“The Story Of An Hour” And “The Kiss” Analysis Free Writing Sample

The thematic similarities between “The Story of an Hour” and “The Kiss” are very evident. These similarities represent the core of the author’s view of womanhood, responsibility, and freedom. The mentioned principles will not be tackled in this paper because of philosophical complications. The similarities will be discussed with academic audacity. It is important to note, however, that such similarities are never identical; that is, a thematic proposition may be convulsed by another seemingly unrelated theme. If two themes are to be compared, then it must be assumed to be arbitrarily independent of other themes. This will make analysis simpler to comprehend.

The short story “The Story of an Hour” is built on two general principles: womanhood and freedom (Chopin, 54). Mrs. Mallard, the main character of the story, wept as she heard the death of her husband in a reported accident. She loved her husband and wished for his immediate return as soon as possible. However, inside her heart another desire developed. Her intrinsic desire to be freed from the clutches of womanhood was creating trembling in her body. She was sad, but somewhat happy.

For a moment, she gazed on the fortitude of freedom; her heart was saying, “Free! Body and soul free.” There was an overflow of joy in her heart. The joy proved everlasting. Someone opened the door. Her husband stood at the front of the door amazed at the Josephine’s cry (Mrs. Mallard sister). He was not in the accident. The wife was dead. She died of heart disease – of the joy that kills (Chopin, 55).

The story “The Kiss” is also built on the same principles: womanhood and freedom. Ms. Nathalie, the main character of the story, was in love with Mr. Brantain, a not so handsome man but very rich. As the two sat in the room, someone arrived. With a glance, the man kissed Ms. Nathalie, as if the two were engaged. Mr. Brantain was deeply moved. His heart was in dissonance. He left the room. Ms. Nathalie followed Brantain and apologized.

She explained that the person who arrived in the room was almost like a brother to him. At a glance, Mr. Brantain became jubilant. They were married. Harvy, the one who kissed Ms. Nathalie said, “Your husband sent me to kiss you.” Ms. Nathalie’s face became radiant. Her lips looked hungry for the kiss. However, Harvy did not kiss Nathalie. He knew that such act was dangerous. For Nathalie, she knew in her heart that she wanted the kiss; a good disappointment.

The main themes in both stories are similar. First, the dignity and persona of women are so limited. Women can only act based on acceptable forms of behavior. Even if they want to do something interesting, it will be confined to the depths of their emotion. In their own, they cannot initiate a powerful defiant act. And, second, the freedom of women is very restrictive. In the case of Mrs. Mallard, she can only dream of the possibilities (Chopin, 59).

Only a powerful opportunity can alleviate the chains of womanhood. This is not to say that she was unhappy with Brently (her husband). She just want a momentarily relief of the burden she is carrying. The same case can be said about Nathalie (Chopin, 59). She wants the kiss, but by virtue of marriage, such act can be deemed as inappropriate. If not for the hesitation of Harvy, she would have committed a grave “sin” (from the point of view of the society).

In short, when a woman is bound in marriage, her freedom becomes restrictive; her opportunities slackened by such social arrangement. It is by this social arrangement and its associated restrictions on freedom that make a woman thirst for momentary freedom. There are some differences in the way the themes were presented. Note that in “The Story of an Hour”, Mrs. Mallard is already bound in marriage. The story revolves around the confines of marriage.

The restrictions and momentary solitudes of womanhood are generally implied in the fornication of marriage. In short, the starting point of the main themes in the first story is confided in marriage. The pre-marriage arrangement in the second story provides the grounds for the development of the main themes. Only when Nathalie was married were those themes become self-evident. In any case, the themes of the stories are generally similar.

The similarity of the point of view is also self-evident in the two short stories. The author used the third person point of view (with due emphasis on the main characters) to show three important things:  the oppressing nature of marriage,  the limitations of a woman, and  the aspiration to be free.

