Literature 101


Filed under: Poetry — espierspectives @ 2:55 PM


A poem that has five lines that create a mood, picture, or feeling. Lines 1 through 4 are made up of words, phrases or clauses while the first word of each line is in alphabetical order. Line 5 is one sentence long and begins with any letter.
Poetry that certain letters, usually the first in each line form a word or message when read in a sequence.
Poetry which has three stanzas of seven, eight or ten lines and a shorter final stanza of four or five. All stanzas end with the same one line refrain.
Blank verse
A poem written in unrhymed iambic pentameter and is often unobtrusive. The iambic pentameter form often resembles the rhythms of speech.
A poem written about one self’s life, personality traits, and ambitions.
Poetry that treats a serious subject as humor.
Medieval Italian lyric style poetry with five or six stanzas and a shorter ending stanza.
Carpe diem
Latin expression that means ‘seize the day.’ Carpe diem poems have a theme of living for today.
Poetry with five lines. Line 1 has one word (the title). Line 2 has two words that describe the title. Line 3 has three words that tell the action. Line 4 has four words that express the feeling, and line 5 has one word which recalls the title.
Poetry which holds the principles and ideals of beauty that are characteristic of Greek and Roman art, architecture, and literature.
A couplet has rhyming stanzas made up of two lines.
A very short, ironic and witty poem usually written as a brief couplet or quatrain. The term is derived from the Greek epigramma meaning inscription.
A commemorative inscription on a tomb or mortuary monument written to praise the deceased.
Epithalamium (Epithalamion)
A poem written in honor of the bride and groom.
Free verse (vers libre)
Poetry written in either rhyme or unrhymed lines that have no set fixed metrical pattern.
A short lyrical poem that arose in Urdu. It is between 5 and 15 couplets long. Each couplet contains its own poetic thought but is linked in rhyme that is established in the first couplet and continued in the second line of each pair. The lines of each couplet are equal in length. Themes are usually connected to love and romance. The closing signature often includes the poet’s name or allusion to it.
A Japanese poem composed of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five morae, usually containing a season word.
Horatian ode
Short lyric poem written in two or four-line stanzas, each with its the same metrical pattern, often addressed to a friend and deal with friendship, love and the practice of poetry. It is named after its creator, Horace.
Iambic pentameter
One short syllabel followed by one long one five sets in a row. Example: la-LAH la-LAH la-LAH la-LAH la-LAH
Irregular (Pseudo-Pindaric or Cowleyan) ode
Neither the three part form of the pindaric ode nor the two or four-line stanza of the Horatian ode. It is characterized by irregularity of verse and structure and lack of coorespondence between the parts.
A long narrative poem, especially one that was sung by medieval minstrels.
A short sometimes vulgar, humorous poem consisting of five anapestic lines. Lines 1, 2, and 5 have seven to ten syllables, rhyme and have the same verbal rhythm. The 3rd and 4th lines have five to seven syllables, rhyme and have the same rhythm.
A poem that is made up of a list of items or events. It can be any length and rhymed or unrhymed.
Memoriam stanza
A quatrain in iambic tetrameter with a rhyme scheme of abba — named after the pattern used by Lord Tennyson.
Poetry that tells about the word. It uses the letters of the word for the first letter of each line.
A poem that tells a story.
A stanza or poem consisting of four lines. Lines 2 and 4 must rhyme while having a similar number of syllables.
A rhyming poem has the repetition of the same or similar sounds of two or more words, often at the end of the line.
Rhyme royal
A type of poetry consisting of stanzas having seven lines in iambic pentameter.
A poem about nature and love while having emphasis on the personal experience.
A lyrical poem of French origin having 10 or 13 lines with two rhymes and with the opening phrase repeated twice as the refrain.
A short Japanese style poem, similar to haiku in structure that treats human beings rather than nature: Often in a humorous or satiric way.
A poem consisting of six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy. The end words of the first stanza are repeated in varied order as end words in the other stanzas and also recur in the envoy.
Poetry written in the shape or form of an object.
A Japanese poem of five lines, the first and third composed of five syllables and the other seven.
Terza Rima
A type of poetry consisting of 10 or 11 syllable lines arranged in three-line tercets.
A single metrical line of poetry.
A 19-line poem consisting of five tercets and a final quatrain on two rhymes. The first and third lines of the first tercet repeat alternately as a refrain closing the succeeding stanzas and joined as the final couplet of the quatrain.


Filed under: Short Stories — espierspectives @ 1:39 PM
Author Nathaniel Hawthorne had close ties to A...

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The Birthmark

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In the latter part of the last century there lived a man of science, an eminent proficient in every branch of natural philosophy, who not long before our story opens had made experience of a spiritual affinity more attractive than any chemical one. He had left his laboratory to the care of an assistant, cleared his fine countenance from the furnace smoke, washed the stain of acids from his fingers, and persuaded a beautiful woman to become his wife.

In those days when the comparatively recent discovery of electricity and other kindred mysteries of Nature seemed to open paths into the region of miracle, it was not unusual for the love of science to rival the love of woman in its depth and absorbing energy. The higher intellect, the imagination, the spirit, and even the heart might all find their congenial ailment in pursuits which, as some of their ardent votaries believed, would ascend from one step of powerful intelligence to another, until the philosopher should lay his hand on the secret of creative force and perhaps make new worlds for himself. We know not whether Aylmer possessed this degree of faith in man’s ultimate control over Nature. He had devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned from them by any second passion. His love for his young wife might prove the stronger of the two; but it could only be by intertwining itself with his love of science, and uniting the strength of the latter to his own.

Such a union accordingly took place, and was attended with truly remarkable consequences and a deeply impressive moral. One day, very soon after their marriage, Aylmer sat gazing at his wife with a trouble in his countenance that grew stronger until he spoke.

“Georgiana,” said he, “has it never occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed?”

“No, indeed,” said she, smiling; but perceiving the seriousness of his manner, she blushed deeply. “To tell you the truth it has been so often called a charm that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so.”

“Ah, upon another face perhaps it might,” replied her husband; “but never on yours. No, dearest Georgiana, you came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible defect, which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection.”

“Shocks you, my husband!” cried Georgiana, deeply hurt; at first reddening with momentary anger, but then bursting into tears. “Then why did you take me from my mother’s side? You cannot love what shocks you!”

To explain this conversation it must be mentioned that in the centre of Georgiana’s left cheek there was a singular mark, deeply interwoven, as it were, with the texture and substance of her face. In the usual state of her complexion–a healthy though delicate bloom–the mark wore a tint of deeper crimson, which imperfectly defined its shape amid the surrounding rosiness. When she blushed it gradually became more indistinct, and finally vanished amid the triumphant rush of blood that bathed the whole cheek with its brilliant glow. But if any shifting motion caused her to turn pale there was the mark again, a crimson stain upon the snow, in what Aylmer sometimes deemed an almost fearful distinctness.

Its shape bore not a little similarity to the human hand, though of the smallest pygmy size. Georgiana’s lovers were wont to say that some fairy at her birth hour had laid her tiny hand upon the infant’s cheek, and left this impress there in token of the magic endowments that were to give her such sway over all hearts. Many a desperate swain would have risked life for the privilege of pressing his lips to the mysterious hand. It must not be concealed, however, that the impression wrought by this fairy sign manual varied exceedingly, according to the difference of temperament in the beholders.

Some fastidious persons–but they were exclusively of her own sex–affirmed that the bloody hand, as they chose to call it, quite destroyed the effect of Georgiana’s beauty, and rendered her countenance even hideous. But it would be as reasonable to say that one of those small blue stains which sometimes occur in the purest statuary marble would convert the Eve of Powers to a monster. Masculine observers, if the birthmark did not heighten their admiration, contented themselves with wishing it away, that the world might possess one living specimen of ideal loveliness without the semblance of a flaw. After his marriage,–for he thought little or nothing of the matter before,– Aylmer discovered that this was the case with himself.

Had she been less beautiful,–if Envy’s self could have found aught else to sneer at,–he might have felt his affection heightened by the prettiness of this mimic hand, now vaguely portrayed, now lost, now stealing forth again and glimmering to and fro with every pulse of emotion that throbbed within her heart; but seeing her otherwise so perfect, he found this one defect grow more and more intolerable with every moment of their united lives. It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions, either to imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their perfection must be wrought by toil and pain.

The crimson hand expressed the ineludible gripe in which mortality clutches the highest and purest of earthly mould, degrading them into kindred with the lowest, and even with the very brutes, like whom their visible frames return to dust. In this manner, selecting it as the symbol of his wife’s liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death, Aylmer’s sombre imagination was not long in rendering the birthmark a frightful object, causing him more trouble and horror than ever Georgiana’s beauty, whether of soul or sense, had given him delight.

At all the seasons which should have been their happiest, he invariably and without intending it, nay, in spite of a purpose to the contrary, reverted to this one disastrous topic. Trifling as it at first appeared, it so connected itself with innumerable trains of thought and modes of feeling that it became the central point of all. With the morning twilight Aylmer opened his eyes upon his wife’s face and recognized the symbol of imperfection; and when they sat together at the evening hearth his eyes wandered stealthily to her cheek, and beheld, flickering with the blaze of the wood fire, the spectral hand that wrote mortality where he would fain have worshipped.

Georgiana soon learned to shudder at his gaze. It needed but a glance with the peculiar expression that his face often wore to change the roses of her cheek into a deathlike paleness, amid which the crimson hand was brought strongly out, like a bass-relief of ruby on the whitest marble.

Late one night when the lights were growing dim, so as hardly to betray the stain on the poor wife’s cheek, she herself, for the first time, voluntarily took up the subject.

“Do you remember, my dear Aylmer ,” said she, with a feeble attempt at a smile, “have you any recollection of a dream last night about this odious hand?”

“None! none whatever!” replied Aylmer, starting; but then he added, in a dry, cold tone, affected for the sake of concealing the real depth of his emotion, “I might well dream of it; for before I fell asleep it had taken a pretty firm hold of my fancy.”

“And you did dream of it?” continued Georgiana, hastily; for she dreaded lest a gush of tears should interrupt what she had to say. “A terrible dream! I wonder that you can forget it. Is it possible to forget this one expression?–‘It is in her heart now; we must have it out!’ Reflect, my husband; for by all means I would have you recall that dream.”

The mind is in a sad state when Sleep, the all-involving, cannot confine her spectres within the dim region of her sway, but suffers them to break forth, affrighting this actual life with secrets that perchance belong to a deeper one. Aylmer now remembered his dream. He had fancied himself with his servant Aminadab, attempting an operation for the removal of the birthmark; but the deeper went the knife, the deeper sank the hand, until at length its tiny grasp appeared to have caught hold of Georgiana’s heart; whence, however, her husband was inexorably resolved to cut or wrench it away.

When the dream had shaped itself perfectly in his memory, Aylmer sat in his wife’s presence with a guilty feeling. Truth often finds its way to the mind close muffled in robes of sleep, and then speaks with uncompromising directness of matters in regard to which we practise an unconscious self-deception during our waking moments. Until now he had not been aware of the tyrannizing influence acquired by one idea over his mind, and of the lengths which he might find in his heart to go for the sake of giving himself peace.

” Aylmer ,” resumed Georgiana, solemnly, “I know not what may be the cost to both of us to rid me of this fatal birthmark. Perhaps its removal may cause cureless deformity; or it may be the stain goes as deep as life itself. Again: do we know that there is a possibility, on any terms, of unclasping the firm gripe of this little hand which was laid upon me before I came into the world?”

“Dearest Georgiana, I have spent much thought upon the subject,” hastily interrupted Aylmer . “I am convinced of the perfect practicability of its removal.”

“If there be the remotest possibility of it,” continued Georgiana, “let the attempt be made at whatever risk. Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust,–life is a burden which I would fling down with joy. Either remove this dreadful hand, or take my wretched life! You have deep science. All the world bears witness of it. You have achieved great wonders. Cannot you remove this little, little mark, which I cover with the tips of two small fingers? Is this beyond your power, for the sake of your own peace, and to save your poor wife from madness?”

