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Purpose of literature; what can literature do? Essay


Still Falls the Rain by Edith Sitwell is a poem on the sufferings in the world. The poem, written during World War II after the Germans bombed England, begins with the reference to the event.

It then spins to describing the sufferings on humankind throughout the history of the world. The theme of the poem is on human suffering through the ages. The poem’s theme is the pain and suffering that futile war inflicts on humankind. The poem depicts war as the possessor of pain and sin that humankind cannot bear. The religious undertone of the poem is evident:

Still falls the rain

At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross.

Christ that each day, each night, nails there

Have mercy on us –

On Dives and on Lazarus:

Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one.

The poem is dominated with themes and ideas from religion and the mingling of war, showing war as the creator of human sin. Man cannot endure the suffering caused by war and it can be washed away through the sufferings of Christ. Rain is used as a metaphor for war and bloodshed through war.

In the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the most intriguing part is the setting of the novel in the Victorian London and it’s binding with the plot of the novel.

The duality in the character of Dr. Jekyll through his “Other” in form of Mr. Hyde expresses the lingering revolting attitude of the Londoners in the Victorian age, which was essentially an age of conformism to the prevalent ways of the time. The duality in the protagonists is actually a revolt to the constraining social discourse and norms of the Victorian era.

Realism in literature is an essential part as this shows what part of the real world is close to the fictional world shown in literature. For instance, in case of the novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the realism lies in the frustration of Victorian intelligentsia with the constraining norms of the era.

Masao Myoshi points out that the idea of the social ideals of the Victorian era and literature is reinstated in the novel wherein the book is essentially a “vision” of the late-Victorian “wasteland” to remove all Hyde-like elements from the society to establish “an honorable public life and a joyful private one.”

Fiction is “a shield with two sides, the silver and the golden: the study of manners and of character, on one hand; on the other, the description of adventure, the delight of romantic narrative.” . Realism in literature is apparent through the works of Stevenson, Haggard, Lang, and others . Realism in literature was very high in the Victorian era in British literature, which many believe was due to the Victorians’ desire to show the “mimetic capacity” of literature.

Realism is often described as the desire of the Victorians to frame the plot and ideas of the novel in order to contradict the reality. In other words, realism was stressed by the Victorian writers in order to present a “parallel or subjective truth” that can be considered as “no truth at all” .

Therefore, realism in literature in the Victorian age was essentially a way to contradict the reality, which has been defined as “the excesses, both stylistic and narrative, of various kinds of romantic, exotic, or sensational literatures” . Therefore in a novel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that would make one feel that it is unrealistic, actually brought forth the realism of the novel by portraying the lingering dualism in the Victorian minds .

Literature is a history book that shows the mind and heart of the people of the time and not just the events. Literature has the capacity to demonstrate the heart of the age and the interpretations of the conditions of the time. As observed in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, there was a constant dilemma in the protagonists and the duality is essentially the duality in the character of Jekyll to Hyde allows the former to do things that the polite society would consider scandalous.

The movie adaption of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reviewed in the earlier essay shows the changes brought forth from the Victorian era to the modern times in order to infuse the vibe of realism . The language of the literature and the closeness of literature too is an important aspect as this result in the development of realism in literature .

The parallel drawn between the movie and the novel shows that there is a case for “witness literature” as in case of the Victorian social rigidity is apparent in the novel however, is lost in the film . However, it is apparent that in Stevenson’s novel the drive was to bring forth the anti realism through the development of the duality in the Dr. Jekyll character . Therefore, the purpose of literature as a bearer of realism, even if through the portrayal of anti-reality is essentially to bring forth the reality in the fictional world.

Works Cited

Brantlinger, Patrick. Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914. New York: Cornell University Press, 1988. Print.

Byerly, Alison. Realism, Representation, and the Arts in Nineteenth-Century Literature. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Corkin, Stanley. Realism and the Birth of the Modern United States: Cinema, Literature. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1996. Print.

Graff, Gerald. “The Politics of Anti-Realism.” Salmagundi, 42 (1978): 4-30. Print.

Jakobson, Roman, Krystyna Pomorska and Stephen Rudy. Language in Literature. New Yrok: Harvard University Press, 1987. Print.

Miyoshi, Masao. “Dr. Jekyll and the Emergence of Mr. Hyde.” College English, 27(6) (1966): 470-474. Print.

Sitwell, Edith. Still Falls the Rain. 1940. Web.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. London: Harper Collins, 1895. Print.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . Dir. John Carl Buechler. Perf. Tony Todd. 2006. DVD.

White, Hayden. “Figural Realism in Witness Literature.” Parallax, 10(1) (2004): 113-124. Print.

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