In any field and discipline progression is important for its development whether it is art or it is a scientific field. Cartography is one field that could be treated as a science as well as an art. Its progress started with art but gradually it developed into a science as discussed in the following document.


Cartography is the art, science and technology of making maps, plans, charts and globes representing Earth or any celestial body at any scale. (Sebert, 1998) Centuries ago when there were no hi-tech compasses and aviation of no sort was available to mankind, it was a science. Today this art of making a map is an art. 'Viewing maps as works of art is not a new idea. It was in the late 16th century that one John Dee remarked, "Some, to beautify their halls. parlors, chambers … liketh, loveth, getteth and useth maps, charts and geographical globes." Dee, magician, alchemist, and astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, cast an observant eye over the court and the noble houses he visited, noting even then that maps were more than mere geographical surveys and were prized for their beauty (McNiff 1997). What is truly fascinating is that even so many centuries ago, cartography was an art along with being a necessity.

'Cartographic documents have been used as vehicles of communication by different cultures for many millennia; the earliest map to survive, drawn about 2300 BC on a clay tablet, was found in the Middle East. Centuries before Christ, Greek philosophers and mathematicians such as Pythagoras and Aristotle advanced the concept that Earth was a sphere, and Eratosthenes (c 276-196 BC) made a reasonable calculation of Earth's circumference.' (Heidenreich)

Maps were mostly assumptions or loosely measured and it was not till the late 2nd century AD that a standard of some sort was crated for the making of maps and charts. Claudius Ptolemy was perhaps the first organized cartographer. He proposed the compilation and systematic arrangement of the geographical knowledge of the day. He was also of the proponent that the study of geography would not be complete unless it was done in a scientific manner. This could only be done in a mathematical graphing of common places and estimations around the world. Regions should be divided and supplemented with appropriate scales. (Heidenreich)

Ptolemy's works were more or less not paid heed to until the late 15th century when an interest in the classical age overtook people by storm. Cartography in the 16th century progressed as a science. Europeans in this genre were pretty lacking in their skills even by the time of the 16th century. Maps were often images of crude drawings of known areas especially during the French period of 1800. Astronomy techniques and the trick to determine longitudes and latitudes through the use of marine chronometer were introduced (Heidenreich).

It was during World War I, that cartography became intermingled with photography, named photogrammetry. This is basically mapping of regions through aerial photography. The art of photographing regions is more complicated then mere photography where the focus of the picture is more objective. Photogrammetry was one of the post war era’s evolution of cartography into an art again in spite of its scientific development in navigation.

Depending on the skills of the photographer, a photogrammetric map could be categorized as from peer to peer called “tie points” [that is points of ground areas selected in the overlapping areas], accurate to regional scales or it could be an overview of the features of the geographical outlay of the region. Clarity, consistency and accuracy along with the cartographic qualities of accurate longitudes, latitudes are the dominant features of photogrammetry. In this regard, cartography became an extension of photography, a tool of art.


Thus we might then say in the light of the above arguments and facts that maps have intriguingly gone from being tools of aviation to being symbols of luxury and an art in themselves. 'Whether it is guiding a crosscountry road trip or hanging decoratively on a wall, a map is more than just directions. Besides providing information, maps illustrate alternate world views. "Maps play into our lives significantly every day," said Karen Casanova, Weisman program director.

"Different perspectives are shown in different maps," said Kristin Sullwold, a College of Liberal Arts junior. "The older artifacts are interesting because you can see several perceptions of the world dating back to the 1500s." When maps were first made, they were meant to be political documents, said Rob Silberman, an associate art history professor. But over the years, map-making has become contentious.' (Kimpel, 1999)

What interests me as a student of aviation is that maps were often used as political weapons. Mankind manipulated even these tools of aviation. For example cartographers in Africa will proportionately make Africa larger then Europe or vice versa. This weapon was also used in War time through photogrammetry. Most nations tend to present their country as the center of directions, whether they were in the east, west, north or south. Modern day cartographers know otherwise and tries its best to focus on all destinations equally (Kimpel, 1999).

Most people are familiar with the pragmatic everyday use of maps but if one were to really look at it, in reality they are much more to man. Most maps contain a symbolism of some sort at their own level and that of the person, people or institution that mapped it out. Like photographs, maps could be used for inspiration; many artists have in their own perceptions and ways, found new ways to represent the earth. To say that 'art and maps have a complex, rich and interesting relationship with one another', would not then be incorrect.


Art, we see from this example of cartography, is a great thing. Its vistas, levels of use, diversity and manipulation leave one temporarily stunned. But art in relation to individualism and culture is a thing to think about. “Anthropologist Dissanayake (1993) would have us implement a multiculturalism that includes unique individual cultures but which teaches the arts without romanticism or condescension. . .”

But one knows that most cultures usually answer its own populous’ needs. These economic and social needs usually take away from art lovers the aesthetic value it represents. Postmodernists were perhaps the only ones who had been able to revive this art through their enthusiastic demeanors and their desire to challenge conventional cartography and its use. (Stinespring, 2001) This approach to art would do away with a lot of the rot infesting it. It is wise though to accept that '…art expresses ideas that have political implications. This has always been one kind of subject matter for art. Students may find and should be allowed to make such expressions. Placing emphasis on social commentary implemented in the name of a postmodern curriculum, however, risks distorting and skewing art content…' (Wallach, 1994)


Here a mention of Terry Barretts 'About criticism' is most appropriate. Barrett defines criticism as "informed discourse about art to increase understanding and appreciation of art." [Barrett]. In this regard, cartography had been a great cultural contribution to the world. Without these map drafters, the world would not have been linked, Columbus would not have found Africa and the Spanish would not have reached South America.

Cartography is a cultural and a scientific art that like any other art had progressed over the centuries. Cartography and its progress could be attributed to geography and the aesthetic alike. This is because its existence had created communication linkage between natives of one region to the other. However, ideally cartography should be categorized as an art that transformed itself into a science. For photography and photogrammetry are too accurate for their forms to be treated as an art. It is science like these that have created various disciplines yet at the same time linking them together to make a cohesive whole – human culture.


The topic of cartography fascinates me as an aviation major student. The idea of people making maps from experience, hearsay and perception and people referring to these to travel miles away from their homes, risking their lives leaves me rather stupefied. This might have to do a great deal with the leaps in technology and the present system of making maps to brilliant precision and the inability of one not from that era to grasp the concept. This excerpt lends to my idea:

'…Time was, not so long ago, when we wanted to read art, like the rest of history, as a story of progress. Every day in every way, art and life were getting better and more modern, went this 20th-Century fairy tale. Fascism, communism, runaway capitalism, scientific and technological breakthroughs and modernist art were born of such yearnings. But the Promised Land never happened, and the utopian fantasies wrecked themselves on the shoals of disintegrating empires, environmental disasters, alienation and boredom. Chastened at the end of the century, we look now for other, smaller, less all-encompassing ways to understand just what is going on. (Wallach, 1994)


In the end it would be appropriate to say that Cartography was and is a tool of cultural development without which one would not have been possible for mankind to progress to the degree that he has today. For instance the field of aviation depends on accurate maps, charts and geographical latitudes. Cartographers in this regard have progressed a long way from spidery artistic drawings of sparse locations to intricate scales of regions of the world.

When viewed as an art, cartography matured in a very abnormal pace. While its history could be traced to Ptolemy, with astronomy and mathematics, today it still uses the same kind of tools to chart maps. As a result of this low paced progress, its artistic appreciation was also decreased. In the face of today’s technology, cartographic drawings and in the face of photogrammetric maps, have become a suppressed art, only appreciated by artistic society in reconnaissance with history.

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  1. Wallach, Amei. Mapping the Routes To Understanding. , Newsday, 10-10-1994.
  2. Barrett, Terry, "About Criticism," Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images, (Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing), 2000.
  3. Sebert, L.M, The 1998 Canadian Encyclopedia. 1998
  4. McNiff, Veronica, The cartographer's art, 'House Beautiful', 1997.
  5. Heidenreich, C.E. Mapping the Great Lakes-1603-1700. University of Toronto Press, 1998.
  6. Kimpel, Jessica, New Minnesota exhibit spotlights historic maps, contemporary art. , University Wire, 1999.
  7. Dissanayake, Ellen. Homo Aestheticus: Where art comes from and why. New York: The Free Press. 1992.
  8. Stinespring, John A, Preventing art education from becoming "a handmaiden to the social studies". , Arts Education Policy Review, 03-01-2001. 

