Saturday, 4 November 2017

Comment on Male-Female Relationships in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry?

There are two kinds of male-female relationships in Sylvia Plath’s poetry: those between fathers and daughters and between husbands and wives. Neither relationship seems to be happy. In ‘Lesbos’ the husbands are impotent, useless, deserving of scornful dismissal. They could be said of the potential husband s in ‘The Applicant’. But at least these men are not physically threatening, as the black demi-devil husbands in ‘Daddy’ most definitely is. Here the husband is sadistic torturer. The silent, silver suited husband who brings the sinister gift in ‘A Birthday Present’ is alarming too. He torments his wife in different, more subtle ways. Overall, heterosexual love relationships are problematic in Sylvia Plath’s poems. Even when she writes excitedly about being pursued by a lover, there is a strong current of violence running through the poem, ‘Pursuit’, a suggestion that the female is the victim, the bait. She will be eaten up worn out, cast aside.

Cold or sadistic husbands are mirrored by other sinister male figures in Sylvia Plath’s work. In ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’ the black, masculine tree is enigmatic, refusing to provide and comfort or answers. Male figures associated with organized religion and medicine are almost always threatening, the sexton and rector in ‘The Bee Meeting’ bewilder the startled vulnerable speaker who is being initiated into bee-keeping, the doctors ‘The Stones’ assault the female patient’s body: they are deliberate clinical torturers.

We find the most shocking descriptions of male violence in Sylvia Plath’s work, which occur when she describes the father figure, specially her own father, Otto Plath. Her poems about her dead father are some of her most intense works. Like the mother in ‘Medusa’, the father in ‘Daddy’ is restricting, suffocating. He is more than this. He is a brute and a vampire, a Nazi commandant, a devil.

Almost the same idea echoes in ‘The Rival’. Though the title is ironic in its own way, we find two warring figures, husband and wife. It is a poem in which metaphor; subject and above all, tone combine to produce the effect of cold, furious animosity and rivalry between husband and wife. Perhaps it is the reflection of the proposal life of Sylvia Plath. She has witnessed and experience bitter conjugal relationship both in the case of his parents and in that of her own.

In spite of her obvious misgivings about male-female relationship, Sylvia Plath did choose to write about male subjects on occasions. They occur more frequently in poems first published in The Colossus. ‘Suicide off Egg Rock’, ‘The Hermit at outermost House’ and ‘Insomniac’ are all convincing depictions of male subjects. 

Discuss the Theme of Motherhood in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath with Special Reference to ‘Morning Song’.

A number of poems of Sylvia Plath deal with mothering. Sylvia Plath is not sentimental about motherhood. It is not an unambiguously blessed state in her work. The most obvious positive statement about children is ‘you’re’, which can be read as a celebration of pregnancy. Here Sylvia Plath captures the affection and eagerness of the expectant mother. ‘You’re’ and ‘Morning Song’ suggest that Sylvia Plath saw babies as unique, individual personalities; the child is never simply an extension of the mother in her poetry. She observes babies closely, showing us the wonder of new life through her use of unusual and unexpected metaphors and similes to describe infants.

‘Morning Song’ was written by Sylvia Plath after the birth of her first child, ‘Frieda’. She intended that it should be the first poem published in the ‘Ariel’ collection. The tone is different from the cheerful mood of ‘you’re’, although the poet continues to explore feelings and ideas about motherhood that are familiar from the earlier poem.

From the first word “love’ onward we find the great affection and tenderness the mother feels for her child. She is protective, waking to listen to the baby’s cries, to which she responds immediately. She stumbles from her bed to feed her. Sylvia Plath’s descriptions are as precise and original as they were in ‘you’re. Here she concentrates on the sound the child makes, its first ‘bald cry’, its breathing further cries and finally, cooing. She also introduces an intriguing simile that suggests the baby’s otherness. It is not that Sylvia Plath feels alienated from the infant. Rather she senses the child’s individuality; she knows that it is not simply an extension of herself. This is why she says ‘Love set you going’; why, in the third stanza- using the natural imagery of clouds and the wind –she reminds the child that she is not looking in a mirror when she gazes at it. In the fifth and sixth stanzas the baby is clearly dependent on the mother to fulfil her needs, but she is also independent when she tries out her ‘handful of notes’. The simile in the last line closes the poem neatly, returning to the positivity of the opening word; the child growing already, making progress as she acquires language. The final simile catches the wonder of this development exactly.

