“Mrs Dalloway” and “The Hours”

The Perception of Time

With the working title “The Hours”, Mrs. Dalloway is a novel which is, not surprisingly, about time. However, by changing the title, Woolf made the theme more subtle. The film “The Hours”, based on the novel by Michael Cunningham, reintroduces this title to underscore the common theme. Through the use of different narrative techniques, such as broken chronology, narrative and point of view, both stories depict how time can be perceived differently.

Firstly, a broken chronology is used to separate the objective and subjective time.  Both Mrs. Dalloway and “The Hours” happen during the course of one day, thus giving a linear time-frame for the events. However, in Mrs. Dalloway the objective time is constantly challenged by an inner time, namely the characters subjective perception of time. This is depicted through the stream- of- consciousness method, showing how ones thoughts are never only in the present. Likewise, the chronology in the film “The Hours“ is broken by the fact that the three stories are seemingly entwined and affected by each other, despite the separation in time, and that they begin with the end. By using chronology and a broken chronology as a technique, the inevitable passage of time is contrasted with the characters drifting thoughts in Mrs. Dalloway and the separation in time in “The Hours”.

Likewise, narration is used to contrast the passage of time with people’s inner time. For instance, in Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf uses the stream- of consciousness method as a narrative technique. This method allows the reader to experience the characters thoughts, and consequently their perception of time, as their thoughts drift from the present to the past and future. The daydreaming is consequently broken off by the sound of Big Ben each hour, bringing them back to the present. However, as a film, “The Hours” does not have the same ability to convey the thoughts of the characters as they are depicted by the narrator. Yet, the past is often a subject of conversation, and, the lives of the characters are at several occasions broken off by the sounding of a clock. The effect of breaking off the characters’ daydreaming is that their inner time is contrasted with the inevitable passage of time.

The point of view is also central in depicting the inner time. The narrator in Mrs. Dalloway is omnipresent, like a cloud hovering over all the characters, plunging in to one person’s mind after the other. By breaking up the point of view, Woolf manages to depict the diversity in how people perceive time. The linear time, showing that each second brings us closer to death, evokes a different sentiment in the characters. “There! Out it boomed, first a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable” (Woolf, 1925). Whereas Clarissa Dalloway is afraid of the time passing and the prospect of death, Septimus seems at ease with the passage of time and, consequently, he welcomes it as he later welcomes death. In contrast, “The Hours” does not have the same opportunity to plunge into someone’s mind, instead the shifting point of view is conveyed through skilled editing. For instance, the film focuses on similar events in the life of the characters, and uses these similarities to make an effortless transition between the different stories. For instance, in the beginning, when Woolf thinks of an opening line to the book, the story is cut to the story where Laura is reading the line, and then to Clarissa buying the flowers.  The understanding of the inner time, however, demands a better insight into the minds of the characters. The shifting point of view is, therefore, a way of showing time as individual rather than only objective.

To conclude, the novel Mrs. Dalloway and the film “The Hours” both depict the passage of time. By using different narrative techniques to convey the theme, the linear passage of time and the subjective perception of it is separated and contrasted, and leaves the reader with the impression that time is a big part of someone’s life.

Literature 

Daldry, S. (Director). (2002). The Hours [Motion Picture].

Woolf, V. (1925). Mrs- Dalloway .

– Kristin

Shakespeare’s sonnet 18 – correcting my mistakes

This year I have English literature and Culture as one of my in-depth subjects. After learning more about Shakespeare these past two weeks, I have come to realize just how wrong I was when I tried to analyze Sonnet 18 last time. What mistake did I make? I made the mistake of underestimating Shakespeare’s work, choosing to only focus on what first meets the eye. This is, therefore, an attempt to make up for that ignorance I showed last time.


Sonnet 18 is a Shakespearian sonnet, meaning that it is divided into 4 quatrains, each with 4 lines, and a final couplet (2 lines). It is in the final couplet one often finds the true meaning of the sonnet, and in the case of sonnet 18, the lines are a big part of understanding that it is simply not only a declaration of love. Furthermore, the sonnet has the form of abab cdcd efef gg, meaning that the last word on line 1 rhymes with the last word on line 3 and the last word on line 2 rhymes with line 4 and so on.

