Friday, 7 January 2022

LGBTIQ - Queer Theory

                 Lesbian and Gay literary theory emerged as a distinct field only by the 1990s with the publication of ‘The Lesbian and Gay studies Reader’ in 1993 by Henry Abelove and others.  Actually Feminism, at the course of time marginalized or ignored lesbianism.  So the conflict between heterosexual feminists and lesbians opened up.  Thus lesbian feminism existed.  Adrienne Rich with her, “Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence”, introduced ‘Lesbian Continuum’.  Thus sexuality which was seen as something merely ‘natural’ and unchanging began to change as a construction or a subject to be changed.  In this way, the comprehensive term Queer theory entered.

            Teresa De Lauretis organized the first queer theory conference in 1990 at the University of California.  Queer theory is broadly associated with the study and theorization of gender and sexual practices that exist outside heterosexuality and which challenge the notion that heterosexual desire is normal.  The works of Michel Foucault and Judith Butler are often considered the founding texts of queer theory.

            Innovations in queer theory have made it evident that Performativity is a function of the choices that gay and lesbian individuals make every day and in all walks of life.  In this way, we can understand that Oscar Wild’s life experience is as valuable for queer theory as his literary works.

            The queer theory not only examines the communities surrounding the queer people, but also the communities they form.  Same sex living communities have significant priority in the formation of queer theories.  Deconstructing the binary opposition of Post-Structuralism too influenced queer theory.  The hierarchy in the pair of heterosexual and homosexual was also questioned, when the film star Rock Hudson a gay died of AIDS.  He was one among the early celebrities to have been diagnosed with AIDS in 1985.

            According to Eve Sedgwick gayness may be openly declared to family and friends but not to banks and Insurance companies, as everyone has the right for concealment and openness.  Here, both heterosexual and homosexual do not have any fixed essences.  So, the post modernist concept of identity should be availed to them.

            As far as the gay and lesbian texts are concerned, they may be written by a gay or lesbian or they may be written about gays or lesbians and sometimes they may express the ‘vision’ of gays and lesbians.  Similarly the lesbian and gay critics usually identify lesbian or gay episodes in mainstream work and discuss them as in the case of the relationship between Jane and Helen in ‘Jane Eyre’, is discussed.  Some other critics expose ‘homophobia’ of mainstream literature and criticism, where homosexual aspects are ignored purposefully as it happened to the love lyrics of W.H. Auden.  Some even setup or extended metaphorical sense of ‘lesbian and gay’ in their critical analysis so that it connotes a moment of crossing a boundary.  Actually such moments mirror the self identification as lesbian or gay that establishes certain norms and boundaries.

            However, strong homo-erotic tenderness is seen widely in the First World war poetry.  Mark Lilly points out that a frequent motif in the poems is to see ‘same-sex love as superior to men’s love for women’.  In ‘Passing the love of women’, written by Studdert Kennedy it is said,

                        ‘But I knows a Stronger love than theirs

                        And that is the love of men’

            Similarly, Lilly detects an element of ‘necrophilia’ in Herbert Read’s ‘My Company’

                        ‘A man of mine

                        Lies on the wire

                        And he will rot

                        And first his lips

                        The worm will eat

                        It is not thus I would hev him kissed

                        But with the warm passionate lips                   

                        Of his comrade here.’

            Similar poems of wound, hospitals are also there, by the 19th century American poet Walt Whitman about the American Civil war.  The wound is erotically charged in First World War poetry because it allows tender physical contact between males.  Thus, the war became a ‘safe’ area in which feelings usually suppressed can be openly expressed.  Here Lilly also talks about the similar examples of foot ball field, where men kiss and embrace each other passionately in public.

            It is said the army itself exploited these feelings at the start of war with the settling up of ‘Pals’ regiments, in which large numbers of men from the same district enlisted and served in units together.  Thus, this kind of poetry has official sanction and gets access to publication in news papers and poetry journals.  The Continuum of feelings expressed in this poetry tends ultimately to ‘deconstruct’ the notion of gayness as a distinct one with a separate identity.

-------Thulasidharan V

Tuesday, 4 January 2022





            Eco Criticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment.  Actually it takes its literary bearings from three major 19th C American writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).  They were the essayists and philosophers known collectively as the transcendentalists.  Emerson’s ‘Nature’ talks about the impact of nature upon him.  Fullers ‘Summer on the lakes, during 1843’, deals with her encounter with the American landscape at large.  Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ is an account of his two-year stay from 1845, in a hut he had built on the shore of Walden Pond.  These three books can be considered as the foundational works of American ‘eco centered’ writing.

            However, the terms ‘eco criticism’ and ‘Green Studies’ were used to denote a critical approach in the USA in the late 1980’s and in the UK in the early 1990’s.  In the USA the acknowledged founder is Cheryl Glotfelty with her essay ‘The Eco criticism reader: Landmarks in literary Ecology’.  It was she who revived the term ‘eco criticism’ to refer the critical field that had previously been known as ‘The Study of Nature Writing’.  Similarly the UK version of eco criticism takes its bearings from the British Romanticism of 1790’s.  The founding figure on the British side is the critic Jonathan Bate who wrote ‘Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition’ in 1991.  However, both these American and British variants warn us of environmental threats emanating from governmental, industrial, commercial and neo-colonial forces.

            Eco criticism deals with how environmental issues, cultural issues concerning the environment and attitudes are presented and analyzed.  This has gained a lot of attention during recent years due to higher social emphasis on environmental destruction and increased technology.  Thus it has become a broad one that includes green studies, eco feminism; eco poetics, deep ecology and bio-politics.  As there was earlier a utilitarian attitude towards nature, nature was for human needs.  However, after the 18th C, there emerged a demand to revaluate the relationship between man and environment.

            Arne Naess (1912-2009) a Norwegian philosopher developed the notion of ‘Deep ecology’ that emphasizes the basic interconnectedness of all life forms and natural features and presented a symbolic and holistic world view rather than an anthropocentric (human centered) one.  Similarly Eco poetics extended the art of poetry with the intention of fore grounding an investigation into ecology.  It is actually a new form of phenomenology as it tries to locate the human in the world.  Its approach is totally different from the Romantic and aestheticizing approaches of nature. 

