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Literary Analysis Using Terms and Techniques

Brilliant authors captivate their readers by creating stories and poems with layers of meaning. Several authors, including Melville in “Bartleby the Scrivener,” Poe in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Hawthorne in the short story “Young Goodman Brown,” Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales, Shelley in Frankenstein, Shakespeare in Hamlet, and the unknown author of Beowulf utilize literary techniques exquisitely in order to make an impact on their reader’s imagination.

Specific terms have been created and developed in order to help students and teachers talk about these stories, in order to impart a greater understanding and more clarity of description concerning these important literary works. Hamlet offers the reader a wealth of examples of literary techniques at work. This play embodies all of the elements of tragedy, and more specifically of revenge tragedy (Harmon 440). A son wants revenge for the murder of the father, and how the revenge will play out is dictated by the murdered father’s ghost.

The hero hesitates in putting the ghost’s plan into play, and uses real or perceived insanity to his advantage in gaining satisfaction. Suicide, intrigue, and a scheming villain round out the cast in revenge tragedies. Soliloquies and the use of horrific images on stage complete the revenge tragedy’s device (Harmon 440). Hamlet is the son who wants revenge for his father’s murder. His father, King Hamlet, was killed by his own brother, and now King, Claudius, of whom the Ghost says, “The serpent that did sting they father’s life Student last name 2 Now wears his crown” ( I. v. 39-40).

The Ghost asks Hamlet to get revenge on Claudius with, “If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not. Let not the royal bed of Denmark be a couch for luxury and damned incest” ( I. v. 82-83). Claudius schemed to kill King Hamlet, and did so by pouring poison, hebona, into his ear (I. v. 62-64). Hamlet has opportunity to kill Claudius while he is praying ( III. iii. 73-75), but chooses not to. One of Hamlet’s soliloquies is devoted to his hesitation for revenge, when Hamlet decides to have actors play out the murder of his father before Claudius, in order to see his reaction, and thus have firmer footing for taking deadly action (II.

ii. 580-584). Hamlet uses seeming insanity to fool the King’s men who are spying on him, calling Polonius a fishmonger (II. ii. 173). Ophelia believes he is mad, which drives her crazy and leads her to commit suicide after Hamlet tells her he will not marry her (III. i. 146-147; IV. vii. 163). Intrigue abounds through the use of secondary characters who are spies for the primary characters, including Claudius using Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet (III. i. 25-26), as well as Claudius and Polonius both spying on Hamlet (III.

i. 32). Claudius is seen as the prominent scheming villain, but Hamlet’s mother Queen Gertrude is no innocent bystander but was seduced by Claudius, as the Ghost tells Hamlet (I. v. 45-46). The end of the play is full of the dead bodies of Hamlet, the King and Queen and Laertes (V. ii. 299-347). Hamlet is a tragic hero, because he is the protagonist in a story who makes an error in his actions that leads to his downfall(Harmon 522). His flaw could be that he has opportunity to take revenge on Claudius, but hesitates to carry it out.

He laments this before seeing the play within a play, stating, “O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I! ” (II. ii. 534). Different levels of conflict are also apparent in Hamlet. As mentioned earlier, Hamlet struggles against himself to do what he perceives to be the right thing in terms of following through on his father’s revenge. At the same time, he has a different conflict in Student last name 3 that he must struggle against his uncle who usurped his father’s throne.

The use of a literary foil, or a character who, “through contrast underscores the distinctive characteristics of another” (Harmon 216), is clearly seen with Laertes and Fortinbras, who can take action yet have less reason to do so than Hamlet, are foils to Hamlet, who should act but cannot bring himself to do so. Fortinbras takes control of bringing leadership to Norway by leading an army to Poland (IV. iv. 1-7), and Laertes decides to get revenge for his father Polonius’s murder by Hamlet by choosing to kill Hamlet (IV. vii. 139-140). Hamlet can also be understood as a round character, one that E. M.

Forester describes as being “sufficiently complex to be able to surprise the reader without losing credibility” (Harmon 457). This might be seen in Hamlet’s reluctance to actually follow through on the revenge. It could be seen as being cowardly, yet it could also be understood to be crafty. You could take his inaction either way, and the character still rings true of what a human might do in those same circumstances. In contrast, Bartleby can be described as a flat character, or one that has a single focus or quality (Harmon 215). He prefers to do nothing, and says so repeatedly throughout the story: “I would prefer not to” (Lauter 2451).

