Saturday, November 29, 2008
2. Good Old Wiki As Sir says
3. Novel Guide
4. Pink Monkey
5. Grade Saver
6. Background Information
8. More Background Information
9. Information From Answers.Com
10. Implication Of Christian Names And Surnames
12. Social Criticism In Hard Times
13. Utilitarianism In Hard Times
14. Romantic Trajedy Or Proletariat Propaganda
PS: in my opinion it helps a lot to concentrate on the themes provided in each site.
Dear readers, visitors, and followers of this blog,
From now on Aishwarya Rao of II Sem JPEng will be assisting me as the coauthor of this blog. She will mainly concentrate on the I year Optional English syllabus. While I welcome her to this experiment, I request you to extend your cooperation to her too.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Once Upon A Time
Gabriel Okara(Click here for the text of the poem)
Once Upon A Time highlights the guilt and resentment an African man feels for himself to accepting the culture of the westerners. He notices a marked change in the attitudes of his people—those whom were once so genuine, warm and sincere have now suddenly turned cold and hostile towards him.
He realizes that the early values, which always existed in the African society (like sincerity, good-natured ness, simplicity, wholeheartedness, hospitality, friendliness, originality, identity, uniqueness and overall satisfaction), have now faced a drastic, dramatic change. Post-colonized
He resentfully admits that he, too, makes hollow greetings and started behaving in the same way that people behaved with him. He confesses to his son that he does not like the person he has become and wants to change, and go back to the way he was before, in his childhood. He beseeches his son, the only person he knows who has not been affected by the new culture, to teach him how to be enthusiastic and happy and live life again. He asks his son to help him go back to who he was, and get back his lost identity. He expresses a desire to unlearn whatever he has forced himself to learn, in order for him to gain his sense of self back. He asks his son to help him be happy once again and acquire the childlike innocence he once possessed as a child.
Structure of the Poem
The poem moves in a slow pace. The poem uses repetition and quotations to maintain a sense of deliberateness through out the poem.
Personal monologue explaining personal experiences
The entire poem has the man talking to his son. There are no other voices in the poem, and the son remains mute throughout the entire poem. The man explains to his son about the change that has taken place in African society and asks him to help him changing himself.
First Person Narrative
The poem is in first person narrative and the poet uses the word ‘I’ to depict an autobiographical narration of the man.
Lots of Punctuation and Rythming
Begins on a negative tone and ends with a positive one
The man is constantly complaining and lamenting on the change he sees in his culture as well as himself. But in the end of the poem, we still see that the man still sees the ‘ray of light’ in his son, who has not been affected by this negative change and asks him to help him unlearn what he has learnt and regain his child-like innocence once again
The child in the poem is a symbol of innocence, purity, enthusiasm, happiness and genuineness lacking in society. The child represents the group of people who have not been affected or ‘spoilt’ by Western Culture and abode by there own culture. The poet, struck by a sense of self-loathing and regret, turns to his son in his time of need and asks him to help him unlearn whatever he has learnt and help him regain his child-like innocence.
Innocence is a fading aspect in the man’s society. People always appear deceitful and cunning. The child, however, is a picture of innocence and acts without any malice or ulterior motive. The man wishes to gain this innocence from his son, though he fails to realize that innocence is not learnt, but a state of mind. Once it is lost, it is gone forever.
The western culture, language, and way of life made a huge impact on the people of
The man is forced to adapt to the society he is living in and becomes fake, formal, and everything he despises. He feels a deep sense of regret and self loathing, and when he looks into the mirror, he sees his ‘teeth like snake’s bared fangs’ , indicating that he is frightened of himself and all that he has become. This forces him to confide these worries to his son, and asks for his assistance in bringing about a positive change in him.
Gabriel Okara shows very well in the poem how, when people change, and adapt, it is not always positive. The once enthusiastic and friendly society of
An indication of being fake and insincere is spread throughout the poem. Lines like ‘but now they only laugh with their teeth’, ‘ice-block-cold eyes’, ‘now they shake hands without hearts’ indicate the insincere attitude of the people. The empty, meaningless, hollow greeting that are said only as a formality, the many ‘faces’ the man puts on according to the occasion are other indicators of this fact.
