The Erotic Art in Sappho’s “Please”

A Poem Analysis Using the Formalist Approach

 

A close study of the images and metaphors besieging every line of the poem “Please” reveals the common theme of erotic adoration – an adoration which springs from sexual thirst and yearnings. The poem is a plead for a desired one’s return; the word ‘desired’ instead of ‘loved’ thus used in this paper to lay emphasis on eroticism over romance.

The immediate title sets up the situation of a pleading. While the word “please” may mean a simple request, which is at a lesser degree of craving, at first glance, one sees its strong indication of the theme through the suggestive power of the lines that follow it. The title vis-à-vis the opening line, “Come back to me, Gongyla, here tonight,” introduces the basic situation wherein the persona pleads a certain Gongyla, someone that can be inferred to have departed long before, to come back and be with him/her that night. The word “tonight”, and not any other time of day, implies that this plead of return has something to do with the persona’s sexual gratification inasmuch as night suggests darkness and is the stereotypical time when people make love.

Following this analysis, one observes that the first stanza portrays erotic imagery. The word “rose” appeals to one’s sense of smell and the word “lyre” does to one’s sense of hearing which when examined against the established context are artistic metaphors for Gongyla’s scent and moans during the sexual intercourse the persona hence wishes to have. Furthermore, the word “delight” which the persona gets from “a beauty desired” tells much about the arousal of sexual feelings when s/he beholds Gongyla’s gorgeousness that s/he craves for. It can be inferred that there is no involvement of passionate feelings on the part of the persona since there is no explicit or implicit mention of any metaphor for ardor, let alone for Gongyla. It is but the desired physical beauty that is highlighted.

This point of desiring physical beauty alone is further justified in the second stanza introduced by the line “Even your garment plunders my eyes.” The “garment”, being a very material thing, is said to be ‘stealing’ his/her “eyes”. Physical attraction, to Gongyla’s clothes involving perhaps how they fit her body, is clearly exposed. The persona then says “I am enchanted” which signifies that this desired physical beauty causes him/her just the feelings of pleasure, with enchantment being equatable to mere fascination or amusement. Moreover, the second stanza, leading to the third, presents the persona’s previous complaint to and present beseeching of the “Cyprus-born goddess”, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, and, more importantly in this analysis, sexual desires.   In consideration of the major conflict, this complaint may be about his/her grievance on Gongyla’s prior departure; the beseeching is overtly about her coming back.

The pronoun “this” in the third stanza’s line “Never to let this lose me grace” refers to the aforementioned complaint to Aphrodite. The persona wishes that instead of being ‘annoyed’ with his/her protest, Aphrodite would be convinced to bring Gongyla back to him/her because his/her strong desire for her is shown through the very protest. The “grace” symbolizes the goddess’ kindness or favor to grant the persona’s wish to have again the woman s/he “most wish to see”. Still, this last line proves the theme of erotic adoration. The use of “see” denotes worldliness and physicality. If it were “the one I most wish to spend my life with”, or “the one I most wish to cherish”, or “the one I most wish to love”, there would be an indication of romance. But to say “the one I most wish to see” alone is an evidence of craving for the outside – which gives pleasure, that is to say, that satisfies one’s sexual demands.

While at first reading the poem seems to portray a lover wanting to have her woman back, a careful scrutiny of its theme developed by its symbols and images shows that this literary piece is no more than an erotic plead for it fulfills the technical requisites of eroticism such as the suggestion of an invitation to mere sex and the craving for physical beauty.

A Review: The Remains of the Day

Any work of literature would stain its reader.

There would always be things that would remain in a reader after closing a book. Often, these are the most beautiful chapters, the cruelest turns of events, the characters’ immortal lines, the undying themes, or the lasting emotions themselves. The brilliance of a literary piece would not let one escape from its lingering art.

Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day may well be assessed as one brilliant literary piece that presents a deep and heart-rending self-reflection, a sophisticated narrative that touches on the great question of life’s purpose. The greatest impact the novel leaves the reader is the profound character study of its protagonist Stevens to which any person could relate to. The philosophical argument on greatness one reader has against that of Stevens’ creates lasting thoughts, oftentimes insights. As Stevens comes to terms with his life, the reader also comes to certain realizations.

Stevens’ motoring trip is a significant metaphor for a life’s journey. The novel wonderfully presents this metaphor to point out that in this life, each individual has the responsibility to fulfill his/her duties and serve the world in every little way he/she can. Everyone is ought to make contribution for something true and worthy. Each individual however should not be forever jailed in such responsibilities; one also has the right to enjoy life and witness the wonders of the outside world literally and figuratively.

