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Poetic Female Writers In America Before 1865 Us History Essay Help


Confluence of Prose and Poetry history assignment help ireland: history assignment help ireland

Confluence of Prose and Poetry

Women, under the auspices of a system of marriage that left this with very little recourse or power to prosper on their own often felt a sense of powerlessness that encompassed their whole mind and often showed in literature written by them. There are many examples of the kind of powerlessness that brought out within them the traits of human nature that beget powerlessness. In the case of women, as with men, violence was often the most common trait and yet, for women the very concept of violence was considered off limits and so the violence frequently became self-inflicted. “Violence comes from powerlessness, as I have said; it is the explosion of impotence.”

May 53) Walker expresses this by stating that women frequently write of their guilt at having feelings of resistance, and a desire for power.

A with equal force, [as the desire for power] women reminded themselves that they shouldn’t expect too much. Insofar as they desired power, they felt guilty. 35 They knew that these new opportunities were entailed, and often they reinforced their own sense of powerlessness by admitting the justice of such restrictions. Many women poets express a longing for freedom, but in an equal number of cases they reject this aspiration.

Walker 37)

As women seek to regain a sense of self and restore their innate power, they are dashed upon the cliffs of marriage, regardless of the good intentions of the husband or the father. There are two particular works, within the collection of the textbook, Making Literature Matter, which are strikingly evident of this phenomenon. The work, the Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman and Forgiving My Father by Lucille Clifton, both outline powerlessness and also demonstrate examples of self-inflicted violence.

In the Yellow Wallpaper Gillman’s madwoman frequently calls to the attention of her physician husband that there is something wrong with the home where they have settled for her convalescence from a supposed “nervous condition,” that all evidence suggests, simple goaded her on to independence and expression, i.e. To write down her own thoughts. (Gilman 917) Her husband seemed to see this exercise of writing as something that evidenced her inability to conform to the confines of marriage and therefore something that was unhealthy to her existence as his wife. Sadly, this puts her work in the dark, and makes it so she must hide from her husband her writing and her desires. She expresses guilt and secrets her writing away, pretending to conform, as she is slowly driven mad by the morose surroundings of the room with the yellow wallpaper, which by her descriptions was once a torture chamber for children, who were probably equally mad, as a result of their powerlessness. ” — there is something strange about the house — I can feel it. I even said so to John one moonlight evening but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window. I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.” (Perkins 917) When she describes the wallpaper one can definitely see the nature of her madness, and the fear of being trapped within this torture chamber of a room.

The paint and paper look as if a boys’ school had used it. It is stripped off — the paper in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life. One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin. It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide — plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions. The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others. No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long. There comes John, and I must put this away, — he hates to have me write a word. (Gilman 918)

The character’s repeated attempt to both conform to John’s wishes, accepting the house, that they were so “lucky” to secure for the summer and pretending not to write, or even think for herself, so as not to make herself “sicker.” The heroin helplessly conforms to the madness of the house, locks herself in the room with the yellow wallpaper and precedes to go mad.

I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try. Besides I wouldn’t do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued.” (920)

Yet, even in her madness she is not allowed to express her feelings, as suicide is not an option, as it might look bad to the neighbors. Some argue that heroine’s language of madness is not a language of helplessness but the expression of her only avenue for resistance.

“Paula Treichler argues that the heroine’s madness at the end of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is the beginning of a language of resistance. These analysts see illness not as a fulfillment of sexist stereotypes but as a way to resist them.”

Herndl 6)

The transformation of the woman, from a completely helpless child to a self possessed and angry soul, can be seen in the poem Forgiving My Father. Though the character is equally helpless, she is less helpless than her mother, who has been driven to an early grave by helplessness in the face of a husband who could not earn a living enough to support his family. Lucile Clifton, born in 1937, gives the impression of a woman seeking repentance from a father who was also helpless in his ability to meet his obligations. In the work, it is Friday, the universal day to pay the bills, and Clifton, is the daughter “my mother’s hand opens in her early grave / and I hold it out like a good daughter.” (Clifton 314) Though Clifton does not give the answer to how her mother died it is clear that it was a result of undue struggle, resulting from her father’s lies and inability to support his family. Though there is a clear difference between Gilman’s work and Clifton’s work they are describing the same phenomena, a complete and utter helplessness in the face of marriage and reliance upon it to survive. Walker makes the point that women of these two centuries may express their helplessness differently but it is evident nonetheless.

Twentieth-century women certainly experience a version of nineteenth-century terror, but they are less likely to express it so baldly in their poems. The ladies’ magazines that nineteenth-century poets read were filled with stories of women who disregarded the strictures of patriarchal authority and came to bad ends. Ostracized and poverty-stricken, they learned the lessons of powerlessness to their own sorrow. Barbara Welter discusses the prevalence of anxiety and guilt in women’s diaries. The fears she lists are numerous…Such fears suggest a feeling of powerlessness in the world. William Chafe adds another dimension to our understanding of the dynamics of fear in women’s lives by suggesting that anxiety over potential male violence may be a basic component. As long as women see themselves as physically inferior to men in a world where physical struggles arise, they will be fearful.

