"1984" George Orwell
Orwell and Huxley are two of the main dystopian writers, we have studied this year. How can the dystopian novel be defined? it is the opposite of utopic, which represents a perfect world, on the contrary dystopia is a world perfect only for those, who have the power. The aim of these novels is to portray the society and to criticize its evils, but in order to avoid censorship these writers have had to find solutions to let their books be published, for example "1984" by Orwell was written in 1948, but he reversed the last two numbers of the year of composition. The topic of this work is to show, how the State and the Party have deprived everyone of his/her freedom of speech, thought and action. Opposing against the system is useless, as demonstrated by the protagonist, Winston Smith, who at the end becomes an instrument in the hands of the Party.
Another work written by Orwell is "Animal Farm", an animal fable, an anti-utopian novel focused on the comparison between men and animals. The story is set on a farm, where a group of oppressed animals, led by a boar, set up a revolutionary government. With the passing of time the pigs become more and more dictatorial and only one of the Seven Commandments established previously, remained: "all the animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". The key point of this fable is to express the fact, that all the revolutions fail to achieve the expectations of their promoters, as power is concentrated only in the hands of the ruling class.
"BRAVE NEW WORLD" Aldous Huxley
Another important example of this literary genre is "Brave New World" written by Huxley: the story is set in an imaginary totalitarian state in the future, where time is counted starting from Ford's birth. The novel is about cloning: human beings are created according to the social class, which they are addressed to. These people are brought up in order not to have an individual coscience and to lead consumerism up to the extremes. I am upset because Huxley showed some extraordinary abilities in forseeing the future events of our modern world.
"THE LORD OF THE FLIES" by William Golding
The protagonists of this novel are children, who had to survive in a desert island. When we read it for the first time, I was astonished, because the protagonists of this novel are children and not adults. Children are the symbol of innocence, purity, but in this novel they are like beasts. I think that an important aspect of this workl is the fear between groupthinking and individuality and between rational and emotional reactions.
"FAHRENHEIT 451" by Ray Bradbury
This is another distopian novel that we read at school. I think that one of the most striking theme of this novel is the importance of books. Personally, I don't read a lot of books, but when I am stressed or nervous I immediately read books, and so I can relax myself and imagine all the scenes.
I think that these writers have previewed what would have happened in their future and it is amazing that at their time, they could anticipate the horror and desolation of nowadays society. Personally I am not fond of this genre, because it is too cold and detached and it do not take into consideration the inner world of the characters. What counts is the final result!
Another important writer we studied is Charles Dickens and his novels "Oliver Twist" and "Hard Times". He was a pioneer in introducing the theme of education into his works, as can we see in "Oliver Twist". Dickens believes in the extension of education to all citizens, he criticises abuses and deficiencies in his society.
A scene from the film "Oliver Twist"
An example of this genre is the novel "Oliver Twist"; it is notable for its unromantic portrayal of criminals and their sordid lives, as well as for exposing the cruel treatment of the many orphans in London in the 19th century. In this famous novel he satirizes the hypocrisies of his time, including child labour , the recruitment of children as criminals and the presence of street children. In "Oliver Twist" Dickens mixes realism and satire to describe the effects of industrialism on the 19th-century England. Another important thing about this novel is the one of poverty. Dickens enlarges on this theme describing many houses on the point of collapsing.
Another important novel written by Dickens is "Hard Times". This novel had neither preface nor illustrations and it is the only novel without scenes set in London, in fact, the story is set in the fictitious Victorian industrial city of Coketown. One of Dicken's reasons for writing "Hard Times" was that sales of his weekly periodical, "Household Words", were low, and it was hoped the novel's publication would spread. In this novel, as in "Oliver Twist", Dickens wished to educate readers about the working conditions of some of the factories in the industrial town of Manchester and Preston. We can see also the contrapposition between facts and fancy, and this is clear in the passage read in class "The definition of a horse."
Personally, I like Charles Dickens and his novels, because I am interested in the theme of education. I also like his novels, because he mixed reality and irony. I think that this aspect is important, because it allows an easier and not boring reading. I think that his works can be related to the present, because in some parts of the world there is still child labour.
