Friday, August 10, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest

In the beginning of the Victorian Era, etiquette and domesticity were very important issues, with which people in high society would preoccupy themselves. Nonetheless, by the end of the period, these values had been declining and the new society, having now different concerns, ridiculed the old values. This satire can be clearly observed in the play The Importance of Being Earnest, where the critique begins in its title: the play depicts that what is important is having the name Earnest (appearance), rather than actually being genuinely earnest.

Oscar Wild satirizes social traditions from the early Victorian Age with great humor and intelligence throughout the play. One of these many moments is the passage quoted above, retrieved from the first act. The quote above illustrates irony about certain social rules of the time and conveys a negative concept of family, since it results in Algy being accompanied of either no women or two. The idea of having two women being family-like corroborates to the ludicrousness being exposed in the play.

Furthermore, many are the passages in the comedy that depict the mockery of the social values and manners of the initial Victorian Period. Three other passages, one from each Act of the play, were chosen to illustrate Wild’s critique. The first is a line from Algy, in Act 1, where he states: “I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.” (Algy, Act 1). Once more, and often it is so, Algy’s words carry much of the criticism in the play through the use of senseless comments, which praise manners over reason. When Algy affirms that people who are not serious about meals are shallow, it seems straightforward the irony Wild makes use of to satirize the exaggeration of manners used by the society he lived in.

The second passage concerns a conversation between Miss Prism and Cecily, in act 2, in which they say: “Miss Prism: I know no one who has a higher sense of duty and responsibility. Cecily: I suppose this is why he often looks a little bored.” (Miss Prism and Cecily, Act 2). Again, it is possible to notice the inversion of values, where being responsible and dutiful is not seen as a positive thing. It is important to observe that Wild probably refers to the excess of those qualities, very commonly praised in the beginning of the Victorian Era.

Lastly, the third excerpt regards a remark from Lady Bracknell in Act 3, where she states: “ A hundred and thirty thousand pounds! And in the Funds! Miss Cardwell seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her.” (Lady Bracknell, Act 3). Once more, the idea that appearances and materialism are worth more than character is underscored in this passage. As soon as Lady Bracknell learns of Cecily’s fortune, the latter suddenly becomes fit to marry Lady Bracknell’s nephew, despite Cecily’s character – yet unknown to the Lady. 

Silly novels by Lady novelists

An essay is a brief composition, usually subjective, containing much of the author’s personal view about a subject. Nonetheless, even comprehending the author’s viewpoint, essays usually provide the readership with logical arguments to ground their statements. This is especially true for some of the Victorian prose writers, but on the contrary, other Victorian essayists aimed at stirring the reader’s feelings along with convincing them of their views, this way approaching Romantic traits.

Most of the subjects in the Victorian non-fiction prose dealt with polemic topics in the scope of religion, politics, moral issues, and aesthetic philosophies. The main ambition of the Victorian non-fiction prose was to instruct and inform people. There is where the importance of the essays in this period rests on. On essays, writers exposed their ideas and concerns about social and moral issues, sometimes denouncing inhuman situations, thus calling attention to the matter. They also claimed room for literature in a world where science and materialism ruled. Important authors of the period who wrote essays include Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, William Morris, Matthew Arnold, and George Eliot.

In one of the most famous essays by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans’s pseudonym), “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists”, she discusses the novels written by her contemporary female writers in a tone of irony, humor, and sometimes, even aggressiveness. She satirizes the trivial topics broached by women novelists in her days as well as the inaccuracy of other topics and realities they addressed due to their unfamiliarity to them. To do so, George Eliot mentions many issues she notices in these novels and brings examples to ground her statements. Some of the most important critiques made by Eliot will be broached below.

She begins by affirming that the children depicted in those novels are not realistic because they do not speak like actual children do, but on the contrary, much more eloquently. Then, the “oracular species-novels”, as she entitles them, are criticized. They would consist of novels that expose the writers’ religious, philosophical or moral ideas- which in Eliot’s opinion are quite uninformed. Another important matter she calls the readers’ attention to, is the excessively refined language used in such novels. She writes a sentence using an objective language and then another very flowery to indicate the difference to the reader. She makes herself clear.

