English 10: Writing Portfolio


Catholic Memorial High School



Creative Writing  
  How often do you use the word “word” when you’re talking? Or how often to you write about a pen
with a pen? Likewise, “paper” has been found on paper more often than one would think, and for a
great length of time. Today, people would perceive the word “paper” to mean a number of different
things, from the sheets one writes on in a notebook to legal documents. Over time, “paper” has
undergone many changes in definition, most of which are still valid and are being used today.
According the Oxford English Dictionary, all the common perceptions of the word are true, but some
may not be found in the regular old Webster’s Dictionary. The truth of the word “paper” is that it
is one of the oldest words. It was born back in Ancient Egypt as “papyrus”, and since has spread
into many languages and has made new meanings for itself. It has been used in writing in several
languages since the 13th century, and had existed long before then. “Paper” is a great reflection
of the history of English, considering that it is a significant one of eight thousand words and that
we can attribute all our history of the English language to paper.

After surveying five people of different age groups and different sexes, I found a few interesting
things. None of the five had the same perception of the word “paper.” One claimed that paper was
“something to write on,” which was the response I suspected to most often hear. However, I also got
additional responses. A young adult male affiliated “paper” with the wasting of trees. An adult
woman thought of printing paper. I interpreted this affiliation with that fact that she works with
that type of paper the most. A male teenager’s first thought was legal papers or documents. In
addition, an adult male’s first response was the newspapers. These varied reactions to the word
show that it is very specialized and evolved. It also shows that a large amount of the definitions
are still very alive and thriving. Additionally, people seemed to respond quicker to the types of
“paper” that they were involved with. For example, someone working in Boston who sees a lot of
people reading the paper will more likely think of “newspaper” first. On the other hand, one who
does a lot of printing will think of printer paper. Others who are more concerned with the
environment will think of trees and wasting of paper. However, mostly every person would understand
all these different definitions. “Paper” is a well-known word whose definitions can be ordered
differently from person to person based on the person’s everyday life.

After speaking with two foreign language speakers, I determined that a great majority
of those who are learning or have learned English have not had great difficulty in learning the word
“paper.” To them, the concepts of the word were much the same in their own language, ranging from
printing paper to legal documents. Even the word itself was simple to learn and even sounded
related to the word “papel,” which is Spanish for “paper.” When asking one of the native speakers,
they claimed “I had no trouble learning the word ‘paper.’ It sounded similar in Spanish and had
similar meaning.” This shows that this is a widely understood word, and that in at least romance
languages, the word sounds similar. This shows “paper’s” tremendous chance at being developed into
an internationally understood word.

The Oxford English Dictionary reports many diverse definitions for the word “paper.” One
expression, “on paper,” which means “in theory or in principle, rather than in practice or reality,”
can also be expressed as “upon paper.” Before its extinction, “in paper” meant the same thing.
Another definition, “notice fastened on the back of a criminal undergoing punishment, specifying his
or her offence,” is now a dead meaning of the word “paper.” It has also been used as theater slang,
meaning “free tickets or passes to a theatrical performance,” which is likely unfamiliar to people
of our time who do not watch many plays. These definitions are interesting because they do not
necessarily seem like the everyday uses of the word that we think of.

The word “paper” has been used by many authors throughout the years. One very famous literary
figure, Chaucer, used the word in his work Troilus & Criseyde in 1597; “Youre lettres ful, the
papir al ypleynted, Conceyved hath myn hertes pietee.” Shakespear used the word in Loves Labours
Lost (IV. iii. 45) in the sentence “Why he comes in like a periure, wearing papers.” The meaning of
the word in this case is an obselete one, meaning a notice fastened on the back of a criminal
undergoing punishment. Dickens, an accomplished Brittish author, used a compound version of the
word in Oliver Twist (III. xlvi. 197); “Through costly-coloured glass and *paper-mended window,
through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.” These are just a sample of
authors who have used the word. A myriad of writers of literature from diverse time periods have
used the word in famous works and in different contexts.

