Lata Mangeshkar and the Evolution of the Bollywood Song

India entered a period of mourning when it was reported that Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar passed on Sunday the 6th of February. A playback singer is a singer whose voice is recorded for use in films – the actor or actress essentially lip-sync the words, so that the singers voice can be dubbed over. A cultural icon, sometimes referred to as the ‘Nightingale of India,’ Mangeshkar recorded thousands of songs for films in over thirty six languages, and for her services to film was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna in 2001. Due to her status, she was awarded a state funeral.

Born in 1929, Mangeshkar began her music career in the 1940s, and also took on several small acting roles before deciding that she was ‘happiest singing.’ For decades she was the most in demand singer in Bollywood cinema. She also performed with her sister Asha Bhosle, on several occasions. Bhosle also noted that the two sisters never sought to compete with each other. Aside from this, her other passions included, the Beatles, Mozart, Cricket, the Sherlock Holmes novels and she was also a James Bond fan. She also had nine dogs, and confessed that she enjoyed the slot machines in Vegas!

Mangeshkar also took up composing in the 1950s and also experimented with producing. She collaborated with Yash Chopra on many occasions, and sang for the acclaimed film ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ in 1995. Unsurprisingly, she went on to say that romantic films were the most popular in Bollywood. Upon her death, Chopra stated that Mangeshkar had ‘God’s blessings in her voice.’ Mangeshkar rose to prominence during the golden age of Bollywood, and part of this was the evolution of the Bollywood song. Not all music that comes from India is from Bollywood, 80% of it is. The Bollywood industry in general is much bigger than Hollywood, as the former has a greater film output.

Songs are common staples of majority of Bollywood films, regardless of genre and plot. This has been the norm since the Indian cinema industry began in the 1930s. Songs can be written in different languages, but most common are Hindi and Urdu, but Panjabi has been used. Urdu poetry has previously had a strong influence on Bollywood songs. Critics recognise that Hindi songs in Bollywood films incorporate and draw inspiration from various traditional folk dances and songs, like ‘Ramleela’ and ‘Nautanki.’

More recently, Bollywood has been influenced by the West. English has been incorporated into the songs, examples being 2010’s ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’ and 2007’s ‘Deewangi Deewangi.’ The idea that the Bollywood song should also reflect the mood of the scene in the film has also been explained as the influence of Hollywood films. This can be seen in one of Mangeshkar’s best known films, ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.’ Simran’s (Kajol) first song ‘Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye’ reflects her desire to find out more about the man she has been dreaming about. Interestingly, villains do not sing in Bollywood films, as the arts are considered to be a mark of humanity, a quality which villains do not possess.

Genres of the Bollywood song include Bhajan, which refers to songs that have spiritual or religious meaning. The Disco genre became popular in the early 1980s, and since then there has been a greater focus to incorporate an electro feel to Bollywood songs, with the inclusion of instruments such as synthesisers. Again, the West can be credited with the rise in Bollywood songs that have incorporated this theme, especially in the 60s, when psychedelic rock was popularised by bands such as the Beatles.

Ghazal refers to Urdu poetry, which was instrumental in influencing early Bollywood music. This influenced lasted until the 1980s, but then was revived in the following decade with the 1990 film ‘Aashiqui.’ Qawwali, refers to devotional Sufi music, a good example of that being ‘Pardah Hai Pardah’ as seen in 1977’s Amar Akbar Anthony. This genre has also evolved, and more recently qawwali has taken on influence from Western culture, focusing on the genre of Techno. This can be seen in the 2005 song ‘Kajra Re.’ ‘Kajra Re’ was an ‘item number’ in the crime comedy film ‘Bunty Aur Babli.’ An item number is a song that is present in the film, but does not actually further the plot. Another example of this is the song ‘Chikni Chameli,’ as seen in 2012 film ‘Agneepath.’ The song is placed merely to build tension between warring drug lords Kancha (Sanjay Dutt) and Vijay (Hrithik Roshan). An item number typically features an alluring female dancer, and suggestive lyrics, as if to distract the main protagonists from the plot. Due to the subject matter of item numbers, they have come under scrutiny and criticism for their objectification of the female body. Although it is rarer, item numbers have featured men in the past, such as Abhishek Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.

It will be interesting to see how Bollywood music continues to evolve over the coming years, without the likes of trailblazers such as Mangeshkar.

Thanks for reading!

Race Relations in American Literature: 1850-2009

Relations between black people and white people has been a relevant and important topic, now more than ever. The issue has been discussed and critiqued in works of American fiction, beginning in the 1850’s with ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ These novels, generally speaking, reflected peoples’ perceptions of race relations at the time of their publication, and encouraged debate and change.

Harriet Beecher Stowe penned ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ in 1852 in an attempt to reveal the horrors of slavery, and to attract the issue greater attention. Stowe herself had helped slaves escape the South, which encouraged her to view the institution of slavery from the black perspective. It was people in the North that initially fought against slavery, and discouraged its extension to the West, putting them at odds with the South, leading to the American Civil War. Stowe’s novel followed the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law Act, 1850. This law stated that everyone had to help catch runaway slaves, and refusal to do so would lead to a $1000 fine, and six months in jail. The South still advocated the existence of slavery, explaining Stowe’s decision to set the novel in Kentucky. In the novel, Uncle Tom is sold into the harsh world of slavery and is eventually whipped to death by his white owner Simon Legree, after sacrificing himself for his family. Uncle Tom is portrayed as a religious man, who is morally superior to the white people within the novel. This makes his savage murder all the more upsetting. Stowe’s novel made people acknowledge the harsh lives of slaves, and also set up the stereotype of the simple but kind black slave who is unfairly treated. The novel reflected the attitudes of Stowe, and other northerners like her who opposed slavery. According to legend, Lincoln even credited Stowe’s novel with starting the ‘great’ Civil War. The novel encouraged others to view slavery as an immoral institution, and its publication alone shows that perceptions of race relations were beginning to change.[1]

Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ written in 1884, used satire and the perspective of a child to subtly critique the institution of slavery, maintaining some of the themes set up by Stowe. The book was published twenty years after the Civil War, and people still argued that black people were inferior beings, who were now out of the control of the state. Twain did not criticise slavery as heavily as Stowe did, as he wished to sell his book to the North and to the South, taking into account their differing views on slavery. The novel follows the relationship of black slave Jim and white child Huck Finn, as Finn begins to realise how harshly black people were treated slaves. Like Uncle Tom, Jim too is killed when sacrificing himself for his white owner, Tom Sawyer. Speaking through Finn, Twain’s views mirrored northern views that slavery was an unjust and unfair institution.[2]

Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the Wind’ proposed a different view of slavery to the previous novels. It chronicles the lives of the O’Hara family, living at their plantation at Tara, where the slaves are treated well and lead happy lives. When given the opportunity to eventually leave, black nurse Mammy decides to stay with white girl Scarlett. This idyllic view of slavery is interrupted with the freeing of the slaves following Lincoln’s ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ in 1863. This was a real-life act, that freed 3.5 million slaves. The social disruption caused by this forces characters in the novel to conclude that black people were better off as slaves. The novel taps into previous Southern beliefs about slaves at the time of the Civil War, and the ‘Positive Good’ argument. White people argued that black people could not take care of themselves, and therefore had to be cared for through the institution of slavery, for their own safety and protection. At the time of the novel’s publication, in 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was pushing his ‘New Deal.’ These were a series of economic programs and reforms that were designed to help the American economy following the Great Depression. This appealed to black Americans, as they believed that the Deal would help them, and further the civil rights movement. However, this was criticised by white senator Josiah W. Bailey, in his 1937 ‘Conservative Manifesto.’ He protested at the amount of money being spent on New Deal programmes, inspiring others, especially in the south, to oppose further social and economic reforms. In retrospect, the reforms did not last, and only helped black people moderately. The novel accurately reflected perceptions of race relations at the time, as white people were unwilling to help black people, and still viewed them as inferior beings. This is highlighted in the book, through the characterisation of certain black characters, like the simple Uncle Peter, and the dishonest Prissy. Their portrayal reflected white people’s stereotypical perception of black people, which prompted their advocation of slavery, as they believed black people to still be inferior.[3]

The publication of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ follows the story of Tom Robinson, a black man who is falsely accused of rape. White lawyer Atticus Finch defends him in court, but the town condemns Tom because of his race. The novel is told from the perspective of Atticus’ daughter, Scout, who learns from Atticus that people should not be treated differently because of their race. Black journalist Ida B Wells argued that being accused of rape was the main reason why a black man would be lynched in the 1890s. Considering that the novel is set in 1933, it could be argued that Harper Lee took inspiration from this fact. The 1950s marked the beginning of the active Civil Rights movement, beginning with Brown vs Topeka in 1954, which led to the desegregation of schools. Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956, which, following black peoples’ refusal to board public buses, led to their desegregation. The Greensboro and Nashville sit-ins followed in 1960, as groups of students sat at lunch counters and refused to move. This led to the desegregation of lunch counters. The desegregation that occurred around the country showed that race relations were changing, as reflected in Harper Lee’s novel. The novel shows Tom Robinson as a respectable young man, in contrast to white characters such as Bob Ewell, an idea established in Stowe’s novel. These ideas mirrored the decision of the Supreme Court to desegregate certain institutions, as people in power began to actively implement laws in attempts to secure racial equality. It is upsetting to think that Scout’s advocation of absolute racial equality has not been fully realised, even today.[4]

Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel ‘Beloved’ tells the story of former slave Sethe, who is haunted by her baby that she killed in an attempt to stop it being sold into slavery. The baby, known as ‘Beloved,’ represents the haunting legacy of slavery. The novel looks at slavery in retrospect, informing the reader that although slavery no longer exists, its ramifications are still felt. Morrison lived in Ohio in the North, and her novel follows a long line of northern ideas, that slavery was an unjust and brutal institution. The novel was written in a period after the end of legal segregation, following President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Civil Rights Acts of 1964, which prohibited racism in public places, and 1968, which discouraged racism in housing and employment. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave government agents permission to ensure that voting practices were being carried out properly, and that black people were allowed to exercise their right to vote. The establishment of Affirmative Action, a set of laws ‘intended to end and correct the effects of a specific form of discrimination,’ emerged from the Regents vs Bakke case in 1978.[5] This demonstrates that the novel reflected changing perceptions of race relations at the time, as people in power continued to push for legal racial equality.[6]

In Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel, ‘The Help,’ white journalist Skeeter publishes the stories of several black maids in a book, giving them a voice and empowering them. For some, the inauguration of Obama as president in 2008 represented an end to racism and discrimination. 125,000 people assembled in central Chicago to see the announcement, and Civil rights activist, Jesse Jackson, who took part in sit-ins in the 1960s, was caught openly weeping with joy on camera. Obama himself heralded his presidency as a new era and people around the world recognised the importance of America’s first black president. Again, the novel raised the issue of race relations, and acknowledged the poor treatment of black people, as detailed in the novel. This acknowledgement from Stockett, who gained her ideas from Mississippi maid owners and maids, demonstrates that the novel accurately reflected changing perceptions of race relations.[7]

Majority of the novels accurately reflect the views of the author, and by extension, changing perceptions of race at the time of publication. Despite the changes that these novels have tapped into and encouraged, it seems that recent events have proven that so much more needs to be done to encourage and ensure racial equality.[8]

Thanks for reading!

[1] Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, (London, Penguin Classics, 1981).

[2] Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, (London, Penguin Classics, 2014).

[3] Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind, (London, Pan Publishing, 2014).

[4] Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, (London, Arrow Publishing, 2010).

