IGNOU BEGC 133 Solved Free Assignment
BEGC 133 Solved Free Assignment July 2023 & January 2024
Q. I. Explain the following passages with reference to the context..
1 .”I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on th’ other.”
Ans. Context: These lines are taken from poem ‘Macbeth’ by Shakespeare.
Explanation: Shakespearean scholars almost unanimously agree that Macbeth is fully responsible for his actions.
It is certainly his “vaulting ambition” which makes him murder Duncan; and then the fear of insecurity does not let his mind take rest.
In Christian terms Macbeth is completely free to choose his course of action. He commands reason which scans the whole situation before he decides to kill Duncan.
He himself speaks good of Duncan:
Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongu❜d,
I have no spur. To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on th’ other.
This frank admission of Duncan’s qualities and of his own evil makes Macbeth decide not to murder; but after Lady Macbeth’s sweeping persuasion, it is his own decision which settles him to commit regicide.
In the same way, before contriving Banquo’s murder, he analyses the situation and reaches a very logical conclusion that “to be safely thus” is better than “to be thus”.
However, his frantic “bare-fac’d power” is used without the force of reasoning in surprising Macduff’s house and killing the innocent Macduffs.
But, at this stage, he has reached the point of no return; he has “Supp’d full with horror;” and he has strange things in his head “which must be acted, ere they may be scann’d”.
The witches are not capable of compelling Macbeth to do wrong; they can only persuade by announcing future events.
It is only a responding emotion within Macbeth which makes him interpret the prophecies of the witches after his own wishes.
Bradley says that the words of the witches are fatal to the hero only because there is in him something which leaps into light at the sound of them.
In dramatic terms the witches cannot be only a dire ambition “slumbering in the hero’s soul” because, in addition to Macbeth’s ambition, Bradley says, they must represent “all those obscurer influences of evil around him.”
2. “Out, damned spot: out I say! One, Two: Why then ’tis time
to do’t. Hell is murky. Fie, My Lord, fie! A soldier, and affear’d? What need we fear who knows it, when none can
call our power to accompt”?
Ans. Context: These lines are taken from poem ‘Macbeth’ by Shakespeare.
Explanation: Macbeth addresses the blood she thinks is on her hands when she says, “out, damned spot.”
She tries to wash Duncan’s blood from her hands, metaphorically indicating the guilt she feels for her part in his murder.
The “damned spot” Lady Macbeth is trying to rid herself of is blood. She thinks her hands are stained with Duncan’s blood, and her continual attempts to wash it away indicate her declining psychological condition.
Lady Macbeth says that no amount of washing will cleanse her hands. The murder of Duncan has been done, and since there is no undoing it, she cannot do anything to banish her guilt regarding the king’s assassination.
3. “He did it like an operatic tenor-a regular handsome fellow, with flashing eyes and lovely moustache, shouting a war-cry and charging like Don Quixote at the windmills. We nearly burst with laughter at him; but when the sergeant ran up as white as a sheet, and told us they’d sent us the wrong cartridges, and that we couldn’t fire a shot for the next ten minutes, we laughed at the other side of mouths
Ans. Context: These lines are taken from poem ‘Arms and the Man’ by Bernald Shaw.
Explanation: The play set against the background of the Serbo-Bulgarian war of 1885, begins in Raina’s bedroom in a small town in Bulgaria.
Raina stands out on her balcony enjoying the idea that she makes the lovely evening even more so. She wears a fur dressing gown worth three times the room’s furniture.
Catherine, her mother enters and tells Raina that there has been a great battle. The war between Bulgaria and Servia may have been decided by this great victory.
Leading the daring charge was Raina’s fiancée: Major Sergius Saranoff. The routed forces of the enemy are being hunted through the streets of the city.
Their maid servant Louka enters and informs the rejoicing mother and daughter of orders that the windows must be kept shuttered and barred, lest escaping soldiers or errant bullets get in.
Raina’s window does not bolt but she closes the shutter and hides from the gunfire under her covers.
It is then that a bedraggled-looking Servian officer climbs in her window. Raina is not about to be intimidated and the two talk for quite a while.
An officer of the Bulgarian army requests to search the room, as some people reported seeing a man climb in. Raina hides the Servian officer and convinces the other soldiers that there is nobody there.
The soldier reveals that his gun has no cartridges and that, in fact, he generally carries chocolates where they should be.
He is a professional soldier and knows that chocolates and food are more important in the long run than bullets.
