In what ways does The Great Gatsby explore the relationship between consumerism and the American Dream?
The original concept of the American dream was established in The Declaration of Independence. It was compiled so Americans could finally break away from the European colonies and become an independent country with its own legal rights. Influential and positive language was used in the construction of the document to motivate Americans into achieving success. For example, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ (US History, 1995). James Truslow Adams (1931) supported this by describing The American Dream was ‘that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement’ (Library of Congress, 2017). Both discourses are describing the same premise, proving that the American Dream originated from the Declaration of Independence. The concept of The American Dream is that individuals are equal and they can prosper through hard work to attain social mobility, recognition, and happiness. Therefore, individuals believing in a meritocratic society rebuff notions that social class is intrinsic. Marxist perspectives suggest that society is a capitalist system and this generates a positive correlation with consumerism. Essentially Proletariats seeking The American Dream are saturated by consumerism as they believe that purchasing goods will make them happier and ultimately recognition for their social climb. Everyday a person makes choices on food or by purchasing the latest high specification mobile phone. Most of these decisions are things we consume and they are all ‘pertaining to self-construction, relationship maintenance or instrumental goal attainment’ (Revise Sociology, 2016). This essay will discuss the relationship between The American Dream and consumerism in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.
The Great Gatsby is set in the 1920’s predominately in the fictional town of West and East egg, long island, America. This post first world war America was going through an unprecedented and prosperous political, socioeconomic change. More Americans were living in the cities rather than on the farms and the economy boomed due to industrial production. It was labelled the ‘age of consumerism’ as more American’s were spending money, buying cars, radios, and white goods. New York and Chicago elevated as more skyscrapers (empire state building) were built showing the confidence of society. In The Great Gatsby, the description of Gatsby’s house supports this historical and cultural reference of confident, rising, building as in West egg a ‘factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side…marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 5). Americans wanted to listen to new Jazz music dance the Charleston for example, ‘the orchestra…arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 26) and ‘old men pushing young girls backwards in eternal graceless circles’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 31). These concepts of The American Dream and consumerism are evidently portrayed in The Great Gatsby. Furthermore, new technology was also discovered in communication that enabled radio and the rise of Hollywood motion pictures for example ‘[f]rom the west egg came the Poles and the Mulreadys…all connected with the movies in one way or another’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 40). However, prohibition had also started in the 1920’s which began a criminal underworld of bootlegging and similar criminal activity. Many unapproved banks opened in response to the demand of hire purchase credit. Fearlessly many people borrowed large sums of money and the American market became saturated with consumer goods. The stock exchange became a modern and fashionable venture as Americans were buying stock in a flawless way to get rich quick comparable to Gatsby’s escalation of the social ladder. These extracts from The Great Gatsby depict how the time the novel is set is historically and culturally accurate. Moreover, ‘the age of consumerism’ is thriving which comparably generates a direct relationship with Gatsby’s American Dream.
The setting of The Great Gatsby is predominantly in the fictional West and East egg, long island, America. However, there are small glimpses into New York city and the Valley of the Ashes. The West egg represents speculative wealth (middle class) ‘the less fashionable of the two…a most superficial tag to express the bizarre’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 5) Gatsby himself resides in the West egg and this is because his wealth was not inherent. He made his money fast through money markets, investments and bootlegging in a direct response to the chase of the American Dream. The East egg represents aristocratic accumulation as Tom and Daisy’s house is described as ‘even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red-and-white Georgian colonial mansion, overlooking the bay…the lawn started at the beach…for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sundials’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 6) Their money was passed down through generations demonstrating their social status is upper class. The Valley of the Ashes represents the lower classes in society and is situated between New York and West egg. The Wilson’s live in The Valley of the Ashes and they are a working class African American couple. The Valley of the Ashes is described negatively ‘where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke…ash-grey men who move dimly…through the powdery air.’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 16). Dr Eckleburg’s colourful eyes are used as a symbol in the Valley of Ashes. The imagery and language used is strong and colourful compared to the dark and bleak scenery. This advertising billboard is a mark of consumerism enticing people in as they were travelling from New York city to West egg. Each setting is a representative of each socioeconomic status at that time. The West egg particularly reflects those who wanted the American Dream and their saturation with consumerism.
Fitzgerald has cunningly constructed his characters for the novel The Great Gatsby. The three male characters are particularly poignant as they represent different socioeconomic status’ mirrored by the settings. Jay Gatsby, originally James ‘Jimmy’ Gatz, is a young, mysterious representative from the West egg. The novel tells us that from the age of seventeen Gatsby had reinvented himself by changed his name; rebuffing his lower-class family connections. A poignant part in the novel is when Dan Cody’s boat blinds Gatsby as ‘that yacht represented all the beauty and glamour in the world’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 64). This was the start of Gatsby actively pursuing The American Dream. However, towards the end of the novel the reader is shown a ‘schedule’ which was a comprehensive itinerary of Gatsby’s daily routine as a child. Starting at 6am and finishing at 9pm was a hard-core routine of exercise, study, work, sports, and elocution. This demonstrates that the character Gatsby was constructed to show how far an individual will go in pursuit of social mobility, wealth, and happiness. Gatsby’s quick wealth meant that he became saturated in the ‘age of consumerism’ purchasing ‘two motorboats’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 26) and a ‘Rolls-Royce’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 26). Gatsby believes that society is meritocratic and he wanted the lavish rewards. However, Gatsby was stuck in his former seventeen-year-old mind as he never progressed from his fake identity. The relationship between the American Dream and consumerism are essentially foundations built on lies regarding the character construction of Gatsby, which ultimately makes him miserable and alone.
Tom Buchanan is not noticeably in pursuit of The American Dream however, he is not satisfied with his aristocratic life as he embarks on an affair. His mistress – Myrtle Wilson is the complete opposite to his wife. Daisy is white, upper-class, shallow, and pretty whereas Myrtle is black, lower-class, good-natured and ‘faintly stout’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 18). Myrtle represents Tom’s subconscious sexual desires which he cannot publicly act upon as it was not socially acceptable. Even though Tom has everything, especially according to Gatsby, he is still desiring and craving something more. This can be applied to the American Dream as he is also always seeking a blue coupe automobile from Wilson, for example ‘when are you going to sell me that car…[h]e’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive’ (Fitzgerald, 1993, pg. 17-18). This ‘comports well with the trends in the automotive industry…in 1922’ (Little, 2015) as various coloured cars and body designs were rare so the blue model t coupe represented a fashionable, stylish open car. The colour cars are significant in the novel as they echo their owners. Blue is a cold and depressing colour which mirrors Tom’s character. Furthermore, blue is an informal colour for spending money recklessly which Tom does by purchasing the car. Gatsby’s car is yellow which represents new life which mirrors his pursuit in The American Dream and achievement in new money. Furthermore, the colour yellow represents an informal term for a coward which is reflected in Gatsby’s character as he never defends himself over Myrtle’s death. Tom’s obsession with wanting more is resonated with the old American Dream as he comes from old money and the East egg. No matter what Tom wants, he gets, and this has saturated him in consumerism which will never make him happy. He is constantly trying to be the ultimate Hegemonic Masculinity in society and the only way he can do this is through consumerism. The character construction of Tom demonstrates a relationship between The American Dream and consumerism.
