Short Essay Prompt- Compare and contrast the storytelling styles of Bartle from The Yellow Birds versus Saboor from And The Mountains Echoed. Which storytellers styling is more effective? Is one more evocative than the other? How much does truth matter in the telling of a good story?
Storytelling and Tragedy in The Yellow Birds and And The Mountains Echoed While both Bartle from The Yellow Birds and Saboor from And the Mountains Echoed find themselves coping with tragedy, each approaches their surroundings and conveys their feelings and experiences in different ways. Bartle embraces the chaos of it all and seeks to convey an emotional truth of the harsh reality, whereas Saboor’s storytelling is more rooted in fantasy and a desire to distract from reality. Saboor is “always coming up with stories, tales packed with jinns and fairies and demons” (Hoseinni 35). Bartle’s storytelling is far more disjointed and nonlinear, yet attempts to find a way to process the pain of tragedy through his stories, where Saboor uses it as a way to hide from the tragedy. Saboor is very prideful man and wishes to provide for his family himself. This pride-fullness does not always manifest in a positive way for him or his family. He will not even accept money from those close to him, being described by his brother-in-law as having “the affliction of pride, an affliction both misbegotten and unshakable” and that “He would never take money from me” (Hoseinni 57). He wants to take nothing from others, even though in the end it means having to sell one of his daughters to make ends meet. Saboor embraces the mythical inventing tales of make believe perhaps to distract from the painful realities of life. While he is forced to cut down a a giant oak tree for firewood, his story of the tree is immersed in fiction. He tells a story that the tree “had magic powers. If you had a wish, he said, you had to kneel before the tree and whisper it. And if the tree agreed to grant it, it would shed exactly ten leaves upon your head” (Hoseinni 35). Even at a young age, he wants the world to hear his fantastical tales and wishes to “write them down” (Hoseinni 35). He does not tell stories to provide context or to convey history, but instead to provide an escape and an idea of beauty and wonderment. This is in contrast to Bartle’s chaotic storytelling. Bartle is more interested in the truth of the emotion and pain, rather than the transpiring of of actual events. Bartle notes early on in the novel that his memory is not only unreliable, but the telling of certain actualities is not always the most important thing. This realization comes to him while he considers a pamphlet on church history, and Bartle comes to the conclusion “that there was a sharp distinction between what was remembered, what was told, and what was true. And I didn’t think I’d ever figure out which was which” (Powers 34). The trauma of the war has left a mess within his psyche. His storytelling is cathartic and shares this with Saboor’s motivation for telling stories. They are each dealing with painand even though the pain is cause by different things Bartle argues that “All pain is the same. Only the details are different”(Powers 70). Although for Bartle storytelling is a way of working through the trauma and pain and for Saboor it is more of a way to hide from it. For Bartle, accepting the mess and misrememberances help him move through what he is feeling, even when it comes to memories before the war. Bartle comes to this realization as he considers his youth near the Chesapeake. I gave up longing, because I was sure that anything seen at such a scale would reveal the universe as cast aside and drowned, and if I ever floated there again, out where the level of the water reached my neck, and my feet lost contact with its muddy bottom, I might realize that to understand the world, one’s place in it, is to be always at the risk of drowning (Powers 67). To acknowledge the pain puts one at risk of losing yourself in it, however it doesn’t have to end up this way. Saboor does not learn this lesson in Hoseinni’s novel. He does not show visible emotion at losing his daughter, even though it is a very painful thing. To acknowledge the pain would put him at risk of drowning and while Bartle is willing to do this, Saboor’s pride keeps him from it. For Bartle, while the truth of actuals events is of no matter, he does believe there is a deeper truth, particularly when it comes to people’s character. He continues to believe in the selflessness of his fellow officer Sergeant Sterling, even as he’s being taken into custody after Sterling’s suicide. “But I still believe in Sterling now because my heart beats. A lie by anyone on his behalf is an assertion of a desire to live. What do I care about the truth now?” (Powers 97). While each character struggles with his own tragedy and pain, Bartle moves forward in life, while Saboor is too mired in his own pride and pain to move through it. After the death of his wife, Saboor is described as speaking “now in a tired, barely audible voice. He around the village a worn, shrunken version of himself”(Hoseinni, 32). Bartle accepts the chaos and unevenness of life, thinking “how what is said is never quite what was thought, and what is heard is never quite what was said. It wasn’t much in the way of comfort, but everything has a little failure in it, and we still make do somehow”(Powers 115-116). Life has a little failure in it and you accept the absurdity of it and create your own meaning or you let it defeat you. Bartle creates his own meaning by telling his story to others, so that the truth of trauma and war can be known not just by him. Saboor covers the truth with beauty and pretty stories, but does not grow or change. His rigidity is his fatal flaw and for it he loses his daughter and breaks apart his family.
