Posted in Critical Essays (English Literature), Miscellaneous, Uncategorized

Edna Pontellier predestined to “awakening” in “solitude” and possibilities limitations of walking away from social bonds

The Awakening is an outstanding, existential and challenging novel about solitude. It challenges a whole tradition of novel writing by and about women in 19th C. American literature. Kate Chopin’s novel triumphs as a work of art, though diverting in approach from some major novels like “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert and “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. It is quite outstanding in its intensities of feeling, and the subtlety of its analysis of the position of the married woman in a highly conventional society.  

Kate Chopin in her bold novel presents before us a woman who had never been properly “awake”. Being a woman, she had very little or absolutely no sense of her own “self” and the newly discovered solitude suggests altogether new grounds and means of activity. This sensuous text tells of a woman’s rejection of her family, her seduction, and her awakening to passions and desires that impend to devour her. Edmund Wilson has praised the novel as “beautifully written.” Willa Cather explained its peculiar style as “exquisite,” “sensitive,” “profound” and “iridescent.”

The novel clearly shows the social constraints of women in the Victorian era. They were then expected to be docile and domestic— to raise children and submit to their husbands. The period of 1820-1860 witnessed the upsurge of an ideology of feminine conduct in America and an ideal of womanliness that has come to be known as the “Cult of Domesticity” or “Cult of True Womanhood.”

 “Women can either become wives and mothers…or exiles” (Papke, M.E.)

“Nature” as well as “Society” work together like forces to shape Edna Pontellier into a woman that they approve her and expect her to be, however only by way of her suicide. As the story develops, she increasingly feels that the identity afforded to her by marriage within Creole society is a false identity and something she did not desire. Determination to depart from ways of the society had driven like a death wound into her tender soul. The imagery of death and wounding indicates that her ‘new self’ is destined to be destroyed.

Edna Pontellier is finally capable of escaping their grasp in the end. Léonce along with society tend to possess her spirit, telling her to be passive, submissive and compliant, love her children unconditionally, to manage house, and maintain appearances. However, Raoul and Etienne, her children, are a constant reminder of her filial duty that a society expects from a “mother” They probably captivated her physical body, endeavoring to be reminiscent of the torture of childbearing that nature demands of her. Nature kept her adoring and tendering her children and proclaiming that she would give up everything for both of them, but it was her innate yearning for self-definition, individualism and independence that eventually guided to her “deadly rebirth”.

“For the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air…a familiar world that she has never known.”

In this the ultimate assertion is the universality of motherhood, her self-realisation through death is also a kind of rebirth. Almost nine months had passed from the time when she enjoyed enlightening summertime in Grand Isle; her “fetus- self” was completely prepared to be delivered.

“all her beautiful hair…drawn back and plaited. It lay in a long braid on the sofa pillow coiled like a golden serpent.”

The allusion to serpent can refer to two things first, It can be thought of as an imagery vibrant with ideas of the natural world secondly, it can be Edna Pontellier’s aversion to that world and its conventions. Another possibility is that the serpent may have references to The Bible, as serpent was the evil creature that beguiled and misled Eve to transgress against the law of almighty. It is due to the serpent’s persuasion, that God penalizes Eve by swearing that, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

The bitter paradox lies in the fact that she has realized that she can preserve the strength and purity of her newly discovered freedom only by destroying it. Its fate is inevitable and predestined by the societal conventions, and by the fact that she is a “woman”. Edna Pontellier, the protagonist is at last free to make choice, but only as long as she chooses to die.

Edna’s suicide is not a voluntary and conscious choice arrived at through her achievement of self- awareness and realization of her self-worth. While “she walked down the beach”, she was “not thinking” at all. She responds to the call of the sea while she was gripped in unconsciousness. The moment she enters the sea, she discards all her obligations.

“The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude”.

Sea is seductive and always calling. It is representative of possibilities which women constituted by patriarchy cannot think of or enjoy. It is malleable, and the waters allow Edna to give her own shape to the sea as she drowns. This is indicative of a sense of agency she acquires, finally.

Her significant act of stripping her clothes off cannot be thought of a gesture of self-liberation, rather it is indicative of a regression to “animality of infancy.” The climactic event of learning swimming, where the sea waves, melody, and her desire seemingly unite, captures the ambivalence of Mrs. Pontellier’s experience towards her solitude.

