Review of ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’

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!

Analyse the representation and critique of class relations in early modern writing

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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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.

Metaphysical Poetry

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.

 BIBLIOGRAPHY

 Burrows, C. (2006). Introduction. In: Metaphysical Poetry . London: Penguin. P19-24.

 

 

 

Reflective Commentary on The Making of The Short Story – The Secrets and Lies of Belle-Fort Manor

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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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.

 

A short analysis of the poem ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by T.S Eliot

TS Eliot wrote ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ in 1915. During this time, many theoretical texts were published about innovative subjects: psychology and science. These influences changed people’s perspectives and societal norms. This was reflected in literary creations; this period was called Modernity. The content of ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ has a primary focus in the poetic voice – Prufrock. He is an intelligent man, smartly dressed but concentrates on his imperfections, for example in stanza six ‘With a bald spot in the middle of my hair – (they will say: “How is hair is growing thin!”). This indicates he is questioning his own self-worth and this reinforces his social anxiety. Further support arises from the repeated line ‘In the room the women come and go, Talking of Michelangelo’. Prufrock is comparing himself to the epitome of a perfect male – the sculptor Michelangelo; as the women in the coffee shop are always discussing him. Prufrock is therefore consumed with negative thoughts, that he cannot communicate with women; he is self-doubting. An error in judgement could destroy the small amount of self-esteem he has left. This is also supported in stanza ten where the only dialogue Prufrock can consider with a woman is ‘I have gone at dusk through narrow streets, and watched the smoke that rises from the pipes’. Regrettably a thorough description of a billowing chimney, would not stand as courtship.

Arguably ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ is a poem from modernism. Evidence emanates from stanza four ‘and time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions’. This is because the poetic voice – Prufock – is insecure about the future. The first World War was not accounted for in the poem, yet it was clearly written around that time; confirming a period of uncertainty. Therefore, it is believable that individuals at that time, became more self-reflective and self-obsessed; suggesting a new direction for poetry. In stanza three there are references to the Industrial Revolution for example, ‘The yellow fog that rubs it back upon the window-panes, the yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes’. It can be suggested that the yellow fog and smoke is the pollution emerging from the busy factories. These lines add more supporting evidence to cultural changes.

A theme that resonates through the poem is time. In stanza fourteen, Prufrock is considering how the gender roles have adjusted due to the change of societal norms. For example, ‘After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor’. This means that the effects of the War and the Industrial Revolution have collectively impacted on society; women can now dress differently and where shorter skirts. Furthermore, due to these changes Prufrock contemplates whether he should change, to fit in with the new societal norms. For example, in stanza eighteen he says ‘shall I part my hair behind?……I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach’. Conveniently Prufrock has presented the reader with a moral dilemma and then suggested a solution towards the end.

There is no clear structure to ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’. The stanza lengths are varied; the third stanza has eight lines and the forth stanza has twelve lines. This suggests that the erratic structure of the poem reflects Prufrock’s internal struggle, regarding the change of societal norms. This irregularity also reflects modernism. This is because the arrangement has been deliberately configured to break away from the norm. Therefore, echoing Prufrock’s circumstances. However, T.S Elliot was methodical in the way he constructed this poem, as he inserted random rhyming couplets. For example, in stanza one, ‘oh, do not ask, “what is it?” Let us go and make our visit.’ The rhyming couplet in these lines seem more melodic (a little childish compared to the rest of the poem) which could be T.S Elliot’s way of mocking Prufrock. Finally, critics suggest that ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ should not have the title of being a song, as it’s a dramatic monologue. Paul Morrison states that the reasons for this are because ‘the eponymous heroes resist, albeit in different ways, their generic dispensations.’ (Morrison, 1996, pg. 69) This basically means that the hero – Prufrock – is denying himself the pleasures in life, so it’s ironic it is called a love song. Clearly the ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ was written during the modernity period. Societal changes meant breaking away from the norm. This lead to the movements such as: abstraction, expressionism and impressionism. Without these transformations, we would not have evolved into post-modernity.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 Morrison, Paul. The Poetics of Fascism: Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Paul de Man. Cary, US: Oxford University Press, 1996. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 26 October 2016.