First, Shakespeare asks if he can compare his loved one to a summer’s day. He debates around whether it fits or not, as she is lovelier and more temperate, and the summer often is too short, the sun too hot and the wind too rough. However, the focus on summer coming to an end can be seen as a parallel to her beauty and how it will eventually fade. Therefore, he begins to refer to her as an eternal summer that will never fade away and die. The twist to this declaration of love becomes clear from line 12- 14, where he shifts his focus, and begins to talk about his eternal lines. As long as his work can be appreciated and read, her beauty will be shown to people. Therefore, one can say that the sonnet is really a tribute to poetry itself, making it a Meta poem (a poem about a poem).

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

– Kristin

J. K. Rowling’s commencement speech (2008)

A commencement speech might only appear as different word put together to make people listen for a couple of minutes. And it is. Simultaneously, it can be so much more. J. K. Rowling’s commencement speech for Harvard graduates in 2008 falls into that category. She goes about it the right way by capturing people’s attention and then giving them something to think about.  In her speech she takes about the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. Two rather alternative subjects as the audience were Harvard graduates. But who are better to learn about the benefits of failure than those who probably fear it the most? And who other than J. K. Rowling could we trust to emphasize the positive aspects of a vivid imagination?

First, when listening to Rowling’s commencement speech, it becomes clear that she uses rhetorical devices. Rhetoric is the art or study of using language effectively and persuasively. For instance, she has several allusions to her own book series, namely Harry Potter. By mentioning and joking with it in the beginning of the speech, she makes people really pay attention and have fun. Humor is, therefore, central in making an interesting commencement speech. Furthermore, she uses herself and her life experience to illustrate how it was to be seen as a failure and how it made her grow as a person. Not only are the stories themselves captivating, they bring the speech together, and the message comes across much more powerful when it can be related to a person.

Relating to a person’s story and using your imagination was, not surprisingly, a central theme in Rowling’s commencement speech. As the author behind the Harry Potter books and a former employee at Amnesty International, she has learned just how important it is to be able to relate to other peoples stories. “Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.”(Full speech here) In her speech for the Harvard graduates she also points out the importance of using the ability to relate. By not empathizing, we indirectly enable real monsters through our apathy.  People should, therefore, not be afraid to put themselves in other’s shoes, because it can be an experience that gives knowledge an insight to unknown situations and problems.

The last subject that Rowling talked about was the benefit of failure. And that brings me back to my opening statement, namely that successful people fear failure the most. The Harvard graduates are most likely hardworking students who are used to doing well and, therefore, also afraid of not reaching the expectations they set themselves or those who have been set for them. However, failure is something that makes you grow as a person and it tests the relationships you surround yourself with. Despite it not being fun, it can be seen as a good opportunity to strip away the inessential and focus on what is important for you. Imparting that message to students who were stressed about their future was, therefore, a smart decision.  Even if you fail at important tasks in your life, there is a light in the end of the tunnel, because failure itself is not only negative. “And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

So today, I wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:

As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.


And by that being said, I wrap up this school year with international English. It has been an experience, allowing me to write and unfold myself in a way that I have not done before. I have also been featured on national radio, in the newspaper and on BBC, something which did not even cross my mind as possible when I started the blog. Also, thank you so much for the comments and the feedback throughout the year. Have a nice summer vacation!

–          Kristin

harvard

jk rowling

Ernest Hemingway’s life and authorship

Hello!

I have finally finished my in- depth project in International English, and the subject I chose was Ernest Hemingway and his book “The Old Man and the Sea”. Hope you like it. 

– Kristin


Ernest Miller Hemingway is a recognized author, maybe even one of the century’s biggest legends when it comes to writing. In 1952 “The Old Man and the Sea” landed him the Nobel Prize in literature.

Ernest Miller Hemingway  

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another”. (Brainy Cotes)

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born the 21.July 1899 in the Chicago suburb, Oak Park. His older sister, Marceline, was already 18 months old, and during the next 16 years, tree more sisters and one brother followed. They grew up in a home where the mother, due to bad sight, had to give up on a promising opera career, and instead compensated with humiliating her husband and terrorizing her family. At home, pietism and active worshipping of God put a mark on the children, leaving them with little knowledge about the hard facts of life. In return, there was barley anything the young Hemingway did not learn about nature, hunting and fishing. This respect and knowledge about the nature later shone through in his authorship, connecting all of his works. For the most, it is as if he wanted to impart, with his elegiac tone, that nature would win over us humans.

