in which the play itself was written and how, by means of this work, Aristophanes pursues his own personal ambitions as a poet: to deliver a political message that promotes the poet’s position by protecting opportunities such as drama festivals and, more immediately, to win the drama competition for which The Frogs was his entry. Kate Concannon

Identity in The Frogs

Mistaken and switched identity is a major convention of ancient Greek theater, and its preponderance has continued throughout much of subsequent Western theater tradition. Often it functions as a fulcrum for dramatic confusion and conflict that propels plot; it also functions as a comedic device. Whereas act 2’s humor relies on the wit and satire that characterizes the dialogic argument between Aeschylus and Euripides, in act 1 the repeated switching of identity is the primary device by which

humor is achieved. Identity swapping is also used to reveal the characters’ “real” nature underlying the borrowed identities. Furthermore, plays on identity are exploited to produce self-reflexive effects. The visual humor of costuming, by which identity is marked, is rendered accessible to readers even without the benefit of a staged performance: Heracles laughs to behold Dionysus’s “yellow nightdress,” and his “feminine boots” also rate mention. Similarly, the physical humor played out in the frequent and hurried exchanges of costume between Xanthias and Dionysus is readily imaginable and does not rely on actual performance to be grasped. Structurally, these costumed identity exchanges are also significant, marking Xanthias’s and Dionysus’s challenges as they strive toward entry into Pluto’s palace, where Euripides is to be found. In this sense, identity swaps function to punctuate their negotiation of the journey through its constitutive encounters. The confusion and false belief arising from the identity games led by Dionysus in act 1 sweep the plot along, shifting the balance of advantage each identity presents from encounter to encounter. This creates the flow by which situations arise and develop. By way of example, the first exchange with Aeacus leads Dionysus to initiate an identity swap to evade pain, which is followed by an exchange with Persephone’s maid that prompts another swap to procure pleasure, which in turn leads to an encounter with two landladies that motivates a swap back to evade pain again. Dionysus is self-serving. The whole undertaking detailed in The Frogs is motivated by his personal ambition to protect the drama festivals held in his honor and so too are his moves to swap between the identities of Heracles, Xanthias, and Dionysus motivated by self-interest. The pattern of character these switches describe furnishes an incisive picture of Dionysus’s personality. At the prospect of Aeacus’s revenge on him for Heracles’ harm to Cerberus, Dionysus is shown to be cowardly, suffering a moment of incontinence before passing over the godly costume (and attendant threat of imminent violence) to Xanthias. Shortly thereafter, Dionysus’s quick enthusiasm for the opportunity to be hosted as Heracles in the amorous company of Persephone’s maids and dancing girls exposes

170â•…â•… Aristophanes the god’s sensuousness, while Xanthias’s slowness in picking up the maid’s meaning exposes his relative naïveté. Dionysus’s shameless self-interest as he swings with alacrity between costumed identities to ensure his own advantage at every point is in itself a comedic source, producing an extremity of conduct crafted for laughs. The assuming and discarding of identity throughout the play is also used as a self-reflecting device, contributing to the overall effect by which the play indicates it is conscious of itself as a text and a performance. Xanthias: There, how do I look? Reckon the part suits me better than it does you, you old coward! Dionysus: Hm! A very good imitation of a slave dressed up as Heracles. (l. 2.11460–11521) In this exchange, Dionysus draws attention to the very nature of performance and, implicitly, how this applies to the performance of The Frogs itself. Just as suspended disbelief supports the credibility of Xanthias as Heracles, so too does it support that of the play’s own actors as they don the identities of The Frogs’ characters. By this self-reflexivity, the play draws attention to what exists outside and beyond it and how this might relate to the play and its meanings. It also provides clues as to Aristophanes’ use of structure to guide the audience’s interpretation of those meanings. Specific instances of self-reflection such as Dionysus’s comment above do not just prompt the audience to see how those specific examples connect the play’s fictionally contained realm with the broader “reality” to which it points. They also promote an attitude of outward reading so that the play’s overall messages will be taken as intended for the real world. Dionysus’s belief that a poet can save the city mirrors Aristophanes. Moreover, the play’s internal reality legitimizes by its assumptions both the political aptitude of the poet and the consequent importance of heeding his political message, while also providing that message to be received and heeded by the audience in its own real world. Kate Concannon

Tradition in The Frogs

The Frogs engages with tradition at several key levels. Mythological and religious traditions underpin the play’s characters and immediate setting, as well as its wider cultural frame of reference. On another level, the ancient Greek poetic and dramatic tradition is evoked through reference to earlier poets’ works. Additionally, broader traditions of ancient Greek theater are reproduced and developed by Aristophanes’ own use of conventional types, tropes, and structure. Two primary purposes can be adduced from this emphasis on tradition: an orchestrated appeal to cultural patriotism to condition the audience for Aristophanes’ political message and an expounding of his own related poetic position. The journey to Hades (called katabasis) is a traditional act of heroism and as such is a beaten track in the mythology of ancient Greece. The play itself acknowledges this tradition, assuming the audience’s familiarity with previous katabatic journeys in its reference to Heracles’ recent visit to Hades and in its mention of the underworld presence of Persephone, whose adventures to Hades form their own significant mythology. The play’s settings, from the River Styx to Pluto’s palace, are thus locations rich with cultural significance readily identifiable to an ancient Athenian audience. Likewise, the rites played out by the chorus of devotees, who are initiates in religious mysteries, contribute to the dense tissue of cultural tradition around which The Frogs is cast. In act 2, Athenian poetic tradition is drawn forth with recitation from Aeschylus’s and Euripides’ plays as their poetry is laid out for critique. The presence of Aeschylus’s and Euripides’ work within The Frogs goes rather deeper than these dialogic references and extracts, however. Signature features incorporated within The Frogs create a double reflection of their particular contributions to stylistic and structural traditions of theater. Thus, these poets’ works, by influence, furnish the dramatic structure Aristophanes then uses to explore their poetic merits. In his time, Aeschylus expanded the number of characters in a play to facilitate conflict between them where, previously, characters interacted only with the chorus. The Frogs bears this legacy in the smaller role of the chorus and in the conflicts between

Lysistrataâ•…â•… 171 Xanthias and Dionysus and between Aeschylus and Euripides, which are empowered by direct dialogue. Euripides, on the other hand, is credited with introducing the convention of the intelligent slave, among other innovations, an influence that is also seen in The Frogs with the character Xanthias. Aristophanes exploits many conventions that constitute the ancient Greek theater tradition. Clues in the script point to the exploitation of costuming for comic effect, in accordance with the comedic tradition of exaggeration that involved such items as ultra-short robes designed to reveal phallic prostheses. Also featured is the traditional chorus, who in turn deliver the structural convention of the parabasis (address to the audience), which immediately follows Dionysus’s admission into Pluto’s palace. Aristophanes’ characterization of Dionysus as a lewd, pleasure-seeking god, whose predilections readily provide opportunities for the comedic trope of crude sexual innuendo, is also highly conventional. While such reproduction of traditional elements consolidates the conventions they form, Aristophanes also produces an innovation in The Frogs by combining two forms of comic motif, the journey and the contest (agon) structure, and giving them comparable weighting, with one act being reserved for each. Despite this deviation, however, the agon observes the structure’s own rules of tradition, whereby it is the second speaker in any contest who emerges victorious; likewise, the journey motif is sufficiently sympathetic to tradition to be clearly recognizable as such, even if the comic approach to it produces a twist on the more typically serious convention of the katabatic myth or myths in which characters travel to the underworld. Aristophanes was a stern advocate of tradition—poetic and political—for the superior moral rectitude and wisdom he considered it offered, though its old-fashioned ways may lack the slick appearance, novelty, or shock value of cleverness and glib expression, which Aristophanes equates with Euripides. The Frogs, with its unequivocal judgment on the respective merits of the two tragedians, presents a vehicle for expounding his aesthetic position, which is dramatized by Dionysus’s selection of Aeschylus and his poetic legacy over and above the flashier Euripides. Aristophanes also leverages the

power of cultural tradition in its poetic and dramatic forms to achieve his political purpose. By drawing on the audience’s knowledge of Athenian mythological and poetic traditions while further expanding them—that is, by referencing other plays and myths by means of a vehicle that, as a poetic artifact in itself, enriches the tradition it celebrates—The Frogs functions as an appeal to the Athenians’ rich cultural tradition, as accessed and expressed through theater. Moreover, The Frogs can be interpreted as a rallying instrument by which to motivate the Athenians to take the political action Aristophanes envisages will ensure the city’s viability, cultural and otherwise, beyond its present point of threat. Kate Concannon

ARISTOPHANESâ•… Lysistrataâ•… (411 b.c.)

The masterpieces of comedy produced by Aristophanes, the sharp and lewd wit of fifth-century Athens, may forever play supporting roles to their tragic counterparts. However, Lysistrata, a fantasy in which Greek women stage a sit-in/sex strike to end the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, maintains a special place in dramatic and literary history. Featuring a title character whose name loosely translates as “she who disbands armies,” its current popular recognition can be mostly credited to perennial productions that use its theme of “love not war” (or more precisely “no love until no war”) to stage public challenges to military conflict. The most significant recent example was the Lysistrata Project, which presented thousands of readings of the play as an action against the pending U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. While Lysistrata is not specifically an antiwar play (Lysistrata is no pacifist, as she cheers efforts to destroy the Hellenes, depicted in the play as barbarians), it is a play that depicts the possibility of peace, forged unexpectedly by the power of women’s chastity. Lysistrata is essentially an act of hope driven by a fundamental gender power reversal, which is fueled by the often underestimated forces of sex and sexuality, sensuality, and eroticism. It is for this reason that many audiences, critics, and scholars have reflected, to paraphrase, that it is a play that will be pertinent as long as men and

172â•…â•… Aristophanes women make love and as long as human beings try to kill one another, and thus, sex and war remain fundamental to human existence. Ben Fisler

Gender in Lysistrata

If sex is the fuel Lysistrata and her confederates use to transform the world, gender is the world that they set ablaze, by turning the Athenian status quo on its head. Aristophanes sets the scene by referencing Athenian gender standards, combining the Greek perception that women are driven by their appetites, particularly sexual desire, with the ancient reality of extreme patriarchy. In the text, Athenian women have no virtually no political power, and they acknowledge that; Athenian men perceive women as being controlled by their passions, and the women recognize that. Thus, the play creates a fantasy where women have the support of both Aphrodite (to drive the men into a sexual frenzy first) and Athena (the virgin goddess who contains the women’s needs as they stage their sex strike/sit-in at her sacred Acropolis). Within what the primarily male Greek audience would have seen as a fantasy, women achieve considerable power and restraint, allowing them to act with surprising agency. Calonice both bespeaks and personifies the idea that women are driven by their sexuality, when Lysistrata begins to suggest the plan. First, she doubts that women can help the war effort, given their inability to do anything “but sit at home looking pretty, wearing saffron gowns” (l. 47). Then, she becomes entirely distracted by her own fantasies of saffron gowns and slippers (ll. 51–53). Later, the entire gathering of women hears Lysistrata’s plan and proceeds to exit the stage. Myrrhine proclaims that she would be cut in half or “walk through fire, or anything else .╯.╯. but renounce sex, never” (ll. 133–135). It takes much convincing for the women to accept the strategy, given that “there’s nothing like [sex]” (l. 136). It is the shield oath that gives women the power to renounce their passions, drawing on the power of the virgin goddess, Athena, to control their normally uncontrollable sex drives. Lysistrata has a direct confrontation with the representative of Athenian law, the Magistrate, in which she recognizes the status quo.

Lysistrata: Always till now we have .╯.╯. uncomplainingly endured whatever you men did .╯.╯. And what did [our husbands] always say? “Shut up and mind your own business!” And I did. Magistrate: You’d have been for it if you hadn’t. Lysistrata: Exactly—so I kept quiet. (ll. 508–518) In the same argument, however, Lysistrata justifies the women’s power to affect the present revolt. Magistrate: You in charge of state money? Lysistrata: We’ve always been in charge of all your household finances. (ll. 494–496) Thus, even as Aristophanes allows his characters to articulate the imbalance between male and female power in Athens, he identifies the possibility that women might be trained to affect action. Though they are the most obvious examples, it is not the sex strike nor the occupation of the Acropolis that constitute the most aggressive reversal of patriarchy in Lysistrata. The conflict between the old women and old men of Athens, which occurs between lines 254 and 463, is a far more direct disruption of the status quo. The men approach with torches to burn out the feud and are met by women who use water to quench their flames. This incident is enhanced by references to the soaking as a “wedding bath” and to the discomforts of age: “[O]ur clothes are wringing wet as if we were incontinent” (ll. 403–404). These comments affirm the metaphor of the conflict; the sexual center of womanhood (characterized by liquidity) defeating the sexual center of manhood (characterized by a phallic-shaped flame). The metaphorical defeat gives way to an even more direct reversal of the power structure, as the women achieve victory in an unrestrained brawl. While the entire play is an example of the world turned upside down, this centerpiece scene crosses into the realm of civil unrest. The play reverses the ancient status quo to such an extent that it is often interpreted as protofeminist. There is no question that Aristophanes was progressive in his views of women, at least in so far

Lysistrataâ•…â•… 173 as a fifth-century Athenian male citizen could have been. It is probable that some of his literary and public attacks on Euripides stemmed from the tragedian’s popularly observed misogyny. However, the play is a comic fantasy, one that ends with a return to the status quo that the strike temporarily turns on its head. Lysistrata herself gives her comrades in arms back to their husbands. Clearly, Aristophanes is far less interested in female empowerment for women’s sake than for the political goal of bringing the long war to an end. This is his hope. Ben Fisler

Hope in Lysistrata

In sum, the play is an act of hope. Aristophanes suggests a peaceful solution to the Athenian/Spartan conflict in which Greek citizens choose love over war, and he proposes that women might be the source of this transformative power. He also suggests that all Greek nations share a certain basic humanity, even as he exploits national differences (actually presented as stereotypes) for comedic effect. The textual mix of Greek religious and historical references and the march of diverse regional types compel the spectators to remember that “we are all Greeks” within the context of comedy. Lysistrata proclaims the possibility that women might be the last best hope for peace during her debate with the Magistrate. Many a time we’d hear at home about some major political blunder of yours .╯.╯. [Do you think] we should not be allowed to make the least little suggestion to you, no matter how you mismanage your affairs? But now every time two men meet in the street, what do they say? Isn’t there a man in the country? And the answer comes, “Not one.” That’s why we women got together and decided to unite and save Greece .╯.╯. You listen to us—and it’ll be good advice we give—listen to us and keep quiet, like you made us do, and we’ll set you to rights. (ll. 511–528, original emphasis) This speech does not suggest that patriarchy will be demolished in favor of a government of women, nor one of gender equality. It suggests that out of

desperation for some wisdom and responsibility, any alternative to the madness of the current state of affairs is worth trying. To both sweeten the appeal of peace and maintain humor, Aristophanes uses references to regional differences among the Greeks. The Spartans speak with a rustic dialect, suggesting their roughneck contrast with Athenian sophistication, and Lampito herself salivates over the prospect of heavy drinking as they prepare wine for the oath (l. 197). The Athenian women comment on the odor of the citizens of Anagyrus and the body weight of Corinthian noblewomen. This provides humorous recognition of perceived cultural difference but reaffirms the variety of Greek peoples, in opposition to far more greatly feared Persians or hated barbarians. The subtle reminder of pan-Greek civilization provides a foundation for its shared history, affirmed during the official reconciliation at the finale. In a Spartan’s song and dance celebrating the peace, Aristophanes simultaneously recognizes panGreek history and maintains an ironic tone appropriate to comedy. The Spartan praises Athenian sea victories and the military prowess of Sparta, then references both the sacrifices of Leonidas and the Spartan force at Thermopylae and the sea battle at Artemisium. He sings of the bravery and resolve of both nations against the Persian threat, reminding the audience of the days of Greek unity. Ironically, Thermopylae ended with every Spartan soldier dead, and Artemisium failed to halt the Persian war machine. A tragic poet might have chosen more decisive victories, but Aristophanes maintains the satirical techniques of comedy, even as he celebrates a victory won by the hand of female soldiers wielding the powerful scepter of sex. Ben Fisler

Sex and Sexuality in Lysistrata

Lysistrata is a play about sex that, when translated honestly, is transparently pornographic. Efforts by post-1960s translators, such as Jeffrey Henderson and Alan H. Sommerstein, have embraced the blatant vulgarity and bawdiness central to the play specifically and, in many ways, to Greek comedy in general. However, references to male and female genitalia, the mechanics of sexual activity, and the

174â•…â•… Aristophanes lusty desires of men and women, both young and old, should not be taken as low-brow humor incorporated for mere shock value. The play’s bold sexual references give it much of its power. Sexuality is the source of much humor, but it is also the primary mechanism for hope. Lysistrata proposes that the lust for copulation is the only human desire that outmatches the lust for blood, and that sexual gratification withheld can transform the world. The play explores in depth the exploitative power sex holds over our species. Central to the women’s oath is a manipulation strategy; Lysistrata orders the women not merely to withhold sex but to simultaneously encourage the desire for it. “I will live at home in unsullied chastity .╯.╯. wearing my saffron gown and my sexiest make-up .╯.╯. to inflame my husband’s ardour .╯.╯. but I will never willingly yield myself to him” (ll. 217–24). Aristophanes foreshadows a world in which women will not ignore the men but deliberately use their charms to arouse them (audiences are made to assume that this will primarily be women like those of Sparta who have not barricaded themselves in the Acropolis, which is the second prong of the peace strategy). The playwright asks the spectator to imagine all Greek male citizens reduced to drooling, frustrated beasts as the Greek women tease them mercilessly but refuse to “put out.” This image of men reduced to docile sheep by unrequited sexual desire is solidified in the play’s final moments, when the military will of all Greece has been broken by the strike. A Spartan delegate, who has been reluctant to agree to the reconciliation (probably a reference to historical Spartan militancy) gives in when its representative proves to be a beautiful naked woman named Reconciliation. Given Sparta’s extreme warrior culture, the exhibition of one of their men tamed by being sex-starved implies that the rest of the Greek world has degraded perhaps to the level of zombie slaves, owing to their unsatisfied needs. While most of the play’s sexual content centers on humorous references and the global effects of chastity, one particularly famous scene provides a spectacle of sensuality that never fails to delight. Myrrhinne’s husband, Cinesias, comes looking for her, and what follows is a microcosm of the larger

conflict between the sexes, a struggle between lust and politics, with Cinesias using all the components of home and marriage against Myrrhine’s negotiation and resolve. Cinesias enters with the energy of a satyr (the half goat/half human attendants of Dionysus), made all the bolder by his enormous, fully erect phallus (a comic spin on the costume standard of Greek comedy, the usually flaccid phallus). He begs an audience with Myrrhine, using their infant son as bait: “Surely you can’t harden your heart against your baby! It’s five days now since he had a bath or a suck” (l. 880). He then reminds her that siding with the women is leaving their home unattended, but that more significantly, it leaves them both with “pain” resulting from secret rites of Aphrodite unperformed (l. 893). Cinesias makes a show of capitulating to the women’s demands. Though she will not agree to come home until the peace agreement is fulfilled, Myrrhine does agree to “lie down” with him in Pan’s Grotto. The repeatedly averted sex act that plays out in lines 915–957 would have similarly impacted audiences in Athens of the year 411 as it does today, continual building anticipation of a spectacle that is consistently aborted. Public sex was illegal at Athenian sanctuaries, as it is in most public places in the present day. Thus, for them to perform it in front of 14,000 spectators would have stretched the comic energy to the point of near scandal. Audiences are drawn into Cinesias’s frustration as Myrrhine first excuses herself to retrieve a bed and then, in sequence, a mattress, a pillow, a blanket, and two different bottles of perfume. When he accidentally reveals that he does not intend to push for peace as he promised, Myrrhine abandons her frustrated husband. The averted lovemaking stages Lysistrata’s challenge to the war and affirms the impact a sex strike would have on the men of Greece. The mastery of Aristophanes’ text is not that it is rife with dirty jokes, though it is, nor that some of those jokes are outright shocking, though he is a skilled author of bawdy lines and images. Rather, it is that those moments of lewdness amount to a hopeful suggestion that war might not be the true constant in human civilization. Sex might be even more essential to our needs, though we may only realize

The Handmaid’s Taleâ•…â•… 175 that when sex is taken away. By weaving bawdy references throughout the text, Aristophanes mandates sex as a more ubiquitous force than violence. Sexuality becomes the power that fuels the efforts of Greek women to forge a peace. Exploring themes of gender and hope more deeply, one finds that in Aristophanes’s fantasy world, sexuality gives women the ability to transform a reality in which they would otherwise have no influence on global affairs. Ben Fisler

ATWOOD, MARGARETâ•… The Handmaid’s Taleâ•… (1985)

Written at a time when strongly conservative elements (including antifeminist movements) were gaining power in the United States, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel. It imagines a future in which contemporary utopian ideals for a better world have been erased and a very dark, nightmarish society has come to existence. In the novel, an environmental catastrophe has apparently rendered a large part of the country inaccessible due to radioactivity, and most men and women in the country have become sterile. The former American government has been replaced by a fascist system, called the Republic of Gilead, where women are deprived of their rights and basically enslaved so as to produce babies and bring the birth rate up. This system is set up and led by the “Commanders”—men who used to hold high positions in the old system—who receive the handmaids in their household and expect them to bear a child for their sterile wives. It is a highly hierarchical system in which every man and woman serves, in some way or another, the Commanders and their families. Oppression, gender, and heroism are the three thematic lenses through which we will critique a system which, though it is fictitious, addresses and speaks to very contemporary issues and concerns such as gender power and discrimination. Sophie Croisy

Gender in The Handmaid’s Tale

The Republic of Gilead is a complex and strict hierarchical system where gender separation is institutionalized and becomes the very root of oppression.

