English 10: Writing Portfolio

 

Catholic Memorial High School

 

2007-2008

   
   
   
   
   
Research  
   
Creative Writing  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
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  There are a considerable amount of definitions for “reap” to reap from the fields of the English
language. Most people would say that “reap” has one of two definitions. It means either to harvest,
usually in reference to wheat or grain, or to simply gather, in reference to anything; they are
essentially correct. The oldest and most common definition of “reap” dating back from circa 825 is:
To perform the action of cutting grain etc. with a sickle (in order to gather it as a crop). The
word “reap” fits into the English language as a word whose primary definition has remained unchanged
for centuries, the word’s secondary definitions being reminiscent of the original one without making
it obsolete.

When I asked five people what they thought they thought reap meant, forty percent of the
respondents thought it meant “to gather,” another forty percent were more precise in saying it meant
“to harvest,” and one was quite specific when he said it meant to “collect as in to harvest.”
Although none of these definitions are incorrect, none of them mention anything about cutting. When
the respondents were asked to use “reap” in a sentence, only forty percent used it in context with
crops. Another forty percent used it in the figurative sense as in “He reaped the benefits.” Most
interestingly, only one respondent’s sentence associated “reap” with death, or the Grim Reaper.
Perhaps not coincidentally, this respondent was the oldest of all the people interviewed. Since
crops are no longer harvested with sickles, it would be logical to assume that “reap” is extinct.
However, out of the six people who I asked to define “reap,” five of them had a general idea of what
it meant. None of these people live in an agricultural society where “reap” might still be used in
its original meaning, yet they mostly used or defined “reap” in relation to crops. “Reap” (in any
sense) is rarely used in modern speech, so it’s puzzling as to why people still know its
definition.

“Reap” seems to be a word that many native English speakers can easily understand, but research
proves that it may be slightly more troublesome for people who have English as a second language. I
asked three people who speak English as a second language what they think of when they hear the word
“reap.” Sadly, one of them, an Albanian named George, did not know the definition of the word.
Another respondent, Susan from China, said that reap meant “to get or obtain.” When she was asked to
use “reap” in a sentence, she said, “You reap what you sow.” A third respondent, named Anna, who
speaks Russian as her first language, said that “reap” means “to harvest.” She used “reap” in the
exact same sentence as Susan. Both of the respondents who knew the definition of “reap” said that it
was a simple word that didn’t give them much trouble. This signals that “reap” will most likely
remain in the English language for quite some time.
The definition of “reap” has changed little since it began. According to the Oxford English
Dictionary, its origin lies in Old English where it was spelt ripan, rypan, hriopa, ripen, ripe,
rype, rip, or reopen. As time passed and the English language evolved, it was spelt repen, repe,
ropyn, reepe, reape, or reap. During these times, “reap” most commonly meant to cut grain with a
sickle (in order to gather it as a crop), but it has come to have varying definitions. For example,
“reap” can also mean to simply cut, but it usually has to do with flowers or plants. Despite its
static state, “reap” does have some unusual definitions. For example, “reap” can mean to take away
by force. Another unique usage of “reap” is as Judo jargon. Here it means to sweep one leg or both
from under an opponent.

Since its formation, “reap” has been used many times by authors, poets, and playwrights both famous
and unknown. The first time “reap” was used was around 825 in the Vespasian Psalter CXXVIII, in the
form of ripe. Around 897, King Alfred used reap in Gregory’s Past chapter XXXIX (284). In this text,
it was used in the “rip” form. Around 1385, Geoffrey Chaucer, wrote in Legends of Good Women “Well I
wote that ye haue here byforn Of making ropyn and lad-a-wey the corn.” In 1600, William Shakespeare
wrote “They that reap must sheafe and binde” in his play “As You Like It” Act III Scene ii. John
Milton in 1667 wrote “Reaping immortal fruits of joy and love” in Paradise Lost chapter III (67).
Many other authors and poets such as Alfred Lord Tennyson, Percy Shelley, and Robert Louis Stevenson
have used “reap” in their works. In all of these pieces of literature, “reap” is used in a variety
of connotations. Stevenson and Tennyson associated reap with death in their works, while Milton uses
it in a very positive sentence. Shakespeare and Chaucer have “reap” in a neutral connotation in
reference to crops. Clearly “reap” is a flexible word in terms of connotation.