[5] Walter Feinberg, ‘”Affirmative Action” in. The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics,’ (ed.) H. Lafolette, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005).

[6] Toni Morrison, Beloved, (New York, Vintage, 2007).

[7] Kathryn Stockett, The Help, (Penguin, 2010).

[8] Additional information taken from:

D. Murphy, Civil Rights and Race Relations in the USA, 1850-2009 (London, Pearson Education, 2016).

And my own knowledge.

‘Claudius in ‘Hamlet’ is powerful and effective in his leadership, but not as a man’

Claudius has been dubbed as the central villain in ‘Hamlet,’ and considering it is his immoral actions that lead to Hamlet’s quest for revenge, one could easily agree that he is the archetypal villain. It is very easy to say that Claudius is the reason for the ‘moral poisoning,’ as Tawe notes, in Denmark, but one must also consider his abilities as an effective and powerful leader. It is apparent that he is loved by the people, and presents himself as an effective leader. Although he may be a ‘murderer and a villain,’ does affect his leadership?

From his introduction, it is obvious that Claudius is an effective King, and that his presence is dramatically felt. In act one scene two, it is clear that Claudius is charismatic, and is able to charm people with his courteousness. He is obsequiously kind to Hamlet, albeit in a patronizing way, and asks him to look upon him as a ‘friend on Denmark.’ He appears to be kind to Hamlet, declaring that he will be a ‘father’ to him. In the Branagh version, this conversation happens in a great hall full of people, who cheer for Claudius. On the outside, Claudius appears to be loving towards Hamlet, which gains him the favour of the people in Elsinore, although to the audience he does appear insensitive. The image that he portrays is what makes him an effective leader, as he is able to draw people in and entice them, much like he did with Gertrude. He too enticed her in with ‘dexterity,’ which makes Claudius appear to be a magnetic figure that people respond well too, which is a desired quality in an effective and powerful leader.

As the play develops, Claudius’ morals come into question as he begins to use and manipulate others for his own purposes. He does this skillfully, and appears to be an effective leader in this sense, but does this make him an immoral man? Claudius quickly becomes a Machiavellian figure, as his cunning and scheming ways are unveiled, and it becomes evident that he is responsible for the political intrigue in Elsinore. In this respect, Claudius is seen to be duplicitous, as while he appears to be using people for Hamlet’s benefit, he is really doing it for himself. In particular, he uses people to betray Hamlet, first beginning with Rosencrantz and Guildernstern, who are asked to investigate Hamlet’s ‘lunacy.’ Claudius and Gertrude promises them a ‘king’s remembrance’ if they are successful in their investigation. Claudius’ bribery of Rosencrantz and Guildernstern implies that Claudius knows and understands people, and their motivations. It appears that Hamlet’s friends which to raise and further their status, and Claudius exploits this character trait to use it for his own purposes, making him a manipulative, but effective leader of others. This same exploitation can be seen in the case of Ophelia, who is too used to find out information about Hamlet’s ‘transformation.’ In act three scene one, she is subject to verbal abuse from Hamlet, which provides a helpful result for Claudius, as he notes that Hamlet’s words ‘lacked form a little,’ leading him to believe that he is not mad. Claudius begins to suspect that Hamlet knows his secret, and employs several other characters skillfully to investigate him, in order to protect himself. His subtlety in doing to emphasises his skills at leadership, as well as manipulation, as it is clear that he is able to coerce people into doing his bidding. AC Bradley notes that Claudius uses Laertes with ‘great dexterity,’ as he pushes him to kill Hamlet, and ‘avenge’ the death of Polonius. Claudius manipulates Laertes into this action, by challenging his ‘love’ for his father, and implying that he does care for his ‘honour.’ However, it is clear Laertes does, as he operates under the Roman tradition of ‘Fame’ in which a father’s murder would be avenged by his son, to maintain family honour. Claudius’ skillful use and deployment of other characters in the play for his own ends display him as an effective leader, but not necessarily as a good or moral man.

Claudius’ act of murder must be discussed, as it is the ‘foul and most unnatural murder’ of old King Hamlet that is the driving force behind most action within the play. Although Claudius may be a successful leader, this does not make him a good man, as as the play progresses, he can be seen to lose his control and grip on Denmark. In his only soliloquy, in act three scene three, he notes that he has committed the ‘primal eldest curse.’ He likens his act to the killing of Abel by Cain, which in the Bible, is described as the first murder. This emphasises the grotesque nature of Claudius’ action, and also implies that it has been weighing heavily on his mind. While delivering this speech in the 2017 Harrow School production, Claudius appeared to wretch, as if the rot inside him was killing him, and was rising up like vomit, implying that his actions had caused an illness, that has infected the ‘state of Denmark.’ Richard D Altick notes that it is the ‘cunning and lecherousness’ of Claudius that does indeed effect Elsinore, and it is this act that causes the growth of the ‘unweeded garden’ in the play. The Ghost notes that Claudius is the ‘serpent’ who ‘stung’ him, and this phrasing is used as in Elizabethan England, venom was thought to be stored in the tongue of the snake. This depiction of Claudius as Satan, likening him to the snake in the Garden of Eden, emphasises the nature of his ‘offense,’ and it understandable that Claudius begins to feel like he is losing control in Denmark, despite his skills at being a leader. After the death of Polonius, he finds no other solution to the situation other than to kill Hamlet, and hoping that ‘England’ will do it. Claudius begins to take such drastic actions to guard his secret, and realises that things are becoming more difficult at every turn. He appears affected by the madness of Ophelia in act four scene five, as he notes that it ‘springs from her father’s death.’ Claudius realises that the repercussions of Polonius’ death, and the news that Hamlet was responsible for it has sent ramifications throughout the court, and that he must now deal with it. He worries about Ophelia, due to the ‘pestilent speeches’ she may have heard, as this could lead to the incrimination of himself. Claudius appears to be losing control of people at this point, as can also be seen with Gertrude, in the Harrow School production, where she began to turn away from him. Claudius’ effective skills as a leader can be seen to wane, as he begins to lose control of people and the actions within the court, due to his previous immoral actions.

