(Pictures on the left are from Curaceo, pictures on the right are from Aruba, Barbados and St Lucia)
The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850 by Nathaniel Hawthorne from Salem, Massachusetts, a US State in New England. This was a puritan era when moral purity was encouraged in every aspect of life, public life and personal life. The main character Hester Prynne is forced to wear the embroidered Scarlet letter ‘A’ on her clothing after being found guilty of adultery which was a crime.
The novel is written in a third person narrative, which the exception of the introduction where Nathaniel Hawthorne speaks directly to the reader, talking about his experience working at the Salem Custom House. The introduction describes the people that he worked with impolitely “I characterize them generally as a set of wearisome old souls, who had gathered nothing from worth preservation from their varied experience of life” (p.g 13) and their work ethic “mighty was their fuss about little matters, and marvellous sometimes, the obtuseness that allowed greater ones to slip through their fingers.” (p.g 12) One particular man he commented “My conclusion was that he had no soul, no heart, no mind; nothing.” (p.g 14) In the preface to the second edition it explains that these comments and the introduction to The Scarlet Letter caused an “unprecedented excitement” in the community that the author was talking about. “It could hardly have been more violent, indeed, had he burned down the Custom house, and quenched its last smoking ember in the blood of a certain venerable personage, against whom he is supposed to cherish a particular malevolence” and the author responds to criticism saying it was written with no ill feeling and it was true so he decided to republish the introduction without changing it, shows slight hostility towards the Custom house.
“BUT WHO CAN SEE AN INCH INTO FUTURITY BEYOND HIS NOSE?”
A native American character is described as Indian (a historical inaccuracy) and his clothing is described as “savage” compared to the clothing the puritans wear, which is described as “civilised” an antonym showing puritan dress in a positive way, while showing Native outfits as opposite to this, a negative trait. Also, the devil, or a demon the characters believe to exist, in the book is called “the black man,” that is the description for him. There are other negative associations with the word black throughout “vileness and blackness” and “black trouble of the soul” describing an illness.
Hester Prynne is cast out of the community so the other puritans do not speak to her in public and the puritan children attempt to throw stones at her and her daughter Pearl. “She was banished, and as much alone as if she inhabited another sphere”. The only people who speak to her are the ministers and the governor, who attempt to take her daughter out of her care and have her raised by someone else. Hester argues that she should have custody of the child so they relent “God gave me the child! cried she. He gave her in requital of all things else which ye have taken from me.” The governor’s sister, who is later executed accused of being a witch, also talks to her to encourage her to join witchcraft but Hester refuses.
The word ‘ignomany’ and variations such as ‘ignominious’ appears throughout the book, approximately 20 times in the 200 page book. It means public shame or disgrace and also public contempt. Hester Prynne faces this until her death and her lover is eventually revealed in a plot twist. There is not much dialogue at the beginning of the book, as the main character does not have any interaction with other characters, because she is publicly treated with contempt and the people treat Pearl the same way because of her illegitimacy. Hester and her lover are eventually buried together in a grave marked “On a field, Sable, the letter A, Gules” meaning “On a field, black, the letter A, red”
The Salem House & Nathaniel Hawthorne
Meaning behind the word ‘ignomany’
Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Background of the Salem Witch Trials
My Twitter thread while reading ‘The Scarlet Letter’
Dracula introduced the vampire myth to its own area of literature and fantasy. There have been numerous films, performances and television performances of Dracula so he is now a famous villain in literature.
It is an epistolary novel, a novel written in the form of documents. The story of Dracula is woven together with the diary entries of the main characters of the book Jonathan Harker, his wife Mina Harker and Dr John Seward. There is also Van Helsing, Lord Godalming and Mr Morris. Certain words and phrases are in Latin, French and Greek and the One World Classics version that I read had an explanation of the phrases at the back. “Dos pou sto” was translated as “Give me somewhere to stand,” a Greek phrase. There were also biblical references particularly towards the end when the characters realise that vampires dislike the crucifix being close to them, signalling them as irreligious beings, possibly influenced by Bram Stoker’s upbringing as he was attended a private school that taught protestant Christianity. Christianity is largely what influences the characters voyage to find Dracula.
