Letteratura inglese



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Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot
Godot has a white beard. Beckett uses a country road because it is common and two tramps because of the meaningless of the human life and the absurdity.
When the play begins, Vladimir and Estragon are waiting on a country road for the mysterious Godot, who send a boy to inform them he will come the following day. The two tramps are talking saying nothing relevant, just to fill the silence and to kill the time. They are thinking about separation and even suicide. As opposed to the two tramps, Pozzo and Lucky. Make continuous purposeless journeys to fill their existence. At the end, Godot will never come. The message of the play is that nothing can be done by human being except waiting. Waiting means making the experience of the flow of the time, While we are waiting to someone who arrive or something to happen, time becomes “the” object of all our thoughts and attention. In this play we understand the Absurd essence of the human condition. Man is trapped in a hostile universe where he is destined to physical and spiritual desegregation and to silence. For this reason Beckett created a surrealistic theatre, the Theatre of Absurd: he didn’t intend to represent reality but to represent the deeper reality revealed through dreams or nightmares, he didn’t represent action but he conveys a poetic image allusive of human condition, he expressed a sense of confusion for the lack of meaning of the world which appears illogical and absurd.
The play is divided into two acts: it has no development in time, and it is in a repetitive present. It has no setting but a country road and a tree. It has no plot and there is no action. The characters have not really a conversation in the sense that they do not reveal information about their present situation.
Symmetric structure
The play is divided into two halves parts by a tree. The human race is divided into 4 parts: Didi-Gogo, Pozzo-Lucky and then into 2 parts again: the boy and Godot's sort.
Vladimir and Estragon or Didi and Gogo are never described as tramps: they are two human being concerned with the question about nature, world and God. They are complementary, two different aspects of a single whole. Vladimir is more rational; Estragon is more subconscious, and sceptical about Godot. Pozzo and Lucky are linked by a rope, as master and servant. Lucky is servish and represents the power of the mind and Pozzo is the oppressor and represents the power of the body. Godot means little God and the play has so a religious interpretation.
The lack of coherence
The play presents the Absurd as the essence of the human condition; there is no heroism and the only possible reality for them is endless waiting.
The comic and the tragic:
Beckett's pessimism is intensified by his perception of the meaningless of human life and by his notion of time as a series of meaningless events.
The language
The language of the play is informal and there is a lack of communication shown by silence, pauses and gags. The play was originally written in French because Beckett can think simply and he can reduce speech to its essentially.
Pirandello and Brecht. Pirandello’s. Things can be seen in opposite way from what he really appears. This reversed things that is the reflection which goes behind human convention, is the so called humour. Brecht instead chose the technique of estrangement, where the audience is asked to play an active role within the theatrical performance. Beckett’s denies the alienating humour conditions and uses the estrangement technique but is the whole life to be alienating.
John Osbourne
The themes are isolation and frustration. Porter is against all middle class values and social injustices. He works in a market store. He has married an upper middle class for revenge and to improve his situation.
The Angry Young Men
The movement represented a revolt against their age, a rejection of traditional values and an aspiration to something different. They have some quarrel (litigio) with the events and aspects of the time:
1) the fall of Winston Churchill’s Cabinet (politica) in 1945.
2)The dissolution of the Colonial Empire.
3) the end of socialist revolution in 1951.
4)The disillusionment of many people in politic.
5) the religious establishment, because of the irrelevance of Anglican Church and the attempt to revive religious belief seen by many as an irrational escape from the dangers, terrors, and evils of the Nuclear age.
6) the English Sunday with its stifling atmosphere of stagnation and its Sunday papers.
Realism and political concern were the main features of his theatre, usually referred to as “kitchen sink drama”. The theatre of Anger is both a reaction against the previous generation of middle-class playwrights and an attempt to give voice to dissatisfied younger generations and their political concern.
Comparison with the Beat Generation
Similar to the Angry Young Men developed in the USA the Beat Generation of the Beats or Beatniks. The principal name were Jack Kerouac, Salinger, Ginsberg and others. The Beatniks rebellion was far of a total withdrawal (ritiro) from conventional society than the English Angry Men’s and was often associated with use of alcohol and narcotics and other antisocial attitudes, it also involved with vagabondage, total sexual freedom and other phenomena. Firstly it appeared negative but then it developed a strong involvement with the tragic generation such as the atomic menace, racial discrimination, freedom of education, the political tyranny of the military-industrial complex women’s liberation, Black Power, anti-colonialism, the Vietnam War etc. While the anger of Young Men is no longer effective, the protest of the younger generation of American has ample scope for activity and shows definite promise for the future.
Look back in Anger
Jimmy Porter represents the frustrated British youth of the 1950s. He is a snobbish university graduate who lives in a squalid attic flat in the Midlands with Cliff, his uneducated friend. Jimmy has married Allison, an upper-middle class woman and with her he is violent. She is pregnant but unable to tell him. In the second Act she decided to leave him and in the third Act she returns home. The plot is circular, because in the last Act, objective reality is the same as it was at the beginning.
