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Monday, March 9, 2015

John Osborne Quick Facts

John Osborne, a leading 20th century English playwright and Oscar-winning screenwriter.
  • Full Name: John Osborne
    John Osborne
  • Birth Name: John James Osborne
  • Birth: December 12, 1929
  • Place of Birth:London, England, United Kingdom
  • Death: December 24, 1994
  • Place of Death: Clun, Shropshire, England, United Kingdom
  • Cause of Death: Complications of Diabetes
  • Buried: St. George Churchyard in Clun, Shropshire, England
  • Zodiac Sign: Sagittarius
  • Nationality: English
  • Height: 6 ft
  • Father: Thomas Godfrey Osborne
  • Mother: Nellie Beatrice Grove Osborne
  • Siblings: NA
  • Spouse:
-Pamela Lane (1951–1957)
-Mary Ure (1957–1963)
-Penelope Gilliatt (1963–1968)
-Jill Bennett (1968–1977)
-Helen Dawson (1978–till Osborne’s demise)
  • Number of Children: 1 daughter: Nolan Osborne
  • Education: Bellmont College
  • Known for: initiating the “Angry Young  Man” movement in British drama
  • Criticised for: the ornate violence of his language against his family members
  • Influences: Bertolt Brecht, Max Miller, Kingsley Amis
  • Influenced: Joe Orton, Edward Albee, Mike Leigh


“I want people to see life through my mirror, to feel my image. If it gets as far as that, if they feel, then I've made my contribution. What they do with those feelings afterwards is somebody else's business. Politicians.Journalists.Those sort of people.”John Osborne

Major Works:

Title Type Year
The Devil Inside Him Theatre 1950
The Great Bear Theatre 1951
Personal Enemy Theatre 1955
Look Back in Anger Theatre 1956
The Entertainer Theatre 1957
Epitaph for George Dillon Theatre 1958
The World Of Paul Slickey Theatre 1959
A Subject of Scandal and Concern TV 1960
Luther Theatre 1961
Plays for England Theatre 1962
The Blood of the Bambergs Theatre 1962
Under Plain Cover Theatre 1962
Tom Jones Screenplay 1963
Inadmissible Evidence Theatre 1964
A Patriot for Me Theatre 1965
A Bond Honoured Theatre 1966
The Hotel In Amsterdam Theatre 1968
Time Present Theatre 1968
The Charge of the Light Brigade Screenplay 1968
The Parachute TV 1968
The Right Prospectus TV 1970
West of Suez Theatre 1971
A Sense Of Detachment Theatre 1972
The Gift Of Friendship TV 1972
Hedda Gabler Theatre 1972
A Place Calling Itself Rome Theatre 1973
Ms, Or Jill And Jack TV 1974
The End Of Me Old Cigar Theatre 1975
The Picture Of Dorian Gray Theatre 1975
Almost A Vision TV 1976
Watch It Come Down Theatre 1976
Try A Little Tenderness Theatre 1978
Very Like A Whale TV 1980
You're Not Watching Me, Mummy TV 1980
A Better Class of Person Book 1981
A Better Class of Person TV 1985
God Rot Tunbridge Wells TV 1985
The Father Theatre 1989
Almost a Gentleman Book 1991
Déjàvu Theatre 1992

Media Gallery:

John Osborne

John Osborne

John Osborne

John Osborne

John Osborne

John Osborne and Jill Bennett in 1969

Jill Bennett at their wedding in 1968

Osborne and Mary Ure in August 1957

Osborne, Mary Ure, Vivien Leigh and Olivier


Did you know?

  • John Osborne’s father was a copywriter, and his mother was a Cockney barmaid.
  • Osborne’s father died in 1941 when he was only 11 years old.
  • Osborne's first important work, The Devil inside Him was performed in 1950.
  • With his Look Back in Anger (1956), John Osborne changed the face of the British Theatre.
  • Look Back in Anger established Osborne as a leading writer for the British Theatre.
  • Look Back in Anger was the first well-known example of "Kitchen Sink Drama".
  • In 1963, Osborne secured an Academy Award for his screenplay for Tom Jones (1963).
  • Osborne had countless affairs over the course of his life.
  • He was married five times.
  • Osborne frequently mistreated his wives and lovers.
  • Nolan was Osborne’s only offspring by his third wife Penelope Gilliatt.
  • Osborne had an abusive relationship with his daughter: he cast her out of his house when she was seventeen; they never spoke again.
  • Osborne remained angry until the end of his life.
  • It is said that many women fell in love with Osborne being attracted to his anger!
  • The suicide of his fourth wife, Jill Bennett is generally believed to have been a result of Osborne's rejection of her.
  • Despite the great success of his early plays, Osborne was in debt at the time of his death.


“John Osborne Biography.” 2015. Television Networks, LLC. 5 March 2015

“John Osborne Facts.”Your Dictionary. 2015. LoveToKnow. 5 March 2015

“John Osborne.”New World Encyclopedia. 2015. New World Encyclopedia. 5 March 2015

“John Osborne.”Wikipedia. 2015. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 5 March 2015


