How might we interpret Sylvia Plath’s symbolic portrayal of a father figure in ‘Daddy’

Sylvia Plath throughout Daddy employs a range of symbolism in order to create a persona through which to project her feelings, by divulging the most intimate parts of her psyche. Through the use metaphor, the persona may purge herself of the emotions felt by her father’s untimely death. David Lodge asserts that ‘Literary symbolism tends towards a rich plurality, even ambiguity’ the symbol of a father figure is employed to reveal the nature of the persona’s relationship with her father and expand on the reality of her experience. There are many ambiguous images injected throughout the poem as the persona reconstructs her father’s image and reconnects with society.

Firstly, a sense of traumatic childhood experiences are invoked as we witness nostalgic tones and a sense of oppression through the child-like language of the poem. The innocence and childishness of the persona is presented through the peculiar vocabulary the persona uses throughout the poem: such as onomatopoeia in ‘Achoo’ and ‘Chuffing.’The sense of the childhood melds into a suggestion of Jewish persecution and terror as shown through the line: ‘It stuck in a barb wire snare.’ It is through this that the child’s feelings of intimidation become clear as the persona’s imagery frequently alludes to the Holocaust to symbolize the fear and pain she endured during this time. The atrocities of Nazi Germany are used as symbols of the horror of male domination as the Germanic ‘Daddy’ makes himself felt by his authoritarian aura. By accentuating linguistically using the heavy cadences of nursery rhyme such as ‘I could never talk to you,’ the persona is insinuating the innocence of youth torn quickly apart by the images and language of Nazism as the next line reads ‘the tongue stuck in my Jaw.’ By retracing her infantile traumas through the use of symbolism, the persona is conveying to us the yearnings of a young tortured woman trying to escape from the mental abuse and corruption of a dominate father. The persona wants to recreate with immediacy the child’s view by outing a simple perspective reflected through facile language.

Moreover, continuously throughout the poem, phallic imagery in Daddy is implied. First of all, the poem title preference of choice being ‘Daddy’ rather than the more mature expression of ‘Father,’ sets up a direct address from the persona to the character of the father she has created. This gives an ambiguous expression of a child wishing to be dominated. Daddy is a depiction of feminine and masculine energy, where the persona mythologies the figure of her father.In the fifth stanza when the persona states ‘Put your foot, your root’ the foot is a symbol for a threatening, suffocating object, symbolizing that her father is sexually brutal. Thus conveying to us that the persona is powerless to stop his overriding authority as she asserts ‘I could never speak,’ a structural echo linking to the previous stanza where she utters ‘I could never talk to you.’ Unresolved and paradoxical feelings of pain and love about the persona’s parent, Otto Plath, who left her at a young age, are the sole reason she enforced himself on her memory–to perpetuate his image and continue her sexual longings. These lines express the constant and crippling manipulation of the father figure, as he introduces oppression and hopelessness into her life. A father’s authority is intertwined with the abuse of power as it occurs in the real world and the persona’s feelings of abandonment and despair are mirrored with those of Nazi’ as she states ‘I thought every German was you.’As the poem progresses, it is symbolic of the transgressions of the poet’s life as she grows older, the persona moves from desiring her father: ‘I used to pray to recover you’ to fearing him: ‘I have always been scared of you’ to hating him: ‘brute heart’. The gentle nature of the poem title ‘Daddy’ juxtaposed with these violent images shows the persona’s internal struggles with her father’s subconscious, arrogant and dismissive nature. Eventually, the sexual pull and tug of the absent figure from her childhood allows us to grasp that she is sexually obsessed with her father.The suggestion of incest is embellished in the poet’s implication as she allows herself to develop sexually aggressive feelings as she says ‘I made a model of you..And said I do, I do, I do.’

On the other hand, as David Lodge states, symbolism is a ‘nice balance between realistic description and symbolic suggestion.’ As a result, Robert Phillips claims that the persona‘frequently uses elements from her experience as the starting point for imagistic and thematic elaborations.’ The ‘black shoe’ the persona refers to is an example of these imagistic elaborations. The use of the colour ‘black’ connotes death and darkness intertwined with a bind of claustrophobic suffering and suffocation. This kind of ethereal and dark imagery arrives as the poem progresses and the colour palette suggests that the poet has a cage of suppressed emotion. The ‘black shoe’ is a metaphor to express how her life is trapped in sorrow like a foot is trapped in a shoe. However, by also mentioning later in the poem controversial Nazi imagery ‘every woman adores a Fascist,’ it symbolises the persona’s reliance but also fear of her father; the persona is at first desperately seeking a return to the traditional roles of father and daughter. As demonstrated, the ‘foot’ is ultimately a metaphor for the feelings weighing the poet down in all her years of being unable to express her anxieties and communicate with her absent father figure. This view is further highlighted through the line ‘the black telephones off at the root.’ The persona begins to realise the need to reject the traditional roles and her desire for emancipation from her father is the reason for the denouement of the poem: ‘daddy, you bastard, I’m through.’ This line is ambiguous in its interpretation: It is symbolic of the fact that the persona has severed ties and is ‘through’ with ‘daddy.’ Yet, the use of the communicative device of the ‘telephone’ and the repetition of the colour ‘black’ suggests that the persona is actually through to him. So, in substance, although the poet begins to shrivel emotionally by being unable to come to terms with her father’s death, the ‘telephone’ is symbolic of how the persona leaves the imagistic elaborated world she has created and reconnects with reality.