A glance at any newspaper, novel, and even short stories and poems will likely reveal a use of the
word “paper.” It can be found being used creatively in a compound word to add vivid descriptions,
as well as to refer to what we generally perceive “paper” as. The London Times for example, has
articles on paper companies and important documents, as well as other uses of the word. However,
these appearances generally are not anything particularly new. Even in the case that the word is
newly used, its new use usually has a logical meaning and can easily be interpreted. For example,
in a London Times article, Will Pavia wrote “The pictures ‘leapt off the screen’ when they were
wired through from Paris, Kenneth Lennox, who was then the paper’s picture editor, said. ‘The first
photo I opened up was of Diana sitting in the back seat . . . She has a trickle of blood on her
face.’” This example uses “paper” to refer to a newspaper. In another article, David Brown wrote
“Stephen James, a partner in R G C Jenkins & Co, the London-based intellectual-property firm
that lodged the application, said: ‘I have spent the past ten years trying to get Tarzan’s yell
trademarked but the difficulty has been putting a sound down on paper.’” In this case, the phrase
“down on paper” means to have something written down and recorded. These examples show how the word
is used to mean different things, but all things that have existed for awhile.

English has been around for some of the most important events in history, and have thrived through
those times. Since then it has been a dominant language, and it’s learned by many countries around
the globe. Based on the language’s current success and power, it is quite clear that extinction is
nowhere near in English’s future. Furthermore, the word “paper” is very likely to remain an active
part of the language until its ultimate death. It is an old, but rich word and simple and adept.
There are many difference definitions and conceptions of it, mostly all of which make logical sense.
In addition, it is likely to evolve throughout the years are culture and life change. The chances
of the survival of the word “paper,” are just as good as the chances of survival of our language;
and those chances are great.










Dear William Shakespeare,

I am extremely sorry to inform you that you will be removed from next year’s addition of Timeless
Voices, Timeless Themes. This was arduous decision, as we had to eliminate one of five authors.
Please do not take this as an insult to your work. For years people have enjoyed your plays and
sonnets, and the greatness of your art can be judged simply by its presence in Timeless Voices,
Timeless Themes. If it was not superb work, it would not have been selected for the book in the
first place. However, for the following reasons the decision has been made to remove your sonnets:
your sonnets tend to be ambiguous, we find the references to your mistress in the “dark lady poems”
inappropriate, and the sonnets lack the “perfect” iambic pentameter structure that students tend to

While almost any student can appreciate the almost perfect iambic pentameter and genius rhyme of
these sonnets, some of the meaning easily passes over the heads of some students. For example,
Sonnet 29 seems to be a love poem to someone special. What many of the students do not necessarily
comprehend, however, is that the Sonnet is more likely directed to your works or your ability to
produce such quality literature. When “Haply I think on thee, and then my state, Like to the lark
at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate; for thy sweet love
remembered such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings,” is read by students,
their immediate assumption is that this is a poem about love for a woman and that the “wealth” that
is brought is affection, while the wealth is actually real monetary wealth brought by your literary
works. The ambiguity goes further than just the topics of the sonnets. They are not very clear as
to who they are addressed. While we have narrowed the addressees down to the “dark lady,” “the
rival poet,” and the “young man,” it is still unclear who these people really are. An author
writing about the sonnets on enotes.com agrees, “The fact remains, however, that we do not know to
what degree Shakespeare's personal experiences are reflected in his sonnets; nor do we know
with any measure of certainty whether the persons depicted in these poems are based on specific
individuals or are solely the product of Shakespeare's observation, imagination, and
understanding of the human heart.” Our overall stance on these sonnets is that they would be more
effectively taught to and enjoyed by an older audience.

The “dark lady” category of sonnets talks about a mistress. We find that this displays an
inappropriate example to students. They notice that celebrities and other famous people tend to
have troubled love lives, and this furthers that stereotype. In addition, the expression of mixed
feelings overly complicates the sonnet and makes it less enjoyable. An article summarizing the
opinions of Philip Edwards and S. Schoenbaum agrees, saying “Philip Edwards, in seeking an
explanation for the different moods and tones in Sonnets 127-52, proposes that these reflect the
Poet's struggle to exorcise his feelings of hopelessness by expressing them in verse. In
Edwards' judgment, the Dark Lady represents carnal love—a debilitating and contaminating
passion that degrades the Poet and imperils his soul. In the second excerpt, S. Schoenbaum, noting
that most of what has been written about the Dark Lady is speculation, summarizes what the sonnets
themselves tell us about the Dark Lady—little, he points out, from the mostly enigmatic clues in
Sonnets 127-52. Schoenbaum also discusses Sonnets 153 and 154, where he finds a suggestion that the
speaker has contracted a venereal disease as a result of his affair with the Dark Lady.” Overall,
we find that the dark lady sonnets are inappropriate material for our target audience.

