British literature continues to be read and analyzed because the themes, motifs and controversies that people struggled with in the past are still being debated today. The strongest themes that were presented in this course related to changing governments, the debate about equity between blacks and whites, men and women and rich and poor, and the concern about maintaining one’s cultural identity. The evolution of governments was a constant theme throughout the course, beginning with the lesson on the Introduction to Romanticism, where Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin debated the equity between rich and poor that was tearing France apart. The theme continued through the lesson about the Impact of Industry. Burke was too close to his political sources to acknowledge the atrocities that were happening to France’s poor. He argued in favor of keeping the current political system, fearing that corruption would fill the vacuum of power if the monarchy was dissolved.
This fear is still prevalent today after the United States ousted Iraq’s Sada am Hussain. In both situations, people are concerned with the vacuum of power, fearing that someone more corrupt than the current administration would fill the void. Wollstonecraft countered Burke’s debate and trumpeted the plight of the poor. She argued that to turn a deaf ear to the cruelty was a vote for tyranny. “The rich and the weak, a numerous train, will certainly applaud your system, and loudly celebrate your pious reverence for authority and establishments – they find it pleasanter to enjoy than to think; to justify oppression than correct abuses (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, The Rights of Man, p. 82).” She added that, “They (the poor) have a right to more comfort than they at present enjoy; and more comfort might be afforded them, without encroaching on the pleasures of the rich; not now waiting to enquire whether the rich have any right to exclusive pleasures (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, The Rights of Man and the Revolution Controversy, p.
The debate over man being inherently good or evil is a debate which has raged since the beginning of time. Rousseau and William Golding do not shy away from taking a stance on the subject. But while Rousseau believes "nothing can be more gentle than man in his primitive state," Golding's believes quite the opposite. In his novel, The Lord of the Flies, Golding attempts to prove his hypothesis by ...
83).” Thomas Paine’s argument also still reverberates today as even the United States government continues to be reshaped based on what its citizens desire. Paine’s theory, that people who are living have more rights to construct their own rules than people who have died, is still a guiding principle outlined in the United States Constitution. “I am contending for the rights of the living, and against their being willed away, and controlled and contracted for, by the manuscript assumed authority of the dead; and Mr. Burke is contending for the authority of the dead over the rights and freedom of the living (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, The Rights of Man and the Revolution Controversy, p. 85).” The theme of change in government and equality between the rich and the poor continued into the lesson on the Impact of Industry, where writers were arguing for the outlawing of child labor and how the poor impacted the rich. In many ways, this lesson mirrored the debate that was presented before the French Revolution.
Thomas Carlyle first used the mythological story of Midas to show readers how British industrialism was producing misery for the poor. Although everything the rich touched turned to gold, the industry was expanding the gap between the rich and the poor. This expanding gap also is evident today in the United States where the monetary gap widens between the rich and the poor. Carlyle illustrated this in The Irish Widow. High society had turned its back on the Irish widow, leaving her to scrounge for herself. And in doing so, the Irish woman’s Typhus fever infected and killed 17 rich people.
If society had helped her, even a little, she may not have contracted the disease and impacted the rich. This same debate is being played out today in hospitals across the country where people are debating how, or if, they should treat the uninsured. Those who are uninsured and are treated, however, thrust the responsibility for payment onto the rich. Still, the plights of the poor eventually wind their way back and impact the rich. Writers Friedrich Engels and Henry Mayhew also argued for the poor, giving voice to their cause by writing detailed accounts of their squalor. Engels wrote, “The workers have been caged in dwellings which are so wretched that no one else will live in them, and they actually pay good money for the privilege of seeing these dilapidated hovels fall to pieces about their ears.
Change & Changing Perspectives. Change is something that has been discussed as being an inevitable part of human life. It is something which humans have experienced many times and will continue to experience it many more times throughout their lives. As with anything else there are different types, or levels, of change that can occur. Perhaps the most obvious ones to categorize change by are ...
Industry alone has been responsible for all this and yet this same industry could not flourish except by degrading and exploiting the workers (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, p. 1, 068).” Engles’s tory and Mayhew’s account of children laboring in the streets were identical to today’s debates about child labor laws in China and the destruction of low income housing projects in Chicago. Same debate, different era. Carlyle calls upon workers to fight to change their situations. He specifically cites the French Revolution as a prime example of what happens if society ignores the poor.
Again, the theme of changing governments and the equity between rich and poor is played out on the world stage. A song written by Bob Dylan in 1964, but performed by Billy Joel in 1987 called, The Times They Are A Changin’, highlights the turmoil that is ongoing change. Joel performed Dylan’s song live during his Kohuept concert in Russia in 1987. Joel’s intro to the song states that Russia’s inner turmoil was similar to the turmoil that was prevalent in the United States in the 1960 s. “Come writers and critics Who with your pen And keep your eyes wide The chance won’t come again And don’t speak too soon For the wheel’s still in spin And there’s no tell in’ who That it’s nam in’. For the loser now Will be later to win For the times they are a-changing’ (The Times They Are A Changin’, Kohuept, 1987).” Two years later Joel wrote his own song about change called, We Didn’t Start the Fire, which was on his Storm Front album.
George Bernard Shaw is known by many as the most significant English playwright since the seventeenth century. He wrote fifty-seven plays in his lifetime, and a vast majority of them were revolutionary in their themes. On July 26, 1856, George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland. Shaw was the first son of his parents, George and Lucille, but had two sisters upon his arrival. Although they ...