Men and women are subjected to the Law of Gilead, born out of a mix between the strictest biblical teachings and the certainties of a handful of Commanders. According to the Law, men and women have traditional heterosexual roles that cannot be jeopardized, so much so that nonnormative gender behaviors are eradicated. One time, the narrator, a Handmaid named Offred (her names comes from the Commander to whom she belongs, Fred), spots the dead bodies of two men with “purple placards hung around their necks: Gender Treachery. Their bodies still wear the Guardian uniforms. Caught together, they must have been.” There is no room for homosexuality in this society, which preaches the fulfillment of natural (meaning heterosexual) destinies. The women in Gilead, if not in charge of menial household tasks for the commanders, are either the commanders’ own wives, Econowives (the wives of the poorest men), Aunts, or Handmaids. The Aunts are the most visible representatives of the oppressive gendered system in place as they teach the last fertile women in Gilead how to become Handmaids. Though themselves oppressed by the system, their role is to perpetuate that oppression by promoting a fundamentalist Christian envisioning of women’s role in society. In the Center, and in Gilead, Handmaids-to-be learn that they cannot own anything anymore, not even an identity; they cannot read or write; they cannot want and are not allowed to complain. When Offred describes her time in the Center, she recalls the group sessions during which future Handmaids had to confess their sins and repent: One of them tells the story of her rape as a younger girl, and when one of the Aunts asks the question, “But whose fault was it?,” all the participants are expected to answer, “Her fault, her fault, her fault,” and they do so. The sexist argument that harm happens because the woman was looking for it becomes the starting point to a cruel redemptive therapy, at the end of which the women-turnedHandmaids surrender to “the ecstasy of abasement”: They admit their past worthlessness and guilt as “Unwomen” (free women) and accept that they will know redemption only if they “fulfill their biological destinies.” The active body as “instrument of pleasure” and “implement for the accomplishment of

176â•…â•… Atwood, Margaret [the owner’s] will” becomes shameful. However, the passive reproductive body is sanctified. It is a sacred vessel that can be used (and abused) by the leaders of the land to reach that higher collective biological purpose: the survival of the species. In the fundamentalist Gilead system, what is sanctified must be protected; thus, the female body remains hidden (all women wear veils when they go outside). The Handmaid’s body is only to be seen naked by her Commander, who, during an event called “the Ceremony,” has intercourse with the Handmaid in order to procreate the highly hoped-for child. The Gilead system of oppression, which is defined by Offred’s commander as an opportunity for women to be protected from any harm and play their natural roles “in peace. With all support and encouragement” is, in fact, a punitive system where torture, both mental and physical, or death comes to individuals who do not want to or cannot fulfill their duty for the community. In the Center, uncooperative women are physically abused: “It was the feet they’d do for a first offense. They used steel cables, frayed at the ends.” Moreover, if a Handmaid, after three trials in different households, fails to give birth to a child, she is taken away; nobody knows what happens to her—death is the guess. Never is the commander’s fertility questioned because “There is no such thing as a sterile man anymore, not officially. There are only women who are fruitful and women who are barren, that’s the law.” The hypocrisy and cruelty of the oppressive gendered system and its perpetrators lie in their daily criminal actions and in the existence of an underground web of prostitution organized by the Commanders themselves. In underground clubs, Commanders find alcohol and women and do in the obscurity of a back bedroom what the very system they have imposed forbids everyone below them to do, men and women alike. Sophie Croisy

Heroism in The Handmaid’s Tale

In a tyrannical, hierarchical society where the freedom of a past life must be forgotten, every act of memory can be considered an act of heroism. Remembering the past implies suffering but prevents hope from vanishing. The main character in the text, the handmaid call Offred, commits these

acts of memory throughout her detention and thus infuses hope from the past into the present. The quaintest memory, the memory of “laundromats. What I wore to them: shorts, jeans, jogging pants. What I put into them: my own clothes, my own money, money I had earned myself ” comes back to counter the Gilead system of repression based on keeping women oblivious, separating the genders, and forcing blind submission to the rules. These moments of remembering help her participate in the struggle against institutionalized forgetting, against the lies scattered by the leaders of Gilead. What is more important is remembering her name, though in this new order, she is given the name of her owner. She is Offred, but she keeps the knowledge of her real name “like something hidden, some treasure I’ll come back to dig up, one day,” and she projects herself into the future—a time when she will be allowed again to wear her name, to recover her stolen identity. If remembering is a silent, individual form of heroism in a system that forces forgetting upon its human elements, acting against that system is certainly the most subversive heroic endeavor. Offred is witness to different types of rebellious actions, some individual, others organized by a countergovernmental underground organization called Mayday. When still in training to become a handmaid, Offred goes through a coercive brainwashing program meant to force young women into a life of inaction and servitude. Moira, one of these women “in training,” tries to escape any chance she gets despite the knowledge that harsh punishment will come if she gets caught. She goes so far as to threaten the life of one of the Aunts with a metal prod. She takes the Aunt’s clothes and her pass, and she leaves the gymnasium pretending to be an Aunt. After her successful escape, Moira becomes the handmaids’ “fantasy. We hugged her to us. She was with us in secret, a giggle; she was lava beneath the crust of daily life. In the light of Moira, the Aunts were less fearsome and more absurd. Their power had a flaw to it.” This act of heroism resonates throughout the gymnasium and becomes another symbol of hope, another successful, counter-traumatic action in the midst of global trauma.

The Handmaid’s Taleâ•…â•… 177 Even Offred, once in contact with Mayday, starts playing a spy game. Her relationship with the Commander evolves as time passes by. He invites her at night to play board games and offers her presents; she, in turn, starts asking questions about the Gilead system. This forbidden “friendly” relationship (though the power structure that rules their official relationship is never questioned) takes Offred to an underground nightclub set up by the Commanders where waitresses/prostitutes serve and please the dignitaries of Gilead. Little by little, she sees more and learns more, and knowledge becomes another weapon of resistance: the knowledge that the Gilead system is not as closed and flawless as she was once told it was. Offred knows that she would be punished, or even killed, if anyone knew (especially the Commander’s wife, Serena Joy) about this unusual relationship with the Commander, but she continues it in order to know and tell what she knows. Offred’s official position in the Commander’s household is that of a vessel. She must give the Commander and his wife a child. Not fulfilling this “sacred duty” means death for her. For that reason, she will be convinced by Serena Joy, who fears that her husband might be infertile, to have intercourse with Nick, the driver, to increase her chances of getting pregnant. However, she goes to Nick more in search of physical closeness and pleasure, which is forbidden in Gilead. Again, if anyone knew about this treasonous behavior, she would die. Her actions are heroic in the sense that she knows death awaits her whatever path she chooses, but she chooses the hardest path: She does not stand still waiting for the expected child or its alternative, death. She chooses the path that will remind her how to feel and show her the reality of a corrupt system regularly upset by Mayday and its web of undercover rebels. Her acts of heroism are acts of hope. Sophie Croisy

Oppression in The Handmaid’s Tale

Gilead’s Commanders as well as a punitive organization called “the Eyes” have full power. The Commanders have set up a strict hierarchical system of oppression (though they define that system as the only way toward a better, safer, peaceful society) based on strict rules of conduct. Everyone has a

specific role and position that is inescapable once attributed. If this role is not fulfilled, punishment is immediate. The Eyes, a sort of secret police, take the disobedient ones away in a black car or van. What happens to the prisoners is unclear but likely to be connected to the regular “prayvaganzas,” punitive ceremonies where the enemies of Gilead are sentenced to death. Only the top of the Republic of Gilead’s hierarchy seems to have real power. The rest is submissive to the oppressive system set up by the Commanders, who define themselves as Gilead’s leaders and its protectors from the war raging outside. They lead that war and seem to own other parts of the American territory as a result of deadly fights between the soldiers of Gilead and the soldiers of an America that still exists outside the wall that surrounds and limits Gilead. The soldiers of Gilead have a basic practical function: to fight and die for Gilead. The Guardians of the Faith, a kind of local police, is used for “routine policing and other menial functions, digging up the Commander’s Wife’s garden.” They are given the power to keep things in order, but they have very limited rights. They are only male servants in the Gilead system and are not allowed contact with women. The Aunts are an organization of women whose role is to form young and fertile women to become Handmaids. Their only power lies in their role as teachers, though they teach other women through oppression, and what they teach is the obligation to accept the oppressive system now in place. Their training in behavior and religion must transform “Unwomen”—that is, modern, free American women with the right to chose their lives—into Handmaids (that is, birthing machines). The Handmaids must learn to dismiss and despise their old life (that is, the modern life of today’s real America), take pills to keep quiet and docile, and learn the new rules of a system that has turned them into “worthy vessels.” As a result, they have become objects of procreation. Once properly disciplined, they will each be assigned to a Commander’s family and will be forced to produce a child through forced sex with the Commander in the presence of his wife. The goal is to repopulate the land after the great nuclear catastrophe that has killed so many. The other

178â•…â•… Atwood, Margaret women within that system have no power at all: the Marthas are the housekeepers who are in charge of the Commanders’ households. They cook and clean, and that is the limit of their action. This new society is not only based on oppressive laws of conduct and a politics of fear (of the secret police), but also on the rejection of “otherness”: Its propaganda targets and vilifies specific cultural and religious groups that once shaped the American nation. African Americans are captured and resettled in “National Homeland One,” a place where nobody really knows what becomes of them. Jews and other religious groups whose vision of religion departs from Gilead’s are also targeted alongside homosexuals and old, unfertile women who are worthless to the Gilead system based on the need to reproduce. Newspapers and the television are heavily controlled and censored, and only the Commanders and their wives have access to the news. Those who are not at the top of the hierarchy have very few or no privileges and are kept in a state of ignorance about what is really happening in the country. All words in the streets have been replaced by signs, and reading and writing are forbidden to those like the Handmaids who are only supposed to obey the rules. This fundamentalist society has taken away the rights of its members in order to create an ordered society where idleness, drugs, “immoral” behaviors, and more specifically violence have no place. However, what really defines the system is the escalation of hatred between the different castes of Gilead, the erasure of entire cultural groups, and an underground prostitution web brought into existence by the Commanders themselves. Sophie Croisy

ATWOOD, MARGARETâ•… Surfacingâ•… (1972)

The Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s second novel Surfacing, one of her most famous works, is considered a landmark text in terms of its exploration of the connections between gender and environmental oppression. Surfacing is the story of an unnamed female narrator’s journey into the wilderness of Quebec in search of her missing father. Accompanying her are her lover Joe and the couple’s

friends David and Anna, all of whom think of the trip as a vacation and a chance for David, with Joe’s help, to make Random Samples, a film of various oddities that they see along the way—a house made of soda bottles, for example. Initially, the narrator reveals to the reader that she is divorced and has a child, but after the four reach her family’s cabin located on an island, and the search for her father begins, the narrator’s story changes. We learn that prior to her involvement with Joe, the narrator aborted a fetus that resulted from an illicit affair with a married man. As these truths “surface” over the course of the novel, the narrator’s voice becomes increasingly fragmented; she dissociates from her peers and heads into the wilderness, where she spends five days in a state of either madness or epiphany, depending on the reader’s interpretation. Surfacing examines such issues as the degradation of the natural environment by corporate interests, the treatment of women by men, and the marginalization of Canadian culture as a result of Canada’s proximity to the United States. Laura Wright

Gender in Surfacing

Margaret Atwood wrote Surfacing at the height of the second wave of the feminist movement, which gained momentum—in Canada as well as in the United States—during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Atwood’s nameless narrator is a woman who ultimately refuses to be victimized by the socially enforced gender roles that define her as a secondclass citizen because of her status as female. As she states at the end of the novel, “this above all, to refuse to be a victim.” Surfacing provides a sustained analysis of the ways that gender roles are generated by culture, and throughout the text, the narrator seeks to break free from the civilized feminine role that is expected of her by not only the men in her life—Joe, David, and her former lover—but also by women, particularly Anna and the narrator’s mother. Furthermore, in Surfacing, Atwood presents male gender roles as similarly problematic, a hindrance to any real connection between men and women. Atwood’s narrator is perhaps most conflicted with regard to her relationship choices and repro-

Surfacingâ•…â•… 179 ductive freedom; initially, she refers to her former lover as her “husband” and tells the audience that their child is at home. But other comments underscore a different reality, one characterized by the narrator’s guilt over the fact that she was involved with a married man and aborted their unborn child at his request. Early in the novel, she claims that she feels as if her former lover “imposed it on me.” The narrator’s reference to her baby as “it” is an indication that she did not carry the child to term, but the lies that she tells herself and the audience indicate the ways that she feels trapped by gender expectations that demand her to be a “good girl.” Another way that the narrative illustrates the conflict that women feel with regard to the roles they are expected to play is evidenced when Anna, putting on her makeup, tells the narrator that David “↜‘doesn’t like to see me without it,’ and then, contradicting herself, ‘He doesn’t know I wear it.’↜” Throughout the text, David is presented as the enforcer of gender roles, a man who monitors his wife’s body, telling her at one point that she is “eating too much” and getting fat, while he flaunts his extramarital affairs before her; his comments about her body make her too insecure to leave him. At one point in the novel, David tells Anna to avoid participating in the women’s liberation movement: “None of that Women’s Lib .╯.╯. or you’ll be out on the street. I won’t have one in my house, they’re preaching random castration, they get off on that.” However, when the narrator begins to discard, bit by bit, the submissive and victimized female role that she had maintained at the beginning of the novel and that Anna maintains throughout, the consequences are telling. First, by refusing to marry Joe, the narrator reverses typical gender role expectations; she, not the man, is unwilling to give up her independence. In response, Joe behaves in a more typically feminine manner, claiming that “sometimes .╯.╯. I get the feeling you don’t give a shit about me.” Furthermore, when the narrator refuses David’s advances, he calls her a “tight-ass bitch” and accuses her of being a lesbian. These criticisms are attempts to show the narrator her gendered place, to force her to conform to male expectations of submissive female behavior. But men are not the only ones who police gender roles; Anna criticizes the narrator as

well, calling her “inhuman.” The narrator realizes that refusing to have sex with David causes Anna to resent her: “[B]ecause I hadn’t given in, it commented on her.” The narrator ultimately refuses to uphold the facade of wife and mother, admitting that she was never married and that she had had an abortion. At this point, she acknowledges that everyone wants to save the world in one way or another—“men think they can do it with guns, women with their bodies”—and then she turns her back on this way of thinking, destroying David and Joe’s film, smashing all of the mirrors in the cabin, taking off all her clothes, and heading out into the wilderness. She gives up her name and states, “I tried for all those years to be civilized but I’m not and I’m through pretending.” The novel ends with the narrator waiting for a new way to define herself, a way that is not dependent on female submission and male dominance. Laura Wright

Nationalism in Surfacing

When Margaret Atwood wrote Surfacing in 1972, Canada was characterized by a void in terms of its national conception of itself. Canada’s national identity has evolved over three main stages since its colonization in the 18th century. It was viewed, first, as a colonial or provincial outpost of empire; second, as a colonial nation; and finally, as a kind of country without a specific identity. Furthermore, Canada’s relationship with its imposing neighbor the United States has shaped its national identity. For example, prior to 1965, Canadian policy was one of cooperation with and emulation of the United States; however, with the Lyndon Johnson presidency, Canada’s desire to imitate was replaced by a sense of moral righteousness as it sought to distance itself from its neighbor’s escalating involvement in the Vietnam War. To some extent, it is this anti-U.S. sensibility that Atwood portrays in Surfacing. Atwood examines the complexities of the national conception of the “nice Canadian” in the late 1960s while she simultaneously critiques the artifice of niceness by tracing her unnamed narrator’s descent into madness in the wilderness of Quebec. Over the course of the

180â•…â•… Atwood, Margaret narrative, the protagonist is forced to examine her self-proclaimed victimization by both the American technological advances that encroach on the Canadian wilderness and by the men with whom she has been involved. The narrator ultimately learns that her father has drowned, and at this point, she literally disrobes and heads into the wilderness, where she lives for five days, hidden from her companions who, in exasperation, return to the mainland. The narrator’s sense of self, as a member of a national community, is obtained at least in part from her perception of her world through visual images that depict the nation. As an illustrator, she had been working on a book called Quebec Folk Tales at the time of her father’s disappearance. She creates the visual images that accompany her nation’s mythology, and despite the fact that she wants to vary her presentation, to include a loup-garou, or werewolf, story in the collection, the narrator realizes that her editor has taken it out because “it was too rough for him.” The national image that she is allowed to portray, therefore, is that of a nice, nonviolent Canadian. Furthermore, as a participant in the market, she is limited in her creativity as well as in her conception of a world beyond the fairy tales that her editor—and her nation—consider acceptable. She asks, “What’s the alternative to princesses? What else will parents buy for their children?” The narrator’s art is a commodity, an element in the consumer culture of Canada’s nationalist consciousness. Another visual narrative that shapes the narrator’s sense of her place in the Canadian nation is the photo album that she finds in the cabin. This album, with its chronologically arranged familial images, conflates time and space; photographs of the narrator appear alongside those of distant and longdead relatives. While she can look at the images of “grandmothers and grandfathers first, distant ancestors,” they are nonetheless “strangers, in face-front firing-squad poses.” The narrator is able to trace the “civilizing” process that occurs over the course of her life by examining the succession of these photographs, which culminate in school pictures from her teenage years. In these she sees herself as the acceptable nice Canadian in “stiff dresses, crinolines and tulle, layered like store birthday cakes,” and she claims, “I was civilized at last, the finished product.”

Similarly, David and Joe control the visual national narrative through their filming and then rearranging the “random samples” that they see on their journey. The film stems in part from David’s desire to capture images of the “real” Canadian nation, the “uncivilized border country” of the Quebec wilderness that Joe thinks of as “reality: a marginalized economy and grizzled elderly men.” At the end of Surfacing, the narrator destroys David’s film and heads into the wilderness to become a kind of werewolf, the loup-garou that she is not allowed to portray in her art. During these five days, the narrator is transformed from a woman into a wild animal, and over the course of her madness, she exists in opposition to the idea that the Canadian national consciousness must always be “nice,” must always exist in opposition to the “American.” By the end of the narrative, the protagonist is able to abandon labels that connote an appropriate national identity. Laura Wright

Nature in Surfacing

Margaret Atwood’s second novel, Surfacing, has been hailed as an ecofeminist classic because of the connections she makes in the narrative between the destruction of the environment as a result of capitalist interests and the domination of women by men. Atwood renders the natural world in Surfacing, particularly the remote island in northern Quebec where the novel is set, as a natural site compromised by the intrusion of people the nameless narrator assumes to be “American.” In the novel’s first two sentences, the narrator notes the way that the landscape has changed as a result of development and increased population since she last headed north: I can’t believe I’m on this road again, twisting along the lake where the white birches are dying, the disease is spreading up from the south.╯.╯.╯. But this is still near the city limits; we didn’t go through, it’s swelled enough to have a bypass, that’s success. This opening sequence establishes a dichotomy that Atwood’s narrator maintains throughout Surfac-

The Confessions of St. Augustineâ•…â•… 181 ing, the insidious and environmentally destructive attributes of “the south,” particularly citizens of the United States—whom all of the characters in the novel equate with environmental “disease”—as juxtaposed with the Canadians’ supposed innate environmentalism. The narrator, along with her lover Joe and married friends Anna and David, head to the island in search of the narrator’s missing father. As they move from the city further into the wilderness, the characters, particularly David, comment on the ways that the United States has encroached on the Canadian wilderness. At one point, he claims, “this is great .╯.╯. better than in the city. If we could only kick out the fascist pig Yanks and the capitalists this would be a neat country.” The term American is used throughout the text to designate anyone or any behavior that endangers the natural environment, and two American fishermen are central to the narrative’s examination of the destruction of nature. While they are out fishing on the lake, the narrator, Anna, Joe, and David encounter two men in a fishing boat with an “American flag on the front and another on the back.” One of the men asks if they have caught anything; “the other American throws his cigar butt over the side” and makes disparaging comments about the lake. The narrator notes that despite the fact that “we used to think they were harmless and funny and inept and faintly loveable,” “we”—Canadians—now see that “they”—Americans—pose a very real threat to the pristine wilderness of North Quebec. For example, when a man claiming to be a member of “the Detroit branch of the Wildlife Protection Association of America” appears and offers to buy the narrator’s father’s home, David warns that the man is a covert CIA agent out to procure water for the United States: ‘It’s obvious,’ he says. ‘They’re running out of water, clean water, they’re dirtying up all of theirs, right?’ As the four head back to the house after their encounter with the Americans, the narrator provides an amazing description of the lake: Loon voices in the distance; bats flitter past us, dipping over the water surface, flat calm now, the shore things, white-gray rocks and dead trees doubling themselves in the dark

mirror. Around us there is the illusion of infinite space or of no space.╯.╯.╯. It’s like moving on air, nothing beneath us holding us up. This passage, in that it describes the narrator’s illusory sensation of weightlessness and infinite space, alludes to the impermanence of boundaries, particularly those between the characters’ assumptions about Canadian and American environmental behavior. Later, when the foursome comes upon a dead heron, killed and “strung .╯.╯. up like a lynch victim,” the narrator questions why anyone would kill the bird. She asserts that “it must have been the Americans” who kill the bird just “to prove they could do it.” However, when the narrator encounters the “Americans” several pages later, she discovers that they are actually from Canada, just like her. The term American, then, becomes a kind of label that the narrator applies to any human being who causes environmental harm. She claims, “I realized it wasn’t the men I hated, it was the Americans, the human beings, men and women both. They’d had their chance but they had turned against the gods, and it was time for me to choose sides.” The side that she chooses is the side of nature: She sheds her clothes, leaves the house, and goes to live in the wilderness, determined not to disturb “anything else, that way there would be more room for the animals, they would be rescued.” Laura Wright

