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Hybrid Identities

In “The Prophet’s Hair” by Salman Rushdie, we see the characterization of a man overcome with religious hypocrisy. Hashim is a moneylender who loves his family and, while seemingly not very religious, is a good man. When he steals the Hair from the Prophet, it changes him. He tries to cover up and explain his actions by way of religion which causes him and his family to descend into a horrific life. He becomes full of rage with violent outburst. He threatens divorce to his wife and even goes so far as to disown his daughter when she refuses to cover her head for his new-found religion’s purpose.

His new, violent behavior drives his children into desperation to fix things for their family. They hire a thief to steal the hair from their father. This backfires drastically because in the chaos, Hashim kills his daughter. He then kills himself from the guilt.

This story shows how his hypocrisy, combined with the mysticism from the story, ruined his life in a short time. Had his religious beliefs been genuine, he never would’ve kept the Prophet’s in the first place, and his family would still be intact.

Additionally, when a client tries to use Scripture to persuade him, it also throws him into a rage. This can easily be reasoned that Hashim, whether or not he has read the Quran, knows that he cannot be follow the words of his Prophet if he is violent towards the poor who seek his help. Being forced to come face-to-face with his own hypocrisy makes him violent toward the people asking for his help.

Rushdie, Salman. “The Prophet’s Hair.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Ed. Julia Reidhead and Marian Johnson. New York: W. W. Nortan and Company, Inc., 2018.

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Paternal Legacies

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The Dolls Museum in Dublin is a surprisingly haunting poem because of how it juxtaposes the beautiful Easters past with the Easter Rising of 1916. The third stanza shows them side-by-side very clearly: “And recreate Easter in Dublin./Booted officers. Their mistresses./Sunlight criss-crossing College Green./Steam hissing from the flanks of horses.” The idea of “recreat[ing] Easter in Dublin” seems like it would be a pleasant activity – Easter is typically a celebratory holiday in the springtime. It holds much beauty. But then the poem continues with the recreating: “booted officers. Their mistresses.” This is unexpected if you are thinking of the Easter holiday. This line makes it very clear that we are not reminiscing about Christ being resurrected; we are reminiscing about the 2,000 killed or injured Irish rebels who were part of a rebellion to make Ireland a free state and the leaders of the rebellion who were executed without trial.

The poem mentions the dead and those who lived on without them: “Their cold hands clasped by warm hands,/their faces memorized like perfect manners.” This shows how the Irish people in and around Dublin reacted to the rebels being murdered in the streets. The title of the poem indicates that the dolls in the shop windows represent the fallen people who did not live to see Ireland become the Irish Free State in 1922.

The people who died for the cause, the leaders and the rebels, felt the need for a free Ireland and gave their lives for it but would never know if they succeeded or not. “To be the hostages ignorance/takes from time and ornament from destiny. Both./To be the present of the past. To infer the difference/with a terrible stare. But not feel it. And not know it.” They are liked the dolls in the windows, who are frozen and unaware of their surroundings. They do not know that they did not die in vain, that Ireland finally did succeed.

Boalnd, Eaven. “The Dolls Museum in Dublin.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Ed. Julia Reidhead and Marian Johnson. New York: W. W. Nortan and Company, Inc., 2018.

Editors, History.com. “Easter Rising.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, http://www.history.com/topics/british-history/easter-rising.

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Constructing the Colonial Subject

In Heart of Darkness, Marlow was a very interesting character because of his internal hypocrisy. It is difficult to tell whether he is aware of how extensive it is. The biggest tell, in my opinion, is how he is aware of the negative effect that colonialism has on the native people, and recognizes that he plays a part, but does not seem to recognize the depth to which he is also culpable.

Throughout the story, he notices outright, obvious racism and even seems to condemn it, if only internally. But when it comes to doing his part to end the colonialism that is so obviously wrong, even to him, he is side-tracked by Kurtz and the need to protect his reputation, which is a pointless pursuit, in my opinion. No one benefits from Kurtz’ reputation being untarnished. Kurtz is dead, he doesn’t need it. Even his fiancé, who may have been momentarily soothed by the lie Marlow told her, lives based on a lie which most people would agree is a sad fact. It seems to me that Marlow was truly protecting himself by trying to defend the interest he took in Kurtz.

Out of all the stories and lessons Charles Marlow could have taken back to Brussels, he really missed “the point” by bringing all the focus to Kurtz, and a fictional Kurtz at that. Kurtz’ story, had it been told truthfully, could have been yet another warning against colonialism. Instead, Marlow protected his own interest, and the interest of the colonizers, by bringing back tales of a sympathetic hero who furthered the cause of colonialism.

