English 10: Writing Portfolio

 

Catholic Memorial High School

 

2007-2008

   
   
   
   
   
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Creative Writing  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
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The word “make” has been around since the English language was made. Due to the fact that it is
such a simple word, oftentimes it is overlooked in sentences and phrases. It is just assumed that
make only means to create; when, in reality, it has over forty (usually) similar, yet distinct
definitions. “Make”, like most English words didn't just become the word we have today. It
developed over millennia with various spelling changes through the centuries, though it has been
pronounced in relatively the same way for over 1875 years (at least). Also, it, like the English
language, has been influenced by outside sources. Some cognates in different languages are
“mahhomacn” (Old High German), “mage” (Danish), and “maka” (Icelandic). Though the spellings of make
have changed, the substance has remained intact. “Make” has had 139 different spellings (according
to the OED) varying from the form we have today to Old English words such as “ymakyd”, “imaket”,
“mheyk”. The history of the word “make” definitely reflects that of the entire English language.

When asked in a survey what the definition of “make” is, everybody who participated had many
moments of hesitation before responding. All found difficulty in making a definition. One person,
Brian, couldn't even define it at all. 71% said that it was such an easy word that it was too
hard to come up with the right words to use. That doesn't make sense. After thinking for much
longer than was expected, 57% of the people asked thought that it meant to create; one interviewee,
Martha, defined it as “to build”; and one person, Matt, thought that it meant “to accomplish”. Also,
despite the fact that nobody could define it off the top of their head, all were able to use it in a
sentence effortlessly.

Another survey asked people who know English as a second language to define the word “make”.
The two people who participated in this survey both said that the word “make” means “to create”.
Also, neither interviewee encountered the same trouble of coming up with a definition that the
native English speakers had. One person asked, an Albanian named Dave, first asked me whether the
question was a joke, and then responded effortlessly. Despite the similarities between the
definitions given in the two surveys, the results of the surveys are very different. Based on these
results, one must wonder whether America is getting dumber because fewer people are reading, or if
we just take our language for granted (like everything else).

The oldest definition of the word “make” in the Oxford English Dictionary was first written in
135 AD, in the court of Ælfred, under the form “gemacod”, which means to produce by combination of
parts, or by giving a certain form to a portion of matter. Though most people think of creating or
building something when they hear the word “make”, there are also some very different definitions.
One such definition is “to be naturally pitted or destined; to be perfectly fitted or ideally
suited.” This is one of the more rare definitions of the word make, but it is still used today in
sayings such as “they were made for each other.” A third definition of “make” is “to cause or
inflict”. With 98 definitions of the word “make” (just in one out of five forms), and many of these
having a vast number of subdefinitions (the largest number to one definition being 42), it makes
sense that the word “make” has lasted so long in English vocabulary.

The first sentence written in English said, “Đa gimmas ðara halignessa to ðæm wæron
gemacod ðæt hi scoldon scinan on ðæs hiehstan sacerdes hrægle betwux ðam halegestan halignessum.” As
you can see, this language is very different from modern English. The word “make” was used in 1616
by none other than William Shakespeare in his play Henry VI. It was used in the sentence, “This hand
was made to handle nought but Gold.” The definition used means “to be naturally pitted or destined;
to be perfectly fitted.” In this quote, the fact that the hand was made for gold probably means that
the described hand is that of royalty. This definition was later used by Charles Dickens on two
separate occasions, first in 1857 in the sentence, “Poor Catherine and I are not made for each
other,” from A House to Let, and later in 1870 in his thriller, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. “Make”
was used in 1947 by John Steinbeck (not British, but try to tell Mr. Catano that he isn’t a great
author) in his ironic tragedy The Pearl. Steinbeck wrote, “Kiño's mouth was open so that even
his breath would make no sound.” The definition used by Steinbeck is “to cause”.

A word with such a long history would certainly have a number of dead or obsolete definitions,
and “make” is no exception. One dead definition dates back to about 1400 AD and means “to represent
in a piece of art.” A very interesting fact about it is that Charles Dickens was one of the last
people to use it in print in David Copperfield. He used it in the sentence, “The painter hadn't
made the scar, but I made it.” Another dead definition means “to write in verse, poetry, or to
rhyme.” A third dead definition means “to write in verse, poetry, or to rhyme.” Geoffrey Chaucer was
the first person to use this definition in print in 1390. It first appeared in Man of Law’s Tales,
in the sentence, “In youthe he made of Ceys and Alcione, And sithen hath he spoke of euerychone.”
Chaucer would later use this same meaning in The Legend of Good Women and in The Complaint of Venus.
A dead definition that is completely different from all of the others was used only in the Gospel of
Luke, and it means “to come”. “The word of the Lord is maad on John.”