AUGUSTINE, SAINTâ•… The Confessions of St. Augustineâ•… (a.d. 397–398)

The Confessions of St. Augustine is probably the first book-length autobiography and certainly the most influential. Saint Augustine of Hippo (a.d. 353–430) pioneered the introspective study of one’s own life; for him, this effort would ultimately lead to knowledge of God, to whom Confessions is addressed. Confessions is divided into 13 books. The first nine contain a narrative of Augustine’s life up until age 33, focusing on his religious and moral development. Augustine’s life here is quite busy. In traveling to Carthage, Rome, and Milan to study and teach, he makes many friends and encounters various reli-

182â•…â•… Augustine, Saint gious and philosophical movements, most of which carry him further from God. Much of Confessions’s narrative is marked by Augustine’s regret over his youthful sinfulness. As a middle-aged Christian writing Confessions, he knows the moral standard he should have adhered to, and he laments that he had previously ignored God in favor of the fleeting pleasures of sex, vanity, and lawlessness. The climax of the narrative books is Augustine’s conversion to Christianity, which occurs dramatically in a Milan garden. The final four books are more directly philosophical and theological. In them, Augustine explores the nature of time and memory, and he interprets the biblical book of Genesis, which itself provided so much of the literary and theological inspiration for the Confessions. Augustine characterizes himself as a seeker, as expressed in Confessions’s first paragraph, where he says to God, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless till it rests in you.” To read Confessions is to enter a world of thought more complex and fascinating than nearly any other. Jonathan Malesic

Childhood in The Confessions of St. Augustine

A person’s memories are the richest source of material for an autobiography, and so we should expect an autobiographer to have the least to say about his or her birth and infancy. Not so for the exceedingly inquisitive Augustine. He devotes the first book of Confessions to searching for knowledge about his birth, infancy, and childhood, using his experiences in those stages to demonstrate to the reader the problem of human sin. Augustine even wants to know if he had a life prior to his birth. He finds no answer but trusts that God has one. In describing his character as an infant, Augustine relies partly on his observations of other infants. He sees that they greedily want milk all the time and cry when that desire is not immediately satisfied. Augustine assumes that he, too, must have been a greedy baby. Augustine is keen to the power of words throughout his life, and he devotes several pages of book 1 to his learning to speak. At first, he could only wail incoherently to indicate his desires. By

imitating adults and, later, with formal schooling, Augustine becomes more adept at using language, but he says that he mostly did so for immoral purposes. In his final assessment of these early years, Augustine describes himself as “so tiny a child, so great a sinner.” Augustine’s view of childhood is thus very different from our contemporary notion that children are innocent and naturally generous. Augustine sees himself as a sinful child because he believes that all human beings are inherently sinful at birth and need to be saved from that sin. This doctrine, known as original sin, has roots in the biblical story of Adam and Eve. According to Genesis 2 and 3, the first human beings were sinless, but they disobeyed God when they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil after Eve was tempted to do so by the serpent. This act of disobedience was the first sin. As a consequence, Adam and Eve must one day die, and so must all of their descendants, the entire human race, because the guilt from that first sin is passed down through generations. Thus, Augustine portrays his own infancy and childhood as reflecting the biblical account of the infancy and childhood of the human race. This theme carries through book 2, in which Augustine recounts a period in his adolescence, the cusp between childhood and adulthood. Perhaps the most famous episode in Confessions is the theft of pears that Augustine and his adolescent friends commit in book 2. The episode is cast as a reflection of the fall of Adam and Eve: Not only is taking from a fruit tree at the heart of the story, but like Adam, Augustine steals mainly for companionship’s sake. As he admits at the end of book 2, “alone I would not have done it.” He sees his yielding to peer pressure as not merely the action of a foolish youth but a malicious act against the will of God. He blames only himself for his spiritual immaturity. Augustine’s conversion to Christianity in the Milan garden (recounted in book 8) is followed in book 9 by his baptism, which makes him a member of the Catholic Church. This baptism is like a second birth to him. In Christian theology, the person who is baptized “dies to sin” and is born to new life. The newborn Christian Augustine loses his voice for much of book 9 because of a series of illnesses.

The Confessions of St. Augustineâ•…â•… 183 The only way he can communicate the joy he feels over his conversion is through crying, just as he communicated as a child. The crying, however, has been transformed from an expression of sinful greed to one of pure happiness with God. In Latin, the language in which Augustine wrote, the word infans literally means “unable to speak.” In his baptism, he gains a second infancy and childhood, but this time, the grace of God and the care of his new Christian “family” (the church) will help him to avoid the sinful selfishness that characterized his first infancy. Sin for Augustine is a problem as universal as infancy, but it has a solution in becoming a child of God via membership in the church. Jonathan Malesic

Love in The Confessions of St. Augustine

In Augustine’s outlook, love is most basically desire: desire to possess an object, desire to be with a particular person, desire for knowledge or goodness. But not all desires get to be called by the name love. It is possible to desire the wrong things, or to desire good things in the wrong way. Much of the plot of the Confessions is driven by the conflict between genuine love and the disordered form of desire known as lust. To Augustine, human beings are defined largely by their loves: They are good to the extent that they love the right things in the right way, and they are sinful when their desires are disordered. Augustine says that as an adolescent, his greatest desire “was simply to love and to be loved.” This desire in itself is good, but Augustine goes about fulfilling it the wrong way, causing him to sin and to be miserable. When Augustine goes away to Carthage to study, he has many friends and lovers. But these were no more than “illicit loves,” because rather than enjoying real friendship with these people, he sought carnal pleasures with them, casting himself into “the hell of lust.” Looking back on those times, Augustine determines that he was never truly in love with anyone. In fact he “was in love with love,” the feeling he got when he was falling in love. Because he did not yet know what real love was, the mistake was easy to make. Augustine continues to give lust a large role in his life, as he takes up with a woman and has a child with her out of wedlock. Their “love is a matter of physical sex,” not real partnership.

Even Augustine’s friendships at this stage exhibit improper love. In book 4, Augustine tells about a close friendship he shared with a childhood acquaintance. They shared many interests, and at the time Augustine “felt that my soul and his were ‘one soul in two bodies.’↜” But even this love was ultimately improper, because Augustine loved this friend disproportionately. This unnamed friend falls ill and eventually dies, causing Augustine no end of misery. The closeness of the relationship is exactly what makes the end of the relationship so painful. Looking back on this episode, Augustine realizes that he loved this friend “as a substitute for” God. Augustine’s lesson here is that someone should never treat another as “half [one’s] soul.” Human beings are mortal and finite and thus should not receive such strong devotion. God alone must be loved so strongly, and because God is infinite and immortal, loving him will never be a disappointment. In subsequent books, Augustine gains new friends and loves them more appropriately. In book 6, he writes much about Alypius and Nebridius, with whom Augustine lives and shares many intellectual interests. The love these friends show Augustine helps make him a better person. Alypius’s honesty, which he shows by refusing to take bribes while he held a government job, seems to rub off on the sinful Augustine, who says that these two “friends I loved indeed for their own sake; and I felt that in return they loved me for my sake.” The love among Augustine, Alypius, and Nebridius is good partly because it eventually leads beyond itself and toward love for God. Augustine does not convert to Christianity alone but with these two friends, as they continue to exert a positive moral influence on him. After Augustine’s conversion and baptism, his desire for God only grows. He asks himself “what I love when I love my God,” and he knows that in loving God, he does not love the physical beauty and the pleasure he loves in material things, because God is not a physical thing. Still, God grants Augustine spiritual pleasures beyond any physical ones, leading him to write what amounts to a love hymn to God, saying, “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new,” and extolling

184â•…â•… Augustine, Saint God’s accomplishments in Augustine’s life and how ardently he now desires God. All of the lesser loves Augustine has—for physical pleasure, for companionship, for knowledge— imitate to some degree the love he should properly have for God. And if Augustine’s loves help determine what he becomes, then loving God properly will make him more like God in goodness and wisdom. Jonathan Malesic

Religion in The Confessions of St. Augustine

As a religious autobiography, The Confessions is in one sense entirely about religion. Augustine is in search of God, but God can be found only through the doctrines and disciplines of true religion. The problem for Augustine is in discovering which religion is true. He finds the truth in Catholic Christianity, but he takes a circuitous path to it. Augustine lived in an era when several religions competed for adherents. Although Christianity was becoming the norm in the Roman Empire, many still honored the old Roman pantheon, and a sect called the Manicheans held some sway. Furthermore, the Christianity of this time was highly varied, as authority within the church was diffuse, and many points of doctrine were not yet settled. Augustine’s own family exhibits this religious diversity: His mother, Monica, is a Christian (later to be acknowledged as a saint in the Catholic Church), while his father, Patrick, is a longtime pagan. Monica’s practice of true religion leads her to live a life of prayer and moral rectitude. She, in turn, prays constantly for Augustine to become a full member of the church and actively encourages him to give up his premarital sexual relationships (which the church sees as sinful) and to marry a Catholic girl. Patrick, meanwhile, is portrayed as short-tempered and lustful, encouraging Augustine to commit sexual sin. He becomes a Christian late in his life, and Augustine remarks that this conversion ended Patrick’s bad behavior. As a young teacher of rhetoric at Carthage in North Africa, Augustine is drawn to the Manicheans, who see the world as a battleground between the equal and opposite forces of light and darkness. Augustine’s interest in the Manicheans reaches its

height in book 5 as he anticipates meeting Faustus, the great bishop of the sect. Faustus turns out to be a letdown, as his knowledge is slight and “conventional,” not the profound wisdom Augustine had expected. But by the end of book 5, Augustine has moved to Milan in Italy and met Ambrose, the Christian bishop there. Ambrose is the mirror image of Faustus. Both men are bishops, but Faustus is part of the false religion of Manichaeanism, while Ambrose is a leader in the true religion of Christianity. Though both are renowned for their good speaking styles, “in content there could be no comparison,” for Ambrose is expounding the truth and exposing the pretty lies of teachers like Faustus. Ambrose continues to influence Augustine, leading him to join the Catholic Church. The Manicheans’ failure to grasp the truth is illustrated in their inadequate account of the presence of evil in the world. They believe that both God and evil are physical substances in conflict with each other. This doctrine concerns Augustine because it implies that God is finite, something he knows cannot be true. Augustine discovers a Christian answer to this problem in book 7, after reading books of Platonist philosophers who espouse many semireligious teachings, including the idea that evil is not an existing substance but, rather, the absence of good. Although the Platonists lack the full religious truth, which can be found only in Christianity, they have elements of the truth (including this teaching on the nature of evil) and are at any rate far closer to true religious doctrine than the Manicheans. Because all that is genuinely true comes from God, true philosophical doctrines can lead a person a step closer to God. For example, the Platonists rightly recognize that the Word of God, the principle of order in the universe, is itself light, but they do not recognize, as Christians do, that this Word became a human being, Jesus Christ. Thus, Augustine’s intellectual encounter with Platonism helps confirm for him the truth of Christianity. He eventually converts fully to Christianity after an intense emotional experience that leads him to “pick up and read” the letters of the Christian apostle Paul, where Augustine reads an admonition to give up sin and to ally himself with Christ.

Emmaâ•…â•… 185 Augustine’s conversion becomes formal in book 9 when he, his friends, and his son are baptized in a joyous ceremony. At last, Augustine has found true religion, where he can know and love God fully and properly. Although orthodox (correct) beliefs are indispensable to true religion, for Augustine it is not only a matter of belief. True religion is also marked by true worship practices, good morals, healthy community life, and wise authority. All of these Augustine finds in Catholic Christianity, where he receives the antidote to the spiritual restlessness that plagued his young adulthood. Jonathan Malesic

AUSTEN, JANEâ•… Emmaâ•… (1816)

Emma Woodhouse, “handsome, clever, and rich,” lives near the village of Highbury with her father in the early 1800s. Although good friends with their neighbor, Mr. Knightley, Emma is lonely after her governess marries and moves out, so she decides to take Harriet Smith, a beautiful young girl of unknown parentage, under her wing. Against Mr. Knightley’s advice, Emma dissuades Harriet from marrying her farmer suitor, Robert Martin, and instead persuades her that the vicar, Mr. Elton, is in love with her. Unfortunately, however, it turns out Mr. Elton has designs not on Harriet but on Emma herself. Emma indignantly refuses his proposal and tries to heal Harriet’s disappointment. Emma’s governess’s new stepson, Frank Churchill, comes to visit Highbury and enlivens the village by initiating social events that include Jane Fairfax, who has recently returned to Highbury after a childhood spent elsewhere. Another arrival is Mr. Elton’s new bride, who attempts to upstage Emma by asserting herself as the “lady patroness” of Highbury. The town expects Frank and Emma to make a couple, but Emma has plans for Frank and Harriet. However, Harriet now fancies Mr. Knightley, which horrifies Emma as she realizes that she herself loves Mr. Knightley. When Frank’s adopted mother dies, he announces that he has been secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax for several months. While shocked at the subterfuge, Highbury welcomes the marriage. With Frank

out of the way, Mr. Knightley proclaims his love for Emma, and they, too, plan a wedding. Harriet returns to Robert Martin, and Emma vows never again to meddle in people’s lives. Sally Palmer

Coming of Age in Emma

Typically, a bildungsroman features a protagonist who, over the course of the novel, undergoes significant personal development in a spiritual, moral, psychological, or social sphere. Jarred by loss or discontentment into embarking on a literal or metaphorical journey out of her former milieu, the heroine encounters trials, obstacles, and clashes with other characters or with the existing social order that eventually bring about her maturation. Finally, the protagonist grows into womanhood and, adopting new values and spirit, reenters the social order as a changed being assuming a new role. Emma is such a novel. As it opens, Emma Woodhouse is a young woman newly bereft of her governess and companion, the soon-to-be-married Miss Taylor. No replacement is envisioned because of Emma’s age, so Emma is propelled from her role as a chaperoned daughter of the house into a new role as grown-up mistress of her widowed father’s household. While this would ordinarily signify a considerable change in status, Emma considers herself already entirely grown up. With the means and authority to manage and distribute goods and servants, she declares that she will never marry because she already has all the consequence, means, and power she could desire. At this presumed pinnacle of life, Emma decides likewise to manage the personal lives of her friends. This undertaking, resulting in unforeseen negative consequences and the subsequent humility they engender, represents Emma’s journey into maturity. At the journey’s end, she will have learned that each person must make his or her own decisions; no one else can know better about their lives than the principals. She will also know herself better—that she is not, in fact, independent, but relies on the companionship and advice of her friend Mr. Knightley for her growth and happiness. Emma’s initial foray into life management targets the bachelor vicar of her parish, Mr. Elton. Without taking much care for his own preference

186â•…â•… Austen, Jane or welfare, Emma decides to find him a wife, deeming that he should fall in love with Harriet Smith, a pretty young girl of unknown origins whom Emma is determined to elevate through improved social graces and marrying into the gentry. Emma sets about arranging this romance chiefly by persuading the gullible Harriet of Mr. Elton’s admiration and marital intentions. Likewise heedless of the feelings and hopes of Mr. Martin, Harriet’s farmer suitor, Emma directs Harriet to refuse him, to leave the way clear for building up Harriet’s hopes for Elton. When it transpires that Mr. Elton has no intention of marrying Harriet, Emma encounters her first setback as a manager of others’ lives. She is “concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more.” However, her repentance is based only on the failure of her scheme, rather than on any apprehension of damage to the feelings of those she has manipulated. Emma soon immerses herself in the village’s social life with such families as the Bateses, the Westons, and the Coxes, and decides to encourage Harriet to think romantically again, this time of Frank Churchill, the stepson of Emma’s former governess. Emma imagines Frank is in love with herself but decides he will get over it soon enough and attach himself to Harriet. But, as the novel progresses, Emma discovers Frank has been secretly engaged for many months to Jane Fairfax, a young woman living with the Bateses, and then she finds Harriet is not in love with Frank but with Mr. Knightley, the family friend whose love Emma has taken for granted as meant only for herself. At this point, having insulted Miss Bates, Emma is chastised by Mr. Knightley for her lack of charity and sensitivity. Realizing the folly of trying to arrange other people’s feelings and lives, she apologizes to the Bateses and tries to amend her image in the eyes of Mr. Knightley. From now on, as a genuinely mature lady patroness, Emma will allow those around her to suit themselves with their own choices without her advice and assistance, and she will ameliorate her own opinions by conferring with the always just and correct Mr. Knightley. Ironically, it is as Emma assumes a position of actual authority that she relinquishes her active pretensions to managing others’ lives. She has “learned her lesson” and is now

ready to be a real help to her neighbors rather than to manipulate their affairs to suit her own desires. Mr. Elton’s chosen bride, Augusta Elton, serves as a foil to Emma’s newly matured self, in demonstrating the folly of assuming to take charge of the “lesser” characters populating one’s neighborhood. Devoid of the manners and sense of decorum with which Emma has been raised, the upstart Mrs. Elton, heady with the improved status of her recent marriage, rushes to put herself forward in Highbury. Uninvited, she arranges Jane Fairfax’s social life and livelihood, proposes to form a musical club with Emma, and volunteers to hostess Mr. Knightley’s parties. Her officiousness is regarded as deplorably ill-bred by Emma, who only a few weeks previously was guilty of much the same behavior with regard to Harriet and Mr. Elton. Seeing Mrs. Elton as others might have seen Emma herself is an eye opener to Emma, who has also seen the result of her unwise encouragement of Harriet’s hopes, and this helps to raise her consciousness of the wisdom of knowing one’s place and not exceeding one’s proper authority. Mrs. Elton, unlike Emma, does not arrive at greater knowledge or maturity and remains as she is, a constant reminder of ill-bred behavior and immature egotism. As readers, we are not allowed to know of the previous journey that may have brought Mr. Knightley, the proprietor of Donwell Abbey, to his current sure-footed status as an infallible arbiter and example of proper, wise opinions and behavior. Sixteen years older than Emma, he has guided her along her journey with advice and criticism since her infancy. While we may find strange his declaration of love, “I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have,” we cannot quarrel with the results of his tutelage. Censuring Emma’s manipulation of Harriet and Robert Martin, warning her about Mr. Elton, finding fault with her flirtatious behavior with Frank and neglect of Jane Fairfax, and excoriating her for her insult to Miss Bates, Mr. Knightley has forced Emma to rethink and repent her foolish and wrongful behavior. Without such necessary correction, Emma would, like Mrs. Elton, her father, and Frank, still be wandering the paths of an endless

Emmaâ•…â•… 187 journey to maturity and self-knowledge, rather than having come of age at last. Sally Palmer

Community in Emma

In Jane Austen’s day, before steam engines increased mobility beyond the powers of natural human and animal locomotion, community was largely a geographical matter. Although relatives and friends kept in touch with letters and long visits, it was the neighbors to whom one turned for day-to-day sociality and protection. People such as the Woodhouses in Emma depended on rural neighborhood residents like Mr. Knightley and on those in the adjacent village of Highbury for mutual aid; emotional support; and sharing of resources, news, and social enjoyment. This geographical community also provided care for the sick and dying, as well as socialization and strengthening of local mores to be passed along from generation to generation. This community was organized according to class differences, yet every member had a role to play. In Austen’s ideal community, one of the mutual responsibilities is entertainment. Everyone must take a turn at giving dinners, card parties, or other social events. In the Highbury community, the Westons, the Coles, Frank Churchill, and Mr. Knightley provide opportunities for socialization as hosts. Those with talents for singing or playing are expected to contribute to the general entertainment, as when Emma and Jane are pressed into service at the pianoforte, with Frank joining in, and when Frank attempts to organize a game at the Box Hill picnic. Another important function of Austen’s community is the dissemination of news and updates about neighbors and friends, seen as an expression of social and emotional caring and support. Mr. Weston provides enthusiastic fulfillment of this function, as he lets everyone know as soon as he receives each letter from his son Frank and airs the contents of these letters as they pertain to mutual interests. Miss Bates, while tedious, is still trying to perform her duty to the community by talking about small matters and letting people know every piece of news about Jane Fairfax. Those who are negligent in this social duty are viewed with dissatisfaction, such as Frank, who deceives people about his affairs; and Jane, who is

too reserved, refusing to share her views or enter into the general interest in community relationships. One manifestation of community support is the general interest in the state of every member’s health. Thus, health is a common and important topic of conversation at every gathering. Mr. Woodhouse has developed his interest in this subject far beyond what is necessary for politeness, yet still he provides a measure of community caring when he inquires minutely about everyone’s health and prescribes measures for taking care of small ailments. Medical knowledge, so scarce in Austen’s time, was thus shared as people tried to discover how others had successfully overcome health problems and attempted to protect one another from illnesses that could strike at any time from any direction, with potentially catastrophic results. Because people living close to one another must be able to get along, good manners are very important to the Highbury community. Visitors and new members, therefore, are welcomed politely. Jane Fairfax, Frank Churchill, and Mrs. Elton are treated warmly upon their arrival, despite private reservations such as those entertained by Emma and Mrs. Weston about Mrs. Elton. Faults and foibles of community members—such as Miss Bates’s garrulousness, Mr. Woodhouse’s hypochondria, and Emma’s snobbery—are tolerated with kindness. The general civility of the community is considered so important that when Emma ruptures it with her ill-natured insult of Miss Bates at Box Hill, Mr. Knightley takes steps to reproach her for her gaffe, and she corrects it as soon as she can, aware of the necessity for courtesy and amity among neighbors. Mr. Knightley, the community watchdog, also points out to Emma that she is being insufficiently friendly to Jane Fairfax. Other members of the community ignore insults in order to maintain good feeling, such as when the Martins continue to be kind to Harriet even after her snub of them and her refusal of Robert. Austen considers community so important that in Emma she ridicules, punishes, and otherwise disparages characters who exercise obligations of neighborliness insufficiently, just as much as she castigates characters who display flaws of moral character. Frank Churchill, Jane Fairfax, and Mr. and Mrs. Elton all suffer from Austen’s characterization.

