Saturday, June 29, 2013
The poem Matilda, written by Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), is a typical story written in simple verse format which tells of Matilda, who was prone to telling lies. Known for works which were popularized in the late Nineteen Century and early Twentieth Century, Hilaire Belloc's poetry was diverse, though the Cautionary Tales for Children seem to have captured the hearts of parents, teachers and young readers, particularly when warning about the results of bad behavior. The book containing the poem also appeals to those who enjoy satire, and are familiar with the political time setting of the book.
This particular poem is an example of the messages written by Belloc for a audience of children, and one can imagine the nanny reading this to the children with a very animated voice, so as to entertain and to educate the children in the particular vice of telling lies and the consequences of being untruthful. Popularized in this edition, the poem was illustrated by his friend Edward Gorey in almost a Monty Python sketch style.
Matilda comes over as the daughter of a wealthy family, and when she calls for the services of the London fire brigade in a moment of boredom, this causes chaos. Her aunt was aware of her vice and certainly had more respect for people who told the truth. Coming to terms with the vice the child had and her ability to tell such whopping lies, her aunt was to live to tell the tale of how Matilda had indeed given the fire brigade a false alarm.
The meaning is very plain in the way the poem is written. There is no real need to make an analysis of the meaning of the poem, though the message is very subtle and the verse contains clever use of words, the simplicity of which add to the impact of the message. Much as the “Boy who cried wolf” fable by Aesop, Hilaire Belloc appeared to have a good understanding of the vices of children, and although not clear from this verse, one may even assume that he had a love/hate relationship with youth. He demonstrates this in attempting to address the folly of their ways in many of the cautionary verses presented, as well as admonishing the folly of adults in other satirical works within the book. Having had five children, they would certainly have influenced the writer and encouraged him in his humorous attempt to provide guidelines for children with vices.
To a certain extent the author mocks his own works when asked by a reader in the introduction to this book whether the tales found
The Caucasian Chalk Circle opens on Easter Sunday, a time for the Resurrection of Christ. This is important because instead of a resurrection, there is an insurrection. The Governor will get killed by his brother. The fact that it is Easter Sunday is thus the first of the many religious themes present in the play. For example, the fact that the Fat Prince is the Governor's brother brings to mind the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Brecht will continue to undermine religion throughout the play in both subtle and obvious ways; notice that the act of entering the church is juxtaposed with the image of the soldiers pushing the common people out of the way, thus undermining the religious aspects of going to church.
It is important to note that the Fat Prince greets his brother. This is so unusual the the Governor remarks on it, "But did you hear Brother Kazbeki wish me a happy Easter?" Soon thereafter the Fat Prince usurps power and takes over the city. The relationship between the brothers is thus foreshadowed by the Governor's comment, in which he expresses surprise at being greeted by his brother.
Another important moment is when Natella, the Governor's wife, tells her Adjutant how jealous of Michael she really is. She is desperate for attention from her husband. "But Georgi, of course, will only build for his little Michael. Never for me! Michael is all! All for Michael!" This jealousy of her child is important since she abandons him later in the Act.
Brecht's sarcasm towards religion is reintroduced when the Governor is led onstage in chains. The Singer remarks, "And now you don't need an architect, a carpenter will do." This alludes to the fact that Jesus was a carpenter; the Governor needs Jesus to intervene and save him on this Easter Sunday. This will of course not happen.
Throughout the play are dispersed the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. The first one appears when Simon and Grusha agree to become engaged. The engagement is sealed when Simon gives her his silver chain. This represents the act of Confirmation, and it is the first of the seven Catholic sacraments that will appear in the play. The others that will follow are Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction (the Anointing of the Sick), Holy Orders, and Matrimony (not in that order). For information on the sacraments, see The Seven Sacraments.
Brecht has a tendency to make one character the "good" character. This character represents the type of person that we should all strive to be. However, because of the cruelty of the world, the "good" character is often abused or taken advantage of. Brecht's play, The Good Woman of Setzuan deals with this theme as its main topic. In The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Grusha represents this "good" character. She places value on human life unlike the other people who advise her to give up Michael. The Cook goes so far as to say, "if he had the plague he couldn't be more dangerous." She replies with, "He hasn't got the plague. He looks at me! He's human!" Brecht is quick to point out that this kindness is taken advantage of. The old woman comments, "You're a fool - the kind that always gets put upon."
