literature and its impact nowadays

Sometimes we feel the necessity to write down some feelings, some thoughts even if we are not totally aware of what they really are. Sometimes we would just like to find a way to express some emotions that are here, in our mind. We are human, and because of our nature, we are conditioned by elements, which surrounded us. An emotion could come from everything, a song, a book,

a butterfly, a view or even from seeing two people together, because even if we are strong, and we think we have the power to control everything, there is something that most of the time we are not able to manipulate:

Emotions. Probably this characteristic is the one that makes us be more real, more human, and I am sure that it is a quality that has the power to render people better. For that reason, we should all catch every opportunity we have, to collect intense thoughts.

Literature, in this case, plays an important role, because it makes people think about their existence and reflect upon what they are reading. So, I started jotting down some thoughts that I had while I was reading some novel of the past. I think that now, it is the time to start with a sort of “macabre novel”, in which at the first sight, feelings do not play the main role, but that analysing better the story, we can grasp their fundamental function!

Doctor Frankenstein manages to create human being by joining parts from other corpses. The result of the experiment is ugly and revolting; the monster becomes a murderer, and in the end, he destroys his creator. The story is introduced by a series of letters written by Walton, a young explorer, and his sister, Margaret Saville.

How Mary Shelley's life influenced her characters

“Frankenstein” is a famous novel written in 1818 by Mary Shelley, a woman who was highly influenced by her parents. She was the daughter of a feminist and of a radical thinker, thus she inherited a different way of thinking and a not alike view of issues, like social justice and education. Her husband, who was a poet, gave another important aspect: the interest in science. For that reason, she was aware of latest scientific theories. At that time there were sources about humanity; an Italian scientist, Luigi Galvani, published a study about creating human beings with the use of electricity and “Frankenstein” was based on Galvani’s theories.

Now let's have a deepened look at our main characters

The narration

Is also interesting the narrative technique: there are three narrator in this novel: Walton, who informs his sister, doctor Frankenstein, who informs Walton of his experiments, the monster who informs the doctor, who informs Walton. Thus, the whole novel has Walton’s sister as the receiver, whose initials are the same of Mary Shelley (MS), because her name in the novel is Margaret Saville. Moreover, this narrative structure gives origin to three different point of view and it gives to the reader the choice of a better understanding of the novel. Thus the reader is intellectually more involved, because the narration is more objected and more scientific (never forget that the core of this novel is science) and at the same time the reader can develop his/her own opinion.

Mary Shelley anticipates a narrative technique used in the XX century of modernism, where the reader plays an important role of understanding of the novel. She introduces the use of flashbacks too.

Margaret Saville = Mary Shelley

It is almost impossible thinking that the author of a great novel as Mary Shelley is, chose this name by case. A possible solution of this choice can be that, in her life, Mary Shelley has a strange relationship with death: first of all her mother died, ten days after Mary’s birth. Her mom’s death deeply disturbed her and she used to go to the cemetery almost every day. Lots of documents say that Mary was obsessed by death (as doctor Frankenstein is ). Her father married another woman but our incredible author had a bad relationship with her step-mother and she felt like an outcast (as the creature). We can for these reasons say that this novel reflects a huge part of her life. Unfortunately Mary’s relationship with death goes on: she had a daughter, but the child died just some days after her birth ( as happened with Mary’s mom). Mary became other five times pregnant, but unfortunately she lost all the children. That the lovely husband died too. she was surrounded by death and by the time she lost all the people she loves, she thought that giving back life to dead people, was an interesting study. Is possible thinking that the character of doctor Frankenstein reflects somehow her obsession with science and his desire of fighting death through science, even if it implied going against nature.

This novel anticipates what science fiction is all about

In this novel Mary Shelley anticipates what science is today about, because even if this novel was written in the Nineteenth century, it embraces issues that are perfectly valid nowadays. Creating life is in fact a kind of knowledge that many scientist are trying to pursue. A huge number of experiments are with animals and the scientist discovered that they are feasible. The new aim is now giving life to human beings. In all these experiments, anatomy has a fundamental role, because through the knowledge of human body, there is the possibility to discover some kind of connection between life and death.

