A blog for the comprehensive understanding of Literature, Applied Linguistics and ELT

September 30, 2009

“The Hairy Ape” as a Modern Tragedy

The representation of tragedy today has adapted itself to more humanistic, base and symbolic concerns. Often, they are commentaries on society just as much as they are on the nature of man. Eugene O'Neill's greatest creation The Hairy Ape dramatises the vision of the tragic and alienated condition of men in the modern complex social system. The play symbolises the struggle of modern men within industrial society following an individual's (Yank) baffled search for identity, to recover his sense of belongingness by overcoming his sense of isolation or alienation from society. The play concludes with resignation at the tragic end of that quest.

The Hairy Ape is a tragedy of modern times, having no conventional hero of the classical or Aristotelian tradition. The play presents an antihero, possessing no extraordinary quality or tragic flaw. The protagonist, Yank (Real name Bob Smith) is not a man of high position like Oedipus of Sophocles; rather he is an everyman character. He is a humble stoker in a ship whose duty is to shove fuel into the furnace of ship's engine. He works long hours in the ship’s low roofed stokehole. He is beastly, filthy, and coarse. He is a burly, sometimes menacing figure who has difficulty with thought. He is potent, proud and dominating, and considers physical strength as the lifeblood of his universe. He feels proud being an integral and vital part of the ship's motion and loves his work and the ship more than the others. He is the dominating figure among the stokers by virtue of his superior physical power. He is complacent, happy and satisfied with his present condition as a stoker with a sense that he belonged to the ship, he is something, and his co-workers were his social mates.

He does not have any tragic flaw, but he suffers and faces demise because he is in conflict with his environment, with certain social forces that are much stronger than him. He struggled hard against the forces but he could not win. Mildred Douglas's reaction to Yank is the catalyst which makes Yank come to class awareness. Yank is especially affected by Mildred because she presents a world and class which he cannot belong to. Her remark shakes the very foundation of his sense of well being, his feeling that he was the necessary and vital part of a social system. He feels very much insulted because Mildred does not respect or even value the essentiality of his role in a small world of stokehole. Like Adam he is aware of his own nakedness and must leave the garden. The illusion of belonging drops away and he becomes aware that he is fatally caught between earth and heaven. He feels utterly alianated from society and identifies himself as an outsider who does not deserve to belong here.

The Hairy Ape by Eugene O'Neill

Obsessed by excessive anger Yank decides to avenge the rich girl by killing her. He visits the Fifth Avenue to fulfill his resolution. He attacks people there and is put into prison, where he comes to feel that he is a hairy ape. After his release from the prison he visits a zoo where tries to befriend a gorilla whom he addresses as ‘brother’ and tries to embrace him. The gorilla crushes him and throws him into the cage. Yanks dies there miserably like an animal. After his demise the writer comments that at last he found his identity and knows where he belongs.

Throughout this struggle Yank defines ‘belonging’ as power. When he thinks he ‘belongs’ to something he gains strength, when Yank is rejected by a group, he is terribly weak. However, Yank is rejected by all facets of society: his fellow firemen/stokers, Mildred, the street goers of Fifth Avenue, the I.W.W., and finally the ape in the zoo. Yank symbolises the struggle of modern man within industrial society—he cannot break class or ideological barriers, nor create new ones.

The Hairy Ape is a penetrating and concentrating tragedy on human predicament in the modern age. The subtitle ‘A Comedy of Ancient and Modern Life’ is merely ironical. It points the satirical intent of the playwright. The rich class might look at it as comedy because a beastly man dies. But the playwright’s intent is that we should think over the question, why such a powerful man belonging to the working class dies. He is a victim of the mechanical social system. His death should arouse pity and sorrow for a human being though ordinary.
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September 28, 2009

Quotations by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare, William (15-1965), 16th century English playwright and poet


Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
William Shakespeare

Be great in act, as you have been in thought.
William Shakespeare

Action is eloquence.
William Shakespeare

And since you know you cannot see yourself,
so well as by reflection, I, your glass,
will modestly discover to yourself,
that of yourself which you yet know not of.
William Shakespeare

And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends, stol'n forth of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.
William Shakespeare

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind,
As man's ingratitude.

William Shakespeare

Conversation should be pleasant without scurrility, witty without affectation, free without indecency, learned without conceitedness, novel without falsehood.
William Shakespeare

For they are yet ear-kissing arguments.
William Shakespeare

Free from gross passion or of mirth or anger
constant in spirit, not swerving with the blood,
garnish'd and deck'd in modest compliment,
not working with the eye without the ear,
and but in purged judgement trusting neither?
Such and so finely bolted didst thou seem.
William Shakespeare

A wretched soul, bruised with adversity,
We bid be quiet when we hear it cry;
But were we burdened with like weight of pain,
As much or more we should ourselves complain.
William Shakespeare

Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till by broad spreading it disperses to naught.