The first short story is more straightforward than the second one. The reason lies in the progression of the story. The main themes of the first story are already established at the first paragraphs of the story. The main themes of the second short story are only evident in the last paragraph. In essence, one can gauge on the relative effectiveness in disseminating the themes of the story in the first story.

Work Cited

  1. Chopin, Kate. The Kiss. Literature. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1995.
  2. Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. Literature. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1995.

The Theme Of Injustice In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Introduction

Mary Shelley’s 17th century novel, Frankenstein, is actually a novel that reflects three forms of injustice, namely natural injustice, legal injustice, and most of all, social injustice. Frankenstein is actually a novel where the characters are all innocent – including the man himself who created the monster, Dr. Frankenstein, all those who died a tragic death in the story, and even the monster himself who was responsible for most of the killings. These innocent characters have merely become victims of their circumstances and so they have all experienced injustice. This paper seeks first to prove and establish the innocence of the characters in Frankenstein amidst the revenge, remorse and deaths. After which, the paper seeks to discuss the injustices that have befallen these rather innocent people.

The Proofs of Innocence

The characters in Frankenstein may appear cruel, may have acted harshly towards others, and may even have resorted to killing. However, they have not done these seemingly evil things intentionally. They are all only victims of the circumstances they are in at the moment.

            Frankenstein. Dr. Frankenstein himself may be considered the root of all the evil that ensues from the creation of the creature. His hubris may have been the reason behind his creation of a monster that ultimately turned into a killing machine. However, there are a number of instances in the novel that prove Frankenstein’s innocence of such blame. The most important, however, is that Frankenstein himself states that his creation of the monster was based on his desire to “bestow animation upon lifeless matter [in order to] renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption” (Shelley 4). Frankenstein did not at all dream of creating a vengeful monster that would cause murder, guilt and pain. We can see from the aforementioned line that Frankenstein is innocence in that his purpose in creating the monster is to hopefully destroy or surpass the one natural phenomenon that has troubled him so much – death. As a typical scientist who wants nothing but to improve the plight of human beings, Frankenstein undertakes the experiment. The only problem is that the experiment becomes an error and an irreversible one. Nevertheless, based on the aforementioned statements and based on the fact that several times in the story he himself experienced great remorse for the deaths of his friends and family, Dr. Frankenstein himself is indeed a good man with an original noble purpose for his creation.

            The Monster. The monster may perhaps have earned a negative reputation in the novel because of his murder of two very helpless victims – an innocent ten-year-old boy named William, a helpless woman named Elizabeth, and a good and loyal friend in the name of Henry Clerval. All these seem unforgivable acts for these people have absolutely nothing to do with the monster’s grief and the rejection he has received from people. Nevertheless, the monster has perhaps done these things only out of revenge, pain and self-hatred. The monster is in fact a creature of kindness for in fact he mentions, “This [human] trait of kindness moved me sensibly” (Shelley 12). The monster admits to having been accustomed to stealing some food from the store of he cottagers at night, but he says that when he has found out how his actions hurt the people, he begins to satisfy himself with food from the forest. He also mentions, “My thoughts now became more active, and I longed to discover the motives and feelings of these lovely creatures” (Shelley 12). Moreover, he admits that by learning the history of the cottagers, he was deeply impressed and he learned “to admire their virtues and to deprecate the vices of mankind” (Shelley 15). Based on these statements, the monster is not an evil creature at all but rather a kind being that empathizes with humans, who are not even his own kind.

Another proof of the monster’s innocence is that it has decided to study the people’s language, history and literature because he is curious about their culture and how to communicate with them. The problem is that he has failed with his first test – talking to the blind man De Lacey because he was caught by De Lacey’s son Felix and driven away. Nevertheless, despite the fact that “[his] travels were long and the sufferings [he] endured intense” (Shelley 16), the monster still decides to save a young girl from drowning in the stream and for which he is shot by the man who may have been the girl’s lover. At this time one hears the monster saying, “This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction, and as a recompense, I [get a] shattered…flesh and bone” (Shelley 16). This perhaps is the last straw that must have extinguished in the monster’s heart that last flicker of hope he has for humanity’s compassion and with it came his transformation into an evil creature. And perhaps one can excuse the monster for the series of killings that follows after this emotional reckoning.