Walker 48)

Women, are subject to a specific form of powerlessness, one they must submit to unconditionally, and have little if any recourse to strike out of, as they have no choice in a world where marriage is the only viable vocation, to seek their own success or failure.

“The will to power is different in every individual, according to Nietzsche and yet it is also clear that it exists, even in those least likely to obtain the power that drives an idea of “success,” through money or influence.”

Ransom 7) it is clear to most people that even those hwo are unlikely to find success, in it have a will to power and if that power cannot be realized for whatever reason the individual may be incited to violence. Though there are many cases of women actually inflicting violence on the world around them, most often it is a repression that creates the infliction of violence upon themselves.

And how does violence feel? As we will see, it feels like existential crisis, like hopelessness, like the loss of the future. It feels like impossible contradictions of resistance within oppression, like the struggle of humanity within terror. Violence is about im/possibility, about the human condition and the meaning of survival. This is why wars are fought with bloodletting, why torture takes place, and why neither violence nor war is limited to the physical carnage of the battlefield.

Nordstrom 59)

The early death of Clifton’s mother, as a result of having to powerlessly rely on a liar and a letch who could not provide for his family, is the ultimate example of self-inflicted violence, as is Gillman’s character resorting to an expression of madness to resist her powerlessness. It was only slightly more “appropriate” for a women to realize madness as it was for her to throw herself from a three story window.

Works Cited

Clifton, Lucille “forgiving my father” in Schilb, John & Clifford, John. Making Literature Matter 3rd Edition. New York: Bedford, St. Martin’s, 2005, 314.

Gelfant, Blanche H., and Lawrence Graver, eds. The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Gillman, Charlotte Perkins “The Yellow Wallpaper” in Schilb, John & Clifford, John. Making Literature Matter 3rd Edition. New York: Bedford, St. Martin’s, 2005, 917-925.

Herndl, Diane Price. Invalid Women: Figuring Feminine Illness in American Fiction and Culture, 1840-1940. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

May, Rollo. Power and Innocence: A Search for the Sources of Violence. New York W.W. Norton, 1972.

Nordstrom, Carolyn. Shadows of War: Violence, Power, and International Profiteering in the Twenty-First Century. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004.

Ransom, John S. The Politics of Subjectivity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997.

Walker, Cheryl. The Nightingale’s Burden: Women Poets and American Culture before 1900. 1st ed. Bloomington, in: Indiana University Press, 1982.

Hospital mortality and the quality us history essay help

hospital mortality and the quality and timeliness of care received in Emergency Departments. Furthermore, the purpose of this is to determine ways in which better care can be provided to patients needing emergency services in order to minimize the mortality rate. This is a valid objective, as the document states that little literature is available in the field. As a result, little evidence is available of what is needed to help patients receive the best of medical care. It is therefore clear that intensive study is necessary in this field, making this a groundbreaking study in a very necessary field. Where human lives are at stake, any attempt to reduce mortality is a worthwhile endeavor. In terms of research criteria, the objective is valid, as the field of study lends itself to much deeper investigation.

Literature Review

The author states that literature focusing on mortality rates of patients directly admitted to the ICU is limited. The Reference List is therefore not extensive, consisting of only thirteen sources. Nevertheless, the author does focus on sources that provide the most targeted information for the study concerned. Sources such as reports on ED trends and a comparative mortality study are mentioned and referenced by footnotes. The author might perhaps have mentioned the specific reports and studies by name in the document itself. Still, the available literature seems to have been thoroughly considered in terms of the objective of the study. The literature study therefore adheres to good research criteria.

Population Sampling

Being a study of mortality rates, the population sample will have to focus on patients admitted to the ICU and making use of ED services. For this study specifically, the population sample was drawn from an inner-city teaching hospital level I trauma center. Being quantitative and retrospective in nature, the study did not require a specific population sample, but rather focused on collecting data from historical patient records. The patients were not contacted for consent, as no personal identifiers were collected from these records. The records used were from the period between August 2001 and July 2003. Two years of data were therefore scrutinized in order to determine mortality rates.

In terms of research criteria, I feel the data are somewhat limited in terms of population, especially as few studies have been conducted in the field. Firstly, greater validity might be obtained from a wider area of study. More than one hospital could for example be used. Furthermore, medical records could be supplemented by an actual population sample of patients, who could supply valuable data by interviews or questionnaires. Such additions would increase the validity of the study by widening its scope, even if the focus remains quantitative and retrospective.


Measurement occurred via a number of stud variables, including ED initial complaints, admission diagnosis, primary discharge diagnoses, weekend admissions, weekday admissions, gender, race, age, and other variables. These are supplemented by ICU variables such as wait time until the results of tests, admission and discharge. Hospital mortality was also used as a measurement factor. The measurements appear to be consistent with the objective of the study, to relate specific elements of ED care with mortality rates.

