Salome

Salome – Titian

‘Salome’ Analysis

‘Salome’ is an angry poem. The constant repetition of the ‘ter’ sound at the end of most of the lines makes this energy relentless, creating uneasy half-rhymes that alert the poem’s audience to the speaker’s arguably deranged state of mind. These words that finish the lines often differ very slightly such as ‘better’ being followed by ‘butter’, and ‘blighter’ followed by ‘biter’. Not only is this possibly confusing for the reader, it increases the rhythm of the poem. The emotion is intense and unrelenting which this rhythm reflects and intensifies. These almost rhyming words give an impression of being disjointed, like how the speaker must people in relation to others and how the man’s head is now separated from his body. These sounds also build up to the unveiling of this brutal act. The effect of this is that the anger has a definite presence before the result of this anger is shown. This suspense is also created by the speaker mentioning subtle hints such as “colder than pewter” and “like a lamb to the slaughter”. The first is a fairly obvious hint but is overshadowed by the speaker’s forgetfulness concerning the man’s name. There is enjambment between the first, ‘Peter’ and the three others which shows that she really has no idea. Her single-worded statement, “Strange” may refer to the coldness, but also to the fact that he is a complete stranger to her. The man being a stranger further reflects the disjointedness of the speaker and the poem.

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To be or not to be – Analysis

‘To be or not to be’ Analysis

In this soliloquy, Hamlet’s view of life is that it is full of hardship. He presents life as being two options; “to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles”. The use of imagery with connotations of war shows Hamlet to see life as a constant battle. The weapons mentioned are long range suggesting the possibility of being unsuspecting of the attack. This also lends itself to the possibility of missing which links to the “outrageous fortune”. The adjective ‘outrageous’ is possibly used to emphasise the connotations of fortune as it can mean the inability to predict, but it also has connotations of being more than is required. Hamlet, therefore, feels as though the odds are weighted against him. This is furthered by the metaphor used of a “sea of troubles” which equates his problems with the vast expanse of the sea and its power. These images are contrasted with Hamlet’s description of being “shuffled off this mortal coil” as the verb ‘shuffle’ is usually linked to embarrassment or awkwardness. This betrays Hamlet’s view that much that we do is pointless; the heroic deeds we believe to have done are just little actions. The specific problems Hamlet experiences are hinted at by the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to”. Not only may this mean his mother’s incestuous marriage with Claudius that upsets Hamlet, but also his dead father who returns as a spirit telling him to avenge his death which causes much of Hamlet’s anguish. This phrase may also mean the actual effects of aging or being wounded. Similarly, Hamlet calls life a “calamity” and a “mortal coil”; ‘coil’ may mean a literal coil which goes back on itself, or it may mean confusion which is the more probable meaning. Each of these examples demonstrates Hamlet’s view of the world as confusing and against him. The very reasons for this soliloquy show this as Hamlet is trying to reason with his conflicting thoughts on death.
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O, that this too solid flesh would melt…

In this post I shall tackle Hamlet, a formidable task which I feel I will not be able to do justice to its words. This feeling is one that Hamlet may have felt, and one we all feel when posed with such questions whose answers seem beyond our reach.
Due to the play’s reputation, when I did read and watch Hamlet, I felt obliged to see its deeper meaning. I certainly did, but I question as to whether it was due to what I have heard of the play or what I truly felt. TS Eliot said that Hamlet “is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear”. It is this excess that I find hard to come to terms with. I even might entertain the possibility that it is us, the audience, who have added this excess. This, however, can be argued for any interpretation so I will cease my pondering on this subject for the moment. To clarify, I am not saying that Hamlet is devoid of the meaning we see in it. I found it a very emotional play and the questions I found being posed to me are ones that we need to think about.
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Why

I read because I am hungry to know things. I want to understand the world better and I try to do this through books, poems, and plays. Literature is not always easy to explain and that is it is able to be so truthful to who we are. It is demanding and difficult, it requires you to think really hard about things you wouldn’t usually, but really should. I believe we are constantly changing and by reading literature, you give yourself more opportunity to choose the direction you are going. By reading, you become critical; you cannot agree with everything a writer says and this is an important skill in life. By being critical you do not have to become an old cynic, you become more aware of who you are and what you are doing. You become a fuller person rather than an automated outline.  

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Milton’s Lycidas

As I first ventured to read this poem by Milton I was somewhat apprehensive. With a little concentration, however, and the help of Google, I found myself enjoying reading it very much. I think that this is partly due to its similarity with Wordsworth’s poems, a poet I am very fond of.