 

In what ways, could Katherine Mansfield’s short story ‘Bliss’ (1918) be regarded as an example of Early Modernist Prose Fiction

Peter Barry’s The Beginning Theory suggests “Modernism is the name given to the movement which dominated the arts and culture of the first half of the twentieth century” (Barry, 2009, p78). Modernism was a reaction from a disillusioned society after the horrors of war. He also stated “In literature, finally, there was a rejection of traditional realism (chronological plots, continuous narratives relayed by omniscient narrators, ‘closed endings’, etc.) in favour of experimental forms of various kinds” (Barry, 2009, p79). This suggests that rather than a character showing us what they see they explained how they felt. Freudian theories can also be applied to the characteristics associated with Modernism as psychoanalysis concepts can be resonated in literature, for example the stream of consciousness technique. Katherine Mansfield’s short story ‘Bliss’ represents Modernity prose fiction because Bertha breaks away from conventional traditions as she desires a woman.

‘Bliss’ is set in an upper-class area and it’s centred around socialites attending a dinner party hosted by the Young’s. The narrator is the 3rd person from a limited point of view which demonstrates the Modernist stream of consciousness technique. The reason being is that we only see the events from Bertha’s perspective. A personal connection can be made with Bertha as she takes us on her intimate journey. However, a limitation to this is that the reader is not being told the truth throughout the story as Bertha keeps telling us she is happy and this does not seem to be reality. The narrative explains how materialistic Bertha is, “she had found a wonderful little dressmaker…their new cook made the most superb omelettes” (Mansfield, 2006, p73). This establishes that her life is measurably incomplete and shallow. Therefore, Modernist characteristics are in the story ‘Bliss’ because Bertha’s perspective lets the reader get into her consciousness.

There are symbols used in ‘Bliss’ that highlight Modernist characteristics. The pear tree is interchangeable throughout the story. To begin with the pear tree represents Bertha’s state of ‘Bliss’ and then shifts onto her intimate friendship with Pearl, as it describes it being “in fullest, richest bloom” (Mansfield, 2006, p72). As the story progresses the pear tree transforms to represent Harry’s phallic state. The reason being is that Pearl is often compared to that of the silver moon (even her dress colour is silver) and the pear tree is described as “to grow taller and taller as they gazed – almost to touch the rim of the round, silver moon” (Mansfield, 2006, p77). When Bertha discovers Harry and Pearls affair she looks to the tree and she discovers it is unchanged. Meaning that the pear tree was more likely to represent Harry and Pearl’s relationship rather than herself and Pearl. Other symbols in ‘Bliss’ are that of animals. For example, “A grey cat, dragging its belly, crept across the lawn, and a black one, its shadow, trailed after” (Mansfield, 2006, p72). The black cat specifically represents bad luck and that something is about to upset Bertha’s state of ‘Bliss’. The black cat represents Pearl (the bad luck) and the grey cat represents Harry (not living a life of black or white) as the grey cat is following the black cat, which is echoed at the end of the story. These symbols are elements of the ‘second story’ for example, “The devious second story construction leads, and often misleads the reader, who interprets clues and applies general cultural competence to ‘retell’ the once-submerged second story” (Mortimer, 1994, p41). This demonstrates that it is an example of Modernist prose fiction because this is an unconventional method of writing.

‘Bliss’ is exceptionally satirical. The white dress that Bertha wears is ironic as the white dress resembles a wedding dress. Bertha comically compliments the dress with shoes in the colour green – which represents the emotion of jealousy. However, Bertha is unaware of the affair so these elements also contribute to the ‘second story’. Another element of satire is projected through the ridiculous character Mrs Knight, as an extravagant interior designer who wants to turn the back of a chair into a frying pan. This ironically demonstrates that individuals in societal institutions are more concerned with being modern than creating art. This validates that satire used in this is regarded as Modernist prose fiction.

‘Bliss’ is an exceptional story to read, especially for the second time around when you discover more to the ‘second story’. Furthermore, it disregards the negative themes of war which was popular in literature at that time. However, it significantly highlights changes in society regarding sexuality, ethnicity, social norms and mental health which are all encompassed in Freudian theories.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barry, P. (2009). Postmodernism. In: Beginning Theory. 3rd ed. Glasgow: Manchester University Press. p78-91.

Mansfield, K. (2006). Bliss. In: The Collected Stories. London: Wordsworth Classics. p69-80.

Mortimer, A. (1994). Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’. Narrative. 2 (1), p41-52.