Social Conservatism in Charles Dickens Hard Times

Social Conservatism in Charles Dickens' Hard Times and T.S. Ashton's The Industrial Revolution 

T.S. Ashton's The Industrial Revolution and Charles Dickens' Hard Times both address a number of issues relating to industrialization in Great Britain in the early nineteenth century. However, a direct comparison of the two texts is complicated by the fact that the former is a work of late twentieth century history, while the latter is a fiction of the mid-nineteenth century. Moreover, Dickens' text is not a "programmatic book" but is rather governed by aesthetic principles; a fact which widens the generic gulf between it and Ashton's socio-economic history. Given this, the key point of convergence between the two texts occurs not so much with the broad economic issues of the Industrial Revolution – technical innovation, demographics, capital investment – as with the social history of this era: its class conflicts, economic oppression and the organization of labour. In this context, it will be argued that a key similarity of both texts' depiction of the Industrial Revolution is their representation of the predominant social conservatism of an era known, paradoxically, for its profound social and economic change.

An examination of the publication history of Dickens' Hard Times reinforces the view that individualism rather than collectivism informs the author's crafting of his novel. Hard Times was first published as a serial in Dickens' magazine Household Words in 1854, where it often appeared side-by-side with articles on important social issues of the day. This curious textual blurring of the distinction between fact and fiction has 2 led critics to argue that

the social questions alluded to within Hard Times form a dialogue with articles which looked at appalling sanitary conditions, at the need for a sympathetic form of education for the working classes, at the disgrace of those manufacturers who refused to obey the law . . . .  (Flint, xiv)

However, a closer examination of how Dickens' crafted his serialized chapters suggests that he was careful to maintain a distance between social reality and social fiction. For example, while in the proof version of one chapter Dickens was "clearly antagonistic" towards millowners, and actually referred to an accompanying article on dangerous working conditions in mills in a footnote, by the time of final publication he had deleted both overt criticism and the footnote as well. This authorial choice has been interpreted by critics as "an evasion of anything which might appear to support working-class radical behaviour" (Flint, xv).

This conservatism, even in a novel that prominently features social and economic criticism, is echoed in Ashton's account of the social conflicts of the era. While there was considerable agitation on the part of some workers to organize for better 3 working conditions and pay, these disturbances were often "merely a spontaneous reaction to hunger or oppression, and the organization behind them collapsed as soon as the battle had been won or lost" (Ashton, 107). This general absence of systemic analysis and/or action in the face of social oppression is personified in Dickens' novel in the figure of Stephen Blackpool. It is through the figure of Stephen that Dickens gives readers his most direct criticism of the living and working conditions in milltowns such as Coketown. However, it is noteworthy that Stephen appears never able to think beyond the bare facts of the working classes' impoverishment to address the issues of resolving this problem. He simply assert that such conditions – like his own pathetically failed marriage – is a "muddle":

"'Deed we are in a muddle, sir. . . . Look how we live, an wheer we live, an in what numbers, an by what chances . . . . and how yo are awlus right, and how we are awlus wrong . . . . Who can look on't, sir, and fairly tell a man 'tis not a muddle?" "Of course," said Mr. Bounderby. "Now perhaps you'll let the gentleman know, how you would set this muddle (as you're so fond of calling it) to rights." "I donno, sir. I canna be expecten to't. 'Tis not me as should be looken to for that, sir. 'Tis them as is put ower me, and ower aw the rest of us." 4 (Dickens, 153)

Clearly, Stephen is not demanding specific reforms so much as asking his "betters" (Dickens' readership) to do something for his class. From this perspective, Stephen is not so much a representative of the oppressed working classes as he is an idealized fiction designed to make the working classes palatable to Dickens' conservative readership. As one critic observes:

This workman is . . . like his patient, loving friend Rachael, another highly sanitized, unthreatening member of the masses with whom the reader is invited to sympathize, above all, on the grounds of a personal dilemma. (Flint, xxv)

The reasons behind the social conservatism evident in Dickens' text lie in the ever-present fear of social unrest that underlay British society during the Industrial Revolution. Ashton, notes, for example, how many early labour organizations or "combinations" "hid their true purposes under titles which implied the activities of friendly societies" (Ashton, 106). They did this to avoid the threat of legislation against workers organizing for better pay or working conditions (Ashton, 108). In this context, it is not surprising that Dickens should oppose the passive, deferential Stephen with the radical labour organizer Slackbridge, 5 who is depicted as a "gnashing and perspiring" demagogue that turns upon his "fellow-worker" Stephen when it is in his selfinterest (Dickens, 250).

The ideal of the working class during this conservative era seems to have been of a class that, like Stephen, deferentially accepts charity, or meekly begs for the alleviation of some hardship from members of upper classes, rather than demanding or organizing to obtain labour rights. This social conservatism was reflected in the prominent role played by charitable organizations, as opposed to government or industry leaders, in alleviating the worst manifestations of economic oppression:

Generally, however, alleviation was the business, less of the individual or the State, than of the voluntary organization. Public relief was supplemented by bodies like the Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor, the Marine Society, which provided for friendless boys, and the Philanthropic Society, which cared for deserted children and vagrants. (Ashton, 110)

In conclusion, while the predominant point of similarity between Dickens' Hard Times and Ashton's Industrial Revolution lies in their representation of the social conservatism of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, a comparison of the texts is particularly informative in that Ashton foregrounds what 6 Dickens' only suggests: that the era's social conservatism may have been an "official" ideology masking deeper social unrest. Certainly, as we have seen, Dickens carefully edited his text to remove elements that were "excessively" antagonistic to the upper classes, and presented his ideal working "Hand" as a deferential, intellectually challenged individual. This editing not only betrays what were probably Dickens' more radical thoughts on the social conditions of the time, but his acknowledgement of the fact that these views would not have been accepted by his readership. Need a dissertation on Social Conservatism? No problem! Go here and get your best dissertation paper right now!

Thus, much like the early labour organizations that Ashton indicates disguised themselves as "friendly societies", Dickens may be seen to "cloak" himself in social conservatism to render his text palatable to a middle class audience. In terms of future research, our understanding of the social change accompanying the Industrial Revolution may be furthered by more in-depth analysis of this social conservatism: its origins, the agents that maintained it, and how it influenced the social and cultural history of the period. All types of academic writing you can order at


  • Ashton, T.S. The Industrial Revolution: 1760-1830. Oxford: Oxford U P, 1997.
  • Dickens, Charles. Hard Times: for these Times. 1854; London: Penguin, 1995.
  • Flint, Kate. Introduction. Hard Times: for these Times by Charles Dickens. 1854; London: Penguin, 1995.
  • Hudson, Pat. Preface. The Industrial Revolution: 1760-1830 by T.S. Ashton. Oxford: Oxford U P, 1997: v-xiv. 

An Interaction Between Self and Society

The Sociology of Medicine: An Interaction Between Self and Society 

The sociology of medicine studies the health and medical system in terms of its social interactions within itself, and with society at large. This approach is interesting because it expands the discussion of the medical system far beyond most people's narrow conception of hospitals, doctors and nurses. From this point of view, the medical system is understood as an element in the medico-industrial complex, and a key component of the capitalist system.

This essay will discuss the medico-industrial complex from the perspectives of structural functionalism and Marxist conflict theory. I will contend that the medical system in Canada is closely intertwined with the class system of this country, and the capitalist objectives of the pharmaceutical companies. While personal details will be kept to a minimum, in recognition of the subjective observer perspective of symbolic interactionism the first person point-of-view will be integral to the analysis.

As I come from China, my responses to the Canadian medical system are largely influenced by my experiences overseas. One facet of the Chinese sociology of medicine is that medicine – and health and illness – extend far beyond the state system. This may be a response to the fact that the state system is not very good and so not trusted. As a result, Chinese have taken over much of the responsibility for their personal health care themselves. Traditional herbal and organic remedies for every complaint are a facet of the Chinese system that is only slightly reflected in the Canadian model. In fact, as I came to understand in my contact with the medical system in Canada, it is a view of health that many medical professionals distrust.

My first real experience of the Canadian medico-industrial complex came last year around exam time when I started becoming sick (vomiting, nausea, sleeplessness) for no apparent reason. I went to a doctor for a check-up, and in the course of talking I told him of the various herbal remedies/supplements that I take. The doctor told me that it was likely I was becoming sick in response to toxic elements in these remedies. He gave me a lecture on the dangers of consuming folk remedies without a physician's advice, and wrote me a prescription for a drug to purge my digestive system of much of their traces.