Alternately, one would argue that in Daddy the persona finally castrates the image of her father’s memory and becomes an independent self. It is in ‘Daddy’ that through a metaphorical murder ‘Daddy, daddy you bastard, I’m through,’ she breaks completely free from being a perceived victim and from the power and influence of men. By branding herself as a ‘Jew’ the persona is dramatizing the war in her soul in addition to appreciating as well as accepting her submissive position. This position intensifies her emotional paralysis before the image of an ‘Aryan’ father with whom she is both connected and at enmity. The persona transcends this by ceremonially killing her father: ‘There’s a stake in your fat black heart and the villagers never liked you. They are dancing and stamping on you.’ This killing is not just an individual one, but is part of a ritual joined in by the ‘villagers.’ When the persona drives the ‘stake’ through her father’s heart; she is not only is exorcising the demon of her father’s memory, but metaphorically is killing him also.The process of doing away with ‘Daddy’ in the poem represents the persona’s attempts at psychic expurgation of ‘the model’ of the father she has constructed. The lines serve as a way of describing the ability of her father’s influence to strip the persona of her own sense of consciousness. The poet employs what Freud would call after-effect – she kills her already dead father again in the mental world in order to accept his death and free herself. Therefore, ridding him is a symbol for the empowerment of the persona and the strength she establishes as the poem progresses.

Word Count: 1,531

N.B: I am still alive, I apologize for my lack of posting.
I have always wanted to explore Sylvia Plath, so here you are (whoever you maybe) There is a bibliography/webography so ask if there are any concerns about copyright etc I just didn’t want to bore you with names of texts you will properly never read. Thanks for your time, I will still continue to post, promise.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Literature, Authors, Literature, New Criticism, Poetry, Thoughts The 40 Coolest Characters in Literature has recently compiled their list of the 40 Coolest Characters in Literature. I’ve got to admit, I was very happy to see a few of my favorite characters made it onto the list. However, there were a couple as to which I couldn’t help but wonder why they were shortchanged (who WOULDN’T want to get a pint with Stephen Dedalus?!) Alas, to each his own.


That said–what do you think of the list? Any characters not make the cut that you think deserved to be on there? Got any gripes with any of the characters currently on there? What exactly makes a literary character “cool”? I, for one, think it’s pretty damn interesting and–dare I say it–cool to see some of the best works of literary fiction ever presented on a very entertaining level. I’m a sucker for seeing the juxtaposition of entertainment and high literature!

So, what’s your opinion? Discuss!



1 Comment

Filed under American Literature, Authors, Books, British Literature, Culture, Fiction, Literature, Opinions, Thoughts

Centrality and Vulnerability of the Female Form in Gothic Literature

Hello, readers! The Halloween season is upon us, and I uncovered an essay I wrote a few years ago on Gothic Art and Literature, which I originally published on Yahoo! Voices. In keeping with the theme and season, I thought it was appropriate to re-publish it here! Hope you enjoy it, and Happy Halloween!

In Gothic literature, women long for as well as resist male approval. This focus on the centrality and vulnerability introduces a new type of character made popular by the Gothic genre: the “damsel in distress.” The “damsel in distress” is a chief character in Gothic literature, where she is typically incarcerated in a castle or monastery and terrorized by a sadistic nobleman, or members of the religious order. However, though these female characters are portrayed as feeble and powerless, the “damsel in distress” character often seems to ultimately offer a threat to the power of the patriarch. Two examples of this are Matilda in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, and Antonia in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk. In contrast to this, Marie Antoinette is portrayed as a “damsel in distress” in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on a Revolution, as a means of critiquing the horrors of the Revolution and the loss of the “age of chivalry,” yet also praising the patriarchal state existing in France at the time.

In The Castle of Otranto, the “damsel in distress” is best portrayed through the character of Matilda. Matilda is the daughter of Manfred, the villainous patriarch. After the unfortunate “crushing” accident of his son Conrad, his wife Hippolita sends Matilda to take care of her father, but he cannot be bothered. He does not want to see his daughter—it is a son that he desires and lacks. Matilda is affected by her brother’s death and she is hurt by her father’s cruel actions. Manfred’s control over his family and Matilda’s ultimate and unwavering loyalty to him seem to make her a vulnerable, weak character.

