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Anouilh’s Tragedy and Oedipus Rex

Anouilh’s Tragedy and Oedipus Rex

Many definitions exist for the genres of “tragedy” and “melodrama.” Similar to the distinction between fruits and vegetables, most can tell the two apart but have difficulty describing why. However, some definitions require a deeper look into a work, such as the interpretation provided by Anouilh’s movie version of “Antigone.” Whether or not Sophocles’s “Oedipus Rex” is a tragedy or melodrama has been debated since the teachings of Aristotle and strong arguments have been made for both sides. “Tragedy,” as defined by Anouilh, takes on a lifelike form, putting a new twist on an old definition that requires one to take a different perspective on the play. Though at a superficial level “Oedipus Rex” is a tragedy, its details point it towards the direction of a melodrama.

The first and most glaring problem found while attempting to plug “Oedipus Rex” into Anouilh’s description of tragedy comes with how tragedy runs in a play.

The spring is wound up tight. It will uncoil of itself. That is what is so convenient in tragedy. The least little turn of the wrist will do the job…. The rest is automatic. You don’t need to lift a finger. The machine is in perfect order; it has been oiled ever since time began, and it runs without friction (Anouilh’s “Antigone”).

Once tragedy has started to roll, it never ceases while continuing to snowball until the point of finality in the play. In “Oedipus Rex,” this is not seen. Rather, Oedipus himself works the machine, pulling each lever and pushing every button himself. Though “the god’s design is open, [and] all his oracle is clear… (Sophocles 76),” it is Oedipus himself that must hurry his fate. The gods seem to hurry Oedipus along his journey as well, catalyzing the actions leading to Oedipus’s final revelations and self-mutilation. “Friends, it was Apollo, sprit of Apollo. He made this evil fructify (Sophocles 73).” Oedipus recognizes that the gods, notably Apollo had ushered him along, leaving him with little else than to explore his origins and eventually go mad. Oedipus is not put into some fate machine and chewed around. Oedipus is subjected to his own curiosity and the play of his own gods.

According to Anouilh, a tragedy must be very clean, whereas a melodrama is sloppy in nature.

Tragedy is clean; it is restful; it is flawless.

Essay on Imagery, Language, and Sound in What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?

Imagery, Language, and Sound in What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?

Marge Piercy is an American novelist, essayist, and poet best known for writing with a trademark feminist slant. In “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?” Marge Piercy explores the way women are sometimes held in low esteem by men through the eyes of a tired housewife who has had it with her monotonous day- to-day duties. In this poem, it is not stated that the speaker is a homemaker, but the reader is told about one woman in particular who is meant to express the feelings of women as a whole. The author conveys this central idea through imagery, figurative language, and devices of sound.

In the first lines of “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?” the author makes her point that women are burning dinners all over America. This gives us a general idea of what the poem will be about, yet it makes us want to read on to see why this would be happening; in other words, it triggers our curiosity. The author goes on to describe foods that are common to certain cities in the United States, bringing about a very gustatory and olfactory image in the mind of the reader. Following this, the author uses repetition to emphasize her introductory statement yet again, and adds an additional phrase, “. . . women are burning/food they’re supposed to bring with calico/smile on platters glittering like wax.” This statement is somewhat ironic, because it conveys an image of a very “false” woman, something like a mechanical doll or robot, or even like the flawless “model mom” figure of June Cleaver of the television series “Leave it to Beaver.” Not only do we picture a woman in an apron with an artificial smile but Piercy alludes…

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…ch can be interpreted as “Once I was first-rate with all the trimmings but now I’m low-class junk.” Spam is a cheap processed meat whereas roast duck is assumed to be one of the best meats there is; therefore she has been cheapened or degraded by the lack of gratitude on the part of her spouse, and society. She is expressing the fact that society expects women to play the role of “little wife” with no concern for the individual’s own interests. Also, the woman in the poem is comparing her drive to food, and since this poem is image-laden with war and food, we can say that Piercy is writing of a war with food, where women are using food as their primary weapon against men (the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!) It is in this way that Piercy develops her view that women are the lesser gender in the eyes of men and shares her refusal to conform.

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