Conventional structure
It is a conventionally three-act play and the setting is single and naturalistic. The plot is logical and easy to follow; the language is outspoken and there is the presence of a thoughtful-working hero, like the rebel Jimmy Porter.
Jimmy Porter
His anger lies in his father’s premature death, on his wife’s failure to share his anger and on a society which leaves no room for young people. He is the embodiment of the “protester” without a clear, definite cause to fight for. He is an anti-hero because he only speaks but never acts. His psychological attitude shows the consequences of a childhood trauma, a sense of personal failure. Between Alison and Jimmy there is a lack of communication, underlined in act 2, where Alison does not speak
Alison and Helene
Alison is Jimmy’s victim, but she is so by her own choice and she is stronger than Helena, her friend. Helena comes from the upper-class; she is honest and straightforward and she never pretends to accept Jimmy’s ideas.
Cliff is a working-class uneducated man who shows none of the neurotic egotism displayed by Jimmy.
The five character represent the social class and generation gap at the centre of the play. Jimmy is dissatisfied because, according to him nothing has really changed and everything is controlled by the same establishment as it was before. The language differs from the middle-class comedies of the past: is colloquial, spontaneous and vital. The vulgar expressions of Jimmy can be understood by everyone, so the play is also public.
The play reflected of the destruction of the certainties and basic assumptions of the previous age: the decline of religious belief, the mistrust in rationalism as a mean to explain reality, the disillusionment with the social ideas brought about the totalitarianism, the materialism and consumerism of contemporary society.
Look back in Anger started a new trend in contemporary drama: the angry young men, that indicate British writers that speak about the cultural disillusionment of young generations who reacted against Establishment (organisation who control a country and support the existing order of society, traditions, conventions). The target was the middle-class. They shared a rebel attitude against the cultural background of the fifties. The young protesters wanted to establish the culture of youth.
Other examples of social and literary movement similar to that of “Angry Young Men” in their reaction of traditional values and rebellion against social conventions are the beat generation, the teddy boys (They had a reputation of violence and they became synonymous with juvenile delinquency and racism – “We are not against the Blacks, let’s just say we are not with them”), the music of Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones.
Differences between Beckett and Osborne:
The plot: obscure B --- true-to-life, consequential O
The setting: symbolic and bare (spoglio) B --- realistic and related to working class O
The theme: meaningless B --- social critic against the middle class values O
The stage: repetitive and frequent B --- detailed, informative and clear O
The language: everyday, meaningless B --- everyday, simple and clear O
Jerome David Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye
It is a critic against false, hypocrite society he belongs to. He prefers to speak with the sister then with the adults. He was against lawyers who make a lot of money and spent a lot of time playing golf and bridge, buying cars and drinking Martinis. They want to save other people’s life only to increase their importance.
The narrator of this novel is an unhappy and sensitive sixteen-years-old American boy, Holden. He has been expelled from his school because of his bad marks and he goes in new York. He wander aimlessly and tries to come to terms with dissatisfactions with the middle-class values. But nothing helps him and he feels depressed and he goes back home, where his sister saves him from despair
The protagonist
Holden is intelligent but also sensitive and he struggles against the society he belongs to, because it is false, corrupt and hypocritical or “phoney”. He is no a rebel in the real sense: after his escape he expresses his wish to become “a catcher in the Rye” (someone who catches children that are playing in a field of Rye and prevents them from falling over) who is a father figure.
Holden adopts a convention style; he uses slang words as “gonna”, swear words, hyperbole and meaningless expressions. His language is a very effective tool to represent the rebellion of the American teenagers of the late 1950s.
Wistan Hugh Auden
Blues is the philosophical expression of the individual contemplating his situation. The poem reflects Auden’s social and political awareness and his solidarity with the Jews persecuted by Hitler. REFUGEE: force to leave his home, country, because of war, political, religious, ideals, economical reasons, have no passport, identity cards. Are homeless, seen as intruder in the country. Pets are treated better then they are and enjoy greater freedom. They are persecuted.
The English Period
Auden is one of the so called “Oxford poets”, who in the Thirty used poetry to discuss ideas and to try to improve the world they lived in. He said that the society is the natural condition of the man and that the poetry “tells stories of particular people and experiences, from which everybody may draw his own opinions”. The poet’s task was to act as a public voice, to support the causes for freedom against tyranny, to express the anxieties of the contemporary left-wing intellectuals.
The influence of Freud and Marx
He was not a modernist and found a revelation in Eliot’s poetry. Freud’s psychological theories led him to diagnose the ills of his country. The Marx’s influence is seen in alienation of the man under capitalism. Then, Brecht influenced him with the alienation that allows the reader not to settle in the story but only to consider.
