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Try for free Already registered? Log in. Delete Comment Are you sure you want to delete this comment? Delete comment Cancel. Deleting comment Moreover, the novel in general depicts humans as shallow, materialistic, competitive, and often selfish. The Ohmanns might be correct in seeing The Catcher in the Rye as partly an indictment of a materialistic, competitive society in which individuals put their own interests first, leaving many people alienated, estranged, and cut off from deeper attachments to others.
However, a sound diagnosis of the ills of a materialistic society need not imply a Marxist cure, particularly since Marxism itself is rooted in the very materialism the novel seems to question. Nor is it certain that Salinger is suggesting that flaws in individual psychology and society are the fault of capitalism, per se. A strong case can be made that the novel indicts any excessive investment in any materialistic philosophy, whether that philosophy is capitalist, Marxist, or another sort. The main problem with Holden and his society, one can argue, is that both have lost their traditional moorings in the spiritual and even explicitly religious values that once provided solace, satisfaction, meaning, fellowship, and hope to millions of people before the advent of modern materialism, whether capitalist or Marxist.
One of the most striking aspects of the book is the secular, nonreligious, and even antireligious nature of much of the thought and behavior it presents. Holden lives in a society in which God is mostly absent, and yet references to God—mainly in the form of casual profanity—abound. Although the novel is often remembered for its frequent use of the words phony and phoniness, the word goddam seems to appear more often.
The insistent if irreverent references to God keep God—and a religious perspective—constantly on our minds. Yet the casual, irreverent, and often deliberately insulting nature of these references also reminds us that Holden lives in a post-Christian and postreligious environment. His society is not stridently atheistic for atheists, more than most people, take religion quite seriously , and many of the characters consider themselves Christians.
Nevertheless, God and religion no longer occupy central places of respect, veneration, or even serious attention. The use of the word goddam is, like so much else in their speech and behavior, rooted in a need for self-centered display. For Chrissake. Admittedly, the word fuck makes a 46 J. Salinger thematically important appearance , but notable largely by their absence are the many other popular expletives of the potty-mouth, adolescent lexicon.
God and Christianity are mainly a convenient source of profanity, but there seems no denying that Salinger encourages his readers to think more seriously about religion than most of his characters do. Christmas is a celebration of the event that Christians view as one of the two most important events in human history, the other being the resurrection. To Christians, Christmas symbolizes the moment when God became man, when the fundamental alienation of man from God—an alienation inaugurated by the Fall—was suddenly and irrevocably reversed. For centuries, the Christian religion and Christmas were viewed by millions of people as practical and consoling alternatives to alienation.
Christmas also symbolized the powerful connection between the mundane and the divine, the earthly and the supernatural; it suggested that the rewards of eternal life could be hoped for even in the bleakest and most depressing of material circumstances. If their lives seem shallow and joyless and their interactions aimless and pointless, that is partly because they look to nothing higher or more transcendent to give deeper meaning to their lives and relationships. Although the Ohmanns complain that neither Holden nor Salinger presents us with an obvious or appealing alternative to the alienated, self-centered social relations the book depicts, this is not entirely true.
Both Holden and his creator give an unusual amount of attention to two characters who otherwise seem unimportant to the larger plot and who represent a real and viable alternative to the shallow materialism and egocentricity the book mocks. The nuns are among the few adults in the book Holden genuinely respects, and they are among the few adults whose relations with him do not add to his eventual disillusionment. The Ohmanns cite this incident to support their Marxist reading of the novel, but it is also possible that Salinger inserts this episode to suggest how Christian charity, when sincerely practiced, provides an alternative to economic tensions and class conflict.
One of them carries a basket to collect charitable gifts, and although the nuns are not actively seeking donations, Holden volunteers one anyway and insists that the nuns take it. He does so at a time when he needs the money, and his donation is one of his most obviously selfless and generous acts This is one of the few episodes in the book that risks becoming sentimental, although Salinger avoids this by making Holden wonder innocently about how the nuns react to sexual topics in literature and also by making Holden fear that the nuns might proselytize for Catholicism Even after the nuns leave, he continues to think about them and contrast their genuine charity with the more ostentatious charity practiced by some of his relatives With them he enjoys a relationship free from the alienation that afflicts his relationships with so many others.
The pompous, self-righteous prep-school alumnus who parades his piety but does not live according to his professed values is another, and clearly the alumnus represents all the potential for pride and hypocrisy to which religion, like any imperfect human institution, can fall victim. Yet Holden, although an avowed atheist in a family full of avowed atheists, nevertheless is capable of feeling real respect for Jesus even when he expresses characteristic disdain for The Catcher in the Rye 49 many self-important Christian preachers Jesus, presumably, would have approved of the nuns, and so does Holden.
The Catcher in the Rye makes no effort to present Christianity or religion as an alternative or solution to the alienated condition of life in modern society. The novel is not a piece of propaganda religious, Marxist, or otherwise. Bibliography Ohmann, Carol, and Richard Ohmann. Salinger, J. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little, Brown, The Chosen Chaim Potok ,.