Though Matilda is portrayed as weak because of her loyalty to her father, there is a shift in her character by the end of the novel. When Matilda releases Theodore from the dungeon, she subverts Manfred’s wicked plan in the name of charity and love. In doing this, she threatens Manfred’s patriarchy, leading him to fatally stab her. Even in this time of ultimate physical and emotional weakness and vulnerability, she has the strength to forgive him for his digression:

“It will not be,” said Matilda— “commend me to Heaven: —where is my father? —forgive him, dearest mother —forgive him my death; it was an error —Oh! I had forgotten —dearest mother, I vowed never to see Theodore more— perhaps that has drawn down this calamity—but it was not intentional— can you pardon me?” 1

By doing this, Matilda thus takes on a Christ-like form.

This same type of vulnerable, fatalistic character is portrayed in Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. The Monk is what is known as a “male” Gothic novel. A “male” Gothic is a novel in which the central character is male and controls everything. Since the main character is male, the violence and horror are grounded in the “other” i.e. the female. This idea of the “male” Gothic consists of a perversion of chivalry, fundamental misogyny, and a focus on the “male” gaze. The only truly pure woman in a male Gothic is a dead woman. The vulnerable female character in The Monk is Antonia.

Antonia is a pure virgin who was brought up in an old castle. Upon the first description of her, she is veiled so that the young men cannot see her face which, in turn, increases their desire:

Her features were hidden by a thick veil; but struggling through the crowd had deranged it sufficiently to discover a neck which for symmetry and beauty might have vied with the Medicean Venus. It was of the most dazzling whiteness, and received additional charms from being shaded by the tresses of her long fair hair, which descended in ringlets to her waist. Her figure was rather below than above the middle size: it was light and airy as that of an Hamadryad. Her bosom was carefully veiled, her dress was white; it was fastened by a blue sash, and just permitted to peep out from under it a little foot of the most delicate proportions. A chaplet of large grains hung upon her arm, and her face was covered with a veil of thick black gauze.2

Her veil becomes askew, but the reader can only “see” her in bits and pieces. When her face is finally revealed, it too is described in ornate and over-embellished pieces. This is a centralization as well as dissection of the female body. This idea of portraying the woman in “pieces” was also popular in Gothic art history.

Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement, ca. 1440–44 Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, Florentine, ca. 1406–1469)

Filippo Lippi’s “Portrait of Man and Woman at Casement” c.1440  and Domenico Ghirlandaio’s “Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni” c. 1448, both portrayed women as fragmented, only drawn as profile portraits. This “piecing” of the feminine form creates a fetishized object of desire and degradation for the male viewer.

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, 1489-90

The ultimate “male” view of Antonia is possessed by the monk Ambrosio. Ambrosio’s power manifests itself in his language. His words penetrate into Antonia’s soul and, through language, emotion imprisons her, rendering her weak and vulnerable. Lorenzo, one of the young men who desire Antonia, dreams of an unknown force that grabs Antonia before he can touch her. This is a foreshadowing of the terror that is to come, producing a victimization of the woman. During this time, Antonia longs for Ambrosio to be her confessor. She eventually does get to confess to him, and he fantasizes about her.

Ambrosio is fully aware of the extent of his degradation. He feels a “gentle violence” toward Antonia3 and uses ambiguous language to seduce her. When Elvira sees Ambrosio hug Antonia and disarrange her clothing, she warns him to stop coming to their home, to which he vows revenge. He later uses a magic mirror to see his desires, and in it he sees Antonia getting ready for a bath. The reader is then given a description of her naked body:

The scene was a small closet belonging to her apartment. She was undressing to bathe herself. The long tresses of her hair were already bound up. The amorous monk had full opportunity to observe the voluptous contours and admirable symmetry of her person. She threw off her last garment, and, advancing to the bath prepared for her, put her foot into the water.4

Antonia is depicted almost like a piece of artwork. Ambrosio decides to weaken her to her most vulnerable state: he plans on putting her into a deep sleep so that he may have his way with her.

Ambrosio arrives in Antonia’s room and, in her moment of terror, Antonia is eroticized:

Her mouth, half opened, seemed to solicit a kiss: he bent over her: he joined his lips to hers, and drew in the fragrance of her breath with rapture. This momentary pleasure increased his longing for still greater. His desires were raised to that frantic height by which brutes are agitated. He resolved not to delay for one instant longer the accomplishment of his wishes, and hastily proceeded to tear off those garments which impeded the gratification of his lust.5

When Antonia awakes she is then given a juice by Matilda so that she will be unconscious for forty-eight hours. Ambrosio finds her and addresses her, believing that she is dead. He places responsibility on her for his committing murder. When she awakes, she believes that Ambrosio will be her savior. Ambrosio rapes Antonia and again he puts the blame of his transgression on her. Then, in a fate very similar to that of Matilda’s in The Castle of Otranto, he fatally stabs Antonia, saying that she has been “defiled” and she is killed before she has the chance to marry Lorenzo.