Her experience of birth as a new awakened self is directed backward to the womb, and not forward to a new life.

The solitude is actually intoxicating in every aspect, as it is when Edna is left solitary on Chênière Caminade to rest in immortal silence. (“She looked at her round arms…quality and texture of the flesh”). Also, when she is left alone after her Mr. Pontellier departs for New York, solitude becomes her final resort.

It is specifically in these flashes of elation, excitement, and exhilaration that she realizes her self, her liberty, her willpower, and her body. However, for this 19th C. woman, childbirth occurred in the silhouette of death; birth of Edna Pontellier’s new life occurs in the “abyss of solitude” i.e. sea which brings along with it associated idea of death.

We see various delightful moments in the novel that prove her charmingly courageous even in her solitude. She adores her “solitary self”. We also glimpse the delight and bliss of the discovery of “power of self” and strong denial to adjure that very power.

Chopin boldly states that woman cannot come into her own in a patriarchal society and if she tries, she will be looked at skeptically and be alone. She would necessarily be “solitary”. Awakened woman has no solace of companionship in Kate Chopin’s world.

Posted in Critical Essays (English Literature), Miscellaneous, Shakespeare, Uncategorized

Significance of the darker elements in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

At first glance, Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” seems to be an amusing and entertaining play. The twisted plot of the text arranges issues of love and power in apparently ludicrous and farcical ways. Examples that arise out of the play extend from Titania being compelled to love an ass to the disarray of four mortals i.e. Helena, Demetrius, Lysander, and Hermia. Despite the fact that the plot unfolds as a comedy, a darker side of the play’s apparently harmonious conclusion is revealed upon a closer examination of actions and dialogues of the various characters. There is a harsh and unfestive reality present in the play.

David Bevington argues that a fundamental tension exists in the play “between cosmic reassurance and the suggestion of something dark and threatening.” He further argues that fairies’ principal power to do good lies in withholding they are capable of. This is surely recognition of fairy power to harm but underrates the blessings at the end of the play.  

Jay L. Halio concludes that a poetic harmony is established in the last act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but only on the most superficial level. Shakespeare presents the somber aspects of human relationships, which can and do intrude.

According to Carl Jung, nothing like “latent dream” exists. He suggests, “Dreams are a part of nature, which harbors no intention to deceive our eyes, but express something as best it can”. Furthermore, “the dreams attempt to reveal rather than conceal”.

I feel that Shakespeare underscores the festive aspect of the season by twice associating it with the May Day. Moreover, most of the action of the play takes place at night and in a forest. Time and place suggest, both symbolically and literally, the operation of subconscious, especially in dreams.

There is a dark side to the play, as Jan Kott and many other critics have pointed out that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is by no means all fun and gauzy fairies. From the outset Hippolyta’s situation, as a captured bride, vanquished in battle, is at least problematical, and struggle of the lover in the forest, with each other and with themselves, is a vagarious as it is sometimes vicious.

The forest setting in the play is an obvious and common example of use of “the green world” by Shakespeare. It alludes to the feminine “Nature” in the play and also actively symbolizes the masculine fascination with the mystery and wild of the feminine. It promptly draws our attention to the patriarchal obsession with taming that very feminine, mystery and wild; certainly to place it within the courtly conventions of a male dominated structure.

A remarkable and sexually strong instance of metamorphosis is when Bottom is offered the head of an ass and Titania is condensed to the meager degree of “animal sexuality”. Humans surpass their own world and time when they voyage, with the fairies, to their primeval humanity. In that very humankind, into who Bottom is so offensively pushed, creatures are, by their character, cruel as well as savage. The besotted Titania in the play propels her followers off on guerilla attacks for bats’ wings to craft fur for her elves in addition to little consolation for her new love: This is the most grim side of the entire play.

Warning of Theseus to Hermia, the chances of death, living in a convent, if she turns out to be unsuccessful in marrying Demetrius, is the means that essentially initiates the action for the procedure of metamorphosis, in “fairy world” and the “actual world”.

As a result of this threat, Hermia decides to run away with Lysander to the forest that is located away from Athens, oblivious of the fact that they were heading to a territory of unrestrained, unconstrained, and unlimited opportunity. The forest to where Hermia, Lysander, and the other characters escape is the realm of fairyland, a insignia of the subliminal, that is “risky”, “grotesque”, “obscure”, “dark” and possibly “frightening” area.