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Gender, Modernism, and War

“Somewhere in sands of the desert/A shape with lion body and the head of a man,/A gaze blank and pitless as the sun,/Is moving its slow thighs”

The imagery in The Second Coming by W. B. Yeats is very interesting because of the way it uses Christian imagery to discuss the fall of Christianity. The first line of the second stanza introduces the idea of “revelation”, one of the most discussed and controversial books of the Christian Bible. The idea of the Second Coming is a clear reference to Jesus Christ, who is said to be returning to Earth to rule “for a thousand years” (Revelations 20: 1-6). This poem, though, uses the idea and framework for the Second Coming but makes the messiah a “rough beast” (Line 21).

Yeats writes: “but now I know/That twenty centuries of stony sleeps/Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,/And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Yeats refers to Christianity as “that twenty centuries of stony sleep” (19).  This seems to invoke the idea that while Christianity was one of the most prominent religions of the time, and probably the most prominent in Yeats’ society, it will soon fall to the “rough beast” that is coming next. The “rocking cradle” brings to mind Christ as a child, who was born in Bethlehem. But this new child “vex[es] to nightmare” Christianity.

The last few lines of the poem are so powerful because of the images they invoke in the Christian faith. Any mention of Bethlehem will bring up thoughts and images of the Christ child. While considering the birthplace of the Christ, a holy place, Yeats discusses the Second Coming beast who is on its way to Bethlehem, to be born the New Messiah of this next era where Christ, who was thought to be King for a thousand years, instead is the Old God in a new world. While Christianity describes their Messiah as a loving and forgiving god, the description of this new one by Yeats does not seem to be as benevolent. Its gaze it “blank and pitless” (15) while “the darkness drops again” (18) when it is around. The Second Coming will be darker and terrifying, according to this poem.

Works Cited

Yeats, William Butler. “The Second Coming.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Ed. Julia Reidhead and Marian Johnson. New York: W. W. Nortan and Company, Inc., 2018.

Revelations. Holy Bible Modern English version. Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2014.

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the Turn of the Century

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde portrait for sale by SpookShop

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a common story to bring up when discussing the duality of man. Dr. Jekyll himself is interested in his “evil” side that shows no empathy and cares only for his own pleasure. But there are more than the inner selves that make up a person. Dr. Jekyll’s environment, his life in London, was as much a part of him as Mr. Hyde was.

Robert Louis Stevenson, a well-traveled man, surely knew of the affect one’s environment has on the self. Living often in Paris, he was happiest around other artists of the time. He chose, however, to make the setting of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the turn-of-the-century London. This historical context adds another element to the story – the self as defined by the setting. The changing of Dr. Jekyll was reflected in the changing times of London at the end of the 1800’s. Dr. Jekyll was resistant to his new persona once he realized that it could, and likely would, change him forever. It wasn’t a new self that could be dabbled in then forgotten. Mr. Hyde was a part of him permanently. In the same way, the new and changing culture in London was not going away. Indeed, it would become part of the people and change the course of their lives permanently as well.

Mr. Hyde is also a reflection of the necessity in the people of the Victorian Era to repress the own desires, lest they turn into a Hyde-like person. The moral here, then, can show that they were, like Dr. Jekyll, giving their desires too much power. Dr. Jekyll was a good person before he discovered how to split Hyde from himself. The equal mixture of Jekyll and Hyde made up the whole Dr. Jekyll and with this ability to coexist, he led a fruitful life. Such is the way to live a whole life that was not possible in the Victorian era. Rather than live a life that included pleasures in moderation, they cast them out entirely which made the need for the build substantially.

Reidhead, Julia and Marian Johnson. “Robert Louis Stevenson.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Ed. Julia Reidhead and Marian Johnson. New York: W. W. Nortan and Company, Inc., 2018.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. “The Stange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Ed. Julia Reidhead and Marian Johnson. New York: W. W. Nortan and Company, Inc., 2018.

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Late Victorians on “Other” Sexualities

Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper (Michael Field)

Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper, the poets behind the pseudonym Michael Field, created a fascinating line of work because they were masked by a masculine persona. Their poetry has the potential to be double analyzed: from a male and female perspective.

“Maids, not to you my mind doth change” from a male perspective is not a very groundbreaking poem. A man in the Victorian era saying “I could take or leave a man, preferably leave, but I love women” is not interesting except for the fact that it’s being stated so clearly when it would have been assumed. The theme that stands out when the speaker is read as a man is the caretaker aspect of the poem, “When injuries my spirit bruise,/Allaying virtue ye infuse with unobtrusive skill” (lines15-17). This is more interesting from a male perspective, especially in this time, because of the level of compassion and respect that is felt for the maid (from the speaker, a “man”). It is sarcastic, as if she were beneath him, but it also does not put her on a moral pedestal the way a lot of love poems by men for women tended to be.