A copy of the song also is attached, but the refrain tells most of the story about why we still read great literature: to get a better understanding of our past. “We didn’t start the fire It was always burning Since the world’s been turning We didn’t start the fire No we didn’t light it But we tried to fight it (We Didn’t Start the Fire, Storm Front, 1989).” The theme of equity between races also is playing out today, as it has in the past. Although slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865 the racist attitudes persisted for the next 100 years. It was not until the 1960 s civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King. before people addressed the true equality between blacks and whites.
The debate is still raging, albeit in more subtle ways, as blacks fight for equal employment opportunities, especially in high ranking positions. The sporting arena is the most obvious representation of the current inequality, although some black coaches are finally getting the chance at leadership positions. The anti-slavery movement originated the idea of equal rights for blacks and was partially spearheaded by writers Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince and their slave narratives. Equiano and Prince crafted their narratives to evoke sympathy for slaves from white slave owners, and more specifically their wives. Equiano tried to show whites that they were just as cruel to their own race as they were to blacks. And, Equiano tried to show his readers that cruelty in any form is wrong.
“But still I feared I should be put to death, the white people looked and acted, as I thought, in so savage a manner; for I had never seen among any people such instances of brutal cruelty; and this is not only shown towards blacks, but also to some of the whites themselves. One white man in particular I saw, when we were permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a large rope near the foremast, that he died in consequence of it; and they tossed him over the side as they would have done a brute. This made me fear these people the more; and I expected nothing less than to be treated in the same manner (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, p. 162).” Prince also tried to show the brutality of whites, but her writing was specifically targeted at white women, whom she hoped would pressure their husbands to end the cruelty. The sadness that is carried by a woman after she loses a child is the same, no matter what the race. “Her shrieks were terrible.
Oftentimes in literature an author will use his works as a means for the expression of views. It then becomes the job of the reader to find those views and make an attempt to understand them. George Bernard Shaw is a playwright who layered his plays with opinions and social commentary. It is these views that present themselves after a close reading in which the reader feels he has read more than a ...
The consequence was that poor Hetty was brought to bed before her time, and was delivered after severe labour of a dead child. She appeared to recover after her confinement, so far that she was repeatedly flogged by both master and mistress afterwards; but her former strength never returned to her (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, p. 171).” While people are struggled for equality, they also struggled to maintain their own cultural identity, much like they do today. The Irish poetry and Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion are two prime examples of this theme. Author Seamus Heaney’s best addresses the retention of culture in his poem, The Singer’s House. He makes a direct reference to the death of the Irish language, its song.
He asks fellow Irish to remember their past and retain their culture. The reasons people should retain their culture are crystal clear to Heaney, who plays on the word crystal to emphasize his point. “What do we say any more to conjure the salt of our earth? So much comes and is gone that should be crystal and kept, and amicable weathers that bring up the grain of things, their tang of season and store, are all the packing we ” ll get (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, The Singer’s House, p. 2, 893).” Bernard Shaw took a similar approach to the issue of dissolving cultural identity in his play, Pygmalion. He specifically addresses the unrefined spoken English of Eliza Doolittle. In Act 1, Professor Higgins criticizes Liza’s spoken English.
“Higgins: A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere-no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible; and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Pygmalion, p. 2, 093).” Still, one could argue incorrectly that Shaw is satirizing the perceived importance of spoken English through Professor Higgins. Shaw dropped out of school at the age of 15, claiming he had no use for school. Still, Shaw was captivated by the great writers like Shakespeare and Milton. If Shaw had no use for correct English, he likely would not have any use for reading either author.
This lesson is a continuation of the study of British literature and will focus on literature from the Neoclassical Period to today. This lesson is only an overview of some of the authors and literary works produced in England during a particular period. There are many other authors that made important contributions to the literature of this time period. The periods of British Literature are: ...
Therefore, I would conclude that he is speaking the truth about his views on his dislike for the dissolving of Britain’s culture. Shaw uses Professor Higgins to expand on his beliefs, specifically when he claimed that even a guttersnipe like Liza Doolittle could be transformed into a proper English woman. “Higgins-… I can make a duchess of this draggletailed guttersnipe. Liza – Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-ow-oo! Higgins – Yes: in six months – in three if she has a good ear and a quick tongue- I’ll take her anywhere and pass her off as anything. We ” ll start today: now! this moment! Take her away and clean her, Mrs.
Pearce. Monkey Brand, if it won’t come off any other way. Is there a good fire in the kitchen? (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Pygmalion, p. 2, 099).” Shaw levels the same criticism of Liza’s father, Mr. Doolittle. Shaw believes that people like the Doolittle can improve their economic situations by learning to speak proper English.
“Higgins: Pickering: if we were to take this man in hand for three months, he could choose between a seat in the Cabinet and a popular pulpit in Wales (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Pygmalion, p. 2, 109).” It is because of the protection of the English language, and its evolution, that students still study British literature. In addition, the themes, motifs and controversies of the past are also are still evolving today. These issues include the evolution of government, the debate about equity between blacks and whites, men and women and rich and poor, and the concern about maintaining one’s cultural identity. Bibliography Wollstonecraft, Mary.
The historical events and mentality of a time period are a major influence on the context and style of that particular times literature. British Literature experienced many metamorphoses through the years 449-1660. The literature traveled through four distinct periods. Beginning with the Anglo-Saxons moving through the medieval and Renaissance periods and ending with the writings of the 17th ...
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