Data Collection and Analysis

Data included targeted information such as arrival in emergency department, registration time, medication, intervention results, as well as specific patient data. Data were analyzed by a variety of methods, including descriptive statistics and logistic regression analysis. Statistical methods include scatter plots, box plots, cross tabs, and regression. These methods of collection and analysis are thorough and consistent with the study objective. A larger population base may have resulted in greater analysis validity. The collection and analysis methods themselves are however consistent with research criteria.


The conclusions are drawn according to the measurement criteria. While the results show that race was not a significant factor in mortality rates, weekend and weekday admissions were. According to the study results, weekend admissions entailed significantly higher mortality rates than weekday admissions. Other factors included age, with which the likelihood of mortality increased. This likelihood decreased for walk-in patients as opposed to those arriving by ambulance. Mortality also increased for patients for whom more time elapsed after an ICU admission order and for those with mainly respiratory problems. Another problem related to care is hospital staffing differences between weekends and weekdays. Weekend staff for example tends to be less experienced and numerous than those on weekdays. This is a significant factor in the higher mortality rates over weekends.

The study mostly adheres to research criteria. The data interpretation methods are thorough and statistically valid, while the results compare well with the initial study objective. The results show that a problem does exist to prove the hypothesis that several factors influence the mortality rate of ED and ICU patients. The only significant limitation is the population size and variety. However, the study does provide a valuable basis for future investigations of this kind. Quality emergency service is one of the most important issues today, and would benefit greatly from more in-depth study into the field.

Romantic Monster: The Human Within Introduction history assignment ideas: history assignment ideas

Romantic Monster: The Human Within Introduction

Throughout the history of Western Literature, the “monster” as both a central character, as well as a literary device has been common. Indeed, within Western cultures, the monster theme is pervasive from early religious, cultural, and even linguistic sources as represented in familiar oral traditions, passed down from generation to generation. Although the prevailing function of the monster within these stories and traditions vary (whether rhetorical, moralistic, or simple entertainment), there nonetheless runs a central theme through many of the “major” works of the Western cannon, and that is the way in which even the most hideous monster mirrors the evil nature of the human heart.

Frankenstein: Who Was the Real Monster?

Of all of the famous “dark” or “gothic-style” novels to arise out of Literature, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Victor Hugo’s the Hunchback of Notre Dame are perhaps the most familiar. Born and bred in the great northern European nations of England and France, both tales sprung from the Romantic literary style — characterized by an emphasis on introspection, emotion, passion, the spirit, and nature (both worldly and psychological) (Lye, 1996). Further, it is this very Romantic style that gives one clues into the deeper resonance that lurks beneath the surface of both tales, much the same as the respective monsters, themselves.

When one considers the way in which Shelley’s Frankenstein fits into the “monster mirror” pattern, it is helpful to first consider not the monster, but the monster’s creator, Victor Frankenstein. This is important, not only in its obvious sense — as the representation of the way in which evil can spring from the human psyche — in this case, literally, but also in its symbolic sense. After all, it is clear from the beginning that Victor is a clear representation of the personification of human folly melding into evil. This is not only due to the morbid and gruesome way in which Victor pursues his passion to “reanimate” the dead (after all, in its own way that can perhaps be considered a noble pursuit), but also how evil, pain, suffering, fear and destruction can arise from humanity.

Not only does the reader intuitively recognize the nature of Victor’s humanity as a source of evil, literal monstrosity, but one also glimpses through the internal dialogue of the character the depths of human self-denial and justification from which such evil springs. Victor (a highly ironic name), notes, “…from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me — a light so brilliant and wondrous… (37).” Given the fact that the character is referring to the literal creation of a monster, yet uses words traditionally associated with goodness, purity, and even religious faith — “darkness” to “light,” “brilliant” and “wondrous,” it becomes clear that Shelley is about to frame a very striking tale intended not just to entertain, but to “illuminate” the human source of all monsters.

Of course, just to be sure the point is not lost — that evil springs from the breast of normal, even all human hearts, the author clearly points out the normalcy, even privileged and pampered upbringing that Victor enjoyed as a child. He relates:

No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence. We felt that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to their caprice, but the agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed. (37)

Thus, in this passage, it becomes all too clear that even the best of circumstances, alliances, moral upbringing, or the thousand other contrivances that lead one to imagine that one is safe from producing true evil, is not enough to erase the inherent human tendency to produce the monstrous (literally or figuratively). It is almost as if Shelley contrived in the character’s conception to remove all of the possible “variables” almost as in a controlled scientific study, to drive home the point of the universality of human evil. Indeed, she clearly points out that Victor’s disastrous folly is common and possible in us all.

