It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.



It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.

Never stop learning because life never stop Teaching

Never stop learning because life never stop Teaching

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Swift's "Gulliver's Travels": A social satire

Swift's "Gulliver's Travels": A social satire 

“Gulliver’s Travels” is a great work of social satire. Swift’s age was an age of smug complacency. Corruption was rampant and the people were still satisfied. Thus, Jonathan Swift tears the veil of smug complacency off which had blinded the people to realities. In “Gulliver’s Travels”, there is a satire on politics, human physiognomy, intellect, manners and morality.

In the first voyage to Lilliput, Swift satirizes on politics and political tactics practiced in England through Lilliputians, the dwarfs of six inches height. He satirizes the manner in which political offices were awarded by English King in his time. Flimnap, the Treasurer, represents Sir Robert Walpole who was the Prime Minister of England. Dancing on tight ropes symbolizes Walpole's skill in parliamentary tactics and political intrigues. The ancient temple, in which Gulliver is housed in Lilliput, refers to Westminster Hall in which Charles I was condemned to death. The three fine silk threads awarded as prizes to the winners refer to the various distinctions conferred by English King to his favourites. The Lilliputians were highly superstitious:

“They bury their dead with their head directly downwards because they hold an opinion that after eleven thousand moons they are all to rise again.”

Gulliver’s account of the annoyance of the Empress of Lilliput on extinguishing fire in her apartment is Swift’s satirical way of describing Queen Anne’s annoyance with him on writing “A Tale of a Tub”. Swift’s satire becomes amusing when Gulliver speaks of the conflict between the Big Endians and the Little Endians. In this account Swift is ridiculing the conflicts between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. High Heel and Low Heel represent Whig and Tory – two political parties in England.

In the second voyage to Brobdingnag, there is a general satire on human body, human talents and human limitations. Gulliver gives us his reaction to the coarseness and ugliness of human body. When Gulliver gives an account, to the King of Brobdingnag, of the life in his own country, the trade, the wars, the conflicts in religion, the political parties, the king remarks that the history of Gulliver's country seems to be a series of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, revolutions and banishments etc. Kind condemns the fatal use of gunpowder and the books written on the act of governing. King mocks at the human race of which Gulliver is the agent.

“The most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”

Swift here ridicules human pride and pretension. The sight is, indeed, horrible and disgusting. Among the beggars is a woman with a cancer in her breast.

“It stood prominent six feet, and could not be less than sixteen in circumference … spots and pimples that nothing could appear more nauseous.”

There is a man with a huge tumor in his neck; another beggar has wooden legs. But the most hateful sight is that of the lice crawling on their clothes. This description reinforces Swift views of the ugliness and foulness of the human body.

In the third voyage to Laputa, there is a satire on human intellect, human mind and on science, philosophy and mathematics. However, his satire is not very bitter. We are greatly amused by the useless experiments and researches, which are going on at the academy of Projectors in Lugado. Here scientists wants to extract sunbeams out of cucumbers, to convert human excrement into its original food, to build house from the roof downward to the foundation, to obtain silk from cobwebs and to produce books on various subjects by the use of machine without having to exert one’s brain.

“Their heads were inclined either to the right or to the left, one of their eyes turned inward, and the other directly up to Zenith.”

Swift amuses us by making a fun of the people whose sole interests are music and geometry.

“They made a lot of theories but practically nill.”

Swift here ridicules scientists, academics, planers, intellectual, in fact, all people who proceed, only according to theory which are useless when they come to actual practice. He satirizes historian and literary critics though Gulliver’s interviews with the ghosts of famous dead. The point f satire is that historian often distorts facts and literary critics often misinterpret great authors like Homer and Aristotle.

In the fourth voyage to Houyhnhnms, there is a bitter poignant satire on human moral shortcomings. Voyage contains some of the most corrosive and offensive satire on mankind. The description of the Yahoos given to us by Gulliver is regrettable.

“Yet I confess I never say any sensitive being so detestable on all accounts; and the more I came near them, the more hateful they grew.”

By contrast, the Houyhnhnms are noble and benevolent horses who are governed by reason and lead an ordered life. It is, indeed, a bitter criticism on the human race to be compared by the Houyhnhnms. The satire deepens when Gulliver gives an account, to the master Houyhnhnms, of the events in his country. He tells him that war in European countries was sometimes due to the ambition of kings and sometimes due to the corruption of the ministers. He speaks of the numerous deadly weapons, employed by European nations for destructive purposes. Many people in his country ruin themselves by drinking, gambling and debauchery and many are guilty of murders, theft, robbery, forgery and rape. The master speaks of the Yahoo’s love of shinning stones, their gluttony and their weakness for liquor. The master also speaks of the lascivious behaviour of the female Yahoos. By contrast, the Houyhnhnms are excellent beings.

“Here was neither physician to destroy my body not lawyer to ruin my fortune; no informer to watch my words and actions … here were no … backbiters, pickpockets, highwaymen, house-breakers … politicians, wits … murderers, robbers … no cheating shop-keeper or mechanics, no pride, vanity or affectation.”

They hold meetings at which the difficulties of their population are discussed and solved. They regulate their population and do not indulge in sexual intercourse merely for pleasure.

“Everything is calculated as the Plato’s Utopian land ‘The Republican’.”

Swift’s purpose here is to attribute to horses certain qualities which would normally be expected in human beings but which are actually lacking in them. Gulliver’s reaction o Houyhnhnms fills him so much admiration for them and with so much hatred and disgust for human beings that he has no desire even to return to his family.

Thus we see that “Gulliver’s Travels” is a great piece of art containing social satire in it. Every satirist is at heart a reformist. Swift, also, wants to reform the society by pinpointing the vices and shortcoming in it. And he very successfully satirizes on political tactics, physical awkwardness, intellectual fallacies and moral shortcomings. 

Francis Bacon: Wisest, Brightest, Meanest

Francis Bacon: Wisest, Brightest, Meanest 

“If parts allure these think how Bacon shin’d
The wisest, brightest and meanest of mankind.”

Bacon was the wisest because of his worldly wisdom, he was brightest owing to his powerful intellect and the art of writing terse essays, and he was meanest due to his treacherous character.

The above mentioned remark on Bacon was made by a renowned and marvelous poet, “Alexander Pope”. If we observe critically, this statement holds its validity. For Bacon appeared to be a true child of Renaissance. Undoubtedly he was a man of wisdom and powerful intellect. But all at once he was a calculating character, keeping an eye on the main chance. He was a true follower of Machiavelli. He failed to harmonize his mixed motives, complex principles and high aims together. He wanted to strive after the selfless scientific truth but he was conscious that nothing could be done without money and power. So, he strived after material success. Bacon belonged to the age of glory and greatness, surprising meanness and dishonest conduct and he could not avoid these evils.

Bacon was a man of multi-talents. His wisdom was undeniable. The thirst for infinite knowledge and his versatility was truly astonishing. He possessed an intellect of the highest order. He was learned in Greek, French, Latin, English, Science, Philosophy, Classics and many other fields of knowledge. He is regarded as the creator of the modern school of experimental research. He held that “man is the servant and interpreter of nature”. He supplied the impulse which broke with the medieval preconceptions and set scientific inquiry on modern lines. He emphasized on experimentation and not to accept things for granted. Bacon was indeed an eloquent prophet of new era and the pioneer of modern sciences.