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Herman Melville Quick Facts

Herman Melville, a 19th century American novelist, poet and writer of short story, who is remembered mostly for his novel Moby Dick.
  • Full Name: Herman Melville
    Herman Melville
  • Pseudonyms: L.A.V.; Salvator R. Tarnmoor
  • Birth: August 01,1819
  • Place of Birth: New York City, USA
  • Zodiac Sign: Leo
  • Nationality: American
  • Death: September 28, 1891
  • Cause of Death: Unknown
  • Buried at: He is buried beside his wife in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx
  • Father: Allan Melvill (1782–1832)
  • Mother: Maria Gansevoort Melvill (1791–1872)
  • Siblings:
    • Brother: Gansevoort Melville (1815-1846)
    • Sister: Helen Maria Melville Griggs (1817-1888)
    • Sister: Augusta Melville (1821-1876)
    • Brother: Allan Melville (1823-1872)
    • Sister: Catherine Gansevoort Melville Hoadley (1825-1905)
    • Sister: Frances Priscilla Melville (1827-1885)
    • Brother: Thomas Melville (1830-1884)
  • Spouse: Elizabeth Knapp Shaw (1822–1906)
  • Children:
    •  Son: Malcolm Melville (1849-1867)
    •  Son: Stanwix Melville (1851-1886)
    •  Daughter: Elizabeth Melville (1853-1908)
    •  Daughter: Frances Melville (1855-1938)
  • Known for: his ability to probe deep into the human psyche
  • Allegation: NA
  • Influenced: William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, Jorge Luis Borges, D. H. Lawrence, Cornel West
  • Influences: William Shakespeare, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Thomas Carlyle, Luís de Camões


"With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me." Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”

Major Works:

Title of Novel Published
Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life 1846
Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas 1847
Mardi: And a Voyage Thither 1849
Redburn: His First Voyage 1849
White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War 1850
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale 1851
Pierre: or, The Ambiguities 1852
Isle of the Cross 1853(?)
Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile 1855
The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade 1857
Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative) 1924

Short Story

Title of Short Story Published
"Bartleby, the Scrivener" 1853
"Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!" 1853
"The Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles" 1854
"Poor Man's Pudding and Rich Man's Crumbs" 1854
"The Happy Failure" 1854
"The Lightning-Rod Man" 1854
"The Fiddler" 1854
"The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids" 1855
"The Bell-Tower" 1855
"Benito Cereno" 1855
"Jimmy Rose" 1855
"The 'Gees" 1856
"I and My Chimney" 1856
"The Apple-Tree Table" 1856
"The Piazza" 1856
"The Two Temples" 1924
"Daniel Orme" 1924

Did You Know?

  • Melville was the third of eight children.
  • Melville Married Elizabeth Shaw in 1847.
  • His masterpiece Moby Dick (1851) was a commercial failure but it became a masterpiece posthumously.
  • After his father’s death, Melville’s mother supplemented the “e” at the end of the family name.
  • Melville's writing was greatly influenced from his travels at sea.
  • His father was a successful importer of dry goods.
  • When Melville was 12, his father entered into bankruptcy and died suddenly.
  • After his father’s death Melville worked in his uncle’s farm, clerked in a local bank, and taught at local schools to support his family.
  • Melville was not financially successful as a writer, having earned just over $10,000 for his writing during his lifetime.
  • When Melville deceased, his death was noted in only one local newspaper.
  • Melville was aligned with the greatest American writers after his demise (not until 20th century).


 “Herman Melville.” Wikipedia. 2015. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 March 2015

 “Herman Melville.” Shmoop. 2015. Shmoop University. 4 March 2015

“Herman Melville.” 2015. Bio and the Bio. 4 March 2015


Friday, January 2, 2015

The Maturation Theory

The Chomskyan innateness proposal opened a strong ground for explaining language acquisition in terms of genetics. But it was not until the publication of Lenneberg’s Biological Foundations of Language in 1967, that Chomsy’s proposal gained due acceptance.  In this book Lenneberg endeavoured to discuss language acquisition in the context of growth and maturation. Hence the theory is known as Maturation Theory (also known as Biological Theory). Now-a-days it is deemed to be an important evidence in support of Chomsky’s Innate Theory.

Theoretical Assumptions
Lenneberg based his theory on the under-mentioned hypotheses:
  • Language development is akin to other biological developments in human growth and maturation.
  • Like many inborn mechanisms, language development is also confined to a specific time or critical period.
  • After critical period the brain loses plasticity due to lateralization, thereby making language acquisition incredibly difficult.
  • The process of brain lateralization starts at about 2 years of age and is completed by puberty.
Historical Background
The notion of a critical period for language learning was first proposed by Wilder Penfield and Lamar Roberts in Speech and Brain Mechanisms (1959). Their book contained a chapter entitled “The Learning of Languages”, wherein they hypothesized about the existence of a biological clock within the brain, which sets an age limit for second language learning. Their research concluded that Children were more capable of becoming proficient in a second language than adults. Later on, Lenneberg (1967) supported their hypothesis and further studied it to observe the possible age limit for first language acquisition.

Lenneberg's research identified a link between language and the brain. He assumed that there are two hemispheres to the brain, namely the right and the left hemispheres. He also hypothesized that each domain or subject of learning is stored in separate hemispheres of the brain. Although the hemispheres are not structurally identical at birth, they are functionally identical. In this contention, initially each hemisphere is equally capable of supporting language development. For instance, if an injury occurs in the left hemisphere then it is possible for the right hemisphere to become specialized for language function. However, the right hemisphere’s capability to control language remains intact till a certain stage or a critical period, which ends after lateralization of the brain functions. Lenneberg assumed that as the brain matures, (that is, around the 2 years) the hemispheres began to become functionally specialized and each controls different areas of human activity. This process of lateralization is completed by puberty. After lateralization, a hemispheric dominance ensues: in normal persons the left hemisphere begins to control the functions of language and the right hemisphere ceases its involvement in language. Therefore, in post-critical period language acquisition becomes difficult, ultimately less successful, or even impossible.

Critical Period Graph
The above graph suggests that an individual is only capable of learning a language during his/her early life and this ability comes to a standstill after maturity.

