MIDTERM LITERARY ANALYSIS PAPERS - Successful Student Examples
English 104 -
Introduction to Literature: Fiction
Webpublished with students' permission ~
Thank you! ~ Cora ~
Fall 2003 Midterm Examples:
Josie Fenner: "The Lord of the Rings" | Tonya Flowers: "Chopin's Artistry in 'The Story of an Hour'"
Melanie Price: "Impressions of Ordinary Life" [on Chekhov's "The Lady with the Little Dog"]
Arielle Samuel: "Plot and Character in Maupassant's 'The Necklace'"
Matthew Welch: "The True Lord of the Rings"
Fall 2002 Midterm Examples:
Josh Goodall: "The Mystery of the Mastery" [on Chekhov's "The Lady with the Little Dog"]
Christalyn Grantier: "Plot vs. Point of View in Chopin's 'Story of An Hour'"
Jennifer Stewart: "Literary Analysis of Maupassant's 'The Necklace'"
Ruzha Todorova: "A Cure for Temporary Depression" [on Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"]
Sheena Van Landuyt: "Hidden Labyrinth" [on Maupassant's "The Necklace"]
Anonymous [CC]: [Untitled Essay on Chekhov's "The Lady with the Little Dog"]
Fall 2003 Midterm Examples:
ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Midterm Literary Analysis Paper
29 October 2003
The Lord of the Rings
Some stories can affect people emotionally, but once in a while a story can call a person to escape to it. The Lord of the Rings is an enchanting story with masterful use of setting and sensational characters that engages readers and can move them to experience life in a deeper way. As a child, J.R.R. Tolkien lived in Africa until his father passed away. Then his mother moved them to England. Mrs. Tolkien made certain that her children learned literature and languages. It was probably due somewhat to his mother’s influence that Tolkien became who he was: an author and a linguist (Corday).
Tolkien had a special interest in "obscure" languages, even to the point of creating his own. He called it High-Elven and often in his stories he used the language. Tolkien also invented an entire world called Middle Earth where The Lord of the Rings takes place. Because he had invented this world it had to bow to his will and rules. He was an accomplished linguist and this greatly helped his ability to vividly portray and create in the reader’s mind Middle Earth, a place that no person has ever been (Corday).
Charters defines setting as "the place and time of the story." Also according to Charters, "When the writer locates the narrative in a physical setting, the reader is moved along step by step toward acceptance of the fiction" (Charters 1008).
Tolkien’s setting gives the reader a sense of goodness or malevolence. Unlike an environment that is removed from the work, Tolkien’s setting sometimes is the story. Possibly the setting could even tell the story if there were no characters. For example, in the house of Elrond of the elves, Frodo's experience is defined by the setting. "He [Frodo] found his friends sitting in a porch on the side of the house looking east. Shadows had fallen in the valley below, but there was still a light on the faces of the mountains far above. The air was warm. The sound of running and falling water was loud, and the evening was filled with a faint scent of trees and flowers, as if summer still lingered in Elrond’s gardens (220).
This describes a peaceful place that is not quite reality. The rest of the world is moving into winter, but Elrond’s gardens haven’t realized that yet. Next, is another example of how Tolkien uses setting to create a picture that could not be obtained by just explaining the scenery. Tolkien is able to bring a place to life with words. We can see this when the Fellowship winds up going through the Mines of Moria.
This description is one of dread and fear, but like the experience at Elrond’s house, it is filled with word pictures. It tells the reader that this place is terrible and that some evil is afoot.
Of course Tolkien received criticism as all writers do. For instance, Burton Raffel takes the opinion that "his [Tolkien's] descriptions often fail to create ‘sense impressions’ needed to make language ‘more deeply felt and more deeply worked." Raffel also claimed that "Tolkien’s nature descriptions are frequently somewhat overwrought..." (20).
Still, I maintain that Tolkien’s extraordinary ability to paint a picture with words takes the reader into a place they’ve never been and still manages to keep them following the story. The characters that Tolkien artfully created, accent the setting and bring them further to life. This is an attribute to a great setting. Charters explains that "setting must also have a dramatic use. It must be shown, or at least felt, to affect character or plot" (Charters 1008). All through The Lord of the Rings the setting is imposing feelings onto the characters (e.g. fear, dread, peacefulness).
Charters describes characters in literature as "the people who make something happen or produce an effect," and explains that the "characters must come alive" (Charters 1006-1007). Tolkien received criticism on his characters by Raffel as well. Raffel feels that there is "too little meaningful truth about human reality and our own existences in Tolkien’s characters." Kathryn Crabbe seems to disagree with this statement. In her efforts to describe the characters as heroic she also shows us they have some very modern human characteristics. Crabbe says that Frodo is "neither stronger than most men, nor braver than most...He is selfless in his love for his companions." If there is not enough "meaningful truth about human reality" in Tolkien’s writing, then maybe it is because he portrays a picture of ordinary people at their best. The heroes in The Lord of the Rings do not succumb to evil. They do not inadvertently get caught doing good. They are selfless. Isn’t this exactly humanity at its best?
Middle Earth is a place where the spirituality of a person is closely connected to the reality of the person. Tolkien’s characters are not mere people. Each has a position and job in the universe as well, something to make them heroic and larger than life-right down to Sam whose purpose it would seem is to guard and protect his "master". This is evident throughout the books but especially at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring when Sam, now understanding just what might lie ahead, insists on going with Frodo (397). The characters show that not just anyone is able to complete this quest. It requires a specific person for each job. For example, there is a reason that Tom Bombadil cannot take the Ring even though he is impervious to its power (259). Fate has chosen Frodo. In so doing Tolkien creates a story that even the average person can relate to. It propels people to see the possibilities of greatness amongst the commoners and restores our hope in the great ones. Almost anyone can find at least one hero among the fellowship.
One of the things that makes The Lord of the Rings so compelling is the way the setting and characters work together to produce the ultimate affect. The characters make the setting even more potent. As the external setting influences each character the reader sees how the struggle becomes internal. We are led to believe that the characters are closely connected to the earth. The diversity of the setting and characters simply propels us to see the uniqueness of each place. Where a group of caves might give us one thought, hearing Gimli discuss the majesty of his cave experience helps us to appreciate the diversity of the group and to see it through a cave dwellers eyes. "These are not holes," said Gimli. "This is the great realm and city of the Dwarrowdelf. And of old it was not darksome, but full of light and splendour, as is still remembered in our songs"(307).
The Lord of the Rings is essentially a story about the struggle of good verses evil. The setting helps the story personify the difficulties the characters face. The characters go through the trials and share their feelings of fear and triumph with us. The two work together to make an excellent portrayal of external and internal struggles that yield an otherwise impossible effect.
Charters, Ann, ed. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Compact 6th ed.
Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s, 2003.
Corday, Alina. "Master of Middle Earth." Smithsonian 32.10 (Jan. 2002): 76 (6pp). Rpt.
EBSCOHost Academic Search Elite, 2002: Article No. 5749860.
Crabbe, Katharyn W. "The Quest as Legend: The Lord of the Rings." (Originally published in
J.R.R. Tolkien. Revised and Expanded Edition, by Katharyn W. Crabbe. City: Frederick Ungar
Publishing Co., 1988.) Rpt. J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Modern Critical
Interpretations Series. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2000. 141-170.
Rpt. Cora's Online Reserve, restricted access.
Raffel, Burton. "The Lord of the Rings as Literature." (Originally published in Tolkien and the
Critics: Essays of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A.
Zimbardo. Univ. Of Notre Dame Press, 1968.) Rpt. J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
Modern Critical Interpretations Series. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2000.
17-35. Rpt. Cora's Online Reserve, restricted access.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring, being the first part of The Lord of the Rings. [Rev.
ed. 1966.] Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994.
© 2003, Josie Fenner
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ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Midterm Literary Analysis Paper
29 October 2003
Chopin’s Artistry in “The Story of an Hour”
To be in conflict with traditional society’s beliefs is difficult for many to do; however, author Kate Chopin fights that battle to bring readers some of the most thought provoking literature that a person can get their hands on. Using to her advantage conventions of narrative stories such as character development, plot control, and irony, she is able to bring the reader into a world of emotions that society would scoff at. Kate Chopin demonstrates her incredible literary talent in “The Story of an Hour” by interconnecting the plot and character development, with her use of thought-provoking vocabulary and narrative irony.
Kate Chopin’s literary talent would have never been so strongly founded if it was not for the circumstances surrounding her life and upbringing. Her father died when she was only four years old, which left her mother and grandmother to raise, and shape her desires and ideologies (Charters 156). Having been raised primarily by strong willed feminine role models, Chopin developed a taste for more of an unconventional role for women in society. In her home town of St. Louis, she became know as the town’s “Littlest Rebel” (Davis). She was widowed and left with six children to bring up on her own (Charters 156). This situation developed more of her strong will to write about the passion and strength that women have. Much of her writing portrays women in their relations with men, children and their own sexuality (Charters 156). Her writing is classified in the literary movement know as Realism. The Realism movement took place in the 19th century (Agatucci 4). Realism is based on everyday events, ‘slice of life’ stories that depict ordinary people dealing with society and its forces on living (Agatucci 3). Realistic writing is characterized with everyday events, social controversy, and protagonist/antagonist interactions (Agatucci 3). There is often and ironic undertone to Realism, as is evident in “The Story of an Hour” (Agatucci 3). All of the characteristics of the Realism movement mentioned are active in this story. An example of Realism in “The Story of an Hour” is evident when Mrs. Mallard’s sister reveals to her the tragic news: “It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing (Chopin 157).” This brings out the slice of life quality of Realism because it is a display of how most people would break the news of a shocking death. Chopin enjoyed life and believed that real fiction was and is life (Chopin 861). Although she felt like a literary outcast, her frankness and honest look at women and their emotions is what makes “The Story of an Hour” and her other works literary jewels in our society today.