While Ambrosio has exerted his power of Antonia, she still poses a grave threat to his patriarchal standing. After her death, Ambrosio is unmasked and tortured. He is condemned for rape, murder and sorcery. When Lucifer arrives, he tempts Ambrosio and tells him the secret of the birth. It is then that the reader finds out that Antonia was actually Ambrosio’s sister. From this one can see the full extent and horror of Ambrosio’s sin. Lucifer then does God’s work by killing Ambrosio, thus killing the villain. Though Ambrosio may have reduced Antonia to her most vulnerable state, she ultimately robbed him of his patriarchal power, even after her death.

While in most novels the female is portrayed as vulnerable, yet still a threat to the patriarch, Edmund Burke’s work offers a variation of this view. He opposes the “male” gothic by critiquing the end of the “age of chivalry.” In Reflections on the Revolution, he poses Marie Antoinette as the “damsel in distress” —a role in which she was often not viewed. Edmund Burke firmly opposed the French Revolution. His championing against the Revolution made him a focal point of many artistic political commentaries of the time. Cartoonist James Gillray’s (1757-1815) Smelling out a Rat shows Edmund Burke “sniffing out the activites of the notorious radical clergyman Dr. Richard Price.”6 Burke is reduced to a fantasmagoria of superstition, emerging from a cloud, holding up tokens of the Church and State, masking himself with his own Reflections on the Revolution. Though Burke’s work is an intellectual and historical one, he fuses in many Gothic characteristics. He rewrites the horrific events of the Revolution as such to give a Gothic view of history. Burke does this as a means of undermining the radical impulse of the Gothic mode. He appropriates sentiment as a means of propping up the monarchy. One way in which he does this is by portraying Marie Antionette as the “damsel in distress:”

From this sleep the queen was first startled by the voice of the sentinel at her door, who cried out to her to save herself by flight…A band of cruel ruffians and assassins, reeking with his blood, rushed into the chamber of the queen, and pierced with a hundred strokes of bayonets and poniards the bed, from whence this persecuted woman had but just time to fly almost naked, and, through ways unknown to the murderers, had escaped to seek refuge at the feet of a king and husband, not secure of his own life for a moment.7

During the graphic and violent French Revolution, the reader gets an image of Marie Antoinette rushing away, almost naked. She becomes an object of pleasure for the viewer. Burke imagines Marie Antoinette as a beautiful prisoner who is suffering, yet still has great faith. This contrasts the popular view of Marie Antionette at the time. She was often portrayed as cruel and unjust. There were many portraits done of her execution, such as Jacques Louis David’s, as well as harsh portraits such as her head on the body of a hyena and the like. Burke chooses to portray her as a “damsel in distress” to show how the fall of the Queen represents “chivalry gone wrong.” The villains in this “Gothic” are the populous, who should have defended Marie Antoinette. While they are chided, the nobility and clergy are glorified, venerating the idea of the patriarchal state.

In Gothic literature and art history, women were often viewed as meek, helpless beings. The creation of the “damsel in distress” character stresses the feminized form, which asserts the dominance of men during the time. However, though the women in “male” Gothic novels are “helpless” and fetishized, this only forces the male gaze upon them, causing the male characters to do evil. The central character may be male, but the violence and horror is always grounded in the female. In the Gothic line of “otherness” even the most vulnerable female character works in the line of evil. The evil-doings of the male characters typically bring them to their eventual downfall. Therefore, the vulnerable “damsel in distress” poses the greatest threat to the patriarchs in Gothic novels.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Art History, French Literature, Gothic Literature, Literature, Opinions

Gothic Conventions Used in Frankenstein: Volume one

In my English course we specifically must focus on three schools of thought whilst constructing an essay: Marxist, psychoanalysis and feminist readings. I’ve nearly always grasped the concepts of psychoanalyst with novels such as ‘The Kite Runner’, with ‘Death of a Salesman’ I studied Marxist readings and with ‘King Lear’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’ I combined the two elements, only really dabbling my hand in the feminist school of thought. But none the less, this year, it being presumably my last as an English student, I’ve decided to get off my stubborn backside and write this set essay on ‘Frankensteins gothic conventions’ with the view of a feminine light. At first, admittedly I was weary, however, I’ve interlinked the views of feminist critics with other interpretations involving sexuality and fate. Frankenstein is a very interesting novel to search upon if reading into the role of woman in novels. I even found myself enjoying writing this little dissertation, this essay is only brief, there was no formal examination so I spent less time on it as I would normally, but nevertheless I am pleased with roping down from my high horse to ponder upon another view-point. You never know, i might just do some more feminist readings. Enjoy!

Frankenstein is often portrayed and glamourized by critics as the ‘ultimate gothic novel’ however; we must delve into Shelly’s exact use of gothic conventions in order to understand exactly how Shelly utilizes simple gothic motifs to create a world so tantalizing and elusive.