We can conclude saying that Sylvia Plath’s achievement in this poem is to capture the reflective and occasionally uneasy joy of the new mother. We can assume that it is the first experience of being a mother.

Critically Comment on Yeats’s Use of Symbol.

Yeats’ poetry is replete with symbols. He has been called “the chief representative” of the Symbolist Movement in English literature. Indeed Yeats uses innumerable symbols. Often he coins symbols from his study of the occult, Irish folklore and mythology, philosophy, which are generally unfamiliar to the readers.It is true that French Symbolist Movement has a great impact on Yeats.

Yeats makes use of a complex system of symbols in his poems. In Yeats’ poetry generally symbols are of two kinds; the traditional and the personal as his repeated symbol of “Rose”. It is both a traditional as well as a personal symbol. The ‘rose’ in Yeats’ poem is generally used to mean earthly love but in “The Rose of the World” it also symbolizes eternal love and beauty. In “The Rose of Battle” the rose is a refuge from earthly love. The symbol, thus, becomes complex and has to be read carefully in the context in which it is used.

The symbol of ‘dance’ is closely related to Yeats’ “system” and is often employed in his poetry. It gives the meanings on the one hand, of a patterned movement, joyous energy and on the other hand, at times, a kind of unity. The symbol of dance evokes the concept of unity in “Among School Children”.

‘Byzantium’ represents perfection and unity in Yeats’ poems. He believes that in Byzantium, all spheres of life are united; there is no fragmentation. In “Sailing to Byzantium” Byzantium becomes the symbol of perfection, free from the cycle of birth and death and also free from time because it is a world of art and an ideal existence, where is neither death nor decay.

The symbol of ‘bird’ is one of the most important symbols in Yeats’ poems. It is a striking example of the dynamic nature of the Yeatsian symbol, which grow changes and acquires greater depth and destiny in their progression. The symbol of ‘Falcon’ is also very important. In “The Second Coming” Yeats says that modern world is disintegrating and leading to chaos.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

A similar process may be traced in the ‘beast imagery’. The sphinx “a shape with lion body and the head of a man”, in “The second Coming” represents the end of the Christianity. Yeats’ uses this symbol with reference to his occult system.

Yeats is disgusted with old age, for this he uses the symbol of ‘Scarecrow’. He shows his disgust with old age in “Among School Children” saying:

Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird

To sum up, we can say that Yeats’ use of symbol is complex and rich. Symbols, indeed, give “Dump things Voices, and Bodiless things Bodies” in Yeats’ poetry. The ‘rose’, the ‘swan’, the ‘tower’, the ‘winding stairs’ and the ‘spinning tops’ – all assume a life of their own and speak to the reader of different things.

Show How Yeats’ Treatment of History and Myth in His Poetry.

Yeats was greatly enthused by the charm of myth and used it in numerous poems to reveal his complex philosophical understandings.  Yeats was keen to replace traditional Greek and Roman mythological figures with figures from Irish folk lore. The juxtaposition of the Greek and the Irish myths, and his enthusiasm for old and modern philosophy has distinguished his poems from his contemporaries. The following discussion hinges round Yeats’ handling of myth, philosophy, and history along with a critical inquiry into some of his major poems.

Sailing to Byzantium reveals Yeats use myth and philosophical understanding. In the poem Byzantium symbolises some transcendental country, a place out of time and nature, a world of art and philosophy. Here the poet rejects the natural world of biological activity and decides to take refuge in the timeless world of art with a view to retreat from the process of ageing and decaying. The poem is a transition from sensual art to intellectual art. The poet feels that an old man is disgraceful unless his soul can enjoy works of art and literature which are immortal products of the human spirit. The weaker a man grows in body, the greater should be his joy in the works of art. Appreciation of art and understanding of art can be achieved only by studying magnificent and immortal works of art, the poet decided to go to Byzantium to devote himself to the study of its treasures.