The above story exhibits elements that render it understandable in terms of the sociology of medicine. As one writer notes:

The sociology of medicine is the study of the ways the institutionalized medical system constructs what it deems to be illness out of what it recognizes as signs and symptoms, and constitutes its response to such 'illness' through the treatments it prescribes. (Clarke, 4)

This definition is significant in terms of my experience of the medical system in that it stresses the central subjectivity of the social actors in a particular situation (Clarke, 36). These social actors can only be truly understood only if their roles are analyzed in the context of the social and economic relations of their particular cultural setting.

In the case of my doctor, I now realize the significance of his diagnosis of my illness as being a response to the herbal supplements that I and my family have been taking for most of our lives. In terms of Marxist conflict theory, the doctor's lecture may be interpreted not simply as a diagnosis but also as an example of the,

“loss of individual autonomy and the creation of dependency. The responsibility for good health has been wrested from the individual as a result of the imposition of the medical model – the prevalence of medical institutions and medical practitioners.” (Clarke, 34)

In terms of history, there has long been a degree of antipathy toward complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by the medical establishment (Clarke, 347). Certainly, given the size and the financial revenues of the medico-industrial complex – $10.8 billion spent on pharmaceutical in Canada in 1996 (Clarke, 365) – it is obvious that the maintenance of this "cash cow" would be a prime consideration of many individuals in the field.

In terms of my personal experience, I did not feel comfortable with the doctor's diagnosis as I felt oddly deprived of any say or right to control my own life. I felt that my judgement, that of my family, and by extension that of millions of Chinese who had evolved a complex system of natural medicine to compensate for the deficiencies of our medical system, was not only questioned but totally disregarded. The significance of the symbolic interactionist model is clearly applicable to an analysis of my thinking at this point, because my thoughts had shifted from a focus on my health to a focus on my health in my social context. I was not sure what to do: accept the diagnosis and cease taking the supplements, or continue with the supplements in defiance of the doctor's advice.

I chose a middle path, and continued taking the supplements while finding another physician to talk to. This time I was careful to choose a Chinese doctor who had experience with patients from China and their "home remedies". At my initial meeting with this doctor I explained my first consultation and the diagnosis. This doctor nodded, but did not comment on the diagnosis. Instead, he asked for a list of the supplements I had been taking. I had expected this, and had already made a list up to give him.

After reviewing the list, my doctor laughed and said there was nothing "toxic" on the list at all. Instead, he said he thought I was simply suffering from stress and anxiety about my schoolwork, and prescribed regular workouts at a gym.

I must admit to being surprised at this diagnosis, and especially the "prescription". Once again, upon leaving the doctor's office, I felt confused and uncertain as to whether or not to trust his diagnosis. In a sense, both my Chinese and Canadian experiences of health and illness had taught me that health was something to be obtained by consuming something; whether a pill from a pharmacist, or a remedy from a herbalist. To be frank, I thought that going to a gym – while probably a good thing in general – would probably only increase my nausea and stomach sickness.

The deciding factor in my decision, however, was that the second doctor's advice did not seem to deprive me of control over my health. In fact, he reinforced the idea that I had a significant degree of control over my health. So, I took his advice. Two weeks later my symptoms had mostly vanished.

This experience – although subjective and defined largely by social interaction as per the symbolic interactionist theory – greatly impacted my view of doctors and medical care in Canada. From the perspective of Marxist conflict theory, I understand now how the financial interests of the medico-industrial complex can influence – consciously or unconsciously – many of its practitioners to be hostile to rival forms of treatment. However, it also points to the need of the system to situate users in a position of dependency. This position was in conflict with the position of independence of most Chinese with respect to their own health system. This second social position gave me the incentive to question the system of dependency. I am happy that I did so.

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  • Clarke, Juanne. Health, Illness, and Medicine in Canada. Toronto: Oxford U P, 2000.
  • Shroff, Farah. "All the Petals of the Flower." in Course Kit: Sociology of Health. Toronto: York University, 2000. 

Youth Sports

Childhood sports are important in the psychological and physiological well being of child who then later goes on to turn into a healthy individual. The child’s level of participation, how he or she performs and whether the child enjoys sports is greatly influenced by an adult’s attitudes towards the physical and emotional aspects of the activity. If a child gets positive reinforcement from his/her parents and peers then the child will be encouraged to participate in sporting activities. Childhood sports also have certain implications and milestones specifically related to the development of the child and is detrimental to his/her developmental phase (O’Connor, 1998). The following essay will thus attempt to discuss childhood sports in the context of the child’s emotional as well as physiological well being. The main focus here will be the sports played between the ages of six and twelve and how it helps in the development of the child.

Children are rather limited in their physical ability and strength and so the kind of sports that they engage in is greatly dependent on their endurance and resilience. To understand this concept in a better manner let’s consider the amount of athletic activity that infants can engage in. Owing to their size and thus strength, infants are unable to perform in any specific or specialized athletic activities. For this reason parents enable their infant children to swim because it helps in the development of muscles and their motor skill ability. However the real motor skill development occurs when the child turns five or six i.e. the school going age. It is at this point that children must engage in sports that can actually help them to develop in a positive manner thereby reinforcing their desirable traits.

Still trying to teach those sports that require a great deal of skill and consist of a number of rules are often difficult to teach children of school going age and so requires a great deal of time and energy on the instructor’s part. Such sports often include baseball, football and soccer (Payton, 2000). Also the instructor’s inability to be patient with the child may result in frustration and anger thereby causing low self-esteem and the development of a negative self-concept on the child’s part. Of course this will only occur if the instructor shows his/her disapproval and anger resulting from the child’s inability to learn in the first few trials. Researches have shown that a child’s inability in these areas may cause a sense of failure and a life-long aversion to organized sports. For this reason a number of pediatricians suggest that complex, team sports that require coaching or memorization should be postponed until the child reaches an age where he or she is able to comprehend the meaning of those instructions and develops memory skills. A suitable age for this purpose would perhaps be the age of nine or ten years (Payton, 2000). It is also important to point out that children may not actually be interested in sports that do not require memorization or coaching and so a good way to engage in physical sports activity is engaging in those activities in which the whole family can participate in such as taking bicycle rides and talking walks.

Childhood sports are usually considered to be activities that will offer good exercise and companionship for their child while providing valuable lessons in competition, teamwork, dedication and self-discipline. However one fatal flaw in this idea is that they think that their own feelings and reactions have no implications on the child. There are crucial psychological effects of sports from how the child handles personal failure and defeat to the way he or she copes with a lack of ability and sitting on the bench. In fact most parents wonder how a child’s winning or losing may be the result of their own reactions but the fact of the matter is that it plays a detrimental role in the child’s doing well or failing on the sport (Harrison, 1991). This is mainly because of the cognitive theories of self-concept. According to this concept, people develop positive self-regard for themselves if they receive positive reinforcement at home. Simply put if parents have high expectations from their children with regard to academic development and extracurricular activities, their failure will cause disappointment and disapproval in the eyes of the parents (Freedman, 1999).

This means that constant disapproval and rejection of a child’s performance will enable him/her to develop a negative self-concept and he/she will automatically minimize his or her positive abilities while magnifying his or her weaknesses. Hence even if a child is good at some sport for e.g. scrabble he/she will develop low self-esteem and continuously fail at things, which the child could have easily excelled in. Not only this but also a ten year old child for example is not emotionally equipped to handle personal setbacks by himself and so will require some sort of reinforcement and encouragement from the parents even if he fails. Hence if children are reinforced in a positive manner while playing sports, it may enable them to develop positive self-regard for themselves, which contributes to their psychological well being. In addition to this, sports are children’s way of growing up and of developing their personality (Harrison, 1991). So if they fail and suffer continuous disappointments it can have a strong impact on their emerging psyche unless of course both their coaches and their parents support them.

Needless to say every parent has been faced with an awkward and distressing situation of witnessing his or her children in tears after losing a game. At that point a child needs emotional support especially children who range between the ages of six to twelve years because they are considerably sensitive at that point and are emotionally vulnerable to say the least. And it only becomes worse if parents become angry and punish their children for losing both verbally and physically. This will completely destroy a child’s self esteem. Hence during this particular stage children should be encouraged to take honest pride in winning but at the same time they also learn how to cope with defeat (provided that parents provide the right kind of reinforcement to their children) (Cross, 1999).

Of course another advantage of childhood sports that it helps in physical development of the child. Continuous exercise of the muscles by engaging in sporting activities such as baseball, football, soccer and hockey enable children to develop stamina. These activities in effect become a test of their endurance as they learn that there are many challenges in life that need to be faced with an open heart and mind and that if one perseveres one can overcome all odds to finally get what he/she wants (Harrison, 1991). Thus sports teach children endurance, perseverance and provide them with the ability to face failure and defeat along with maintaining their physical health. Not only this but it develops awareness about their own bodies, which is beneficial to children considering the fact that they are naturally curious about themselves at such an age. Naturally this awareness helps them realize that to maintain their bodies and to keep themselves healthy they constantly need to exercise i.e. play sports, which apart from having physiological effects are an activity that help kill time. Maintenance of sporting activities results in the development of healthy children who go on to develop into healthy adults.