“Noblest, dearest, tenderest wife,” cried Aylmer , rapturously, “doubt not my power. I have already given this matter the deepest thought–thought which might almost have enlightened me to create a being less perfect than yourself. Georgiana, you have led me deeper than ever into the heart of science. I feel myself fully competent to render this dear cheek as faultless as its fellow; and then, most beloved, what will be my triumph when I shall have corrected what Nature left imperfect in her fairest work! Even Pygmalion, when his sculptured woman assumed life, felt not greater ecstasy than mine will be.”

“It is resolved, then,” said Georgiana, faintly smiling. “And, Aylmer , spare me not, though you should find the birthmark take refuge in my heart at last.”

Her husband tenderly kissed her cheek–her right cheek–not that which bore the impress of the crimson hand.

The next day Aylmer apprised his wife of a plan that he had formed whereby he might have opportunity for the intense thought and constant watchfulness which the proposed operation would require; while Georgiana, likewise, would enjoy the perfect repose essential to its success. They were to seclude themselves in the extensive apartments occupied by Aylmer as a laboratory, and where, during his toilsome youth, he had made discoveries in the elemental powers of Nature that had roused the admiration of all the learned societies in Europe . Seated calmly in this laboratory, the pale philosopher had investigated the secrets of the highest cloud region and of the profoundest mines; he had satisfied himself of the causes that kindled and kept alive the fires of the volcano; and had explained the mystery of fountains, and how it is that they gush forth, some so bright and pure, and others with such rich medicinal virtues, from the dark bosom of the earth.

Here, too, at an earlier period, he had studied the wonders of the human frame, and attempted to fathom the very process by which Nature assimilates all her precious influences from earth and air, and from the spiritual world, to create and foster man, her masterpiece. The latter pursuit, however, Aylmer had long laid aside in unwilling recognition of the truth–against which all seekers sooner or later stumble–that our great creative Mother, while she amuses us with apparently working in the broadest sunshine, is yet severely careful to keep her own secrets, and, in spite of her pretended openness, shows us nothing but results. She permits us, indeed, to mar, but seldom to mend, and, like a jealous patentee, on no account to make.

Now, however, Aylmer resumed these half-forgotten investigations; not, of course, with such hopes or wishes as first suggested them; but because they involved much physiological truth and lay in the path of his proposed scheme for the treatment of Georgiana.

As he led her over the threshold of the laboratory, Georgiana was cold and tremulous. Aylmer looked cheerfully into her face, with intent to reassure her, but was so startled with the intense glow of the birthmark upon the whiteness of her cheek that he could not restrain a strong convulsive shudder. His wife fainted.

“Aminadab! Aminadab!” shouted Aylmer , stamping violently on the floor.

Forthwith there issued from an inner apartment a man of low stature, but bulky frame, with shaggy hair hanging about his visage, which was grimed with the vapors of the furnace. This personage had been Aylmer’s underworker during his whole scientific career, and was admirably fitted for that office by his great mechanical readiness, and the skill with which, while incapable of comprehending a single principle, he executed all the details of his master’s experiments.

With his vast strength, his shaggy hair, his smoky aspect, and the indescribable earthiness that incrusted him, he seemed to represent man’s physical nature; while Aylmer’s slender figure, and pale, intellectual face, were no less apt a type of the spiritual element.

“Throw open the door of the boudoir, Aminadab,” said Aylmer , “and burn a pastil.”

“Yes, master,” answered Aminadab, looking intently at the lifeless form of Georgiana; and then he muttered to himself, “If she were my wife, I’d never part with that birthmark.”

When Georgiana recovered consciousness she found herself breathing an atmosphere of penetrating fragrance, the gentle potency of which had recalled her from her deathlike faintness. The scene around her looked like enchantment. Aylmer had converted those smoky, dingy, sombre rooms, where he had spent his brightest years in recondite pursuits, into a series of beautiful apartments not unfit to be the secluded abode of a lovely woman. The walls were hung with gorgeous curtains, which imparted the combination of grandeur and grace that no other species of adornment can achieve; and as they fell from the ceiling to the floor, their rich and ponderous folds, concealing all angles and straight lines, appeared to shut in the scene from infinite space.

For all Georgiana knew, it might be a pavilion among the clouds. And Aylmer, excluding the sunshine, which would have interfered with his chemical processes, had supplied its place with perfumed lamps, emitting flames of various hue, but all uniting in a soft, impurpled radiance. He now knelt by his wife’s side, watching her earnestly, but without alarm; for he was confident in his science, and felt that he could draw a magic circle round her within which no evil might intrude.

“Where am I? Ah, I remember,” said Georgiana, faintly; and she placed her hand over her cheek to hide the terrible mark from her husband’s eyes.

“Fear not, dearest!” exclaimed he. “Do not shrink from me! Believe me, Georgiana, I even rejoice in this single imperfection, since it will be such a rapture to remove it.”

“Oh, spare me!” sadly replied his wife. “Pray do not look at it again. I never can forget that convulsive shudder.”

In order to soothe Georgiana, and, as it were, to release her mind from the burden of actual things, Aylmer now put in practice some of the light and playful secrets which science had taught him among its profounder lore. Airy figures, absolutely bodiless ideas, and forms of unsubstantial beauty came and danced before her, imprinting their momentary footsteps on beams of light.

Though she had some indistinct idea of the method of these optical phenomena, still the illusion was almost perfect enough to warrant the belief that her husband possessed sway over the spiritual world. Then again, when she felt a wish to look forth from her seclusion, immediately, as if her thoughts were answered, the procession of external existence flitted across a screen. The scenery and the figures of actual life were perfectly represented, but with that bewitching, yet indescribable difference which always makes a picture, an image, or a shadow so much more attractive than the original. When wearied of this, Aylmer bade her cast her eyes upon a vessel containing a quantity of earth. She did so, with little interest at first; but was soon startled to perceive the germ of a plant shooting upward from the soil. Then came the slender stalk; the leaves gradually unfolded themselves; and amid them was a perfect and lovely flower.

“It is magical!” cried Georgiana. “I dare not touch it.”

“Nay, pluck it,” answered Aylmer ,–“pluck it, and inhale its brief perfume while you may. The flower will wither in a few moments and leave nothing save its brown seed vessels; but thence may be perpetuated a race as ephemeral as itself.”

But Georgiana had no sooner touched the flower than the whole plant suffered a blight, its leaves turning coal-black as if by the agency of fire.

“There was too powerful a stimulus,” said Aylmer , thoughtfully.

To make up for this abortive experiment, he proposed to take her portrait by a scientific process of his own invention. It was to be effected by rays of light striking upon a polished plate of metal. Georgiana assented; but, on looking at the result, was affrighted to find the features of the portrait blurred and indefinable; while the minute figure of a hand appeared where the cheek should have been. Aylmer snatched the metallic plate and threw it into a jar of corrosive acid.

Soon, however, he forgot these mortifying failures. In the intervals of study and chemical experiment he came to her flushed and exhausted, but seemed invigorated by her presence, and spoke in glowing language of the resources of his art. He gave a history of the long dynasty of the alchemists, who spent so many ages in quest of the universal solvent by which the golden principle might be elicited from all things vile and base. Aylmer appeared to believe that, by the plainest scientific logic, it was altogether within the limits of possibility to discover this long-sought medium; “but,” he added, “a philosopher who should go deep enough to acquire the power would attain too lofty a wisdom to stoop to the exercise of it.”

Not less singular were his opinions in regard to the elixir vitae. He more than intimated that it was at his option to concoct a liquid that should prolong life for years, perhaps interminably; but that it would produce a discord in Nature which all the world, and chiefly the quaffer of the immortal nostrum, would find cause to curse.

” Aylmer , are you in earnest?” asked Georgiana, looking at him with amazement and fear. “It is terrible to possess such power, or even to dream of possessing it.”

“Oh, do not tremble, my love,” said her husband. “I would not wrong either you or myself by working such inharmonious effects upon our lives; but I would have you consider how trifling, in comparison, is the skill requisite to remove this little hand.”

At the mention of the birthmark, Georgiana, as usual, shrank as if a redhot iron had touched her cheek.

Again Aylmer applied himself to his labors. She could hear his voice in the distant furnace room giving directions to Aminadab, whose harsh, uncouth, misshapen tones were audible in response, more like the grunt or growl of a brute than human speech. After hours of absence, Aylmer reappeared and proposed that she should now examine his cabinet of chemical products and natural treasures of the earth. Among the former he showed her a small vial, in which, he remarked, was contained a gentle yet most powerful fragrance, capable of impregnating all the breezes that blow across a kingdom.

They were of inestimable value, the contents of that little vial; and, as he said so, he threw some of the perfume into the air and filled the room with piercing and invigorating delight.

“And what is this?” asked Georgiana, pointing to a small crystal globe containing a gold-colored liquid. “It is so beautiful to the eye that I could imagine it the elixir of life.”

“In one sense it is,” replied Aylmer ; “or, rather, the elixir of immortality. It is the most precious poison that ever was concocted in this world. By its aid I could apportion the lifetime of any mortal at whom you might point your finger. The strength of the dose would determine whether he were to linger out years, or drop dead in the midst of a breath. No king on his guarded throne could keep his life if I, in my private station, should deem that the welfare of millions justified me in depriving him of it.”

“Why do you keep such a terrific drug?” inquired Georgiana in horror.

“Do not mistrust me, dearest,” said her husband, smiling; “its virtuous potency is yet greater than its harmful one. But see! here is a powerful cosmetic. With a few drops of this in a vase of water, freckles may be washed away as easily as the hands are cleansed. A stronger infusion would take the blood out of the cheek, and leave the rosiest beauty a pale ghost.”

“Is it with this lotion that you intend to bathe my cheek?” asked Georgiana, anxiously.

“Oh, no,” hastily replied her husband; “this is merely superficial. Your case demands a remedy that shall go deeper.”

In his interviews with Georgiana, Aylmer generally made minute inquiries as to her sensations and whether the confinement of the rooms and the temperature of the atmosphere agreed with her. These questions had such a particular drift that Georgiana began to conjecture that she was already subjected to certain physical influences, either breathed in with the fragrant air or taken with her food. She fancied likewise, but it might be altogether fancy, that there was a stirring up of her system–a strange, indefinite sensation creeping through her veins, and tingling, half painfully, half pleasurably, at her heart.

Still, whenever she dared to look into the mirror, there she beheld herself pale as a white rose and with the crimson birthmark stamped upon her cheek. Not even Aylmer now hated it so much as she.

To dispel the tedium of the hours which her husband found it necessary to devote to the processes of combination and analysis, Georgiana turned over the volumes of his scientific library. In many dark old tomes she met with chapters full of romance and poetry. They were the works of philosophers of the middle ages, such as Albertus Magnus, Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and the famous friar who created the prophetic Brazen Head.

All these antique naturalists stood in advance of their centuries, yet were imbued with some of their credulity, and therefore were believed, and perhaps imagined themselves to have acquired from the investigation of Nature a power above Nature, and from physics a sway over the spiritual world. Hardly less curious and imaginative were the early volumes of the Transactions of the Royal Society, in which the members, knowing little of the limits of natural possibility, were continually recording wonders or proposing methods whereby wonders might be wrought.

But to Georgiana the most engrossing volume was a large folio from her husband’s own hand, in which he had recorded every experiment of his scientific career, its original aim, the methods adopted for its development, and its final success or failure, with the circumstances to which either event was attributable. The book, in truth, was both the history and emblem of his ardent, ambitious, imaginative, yet practical and laborious life. He handled physical details as if there were nothing beyond them; yet spiritualized them all, and redeemed himself from materialism by his strong and eager aspiration towards the infinite. In his grasp the veriest clod of earth assumed a soul.