Analytical review of Armine Mortimer’s “Fortifications of desire: reading the second story in Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’”

Armine Mortimer is examining the details behind the second story in Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’. Corroboration comes from the functioning language in the text rather than the language spoken by, the protagonist, Bertha as she is “lacking knowledge; they are in the position of the analysand” (Mortimer, 1994). An analysand is defined as a person undergoing psychoanalysis. Armine Mortimer’s essay is predominantly clear and concise, however there are some paragraphs that can be read as confusing and nonsensical to a beginner in academia. This essay will review its composition and literary style. Furthermore, it will be established whether it is a successful literary critical essay. This essay starts with a fast, sharp sentence that grabs your attention straight away which encourages and compels the reader to read on. For example,

When the heroine of Mansfield’s well-known, extraordinary short story discovers her husband’s infidelity less than a page before the end, a second story untold in the first but necessary to its meaning erupts into the narrative, to a devastating effect (Mortimer, 1994).

Also, contained in this first paragraph is a definition of the literary term the second story which additionally describes the effects and ramifications this has on the reader. The introduction continues with comparing Hemingway’s iceberg principle to the discipline Katherine Mansfield injected in writing her short stories. Fundamentally the iceberg only ever reveals one-eighth above water meaning that ‘Bliss’ mirrored this concept. The reason being that Katherine Mansfield had to omit material and this is evident because the second story existed. Armine Mortimer is fundamentally arguing that the second story is a barrier to protect the additional details that Katherine Mansfield excluding from the story. This first section of the essay is persuasive and resilient as it evidently makes the reader connect all the parts to enhance a wider understanding. Armine Mortimer finishes this paragraph by suggesting the reader to contemplate what can be learnt from Bertha and especially how this story has impacted on them. This is an ambiguous proposition as the answers can vary depending on the reader and how everyone interprets the story. Moreover, this first part of the essay is extremely educational and a necessity to the text. Without this the reader, may not fully understand the literary concepts and essentially may not be prepared to be open-minded and process other possibilities.

A large part of the following paragraphs is about the events in ‘Bliss’. Armine Mortimer is suggesting that as a first-time reader we focus on Bertha’s desires and emotional state so that when the second story is revealed, it is unexpected and the reader has been naïve until this point. Whether this is deemed as a positive or a negative statement – it is up to interpretation but for a short story to be shocking at the very end of the narrative indicates some exceptional and impressive writing. Therefore, it can be argued that it is a positive declaration as the reader can justify being naïve for a limited time to benefit greatly at the end of the experience. However, this cannot be said about this essay from this section as in effect it is just storytelling and it is acceptable if you have never read the story ‘Bliss’ before but if you have, then it shows no more insight or understanding. Not even an argument or corroborating evidence is suggested or inferred here.

The next part of the essay then starts to develop into a more critical understanding of the second story and Armine Mortimer extracts supporting evidence from the text and explains them with good arguments. Armine Mortimer suggests these extracts are hints to the second story and they only become apparent when you read it an additional time – as the first time they are completely overlooked. Further suggested points come from more literary concepts, like the use of satire and symbolism. However, the next paragraph is mostly in French quotes which is not necessary and not suitable to the remainder of the essay. The long summary is predominately about a French psychiatrist – Lacan who described deviations in fortified walls. The language is difficult to understand and the translation from French to English is not accurate. This is not comprehensible unless you are a specialist in this field and the radical overuse of nouns consecutively is difficult to process for example “displacement, disavowal, division, and deadening” (Mortimer, 1994). This makes the paragraph heavy and the end can simply not come quick enough. Armine Mortimer goes further on to explain the “Lacanian instant” (Mortimer, 1994). This is basically when “desire is the desire of the other” (Mortimer, 1994). This is evident in ‘Bliss’ as the narrative explains “For the first time in her life Bertha Young desired her husband” (Mansfield, 2006, p78). This is a misrecognition of desire as Bertha does not the origin of her desires as she has never experienced this before with her husband. Therefore, the desire has been misplaced. This is the only interesting and educational point in this section, which will not be immediately recognisable. However, after an enormous amount of reading and research an understanding can be achieved if the French quotes go ignored.

