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Unequaled Realism in Margaret Fleming

James Herne’s Margaret Fleming is surprisingly bold and realistic in regard to the time period in which it was written. The subject of infidelity is dealt with candidly, and other aspects, such as the breast-feeding of an infant, are depicted in a true-to-life form. The content, then, seems quite modern for the play’s 1890 date. Yet, Herne is the successor of a playwright like Henrik Ibsen rather than Bronson Howard or, even, Augustin Daly. As Watt and Richardson note, Margaret Fleming is “unequaled in realism by any other known American drama of its century” (236, emphasis mine).

The plot of the play centers on the marriage relationship of Margaret and her husband Phillip. He has been unfaithful with another woman, and a child has been born as a result of that adulterous affair. One can imagine that audiences may have been shocked by such a topic. Yet Margaret handles the situation which she is forced into openly, honestly, and courageously. Upon hearing the news of her husband’s affair, she wishes to confront him immediately. The words in the note she dispatches demonstrate her urgency and forthrightness: “‘Phillip: I am waiting for you, here. That girl is dead'” (258). In the last act, the doctor remarks on Margaret’s character, saying, “‘What a brave, cheery little woman you are.'” To which Margaret replies, “‘What’s the use in being anything else? I don’t see any good in living in this world, unless you can live right'” (261). She has motivations for her actions, as all realistic characters should.

In comparison, the plot of Howard’s Shenandoah seems unbelievable. That play centers on the relationships of Northerners and Southerners which survive the Civil War and its aftermath by ignoring the problem…

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…ce dependent, then independent. Each woman makes difficult decisions which she must live by, and each bear responsibilities which are to be accepted or discarded. Finally, each is aware that others, too, carry burdens and need to make their own choices. While other heroines and heroes are flat and are subject to fate and circumstance, Margaret, like Nora, exists in the consequences of human behavior.

While Under the Gaslight may end with Laura’s hopeful, but nevertheless melodramatic, words, and Shenandoah with the unlikely marriage of the leads, A Dolls House ends in a whisper. And Margaret Fleming? This play ends with the gentle reminder of the responsibility to make choices, bravely and honestly. Margaret tells her husband that the children, both legitimate and illegitimate are waiting for his attentions; “‘They are both out there. In the garden'” (264).

The Meaning of Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

This is a poem about the joy and sadness that comes with the flash of burning life soon blown out with nothing more then a sigh. It focuses on the sadness as those we care for go far too gently into that good night. Of those who left before their time. As this poem was written specifically for Thomass dying father it is even more poignant in the emotional weight the words convey. This poem radiates with intensity, in particular, the verse beginning: wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight is simply beautiful poetry. Addressed to the poet’s father as he approaches blindness and death. The relevant aspect of the relationship was Thomas’s profound respect for his father, tall and strong in Thomass passionate mind but now tamed by illness and the passing of time. The acceptance of death and a peaceful rest afterwards are pushed aside in favor of an ungentle rage so blind it almost mirrors the vigor of childhood frustration at the nature of things we are powerless to change. Further more, the poem speaks as much of the loss of love and the feelings of one left behind as of death itself. The meaning of the poem stays shrouded in metaphors like the references to night as “good”. He acknowledged his father stood somewhere he had not, and perhaps saw what he could not. Thomas was not ready to let go of such an important part of his life even though his father was facing an irreversible course, and Thomass grief was perhaps all the greater. His statement of this love and grief remain touching. Perhaps the feelings of his fading father should have been more important than his own rage. These emotion seem to run unchallenged throughout the poem even though the style beckons structure and discipline within the theme of “night” and “light”. In the tercets Thomas gives examples of men who meet death differently yet alike. The first are “wise men,” perhaps philosophers. They know “dark is right” because they know what to look for at the end of life. In spite of their wisdom, however, they “do not go gentle” because their words “had forked no lightning.” This phrase has the force of a symbol suggesting that wise men had lacked the ultimate power of nature. Thomas therefore seems to be saying that the wise men were not wise enough, that their words created no ultimate linguistic reality but vague speculation of death as a good thing. Subsequently, the good men of the third tercet permitted life to pass them by. The festive imagery of “bright /Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,” evokes a wonder world of joyful activities in contrast with the “frail deeds.” Why, we wonder, do the good men regret the past just as the last wave goes by? As for the style it is most definitely an elevated style of poetic diction within a villanelle format. The term originated in Italy (Italian villanella from villano: “peasant”); and later used in France to designate a short poem of popular character favored by poets in the late 16th century. Five tercets are followed by a quatrain, with the first and last line of the stanza repeated alternately as the last line of the subsequent stanzas and gathered into a couplet at the end of the quatrain. The stanza is repeated for dramatic effect and tone : Rage, rage against the dying of the light. In this case this particular stanza, gaining much of its impact from repetition and variation, paints a clear a definite picture of the authors strong emotions. And all this on only two rhymes. Thomas further compounds his difficulty by having each line contain about the same amount of syllables. The villanelle seems like a very regimented and difficult form; the effortless ease with which Thomas makes it appear adds clarity to the complex emotions describes in the poem. The rhetoric is never jumbled or ruff, and always profoundly moving; the images are far reaching, yet terribly true; the complicated rhyme scheme simply adds to the many dimensions of the poem. In conclusion, the events surrounding Thomas at the time do not make up all the character of this poem. As it is often the case, this work stands on its own. It either speak to one, or not. But no matter what personal reasons inspired Thomas, the poem speaks to our need to make our lives count against our inevitable deaths. Though the theme is paradoxical, it declares to all: Live your life while you are actually dying. Do not accept death passively. Live intensely and resist death passionately. All the beautifully contrasting metaphors where Thomass way of gracefully asking his father not to leave him alone, in the dark.

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