Another aspect that is considered in the assessment of the novel as brilliant is how Ishiguro fits its themes to the crafting of the chapters. The chapters are designed and titled in such a way that the time of the days are indicated, an intelligent intention to have the final chapter bear the title “DAY SIX — EVENING”. As the tale suggests, evening is the best part of the day when one looks back to how one’s day has been and how well one spends it. This insight is outstanding as it can also mean that night signifies another tomorrow. It is never too late for one to right his wrongs and better his ways – another insight that lasts.

How the whole story is narrated is, in addition, laudable. At first, Stevens seems leaving the reader no hint of emotional attachment to anybody in the novel. He also introduces his employer, Lord Darlington as someone very noble. But all these impressions are gradually destroyed; the careful destruction marks an astounding style and technique. “Ishiguro beds these clues in the narrative so cleverly that by the end it’s hard to believe anything Stevens says. Events are always proving him wrong, casting doubt on his original presentations and conspiring against him.” (Jordison, 2010)

In light of this review, contributions of this novel to literature are seen in its embodiment of ideals which role is shaping the reader’s own insights. It holds a legacy as discursive platform for issues of class, ethics and professionalism, and love surrounding artistic representation. It addresses history and memory, two of the universal themes of world literature. Furthermore, the novel, in its own way, diversifies world literature inasmuch as it is written by a Japanese who came to Great Britain and “has used his unique position and fine intellectual abilities to contemplate what it means to be British in the contemporary era” (Groes and Matthews, 2010). Who would think that The Remains of the Day is a work of an Asian with all its phrases for the English people and landscapes? Who would recognize that such western imagination is engendered from a Japanese’ mind? It contributes the idea that world literature transcends boundaries, that is to say, Asian writers do not write only Asian culture, American ones do not write only American, and so forth.

While this story is about the an English butler’s culture and times, it explores a basic point of human nature true to everyone given certain circumstances – the operation of repression.

How then does this operation of repression inform the work?

Stevens is trapped by his position, his idealization of his father and his employer, the circumstances and his character. He loves a woman he cannot pursue because of upholding the dignity he always wants to preserve. These develop his defenses: denial, projection, and fear of intimacy. Since these defenses can never eliminate desires and emotions, pain stays inside. Yet it is human nature to repress desires in pursuit of what one believes is greatness.

This basic point of human nature is best examined through a psychological analysis which holds that literature is fundamentally entwined with the psyche. Stevens’ id would tell him his true feelings for Miss Kenton. On the other hand, his superego would establish stagnating rules that stifle these feelings. Delving deeper into the motives of human behavior identified by human temperament, the novel illustrates the power of choices. These choices ultimately define Stevens’ character as self-contained and virtually apathetic which in effect hinders him from being true to himself and from enjoying life, hence the theme of lost opportunities and regret.

Stevens has chosen to be a servant of his profession besides being one to Lord Darlington. Dignity and greatness have always been the only bases of his decisions. Rooted in such ingrained system of behavior, Stevens deem his personal opinions unimportant. In terms of human relationship, this may not be considered as a logical argument but a personal or ethical one.

This analysis and the reading of The Remains of the Day in general help one view world literature through the microcosm of the real society and issues among people in the novel’s context. The way one understands world literature has a lot to do with the way one does a single novel of this nature and the behaviors, motivations and temperament of its characters.

Reading and understanding this novel entail as well reader’s awareness of subjectivities. In the story, honorability is most understandably subjective. The notion of greatness varies from one person to another. Standing by his commitments and living up to his responsibilities, Stevens makes admirably firm choices. Weighing priorities are relevant. Some would set them considering personal preference and individual perception. In a larger context of the world, many concepts and aspects of human life are subjective.

A single work such as this can be opened towards more pluralistic understandings of literature, its cultures and nations included. What remains in the reader’s mind about this work can be a strong springboard for analyses of other texts of the world of the same nature with the same themes and issues.

Meeting Stevens

My first encounter with Kazuo Ishiguro was barely three months ago. This was when I bought my novel for our World Literature class, and I am talking of The Remains of the Day. Through the 245 pages of this novel, Ishiguro introduced Stevens (the protagonist of the story) to me. The next stage, of course, was the ‘getting to know each other’ stage.

Stevens narrated everything in the novel. He was like making a life review. He examined his life and his service as the head butler at Darlington Hall, wanting to reassure himself of the dignity and greatness he hoped to have attained. Heartbreakingly, he had realized that all he had was an empty life, a life of personal repression and missed opportunities. You can very well understand why. If I may put it this way, he was torn between two lovers—the call of duty and the allure of romance. And, well, what he chose was the former. His dilemma now was the knowledge that despite having resolved to always wear his professional suit and sacrifice familial and romantic warmth, he had not attained the dignity he set standards of. And having done so, he deprived himself of emotions and opportunities.