While most great entrepreneurs of literature understand how difficult it is to have perfect iambic
pentameter in over one hundred sonnets, students tend to wonder when a famous professional such as
yourself doesn’t have exactly ten syllables on every line. For example, there are three lines in
Sonnet 29 that have eleven syllables. “And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,” “Yet in
these thoughts myself almost despising,” and “Like to the lark at break on day arising.” These
small breaks in the structure of the poem tend to distract the students more than they should. They
spend more time worrying about the lines that are out of place rather than the lines that are in
place and the actual meaning of the poem.

Again, we are terribly sorry to inform you of the removal of your sonnets. However, we do
appreciate the presence of your other works in our text, such as Macbeth, and we hope to include
more of your works in our future editions. Thank you for all your contributions to Timeless Voices,
Timeless Themes and more importantly, your contributions to English literature.
















The word “ski,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was first used in English writing in
1885. The World Encyclopedia says skiing began as a sport in 1850 in Norway. However, skiing dates
back to post-glacial Stone Age people living in the northern parts of Europe and Russia.
Switzerland held the first slalom race in 1921.

The popularity of skiing in the British Isles is comparable to that of skiing in the U.S.
It is seen as a fun and recreational sport. The great resorts available in Scotland and Wales
provide skiing for people on either the south or north ends of the British Isles. In addition,
skiing is an Olympic sport and therefore has some relative popularity gain from that. At a quick
glance of the Telegraph, a popular British newspaper, one can see that there are a handful of
articles on skiing. The interesting observation I made about the ten or so articles is that none of
them discussed British skiers. In fact, most of them talked about skiing outside of Britain
altogether. Skiing, though a much appreciated sport and pastime of Wales and Scotland, has the
appearance of a fading tradition in all British Isles and literature, suggesting that Britain is
moving away from it.

The main organization when it comes to skiing is World Cup skiing, which has been a general success
in Europe. According to an article on the Herald Tribune, 75 of 84 men’s and women’s titles since
1966-1967 have been given to Europeans. Unlike baseball here in the US, there is no national league
per say. If one plays baseball, they want to win the World Series. In the world of skiing, the
place to be is at the top of the world holding the World Cup. When the World Cup of skiing was
born, it only had one other cousin; soccer, which had been born during the same year, 1966. While
most World Cups use a point-based system of ranking, skiing, however, adopted its ranking system
from sailing. The ranking was based on the skiers’ best three times. That way the skiers would not
be obligated to attend all races. However, the skiers attended all races anyway because the
competition was so high and they couldn’t afford to just give away the 25 points for first place.
According to the FIS Ski World Cup, the first World Cup was held in 1967 and controlled by the FIS,
or International Ski Federation. Because the World Cup is international, the rules apply for all
nations and there are no unique ones to Britain. There are a few interesting rules that apply to
the World Cup races according to the FIS Ski World Cup. Nations that enter the competition must
have four skiers only and they must be two men and two woman. Of these skiers, they must be
qualified to participate in the Super G and Slalom events. In order for a run to be counted as
valid, at least one man and one woman from each nation must complete it.

