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Literature


Literature is a term used to describe written or spoken material. Broadly speaking, "literature" is used to describe anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific works, but the term is most commonly used to refer to works of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction.

?Why do we read literature

Literature represents a language or a people: culture and tradition. But, literature is more important than just a historical or cultural artifact. Literature introduces us to new worlds of experience. We learn about books and literature; we enjoy the comedies and the tragedies of poems, stories, and plays; and we may even grow and evolve through our literary journey with books.

Ultimately, we may discover meaning in literature by looking at what the author says and how he/she says it. We may interpret the author's message. In academic circles, this decoding of the text is often carried out through the use of literary theory, using a mythological, sociological, psychological, historical, or other approach.

Whatever critical paradigm we use to discuss and analyze literature, there is still an artistic quality to the works. Literature is important to us because it speaks to us, it is universal, and it affects us. Even when it is ugly, literature is beautiful.







The Old Man and the Sea " Ernest Hemingway"

The Old Man and the Sea is the story of an epic struggle between an old, seasoned fisherman and the greatest catch of his life.


Themes

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

Life from Death

Death is the unavoidable force in the novella, the one fact that no living creature can escape. But death, Hemingway suggests, is never an end in itself: in death there is always the possibility of the most vigorous life. The reader notes that as Santiago slays the marlin, not only is the old man reinvigorated by the battle, but the fish also comes alive “with his death in him.” Life, the possibility of renewal, necessarily follows on the heels of death.

Whereas the marlin’s death hints at a type of physical reanimation, death leads to life in less literal ways at other points in the novella. The book’s crucifixion imagery emphasizes the cyclical connection between life and death, as does Santiago’s battle with the marlin. His success at bringing the marlin in earns him the awed respect of the fishermen who once mocked him, and secures him the companionship of Manolin, the apprentice who will carry on Santiago’s teachings long after the old man has died.

The Lions on the Beach

Santiago dreams his pleasant dream of the lions at play on the beaches of Africa three times. The first time is the night before he departs on his three-day fishing expedition, the second occurs when he sleeps on the boat for a few hours in the middle of his struggle with the marlin, and the third takes place at the very end of the book. In fact, the sober promise of the triumph and regeneration with which the novella closes is supported by the final image of the lions. Because Santiago associates the lions with his youth, the dream suggests the circular nature of life. Additionally, because Santiago imagines the lions, fierce predators, playing, his dream suggests a harmony between the opposing forces—life and death, love and hate, destruction and regeneration—of nature.

Symbols

Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The Marlin

Magnificent and glorious, the marlin symbolizes the ideal opponent. In a world in which “everything kills everything else in some way,” Santiago feels genuinely lucky to find himself matched against a creature that brings out the best in him: his strength, courage, love, and respect.

The Shovel-Nosed Sharks

The shovel-nosed sharks are little more than moving appetites that thoughtlessly and gracelessly attack the marlin. As opponents of the old man, they stand in bold contrast to the marlin, which is worthy of Santiago’s effort and strength. They symbolize and embody the destructive laws of the universe and attest to the fact that those laws can be transcended only when equals fight to the death. Because they are base predators, Santiago wins no glory from battling them.



Important Quotations Explained

4.

Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all of the skiff.

The killing of the marlin, which occurs on the fourth day of the narrative, marks the climax of the novella. The end of the marlin’s life is the most vital of moments, as the fish comes alive “with his death in him” and exhibits to Santiago, more strongly than ever before, “all his power and his beauty.” The fish seems to transcend his own death, because it invests him with a new life. This notion of transcendence is important, for it resounds within Santiago’s story. Like the fish, the old man suffers something of a death on his way back to the village. He is stripped of his quarry and, given his age, will likely never have the opportunity to land such a magnificent fish again. Nevertheless, he returns to the village with his spirit and his reputation revitalized.

5.

You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?

As Santiago sails back to his village on the fourth day of the novella, towing behind him the carcass of the decimated marlin, he tries to make sense of the destruction he has witnessed. He feels deeply apologetic toward the fish, which he sees as too dignified for such a wasteful end. He attempts to explain to himself his reasons for killing the fish, and admits that his desire to hunt the fish stemmed from the very same quality that led to its eventual destruction: his pride. He then justifies his behavior by claiming that his slaying of the marlin was necessitated by his love and respect for it. Indeed, when Santiago kills the fish, the loss of life is somehow transcendently beautiful, as opposed to the bold, senseless scavenging on the part of the sharks.