Realm of “Athens” is effectively reflected in “fairyland” through poor governance and disorder. This was a land of resistance, the mindful & unaware, the “light and dark”, a territory where metamorphoses occur, area of fanatical pleasure, images integrating and melting into one another.

Although the play is represented as a “dream”, there is certain gloomy, dark and unpleasant connotation that indicates this is conceivably a “nightmare”. Evident insinuations of rape, death threats and clues of violence can be found in the play. Indeed, this play by Shakespeare has been described as “a most truthful and brutal violent play.” Its emphasis is mainly on liberation of the human situation and in what way it is potentially destructive in nature.

The “darker/ gloomier side of human nature” is portrayed through sex, love, and comedy. Play remarkably shows what may probably happen if the perceived structure of the outside world disintegrates and how stability of identity and separateness are lost. The linkage among reason, imagination and love are the vital to central theme of change and transfiguration.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is an account of change under the ambiguous impact of Love, Fancy and Dream. As per Theseus, the lovers in the play are unreasonable because they are at the pity of imagination. Generally, every character indicates towards dreams (dreaming).


“My Oberon! What visions have I seen!

Methought I was enamour’d of an ass.” (Act IV Scene I)

The dream in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is grim with scarcely/ barely a flicker of light wherever. In this so alluded as comedy, Shakespeare depicts exposures that are at the fringe of unconsciousness and at the edge of reason.

The fight of men to rule women forms one of the two major themes of the play.

Theseus comments upon winning Hippolyta: “Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword!” (Act I Scene I)

To the degree that Bottom is dominated by Titania, a man with the head of an ass, she is unknowingly already in the process of being brought in control by Oberon, who has made her want something that is no more than parody of a man. Bottom, with the head of an ass, is dull and odd, not to be considered as man. Similarly, as Titania’s “male centric” mastery of him is a dream incited by Oberon, man who is purposefully restoring control over her.

The enigmatic Night, Moonlight, and Wood of the play can be interpreted as making sexual crimes, i.e. violence, betrayal, stealth, viciousness, infidelity; take on the form of “probability” and “fairy agency”. The play thus exceptionally characterizes Theseus’ notorious rapes, perjuries and abandonments as dreadful “phantasies” or visualisations experienced by both Helena as well as Hermia.

Shakespeare’s darker purpose in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is to make us think of the fact that the delights of the fairy world are only a fragile concealment for the foolishness and errors of mankind.

Posted in Critical Essays (English Literature), Miscellaneous, Uncategorized

Wordsworth’s critique on education in “The Prelude”

Wordsworth is such a prophet in education. Others try to expound on education; however, Wordsworth on the other hand gives us his own narrative, the means by which an extraordinary mind and heart attained view bliss.

“The Prelude,” with its fineness and astounding profundity of psychological understanding, is perhaps the best and the most intriguing, current treatise on education. It may be referred to as a “Treatise on the Association of Ideas”.

In confessional account of his own life i.e. “The Prelude”, Wordsworth benefits the impact of freedom to wander among rustic scenes instead of the heaviness of “formal education” for improvement of protagonist’s character and mind. The narrator practices the association between Books and Nature. Wordsworth, in “The Prelude”, recommends a perfect mode of “education”, which depends on a method of life guided by the free will and free trade with components of “Nature”, where the subject enhances his spirit and soul inwardly, mentally and ethically. However, such methods of practical knowledge join with the feelings found in the universe of pastoral, ballad, rustic as well as romance.

According to Wordsworth, prevalent popular system rather than paying legitimate respect to its fundamental entirety, it appeared to inspire an aberrant severance of one part from the other. In that system, succumbing of power to sheer learning, perception and character to intellectual precocity; sole objective of which was somewhat to show a child what he/she can do rather than to prepare him/her for what it will be called upon to do in varied walks of life. It was against this one-sidedness in conventional and customary system of education that the writer coordinated his keenest parody.

After upbraiding the mix-up of overwhelming the youngster’s early stages with didactic, moralising, preaching, and sanctimonious books, he moves forward to clarify that “formal education” should start:

“by putting the child in the way of acquiring, without measure or limit, … and the habits and structure of animals as belong to it not as an art or science, but as a magazine of form and feeling.”

