Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rise of the English Novel (1)

Novel’s Origin in Medieval Stories
Medieval romances and collections of ballads, especially those concerned with the legends of King Arthur, were the germinal sources of the modern novel. They were fiction of a picaresque and lively kind, though rambling stories. They were peopled by stock characters such as the wicked wizard and the damsel in distress. But they catered to the human longing for fiction and imaginative stimulation.

Development in the Elizabethan Age
The Elizabethan Age was the rise of the prose romance, of which Lyly’s “Euphues” and Sidney’s “Arcadia” are examples. Their prose styles, however, are too fantastic. Characters are rudimentary and there is little attempt at an integrated plot. There is too much of moralizing. But they represent a further step taken towards the beginning of the novel proper.

Picaresque Novel in the Seventeenth Century
A new type of embryo novel of Spanish origin, namely, the picaresque novel, made its appearance at the end of the sixteenth century. It remained popular till the days of Fielding and Smollett. The name derives from the Spanish word, “Picaro, which means a wandering rogue. Its hero is a rascal, who leads a wandering life full of rather scandalous adventures. The hero is the only link between the various incidents. There were many digressions and interpolated stories. Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” is the best-known of picaresque tales in Spanish. Le Sage’s “Gil Blas” is a French example of this mode of writing.

The picaresque novel in England began early with “The Unfortunate Traveller or The Life of Jack Wilton” (1594) by Thomas Nashe. Though crude, it is vigorous and witty. “The English Rogue” (1665) by Richard Head is another of the type—gross and scandal in the course of the hero’s adventures.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Elements Contributing to the Success of Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" (5)

5. Reference to Nature

The last element contributing to the success of the novel Things Fall Apart is the reference to nature. Since the novel talks about the life of the native people in Nigeria, it cannot be neglected that their life is related to planting, gardening, hunting, and many things related to the nature. The illustration of planting, as the reference to nature, can be seen on the back-plot of the novel, when Achebe talks about the life of little Okonkwo with his mother and sisters.

And so at the very early age when he was striving desperately to build a barn through share cropping Okonkwo was also fending for his father’s house. It was like pouring grains of corn into a bag full of holes. His brother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops, like coco-yams, beans, cassava. Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crop.
(Achebe, 1958: 16)

Another reference to nature also talks about plants. It can be seen when Ikemefuna teaches Nwoye many things.

He could fashion out flute from bamboo seems and even from the elephant grass. He knew the names of all birds and could set clever traps for the little bush rodents. And he knew which trees made the strongest bows.
(Achebe, 1958: 20)

Ikemefuna teaches Nwoye many things about nature from which Nwoye knows many things about nature, and can make some fun for himself.
Another reference to nature is the ability of Umuofia in observing the nature in predicting the climate. This reference can be seen in the following quotation:

After the Week of Peace every man and his family began to clear the bush to make new farms. They cut bush was left to dry and fire was then set to it. As the smoke rose into the sky kites appeared from different directions hovered over the burning field in silent valediction. The rainy season was approaching when they would go away until the dry season returned.
(Achebe, 1958: 23)

From the quotation above, it can bee seen that the Umuofia used to see the nature to find out the next climate by the appearence of kites in the sky. They use the nature to guide their agriculture life.
Another reference to nature can be found when Okonkwo and his family go to the farm planting yams.

Yam, the king of crops, was a very exacting king. For these three or four moons it demanded hard work and constant attention from cock-crow till the chicken went back to roost. The young tendrils were protected from earth-heat with ring of sisal leaves. As the rains became heavier the women planted maize, melons and beans between the yam mounds. The yam were then stacked first with the single sticks and later with tall and big tree branches.
(Achebe, 1958: 24)

From the quotation above, it is found out that Achebe puts the method of planting yams through Okonkwo’s story. Yam is considered as the exacting plant that needs lots of attention from cock-crow till the children go back to roost. The reference to nature shown in the quotation above indicates that yam should be taken care well from everything that can destroy it since yam is regarded by umofians as the king of crops. Besides, it also symbolizes a man’s crop.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Elements Contributing to the Success of Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" (4)