Furthermore, both are caught in a generational shift as the Jewish community, alienated from mainstream society, seeks to adapt to American culture. Others at times adopt a new way: they walk on the side road. Still others pursue a way of their own choosing: they walk on the path. The last reach their destination first. Of all of these, however, it is the opposition between the head and the heart which predominates. The locale of the story is the Crown Heights section of Williamsburg in Brooklyn from the Depression years to the founding of the state of Israel.
See a Problem?
The Hassidic view originated as a revolt against the arid intellectual concerns of 18th century scholastic i. This resulted in the Hassidic heresy according to the Vilna Gaon toward the stress on joy and the intuitions. Yet in its turn especially as portrayed in The Chosen Hassidism itself evolved into the very thing it had attacked. Indeed, Reb Saunders, the Hassidic leader in The Chosen, has really reverted to the earlier arid scholasticism which Hassidism in its own beginnings had set itself up in opposition to.
The Chosen 53 However, in The Chosen, the quarrel between the Hassidim and the Misnagdim these days, roughly those practicing Jews who are not Hassidim though decreasing in intensity and bitterness after the slaughter of six million in the Nazi Holocaust, still makes up a substantial aspect of this novel. We must of course remember that many Hassidim consider most Jews beyond their own circle apikorsim heretics. While it is true that the Misnagdim in The Chosen did not actively oppose the Hassidim, the baseball game between the Misnagdic and the Hassidic schools on which the novel opens not only triggers the conflict but determines the direction the novel will take.
One of the central problems in The Chosen is communication—or lack of it. Thus Reb Saunders denies Danny what Mr. Malter the yeshiva teacher freely gives to his son Reuven: warmth, communication, and understanding. On the other hand, the relationship between Reuven and his father is a tender one, made all the more trusting by the easy and affectionate exchange of confidences that go on between them.
They, at least, can do what Danny and his father seem unable to do: communicate.
Conceivably, Mr. Malter—even as Hassidism itself appears to be rooted in an older tradition than its Misnagdic counterpart. The difference between Mr. Malter and Reb Saunders expresses itself most forcefully in their respective visions toward the Holocaust: Reb Saunders can do little more than shed very real tears for the martyred Jews of Europe. We must accept the will of God. Fawcett Crest Edition, p. All further quotations are cited by page number within parentheses following them. Reb Saunders, to the contrary, in conformance with orthodox Hassidism, is bound by the Messianic belief—that only with the coming of the Messiah will Jews achieve the millennial dream, the ingathering of the exiles, the return to Eretz Yisroel.
For Reuven and Danny are symbolically two halves of a single perhaps ideal? In short, no perfection is to be attained, except in unity. But that is precisely the problem of the characters in The Chosen: Theirs is a search for that elusive or illusory goal. For neither of these two boys growing into manhood can really be said to exist at their fullest potential unless they retain some sort of relationship with each other, which on one occasion is suspended when Reb Saunders forbids Danny any association with Reuven for an interval of about a year, making the two boys doubly miserable.
Reuven, whose father allows his son forays into symbolic logic, the mathematics of Bertrand Russell, ends up a rabbi! Danny, for want of a better word—the The Chosen 55 word has been overly used and abused, though it applies here—has been alienated—from his father, from Hassidism, and finally from the Hassidic community itself. More significant than the conflict of belief in The Chosen is the conflict between the generations—each of which is so often collateral with the other.
The novel itself could as easily, if not originally, have been called Fathers and Sons. For it is as much about the old split between the fathers and their offsprings as it is about the conflicts between religious views and personalities. The sons have been molded by the fathers, though in the case of Danny that influence is a negative one.
For Reb Saunders is a fanatic, or at least has those propensities; he represents the archetypal, God-intoxicated Hassid. And it is he who has caused Danny to grow into a tense, coldly introverted personality. In the growing estrangement between Danny and his father, the conflict of generations and of visions toward life surfaces.
And it is America that is the catalyst: the old East European ambiance is gone unless one accepts Williamsburg as a pale substitute milieu for the vanished shtetle ; and in the second instance the old ghetto traditions have become influenced, perhaps eroded—the old acculturation-assimilation story—by the pressures of urbanism and secular intellectualism.
The relationship between Reuven Malter and his father is rooted organically, not in principle—self or externally imposed—but in tolerance and mutual respect. Where Danny is coerced into the study of a specific mode of religious thought, Reuven is allowed by his father to roam free through the country of ideas. This seemingly minor approach to pedagogical technique—both fathers are teachers in their own ways—will determine the direction each of the boys will later take as young men.
The elder Saunders not only expects Danny to take his place in the rabbinic dynasty when his own time comes as Hassidic custom requires , but can hardly imagine an alternative.
- Being You?
- Ah! si pera: No. 13 from La donna del lago, Act 2 (Vocal Score).
- Paralympic Heroes;
- Monarch of Mulligans Bay.
On the other hand fanaticism and intolerance go to form the iron bond that binds Danny to his father. What is important here, though, is that Danny becomes an object, manipulated by his father, rather than a person one relates to. The worship of God gives way, in the first flush of enthusiasm, to his admiration, if not worship, of a substitute god, Sigmund Freud. As the novel progresses, Danny the intellectual wizard, Wunderkind, finds himself increasingly boxed in by the restrictive ghetto mentality of the Hassidim.