Greetings and pleasantries make up a vital part of communication in western culture. When the Africans adopted their style of greeting, they were merely words, with no meaning. These simple mutterings replaced the African’s original way of greeting, which contained more genuineness and affection. .
Analysis of the title
The title of the poem, 'Once Upon A Time', has special relevance to
the beginning of every fairy tale, like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella,
Snow White, Rapunzel, and others. It was probably chosen by Okara, as
the man in the poem expresses his desire to go, 'back in time', and
regain his child-like innocence.
Reference to 'I' in the poem
The reference to 'I' in the poem has been interpreted by me, as a man
speaking to his young son. However, in no point in the poem is it
mentioned that the speaker is male, which you very well mean that
the 'I', is a reference to Gabriel Okara herself, talking to her son.
However, due to the lines 'Once upon a time, when I was like you',
have made me conclude, that it is a man who is speaking.
Institutionalising the Individual
An analysis of
‘You Will Be Hearing From Us Shortly’
A little bit about the author…
Ursula Aksham Fanthorpe was born in
Her poems seem to question authority and show compassion to people at the same time. Her most successful poems have been in monologue while others have a great deal of humour and dialogue in them unlike the usual structure of poetry we are used to. Most of her poems are of two voices. Other dominant themes in her writings are war and it’s effects on children, the nature of Englishness and the British character and history.
It was in 1989 that she became a full-time writer who gives readings of her work mostly in the
The underlying theme used to analyse the text is the concept of ‘modern’ or rather the factors that complete or contribute to a modern lifestyle. This particular theme has especially been chosen because personally I have been very fascinated with the word ‘modern’ as it has been something that quite frankly has not found an universally appeal. Ask a layman what it means to be ‘modern’ the answer can vary enough to drive a human being mad (unless that is what modernity intends to do), in a general sense perhaps one can classify being modern in terms of a time-span or choose to take another harder stance and explore. And it is in this intention that I hope to explore the text.
Keeping that in mind, we will first look at the poem and try to summarize in relation to the world today with the underlying presumption that we are all evolved human beings living in a modern world. The summary will also lay the foundation to help better understand the different concepts and theories to be discussed.
Having once given a common understanding of the text, it becomes necessary to find different means of being able to engage with the text and this is precisely what we shall be doing in different modes of reading. Of course, the different means provided here are not given as ultimatums rather hope to reveal scope for further models of interpreting the piece. With three different modes of reading established, our focus moves onto the dominant themes that revolve around the poem which will help appreciate the text in various forms.
One of the major revelations of poetry-reading can be achieved by evaluating the title given to it from a generic sense, therefore we shall try and decipher what You Will Be Hearing From Us Shortly refers to with emphasis on the word ‘shortly’ as it seems to stick to the original codes of understanding concepts of being modern in terms of time-relevance. It becomes inevitable but to look at the structuring of the text to find hidden meanings (atleast conceivable hidden meanings) once analysed focussing on the word ‘shortly’.
Our concluding part of the analysis throws light on the different layers that exist within the piece aiming to break the traditional moulds of analysing a text. It seeks to prove that a particular writing can be highlighted in more ways than just one especially given the freedom in the Modern World.
A Summarised Perspective:
The poem showcases the concept of an interview, giving prominence to perhaps the negative aspects. The poet challenges fundamental concepts of interviewing and reveals it in a dialogic form. An interesting theory would be to understand that though it is presented in a dialogue form nowhere in the entire poem do we hear the interviewee’s voice although both their mind-sets and personalities are revealed to some extent.
The interviewer focuses on several aspects of the interviewee that makes one wonder if this is the standard norms for how an interview is held. The interviewer somehow seems distracted as he goes about the interview in a manner that can be debated. Once we hear all the questions the interviewer asks we are left with a question ourselves – what is really important? And what does it take for a successful interview? Where is the emphasis given upon in this competitive world?
When analysing these factors we come across the basis: that each one of them are very vulnerable to time. Every aspect that the interviewer focuses on the candidate could differ greatly at different time periods. Someone who graduated first in his class in 1996 could relatively prove “unintelligent” when compared to someone who graduated in 2006. When dealing with such a volatile situation it makes you wonder if Fanthorpe is really trying to project that these constitute the essence that makes what the modern world is and this very necessity to erase the lines drawn between one’s personal and professional life exposes domination of the modern world.