Chopin does a great job at integrating two of the conventions of narrative fiction, plot and character development. The plot of a story is “the sequence of events in a story and their relation to one another as they develop and usually resolve a conflict (Charters2 1003).” Within the plot of narrative stories there is an exposition, rise to action, climax, and a fall from action. The character development is the other convention that enables Chopin to write this thought provoking story. Character is “what stays with you after you have finished reading it. The action of the plot is performed by the characters in the story, the people who make something happen or produce an effect” (Charters2 1006). Chopin uses her character development to enhance the plot in order to bring the reader closer to the emotions of the story. In ‘The Story of an Hour” both of these elements are vitally interconnected to each other.
The plot itself is taking place primarily in the mind of Mrs. Mallard, which makes imperative that the reader understands her personality and where thoughts are derived from. First Mrs. Mallard is described as having heart trouble, and being a tender woman (Chopin 157). This is important to the plot because it explains why her sister took great care to break the news to her. She is also described as being “young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength” (Chopin 157). This is a key piece of information in understanding why she grieves only momentarily. According to Webster’s Dictionary repression means: “to prevent the natural or normal expression, activity or development of; a process by which unacceptable desires or impulses are excluded from consciousness and left to operate in the unconscious” (Webster 527). Mrs. Mallard’s marriage did not allow her to express herself through any venue of release with the exception of her unconscious. She was never allowed to be ‘normal’ with her emotions or, to show or use her true strength, but instead had to suppress them. One can also see that in the plot, Mrs. Mallard resists the liberation she feels at first because of her characteristic trait of being weak, and is unable or powerless to resist them (Chopin 157). As the feeling of freedom sets in her mind she begins to describe herself as a “goddess of Victory” (Chopin 158). A goddess is a “female of exceptional charm beauty, or grace” (Webster 294). Mrs. Mallard began, for the first time in her marriage, to feel beautiful and charming in light of her victory over the battle of wills that she had been oppressed by. In the story she gets her first chance to show off her new found strength and beauty when she lets her sister in to see the “triumph in her eyes” (Chopin 158). The mix of character development and plot is not only evident in the case of main character, but is also found briefly in the case if Mr. Mallard. Chopin writes “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime…” (Chopin 158). This is the only glimpse that the reader gets into Bentley Mallard’s character; however there is much revealed through this passage. He was controlling, forcing his will on her. He was powerful (in contrast to her being powerless) and blind to the fact that he was hurting his wife. The other minor characters are left to the imagination of the reader because they do not play major roles within the plot.
A fundamental characteristic of Realism is its use of irony. Chopin plays with irony to bring surprise to the climax, as well as enhance the depth of the story. Sara Davis has this to say: “The Story of an Hour” “turns on a series of artful modulated ironies that culminate in a somewhat contrived ending” (Davis). There are several examples of this, first off that of Brentley’s friend Richard takes the time to confirm his name with a second telegram, and then at the end of the story it turns out that he is not even involved in the accident (Chopin 157). Another example of irony is this: “Her pulse beat fast, and then the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body” (Chopin 158). In this sentence it is ironic that it was blood, the symbolic representation of life, that was fueling her, and then at the end her life ceases. Another ironic point is made within Mrs. Mallard’s thought process: “She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long” (Chopin 158).Her prayer was answered, and when she found out she immediately had a fatal heart attack. In addition to this irony of life and death, the reader is faced with yet another and maybe the strongest use of irony in this short story, and that is the use of the word ‘joy’. It is first used in Mrs. Mallard’s thoughts as a “monstrous joy” of being free from bondage, and tasting the elixir of life that is now so precious to her (Chopin 158). Secondly it is used by the doctors in the last line who naively state that she died “of heart disease—of joy that kills” (Chopin 158). It is ironic that it was not joy of seeing Mr. Mallard alive that killed her, but that of the terrible loss that she would never feel the monstrous joy she had felt before. Kate Chopin did produce an excellent example of Realism literature with her use of irony in this story.
Chopin does not allow her use of irony as her only tool to enhance the dynamics of “The Story of an Hour”. She also incorporates a variety of tools such as metaphors, narrative style, and thought provoking vocabulary that bring this story to life. Mrs. Mallard is described as having heart trouble (Chopin 157). One could argue that her ‘heart trouble’ was not that of a physical condition, but of an emotional and psychological condition derived from such a difficult marriage. Chopin also uses a wide array of descriptive words to bring to life the feelings that Mrs. Mallard is having about the death of her husband. Examples of this are seen throughout the text: “new spring life” “delicious breath of air” “blue sky showing through the clouds” “drinking in a very elixir of life” “summer days” etc. (Chopin 157-158). Chopin also uses the metaphor of an open window that she sits Mrs. Mallard in front of during the rise of the plot. The window is not just part of the setting, but a window into the heart and mind of the main character. It was her access to new life, new excitement, and new hopes of the coming years without Brently’s overpowering will on her. Jennifer Hicks brings out another point of narrative eloquence by stating that Chopin “elaborates upon this when the narrator says that Mrs. Mallard “would have no one follow her.” While the implication is that she would have no one follow her to her room, the reader wonders in hindsight whether Mrs. Mallard might have meant also that she would have no one interfere with her new life again” (Hicks). Kate Chopin used all of these tools to her advantage to bring the world a controversial look at a woman’s emotions.
It took many years after this story was written for its popularity to grow into what it is today. In “The Story of an Hour” Kate Chopin interconnects the plot, characters, irony, and narrative eloquence to produce a literary product that is arguably priceless in our society today. Fred Lewis Patte says in “A History of American Literature” that since 1870 the strength of Chopin’s work come from “what may be described as a native aptitude for narration amounting almost to genius” (Hicks). Readers of the future look forward to see if her ‘genius’ in this work will stand the test of time.
Agatucci, Cora. “Emergence of the Short Story.” Printed 10/14/03. <http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/eng104/shortstory.htm>.
Charters, Ann. “Kate Chopin.” [header note]. The Story and its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford, St. Martin’s, 2003. 156.
Charters, Ann. “The Elements of Fiction.” The Story and its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford, St. Martin’s, 2003. 1003-1015.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” [First published 1894] Rpt. The Story and its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford, St. Martin’s, 2003. 157-158.
Chopin, Kate. “How I stumbled upon Maupassant.” . Rpt. The Story and its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford, St. Martin’s, 2003. 861-862.
Davis, Sara de Saussure. “Kate Chopin, February 8, 1851-August 22, 1904.” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 12: American Realist and Naturalist. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Ed. Donald Pizer and Earl N. Harbert. Detroit: Gale, 1982. 59-71 Rpt. Gale Literature Resource Center [online subscription database]. The Gale Group, 2002.
Hicks, Jennifer. “An Overview of ‘The Story of an Hour'.” Short Stories for Students. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997. Rpt. Gale Literature Resource Center [online subscription database]. The Gale Group, 2002.
Webster. Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus Deluxe Edition. Nichols Publishing Group 2001. Imprinted of Allied Publishing Group, Inc. 294, 527.
© 2003, Tonya Flowers
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ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Midterm Literary Analysis Paper
29 October 2003
Impressions of Ordinary Life
One of the sweet comforts in life is curling up in a favorite chair with a short story that will carry us away from our everyday lives for an hour or two. On rare occasions, we find a tale that mirrors real life in such a way that we are strangely comforted by the normalcy reflected in the words. A perfect example of a story about ordinary life that will soothe the soul in search for some insight on understanding human behavior is Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Little Dog.” This piece is definitive of the literary period of realism during the late nineteenth century that was influenced by this brilliant writer and others such as Guy de Maupassant and Kate Chopin. This style of writing has such a mass appeal because the “characters in [these] novels (and in short stories) wear recognizable social masks and reflect an everyday reality” (Charters 997). In his simple anecdote of a chance meeting between a middle-aged, chauvinistic, repeat-offender adulterer, unhappily married man, and a young, naïve, in-search-of-something-new, married woman, Chekhov paints a picture that gives a startling representation of how these two characters are influenced by the settings in which their chronicle takes place, especially with the budding of their relationship.
The narrative takes place in Yalta, a vacation spot for Eastern Europeans and Russians on the northern coast of the Black Sea. We are given a brief description of the main character, Gurov, who is a man that describes his wife as a woman “none too bright, narrow-minded, graceless,” (Chekhov 144) and has used these human imperfections as reasons to be unfaithful. We learn only minute details about his children and his employment, with more emphasis being given to his views on women, “an inferior race” (Chekhov 144), which are no doubt due to the sour experiences he has had in his extramarital affairs. We can use this information and the fact that Yalta is a place where one would go to search out “a quick, fleeting liaison” (Chekhov 144) to assess that this man is in Yalta looking for just that. As soon as Gurov gains sight of his prospective candidate and makes first contact with “the lady with the little dog” (Chekhov 144), the scenery begins to take shape and the setting is cheerful and airy, full of beautiful colors and tranquil light. After becoming acquainted, Anna and Gurov “strolled and talked of how strange the light was on the sea; the water was of a lilac color, so soft and warm, and over it the moon cast a golden strip” (Chekhov 145). Later, when he is alone in his hotel room, Gurov reflects on “her slender, weak neck, her beautiful gray eyes” (Chekhov 145) and his thoughts reveal that he has determined this young, vulnerable woman to be an ideal contender for another one of his many affairs that he just can’t help becoming involved in. As the story unfolds, we see how the color gray is an integral component in the sort of comfortable, yet, unresolved feeling that the relationship between Gurov and Anna emanates.