Georgiana, as she read, reverenced Aylmer and loved him more profoundly than ever, but with a less entire dependence on his judgment than heretofore. Much as he had accomplished, she could not but observe that his most splendid successes were almost invariably failures, if compared with the ideal at which he aimed. His brightest diamonds were the merest pebbles, and felt to be so by himself, in comparison with the inestimable gems which lay hidden beyond his reach. The volume, rich with achievements that had won renown for its author, was yet as melancholy a record as ever mortal hand had penned. It was the sad confession and continual exemplification of the shortcomings of the composite man, the spirit burdened with clay and working in matter, and of the despair that assails the higher nature at finding itself so miserably thwarted by the earthly part. Perhaps every man of genius in whatever sphere might recognize the image of his own experience in Aylmer ‘s journal.

So deeply did these reflections affect Georgiana that she laid her face upon the open volume and burst into tears. In this situation she was found by her husband.

“It is dangerous to read in a sorcerer’s books,” said he with a smile, though his countenance was uneasy and displeased. “Georgiana, there are pages in that volume which I can scarcely glance over and keep my senses. Take heed lest it prove as detrimental to you.”

“It has made me worship you more than ever,” said she.

“Ah, wait for this one success,” rejoined he, “then worship me if you will. I shall deem myself hardly unworthy of it. But come, I have sought you for the luxury of your voice. Sing to me, dearest.”

So she poured out the liquid music of her voice to quench the thirst of his spirit. He then took his leave with a boyish exuberance of gayety, assuring her that her seclusion would endure but a little longer, and that the result was already certain. Scarcely had he departed when Georgiana felt irresistibly impelled to follow him. She had forgotten to inform Aylmer of a symptom which for two or three hours past had begun to excite her attention. It was a sensation in the fatal birthmark, not painful, but which induced a restlessness throughout her system. Hastening after her husband, she intruded for the first time into the laboratory.

The first thing that struck her eye was the furnace, that hot and feverish worker, with the intense glow of its fire, which by the quantities of soot clustered above it seemed to have been burning for ages. There was a distilling apparatus in full operation. Around the room were retorts, tubes, cylinders, crucibles, and other apparatus of chemical research. An electrical machine stood ready for immediate use. The atmosphere felt oppressively close, and was tainted with gaseous odors which had been tormented forth by the processes of science.

The severe and homely simplicity of the apartment, with its naked walls and brick pavement, looked strange, accustomed as Georgiana had become to the fantastic elegance of her boudoir. But what chiefly, indeed almost solely, drew her attention, was the aspect of Aylmer himself.

He was pale as death, anxious and absorbed, and hung over the furnace as if it depended upon his utmost watchfulness whether the liquid which it was distilling should be the draught of immortal happiness or misery. How different from the sanguine and joyous mien that he had assumed for Georgiana’s encouragement!

“Carefully now, Aminadab; carefully, thou human machine; carefully, thou man of clay!” muttered Aylmer , more to himself than his assistant. “Now, if there be a thought too much or too little, it is all over.”

“Ho! ho!” mumbled Aminadab. “Look, master! look!”

Aylmer raised his eyes hastily, and at first reddened, then grew paler than ever, on beholding Georgiana. He rushed towards her and seized her arm with a gripe that left the print of his fingers upon it.

“Why do you come hither? Have you no trust in your husband?” cried he, impetuously. “Would you throw the blight of that fatal birthmark over my labors? It is not well done. Go, prying woman, go!”

“Nay, Aylmer ,” said Georgiana with the firmness of which she possessed no stinted endowment, “it is not you that have a right to complain. You mistrust your wife; you have concealed the anxiety with which you watch the development of this experiment. Think not so unworthily of me, my husband. Tell me all the risk we run, and fear not that I shall shrink; for my share in it is far less than your own.”

“No, no, Georgiana!” said Aylmer , impatiently; “it must not be.”

“I submit,” replied she calmly. “And, Aylmer , I shall quaff whatever draught you bring me; but it will be on the same principle that would induce me to take a dose of poison if offered by your hand.”

“My noble wife,” said Aylmer , deeply moved, “I knew not the height and depth of your nature until now. Nothing shall be concealed. Know, then, that this crimson hand, superficial as it seems, has clutched its grasp into your being with a strength of which I had no previous conception. I have already administered agents powerful enough to do aught except to change your entire physical system. Only one thing remains to be tried. If that fail us we are ruined.”

“Why did you hesitate to tell me this?” asked she.

“Because, Georgiana,” said Aylmer , in a low voice, “there is danger.”

“Danger? There is but one danger–that this horrible stigma shall be left upon my cheek!” cried Georgiana. “Remove it, remove it, whatever be the cost, or we shall both go mad!”

“Heaven knows your words are too true,” said Aylmer , sadly. “And now, dearest, return to your boudoir. In a little while all will be tested.”

He conducted her back and took leave of her with a solemn tenderness which spoke far more than his words how much was now at stake. After his departure Georgiana became rapt in musings. She considered the character of Aylmer , and did it completer justice than at any previous moment. Her heart exulted, while it trembled, at his honorable love–so pure and lofty that it would accept nothing less than perfection nor miserably make itself contented with an earthlier nature than he had dreamed of.

She felt how much more precious was such a sentiment than that meaner kind which would have borne with the imperfection for her sake, and have been guilty of treason to holy love by degrading its perfect idea to the level of the actual; and with her whole spirit she prayed that, for a single moment, she might satisfy his highest and deepest conception. Longer than one moment she well knew it could not be; for his spirit was ever on the march, ever ascending, and each instant required something that was beyond the scope of the instant before.

The sound of her husband’s footsteps aroused her. He bore a crystal goblet containing a liquor colorless as water, but bright enough to be the draught of immortality. Aylmer was pale; but it seemed rather the consequence of a highly-wrought state of mind and tension of spirit than of fear or doubt.

“The concoction of the draught has been perfect,” said he, in answer to Georgiana’s look. “Unless all my science have deceived me, it cannot fail.”

“Save on your account, my dearest Aylmer ,” observed his wife, “I might wish to put off this birthmark of mortality by relinquishing mortality itself in preference to any other mode. Life is but a sad possession to those who have attained precisely the degree of moral advancement at which I stand. Were I weaker and blinder it might be happiness. Were I stronger, it might be endured hopefully. But, being what I find myself, methinks I am of all mortals the most fit to die.”

“You are fit for heaven without tasting death!” replied her husband “But why do we speak of dying? The draught cannot fail. Behold its effect upon this plant.”

On the window seat there stood a geranium diseased with yellow blotches, which had overspread all its leaves. Aylmer poured a small quantity of the liquid upon the soil in which it grew. In a little time, when the roots of the plant had taken up the moisture, the unsightly blotches began to be extinguished in a living verdure.

“There needed no proof,” said Georgiana, quietly. “Give me the goblet I joyfully stake all upon your word.”

“Drink, then, thou lofty creature!” exclaimed Aylmer , with fervid admiration. “There is no taint of imperfection on thy spirit. Thy sensible frame, too, shall soon be all perfect.”

She quaffed the liquid and returned the goblet to his hand.

“It is grateful,” said she with a placid smile. “Methinks it is like water from a heavenly fountain; for it contains I know not what of unobtrusive fragrance and deliciousness. It allays a feverish thirst that had parched me for many days. Now, dearest, let me sleep. My earthly senses are closing over my spirit like the leaves around the heart of a rose at sunset.”

She spoke the last words with a gentle reluctance, as if it required almost more energy than she could command to pronounce the faint and lingering syllables. Scarcely had they loitered through her lips ere she was lost in slumber. Aylmer sat by her side, watching her aspect with the emotions proper to a man the whole value of whose existence was involved in the process now to be tested. Mingled with this mood, however, was the philosophic investigation characteristic of the man of science. Not the minutest symptom escaped him. A heightened flush of the cheek, a slight irregularity of breath, a quiver of the eyelid, a hardly perceptible tremor through the frame,–such were the details which, as the moments passed, he wrote down in his folio volume. Intense thought had set its stamp upon every previous page of that volume, but the thoughts of years were all concentrated upon the last.

While thus employed, he failed not to gaze often at the fatal hand, and not without a shudder. Yet once, by a strange and unaccountable impulse he pressed it with his lips. His spirit recoiled, however, in the very act, and Georgiana, out of the midst of her deep sleep, moved uneasily and murmured as if in remonstrance. Again Aylmer resumed his watch. Nor was it without avail. The crimson hand, which at first had been strongly visible upon the marble paleness of Georgiana’s cheek, now grew more faintly outlined. She remained not less pale than ever; but the birthmark with every breath that came and went, lost somewhat of its former distinctness.

Its presence had been awful; its departure was more awful still. Watch the stain of the rainbow fading out the sky, and you will know how that mysterious symbol passed away.

“By Heaven! it is well-nigh gone!” said Aylmer to himself, in almost irrepressible ecstasy. “I can scarcely trace it now. Success! success! And now it is like the faintest rose color. The lightest flush of blood across her cheek would overcome it. But she is so pale!”

He drew aside the window curtain and suffered the light of natural day to fall into the room and rest upon her cheek. At the same time he heard a gross, hoarse chuckle, which he had long known as his servant Aminadab’s expression of delight.

“Ah, clod! ah, earthly mass!” cried Aylmer , laughing in a sort of frenzy, “you have served me well! Matter and spirit–earth and heaven –have both done their part in this! Laugh, thing of the senses! You have earned the right to laugh.”

These exclamations broke Georgiana’s sleep. She slowly unclosed her eyes and gazed into the mirror which her husband had arranged for that purpose. A faint smile flitted over her lips when she recognized how barely perceptible was now that crimson hand which had once blazed forth with such disastrous brilliancy as to scare away all their happiness. But then her eyes sought Aylmer ‘s face with a trouble and anxiety that he could by no means account for.

“My poor Aylmer !” murmured she.

“Poor? Nay, richest, happiest, most favored!” exclaimed he. “My peerless bride, it is successful! You are perfect!”

“My poor Aylmer ,” she repeated, with a more than human tenderness, “you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer. Aylmer , dearest Aylmer , I am dying!”

Alas! it was too true! The fatal hand had grappled with the mystery of life, and was the bond by which an angelic spirit kept itself in union with a mortal frame. As the last crimson tint of the birthmark–that sole token of human imperfection–faded from her cheek, the parting breath of the now perfect woman passed into the atmosphere, and her soul, lingering a moment near her husband, took its heavenward flight. Then a hoarse, chuckling laugh was heard again! Thus ever does the gross fatality of earth exult in its invariable triumph over the immortal essence which, in this dim sphere of half development, demands the completeness of a higher state.

Yet, had Alymer reached a profounder wisdom, he need not thus have flung away the happiness which would have woven his mortal life of the selfsame texture with the celestial. The momentary circumstance was too strong for him; he failed to look beyond the shadowy scope of time, and, living once for all in eternity, to find the perfect future in the present.


spiritual affinity a relationship of mutual understanding or trust and agreement between people

fine countenance appearance

furnace smoke—oven, stove, kiln

kindred mysteries of Nature–having a similar or related origin, nature, or character

ardent votaries—a person who is fervently devoted, as to a leader or ideal; a faithful follower.

 fastidious persons–possessing or displaying careful, meticulous attention to detail.

like a jealous patentee the inventor to whom a patent is issued

 fantastic elegance of her boudoira woman’s bedroom or private sitting room

in almost irrepressible ecstasy–difficult or impossible to control or restrain



Filed under: Poetry,Short Stories — espierspectives @ 11:55 AM






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self-assured sentimental























































































































































































































































































 This very helpful list comes from this source:



Filed under: Short Stories — espierspectives @ 1:05 AM


by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

A poor man had twelve children and had to work day and night in order just to feed them. Thus when the thirteenth came into the world, not knowing what to do in his need, he ran out into the highway, intending to ask the first person whom he met to be the godfather.

Wilhelm (left) and Jacob Grimm (right) from an...

Image via Wikipedia

The man said, “Who are you?”

“I am God.”

“Then I do not wish to have you for a godfather,” said the man. “You give to the rich, and let the poor starve.”