Yeats often uses geometrical symbols of cone or gyre to express his quasi-mystical philosophy of historical change. The concept considers that the process of history is a cyclic one which repeats itself in different appearances. History like an individual passes through different phases along with gyres. Each phase covers a rise, growth and decline of civilisation. The end of an age occurs when disintegration begins at the circumference of the gyres and an antithetical gyre is born. In the poem The Second Coming the poet describes the current historical moment in terms of his concept of gyre. Yeats opines that the present wheel of history has come to full circle and out of its ruin a new age in human history seemed to be taking birth. He envisions that mankind is moving from a period of Christianity to Paganism. So rebirth of paganism is the cyclical process of history.

Easter 1916 deals with the contemporary political history of Ireland. The poem is a reaction to the Irish insurgence in 1916. In this poem Yeats gives an account of some of the insurgents who were personally known to him. Yeats tells that all these acquaintances were the members of this same comic world and played their own roles here. But now they have resigned from their roles, since they are deceased. Their heroic sacrifice transformed them utterly. But what is ultimately born out of this eternal transformation is a kind of terrible beauty, since this beauty can only provide us with the picture of a number of graves. These people’s hearts were united by having one purpose alone. They are all deceased and beyond recall. But still, to hinder the life’s natural course they have taken refuge permanently inside the hearts of every Irishman like a stone. Time passes, huge changes take place in nature, but still no changes occur around this stone. In the midst of all living activity it stays like a great burden. The insurgence that they made proved an utter failure but still these martyrs owe us an admiration for their self-sacrifice, since their intention was noble.

To sum up, W. B. Yeats by skilfully blending myth with history has developed a philosophy or vision of life which is quite modern. Out of the ancient myth he created poems which reveal the historical and philosophical issues of the past, present and future.

Comment on the Treatment of Childhood in the ‘Poem in October’.

Dylan Thomas has special fascination for childhood. He has written a number of poems on childhood and ‘Poem in October’ is one of them. Dylan resembles Wordsworth and William Blake in his attitude to childhood. Wordsworth sees a child from a distance and laments the fact that he can no longer see the heavenly radiance around the objects of nature as he had seen in his childhood. But Dylan like Blake becomes a child himself through imagination and can see and enjoy the beauty of nature through the eyes of a child.

The lyric ‘Poem in October’, written to celebrate the thirtieth birthday of the poet, is an attempt to recollect the sweet memories, innocence and glorious vision of childhood. Waking up at the call of nature quite early in the morning, he feels that he is being greeted on his birthday by the objects of nature, birds, beasts, hill and trees and the waves of the ocean. When the whole town is in sleep the poet comes out of the house and finds the pool full of mussels, the herons sitting priest like on the seashore, the rising waves of the ocean, call of seagulls flying over the shore, the crowing of rooks from the woods, the knocks of the sailing boats and the fishermen hunting fish in the harbor with nets. All these natural phenomena and human activities seem to welcome the poet on his birthday.

It is a rainy autumn day is the month of October and it seems to the poet, who has become a schizoid child, that the waterbirds and the birds flying over the trees are aware of his birthday and seem to be celebrating the occasion by flying over the farm houses and the white coloured horses, proclaiming his name.

He remembers the happy days which he passed in Fern Hill, where was situated the farm of his aunt. It was a country noted for its apples, pears and currants and the boy Dylan walked like a lord there. He remembers his happy days at Swansea, his native land, where he used to walk by the side of his mother in the morning. Then the sunlight and the woods seemed to him glorious and holy.

But the glorious visions and wonders of childhood first he lived through and now remembered, cannot hold the poet for a long time. He returns to reality form his fantasy-world. The griefs and sorrows of childhood makes his suffer once again as he recollects them. This makes boy and poet, past and present, Laughorne and Swansea, one.

