Thoughts

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights can be described as a tragic love story along the lines of the great tragedies that have been written on the theme. What sets it apart from other works in this genre; however, is the description of pure depravity, which is propounded through its central character, the ever famous Heathcliff. He seems too unearthly, someone who is conceived only to draw hatred and disgust. There is; however, a meek justification proffered in his defense. He is brought to Wuthering Heights with a handicap of not belonging to the society, a world full of etiquettes, refinement, and conventions that come with civilization, a world which eventually abandons him as an outcast. What follows is an unchecked wrath and contempt that propel him to inflict pain and helplessness on everything he comes across. This unadulterated scorn for humanity and all of its good qualities makes him look illogical, more like an idea instead of a person, something that would look almost ridiculous if placed out of the frame of the story and it’s setting. The ability to transcend logic while writing fiction and yet make it acceptable, as a form of pure thought and imagination is characteristic of poetry. It is the poetic element in Emily Bronte’s writing that impresses you as you start on the journey towards the Wuthering Heights.

‘one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun.’ – Chapter I

Poetry comes with its uncertainties, with a requirement for interpretation that is human and individualistic, one that doesn’t get bounded by logic and reasoning. There is no universal truth that is presented, but a bare thought, almost whimsical because it doesn’t come fortified with reason. The omniscient narrators in fiction; however, cannot afford to stray, cannot be seen as manipulative while presenting the story. To compensate for the poetic nature of the theme and the unnatural behavior of the characters, we have not one but two narrators who are themselves part of the story. Mr Lockwood is the primary narrator but his version is derived, or possibly reproduced as it was from the narration of another character in the story, Ellen Dean. She is a narrator who has been a participant in most of the scenes, but throughout the book she seems to be wavering between romanticism, honesty, loyalty and redemption, something that induces doubt on the veracity of her words. These choices; of having layers of narration and adding some dubiousness to it, seem like a conscious decision taken by the author, most likely to make the readers question each event. Maybe it is an invitation to the discerning reader to look beyond the surface of the story as it is perused.

‘but I have undergone sharp discipline, which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy, Mr. Lockwood. You could not open a book in this library that I have not looked into, and got something out of also’ – Ellen Dean

The story commences from the childhood of Heathcliff and Catherine when love gradually takes root as the kids go exploring the heaths and the moors away from the eyes of adults and their ways. It is in the conflict between their innocence and the moral and appropriate behavior as professed by the adults, that this love grows offshoots; those which reach beyond the realms where it could have been destroyed. This story can be seen in the light of this conflict. Society adds a lot of constraints and restraints, keeping innocence and individuality in check for its sustenance. It is eternally in opposition to the free, childlike spirit of the individual which has an inherent tendency to oppose any restraint, in the process even going to the extent of appearing irrational. But it is the same children that grow into the convention abiding adults, once they concede defeat to the forces of society and its rules, that is. Even in such a person, the spirit of the kid doesn’t die. It manifests itself in the moments of extreme emotions or extreme abandon when one loses one’s guard. Catherine, when faced with the forces and the lure of society concedes to it, she chooses the worldly beau who is refined, rich and sensitive. Heathcliff, on the other hand is not offered any such option, he is left alone in the heath of his bare existence. He is no different from a child who has been shown the pudding, given a taste of it and then denied any further access to it. So like a child he goes about, for the rest of his life, not just hating the cruel world but wrecking havoc on it. Never graduating to become a conformist, he has no regard for the forces of conscience, pity or a definition of good and bad. He knows he has been wronged, for no apparent transgression on his part and therefore the world he is against is evil. His actions are not only justified since he is acting against the wickedness, but they also make him the righteous one. We see no remorse in the man as his deeds keep ruining the lives of people around him, making him a villain who deserves all the hatred of society, if only because instead of giving a speech for his redemption at the end he offers sarcasm and a sneer.