Such use of gothic conventions are used during the creation of the monster, it is through this, that Victor erodes the role of woman in society; he has broken down social barriers and fails to see the implications of the consequences, he flees from the monstrosity he has created and attempts to suppress the blame from himself by citing that the monsters birth was from ‘a workshop of filthy creation’ this quote is a direct allusion to the woman’s womb. Victor is subtly mocking woman’s place in society as beneath a man by branding their internal organs as ‘dirty.’ Victor tries to usurp the role of Woman in the novel;Feminist literary theory would claim that Frankenstein’s act of creation is not only a sin against God and the force of nature. It is also an act against the “female principle”, which includes natural procreation as one of its central aspects and as a result, The Monster then seeks to destroy womankind as a vengeance against woman principles as Victor has deprived woman of their natural function in society.Mary Shelly’s mother was a founder of the feminist movement, a liberal thinker with forceful philosophy who no doubt influenced this rational and predominant theme within the novel. Instantly, this recalls the much broader implications of the human condition and the relationship between man and God. The relationship between Victor and the monster raises many questions as to the meaning of humanity and existence. In his corrupting pursuit for the ‘thirst of knowledge’ Victor Frankenstein is frequently compared to Prometheus, as the novel’s subtitle “The Modern Prometheus” suggests. Prometheus stole fire from the Gods whereas in a bid to create the monster, Victor harnessed the power of electricity and became ‘beheld’ by a ‘most violent and terrible thunderstorm’ it is Frankenstein’s most terrific mistake in presuming that he could displace God, Victor tries not only to find the secret of life but also to remove life’s defects by rebelling against natures natural order and selection. But it is unlike God, that Victor fails to nurture the one thing that he produced. The ‘secret toils’ that he endured suggest that he has been the victim of a shameful ploy. It is by this, that the novel can be viewed as a mock of religion, it is fact his rash, impatient and stubborn desire to create life that the horrible physiognomy of the Monster is a direct result of Frankenstein’s hurry and anxiety caused by his awareness of committing a sin against God. Victor then tries to surpass the blame upon destiny as he describes it as ‘too potent’ Victor’s futile plead is attempting to convince us that destiny is predetermined, and fate is premeditated and that there might be a higher power after all, men are corrupted by the preconditioned aspects of the world, and free will is only a limited scope and far limits Victors scientific desires. It is Victor’s fixated desire only to rid of the ‘distant species’ that he regards as woman who implies he fears also his own sexuality.

As Victor describes the ‘dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils’ it is the pivotal moment of horror as Victor arrives at a climax of his anguished trepidation. Pathetic fallacy is then used to set an appropriate bleak and depressing atmosphere as the ‘dismal rain’ bellows down from above. Victor envisions his mother’s dead corpse. He has an unwillingness to embrace his mother or the face of Elizabeth that he first thought he sought. This could be a deliberate link back to when Victor describes Elizabeth as his ‘more than sister’ and this reveals his fear of incestuous desire, however, by juxtaposing the creating of the monster with this most terrific vision, the void between illusion and reality is opened up as it is blurred in Victors mind, and we can start to trace his descent into madness and deliberate isolation. By creating the monster Victor has destroyed female persona, as previously discussed, however, it is as if he has effectively killed his mother, she is nothing more than a rotting corpse. It is also suggestive that he sees sex as destructive and ‘hideous’. This chapter in volume one involves the three elements of sex, death and the monster. They are thus linked in a single image; this dream episode establishes a clear link between Victor’s avoidance of sexuality. Further regards to sexuality can also be found in the isolation of The Monster–he destroys the female creature horrified upon thinking another could tread upon the earth. The frequent motif of fear of sexuality could also be similarly found in Walton who ‘desires the company of a man whose eyes would reply to mine’ Duality is often a gothic convention and a frequent motif in gothic fiction.

The framed narrative used in Frankenstein is a complex structure; it involves embedded narratives of stories upon stories within stories. The narrative first begins through Walton sending letters to his sister, this approach is commonly known as an epistolary style is a novel in which a character (or characters) tells the story through letters. In Frankenstein, Captain Robert Walton writes letters to his sister. Walton sets the frame and the scene of the novel up, he begins to recount about Victor, the narrative is then given wholly to Victor, presumably to increase our understanding of the character and to increase our paths and awe, before Victors catharsis is then given back to Walton as the novel ends on a denouement. Shelley did not insert the letters by chance; they are purposefully added to provide a deeper dimension to the novel. Walton first allows us to channel a way to suspend our disbelief as with him the novel becomes more plausible as there are now two men seemingly hell-bent on a pursuit, Walton to ‘tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man’ and Victor to ‘make the secrets of heaven and earth known to me’ It is because of this framed narrative structure that the voices, the stories given to us become blurred as to whom is speaking them and we ask ourselves who exactly is recounting their narrative. A deliberate ploy, perhaps used by Shelly, as traditionally gothic ghost tales are orally given and it was the night previous to writing Frankenstein that her and Lord Byron, along with Percy Shelly told such stories in order to ‘make the blood curdle and quicken the beatings of the heart’ The narrative also involves the role of a listener and each narrative allows the reader to carefully consider the narrative of before and draw upon certain aspects of each one before they are drawn and tied together in a single continuum. We can also consider the reliability of the narrator as a whole, their interpretations, specifically Victors, serves for us to look for parallels and echoes within the plot. Therefore, it is important to behold an open mind whilst reading Frankenstein, otherwise self-absorbance is imminent. Its intention as a cautionary tale is applied as Walton, upon hearing Victor’s narrative on the destructiveness of knowledge and power, turns away from his perilous mission to the North Pole and we see Shelly’s gothic conventions all lay out. Victors attempt to eliminate God and the woman race, carried with it implications that he could not fathom, he rebelled against the laws of nature and is therefore condemned, he is, like Prometheus punished for dabbling in the arts of something far beyond what he academic achievements could possibly behold.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, British Literature, Culture, Literary Criticism, Thoughts, Uncategorized