There have been several criticisms leveled against sporting activities for children that question the necessity and validity of childhood sports. Critics say that parents have showed increasing concern about juggling between their child’s sports schedule and academic activities and their jobs and household issues (Harrison, 1991). They say that it is causing additional strain on the children to succeed in an activity that is not as important as their educational development. Not only this but it is believed that middle childhood sporting activities have a number of adverse effects mainly the fact that they become extremely dependent on others to help them get through the activity at hand.

Thus children inadvertently learn to be dependent on others and in Freud’s terms become fixated at the oral stage of their personality (where a child gets satisfaction by external responses i.e. the way their environment reacts to their situation). Some say that all the fun has been taken out of sporting activities as they are now an institutionalized activity i.e. children now enroll into various classes such as karate classes, baseball clubs etc. in order to learn sports. Previously playing sports meant meeting at the local playground with the neighborhood kids and playing for hours at a stretch (Cross, 1999).

This in fact was a better way to learn as the child got to know about his limitations and capabilities and used them in a manner, which he thought was most appropriate to the situation. In short the child learnt to be independent and learnt how to make his/her own decisions with regard to any situation. Not only this but also the institutionalization of childhood sports means that the children play for an hour maybe two at best without actually socializing with the children in the facility. Thus the child’s social skills and decision-making capabilities are stunted because the instructors provide them with all the answers and are the only form of interaction for the children. Proponents of formal facilities that teach children how to play emphasize that this develops discipline in a child as he/she learns better this way instead of having to go through the tedious trial and error method that may actually cause the child to give up if he/she does not achieve the desired result. As far as the limitation of time and the stunting of socialization skills go, those in favor of childhood sports argue that the children learn to sort out their priorities in life i.e. playing a sport from say two to four will help them realize that even though sports are an important part of their lives, due attention must be given to other activities such as schoolwork, time spent with family etc. We write dissertations for everyone quickly and efficiently

Then there is the question of socializing with other children, which critics argue are stunted due to limited interaction with their peers. It’s true that children do not socialize with everyone during the course of their one hour or two hour class and even if they do socialize with everyone they may realize that they do not like all of their peers. This teaches children how to deal with all sorts of people in life and they will not like everyone that they meet in life e.g. when they work in different capacities and realize that their co-workers and superiors are not quite the kind of people that they would like to associate with (O’Connor, 1998).

Thus one can say that sports enable children to understand that there are all sorts of people in this world, which they will have to learn to deal with at some point in their lives. Additional concerns about the early onset of and over-reliance on organized sports include: the elimination of children of mixed ages playing together; the late-developers being labeled as inadequate and the parental obsession about their children becoming stars. The latter is especially problematic. Some children become well coordinated earlier than others do. Some grow tall or fill out more quickly. These children are often “stars” at these early ages and they develop a false sense of entitlement that is rampant in this country’s infatuation with its athletes. It becomes particularly problematic when the parents are caught up in it.

Finally concerns about serious medical injuries with regard to childhood sports have been raised in the recent years. They range from sprains and strains to growth plate injuries (which is the developing of solid bones instead of tissues at the end of long bones) and from repetitive motion injuries (such as fractures) to dehydration. Sometimes these injuries turn into a life long problem for the child and he/she may not be able engage in any sort of sports as a result of the injury that took place in childhood.

Thus the above analysis shows that even though sports develop a child’s physical and emotional well being apart from enabling him/her to learn some valuable lessons about life in general, there are also some adverse effects with regard to the sporting activities of children and so an effort must be made to strike a balance between the two. All types of academic writing you can order at


  1. O'Connor, Deborah (June 16 1998). Preventing sports injuries in kids. Patient Care, pp.60-83.
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica Online;
  3. The Gale Encyclopedia of childhood and Adolescence. Available online at:
  4. Payton, Walter (2000). Never Die Easy. New York: Villard Books.
  5. Harrison, Jeanette (1991). Understanding Children. Australian Council for Educational Research.
  6. Freedman, Russell (1999). Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
  7. Cross, Mandy (1999). Goal Power! A Real Life Girls' Soccer Story. Chicago: Rutledge. 

The Concept of Justice

To us, justice is a function of morality, whether human or divine. To the ancient Greeks, however, justice was a measurement of the status quo, a function of the way people are supposed to behave at their station in life. The Homeric idea of justice is very different from our own; it suggests that whereas our sense of justice is founded upon morality, justice in Homer's time centered around the maintenance of the status quo. "Odyssey" and "Aeneid" each present a distinct political teaching regarding human ends and the form of civil society most conducive to the realization of those ends. Homer's Zeus and Virgil's Jupiter guide their heroes to embody principles of natural justice that in turn found political constitutions.

The Political Plan of Zeus, represents the first comprehensive theory of the meaning of Zeus's providence in both Homeric poems, a new interpretation of the muse in Homer, and the first attempt to compare the "Aeneid" with PlatonicAristotelian teaching on the nature of man and the problem of empire. The Odyssey's hero, the conscious immoral Odysseus, was in essence nothing more than wildly irrational, criminal killers with no sense of honesty or justice. The nature of all gloryseeking criminal minds is summed up in the character of Odysseus, especially as he returns home after a decade of glorious battles and heroic adventures. The great bully Odysseus simply plunders and butchers the innocent populations of defenseless coastal towns whenever he and his cohorts want to feel big and powerful whenever they want to plunder the value producers, rape them, kill them, have a good time.

Such Homeric-hero characters are not human beings, but are humanoids with no concept of honesty, human values, or objective justice. They are criminals who pretend worthiness through fake glories, destructive heroics, and evil ego justice. All their boastfully paraded heroics, courage, and glory are nothing more than masks for criminal acts and parasitical cowardice. All such humanoids are simply plunderers and killers, nothing more, no matter what heroics they stage. Indeed, was that the message, which the blind-poet Homer intended? For, Homer grants no hint of virtuous good-versus-evil struggles by those heroes. If so, 400 years later, the politician-philosopher Plato turned Homer's message upside down. As identified, Plato ingeniously constructed an integrated philosophy justifying the parasitical control and dictatorial rule of the honest value producers by criminal-minded elites. Finally, 300 years after Plato, the Roman poet Virgil in his famous secondary epic, the Aeneid, recycled Homer's Odyssey into a gentler, more hidden form of evil. Thus, Virgil laid the structure forever more subtle and hidden neocheating techniques.

Virgil promotes the evil falsity that the virtues of life, character, bravery, and morality lie in sacrifice and service sacrifice of the workers and value producers to the service of the parasitical elites. All such calls for sacrifice are done under the arbitrary guises of government, nationalism, religion, society, higher causes, whatever sounds good at the time. Virgil's Aeneid lays the foundations for totalitarianism and glorious leaders like Hitler to rise and destroy entire economies and populations. Ever since Virgil, subtle neocheating techniques have allowed criminal-minded humanoids to plunder the value producers in countless, hidden ways while appearing moral, even heroic. Thus, those neocheating techniques allowed an irrational anticivilization to rise and exist to this day on planet Earth.

Beowulf tells of a hero, a Scandinavian prince named Beowulf (A future king of the Geats), who rids the Danes of the monster Grendel, half man and half fiend. Fifty years later, Beowulf succeeds in repeating similar exploits, freeing his own land from devastation. The third and final primary epic of Western literature, the allegorical Beowulf, written about 1000 AD, reflects an honest, moral foundation for conscious beings. The hero, Beowulf, is genuinely noble and honest as his pure goodness triumphs over pure evil over allegorical monsters that are metaphors for humanoid neocheaters. Indeed, Beowulf himself explicitly identifies the greatest evil as harming and killing innocent people, especially one's own people. But, evilly unprincipled Odysseus, not virtuously principled Beowulf, underpins Earth's anticivilization. Yet, Beowulf represents the first glimmerings of the Civilization of the Universe. In this anticivilization, most political leaders are nothing more than camouflaged, criminal-minded plunderers. Those leaders hide behind Plato and Virgil's neocheating techniques. They are simply modernday Odysseus’s committing their hidden crimes to garner unearned livelihoods, power, and glory be they a Hitler, a Stalin, a Bush, and a Clinton. If it sees truth as the widest possible compilation of people’s perceptions, stories, myths and experiences, it will have chosen to restore memory and foster a new humanity, and perhaps that is justice in the deepest sense.