One subject, in any case, firmly associated with his perspective of advanced education, requires an expression of observation. Often it is postulated that he is an adversary of science. Leslie Stephen says that Wordsworth loathed or despised science and its very concept since it respects certainties without the inventive and enthusiastic shading.

However, anything is repugnant to the artist is neither science nor its applications, however the inclination and selectiveness of what asserts its claim the label of ‘science’.

Wordsworth’s fundamental dispute according to me to comprise the elementary name for educative reformer of present time and in addition his own. The point of the educator in the final resort is to acquire in the youngster a state of mind (that is additionally a state of emotion, response and will) in regard to the items that are transported before it.

There are three primary instants in this confessional account that is autobiographical in nature, when the poet relinquishes supremacy of “Nature” to veneration or capitulate to sources that have proved damaging and illusionary for the individual’s sensibility, to be specific the times of residence in “Cambridge,” “France,” and “London” where protagonist experienced the impact of the “formal education”, the city life and that of French Revolution. Essentially, those occasions are opposed with Wordsworth’s formative model. The education gained through the experience of “Nature” drove the writer towards the affection for natural objects like forests, fields, hills, and streams; and of Nature herself as a cosmic, profound, intelligent and spiritual principle that enlivens the world. Then again, it comprises in a procedure of advancement of the human sensibility, most importantly training the faculty of “Imagination” for passionate and ardent interpretation of the profound, spiritual and symbolical implications endorsed in the sensory features of natural forms.

Thoughtful and sentimental impression of this harmony among the immanence of a thing and the amazing quality caught by spirit shapes the bit of Wordsworth’s origination of and his association with Nature, giving the premise to his “poetic education”. The aesthetic association of the foil exerted by the power of artist’s spirit and brain with the impact of the outward forms, especially manifested in sounds and sights, is affirmed in Wordsworth’s “parting word” (Book VI, 732) to the story of his experiences along the journey of Alps.

Speaker represents, within the sight of the natural influences, the faculties of his psyche played out a dynamic part:

“Not prostrate… magnificent region.” (Book VI, 736 – 739).

Growth of the writer’s mind, as a result of the process of education through autobiographical and excursive converse with Nature, happened as the sensory affections of the external forms, transformed into poetic images, encouraged (in a mode determined according to a providential, higher design) the spiritual advancement towards the accomplishment of his poetic career:

“every sound or sight, … marked out by Heaven.” (Book VI, 746 – 753).

The progression of the flow inborn in the artist endures hardship in a potential crisis created by the need of freedom that he felt on the ground of the formal instruction forced on him, and also of the ordinary, mundane and energetic joys that deviate him from his natural devotion, two sorts of impediment to his commitment for the prospect of more profound human interests.

Book VI relates the key crucial events amid Wordsworth’s days at college (lines 1 to 321) and movement through the Alps (lines 322 to 778). Back to Cambridge, the “bonds of indolent society” (Book VI, 20) slackened their clutch over the hero’s affections. In this way, despite the fact that “detached / internally from academic cares” (Book VI, 25 to 26) he could utilize his will towards studious introspection and spared not much time to the contemplation of external pictures of Nature. Also, considering the love and independence of “freedom” that made him defiant towards academics (institutional/ methodological) regulations and restrictions in study, the narrator has to attempt to respond to “What love of Nature, what original quality/of contemplation, what intuitive truths” might be “gained” or “preserved”? (Book VI, 36 to 39).

I think each child possesses hidden noble capacities and competences, that might be developed, hastened, established and quickened, if we approach it in the correct and acceptable manner; but we will never legitimately cultivate their advanced nature if we persist to supply their minds with the purported principles, rudiments, and fundamentals. We must realize that Arithmetic or Science will never make them affectionate and tender hearted neither will the precise knowledge of measurements of earth prompt/assist them to appreciate its actual beauties. Facts would never nurture their soul, which is essential in fruitful development.

One must lead them to discover their ultimate gratification in “Nature” during the initial years, let them run in the fields, live in a free spirited way, acquire knowledge about wildlife and observe real things as firsthand observers. Children certainly will educate themselves under right or favorable circumstances. They need sympathy, administration and supervision far more than conventions and instruction.