When things are heating up between the two lonely travelers, so is the weather, which is “stuffy, but outside the dust flew in whirls” (Chekhov 146) and their thirst is unrelenting no matter what they eat or drink to quench it. “There was no escape” (Chekhov 146), seemingly, from the desire for one another that is beginning to blossom. On this particular evening, the couple makes way for the jetty to watch the incoming ship. A crowd of people has gathered with many bouquets of flowers to greet arrivals. The churning ocean echoes the intensity of their attraction for each other, along with the mess of people surrounding them and Anna’s display of uneasiness and absentmindedness. As the crowd thins out, the mood is calm and dark; the air is full of the lingering scents of the flowers that are long gone with the people and commotion. This becomes the optimal milieu for the couple to surrender to their desires, free from the probing stares of the public.
Back in the hotel room, where it is again “stuffy” (Chekhov 146), Gurov is reminded of his past experiences in many similar situations, and it seems as though he may be fighting off the urge to run away from this potentially, if not, inevitably, disastrous scene. “Her features drooped and faded, and her hair hung down sadly on both sides of her face, she sat pondering in a dejected pose, like the sinful woman in a old painting” (Chekhov 147). Anna’s defenselessness is unappealing to Gurov, yet he is detached from his emotions in such a way that he will not even consider the prospect of the damage he could cause to this woman. Regardless of his indifference, there is an inkling of the feelings he is already beginning to have as he considers “the solitary candle burning on the table barely lit up her face, but it was clear that her heart was uneasy”(Chekhov147). The change from dark to light signals Gurov really does care for this woman and is aware of his changing feelings, but he is far from learning to accept this.
Once the relationship is consummated and Gurov is able to console Anna, the lightheartedness returns to the scene, as if a dark cloud has been lifted, and the two take off on an outing to Oreanda. “The leaves of the trees did not stir, cicadas called, and the monotonous, dull noise of the sea, coming from below, spoke of the peace, of the eternal sleep that awaits us” (Chekhov 148). It is at this point when the reality of what they have done sets in and the landscape begins to take on a resolute quality, ostensibly validating the intricate feeling the two are experiencing together. They are reminded of the fact that life goes on regardless of any mistakes and “if you thought of it, everything was beautiful in this world, everything except for what we ourselves think and do when we forget the higher goals of being and our human dignity” (Chekhov 148). As Gurov considers the “unceasing movement of life on earth” (Chekhov 148), the light changes and “in the glow of early dawn” (Chekhov 148) the feeling is gray and mystical, uncomplicated and convoluted all at the same time.
When Anna and Gurov have decidedly accepted their fate together, the relationship swings into full force and the “outings were successful, their impressions each time were beautiful, majestic” (Chekhov 148). And then “fate itself” (Chekhov 148) makes a well-anticipated appearance, and the lovers must part, most likely forever, “and a moment later the noise could no longer be heard, as if everything were conspiring on purpose to put a speedy end to this sweet oblivion, this madness” (Chekhov 149). With the brisk winds of fall, Gurov is left alone on the train platform to contemplate his worthiness of the nature of the feelings this woman has for him, “he had appeared to her not as he was in reality, and therefore he had involuntarily deceived her…” (Chekhov 149).
Anton Chekhov is a master of portraying the complexities of the human condition and the difficulties we all have with communication, both inward and outward. The settings are artfully represented by imagery that evokes real emotions in the reader who has gazed upon the landscape searching for answers to life’s obstacles. Richard Ford describes Chekhov as “a writer for adults, his work becoming useful and also beautiful by attracting attention to mature feelings, to complicated human responses and small issues of moral choice within large, overarching dilemmas” (Ford 868). There are relationships in life that will change the very way in which we view our surrounds and ourselves, and sometimes living vicariously through another’s experience will inflict the same realizations. “The Lady with the Little Dog” will give any reflective reader a delicious taste of life in perpetual motion, the ongoing cycle of learning to live and accepting being human.
Charters, Ann. “Appendix 2: A Brief
History of the Short Story.” The Story and Its Writer: An
Chekhov, Anton. “The Lady with the
Little Dog.” [First published, 1899.] Rpt. The Story and Its
Ford, Richard. “Why We Like Chekhov.”
[First published, 1998.] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An
© 2003, Melanie Price
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ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Midterm Literary Analysis Paper
26 October 2003
Plot and Character in Maupassant’s “The Necklace”
“Life…is composed of the most unpredictable, disparate, and contradictory elements,” according to Guy de Maupassant. “It is brutal, inconsequential, and disconnected, full of inexplicable, illogical catastrophes” (“The Writer’s Goal" 897). Utterly to the point with his words, Guy de Maupassant’s fame as a writer stemmed from his “direct and simple way” of telling readers what he observed (Chopin 861). His short story, “The Necklace,” is no exception. “The Necklace” is evidence of the literary realism that dominated literature during the 19th century. Cora Agatucci, a professor of Humanities, states that the subjects of literature during this time period revolved around “everyday events, lives, [and the] relationships of middle/lower class people” (Agatucci 2003). In “The Necklace,” Maupassant describes an unhappy woman, born to a poor family and married to a poor husband, who suffers “ceaselessly” from her lower-class lifestyle, “[…] feeling herself born for all the delicacies and all the luxuries” (Maupassant 524). Through the unfolding of the plot and the exquisite characterization of Mathilde and her husband, Maupassant offers readers a dramatic account of what could happen when a person is not satisfied with her place in life.
Ann Charters defines plot as “the sequence of events in a story and their relation to one another as they develop and usually resolve a conflict” (Charters 1003). According to Charters, there are five major parts of a plot. The exposition explains the characters, the time period, and the present situation; the rising action introduces a major complication, with smaller conflicts occurring along the way; the climax, or the dramatic
turning point in the action of the story; the falling action, which helps wrap up the major complication; and finally, the conclusion of the story (Charters 1004-1005).
Plot plays a vital role in “The Necklace,” particularly the exposition. Approximately one page is devoted entirely to Mathilde’s description, a description of both her physical appearance as well as her mentality, giving the readers a crystal clear picture of the main character and the reasons behind her depression. Mathilde “dressed plainly because she could not dress well, but she was as unhappy as though she had really fallen from her proper station,” undoubtedly a station of wealth and prosperity in her mind. Suffering “from the poverty of her dwelling,” Mathilde often dreamt of “silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestry, lit by tall bronze candelabra” when her own drab furniture and dreary walls angered her to look at them (Maupassant 524). The exposition paints Mathilde as a woman who feels she’s been dealt a poor hand in life, a woman desiring riches far beyond her grasp, which foreshadows the events to come later in the plot.
“The action of the plot is performed by the characters in the story, the people who make something happen or produce an effect” (Charters 1006). Without the characters, the plot would be meaningless because the characters bring the plot to life. Charters also explains that characters can be one of two types: dynamic or static. A static character does not change throughout the story; he or she just stays the same, while a dynamic character is often described as “round” and often changes throughout the course of the story (Charters 1007). The way an author chooses to develop a character affects the entire story, particularly the climax. If a character developed as a calm and level headed
person, he or she will react wisely to conflicts or emotional turning points; however, if a character is developed as greedy and self absorbed, the climax of the story will cause the character to make irrational choices in the face of conflict, as Mathilde, the dynamic main character of “The Necklace” illustrates.
Mathilde’s character is consistently unhappy with her own life and her own possessions, always longing for more than what she has. When her husband brings home the invitation to the ball, hoping his wife will be thrilled at the chance to attend such an exclusive gathering, she instead “threw the invitation on the table with disdain,” because she had nothing to wear. At her husband’s suggestion of wearing her theater dress, she simply cries with grief. When the dress dilemma is resolved, Mathilde is “sad, uneasy, [and] anxious” (Maupassant 525). Her lack of fine jewelry and gems makes her feel that she “should almost rather not go at all” (Maupassant 526). Clearly, Mathilde’s character is one with an insatiable greed for what she does not have.
Later in the story, after the precious necklace has been lost, Mathilde’s character appears to change, taking on the role of a poor woman with “heroism.” As she is forced to scrub dishes, wash laundry, and bargain with their “miserable” money, the reader would assume Mathilde has been humbled by her greed and the price she paid for insisting on wearing the diamond necklace. The reader questions the extent of Mathilde’s transformation when Mathilde sits at her window and ponders the evening of the ball, remembering her beauty and the attention she received.
Contrary to Mathilde is her husband, M. Loisel, a character who remains static throughout the course of “The Necklace.” M. Loisel seems happy with the small things
in life, desiring only please his wife. When he sits down to a supper of soup, he exclaims, “Ah, the good pot-au-feu! I don’t know anything better than that” (Maupassant 524). Meanwhile, Mathilde is picturing food she feels she is worthy of, like “the pink flesh of a trout or the wings of a quail” (Maupassant 524). M. Loisel does look his patience once with his wife, saying to her, “How stupid you are!” (Maupassant 526) when she is upset about her lack of jewelry. Other than that small episode, M. Loisel remains fairly consistent throughout the length of the story.
The construction of the plot, such as the dramatic climax when Mathilde realizes she has lost the necklace, combined with the shaping of the two main characters, Mathilde and her husband, force the reader to realize the unspoken theme of the story. Mathilde’s envy of other people’s possessions leads to the eventual demise of her life, while her husband’s contentment with what he has allows him to remain essentially unchanged, illustrates the theme running throughout the story, which is the importance of being satisfied with who you are and what you have, as well as the importance of not wanting or envying what other’s have. This theme becomes obvious when, in the exposition, Mathilde’s perspective on her life makes her seem poor and underprivileged; yet, when the Loisels are forced to make drastic changes in their way of life, such as firing their maid and moving to more economical lodging, the reader realizes the poverty Mathilde suffers from is not poverty at all compared to the life they must lead after they are forced to replace the diamond necklace.