188â•…â•… Austen, Jane In an England faced with political threats from abroad and internal upheavals caused by incipient industrialization, Jane Austen clearly saw the community of country villages as a safe haven, perhaps the only haven, from frightening social changes. In Emma we see how a group of neighbors, only 25 miles from London, can preserve one another in relative peace, stasis, and tranquility from the depredations that threatened to tear the larger country apart in urban centers. While Emma is fiction, and the social structure on which the novel is based was an archaic institution, we can still learn from Austen’s vision that a concern for those around us, nourished by mutual respect, kindness, and generosity, can enhance life in any situation. Even—maybe especially—in a global world, it is important to get along with one’s neighbors. Sally Palmer

Social Class in Emma

So prevalent is the topic of social class in Emma that it is possible to read the novel as a manual on what it means to be truly upper-class, and on the proper observance of class distinctions and obligations. All the problems in the plot are caused by one or more characters’ faulty perceptions of rank and its obligations. When these erroneous ideas are corrected and the characters are sorted into their fit places in the social hierarchy, peace reigns. At the outset, we learn that Emma is “first in consequence” in her sphere. High social rank depends on owning property, having a large income independent of labor, and belonging to an old and distinguished family, known as having “connexions.” Further class distinctions include one’s education, appearance, and “breeding,” or manners. As a Woodhouse and the mistress of Hartfield, Emma is looked up to by everyone. The only other character on her social level is Mr. Knightley, proprietor of Donwell Abbey and the highest-ranking gentleman in the area. While Emma’s behavior and ideas about the meaning of rank are frequently erroneous, Mr. Knightley’s opinions and actions can always be taken as a model for proper upper-class behavior. Because Emma’s middle-class governess, Mrs. Weston, has recently risen into the upper class by marrying into a “respectable family,” albeit one which

has only recently made its fortune and acquired its “seat,” or house, Emma aspires to similarly raise her new friend Harriet, of unknown parentage, to a higher class. Emma, a social snob, feels that to elevate Harriet into the gentry would “detach her from bad acquaintance and introduce her into good society.” Mr. Knightley, however, opposes Emma’s friendship with, and plans for, Harriet. He feels nothing good can come from crossing class boundaries; that raising Harriet’s expectations will make her unhappy with the situation in which her birth and circumstances have placed her. And so it proves: Under Emma’s tutelage, Harriet loses her first suitor and raises her expectations for a husband beyond what is realistic. Emma rejects Harriet’s suitor, Robert Martin, as being “vulgar and illiterate” because he is a farmer, even though we see that he reads novels, writes a good letter, and is polite and respectful. Although Harriet fancies Robert, she takes Emma’s advice and refuses Martin, focusing her marriage hopes instead, with Emma’s encouragement, on Mr. Elton. But Mr. Elton, also hoping to advance himself socially by marriage, refuses to consider Harriet, deeming her beneath his level. This causes Harriet great unhappiness, until she begins to hope that Mr. Knightley himself might marry her. When Emma learns that Harriet has so far lost sight of her own intrinsic social level as to aspire to Mr. Knightley, she is horrified. She realizes the evil of raising expectations to beyond one’s class and considers that Harriet’s unequal marriage to Mr. Knightley, while an amazing elevation on her side, would be “debasement,” “evil,” and “horrible folly” for Mr. Knightley. Emma thus abandons Harriet as a confidante, whereupon Harriet returns to Robert Martin and achieves happiness in the associations belonging to her own class, from which she should never have tried to rise. Another illustration of the impropriety of trying to rise in class is the behavior of Mrs. Elton. Mr. Elton marries Augusta Hawkins because she has substantial wealth, yet this wealth was only recently earned through her father’s business, and her family is “nobody.” Mrs. Elton tries to correct this deficit by continually accentuating and flaunting her relationship with her sister’s husband, Mr. Suckling, a man with “extensive grounds” at Maple Grove. She also tries to assume equality with Mr. Knightley and

Pride and Prejudiceâ•…â•… 189 Emma by calling them by familiar names, proposing social gatherings with them, and otherwise ignoring the distinctions of class by failing to show the proper respect and humility to those above her on the social ladder. Making herself odious with her egotistical pretensions and her determination to insult lowerclass Harriet, Mrs. Elton shows her lack of refinement and manners, illustrating that true upper-class gentility cannot be acquired simply by having enough money. Mr. Elton’s attempt to rise socially himself by wedding Augusta is properly punished by his ending up married to a woman whose attitudes and behavior will always display ignorance of all but the material trappings of class. In contrast to the Eltons are the Bateses, who were born into upper-class gentility but who have since lost all their wealth. Truly high-class neighbors such as Mr. Knightley and the Woodhouses still associate with the Bateses, while trying to relieve their poverty with frequent gifts of goods and services. Mr. Knightley, the model of gentlemanly behavior, urges Emma to become friends with the Bateses’ niece, Jane Fairfax, rather than with Harriet, because Jane, while equally needy, still belongs to a higher class because of her birth, accomplishments, and refinement. Mr. Knightley also castigates Emma for insulting Miss Bates at the Box Hill picnic, because as one who was born and bred into the upper class but has lives in poverty, Miss Bates deserves Emma’s sympathy and kindness. Mr. Knightley also points out that as the highest-ranking young woman in the neighborhood, Emma has the obligation to set an example of courtesy and good manners, which she has lamentably failed to do. In Frank Churchill we see a young man who was adopted into wealth and educated with upper-class manners. Yet the family who adopted him, while rich and proud, has “no fair pretense of family or blood” but is an “upstart.” Therefore, while Frank can act like convincingly like a gentleman, he still has some character flaws that betray his inferiority to someone like Mr. Knightley. Although he has the good taste to fall in love with the refined Jane Fairfax, his willingness to form a secret engagement and deceive those around him show that Frank lacks the honesty and integrity of an ideal gentleman.

Throughout the novel, Emma learns, through her mistakes and through the tutelage of Mr. Knightley, the obligations of her class. Initially, she looks down upon everyone in a lower economic sphere than herself and respects those who pretend to gentility. She denigrates Robert Martin, for example, as a degrading inferior whose wife she could never visit, but then she finds him to be a respectable man worthy of being Harriet’s husband. She considers Mr. Elton “quite the gentleman” and credits him with elegance of mind, but later she learns he is petty, self-serving, and shallow. At first, Emma feels she should not accept the Coles’ invitation to dinner because “they ought to be taught that it was not for them to arrange the terms on which the superior families would visit them.” But then, as they afford her all the courtesy and consequence she could wish, she finds that she enjoys the occasion and their company. She ridicules Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax but at last realizes they are kind and discerning friends. She criticizes Mr. Knightley for not sufficiently displaying his rank by riding around in his carriage and by associating with farmers like Robert Martin, but she finally learns that he has such true gentility of mind and heart that he does not need to flaunt his superiority with surface pretensions. What Austen is telling us in Emma about social class is that gradations in rank are necessary for the orderly workings of society, and that happiness and peace result from recognizing and accepting class boundaries. However, she also shows that there is more to gentility than simply money, birth, and connections. True gentility of mind includes respect and kindness for others no matter what their station, personal moral integrity, and wise judgment. At the novel’s close, readers rejoice that Emma has learned this lesson well enough to be the proper companion of the estimable Mr. Knightley, and that she is well on her way to developing the superior character necessary to her high position on the social ladder. Sally Palmer

AUSTEN, JANEâ•… Pride and Prejudiceâ•… (1813)

Pride and Prejudice, originally entitled First Impressions, tells the story of the five Bennet sisters—Jane,

190â•…â•… Austen, Jane Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia—focusing mainly on the experiences of the two eldest as they learn to cope with the trials of society and the perils of love with few familial connections and little fortune. Jane and Elizabeth (Lizzy), as even their father admits, are less silly than most girls their age and, therefore, a great deal of the family’s hopes for the future hang on them. With no son to whom the family estate may pass upon Mr. Bennet’s death, it will be transferred to the girls’ ridiculous cousin, Mr. Collins. Therefore, at least one daughter must marry a rich man so that she will be able to support the family upon their father’s death. The novel follows the lives and affections of Jane and Lizzy as they navigate both London and country society, fall in love with men of great wealth, and overcome the impediments associated with status and family in order to achieve happy marriages. Jane’s beau, Charles Bingley, must learn to grow up and shake off the control of his friend and sisters in order to pursue his feelings for the eldest Bennet daughter. However, the obstacles facing Lizzy and Fitzwilliam Darcy—his pride and her prejudice, or her pride and his prejudice—are much greater and more difficult to overcome, as first impressions often are. Laura L. Guggenheim

Gender in Pride and Prejudice

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Jane Bennet, the eldest daughter of a country gentleman, epitomizes the feminine ideal; she possesses all of the qualities early 19th-century English citizens believed a woman should. She is beautiful, mild, obedient, sensible though capable of deep feeling, slow to judge others, always socially amenable, and, most important, virtuous. Each of her younger sisters—Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia—and every significant female character in the novel strays further and further from this ideal, and the extent to which each deviates parallels the extent to which each achieves marital happiness. Mary is virtuous and obedient, but she is certainly not sensible or well-mannered. Her social gaffes embarrass her sisters more than once, and she never marries. Kitty and Lydia are described as “silly” and “vacant” and have no talents beyond their ability to discuss the latest fashions and admire redcoated militia officers.

Although Elizabeth and Jane’s influence improves Kitty’s disposition, she is still unmarried when the novel ends. Lydia, however, distinguishes herself by her total lack of virtue, a deficiency she publicizes when she elopes and nearly ruins her family’s reputation. Lizzy, the second daughter and heroine of the novel, embodies most of the feminine qualities Jane possesses, though she lacks her sister’s mildness and can be quick to criticize others. Once she receives the letter from Mr. Darcy that details his prior relationship with George Wickham, she begins to recognize her flaws, and, upon correcting them, she is able to make a very happy and prosperous match. None of her three younger sisters nor her mother has learned to fully perform their feminine role, and therefore, happy marriages are impossible for them. Mrs. Bennet makes herself ridiculous in her attempts to be overly feminine; she fancies herself a victim of others’ cruelty, constantly complaining that no one regards her “nerves.” She has little respect for decorum and embarrasses her eldest daughters with her public prattling about private matters. Her marriage, built on physical attraction, is now a loveless union. Charlotte Lucas, Lizzy’s best friend, also makes a loveless, though sensible, match when she marries Mr. Collins. Charlotte is almost an old maid, rather plain, poor, and eminently practical. After Lizzy refuses Mr. Collins’s marriage proposal, Charlotte schemes to catch the rejected rector for herself, an activity highly discouraged among virtuous women, because, as she says, marriage is the best way to guarantee her future security. Cunning women, however, are not virtuous women, as Mr. Darcy meaningfully reminds Miss Bingley, a woman who schemes so often and so overtly that she is unable to secure a marriage of any kind. She is, perhaps, the least feminine of all the female characters because of her deviousness. Male characters’ ability to perform their masculine gender role parallels their wives’ capacity to perform the feminine. Charles Bingley is an almost-perfect specimen of early 19th-century masculinity. He is charming, well-mannered, wealthy, sensible, and good-humored. It is no wonder that he and Jane fall in love; they each embody all of the gender characteristics thought appropriate to members of their sex. Fitzwilliam Darcy, on the other

Pride and Prejudiceâ•…â•… 191 hand, begins the novel lacking nearly all of these qualities. His behavior at the ball where Jane and Bingley become acquainted marks him as haughty and proud. Once Elizabeth accuses him of failing to behave in a “gentleman-like manner,” he realizes how pride has contaminated his disposition, and he is able to reflect on the ways in which he has failed to behave as a gentleman should. These reflections lead to his eventual transformation, and when he renews his marriage proposal to her in an honest, unaffected, and gentleman-like manner, his alteration is complete. George Wickham undergoes no such transformation. In fact, he seems, at first, to possess every desirable masculine quality until Darcy reveals his real, deceitful, character. Wickham’s duplicity fools everyone initially, but his inability to fulfill his proper role matches his wife’s deficiencies. Mr. Collins is as silly as his wife is rational, and his obsequiousness to all those of higher social standing than he makes him a toady—hardly masculine. Finally, Mr. Bennet, for all his wit, makes sport at his wife’s expense, fails to plan ahead for his family, and participates in the near-destruction of its reputation by refusing to discipline his unruly daughters. His failure to perform these masculine duties exposes him as incapable of performing his gender role, and though he is a father with responsibilities, he never really acts like one. Laura L. Guggenheim

Love in Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice, whenever a character mentions love or marriage, concerns about money and security can never be far behind. Happiness is often a mere afterthought. This dynamic is immediately set up by the first, and most famous, sentence in the book: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Confirmation that an eligible bachelor with 5,000 pounds a year is moving into the neighborhood prompts Mrs. Bennet, without knowledge of this stranger’s disposition or character, to hope that he will marry one of her five daughters. Marriage and financial security, not necessarily happiness or love, must be a woman’s main goals when she has little fortune herself. Happiness and love are

to be desired in marriage, certainly, but they cannot come before financial independence. Such a rule is made clear when Elizabeth Bennet’s Aunt Gardiner hears of her niece’s growing attachment to the handsome, but penniless, George Wickham. She cautions Lizzy, “Do not involve yourself, or endeavor to involve him in an affection which the want of fortune would make so very imprudent.” Mrs. Gardiner knows that Lizzy is too sensible to pursue the attachment because their marriage would be catastrophically impoverished. Likewise, perhaps the most practical character in the novel, Charlotte Lucas, Lizzy’s friend, understands the value of a marriage that grants the lady financial stability, even over personal happiness. She recommends that Jane “secure” Charles Bingley’s affections by being forward with her own feelings, though those feelings have not yet fully developed, and Charlotte takes her own advice when she secures Mr. Collins’s affections before she can develop any real feeling for him. “Happiness in marriage,” she insists, “is entirely a matter of chance.” This is because one does not marry whom one loves, or for happiness, but for security, and it is precisely this kind of marriage that Charlotte obtains when she consents to marry Lizzy’s vapid but financially independent cousin. Once they are married, Lizzy visits her friend, and though she admits that the match was a prudent one for Charlotte, she hates to leave her friend alone again. “Poor Charlotte!” she thinks. “But she had chosen it with her eyes open.╯.╯.╯. Her home and her housekeeping, her parish and her poultry, and all their dependent concerns, had not yet lost their charms.” In the end, contentment, not love, may be all a woman with little fortune can reasonably wish for in marriage. Even the wealthy cannot escape the fact that money and status are more intimately connected to marriage than love. When Fitzwilliam Darcy begins to fall in love with Elizabeth, very much against his will, “He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.” Her low family status and lack of fortune prevent him, at first, from seriously considering her as a marriage partner. These obstacles, in addition, threaten the love growing between Jane and Bingley,

192â•…â•… Austen, Jane whose friends and family very much abhor a connection with the Bennet family. On the other hand, Austen seems to argue for the importance of a certain kind of love over even money. This kind of love, it seems, is visible to discerning observers. When Jane doubts the nature of Bingley’s regard for her, Lizzy insists, “No one who has ever seen [them] together, can doubt his affection.” Further, when Lady Catherine de Bourgh mentions her daughter, Anne, long expected to marry Mr. Darcy, in his presence, Elizabeth can discern no “symptom of love” in him. Finally, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, when they direct their observation toward Lizzy and Darcy, see that Darcy does, indeed, love her, a fact that readers already know to be true. The sincere love that grows between Jane and Bingley, and between Lizzy and Darcy, cannot be hidden or suppressed, and it endures regardless of money, family, or other obstacles. When Bingley finally proposes to Jane, “Elizabeth really believed all his expectations of felicity, to be rationally founded.” This love is reasonable, in part because it grows gradually, and it is built on sturdier foundations than lust or infatuation, which, incidentally, forms the basis of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s largely unhappy and loveless marriage. Unlike silly, romantic, or erotic attachments, the rational love between the two eldest Bennet sisters and their husbands will last because of all it has endured; and in it, love, marriage, and happiness can all be had in one. Laura L. Guggenheim

Pride in Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice, every character who abhors pride in others possesses it themselves in spades. For example, Mrs. Bennet despises Mr. Darcy for his pride, and yet she is one of the proudest characters in the novel. On the other hand, those who have little pride do not seem to mind its existence in others. The modest Charlotte Lucas, in fact, allows that Mr. Darcy has the right to be proud, young, handsome, and rich as he is, and she goes on to marry the ridiculously proud Mr. Collins. Charlotte recognizes her husband’s flaws, but her pride cannot be wounded by the knowledge that she has a silly husband because she is not proud. Pride blinds characters to the true natures of others, leading to

misplaced trust or, more often, prejudice. It is only when their own pride is removed that characters are able to judge others rightly. While Mr. Darcy offends all of Hertfordshire society, “Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment, by his having slighted one of her daughters.” In other words, Mrs. Bennet does not care for Mr. Darcy, but because he offends her pride by rejecting her daughter, her dislike grows into something stronger. In regard to the same incident, Elizabeth tells Charlotte, “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine” (original emphasis). In other words, Elizabeth’s feelings began much like her mother’s, and likewise, her prejudice against Darcy begins when he wounds her pride by refusing her as a dance partner. In this way does Darcy’s pride wound Elizabeth’s, provoking her prejudice against him and beginning the central conflict of the novel. After this, nothing Darcy does can persuade Elizabeth that her impression of him is wrong; his meaningful looks, compliments, attentions, even his professions of love—none of it helps her to see that her prejudice is misplaced. When she notices him noticing her, she assumes it is because he thinks there is something wrong with her, and she is unconcerned: “She liked him too little to care for his approbation.” When Wickham tells his story of Darcy’s pride, it is all too easy for Elizabeth to believe him because her pride has already been wounded and her prejudice against Darcy has been established. Furthermore, it is Darcy’s pride that prevents Elizabeth from considering his feelings in her rejection of his marriage proposal, and it is Elizabeth’s wounded pride that prevents her from seriously considering the proposal at all. Darcy begins by telling her how he tried and failed to overcome his love for her because of the social inferiority of her family. In his mind, he believes it to be a compliment that his feelings for her overwhelm his family pride, but such expressions only wound her further. Even Darcy’s subsequent letter to her is “all pride and insolence” and expresses nothing of sorrow or regret for his behavior toward Jane, initially increasing Elizabeth’s prejudice against him. It is not until Elizabeth seri-

Sense and Sensibilityâ•…â•… 193 ously considers Darcy’s accusations against Wickham and finds support for them within her own memory that she comes to understand how her own wounded pride has blinded her to Wickham’s deceitfulness: “↜‘How despicably have I acted!’ she cried. ‘I, who have prided myself on my discernment!’↜” Realizing her error convinces Elizabeth that her pride was misplaced, and she knows that if she can now believe Wickham guilty of duplicity, then she must also believe Darcy capable of sincerity. Moreover, Elizabeth’s accusation that Darcy has behaved in an “ungentlemanlike manner” helps him eventually to realize that his social pride is misplaced as well. When he finds Elizabeth at his home with the Gardiners, he asks her for an introduction to her aunt and uncle, members of the very family with whom the possibility of a connection so offended his pride before. After Lydia’s elopement with Wickham, Elizabeth’s own recent experiences with Darcy lead to her full realization of Darcy’s goodness and her own error. Similarly, Darcy learns to see Elizabeth as his equal, regardless of her low social connections and small fortune. With both of their proud natures humbled, Elizabeth can join Darcy in experiencing other, more pleasant feelings and can properly discern Darcy’s as well: “Such a change in a man of so much pride, excited not only astonishment but gratitude—for to love, ardent love, it must be attributed.” Laura L. Guggenheim

AUSTEN, JANEâ•… Sense and Sensibilityâ•… (1811)

Sense and Sensibility focuses on the lives and loves of the eldest Dashwood girls, Elinor and Marianne, two of three daughters born to a country gentleman’s second marriage. With only a witless half brother and selfish sister-in-law, John Dashwood and his wife, Fanny, to aid them financially after their father’s death, the Dashwood women drop into near social obscurity when they are obliged to move into a cottage owned by a relation of Mrs. Dashwood’s, Sir John Middleton. There, Elinor and Marianne must endure the somewhat vulgar but goodhearted gossiping of Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton’s mother. Such gossip is especially pain-

ful to Elinor since moving to Devonshire has taken her away from the man with whom she has begun to fall in love, Edward Ferrars, Fanny Dashwood’s eldest brother. On the other hand, the family’s relocation has brought Marianne nearer the first man with whom she will fall in love, John Willoughby, as well as the man she will eventually marry, Colonel Brandon, a friend of the Middletons. As Elinor grows more in love with Edward, and as Marianne experiences the pain of separation from and abandonment by Willoughby, the novel follows them to London and back again, as Elinor learns of Edward’s secret engagement to another woman and Marianne comes perilously close to death in her despair. In the end, both daughters learn to combine sense and sensibility, reason and romance, in order to achieve happiness in marriage and in life. Laura L. Guggenheim