Armine Mortimer suggests “Bertha is not allowed to recognise the censor that guards the door of insight; that role is strictly the reader’s” (Mortimer, 1994). This means that the reader is only aware of the secrets and that the fortification is in place to protect Katherine Mansfield’s left out material. Furthermore, the fortification also protects Bertha from her own desires. Armine Mortimer concludes that each reader will answer and interpret ‘Bliss’ in their own means but they must choose to accept that it is the function of language that makes the reader more knowledgeable. To conclude Armine Mortimer’s essay is mainly written clear and concise and a non-academia can appreciate the critical and analytical understanding of the short story ‘Bliss’, especially the fortification of desire and the understanding of the second story. However, the essay is long with repeated points that include story-telling. Armine Mortimer is clearly passionate about Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’ and this is evident in the language and the high level of knowledge of the second story. Improvements could be made on this essay and they include: condensing the word count, removal of the French quotes and editing the storytelling paragraphs. However, overall it is an adequate literary critical essay which can be enjoyed and appreciated by all who recognise Katherine Mansfield.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Boehmer, E. (2011) Mansfield as Colonial Modernist: Difference Within. In: Kimber, G. and Wilson, J. (eds). Celebrating Katherine Mansfield. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mansfield, K. (2006). Bliss. In: The Collected Stories. London: Wordsworth Classics. p69-80.

Mortimer, A. (1994). Fortifications of Desire: Reading the Second Story in Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’ in Narrative. [Online] 2 (1). p.41–52. Available from: http://www.jstor.org [Accessed 17/12/2016].

New, W. (1999) Reading Mansfield and Metaphors of Form. [Online] California: Mqup. Available from: http://www.ebrary.com [Accessed: 17/12/2016].

 

The Secrets and Lies of Belle-Fort Manor

Part I

Lady Isabella Aldridge walked down the long, velvety-red staircase with a decorum of elegance. This November evening, she was wearing a royal blue dress, that outlined her slim and gracious frame – just ideal for the ballet, she thought. She had to inwardly confess, she was mistaken about the Albert Saloon Theatre. It was designed and erected perfectly for such striking occasions. Next to her, and gripping her arm quite tightly, was her husband – Lord Carter Aldridge. His face was stern and the small veins at the side of his head were protruding, as if he was annoyed or irritated. On the contrary, if one happened to glance at Lady Isabella, no one would assume her emotions were collapsing on the inside. Her face remained as still as an oil painting; her body effortlessly calm. She tried to comprehend the embarrassing incident that just occurred; she just wanted to immediately escape the socialites. How did her husband become acquainted with that lady – and why had he given her my fur overcoat? Did he know who she was? Isabella kept trying to process her thoughts but all she could think of was how that public outburst was humiliating and she was sad that the past kept constantly threatening her place in society. As if by suddenly awaking from a stupor she suddenly realised she was cold, and that she no longer had an overcoat. Coincidently, Carter wrapped his dinner jacket over her shoulders and locked her arm tightly against his, as if to protect her from the spectators. He quickly hurried her out of theatre and through the giant, gold, gates into the crowd of theatre-goers. “Do you think the Parker-Knowles saw anything”questioned Isabella. She would be mortified if her new high society friends had seen anything indecent, especially at the theatre. “Never mind that now, let’s just forget it my love, she was quite clearly intoxicated” replied Carter.

Part II

“Grayson will be waiting for us, come on dear let’s get you where it’s warm”said Carter trying to hurry his wife, Isabella, along the dark, cobbled road. Grayson was waiting patiently, at the end of the street with the other black hansoms. Grayson immediately observed the fact that Isabella was shivering and missing her exquisite fur overcoat. Carter helped her into the carriage and by this time Grayson had found a blanket in the foot-well to keep her warm; as they started their journey back to Belle-Fort Manor. Carter’s face finally relaxed once they had boarded the hansom and they were leaving the judgemental onlookers behind. “How did you become acquainted with that lady?” Isabella asked suspiciously. “We can talk about it when we get back to Belle-Fort, just concentrate on keeping warm, my dear. You don’t want to catch your death.” The journey back seemed to take considerably longer than the journey there. It’s as if Grayson had taken a longer route, for some reason. Unbeknownst to the Aldridge’s; Grayson had come across some difficulty in travelling down some certain roads. So much had changed since the beginning of the evening – Carter pondered quietly to himself. What was he going to say to Isabella about that lady? Considering his marriage to Isabella was one of convenience, he had grown fond of her over these past few months. Although he was not sure how deep her emotions ran – if at all. The Aldridge name had conveniently given Isabella status which saved her family from a public disgrace. Carter looked across the carriage to find Lady Isabella peacefully asleep; at least she was calm for now. Maybe Grayson was right to take the longer route home. How could he possibly tell her the truth now? He should never have given Fanny – Isabella’s fur overcoat, but she needed something of value.