When examining Claudius’ soliloquy, one could argue that Claudius, despite his powerful leadership, is a weak man. It appears that Claudius feels he cannot be forgiven for the murder, as he is still ‘possess’d’ by the ‘effects for which I did the murder.’ Claudius does not seem to care about the death of his brother, but more cares about what he has gained from it, making him appear to be a man of low morals, and a weak willed one, who is only interested in material things. When apologising in prayer, he notes that ‘words without thought never to heaven go.’ It is clear that Claudius does not show repentance for his actions, as he is more concerned with what he has gained from it, making him appear to be a weak willed man who is only interested in power. The objects of this is his ‘crown,’ which he notes first in his list of three explaining his gains. This emphasises the importance of it to him, implying that he appreciates the power he has inherited from his brothers’ murder. This directly makes Claudius appear immoral, despite his effective leadership skills, as he seems only concerned with power, and is prepared to murder for it. This can be seen in the play, with his decision to kill Hamlet in order to maintain his position as King of Denmark. Gertrude is noted last in the triplet, which could be seen to downplay his love for her. This idea is further explored when he meekly tells her ‘not to ‘drink’ at the end of the play. If he did truly love her, should he not have tried harder to prevent her death? This points and supports the idea that Claudius is a weak man, who was perhaps jealous of his brother’s power, which led him to murder. This contrasts with Claudius’ strong leadership, as behind it appears a man who is only concerned with his own ‘ambition’ and advancement, making him appear to be a weak and despotic figure, who is prepared to murder for    power.

It is clear in the play that Claudius is able to lead and use people for his own gains, and although this can be seen as morally dubious, it does not encroach on the fact that he is a good leader, and is able to entice people to do his bidding. However, when examining Claudius as a man, it appears that he is not so strong, as he appears to be a weak man only obsessed with the power that he can gain. It is clear that he unforgiving and unrepentant for the murder of his brother, and that he most appreciates the royal status and power that he has gained from it. However, it is this action that causes his undoing, as even he realises that he cannot control the ramifications of his own actions, making Claudius, in the end, a weak man who has lost control of Denmark.[1]

[1] All quotes from:

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2016).

Lohri: A Brief History

As Lohri was last week I bet lots of you have asked this question since: What is the festival really about? Well, like many festivals, Lohri draws on lots of different ideas and customs. The festival always falls on January 13th, which differs from other festivals that have an everchanging date, like Diwali. Lohri is primarily celebrated by Panjabi’s and Hindus.

Lohri is generally associated with the winter solstice. The festival welcomes longer days and celebrates the sun’s journey to the northern hemisphere. Lohri is regarded as an ancient festival, and British accounts of celebrations date back to 1832. European visitors visited Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore, and described a bonfire being lit for the festival of Lohri.

There is speculation that the festival is linked to the story of Dulla Bhatti. The Panjabi folk hero is believed to have saved many Sikh Panjabi girls from being sold into slavery under the Emperor Akbar. He also led a revolt against Mughal rule, and although he may be absent from the history books, he survives in the Panjabi folk songs that are sung at Lohri. It was by Emperor Akbar that Bhatti was eventually hanged in 1599 in Lahore, his last words apparently being ‘No honourable son of Panjab will ever sell the soil of Panjab.’

Traditional Lohri celebrations, as mentioned, include lighting a bonfire. Songs are sung, and people dance around the fire in the style of the ancient Panjabi folk dance: Bhangra and Giddah. Dried foods such as rice and sugar are also thrown into the fire. Gifts are also given, and the festival acts as an excuse for families to get together in celebration. Traditional Lohri food includes makki di roti and saag. Saag and makki di roti are served because these were the foods that were in season in January. Saag would be made the night before, as it takes hours to cook.

In India, in the run up to the festival, Panjabi boys and girls would go around collecting logs to place on the Lohri fire. Children go knocking on doors, singing and asking for Lohri. Gifts would be given to the children in the form of food, the practice can be likened to trick or treating.

Lohri is celebrated if there has been a wedding in the family, or if a new baby has been born. Lohri’s association with childbirth may well be connected to the harvest. The idea of regrowth and rebirth may well have encoruraged people to associate the birth of new children with Lohri, but it is still debated today whether Lohri is a festival for baby boys, or baby girls.

Nowadays, Lohri is seen especially important if a baby boy has been born in the household. This revolved around the idea of having a male successor, something that was cause for celebration. Those hosting Lohri celebrations would be expected to give gifts to guests, including suits and mithai.

This may deviate from traditional beliefs about the festival, as research seems to suggest that the festival primarily focused on women. This builds on the stories of Dulla Bhatti, asserting that Lohri is a festival that celebrates the freedom of women, specifically their freedom from male oppression. It has been opined that the switch from celebrating women to celebrating men may have been engineered by patriarchal ideas, and the desire to restrain women. It is a more common practice now to celebrate Lohri even if girls are born.

The Hindu celebration of Lohri is slightly different, and is instead known as Makar Sankranti. In areas such as Gujarat and Maharashtra, colour kites are flown to celebrate the day.

Happy belated Lohri!

Thanks for reading!

‘West Side Story’: An Analysis

‘West Side Story’ is recognised as one of the most popular musicals of all time, and it is not surprising that it has its roots in Shakespeare given the tragedy and romance of the whole affair. Almost all the songs have been subsumed into popular culture, and are instantly recognisable. 