Raina contemptuously gives him the last of her chocolate cremes and he gratefully eats them.
Rather than allowing him to take the chance of capture and execution, Raina convinces the Officer (he isn’t hard to convince) to rely upon her and her mother’s good will.
She leaves to enlist the help of her mother and when Raina and Catherine return to the room, the Officer has fallen asleep from stress and exhaustion. They wake him, dress him in an old coat of the Major’s, and sneak him out safely.
4. “The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world. Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure!”
Ans. Context: These lines are taken from Morte d’Arthur by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Explanation: First, a poem frames “Morte d’Arthur,” entitled “The Epic.” The speaker says he is gathered at the home of Francis Allen on Christmas Eve.
Also there are the parson, Holmes; the poet, Everard Hall; and the host. They gather around the wassail-bowl (hot mulled cider) and discuss how the honor seems gone from Christmas.
The speaker is tired from his day of ice- skating and falling, and he dozes off, waking to the parson lamenting the general lack of faith throughout the world.
Francis jokes and says he holds faith in Everard, and Everard responds by saying he has faith in the cider.
The speaker asks Everard what became of his great gift of poetry that was so evident in college, and Francis says that Everard had been working on twelve books about King Arthur but threw them into the fire.
It seems that Everard thought “nothing new was said” and the books were mere “Homeric echoes, nothing-worth.”
Francis says he has saved one book from the fire. The speaker’s ears prick up, and he remembers the talent of his friend.
After some urging, the poet begins to read. The noise of battle goes on all day. All of the men of the Round Table have fallen in Lyonesse.
King Arthur has also been wounded, and his last knight, Sir Bedivere, brings him to a chapel near the field in the “barren land.”
The King speaks to Bedivere about the severing of the company of knights, the men he loved, and how they will never talk again of lordly deeds in Camelot.
He tells Bedivere to take his sword Excalibur, which he had received from a white arm clothed in samite reaching up from the waters of the lake, and fling it back into the middle of the water.
Bedivere is to watch what happened and then return. Bedivere hesitates at leaving his lord, but obeys him.
He passes by the place of the tombs of ancient men illuminated by moonlight and draws near the lake.
He unsheathes Excalibur and gazes long at the sparkling, jeweled hilt. He finds he cannot throw it in the water and hides it in the waterflags about the marge.
When he returns Arthur asks him if he performed the mission and what he saw. Bedivere replies, “I heard the ripple washing in the reeds,/And the wild water lapping on the crag.”
Arthur is angry because he knows Bedivere did not do what he asked. He tells him that he has betrayed his nature and his name and that he must go back and try again.
Q. II. Write short notes on the following:
(a) Characterisation in Far from the Madding Crowd.
Ans. Characterization in a novel includes the physical features of the characters, their social status and ideas, attitudes and behaviour, their interactions with others.
In this chapter, we will look into the major characters in Far From the Madding Crowd. We will understand how Hardy has developed the characters and how these characters depict the realities of the period.
Characters in a novel differ because of their unique characteristics and functions. The characters do not change midway.
Some characters develop and grow and they contribute to the progress of the story. These characters start out one way and end up differently and the change in the story is brought out by the changes in them.
Bathsheba is the female protagonist as the plot of novel centers around her. The orphaned daughter of a wealthy farm owner, Bathsheba is raised by her aunt in the countryside.
She is by far the best-drawn and strongest woman character in Hardy’s work, despite her vacillations.
The story progresses through her relationship with three suitors and her final choice reflects her personal growth from the impulsive and headstrong woman to a mature woman who can manage her emotions.
Her final choice of Oak as her husband shows she is far from her mad obsessed lover Boldwood and pretentious Sergeant Troy who deserts her soon after marriage.
Hardy shows her as a strong and self-reliant woman and though she makes some poor choices, they do make sense.
She is a realistic character whose statement made late in the novel helps to explain Tess, Eustacia and Sue the central woman characters in Hardy’s later novels as she says “it is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.”
Gabriel Oak can be considered as the main male protagonist in the novel. A shepherd, Oak was reasonably well off in his native place Norcombe Hill till tragedy struck him with the loss of his two hundred sheep.
After the disaster, he comes to Weatherbury in search of a job. He learns about the people of Weatherbury and their way of living after he gets a job under Bathsheba to manage her farm and settles down there. He suffers from no false pride.
While the Weatherbury people are given to gossip and are skeptical about a woman managing her own farm, Oak does not gossip about anyone.
