Monday, March 30, 2009

Art, Immortality, Religion and Spirituality in W.B. Yeats' Sailing to Byzantium

The numerous analyses of Yeats's "Sailing to Byzantium" seem to fall into two main groups:
Firstly, a minority of critics like John Crowe Ransom feel that the poem is "more magical than religious . . . and its magnificence a little bit forced."

Secondly, a great majority of critics that praise it for its perfect structure and its magnificent exaltation of art. Typical of this second group are Louis MacNeice, who writes: "Yeats is still, though reluctantly, asserting the supremacy of art, art, as always for him, having a supernatural sanction."

Kenneth Burke feels, "there is in Yeats, an intensification of Keats's vision of immortalization, not as a person, but by conversion into a fabricated thing. It is not a religious immortality that is celebrated here, but an aesthetic one."

Actually, both of these groups have misinterpreted the poem. A close analysis of "Sailing to Byzantium" establishes this judgment quite well. To do so, let us briefly recall Yeats's intellectual biography up to the time of his writing this poem.

Although for a short time in the late 1890's Yeats believed in An for Art's sake of the English variety and was influenced by French Symbolism, he soon decided that the emphasis in such a religion of art was a fundamental distortion of the vital relation that had existed between religion and art in the past, and in an important essay entitled "The Symbolism of Poetry" (1900) called for "a return to the way of our fathers ... a return to imagination" that would restore art to its proper function as "the garment of religion." He writes:

"How can the arts overcome the slow dying of men's hearts that we call the progress, the world, and lay their hands upon men's heart-strings again, without becoming the garment of religion as in old times?"

This conviction expressed frequently in his prose volume entitled Ideas of Good and Evil and elsewhere, never left Yeats. As C. M. Bowra has said in explaining the difference between Yeats and Mallarme:

"Yeats does not regard poetry as complete in itself, with its own ritual and meaning. He sees it as part of a larger experience, as a means of communication with the spiritual world which lies behind the visible. For him the poet is almost a medium, and interpreter of the unseen, and his poetry is the record of the revelations given to him."

The point of all this is that, except for a brief devotion to a religion of art in his youth, Yeats always, whatever the ingredients of his theology, kept art as "the garment of religion as in old times," so that to speak of the immortality referred to in "Sailing to Byzantium" as "not a religious immortality . . . but an aesthetic one" is contrary to all that we know of· his expressed beliefs.

Yeats's own private religion, after his early rejection of Christianity, was indeed a hodgepodge, containing at various times elements from Irish folklore, Blake's system, Brahmanism, Buddhism, and (especially in his later years) the culture of the Byzantine Empire about the time of Justinian I. In spite of his rejection of Christianity, there are a few poems in his later years, like" A Prayer for My Son," that are definitely Christian, and he always admitted that he shared with Christians the belief, for example, in the miraculous immortality of their sainted dead. In" Vacillation" he says:

"Must we part, Von Hugel, though much alike, for we

Accept the miracles of the saints and honour sanctity?

The body of Saint Teresa lies undecayed in tomb,

Bathed in miraculous oil, sweet odours from it come,

Healing from its lettered slab."

Yeats's specific attitude toward Byzantium that is most relevant to the poem "Sailing to Byzantium" is expressed in A Vision. Why does he say, "I think if I could be given a month in antiquity and leave to spend it where I chose, I would spend it in Byzantium a little before Justinian opened St. Sophia and closed the Academy of Plato."

He answers in the next sentence, "I think I could find in some little wine shop some philosophical worker in mosaic who could answer all my questions, the supernatural descending nearer to him than to Plotinus even." The spirit of this early age one of nearness to the supernatural (which Yeats would recover in "Sailing to Byzantium ") is not that of the artist creating his religion making his own "artifice of eternity."

On the contrary, says Yeats, the artists of that happy time "were almost impersonal, almost perhaps without the consciousness of individual design, absorbed in their subject matter and that the vision of a whole people . . . and this vision, this proclamation of their invisible master, had the Greek nobility." Yeats similarly in the humility of his religious attitude in this poem prays from his weakness as " a dying animal" that the messengers from" God's holy fire" may "gather me/ Into the artifice of eternity."

But let us consider in more detail the...... arguments of the critics. What about the group who find "magic" predominant in the poem ? Elder Olson contends that in the last two stanzas the monuments become "insouled" and the art animate: the monuments, he says, prayed to for life or death, as beings capable of motion from sphere to sphere."

Arthur Mizener says that "Yeats for a moment asks us to fancy the figures stepping [from the gold mosaic] as his singing masters." But the poem does not say this: the appeal is no more to the works of art or to the artists than the prayer of the Roman Catholic is to the statues of the saints, or the sculptors of the statues, before which he kneels. The appeal of the Roman Catholic is to the saints, whose lives on earth are commemorated, and whose present spiritual existence in the other world is represented, by the monuments. Such is the poet's attitude toward the" sages" in "Sailing to Byzantium." He does hot say, "Come from the gold mosaic." He says:

"O sages standing in God's holy fire

As in the gold mosaic of a wall,

Come from the holy fire. . . . "

The sages are to come from the holy fire, not from the gold mosaic, which, like the statues of saints for the Catholic, is merely the visible representation of the sages and the holy fire. If Yeats meant that the art might actually become animate, he would be little more than an idolater, or, even if he meant it only as a metaphor, it would be on about the same intellectual level as a fairy tale for children.

Of course, from a strictly rationalist standpoint, coming from the holy fire would be crude magic, but this symbol for a mystical, spiritual conta1lt with the holy dead has considerable religious sanction and therefore a certain degree at least of intellectual dignity.

We revert to the fairy tale magic, however, if we interpret the last verse of the poem as does John Crowe Ransom, who says of the poet:

"In Byzantium, in his next life, he will be a mechanical bird made of gold." But the poet does not say this. He says:

"Once out of nature I shall never take

My bodily form from any natural thing,

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make ...

To keep a drowsy Emperor awake."

Yeats was faced, as Dante had been in the Paradiso, with the exceedingly difficult task of conveying the idea of immortality in a concrete, poetic form. Dante chose, among other figures, the figure of the Rose; but Yeats's short poem had already emphasized the swift decay and death of everything natural; "Whatever is begotten, born, and dies."

Therefore-and here again is the answer to the group of critics who maintain that this is primarily an aesthetic and not a religious immortality -to what that is concrete but not natural could he turn except to art for a symbol of immortality? And it is only a symbol, specifically a simile, in the poem (" such a form as ...").

What, then, are the similarities between his immortal life and the mechanical bird that make the simile appropriate? The bird in the Emperor's palace that Yeats had read about was beautiful in appearance, enduring and precious (made of gold), and capable of singing songs that were both-beautiful and full of wisdom, not "sensual music," but singing

"To lords and ladies of Byzantium

Of what is past, or passing, or to come."

These characteristics, he no doubt felt, make this figure an appropriate one to express in concrete form the joys of immortality-especially appropriate since such mechanical birds actually existed in the historical Byzantium, of which Yeats said in A Vision: "I think that in early Byzantium, maybe never before or since in recorded history, religious, aesthetic, and practical life were one."

Starting from this remarkable historical city, Yeats made Byzantium his very unorthodox but devoutly religious version of the New Jerusalem, in which "holy city" the poet, the "dying animal," is primarily concerned, not with the art, but with the spiritual life visibly represented by the art. READ MORE!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Main Themes in W.B. Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium is indeed one of the best known lyrics of W.B. Yeats. Written in 1926, it appeared in Yeats's 1928 collection The Tower. Ever since its publication, Sailing to Byzantium has evoked immense interest among readers and critics alike.

Most of the critics have perceived Byzantium in variety of ways; as a representation of the imagination, the imaginative act, the soul, vision, and Unity of Being. The poem has also been viewed and interpreted as the source and the symbol of supreme beauty and enduring appeal of artifacts.

The poem's major and most obvious theme centers on the contrast between the ephemeral and the permanent. The poem conveys the message that human body is mortal and is sure to decay and perish whereas art or beautifully crafted artifacts are timeless, eternal, unchangeable and of permanent value.

The poem is thus the poet's deepening desire to leave this world of death and sorrow and to escape into a world of immortal beauty perceived imaginatively as an imaginary escape to Byzantium. Raymond Cowell writes, "The poet determines to sail to a place where he will be appreciated, Byzantium. He hopes that he will thus be able to defeat Time ...because art is timeless".

Similarly, another critic Harold Bloom also equates the "artifice of eternity" with artwork. According to Denis Donoghue, "The old man is changed into a poet and he knows his place; it is not on earth, in nature, but in the eternity of art. It makes little difference to the poem whether we feel Byzantium as an island of the blessed, a land of eternal youth, or the holy city of Romantic art, so long as we receive from it suggestions of permanence, perfection, and form".

W. B. Yeats asserted that his images "grew in pure mind". But the golden bird of "Sailing to Byzantium" may make us feel that "pure mind," although compelling, is not sufficient explanation. Where did that singing bird come from? We cannot discard Yeats' note to the poem, "I have read somewhere that in the Emperor's palace at Byzantium was a tree made of gold and silver, and artificial birds that sang", although its first four words sound suspiciously like the flimsy cloak of respectability that Yeats threw over his boldest inventions.

Some have suggested that the bird came from his reading of Byzantine history, Gibbon, or even Hans Christian Andersen . But a previously unacknowledged source is worth considering: Lear's consoling speech to Cordelia in the play's final act, as they are led off to prison and death.

