Saturday, 23 April 2016

Filial Love in 19th Century Literature

Father Goriot by Balzac

In Balzac's "Father Goriot" (1895) the eponymous character meets his death by his own excessive fatherly love. Like Shakespeare's King Lear, the generous father is deserted by the two selfish daughters. But Goriot unlike Lear, does not ever have a Cordelia to "to love and be silent".

Les Miserables

In Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" (1862) the young couple Cossette and Marius gradually neglect Jean Valjean in their mutual absorption. Only after learning from others the truth that he has saved both their lives, they rush to his deathbed. 

Silas Marner

In contrast, Eppie in George Eliot's "Silas Marner" (1861) remains steadfast to her foster father, even after her natural father offers her riches and social status. She justifies the symbolism that she was mistakenly thought to be the lost gold (because of her auburn curls) by her sterling (in both senses) qualities. 

What great writers think about the tastes of the culturally challenged youth..

George Eliot

Popular Music is a form of melody which expresses a puerile state of culture, the passion and thought of people without any breadth or horizon. There is a sort of self satisfied folly about every phrase of such melody; no cries of deep, mysterious passion, no conflict, no sense of the universal. It makes men small as they listen to it.

George Eliot "Domiel Deronda"

Jane Austen

"There is nothing like (social) dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies."

"Certainly and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance."

Jane Austen "Pride and Prejudice"

Thursday, 21 April 2016

"Billy Budd" by Herman Melville (a summary)

'Billy Budd' - Book Cover
The story is set aboard HMS Bellipotent in 1797, a tense period following mutinies in the Navy during the war between England and France. Billy Budd, 'the handsome sailor' of sailors folklore (Terrence Stamp) is impressed from a merchant man, the 'Rights of Man'. He quickly adjusts to life aboard a man-of-war and is a favourite of the crew, but he becomes the target of the envious and brutal master-at-arms, John Claggart. Claggart concocts a plot of a supposed mutiny and accuses Billy of being involved in it before the ship's commander, Captain Vere. The innocent Billy, unable to answer the charge because of a chronic stammer strikes Claggart on the fore head and kills him. 
Terrence Stamp

Vere, though recognising the falsity of Claggart's story and sympathising with the agonised Billy, fears reaction among the crew if Billy is not punished for assaulting a superior. He calls a drumhead court and instructs it to find Billy guilty of a capital crime. The court, though troubled by the ambiguities of the case and by Vere's precipitate action condemns Billy, who is hanged from the yard arm after crying out, 'God Bless Captain Vere!' Sometime later Vere (played by Peter Ustinov) is killed during an engagement with the French, his last murmured words are Billy's name.
(An excerpt from the Companion to Literature in English)