He is humble and gentle and accepts Bathsheba’s instant rejection of his marriage proposal in his stride.
His humility, unboastful character and selflessness are in marked contrast to the vain, boastful, self-centric Sergeant Troy who marries Bathsheba and leaves her.
He is also a simple rustic shepherd from an obscure village and thus, is a contrast to the country-bred, complex and wealthy gentleman Farmer Boldwood, who falls a victim to his own passion that was initially kindled by Bathsheba’s prankish message to him to marry her.
Thus, Oak is far removed from both the suitors of Bathsheba, Sergeant Troy and Boldwood.
Oak stands out in the midst of the Weatherbury crowd and proves to be a likeable loner far from the madding crowd.
Sergeant Francis Troy
Sergeant Troy, a young soldier is the antagonist of the novel. Handsome and dashing in look, he is a pleasure seeker.
He feels superior to the countryfolks in Weatherbury. His conquest of Bathsheba provokes awe and admiration in the innocent rural farmhands.
He is different from Gabriel Oak, who is self-effacing and withdrawing by nature and Boldwood, who is a strict no- nonsense type and who adheres to Christian morals.
Troy woos and wins Bathsheba with his pretentious charm. He is not totally evil as he has shades of good qualities like he keeps his promise he made to Fanny Robin that he will marry her by waiting in the church for her to turn up.
Unfortunately, it is the fate that mars their marriage as Fanny reaches another church and thus fails to arrive at the right place. He feels a deep sense of remorse when Fanny dies.
Boldwood, a middle aged, dignified and respectable owns a farm near Bathsheba’s. A highly respected farmer especially for his knowledge and management of his farm he had never regarded marriage as a necessity.
Despite the gossip of the villagers about his unmarried status he was never really in love. He is kind and sympathetic towards the poor.
He also feels responsible for Fanny initially for her schooling and after that for her employment in Bathsheba’s uncle’s farm and finally for her safety when she disappears from the village.
Despite his no-nonsense approach to women and marriage, he misunderstands Bathsheba’s mischievous Valentine card sent to him with the tag line ‘Will you marry me?’ He is flattered to be paid such attentions by a beautiful, almost imperious woman and slowly becomes obsessed with her – an obsession that eventually turns into madness.
He is insistent on Bathsheba agreeing to marry him after it is rumored that her husband Troy had died of drowning.
The Valentine card makes him for the first time look at women and think of marriage that he had till then shunned. He experiences love for Bathsheba which turns into obsessive passion.
Gradually he becomes possessive of Bathsheba and gets upset with Troy whom he knows to be a pretender with no genuine love for Bathsheba.
He compels Bathsheba to promise that she will marry him after the official mourning period for her departed husband Troy is over.
His character undergoes change twice in the course of the novel from a stiff, sedate, sober, almost a boring character to a passionate and obsessed lover.
At the end he becomes a vengeful murderer by shooting Troy when he turns after six years of disappearance.
Fanny is young and innocent. She is taken in by Sergeant Troy. She believes in him as a true lover with his proposal to marry her.
However, it was just her fate that she waits for him outside a wrong church while Troy waits inside another church.
Troy gets angry and refuses to listen to her pleas for forgiveness and abandons her even as she carries his baby in her womb.
Fanny dies in childbirth. She is not a full-fledged character and her appearance is limited to her meeting with Oak on a gloomy winter evening yet she is pivotal to the development of the story.
Boldwood and Bathsheba wonder when she disappears as they are not aware of her pathetic condition of pregnancy and destitution.
She is guileless, innocent and honest as she returns the shilling that Oak had lent her earlier on seeing her distressed condition.
The other characters who appear are the people of Weatherbury, mainly farm hands and employees of the farm owners.
They are illiterate labourers and work manually in farms to earn their livelihood. The only pleasure they derive is from their drink and gossip.
(b) The ‘Banquet Scene’ in Macbeth.
Ans. The banquet scene should be a celebration of Macbeth’s position as king, but it has been presented by Shakespeare as an undermining of the same. After the murderer reveals.
Fleance’s escape, Macbeth begins to lose confidence and becomes insecure. He says “I had else been perfect:/Whole as the marble, founded as the rock,/As broad and general as the casing air:/But now, I am cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d, bound in/To saucy doubts and fears. But Banquo’s safe?”
Banquo’s ghost appears in the banquet scene and takes Macbeth’s seat.
