Literature Essay Sample: Questions and Answers

Published: 2022-05-20
Literature Essay Sample: Questions and Answers
Type of paper:  Course work
Categories:  English literature King Arthur Shakespeare
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 2065 words
18 min read

1) To my mind, the most important characteristic of a knight is faithfulness. Without being faithful to the Lord, his monarch, his family and his beloved, a knight cannot be considered a knight at all, no matter how courageous, merciful or truthful he might be. King Arthur is a classic example of a knight. From the very beginning of Malory's book, he is exhibiting all the mandatory qualities a knight should have including faithfulness. An illustrative example is an episode connected with the sword taken out of the stone by young Arthur:

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"Sir Kay lost his sword, for he had left it at his father's lodging, and so he prayed young Arthur for to ride for his sword. I will well, said Arthur, and rode fast after the sword, and when he came home, the lady and all were out to see the jousting. Then was Arthur wroth, and said to himself, I will ride to the churchyard, and take the sword with me that sticketh in the stone, for my brother Sir Kay shall not be without a sword this day. So when he came to the churchyard, Sir Arthur alighted and tied his horse to the stile, and so he went to the tent, and found no knights there, for they were at the jousting. And so he handled the sword by the handles, and lightly and fiercely pulled it out of the stone, and took his horse and rode his way until he came to his brother Sir Kay, and delivered him the sword. And as soon as Sir Kay saw the sword, he wist well it was the sword of the stone, and so he rode to his father Sir Ector, and said: Sir, lo here is the sword of the stone, wherefore I must be king of this land. When Sir Ector beheld the sword, he returned again and came to the church, and there they alighted all three, and went into the church. And anon he made Sir Kay swear upon a book how he came to that sword. Sir, said Sir Kay, by my brother Arthur, for he brought it to me. How gat ye this sword? said Sir Ector to Arthur. Sir, I will tell you. When I came home for my brother's sword, I found nobody at home to deliver me his sword; and so I thought my brother Sir Kay should not be swordless, and so I came hither eagerly and pulled it out of the stone without any pain."

In this episode, the reader can easily see that Arthur, no matter how young and inexperienced he is, displays extreme loyalty to his nourished brother Sir Kay. He is gladly, eagerly and humbly helping Sir Kay. When he cannot obtain the sword at home, he does his utmost to provide Sir Kay with the sword. His pulling out the sword is absolutely selfless, altruistic. He is striving not to become the King, but to help his brother. He even does not claim the credit for pulling it out until asked directly. This quality has made Arthur such a good king because he has stayed faithful to his country and held the happiness of his liege men before his own needs.

2) The notion of 'heroism' is one of the most fascinating and at the same hardest to define phenomena in the world history as its semantic contents keep changing from epoch to epoch. At earlier stages of the development of the civilization the common aspect to the personality of heroes (e.g. Gilgamesh, Odysseus etc.), the one without which they could not be defined as such, was their thirst for fame and commemoration. But with the spread of Christianity, the values changed and the ability to perform a courageous deed for the sake of other people has become the key characteristic of a hero. All the three characters - King Arthur, Don Quixote, and Sundiata - possess this ability for self-sacrifice. Other characteristics include good leadership qualities (King Arthur), persistence (Sundiata) and strong internal motivation (Don Quixote). These criteria are still relevant nowadays. If we take a look at the modern DC and Marvel heroes (e.g. Wonder Woman, Black Panther, etc.) we will see that their common feature is their readiness to sacrifice their free time, comfort, health and even lives for the higher purpose. Yet, Sundiata seems to fit the modern hero cliche best of all, due to the fact that apart from being a good leader he is also an example of incredible willpower and persistence as is exemplified by the story of his childhood as a crippled little boy constantly ridiculed and laughed at. Nowadays, being brave is not enough. The most important battle you have to win is a battle with your own weaknesses and limitations. Don Quixote might be seen today as the least heroic personality as the challenges he is dealing with are rather imaginary (or metaphoric) than real.

3) Both sonnets are devoted to celebrating the stability and persistence of love. Sonnet 55 deals with the eternalizing role of poetry which can preserve the strength of the poet's love and beauty of the poet's beloved. To convey this idea, Shakespeare uses the contrast between weightless, yet enduring poetry and stone monuments that look lasting and solid, but crumble only too quickly, falling victims to the time and the war. Moreover, while the marble is motionless and thus dead, poetry with its dynamic flow is a living incarnation of love. Sonnet 116 is also devoted to the persisting and unfailing nature of love, but it explores in detail another aspect of it - loyalty to its object irregardless of the circumstances. Shakespeare also looks at the opposition "stable - moving" from a slightly different angle. If in Sonnet 55 stable stone structures are deemed to be only too transient, while the living, dynamic poetry is everlasting, in Sonnet 116 the author uses the metaphors of "an ever-fixed mark / that looks on tempests and is never shaken" and "the star to every wand'ring bark" in a highly positive key to underline the unfaltering quality of his feeling.