            Apart from these ‘Ecofeminism’ was coined by Françoise d' Eaubonne (1920-2005).  The Ecofeminists argue that a relationship always exists in between the oppression of women and the degradation of nature.  Moreover, in post colonial studies of native and indigenous communities, ecocriticism took up a lead role.  The critics of imperialist expansion involve an ecocritical understanding of land rights and issues of ownership.  Thus Biopolitics, the inter sectionality between racism and land occupation, that takes the administration of life and a locality’s population too has become a thing to be considered in ecocriticism.

            While ecocritics began to study literature written throughout history and analyze its relationship to the environment, the British and American literature of 19th and 20th centuries had a lot in it to be focused.  It happened because, American and British Romantic writers took great interest in nature as a subject.  The Victorian realists wrote about industrialization that was changing the natural landscape.  Moreover, 19th century American naturalists and explorers are actually credited here by ecocritics for their initiation of conservation movement through their scientific descriptions and speculations about nature.

            William Wordsworth celebrates the beauty and mystery of nature in his ‘Michael’, ‘The Excursion’ and ‘The Prelude’.  The poetry of S.T. Coleridge John Keats, Byron and Shelley too has their contributions to it.  The Victorian essayists John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle too were there to lament the destruction of the environment due to industrialization.  The two great American naturalists, according to the ecocritics are John Burrough and John Muir.  John Burrough’s ‘Wake-Robin’ and ‘Birds and poets’ actually influenced Whitman a lot.  Muir, apart from writing, worked to prevent the destruction of the environment.  It was he, who is responsible for preserving the Yosemite Valley in California, the very second national park in the United States.

            An ecocritical reading of a literary text is, actually an approach with a new alertness to a dimension that has perhaps always hovered about the text, but without ever receiving our full attention earlier.  Let’s take Edgar Allan Poe’s (1809-1849) well known tale ‘The Fall of the House of usher.  In the tale, Rod-crick Usher and his sister Madeline, undergo a kind of voluntary imprisonment in the ancient, crumbling isolated house of Usher that stands next to an evil-looking lake.  When the sister suffers from a strange wasting disease, Usher is afflicted by ‘A Morbid Acuteness of the senses’, which makes him unable to bear any contact with the natural world.  It is said, ‘The odours of all flowers were oppressive; his eyes were tortured by even faint light’.  His only contacts with the world beyond himself were books and musical instruments.  The tale is usually read and analyzed with the focus on the morbid psychology of Usher.

            The ecocentered reading of this tale focuses outside, on the house and its environs, rather than inside, on the owner and his psychology.  It uses ideas of energy, negative energy that causes breakdown and symbiosis the ‘living together’ that denotes mutual sustaining and co-existing systems.  The house has no symbiotic connections with the broader biosphere.  The house breathes in the atmosphere of its own decay.  The stagnant lake reflects the house’s own unmoving image.  These all led them to a gradual yet certain condensation of an atmosphere of their own about the waters and the walls.  So, Usher is ‘Photophobic’ (hyper sensitive to light) and prefers the represented light in paintings.  As he cannot bear natural sounds he hears only the ‘processed sound’ of music.  So, what is imagined here is on eco-system damaged beyond repair and cut off from any possible sources of renewal.  On this reading, the centre of the story is not a dark night of the soul, but the permanent night of willfully-courted ecological disorder or solar exhaustion.  The aloofness turns the house into a kind of black hole into which its energies are sucked and destroyed as it is said the black lake into which the house collapses and disappears at the end.  Thus, the ecocentered reading makes this tale a more frightening one.

            When other literary theories examine the relationships between the writer texts and the world with the social sphere, Ecocriticism expands the notion of the world to include the entire ecosphere.  Thus this ecologically oriented criticism is an inevitable response to the urgent issues of the day.  As critics have pointed out, one of the reasons that ecocriticism continues to grow as an important one is the continued global environmental crisis.  Its aim is also to show how the work of the writers considering environment can play important roles in solving ecological problems and environmental issues.

----Thulasidharan V




Tuesday, 14 December 2021




            Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889-1977), who is considered as one of the most important figures in the history of film industry, was an English comic actor and film maker.  Chaplin received many awards and honours.  Six of Chaplin’s films have been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.  Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator,’ a political satire was nominated for five academy awards.  It is the story of a Jewish barber who is mistaken for Hitler and is asked to take his place.  At the end he rejects his position as an emperor and gives an impassioned speech that reveals the view of a selfless leader.

            The very first line of the emperor is “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor”.  Instead he wants to help everyone where there are Jews, blacks and whites.  He says that all should live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.  According to him, it was greed that has poisoned men’s souls.  It was knowledge that made all cynical.  So, now they think too much and feel too little.  The barber in disguise, is of the opinion that more than machinery the men need humanity.  More than cleverness the men need kindness and gentleness, without these qualities all will be violent and all will be lost.

            He consoles the suffering people by saying that the misery will pass.  The dictators who have caused it will also die and the power that they took from the people will return to the people.  Then he advises soldiers saying that they should not give themselves to brutes who despises them, enslave them, and control their lives. They actually treat them like cattle.  The dictators are machine men with machine mind and machine hearts.  As all soldiers are men he says that they should not hate others but love everyone.  Similarly they should not fight for slavery but for liberty.

            Moreover he says that in the chapter 17 of St Luke it is written, “the kingdom of God is within man” – not one man, not a group of men, but in all men.  That means we have the power to make this life a wonderful adventure.  So, in the name of democracy, we should use the power and fight for a new world where all men have a chance to work, the youth a future and old will have security.  Democracy which believes that the voice of people is the voice of God, will produce a world of reason, where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.  As the people know their power they will never allow any dictators to rule them in the future.  So, he invites all including soldiers to fight for liberty and to establish democracy which is capable of building a world where there is no greed, hatred, intolerance and war.