Posted in Critical Essays (English Literature), Miscellaneous, Uncategorized

Asia as a “Transforming Presence” in P.B. Shelley’s “PROMETHEUS UNBOUND”

The dramatic action of ‘Prometheus Unbound’ has been taken allegorically by various critics. Frederick A. Pottle puts in words concisely “Prometheus (Greek meaning “Forethought”) symbolises intellect, understanding, the inventive rational faculties of mankind whereas Asia symbolises effective side of mind: emotion, passion, imagination. The separation of them is a “fall” of the Blakean sort…”.This analysis gives exegesis to P.B Shelly’s own assertion in A defence of poetry that “the great instrument of moral good is imagination”. Asia’s role in dramatic action of the play is substantial that her absence would have afflicted the body of work with a kind of Diplegia. Asia’s first appearance in the play regenerates nature from dying winter giving rebirth to spring conforming Mary Shelly’s interpretation of Asia as an Oceanide wife of Prometheus that symbolise Venus or Nature.

When Prometheus denies the ‘pleasure of revenge’ while repenting his curse for Jupiter or as Carlos Baker contended; recovers after a momentary lapse uttering “Disdain! Ah, no! I pity thee”, In this moment of pity the agent of love becomes driving force in realising Prometheus that only by purging hatred he can lead the mankind towards its Ideal:

                       “Most vain all hope but love” (Act-1)

From Act I to Act II the reversal is apparent in the movement from night to day, nightmares to dream, winter to spring ,dark to light towards its Ideal or Asia, as she leaves her Indian vale her Venus-like character is made evident by Shelly in the way her presence gives Life to barren vale “rugged once , and desolate & frozen..But now invested with fair flowers & herbs”, also when Panthea beholds her sister as regenerating agent & underscores “her transforming presence”. Panthea’s dream at the feet of Prometheus becomes a medium to convey to the reader that the prophesied doom of Jupiter is initiated. Two dreams: first dream presaged the liberation of Prometheus & second dream demands Asia to take part in making the prior possible by succumbing to ‘Destiny’ as symbolized by Demogorgon. The second dream recalled is symbolic where Shelly uses imagery like “lightning-blasted almond tree”, “wrinkling the earth with frost” & echoes summons both sisters by giving signals “But on each leaf was stamped…..Oh, Follow, Follow!” & indicates whither to descend as well as why to descend to the cave of Demogorgon ;

                “In the world unknown sleeps a voice unspoken;

                  By thy step alone can its rest be broken; child of ocean”

Asia & Panthea pursue the sound firstly through remote forests with rocks& caverns then finally borne to ‘pinnacle of rock among mountains’ from where they descend to the cave being guided by echoes “to the deep, to the deep, down, down!”.So, the bewildered dreams leads to confrontation of Asia and Demogorgon which will result in unbinding of Prometheus & transforming Mankind from demonic to Idyllic by dethroning Jupiter who in shelleyan terms “will breed his own overthrow”.

If Asia in Mary Shelly’s terminology is ‘Nature as well as Love’ then Demogorgon is Necessity or ‘mighty law’, Asia is beckoned to his cave where the union of love with “mighty darkness filling the seat of power” suggests that second and third acts are inevitable response to the first as it assures the downfall of Jupiter. Prometheus represent ‘human mind’ which have attained mental reformation by casting hatred & to attain Ideal of cosmic reformation the union of power i.e. Demogorgon with Asia that radiates love and is related as “lamp of earth” becomes an inevitable necessity. When the destined hour arrives as the procession of charioteers, one is driven by ghastly charioteer & the other that attends Asia is driven by “young spirit, with eyes of hope” that stands for the ‘hour of spring’ as they pass within a cloud panthea inquires “tell whence is the light which fills the cloud is?” to which spirits replied her to behold the radiance from Asia’s beauty. Admitting as Frederick A. Pottle puts it precisely that the Dramatic Action of Asia in the ‘cave of demogorgon’ is parallel to that of the Prometheus in first Act; Prometheus merely pitied which resulted in regeneration after a momentary lapse as a ‘instantaneous conversion’ but it’s the release of Asia to illume the world as a “child of light” or symbol of love which transforms the old world anew. Her struggle involves real difficulty of risking herself in the hope of transfiguration revealed in dreams. “All the difficulties she has overcome have prepared for the decision she now makes” (William H. Hilderband).So, the moral reformation is inevitable without adding to ‘human mind/thought’ (i.e. Prometheus) the power of love or Asia just as the cosmic reformation will result from casting down Jupiter, the root of the evils in human mind that Demogorgon concerns in his oracular replies conceding Asia’s account in exorcising evil from mankind ;

