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Cultural heritage of a nation

Folklores tell the cultural heritage of a nation. These usually include a nation’s basic history and geography. They take into account’s the customs and problems that continue to face the particular community. All three short stories: The Gray Champion by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Real Right Thing by Henry James and The Shadows on the Wall by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, share general folkloric characteristics. The Gray Champion by Nathaniel Hawthorne tells of a time when The New England townspeople came face to face on the streets with England’s high ranking officials and their army.

There was much tension in the group, and a single aggressive move from either party would cause much blood to spill on the streets. The despotic rulers […] “intended at once to strike terror by a parade of military force”. Just when the people are crying out for a champion to save them, a man with a staff, though very old walked to the center in between the military force and the people. He summoned a word to the soldiers while holding high his staff before him. His form and character was described as […] “could only belong to some old champion of the righteous cause”.

The soldiers and their high-ranking officials slowly retreated and […] “before another sunset, the Governor, and all that rode so proudly with him, were prisoners” as the current King James II of England was relinquished from his throne by King William III of England. Neither the soldiers nor the townsfolk have come know who this Gray Champion is, or where he comes from but it is believed that should another invasion threaten, the Gray Champion will appear again.

The Gray Champion by Nathaniel Hawthorne provides us with a glimpse of New England’s history, more specifically, the part of their history were the King James II of England was overthrown by King William III of England. New England was a colony of England then. This is a typical folkloric aspect of the story. Folklores tend to provide an explanation of one big event in the nation’s history and mix it up with a story of a singe all-powerful hero. The Gray Champion is not just your ordinary hero. His mysterious character is also a folkloric aspect.

Generally, folkloric literature does have central themes which involve heroic and mysterious characters. They always in end to show that justice can be obtained, and eventually the good will be rewarded and the bad punished. The Real Right Thing by Henry James is very much different from The Gray Champion. It doesn’t have heroes, nor does it recite any nation’s past. It is a short story which revolves around writing a biography of a young author who died unexpectedly. There were only two characters, the author’s wife and a biographer, who a friend of the author.

Both would like to commemorate the dead author, and so decided to write him a biography. The first part of the story discusses how the biographer and wife feel the spiritual presence of the author whom they think is assisting them with the biography. It was apparent in the later part of the book that the author in fact disapproves of their plan of commercializing his life. The story ended with both characters convinced that they saw the author’s ghost, however, it is left to the readers to decide if they indeed saw the ghost, or if they were just imagining it. The story is obviously not a typical folktale.

It does, however, have some folkloric aspect. It tells us of a custom, which is the high respect they have for the ghost of the dead. It is through folklores that we learn of a community’s beliefs and traditions. In the short story, both characters are convinced that the ghost of the dead may try to communicate with us. Another folkloric aspect of the story is how the author writes it. Like in folktales, events are arranged chronologically. Also, the short story makes uses of redundancies which are common in folklores to emphasize on certain parts of the tale. An example of such redundancies in short story is […

] “but there were lives and lives, there were subjects and subjects. ” This kind of folkloric writing was also apparent in The Gray Champion, but less so compared to The Real Right Thing. The third story is much rather different from the two. The Shadows on the Wall by Mary E Wilkins Freeman is a story on the mysterious shadow on the wall. One of the male siblings died, and since his death, a shadow is cast on the wall of their study which looks so much like their dead brother. According to the other brother who was a physician, he suffered of some gastric problems for a few hours then died.

They knew that prior to his death, the two brothers exchanged bitter words. The sisters could not help but raise suspicion against their other brother, especially with the fact that the other brother does not think it’s necessary to do an examination on the body to determine exact cause of death. The four siblings notice the shadow on the wall and want to believe that this was just caused by something in the room. They, especially the other brother, moved every piece of furniture, but the shadow did not even waver. This brother left home for consultation and should’ve after three days.

When he did not come back on the third day, they saw that there were now two shadows on that same wall. Minutes later, they received a telegram that their other brother has also died. Probably the most folkloric aspect of this short story is how the characters’ culture is presented. The story describes a typical family. Their father has left them the house and enough money to buy food for those staying at the house. The elder son has worked all his life, while his younger brother […] “had never done anything but spend”. The sisters discuss what happens around them while doing their chores, i. e. sewing, writing letters, etc.

The story also tells us how they believe that the dead stays with us by showing signs such as those of unexplained shadows on the wall. Short stories can show some folkloric aspects. Folklores are important in understanding a society’s customs, beliefs and traditions. This shows that short stories such as those discussed above, can tell the readers a lot of things regarding the society at the time these stories were written. When reading short stories, we must also pay attention to the underlying folkloric aspects to facilitate our understanding.

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