Quiz

1. When the novella opens, how long has it been since Santiago last caught a fish?

(A) 40 days

(B) 84 days

(C) 87 days

(D) 120 days

2. Manolin’s parents refuse to let the boy fish with the old man because they believe Santiago is salao. How does Hemingway translate this word?

(A) “Crazy”

(B) “Selfish”

(C) “Washed up”

(D) “The worst form of unlucky”

3. How does Hemingway describe Santiago’s eyes?

(A) They are full of pain.

(B) They are blank with defeat.

(C) They betray the weariness of his soul.

(D) They are the color of the sea.

4. What kind of reception does Santiago receive at the terrace café?

(A) The fishermen regard him as a hero.

(B) Most of the fishermen mock him.

(C) The successful fishermen offer him a portion of their day’s catch.

(D) The younger fishermen pretend that the old man doesn’t exist.

5. Who is Santiago’s hero?

(A) Harry Truman

(B) Joe DiMaggio

(C) Dick Sisler

(D) Fidel Castro






The Masque of the Red Death" Short Story"


Poe's Short Stories Summary


After the virulent plague of the Red Death strikes Prince Prospero's country, he and a thousand of his courtiers choose to lock themselves away from the disease and hold parties to pass the time until the contagion leaves. After several months, Prospero holds a particularly grand masked ball that features an ominous room with an unnerving clock. At midnight, the revelers are interrupted by the masked figure of the Red Death, which finally brings to the plague to the door of the hiding courtiers.

Poe's Short Stories Background

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Published mainly in the 1830s and 1840s, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe have come to represent the height of 19th-century tales of the macabre. One of the American Romantics, Poe showed an interest in the power of emotions and often sought to explore the psyches of those who are guilty, as in "The Tell-Tale Heart," frightened, as in "The Pit and the Pendulum," or otherwise mentally damaged. Poe is also widely regarded as the master of Gothic fiction, combining aspects of horror and romance in stories such as "Ligeia," and he was an important contributor to the mystery genre with his stories about the supremely rational detective C. Auguste Dupin (such as "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Purloined Letter").

In each of his stories, Poe sought to create what he described as a unity of effect, where every aspect of the story contributed to its overall tone. Having published a number of volumes of poetry prior to attempting his first short stories, he was already used to establishing the mood of a work with a relative economy of words. In addition, over the next two decades, he gained extensive experience as an editor and literary critic, and he formed an aesthetic theory based on this idea of unity. In his short stories, Poe's literary theory led him to create relatively short tales which admitted no extraneous details that could not substantiate the atmospheres of foreboding or horror for which he became so famous. "The Cask of Amontillado" is particularly famous for its short length and concise structure.

Most of Poe's short stories were written as he moved from editorial position to editorial position, never quite gaining a satisfactory level of stability in his life, which may have influenced his writing. In particular, he spent much of his adult life addicted to opium and to alcohol, giving him an especially intimate understanding of the mentalities of some of his psychotic protagonists. Although he died at a young age under somewhat mysterious circumstances that probably involved alcohol, he succeeded in bringing the Gothic tale, a genre formerly regarded as somewhat outdated and European, to American Romantic fiction.

Character List

Prince Prospero ("The Masque of the Red Death")

The carefree prince whose country is hit by the Red Death. He chooses to ignore the disease and invites a group of healthy nobles to hide from the Red Death's ravages with him in an abbey. After several months, he holds a lavish masked ball for the noblemen. Prospero is afraid of death and is angry when it appears in his vicinity.

Courtiers ("The Masque of the Red Death")

A group that follows Prince Prospero into hiding when their country is hit by the Red Death. They are afraid of death and party wildly to forget their fears.

Figure of the Red Death ("The Masque of the Red Death")

A silent figure that appears and brings the Red Death to the courtiers who have been partying while in hiding.