The Act appears to end with Grusha's act of charity when she picks up Michael and takes him with her. Instead, Brecht points out to the audience that they should not be seduced by how good Grusha appears to be. In reality, she is a thief who has stolen a child. "As if it was stolen goods she picked it up. / As if she was a thief she crept away." Brecht destroys the audience's image of Grusha for a particular reason: he does not want the audience to be seduced by her the way she is seduced by the child. Instead, he wants the audience to use logic much the way logic is used in the prologue. The audience must decide for itself whether Grusha is a thief and should be punished or whether she is a hero who should be rewarded with keeping the child. This sets up a direct analogy to the valley in the prologue; Grusha represents the peasants on the left who wish to steal the valley and put it to better use.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Siddhartha Gautama, who would one day become known as Buddha ("enlightened one" or "the awakened"), lived in Northern India during the 6th to 4th century B.C. While scholars agree that he did in fact live, the events of his life are still debated. According to the most widely known story of his life, after experimenting with different teachings for years, and finding none of them acceptable, Gautama spent a fateful night in deep meditation. During his meditation, all of the answers he had been seeking became clear, and achieved full awareness, thereby becoming Buddha.
The Buddha, or "enlightened one," was born Siddhartha (which means "he who achieves his aim") Gautama, a prince in northern India (in what is now Nepal) in the 6th century BC. His father was a king who ruled an Indian tribe called the Shakyas. His mother died seven days after giving birth to him, but a holy man prophesized great things for the young Siddhartha: He would either be a great king or military leader or he would be a great spiritual leader. To keep his son from witnessing the miseries and suffering of the world, Siddhartha's father raised him in opulence in a palace built just for the boy and sheltered him from knowledge of religion and human hardship. According to custom, he married at the age of 16, but his life of total seclusion continued for another 13 years.
The prince reached his late 20s with little experience of the world outside the walls of his opulent palaces, but one day he ventured out beyond the palace walls and was quickly confronted with the realities of human frailty: He saw a very old man, and Siddhartha's charioteer explained that all people grow old. Questions about all he had not experienced led him to take more journeys of exploration, and on these subsequent trips he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse and an ascetic. The charioteer explained that the ascetic had renounced the world to seek release from the human fear of death and suffering. Siddhartha was overcome by these sights, and the next day, at age 29, he left his kingdom, wife and son to lead an ascetic life, and determine a way to relieve the universal suffering that he now understood to be one of the defining traits of humanity.
For the next six years, Siddhartha lived an ascetic life and partook in its practices, studying and meditating using the words of various religious teachers as his guide. He practiced his new way of life with a group of five ascetics, and his dedication to his quest was so stunning that the five ascetics became Siddhartha's followers. When answers to his questions did not appear, however, he redoubled his efforts, enduring pain, fasting nearly to starvation, and refusing water.
Whatever he tried, Siddhartha could not reach the level of satisfaction he sought, until one day when a young girl offered him a bowl of rice. As he accepted it, he suddenly realized that corporeal austerity was not the means to achieve inner liberation, and that living under harsh physical constraints was not helping him achieve spiritual release.
Heathcliff - An orphan brought to live at Wuthering Heights by Mr. Earnshaw, Heathcliff falls into an intense, unbreakable love with Mr. Earnshaw’s daughter Catherine. After Mr. Earnshaw dies, his resentful son Hindley abuses Heathcliff and treats him as a servant. Because of her desire for social prominence, Catherine marries Edgar Linton instead of Heathcliff. Heathcliff’s humiliation and misery prompt him to spend most of the rest of his life seeking revenge on Hindley, his beloved Catherine, and their respective children (Hareton and young Catherine). A powerful, fierce, and often cruel man, Heathcliff acquires a fortune and uses his extraordinary powers of will to acquire both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, the estate of Edgar Linton.
Catherine - The daughter of Mr. Earnshaw and his wife, Catherine falls powerfully in love with Heathcliff, the orphan Mr. Earnshaw brings home from Liverpool. Catherine loves Heathcliff so intensely that she claims they are the same person. However, her desire for social advancement motivates her to marry Edgar Linton instead. Catherine is free-spirited, beautiful, spoiled, and often arrogant. She is given to fits of temper, and she is torn between her wild passion for Heathcliff and her social ambition. She brings misery to both of the men who love her.
Edgar Linton - Well-bred but rather spoiled as a boy, Edgar Linton grows into a tender, constant, but cowardly man. He is almost the ideal gentleman: Catherine accurately describes him as “handsome,” “pleasant to be with,” “cheerful,” and “rich.” However, this full assortment of gentlemanly characteristics, along with his civilized virtues, proves useless in Edgar’s clashes with his foil, Heathcliff, who gains power over his wife, sister, and daughter.