The most recent new definition of “make” was first used in print in 1943 by John Leslie Hunt
and Alan George Pringle. It means “to promote to a higher rank or position.” The word “make” has
been used in the news media many times since the beginning of the 21ST century, including the
following quote from Evan Grant’s column in The Dallas Morning News from 10/24/07: “That one word
makes a huge difference.” The previous quote describes the role of Eric Gagné in the bullpen of the
Boston Red Sox. Despite the fact that the word “make” technically isn’t used in negative context
here, no sentence describing Gagné could possibly be positive. The definition used is “to create.”
Another article using the word “make” in the past few years is from The Times. “Context and words
make the piece moving: stripped to the notes it's a trudge.” This quote is describing a modern
classical music song. It is helping to positively describe the song, but the rest of the article
completely bashes the piece. These usages of “make” are both old, and they are the two most common
definitions.

After considering all of the factors, it is safe to say that the word “make” is here to stay
for at least another few centuries for three reasons, at least in some form. The first reason is
because it is such a simple word. It is one of the first words learned by little children and people
who grew up speaking foreign languages. The second reason is because of the history of “make”. It
was first used in print almost 2000 years ago (at least in a document that survived), and it was
probably used for centuries before that. The long history of the word is important because it shows
adaptation. Another thing that shows its adaptation over the years is the fact that “make” has had
over 125 different forms of spelling throughout the centuries. The third reason why it is here to
stay is because of the many cognates; “make” has so many cognates in other languages that even if
the English version becomes dead, a similar word with the same meaning in a different language will
continue to exist. Like the English language, “make” has been influenced by many outside sources,
yet it continues to be essentially the same. Since “make” has been an accurate representation of the
history of the English language, if this pattern of similarity continues, the English language will
exist in the future because of the many different nations that speak it. Also like “make”, it may
be, in the future, unrecognizable to people today.
   
   
   
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Geoffrey Chaucer,
It is with the greatest sympathy that I am announcing that we here at Prentice Hall are excluding
your Canterbury Tales from the latest edition of our British Literature textbook. The move is
completely budgetary; we can no longer afford to continue printing Beowulf, King Arthur
legends, Shakespeare, and your works. These are some of the greatest writers of all time, and just
be proud that you have been mentioned in the same company as them. You are a great writer, but the
competition was just too tough, so Canterbury Tales was cut. The following are a few reasons
why your writing was not good enough: there is little to no character development despite the
excessive page space devoted to the physical appearances of the pilgrims; the humor is childish and
offensive; obsession with inconsequential conflicts; and excessive blasphemous remarks and cursing.


The first reason why we chose to eliminate Canterbury Tales from our newest edition of the
British Literature textbook is because the characters are not developed at all, for instance the old
lady in The Wife of Bath's Tale. Really, the only descriptions and development of the
characters existing in the tales comes through their actions. These actions can not be used to
create any images of the characters or their personalities because they were, for the most part,
rash decisions. Unless not thinking before acting is one trait that everybody in all of the stories
exhibit on a regular basis, there are not many conclusions to be drawn. The old woman in The Wife
of Bath's Tale
is portrayed with the line: "A fouler person could no man devise"
(143). Yet, for this image, there is no personality in the background. Later in the story, the
knight says to the old lady, "You are so loathsome, and so old also,/ And therewith of so low a
race were born,..." Once again she is judged only upon her looks by the knight, thus no clues
can lead us to her personality. The fact that the person old lady is described as an ugly, hollow
shell could be caused by the view of women during the time period during which these Canterbury
Tales
were written. Such misogynous prejudices, despite probably being a product of the era, are
not tolerated in todays society. Another important character that was notably left out was the
narrator himself. In her article "What Man Artow?" The Narrator as Writer and
Pilgrim
, Katherine M. Wilson writes, "The little narrator in the Canterbury Tales is
an enigma. He turns his searching gaze on everyone on the pilgrimage except himself, finishing up in
a rush with 'Ther was also a Reve, and a Millere, A Somnour, and a Pardoner also, A Maunciple,
and myself -- ther were namo' (542-4). Not a word about what he himself does for a living, or
where he stands socially." How can we see the world through his perspective if we don't
know who he is? A description of the narrator would give the reader insight as to why certain
characters are viewed in their own specific ways.