William Shakespeare

God bless thee; and put meekness in thy mind, love, charity, obedience, and true duty!
William Shakespeare

He who has injured thee was either stronger or weaker than thee. If weaker, spare him; if stronger, spare thyself.
William Shakespeare

His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up,
And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!
William Shakespeare

I pray thee cease thy counsel,
Which falls into mine ears as profitless
as water in a sieve.
William Shakespeare

I pray you bear me henceforth from the noise and rumour of the field, where I may think the remnant of my thoughts in peace, and part of this body and my soul with contemplation and devout desires.
William Shakespeare

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.
William Shakespeare

I wish you well and so I take my leave,
I Pray you know me when we meet again.
William Shakespeare

Ill deeds are doubled with an evil word.
William Shakespeare

In a false quarrel there is no true valour.
William Shakespeare

In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility.
William Shakespeare

In time we hate that which we often fear.
William Shakespeare

How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.
William Shakespeare

How use doth breed a habit in a man.
William Shakespeare

I am not bound to please thee with my answers.
William Shakespeare

I did never know so full a voice issue from so empty a heart: but the saying is true 'The empty vessel makes the greatest sound'.
William Shakespeare

I dote on his very absence.
William Shakespeare

I feel within me a peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience.
William Shakespeare

I hate ingratitude more in a man
than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness,
or any taint of vice whose strong corruption
inhabits our frail blood.
William Shakespeare

I must be cruel only to be kind;
Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind.
William Shakespeare

It is not enough to help the feeble up, but to support him after.
William Shakespeare


Lady you bereft me of all words,
Only my blood speaks to you in my veins,
And there is such confusion in my powers.

William Shakespeare
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, So do our minutes hasten to their end.

William Shakespeare

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.
William Shakespeare

Mine honour is my life; both grow in one; take honour from me and my life is done.
William Shakespeare

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
William Shakespeare

Nothing emboldens sin so much as mercy.
William Shakespeare

Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners.
William Shakespeare
Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie.
William Shakespeare

Pity is the virtue of the law, and none but tyrants use it cruelly.
William Shakespeare

Praising what is lost makes the remembrance dear.
William Shakespeare

See first that the design is wise and just: that ascertained, pursue it resolutely; do not for one repulse forego the purpose that you resolved to effect.
William Shakespeare

So may he rest, his faults lie gently on him!
William Shakespeare

Strong reasons make strong actions.
William Shakespeare

Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.
William Shakespeare

Sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like a toad, though ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in its head.
William Shakespeare

Thou shalt be both the plaintiff and the judge of thine own cause.
William Shakespeare

Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance.
William Shakespeare

Thy words, I grant are bigger, for I wear not, my dagger in my mouth.
William Shakespeare

Virtue and genuine graces in themselves speak what no words can utter.

William Shakespeare
We are advertis'd by our loving friends.
William Shakespeare

We do not keep the outward form of order, where there is deep disorder in the mind.
William Shakespeare

We know what we are, but not what we may be.
William Shakespeare

When griping grief the heart doth wound,
and doleful dumps the mind opresses,
then music, with her silver sound,
with speedy help doth lend redress.

William Shakespeare

The peace of heaven is theirs that lift their swords, in such a just and charitable war.
William Shakespeare

The sands are number'd that make up my life.
William Shakespeare

The soul of this man is in his clothes.
William Shakespeare

The trust I have is in mine innocence,
and therefore am I bold and resolute.
William Shakespeare

Their understanding
Begins to swell and the approaching tide
Will shortly fill the reasonable shores
That now lie foul and muddy.
William Shakespeare

Thou art all the comfort,
The Gods will diet me with.
William Shakespeare
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September 11, 2009

Transcendentalism

Transcendentalism is a 19th-century movement of writers and philosophers in New England who were loosely bound together by adherence to an idealistic system of thought based on a belief in the essential unity of all creation, the innate goodness of man, and the supremacy of insight over logic and experience for the revelation of the deepest truths.

It began as a protest against the general state of culture and society at the time, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard and the doctrine of the Unitarian church which was taught at Harvard Divinity School. It is an American version of English romanticism. It was influenced by German transcendentalism, Platonism and Neo-Platonism, Christian mysticism and English Romanticism. The transcendentalists stressed on the following factors:
  1. The transcendentalists believed that human beings find truth within themselves, and so they emphasized self-reliance and individual conscience.
  2. They believed that society is a necessary evil. They argued that to learn what is right, a person must ignore custom and social codes and rely on reason.
  3. The transcendentalists believed that the doctrines and organized churches of orthodox Christianity interfered with the personal relationship between a person and God. The transcendentalists said that individuals should reject the authority of Christianity and gain knowledge of God through reason.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was the leading American transcendentalist. The American transcendentalists never became numerous, but their writings greatly influenced American intellectual history and literature. Besides Emerson, the leading American transcendentalists included Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Theodore Parker, and Henry David Thoreau.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the leading American transcendentalist
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The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Introduction

First published in the collection The Rose in 1893,"The Lake Isle of Innisfree" is an example of Yeats's earlier lyric poems. As an adult, Yeats often yearned for the quiet life in his native place Sligo, where he spent many boyhood days at Innisfree island on the lake Lough Gill. His carefree days there inspired Yeats to write "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." In his autobiography, however, Yeats wrote that his poem was influenced by his reading of the American writer Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854), which describes Thoreau's experiment of living alone in a small hut in the woods on Walden Pond, outside Concord, Massachusetts.


