History

Consider the importance of setting in any one text – The Heart of Darkness

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Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness is not a story without its settings; the nightmarish journey of Charlie Marlowe (our narrator) into the unknown where we find ourselves traveling by boat to and in the Belgium Congo in 1890. The use of this setting shows and explains the exploitation of a colonial country and challenges the basic ethical question of good and evil of mankind. Marlowe’s setting is perfectly placed to give the reader a glimpse of the political environment of the Congo and the African exploration that was quite popular in Conrad’s day.

Although most of the action in The Heart of Darkness is set in the uncivilized jungles of the African Congo, the tale itself is narrated by Charlie, an experienced sailor aboard a pleasure boat with four other Englishmen as they lounge on the deck at the mouth of the Thames River outside London. Charlie sits Buddha-like to narrate his story. Here, the reader gets a glimpse of the Thames as a mighty river at sunset with the gauzy radiant lights of civilized London, which reflect on the river’s surface. This is represented where both the time of day and the spot are significant. It’s sunset. As the tale turns gloomier, images of darkness get more and more pervasive. The evening grows gradually darker, so that by the time Marlow finishes, late in the night, his listeners have literally been enveloped in darkness.

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Hitler – The development of evil

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In the multitude of years that humans have walked this planet, the German leader Adolf Hitler has to be one of the most evil people to ever come into existence. Not solely attributed but largely as a consequence of Hitler through his regime of Nazism an estimated eleven million people were killed which included six million Jews. These are staggering figures but why so many Jews? Moreover, why was Hitler so against the Jewish continuation as a people in his country and ultimately as a race? In this essay, I would like to posit some ideas on the causes of Hitler disgust of the Jewish race while showing the effects that came about as he became the German leader.

To begin with, highlighting the factors that motivated Hitler’s resentment to Jews would be by looking at Hitler’s grandmother who was a maid to a Jewish family. She was most likely to have had sexual relations with her superior as was common in those days. Further credence to this story and the likelihood Hitler’s father was born of a Jewish father was seen through his father being brought up without a father.  As a child, Hitler’s father regularly beat him and his mother. Hitler would become very close to his mother; her strong attraction may be due to losing a few children in early life. His love for his mother grew greater as he formed a greater resentment toward his father seeing him as poisoned. These daily beatings, one ending in a coma must have created in Hitler a sense of him being an evil kid and a feeling of being useless.

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Protest Songs: A look at ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Brother, can you spare a dime?’

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The 1920s and 30s in America was a time of racial discrimination for the black people while economically it was a time of the Great Depression. Times were not only hard but also scary with hatred and desperation flowing across the cities and plains of America. Like prisoners in shackles, the unfortunate ones at the bottom rung of life did not have a voice and ways of expressing how they felt inarticulate terms.  This is why protest songs grew in prominence as they had a purpose, sentiment, and specific issues while invoking the reader to be shocked and angry. This is notwithstanding that these songs were meant to inspire the reader to acknowledge and change the situation. For this essay I have chosen two protest songs that epitomize the era of discrimination and depression; ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Brother, can you spare a dime?’ I will highlight their literary merits and social criticism.

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Is equality the highest social value?

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As globalization takes over the world, where a free-market economy prevails and money seems to be the goal of the masses, we ask ourselves if equality could ever be the exception, or is the gap between the rich and poor going to increasingly widen. Equality seems to be a distant dream in the modern world. It needs to be stated that although politicians and governments may talk about how people have rights and justice, it is still extremely hard for the less fortunate to change aspects of their lives that drastically transform their social environment. Philosophers in time refer to the struggle of people and their rights, showing that this is not a recent phenomenon. Above all, equality through an egalitarian philosophy upholds equality for all men, especially the right and privileges in their society that shows it is time for a new perspective to help all.