“Give me somewhere to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the earth” -Archimedes
The beginning follows Jonathan Harker’s experience staying with Count Dracula at his castle and how he learns that he is a vampire. The word vampire is not used widely throughout the book, there are several hints that Dracula is a vampire however as Jonathan discovers. As the story progresses, many of the typical traits of a vampire are uncovered It is also hinted that Dracula is a vampire because it is discovered that Dracula cannot be seen through the mirror and does not eat regular food.
Dialogue is sporadic within the novel and there is use of literary devices for descriptive purposes “There for a while there came over her face a repose which was like spring after the blasts of March” a description of Mina, who is described as beautiful. While Count Dracula’s descriptive technique is harsh “You think to baffle me- you, with your pale faces all in a row like sheep in a butchers.” Van Helsing also uses multiple rhetorical questions when he is trying to convince John Seward of the existence of Vampires. “Can you tell me why the tortoise lives more long than generations of men?” As well as being immortal, it is also revealed that Count Dracula sleeps in a coffin and dislikes garlic. Because of this Count Dracula is described as having a “child-brain” rather than the ‘man brain’ of humans. This is a reference to Lombroso the Italian criminologist who believed facial structure was related to whether someone was a criminal and criminality was inherited. “The count is a criminal and of criminal type. Nordau and Lombroso would so classify him.”
Count Dracula is the only male vampire shown in the novel. The others are all women and there is no explanation for why the men do not get bitten by Dracula when attacked. The main female character Mina is described with
thinly veiled sexism “She with all her goodness and purity and faith was outcast from God” for reasons which are not her fault. The men have a paternalistic attitude towards Mina and believe the is fragile. “Most we want all her great brain, which is trained like man’s brain, but is of sweet woman and have a special power which the Count give her” They appreciate her for her knowledge but do not believe that it is her own capability, it is seen as ‘like man’s brain’ which is assumed to be superior. Any ability she has is not her own but “a special power which the count give her” so she does not receive the necessary praise for her help.
Dracula appears mainly in the beginning, with Jonathan Harker, but does not have much of a role in the rest of the novel, his character depiction is mysterious and there is not much emphasis on his appeareance “tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache” but mainly on the plans he has to turn people into vampires. His traits are discovered throughout the book by the John Seward and Van Halsing, because they have access to the information about vampirism along with Jonathan Harker’s experience staying at the castle. A long read, with 27 chapters, but the pace was steady and it has helped begin the enduring myth of the vampire in literature.
Bram Stoker’s Great Grand-nephew is writing a prequel to Dracula
Context of ‘Dracula’
Plot overview of Dracula from SparkNotes Editors. (2003). SparkNote on Dracula. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from
Cesare Lombroso, Italian Criminologist & discredited views
My Twitter thread on the experience reading Dracula
Artist and self-described creator, Duvv, from New York, released her 10 track album ‘With you in Mind’ on August 25th. Duvv’s musical influence of R&B and soul music is recognisable within the album and does not sound repetitive of other albums in these genres. ‘With you in Mind’ begins with a brief intro with Duvv saying “God is love, God is truth, God is hope, I love you Lord” and shifting into a short 1 minute long song, that marks the beginning of the album and is similar to a musical interlude taking place between songs.
The first song of the album, “Waters (Blue Screens) begins with soft piano and then Duvv sings “Maybe In the future water will be dead and blue screens will be the new ocean” which could be interpreted as a commentary on the influence of technology into our lives and how the blue light that comes from our screens could soon replace the amount of time we spend looking at nature and scenery, such as the blue of the ocean. “I stare at the screen then I stare at myself, is it good for my health? like a digital death.” In the second verse she questions “Do you see me swimming, do you see me floating?” This reminded me of the poem ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ by Stevie Smith and the misunderstanding of what is actually happening, as ‘swimming’ and ‘floating’ are different things. The rest of Waters (Blue Screens) has a beautiful melody paired with a soft beat.
“Maybe in the future water will be dead and blue screens will be the new ocean”
Dare to Dream begins with synths and has a faster tempo than anything before it, the positive, uplifting message in the title is reflected throughout the song. “If you want it and you’ve got it then you’ve got it, just know you’re not alone” is repeated in the chorus. It ends suddenly and is replaced by the slower paced track ‘Are you Numb?’ where she questions someone’s intentions, it sounds related to a relationship issue. In a 35 second interlude Duvv’s does a short edited voice over. ‘Cold’ is the first song after this interlude and has a relaxing melody and also asks the same existential questions heard in Waters (Blue Screens) “You’re going far all by yourself, is it in faith?”
