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Middlemarch by George Eliot Analysis

One of the main characters of the novel is the narrator who tells the story from the multiple points of view of the characters, while adding her own reflective wisdom. This vantage point gives us compassionate insight into each character but within a certain social context, for the narrator stands for the collective wisdom gleaned from all the lives put together. This narrator is “omniscient” and anonymous, though we can think of her as close to George Eliot’s own viewpoint.
Immediately, the narrator begins to uncover the fact that most people are lost in their own illusions of reality, one of the themes of the book. She brilliantly weaves together the intersecting illusions of all the characters, showing us the profile of the town of Middlemarch, a fictitious small town in the rural English midlands in the early nineteenth century. Middlemarch stands for English life just before the impact of the industrial revolution. The time is just before the great Reform Bill of 1832. Life is still somewhat simple and conventional here in this backwater, and the citizens are not interested in anything but daily concerns. This sets the stage for their clashes with the more extraordinary and farsighted characters, Dorothea and Lydgate and Will Ladislaw who stand for the forces of change.
While it could be rather farcical that the beautiful Dorothea, who is constantly compared to the Blessed Virgin, is marrying Casaubon, the “dried bookworm of fifty,” Eliot treats Dorothea’s “soul hunger” as a real and tragic phenomenon in this society. She has no teacher or even comrade to whom she may tell of her own exalted thoughts and wishes. Even her sister Celia, though adoring her, criticizes her, and does not understand her need for living her religious vision in daily life. Dorothea thinks that Casaubon will understand and teach her, while he, it is clear, expects an obedient and self-abnegating wife. The narrator gives us foreshadowing of this problematic marriage by explaining Dorothea’s short-sightedness and “theoretic” nature, desire for “intensity and greatness.” Casaubon also has trouble with his vision and needs a secretary to help him with his life work, The Key to All Mythologies.

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The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof, in the Marx-Engels Reader

In this section we discover one more characteristic of the commodity. Its ability and tendency to be fetishist. Marx begins by elaborating on how the ostensibly concrete categories of mainstream political-economy, specifically the commodity, are not a complete account of the social relations of production. The problem is that the bourgeois political-economists take the commodity-form for granted . They grasp it at the level of appearance only, and thus fetishist it. Marx will go on to debunk the Robinson Crusoe example to illustrate this point. The hypothetical situation of a lone Briton on his sunny island is totally at odds with the social character of labor.

But to take a step back, Marx begins by provisionally agreeing with the political-economist. Yes, he concedes, the appearance of the commodity is an appropriate point of departure. It’s not a falsehood that commodities are created by human labor and they are useful. Moreover, the political-economists were right to see the value of a commodity as determined by the socially necessary labor-time involved in its production – this labor being social in nature, meaning that is is done for the purpose of exchange. This is all consistent with the Robinson Crusoe example.

It’s all obvious and not inaccurate, Marx says.

Yet, political-economy fails to see this social relation as existing between producers; instead it sees only the products of labor in relation to each other. In his words, “It (exchange-relations) is nothing but the definite social relation between men which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things.” (p.165) We can attribute this phenomenon to the nature of labor under capitalism. Specifically, we produce commodities so that they can be exchanged. Thus our only obvious exchange relation to other producers is that we interact with them only to the extent that they produce commodities. What we have are “material relations between persons and social relations between things.” (p.166)

Marx chooses to title this phenomenon “the fetishism of commodities”, borrowing a religious term signifying that the creations of human labor appear to be independent, to live a life on their own. Marx lists some of the attendant effects of the fetishism of commodities:-

1]  A failure to see social relations between producers of commodities even as they exchange commodities with each other.

2]  A reduction of all qualitatively different labor to the value-form, thus making all labor commensurable.

3]  Confusion over the substance of value; seeing it as something other than the crystalization of labor-power.

4]  Misrecognition of the social character of private labor.

Ultimately, the fetishism of commodities naturalizes that which is historically specific. A perfect example of this is that gold and silver, or any other metallic currency, are things whose values is assumed to be intrinsic to them, though of course if one were to rigorously interrogate the issue we would find that the values of such things exist purely as social relations. Revisiting the first chapter of Capital with this in mind, we see Marx’s argument to be that the commodity is not only a thing. It is also the structure of labor-in-capitalism, turning all labor in value-production and obfuscating its own specificity as a social form.