Nelly Dean - Nelly Dean (known formally as Ellen Dean) serves as the chief narrator of Wuthering Heights. A sensible, intelligent, and compassionate woman, she grew up essentially alongside Hindley and Catherine Earnshaw and is deeply involved in the story she tells. She has strong feelings for the characters in her story, and these feelings complicate her narration.
Lockwood - Lockwood’s narration forms a frame around Nelly’s; he serves as an intermediary between Nelly and the reader. A somewhat vain and presumptuous gentleman, he deals very clumsily with the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights. Lockwood comes from a more domesticated region of England, and he finds himself at a loss when he witnesses the strange household’s disregard for the social conventions that have always structured his world. As a narrator, his vanity and unfamiliarity with the story occasionally lead him to misunderstand events.
Young Catherine - For clarity’s sake, this SparkNote refers to the daughter of Edgar Linton and the first Catherine as “young Catherine.” The first Catherine begins her life as Catherine Earnshaw and ends it as Catherine Linton; her daughter begins as Catherine Linton and, assuming that she marries Hareton after the end of the story, goes on to become Catherine Earnshaw. The mother and the daughter share not only a name, but also a tendency toward headstrong behavior, impetuousness, and occasional arrogance. However, Edgar’s influence seems to have tempered young Catherine’s character, and she is a gentler and more compassionate creature than her mother.
Hareton Earnshaw - The son of Hindley and Frances Earnshaw, Hareton is Catherine’s nephew. After Hindley’s death, Heathcliff assumes custody of Hareton, and raises him as an uneducated field worker, just as Hindley had done to Heathcliff himself. Thus Heathcliff uses Hareton to seek revenge on Hindley. Illiterate and quick-tempered, Hareton is easily humiliated, but shows a good heart and a deep desire to improve himself. At the end of the novel, he marries young Catherine.
Linton Heathcliff - Heathcliff’s son by Isabella. Weak, sniveling, demanding, and constantly ill, Linton is raised in London by his mother and does not meet his father until he is thirteen years old, when he goes to live with him after his mother’s death. Heathcliff despises Linton, treats him contemptuously, and, by forcing him to marry the young Catherine, uses him to cement his control over Thrushcross Grange after Edgar Linton’s death. Linton himself dies not long after this marriage.
Hindley Earnshaw - Catherine’s brother, and Mr. Earnshaw’s son. Hindley resents it when Heathcliff is brought to live at Wuthering Heights. After his father dies and he inherits the estate, Hindley begins to abuse the young Heathcliff, terminating his education and forcing him to work in the fields. When Hindley’s wife Frances dies shortly after giving birth to their son Hareton, he lapses into alcoholism and dissipation.
Isabella Linton - Edgar Linton’s sister, who falls in love with Heathcliff and marries him. She sees Heathcliff as a romantic figure, like a character in a novel. Ultimately, she ruins her life by falling in love with him. He never returns her feelings and treats her as a mere tool in his quest for revenge on the Linton family.
Mr. Earnshaw - Catherine and Hindley’s father. Mr. Earnshaw adopts Heathcliff and brings him to live at Wuthering Heights. Mr. Earnshaw prefers Heathcliff to Hindley but nevertheless bequeaths Wuthering Heights to Hindley when he dies.
Mrs. Earnshaw - Catherine and Hindley’s mother, who neither likes nor trusts the orphan Heathcliff when he is brought to live at her house. She dies shortly after Heathcliff’s arrival at Wuthering Heights.
Joseph - A long-winded, fanatically religious, elderly servant at Wuthering Heights. Joseph is strange, stubborn, and unkind, and he speaks with a thick Yorkshire accent.
Frances Earnshaw - Hindley’s simpering, silly wife, who treats Heathcliff cruelly. She dies shortly after giving birth to Hareton.
Mr. Linton - Edgar and Isabella’s father and the proprietor of Thrushcross Grange when Heathcliff and Catherine are children. An established member of the gentry, he raises his son and daughter to be well-mannered young people.
Mrs. Linton - Mr. Linton’s somewhat snobbish wife, who does not like Heathcliff to be allowed near her children, Edgar and Isabella. She teaches Catherine to act like a gentle-woman, thereby instilling her with social ambitions.
Mr. Green - Edgar Linton’s lawyer, who arrives too late to hear Edgar’s final instruction to change his will, which would have prevented Heathcliff from obtaining control over Thrushcross Grange.