Alain Baxter is one of the best-known names when it comes to skiing in Britain. According to
Andrew Ross’ biography of Alain Baxter, he was born in Scotland to Iain and Sue Baxter, who were
both British Ski Team members. Some say he was destined to be a great skier. He also was an
accomplished Shinty and ice-hockey player, but skiing was his main focus. According to the BBC, he
was chosen to be part of the British Alpine Ski Team in 1991. As he endeavored to reach the peak of
skiing competition, he faced defeat many times, mostly due to financial issues. Alain continued on
with the help of sponsors. He worked vigorously and made the top 100 in time for the 1998 Nagano
Winter Olympics. He found success at German, Austrian, and Slovenian championships, but experienced
frustration in the World Cup races. He made some radical changes in 2000. He greatly improved his
fitness and his mindset and switched to a different style pair of skis. All his hard work found
greater success at the World Cup. According to the BBC, this time around, he had no difficulty
making the top 30. He placed considerably higher, placing 21st in the opening World Cup slalom in
Park City and 13th at Sestriere. When the 2002 Winter Olympics came around, he had already made
British history. The Highlander, as they now called him, was ranked tenth in the world. This was
the highest a British alpine skier had ever been ranked since 1987, according to the BBC. He
continued this making of history by winning a bronze medal in alpine skiing in Salt Lake City. To
follow that Baxter had a big race coming up in Turin. In a BBC report he said, “There is no reason
why I can't win a medal in Turin.” “It might sound like a big thing when I've not had any
great World Cup results for a while but I think I know more than anyone how my form is,” he

According to a BBC report, a thirteen-year-old boy named Jamie is on his way to success in skiing.
Jamie commented, “I started skiing when I was four years old and absolutely love it!” He tells a
story of how he began competing at age six. By the time he was eight years old, he was skiing on
the real snow doing real races. He has trained in Austria and France and is well supported by his
school. He is currently on the British Children’s Ski Team. At age fifteen, he plans to try out
for the England Junior Squad. Jamie’s goal is to be a member of the British Olympic squad some day.
He said, “It takes loads of practice and hard work, but that goal is my inspiration. I reckon
everyone should try to ski. Its fun, its amazing scenery and it’s a great way to get fit."

Skiing in the news explains a lot about the popularity of the sport and the people’s interest in
it. Here in the United States, most people would agree that skiing is not a very popular sport to
hear about in the news or read about in the paper. However, a great number of people—especially
those who live near mountainous regions—enjoy skiing as a recreational sport. After viewing a few
British newspapers, the most fruitful of which was the Telegraph, the results were disappointing.
Although there were a number of articles on skiing, most of them concerned non-British skiers, such
as U.S. skier Bode Miller. One article from the Telegraph tells of Miller’s victory and his current
standing. “Victory and the 100 points earned moved Miller closer to the overall crown ahead of
second-placed Cuche, the downhill World Cup holder, and Austrian Benjamin Raich.” In addition, none
of the articles discussed skiing events taking place in British lands. It must be taken into
account that much of the skiing competitions take place in many different locations. For example,
the Winter Olympics is held somewhere different each time it is held. An interesting piece of
recent news in skiing is the controversy with Alain Baxter’s bronze medal in Alpine skiing at Salt
Lake City. According to the BBC, the Scottish skier was forced to return his bronze medal when an
illegal substance, methamphetamine, was found in a blood sample he gave at the race. The trace
substance had been from a US Vicks Inhaler. Baxter was not aware of the substance’s presence in the
inhaler. The International Ski Federation deemed this acceptable, and banned him only for three
months. Baxter commented, “The medal's gone so why dwell on it? Being angry and bitter would
not help. I've just got to pick myself up again.” He would be eligible for the 2006 Olympics
in Turin.

One can judge the popularity of a sport by how often it is mentioned in literature. Poetry, drama,
stories, musicals, and songs are legitimate sources to demonstrate this. Poetry is one of the most
universal and oldest of these literature types. I expected there to be a plethora or results based
on common knowledge of the popularity of skiing as a recreational sport. However, there were not
many occurrences of skiing in poems. One poem by Robert Service called “My Indian Summer,” makes a
reference to skiing. The excerpt from his poem says, “In tea and coffee I delight, I smoke and sip
my grog at night. I have a softer sense of touch, For comfort I enjoy so much. My skis are far more
blues than greys, Here in the Autumn of my days. Here in the Autumn of my days My heart is full of
peace and praise.” Although this was one of the best results yielded, it is quite clear that this
is not a prime reference to the sport. It mentions it casually and briefly, indicating two things.
First of all, the fact that he makes a reference to it so casually implies that it is very much a
part of ordinary life, especially for Service who is from Scotland. Secondly, the fact that it is
mentioned so briefly suggests that it is not terribly important. The excerpt seems to focus more on
the coffee and tea, implying that those things are more important than skiing.

