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Literature Themes on the Impact of Discovery

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1103 words Published: 4th Sep 2017

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It is the nature of meaningful discoveries, to challenge and shift one’s perceptions, in either an unexpected and sudden, or planned and deliberate medium[DK1]. The consequences of discovery may be positive or negative, yet the ability of discovery to empower through allowing changes in one’s ideals and self-evaluations is unparalleled[DK2]. William Shakespeare’s Elizabethan/Jacobean play, The Tempest (1600s) explores the discovery of mortality and the fragile nature of mankind, which is mirrored by Adrienne Rich’s poem Diving into the Wreck (1973). Also, Patrick Ness’ novel, A Monster Calls showcases a child’s journey to discover his hidden desires and ideology, through the influence of an external power. Through the varying mediums and contextual backgrounds, the three texts explore the enduring values of discovery, and the capacity of discovery to renew perceptions through an unexpected/sudden or planned and deliberate medium.

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Certain discoveries function to transform one’s values and renew perspectives. Through the play, The Tempest, Shakespeare showcases Prospero’s intellectual discovery of his limitations as a mortal and the consequential rediscovery of his human morals. Prospero showcases his initial hatred towards the royal crew, rooted from past betrayals, as he says “They now are in my power. And in these fits, I leave them”. The truncated sentence emphasises Prospero’s cruel and revengeful mindset, depicting his firm belief in “power” being the tool for vengeance. However, a dramatic change in Prospero’s attitude can be seen, as he makes an unexpected discovery of human mortality following Ariel’s monologue, which states, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep,”, here “sleep” is a symbol for death, and the metaphor of “dream” accentuates Prospero’s intellectual discovery of life’s fragility, where one’s memories and earthly possessions are temporary juxtaposed to the vastly eternal world. Through the alliterative “such sleep” and “little life”, Prospero emphasises the insignificance of human life, and with it, the insignificance of his art. As he discovers the futility of his power in the face of mortality, Prospero rediscovers his humanity and gains a renewed understanding of the futility of vengeance. He says, “My charms I’ll break….They shall be themselves”, juxtaposing to his initial cruelty and will to revenge and hence portraying the change in his perception. Therefore, the renewal of perceptions through unexpected discoveries is evident through Prospero’s rediscovery of empathy which he gains through the intellectual experience.

Similarly, the intellectual discovery of human mortality allows a re-evaluation of one’s values and identity which is further explored in Adrienne Rich’s poem ‘Diving into the Wreck’. Rich’s depiction of human mortality, and the fleeting nature of life, mirrors that of Prospero’s discovery, expressing a sense of community gained through renewed understanding of the inevitability of death. Rich personifies a shipwreck in, “ribs of disaster” to represent humanity, the metaphorical “ribs” alluding to human bones which symbolise the basis of life, but also the imminent death that all of humanity faces. The persona’s intellectual discovery of mortality is further evident as she refers to “we” as “half-destroyed instruments… water eaten log, the fouled compass”, alluding to death and portraying the inescapable nature of mortality. As the persona gains a renewed understanding of life and death, she develops a spiritual connection with humanity, leading to a re-evaluation of her perceptions. Her initial depiction of her identity and values can be seen as the positive tone in “Cousteau with his assiduous team aboard the sun-flooded schooner…” directly juxtaposing to the grim tone in the recurring motif of loneliness; “but here alone… there is no-one”. However her unexpected discovery of human mortality leads to a change in her self evaluation, as evident in “I am she: I am he… We are, I am, you are…” where the connection between first second and third perspectives unify human beings under the concept of mortality. The persona, therefore is able to gain comfort from the spiritual connection based on mortality and gain a renewed understanding on her identity as a human being, hence showcasing the consequential shift in perception as a result of an unexpected discovery.

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Similarly, the planned discovery leading to re-evaluation of self and change in perception is further explored in Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, as he reflects the planned and deliberate process that a child takes in order to discover and accept his hidden desires and ideals. The “Yew tree”is introduced through the repetition of dialogue, “Connor“, written in an italic, holophrastic form. The short, conjunct repetition reflects the random and conjunct nature of one’s subconscious thoughts, hence depicting the embodiment of the persona’s subconscious in the “Yew tree”. The truncated sentence in “and here was the monster” as Connor comes to face the “Yew tree” emphasises his initial reluctance to acknowledge his subconscious, further exemplified in the negative connotation in anthropomorphic description of “monster”. The negative tone highlights Connor’s rejective perception towards the tree, and hence showcases the innate stubbornness of humanity when one comes to face possible changes. The confronting process of discovery, led by his subconscious can be seen in the emotive repetition of “NO!”, the capitalisation and the exclamation mark further reflecting the persona’s unwillingness to accept his hidden desires and ideals.



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