4. Ceremony and Custom

The next element contributing to the success of on the novel is ceremony and custom. There are many ceremonies that show the traditional ritual of the Umuofia. The first ceremony found in the novel can be seen in the following quotation:

The feast of the New Yam was approaching and Umuofia was in a festival mood. It was an occasion for giving thanks to Ani, the earth goddess and the source of all fertility. Ani played a greater part in the live of the people than any other deity. She was the ultimate judge of morality and conduct. And that was more; she was in close communication with the departed fathers of the clan whose bodies had been committed to earth.
(Achebe, 1989: 26)

The quotation above indicates that the Umuofians perform the ceremony to honor Ani, as goddess of earth, who roles a greater part for the fertility of the ground. The feast is held every year before the harvest. Every people in Umuofia look forward to the New Yam festival as it is the sign to begin the season of plenty – the new years. It is called the feast of the New Yam, because yam is the most important plant for Umofians. Yams reflect the prosperity, the power, and the social-strata. The more yams a Umofian has, then the wealthier he is.
Another ceremony found in the novel can be seen on the occasion when Umuofia performs the great wrestling match on the second day of the New Year.

The second day of the new years was the day of the great wrestling match between Okonkwo’s village and their neighbors. It was difficult to say which people enjoyed more – the feasting and fellowship of the first day or the wrestling contest on the second.
(Achebe, 1958: 28)

The wrestling match in Umuofia and the neighbor village is always awaited. In this match, the winner of the wrestlers has a chance to be famous and gets many wives.
Another ceremony found in the novel is that the wedding ceremony. It is illustrated when Obierika sets his daughter, Akueke, for marriage. The young suitor is Ibe, son of Ukegbu. The situation when Ukegbu, Obierika and Obierika’s brother, machi, set the bride-price is illustrated below:

Obierika then presented to him a small bundle of short broomsticks. Ukegbu counted them.
‘They are thirty?’ he asked
Obierika nodded in agreement.
‘We are at last getting somewhere,’ Ukegbu said, and then turning to his brother and his son he said ‘Let us go out and whisper together.’ The three rose and went outside. ………. When they returned Ukegbu handed the bundle of sticks back to Obierika. He counted them; instead of thirty there were now only fifteen. He passed them over to his eldest brother, Machi, who also counted them and said:
‘We had not thought to go below thirty. ………. He then added ten sticks to the fifteen and gave the bundle to Ukegbu.
In this way Akueke’s bride-price was finally settled at twenty bags of cowries.
(Achebe, 1958: 50-51)

The Umuofians set the bride-price by using the small bundle of short broomsticks. The amount of the broomsticks signifies how many cowries will be given. When the agreement is settled then the amount of the bride-price can be found out.
Another situation indicating the ceremony of the Umuofia is the ritual of treating the ogbanje. Ekwefi’s first, second, and third children died because the medicine-man says they are the Ogbanje. The Ogbanje is one of those wicked children who, when they die, entered their mother’s wombs to be born again.
On Ekwefi’s third child, the new-born-child named Onwumbiko. He is not given a proper burial when he died. Then Okonkwo calls another famous medicine-man in the clan named Okagbue Uyanwa for he knows great knowledge about Ogbanje.

The medicine-man then ordered that there should not be mourning for the dead child. He brought out a sharp razor from the goatskin bag slung from his left shoulder and began to mutilate the child. Then he took it away to bury in the Evil Forest, holding it by the ankle and dragging it on the ground behind him. After such treatment it would think twice before coming again, unless it was one of the stubborn ones who returned, carrying the stamp of their mutilation – a missing finger or perhaps a dark line where the medicine-man’s razor had cut them.
(Achebe, 1958: 55-56)

From the quotation above, it is found out that the Umuofians think that the dead child is related to the evilness. They do not think about the sanitation, or the medical reason. The medicine–man treats the dead body in such horrible ceremonies to avoid the evil coming back.
Another ceremony can be found on the situation when the medicine-man asks Ezinma to show where she buries her iyi-uwa. Iyi-uwa is a special stone that forms the link between an ogbanje and the spirit world. Ekwefi feels worried about it; she does not want her fourth child dies following her dead siblings.