Ultimately, though, The Chosen is a paradigm of two visions that have not only sundered Judaism but have affected other areas of life—the split between head and heart. The Saunderses seem to have an excess of head in their paradoxical streak of zealousness and emotional makeup; but the Malters have heart and head: They are in balance. Like his father, he also has a spark of tolerance that illuminates his own knowledge of human essences as opposed to ritualistic forms.
And this produces a keen irony, since Hassidism, a movement that was originally a revolt against arid scholasticism became as portrayed in The Chosen transformed into its opposite. Piety, joy, even learning a latecomer to Hassidism becomes pietism, rote learning, memorization. In this split between head and heart, Danny Saunders shows a brilliant flare for Talmudic explication.
And He cursed me with all the problems of raising him. Ah, what it is to have a brilliant son! Daniel, there was only his mind. Reuven is not exactly a graubbe yung, a moron, himself. For in one of the terminal scenes, he proves himself a master of many Talmudic brain twisters—and this, ironically, even when he cannot answer one difficult proposition which the teacher himself is unable to resolve! There is enough sanity in Reuven, though—presumably the heritage his father has passed on to him—to bring him to the realization that words themselves have little meaning unless they are rooted in life.
Yet he also knows that this hardly makes a Jew, much less a compassionate human being. For brilliance, whether in Talmud or in other mental acrobatics, may as often blind the brilliant with their own brilliance as enlighten. I should like to say a few words about the symbolic symmetry of The Chosen. Potok seems to have extended himself beyond plausibility here. For the conclusion of this otherwise fine and sensitive work is marred by contrivance. In this symmetry Danny escapes the confines of 58 Chaim Potok the Hassidic sect while Reuven stays within the wider boundaries of a more tolerant form of Judaism.
Further, in this kind of resolution, Potok unintentionally and unfortunately reveals his intentions long before the novel ends. Even the dialogue is weak here, betraying the Procrustean ending; it is virtually the antithesis to the brilliant verbal fencing—stichomythia—that the great dramatists from Shakespeare to Shaw were such virtuosos at.
Thus, as Reuven moves closer to Misnagdic—non-Hassidic— Judaism, so Danny moves away from its Hassidic counterpart, giving the novel this mechanical symmetry. The saving feature in spite of the contrived ending is that the choices of the two young men are as much determined by motive and character or lack of it as by superimposed plot strictures. In any effective fiction it is the process rather than the outcome that is more important.
This is The Chosen 59 especially true in The Chosen. For in this novel Chaim Potok gives us as keen an insight into the split between head and heart, tolerance and fanaticism, the strictures of tradition against the impulses of rachmonis pity as has appeared in the Jewish-American novel in a long time.
Note 1. Dubliners James Joyce ,. By quickly shifting characters and perspectives and moving through the stages of a human life—childhood, adolescence, and maturity—Joyce provides a panoramic view of turn-of-the-century Dublin as a paralyzed world. Thus, like many expressionistic works of art and pieces of music, Dubliners 61 62 James Joyce takes as its subject the modern, disillusioned person as described by Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud: isolated, filled with inner conflict and anxiety, suppressed by institutions and cultural values, and acting out in irritated rebellion against established order and accepted forms.
You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. These same nets trap the Dubliners, who inhabit a suffocating urban world. The story ends, however, before an empty fireplace in a communion ritual whose painful silence causes the boy to refuse the host-like crackers offered for fear of making noise. Although the aunt speaks of rumors, what the reader hears in the lapse, after the silence, is laughter. Music accompanies this alienated world, a world paralyzed in its adherence to ritual, a world sick and weary from imprisoning moral values, as Nietzsche describes in On the Genealogy of Morals.
His epiphany, revealing that there is nothing behind the illusive shadow of the woman he fabricates and in which he believes, brings anger and anguish. The boy fabricates the woman as his own desire and thus falls prey to an illusion. He functions as part of a world in which the uncle and the merchants, as well as the flirtatious couple the boy overhears, are victims of their own wills, alienated creatures following thwarted desires.
Joyce describes the Dubliners as hearts that, like the strings of Orpheus, beat to the rhythm of desire. Literally, the story palpitates Mooney an excessive perversion. Trapped but also playing the game, Doran meets Polly secretly at night, desiring to have her while still being virtuous in the eyes of the business community. While Doran is simultaneously tricked and one who tries to turn a trick, the reader sees all the Mooney and Doran machinations as part of the show. Bastardized rituals appear in Dubliners with musical descriptions and musical effects.
The poks lend irony to the long-winded music of the co-opters who gather to honor Parnell and lament his demise yet participate in the same corrupt games that caused his end. The co-opters use Parnell as the race-car drivers use Jimmy and Europe uses Ireland. Duffy listens to the tram just as he listened to a musical performance the evening he met Mrs. Although Duffy eschews the world of sound after breaking off with Sinico, the music of the tram is inescapable.