            From the above statements, one can conclude that Dr. Frankenstein and the monster are in fact simply victims of their own circumstances and are therefore free from blame. Dr. Frankenstein and the monster have genuinely benevolent motives: the doctor wants a solution to death and all the monster wants is to learn as much as he can about humans and to study their language and culture and eventually to belong to the human society.

The Acts of Injustice

            After establishing the proofs of the innocence of Dr. Frankenstein and the monster, one can see the outright injustice that these two characters have experienced, as well as all those whose lives they have touched. Shelley’s Frankenstein is said to have been “based on Godwin’s rationalist ethics which see evil as a consequence of maltreatment of injustice” (Levine). One of the injustices experienced mainly by Dr. Frankenstein and the monster is natural injustice. Natural injustice is considered the violation of one’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

            Natural Injustice. In the case of the monster, there are several instances where these natural rights are violated. First of all, his mere creation was certainly a violation of his right to be born through natural birth. This means that Dr. Frankenstein should not even thought of creating him in the first place. Another instance of natural injustice that the monster has felt is when Viktor himself leaves him and feels a certain repugnance towards him despite the fact that he is his creation. A third instance of the violation of natural injustice directed against the monster is when Dr. Frankenstein breaks his promise and terminates his creation of the female monster while swearing, “; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness” (Shelley 20). The monster sets up a deal with Dr. Frankenstein in Chapter 17 commanding him to make a female for the monster and threatening to deprive him of lifelong happiness if he does not agree to it. Nevertheless Dr. Frankenstein terminates the experiment and in doing so, violates the monster’s natural right to and perhaps his only chance at happiness.

            Aside from the violations of the monster’s natural rights, Dr. Frankenstein himself is also not spared from these. The pain of injustice strikes the doctor when his mother Caroline Frankenstein catches the scarlet fever and her illness becomes severe. His mother, who has even been left poor by the death of her father and who has never done anything wrong, dies a natural yet painful death. Another instance of natural injustice is when Dr. Frankenstein finds out in Chapter 7 that his brother William is dead and his neck is broken by the monster, who admits the crime in Chapter 16. A third violation of natural injustice is the death of Henry Clerval, Dr. Frankenstein’s childhood friend, in the monster’s hands in Chapter 21. This act of injustice is directed not only against Henry but against Dr. Frankenstein himself, for it is said that after Henry’s death, Dr. Frankenstein “grew feverish [and] a darkness pressed around [him and] no one was near [him] who soothed [him] with the gentle voice of love” (Shelley 21). And perhaps the final straw is the death of Dr. Frankenstein’s wife herself towards the end of the novel. Dr. Frankenstein finds her ““lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair” (Shelley 23). The natural injustice Dr. Frankenstein feels at this instance also turns him into a creature of revenge and despair, even though he does not want to. Pessimism, despair and loneliness fill Dr. Frankenstein’s heart as he says, “it was during sleep alone that I could taste joy. O blessed sleep!” (Shelley 24).

            Legal Injustice. Aside from the natural injustice inflicted upon Dr. Frankenstein, the monster, and all the innocent people who die in the hands of the monster, another type of injustice that is described in the novel is legal injustice. Legal injustice is inflicted first on Justine Moritz, the girl who is adopted by the Frankensteins, when he is accused of, tried and executed for William’s death in Chapter 7. The fact that the monster apparently set her up is admitted by the monster himself in Chapter 16. Justine’s death is clearly an act of legal injustice since Dr. Frankenstein himself does not do anything to prove that it is his creation that has murdered William and not Justine. Justine’s trial and execution is even made more unjust by the fact that she admits having “confessed a lie [and that she] confessed, that [she] might obtain absolution” (Shelley 23). In short, Justine’s injustice is threefold in that she is first falsely accused, then she is falsely sentenced to death and made to confess a lie. Lastly, she even dies with regret of her false confession. Her last words are, “falsehood lies heavier at [her] heart than all [her] other sins” (Shelley 23). And perhaps, one of the most painful acts of injustice that could ever happen to someone is that you are accused of killing someone who you have dearly loved and favored all your life. The legal injustice experienced by Justine Moritz eventually becomes a natural injustice on the part of Dr. Frankenstein, who blames himself for his death. However, Shelley is said to have emphasized “Viktor Frankenstein’s passive reaction to the injustice of the Moritz trial” (Vincent). Nonetheless, injustice begets injustice.