---Thulasidharan V

Thursday, 18 November 2021





            Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behavior.  Psycho analysis is a form of therapy that aims to cure mental diseases by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind.  In it the repressed fears and conflicts that cause the problems are brought into the conscious mind rather than remaining ‘buried’ in the unconscious through the free talk with the patients.  This theory was developed by Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) the well known Austrian neurologists.  Many of Freud’s ideas concern aspects of sexuality.  According to him sexuality begins not at puberty, with physical maturing, but in infancy through the infants relationship with the mother.  Connected with this, is the Oedipus complex, whereby, the male infant conceives the desire to eliminate the father and become the sexual partner of the mother.  Moreover he divides the psyche into the ego, the super ego, and the id and correspond them to the consciousness the conscience and the unconscious or conscious preconscious and unconscious. 

One of the important Freudian terminologies is the dream work, the process by which real events or desires are transformed into dream images.  Dreams, just like literature do not usually make explicit statements.  Both communicate indirectly, avoiding direct or open statement and representing meanings through concrete embodiments of time, place or persons.  Freud believes that a dream is an escape-hatch or safety-valve through which repressed desires, fears, or memories seek an outlet into the conscious mind.  As dreams have images, symbols and metaphors, they don’t say things but show things.  In this way dreams are very much like literature.

            Psychoanalytic criticism is a form of literary criticism which uses some of the techniques of psychoanalysis in the interpretation of literature.  Jacques Lacan (1901-1981), the French psychoanalyst has had his influence upon many aspects of recent literary theory.  The psychoanalytic critics pay close attention to unconscious motives and feelings of both the authors and the characters depicted in the work.  They identify ‘Psychic’ context of the literary work at the expense of social and historical context.

            In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet’s father is murdered by his own brother, who then marries Hamlet’s mother.  The ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to Hamlet and tells him to avenge the murder by killing his uncle.  Though there is no any difficulty in doing this, Hamlet spends most of the play delaying and making excuses.  Critics have long debated the question without coming to any generally accepted conclusions.  Here psychoanalytic criticism comes with the answer saying that Hamlet cannot avenge this crime and commit the same crime.  He has an Oedipus complex, a repressed sexual desire for his own mother and a consequent wish to do away with his father.  That is why his avenge is replaced by self-reproaches and by scruples of conscience that remind him that he is no better than the sinner he is to punish.

            Another example where the psychoanalytic critics offer help is Harold Pinter’s ‘The Home Coming’.  It centers round an all-male house hold consisting of an autocratic father and two grown up sons.  Since the mother is no more, her memories worshipped by the widower and her sons.  There is a third son who has immigrated to America where he is a college professor.  He comes back on a visit to his family, bringing his wife.  During the visit, the father and the sons have the idea o f setting their brother’s wife up a prostitute in a Solo-flat and living off the proceeds.  Their brother agrees to this and the wife accepts it calmly when it is put to her, having first extracted the best possible financial terms and made it clear that she will be in many ways the boss of this new house hold.  He goes back to America without his wife.

            As the incidents in the ‘Home Coming’ is so bizarre, the psychoanalytic critics have come to say that the all male family shown in the play suffers from a classic condition known as a mother fixation, in which there is an exaggerated reverence for the mother.  Such people are attracted only to women who resemble the mother.  So such women will have to be polarized into idealized maternal figures on the one hand and prostitute figures on the other.  Here, when the brothers propose the prostitute plan, the husband accepts it because that is how he himself has thought about or fantasized about his wife in order to make a sexual relationship with her possible. 

            According to Freud, the longingness to gratify desires inspire authors to produce literature.  That is why a psychoanalytic critic argues that the phenomenon described in odyssey is exactly the manifestations of the Homer’s neurosis.  The endless journey of odysseus and his men, their battle against monsters and witches in the forms of queens and princess and at the end their going back to Ithaca actually echo the repressed desires and emotions of Homer. 

            Freud believed that the content of dreams is related to wish fulfillment.  The very content of dreams are of two types: the latent content and manifested content.  When a woman has a dream where she is being chased by a snake, the actual event is manifested content and the interpretation that’s given to it is the latent content.  Like the process of a gas change to a liquid, the dream objects have its association with memories and thoughts, which is called the condensation.  As the mind has a defense mechanism it displaces many unacceptables and has substitutes in dreams.  Thus dreams have displacements in it.  Moreover, psychoanalysis also talks about Jouissanc, a physical or intellecutal pleasure, enjoyment or ecstasy which has recently been designed by Lacan and others to mean the pain and discomfort because of the surplus-enjoyment or excessive pleasure and delight.  These are all effectively used by the psychoanalytic critics now a days to have a better understanding of the literary works.

Like Freudian critics the Lacanian critics pay close attention to unconscious motives and feelings, but instead of excavating for those of the author or characters, they search out those of the text itself.  They uncover the contradictory undercurrents of meaning that lie like a ‘subconscious’ beneath the ‘conscious’ of the text.  Thus psychoanalytic criticism has become not only a psychological case study of a piece of literature that deals with the author and characters but also a way of defining the process of ‘deconstruction' and thereby helping us not to miss its wider significance and the aesthetic experiences.


---Thulasidharan V


Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Final speech in the movie, “The Great Dictator” – Charlie Chaplin


Final speech in the movie, “The Great Dictator” – Charlie Chaplin


            Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889-1977), who is considered as one of the most important figures in the history of film industry, was an English comic actor and film maker.  Chaplin received many awards and honours.  Six of Chaplin’s films have been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.  Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator,’ a political satire was nominated for five academy awards.  It is the story of a Jewish barber who is mistaken for Hitler and is asked to take his place.  At the end he rejects his position as an emperor and gives an impassioned speech that reveals the view of a selfless leader.

            The very first line of the emperor is “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor”.  Instead he wants to help everyone where there are Jews, blacks and whites.  He says that all should live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.  According to him, it was greed that has poisoned men’s souls.  It was knowledge that made all cynical.  So, now they think too much and feel too little.  The barber in disguise, is of the opinion that more than machinery the men need humanity.  More than cleverness the men need kindness and gentleness, without these qualities all will be violent and all will be lost.