Not far from the porch of the club a harpist stood in 66 James Joyce the roadway playing to a little ring of listeners. He plucked at the wires heedlessly, glancing quickly from time to time at the face of each newcomer and from time to time, wearily also, at the sky. One hand played the bass melody of Silent, O Moyle, while the other hand careered in the treble after each group of notes.
The notes of the air throbbed deep and full. Lenehan becomes the victim of his own game and is associated with the woman, which places Lenehan in a passive posture of waiting for Corley and alludes to his possible homosexuality. This opening passage associates the music of the city, its unceasing murmur, with the shifting colors, shapes, and hues that depict inner conflict expressed in external signs, an inner world mirrored in the cacophony of the city. Dubliners contains many frenetic spectacles that depict commerce, social mechanisms, and the pace of modernity as a meaningless, cacophonous game that engulfs all and leaves individuals alone and isolated.
The story Dubliners 67 comments on the absurdity of business and the inhumanity of a world of commerce in which people are used as machines. Here, alone, Gabriel experiences the final moment of alienation in Dubliners. Instead of the stark, scrupulous style used until now, the narrative voice shifts, rounding out the collection with lush Romantic prose. As he co-opts the story of Michael Fury and The Lass of Aughrim, which so occupies Gretta, and makes the song his own self-pitying, nationalistic ballad, Gabriel becomes another of the isolated voices in Dubliners, speaking in the night but unheard.
In a collection that begins with a wake and ends with a marital crisis, Joyce creates a cohesive portrait of urbanites following vain desires, Dubliners for whom alienation is a shared condition after centuries of oppression—not just from the colonizing British but also from the social, political, and religious institutions that influence their lives.
James Joyce: New and Revised Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, Joyce, James. Hans Walther Gabler and Walter Hettche, eds. Dubliners ———. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Hans Gabler. Levin, Harry. James Joyce: A Critical Introduction. Norfolk, Conn. Montag seeks, in essence, a definition and a preservation of the identity of human kind. Joseph Olander and M. New York: Taplinger, Seeking escape from the new freedom he enjoys as a benefit of his new technology, man is all too likely to succumb to a Dr.
Strangelove impulse to destroy himself with the very tools that gave him freedom. Fahrenheit 73 In short, Fahrenheit raises the question posed by a number of contemporary anti-utopian novels. In this sense, Mark R. What is distinctive about Fahrenheit as a work of literature, then, is not what Bradbury says but how he says it. With Arthur C. Clarke, Bradbury is among the most poetic of science fiction writers. Less charming, perhaps, than The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit is also less brittle. More to the point, in Fahrenheit Bradbury has created a pattern of symbols that richly convey the intricacy of his central theme.
Fahrenheit thus becomes a book which injects originality into a literary subgenre that can grow worn and hackneyed. It is the only major symbolic dystopia of our time. The plot of Fahrenheit is simple enough. He meets a young woman whose curiosity and love of natural life stir dissatisfaction with his role in society. He begins to read books and to rebel against the facade of diversions used to seal the masses away from the realities of personal insecurity, officially condoned violence, and periodic nuclear war.
He turns against 74 Ray Bradbury the authorities in a rash and unpremeditated act of murder, flees their lethal hunting party, and escapes to the country. At the end of the book he joins a group of self-exiled book-lovers who hope to preserve the great works of the world despite the opposition of the masses and a nuclear war against an unspecified enemy. In such bare detail, the novel seems unexciting, even a trifle inane. But Bradbury gives his story impact and imaginative focus by means of symbolic fire.
This is a happy and fruitful arrangement by Bradbury, for he is thereby able to fuse character development, setting, and theme into a whole. He becomes a hunted outcast from an overly tame society by making good his violent escape from the restraining cage of the city. In his rebellion and flight, Montag is burning bright. Paradoxically, the flame of his suppressed human spirit spreads through his whole being after his horrible murder of Beatty. But Icarus, carried away by the joy of flying, went too close to the sun, causing his wings to melt and making him fall.
Clarisse, we recall, used to stay up nights waiting for the sunrise, and her face reminded Montag of a clock dial pointing toward a new sun. The sun, traditional symbol of truth and enlightenment, is antithetical to the dark night of ignorance that Beatty spreads across the land.
The difference between Montag and Icarus—which, of course, Beatty will never live to see—is that Montag, though crippled by the Mechanical Hound, survives his own daring. Burning bright and living dangerously, Montag skirts the destruction Beatty plans for him and flees to the liberated periphery of society where pockets of truth endure undimmed. At the beginning of Part Three, however, Beatty prevails.
Fire was best for everything! Beatty affects Montag strongly with his enticing argument for burning: What is fire? Scientists give us gobbledegook about friction and molecules. Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences. A problem gets too burdensome, then into the furnace with it. And fire will lift you off my shoulders, clean, quick, sure; nothing to rot later. Anti-biotic, aesthetic, practical.
Only when Beatty threatens to trace Faber does Montag realize that the logical end to his action must be the torching of his chief. Beatty has always told Montag not to face a problem, but to burn it. One may conclude that Montag fights fire with fire. The great fires of the cosmos have been concealed from Montag by the glittering arcs of the city. Immersed in the river and free of the electric jitters of city life, Montag at last discovers leisure to think for himself.