The essays of Bacon also portray his intellect and practical wisdom. The varied range of subjects too expresses that ‘he had taken all knowledge to be his province’. Bacon could utter weighty and pregnant remarks on almost any subject, from “Greatness of Kingdoms” to “Gardens”. The essays are loaded with the ripest wisdom of experience and observation conveyed through short, compact and terse sentences. One cannot deny the sagacity and shrewdness of his counsels. Bacon’s essays deal with man. He is an able analyst of human nature, and his conduct in public and private affairs. His comments regarding man’s behaviour may at times sound cynical but they are undeniable truths. He says:

“A mixture of a lie doth even add pleasure.”

Bacon is true here for most of the people would find life terrible without false hopes and false impressions. His views about friendship, though lacks in feelings and emotions, yet these are undeniably true to human nature.
Following are a few examples of his wisdom.

“One who studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green”.


“Men in great places are thrice servants”.

So, like a very wise man he coin ideas and teaches them to make people wise in worldly terms.

Bacons brightness is best illustrated in the way in which he clothes his wisdom into brevity and lends the readers a great pleasure. The compactness of thought and conciseness of expression was a virtue in an age when looseness in thought and language was the rule. The essays are enriched with maxims and proverbs. He supports his ideas and arguments with innumerable quotations, allusions and analogies which prove his wide knowledge and learning. The aptness of the similes, the witty turn of phrases and the compact expression of weighty thoughts are evidence enough of the brightness of his intellect.

§ “Suspicions among thoughts are like bats among birds.”

§ “Money is like much, except it be spread.”

§ “Virtue is like precious adours --- most fragrant, when they are incensed or crushed.”

Moreover, the precise and authentic turn of sentences and the condensation of thoughts in them have been enhanced by the antithetical presentation. Such as:

“A lie faces God and shrinks from man.”

“The ways to enrich are many and most of them are foul.”

“It is a strange desire to seek power and to lose liberty.”

“Through indignation, men rise to dignity.”

Thus with the tool of antithesis, Bacon made his argument many times stronger and influential than a simple sentence. He created so much wit and strength in such precise writings that they are still valid and famous. No man individually did provide such strength and simplicity to the English language than Bacon. Bacon tried to reach the reader’s mind by a series of aphoristic attacks. Therefore he is considered as the pioneer of modern prose. There is hardly any equal of him for clear, terse and compact writing.

Now, it appears to be an irony of nature that a man with such a tremendous intellect and wisdom had such a mean character. Bacon was not mean in the sense of being a miser. He was indeed reputed to be a very generous. The manner in which Bacon betrayed his friends, especially Essex, proved him most ungrateful and ignoble man. He made friendship and uprightness subordinate to his success. He always kept his eye on the main chance, worshipping the rising sun and avoiding of the setting one.

His marriage was also a marriage of convenience. He did not hesitate to take part in political intrigues in order to promote his ambition. His letter to the king and queen were also full of flattery that it was hard to believe that they came from the pen of such an intellectual man.

Though he was wise yet he showed certain incapacity of emotions and this trait can also be witnessed in his essays. He took the purely personal and domestic matters of a man – like marriage, friendship, love etc in terms of pure utility. Such as:

“He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune.”


“Those that want friends to open themselves unto are cannibals of their own heart.”

In short, Bacon was a man of the world – worldly wisdom and worldly convenience. He had a “great brain” but not a “great soul”. His complex and contradictory characters will continue to be a psychological enigma for the readers to understand. So, he was definitely the wisest, brightest and meanest of mankind.

Francis Bacon: Worldly Wisdom

Francis Bacon: Worldly Wisdom 

Bacon was, definitely, a worldly wise man. He was the wisest and the meanest of mankind. He was truly of Renaissance; the age of accumulating knowledge, wealth and power. Being a true follower of Machiavellian principles, he led his life for worldly success. He was a man of shrewd and sagacious intellect with his eyes fixed on the main chance. And what he preached in his essays was also the knowledge, needed for worldly success.

There is no doubt that Bacon’s essays are a treasure house of worldly wisdom. The term worldly wisdom means a wisdom which is necessary for worldly success. It does not need any deep philosophy or any ideal morality. But Bacon was a man of high wisdom, as he himself pronounced, “I have taken all knowledge to be my province”. Bacon also preached morality but his morality is subordinate to worldly success and he never hesitated to sacrifice it for worldly benefit. His essays are rich with the art which a man should employ for achieving success in his life, such as shrewdness, sagacity, tact, foresight, judgment of character and so on.

The subject of Bacon in his essays is the man who needs prosperity in worldly terms. Bacon’s essays bring men to ‘come home to men’s business and bosoms’. He teaches them, how to exercise one’s authority and much more. When he condemns cunning, it is not because of a hateful and vile thing, but because it is unwise. That is why the wisdom in his essay is considered a ‘cynical’ kind of wisdom. He describes his essays as ‘Counsels – civil and moral’.

In his essay “Of Truth”, Bacon appreciates truth and wishes people to speak the truth. He says:

“A lie faces God and shrinks from man.”

He warns human beings against the punishment for the liar on the doomsday. But at the same time, he considers a lie as an ‘alloy’ which increases the strength of gold and feels it necessary for the survival on earth. He says:

“A lie doth ever add pleasure.”

---this is purely a statement of a “worldly wise man”.

The essay “Of Great Places” though contains a large number of moral precepts yet in this very same essay he also preaches worldly success.

“It is a strange desire to seek power and to lose liberty; By pains men come to greater pains”.

Then Bacon suggests that men in authority should work not only for the betterment of public but also for their own status:

“All rising to great place is by a winding stair; and if there be factions, it is good to side a man’s self whilst he is rising and to behave himself when he is placed.”

It is purely a utilitarian advice and it surely holds a compromise between morality and worldly success. Even when Bacon urges a man not to speak ill of his predecessor, it is not because of high morality but because of the fact that the man who does not follow advice would suffer with unpleasant consequences.

Bacon’s approach towards studies is also purely utilitarian. In his essay “Of Studies”, he does not emphasize on study for its own sake, but for the benefit which it can provide to man to be supplemented by practical experience.

“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man.”

And then he says:

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

Bacon also points out the effects of different branches of studies on a man’s mind and thinks it helpful in the cure of different mental ailments and follies.
His essay “Of Suitors” totally reveals Bacon’s shrewd insight. Although he suggests that a suitor should not be disloyal towards his petition and should tell him the truth about the chances of winning the suit without leaving him wandering in false hopes. Bacon suggests that a patron should not charge extensive amounts for a small case. But then he dilutes all this by saying if the patron wants to support the non-deserving party, he should make a compromise between both of them, so that the deserving party would bear not great loss. This is a purely utilitarian approach and it shows what Bacon himself had been in his career, for it was his own profession.

In the essay “Of Revenge” Bacon shows a certain high morality by saying that:

“Revenge is a kind of wild justice; One who studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green.”

He feels dignity in forgiving ones enemy. But then he says that even revenge is just in the cases when one can save one’s skin from the hands of law.
Bacon showed a certain incapacity for emotions. He took the relation of friendship for its benefit and made a purely worldly approach to the subject which intimately deals between two persons. He gave us the uses and abused of friendship. He says:

“Those that want friends to open themselves unto, are cannibals of their own hearts.”

This essay clearly shows Bacon’s cynical wisdom and that his morality is stuffed with purely utilitarian considerations.

Bacon considers love as a ‘child of folly’. In his essay “Of Love” he says:

“It is impossible to love and to be wise.”

He considers wife and children as hindrance in the way of success and progress. He says:

“He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune.”

Afterwards in his essay “Of Marriage and Single Life” he tells the ‘benefits’ of a wife.

“Wives are young men’s mistresses, companion to middle age and old man’s nurse.”

In his essay “Of Parents and Children” Bacon puts:

“Children sweeten labour, but they make misfortune more bitter.”