Evidence in Support of CPH
Lenneberg’s idea of Critical Period Hypothesis looks for evidence in the studies of different neurological studies such as the following:
1. Childhood Aphasia
The first evidence in support of critical period was discovered by the researches on patients with speech disorder or aphasia. Generally, damages to portions of the brain which account language cause aphasia. For majority of people these are parts of the left side of the brain. Lenneberg’s researches proved that brain damage to the left hemispheres in adults led to aphasia in 70 percent of cases, while brain damage to children had the same effect on their language, whether the damage was to the right or left hemisphere. However, children's brains were able to recover from this much faster than an adult with the same injuries. Unlike adults, in some cases, children were even able to make a full recovery of language. Even total removal of the left hemisphere did not stop children's reacquisition of language. This difference of chances for recovery of lost language functions between the children and the adults proves the existence of a critical period.
2. Down Syndrome Cases
Another evidence for CPH is the study of children with Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder, which is essentially associated with mental retardation. Children with Down Syndrome show much delays in language acquisition. According to cph their ability to learn ceases at puberty. The most notable study on Down Syndrome was conducted by Lenneberg, Nichols, and Rosenberg (1964), who in a three-year observational study of 54 individuals with Down Syndrome were able to record progress in language development only in children younger than 14 years.
3. Second Language Acquisition
The researches of Penfield and Roberts (1959) on the existence of a critical period for second language learning also provided a strong evidence for Lenneberg’s theory. They held that older learners of a second language rarely achieve the native-like fluency that younger learners display. Since children can learn a second language faster, this must be because they are still in their critical period. Consisted with this statement it is argued that second language acquisition will be relatively fast and successful like first language only if it occurs before the age of puberty.
4. Cases of Childhood Extreme Deprivation
The critical Period Hypothesis borrows a large portion of evidence from the studies conducted upon the feral children (also known as wild children, wolf children), who were raised in social isolation with little or no human contact. Since they missed the critical period to develop language, they were unable to learn and utilize language in a fully functional manner. The under mentioned cases are the most famous ones:
Case -1
This case is from the 1930s. A girl named Isabelle was found living in a darkened room with her deaf mother.  When the authorities found her she was six and a half years old. Since her mother was deaf, Isabelle had no sense of language. But Isabelle was able learn language after receiving systematic training. Therefore, it is argued that she was able to learn language as she started learning before puberty, that is, within the critical period.
Case -2
The second case is from the 1970s, which is by far the strongest evidence in support of CPH. It was the case of a physically and psychologically abused girl named Genie, who was rescued from Los Angles, California on November 4, 1970 by social workers.  Between the ages of 20 months and about 14 years her father locked her in a dark room and deprived her of human contact or language input (Curtiss, Fromkin, Krashen, Rigler, and Rigler 1974). When Genie was found she could not walk properly, eat properly, or speak in any language. Genie could not acquire normal language even under an intensive language and psychotherapy. Initial tests suggested that Genie was not mentally ill and that her inability to learn language resulted from the abusive background. However, a subsequent testing revealed that the left side of her brain was not working. These results suggest that as the left hemisphere had never been used during the critical period, it lost its ability to learn language.

5. Deaf Children with Hearing Parents
This refers to a group of children living in normal social conditions with regular linguistic deprivation. More than 90 percent deaf children are born to hearing parents. These children are deprived of sign language since infancy and thus have great difficulty learning spoken language since they receive limited or no language input from their parents. Typically, these children do not learn sign language until they are enrolled in residential school for the deaf. Researches on deaf children proved that  the older a child is when he starts learning a sign language, the harder of a time he has acquiring it. The proponents of CPH thus believe that the older children face such problem as they missed their critical period for learning language.
Case -1
An interesting case in this regard was Chelsea, a deaf child in remote California town. She was mistakenly diagnosed by doctors as retarded. Her deafness was discovered when she was 31 years old. Hearing aids gave her near-normal hearing and she started to learn language. Although she managed to learn large vocabulary, her grammar was poor like Genie. It happened because she started to learn language way beyond the critical period.
Another study of linguistic deprivation is the case of E.M., a 19 years old deaf boy from Mexico. He was raised in a rural area, where he received little formal education before the age of 12 and he was also isolated from the deaf community. At the age of 15 he was fitted with hearing aids, which enabled him to hear speech spoken at a conversational level. E.M. started learning Spanish, but he failed to achieve complete mastery of any single tense.

Genie and E.M. were exposed to different languages in different contexts, but still they suffer from similar linguistic impairments. Like Genie he experienced an extended period of linguistic isolation and started learning in adolescent. But unlike Genie E.M. did not suffer from any physical and psychological abuse. E.M.’s case, therefore, suggests that Genie’s abusive background is not likely to be the only cause of her language impairments and provides converging evidence for the existence of a critical period for first language acquisition.