Thus spoke the man, for he did not know how wisely God divides out wealth and poverty. Then he turned away from the Lord, and went on his way.

Then the devil came to him and said, “What are you looking for? If you will take me as your child’s godfather, I will give him an abundance of gold and all the joys of the world as well.”

The man asked, “Who are you?”

“I am the devil.”

“Then I do not wish to have you for a godfather,” said the man. You deceive mankind and lead them astray.”

He went on his way, and then Death, on his withered legs, came walking toward him, and said, “Take me as your child’s godfather.”

The man asked, “Who are you?”

“I am Death, who makes everyone equal.”

Then the man said, “You are the right one. You take away the rich as well as the poor, without distinction. You shall be my child’s godfather.

Death answered, “I will make your child rich and famous, for he who has me for a friend cannot fail.”

The man said, “Next Sunday is the baptism. Be there on time.”

Death appeared as he had promised, and served as godfather in an orderly manner.

After the boy came of age his godfather appeared to him one day and asked him to go with him. He took him out into the woods and showed him an herb that grew there, saying, “Now you shall receive your godfather’s present. I will turn you into a famous physician. Whenever you are called to a sick person I will appear to you. If I stand at the sick person’s head, you may say with confidence that you can make him well again; then give him some of this herb, and he will recover. But if I stand at the sick person’s feet, he is mine, and you must say that he is beyond help, and that no physician in the world could save him. But beware of using this herb against my will, or something very bad will happen to you.”

It was not long before the young man had become the most famous physician in the whole world. People said of him, “He only needs to look at the sick in order to immediately know their condition, whether they will regain their health, or are doomed to die.” And people came to him from far and wide, taking him to their sick, and giving him so much money that he soon became a wealthy man.

Now it came to pass that the king became ill. The physician was summoned and was told to say if a recovery were possible. However, when he approached the bed, Death was standing at the sick man’s feet, and so no herb on earth would be able to help him.

“If I could only deceive death for once,” thought the physician. “He will be angry, of course, but because I am his godson he will shut one eye. I will risk it.” He therefore took hold of the sick man and laid him the other way around, so that Death was now standing at his head. Then he gave the king some of the herb, and he recovered and became healthy again.

However, Death came to the physician, made a dark and angry face, threatened him with his finger, and said, “You have betrayed me. I will overlook it this time because you are my godson, but if you dare to do it again, it will cost you your neck, for I will take you yourself away with me.”

Soon afterward the king’s daughter became seriously ill. She was his only child, and he cried day and night until his eyes were going blind. Then he proclaimed that whosoever rescued her from death should become her husband and inherit the crown.

When the physician came to the sick girl’s bed he saw Death at her feet. He should have remembered his godfather’s warning, but he was so infatuated by the princess’s great beauty and the prospect of becoming her husband that he threw all thought to the winds. He did not see that Death was looking at him angrily, lifting his hand into the air, and threatening him with his withered fist. He lifted up the sick girl and placed her head where her feet had been. Then he gave her some of the herb, and her cheeks immediately turned red, and life stirred in her once again.

Death, seeing that he had been cheated out of his property for a second time, approached the physician with long strides and said, “You are finished. Now it is your turn.”

Then Death seized him so firmly with his ice-cold hand that he could not resist, and led him into an underground cavern. There the physician saw how thousands and thousands of candles were burning in endless rows, some large, others medium-sized, others small. Every instant some died out, and others were relit, so that the little flames seemed to be jumping about in constant change.

“See,” said Death, “these are the life-lights of mankind. The large ones belong to children, the medium-sized ones to married people in their best years, and the little ones to old people. However, even children and young people often have only a tiny candle.”

“Show me my life-light,” said the physician, thinking that it still would be very large.

Death pointed to a little stump that was just threatening to go out, and said, “See, there it is.”

“Oh, dear godfather,” said the horrified physician, “light a new one for me. Do it as a favor to me, so that I can enjoy my life, and become king and the husband of the beautiful princess.”

“I cannot,” answered Death. “One must go out before a new one is lighted.”

“Then set the old one onto a new one that will go on burning after the old one is finished,” begged the physician.

Death pretended that he was going to fulfill this wish and took hold of a large new candle, but, desiring revenge, he purposely made a mistake in relighting it, and the little piece fell down and went out. The physician immediately fell to the ground, and he too was now in the hands of Death.

1.  What is the theme?

2.  Explain the conflicts.


EYES {Kannukal} 22/09/2010

Filed under: Short Stories — espierspectives @ 2:20 AM


by Shri KT Muhammed

ALL WHO HAVE EYES TO SEE laugh when they see me. Some burst out in Homeric laughter. They have many funny stories to tell about me.

But I know what they say…what makes them laugh like asses. One reason that they laugh is that I, too, had a sweetheart! More, I married her! How I became a lover and husband is a story they reckon as a wonder which can make them laugh and laugh. If you want to understand this wonderful amusement, they will ask you to have a look at me. After all, I am a human being.

I am a short man, black like coal, with disproportionate limbs. My huge head is the crown of that deformity as well as my ugliness. On my face are two round eyes in deep hollows, a snub nose, a big frog-like mouth, and a narrow forehead between two over-sized ears. There are also marks showing how greedily smallpox, which attacked me in my twelfth year, pecked at the flesh of my face; a fall in my boyhood has left me lame of the right leg. Yes, I am indeed a mountain of ugliness. They tell me that at first sight I create in everyone an impression of a black monkey. But people do not necessarily laugh on seeing a monkey. Their laughter is roused when they realized that the monkey-like animal is a fellow human being. While walking along the road once, I heard a man telling his companion, “This man here reminds me of the Hunchback of the Notre Dame.” Though I am no hunchback, I never stopped to protest. After all, it is not for me to decide what or whom I remind people of. Anyway, their laughter has taught me a great deal about myself.

I shrink into myself like a forget-me-not when I see colorfully dressed young women flitting along the roads, because they turn their faces abruptly, like Brahmans at the sight of an ill-omened owl. It is when they haughtily refuse to regard me as a fellow human being and to respect my feelings as a human being—it is then that I realize my pathetic plight. Endowed, like any of you, with a sense of the beautiful, I, too, enjoy the sight of but you seem to consider it an unpardonable crime on my part. In short, the world clearly announces that people like me have no right to live in it. I know that, too.

My father died before memory had dawned on me, and so my old mother is all I had by way of a home. How far could the influence of heredity account for it—who was responsible for my pitiable and horrible deformity? My father? My mother? No, I cannot blame either. Why blame them? I was born. Perhaps they had not wished or expected that I should be born. We tried to keep the skeleton of a family—I who did not fade, and mother who did not fall. Should not that family tree put forth new branches and keep alive?

The family sense of a man, who is a social being, began to manifest itself through my guileless mother. She asked me, “Son, mustn’t you bring home a bride?”

That question of mother’s was no surprise to me. Restraining my heavy heart, I replied, “Oh, yes, mother, in due course.”

She began to consult her grey-haired neighbors. The consultation lasted for a few days. Returning day after day with a pained look on her face, she became a problem to me. Everyday I would ask her, “What’s the matter, Mother?” And she would say, “Oh, nothing.” Under that “nothing” throbbed a mother’s heart full of despair and helplessness.

Two weeks crept by. Mother stopped going out. Those who had sympathetically remarked, “Poor chap! How hard his mother tried to get him a bride! Oh, God, why did you create a man like this!”

Secretly, I began to try cosmetics. I tried wearing fine clothes. But my attempts only made people laugh louder. Was I becoming uglier? I realized that bathing couldn’t turn a crow into a swan.

To continue my life story. At last, I too found a sweetheart! You must be getting impatient to hear my love story—the story of my humanity. I longed to love and be loved. Is it not natural? The story of my love is a wonderful story indeed—involving a young woman who loved me and later married me, utterly disregarding my appearance, which turned away all eyes and disgusted all minds.

My mother’s struggle to get a daughter-in-law ended in failure. No woman would wish to become the wife of an ape-man. Groaning under the burden of this failure, my mother became a victim of all ailments natural to old age—from which she never recovered. My mother, who used to soothe my burning heart, at least occasionally with the cool breeze of her affection, my dear mother, who kept me bound to this loveless world by the golden thread of her love, my mother, who was my very life, and who found some sort of beauty even in my terrible ugliness—she died leaving me all alone. I shall not weep over it now, for she has no strength to suffer anymore.

And then it happened. There was the tap-tap of a heavy stick against the door, and then a girl’s voice saying, “Something for a beggar, sir?” I cannot see, master.” I looked at her and then her eyes. It was a pitiful sight. Forgetting myself, I thought: “Poor girl, she is young, without eyes—a life in which hearing and touching alone are possible.”

She was not good-looking, but her well-proportioned body had the charm of youth. Poor thing! My heart went out to her. “You may come in and sit down here,” I politely asked her. She began to grope for the door. I got up and led her by the hand. It was the first time I was touching a young woman—with a heart heavy with suppressed emotions. Again, I looked at her face. Despite her sightless eyes, youth had preserved her face beautifully. Her high bosom was not far away from mine. Before I could think, I began to shiver as if with chill. I felt my lips parched, my limbs strangely transformed, my breathing quickened. “You may sit down here.” I led her to the seat at he end of the verandah. Did she feel the trembling of my hands? I gave her a little of the food I had cooked, and a rupee besides.

She told me that her name was Leela, that she and her old mother lived in a thatched hut near a big factory in the city. When she was leaving, I asked her to come again.

Leela began to come often. Then it became a habit. We would talk of all kinds of things. I felt somewhat relieved of the burden of my heart and of my life. Moments of life began to hold attractions for me. Leela’s eyes! If they had sight, they would enhance her beauty. Is not a woman’s glance capable of maddening a man? Though I had learned this only from other people’s experience, I could realize what it meant. My hungry heart, too, had its cravings. If only Leela had her eyes! Not that I did not know how foolish this was. If she had eyes, perhaps she would not be a beggar. Even if she became one, she would not accept from me anything more than mere alms! No, her eyes would not have allowed her to come to me, to talk to, everyday.

I thought so unconsciously, because, I happen to be like anyone else. Is it any fault of mine?

People noticed our meetings, but no one envied us. Being an “ape-man,” I was already a target of their ridicule. Now the story of my love for a blind woman gave them something more to laugh at. They were amused at the alliance between deformity and blindness. Funny, isn’t it?

One day, I asked Leela, “Leela, what do you think of me?” Her shy smile gave a great joy. “Speak, Leela!” I insisted.

“Did I say you are a bad man?” she softly replied. I felt her reply was sincere. I was elated. Even though I had not intended to, I asked her abruptly, in a fit of emotion. “Do you like me, Leela?” She bashfully bowed her head but said nothing. I felt that all the charm of life lay heaped up in that scene.

Leela left soon afterwards. “Leela.” At last, I, too, had a name I could utter with love in this vast, desolate world; someone I could expect with eager joy. Life, which had seemed desolate to me, became sweet and enjoyable. Was it not my luck!

People who laugh at me are my enemies. Suppose they put into Leela’s mind ideas about my ugliness. Had they already done so? Who knows! But how could she tell attractive beauty from disgusting ugliness when she could not tell day from night? She had told me she was born blind. I do not say that she being born blind was my good fortune; but was that her misfortune?

Leela came again the next day. I was thinking about our marriage, how to accomplish it. Should not a representative for God bear witness to the alliance between man and woman? But no priest of God would be ready to officiate at our marriage. There is a reason for it. Those representatives of God have worldly viewpoint which they call “spiritual.” Leela and I were religiously incompatible. They would give us no help, however loudly it may be proclaimed that in this world where there are more women than men, no woman but Leela would wish to marry me. It is only in matters of this that priests who represent God in various names will agree among themselves. Perhaps you are not aware of the fact that I am a Muslim. But after all, is it a fact?

I asked her, “Leela, will you marry me?” I felt she was taken aback. The fact of my being a Muslim must have made her pause and think, “What are you saying?” There was a limit to the sympathy that this blind beggar woman could feel.