The "humor" in the Canterbury Tales is the second reason why they were chosen to be
excluded from the latest edition of our British Literature textbook. This "humor" is a
cross between childish nonsense and adult situations. The following quote from The Miller's
Tale
proves why this work is inappropriate for a textbook that is printing only the best British
Literature: "And Absalom no better felt nor worse, But with his mouth he kissed her naked arse/
Right greedily, before he knew of this" (547-549). Also, in your monotonous descriptions of the
characters, you insult members of the clergy a myriad of times. In fact, not one of them is
positively portrayed. For example, the Nun is described in The General Prologue as:
"Almost a span across the brows, I own;/ She was by no means undergrown" (159-160).
Certain members of the church did have their flaws then and still do, but that doesn't mean
that you can stereotype against them. For some people, religion is the most important part of life.
Some have even gone to war for their beliefs. Arnold Williams agrees that you took your
"humorous" description of the Friar in the book, Chaucer Criticism. He states on
page 63, "Among the many unlovely characters in the General Prologue to the
Canterbury Tales, the Friar is one of the very small group with no mitigating virtues.
Whenever Chaucer has the occasion to mention friars, we get the same characterization, of
unextenuated hypocritical villainy" (pg. 63). There is absolutely nothing witty about this
derogatory and puerile brand of "humor."

The third reason why the various tales were excluded from the latest edition of the textbook is
because of the preoccupation with trifling conflicts. There is no single plot to the story except
that the characters are pilgrims traveling to Canterbury to see the grave of St. Thomas Beckett, and
they tell stories on the way. There is no conflict that defines the story, rather insignificant
conflicts within meaningless stories. It is the obsession with trifling conflicts that defines this
story for the worse. These stories are the equivalent to gossip columns during your time: they
describe the actions and consequences of people who are not living in the real world. For example,
in The Miller's Tale, "He was so much afraid of Noah's flood,/ Through
fantasy, that out of vanity/ He'd gone and bought these bathing-tubs, all three,/ And that
he'd hung them near the roof above" (648-651). However, these absurd actions and conflicts
aren't limited to this particular tale; at the beginning of The Pardoner's Tale,
one character says, "And we will kill this traitor Death, I say!" (119). After this, the
three drunk men who were present in the bar went out to kill Death, as if death were a person.
Ironically, they met death exactly where the old man told them Death was; the three plotted against
each other and all met their demise.

The final reason why we chose not to publish Canterbury Tales in the 2008 edition is because
of the numerous blasphemous remarks and curses, especially in The Pardoner's Tale. In
this tale, which is filled to the rim with medieval malediction, has twelve violations of the second
of ten holy commandments: including one "by St. Mary" (105), one "God's
arms"(112), one "by Jesus" (114), one "God's blessed bones" (115), one
"God's dignity" (121), one "God's precious dignity" (204), three
"by God's" (172, 177, 179), one "by St. John" (173), and one "by the
Holy Sacrament" (179). Such obscene tongue has no place in school textbook. This pattern of
taking the Lord's name in vain, coupled with the numerous pagan references and adult sequences
indicates you are either an atheist or you do not truly care about the Christian faith. Roger S.
Loomis says this about the subject in Chaucer Criticism, a collection of critical
compositions created by various authors: "In an essay on Chaucer and Wyclif, published in 1916,
Tatlock remarks of the poet, 'He was not such stuff as martyrs are made of, but something of a
Laodicean.' With this statement and with the substance of Tatlock's article as a whole I
agree;no one nowadays would present the portly poet, pensioner of three orthodox but far from
immaculate kings, composer of love allegories and racy fabliaux, as a zealot, a reformer, a devotee
of causes" (pg. 291). The Pardoner's Tale is not a solitary source of swearing in
the Canterbury Tales, however. In The Nun's Priest's Tale, Pertelote says
"by God" numerous times including in lines 87 and 97.