So it looked as if it had to be Montag and the people he had 78 Ray Bradbury worked with until a few short hours ago. The world was full of burning of all types and sizes. Now the guild of the asbestos-weaver must open shop very soon. Man should not capitulate to the tyranny of the nitrogen cycle, to the mutability characteristic of the physical, dynamic world.
He had never thought in his life that it could give as well as take. Even its smell was different. There is no inner glow to their faces, only resignation. Fire, like technology and knowledge, is good or bad, depending on how one uses it. At the close, Granger compares man with the Phoenix, the mythical bird that lives for hundreds of years in the desert, consumes itself in fire, and then rises reborn from its own ashes.
The question he raises but leaves unexplored is whether man can ever transcend the cycles of construction and devastation that have characterized his history. Yet at the very end, Bradbury does inject the promise of at least a seasonal renewal, and perhaps more, for man. The candle figure is instructive, for it brings the reader all the way back to Clarisse and the kind, humane light she stands for. As they break camp the men, including Granger, fall in behind Montag, suggesting that he will become their leader.
Montag, which means Monday in German, will conceivably light their way to a fresh beginning for man. A time to break down, and a time to build up. A time to keep silence and a time to speak. Yes, all that. He tries to remember something else. This is the thought Montag wants to reserve for noon, the high point of the day, when they reach the city.
Bradbury draws on the Biblical notion of a heavenly Jerusalem, the holy city where men will dwell with God after the apocalypse. The nations of the Earth will walk together by this light, and there will be no night there. The Mechanical Hound is a striking and sinister gadget; but for all its silent stalking, it conveys considerably less real alarm than a pack of aroused bloodhounds. What is genuinely frightening is the specter of that witless mass of humanity in the background who feed on manhunts televised live and a gamey version of highway hit-and-run. For another thing, the reader may be unsettled by the vagueness with which Bradbury defines the conditions leading to the nuclear war.
Homer's the Iliad by Harold Bloom
Admittedly, his point is that such a lemming-like society, by its very irresponsibility, will ultimately end in destruction. The firemen are merely enforcers of noninvolvement, not national policy-makers. Who, we wonder, is guarding the guardians? Presumably, the controversies and conflicts brought on by reading books have led to the system of mass ignorance promulgated by Beatty. Even with this system, though, man drifts into nuclear ruin.
Yet Fahrenheit remains a notable achievement in postwar dystopian fiction. If Fahrenheit is vague in political detail, it is accordingly less topical and therefore more broadly applicable to the dilemmas of the twentieth century as a whole. We can hardly escape from ourselves. On the whole, Farenheit comes out as a distinctive contribution to the speculative literature of our times, because in its multiple variations on its fundamental symbol, it demonstrates that dystopian fiction need not exclude the subtlety of poetry.
Notes 1. Subsequent page references in the text are to this edition of the novel. Mark R. Hillegas, The Future as Nightmare: H. David N. Hamlet William Shakespeare ,. Goethe raises a key question: Why is Hamlet unable to act? According to Wilhelm, Hamlet alienates himself by retreating into a conflicted interior world. Thomas Carlyle. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, Of late in talking, he had merely found submissive listeners, and even these not always; but now he had the happiness to speak with critics and artists, who not only fully understood him, but repaid his observations by others equally instructive.
With wonderful vivacity they travelled through the latest pieces; with wonderful correctness judged them. Loving Shakspeare as our friend did, he failed not to lead round the conversation to the merits of that dramatist. Expressing, as he entertained, the liveliest hopes of the new epoch which these exquisite productions must form in Germany he ere long introduced his Hamlet, who had busied him so much of late. Serlo declared that he would long ago have played the piece, had this been possible, and that he himself would willingly engage to act Polonius. Our friend was in his proper vein, becoming copious and didactic, expounding how he would have Hamlet played.
He circumstantially delivered to his hearers the opinions we before saw him busied with; taking all the trouble possible to make his notion of the matter acceptable, sceptical as Serlo showed himself regarding it. Ambition and the love of rule are not the passions that inspire him. The crown was not hereditary; yet a longer possession of it by his father would have strengthened the pretensions of an only son, and secured his hopes of the succession. In place of this, he now beholds himself Hamlet 87 excluded by his uncle, in spite of specious promises, most probably forever.
He is now poor in goods and favour, and a stranger in the scene which from youth he had looked upon as his inheritance. His temper here assumes its first mournful tinge. He feels that now he is not more, that he is less, than a private nobleman; he offers himself as the servant of every one; he is not courteous and condescending, he is needy and degraded. It is in vain that his uncle strives to cheer him, to present his situation in another point of view. The feeling of his nothingness will not leave him. It was the marriage of his mother. The faithful tender son had yet a mother, when his father passed away.
He hoped, in the company of his surviving noble-minded parent, to reverence the heroic form of the departed; but his mother too he loses, and it is something worse than death that robs him of her. The trustful image, which a good child loves to form of its parents, is gone. With the dead there is no help; on the living no hold. She also is a woman, and her name is Frailty, like that of all her sex. Not reflective or sorrowful by nature, reflection and sorrow have become for him a heavy obligation. It is thus that we see him first enter on the scene. I do not think that I have mixed aught foreign with the piece, or overcharged a single feature of it.
