"If you do not tell the truth about yourself
you cannot tell it about other people."
Virginia Woolf

How can we define truth? Being truthful is not easy. On the top of it, the most difficult task is confessing the truth to ourselves. We are afraid of accepting our defeat. We find excuses to cover our shortcomings. Human beings have a tendency to blame the other person for our wrong doings. We can report honestly and truthfully about others only if we are true about ourselves. It will tough initially, but slowly it’ll be an established fact. For instance any new discovery made by a scientist is hard to believe at first but gradually they are the solid facts of life.
George Bernard Shaw has rightly said: “New opinions often appear first as jokes and fancies, then as blasphemies and treason, then as questions open to discussion, and finally as established truths.”

Shakespeare Sonnet 106

When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty's best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have express'd
Even such a beauty as you master now.
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring;
And, for they look'd but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing:
For we, which now behold these present days,
Had eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.

This sonnet addressed ‘to his dear friend’ is number 106 in sonnet sequence consisting of 154 sonnets. A number of his sonnets are addressed to ‘W.H.’ and others to a mysterious person, often referred to as the ‘dark lady’. W.H. has sometimes been identified with the Earl of Southampton, one of Shakespeare’s closest friends and patrons, to whom this poem is addressed. In this sonnet, Shakespeare has idealized his friendship and described ‘W.H.’ as having brilliant beauty surpassing all others, past and present.
In the opening stanza of the poem the poet talks of the description of beauty in the chronicles. He says that when he reads about the most beautiful persons in the history of past and the poetry added to the beauty of the description of the dead ladies and graceful knights.
The poets of the past carried the distinction of describing the beauty at its best – of all parts of the body including hands, feet, lips, eyes and brow. The poet says after reading the chronicles he feels that the poets were so experienced and good at it that they would have expressed the beauty now possessed by the poets’ friend.
In the third stanza the poet writes that in this way all their accolades prove nothing but the foretelling of the poet’s time, that is, the beauty of his friend. In the very next line the poet says all the description given before hand with the prophetic eyes of the poets was not enough. Their virtues could not match qualities of his friend.
In the last stanza the poet says that he and his contemporaries who are a witness to present times have only eyes to admire the beauty of the poet’s friend. They don’t have words to express it.
Hence, in this sonnet the poet analyzes the relevance of the skill of the poet’s beauty of the past to that of the real beauty of his friend.

Tagore and his 'Gitanjali'

Rabindra Nath Tagore (1861 - 1941), the celebrated poet, story writer and dramatist was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 (in the words of the Nobel Prize Committee) “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West".
His most famous poem ‘Gitanjali’ was originally written in Bengali language. Tagore was born in Bengal in 1861. He writings tasted initial success as a writer in his native Bengal.
‘Gitanjali’ (‘song offerings’), is a collection of 103 poems. Originally written in Bengali, they were translated in English by Tagore himself. The characteristic feature of the collection is that the Introduction to Gitanjali was written by W.B.Yeats. Tagore had translated these songs from Bengali into English before his visit to England in 1912. His poems were well received in England.
‘Gitanjali’ begins with: “Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.”
In one of the songs ‘Where mind is without fear’ Tagore has dreamed of a utopian land, a land of his dreams, a perfect place to live in.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

These are the vices present around us even today. The lines are as valid today as they might have been then. If we sketch a place in our minds according to the lines of this song, it would be like a heaven on this earth. May his dreams and wishes be fulfilled! This world would be a much better place to live in with only a fraction of those things coming true. Let’s pledge to add a bit towards it on our part. Remember every drop counts!

'Three Years She Grew...' by Wordsworth

THREE years she grew in sun and shower,
Then Nature said, "A lovelier flower
On earth was never sown;
This Child I to myself will take;
She shall be mine, and I will make
A Lady of my own.

"Myself will to my darling be
Both law and impulse: and with me
The Girl, in rock and plain,
In earth and heaven, in glade and bower, 10
Shall feel an overseeing power
To kindle or restrain.

"She shall be sportive as the fawn
That wild with glee across the lawn,
Or up the mountain springs;
And her's shall be the breathing balm,
And her's the silence and the calm
Of mute insensate things.

"The floating clouds their state shall lend
To her; for her the willow bend; 20
Nor shall she fail to see
Even in the motions of the Storm
Grace that shall mould the Maiden's form
By silent sympathy.

"The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her; and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place
Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face. 30

"And vital feelings of delight
Shall rear her form to stately height,
Her virgin bosom swell;
Such thoughts to Lucy I will give
While she and I together live
Here in this happy dell."