The story takes Shakespeare’s idea of two feuding families, and places them in 1950s New York. However the warring factions are not family, but Americans and Puerto Ricans. The conclusion of the story is that hatred leads to violence, and violence begets violence. Apart from the characters and setting, the play, and both films, follow Shakespeare’s plot to the letter, apart from the ending, as it is only Tony that dies… but more on that, later. The play seems to be part of many attempts to bring Shakespeare to a modern audience, and normalise his work. Having said this, the story can be seen to fit into the genre of realism, but also can be seen as unrealistic. The opening prologue of both films shows gritty, dirty building sites and back alleys, to show that this story is grounded in reality. The inclusion of the clicking, ballet and choreographed fighting takes the audience away from its more realistic images and settings. The films straddle both genres. 

‘West Side’ refers to the west side of America, New York, where the story takes place. The conflict between Puerto Ricans and Americans is historically founded. After America acquired Spain in the 1898 war, Puerto Ricans were declared American citizens in 1917, prompting an influx of Puerto Ricans coming to America. This peaked in the 1950s, with over 470,000 migrants moving to America. The presentation of Puerto Ricans in both films has been criticised, and to those who devised the original, I doubt it is likely that Puerto Ricans were chosen to explore their culture, but merely to match with what was going on at the time. Essentially the conflict that history offered to the writers was convenient at the time. Due to this, the Puerto Ricans seem like any other gang that the Jets have dispensed with in the 1961 film, and the war just seems like it is to do with land… not ethnicity or cultural difference. It is not until Spielberg’s version that some effort is made to dispense with harmful stereotypes, but more on that later. There was a rise in gang crime also at the time, especially following World War Two, and the general feeling that many men had been left behind by the system. 

The protagonists Tony and Maria share some of Romeo and Juliet’s qualities, and are both loving, passionate and ultimately idealists. Tony, played by Richard Beymer and Ansel Elgort, seems to be more the more active of the pair, as after the dance he pursues Maria, and later persuades her to run away. Tony, throughout the film believes in a better life, that something big is coming his way. This of course foreshadows his meeting with Maria, which in a way brings him back to life. The same can be said of Romeo, as when he first lays eyes on Juliet, and forgets his heartbreak. In both films, Tony used to be an integral part of the Jets, and in Spielberg’s version he is on parole. This gives some reason to Tony’s idealism, and the desire to keep his hands clean, and stay away from the gang war. He is convinced that he and Maria will be fine, and that Bernardo will love him. His idealism borders on naïveté. It is ironic that his love for Maria is what forces him to get involved in the war, in his attempts to try and break it up. Tony fits the mould for a tragic hero, as despite all of his love and idealism, is ultimately consumed by the hatred that surrounds him, and is ultimately crushed by it. Not only is it a tragedy that Tony dies, but it also acts as a metonym for the entire conflict that plagues the film, which leads to Maria’s moving speech about hatred at the end of both films. 

Maria definitely has a naiveté and girlishness. She has just arrived in New York, so everything is new to her. In a way, this makes her the audience surrogate, as we learn about the conflict between the Sharks and the Jets through her eyes. In her first scenes, she is displeased with the dress that Anita has made for her and is keen to make a good first impression at the dance. Maria, much like Juliet, exhibits an undying strength, a strength that comes from her love for Tony. This explains how both heroines forgive their male counterparts so quickly for killing their brothers. Maria has chosen love, and recognises that, if she were to hate Tony, she would only be perpetuating the hatred that killed her own brother. She transforms from being naive, to understanding the politics of the gang war and the concept of hate pretty quickly, and is even tough enough to stand up to both groups at the end of the film, after Tony’s death. Maria is probably the most innocent of them all, and is at risk of being corrupted by the hatred that surrounds her. However, she is strong enough, and clever enough, to hold it back. Anita succumbs, in my opinion, as demonstrated in her lie to Tony that Maria has been shot and murdered by Chino. 

Maria’s portrayal by Rachel Zegler is notable as Zegler is Latina, as is Ariana DeBose, who plays Anita. While some people have criticised that Zegler herself is not Puerto Rican, I do think that Spielberg has made effort to try and give more time to Puerto Ricans and Latin culture. This can be seen in his use of Spanish. Interestingly, Spielberg chose not to subtitle the Spanish because he did not want to give the English language control over Spanish. This is an interesting thought, and one I had not considered, and I do see his point. Conversely though, you could argue that without a translation, the divide between Spanish and non-Spanish speakers is only widened. This inclusion though does hammer home that the conflict between the Jets and the Sharks is ethnically motivated. Throughout Spielberg’s version also, the audience can see that signs are being down and replaced with words and images that harken to other cultures, like the creation of an Irish pub. It is clear that there are cultural differences which lead to conflict. 

Anita Moreno is well used by Spielberg to talk about assimilation and the merging of different cultures. She debates that, should she open her shop to the Sharks, she may be betraying her Puerto Rican culture. Anita in both films becomes disillusioned by America following Bernardo’s death, and fades away from the film at this point. Valentina’s singing of ‘Somewhere’ builds on her experience as a mature person, and emphasises the idea that, still, Puerto Ricans do not belong in America. Her relationship with Doc can be contrasted with that of Maria and Tony, one is successful, one is not. 

Considering the original was made in 1961, it is visually impressive. What stood out to me in both versions is the costuming. In both versions of the film, the Jets and Sharks wear different colours, to clearly mark their difference and rivalry. It is Maria who stands out in both versions though, wearing white at the dance at the beginning. A colour that no doubt implies her purity and innocence. Her red belt adds a touch of colour, and maybe hints at her passion and loving nature. The two colours of red and white always remind me of Tess at the May dance, and the Madonna-whore complex. I do not know if this complex can be applied to Maria, but like Tess, Maria’s wearing of white also implies that she is impressionable, and at first, a blank slate. The ideas and beliefs of those around her are projected onto her, such as hatred, and like Tess, she tries to combat them. As mentioned, Maria succesfully does.