Once again, it is with the deepest regret that I inform you that your Canterbury Tales will
not be included in the future editions of our British literature textbook. No matter whether you are
in this textbook or not, just know that this is still one of the best writers in the history of the
English language. If completed, Canterbury Tales probably would have had a better shot at
staying in the textbook. Unfortunately, they seem to be random ramblings written for the sake of
writing without the single struggle and meaning. Finally, the writing style, though innovative, was
just not enough to save this story from its fate. Maybe in the future, the budget will be expanded
or we find a more cost efficient way of printing the book, and Canterbury Tales will be
brought back; it would definitely be one of the first stories considered.

Sincerely,
Brendan MacNabb

   
   
   
   
   
   
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fencing is one of the oldest sports in existence today. Evolved from the sword-fights of the Middle
Ages, according to Collier's Encyclopedia, dueling had become a form of settling
disputes in Italy by the time of the Renaissance. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the
term "fencing" has been used to describe thrusting and parrying of swords since 1581.
Professional fencing today is not very popular. Fencing definitely reveals a lot about the British
people and literature; as the might of the empire waned and the need for military personnel has
declined, so has the level of violence in fencing both in the British Isles and worldwide, yet the
sport continues to hold onto the tradition that binds it to the past.

The official website of the Olympic games states that originally, duels used a thin sword known as a
rapier. By the 18TH century, the French had taken the rapier and made it shorter and thinner.
Fencing in Britain takes roots from unarmored duels of the Renaissance period, as well as jousting
tournaments of generations past. However, it was still a means of settling disputes, and not a
sport, until the mid-19TH century, when the victor could be sentenced to jail time for murder or
manslaughter. It was then that people began to prefer non-fatal types of dueling, and using the épée
became popular. The three types of swords, foil, épée, and sabre, each have their own rules.
According to the BBC's online history and rules of fencing, when using a foil, points are only
scored if the tip of the sword touches the opponent's torso. Épée combat awards points when the
tip touches anywhere on the opponent's body. Also, it is the only type of fencing that awards
points to both combatants if there are simultaneous hits. Sabre fights are notoriously fast and
furious due to the fact that points can be scored on any part of the body, with contact by any part
of the blade, not just the point.

One of the most successful amateur fencers is Catriona Sibert. According to the BBC, at the age of
15, she won the world 16 and under championship. The Nottingham native has been fencing since she
was only 18 months old. She also qualified for the British under-17 team, and represented her
country at the under 17 world championships in South Korea in 2006. Right now, one of her main goals
is qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. On, the subject she said in a BBC interview: "Obviously
that's one of my main aims. I've got a long way to go, so I've just got to see what
happens." She has the same drive to be successful that so many young athletes have today across
the globe.

One of the only sports to be included in every modern Olympic Games is fencing. Fencing is one of
the only sports in the Olympics that has always allowed professionals to compete. Olympic fencing in
Britain is governed by the aptly named, British Fencing. It is not very often that a fencing
champion is very active within pop culture, but according to the BBC, British women's épée
champion Jo Maynard was thrust onto the scene in 2002, when she was cast as a stunt double in one of
the most recent installments of the James Bond movies: Die Another Day. "When
people asked what I most wanted to do in life, it was to be a stunt double in a James Bond
film," Maynard said. "I wanted it so badly and had to beat two girls who were naturally
right-handed. When I landed the part, it was as if I had won the World Championship." After
filming, she returned to London where she began to give fencing lessons to beginners. However, she
felt that this was hurting her career, so, in 2006 she decided to move to Budapest, which is
arguably the fencing capital of the world.

Fencing, not being one of the most popular sports in Britain, does not appear in literature very
often. However, there is the occasional gem which happens to mention the sport. One such poem is
Adrienne Rich's "Victory," which says in line 26: "Packed in the trunk my bag of
foils for fencing…." A somewhat more famous poet, John Milton, mentioned the ancestor of
fencing, dueling, in Book 12 of his epic Paradise Lost in the following quote: "Dream
not of their fight,/As of a duel, or the local wounds/of head or heel." He also mentions
dueling in the quote: "Victory and triumph to the Son of God, Now entering his great duel, not
of arms" from Paradise Regained: The First Book. Despite the fact that fencing as it
exists today is not often mentioned in British literature, its direct ancestor, dueling, is often
mentioned in literature, especially during the times of Shakespeare and Milton. Sometimes a duel
between the protagonist and the villain is the climax of the story. This is probably because a duel
can be an epic battle between good and evil, whereas fencing is a sport, and usually does not result
in the demise of the vanquished.