Maybe you are wondering what exactly I am talking about, saying every now and then things like missed opportunities, repression of feelings, call of duty, and all that. Let me begin clearing this out by establishing Stevens’ role as a butler.  As I said, he chose to be a full-time butler in service to Lord Darlington (whom I shall call just Lord D later). As such, he had these notions of what made a butler great or dignified.  He always believed that it was “a dignity in keeping with his position”, that is to say, the capacity of being professionally composed all the time. This very notion made Stevens project himself as a virtually apathetic man, unmoved by any circumstances, no matter how immense. Would you believe that when his father died, he did not seem to care that much? He would continue his job no matter what happened. He even refused to ascend immediately to his father who just died because he claimed his role during that time (there was an international conference) was indispensable. Would you also believe that he had not shown any sign of romantic feeling towards Miss Kenton, his only love interest, even just for the time she would leave to accept or reject a marriage proposal to, at the least, do something about it? He would always maintain a mere professional relationship with her. Thing was, Miss Kenton showed him affection but he never reciprocated that warmth. In the end, when they met after a long time, it was too late to tell Miss Kenton (that time already Mrs. Benn) everything he felt about her.

Steven’s total immersion into his role as a butler caused him to appear as something automated rather than human. He had never allowed himself to taste the joys of a relationship, or feel the beauty of candor. This intimacy between him and his ideals of and engagement in his profession caused him to be blind, too. It had a profound impact on his moral character. I felt disappointed when Stevens just accepted Lord D’s decision to fire the two Jewish maids (at some point of his recount) when in fact he was personally against it. This loyalty was too much (if in the first place, you could call that one rather than stupidity). Could you imagine embracing one’s judgment in place of your own? I guess this matter is not a thing he was unable to notice but something he had chosen to ignore. Again, we go back to his career immersion. There was a failure of putting human emotions into the equation of his decision-making.

In fairness to Stevens, although too late, he had come to realize that it was foolish to take one’s judgment in place of your own. He had come to realize too that Lord D was not a true gentleman after all (being a Nazi sympathizer). In this sense, Stevens failed to reassure himself that he had attained the dignity he knew he did all along. He realized how much time had passed, how many opportunities were lost. These dilemmas Stevens confronted are buried in the past, and the issues those problems have caused cannot be resolved (unless he would go back in time using a time machine). This is why, quite paradoxical as it may seem, there was this atmosphere of depressing resignation in the end of the novel. Stevens accepted what had happened, what had been wasted, and found in that acceptance a respite from mental anguish. At this point I found the most inspiring part. Stevens decided not to look back in the past but make the best of what remained of his day. I included here lines of Stevens:

“Perhaps, then, there is something to his [a stranger] advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as well as we might have wished?… What is the point in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy.”

 First step was to give his best service to his present employer, Mr. Farraday, by improving his bantering skills, something that shows warmth and is like an affectionate sport. I like how Stevens ended with this because this was too light and optimistic. The subtlety implied so strong undercurrents.

Meeting Stevens had made me realize a number of things. We are all butlers in this life. We try to make our little jobs be excellent as we hold certain ideals of greatness. Yet we shall not forget we are humans. Just be open to things; that’s all I can say. Sometimes, until we are confronted with what remains of our days, we won’t realize those that we ought to. (Pardon me, but really, I don’t want to do an inspiring speech in this blog.)

Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day”:

This is a paper that explores the novel’s philosophical adherence.

 

Probing the philosophical issues and insights that “The Remains of the Day” presents leads one to ascertain that the subjects of greatness and dignity are much highlighted and that the concept of idealism is poignantly evident in the novel. More than a narration, the story materializes as a character study of the protagonist, Stevens himself – an idea which justifies that the philosophy it shows is revealed through his ‘old-fashioned’ viewpoints on and pursuit of dignity, his idealistic notions of servility, and his gradual epiphany on such.  

The novel reveals the philosophical question of dignity inasmuch as the qualifications of greatness pervade Stevens’ thoughts throughout the account. Surfacing as one of its themes, the very issue of what dignity really is appears to be a major concern in it. Accordingly, the novel answers this issue by presenting the meaning it holds as the definition of a butler’s dignity through Stevens’ views; Stevens believes that what makes a butler truly dignified is his capacity of “keeping with his position”, that is, the capability to stay professional as a butler in any situation, under whichever pressure, at all times. He articulates:

“And let me now posit this: ‘dignity’ has to do crucially with a butler’s ability not to abandon the professional being he inhabits… The great butlers are great by virtue of their ability to inhabit their professional role and inhabit it to the utmost; they will not be shaken out by external events, however surprising, alarming or vexing.”