We find this domination becoming crystal clear as the interviewer is able to convince the interviewee that his existence is a pity by the end of the poem. We shall understand this power-play better when we deal with the different themes within the poem but underlying modern concepts of functioning can be seen by psychological manipulation of many sorts.
It often occurs to me that any text is usually dealt in one particular fashion ignoring all the other possibilities. So, starting with the basics I’m hoping to introduce ways of reading the same text in distinctive patterns. Attempting this, here are three patterns my mind was able to lay out.
- A Monologue
Having established very confidently that this is a dialogic poem it would be rather hard to treat it as a monologue but not unimaginable. If one chooses to treat it in this manner we are again provided with two more options; to understand it as a monologue of the interviewer or the interviewee himself.
If we are considering it as a monologue of the interviewer one can assume that social restrictions do not give him the liberty of saying the things out loud and thus it can be concluded as manifestations of his own mind. What we can focus around here are the social implications that could provoke an interviewer to wonder about.
Another monologue perspective could be to analyse it from the point of view of an amateur and his apprehensions about the interview. This can simply be put off as nervousness or understand it by reflecting on the causes for such apprehensions.
Both of these to some level show us an unrealistic perspective and irrational fears one might have. What is crucial here is that what one might consider unrealistic can turn out to be not so and perhaps we are moving towards a rather unrealistic future.
2. The Silenced Interviewee
This mode has been especially chosen due to the lack of representation of the interviewee. We find that there is no voice given to the interviewee, we are left to believe the notions made by the interviewer as the ultimate truth.
What does this signify? Giving absolute power to the interviewer who represents a major part of the organization whose words we blindly believe. This casual scenario exposes personal invasion made by the modern world, where individuals are given fewer opportunities to showcase themselves from their point of view rather forced to accept it in relation to societal norms.
This of course leads to what I like to call “virtual representations” of each of us. Projection of ourselves in a corporate world changes from what we are to what we are suppose to be and this hopeful process of changing reflects the virtual representations that we make of ourselves every single day. And during this struggle to meet the ideal virtual representation we encounter a loss, loss of our personal identity that seems trivial in comparison to the large organization that exists.
3. From A Young Interviewee
In a rather simplistic sense one can read it as nothing but apprehensions that a young interviewee has, a reflection of general concerns that one might have before his first interview. When analysing it from this mode we are forced to consider the social pressures that lead one to dwell under such tension.
I have chosen to treat it in this specific manner mainly because the idea of the poem being apprehensions of an amateur does not seem absurd but what contradicts this simple explanation is the interviewee being –married, children- in the poem. This is the intriguing aspect of which I wish to explore where perhaps it is meant to show that everyone is treated as an amateur and it does not change much for an older experienced applicant or a new-comer and how both are treated in the same manner. Either that or it could simply be seen in terms of time-relevance as mentioned in the summarized perspective.
Three themes have been chosen keeping in mind the most irrelevant concepts or rather the most ignored aspects of this poem. Not claiming that no one has understood this piece of text in this manner but attempting to bring together seemingly irrelevant pieces of information to form what can be called one important perspective.
1. Power Relations
“Power is everywhere…becomes it comes from everywhere” – Michele Focault
The above quote shall serve as the foundation for the rest of my argument. It seems only obvious to pick power relations as one of the dominant themes in the poem after having mentioned everything above. The entire concept of power requires no historical background or knowledge to analyse as in every sphere of human act there have been power; of course some more preferable than the others. And power can be understood in many ways, all of which can be applied to the text.
In relation to the poem, power relations needs to be understood in terms of the corporate world where hierarchy and monitored functioning are in their zenith. It would seem rather stupid to ignore such a concept in the corporate world. Power relations become interesting especially while trying to relate to the corporate or modern world from the past, as we have evolved we have evolved within ourselves the very ideals of how we use or abuse power. One such understanding can be achieved by Alvin Toffler’s theory of power in historical sense; the beginning of power can be recognized as barbaric, where man could portray his domination only in primitive expressions or in other words through violence. This of course went through many changes although even today we find this dominates our impulse and history stands as the book of truth to reveal to us how exhibition of being powerful transformed from violence to wealth. Although one can argue very confidently that for quite a long period of time they both worked closely with one another to great lengths. As time passed by, we now arrive to our present state where power is displayed through a fluid concept termed as “intelligence” otherwise known as knowledge or information.