The poet’s nostalgia for a vanished glorious past soon ends and he returns to the present. Thus he is able to regain some measure of self control and face the reality of the moment, that he is no longer a boy but a man of thirty. So the poet now offers a prayer that in future he may continue to write on the delights and wonders of a child.

Discuss the Use of Symbols in the Poetry of Dylan Thomas.

Dylan Thomas makes extensive use of natural, conventional and private symbols to convey complex psychological states to his readers. He draws symbols from different branches of sciences, philosophies, myths, legends, literature, history, occult knowledge, Bible etc.

‘Poem in October ‘contains various types of symbols. In the beginning of the poem the poet finds a heron on the shore. To him the heron becomes a symbol of sacredness and is regarded as a priest sitting on the seashore. The waves of the ocean rising high seem to the poet a kind of prayer to heaven on the occasion of his birthday. The call of the seagull coming from the shore, the crowing of the rooks from the wood and the knock of the sailing boats near the harbour, overhung with fishermen’s nets, symbolize an invitation to the poet to wake up and come out to enjoy the beauty of nature. The ‘winged trees’ symbolize the poem in which the poet celebrates his birthday. ‘Water-birds and birds of the winged trees fly my name’- Here birds flying over the farms and white horses seem to celebrate his birthday by proclaiming his name.

The word “Dylan” in English means ‘High Tide’ and so the birds may simply be flying the waves which are rising high. The line may simply be the fantasy of the schizoid individual or it may refer to the present poem in which Dylan celebrates his birthday, or it may be merely the high tides which to the poet’s imagination seem to be flying so high on the wings of the bird. ‘The white horses’ symbolize something highly desirable. ‘And I rose in rainy autumn’ signifies that the poet was born in October which is a month of Autumn. ‘High tide and the heron dived’- Here diving of the high tide ad the heron symbolizes the disappearance of the poet’s dream; the fantasy-world into which he escaped a moment ago is broken, and he has come to reality. Again the bright weather above the hill, spring and summer symbolizes a world of escape from the harsh reality, while the cold and rain below symbolizes the painful reality which cannot be avoided for any length of time.

Further the ‘tall tales’ symbolizes imagination and fancy, while ‘the gardens of spring and summer’ stand for the beautiful glorious world as re-created by the imagination of the poet. ‘The weather turned around’ signifies the fact that his escape into the fantasy world of boyhood was short –lived. The phrase ‘the other air’ symbolizes the vision and memory of childhood. ‘Parables’ and ‘Legends’ stand for the wonders and glorious vision of childhood, while the woods symbolically become green chapel. Thus the whole poem is replete with symbols and symbolic expressions of various types.

To sum up, Dylan’s symbols are complex and many-sided. Most of them are not universal but private symbols, devised by Dylan for his own use. Their complexity sometimes, gives rise to obscurity. Hence the reader should approach his subject very carefully; otherwise misunderstanding or misinterpretation may occur at any moment.

What does the Forest Represent In Story Young Goodman Brown

In ‘Young Goodman Brown’, the forest has several symbolic dimensions. Hawthorne leaves us in no doubt that the forest represents the principle and practice of evil. Brown’s experience is derived from an internalized sin. He well understood that his mission was evil, and his acts impure, yet was surprised to find others whom he reverenced following the same path. His journey to the forest is symbolic of Christian “self-exploration” in which doubt immediately supplants faith. The forest also represents the wild New World that was something to fear. Goodman Brown, like other puritans associate the forest with the wild “Indian” and see one hiding behind every tree. He believes that the devil could easily be present in such a place. Hawthorne also depicts the forest as the Garden of Eden. Goodman Brown appears to re[resent human beings confronted with his temptation-that is, he wishes to enter the dark forest of sin to satisfy his curiosity about the happenings there and perhaps even to take part in them. The man who meets brown in the forest appears to represent the devil. Goodman Brown is enticed by an entire forest. Like Adam, he suffers a great fall from innocence. Likewise, the dark forest is associated with danger, obscurity, confusion, and unknown or with evil, sin, and death as primordial symbol.