The ghost reminds Macbeth of his brutal killings and Fleance’s claim to the throne. Lady Macbeth tries to control the situation and she tells the nobles that Macbeth has been getting fits since his youth and that this is momentary.
She challenges his masculinity and tells him, “O! these flaws and starts/ (Impostors to true fear), would well become/ A woman’s story at winter’s fire”.
Lady Macbeth seems in control of herself but Macbeth is not. The ghost is visible only to him which implies a troubled mind.
The use of Banquo’s ghost shows the loss of humanity and friendship in the wake of Machiavellian ambition.
Macbeth dreads this flash from the past, as he says, “If charnel- houses and our graves must send/Those that we bury, back, our monuments/Shall be the maws of kites.”
Macbeth terms his fits of digression a “strange infirmity”. As Macbeth thinks of his past deeds, Banquo’s ghost re-enters to disturb him.
Macbeth describes the ghost: “Thy bones are marowless, thy blood is cold;/ Thou hast no speculation in those eyes,/ Which thou dost glare with”.
Macbeth is troubled and unable to accept the enormity of his actions. He challenges Banquo to come in any form like the “Russian bear, “the arm’d rhinoceros” or th Hyrcan tiger”, but that of the ghost.
Lady Macbeth brings the banquet to a close and urges the nobles to leave-“At once, good night:- Stand not upon the order of your going,/ But go at once”.
The nobles are asked to leave immediately without following rank, which indicates that order has once again been flouted.
Macbeth’s subversion of Duncan’s right to the throne by violence is Machivellian; it established a new order through blood and gore.
When the play starts, Duncan’s reign was preserved by Macbeth’s display of violence on the battlefield. Both systems perpetuate through violence and are seen as wanting even as they show the warps and wefts of society.
Macbeth can sense the anarchy as he says: “It will have blood, they say: blood will have blood:/Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak:/Augures and understood relations, have/By maggot-pies and choughs, and rooks, brought forth/The secret’st man of blood.
What is the night?” For the brutality of killing, once Macbeth was valourised, but now is the reason of his troubled mind. It makes us think about the nature of violence in relation to the state as body politic.
Violence is anarchic and there is a thin line of demarcation in its use for or against the state. The violence used to defend the state is now working against it.
(c) Tennyson as a representative poet of Victorian England.
Ans. Many critics consider him the representative poet of the Age because most of the features of the Victorian Age are echoed in his poetry.
His works reflect the pessimism of Victorian literature, the social mores of his society, the clash of religion with the rising scientific temperament, the conservancy yet liberalism of the people and the sense of self-satisfaction that was a characteristic of the Victorian middle and upper classes.
Through his poem The Lady of Shalott, Tennyson explores the conflict between art and life that challenged Victorian age thinkers.
He presents to us the dilemma that faced artists, writers and musicians during the Victorian age: whether to write about the world by keeping at a distance from it or to enjoy the world by simply living in it.
In Tennyson’s poem Ulysses, the mythical hero Ulysses shows little regard for his wife when he dismisses her with the contemptuous phrase ‘match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole’.
His callous disregard for her because of her age reveals his arrogance and belief in his masculine superiority. Clearly, he does not see her as his equal.
He envisages himself as a fearless warrior travelling to the ends of the earth, unhindered by his old age. But his wife, though the same age as him, is reduced in his mind to the ranks of the weak and the useless.
To Ulysses, she is just one of those things that tie him down and stifle him, hinder his glory and lower his consequence.
He shows no gratitude to her for being loyal to him during the vast amounts of time he was away on his adventures.
(d) Bernard Shaw and the ‘discussion play’.
Ans. Shaw was influenced by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen who stirred the Victorian Society with his impeccable plays such as Peer Gynt, Pillars of Society, A Doll’s House, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler and When We Dead Awaken.
Ibsen, regarded as the father of modern drama whose target is to reform the Victorian society that is masked under liberty which has all the features of despotism, focuses on women’s rights and freedom, women’s suffering, societal reformation, societal atrocities, financial difficulties, moral conflicts rising from the dark secrets concealed from society.
He sets a new stage for his new drama of life and morality to be accepted by his audience. As Shaw says, “Ibsen supplies the want left by Shakespeare. He gives us not only ourselves, but ourselves in our situations.
The things that happen to his stage figures are things that happen to us.” This arises in Shaw an urge to resonate with the dimensions of writings in his plays that offer a major change in the course of drama and to introduce ‘discussion’ in his plays.
This medium makes Shaw through Ibsen an avant-gardism that survives the technique of exposing the very realities of human situations.