Gender in Sense and Sensibility

In Jane Austen’s first published novel, the fortunes of female characters correspond to the extent to which they embody the early 19th-century feminine gender role. Marriage, it was believed, consisted of one representative of each gender, and masculine and feminine roles complemented each other. Elinor Dashwood, an exemplar of the feminine ideal, eventually marries Edward Ferrars, who, despite his shortcomings, is the happiest possible match for her. She is a sensible woman of good understanding, capable of great but governable emotion and incapable of manipulation. Edward’s character is marked by these same qualities, though he is rather less ambitious than his family would like. The love between Elinor and Edward has grown since their acquaintance was formed at Norland, and it is practical, founded on mutual respect and built slowly, over time. It did not begin as infatuation, and it was not “love at first sight,” but this love bespeaks the lovers’ ability to commit to each other for a lifetime rather than a season. Where Elinor’s disposition is marked by sense, her sister Marianne’s personality is characterized by extreme sensibility. Believing that there is nothing more virtuous and desirable than strong feeling, and, likewise, that such feeling can never be controlled, Marianne allows her sensibility to run away with

194â•…â•… Austen, Jane her, and she becomes infatuated with John Willoughby after a very romantic introduction. Novels of sensibility were popular a few decades prior to the publication of this novel, and Marianne represents a type of femininity that is no longer considered to be ideal. Even her features are more attractive than Elinor’s “regular” ones, as though Marianne’s immoderate beauty parallels her excessive feeling and Elinor’s reasonableness is mirrored by her more moderate beauty. Marianne’s relationship with Willoughby must end badly; their feelings develop too quickly, they are too rash, and he is a rake—the antithesis of proper masculinity. Only after her illness can she learn to be calm, to compose herself and control her emotion. She learns to desire further education, repents her selfishness, and expresses her wish that her behavior and conduct had been more like Elinor’s. Now that she embraces her feminine role, the attractions of an appropriately masculine gentleman like Colonel Brandon are not lost on her. They come to complement one another and marry, and, based on the optimism with which Austen speaks of their future happiness, we can assume that the union is harmonious. On the other hand, the colonel’s friends, Sir John and Lady Middleton, cannot make the same claim to propriety that he may. Sir John is boisterous and kindly, and his wife is elegant and polite, yet he is also a bit too intimate with guests, and she is actually indifferent to everyone but her children. He is far too warm in society, and she is much too cold. Neither performs the proper gender role, and they appear, consequently, incompatible and trapped in a mismatched marriage. Even further from the ideals of masculinity and femininity are John and Fanny Dashwood. John is controlled by his wife, coerced through her conniving selfishness into breaking the promise he made to his father on his deathbed. Fanny schemes, pursuing acquaintances who will further her social standing, ignoring inferior family members and manipulating others. Neither appears to be really happy: John must live with the suspicion of his own inefficacy, and Fanny nearly dies of disappointment when her brother Edward’s secret engagement to an unsuitable woman is revealed—and then her other brother Robert marries this very woman.

Perhaps furthest from performing their proper feminine role are the Misses Anne and Lucy Steele. Anne is unattractive in every way and developing into a spinster. She is socially inappropriate, verbally free with her acquaintances, and an embarrassment to her sister. Lucy is attractive and clever but also calculating and deceitful. She purposely hurts Elinor by forcing Elinor into her confidence with regard to her secret, and very improper, engagement to Edward. Lucy’s selfish intentions become clearer when she abandons Edward, once he has been made poor, and marries his brother Robert, newly rich. When one considers Lucy’s deficiencies, as well as the fact that she had once described her future husband as a coxcomb (a sentiment seconded by Elinor), we can conjecture that her marriage, though well-funded, will be neither a happy nor a loving one. In this novel, two people who are so unable to perform their appropriate gender roles are likewise unable to complement each other in the easy way these roles are meant to permit. Laura L. Guggenheim

Innocence and Experience in Sense and Sensibility

In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne, the middle Dashwood sister, and Elinor, the eldest, in many ways embody the qualities of innocence and experience, respectively. Innocence, in the context of this novel, really means the absence of a general knowledge of society, lacking an understanding of its rules as well as how to cope, both personally and publicly, with strong emotions like love, disappointment, and loss. Marianne, for example, is quick to form emotional attachments and sees no need to veil her feelings in public, no matter how improper they might seem. She believes, in fact, that true feelings run so deep that they cannot be disguised under any circumstances. To be “experienced,” on the other hand, means that one understands the ways of the world and accepts that adherence to social codes, at least to a certain degree, is necessary in order to maintain the good opinion of society and avoid shame, and, on another level, to protect oneself. Elinor has developed a certain level of experience, and she knows that to veil one’s emotions in public is to

Sense and Sensibilityâ•…â•… 195 protect oneself and one’s family from scrutiny and, perhaps, pain. As though hers were the yardstick by which others’ conduct might be measured, we are presented with Elinor’s example first. Though it is clear to all in the newly enlarged Norland household that Elinor and Edward Ferrars have formed a strong attachment, when Marianne presses Elinor for details, Elinor says, “I do not attempt to deny .╯.╯. that I think very highly of him—that I greatly esteem, that I like him.” Marianne is horrified. How could Elinor, who clearly loves Edward, speak of him in such bland terms? Elinor recognizes the significant obstacles that stand in the way of any romantic relationship with Edward—namely, his family and her lack of fortune. She is not unfeeling; she is discreet. Experience is not cold; it is only realistic. At least if Elinor keeps her feelings private, none may participate in her disappointment but herself. She protects herself, Edward, and her family with her prudence. When Marianne falls in love, however, her conduct is vastly different from Elinor’s. Believing that to hide her emotions is to admit some shame for them, trusting implicitly in Willoughby, and oblivious to the possibility of disappointment, Marianne has no scruples about putting herself and her feelings on display. The lovers’ conduct makes them the object of laughter, “but ridicule could not shame, and seemed hardly to provoke them.” Therefore, when Willoughby abandons Marianne, everyone participates in her loss, and on some level, the loss may be felt more deeply by her because she is so unpracticed at veiling her feelings and moving on. Discussions between Elinor and Colonel Brandon shed light on the happy aspects of a nature such as Marianne’s; she is all warmth, sincerity, and impulse because she does not reflect, and her own opinions have not yet given way to more general ones. There is something lovely about this innocence. However, Willoughby’s example reveals what can happen when such a nature is permitted to persist for too long: “The world had made him extravagant and vain; extravagance and vanity had made him cold-hearted and selfish.” Growing up can be sad, but one cannot remain a child forever,

and indulgence such as Willoughby has received makes for self-centered, unscrupulous adults. Marianne’s illness increases her sense of propriety, as though it finally enables her to see how her trials affect her loved ones as well as how unrestricted emotion can be deleterious to her own body and soul. When the family returns to Barton Cottage, Elinor “trace[s] the direction of a mind awakened to reasonable exertion” as Marianne attempts to accustom herself to the sight of objects associated with Willoughby. She notices the remnants of Marianne’s tears, shed discreetly rather than publicly. Finally, Marianne is able to admit that she has “nothing to regret—nothing but [her] own folly.” She is blameless, of course, for Willoughby’s behavior, but culpable for her own and the ways in which it has negatively affected her family. In the end, she forms a “second attachment,” a feeling she previously thought impossible, to Colonel Brandon, proving, once and for all, that she has acquired the level of experience necessary not only to survive but to be genuinely happy in the world. This happiness is possible because she sees the world now for what it is, and such a feeling permits her to feel gratitude, to recognize her mistakes, and to learn from them. Laura L. Guggenheim

Love in Sense and Sensibility

In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen champions rational rather than erotic love and insists that such love is absolutely necessary in order for a couple to achieve the most successful, and happiest, kind of marriage. Without this love, a couple can grow as cold and distant from each other as Sir John and Lady Middleton do, with nothing in common other than family. With it, a couple can hope to endure, to have their feelings grow stronger rather than stale as they grow old and as the more heated, obvious passion of youth passes. From the outset, Marianne Dashwood’s romantic sensibilities color her perceptions of love, both in her own life and in others’. She believes that only the young can aspire to feel or excite passion, that a woman of 27 years, for example, no longer has any hope or prospects of inciting another’s love. She does not believe in “second attachments,” presumably because real attachment can never be dupli-

196â•…â•… Baldwin, James cated, and she believes that the marks of true love are so obvious that they cannot be hidden or bidden. If a person can manage to disguise her feelings, as Lucy Steele does, then those feelings cannot be love. Likewise, real passion can never be counterfeited. That Marianne and Willoughby can fall in love so quickly, then, is only natural to her, and it corresponds that her feelings after her abandonment are so dramatic. She “would have thought herself very inexcusable had she been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby. She would have been ashamed to look her family in the face the next morning, had she not risen from her bed in more need of repose than when she lay down in it.” The loss of such passion, after all, can be survived with no fewer fireworks than the passion first produced. Every emotion is pushed to its extreme, be it affection or anguish, hope or despair, and love is the chief emotion of all. On the other hand, Elinor Dashwood’s moderate and reasonable feelings for Edward grow slowly over time; they ripen and mature into love rather than proclaiming to have begun immediately. This slowness, to Marianne, marks a less worthy emotion, a feeling that is not really love at all because of its pace and because of what it appears to lack. To her, Edward’s eyes have no spirit, no fire; his reading lacks feeling, so he must not, therefore, be acquainted with such emotion; and his taste does not, in every point, coincide with Elinor’s. These deficits, Marianne believes, prevent the depth of feeling that is part and parcel of real passion. If Edward lacks the capacity for such emotional compatibility, then he surely is not capable of the burning ardor Marianne believes necessary. Finally, when Elinor speaks of Edward with moderate warmth rather than effusions of affection and fervent vows, Marianne calls her sister “cold-hearted” and threatens to leave the room! Elinor, however, understands that there is more to marriage than love, especially once Lucy Steele reveals her secret engagement to Edward. Commitment and honor, loyalty and honesty, are just as important in marriage. Edward must once have felt something like Marianne’s quick passion, or else he would not have engaged himself surreptitiously as a youth, but in the end, it is the rational love between Elinor and

Edward that survives all of Lucy’s selfishness, Marianne’s judgment, and the coldness of his own family. In observing the success and enduring passion of this love between Edward and her sister, and from the failure of her own methods and sentiments, Marianne realizes her folly. Erotic passion can be controlled, though it claims it cannot, and this is evident when Willoughby throws Marianne over for Miss Grey and her 50,000 pounds. The endurance of rational love is harder to break. Marianne learns the qualities that are just as important as passion, qualities that may appear to temper it but must exist alongside it in order for that passion to endure; these are the qualities of which Elinor has been aware from the beginning. Colonel Brandon’s possession of these qualities, in addition to his constant affection for her, finally wins Marianne over, to the great joy of everyone save Willoughby. Laura L. Guggenheim

BALDWIN, JAMESâ•… Go Tell It on the Mountainâ•… (1952)

James Baldwin’s first novel is notable because it marks a break with the tradition of “protest’ literature that had long dominated African-American writing. Instead of focusing on dramatic instances of racial oppression and African-American suffering, Baldwin (1924–87) focuses on the life of a family whose relationships are, of course, embedded in the racist history of the nation, but whose fates are also shaped by personality. Elegantly structured and lyrically written, the novel is set in Harlem on its protagonist John Grimes’s 14th birthday. The novel follows his day, but it also explores the lives of the family members—his father, Gabriel; his mother, Elizabeth; and his aunt, Florence—whose histories impact John’s life. John’s father is an evangelical preacher whose personal history of youthful dissolution, betrayal, and duplicity is masked by the piety he uses as a weapon against his wife and children. John’s loving mother has borne a child—John—whose father died, a suicide, before they could marry. Having saved her from disgrace by marrying her, Gabriel holds her sexual sin over her head throughout their marriage. Florence, who has learned the deep emotional price of attempting

Go Tell It on the Mountainâ•…â•… 197 to control a spouse, accepts the price and uses her knowledge of Gabriel’s own sexually sinful past to protect Elizabeth and the children. John’s struggle with his father’s angry disapproval of his interest in “the world” (education, reading, movies) is interlaced with his growing realization that he is homosexual, for John feels love and physical attraction for Elisha, a member of the church community. His story climaxes with his experience of religious conversion, which will inevitably free him from his father’s condemnation. Go Tell It on the Mountain develops a variety of themes: family, sex and sexuality, community are prominent, but also identity, religion, guilt, and race. Joe Skerrett, Jr.

Community in Go Tell It on the Mountain

While James Baldwin’s novel focuses on the birthday experiences of John Grimes, its 14-year-old protagonist, it also develops John’s place in interrelated racial, economic, and religious communities. A community is any group of people with shared social conditions, ideals, beliefs, and practices, especially, but not exclusively, those who live in proximity to one another. John shares with the members of his family unit a community of racial identity as an African American that has more than a personal or individual meaning, because his country has made race a marker of value. In Baldwin’s novel, John experiences his racial identity and community almost only as a negative value. The overwhelming aspect of it in his developing consciousness is its imposition and definition by the white society that surrounds and contains him. He does not celebrate his blackness in song, story, humor, or music. He is mostly unconscious of race within the family and neighborhood, but very conscious of race and color when he ventures out of Harlem to Central Park or downtown to a movie (in which, of course, whites are exclusively featured). John is similarly unselfconscious about his economic condition. His localized community is composed not only of African Americans but specifically of poor African Americans. John knows that his family is poor. His individual expectations about

birthday celebrations or gifts are not high. The shared struggle to maintain dignity and economic control is figured in the novel in the form of John’s sweeping of the carpets as part of his Saturday chores. But the most important community in which John exists is his religious community. He shares— or is expected to share—with the other members of the Church of the Fire Baptized (“the saints”) a faith, a worldview, and a set of rituals and practices. The church in which his father, Gabriel, is a deacon is an evangelical African-American Protestant sect, not identified in the novel as part of any larger denomination. Such institutions, often referred to as “holiness” churches, stressed a theology of personal salvation that could be witnessed in the church community through the expression of ecstatic prayer and spiritual possession. Stylistically distant from Catholic and Orthodox liturgical worship, but also clearly distant from the quietism of Quaker Protestantism, the “holiness” churches incorporate aspects of African religious ritual into their practice of a Protestant Christianity heavily influenced by Methodist “enthusiasm.” Thus, John’s experience in “The Threshing Floor” section of the novel, where he falls into a faint brought on by his anxiety over the community’s expectations that he will be a minister of God like his father, is both a conversion experience in the Protestant tradition and a version of African spiritual ecstasy. The worldview of the church community denies the importance of the public sphere. The church community is organized to foster and nurture the spiritual salvation of its members, who are encouraged to “walk holy” in their daily lives. This means that they should have no interest in the temptations and distractions of “the world” such as sexual pleasure, education, entertainment, and worldly ambition. The church’s beliefs and practices make the attainments denied to African Americans by white society and the compensatory alternatives to them equally irrelevant or inappropriate. In the novel, John witnesses the disciplining of Elisha and his girlfriend for appearing to the “saints” to be flirting with sexual desire. In the face of this puritanical obsession, he realizes that his own homosexual orientation will never be acceptable within the church

198â•…â•… Baldwin, James community, which is why he tells Elisha, whom he loves, to remember “whatever happens, that I was there.” Knowing intuitively that he will not remain within the community, it is still important to John to prove that he was the spiritual equal of his father in his experience of conversion, acceptable to God if not to Gabriel. Baldwin may well have known Paul and Percival Goodman’s Communitas: Means of Livelihood and Ways of Life (1947), a book published while he was working on the novel. The Goodmans’ book posits three types of social communities: one centered on materiality and consumption; one focused on art and creativity; and one that maximizes human liberty. Throughout his life’s work, Baldwin criticized American society for its materialism while presenting the protagonists of his fiction as artists attempting to bring into existence some new world order or community that would make people more spiritually free. John Grimes’s journey in Go Tell It on the Mountain is clearly the first of many. Joe Skerrett, Jr.

Family in Go Tell It on the Mountain

James Baldwin’s novel is richly inscribed with a variety of issues about family: family love, family social and sexual history, family psychological dynamics, and family secrets all are in play. The protagonist, John Grimes, is an African-American boy, just turning 14 on the day of the novel’s action, who is embedded in a nuclear family that consists of his mother, Elizabeth; his father, Gabriel; his brother Roy; and other younger siblings. But, as Baldwin makes clear, this nuclear family is embedded in an extended history of family relations that all come to bear on John’s life. For example, although John does not know it, Gabriel is only his stepfather. His biological father, Richard, died a suicide before he was born. Gabriel, influenced by his fundamentalist Christianity, rescued the pregnant Elizabeth from disgrace but holds her sexual sin and John’s illegitimacy over their heads, preferring and protecting his rebellious son Roy. Unaware of this history, John struggles to find ways to please the disapproving Gabriel, who is admired by the little religious community in which they move. On this, his 14th birthday, John is beginning to see the limitations of

following, as the community predicts he will, in his father’s footsteps into the church. Gabriel’s sister Florence tries to protect Elizabeth and John from the worst of Gabriel’s fundamentalist Puritanism. Florence knows him for what he really is. She knows that behind Gabriel’s professions of piety and his patriarchal posturing there is a history of human failure as a son, a husband, and a father. She witnessed Gabriel’s abandonment of their sick and dying mother in the South many years earlier, an abandonment that left her to bear the burden of caretaking alone. She also knows about Gabriel’s infidelity to Deborah, his first wife, and his adulterous liaison with Esther that produced an illegitimate child, Royal. She knows that Gabriel’s preferential love for the rebellious Roy is a guiltdriven effort to compensate for his failure to be a parent to Royal, now long since dead. Florence—who, like John’s father, Richard, is one of the few characters in the novel whose name does not have a biblical resonance—is a secular person, not one of the “saints” who attend Gabriel’s church. Like her name suggests, she is a natural force, not a religious one. Her insights into life are more psychological and intuitive than religious or dogmatic. She faces the realities of her life without the consolations of religion and has developed a tough exterior that enables her to stand up to the overbearing Gabriel, as Elizabeth, an altogether more gentle woman, can rarely do. Florence’s compassion for Elizabeth is in part a reflection of her memory of Deborah, the rape victim whose love Gabriel abused in his youth. Florence interferes in the family dynamics of Gabriel’s household in the hope of preventing Gabriel’s spiritual destruction of Elizabeth—in hope, that is, of preventing a repetition of the cycle of family devastation caused by Gabriel. Facing imminent death from cancer (which she conceals from the family), Florence now understands and regrets the way she destroyed her own marriage through an overemphasis on bourgeois proprieties that drove away her fun-loving husband, Frank. Of course, the novel does more than juxtapose Gabriel’s fundamentalism and Florence’s secularism. The dynamics of this family are driven by the secrets of their past lives. The exploration of Gabriel’s passionate affair with Esther and his failure to acknowl-

Go Tell It on the Mountainâ•…â•… 199 edge his son Royal humanizes him in the eyes of the reader. Gabriel’s effort to connect with Roy is clarified by our understanding of his secret, past failure as the father of a rebellious child. We also come to understand that Elizabeth is sustained in her strained marriage by her secret memory of the deep love she shared with Richard. Elizabeth’s tender affection for John reflects not Gabriel’s harsh view of the boy but, rather, Elizabeth’s idealized view of John as a reflection of Richard and his love for her. Joe Skerrett, Jr.

Sex and Sexuality in Go Tell It on the Mountain

Baldwin’s novel brings together issues of religion and issues of sexuality. The main character, John Grimes, is the illegitimate child of Elizabeth, who has married a Pentecostal preacher who thinks of John as the emblem of her sexual sin. John’s religious stepfather, however, has his own sexual sins, which he has never revealed to his wife. Unfaithful to his sexually unresponsive first wife, Deborah (herself a victim of rape), Gabriel, too, had an illegitimate child in his southern past, but he abandoned the boy and his mother, Esther, with whom he had had a volatile sexual relationship though he was a married man. Further, he denied Royal when Deborah, his childless wife, would have accepted the son of his mistress as her own. Gabriel’s sister, Florence, knows this history and threatens to reveal it if Gabriel does not treat John and Elizabeth more kindly. She has herself lost a husband to a secular puritanism of her own, an attitude that judged her fun-loving and careless husband for lacking drive and propriety. Outside the family circle, John witnesses how the church represses and stigmatizes the blossoming of sexuality among its younger members. When John’s buddy Elisha, an older teenager, is observed to be infatuated with a young girl in the congregation, they are hauled before the assembled “saints” and warned of the spiritual dangers of sexual expression. John is thus quite clear as to how the homosexuality that he realizes is his destiny will be received within the community. Baldwin is very cautious in asserting the specifics of John’s sexuality because of the rigid attitudes toward homosexuality that prevailed in the 1950s

when the novel was published. In a suppressed section of the original text—later published as the short story “The Outing”—John openly expresses his romantic attachment to another male. But careful reading of the novel will clearly demonstrate that John’s sexual imagination is homoerotic. He has a masturbatory fantasy about the boys at his school who engage in pissing contests in the toilet. His homosexuality is most forcefully manifested in his attraction to Elisha. John clearly has a crush on the slightly older boy: “John stared at Elisha all during the lesson, admiring the timbre of Elisha’s voice, much deeper and manlier than his own, admiring the leanness, and grace and strength and darkness of Elisha in his Sunday suit.” Further, later in the text, John wrestles with Elisha as they prepare the church space for the evening service, and John’s response to Elisha is one of sensual pleasure: “And so they turned, battling in the narrow room, and the odor of Elisha’s sweat was heavy in John’s nostrils. He saw the veins rise on Elisha’s forehead and his neck; his breath became jagged and harsh, and the grimace on his face became cruel; and John, watching these manifestations of his power, was filled with a wild delight.” Wrestling has often been used as a metaphor of spiritual struggle, as in the biblical narrative of Jacob wrestling with an angel, but it has also served as a symbol of suppressed homosexual feeling, as in D. H. Lawrence’s novel Women in Love. Here the wrestling scene serves both those purposes, as John struggles with the nature of his burgeoning sexuality as well as with his realization that the world of the church community will not satisfy him. Caught, then, between the demands of his religious community and the demands of his psychosexual nature, John experiences an anguished “flood of fury and tears” as he tries to decide what he must do. If, as the family and community assume, he will follow Gabriel into the church and ministry, how will he handle his forbidden sexuality? If he accedes to the demands of his mind and body and aligns himself with the profane world of desire, how is he to be saved? At the end of the novel, he accepts the conversion experience that marks his adulthood in the church, even as he knows he cannot make the church his refuge from the wider world forever. Joe Skerrett, Jr.