Although “reap” is not a word 21st Century people ordinarily use in conversation, it seems to be
used casually in newspapers. However, the usage of “reap” in newspapers usually has no relation
whatsoever to crops. In the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the London Times it is most often
used in reference to money or benefits. For instance, an article from the London Times, called
“Taxing Credulity” reads “There are already signs of an unseemly scramble to reap the benefits of
the lower rate before the changes come into force next year.” Also, “Cuomo Pension Fund Inquiry
Reaches Bank of Ireland”, an article from the New York Times, reads, “The state's $154 billion
fund is one of the world's largest pools of investment capital, and investment firms can reap
lucrative fees by managing even a small fraction of its assets.” A few other examples of its usages
are: to reap a windfall, to reap $35 million, to reap rewards of a savings account, to reap a record
$12.6 billion, and to reap only 7.7 percent of the vote. The frequent usage of “reap” with money may
signal that it is slowly becoming a financial term as some other agricultural terms such as “yield”
have become. This trend is apparently occurring throughout the English speaking world as it there is
evidence of it in both the United States and Great Britain.

Using the data available to us now, we can say that “reap” will probably evolve into a financial
term. When this transformation will be completed is hard to say, but three hundred years is a good
estimate. Of course there is the possibility that “reap” will remain true to its current and older
definitions as it is a word that is popular with poets. To say the least, it is impressive that it
has lasted 1,182 years. “Reap” will almost certainly die out before the rest of the English
language, so it probably has at least six hundred more years to go before it completely dies. As for
the English language itself, it will last as many as two thousand years in a form which we can
recognize, and entirely die out in about four thousand years, bringing all of its long-lasting glory
to a lamentable close.
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dear Master Anonymous,

I am truly sorry to have to announce to you that your alliterative and clever masterpiece Sir Gawain
and the Green Knight will not be appearing in the next edition of Prentice Hall Timeless Voices,
Timeless Themes. I assure you, the decision to edit out your work was not an easy one to make. I
would have you know that your work was competing with that of Britain’s best writers i.e.
Shakespeare and Chaucer, and sadly, Sir Gawain did not quite make the cut. Personally I believe that
Gawain is one of the greatest pieces of British literature ever written in terms of consistent rhyme
scheme and alliteration, but as you know, there are other factors to consider. The three reasons
Sir Gawain is being discontinued are: Sir Gawain expresses the idea that women are only to be valued
by their physical beauty, the narrative in some “unimportant” scenes i.e. the arming of Gawain is
excessively detailed, and while Sir Gawain begins and ends with climatic scenes, there is a
disappointing lack of plot related action in between.

The first reason Sir Gawain must go is due to a tendency to evaluate women by their physical
appeal. There is no debate that this sexism appears in Sir Gawain. In Fit II, stanza 39 you write,
“Her body was stumpy and squat, her buttocks bulging and wide; more pleasure a man could plot with
the sweet one at her side.”(966-969) These words were meant only to mock this old woman and to
compare her with the younger woman by her side. Thus Sir Gawain expresses the notion that there is
little to value in women aside from physical beauty, a concept that is fiercely and rightly opposed
by modern thought. If that is not enough for you, then take a look at your descriptions of the
Lord’s wife. You write “Her breast and bright throat bare to the sight, Shining like sheen of snow
shed on the hills.”(955-956) and “Her fine-featured face and fair throat were unveiled, her breast
was bare and her back as well.” (1740-1741) You also refer to her as the peerless princess, the
comely one, the sweet one, the perfect lady, and the lovely lady which, if I am not mistaken, are
all references to her physical attractiveness. Finally, you give the Lord’s wife a prominent role in
tempting Gawain, but you display her as blatantly promiscuous rather than cunning. For example you
have her say “‘My young body is yours, Do with it what you will; My strong necessities force Me to
be your servant still.’”(1237-1240) Later on she says “‘I sit here unchaperoned, and stay To acquire
some courtly game; So while my lord is away, Teach me your true wits fame.’”(1531-1534) I find
nothing in these words to suggest shrewdness or wit, all I see is playful lust.