He begins well; he has still many things to tell us, many to persuade us of. A horrid shudder passes over him; he speaks to the mysterious form; he sees it beckon him; he follows it, and hears. The fearful accusation of his uncle rings in his ears; the summons to revenge, and the piercing oft-repeated prayer, Remember me! A young hero panting for vengeance? A prince by birth, rejoicing to 88 William Shakespeare be called to punish the usurper of his crown? To me it is clear that Shakespeare meant, in the present case, to represent the effects of a great action laid upon a soul unfit for the performance of it.
In this view the whole piece seems to me to be composed. There is an oak-tree planted in a costly jar, which should have borne only pleasant flowers in its bosom; the roots expand, the jar is shivered. All duties are holy for him; the present is too hard. Impossibilities have been required of him; not in themselves impossibilities, but such for him.
He winds, and turns, and torments himself; he advances and recoils; at ever put in mind, ever puts himself in mind; at last does all but lose his purpose from his thoughts; yet still without recovering his peace of mind. In Politics, Aristotle recognizes that human beings are essentially social: The life of a person is lived in common with other people, and the institution of that common life is the city or polis. A person who is unable to share in common life or is so self-sufficient that he 89 90 Homer or she chooses not to is either an animal or a god 1. Unlike the animal and the divine, however, the human life is by nature political.
This association is guided toward some end or good that contributes to the flourishing life. Consequently, the defining characteristic of human association is an agreement upon the end or good to be sought together, an agreement achieved through language. Indeed, although it can lead—and does lead in the Iliad—to inhumanity, it can and will in the poem also lead to a renewed humanity.
Through parentage and martial excellence, Achilles is a kind of god because his mother, Thetis, is immortal. Although he does act like an animal in the savagery of his violence, he is also the most supremely human of all the human characters in the Iliad. By alienating himself from the shared good of his own polity, specifically its cultural tradition of honor, and from the natural and divine orders of the world itself, Achilles alone enacts a new good—or rather an old good too long neglected and not fully understood: a pity that becomes love for an enemy. For Homer, mere cultural reproduction is the tragedy of the Trojan prince Hektor, who is guided by the cultural good of honor—although, to be fair, he may also be guided by another good: the freedom of his wife, Andromache 6.
Cultural alienation and innovation are forms of Homeric tragedy, like that of Achilles, the alienated master. Without such tragedy, though The Iliad 91 without the radical devastation that accompanies it—including the death of that which we love most—there might be no Hellenism, for Hellenism may essentially be a dynamic, violent response to its own mastery of, alienation from, and innovation within its traditional conception of the good life.
The mania alienates him from the war effort and persuades him to be apolitical. Homer represents the cause of the mania in the quarrel of Book 1. That alienation leads him to reflect poetically upon the shared good of just honor within the Achaean polity as he holds the scepter: But I will tell you this and swear a great oath upon it: in the name of this scepter, which never again will bear leaf nor branch, now that it has left behind the cut stump in the mountains, 92 Homer nor shall it ever blossom again, since the bronze blade stripped bark and leafage, and now the sons of the Achaeans carry it in their hands in state when they administer the justice of Zeus.
Alienation (Bloom's Literary Themes)
And this shall be a great oath before you: some day longing for Achilles will come to the sons of the Achaeans, all of them. Then stricken at heart though you be, you will be able to do nothing, when in numbers before man-slaughtering Hektor they drop and die. And then you will eat out the heart within you in sorrow, that you did no honor to the best of the Achaeans. First, Achilles will revenge himself not only upon Agamemnon for the injustice but also upon all of the Achaeans: His anger is excessive.
Achilles is the first revenger in Western literature, and revenge has a tendency to exceed the original harm. He swears an oath by the scepter that is a sign of justice—a cultural object fashioned from nature by people inspired by the god of justice, Zeus—right before he throws it to the ground His oath here indicates alienation from the Achaean enterprise. When he persuades Thetis to supplicate Zeus on his behalf to punish the Achaeans, it is the extreme act of a man alienated from his polity because it has unjustly abandoned its own foundational principle. He will now remain apart near the sea, neither speaking in the assembly nor fighting in battle but only consuming his own heart When we next encounter Achilles in Book 9 after a long absence, his alienation has led him to reflect upon the associative good of honor and to determine that it is only one good unequal to the good of life itself.
Odysseus, Ajax, and Phoenix visit Achilles to offer him the honor he was earlier denied, including the return of Briseis. His critique began with a deconstruction of that tradition without offering much in the way of a reconstruction. The rejection of the good of honor indicates an alienation from the cultural values that it once enraged him to see undermined by Agamemnon: Fate is the same for the man who holds back, the same if he fights hard. We are all held in a single honor, the brave with the weaklings. Nothing is won for me, now that my heart has gone through its afflictions in forever setting my life on the hazard of battle.
Finitude is the human condition. By implication, the excellences that encourage us to imagine that death can be challenged or conquered are meaningless because no human excellence, nor the honoring or recognizing of it, can alter the fact of human mortality. Either if I stay here and fight beside the city of Trojans, my return is gone, but my glory shall be everlasting; but if I return home to the beloved land of my fathers, the excellence of my glory is gone, but there will be long life left for me, and my end in death will not come quickly to me.