In establishing this philosophy, there are three stories Stevens tells. The first, being about a certain butler who saw a tiger beneath the dining table one day but did not show any sign of panic or fear as he dealt with the situation, shows a butler’s perfect poise under the hardest  circumstances. The butler remarkably said, “Dinner will be served at the usual time and I am pleased to say there will be no discernable traces left of the recent occurrence by that time.” The second, involving his father who dealt with two coarse and impolite drunken men with perfect courteousness, and the third, concerning the general he detested but was served outstandingly, both show a butler’s negation and concealment of his own feelings in order to fully fulfill his duties and offers his best services as one. Any emotion, thus, must be set aside for the most important thing is to be ‘in profession’ all the time.

This philosophy extends to Stevens’ deeper thought on each one’s professional responsibility of striving toward attaining this dignity. He asserts:

“Now while I would accept that the majority of butlers may well discover ultimately that they do not have the capacity for it, I believe strongly that this ‘dignity’ is something one can meaningfully strive for throughout one’s career. Those ‘great’ butlers… I am sure, acquired it over many years of self-training and the careful absorbing of experience.”

The assertion shows optimism in regard to attaining dignity. In this sense, ‘defeatism’ as an attitude is not embraced for it implies that dignity is “something one possessed or did not by a fluke of nature” so attaining it, for those who initially do not possess it, is but pointless. This emerges as a simple idealism on Steven’s part. He holds, hence, that it is never hopeless for people in their profession to be ‘great’ so as to be ‘dignified’ as long as they strive hard in attaining so.

Being so much precise about these viewpoints, Stevens is relentless in his pursuit of dignity. This pursuit, in effect, reveals another philosophical stance – the call of duty is more important than personal being. Stevens views his profession not as a mere occupation but his embodiment. Thus, his own person as a son or a lover does not matter more than his duties as a butler. The warmth of family relationship and the possibility of love are repressed and therefore are sacrificed just so he can utterly attend to his job. ‘Dignified‘ work has always been his priority to the extent of being willing to drain himself of individuality and human emotions in order to perform his roles.

This stance is clearly exposed in a number of incidents in the novel. One of which is when Stevens’ father fell ill and eventually died during the Conference of 1923. Observably, he prioritized his responsibilities to the household over attending to his sick father and let Miss Kenton take care of him. One could hardly imagine a son saying, “I’m very busy just now…In a little while perhaps” when he is asked to see his father who just died. He also said, “…please don’t think me unduly improper in not ascending to see my father in his deceased condition just at this moment. You see, I know my father would have wished me to carry on just now” which implies the concealment of emotions and the belief that greatness requires professional persistence despite tragedies. Stevens sensed triumph that moment for he displayed what he believes to be ‘dignity’, that is, the call of duty as a butler over the call of duty as a son.

 Other instances involve the unreciprocated display of Miss Kenton’s warmth and amiability toward Stevens. Several episodes show that Miss Kenton attempts to reach out to Stevens, for example, she brings flowers to his room to liven it up. She also attempts to make Stevens admit what he truly feels about her yet Stevens does not give in. He firmly resolves that he must establish a plainly professional relationship with her. Clearly, this boils down to his pursuit of dignity which denies him the chance of romance.  

 These occasions fundamentally portray that a butler’s emotional person is not to be shown in public especially when at work. Any tinge of sentiment must not surface at all. In line with what has been discussed earlier, professionalism must be worn at all times. Stevens thinks:                                           

 “A butler of any quality must be seen to inhabit his role, utterly and fully; he cannot be seen casting it aside one moment simply to don it again the next as though it were nothing more than a pantomime costume. There is one situation and one situation only in which a butler who cares about his dignity may feel free to unburden himself of his role; that is to say, when he is entirely alone.”

The concealment of emotions and deprivation of individuality further manifest the standpoint that ‘dignity’ is equated to ‘servility’. Stevens’ notions of place and duty in relation to his master, Lord Darlington, are anchored on the idea that a great servant lays his entire faith in his employer. Consequently, he is excessively eager to obey Lord Darlington and do anything for him, and even completely willing to accept his judgment in place of his own. He stands that forming strong opinions in opposition to his master’s is undignified. One illustration of this servility is embracing Lord Darlington’s decision to fire two of their maids just because they were Jewish even if he was against it. In a confrontation with Miss Kenton on this matter, he rationalizes:

 “Miss Kenton, I am surprised to find you reacting in this manner. Surely I don’t have to remind you that our professional duty is not to our own foibles and sentiments, but to the wishes of our employer…let me suggest to you that you are hardly well placed to be passing judgments of such a high and mighty nature…Whereas his lordship, I might venture, is somewhat better placed to judge what is for the best…”                                                                                                  

Much of what Stevens argues about is that Lord Darlington is the epitome of moral worth, another qualification of greatness. He is quite ideal in deeming Lord Darlington as ever noble and righteous and as always virtuous. Stevens constantly follows his path regardless of how misguided his decisions are for him and does everything in consideration of Lord Darlington’s interests because doing so, he claims, serves his purpose as a great butler. He further says to Miss Kenton:         

“As far as I am concerned…my vocation will not be fulfilled until I have done all I can to see his lordship through the great tasks he has set himself. The day his lordship’s work is complete, the day he is able to rest on his laurels, content in the knowledge that he has done all anyone could reasonably ask of him, only on that day…will I be able to call myself…a well-contented man.”