In conclusion, skiing tells a great deal about the British people and their literature. Skiing has
become quite a stagnant sport in the British Isles. Taking a look at any British newspaper, the
Telegraph for example, can confirm this. Any of the articles on skiing do not concern British
skiers. Furthermore, these articles are buried behind the more popular sports. Clearly the public
has lost interest in skiing as a competitive sport. The people are not particularly interested in
reading about it, writing about it, or even competing seriously in it. When observing the presence
of skiing in British literature, the same lack of the topic is present again. There were very few
results yielded within poetry that used the word “ski” in them. Beyond these observations, the
World Encyclopedia confirms this stagnant state of skiing—not only in Britain but all over the
world. For example, the number of recreational participants in skiing has not risen significantly
since the mid-1980s. In addition, skiing areas have been closing down and few have been built due
to their large costs and some opposition from those who are against expanding. However, some
resorts have tripled and quadrupled in size. This seems to balance out, resulting in a neither
growing nor dying industry. The overall lack of growth and interest in skiing is visible in British
literature and suggests that the British may be moving away from skiing and taking up more interest
in other sports. It is still seen as a fun recreational activity, which will keep it somewhat alive
in literature, but its stagnancy as a sport will ultimately result in its decline and disappearance
from British literature.






















From Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1400s to today’s J.K. Rowling, the trend of style of British literature
is clear. It began with strict iambic pentameter poetry and extraordinary characters, settings, and
language in Chaucer’s time and evolved through the times of Coleridge and Wordsworth, causing a
revolution of ordinary characters, settings, and literature. Today we see a vivid mix of these. On
one end we have the ordinary and on the other the extraordinary and everything in between. Authors
like J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien write very epic novels, while authors like George Orwell tell a
more realistic tale. In these years, it is clear that the focus of literature, both in the world
and in Britain, has moved from poetry to prose. While both types of form have been available, in
the times of Chaucer, poetry was valued greater and enjoyed more by the public. Now, six hundred
years later, prose is more popular, while poetry is still much appreciated. The success of British
literature throughout all time relies on five major themes: form in which works are started with
dependent clauses, the use of nature settings, the role of women, poor and disappointing
resolutions, and the theme of evil.

One of the major focuses of British authors throughout the centuries has been with form. A general
trend that some great authors have followed is the use of dependent clauses to begin works. For
example, Geoffrey Chaucer begins his Canterbury Tales with “When in April the sweet showers fall.”
(95 textbook) This line introduces the reader to his tale of the observation of the pilgrimages
traveling through the city. Another poet who employs this device is A.E. Housman. In his poem,
When I Was One-and-Twenty, he begins with “When I was one-and-twenty, I heard a wise man say.” (934
textbook) This sets the stage for the rest of the poem to follow. In addition, John Milton uses
this form in his Sonnet XIX, as he begins, “When I consider how my light is spent/Ere half my days,
in this dark world and wide.”(467 textbook) Again, this gently sweeps the reader into the rest of
the poem, which contemplates the spending of one’s life and despair of Milton. Samuel Taylor
Coleridge uses a dependent clause in his poem, Constancy to an Ideal Object. The poem’s first line,
“Since all that beat about in Nature’s range,/Or veer or vanish” (lines 1-2) makes it one of the
very few of Coleridge’s poems that actually begin with a dependent clause. Clearly, it is not his
style to use this device, or perhaps it was unheard of during his writing time. This style of
beginning stories holds true for prose works as well. For example, Robert Louis Stevenson, in his
book Treasure Island, begins: “Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having
asked me to write down the whole particular about Treasure Island, from beginning… I take up my
pen…” (3) The clause seems to be more discreet in prose; it is still present in popular books such
as this one.