The transformation that has taken place over the years makes power relations especially a delicate topic to engage with as it has now moved from a plain one dimensional model to a three dimensional functioning aspect of a society. Where at times all the three previously mentioned tools of power are used but in greatly differing indirect means. Another mode of looking at it comes from the Classic Study by French and Raven (1959) where they introduced five bases of power; positional (where power is issued based on the position you hold), referent (power understood as how influential or how convincing one is able to build loyalty around him), expert (power based on the expertise one holds over a subject), coercive (in terms of primitive means, violence) and reward (if one is able to give or withheld rewards of any kind). An additional base was added a little later rightly termed as the Informational base that reflects a society in the face of an aftermath of information explosion.
Thus, information becomes power and power is very generously available to anyone who chooses to find it. Understanding power relations in this mode becomes increasingly difficult to define in precise terms. We can perhaps say Foucault’s quote finally establishes itself in modern society. When everyone has equal opportunities to find the power that they want, it becomes a universal characteristic of man. Now, it becomes dangerous as trends in power change drastically leaving man completely vulnerable to the dictates of the modern world.
2. Abstract Nature
It seems absurd to look at this poem as abstract in nature by any means but there are much vital information withheld by the writer that makes one wonder, if it is meant to be read from a metaphorical stance?
As we explored earlier, one can question if this poem is actually a depiction of reality or just manifestations of someone’s mind? As we continue ahead with the text, we find that there are several additional information that aren’t revealed although the conclusion is noticeably established as far as character revelation is concerned. It would be intriguing to ask – how can one’s personality be drawn without analysing other necessary factors?
In order to realize this better I would like to draw from a mathematical concept of hypostatic abstraction which is famously used even in literary expressions where the essence of a certain subject or object is believed to be within a particular word although objectively the word might mirror no such real meaning of it’s own. Keeping that in mind, we can look at certain words Fanthorpe employs to differentiate between the layers of the text. The conception of application form, qualifications, position etc are all products of a strict structure we call home or society today. All of which are highly relative to particular social setting; a degree obtained in an underdeveloped country could be conveniently disregarded in a developed nation or a certain position held within a particular community might be regarded at a higher level while might prove otherwise simply by a change of location. When we try to scrutnize it from this angle we find Fanthorpe could actually be mocking the highly complex structures of society. It’’s irrelativeness is proven again in the text by being a middle aged man who is still is struggling and being subjected to the mockery of another.
This struggle is further emphasized as no voice is given to the interviewee implying the lost nature of man in the modern world. And his inability to defend falls prey to anyone’s manipulations.
Under this theme we shall try to appreciate words that stand contrary to one another rather than complimenting each other. I have chosen to treat these concrete words as metaphors purely to plough deeper into the text.
Let’s divide all the words used by using two parameters; one where they hold primary relationship with society, as in they become dysfunctional if not for society nurturing them and two where they are not completely influenced by any strict structure. Qualifications, education, application form etc can be decoded using the first method as their existence denotes a structured society and it’s contributions to it. The latter would consists words such as age, looks, accent, personal preference for social status such as being married are not entirely influenced by a restricted manipulation rather flows through natural process of conditioning. As we distinguish them from one another, it makes you wonder why the writer has chosen to deal with both these abstract concepts in the same manner, treating them both alike almost as synonyms.
This unusual pairing brings to light the distinction that is lost in the present times. The preparation for corporate world that disables our ability to understand both these aspects of the self different from one another but makes it not even complimenting each other rather making them represent each other in as many different ways as possible.
It is commonly assumed your accent speaks more about your education than your degree or your looks give away more about your personality than your application form etc. It would be hasty to completely deny it’s significance but keeping in tone of the poem it is possibly for one to interpret it among these lines where these lines drawn between your personal and professional space are erased. Thus we can conclude by saying that the poem brings to light the other face of “modernization” and the intense pressure on one’s professional life that overlooks personal development; nothing can speak better than allowing one to call your very existence a pity, the sole reason being you are not adequate to fit into a fluid social position.