Moreover, idealism on this issue of servility is as well portrayed in terms of remaining the hopes that while the major decisions do not lie on the butler’s hands, his jobs are for a worthy cause. As Stevens puts it, serving a true gentleman is serving humanity; And because he always believes Lord Darlington is a true gentleman, he maintains that his “greatest fulfillment is the graceful execution of his duties for” him.

While all these philosophies surface on the novel as Stevens’ ways of life, a gradual epiphany enters the picture toward the end when he finally accepts he has not genuinely been great with his blind loyalty. He reflects, “All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can’t even say I made my own mistakes. Really – one has to ask oneself – what dignity is there in that?“He regrets his lack of personal connection to anyone and anything. He thinks of the possible things that could have happened had he followed his desires. Stevens occurs to finally be a thinking, caring and feeling individual. This epiphany signifies yet another viewpoint the novel adheres to, that is the philosophical outlook of making the best of what remains of one’s days. Through Stevens’ realizations on the legitimacy of his dignity through his servility, the novel tries to point out that one, instead of wasting time pondering over things which are irreversible, should carry on and try to have a better life and better ways. He discloses:

 “Perhaps, then, there is something to his [a stranger] advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as well as we might have wished?… What is the point in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy.”

This is a major philosophical insight the novel shows. One has to re-evaluate himself as to his past decisions and actions and face the days ahead anew. One needs not to focus on regret and lost opportunities too much; rather, he has to comfort himself with the fact that he has recognized his mistakes or faults which opens the door for a fresh start. This insight is concretized in the novel when Stevens decides to improve his bantering skills, which he finally concedes exhibit warmth, to better serve his present employer, Mr. Farraday. This lifted the atmosphere of depression to something light and optimistic. Stevens remarks:

“Perhaps it is indeed time I began to look at this whole matter of bantering more enthusiastically. After all, when one thinks about it, it is not such a foolish thing to indulge in–particularly if it is the case that in bantering lies the key to human warmth.”

All things considered, the novel’s philosophical issues and insights reflected on its protagonist’s ideals and temperament present the convictions it holds vis-à-vis professional dignity and individual meaning. The standards and aspiration of greatness and the adherence to individuality and love are justifiably explored in the work. Meanwhile, in view of the fact that philosophy is universal, the fundamental questions and understandings which arise in the story do not apply only to butlers but to every person of different careers; Generally, everyone, at one point or another, experiences such tragedies, both literal and figurative. 

A Short Archetypal Review of “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”

Clive Staples Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe unfolds the story of Narnia and all its magic and adventure – a rich source of archetypes and archetypal patterns which thus are reviewed in this paper.

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy enter the world of Narnia through a wardrobe which begins everything. The number of these Pevensie children alone indicates an archetypal number which is four. The number four often suggests life cycle. In this book, one can consider that the four children are heroes and that they undergo such a mythic life cycle. They are displaced from our world and have journey in Narnia. They then achieve self-discovery as a result of this journey and the battles they experience there. They then rule Narnia and return to their original paradise, in this case, our world. Moreover, the number four also suggests the four seasons. Although the only ones presented in the story are winter and spring, these are highly indicative of the said archetypal meaning. Winter signifies a dead, stagnant time; spring signals hope and new life.

The world of Narnia is full of talking animals, giants, and half-human-half-animal creatures (e.g. Tumnus, a half goat and a half man) which signify mythological archetypes. Also, in this world, there is the clash between the White Witch and her evil army and the good lion Aslan and his noble army. Archetypal colors are seen here. The color white means death, terror and blinding truth. The White Witch is indeed feared throughout the land and causes death to the inhabitants of Narnia. She proclaims herself as the queen which is clearly a lie. In addition, the color gold (which is Aslan’s color) hints power, goodness and justice. Aslan is the noble lion who removes the witch’s reign to Narnia.

Focusing on the White Witch as a character reveals another archetype – the terrible mother, i.e. the witch. This archetypal woman suggests fear, danger and darkness. As discussed earlier, the White Witch is evil and is merciless, power-hungry and cruel. By force and enchantment, she claims the throne of Narnia. On the other hand, focusing on Aslan as a character exposes a hero archetype, i.e. the sacrificial scapegoat. One remembers that Aslan sacrifices his own life for Edmund to be saved from the witch’s forfeiture. Aslan is killed but then has resurrected and defeated the witch and her forces.

