Knowledge in Literature

"The Sound And The Fury" by William Faulkner

Our lives are but a series of thoughts, thoughts that shift from past to present quite easily, and William Faulkner captures this phenomenon in his novel “The Sound And The Fury” in a remarkable fashion. About the author: William Faulkner was an American writer/poet, who started his career right after the first world war, his first novel being the “Sound And The Fury”. He was awarded the noble prize for literature in 1949 and the Pulitzer prize just before his death in July 1962.  the novel: the novel is split into four parts, And it deals with the happenings within the Compson household. The first part of the book is in the perspective of Ben Compson, a mentally retarded man. The second , by Quentin Compson a 20-year-old who narrates the last day of his life as he plans to commit suicide. The third in Jason Compson who is almost a salvation to the reader's mind, for the other two are far too confusing. And finally the last part is given to us through the eyes of the negro workers at the house. The narrative style of the novel makes reading a complex process, for we see that the characters keep shifting from the past to the present that it becomes difficult to understand it in the beginning. Why read it?: when I read the novel I found the first half of the novel confusing yet intriguing, I had to let go of my reasoning ability to understand the mind of Ben and Quenitin. Where as Jason's perspective, although 'normal' becomes as complex as the other two. I felt like I had found a treasure chest and with the turn of each page I discovered new things and by the end of the fourth part,it felt like a fog had lifted up from my mind and everything about the novel had come clear to me. I would suggest to read this novel by enjoying it for every word and not try to connect the events and make sense of it all.

Epic Diction: In light of Oedipus Rex

One of the sic constituents which determine the quality of a tragedy, as explained by Aristotle- Diction stands second to plot. While the entire emphasis lays on the decree of plot yet it is equally acclaimed that the mode of effectively revealing thought, character and plot comes as a witty way of writing. Diction in the words of Aristotle means the arrangement of the verses, the kind of word selection and placement of sentences used to express an emotion. Oedipus The King is a play laiden with numerous writing techniques be it irony, symbolisms or imagery. Beginning with the very name of the eponymous hero, the careful selection of words is evident. As per the Greek script the name of Oedipus is spelt as “Oidipous” and while “Oida” means “I know” the word “dipous” is the Greek word for two footed. Throughout the play, Oedipus is found asserting his authority in the name of his exceptional “knowledge” though on the contrary he did not even know his real mother and father. He was ignorant rather blind to the truth of his own life. Oedipus learns that he was blind not to see the warnings that people have given him not to seek his identity. The use of irony shows that at the beginning he was too proud to see the truth about himself. As more and more information is being given to him he realizes that he has cursed himself and that he is the most unfortunate man in the world.  “Dipous” on the other hand draws its dual meaning from two major events of Oedipus’ life. “Man” the answer of sphinx’s riddle that Oedipus gave as well as the prophesy of Teresias about Oedipus leaving the city of Thebes as a blind man “a stick tapping before him step by step” are the two peaks of Oedipus’ tragic life. It is worthy to note that Sophocles has introduced the motif of sight vs blindness which is symbolic of “pursuit of knowledge”. In another translation, Oedipus’ name in Greek translates to "swollen foot." When Oedipus was three days old, his parents received a prophecy saying that he would one day kill his father. So, they pierced and bound his feet and sent him off to be abandoned on a mountainside. Oedipus survived the incident, but was left with scars on his feet. It is here that the first instance of symbolism is visible. Oedipus’ scarred feet highlight the fact that he has been marked for suffering from the moment of his birth. This expounds upon Sophocles' idea that humans have no power in face of the gods. Although his name blatantly points attention to his scarred feet which are the keys to discovering his identity, Oedipus doesn’t realize his true identity until it’s too late. An example of symbolism also comes from the doomed king's ignorance on the key matter of his identity though he was made famous for his keen insight, by solving the riddle of the Sphinx. Oedipus thus, becomes symbolic of all of humanity, stumbling forward through a dark and unknowable universe, which may as well have been the thought of the entire play. Throughout the play Oedipus The King Sophocles uses irony. His uses of irony suppose to show the reader what kind of a person Oedipus really is. Irony thus can be cited in three main headings- Verbal Irony is illustrated in the hero’s speeches. Like: when Oedipus demands that the evil man who murdered Laius be punished, but he is unaware that he is the murderer. and Oedipus ridicules Teiresias for his blindness but Oedipus is also a sightless, witless and senseless man to the truth of his own actions. Tragic irony is shown by the character’s actions and even verbal actuations resulting in a pathetic outcome which the spectators are aware about beforehand Like: Due to the prophecy, Oedipus leaves his parents and escapes to another city. He does not know that he was an adopted son. His escape leads him to the city where his true parents resides and Oedipus does not know that he has  married his own mother and has four children with her. Incest is one of the greatest crimes, so he causes the plague to happen in his city.  Situational irony is the disparity between the anticipated outcome and the factual end when invigorated by dissolute fitness. It examples are situations like Oedipus is an adopted son; he hears the prophecy; so he escapes to the city of his real parents onlltoreturn back later. Also it happens that he unknowingly kills a man who happens to be his father and is persuaded to marry the queen who happens to be his own mother. Worthy of attention are the words of Oedipus that describe the aspects of his personality. Fire and water-associated with the birth of the god Dionysus-are used to suggest the "raging passion" and "cooling reason" that divide Oedipus' personality. When he acts in haste or with anger, for example, Oedipus speaks in images that suggest fire. When he pauses to consider his actions or reflect on his decisions, Oedipus speaks in images that suggest water. Due to more than a century’s worth of philosophic understanding in Hellenistic societies by the time of Oedipus, it could be assumed that Oedipus’ quick rage was a product of extreme vanity and hubris. In the tradition of the literary rule of three’s, Oedipus is given three opportunities to fall from his high horse and avoid his fate. First by the Oracle, who Oedipus antagonizes until he is forced to reveal the prophecy. Second by Jocasta, who realizes the horrid irony of their history together, and begs Oedipus not to pursue it further (1056-1062) and finally by the herdsman who left him, as a child, on Cithaeron’s slopes. However, Oedipus’ persistence and brute-determination despite these entreaties are his undoing. Thus, the audience is provided insight regarding Oedipus’ tragic flaw through thought-revealing diction on behalf of all the characters in the play.