Setting out the concept of equality and egalitarianism with two initial examples, a start would be with equality, highlighting money and salaries. If ever there were people these days that had the highest salaries you have only got to look at sports stars. The general public may talk in thousands, but these sports stars are talking in the millions. For example, if we take Wayne Rooney, an English professional footballer, earning in the region of £300,000 pounds (Wayne Rooney’s salary calculator) in one week and compare it with an average teacher’s salary in England which hovers between £25,000 to £35,000. This is where equality is highlighted. It certainly draws attention to a value system that sees aspects like wealth, power and fame as number one and real values left to catch up. Even a yearly figure like £35,000, you can see it is nearer to the average wage in England (weekly gross of £474) than anywhere near Wayne Ronney’s massive weekly salary. You could argue, which has the highest value in society a sport/pop/movie star or a teacher? Who would/do the kids look up to? And, what role does education play in society?

The second example from an egalitarian perspective, which highlights equal rights, would be talking about the beautiful country of Australia.  If we had a picture of Australia it would usually show a sun-drenched paradise of idyllic beaches and surfing. This affluent country is definitely developed which is as modern as any other in the world, so you would definitely be surprised to read Kathy Mark’s story in the Independent newspaper with the headline ‘Children found starving in rural Australia’. This is the case of aboriginal families in the outback who are finding it hard to survive. There are extreme problems such as substance abuse, alcoholism, abuse, and general social breakdown. Where did it start and how did it come into being? It is actually the case nowadays that the Australian government spends more money on the aborigines than non-aborigines. People could say it has been a long time coming. The British arrived and started colonizing Australia from 1788 onwards, but it was not until relatively recently, in the 1960s, that Aboriginal rights were re-asserted. So, what has gone wrong that affluent Australia sees its indigenous people left behind?

Furthermore, mention of Australia’s national identity, it is shown to have the belief that it is an egalitarian society. It is a society that believes in a ‘fair go’. These are ideas that are widely held and celebrated. Egalitarianism is a value that became well-established in the national psyche in the nineteenth century and has had a profound impact on the make-up of Australia’s political institutions, government policies and the nature of social relations. This being said Australia may see itself as an egalitarian society, but the question is, does it (or for that matter England) adhere to all egalitarian ideals? In an egalitarian society, there are rules and ideas that everyone has to live by in order to serve the greater good.

it is clear to see that perhaps the most powerful way to express the idea of equality is to highlight those instances of inequality which appear to plague our world’s societies. In the aforementioned examples, it has been shown how the inequality in pay grade vs. benefit to society creates an incredible disparity between possible attainable lifestyles, whilst in Australia we see all too apparent how the damage done from not having equal standing during the formative years of a nation has entrenched generations of an indigenous people in poverty and hardship. If the idea of equality is positively enthused from the beginning the difficulty of repairing relations, lives and damages would not be irreparable. It is interesting to note that this belief in equality has long been thought of as important. A final thought is to look at the words of the Greek philosopher Aristotle taken from Politics V circa 322 BC that says “The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law.” 

“Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?”: The Depression Era

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What became infamously known as the Depression Era saw the crippling of a great country from 1930 to 1936. It had followed the epoch of the Wall Street Crash which rocked the American economy to the ground and hit every working man. Near on fifteen million people were out of work, and even those fortunate ones who before had had money were left with nothing, not a ‘dime’. And, this was not England where welfare is given, these men had nothing. So, how do you capture this moment in history? E. Y. Harburg’s ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime is one of the most famous songs of that era that encapsulates all that was happening in those desperate times as the protagonist protests his woes.

To begin, the opening lines of each verse tell us what this hard-working man has done for his country; ‘they used to tell me I was building a dream’, ‘once I built a railroad, I made it run’, ‘once I built a tower way up to the sun’. This guy has made an investment in his country, he has worked blood, sweat, and tears to make it better. He was one of the many that helped build the infrastructure; railroads, towers, to make America prosper and grow. Now, this average Joe’s dream of building an all-powerful country where he continues to work for its prosperity has been smashed to the extent that he has been reduced to begging in the street with only his past to think about.

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