When reading Absalom and Achitophel, a background in biblical history and in late seventeenth- century politics is essential to understanding Dryden’s use of allegory and satire. Why do you think Dryden chose to tell this particular piece of history in allegorical form? Do you think the biblical story he chose was a good metaphor for what was happening in his own time? Support your conclusions with evidence from the text and article, quoting specific lines and passages in your answer.
Dryden’s poem “Absalom and Achitophel” places a premium on a king’s divine right to rule. His choice to use the story of King David was Dryden’s way of articulating the validity of the divine and biblical right to power and to show the futility in attempting to overthrow that power. Thomas Maresca discusses Dryden’s belief in this divine right to power in his article “The Context of Dryden'ss Absalom and Achitophel”. He maintains that Dryden believes that “David exercises authority just as does a father in his family or God in the universe. Rebellion against him equals apostacy from God” (Maresca 348). So Absalom and Achitophel’s rebellion against David is an act against not only God, but the ruling structure that God commands for a country. Understanding the political climate during the seventeenth-century provides a context in which to consider what Dryden is saying about King Charles II, his claim to authority and power, as well as who his rightful successor should be. David in the poem is an apposite stand in for Charles II as he too faced an act of rebellion and betrayal from his son and an adviser. Dryden presses that this rebellion should be taken as an act of treason by those unfit and uncalled for power and rule, “So, several factions from this first ferment/Work up to foam, and threat the government/Some by their friends, more by themselves thought wise/Oppos'd the pow'r, to which they could not rise (140-143). Maresca furthers Dryden’s idea of power that should not be held by those not chosen by God in his analysis that “the poem has argued from the very beginning that David's kingship constitutes the dominion of grace, this necessarily implies also that David';s authority is as irrevocable as God's” (Maresca, 347). Dryden uses satire in his poem as a means to ridicule James Scott and the Earl of Shaftesbury in their notion that they have a claim or authority to rule England. Absalom and Achitophel, the metaphorcal James Scott and Earl of Shaftesbury respectively, are not successful in their attempt to overthrow David. Maresca makes the case that the rebels of the poem do not question the authority of David,,but “rather, they seek to imitate them. Achitophel thus tempts Absalom to accept the role of Messiah, to falsely assume the guise of a bringer of the new and full dispensation of grace”(Maresca, 343). While Absalom may be a child of David, he is not one who was conceived inside wedlock and therefore does not have a divine claim to power. By Dryden’s account they are fools and liars both as “And justified their spoils by inspiration:/For who so fit for reign as Aaron'srace,/If once dominion they could found in Grace?” (524-526), attempting to take that which is not rightfully theirs. Works Cited Dryden, John. “Absalom and Achitophel.” Representative Poetry Online, <rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poems/absalom-and- achitophel>. Maresca, Thomas E. “The Context of Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel.” ELH, vol. 41, no. 3, 1974, pp. 340–358. JSTOR, <www.jstor.org/stable/2872590>.
Select a passage from “Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street” and apply Marxist theory to its analysis of the dialogue. Utilize one of the core concepts of Marxist theory, such as dialectic, class consciousness, or alienation, and explain why this concept is beneficial in the analysis.
The society in which Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street” takes place is one in which social classes are prevalent. Mrs Dalloway herself is clearly from at least a middle to upper class position as she is spending her day shopping for gloves and has the means and time to do so. One passage in particular stands out as highlighting the differences in social classes via Mrs. Dalloway's internal musings. Poor little wretches, she sighed, and pressed forward. Oh, right under the horses' noses, you little demon! and there she was left on the kerb stretching her hand out, while Jimmy Dawes grinned on the further side. (Woolf, 3) Mrs. Dalloway encounters beggars on the street as her internal dialogue notes “poor little wretches”(Woolf, 3) when she passes by them. Here we are seeing an example of Marxist theory on class consciousness as “all class-divided societies project into culture the instabilities on which they are built”(Rivkin and Ryan, 713). Mrs. Dalloway is doing just this, while she sees the less fortunate in the street, she “pressed forward”(Woolf, 3) and on with her day, showing a certain amount of “dissonance" (Rivkin and Ryan, 713). She acknowledges the suffering of these people, yet continues on her shopping quest driven by materialism, despite these people having little to nothing. Works Cited Woolf, Virginia. "Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street." 1923. Web. <http://www.feedbooks.com/book/1393/mrs-dalloway-in-bond-street> Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Michael. “Starting with Zero.” Literary Theory: An anthology. Wiley Blackwell, 2017.