Iliad: History or Literature

Amidst the themes observable in Book IX-XII comes the question of the historical relevance of the Iliad. Yet while it is wrong to say that Iliad is completely a book drawn out of fiction, it is even more wrong to call it solely a literary production. As is argued and believed by some modern writers, while Greek myths are largely futile and negligible, the Homeric narratives are largely historical and correct. This view is purely based on the fact that the Iliad represents the central thread of Greek tradition and it’s not violently contradicted by itself or by known facts outside it. We know that from 6th Century onwards Homer formed the staple of Greek education. Everyone knew Homer and all parts of Greece accepted him. Thus it can be easily derived that had the Homeric narratives not been true it would not have been able to survive the tides of time. Moreover, the Homeric narratives are so reasonable and possible that Homeric characters make an impression of reality. The style of the Iliad is verisimilitude meaning “having the appearance of truth” is supported by the argument that a Homeric poet would not choose a story as the Iliad of all the stories present around him had it not been incredibly truthful. All these arguments try to prove the Iliad as a historical text. Regarding validation of historical facts, we have a archaeologist named HEINRICH SCHLEIMANN , who was an advocate of the historical reality of places mentioned in Iliad. He excavated “Hissarik” which is believed to be the site of actual Troy. He excavated nine of those sites, including Mycenae.  But where the Iliad fails to make an impression is the matter of topographical details. There is very less detail of the Plain of Troy that is provided by Homer. Topographical details are as much the same with rivers, mountains, plains and else that goes to make up the Homeric world strangely standardized. Even the rivers of Troy Scamander and Simois are described in vivid details but none of the details associate with its topographical location. To understand then the actual reason as to why the Iliad is prominently a literary document we can look in the Theory of the Nucleus and Nebula. Imagine an epic or a traditional book to be thematically similar to two concentric circles with different radii. So while the inner most circle would signify the Nucleus the outer circle the Nebula. Considering the Nucleus comprises of all the historical facts put in the Iliad the Nebula comprises of all the myths, literary techniques (characterization, speeches etc) etc one can thematically understand the makeup of a traditional book. But in the case of one can find that the sharp difference between the Nucleus and Nebula has been compromised such that the boundaries of both have merged with each other. It is in these “depressions” that one can find fact mixing with fiction. These “depressions” have been the prominent reason of the constant confusion of the Iliad being a historical document than a literary treasure. But one must not fail to realise that once fiction steps in the historicity of the work is highly questionable as then the original Nucleus hardly functions.  In most traditional books there are fairly three components:  •    FICTION With respect of the Iliad, the whole frame work of the Iliad in which the incidences are fitted represents the fictional part of the epic. The Book Nine, Embassy To Achilles is the staunchest example of the same. •    MYTHS AND SAGAS The role of Gods in the battle and its decisions is the example of this element. •    DEFINITE HISTORY The very excavations that have lead to Troy and Mycenae have revealed findings about the Greek Civilisation are the proofs that the Iliad is historically real. So now dwelling on the belief of Aristotle about fiction- “If it does not tell you what did take place on a given occasion, it shows what might take place then”. And therefore even though the main subject of fiction is marvellous the background setting has to true and drawn from reality.  “History is the study of dead language whereas literature is alive and young in its language” as noted by Mikhail Bakhtin in his essay called “Epic and Novel” stands very true as far as language of Iliad is considered filled with all imageries. A major point for Iliad not being solely a historical document is the fact that in history, every event, every phenomenon is expressed in completeness which demeans artistic representation. Also, the ‘media res’ starting of Iliad signifies the incompleteness from historical point of view. But epic (literary) completeness does not suffers even the slightest. The specific ‘impulse to end’ – How does the war end? Who wins? What will happen to Achilles?-so forth is absolutely excluded from the epic by both internal and external motifs. This specific “impulse to end” and “impulse to continue”, are only possible in history and Iliad is pretty much warded off these impulses rather, we can say there is a seal of inconclusiveness in it, characteristic to epical narrative  . Thus, we have enough of evidences, both in favor of Iliad being historical as well as literary document as well and we cannot straightway classify it in a specific head exclusively. Hence, I would like to conclude by saying that basically, what Homer does in Iliad is it squeezes out some historical facts and incorporates other into its own peculiar structure ,plot, characters, reformulating and re-accentuating them.