THE WHITE MAN'S BURDEN
This poem, written by Rudyard Kipling, gives advice to the United States on the occasion of the annexation of the Philippines. The poem exhorts the Europeans to go and annex new territories and help the natives to become civilized. The title and themes "The White Man's Burden" make the poem about eurocentric racism and about the belief of the western world similar to a proof that industrialisation is the way to civilize the third world.The poem represents colonialism as the moral burden of the white race, which is destined to civilize the brutish and barbarous parts of the world. The idea behind this poem is that the European model of civilization is superior to the indigenous one. I think that this poem is still contemporary, because despite all the wars, fought to achieve equality among men, there are still discriminations and prejudices.
Oscar Wilde is another important writer we have studied. He was a really famous playwright, novelist and poet. We have analized some works by Oscar Wilde, such as, "The Picture of Dorian Gray", "The Importance of Being Earnest", "De Profundis" and "The Ballad of Reading Gaol". An important fact of his life was when he was convicted of homosexual practices with Lord Alfred Douglas (or Bosie) and was sent to two years' hard labour in prison and there he wrote "De Profundis". I think that the topic dealt by Wilde is of interest nowadays because sexuality has become one of the most controversial subjects.
"De Profundis" is a letter. He writes the letter between January and March 1897, close to the end of his imprisonment. "De Profundis" becomes a sort of dramatic monologue which considers Douglas's supposed response. The true nature of this work has to be that of a personal and individual letter, as the Latin's title suggests. This letter is full of feelings and opposites such as the love that Oscar Wilde feels for Bosie, at the same time the terrible hate for him and the despair for his conditions.
"THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL"
"The Ballad of Reading Gaol" is published under the pseudonym of C 3-3, Wilde's own number as a prisoner. This poem is built around the story of a soldier who has been sentenced to death. The soldier becomes the symbol of man's tragic destiny. There is a clear analogy with the figure of Christ, but also with Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner". Another important thing in this ballad is that it is full of repetitions.
"THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY"
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" is told by a third-person narrator. The settings are vividly described with words appealing to the senses. This story is profundly allegorical and it is a 19th version of the myth of Faust. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is the story of moral corruption by the means of aestheticism. Each of the three primary characters (Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward and Lord Henry) is an aesthete and meets some formsof terrible personal doom. The story has analogies with folk and fairy tales of a person, whose life depends on a magic object, and with mystery stories, but mainly contains the literary statement of his aesthetic doctrine: the pursuit of pleasure and beauty as the true purpose of life.
A scene from the film "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (2009)
"THE IMPORTANCEOF BEING EARNEST"
"The Importance of Being Earnest" is a famous play by Oscar Wilde. This play becomes the mirror of the fashionable and corrupted Victorian public, because in "The Importance of Being Earnest", Wilde criticizes his society, above all the upper class. An important thing in "The importance of Being Earnest" is that it is not important what the characters say, but how they say it. It is full of paradoxes and farces and these markes an important step on the way of modern drama and the theatre of the absurd. I believe that Wilde's critique towards the lack of values and the interest in appearing and not in being, typical of the characters in this comedy may be linked with the total absence of virtues that characterizes many in our society both rich and poor, young and old.
THE WAR POETS
This is one of the part of the English literature that I like the most and I am really impressed by the brutality and cruelty of these lines. When we began to study this topic, I was immediately impressed because of the puzzling words used by the war poets (Brooke, Owen, Sassoon and Rosenberg) in their poems.
In the poem "Dulce et Decorum Est", Wilfred Owen represents the horrors of the war, there is a crescendo of terrible images, and the poet shows us the truth of that world: alienation and dehumanization. We can read these stanzas as if we were looking at some photos. Another strong poem is "The Soldier" written by Rupert Brooke. It is like a Petrarchan sonnet; we can see the personification of England, it is seen like a mother and this emphasizes the love of the poet for his country. The most important theme is patriotism, the war is a way to demonstrate devotion for your motherland and to become immortal.
It is also important to say something about Carol Ann Duffy, who is considered one of the leading modern poets in the U.K. In 2009 she was appointed "Poet Laureate". An important poem she wrote is "The Christmas Truce". Duffy's poetry penetrates the details of life in the trenches in order to fuse the reader's feelings with the intensity of the the suspended moment of the truce. She describes really well this moment: the men huddling together, lighting their pipes, waiting for sleep or playing football together. I think this poem is really moving, because we can see a moment of peace during the war that doesn't make men forget their humanity, eve if they must hide their heart and soul under uniforms and weapons.