The setting of nature as evoking emotion is a powerful piece to British literature, and most other
literature. Many authors have emphasized this aspect of their writings. One of these authors is
Robert Luis Stevenson. In his book, Treasure Island, he describes the view of an island:
“Grey-coloured woods covered a large part of the surface. This even tint was indeed broken up by
streaks of yellow sandbreak in the lower lands, and by many tall trees of the pine family… the
general colouring was uniform and sad.”(97) This gives the reader a somewhat depressing view of the
scenery. George Orwell also plays on this setting in his novel 1984. He describes the “Golden
Country,” saying “They were standing in the shade of hazel bushes. The sunlight, filtering through
innumerable leaves, was still hot on their faces…an old, close-bitten pasture, with a footpath
wandering across it and a molehill here or there.”(123) The impression that the description of this
scene evokes is that of a warm feeling towards this Golden Country. Erich Fromm, a critic of Orwell
who wrote the afterward for 1984, says “It assumes that he develops his powers of reason and love
fully, and thus is enabled to grasp the world, being one with his fellow man and nature, at the same
time preserving his individuality and his integrity.” (313) This shows that the critic agrees that
nature is a powerful setting, particularly in 1984, as it is a building block of the character of a
man and of successful novels. British novelist J.R.R. Tolkien takes a different approach with
nature in his series, The Lord of the Rings. In the second installment of the series, The Two
Towers, Tolkien describes an extremely gloomy and even grotesque aspect of nature as Gollum leads
Frodo and the others into the Marshes. He says, “…the rift at this point was only some fifteen feet
deep…there was running water at the bottom: it was in fact the bed of one of the many small rivers
that trickled down from the hills to feed the stagnant pools…” (252) Tolkien, like Robert Louis
Stevenson, displays a gloomy nature. Even in Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop, which does
not rely heavily on natural settings, it continues to be used periodically. For example, the book
describes the nature view of Nell and the old man: “Up the steep hill too…the moon rose in all her
gentle glory, and, from their venerable age, garlanded with ivy, moss, and waving grass…the far-off
river with its winding track of light: and on the distant hills…”(321-322) The majority of the book
is based in urban type areas, so it is interesting to see how Dickens continues to use natural
settings despite this. This creates an emotion full of awe and wonder. Additionally, poets such as
William Wordsworth utilize nature settings in their works. For example, in his poem Tintern Abbey,
he describes a nature scene, saying “These plots of cottage ground, these orchard tufts,/Which at
this season, with their unripe fruits,/Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves/’Mid groves
and copses…little lines/Of sportive wood run wild.”(667 textbook) Wordsworth paints his story with
nature that gives a hopeful and promising emotion in this poem. As Tom Burns Haber, a critic of
Housman, would agree, the “beauty and faithlessness of Nature” (7, A.E. Housman) is a theme
throughout Housman’s poems. In his poem, On Forelands High in Heaven, he describes nature: “And
silent hills indenting/The orange band of eve…And starry darkness paces/The road from sea to sea.”
(49, A.E. Housman, More poems) Just from this poem, it is clear that he does not put all of his
focus on natural settings, but does indeed use them. He also includes some modern settings along
with nature. For example, he mentions roads in this excerpt as well as hills and seas in the

Gender is an important aspect in British literature that has flourished particularly through the
use of intellectual, calculating, and responsible women. Jane Austen’s character, Catherine, in her
novel, Northanger Abbey, is a curious woman. In the second half of the book, it says “She
seized…the precious manuscript…and while she acknowledge with awful sensation this striking
exemplification of what Henry had foretold, resolved instantly to peruse every line before she
attempted to rest.” (135) Catherine is clearly an intellectual woman who is bold and curious in
exploring secrets, which is revolutionary for the time. A critic of Jane Austen, William Duckworth,
writes about gender issues in Austen’s works. He says in one of his essays, “…the rejection of
concepts of literary art which have been under development for centuries, it has been found that the
text may be ‘transformed when read as indicative of the contemporary political climate and the
gender issues which that encodes.’” What Duckworth is trying to say about some gender issues in
Jane Austen’s work is that it is possible that people are reading issues into the book. They see
modern situations as parallels to the book and conclude that Austen’s intention must have been that
particular issue. Duckworth argues that is not necessarily the case. Another author to make use of
this portrayal of women is Doris Lessing. In her book Mara and Dann, Mara is a brave and
intelligent young girl. In the first chapter, it says “Mara’s mind was full of sharp little
pictures she was trying to fit together: her parents leaning down to say, ‘Be brave, be brave and
look after your brother’;…”(13) Lessing creates the image of this girl to be intelligent and
responsible, right from the beginning of the book. Throughout the book, Mara cooperates with her
brother, Dann, which emphasizes the equality of men and women. Interestingly, Virginia Woolf’s
novel, Mrs. Dalloway, portrays women in a negative way in some scenes. For example, Woolf describes
two women saying,