            Social Injustice. Apart from natural and legal injustice, the idea of social injustice permeates Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Social injustice is the injustice that afflicts someone who feels that society rejects him. It is in fact said that one definitely feels “fierce outrage against social injustice in the females of Frankenstein.” (Bowerbank)

            Once more, the monster is the quintessential victim of this type of injustice. The monster is rejected wherever he goes and this type of rejection even begins with the most painful rejection of all – Dr. Frankenstein’s rejection of the monster. It is very painful indeed for the monster to realize that the man himself who has created him actually feels “breathless horror and disgust [filling his] heart” (Shelley 5) upon seeing the monster. After this, there have still been several instances of social injustice that follow especially when, as the monster talks with old man De Lacey, the son Felix came “[dashing him] to the ground and [striking him] violently with a stick” (Shelley 15), which he does despite the monster’s good intentions. Perhaps one last act of social injustice against the monster is when it was shot by the lover of the girl whom he has rescued from drowning in the stream. How much pain and injustice do you think one would feel if he helped a stranger and in the end this stranger robs and kills him? It is like welcoming a beggar to your house where you feed and clothe him and he robs and kills you. This social injustice against the monster is perhaps the cruelest of all the types of injustices in the story for despite the natural predisposition of the monster towards violence, he has made efforts to civilize himself and to understand man. Nevertheless, his efforts and benevolence have been repaid with condemnation, rejection and hatred.

            On the subject of economic status, or wealth and poverty, another instance of social injustice is the De Lacey family, who is described by the monster in Chapter 12 as poor. He says, “It was poverty, and [the De Lacey family] suffered that evil in a very distressing degree” (Shelley 12). This is clearly an act of social injustice on the part of the De Lacey family. Moreover, the monster’s account of the love story between Felix and Safie in Chapter 14 also reflects some acts of social injustice. One last thing is that a negative, oppressive image of the rich is portrayed in the novel for it seems that the monster is rejected by the wealthy yet it is with the impoverished that he has sought shelter. Based on the aforementioned statements on the De Lacey family, Shelley’s Frankenstein is indeed “an articulation of he anxieties of those marginalized by…socioeconomic status under laws governing the distribution of property in England.” (Peek)

Conclusion

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a timeless masterpiece for it mirrors not only the injustices of its time but also of the present. Natural injustice is shown in the very act of Dr. Frankenstein creating the monster thus depriving it of a chance to be born naturally. Natural injustice is also directed not only at the monster but also at all the innocent people who have died in the novel leaving Dr. Frankenstein in great emotional pain and thereby depriving him too of happiness. Legal justice, on the other hand, is the injustice experienced by Justine Moritz upon being set up and falsely convicted of and executed for killing William. Lastly and worst of all, Shelley’s Frankenstein gives life to social injustice in both the rejections the monster has experienced and the poverty that the monster thinks the De Lacey family does not deserve. Nevertheless, despite all the violence and injustices in the story, one can see that Dr. Frankenstein and the monster are themselves not worthy of blame for both their intentions are pure and sublime as the sun and they themselves are both victims of injustice. Indeed more than just a novel about dark science and revenge, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a testament to how natural, legal and social injustice can bring about the beast in someone and how seemingly destructive injustice is.