Another text concerned with the American Dream is a play set in the 1940’s called Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. This play highlights the struggles with never achieving The American Dream. Willy (the protagonist) lives in an illusion of The American dream lies about his success to his son Biff’s The more he lies the more he struggles to face the truth. The similarity here is that both texts are built on lies, Gatsby has reinvented himself which is a lie, and Willy has lied about his success. Both are determined to attain The American dream even if it kills them. Willy ends up taking his own life when he realises his American dream, is an illusion in his head and Gatsby is murdered at the end of the novel ended his American Dream. Another similarity is that Willy formulates his American Dream on a successful salesman Dave Singleman whom has wealth and freedom, and Gatsby formulates his American Dream on Dan Cody, a sailor with an extravagant boat similarly has wealth and freedom. Willy tries to pass on his dreams to Biff as in Willy’s eyes he is the embodiment of perfection, similarly to the way Gatsby see’s Daisy, but Biff is the only one who faces up to the truth. Willy’s American Dream is also in a direct link with consumerism similarly how The Great Gatsby is with purchasing automobiles. For example, ‘I was thinking of the Chevvy…Nine-teen twenty-eight . . . when I had that red Chevvy…I coulda sworn I was driving that Chevvy today.’ (Miller, 1968, pg. 7) Willy and Linda are saturated in consumerism as they are purchasing white goods on credit. ‘I did about a hundred and eighty gross in providence…two hundred gross on the whole trip…well, there’s nine-sixty for the washing-machine. And for the vacuum cleaner…three and a half due…sixteen dollars on the refrigerator’ (Miller, 1968, pg. 21-22). This demonstrates that they cannot afford to buy these goods out right but they still must purchase them. They may not need these machines, especially not top of the range, but it all correlates with attaining the American Dream and the only way they know how to do this is by purchasing goods beyond their means for social mobility. Furthermore, Willy purchases a red chevvy which represents warmth, fire, passion, and desire which is established in Willy’s earlier character as he embarks on an affair ruled by his subconscious desires. However, it also represents danger, as flashing red lights or fire trucks are there to alert people. This car is a symbol and foreshadows Willy’s downfall. There are many similarities between the texts The Great Gatsby and The Death of a Salesman that highlight aspirations of the American Dream and its relationship with consumerism.
To conclude a relationship has been determined between the American Dream and consumerism in the novel The Great Gatsby. This has been done through historical and cultural research, examining setting, character construction, language, and symbolism. Comparing The Great Gatsby with The Death of a Salesman only cements the connection between American Dream and consumerism because there were many similarities found. Individuals in society want to improve their social standing whether it be through the conservative way of education or a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Either way, people in society end up being consumed by consumerism. They purchase the latest laptop or mobile phone to have a physical representation of their wealth and essentially individuals believe it will make them happy. Consumerism and the pursuit of The American Dream did not make Gatsby or Willy happy demonstrating that the relationship between the two is destructive.
Fitzgerald, F. S. (1993) The Great Gatsby. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions.
Library of Congress. (2017) The American Dream. [Online] Available from: http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/lessons/american-dream/students/thedream.html [Accessed: 21/04/2017].
Little, M. (2015) “I Could Make Some Money”: Cars and Currency in The Great Gatsby. Papers on Language and Literature. [Online] 51 (1). p.3-26. Available from: http://www.proquest.com [Accessed 20/04/2017].
Miller, A. (1968) Death of a Salesman. London: Heinemann.
Revise Sociology. (2016) Sociological Theories of Consumerism and Consumption. [Online] Available from: https://revisesociology.com/2016/10/12/sociological-theories-of-consumerism-and-consumption/ [Accessed: 21/04/2017].
US History. (1995) The Declaration of Independence. [Online] Available from: http://www.ushistory.org/DECLARATION/document/ [Accessed: 21/04/2017].
Tess of the d’Urbervilles is concerned not with the modern city, but with life in the country. In what ways could the text be regarded as a ‘Modern Novel’, in spite of its rural setting?
According to Peter Barry’s The Beginning Theory modernism elevated in the 1920’s with writers: Ezra Pound, Virginia Woolf and T.S. Elliot. Their literary works encompassed a movement away from ‘traditional realism (chronological plots, continuous narratives relayed by omniscient narrators, ‘closed endings’, etc.) in favour of experimental forms of various kinds’ (Barry, 2009, pg. 79). Barry further states that modernism in literature is ‘dedicated to experimentation and innovation’ (Barry, 2009, pg. 79) where unique characteristics flourished including: the stream-of-consciousness technique, distorted genres, fragmented forms, clouded moral positions, reflexivity and third person omniscient narration (Barry, 2009, pg. 79). The above-mentioned characteristics are easily identifiable in Katherine Mansfield’s short story ‘Bliss’ (1918) considering that the narrative perspective is from third person omniscient. This method demonstrates the stream-of-consciousness technique facilitating personal connections between the protagonist and the reader. Barry’s theory on modernism enables us to distinguish these characteristics in texts. This essay will corroborate the concept that Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a modern novel regardless of its rural setting, supported by Barry’s modernist characteristics.
Character construction is an effective method in ascertaining genuine societal frames of mind, particularly when Tess of the d’Urbervilles is from a third person (limited omniscient) narration. There is no evidence of a stream-of-consciousness technique confirming a personal connection is never fully established, underpinned by the narration jumping from Tess, Angel, and Alec. Each character is constructed as modern but in different fashions as they all have varying attitudes of mind. Angel’s character is constructed in a pre-industrial rural setting. Throughout the novel Angel continually rejects his family’s long-standing traditionalist views for a progressive attitude of mind. He rejects and patronizes his family’s religious background for an endeavour in farming. For example, a book that Angel orders initiates controversy with his father as ‘it is a system of philosophy. There is no more moral, or even religious, work published’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 101). However, Angel’s new beliefs proves to be disjointed as they do not stretch to systems of morality. This is demonstrated when he rebuffs Tess after she tells him of her past with Alec. This ascertains that Angel has not learnt about human relationships alongside his progressive ideas. Angel is therefore hypocritical as he rejects his new beliefs so fleetingly when the matter regards his own personal life. Therefore, Angel’s character is somewhat stuck between a traditionalist and a modernist. His views and beliefs are modern however his personal morality is traditionalist suggesting that the character construction of Angel mirrors the struggle between nature and the social world. Barry’s modernist characteristics support Angel’s blurred moral position.
Whereas Angel’s modernity is multifaceted, Alec’s modernity can be classified as one-dimensional. Alec d’Urberville has idiosyncrasies that convey modernity as his appearance is nouveau-riche (fashionably dressed), always with a cigar and he has modern transport. For example, ‘a spick-and-span gig or dog-cart…with a cigar between his teeth; wearing a dandy cap, drab jacket, breeches of the same hue, white neckcloth, stick-up collar, and brown driving-gloves’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 43). His attitude of mind is shallow as he is only in pursuit of Tess for sex as he says, ‘what a crumby girl!’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 36). His family name is also proven to be false and purchased as ‘Stoke-d’Urbervilles, as they first called themselves…were no more d’Urbervilles of the true tree than he was himself’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 31). Alec’s appearance and attitude are modern however this does not correspond with his rural setting as ‘a somewhat unusual family to find in such an old-fashioned part of the country’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 31). His family’s cottage is not a working farm but a mere place to keep Mrs d’Urberville and her interest in livestock. Moreover, Alec’s original residence is in Sandbourne which is the embodiment of modernism as it lacks any connection to nature for example, ‘[t]his fashionable watering-place, with its eastern and its western stations, its piers, its groves of pines, its promenades (Hardy, 1993, pg. 330). Alec d’Urberville is a modern and fashionable character as he has been raised in a middle class, urban setting. However, he lacks depth as he holds no traditionalist ideals and he does not appreciate his kin and rural setting. Alec d’Urberville represents a modern character with his insincerity and his blurred moral position which is supported by Barry’s modernist characteristics.