The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Text

Main Text Bangla Translation
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
আমি এখন জেগে উঠব এবং যাব ইনিসফ্রিতে,
আর বানাব সেথায় এক ছোট্ট কুটির কাদা ও বেড়ায়:
সেথায় থাকবে আমার নয়টি শিম-ঝার এবং একটি মৌচাক,
আর করব একাকী বাস সেই মধুকর-মুখরিত মুক্ত প্রান্তরে।
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping
     slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket
     sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
আর সেথায় আমি কিছুটা শান্তি পাব, কারন শান্তি আসে ধীরলয়ে,
ফোঁটায় ফোঁটায় আকাশের প্রচ্ছন্নতা হতে ঝিঁঝিঁ গুঞ্জরিত স্হানে;
নিশীত সেথায় ম্লান, আর মধ্যাহ্ন হল রক্তাভ,
আর সন্ধাকাল লিনেটের ডানা ঝাপটানোয় মুখরিত।
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
আমি এখন জেগে উঠব এবং যাব, কেননা দিন-রাত সর্বক্ষন
আমি শুনি তীরে আছরে পড়া হ্রদের পানির মৃদু তরঙ্গ ভঙ্গের আওয়াজ;
যখনই আমি দাড়াই সড়ক পথে, অথবা ধুসর ফুটপাতে,
হৃদয়ের অন্তস্থলের গভীরেও আমি কেবল তাহাই শুনি।

Notes

Innisfree- a small island on the lake Lough Gill near Yeats' native place Sligo in northwestern Ireland.

Wattle - stakes or poles interwoven with branches and twigs, used for walls, fences, and roofs, বেড়া.

Hive - home for bees, মৌচাক.

Glade - an area in a wood or forest without trees or bushes, ফাঁকা প্রান্তর.

Cricket - a leaping chirping insect, ঝিঁঝিঁ পোকা.

Linnet - a small brownish songbird of the finch family that lives in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Commentary

The discussional poem is a romantic poem. It is moulded on escapism, a dominant feature of romantic poetry. Broadly speaking, the poem echoes one of the basic yearnings of every human heart, that is, to escape from the harsh reality of the materialistic life to a Utopian world. In this poem we see that the poet is dissatisfied as well as bored with his earthly life. To escape from the chaos and corrupting influences of civilisation the poet longs to go to the magnificent dreamland of Innisfree. In the canvas of imagination the poet conceives of building his own miniature world where there will be a cottage built of clay and wattles. Nine bean rows will provide him with food and a beehive will supply him honey. And he further imagines that the Nature's free agent the cricket and the linnet will be his companion for solitude. The poet feels that this refuge will ensure him a carefree life. The poet is determined to go the magical island because regardless of day or night, he hears the hypnotic call of that dreamland in the innermost core of his heart.

Study Questions

Q.1. What is Innisfree?

Ans. Innisfree is a Utopia, an alternative route for the poet to escape from the disturbance of the materialistic life. But it is not entirely an imaginative setting, rather it is an island near Yeats' native place Sligo in northwestern Ireland. Yeats used this island as a symbolic place of tranquility and solace, which is remote from the busy city of London.

Q.2.Why does the poet want to go to Innisfree?

Ans. The poet wants to go to Innisfree with a view to escape from the stark realitites of earthly life. He has become weary of the bustling environment in the London city. As a result, he yearns to go to the lonely isle of Innisfree in search of complete peace and solitude.

Q.3. What does the poet want to do there?

Ans. In Innisfree the poet wants to build for himself a small cottage of clay and wattles. He also wants to have his own vegetable garden for the supply of food and a beehive for honey.

Q.4. What does the poet hear in the depth of his heart?

Ans. The poet hears in the depth of his heart the alluring sound of the waves gently washing the shore.

Q.5. What vivid and colourful picture of nature do you find in the poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?

Ans. Yeats' poems are replete with wonderful nature imagery. The poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" is no exception in this respect. It presents a wide range of vivid and flamboyant pictures of nature that appeals our sense of sight, hearing simultaneously. The misty morning, the light of the moon and the stars glimmering through the veil of mist at the midnight, the purple glow of the sun at noon delight our eyes. Then the song of cricket in the morning, the musical sound of the flutter of the wings of the linnet returning to their nests in the evening and the sound of the lake water washing the shores continuously amuse our ears.

Suggested Study Questions

Q.1.How succesfully does Yeats blend romantic escapism with realism in his poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?
Q.2.Write a note on the rhythmical structure used by Yeats in his poem The "Lake Isle of Innisfree"?
Q.3.Find out the autobiographical elements in the poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree".
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