200â•…â•… Bambara, Toni Cade

BAMBARA, TONI CADEâ•… The Salt Eatersâ•… (1980)

Toni Cade Bambara’s novel The Salt Eaters is a story about possible rebirth in the individual life of the protagonist Velma Henry, the predominantly black town of Claybourne, and the planet as a whole. Velma’s attempted suicide, the specter of armed conflict in Claybourne, and the environmental and economic effect of a nuclear plant nearby place the novel on a precipice between disaster and transformation during what Toni Cade Bambara (1939–95) calls the “Last Quarter” of the 20th century. The Seven Sisters, a traveling collective of healers and artists made up of women of color of different backgrounds, journey toward Claybourne for an annual festival hosted by the holistic community school, Academy of the 7 Arts. A literal and cosmic storm, which seems to come out of nowhere, disrupts the planned festivities, throws the bus carrying the Seven Sisters off course, and redirects everyone to the Southwest Community Infirmary, where Minnie Ransom is calling on spiritual and ancestral guidance to help Velma return to the land of the living. The process of healing suggested through Bambara’s exploration of memory, violence, trauma, and love teaches readers that the “storms” of life always have a source. The literal storm in the novel is a response to the environmental degradation of the nuclear era. The eruption of the community is a result of gendered tensions in community institutions. The personal storms in lives of the community members are a result of unhealed trauma. The healer Minnie Ransom’s first question to Velma Henry is “Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?”—and her inquiry applies to the whole community. If the interconnected characters in this novel “want to be well,” they will have to learn how to take care of each other, their community, and this planet. Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Love in The Salt Eaters

Velma Henry’s nervous breakdown cannot be alleviated by a knight in shining armor. The profound disconnection that Velma feels from both her husband and her lover show that romantic heterosexual love cannot provide the self-esteem or wholeness necessary for complete healing. The love between Velma

and her husband, Obie, is threatened by the sexist violence that Velma has experienced. It becomes clear early in the novel that Obie, who does not even know about Velma’s attempted suicide until she is already in the infirmary, has to journey through several encounters with male figures who are struggling with the same gender roles that have been oppressive to Velma. Even though he moves toward her physically and spiritually throughout the novel, he will not be able to save her. The Seven Sisters, including Velma’s real sister, Palma, model another form of love: that between women who are chosen sisters, connected by their shared vision to transform the world. The Seven Sisters, representing different communities of color from around the world, bridge their different cultural heritages into a wealth of resources, which they practice by healing each other, loving each other, doing each other’s hair, creating art together and talking about what is important to them. This form of sisterly love is an important counterexample against the male-dominated establishment that Velma remembers as a painful feature of the Civil Rights movement. Velma’s sister Palma has a dream that her sister needs help, and her first priority when they arrive in the town of Claybourne is to find her, but Palma cannot save Velma either. Mother love is another resource that has helped to sustain Velma throughout her life. However, neither Velma’s birth mother nor her godmother Sophie can save her from herself. In fact, Sophie is herself traumatized by Velma’s suicide attempt, as it reminds her of the police violence her son experienced, and she has to leave the room early in the novel. Velma and the readers learn that it is only Velma’s love for herself that will allow her to get off the stool in the infirmary at the last moment of the novel. Self-love is the power that makes romantic, sisterly, and community-wide love possible. Bambara reminds the community that only a deep love for self, enacted through community accountability, will allow healing to occur. Community is the context for a sustainable transformative love during the “Last Quarter” of the century, when everything is at stake. Alexis Pauline Gumbs

The Salt Eatersâ•…â•… 201

Memory in The Salt Eaters

Toni Cade Bambara uses memory in The Salt Eaters to create a cosmic sense of time. The events of one day are able to reflect on the entire second half of the 20th century and more. Traumatic memories play a significant role in the novel. Sophie Heywood experiences traumatic memory of police violence against her son. While Velma is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, her husband, Obie, insists that she is becoming bitter and losing a grasp on her mental health because she refuses to let go of the traumatic memories she has of being taken advantage of and belittled within the sexism of the civil rights and black liberation struggles. While Velma thinks back on the path that led her to attempt suicide, she has flashes of an ancient set of people called the “mud mothers” who continue to break into her consciousness, demanding healing. The timeless mud mothers place Velma’s life into a larger spiritual context by referencing the maternal energy of creating the earth itself. Minnie Ransom, the healer who attempts to guide Velma through her recovery, draws on the help of a spiritual guide, “Old Wife,” who mentors her across the divide between the living and the dead. Old Wife’s references to “dancing in the mud” suggest that she is also one of the mud mothers who appear in flashes of consciousness throughout the novel. Bambara’s spiritual time scale fills the single day of the novel with the impact of centuries. Bambara also opens up the characters’ memories in order to develop their personalities and tell the reader about the tense times they are navigating. The memory of the Civil Rights movement is key to the women and men seeking to enact a creative and educational black liberation struggle in the late 1970s, but since they have not processed the violence that people in the movement experienced from outside forces like the police and from one another within the sometimes oppressive power dynamics of the movement itself, traumatic memories can resurface at any moment and erupt in the lives of the community members. Bambara uses the legend of the salt eaters to contextualize the entire novel. According to the story, passed down through word of mouth, once the enslaved African people in the Americas ate salt,

they forgot the ability they had to fly back to Africa. In this way, The Salt Eaters is as much about forgetting as it is about memory. Toni Cade Bambara uses memory in the novel to explore how a group of people traumatized by their struggle can reconnect to ancestral resources and play their role in the planet’s necessary healing by healing each other and themselves. Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Violence in The Salt Eaters

In the opening scene of The Salt Eaters, Velma Henry is on a stool in the Southwest Community Infirmary, after attempting suicide. From the outset, Toni Bambara contextualizes Velma’s self-inflicted harm within a longer story. As Velma asks herself how she ended up on this recovery stool, the reader journeys backward into her memory to learn that her violence against herself is a delayed result of gendered violence within the black movement for liberation. While under Minnie Ransom’s care at the infirmary, Velma has a violent and vivid memory of sitting in a meeting where the voices and work of women in the black liberation movement are silenced by the charismatic power posturing of Jay Patterson, a so-called community leader. During this meeting, Velma is literally bleeding, because her menstrual cycle has started. Velma remembers hitchhiking and walking through the rain, her body sore and bruised in order to salvage an event that Jay Patterson is able to enjoy and take credit for without doing any work. The sexism in the Civil Rights and black liberation movements meant that while women were doing the majority of the physical and strategic labor, men were making the speeches, projecting their visions and garnering “fame” in the movement. Through Velma’s experience, Bambara describes the impact of this ongoing sexism as violence. The weight and bitterness of these memories of the exploited labor of women by their male comrades stays in Velma’s body. They tear apart her mental health, to the point that she eventually tries to take her own life. While Velma relives these painful memories, her godmother, Sophie Heywood, is so distressed that she leaves the room during Velma’s healing process.

202â•…â•… Behn, Aphra Watching Velma, Sophie is overcome by a traumatic image of the police brutality that her son Smitty experienced during a civil rights protest. Juxtaposing police brutality with sexism, Bambara makes the point that the violence of sexism within the Civil Rights and black liberation movements was as harmful as the violence of racist police officers who tried to suppress the movement from outside. Hurting and taking advantage of women in the struggle for justice hurt the whole movement and cost people their lives. The movement as a whole takes a toll on the lives of black people when they are not able to heal from the traumatic, oppressive violence they have experienced over the years as punishment for speaking out. Unlike her sister Palma, Velma never gave herself any artistic or social escape from the movement for social justice. She was working for the movement all day every day. Through her refusal to take care of herself, her urge to do only what seemed most productive and necessary for the movement, she threatened a crucial movement resource: her own life and well-being. Similarly, in the novel, the earth itself is suffering because human beings insist on doing what seems most profitable without taking into consideration the connection between the planet’s well-being and the lives of human beings. The bus driver Fred Holt reflects on the decreasing economic choices for workers in the area who see the nuclear power plant as their best option, despite the fact that the exposure to radiation threatens their physical health. Holt’s friends, other workingclass black men, are dying as a result of radiation exposure. Environmental racism is heaped on top of plans of redevelopers to push black communities out of cities. Holt ruminates on the predictability of economic violence in the so-called urban renewal process while driving past a recently demolished public housing unit: “Redevelopment. Progress. The master plan. Cut back on services, declare blight, run back from the suburbs and take over,” he thinks. A push for so-called progress in terms of both the black liberation struggle and capitalist economics results in violence against the women in the black liberation movement and against

working-class communities more generally. The novel points out that this violence erupts in conflict, represented by the storm taking over Claybourne, which impacts everyone, even though the most oppressed people feel it first. Bambara offers a depiction of violence that moves from the individual self-inflicted harm of attempted suicide to the structural violence of racism, sexism, and capitalism, demonstrating that when a society chooses selfish profits over the well-being of the group, it is suicidal. Alexis Pauline Gumbs

BEHN, APHRAâ•… Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slaveâ•… (1688)

Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave is a short novella by Aphra Behn (1640–89). It tells the story of an African prince, Oroonoko, who is separated from his lover, Imoinda, and is then captured and forced into slavery by an English sea captain. He is eventually reunited with Imoinda in Surinam (today called Suriname), an English colony based on sugarcane plantations and located on the northeast coast of South America. Oroonoko contains elements of three popular forms of Restoration literature: the New World travel story, the courtly romance, and the heroic tragedy. The novella’s author, an English novelist, poet, and dramatist, may have visited Surinam as a young woman. Although Behn’s biographers now agree that her story was probably based on her actual experiences in the New World, there is no historical record testifying to the existence of Oroonoko and Imoinda. Behn is often hailed as being one of the first English novelists. Oroonoko was written at a time when the narrative technique and the feature of the fictionalized author were underdeveloped. Characterized by the omnipresence of its female narrator, Oroonoko is an early prose narrative in which the narrator acts as the tale’s interpreter. In addition to its innovative narrative strategy, Behn’s novella is also one of the first pieces of English writing to present a hero who is black and enslaved, thereby contributing to the image of the “noble savage” in literature. Victoria E. Price

Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slaveâ•…â•… 203

Gender in Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave

As a woman who exists in a patriarchal culture that is hostile to female creativity, the narrator of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko is conscious of her apparent gender transgression in putting pen to paper. Writing was typically viewed in 17th-century England as a masculine activity; thus, in foregrounding the female voice, the novella can be seen to undermine the accepted gender codes of the day. The narrator, an English settler at the slave colony of Surinam, continually offers apologies for the comparative weakness of her “female pen.” This is especially apparent in the closing lines of the novel, where she asserts that Oroonoko, the black prince who is captured and sold by a slave trader, is “worthy of a better Fate, and a more sublime Wit than mine to write his Praise.” Such assumptions of modesty are designed to distance the narrator from any perception of a female transgression. A further narrative technique that she employs as a means of legitimating her work can be found in the clear moral motivation the narrator identifies for her act of writing: She wants to ensure that Oroonoko’s “Glorious Name” survives “all ages.” Although the narrator’s character does not seem developed (she does not have a name, and the reader learns little about her appearance, her family, or her life in the colony), it is nevertheless a recognizably female narrative authority that is prioritized by the text. The novella is written in a mixture of first and third person as the narrator relates events in Africa. Claiming to record the adventures of an actual, as opposed to an imaginary, hero and setting herself up as an eyewitness to events in Surinam, she attempts to overcome gender bias concerning women’s writing. The narrator repeatedly highlights female spectatorship so that even at the scene of Oroonoko’s death, she informs her reader that, though she was absent, her mother and sister were present. In this way, the narrator places an emphasis on women’s powers of observation and invokes her own experience in order to grant the female voice authority. The novella’s concern with gender is further explored through the narrator’s relationship with Oroonoko. This is a relationship that initially appears to be based on traditional gender roles, in that Oroonoko heroically saves the narrator’s life in the text on several different occasions. And when-

ever his own life is in danger (two times), the narrator poignantly explains her absence and inability to save Oroonoko from physical harm in terms of her female gender. For example, when Oroonoko is captured after having led an uprising of slaves into the woods, the narrator asserts that she was not present when he was punished by whipping because “We were possess’d with extream Fear” and “This apprehension made all the Females of us fly down the Rover, to be secur’d.” The only actions open to her in the face of danger are flight and speech, indicative of both her powerlessness as a woman and her struggle with the constraints of the gender hierarchy. However, Oroonoko’s exploration of the gender dynamic between the narrator and Oroonoko is much more complicated than this. While they do occupy traditional roles, their relationship is not simply male-female, active-passive: Because she is white, she also occupies a position superior to Oroonoko’s in the social hierarchy. Indeed, Oroonoko is the story of the African prince from the point of view of the middle-class narrator colonial mistress: The black male protagonist can only speak through the white female narrator. The narrator, then, can be seen to enjoy a position of power in Surinam that does not correspond to the gender conventions of early modern England. This is reinforced by the way in which she claims intimate knowledge of Oroonoko. The verb to know is suggestive of sexual domination, and so the white colonial mistress can be seen to assert a sexual domination over Oroonoko and thereby to claim a power traditionally assumed to be male. Similarly, when Oroonoko is castrated during his death scene, femininity becomes inscribed onto his body, and at the same time, the female narrator who recounts the dismemberment can be seen to usurp the position typically defined as masculine. Gender inversions are thus enacted throughout the text, with traditional gender codes becoming confused and unhinged. Ultimately, then, Oroonoko argues for the necessity of abandoning the notion of women’s (and men’s) gender identity as stable and easily understood. Victoria E. Price

Heroism in Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave

As a virtuous African prince who is unjustly imprisoned and then executed by colonial profiteers, the

204â•…â•… Behn, Aphra titular character of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko is an aristocratic hero trapped in a capitalist plot; at the same time, he is also the hero of a romance adventure. The novella describes the plight of Oroonoko when he is separated from Imoinda, the woman to whom he is betrothed and with whom his grandfather, the king of Coramantien, is also in love. The two are later reunited in the English slave colony of Surinam, Imoinda having been sold into slavery by the king and Oroonoko having been betrayed into slavery by an English sea captain. After he is transported to Surinam, Oroonoko unsuccessfully tries to disguise himself by begging the English gentleman who has purchased him, John Trefrey, to give him clothes more befitting a slave. Nevertheless, on arrival at Trefrey’s plantation, Oroonoko is unable to hide his nobility; he is greeted and worshipped by the other slaves, and his aristocratic magnanimity is physically visible in spite of the rags he wears. The subtitle of Behn’s novella (The Royal Slave) is a paradox which further alerts the reader to the fact that a change of place and outward circumstances cannot alter the fact of Oroonoko’s inherent honor and nobility. Because of his physical beauty, regal bearing, civilized manners, intellectual prowess, and ability to speak English, Oroonoko is treated with unusual distinction and respect by many of the English colonists. Notably, the reader never sees him engaged in slave labor. As befits an epic hero, much of his time is instead devoted to performing such gentlemanly activities as eel grabbing, tiger hunting, and saving the narrator’s life. Oroonoko can additionally be seen to take on many of the aristocratic values of Restoration England: gentility, physical prowess, and adherence to a strict code of love and honor. The narrator repeatedly speaks of his greatness of soul and proclaims him to be an expert captain. In the account of Oroonoko and Imoinda’s courtship in Africa, it is also made clear that the prince practices the old social forms of romance, where true love is preeminently valued and held up for veneration. Oroonoko’s court in Coramantien is a world in which noble virtues such as loyalty and honesty are heavily prized. Vows are especially important to Oroonoko; the reader is told he has never violated a word in his life. This is in complete contrast to the

sea captain who twice deceives Oroonoko: first by luring the prince onto his ship so that he can seize Oroonoko and his men, and later by breaking his promise to release the captured when they reach land if Oroonoko will agree to eat. Similarly, after leading an unsuccessful slave revolt, Oroonoko is betrayed and enslaved by the deputy governor of the Surinam plantation, William Byam, who appeals to his honor and drafts an article of peace before having the slave whipped and pepper rubbed into his wounds. The idea of heroism is most forcefully conveyed by Behn in the scene of Oroonoko’s brutal death. The narrator recalls how, during his execution, Oroonoko stoicly endures the pain of his dismemberment while smoking a pipe. Similarly, Imoinda’s death is romanticized earlier in the narrative. Concerned that his and Imoinda’s unborn child will be born into slavery and preferring his family to die rather than live as slaves, Oroonoko escapes to the jungle, where he kills the pregnant Imoinda by his own hand. Imoinda bravely and serenely accepts her fate, making clear her preference for death over living without her husband. Her murder is also a plot device engineered to facilitate the tale’s proper conclusion: the tragic downfall of the novella’s hero. While Oroonoko undoubtedly presents the prince as the hero of the story, Behn portrays Oroonoko’s heroism in a striking fashion. For Behn, the institution of slavery itself is not something that Oroonoko is fighting. Rather, he is protesting the slavery specifically of him and his wife. Indeed, it is made clear that in his past Oroonoko was a slave trader in Coramantien. Nevertheless, the novella is written in such a way as to invite the reader to juxtapose the prince against the Europeans—figures in whom the aristocratic values that Oroonoko symbolizes (honesty and loyalty) are sorely absent. The result of this juxtaposing is that Oroonoko firmly emerges as the tragic hero of the tale—one who functions ultimately to challenge Western notions of superiority prevalent in the culture of Behn’s time. Victoria E. Price

Race in Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave

Presenting the story of an African prince who is tricked into slavery, Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko is intri-

Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slaveâ•…â•… 205 cately concerned with issues of race. The tale is told by an eyewitness narrator who both collaborates with and criticizes the colonial enterprise within which the titular hero finds himself trapped. To this end, the novella replicates and contests early modern notions of the racial “other.” The narrative opens with a description of Surinam (today Suriname), the English colony in the West Indies where the story is set. Behn’s narrator exhibits a fascination with the exotic objects of Surinam, portraying the Americas as rich in land and natural resources. The narrator’s experiences of meeting the indigenous peoples are intermixed with the main plot of the love story of Oroonoko and his betrothed, Imoinda. The natives of Surinam are depicted as innocent and free from sin, but also as racial “others,” primitive and in tune with nature. Similarly, when recounting what she has learned from Oroonoko about his home in Coramantien, the narrator portrays Africa as an exotic landscape where the inhabitants engage in unfamiliar cultural practices: They practice polygamy and seem to be continually fighting in order to win slaves in battle. In short, the novella appears to uphold English Renaissance and Restoration stereotypes about the black man—that he is strange, unfamiliar, inferior, savage, brutal, exotic, sexual, heathen, an ethnic “other.” And yet, at times the boundaries between the non-European and the European, between the black man and the white man, become blurred. For example, the narrator makes clear that what most distinguishes Oroonoko from the other slaves on the plantation is the European characteristics that he is seen to possess. With his straight hair and Roman nose, Oroonoko’s physical makeup accords in many ways to a Eurocentric vision of beauty. He is learned in European lore, having received the elements of a courtly education from a French tutor at his grandfather’s court. He also adopts many of the European aristocratic values that define courtly life in Restoration England. Oroonoko is presented by Behn as a hero of the European sort. In this way, Oroonoko can be seen to show a resistance to facile racial categories: Oroonoko is a heroic prince, but at the same time he is a black slave.

