One approach to understanding a culture entails an investigation of its
art. By studying the art of multiple cultures, recurrent themes may help
to define universal attributes of human nature. With this premise in mind,
an obvious corollary suggests that the few similarities between highly
disparate cultures may be particularly exemplary of humankind. Cultural
differences become readily apparent when a technologically advanced
society subdues one that is less advanced, such as what occurred during
the European colonization of Africa. Joseph Conrad’s famous novella Heart
of Darkness deals with this subject. The story unfolds during the same
time that Conrad wrote it so the meditations of European narrator Charlie
Marlow are indicative of Conrad’s society. To compliment this, Chinua
Achebe authored Things Fall Apart, a book that accurately portrays African
society as it existed immediately prior to the cataclysmic entrance of
Europeans. While a mere glance at these works reveals the overwhelming
contrast between European and African cultures, a more observant eye might
note a consistency in male attitudes with regard to females. The European
and African cultures of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Achebe’s Things
Fall Apart denote most women as inferior to men and ascribe mythical
qualities to the few exceptions, suggesting that men instinctively control
women but figuratively empower those they cannot dominate. Heart of
Darkness illustrates how European men feel that they must protect women by
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…n culture of Things Fall Apart.
While both stories occur relatively during the same time, the cultures
encountered in each are dramatically different. Despite the cultural
differences of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Achebe’s Things Fall Apart,
the societies in both works regard the female gender as inferior, the few
exceptions being women of a godly or spiritual stature. After drawing
specific examples from each work, one may conclude that men instinctively
desire control over women and, when this proves a difficult task,
attribute their inadequacies to the mystical qualities of the women.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1994.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1998.
Hamlet Soliloquys In Hamlet
Shakespeare’s revenge tragedy ‘Hamlet’ composed during the height of the Renaissance has captured the interest of audiences resonating in our contemporary society across the parallels of time. Hamlet’s soliloquys manifest ideologies and values which underpin the texts contextual sphere and the broader concerns of the play. It is through the underlying issues that the playwright provides an insight into the moral dilemma of his protagonist who questions the nature and inescapability of death, mortality, revenge and corruption. By critically considering different interpretations of the play in the light of the perspectives of others therefore, and the effects of contextual influences, the audience is positioned to gain a better understanding of the concerns purported therein.
Hamlet’s motivation for vengeance is fuelled by Shakespeare’s sense of justice in fate derived from Christianity which had infused the 17th century Elizabethan context which elicited its all-embracing contextual concerns. In the first of his soliloquies, the ethereal ghost, whose imperious modality seeks Hamlet’s assurance of revenge, establishes the plays sinister mood positioning the audience to the moral corruption in the state of Denmark. The metaphorical association of the world as ‘an unweeded garden’ and the lexis ‘rank’ and ‘gross’ further allude to the depravity a primary concern in his anarchic context. To enlist Hamlet’s assistance, the ghost exploits simile to describe the poison administered by Claudius which was ‘swift as quick silver’, and ‘like eager droppings into milk’ images suggestive of Claudius’ calculating nature further purported in the contradiction of the paradox ‘our sometime sister, now our queen’ and in his joy at marrying G…
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… spurs me …. to my revenge?/I have a father who has been murdered, a mother who has been defiled, … yet I’ve done nothing.’ It is at this point that he resolves to accept his duty to kill Claudius. The final words he utters are ironically juxtaposed with Horatio’s perspective as we the audience, are left with an ambiguous uncertainty about the nature of man. The protagonist dies a ‘sweet prince’, and not a villain, his inner conflict finally alleviated.
The world of ‘Hamlet’ ultimately conforms to an Aristotelian notion of catharsis as the deaths of Hamlet, Gertrude, Claudius and Laertes, invariably bring a sense of rational closure and termination to the corruption and disorder they reaped in the course of a play. Renowned for its enduring contextual concerns, the protagonist’s soliloquies reflect broader issues which lie at the core of human experience.