All these statements show his essentially mean and benefit seeking attitude, even in the matters of heart. In short, Bacon’s essays are a “hand book” of practical wisdom enriched with maxims which are very helpful for worldly wisdom and success. 

Francis Bacon: A Moralist

Francis Bacon: A Moralist 

Bacon is not a true moralist. His morality is a saleable morality. He is a moralist-cum-worldly wise man. Bacon appears as a moralist in his essays, for he preaches high moral principles and lays down valuable guidelines for human conduct. Some of his essays show him as a true lover and preacher of high ethical codes and conducts. For instance, in “Of Envy”, he puts:

“A man that hath no virtue in himself, ever envieth virtue in others.”

Then, in his essay “Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature” he says:

“But in charity there is no excess; neither can angel or man come in danger by it.”

Again, he appears to be a lover of justice in his essay “Of Judicature”:

“The principal duty of a judge is to suppress force and fraud.”

In spite of all given examples, one cannot deny the fact that Bacon was a “Man of Renaissance”. He had a deep insight in human nature. He knew that man is naturally more prone to evil than good. He was a clear-eyed realist who saw the weakness in human nature and drawbacks of human conduct and also knew that man is not capable of acting according to noble set of ‘ideals’. Though Bacon’s morality was greater than that of average man’s, yet it was not of the highest order. The matter of good and right was important for him but not if it proved too costly in worldly terms. On one hand, he preached high moral principles and on the other hand, he also expressed a mean capacity by compromising upon those morals for the sake of worldly success. For this reason, William Blake, a spiritual poet says about his essays:

“Good advice for Satan’s Kingdom.”

Blake considers any utilitarian advice contrary to God’s ways, but Bacon does not bother for that. He considers this world more important and striving after the success in this world is equally important. Bacon discusses man as he “appears” and not as he “ought to appear”.

In his essay “Of Great Places” Bacon certainly shows a high morality when he condemns or at least dislikes the practice of ‘wrongs’ on part of high officials.

“In place there is license to do good and evil; where of the latter is a curse.”

Afterwards he appreciates the power of doing good.

“But power to do good, is true and lawful end of aspiring.”

But besides these moral approaches, he also supports the idea of adopting certain disloyal means to reach a high position.

“It is good to side a man’s self whilst he is in the rising and to balance himself when he is placed”.

Thus, like a moralist, Bacon preaches the noble dimensions of great place, but with this statement his purely utilitarian approach also comes forth with all its power.

In the essay “Of Truth” he appears to be a ‘genuine’ admirer of truth and seems to install the love of truth in his readers.

“It is heaven upon earth, to have man’s mind move in charity, rest in providence and turn upon the poles of truth.”

But he also points out that

“Falsehood is like an ‘alloy’ in gold and silver, which makes the metal work better even though it reduces, the value of the metal”.

He says:

“A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure.”

By putting this he has diluted all the effect of his own words said in the praise of the truth.

One can find the same strange mixture of high ethics and utilitarianism in the essay “Of Revenge”. In this essay Bacon condemns revenge by saying:

“Revenge is a kind of wild justice.”


“One who studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green.”

He expressed that there is no place of revenge in high society and it is a high quality to forgive an enemy. Hereafter, Bacon spoils the effects by putting that in some cases man is justified in taking revenge, if the avenger can save his skin from the eyes of the law. He says:

“But then let a man take heed the revenge be such as there is now law to punish; else a man’s enemy is still forehand”.

In his essay “Of Suitors” Bacon says that a man should refuse to undertake a suit if it is by giving a false hope to the petitioner and that one should not demand undue reward for his services. Those who employ crooked methods to win suits are the worst offenders of society. But he also says that if a patron wants to favour the undeserving party, he should bring both the parties to a compromise for this would be less dangerous for him. So, to Bacon, morality and ethical codes seem inferior to worldly considerations.

“Of Simulation and Dissimilation” is another example of the strange mixture of morality and prudence.

“The best position and temperature is; to have openness in fame and opinion; secrecy in habits; dissimulation in seasonal use; and power to feign, if there be no remedy.”

Bacon’s morality has also been described as a cynical kind of wisdom. This impression is confirmed by even those essays which deal with strong private relations between men. “Of Friendship”, “Of Parents and Children”, “Of Marriage and Single life” and “Of Love”, all depict a certain kind of utilitarianism and worldly benefit. Here Bacon expresses a definite failure of emotions, for he takes the pure matters of heart in terms of their uses and abuses.

In short, though Bacon’s essays portray morality and high ethical standards, yet he does not appear as an ideal moralist and these are but the “flashes of morality”. He is not a true moralist. 

Is swift a misanthrope?

Is swift a misanthrope? 

Swift is not a misanthrope rather he is a philanthrope. It is the misconception of those who think Swift as a misanthrope. Swift only wants to reform mankind out of their follies and stupidities. He says that the chief end of all his labour is:

“to vex the world rather than divert it”.

Secondly, he declares that:

“I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities and all his love is towards individuals.”

Thirdly, though Swift does not believe that:

“Man is a rational animal”.

Yet he believes that:

“Man is capable of becoming rational if he makes the necessary efforts.”

But we see that Swift is notorious for being misanthrope. He was subjected to this allegation during his lifetime because the critics, identifying Gulliver with Swift, attributed Gulliver’s blunders to Swift. That Gulliver, in the last voyage, becomes a misanthrope is undeniable and indisputable. Prima facie, it appears that by developing a negative view of mankind, he starts preferring horses to men, but a solid reason of Swift underlies this act of Gulliver.

We observe that in the fourth voyage, Gulliver reaches a country of animals, ruled by animals. There are two categories of animals living there in: ugly and repulsive brutes – Yahoos:

“Yahoos who are unteachable brutes, cunning, gluttonous and disposed to great mischief”.

And comparatively better and nice-looking animals – Houyhnhnms. The moment he enters the country he is confronted with Yahoos and they give him such a nasty and obnoxious treatment that he develops a disliking for them in his heart, which is later converted into hatred owing to their disgusting physical appearance and their filthy and mischievous way of life. But his first meeting with Houyhnhnms, on the other hand, proves a nice experience. And this:

“First impression proves the last impression”.

They secure him against Yahoos, behave properly and gracefully escort him to their abode.

“The behaviour of horses shows him to be animals with an extraordinary power of understanding.”

Naturally, this kind of treatment creates a sort of fondness in Gulliver's heart for Houyhnhnms and their way of life. Upto this time, nothing is objectionable, but his fault begin when he become so enamored of Houyhnhnms that he starts hating man or equating Yahoos with men, he begins to abhor Man. He develops a general hatred against all men. All the subsequent incidents – his hatred against the Captain, against his family, etc. – reflect his misanthropy.

The blunder which Gulliver committed is that, he over-idealizes them because Gulliver is a man who is fed up with Man’s corruption. Therefore, he cannot see corruption in Man. He finds Yahoos in a detestable and abhorrent condition on account of their being a slave of emotions, sensuality and sentimentality. He says:

“Yet I confess I never saw any sensitive being so detestable on all accounts; and the more I came near them, the more hateful they grew, while I stayed in that country.”

Houyhnhnms, in a comparatively better condition, lack that type of corruption that Yahoos have, for Houyhnhnms have no emotion.

“Houyhnhnms are free from lust and greed.”

Naturally, he attributes whole of Man’s corruption to emotions, passions and sentimentality. As a remedy, he starts hating emotions, passion and he falls a victim to pure intellect.

“Here was neither physician to destroy my body, nor lawyer to ruin my fortune, here were no gibers, …, backbiters, …, bawds, …, ravishers, murderers or … poxes.”