As Alec’s modernity is concerned with his upbringing and Angel’s with his attitudes of mind, Tess’s Modernity again is somewhat different. Whereas Alec represents coming from the new world and Angel is transitioning between the old and the new, Tess does not fit in either. Due to her past Tess becomes a representative for suffering during a changing society and this demonstrates she is a modern character. Tess’s reactions and responses to the misery that was set upon her challenges her traditionalist view. A pivotal point in the novel is where she starts to reject Christian beliefs for progressive ideals as she performs her own candle lit christening on the baby before it dies. The vicar tells her, her baby must be buried in a ‘shabby corner’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 86) where ‘unbaptised infants’ go (Hardy, 1993, pg. 86). Tess’s anti-Christian response to the vicar was ‘I don’t like you!…and I’ll never come to your church no more!’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 85). Tess further challenges traditionalist thinking for example, ‘why the sun do shine on the just and the unjust alike…[b]ut that’s what books will not tell me’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 112). Tess is questioning her religion as in the bible Matthew 5.45 it states that sunlight and rain will fall on the evil and the good. Tess is progressively thinking, particularly that there are other explanations for the sunlight and the rain. Furthermore, Hardy explains what Angel thinks modernism is in relation to Tess ‘She was expressing in her own native phrases…feelings which might almost have been called those of the age – the ache of modernism…he reflected that what are called advanced ideas are really in great part but the latest fashion in definition – a more accurate expression, by words in logy and ism’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 110). This suggests that subjects regarding Psychology, Sociology, Darwinism were in the forefront of people’s mind – those who could understand the concepts were forward thinking and ultimately changing society. One of the characteristics to Peter Barry’s theory on modernism was the stream-of-consciousness technique which can be resonated in Freudian theories as they delved into the subconscious. Alec, Angel, and Tess have all been constructed, albeit in different ways, to show modernist characteristics, hence why Tess of the d’Urbervilles can be regarded as a modern novel.
The novel is set in the late 19th century in a Victorian period of socioeconomic change generated by Industrialisation. Machinery was introduced to the industry which meant that non-skilled, lower class workers had to seek alternative employment. This impacted on domestic life as families were uprooted from their homes resulting in social conflict. The rural setting of Tess of the d’Urbervilles is poignant as it portrays a realist account of the impact of Industrialisation on society, ultimately Hardy is providing a social commentary to his readers. Towards the end of the novel a machine is incorporated into the farming industry at Flintcombe-Ash. This is the first machine that Tess has encountered since her start as a farm worker. This machine is described as a ‘tyrant’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 284) ‘inexorable…penetrating…revolving’ (Hardy, 1993, pg.286). The discourse used to describe the thresher machine indicates that it is a powerful monster that is intimidating to a pre-industrial society. The use of the ‘diabolical steam thresher’ (Meadowsong, 2009) is incorporated not only in the story but in the narrative form demonstrating the novel is two-dimensional. The thresher machine is a significant symbol in the narrative as society’s progression towards Industrialisation. Consequently, the powerful monster of a machine also represents Alec’s character and treatment towards Tess in a narrative form. Hardy has dehumanised the machine and over dramatized its description, similarly to the character construction of Alec. Furthermore, by Tess using the thresher the narrative is foreshadowing the fate of the heroine as she is ‘enslaved to a monster machine’ (Meadowsong, 2009) comparable to Alec. Hardy’s two-dimensional story ‘internalises the problem of mechanisation’ (Meadowsong, 2009) and this alone shows how industrialisation has impacted on society. Furthermore, Hardy’s experiment with the narrative form is one of Barry’s characteristics for modernity supporting the notion that Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a modern novel.
The environment in Tess of the d’Urbervilles is used as a symbol as they mirror the character’s situation. The two farms: The Talbothays and Flintcomb-Ash are very much in contrast to each other. Talbothays is the place where Tess and Angel have a sense of identity and this family-feel farm is described positively with colourful imagery, green pastures, sunlight, and songs. For example, ‘the green lea…the ripe hue of the red and dun kind absorbed the evening sunlight’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 90). This reflects a typical pre-industrial family as Mr and Mrs Crick are comparable to sympathetic parents enhanced by nature and romanticism. Whereas Flintcomb-Ash is where Alec finds Tess again and Alec’s character is echoed in the monster, thresher machine. Tess is a slave to the machine and her master which echoes an intimidating patriarchal society; comparable to the machine as it needs to be fed and maintained all the time. Flintcomb-Ash is a negative place and Tess and her friends lose their identity as they cannot talk or hear while the thresher machine is going. Flintcomb-Ash is described as: ‘dry winter’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 274), ‘wintry weather’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 284), ‘there was a moon by which they could see to work’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 291) and, ‘wrathful shine’ (Hardy, 1993, pg. 292). Both sets of farms are in complete contrast to each other and mirror the situations of the characters. This technique is experimental for its time and so therefore it is a modern characteristic supported by Barry’s modernist theory.
D.H. Lawrence was considered a modernist writer in the peak of first world war modernity. His narratives explored the dehumanisation of modernity and Industrialisation and depicts many of Barry’s characteristics for modernist writing. Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles and D.H. Lawrence’s short story ‘The White Stocking’ are comparable as they explore and experiment with technique, structure, and morality. In ‘The white stocking’ the omniscient narrator allows the reader to go on a personal, psychological journey with the characters which is contextualised as Barry’s stream-of-consciousness technique. Similarly, Thomas Hardy uses his experimental two-dimensional narrative to drive the reader on a deeper level of psychology and morality. D.H. Lawrence also uses psychological Freudian theories to push the boundaries of morality in ‘The White Stocking’ as it becomes a physical representation of desire and eroticism. Furthermore, Elsie’s idiosyncrasies are a result of her retreating into her subconscious and this drives her unconscious desires so she displays unusual behaviour. In a reserved way, Thomas Hardy also pushes the boundaries of morality with his character construction of Alec and Angel. Alec has no morals and this is supported his brief spell as a clergyman which he quickly abandons as soon as he sees Tess. Angel has good progressive morals but conveniently refutes them when it is concerned with his personal relationship with Tess. In both narratives, there are no clear-cut moral positions and this also supports Barry’s theory of modernist characteristics. D.H. Lawrence’s essay ‘The Novel’ is an unknowing, unconscious narrative describing modernism in literature. He suggests that some novelists are predictable so reader’s will rarely read a whole novel. He blames the novelists and not the novel themselves as ‘The novel is the highest form of human expression so far attained. Why? Because it is so incapable of the absolute’ (Lawrence, 1979, pg. 161). Lawrence (even though he never knew he was a modernist writer) was explaining that writers needed to push themselves by experimenting with form and content to keep the readers engaged and to ultimately ascertain new movements in literature. Essentially the capabilities are endless and the more creative and experimental a writer can be, the more it mirrors and reflects modern society. Thomas Hardy used the society he was living in to generate modern concepts on morality, structure, and technique’s in his novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles. D.H. Lawrence was in the peak of modernism and this is supported by Barry’s modernist characteristics because more were used in ‘The White Stocking’. However, only some of Barry’s modernist characteristics can be applied to Tess and this only supports the notion that modernism was progressive. This shows that Tess of the d’Urbervilles can be depicted as a modern novel.
To conclude Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a modern novel despite its rural setting. This is established through character constructions to portray differences between social and moral backgrounds. Societal changes are used to demonstrate factual and genuine settings and how they have impacted on individuals. Furthermore, he experiments with symbolism, two-dimensional narratives, foreshadowing and narration which is clearly supported by Barry’s modernist theory. The rural setting merely enhances these attributes into a social commentary. This means that Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a modern novel.
Barry, P. (2009) Beginning Theory. Third Edition. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Hardy, T. (1993) Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions.
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Lawrence, D. H. (1955) ‘The White Stocking’. In: The Collected Short Stories Vol 01. London: Heinemann.
Mansfield, K. (2006) ‘Bliss’. In: The Collected Stories. London: Wordsworth Classics.
