Choose one of the questions below for your essay response, or discuss another topic of interest based on our class literary readings. Your paper should be 6 7 typed, double-spaced pages. Remember to support your opinions by reference to the texts, and be sure to quote passages from the literary texts.
- In Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, the painter Basil Hallward is mesmerized by the beauty of the protagonist’s face and form, and inspired to a new style and theory of art. Excessively worshipping Dorian’s beauty, Basil paints Dorian while the latter is still in a state of innocence. Dorian Gray in turn falls under the spell of the Satanic Lord Henry Wotton or the devil himself and Wotton’s Hedonistic philosophy. The highly corrupt Wotton – perhaps a voice of evil within Dorian – destroys Dorian’s state of innocence and plunges him into a state of experience. Aware of his fleeting beauty, Dorian declares that he would give his soul if he were to keep the unsullied splendor of eternal youth, and the painting, Basil’s masterpiece, would instead grow old. After Dorian ruthlessly walks out on his fiancée, the actress Sibyl Vane, she kills herself with poison, and the now decadent Dorian is unaffected. His passion for sin will be the governing principle of his life. As he becomes selfish, sadistically cruel, and vain – and delves further into darkness and moral corruption – Dorian remains eternally young and handsome, but his painted image appears more vicious looking as it reflects his physical burdens of age and sin and thereby a degradation of his soul. The painting of Dorian – a reflection of his conscience finally becomes distorted and vile beyond recognition. Like the the Byronic hero and Faust, who must endure the conflict between their higher and lower souls, Dorian is a combination of the noble and the degraded. Goethe’s epic poem inspired Wilde to write his famous novel: does Wilde’s hedonistic Lord Henry mirror Mephistopheles, as both try to tempt the protagonists to follow their lower souls? How do the tragic circumstances of Sibyl Vane and her brother parallel those of Goethe’s Margaret and her sibling Valentin? (Please see my sample essay for this question in the same module)
- Milton’s devil, the larger than life anti-hero of Paradise Lost, berates the sun and possesses a paradoxical nature of darkness and light. He clearly creates a hell within himself. Goethe’s devil, on the other hand, with his humorous self-deprecation, lasciviousness, self-mockery, sarcasm, and wittiness is a comically entertaining antagonist; there’s even good will in Mephistopheles, who doesn’t treat his victims badly. Whether he really does always desire evil, Mephistopheles often seems concerned to achieve truth.Compare/ contrast Milton’s Satan and Goethe’s Mephistopheles. (Please see my sample essay for this question in the same module).
- Goethe draws on many works in the Western literary tradition in shaping the issues he raises in Faust. Compare his treatment of the relationship between God and Satan in conversation with the opening chapters of the Biblical Job.
- The essence of Faust’s pact with the devil Mephistopheles is to live each moment to the fullest and to let it pass; Mephistopheles will serve Faust so long as the latter constantly strives and remains unsatisfied with anything the devil has to offer, or with anything the world has to offer. Is Faust a hero?
- Analyze Goethe’s use of light and dark imagery in Faust. The very titles of the scenes Prologue in Heaven, Before the City Gate, Night, Study, Evening, Auerbach’s Tavern, Dungeon, and others denote stark contrasts in light and dark. The scenes that are brightly illuminated are associated with optimism and salvation, whereas the dark scenes signify distress, anguish, turmoil, and damnation.
- Mephistopheles does not seem to possess an evil nature; at no point does he actually perform any evil deed, and for a great part of the poem, he appears as a witty, funny, sharp-sighted man whose function, like Faust’s conscience, is to bring Faust to face facts and to make him face responsibility for his actions. How do you feel toward Mephistopheles? Do your feelings change? If so, when and why?
- German Romantic writers emphasized the contradictory tension between the necessity of desire and the impossibility of its gratification. They had a craving for the infinite, and this love of infinity led them to the love of the night; a favorite Romantic symbol for infinity is endless night, the distant stars, and the Milky Way. One such writer, Novalis, felt that the eyes of the night look into the depths of the universe. The whole restless rhythm and eternal striving of Faust’s life which demonstrates the value of the infinite – is clearly Romantic. Analyze this theme in Goethe’s great epic play.
- Lord Byron was inspired by literary masterpieces – Goethes Faust, Miltons Paradise Lost, and Shakespeares Hamlet – when he composed his dark, dramatic poem Manfred. The Byronic hero, who is known for his ill temper, egocentrism, and intense, self-consuming passion, has influenced many well-known Romantic era writers. Choose one of the following:a) Like Miltons Satan, Byrons protagonist chastises the sun and has a paradoxical nature of darkness and light. Both characters create a hell within themselves. Compare Byrons and Miltons anti-heroes.
b) Discuss the similarities between Goethes Faust and Byrons Manfred.
c) Examine the Byronic hero in relation to Dorian Gray.
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