Without a strong plot that envelops the reader in the ongoing action, a story is not as powerful or effective; without good characterization of the main characters, there is no
mechanism for the plot to unfold. If there is not an effective plot with identifiable characters, the theme of any story is lost to the reader, so clearly the three go hand in hand with each other. Maupassant’s ability to communicate facts and descriptions, leaving the emotional interpretation for the reader, is what he’s known for. In fact, this ability makes the reader feel as though Maupassant is telling the story for their ears and hearts only. Kate Chopin eloquently wrote, “I like to cherish the delusion that he has spoken to no one else so directly, so intimately as he does to me” (Chopin 862).
Agatucci, Cora (Professor of English, Humanities Dept., Central Oregon Community
College). “Emergence of the Short Story: Literary Romanticism and Realism-Poe
and Maupassant.” Handout & In-Class Presentation, English 104: Introduction to
Literature-Fiction, Central Oregon Community College [Bend, OR], Fall 2003.
Charters, Ann. “The Elements of Fiction.” [header note.] The Story and Its Writer: An
Introduction to Short Fiction. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 1003-1015.
Charters, Ann. “Guy de Maupassant” [header note.] The Story and Its Writer: An
Introduction to Short Fiction. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 523.
Chopin, Kate. “How I Stumbled upon Maupassant.” [First published 1969.] Rpt. The
Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters.
Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 861-862.
Maupassant, Guy de. “The Necklace.” [First published 1884.] Rpt. The Story and Its
Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 524-530.
Maupassant, Guy de. “The Writer’s Goal.” [First published 1888.] Rpt. The Story and Its
Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 896-898.
© 2003, Arielle Samuel
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ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Midterm Literary Analysis Paper
29 October 2003
The True Lord of the Rings
There is little doubt that J.R.R. Tolkien has become, in his short reign within literary fiction, nothing short of legendary. His stories, while only recently presented to the world, have ensnared and enthralled thousands of readers around the world. While many “cultured” critics still scoff at this work, the effect Tolkien has had on this world is nearly as profound as the control he had over Middle Earth in his novels. Tolkien, while certainly a master of all elements of fiction, displayed unquestionable proficiency in the areas of character and setting.
Ann Charters defines character simply as, “any person who plays a part in a narrative” (Charters 1045). Charters also defines flat characters as those which are, “simple, one-dimensional, unsurprising, and usually unchanging,” and round characters as those who are, “complex, full, described in detail, often contradictory, and usually dynamic,” or changing (Charters 1045). The interesting part of Tolkien’s work is that there are absolutely no flat characters. The world of Middle Earth is changing and all the creatures within it change as well. Tolkien’s ability to control the fates of the hundreds of characters in his novels may be the single most important aspect of his novels. It is with these characters that readers identify, and this identification moves the readers from a detached, on-looking relationship to an involved, personal experience within the world Tolkien creates.
His development of characters seems to focus on one main character at a time, shifting from one to another. Specifically, Tolkien shifts from Bilbo to Frodo Baggins. In developing those characters, much is learned about the world and characters around them. In the first chapter of Tolkien’s, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” Tolkien introduces Bilbo Baggins and seemingly focuses entirely on him. An observant reader will however notice that they are given insight into the character of dozens of characters. For instance, Ham Gamgee, “The old Gaffer,” tells other hobbits, “Elves and Dragons! I says to him. Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you” (Tolkien 24). When no one objects to this statement, readers are given insight into the character of all hobbits. While Ham Gamgee may play only a small part in the rest of this story, readers also learn about the background of Sam Gamgee through this and other quotes from his father. It is this background that gives Tolkien’s characters the depths into which readers may delve. By telling us not only what the character is like and how they change throughout the story, but also why and how they became who they are, Tolkien gives his readers a sense of personal attachment, as if they really know the characters in the story.
Tolkien, while introducing minor parts, never fails to develop their character. Even Radagast the Brown, a wizard who is mentioned briefly on no more than two occasions is no exception to this rule. Tolkien tells his readers where Radagast used to dwell and explains his relationship with Gandalf, the only character with whom Radagast interacts (Tolkien 250). Glorfindel, the Elf-Lord who’s' horse Frodo rides across the ford to Elrond, is a well developed character as Gandalf explains his nature and background to Frodo after their arrival in the House of Elrond at Rivendell (Tolkien 217-218). Through these descriptions of all the characters in his novels, Tolkien provides an emotional connection with Middle Earth and makes the story seem less fiction and more like a dream in which readers are completely immersed.
This immersion, while an exceptional accomplishment, is only one part of what brings readers into Tolkien’s world. The characterization makes readers feel as if they actually know the creatures in the story, while the setting makes readers feel as if they are walking alongside these characters on their journey through Middle Earth. When these two are combined, readers feel as if they become an integral part of the story.
In her essay, “Master of Middle Earth,” Alina Corday stated that Tolkien’s, “penchant for perfectionism slowed his progress mightily” while writing his novels (Corday 3). She also mentions that Tolkien found it necessary to learn how to stew a rabbit before including such an event in his novel (Corday 3). This perfectionism is evidenced greatly in his development of the setting. After the prologue and before the first chapter, Tolkien includes a detailed map of The Shire. At the end of the novel, he includes six additional maps, all of which are drawn in great detail and depict parts of the world he has created. Charters defined setting as, “The place and time in which a story’s action takes place” (Charters 1051). This simple definition is certainly fulfilled in nothing more than the maps and, perhaps, a dozen pages of the novel. Charters does not, however, end her definition there. She goes on to state that setting includes, “the culture and ways of life of the characters and the shared beliefs and assumptions that guide their lives” (Charters 1051). Tolkien even goes so far as to explain what hobbits smoke in pipes, the history behind it, and where the best “pipe weed” is grown (Tolkien 7-9).
As the story progresses, detailed descriptions are given of every area through which the story takes us. In fact, Tolkien often presents background on parts of the setting before they are formally introduced to his readers. For instance, The Old Forest through which the Hobbits pass upon leaving The Shire is discussed in detail before the party even decides to travel through it. It is described as a dark, treacherous place, and is obviously a place the Hobbits fear (Tolkien 104-109). Because they have this background, readers are able to experience the feelings of apprehension, surprise, and wonder in the same way the characters experience them.
In his obsession with perfection, Tolkien created an entirely new world, complete with customs, languages, races, songs, and countries. He also created a plethora of individuals through which his story is carried out and with which his readers identify. While he created this world and everything in it, he could not stray from the characters and lands he created. Because of this, he had little control over the events once he set them in motion. Tolkien, like the Lord of the Rings in the novel, had little control over the actions that took place. He could only set obstacles and helping hands before the characters and allow them to play out the story as they would, as if they were, in fact, real people in a real world that began in one man’s mind and now exists in the minds and hearts of thousands of readers throughout the world.
“Appendix 5: Glossary of Literary Terms.” The Story and its
Corday, Alina. “Master
of Middle Earth.” Smithsonian 32.10 (Jan 2002): 76 (6pp).
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring, Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings. [Rev. ed. 1966] Rpt. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994.
© 2003, Matthew Welch
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Fall 2002 Midterm Examples:
ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Midterm Literary Analysis Paper
4 November 2002
The Mystery of the Mastery
Much of life results from choices we make. How we meet every circumstance, and also how we allow those circumstances to affect us dictates our life. In Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady With the Little Dog," we are given a chance to take a look inside two characters not unlike ourselves. As we are given insight into these two people, their character and nature unfolds, presenting us with people we can relate to. Even if we fail to grasp the fullness of a feeling or circumstance, we are still touched on our own level, evidencing the brilliance of Chekhov’s writing.
In the exposition of the story, Chekhov immediately delves into his character generation, introducing us to both Anna Sergeevna and Dmitri Gurov, the main players in the story. He also gives us a physical description of Anna, as well as a beginning presentation of Dmitri’s character. Of Anna, Chekhov writes, “…a young woman, not very tall, blond, in a beret, walking along the embankment; behind her ran a white spitz” (Chekhov 144). Of Dmitri he comments, “Gurov, who had already spent two weeks in Yalta…began to take an interest in new faces” (Chekhov 144). Chekhov immediately offers a feel for how each character will shape up to be, and presents a chance for us (the reader) to attach ourselves to these perhaps not-so-unique individuals. Without further ado, Chekhov expounds on his initial description of Dmitri through the next five paragraphs. We learn that he is almost forty, has three children and a wife, but that he is not happy at home. He married early, and is not in love with his wife. He outwardly proclaims extreme chauvinism towards women, but we learn that “in the company of men he was bored, ill at ease, with them he was taciturn and cold, but when he was among women, he felt himself free and knew what to talk about with them and how to behave; and he was at ease even being silent with them” (Chekhov 144). Through this description, Dmitri gains a soul and personality. He becomes a round, developed character with whom we can relate and identify ourselves. Even if we are not completely like Dmitri, his “normal” character helps us to identify ourselves with him in some way.
Chekhov’s ability to define character and produce an effect in the reader is not limited only to the description and action provided in the story. He expertly weaves location and setting into the development of theme. “Setting is essential if the reader is to be given the opportunity to glimpse a truth about the internal life from the characters and the plot” (Charters 1008). The story begins in Yalta, obviously in warmer weather, which sets a happy tone for the exposition. However, once the couple meets, the weather begins to change. “A week had passed since they became acquainted. It was Sunday. Inside it was stuffy, but outside the dust flew in whirls, hats blew off” (Chekhov 146). Chekhov illustrates how the characters are developing through the change in the weather. In the beginning, when the relationship is mostly superficial, the sun is shining, and it’s a nice time for a stroll. However, as the adulterous relationship continues, the weather become tumultuous, foreshadowing the turmoil that will soon begin inside both Anna and Dmitri. After the lovers commit their adulterous deeds, “when they went out, there was not a soul on the embankment, the town with its cypresses looked completely dead…” (Chekhov 147), indicating the death inside both the lovers. There is no turning back at this point, and death may loom ahead. Through the environment the characters live in, we learn what they are going through, and understanding of the characters expand beyond mere words and actions.