            He consoles the suffering people by saying that the misery will pass.  The dictators who have caused it will also die and the power that they took from the people will return to the people.  Then he advises soldiers saying that they should not give themselves to brutes who despises them, enslave them, and control their lives. They actually treat them like cattle.  The dictators are machine men with machine mind and machine hearts.  As all soldiers are men he says that they should not hate others but love everyone.  Similarly they should not fight for slavery but for liberty.

            Moreover he says that in the chapter 17 of St Luke it is written, “the kingdom of God is within man” – not one man, not a group of men, but in all men.  That means we have the power to make this life a wonderful adventure.  So, in the name of democracy, we should use the power and fight for a new world where all men have a chance to work, the youth a future and old will have security.  Democracy which believes that the voice of people is the voice of God, will produce a world of reason, where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.  As the people know their power they will never allow any dictators to rule them in the future.  So, he invites all including soldiers to fight for liberty and to establish democracy which is capable of building a world where there is no greed, hatred, intolerance and war.

------Thulasidharan V





            Janice Mirikitani (1942-2021) is a great Japanese American writer and the founding president of the Glide Foundation.  Her dedication to community activism and advocacy has received worldwide recognition.  She is the author of four collections of poetry and has edited numerous literary anthologies.  In 2000, she was appointed Poet Laureate of the city of San Francisco.

            Mirikitani’s poem ‘Breaking Silence’ focuses on the experiences of Japanese-Americans, when they were put into internment camps during II world war.  The commission on wartime relocation and internment of civilians was appointed by the US Congress in 1981 and it concluded that the incarceration of Japanese-Americans had not been justified.  In this poem Mirikitani’s mother testifies about her experiences in front of the commission after her remaining silent for 40 years.  Thus, this poem is an appreciation and admiration of a daughter for her mother who testifies against wartime injustices done to the Japanese-Americans.

            The poet’s mother used to say earlier that silence was better and was golden like their skin.  But her testimony was like a container of boiling water flowing through the coldest bluest vein.  She revealed that the US Army signal corps confiscated their property.  It was stolen and destroyed.  It was subjected to vandalism and ravage.  She was also forced to sign documents giving them the authority to take their everything.  Actually, she was soft as animal fat.  But, when she opened up her words were like slivers of yellow flame. 

            The Japanese American had come to America from their land to seek a better life.  They laboured hard to make the ground fit and fertile.  Their neighbours were of German and Italian descent.  Though they were not even citizens of America, they were spared.  Only Japanese Americans were singled out for incarceration.  There, the colour, shape and race were taken into consideration.  Everything came to an end with the announcement, “take only what you can carry,” “you are incarcerated for your own good”.  Thus they were bolted in barracks and silenced.

            The Poet’s mother and all Japanese-Americans kept silence and put their anger in the coffins.  She proclaimed that she was coming out of the coffin to say that words are better than tears when time comes.  Her youth was buried in Rohwer camp whereas the ghosts of her aunt and niece were visiting Amache Gate and Tule Lake camps respectively.  They had to die in the camp.  Thus they have nothing to say but about the misery and humiliations.  It was actually the power of silence that strengthened the mother and others.  When she broke the silence it also made her declare boldly to the Commissioner, “We recognize ourselves.  We are a rainforest of colour.  We hear everything.  We are unafraid.  Our language is beautiful.”


--------Thulasidharan V

Tuesday, 9 November 2021





            William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was a British Playwright, novelist and short story writer.  Though he qualified as a surgeon, he did not practise.  He has effectively used majority of the experiences that he had in his life in his stories and novels.  In one of his plays, ‘Sheppy’(1933), he has retold a ninth century Arabian Sufi story from Faudail Ibn Ayad’s Hikayat-I-Naqshia.  Somerset Maugham has included this story as a conversation between the Protagonist Sheppy and Death. 

Death began to tell a story.  A Merchant in Bagdad, one day sent his servant to market to buy provisions.  In a little while the servant came back, white and trembling.  He said that he was jostled by a woman in the crowd of the market place and when he turned he realized that it was Death that had jostled him.  Moreover she made a threatening gesture.  As he decided to go to Samarra, a faraway place to escape from Death, he requested the Merchant to lend him the Merchant’s horse.  The Merchant lent him his horse and the servant mounted on it and went away.  Then the Merchant went down to the market place found Death and asked why she had made a threatening gesture to his servant that morning.  Death answered that it had been only a start of surprise on seeing him in Bagdad, because of her having an appointment with him that night in Samarra.  The very answer of Death revealed the truth to the Merchant that whatever has to happen that will definitely happen.

            The narrator of the story, Death, was greatly surprised to see the servant in Bagdad, as she had her appointment with him in Samarra that night.  However, it happened without fail.  The victim tried to escape from Death by moving to Samarra where actually he had his appointment with Death.  Thus, it has been proved that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable.  Here, both the confusion of Death and the doubt of the Merchant solved at the end by the inevitable escape of the servant from Bagdad to Samarra.  Thus the very theme of the story that no one escapes from his fate is revealed in an attractive way in this story.     

----Thulasidharan V

Sunday, 7 November 2021





            Jonathan Swift, one of the greatest satirists in English literature, was born in 1677, in miserable circumstances.  He lost his father before his birth.  His mother lived with him in Swift’s uncle’s house for some time and left him.  His uncle died in 1688.  He was a homeless child and throughout his life he remained a homeless man.  But, however, he had taken his M.A. degree.  Then he wrote the religious allegory, ‘A Tale of a Tub’ and ‘The Battle of The Books’.  Though he had dealt with three women, he never married.  Marriage, according to him was opposed to reason.  He started his ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ in 1721.  In the manner of writing sometimes he might definitely be indebted to Defoe and his Robinson Crusoe.  But, everything that makes ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ immortal, has its source in Swift and swift alone.  We meet Gulliver in this novel as an average man of forty with a wife and two children.  He is a doctor by profession and a sailor by choice, with a typical sailor’s spirit of adventure and curiosity to see new lands and strange peoples.  Capt. Gulliver’s travels that cover his sixteen years and seven months period of faithful records begins with a letter written by Gulliver’s cousin, Mr. Simpson, who has published the book.