“Leela, it is enough if you realize that I am human being. God has sent you to me. Caste and creed are man’s own creations.”

Pleadingly, I looked at her trembling lips. I felt like a murderer awaiting the verdict of the judge. Yes, it was for her to decide whether I should live or die. Leela was silent. Was it not significant? I went on, “Speak, Leela. I went on to protect you. Do promise to make me happy.”

“I shall consent,” she replied at last. “I have heard people say so many things about me contemptuously. When I pass, they say, there goes the ape-man’s mistress. According to them, you have no beauty.”

“What do you feel, Leela?”

She went on, “I don’t understand the beauty they all talk of; nor have I seen an ape. I, therefore, don’t care what they say. Would I feel different even if they said that you are the handsomest man in the world?”

“It is with my heart that I have seen the world. I see beauty and ugliness with my heart. You are a Muslim and I am a Hindu. If you have no objection, I have none. I thought there would be no one in this world to love me sincerely. But…”

“Then why the ‘but’?” I asked anxiously.

“Yes, there is a big ‘but’ behind this beggar’s profession. I have no untainted womanhood to offer you. Though blind, I have wanted to love. But by beggar’s bowl—empty even after the whole day’s begging—laughed devilishly at the empty stomach of my mother and myself. I had to yield to creatures of lust approaching through the horror of night. There is no use to your getting indignant with me. No man puts anything in the begging bowl of a young woman in the name of charity. I thought your first show of sympathy had the same motive. Forgive me. But today I respect no one but you as a human being.”

I was stunned momentarily. There was a silence for a few minutes. “Leela,” I said at last, “it is the story of man’s sordid selfishness. I shall not think of it anymore.” She was silent.

After a few days, the event took place, creating a sensation in my village. Without any representative of God to bear witness, and without waiting for anybody’s recommendation, she and I, Leela and Abdulla—stood together and took silent mutual vow to become partners in life.

The laughter of the people around us became louder. There were guffaws when Leela and her mother came to live with me.

The self-appointed custodians of society looked askance at us. People did not realize that two burning hearts were at the bottom of this story of love and marriage. I tried to cheer up Leela. “Leela, let people laugh. They must be crazy.”

We began to live. I won’t say that ours was a happy married life. It was the maddening urge of our humanity. That was our life. Social ethics and religious conventions assumed a horrible vengefulness upon us. We received no help or cooperation. We had no illusions that we could live happily. But we wanted to live and were prepared to face our difficulties.

And then it happened. Leela was going to be a mother. My being an ape-man and Leela’s blindness were no bar. We ignored the world’s gossip and sneers. Joys which I had never expected in my life had come to me. I became a lover, a husband, and now going to be a father! I thanked God! He is great! Praise be to Him! For Leela’s sightless eyes!

But Leela fell ill two months before the child to be born. I called a doctor. He examined her. I begged him to save her. After a while, he asked, “Is she blind from birth? When I said yes, he examined her eyes again, and thoughtfully remarked, “I can restore her eyesight by an operation. But it is impossible now. Let her regain her health after recovery.”

The doctor’s words shook my heart, my youth, my life! He says he can give light to Leela’s eyes! When she can see, will she shudder to see me, whom she knows as a man with a heart, worthy of love? The moment she begins to see, will she still love me and respect me? What should I say to the doctor? “No, her eyes need have no sight,” I tried to shout out. But what I said was, “Leela, the doctor says your blindness can be cured!”

I was mechanically repeating what she had already heard. How could I explain to her that the restoration of her sight might cut at the very root of my life? What is it that man would not do to keep his eyesight? Is it not great good fortune for anyone to be cured of congenital blindness? Leela, who had fully understood my heart, did not know the worldly side of me. She said, “If I can regain my sight, I want to have it. Don’t you feel happy? If I can see you, I know you will love me all the more.”

Her face was rich with contentment even in that state of illness. Was it only because a new life was sprouting up?

The doctor gave me a prescription, and explaining to me how the medicine was to be given, said, “Come to me when normal health has been restored after delivery. Then I shall tell you more about the operation.” Leela was calm, but a storm raged within me. My mind was afire with violent thoughts. I went to the end of the veranda and sat down. It was only in this small hut of mine that I had some peace. Even that was going to be shattered. My world was small.

“No! Never! You shall not restore sight to Leela’s eyes. Oh, Doctor! You have conspired with the scornful enemies to kill me. But I will kill first. Why have you flung fire into our lives? No, you are not to blame. You have to fight blindness. Blindness is one of the worst diseases. You cannot remain indifferent to it. You may give sight to her. You know nothing of my life. May Leela be able to see! May God give her that great blessing which every human being should have! But I must become dust before that—before she can know what is meant by “ape-man”! Then I can live on her memory as a man rich in love. Will her present love for me and the beauty she sees in me last forever?” My heart was crying.

Leela gave birth to a boy. Society was embarrassed at the birth of an illegitimate child. Some laughed aloud like asses. Isn’t that funny! That child born of an ugly father and a blind mother was innocent. It inherited Leela’s looks and my eyes. Whose good fortune could it be?

Leela regained her health. She reminded me of that which my selfishness had made me keep down. “Shall we go and see the doctor now?”

She did not know what a storm her words created in my heart. I lied to her. “Yes, I had forgotten.” I shall go and find out today.” I knew I was lying. I felt like one tossing in mid-ocean.

I went out and, returning after a couple of hours, said to her, “The doctor is dead!”

That was all I could say. I had thought I would not be able to say even that. I could not make a show of the grief which I, her husband, should have felt over the death of the good doctor who had promised to cure Leela’s blindness. I had to keep down in my agonized heart a secret born of cruelty and selfishness. It was a burden too heavy to bear. What I did for my own safety undermined peace of mind forever. The burning days moved on.

One day, as I returned home, I saw something heart-rending. Leela’s mother had not moved a big copper vessel from the room. Leela, while rushing to the cradle of the crying baby without taking her stick, had stumbled on it. She had dashed against the doorpost. She was bleeding. I rushed her to the hospital.

Lives were being consumed. Do you feel like laughing now? I have no more complaint! Who cares for my complaints!

Leela, my life, my world! A doctor called me and said, “It must have been a terrible fall. The injury is serious.”

I went to Leela. She lay writhing in pain. I spoke to her. She said, sobbing, “Are you here? I am going. If I could see once with my eyes!”

The last wish of Leela seemed to me to be the trial of my endurance. Had she been grieving that the doctor was dead? She was silent.

“Leela!” I said to her. “To see me with eyes is not, after all, a great thing. Have you not seen me with your broad and clear heart? I know that in this world you alone have seen rightly. People cannot see each other with eyes. And so, dear, be at peace. You will soon be well.”

Leela listened to me and then there was a pause. The bright sun had already gone down. Leela began to cry. I was in agony. My grim secret was trying to burst out. I could no longer stand there. Leela’s mother came up and put the little child by Leela’s side. The tiny creature began to cry, perhaps suffocated by the tragic atmosphere. Leela’s mother also began to cry. I felt helpless.

Leela’s pure soul gently flowed out. I don’t remember what I did. The beating of one’s heart stopped; some other’s burst.

The sun had now set and the darkness thickened.

People who could not perceive the currents under my horrible ugliness and my strange love story will laugh when they see me. I sometimes wonder, what would have been my story if I had been blind, too!

Tags: THE EYES, Shri KT Muhammed

Ms Espie says:

A heart-rending confession of a poor man whose good soul has been corrupted by malice, ridicule and discrimination by the society.    Would you blame him for preventing the restoration of Leela’s eyesight?  Is it right to judge him downright as selfish?

Leela is as much a victim of the circumstances as Abdulla is.  Both are restricted by things that they lack, and such deprivation leaves them weak and incapable of defending themselves or finding happiness that they rightfully deserve.

What we say or do has effect on other people.  Although it is human nature to raise our eyebrows on people who are different from what society brands as normal and conforming, we have to remember that they, too, are God’s children and they deserve their own space in this wide, wide world.




Filed under: Elements — espierspectives @ 1:19 AM
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Setting refers to the time and location  in which the story happens.   It has  the following functions:

  • The setting gives the geographical location of the events in the story.  As such, the setting  may or may not  have a great significance in the events of the story.
  • The setting indicates the time of day, year, season, weather, historical period in which the story unfolds.
  • The setting establishes the mood and atmosphere of the story, or the general feeling that the reader is supposed to experience as he reads through.
  • The setting describes the social environment in which the character exists: language, culture and lifestyle of the people in the place.
  • The setting reveals the economic condition prevailing in the time the story happens.
  • The setting influences the personality and behavior of the characters.


In most cases, the author removes himself from his creation by using a voice to narrate the story.  This voice, called a  persona, may or may not be  part of the story.  The persona may be an active part of the story or a passive one, like an on-looker.


This term may refer to any of these:

  • A character is a person, animal, god, object or an abstract entity that is active participant in the action in a story, play, or film.
  • Character may mean the totality of the qualities of a person such as his integrity, behavior, personality and other such traits  that contribute to his individuality.


    • MAIN or MAJOR– a character with a major role, dominating the whole story, and on whom the conflict is focused.
    • MINOR– a character whose role is  not the focus of the story; rather, a support  whose significance  lies in his interaction or relationship with the main characters.  He may not be as important as the major character, but not unimportant altogether. He can serve as a confidant/e or a foil; he can be a source of conflict as well.
    • PROTAGONIST– the primary character around which the conflict in story revolves, and the one who gets the most attention, concern and empathy from the readers.
    • ANTAGONIST– is the  character, or may also be an object or situation, that proves to be a hindrance to the objectives of the protagonist.
    • HERO or HEROINE– is a character whose strong positive values make him act and aim for the good of others, and  who puts his interests aside to prioritize those of others’.  Such is the essence of heroism or heroic deeds.
      •  This term, according to Wikipedia and I quote verbatim from there, refers to “characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity. This definition originally referred to martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.”

    Ms Espie says: Better check out the site for a more comprehensive discussion of the term because we do have some sort of misconception about it, equating it carelessly with another character, the protagonist.

    • VILLAIN– a character whose traits are totally the antithesis to the hero–unsympathetic, self-centered, and evil.
    • ROUND– A character who is presented as  having many personality traits, often contradictory, therefore complex and developing.
    • FLAT— a character who shows only one side or two of his personality.
    • DYNAMIC– a primary character  who encounters conflict and is significantly transformed by it.
    • STATIC– are usually minor characters who do not undergo significant transformation or growth in the course of the story
    • STEREOTYPE–a stereotypical character relies on cultural conventions or formulaic image for its character, appearance, language and manners of speech
    • STOCK — is another term for stereotype character
    • FOIL— a character, major or minor, whose personal qualities that are in total contrast with the protagonist highlights, develops or unfolds the protagonist’s own character traits.
    • CONFIDANT or CONFIDANTE– a character — a trusted friend or servant, maybe a good pet, or maybe a journal or diary– to whom a primary character pours out his secret feelings, thoughts and emotions.   A dialogue with the confidant/e  is an effective device to disclose the inner thoughts or intentions of a main character in the story.


See also Seven Common Character Typesby Terry W. Ervin II



“What does characterization do for a story?  In a nutshell, it allows us to emphatize with the protagonist and secondary characters, and thus feel that what is happening to these people in the story is vicariously happening to us; and it also gives us a sense of verisimilitude, or the semblance of living reality.  An important part of characterization is dialogue, for it is both spoken and inward dialogue that afford us the opportunity to see into the characters’ hearts and examine their motivations.  In the best of stories, it is actually characterization that moves the story along, because a compelling character in a difficult situation creates his or her own plot.”— KAREN BERNARDO, Characterization in Literature:: source:

Characterization is the method used by the author to portray  his characters  in a story.   Through characterization, the reader learns about the character’s physical looks, his thoughts, motives, and personality.  The author may use direct or indirect character development.