The disintegration of civilization begins with a "time of troubles, when the civilization is beset by a restive internal proletariat and an active external proletariat The afflicted minority gives rise to a universal state, such as Rome (Greece actually gave rise to two universal states, the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire). The internal proletariat gives rise to a universal religion such as Christianity. Finally, the external proletariat gives raise to barbarian war-bands, which give rise to heroic ages and epic literature, in this case, the English Beowulf and The Song of Roland in the west.

The Odyssey as a basis for his Aeneid. The Aeneid is a mythological epic in 12 books describing the 7-year wanderings of the hero Aeneas from the fall of Troy to his military victory in Italy. He assembles a fleet and sails with the surviving Trojans to many adventures in Thrace, Crete, Epirus, and Sicily before being shipwrecked on the coast of Africa, where the queen, Dido, commits suicide when he leaves (as he was commanded to by Jupiter) because of her love of him. After landing at the mouth of the Tiber River in Italy, Aeneas kills Turnus, king of the Rutulians, in a war for the hand of Lavinia, princess of Latium. According to Virgil, the Romans were directly descended from Ascanius, the founder of Alba Longa, mother city of Rome.

The Odyssey is a tale of one hero's (Odysseus) long, difficult, and adventurous journey home from the Trojan War. It starts by describing the disorder that has arisen in Odysseus' household during his long absence, where a band of suitors is devouring his property as they woo his wife Penelope. The story then shifts to Odysseus' ten years of traveling, during which he has to face such dangers as the man-eating giant Polyphemus and other threats as the goddess Calypso, who offers him immortality if he will abandon his quest for home. The second half of the epic deals with Odysseus' arrival at his home in Ithaca. Here, disguised as a beggar, Odysseus tests the loyalty of his servants, plots and carries out a bloody revenge on Penelope's suitors, and is reunited with his family.

Virgil widened the scope of the epic poem from the adventures of individual heroes to the history of his country. The Aeneid recounts the founding of Rome by Aeneas and his followers when they sought new lands to settle after the sack of Troy. Virgil takes a national legend, but projects it on to a wider plane, describing not only the origin but also the future greatness of Rome. He is sometimes believed to have foretold in the Fourth Eclogue the coming of Christ: in making his poem symbolical of the destiny of Rome, he has at the same time symbolized the destiny of man. Virgil's special contribution to the development of the epic is therefore to broaden or elevate its theme from the individual to the national perspective. A great theme is now regarded as an essential ingredient in epic poetry, in addition to a solemn style and exalted language. All types of academic writing you can order at


  • Retrieved on 23-5-2002.
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Great Expectations: A Consideration

The present paper will address the degree to which the following statement may be considered to be accurate. Great Expectations concerns itself with anticipation and realization, and the impossibility of aligning the ideal and the actual. The central question, then, is this: does this statement address the pivotal questions of the text?

In determining whether or not –or the degree in which– the above statement addresses the right question, it is first necessary to state what the central “questions,” or themes, of this text are, providing reasonable proof that they are the most pivotal to the story.

While the story is open to a wide range of interpretations, we may begin with the simple assertion that this is first and foremost Pip’s story. He is the central character, and his is the voice from which the story is told. Dickens has mastered something quite modern in the character of Pip insofar as he seems neither hero nor anti-hero. We watch Pip grow, leave his home for the big city, pursue false dreams, embrace to despair, find love.

What, then, we might well ask are those issue’s which are central to Pip’s story. He is raised by his sister and her husband Joe Gargery, a blacksmith. The values which the couple espouse are decency, honesty, friendliness, and generosity. Textual evidence shows Joe’s easy way with Pip: “You know Pip…you and me is always friends, and I’d be the last to tell upon you, any time” (18). There is a warm loyalty, a fealty between the Pip and Joe which seems to make the difference in age vanish. Evidence of Pip’s rearing, in conjunction with his innocence, is found early in the book when Pip accosted by Magwitch, does not retreat but makes a gesture of kindness. These values are, however, given up, for what seem loftier desires: for wealth, education, class, and status. Pip’s pursuit of these ineffable things are his downfall. Before he can find true love he most go on a journey of rediscovery, embracing the values espoused by Joe and his sister; letting go of superficial pleasures for things that may be said to sustain the soul.

In this light, we can now go back and assess the validity and the extent to which the thesis proposition is correct or accurate. To reiterate: Great Expectations concerns itself with anticipation and realization, and the impossibility of aligning the ideal and the actual. I want to argue, based upon the preliminary gambit that the first part of the statement is entirely true, while the second part misses the mark, slightly. In what follows, I will deal with these two halves of the proposition.

Anticipation and Realization.

Charles Dickens has written a novel which concerns itself with anticipation and realization. The first question to ask is this: at which point in the story does anticipation occur? I want to suggest that anticipation occurs when one is made aware that there is something “other,” something which exists apart from his or her world which is viewed as being desirable. Perhaps anticipation occurs at the same moment when innocence is lost.

A key word in Dickens’s novel is the word “property” (80). To be sure, Pip’s family comes from humble means. When he enters the world of Miss Havisham and beautiful Estella. Witness Pip’s manner after the visit.

And then I told Joe that I felt miserable, and that I hadn’t been able to explain myself to Mrs. Joe…and that there had been a beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham’s who was dreadfully proud, and that she had said I was common, and that I knew I was common, and that I wished I was not common, and that the lies had come of it somehow, though I didn’t know how (81).

What occurs in this instance is something akin to a break in time. Pip acquires an awareness which utterly changes his perspective. More, this experience plants within him the seeds of anticipation. Joe’s response to Pip is this: “Whether common ones as to callings and earnings…mightn’t be the better of continuing for to keep company with common ones, instead of going out to play with on common ones” (82). Its an interesting response, and one well worth considering. Joe addresses the pejorative term “common” and invests it with a folksy-type of valor. It is as if common comes closer to meaning “in common,” as in “having a connection to” rather than something quotidian or sullied. Whatever the case, Joe’s wisdom is not heeded by Pip; he goes to the city to find wealth and status.

The nature of the anticipation –clearly seen in the “felicitous idea” beginning chapter 10—is marked by a desire to have what one doesn’t not already have, to achieve what is not yet achieved. In truth, there is little which is wrong with anticipation itself. Indeed, Dickens himself, no stranger to debt and prison, surely felt anticipation as he enrolled for two years of formal education at Wellington House Academy. The second part of Great Expectations deals with how Pip goes about realizing this anticipation. What are the terms of his success?

It appears that Pip sells out before he even arrives in London, to court success and wealth. Prior to departing he is filled with vainglorious conceit, imagining, laughably, that even the cows look upon him differently, seeming to “wear a more respectful air now, and to face round, in order that they might stare as long as possible at the possessor of such great expectations –farewell monotonous acquaintances of my childhood…” (165).

When addressing the issue of Pip’s anticipation being realized we must be clear that his ideas about what lay ahead were largely inchoate. That is to say, the pursuits which Pip was attracted to were of little if any substance. Therefore, realizing opaque goals such as status and wealth miss, it seems Dickens is pointing out, to be missing the point. Pip accounts very little for the process of becoming a self.

In “the Sense of Self” critic Monroe Engels address exactly this question as it pertains to Great Expectations. The spirit of his criticism is oriented towards finding Dickens’s novel one which deals with disillusion and false values. The making of a self is not considered a premium value. Instead concerns for property exert influence over characters in such a profound way that the real ontological questions become obliterated. In many ways this criticism is as valid today towards modern society, as it is in this novel.

Given the concern for property in this novel, it is perhaps appropriate to address Dickens work in light of Marxist criticism. This is relevant to the thesis question insofar as it deals with motivation: what guides an individual to act. Marxist theory is predicated upon the following: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness” (Selden 70). To be certain, Marxism, as it is defined by The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, concerns itself with “perceiving the social world in terms of categories of class” (232). Pip leaves his home virtually as a child. He has little concept of self-identity and is deeply susceptible to outside influences. Figures in the novel which represent this outside influence are Jaggers, Estella, and Miss Haversham.