Works Cited

Bowerbank, Sylvia. “The Social Order VS The Wretch: Mary Shelley’s Contradictory-mindedness in Frankenstein.” ELH. 46 (Autumn 1979): 418-431. 9 May 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/pss/2872688>

Levine, George. “Frankenstein and the Tradition of Realism.” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction. 7 (Autumn 1973): 14-30. 10 May 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/pss/1345050>

Peek, Patricia. “‘The words induced me to turn towards myself’: The Politics of Inheritance in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” ETD Collection for Fordham University. (1 Jan 2007). 11 May 2010. <http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3271272/>

Shelley, Mary W. Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. 2004. Pinkmonkey.com. 9 May 2010. <http://www.pinkmonkey.com/dl/library2/Frankenstein.asp>

Vincent, Patrick. “‘This Wretched Mockery of Justice’: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Geneva.” European Romantic Review. 18 (5 Dec 2007): 645-661. 11 May 2010. <http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a788239016&db=all>

 

The Theme Of Life And Death In Literature

The theme of life and death is one that is widely discussed in literature of all kinds.  American literature is no exception.In the poems “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant, “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died” by Emily Dickinson, the themes of life and death are played out in very different ways.

Both William Cullen Bryant and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are heralded as romantic poets, so it makes sense that even in discussing death, their views are optimistic.  In fact, they choose to discuss more about life then death. When they do speak of death, it is seen as something comforting that is not to be feared but is more a part of life.  What they mostly do is provide the reader with ideas for how to live our lives so that when death approaches, we do not have to be scared.

We ease into it gently. Bryant, who wrote this musing at only 17 years-old has provided comfort to many a generation of people.  In contrast, Emily Dickinson is a dissenter, caught in the time between romanticism and realism.  Her poem “I Head a Fly Buzz When I Died” provides the reader with neither comfort nor advice.  In fact, it trivializes the momentous moment of death by the narrator’s focus on hearing the fly.  She misses the revelation implied in death and can only hear a dirty fly buzz.

In Bryant’s “Thanatopsis”, while the title means “a view of death,” the poem also contains much advice about life.  Bryant’s view of death comes across very clearly.  He believes that we are all part of the cycle of nature and that we will return to it when we die.  “Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,” (Bryant).  Even if we were alone in life, we can be comforted by the fact that everyone will be together in death, and that there will be no class distinction. “Thou shalt lie down With patriarchs of the infant world — with kings, The powerful of the earth — the wise, the good, Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past, All in one mighty sepulcher” (Bryant).

Even those lonely people will finally be joined with others. “So shalt thou rest — and what if thou withdraw In silence from the living, and no friend Take note of thy departure? All that breathe Will share thy destiny” (Bryant).  Everyone will be level on the same playing field.  We will all become equal finally the way we never were in earthly life. He never mentions heaven or hell or any other ideas from religion.  That means that anyone can take comfort in this poem because it is free from theory of a particular religion.  While certainly followers of Christianity could find it reminiscent of some Bible verses, it is allusion at best.

For example, Psalms talk about death being the wings of morning and Bryant say that death is like lying down on a couch and covering ourselves with a blanket.  Bryant even goes so far to write “And make their bed with thee” as though death is nothing more than lying down and drifting off to sleep.  Any person from any religion can find comfort in this poem.

However the poem is as much about life as it is about death.   In fact, it seems to me a view of life, not a view of death.  The very last part of the poem provides evidence about the way to live our lives.  This evidence follows:

“So live, that when thy summons comes to join

The innumerable caravan, which moves

To that mysterious realm, where each shall take

His chamber in the silent halls of death,

Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,

Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed

By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch

About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.” (Bryant)

In other words, if we live our lives to the fullest, we don’t have to be taken out by death kicking and screaming.  We will be ready when the time comes and will be looking forward to the comforts that Bryant has provided us earlier.  If we live our lives in this way, we won’t fear death. “solitude and the silence of the woods.”  (poetseers)

In Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life,” the author mentions death but chooses to focus on life.  For example, while death is mentioned, “Life is real !   Life is earnest!  And the grave is not its goal” (Longfellow).  The goal, according to Longfellow is to get further tomorrow than where we are today.  “Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave (Longfellow).