Counterarguments against CPH
Lenneberg's critical period hypothesis is not devoid of shortcomings. A number of researchers have tried to highlight its weak points. Up till now the following observations have been made against CPH:
  1. There is no conclusive evidence that lateralization necessarily starts from roughly 2 years of age and ends at puberty (about 14 years of age), as claimed by Lenneberg. In this regard the researchers have forwarded divided opinions. For Krashen (1973) it may be completed by the age of 5, whereas for   Kinsbourne (1975) lateralization is completed by birth. Flynn and Manuel (1991), on the other hand, stated that it occurs long before the onset of puberty, perhaps during the first year of life.  Due to dearth of proper evidence, nowadays most researchers step down from setting any starting age for critical period of language learning. Resultantly, few researchers proposed a revised version of CPH, which they termed as sensitive period hypothesis. The proponents of this hypothesis hold that there are optimal times in an individual's life when the brain is maximally sensitive to learn a language. Language can still be learnt after this period but the learning process is less efficient as the brain is less sensitive to language learning. The difference between these hypotheses is very subtle:
Critical Period Hypothesis Sensitive Period Hypothesis
The ability to acquire a language begins and ends abruptly. The ability to learn a language begins and ends gradually.
Language acquisition is possible only within the specific span of age, after this time language acquisition becomes difficult or even impossible. Language learning is easier within the specific span of age; it could still be learnt at maturity but less efficiently.
  1. The case studies of linguistically deprived children also criticized for various inconsistencies. The opponents of CPH argued that the feral children could have failed to acquire language for the fact that they were retarded from infancy or that their brain was damaged due to some reason. For example, in Genie’s case it is reported that her left hemisphere was atrophied due to brain damage. Some others, however, held that the feral children’s lack of language acquisition in the later life may be due to abusive environment rather than lack of exposure to language.
  2. It is not true that children can master a second language better than adults. Birdsong’s (1992) experiments proved that adults too can attain native like competence in grammatical tasks and speaker performance.  
  3. Critical period hypothesis does not clarify exactly which areas of language should be affected after critical period. Majority of researches agree that CP is most likely to affect the pronunciation and grammar.
  4. Another shortcoming of cp is that it does not take into account the rate of language learning in different stages of learning; rather it is primarily interested in the final state of second language acquisition. But researches proved that adult learners proceed faster than the children at the initial stages of learning.
  5. The cases of Down Syndrome also criticised for inconsistency. It has been observed that children with Down Syndrome learns so slowly that they passes the critical period.
  6. Unlike Lenneberg’s claim, children are not always capable of recovering from aphasia. It has been observed that children are more capable of recovering from traumatic aphasia than adults. But children rarely show sign of recovery for aphasia resulted from vascular disorders (Guttman 1942; Van Dongen & Loonen 1976). Again, aphasia related to convulsive disorder often fails to recover as well (Gascon, Victor, Lambroso, & Goodglass 1973; Van Dongen & Loonen 1976; Worster-Drought 1971).





“A concept of 'critical period' for language acquisition: Its implication for adult language learning.” Kagawa University. 1997. Katsumi NAGAI. 28 October 2014

“Critical Period.” Wikipedia. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 28 October 2014

 “Critical Period Hypothesis.” Wikipedia. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 28 October 2014

“Critical Period Hypothesis.” Wikipedia. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 28 October 2014

“Critical Period Hypothesis.” Critical Period Hypothesis. 2014. Erika Nolin. 28 October 2014

“Critical period hypothesis (2).” Slideshare. 2014. LinkedIn Corporation. 28 October 2014

“The Critical Period Hypothesis in Second Language Acquisition:
A Statistical Critique and a Reanalysis.” PLOS ONE. 2014. PLOS ONE.28 October 2014


Monday, November 3, 2014

Chaucer as a Social Chronicler of His Age


Chaucer has been lavishly eulogized to be the greatest social chronicler of the 14th century England. His acknowledged magnum opus The Canterbury Tales mirrored an all-embracing portrait of the social, economic, cultural, and religious milieu of his age. In many respects, Chaucer’s representation of his age was more faithful and realistic than any other contemporaries. He primarily achieved this goal through portrayal of a wide variety of characters chosen carefully from every facets of society with their real follies and virtues. By portraying each character realistically, he in turn satirized the manners and affectations of the whole medieval society as well. The following discussion revolves round the various social issues captured in the writing of Chaucer:

Socio-political Condition

Initially, the medieval English society was divided into three groups, namely the church, the nobility, and the peasantry. The Church was a visibly potent force throughout England. The chief business of this sector was to pray. They did not need to work as they were supported by the nobles and the peasants. The nobility was represented by the Knight, whose job was to fight. The other characters in this group are the Yeoman, the Franklin, the Miller, and the Reeve. The peasantry consisted of the working class, represented by the Plowman.

So far, the lifestyle in the medieval society was free from the complexities of modern life. But by the late 14th century the English society encountered a huge shift and changes. During this phase the established social structure began to disintegrate due to the devastation of the grievous plague or the Black Death, which was subsequently much deteriorated by the peasant revolts such as Jack Straw rebellion of 1381. The shock of the Black Death loosened peoples’ trust on the authority of the Church, whereas the turbulence of the Jack Straw rebellion eventually paved the way for the emergence of a new middle class. This new middle class mostly consisted of the educated workers such as the merchants, the lawyers, and the clerks. Gradually, this new class gained more power and attention than ever before. And Chaucer, being a member of this new middle class endeavoured to depict and satirise the conventions of these turbulent times. In Chaucer’s description this group was represented by the Pilgrims, the Doctor, the Lawyer, the Maniciple, the Merchant, and the Wife of Bath. The Haberdasher, the Carpenter, the Weaver, and the Dyer collectively presented as the members of one of the great parish guilds and the new urban artisans achieved the power through these guild associations.

The Corruption of the Church

Geoffrey Chaucer was brave enough to unveil the decadence of the medieval Catholic Church. Chaucer’s description confirms about the moral and spiritual bankruptcy within some of its officials. Since the Church officials were not allowed to work for a living, they disregarded the vocational rules or values and resorted to various unfair means for personal gain. For example, the Monk prefers hunting and horse riding than worshiping at his monastery. Although he is aware that the monastery rules discourages monks from hunting, the Monk deliberately breaches them by stating them outmoded:
“But this same text he held not worth an oyster;
And I said his opinion was good.”
But Chaucer satirically remarked that the Monk ignores the rules lest he should give up hunting, owing possessions, and eating fine foods. The handsome and well-dressed Monk resembles more like a wealthy lord than a religious figure.

The Friars were also corrupt and hypocritical. They lived entirely by begging. They used to hear confessions and assigned relatively easy penance to those who donated money. They held that donating the friars is a good sign of true repentance.  Although they vowed to eradicate poverty, they paid no attention to the poor and used the donations to live a lavish life. Chaucer ridicules the Friars as under:
“He was the finest beggar of his house;”
In addition, the Friars also maintained a good relationship with the innkeepers and the barmaids, who can provide them food and drink.

The Summoner and the Pardoner belongs to the most corrupt Church officials. Both the characters turn to dishonesty for personal gain. The Summoner is a lecher and a drunk, always looking for a bribe. The Pardoner has a mesmeric voice to convince his audience to purchase indulges to get forgiveness for their sins.