1.  There are different methods of characterization:

  • Physical description— the author, through his voice (persona), provides the reader an adequate description of how a character looks like.  The author may include details like age; color of the skin, hair or eyes; physique; clothing; scars and other marks like tattoos; and other distinguishing features.   This is a direct way of characterization.    How do we know that Abdullah (The Eyes) is a mountain of  ugliness?  The author lets Abdullah describe himself in full details:

I am a short man, black like coal, with disproportionate limbs. My huge head is the crown of that deformity as well as my ugliness. On my face are two round eyes in deep hollows, a snub nose, a big frog-like mouth, and a narrow forehead between two over-sized ears. There are also marks showing greedily smallpox, which attacked me in my twelfth year, pecked at the flesh of my face; a fall in my boyhood has left me lame of the right leg. Yes, I am indeed a mountain of ugliness. They tell me that at first sight I create in everyone an impression of a black monkey.

2.  Other ways of characterization are the following:

  • Speech— the character’s dialogue reveals a lot about the kind of person he is; the way that he speaks may give a hint as to his place of origin, or the social class he belongs to, or the kind of education he has attained or even the lack of it.
  • Action— what the character does, or how he does things, also reveal a lot about his personality.  The way he walks, or carries himself, would tell a lot about how the character perceives himself.
  • Thoughts— a reader gets a glimpse into the thoughts of a character only if the author allows him to through stream-of-consciousness method or by directly telling the reader what the character thinks.  Allowing the reader access to the character’s journals or diary is also another way of revealing the latter’s inner thoughts and feelings.
  • Opinion/ reaction of others— the other characters are also a good source of information on the personality of an important character.  Their opinions of him, what they say and think of him,  would be very helpful to the reader in imagining.   Are the others scared of him? Do they hate or admire him ore love him?  Do they mock him or respect him or ignore him?
  • Name analysis— this is the method of studying a character through his name.  A character’s  name  is usually reflective of his traits, mannerisms, or interests; or his name may be significant to the story.
 Also, refer to this site, which gives the mnemonic STEAL so that one easily remembers the methods.


This refers to the sequence of events as they take place in the story.  The framework of a short story consists the following:

  • EXPOSITION–the introduction of the story where the groundwork is laid: the setting is presented, and the characters are introduced.
  • INCITING FACTOR–also known as the motivating or initiating incident, this event triggers the main conflict and sets the whole action in the story rolling. Without this factor there is no story.
  • RISING ACTIONS–a series of events that take place after the inciting force has taken place.
    • These  events are complications of the  conflict that arises  from a decision made by the main character earlier in the story.
    • These complications pile up as causes and effects, and wind up all the way to the climax.
    • These complications are the trials, challenges, hindrances that come in the way of the main character.
    • It begins with the inciting force and ends with the climax.
    • MS. ESPIE SAYS: Sometimes people refer to this part as just one event, which, I think, is quite misleading, unless one is able to summarize the whole series in just one sentence, all encompassing.

  • TURNING POINT–The point at which a very significant change occurs, creating an issue or crisis that the main character must deal with later on; it is the ultimate decisive moment that would break the normalcy of a character’s life.   It is the point where the reader wonders whether the main character’s personal crisis will be resolved or not.  The turning point may happen before or simultaneously  with the climax.   Like I always tell my students, this is the “to-be-or-not-to-be” moment in the story…like when a character finds himself on the verge of a ravine and he has to choose whether to jump to his death or turn back.
  • CLIMAX–It is the highest point of interest and most intensely  emotional moment  in the story.
    • It happens as the outcome of the crisis at the turning point.
    • It is the point at which the reader can predict the result of the conflict.
    • This is the moment when the character finally enacts his decision…he jumps in, or he turns his back away from the edge of  the ravine.
  • FALLING ACTION–It is the series of events that come rolling  after, or as a result of,  the climax, easing the story down to its conclusion.
    • If your teacher insists on a single-sentence falling action, all you have to do is summarize the events that come between  the climax and the conclusion.
  • DENOUÉMENT or RESOLUTION–It is the conclusion of the story.  Here conflicts are finally resolved and the main character experiences a realization.  This change is usually a positive one where the main character emerges as winner.  If the story ends otherwise, then it is a tragic ending.

MS. ESPIE SAYS:  The  diagrams below are very good visual representations of plot structure, and would be very useful to you, students, in your story analysis.  These diagrams are derived from the Freytag pyramid (named after the dramatist who revived it during the Renaissance period; see this link for thorough discussion:   )

 Here is another illustration of how a plot structure looks like:

The inciting factors are included in the exposition parts. For the Cinderella story, it is when the invitation for the ball comes.  The invitation disturbs the natural flow of life of Cinderella and her stepsisters.  It is the instrument that lead Cinderella to her “happily-ever-after”.



 This is the struggle between two opposing forces, particularly the main character against himself, another character, beast, object or a particular situation. Conflict is very important because without it, the story will not stand.  Conflicts are the heart and soul of any story. They get the action going, along with the interest of the reader, as they become complicated and pile up one on top of each other.

 There are two kinds of conflicts:

  • INTERNAL — this is more of a psychological kind wherein the character experiences a mental strife against his inner self.
  • EXTERNAL– the character faces antagonism from  forces outside of him, whether physical or abstract.  

There are specific types of conflicts:

  • Man vs. Self–is an example of internal conflict; the character struggles with himself in decision-making, moral choices , self-control, overcoming grief or pain.  This run-in reveals the strength or weakness of his inner self.
  • Man vs. Society–the character struggles against social traditions, customs, practices, values or concepts within the society within which he exists.
  • Man vs. Nature –the character struggles against forces of nature (flood, typhoon, earthquake and any such disasters).  This run-in shows how strong or weak man’s will to live is, or how insignificant human life is when pitted against cosmic elements.
  • Man vs. Man— the character struggles physically against another human character in the story.
  • Man vs. Beast –the character struggles physically  against a fierce beast.
  • Man vs. Supernatural–the character struggles against any supernatural force (God, deities, monsters, aliens, vampires, ghosts, aswang, kapre, manananggal, tiyanak, etc…)
  • Man vs. Fate –the character is confronted with issues between destiny and free will.
  • Man vs. Machine/Technology places a character against man-made entities which may possess “artificial intelligence“.  (Miss Espie says:  This one is from Wikipedia and is quite a new concept, but rightly so to be included considering that technology is pretty much a significant part of our daily encounter in this modern world we’re living in.)


This is the vantage point or the narrative mode from which the story is told.   Other terms used for this are “angle”, “focus”, and “perspective”.


1. FIRST PERSON — the account is limited to only  one person’s viewpoint.

  • the narrator uses “I” or “we”;  he is an active participant in the story.
  • he may be a major character, usually the protagonist, or a minor one, an observer.
  • the narration has a more personal feel.
  • he gives a reliable, first-hand account, hence an authentic and powerful rendering.
  • however, it is also possible that his account might not be the objective truth;  might be biased and unreliable or may lack credibility.

2. SECOND PERSON — a perspective very rarely used because authors don’t usually address directly the readers.

  • the author uses you and your.
  • When you encounter this point of view, pay attention. Why? The author has made a daring choice, probably with a specific purpose in mind.
  • Usually, second-person point of view would draw the reader into the story, almost involving him as a participant in the action.

3.  THIRD PERSON —  a more versatile account than the first person; the narrator uses “he”, “she”, “it”, and “they”.

 This point of view has three types:

a.  Third person objective — the narrator is detached and unbiased; he tells the story as it happens without revealing more than what the actions and dialogues allow.  The narrator does not give the reader access  to the characters’ thoughts and feelings.

b. Third person omniscient— the  narrator  knows everything about his characters; he does not only reports the facts but may also interpret events and relate the thoughts and feelings of any character; thoughts and feelings of every characters are open to the readers.

c.  Third person limited–a narrator reports the facts and interprets events from the perspective of a single character.  He has access to the minds of one or few characters.


“The theme of a fable is its moral. The theme of a parable is its teaching. The theme of a piece of fiction is its view about life and how people behave.

In fiction, the theme is not intended to teach or preach. In fact, it is not presented directly at all. You extract it from the characters, action, and setting that make up the story. In other words, you must figure out the theme yourself.”–

THEME. The main idea or underlying meaning of a literary work. A theme may be stated or implied, but most of the times implied.  Theme differs from the subject or topic of a literary work in that it involves a statement or opinion about the topic.  Themes may be major or minor.  A major theme is an idea the author returns to time and again. It becomes one of the most important ideas in the story. Minor themes are ideas that may appear from time to time.

Ms. Espie says:  In fiction, the theme is the point, main idea, or message that the author wishes  to convey in a literary work.  Once figured out, it is stated in only one sentence, NOT one word or one phrase; it is NOT the moral of the story.  Rather, the moral of the story is derived from it. This is what I often tell my students, because whenever I get to the point that I ask them about the theme of the story we have just discussed, they start their sentences with “Do not…” or “We should not…”, or some other proverbs or sayings or classic quotes.   To visualize the difference, I give them this diagram:  

subject/ motif ———————–> theme —————-> moral lesson

where subject is the topic, stated in one word or phrase, e.g. love.  Now, love is a very general term. What kind of love? Unrequited love? Unconditional love?

For the theme, ask: What does the story say about unconditional love?  “People who love unconditionally do not expect much from their partners.”  Well, this is just one way of saying it. There are one thousand ways to kill a cat.  Of course, that’s metaphorical.  It only means to say that a theme can be stated in many other ways.  Just remember that in stating a theme, you have to apply it to mankind, so avoid saying: the character loves unconditionally and does not expect much from his partner.  Remove the individual now.  It  has to be elevated to a general sense, hence, say: “People who love unconditionally do not expect much from their partners.”   So, after composing your theme in a statement, you are ready to determine what moral lesson the story imparts to you.  Perhaps you can say then,  “Do not expect much from your partner if you love him unconditionally,” or you may start quoting from Corinthians.


It is important to recognize the difference between the theme of a literary work and the subject of a literary work. The subject is the topic on which an author has chosen to write. The theme, however, makes some statement about or expresses some opinion on that topic. For example, the subject of a story might be war while the theme might be the idea that war is useless.

Four ways in which an author can express themes are as follows:

1. Themes are expressed and emphasized by the way the author makes us feel.  By sharing feelings of the main character you also share the ideas that go through his mind.

2. Themes are presented in thoughts and conversations. Authors put words in their character’s mouths only for good reasons. One of these is to develop a story’s themes. The things a person says are much on their mind. Look for thoughts that are repeated throughout the story.

3. Themes are suggested through the characters. The main character usually illustrates the most important theme of the story. A good way to get at this theme is to ask yourself the question, what does the main character learn in the course of the story?

 4. The actions or events in the story are used to suggest theme. People naturally express ideas and feelings through their actions. One thing authors think about is what an action will “say”.  In other words, how will the action express an idea or theme?




Subject is also defined as the salient or central idea.  But in literature, it is specifically  a limited concept such as recurring elements (leitmotifs or simply motifs), contrasts,  devices,  and  mere topics  from which the themes are developed.  Like, what is the subject–false pride; the theme derived from it–false pride can bring one to his own destruction.   I’m pretty sure you know which story this theme is applicable to.

Good vs Evil is a very common subject or motif (oftenly repeated element) in literature; it refers to the classic struggle between the wily forces of evil and the innocence of good.




“Reading literature is best described as an act of discovery through which individuals participate in the lives and experiences of others, explore possible selves and possible worlds, and acquire insights that make their own lives more meaningful and comprehensible. In this regard, literature is unique in its ability to provide readers with a “lived through” understanding of experience and not simply “knowledge about” themselves and the social world.” by Bill McGinley, Professor of Education, University of Colorado (read more at

Value is an ideal that refers to  the important and enduring beliefs of an individual or culture, delineating what is good and acceptable or what is not.

Values are considered subjective and vary across people and cultures.

Values greatly influence the behavior of an individual and serve as general guidelines that one may use as reference in all situations.