As Shaw puts it: “You had in what was called a well made play an exposition in the first act, a situation in the second and an unravelling in the third.
Now you have exposition, situation and discussion: And the discussion is the test of the playwright.”
Discussion often leads to a solution at the end and through discussion the attitudes of the debater are changed and some ascertain that the morality needs a turn-coat for refinement that rejuvenates the aura of perfect society.
Shaw has hundred percent done the same experiment with his plays to reorganise the taste of sugar not just sugar but a light vein of toxin coated pill to realise the reader what are his intentions towards the problem raised.
From the times of Shakespeare drama is a good medium of entertainment that gives comfort to the audience with its supernatural elements like magic, adventure and scepticism.
But from Ibsen’s time drama is a vehicle that instructs audience with a message on the societal problems, domestic furore, individual identity, and complicated relationships of marriage, love and responsibility.
Shaw invented ‘Drama of Ideas or The Discussion Play, under the guidance of Ibsen in which he discarded the old convention type of plots and incarnated a modern spoof with a serious plot that ushered discussion in the last act of his plays.
Shaw and Ibsen never met personally in their life time but Shaw accepts himself as the successor of Ibsen through his plays.
As in one way, Ibsen is a feminist, so is Shaw with his remarkable observation on social issues that flourish through his pen of ideas and most of Shaw’s plays mimic feminism.
III. Write short essays on the following:
(a) “Arms and the Man is considered to be an ‘anti-romantic comedy””. Do you agree?
Ans. Arms and the Man is an anti-romantic comedy. Raina lives in an artificial world of romance and considers herself to be in love with Sergius. Her notions of love come from reading Byron and Pushkin and from operas she has seen in Bucharest.
Sergius has led a triumphant charge against the Serbs in a recent battle at Slivnitza and is ‘the hero of the hour, the idol of the regiment’.
The play shows how Raina in a romantic fashion picks up a picture of Sergius and gazes at it proudly. She adores the picture of Sergius with ‘feelings that are beyond expression’.
She does not kiss it but looks upon it as if it were something holy. Her unexpected meeting with Bluntschli obstructs her romantic dreams.
Bluntschli, who is free from romantic illusions about war and does not view it as the means to win glory, strikes at the root of Raina’s lofty ideals, aristocratic manner and pride in her family’s social status.
Gradually she realises the folly of her romantic illusions. In Act II, Raina adores Sergius for his heroic action in the war and calls him my hero, my king’, while Sergius calls her ‘my queen’.
He tells her that all his deeds have been inspired by her and he has gone through the war like a knight in a tournament with his lady looking down at him and encouraging him. They also agree that they have found ‘the higher love’.
Almost immediately, Sergius confesses to Louka that the higher love is ‘very fatiguing’ to keep up for long.
Louka ridicules and shatters their noble sentiments and poses. The play thus shows ‘higher love’ as a sham.
Shaw proves that romantic ideas of love and war are nothing but delusions. Thus, Arms and the Man can be called an anti-romantic comedy.
The title, Arms and the Man, is taken from Dryden’s translation of the opening lines of Virgil’s Aeneid: “Arms and the Man I sing, who forced by fate,/And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate.”
In Arms and the Man, Shaw gives an ironic twist to Virgil’s lines which glorify war and depict man as a creature who can reach heroic proportions.
Shaw does not glorify war or the life of a soldier, but he shows the meaningless for men to fight wars to gain glory and honour.
Bluntschli, a professional soldier makes it clear that for most soldiers, war and weapons are not the instruments of achieving glory but a means of earning their livelihood. Bluntschli is willing to fight in any country for payment.
He says he would prefer not to fight and would rather save his life in the battlefield by taking a safe position. In the battlefield for him chocolates are more important than cartridges because the former provide quick nourishment.
Bluntschli questions the unprofessional way in which the Bulgarians led by Sengius attacked the Serbs. He says that only an amateur would lead a cavalry charge against a battery of machine guns, without calculating the danger of the situation.
If the Serbs had the proper ammunition and the guns had gone off, Sergius and his regiment would have been completely wiped out.
He gives a realistic perspective of war that does not glorify it or see it as the opportunity to gain honour and fame.
It also shows a soldier should ideally try to save his life, rather than die a glorious death on the battlefield.
The plot revolves around war and it deals with men and their arms. Thus, the title ‘Arms and the Man’ is appropriate for this play.