‘Where did you bury your iyi-uwa? She asked in return. ……….
‘Come along and show me the spot,’ said the medicine-man.
The crowd set out with Ezinma leading the way and Okagbue following closely behind her. ……….
(Achebe, 1958: 56-57)

After finding the iyi-uwa, the medicine-man does some ritual for the stone.
After a few more hoe-fulls of earth he struck the iyi-uwa he raised it carefully with him the hoe and threw it to the surface. Okagbue emerged by saying a word eve looking at the spectators he went to his goatskin bag, took two leaves and began to chew them. When he had swallowed them, he took up the rag with his left hand and began to untie it. And then the smooth, shiny pebble fell out. He picked it up.
(Achebe, 1958: 59-60)

When Ezinma shows the medicine-man the spot of her iyi-uwa on the ground, he then digs it to find the stone and destroys it. Umuofians believe that the child would eventually die if the iyi-uwa is not discovered and destroyed.
Another ceremony Found in the novel can be seen in the following quotation:

Large crowds began to gather on then village ilo as the edge had worn off the sun’s heat and it was no longer painful on the body. Most communal ceremonies took place at the time of the day, so that even when it was said that a ceremony would begin ‘after the midday meal’ everyone understood that it would begin a long time later, when the sun’s heat had softened.
(Achebe, 1958: 62)

From the quotation above it can be seen that Umuofia has many ceremonies. They even have communal ceremony at the time of the day. This communal ceremony will be attended by a lot of men and women. The Umofains usually come earlier to the place in which the ceremony will be held.
The next ceremony found in the novel can be seen when Obierika is celebrating his daughter’s uri. It is the day on which her suitor would bring palm-wine not only to her parents and immediate relatives but to the wide and extensive group of kinsmen called Umunna. The palm-wine ritual is just a part of pre-wedding ceremonies of Umuofia.

Very soon after, the in-laws began to arrive. Young men and boys in single file, each carrying a pot of wine, came first. Obierika’s relatives counted the pots as they came. Twenty, twenty-five. There was a long break, and the hosts looked at each other as if to say. “I told you.’ Then more pots came. Thirty, thirty-five, forty, forty-five. The hosts nodded in approval and seemed to say, ‘Now they are behaving like men.’ Altogether there were fifty pots of wine.
(Achebe, 1958: 82)

There are a number of customs that can be found in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart. The first custom is about how to treat a guest. This custom can be seen when Unoka receives a guest, Okoye who will ask for debt for him. The guest carries a roll of goat skin under his arm then unrolled it after they shake hand each other. The host gives a small wooden disc containing a kola nut, some alligator pepper and a white chalk. After that one of them breaks the kola nut, and makes a line on the floor by using the chalk. As indicated in the following quotation:

One day a neighbor called Okoye came in to see him. He was reclining on a mud bed in his nut playing on the flute. He immediately rose and shook hand with Okoye, who then unrolled the goatskin which he carried under his arm, and sat down. Unoka went into an inner room and soon returned with a small wooden disc containing a kola nut, some alligator pepper and a lump or white chalk.
‘I have kola,’ he announced, when he sat down, and passed the disc over to his guest.
‘Thank you. He who brings kola brings life. But I think you ought to break it,’ replied Okoye passing back disc.
ssss‘No, it is for you, I think,’ and they argued like this for a few moments before Unoka accepted the honour of breaking the kola. (Achebe, 1958: 4)

From the above quotation, it can be inferred that a guest is regarded as a special and honorable person. Another custom in this novel can be found out when some people of Mbaino kill Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s wife. The Umofians give an ultimatum for them. They must choose from the two choices givechoosing war war or sacrificing a young man and a virgin as compensation. This custom can be seen in the following quotation:

And in clear unemotional voice he (Ogbufie Ezeugo) told umofia how their daughter had gone to market at Mbaino and had been killed. That woman, said Ezeugo, was the wife of Ogbuefi Udo, and he pointed to a man who sat near him with a bowed head. The crowd then shouted with anger and the thirst for blood.
Many other spoke, and at the end it was decided to follow the normal course of action. An ultimatum was immediately dispatened to Mbaino asking them to choose between war on the one hand, and on the other the offer of a young man and a virgin as compensation.