            Gulliver’s first voyage started from Bristol on the 4th May1699 in ‘Antelope’.  It was caught in a violent storm.  However, he swam as long as he could and came to a dry land.  When he woke up, he tried to get up but found that his whole body was tied to the ground. He was wonder struck to see human creatures less than six inches high with bows and arrows in their hands.  The Emperor of Lilliputians and his court came to meet Gulliver.  Everyone was frightened when Gulliver took out of his pocket knife, but he only cut the threads and set him free.  Everyone was then highly impressed by this kind gesture.  Three hundred tailors were asked to prepare cloths for him.  Six hundred beds were brought and a bed was made to him.  Six scholars were asked to teach him their language.  His majesty asked him to submit to a thorough search.  Then they found Gulliver’s sword was of the length of five men.  The comb appeared to them to be an engine from the back of which were extended twenty long poles.  They found in his pocket a huge silver chest containing a dust which made them sneeze.  This was actually Gulliver’s snuff box.  Gulliver gradually gained the goodwill of the court and the people.

From Reldresal, the principal secretary for private affairs he came to know about the two political parties of Lilliput, namely the high heels and low heels.  Apart from Lilliput there was another one kingdom with the name Blefuscu.  When a war took place, Gulliver helped Lilliputians defeat Blefuscu.  But he didn’t want to make all of them slaves to Lilliputs when he was asked by the Emperor.  However, Gulliver stayed in Lilliput for nine months and thirteen days.  Many advised the Emperor to dismiss Gulliver as he is very costly.  One night, the emperor’s palace was on fire.  Gulliver urinated, on the spot and within three minutes the fire was extinguished.  These all created problem.  When he was about to face a trial he escaped to Blefuscu.  However, from there he started his journey in a boat and was saved by a British ship and reached England.

            After two months he started again in ‘the Adventure’ in 1702.  They had to stay a long period as the captain fell ill.  Then they started their journey and were attacked by a terrible storm.  On 1703, they saw land.  Gulliver and a few others went to the island in a boat to collect water.  His friends left him and escaped on being chased by a huge giant.  So, Gulliver was left on the island.  It was a strange island where the grass grew twenty feet high; the corn grew forty feet high.  Then he saw a monster coming towards him and caught hold of him between his fore finger and thumb.  That monster spoke in such a loud voice that Gulliver thought it was thunder.  Then he took him to his house.  The dish of meat was about twenty four feet in diameter.  The table was about thirty feet height.  He was attacked by huge rats when he was alone in the house.  However, he took out his sword and ripped open the belly of one of them.  The Brobdingnag farmer’s nine year old daughter Glumdalclitch was very kind to Gulliver.  Then the Queen of Brobdingnag purchased Gulliver for a thousand guineas.  On the request of Gulliver, Queen allowed Glumdalclitch to stay with him.  The queen’s dwarf and the giant flies were actually very troublesome to Gulliver.  He also had a miraculous escape from a monkey.

            Gulliver made a comb and a chair with the Majesty’s hair.  Gulliver described the fine climate of Briton and fertility of his soil.  He talked about the House of Lords and house of commons; the incidents that happened during the previous hundred years.  However, the king said that the history of Europe was only ‘a heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacre, revolutions and punishments.  One day Gulliver told the king that he could easily make gun powder to destroy all against him.  However, the king was struck with horror at the thought of destruction which the guns could cause.  He ordered Gulliver never to mention that subject anymore.  However, after two years staying with Brobdingnags, one day when Gulliever was taken by a page in a box to the sea-shore, a giant kite picked the box in its beak and carried it away.  However, it fell down from its beak and floated in the sea for some time, it was picked up by the Captain of a ship.  He took Gulliver to England.

            Though Gulliver’s wife insisted him not to go to sea again, he left England in August 1706 in the ship ‘Hope-well’.  When Gulliver went in a loop to the neighboring islands of Tonquin, he was arrested by some pirates.  However, Gulliver was put in a small canoe and left with a few days food.  During the day time he suddenly felt that there was an opaque body between himself and the Sun.  When he saw through his binoculars he could see that it was a vast building in the air in which people were moving up and down.  It was a flying island and the people there let down a chain with a seat in it and he was pulled up with the help of pulleys.  The people looked very strange.  Their heads were all reclined either to the right or to the left.  They were so lost in thinking.  He came to know that it was ‘Laputa’ meant ‘Flying Island’.  The island moved from place to place according to the orders of the king.  It stopped over cities to get food and drink or to get petitions from the people.  The flying island had a diameter of about four miles and a half.  It was a huge magnet.  One side of it was attracted by the magnetism of the earth and the other side was repelled by it.  By moving it on its axle the island could be taken high up in the air up to four miles or brought down close to the earth.  It could also be made stationary at a place a little above the earth.  There were special astronomers who operated this magnet at the direction of the king.

            Gulliver spent two months in the flying island.  Then he was taken to a capital city called Lagado by Lord Munodi.  There was a Grand Academy with five hundred rooms.  In one room for eight years a project of extracting sun beams from cucumbers was going on.  In another room a scientist was trying to convert human excretion into the original food.  Another was at work trying to convert ice into gun powder.  Another was trying to get thin thread from cobwebs and he was feeding the spiders on coloured flies so that they might produce coloured thread.  Then Gulliver visited Glubbdubdrib, the island of magicians.  The governor could call up any spirit of the dead and ask him to serve him for 24 hours.  Gulliver met the ghost of Alexander the Great, Caesar and Pompey, Brutus, Socrates, Homer and Aristotle.  Then he met a few struldbruggs or immortals.  They were horrible to look at with all the usual deformities of old age.  Then he began to feel that people should not be afraid of death but should regard it as a welcome relief from the tortures of life.  However, he sailed in a ship to Japan and then to Amsterdam.  From there he came to England and joined his family.