Thus Nature spake--The work was done--
How soon my Lucy's race was run!
She died, and left to me
This heath, this calm, and quiet scene; 40
The memory of what has been,
And never more will be.
The poem ‘Three Years She Grew…’ is one of the best known Lucy poems written by William Wordsworth. The poet in this poem illustrates his belief that Nature is a great teacher. He believes that one can learn one can learn a great lesson if one approaches nature with a pure and humble heart.
The poet writes that Lucy grew up in the midst of nature for three years. She experienced all kinds of seasons be it summer or rain. Then after that Nature decided to adopt Lucy as her own child so that she could bring up the child in her own way.
Then Nature declares that she herself Lucy to be a good human being and will also check her from committing wring deeds. Lucy will move about on mountains, plains, even on seeing sky, earth or when in a forest or under shady trees. All this while, she will feel the presence of a power that watches her activities, a power which inspires and checks her.
The next lines portray that Lucy will be as playful and active as a fawn (young one of a deer) which wild with joy moves across grassy fields, or climbs the mountains. Lucy will have the fresh air free and open for herself which will comfort and soothe her. Lucy will enjoy the silent and peaceful atmosphere in the company of the objects of Nature like rocks and fields.
The clouds that float across the sky shall impart their beauty to Lucy. She will learn the movements from bending of willow trees. Lucy will learn to be graceful from the movements of a storm.
Lucy will thoroughly enjoy the sight of stars at midnight. She will be able to listen to the music of the stream flowing noisily. The sweet and soft music will have its effect on enhancing the beauty of Lucy.
Nature says that she will bring Lucy up in a happy valley. The joy and happiness around shall help in the growth of her height and her body will be physically developed. Nature will give Lucy noble thoughts when they both live together in that happy valley.
In the last stanza the poet says Nature fulfilled her promise, whatever she had said. But Lucy died very soon. She left the poet lonely in the barren land in a silent atmosphere the poet is left with the memories of the past, of the memories of Lucy, whom he will not be able to see again.
Thus, in this poem Wordsworth has stated that one can learn a great lesson for one’s upliftment if one approaches nature with a “heart that watches and receives”. The poem illustrates. Rousseau’s philosophy which states that a child living close to nature becomes a better person than the one brought up in the artificial atmosphere of civilization.

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

What is justice? Is it definable? Let’s try. Is it impartiality? Or is it being fair? The concept of justice is actually a subjective one and also entails at the same time being objective in judgment. Justice according to some is getting a fair treatment, while for others it is getting justice being delivered in courts. But a question that arises here is: Do all the judgments delivered in courts mean justice? If you have any doubts read John Grisham’s ‘The Innocent Man’. It can be called an eye-opener, although we are already in the know of many loopholes of law.
Meursault was awarded death sentence not because he murdered an Arab but because he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral. It was he was ‘the outsider’ at his own hearings in the court.
Shakespeare did see to it that justice was done to Lear in his play ‘King Lear’ but the time he was united with his beloved daughter, Cordelia; she died in his arms – the most pathetic scene of the tragedy.
Was it justice what Thomas Hardy described at the end of his brilliant novel ‘Tess of D’urbervilles’ :
“The President of Immortals, in Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess.”

We also have Lear mouthing the following words:
As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods
They kill for their sport.

In Shakespere’s ‘Julius Caesar’ the question of justice is left open to readers – whether the killing of Caesar by the senators, aristocrats and even Caesar's friend Brutus is justified – Caesar’s ‘You too Brutus’ says it all. He couldn’t bring himself to believe that his friend was there too among who killed him. No justice for Caesar for sure!

Realism in 'Joseph Andrews'

