Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ahhh, The Struggles of Young Love

 

 

In “Araby,” James Joyce suggests that everyone experiences a desire for love and change, but these desires are frustrating and limited. The glamor of new love intertwines with the drudgery and monotony of everyday life. Joyce represents this through the narrator’s boyhood crush. Mangan’s sister, the person of his affection, fills the narrator with joy and feelings of young love. Lets be honest, he is borderline stalker. “Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The bind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leapt. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her.” (2632). The poor guy is madly in lust for her. The narrator can’t go a moment without thinking of her, yet these thoughts must compete with the dullness of his life. What he wants most from this one-sided relationship is a change to his everyday life. He is bored and irritated with his daily schedule. This is clear through the language the narrator uses, such as his description of “tedious intervening days”. Mangan’s sister is his opportunity for change.

Then the big day finally comes. It is the day the narrator finally gets the opportunity to woo Mangan’s sister with a beautiful gift from the bazaar. Yet things are not going well for him. The day starts with the narrator’s uncle blocking the boy’s view of Mangan’s sister. He begins to have a gut feeling that something is wrong: “and already my heart misgave me” (2634). Unfortunately for the narrator, he is delayed in leaving for the bazaar by his Uncle’s drunkenness and forgetfulness. These delays indicate that love is unattainable for people, especially for the narrator. He has big dreams for love, but these dreams are shattered. After finally getting on train and arriving at the bazaar, the narrator is thwarted by empty stalls, ugly vases, and flowered teacups. These were not the exotic novelties the narrator was expecting to help him woo his love.

It is at this moment that the narrator realizes his expectations for love are misguided and meaningless. The narrator, in a fit of depression and realization, states, “Gazing up into darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (2635). The boy’s epiphany helps him conclude that he was so largely driven by a longing for change and love that he released his self worth. The narrator is so angry with himself that he cannot yet contemplate his actions. We have all been in this situation before: you make a stupid decision in regard to love (possibly making a fool of yourself in the process), and all you can do is cry because you are so angry. This is exactly how the narrator is feeling. We see that Joyce is making this story plausible for all readers. He uses a first-person narrative, never giving a name to the narrator, so readers can incorporate themselves as the narrator. Mangan’s sister also remains nameless, as though she is any girl. Likewise, she is never given a full description. This allows readers to fill in their own desired picture of the sister (possibly of the reader’s own love interest). This makes the story universal to all readers, suggesting that everyone experiences frustrations in regard to change and love.

In a way, Mangan’s sister seems diabolical and heartless for denying the narrator’s request for going to the bazaar but still silently asking for a gift. Considering she is nameless and faceless, I wonder if Joyce is suggesting that women are in charge of mens’ suffering in regard to love and change. (Hmmm, doesn’t that sound familiar?)

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Truth and Knowledge are Power

“Ode on a Grecian Urn” signifies is based on the idea that truth cannot be found through knowledge and logic. Instead, truth in conveyed through emotions. This is opposite of empiricism, which we discussed in class. While other Romantic poets and authors began discussing that truth truth is discovered through knowledge and experimentation, Keats illustrates that truth is not as complex as people make it to be. Instead, the only truths that we know are those that we feel. Likewise, truth is expressed in beauty. Beauty is subjective to each person, as is truth. We see this as the urn speaks in lines 49-50: “’Beauty is truth, truth is beauty’-that is all ye know o earth, and all ye need to know.” Again, Keats is bashing all empiricists who believe knowledge is gained through experimentation. Keats is claiming that truth comes from within. Similarly, Keats believed that the greatest truths can only be conveyed through silence. The urn, which is a symbol for wisdom, has been sitting in a room for thousands of years. Nobody has discovered its infinite wisdom and truth yet, for only a truly wise and emotional person can unhinge its secrets. This illustrates that not everyone discover the greatest truths. Instead, only someone subjective and emotional will be able to uncover true knowledge. We see this exemplified through all of the images on the urn. For example, the second stanza depicts a man gazing upon his beautiful love. “She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, for ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!” (19-20) Although the man can never kiss her, for she is frozen in time, he will never grieve because her beauty is eternal. The speaker can see man’s love through the way he gapes at his love. Because of this, their love will remain forever. Their love and her beauty are the only truths. Beauty and truth are equal in the eyes of the beholder.

“Goblin Market” is a social critique of the patriarchal view of women during the Victorian period. The poem begins by listing 29 various fruits. Personally, I viewed these fruits to be a symbol for the forbidden fruit that Eve ate, as described in Genesis. Laura states to her sister, “We must not look at goblin men, we must not buy their fruits: who knows upon what soil they fed their hungry thirsty roots?” (42-45). We see here that Laura is warning her sister not to eat the fruit, for its consequences are unknown. In this poem, the forbidden fruits are a symbol for sexuality and knowledge. During the Victorian era, women were to be chaste, honorable, and quiet. They only needed enough education to be able to hold a suitable conversation. Women who had their own views of politics, life, etc. were undesirable. Likewise, if women were too sexual, they were shunned. This is reiterated when Laura becomes so overcome with desire that she gorges herself on fruit. “I ate and ate my fill, yet my mouth waters still” (165-166). Here, Laura is presenting the fears for women if they become educated or sexual. If women became educated, they would be able to rise against men, thus becoming more dominant. And we all know how men felt about that! Similarly, men only wanted to marry virgins. If women were not, they were considered whores. When Laura desires more fruit butt cannot have it, she becomes deathly ill. For eating the fruit, Laura bares the consequences degrading societal norms. Once she gave into temptation, there was no returning. This is what men feared if women were to be educated: they would become so consumed with knowledge that they would raise to power. Even though Laura is ill, she feels no remorse for eating the fruit. The only thing that can save her is to taste the again. This is crucial for her rehabilitation into society. It is important to note that Laura continues to think of the fruit for the remainder of her life. “Laura would call the little ones and tell them of her early prime.” (548-549). Although she no longer craves it, it will always be apart of her. This mimics the reality of discovering sexuality and education. Rossetti here is explaining that women should not fear sexuality and knowledge, but they should be cautious of it.