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Modernism and Postmodernism in Shakespeare’s Othello

Othello teaches us much about our current postmodern culture. The play connects to our ideas of sexism, male-bonding, racism and capitalism. Shakespeare uses these universal and timeless flaws in humanity along with our use of language and truth to tell his tale. Iago, over a period of about three days, uses these facets of humanity to turn Othello against his wife Desdemona and his friend Cassio. Othello reveals both the struggle of the British people of the early 1600’s and Americans in the late 1900’s with sexism, capitalism and racism.

In Othello men see women as objects to control, first by their father, and then by their husband. When Iago yells to Brabantio, telling him his daughter has gone off to marry Othello, he yells “Thieves, thieves! / Look to your house, your daughter, and your bags! / Thieves, thieves!” (Othello I.i.79-80). Othello has taken away Brabantio’s property, his daughter, and is called a thief because of it. Desdemona refuses to be treated like property, however and makes “A gross revolt, / tying her duty, beauty, wit and fortunes” (Othello I.i.134-135) to Othello. Her marriage to Othello is not an act of a free woman, but a revolt by Brabantio’s property. Desdemona is also incapable of independent feelings or thoughts. Othello must have “Enchanted her” (Othello I.ii.63), “In chains of magic” (Othello I.ii.65), because she could never make such a choice on her own. In Brabantio’s mind, only he can know what is in Desdemona’s best interest and then choose it for her. Brabantio tries to guard her, but Desdemona has “Run from her guardage” (Othello I.ii.70). In Othello the culture of the time treats women as objects to be guarded and watched over, too tender and gentle to fend for themselves in a dang…

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…hooses for her, this taking of a different role is similar to Othello’s efforts to fit into the European world. Othello’s lack of definitive truth is postmodern.

Othello does have an emphasis of characters over environment. Although the characters represent different aspects of society, Shakespeare takes great care in developing them and their internal traits. The lack of definitive truth in Othello’s world creates chaos, but Othello refuses to just accept this chaos, he chooses Iago over Desdemona’s version of events.

Othello combines modernism and postmodernism in its discussion of language and truth. Although Othello contains many elements from both periods, it is mostly modern, due to it’s setting and need for characters. The characters decide to fight the chaos inside themselves and in the world. This fight leads to the tragic ending of the play.

Structural Elements of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye: Structural Elements

In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison employs structure as an aid for telling her story. She uses at least three unique structural devices for this purpose. First, Morrison begins the novel with three passages that prepare the reader for the shocking tale about to be told. Second, the novel is divided into four major parts with each quarter given the name of a season. Third, the novel is further divided into seven sections that are headed by a portion of the passage that began the novel.

The three passages that begin The Bluest Eye appear to be from a grade school primer. They portray a family’s life in identical terms, but they differ in punctuation, capitalization, and spacing. The first passage is normal in all of these aspects:

Here is the house. It is green and white. It has a red door. It is very pretty. Here is the family. Mother, Father, Dick, and Jane live in the green-and-white house. They are very happy. See Jane. She has a red dress. She wants to play. Who will play with Jane?

The second passage lacks punctuation and capitalization

Here is the house it is green and white it has a red door it is very pretty here is the family mother father dick and jane live in the green-and-white house they are very happy see jane she has a red dress she wants to play who will play with jane

The third passage lacks all — punctuation, capitalization, and spacing. According to Herbert Rice, “what appears on the page is quite literally a chaotic array of letters” (19):

Hereisthehouseitisgreenandwhiteithasareddooritisveryprettyhereisthefamilymotherfatherdic kandjaneliveinthegreenandwhitehousetheyareveryahppyseejaneshehasareddressshewantsto playw…

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…have a few parallels in their lives: both are searching for someone to play with them, and both find the answer in a friend, although Pecola’s friend is imaginary.

The Bluest Eye is an innovative novel whose touching and compelling story could not have been told without Morrison’s unique structural devices. One such tool is the use of seasons to divide the narrative and put an interesting twist on the order of events. Perhaps the most unique structural element is the three primer passages that begin the novel. The first passage introduces a model household to which the rest of the families in the novel are compared. Finally, an equally innovative structural element is the use of lines from the primer passages to head subsections in the novel, illustrating the vast differences between the mythological Dick and Jane world and the reality of black family life.

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