From a female perspective, this poem takes a more powerful, and still softer, turn. First, the absolute bravery of Bradley and Cooper writing about their lesbianism in this time, even with a pseudonym, is admirable. This only makes their work extremely powerful. Additionally, the second stanza of the poem shows that the power dynamic of a heterosexual relationship, where the man has societal power of the woman, is not relevant because they are both women. The lines “To you I never breathe a sign/Of inward want or woe” (13-14) seem to say that all the signs, if not inward, are outward. There is no need to “play games” as we would call it, play hard to get or hide feelings to save face, when the respect between the two people is so strong that they are truly equals in their relationship.

Works Cited

Field, Michael. “Maids, not to you my mind doth change.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Ed. Julia Reidhead and Marian Johnson. New York: W. W. Nortan and Company, Inc., 2018.

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Women in the Victorian Age

Sarah Stickney Ellis and Florence Nightingale are two women in the Victorian Era who wanted education for women. They type of education and reasoning for the education couldn’t have been more different, however.

Sarah Stickney Ellis wrote about “disinterested kindness” in her essay The Women of England: The Social Duties and Domestic Habits (656). “Disinterested kindness” meant, to Ellis, that women were morally superior in their ability to be kind impartially. In her essay, she talks about the role of women compared to men. According to Ellis, a woman’s role to support her husband is the meaning to her life. Her belief is that “the first and the last inquiry of every day” should be about what she can do to make the lives of those around her “more happy” (658). This was, to her, the defining characteristic of a woman and this is where her education should be focused. Her idea of education for women had no room for learning of any intellectual matters, but rather how to be a morally good person whose sole focus was bettering the lives around her at the cost of living her own. It’s a very interesting argument because most people would agree that a person who always acknowledged those around them and wanted to make their lives better would be a noble life. Ellis did not think this was an individual matter, though. She made it very clear that men were not expected to live this way and she heavily implied she did not even think it was possible for them. Women, on the other hand, had no choice but to live for others, in her mind.

Florence Nightingale, on the other hand, had very strong words about society’s unwillingness to let women be stimulated by “passion, intellect, and moral activity” (672). Nightingale makes a point about how the women of her time were never allowed to take place in activities that needed their full attention. It was deemed impolite and socially awkward to undertake a task in which, should someone ask for her attention while she was completing it, she would have to tell them to wait. She gives an example of how, if the roles were reversed, men would be laughed at. It would have been amusing for people to know that a man was only engaging in activities such as embroidery that could be picked up and dropped at a moment’s notice. She points out right in the beginning that women also have passions and curiosities about the world that deserve to be satisfied as men get to satisfy them. Her depiction of older women, who have since let their dreams and passions die, is heartbreaking, to say the least: “It seems as if the female spirit of the world were mourning everlastingly over blessings, not lost, but which she never had, and which, in her discouragement she feels that she never will have, they are so far off (676).

Works Cited

Sarah Stickney Ellis. “The Women of England: The Social Duties and Domestic Habits.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Ed. Julia Reidhead and Marian Johnson. New York: W. W. Nortan and Company, Inc., 2018.

Nightingale, Florence. “Cassandra.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Ed. Julia Reidhead and Marian Johnson. New York: W. W. Nortan and Company, Inc., 2018.

Modernist Perspectives on Sexuality and Desire

Illustration of Molly Bloom

Molly’s passage in Ulysses by James Joyce gives a refreshing view of a multifaceted woman who embraces the importance of her own desires. While the style of the monologue is difficult to grasp at first, once you get used to the style and how she thinks, it is very interesting to read her thoughts as a stream of consciousness. It really gives the impression that she is being fully honest as she goes through the process of comparing her husband and the man she is having an affair with.

Molly’s main comparison between the two men is which needs the fulfill for her and how well. Leopold Bloom, her husband, seems to be either a selfish lover or, it is possible, he does not understand what she needs physically. She does reflect on his poetic self and how he cares for her emotionally well (or, at least, he did when they got married and, presumably, he does now, or could).

Blazes Boylan, the man with whom she is having an affair, does give her what she wants from sex physically, but he does not seem to care for her at all. She reflects upon their meetings when he immediately gets naked and does not take time for connecting on an emotionally intimate level. This part of her character is very interesting because while he clearly thinks less of him for his inability to have an emotional connection, and is openly disgusted of the sex workers he probably visits, she is doing the same as he is in this particular relationship.

By the end of her monologue, Molly replays the day she and her husband got engaged and how they made love afterward and remembers her strong feelings from him in the first place. Her positive attitude toward him at the end of the passage leads the reader to believe that she prioritizes her emotional needs over her physical, even though she knows those are important as well.

Works Cited

Joyce, James. “Ulysses.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Ed. Julia Reidhead and Marian Johnson. New York: W. W. Nortan and Company, Inc., 2018.

Warren, Noah, and Jay Dockendorf. “‘Penelope.’” Modernism Lab, modernism.coursepress.yale.edu/197/.