So, too, in the very visual representation of the monster within the work, the nature of evil is illuminated as something large, uncontrollable, yet springing from the small place of Victor’s human intention and desire. The monster relates, “…My person was hideous and my stature gigantic (142).” Even Victor describes him, despite the fact that the monster is composed of body parts of his own selection, to be beyond disgusting. In fact, as soon as the deed of creation has been accomplished (the fruits of his heart’s yearning), his hope turns to disgust:

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavored to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips. (52)

Moreover, it is here that the reader also notes that, despite the fact that Victor is by all accounts highly intelligent (after all, he brought dead body parts to life), and despite the fact that he logically could have foreseen the ultimate manifestation of his efforts, he seems nonetheless taken by surprise by the true horror that the monster embodies. He relates:

Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not he so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.(52)

It is then that the reader sees that an aghast Victor sees the horror of his actions, but still is incapable of taking true responsibility for them. Thus, he rejects the monster, who, even affectionately, reaches out to the man who conceived him, while still avoiding his responsibility with regard to what he has alone created — a common theme in human history. Further, the reader also notes that Victor, while on some levels recognizes his folly, still demonstrates a real lack of personal blame, which is epitomized in the way he engages in self-pity during the first night:

passed the night wretchedly. Sometimes my pulse beat so quickly and hardly that I felt the palpitation of every artery; at others, I nearly sank to the ground through languor and extreme weakness. Mingled with this horror, I felt the bitterness of disappointment; dreams that had been my food and pleasant rest for so long a space were now become a hell to me; and the change was so rapid, the overthrow so complete! (52)

Of course, of equal interest is the behavior of the monster, himself, and how it corresponds to a real and striking illumination of the “nature” of mankind as evil. Although it may be said that the “monster” is by his very nature “inhuman,” the fact that he is made of human material, and that he echoes the developmental and learning stages of the human infant during his isolation in the woods and subsequent time near the peasant family places him squarely in the realm of the classical human psyche (complete with its flaws and propensities for evil).

Clearly, the Shelley intends the reader to recognize the human in the monster (as she previously illustrated the monster in the human with Victor). Here, not only does the reader note that the monster has the opportunity to develop compassion and understanding — as demonstrated by his pain at being rejected by his “father/creator,” but that he at times demonstrates a real understanding of the possibilities of “goodness” as opposed to evil, particularly as he grows to understand the compassionate workings of the family.

Although the author could have satisfied the reader’s natural desire to see the monster prevail against the kind of evil portrayed by Victor, Shelley seemed to have no intention of departing from reality in this sense. Further, the fact that the reader nonetheless glimpses the possibility of the monster’s goodness only further drives home the message of inherent evil within that is all to ready to escape.

Finally, as Shelley begins to wrap up the story, the reader again is hopeful that some good will come of Victor’s realization of his evil — if unrecognized in its true form and origin. We see that Victor is determined to “save the world” from the dangers of the monster he has unleashed, and he begins the arduous task of chasing him to the Artic, where he intends to destroy his creation. Yet, we also see that he still does not understand the true origin of the beast — the human within. The fact that he dies before he is successful, yet the monster obviously goes off to end his own fate, indicates that the evil both originated, and eventually died with him — the true source from which it sprang.

Victor Hugo’s Hunchback: An Illustrative Device

In Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, there exists a strikingly similar theme — if different in form. Although it is definitely true that Hugo’s famous Quasimodo is a bit more innocuous than the Frankenstein monster, he nonetheless evokes a certain horror if only in appearance. Yet, much like in Shelley’s work, Hugo brings out the monster that is human nature within the other character’s interactions, motivations, and actions in the story.

There is little question that Hugo fully intended Quasimodo to evoke horror in his readers. He creates Quasimodo as a grotesquely deformed, almost non-verbal, and deaf. Interestingly, Hugo assigns the character a friend, if not a creator as in Frankenstein, but as a protector — one who supposedly has the best interests of the monster at heart. This friend, Dom Claude Frollo, ironically on some levels represents the “best” of humanity as is exemplified by his devotion to the Church and a life of God. However, the reader soon sees the irony, as well as the inherent evil of the human heart not in the monster, but in the supposedly “good” human man. This, the reader sees most clearly in the following passage, perhaps one of the most striking in the novel, when Frollo, a supposed beacon of hope and mercy, passes by Quasimodo being tortured by a terrible mob:

Nevertheless, that cloud cleared away for a moment, at the passage of a mule which traversed the crowd, bearing a priest. As far away as he could see that mule and that priest, the poor victim’s visage grew gentler. The fury which had contracted it was followed by a strange smile full of ineffable sweetness, gentleness, and tenderness. In proportion as the priest approached, that smile became more clear, more distinct, more radiant. It was like the arrival of a Savior, which the unhappy man was greeting. But as soon as the mule was near enough to the pillory to allow of its rider recognizing the victim, the priest dropped his eyes, beat a hasty retreat, spurred on rigorously, as though in haste to rid himself of humiliating appeals, and not at all desirous of being saluted and recognized by a poor fellow in such a predicament. (Book Sixth. Chapter IV. A Tear for a Drop of Water.)