The move to America
He was disillusioned about the political events such as the Republican defeat in Spain, the Moscow purges (epurazione) and the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact of 1939. To move to America symbolise to feel free about social responsibility of being the leader of the intellectual.
Complex poetry
His poetry was fictional, didactic or fantastic; in type was dramatic, narrative or lyric. He used the free verse and the rhyme; he used ballads and songs. In the English period the quest was for a new society and later becomes a quest for a new life.
Refugee Blues
The blues reflects the sadness and tribulations of the Afro-Americans as opposed to the Gospel song. It is the philosophical expression of the individual contemplating his situation in relation to the condition surrounding him. The peculiarity of the blues is his individual character and also his universality of its content that can be understood by everybody. The blues uses repetitions and elementary rhyme schemes; it is arranged into three lines of verse, the second repeating the first, and the third rhyming with the first two. The poem was written in 1939 and speaks about the flight of the Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.
Langston Hughes
Jazz represents rebellion in a puritan society, the vision of an alternative way of life. He pays attention to the question of the racial identity: Africa as a symbol of lost roots, of a lost past.
Whitman’s influence
Hughes and Whitman saw America as a nation in progress. Both were also free in the choice of the subjects. He wants to distinct poetry and prose. Both decides to write behind a mask, an “I”, that was not individual but collective. He becomes the poet of the black masses.
The influence of music
He tried to bring oral poetry but no one can understand and appreciate it. He experimented poetry recitals with jazz accompaniment. He chose to go back to the roots of blackness, to deal with its conflicts and contradictions. From slavery to freedom (jazz = to feel free), music had served as an ecstasy-inducer, an escape, an affirmation of the beauty of life. Hughes says that this music is a paradigm of the black experience and a metaphor of the human life. Jazz is a vision of an alternative way of life and represented rebellion.
The question of black identity
The themes are: the temple of jazz, the refuge of the black masses fleeing South, urban ambient. Hughes is preoccupied with the question of the racial identity: he first looked to Africa, which became a symbol of lost roots (because means unknown past). Hughes exalted also the colour of his skin and wrote: ”Why should I want to be white? I am a negro”.
The Negro speaks of rivers
Hughes looks to ancient civilisations to find an answer to the question of the Afro-American identity. The poem is written in five stanzas with free verse. The tone is meditative, thoughtful and underlined by the use of repetition. The “I” in the poem is collective and represents the black man. The Mississippi is the symbol of the development. The river is the symbol of the eternity and for this reason Hughes has chosen this.
The weary blues
The poem is an effective example of the way music influenced the development of Afro-American literature. The poem is about solitude and man existence, the condition of the black man. The blues is the song of the pain. A pain of a man that seems dead. The setting is old and bear.
Toni Morrison
She is the first black female American writer.
The themes are the process of growing up black, female and poor; the woman’s struggle for freedom against racism and violent American society. She concentrates on the relation between the pressures of community, the patterns established within families, and on the developing sense of self. In the novels there is a penetrating view of the heartbreaking dilemmas which torment people of all races.
Other themes of her novels are misery and desperation of black communities; fight against slavery; sex and violence.
She creates vivid, beautiful language and striking characters. She employs sophisticated narrative devices, like flashbacks and shifting points of view.
Sethe escaped North from slavery to Kentucky. She lives with her daughter and an old friend Paul D. (the meaning of D is nothing, non-sense). The world of Sethe changes from one of love to one of violence and death when a beautiful young black woman, Beloved, appears. Sethe gives her hospitality but the girl turns out to become the real master of Sweet home and succeeds in controlling Sethe, Denver and Paul D. The mysterious black girl is Sethe’s baby daughter, Beloved, who died at her mother’s hands, and whose name is the single word on the tombstone. Thanks to Paul’s love, Sethe manages to keep her painful recollections of the past at bay after Beloved’s appearance.

This is a story of a black woman who escapes from a cotton plantation. The themes are the racism (2 part), in fact the story speaks about a slave and her attempts to get on with her life as better as she can. Also the family relationships play a very large role. Sethe’s love relationship with Paul D. serves as contrast for the overall focus of the story. For the supernatural (1 part) there is the ghost of Sethe’s dead baby.

Sethe (black woman) haunted by the slavery is the heroin
Paul D. and Denver want to know more about Beloved but then they discover that there is something strange

The water represents the death because for example from the water comes Beloved, who is the soul of the water. The Water is also life for the amniotic liquid. The Atlantic ocean represents the death because the African were transported from Africa to America and during the travel, someone die.
Represents also the life because the slaves can be free with the Mississipi.
Beloved represents the slavery, because she was killed by the mother because she does not want to became a slave. Represents slavery also because she comes from the water as a slave from the cotton plantation.