So, he mis-idealize Houyhnhnms, due to their pure intellect, somehow establishes a subjective ideal before him i.e. to be a man is to have pure intellect. He thinks:

“The only remedy for doing away with Man’s corruption and pollution is to get rid of all kinds of emotions”.

In the country of Houyhnhnms, when Gulliver has a choice, he adopts for the Houyhnhnms way of life, completely rejecting Yahoos’ path. But when he is compelled to leave the country and to break away form his beloved way of life, and to come to another way of life which he dislikes, it is but natural for him to hate it. In fact, his this ideal is perfectly erroneous. Swift says:

“Idealism leads towards destruction.”

So, it is wrong to detest Man, equating him with Yahoos and it is again inappropriate to set up the ideal of perfect man on the basis of Houyhnhnms’ pure intellect because neither a Houyhnhnms nor a Yahoo is a man, instead, man is a juxtaposition of both intellect and emotions.

“The best code of conduct is Golden Mean which is ‘balance’.”

So he mis-defines Man. However, the fact of the matter remains whether Swift becomes a misanthrope or not, but can we impute Gulliver’s misanthropy to Swift? If we virtually succeed to establish, some identity between Swift and Gulliver, Swift, too, will become a misanthrope.
But according to Swift a man is he who strikes a balance between rationality and sensuality and this balance is not gifted by birth. It has to be acquired. That’s why even Gulliver is subjected to Swift’s satire, for he loses the said balance.

That is the reason we don’t identify Gulliver with Swift and, inspite of Gulliver’s misanthropy, we call Swift a great philanthropist. As he, himself, says:

“I write for the noblest end, to inform and instruct mankind.” 

Bertrand Russell: Prose Style

Bertrand Russell: Prose Style 

Bertrand Russell is one of the greatest masters of English Prose. He revolutionized not only the subject matter but also the mode of expression. He has in him a happy blend of greatest philosopher and a great writer. He was awarded Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. The subject matter of his essays may be very difficult but his manner of expression is so lucid and simple that even a layman can understand him without any special difficulty. It is a rare privilege which only few prose masters enjoy. The precision and clarity which Russell’s prose style possesses are very rare in the bulk of English prose.

Russell has justly been regarded as one of the great prose stylists of the 20th century. Although he is not a literary writer yet his work devoted mainly to problems of philosophy, ethics, morality, political, social life and economics, etc. impresses us greatly by its literary qualities.

Of course, Russell's style sometimes becomes difficult for the average reader who comes across sentences which he has read for more than once in order to get the meaning. Russell’s style appeals mainly to our intellects and very little to our feelings or emotions. He uses words simply as tools, to convey his meaning plain and effective and not to produce any special effects. It is not a coloured or gorgeous style. Nor is there any passion in it. It is somewhat cold.

There are no “jeweled phrases” in his writings nor sentences over which we would like to linger with the aesthetic pleasure. Russell’s style is intellectually brilliant. He can condense an idea or a thought in a few words if he so desires. Russell is always direct, simple and lucid. He knows that the complexity of expression leads to ambiguity. Nothing can be more lucid than such opening lines:

“Happiness depends partly upon external circumstances and partly upon oneself.”
“Of all the institutions that have come down to us from the past, none is so


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Oedipus Rex: Tragic Irony

Oedipus Rex: Tragic Irony

Tragic irony was used initially in ancient Greek tragedy and later almost in all tragedies. Irony consists essentially in the contrast of the two aspects of the same remark or situation. A remark made by a character in a play may have one meaning for him and another meaning for other character and the audience or one meaning for the speaker and the other characters and another meaning for the audience. Similarly, a situation may have a double significance in the sense that a disaster may be foreseen by the audience while the characters may be ignorant of it. Irony heightens the tragic effect. Sophocles has used irony with striking effect in his plays.

“Oedipus Rex” is replete with tragic irony and is found in most of the speeches and situations. There are many occasions on which the audience is aware of the facts while the speaker is ignorant of those facts and some other characters, on the other hand, present a contrast which lends an increased emphasis to a tragic fact or to the ultimate tragic outcome. The proclamation of Oedipus that he will make a determined effort to trace the murderer of Laius and the curse that Oedipus utters upon the killer and upon those sheltering the criminal, possess a tragic irony in view of the audience’s knowledge that Oedipus himself will ultimately prove to be Laius’ murderer. Oedipus proclaims that no house in Thebes is to provide shelter to the guilty man and that the gods will curse those who disobey his command. Thus, without knowing the real meaning of his words, Oedipus announces the sentences of banishment against the murderer and heightens the tragic effect of the discovery which comes towards the end of the play. Oedipus does not know that he himself is to become the victim of the punishment which he is proclaiming but the audience knows it. In this contrast between Oedipus’ ignorance and our knowledge of the true fact lies the tragic irony.

The scene between Oedipus and Teiresias is fraught with tragic irony throughout. Teiresias is the prophet who knows everything while Oedipus does not know himself as such. Teiresias would not like to disclose the secret but Oedipus quickly loses his temper thus provoking the prophet to say what he never wanted to say. Teiresias tells Oedipus that he himself is the guilty man he is seeking and that he is living in a sinful union with the one he loves. The impact of these words is totally lost upon Oedipus. The charges of Teiresias enrage him and he insults the prophet by calling him a sightless sot showing his own inner blindness. An irony lies in the fact that Teiresias, physically blind, knows the truth while Oedipus, having normal eyesight, is totally blind to that truth. There is irony also in the contrast between what Oedipus truly is and what he thinks himself to be. To Teiresias he boasts of his intelligence citing his past victory over the Sphinx. The terrible predictions that Teiresias makes regarding the fate in store for Oedipus also possess irony in the sense that, while we know their tragic imports, Oedipus treats them as the ravings of a madman. These predictions become more awful when we realize that they will prove to be true and valid. Teiresias warns Oedipus that the killer of Laius will ultimately find himself blind, an exile, a beggar, a brother and a father at a same time to the children he loves, a son and a husband to the woman who bore him, a father-killer and father-supplenter. Even the Chorus, ignorant of the facts, refuses to believe what Teiresias has said about Oedipus. Thus both Oedipus and the Chorus are unaware of the truth while Teiresias and the audience is fully aware of it.

Tragic irony is also found in the scene with Creon. Creon begs Oedipus not to think him a traitor and not to pass the sentence of death or exile against him. But Oedipus blinded by his authority and his anger shows himself relentless. This situation is ironical of the final scene where the roles are reversed. There Oedipus begs Creon to look after his daughters, and entreats him to pass the order of banishment against him. Creon, being a moderate man, does not show himself unrelenting in that scene. The pathos of the final scene is intensified.

Then there is the scene with Jocasta. Oedipus and Jocasta are ignorant of the true facts. The audience, aware of the facts, experiences a deep sorrow at the fate which is going to overtake these characters. Jocasta is sceptical of oracles. She thinks no man possesses the secret of divination and as a proof she tells what she and her husband did to the child, who, according to the oracle, was to kill his father. There is palpable irony in Jocasta’s unbelief in oracles and her citing as proof the very case which is to prove the truth of one oracle received by her and the late Laius. This irony deepens Jocasta's tragedy.

There is irony also in the account of his life which Oedipus gives to Jocasta. Oedipus thinks himself to be the son of Polybus and Merope: he fled from Corinth after the oracle had told him of the crimes he would commit: he has all along been under the impression that he has avoided committing the crimes foretold by the oracles. But all the time Oedipus has been unknowingly performing certain actions leading to the fulfillment of those very prophecies which he had been striving to belie, just as King Laius had earlier taken desperate but futile measures to prevent the fulfillment of the prophecy which has been communicated to him by the oracle.