Life is now of greater value to Achilles than honor. Phoenix appears not to hear the reason for the rejection as his account of Meleagros presumes the very honor that Achilles is rejecting. Both Odysseus and Phoenix appeal also to pity or eleos and , respectively. Neither knows that Achilles persuaded his mother to enlist Zeus in the destruction of the Achaeans 1. This philosophical recognition is tragic, of course. In Book 1, Achilles sets in motion the circumstances he responds to in Book He imagines he can maintain philosophical uncertainty in response to a choice; indeed, he is so confused that he begins to be reanimated by the desire for honor Achilles imagines he can control the battle, as we see in his advice to Patroklos and his prayer to Zeus to let his friend return—a prayer Zeus sees and hears but denies A man who sees the value of his own life recognizes that another life has value—but only after he has lost the one most valued.
His nihilism is surreal: His horse Xanthos speaks with him His violence against other people is horrific. Achilles knows he cannot return to that good. Only in losing his friend does he realize the value of a shared good. When Priam visits Achilles, however, the latter has no honor left to gain, even if it did mean anything to him.
We know, and Achilles may see, that he will suffer the dishonor of dying at the hands of Paris [ The sound of their mourning moved in the house. Yet eleos is not philia: That Achilles pities Priam does not necessarily mean that he loves him. Achilles may only restore an economy of pity for the suppliant that preceded the action of the Iliad. In giving Priam the body, in lifting it onto the litter and treating the body with a respect absent in his earlier treatment of it , and in promising Priam to retard the destruction of Troy so Hektor can be properly buried , Achilles acts out of eleos and philia because Achilles is doing a good for the Trojan and his city that he will not share.
It is a limited good, but nowhere else have we seen this philia for an enemy. This interpretation may seem excessive. Homer is alienating himself from the cultural good of honor to discern another good, one apparently discerned for the first time in the ancient pagan world during the eighth century B. There are two urns that stand on the door-sill of Zeus.
They are unlike for the gifts they bestow: an urn of evils, an urn of blessings. If Zeus who delights in thunder mingles these and bestows them on man, he shifts, and moves now in evil, again in good fortune. The Odyssey will supplement this tragic wisdom with another wisdom related, yet distinct—one in which one can achieve both kleos and nostos but only with the help of an intelligent spouse—but, by itself, the Iliad is a solitary amphora marking the place where the most difficult philia is born.
Invisible Man Ralph Ellison ,. To a degree, his alienation is self-imposed due to his repeated blind allegiance to authority. Like Douglass, the Invisible Man frees himself by telling his story. The Invisible Man is alienated, and yet he is also part of a tradition dating back to July 4, Despite his embitterment with his country, the Invisible Man believes in the same ideas Jefferson espoused many years before. Though he cites other works, the tale the Invisible Man relates is his story alone; after telling it, he emerges to make the change he seeks. His epilogue is his personal declaration of independence.
Ralph Ellison drafted his novel in the s, the gestational years of the modern civil rights movement. Its title character preaches the rhetoric of inclusion that some civil rights leaders, particularly Martin Luther King Jr. His experiences were tragic and yet enabling, for they allowed him to see all the misfortunes the world had to offer, both on a personal and political front. Ironically, it is because America never truly sees him that the Invisible Man truly sees America. To empower his character with such cultural knowledge and wisdom, Ralph Ellison refers his protagonist to a vast number of literary works that bespeak his condition almost as much as his own narrative does.
Worked example: Seeing color through Homer's eyes
They guide readers to meaning. By referencing and adopting the language used by previous authors, the Invisible Man claims his own authority. Writers, like the books they write, also speak among themselves. In an interview with Robert B. Stepto and Michael S. The novel is virtually an encyclopedia of world literature. Failing to read correctly, Ellison seems to suggest, has serious consequences, including the repetition of past mistakes.
Continuous allegiance to authority condemns the Invisible Man to a Sisyphean life that ends when he plummets through an open manhole and into the underground. This move saves his life, however, and from this place he will tell his story.
Like the protagonists of these works, the Invisible Man must move to Ralph Ellison have access to different constituencies. The Invisible Man moves from ideology to ideology but also from place to place. The first six chapters take place in the South, the remaining nineteen in the North. This movement from South to North mimics that of the slave narratives, in which former slaves recount their lives in slavery and their journeys north to freedom.
As opposed to the narrative of immersion, which shows the protagonist journeying to a real or symbolic South and being accepted into a group, the narrative of ascent tells of alienation. The protagonist escapes from the group and journeys to a real or symbolic North, appropriates dominant discourses, and suffers loneliness and isolation. Unlike Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Jacobs in their times, the Invisible Man is unable to achieve complete freedom before the epilogue because his literacy is not developed enough to allow him to reclaim himself.
Eventually these experiences enable the Invisible Man to better tell his tale and give him the strength to emerge from the manhole a fully grown man. His alienation is necessary. After surveying the prejudice, racism, and segregation of the South as well as the accommodationist and hypocritical college he attended there, Invisible Man heads to the North to do more surveying.