Meanwhile, symbols like the lamppost and the stone table may carry an archetypal meaning, too. In most literature, something that has flames or burning light stands a guide on one’s way. In the novel, the lamppost shows the children the way to Narnia when they come in the world and then shows the way back when they need to leave. Furthermore, something made of stone signifies in most text things that are hard to change, in short, unbreakable. In the story, one can consider the stone table as the law of the universe; only, Alsan has broken the laws because of a very special sacrifice, symbolized through the table broken into half forever.

Additionally, there is the reference to the Emperor-Over-the-Sea, who is Aslan’s father, which in effect implies a reference to the sea itself. The sea carries the meaning of rebirth and timelessness among others. Aslan is reborn and Narnia is a timeless world. Aslan, too, coming from the mother of all life (the sea) brings back life to Narnia, sets all wrong to right and saves the Narnia people.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’s universal symbols are among the other text ingredients that inform C.S. Lewis’ work. These add the magical taste of the novel and paint an exciting picture of adventure and redemption.

A Classical Review of Oli Impan

The images of the urban lower depths are recognizably the material Alberto S. Florentino uses in his dramatic work “Oli Impan” which unmasks the desperate lives of informal settlers in Tondo yet gives a picture of how simple a little happiness can be evoked, delivering, in effect, the message the drama seeks to teach and elevating its style through its certain distinction and excellence of composition.

The setting and theme of “Oli Impan” tell much about what of life it mirrors, that is, the living conditions of people in the slums of Tondo. The fraught lives of these ‘squatters’ and their refusal to move out from their settlements in the ‘bombed ruins of an old government building of Juan Luna’ presented in the drama are a clear depiction of what real denizens of Tondo, or even those of other slums, actually experience. The lack of education, a direct effect of this poverty, is to some extent made visible through the boy’s incorrect pronunciation of the lyrics of the song “Silent Night”.

The fact that the drama portrays the indigent families who settle illegitimately in the area and who refuse to leave is clear evidence of it not being censored. It is a very contradiction of a good and beautiful society where people submit themselves to the law, contribute productivity and achieve mobility. The drama also reveals a filthy way of earning a living through the boy’s lines about his mother’s job. Apparently, the mother is a prostitute for there are mentions that she reads only men’s hands, does it in the dark, and would not let the boy see what she is doing. This presents another ugly reality of the great extent of desperation an individual has and the hideous choice he or she makes just to survive in an ill life.

It is identifiable, nevertheless, that the presentation of this ugly reality gets across a certain message to its audience as it attempts to convey values. After her father’s arrest, the girl cries because of sadness and worry. The boy tries to make her stop by singing the song. Despite not understanding it, the girl likes the song and singing it makes her less sad. This simple gesture of the boy shows how little things can turn loneliness into joy and how plain company can paint smiles. The message of the song being about a homeless God, in addition, implicitly teaches people not to lose hope no matter how rough life is.

With these values surfacing, the drama does not build in the reader powerful emotions of fear and pity. Instead the reader experiences a sense of joy and learning. In fact, the conversation between the boy and the girl is awash with children’s innocence that the immensity of fearful or pitiful emotion would not be much felt even if they are in a pitiful situation of which they do not have a real grasp of — the boy even plays his toy can amidst the commotion and the girl keeps on asking so many things. Though there is somewhat a tension that builds up when the girl’s father tries to stop the demolition, it is not enough to evoke a terribly painful feeling like the emotion a scene where a son kills his father, for instance, brings out. Moreover, the characters are not faced with seriously dangerous situation, which can hurt them or put their lives in danger, that can evoke great fear. It can be said that the nature of the scene keeps the reader from releasing such emotional responses.    

Considering still what the message of the drama is and how it is delivered, distinction and excellence in style are evident. The picture of how a simple, poorly-pronounced song can change sadness to happiness set against the backdrop of desperate living is a thought above the ordinary for it showcases ‘greatness of the soul.’ The use of English as clothing for a very Filipino plot and characters for social-consciousness is distinct as well. The characters speak correct English in spite of being squatters which is admirable in its sense. Given such context and the characters which are children, diction, or the choice and arrangement of words, is also justifiable. Particularly, the mispronounced lyrics of the song are a proof of a noble diction. The loftiness of style which blends together the dilemmas, the values, and the expressions into a harmonious whole of the drama is much observed. 

Osamu Dazai’s The Setting Sun: An Analysis

Osamu Dazai’s The Setting Sun takes the milieu of the post-war period in Japan when its society adjusted to the distress of defeat and to the occupation of the American forces and their allies’ which caused a massive social change as it tells the story of the decline of an aristocratic family. In this paper, utilizing the Textual Analysis Theory, the elements of this novel – characters and plot – are discussed as portrayed against the backdrop of social and moral crisis which loomed on the Japanese society that time, including the literary style used and the literary devices employed in the story.