Anatomy is not a discovery of the XXI century; even Mary Shelley in this novel mention the role of this science, but even another extremely important character, who lived in the XVI century enamine in depth this theme: I am speaking of Leonardo Da Vinci. In addition to this, it is interesting noticing how deep the roots of knowledge are.

The best way to study anatomy was analysing real corpses; therefore corpses used to be bring from slaughterhouses or cemeteries. Also in Shelley’s novel, doctor Frankenstein creates the monster by joining parts selected from different corpses and the parts came both from dead human being and from dead animals. This element is contemporary, if we take into consideration that most of the scientific studies are made with animals.

Even if this book presents some dark issues, it should not be considered a macabre novel, whereas prophetic, because it represents the beginning of the science fiction and anticipates what science is about nowadays. It analyses and positive and negative aspects of science, and the pro and cons that it raises, are the same of the science of this century. Mary Shelley through this novel citizens somehow the abuse of science, even if she is not against it, but, according to her, science should respect a moral, whereas most of the time science goes against nature and against any form of moral. As in this novel, science can do incredible things, like crating life, but science sometimes does not take into consideration that after an action, there are consequences. As an example, in this novel Doctor Frankenstein gives life to the creature, but when he realizes that he made a mistake, that he created something abnormal, he just abadons the “monster” and refuses himself to give a possibility to the creature. Doctor Frankenstein does not want to deal with his own “son”, because he feels guilty for what he did. In this way, after having gone against nature and having proved that he can create life, he wants to get rid of his experiment without any repercussion and when the creature want the doctor to teach him to live and to have another creature like him, he says no, because he does not want to give life to another “monster”. Probably the doctor was misunderstanding: he did not really realized that the REAL monster was not the creature, but was he, because after having satisfied his wish of making this experiments, he does not accept the consequences.

What do Satan and Frankenstein's monster have in common? let's watch the video below!

PARADISE LOST

Paradise Lost is a poem written by John Milton, who chose the epic genre for his masterpiece becaus of the greatness of his subjects.

For those who do noe remember the story written by John Milton, i suggest you to click in the link below for a short summary which can brush up your memory.

At the beginning of the poem, Satan has many of the characteristics of the epic hero: leadership, the courage which refuses to accept defeat and a willingness to undertake the desperate enterprise to escape from Hell and attack God’s creation. He embodies the figure of the rebel against authority and last, but not least Satan is a great orator. In fact, this poem raises the themes of the power of language, because Satan, through language controls and leads his follower. Language is stronger that violence, because a great speaker can convince people of his ideals and make people do, what this person wants. This happens when Satan speaks to his followers to support him by fighting against God.

In the link below you can find an Amazing presentation about the similarities between Satan and Macbeth. Satan is moved by Revenge, because he is blinded by power, as Macbeth was.

An idea to reflect: is it true that literature procures reflections in us?

Personally, I think that it does, above all it makes us thinking about our existence and life, in an indirect way. Usually literature is about people’s experiences, therefore while we are reading, we tend to compare our life with what happens in the book. Probably, this is the most important role of literature: make people think! Sometimes we identify with the protagonist or with one of the main characters and it is as if we are living the story, we embody the book character. It is also frequent the fact that we try to compare our behave with the antagonist’s one. It is a way to check if we are a good or a bad person. It is a way to auto - correct some part of our personality.