It is my personal belief that most often the direct clues to any text are given in their titles which of course is based on the assumption that a title is given once the entire text has been penned down. In order to apply the same theory here, it struck me to focus on the word ‘shortly’ rather than just the whole title as it applies to what we are currently examining – modern structuring that is very subjective to time.
Of course it is easy to simply conclude that the title hopes to draw attention to the whole poem being dialogic in nature. In an attempt to complicate it a little bit let us try to twist the word into the effects it would have on a layman. The word shortly also seems to express the fundamental characteristic of the modern corporate world where it is often used to ignite certain hopes into you otherwise simply to politely state an indefinite period of time. Let us inspect the effects of both these possibilities; in the first case a hope is created even though your subconscious might speak otherwise and the latter demonstrates something everyone is very familiar with – waiting for immeasurable amount of time only to realize much later that it was all in for vain. These negative attitudes have been incorporated into the analysis considering the unpleasant way an interview is dealt with in the text.
Both of the above mentioned options requires one to be extremely adaptive to whatever they might encounter. It’s seriously disturbing to believe even for a second that Fanthorpe’s poem maybe even in an indirect way suggesting that we are looking at ‘survival of the fittest’ in a whole new arena where the idea of adaptation takes a new turn – for worse or for the better.
Indulging a little more on the new idea of adaptation let’s look at the structure of the poem. You will find that –existence- and –personal status- are found right at the bottom with all the manifestations of a social living status comfortably seated above them. We find Fanthorpe very brutally showcasing what modern life does to you, your very existence is not only piled up beneath everything else but if we study it closely we find that Fanthorpe has also provided us with a pinch of optimism as existence is of course laid right at the bottom, it evidently points at the entire social structures and its manifestations having their heavy ground on the existence of man.
It is a very annoying habit that educational institutes have rubbed off on most of us; a rule of reading a text keeping in mind certain rules that are predetermined without considering the nature of every piece that is typical.
- Critique on the Modern World
This is exactly what we have done all through. The modern world, a capitalist world under attack by information explosion is one format of understanding. And the distance the modern world creates between one’s personal and professional life.
2. Constrains of the Society
There are many limitations expressed in the poem; lack of representation to the interviewee, universality created to disclose constrains of the society such as inability of the interviewee to voice out his opinions and etc.
3. Power Play at different levels
We find power play functioning at several different levels such as psychological, societal in terms of positional power, power play also within an individual who’s personality is hidden within the interviewing process, etc.
4. Questioning Authoritarian Systems
The very structure of an authoritarian system can be challenged by reading the text and understand it as a part of power play and how authorities function.
5. Survival Guide for the Corporate World
This can plainly be read as a stress-buster for those who wish to share a good laugh before entering the corporate world or how and what to expect in it.
The Modern World:
There can be no definite conclusion to understanding either modern structures or the functioning of a corporate world but of course what can be said for sure is that interviews are or what hopefully this text silently proclaims is the process of institutionalising the individual where both the I’s are made synonyms with one another and begin to replicate each other therefore loosing the essential human feature of being ‘unique’.
Following is the presentation notes on Perspective IV Semester lesson 'Writing a Curriculum Vitae' a poem by Wislawa Szymborska. The presentation was made for II year JPEng class by Madhura Puranik on 19 Nov.
Writing a Curriculum Vitae
Outline of the Presentation
• Definition and Purpose of a CV
Definition of a CV
• Personal history.
• Overview of professional accomplishments.
Purpose of a CV
• To demonstrate that you can do the job that you have applied for.
• To establish how well you did your previous job.
• To indicate that you have the enthusiasm to perform the new role.
• To obtain an interview for the current vacancy.
Regardless of how long your life is,
the Curriculum Vitae should be short.
Ø A CV should always be short and to the point because you are judged on the basis of your CV, it creates an impression on the person who is viewing your CV. The CV must encourage your employer to want to interview you.
Be concise, select facts.
Change landscape into addresses and
vague memories into fixed dates.
Of all your loves, mention only the marital,
and of the children, only those who were born.
Ø Write only those things that you are definite and sure about. Give your exact address.