When the Corinthian messenger brings the news of Polybus’ death, Jocasta gets another chance to mock at the oracles without realizing that her mockery will turn against herself.

“Where are you now, divine prognostication?”

Jocasta tells Oedipus that this news proves the hollowness of oracles because Polybus whom Oedipus believed to be his father has died a natural death. There is irony also in the simple remark of the messenger that Jocasta is the “true consort” of a man like Oedipus. Neither the messenger nor Jocasta knows the awful meaning of these words. Jocasta makes an exultant speech on the desirability of living at random and on mother marrying as merely a figment of the imagination. Jocasta makes this speech only a few moments before the truth dawns upon her. The Corinthian, who wanted to free Oedipus of his fear of marrying his mother, ends by revealing, unknowingly, the fact that Jocasta's husband, Oedipus, is really her son, although this revelation is at this stage confined to Jocasta. The tragic irony of this situation and in what is said by the Corinthian and Jocasta in this scene is evident.

The song of the Chorus, after Jocasta has left in a fit of grief and sorrow, is full of tragic irony. The Chorus thereby pays a tribute to what it thinks to be the divine parentage of Oedipus. There is a big contrast between this supposition of the Chorus and the actual reality. The arrival of the Theban shepherd is the point at which the climax of the tragedy is reached.

After the discovery there is hardly any room for tragic irony. The concluding part consists of a long account of the self-murder and the self-blinding, a dialogue between Oedipus and the Chorus, and a scene between Oedipus and Creon including the brief lament by Oedipus on the wretched condition of his daughters. The concluding portion of the play is deeply moving and poignant, but contains little or no tragic irony.

Oedipus Rex bristles with tragic irony. It opposes Oedipus against those who know i.e. Teiresias. Where characters themselves are not omniscient, the audience is. The audience knows the gist of the story and can be surprised only in the means by which the necessary ends are achieved. They know that Oedipus is, in all sincerity, telling a falsehood when he says:

“I shall speak, as a stranger to the whole question and stranger to the action.”

The falsehood is, however, qualified in the term stranger: the stranger who met and killed King Laius, who met and married Queen Jocasta, the stranger who was no true stranger at all. At the outset, he says:

“For I know well that all of you are sick, but though you are sick, there’s none of you who is so sick as I.”

Here he is, indeed, speaking the truth, but more truth, than he knows, because he is using sickness only in a symbolic sense while actually it is true of him in a literal tense.

In addition to this irony of detail, there is a larger irony in the inversion of the whole action. The homeless wanderer by delivering the city of Thebes from the sphinx and marrying Jocasta became a King in fact, but this revelation turned him once more into a homeless wanderer, who had once gone bright eyed with his strong traveller’s staff, now uses the staff to feel the way before him.

The reversed pattern is seen again in the fact that the cruel oracles have their darkest moment just before they come clear. Jocasta’s words mocking the prophecy of the gods are echoed and amplified in Oedipus’ typical tyrant-speech of unbelief. The role of the helpers is another example. Sophocles provides at least one helper, or rescuer, for every act. The appeal in the prologue is to Oedipus, himself a rescuer in the past. Oedipus appeals to Creon who comes from and represents Apollo and Delphi. It is as a rescuer that Teiresias is called. Jocasta intervenes to help. So does the Corinthian messenger, and the last helper, the Theban shepherd, is the true and original rescuer. Those who do not know the reality are eager to help; those who know are reluctant. But all helper alike push Oedipus over the edge into disaster.


Explanation Of Ariel Poem By Sylvia Plath

Explanation Of Ariel Poem By Sylvia Plath

"Ariel," the title poem of Sylvia Plath’s posthumous volume of the same name is one of her most highly regarded, most often criticised, and most complicated poems. The ambiguities in the poem begin with its title, which has a three fold meaning. To a reader uninformed by Plath’s biography "Ariel" would probably most immediately call to mind the "airy spirit" who in Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a servant to Prospero and symbolizes Prospero’s control of the upper elements of the universe, fire and air. On another biographical or autobiographical level, "Ariel," as we know from reports about the poet’s life, was the name of her favorite horse, on whom she weekly went riding. Robert Lowell, in his forward to Ariel, says, "The title Ariel summons up Shakespeare’s lovely, though slightly chilling and androgynous spirit, but the truth is that this Ariel is the author’s horse." Ted Hughes, Plath’s husband, adds these comments,

ARIEL was the name of the horse on which she went riding weekly. Long before, while she was a student at
Cambridge (England), she went riding with an American friend out towards Grantchester. Her horse bolted, the stirrups fell off, and she came all the way home to the stables, about two miles, at full gallop, hanging around the horse’s neck.

These two allusions, to The Tempest and to her horse "Ariel," have often been noticed and pointed out, with the emphasis, from a critical perspective, being placed on the biographical referent. But there is another possible referent in the title of the poem which no one has yet noted, although the poet, apparently, went out of her way to make reference, even obvious reference, to it. I refer to "Ariel" as the symbolic name for Jerusalem. "Ariel" in Hebrew means "lion of God." She begins the second stanza of the poem with the line "God’s lioness," which seems to be a direct reference to the Hebrew or Jewish "Ariel."

Plath’s obsession with Judaism and the Jewish people is clearly indicated in many of her poems.

Indeed, some of the imagery which informs the passage concerning "Ariel" in the Book of Isaiah (29:1-7) appears to have been drawn on directly by Plath for her imagery in her poem "Ariel." In Isaiah 29-5-6 we read,

And in an instant, suddenly,
You will be visited by the Lord of hosts
With thunder and with earthquake and great noise,
With whirlwind and tempest,
And the flame of a devouring fire

In short, then, the poet seems to be combining these three references to "Ariel" in her poem, and creating a context where each of the possible meanings enriches the others. She even seems to imply this when she says, in the second stanza, "How one we grow." Each of the three "Ariel’s" contributes its part to the totality of the poem, and each of them merges into the others so that, by the end of the poem, they are all "one."

Now, of these three references to "Ariel," the two that seem most fruitful in terms of an analysis of the poem appear to be the autobiographical and the Biblical In terms of the autobiographical overtones, the poem can be seen as what apparently it is in fact—an account of the poet’s going for a ride on her favorite horse. Each of the details she mentions with respect to the ride (at least through the first six stanzas) can be seen as exact reporting of what it is like to ride a horse. The last five stanzas of the poem obviously move beyond the literal telling of taking a horseback ride and move into something which partakes of the mystery whereby the rider experiences something of the unity which is created between horse and rider, if not literally, at least metaphorically. This change in the theme of the poem is signaled both by a change in tone and by a change in technique, and specifically by the break in the rhyme scheme.

In talking of the rhymes in Plath’s poetry, John Frederick Nims points out that in The Colossus, Plath’s first book, she chooses to rhyme "atonally" using one of several variations:

The same vowel-sound but with different consonants after it: fishes-pig-finger-history; worms-converge. Different vowel-sounds but with the same final consonant: vast-compost-must; knight-combat-heat (this is her most characteristic kind of rhyme in The Colossus). Unaccented syllable going with accented or unaccented: boulders-wore: footsoles-babel. She considers all final vowels as rhyming with all others: jaw-arrow-eye (perhaps suggested by the Middle-English practice in alliteration). Or she will mate sounds that have almost anything in common: ridgepole-tangle-inscrutable.

