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Debbie P.
Professor of History and Literature
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Writing
TutorMe
Question:

In King Lear, Shakespeare juxtaposes the unique, yet similar stories of two fathers, who, through the misunderstanding of their own worlds, fail to see truth. What is the major symbol used by the author to convey this lack of self-knowledge?

Debbie P.
Answer:

The tragic story of King Lear is one of theft, deceit, and betrayal. However, at the heart of the play is the symbol of blindness which permeates the very foundation of the tragedy. Lear cannot see that the flattery he receives from his older daughters, Goneril and Regan, is driven by greed and self-interest. In this respect, it can also be said that both women are blinded by selfishness as they only say what they know he wants to hear in order to steal his estate. Unfortunately for Lear, his self-absorption makes him unable to see their deceit. This, in turn, causes him to attack the one true person in his life, his youngest daughter, Cordelia, who is blind-sided by the absurdity of the question which renders her powerless to produce a flattering answer that will please him. While pride and ego are the driving forces behind Lear’s behavior, it is guilt and naiveté that cause Gloucester’s figurative, and then, literal blindness. For Gloucester, blindness becomes real as guilt causes his failure to see the true nature of Edmund’s duplicitous behavior. Thus, Gloucester’s life is put in jeopardy because of blind trust. Both men suffer from the inability to understand truth in the face of deceit, however, it is Lear’s ego and arrogance which impairs his judgement and sets the action of the play into motion.

Literature
TutorMe
Question:

Theodore Adorno stated that to create art after Auschwitz was barbaric. Thinking about that statement, how do we account for the countless volumes of poetry, memoirs, short stories, literature, and even art created, not only in the midst of the terror, but after the war? And, what value does art and literature bring, if any to humanity?

Debbie P.
Answer:

Though many have interpreted and re-evaluated Adorno’s very complicated statement over the last five plus decades, on the surface, it does ask a crucial two sided question: (1) If the very concept of an Auschwitz world negates the beauty which art and literature offer the world, and (2) If a nation of such significant scientific, literary, musical, and artistic achievements can perpetrate such horror, then what use is art to culture. If art and literature, in fact, offer beauty and redemption to humanity, then how can a post-Auschwitz world even attempt to create, much less understand its worth and its transformational characteristics. What can the rhythm of Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue” and its perfect rhyme representing the death camps offer a damaged world? What significance can “black milk” have to those who didn’t live it? How does the ironic prose of Albert Camus’ The Plague respond to humanity’s fractured conscience? Even more important, how do we answer the numerous artistic and literary works which resulted from both within the camps, as well as after? It can be argued that the poetry of and after Auschwitz proves that humanity did not die in the flames of the ovens. That creating something of beauty in the midst and aftermath of Auschwitz answers the question Eli Wiesel asks himself in Night on first arriving at the camps; “How could it be possible for them to burn people, children, and for the world to keep silent?” Perhaps, it is the very act of creativity, in the midst and aftermath of Auschwitz, that was the ultimate answer from the victims to the world. For those who knew they would perish, it proved that they were still human. And, even more important, for the survivors, despite it all, it was literature and art in the aftermath of Auschwitz that gave them a reason to exist when they had lost everything that mattered.

European History
TutorMe
Question:

How did World War I and the treaties signed at the end of the war change the face of world politics? And, how does that transformation continue to impact world events?

Debbie P.
Answer:

World War I began a series of events, the consequences of which are reflected today in major struggles across the globe. Significant geopolitical, cultural, social, and military transformations took place as a result of that war which caused an avalanche of death and destruction throughout the twentieth-century that plagued the Continent, as well as the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. Some of the more significant outcomes of the protracted war were: the fall of the Ottoman Empire which caused the re-creation of the Middle East (including the partition of Iraq and the creation, by 1932, of the modern state of Saudi - Arabia), the war guilt clause of the Treaty of Versailles (blaming Germany for the war), Germany's anger over loss of the war and the political factionalism that subsequently emerged, the rise of nationalism, the Russian Revolution, the emergence of global Communism, and numerous other occurrences which still, even today, spark antagonism and controversy. Throughout the century, the confluence of these developments continued to cause major military conflicts, and even more important, eventually resulted in the mass murder of civilians and genocides; it was the beginning of an era which eventually changed the face of humanity for all time. In fact, some could argue, that current global conflicts in many ways represent unresolved political struggles which were created by the Treaty of Versailles and subsequent treaties signed at the end of the war.

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