                           “Fate, time, occasion, chance and change? To these

                             All things are subject but eternal love” (II.iv.119-20)

       In the Demogorgon’s realm ‘the forces of eternal love’ must cooperate with ‘natural law’ to assure the downfall of evil, in the chariot’s journey as well she cooperates with the spirit but finally gets impatient to urge on the chariot more quickly with her own breath but spirit reverts “Alas! It could not”. The journey needs her as much as she needs it to release her husband, but her efforts can’t turn the wheel against the mighty law of ‘destiny’ or Demogorgon. Thus, love which regenerates the human will also assures the new age “transforming presence” with the reunion of Prometheus & Asia in their fountain-lit-cave where they will talk of time & change. Prometheus the benefactor of mankind is united with nature the human race achieves its Ideal.

Posted in Critical Essays (English Literature), Miscellaneous, Shakespeare, Uncategorized


Feminist readings have made apparent the gendered textuality by making use of conventional tools of interpretation. According to Kathleen Mc Luskie for a reader to make sense of the play the preliminary requirement is to accept “an equation between ‘human nature’ & ‘male power’”. The patriarchal authority challenges the sexual politics of the play where “male authority” is assumed to be fixed social order any remodelling of which can lead to destruction & chaos. Lear’s decision to divide his kingdom among his three daughters based on love-test as a contest accordingly “we our largest bounty may extend” (1.1.45-45); leads to abrupt result of Cordelia’s resistance to barter her affection for material profits & retain half her love for “that lord whose hands must take my plight”. Cordelia’s confirmation of her love “According to my bond, nor more nor less” leads to King Lear’s violent outbursts in terms of sexuality, gender & position within the family. He takes cordelia’s response as filial ingratitude, denial of “her kind nursery” when he expected the most & reduces her function to a mere material good or cattle as “now her price is fallen”(1.1.195).

         The patriarchal misogyny is evident particularly in the demonization of Goneril & Regan, a reader has to assume male power as fixed authority any stir in that is rendered as reversal of social order. The sisters’ villainy is textually expressed in powerfully explicit & cruel terms, whereas Edmund’s evil behavior is justified to a certain extent by his status as a bastard. First goneril’s unkind behavior and later dismissal of his hopes of comfort from regan, the resulting sorrow is conveyed by lear in gendered terms:

“O! how this mother swells upward toward my heart!

 Hysteric passio! Down, thou climbing sorrow!” (2.4.56-58)

The feminine term used to characterise his loss as ‘hysterical sorrow’ confirms the gendered textuality of Shakespeare’s play. Coppelia Kahn in her essay “The absent mother in king Lear” says that patriarchal structures looms not only on the surface of the text but beneath them as “maternal subtext; the psychological presence of the mother whether or not mothers are literally represented as characters”. The patriarchal order is replaced by ‘maternal power’ when Lear’s decline to pathetic insanity becomes vulnerable in hands of destructed social order. Lear coveys his rage about his daughters’ unkindness by attacking their ‘power of procreation’ which attacks the women in general;

       “Down from the waist they are centaurs, though women all above.

       …there’s hell, there’s darkness, there’s the sulphurous pit….”