The history of fencing shows that the sport definitely has a place in the future. It is constantly
evolving, which, according to Charles Darwin, is good. Yet, despite the changes within the sport,
such as the inclusion of different types of swords and electronic judging, fencing essentially
remains the same. As long as there are two competitors, each trying to touch the other with a sword,
it is fencing. The same can be said about British literature; it is constantly going through
different phases when certain types of poetry or prose are more popular than others, but as long as
it is written in English, it is English literature. British literature is constantly evolving, but
it is still bound to the past.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
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British literature, as well as world literature, has developed greatly through the centuries.
It has evolved from epics, ballads, and other poems of ancient times, going through the middle ages
when stories of heroic knights were common, the romantic period, and the Victorian era and
industrial revolution all the way up to the modern day. Even in the future, changes are always
waiting to happen, so it is safe to say that literature will not be the same two hundred years from
now as it is today. Thus, prose, poetry, and drama can not be viewed as competing writing styles,
but as similar ways of conveying the writer's message. No matter whether the piece is prose,
poetry, or drama, all British literature relies mainly on five devices: setting, theme, resolution,
gender, and form. Here, British literature will be evaluated by authors from all parts of the
spectrum between William Shakespeare and modern-day, Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing on the
basis of those five themes.

Settings that exist only in the pages of a book, especially those that are peculiar and
fantastic, captivate a reader in ways that very few real settings can. They allow the reader to
create his own mental image of the scenery, thus making it easier for the reader to get lost in the
pages. John Milton presents one of the first images of Hell in Book I of his epic poem
Paradise Lost. He was the first to describe Hell as:


A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,/As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames/No light;
but rather darkness visible/Served only to discover sights of woe,/Regions of sorrow, doleful
shades, where peace/And rest can never dwell, hope never comes/That comes to all, but torture
without end/Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed/With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed (61-69).


This portrait of Hell has been copied countless times since it was first written. It has caused many
people to think and create their own images of the celestial wasteland. In his poem "Kubla
Khan," Samuel Taylor Coleridge imagines of "that deep romantic chasm which slanted/Down
the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!" (12-13). None of the many fantastical settings in
"Kubla Khan" are real, Samuel Taylor Coleridge saw them in a vision, but the way he
describes them, he could have been sitting in those places while he wrote this piece. George Orwell
describes what he believed the world would be in the future if the West fell to communism in his
1984. He paints the picture of the Ministry of Love with shocking and horrific detail in
chapter one:


It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through
a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine gun nests. Even the streets
leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with
jointed truncheons (4-5).


The defining element of this setting is the mood of despair. On this, Erich Fromm writes in the
afterword to the text, "It is precisely the significance of Orwell's book that it
expresses the new mood of hopelessness which pervades our age before this mood has become manifest
and taken hold of the consciousness of people" (Orwell 316). 1984 for the first time
forced people to not only rethink their lives, but also their country and what future may await
them. Another author of the same time period, J.R.R. Tolkein, created his own world: "Middle
Earth." In The Return of the King, he writes of Minas Tirith, the great city of Middle
Earth: "...The Tower of Ecthelion, standing high within the topmost wall, shone out against the
sky, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, tall and fair and shapely, and its pinnacle
glittered as if it were wrought of crystals" (734-735). The importance of the creation of
Middle Earth was not that it was the setting to The Lord of the Rings, but that inspired the
generations since to create their own modern fairy tales. Mr. Wemmick's castle in Dickens'
novel Great Expectations is indeed a very odd and imaginary setting, and home to one of
Dickens' peculiar characters: "On arriving before the battlements, I found the Union Jack
flying and the drawbridge up, but undeterred by this show of defiance and resistence, I rang at the
gate, and was admitted in a most pacific manner by the Aged" (229) Without Mr. Wemmick and his
castle, this novel would have cone against Dickens' style of writing. J.K. Rowling wrote about
"Hogwarts," a fictitious school of magic in her Harry Potter novels. She describes
its great hall in the first book of the series: "It was lit by thousands and thousands of
candles that were floating in midair over four long tables... Harry looked up and saw a velvety
black ceiling dotted with stars" (116). Perhaps no other fantastical setting enticed the new
generation of readers than the one that Rowling created in her magical series of novels. Rowling
single-handedly caused a generation obsessed with television, video games, and the internet to read,
and not in the style of "English" usually used on the popular internet sites. It was a
fantastical setting with its magical goings-on that captivated the new generation.