The brilliance of Chekhov’s writing cannot be overstated. In “The Lady with the Little Dog” there is an untypical depth to the relationship between Anna and Dmitri. While the plot itself may be little more than that of a soap opera, the development and depth to which the characters are taken is far beyond any afternoon television program. As Richard Ford says, Chekhov “concentrates [his] narrative attentions not on the conventional hot spots – sex, deceit, and what happens at the end – but rather, by its precision, pacing, and decisions about what to tell, it directs our interest toward those flatter terrains of a love affair where we, being conventional souls, might overlook something important” (871). Sex, lies, and deceit do take place, but they are all off stage. Chekhov takes this critical time to develop character, showing us what is going on inside the souls of the adulterers, rather than sensationalizing on the outside events that are all too popular in today’s society (as well as back when the story was written).
Although Chekhov’s story is filled with complex issues of moral struggle and turmoil, it is a story we can all relate to. Everyone faces difficult decisions in life, and Chekhov brings the inner mayhem to light. Focus upon people rather than events impacts us in ways we cannot even describe. We are connected to the people in the story as we identify with the feelings and personalities of these fictional characters. “Everything that he [Gurov] found important, interesting, necessary, in which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, which constituted the core of his life, occurred in secret from others” (Chekhov 154). We are forced to reflect upon circumstances in our own lives, and all of life’s little nuances become significant once we realize that they affect the fiber of our being. Chekhov attracts “attention to mature feelings, to complicated human dilemmas, any part of which, were we to encounter them in our complex, headlong life with others, might evade even sophisticated notice” (Ford 869). We become more sensitive to human interaction, and begin to empathize with others, beyond the mere situation, and their deep inner struggles.
Without the brilliant illustration of Chekhov’s characters, we would miss much of the meaning of the story. “The importance of being honest with your feelings” could be a theme in “The Lady with the Little Dog.” If Chekhov did not produce such dynamic, realistic characters, we might be insensitive to the true feelings of Anna and Dmitri. This character development is essential to understanding of the theme. “And only now, when his head was gray, had he really fallen in love as one ought to – for the first time in his life” (Chekhov 155). Chekhov tells the reader, “It’s not too late. ‘Even when [your] head [is] gray’ you can still find true love.” Once the reader has identified with the character, they begin to take the practice (and success) of the character to bear in their own life. The theme is fully digested, and creates inspiration in the reader to begin their own quest for truth.
Charters, Ann, ed. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction.
Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s, 2002.
Chekhov, Anton. “The Lady with the Little Dog.” Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An
Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston;
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002. 143-155.
Ford, Richard. “Why We Like Chekhov.” Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An
Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston;
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002. 143-155.
© 2002, Josh Goodall
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ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Midterm Literary Analysis Paper
4 November 2002
Plot vs. Point of View in Chopin's "Story of An Hour"
Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour” tells the tale of an evolution of a character in a single hour. Chopin accomplishes this by using a specific point of view and unique plot to carry out her vision. These elements work together to create a theme that has the greatest impact on the reader.
Ann Charters defines “point of view” as “the author’s choice of narrator for the story”(1009). “The Story of an Hour” is told from the viewpoint of a third-person narrator. This speaker is a “non-participant in the story” (Charters 1009). Never does the narrator include herself in the plot of “Hour.” Specifically, this speaker has only “limited omniscience” as she relates the story. According to Charters, a speaker with limited omniscience is able to know what is going on in the mind of a single character, but not have a full understanding of, or chooses not to reveal to the readers, the minds of all the characters (Charters 1009). For example, the emotions and thoughts of Mrs. Mallard are fully described within the story. We see her grief, but also the thoughts of freedom that begin to come to her mind (Chopin 157-8). Because the narrator does not show all the aspects of the story, it allows the fact of her husband being alive to be a surprise (Chopin 158). The narrator, because he or she is not a member of the story, may be able to be trusted more by the reader than a person involved directly in the story (Charters 1010). The narrator is considered more “objective” (Agatucci 4).
The author, Kate Chopin, was a great admirer of Guy de Maupassant, a writer of the realist genre (Agatucci 4). Maupassant stated that “The writer’s goal is to reproduce this illusion of life faithfully…” (Maupassant 898). Chopin used a point of view in “Story of an Hour” very similar to that of Maupassant when he wrote “The Necklace.” The author’s factual account allows a reader to experience this “illusion of life”. According to Maupassant, a writer should find a new way of looking at a situation (Charters 523). Chopin, in attempting to imitate the genre embraced by this author, looked at a situation of the death of a husband in a unique way. She accomplished this by presenting the true feelings of a widow and contrasting those feelings with society’s beliefs. Working in the realistic genre, Chopin presented a more “disillusioned” view of life (Agatucci 4). Chopin did not portray the accepted norms of society. She did not state that the wife could not go on without her husband. By contrast, she viewed her story with a new concept, that of a wife feeling empowered to go on living because her husband was no longer alive.
The thoughts and actions of these characters can be seen in the development of the plot. Point of view is how a reader is able to look into a story; the plot is the arrangement of the incidents themselves (Charter 1003, 1009). Charters defines plot as “the sequence of events in a story and their relation to one another as they develop and usually resolve a conflict”(1003). The sequences within this story are quite short because this story occurs in the course of a single hour. The conflict present in this story is all within the protagonist, “the main character of [the] narrative” (Charters 1051). Without the view which allows the reader to see inside the mind of Mrs. Mallard, the reader would not be aware of the true conflict. Without this insight, a reader might assume, like Mrs. Mallard’s sister, that the conflict of the wife was the grief associated with her husband’s death (Chopin 158). The point of view allows the reader to see the true conflict within the plot and to sense the freedom that is eventually embraced by the protagonist (Chopin 158).
The life of the author seems to have an impact on the plot. Kate Chopin had a very similar experience as Mrs. Mallard in the tragic death of her father. Chopin’s father perished when she was young in a train accident (Chopin 157; and “Katherine Chopin”). Also, she did not begin writing until after her mother and husband had both passed away (“Katherine Chopin”). She herself stated that “If it were possible for my husband and my mother to come back to earth, I feel that I would unhesitatingly give up every thing that has come into my life since they left it and join my existence again with theirs. To do that, I would have to forget the past ten years of my growth -- my real growth” (O'Brien). This suggests Chopin sympathized with Mrs. Mallard, who had found new freedom in the death of a loved one (Chopin 158). Kate Chopin had a bicultural background. According to Contemporary Authors, this author’s great-grandmother related stories of her ancestors, including those about “notorious infidels” (“Katherine Chopin”). This may have given Chopin confidence to explore topics not generally discussed by the society of her day.
The plot itself has some very distinct characteristics that are of the literary realism genre. First, it is believable. Most people believe that heart disease and train accidents do exist (Chopin 157). Authors writing within this style often chose to look at the nature of human beings (Agatucci 3). The entire plot of “Story of An Hour” is that of describing the nature of the characters. The plot begins by depicting the reaction of Mrs. Mallard’s sister and Mr. Mallard’s friend (Chopin 157). The evolution of the emotional nature of Mrs. Mallard is described as she sits alone (Chopin157-158). Finally, we see the nature of society at that time, totally ignorant of the true feelings felt by the wife about her husband. Agatucci describes this impact on characters such as Mrs. Mallard as “ordinary people of contemporary times live it in society, caught up by social…forces” (3).
The social forces of this time included, what could be referred to as society’s “repression” of women. Seyersted describes this time period as a society in which “a society where man makes the rules, woman is often kept in a state of tutelage and regarded as property or as a servant”. Seyersted quotes Chopin herself in saying, “As Mme. de Stael's Corinne is told: Whatever extraordinary gifts she may have, her duty and ‘her proper destiny is to devote herself to her husband and to the raising of her children’.” This type of society had a great impact on the plot of this story. The reader can better understand the situation of Mrs. Mallard. Her destiny was that of devoting herself to her husband. Even though she loved him and would weep upon seeing him dead, she welcomed the “procession of years that would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin 158). Maureen Anderson refers to Chopin as having an “authorial skill through which she elegantly addresses society's flaws” present in all her works.
In conclusion, both the point of view and the plot of “Story of an Hour” work to create the theme of this story. Theme is “a generalization about the meaning of a story” (Charters 1013). The theme of Chopin’s story is how ignorant society was at that time of the true feelings experienced by repressed women. First, the point of view allows us to see the inner emotions expressed by Mrs. Mallard. Without a speaker with limited omniscience, a reader would never realize what was truly being felt by the protagonist, and the theme would be lost. Because the narrator is outside the story and could be considered more objective, the reader is more likely to believe that these feelings experienced by Mrs. Mallard are true. If Mrs. Mallard or the sister had told the story, readers would have gotten two different, biased accounts. The point of view allows a reader to feel that this really could have happened, an “illusion of life”, thereby making the theme more powerful. The plot allows Mrs. Mallard to explore her feelings of repression and finally accept the fact that she can rejoice in the freedom of being a widow (Chopin 158). The surprise ending, the return of Mr. Mallard and the death of Mrs. Mallard, gives the reader a chance to understand the ironic beliefs of society (Chopin 158). The irony can be seen in the totally contradictory feelings of the protagonist and society. Mrs. Mallard, upon seeing her husband alive, was suddenly thrown back into a situation in which she had “thought with a shudder that life might be long” (Chopin 158). It was this great shock and grief that led to her death, not the “joy that kills” (Chopin 158).
Agatucci, Cora. (Professor of English, Humanities Dept., Central Oregon Community College). “Emergence of the Short Story: Literary Romanticism and Realism- Poe and Maupassant; Myth Lit. Theory”. In-Class Presentation, English 104: Introduction to Literature-Fiction, Central Oregon Community College [Bend, OR]. Fall 2002. Handout.