(b) What are the main themes of Tennyson’s poem “Morte d’Arthur”? Briefly explain the allegorical significance of the poem.
Ans. The main themes of “Morte d’Arthur” are:
(i) Change and the courage to accept it when the old order dies giving way to a new order. Change is necessary for progress, for orderly evolution.
(ii) Morality that binds the social and familial fabric of the society and
(iii) Loyalty and obedience to the monarch.
In the opening lines, King Arthur makes it clear the theme that an era is about to an end and that this will mark the starting of a new era.
He recognises the passing of a golden era that he had established with the Round Table and loyal Knights.
The period was an era of chivalry and ideal governance, an era of glory and success he had personally achieved during his kingship.
Thus, “Morte d’Arthur” is about the passing of not only a great man, but also of a great period. A crucial phase in Tennyson’s life also came to an end.
“The goodliest fellowship of famous knights Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep They sleep the men I loved.
I think that we Shall never more, at any future time, Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds, Walking about the gardens and the halls Of Camelot, as in the days that were.
I perish by this people which I made,-
Tho’ Merlin sware that I should come again
To rule once more-but let what will be, be.”
King Arthur says these to Sir Bedivere. It tells about a summary of the loss of his beloved knights and an acceptance “but let what will be, be”.
This also hints at the change that has come over Tennyson as he seeks to overcome his grief over Hallam’s death and starts afresh his poetic career.
Sir Bedivere feels traumatised at the thought of a future life without his King. He words:
“Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?”
In reply, King Arthur says:
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new… I have lived my life, and that which I have done… Pray for my soul.
More things are wrought by prayer Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice Rise like a fountain for me night and day.”
It gives a message that accepting change, accepting a new order of life is a part of our existence. What keeps men strong and courageous in the light of change into an unknown future is faith in God.
Having faith in God and an optimistic outlook on what shall come hereafter is a difficult proposition.
Loyalty is the another theme of the poem. Though set in the medieval period, the poem is essentially Victorian.
Sir Bedivere’s loyalty to the King can be seen as paralleling the Victorian’s admiration and pride in their Queen and their deep sense of loyalty to her and to the nation.
Lamenting the demise of the Knights of the Round Table, Arthur tells Sir Bedivere:
“And where so ever I am sung or told
In aftertime, this also shall be known:
But now delay not: take Excalibur,
And fling him far into the middle mere:
Watch what thou seest, and lightly bring me word.”
In reply Sir Bedivere says:
“It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus,
Aidless, alone, and smitten thro’ the helm.
A little thing may harm a wounded man.
Yet I thy hest will all perform at full,
Watch what I see, and lightly bring thee word.
So saying, from the ruin’d shrine he stept.”
First Sir Bedivere hesitates to leave his wounded king, but he agrees to obey his command and he steps out and shows his loyalty towards the king.
Finding the sword beautiful and bright, he decides not to throw the sword into the lake, but he does not want to hurt his King to mistake him as a disobedient soldier and he tells a lie that he had done as he was ordered.
The King knows that he lied to him and chides him. He again asks him to go a second time. Sir Bedivere goes for the second time to throw the sword and once again says a lie.
King Arthur knows that Sir Bedivere would have seen a miracle if he has thrown the sword into the lake. King Arthur gets angry saying that Sir Bedievere has become disloyal and chides him that he behaved in an ‘unknightly’ manner.
For the third time, Arthur bids him to do his command and angrily says that if Sir Bedivere failed to do so, the king would slay him. When Sir Bedivere returns after accomplishing the task, the King is pleased:
“Now see I by thine eyes that this is done.
Speak out: what is it thou hast heard, or seen?”
Tennyson intends to kindle the national pride in English people and showcase the ideals that Victorians identified themselves with.
He prefers the Arthurian legend as his theme because King Arthur embodied those ideals far back in his days before the Norman conquest of 1066.
King Arthur was celebrated as an exemplary ruler. Tennyson rearranges a past glory onto the present to make the ideal Arthurian monarchy illustrative of Queen Victoria’s rule.
Arthur is said to be “ideal manhood closed in real man” and the “stainless gentleman.” His idea of the Round Table is an example of his democratic concept of the King as the first among equal knights.
Through the presentation of King Arthur, Tennyson also sought to project Queen Victoria as an ideal monarch.
Queen Victoria, the matriarch of the British Empire, epitomised the values of the era and carved out a new role for the monarchy.
During her 63-year reign, Victoria presided over the social and industrial transformation of Britain and expansion of the empire.