When Lear is exposed to storm after facing rejection from Goneril & Regan he dismisses tears as “women’s weapon” & the ‘male bond’ of Kent, the fool & Edgar becomes a refuge to his choleric sorrow. This male solidarity carries an Anti-feminine view voiced by its entire members; the fool exposes Lear to his own weakness by mocking his masculinity of having given ‘the rod’ to his daughters, Kent tries to provoke him to use force in order to restore the rightful patriarchal order & Edgar blames ‘lust of my mistress heart’ as the cause of his vulnerable predicament as a beggar. I agree with Kathleen McLuskie criticism in brief words “women as the source of the primal sin of lust, combining with concerns about the threat to the family posed by female insubordination”. Edgar also like Lear blames woman role in procreation as the center of chaos & corruption, in the duel with Edmund he says ‘the dark and vicious place where thee he got cost him his eyes’ concluding at last the structure of play as misogynist. The two wicked sisters are rendered as lusty, whereas the dramatist kept positive virtuous character like cordelia absent for the large part of the play. Even Lear’s decision to abdicate in the beginning of the play shows that he wishes to withhold the authority he is evidently renouncing. The male anxiety anxiety is prevalent throughout along with humanity explicated through narrative, linguistic and dramatic organisation. Edmund himself detaches from women love of regan and goneril which is bodily, shakespeare presentation of their love as fleshy is more foregrounded than the inconstancy of edmund ostensible in his treatment as “to both these sisters have I sowrn my love; each jealous of the other,as the stung are of the adder”. The manly pity of the author overlooks edmund’s “lusty stealth of nature”.Throughout the play the imprint of mothering on male psyche is evident , whether or not the female characters as mother are represented but they are present in the male psyche. Lear’s fantasy of finding shelter in Cordelia’s kind nursery is fulfilled at the end when they share prison where she becomes “the foster-nurse of nature” and “two alone will sing like birds I’ the cage”. But in the final part of the play Lear is forced to leave his world of fantasy and bear the dead body of Cordelia in her arms admitting that a daughter cannot perform the role of a mother. The irrecoverable loss is devastating leaving behind only male characters. As Lear says; “howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!…she is gone forevermore..she’s dead as earth”.Kahn’s criticism using the lens of psychoanalysis and historical context in interpretation concludes that “ to excavate a tragedy of masculinity which far from expresses male supremacy by depicting ‘the failure of a father’s power to command love in a patriarchal world’” (Kahn).

Posted in Critical Essays (English Literature), Uncategorized


Bildungsroman is a german term for a “novel of formation”, concerning psychological development of protagonist from childhood to maturity “this process usually involves recognition of one’s identity and role in the world” (M.H. Abrams, a glossary of literary terms).Attia Hossain’s sunlight on a broken column a novel in first person narrative, portrays Laila as an alter-ego of writer herself exhibiting resistance against the patriarchal inclinations of her family in the course of seeking her individuality. As a reader considering the novel from the perspective of “personal growth & individuation or bildungsroman”, though there are numerous young characters to mention yet it’s only through the consciousness of Laila that a reader is invited to take a look in the private domains or zenana of Muslim women.                                                                    

Attia eloquent portrayal of hierarchies through deep penetration into the structures of family by her protagonist acute observation (Laila) of spatial images at metaphorical level in the beginning of the novel as: “Into this vast room the coloured panes of the arched doors let in not light but shadows that moved”, This entrance of ‘Ashiana’ is construed by her as a wall obstructing the light of freedom into the women’s wing. Laila’s progress as a young girl in conflict with patriarchal functioning of the house leads to the course of self-questioning throughout due to uncertainties surfacing from various events. The privilege of ‘memsahib education’ has led to her denial of myopic chauvinistic view of ‘Taluqdars’ prevalent in the house that is “microcosm of world at large with not only its womenfolk in purdah but its retinue of servants who represent the community at large” (Jasbir Jain), her compassion for proletarian folks weigh down by feudalism attests her Marxist streak. Laila’s unique approach to institutions like marriage, education &politics puts her in position of “other” especially in the terms of politics where her revolutionary spirit remains unsettled. Zahra unquestioning acceptance of uncle Mohsin’s decision about her marriage reminds Laila to never allow herself “be paired off like an animal”, the insensitive treatment of Nandi provokes her to interrogate at last “why did you not bring me up like Zahra? Why did you send me among those other girls who are torn apart?”

Laila’s hatred for “power play” in the family firstly shown, through Baba jan’s domination where she feels her “girlhood a heavy burden”, then uncle Hamid’s political ambitions & so-called reformist liberal approach gives rise to her in-between personality emerging from binaries of traditional & modern ideologies respectively. Her actions are in complete divorce with her though process that leads to silent separation from Aunt Abida who is remarkable woman in the eyes of patriarchy, Abida’s sense of duty, honour & self-sacrifice are the forces against which Laila is struggling to gain freedom. The recalcitrant disposition makes her question the hypocrisy of “hawk-like begum” who comes for bride-hunting and Romana is left with “no privilege of choice” and almost treated like material display in a shop-window. Laila being a dependent has yet had a privilege of property to back her position unlike Aunt abida & Zahra who have no choice and are merely the pawns in hands of uncle hamid’s hegemony. The problem with laila’s struggle for political & personal freedom is noticed by her friend Nita who says “the trouble with you is you walk round & round in circles because you have no sense of direction”.