Meadowsong, Z. (2009) Thomas Hardy and the machine: The mechanical deformation of narrative realism in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Nineteenth – Century Literature. [Online] 64 (2). p.225-248. Available from: http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.staffs.ac.uk/docview/211947547?pq-origsite=summon&http://ezproxy.staffs.ac.uk/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/artshumanities/accountid=17254 [Accessed 20/04/2017].
The ex-Mrs Cindy Turnpike was losing her mind. The anxiety was building up in her body like lively lava in a volcano. It had been eight hours since Lizzy had gone missing and she couldn’t report it to the police just yet. Technically (by law) she had kidnapped her from Mr Turnpike, a self-made billionaire now living in Spain with the new, and much younger, Mrs Turnpike. Her plan was executed with precision, she flew to Spain, grabbed Lizzy from that horrid Spanish school, and flew back to England, secretly on the run as fast as her snake-skin stiletto heels would carry her. Her ex-husband had full custody of Lizzy through a nasty divorce, whereupon he dragged her lurid past through the courts. Lucas never really understood her past, she had explained numerous times while they were dating but the empty, judgemental look he gave her, told her that he didn’t get it. How could he? She poured a glass of rose wine and tried to collect her thoughts. The sweet shop, Cindy thought. That was the last place Lizzy went to.
Just as Cindy was standing up to place a current photo of Lizzy back on the shelf, the doorbell rang. Cindy paused for a second trying to work out who it could be, and more importantly who knew she lived in Cavity Avenue. She realised if she opened the flat door slightly she could peer down the stairs and take a glimpse of who was standing behind the glass front door without them noticing her. She opened the door carefully and peeked around the giant wooden door to find a boy, around Lizzy’s age, standing in the porch. She immediately recognised the boy. She was almost sure he lived down the street and Lizzy had spoken to him recently at the sweet shop. Tentatively Cindy opened the door wider and put her flat door on the latch while she went downstairs. She opened the front door to find the boy dressed completely in white. From the white t-shirt to the white flannel trousers and white sneakers. Cindy looked up at the weather to see grey clouds and what looked like an imminent rain. She found the boy looked completely out of place. He looked ready for the beach, but Bishington was not a seaside resort. His hair was floppy, sandy coloured and he looked about twelve years old. His face was grey with dark circles swirling around his eyes. Cindy thought maybe the bright-white clothing made his features look even more dark and gloomy than normal. Adjusting her eyes to the sudden light Cindy opened the front door to let the boy in.
The boy looked like he knew exactly where he was going and led the way to the flat, sitting down rigidly on the fudge-brown futon.
‘I have come about Lizzy’ said the boy in a monotonous tone.
‘Do you know where she is?’ said Cindy excitedly.
‘No lady, but she spent a lot time in the sweet shop – just like me. The sweet’s…they are addictive and taste so good. I am sorry, I forgot to tell you my name, I am Kai.’ He said while he placed his pale hand out for Cindy to shake.
‘Pleased to meet you Kai, but I am at my wit’s end here…I don’t need any more worries – do your parents know where you live?’ she said nervously.
‘My parents know where I am Mrs Turnpike – they see me a lot just lately’.
Cindy didn’t even notice this strange remark as she was still thinking about how cold Kai’s hand was.
‘I don’t understand why you’re here Kai?!…sorry for my bluntness but I was just on my way out’ said Cindy inquisitively.
‘Well I just thought I would let you know that I think there is something strange about the sweet shop – Randy’s Candy that is. My memory is not what it used to be, but just recently I have been thinking that the sweet shop might be a good start as to where Lizzie’s got to. I know for sure she hasn’t run away lady. Lizzie told me everything – you can’t go to the police, can you?’ said Kai already knowing the answer.
Cindy went to open the fridge and poured another glass of wine.
‘What would the sweet shop have to do with Lizzie disappearance?’ she said while taking huge gulps of the ice-cold wine.
‘I don’t know, but I think maybe you should start there – with Randy in particular. I have been looking on the internet and a lot of children have gone missing from Bishington over the last couple of years, especially with tourism booming over that castle.’ Kai said as he got to his feet to leave.
‘You had better go home Kai, your parents will be worried, but thanks for the info.’
As soon as Cindy had finished the rest of the bottle of wine she threw on her diamante stone-wash denim jacket and headed down Cavity Avenue towards Randy’s Candy. She noticed the streets were quiet. She crossed over the adjoining road to see multiple groups of children in high-visibility jackets bundled together in packs. Cindy had only recently discovered that Bishington was a tourist attraction and many school children came on a visit. Bishington was an old village that had a fortress on the top of the hill. The sweet shop at the end of the road was popular with the locals and even the tourists. Cindy tried to remember the sweets Lizzie brought home, but nothing came to mind. All her memories were clouded with fear and anxiety. Cindy looked up, the heavens were opening, with only a thin denim jacket for cover she rushed inside Randy’s Candy’s sweet shop just as balls of hard ice started to ricochet of anything that crossed their path.
‘This weather has gone du-lally’ laughed Randy from the back of the shop to all his middle school customers. He added
‘You had better stay in here for a while, where its safe, I have never seen hail as big as that before!’
Packs of children started nosing around the shop at all the colourful sweets in ginormous jars, stacked to the ceiling. A small ladder was hooked on top of a nearby shelf for the ease of getting up and down to the latest tongue-tastic flavour. Cindy observed the stout man behind the counter, his head was considerably small in comparison to the rest of his body and he was wearing a multi-coloured waistcoat with patterns that looked like Cindy’s mum old wallpaper. His thin framed glasses sat on the edge of his nose where wiry, curly hair from a moustache entwinned with the metal. While Randy was busy with a group of small school children, Cindy sneaked through the staff door into the back of the shop. She looked around the musty room to find more jars of different sizes, colours and shapes stored in various quantities. As Cindy submerged herself into the sweet world she wondered why anyone would stock a sweet shop so full. O.K. it was a popular sweet shop right in the middle of a tourist area in Bishington but seriously would Randy need stocks of this magnitude? Cindy investigated further to find drawers of ingredients, vaults of wacky colourings and tools. As Cindy divulged further into the back of the stock room she noticed a wooden trap door just below her feet. It looked like all she needed to do was hook the chain of the door onto a loop fixed on the side. After numerous attempts Cindy managed to open the heavy stained-wooden trap door to find miss-matched steps leading down into a dark basement. Cindy tentatively started her descent into a black, musty hole. She reached for her mobile phone and turned on the flashlight app. From behind she heard a bang and rattle of the chain on the door and she quickly jumped and looked behind her to find Kai making his descent down the creaking wooden stairs.
‘You made me jump Kai, what the hell are you doing here?’
‘I followed you…lady…Mrs Turnpike, I think you may be in trouble’.
‘What the bloody hell…’
Cindy froze as she spun the light on her phone around the dark basement. There were pots, pans and cauldrons followed by more ingredients and colourings. On her left were more drawers, jars, and flavourings. On the shelf, she noticed a chain saw and multiple weighing scales. In the corner, she noticed another door with light beaming through the cracks.
‘Kai I think you had better go home to your parents…we…you…shouldn’t be here’. ‘I have been here before’.
says Kai remembering his former self. Cindy opened the wooden door to find a larger cauldron bubbling and swirling away. Beams of light, sparks of flames and a sweet musty smell was emerging from the heated cauldron.
‘What kind of sweets is he making Kai. What is in them, that makes them so addictive?’
Kai did not speak. He just looked around as if he had been there before. Cindy observed the cauldron to find a red and yellow liquid swirling around and a filter in the far corner collecting a hard, gristly, whitish substance. The smell under Cindy’s nose was a mixture of mould and rhubarb. The only sound coming from the basement was the bubbling and swishing of the potent mixture in the cauldron. She reached for a gas mask conveniently placed at the side of the vat.
‘What is that smell Kai?’