One of the most prominent themes in British literature is time. Many authors show an obsession
over the past, future, present, or usually all three. There are two famous quotes about the past and
future in George Orwell's 1984: "Past events, it is argued, have no objective
existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories," (213) and "Whoever
controls the present controls the past, whoever controls the past controls the future" (213).
James Tyner writes about 1984, "Orwell's concerns regarding the abuse of power, the
denial of self, and the eradication of both past and future continue to resonate in contemporary
discussions of politics and society" (Social and Cultural Geography 129-149). The mutilation of
the past is the most important issue in the Orwellian society. His views would have been greatly
affected by the Nazi and communist propaganda of the 1940s. At the climax of her novel Harry
Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
, J.K. Rowling writes in the words of Albus Dumbledore,
"What we need is more time," (393) indirectly suggesting to the title character that he go
back in time and literally change the past. This, however, does not address the mutilation of the
past, but rather it states our obsession with past events and our frequent desires to change that
which has already taken place. In Shakespeare's Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis says in
scene vii of Act I, "If th'assassination/Could trammel up the consequence, and catch/With
his surcease, success; that but this blow/Might be the be-all and the end-all here,/But here upon
this bank and shoal of time,/We'd jump the life to come" (15). In this lengthy quote,
Macbeth is lamenting the fact that the future is uncertain, for, could he be guaranteed success in
the assassination of the king, he would risk the afterlife in the future to obtain the throne. This
reference to time is of the future, wishing to know the success of future events, and like the other
quote, the desire to change the actions of the past if it does not succeed. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
used the passing of time to help convey the mood of despair in his "The Rime of the Ancient
Mariner": "Day after day, day after day,/We stuck, nor breath, nor motion...There passed a
weary time. Each throat/Was parched and glazed each eye./A weary time! A weary time!" (115-116;
142-145). Here, Coleridge uses the passing of time to dictate the mood, which enhances the setting.
It portrays the unbearably slow passing of a ship in the doldrums. In "When I was One and
Twenty," A.E. Housman writes, "When I was one-and-twenty/I heard a wise man
say,/'Give crowns and pounds and guineas/But not your heart away;/…And I am two-and-twenty,/And
oh, 'tis true, 'tis true." Housman uses the passing of one year to explain the values
he was taught; this is a reflection on the fact that we all have certain values thrust upon us at an
early age, yet we do not realize their significance until later in life. In the song
"Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant wrote and sings, "I am a traveler of both
time and space, to be where I have been/To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom
seen/They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed" (2-4). This quote
is yet another that displays the uncertainty of the future and man's obsession with it.
Everything in British literature about time either directly or indirectly states something about our
actions, whether it is wishing to change the past, knowing the future, or even just reflections on
the past and analyzing what you should have done.

British literature was dominated by masculine figures all the way up through the Renaissance
period, and as a result, even today female characters are often associated with love. Poet A.E.
Housman writes in "With Rue My Heart is Laden," "With rue my heart is laden/For
golden friends I had,/For many a rose-lipt maiden" (1-3). Housman's association between
women and love is not uncommon in British literature; Robert Plant wrote "Someone told me
there's a girl out there/With love in her eyes and flowers in her hair" in his song
"Going to California" with Led Zeppelin. These two examples of female characters asociated
with love in modern poetry are not unique; one tradition that has continued throughout British
poetry is this association. In one of the most important scenes in 1984 is the conversation
between O'Brien, Winston, and Julia; one segment of this is: " 'You are prepared, the
two of you, to separate and never see each other again?' 'No!' broke in Julia"
(173). This shows the level of love that Winston and Julia had, and Julia was certainly not a
heroine in the story, rather, she is merely Winston's lover. Again, the main female character
is seen merely as an object and not portrayed as highly as the men. In Monty Python and the Holy
Grail
, co-written by Eric Idle and the rest of the British comedy group "Monty
Python," there is a scene at a wedding in which the king tries to force his son into marrying a
woman because "She's beautiful. She's rich. She's got huge... tracts o'
land." This spoof on the King Arthur Legends still contained a piece of its predecessors, for
these legends also always used women as either a "true love" or a "damsel in
distress." Even renowned female authors associate the women in their stories with love. Jane
Austen has been accused of doing just this despite some very positive feministic criticisms such as
this quote from the Introduction to Mansfield Park, by Mary Lascelles: "Deny Fanny Price
her rights as heroine, and Mansfield Park loses its particular sharpness and steadiness of
focus," and Geraldine Killalea's opinion, "Her swooning heroines do not reflect a
real world littered with prostrate women; rather, they reflect a world in which the styles and mores
of fiction had become wholely artificial and stultifying" (Introduction to Love and
Friendship and Other Early Works
). According to Virginia Woolf's The Common Reader,
Mrs. Mitford called her, "The prettiest, silliest, most affected husband-hunting butterfly she
ever remembers." This quote can be backed by the opening sentence from Pride and
Prejudice
: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a
good fortune, must be in want of a wife" (3). This clearly shows wives as an object of fashion
to be owned, thus proving that even female authors have trouble not associating the women in their
literature with love.