Here, one notes not only the sadness, despair, and cruelty of the crowd (another representation of human evil, but much worse, the horrible betrayal of Quasimodo’s natural hope in the goodness of the human spirit. For there, with the fading of his smile, the reader is aghast at the death of hope, as well as the depth of Frollo’s monstrous nature.

Interestingly, few readers who have read both works can fail to notice the same imagery as presented in this theme, as well as the emotional response it is designed to evoke in the reader, in Shelley’s work as well, particularly in the scene after the “birth” of the monster, when, in innocent hope and true trust and affection, he reaches out to the “humanity” of his creator, Victor:

beheld the wretch –the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs…(53)

Again, here the reader notes the sadness of the monster’s reaching out to the “goodness” of the man, only to be rebuffed, and de0prived of the most basic human kindness. Like Frollo, Victor “escapes” his responsibility, transforming him, rather than the creature, into the real monster.

Further, within the story, and unlike the popular modern version, the reader sees Esmerelda, although beautiful and certainly filled with more kindness than Frollo, as nonetheless tainted by her human nature. This is illustrated by the fact that although the reader notes her (expected) kindness to Quasimodo in the same scene above when she gives the tortured creature a drink of water while upon the pillory, he does not allow her to be overly kind, and thus become a kind of cliched allegory of human goodness. Consider the following:

She approached, without uttering a syllable, the victim who writhed in a vain effort to escape her, and detaching a gourd from her girdle, she raised it gently to the parched lips of the miserable man…Meanwhile, be had forgotten to drink. The gypsy made her little pout, from impatience, and pressed the spout to the tusked month of Quasimodo, with a smile.

Here, the reader notes, not only her kindness, again — clearly pure in its good intention, but also cannot help but glean a certain sense of her own selfish motives, characterized by her “pout” and impatience. After all, she might have imagined, it was the least the creature could do to gratefully accept her kind gesture as expected!

Perhaps more striking in Hugo’s work, however, is the way in which, more than in Shelley’s work, the monster represents goodness, while the human represents the monster. Again, it is of such a contrast that it borders on the cliche; however, it serves to underscore the message of the book. In fact, one not only sees the nature of the monster as good compared to Frollo, but Hugo goes onward to show every character as flawed in comparison.

Examples of this abound in the book — from the obvious and striking evil of Frollo, whose depravity (and ironic malevolence seems to know no bounds), to the more subtle, yet just as powerful portrayals of Gringoire, Esmerelda’s cuckolded husband, Phoebus, her shallow lover, and Esmerelda herself. It becomes apparent when compared with each of these characters that it is Quasimodo alone who is capable of true love.

Indeed, much like the Priest, Frollo, Phoebus represents what is commonly considered in human society to be noble and good. He is a Captain in the King’s army — brave, strong, and handsome. Yet Hugo describes him as the force through which Esmeralda loses both her virtue (perhaps, cultural the seat of her humanity and goodness), as well as eventually her life.

In all, the true message of the story seems clear — that all of the most normal, even average, human characters are monstrous in their very humanity. Further, much like Shelley’s Frankenstein, once that message is driven home fully, the literal “monster,” or the literary device that he is, is no longer needed, and he expires.

Allegory or Entertainment?

Although it is undoubtedly a function of both of these stories a representations of the romantic genre to illustrate the psychology of the soul — the inner workings of human nature — in this case on the dark side of the spectrum, there of course remains a very strong “popular entertainment” tinge to both stories. Although both tales are certainly allegorical in nature, it is clear that they were also penned to entertain.

This is not only the case with these novels, but it also seems to be part of the essential formula for most gothic tales. Even today, many assert that the contemporary horror genre is filled with similar messages concerning the nature of human evil — if less artfully presented. Yet the question remains, why is the literal monster required to illustrate the point? Is it not sufficient to show human evil without utilizing the aid of a monster character? Of course, the answer lies in the strong tradition of contrasting images and of the use of the ironic to drive home moralistic tales. Indeed, some may suggest that this tradition is born of the some of the oldest sources of Western moralistic sensibilities and literary inspiration.

Consider, for example, that the earliest linguistic roots of the term “monster” in the Western European tradition comes from the Latin. Interestingly, and quite in keeping with the themes of both stories discussed here, the original meaning of the term (in Latin) indicates far more than a frightening or grotesque being. Instead, the original term, “monstrum,” indicates “…an evil omen, portent, monster; literally, “that which serves as a warning,” “to show, point out, indicate (WordSources, 2005).” Thus, in keeping with its original meaning, many consider the eventual evolution of the classic “gothic” monster story to function as a kind of “lesson” through which the evil inherent in all human experience is manifested.

Further, even in early Biblical sources, as in the Old Testament, the theme of the Monster (especially the serpent or snake) that tempts Eve (Genesis 3:1-14), is meant as more than a “scary story” about the monster/snake, itself, but is a device through which the human flaws of Eve are demonstrated. Indeed, when one views the Biblical tale in specific, it seems that the serpent is all but forgotten once Eve acts upon her evil nature — thus illustrating the true point of the passage.