‘I cannot smell anything…lady… Mrs Turnpike’. Further on in the room there were red, sweet moulds where a large amount of sweets was drying out in various shapes and colours.
Suddenly a noise from a previous room disrupted Cindy from her thoughts. Footsteps were creaking down the wooden stairs she had just come done herself.
‘Someone is coming Kai, is there an exit down here?’
‘I think there is only one way out of here’.
Cindy stripped of the gas mask just as the owner Randy appeared from round the door.
‘What are you doing down here? This is a staff entrance only’.
‘I’m sorry, we were just leaving’ said Cindy hurriedly as she was approaching the door.
‘Come on Kai – it’s time to go we must have gotten lost, sorry Randy’.
‘Who are you talking to miss?’ Cindy looked around to find Kai had already gone. How the hell did he get out of here that quick she thought.
‘I don’t know what’s going on down here – but my daughter is missing, if you could help me…help me find her’. Cindy pleaded and almost in tears
‘One sec pretty lady’ Randy said thinking.
‘I think I may be able to help, take a seat and calm yourself down. Tears will only ruin your pretty face’.
A noise suddenly disrupted Cindy from her thoughts, as she turned around Randy grabbed her hands and immediately tied them using the old rope she saw in the other room. She struggled and screamed for help. Then Randy shoved something in her mouth to stop the cries which chocked her. Kicking and screaming and wriggling, Randy dragged her over to the bubbling cauldron.
‘Stupid bitches like you should not have come looking’ Randy cursed, spitting at her. ‘I’ve never tried an adult before, I’m sure you will go a good distance, now for this pretty long blonde hair of yours…’
Randy tied Cindy down to the seat while he rummaged through his drawers to find his shavers.
‘That hair needs to come off’ as he powered up the mechanical blades.
‘Stop crying bitch, you will see you daughter very soon’.
Cindy woke up dazed, shocked, crying and shaking as she saw all her long blonde hair on the floor. She felt a pain at the side of her head, and she instantly remembered he had knocked her out. Randy pulled Cindy to her feet and started to untie the ropes from her ankles. Cindy wriggled to try and anticipate an escape as to make a run for it. Gathering some strength and balance, she kicked Randy in the bollocks. He went down like a sack of spuds. Suddenly Kai appeared in the room looking shocked at Cindy’s new appearance.
‘Where did you go, why did you leave me here…Randy is a monster?’ cried Cindy.
‘We need to go’ said Kai, ‘Come on let’s get you outta here.’
Just as Kai untied the ropes on Cindy’s wrists she made her way towards the door. Panic and anxiety flooded through her as she realised Lizzie had gone through the same ordeal.
‘What happened to my daughter?’ Screamed Cindy inquisitively.
‘She’s dead’ said Randy crying out in pain.
‘But she didn’t go to waste, turned out a nice little profit’ laughed Randy.
Suddenly Kai grabbed one of Randy’s legs and hooked it over the cauldron for leverage. Screams and cries came from the cauldron as Randy got sucked further into the red and yellow mixture, dissolving at a rapid pace.
‘Oh gentle muses! Let me tell/ But half of what to him befell…’ (Wordsworth from ‘Idiot Boy’) In what ways is Romantic poetry aesthetically enriched by the challenges of representing a) madness, b) childhood, c) death and d) poverty? Answer by selecting any two from the list of a) to d), and choose at least three poems from Lyrical Ballads to exemplify your findings.
According to Terry Eagleton a poem ‘is a fictional, verbally inventive moral statement in which it is the author…who decides where the lines should end’ (Eagleton, 2007, pg. 25). This simple but dull definition explains what a poem is, however it neglects to clarify how the language is constructed to articulate and express meaning. As literary critics, this can be achieved by dissecting a poem and extracting the literary devices used for example, symbolism, imagery, rhyme, metre, and rhythm. In the poem, The Dungeon (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, p.62) line eight ‘[h]is energies roll back upon his heart’ is an example of vivid imagery as this enables a clear active picture in one’s mind. The use of punctuation only adds to the immediacy and the effect of the poem as ‘[i]s this the only cure? Merciful god!’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 62). The question mark and the exclamation mark validate the lack of patience and irritancies of the speaker. Furthermore, the content of the poem raises a specific morality concern regarding prison and that the speaker is questioning whether this is the right course of action as to lock them away and deprive them of everything will only add to their troubled minds. The speaker proposes that nature can heal the troubled offenders by teaching them to love, consequently cleansing their unsettled minds. This is an example of moral statement, as it questions society and proposes reform. Furthermore, the literary devices used only enhance the effects of the author’s purpose. This essay will use literary devices such as content and form to dissect three poems from Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads on the topics of madness and death to see whether the language used is convincing in expressing and raising new ideology for its time.
We Are Seven is a ballad as a story is being told to the reader. It takes the form of a quatrain with an abab rhyme scheme which is not perfect throughout. The metre alternates from iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter and the last stanza has five lines with an abccd rhyme scheme with the word ‘dead’ having no rhyming word coupled, which mirrors real life as when you die you are all alone and singular. The content of the poem We Are Seven is poignant to the theme of death from a child’s perspective. The poem starts with an introduction describing the child and that she ‘lightly draws its breath, [a]nd feels its life in every limb’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 49) which in comparison is the complete opposite to the rest of the poem as it only refers to death from here. The writer describes how much life is injected into the vibrant child compared to the darkness of death. Within the first stanza a question is interjected straightaway concerning a moral predicament for example ‘What should it know of death?’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 49). The child is a ‘tabula rasa’ meaning a blank slate. Therefore, their view on the world is fresh and innocent compared to an adults murky and worldly view of the world. The poem refers to the topic of death as only being a subject for adults as it is complex and enigmatic. In the next two stanzas’ the speaker is describing a girl who is described as ‘[h]er eyes were fair…[h]er beauty made me glad’ and ‘rustic, woodland air, [a]nd she was wildly clad’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 49). The word ‘fair’ is used for her skin which would project purity and innocence which was a quality that was valued and envied in the late eighteenth century. The girl is a typical eighteenth-century child, however the use of the words ‘wildy clad’ proposes she is a tom-boy and so she would be found swinging from the tree’s rather than playing a musical instrument. The speaker goes on to question the eight-year-old girl about how many siblings she has for example, ‘[h]ow many may you be? How many? seven in all, she said, [a]nd wondering looked at me’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 49). The speaker is intrigued by such a big family and so he asks where they all are. She responds that two are living in Wales, two are gone to sea (merchant or sailor) and two are in the church-yard reinforcing the notion that there is seven in total. The speaker, doing some simple maths, counts to five for example, ‘[y]ou run about, my little maid, [y]our limbs they are alive; [i]f two are in the church-yard laid, [t]hen ye are only five’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 49). The speaker realises that the girl is counting the two dead in the church-yard as siblings as well, even after death. She goes further to explain that the two dead are ‘twelve steps’ from her home ‘laid side by side’ and this is in direct contrast to the two out at sea and the two in Wales as at least the two that are dead in the church-yard are close to home unlike the other four siblings. The girl describes and talks about the dead siblings more than the living ones and that they should be counted as seven and not five like the speaker suggests. She tends their ‘green’ (a colour for nature) graves and sings to them. The girl is persistent and even rejects the speaker’s suggestion that the two that are dead and their spirits are in heaven. The speaker ultimately starts to get agitated at the persistence of the girl and this is constructed through the overuse of exclamation marks in the last two stanzas. By using form and content We Are Seven is constructed effectively and convincingly on the theme of death. Considering this poem was written late eighteenth century and pre-Freudian theories a connection is established with Freud’s child development theory. For example, the latency stage from aged five and onwards is a phase where most of a child’s energy is focused on acquiring new knowledge to develop their self. Their superego becomes more organized and principled and adapts to reality quickly. They challenge feelings of shame and disgust and these characteristics can be seen in the girl as she persistently believes that she is right to count the two dead children as her siblings and disregards anything proposed by the speaker. As the child has no pre-conceptions like adults, she finds it easier to accept her new reality and therefore this supports Freudian’s child development theory. This means that We Are Seven significantly challenges new ideology for its time as essentially these concepts were not even established at this point. This is further supported by using literary devices such as form and content to articulate the effectiveness of the writer.