In the 1961 version, the Jets wear purple and red, whereas the Sharks were blues, oranges and yellows. The shades of colour are not that far apart in this version interestingly, perhaps trying to imply that both groups are not that different, ‘both alike in dignity’ as Shakespeare says. Those on the outskirts of the dance wear a darker green, perhaps to show them as outsiders. Bernardo is horrified to find Maria and Tony together, but Maria claims that it was not the Jets as a whole, but ‘only him.’ She only has eyes, and love, for Tony. She does not see a group, but an individual, meaning that, unlike her brother she does not see the gang conflict, in part because she is new to the city. At the end of this film, Maria wears red. Originally she wanted to wear red to the dance. It is at the end of the film that Maria appears how she wants to, she is not being dressed by Anita, but is confident enough to dress, and be, herself. Tony brings this out in her. 

In Spielberg’s version, the divide is more obvious, the Jets wear blue, the Sharks wear red. Maria however flits between the two, and while she wears red at the beginning of the film, her choice of colour clearly changes. During Rachel Zegler’s beautiful rendition of ‘I Feel Pretty,’ she wears a blue dress with a red apron over the top. She is both Jet and Shark, American and Puerto Rican, as denoted by the two different colours. From this point on she wears blue, and in the final scene, Tony dies in her arms while she wears a blue dress. It is Tony’s death that unites the two gangs, and together they carry his body off in a funeral procession. Both films abruptly end here, probably to emphasise the tragedy that has just occurred, and to leave the audience with Maria’s speech and message that violence begets violence, perhaps in an attempt to ensure that the audience carries this message forward with them.

Maria survives though, which marks a departure from Shakespeare’s source material. This means that the ending is not totally depressing, and maybe means there is some hope for the future. Maria, like Valentina, in Spielberg’s version is in a minority, and perhaps, when she grows old, Maria may become a version of that character. Hopeful for change, having had a brief, but somewhat tragic, taste of that hope and idealism herself. 

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Was the introduction of Jim Crow Laws by state governments the most important reason for the denial of civil and political equality for black Americans?

 After Lincoln’s issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, a period of Reconstruction began in America from 1865, which attempted to integrate black Americans into society. After Lincoln’s assassination, the Reconstruction took a different turn, which gave way to the evolution of Black Codes and eventually Jim Crow Laws primarily within the Deep South. Such laws denied black people civil and political equality, regarding voting rights and miscegenation. Apart from the introduction of Jim Crow laws by state governments, violence, the decisions of the Supreme Court and property restrictions denied blacks civil and political equality. It was the introduction of Jim Crow Laws by state governments that was the most important reason for the denial of civil and political equality for black Americans. 

   The Jim Crow Laws that were implemented across America concerning miscegenation denied civil equality for black Americans, as white men and women were condemned for entering into sexual relationships with blacks. Laws concerning miscegenation were implemented across 27 states. This showed that these laws were put into practice across the whole of America, showing how racism was widespread, and not just concentrated within the Deep South. In Mississippi in 1890, after the rewriting of their current constitution, the marriage between a white and black was declared “null and void.” Such laws were reinforced in Utah as late as 1943, denying blacks civil equality as it was implied that blacks were inferior to whites, and therefore could not enter into a relationship with them.

   Jim Crow Laws greatly affected political equality for black Americans as they interfered with the black populations’ ability to vote. After the Reconstruction, black voters outnumbered white voters in five of the former Confederate States. The Democrat heavy southern state governments, in response to this, sought to find out ways that they could remove the political rights of black Americans. After the rewriting of the Mississippi Constitution in 1890, the state legislature ensured that black Americans would not be allowed to vote. This contradicted the 15th Amendment, which had given all American citizens the right to vote, regardless of race. Louisiana’s ‘Grandfather Clause’ played a significant role in affecting the political equality of blacks. 

   Louisiana’s ‘Grandfather Clause’ was introduced on the 8th of February 1898, and successfully denied political equality for blacks. The aim of the Clause, as laid down by the president of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention was to remove illiterate voters. Such a term was used to hide their discriminatory views against black people. Under the convention, one could only vote if they owned land and could pass a literacy test. In order to deny blacks the right to vote, the ‘Grandfather Clause’ was added, stating that if somebody’s grandfather could vote, they could also. However, they must have been eligible to do so from 1867, which successfully excluded blacks, as they had not been given the vote until 1870. Such segregation demonstrates the lengths that white people went to exclude blacks, and also shows how black people were denied the right to vote.

   The poll tax also introduced by state governments also denied blacks political equality, as, on the surface, they were excluded from voting on financial grounds. This tax also led to a drop in white voting, as they too could not afford to pay the two dollar poll tax. Georgia and Arkansas installed poll taxes, which caused a 65 percent drop in black voting. In Arkansas in 1890, 71 percent of blacks voted in the election, which dropped to 9 percent after the poll tax was instated. The poll tax was used as a cover for racial discrimination, as state governments intended the new laws to be financially, and not racially motivated. Such laws were introduced in several northern and western states, such as Wisconsin, California and Connecticut. This stopped many blacks from voting, as they simply could not afford to do so. This allowed state governments to racially discriminate against black people while claiming that the new laws were based on purely financial grounds. The steps taken to restrict the voting rights of black Americans prove that the introduction of Jim Crow Laws by state governments were the most important reason for the denial of civil and political equality for black Americans.

   The evolution of white supremacy and violence towards black Americans is another way in which blacks were denied civil and political equality, beginning with the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was set up in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, and consisted of a group of former Confederate soldiers, who sought to protect chivalry, mercy and patriotism. They targeted black teachers and ministers as they wished to halt black education. They were also responsible for lynching many black men, averaging to 187 in the 1890’s. Lynching’s were public and family events, and one shocking example is the lynching of Henry Smith, who was tortured for fifty minutes before he was lynched and set alight. 10,000 people gathered to watch the event in Texas in 1893, which was reported in the New York Times. The New York Sun reported, “Every groan from the fiend, every contortion of his body was cheered by the thickly packed crowd.” This created a state of fear within the south, as blacks were too scared to ask and fight for their political and civil rights, making it another significant way in which these rights were denied. Ida Wells Barnett, a journalist who eventually migrated to the north, noted that blacks would most commonly be lynched if they were disrespectful to a white, were accused of raping a white woman or if he were too prosperous. This use of fear and scaremongering was also used to stop blacks from voting, which led to denial of their political and civil equality. Although this violence impacted greatly on the lives of blacks it is still the Jim Crow laws that had the most significant affect in denying their civil and political equality, as this was done formally through state governments with the aim of discriminating against black people.