Hemingway started his career writing for the school newspaper. Even though he was tired of school, he very much enjoyed writing, and this probably affected his wish to become a war reporter in Europe. Despite his hopes, he ended as a junior reporter in the paper “Kansas City Star” when he finished high school.  However, the experience was useful, leaving him with more knowledge about how to write meaningful, short sentences using a good language. In 1918 he volunteered as an ambulance driver for Red Cross and found himself at the northern Italian front. There he was injured and admitted to hospital where he met, and fell in love with, the American nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, who later betrayed him. She was the inspiration for the female character in “A Farewell to Arms”

Back in America, Hemingway began to take small jobs, where he excelled as a versatile and good writer. After meeting his future wife and proposing, he moved to Paris in 1922 to work on his language and writing style. When in Paris, he met Ezra Pound who convinced him to remove superfluous words and show his story, instead of just talking about it. In the following years, he worked as a war correspondent in different countries, made his debut as an author and became father to a son. He continued to write novels and poems about brutality, violence, war and honor, and got recognition for his work. His breakthrough came, however, in 1926 when “And the Sun Also Rises”, where not only himself, but also his circle of acquaintances in Paris were made immortal. Hemingway lived an eventful life, and in 1936, he was back in his element as an anti-war correspondent for America during the Spanish Civil War. However, he became exceedingly anti- fascistic, wanting to involve America in the conflict. He also got criticized for mixing fiction with reality in his articles.

One plane crash, several failed marriages later, and with the coverage of two World Wars and one civil war on his sleeve, Hemingway had become a person with an intense fear of death, yet with suicidal thoughts. In the end the loneliness, depression, delusions, alongside drinking problems drove him to commit suicide. “When writing has become your biggest load and you highest pleasure, only death can stop you” The 2.July 1961 he loaded his double-barred shotgun and put an end to his problems. Ernest Miller Hemingway had become a legend.

How did Hemingway’s personal experiences affect his work as an author?

One can say that Hemingway’s childhood and experiences in life highly affected not only his stories, but also his style of writing. Being brought up in a home with a highly valued focus on the nature and its beauty, gave Hemingway a platform for most of his work. For instance, in the book “The Old Man and the Sea” one learns that Mother Nature is in control, yet that her beauty is breathtaking. This message seems to be a recurring matter in his storytelling.

In his early days, Christianity was also a fundamental part of his life. Being brought up with a strong faith might have given him the want to have some allusions in his stories. In the “Old Man and the Sea” there are several hints that Hemingway was a person with a good knowledge of the bible. However, it is not only his childhood that affected his work, Hemingway also met a lot of people who influenced him. In fact, he drew most of his inspiration from his surroundings and experiences. One can easily relate characters to people he have met, and the story itself to happenings that made an impact on him. For instance, many of his novels and short stories are set in a place where war is an important theme. That is easily connected to his interest and experience with war. On the other side, when it comes to the evolution of his writing style, one can say that the people he met were more significant than certain events. In fact, one can assert that his job in the paper “Kansas City Star” and the meeting with Ezra Pound were the most important parts in forming his career, as they helped Hemingway develop a style that would later be his mark.

 

The “Hemingway man” and other distinctive marks

Ernest Hemingway was an author with a very distinctive writing style. In many ways, the style can be described as minimalism. The core of his authorship, which was both a strength and a weakness, was namely his will to portray the things, everything we perceive with our senses, as they were. With the help of objectivity, without unnecessary reasoning or argumentation, he left it up to the readers to make an up their mind about the situations or places in his stories. Additionally, he worked on telling an interesting story without commonplace adjectives and unnecessary words. His English was powerful, without forgetting to pursue lightness using short, meaningful sentences. This aesthetics is something witch later has been associated with Hemingway and his authorship.

Hemingway also followed a principle called the “iceberg- method”, illustrating that for every part you see, there are seven which are hidden under water. By describing only the superficial in his stories, he leaves the reader with a lot of questions. However, the information can be found if one reads between the lines. An author who uses this principle forces the reader to think, and when he or she does, a whole new meaning appears. The first impression of one of his books can, therefore, be that it is a simple book with, evidently, no deeper meaning than an old man trying to catch a fish. Yet, when one reads more into it, it becomes clear just how duplex the book is.

Concerning characters, the “Hemingway man” developed during his lifetime to become a distinctive feature in his books. This character can be seen as a personal description of himself, focusing on different aspects of his personality. The usual “Hemingway man” is tough, worn out, stoic and laconic with all of his despair hidden behind a sophisticated appearance. (Landro, 1993) In other words, the male characters were very much masculine men, yet they all had problems complicating their lives. In the book “The Old Man and the Sea”, however, there was a significant difference, separating the main person from the normal “Hemingway man”. The fear for the unknown, bothering the main person, was no longer present. This can be seen as a change in Hemingway’s perception of himself, as if he had become more at ease with his problems and his future.