Henry Fielding was the pioneer of realism in English fiction. Both Fielding and Richardson were broadly speaking realists. Fielding also reacted against Richardson’s sentimentalism as a falsifying influence on the study of reality, although he does not reject sentimentalism altogether. “His desire”, says Cazamian, “is to give sentiment its right place; but also to integrate it in an organic series of tendencies where each contributes to maintain a mutual balance.”
Fielding is one of the few writers who, despite the wideness of their scope are capable of observing the demands of reality with perpetual ease.
His novels hold up to view a representative picture of his age. He is as authentic a chronicler of his day as Chaucer was of the later fourteenth century. Fielding’s truth is not the crude and bitter truth of Smollett’s. A.R. Humphreys observes: “fielding’s is the higher and more philosophical truth which epitomizes the spirit, the ethos, as well as the body, of the time which deals primarily not in externals but in the nature of man and in an intellectual and moral code.”
Fielding has presented before us various facets of England of his time – the coaches, squires, inn-keepers of England, the England just before Industrial Revolution. Then there is the landed gentry represented by Lady Booby and her husband. Lawyers, doctors and clergymen, both good and bad, are there in the novel. We have a sketchy representation of the aristocracy in the character of Beau Didapper. Fielding portrays the universal traits of human nature through these characters. During their journey, Joseph and Adams generally encounter selfishness, villainy and corruption. Once when Joseph, after being robbed, stripped and beaten, was lying in a ditch the occupants of the carriage were not ready to help him. It was only when the young lawyer suggested they might be held responsible if the man died, that they took him for their own sake.
There was a difference between the higher and lower class, which fielding depicts through the character of Lady Booby. She could not think in her wildest dreams of allowing a seat to Parson Adams at her table as she did not consider him to be well-dressed. Fielding also highlights the mockery of law in the hands of the so called high class and also the prevailing corruption. The character of Lawyer Scout illustrates the corruption. Even the law was manipulated to favour the rich. All the characters of Fielding are so full of life because they are drawn from life itself. They are a product of the suthor’s keen eye observing his contemporary society. Fielding effuses realism into his characters and his vivid dialogues. He presents before us the complete reality and does not intentionally ignore anything. In his Preface Fielding writes that he has “scarce a character or action produced which I have not taken from my own observations and experience.” That is why it is said about Joseph Andrews that it lives by the virtue of the extraordinary vitality of its characters and picture it gives of the manners of early eighteenth century England.

'The Grapes of Wrath' - A Study in Detail (Part II)

(Part I – see previous post)
Steinbeck in this epoch-making novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ has also described the concept of ‘oversoul’. Many philosophers and men of religion, not only in America but also in other parts of the world, have expressed their belief that there is an ‘oversoul’ of which all human beings are parts. In ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ this idea has been given a practical shape when the Joad family, after many deaths and separations, realizes that the only way of being happy in this world is to love others like oneself and help them as far as possible. Steinbeck has Casy rephrase Emerson’s concepts of the Oversoul and self-reliance. He helps unite the prisoners in California jail when they effectively protest against the sour food there and his death during the abortive strike at the Hooper ranch results in more determination on the part of those who survive him, including Tom.
Emerson, a great American poet, had earlier expressed his belief in the existence of and ‘oversoul’. Steinbeck has taken that validity in this novel. There are several incidents in the novel that demonstrate Emersonian concept of self-reliance. The Joads show this quality when they nurse their sputtering truck and the Wilsons’ car along Highway 66 to California. Casy declares that he cannot repair broken connecting-rods but Tom and Al can. The common people can also dig graves rig tents, grind valves, repair flats, find food where almost none exists, pick peaches and cotton, nurse babies and cook breakfast simultaneously, lay pipe underground and so on. They relish work. They want neither organized psalm-singing nor organized hand-outs. They want to earn their food by sweating for it. So Steinbeck places his faith in the little man and his instinctive ability to get together with others like himself for survival against the opposing forces of nature and the profit system.
The ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ deals with problems like social, political, economic and agrarian, side by side. Steinbeck has pointed to the inner emotional, ethical and spiritual state and the various phases of life, that is, the natural and social forces. It has cosmic dimensions and universal significance. It explains why the social, moral and religious framework of American society has been given a thematic extension which takes into stride the whole of mankind. The Joad family stands for the movement of humanity from a particular position to an ever-growing social, moral and spiritual state of universal love; self-centred individuality is left behind to achieve universal dimension. Joads always dream of happy home where no one would sterve as he is living a life and this dream becomes a symbol of man’s desire to escape from the prevailing condition to a happy and prosperous future. All the characters are lost in their own selves. They feel alienated. There is darkness all around because of individualism. In the end, there is light of knowledge, everybody tries to come out of the cocoon and identifies himself with the “bigger-self”.
Steinbeck seems to be saying ‘give the common man a chance and there will be enough to go around’. Like Jefferson, Whitman and Sandburg, the author of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ trust the people. Jefferson deplored federalism and advocated agrarian democracy. Whitman made a religion out of his worship of man en-masse. Sandburg delighted in the little guy’s endurance. The novel also seems to be an extension of Whitman’s philosophy of looking at the masses like one’s own self (“One’s self I sing…the word en-masse”).
Steinbeck has also presented a case of government’s intervention in the prevailing circumstances. He dows not seem to be against the mechanization of the agriculture but he is certainly against the inhuman practices which forced millions to uproot from their age-old homes. Apart from mechanization, the other cause of misery of the workers was the bank. At many places banks and tractors have been presented as big devils.
A significant comment has been made by the author in the twenty-ninth chapter of the novel: “The break would never come so long as fear could turn into wrath.” Symbolically this statement sums up the meaning of the whole novel. It signifies that till people continue to fear their exploiters and other cruel forces, the ‘grapes’ will remain sour for them. But when they get united and turn their fear into wrath against their exploiters, the grapes would turn sweet. In other words, the author seems to be suggesting that unless the workers unite themselves against exploitation and man-made misery, their plight will only worsen without any hope of remedy.
There have been varied opinions about the novel. An association of farmers in California denounced it as “obscene sensationalism” and “propaganda in its vilest form”. The book was banned in some city libraries. But with such publicity the book became the bestseller in most of the stores. While some considered it “a heaven-shaming and Christ insulting book”, the other extreme may be represented by the view that it is a “truthful book of literary as well as social value, resembling in power and beauty of sytle, the King James Version of the Bible.”
‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is not only a novel of a contemporary problem rather it is as valid today. It it were simply a novel of social protest, it would now be as dead as Upton Sinclair’s ‘Jungle’ and Ida Tarbell’s ‘History of the Standard Oil Company’. If it were as inartistic as most proletarian fiction of 1930s, once startling examples of which one can hardly even name today, it would certainly not continue to be the steady publishing success it is. Like Stephen Crane’s ‘Red Badge of Courage’, which is about a specific war of a century ago, it is also a parable of fear overcome and as such appeals universally to generations of readers. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ has an appeal which is timeless. It owed its inception to a specific crisis which no longer plagues the nation. But in the process of dramatizing that problem and suggesting ways in which it should be combated, Steinbeck gave us a gripping novel with enduring characterization and a message which is timeless. Ma Joad, Tom Joad and Jim Casy – and in lesser ways the others as well – enact for us a story of the unending struggle of men of good will to make the promise of the land a living reality.