Swami And Friends: On Cusp of Modernity

The idea of a novel is best summarised in the words of Iyengar: “In my beginning is my end to my end is my beginning”. The novel tradition in India, ever since Independence, has been used as a medium by the writers to express “the way of life of the group of people with whose psychology and background he’s most familiar”. The evident example of the same being writers like Mulk Raj Anand who painted the picture of India and presented it as if first hand. But in the same time, R.K. Narayan emerged as a writer who used the novel as medium of reflection of India but Narayan’s picture is overtly the Utopian picture of India. “He is neither an intolerant critic of Indian ways and modes nor their fanatic defender”. Narayan in his novels attempts to “explore the wayward movements of the consciousness and the thoughts and stirrings of the soul, which are recognizably autochthonous”(Iyengar). And it is thus that even after Swami undergoes the “biggest shock of his life” his childish brain gets carried away towards a tin can floating in the gutter. This way Narayan is able to maintain a sufficient distance from the “political” and “nationalist” using his “Touchstone method” and yet cater to the paradox that permeated in the lives of the Common Indian of the time.  Narayan’s Malgudi is neither a village nor a typical city but a town of modest size. It is a place that “embraces all change” and yet remains the same in its core. The Sarayu river which is lavishly described as if it bears the fervour of the Ganges and the Memphis Forest on the other side of Malgudi spread as Amazon are hints that point to the fact that Malgudi is a small representation of Narayan’s India (Naipaul), which is steadily intermixing with the world. And to quote Walsh: “What happens in India happens in Malgudi and what happens in Malgudi happens everywhere”. In the early twentieth century when the common Indian struggled to find an identity amongst the tussle between the humbled traditional and the invasive modern norms of the society, it becomes imperative that “Malgudi” would encounter the same with a certain seriousness and comic element. As Ron Shepherd observes there is “an architectural duality (in the structure of Malgudi) in which modernity superimposes on tradition”. Hence in a remote town like Malgudi, which stands at a large distance from Madras, one can find the Ellaman street and Grove Street and the Abu Lane and Vinayaka Mudali Street existing simultaneously. Such blending becomes explicitly evident in the household of Swami, where three generations of Srinivasan Family emulate the three stages of transition from the traditional to the apparently modern society. Swami’s Grandmother epitomises the life of the traditional with her “faint atmosphere of cardamom and cloves”. She sleeps on a bed made of “fine carpets, bed sheets and five pillows” and narrates the stories of Harichandra to the much ignorant Swami. It is this ‘aura’ of the Grandmother that makes Swami refuse for Rajam to meet her with “brutal candour”. While Swami’s father expresses the stage of partial acceptance as he dresses for the court in a black silk coat and “turban”. As K. Chellapan opines, the socio-ethical life portrayed in Narayan’s novels are “rooted in the ageless past, of which myths are objective correlative”. Thus, while Swami and his friends look with much fascination at the toy gun in Rajam’s possession, one and all of their tussles are sorted out through simple hand to hand duels. On the other hand, while the children read about the Bible, Rajam attempts at quoting from the Vedas and Swami troubled by the supposed death of an ant “took a pinch of earth and uttered a prayer for its soul”. And to extend this understanding of the middleclass household from Swami’s House to all the houses in Malgudi won’t prove futile.  But while these manifestations of modernity “overlay the earliest formation of tradition and customary life they do not necessarily replace them”.  Malgudi is a town which has a railway station which stands as a direct symbol of the industrialization brought with Colonial rule but yet the 12:30 mail “glided over the embankment, booming and rattling while passing over Sarayu Bridge”. On one side of the town lie the fields and to the other the Colonial structures like Court, where Swami’s father works and the Police Station. Malgudi thus, becomes a town which is as wild as the Memphis Forest at its core- a town of peasants and herds- but equally modernised and raised to the stature of a ”near presidency”. And to personify the town Malgudi, one can imagine it to appear like the “Common Man” of R.K. Laxman (Narayan’s cartoonist brother) “who is clad in dhoti and a plaid jacket”. So while the mixed attire of the Common Man may mislead and/or misdirect to present him as a modernised figure, but it is impossible to notice the covert traditionalism he follows. Therefore, while mapping the layouts of Malgudi, it is understandable that the town dwells on a structure where “life” happens in a natural environment such that modernity seems to become more of a psychological phenomenon than physically transformational. So much so, that “citizens” seem to personify the same spirit of the town amidst these two notions of Living