It’s odd what a savage feeling I have to anything that seems afraid of me! Had I been born where laws are less strict and tastes less dainty, I should treat myself to a slow vivisection of those two, as an evening’s amusement.’ – Heathcliff.

The poetics employed in the book also take us to the domain of romanticism. The gothic background and the delineation of characters conjures up images that elicit strong emotions from the reader. The disconnect between the world outside Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and the world inside guides the reader to go on the path of fantasy. The flaws in all the characters makes us question the flaws within us. Romanticism makes the world seem fantastic but it comes with a side effect, a consciousness of what is lacking, a question to what is real. These thoughts invariably take a turn towards the cardinal conundrum of existence. Love once stripped down of romanticism can be construed as an undertaking to further one’s existence. Existence of self is the most beautiful and profound concept for the individual, it’s so palpable that everything else starts to seem trivial. However, this solitary nature of its realization forces us to find an extension of our existence beyond the self, as a proof that it’s not an illusion we hold within us. The acknowledgement of our existence, to its very minute details, in another person is more satisfying than life itself, and more liberating than death. We therefore tend to efface our ego when we are truly in love, the loved one becomes the only person that exists in our world. Most of the love stories resist in bringing about a union of the lovers, it’s in death and failure to consummate that this proof of existence, and therefore life, is strengthened. Catherine, in her quavering speech justifying her decision to marry Linton ends up saying that she herself is Heathcliff, there is just no distinction.

I have not broken your heart—you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine.So much the worse for me that I am strong. Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you—oh, God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?’ – Heathcliff.

The later part of the book seems like an effort to exonerate the author for being too bleak in her outlook towards life. The older generation consisted of Heathcliff, amply described above as the rebel against goodness, Catherine who is just like Heathcliff but betrays her freedom from the norms and switches to the other side, the side of Linton who represents the civilized world. It is in retrospect that we see how the world, with its ultimate intention to survive, embraces the renegades. Linton goes to the extreme in this act, almost losing his respect and identity. This leniency is contradicted by his stern decision in matters of his rebel sister, symbolic of the way how the rational world is unforgiving and shuns the ones who stray. The younger generation is, and is presented to be treading the boundaries between these worlds. Young Cathy maybe saucy but she has a balance in her mental faculties and physical endurance that was lacking in her father or her mother. Young Linton is shown as weak, and almost immoral, for he is the child born from a union of the rational world who erred into the unwilling and disinterested arms of the rebel. Mirrored as the new Heathcliff, a cheerful Hareton contradicts the former’s image in his ignorance and his endeavors to gain favors from the seemingly unkind yet beautiful lady, his sense of righteousness and concern awakening amidst the almost animal identity tells us how life, and reason eventually finds its way.

In spite of all the possible ways you may choose to read and interpret the events and the people of Wuthering Heights, you will still be left enchanted and searching for meaning, searching for a better explanation of the feeling it leaves you with. It’s a feeling of being haunted by the place, by the moors, and the possibility of a love, so violent that it would destroy yourself along with everyone around you. Just like the horror movie actor who finds himself in a haunted house and to your exasperation, walks into the red room defying all logic, you will be drawn to this book again, for another reread.

‘I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. The end.’

Advertisements
Standard
Thoughts

on introspection, humor and belief

Lately I have been reading articles on topics like self-criticism, self-compassion, self-admiration and many such nouns preceded by self. To summarize the content in one line, and thereby hurting the sentiments of the authors, will be a wrong thing to do, more so because I actually love to read them. So, with much self-applause and mild self-deprecation, I will go ahead and do exactly that.

To start with, these articles seem to be talking to people who introspect, who else gets worked up with the self-ish lexicon. The natural tendency of human beings is to be critical of themselves when they communicate with the self, a characteristic that has been attributed to survival and evolution. To take criticism at the face value requires qualities that the intended readers of these posts must clearly lack. The advice offered to these recipients is to chill. But such authors, and in general those who provide unsolicited advice for the greater good, are knowledgeable and wise but lack in their faculties of humor. So, instead of chill, they end up professing avoidance of the adverse to the extent of negating the whole process of examination.