From the above quotation, it can be seen that Mbaino choose the second choise; that is sacrificing a young boy and a virgin as compensation to cancel war. The boy will be killed in a determined time later, while the virgin will replace the killed wife of Ogbuefi Udo.

Elements Contributing to the Success of Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" (3)

3. Proverbial Wisdom

The glory of Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart is his use of proverbs and adages of oral culture. What sets him apart from other African writers is the fact that he is, by far, more successful than others in flawlessly translating his working of African terms from one medium to another, from an oral tradition to an alien form of European origin without obliterating the freshness and vigor of the former, and despite the vast difference separating the two cultures. His characteristic mode of writing, in other words, fulfills Achebe’s own idea that the ”English of the African will have to be a new English, still in communion with its ancestral home but altered to suit its new African surroundings. “In his own fiction, he succeeds in creating an English that is not only, as critics have pointed out, “detached”, “stately”, and “impassive”, but also singular in its ability to bring a whole range of human experience before our mind’s eye by his consummate use of imagery drawn from both native and alien sources. He makes use of devices like proverbs, folktales, and religious tenets conveyed through prayer, speeches and song sequences. The first proverbial wisdom can be found when Okonkwo visits Nwakibie in order to get some help. When Nwakibie serves his guests he says:

Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says no to other, let his wing break.’
(Achebe, 1958: 14)

The possible meaning of this proverb is, people do their pray and their work for the life of their family and for happiness. No matter what other people say if they work hard for their intention, they will get what they want (happiness).
Another situation that indicates the proverbial wisdom can be found when Okonkwo utters his intention to Nwakibie.

The lizard that jumped from the high iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no one else did.
(Achebe, 1958: 16)

The possible meaning of this proverbial wisdom is that no one will care you best except yourself. We should do some effort for our own success.
The next proverbial wisdom can be found on the same situation in the next conversation,

Eneke bird says that since men have learnt to shoot without missing, he has learnt to fly without perching.
(Achebe, 1958: 16)

The possible meaning of this proverb is that when men do something wrong at the first time, men should not make the same mistake for the second time.
Another proverbial wisdom can be found on Ibo’s beliefs about spirituality as seen in the following quotation:

But the Ibo people have a proverb that when a man says yes his chi says yes also.
(Achebe, 1958:19)
From the quotation above it can be seen that Igbo people believe that “Chi” is the guardian who guides individual. Chi has responsibility for the fortunes and misfortunes of the individual. It is one of the mythologies of Ibo people.
The other proverbial wisdom that can be found in this novel is that when Okonkwo has a conversation with Uchendu, his sons, daughters, and his cousins in Uchendu‘s obi

And yet we say Nneke – “Mother is Supreme”. Why is that?’
(Achebe, 1958: 94)

The meaning of the proverbial wisdom, “mother is supreme” in the above quotation is that a child usually will belong to his father when everything is fine, but when a father beats his child, the child will seek sympathy in its mother’s heart. This situation prevails not only to a child but also to a man. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. However, when there is sorrow and bitterness, he finds refuge in his motherland. It happens to Okonkwo when Okonkwo is exiled from Umofia, he finds refuge in his motherland in Mbanta.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Elements Contributing to the Success of Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" (2)

2. Legends

There are a number of legends found in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The first legend is about how the darkness of the night hides much evilness beneath it. Everybody fears it, and the children are warned not to do something taboo in the night to avoid the evil spirit. As it is found in the following quotation:

The night was very quiet. It always quiet except the moonlight nights. Darkness held a vague terror for these people, even the bravest among them. Children were warned not to whistle at night for fear of evil spirits. Dangerous animal became even more sinister and uncanny in the dark. A snake never called by its name at night, because it would hear. It was called a string.
(Achebe, 1958: 7)

From the quotation above, it is known that the Umuofia’s people fear the darkness because they believe that there is much evilness beneath the darkness of the night. The interesting fact is that they never call a snake with its name because snake symbolizes the power of evilness.
Another legend found in the novel is shown in the quotation below:

In this way the moons and the seasons passed. And then the locusts came. It had not happened for many a long year. The elders said locusts came once in a generation, reappeared every year for seven years and then disappear for another lifetime. They went back to their caves in a distant land, where they were guarded by a race of stunted men. And then after another lifetime these men opened the caves again and then locusts came to Umuofia.
(Achebe, 1958: 38)

From the quotation above it is known that the locust’s visit has become a legend in Umuofia. Their visit after many years is believed that they are freed from their cave by a race of stunted men. This belief has taken place in the Umuofia’s people’s mind from their ancestors to their generation.
Other illustration about the legend in the novel can be found when Ikemefuna is taken to the jungle to be murdered, but pitifully, he does not know it. In the middle of the journey, he sings a song that reminds him to his homeland.

Eze elina, elina!
Eze ilikwa ya
Ikwaba akwa oligholi
Ebe Danda nechi eze
Ebe Uzuzu nete egwu
He sang it in his mind, and walked to its beat. If the song ended on his right foot, his mother was alive. If it ended on his left, she was dead. No, not dead, but ill. It ended on the right. She was alive and well he sang the song again, and it ended on the left. But the second time did not count.
(Achebe, 1958: 42)

From the quotation above, it is indicated that the song is full of tradition. In the tradition of Ikemefuna’s clan, Mbaino, they used to sing this song when they are far away from home and neglected by their family. The song is believed as a media to find out about the news of their mothers in the homeland.
Another legend found in the novel can be seen in the story about mosquito and ear. It exposes the reason why mosquito always goes for one’s ear. Okonkwo used to hear the story when he was a child from his mother, as in the following quotation:

When he was a child his mother had told him a story about it. But it was silly as all women’s stories. Mosquito, she had said, had asked ear marry him, whereupon Ear fell on the floor in uncontrollable laughter. How much longer do you think you will live? She asked. ‘You are already a skeleton.’ Mosquito went away humiliated, and any time he passed her way he told ear that he was still alive.
(Achebe, 1958: 53)

From the quotation above, it is found that the story of the mosquito and the ear has become a legendary. And the reason why mosquito always goes for one’s ear is always acceptable and believable in Umuofia since it has been told from generation to generation, from mothers to children in Umuofia all the time.

Elements Contributing to the Success of Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" (1)

1. The Didactic Animal Tales

Chinua Achebe enrichies Things Fall Apart with animal tales, and shows the readers that the Ibo clan in Nigeria is fruitful with a number of animal tales which Igbo people use as means to teach moral values to their generation. The didactic animal tales are found in the story of birds, lizards, tortoises, locusts, and many more. The first example of the didactic animal tale is found when Ezinma and her mother Ekwefi cook the green vegetables while they are waiting Okagbue searching the Ezinma’s iyi-uwa (a special stone that forms the link between an Ogabanje and spirit world. The child would eventually die if the iyi-uwa were not discovered and destroyed) in the yard. The cooked vegetables will become smaller after being cooked. This situation is used by Ekwefi to tell Enzinma about the story of the snake-lizard when they cook vegetables.

‘There is too much green vegetable,’ she said.
‘Don’t you see the pot is full of yams?’ Ekwefi asked. ‘And you know how leaves become smaller after cooking.’
‘Yes,’ said Ezinma, ‘that was why the snake-lizard killed his mother.’
‘Very true,’ said Ekwefi.
‘He gave his mother seven baskets of vegetables to cook and in the end there were only three. And so he killed her.’ Said Ezinma.
‘That is not the end of the story.’
‘Oho,’ said Ezinma, ‘I remember now. He brought another seven basket and cooked them himself. And there were again only three. So he killed himself too.’
(Achebe, 1958: 59)

The snake-lizard prejudices that his mother eats the vegetables before they are cooked, so he kills his mother. Then, when he puts more vegetables to cook, he finds out that the same thing happens to the vegetables. When it happens, he realizes that he has committed a big mistake. He feels very sorry for having killed his mother, thus, he commits suicide to show his remorse.