Ø Give information about your family. Mention the number of dependents you have.
Enclose a photo with one ear showing.
What counts is its shape, not what it hears.
Ø Photograph is just for identity.
What does it hear?
The clatter of machinery that shreds paper.
Ø At the end of it, irrespective of whether the candidate is selected or not, the CV goes to the shredder.
Questions + Themes
Do you think a CV gives a true picture of oneself?
• Three paragraphs
§ one dimensional, reducing a human being to a piece of paper.
Discuss the meaning of the last line of the poem in the light of what has come earlier.
- Opposite image of what is presented earlier
- Ironical- Good CV , Bad CV
Point out all the contrasts that are used in the poem.
• Vague memories
• Whom you know
• Fixed dates
• Who knows you
Difference between a CV and a resume.
brief and concise
Slightly long (2- 4 pages)
Sunday, November 23, 2008
The notes is also available in a pdf format at http://rapidshare.com/files/166512524/the_rocking_horse_winner_akb.pdf.html. I thank Anjan for additing a new dimnetion to the edublogging experiments by making the notes available in a pdf format.
The story in short
1. Introduction to the mother- Hester
• Described as ‘once beautiful’.
• Considers herself unlucky.
• Her main motto in life is to earn more money.
• Others appreciate her relationship with her children, but only she and her children know that she does not love or care for them as much as she pretends to do.
2. Introduction to Hester’s family and their house
• Pleasant house.
• Have servants, gardeners, and are rich.
• There was never enough money (a statement mostly derived from Hester or her husband’s conscience).
• The children can often hear the house whisper “There must be more money”!
3. Reason for their misery
• Both Hester and her husband have a small income.
• Both have expensive tastes.
4. Paul’s conversation with Hester
• Reveals more of Hester’s character and her beliefs.
• Hester takes ‘luck’ as something that would make a person rich.
• She considers herself unlucky as she has married an unlucky person, Paul’s father.
• Paul, her son is seen who appears to be very innocent and loving.
• Paul asserts that he is lucky, and that God himself has told him that.
• From now on, Paul’s main motto in life becomes to prove to his mother that he is rich, and make his mother happy.
5. Paul rides his horse
• Rides his wooden rocking-horse frantically at a mad pace and orders the horse to take him to a place where there’s luck.
6. Uncle Oscar arrives
• Oscar Cresswall, Hester’s brother is a rich man and owns his own car, making Paul believe that he is lucky.
• He discovers that Paul knows so much about race horses and even names his wooden rocking-horse after winning horses.
• He interrogates Bassett, the friendly gardener to find out more about Paul’s fascination with race horses, in vain.
7. Oscar discovers the truth
• He gets a tip from Paul to bet on Daffodil, a race horse taking part in the Lancelot Race, and wins.
• Bassett, Oscar and Paul make an agreement of secrecy of Paul’s magical ability to guess the winner of the horse races.
• Paul says he wants his to surprise his mother with the knowledge that he is lucky.
8. A birthday gift for Hester
• Paul has made quite some money now from the horse races and decides to give Hester 5000 pounds as a birthday gift.
• Done through Uncle Oscar’s lawyer who informs Hester that her relative has died and has left her the money, and it is to be delivered 1000 pounds every birthday for the next five years.
• Hester informs the lawyer she wants the entire amount at once.
• Paul lets her have the entire amount, and begins to concentrate on winning more money for his mother.
• Hester spends the money in buying new things, and this puts their economy in an even tighter spot.
9. Paul loses his mental balance
• Paul begins to get more stressed as every moment of his life is spent worrying about the next big horse race- The Derby
• A change is seen in Hester, when she for the first time shows some concern for Paul and suggests him to go on a vacation.
10. The final showdown
• Hester and her husband go out a dance two nights before the Derby, where Hester has unexplained fears for her son.
• On returning, she finds him to be riding his horse and screaming, “Its Malabar!”
• Paul becomes seriously ill, owning to the amount of stress he has been undergoing.
• Uncle Oscar bets his money on Malabar, the horse Paul had guessed would win, but never comes to visit Paul.
• Malabar wins and Hester discovers that Paul had made 70,000 pounds at the race.
• Paul dies.
