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Comparing the use of books in “Mill on the Floss” and “David Copperfield”

In “David Copperfield,” Dickens employs books and learning to read as a means to demonstrate the irrationality and hatefulness of Mr. Murdstone and his sister. In these scenes, David is obviously quite young and just beginning to conquer the world of letters, which had been an agreeable task at his mother’s knee before she remarried. Mr. Murdstone and his sister, however, see this as an opportunity to force their concept of “firmness” on both David and his mother. Just as Dickens used books and learning how to read to comment on the cruelty of Victorian notions of child rearing, George Eliot used books to illustrate the unfairness of gender bias during that same era. Eliot’s protagonist, Maggie Tulliver, is extremely bright, undoubtedly brighter then her

brother Tom, whom her father will sacrifice for in order to provide him with an education. However, Maggie’s ability to read, her thirst for knowledge, and her natural independence are met with condemnation rather then encouragement. For example, Eliot writes that “Maggie shut up the book at once, with a sense of disgrace ” (p. 491). The text makes it clear that Maggie is expected to fit the Victorian mold for womanhood, which includes being submissive and passive,

leaving “education” to the males. Three incidents in which Dickens uses the point of view of David as a child Dickens was a master at portraying the narrative through a child’s point of view. This becomes quickly evident as David, first of all, relates his first perceptions of his mother and

Peggotty (p. 473). As David describes attending church as a small child, he includes details that show the perspective of a child “What a high-backed pew!” (p. 474). Also, his reaction to his mother’s remarriage from the viewpoint of a child who doesn’t understand, and also doesn’t comprehend how his mother could fail to understand his sorrow (p. 482). Arnold’s use of the sea in “Isolation,” “Self-Dependence,” and “Dover Beach” In these three poems, Arnold uses the sea as a metaphor to describe conditions of the human soul. In “Isolation,” Arnold uses the sea to represent the distances that exist between people. He makes the point that regardless of how many millions of people gather together, we each live alone within our own minds “We mortal

million live alone” (p. 468). In “Self-Dependence,” the sea is used as metaphor that represents the epitome of self determination it asks not that world provide it with “love, amusement, sympathy” (p. 468). Similarly to these instances, in “Dover Beach,” the sea once again serves as a metaphor, but in this instance, it serves to connect the present with the past “Sophocles long

ago/ Heard it on the Aegean ” (p. 470). Addressing inferiors in “The Passing of Arthur” and “My Last Duchess The main contrast between Browning’s Duke and Tennyson’s King is in their attitude toward their so-called “inferiors.” Although Arthur is almost Christ-like in his majesty and his willingness to die to his people, he also conveys his love and esteem for Sir Bedivere. Arthur can tell from Sir Bedivere’s answer that he did not carry out his command, yet, even so, he is fairly gentle in his reprimand (the first time) and merely instructs him, calling him beloved, to carry out his orders. On the other hand, the disdain of the Duke for those whom he would consider his “inferiors” is quite obvious. The poem pictures the Duke displaying the portrait of his “last Duchess” to the emissary of the father of the girl that he intends to marry. It is clear that the Duke is an insanely jealous man who feels that his wife should treat others as he does as if they were nothing. Instead, the late Duchess treated others, the Duke tell us as “if she ranked/ My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name/ With anybody’s gift” (p. 462). Browning implies that the

Duchess met a nefarious end at the hands of his aristocratic megalomaniac.


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