The Old Man and the Sea

The book “The Old Man and the Sea” came out in 1952 and is amongst the most well- known books written by Hemingway. It landed him the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, as well as the Nobel Prize in literature the year after for his “powerful mastership, which has been important in shaping the present art of narration”.

“The Old Man and the Sea” is about Santiago and his apprentice Manolin, who gets separated due to Santiago’s lack of luck on the sea.  As the story begins, the old man has gone 84 days without a catch, and the fishing has turned into an ascetic penitential exercise as he barley brings food or water. The following day, the fish bites- the biggest fish Santiago has ever gotten on the hook. He accepts the challenge that turns in to a 4 days long combat in endurance. Whilst on the sea, the fight develops into something more than the question of victory or loss, it becomes a matter of life or death.  The battle between the big fish and the old man is amongst the best descriptions of an ordeal. Exhaustion, hunger, thirst, pain in his arms and back, as well as the loss of his apprentice and guilt for the fish, are some of the things that brings Santiago close to insanity and death. However, he wins in the end, only to be confronted with his hubris, he went too far out. On his way back, the sharks eat his catch, and the old man is left with nothing.

Themes

There is much more to “The Old Man and the Sea” than what first meets the eye. This is a tale about the power of the nature and how it conquers everything. Even though the old man catches his beloved fish, nature steps in and brings him back to earth. His strength is simply nothing compared to the strength of the ocean. The defeat, and the old man’s reasoning afterwards, allows Hemingway’s optimism to show through. “A human can be destroyed, but not defeated” is something which Hemingway emphasized during his life. When the old man realized that he had lost, however, he stated the opposite, namely “A human can be defeated, but not destroyed.” The quote focuses on the strength people have, meaning even though the old man had lost the fish and was defeated, it would take more to destroy him. In this book, Hemingway not only honors the entirety of the nature, he honors the love between the hunter and its prey, which is, according to him, one of the basic conditions for allowing humans to take care of our planet.

In fact, connections can be seen as an important theme in the book. First, the bond between the apprentice and his master is evident throughout the whole book.   Even though they were separated by force, Manolin remains an important person in Santiago’s life. He does his best to help the old man, as Santiago is his role model. The relation goes both ways, so when the old man is alone on the sea, thinking of the young boy helps him and motivates him to fight. When they were separated, it became clear for the old man that his days on the sea were numbered. Secondly, the old man develops a strong connection with his prey during their battle. He sees the fish as his friend and appreciates its beauty and power. Even after it is killed, he does his best to protect it from the sharks, not only for his own benefit, but for the sake of the fish, as the fish’s pain is his own.  The fact that he feels guilty for killing the fish, seeing it being eaten as a punishment, shows just how strongly he is connected to the prey.

Composition and literary means

Even though Hemingway wrote in a minimalistic way, it does not mean that there are few literary means in his books. On the contrary, “The Old Man and the Sea” is filled with metaphors, similes, descriptions and allusions. The first simile comes as soon as on the first page. “But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert”.  By comparing the old man’s skin and scars to a fishless desert, he creates an image that is easy to picture for the reader. In fact, all of his descriptions work that way. There are no unnecessary adjectives, but those which are used are very powerful. “The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks”.  Another recurring part of his descriptions is the use of smell. When he portrays the ocean, the smell adds another dimension, making the reader feel that he or she is on the sea with the old man.

However, the literary means are not only connected to describing the old man and the ocean. If one looks at the bigger picture, Hemingway has used several allusions to God and Jesus in the book. “He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach”. Lions are often mentioned by the old man, and can be seen as an allusion to God. A lion has become a symbol of God and can be seen in other books, for instance in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis. Furthermore, the name Santiago is a version of Saint Jacob, who left his net to follow Jesus, the human fisherman. Lastly, when the old man returned from having been on the ocean for four days, he shouldered the mast and walked home. This can be seen as a parallel to Jesus walking with the cross before he was killed.

Structure- vise, the book is very similar to Hemingway’s former masterpiece “The Undefeated”. In “The Old Man and the Sea”, the story is non- chronological, as there are several retrospects where he looks back at his life. The perspective is told mostly from the old man’s side, yet his apprentice also present, and one gets to know his thoughts as well. This contributes to painting a more varied picture of the old man.