Introspection is an endeavour taken up by people who have the means for doing it, namely – time, which in turn is in supply only when you have the money or rather when you don’t aspire to make more every new day. There are exceptions but let’s go with generalizations, especially the ones that suit me. I would rather go for specifics, say a person who is passionate about his business and constantly thinks of new products or improvements in the existing ones. When he fails, he doesn’t go for self-criticism or resort to self-compassion, he doesn’t allow himself the luxury of a break to indulge in the self. Instead, he meticulously enumerates the mistakes and circumstances that led to failure and moves with much fluidity to the next idea that will make the business grow.

There are however many people in today’s world who indulge in introspection. These are the ones who live in luxury and therefore have ample time, sometimes funded by external agents like past investments, or say parents, and sometimes founded on the internal belief that they can afford the price of the activity. Here, introspection is taken very seriously, so seriously in fact that the repercussions like doubts, criticism and uncertainty start affecting their lives. The effect can swing both ways though, in some it leads to refinement and a drive to achieve more along with a conviction that they are capable of achieving more. The swing other way is detrimental, to the extent of questioning the very existence and a loss of faith. Such people, who swing the way that leads to the depression if not destruction, need to read the authors that have been elegantly summarized at the beginning of this article.

Introspection, like reason, becomes harmful when there is a lack of humor. Like reason, it bears fruit when it is not given a fixed shape, but put through questioning, disdain and taken with a pinch of salt. As soon as we give a self-approval, it takes an ugly form. On the other hand, to not approve is to wade in the untested waters, a laugh sounds and looks beautiful when it comes from a happy person. Solemn people, who read sorrowful poetry, who pray or argue like philosophers should do better to stay away from introspection.

Humor is not about taking something lightly but it is about being open to new perspective, being flexible, and not getting flustered when being humored. It is this combination of detachment and agility that liberates us from debilitating effects of both self-criticism and self-approval. Instead, introspection becomes a constructive exercise to harness the latent abilities that were being put on check due to the self-shielding methods advised as remedy.

Beyond humor comes the idea of believing in yourself. Believing in its pure form is no different than a pure lie, it requires no justification. If you had a justification for what you believe, it transforms into truth. Truth is however a passive concept, it is forced upon the individual by the various agents perpetrating it. One doesn’t believe in a truth, one simply acknowledges it. No wonder people in their dire circumstances, instead of capitulating in the face of the glaring truth, take the refuge of their beliefs and faith. It gives us the innate sense of being active, being able to do something about our problems, of being able to live.

Believing in yourself is no different, when you do so you don’t have to explain your actions or justify your decisions. You just do it because you think it is exactly what you must do. Even though it adds to confidence and happiness, it makes you more gullible, as Nike with its rising revenue figures figured out long back. This gullibility is another harbinger of humor. It is the happy, humorous and the easily gullible people who can reap the benefits of constructive introspection, but being laden with these qualities they laugh at the idea and move on selling new products, writing inane tirades or when truly evolved going back to sleep.

Standard
Thoughts

on poetry in blog world…

Poetry is rampant in the blog world, we are inundated by poems of every hue, every shade and color, not to mention the plenitude of esoteric aspects like metaphors and imagery. Even if you subscribe to a few blogs, you won’t escape the multitude of verse emanating from the prolific minds of each of these budding poets. This excess though comes at a price, as you absorb the deluge there is a steady increase in the thresholds of your sensory stimulus, a saturation of sensuousness essential for the enjoyment of this form of creative writing.