Glossary

auto-da-fe

A public ceremony that took place during the Spanish Inquisition in which the offender was read his sentence, accompanied by a sermon and a round of prayer

catalepsy

A state in which a person's muscles are rigid and he/she is completely non-responsive

cerement

A burial garment

depose

To testify under oath for a recorded document that may later be used in a court of law

draughts

The British term for checkers

effulgence

A burning brilliance

fathom

A naval term for six feet of depth

gallows

The structure from which a noose is attached and on which a hanging occurs

gendarme

A member of the French police

in articulo mortis

Latin phrase for "at the point of death"

jaggeree

Usually spelled "jaggery," a type of unrefined sugar made from the sap of a palm tree

Mason

A builder who works with stone or brick; A member of the Freemasons, an international fraternal organization

mesmerism

Synonym for hypnotism, named for Franz Anton Mesmer, who believed that he could make his hypnotized subjects do incredible things through a magnetic influence

mummer

An actor or partygoer who wears a mask or costume

nitre

A form of potassium nitrate otherwise known as saltpeter, which is used in making gunpowder; also spelled "niter"

parvenu

Someone who has only recently joined a higher socioeconomic class

perverseness

A state of obstinately wanting to be opposed to what is correct or good

Procrustean

Forcing conformity, named for the mythological Greek character Procrustes, who waylaid travelers and killed them by forcing them to conform to the size of his bed either by pulling or by cutting away body parts

purloin

To steal

scantling

Pieces of lumber used in the framework of a building

scarabæus

A type of dung beetle

Simoom

A dry, dusty, cyclone-like wind that appears in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East; in Poe's "MS. Found in a Bottle" it resembles a combination of a simoom and a typhoon, as it occurs on water

Spanish Inquisition

A church tribunal which was established by Ferdinand II and Isabella I to enforce Catholicism in Spain


Themes

Insanity versus rationality

In many of Poe's short stories, such as "The Tell-Tale Heart," the narrators are madmen and murderers who fail to disguise their lack of rationality with a discussion of their thought processes. However, their stories inevitably reveal gaps in their chains of thought that speak to their descent into immorality and selfishness. In many cases, insanity is interlocked with the narrators' emotional egotism; they are incapable of empathizing with others and think only of their own desire to satisfy their honor or their need to end the disruptions to their lives. On the other side of the equation lie Poe's rational characters, who are capable of consciously setting aside their own emotions in order to logically solve their problems. For example, C. Auguste Dupin's skill lies in being able to empathize with others in order to solve seemingly impossible cases. Where Poe's irrational characters create confusion out of order, Dupin is capable of reversing the process.

Obsession

The majority of Poe's narrators are nervous, oversensitive, and given to excessive worrying or strange fixations. In his works, Poe explores the consequences of such obsessive tendencies. In the case of the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart," the protagonist's declarations of oversensitivity are merely a thin disguise for insanity. In other stories, obsession is driven by fear: in "The Premature Burial," the narrator develops catalepsy and begins to take myriad precautions because of his overwhelming fear of being buried alive. Some characters become obsessed by passion, as in the case of the painter in "The Oval Portrait," who essentially abandons his wife for his art. In many of Poe's stories, the narrators' obsessions lead to death and destruction, but Poe also belies this conclusion in "The Premature Burial," in which the narrator's obsessions come to an abrupt end when his fretting leads him to drastically misinterpret an event in his life.

Man's relationship with death

The fear of death drives the actions of several of Poe's characters. In particular, the narrator of "The Premature Burial" obsesses about the possibility of premature burial, and his fear makes him so paranoid that when he wakes up in the berth of a ship, he mistakes it for a grave and has a terrifying experience for no real reason. At the same time, Poe describes several characters whose response to their fear of death is to avoid it, although the usual result of their avoidance is increased trauma. Prince Prospero and his courtiers in "The Masque of the Red Death" try to shut themselves away and ignore the slaughter caused by the Red Death, but death pays no attention to their barriers and kills them en masse. Similarly, the attempt by the narrator to arrest M. Ernest Valdemar at the point of death in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" only causes the consumptive patient to die and have his body gruesomely dissolve into a putrid puddle. However, the main character development of the narrator of "MS. Found in a Bottle" is that he learns to accept his impending death and replace his fear with anticipation.