The second issue I must address is the unreasonable amount of detail certain parts of Sir Gawain are
given. For example, when you described Sir Gawain’s armor and, you took from line 568 to line 618 in
Fit II to do so. I feel strongly that the great detail serves little purpose to the rest of the
story. Critic Donald R. Howard seems to agree with me when he writes, “Yet the description of the
arming of Sir Gawain gives no symbolic meaning to anything but the pentangle.” If the armor has no
symbolic meaning, then why did you devote two full stanzas to its description? Furthermore, in Fit
II, (842-894) after the brief description of the lord, you describe Gawain’s bedroom and the table
at which he ate. I believe this evidence stands for itself seeing as there is nobody who wishes to
read about a table. Later on in Fit II (947-969) you contrast the lord’s wife to an old woman. In
addition to being sexist, which I have already mentioned, this is an utter squandering of ink and
paper seeing it bears no significance to the plot. Finally, in Fit III, line1330 to line1361 you
take a about a stanza and a half to describe the process of gutting and preparing a deer where you
write “They slit open the slot, seized the first stomach, Scraped it with a keen knife and tried up
the tripes.”(1330-1331) Not only was this a tad revolting, but it was also a complete waste of time
seeing that the deer bore absolutely no relevance to the story.

Finally, Sir Gawain begins and ends climactically, but this deceives and disappoints the reader
when they discover that the remainder of the story is not nearly as gripping. The story begins with
an exhilarating decapitation scene in which you wrote, with superb wording, “So the sharp blade
sheared through, shattering the bones, Sank deep in the sleek flesh, Split it in two, And the
scintillating steel struck the ground.”(424-426) I need not tell you this scene fully seized my
attention. Sir Gawain also ends with an intense scene of the Green Knight bringing down the axe,
only to suddenly not decapitate Gawain (Fit IV, page 107, stanza 93). These climaxes contrast
greatly with “Each knight neared his neighbor and said, ‘Now we shall see displayed the seemliest
manners And the faultless figures of virtuous discourse.’”(915-917) Perhaps those knights were
expecting manners, but by this point I was expecting someone to have died already. Another couple of
lines that betrayed my expectations were “Much speech the two then spent On love its grief and
grace.”(1506-1507) When comparing the climaxes to these lines, we see a great inconsistency in theme
and tone. Although it is entirely appropriate to have two climactic scenes in this story, I feel it
is not at all fair to have nothing remotely gripping occur for the rest of the story. As critic John
Ganim writes referring to Sir Gawain, “To a certain degree nearly every narrative of any
sophistication entertains us or holds our attention by first setting up and then subverting or
denying certain expectations on our part. There are narratives, however, that indulge in this
practice to a suspicious extent.” I sincerely agree with Ganim. When I read Fit I of Sir Gawain for
the first time, I felt hopeful that the rest of the story could be equally as mysterious and
heart-pounding. I was utterly disappointed when I discovered that the remainder of the story was not
the adventurous tale it first appeared to be. Instead of invigorating suspense, I got lines such as
“He made ready to rise with rapid haste, Summoned his servant, selected his garb, And walked down,
when he was dressed, debonairly to mass.”(1309-1311) This line in itself is a prime example of how
Sir Gawain sets a potentially action-packed scene and promptly crushes it. Keeping in mind that
teenagers are reading this story, the lack of action will assure that most of them will not even
read to the climax at the end of Sir Gawain.

Again Master Anonymous, I apologize for editing out your work and for any inconvenience it may
cause you. I believe that I speak for all of us here at Prentice Hall when I say Sir Gawain will be
missed. But not all is lost. There is still hope that someone will unearth something of yours and it
will appear in a later edition of Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes. As for Sir Gawain, it will
continue to be appreciated by adults around the world for its clever and flawless rhyme and
alliteration. Remember budget cuts can force Sir Gawain and the Green Knight out of our textbook,
but they cannot force it out of its rightful place in British literature.

Sincerely,
Michael Embleton

   
   
   
   
   
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The compound word “horseracing”, which traces its origins back to the old Germanic/Norse tongues,
was first used in English literature in 1654 according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The first
documented account of horseracing, according to the World Book Encyclopedia, was reported around
1500 B.C when the Greeks raced chariots in the Olympics. It finally became a professional British
sport under the reign of Queen Anne when major tracks such as Ascot were built. Today in Great
Britain , horseracing enjoys a great deal of popularity, a fact reflected by its ample coverage in
newspapers and on television. The fact that horseracing is still popular in Britain reveals that the
British people appreciate old customs and that British literature has evolved from being a means of
learning about and criticizing nobility to a source of entertainment for ordinary people.