Character and Plot Analysis

The Setting Sun, as maintained earlier, portrays how the new ideas of the contemporary society have destroyed the Japanese aristocracy and how the characters, once being aristocrats, struggle to go on living or to resist living itself. In the person of Kazuko, the divorced daughter of a widowed aristocrat, the story is told. A close inspection of her character allows one to see not just her being an extremely loving and caring daughter to her mother but also her dissipated way of facing the deteriorating society and her deteriorating self, and her audacity to continue living, hoping for a fresh start. This dissipation is evident when she opts to defy rules just to have a reason to keep on existing, that is, having a baby with a man she is not married to. She is someone who does whatever she wants to and fights whatever she wants to fight for. She says, “There is something which I absolutely have to fight…Love. That and nothing else.” One sees as well that this dissipation of Kazuko roots from her belief that she and her lover are “victims of a transitional period of morality”. She is a revolted character in the story.

Naoji, Kazuko’s brother, is very much unlike her as far as continuing to live is concerned. Taking a close look at how he reacts to humiliating circumstances because of what the aristocrats have turned into – resorting to drug addiction, to drinking alcohol and eventually to suicide – shows one the weakness in his character, his being defeated. He always desires to escape humiliations, problems, and shame. He says “I would far prefer to be told simply to go and die.” He lets the very fact of being born into a family of aristocrats eat him, his aspirations, and his spirit to live.

Kazuko and Naoji’s mother is portrayed as a good aristocrat. Though she has class, she does not fear to act in her own ways. One proof of this is the opening scene of the novel when she eats her soup “so unlike the manner prescribed in women’s magazines” yet so lovely and refined. She is morally strong. She never shows despair in their condition being impoverished and never complains about it.  She is a truly devoted and affectionate mother. She worries more to her children’s condition than to hers which is more severe. Until her death, her character does not change to the negative.

 The plot has the first person viewpoint. It is autobiographical in some manner, analyzing the novel’s relation to its author, Dazai. It is characterized by a profound pessimism reflecting as well Dazai’s experiences which the translator offers the reader in his introduction.

Brief Summary. After leaving her husband and getting a divorce, Kazuko, a part of the aristocracy of Japan, returns to Tokyo to live with her mother. However, because the war which has just ended, left them impoverished, they are compelled to sell their home in Tokyo and move to a small house in a remote village. Kazuko now has to take care of her ill mother without the help of servants. Naoji returns from the war an opium addict. He leaves every now and then, taking the little money they have to feed his opium habit and then to drink. Later, in autumn, their mother dies. Believing that she has lost everything, Kazuko returns to Tokyo in search of Mr. Uehara, a married novelist, whom she had a brief affair with years before. She decides to be his mistress and wants to have a baby with him. Kazuko finds this love to be the only thing to fight and continue living for, abandoning her up-bringing. They meet there and do make love. While Kazuko is in Tokyo, Naoji commits suicide. He leaves behind a note which reveals his love affair with a married woman named Suga. His disdain for himself, the aristocracy, and the life he has been living are also written in the note. The novel ends with Kazuko’s last letter to Mr. Uehara. It is revealed in that letter that she is pregnant. She declares that she and her child, whom she calls bastard, will live in perpetual struggle with the old morality.

The novel presents its plot structurally in En Medias Res, thus, one sees a load of flashbacks in the story. In the very first chapter, Snake, in the middle of Kazuko and her mother’s conversation, Kazuko thinks back of the time Naoji is sent off to some island in the South Pacific and from then on has been missing; the afternoon when she burns the eggs of a snake near their bamboo thicket; the moment when her father dies; and the time they transfer residence from Nishikita Street in Tokyo to a Chinese-style house in Izu. In chapter two, Fire, Kazuko’s life in war as part of the military is flashed back. Moreover, chapter five, The Lady, tells a moment between Kazuko and a friend a winter 12 years ago.  In chapters three, Moonflowers, four, Letters, and seven, The Testament, the reader observes that other flashback techniques are utilized than mere reminiscence of a character, these are, a journal, letters, and a testament. Naoji’s journal in chapter three reveals the crux of his drug addiction and his hate of being an aristocrat. The letters of Kazuko to Mr. Uehara in chapter four tells her past experiences about men, among other things. The testament in chapter six reveals Naoji’s love affair to Suga. These flashback techniques are also a way of communication among the characters since there is no much overt one as maintained in the translator’s introduction of the novel.

The literary device foreshadowing is also evident in the novel’s plot. The burning of snake eggs by Kazuko in chapter one foreshadows the fire that could have burned the whole village in chapter two which is caused by her as well. The swollen hands of her mother, meanwhile in chapter five gives one the clue that sooner or later, her mother cannot hold on any longer and eventually will die.