A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal is a two-stanza poem consisting of four lines each so a mere eight lines in total. It has an abab rhyme scheme and the first and third lines are in iambic tetrameter, while the second and forth lines are in iambic trimeter. Even though it is a short poem it is very effective for the theme of death. In the first stanza, the narrator is in a dreamlike phase and has not taken on board a sense of reality. This can be compared to the feeling of being in love as when we are consumed with these feelings for someone our body projects physical symptoms as well as psychological characteristics. These feelings envelop and saturate a person to the point where a sense of reality is lost and ‘human fears’ do not exist. The female lover of the narrator is without a name but the speaker believes she is invincible as she is ‘a thing that could not feel [t]he touch of earthly years’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 225). The second stanza starts abruptly as if there is a missing stanza to link the two together. The speaker does not want to explain what has happened as to do so would verbalize the pain for him but the female lover has died as the poem states ‘[n]o motion has she now, no force’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 225). The speaker realizes that even though he was in love and in a dreamlike state, bad things (her death) can still happen, ultimately bringing him back to reality. The speaker has put the female lover on a pedestal and she is a goddess in his eyes as age or mortality should not ever of touched her, which empowers her throughout the poem. Furthermore, the speaker keeping his female lover young in is mind supports the notion that he lacks connection with reality. The second line of the second stanza is brutal ‘she neither hears nor sees’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 225) which is factual of all dead people but the harshness of the words used in such a short poem brings a sense of reality immediately to mind. The last two lines are poignant for example, ‘[r]oll’d round in earth’s diurnal course [w]ith rocks and stones and trees!’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 225). This means that the female lover is now one with the earth and her age and mortality has gone forever. This ballad highlights the struggles and tensions between love and death. To truly live you must love but the consequences here are death. The ballad is only small compared to the other poems by Wordsworth and Coleridge but it is still as effective as the language used is convincing and expressive.
As previously discussed We Are Seven and A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal are concerned with the topic of death whereas The Thorn is concerned primarily with the topic of madness. The Thorn has twenty-three stanzas labelled in roman numerals each comprising of eleven lines with an abcbdeffegg rhyme scheme. There is evidence of blank verse as well as an inconsistent metre. The content of The Thorn is centred around the character Martha Ray as she cries ‘[o]h misery! oh misery! [o]h woe is me! Oh misery!’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 54). Moss surrounds a thorn next to the mountain on a muddy hill that has become overgrown and entwined. The entwined Thorn becomes symbolic as more details of Martha Ray’s back story are described the more The Thorn mirrors her state of mind. Martha Ray is wearing a red cloak and visits the grave of her infant crying in all kinds of weather. The mountain also mirrors her state of mind for example, ‘[b]ut wherefore to the mountain-top [c]an this unhappy woman go’ (Wordsworth and Coleridge, 2013, pg. 55) the high mountain represents her willingness to die and join her child in heaven. Stanza eleven gives us some back story about Martha and her relationship with Stephen Hill whom ran off with another maid just before their wedding day. Six months later she realises she is pregnant and this situation would be damming on a woman in society back then as being pregnant without a husband was not socially acceptable. Somehow, she loses the baby however the poem never describes how just describes the infant as being buried on that mountain near to The Thorn. Martha Ray is there every day crying for the loss of her baby. She is described as ‘mad’ and even though the poem never clarifies what happened to the infant, society judges her. Martha Ray displays characteristics of a mental health condition albeit depression, or post-natal depression. These mental health conditions were not established at that time supporting the notion that Wordsworth and Coleridge foreshadowed them. The language used in The Thorn was extremely effective and convincing on the topic of madness.
To conclude there are several poems in lyrical ballads that highlight the struggles and tensions with the social world. These poems show that Wordsworth and Coleridge specifically foreshadowed psychological conditions such as post-natal depression as seen in The Thorn and severe grief as seen in A slumber did my spirit seal. Furthermore, they highlight psychological theory such as child development specifically in the latency phase as seen in We Are Seven. They also foreshadow sociological ideology such as social mobility as seen in The Thorn when Martha Ray feared being out casted by society as she became a single mother. It is evident that Wordsworth and Coleridge were ahead of their time by highlighting societal problems. They used their poetry as a verbal moral statement to evoke change in the world on topics such as madness and death.
Campbell, P. (1991) Wordsworth and Coleridge: Critical Perspectives. Hampshire: Macmillan Education.
Eagleton, T. (2007) How to Read a Poem. United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishing.
Wordsworth, W. & Coleridge, S. T. (2013) Lyrical Ballads. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
A few of us from our English and Creative Writing group attended the New Vic
Theatre on Monday 6th February to watch ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’. This is a play adapted by
Deborah McAndrew and directed/composed by her husband Conrad Nelson. Deborah was
instantly recognisable to us all as a regular in Coronation Street in the 90’s, as she played a
character called Angie Freeman. ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ was performed by the award winning Northern Broadsides in a round theatre. Different props and lighting were used to set the scene for a variety of different places in Paris: a playhouse, a bakery, outside Roxanne’s window, the frontline and a nunnery.
‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ is set in Paris around 1640. Cyrano is a poet and is madly in
love with his cousin – Roxanne. However, he is reluctant to tell Roxanne of his feelings due to the fact he has an enormous nose! Cyrano becomes acquainted to Christian who Roxanne confesses her undying love for. With Christian’s good looks and the use of Cyrano’s poetic words he manages to marry Roxanne. However, with Cyrano and Christian both off to war, who will survive to win Roxanne’s heart once and for all. Will Roxanne ever know the truth about Cyrano’s feelings or will Christian run out of words. ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ is a musical
musketeer marvel. With poetic readings mixed with swashbuckler’s, bakers, and nuns, expect
a journey into the unknown. The actors that were exceptional were Cyrano and Monfleury as
they both had heavy dialogue mixed in with singing and playing musical instruments. They
were entertaining, comical, and dramatic. That nose is not to be missed!
Sociologists suggest that society has a stratification system; individuals are instantly placed into a social stratum from birth, based on their family’s heritage and assets. Marxists developed the social class theory which mainly categorizes society, into two bands. The higher-class individuals in society are called the Bourgeoisie and they are a smaller group with an elevated socioeconomic status. The lower classes are called the Proletariats and they are a large work force that are employed by the Bourgeoisie (as they have the means for production). The Proletariats are an exploited work force by the Bourgeoisie but ironically both necessitate each other, hence why the Proletariats never revolt. This is called a false class-consciousness as the Proletariats will never grow or advance in a capitalist society. Marxists suggest that “poverty is an inherent and inevitable consequence to capitalism” (Haralambos & Holborn, p160, 1995). This means that the stratification in society generates and reinforces poverty, proving the individual has no control in their situation. This essay will analyse the class relations in the early modernist novel Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe. Furthermore, it will be discussed the extents to which Moll Flanders digressed, to try and improve her socioeconomic status and whether this was deemed as socially acceptable.