The novel has resistance narrative “attia had told the story of big talukdar household from the intimacy of felt experience & yet from distant point of recollection”-Mulk Raj Anand . As a reader one can sense the imprints of writer’s ideology in laila’s conduct as hosain herself stated in a 1997 interview that “laila has something of me in her”. Laila resents Aunt saira’s opposition to her ‘love marriage’ with Ameer based on the grounds of his breeding & her sense of loss of family honour behind the facade of her personal greed for laila’s property. Laila finds an escape from family customs as she tells to ameer

“I have no courage, Ameer. I have never done anything I really believed in..I have never been allowed to make decisions; they are always made for me…sometimes I want cry out ‘you are crushing me, destroying my individuality’ ”

Laila comes across different world at different stages of her life first, at school later at the university that give rise to the split in her personality as the traditional values at home are in conflict with the air of modernity outside the four walls of zenana. Laila’s decision to go against her family by choosing a man of her own choice is resentful to Aunt abida’s in terms of ‘izzat’& honour of the family, who takes Laila’s action as disobedient and defiant resulting in years of silence between them as Laila considered “she was a part of thinking I had rejected”. She refuses to be “the repository of her family’s masculine honour” even at the risk of being outcast from the community that has orthodox notions of associating love with sex as Laila admits “I had been guilty of admitting I loved… No one can stop me marrying ameer if only to prove the purity of love”. But the notion of ‘love conquers all’ hardly works in Attia’s novel as in this ‘Resistance narrative’ everything falls apart in the final section of novel & as Sarla Palkar in‘Beyond purdah’ remarked “subject hood – for a person or for a nation- is a painful process”. The loss brings anguish whether it’s Ameer’s death in the process of self-realisation of Laila or aftermath of partition in struggle of national freedom. In the end of the novel works a critique of romantic love novel, Laila sets aside her idealisation of modernity &love marriage and commence on her new course leaving behind the old order as she says “I have been waiting for you Asad. I am ready to leave now”.I agree to Antoinette Burton argues that “sunlight is not self-evidently a bildungsroman .It is not teleological, as novels of development invariably are; quite the contrary”.

Posted in Critical Essays (English Literature), Uncategorized

Medieval Dream Theories

Scholarship on medieval dream visions and theories of dreaming has been a genre unto itself since the late nineteenth century. Late classical organisations of dreams discriminated generally between divinely inspired dreams and mere psychological disturbances.

Medieval Christian writers found themselves anxiously torn between the possibilities of demonic inspiration for dreams and the plentiful scriptural evidence of prophetic dreams.  None of the medieval dream theorists have accepted neither Freud’s much confident pronouncement that ‘dreams are the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious’ in “The Interpretation of Dreams” nor post – Aristotelian attempts to reduce dreaming to the energy exchanges between the synapses and grey cells.

Stephen Kruger’s “Dreaming in the Middle Ages” offers a subtle and rich history of medieval theories of the nature of dreams.

The theme of dreams was common in Medieval and Middle English literature. This popular theme has been reflected in “ The Nun’s Priest’s Tale”, from Chaucer’s the Canterbury Tales. The main dream theories held during the period have been presented in the Tale in a humorous way.

The argument between Chauntecleer and Pertelote, the two main characters of the tale is related to the significance of dreams. Pertelote argues that physiological processes cause dreams, whereas Chauntecleer lays emphasis on the fact that dreams foretell what is to come.

The moral tale validates prophetic dreams, which certainly cannot be understood as Chaucer’s intention. Therefore, the arguments of Chauntecleer and Pertelote are equally true, upholding the most accepted view of that time, which is a mixture of the two standpoints: dreams can sometimes be prophetic and sometimes not.

The first-person dream-frame narrative served as the most popular English poetic form in the later Middle Ages. In The English Dream Vision, Stephen Russell contends that the poetic dreams of Chaucer, Lang- land, the Pearl poet, and others employ not simply a common external form but one that contains an internal, intrinsic dynamic or strategy as well.

“On the Borders of Middle English Dream Visions”, a provocative and solid essay by Peter Brown explores the power of “liminal” in medieval dream poetry. Brown specifically sees Chaucer’s dream poems, drawing on the dream’s power as a state between waking and sleeping.

Stressing the power of dream, medieval writers try to control its ambiguity and danger through codification.