The art that gets manifested in poetry is not of the figurative type, fluid in its essence it seeps into the space of abstract thought unlike a piece of prose where the writer is more descriptive, or like non-fictional posts where the intent and the tone is overtly prescriptive. Reading a poem is like looking at a modern painting where the painter has used methods like colors, canvas and possibly structures easily identifiable by the masses, but is not emblematic of the underlying idea. She doesn’t show her intent, the crux of the piece of work or its interpretation lies within the one who is reading. Ownership of the idea that led to the piece of art is relinquished deliberately to enable it take fruition in the thoughts of the readers.

Blog readers on the other hand, are uncertain in the matters of patience and purpose, and most of them are writers of poetry themselves. So, even if the thoughts reigning the minds are similar, even though the content resonates with each other, the way to express them has to embrace the concept of form or style. Form, unlike content is a definitive organic aspect of a poet and once in the groove it’s very difficult to abandon it and embrace another. This is the basic requirement while reading another poet, because the thought that goes into a poem and the choice of words, images and the rhythm are inseparable. The alienness of another’s diction and portrayal, subverts the latent joy in rediscovering the theme and the progression of the central idea as a poem proceeds from its inception to its conclusion.

Readers who are not proficient in writing, lack these constraints but bring in a new set of limitations. They tend to interpret the content winnowing out art from the poem. This is not done as a disrespect to the poem but as a genuine interest to understand what the poet might have meant. The acceptance of ownership, that art is not universal but a very personal experience is an overwhelming concept to many. The usual refuge sought by such readers is in interpretations made by critics, thereby making one distant from the poem, the poet and even ones own volition making the whole process of reading academic, missing out on the beauty that one intended to enjoy by reading poetry.

More often than not, the poet rereading his work sees a novel beauty, a revelation that confounds even himself. It is indeed exasperating to tend to comments from these two types of readers, not to mention the irrelevant and at times frustrating comments posted for unfathomable purposes. On the other hand, it is a satisfying experience to see so many followers, likes and encouraging comments on posts you yourself are critical about. That by itself, makes writing poetry in blog world worthy of the effort and the time spent.

Standard
Fiction, Thoughts

Reflections in the dark

There is a sense of foreboding rife in the night air. Tonight there is no moon or stars, not even the distant lights that shine in his dark eyes when he searches for her. The absence of the celestial lights is not due to clouds either. The clouds from south are yet to arrive, there must be another explanation. He might be going blind. This inability to rationalize is always disconcerting, it makes him ask questions. Indulging the unknown by asking questions makes it tolerable. What is it then that holds the night together in the absence of the moon and the stars? It is not the dark sky that seems too big to care, no the sky never cared. Maybe what keeps the night alive is its arrogant defiance of light. It is only in the blatant disregard to doubts that the absolute is ever achieved.

He must learn more from the night. He must learn to swallow the light even though it burns within, leaving the taste of charred regrets. He knows he must go on till he devours the last of the wavering wisps of pride. The enemy, she had told him, lies within. He had then spent ages trying to fight it, fight them, looking for her approval. Each victory felt a load off, expunged, they became shadows. Even in the dark of this night, he can see their silhouettes. Memories don’t have a shape, structure or silver linings, they just have these haunting silhouettes. Her eyes move rapidly as if excited in his forays, but he can see from within. Beyond the eyelids, beyond the eyes, the vision she finds difficult to fathom, a vision that betrays the disappointment in him.

She was never afraid of the shadows, it’s the reflections that disturbed her. She defied them, but not with conviction. Since a young age she would stare deep into the mirror, trying to look for a movement, and often trying to gauge the depths of her soul. Is the reflection exactly as she appeared to others, or do they see more? We don’t always need mirrors to see ourselves, he had said, sometimes our reflections show us graver truths. All we need is a calm mind, and a calm mind is like a black mirror. It absorbs all the light, all your essence, rendering you void. The only proof of your existence is in the reflection, but to see the reflection emanating from the black mirror requires an assimilation into the void. She must go further to look for him, before he wakes up and she becomes one of his reflections.