Throughout the novel Moll Flanders, there are two different class bands portrayed. In the beginning, Moll describes the circumstances around her birth. Her mother was convicted of petty theft and because she was pregnant with Moll at that time she was offered a reprieve until she was born. Moll’s mother was then transported to the plantations in America to work as a slave. This meant Moll was an orphan. As a baby, she was passed from pillar to post – staying at a relation of her mothers, travelling with gypsies, and then left at a parish in Colchester. This demonstrates that Moll was categorized in society as a Proletariat as she had not inherited a family estate or assets. What Moll had inherited was her mother’s lineage, poverty and name. From the parish, a three-year-old Moll was placed with a nurse whom had a school whereby she looked after children for a small livelihood. It is here that an eight-year-old Moll decided that she did not want to be placed in service but that she wanted to be a ‘gentlewoman’. Moll describes a ‘gentlewoman’ as “to get my bread by my own work” (Rivero, p14, 2004). This ideology was instigated and reinforced by multiple visits from the Mayoress and her daughters, whom encouraged Moll’s ‘gentlewoman’ principality by passing her money and publicising her skills throughout the town. Word spread through the town and Moll was making her own money by doing work for them “such as, Linnen to Make, and laces to Mend, and Heads to Dress up” (Rivero, p15, 2004). Therefore, from an early age Moll was primary socialised to earn her own money by selling her skills as she had previously learnt through observing the nurse. Furthermore, the Mayoress and her daughters would have been role models for Moll and this is where she draws grander aspirations. Therefore, for Moll to be placed into service at this point, would have merely dissipated her social standing and this was the opposite of her ambitions as she wanted to improve her socioeconomic status. This is a typical Proletariat existence as Marxists describe that “The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labour and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labour – hence, on the changing state of business, on the vagaries of unbridled competition” (Blunden, 2005). Moll was paying for her own upkeep which included food, clothes and lodgings and she also managed to store some money away. Moll was becoming successful and popular through the selling of her skills, that she was asked to stay at a wealthy lady’s house for a week when she was around the age of fourteen. This changed Moll’s perspective of a ‘gentlewoman’ as she had had “a taste of genteel living…I had quite other Notions of a Gentlewoman now, than I had before” (Rivero, p16, 2004). This proves that during Moll’s secondary socialisation she was living a life of a Bourgeoisie and therefore she could not be relegated back to a Proletariat. This is a major transition in Moll’s ideology as she has been socialised into wanting something better for herself. She had even witnessed the ladies’ daughters married off into wealth and status, something she would try to do herself as she got older. All these observations during this crucial socialisation period would have contributed to her character later in life. When the nurse dies, Moll is left penniless and homeless and many ladies of the town are wanting Moll’s services. She ends up with a family where she becomes a servant but she is treated like one of the family’s daughters. They provide her with a prestigious education that involved music and French. As Moll describes “I not only had the Reputation of living in a very good Family, and a Family Noted and Respected everywhere…but I had the Character too of a very sober, modest and vertuous young Woman” (Rivero, p18, 2004). This reinforces the notion that Moll was enjoying her Bourgeoisie existence, also supported by the fact that she irrefutably refused to be placed into service. Moreover, her perception of a ‘gentlewoman’ had considerably changed since she observed the Bourgeoisie life.
The next part in Moll’s transition was that she realises that marrying into money will improve her socioeconomic status in a route to become a Bourgeoisie. This is evident when the eldest son in her mistress’ home lures her into a sexually relationship where she believes he will eventually marry her. He pays her five guineas after each encounter. In contemporary society, this is deemed as prostitution as the eldest son is paying for her services, but she does not realise this as she is young and naïve and only has bettering her socioeconomic status in mind. One of the sister explains “AND IF A YOUNG WOMAN HAS BEAUTY, birth, breeding, wit, sense, manners, modesty and all to an extream, yet if she has not money, she’s no body” (Rivero, p20, 2004). This is evident as all Moll is fixated on is the money (due to her being socialised in this way) as she knows she does not have all the above characteristics. When her husband dies, Moll goes in search of the next husband whom can provide her with the socioeconomic status she desires. She publicises the fact that she is a fortunes widow which will lure in more suitors to provide for her. Here she marries a draper where she believes she can at least live as a ‘gentlewoman’ again but disaster strikes as her husband eventually goes bankrupt and leaves her on her own. Moll decides to leave the area as the bankruptcy would impede her social status and leave her ruined and unable to remarry. From this point, there are many more liaison’s and marriages with men which end like the following: her realising she has married her brother, they become bankrupt, they die or they go their separate ways because they lied about their financial status’. All the circumstances surrounding each relationship has ended with a potential public scandal and each time Moll has left the chaos behind and moved on to a different area. The reason being is that society would have out-casted her and she would have been unable to marry again as she would have a poor reputation, no money and no status. The only liaison that Moll revelled in was with a wealthy man but he was married and his wife was declared insane. She started an affair and so she became his mistress. He bought her clothes and gifts therefore experiencing the high-status life again. However, disaster struck again for Moll as the gentleman ended the relationship after he became gravely ill yet survived whilst having religious experience. Moll’s money and social status is depleted again. However, when she discovers she is pregnant is when her life deteriorates (before this point, she was fluctuating between the two social bands with no consistency). Moll encounters a particular midwife whom gives a tripartite scale for dealing with births and the aftermath. The three different price scales were dependent on social class and the price double each time. This is a prime example of class relations in early modern writing as this is significant evidence of the class divide.
The next part in Moll’s transition is that she realises she will never ascertain a high social standing as she is becoming older and therefore less attractive, so it is more doubtful that she will marry into wealth. Therefore, Moll’s need for money is heightened as she realizes she must take control herself and not rely on a spouse. She then decides that a life of theft provides her with money and goods for basic survival. Moll’s friend the midwife encourages her to steal bundles that can either be pawned for money or used. Moll gradually increases the risk each time as she is never caught and her name ‘Moll Flanders’ becomes popular in the criminal world. She even dresses as a man and has sexual relations with one to disguise herself while she is committing such thefts. Similarly, in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice Portia dresses as a man to disguise herself as a doctor and Nerissa dresses as a man to disguise herself as a law clerk. Ironically Moll disguises herself as a man to commit multiple crimes and Portia and Nerissa disguise themselves as men to get Antonio acquitted in a law court. Both prove successful methods. It appears that in early modern writing, women dressing up as men was a popular theme demonstrating that women needed to do this to be taken seriously, therefore proving that women were always the subordinate gender. However, when Moll and Jemy are on the ship heading for the plantations in America, she uses her money to bribe her way into a better social standing. As they were criminals they were treated as such but when Moll flaunted her money she and Jemy were moved into better accommodation and even dined at the Captain’s table. Moll took control of their situation proving that her gender was the leader in this relationship.
Socioeconomic factors contribute to Moll’s placement in the stratification system. Both factors show a positive correlation with each other demonstrating that both are needed to necessitate the other. There are many Ideological state apparatus’ in society that underpin the inequality between Bourgeoisies and Proletariats. These are institutions comparable to religion, education, and legal system and this is evident in the novel Moll Flanders. Marxists suggested that each band of social class have shared economic and political values and so they would never amalgamate in society. For Moll to progress higher through the class system she would have needed a heavy injection of money and she realises this through her secondary socialisation. From this point on money was her only fixation and whether she achieved this through work, marriage, prostitution, or theft she was determined to better her social standing. This was evident when she used the money she had saved from stealing to ascertain societal privileges on the ship to America. Moll was “a very serious businesswoman” (Elliot, p68, (1970) and even though her actions and methods were socially unacceptable she never labelled them herself which makes the reader unsympathetic to her. As a reader, you can only admire her passion for wanting the best out of life but her methods were not socially acceptable then and now. Furthermore, the happy conclusion at the end of the novel only heightens the irritation in the reader as she should have been hung like her fellow criminals. Even though this was set in the 17th century this is highly relatable to contemporary society as the struggles within the class system are still evident. Moll did undertake a prestigious education which was rare for people in her class band. She should have used her education to better herself and work for her own money, as this was proving successful for her in the beginning of the novel. Her economic status would have gradually improved which would have gradually improved her social status thus fulfilling her aspirations. This proves that whatever social status you are born into becomes the responsibility of that individual if they want to change it through socially acceptable methods. Whether Daniel Defoe was ironically judging Moll Flanders or the constraints of society it can never be proven but it can be argued that either way it gives us some insight into class relations of that time.