            After five months, he accepted an offer and became Captain of ‘Adventure’.  Some sailors created a mutiny in the ship and turned pirates.  They arrested Gulliver and left him in an unknown island.  There he found a few cows but many horses.  He also found a few creatures looked like deformed human beings.  Then a few horses came near him examined his hat, coat, stockings and shoes.  They uttered sounds like Yahoo and Houyhnhnm.   They were pleased when Gulliver uttered those sounds.  They took him to their homes.  He got milk and oats.  He started learning the language of those Houyhnhnms.  The word Houyhnhnm signified a horse and meant ‘The perfect of nature’.  In five months time Gulliver had a complete command over their language.  Then Gulliver gave a complete description of the actions of the people of England.  As they did not have words for government, war, law, crime and punishment, he couldn’t describe them properly to them.  His master in whose house he stayed felt that nature and seasons were sufficient guides for every reasonable animal.  The Houyhnhnms knew nothing about meat, wines and diseases.  Gulliver told the master that human beings got the hundreds of diseases due to their wrong living.

            Gulliver gave truthful replies to all the questions that his master asked about his countrymen.  Gulliver also described the British Constitution.  Persons who were most cunning and most corrupted become ministers and governed the land.  Fellows who formed factions and bribed the voters became members of the House of Commons and made laws.  These were confirmed by the lord that who was bred from their childhood in idleness and so became diseased and corrupt.  But the principal virtues of Houyhnhnms were friendship and benevolence.  They had no jealousy, fondness, quarrel and discontent.  Thus Gulliver came to the conclusion that the Houyhnhnms were the most perfect creatures on earth.  He developed a thorough hatred of all falsehood and other vices.  He enjoyed perfect health of body and quality of mind when he lived with the Houyhnhnms.  But a few Houyhnhnms objected Gulliver staying with them.  So, his master reluctantly asked Gulliver to go back to his country.  He built a boat and left.  But he stayed in another island and decided not to go to England.  But the Captain of a Portuguese ship took him in his ship.  Gulliver reached home on 5th Dec.1715.  However, he lived in a separate room for years and talked to the horses that he purchased, for four hours daily for years.




            Jonathan Swift’s satire is said to be a spontaneous overflow of powerful indignation.  His satire was highly intellectual with his keen vision he saw the physical, intellectual and moral disease of mankind.  As he is a misanthrope in all his satires man appears as an irrational, selfish and pervert creature, ridden with dirt and all sorts of vice.  According to him man fell from his state of perfection as soon as Eve, disobeying God, tasted the forbidden fruit and Adam broke the behest of the Lord.  Therefore man is not born perfect.  To him human history is not a record of human progress but a human degeneration.  His political satire is found in the first two parts of Gulliver’s Travels where as his satire against science and philosophy is found in the third book.  In the fourth book he satires against pride.

            Gulliver reaches the island Lilliput at the end of his first voyage.  Lilliput was a small, but mighty empire ruled over by a brave emperor.  Its capital was Milendo.  The inhabitants of Lilliput were pigmies under six inches of height.  Correspondingly all their things and belongings were small and tiny.  The laws and customs in Lilliput were very peculiar and bore no resemblance to those maintained in other countries.  All crimes against the State were punished with the utmost severity.  The description of the life style and social life of the Lilliputians is the most interesting and entertaining part of Gulliver’s Travels.  This is in sharp contrast with the country of the giant humans, the Brobdingnags, as described in the second voyage of Gulliver.  The Brobdingnags were human giants twelve times his size.  The land was situated in an unmapped region of North America.  They were peasants holding huge reaping hooks.  Gulliver was taken to the house of the master of some giant men.  The king had no regular palace.  The natives were very proficient in Mathematics, but they applied it wholly to the improvement of agriculture and other mechanical arts useful in life.  The laws of the land were a few and expressed in the most plain and simple terms.  Gulliver appears as a weak and a hypocrite.  He pretends to love his country but tells the giant king in details about all the evils of the institutions in England.  The giant king finally says, “I cannot but conclude the bulk of your nation to be the most pernicious race of little vermin”

            The political satire becomes very bitter when he came to the flying island on his third voyage.  In Laputa the main interests of the people were mathematics and music.  The grand academy of Lagado is a satire on the royal society of England.  The scientists there were busy in absurd projects like attempts to extract sun beams from cucumbers or make silk from cobwebs.  The astronomers of Laputa had catalogued ten thousand stars.  Swift was not against science as such.  He disliked scientists who were concerned with pure abstractions.  The scientists must keep their feel on solid grounds.  Then he goes on to a satire on philosophers and historians.  Finally he exposes the absurdity of our wish for long life.

            In the fourth book, a satire is the only thing that matters and the story does not matter at all.  In Houyhnhnms land, the yahoos have all the vice known to man and in addition, have lost our speech and our cloths.  They live as slaves under the horses.  They were mentally and morally inferior to the horses.  His very concept of horses being superior to human beings shows the cynicism and misanthropy.  All the vices attributed to the yahoos are precisely to vices afflicted mankind everywhere and in all ages.  The major portion of this chapter is thus a satire on all mankind.  However, Gulliver was surprised to discover a much advanced sense of reason, understanding and intelligence in the Houyhnhnms.  The Houyhnhnms possessed many other virtues.  Their grand principles was to cultivate season and to be wholly governed by it.  Friendship and benevolence were the two principal virtues among Houyhnhnms.  Thus, in the fourth book of Gulliver’s Travels Swift shows man as much worse than animals.

----Thulasidharan V







John Webster's date of birth and death is unknown.  Similarly, no idea about his education.  Most probably he might have born in 1580 and died in 1632.  His life seems to have been hidden in mystery.  We can understand from the plays that he had written in collaboration that Webster was an excellent writer.  Webster’s fame rests almost entirely on his two masterpieces, ‘The White Devil’ and ‘The Duchess of Malfi’.  He is said to have occupied a place next to Shakespeare among his contemporaries as a writer of tragedies.  Moreover, it was Seneca, the great ancient Roman tragic dramatist, who introduced the elements of horror in the revenge play.  Webster follows the Senecan model of tragedy in his plays.  Painter’s ‘Palace of Pleasure’ is the source that helped Webster to come out with ‘The Duchess of Malfi’.  The theme of the story of Painter was a warning to women against pursuing sensual desire.  But Webster enriched the story with considerable additions and transformed the play as a psychological study of human characters in abnormal circumstances.