According to the World Book Encyclopedia, horseracing first came to Britain in the17th Century when
King James I held races at Newmarket . Since that time horseracing has had a unique history in
Britain . According to the British Horseracing Authority, every Thoroughbred in British Horseracing
is a descendant of one of three original stallions of the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. These
three horses were named the Godolphin Arabian, the Byerley Turk, and the Darley Arabian. Another
entertaining bit of horseracing history is the list of peculiar names 17th and 18th Century
racehorses were given. These odd names include, Kiss in a Corner, Why Do You Slight Me, and I Am
Little Pity My Condition. Getting to the sport itself, there are two types of horseracing, the Flat
racing, and the Jump racing (National Hunt). Both take place year round, but Flat racing is more
popular in the summer months while Jump racing tends to be more prominent in the winter. Throughout
Great Britain , according to the British Horseracing Authority, there are 59 racecourses, 17
featuring only Flat racing, 24 staging only National Hunt racing, and 18 holding both events.

Just as in all sports, British Horseracing has great inspirational athletes. The greatest jump
jockey currently racing today, and arguably the best ever, is Tony McCoy. Tony was born in 1974 in
Northern Ireland , reports the British Horseracing Authority, where he developed a love for
horseracing under the influence of his father. When he was fifteen, Flat trainer Jim Bolger took him
under his wing to mold him into a jockey. McCoy won his first race at Thurles in 1992, but in 1993,
he broke his leg. In a 2006 interview with The Observer, Tony said, “I heard my leg snap. When I
looked down, I could see the bone sticking out. I remember Jim arriving a few minutes later and
asking me whether I was sure it was broken.” That injury would be the first of many challenges for
McCoy; he fractured two vertebrae this January, and he continually struggles with his weight to
remain around ten stones or 140 lbs. Despite his struggles and numerous injuries, his iron work
ethic has yielded great results. According to the British Horseracing Authority, ever since he
became a professional in 1995, he has won over 2,000 National Hunt races and has broken almost every
Jump Jockey record. Currently, he is a twelve time champion jockey.

In addition to professional jockeys, there are some talented apprentice jockeys. One of these
notable apprentices is Kristy Milczarek. According to The Racing Post, in her two years of racing
she has competed in 600 races, has placed in 207, and has won 72 races. She is currently an
apprentice jockey with Trainer Conrad Allen. According to The Mirror she is the first female jockey
to win three races in one day and one of the top fifteen female jockeys currently racing. At age 14
Milczarek dropped out of school to train at showjumping. “I suppose I missed out on the usual
teenage school life. It was good though, because it showed me hard work and taught me dedication,”
said Kristy in an interview with The Mirror. She then worked exercising trainer’s horses until she
applied for her license in 2005. Since her apprentice career began, Kristy has been working hard not
only to win races, but to win a battle against sexism in horseracing. Although sexism in racing has
diminished over the past ten years she is often taunted by prejudiced spectators. "We all get
it every day," she said. "The girls will come back after a race with stories of what a
punter has said.” But Milkshake, as she is called, refuses to back down; she is still determined to
win. As she says, "On the right horse I can beat anyone, male or female."

In newspapers, horseracing is not as prominent as Soccer or Cricket, but it is by no means shoved to
the side in the other sports category. In The London Times, The Telegraph, and The Mirror,
horseracing enjoys front sport page status. There have been no major scandals in the past two months
but there has been some controversy over the use of the whip during races. According to Alan Lee of
The London Times, on March 14, 2008 at the Cheltenham Festival five jockeys were suspended for
improper use of the whip. This was not the first time use of the whip has been questioned; in
December, a jockey named Eddie Ahern was given a three month suspension for what the sport’s
regulators called “a shameful exhibition of riding.” After the five bans in March, racing officials
arranged a meeting in order to prevent the issue from worsening. Seeing that improper whip usage
defaces Racing’s image, stricter penalties could soon be introduced. “In this day and age, the
public won't tolerate what it perceives to be abuse. I would expect amendments - either to the
rules or penalties or both - to be made when we meet”, said Paul Struthers, a communications officer
of the British Horseracing Authority.