Yeats was greatly moved by King Lear and referred to it with some frequency in print over 40 years, with the references intensifying as he aged. Whether calling it "mad and profound" in February 1926, several months before writing "Sailing to Byzantium," or explicitly envisioning himself like Lear-elderly yet fierce. Thus, when we read Yeats' wish to be transfigured, we may turn again to King Lear:

“Once out of nature I shall never take

My bodily form from any natural thing,

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of hammered gold and gold enamelling

To keep a drowsy emperor awake;

Or set upon a golden bough to sing

To lords and ladies of Byzantium…..”

Characteristically, Yeats's recreation of the impulse behind Lear's speech is entirely personal, but he echoes its emotional intensity and its philosophical direction. Art inspired by love--song, in this case--could defeat evil and render death irrelevant. Spatial and temporal limitations--prisons of whatever kind--do not make it impossible to create beauty. Singing joyously as the golden bird, Lear and Cordelia, caged, could "wear out" their enemies; the singing soul, creating the "artifice of eternity," could escape the aging body's prison.

Yeats' bird, timeless, beautiful, and wise, paradoxically sang of the temporal, but eternal art could take shape only within those limits; thus the time-laden echoes of Lear's "tell old tales," "speak of court news," and "explore the mystery of things" in Yeats's "... past, or passing, or to come."

The fragility of art and love in a threatening and at best unappreciative world was not a new theme for Yeats, nor was a father's desire to protect his beloved daughter from the world's storms (as in "Prayer for My Daughter"). Yet the words of Lear to Cordelia in prison were joyous; facing death, they adopted the heroic gaiety that Yeats commemorated in "Lapis Lazuli."

In Lear's speech, Yeats saw not only the personal--the aging man, artist, parent, menaced by the inevitable; it spoke to him of art's power to combat the world's terrors. The theme of escaping from one’s imprisonment by singing and praying like a singing bird in a prison from which the only escape is death or the theme of getting transformed by love have always been the most powerful human defense against evil, helplessness and mortality.

Yeats acquired his initial knowledge of Byzantine mosaics from the visit he made to Italy in1907. He also read several books focused on Byzantium's history and this knowledge on the subject reflects well in this poem too.

Yeats' imagery and ideas for Sailing to Byzantium surely were influenced by his personal identification with the age of Justinian, an empire which Yeats, in a continuation of the musings on Byzantium quoted above, described as his ideal society, one in which "maybe never before or since in recorded history, religious, aesthetic and practical life were one".

Yeats derived most of his information from the book titled The Age of Justinian and Theodora by W. G. Holmes, and the impact of this book was reflected in A Vision which Yeats was composing during the period when he read Holmes's book . In A Vision, Yeats declares, "I think that if I could be given a month of antiquity and leave to spend it where I chose, I would spend it in Byzantium a little before Justinian opened St. Sophia and closed the Academy of Plato".

However, if one reflects on the eventual fate of Justinian's empire, and, by extension, the artifacts representative of it, then it would seem that a deep vein of irony must not be in the poem.

In a recently published historical account, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople (2004), Jonathan Phillips describes the ultimate fate, in the thirteenth century, of the aesthetic products of Justinian's reign: "The Church of the Holy Apostles contained a mausoleum holding the tombs of some of the..... great Byzantine emperors of the past, including Justinian. Not content with pillaging all the church's ornaments and chalices, the crusaders broke open the great imperial tombs. These mighty sarcophagi, made of the purple porphyry marble that signified imperial status, held not just corpses, but also gold, jewels and pearls. Justinian's body was found to be in almost perfect condition; in the 639 years since his death his cadaver had barely decomposed. ... While the crusaders were duly impressed, it did nothing to halt their stealing of the valuables lying around the imperial body."

Phillips concludes the with a summary of the drastic effects of the devastation and havoc caused by crusaders, "Constantinople was being transformed from the greatest city in the Christian world to a scarred and ragged shadow of its former splendor.... the monuments that had commemorated and sustained the Byzantines' cultural identity were being torn down. Pedestals stood shorn of their statues, alcoves lay bare".

It seems, then, that in Sailing to Byzantium Yeats intimates the vulnerability of the very artifacts that within the poem, appear to symbolize immutability. This vulnerability, unlike the biological vulnerability of the "dying animal," has been imposed not by time, but by human aggressiveness, greed and avarice as expressed through inevitable cycles of human warfare.

Viewed thus, the speaker while facing his inevitable destruction as a "dying animal" appears to be, in an ironic sense, to be a counterpart of the apparently inviolable Byzantine golden bird whose destruction has merely been deferred and not condoned.

If one accepts this interpretation, then Sailing to Byzantium becomes linked not only with its obvious complement, "Byzantium," but also with another poem in The Tower, "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen," a poem that commences with the statement, "Many ingenious lovely things are gone," a vanishing imposed by the "nightmare" of a "drunken soldiery."

The only "comfort" that the speaker can get is through the consolation that "Man is in love and loves what vanishes," a judgment that may define, though much more subtly, a similar poignant dilemma in Sailing to Byzantium.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Geronimo and the End of the Apache Wars

Geronimo was a dare-devil apache warrior who fought pitched battles against the Mexican and American soldiers. He was a godly figure for his people who looked up to him for inspiration and protection. His ability to put up stiff resistance against the occupiers with a just handful of men raised his stature to a mythical level.
For his people, he was a "Shaman of War returned from the past." He was thought to possess divine magical powers with which he could "light a circle" when surrounded by the enemy or summon "a whirlwind to put the fires out so the Indians can escape."

He could look into the future and predict about impending successes or failures, dangers and calm. A true son of Mother Nature, this 'Indian Messiah' could communicate with the plants and bushes that seemed to respond well to his mysterious queries.
Geronimo was an embittered man whose wife and children were murdered by the occupiers. He became a great freedom fighter who was extremely heroic in his historic struggle against the foreigners who wanted to "to enslave and exterminate them". He was an 'Apache Moses' who led his men to the Promised Land.

Geronimo's reputation was much different about a century ago. He was despised as a brutal assassin and a ruthless murderer in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. He was a symbol of evil and bloodshed. He was dubbed as a "born butcher", "a pirate by profession, a robber to whom blood was sweeter than booty". The white men described him as an uncivilized bad smelling, manner less sadist.
He was considered to be a cruel savage, a mindless barbarian who lacked reason. On the contrary, the Mexicans thought themselves to be "gente de razón -- people of reason." In spite of such a deep rooted deep hatred against Geronimo, his enemies were forced to give him a grudging respect due to his dare-devilry.

He was a fierce fighter and "a resourceful field commander." Most of the paperback publications of the time delineated his character with assumed names like, "The Butcher, Diablo, Diablito, Satanio" etc. He was painted as "a smoky window of hell, a beaked nose, a thin slit of lipless mouth". Nevertheless, each one of them acknowledged the fact that he was awfully expert in the art of gorilla warfare and was smart enough to keep his enemy on the tenterhooks for a very long time.

Geronimo's image started to take a positive turn in the beginning of 20th century when America started to deal with the guilt feeling of slaughtering the innocent Indians for their land and resources. Geronimo was now looked upon as a "gentle, old, and wise" man who was forced to wield arms in defense of his rights.

He became an ultimate symbol of resistance against unlawful might of perfidious white villains. Geronimo's character started to emerge as that of "a freedom fighter, a peace-loving, home-loving, independent desert dweller, violent only in defense of his life and land."

People started to realize that Geronimo was a simple, clear-hearted man without deceit, intrigue or guile. He was completely innocent about the sinister business strategies employed by the.... white men to cheat the Indians. He was untutored and intuitive in his actions unlike the invaders who were so crafty and scheming.

As the time passed, the image of Geronimo as a hero overshadowed his image as an anti-hero. Forrest Carter's novel in the second half of 20th century conclusively transfigured and transformed the notorious image of Geronimo into that of a venerated hero. Now, the focus shifted to the "brutish soldiers' rampage about the West gleefully slaughtering peaceable Indians and taking special delight in shooting down helpless women and children."

Sixth Cavalry officer Charles Gatewood's description of Geronimo at the time of his surrender does not size up with the fiendish picturization of Geronimo in the past. He seems more positive than negative or an anti-hero here. He is shown to be a pretty reasonable, wise old man who knows what is best for him and his people. He is shown to be matter of fact and emphatically rebuffs the Mexicans whom he doesn't trust at all.

He is seen as a fearless, brave man ready to meet any challenge in life, "After shaking hands, the Mexican shoved his revolver around to his front & Geronimo drew his half way out of the holster, the whites of his eyes turning red". He is a gentleman who can cease to be one when provoked or threatened; this also explains his revenge and a long-drawn war against his oppressors. As such, he seems to be an innocent man who "followed our commander wherever he went, as if fearing he might go away, leaving his captive behind."

Apache warrior Samuel E. Kenoi talks about Geronimo as "a human tiger" who was always prepared to "go out on the war-path." He paints Geronimo as a restless fellow who is always ill at ease and worried about the prospect of an impending enemy attack. Kenoi's description of Geronimo doesn't contribute much to his status as a hero and delineates him more as an anti-hero.

Talking about Geronimo, he tells a fellow Indian, "I know we would not be in our present trouble if it was not for men like him, and you honor him for that." In spite of all this he is shown to be forthright, honest and truthful. He told General Miles in front of whom he eventually surrendered:

"I know some of your big generals. You become generals just because you are good liars. Why I tell you that you are a liar right in the midst of your troops is that you never have caught me shooting. And now, General Miles, I have come with my men to you with good will, but I know just what you are going to do. You will say this, I know: 'I have caught Geronimo while he was shooting and made him surrender to me."

Kenoi pooh-poohs Geronimo's visions and supernatural powers as "his foolish ceremony".