Mulk Raj Anand: Indian-ness in Two Lady Ram

The English language has become to the Indian Subcontinent as a’ reminiscent’ and much prized reward of the British Colonial experience which spans nearly all of the ‘History of India in Becoming a Unified nation’. And it is in the same understanding that one cannot refuse to accept that English as a language has played a pivotal role in igniting the nationalist spirit in the minds of the Indian citizens who were divided on the basis of regional identities. Quoting from the famous essay of A. K. Ramanujan- ‘Is there an Indian Way of Thinking?’ the parable as told by Buddha and reiterated by Ramanujan in the same context goes as follows: “…Once a man was drowning in a sudden flood. Just as he was about to drown, he found a raft. He clung to it, and it carried him safely to dry land. And he was so grateful to the raft that he carried it on his back for the rest of his life”.  Thus, it is agreeable that invasively so, but the English Writing has been the rescuer of the Indian Civilisation after the Partition in 1947 and ever since has become the reflection of the ‘Voice of the (New) Formed Nation’. Amongst all the writings in English the short story form enjoys a special affection amongst the members of the ‘Intelligentsia’ like Mulk Raj Anand to the modern day writers like Salman Rushdie. After all, the short story is an art form staunchly Indian in origin of which the examples are the Vedic texts like the Puranas to the epics like Mahabharata. Yet the paradox remains that Indian short story in English is but a product of Western Influences (M.K.Naik). But remarkably so, even then“English is borrowed into (or imposed on) Indian contexts” (A. K. Ramanujan) which subdues the existence of English as an alien language and makes it all the more “Indian”.  And when issues concerning the Indian Nation form the core of the Writing in English the product is but an expression of the lives of the Indian common folk in a more universally read medium.   Such colourful “Indianism permeates in the diction, idiom and imagery in dialogue” of Mulk Raj Anand. One of the ‘triumvirate’ in the 1930s who established the Indian English Novel, Anand has since then written eleven novels alongside many short stories that reflect on the issues that were prevalent in then India, suitably justifying the Indian English short stories as the “Breath in the Mirror”. The short story: Two Lady Rams (part of the short story collection The Tractor and the Corn Goddess) is typically what Anand defined as “highly developed form of folk tale” that included “psychological understanding of the contemporary period”. The short story comes as a social satire on the “Angrezi Sarkar of India” and highlights the tussle between the colonial subject and the colonial master. The story follows the same theme at two levels, where for one, Lalla Jhinda Ram is the colonial subject to the “department that acted on His Majesty’s Behalf” and the second are the wives, Sukhi and Sakuntala who are the colonial subjects to (the agent of the patriarchal society) i.e. Sir Jhinda. As the story unfolds one can understand the satire that stands to highlight how poorly the ‘colonial master’ governed over its subjects of whom he knew and cared the least. The apparent honour of Knighthood which is cunningly bestowed on Jhinda Ram (mark of his sly ‘sundry’ services to the Empire) and supposed to raise his social status  helps to bring forth this negligence of the British State; and as for the wives the selfish decision of Lalla Jhinda to take the second wife to his investiture ceremony because otherwise she would abstain from entertaining him, shows the lack of regard and respect towards wives that were then treated as mere objects of the household. Another theme shadily addressed in the story is the tuft between on setting modernity and fading traditions. Thus even when Jhinda Ram enjoys a siesta and his mansion had an “English style gol kamara or, living room” he was acquitted to marry two wives on the grounds of Hindu Mitakshara Law and demanded for his wives to dress in a traditional sari for the Ceremony. In all, the household of Jhinda Ram was on the margins of traditional and the cusp of modern. And when the Modern (the Kinghthood) merged with the Traditional (the two wives of Sir Jhinda) (amusingly enough) the Colonial Anxiety is surfaced. It is in the same light that one can imagine the last gravely serious comment “the three staunch pillars” said with respect to Jhinda Ram and the Lady Rams as a drawing its symbolism to the state of the Indian common folk (Jhinda Ram) which struggled to obtain an identity through the modern (Sakuntala) but could not afford to lose the traditional (Sukhi) that had formed the whole truth of their survival. Another facet of the issue of Identity comes through the tussle of Sakuntala and Sukhi both of whom wish to be Lady Ram since the women of colonial India were recognised by the name of their husband, Anand comments on the lack of individual identity of women in marriage and through his female characters attempts to inspire revolution in women to fight for their ‘rights’. The Two Lady Rams runs as a comical account of the day of a shopkeeper’s life who is bestowed the highest honour in British Raj, only to add misery to his life. A misery which does not come from poverty or exploitation (as in the other short stories of Anand) but whose cause is ‘over abundance of undue credibility’. Thus, even when the story is not the whole truth yet it is derived from the truth of the lives of the ‘Indians’. In addition the story places a satire on the ‘sleeping Indian spirit’ and the so called ‘collaborators’ of the British Raj who out of selfish motives served the Colonial Master. By extension, the story therefore, comes with the hidden message of the agony involved in the service of the British than the ‘Homeland’ which came with the loss of one’s integrity and common sense which Jhinda Ram idolises when he seeks the advice of his Chauffeur.   