There has not been a great deal written about horseracing in British literature. The word
“horseracing” is not a word that notable authors typically use. According to the Oxford English
Dictionary, the first time an author used the word was in 1781 when Thomas Davies wrote Memoirs of
the life of David Garrick. Here, Davies writes of, “the wretched attachment of our young nobility
and gentry to horse-racing,” a line that portrays horseracing as an addiction. Horseracing has been
used in poetry as well. In 1826, R. St. John Tyrwhitt wrote a poem with passionate diction about
horseracing entitled “The Glory of Motion” which describes the rider’s experience of riding a horse.
Tyrwhitt writes: The pasture-land knows not of rough plough or harrow!


The hoofs echo hollow and soft on the sward;
The soul of the horses goes into our marrow;
My saddle’s a kingdom, and I am its lord.


Years later William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called “At Galway Races” which presents a race as an
event that unifies a crowd in one mindset and liberates its desire for thrill. Yeats finishes with:
Hearing the whole earth change its tune,


Its flesh being wild, and it again
Crying aloud as the racecourse is,
And we find hearteners among men
That ride upon horses.


In the music industry, the English Punk band The Stranglers released a song called “Uptown” that
features horseracing as the primary topic. Although horseracing has been written about and
referenced to on a number of occasions, it is hardly the most popular subject in all of British
literature.

Horseracing is still quite popular in Britain , but compared to its popularity three hundred years
ago, it has declined tremendously. Horseracing has remained popular for all these years because it
attracts people of all social classes, but that does not render the sport of kings invulnerable to
the rising popularity of other sports. Fifty years in the future, there is a good chance that
horseracing will be even less popular than it is now. Ever since the animal rights movement began in
earnest, the ethicality of horseracing has been called into question many times and it will continue
to be questioned. At the same time, banning popular jockeys such as Tony McCoy from racing for
excessive use of the whip will disappoint fans and outrage horse owners. If horseracing is to
flourish in Great Britain , the British Horseracing Authority will have to make some major
amendments to the rules involving treatment of racehorses during a race and after they retire.
Horseracing has the momentum to continue for another two hundred years but it has passed its heyday
in Britain .

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A device that is influential but is not crucial to British literature is iambic pentameter. Iambic
pentameter or pentameter in general is more unique to British literature than any other type of
literature because English is one of the few languages with enough flexibility and synonyms to form
a vast quantity of ten syllable lines. Alexander Pope, arguably the greatest writer of pentameter of
all time, wrote nearly all his poetry in iambic pentameter. Pope writes in An Essay on Man, “The
bliss of man (could pride that blessing find)/Is not to act or think beyond mankind” (1-2). Pope’s
use of Iambic pentameter is seemingly flawless and combined with the couplet produces some of the
simplest, most audibly appealing verse in British literature. His verse is clever yet
understandable, a quality which makes Pope one of the greatest writers of heroic couplet. Gordon
Lord Byron was not the greatest writer of iambic pentameter, but he did write some acceptable
verses. One of these verses from Lines Written beneath an Elm in the Churchyard of Harrow reads,
“Spot of my youth! Whose hoary branches sigh, /Swept by the breeze that fans the cloudless sky
;”(1-2). Byron’s iambic pentameter is also written in couplet form in this instance, but Byron was
probably more interested in the natural sound of pentameter since he was a Romantic poet. Percy
Shelley was not noted for writing iambic pentameter, but even he wrote some. Shelley uses iambic
pentameter in his poem Ozymandias which reads, “Nothing beside the remains. Round the decay/Of that
colossal wreck, boundless and bare” (12-13). Perhaps what drew Shelley to iambic meter in this case
was its commonness at the time when Shelley was writing. Since Shelley is mocking this great king,
using a common type of verse simply adds to the insult. Alfred Lord Tennyson was probably one of the
most creative meter writers of all time, but he occasionally went back to traditional iambic
pentameter. In Ulysses, Tennyson writes, “This is my son, mine own Telemachus, /To whom I leave the
scepter and the isle” (33-34). In this poem, Tennyson may use iambic pentameter because he borrows
ideas for poems and some verse forms from traditional Greek literature. Iambic pentameter is a
logical form as Odysseus is a Greek hero. Critic A.A Markley writes of Tennyson, “In his many
experiments in either adapting or imitating classical forms, Tennyson achieved great skill at
reproducing the sound and the rhythm of classical verse in his own poetry” (1). Markley’s statement
may also apply in this case to Percy Shelley who may have conceivably based his iambic pentameter in
Ozymandias on that of Egyptian or Greek poetry.