The Carrasco massacre of the innocent, unsuspecting Indians left a deep scar on young Geronimo's psyche. General Carrasco's crime against humanity went unpunished. The court refused to punish him for the murder of guiltless women and children.

On the contrary, he was given a hero's welcome by people when he took away Indian prisoners, many of whom were later sold into slavery. In Carrasco Massacre, "Geronimo's mother, wife, and children were among the victims and that his lifelong hatred of all Mexicans was the result of this loss".

An iron entered into his hitherto kindly soul. Geronimo became a formidable Apache war chief and inflicted heavy losses on his enemies, especially the Mexicans against whom he had a severe personal grudge. Sweeney writes, "Over the years Geronimo has become a symbol of heroic resistance, and the massacre of his family has been cited many times to justify his transformation from a man of peace, living in harmony with nature and his neighbors, into the terror of the Southwest and northern Mexico".

The 'mythic' good or evil Geronimo with inherent contradictions in his character has always been an enigma for the critics. To some he is a hero and to others an anti-hero, to some an axis of evil to others an angel!

The fact is Geronimo's perception as a hero or a villain depends entirely upon which side do you belong to. If you tend to sympathize with the Indians for the gross injustice white men heaped on them, Geronimo would definitely seem to be a positive and an honorable character to you. And, if you are a staunch supporter of the pioneers and the white men, Geronimo would certainly seem to you a villainous and an evil character.

The 'mythic' qualities of Geronimo minus magical powers may have some essential truth about them. One must not forget that intuition and wisdom have their own magic. Geronimo's character must have been a combination of good and bad qualities. Had he been too angelic, he would have failed to put up such a fierce armed resistance against a mighty enemy. Had he been devilish alone, there would not have been so many positive vibes about him in the air or in the pages of history.


Sonnichsen, C.L. Geronimo and the End of the Apache Wars . Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990

Friday, March 27, 2009

Willy Loman’s Suicide: Act of Defiance or Acceptance of Failure?

Willy's suicide has been variously interpreted by various critics. While some call it cowardice, some look at it as an act of martyrdom. I neither see it as an act of cowardice nor martyrdom. I don't see any defiance either in Willy's ignoble exit from this world.

I feel that Willy's suicide is indeed an acceptance of his failure. The protagonist's persistence in his follies far exceeds the point of recovery or rehabilitation. Willy, the salesman "cannot acknowledge his mistake without destroying his identity" ( Porter 152).

Willy Loman models his life on the rags to riches stories of exceptional people like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Alva Edison. Willy believes, "If Edison, Goodrich and Red Grange can make it, why not me, why not Willy Loman?" (Henry Popkin) What he forgets is that such instances of success were rare and more of an exception.

Willy also ignores the fact that these successful people were men of character, hard-working, industrious and immensely self-disciplined. They valued time and were extremely focused. On the contrary, Willy has a wandering mind and ruefully wastes his time and energy in daydreaming and tall talk. Under the circumstances, his failure is a foregone conclusion.

Willy's excessive faith in American dream robs him of his good sense and right reason. Blinded by the myth of success, Willy Loman aimlessly chases the phantom of success through the streets of Brooklyn and New York. He forgets the message given out to Americans by Russell Conwell, "The industrious, the honest, the determined man can mine diamonds at home, in the city, wherever he is". Had Willy paid attention to the crux of this message, he would have realized that the real diamonds of happiness lie within one's heart and within one's family.

His irrepressible urge for quick success in material terms is in tune with the infamous success myth. This myth presupposes," The Creator made man a success-machine ….and failure is as abnormal to him as discord to harmony" (Marsden 27). With that kind of erroneous description of a successful man in his mind, Willy Loman commits the tragic error of anchoring his life on this tragic myth with tragic consequences. Willy's story of success turns out to be a story of failure. He commits series of unpardonable mistakes and thus plays havoc with his life and that of his family.

Instead of building his life and that of his kids on .... realistic ideas and realistic goals, he leads a phony life based upon phony values. His fantastic formula of success heavily banks upon the flawed concept of being 'well-liked' rather than on the time-tested principle of diligence. He speaks out, "It is not what you do Ben. It is who you know and the smile on your face! It is contacts, Ben, contacts!.....and that 's the wonder of this country…..that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being well-liked" (Salesman 86). The name of Willy's role model is Dave Singleman. This name has a symbolic value. Unlike Willy who is schizophrenic, this man is a 'single-man.' He is 'inner-directed' in total contrast with Willy's who is 'other-directed.'

He runs down Charley's son Bernard for not being "well-liked." He predicts, "Bernard can get the best marks in school . . . but when he gets out into the business world . . . you are going to be five times ahead of him. . . . Be liked and you will never want." He proves to be miserably wrong again. Bernard grows up to become a successful Supreme Court lawyer.

Willy is responsible in making Biff completely complacent about his faults, "You got greatness in you, Biff. . . You got all kinds of greatness." This turns Biff into a bit of a tin-god, incapable of dealing with life on realistic terms. Willy's list of mistakes keeps mounting.

Willy is also responsible for Biff's kleptomania. Had he not dismissed Biff's act of stealing football from the school as 'initiative,' Biff would not have become a compulsive thief. Biff largely suffers due to the blatantly wrong training his father imparted to him.

This realization alone was sufficient to distance Biff from his father; top it with the Boston episode and you have a recipe for disaster. Biff is devastated when he catches his father red-handed with a prostitute. He loses interest in studies and his career gets derailed. Willy falls from a high pedestal, never to rise again in the eyes of his wife and sons. Even now, Willy lacks guts to confess.

Willy fails as a salesman, as a father and also as a husband. His rag to riches theory never takes off from the ground. Instead his story of failure is a classic example of riches to rag. He loses whatsoever he had; his sales, his balance of mind, his peace of mind, his job and also his self-respect.

Willy's inability to reconcile with such failures resulting out of his monumental mistakes turn him into a shell of a man. He becomes hallucinated and makes a joke of himself. The inner realization that he is actually a 'low-man' or perhaps a 'no-man' in this utilitarian and materialistic world disintegrates him from within. Had he taken a leaf out of his mistakes and accepted his failure in his life time, he would not have suffered any further.

Past sixty years of age, tired and exhausted, this salesman returns empty-handed from a sales trip. In spite of this failure, he makes a hopelessly desperate attempt at getting a steady job in New York and a salary hike from his boss. The result is predictable, Willy gets fired instead. Immensely hurt, he cries out in pain, "You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away- a man is not a piece of fruit! (Salesman 64) The end of the job brings Willy's end nearer. This proves to be a proverbial last straw on the camel's back. Unable to carry the weight of his failure and lies anymore than he already has; Willy has no other alternative but to hit the wall, literally.

The failure of his sons also weighs heavily on his mind. He alternately faces and runs away from the harsh realities of life. His moments of truth have been far and few. Except for a few moments of confession, in front of Linda regarding his inability to drive to Boston, or about people laughing at him, falling income and rising bills, Will tells lies or takes shelter behind the memories of a glorious past that no longer exists.

Willy survives only up to the time he is able to keep his false optimism alive. When the moment of truth arrives, he stands not only without a job but also without any hope of a job. He stands alone. His sons abandon him the company of prostitutes. From a father, he becomes, "just a guy" when Happy bluntly states, "No, that's not my father". Biff's open declaration, "Pop! I'm a dime a dozen, and so are you!" is certainly a rude shock for Willy.

His act of planting seeds is symbolic of his disillusionment with the business world. The fact is that no seeds can grow in the barren backyard of his home, surrounded by tall buildings. It is a grim reminder to Willy that it is too late now to return to that agrarian lifestyle he left behind. The realization dawns upon Willy that the only way he can make amends for the irreparable loss he has caused to his family is through self-destruction. Willy's insurance money is the only thing, Willy has got. Finally, Willy has to accept his failure in life and leaves this world to pave way for a better future for his family.

Works Cited

Marsden, Orison. Entering Business . New York: 1903.

Miller, Arthur. "Death of A Salesman" . Penguin, 1975.

Popkin, Henry. "The Strange Encounter" Sewanee Review . LXVIII,1960.

Porter, Thomas E., "Acres of diamonds" Myth and Modern American Drama. Kalyani,


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Law: Deterrence in the Juvenile Justice System

Although, there are common grounds to share, the juvenile justice system is different from regular criminal justice system. Its chief aim is reformation of the juvenile offenders and their rehabilitation, apart from the general safety of the citizens.

These juvenile courts were formed by law makers to prevent the juveniles from turning into delinquents or hardened criminals. Juvenile courts try offenders under 18 years of age who are too young to be tried in the criminal courts. These juveniles can be transferred to criminal or adult courts earlier also if the juvenile court so desires or feels fit.

The usual sentencing or the punishments awarded by the Juvenile courts happen to be much milder than seen in regular criminal courts. This adversely affects the much desired principle of deterrence in juvenile judicial system. "The deterrence rationale aims to dissuade juvenile offenders from repeating the offence and to keep other juveniles from committing the similar crime.

Relying on a causal link between criminal acts and subsequent punishment, the deterrence model presumes both a rational thought process behind violent crimes and a justice system that provides quick and predictable responses"(O'Connor). Due to feeble sentencing on part of juvenile justice system, the element of deterrence in the juvenile judicial system is almost missing. This raises an all important question: Is there such a thing as deterrence in the juvenile justice system or not?