Blunden, A (2005). The Principles of Communism. [Online] Available from: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm#intro. [Accessed 2nd January 2017]
Defoe, D (1993). Moll Flanders. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited.
Elliot, R. (ed.) (1970). Twentieth Century Interpretations of Moll Flanders. America: Prentice-Hall.
Haralambos, M & Holborn, M (1995). Sociology Themes and Perspective. 4th ed. London: Collins Educational.
Rivero, A. (ed.) (2004). Moll Flanders: A Norton Critical Edition. America: W. W. Norton & Company.
Shakespeare, W (2000). The Merchant of Venice. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited.
Simonton, D (1998). A History of European Women’s Work: 1700 to the Present. London & New York: Routledge.
The definition of metaphysical poetry has changed considerably over time; the use of the word ‘poetry’ is fundamental in the start of this description. For example John Donne (who wrote the ‘Flea’ – the first critically acclaimed, metaphysical poem) was not a metaphysical poet, but an individual who wrote metaphysical poetry. Considering his published collection also contained essays, love lyrics and sonnets. However critics suggests that he was apart of an institution of metaphysical poets: Donne, Herbert, Crashaw and Andrew Marvell.
The features of metaphysical poetry have altered over time. During 16th Century Thomas More criticised Protestant reformers as they established their arguments on ‘philosophy and metaphysical reasons’ (Burrow, 2006, pg.19). Thomas More used the word ‘metaphysical’ to mean something dark and mythical. However in the 17th Century the Oxford English Dictionary referred to metaphysical poetry as using unrealistic imagery and ‘witty conceits’ (Burrow, 2006, pg.19). In 1779 Samuel Johnson suggested that there was an institution of poets heading in a similar, self-expressive direction with their poetry. This direction was confirmed in the 19th Century with a further definition in the Oxford English Dictionary – ‘poetry which expresses emotion within an intellectual context’. (Burrow, 2006, pg.21). However the institution of metaphysical poets came from different backgrounds. Therefore, they were unlikely to have any similar opinions and beliefs – leaving the term ‘metaphysical poets’ inaccurate. Metaphysical poetry as we understand it in contemporary terms, is a story that has tropes: love, desire, religion, science, astronomy and death. These stories describe the origin and its historical change; it ultimately concludes with its downfall. The way in which these poems are written are very dramatic, imaginative and far-fetched.
As previously stated, Andrew Marvell was controversially categorised by Samuel Johnson as a metaphysical poet. ‘To his coy mistress’ is comparable with a dramatic monologue. Fundamentally because the speaker is only addressing a silent listener (monologue) and that the poem consists of an argument and a counter argument. However it is also described as a metaphysical poem, due to the far-fetched imagery in order to express feelings and emotions. To summarise the poem, the speaker is saying to the mistress that he desires, that they do not have all the time in the world and especially her ‘coyness’ will not stop him from wanting and pursuing her. He suggests that she should surrender to his desires and receive the pleasure, as life is very short. The poem suggests a ‘seize the day’ approach with references cultural and biblical references – ‘Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side Shouldst rubies find’. The reference to India is applicable for that time because during 1650 The British Empire were involved with India. The first stanza presents the problem or an argument with the use of the first word ‘had’. The second stanza uses the first word ‘but’ to suggest a counter argument and the third stanza uses the first word ‘now’ to suggest a solution. These are typical metaphysical features as the poem suggests the a story, the origin and its descent. The rhythm meter is in iambic tetrameter. For example there are four iambic feet in each line. The rhyme scheme is in rhyming couplets in the scheme of AA BB CC DD and so on. However there is an disruption in the second stanza. The words ‘lie’ and ‘eternity’ do not rhyme and same with the words ‘try’ and ‘virginity’. It could be suggested that the writer may of wanted to stress more emphasis in this part of the poem. Therefore, the reader establishes the importance and seriousness of the imagery used; to break away from the rhyme disrupts the melody, flow and harmony (dissonance) and so this ultimately eradicates the soft and childlike features. The writer uses a strong metaphor in stanza one. For example ‘My vegetable love should grow’. The speaker is simply using this form of imagery to suggest a part of a man’s anatomy that could increase in size – or in other words a phallic suggestion which is a key feature of metaphysical poetry. Further features come from elaborate conceits.. For example the descriptions of what he wanted to do to his mistress’ body – ‘to adore each breast’. In stanza two he also uses a hyperbole – ‘then worms shall try that long-preserved virginity’. Which means that if the mistress dies a virgin, then the worms can have sex with her corpse. He uses this hyperbole as a shock factor which can ultimately persuade his mistress into agreeing with his argument.
Just by looking at the structure and the form of ‘To his coy mistress’ we can clearly see that there are metaphysical features. There is substantial evidence that poetry can contain metaphysical characteristics, however to understand whether the poets themselves belonged to the institution of ‘metaphysical poets’ then a detailed account of their beliefs and opinions is needed. This, is impossible to achieve, considering they are no longer alive and so this element can never be wholly debated and proven.
Burrows, C. (2006). Introduction. In: Metaphysical Poetry . London: Penguin. P19-24.
This reflective essay will describe the events and the experiences of composing the short story The Secrets and Lies of Belle-Fort Manor. There will also be a short analysis and evaluation of this process to see whether it is an effective method in imagining, creating and developing a riveting short story. On attending a creative writing workshop I was asked to choose a picture from a collection of black and white photographs laid out on a table. I immediately chose a figure who looked pensive and pre-occupied. The figure could either be used as a female or male as there were no distinguishing features. I avoided performing an internet search as I felt knowing the reality of the figure would cloud my imagination. I opted for the figure to be a female as she was wearing a fur coat and I knew this would be a significant part to the story. My original thought was that the lady would be an actress on the stage and that she would be killed mid-scene in a murder mystery. Whilst writing down some ideas and looking at the photo more intently my plan changed. I decided that the lady in the fur coat would be a prostitute (due to her sad and reluctant facial expression) and she would be murdered. I then opted to create a back story where a wealthy couple would be implicated in her murder due to them both having a secret about her and this would affect and threaten their social status’. I researched the Victorian era; specifically, in regards to names, modes of transport and societal events. The play An Inspector Calls helped me to formulate suspense and suspicion as well as containing comparable characters like an inspector and a prostitute.
The photo was the first time I had used a visual prompt to stimulate my imagination and I found it extremely successful. The story could have taken several different routes due to an influx of ideas. However, I found it difficult to filter and process them. Moving forward I need to carry a notebook with me everywhere as some ideas will have been displaced or forgotten. Consequently, not researching into the origin of the photo at the beginning was a strength to this process as my ideas would have been blurred. However, to achieve this story I have edited it many times and I was worried I was spoiling the story. However, after researching I found that “If you write your book four times, chances are very good that when you’re done it will be a finely-crafted work of art … or at least undoubtedly something much better than when you started” (Petit, 2002). Therefore, editing many times is only a positive way in which I can refine my short story. There are some area’s which need vast improvement; I am going to consider mind mapping and visual aids to filter and process my ideas in the future but overall, it’s a successfully process.
Freud, L. (1967) Girl in A Fur Coat [Photograph – Online] Available from: http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=42880 [Accessed: 21/12/2016].
Petit, Z. (2002) There Are No Rules: How to Edit Your Book In 4 Steps. [Online] Available from: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/how-to-edit-your-book-in-4-steps [Accessed: 21/12/2016].
Priestley, JB. (2006) An Inspector Calls. London: Hodder Murray.