1. The importance of a healthy Home Environment-
This story demonstrates the influence of home environment on a child’s development and character. As seen in the story, Paul’s family is quiet broken, with the parents in their own world and the children with no love from them. The children hardly get any love or attention from their parents. Hester remains lost in her never ending quest for more money, while her husband is never present. The very fact that he remains unnamed proves that he does not play a major role in the family. Research over the ages have proved that the role of parents in shaping a child’s development is crucial. Here in the story, Paul is never taken seriously by his mother, and is left on his own with no guidance from his parents whatsoever.
2. Responsibility and Maturity
The very belief that says grown ups are more responsible and mature than children is challenged in this story that portrays grownups as the most irresponsible and immature people. Even though Hester’s husband does not earn much, they feel maintaining a false social standard is necessary, and fail to see the amount of damage this does to their family. They spend more and more on servants and gardeners. This shows that they lack responsibility. They also fail to perform their duty as parents. They do not love their children, in spite of the society thinking they do. Hester appears as an impulsive person when she spends the entire 5000 pounds on buying new things instead of solving their older debts, and hence successfully brings puts their economy in an even tighter spot.
As opposed to this, Paul emerges as the person who treats his family as his own, and shows a lot of consideration for his mother. He shows empathy and gives his life to improve the condition of their family.
3. Magic versus Delusion
In the year 1996, a school boy confessed to his psychologist that during his visit to the Kohima War Cemetery, he had seen soldiers, covered in blood loitering around the place. Was this a true vision he had seen? Or was this a part of his imagination?
Paul is somehow able to know the name of the winning horse before the horse race takes place. This ability does seem magical, and since Paul himself says that God has told him that he is lucky, one cannot rule out the possibility of Paul being blessed with true magical powers. However, one cannot be completely sure if Paul actually did have magical powers or if he was being delusional, which is quite possible considering the fact that Paul remains under enormous stress and that he does not receive any attention from his parents. The extrasensory perception that Paul seems to acquire might just be a fragment of his imagination. Paul loses a hundred pounds on a race after incorrectly guessing the name of the winning horse. This I feel is an indication that Paul probably did not have an extrasensory perception, but depended on his imagination and luck to prove that he could guess the name of the winning horse.
4. Oedipus complex
D. H. Lawrence has touched this theme in several of his other works as well. Put forward by psychologist Sigmund Freud, this theory believes that young boys develop a sexual attraction towards the mother and desire the death of the father. Many see this as an obsession to compete with the father and establish them as the only one the mother loves. In the story, it is seen that Paul’s main objective, the very motto of his life becomes to please his mother and make her happy, and give her every thing that she wishes for. In a way, he shoulders his father’s responsibilities by taking in the duty of fulfilling his mother’s desires. Though several psychologists have rejected this theory, it is quite evident in this story. In Song of Myself, Walt Whitman uses the ‘horse’ as sexual symbol. Paul riding his horse to please the mother may also have a sexual meaning, or a sexual indication.
He appears as a sensitive young boy who knows the exact condition their family is in. He loves his mother and after he gets to know that it is ‘luck’ that is going to make her mother happy, he sets out on his quest to prove that he is lucky. He devotes his life to earning money and improving their home environment.
Even though Paul has overtaken the responsibility of his father, he seems to be unaware of it. He hears the house whisper the lack of money and after Hester tells him that luck is something that enables a person to be rich, he associates luck with money. Even after Paul discovers his own ability to know the name of the winning horse before a horse race, he remains calm and handles the whole thing very smoothly. He trusts Bassett with his secret and depends on him for his information on races. He is innocent and gambles only to save his family and make his mother happy. He understands his family and is more attached to it than his parents. The one thing that makes him relentless in his pursuit for money is the desperation to prove that he is lucky, and the desire to make his mother happy. He becomes so stressed that one can see him losing his mental health towards the end of the story. It is this enormous stress that he is exposed to that causes him to become sick. And later, he dies making 70,000 pounds, proving he is ‘lucky’.
The second most important character in the story, its her character that gives shape to the story and make things the way they are. She is described as ‘once beautiful’, but after marriage, she has discovered that she is without luck. She is always at the want for more money. She does not love her children nor does she take them seriously.