He feels his mouth dried up, the tongue feeling the back of his parched throat. She must be probing again, he could feel himself drained out of life. The dryness progressing further, reaching his now withered heart. He is convinced it would spread further leaving him with a shriveled soul. The prospect is comforting. But he must exist, not because he loves her. He must exist so that she has a purpose as she sleeps keeping his night alive. He takes a last longing look at her and retreats back into the depths of the night, before she can find him and destroy them both.

Standard
Thoughts

on the lure of dark literature…

Why are we attracted to dark literature?
The art of living, as the wise gurus tell us is to be thankful, to enjoy every moment of it. To the practical mind this translates to finding happiness, and the mind concedes the futility of this search, in every moment of life. However, it sees the logic in the search for a less ephemeral and less insignificant happiness that transcends concepts like moments and breathing. This practical and therefore average mind, average because of the number of beings it rides on is far more than the other types of minds. Most people therefore live in the search of happiness.

With the platitude elegantly established, we will attempt to address the question in the first line which must feel misplaced in the paragraph. We might modify the question, now that it feels happy to be back in focus and therefore amenable to changes, and ask what is the happiness that people derive from reading dark literature. For, if reading the material is not making them feel good then they wont belong to the club of averages. If that was true, there would only be a few lovers of the dark writings. Tragedies over the ages have held a greater veneration than any comedy or writing of the type that justifies why we should be thankful for the gods, for mankind, for our existence. Contemporary literature is mostly dystopian, it reeks of suffering of the individual, a pain that one must live with in every moment and breath. A darkness pervades every word that comes out of the melancholic souls of these writers. It is overdone to such an extent that to a discerning reader, discerning being a euphemism for the cynic, this blatant display of darkness starts to seem pretentious.

However, discerning or not, we all enjoy the books we read which takes us back to where we started this ramble. The question remains unanswered. Instead of jumping into the arena and proffering an answer let us remain in the sidelines for a while as we examine the nature of the contradicting states of happiness and sorrow.

Happiness compels us to seek company. It makes us look outwards mostly because everything looks good when we are feeling so, we get this urge to spread it around. Happiness demands dissipation of the inadvertent answers it conjures up.

Suffering and pain on the other hand makes us look within. It makes us introspect as we are flooded with questions. Everything we believed in, we loved, we thought of ourself lies shattered to pieces rendering us incapable of expressing the gruesome reality that lies within, to others. Suffering is inherently implosive, it leaves us stranded on the island with a heavy backpack of these debilitating questions.

Given these definitions, and being forced to accept the definitions as they are offered, we might re-establish the platitude that no sane person would like to indulge in anything that leads to the island. At this juncture, one might feel like giving up on the answer out of frustration with this author or one might persevere and delve further as one does while reading dark literature. The reader and connoisseur of the dark must understand that though the author has been striving to apply the question in the purview of grand schemes and ubiquitous definitions, the question is not pertinent to darkness in life, it is about dark literature.

Reading is an exclusively private activity. Even though some might cite book clubs and public reading, those same members of the clubs and the audience would understand the frustration of expounding the inexplicable more than the outsiders. Reading as we all know, which we in our personal spaces are doing right now with this post, is a private affair, but so is suffering. The subject matter resonates with the verb when we take up writings of the darker shades. It also seems promising because it relates and joins us in the search for the answers to our suffering. As a result, we tend to immerse ourselves in the work instead of the detached, flippant attitude we bear while reading something comical or something uplifting.

The reason we love dark literature is also because of the fact that we all suffer, unless we are smiling gurus making others aware of their suffering and then providing vacuous solutions. Dark literature provides us with perspective that might equip us not only in answering the questions that fester, but also prepare us in coping with life as it would unfold, both on the introspective and the emphatic grounds. The art of living is not about finding or acquiring the state of happiness in every moment, but in accepting the nature of the contradicting constructs that life is and reading till you drop dead.