            While Antonio, who has returned from France is talking with his friend Delio, Bosola and the Cardinal come there.  Bosola says that he has been in galleys for the murder he did for the Cardinal.  However, he is later appointed as a spy in the court by Ferdinand,  Duke of Calabria, the brother of the Cardinal and the Duchess of Malfi.  Ferdinand asks Bosola to work as a spy upon his sister.  He wants Bosola watch the suitors of his sister.  He and his brother the Cardinal don’t want their sister marrying again.  But the Duchess falls in love with her Steward Antonio and secretly marries him.  However, a child is born to them.  Bosola, the spy gets the horoscope of the newborn son of Antonio and the Duchess.  But he doesn’t know it was Antonio who married the Duchess.  Bosola sends Castruccio with the message to the Cardinal and Ferdinand that the Duchess has given birth to a child.

            The Cardinal and Ferdinand get angry on knowing the childbirth of their sister.  Ferdinand wants to burn the bodies of the Duchess and her lover in coalpit.  But the Cardinal controls him.  However, the brothers don’t do anything for some time.  During that period the Duchess gives birth to two more children.  So, the people of Malfi begin to whisper that the Duchess is a strumpet.  Though Antonio gets richer day by day, no one suspects Antonio to be the husband of the Duchess.  However, Ferdinand meets his sister and asks her to marry Count Malatesti.  But she refuses.  Ferdinand enters the chamber of the Duchess with the help of Bosola who provides him the false keys of the chamber.  He overhears the words of the Duchess when she talks to herself.  As Ferdinand doesn’t know who her husband is, the Duchess wants to save Antonio by banishing him for the dishonesty.  So she sends Antonio to Ancona and says that soon she will join him there.

            Bosola by praising Antonio, makes the Duchess open her heart.  She tells Bosola that Antonio is her husband and also reveals her further plan to him.  Bosola suggests her to go to a pilgrimage to Loretto, which is very near to Ancona.  The Bosola goes to Rome and informs the plan of the Duchess to Ferdinand and the Cardinal.  The Cardinal, who is also a distinguished soldiers exchanges his robes of church dignitary with those of a soldier in the shrine of our lady of Loretto, on the demand of the Emperor Charles V, to take part in the military operations.  The Duchess and Antonio are banished from Ancona and their properties have been confiscated by the influence of the Cardinal.  The Duchess sends Antonio, to Milan with the eldest son.  But the Duchess becomes a prisoner in her own place then.

            Ferdinand wants to be reconciled with the Duchess.  He asks her to meet in her room without any lights.  She begs pardon in the darkness.  As a token of his sentiments, he offers her a dead man’s hand.  Then says, ‘it is the hand to which she had vowed her love and which bears the ring she gave.  The Duchess calls for lights and discovers that it is a dead man’s hand.  He convinces the Duchess that Antonio is dead and shows a few waxen figures behind the curtain and says that they are the dead bodies of Antonio and the children.  The Duchess is so agonized at the sight and decides to end her life by fasting.  Ferdinand enjoys his tormenting the Duchess.  He plans further torments by sending a troop of mad people near her lodgings.  They make nerve shattering noise.  But the Duchess tolerates everything and shows wonderful nobility.  Then Bosola comes disguised as an old man and says that he has come to make her tomb.  The Duchess talks to him without having any fear.  Then executioners enter with a coffin chord and a bell.  Bosola tells the Duchess that she is to die by strangling.  She prays upon her knees and is strangled.  Then Cariola and children are also strangled.  However, on looking at the dead face of Duchess, Ferdinand intolerably says,

‘Cover her face: mine eyes dazzle; she died young’.

            Duke Ferdinand develops a fit of madness.  The doctor calls it as Lycanthropia, a kind of insanity, where the patient thinks that he has been transformed into a wolf.  Though the Cardinal knows about the death of the Duchess, he pretends to be unknown of it.  He promises Bosola fortune and honour if he kills Antonio.  But Bosola overhears the Cardinal’s plan of killing Bosola after the death of Antonio.  So, Bosola decides to kill the Cardinal and save Antonio.  But unfortunately, he mistakes Antonio for the Cardinal, and he thrusts his sword at Antonio.  The Cardinal tells the courtiers not to come for help, even if they happen to hear the shriek of Ferdinand.  So, no one comes to his help when the Cardinal shrieks for help on his getting attacked by Bosola.  Then Ferdinand comes there with a sword and attacks Bosola.  Bosola kills both the Cardinal and Ferdinand.  He tells the courtiers everything and that it is his revenge for their murder of the Duchess. Thus, Bosola becomes the executioner of divine vengeance upon the Cardinal and Ferdinand.  It is really a strange transformation of Bosola at the end.  Then Delio comes with Antonio’s son and establishes him in his mother’s right.  Thus, the Duchess of Malfi stands so different from the average revenge play. 



A revenge play is characterized by the pursuit of revenge.  Revenge of a wrong, real or supposed, is the dominant motif of a revenge play.  It is executed almost ruthlessly and often involves a series of murders in a revenge play.  The revenge plays owe its influence to Seneca.  Seneca’s ‘Ten Tragedies’ were translated into English in between 1559 and 1581.  Gorboduc, by Sackville and Norton was first written on the Senecan model.  Then came Kyd’s ‘Spanish Tragedy’ and Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’.  Though Webster does not strictly follow the techniques of a revenge play and brings no ghost in his play, the action of ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ has a strong revenge motive in it.

The Duchess marries secretly and bears children while her husband Antonio remains undiscovered for some time.  Her brothers the Cardinal and Ferdinand feel that their widowed sister has brought a bad name to the distinguished family of the Duke.  Therefore, they must have revenge.  However, they wait for two years during which period the Duchess gives birth to two more children.  But still, they won’t get any idea about her husband.  Ferdinand begins to be active now.  He carries out the sinister plan of persecution and torture of his sister with the help of Bosola.  The Duchess’s patience and endurance stir the conscience of Bosola who even protests against the cruelty.  Unexpectedly a slow but a sure change comes over him after the death of the Duchess and children.  the Duchess, the heroine of the play dies as per the rule of tragedy.  The Duchess is a unique character.  And it is Webster’s supreme art which has created the character.