The superficiality within the religious figures is portrayed with the character of the Prioress. Even though she is not a member of the court she is striving too hard to be courtly. In the words of Chaucer:
“She was at pains to counterfeit the look
Of courtliness, and stately manners took,
And would be held worthy of reverence.”
The Prioress is not corrupt like the other characters but Chaucer satirizes her for her affectations, the habits which do not necessarily suit a religious figure. She is so obsessed with courtly mannerism that she always dresses elegantly, speaks incorrect French and eats so carefully that she never spills a drop. Like courtly damsels she weeps when she sees a trapped mouse. But ironically, she feels no discomfort while feeding her hounds flesh, which is suggestive of her feigned courtliness. Even her devotion to the Christ is also showy since instead of carrying a rosary beads with a crucifix she wears a pendant which seems much more like a shiny piece of jewelry than a sacred religious object. More importantly, the pendant has an inscription that reads "Amor Vincit Omnia," or "Love Conquers All." Although most appropriately it could refer to God’s love but in her case more probably refers to the courtly love between a damsel and hero in one of the romances that were popular reading material for women of this time:
“Of coral small about her arm she'd bear
A string of beads and gauded all with green;
And there from hung a brooch of golden sheen
Whereon there was first written a crowned "A,"
And under, Amor vincit omnia.”
The Parson is the only honest man amongst all religious figures. He is temperate, learned, virtuous and deeply respectful towards the teachings of Christ. The Parson is dedicated to his parish and does not seek a better appointment. He visits all his parishioners of no matter how far away. He is also compassionate to the sinners and instead of rebuking he tries to teach them to lead an honest life.

Vanishing Chivalric Spirit

Chaucer’s Prologue to The Canterbury Tales remarks on the diminishment of the true chivalric spirit in medieval England. Through the character of the Knight Chaucer visualized the true spirit of chivalry. The aged Knight was a brave warrior and fought fourteen mortal battles for the sake of preserving religion. In the contrary, the young Squire, his son represents the rising conception of chivalry. Unlike his father he fights for pleasure and to receive attention from the ladies. The Squire lacks the intelligence and seriousness of his father and is much interested to lead a carefree life:
“Well could be sit on horse, and fairly ride.
He could make songs and words thereto indite,
Joust, and dance too, as well as sketch and write.
So hot he loved that, while night told her tale,
He slept no more than does a nightingale.
Courteous he, and humble, willing and able,
And carved before his father at the table.”

Courtly Love

In The Knight's Tale Chaucer gives us a description of courtly love, a recurring subject in the Middle Ages. Such a relationship is usually constituted between knights, squires and women from noble background. The knights exhibit great courage to earn their ladies’ respect, while the ladies exhibit grace, modesty, and loyalty for the knights.  Although the lover and the beloved are not married to each other, they fall deeply in love but strictly avoid immorality. Courtly love was deemed to be the true form of love and was valued over the marital relationship. Marriage was treated as social formality and a wife was treated as another property owned by the husband. More obviously, marriage was nothing but an arrangement for procreation and to avoid fornication with the partner of courtly relationship.


A great deal has been written about the position of women in the middle ages. Chaucer’s description confirms that some part of the womankind sought to liberate themselves from the clutches of the patriarchal society. The Wife of Bath, for example is an epitome of the emancipated women since she reacted against the accepted norms of sex and marriage. She wanted to release women from the male-domination by stressing on women’s freedom in marriage. With reference to the Bible she argues that there is nothing wrong to marry several times. The wife has extensive knowledge about love and sex as she was married for five times. Multiple marriages helped her to understand the ruse to gain independence in an essentially male-dominated society. She did that by depriving her husbands from using her body until they agreed to meet certain demands:
“The remedies of love she knew, perchance,
For of that art she'd learned the old, old dance.”


Chaucer’s poetry came under fierce attack for his apathy towards social reformation. He opted to depict life as he saw it and humbly refrained from suggesting any moral improvement over the blemishes of humankind. Moreover, his poetry encompasses a partial picture of the then society and is devoid of many other significant issues of the day. His description chiefly hinges round the tumultuous moments in England during the second half of the 14th century.


“How Does Satire in Chaucer's General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales Work within a Subtle Frame
of Evaluation of the Pilgrims.” 2014., Inc. 14 September 2014

 “The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story.” Shmoop University. 2014. Shmoop University.
14 September 2014 <>.

“The Canterbury Tales : Prologue.” Fordham University. 1996. Paul Halsall. 14 September 2014

 “The Canterbury Tales.” LitCharts. 2014. LitCharts. 14 September 2014

“The Canterbury Tales.” SparkNotes. 2014. SparkNotes. 14 September 2014

“TheBestNotes on The Canterbury Tales.” 2014.
14 September 2014 <>.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014



Metaphor is a figure of speech consisting of two essentially different objects, ideas, actions, or feelings with an implication that the objects are similar or identical on some point of comparison.


The English word metaphor is derived from the French word métaphore, which is derived from the Latin word metaphora, meaning “carrying over”, from Greek metaphérein, meaning “to transfer”, from meta-, meaning "over, across" + pherein, meaning "to carry, to bear”. The earliest known usage of metaphor in English dates from the 15th century.


Metaphors are often considered as a compressed form of similes. In metaphors an object of one class is equated with an object of another class based on a single or common point of resemblance. In other words, metaphors chiefly suggest that 'A is B'. This comparison is implicit or implied, rather than being specifically stated. Metaphor has two parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject or topic to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is the object whose attributes are borrowed to transform the subject into something else. We can explain this by considering an example: “Jonathan is a tiger”

Structure of Metaphor © Tanvir Shameem

In the above sentence Jonathan and tiger are from two different classes, that is, the former being a human and the latter being a feline. Here Jonathan the tenor and tiger is the vehicle. In this sentence the implicit point of comparison is “braveness” and “courage”.