Another device that has a considerable influence on British literature is the gender issue of
independent women. Even before the days of the great “feminist” writers, there have been elements of
feminine independence infused into British literature. The embodiments of this element have ranged
from the suggestion that women should have equal rights to the idea that living as woman is perhaps
better than living as a man. Jane Austen was one of the first feminist writers. Although her beliefs
were less “radical” than those of her successors, she was a pioneer for gender equality and a great
believer in feminine intelligence. In Northanger Abbey, Austen tells the story of a young woman
named Catherine who avidly reads novels only to discover that the real world is far more imperfect
than that found in novels. Austen will sometimes makes her typically older female characters seem
petty and narrow minded as shown by this quotation:


“She was eager in promoting the intercourse of the two
families, ….but in which there was scarcely any
exchange of opinion, and not often any resemblance of
subject, for Mrs. Thrope talked chiefly of her children,
and Mrs. Allen of her gowns” (37).


Austen is criticizing the lack of original thought and the trifling tendencies shown by many
married women of that time. Austen detests this in women and wishes that such women would occupy
themselves with more important matters. Another feminist influenced writer was George Bernard Shaw
who showed the influence and inspirational qualities women can have in his play Saint Joan. This
story of Joan of Arc portrays Joan as a woman with an indefinable quality that confounds those who
are skeptical of her abilities. Shaw writes,


“Joan: Our men will take them. I will lead them.
Dunois: Not a man will follow you.
Joan: I will not look back to see whether anyone is
following me” (91).


Shaw makes Joan independent and even cocky at times by having her deliver lines such as these to her
superiors. In this way, Joan is even more of an independent than some of the male characters in this
play such as the pacifist and bullied prince. As critic Karma Waltonen writes of Shaw’s Joan,


“As she is a woman, she also becomes one of Shaw’s
‘unwomanly women’. Shaw’s modernization of Joan is
indicative of his desire to change the Victorian
sex-gender system, which denigrated women to a
lesser status because of their sex” (2).


This statement, while it is directed towards St. Joan could be used to describe the protagonist of
Orlando who largely retains his personality although he has become a woman. Virginia Woolf subtly
introduced “feminism” in Orlando, a story in which the protagonist is born and lives to the age of
thirty as a man, but inexplicably becomes a female after awaking from a coma in Turkey. Woolf
praises Orlando’s transformation:


“No human being, since the world began, has ever looked
more ravishing. His form combined in one the strength of a
man and a woman’s grace. As he stood there, the silver
trumpets prolonged their note, as if reluctant to leave the
lovely sight which their blast had called forth” (Orlando
138).


Woolf is applauding the fact that Orlando has become a woman, implying that this transformation may
greatly benefit Orlando throughout the remainder of his/her life. Doris Lessing was probably the
greatest feminist of all these authors present. Her anthology African Stories features The Nuisance,
a story in which a cattle driver murders his oldest wife simply because he has grown tired of her.
Lessing decries men who regard women as possessions to be discarded if necessary as well as the
tolerance society offers this atrocity. Lessing writes:


“‘She might have slipped and fallen’, said the Long One.
My father looked at him suddenly… ‘Ye-yes,’ he said ‘I
suppose she might.’ Later we talked about the thing,
saying how odd it was that natives should commit
suicide… my father was heard to remark: ‘Well I don’t
know, I’m damned if I know, but in any case he’s a
damned good driver’” (The Nuisnace102).


Lessing is illustrating the disrespect men have for women and the horrible manner in which society
accepts that disrespect. She is calling for women to be aware of and to reject this sort of
maltreatment.

