Caitlin Jeffery

Exploring the depths of digital literature

Ophelia is a Goner

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Prezi Presentation: Death of Ophelia

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Criticizing criticism?

When reading any text it is amazing how many interpretations it can have. People of different classes, ages, sexes, perspectives, etc. each bring their own selves to a text. By being able to analyze a text in so many ways, you can dig into deeper meanings and discover things you would have never noticed otherwise.

If you were to look at The Importance of Being Earnest from a biographical criticism perspective, you would see how Algernon is based on Wilde and the plot is a satire of the world he lived in. By looking at it this way, you see how Wilde’s history and experiences contributed to what you are reading and it is important in your understanding of the text.

From a feminist perspective, you would see that all the characters have a fanciful idea of the lives they want to live. Algernon and Jack have the freedom to pretend to be someone else and live that dream, but Cecily and Gwendolen are restricted by their sex. Cecily reads books and writes stories, which was more accepted at that time. The most interesting piece for me, is that it is in fact a woman who has the most power. All their happiness is contingent upon the approval of Lady Bracknell.

Theories can lead you deeper into the text than even the write has gone. To his death Tolkien would argue that The Lord of the Rings was not allegorical even though many people could interpret the good west against the evil east as the Allies vs. the Axis. Tolkien may not have intended to make it allegorical, but one could argue that the world he lived in could have contributed to the text and be an indirect representation.

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The Importance of Being Who?

I love this play so so much. You have these people who live a lives of responsibility, obligation, and must live up to certain standards and as an escape from that world, so they create an alter ego of sorts. That alter ego gives them a freedom proper society doesn’t let them have. This of course leads to a hilarious turn of events once Algernon discovers Ernest is not being earnest and is really Jack. Algernon sympathizes as he has a made up ill uncle he uses to get away himself. Eventually they both pretend to be Ernest in earnest to woo the women they love. In the end they discover Jack is in fact Ernest and was accidentally earnest by saying he had a troublesome younger brother, since he discovers Algernon is his younger brother.

Algernon: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!”

The best scene is when Gwendolen and Cecily are at tea and discover they are both engaged to the same person, but not the same person, and in fact no person. In the end you get a 1950s film perfect ending where everyone ends up with who they should and no sooner then they need to.

I think we all to some extent create alternate versions of ourselves in different ways. Some people do it by drinking and some just by changing what friends they are with. I know when I am with certain people I feel I can be louder, sillier, and crazier. It isn’t who I am normally, but it is nice to have a change of pace. When I am with my kids I tend to be more mindful of how I act and the words I say, so it can be refreshing to get away and swear like a sailor. Algernon and Jack just take it to a different level by literally being people they aren’t.

All in all this play is hilarious. Wilde’s play on words and witty dialogue is timeless. Love love love this play.

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One may smile, and smile, and be a villain

This is probably my tenth-ish reading of Hamlet and I still love this play. The complexity, depth, and interpretation of these characters are just so rich that it hooks you in. Each reading I find myself re-evaluating my stance on characters, their motives, their meanings. How many works can you say do that?

I have to say, no matter how often I read this play I always feel bad for Ophelia. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hamlet and the complexity of the characters, but her character just breaks my heart. While it is often debated if Hamlet does truly love her, I feel in his quest for vengeance he punishes Ophelia. At the same time, she never has faith in his love for her.

I love the part when Polonius reads his letter to Ophelia to Claudius:

“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.”

Hamlet tells her to not doubt him or his love, but Polonius dissuades Ophelia:

“And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
‘Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star.
This must not be.’ And then I prescripts gave her,
That she should lock herself from his resort,
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;”

Polonius thinks that Ophelia rejecting Hamlet drives him “Into the madness wherein now he raves, And all we mourn for.” In fact, it is she that is driven eventually to insanity and suicide. Ophelia is very much a game piece in Hamlet, being used by her father. Hamlet is so resentful of females at the moment because of his mother cheating on his father and the events surrounding his father’s death, that he is completely distrustful. I really do believe he loves Ophelia, but he isn’t in the right mental place to do anything about it. This poor girl just doesn’t understand because she has no knowledge of what is going on in Hamlet’s head. Heck most readers are still trying to figure out what is going on in Hamlet’s head! When she rejects him as her father asks, it just adds fuel to the fire that Hamlet has against females and makes him more resentful because he can see she is being used as a pawn and wants her to make her own choices. After he discovers her death, he professes his deep love for her:

“I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers
Could not with all their quantity of love
Make up my sum.”

In the end this is a tragedy play for a reason. Poor Ophelia.

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