Conrad, Forster, war poets



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EDWARDIANS: defined class distinctions, inequalities; pawn-broking was a very flourishing business since there were debts; appearance of popular newspapers (entertain and inform); short distances horse, long ones railway. 1920-1930: improvements in medicine, hygiene and housing; drift of population from south to north; top of social classes → man who had become rich out of the war; for coalminers, shipbuilders and so on there was misery and poverty; small houses built with cheap materials; in 1928 women can vote. WAR POETS: group of poets who experienced the fighting and wanted to represent modern warfare to awaken the conscience of the readers to the horrors of the war. “The soldier” of Brooke → death caused by war seen as a chance for immortality and glory; “Glory of women” of Sassoon → ironical poem; “Dulce et decorum est” of Owen → tells the horrors of war and says that dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a lie. CONRAD: wrote in English; novels set at sea or in exotic latitudes (he could isolate characters so that their inner side could stand out strongly); the reader’s eyes are never directed outwards; novels don’t have to just amuse or teach, they have to present fleeting moments of life and explore the meaning of human situation; his stories deal with violence and mystery; central characters are solitary figures without a past and a sure future; first person narrator, invisible narrator, journals and letters, more than one narrator (this leaves the reader decide for himself and shows him the relativism of moral values). In the crowd of organized society man finds confidence, but this one’s deceptive because when he’s alone he’s surrounded by a wild and hostile background → so reality is the construction of individual consciousness. HEART OF DARKNESS: it is a journey into the self; civilized man, freed from the restraints of society and work, finds out that he’s savage and instinctual and that he can prove even more savage and cruel than the natives he has the duty to civilize. Marlow → his devotion to his work prevents him form losing his sanity, and so it is to him as a moral principle; Kurtz → he has surrendered to the appeal of darkness losing self-possession and indulging in acts of cruelty and lust. FORSTER: comedy of manners attentive to his own social and historical context; lays emphasis on personal vision and relationships; irony, elemental characters who represent and orderly approach to life, omniscient narrator who comments on the situation. A PASSAGE TO INDIA: difficulties men face in trying to understand each other and the universe; dissolution of British dominion over India (Forster is against imperialism). Caves → Mrs Moore and Adela have both terrible experiences, which come in the form of an “echo”, in them. The caves represent the subconscious while the echo, which in the literary tradition is traditionally a symbol of nature’s benevolence, here has a dehumanising quality. The impact of the echo on Mrs Moore: nature is not necessarily on the side of a benevolent view of things but may show itself as indifferent or even sinister → alienation, sense of emptiness.