Anderson, Maureen. “Unraveling the Southern Pastoral Tradition: A New Look at Kate Chopin's At Fault.” Southern Literary Journal 34.1: 1-14. Rpt. Ebsco Host Academic Search Elite, 2001; Article No. 6124416.
Charters, Ann. “Appendix 3: The Elements of Fiction.” The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Compact 6th Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 1003-1015.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour”. [First published 1894.] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 157-158.
“Katherine Chopin, 1851-1904.” [New Entry: 28 Apr. 1998.] Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2000. Rpt. Gale Literature Resource Center [Online Subscription Database]. The Gale Group, 2002.
Maupassant, Guy de. “The Writer’s Goal”. [First published 1888.] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 896-898.
O'Brien, Sharon. “Bored Wives and Jubilant Widows”. The New York Times 30 Dec. 1990, late. ed., sec. 7: 10. Rpt. Lexis-Nexis. 28 Oct. 2002.
Seyersted, Per. [Excerpt from] Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography. Louisiana State University Press, 1969. 246. Rpt. World Literature Criticism Supplement, Vol.1. Gale Literature Resource Center [Online Subscription Database]. The Gale Group, 2002.
© 2002, Christalyn
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ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Revised Midterm Literary Analysis Paper
25 November 2002
Literary Analysis of Maupassant's "The Necklace"
One of Guy De Maupassant's literary influences was Gustave Flaubert, who taught him to write. Flaubert's teaching principles suggested that the "writer must look at everything to find some aspect of it that no one has yet seen or expressed," thus providing the reader a new or different view of life (Charters, "Maupassant" header 523). Maupassant succeeded in being a writer "who had entered into himself and looked out upon life through his own being and with his own eyes," according to Kate Chopin (861). He wrote "realistic fiction" and greatly influences writers still (Charters, "Brief History" 998). "The Necklace" was written in the 19th century Literary Realism period. The story focuses on "everyday events, lives, [and the] relationships of middle/lower class," and it provides a glimpse of normal people and how they are influenced by "social and economic forces" (Agatucci 4).
The meaning of "The Necklace" is developed through the depiction of the characters and the plot of the story. Maupassant stated that the story is not only a form of entertainment but a tool "to make us think and to make us understand the deep and hidden meaning of events" ("Writer's" 896). I found that the theme of "The Necklace" exhibits the importance of honesty and being happy with who you are. It shows that things are not always what they seem, material things do not define the person and that money cannot solve all problems and may in fact create them. Donald Adamson describes the main character, Mathilde, as a "poor but an honest woman," I disagree with his opinion. Mathilde's dishonesty changes her life and forces her to know "the horrible existence of the needy" (Maupassant 528). "The Necklace" is a story about Mathilde, a miserable and selfish wife of a "little clerk" who suffers "from the poverty of her dwelling," and dreams of a rich and elegant lifestyle where she is beautiful and "envied" (Maupassant, "Necklace", 524). This conflict within Mathilde drives her throughout the story. Her dedicated husband, M. Loisel, is content with their life and wishes to make her happy despite everything he must endure. After obtaining an invitation to a ball that was an "awful trouble to get," he eagerly takes it home to his wife who is ungrateful because she does not feel that she has anything suitable to wear (525). After having a new dress made, Mathilde can't imagine going to the ball without "a single jewel" so she borrows a beautiful necklace from her friend Mme. Forestier (526). The day of the ball proved to be everything Mathilde imagined, but it all ends when she loses the necklace. Although M. Loisel and Mathilde find a replacement necklace, they spend "ten years in grinding poverty until they finally paid off their debt," only to discover that the necklace was not a diamond necklace but just "mere costume jewellery" (Adamson).
Charters defines plot as the "sequence of events in a story and their relation to one another as they develop and usually resolve a conflict" ("Elements" 1003). In the exposition of "The Necklace," Maupassant provides a detailed "character portrait" of Mathilde and offers some important details about M. Loisel (Adamson). It is obvious that conflict exists inside of Mathilde. She feels she is too good for the life she leads. She is unhappy with who she is and dreams of being someone else. On the contrary, M. Loisel is happy and satisfied to come home to his wife who prepares him an "economical but tasty meal" (Smith). Mathilde is very materialistic and believes that riches would end her suffering, she won't even visit a rich friend and "former classmate at the convent" because she is so jealous and envious.
The rising action of the plot begins when M. Loisel presents the invitation to Mathilde. This presentation only aggravates the conflict that exists within Mathilde and she cannot imagine going to the ball in any of her old dresses. Mathilde sheds two pitiful tears and M. Loisel "quickly decides to sacrifice his savings" so that she may purchase a new dress (Smith). Mathilde is not satisfied with just a new dress! She believes it would be a disgrace to show up at the ball without jewelry. She must not "look poor among other women who are rich" (Maupassant 526). So she borrows a "superb necklace of diamonds" from Mme. Forestier (526). In this passage Maupassant convinces the reader that the necklace is real diamonds; "he misleads the reader into believing that the necklace really is valuable" (Adamson). This creates more excitement for the climax of the story when Mathilde loses the necklace on her way home from the ball. M. Loisel responds by going to search for the necklace to no avail. He does not find the necklace and instructs Mathilde to lie to Mme. Forestier and tell her that she has broken the necklace and will need time to have it repaired. If Mathilde would have chosen to be honest at this point, Mme. Forestier would have told her that the necklace was only "paste…worth at most five hundred francs" (530). Instead they find a suitable replacement necklace that costs thirty-six thousand francs. After one week M. Loisel "had aged five years," and was forced to use his inheritance and borrow money "risking his signature without even knowing if he could meet it" to buy the replacement necklace (Maupassant, "Necklace" 528). Upon returning the necklace to her friend, Mathilde discovered the "horrible existence of the needy" (528). They "dismissed their servant" and gave up their flat. Mathilde became a "woman of impoverished households - strong and hard and rough" (529). She was forced to haggle and defend their "miserable money" (529). It took them ten years to pay off all of their debts. Mathilde was no longer pretty and charming, she now had "frowsy hair… and red hands" (529).
These trials and tribulations represent the falling action of the story, where the conflict is moving toward a resolution (Charters, "Elements" 1005). Guy De Maupassant's narrator and Donald Adamson use the term hero when describing Mme. Loisel, but I do not feel that her actions were heroic. She was just fulfilling the duties that were always expected of her, but that she felt she was too good for. I do not believe that dishonesty is a trait of a hero. Perhaps if Mathilde would have been honest with Mme. Forestier from the beginning about losing the necklace, she would have explained that it was not real diamonds and they could have avoided all of the hardships they endured. Some may argue that Mathilde was heroic because she took responsibility for her mistake, gave up her lifestyle and worked to repay the debt. It was admirable that she did not expect her husband to bear the burden alone. The conclusion of "The Necklace" undoubtedly contains an element of surprise. Mathilde discovers that the necklace was not made of diamonds, but imitation gems. This devastating discovery leaves many unanswered questions.
Maupassant's narrator uses limited omniscient narration by describing Mathilde with her thoughts. She is a round character capable of choosing alternative responses to the situations presented to her (Charters, "Elements" 1007). I believe Mathilde is both a dynamic and a static character. She is dynamic because she does undergo a significant change and takes on the duties of a poverty stricken housewife. Yet she remains static in that she is still not content with her life and dreams of that "gay evening long ago, of that ball where she had been so beautiful" (Maupassant, "Necklace" 529). Her husband M. Loisel is also a round character, the "play and pull of his actions and responses to situations" could be observed throughout the story (Charters, "Elements" 1007). When Mathilde is unhappy with the invitation to the ball he offers to buy her a new dress. When she wants jewelry he recommends borrowing from Mme. Forestier and when she loses the necklace he collects the money to replace it. Although M. Loisel does experience some change, he is a static character. I believe he is content and happy with his life throughout the story. He continues to work hard and stays dedicated to Mathilde. The themes of "The Necklace" are evident throughout the plot of the story. If only Mathilde would have been honest with Mme. Forestier and happy with who she was, she could have prevented the whole ordeal. Her misfortune proves to the reader that honesty is the best choice. Maupassant warns the reader of the afflictions that vanity may cause. There was no need for Mathilde to wear a diamond necklace; she was too concerned about what others would think of her. The fake diamond necklace proves that things are not always what they seem, although Mme. Forestier appeared to be rich, she chose or may have only been able to afford costume jewelry. I believe "The Necklace" serves as a reminder of the importance of being happy and proud of who we are regardless of the amount of material things or money that we possess.
Adamson, Donald. ""The Necklace': Overview." Reference Guide to World Literature. 2nd ed. Ed.
Lesley Henderson. St. James Press, 1995. Rpt. Gale Literature Resource Center
[Outline Subscription Database]. The Gale Group, 2002.
Agatucci, Cora (Professor of English, Humanities Dept., Central Oregon Community College).
"Emergence of the Short Story: Literary Romanticism and Realism - Poe and Maupassant; Myth Lit. Theory." Week #4 Presentation/Handout Outline.
Charters, Ann. "Appendix 2: A Brief History of the Short Story." The Story and Its Writer: An
Introduction to Short Fiction. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin's, 2003. 995-1002.
Charters, Ann. "Appendix 3: The Elements of Fiction." The Story and Its Writer: An
Introduction to Short Fiction. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin's, 2003. 1003-1015.
Charters, Ann. "Guy De Maupassant" [header note]. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to
Short Fiction. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin's, 2003. 523.
Charters, Ann. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Compact 6th ed.
Boston: Bedford-St. Martin's, 2003.
Chopin, Kate. "How I stumbled upon Maupassant." [First published 1896] Rpt. The Story and Its
Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact Sixth ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003.