We can now turn to the second part of the thesis statement which concerns itself with the impossibility of aligning the ideal and the actual. It is, I believe, a miscalculation to assert that ideal and actual cannot merge. The problem occurs at the level in which the ideals are formed. Pip is subjected to a process whereby he is exposed to outside influence which corrupt his ideals. Had these experiences been altered, perhaps his ideals would have altered too. To suggest a circumstance: it is entirely feasible within the rubric of Pip’s world that, as a son of a blacksmith, he would have followed in the trade. In keeping with this, Pip might come to find the ideal to be working hard and enjoying the close bond in relationships which are loving, honest, caring, and direct. These are certainly values which Pip is raised with. Therefore, it is important to stress that for ideals to be aligned with actual outcomes it is necessary that the ideals not be corrupted. Of course, it is perfectly necessary to counter this argument with the notion that it is difficult if not impossible to guard one’s ideals in such a way. The argument is this: ideals cannot be legislated, they are formed in response to what one sees and understands, and holds to be of value.

This may well be true, but it does not defeat the previous assertion that ideals and actuality can merge in a happy unison. There is textual support for this in the character of Magwitch. He is, in a sense, the source of Pip’s expectations. He represents something from the outside, something almost exotic and certainly fearful in the beginning of the narrative. It is through him that he learns the truth of Estella’s parentage. This is a key episode in that, prior to this revelation, Estella’s image was elevated to a special status. She was something to aspire to, something to attain: she was not, like him, a common orphan. Yet, the ironic twist provided by Dickens shows us that ideals can merge with actuality.

Throughout the course of the novel, Pip wishes and pines for Estella. There is an unattainable quality to her which Pip wishes to surmount. However, his dreams are false: he loves her not for who she is, but rather, for who he isn’t. He believes, in ignorance, that he may better himself through a union with Estella. Only after her true background is revealed –the child of a convict and a woman tried for murder—is he free to love her in a genuine manner. But for this to happen, Pip must let go of his pretenses and reach something of a higher plane.

A deliberate and exacting reorientation of ideals causes actual events to fall in line with what is of value, what may be said to be ideal. Pip does unite with Estella. In doing so, he also aligns himself with Joe and his wife. This move is a deliberate shift in conception of self and illustrates the notion that ideals must be held to a standard of truth if they are to be actualized. Without this sort of truth, such ideals are mere unattainable dreams. Such is the message of Dickens classic work, Great Expectations. Find more interesting papers at


  • Blackburn, Simon. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.
  • Engels, Monroe. “The Sense of Self” in The Maturity of Dickens. New York: S & S, 1959.
  • Selden, Raman & Widdowson, Peter. Contemporary Literary Theory. Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press, 1993.
  • Wilson, Angus. “Afterword” in Great Expectations. USA: Signet Classics, 1980.

Book Review: Fifth Business

In Fifth Business, Robertson Davies explores fate in a small town, drawing out its strands from the simple act of throwing a snowball. We see how the littlest act in human life can lead to an entire saga. More than anything else, we see the importance of being honest to oneself throughout life, even about the smallest of realities.

Boy Staunton and Dunstan Ramsay are childhood friends and they live in a small town. They never really got along very well. When they are young, they have a snowball fight. As Boy throws a snowball at Dunstan, Dunstan ducks. Because of this, the snowball accidentally hits Mary Dempster, who is pregnant. Now, due to this unfortunate development, Mary goes into early labour. Dunstan picks up the snowball after it hits Mary and he realizes that there is a rock in the centre of it, and he keeps it.

The child that Mary delivers, Paul, ends up being quite a strange boy. Dunstan feels sorry for him and teaches him magic tricks and looks after him. Here we see the theme of guilt and compassion. Dunstan feels somehow responsible for Paul, because he wonders what might have been if he had not ducked. The most important theme here is that Dunstan is aware of the reality and he is honest to himself about what has truly happened.

Dunstan eventually goes to war. Boy, meanwhile, becomes a businessman, and becomes wildly successful. He becomes rich and influential. And yet, there appears to be a complete superficiality around him. He is completely empty as a person, as he worships everything that is outside of himself. He has absolutely no idea who he is, as he moulds a vision of himself through the eyes of others. He is completely captivated with his own external image.

He models himself after the Prince of the Whales. Thus, his life is just an act. He marries the most beautiful girl in town, Leola Cruikshank, and he moves to Toronto. They have a family, and he has a successful business.

And yet, it is not surprising that the marriage is ultimately not very successful. The wife dies of what appears to pneumonia, but it is suicide. She is sick and yet she intentionally leaves the windows open. She does not want to live. Boy, therefore, remarries a woman who is a total pusher of his career. She knows exactly what he should do. She is a very cold-hearted woman.

During all of this, Dunstan searches the lives of the saints. He is searching for the idea of life and of God. He looks after the mother who went into labour. She eventually went crazy and became a madwoman. Yet Dunstan feels responsible for her, and takes care of her. Because he ducked out of the way of the snowball, his sense of responsibility will not let go.

The story proceeds in that Dunstan goes out travelling. He meets Paul Dempster, who conducts his own magic show. The show is held in Toronto, where Dunstan meets Boy. They confront each other about the rock being in the snowball. Dunstan tells Boy about the entire affair, but Boy has no idea what he is talking about. It is clear that Boy has lived in complete denial and self-centredness.

Dunstan goes home. The next day, Boy is found dead at the bottom of Toronto harbour, sitting in his Cadillac, his mouth filled with a large chunk of pink granite. Here we see the theme of the rock in his mouth, and the rock in the snowball. Boy has died.

In the end, the Master of Illusions, during the magic show, is asked who killed Boy Staunton. The head of Friar Bacon, operated by Paul Dempster's associate, replies that five people did. The last person was the one who knew all of Boy's inner secrets, and that is the person of the "fifth business." Thus, we see clearly that Boy had made a surface world, the external world, and he had no idea of the subconscious world, and therefore did not know who he was. And yet, a part of him knew who he was, and it was that part that killed him.

I liked this novel very much because it revealed very much how realities of the spirit are more important than worldly concerns. Dunstan shoves aside social normality to pursue his own interests. Yet Boy longs for the material superficiality of the material world. He lives his life above the line of consciousness, and yet the people that run into him play different sides of the subconscious. Dunstan is the one who symbolized Boy's secrets and carried his guilt for him. This is why he confronts him. Ultimately, Boy cannot reconcile himself to his own past, and he therefore cannot confront his own inner reality.

Boy is the one who has lived an unsuccessful life. He has done so for three reasons. The first reason is that he never got to know himself. The second reason is that he placed all of his value in appearances and the external world, which made him come up empty. Last but not least, he lived an unsuccessful life because he not only failed to find happiness (i.e. in marriage), but also because his life came to an abrupt and sudden violent end. Find more interesting papers at


  • Davies, Robertson. Fifth Business (Toronto: Penguin Books, 1996)

The Handmaid’s Tale

Volker Schlondorff is the director of this excellent movie. He does a commendable job in portraying the story that was so superbly told in Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name. In many respects, it is the exact story of the plot, and in many ways it is simply the visualization of Atwood's novel itself. The details and even the tone itself is a copy of the novel. It is an excellent film with brilliant performances.

Basically, the movie is about a time during the ending of this century. The United States has been renamed ;Gilead.; There are now certain elites that have taken complete control of society. Racist religious zealots and male supremacists are in charge. This is, therefore, very much a feminist warning to the society. In the movie, we see that women have been segregated to subordinate positions. They know their place, which is to be slaves to the state. The few women who are still fertile are forcibly recruited to bear children for the elite of society. In other words, this is the story of the ultimate exploitation of women.

The movie star Natasha Richardson, plays a strong performance as Kate. The movie is sharply focused on this widowed female prisoner who has lost her own child and has been ordered to conceive a baby with the elite Commander. This commander is played by Robert Duvall, who vividly projects the evils of sexism. He does an excellent job in the calling. The commander's wife, Serena Joy (played by Faye Dunaway) is a former televangelist who is ferociously envious of Kate. Not surprisingly, this movie is an attack on the religious right and male supremacy in general.

If a viewer has read the novel, he/she will be very pleased with the remaking of all of the specific details. For instance, there is the high-school gymnasium, where the elites begin their process of socially imposing certain values and structures. They are now engaged in social engineering and trying to create their perfect world. It is here that these elites begin to confine and brainwash the few fertile women are available to the society.

The movie also reveals the Commander's house, which is filled with folk art and flowers just like in the novel. The house is also surrounded by roadblocks and searchlights. And then, as already mentioned, there is ;Offred; — who was at one time Kate. She is dressed in her handmaid's uniform and she is enslaved for the purposes of the state. She is forced to serve as the Commander's childbearing concubine. This is being done in the name of utopia, and yet we see that this Offred is a victim of the greatest abuse. Here we see the extreme possibility of the objectification and exploitation of women. We see that reproduction has been grabbed by the power of the state and is now exploited by elites.