Songs of Innocence and Experience: Blake in Englan

With the onset of the first cotton mill factory in 1760s, England witnessed a turnover in its social, economical and political structures; such that the newly established norms of the Industrial England gave way for much dissent in the group of people that lay at the base of its social pyramid. It is hence that the voice of William Blake, despite all its disparity to common day discourse, stands as a faithful witness to the congested and coagulated mass that came to be known as the “working class”. E. P. Thompson in the Preface to his book “Making of English Working Class” highlights the questionable nature of demarcating the working class as a group comprising of multiple separate subgroups –  “...Working classes” is a descriptive term, which evades as much as it defines. It ties loosely together a bundle of discrete phenomena. There were tailors here and weavers there, and together they a make up the working classes.” To which he adds: ....If we stop history at a given point, then there are no classes but simply a multitude of individuals with a multitude of experiences. But if we watch these men over an adequate period of social change, we observe patterns in their relationships, their ideas, and their institutions. Class is defined by men as they live their own history, and, in the end, this is its only definition.” So, Thompson clearly establishes class as a social relationship which arises out of “similar experiences and interests”. A similar vein of understanding runs in the Blakean corpus where man is represented in four principal relationships: man and his world, man and his body, man and his fellow men, and man and his past & future. It is here that the reading of Blake’s Songs of Experience finds appropriate context. In the hands of Blake, the elements of the society - from the flowers to the people and wild nature to religious institutions - become elements which turn into symbols. Unlike the later romantic poets Blake’s writing finds its radical undertones in the ideas that it foregrounds with the face of contemporary elements. And while the careful reading of these symbols uncovers the purpose of the writing, a guarded investigation narrates a commentary of Industrial England. Perhaps no other poems than “The Human Abstract”, “Chimney Sweeper” and “London” from the Songs of Experience bear the explicit markers of the struggles of everyday life of the working class. While in “London” Blake describes the wantonly state of affairs in the heart of England where the streets and the river are “chartered” and in such political oppression in every face he meets, he identifies the “Marks of weakness, marks of woe”. In the Chimney Sweeper, Blake critiques the institution of family and the Church as the harbingers of pain which perform the function of contaminating the innocence of young “chimney sweepers”. Though “The Human Abstract” credulously critiques the social order and sums up a graphic picture of England as a place devoid of humanity –  Pity would be no more If we did not make somebody poor, And Mercy no more could be If all were as happy as we. Therefore, the three poems investigate the relationships of man with his world and his fellow men but it is noticeable that the categories of relationships investigated above are born out of the hustle & bustle of the new social structure - the realities of whom retain the same form even in their contrary songs from the “Songs of Innocence”. The Chimney Sweeper in the Songs of Innocence bears the same “burden” of work and his social position demands a resolution that does not contradict his everyday reality. Thus, “Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm/So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm”. The “Divine Image” which runs a contrary of “The Human Abstract” expresses a similar vein where man becomes an embodiment of the four virtues of Love, Peace, Mercy and Pity and yet it is only through prayer that such virtues are remembered -  “Then every man, of every clime/That prays in his distress/Prays to the human form divine/Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.” Hence it is imperative to conclude that in his Songs Blake does not assume a respite for the miseries of the working class for even in the oblivious world of Innocence the harsh reality of then Present, is not reconcilable though the approach of its bearers shows drastic difference. But Blake does not merely attempt to contrast the two states of the society: Pre-Industrial Revolution and Post Industrial Revolution, but he presents the inevitability of such a movement. By satirising the state of Innocence as a “naturalistic and imaginative” existence without bearing the capability of regeneration, Blake emphasises the “organic and creative” existence of the realm of Experience. In the contrasting pair of “The Lamb” and “The Tiger”, such necessity becomes a link of association. “The Lamb” comes with an engraving of a little boy with a herd of lamb while the accompanying poem refers to the conversation between the both. On the other hand, “the Tiger” becomes a series of unanswered questions about the creation of the tiger which lead to an answer which is never iterated for the fear of its symmetry. Both the poems deal with the philosophical question of creation and the power of the creator. While in the Lamb, the creation in its form is attributed to the one who “calls Himself a Lamb”, the Tiger comments on the fearful nature of the creation but in a way that sarcastically questions the diminutive perception of the questioner. As many critics observe, the questioner of the Tiger, creates an image of the bright and burning figure as fearful for it stands in contrast to the “forest of the night”. In his Auguries of Innocence, Blake defines the night as the state after the fall, not in the Miltonic conception, but in the sense of loss of imaginative power: “We are led to believe a Lie/We see not thro the eye/Which was born in a night to perish in a night/when the soul slept in beams of light”. Therefore, the questioner in the Tiger bears the power of creative potential where he unknowingly perceives a dreadful creature in his limited perception.  It is with the same relation that “the Tiger” becomes a symbol of the emerging force of the working class. At the base of the economy, the working class generated the energy which sustained the social structure, and yet the limiting means of resource, hard ways of living which were crystallised in 18 hours of work and the strict political repression, added to their ignorance of self identity. As a collective force then, the rising of the working class becomes a narrative of rise to wisdom which is exemplified in the later centuries. To conclude then, it is observable that through his Songs of Innocence and of Experience Blake not only shows the various evils that pervaded in the society from the wake of the Industrial Revolution but also comments on the associations that the bearers of the society i.e. the working class had as an individual force with the world around it and itself. So, while he qualifies the state of the working class as neglected and disadvantaged he locates the weapon of their emancipation in their creative and generative potential. Thus, The Industrial England is not merely a ground on which the two states of being are found but also the canvas on which they meet.