   The decisions of the Supreme Court can also be seen to deny civil and political equality to black people, especially when looking at the repercussions of the Plessy v Ferguson case. The case challenged the Louisiana law of 1890, which demanded segregation on railroads. Homer Plessy was one eighth black, and deliberately broke the segregation rules on street cars. His lawyer tried to prove that, by pointing out that Plessy was mixed race, segregating facilities by colour was absurd. However, the Supreme Court ignored this argument, stating that Plessy was a known black, and that he should know his place. The Court then proceeded to argue that segregation posed no problems as long as the facilities were equal. The case gave rise to the phrase ‘separate but equal,’ and the court argued that, in having separate facilities, the 14th Amendment, which had promoted “equal protection under the law,” was not ignored or contravened. The case appeared to legalise segregation, denying blacks civil equality, as they were still seen as inferior to white people. Although this decision was legally endorsed, it does not carry the same weight as the Jim Crow laws, as they aimed to discriminate and restrict the political and civil equality of blacks.

   In the North, a different type of racism denied blacks civil equality, through the use of property restrictions. As white people did not want to live near black people, they were not offered certain properties. This forced black people to gather in concentrated areas, resulting in ghettos.  Areas were identified that would not be sold or rented to black people, which resulted in de facto segregation. As the population of black people were concentrated into these small areas, they were subject to worse conditions, poorer standards of education which led to higher crime rates. Again, this segregation made black people feel like inferior citizens, and led to a poorer quality of life, as their civil equality had been denied to them.

   It is the Jim Crow laws that were passed by state governments that were the most important reason for the denial of civil and political equality for black Americans. These laws discriminated against blacks and went out of their way to exclude them from society, as can be seen with laws against miscegenation and blacks voting. The overall denial of their civil and political equality does come from other factors discussed in the essay, which were legally endorsed by the Supreme Court case of Plessy v Ferguson. However, it is the Jim Crow laws that act as the most important reason as to why blacks were denied civil and political equality.

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The Corrupting Presence of Rebecca de Winter in ‘Rebecca’

Given the the title of du Maurier’s most famous work it is unsurprising that Rebecca dominates the entire plot, like some sort of Gothic spectre. Although she is dead, she manages to corrupt all characters, and the physical house of Manderley, while being corrupted herself.

Rhododendrons are mentioned throughout the text, and they grow over certain parts of the house. Being red in colour, their presence foreshadows the revelations of Rebecca’s bloody death, and also the fire that will consume Manderley. They also represent Rebecca herself, as she is creeping back into the house, creeping back into Maxim de Winter’s life from beyond the grave.

Although we are led to believe that Rebecca is perfect, it turns out that she is not, in the eyes of Maxim anyway. One of her many faults is her sexual discordancy – in life, she had many affairs, including one with her cousin. Rebecca can be likened to the archetypal femme fatale, as she has drawn Maxim into some sort of obsessive madness, while managing to beguile everyone else around her. We are also told that Rebecca cannot produce children. Traditionally speaking, marriage and the bearing of children was what society expected of women, so Rebecca’s rejection of this ideal makes her incredibly subversive… even if it was not her choice, but nature’s. Pushing on with the idea of subversiveness further, it is hinted throughout the text that Rebecca and Mrs Danvers could have been lovers. Perhaps this is stressed more on Mrs Danvers’ side than Rebecca’s, especially when Mrs Danvers shows Mrs de Winter Rebecca’s lingerie. Rebecca’s behaviour would have no doubt shocked readers, and who knows? Perhaps she might have inspired rebellion in some of du Maurier’s readers, meaning that Rebecca’s influence could extend beyond the pages of the book itself. 

The irony is of course is that the narrator desperately wants to be like Rebecca, who in the eyes of Maxim, is the devil incarnate, and morally corrupt. This means that, through their terrible communication, Maxim and Mrs de Winter never understand what their partner actually wants. Mrs de Winter wants to be something that Maxim despises. Perhaps this is why Maxim, irritatingly, always tries to control the narrator. He tells her not to eat with her mouth full, and she asks him not to treat her as if ‘I was six’ (Daphne du Maurier Rebecca (London: Virago Classics, p. 227). The two have a paternalistic relationship, which is the opposite to his relationship with Rebecca, as did not have the ability to control her. This is probably why Maxim chose the narrator, as she is young, and therefore in his eyes, pliable. Rebecca is clearly a foil to the narrator. 

Rebecca manages to corrupt the narrator from beyond the grave, though. When Maxim tells Mrs de Winter the truth, he notes that she seemed ‘so much older’ (p. 336). Her innocence is corrupted by Maxim’s revelations, and by extension the presence, and murder, of Rebecca herself. With this revelation, he narrator becomes an accessory to murder. She blindly accepts that her husband is a killer, and decides to support him, safe in the knowledge that he never loved Rebecca. Rebecca has infected the narrator to the degree that she compromise her own morals, as Rebecca did in life, to suit her own needs and desires. Maxim did not love Rebecca. That is all the narrator cares about. The narrator is so blinded by her inadequacy that she does not even consider the fact that she herself could be at risk from her husband slash wife-killer.

These ideas become more interesting, and more complicated, when we learn that Rebecca herself was dying from cancer. While Rebecca has been growing in the mind of the narrator, festering and corrupting her, Rebecca herself is being physically corrupted by her own body. Is this supposed to explain her immoral actions? Was it the cancer controlling her? Who knows. Or, is Rebecca’s cancer a result of her immoral ways… is nature punishing her?