Nothing addicts a reader to a book or poem quite like a great opening line. An opening line in
many forms of literature is merely another part of the exposition. However, many British authors use
the opening line or sentence to make a first impression, to captivate the reader, and to set the
tone for the rest of the piece. Easily the most memorable first line in all of British literature,
and maybe even world literature, comes from Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two
Cities
: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times" (3). This sets up the
comparison of two binary opposites England and France, but just the fact that the two clauses are
almost the same also helps to show how similar the two countries actually are. John Milton begins
Paradise Lost with the calling forth of a god of poetry to help tell the tale of the fall
from grace with the enormous sentence that is miraculously not a run-on:
Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit/Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste/Brought
death into the World, and all our woe,...Invoke thy aid to my adventrous song,/That with no middle
flight intends to soar/Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues/Things unattempted yet in prose or
rhyme (1-16).


This line is already showing that this work is important, a new type of literature, and, above all,
great. The opening line to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice also sets up the plot for
the coming novel: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a
good fortune, must be in want of a wife" (3). This, probably the most famous quote from the
novel, allows for the traditional Austen story line of a female character searching for a husband,
and a man needing a wife. The short story, "The Lady in the Looking Glass: A Reflection,"
by Virginia Woolf, begins, "People should not leave looking glasses hanging in their
rooms." This first line in itself is basically the entire piece; the following lines just
enhance the first one, and lead up to the repetition of it as the final sentence. This technique is
very good for the reflection in that it states the moral or purpose, allows for the dissection of a
lady's life as the argument behind it, and closing out with the same line again. George Orwell
opens his 1984 with the odd and addictive line, "It was a bright cold day in April, and
the clocks were striking thirteen" (1). This already shows the peculiarity and the militaristic
influence of the entire book. From this point, the story could go in any direction because of the
openness of the quote, yet no other plot would fit as perfectly with the opening line as the one
Orwell uses to follow this quote. One of the most famous opening lines to a song in the history of
rock and roll comes from Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven:" "There's a
lady who's sure all that glitters is gold and she's buying a stairway to heaven"
(1-2). Dave Goldweber writes in his piece "Led Zeppelin," in the St. James Encyclopedia
of Popular Culture
, that "Stairway to Heaven" "remains among the most loved and
respected songs in all popular music, routinely voted #1 on all-time best lists, possessing a status
and reputation unlikely ever to be equaled" (116). This line begins the nine-minutes-long
musical masterpiece, which comes to a close with the second part of the opening line repeated:
"And she's buying a stairway to heaven." This technique is similar to the one used by
Virginia Woolf, yet different in that it does not present an argument but a poem. Eric Idle also
uses the first line of a sketch in the show Monty Python's Flying Circus to captivate an
audience. In a pseudo-public service film entitled "How Not to be Seen," the narrator,
John Cleese opens by saying about a picture of a seemingly empty forest, "In this picture there
are forty-seven people, none of which can be seen." Already, this first line is instigating the
ludicrousness of the sketch. It draws the attention of the viewer to the seemingly empty landscape
which would never otherwise have captivated any audience.
 