To what extent does the past have upon the future?

I have always been interested in History, and it particularly angers me when people refer to the subject as ‘dry.’ Tell me, what can possibly be dry about History? The foundations of our countries, nations, even the world were founded generations and generations ago by our fathers, our ancestors, and built up from nothing more than ash and dust into solid brick and mortar. Monarchies have been built, empires destroyed, countries and regimes lost and democracy established. Wasn’t it said that we must know the past to understand our future? However, I have been considering for a considerable amount of time now, to what extent does the past directly make an impact on the decisions of the impending future? Of course this question can incorporate a wide variety of responses. If we were to simply ask the question in relation to a wide political and social issue such as The Holocaust or even further back to The Slave Trade, then of course the implications of those fateful days, those haunted years, have made are making an increasing amount of change on issues this current day, and will for years to come. So, in order to engage correctly with this question, you need to inject into yourself a degree of sensibility and almost dumb yourself down and ask it on a superficial note.
You see, dear, dear readers is that when it comes to the past I’ve always preferred to ignore its foreboding presence, I do not wish it to cling on in such a rapacious manner to me like a slave oppressing my constant rioting emotions. But then why am I so dedicated to learning about History, about the foundations on which our glorious, corrupted world was built upon? Graham Swift (hats off to this remarkable novelist) did once state that “often the future we dream of is built upon the dreams of a long imagined past.” In essence I agree with him, but I think a whole part of it comes down to manifesting your misguided fantasies and facing up with blinding reality, to let go of your aspirations, how cruel and cold it may seem. We can hide behind the past, if you so wish it, but Charles R. Swindoll once wrote “We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.” Granted what you decide to do with your time and life is up to you, I often base my decision based upon snippets of prose and monologue I read in a novel and I do wonder to myself if it is credible to allow what some author inked down over 100 years ago to allow my actions to be as ripe today. You can let go of the past, eventually, as long as you make peace with it first only then can L.P Hartley’s famous line “the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there” (taken from The Go Between, absolutely fantastic novel, go and buy it if you haven’t already obtained a copy) come into play. I do not understand people, therefore, who hide from their past, it is only what you do with the time now that you can be judged, what we are never changes but who we are does.
I apologize that this isn’t literary criticism, if you look at who’ve I’ve quoted you could say that I am potentially scrutinizing their works, but I have nothing negative to say in particular regarding the authors that I have mentioned.
So, to close, in general, face up to your past, buy Waterland and The Go-Between and then live a peaceful and ideal existence not getting caught up in your own self-conscious dreams that might not even happen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Literature, New Criticism, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Fun With Grammar

Hey, all! I feel like I’ve been severely neglecting this blog, and I want to apologize because that is not my intention. I’ve just been busy working on some creative writing projects, some non-fiction as well as reading as much as I can so I can better update this very blog! I promise (though I feel like I say that all too often) that I will get to a new, thought-provoking (at least I hope) post soon, but for now I thought I’d compile a fun one based on a few things I’ve learned as of late. Working as a proofreader, I’ve spent a lot of time agonizing over words and punctuation. I have a BA in Literature and have been an English/Literature enthusiast since grammar school. However, years and years of writing, rewriting, revisions and editing surprisingly do not prepare us for all the grammatical errors we will encounter in later life. Proofreading has also taught me that grammar is ever-changing.

I consider myself pretty affluent in spelling, grammar and punctuation but I’ve been knocked off my high horse many times for having such thoughts. There are certain things in the English language that I just never really gave a second thought to, or  as it is in many instances, have just been doing wrong all along. And while the internet is a great resource for correcting errors, one will find that it’s hard sometimes to get the  various sources to agree on the same topic (will the MLA, AP and CMS ever agree?!). This has led me to another discovery: grammar is not only evolving, but also way more flexible than one might think! Sure there are plenty of “rules” in grammar (and many that can often be broken in creative writing–with sufficient knowledge of them first), but there are also plenty of instances where the writer has much more control over what to use and how to use it; That’s where the “fun” part comes in.