The didactic lesson of the story is that we should not easily take decision if we have not made investigation on the case, or have not known the real fact. Besides, we should not always have prejudice on someone before we know the fact well.

The next didactic animal tale found in the novel is that when Ekwefi tells a story to Ezinma about the birds and the Tortoise. All birds are invited to a feast in the sky, and the Tortoise finds it out. He wants to join with the birds but he has no wings to fly so that he begs the birds to bring him with them. The birds who know that he is an untrustworthy animal, do not want him to join the party. However, the tortoise has a sweet tongue, and finally the birds agree to give him feather for his wings. The Tortoise, who is a great orator, soon plays his tricky mind to the birds. He tells the birds that the hosts in the sky will expect them to honor their age old-custom. He tells the birds to pick a new name before they arrive in the sky, and all birds agree. The Tortoise himself picks the name “All of You”. When they arrive in the sky and the main dines are served, this is where everything in the Tortoise’s tricky mind begins clear.

When everything had been set before the guests. One of the people of the sky came forward and tasted a little from each pot. He then invited the birds to eat. But the Tortoise jumped to his feet and asked: ”For whom have you prepared this feast?”
“For all of you,” replied the man.
‘Tortoise turned to the birds and said: “You remember that my name is All of you. The custom here is to serve the spokesman first and the others later. They will serve you when I have eaten.”
‘He began to eat and the birds grumbled angrily. ……….
(Achebe, 1958: 68-70)

From the above quotation, it is clear that the tortoise begins showing his basic characteristic as an untrustworthy animal. The tortoise takes all the dines by cheating the birds.

When they leave the feast, the Tortoise asks the birds to send a message to his wife, but none of the birds are willing to. In the end, a parrot, who has felt angrier than the others changes his mind, and agrees to take the message. The Tortoise’s message to his wife is to bring all the soft things in the house outside so that he can jump from the sky without very great danger. However, the parrot tells the Tortoise’s wife the opposite thing. He asks her to bring the hard things such as hoes, machetes, spears, guns, and even cannon in the house outside. Tortoise looks down from the sky but it is too far to see what they are. Then he jumps from the sky and crashes on the compound. Luckily he does not die. His wife sends him to a medicine-man and the medicine man gathers all the bits of the tortoise’s shell which falls apart, and sticks them together. That is why tortoise’s shell is not smooth. The didactic lesson of the story is that we should not betray the people who have been nice to us, because bad things will respond badly too.

Another didactic animal tale can be seen when Obierika visits Okonkwo in the second year of his exile. He tells Okonkwo about the people of Abame who kill the white man. What they do not know is the fact that the white man is the messenger of his companions. Uchendu illustrates Abame’s action in the story of a kite and her daughter. A kite asks her daughter to look for some food for her. The daughter then goes and brings a duckling but her mother asks her to give it back again because when she takes the duckling, its mother goes away and keeps silent. The mother tells that there must be a trick behind the silence. Then the daughter changes it by a chicken and the mother asks her how the hen reacts when she takes the chicken. Then she answers that the hen cries, raves, and curses her. Then she says that the chicken can be eaten because there is nothing fear about someone who shouts and talks too much.

‘Never kill a man who says nothing. Those men of Abame were fools. What did they know about the man?’ He ground his teeth again and told a story to illustrate his point. ‘Mother Kite once sent her daughter to bring food. She went, and brought back a duckling. “You have done very well,’ said Mother Kite to her daughter, “but tell me, what did the mother of this duckling say when you swooped and carried its child away?” “You must return his duckling,” said the Mother Kite. There is something ominous behind the silence.” And so Daughter Kite returned the duckling and took a chick instead.’ “What did the mother of this chick do?” asked the old kite. “It cried and raved and cursed me,” said the young kite. “Then we can eat the chick,” said her mother. “There is nothing to fear from someone who shouts.” Those men of Abame were fools.
(Achebe, 1958: 98)

From the illustration above, the didactic lesson of the animal tale is, there is something ominous behind the silence. Besides, it that also shows the folly of the people of Abame.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Wimsatt and Beardsley on the Intentional Fallacy

The intentional and affective fallacies

In The Verbal Icon (1954), William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley describe two other fallacies which are encountered in the study of literature.