Her relationship with her husband is not discussed at all in the story, except that she considers him to be unlucky. Her desire to be more rich makes her change professions in an attempt to make quick money, which finally result in the total ignorance of her duties as a mother. She fails to understand her children and love them. A sense of desperation to be rich is what occupies her mind all the moments of her waking as well as sub conscious moments, and that prevents her from being able to focus on her duties towards her children.
Hester is a spendthrift. When she receives the 5000 pounds, instead of spending it wisely, she spends them on buying new things that further worsen the economy of her family. It shows that she acts impulsively. So lost is she in the joy of getting the money that she does not even try to find out which relative has left her the money. She is described as a person of rich tastes. It is these reasons responsible for her supposed poor state. It is assumed that the sub-conscious competition with her brother Oscar is responsible for her being so obsessed with the notion of gaining more money.
Towards the end, she becomes affectionate towards Paul, after she senses that there is something bothering him. She asks him to go on a vacation. She becomes more and more responsible and caring, seen from the fears she has during the dance. She comes home after the dance to check on Paul. This shows that towards the end, she has undergone a change of heart. Though we do not know if this change will be permanent one, we know for sure that the ‘place in her heart that did not feel love’ has finally managed to succumb to motherly passion.
He is one of the most interesting characters of the story. Both Hester and Paul take him as lucky. Paul makes his first profit on the ten dollars Oscar had given him. He is rich and most importantly, more satisfied with what he has, and that is what differentiates him from Hester.
Oscar is amazed to know that his young nephew knows so much about race horses. He speaks to Bassett to know more, and then after finally getting to know the truth about Paul’s unique powers, he appears quite understanding and agrees to Paul’s wish of secrecy so that Paul can prove to his mother that he is lucky. He encourages Paul to gamble and also helps him with the whole birthday gift arrangement for Hester. He bets his own money on the horses Paul senses are winners, and makes money.
However, towards the end when Paul falls sick, not once does Oscar comes to pay a visit. He bets his money on the horse Paul said would win. Inspite of his close relationship with his nephew throughout the story, this incident proves that Oscar was only using Paul for his own benefits. When he swore to secrecy on Paul’s pretext, it may have been his own wish to keep this a secret as had Hester found out about Paul’s powers, she would not have allowed him to take advantage of him. Oscar does not really advise Paul on how to be careful with is money, but goes on encouraging him to bet more and more. He does nothing to help Paul and does not even come to visit him when he is so sick. This brings out the hidden side in him, a business minded person who thinks of nothing other than his own profit.
The friendly gardener, Bassett is an honest and fair man who is completely trustworthy. His previous profession enabled him to know a great deal about horse races and so Paul gets all his information about races from him. Paul trusts him with his money and Bassett does not betray him. He maintains secrecy and does not leak out the story of Paul’s powers when interrogated by Oscar.
He treats Paul seriously and gives him the attention he deserves. He is humble, as seen from his dealings with Oscar. It is he who comes and informs Paul that he has won 70,000 pounds from the Derby race.
He is hardly ever present even when events of serious nature happen. He has a job that does not earn him much. He has expensive tastes and thrives to live a social life that does not truly fit to their earnings. Hester considers him unlucky. When he returns from the Dance Hester, he knows how much tensed and worried has she been for her son the entire evening. Yet on reaching home, he does not even bother to go and check on Paul, instead he settles down to have some whisky. This also indicates that he and Hester are not that close. They both are so lost in their pursuit for money that they have cannot see the unfulfilled duties they have as parents and partners. He is mentioned only thrice in the story and remains unnamed.
From the examination point of view, students will need to concentrate on-
1) Paul’s and Hester’s relationship
2) Hester’s relentless pursuit for more money
3) Psychological aspects of Paul’s condition
4) Oscar Cresswell’s relationship with Paul
5) Paul’s secret
6) Paul’s deteriorating health
Apart from these, students will also need to focus on the themes, plotline and the characters. While answering the long answers, it is advised to follow the ‘five-paragraph’ answering style. Instead of giving summaries, it’s more important to substantiate your point or argument with examples that can be taken from both within or outside the text.
(Anjan's photo is taken from his blog: Tales from the magical land of Andalasia!)