May 29, 2017


“The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.” ~ Daniel Defoe, The Education of Women (1719)

“The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.”
~ Daniel Defoe, The Education of Women (1719)

“Thus we never see the true state of our condition till it is illustrated to us by its contraries, nor know how to value what we enjoy, but by the want of it.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“All evils are to be considered with the good that is in them, and with what worse attends them.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“It is better to have a lion at the head of an army of sheep, than a sheep at the head of an army of lions.”
~ Daniel Defoe, The Life and Adventures of Mrs. Christian Davies (1741)

“The best of men cannot suspend their fate:
The good die early, and the bad die late.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Character of the Late Dr. S. Annesley (1715)

“All our discontents about what we want appeared to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“And of all the plagues with which mankind are cursed, Ecclesiastic tyranny's the worst.”
~ Daniel Defoe, The True-Born Englishman (1701)

“Tis very strange Men should be so fond of being thought more wicked than they are.”
~ Daniel Defoe, A System Of Magick

“It is never too late to be wise.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“I have since often observed, how incongruous and irrational the common temper of mankind is, especially of youth ... that they are not ashamed to sin, and yet are ashamed to repent; not ashamed of the action for which they ought justly to be esteemed fools, but are ashamed of the returning, which only can make them be esteemed wise men.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“Nature has left this tincture in the blood,
That all men would be tyrants if they could.”
~ Daniel Defoe, The History of the Kentish Petition

“Thus fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself when apparent to the eyes; and we find the burden of anxiety greater, by much, than the evil which we are anxious about : ...”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“Man is a short-sighted creature, sees but a very little way before him; and as his passions are none of his best friends, so his particular affections are generally his worst counselors.”
~ Daniel Defoe, The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

“Those people cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them because they see and covet what He has not given them. All of our discontents for what we want appear to me to spring from want of thankfulness for what we have.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“Redemption from sin is greater then redemption from affliction.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“Wait on the Lord, and be of good cheer, and he shall strengthen thy heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“If you have regard to your future happiness, any view of living comfortably with a husband, any hope of preserving your fortunes or restoring them after any disaster, never, ladies, marry a fool. Any husband rather than a fool. With some other husband you may be unhappy, but with a fool you will be miserable.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Roxana

“So possible is it for us to roll ourselves up in wickedness, till we grow invulnerable by conscience; and that sentinel, once dozed, sleeps fast, not to be awakened while the tide of pleasure continues to flow or till something dark and dreadful brings us to ourselves again.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Roxana

“If a young women once thinks herself handsome, she never doubts the truth of any man that tells her he is in love with her; for if she believes herself charming charming enough to captive him, 'tis natural to expect the effects of it.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders

“I had been tricked once by that Cheat called love, but the Game was over...”
~ Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders

“But, he says again, if God much strong, much might as the Devil, why God no kill the Devil, so make him no more do wicked?
I was strangely surprised at his question, [...] And at first I could not tell what to say, so I pretended not to hear him...”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“It is as reasonable to represent one kind of imprisonment by another as it is to represent anything that really exists by that which exists not.”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“How mercifully can our Creator treat His creatures, even in those conditions in which they seemed to be overwhelmed in destruction! How can He sweeten the bitterest providences, and give us cause to praise Him for dungeons and prisons! What a table was here spread for me in a wilderness where I saw nothing at first but to perish for hunger!”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

“How frequently, in the course of our lives, the evil which in itself we seek most to shun, and which, when we are fallen into, is the most dreadful to us, is oftentimes the very means or door of our deliverance, by which alone we can be raised again from the affliction we are fallen into ...”
~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

May 28, 2017


“Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;  Death closes all: but something ere the end,  Some work of noble note, may yet be done,  Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.” ~ Alfred Tennyson, Ulysses

 “It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, Ulysses

“Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, Ulysses

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and I linger on the shore,
And the individual withers, and the world is more and more.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, Loksley Hall

“I sometimes find it half a sin,
To put to words the grief i feel,
For words like nature,half reveal,
and half conceal the soul within,”
~ Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam

“So runs my dream, but what am I?
An infant crying in the night
An infant crying for the light
And with no language but a cry.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam

“I hold it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam

“The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, Tithonus

“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade

“When in the down I sink my head,
Sleep, Death's twin-brother, times my breath;
Sleep, Death's twin-brother, knows not Death,
Nor can I dream of thee as dead:”
~ Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam

“Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of: Wherefore, let thy voice,
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, Idylls of the King