To conclude, Ernest Hemingway was a person who drew inspiration from his surroundings and experiences. By absorbing different information, he developed as a writer and set his mark in the history of literature. “The Old Man and the Sea” is one of many books that shows his talent and characteristic style of writing. His love and respect for nature shines through as he debates around the relation between hunter and prey, one of the big ecological paradoxes. There is always more than what meets the eye, and “The Old Man and the Sea” is a perfect example of why one should never judge a book by its cover. Remember that you might only see what is above the water.

Bibliography

Brainy Cotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/e/ernest_hemingway_2.html

Hemingway, E. (2004). The Old Man and the Sea. Arrow Books .

Landro, J. H. (1993). Ernest Hemingway. Århundrets Bibliotek, pp. 3- 24.

In- depth project: Ernest Hemingway

This year, my in- depth project in International English will be about Ernest Hemingway and his book “The Old Man and the Sea”. I chose this subject because there is nothing like analyzing good literature if you want to improve your own writing. He was a great author with a very characteristic writing style, and there was nothing but admiration on my behalf after I had read “The Old Man and the Sea”. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about the book and the author’s life.

In my project I will focus on Hemingway’s life, and how it might have affected his fictional characters, especially the main person in the book I read. Additionally, I am going to analyze the book and look for the characteristics showing that it was written by Hemingway. There are a lot of questions I hope to answer in my in depth- project, for instance what the deeper meaning of the book might be, and if the main character is a traditional “Hemingway man”.

the old man and the sea

If anybody is interested, I can post the project after I have finished it.

–          Kristin

Shakespeare

This year, we are marking the 450th birthday of Shakespeare. In this occasion, we were assigned one poem and one play, Sonnet 18 and Hamlet. Since I already had some knowledge about Hamlet, this was a good opportunity to read and work with another poem written by Shakespeare.

Shakespeare

Sonnet 18 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Analyzing this sonnet might seem to some a bit unnecessary. Shakespeare writes for the most straightforward in language, consequently making it easy to understand the context. This sonnet is, therefore, not surprisingly about love and stability. A cliché? No, actually not. At his time (1609), this way of writing was not yet a cliché. In fact, one can say that Shakespeare was amongst the first of using the techniques later associated with clichés. For instance, the comparison between his beloved one and the summer was more inventive than people might grasp.

There are a lot of things which should be said about Shakespeare, so if you are interested in learning more about him, you can check out some of these links

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/18.html

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/18detail.html

http://gouk.about.com/od/forshakespearefans/fl/Happy-Birthday-Will-Shakespeares-450th-Birthday-Celebrations-in-2014.htm

Are you doing something special to celebrate Shakespeare’s anniversary?

– Kristin

The White Tiger- Double Entry Journal

Our teacher asked us last week to write a double entry journal, discussing two paragraphs, or quotes from our book. I chose two extracts which show two different sides of the book. The first one, I think, is a good way of explaining how the Indian society works as it does, and why it is hard to break out. The second one focuses more on the main character’s most important relationship.

Extract:

«The Rooster Coop was doing its work. Servants have to keep other servants from becoming innovators, experimenters, or entrepreneurs. Yes, that’s the truth, Mr. Premier. The coop is guarded from the inside.

Explanation:

To me, the extract is important in understanding the book. The author explains in a very simple way how the Indian society works, and why it is hard to break out of the patterns. As the main theme in the book is freedom, removing oneself from the known, this extract immediately becomes central in realizing just how he managed to do it. Every time he came close to “breaking out” of his role as a servant, or driver, the other servants tried to pull him back. It, therefore, took a lot of him to achieve his freedom and become an entrepreneur, because no matter where he went, his role was set.  Furthermore, the extract paints an image of his struggle towards his goal. Being locked in a Rooster Coop is a good way of explaining how the people from the lower layers of the society remains faithful to their masters and don’t try to break free.

Extract:

Background: Mr. Ashok’s wife has just left him and he is devastated.

“He laughed again. I told him another story, and this made him laugh some more. Has there ever been a master- servant relationship like this one? He was so powerless, so lost, my heart just had to melt.”

Explanation:

Most of the book is, in my opinion, built around the connection between Balram and his master, Mr. Ashok, making it a central theme. For that reason, it is only natural to use an extract giving a bit of insight in the development of their relationship. Even though Balram ends up killing his master, he never thinks badly of him. His master was, despite all, the person helping him indirectly with becoming a free man. In the given extract, they move from being master and servant towards being almost friends. Having his wife abandon him, leaves Mr. Ashok so emotionally vulnerable that he needs someone to take care of him. This extract gives the reader an understanding of just how strong their connection is, and that is important is comprehending why Balram can speak and think so nicely of his master, even after he causes his death.

– Kristin