In the novel, this entire phenomenon was surreal. Indeed, it appeared that the circumstances were simply too bizarre to even take seriously. One was never sure whether the novel was being serious or whether, to some extent, it was caricaturing the situation. Indeed, was it a satire making a caricature of itself, or was it serious? The movie is the same. In some instances, one isn't sure if it is not comedy, because some of the situations are simply so incredulous that one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. But then, just like in the novel, the movie ends up to be extremely serious, for we see that there really is the potential for such barbarity in our society. The human race, after all, is capable of anything. Thus, to a very great extent, this is a remarkable achievement, since the viewer is kept intrigued as to the seriousness of the theme. To have carried off such a theme on the screen takes a lot of talent, for the screen is a much different vehicle than a novel. Schlondorff, therefore, must be highly praised, as should the screenwriter, Harold Pinter.

In many respects, this is a very unpleasant movie, but that is what it is meant to be. One cannot confuse emotional incapacity with artistic criticism. The very fact that one is disturbed means that the movie achieved its effectiveness. It is very frightening, especially since we see how normal human relations can be totally poisoned by the state. Indeed, the very human act of giving and receiving is completely hijacked and distorted by the state in this instance. In many respects, this is Atwood's main theme, as she tries to show that giving and receiving pleasure in humanity must remain an individual right.

In many respects, if one had read the novel, one can tell a very interesting difference between the novel and the movie, but it says something positive about both. The novel was written by a feminist for feminists. It was targetted at a female audience and it was done with much irony and sophistication. The movie, meanwhile, targets a bigger audience, which includes men as well. It also intends to entertain rather than just politicize. The movie seeks to do a boarder number of things than simply just make a feminist message. In this way there are different effects in the movie than in the novel. It some ways, the irony is lost in the film, because one could argue that it simply hits you too hard in order for you to understand things for yourself.

Overall, the movie is fascinating in its detail. The beleaguered heroine's only allies are the guard, who is enlisted to hurry along her pregnancy. There is also the gender "traitor" (Elizabeth McGovern), who is condemned to whoredom. This is so because she admits that she likes girls. Victoria Tennant, meanwhile, plays Aunt Lydia. She is the mean and sarcastic blonde supervisor of all of the handmaids.

While Richardson's character initially seems to be a passive victim, yet she shows ferocity when her moment of bloody vengeance finally comes. Indeed, we see her as a victim, and yet we also see that she is a survivor who is still yet willing to fight for her self-respect.

There is a certain eroticism in this film, even though it is about something very scary. There is also much intelligence and intensity to the script. True, it is a very politically pessimistic movie. More than anything, this film evokes something beyond what's in front of the viewer's eyes. It is about something very serious, and it says something about our own society today. The movie is an extreme, but in some ways the grain of truth in the movie exists today. Even at the present moment, one could argue that many women are no better off than the exploited women in the film.

Indeed Kate is the young woman who becomes the joyless sperm receptacle for the Commander. But how many women find themselves trapped in this situation today? In some ways one could argue that there is still free choice in this society, but it could also be argued that socially imposed structures have made women believe they have choice, when in fact there is only the negation of choice. It is not a surprise, therefore, that Kate is the character with whom Margaret Atwood identified herself. There is a very strong feminist statement here.

Overall, Schlondorff has done a superb job in directing the movie. It would be interesting to know what Atwood thought of it, but one could guess that she would have been pleased. The novel is given much respect, since the movie tries to be a straight imitation of it. The political message is the same, and the overall aura of the movie is the same as the novel.

In many ways, the viewer understands that this is the world of fantasy. After all, it is already the end of the century and "Gilead" has not come around. And yet we must really ask ourselves: are women really free and do we live in a real democracy? One could argue that there are certain elites in power today and that we simply do not know it in a direct sense. In the movie, the power is clear. Today, one could make the contention that those who rule do so in a subtle way. They are able to stay in control because they have instilled a certain false consciousness on the population. Thus, people think they are free when they are really not.

Atwood made an important point about warning society about the danger of racist religious zealots and male supremacists. In many respects, these are the greatest perpetrators in our society today. Women and coloured minorities are victims in this society, and yet the oppressors remain hidden, pretending that they are allowing equality of opportunity. That is why this movie is so important, since it makes an important statement, even though it does so through an extreme visualized manner.

One could legitimately ask: do not women today, to a certain degree, forcibly bear children for society? Are women really "free" within the institution of the nuclear family and within the confines of the patriarchal world? How could women really be free if our society is truly run today by individuals like the commander in the movie?

Sexism is a danger to our society. That is what the movie and novel The Handmaid's Tale tells us. The religious right and male supremacy are the underpinnings of sexism. What society must do, therefore, is educate itself about these violators of women's rights. It is through education that we can prevent such a society, as portrayed in this movie, to stop becoming reality.  Find more interesting papers at

Book Review: The Ambiguous Moby Dick

The novel Moby Dick is indeed, as the above quotation suggests, ‘inconclusive’ in the sense that it seems to be both about a sort of indefiniteness, and indefinite itself in its conclusions or ‘message’. Melville’s masterpiece leaves us with no readily discerned moral, no easily grasped quarry, no matter how hard we look. In fact, in the pursuit of fixed meanings of this kind, we are apt to follow Ahab in his catastrophic monomania: we may well follow our wily prey down to the dark depths of oblivion. What the novel does give us, however, is a powerful impression of ambiguity, of uncertain meaning in the face of an uncertain universe too canny and implacable to explain itself in simple or singular terms. If the book is ‘about’ anything, it is just this: the equivocal nature of our human efforts (whatever they may be), the elusiveness of value, the tentative import of all human endeavour.

Ahab’s quest for Moby Dick is not, obviously, a matter of straightforward revenge. The idea itself – of revenging oneself upon an animal, indeed an animal that one was trying to kill in the first place – is preposterous. There is much more to the epic quest than seeking vengeance for a missing leg. If there were not, Melville’s theme would be trivial, his book forgotten. What Ahab is actually seeking is something far more subtle, more complicated. He is navigating his boat and crew across the world in defence not simply of his own wounded honour and physical integrity, but of a profound principle, one that strikes deep into the heart of human psychology. The great whale, in all its mysterious whiteness, has a monumental symbolic meaning that can, roughly, be defined as the principle of uncertainty, of indefiniteness in the world itself. What Ahab is seeking to do, in fact, is track down and eliminate the existential abyss itself, the ‘nothingness’ or void that confronts man as a conscious living being. To kill the whale would mean controlling the indeterminacy, the randomness, the very blankness of the human condition.

The connection between Moby Dick and its symbolic meaning is made abundantly clear in the novel. Melville repeatedly tells us why Ahab must complete his task, and how the whale has come to mean much more to him – and hence to the reader – than simply a specific sea creature. The following magnificent passage from Chapter 42 of the novel offers a stunning appraisal of the weighty symbolic meaning of Moby Dick’s whiteness:

Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as the visible absence of colour, and at the same time the concrete of all colours; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows – a colourless, all-colour of atheism from which we shrink? … and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear coloured and colouring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt? (Melville 212)

“Whiteness” stands, as Melville tells us, for “heartlessness”, “annihilation”, “atheism”. The whale is no mere creature — he is a symbol of the most fundamental absences that we can possibly face, the lack of any ultimate authority available to us that can, indisputably, grant us certainty or uncontested, definite meaning.

In his marvellous essay, “The Two Principles”, D.H. Lawrence alludes to the meeting between nature and man that Melville enacts in his fictional work. What the American author accomplishes, Lawrence deftly explains in his idiosyncratic but very charming style, is an exploration of man confronting an elemental part of nature that is absolutely ‘beyond’ him, that cannot be reduced to something ‘personal’ or ‘human’. Ahab grapples not with some human foe, but with something completely external to him, an aspect of nature itself:

[In] Herman Melville the human relationship is no longer the chief interest. The sea enters as the great protagonist.

The sea is a cosmic element, and the relation between the sea and the human psyche is impersonal and elemental. The sea that we dream of, the sea that fills us with hate or bliss, is a primal influence upon us beyond the personal range.

We need to find some terms to express such elemental connections as between the ocean and the human soul. We need to put off our personality, even our individuality, and enter the region of the elements (Lawrence 227).

Entering the region of the elements is exactly what Melville has his protagonists do. The elemental principle of nothingness, of oblivion, takes Ahab (and others, of course), right down into the mysterious voids underneath the known surface that, as human navigators on the sea of existence, we seek to survive upon. Moby Dick is frankly about this indefiniteness, this ambiguity in the human condition. It does not hide from us the fact that there are no real certainties for us, that we face questions we cannot answer, that there is an emptiness we cannot fill.