“T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Mov’d earth and heaven, that which we are, we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, Ulysses

“Dear as remember'd kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!”
~ Alfred Tennyson, Tears, Idle Tears

“She sleeps: her breathings are not heard
In palace chambers far apart.
The fragrant tresses are not stirr'd
That lie upon her charmed heart
She sleeps: on either hand upswells
The gold-fringed pillow lightly prest:
She sleeps, nor dreams, but ever dwells
A perfect form in perfect rest.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, The Sleeping Beauty

“She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, The Lady of Shalott

“While he gazed
The beauty of her flesh abashed the boy,
As though it were the beauty of her soul:
For as the base man, judging of the good,
Puts his own baseness in him by default
Of will and nature, so did Pelleas lend
All the young beauty of his own soul to hers”
~ Alfred Tennyson, Idylls of the King

“The wind sounds like a silver wire,
And from beyond the noon a fire
Is pour'd upon the hills, and nigher
The skies stoop down in their desire;
And, isled in sudden seas of light,
My heart, pierced thro' with fierce delight,
Bursts into blossom in his sight.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, Fatima

“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,            
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, The Passing of Arthur

“In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All around the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, The Lotos-eaters

“Let us alone. What is it that will last?
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
To war with evil? Is there any peace
In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
In silence; ripen, fall and cease:
Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.”
~ Alfred Tennyson, The Lotos-eaters

May 13, 2017

Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield, a New Zealand short story writer, who is regarded as a key figure in British modernism for developing modern short story.

Katherine Mansfield Quick Facts


  • Birth Name: Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp
  • Married Name: Kathleen Mansfield Murry
  • Pseudonym: Katherine Mansfield
  • Date of Birth: October 14, 1888
  • Place of Birth: Wellington, New Zealand
  • Zodiac Sign: Libra
  • Death: January 9, 1923
  • Place of Death: Fontainebleau, France
  • Cause of Death: Tuberculosis
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Nationality: New Zealand
  • Place of Burial: Cimetiere d'Avon, Avon
  • Gravestone Inscription:
  • Father: Harold Beauchamp (1858–1938)
  • Mother: Annie Burnell Beauchamp (1863–1818)
  • Siblings:
  1. Sister: Vera Margaret Bell (c. 1885–1974)
  2. Sister: Charlotte Mary Perkins (1887–1966)
  3. Sister: Gwedoline Burnell Beauchamp (1890–1891)
  4. Sister: Jeanne Worthington Renshaw (1892–1989)
  5. Brother: Leslie Heron Beauchamp (1894–1915)
  • Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
  • Spouse:
  1. George Bowden (m. Mar 2, 1909)
  2. John Middleton Murry (m. May 3, 1918)
  • Partner: Ida Constance Baker (1888–1978)
  • Children: 1 stillborn daughter
  • Alma Mater: Wellington Girls’ College; Queen's College
  • Known for: noted for her short stories with themes relating to women's lives and social hierarchies as well as her sense of wit and characterizations.
  • Criticized for: her bohemian lifestyle and libertinism, which entailed affairs with many men and two women.
  • Katherine Mansfield was Influenced by: Anton Chekhov (1860–1904), George Gurdjieff (1866–1949), and Beatrice Hastings (1879 –1943)
  • Mansfield’s Works Inspired: Christopher Isherwood (1904–1986), and Aldous Huxley (1894–1963)


“Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become Love. This is the mystery. This is what I must do.”

Katherine Mansfield, The Journal of Katherine Mansfield (1927), Journal entry: 19 December 1920

Major Themes

  • The growth and self-consciousness of the female
  • The relation between men and women
  • Complexity of human emotion
  • Children’s innocence
  • Repressed sexuality
  • Bisexuality
  • Disappointment
  • Gender roles
  • The cruelty of the reality
  • Death

Notable Works

  • In a German Pension (1911)
  • "Prelude" (1918)
  • Bliss and Other Stories (1920)
  • The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922)
  • The Dove's Nest (1923)
  • Something Childish (1924)

Did You Know?