So, as I’ve been going along I’ve been taking note of certain grammatical tips that I find interesting, and many I’ve made notes of as a reminder myself to keep a keen eye for–not only in proofing, but in writing as well. (Can we skip the part where we go back and count how many I’ve goofed on in these prior two paragraphs?–I’m still learning!!*) I’ve decided to share the notes I’ve made on here, as both useful tips for myself and for anyone who reads this. I’m going to try my best to put these in some kind of readable order, but bear with me; I’m working from notes I’ve jotted quickly in passing.  This is, of course, just an abridged version of grammar and syntax tricks and tips and there’s much more out there to learn on the topic. Below the entry I will include all of the sources I look to most for further reading. That said, here are my notes:

**Keep in mind, these rules are strictly for American English, many of them will differ in British English, etc.**

Our Friend (and Foe): The Comma

  • The Oxford/serial comma boils down to a matter of taste. I suggest always using a serial comma when listing names, especially when crediting them with a piece of work, so no one feels as though they’re lumped in with another person or that two people worked as a team instead of individually. (e.g. “Kevin Mitchell, Jonie Watson, and Michael Tulley,” and especially when only last names are used, so it doesn’t end up sounding like a law firm!)
  •  While listing inanimate objects, it’s okay to omit that extra comma: “please pick up milk, butter and bread.”
  • However, it is best to drop in a serial comma in order to eliminate any ambiguity/confusion: “I’d like to thank my parents, God and my cat” (your parents have some mighty interesting names)  does not read as well as “I’d like to thank my parents, God, and my cat.” But remember: it is always best to be consistent. Oh, and about that whole AP dropping the Oxford comma for good debacle? Just a misunderstanding. Here’s a great article all about it, as well as all about the comma itself.
  • Do not use a comma to replace the word “that.”

Colons v. Semi-Colons  

  • A semi-colon is used to separate two main clauses that are closely related to each other, but could stand on their own as complete sentences.
  • The purpose of a colon is to introduce or define.
  • Do NOT use a capital letter after a semi-colon, unless it is followed by a proper noun.
  • The semi-colon and the colon are the only two punctuation marks which should be placed after closing quotation marks when they follow a quoted text.
  • After a colon, more often than not, the following sentence should start with a capital letter. A few exceptions to this rule include: if the independent clause is a quote, if the explanatory statement is more than one sentence, if the introductory phrase is very brief, or if the second clause expresses a rule.

Santa’s Helpers a.k.a. Subordinate Clauses

  • Subjunctive: “Wishful” sentences call for the subjunctive mood of the verb “to be,” so the right choice is “were” instead of “was.”
  • The subjunctive “were” is hypothetical in meaning and is used in conditional and concessive sentences and in subordinate clauses after verbs like “wish.” The form is “were” for all persons.
  • “Was” is used when supposing something that might be true, but it all depends on the context of the sentence.
  • Conditional mood: Indicating a conditional state that will cause something else to happen. Marked by the words might, could and would.
  • Concessive clause:  A subordinate clause which refers to a situation that contrasts with the one described in the main clause. For example: “Although he was tired, he couldn’t get to sleep.”
  • Subordinate (or dependent) clauses are groups of words containing both a subject and a verb, but cannot stand alone as a sentence. Some examples include: if, although, as, because, since, though, unless, whenever, whether.

Em Dashes, En Dashes and Hyphens–Oh My! 

  • The em dash is an elongated or double dash: ““ or “– –“ (it should be the length of the typed letter “m”).  Always use in formal writing as opposed to a hyphen (“-“).
  • Spaces should typically not be used around an em dash but can change based on dramatic emphasis or the publication it appears in.
  • The en dash is a shorter dash, but longer than a hyphen: “–“ (it should be length of the typed letter “n”). It is only used to denote amount of time or numbers (e.g. “the years 2001–2006,” “April–May”).
  • Do NOT use the en dash with the word “from,” instead use the word “to.” For example, you would write “from April to May” as opposed to “from April–May.”

Apostrophe Catastrophes

  • Apostrophes ONLY indicate a contraction or possession.
  • Apostrophe after names that end in “s”: Classic pre-CE names only need apostrophe, not ‘s. The same goes for names ending with a z-sound (Adams’), and for plural nouns (e.g. cats’, boys’, men’s). But in most other cases, “‘s” is correct. The idea is to convey the notion of possession without creating an awkward pronunciation. Though this can be chalked up to a style choice.
  • Possessive of singular nouns ending in an S or Z sound are usually formed by adding ‘s, unless the next word begins with an S or Z sound.
  • When writing out an abbreviated version of decades:  the apostrophe should only go BEFORE the first number, and nowhere else!
  • The apostrophe at the beginning of the number should be pointing in the direction of the omitted numbers, it should look almost like a small number 9: “ ’80s”
  • Possessive of plural nouns ending in an S or Z sound are formed by adding only an apostrophe, e.g. churches’.