But Melville’s novel is also, in itself, an example of ambiguity, of indefiniteness. As Andrew Delbanco explains in his introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of the work, the novel’s construction, in a number of ways, contributes to its tentativeness, its ambiguity:

Moby Dick is simply too large a book to be contained within one consistent consciousness subject to the laws of identity and physical plausibility. The narrating mind (called Ishmael at first) hurtles outward, gorging itself with whale lore and with the private memories of men who barely speak. Sometimes this narrative voice breaks out into choral effusion or splinters into the competitive chatter of the sailors. Yet the compositional principle of Moby Dick is more than a whim; it is as if Melville creates Ishmael in the image of his earlier versions of himself and then invites us to share the excitement of his self-destruction (Delbanco xvii).

The book’s playfulness, its endless digressions, its refusal to be bound by conventions, contribute to the difficulty it presents to interpreters. We simply cannot pin it down easily. It eludes us in spite of all our best efforts. In this way, style and substance truly merge in the novel. Melville writes of indefiniteness and ambiguity in a manner suggestive of these things themselves. The two reinforce each other, in fact doubling the intensity of the dramatic effect, so that a work of uncommon and enduring literary power is produced.

Indeed, no conclusion about Moby Dick can be final, just as no resolution can be made of the stark fact of the void at the centre of the universe. We simply cannot get answers of that kind. This is frustrating, of course, from a strictly epistemological perspective, but liberating and creatively inspiring in terms of literary power. The text’s digressions, and the narrator’s unwillingness to be bounded by anything in his pursuit of questions relating to the void, make for a highly dynamic result. Despite its daunting length, the novel has the ability to hold us rapt, to keep us wrapped up the protagonists’ elemental quests for meaning. We cannot be absolutely sure about Melville’s classic when it comes to pinning its ‘message’ to us down. But we can be sure about how great a work of fiction it is, how enduring is its textual journey for humans in a world where the void is the only thing of which one can be positive.

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  • Lawrence, D.H. “The Two Principles”. Phooenix II. New York: Viking Compass, 1972. Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. London: Penguin Books, 1992. 

Stratford on Avon

Abstract: This essay discusses Stratford on Avon, which is the birth place of England's greatest writer — William Shakespeare. While the history of the city is crucial to the understanding of Shakespeare, as well as of England, Stratford on Avon remains to this day a major tourist attraction. The cultural life of the city is extremely varied — as it was in the past, and festivals are organized regularly on a grand and inviting scale.

As far as the English literary tradition is concerned, there are few places that hold such an important historical role as Statford on Avon, the birth place of England's greatest writer — William Shakespeare. And while the history of the city is crucial to the understanding of Shakespeare, as well as of England, Stratford on Avon remains to this day a major tourist attraction. The cultural life of the city is extremely varied — as it was in the past, and festivals are organized regularly on a grand and inviting scale. In this way, Stratford on Avon has become one of the most fascinating and successful tourist sites in Europe.

Shakespeare, of course, constitutes Stratford's main industry. A businessman himself, he knew how to turn entertainment into money, buying the best house in town — "New Place." In other words, Shakespeare was not only a writer but also a money-maker. In a very paradoxical sense, this very reality is played out in the home that he left behind. Every year, approximately half a million people visit his birthplace and the cottage in which his wife Anne Hathaway grew up. Tens of thousands come to visit the house that belonged to his granddaughter. They also come to explore the farm where his mother, Mary Arden, resided. (Russel, p.5) There is never enough to see, as Stratford's main industry remains extremely varied and multi-faceted. People just can't seem to get enough of Shakespeare.

Stratford is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Britain. One of the realities that nurture its successs is the fact that is is very accessible in a geographical and physical sense. It is very easy to get to by car, plane or train. It stands where a Roman road once forded the River Avon – a 19th century bridge now spans the river next to a 15th-century arched stone bridge. Stratford's first royal charter was granted in 1553. Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds lie to the south of the town, Worcester and the Malvern Hills to the west and Warwick Castle and Henley in Arden are to the north. All are less than an hours drive from Stratford. (Whiteman, p.78) In many respects, therefore, Starford on Avon is steeped in culture and history. The easy road, rail and airport access make it a great success. It is, without doubt, the perfect place for a vacation or a short break.

Thus, Stratford is a major British tourist centre because of its association with Shakespeare. Nonetheless, it also makes a good base from which to explore the whole of the Warwickshire area with Warwick and the Cotswolds close by. Using Stratford as a base, a person not only enjoys the delights of Shakespeare country but nearby are the "shire" counties of Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. ( In other words, there is always much more to see than immediately meets the eye.

In Trinity Church, each April 23, fresh birthday wreaths surround Shakespeare's tomb. This shows the great respect and reverence with which Shakespeare is met. The wreaths are laid by members of the government, students from the grammar school and academics from around the world. All of them parade through the town in gowns and traditional garb out of respect for tradition. Entrance fees to the properties associated with Shakespeare generate a steady flow of income. This money is used for the Shakespeare Center, which offers courses, administers a library and promotes exhibitions and concerts. This is how the revenue travels in a cyclical fashion through the town's economy.

Indeed, Stratford upon Avon is a historic site. Moreover, it is an incredible touristic atrtaction. Although a relatively small city, it is a centre of English cultural life. It is a market town with light industries, but of course these industries in themselves do not even compare to the money that the tourism brings in. A building on Henley St., for instance, which is believed to be the poet's and playwright's birthplace, is open to the public. The site of the home he purchased in 1597, and where he died in 1616, is marked. Thus, there is no secret about what all the monuments represent.

Most of the structures and places in Stratford are connected with the life of Shakespeare. They were acquired by the nation in the 19th century. Edward VI's Grammar School, which Shakespeare may have attended, is national property. Shakespeare scholars from all over the world attend the Shakespeare Institute of the Univ. of Birmingham. In 1964 the Shakespeare Centre was established on Henley St. in Stratford. (Eglin.p.21) We can come to understand, therefore, why this place is such an incredible tourist attraction. It represents the history and culture which was symbolized by William Shakespeare and all of his works. At the same time, it also serves as an incredible educational vehicle for various scholarly purposes.

Stratford on Avon has buildings that house a records office, with historical material that include documents signed by Shakespeare and relating to his activities as a local citizen. These are incredible documents. Stratford is also home to the prestigious Shakespeare Institute, a postgraduate and research center of the University of Birmingham. In many respccts, this adds to the cultural atmosphere of the academic learning that goes on in this environment. One cannot deny that the aura of Stratford serves as a foundation to the culture that exists there. It is also very important to point out that Stratford has its beautiful riverside and Tudor architecture. Avignon was home to the Popes for much of the 14th century, and its fortifications, palace and churches form a rich architectural ensemble. Aix offers beautiful 17th- and 18th-century buildings and a cuisine filled with basil, thyme and marjoram. Rising over it is the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, made famous the world over by Cezanne's paintings. (

Thus, we see that not only was Shakespeare connected to great literature, but also to magnificent art. To his great contribution to his society, his memory is now surrounded by tremendous art. In this way we come to understand that art and literature very much inter-sect along certain realms of the society. Literature cannot be fully expressed without images, and we begin to understand this through the tourist attractions that inhabit Stratford of Avon. For more information go to

The Center and the Institute work closely with the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose Stratford season attracts tourists, theater lovers and drama students alike. Its repertoire usually consists of four major Shakespeare productions, performed at the large riverside Royal Shakespeare Theater. Thus, the theatre is always busy with performance. Without doubt, the theatrical life is extremely varied and incredibly profound. It is vital to emphasize that the cultural activities in Shakespeare's hometown are self-supporting. Indeed, they completely survive off of the revenue they raise from tourism. This shows how popular Shakespeare remains to those that cotinue to respect the tradition that he left behind.

Geographically, we come to understand why Stratford upon Avon is so popular. After all, it is the home of Shakespeare and no one can deny that it is a beautiful small town. This town, in turn, is renowned for its picturesque timber-framed buildings. It is set in the beautiful rural Warwickshire countryside on the banks of the river Avon.

Keeping all of these facts in mind, we come to understand why Statford on Avon holds such an important role in Europe. It represents the cultural and historical life of England. As the birth place of William Shakespeare and a living cultural centre, it combines the two realms of history and culture. This is why it succeeds as a major tourist attraction — in a way that few other places do.


  • Russell, Janice Valls. "Summer Festival Hopping," New Leader August 9, 1999.
  • Eglin, Roger. "Why Stratford is the best bet," Management Today Dec. 1991 p21.
  • Whiteman, Robyn. "meandering Through Time," World Magazine July 1989. p.78.