THE RISE OF THE NOVEL

For a better undestanding of this develpment of the english literature I seggest you to see, in the link below, a presentasion that shows the characterstics of the rise of the novel

Now let us try to compare some of the traits of the rise of the novel with contemporary literature. First of all there were lots and lots of repetition, because the novel were published in review and therefore people needed an easy and repetitive plot for a better understanding of the novel. Nowadays instead repetitions are considered boring, because the readers always look always for new themes and new happenings. Moreover most of the time the reader dealt with flat character, because the book told about people that did not change their personality at all. Whereas contemporary stories show round characters, whose personality grows and changes while the development of the plot. We should also take into consideration the issue of money: at the time whoever was living in poor condition was considered a lazy person, because poverty was always associated with laziness. That means that rich people were all seen as hard workers and moreover richness was synonym of happiness, a perfect contemporary theme. Still today, we tend to associate happiness with richness and this is an aspect that we have in common with the past, because we are convinced that without money we cannot live. This is obviously a huge themes that almost every day is subjected to discussion, but it is curious, how this issues was also perfect real still in the past and how it has influanced the cuture and therefore the novel.

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

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Robinson Crusoe and Friday

The story:

Robinson, in spite of his father's warning, leaves his family and goeas to sea to make his fortune. He lands in Brazil, where he starts a successful plantation. One day, during an expedition to Africa to buy some slaves, he is shipwrecked on a remote Island where he spends 28 years. There he is able to recreate England and he saves his saves Man Friday. Finally he is rescued bby an English ship. In the end Robinson returns to England, where he learns that his plantation in Brazil has made him rich.

The new middle-class hero

In this story Robinson Crusoe belongs to the middle class, which was usually praised as “the best state in the world” because you were neither a poor or a member of the upper part of mankind. This state was the most suited to human happiness and richness, two elements that, at the time, were fundamental for a perfect life. Still today, as we said, richness is equal to happiness.

When Robinson is shipwrecked on the island, he manages to recreate there a new England where he imposes the supremacy of the white-man and this fact can be proved by at least 3 moments of the novel: first of all when Robinson saves the savage, he does not give an identity to his new slave, but he calls him “Friday”, just because that day was a Friday. the fact that Robinson neither gives him a name, could be seen as a prove that the white-man considers Friday inferior to him. Than, Robinson imposes to Friday his own culture, giving for granted that the English culture is better that Friday’s one. I would like to add that Robinson saves Friday to show people that he is a good Christian, therefore a man who would save someone who is going to be killed. This reason explains why Robinson saved him, even if he thought to be superior.

the role of money in Robinson Crusoe

MOLL FLANDERS BY DANIEL DEFOE

The plot:

Moll Flanders was born in Newgate prison, daughter of a thief and was pretty and clever. She was brought up in the house of the Major of Colchester and at the age of 14, she is sent into the service of a rich family, where she is seduced by the oldest son. She gets married 5 time, has children, becomes a prostitute and a thief in order to survive. She is deported to Virginia , where she works hard and becomes rich. Moll goes back to England where she lands a respectable life.

The novel as a reflection of its time:

This novel is important because it works as a sort of history book, because it contributes to our knowledge of the women’s condition at the time. Defoe describes through the novel urban society and talks about the role of women. Moll Flanders's decision are driven by the premise that women were not able to support themseves in the 18th-century society, because they were submitted first to their fathers, that to their brothers and their husbands. Women owned nothing and they needed to get married to survive. But when Moll becomes a widow, she does not manage to marry again and in order to survive, she becomes a prostitute and a thief. Daniel Defoe deals with an important issue through his main character: what people are able to do, in order to survive. In the novel we can in fact read that Moll does not want to steal anything, and she is shocked my the movements of her body because she realizes that she is not controlling them. The impulse of her empty stomach is guiding her; in this way she becomes a thief, but Defoe raises a moral themes, in which we do not see Moll as a thief, but as a desperate woman that has an only way to live: stealing. So, is it really her fault?

SAMUEL RICHARDSON

Richardson’s most important work is Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, which is his first “epistolary novel”. That means that the whole work is written in the form of letters exchanged between the main characters. It is an interesting narrative technique, in which is used the first person narrative technique, therefore the reader can always spot different points of view and investigating things in a deeper way. In the link below you will find a useful summary of the novel.