The double self

Most clearly developed in "William Wilson," the idea of a double or split self is present throughout Poe's short stories. Poe approaches the concept of a double self in two ways. In the destructive model of doubled identity appear such characters as William Wilson, Ligeia, and the painter's wife in "The Oval Portrait." In all three cases, the character has a second body, respectively in the forms of the other William Wilson, Rowena Trevanion, and the wife's portrait, and in each story occurs a struggle between the two sides of the character, in which only one side can be the victor. William Wilson is the only one of the three that survives the battle, but his victory comes at the cost of his soul.

The second model of split identity is best characterized by C. Auguste Dupin, who is able to reconcile his two sides successfully. His friend the narrator observes in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" that Dupin reminds him of the old theory of a bi-part soul, where one side is "creative" and the other "resolvent." Whereas the splitting of the self often creates conflict, Dupin combines his creative side and his emotionless, analytical side in order to successfully solve crimes. Furthermore, when faced with opponents such as Minister D., who acts as Dupin's criminal double, Dupin is able to replicate his double's thoughts and find a lawful conclusion rather than an immoral one.

Love and hate

Many of the crimes of Poe's protagonists are particularly detestable because they involve the death of someone whom they formerly loved. The narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" claims that he loved the old man but reveals his madness and evil tendencies through his systematic terrorizing and murder of the old man, which he excuses by citing the old man's evil eye. Similarly, the narrator's affection for Pluto and his wife in "The Black Cat" and William Wilson's natural affinity toward his double turn into loathing and rage as the characters sink into alcoholism and sin. In other cases, as with "The Oval Portrait," the victim dies not from murder but from neglect; the painter loves his wife but is overtaken by his devotion to his painting and thus destroys what he loves for the sake of art. Finally, Poe introduces villain protagonists such as Montresor of "The Cask of Amontillado" who hate their enemies but whose hate becomes even more sinister and implacable because they mask it with signs of affection. Montresor's false solicitousness for Fortunato's health is ultimately revealed as a ploy to lure Fortunato to his death. In all of these cases, love and hate are shown to be closely connected, as one can easily turn into the other without warning.

Curiosity

In "MS. Found in a Bottle," the narrator overcomes his fear of death by invoking the example of the crew of the Discovery and by cultivating his sense of curiosity about the southern regions of the Earth. Similarly, although the narrator of "The Pit and the Pendulum" suffers from frequent fainting spells because of his terror over the Inquisition's plans, he nonetheless chooses to explore his cell and thus avoids becoming totally incapacitated by his distress. In both cases, the ability of the characters to set aside their fear indicates their mental and emotional strength. In "The Gold Bug," Legrand does not face imminent destruction, but is instead driven by curiosity to decipher the clues found on a scrap of parchment, and is ultimately rewarded for his curiosity. In all of these stories, Poe treats curiosity as a sign of the narrator's sanity and intelligence.

The power of human resolve

Ligeia is the foremost example of the power of the will in Poe's short stories, as she agrees with the epigraph's claim that "man doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will." In the end, her will is enough to counteract the usual inevitability of death, as seen in such stories as "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar." By contrast, the narrator of "Ligeia" and his second wife Rowena are weak-willed and come to be dominated by Ligeia's memory. Other stories, such as "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "A Descent into the Maelström," have characters who seem to face certain death but overcome despair because of their iron wills. "The Pit and the Pendulum" depicts the struggle between hope and despair in sharp detail, but in the end hope wins, and the narrator shows remarkable presence of mind by luring the rats to chew at his strap, thereby freeing him from the swinging blade of the pendulum.


Quotes and Analysis

"And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death.

He had come like a thief in the night."

The Masque of the Red Death

The Red Death reveals himself in the seventh and final room of Prince Prospero's masquerade ball. Having caused the death of Prospero, the Red Death now comes to the revelers who have been hiding themselves from death by barring themselves into an abbey. The comparison of the Red Death to a thief suggests that death is able to circumvent the fortifications of the noblemen, no matter how strong the locks, and that death obeys no laws when it infiltrates life. At the same time, the association of the thief with the night parallels Poe's association of the setting of the sun in the west and the end of life.













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