Maupassant, Guy De. "The Necklace." [First published 1884.] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An
Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact Sixth ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. 524-530.
Maupassant, Guy De. "The Writer's Goal." [First published 1888.] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer:
An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact Sixth ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. 896-898.
Smith, Christopher. "The Necklace': Overview." Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Ed. Noelle
Watson, St. James Press, 1994. Rpt. Gale Literature Resource Center [Online Subscription Database.] The Gale Group, 2002.
© 2002, Jennifer Stewart
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ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Literary Analysis Paper
4 November 2002
A Cure for Temporary Depression
The Yellow Wallpaper, written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a story of a young depressed woman, traveling to the country with her husband, so that she can be away from writing, which seems to have a bad impact on her psychological condition. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar call it ”a striking story of female confinement and escape, a paradigmatic tale which (like Jane Eyre) seems to tell the story that all literary women would tell if they could speak their ‘speechless woe’” (874). In this story theme and point of view interlace and work together to create an intense description of an almost prison-like prescription for overcoming depression. She struggles with male oppression, because she is told by her husband and her brother many things about her own health that she disagrees with. She strives for independence, and she wants to break free from the bondages of that oppression. The story is written from the character’s point of view in a form resembling journal entries, which describe her stay in the house. The house itself is an old mansion, and the yellow wallpaper in the character’s bedroom seems to be really disturbing. She believes that there is a woman locked behind bars living in the pattern of that wallpaper. She spends a lot of time trying to figure it out, and in the end she completely breaks away even from her own mind.
Ann Charters defines theme as the “generalization about the meaning of a story” (1013). The theme in The Yellow Wallpaper describes the struggle of women to live in a male-dominated society. Gilman portrays the man as insensitive and lacking in emotional support. From the beginning of the story forward the narrator speaks of how her husband and other men in her life direct her so that she will recover quickly. The narrator shows that even though she is convinced that she knows what to do about her depression, she is still influenced by her husband with the following passage: "I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus – but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad" (306). Her husband seems to be the one who can change her thoughts because he is a man or because he is her husband. Nonetheless, she is still being suppressed by a member of the opposite sex. Many times the narrator also speaks in a way that suggests that because a man speaks she has no means by which to disagree with him because she is a woman. A perfect example of this is presented in the beginning passages of the story, where the narrator states, "Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do?" (306). This last sentence "But what is one to do?" exemplifies wonderfully her oppressed female stature in the society of her life. She states right from the beginning that "John is a physician, and perhaps - (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind) - perhaps that is the one reason I do not get well faster" (306). She obviously loves her husband and trusts him but has some underlying feeling that maybe his prescription of total bed rest is not working for her. In the second passage the narrator becomes comfortable with the room, now she likes the room enough and is curious enough to open up to her husband and tell him what she thinks she has been seeing. John becomes terrified of these ideas she has in her head and what she might believe to be real and not real. He begins to plead with her and tries to convince her that she must control all of her ambitions and act sanely. Later John is trying to manipulate the narrator with guilt. He is implying that she must think of herself as getting better, mind and body, for the sake of other people, rather than herself. The narrator is, however, doubting that she will ever recover mentally. Although John says her appearance has improved, she believes that she is not physically better. The final passages of the story, at last, successfully manifest a display of power and possible regain of self-governance through the narrator's finally standing up to her husband by locking him out of the room in which he has imprisoned her supposedly for her benefit. Whereupon, for the first time in the story, he must listen to her entreaties to discover where the key is hidden (317).
According to Charters, point of view is “the author’s choice of a narrator for the story” (1009). In this story the narrator is a first person narrator. We can easily see what is going on the head of the main character. We can feel sorry for her because she is a victim of male oppression. However, we are presented with a biased story. We can only see the events that take place from her point of view, which turns out to be quite distorted. She stares at this wallpaper for hours on end and thinks she sees a woman behind the paper. "I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman" (313). She becomes obsessed with discovering what is behind that pattern and what it is doing. "I don't want to leave now until I have found it out" (314). Once the narrator determines that the image is in fact a woman struggling to become free, she somehow aligns herself with the woman. We don’t see that until she mentions that she often sees the woman creeping outside: "I see her in that long shaded lane, creeping up and down. I see her in those dark grape arbors, creeping all around the garden.... I don't blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight! I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can't do it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once" (315). This shows the narrator seeing herself in the woman and when she sees the woman creeping outside, she sees herself. When she creeps outside she locks the door. She is afraid her husband will take away the only comfort she has. She continues to pursue this obsessive idea that she has to get the woman out. The narrator wants the woman to be free of the paper but does not want to let her go, because the woman is what keeps her focused and sane: "I don't want to go out, and I don't want to have anybody come in, till John comes. I want to astonish him. I've got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find. If that woman does get out, and tries to get away, I can tie her!" (317). She peels all the wallpaper that she can reach. She wants to help the woman get out, and she becomes quite extreme: "I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try. Besides I wouldn't do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued" (317). She goes on to say, "I don't like to look out of the windows even--there are so many those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did?” (317). It seems she has released the woman and it is indeed herself. As if she enjoys being out and doing as she likes but at night her husband will be around and she mustn't creep around her husband. He might find her mad. But at last she finds the courage to confront her oppressor and stand up for herself. "'What is the matter?' he cried. 'For God's sake, what are you doing!' I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder. 'I've got out at last,' said I, 'in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!'” (318). Jane is undoubtedly the narrator herself. She is the result of a distorted mind trying to free herself from the male oppression. From the narrator’s point of view we had this fact hidden throughout the story. However, as soon as her mind has freed itself, she had freed herself both from her husband and from her own identity.
In order to read and understand this story, we must consider many things. First the time frame in which the story was written, and that society's attitude of the story content at that time. Written in 1892, a woman suffering from depression was not clearly understood and was treated with isolation. This would clearly drive any person mad. The narrator made attempts to bring to her husband's attention what she felt was a better way of making her better but he refused to listen and ignored her wishes to involve herself in more activity. This was the experience of Gilman herself. She shares that she wrote The Yellow Wallpaper “to save people from being crazy” (879).
Charters, Ann. “The Elements of Fiction”. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 1003 – 1015.
Gilbert, Sandra m., and Gubar, Susan. “A Feminist Reading of Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” [First published 1979.] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 873 – 875.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” [First published 1892.] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 306 – 318.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” [First published 1913.] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 878 – 879.
© 2002, Ruzha Todorova
Sheena Van Landuyt
ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Literary Analysis Paper
27 November 2002
To complete a puzzle properly each and every piece must be accounted for; otherwise the final product is never comprehensive. A puzzle with missing pieces is very much like a story with missing elements. Every element plays an important role in the meaning and the integrity of the story. Clearly, with a puzzle there are pieces that are more consequential if missing than others. Just like a puzzle there are significant elements in a story that make a big difference. If such elements are removed some of the realistic aspects a story needs for readers to be able to relate are missing as well. Although there are many elements that go into a story there are two that are profoundly important to have in a story. These two elements are recognized as the plot and characters.
A plot can be described as the “sequence of events in a story and there relation to one another as they develop and usually resolve a conflict” (Charters, “Elements” 1003). It is usually desirable for the author to present the plot in the beginning of the story, laid out so readers can easily follow the events and their significance (Charters, “Elements” 1003). The conflict within the story is profoundly important to how the plot is going to be laid out since the plot itself is usually impacted by the conflict throughout the story. This point can be seen in Maupassant’s “The Necklace” extremely well.
In the beginning of the story “The Necklace” Maupassant lays out the foundation of the conflict for his readers. Mme. Loisel is a pretty woman who longs for something more than she has and she pays for this throughout the story ( Maupassant 524). This internal conflict expands throughout the entire story. Mme. Loisel wants to be richer but she is married to a clerk and is far from rich (Maupassant 524). This first conflict illustrated by Maupassant drives the story very well. The second conflict presented in “The Necklace” was when the dinner invitation came. This conflict seems to be more external, because it is not a conflict Mme. Loisel has been struggling with internally for years. However, when the dinner invitation is presented another conflict is introduced. Mme. Loisel wants to attend this elaborate dinner, but not unless she can be in the most magnificent clothing and jewelry (Maupassant 525). This point is well illustrated when Mme. Loisel states, “there is nothing more humiliating than to look poor among other women who are rich” (Maupassant 526). Continuously after these two conflicts are introduced, she is introduced to more that get her into trouble. Thus the conflict within the story is driving the plot and consistently reappearing (Charters, “Elements” 1003).
Within the plot there are components that are critically important when exploring a story. These components consist of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and conclusion (Charters, “Elements” 1004-1005). Exposition includes the “introduction of characters, scene, time, and situation (Charters, “Elements” 1004). In “The Necklace” the exposition seemed to be in the beginning when the introduction of Mme. Loisel is taking place. At this point the author gives only a brief background of the past and present dimensions of her life (Maupassant 524). The rising action of a story is generally “the dramatization of events that complicate the situation and gradually intensify the conflict” (Charters, “Elements” 1005). In “The Necklace” this point would be when the couple is invited to the dinner party the reader can not tell at this point that the invitation is significant but it is (Maupassant 525). The climax can basically be described as the “turning point” in the story (Charters, “Elements” 1005). The climax is this particular story would surely be when Mme. Loisel discovers her necklace as missing (Maupassant 527). The falling action moves the conflict towards a solution (Charters, “Elements” 1005). In Mme. Loisel’s case this would be when she sees her friend Mme. Forestier on the street and confronts her. Once the conclusion sets in and ties together all the loose strings, the reader get the surprise that the necklace was fake the entire time (Maupassant 530). As one can see the plot plays a huge role in the development of a short story.