The phenomenal rise in violent crimes committed by adolescent offenders has forced the law makers to rethink the strategy of tackling juvenile crime. "There are two basic questions that juvenile justice professionals, defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement must confront. How do we identify, implement, and improve programs designed to prevent delinquency? When prevention has failed, how should communities, juvenile courts, probation, and corrections address the consequences? (Geraghty) Fed up with the failure of Juvenile justice system in containing juvenile crime, the citizens too want juveniles to be locked up and tried as any other criminals.

Already, the majority of states have shifted the focus from rehabilitation to punishment and deterrence. They have rewritten their laws enabling the juvenile courts to refer larger number of youths to the adult courts, to award mandatory prison sentences and incapacitation. In such a scenario, where does the juvenile justice system stand? If the juvenile courts can't deter the juvenile crime on their own, is there any real need for them at all?

An editorial in Wall Street Journal lambasted the juvenile justice system by pointing out the fact that leniency was the root cause of its failure, "Violent crime by juveniles soared in the '80s and '90s for one reason: Kids kept getting away with it" ("Wall"). The violence by offenders under 18 has reached such an alarming level that the U.S. Congress has taken cognizance of it "as a national emergency" (Zimring).

Talking about deterrence, it doesn't matter much whether you are talking about general deterrence or specific deterrence; what really matters is deterrence itself. While general deterrence is the term normally used with reference to the criminal courts, specific deterrence is attributed to the juvenile courts. "Nowhere does the revolving door of justice spin faster than in the juvenile court system. Nearly one-quarter of all juvenile arrests are dismissed immediately and only 10 percent result in detention of the offender (McNulty). This goes to prove that the juvenile justice system has failed to deter and restrain juvenile offenders from committing further crime.

It is abundantly clear that the present day policies and programs clearly fall short of containing juvenile crime or stopping delinquency. Youth violence can only be contained by putting in place solid deterrence and strong penal action. In the absence of real deterrence, juvenile justice system is surely a toothless tiger.

Works Cited

Geraghty, Thomas F. "Securing Our Children's Future: New Approaches to Juvenile Justice and

Youth Violence". Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Volume: 94. Issue: 2.

Northwestern University, School of Law. 2004.

McNulty, Paul J. "Natural Born Killers? Preventing the Coming Explosion of Teenage Crime."

Policy Review.1995.

O'Connor, Jennifer M. and Lucinda Kinau Treat. "Getting Smart about Getting Tough: Juvenile

Justice and the Possibility of Progressive Reform". American Criminal Law Review. Volume: 33.

Issue: 4. Georgetown University Law Center. 1996.

Wall Street Journal. Editorial. 28. April 1997.

Zimring, Franklin E. American Youth Violence. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.


Is J.D. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Moral or Immoral?

A lot of criticism has been heaped upon J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye for being 'cheap' and 'vulgar'. "The Catcher in the Rye" is basically the classic story of a teenager's quest for maturity but It has been dubbed 'obscene' by some for the use of the four-lettered words.

Not only this, the novel has also been called 'blasphemous' over the boy's caustic comments about religious hypocrisy. 'Catcher' has become a symbol for critics of what they perceive to be a vile, ungodly plot that can undermine morals.

Most academicians do not subscribe to this idea and beg to differ. 'Catcher' is chosen and prescribed in classrooms for number of important reasons- its literary quality, unceasing interest, great readability, relevance and its lasting moral worth. While critics accuse The Catcher in the Rye of "immorality," the novel can be defended both on literary grounds as well as moral. Contrary to critic's belief, "Catcher' is not only a work of great literary merit but also of great moral worth.

Whether The Catcher in the Rye is immoral or not largely depends upon how one defines immorality. Certainly if one sees it as any work that contains "dirty" words, refers to a sexual act, or questions religious dogma, no matter what the content, then The Catcher in the Rye fits the description. One does not have to read the book. Just flip a few pages and the offending words and passages can be easily spotted.

One needs a more matured and responsible definition of morality to appreciate this great work of art. Over the centuries, philosophers have espoused numerous rational ways of evaluating moral behavior e.g. Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics explains his principles of the virtuous life.

Moral living presented in the New Testament involves humans interacting with others in ways that demonstrate caring and respect for the rights and dignity of each individual. When Jesus saw a crowd ready to stone a woman caught in adultery, he said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone." He admonished the disciples to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned for "in as much as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me."

In an article proposing a Christian definition of obscenity, the Reverend Howard Moody wrote in Christianity and Crisis that obscenity has as its basic motivation and purpose the degradation, debasement and dehumanization of persons. The dirtiest word in the English language is not "fuck" or "shit," it can be a racial slur used to dehumanize or belittle someone. In other words, it is not sexual or blasphemous words that make something immoral but acts that degrade humans.

What, then, is moral about The Catcher in the Rye is the question? Let us look at some examples from the story of "Catcher" that show the New Testament definition of morality in action in the novel. One of the most endearing qualities of the teenage protagonist is his empathy for other people, especially those whom others reject. The story opens with Holden Caulfield skipping a football game at his elite boys' school to visit an infirm, elderly history teacher. Thanksgiving vacation is near and Holden has heard he must leave school after Christmas because of failing grades.

The boy realizes "Old Spencer" will lecture him about not fulfilling his potential, and he doesn't like seeing old men in their pajamas with "their bumpy old chests" and their legs "so white and unhairy." But he goes anyway out of respect for a teacher who cares about his subject and his students.

On the last test Holden wrote an apology to Spencer for doing poorly, "so he wouldn't feel so bad about flunking me." For a sixteen-year-old to worry about an elderly teacher's feelings is moral behavior. To visit the sick man is even more so. Other people in Holden's life also benefit from his caring attitude.

Everybody hates Ackley. Be- sides snoring loudly, he has "sinus trouble, pimples, lousy teeth, halitosis, crumby fingernails." But, says Holden, "You had to feel a little sorry for the crazy sonuvabitch." Holden is the only one who does. Though Ackley irritates him, he never turns him away. He makes snide remarks but he does not reject. He invites Ackley to go to a movie because he knows the boy has no other friends.

With Ackley, as with others, The Catcher in the Rye 's hero shows a concern not common with his peers. Holden is especially distressed at the insensitivity of his classmates. He remembers a small, quiet student who refused to apologize for calling another fellow conceited. Six dormmates descended on his room. That night, wearing a green turtle- neck sweater borrowed from Holden, he threw himself out a dorm window.

Holden still winces at the image of the boy sprawled dead on the sidewalk and thinks the harassers deserved more for their actions than school expulsion. Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother Family unity is a moral value espoused by the New Testament and by critics of The Catcher in the Rye.

No teenager could demonstrate more love and respect for his family than Holden Caulfield. He admires his father's abilities as a corporation lawyer, his mother's taste in clothes and decorating (typical reactions for the 50s), and his older brother's skill as a writer in Hollywood. He shows special affection for his ten-year-old sister, Phoebe: "You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your whole life ... if you tell old Phoebe some- thing, she knows exactly what the hell you're talking about ... you can take her anywhere with you."

Tragedy struck the Caulfield family a few years earlier when the third son, Allie, two years younger than Holden, died of leukemia. "You'd have liked him," says Holden ". .. he was the most intelligent member of the family. He was also the nicest." When Allie died, Holden went out to the garage and smashed all the windows with his bare hands.

The Catcher in the Rye 's leading character is not rebelling against parental values. He is roaming the streets of New York because he wants to protect his family from the hurt he thinks his failure will bring. In the end, it is his love for Phoebe, and her love for him, that ends his escapades, keeps him in the family circle, and restores his self-respect.

Blessed are the Pure Holden is a virgin. He tells us that right off. Despite all the thoughts typical of an adolescent, and "quite a few opportunities," he has set a limit. As he puts it, In my mind, I'm probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw. Sometimes I can think of very crumby stuff I wouldn't mind doing if the opportunity came up .... The thing is, though, I don't like the idea. It stinks, if you analyze it. .... Sex is something I really don't understand too hot.

When a girl tells him to stop, he says, he stops. He never wants to hurt or offend. Holden leaves Pency a few days early and wanders around New York, afraid to go home and announce his school dismissal to his family. He gets a hotel room and in the elevator is approached by a..... pimp who persuades him to "have a good time."

Holden is reluctant, but decides maybe it would be good experience if he ever got married. He goes to his room, brushes his teeth, and changes his shirt. When the prostitute knocks on the door, he trips over his suitcase getting to it. She isn't any older than he-a skinny little thing with a high, squeaky voice. She takes off her dress. He hangs it in the closet so it won't wrinkle. He tries to make casual conversation. When she approaches with serious intentions, he panics, tells her he has just had an operation, apologizes profusely, and pays her $5.00 to leave.

Clearly, he is not ready to lose his virginity and certainly not with a prostitute. The poignant scene dispels any belief that Holden is anything but a mixed-up adolescent with a strong sense of values. Woe to You, Hypocrites Like Jesus who became incensed over the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees, The Catcher in the Rye 's protagonist rails against those who behave one way in public and another in private.

He claims he left his last school because of the hypocrisy of the headmaster: He'd be charming as hell and all. Except if some boy had little old funny-looking parents ... if a boy's mother was sort of fat and corny-looking ... then old Haas would just shake hands with them and give them a phony smile and then he'd go talk, maybe for half an hour with someone else's parents.

Holden objects to the catalogue at Pency which shows a student on a horse jumping over a fence and writes of the "splendid, clear-thinking young men" the school produces. According to Holden, the school did not even own a horse, and the students are anything but splendid. He believes the school serves steak on Saturday nights so Sunday's visiting parents will think the meals are always like that.