  • Katherine Mansfield was the third of the five children born to a financier and the chairman of the Bank of New Zealand, Harold Beauchamp.
  • She first published her stories in the Wellington Girls’ High School magazine and the High School Reporter.
  • Her short story "Prelude” was published by Woolf's Hogarth Press as a book in 1918.
  • Only three collections of her stories were published during her lifetime and most of her works remained unpublished till her death.
  • Most of Mansfield’s subjects were recollections of her family and her childhood spent in New Zealand.
  • Mansfield was an early practitioner of stream of consciousness technique.
  • When Mansfield settled in the United Kingdom, she became a friend of modernist writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf.
  • Mansfield is thought to have contracted tuberculosis from D.H. Lawrence.
  • Apart from her literary career Mansfield is widely remembered for her promiscuous relationships with both, men and women, which partly led to her downfall.
  • At the age of nineteen she fell in love with Garnet Trowell, a young violinist. When the affair collapsed, she rashly married G.C. Bowden, a singing teacher and then abandoned him the day after the wedding to live with Ida Baker. She resumed her relationship with Garnet, became pregnant, and eventually had a stillborn child.
  • It is alleged that she had a love affair with a young woman artist, Edith Bendall.
  • In 1910 she became seriously ill with the effects of untreated gonorrhoea. An operation left her unable to have children.
  • In 1912 Mansfield met John Middleton Murry and began living together that culminated in their marriage in 1918, although she left him twice, in 1911 and 1913.
  • Katherine Mansfield died from a haemorrhage on January 9, 1923 at eleven 11 pm soon after the arrival of her husband, John Middleton Murry.
  • Mansfield willed her manuscripts, notebooks and letters to Murry, who published many posthumously, and contributed to the growth of her international reputation.
  • Ida kept many of Mansfield’s belongings, and all the letters that she and Mansfield had exchanged after 1915.
  • After Mansfield’s demise Ida looked after Murry. However, although needing to be looked after, Murry did not want to live with Ida. So the relationship did not work and Ida made a dignified exit.

Media Gallery

Katherine Mansfield in 1917

Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry in 1920

Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry in 1921

Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry

Katherine Mansfield's Family




" Katherine Mansfield.” Wikipedia. 2017. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 10 April 2017

May 12, 2017


“Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.”  ~ Jonathan Swift, The Battle of the Books, preface (1704)

“Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.”
~ Jonathan Swift, The Battle of the Books, preface (1704)

“I cannot but conclude that the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)

“Difference in opinions has cost many millions of lives: for instance, whether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh; whether the juice of a certain berry be blood or wine.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)

 “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects from Miscellanies (1711-1726)

“I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects from Miscellanies (1711-1726)

“Laws are like Cobwebs which may catch small Flies, but let Wasps and Hornets break through. But in Oratory the greatest Art is to hide Art.”
~ Jonathan Swift, A Tritical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind (1707)

“Every man desires to live long, but no man wishes to be old.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)

“Undoubtedly, philosophers are in the right when they tell us that nothing is great or little otherwise than by comparison.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)

“Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Letter to a Young Clergyman (January 9, 1720)

“Judges... are picked out from the most dextrous lawyers, who are grown old or lazy, and having been biased all their lives against truth or equity, are under such a fatal necessity of favoring fraud, perjury and oppression, that I have known several of them to refuse a large bribe from the side where justice lay, rather than injure the faculty by doing any thing unbecoming their nature in office.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)

 “The tiny Lilliputians surmise that Gulliver's watch may be his god, because it is that which, he admits, he seldom does anything without consulting.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)

“For, in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery: but in fact, eleven men well armed will certainly subdue one single man in his shirt.”
~ Jonathan Swift, The Drapier's Letters, letter iv (13 October, 1724)

“... a wife should be always a reasonable and agreeable companion, because she cannot always be young.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)

“This made me reflect, how vain an attempt it is for a man to endeavor to do himself honor among those who are out of all degree of equality or comparison with him.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)

“The latter part of a wise man’s life is taken up in curing the follies, prejudices, and false opinions he had contracted in the former.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects from Miscellanies (1711-1726)

“Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest persons uneasy is the best bred in the company.”
~ Jonathan Swift, A Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding (1754)

“Poor Nations are hungry, and rich Nations are proud, and Pride and Hunger will ever be at Variance.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)
“The power of fortune is confessed only by the miserable; for the happy impute all their success to prudence or merit.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects from Miscellanies (1711-1726)

“And surely one of the best rules in conversation is, never to say a thing which any of the company can reasonably wish had been left unsaid…”
~ Jonathan Swift, Hints Toward an Essay on Conversation (1709)

“A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.”
 ~ Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal (1729)

“It is impossible that any thing so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death, should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.”
~ Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Religion (1765)