Nims goes on to say,

In Ariel, the use of rhyme is very different. In some poems it is ghostlier than ever. But more often it is obvious: rhyme at high noon. The same sound may run on from stanza to stanza, with much identical rhyme. "Lady Lazarus" illustrates the new manner. The poem is printed in units of three lines, but the rhyme is not in her favorite terzarima pattern. Six of the first ten lines end in an n-sound, followed by a sequence in long e, which occurs in about half of the next twenty-two lines. Then, after six more a’s, we have l’s ending eleven of fourteen lines, and then several r’s, leading into the six or more air rhymes that conclude the sequence. Almost Skeltonian: the poet seems to carry on a sound about as long as she can, although not in consecutive lines.

Now up to the seventh stanza of the poem (and continuing on through the remainder of the poem once the transitions has been made in the seventh stanza, "White / Godiva, I unpeel— / Dead hands, dead strigencies"), the rhyme scheme has been, for the most part, "regular" in terms of the slant rhymes Nims has suggested, each stanza having two lines which rhyme, given Plath’s approach to rhyme. "darkness" / "distance," "grow" / "furrow," "arc" / "catch," "dark"

/ "Hooks," "mouthfuls" / "else," "air" / "hair," "I" / "cry," "wall" / "arrow," and "drive" / "red." It is true that the rhymes do not all fit the categories Nims has set forth, although some of them do. Where the rhymes do not fit his scheme, another scheme, equally justifiable, could be suggested—one which the poet apparently used equally often, here as well as in other poems in Ariel. For instance, in the case of the rhymes "darkness" / "distance," the rhyme works on the duplication of the initial "d’s" and the final "s’s"; in "arc" / "catch," "arc" ends in the consonant "c" which is picked up as the initial letter in "catch" (also the sequence "ac" in "arc" is reversed in "catch" to "ca"); the "k" in "dark" and "Hooks" carries the rhyme for the lines ending in these two words; in the "wall" / "arrow" rhyme Plath has apparently worked the words so that the letters of the one word become inverted and duplicated backwards in the letters of the other, thus "w" begins "wall" and ends "arrow" and the double "1" in "wall" is duplicated by the double "r" in "arrow," each of the double consonants following the vowel "a"; and the initial "d" of "drive" goes with the final "d" of "red," and so forth.

But, to show the change in theme in the Godiva stanza, Plath breaks the rhyme within the stanza itself, while, and at the same time, she joins this transitional stanza to what has gone before and to what will follow by interlocking its rhyme with the dangling or unused line in both the preceding and following stanzas. Thus "heels" from the preceding stanza is made to rhyme with "unpeel" in the Godiva stanza, and "seas" of the following stanza is made to rhyme with "stringencies." The unity of the poem as a whole has thus been maintained while the shift in its theme is signaled both thematically and structurally by a shift in the rhyme scheme.

In addition to this rather complex patterning of rhyme, Plath also has her own alliterative-devices to bind together individual lines and, at times, larger units of her poems. In "Ariel," for instance, we find lines like, "Pour of tor and distances," "Pivot of heels and knees," and "Of the neck I cannot catch." In each of these lines, the internal rhyme ("pour" / "tor") or the alliteration ("cannot catch") or the assonance ("heels and knees") creates a kind of music which takes the place of exact or even slant rhyme.

On at least two other occasions, then, Plath has set forth similar experiences to the one she details in "Ariel," and in each case she has communicated her experience in terms of horses and horseback riding. All demonstrate a desire to have her reader feel, if not see, the unities of the interconnected emotions which she is attempting to express in these poems. Particularly in "Ariel," she is careful to link the thematic and rhyme devices already mentioned to an overall structure which suggests the special kind of fusions that she intends. The poem is written in three line stanzas, and, in the sense that two of the lines in each stanza rhyme, the poem might be considered to fall into a loose terza rima. Another way in which the form works to complement the meaning is in the stanzaic form itself. The very fact that the stanzas are tri-fold parallels the tri-fold allusions to horse, Ariel in Shakespeare, and "Ariel" as a reference to Jerusalem, Therefore, the stanzaic structure as well as the structure of the individual stanzas corroborates the theme of the poem.

But perhaps the most important structural, as well as thematic, line in the poem is the last line, which is also the final stanza of the poem. This line is important in a three-fold way: first, the "ro" of "cauldron" is inverted to "or" in "morning," thus continuing the duality of the double, and here internal, rhyme that occurs throughout the poem, but at the same time tightening the rhyme even further into the space of a single line; second, the words "eye" and "morning," carrying as they do the overtones of "I" and "mourning," at once incorporate the personal activity (riding a horse) with the communal concern of the Biblical passage (where "Ariel" comes to signify the whole history of the Hebrew race and the suffering, the "mourning" so immediately identified with that history); and, thirdly, the word "cauldron" mixes all of the foregoing elements together into a kind of melting pot of emotion, history and personal involvement. Thus, the poem takes on the richness and complexity we have come to expect from the poet, and, not without reason, stands as the title poem of the book. As A. Alvarez has said, "The difficulty with this poem lies in separating one element from another. Yet that is also its theme." Indeed, Plath seems to have always had a similar difficulty in separating one element of her life from another. But, that, too, was also, and always, her theme.

The Crucible: Arthur Miller's Style

The Crucible: Arthur Miller's Style 

Arthur Miller had a reputation for being pedantic. He maintained, and his estate continues to maintain artistic control over his plays. Miller never ever let anyone else have more creative input than himself. He was a visually descriptive playwright both in his stage directions and settings. Miller’s plays, including The Crucible include pages of detailed information addressing the concerns of both the actors and the audience.

In preparation for writing The Crucible, he studied pages and pages of court transcripts of the Salem witch hunts in order to develop ideas and to create an authentic dialect. He took small ideas from the testimonies given in the courts and fleshed them out into stories. In fact, the basis for John Proctor’s and Abigail Williams’ affair was based on the tension he discovered that the two of them shared throughout the actual court proceedings. 

'This play is not history in the sense in which the word is used by the academic historian. Dramatic purposes have sometimes required many characters to be fused into one; the number of girls involved in the 'crying out' has been reduced; Abigail's age has been raised; while there were several judges of almost equal authority, I have symbolized them all in Hathorne and Danforth. However, I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history. The fate of each character is exactly that of his historical model, and there is no one in the drama who did not play a similar-and in some cases exactly the same-role in history.

As for the characters of the persons, little is known about most of them except what may be surmised from a few letters, the trial record, certain broadsides written at the time, and references to their conduct in sources of varying reliability. They may therefore be taken as creations of my own, drawn to the best of my ability in conformity with their known behaviour, except as indicated in the commentary I have written for this text.' 

Plays can be classified in two major varieties: plays of episodic action and plays of continuous action. Shakespeare's plays are episodic. No one scene is very long, and the action jumps from place to place, sometimes skipping over years in between. On the other hand, Greek tragedies like Oedipus Rex and some modern plays such as Eugene O'Neil's Long Day's Journey into Night, follow what are called the three unities: of time-the action usually takes place within a 24-hour period; of place- there is only one location,, and of action-there is no break in the action from beginning to end. 

The Crucible falls somewhere in between. The time span is about three-and-a-half months; the action occurs in four different places, although it never leaves Salem; and there is a gap of at least a week between each act (between Acts III and IV almost three months elapse). But within each act the action is continuous from curtain to curtain. 

One advantage of the continuous-action method is that it allows the author to build tension or suspense gradually. It also can be less confusing for an audience, because we don't have to stop and figure out where we are every few minutes. And, finally, it allows us to get to know the main characters very well, by letting us watch them for a long time at a stretch. This is especially important in The Crucible, where we come to understand what happened in Salem in 1692 through the experience of one man, John Proctor. 