The story of Bartleby is contemporary in the sense that Bartleby is employed by a Manhattan lawyer on Wall Street to copy legal documents. It shows how the poor are taken advantage of by the rich and powerful, and how the rich like to stay apart from the poor and all of their inconvenient issues that could be solved by sufficient salary, which is quite similar to how the poor are treated today, and how poverty is viewed by the rich currently. The narrator shares that Turkey, one of the other scriveners employed at Bartleby’s office was a, “man whom prosperity harmed” (Lauter 2449), and thus has Student last name 4

ended up a poor clerk. Young Goodman Brown has a world view quite different from Bartleby, and offers examples of both allegory and Great Chain of Being. An allegory “represents one thing in the guise of another . . . . by a process of double signification” (Harmon 12). As Harmon notes, an object, person or action can be equated with double meaning in this type of story (12). Thus the protagonist’s name, Young Goodman Brown, represents that he is representative of goodness. His wife is named Faith, and is representative of the faith shown by the Christian Puritans who are the primary characters of this tale.

This story also makes use of the Great Chain of Being idea, where there is a hierarchy to the universe, with inanimate objects at the bottom, next with living being that have no reason, followed by man in the middle, angels above man, and God above everything. Young Goodman Brown was happy living his life until he had a vision where the Great Chain of Being was shown to be a lie. He saw people he considered to be of good Christian faith acting unfaithfully by worshiping at a pagan shrine, as is most apparent with his wife (Heath 72). In his vision, the Great Chain is broken, with God losing his position of prominence.

There is also a certain sense of order in a frame story. A frame story is a “story inside a story” (Harmon 224). Examples can be seen in both Frankenstein and The Canterbury Tales. In Frankenstein, the story of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster are told through letters Robert Walton sends to his sister describing his exploration of the North. Chaucer uses the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales to introduce the group of people who are making a pilgrimage, offering a frame from which the individual pilgrim’s stories are told. The Canterbury Tales are also representative of fabliaux.

Fabliaux were popular Student last name 5 at the time that Chaucer wrote, and were characterized as containing “humorous, sly satire” (Harmon 207). The stories were written with a diction that suggests low-level humor that could be understood by common people. They took shots at womanhood, as well as the clergy. An example of fabliaux can be found in the Miller’s Tale. It is a humor-filled story about a young male student who falls in love with the drunken Miller’s young wife. Another young suitor falls for Alison the wife, but she is more interested in the first suitor.

The second young man wants to kiss Alison, but instead kisses her on the derriere. He seeks revenge by bringing a hot blacksmith’s iron back to brand Alison, but instead he burns the backside of the first suitor. All of these stories make excellent use of setting, but most especially so in the short story “The Fall of the House of Usher. ” Setting can include the actual location where the story takes place (Harmon 477), and in this case it is a house with “vacant eyelike windows” that are part of a crumbling mansion (Heath 76).

It also refers to what the characters do and how they live(Harmon 477). His sister whom he loved has died, and he spends his time working to “preserve her corpse for a fortnight) (Heath 84). The time period of the story is American Romantic (Harmon 584), and the story is set in the time it was written of 1839. The general environment of the characters (Harmon 477) is shown in the mental malaise of Roderick and the physical deterioration of his sister. Roderick is described as having a pallor of a “more ghastly hue–but the luminousness of his eye had utterly gone out” (Heath 85).

Poe also used verisimilitude to good effect. Verisimilitude is “the semblance of truth . . . . the degree to which a work creates the appearance of the truth (Harmon 538). This could be observed in the narrator thinking that Madeline was dead and buried, but instead she was indeed entombed, but she had been buried alive (Heath 89). student last name 6 A final interesting literary term is kenning, and the author of Beowulf offers examples in his exemplary story. Kenning refers to “a synonym for a simple noun” (Harmon 283). The sea in Beowulf is described as a “whale path” ( 27).

Both teachers and students alike can understand the complexities and levels of meaning through the understanding of literary terms and techniques. Authors such as those explored above use those techniques to craft great works of fiction. student last name 7 Works Cited Beowulf. Trans. David Wright. Baltimore: Penguin, 1957. Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Gen. Ed. M. H. Abrams. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 5th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1986. Harmon, William, and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook To Literature. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1996. Hawthorne, Nathaniel.

“Young Goodman Brown. ” The Heath Introduction To Fiction. 5th ed. Lexington: Heath, 1996. Melville, Herman. “Bartleby the Scrivener. ” Ed. Paul Lauter et al. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Lexington: Heath, 1994. Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher. ” The Heath Introduction To Fiction. 5th ed. Lexington: Heath, 1996. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Gen. Ed. Alfred Harbage. William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. New York: Penguin, 1969. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: The Annotated Frankenstein. Ed. Leonard Wolf. New York: Potter, 1977.

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