Another aspect of most monster stories that further indicates the human heart/monster theme is the fact that the monsters in most historical (as well as contemporary) tales are notoriously hard to kill. As Richard Ebbs points out in his 1998 work, “Monsters:”

Long-livedness almost to the point of indestructibility seems therefore to be common among monsters, and perhaps this is significant insofar it illustrates the extent to which our own inner demons too are extraordinarily tenacious. From a psychological perspective our instinctive drives tend also to be very deep-rooted, and very ancient in that many of these drives have been passed on from generation to generation since the dawn of human history

Clearly this trend is illustrated in both Shelley’s Frankenstein, as well as in Hugo’s Quasimodo. Not only does the reader note that both creatures are still very much alive at the end of the stories (although their eventual deaths are implied), but he or she also notes that the creator has managed to outlive the human protagonists/antagonists — often despite significant efforts toward their eradication.

Modern Monsters: The Theme Continued

Of course, when one considers the historical, linguistic and even religious origins of the monster story as an allegory of human evil, one has to question whether the monsters of contemporary “horror” also fit the same pattern. To be sure, in the age of the drive toward high box office profits, there without a question exists monster/horror stories (in film and in print) that exist solely for the purpose of entertainment as well as “shock” or “gross out” value (perhaps, in itself an allegory for the evil nature of the human psyche). However, in many of the more successful (and memorable) contemporary tales, there still exists as strong allegorical undercurrent that is quite easy to detect.

Some examples of “classic” contemporary horror/monster stores must of course include those of the famous author Stephen King, whose novels (many made into film) include such titles as “Carrie,” “The Shining,” and “Needful Things.” One has but to consider all three on a very basic level to note that the same allegorical pattern is alive and well today.

Consider, for example the story of “Carrie,” a tale about a lonely, neglected and unpopular girl who, after being the subject of a cruel prank, turns into a kind of “monster,” who, in effect kills everyone in her path. Although Carrie is obviously frightening in her own right, what is even more memorable about the book is the evil exhibited by the human nature of those around her.

So, too, in “The Shining,” the ghosts present in the old Hotel are chilling, and provide much in the area of pure entertainment. However, like in King’s “Carrie,” one also notes the sad consequences of the selfishness and hubris of the father who is willing to place his family in isolation and danger for his own personal gains.

Finally, in King’s “Needful Things,” a small town becomes obsessed with a small store in which anyone can obtain the “object of his or her lifelong dreams and desires.” However, as the story progresses, the town discovers the true and monstrous nature of the store and its proprietor — which manifests itself in “the populations increasingly violent behavior.” Clearly, here the allegory is centered upon human selfishness, again, cloaked in the entertainment of a classic horror tale.

Interestingly, although as previously stated, there exist countless horror stories today that seem to be relatively devoid of any greater or allegorical meaning (again, separate from the larger commentary their success may provide upon the audience), the most successful, discussion provoking, and enduring tales are those that do include just the kind of symbolism present in the Romantic tales of Shelley and Hugo. This is especially true of films that appeal to a so called “older” audience which traditionally includes more in-depth introspection than the younger, “Bride of Chucky” set.

We see this, even in the films that include psychological manifestations of the monster (as opposed to the physical) — including “Fatal Attraction,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “Schlindler’s List,” or even various war movies like “Apocalypse Now” and “Platoon.” In fact, one can see that by far the most successful films and books, as measured both in financial as well as critical acclaim and attention, are the ones in which the audience somehow identifies with the various “monsters” in the films, as well as with the protagonists.

Consider, for example, the role of Hannibal Lecter, in the modern classic “The Silence of the Lambs” (Here, we will not focus on the later versions, designed to capitalize financially on the original tale). Interestingly, many critics theorized that the success of the book and film had to do as much with the audience’s fondness for the murderous Hannibal as for the merits of the heroin Agent Starling. After all, whom did not on some levels root for Hannibal when he escaped at the end of the film?

Even in the films “Fatal Attraction,” and “Platoon,” the audience could plainly identify with those parts of themselves that the “monster” characters represented — for example, the feelings of anger and rejection the mistress felt after being abandoned by the main character, or even the “pressures of war” and willingness to embrace one’s own sense of anarchical freedom that the marauding platoon exhibited in the horrible film of the same name.


Romantic literature was ideally suited for allowing the authors to bring forth the horror that was the Frankenstein monster, as well as that of Quasimodo. After all, an emphasis on the natural, as well as the internal psychological workings of the characters produces a ripeness of imagery that presumably has much to do with the placement of both stories in the Western Literature Cannon.

However, one cannot ignore the vast and deep tradition, spanning from the earliest sources and influences on Western culture, of utilizing the “monster” or evil imagery as the symbolic representation of the “dark side” of human nature. Indeed, one has but to consider both the linguistic origins of the word to notice that monsters in general (even from Biblical times), and the specific representations in Hugo and Shelley’s respective works, function as “teaching,” illuminating, and symbolic devices designed to drive home all that is unacknowledged concerning the human psyche.