Another important aspect of developing a short story is the character developed in the context of the story. It is important that characters be realistic in any story. Writers can accomplish the task of reality by making the characters either dynamic or static (Charters, “Elements” 1007). A static character is one that does not change throughout the story, while a dynamic character changes. Mme. Loisel is both a static and dynamic character. Mme. Loisel changes when the necklace disappears making her dynamic. This is true in the beginning she is from lower middle class where she has a comfortable home and servants (Maupassant 524). However, when the necklace disappears and must be replaced, she is forced to release her servants and change her lodging in order to pay off her debts. This change in Mme. Loisel is permanent thus making her a dynamic character (Maupassant 528).
It is also easy for one to see Mme. Loisel as a static character also. This is due to the fact that Mme. Loisel never really changes in some aspects. Throughout the entire story she is envious of other people. One can see this at the beginning of the story with the introduction of the invitation. At this point Mme. Loisel insists on an expensive dress and necklace (Maupassant 525-526). It can also be seen at the end of the story when Mme. Loisel sees her friend Jeanne again for the first time in awhile and is still envious of her wealth and beauty. This aspect of Mme. Loisel’s character also makes her static (Maupassant 529-530). One can see how the plot and characters’ play an important role together in shaping the story and laying it out for the reader to understand. The plot helps to set the conflict, which in turn drives the plot as well as characters actions and motives.
As an author, having the ability to integrate such important elements of a story successfully can be very difficult. Guy De Maupassant was not a naturally gifted writer, which makes the morals and outline of his stories even more believable (Charters, “Guy De” 523). Maupassant had difficulties in school while he was younger, which may explain why he joined the army during the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War (Charters, “Guy De” 523). Maupassant was later taught how to write by a relative of the name Gustave Flaubert. Maupassant recalled writing, “verses, short stories, longer stories, even a wretched play. Nothing survived. The master read everything” (Charters, “Guy De” 523). It seemed that Maupassant was not a natural talent when it came to writing, which makes his writing meaningful because he must have struggled to write well and overcame the challenge. Flaubert instructed Maupassant that “talent is nothing other than a long patience. Work” (Charters, “Guy De” 523). This may be an important aspect of Maupassant’s life to examine. Maupassant writings seem to be packed with morals and hidden messages possibly due to lessons installed by Flaubert.
Another important lesson Flaubert tried to install in his pupil was to look at everything within the context of any literary work and discover the one component that every other reader has missed. Flaubert explained the fact that every piece has some hidden labyrinth or message unexplored (Charters, “Guy De” 523). The lessons installed in Maupassant by Flaubert may be a large factor in the way he wrote. Since Flaubert focused so much on details and hidden unexplored messages, it is easy to see why there are so many subtle clues in “The Necklace” that readers can discover and interpret as they wish.
Another important influence on Maupassant’s writing may simply be the era he was living in while he composed his stories. Ann Charters explains that “Maupassant’s plots are tightly organized and usually conclude with a decisive action” (Charters, “Brief History” 998). Maupassant plays close attention to physical and mental details. As a writer he favors a surprise ending, as one can tell by the ending of “The Necklace” (Charters, Brief History 998). Maupassant’s literary era could be classified primarily as 19th Century Literary Realism (Agatucci 3). This period of literature involved real people with everyday events in which ordinary people could relate. Also this period places a large importance on classes and relationships between upper and lower classes, which is what Maupassant does extremely well (Agatucci 3).
Maupassant is an exceptional writer and as explained in her essay “How I Stumbled upon Maupassant,” Kate Chopin explains how readers may not realize just how wonderful he is until they truly understand him. Kate Chopin explains her findings of Maupassant’s writing as somewhat of an inspiration. Chopin believes that his writings do not speak to everyone as a group but to each reader individually, by what the reader sees and hears within the pages (Chopin 861). Chopin describes Maupassant “as a man who escaped from tradition and authority, who had entered into himself and look out upon life through his own being” (Chopin 861).
It is almost as if Chopin found herself as a writer when she began to study Maupassant’s work. Also she sees him as secretly telling hints of his stories within the pages. Maupassant does not just come out and explain the important hidden messages within his stories; he expresses them through the feelings each reader experiences while reading his literature (Chopin 861).
It takes many special components to write a story. Maupassant had the opportunity to show his readers the elegance of his writing. Maupassant had a gift at combining elements of fiction like characters and plot. Through the combination of his history, era and hard work he developed stories literature readers could enjoy and relate to for generations.
Works Cited to come . . .
© 2002, Sheena Van Landuyt
ENG 104, Prof. C. Agatucci
Literary Analysis Paper
27 November 2002
[Untitled: On Chekhov's "The Lady with the Little Dog"]
Anton Chekov is said to “ [to be] extremely modest about his extraordinary ability to empathize with the characters” that he wrote about in his stories (Charters, 134). He was careful not stereotype any of the characters he portrayed nor did he over dramatize the story’s plot. The characters emotions and reactions to those emotions were the vehicle for the stories plot. Chekov’s only desired to write about real people with real feelings which allowed his writings such as “The Lady with the Little Dog”, the seriousness and sympathy it deserves. Chekov emphasized on the man and the woman always being “ the two pole [of every story] (p. 949). Just as there are pulls toward poles of the earth so are the pulls on the characters in his stories; these pulls being forces of life and life circumstance. “The Lady with the Little Dog” demonstrates how reality forces undesired role play between a man and woman in love which is one of the definitive of literary realism established by Professor Agatucci; “[The Lady with the Little Dog] is an example of “A slice of life” such as ordinary people of contemporary times live in society caught up by social forces” (p. 3). The story’s main characters, Anna and Dimitri, their desire to be together are conflicted with the duties they have in common which are husband and wife to two different people. However, the love that Dimitri and Anna share represents the struggle of duties just as the desire for most people in society to want to break from reality.
Dimitri, unlike Anna, was not upset or regretful of their love affair because “he had begun to be unfaithful to [his wife] long ago, was unfaithful often, and, probably for that reason, almost always spoke ill of women, and when they were discussed in his presence, he would say of them: ‘An inferior race!’”(p.144). Dimitri was introduced in the story as taking on an egotistical and selfish role knowing very well that not only was he beyond so many years to Anna but also, “in his tone and caresses, there has been a slight shade of mockery, the somewhat coarse arrogance of a happy man” (p. 149). He seemed to have had his way with Anna and did not want to fall short of this good thing. In contrast, Anna responded in way that she was new to being unfaithful to her husband and maybe even realized that she was not Dimitri’s first mistress. She admits, “ I love an honest man, pure life, sin is vile to me, I myself don’t know what I’m doing”(p. 147). Anna knew right from the first day she met Dimitri that she loved him but those feelings over powered her judgment and duty to her husband. She could only try to justify that this was not real love that they shared but a scandalous and un-righteous thing to be apart of.
Anna and Dimitri are considered to be dynamic characters because not only to do they change the way they feel about each other but they also change the way they feel about their life circumstances. Moreover, are also considered to be well-rounded characters encompassing the substance of the story Chekov intended. Dimitir’s wife is only mentioned a few times and is considered to be a flat character because we do not get a sense for how she reacts to Dimitri’s scandalous love affairs. However, we do have Dimitri’s point of view of her to be a woman “who loved without sincerity, with superfluous talk, affectedly, with hysteria, with an expression as if it were not passion” (p. 146). He obviously had a very superficial relationship with his wife that only made him compare his happiness and love with Anna. Anna followed Dimitri everywhere, he could hear her breathing and saw resemblances of her in the oddest of places (p.150). His life back home was boring and uninteresting to him. He only became so appreciative by Anna’s beauty and the excitement that he gave him when she was away. Meanwhile, Chekov did not explain to us the process by which she changed in her character however, Anna admitted that she adored him and he was all that she could think about. She realized her triteness before when she tried thought that she was just a “trashy woman”(p.147).
Dimitri’s desire to find Anna after many years of being in Moscow is considered to be an important turning point in the story. Dimitri forfeits his strength that he could live without her because his emotions were too high strung and he valued being with her too intensely. After meeting up with Anna at the Geisha, he was able to test Anna and wait for her to reveal her true feeling so that he was not just imaging she was in love with him. And so the climax begins, Anna reveals, “ I think only of you all the time, I’ve lived with only thoughts of you.” Furthermore, the falling action of the story is the plan of continued rendezvous’ in Moscow secretly. He and Anna “loved each other like very close dear people, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate itself had destined them for each other, and they could not understand why he had a wife and she a husband” (p. 155). They were bound like soul mates and did want to live the false lives they had with people they were not in love with. So they knew that their problems were far from few and “ the most complicated and difficult part was just beginning” (p. 155). The conclusion of a “happy ending” is left by the reader to implore because Chekov left it open with a purpose. The purpose was to leave it less dramatic and predictable.
The love that these two people shared simplified the term “ love is pain” but more importantly they finally found each other and they did not have to live in falsity. This true love was a new and treacherous territory that they did not want to avoid. The willingness they had caused them to want to break away from the roles that bound them for such a long time. Chekov showed transformation and humbleness of the characters in “The Lady with the Little Dog” and is a story that many could appeal to because of its deepest emotional level between the characters of Anna and Dimitri.
Agatucci, Cora (Professor of English, Humanities Dept., Central Oregon Community College). “Emergence of the Short Story: Literary Romanticism and Realism. Poe and Maupassant; Myth Lit. Theory.” In-class Presentation, English 104: Introduction to Literature: Fiction, Central Oregon Community College [Bend, OR.], Fall 2002. Online Handout –Outline [accessed] 21Oct. 2002: http://www.cocc.edu /cagatucci/classes/eng104coursepack/shortstory.htm
Carver, Raymond. “The Ashtray.”[First published 1984] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martins, 2003. 949.
Chekov, Anton. “ The Lady with the Little Dog.” [First published 1899]. Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charter. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s 2003. 143-155.
Ford, Richard. “ Why We Like Chekov”. [First published 1998] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Story Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 869-873.
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