The "Intentional Fallacy" is the mistake of attempting to understand the author's intentions when interpreting a literary work. Such an approach is fallacious because the meaning of a work should be contained solely within the work itself, and attempts to understand the author's intention violate the autonomy of the work.

The "Affective Fallacy" is the mistake of equating a work with its emotional effects upon an audience. The new critics believed that a text should not have to be understood relative to the responses of its readers; its merit (and meaning) must be inherent.

Terms for the critical methods they opposed in this essay are romantic criticism, biographical criticism, and genetic criticism (AKA "source-hunting"). They allege that these methods begin "by trying to derive the standard of criticism from the psychological causes of the poem and in biography and relativism" (from the introduction to "The Affective Fallacy").

Judging a poem is like judging a pudding or a machine. One demands that it work. Poetry is a feat of style by which a complex of meaning is handled all at once. Poetry succeeds because all or most of what is said or implied is relevant; what is irrelevant has been excluded, like lumps from pudding and 'bugs' from machinery. In this respect poetry differs from practical messages, which are successful if and only if we correctly infer the intention. They are more abstract than poetry.

The poem is not the critic's own and not the author's (it is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world beyond his power to intend about it or control it). The poem belongs to the public. It is embodied in language [and] is an object of public knowledge.

. . . the way of objective criticism of works of art . . . enables us to distinguish between a skilful murder and a skilful poem. A skilful murder is an example which Coomaraswamy uses, and in his system the difference between murder and the poem is simply a 'moral' one, not an 'artistic' one, since each if carried out according to plan is 'artistically successful. We maintain that [asking "whether the work of art' ought ever to have been undertaken at all and so whether it is worth preserving'"] is an inquiry of more worth than [asking "whether the artist achieved his intentions"], and since [the former] and not [the latter] is capable of distinguishing poetry from murder, the name 'artistic criticism' is properly given to [the former].

Criticism is "the public art of evaluating poems" and requires "terms of objectification"--"The evaluation of the work remains public; the work is measured against something outside the author."

. . . author psychology can be historical too, and then we have literary biography, a legitimate and attractive study in itself . . . Yet there is danger of confusing personal and poetic studies; and there is the fault of writing the personal as if it were the poetic.

There is a difference between internal and external evidence for the meaning of a poem. [Public internal evidence of the meaning of the poem] is discovered through the semantics and syntax of a poem, through our habitual knowledge of the language, through grammars, dictionaries, and all the literature which is the source of dictionaries, in general, through all that makes a language and culture; while what is . . . external is private or idiosyncratic; not a part of the work as a linguistic fact: it consists of revelations (in journals, for example, or letters or reported conversations) about how or why the poet wrote the poem.

Vortia: A Devoted Daughter?

From Portia’s conversation with Nerissa in Act I, ii, we can infer that actually at first Portia has fears if the wrong man will choose the right casket. She feels that the will of her dead father is not logic as she can neither choose whom she wants to marry nor refuse the one she dislikes as her will is checked by the will of her dead father.

But this reasoning is not in the fashion to choose me
a husband. O me, the word “choose”! I may neither
choose whom I would nor refuse whom I dislike; so
is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of
a dead father. (Act I, ii, lines: 19-22)

However, Nerrisa, assures her that her father was always pious so that lottery which he has planned in the three caskets of gold, silver, and lead, in which the one who chooses his meaning correctly will win Portia, will never be chosen correctly except by the person who truly loves Nerrisa.

From the above short description, it is right that Portia, as a devoted daughter, dares not to betray terms imposed by her dead father.

Definitely, for such a beautiful, noble, and intelligent character as Portia, we find her dead father’s will of the caskets as a choice of husband for her, is truly heartless. What would have happened to Portia if the vain, egoistic suitor had chosen correctly? Portia would have been stuck with a vain and arrogant husband, incapable of her love. Therefore, the readers feel a tremendous relief as they failed to choose correctly.

However, Portia’s father was correct on one count, for despite all Portia’s intelligence, she does fall for Bassanio’s good looks, and fails to detect the playboy and the fortune hunter in him.