The plot, as to how it is presented, is loaded with figures of speech. Not exhausting every single figure of speech in the text, following are examples: In chapter one, (a) Naoji uses the oxymoron “High-Class Beggars” to describe themselves; (b) there is irony when Kazuko says, “Scoundrels like Naoji simply don’t die. The ones who die are always the gentle, sweet and beautiful people.”; (c) describing her mother, Kazuko’s statement is paradoxical, “Her face, which seemed to wear about it a faint suggestion of anger, was so lovely…”; (d) describing the village by saying “In February the whole village was buried in plum blossoms” is a hyperbole; (e) alliteration is also used in the line, “…the blossoms were breath-takingly beautiful, and their fragrance flooded into the room…”

In chapter two, (a) the use of understatement is noticeable. After the fire which could have eaten up the whole village is extinguished, Kazuko’s mother said, “It wasn’t anything, was it? Only firewood that was meant to be burned.” Another is when Kazuko says that “Poverty is nothing” when in fact, for the first time in her life she realized what a horrible, miserable, salvationless hell it is to be without money. (b) The use of hyperbole is also perceptible. Describing the burden of her mother, Kazuko says, “…but the shock she received was certainly ten times as great as mine.” Describing her saddle, on the other hand, she says, “I wanted to weep more, more, until I had drained every tear from my body.”

“When I pretended to be precocious, people started the rumor that I was precocious. When I acted like an idler, rumor had it I was an idler. When I pretended I couldn’t write a novel, people said I couldn’t write…but when I inadvertently groaned because I was really in pain, they started the rumor that I was faking suffering.” This is written in Naoji’s journal in chapter three which shows the irony of pretending and honesty.

In chapter five, there is the use of (a) synecdoche – “The older and wiser heads of the world have always described revolution and love to us as the two most foolish and loathsome of human activities.”; (b) antithesis – “We who truly suffer…the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak…”; and (c) paradox – “Destruction is tragic and piteous and beautiful”, “…in the passion of love, I must destroy.” All these are Kazuko’s thoughts.

The imagery of “leaf that rots without falling” is used to describe Kazuko’s own life rotting away of itself in chapter four. The imagery of “pulling on the feet of a man hanging by the neck” is used to describe the act of people nowadays to insist on such virtues as respect or sincerity in chapter six, Outbreak of Hostilities. In the same chapter, there is the use of a rhetorical question, “Why is physical love bad and spiritual love good?” Kazuko asks this when she decides to be Mr. Uehara’s mistress.

Lastly, chapter seven makes use of (a) hyperbole when Naoji, in his note, says “All men are alike…an expression fated to overturn the whole world…”; (b) simile when he describes Suga’s eyes by saying “Her eyes are the true Japanese shape like an almond…”; and (c) personification when Kazuko, after reading his note, says “Tears forced their way through my eyelids…”

Symbolisms

Analyzing just the title of the novel The Setting Sun, one immediately senses within the story darkness, desolation, despair, and defeat – things that are often associated to the setting of the sun. Examining the story itself makes one recognize that the setting sun is a symbol of the deterioration of the Japanese society, including its time-honored values and morality. It can also be a symbol of the decline itself of the aristocratic family. At another angle of analysis, it can as well symbolize a new hope through dissipation – when the sun sets, it signals another sunrise but it gets dark first.

A number of symbols are found in the story such as the snake, her mother’s illness and death, the leaf that rots, and Kazuko’s baby. The snake, often associated with negative characteristics, denotes the corrupt sides of the characters, major or minor, in the novel, their dissipations, and their betrayals committed. An instance of a character’s betrayal is Kazuko’s affair to Mr. Uehara who is already married. Another is Naoji’s affair to Suga who is also a married woman.

Her mother, portrayed as a good aristocrat with high morality, symbolizes Japan itself. Her illness represents the worsening of society and the decline of its morality. Her death implies the passing of a good, not decadent generation. This is why in the novel she is symbolically called “The Last Lady in Japan.”

The leaf that rots without falling from its branch signifies Kazuko’s own life. She believes that her own verve has already been deteriorated, that she has lost everything, and that she has also become a depraved woman herself but then does not want to quit living. She holds on to her love, being the only thing she fights for, until the end. Her baby at the end stands for a fresh start and new hope for Kazuko as she revolts in the future with the old morality. It can also stand for as immense as a rebirth of a nation, the Japanese nation. Nevertheless, again from another view of analysis, the baby can be a representation of the admittance that only a new generation could begin a true reconstruction or renewal of the deteriorated society and that the generation of Kazuko and her family could no longer restore the old morality by themselves alone.

Set against the backdrop of a defeated and humiliated Japan after the world war, this novel presents one vivid characterizations of the people that time and of circumstances they helplessly face, profound symbolism within each character and object, various figures of speech that adds color to the story itself. Textually analyzing the novel reveals all these and how they present the inherent meaning within the text.