4) "Eveline" by James Joyce is one of the brightest examples of the author's famous plot-structuring device called epiphany: the character gets an unexpected revelation that will define the course of his future life. In "Eveline" the protagonist, a young woman, receives such a revelation when she is standing by the departing ship that is going to take her into a new and presumably happier life. But suddenly her doubts and the fear of changes outweigh her desire to be free and happy. I believe that nothing will change in her life afterwards. As the woman is still thinking about what she should do she is praying to God for guidance: "She felt her cheek pale and cold and, out of a maze of distress, she prayed to God to direct her, to show her what was her duty." The important thing here is that she is concentrating on duty rather than happiness which means she has deliberately and knowingly chosen the same path her mother had chosen before her - "that life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness." I think that doing nothing is also a choice and as such it determines the character's future in such a type of the conflict.

5) The six stories under consideration exhibit a wide variety of types of the conflict and the turning point. In "Eveline" by James Joyce one can observe an internal conflict with a turning point that comes absolutely unexpectedly without being prepared by any foreshadowing. In D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking-Horse Winner" the conflict is external and the turning point is extremely dramatic with a lot of foreshadowing and piled-up tension. "The Train From Rhodesia" by Nadine Gordimer is a short story which has both an external and internal types of the conflict. As for the turning point, it is not as dramatic as in the Lawrence's short story but also prepared with a great deal of meticulous building up of the tension. In "Poison," a short story written by Roald Dahl, the conflict is external and the turning point is a dramatic one. "Through the Tunnel" by Doris Lessing is a bright example of an internal conflict with a dramatic turning point. Finally, George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant" exhibits both types of the conflict with a bright dramatic turning point.

I believe George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant" is the most useful reading for a person taking an important decision as it explores the process of decision making and the factors influencing it. It gives the readers three important tips. First, one should try to leave the emotional strain behind so that it does not influence the decision. The protagonist is unable to do that and "the sneering yellow faces of young men," the insults hooted after him when he was at a safe distance and which got badly on his nerves serve as a catalyzer for his decision to shoot the animal as he wants to prove these people wrong and to look heroic in their eyes. Secondly, one is to weigh all the pros and cons. The speaker does this and realizes that he has no choice and must shoot the animal not to be laughed at - being ridiculed by the Burmese could have ruined his whole life: "The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh. That would never do." Finally, one should take into consideration the consequences of the decision. The main character is not prepared for the elephant's terrible agony: "In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away" and this causes him great suffering.


1) In Sonnet 30 Shakespeare uses a very powerful metaphor "precious friends hid in death's dateless night." It is interesting that the speaker's friends "hid" in the night as if they did this willingly and deliberately as if they were tired of the bright light of this world. Death is compared to the night - it is not scary as it is, but it teems with fears and legends people have connected with it throughout the human history. Finally, the night is dateless, which means it is eternal, but also without any dates - smooth, free-flowing, devoid of the hustle and bustle of having to deal with the deadlines and urgency. This metaphor creates a rather sympathetic image of death, which is quite logical to be encountered in the poem discussing the speaker's melancholy.

In Sonnet 55, Shakespeare employs a very insightful personification: "...unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time." When the poet uses the phrase "sluttish time" he creates an image of a woman of easy virtue and changeable mood. Indeed, for people of different age and in different emotional states the time is running with different speed, thus, it is in no way stable or loyal. One has to learn to put up with the moodiness of time.

In Sonnet 116, the author compares love to the star shining for "every wand'ring bark." This metaphor tells the reader that Shakespeare sees love as something unchangeable and stable, that cannot be easily altered. Love guides people through the tempests of their lives and serves as a moral landmark. Nowadays we know that the light of a star can be seen by people for many years after the star has died. This knowledge adds new shades of meaning to the traditional interpretation of this beautiful metaphor.

2) The two poems under analysis belong to love poetry and profess the speaker's immense affection for the beloved human being. Yet, in their structure and imagery, they are significantly different. Sonnet 55 by William Shakespeare is composed as an English sonnet with three quatrains and an ending couplet, while Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning formally is an Italian sonnet with two quatrains and two tercets. This organization perfectly suits the semantic logics of the poems. Sonnet 55 focuses on the speaker's beloved and her eternal life in the poetic lines. Not even once the pronoun "I" is used. The whole poem is structured as a contrast of the transience of the monuments as compared to the everlasting fame of Shakespeare's love poetry.

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