Part III

On arrival at Belle-Fort Manor the servants were busy turning down the beds for the night. Lord and Lady Aldridge entered the drawing room to find a gentleman waiting for them by the raging, log fire. He was wearing a charcoal grey suit and a beaked black hat. He also held a walking stick in his left hand with a gold-plated duck head for its topper. “Good evening Lord and Lady Aldridge, my name is Constable Wheeler. Unfortunately, an unpleasant situation has arisen this evening concerning a young lady; whom I believe you had an altercation with this evening.” Constable Wheeler preceded to tell the Aldridge’s of Belle-fort Manor that the last lady to be wearing Lady Aldridge’s fur overcoat had been found dead in an innkeeper’s doorway. Isabella Aldridge started to look uncomfortable and as if by an unstoppable force, she let out an ear-piercing scream. Carter ran over to his wife and embraced her while she let out a furious sob. “I don’t understand Isabella – what is going on?” said Carter. It was time for the truth thought Isabella. “She was my sister!” cried Lady Aldridge. Constable Wheeler went on further to say that, that was his original suspicion due to some paperwork the peelers had found in her apartment. With no empathy in his voice what’s so ever, he told the Aldridge’s that Isabella’s sister – Fanny Franklin – had more than likely died from consumption. The peelers reported that opium paraphernalia had been found at her apartment. “I am sorry for your loss Lady Aldridge; I believe you were not that close as sisters?” said Wheeler with yet again no empathy in his voice. Carter was perplexed. How could Fanny Franklin be Isabella’s sister? She was a lady of the night. It just didn’t make any sense. Although he never knew the true extent to her family’s disgrace. As if to waken him from his thoughts, Wheeler questioned him. “Lord Carter, how did YOU know Fanny Franklin if you did not know she was the sister of your wife?

Depressing start to 2017…

It has been a hectic couple of months during Christmas and New Year; many assignments to complete for University with also increased shifts at work. Thankfully all my assignments were completed on time and I have also managed to get ahead with my reading list for semester two. It has not been the best start to the year with the passing of Belle (our little Yorkshire Terrier) and Mother being admitted in hospital for surgery. Thankfully Ma is now home and she is in her recovery phase with me, my Dad and my Brother’s family looking after her in the best way we can. Let’s just hope from this point on, the year begins to get better. 

I went on a interesting trip to Stratford Upon Avon with Staffordshire University. We went to see The Tempest at the RSC with a couple of sneaky alcoholic beverages afterwards. The following day we went exploring the town and we managed to see the home of Anne Hathaway (as seen below) and we also visited William Shakespeare’s grave. We stayed in a youth hostel close to the town and it was my first experience staying in one and I have to say it exceeded my expectations. 

 

I hope the University organise more trips similar to this one as I found it very interesting and sometimes it is just good to get away, even if it is just for a night. Next week we are going to the local theatre to see a play called ‘Cyrano’ which will be performed by the Northern Broadsides. This will be a good night as most of my University friends will be going! I really need to find more time for my blog and to do some creative writing as reading is taking up most of my free time. 

Dogs leave paw prints on our hearts…

The start to this year has not been the best for our family. Only last week we had to make the heartbreaking decision to put our beloved Yorkshire Terrier (Belle) to sleep. On March the 15th 2017 she would have been 15 years old – which I am told is a very good age for a Yorkie. Unfortunately her heart rate was dropping and so this made her breathing more difficult. To make matters worse she was losing the strength in her back legs and so this resulted in her having numerous falls. It was the best decision for Belle as she would no longer suffer but for the rest of us – well we just wanted to bring her home. 


This past week has been difficult – I have been waking up in the night thinking she is crying to get on my bed and I go to reach for her but she’s not there. We have left her beds and belongings where they are, but we gave her food and treats to the dogs home. Belle loved her sleeps with blankets and duvets and even our dressing gowns – anything she could snuggle into and make a nest out of. I miss waking up in the morning to find her lying next to me under the duvet (cuddles and snuggles we used to call it).


Just simple tasks like wiping the dishes is hard and upsetting as she used to come in the kitchen and look on the floor for food scraps! In fact everywhere I go in the house I am looking for her as she was such a small dog, you were constantly worried you would trip on her. Belle loved her walks (only if it wasn’t raining!) especially down Llandudno pier as she lapped up attention from passers-by. She also loved her family and would wait looking at the front door until we came home. 


Belle was my best friend and to live without her is going to be difficult. Her love helped me through some of the tough times in my life and I will never forget that. I know it can be difficult for some people to understand how someone can grieve over a pet but if they have never had one, then they will never understand the impact they have on your lives. I would give anything to have my princess back but I am just thankful I had the time I had with her.

My tribute to my little lady…