He heads North to escape these things and to improve himself and his literary proficiency. Invisible Man Misinterpretation or misuse of the texts he seeks leads to intoxication of the mind, as it did with Don Quixote, who reinvented himself as a knight after reading many books of chivalry. Likewise, the radiance of authority continuously blinds the Invisible Man.
From the SparkNotes Blog
He fails to perceive the racism and hypocrisy first manifested by the white supremacists in the first chapter of the book. Nor does he acknowledge the colonizing mind of Mr. In each of these situations, the Invisible Man fails to interpret correctly until he is deceived and has to move on, apparently without learning from the experience. Unexamined models, Ellison seems to suggest, can easily lead to perdition.
Yet, as battered as he is by each episode, the Invisible Man always gets a chance to start anew and learn again. What is more, he has the last word: He uses his writing to manipulate those who manhandled him. Black leaders, such as the subservient Bledsoe, are tolerated because of their blind and hypocritical obedience to rich whites. In New York City, the protagonist successively falls under the spells of white and black deceivers without becoming more discerning. His experiences at the Liberty Paints factory and with the Brotherhood and Ras the Destroyer allow him to study the ideologies supposedly intended to help end African-American disenfranchisement.
Many black intellectuals joined the white-dominated Communist Party in the s only to conclude later that it did not understand or care about the African-American experience. From this total darkness will beam 1, lights, and what is potentially a place of terror becomes a place of redemption through writing. The sewer houses no master in the form of Bledsoe, Mr. Norton, or Brother Jack. In this hole, he develops sufficient literacy to complete the symbolic journey north to freedom. For different reasons, the main characters in the three stories live isolated from society and muse over the meanings of their lives.
After considering different groups from his underground dwelling, he comes to the existentialist conclusion that life is absurd and decides to turn himself in as a way of assuming responsibility for the evil nature of the human condition. Unlike the other two underground men, however, the Invisible Man uses his setting to ascend to a Platonic contemplation of light, symbolically expressed by the excessive lighting in his new home. The grandfather affirmed the principle , and his grandson takes ownership of it through his deep examination of it.
It is an epiphany for him. To contemplate the principle as it is, the Invisible Man first proclaims his self-awareness. One ever feels this two-ness—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. In his speech to white patrons in the first chapter and during all his time at college before his expulsion, the Invisible Man seeks to emulate Booker T.
Washington and his ideological incarnations, Dr. Bledsoe and the blind Barbee. He reaffirms his strong belief in the inalienable rights promised to every American citizen in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Significant individuals, periods, and ideologies directly and indirectly invoked by Invisible Man include Thomas Jefferson and through him the founding ideas of the U.
Constitution , the American renaissance in literature Emerson , slavery and the struggle for freedom Frederick Douglass , the Civil War, Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction Booker T. Washington and W. The protagonist of Invisible Man sees a redemption in those same principles. Like Du Bois and King, Ellison also goes beyond the litany of suffering and imagines an America saved from the chaos and darkness of the past and basking in freedom for all its citizens.
In attempting to define the country, the Invisible Man sought the words of those who had defined it in the past: Jefferson, Emerson, Melville, Douglass, and Du Bois, among many others. Bibliography Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of the Text. Richard Miller. Douglass, Frederick. David W. Boston: Bedford Books, The Souls of Black Folk. Robert Gooding-Williams. The Name of the Rose. William Weaver. London: Vintage, Ellison, Ralph W. New York: Vintage Books, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: W. Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Sixth Edition, Vol. Smith, Valerie. John F. Stepto, Robert B.
Urbana: University of Illinois Press, Robert J. Westport, Conn. Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery. Fitzhugh Brundage. Dalloway Virginia Woolf ,. Dalloway: A Study in Alienation. London: Sussex University Press, Yet it would be a mistake to see the whole question of self-dissolution or division in Mrs.
Dalloway as a clinical matter. Certain social forces which had been developing in British society for some time were making a sharp division between the public and the private necessary for more and more people. Joan Bennett has suggested that after Virginia Woolf was not capable of including the clearly defined human character among those aspects of life in which she could believe with conviction.
Her own artistic development has parallels in the development of other major contemporary writers and other artists. In , in the early stages of writing Mrs. Bennett and Mrs. The date mentioned seems almost certainly to refer to the first post-Impressionist exhibition in London, which was organised by Roger Fry. In Mr. Conrad: A Conversation, she suggested that Conrad was not one and simple, but complex and many—words almost identical to those that Bernard, in The Waves, uses at one point to describe himself.
When we turn to Mrs. In her Introduction to the novel, Virginia Woolf claimed that a first version Mrs. It is as if the novelist has taken the divided selves of one character, and has turned them into two people. We do not need the evidence of her Introduction to see that there are close affinities and relationships between Septimus and Clarissa, even though they never meet. Poetic techniques are used to relate Septimus and Clarissa with each other in the novel; both are beak-nosed, bird-like, associated with similar patterns of imagery and literary echoes such as the refrain from Cymbeline which is sung in the play to Imogen, in the mistaken belief that she is dead.