Blakean Symbolism in Songs of Innocence and Experi

Published in 1795, the Songs of Innocence and of Experience present the two states of human soul, much like the two consciousnesses as described by Milton – Pre Fall and After the Fall. However, Blake divides the human consciousness into four different states under the influence of John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” of which he addresses the state of “Beulah or Organised Innocence and Generation or Experience” specifically (Harold Bloom). In doing so, Blake employs the imagery of these respective realms to show the immediate and irretraceable degradation of the society in England post Industrial Revolution. But the Songs constitute symbols that uncover a drastically unique ideology of Blake himself. In the binary opposites of the Songs of Innocence and Experience, Blake suggests a political thought and mystic idea which follows the heritage of Emanuel Swedenborg and Jakob Bohme, where it is through the juxtaposition of one and the other that spiritual emancipation can be achieved.  The Songs of Innocence as Harold Bloom has opined, is the realm of a dreamy state nearing oblivion. Yet it is clearly divorced of ignorance than wisdom, while its contrary – The realm of Experience is devoid of wisdom and inhabited by ignorance of the self. There is double irony in play between Innocence and Experience as states of being, in moving from Innocence to Experience the progression is both organic and creative while the fall back occurs at naturalistic and imaginative level. It is therefore that the symbols of each of the realms as well as their associations with each other points at the duplicity of their contraries.  The Songs of Innocence start with a note from the “piper” who elaborates on his encounter with the muse that inspired him to create the Songs. It relates the lyrics to the pastoral convention and the engraving of the lyric shows the green and endearing face of nature. In such a place where nature blooms at its best, the encounter presents the Piper as a man who is “guiltless” or unbent by the burden of the original sin and hence innocent.  To its contrast, The Introduction to the Songs of Experience is narrated through the mouthpiece of a Bard, who is a man of the society and sees all “Past, Present and future”. Unlike the endearing lap of nature where the piper writes the songs, the Bard struggles to form a bond with his natural mother as he exclaims: ‘‘Turn away no more/Why wilt thou turn away?”. Thus the Bard is abandoned by the nursing hand of Nature.  Blake’s Beulah then abides by the myth of Isaiah and Bunyan where man and Nature are “married” and hence united by man’s innocence. However in the realm of generation the focal perceptivity of the same man is “reduced” by his encounters with civilisation and its institutions which is why he lingers in the “forest of the night”. And therefore, the Man of Experience is not overborne with the Christian guilt but his own ambitious endeavours which have lead to his perversion. The symbol of the “Tiger” placed in the “forest of the night” against that of the young boy and lamb inherit a contrast which is born out of Blake’s distrust in the religious institutions and his apprehensions of Man without his imaginative power. As Harold Bloom notes – “The Man of Innocence is a Natural Man, prone to all brutalities of Experience while the Man of Experience is a Creative creature that gives birth to a nature beyond brutalities”. To the idea thus conceived, the symbol of the Lamb and the Tiger becomes most appropriate to the function. The Lamb and the boy associate with their “Father” by sharing the same name “He is called by thy name/For He calls Himself a Lamb/He is meek, and He is mild/He became a little child. I a child, and thou a lamb/We are called by His name”. And thus, for the ‘Innocent’ Man his equality with nature allows him to gain closure to his Maker. However, the creative and frantic Bard of Experience which locates the origination of the “Tiger” in the industrious works of Man continuously draws his apprehensions against the Maker as the “immortal hand or eye” which “dare” frame its fearful symmetry. It is such apprehensions of the Bard that locate him in the “night” for he doesn’t realise his ignorance fails to see the tiger as only a poor creature of the design (which Blake has tried to emulate in the engraving by showing the tiger as a lost and meek figure with an expression of fear). As many critics note, the leading images of Beulah are the moon, love, water, sleep, night, dew, relaxed drowsiness and eternal spring. However, the leading images of Experience or Generation become the moonless night, autumn season, anxiety, fear and bitter rhetoric. In the context of the realms that Blake defines, Innocence is continuously associated with fertile images which are threatened with “darkened greens” like in Echoing Greens or the “black coffins” of The chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence). However, the metaphors of Experience, symbolise a diminutive vision of human life in a world which is contracting and stagnant thus it unconsciously builds “a hell in heaven’s despite.’’ (The Clod and The Pebble, Songs of Experience) In the light of the above, Frye’s observation of the dominant themes in the two books of the Songs becomes utterly seminal. As he observes the dominant theme of love evoked by the objective correlatives of the “little tender moon”, “eternal spring” etc gives an account of transformations which occur in the Natural Man such that the object of poetry becomes the beloved.  However, in the Book of Experience, the destructive force of Art which transforms the created according to the whims of its creator, dominates through the symbols of infertile imagery. The same characteristic movement which Frye points out in Shelley’s poetry as wavering between these rival modes – “between the epipsyche or emanative beloved and the deliberating dying metaphor, whose vanishing liberates the object from its fallen status”  Then it can be conclusively said that the symbolism used in The Songs of Innocence and of Experience generates a larger conflict between blind naturalism denoted by the emotion of love and devastating power of creative energy. In such a larger picture, Blake incorporates the images and symbols from Industrial London to comment on the various structures that lead to the spiritual depreciation of the state of Man. 

Detective fiction in "Murder of Roger Ackroyd"