 Verb Agreement

  • Collective nouns are nouns that describe a group, such as “family,” “band” or “couple.”
  • When you are thinking of the individuals within the group as separate things, use a plural verb. (The couple are travelling home in separate cars.”) However, when you think of it as a single unit, use a singular verb. But there is no real rule attached to using was/were with collective nouns.
  • “None” can be singular or plural. It can mean “not one” and followed by a singular verb, or it can mean “not any” and take a plural verb.

 Miscellaneous Musings

  • “Somewhere” is classified as an adverb, but actually has a noun-like function.
  • The phrase “somewhere where” is not necessarily superfluous since “somewhere” can be an antecedent of a relative clause (e.g. “where”).
  • The word “farther” indicates physical distance, while “further” is used metaphorically.
  • In certain cases, “further” and “farther” can be used interchangeably, but if you can’t decide which to use, you’re safer using “further” because “farther” has some restrictions.
  • Avoid using wordy phrases in place of “because.”
  • “Internet” is capitalized because it is a proper noun referring to a specific network, “website,” however, is not.
  • “Web” as a proper noun can be either.
  • Dropping the “had” in “had better” is acceptable only in speech or recorded language.
  • The word “yet” is what’s known as a coordinating conjunction. Others include: for, nor, but, or and so.
  • “i.e.” stands for “that is,” while “e.g.” stands for “for example.” I.e. is used to further clarify a subject, while e.g. introduces examples. Example: “Michelle likes reading old mystery novels (i.e. And Then There Were None and The Hound of the Baskervilles).” These are the only two novels of the genre she likes.  “Michelle likes reading old mystery novels (e.g. And Then There Were None and The Hound of the Baskervilles).  These are just two of the mystery novels she likes.
  • The word for this punctuation mark “?!” is called an interrobang.

And just remember: it is always important to BE CONSISTENT. If there’s anything to take away from this it’s the one major rule of writing, consistency comes first. So, if you choose to stick to an MLA-approved style while writing, make sure you don’t waver between that and Chicago style. If you want to include the Oxford comma in lists, do so every time.  It can be a pain to have to go back and check every time, but it’s worth it for the end result of having an intelligent and eloquently written piece of work. Hope this helped in some way even if it was a bit scattered! I promise to have a part two when I encounter even more grammar tips! The links for all your writing needs are below the cut.

*I’m kidding, of course. Actually, if anyone who’s read this would like to point out any errors in the body of this text, please feel free to comment and chide me. Grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling–it’s all fair game! Sometimes the hardest work to edit is one’s own, so I’m completely open to fixing my errors and learning in the process. Also, if anyone wants to point out any errors, updates, or other ideas and suggestions in the notes I’ve made, please do so! I’d love to hear what everyone has to say!

Continue reading


Filed under American Literature, Literature, Publishing, Thoughts

My year in ‘philosophical’ quotes

I’ve decided to put every single quote that I considered to be quite insightful into this blog post, a few of these are provided by my delightful friend Shannon (who didn’t mean to become so quizzical about everything she came into contact with) A few are provided by me (a lot were uttered whilst I was either drunk or high, don’t take some of these too literally for the sake of your good sense)

‘I don’t think love is difficult to understand, you know when you’re in love, lust is the most deadly of all emotions, it combines elements of everything you wish to escape Gluttony, want, sin and of course: Love.’

‘They call it the future because it’s not happening now, it’s neither the past nor the present, it’s the future’

‘Contrary to popular opinion life is the longest thing you will ever do, if you don’t like it, then you can remove yourself from it. But it is eternity that I am afraid of, forever; you can’t remove yourself from that, no matter how harsh it may seem’

‘I find the concept of time extremely puzzling. Take John (our history teacher) he has taught for 35 years, I haven’t even been alive that long. It is all very fascinating’

‘I’m pro-choice and the reason that I’m pro-choice is because I’m protecting the value and sanctity of human life, a penis belongs in the vagina: The opinions of men, religion and others do not’

‘I often try to forget the past, but sometimes I can’t help but cling on to it, I may have my future ahead of me, but the past will always look more convincing when it comes to being happy’

‘The reason I first tried drugs is because I was curious, the reason I continued to try drugs, was because I became even more curious of my limitations and boundaries involved with the trip. The reason I stopped doing drugs is because I ran out of money’

‘People in comas may as well be cauliflowers or some other form of vegetable and everybody hates vegetables’

‘People disgust me, but then I realise that Jesus died for them as much as he did for me and then I feel like I’m the unclean one’

‘If religion is so great why does it cause so many wars? But if Jesus is so great then why do so many people die because of these wars?’

‘Of course I’m still in love with them, have you ever seen somebody else’s heart beat so heavily with a suppressed aching? There must be a limit to how much the human heart can endure!’

‘Every time I fornicate it is fucking but I don’t give one’

I apologise for the ramblings of the inner workings of my mind.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Fiction, Quotes, Thoughts