Miss Kilman…wore a mackintosh… it was cheap…she was over forty…she was poor, moreover; degradingly
poor. Otherwise she would not be taking jobs form people like the Dalloways; from rich people… Mr.
Dalloway, to do him justice, had been kind. Mrs. Dalloway had not. She had been merely
condescending. (Woolf 123)

It is interesting that a woman like Virginia Woolf, who promotes women’s role in society, would
portray women in this way in her work. It is possible that she is attempting to show that men and
women are equal in that they all have their flaws and can be equally evil, good, capable,
intelligent, etc.

An element of British literature that tends to bring down its quality is its use of poor and
disappointing endings that reflect pessimism. For example, in Geoffrey Chaucer's story of The
Pardoner's Tale, he uses poor resolutions. The last three lines of the story say, “And Jesu
Christ, soul's healer, aye, the leech/Of every soul. Grant pardon and relieve you/Of sin, for
that is best I won't deceive you."(lines 340-343) This is a pessimistic ending because
the narrator is saying that only Jesus can forgive sins, despite the fact that the pardoner is
accepting money for doing just this. In William Wordsworth's poem, The World is Too Much with
Us, poor endings are used again. He concludes the poem with “So might I, standing on this pleasant
lea,/Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;/Have sight of Preteus rising from the sea;/Or
hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”(lines 11-14) The poem, which is about humans and their
discontented relationship with nature, could have had a more compelling, hopeful, or insightful
ending, yet it concluded with Wordsworth hoping for a glimpse of Greek mythological gods. Because
he deems it more likely to see two Greek gods emerge from the sea than see nature appreciated by
mankind, this makes this a pessimistic ending. Doris Lessing, one of the most well known British
authors, also has disappointing endings in her works. For example, in her novel Ben in the World,
she ends the book with the death of the main character. “They heard a cry, and a slide of small
stones, and silence...There was Ben, far below, a pile of coloured clothing."(177) The final
line of the book is even more disappointing; “'Yes,' said Teresa. And added, 'And I
know we are pleased that he is dead and we don't have to think about him.'”(178) Although
Ben’s death is probably the most fitting ending for this novel, it remains a disappointing one
because of Teresa’s uncaring and pessimistic attitude towards his death. However, some authors defy
this characteristic of British Literature. For instance, Virginia Woolf, in her novel The Waves,
has a resolution that is neither poor nor disappointing. “'Death is the enemy. It is death
against whom I ride with my spear couched...Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and
unyielding, O death!' The waves broke on the shore."(297) The book concludes discussing a
disappointing theme: death. However, Woolf turns this into a compelling and hopeful ending. In
addition, Jane Austen also avoids disappointing endings. For example, Northanger Abbey seems to be
leaning towards a disappointing ending as the book draws to a close, but then at the very end Austen
turns the tides for a “happy” ending. The book concludes “On the strength of this, the
general…permitted his son to return to Northanger…Henry and Catherine were married, the bells rang
and every body smiled”(205) Although the General had originally had affinities towards Catherine,
he changes his mind and sends her home under the impression that she was too poor for his son. The
book could have ended with her dismay, but the General finds the truth and the book ends “happily
ever after.”