At other moments, however, Behn’s narrative can be seen to perpetuate the very categories that it elsewhere seems to reject. For example, when the narrator describes Oroonoko’s body and physical beauty, she commodifies the African prince as an exotic, luxurious, and appealing example of colonial bounty. She pauses over each feature of his body so that Oroonoko’s person comes to emblematize the alluring potential of colonial exploration. What Behn makes clear is that there are two competing models of value mapped onto Oroonoko’s body: one of commercial value, the other of political and moral value. Indeed, Oroonoko’s graceful kingship and natural nobility is continually emphasized to the reader. This is particularly apparent when he tries to disguise himself on entering the slave colony: In spite of his being dressed in rags, he instantly commands the respect of both his fellow slaves and his captors. The African prince encompasses the naturalized aristocratic values of authority such as moral virtue, mercy, equity, and gentility—qualities that appear to be absent in the colonial profiteers, who prize exchange value over virtue, commerce over justice, violence and barbarism over stability, and the rule of ignorant and uncivilized people over the rule of the educated and just. In this way, the narrative appears to reject contemporary racial stereotypes that at other moments it seems to replicate. It must nevertheless be noted that while Oroonoko’s greatness seems to challenge contemporary Western racist presumptions of superiority, it could be argued that his radical uniqueness and superiority could justify the continued use of slavery against Africans less great than he. Oroonoko strikingly constructs himself through English morality (choosing, for instance, to practice monogamy), which further sets him apart from the rest of his race. Indeed, while the novella protests the individual slavery of Oroonoko, it quite explicitly sanctions the trafficking in slaves. This is evident in the way that Oroonoko himself willingly trades slaves in Coramantien after winning them in war. The ideological contradictions concerning race and colonialism evident in Oroonoko suggest that for Behn the novel is as much about the nature of kingship as it is about

206â•…â•… Bellow, Saul the nature of race: Oroonoko is a prince, and he is a prince whether African or European. Victoria E. Price

BELLOW, SAULâ•… The Adventures of Augie Marchâ•… (1953)

When it was published in 1953, The Adventures of Augie March established Saul Bellow (1915–2005) as a leading American writer. Augie March announces in the first sentence that he is “an American, Chicago born .╯.╯. and will make the record in my own way.” Both a picaresque—an episodic tale that follows a young protagonist’s adventures—and a bildungsroman—a coming of age novel tracking the protagonist from youth to adulthood—the novel follows Augie’s life from the late 1920s to the years following World War II. After several odd jobs, Augie joins the neighborhood magnate William Einhorn, whose empire crumbles in the Great Depression, but who forms a reference point throughout the novel, not least because he gives Augie a set of fire-damaged classics to which he retreats occasionally. Augie then works for the Renlings, outdoor lifestyle purveyors, in nearby suburb Evanston, although that relationship fails when they insist on adopting him. Back in Chicago, Augie lives meagerly while his brother Simon marries into Charlotte Magnus’s wealthy family. Simon’s plans for Augie to follow suit are thwarted when Augie helps his neighbor Mimi obtain an abortion. Disowned by Simon, Augie joins Thea Fenchel, whom he met while with the Renlings, on a trip to Mexico. Their relationship dissolves after Augie helps a fellow expatriate, Stella, escape her lover. He then returns to Chicago, where the eccentric millionaire Robey employs him to research a grand project that never materializes. When World War II breaks out, Augie enlists in the Merchant Marine and locates Stella in New York, where the two marry. Torpedoed in the Atlantic, he drifts for days with an unbalanced fellow Chicagoan before their rescue. As the novel ends, Augie and Stella are living in Paris, where she pursues an acting career and he brokers shady deals in the disheveled atmosphere of postwar Europe. Richard Hancuff

Fate in The Adventures of Augie March

From Augie March’s early declaration that “a man’s character is his fate, says Heraclitus,” Saul Bellow’s novel explores the ground between the passivity of fate and the active creation of existentialism. Fate is predetermined, an external force acting upon the individual, although Heraclitus muddies the waters by suggesting that one’s fate is not external but, rather, stems from character of the individual. By the novel’s end, Augie has added his own twist to Heraclitus, arguing that “it is obvious that this fate, or what he settles for, is also his character.” More than inverting Heraclitus’s maxim, Augie defines fate as “what he settles for,” perhaps best understood as one’s choice in life. Augie has spent the better part of the novel resisting what others have tried to make of him, rejecting fates that are not his own, and in those actions he essentially denies the notion of fate as passivity; for Augie, fate must be worked for. After a conversation with William Einhorn, Augie states, “I never had accepted determination and wouldn’t become what other people wanted to make of me.” While Augie maintains an ease in his relations with others that leads the Renlings to want to adopt him—“there was something adoptional about me,” he explains—and Thea Fenchel to tell him, “You’re so happy when somebody begs you to oblige. You can’t stand up under flattery,” Augie does not see his behavior as his fate, either leaving or sabotaging his relationships when they become too constricting. The best summary of his attitude arrives as advice from his friend Manny Padilla, who is financing his education by stealing textbooks: “I don’t have larceny in my heart; I’m not a real crook. I’m not interested in it, so nobody can make a fate of it for me. It’s not my fate.” Like Manny, Augie embarks on his experiences as means to an end or as experiments, but not as integral components of his character. Late in the novel and deeply in love with Stella Chesney, Augie shares deep conversations with Mintouchian, a man Augie describes as “another of those persons who persistently arise before me with life counsels and illuminations.” Among the parables Mintouchian relates is a meditation on change and fate: “You make your peace with change. Another city, another woman, a different bed, but you’re the same

The Adventures of Augie Marchâ•…â•… 207 and so you must be flexible. You kiss the woman and you show how you love your fate, and you worship and adore the changes in life. You obey this law.” For Mintouchian, fate is simply what happens: It is the journey through life. In response, Augie tells him, “I have always tried to become what I am. But it’s a frightening thing .╯.╯. I suppose I better, anyway, give in and be it. I will never force the hand of fate to create a better Augie March.” Although Augie suggests he is giving in to fate and accepting determination, he speaks of trying to become what he is, which is a far more active view of fate. It does not accept that one’s fate comes upon one naturally; rather, it must be earned through struggle. In the end, Augie rejects a traditional view of fate as an end, seeing it instead as a process: “Other preoccupations are my fate, or what fills life and thought. Among them, preoccupation with Stella, so that what happens to her happens, by necessity, to me too.” Augie chooses his fate by choosing his preoccupations, although he may quibble with the amount of choice he had in his falling in love. Yet even his earlier actions, while interpreted by others, including his brother Simon, as aimless drifting, Augie interprets as hard work leading you to your fate: “[A]ll the while you thought you were going around idly terribly hard work was taking place. Hard, hard work, excavation and digging, mining, moling through tunnels, heaving, pushing .╯.╯. And none of this work is seen from the outside. It’s internally done.” Therefore, one’s fate is not only the end result of the pushing and heaving, but also the process itself; it is the becoming what one is, and the process of becoming is never finished. As Augie opines, “It’s only temporary. We’ll get out of it.” Richard Hancuff

Identity in The Adventures of Augie March

Augie March’s triumphant declaration that he is “an American, Chicago born .╯.╯. and will make the record in my own way” immediately announces to the reader the importance of identity, both personal and national, to the narrative. The point is further reinforced late in the novel, when Augie repeats this statement of origins while explaining how he has come to write the story of his life in a café in postwar Europe. Augie argues a connection between

nonconformity and being an American: that independence, the desire to “make the record in [his] own way,” is also exhibited in his personal life, as Augie fights against becoming what others expect. Throughout the text, Augie seems to have many admirers or acquaintances who want to thrust an identity onto him, and while he seems amenable enough to these plans at first, his mentor William Einhorn tells him, “You’ve got opposition in you. You don’t slide through everything. You just make it look so.” With that observation, Augie concludes that “I never had accepted determination and wouldn’t become what other people wanted to make of me.” Yet, while Augie realizes he does not want to be shaped by anyone else, it is not because he has a clear idea of his own identity: “I touched all sides, and nobody knew where I belonged. I had no good idea of that myself.” Augie’s lack of clear goals should not be taken as shiftlessness, which is exactly what his brother Simon mistakes it for, telling Augie, “since you won’t look out for your interests, I see I’m going to have to do it for you.” Simon creates one more role for Augie to play, but Augie is not seeking a role to play so much as he desires to understand his place in the universe: “I don’t want to be representative or exemplary or head of my generation or any model of manhood. All I want is something of my own, and bethink myself.” He seeks a connection with himself that he does not receive from any of the roles offered by others, either as employee, adopted son, or social-climbing husband, and in achieving that understanding, he seeks to locate himself among the received wisdom of the ages, frequently withdrawing to the classics of world literature that he has either received as damaged goods or come by dishonestly. These compromised modes of access are important, because they indicate not only the extent to which Augie has fought for this knowledge, but also the imperfection of the knowledge itself. As Augie notes, “I see I met those writers in the big book of utopias at a peculiar time. In those utopias, set up by hopes and art, how could you overlook the part of nature or be sure you could keep the feelings up?” In other words, Augie recognizes the delicate balance between theory and practice of life in achieving a satisfactory identity.

208â•…â•… Bellow, Saul While Augie’s personal journey is steeped in the classical tradition, he remains cognizant but suspicious of the larger national identity that promises a unifying community, a sameness of being. Of his short stint at the city college, he tells us that “the students were children of immigrants from all parts .╯.╯. put through the coarse sifters of curriculum, and also bringing wisdom of their own. They filled the factory-length corridors and giant classrooms with every human character and germ, to undergo consolidation and become, the idea was, American.” Augie’s eye remains not on the homogenized sum, though, but on the parts that comprise it, and the opposition in him celebrates the irreducible kernel of individuality: “I had opposed people in what they wanted to make of me, but now that I was in love with her I understood much better what I myself wanted.” Love crystallizes Augie’s sense of identity, because Augie recognizes his own desire. While the affair with Thea ends poorly, Augie from that point defines his future and feels confident in his choices, understanding his past as prelude to who he is. He reasons, “I want a place of my own .╯.╯. and I’d never loan myself again to any other guy’s scheme.” Having reached that point, he announces, “I have always tried to become what I am. But it’s a frightening thing. Because what if what I am by nature isn’t good enough?” The novel’s trajectory, then, arrives at an existentialist understanding of identity: One becomes who one is through an ongoing and difficult process, because rather than fit into anyone else’s preexisting schemes, Augie must determine his own way in the world. Richard Hancuff

Social Class in The Adventures of Augie March

Written during the great postwar expansion of the middle class, The Adventures of Augie March evinces a desire to remain outside class considerations, with the protagonist Augie March associating freely with heiresses, millionaires, waitresses, and thieves with little concern for climbing any sort of social ladder. However, as Augie wryly notes, “Everyone tries to create a world he can live in,╯.╯.╯. But the real world is already created.” Augie’s desire to escape class considerations do not negate those structures, and

while he rejects them as constructions, he remains subject to their power. Augie March’s family is poor, but the household’s matriarch, Grandma Lausch, remains “a snob about her Odessa luster and her servants and governesses,” which now exist only in her memories. Augie learns through her how to deceive the relief office, and she arranges jobs for Augie and his older brother Simon, with nearly all their income stretched to meet household expenses. While working for William Einhorn, a neighborhood real estate speculator and businessman with dreams of greater things, Augie experiences the subtle class distinction between being a trusted employee and an equal: “I wasn’t to think because we were intimately connected and because he liked me that I was going to get into the will╯.╯.╯.╯. It sometimes got my goat, he and Mrs. Einhorn made so sure I knew my place.” Interestingly, while annoyed, Augie is not resentful of this treatment. and Einhorn remains an adviser throughout the novel. Augie’s involvement with the Renlings, who run a suburban outdoor lifestyle store in the wealthy suburb of Evanston, broadens his horizons beyond the heavily immigrant and ethnic milieu of his youth. While agreeing to hire Augie, Mr. Renling tells him that “out there on the North Shore they don’t like Jews.╯.╯.╯. They like hardly anybody. Anyway, they’ll probably never know.” This introduction to exclusionary class distinction is reinforced later through Augie’s realization of—though not acceptance of—the fact that class behavior is closely tied to appearance, “because of the way I presented myself—due to Mrs. Renling—as if God had not left out a single one of His gifts, and I was advertising His liberality with me: good looks, excellent wardrobe, mighty fine manners, social ease .╯.╯. all in the freshest gold-leaf. And the trouble was that I had what you might call forged credentials.” Augie, obstinately concerned about being true to himself, knows how to pass across class lines, but it brings him discomfort. His brother Simon, on the other hand, has no such qualms, blithely announcing to Augie his plans to marry into the wealthy Magnus family and that Augie must follow suit, because he has “to have some family. I’ve been told they’re family-minded people. They wouldn’t understand or like it, the way

“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”â•…â•… 209 we are, and we have to make it look better.” Like Augie, Simon realizes that much of class distinction lies in presentation, and he does his research in order to move upward. For his part, Augie “had a fit of hate for the fat person he [Simon] was becoming” and develops a “dawning thought about rudeness as the measure of achievement.” That dawning thought pervades the novel’s presentation of class division, as many of Augie’s encounters with the rich and powerful result in revelations of their single-minded self-importance. While with the Renlings, Thea and Esther Fenchel, whom Augie refers to as the Fenchel heiresses, mistakenly think that Augie is Mrs. Renling’s gigolo, with Thea telling him matter-of-factly that her sister believes “that you service the lady that you’re with.” This assumption repeats itself when Thea and Augie travel to Mexico, where Thea plans to divorce her husband and train an eagle to hunt lizards, a mission that Augie belatedly comes to realize springs from her pampered lifestyle. As their relationship sours, Augie soon realizes that others see him as Thea’s kept man. Stella, an acquaintance who’s also in Mexico at the expense of a companion, tells him, “[I]t’s her house, isn’t it, and all the things are hers? What have you got of your own?” While Augie has his reasons for being with Thea, he understands the interpretive power of class expectations to those outside the relationship, suspecting in turn the truth of their perception and prompting him to declare, “All I want is something of my own, and bethink myself.” Tired of living off others and for others, Augie wants to escape the social connections that he feels constrict him. Augie’s desire is the text’s desire to negate social class and retreat into a republic of the spirit, a utopia built on the classic texts of Western civilization, but as his friend Clem Tambow concludes, “I wish you luck .╯.╯. but I don’t think it can ever happen. Richard Hancuff

BIERCE, AMBROSEâ•… “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”â•… (1891)

“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” the bestknown short story in Ambrose Bierce’s collection Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1891), is a brief narra-

tive set in north Alabama during the American Civil War. Organized in three sections, the story dramatizes the military execution by federal troops of an Alabama planter, Peyton Farquhar. Part 1 shows the noncombatant Southerner being prepared for hanging on the bridge after having been caught trying to burn it down; part 2 flashes back to dramatize how a disguised Union spy gave Farquhar the idea of targeting this strategic railroad link; and part 3 follows the stages of an elaborate, delusional escape that Farquhar envisions during the instant he is dropping to his death. Though details in Farquhar’s mental flight seem implausible, Bierce’s closing sentence still delivers shock and surprise to first-time readers by reporting that Farquhar is dead, his neck broken and his corpse dangling over the creek. An example of naturalistic realism, Bierce’s narrative blends sharp external description with a vivid stream-of-consciousness monologue. The omniscient point of view focuses on Farquhar as the center of consciousness and protagonist while leaving the other characters, including his antagonists, flat and undeveloped. Though Bierce (1842–ca. 1914) himself was a Union veteran, his techniques here create empathy for Farquhar, a Southerner, thus enhancing the tragic effects of pity and fear as readers witness the dying man’s internal agonies and imaginative delusions. Concurrently, Bierce’s tone is detached, tinged with irony, sarcasm, and implicit cynicism. Contemporaries fittingly called the author “Bitter Bierce.” Roy Neil Graves

Death in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

Set in northern Alabama during the American Civil War (1861–65), Ambrose Bierce’s short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” dramatizes the hanging of Peyton Farquhar, a Southern planter whom Union troops have captured while he was trying to burn down the militarily strategic bridge named in the title. Part 1 of the story shows Farquhar on the bridge being readied for execution. Part 2, a flashback, tells how a Union spy visited Farquhar at his plantation, 30 miles away, and lured him into trying to sabotage the bridge. Part 3, a stream-ofconsciousness section except for the last sentence,

210â•…â•… Bierce, Ambrose follows Farquhar’s inner life during the split second it takes for him to drop from the bridge to his death: “[A]s one already dead,” Farquhar imagines an elaborate escape in psychedelic detail—falling into the water below as the rope snaps, eluding gunfire, and struggling for a day through dense woods to return to his home and his wife. Despite strong hints that this “escape” is all a delusion, Bierce’s brutal closing sentence can still shock and surprise a first-time reader: “Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.” Bierce’s story dramatizes a ceremonial military execution by imagining both the outward trappings and inward details of such a death, allowing a reader to envision the action while following the thoughts of the dying person. The story is an example of a realistic subgenre that uses omniscience (and never a first-person narrator) to show the last thoughts of a dying character; Bierce’s variant of this narrative mode reveals a unique, nearly posthumous view of inner life that even postdates the thought process itself: The narrator reports that after “[t]he intellectual part of his nature was already effaced,” Farquhar nonetheless still “knew that the rope had broken” and, in defiance of logic, could fabricate his own escape in protracted detail. As Bierce’s closing sentence shows, these postmortem “thoughts” prove delusional—cruel, self-preserving hallucinations induced by terminal stress. It is commonplace to imagine that at the split second of death, one’s whole life may rerun itself in the mind, but Bierce turns the dying man’s last, instantaneous vision into an imagined escape from death itself, forward-looking rather than retrospective. Farquhar’s dying brain even weaves the horrible pains of hanging into the tapestry of its last fantasy. Though Bierce himself had been a Union soldier, the story stays politically neutral even while encouraging sympathy for the dying Rebel. As the protagonist and focal figure, Farquhar is fully human and three-dimensional; by contrast, his antagonists stay undifferentiated and mechanical, mere agents of military protocol. Further, Farquhar is a young, handsome, respectable gentleman who is loyal, heroic, and victimized. These aspects tend to make

readers care for him and empathize with the agony of his final moments. Bierce laces his rendering of Farquhar’s death with verbal and situational ironies that verge on dark wit. Verbal irony occurs, for example, when Bierce’s sarcastic narrator calls the military code of justice “liberal” for not excluding “gentlemen” from hanging—and also when the understated title calls Farquhar’s execution “an occurrence,” implying something ordinary. Meanwhile, complex situational ironies convey Bierce’s own cynical view of things: Military men act with punctilious decorum while committing a brutal act, executing a man who believes he is escaping death even during his dying moment. Such ironies are compelling enough that a first-time reader may believe Farquhar’s delusion to be the real thing. Farquhar is a symbol of the planter class, and his futile, self-deluding doom mirrors the larger outcomes of the war, which the South lost. Viewed somewhat differently, his death personalizes the hideous fraternal slaughter that killed thousands of valiant men on both sides, North and South. Layered under the veneer of military ceremony in the story lies the internal violence of a brutal death that only fiction can allow an outside witness to experience. As naturalistic realism, Bierce’s story shows no glory in such a death and registers no mitigating hope that an afterlife might ease or justify such terminal suffering. Bierce’s narrator resists moralizing but does remark that, according to military etiquette, death always evokes “silence and fixity,” quiet respect, even when one side inflicts it ritualistically on the other. Overall, the story treats death in war as brutally painful, its suffering compounded in this particular case by the victim’s futile efforts to wish it away and by the ceremonial indifference of those who carry it out. Roy Neil Graves

Hope in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

A poem by Emily Dickinson starts, “↜‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—/ That perches in the soul—/ And sings the tune without the words—/ And never stops—at all—.” The ending section of Ambrose

“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”â•…â•… 211 Bierce’s story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” allows access into the soul of the protagonist, Peyton Farquhar, and shows there an undiminished hope for survival and escape still fluttering away in his consciousness under the stress of certain death by hanging at the hands of Union troops during the American Civil War. Farquhar, a young Alabama planter and loyal Southerner, has tried to burn down a railroad bridge that is strategic to the campaign of federal troops as they subdue the rebellious South. Earlier, a Union soldier in disguise had visited the Farquhar plantation 30 miles away from the bridge and effectively tricked him into trying to burn it down. The visitor had explained that any civilians interfering with the invading Northern army would “be summarily hanged,” but Farquhar had taken the chance and been caught. As the story opens, he faces certain death, poised over Owl Creek with a noose around his neck while Federal soldiers proceed with the details of his hanging. Overall, the story shows that, in the face of certain death, the human instinct to hope for a miracle can push a man to elaborate lengths to keep him from confronting the end of selfhood. Perched in the soul, hope may “sing the tune” to the very end, a soaring flight of fancy. By means of an inner monologue, a tour de force passage that uses stream of consciousness, part 3 of Bierce’s brief tale allows access into a process that no one can follow in reality: It shows a man’s optimistic delusions during the second or so it takes him to fall to an instantaneous death that breaks his neck and leaves his body swaying in the breeze. The several pages of prose that elaborate Farquhar’s thoughts during this instant make his “escape” seem so real as to fool a first-time reader into believing that this “one already dead” is indeed managing to gain his freedom. The author’s capacity to trick the reader into suspending disbelief and following Farquhar on his hopeful mental journey involves a good bit of juggling, since the real time of Farquhar’s reverie, a second or so, does not mesh with the extended period a reader needs to scan what transpires in Farquhar’s mind: The instant Farquhar falls, he feels excruciating pain and suffocation in his throat but almost immediately activates a capacity for hopeful self-deception that causes him to believe the

rope has broken and he has dropped into the water, escaped a barrage of bullets, scrambled onto the bank, run for a whole day through tangled woods, and finally arrived back home to be greeted by his smiling wife. As this delusion unfolds, Bierce drops broad hints that this escape is unreal—psychedelic details, fantastic flora, and mystical details in the heavens. Nonetheless, a reader may still buy into the fantasy of the protagonist’s trip home, only to have all hopes dashed when the author reports Farquhar’s death in the last sentence. One effect of Bierce’s story is to call all foolish hopes into question—Farquhar’s, but also the reader’s. All humans will die, despite their own elaborate efforts to fool themselves into thinking they are invulnerable. Some, like Farquhar, will die cruel deaths sanctioned by military ceremony and protocol. The cynical tone of the story enforces a realistic view by making a reader participate in the fool’s journey of false hope. Though Farquhar’s death is individual, it symbolizes that of his homeland, the South, deluding itself into believing it can escape its inevitable doom. As an example of naturalism, a mode of pessimistic realism that pervaded prose fiction before 1900, this story holds out no false hope, either in this life or the next. Here, no heroism and no heaven assuage a lonely and torturous end. By downplaying Farquhar’s death as “an occurrence,” even Bierce’s title underscores the view that human actions look trivial in an uncaring cosmos, with death just an insignificant aspect of the universal routine. In the microcosm of the story, military guiles and ceremonies preempt humane considerations, and ironic outcomes leave no room for people of any social class to exercise positive thinking as a means of overcoming destiny. Still, futile hope may persist in the human mind until the bitter end. Roy Neil Graves

