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Tutor profile: Kate A.

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Kate A.
Assistant Head of English and Long-Term Tutor
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Questions

Subject: Shakespeare

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Question:

Explore how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Lord Capulet and Tybalt in Act 1, Scene 5.

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Kate A.
Answer:

Throughout this extract, Lord Capulet and Tybalt struggle for dominance in the household. Their relationship is strained as Tybalt threatens Capulet’s power in his own home. At first, Lord Capulet asserts his dominance over Tybalt quite gently – he uses imperatives (“let him alone”, “be patient” and “take no note of him”) to softly instruct his nephew to leave Romeo alone at the party. This initially hints at a good relationship between the two, as Capulet appears to be attempting to calm Tybalt down. Even his use of the adjective “patient” would suggest that he does not disagree with Tybalt’s feelings about Romeo’s audacity in attending the party. Moreover, his repeated use of the pronoun “him” to describe Romeo suggests that Capulet is intentionally separating himself from the Montagues and is siding with Tybalt. Instead of immediate violence, he gently asks his nephew to wait until the time is right before getting his revenge as he does not want Romeo (who is well-liked in Verona) to be attacked and harmed at his party, as it would cause problems for him and his reputation in society. Therefore, it seems here that Capulet and Tybalt do bond initially over having a common enemy nearby. However, their relationship quickly becomes strained when Tybalt refuses to follow Capulet’s instructions to calm down – he uses his own imperative statement, “I’ll not endure him”, to show flagrant disobedience towards his uncle. This direct refusal causes Capulet suggests that Tybalt is attempting to take control of the situation; the fact that he uses the pronoun “I” shows that he has separated himself from Capulet and his power as patriarch, and also could suggest to his uncle that Tybalt does not agree with his decision and so is choosing to disobey him. Elizabethan England was a patriarchal society and there were set expectations to follow the head of the household (or family) unquestionably. Especially in his own house, Capulet expects everyone to do as he says; when Tybalt attempts to take any power himself, Capulet reacts very harshly, diminishing his nephew by calling him a “boy” (which suggests he is young, inexperienced and powerless), and asking him “Am I the master here, or you?”. With this question, Capulet directly challenges Tybalt’s attempt to take control of the situation at the party, defending his own power as well as his masculinity and role in society itself. When Tybalt threatens his uncle’s power and masculinity, he causes a huge strain between the two of them because it implies that he does not respect Lord Capulet or his patriarchal position. The fact that Tybalt appears to threaten his patriarchal role also hints at him disobeying his religion, where Elizabethan Catholics believed that they should obey the heads of the households, regardless of whether or not they agreed with them. Therefore, this argument from Tybalt could anger Capulet because he views it as an act of heresy. Towards the end of the extract, Lord Capulet regains his power and control over Tybalt by directly threatening him, telling him “I’ll make you quiet”. This threat shows that Capulet and Tybalt do not have a close relationship after all; Capulet knows that he has the God-given power to command full control of, and respect from, his family, and so he tolerates Tybalt’s initial questioning of his rules but then comes down hard on him when it continues. Finally, at the end of the extract, he extends his anger to a threat towards his own nephew. The imperative “make” suggests Capulet intends to use force to control Tybalt; he uses this verb in quite a sinister way to imply painful consequences should his nephew continue to speak his mind. This could also reinforce the idea that Tybalt does not necessarily respect Capulet but, rather, is afraid of the power he has over his own family, as well as society, purely due to his status as the patriarchal head of the Capulet household. This is further supported due to the structure of the extract itself; Capulet appears to be caring and understanding at first but, as soon as Tybalt crosses him, he turns on his nephew and threatens him, showing the audience that Capulet is unpredictable, powerful and dangerous – the uncertainty of what his uncle will do to him causes Tybalt to fear him, rather than respect him.

Subject: Literature

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Question:

In Of Mice and Men, explore the significance of Curley's wife as a character.

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Kate A.
Answer:

Steinbeck uses the character of Curley’s wife to demonstrate how lonely the Great Depression had made people. The ranch is dominated by men who had to leave the cities to find labouring work, and were often given short term contracts on ranches under the New Deal. This meant that they were constantly on the move, and they grew lonely and isolated, as they were unable to build proper friendships with other men - or relationships with women. The men are suspicious of Curley’s wife, as she is an anomaly on the ranch, and they reject her out of fear of Curley. Her loneliness leads her to naively seek out their company, using her femininity to get their attention, which they misinterpret as deliberately trying to get them into trouble. We later learn that she is ‘awful lonely’ and she asks Lennie ‘ain’t I got a right to talk to nobody?’ In this way she is just like the ranchmen, and Steinbeck presents her as another victim of the isolation created by the Great Depression. One way that Curley’s wife tries to combat her loneliness and the tedium of living a restricted life with Curley is to live out her dream of being a Hollywood star on the ranch. The growing popularity of cinema in 1930s America gave hope to people who felt they could not achieve the traditional ‘American Dream’ that George and Lennie live in hope of. Despite appearing to have achieved this dream, Curley’s wife is bored, abused and terribly lonely - so turns to other cultural trends in an attempt to bring some glamour into her life. She wears her hair and make-up in the style of the Hollywood stars, and in so doing attempts to make her life more bearable; ironically, it is this that alienates the men from her, as they view her as a ‘tart’ and are frightened of her sexual power. It reminds us of the men’s lack of familiarity with women other than prostitutes, again as a result of their itinerant habits. Stein-beck is drawing attention to the social impact of the Depression in the way he presents the men’s view of women. The way that the men speak about Curley’s wife demonstrates how in 1930s America most men treated women with prejudice. They had a fixed, traditional view of a woman’s role, particularly once she was married, and Curley’s wife’s ‘cotton house dress’ reminds us of this. The lack of a name reminds us of how women were identi-fied as being owned by their husbands and had little or no independence at this time. When she is introduced, Steinbeck uses the male gaze to emphasise the objectification of women and George and Candy’s language to de-scribe her reflects the cruelty of the prejudice with which women were treated. Steinbeck uses her character to em-phasise the idea that women who did not conform to the traditional role of a housewife and mother were treated with suspicion. In fact, we can truly say that Steinbeck ‘uses’ Curley’s wife in the novel: her death serves the pur-pose of progressing the plot, and by the end we have almost forgotten her tragic end, as our sympathy is directed towards Lennie and George.

Subject: English

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Question:

Why are detective stories often set during "foggy" weather?

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Kate A.
Answer:

The "foggy" weather in detective stories is an excellent use of pathetic fallacy, as the fog represents several aspects of the mystery genre. Firstly, the "fog" suggests that the answers to the mystery are hidden and uneasy to discover. Secondly, the "fog" creates a sense of suspense because of the hidden answers - the audience does not know what will come out of the fog (either metaphorically or literally) and this causes fear amongst readers. Finally, the use of "fog" means that the readers need someone to lead them through the unknown and reveal the answers - this is why Sherlock Holmes, for example, is such a popular protagonist; he appears to be able to easily clear the fog, and uncover all secrets and answers.

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