Types of values include:

  • ethical/moral values,
  • doctrinal/ideological (political, religious) values,
  • social values, and
  • aesthetic values
  • intellectual values



Tone encompasses the attitudes toward the subject and toward the audience implied in a literary work.  Tone may be formal, informal, intimate, solemn, somber, playful, serious, ironic, condescending, or many other possible attitudes.  Tone and mood are not interchangeable.  (

Tone is the ambiance that the author wants to set in the  narrative. It is achieved by his diction, style, and the opinion that his character expresses.



Mood is the feeling, atmosphere or climate  perceived by the reader.  It  is associated with how the reader emotionally responds to these elements like sadness for a tragedy.   It is achieved by the author’s choice of words, objects, details, images and setting.

For a list of tone and mood words, click here.    


Imagery is the total mental picture achieved in a literary work as a result of the author’s use of words and phrases that appeal to the senses.  Through these descriptive words that evoke the senses, the reader experiences the  imaginary world that is created by the author.

There are different forms of imagery:

  • Visual imagery is perhaps the most frequently used form.  The words and phrases used appeal to the sense of sight.
  • Auditory imagery represents a sound; the use of onomatopoeic words is not uncommon.
  • Kinetic imagery represents movement; verbs or action words are highly utilized.
  • Olfactory imagery appeals to the sense of smell.  Words like aroma, fragrance, stinky, rancid all describes the smell of something.
  • Gustatory imagery represents a taste. Sample words are bitter, sweet, tangy, minty.
  • Tactile imagery represents touch.  Sample words are velvety, silk, rough, jagged.


An author’s writing style is as unique as his fingerprints.

Ms. Espie says: Style has always been a not-so-easy topic to explain.  Although we can always say that style is not much concerned with what one writes but with how one writes.  I guess that is, in reality, easier said than done.    The entries that follow, limited to this element,  have been lifted from Wikipedia. Although some of the terminologies have been discussed earlier, I decided not to omit them since their descriptions here are brief anyway.

Components of style

Style in fiction includes the use of various literary techniques.

  • Fiction-writing modes.   Fiction is a form of narrative, one of the four rhetorical modes of discourse. Fiction-writing also has distinct forms of expression, or modes, each with its own purposes and conventions. Agent and author Evan Marshall identifies five fiction-writing modes: action, summary, dialogue, feelings/thoughts, and background (Marshall 1998, pp. 143–165). Author and writing-instructor Jessica Page Morrell lists six delivery modes for fiction-writing: action, exposition, description, dialogue, summary, and transition (Morrell 2006, p. 127). Author Peter Selgin refers to methods, including action, dialogue, thoughts, summary, scene, and description (Selgin 2007, p. 38). Currently, there is no consensus within the writing community regarding the number and composition of fiction-writing modes and their uses.
  • Narrator. The narrator is the teller of the story, the orator, doing the mouthwork, or its in-print equivalent. A writer is faced with many choices regarding the narrator of a story: first-person narrative, third-person narrative, unreliable narrator, stream-of-consciousness writing. A narrator may be either obtrusive or unobtrusive, depending on the author’s intended relationship between himself, the narrator, the point-of-view character, and the reader.
  • Point of View is from whose consciousness the reader hears, sees, and feels the story.
  • Allegory is a work of fiction in which the symbols, characters, and events come to represent, in somewhat point-by-point fashion, a different metaphysical, political, or social situation.
  • Symbolism refers to any object or person which represents something else.
  • Tone refers to the attitude that a story creates toward its subject matter. Tone may be formal, informal, intimate, solemn, somber, playful, serious, ironic, condescending, or many other possible attitude.
  • Imagery is used in fiction to refer to descriptive language that evokes sensory experience. Imagery may be in many forms, such as metaphors and similes.
  • Punctuation is everything in written language other than the actual letters or numbers, including punctuation marks, inter-word spaces, and indentation.
  • Word Choice. Diction, in its original, primary meaning, refers to the writer’s or the speaker’s distinctive vocabulary choices and style of expression. Literary diction analysis reveals how a passage establishes tone and characterization; for example, a preponderance of verbs relating physical movement suggests an active character, while a preponderance of verbs relating states of mind portrays an introspective character.
  • Grammar. In linguistics, grammar refers to the logical and structural rules that govern the composition of sentences, phrases, and words in any given natural language. Grammar also refers to the study of such rules. This field includes morphology and syntax, often complemented by phonetics, phonology, semantics, and pragmatics.
  • Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability to form mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses.[citation needed]
  • Cohesion is the grammatical and lexical relationship within a text or sentence. Cohesion can be defined as the links that hold a text together and give it meaning.
  • Suspension of disbelief is the reader’s temporary acceptance of story elements as believable, regardless of how implausible they may seem in real life.
  • Voice. In grammar, the voice (also called diathesis) of a verb describes the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object, etc.). When the subject is the agent or actor of the verb, the verb is in the active voice. When the subject is the patient, target or undergoer of the action, it is said to be in the passive voice.

At this point I would like to add a few more literary techniques that enrich the author’s unique style in prose writing.

  • Flashback is a literary or cinematic device in which an earlier event is inserted into the normal chronological order of a narrative.  This technique includes recollection of memories, dreams, and re-telling of old stories or past events.  Flashback is important in bringing into the present a background to a conflict or situation, or to inform the reader about the character or the place of interest.
  • Foreshadowing is the use of subtle  hints or clues to suggest to the reader what will happen later in the story.  This may be an object, an animal, a person, or an incident that appears or happens innocently earlier and will have a great impact later on as the plot thickens.
  • Sarcasm is a form of wit of which the user speaks of something which is the complete opposite of what he  means. Its purpose, generally, is to put its target to ridicule or contempt.  Sarcastic remarks  also attempts to introduce comic element into the narrative.
  • Satire.  The word refers to a literary composition, in verse or in prose, that makes  use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding human weakness, folly or vice, in an attempt to expose or correct it. Satire evokes attitudes of amusement, contempt, scorn, or indignation toward its  erring subject.
  • Irony is a literary device  in which the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same.

From Wikipedia: Types of Irony

Types of irony

Modern theories of rhetoric distinguish among verbal, dramatic and situational irony.

  • Verbal irony is a disparity of expression and intention: when a speaker says one thing but means another, or when a literal meaning is contrary to its intended effect. An example of this is when someone says “Oh, that’s beautiful”, when what they mean (probably conveyed by their tone) is they find “that” quite ugly.
  • Dramatic irony is a disparity of expression and awareness: when words and actions possess a significance that the listener or audience understands, but the speaker or character does not. For example when a character says to another “I’ll love you until I die!” not realizing a piano is about to crush them.
  • Situational irony is the disparity of intention and result: when the result of an action is contrary to the desired or expected effect. Likewise, cosmic irony is disparity between human desires and the harsh realities of the outside world. By some definitions, situational irony and cosmic irony are not irony at all.




Filed under: Short Stories — espierspectives @ 4:53 PM


by Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing, Cologne, 2006

Image via Wikipedia

Going to the shore on the first morning of the holiday, the young English boy stopped at a turning of the path and looked down at a wild and rocky bay, and then over to the crowded beach he knew so well from other years. His mother walked on in front of him, carrying a bright-striped bag in one hand. Her other arm, swinging loose, was very white in the sun. The boy watched that white, naked arm, and turned his eyes, which had a frown behind them, toward the bay and back again to his mother. When she felt he was not with her, she swung around. “Oh, there you are, Jerry!” she said. She looked impatient, then smiled. “Why, darling, would you rather not come with me? Would you rather-”

She frowned, conscientiously worrying over what amusements he might secretly be longing for which she had been too busy or too careless to imagine. He was very familiar with that anxious, apologetic smile. Contrition sent him running after her. And yet, as he ran, he looked back over his shoulder at the wild bay; and all morning, as he played on the safe beach, he was thinking of it.

Next morning, when it was time for the routine of swimming and sunbathing, his mother said, “Are you tired of the usual beach, Jerry? Would you like to go somewhere else?”

“Oh, no!” he said quickly, smiling at her out of that unfailing impulse of contrition – a sort of chivalry. Yet, walking down the path with her, he blurted out, “I’d like to go and have a look at those rocks down there.”

She gave the idea her attention. It was a wild-looking place, and there was no one there, but she said, “Of course, Jerry. When you’ve had enough come to the big beach. Or just go straight back to the villa, if you like.” She walked away, that bare arm, now slightly reddened from yesterday’s sun, swinging. And he almost ran after her again, feeling it unbearable that she should go by herself, but he did not.

She was thinking, Of course he’s old enough to be safe without me. Have I been keeping him too close? He mustn’t feel he ought to be with me. I must be careful.

He was an only child, eleven years old. She was a widow. She was determined to be neither possessive nor lacking in devotion. She went worrying off to her beach.

As for Jerry, once he saw that his mother had gained her beach, he began the steep descent to the bay. From where he was, high up among red-brown rocks, it was a scoop of moving bluish green fringed with white. As he went lower, he saw that it spread among small promontories and inlets of rough, sharp rock, and the crisping, lapping surface showed stains of purple and darker blue. Finally, as he ran sliding and scraping down the last few yards, he saw an edge of white surf, and the shallow, luminous movement of water over white sand, and, beyond that, a solid, heavy blue.

He ran straight into the water and began swimming. He was a good swimmer. He went out fast over the gleaming sand, over a middle region where rocks lay like discoloured monsters under the surface, and then he was in the real sea – a warm sea where irregular cold currents from the deep water shocked his limbs.

When he was so far out that he could look back not only on the little bay but past the promontory that was between it and the big beach, he floated on the buoyant surface and looked for his mother. There she was, a speck of yellow under an umbrella that looked like a slice of orange peel. He swam back to shore, relieved at being sure she was there, but all at once very lonely.

On the edge of a small cape that marked the side of the bay away from the promontory was a loose scatter of rocks. Above them, some boys were stripping off their clothes. They came running, naked, down to the rocks. The English boy swam towards them, and kept his distance at a stone’s throw. They were of that coast, all of them burned smooth dark brown, and speaking a language he did not understand. To be with them, of them, was a craving that filled his whole body. He swam a little closer; they turned and watched him with narrowed, alert dark eyes. Then one smiled and waved. It was enough. In a minute, he had swum in and was on the rocks beside them, smiling with a desperate, nervous supplication. They shouted cheerful greetings at him, and then, as he preserved his nervous, uncomprehending smile, they understood that he was a foreigner strayed from his own beach, and they proceeded to forget him. But he was happy. He was with them.

They began diving again and again from a high point into a well of blue sea between rough, pointed rocks. After they had dived and come up, they swam around, hauled themselves up, and waited their turn to dive again. They were big boys — men to Jerry. He dived, and they watched him, and when he swam around to take his place, they made way for him. He felt he was accepted, and he dived again, carefully, proud of himself.

Soon the biggest of the boys poised himself, shot down into the water, and did not come up. The others stood about, watching. Jerry, after waiting for the sleek brown head to appear, let out a yell of warning; they looked at him idly and turned their eyes back towards the water. After a long time, the boy came up on the other side of a big dark rock, letting the air out of his lungs in a spluttering gasp and a shout of triumph. Immediately, the rest of them dived in. One moment, the morning seemed full of chattering boys; the next, the air and the surface of the water were empty. But through the heavy blue, dark shapes could be seen moving and groping.

Jerry dived, shot past the school of underwater swimmers, saw a black wall of rock looming at him, touched it, and bobbed up at once to the surface, where the wall was a low barrier he could see across. There was no one visible; under him, in the water, the dim shapes of the swimmers had disappeared. Then one, and then another of the boys came up on the far side of the barrier of rock, and he understood that they had swum through some gap or hole in it. He plunged down again. He could see nothing through the stinging salt water but the blank rock. When he came up, the boys were all on the diving rock, preparing to attempt the feat again. And now, in a panic of failure, he yelled up, in English, “Look at me! Look!” and he began splashing and kicking in the water like a foolish dog.