Q. IV. Write a brief critical appreciation of Thomas Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd, bringing out the significance of the landscape of Wessex in the novel.
Ans. Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd raises questions on society, religion and morals but ends on a positive note that virtue garners rewards as evidenced in Gabriel Oak’s happy union with Bathsheba as a reward for leading a life of loyalty, humility, goodness and selfless love.
The 19th century saw the following transitions:
(i) Change from agrarian rural life to industrial urban life
(ii) Change from fundamental beliefs in God as the Creator of the world and as regulator of human affairs to acceptance of scientific laws based on Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species about the creation of the universe as an evolutionary process
(iii) Change from a predominantly rural society with strong belief in tradition and customs to an urban society, with its new outlook on life and morals, alongwith a focus on material well-being and a new social order that brought a sharp clevage between the educated elite and the uneducated or semi-educated poor.
(iv) Change from an acceptance of life’s ups and downs as the working of a beneficent, omnipotent and omniscient deity to questioning the function of that deity in the face of omnipresent evil and unreasonable happenings leading to unhappiness.
It becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile the prevalence of unhappiness in life with the operation of a benevolent deity.
As Brennecke says, “He (Hardy) cannot reconcile the idea of an omnipotent and merciful deity with human sufferings.”
Hardy, who can be described as a philosophical novelist reflects on Victorian society, its morals, ethics and worldview as it was caught between the old world that was slowly disappearing and the new world that was ushering in by the Industrial revolution.
Hardy, a Christian by birth and upbringing lost his faith in God after coming under the influence of the 19th century scientific thinkers and writers like Charles Darwin.
Darwin traces the origin of man as a natural evolution from a primordial form to his present state and thus questions the prevailing concept of the creation of man by God.
Hence, all the older Christian values appeared to the Victorians including Hardy as redundant.
Darwin’s work undermines the prevailing concept of the divine creation of man. Hardy learnt from Darwin that the natural order is indifferent to man’s desires and aspirations.
Thus, he broke with Victorian optimism and self-complacency and developed pessimism and discontent.
Hardy, an extensive reader had read the ancient Greek tragedies, Shakespeare’s works, contemporary thinkers like Thomas Huxley and the French radical reformers and philosophers including Charles Fourier, Hippolyte Taine and Auguste Comte.
His view of human life was also shaped by his extensive critical reading of the Bible. Thus, his novels have Biblical allusions and Far From the Madding Crowd is rich in them.
Ernest Brennecke, who wrote one of the earliest appraisals of Hardy’s philosophy of life says Hardy developed “a consistent world-view through the notions of Chance and Time, Circumstances, Fate, Nature, Providence, Nemesis and Will tinged with metaphysical idealism”.
In his novels, Hardy suggests that the old Christian values do not help man to face misery and unhappiness.
Thus, on the one hand he castigates religion as it has very little to offer to the modern man and on the other he is acutely aware of the place of religion in tradition and customs that give some degree of solidity to the culture of the people.
Lennart A. Björk notes, “Hardy’s castigation of traditional religion is an integral part of his social criticism,” as religion cannot offer comfort and consolation during moments of crisis.
His writings deal with the loss of an earlier simpler Christian faith and its total abandonment to the will of God and a longing for a new order to replace that loss of the older faith in God by making the church an important social institution.
He told Edmund Blunden, “If there is no church in a country village, there is nothing.”
Hardy’s view of life is also deeply rooted in his Hellenic and pagan sympathies of the rural countryside which held more charm for Hardy than did Christianity.
In his Wessex novels and stories, Hardy’s vision of an old, rustic England is essentially pagan.
He shares fellow Victorian, Matthew Arnold’s ideal of Hellenic paganism with its focus on the development of a complete man with the harmonious body and soul.
He prefers Auguste Comte’s religion of humanity as a substitute for Christianity.
Determinism, the philosophical doctrine that all events including human choices and decisions are necessarily determined by external forces acting on the will, is an aspect of Hardy’s philosophy.
Man’s life is controlled by what we call Fate or Destiny. His major fiction shows that human existence is intrinsically tragic because people are trapped by the laws of Nature and the laws of civilization.
Novels like Tess, Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge end in tragedy where Fate or Chance plays a causal role in human affairs.
Chance or Fate can change man’s destiny. For Hardy, chance is everything over which man has no control. Fate is not always sinister but Man cannot overcome his fate.