He sees the school as manufacturing a public image that belies reality-a type of hypocrisy not uncommon in educational institutions. Religious phoniness upsets him even more. Holden considers himself an atheist, but he "likes Jesus and all." The disciples, however, are an- other matter. They were all right after Jesus died, he says, but while he was alive "they were as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting him down."

Loyalty is a very strong value for Holden. His own predicament stems from the belief that he himself is letting down his family and is thus unworthy of their love. While still in New York, the boy invites an old girlfriend to see the Christmas program at Radio City Hall. It is supposed to be a religious theme, but Holden cannot "see anything religious or pretty, for God's sake, about a bunch of actors carrying crucifixes all over the stage. When they finished ... you could tell they could hardly wait to get a cigarette or something." Religion, in his mind, should be simple, not gawdy and profit- making.

If Jesus had seen all those fancy costumes, says Holden, he "probably would've puked." If Jesus were wholly man as well as wholly God, he probably would've. In contrast to the show-biz religion at Radio City Hall, Holden meets two nuns in the lunch- room at the train station carrying cheap suitcases. They are teachers going to a new assignment in southside Chicago. He insists on giving them a $10.00 contribution.

When he realizes they did not ask if he were Catholic, he wishes he had given them more. Their humility and gentleness epitomize for Holden what religion ought to be. Suffer the Little Children Jesus stated that one must become like a little child before one can enter the Kingdom of God. The innocence and simplicity of children holds an especial appeal for Holden as well.

Holden demonstrates repeatedly his love for his sister. He empathizes with a little boy in a movie whose mother will not take him to the bathroom. He shows two young brothers how to find the mummies in the public museum. Finally, he spies a poor family going home from church. A small boy is walking in the street singing the Scottish ditty, "Comin' Through the Rye." Says Holden, "He had a pretty little voice, too. He was just singing for the hell of it. It made me feel better . .. not so depressed any more."

Later Holden tells Phoebe that what he'd like to be more than anything else in the world is a "catcher in the rye." He pictures a large field with thousands of little kids playing and nobody big around but him. He stands at the edge of a steep cliff and catches all the kids before they fall over. "I know it's crazy, but that's the thing I'd really like to be."

Toward the end of the book, Holden goes to Phoebe's school to send her a note. He sees the words "Fuck You" scrawled on the wall and goes crazy. He thinks of how Phoebe and the other children will wonder what it means. He wants to kill whoever wrote the words, to smash his head against the stone steps. Finally, he rubs them off with his hands, afraid somebody will think he wrote them.

The scene illustrates Holden's main wish, to protect children from getting a "cockeyed" version of sex from "some dirty kid." Obviously, sex for him is not an obscenity but an act of love between two people who respect each other.

In this sometimes funny, sometimes painful, novel of a teenager's search for self-worth and values, the protagonist uses words typical of an insecure young man trying to appear grown-up. He tries out sexual ventures, only to retreat when he oversteps his moral limits. He drinks to escape the fear of hurting his family and falls into depression.

None of this is painted as glamorous. None is likely to entice other teenagers to go and do likewise.

Contrary to the claims of the critics, The Catcher in the Rye is a moral book with ethical basis discernible only to an unbiased mind. Holden Caulfield may emerge as a confused person but he is moralistic. He befriends the friendless. He respects those who are humble, loyal, and kind. He demonstrates a strong love for his family.

He abhors hypocrisy. He values sex that comes from caring for another person and rejects its sordidness. And, finally, he wants to be a responsible member of society, to guide and protect those younger than he. What greater morality can one want from a novel? READ MORE!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Psychological Structure of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’

In the next chapter Holden and Phoebe seem to be acting out a mock romance, much the way Seymour Glass does with the little girl in "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." The episode is at once movingly tender and ominous.

Holden finds Phoebe "sitting smack in the middle of the bed, outside the covers, with her legs folded like one of those Yogi guys"- an image Strauch interprets as making her an emblem of "the still, contemplative center of life". This may be valid for one level of Holden's mind. When he immediately asks her to dance, however, and "She practically jumped off the bed, and then waited while I took my shoes off," his excessive justifications point to guilt:

"I don't like people that dance with little kids.... Usually they keep yanking the kid's dress up in the back by mistake, and the kid can't dance worth a damn anyway, and it looks terrible, but I don't do it out in public with Phoebe or anything. We just horse around in the house. It's different with her anyway, because she can dance. She can follow anything you do. I mean if you hold her in close as hell so that it doesn't matter that your legs are so much longer. She stays right with you."

After the dance, Phoebe "jumped back in bed and got under the covers" and Holden "sat down next to her on the bed again . . . sort of out of breath." " 'Feel my forehead,' she said all of a sudden." Phoebe claims she has learned to induce fever psychosomatically so that "your whole forehead gets so hot you can burn some- body's hand." That killed me. I pulled my hand away from her forehead, like I was in terrific danger. "Thanks for telling me," I said. "Oh, I wouldn't've burned your hand. I'd've stopped before it got too Shhh!" Then, quick as hell, she sat way the hell up in bed.

The parents have returned and the scene that fo lows, Holden gathering up his shoes and hiding in the closet as the mother interrogates Phoebe about the (cigarette) "smoke" in the bedroom and asks "were you warm enough??" is reminiscent of nothing so much as that mainstay of French farce, the lover hiding in the closet or under the bed as the girl ironically "explains" to husband or parent. More important are the implications of Phoebe's "heat." Though she cannot really induce it, her innocent compliance in the whole sexual charade does place Holden "in terrific danger."

When the mother leaves, Holden emerges from his hiding place and borrows money from Phoebe. Phoebe insists that he take all of her money and Holden "all of a sudden" begins to cry:

"I couldn't help it. I did it so nobody could hear me, but I did it. It scared hell out of old Phoebe when I started doing it, and she came over and tried to make me stop, but once you get started, you can't just stop on a goddam dime. I was still sitting on the edge of the bed when I did it, and she put her old arm around my neck, and I put my arm around her, too, but I still couldn't stop for a long time. I thought I was going to choke to death or something. Boy, I scared hell out of poor old Phoebe. The damn window was open and everything, and I could feel her shivering and all, because all she had on was her pajamas. I tried to make her get back in bed, but she wouldn't go."

Holden's breakdown, his visiting of his own suffering on the child, the chill air, and the innocence of their intimacy in this moving scene signal his growing, frightening awareness of the other sort of intimacy. From now until he sees Phoebe again, Holden is in full flight. Nonetheless, their parting is filled with suggestions of a sort one might expect after a casual, normal sexual encounter. ( Notice the emphases in the following passage put for better understanding.)

"Then I finished buttoning my coat and all. I told her I'd keep in touch with her. She told me I could sleep with her if I wanted to, but I said no, that I'd better beat it. ... Then I took my hunting hat out of my coat pocket and gave it to her. She likes those kind of crazy hats. She didn't want to take it, but I made her. I'll bet she slept with it on. She really likes those kinds of hats. Then I told her again I'd give her a buzz if I got a chance, and then I left. "

It is almost as if Holden is acknowledging the real content of the sexual charade and escaping while he can. It would also seem that realization, however vague, is equated with deed as Holden immediately indicates that he wanted to be punished:

"It was a helluva lot easier getting out of the house than it was getting in, for some reason. For one thing, I didn't give much of a damn any more if they caught me. I really didn't. I figured if they caught me, they caught me. I almost wished they did, in a way."

Holden leaves Phoebe to spend the night with Mr. Antolini, a former teacher who .... during the course of the evening offers sound if stilted assess- ments of Holden's future which become particu- larly relevant in the epilogue. Antolini has been drinking, however, and disrupts the peace he has provided (Holden feels sleepy for the first time) by awakening the boy with tentative homosexual advances. Certainly Holden is victimized ("I was shaking like a madman. . . . I think I was more de- pressed than I ever was in my life"), but the en- counter may torment him most for its parallels to his own unconscious designs on a child.

Now one begins to see the significance of Holden's un- founded suspicions about Jane Gallagher's step- father and his murderous rage at the "perverty bum" who wrote the obscenity on Phoebe's school wall-inordinate reactions pointing to fears about himself.

At this point Holden's neurosis verges on madness. Each time he crosses a street, he imagines he will "disappear" and "never get to the other side of the street." I do not take this so much as a symbolic manifestation of "identity crisis" and of his fear that he "may never reach maturity"-al- though both are implicit-but rather as a literal, psychologically valid description of the boy's breakdown.

He retreats into wild fantasies of running away forever, living in a cabin near, but not in, the woods ("I'd want it to be sunny as hell all the time"), and feigning deaf-muteness, all to escape the confusion about to engulf him. Phoebe betrays these plans-the first ironic level of the Benedict Arnold motif-by joining in his escape. When she appears, bag in hand and the hunting cap on her head, Holden reacts wildly:

"I'm going with you. Can I? Okay ?" "What ?" I said. I almost fell over when she said that. I swear to God I did. I got sort of dizzy and I thought I was going to pass out or something again. I thought I was going to pass out cold. I mean I didn't mean to tell her to shut up and all, but I thought I was going to pass out again. I was almost all set to hit her. I thought I was going to smack her for a second. I really did.... "I thought you were supposed to be Benedict Arnold in that play and all," I said. I said it very nasty. "Wuddaya want to do ? Not be in the play, for God's sake ?" That made her cry even harder. I was glad. All of a sudden I wanted her to cry till her eyes practically dropped out. I almost hated her. I think I hated her most because she wouldn't be in that play any more if she went away with me."

These near-hysterical responses can be understood, it seems to me, only in the context that Phoebe is the very thing he is fleeing. He somehow realizes that she must be his "Benedict Arnold."