Determinants of Metaphors

Lay readers often confuse metaphors with similes. Although there are no definite rules, one can follow the under- mentioned steps to determine whether a metaphor is present in a text or sentence:
  1. See whether two things are compared.
  2. Find whether the two things are dissimilar/unlike.
  3. Figure out whether the objects are implicitly compared.
  4. Notice whether the comparison is made without “like”, “as”, “than” or “as if”.

 Techniques for Determining a Metaphor (adapted from: )

Functions of Metaphors

Metaphors are abundantly used in all types of literature, whether it is poetry or prose. But its use is not merely restricted to literature only; rather it is extensively used in everyday conversations. The function of metaphor is as under:
  • Metaphors create a text more interesting as the readers get much opportunity to use their creativity to grasp the writer’s intent.
  • Metaphors can make the relatively plain characters and events of a literary work more lively and realistic.

Differences between Metaphors and Similes

Metaphor and simile should not be considered equivalent since they are different in certain respects:
  1. A metaphor makes a hidden or implicit comparison by stating two different objects as same or equal. A simile on the other hand, explicitly asserts that one thing is like another.
  2. A Metaphor makes the comparison between the two things figuratively so the reader is not able to understand the meaning by dictionary meaning. Contrariwise, in a simile the comparison between two objects are made literally as the reader can interpret the writer’s intension by dictionary meaning.

Types of Metaphors

Despite a dearth of specific yardstick a number theorists endeavoured to classify metaphors from their personal point of view. Consequently, the classification of metaphors may include but not limited to the following:
  1. Absolute Metaphor: also called paralogical metaphor or antimetaphor, a type of metaphor in which there is absolutely no connection/relation between the subject and the vehicle. Such a metaphor is often used to mislead the audience. For example: We are the eyelids of defeated caves.
  2. Conventional Metaphor: a type of metaphor which is used in everyday language and it is so common that the majority of readers are able to comprehend it.
  3. Extended Metaphor: also called conceit or sustained metaphor, where a single metaphor is used and the comparison is continued throughout several sentences in a poem.
  4. Root Metaphor: a root metaphor is rooted or embedded within a language to such an extent that the native speakers often fail to distinguish it as a metaphor. Nonetheless, root metaphors are important since different metaphors stem from them. Root metaphors basically encapsulate an individual’s perception of a particular situation.
  5. Mixed Metaphor: when two or more contrary metaphors occur in a same sentence to develop a single idea is called a mixed metaphor. A mixed metaphor is not well structured and the comparison is often confusing and comical.
  6. Simple Metaphor: also called tight metaphor, a type of metaphor which suggests a single point of resemblance between the tenor and the vehicle. For example: Alice is an angel.
  7. Compound Metaphor: also called loose metaphor, which suggests several points of similarity. In such metaphor, each part signifies an additional point of meaning in order to surprise the reader again and again. The parts often comprise adverbs and adjectives.
  8. Complex Metaphor: a complex metaphor is one in which a secondary metaphor is layered over a simple metaphor.
  9. Active Metaphor: also known as live metaphor, which is relatively new and has not yet been established as a linguistic component in everyday speech. Such a metaphor is not obvious to all listeners and remains in obscurity unless used in appropriate context.
  10. Dead Metaphor: also known as frozen metaphor, extinct metaphor is one which has lost its power to startle the listener due to overuse. Nowadays these types of metaphors exist in the vocabulary as ordinary words since their original meaning has been lost. Some theorists suggest two other states of dead metaphor:
a. Dormant Metaphor: this is a temporarily inactive metaphor since we use it without being conscious of its metaphorical significance.
b. Dying Metaphor: A dying metaphor is one which is in the process of becoming a cliché owing to extensive usage. In time its original meaning will be extinct.

Drawbacks of Metaphor

Although metaphors play a vital role to make a text interesting, sometimes it may do quite the opposite. Firstly, the reader may find a metaphor uninteresting if the analogy is too vague to comprehend. Lastly, the analogy made by metaphors is never precise; rather it is merely an approximation of the point of similarity.




“How Metaphors Work.” Changing Minds. 2014. Changing Minds. 4 August 2014

 “Metaphor.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2014. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 4 August 2014

“Metaphor.” Wikipedia. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 August 2014

“Metaphor (Figure Of Speech and Thought).” 2014. 4 August 2014

“Metaphor.” Literary Devices. 2014. Literary Devices. 4 August 2014

“Metaphor.” Urban Dictionary. 2014. Urban Dictionary. 4 August 2014

“Metaphor.” Shmoop University. 2014. Shmoop University. 4 August 2014

“Metaphor.” EnglishClub. 2014. EnglishClub. 4 August 2014

 “The Fifteen Types of Metaphors.” 2014. 4 August 2014

“What Are the Different Types of Metaphors?.” Wise Geek. 2014. Conjecture Corporation. 4 August 2014


Sunday, August 3, 2014



Simile is a figure of speech which seeks to find some point or points of resemblance between two essentially different objects, actions, or feelings.


The term simile is from Middle English, which thought to be first used in the 14th century. It was derived from the Late Latin word similis, meaning like, similar or resembling.