Hardy’s men and women become tragic victims of Fate. Hardy presents the universe as a rigid mechanism that is indifferent and apathetic to human suffering and contrary to the Christian belief in God’s justice and compassion for humanity.
Far from the Madding Crowd is an exception because it ends on a happy note of bringing Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba together.
Troy’s return at the very moment Boldwood is getting ready to marry Bathsheba is an instance of the operation of forces outside man’s plans and actions.
Gabriel shows how despite all odds against human life, man can overcome it by taking responsibility for fellow men.
For Hardy, a hope for mankind is evolutionary meliorism which means the world can be improved by human effort. Hardy said:
I believe that a good deal of the robustious, swaggering optimism of recent literature is at bottom cowardly and insincere.
My pessimism, if pessimism it be, does not involve the assumption that the world is going to the dogs. On the contrary, my practical philosophy is distinctly meliorist.
Whatever may be the inherent good or evil of life it is certain that men make it much worse than it need be.
When we have got rid of a thousand remediable ills, it will be time enough to determine whether the ill that is irremediable outweighs the good Hardy like many writers before and after him, is concerned with existential questions, such as the human condition, personal freedom and determinism the attitude to God and religion the role of destiny, failed human relationships and the alienation of human beings in the modern world.
He presents life’s happenings as events that are unalterable and believed that man cannot take any preventive measures to change or stop them.
Worse is the certainty of suffering. Hardy’s world is dictated by Chance and therefore his people live in an uncaring, unfeeling and unfriendly universe made worse by their painful awareness of their existence.
Destiny comes between man’s desire and its fruition. Hence: his philosophical outlook is certainly deterministic, pessimistic and tragic, yet it offers a possibility of positive morality.
Hardy insists that there is a limited personal freedom in the midst of his state of being unfree.
It is in his strength to transcend his natural bondage he may achieve personal freedom which means that he is free to make his own choices but he will have to pay dearly for them.
It is easy to resign oneself to fatalism which acknowledges that all action is controlled by Fate which is a great, impersonal, primitive force.
But it takes a lot of man’s spiritual energy to take action even when action will prove a failure.
Thus, in his novels, man is pitted against chance or Fate. Fanny’s life ends on a tragic note because of the fateful mistake of waiting outside a wrong church.
Similarly, fate interferes at the moment Boldwood and Bathsheba get ready for their marriage.
The man who for seven years had not turned up and was therefore assumed to be drowned, turns up at that very moment thereby nullifying Bathsheba’s widowhood.
But those who are contented, calm and balanced and not protesting against life’s hard dispensations overcome chance and succeed at the end as is the case with Gabriel Oak.
In his novels, Hardy shows power of Chance or Fate winning over the power of man. He makes a plea that social laws and conventions that are man-made must be changed so that man is not helplessly and hopelessly doomed.
Thomas Hardy’s Wessex is an imaginary landscape which found a place in his writings. Wessex has been a part of his characters in his writings with its moods and destiny.
Hardy, born in Upper Brockhampton, Dorset, where he spent much of his adult life, was well acquainted with the local customs and location in this part of England and which are depicted in his novels and poetry.
Wessex, the fictional place is located in Southern England. Hardy’s intense study and accurate portrayal of nineteenth century rural society in Dorset presents a microcosm of human life through which Hardy intended to comment on the universal condition of human existence.
Wessex is the setting for his four major novels, Far From the Madding Crowd, Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
Hardy describes the natural world in great details, making it more significant than a just setting against which the narrative unfolds.
Hardy develops a reciprocal relationship between environment and character; an interaction which serves to show the changing position of humans in the post-Darwinian Victorian period.
Hardy’s narrative depicts the natural world in the same way different individuals are described and vice versa.
This technique removes the sense of authority from human hands, placing humans within the natural world instead of ruling above it.
Hardy had come under the influence of Charles Darwin who in his Origin of Species had postulated the theory that the human species as it is today, is the result of natural selection which is a random selection without any intent.
It is circumstance that has enabled different species to evolve into the human species. Natural selection is the central concept of evolution which is the process where organisms evolve by adapting to their environment.
Such a postulation went against the prevalent Christian chap belief in God as the Creator.
Hardy’s focus on environment shows the influence of Darwinian theory. The role of fate and circumstance are vital features of the plot, echoing the stress evolutionary ideas place upon chance, extinction and survival.
Darwin’s focus on the power of circumstance to change the outcome of natural selection is evident in Hardy’s fiction.
Human forces are ultimately rendered inconsequential against the unseen powers that seem to rule their immediate environment.