For one thing, it is Shakespeare’s brilliance to raise the dramatic effect in the lottery of the caskets in which Bassanio’s choice of the casket is of crucial importance in the play. Antonio has already lost his fortune and is bankrupt. If Bassanio were to choose incorrectly, the play would not be a romantic comedy, for Portia’s and Bassanio’s love would have been lost too. Moreover Antonio would have to lose his life.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Shakespeare: A Romantic Playwright

The establishment of romantic drama in England was the work of Shakespeare's immediate predecessors known as the university wits (Kyd, Lyly, Greene, Peele, Marlowe, etc.) Shakespeare's plays follow the example set by these men. In other words, he is a romantic dramatist as distinguished from the classical dramatists of ancient Greece and Rome.

The Principles Behind the Ancient Classocal Drama:
Briefly speaking, the classical drama of antiquity was supposed to observe the following principles:
(1) It rigorously maintained a unity of subject and tone. As a result, it kept the spheres of tragedy and comedy entirely separate. A tragedy had to be a tagedy from first to last; it had to maintatin the proper tragic pitch and no humorous episode was permitted in it. A comedy, on the other hand, had to be a comedy from first to last, and no tragic element was allowed to enter into its composition.
(2) There was little or no dramatic action on the stage. The incidents composing the plot took place off the stage and were reported to the audience in dialogue.
(3) The three unities of time, place, and action controlled the writing of drama. The entire story of a play had to be confined to a single day; the scene of the entire play remained the same throughout; the plot was to be one, and no sub-plots or minor episodes were permitted.

Main Features of the Elizabethan Romantic Drama:
The Elizabethan drama of Shakespeare and his immediate predecessors departed from all the above principles.
(1) Romantic drama makes free use of variety in theme and tone, often mixing tragic and comic scenes in the same play.
(2) Romantic drama, again, is essentially a drama of action, nearly every incident of the play being exhibited on the stage. Romantic drama violates also the three unites. It allows the story to extend over months, and even years. It changes the scene as often as necessary, sometimes from one town or country to another. It employs sub-plots and under-plots, besides the central theme.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Role of Godot in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot"

The Role of Godot
by Svetlana Pershinova

In some works of literature, a character who appears briefly, or does not appear at all, is a significant presence. An example of this can be found in the play Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett.
The play deals with a hope for a change and a chance to be saved of two old frineds. One of the character is Godot, someone who never shows up. The reader finds out about him only through the conversations in the play. Although Godot is never physically present on stage, his presence is everywhere. The whole play, including all the actions and the theme itself, is affected by the mention of Godot.

No one in the play ever really saw him, or ever will. His appearance is not as important as a belief in him. The two friends, Estragon and Vladimir spend their lives waiting for this one person to show up, this one miracle to happen. It never does, but as Vladimir says, "It passes the time." It might appear surprising that the lives of two people can be based on the life of a third one, whom they never actually met. But in reality, they do not need him as a person. All they need is something to believe in, something to wait for.
Most people spend their lives witing for something, but they are not sure of what exactly. Vladimir and Estragon can consider themselves lucky. They know specifically what, or rather whom, they are waiting for : Godot. This faceless character affects their lives. He is a reason they are still alive. Every day, Estragon wants to kill himelf, but not only is there not enough rope, but there is also a hope that maybe, just maybe, Godot will appear the next day and everything will be different. Interestingly enough, Godot is also the one who keeps two friends coming back to the same spot, instead of wandering off and looking for a better place to live. Because of the endless promise that this one person will actually come, they do not leave the place.
Whether or not Godot exists does not make any difference. The belief in him keeps two people from killing themselves, yet living in a ditch. It keeps them away from the places where they want to go and at the same time, it keeps them together. This belief serves the most important function: it gives prupose to their lives.
Estragon and Vladimir are homeless, old and weary, and maybe they are right in thinking that they'd be better off being dead. Certainly Godot can be looked at as death itself, and that's what the two friends are waiting for. Still, death is considered to be a change and that's what Vladimir and Estragon want. And Godot, no matter what/who he is, is the one who can give them this change that they so desparately need.