May 2, 2017


“People have their own deaths as well as their own lives, and even if there is nothing beyond death, we shall differ in our nothingness.” ~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

“People have their own deaths as well as their own lives, and even if there is nothing beyond death, we shall differ in our nothingness.”
~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

“Adventures do occur, but not punctually. Life rarely gives us what we want at the moment we consider appropriate.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

“Life is sometimes life and sometimes only a drama, and one must learn to distinguish tother from which…”
~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

“To trust people is a luxury in which only the wealthy can indulge; the poor cannot afford it.”
~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

“The past is devoid of meaning like the present, and a refuge for cowards.”
~ E.M. Forster, Maurice

“There is no harm in deceiving society as long as she does not find you out”
~ E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

“Those who prepare for all the emergencies of life beforehand may equip themselves at the expense of joy.”
~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

“At times our need for a sympathetic gesture is so great that we care not what exactly it signifies or how much we may have to pay for it afterwards.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“It isn't possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“When love flies it is remembered not as love but as something else. Blessed are the uneducated, who forget it entirely, and are never conscious of folly or pruriency in the past, of long aimless conversations.”
~ E.M. Forster, Maurice

“The crime of suicide lies rather in its disregard for the feelings of those whom we leave behind.”
~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

“Men were not gods after all, but as human and as clumsy as girls.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“A funeral is not death, any more than baptism is birth or marriage union. All three are the clumsy devices, coming now too late, now too early, by which Society would register the quick motions of man.”
~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

“We know that we come from the winds, and that we shall return to them; that all life is perhaps a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the eternal smoothness. But why should this make us unhappy? Let us love one another, and work and rejoice. I don't believe in this world sorrow.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“There's never any great risk as long as you have money.”
~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

“All a child's life depends on the ideal it has of its parents. Destroy that and everything goes - morals, behavior, everything. Absolute trust in someone else is the essence of education.”
~ E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread

“Outside the arch, always there seemed another arch. And beyond the remotest echo, a silence.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

“The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm - yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“The tragedy of preparedness has scarcely been handled, save by the Greeks. Life is indeed dangerous, but not in the way morality would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty.”
~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

“Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“It's not what people do to you, but what they mean, that hurts.”
~ E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey

“When I think of what life is, and how seldom love is answered by love; it is one of the moments for which the world was made.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room With A View

“This desire to govern a woman -- it lies very deep, and men and women must fight it together.... But I do love you surely in a better way then he does." He thought. "Yes -- really in a better way. I want you to have your own thoughts even when I hold you in my arms.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“Let yourself go. Pull out from the depths those thoughts that you do not understand, and spread them out in the sunlight and know the meaning of them.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote.”
~ E.M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy

“Passion should believe itself irresistible. It should forget civility and consideration and all the other curses of a refined nature. Above all, it should never ask for leave where there is a right of way.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“While her lips talked culture, her heart was planning to invite him to tea”
~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

“A happy ending was imperative. I shouldn't have bothered to write otherwise. I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows, and in this sense, Maurice and Alec still roam the greenwood.”
~ E.M. Forster, Maurice

“I seem fated to pass through the world without colliding with it or moving it — and I'm sure I can't tell you whether the fate's good or evil. I don't die — I don't fall in love. And if other people die or fall in love they always do it when I'm just not there.”
~ E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread

“She only felt that the candle would burn better, the packing go easier, the world be happier, if she could give and receive some human love.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

“He had awoken too late for happiness, but not for strength, and could feel an austere joy, as of a warrior who is homeless but stands fully armed.”
~ E.M. Forster, Maurice

“One touch of regret- not the canny substitute but the true regret from the heart- would have made him a different man, and the British Empire a different institution.”
~ E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

“How indeed is it possible for one human being to be sorry for all the sadness that meets him on the face of the earth, for the pain that is endured not only by men, but by animals and plants, and perhaps by the stones?”
~ E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

“Society is invincible - to a certain degree. But your real life is your own, and nothing can touch it. There is no power on earth that can prevent your criticizing and despising mediocrity - nothing that can stop you retreating into splendour and beauty - into the thoughts and beliefs that make the real life - the real you.”
~ E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread

May 1, 2017

John Millington Synge
The formulaic tragedies are essentially tagged with the classical Greek plays of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles. These plays exerted an enduring influence on the subsequent tragic plays. The classical tragedies were composed of strict observation of rules and regulations, ranging from plot, setting, tragic hero, style, diction, dialogue, catastrophe, cathartic appeal, etc. However, during the Renaissance period William Shakespeare deviated from the strict adherence to rules and tried to create an individualistic style. The majority of modernist playwrights also paid much attention to establish a new type of tragedy. However, in all traditions, whether classical, Shakespearean, or modern, the conflicting forces in human mind and the bitter human suffering constitute the essence of tragedy. The spectacle of man's suffering, caught by some mightier forces, brings the cathartic appeal which is the inevitable experience of a tragic play. So the difference between classical and modern tragedies then chiefly lies with the technique of presentation.