Holden's fury at Phoebe having set the climax in motion, Salinger now employs a delicate spatial strategy. Phoebe returns the hat, turns her back on Holden, announces that she has no intention of running away with him, and runs "right the hell across the street, without even looking to see if any cars were coming." Positioning here signifies the end of their relation as possible lovers, but love remains.

Holden does not go after her, knowing she'll follow him "on the other goddam side of the street. She wouldn't look over at me at all, but I could tell she was probably watching me out of the corner of her crazy eye to see where I was going and all. Anyway, we kept walking that way all the way to the zoo." They are still apart as they watch the sea lions being fed, Holden standing "right behind her."

"I didn't put my hands on her shoulders again or any- thing because if I had she really would've beat it on me. Kids are funny. You have to watch what you're doing. She wouldn't walk right next to me when we left the sea lions, but she didn't walk too far away. She sort of walked on one side of the sidewalk and I walked on the other side. Old Phoebe still wouldn't talk to me or anything, but she was sort of walking next to me now. I took a hold of the belt at the back of her coat, just for the hell of it, but she wouldn't let me. She said, "Keep your hands to yourself, if you don't mind."

Holden promises not to run away and they rejoin as brother and sister in the presence of the carrousel-miraculously open in winter. Phoebe wants to ride and Holden finds a mature, new perspective:

"All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she'd fall off the goddam horse, but I didn't say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them."

The substitution of a gold ring for the traditional brass one may point to Phoebe's future as a woman. In any event, Holden has renounced his designs on Phoebe and thus abrogated his messianic role. Another Salinger story has young de Daumier-Smith relinquish his sexual designs on a nun with the announcement, "I am giving Sister Irma her freedom to follow her destiny. Everyone is a nun." One need not search for literary sources to recognize that the carrousel finally represents everyone's sacred, inviolable human destiny.

One may not neglect Holden's long- peaked hunting cap-which he purchased, as a masculine symbol. This rather mechanical symbol does partake of the boy's masculinity or sexuality. But more than that, it becomes the most reliable symbolic designation of Holden's psychic condition through the novel. Ackley points out that it is a deer hunter's hat while Holden maintains that "This is a people shooting hat. ... I shoot people in this hat."

When one remembers that hunters wear red hats to keep from being shot and that Holden usually wears his backwards in the manner of a baseball catcher, the symbol embraces Holden's aggressive and withdrawing tendencies as well as the outlandish daydreams of becoming the messiah in the rye.

Holden's masculinity is plainly involved in such instances as when he has to retrieve the hat from under a bed after the fight with Stradlater and when it is entrusted to Phoebe's bed, but the symbol becomes more encompassing when she "restores" the hat in the climactic carrousel scene.

"Then all of a sudden she gave me a kiss. Then she held her hand out, and said, "It's raining. It's starting to rain." "I know." Then what she did-it damn near killed me-she reached in my coat pocket and took out my red hunting hat and put it on my head. My hunting hat really gave me quite a lot of protection, in a way, but I got soaked anyway. I didn't care, though. I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth. I don't know why. It was just that she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around, in her blue coat and all. God, I wish you could have been there."

At its deepest level, the hat symbolizes something like Holden's basic human resources-his birthright, that lucky caul of protective courage, humor, compassion, honesty, and love-all of which are the real subject matter of the novel.

As the symbolic hat gives Holden "quite a lot of protection, in a way" and he gets "soaked any- way," those human resources do not prevent emotional collapse. In the epilogue we learn that Holden went West-"after I went home, and . . . got sick and all"-not for the traditional opportunity there but for psychotherapy. This would be a bleak ending were it not for the fact that Holden has authored this structured narrative, just as Antolini predicted he might:

"You'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them-if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry."

The richness of spirit in this novel, especially of the vision, the compassion, and the humor of the narrator reveal a psyche far healthier than that of the boy who endured the events of the narrative. Through the telling of his story, Holden has given shape to, and thus achieved control of, his troubled past.

Acknowledgements: The Psychological Structure of 'The Catcher in the Rye'-James Bryan


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Eminent Domain Law

The unbridled power of Eminent Domain law is a threat indeed to the liberty and freedom of the common man in America. It hangs like a sword of Damocles on many a heads who do not know who exactly would be its next victim.

The psychological fear of ‘now you own it now you don’t’ can leave many emotionally and economically shattered. This uncertainty robs the property of its charm and the owner of his peace of mind. Since the case of Kelo v. City of New England, 545 U.S. 469 (2005)[1], Eminent Domain law has become exceedingly powerful and dangerous. It has become very much susceptible to grave misuse.

This law indeed strikes at the very roots of the foundation of America that guarantees its citizens right to freedom and property. One’s property, be it home or business can never be weighed in terms of money alone. One’s emotional bond and sense of belonging with one’s home or property truly sustain life itself. Any forced eviction or exodus, that too over a flimsy cause, can never be justified or forgiven. As such, imagine the torture of living under the constant fear that the next door bell you may answer may very well be the Expropriation notice!

The fact that there is no escaping from this unjust law, the knowledge that either you surrender in front of Eminent Domain law or face the music can leave many wondering whether we live in a civilized world or a banana republic where facts can be fudged and false cases can be slapped against innocent people to force them to fall in line.

It is high time that citizens gird up its loins and assert its democratic right to vehemently protest against the misuse of a draconian law like Eminent Domain law. The government evidently seems to be hand in gloves with big businessmen and unscrupulous property developers who are allowed to uproot and evict any innocent man from his or her property in the name of ‘common or public good’.

It is terrifying to note that the property you bought with the sweat of your brow and of which you were genuinely proud of could be snatched away by avaricious ogres in no time with the help of Eminent Domain law. A law that doesn’t serve the public good is indeed no law indeed for sure! READ MORE!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Themes, Motifs & Symbols in “The Catcher of the Rye”


Alienation as a Form of Self-Protection
Throughout the novel, Holden seems to be excluded from and victimized by the world around him. As he says to Mr. Spencer, he feels trapped on "the other side" of life, and he continually attempts to find his way in a world in which he feels he doesn't belong.

As the novel progresses, we begin to perceive that Holden's alienation is his way of protecting himself. Just as he wears his hunting hat (see "Symbols," below) to advertise his uniqueness, he uses his isolation as proof that he is better than everyone else around him and therefore above interacting with them. The truth is that interactions with other people usually confuse and overwhelm him, and his cynical sense of superiority serves as a type of self-protection. Thus, Holden's alienation is the source of what little stability he has in his life.

As readers, we can see that Holden's alienation is the cause of most of his pain. He never addresses his own emotions directly, nor does he attempt to discover the source of his troubles. He desperately needs human contact and love, but his protective wall of bitterness prevents him from looking for such interaction.

Alienation is both the source of Holden's strength and the source of his problems. For example, his loneliness propels him into his date with Sally Hayes, but his need for isolation causes him to insult her and drive her away. Similarly, he longs for the meaningful connection he once had with Jane Gallagher, but he is too frightened to make any real effort to contact her. He depends upon his alienation, but it destroys him.

The Painfulness of Growing Up
According to most analyses, The Catcher in the Rye is a bildungsroman, a novel about a young character's growth into maturity. While it is appropriate to discuss the novel in such terms, Holden Caulfield is an unusual protagonist for a bildungsroman because his central goal is to resist the process of maturity itself.

As his thoughts about the Museum of Natural History demonstrate, Holden fears change and is overwhelmed by complexity. He wants everything to be easily understandable and eternally fixed, like the statues of Eskimos and Indians in the museum. He is frightened because he is guilty of the sins he criticizes in others, and because he can't understand everything around him. But he refuses to acknowledge this fear, expressing it only in a few instances—for example, when he talks about sex and admits that "[s]ex is something I just don't understand. I swear to God I don't" (Chapter 9).

Instead of acknowledging that adulthood scares and mystifies him, Holden invents a fantasy that adulthood is a world of superficiality and hypocrisy ("phoniness"), while childhood is a world of innocence, curiosity, and honesty.

Nothing reveals his image of these two worlds better than his fantasy about the catcher in the rye: he imagines childhood as an idyllic field of rye in which children romp and play; adulthood, for the children of this world, is equivalent to death—a fatal fall over the edge of a cliff. His created understandings of childhood and adulthood allow Holden to cut himself off from the world by covering himself with a protective armor of cynicism.

But as the book progresses, Holden's experiences, particularly his encounters with Mr. Antolini and Phoebe, reveal the shallowness of his conceptions.

The Phoniness of the Adult World
"Phoniness," which is probably the most famous phrase from The Catcher in the Rye, is one of Holden's favorite concepts. It is his catch-all for describing the superficiality, hypocrisy, pretension, and shallowness that he encounters in the world around him.

In Chapter 22, just before he reveals his fantasy of the catcher in the rye, Holden explains that adults are inevitably phonies, and, what's worse, they can't see their own phoniness. Phoniness, for Holden, stands as an emblem of everything that's wrong in the world around him and provides an excuse for him to withdraw into his cynical isolation.

Though oversimplified, Holden's observations are not entirely inaccurate. He can be a highly insightful narrator, and he is very aware of superficial behavior in those around him. Throughout the novel he encounters many characters who do seem affected, pretentious, or superficial—Sally Hayes, Carl Luce, Maurice and Sunny, and even Mr. Spencer stand out as examples. Some characters, like Maurice and Sunny, are genuinely harmful.

Although Holden expends so much energy searching for phoniness in others, he never directly observes his own phoniness. His deceptions are generally pointless and cruel and he notes that he is a compulsive liar. For example, on the train to New York, he perpetrates a mean-spirited and needless prank on Mrs. Morrow. He'd like us to believe that he is a paragon of virtue in a world of phoniness, but that simply isn't the case.