'The Grapes of Wrath' - A Study in Detail (Part I)

The Grapes of Wrath is a strongly sustained social and political narrative that provides and accurate and faithful description of a critical period in American history. The novel is a post-depression novel and the writer John Steinbeck’s epic masterpiece of social consciousness in its picture of helpless people crushed by drought and depression. The novel is usually described as a novel of social protest, for it exposes the desperate conditions under which one group of American workers, the migratory farm families, was forced to live during 1930s.
In the depths of the greatest economic depression these people had to abandon their homes and their livelihoods. They were uprooted and set adrift because tractors were rapidly industrializing the Southern cotton fields and because erosion and drought were creating the Dust Bowl in wide areas of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. While many of the families moved only short distances, yet one hundred and fifty thousand moved to California, Steinbeck’s hometown, where their presence caused acute social stresses. The migrants were eager to obtain work but many landed properties took advantage of their poverty and distress, by hiring them at starvation wages and treating them with great brutality. They were denied even the most elementary human and civil rights. As part of the exploitation the land owners tried to suppress all attempts at organization by the migrant workers – who were contemptuously referred to as “Okies”. It was not until 1937, that they were able to form small groups for self-protection.
In the novel, Steinbeck has depicted the devastating impact of the great economic depression on the Joad family. The family is uprooted from its age old environs due to drought and dusty storms as well as due to the introduction of tractors and other mechanical means to be used for ploughing and harvesting in place of manual labour. Thousands of families of landless workers left Oklahoma to seek employment in California. But even there the treatment meted out to them is no better. They are at the best treated as the guinea pigs by their new ‘hosts’, who exploited them in every possible manner. They had been lured with the help of hand-bills to come to California saying that there was a lot of work at higher wages. But what they received was only exploitation by labour contractors and violence from the deputies, who acted at the behest of the rich landlords.
The Joads like others were forced to starve and remain out of work for long spells. Yet they did not lose courage and hope. They continued to persevere in the hope that someday they will be able to get a better deal. Thus, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is a story of perseverance, determination, sufferings and miseries, which was the destiny of not only of the Joad family but also of lakhs of their brethren.
Superficially, the novel seems to be a story of a contemporary problem. But it transcends the time-barrier in the resolution provided to the problem by the author. Steinbeck preaches the lesson of ‘togetherness’ in order to fight against the man-made sufferings. He believes that unless people come together and feel the sufferings cannot be mitigated.
The Joad family particularly Ma Joad, Tom Joad and Jim Casy are the representatives of this philosophy of Steinbeck. Ma has little food to feed her own family, but she shares her little with her fellow “have-nots”. When she learns of a cotton-picking job, she communicates that knowledge to the Wainwrights, with the result that the Joads actually earn less money. Tom, who had been and individualistic character in the earlier chapters of the novel also learns this lesson of ‘togetherness’, in order to fight afainst the man-made sufferings. Rose of Sharon on Ma Joad’s asking feeds a dying old man to save him.
It is this feeling of togetherness among the displaced people that keeps the bits of their lives together and they are able to fight against the repressing conditions prevailing there.