Posted in Books, Education

To Teach or Not to Teach Without Books?

                                    The Ultimate Question

Part 1
What should a teacher keep in mind while choosing a method of teaching? Should one continue with the same method they once chose at the beginning of career or evolve with the level of classes and number of years in the profession. There are teachers whose methodology changes with change in level of students and their own experience? There are others who prefer sticking to the same old gun.

The whole debate and discussion today is: To teach or not to teach a class from textbooks?
I am not totally against use of textbooks by a teacher in a class. Nor do I mean to undermine their importance in a class. But my question is——–up to what level?

 

At primary level the textbooks are indispensable. You will have my views on that too but not today. Reading habit cannot be developed among students in the absence of textbook. At upper primary level too role of textbooks cannot be neglected. Even a layman too knows it.

 

(to be continued…..)

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The role of women theme in Home and World book

Throughout the novel, as stated earlier, a strong sense of devotion is seen in the relationship between Bimala and Nikhil. It is key to notice that an indirect evaluation of the role of women is seen in this novel also, in a very subtle manner. In the society described, Bimala, like most women, blindly worships her husband. This can be seen when Bimala is described, “taking the dust of my husband’s feet without waking him”. When she is caught doing this act of reverence, her reaction is, “That had nothing to do with merit. It was a woman’s heart, which must worship in order to love.. This scene shows the average woman in this society who believes love will happen and worship is a given in a marriage. She blindly respects her husband without understanding or having a grasp of who he is.

Another one of the many scenes that alludes to a woman’s place in this society is when Nikhil and Sandip argue and Bimala is asked her opinion, which she finds unusual, in addition to “Never before had I had an opportunity of being present at a discussion between my husband and his men friends. This line shows how there is a strong disconnect and there is no place, usually, for a woman in real world conversations. To further prove this, in Nikhil’s story, the role of a woman is seen clearly, “Up till now Bimala was my home-made Bimala, the product of the confined space and the daily routine of small duties. These indirect references and descriptions are quite frequent throughout the novel and clearly allows the reader to get a sense of what women were subject to and their overall role in the society.

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Love and union theme of home and world book

From the first page of the novel, the love and union between Nikhil and Bimala is illustrated as something sacred. Nikhil proved throughout the story that he was undeniably devoted to his wife. He proved this first by marrying a woman who hailed from a poor family, along with accepting her darker skin. He made great effort to not only educate her, but also for her to understand her place in the world and not just her place in the captivity of their house. He shows his love by giving her freedom. Bimala also adores her husband, but in a less material manner. This is demonstrated in Bimala’s daily ritual of “taking the dust”, an Indian ritual of reverence not usually performed by a wife to her husband.

Due to Bimala’s extreme devotion to Nikhil, in the beginning of the novel, the union between the two of them is seen as one that cannot be broken. However, as, the story progresses, Bimala is slowly overcome by her feelings for Sandip. She eventually realises that she has found in Sandip what she longed for in Nikhil, fierce ambition and even violent defence of one’s ideals. Her deep desire for Sandip led her to completely break her sacred union with Nikhil, going as far as to steal money from her household funds. Sandip shows his love for Bimala through idolisation. This idolisation comes about due to her freedom, though.

The tale clearly presents the theme of love and union time and time again, going from Nikhil and Bimala’s marriage, through the love triangle created by Sandip, and once again returning to Bimala’s love for Nikhil at the very end. This story tests the boundaries of the union of marriage. It stretches and twists it to the point where a 9-year marriage is nearly destroyed simply because of a raw temptation. In addition to the idea of romantic love, there is a sense of love of one’s own country depicted throughout the novel. Questions such as, is it best to love one’s country through action, perhaps even violence, or by passive tolerance, are posed in the arguments of Nikhil and Sandip. While love and worship seem parallel in marriage, Nikhil believes these feelings cannot apply to one’s country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it.

