Literature reflects life, and the struggles that each
of us must face. Great authors incorporate life’s
problems into their literature directly and indirectly. The author
bluntly tell us a story, however, he or she may also use symbols
to relay to us a message in a more subtle manner. In Nathaniel
Hawthorne’s book The House of Seven Gables symbolism is used
to enhance the story being told, by giving us a deeper insight into the
author’s intentions in writing the story.
The book begins by describing the most obvious symbol of the house
itself. The house itself takes on human like characteristics as it is
being described by Hawthorne in the opening chapters. The house is
described as “breathing through the spiracles of one great
chimney”(Hawthorne 7). Hawthorne uses descriptive lines like this to
turn the house into a symbol of the lives that have passed through its
halls. The house takes on a persona of a living creature that exists
and influences the lives of everybody who enters through its doors.
(Colacurcio 113) “So much of mankind’s varied experience had passed
there – so much had been suffered, and something, too, enjoyed – that
the very timbers were oozy, as with the moisture of a heart.” (Hawthorne
27). Hawthorne turns the house into a symbol of the collection of all
the hearts that were darkened by the house. “It was itself like a great
human heart, with a life of its own, and full of rich and somber
reminiscences” (Hawthorne 27). Evert Augustus Duyckinck agrees that “The
chief perhaps, of the dramatis personae, is the house itself. From its
turrets to its kitchen, in every nook and recess without and within, it
is alive and vital.” (Hawthorne 352) Duyckinck feels that the house is
meant to be used as a symbol of an actual character, “Truly it is an
actor in the scene”(Hawthorne 352). This turns the house into an
interesting, but still depressing place that darkens the book in many
ways. Hawthorne means for the house’s gloomy atmosphere to symbolize
many things in his book.
The house also is used to symbolize a prison that has darkened the
lives of its inmates forever. The house is a prison because it prevents
its inhabitants form truly enjoying any freedom. The inhabitants try to
Comparing the Cultural and Social Critiques of Notes from Underground and Invisible Man
Cultural and Social Critiques of Notes from Underground and Invisible Man
It is understanding oneself and the power structures of society that helps one gain authenticity, and ultimately….. power. Notes from Underground and Invisible Man offer a wide variety of social critiques. While some critiques are explicit within the plot, others are implicit in statements of characters and the relations between two or more characters. Many of the ideas of social critique in Notes from Underground have direct parallels or antitheses in Invisible Man. Most–if not all–of the critiques transcend the time, location, and historical context in which they occur. The greatest value that the critiques in the two texts have to offer is that they deal with the unalterable human condition. Notes from Underground and Invisible Man offer a variety social critiques, most prominently in nationalism and cultural pride, an exclusive community versus an inclusive community, and the power structures within society.
Nationalism is one of the main targets of the critique in Notes from Underground. The underground man’s highly self-centered personality has a direct parallel in the ideas he has about his country. He says, “We, in Russia, have no fools; that is well known. That is what distinguishes us from foreign lands” (Dostoevsky 40). Such nationalistic propaganda was intended for all Russians to consider and evaluate. At the time the novel was written, Western civilization seemed to be extending its influence everywhere. As Dr. Lutomski pointed out in lecture, this caused many to adopt an isolationist philosophy, believing that the only way a country can be pure to its own citizens is to cut itself off from the outside world. Dostoevsky is presenti…
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…s within a society must be able to channel that diversity into a feeling of unity that makes all of the individuals in all of the cultures feel like they belong to the indivisible whole. When one has found an entire group of people to identify with, one can transcend to a new level of self-understanding. And it is understanding oneself and the power structures of society that helps one gain authenticity, and ultimately power.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson. Introd. by Wayne C. Booth. Theory and History of Literature. Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Pr., 1984.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. (Library Ed.). New York: Random House, Inc. 1994
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground: A New Translation, Backgrounds and Sources, Responses, Criticism. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1989.