Isolation in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

In the short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” the theme of isolation pervades a situation that Ambrose Bierce brings to life through a combination of external description and internal monologue (or stream of consciousness) as the pro-

212â•…â•… Black Elk tagonist struggles in vain to evade his own death, the ultimately isolating event in the human life cycle. The plot shows circumstances evolving quickly to wall the main character off from his family, home, and peers. Alone in that condition, with only his inner resources at hand to draw on, he shows himself victimized even in the final seconds of his life by the false hope of escape. Only the reader keeps him company on his last, hallucinatory journey. Peyton Farquhar, Bierce’s protagonist and center of consciousness, and the only rounded character in the story, is a handsome young Alabama planter, a civilian gentleman whom Union forces single out, set up, capture, isolate, and hang as part of their attempt to subdue his homeland, the South, during the American Civil War. In a mental effort toward self-preservation, Farquhar envisions himself as the hero of his own narrative, escaping death by falling into the stream, scrambling out amid a spray of bullets, and making his way before nightfall back to the security of his home. Bierce’s last sentence depicts Farquhar in his real, and ultimate, isolation: “.╯.╯. dead; his body, with a broken neck, [swinging] gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.” Farquhar’s wife, his sole ally, is 30 miles away at home and unaware of her husband’s fate. (The story mentions their children but does not depict them.) The others who are present, enemy soldiers carrying out his execution with cold military precision, offer no human company during his last ordeal; in the course of his imagined escape, they spray him with bullets. Multiple factors contribute to Farquhar’s isolation. The story is vague about why this 35-year-old could not enlist to fight for the Confederacy, but we know he is “at heart a soldier” who has had to stay at home, while others of his age and class have gone off to war. He wants to help out and envisions himself heroic. His only peer or social connection is his wife, a flat character—passive, powerless, and absent when he dies. His homeland is occupied by the enemy, the Union Army, and the story insinuates that they have intentionally set him up as a kind of scapegoat just so they can have a military rationale for putting him to death. As a planter, he symbolizes to them the Southern social and economic system

they are fighting to overthrow. Farquhar is a man without allies who must act alone—and die alone. In demeanor, the enemy soldiers who preside over Farquhar’s execution are detached from and impassive toward their victim. As Bierce shows Farquhar’s consciousness during his last ordeal, dealing with the painful suffocation of the noose but even at that moment conjuring up an alternate reality to reunite himself with his dear wife, Farquhar’s only real companions in the world are the story’s readers, each a separate and helpless witness to the futile efforts of a dying man as he tries to make one last human contact by returning home. Bierce’s closing sentence shows Farquhar in absolute isolation, left without spouse or children, home, fellow soldiers, countrymen, or even the contact of the beloved land itself as he dangles in thin air above the creek. Farquhar’s lonely terminal struggle lets readers imagine the isolation of a cruel death. His alienated situation offers no hope for any kind of mitigating reunion in eternity. In Bierce’s bleak microcosm, each lonely human struggles, outnumbered, against an array of alien forces. Roy Neil Graves

BLACK ELKâ•… Black Elk Speaksâ•… (1932)

A seminal work that merges history, politics, and spirituality, Black Elk Speaks serves as a testimony to the collective experience of Native American nations across the continent who were the victims of genocide and disenfranchisement during the 19th century. The narrative, originally transcribed and published in 1932 by the poet and philosopher John G. Neihardt (1881–1973), records the life and visions of Black Elk (1863–1950), a holy man from the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) nation, a traveler in Wild Bill’s Wild West Show, and a relative of the famous Chief Crazy Horse. Historically, the book conveys the early encounters between the U.S. Army and the Lakota people as experienced through the eyes of young Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa). The transformation of ancestral lands into Americanized settlements serves as a backdrop for the decimation of the sacred bison, General Custer’s last stand at Little Big Horn in 1876, and the butchering of Black Elk’s people at

Black Elk Speaksâ•…â•… 213 Wounded Knee in 1890. These pivotal events are told through the eyes and voice of a Lakota shaman, while recasting the history of the 19th-century North American continent in a new and critical light. Likewise, Black Elk Speaks underscores the political turmoil broiling between the American forces and the Lakota hierarchy. Treaties that are signed between leaders in Washington, D.C., and puppet chiefs are dissolved with ease by the U.S. Army when Lakota territories prove to be too rich with resources, such as gold, to remain in the hands of nonwhites. Making the Lakota tribal communities politically weak and dependent on government handouts further guarantees the passivity of Black Elk’s people. This is certainly the case concerning the “Hangs-Around-the-Fort” people who forfeit their lands, rights, and resources to become reliant on the U.S. Army for survival. More than just an elegiac chronicle of a people, Black Elk Speaks is a spiritual text that articulates the greater Native American consciousness while forging a path toward recovery and restoration from the crucible of abandonment and oppression. Michael Moreno

Community in Black Elk Speaks

Widespread colonization and the genocide of Native American tribes throughout the 19th century radically transformed the structure and power of indigenous communities, particularly the Lakota nation to which Black Elk belonged. Whereas ritual actions and customs throughout the community had served for countless centuries to articulate and define the identity of tribal members, Black Elk relates how his own community slowly begins to break down as the “Wasichus” (white Americans) annex ancestral territories and relocate tribal members to “small islands” (reservations) throughout his lifetime. Here in these small islands, remaining members of the Lakota community are disarmed, politically disenfranchised, and economically ruined to ensure their subservience to white American authority. An integral symbol Black Elk employs in his narrative to define his community is the “sacred hoop.” The circle, itself a universal image of ceaseless cycles of life and power, represents the entire

cosmological framework for Black Elk’s community. “You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle,” Black Elk relates, “and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles.╯.╯.╯. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” This sacred hoop, in turn, represents the solidarity of the Lakota nation. As such, community virtues such as sharing and providing for each other is an integral component to the survival, success, and proliferation of Black Elk’s community. This posits the Lakotas in opposition to the white colonizers, whose goals are predicated on ceaseless consumption of the land and its resources and the primacy of individual happiness. With the decimation of the bison and white acquisition and seizure of native lands, many of the Lakota tribes watch their sacred hoops fracture and disintegrate under the heavy weight of the American republic’s westward expansion. Unable to compete with American military power or political doubletalk from Washington, many tribal communities base themselves near soldier camps in an effort to survive. Black Elk identifies Chief Red Cloud’s people as the “Hangs-Around-The-Fort” people, for they are one community who embrace the emerging hegemonic authority and think little of permitting ad hoc native chiefs and leaders to sell off remaining land claims sought after by the military and industrialists. As a respected visionary and mystic healer, Black Elk believes it is his duty to mend the broken sacred hoop of his community and restore his people’s dignity and power. However, major setbacks—such as the exodus of much of his tribe into “Grandmother’s Land” (Canada); the assassination of Crazy Horse, their brave leader; and the infamous massacre at Wounded Knee—discourage Black Elk and makes him realize the grave circumstances of his diminishing community. He says, “If a man or woman or child dies, it does not matter long, for the nation lives on. It was the nation that was dying, and the vision was for the nation; but I have done nothing with [this vision].” Despite the new protest dances, such as the Horse Dance and the Ghost Dance, rituals adapted from other indigenous tribes in an effort to reinvigorate the customs and culture of indigenous commu-

214â•…â•… Black Elk nities, Black Elk eventually realizes that the strength and survival of his community resided in the coming together of all Native American nations. In this way, the notion of community broadens to incorporate all the indigenous peoples of the North American continent. Thus, Black Elk Speaks serves as a testimony for a collective consciousness of Native Americans and, in many ways, as a sacred text that underscores the process of these communities coming together during their cultural crises. Michael Moreno

Oppression in Black Elk Speaks

As with most of the members of his community, Black Elk, a Lakota of the Oglala band, anticipated with dread the eventual arrival of the Wasichus (white men) to his lands. Fear of genocide and cultural erasure was associated with the U.S. invasion, and Black Elk Speaks underscores this collective concern through the narrative voice of Black Elk himself: “[E]very one was saying that the Wasichus were coming and that they were going to take our country and rub us all out and that we should all have to die fighting.” The expectation is widely met with feelings of helplessness and inevitability. This is the first wave of societal oppression levied against the Lakota communities in Black Elk’s time. Changes to the land through the wholesale slaughter of the bison, the feverish extraction of gold from Lakota territories such as the Black Hills, and the military occupation of ancestral lands are all features that contribute to the widespread oppression of Black Elk’s people. Indeed, Black Elk maintains that men like General George Armstrong Custer, whom he calls “Pahuska” (Long Hair), “had no right to go [to the Black Hills], because all that country was ours.” This disenfranchisement of land, customs, and loss of sustenance is further augmented by the battles and genocidal policies the U.S. government authorizes and carries out against many of the Native American nations throughout the 19th century. Through a calculated campaign of deception and military strength, the American government ensures that tribal nations, such as the Lakota, will no longer pose a threat to the country’s designs on expansion and settlement. Retelling a series of attacks aimed at

weakening the tribal community, Black Elk laments that the treatment of his people and the betrayal on the part of the Wasichus underscore the fact that U.S. forces will not rest without ultimate victory over the Lakota tribes. “Wherever we went,” Black Elk states, “the soldiers came to kill us, and it was all our own country.” Moreover, despite the treaties the Lakota have signed with emissaries from Washington, D.C.—legal promises that the tribal communities can keep their ancestral lands—the federal government often reneges on its agreements and later annexes the territories for their resources. “[T] hey were chasing us .╯.╯. because we remembered [the treaty] and they forgot,” according to Black Elk. To further oppress the Lakota, the Wasichus disarm the tribal members who bear guns and install political puppet chiefs such as Spotted Tail, who serves at the pleasure of the U.S. government. Deliberate acts of oppression like these not only demoralize individual tribal members but also break the very spirit of the Lakota people. Forcibly relocating the Lakota also aids the U.S. government in not only containing Black Elk’s people, but also in securing social and psychological domination over dissenting members such as Crazy Horse. Indeed, prophecies and ritual protests are manifest throughout Black Elk’s chronicle, thus emphasizing the deep impact the U.S. government has on the tribal communities. The prophecies of oppression are resonant narratives handed down by the Lakota elders, and Black Elk Speaks relates how Black Elk is aware of such messages. He recalls one of these visions from a holy man who stated, “When this happens [the arrival of the Wasichus], you shall live in square gray houses, in a barren land, and beside those square gray houses you shall starve.” From the onset, the Lakota believe that the Wasichus are the harbingers of death and destruction. However, the oppression that is in store is portrayed in Black Elk Speaks as something that cannot be prevented. Rituals like the Ghost Dance, which was widely adopted by many oppressed Native American nations during the 19th century, are thought to be an antidote in restoring traditional life. The importance of “bring[ing] [Black Elk’s] people back into the sacred hoop,” then, is an integral feature of the Ghost Dance for the Lakota.

Black Elk Speaksâ•…â•… 215 It would mean unifying a broken people and reempowering them by resurrecting the slaughtered bison and deceased ancestors. Unfortunately, such hope in the face of oppression is short-lived, for events such as the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 all but destroy the cultural or political visibility of the Lakota people. Michael Moreno

Spirituality in Black Elk Speaks

While Black Elk Speaks is a historical and political account of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Nation in the 19th century, it is also regarded by many as an important narrative of conviction and spirituality. Throughout this turbulent era of American expansionism and the Indian Wars, visions of otherworldly images and sacred rituals performed by his community call and guide Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa), a renowned holy man and healer. Charged with the task of bringing his broken people together and healing the “sacred hoop” of their unity, Black Elk learns through trial and error how lonely and yet empowering it is to be chosen for such an auspicious duty. Black Elk’s first vision comes to him when he is only nine years old. While traveling with his community, who are following the seasonal bison migrations, Black Elk suddenly falls ill and begins to envision a great landscape in the clouds with dancing horses and six sacred and ancient spirits. These spirits, whom he refers to as “the Grandfathers,” offer him words of wisdom and prophecy while imparting important gifts, which symbolize Black Elk’s role as a spiritual leader in his community. Holy items—such as a wooden cup whose liquid reflects the sky, a peace pipe adorned with the image of an outstretched eagle, and a flowering staff that serves as the symbolic “sacred tree” of the Lakota community—are imparted to Black Elk, thus anointing him as a shaman and spiritual guide for others. These visions and the mission of mending the sacred hoop of his fractured people are both awesome and daunting tasks for Black Elk as a young boy. For several years, he is reluctant to share this experience with others for fear that “the part of [him] that talks would try to make words for meaning” but would only come across “like fog and

get away from [him].” Nevertheless, as a witness to the suffering and genocide of his nation, Black Elk uses his spirituality and the mission with which he has been empowered as a vehicle for his own maturation into adulthood. The crimes and abuses committed by the U.S. Army only bolster his testimony against these atrocities recounted throughout Black Elk Speaks. Chief Crazy Horse, Black Elk’s famous relative, had a similar vision and mission when he was just a boy. Black Elk thus recognizes that power and confidence can come through using his ancestral gifts to strengthen his community. As such, an important part of his spiritual development occurs when he realizes that the world of spirits “is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world.” This new perspective gives Black Elk the ability to transform his vision into a ritual act that the community can perform. Making a direct connection between the mundane world and the spiritual realm, he believes, will heal his people and deliver them from further disenfranchisement by the Wasichus (white men). The first of these rituals that Black Elk and the elders orchestrate occurs when he is 15 years old. Using members of the community as stand-ins for the dancing horses and the grandfathers of the original vision, Black Elk inaugurates the Sacred Horse Dance as a way to bring the community together, to offer its members hope and comfort, and to draw “a shadow cast upon the earth” as a way to illustrate the Lakota’s direct association with the ancient and spiritual realm of their ancestors. As a simple conduit for this spiritual vision, Black Elk maintains that the ritual is necessary to generate a lasting power, and that performing this vision with his people is the only way to make the spirit of the ancestors come alive. In Black Elk Speaks, imitating this outer world of the spirits brings the Lakota community closer to a unifying source of energy and wisdom. Recreating sacred circles during the rituals performed is, thus, integral in mending the sacred hoop. Black Elk says, “Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle”; therefore, erasing the division between these worlds becomes a way to regenerate an identity for his people and make all things cyclical

216â•…â•… Blake, William and connected. Performing other rites, such as the imported Ghost Dance or the Heyoka Ceremony, which mimicks a later vision of Black Elk, serves equally to make the community not only happy but empowered at a time when battles waged against the Lakota nation and other Native American tribes are destroying the livelihood and voices of these indigenous peoples. Michael Moreno

BLAKE, WILLIAMâ•… Songs of Innocence and of Experienceâ•… (1789, 1794)

William Blake’s Songs of Innocence (1789) were included in Songs of Experience (1794), a book of lyrics engraved with illustrations and then handcolored. Blake’s Songs are known for their visual effects, enhanced by his illustrations and his graphic words and images. Not immediately popular when it appeared, Songs included lyrics that later became canonical texts, such as “The Chimney Sweeper” poems and “Tyger.” Songs of Innocence begins with a cheerful dialogue between the narrator’s persona, a piper, and a child. The lyrics that follow present a benevolent world with happy children and infants, tame animals and birds, and bountiful nature. Songs of Experience starts with a grim soliloquy by the narrator’s persona, the Bard, addressing the barren earth. The lyrics that follow present miserable children and infants, wild animals, and destroyed nature. These lyrics question faith by focusing on social and religious corruption. While the chimney sweepers and the children of Innocence patiently bear their hardships with promises of a rewarding afterlife, their counterparts in Experience expose the hypocrisy of their patriarchal protectors for perpetuating such abuses and failing to offer relief. Through his two sets of lyrics, Blake (1757– 1827) explores such themes as innocence and experience, spirituality, nature, parenthood, education, love, and suffering. It is important to note that he does not suggest a binary relationship between the songs of Innocence and those of Experience because they supposedly complement each other. The poems trace the growth of the poet/ speaker from innocence to experience, from the role

of a mere piper to that of the all-knowing Bard. Blake also does not offer a definite answer concerning his political and religious beliefs but, rather, presents disparate orthodox and unorthodox views to consider. Mariam Radhwi

Innocence and Experience in Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Blake uses the theme of innocence and experience to criticize institutionalized religion as a corruptive force, ruining children and grownups alike. In Songs of Innocence and of Experience, he demonstrates the different ways of perceiving the world. Innocence offers an innocent perspective of the world, namely that of children, who simply believe what they are told. Although difficult for adults to appreciate, these lyrics reveal children’s socially acquired, though unquestioning, attitude toward religious and social doctrines, an outlook accepting of any possible discrepancies or injustices. Experience depicts the same world from a different perspective, exposing the injustices and cruelty dominant in the world and pleading for immediate relief. For Blake, innocence is the outlook on life that stems from an uncomplicated, childish viewpoint. He values such a view because it lacks the bitterness accompanying experience and is all-accepting rather than questioning. The lyrics in Experience differ from those in Innocence in their pervading gloom and skepticism stemming from the experiences one gains from passing through life’s challenges and hardships. Although such experiences shape the necessary maturity accompanying adulthood, experience endows one with the critical outlook that reshapes formerly perceived beliefs, especially the unquestioned acceptance of suffering. However, such an experienced outlook is not limited to adults but is also experienced by the abused children of “The Chimney Sweeper” and “The School Boy” who resist their oppressed situations and expose their patriarchal protectors. The songs also have differing ways of treating childhood. In “A Cradle Song,” childhood raises holy thoughts of baby Jesus and a passion for the health of the sleeping baby. The poem presents a mother watching over her sleeping child and

Songs of Innocence and of Experienceâ•…â•… 217 grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice for the redemption of humanity, including her baby and herself. The same scene is differently presented in Experience, where adults perceive childhood jealously. For example, the children’s nurse in the “Nurse’s Song” is embittered while she watches her charges play freely in the valley. Rather than raising holy thoughts or emotions of gratitude and benevolence, the children only remind her of her declining youth. She therefore secretly mocks their joy and soothes her bitterness with thoughts of their own future decline. Innocence and experience also interact in such poems as the explicitly contrasted “The Lamb” of Innocence and “The Tyger” of Experience. The speaker’s innocent outlook causes him to view the lamb in the spiritual manner with which he was taught to perceive life. The speaker thus glorifies the Creator by commenting on the lamb’s simple and immediate physical needs, which the child shares, such as enjoying life, food, clothing, and a beautiful voice. The child excitedly concludes this list of blessings with the additional delight of sharing their names with Jesus, the lamb, and the child. The speaker in the second lyric perceives the tiger with a rather mature outlook, commenting on its complex nature in a series of rhetorical questions. Although the speaker dwells at length on each physical feature, the tiger appears to defy his conceptions and rather puzzles him with its pervasive strength. The speaker wonders about the tiger’s creator by listing the incredible powers required in creating such a creature, but he refrains from identifying this creator, unlike the speaker in “The Lamb,” who joyfully identifies the lamb’s creator and his as one. The creator of “The Tyger” is also paradoxically challenged by being materialized and humanized with his iron-working tools, though he is repeatedly glorified for his great abilities to create such a being, the tiger, and its weaker counterpart, the lamb. By juxtaposing the tiger and the lamb, the speaker explores creation from perspectives of innocence and of experience, the simple child’s eye and the complicated adult’s. From the previous examples, the realization the speaker achieves in Experience produces the skeptical tone of the second section. These lyrics criticize the state of humanity only after the children of Innocence

have led a happy and innocent life, abiding by the religious and social concepts that they have been taught to internalize. In the second section, Blake suggestively reveals the situation of those who have failed to internalize such concepts and the threat they pose to institutionalized religion with their questionings. The abused groups of the latter section thus reject the otherworldly beliefs by which the children of innocence were oppressed, instead demanding immediate relief. Mariam Radhwi

Nature in Songs of Innocence and of Experience

While reading William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, it is important to conceive of the poet’s nature in generic terms, as including all of creation. Throughout his Songs, Blake examines different aspects of “nature,” considering each according to prevalent beliefs. Besides the natural world, nature in Blake’s Songs includes human nature. Innocence focuses on innocent human nature and promotes a positive outlook of life, to the extent of accepting injustice and misery and emphasizing human love. Experience stresses humans’ darker side, such as jealousy, hatred, and their potential for destruction. Various natural elements appear in each section of Songs, including wild and tame animals, various plants and flowers, and a wide selection of birds and beasts. Nature in its disparate forms functions as a protective shield, especially for the children of Innocence, offering comfort and protecting them from unknown dangers. Nature also repeatedly changes color and consistency in both sections, taking various forms and roles. On the visual level, Blake published his Songs