In similes an object in one class is said to be like an object in another class. This juxtaposed comparison is explicitly indicated by the conjunctions such as “like” or “as”, which establishes the direct relation between the objects. The literal object which evokes the comparison is called the tenor and the object which describes it is called the vehicle.  To explain this we can consider the sentence: “Jonathan is as strong as a tiger”

Structure of Simile

In the above sentence Jonathan and tiger is from two different classes, that is, the former being a human and the latter being a feline. Here Jonathan is the tenor, while tiger is the vehicle. In this construct Jonathan’s physical strength is being compared to the strength of a tiger, but not that he is a real tiger. Therefore, here we have basically drawn the point of similarity on the point of strength.
Exception in Similes
The majority of English teachers maintain that a simile is always formed by either “like” or “as”. But it should be noted that although very common, similes are not always formed by “like” or “as”. This is because, there are some similes which are made with “than” and “as if”. For instance:
  • In the eyes of his fans he is larger than life.
  • He was crying as if he were mad.
Besides, still there are some instances where a simile is made without “like”, “as”, “than” or “as if”.  For example:
“Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:”
(William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18)

Determinants of Similes

Similes pose greater problems for lay readers. Most often they confuse similes with metaphors. Although there are no definite rules, one can follow the under- mentioned steps to determine whether a simile is present in a text or sentence:
  1. See whether two things are compared.
  2. Find whether the two things are dissimilar/unlike.
  3. Figure out whether the objects are explicitly compared.
  4. Notice whether conjunctions such as “like”, “as”, “than” or “as if” is used.

Techniques for Determining a Simile

Function of Similes

The use of similes is not merely restricted to literary works; rather its presence is very common in our everyday life as well. Generally, similes are employed in order to achieve the following plus points:
  1. Similes make a text more enjoyable  and creative since the reader gets immense opportunity to use his imaginative power to comprehend what is being conveyed by the poet.
  2. Similes make the poet’s language more vivid or descriptive.
  3. Similes restrict the poet from using illogical comparison.
  4. Through the use of similes the poet can change his tone of voice in a wide variety of ways, ranging from humorous, grave, spiteful, etc.
  5. Similes inspire life-like quality in our daily talks and in the characters of fiction or poetry.

Differences between Similes and Metaphors

Although many people argue that there is little difference between similes and metaphors, in reality these two are dissimilar in a number of respect:
  1. A simile is where two objects are explicitly compared by using “as”, “like”, “than” or “as if”. A metaphor, on the other hand, also compares two things but without using “as”, “like”, “than” or “as if” and the comparison between the two things is implicit or implied, rather than being specifically stated.
  2. Similes state that the two objects share a common feature, whereas metaphors state that the two objects are the same or equal.
  3. In a simile the comparison between two objects are made literally as the reader can interpret the writer’s intension by dictionary meaning. Contrariwise, a Metaphor makes the comparison between the two entities figuratively, that is the reader is not able to understand the meaning by dictionary meaning.
  4. Although similes and metaphors are generally seen as interchangeable, similes are more tentative and decorative than metaphor.

Types of Similes

1. Everyday Speech Similes
A Simile in everyday speech is different than that of a simile used in literature. In daily communication similes are structured based on common domestic objects, for example:
  • He is sharp like a knife
  • She cries like a baby
  • His brain works like a computer
  • She is as tall as a palm tree
  • He is as brave as a tiger
  • He is as chubby as a pumpkin
2. Literary Similes
A simile in literature, on the other hand, is not as simple as the one used in everyday speech. In literature similes could be specific and direct or more lengthy and complex, for example:
"Her face was shining like the seat of a bus driver's trousers."
(P.G. Wodehouse, “Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit”, 1954)
"A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard."
(George Orwell, "A Hanging", 1931)
"She dealt with moral problems as a cleaver deals with meat."
(James Joyce, "The Boarding House", 1914)
3. Negative Similes
Although the majority of similes are structured with positive comparison, a negative comparison is also possible, for instance:
'My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;'
(William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 130”, 1609)
4. Overlapped Similes
A simile may incorporate other figures of speech such as hyperbole, understatement, imagery, or irony. For example, the following simile consists of a hyperbole:
  • My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
5. Homeric or Epic Similes
Epic similes are a type of extended comparisons, usually comparing a character or action to a natural event, running to several lines. Such similes are typically used in epic poems. Epic simile is also called Homeric simile as the Attic author used it in his famous epics Iliad and the Odyssey. The employment of epic simile not only intensifies the heroic stature of the subject matter but also serves as decoration. Typical Homeric simile makes a comparison to some kind of event, in the form "like” or “as”. The object of the comparison is usually something strange or unfamiliar to something ordinary and familiar.
“I drove my weight on it from above and bored it home
like a shipwright bores his beam with a shipwright's drill
that men below, whipping the strap back and forth, whirl
and the drill keeps twisting, never stopping –
So we seized our stake with it fiery tip
and bored it round and round in the giant's eye...”
(Homer, “The Odyssey” , 700 b.c.e.)
Epic similes sometimes involve multiple points of correspondence between the tenor and the vehicle. For example:
“Incenst with indignation Satan stood
Unterrifi'd, and like a Comet burn'd,
That fires the length of Ophiucus huge
In th' Artick Sky, and from his horrid hair
Shakes Pestilence and Warr. Each at the Head
Level'd his deadly aime; thir fatall hands
No second stroke intend, and such a frown
Each cast at th' other, as when two black Clouds
With Heav'ns Artillery fraught, come rattling on
Over the Caspian, then stand front to front
Hov'ring a space, till Winds the signal blow
To joyn thir dark Encounter in mid air:
So frownd the mighty Combatants, that Hell
Grew darker at thir frown, so matcht they stood...”
(John Milton, “Paradise Lost”, 1667)



“Epic Simile.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2014. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 14 July 2014

 “Examples of Similes.” Your Dictionary. 2014. LoveToKnow, Corp. 14 July 2014

 “Simile.” Wikipedia. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 14 July 2014

“Simile.” Literary Devices. 2014. Literary Devices. 14 July 2014

 “Simile.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2014. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 14 July 2014

“Simile.” Faculty of English. 2011. Faculty of English, University of Cambridge. 14 July 2014