In the 20th Century John Millington Synge opted to write moving plays that reverberated the traditions of the Greek tragedies in a rather modern style. Even with the modified style Synge has been able to produce tragic plays that could arouse the audience’s emotions. His critically acclaimed play Riders to the Sea is also a great tragedy in its representation of human suffering and cathartic appeal. However, the play is not merely a tragedy of an individual rather it is the tragedy of humanity, struggling for survival against the heavy odds of life.

In general there are two prevailing views on the tragic vision of life:
  1. Man is the helpless victim of fate: In Greek tragedies fate often plays a role in the downfall of a character. The tragic fate for the character is preordained and it's absolutely futile to try to outwit it. For example, Oedipus and Antigone confronts tragic end since they maintained overweening self confidence in their respective attitudes. Again, Agamemnon kills Iphigenia by divine command; Orestes kills his mother by Apollo's direction. In fine, in Greek tragedy, fate is the predominant force that leads the characters to their dooms.
  2. Character is destiny: This view is prevalent in Shakespearean tragedies wherein the role of fate is minimized and the focus is largely on human choice and moral accountability. It is the actions of each character that bring about their inevitable fate. For instance, Macbeth's downfall is engendered by unchecked ambition which entailed a desire for power and position; Othello’s tragedy is brought about by jealousy which flared at suspicion and rushed into action unchecked by calm common sense; Hamlet's inability to act brings about his tragedy.
Keeping the above context in mind we can find that in Riders to the Sea Synge incorporates mostly Greek tragic vision of life. It's more a tragedy of fate than a tragedy of character. In this play, the characters confront their downfall without any hamartia or tragic flaw. Here destiny or the fate controls everything and none can change either its decree or direction. Hence, life means nothing but tragedy and unconditional surrender to the merciless fate.

The inhabitants of Aran Islands are dependent solely on the sea in order to support their family. They have been going to the sea from generation to generation fully aware of the danger of death. The cruel sea has devoured countless lives, but the struggle of the islanders never ceases as there are no other options for earning living. Thus here the sea assumes almost the role of fate and becomes instrumental to human suffering and death. It is rather the nemesis of human life that comes down to shatter human hopes and happiness.

Riders to the Sea is full of grim wherein we are informed that Maurya has already lost six loved ones to the ocean, her father-in-law, her husband, and four of her sons. In Maurya’s words:

“I've had a husband, and a husband's father, and six sons in this house – six fine men, though it was a hard birth I had with every one of them and they coming to the world– and some of them were found and some of them were not found, but they're gone now, the lot of them.... There were Stephen, and Shawn, were lost in the great wind, and found after in the Bay of Gregory of the Golden Mouth.”

Now her only surviving sons are the eldest Michael and the youngest Bartley. Unfortunately Michael has been missing for nine days and discovery of his dead body ultimately confirmed his demise. All these loved ones went to the sea being fully aware of the possible danger and faced what the destiny predetermined. They can’t be held liable for their decision, as it was an inevitable part of their living. Eventually, Bartley also walks in the same path and decides to go to the main land in order to sell a couple of horses at the cattle fair. He too, was conscious of the dangers but was determined to stick to his decision. In the end Bartley is thrown by his horse and swept out into sea, where he drowns. Thus Bartley falls a victim to fate without having any hamartia or whatsoever. Maurya’s speech also echoes that man is helpless against fate:

“In the big world the old people do be leaving things after them for their sons and children, but in this place it is the young men do be leaving things behind for them that do be old.”

Moreover, Maurya’s closing remark confirms that none can fight against the fate. So she admits the power of the fate and surrenders to fate saying:

“What more can we want than that? No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied.”

To conclude, Riders to the Sea is a great modern tragedy having Greek dramatic qualities. Here Synge did an excellent job by representing fate symbolically, however along with its age-old relentless nature. Through the cruelty of the fate Synge universalized the theme of human suffering and loss.

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