What this quote essentially say is that death is the end for everybody; it is something we will all face even if we do not know it or choose to recognize it.  Yet he continues on with advice about life.  For instance, don’t be dumb like cattle.  Be a hero instead.  Live in the present.   Don’t worry about the past or future.  We should live so that when we depart, we feel as though we have left our own unique mark.  “And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time ;” (Longfellow).  Those footsteps or marks that we leave can, in turn, inspire others to live their lives as well.  We should always be in the process of living rather than dying or waiting for death.  We should strive until the bitter end.

Longfellow makes no mention of what happens when we die or where we go, only of how to live while we are here.  In this way, he is like Bryant.  He does not box the poem in as belonging to a particular religion. He provides this advice to us all, and while the poem is certainly about death marginally, it is more about life and how to live it.  Whitman seems to play off this philosophy as well with his “carpe diem” attitude.  Longfellow does have other poems that while romantic are much more somber concerning the theme of death, such as “The Cross of Snow” that is about his grief and mourning at the loss of his wife.  However, in this poem, he chooses to focus on the living.

In contrast to the other two, Dickinson’s poem “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died” does focus on death and its goal is certainly not to give comfort.   It is rather to startle us and disgust us.  It is generally believed that the moment of death will be this powerful movement where our lives flash before our eyes and yet in this death, a fly arrives at the scene and becomes the only thing the speaker can focus on as she dies.  “The eyes beside had wrung them dry, And breaths were gathering sure For that last onset, when the king Be witnessed in his power” Dickinson.  In other words, the mourners are all cried out.  They are waiting for her last breath, and the beginning of her eternal life.  Everyone in the room is just waiting for all of this to be over.

However, the fly interposes again.  Christianity is kind of alluded to in this poem as for Christian’s death is supposed to bring revelation about eternal life (Core Studies).  She is ready to die; she has prepared for it and willed away all that she could.  She has put her affairs in order, in other words.  While she waits for her revelation, a fly appears.  “And then the Windows failed- and then/I could not see to see-” (Dickinson).

The fly may be a symbol of death and decay; it may be just a trivial annoyance that forces this woman to lose out on the revelation that is supposed to happen in her death.  As Core Studies points out, the fly could be a symbol for the devil himself as he is often referred to as the king of the flies (Core Studies). Whatever the interpretation, the intrusion of the sly is not to be seen as optimistic or comforting.  While the image Dickinson provides us is not a scary view of death, it is unsettling to the reader.  A fly is not supposed to be our final focus in death with our family all gathered around.

Dickinson’s poetry seems to be largely about death.  Her poetry never quite captures the romanticism and comfort of Bryant or Longfellow although it is also not solely realistic like the harsh tone of someone like Stephen Crane.  For example, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” is a poem about death’ civility.  Death is not evil or scary, but the focus of the poem is about death nonetheless and does not provide comfort.

The romanticism of Bryant and Longfellow is much more palatable to the reader than the more coldly realistic poem of Dickinson.  We would like to believe that, in fact, death does have significance and maybe even that truths will be revealed to us on our deathbeds, or at least we should get the visions of our lives flashing before our eyes.  It’s pretty depressing to think that our lives end by listening to a pesky fly.  Bryant provides us with a very romantic view of death in that we are going back to become a part of the earth that nourished us all through our lives.

Works Cited

  1. Bryant, William Cullen.  Thanatopsis. Core Studies 6.   Emily Dickinson’s Death.  Retrieved Nov. 25, 2008 at http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/fly.html
  2. Dickinson, Emily. I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died. Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth.  A Psalm of Life. Poetseers.org.  William Cullen Bryant.  Retrieved Nov 25, 2008 at http://www.poetseers.org/early_american_poets/william_cullen_bryant