The role of women:

Richardson speaks about an important issue: the role of women. It is important to figure out that at that time, women were just expected to gain a proposal of marriage, becoming rich and obtaining a good social position; that was the highest achievement in life, because otherwise women were not supported financially by anybody. Women were not as important as men were and they were often seen as a sexual object and therefore they had to fight as to find a role in society, even if their only way to be respected, was to get married.

The dynamics of love:

In this novel, the reader should also give insight into a dramatic technique, which gives life to the dynamics of love: in this specific case, we have the characters of Pamela and of Mr. B. If Pamela has given herself to him straight away, he would have just satisfied his lust, without learning something. In the beginning of the novel, he only cares about people and their beauty. Whereas, since Pamela makes him waiting, he learns that love does not mean lust, but waiting and respecting the other person.

The drammatic quality of the letters:

The letters are extremely personal and when a character is on stage, reveals itself to the audience and it is the same in this book, because the author of the letters shows him/herself to the readers and discloses parts of the personality and this is the dramatic quality that the epistolary novel has. The immediacy is another important quality, because the writer speaks directly to the reader, is it all a matter of intimacy.

JONATHAN SWIFT

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS

Irony and satire:

Swift found in irony and satire the means that suited his temperament and his interests. He usually achieved the effect of the parody combining irony intent with the simplicity of his style and his diction. But let’s see what irony and satire mean!

Irony = stating something and meaning the opposite, as to involve the reader.

Satire = genre in which the author says something through the lines: the use of humour to criticize someone or something.

We can find Swift’s satire in the entire novel long, starting from the characters: in the name “Houyhnhnms”, he plays with the words and in particular with the word “Human”. I imagine Swift saying: “Let’s see who the real human is now: human beings of these creatures?” Swift describes the Yahoo (human beings) as selfish, violent, aggressive, deformed both in the body and in the mind, pride and he says that they are the symbol of civilisation. He adds that they smell, metaphore of not having changed. On the other hand the find the Houyhnhnms. In other words, Swift uses irony against the upper social classes because since they are educated, they think that they are better that anyone else. Humans do not have all the goods and the qualities that they think they have. In fact the word “Yahoo” hints to someone who is rude and violent.

The biggest quality of this novel is that it describes humanity through different points of view, but the result is always the same and it emphasises the “quality” of humans. It is also extremely contemporary, because the feature of the Yahoo described by Swift, are the same we find in ourselves.

The critic of science:

Swift criticizes scientists in this novel as well and he makes an allegory of what science is all about: the use of creativity to invent. But at the same time, science creates labels and Swifts says that people put too many labels on language. Therefore, he makes a provocation: approaching to the meaning of language abolishing the words, to make people understand the importance of language. Language is not just matter of fact, but it is made of words, which are just a construct.

WILLIAM BLAKE

Give a look at the video below. It is a short video with some informations about the biography of this great man!

Complementary opposite:

One of the most important creations by William Blake in the theory of the "Complementary opposite", which says that you cannot understand something, until you do no know its opposite. Blake is an anticiper, but its critics are very torn in defining him in romantic or preromantic, because there are some conceps developed by Blake only. One of these is the theory that I have just tried explaining to you. Blake rejected a vision of the world that has been imposed by Chistianity. As an example, we can speak about the row of God, because that means that God is not just goodness and since we are created in the image of God, we can have either Good and Bed.

Church:

Blake makes a denunciation and the contradictions of the time. He critizises the Church, because of its hypocrises, the Royalty, because the Royal family lived in the luxury that were built and garanted by the work of other people. Citizens were taxed to support Royalty.

Credits:

Created with images by DariuszSankowski - "knowledge book library" • Kathleen Cavalaro - "Butterfly" • belyakov.sergey - "Iron heart" • Pexels - "batch bookcase books" • cdrummbks - "frankenstein" • skeeze - "frankenstein monster boris karloff" • maraisea - "eery fear stalk" • Jemimus - "Paradise Lost - Easton Press Edition" • qimono - "water drop droplet" • www.brevestoriadelcinema.org - "I viaggi di Gulliver" • David Bergin Photography - "Gulliver's Travels"

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