Debatably considered the masterpiece of Agatha Christie, the Murder of Roger Ackroyd, sets the limits for Detective Fiction to a level which was unimaginable in the Golden Age of the Detective novels. Christie enjoys a reputation among critics’ circles as a writer who can easily merge the boundaries of the genre of her writing with unexpected and purely imaginative outcomes. But in the Murder of Roger Ackroyd Christie seems to utilise the (redundant) and limiting conventions of the self same “genre” to fit in with (her) plot, such that in the “inverted “detective novel the conventions and the contradictions go parallel leaving an impact which is as inexpressible as it is gripping. Detective fiction is a sub-genre of the crime thrillers which gives the reader two gimmicks – a seemingly unsolvable problem and the pursuit to untangle it for which the detective proves instrumental.  Yet the heart of the novel is “logical deduction” which beyond all reasons cannot be uncompromised. In the MRA, Agatha Christie follows the major characteristics of a detective novel which are elaborated upon by the work of the clever Hercule Poirot. The Murder of the wealthy and old Mr. Ackroyd takes place in a closed room which could not be accessed without getting in notice of the other members of the house. The event is further complicated when it is revealed that Mr. Ackroyd was heard talking just minutes before he was discovered brutally murdered. The murder provides the perfect exposition for the retired detective Poirot to interfere in the matter and identify the murderer. As critics note the novel is filled with “too many curious incidents which are not related to the crime” and yet perform the role of red herrings which under chaotic sequence of things tangle the story further. With more than 5 suspects and a ‘missing’ prime suspect the novel clearly justifies its position as a detective fiction. Like all other detective novels by Christie, The MRA also upholds reason and logic above all virtues which is epitomised in Hercule Poirot. Yet, the deductions made by Poirot are more close to “cultural” manifestations and personal habits than universal cold logic.   In the make believe world of the detective fictions, crime and evil form the perverse part of reality which is easily spotted and hence severely punishable. Following the same convention, Christie also places the narrative of MRA in the village of King’s Abbot where modernity has not set foot – “We have a large railway station, small post office, and two rival ‘General stores’…Our hobbies and recreations can be summed up in one word, ’gossip’ (MRA, Who’s who in King’s Abbot) . But the climax of the novel hints at a more dubious reason for selecting the conventional “English country house “setting. As Julian Symons notes -“Criminals of Christie’s novels were not generated out of a culture but individual desires” and therefore it is reasonable to argue that the criminals of Christie’s novels are a product of an anxiety which gripped the urban life after the World War. Money and sex were the two major reasons for which Christie’s criminals indulged in the evils like murder and theft. In a constantly shrinking world, these were the two forces which guided the man in England to pursue the evil ways and it is hence that through the corruption of the godly doctor (Dr.Shepperd) in the seemingly original and pure country village, Christie wishes to highlight the degraded moral state of the times- a degradation which has spread from the cities to the country.    The detective in the story acts as the link between the reader and the progression of the investigation/ story. He not only demands the trust of the reader but also assumes the position of a competitive figure in the battle of wits between the reader and the investigating detective.  But every detective fiction conventionally had only one detective/ character who was allowed to match the wit of the reader but in the MRA Christie introduces the character of Caroline since the very first chapter as a person who could identify strange events “without stepping out of the house”. She is the first character which establishes that link of competition with the reader until Poirot is introduced and in fact it is Caroline only who helps Poirot identify the real murderer through her gossipy nature. Caroline Shepperd is acknowledged by Christie as the precursor of Miss Marple. So, it is not wrong to conclude that MRA features not one but two detectives.   The multiplicity of events is also noticed in the number of times that the crime is reconstructed with different characters of the story. Unlike the other detective novels where the crime is reconstructed in the end to clearly identify the culprit, the crime is partially reconstructed with each character through the progression of the novel.  Yet, unlike the other novels of the genre, the climax of Christie’s MRA lies in the revelation of the narrator as the culprit of the murder. In this final revelation, Christie breaks the trust of the reader and delves into a territory which was unchartered in detective fiction – “the criminal mind”. It is in fact the untrustworthy nature of the narrator that lashes the reader into accepting a world of deception.  By allowing the narrator to be the murderer Christie sidelines the centrality of the character of the detective who restores the social order and throws the light on the development of the criminal mind from the execution to punishment of the crime. Christopher Booker in his book The Seven Basic Plots: Why we tell stories? describes the meta plot of a novel as having the following stages: •    “The anticipation stage, in which the hero is called to the adventure to come,  •    Dream stage, in which the adventure begins, the hero has some success, and has an illusion of invincibility.  •    Frustration stage, in which the hero has his first confrontation with the enemy, and the illusion of invincibility is lost.  •    This worsens in the nightmare stage, which is the climax of the plot, where hope is apparently lost.  •    Finally, in the resolution, the hero overcomes his burden against the odds.[2] Clearly then, the light of the novel MRA lies on the criminal unlike the other detective fictions where the detective and his rationale were the central concern. The key thesis of Booker’s book then helps in understanding the MRA more accurately: "However many characters may appear in a story, its real concern is with just one: its hero or heroine. It is he with whose fate we identify, as we see him gradually developing towards that state of self-realization which marks the end of the story. Ultimately it is in relation to this central figure that all other characters in a story take on their significance. What each of the other characters represents is really only some aspect of the inner state of the hero or heroine themselves."