Finally, another question criticized is that of women wanting to boast about their scholarliness and talk about environments and situations that, it seems to Eliot the writers are ignorant about. As a last remark, it is interesting to wonder about the author’s intentions with the essay. It is difficult to affirm just by reading the essay that Eliot is implying a critique about women’s education beneath the criticism about the works written by the women in her days. However, it seems reasonable to argue that had women had the proper education they lacked, they would be able to write novels that were truly intellectual and meaningful. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Big cities, better lifestyle

Big cities, better lifestyle

“If I can’t make it there, I can’t make it anywhere” sang Frank Sinatra’s deep voice in the fifties making reference to the American city of New York. The song conveys that there is no other place that provides one with more opportunities to strive and succeed in life than New York. Sinatra goes on: “These little town blues are melting away, I’ll make a brand new start of it in New York”. As opposed to the little towns, New York City, the most populous city in the United States, is significantly influent in the global commerce, culture, finance, media, art, education, entertainment and politics. Is the idea suggested by the nineteen fifties song obsolete? Facts indicate that the cliché is still valid: living in big cities is preferable to living in small cities because access to entertainment, education and above all, healthcare is higher in big cities if compared to towns.
In big cities more options regarding entertainment, shopping and such are more easily found. Sure entertainment can be found in Cedar Grove, Victorville or Pinehurst, small towns in the states of New York, California and Massachusetts respectively. But, to such a minor scale that we cannot compare it to the diverseness with which it can be verified in major cities in the same states. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago supply its people with entertainment, which not only can be found with better ease and speed, but also to a much larger extent and which are internationally acknowledged. The Four Seasons and Lutece in the Big Apple, Brighton Coffee Shop and Dan Tana’s in the City of Angels as well as Capriccio and Blue Ginger in the City on a Hill are famous restaurants, which exemplify such assortment. Other examples are the Manhattan, the Grove and the Copley Place, famous shopping malls in the cities of New York, Los Angeles and Boston respectively, which offer its dwellers much more options in fashion, price and trend.
More important than variety in entertainment is that, in big cities, access to education and, thus, job opportunities is more available. When you think of good education, is Antigua and Barbuda International Institute of Technology the first thing that comes to your mind? Or is it New York University or maybe Columbia University? If we go to the western coast, would you rather enroll your son or daughter in Victorville International University or in UCLA? Now, as an employer in the northeastern America would you rather give a job to a person that has majored from the Methodist University in Pinehurst or from Harvard or MIT? By all means, education in these minor cities is unsatisfactory, but one cannot deny the imposingness and acknowledgement that lies within the universities in the major cities of these states. One would rather choose to study in the latter universities and employ those with such education in contrast to those educated in small town universities.
In addition to that, beyond all considerations, health is the main reason why living in big cities is preferable. Numbers speak for themselves. Current stocktaking of healthcare service in big and small cities depicts considerable difference in number between these two sites. Other than the famous HHC (Health and Hospitals Corporation); which operates the public hospitals and clinics in New York City; controlling over eleven hospitals, four nursing homes, six diagnostic and treatment centers and, 80 community-based primary care sites; the city is equipped with over 52 hospitals among other facilities. Against those numbers, we have six hospitals in the New York state’s small city representative, Cedar Grove. In the Golden State, the survey gives evidence of 81 acute care hospitals containing emergencies located in the big city of Los Angeles against ten in the small town of Victorville. In the state of Massachusetts, 31 hospitals were found in Boston, while in the state’s small city representative, Pinehurst, a couple of emergency rooms and zero hospitals were listed. It is true that if there are more healthcare facilities in major cities rather than in small cities, the likelihood that you will find aid in a quicker period of time within a shorter distance from your neighborhoods in a big city in contrast with small cities is perceptible.  It is also true that a better sense of safety is provided in a place where more options are more accessible in time and space, when you know that health care is only a drive away.
All and all, in agreement with the implications in the famous lines of New York New York, living in big cities still proves to be more advantageous than living in small cities due to the verification of more entertainment, education and, healthcare in the firsts. As it has been stated, both big and small cities are supplied with some of the most essential institutions for the contemporaneous life. However, not only access to them is higher in big cities, but they constitute more acknowledged and assorted instances. If one can have at one’s disposal diversity in restaurants and shopping malls that present more alternatives, variety in options for education that brings more opportunity and vastness in healthcare that produces a better sense of safety, why would one seek for a reduced degree of all those necessary institutions? Having the chance to live in cities that don’t sleep provides its dwellers with more advantages than any little towns with melting away blues do.