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Toni Morrison Quick Facts

Toni Morrison, an American novelist, editor, and professor.
Toni Morrison

  • Full Name: Toni Morrison
  • Birth Name: Chloe Anthony Wofford
  • Alias: Toni
  • Born: February 18th 1931
  • Astrological Sign: Aquarius
  • Place of Birth:Lorain, Ohio, United States of America
  • Father: George Wofford (?1908-1975)
  • Mother: Ella Ramah Wofford (née Willis) (?1906-1994)
  • Siblings: an elder sister: Lois (b. 1929) and two younger brothers, George Carl Wofford (b. 1935) and Raymond Allen Wofford (b. 1943)
  • Marriage: 1958
  • Spouse: Harold Morrison (b. 1932)
  • Number of Children: 2 sons: Harold Ford Morrison (b. 1961); Kevin Slade Morrison (1964-2010)
  • Education:  Cornell University, Howard University
  • Known for:her compassionate observation of the black community, revealing its struggle, its suffering
  • Criticised for: NA
  • Influences: William Faulkner, Herman Melville, James Baldwin, Doris Lessing, Octavia E. Butler, Bell hooks, Christopher Barzak
  • Influenced: Junot Díaz, Homi K. Bhabha, Tracy Chevalier, Mohsin Hamid, Octavia E. Butler, Bell hooks, David Anthony Durham, Christopher Barzak


“It's a marvelous beginning. It's a real renaissance. You know, we have spoken of renaissances before. But this one is ours, not somebody else's.” Essence, Interview

Major Themes:

  • Cultural heritage of African Americans
  • Slavery
  • African American women
  • Relationship between the individual and society

Memorable Characters:

The Bluest Eye
  • Pecola Breedlove
  • Cholly Breedlove
  • Soaphead Church (alias Elihue Micah Whitcomb)
  • Sula Peace
  • Chicken Little
  • Shadrack
Song of Solomon
  • Macon “Milkman”
  • Pilate Dead
  • Guitar Bains
  • Baby Suggs
  • Sethe
  • Beloved

Notable Works:

  • The Bluest Eye (1970)
  • Sula (1973)
  • Song of Solomon (1977)
  • Tar Baby (1981)
  • Beloved (1987)
  • Jazz (1992)
  • Paradise (1999)
  • The Big Box (1999)
  • The Book of Mean People (2002)
  • Love (2003)
  • A Mercy (2008)
  • Home (2012)


  • National Book Critics Circle Award (1977)
  • American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1977)
  • Honorary degree, Barnard College (1979)
  • Pulitzer Prize (1988)
  • American Book Award (1988)
  • Robert F. Kennedy Book Award (1987-88)
  • Anisfield Wolf Book Award in Race Relations (1988)
  • Modern Language Association of American Commonwealth Award in Literature (1989)
  • Nobel Prize in Literature (1993)
  • Commander of the Arts and Letters, Paris (1993)
  • Rhegium Julii Prize for Literature (1994)
  • Condorcet Medal, Paris (1994)
  • The Pearl Buck Award (1994)
  • Jefferson Lecture (1996)
  • National Book Foundation's Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (1996)
  • National Humanities Medal (2000)
  • Honorary degree, Oxford University (2005)

Media Gallery:

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Did you Know?

  • Morrison’s father, George Wofford, worked primarily as a shipyard welder, but he held several jobs at once to support the family.
  • Her mother, Ramah, was a domestic worker.
  • She was the second child and the second girl to Wofford family.
  • Her parents moved to Ohio in order to keep their children aloof from the racist environment of the South. In Ohio Morrison grew up playing with a racially diverse group of friends. However, she began to experience racial discrimination during her teenage.
  • She changed her name to Toni because people at Howard had trouble pronouncing the name Chloe.
  • These days she is known as Toni Morrison, which is a mix of the college nickname and her married name.
  • Even after her divorce she continued to use her former husband’s last name.
  • In 1964 Morrison married the Jamaican architect Harold Morrison; the couple got divorced in 1964.
  • Morrison’s younger son Slade died on December 22, 2010 at the age of 45.
  • Morrison attended Hawthorne Elementary School, where she was the only African American in her 1st grade classroom.
  • Morrison learned to read at an early age and she was the only student at Hawthorne Elementary School to begin school with the ability to read. Morrison was so competent that she was often asked to help other students learn to read. She frequently worked with the children of new immigrants to America.
  • Morrison’s works were largely influenced by music and folktales of the black community, which she was introduced by her parents, specially her father.
  • Tony Morrison is the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize.
  • Her first novel The Bluest Eye (1970) was an expansion of an earlier short story.
  • In 1975 her novel Sula (1973) was nominated for the National Book Award.
  • Her most successful novel is Beloved (1987). When the novel failed to win the National Book Award as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award, 48 black critics and writers protested the omission. Shortly afterward, it won the Pulitzer Prize (1988) for fiction and the American Book Award.
  • 1998 Beloved was adapted into a film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.
  • Although Morrison’s novels chiefly centre around black women, she disinclined to label her works as feminist.
  • Morrison also co-authored several books for children with her son Slade, which include Big Box (1999), and Little Cloud and Lady Wind (2010).
  • Since childhood Morrison was an avid reader and the circle of her favorite authors includes Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy.
  • At present Morrison stands amongst the most critically acclaimed living writers.
  • Even though Morrison infuses her work with African-American elements, she was able to attract a reading audience from across racial boundaries.



 “Biography of Toni Morrison.” GradeSaver. 2014. GradeSaver LLC. 27 May 2014

“Biography of Toni Morrison.” Shmoop. 2014. Shmoop University. 27 May 2014

 “Toni Morrison.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft,2005.

“Toni Morrison.” Wikipedia. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 27 May 2014

“Toni Morrison.” Evi. 2014. Evi Technologies Ltd. 27 May 2014

 “Toni Morrison Biography.” Biography. 2014. A&E Television Networks, LLC. 27 May 2014

Visionaryproject. "Nobel Prize Winner Saul Bellow Reads His Fiction." Online video clip.
YouTube, 16 March 2012. Web. 27 May 2014.



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