More often than occurs in world literature, main characters in British literature lose the ones they
love by the end of a story. The master of tragedy by far is William Shakespeare. In his most famous
play, Romeo and Juliet, the title characters both commit suicide; at the end, Juliet's
last line is "Yea noise? Then I'll be brief. O happy dagger!/[snatching Romeo's
dagger] This is thy sheath [stabs herself]; there rust, and let me die" (178-179). Her suicide
was a result of having lost her love Romeo. This quote shows the drastic measures to which people
will go to be reunited with loved ones; in her departure from this world, Juliet believed she would
again meet Romeo. The love between Julia and Winston in George Orwell's 1984 ends in a
conversation in the last chapter, after which they were indifferent toward each other: "He did
not attempt to kiss her, nor did they speak" (291). After Winston's
"re-education," his only "true" love was Big Brother. The meaning here is that
evem if our loved ones are still among us, we can still lose them by ceasing to love them due to our
own, sometimes cowardly, actions. At the end of J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings,
Sam, Merry, and Pippin see Frodo for the last time as he sails away from Middle Earth:
Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard; and the sails were drawn
up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of
the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost. And the ship went out into the high
sea and passed into the West (1007).


This scene finally splits the fellowship that had originally set out from the Shire. Sometimes,
loved ones are lost, not through death or our actions, but separated from us by fate. Doris Lessing
writes in her novel The Grass is Singing, "she opened her mouth to speak; and, as she
did so, saw his hand, which held a long curving shape, lifted above his head; and she knew it would
be too late.…Moses, letting her go, saw her roll to the floor" (253-254). At the end of the
final segment to Rowling's series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry is hit
with a cold realization of death: "The images of Fred, Lupin, and Tonks lying dead in the Great
Hall forced their way back into his mind's eye, and for a moment he could hardly breathe: death
was impatient" (693). Claire E. Gross writes in an article in The Horn Book Magazine,
"The opening scenes of Deathly Hallows find Harry... wistfully bidding goodbye to those
who, like his parents and godfather, were lost to him." Here, again, it is the cruel clutches
of death that steal from us those whom we love. Whether the culprit is death, betrayal, or simply a
moving on with life, many very close relationships in British literature come to a close, just as
they do in real life.

All of British literature depends on the five themes of setting, theme, gender, form, and
resolution, as does literature from all over the world. However, what sets apart British literature
from all the others is that even though it relies on these same five devices, the way that they are
used is different. British literature has been influenced by cultures and ideals that are probably
different from those found elsewhere in the world, thus the literature will be different. As long as
the Western world continues to advance and grow technologically and industrially, each generation
will face new issues and respond to those issues. Even today in Britain there is still a clash of
new ideas and tradition. The same holds true about British literature. One thing that does stay the
same is the reliance on these five devices, but as time passes and the culture continues to change,
so will the ways in which British authors use setting, theme, gender, form, and resolution. In the
end it seems that all devices rely on each other, and they are so closely related that they seem to
be one: settings, moods, time, gender, and even form all enhance the psychological make-up of the
character, who controls or is controlled by the peice, all leading up to the resolution, which may
or may not have been foreseen but always makes sence when re-read within the context of the end.
This is literature.
 


Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1813.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "Kubla Khan." Prentice Hall Literature: Timeless Voices,
Timeless Themes: The British Tradition
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Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. 710-712.

---. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Prentice Hall Literature: Timeless Voices,
Timeless Themes: The British Tradition
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Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. 686-709.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc, 2001.

---. A Tale of Two cities. New York: Robert Drummond and Company, 1910.

Fromm, Erick. "Afterword to 1984." New York: Penguin Group, 1977.

Goldweber, Dave. "Led Zeppelin." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Eds.
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Gross, Claire E. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." The Horn Book Magazine.
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Housman, A.E. "With Rue My Heart is Laden." A Shropshire Lad. New York: Henry Holt
and Company, 1924.

---. "When I was One and Twenty." Prentice Hall Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless
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Lessing, Doris. The Grass is Singing. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1950.

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Monty Python's Flying Circus. Writ. Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones,
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1975

Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Penguin Group, 1977.

Plant, Robert, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham. "Stairway to Heaven." Led
Zeppelin IV
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---. "Kashmir." Physical Graffiti. New York: Atlantic Records, 1975.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007.

---. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.

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---. Romeo and Juliet. Philadelphia: J.B. Leppincott & Co, 1913.

Tolkein, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

Tyner, James. "Self and space, resistance and discipline: a Foucauldian reading of George
Orwell's 1984." Social & Cultural Geography:. March 2004: 129-149.

Woolf, Virginia. The Common Reader. 2004. University of Adelaide. May 15, 2008.
<ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91c/chapter12.html>

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