They looked down gravely, frowning. He knew the frown. At moments of failure, when he clowned to claim his mother’s attention, it was with just this grave, embarrassed inspection that she rewarded him. Through his hot shame, feeling the pleading grin on his face like a scar that he could never remove, he looked up at the group of big brown boys on the rock and shouted, “Bonjour! Merci! Au revoir! Monsieur, monsieur!” while he hooked his fingers round his ears and waggled them.

Water surged into his mouth; he choked, sank, came up. The rock, lately weighed with boys, seemed to rear up out of the water as their weight was removed. They were flying down past him, now, into the water; the air was full of falling bodies. Then the rock was empty in the hot sunlight. He counted one, two, three . . . .

At fifty, he was terrified. They must all be drowning beneath him, in the watery caves of the rock! At a hundred, he stared around him at the empty hillside, wondering if he should yell for help. He counted faster, faster, to hurry them up, to bring them to the surface quickly, to drown them quickly – anything rather than the terror of counting on and on into the blue emptiness of the morning. And then, at a hundred and sixty, the water beyond the rock was full of boys blowing like brown whales. They swam back to the shore without a look at him.

He climbed back to the diving rock and sat down, feeling the hot roughness of it under his thighs. The boys were gathering up their bits of clothing and running off along the shore to another promontory. They were leaving to get away from him. He cried openly, fists in his eyes. There was no one to see him, and he cried himself out.

It seemed to him that a long time had passed, and he swam out to where he could see his mother. Yes, she was still there, a yellow spot under an orange umbrella. He swam back to the big rock, climbed up, and dived into the blue pool among the fanged and angry boulders. Down he went, until he touched the wall of rock again. But the salt was so painful in his eyes that he could not see.

He came to the surface, swam to shore and went back to the villa to wait for his mother. Soon she walked slowly up the path, swinging her striped bag, the flushed, naked arm dangling beside her. “I want some swimming goggles,” he panted, defiant and beseeching.

She gave him a patient, inquisitive look as she said casually, “Well, of course, darling.”

But now, now, now! He must have them this minute, and no other time. He nagged and pestered until she went with him to a shop. As soon as she had bought the goggles, he grabbed them from her hand as if she were going to claim them for herself, and was off, running down the steep path to the bay.

Jerry swam out to the big barrier rock, adjusted the goggles, and dived. The impact of the water broke the rubber-enclosed vacuum, and the goggles came loose. He understood that he must swim down to the base of the rock from the surface of the water. He fixed the goggles tight and firm, filled his lungs, and floated, face down, on the water. Now he could see. It was as if he had eyes of a different kind — fish eyes that showed everything clear and delicate and wavering in the bright water.

Under him, six or seven feet down, was a floor of perfectly clean, shining white sand, rippled firm and hard by the tides. Two greyish shapes steered there, like long, rounded pieces of wood or slate. They were fish. He saw them nose towards each other, poise motionless, make a dart forward, swerve off, and come around again. It was like a water dance. A few inches above them, the water sparkled as if sequins were dropping through it. Fish again — myriads of minute fish, the length of his fingernail, were drifting through the water, and in a moment he could feel the innumerable tiny touches of them against his limbs. It was like swimming in flaked silver. The great rock the big boys had swum through rose sheer out of the white sand, black, tufted lightly with greenish weed. He could see no gap in it. He swam down to its base.

Again and again he rose, took a big chestful of air, and went down. Again and again he groped over the surface of the rock, feeling it, almost hugging it in the desperate need to find the entrance. And then, once, while he was clinging to the black wall, his knees came up and he shot his feet out forward and they met no obstacle. He had found the hole.

He gained the surface, clambered about the stones that littered the barrier rock until he found a big one, and, with this in his arms, let himself down over the side of the rock. He dropped, with the weight, straight to the sandy floor. Clinging tight to the anchor of stone, he lay on his side and looked in under the dark shelf at the place where his feet had gone. He could see the hole. It was an irregular, dark gap, but he could not see deep into it. He let go of his anchor, clung with his hands to the edges of the hole, and tried to push himself in.

He got his head in, found his shoulders jammed, moved them in sidewise, and was inside as far as his waist. He could see nothing ahead. Something soft and clammy touched his mouth, he saw a dark frond moving against the greyish rock, and panic filled him. He thought of octopuses, of clinging weed. He pushed himself out backward and caught a glimpse, as he retreated, of a harmless tentacle of seaweed drifting in the mouth of the tunnel. But it was enough. He reached the sunlight, swam to shore, and lay on the diving rock. He looked down into the blue well of water. He knew he must find his way through that cave, or hole, or tunnel, and out the other side.

First, he thought, he must learn to control his breathing. He let himself down into the water with another big stone in his arms, so that he could lie effortlessly on the bottom of the sea. He counted. One, two, three. He counted steadily. He could hear the movement of blood in his chest. Fifty-one, fifty-two . . . . His chest was hurting. He let go of the rock and went up into the air. He saw that the sun was low. He rushed to the villa and found his mother at her supper. She said only “Did you enjoy yourself?” and he said “Yes.”

All night, the boy dreamed of the water-filled cave in the rock, and as soon as breakfast was over he went to the hay.

That night, his nose bled badly. For hours he had been underwater, learning to hold his breath, and now he felt weak and dizzy. His mother said, “I shouldn’t overdo things, darling, if I were you.”

That day and the next, Jerry exercised his lungs as if everything, the whole of his life, all that he would become, depended upon it. And again his nose bled at night, and his mother insisted on his coming with her the next day. It was a torment to him to waste a day of his careful self-training, but he stayed with her on that other beach, which now seemed a place for small children, a place where his mother might lie safe in the sun. It was not his beach.

He did not ask for permission, on the following day, to go to his beach. He went, before his mother could consider the complicated rights and wrongs of the matter. A day’s rest, he discovered, had improved his count by ten. The big boys had made the passage while he counted a hundred and sixty. He had been counting fast, in his fright. Probably now, if he tried, he could get through that long tunnel, but he was not going to try yet. A curious, most unchildlike persistence, a controlled impatience, made him wait. In the meantime, he lay underwater on the white sand, littered now by stones he had brought down from the upper air, and studied the entrance to the tunnel. He knew every jut and corner of it, as far as it was possible to see. It was as if he already felt its sharpness about his shoulders.

He sat by the clock in the villa, when his mother was not near, and checked his time. He was incredulous and then proud to find he could hold his breath without strain for two minutes. The words “two minutes”, authorized by the clock, brought the adventure that was so necessary to him close.

In another four days, his mother said casually one morning, they must go home. On the day before they left, he would do it. He would do it if it killed him, he said defiantly to himself. But two days before they were to leave – a day of triumph when he increased his count by fifteen – his nose bled so badly that he turned dizzy and had to lie limply over the big rock like a bit of seaweed, watching the thick red blood flow on to the rock and trickle slowly down to the sea. He was frightened. Supposing he turned dizzy in the tunnel? Supposing he died there, trapped? Supposing — his head went around, in the hot sun, and he almost gave up. He thought he would return to the house and lie down, and next summer, perhaps, when he had another year’s growth in him – then he would go through the hole.

But even after he had made the decision, or thought he had, he found himself sitting up on the rock and looking down into the water, and he knew that now, this moment when his nose had only just stopped bleeding, when his head was still sore and throbbing — this was the moment when he would try. If he did not do it now, he never would. He was trembling with fear that he would not go, and he was trembling with horror at that long, long tunnel under the rock, under the sea. Even in the open sunlight, the barrier rock seemed very wide and very heavy; tons of rock pressed down on where he would go. If he died there, he would lie until one day — perhaps not before next year — those big boys would swim into it and find it blocked.

He put on his goggles, fitted them tight, tested the vacuum. His hands were shaking. Then he chose the biggest stone he could carry and slipped over the edge of the rock until half of him was in the cool, enclosing water and half in the hot sun. He looked up once at the empty sky, filled his lungs once, twice, and then sank fast to the bottom with the stone. He let it go and began to count. He took the edges of the hole in his hands and drew himself into it, wriggling his shoulders in sidewise as he remembered he must, kicking himself along with his feet.

Soon he was clear inside. He was in a small rock-bound hole filled with yellowish-grey water. The water was pushing him up against the roof. The roof was sharp and pained his back. He pulled himself along with his hands — fast, fast — and used his legs as levers. His head knocked against something; a sharp pain dizzied him. Fifty, fifty-one, fifty-two . . . . He was without light, and the water seemed to press upon him with the weight of rock. Seventy-one, seventy-two . . . . There was no strain on his lungs. He felt like an inflated balloon, his lungs were so light and easy, but his head was pulsing.

He was being continually pressed against the sharp roof, which felt slimy as well as sharp. Again he thought of octopuses, and wondered if the tunnel might be filled with weed that could tangle him. He gave himself a panicky, convulsive kick forward, ducked his head, and swam. His feet and hands moved freely, as if in open water. The hole must have widened out. He thought he must be swimming fast, and he was frightened of banging his head if the tunnel narrowed.

A hundred, a hundred and one. . . The water paled. Victory filled him. His lungs were beginning to hurt. A few more strokes and he would be out. He was counting wildly; he said a hundred and fifteen, and then, a long time later, a hundred and fifteen again. The water was a clear jewel-green all around him. Then he saw, above his head, a crack running up through the rock. Sunlight was falling through it, showing the clean dark rock of the tunnel, a single mussel shell, and darkness ahead.

He was at the end of what he could do. He looked up at the crack as if it were filled with air and not water, as if he could put his mouth to it to draw in air. A hundred and fifteen, he heard himself say inside his head — but he had said that long ago. He must go on into the blackness ahead, or he would drown. His head was swelling, his lungs cracking. A hundred and fifteen, a hundred and fifteen pounded through his head, and he feebly clutched at rocks in the dark, pulling himself forward, leaving the brief space of sunlit water behind. He felt he was dying. He was no longer quite conscious. He struggled on in the darkness between lapses into unconsciousness. An immense, swelling pain filled his head, and then the darkness cracked with an explosion of green light. His hands, groping forward, met nothing, and his feet, kicking back, propelled him out into the open sea.

He drifted to the surface, his face turned up to the air. He was gasping like a fish. He felt he would sink now and drown; he could not swim the few feet back to the rock. Then he was clutching it and pulling himself up on it. He lay face down, gasping. He could see nothing but a red-veined, clotted dark. His eyes must have burst, he thought; they were full of blood. He tore off his goggles and a gout of blood went into the sea. His nose was bleeding, and the blood had filled the goggles.

He scooped up handfuls of water from the cool, salty sea, to splash on his face, and did not know whether it was blood or salt water he tasted. After a time, his heart quieted, his eyes cleared, and he sat up. He could see the local boys diving and playing half a mile away. He did not want them. He wanted nothing but to get back home and lie down.

In a short while, Jerry swam to shore and climbed slowly up the path to the villa. He flung himself on his bed and slept, waking at the sound of feet on the path outside. His mother was coming back. He rushed to the bathroom, thinking she must not see his face with bloodstains, or tearstains, on it. He came out of the bathroom and met her as she walked into the villa, smiling, her eyes lighting up. “Have a nice morning?” she asked, laying her head on his warm brown shoulder a moment.

“Oh, yes, thank you,” he said.

“You look a bit pale.” And then, sharp and anxious. “How did you bang your head?”

“Oh, just banged it,” he told her.

She looked at him closely. He was strained. His eyes were glazed-looking. She was worried. And then she said to herself, “Oh, don’t fuss! Nothing can happen. He can swim like a fish.”

They sat down to lunch together.

“Mummy,” he said, “I can stay under water for two minutes — three minutes, at least.”

It came bursting out of him.

“Can you, darling?” she said. “Well, I shouldn’t overdo it. I don’t think you ought to swim any more today.”

She was ready for a battle of wills, but he gave in at once. It was no longer of the least importance to go to the bay.

  1. What is Jerry’s ultimate goal?
  2. What motivated him to reach that goal?
  3. Explain the conflicts.
  4. What transformation did Jerry undergo?

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