“Love me despite my flaws, Love you despite your flaws”
Games has a catchy beat with vocals and harmonies with a relaxing verse and upbeat chorus which goes into depth on a relationship rebuilding “Love me despite my flaws, love you despite your flaws,” the ending of ‘Games’ blends seamlessly with the beginning of ‘For You’ which is a slow tempo song similar to ‘Cold’ and has a relaxing feel as well. ‘Creep’ has a slower beginning, but includes a piano before the chorus that brings the song together well. Lastly, Outside / Inside is a short spoken piece about choices that wraps up the album the way in began.
Link to ‘With you in Mind’ by Duvv album on Spotify
Duvv’s official website
Not Waving but Drowning poem by Stevie Smith
We’re now in August and I was recently walking along the high street when I approached a small book shop. I went inside and picked up a few more books that were on sale. This is going to be a small break from my 2017 reading list that I will link below. I will finish Dracula and then begin reading the new books I have bought because they are not as long.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
This is described on the blurb as an “unconventional ghost story” it was written by an American author, who later acquired British citizenship. He Is a key figure of 19th century literary realism. The book was published in 1898 and is a horror and gothic fiction. It is open to different interpretations.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
This has been on my reading list for a while as I have heard about it for several years and I have seen the film released in 2009 that is based on the book. This is the first book I will have ever read by Oscar Wilde and I am looking forward to reading one of his most popular works. Published in 1890, The picture of Dorian Gray caused outrage in the Victorian era for its portrayal of London life.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I have heard of Harper Lee’s classic novel numerous times and it explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South in the 1930’s. It concerns the prejudice, violence and hypocrisy of a town in Southern America.
The Hobbit by J.R.Tolkien
This is a modern classic and is also the prelude to The Lord of the Rings, the popular fantasy novels. In the blurb it is described as ‘One of the best-loved children’s books of modern times’ and I think it will be similar to Narnia which I really enjoyed. Published in 1937, it is still very popular. I also noticed that there are lots of adaptions for stage, screen, radio and video games.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This is a modern fantasy novel written in 2011 that was long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012. It is a fantasy novel set in Victorian London and is about a fictional circus that only appears at night, and disappears in the daytime. It is slow-moving, but once the story gets underway it could be an interesting read.
Ban on reading To Kill a Mockingbird in schools in Virginia
The reading list for 2017
Dorian Gray film review
As a part of a weekend break, I visited Hartsholme Country Park In Lincolnshire with my mum.
The park has more than 200 acres and has lots of woodland areas to walk. We saw squirrels up in the trees and ducks and swans in the Lake. It was a mild day and the sun came out in the morning. Fortunately it did not rain today so we could take off our jackets for a while.
After a 45 minute walk, we went through a meadow to the cafe where I bought a hot chocolate and some chips. The visitors centre opposite the cafe was open so we had a short look around and before leaving.
I took some photos and video at the park of the wildlife we saw.
Huckleberry Finn is Mark Twain’s sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and was published in 1884.
I found the writing of the book to be very difficult to get used to and this made it a time-consuming effort. The author notes at the beginning that several dialects from Southern America are used by different characters. The speech, which there is much of, is not spelt in a formal English way which made it difficult to read. I didn’t really enjoy the book that much as I found it difficult to read and didn’t like ending after Tom Sawyer was re-introduced towards the end.
The storyline does include many little adventures for Huckleberry, while he and Jim run away and are travelling on a raft down the Mississippi river. There are lots of characters introduced and Huckleberry travels around with the raft so that he can escape when necessary. I also feel like there was unnecessary stereotyping of Jim as being ignorant and not intelligent.
It is argued that the book was against slavery in the south of America at the time and the main character Huckleberry Finn appears to be conflicted on whether helping a slave to escape is the right thing to do. The novel is controversial for it’s repeated use of the n-word, a pejorative slur. In context at the time of its publication the word was not seen as unacceptable within the society. Moreover, there have been discussions of censorship of the book, to edit out these words, which has been heavily criticised.
Sparknotes Context to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Video Sparknotes: Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Summary
‘To kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn banned from schools in Virginia for racism’ article by The Telegraph