Although he'd like to believe that the world is a simple place, and that virtue and innocence rest on one side of the fence while superficiality and phoniness rest on the other, Holden is his own counterevidence. The world is not as simple as he'd like—and needs—it to be; even he cannot adhere to the same black-and-white standards with which he judges other people.


Holden's loneliness, a more concrete manifestation of his alienation problem, is a driving force throughout the book. Most of the novel describes his almost manic quest for companionship as he flits from one meaningless encounter to another. Yet, while his behavior indicates his loneliness, Holden consistently shies away from introspection and thus doesn't really know why he keeps behaving as he does.

Because Holden depends on his isolation to preserve his detachment from the world and to maintain a level of self-protection, he often sabotages his own attempts to end his loneliness. For example, his conversation with Carl Luce and his date with Sally Hayes are made unbearable by his rude behavior.

His calls to Jane Gallagher are aborted for a similar reason: to protect his precious and fragile sense of individuality. Loneliness is the emotional manifestation of the alienation Holden experiences; it is both a source of great pain and a source of his security.

Relationships, Intimacy, and Sexuality
Relationships, intimacy, and sexuality are also recurring motifs relating to the larger theme of alienation. Both physical and emotional relationships offer Holden opportunity to break out of his isolated shell. They also represent what he fears most about the adult world: complexity, unpredictability, and potential for conflict and change.

As he demonstrates at the Museum of Natural History, Holden likes the world to be silent and frozen, predictable and unchanging. As he watches Phoebe sleep, Holden projects his own idealizations of childhood onto her. But in real-world relationships, people talk back, and Phoebe reveals how different her childhood is from Holden's romanticized notion. Because people are unpredictable, they challenge Holden and force him to question his senses of self-confidence and self-worth.

For intricate and unspoken reasons, seemingly stemming from Allie's death, Holden has trouble dealing with this kind of complexity. As a result, he has isolated himself and fears intimacy. Although he encounters opportunities for both physical and emotional intimacy, he bungles them all, wrapping himself in a psychological armor of critical cynicism and bitterness. Even so, Holden desperately continues searching for new relationships, always undoing himself only at the last moment.

Lying and Deception
Lying and deception are the most obvious and hurtful elements of the larger category of phoniness. Holden's definition of phoniness relies mostly on a kind of self-deception: he seems to reserve the most scorn for people who think that they are something they are not or who refuse to acknowledge their own weaknesses.

But lying to others is also a kind of phoniness, a type of deception that indicates insensitivity, callousness, or even cruelty. Of course, Holden himself is guilty of both these crimes. His random and repeated lying highlights his own self-deception—he refuses to acknowledge his own shortcomings and is unwilling to consider how his behavior affects those around him. Through his lying and deception, Holden proves that he is just as guilty of phoniness as the people he criticizes.


The Catcher in the Rye
As "Catcher in the Rye" is the source of book's title, this symbol merits a close inspection. It first appears in Chapter 16, when a kid Holden admires for walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk is singing the Robert Burns song "Comin' Thro' the Rye."

In Chapter 22, when Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do with his life, he replies with his image, from the song, of a "catcher in the rye." Holden imagines a field of rye perched high on a cliff, full of children romping and playing. He says he would like to protect the children from falling off the edge of the cliff by "catching" them if they were on the verge of tumbling over. As Phoebe points out, Holden has misheard the lyric. He thinks the line is "If a body catch a body comin' through the rye," but the actual lyric is "If a body meet a body, coming through the rye."

The song "Comin' Thro' the Rye" asks if it is wrong for two people to have a romantic encounter out in the fields, away from the public eye, even if they don't plan to have a commitment to one another. It is highly ironic that the word "meet" refers to an encounter that leads to recreational sex, because the word that Holden substitutes—"catch"—takes on the exact opposite meaning in his mind. Holden wants to catch children before they fall out of innocence into knowledge of the adult world, including knowledge of sex.

Holden's Red Hunting Hat
The red hunting hat is one of the most recognizable symbols from twentieth-century American literature. It is inseparable from our image of Holden, with good reason: it is a symbol of his uniqueness and individuality.

The hat is outlandish, and it shows that Holden desires to be different from everyone around him. At the same time, he is very self-conscious about the hat—he always mentions when he is wearing it, and he often doesn't wear it if he is going to be around people he knows. The presence of the hat, therefore, mirrors the central conflict in the book: Holden's need for isolation versus his need for companionship.

It is worth noting that the hat's color, red, is the same as that of Allie's and Phoebe's hair. Perhaps Holden associates it with the innocence and purity he believes these characters represent and wears it as a way to connect to them. He never explicitly comments on the hat's significance other than to mention its unusual appearance.

The Museum of Natural History
Holden tells us the symbolic meaning of the museum's displays: they appeal to him because they are frozen and unchanging. He also mentions that he is troubled by the fact that he has changed every time he returns to them.

The museum represents the world Holden wishes he could live in: it's the world of his "catcher in the rye" fantasy, a world where nothing ever changes, where everything is simple, understandable, and infinite. Holden is terrified by the unpredictable challenges of the world—he hates conflict, he is confused by Allie's senseless death, and he fears interaction with other people.

The Ducks in the Central Park Lagoon
Holden's curiosity about where the ducks go during the winter reveals a genuine, more youthful side to his character. For most of the book, he sounds like a grumpy old man who is angry at the world, but his search for the ducks represents the curiosity of youth and a joyful willingness to encounter the mysteries of the world. It is a memorable moment, because Holden clearly lacks such willingness in other aspects of his life.

The ducks and their pond are symbolic in several ways. Their mysterious perseverance in the face of an inhospitable environment resonates with Holden's understanding of his own situation. In addition, the ducks prove that some vanishings are only temporary. Traumatized and made acutely aware of the fragility of life by his brother Allie's death, Holden is terrified by the idea of change and disappearance.

The ducks vanish every winter, but they return every spring, thus symbolizing change that isn't permanent, but cyclical. Finally, the pond itself becomes a minor metaphor for the world as Holden sees it, because it is "partly frozen and partly not frozen." The pond is in transition between two states, just as Holden is in transition between childhood and adulthood. READ MORE!

Nature in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"

The natural imagery in "Frankenstein" is comparable to the best in the Romantic literature. Mary Shelley paints Nature and its divine grandeur with some rare strokes of a masterful hand. She deliberately juxtaposes the exalted vision of Mother Nature with the horrendous spectacle of a man-made monster and his ghastly deeds.

This steep contrast sets reader thinking about the wisdom of departing away from the set norms of Nature. Mary's message to mankind is loud and clear; do not mess with Nature for your own good. Humans should best live like humans. Any attempt to change the status quo can be very expensive and dangerous. If you will preserve Nature, Nature will preserve you.

The message is loud and clear; the untold secrets of Nature are best enjoyed when allowed to remain a secret. Any attempt to transgress or trespass the human limitation can be as disastrous as in the case of a young genius like Frankenstein. She reminds us that when it comes to Nature, one can neither look far nor deep. The question of life and death, creation or annihilation unequivocally falls in the purview of God almighty, not man.

Victor Frankenstein's irrepressible urge to explore the tightly guarded secrets of Nature marks the beginning of his end, "I have always described myself as always having been imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature" (34). Frankenstein sits down to challenge the authority of God by giving, "life to an animal as complex and wonderful as man," but he is not alone.

The ever watchful eye of Nature keeps a tight vigil on him, "the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding places." Victor underestimates the power of Nature and commits the tragic error of placing excessive confidence on his own scientific knowledge. Natural landscapes in "Frankenstein" help the author to bring out the theme of sublime Nature, dangers of forbidden knowledge and monstrous results of wrong actions.

Nature is visible throughout "Frankenstein" in all its glory and contrasts. Natural surroundings have been shown to have therapeutic powers. The natural beauty of St. Petersburg beckons Robert Walton to keep heading towards the North Pole. The immortal beauty of the mountains and lakes is contrasted with the ephemeral nature of human existence and grief. Nature overwhelms mankind with its gigantic presence. The realization of one's smallness in front of Nature's vast stature and mammoth power exerts a truly humbling effect.

Human ego and pride give way to an understanding of the immeasurable powers of God. The realization brings an inner light that mitigates human grief and suffering. Victor Frankenstein's bruised soul partakes the might of the mountains and the purity of the lakes by allowing his imagination to linger on them. At the same time, the desolate arctic glacial sea with its fragile icy cover accentuates the inner desolation and fragility of Frankenstein's troubled mind. The bottomless abyss and the barrenness of icy sea forebode little hope of redemption for Frankenstein and others.

"Frankenstein" has all the ingredients of Nature that one gets to see in dark Romantic literature. Nightmarish landscapes are juxtaposed with the exotic and serene. Death, destruction and the resulting despair force the protagonist to undertake desperate journeys. During such meaningless wanderings, the only relief that comes the protagonist's way is from Nature. Henry's response to Mother Nature is far more spontaneous than others because of his inner innocence. His uncorrupted imagination allows him to enjoy Nature on a much higher plane.

The natural settings in "Frankenstein" are carefully chosen and woven into the very fabric of the story. Nature plays a vital role in enhancing the impact of the story and progression of the plot and characters. Victor experiences the power of Nature first hand, "As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump" (22).