Webster creates effective melodramatic effects in the scenes of the strangling of the Duchess and her children, the chorus of maniacs, the murder of Cariola in the fourth act.  They produce all the necessary sensation, which is an important element in a revenge play.  Moreover, Webster has a strange power of evoking shudders.  When the Duchess talks to her husband Antonio, he leaves her without her knowledge.  Unfortunately, she continues her speech, thinking that Antonio hears her.  But it is actually, Ferdinand who hears there.  Whoever watches the play has an immediate impulse here to shout to her ‘Beware’.  Similarly, the scene where Ferdinand makes his sister kiss the severed hand and see the waxen dead bodies of Antonio and children are also very effective and powerful enough to evoke shudders.

Ferdinand has no individuality of his own and he acts according to the bidding of his brother the Cardinal.  The persecution and terror to which their sister is subjected must have been designed by the Cardinal and are executed by Ferdinand through Bosola.  The tragedy that Ferdinand suffers is more appalling than his sister’s.  It begins as soon as he looks at the face of the strangled Duchess.  The face henceforth ever haunts him and finally makes him a Lycanthrope, who imagines himself as a wild beast.  His outraged conscience at the strangling of the Duchess revenges itself upon him in madness.  Moreover, in the fifth act the retribution for the crime committed by the two brothers is brought about.  As Antonio too has been killed mistakenly by Bosola, Webster uses Bosola, the villain for this purpose.  He becomes the hero of the fifth act.  The two brothers, Ferdinand and the Cardinal are killed by Bosola.  Thus, Bosola becomes the instrument of Nemeses and the executer of diving vengeance upon the culprits.  These all make ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ a different and better revenge play.

------Thulasidharan V

Thursday, 28 October 2021




      ‘The Loneliness of Long Distance Runner’ is a novella by Alan Sillitoe, who was one of the so called ‘angry young men’ of the 1950s.  It is the story of Smith, a poor Nottingham teenager from a dismal home in a working-class area, who has bleak cheerless prospects in life and few interest beyond petty crime.  When he is caught by the police for robbing a bakery, Smith is sentenced to be confined in Ruxton towers in Essex, a Borstal (prison school) for delinquent youths. There the boy turns to long distance running as a method of both emotional and physical escape from his situation.

          There are no real characters in the story, but Smith tells us in three parts about a number of people who have influenced him or with whom he has a good relationship.  In the first part he talks about his life in borstal.  The headmaster of Borstal, who is called Governor, asks Smith to train in long distance running and compete a tournament between Borstal and other boy’s home with the aim of winning the Blue-Ribbon Prize cup.  And so every morning Smith runs for miles, which he finds liberating and a good time to think.  Though Smith tries to be a good kid and intending to win Borstal a long-distance award, inwardly he feels he is at war with the governor and in-laws.  According to him all the people who abide by the law are in-laws and the people born to steal, lie and break rules like him are out-laws.  So, he decides to lose the race on purpose to show the governor he is a human being and not just a racehorse to bet on.  As he is an out-law, he has a criminal nature.  So, he believes when he is acting as a criminal, he is being an honest person, to his mind.  But the in-laws like the governor and other policemen behave in dishonest ways, that is, ways contrary to their nature.  The governor wants Smith to promise to be an ‘honest’ person when he gets out of Borstal.  He believes he can nurture Smith and other boys to become honest men.  To Smith this is dishonest to become someone else for the sake of others.  He believes that being honest is being true to one’s principles.

          The second part deals with the events that have led to Smith’s being in the Borstal.  Smith’s dad whom he considers as a paragon of honesty, died from the cancer of the throat.  His dad’s company gave the family a large amount of money as a bereavement payment.  His mother bought a television which Smith enjoyed a lot.  One day Smith and his best pal Mike happened to see an open window at a baker’s store.  They decided to rob.  Mike hoisted Smith on his shoulders to climb the wall.  They stole a money box from the bakery.  They hid the money in a drainpipe near Smith’s door and took a little out at a time.  Though Smith’s mother was of the opinion that Smith wasn’t capable of such robbery, suspicion fell on Smith for robbery.  Policeman questioned him and searched the house many times.  Smith who was calm and unafraid of the policeman, lied easily and frustrated the cop with smart reply.  When he came again, it was pouring rain.  Smith purpose fully didn’t ask him to come inside as he secretly wanted the cop to catch cold and die.  When Smith was being interviewed on the Porch, the rain forced a couple of money bills up from the drainpipe.  Smith was caught red handed then with the stolen money.  However, only Smith was brought to Borstal. 

          The third part again deals with the race.  We see Smith who confronts temptation as the governor talks about the prospect of material wealth and social status that his running can give him.  Though he pretends to be eager to win the race, he simply rejects the temptation.  He also briefly considers running away from the Borstal but later decides to enjoy the pleasure of witnessing the governor’s disappointment and humiliation.  So, he lies to the governor that he would like to be a professional athlete when he grows up.  The race begins.  He knows he can easily win the race.  In the end stretch of the race, in a place where the governor and Borstal boys can see him, he purposely stalls and runs very slowly.  He waits until another racer passes him and has only a second-place finish.  The disappointed governor makes Smith do back-breaking chores for the rest of his six-months stay.  But Smith enjoys his defeating the governor.  However, he earns the respect of the other Borstal boys who know well that he threw the race.

          Now a young man, Smith tells the reader that he was relieved from Borstal and was excused from joining the army because he developed pleurisy while running and training at Borstal.  Smith has just pulled a big robbery and has an idea for an even bigger one.  He has written this story and given it to a friend, so in case he is caught, the friend will give it to the governor to show him what has happened to Smith and how ineffective his rehabilitation efforts are.  Thus, Smith wants to prove the world that rehabilitation becomes impossible and thus the principle of reforming young delinquents in Borstal and the governor as Borstal’s head master is a sort of lie is a really a make believe story.  Thus, honesty and lies is a constant theme in the story.  As they are at war the ‘out-laws’ and ‘in-laws’ cannot co-exist.  However, it is painful to see how Borstal has made Smith a more skillful burglar, rather than a reformed character.  This helps us to understand and become aware of the class divisional and class issues of Briton.


----Thulasidharan V