The Crucible was written in an historical style, marking a shift in Miller's preferred writing style from the "naturalistic dialogue of the American middle class" in his first three plays, to a formal, New-England-Puritan style. Miller "makes exemplary use of this new style, its biblical echoes, its metaphorical richness, and its ethical basis". The Crucible concerns the dilemma of "making moral choices in the face of community pressure and about the irrational basis of that pressure". The similarity between the Communist and Puritan witch-hunts allows Miller to formulate an explanation for their inception, along with the destructive effect that speculations can have on individuals when brought before an unsympathetic, judgmental and irrational public. The public's trepidation toward the subject matter of The Crucible was due to the play's remarkable similarity to the political pulse at the time, causing critics to give it "polite, lukewarm reviews", and closed after only a few months. Ironically, The Crucible was successful in an off-Broadway production five years later and was given ample praise by the same critics who previously rejected it. This performance ran over six hundred shows, establishing it as Miller's second most popular play.

Miller’s style is very simple. He uses simple sentences and sentence structure with a simple vocabulary. While using the simple style, Miller does not take away from the suspense in he plot. The dialogues of his characters are like actual speech. His words are used effectively and does not include anything not necessary to convey the idea. He makes the plot and idea interesting by foreshadowing future events. 

In The Crucible, the characters do not speak in fragments, and some do occasionally string together phrases. Also, they do form their thoughts carefully before speaking. The sentences are simple and the structure does not vary too much. 

In the first passage spoken by Reverend Parris, the speech is more formal that speeches spoken by other characters. This displays that Reverend Parris is more educated than the others. It has a somewhat fatherly, yet commanding tone. 

The second passage spoken by Abigail is markedly different from the first passage. The sentences are less thought out and more fragmented. She repeats the phrase “I know you” several times. This shows less education but more deep emotion than the first passage. The tone for this line is moving, but when compiled with Abigail's character, becomes deceiving. 

The third passage spoken by Elizabeth shows a clearly though out idea. It shows that while Elizabeth may not be as educated as someone like Parris, this is a subject that she has thought about a long time. This gives a tone of something like a bottom line or an ultimatum. While Elizabeth does not give a specific choice to Proctor, it is obvious that he must make a decision on what to do. 

Miller does not rely too much on imagery. There are few cases of imagery in this play. One remarkably memorable one is the statement by Abigail about the way John Proctor “sweated like a stallion.” While this statement is also a simile, it provides an unforgettable image in the minds of the audience. 

The most memorable case of simile is the line, “I know how you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I came near!” This statement compares Proctor with a stallion. 

Miller rarely uses metaphors or personification in this work. His people generally referred to as people and items as items. Occasionally he alludes to some portion or person in the Bible, but rarely to anything else. For example, while John Proctor is speaking with Rebecca in prison, she alludes to the martyred apostles. Rebecca says, “Let you fear nothing! Another judgment waits us all.” This is an allusion to idea from the Bible that man is judged by God in heaven. 

Miller has few cases of verbal irony. He uses it in act 3 while Elizabeth tell she court that Proctor did not sleep with Abigail she knows that he did. 

All parts with the girls lying about witches and ghosts are cases of dramatic irony since, while the audience knows that the girls are lying, most of the characters do not. For example, in court, Abigail and the other girls pretend to be attacked by spirits and the people in court fear them to be in danger. However, the audience knows that they are faking it. 

Miller’s attitude towards witchcraft is satirical. The tone is serious, cynical, and formal. He achieves this tone by the terrible tragedy of the innocent people executed, and the mental struggles of John Proctor. Miller shows the irony and the unjustness of the witch trials, and thereby the irony and the unjustness of the McCarthy trials. 

The crucible Themes

The crucible Themes

A crucible is a vessel in which metal is heated to a high temperature and melted for the purposes of casting. It can also refer, metaphorically, to a time in history when great political, social, and cultural changes are in force, where society is seemingly being melted down and recast into a new mold. The word is also remarkably similar to crucifixion, which Miller certainly intended in choosing it as the title of his play. The picture of a man and a society bubbling in a crucible and the crucifixion of Christ interweave to form the main themes of the play: the problem of making the right moral choice and the necessity of sacrifice as a means of redemption. Both these themes, of course, take place in the context of the larger struggle of good versus evil.

The choice John Proctor must make is between saving either himself or society. His failure to do good initially allows events to get out of hand and eventually forces him into a position where he must make a choice. Reverend Hale, while not subject to the same moral quandary as Proctor, also suffers a crisis of consciousness for his failure to strive hard enough to stop the proceedings of the court. In contrast to them both are Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth Proctor, whose moral and emotional steadfastness represents society at its best.

In a society at odds with itself and where reason and faith in the society has been replaced with irrationality and self-doubt, a clever manipulator can cause chaos. The Reverend Parris, Danforth, Hathorne, and Putnam represent the corruption of society by self-interested parties preying on society's fears. Through them, Miller highlights the destruction that manipulation and weak-mindedness can thrust upon society.

Miller suggests that in such times good can only triumph through a sacrifice upon the altar of society, that the crisis might only be able to be rectified by the death of those who struggle to uphold society's values. The death of John Proctor, though it might seem a tragic waste, is necessary, both for his own personal redemption and that of his society. The sacrifice of Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, Giles Corey and others, recalls the sacrifice of Christ for the sake of humankind. In the end, The Crucible focuses on a historical event to drive home issues that essentially characterize all societies at all times, which makes the play both universal and enduring.

The Crucible is set in a theocratic society, in which the church and the state are one, and the religion is a strict, austere form of Protestantism known as Puritanism. Because of the theocratic nature of the society, moral laws and state laws are one and the same: sin and the status of an individual’s soul are matters of public concern. There is no room for deviation from social norms, since any individual whose private life doesn’t conform to the established moral laws represents a threat not only to the public good but also to the rule of God and true religion. In Salem, everything and everyone belongs to either God or the Devil; dissent is not merely unlawful, it is associated with satanic activity. This dichotomy functions as the underlying logic behind the witch trials. As Danforth says in Act III, “a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it.” The witch trials are the ultimate expression of intolerance (and hanging witches is the ultimate means of restoring the community’s purity); the trials brand all social deviants with the taint of devil-worship and thus necessitate their elimination from the community.

The major theme in the play is that of good versus evil. Based on the Salem witch trials of the late 17th century, The Crucible explores the fragility of a changing society and the difficulty of doing good in the face of evil and tremendous social pressures, both at the social and personal level. John Proctor, the protagonist of the play, is faced with the choice of accepting responsibility for his actions and doing the right thing. In a similar vein, society as a whole must deal with the challenge of doing good when threatened by evil, even when it comes with the stamp of law, authority, and social opinion.

A minor theme of the play is that the hysteria of the witch trials can be easily duplicated, as seen in the hysteria surrounding the "McCarthyism" of the early 1950s. This link should be understood as a background to the play, not as a simple interpretation of the play.

Another critical theme in The Crucible is the role that hysteria can play in tearing apart a community. Hysteria supplants logic and enables people to believe that their neighbors, whom they have always considered upstanding people, are committing absurd and unbelievable crimes—communing with the devil, killing babies, and so on. In The Crucible, the townsfolk accept and become active in the hysterical climate not only out of genuine religious piety but also because it gives them a chance to express repressed sentiments and to act on long-held grudges. The most obvious case is Abigail, who uses the situation to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft and have her sent to jail. But others thrive on the hysteria as well: Reverend Parris strengthens his position within the village, albeit temporarily, by making scapegoats of people like Proctor who question his authority. The wealthy, ambitious Thomas Putnam gains revenge on Francis Nurse by getting Rebecca, Francis’s virtuous wife, convicted of the supernatural murders of Ann Putnam’s babies. In the end, hysteria can thrive only because people benefit from it. It suspends the rules of daily life and allows the acting out of every dark desire and hateful urge under the cover of righteousness.