The final device that has had some influence, but has not profoundly affected British literature, is
the setting of the countryside. The British and in some cases international countryside has become
the setting for countless stories and poems. The natural landscape and the satisfying solitude has
fascinated and inspired hundreds of authors especially those writing during the Romantic era. It is
perhaps because of these Romantic authors that the country has become so deeply intertwined with
British literature. One of the earlier Romantic poets, Thomas Gray, was deeply influenced by the
country in Ode on the Spring: “Where’er the oak’s thick branches stretch/A broader browner
shade/Where’er the rude and moss-grown beech/O’er –canopies the glade” (349). Here, Gray portrays
the countryside as a place where he can go to be alone, to gather his thoughts, and to write. Jane
Austen sets most of her novels in the English countryside where she herself lived. Austen relishes
the country’s natural majesty in Northanger Abbey when she writes, “They determined on walking round
Beechen Cliff, that noble hill, whose beautiful verdure and hanging coppice render it so striking an
object from almost every opening in Bath” (97-98). Often, Austen uses the countryside as a means of
revealing more about character as critic Rosemarie Bodenheimer implies. Bodenheimer writes, “Austen
consistently used responses to landscape as she used other literary languages or contemporary ideas,
in the service of characterization” (1). This quote also relates to George Orwell who developed a
background character in 1984 by her reaction to a piece of nature. Alfred Lord Tennyson despite
being a post- Romantic poet was inspired by Romantics and set some of his poems in countryside
areas. In The Lady of Shalott, Tennyson uses the countryside as the setting for his narrative King
Arthur poem. Tennyson writes, “On either side the river lie/Long fields of barley and of rye,/That
clothe the wold and meet the sky;/And through the field the road runs by” (Lady of Shalott
822).Tennyson’s use of the countryside as a setting establishes a fantastical element that we have
come to expect from a King Arthur story. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set a considerable number of his
Sherlock Holmes mysteries on countryside estates or on the moors. In contrast to Austen, Doyle uses
the country to set a mood as opposed to revealing something about the characters. For example, in
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Doyle uses the dreary Devon swamps to establish a lonely and dismal
emotion throughout the book. Doyle writes,


“Rolling pasture lands curved upwards on either side of
us … thick green foliage, but behind the peaceful and
sunlit countryside there rose ever, dark against the
evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor,
broken by the jagged and sinister hills” (Hound of
Baskervilles 38).


This description of the moors indeed instills a dreary tone into the story. A realist author who
wrote a little of the country was George Orwell in 1984. Orwell writes, “Winston looked out into the
field beyond… An old, close-bitten pasture, with a footpath wandering across it… In the ragged hedge
on the opposite side the boughs of the elm trees swayed” (123). Orwell uses the countryside as a
sort of paradise safe haven for a protagonist who has spent his life in the gritty dank city. The
country also represents what remains of the protagonist’s memories as a child and what existed for
him before the dark city. One writer who has set quite few of her stories in the country is Doris
Lessing who in African Stories uses the bush as a setting. Lessing writes of the country primarily
in conjunction with farmers or abused native inhabitants of the bush. In one story entitled The Old
Chief Mshlanga, Lessing writes,


“In between, nothing but trees, the long sparse grass,
thorn and cactus and gully, grass and outcrop and
thorn. And a jutting piece of rock …would hold the
weight of a small girl whose eyes were sightless for
anything but a pale willowed river” (Old Chief Mshlanga
47).


Lessing is not only describing the bush, but the inability of a foreigner to appreciate the scene as
well. Lessing is showing how a non-native can be oblivious to nature even when it is so beautiful.

What does the future have in store for British literature? Will these devices continue to influence
writers the way they have in the past, or have they begun to die out? As of now, we can speculate
that all of these devices will never be completely forgotten, but one will come and go with literary
trends, and one will wane perhaps near the point of disuse, but will never fully perish. Social
justice is an immortal theme; as long as there is a human race, there will be inequality; and as
long as there is inequality, there will be those who are willing to stand against it. Resolutions in
which a character makes a terrible realization and iambic meter have a similar fate as they are
simply too deeply rooted in the British tradition to be removed. The popularity of a setting of the
country is not perpetual however. For all we know, there may not be any countryside in the distant
future; a factor that will most definitely take a toll on this setting’s use. There are many
plausible circumstances under which the countryside will be renewed however. For example, if the
ecological movement ever makes its way into literature, a renaissance of this setting is imminent.
The future of independent women in British literature is unclear. It is almost undeniable that this
form of feminism will continue for at least another two-hundred years, but perhaps society’s
attitude towards women will have changed enough by then to satisfy many feminists. The call for more
independent women will never completely die however because there will always be some gender
inequalities, and while writers will be more content with society, their desire for righteousness
will never be extinguished. Whatever the future holds for British literature, but people will
continue to read and literature will continue to adapt.
 


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