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Truth theme of Home and World Book

In more than one way, this novel is a comparison of different views of truth. Which reality is truer is up to the reader’s interpretation. Nikhil maintains an idealistic view of the world while Sandip takes a radical, nature worshiping view. He feels Nikhil’s view of the world is inferior to the real, raw world in which he lives as a radical leader. Bimala as well must compare truths. Through her interactions with Sandip, she is introduced to the truth of Shakti, yet her life with Nikhil is centered on the truth of conjugation. Each of these instances is a comparison of truth as being something simply objective to being something with a more spiritual or moral dimension. While the story ends in tragedy, both views of truth are important players in the story’s outcome, and it is left to the reader to ponder with which he or she agrees or disagrees.

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Illusions theme of Home and World

The constant forming of illusions in the novel grows to be a major recurring theme. Sandip tends to create illusions that almost always have negative effects on his followers and on the nation of Bengal. He builds an illusion of his beliefs that sucks the people of Bengal into a sort of cult. His illusion is complete sovereignty, free of all other worlds, and an endless supply of wealth and self enjoyment. This illusion, as many are, is a fake and a lie. It ultimately sells these people a front row ticket to watch their nation fall into complete chaos and civil war between people with different beliefs. He constructs an illusion for Bimala to believe, saying she is the future, women are the future, they are the chosen path to salvation. Bimala builds an illusion that she is to blame for this war, it is solely her doing. That she has done all wrong and no right. She refuses to accept that she too was a victim of Bnade Mataram. I now fear nothing-neither myself, nor anybody else. I have passed through fire. What was inflammable has been burnt to ashes; what is left is deathless. I have dedicated myself to the feet of him, who has received all my sin into the depths of his own pain. The biggest of all is Sandip’s mask of caring and passion, while he hides his own selfishness and desire for the world.

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Tradition vs. modernism theme of home and world book

As the title suggests, a major theme is the relationship of the home with the outside world. Nikhil enjoys the modern, western goods and clothing and lavishes Bimala with them. However, Bimala, in the Hindu tradition, never goes outside of the house complex. Her world is a clash of western and traditional Indian life. She enjoys the modern things that Nikhil brings to her, but when Sandip comes and speaks of nationalism with such fire, she sees these things as a threat to her way of life. Bimala’s struggle is with identity. She is part of the country, but only knows the home and her home is a mix of cultures. She is torn between supporting the ideal of a country that she knows she should love, or working toward ensuring that her home, her whole world, is free from strife and supporting her husband like a traditional Indian woman should. Bimala is forced to try to understand how her traditional life can mix with a modern world and not be undermined. This theme ties in with the nationalism theme because it is another way that Tagore is warning against the possibility that nationalism can do more harm than good.

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Nationalism theme of home and world book

While the entire novel centers around the Swadeshi movement, the author of the novel is not advocating it but rather warning his audience of the dangers of such a movement. Tagore knows that it is possible for even a seemingly peaceful movement to turn quickly into aggressive nationalism. Such a change would do the country more harm than good. The character named Sandip is the vivacious and ardent leader of Swadeshi. He knows that his movement has the potential to turn ugly. He fervently believes however that freedom must be achieved no matter the cost. Sandip cites a story from the Bhagavad Gita in support of his own path. The story tells of the Hindu Lord Krishna advising Arjuna to perform his duty as a warrior regardless of the result. Sandip’s use of the Hindu epic poetry to support his movement illustrates the tendency of individuals to use religion as a basis for nationalism. The use of excerpts from the Indian epic poem was indicative of the blending traditional elements of Indian culture with the ideals and goals of modern Indian independence moment. As both have the potential to yield individuals claiming an unshakable fervor for their cause, this can be a rather dangerous combination, a fact clearly acknowledged by the novel’s author.

Nationalism is also expressed through the rejection of foreign goods, which was a part of the Swadeshi movement. Sandip was strongly against the sale of foreign goods as Bimala stated that “Sandip laid it down that all foreign articles, together with the demon of foreign influence, must be driven out of our territory. Nikhil on the other hand felt the opposite. He stated that in terms of banishing foreign goods from his Suskar market that he could not do it and he refused to tyrannize. Bimala even pleaded with her husband to order them to be cleared out! She also stated that banishing foreign goods would not be tyranny for selfish gain, but for the sake of the country.