This is due to the pastoral nature of Lycidas, the idealisation of country life which both poets do; “What hard mishap hath doom’d this gentle swain?”, swain meaning country youth or shepherd. This is similar to Wordsworth’s There was a boy in which he paints a picture of a boy perfectly in tune with nature and therefore completely at peace. Milton’s excessive use of imagery containing nature and plants furthers how pastoral this elegy is. He mentions the “rathe primrose” (rathe meaning ready to bloom), the “pale jasmine”, the “white pink”, and the “glowing violet”. I particularly like the last description, and the combination of all of these in one stanza creates a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. Despite the poem being an elegy, mourning a dead friend, this inclusion of spring and new life connects Lycidas’s death with life, and therefore places Lycidas within the whole cycle of nature and mother earth. In There was a boy, Wordsworth does the same thing when he describes the boy “while he hung listening”; the use of the word ‘hung’ gives of the impression that he was no leaving to go away from the vale, that he is part of the landscape. His death is also part of the landscape as the church yard in which he is buried also “hangs”.  Lycidas makes several references to Virgil’s Ecologues, which is considered the first poem in a classical style on a pastoral subject, such as the line “Who would not sing for Lycidas” which comes from “Who would not sing for Gallas” in the Ecologues. Furthermore, Lycidas is anachronistic (not chronological) which is like the original pastoral elegies.
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Hard Times

I started reading this novel because I was studying the time period in which Dickens was writing in History and therefore felt it would give me a deeper insight. It did, and Mr Bounderby is the epitome of the belief in the self-made man, despite what he really turns out to be. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and the different stories that come together make it interesting till the last page.

A theme running through Dickens’s Hard Times was pity. It is a pity towards the unreal or superficial. When feelings become less superficial and forced, this pity lessens; In Mr Gradgrind’s plea to Bitzer, he seems emotionally raw but this grief does not provoke pity in the reader. In fact, it causes the opposite; admiration and joy that he has changed his ways and is no longer governed purely by facts.

The role of the reader is also interesting in this novel. When Sparsit is spying on Louisa and Jem, the reader takes on the same role as a spy. This causes any romance that could be present in the affair to be diminished as it is cheapened and doesn’t mean anything. Jem’s words are full of cliche and for the reader to be swept away, we would have to be part of this conversation. As it is, the reader has no investment in this affair, and nor does Jem considering his willingness to give up and go home. This therefore reveals the scene to have only one purpose which is to ‘wake’ Louisa, and in turn her father, up. Jem has also been compared to Mephistopheles from Dr Faustus which reinforces this impression of him being only present to cause needed disturbance. Sissy is not able to take this role as she is too different from the family as she comes from a completely different social class and situation.

It is interesting how it is the circus people who are able to love naturally and have happy families, as we discover on Sissy’s return for help, whereas the Gradgrinds and others all suffer a lonely fate. This is perhaps to show the family taking on an “intellectual burden” as the lower classes were deemed too simple. This role may have been enforced by Dicken’s own life as he read to the illiterate.

I found the ending fairly depressing. We are, however, reminded that the characters are only fictional and instead of mourning their fate, we should learn from what their mistakes have shown us;

“It rests with you and me, whether, in our two fields of action, similar things shall be or not. We shall sit with lighter bosoms on the hearth, to see the ashes of our fires turn grey and cold”

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Reading Lolita in Teheran

On the cover of this book, Margaret Atwood is quoted as saying “all readers should read it,” and she is absolutely right. Dr Nafisi weaves together her own memories and her literary criticism because, as her ‘magician’ says in the last few pages, it would be impossible for her to separate these into two different strands. The result of this is that the works she discusses, Nabokov, James, Austen, and Fitzgerald, all take on a new importance in the reader’s mind too. Before reading this book, I had had little knowledge of what Teheran had been like, so not only was it fascinating in a literary conext but also in a global and political way.

What is said on Lolita is very interesting, perhaps because I have such love for this novel. Parallels are constantly drawn between Dr Nafisi’s and her student’s situation and that of Lolita. Humbert’s ‘solipisation’ of Lolita, the way he attempts to possess her completely, is similar to the effects of the regime. People were not allowed individuality as this threatened their power.  These comparisons that are constantly made, such as Ayatollah Khomeini’s dream and that of Gatsby’s, show how literature embody human nature. This is not to say that literature is reality, but that it is culturally important to recognise our own failings and attributes.

Many people disregard books as being a waste of time, being too far from reality, but Reading Lolita in Teheran highlights how indispensable literature actually are. It is a fundamental need of people to let their mind wander, to break down the barriers. This takes on a greater strength in this novel as discussing western books such as The Great Gatsby was a considerable offence. In a world where every action is controlled, each act of defiance, be it letting a strand of hair fall out from beneath a veil (an image repeated throughout) or just letting your imagination run wild, is important in it’s own right. Dr Nafisi says aboutLolita “Yet the novel, the finished work, is hopeful, beautiful even, a defence not just of beauty but of life, ordinary everyday life, all the normal pleasures that Lolita, like Yassi, was deprived of,” which emobodies the nature of what Dr Nafisi is trying to tell her readers.

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What is the point of art?

This is a question that almost everybody has an answer to. Some would accuse art as being merely a superficial distraction, designed to inflate the artist’s egos and all his admirer’s who ‘understand’ his work on a deeper level. This might be one side, but to dismiss art in this way is foolish. The marks left by inked fingers and the stories passed down through voice precede the sterile laboratories in which people expect the absolute truth to be extracted, dissected, and conquered. This extract is from Lehrer’s book, Proust was a neuroscientist; 


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Lo-lee-ta


In a way I have been delaying writing about my favourite novel, Lolita by Nabokov because I am worried I will not be able to do it justice. I have to, however, use this novel as Day 1 of the challenge as it is as much my favourite book as it can be, although labeling it such causes uneasiness. Maybe it is that feeling you had as a child when choosing which toy was your “favourite”…
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