The theme of evil has been particularly prevalent in British literature throughout the ages. George
Orwell, a modern author, employs the theme of evil to a great extent in 1984. One instance of this
is “The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but
that it was impossible to avoid joining in... a hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire
to kill, to torture… seemed to flow through the whole group of people…turning one even against one’s
will…(14)” A critic, Erich Fromm, commented on this evil present in 1984, saying “The mood it
expresses is that of near despair about the future of man…men all over the world will lose their
most human qualities, will become soulless automation, and will not even be aware of it(1984 page
313).” John Milton, who wrote in the 1660s long before Orwell, uses evil in his epic poem Paradise
Lost. For example, “rebel angels...with ambitious aim/Against the throne and monarchy of God/Raised
impious war in Heaven and battle proud (lines 38-43)” Another poet who has evil play a role in his
work is Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In his The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, one scene shows the evil
appearance of the dead sailors on the Mariner’s ship: “‘The cold sweat melted from their limbs,/Nor
rot nor reek did they;/The look with which they looked on me/Had never passed away.’”(697 textbook)
Coleridge portrays the dead in a grim and evil way at this point in the story, but as the spell
breaks and they help the Mariner sail home, it becomes clear that evil is not a major theme in this
poem. The theme of evil is also present in Dickens’ character, Abel Magwitch, who is seen in his
novel Great Expectations. His first appearance in the book is a great example of this. “‘Hold your
noise!’ cried a terrible voice…‘Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!’(2)” Dickens
gives the reader the first impression that Magwitch is a hardened criminal without a heart; however,
the reader later finds out that he is Pip’s benefactor and that he worked his whole life so that Pip
may have had a better one. This contrast is an interesting way to use the theme of evil. J.R.R.
Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has an abundance of evil throughout the series. One good example of
a display of evil occurs in the second book in the series, The Two Towers. In one chapter, an evil
force, known as the Uruk-Hai, is having a conversation about what to do with the “Halflings.” The
evil has clearly permeated these creatures as they say “‘Kill all but not the Halflings; they are to
be brought back alive as quickly as possible. That’s my orders.’…asked several voices…‘Why
alive?’”(43) Like many other successful authors, Tolkien pits the greatest evils against the good
in his novels. J.K. Rowling is a recent and popular British author who uses evil as a major theme
in her Harry Potter series. In the fourth installment of the series, The Goblet of Fire, there is a
scene in which the antagonist, Voldemort, tortures one of his own: “‘Master!’ he shrieked, ‘Master
forgive me! Forgive us all!’ Voldemort began to laugh. He raised his wand…The Death Eater on the
ground writhed and shrieked.”(648) The fact that this ultimate evil character is torturing one of
his own with such pleasure is a very revealing example of how evil he truly is.

In conclusion, British literature throughout its history has relied on the five themes of form,
setting, gender, resolution, and theme. Though these vary from author to author and from work to
work, it is clear that there are dominating aspects of these five devices. Starting stories with a
dependent clause is a popular and effective device. Though it is not unique to British authors, it
adds a much appreciated affect to British literature. Natural settings have been and continue to be
an important part of any novel or poem. This stands true for not only British literature, but world
literature as well. All people are exposed to nature, and therefore are inclined to write about it.
Additionally, the role of women is an interesting element of literature to observe, particularly
the development of their role. The increasing quality of their treatment can be seen through
literature. The use of intelligent and responsible women has been a major focal point of these
pro-women authors and has resulted in equality between men and women of literature today. An
unfortunate trend of British literature—and most world literature as well—is the use of poor and
disappointing endings. While this is usually a subjective aspect of literature, it can be
determined to some degree whether or not an ending is creative or insightful. Finally and most
importantly are the themes. All of the other four devices are centered on the final pinnacle, which
is the theme. An author’s whole purpose in any work is to convey a theme or moral to the reader.
The theme of evil has been around since the beginning of English literature history. It began with
the first written story, Beowulf, and has developed into the complex evils that we see in more
modern books, such as Harry Potter. However, the “good vs. evil” theme has always been the basis of
good epic stories, and has not varied greatly. Although the forces of these two sides have grown in
complexity, the basic struggle has remained. It seems as though all these devices exist in all
other kinds of literature, which is likely true. However, it is not necessarily the uniqueness that
counts. It is the steps that the British have made to develop these devices in their own way with
their own name proudly worn by their works. Without their efforts, world literature would not be
what it is today.


Works Cited

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Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop. New York: The Heritage Press; 1941.
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Fromm, Erich. Afterword to 1984. New York: New American Library; 1961.

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Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; 1911

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