Whereas it is clear that Western readers defiantly respond to stores of evil and monstrosity as a function of simple “thrill seeking,” it is also true that those stories that “stick” in the collective minds of the culture are those that utilize fear, the grotesque, and the dangerous as parables regarding human nature. Although more base examples definitely exist, there is some question whether they will endure. The fact that Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein and Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame” seem to resonate just as much today as they did after their initial release, indicates that the theme of “monster within the human” is a powerful one, capable of standing the test of time.

Works Cited

Baldick, Chris.

In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing.

Ebbs, Robert. “Monsters.” Essays. 1998. Retrieved from Web site on July 7, 2005

Hugo, Victor. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Online version. Retrieved from Web site on July 7, 2005

King, Stephen. “Written Works.” Home Page. Retrieved from Web site on July 8, 2005

Lye, John. “Neoclassical and Romantic Literature: Some General Distinctions.” Web site. 1996. Retrieved on July 6, 2005

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. “The Inhuman: Reflections in Time.” Stanford. Stanford University Press, 1991.

Old Testament. “Genesis.” Online King James Version. 2005. Retrieved on July 8, 2005

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Bantam, 1991.

Turner Education. Staff. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Character Development.” Web site. 2005. Retrieved on July 8, 2005

Williams, Alex. “Of Mice and Men — and the Monsters in Between.” Answers in Genesis. Web site. 2005. Retrieved on July 5, 2005 Staff. “English Words from Latin and Greek.” Web site. 2005. Retrieved on July 7, 2005

Aristotle’s Poetics Elements of Tragedy history homework

Aristotle’s Poetics

Elements of Tragedy

According to Aristotle, tragedy needs to be an imitation of life according to the law of probability or necessity. Tragedy is serious, complete, and has magnitude. It must have a beginning, middle, and end and be spoken in language that is fit for noble characters. Furthermore it must be acted, as opposed to epic poetry, which is narrated. Tragedy shows rather than tells. Finally it must result in the purging of pity and fear, or a catharsis. Tragedy is based in the fundamental order of the universe, it creates a cause-and-effect chain that clearly reveals what may happen at any time or place because that is the way the world operates. Tragedy arouses not only pity but also fear, because the audience can envision themselves within this cause-and-effect chain.

Tragedy as a whole is composed of six elements: plot, character, language, thought, spectacle and melody. Melody and language are the media by which the effect of imitation of action is carried out, spectacle is the manner or way the tragedy is carried out, and plot, character and thought are the means that initiate the action.


Of these plot is the most important feature of tragedy. This is the arrangement of incidents, not the story itself, but the way the incidents are presented, the structure of the play. Tragedies where the outcome is based on a tightly developed cause and effect chain of actions are better than those that depend on the character and personality of the protagonist. Aristotle says the plot must be self-contained with incidents connected by internal necessity, each leading inevitably to the next. It must have a beginning, middle and end. The beginning must start the cause and effect chain. The middle, or climax, must be caused by earlier incidents, and it must cause the incidents that follow. The end must be caused by the preceding events and should solve or resolve the problem. The plot must have a certain magnitude of length, complexity, and seriousness in order to achieve a universal significance. The plot may be either simple or complex, however complex is better. A simple plot leads only to a change of fortune, while a complex plot has both a reversal of intention and recognition connected with the change of fortune.


Character supports the plot; personal motivations connect the cause and effect chain of actions. Aristotle contends the protagonist should be renowned and prosperous so his change of fortune can be from good to bad. This change should be the result of some great error or frailty in a character as opposed to a vice. The protagonist mistakenly brings about his own downfall not because he is sinful or morally weak, but because he does not know enough. This scenario is most likely to produce pity and fear in the audience, pity aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves. Tragic heroes must be good or fine, true to type, realistic, consistent ion personality and motivation, necessary or probable, and noble.

Language and Thought

Language is the expression of the meaning of words that are proper and appropriate to the plot, characters and end of the tragedy. Aristotle describes embellished language as having a rhythm and melody where some parts are carried out in speech and others are sung. Thought is the process through which character is revealed through speeches. This is where something is proved or disproved or a general truism is stated.

Spectacle and Melody

Spectacle, the manner in which a play is staged, creates an emotional attraction to the play. Melody is the musical element of the chorus. Aristotle holds that the chorus should be fully integrated into the play like an actor and choral odes should not be mere interludes, but should contribute to the unity of the plot.

Aristotelian Model of Tragedy as Applied to Oedipus the King, Antigone and Medea

Oedipus the King

Briefly, the story begins as a plague has fallen upon Thebes and the citizens ask their King, Oedipus, to help them. Oedipus has sent his brother-in-law, Creon, to the oracle in Delphi to find out what needs to be done. Creon returns and reports that the plague will end when the murderer of the former King of Thebes, Laius, is caught and expelled. Oedipus vows to solve the mystery and drive out the murder.