Mary Shelley certainly gives a clarion call to go back to Nature, for man's own good. "Frankenstein" masterfully contrasts the beauty of Nature with the ugliness of the Frankenstein monster. The difference between the natural and artificial is stark and ghastly. While the monster is repugnant and abominable, Natures is idyllic and soothing. Wordsworth looked upon Nature as an ultimate source of peace, solace and a panacea to all problems of mankind. Coleridge, on the other hand, believed that Nature reflected man's own moods. Mary Shelley has depicted Nature both as a source of inspiration and also as an indifferent entity if the need be.

There are times when Frankenstein's troubled mind fails to any consolation from Nature. Troubled by the sight of his horrendous creation, Frankenstein rushes out 'drenched by the rain which poured from a black and comfortless sky," (36) and restlessly waits for the dawn. When Alphonse takes Victor on an excursion to relieve him of his grief, the result is temporary, "Victor wanders alone toward the valley of Chamounix.

The beautiful scenery cheers him somewhat, but his respite from grief is short-lived." (Chapter 9) Victor Frankenstein's initial enthusiasm to cross the "fortifications and impediments" (34) around the "citadel" (34) of Nature is soon replaced by horror. The monstrosity of his creation leaves him terrified and the realization that his monster has killed his youngest brother unhinges him. The scientific world has nothing to offer him in this hour of despair.

The murder of William and the execution of innocent Justine weigh heavily upon the psyche of Frankenstein. He turns to the mountains to find comfort. Had he not been, "insensible to the charms of nature" (39) to begin with, had his soul been alive to the delicate nuances of Nature to start with; Victor could have saved himself and his family from nemesis.

Critics point to the fact that Frankenstein's initial departure from Nature turns him into a bit of a monster himself. The way he allows Justine to die an unjust death without putting any real semblance of resistance and his burning desire for revenge make him no less inhuman. He forgot that every action has equal and opposite reaction. He messed with Nature and Nature messed with him. Had he not forgotten Nature, it would not have forgotten him.

Frankenstein's love for Nature kindles late when a lot is lost. William is dead and Justine is gone, when the realization dawns:

"The weight upon my spirit was sensibly lightened as I plunged yet deeper in the ravine of Arve. The immense mountains and precipices that overhung me on every side, the sound of the river raging among the rocks, and the dashing of the waterfalls around spoke of a power mighty as Omnipotence—and I ceased to fear or to bend before any being less almighty than that which had created and ruled the elements" (Frankenstein).

Hence, Nature does acts as a restorative agent for Frankenstein but it is too late. His reunion with Nature spells confidence and fearlessness. Nature cements his faith in God and his omniscient powers. What to speak of man; Nature has the power to alleviate even the troubled spirits of a monster.

After being subjected to a terribly cold and harsh winter, the Frankenstein monster heaves a sigh of relief at the advent of spring season. When Victor dumps the monster, he feels awfully depressed and confused. He feels a new surge, a "sensation of pleasure" (71) when he sees the bright moon and its gentle light. Abandoned by his creator, the monster too finds refuge in the lap of Nature.

Temporary or transient, succor and peace come to Victor Frankenstein only in the lap of Nature. Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" does not guarantee emancipation through contact with Nature but it most certainly points to the danger of losing one's human identity by getting away from it.

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Dover Publications, 1994.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Symbolism in W. B. Yeats’ “Byzantium”

One of the most captivating things about W.B. Yeats' poetry in general and "Byzantium" in particular is its rich symbolism. Symbols are essentially words which are not merely connotative but also suggestive, evocative and emotive. Symbols conjure before the mind's eye a host of images attached to them.

Things that are difficult to explain or are inexpressible can be conveyed through symbols. "Byzantium' is indeed a laudable attempt at bringing together aesthetics, spiritualism, symbolism, and mysticism together on one common platform. The effect is both revealing and enthralling. The epic exploration of the other world brings into perspective, the question of life in death and death in life.

The poet symbolically leaves the world of limitations to usher into a world of permanence and artistic eternity. Tired of life's agonizing existence, the poet seeks recluse and relief in death and beyond.

W.B. Yeats' "Byzantium" is a highly symbolic poem. It contains variety of symbols. While some symbols in this poem are easy to understand as they come from W.B.Yeats' stock arsenal, other are complex and obscure. The resonant, sonorous and glittering quality of these symbols makes "Byzantium" a visual and acoustic treat.

Yeats writes in his essay "The symbolism of Poetry", "All sounds, all colours, all forms, either because of their preordained energies or because of long association, evoke indefinable and yet precise emotions" (46). Not all symbols that Yeats uses are 'emotional symbols'. He points out, "there are intellectual symbols, symbols that evoke ideas alone, ideas mingled with emotions" (49).

The deft use of these symbols in "Byzantium" enhances the reality of the present and mystery and richness of the past.

W.B. Yeats interweaves several different threads in "Byzantium", thereby granting the symbols richness and intricacy. Byzantium was the capital of the eastern Wing of the Holy Roman Empire. It was known for its works of art; especially mosaic work and gold enameling. In W. B. Yeats' poem Byzantium ceases to have its traditional meaning. It typifies a world of artistic magnificence and permanence.

It is a world of immortality beyond limits of time and space. It also denotes a place of unity; spiritual or otherwise. Richard Ellman writes, "Byzantium is a holy city, because it is the capital of Eastern Christendom, but it is also Yeats's holy city of the imagination as Golgonooza was Blake's" (257).

The resplendent transcendental world Yeats visualizes in "Sailing to Byzantium" now gets replaced by the images of a dreary, dark and ghostly place; full of phantoms, 'mire and blood'.

"Byzantium" has three key-symbols in the poem; the Byzantine dome, the golden bird perched on the golden bough and the flames of mosaic on the Empereror's pavement. All three put together stand for the culmination of achievement in art. Being classic works of art they also symbolize immortality and eternity.

They are as timeless and beautiful as John Keats Grecian urn. T.R. Henn remarks, "Byzantium…has a multiple symbolic value. It stands for the unity of all aspects of life, for perhaps the last time in history. It has inherited the perfection of craftsmanship, and more than craftsmanship, perhaps, the 'mystical mathematics' of perfection of form in all artistic creation".

The presence of the moon in the poem signifies a lot. First of all, the moon is a symbol of rhythm and cycle of time. It also represents the different phases in man's life. It denotes the center ground between the earth and heaven, the light of the sun and night. It is typifies the center point between the conscious and the unconscious. This mood is unmistakably present in "Byzantium". John Unterecker writes about Yeats' use of symbols:

Yeats draws his from nature, that same natural world glorified by the romantics. Because Yeats thinks of himself as the "Last of the Romantics," a man born out of his time, he assigns his symbols other values than the romantics did. Made "strange" by those values, his "masked" romantic images jolt us into a recognition of their symbolical function (Unterecker 40).

The dome that soars high towards the sky symbolizes the kindred meeting point of heaven and earth. Obviously, it stands in direct contrast with 'the fury and mire of human veins'. The very fact that the golden bird and the golden bough are made of gold, says it all. Gold is a precious metal, it never rusts.

The rays of the Sun are also golden and symbolize knowledge and permanence. Byzantium is symbolic of a place that may resolve the eternal struggle between the limitations of the physical world and the aspirations of the immortal spirit.

The golden bird is a timeless artifact like the poem "Byzantium" itself. The repeated use of the term 'complexities' by the poet, signifies that there is no easy solution to the enigma of life and death, mortality and immortality and the question of salvation or redemption.

'Mire' in the poem refers to the cycle of birth and death and man's inherent relationship with dust and clay. It also reminds one of the famous Biblical lines, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

The 'mummy cloth' clearly signifies that what it holds inside is beyond the question of life and death. Hence, the poet seems to liken death in "Byzantium" and sees end to human problems with the end of physical bond with the earth. The word 'superhuman' is significant as it has been used by the poet for a ghostly figure. It means, the likelihood of gaining super- stature is possible only after death and not in one's lifetime.

The description of events in poems like "Byzantium" is cosmological. When asked about the basis of such depiction, Yeats says that they are, "purely symbolical ..... have helped me to hold in a single thought reality and justice" (A Vision 25). He explains his theory further at another place in "A Vision", "The whole system is founded upon the belief that the ultimate reality, symbolized by the sphere, falls in human consciousness... into a series of antinomies" (187). Such antinomies or contradictions do confront the readers while trying to understand the complex structure of obscure symbols used by Yeats in "Byzantium".

The flames of the Emperor's pavement are fuelled by deep spiritual realization. Thus, these flames are flames of divine purgatorial fire. The spirits brought to Byzantium by Dolphins through the sea of time are covered with 'mire and blood'; here blood signifies impurity or spurious state. 'Faggot' in the poem signifies martyrdom.

This means, the impure spirits must pass through an intensely trying spiritual fire, they must consign themselves to this fire to emerge like a phoenix. This agonizing dance of fire, flames and faggots would eventually turn these spirits into something pure or 'superhuman'.

Yeats deliberately stirs up a poetic passion while describing his symbols to achieve a desired poetical effect. B. Chatterjee's comment about the use of symbols in Byzantium is significant, "The image after image is evoked-bird……… and these lead the reader's mind through a crescendo of horror, through the torture and terror of hell. But is it Hell or Purgatory? Yeats' attitude is ambivalent" (145).

Works Cited
Chatterjee. B. The Poetry of W.B. Yeats . Orient Longmans, 1962.
Ellmann, Richard. Yeats: The Man and the Masks. New York: Norton, 1979.
Henn, T.R. The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W.B. Yeats. Great Britain: Methuen &
Co, 1965.
Jeffares, Norman. A Selected Criticism. Longman McMillan, 1964.
Unterecker, John. A Reader's Guide to W.B. Yeats . Thames and Hudson, 1975.
Yeats, W.B. A Vision . New York: Macmillan, 1956.

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