Reputation is tremendously important in theocratic Salem, where public and private moralities are one and the same. In an environment where reputation plays such an important role, the fear of guilt by association becomes particularly pernicious. Focused on maintaining public reputation, the townsfolk of Salem must fear that the sins of their friends and associates will taint their names. Various characters base their actions on the desire to protect their respective reputations. As the play begins, Parris fears that Abigail’s increasingly questionable actions, and the hints of witchcraft surrounding his daughter’s coma, will threaten his reputation and force him from the pulpit. Meanwhile, the protagonist, John Proctor, also seeks to keep his good name from being tarnished. Early in the play, he has a chance to put a stop to the girls’ accusations, but his desire to preserve his reputation keeps him from testifying against Abigail. At the end of the play, however, Proctor’s desire to keep his good name leads him to make the heroic choice not to make a false confession and to go to his death without signing his name to an untrue statement. “I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” he cries to Danforth in Act IV. By refusing to relinquish his name, he redeems himself for his earlier failure and dies with integrity.

Poignantly, The Crucible explores much more than this theme alone. It is also the story of betrayal and, in particular, the betrayal between a husband and a wife within the sanctity of a conventional marriage. However, John Proctor who is guilty of infidelity is not alone. Many of the characters are guilty of betrayal. Abigail betrays her whole community in order to seduce John. Those who falsely confess to witchcraft betray their relationship with God and their church.

The Crucible is also about persecution. History has provided us with canons of documented information about the persecution of the Jewish people from the Bible up until the chronicles of the Second World War. Miller, who was Jewish, would surely have had an inescapable imprint of atrocities of the holocaust embedded firmly in his psyche.

Furthermore, this play insists that it is every individual’s responsibility to accept liability for the wrongs of the past. Miller’s plays, explore the American way of life but the themes, issues and concerns presented in The Crucible are a universal phenomenon.

The Crucible's minor theme is the evils and events of the McCarthy era, which provided the initial inspiration for the play. Miller saw many parallels between the witch trials of Salem and McCarthy's hunt for Communists, which some critics at the time even referred to as a "witch hunt." Both were periods of dramatic social tensions and social change, marked by terror, suspicion, hysteria, and paranoia. While there were undoubtedly Communists in America in the 1950s, and perhaps witches in Salem in the late 1600s, the hunts for both destroyed many innocent lives and corrupted the accusers.

Perhaps the most striking parallel between the McCarthy era and events in the play occurs in the scene where Parris accuses the signatories of Francis Nurse's petition of attacking the court and suggesting that no innocent person could possibly be unhappy with the court. This was the same logic that McCarthy and his followers used to discourage dissent.

Although The Crucible can be read as a commentary on the McCarthy era, its location in actual historical events of another era, its emphasis on personal struggle and responsibility, and its aesthetic achievement as a work of literature and drama render it timely and relevant in any era. Indeed, as historical circumstances change, new historical parallels emerge. Miller has noted that when he wrote the play, he never could have imagined that people would see in it a commentary on the dangers of accepting children's testimony in sexual abuse cases, yet the parallel seems quite apparent now. It is The Crucible's timeless concern with the problems of ascertaining truth and obtaining justice, rather than its commentary on any one historic event, that has made it a lasting work of art.
Conformity, Imbalance of Power, And Social Injustice

Conformity has plagued mankind for ages. It is a strong theme in The Crucible, and Miller's audience can draw parallels to it in their own lives. In The Crucible, the need to conform to the church's views and that of its minister is quite evident. The characters in the play find themselves in a very difficult situation. They must either turn their backs on what they believe in and lie by admitting to having had "relations with the devil", thereby conforming with the church's wishes, or they must follow their individualistic beliefs and refuse to lie. The Crucible should be considered a great drama just because of it's all encompassing theme of conformity.

The Crucible has so much more to it that it needn't be considered great drama on the basis of a good theme alone. It also attacks the poor balance of power that we can see around us everyday. Miller shows us how much power a sole individual can have when that person defines the ideologies or beliefs by which we live. During the Salem Witch Trials religion was, much more so than now, the answer to what people didn't understand. So as a result, ministers and priests were extremely powerful because they were the only people that were "qualified" to interpret the rules of their religion. They were considered to be the voice of God. Back in Salem, how could anything have been more powerful than that? Nobody could question the priests because they would then be questioning God. Which of course was completely taboo. So a person in such a position of power could say nearly anything they wanted, such as deciding that "cleansing" was needed in Salem. And, as a result, people would listen and it would be done, but not necessarily deemed to be right.

In the 1950's the idea of an imbalance of power was still an issue. After just starting to recover from the Holocaust, which was fueled by the very same need for "cleansing" as in Salem but on a larger scale, Americans were bewildered as to how easily people could be manipulated by those in a position of great power. Hitler had just basically accused a few million people of being witches. Americans could see how weak they were. One could not question the government, the military, or the church. To this very day, a huge amount of people are still afraid of questioning the church - look at the issue of abortion and the Catholic Church's position upon it for example.

Miller portrayed the priests and judges in The Crucible as that certain type of people that Americans will always be up against in the struggle for power. While the Church and its' ministers isn't quite as powerful now because people can openly admit having no belief in God without fear of being hung, we now have a new group of people that decide what is true and what is not. Science is the new religion and scientists the new priests. Scientists are the only people capable of interpreting what all of the math and formulas mean. And as a result, the rest of us openly accept their conclusions to be the true. This is the same kind of reliance that people put on the church two hundred years ago. And at that time, you didn't question it. The church was always right. The Crucible is a great drama because it addresses the issue of conformity in American culture and questions the amount of power that we allow those to have whom are supposedly more educated than the majority of the population and are responsible for defining the ideologies and beliefs by which we live.

At the time when The Crucible was first being performed something was taking place that was very alike the Salem Witch Trials. In Hollywood, the House Un-American Activities Committee was investigating the film industry for communist activities. Actors, writers, and directors were interrogated as to whether or not they had involved themselves in any kind of relations with the Communist Party. If people didn't readily conform to the HUAC's line of questioning, and answer their questions regardless of whether or not they were deemed intrusive or not, it was assumed that they had been involved with the Communist Party. It was thought that the Communists were trying to gain control of the American film industry for propaganda purposes. As a result, those individuals that were thought to be in any way associated with the Communists were blacklisted in Hollywood and could no longer work there.

As history has shown us, the injustices that occurred during the Salem Witch Trials continue to go on. Most obviously by the HUAC in America at the time of Miller's The Crucible. We see parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and other issues even today. Most recently, the military wanted to discharge any gay men in service. These kind of injustices will always exist. The Crucible addresses the idea of a group of select people choosing another group for a scapegoat to a supposedly determined "problem" that exists. This is yet another reason why The Crucible should be considered to be great drama.

Arthur Miller's, The Crucible, addressed issues which were as important to Americans in the 1950's as they are today. The idea of conformity is one which any given individual will always face. People who define the ideologies and beliefs by which we live will also always exist. As will the accusations made by one group of select individuals towards groups of others in order to support their cause, or solve their problem. The House Un-American Activities Committee was doing exactly that in the 1950's which was why the idea of "cleansing" in The Crucible was so relevant to Americans. Arthur Miller's play took on very strong themes and took a stand against issues that are still pertinent to date. Great drama is something in which an audience can find relevance and relation. Great drama is drama that will always be important. The Crucible is a play that no one will ever be able to ignore because of Miller's ability to touch issues and themes that have plagued mankind throughout history and will continue to do so in the future.

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