Standard
Thoughts

on loss, and moving on..

Losing something you hold dear is not destiny, or bad luck, or something to do with a God, something that is beyond your control.

The loss being discussed here is not about losing because of something you did, but for no apparent reason, for no fault on your part. Such loss makes us question the futility of life, the existence of a just God, questions that are more rhetoric than introspective. These questions, like all rhetorics sound good when it doesnt concern us, when it does they end up in making us wallow in self-pity. We are told that loss is arbitrary, just like life is and we must look at the bright side – be thankful of what we still have, be thankful for being alive and the infinite choices we still have. Being rationalists, that we are or raised to be so, we take such advice with the same hopelessness with which we were dealing with our loss.

The natural tendency of rationalists is to look for a theory of cause and effect, a search that inexorably leads to distress. Rationalists lack the facilities for subscribing to faith, they continue to seek answers no matter what they are told to imbibe by the wise. This enquiry either leads to frustration or to the one answer which offers no solace. The feeling of sense of loss, we realize, is conceived in our feeling of the sense of possession. Possessions are never involuntary, you need to be very much in control to claim something to be yours, attachment is always a conscious choice. The problem arises due to the anachronism of these two events, making us question if there is a free will after all. If it exists then it must play a part when we are distraught. One might argue that it does, manifested in the way we deal with loss, the way we stretch the mourning only so far. The inertia of life makes us move on towards further acquisitions and the imminent losses.

Having said that, one would question why we must indulge in the doomed affair in the first place. Can we not live without a sense of possession, thereby eliminating the concept of loss. Alternatively, if we do indulge why do we get sympathy on our losses, an act that looks humane on the surface but inevitably acts to aggravate the problem at hand. The most relevant question however is still the one we started with – is there something like destiny, bad luck or God that we can continue to rely on, to put the blame so we can keep on making sense of our lives. The only solicitous thought I have on this topic is that life may not seem to offer the answers to these questions, but it is because at the moments we are close to the answers, we are prodded to move on.

Standard
Thoughts

on titles and pictures (not to and not mentioned, the infamous tags)…

Writers have always struggled with titles.

Giving a title to your post is adding a finality to it, as soon as you do that you would find yourself treading the line between making a point and being preachy. No writer ever in the history of mankind wanted to be classified as preachy, they have always looked down upon the seers and godmen who claim to know the secrets to life, universe and everything. The closest any writer has come to answering was Douglas Adams, and it seems that he found the concept so odd that he chose an even number.

Writers, unlike what the readers would want to believe, are equally clueless about the topic at hand, but they are aware of this cluelessness, which makes them ask the relevant questions, research the plausible answers and toil hard with reasoning. Thus, this very awareness makes them sound insightful and intelligent. The fact that you couldn’t express your content; be it ideas, stories, perspectives, in few words is evident from your verbose post you have ended up with in the first place. You definitely cannot summarise it in fewer words without compromising on the essence of the post. So coming up with a title, which in a way is a compressed summary must be a daunting task, and yet every writer has to do it. For without a title, a post is no different than the abandoned children of a promiscuous knight, except here; the writer knight gave birth and left the words to fight their own war.

When it comes to tagging a picture with a post, it must be even more confusing. Not only are you trying to summarise your post, but you are choosing a medium that is beyond your abilities, and not just the genre. A picture is also one step towards guiding the reader’s imagination as they consume your words. Take it to the extreme and you have a movie with each scene pre-imagined for the audience, it’s only when you think of the movie in retrospective that you tend to get involved, in the characters, in the emotions, or say in the story.

The sole purpose of a title or a tagged picture is to make the post more accessible to the wandering audience, one which expects some kind of stimulus to get involved. There are millions of posts that one comes across everyday making it imperative that there is a way to screen out the unwanted and unworthy, except both the writers and the readers suffer from the ineptitude of these tags to describe or summarise a post.

Standard