Oedipus seeks the council of the blind prophet Tireias to find what he knows of the crime. Tireias reveals the murderer is Oedipus. Oedipus refuses to believe Tireias and accuses him and Creon of conspiring against him. Before Tireias leaves tells Oedipus that the murder of Laius will be both father and brother to his own children and the son of his own wife. Eventually it comes out that all that has been foretold true and Oedipus’ mother, Jocasta, hangs herself. Oedipus stabs out his eyes and begs to be exiled. By doing this he ends the plague that has been set upon Thebes.

Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King contains several of the elements of tragedy as defined by Aristotle. The plot is complex, driven by cause and effect, and has a beginning, middle and end. The protagonist is of noble character and is undone by what he does not know and his inability to accept his fate. He has a fatal flaw, he is arrogant and motivated by the belief that those around him are conspiring against him. Oedipus also suffers a reversal and recognition when he finds that he is responsible for his father’s death and has married his mother. For this he suffers publicly losing his position and his mother/wife. There is a catharsis for the audience, and a universal truth about the limitations of men and the foolishness of challenging the gods.


This play, also by Sopholes, concerns Antigone and Ismene, Oedipus’ daughters. The drama begins as the two daughters are discussing the deaths of their brothers Polynices and Eteocles who have killed one another in a battle over the control of Thebes. Creon is now king and has ordered that Polynices, who had brought a foreign army against Thebes be denied proper burial rites. Antigone tells her sister that she is going to bury Polynices despite the king’s orders.

When Creon discovers what Anigone is up she freely admits her defiance. Creon condemns her and Ismene to death, even though Antigone is going to marry his son Haemon. Haemon breaks with his father over the issue because of his petty vindictiveness. Creon pardons Ismene, but plans to kill Antigone by walling her up in a tomb.

Tiresias, the blind prophet advises Creon to bury Polynices, however Creon refuses. Tiresias predicts the gods will bring down curses upon the city. Creon has a change of heart and decides to free Antigone only to find that she has hung herself. Haemon, distraught at her death kills himself. Eurydice, Creon’s wife then stabs herself cursing her husband for his pride.

The plot of this play is complex as well dealing with Creon’s pride and vindictiveness as well as Antigone’s belief that there is a higher law than men’s. Creon is unable to come to terms with the concept that his judgment may be wrong until it is too late and as a consequence loses everything. He experiences recognition, reversal and suffers greatly for his flaws. Antigone is also noble, staying true to her beliefs, even in the face of death. The play moves logically through events and the characters remain true to their motivations.


This play by Euripedes revolves around revenge. Jason has abandoned his wife Medea in order to marry Glauce, the daughter of Creon king of Corinth, and improve his position in society. Medea is devastated by the betrayal and curses her own existence as well as that of her two children. Creon fearing what Medea might do banishes her from Corinth, however grants her wish of one more day before she must leave. Medea plans her quest for justice, the murder of Creon, Glauce, Jason and eventually her own children.

When Aegeus, King of Athens, arrives unexpectedly he offers Medea sanctuary if she can cure his sterility. Medea pretends to sympathize with Jason and offers his wife gifts meant to convince her to ask her father to allow the child to stay in Corinth. However, the gifts are poisoned killing Glauce, and causing her father to kill himself as well by ling by her side and absorbing some of the poison himself. Medea then murders her children and flees and Jason loses everything he had left Medea to obtain.

The plot Medea is less complex than Oedipus the King or Antigone. The protagonist Medea is motivated by revenge. She kills her children, not because they have done anything wrong, but because it would hurt Jason. The change of fortune that Aristotle speaks of is not so much a fall from prominence as a loss generated by Jason’s selfish desire to improve his position. This is Jason’s fatal flaw.

Medea’s flaw is her desire to have her revenge no matter what the cost. Her pride will not let her accept rejection to the point that she is willing to kill Glauce and her and Jason’s children in order to make him suffer for the wrong she has been done.

The plays representation of recognition, reversal, and suffering is different from the notion Aristotle puts forth. Neither Jason nor Medea seem to be noble person’s in the principles they represent are not high ideals. The catharsis for the audience is unclear in an Aristotelian sense. The lesson of the play could easily be “hell hath no fury as a woman scorned.’

However other elements of Aristotle’s model of tragedy are present. The motivation of the characters does drive the action and the chorus works as an entity to advance the drama. The themes of passion love and vengeance are common and worthy of exploration. The action is founded in the realities of the real world.

Works Cited

Euripides. “Medea.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Vol. A, 2nd edition. Eds. Satah Lawall and Maynard Mack. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2002. p. 695- 724.

Sophocles. “Antigone.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Vol. A, 2nd edition. Eds. Satah Lawall and Maynard Mack. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2002. p. 617-657.

Sophocles. “Oedipus the King.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Vol. A, 2nd edition. Eds. Satah Lawall and Maynard Mack. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2002. p. 658-692.