Morrison's "Beloved": A Narrative of Slave Lives

The invasion of the American continent by the imperial forces had the strength to erase the Past, distort the present and stain the future of all the individual communities that met with its current. This devastation was maximally manifested in the lives of the Africans who were transported to America in need of “manual” labour. So, the class that came to be called “slaves” became subjugated to the levels of animals which needed to be tamed, domesticated and controlled with force. In her benchmark novel Beloved, Toni Morrison attempts to present the circumstance both during and after slavery of the “60 Million and more” individuals who have been rendered mute in lack of life. Describing a slave’s life then, is not only a walk through gruesome history but a matter of revisiting the Past in the Present. Yet in the case of Beloved The Past is not only revisited but re-experienced in a new form. So it draws from reason that Morrison aims to show how the inexpressible history of slavery leaves an (in)visible mark on lives of people such that being “free” becomes an illusion. It is noticeable that Beloved does not provide a different perspective to slavery but presents its horrid picture as a “rememory”. And each of the characters stand to justify the inescapability from the life “lead” as a slave, that transforms to life “survived” as a free slave.     The repertoire of the historical Margaret Garner, Sethe becomes the bearer of the narrative. The narrative of Sethe’s life stands as a metonym to the grand narrative of the life of a slave who like her were born out of a mother long forgotten. Separated from her mother in her nursing years Sethe recalls her childhood spent in rice fields with reminiscence. The only thing that she recalls of her mother was the “symbol” which she carried on her rib as a mark of being a white man’s property. Therefore having not seen a family Sethe longed for her children whom she believed were hers- A claim that she felt she could not exercise on anyone else. Her social isolation amongst other ex-slaves and the subsequent alienation from human kind is visually the same state that the first generation of slaves faced when they found themselves amongst other slaves who did not share their language. Yet Sethe’s loneliness is different in the sense that she was abandoned in a society which shared the same language with her. The emblem of the “tree” at Sethe’s back holds prominence in the same light. It acts as a constant reminder of the Past which Sethe carries on her back, figuratively. SO while she is not reminded of it in her everyday life her relationships (with Paul D and Amy) are shadowed by the same Past that burdens her. A burden that she can neither share nor get released from.  Comparable to Sethe, Paul D senses the eeriness of the presence of Beloved and is constantly reminded of the days he had spent as a slave. He consequently moves out of Sethe’s bedroom to Baby’s room and finally in the shed to avoid the gaze of Beloved. His distancing with Beloved stands of special interest here. Paul D had spent his entire life as an ex slave roaming about in different states evading settlement, because of an internal fear that one may “sit down too long, somebody will figure out a way to tie them”. Thus it can be concluded that Beloved not only reminded but epitomised the Past for him. She could worry him “sick to the stomach” with an anxiety that Paul D could only describe as “funny”. And it is worth noticing that Beloved is received with the same hostility by the entire neighbourhood especially Ella who quotes “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”.  So every character voices as a different perspective to the narrative of slavery and evokes a different defense mechanism to repress its memory. Thus, while the story of Stamp Paid describes the commoditisation and objectification of the Blacks, the painful tale of Sixo describes the extent of brutalities that the Blacks had to face. And as Stamp Paid repressed his guilt for having sold his wife by saving Blacks who crossed the waters, Sixo expressed his rebellion by smiling at the face of his death. The repression was heightened to the extent that Sethe could not identify her “lifeless” existence in the bleak gray and white house until she met Paul D who resurfaced her memories and evoked desire in her. Morrison pays homage to the African concept of neighbourhood, wherein relationships and responsibilities surpass a narrow family structure, by not giving any special privilege to the life narrative of any of the slaves. To sum up then in the novel Beloved the reader traces the trajectory of the life of three generations of slaves. And in a contrast the novel attempts to show the different forms of slavery that the three generations are subjected to. So while the first generation (Baby Suggs) is scarred with Past full of physical slavery such that “living was the hard part”, the second generation (Sethe Paul D) battles with mental enslavement and cannot let go while the third (Denver, Howard and Buglar) struggles to escape the Past they have evaded and collect the bits and pieces of the family they have left.  Coming from different origins and cultures, the Black slaves did not owe their inheritance to a common ancestor. SO the slave community was formed out of mutual understanding of each other’s pain and a sense of humanity that arose out of the lack of it. As in the words of Baby Suggs – “Not a house in the country ain’t packed to its rafters with some dead Negro’s grief”.  Baby understood that the slaves had lost the attachment to their physical self and it was this loss of sensation that came to be personified in its extreme in the figure of Sethe. They had surpassed the barrier of pain and were unmoved by the double edged emotion of love, which is why Baby preached for the slaves to love their hands and feel the beating of their heart which loved them - “You got to love it, you!”. Baby Suggs hoped to make the Blacks regain their love for themselves and in the process embrace the freedom that they had received. Baby intended to remove the mental enslavement of the Blacks from their haunting Past by talking about their pain or “lay it all down, sword and shield”. Even after their freedom the Blacks were living in the horror of their Past. The trauma of slavery was so profound that they repressed its memory. This is the reason why the novel is structured in a way that the story of each of the character’s Past is eventually unfolded with each chapter as they discuss about it. As a collection then, the novel traces the way to healing of the Blacks.  In fact for Morrison black history is the core of black identity. As Susan Blake has pointed out it is not a case of “forging new myths” but of “rediscovering the old ones”. In this process lies the clue not only to “the way we really were” but to “the way we really are”. But Morrison condemns the Past spent in slavery as a “story which cannot be passed on”. Through each of the characters then, Morrison aims at depicting this selfsame story in a picture formed of symbols. To conclude every character of the novel aids at providing a different perspective to what it meant to be a slave and their worst fears and apprehension were crystallised in the single character of Sethe. Beloved is an attempt to provide an alternate point of view to Euro-centric accounts of history, especially slavery. She uses the experience of Sethe and others as witnesses to the cruel and barbaric acts that resulted from the slave system. Beloved is not a personal account of slavery. It is a composite story of slaves and their quest for freedom. It is the story of a community that battles the same odds of existence as Sethe and how they come together as “a people”.   

Bhagvad Gita slides

Notes made available for the students studying humanities as a course and subject literature.The topics included and discussed are Srila Vyasa Deva: Compiler of Bhagavad-gita, Vedas, Gita mahatmya, etc. #BITS Pilani

Bhagvad Gita notes

Notes made available for the students studying humanities as a course and subject literature.The topic included and discussed is of bhagvat gita. #BITS Pilani

The Sociological Imagination

Notes made available for the students studying humanities as a course and subject literature.The topics included and discussed are about The Sociological Imagination. #BITS Pilani