Building on from this, Maxim opines that Rebecca manipulated him into killing her… does this mean that she was really devoid of morality? Or did she act with the sole intention of getting Maxim to hate and eventually kill her? She did smile when he shot her. It is an interesting detail to add, as, cancer or no cancer, Maxim killed Rebecca anyway. It is up to the reader to decide how big of an impact Rebecca’s own diagnosis had on her, and how much it influenced her actions. We can only wonder at what the significance of Rebecca’s cancer is. 

Rebecca does however, get the last laugh. Upon seeing Manderley in flames, the narrator likens the sky to a ‘splash of blood’ (p. 428). Again, the blood references Rebecca’s own blood, which Macim spilled, and links to the colour of the oft mentioned rhododendrons. Rebecca rises from the water and takes her revenge on her murderer with fire, giving her a supernatural quality. In some way, Rebecca is triumphant because, from beyond the grave, she succeeds in destroying Maxim’s family home. It is possible that Mrs Danvers herself set the fire, but even if she did, it is powered by her devotion to Rebecca. Rebecca acts through Mrs Danvers, and the burning of Manderley only cements the fact that Rebecca is an ever-present, corrupting, and lasting force, throughout the novel.

Thanks for reading! 

Dickens and the classic Victorian Christmas

Khambay's Words, Words, Words

Dickens and the classic Victorian image of Christmas are inextricably linked, mostly because of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Published in 1843, the book sold 6000 copies in five days, and became massively popular. First editions today sell for ten to fifteen thousand pounds. Dickens is often credited with creating Christmas, but it is more accurate to say that he revived it.

Christmas had fallen out of fashion by the 1810s, and its classic traditions were researched and revived by a group of upcoming antiquarians. The Victorians themselves loved history and enjoyed classical literature and the romance of the past. Researching the origins of Christmas would not doubt have been enjoyable. Christmas had taken a hit under Oliver Cromwell, and it was banned. It was revived under Charles I, but never to the same degree of revelry as had gone before. The antiquarians pictured the ideal Christmas in the court of Elizabeth…

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‘1984’s’ Feminist Retelling: Some Thoughts

The prospect of a feminist re-telling of ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ is incredibly exciting. Orwell’s estate have approved the release of Sandra Newman’s book ‘Julia’ for a June 2022 release, and, as the title suggests, the book will tell the same story but from Julia’s perspective. But what could this entail? Here are some random musings. 

Before reading deeply into the news stories that were reported today, I just assumed that the novel would focus on several new female characters, which would allow several different female perspectives on the totalitarian state of Oceania. I did not think that anyone would touch Julia, considering that she is a titular character in Orwell’s most iconic book. In focusing on Julia, the novel could just repeat what the reader already knows, or even ruin the mystery and enigma of the original character. 

In the book, we first see Julia through Winston’s eyes. Winston despises her, in part because she appears so dedicated to the party, and also because he cannot have her. This leads him to have some disturbing fantasies about raping and murdering her. Winston is constantly concerned that Julia is a spy who will denounce him. So, it comes as a surprise to the reader when she decides to slip him a note, saying ‘I love you.’ What Newman’s novel could elaborate on, perhaps, is the reason as to why Julia chooses Winston. We know that Winston has varicose veins, the whole point of the character is that he is ordinary, and obviously past his prime. He is no conventional hero. It is never quite clear what Julia sees in Winston, but in her he finds a fellow rebel. 

Julia is far more rebellious than Winston, and has had affairs with party members since the age of sixteen. Her position, in the Junior Anti Sex League, acts as a cover to her numerous sexual relationships. Despite portraying the perfect Party member on the outside, Julia proudly tells Winston that she is ‘corrupt to the core.’ Perhaps Newman’s novel will explain how and why Julia became corrupt as this was always unclear. We know that her grandfather vanished when she was eight, so perhaps Newman will explore this further in her novel. It may have been this that turned Julia against the Party.

While Julia provided Winston with an outlet to physically rebel against the Party, she also represented the death of femininity within the Party. As everyone has to wear blue overalls, the idea of traditional gender norms are diminished, with a particular emphasis being placed on the destruction of femininity. In the novel, Julia wears make up to make herself more attractive to Winston. The death of femininity in the totalitarian world will hopefully be explored further in Newman’s novel, and the complex issue would certainly benefit from the presence of several female characters, to comment on several different ongoing issues.

It will also be interesting to see how Julia’s affairs, some of which she had at a young age with Party members that rank above her are treated in light of the MeToo movement. Julia’s backstory is not elaborated on that much in the novel and instead she is portrayed as an independent woman who wants to have as much sex as she can, so that she can rebel. But what triggered these feelings? Perhaps Julia’s sexual experiences as a child bolstered this rebellious feeling, especially if she suffered at the hands of other Party members. 

Julia’s illicit dealings are not discussed in much detail either. As well as smuggling make up, Julia also manages to get hold of goods such as milk and coffee. Julia says that she gets these items from higher Party members, but the relationship that she has with them is not really discussed any further. Could Julia have been having multiple relationships at once? Were these goods in exchange for sexual favours? Maybe Newman will enlighten us. 

While Julia features prominently throughout the main section of the book, her presence decreases towards the end of the novel, which focuses on Winston’s imprisonment. She resurfaces at the end of the novel, and is seen with a ‘long scar, partly hidden by the hair, across her forehead and temple.’ Orwell implies that Julia has been lobotomised. This emphasises Julia’s rebellious zeal, as parts of her brain had to be physically removed in order to subdue her. How O’Brien made Julia confess and what she endured is a total mystery, something that Newman could, and should, definitely explore.

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‘Rebecca’ Chapter One: An Analysis

‘Rebecca’ was published in 1938 and is Daphne Du Maurier’s most influential novel. Throughout the novel, the unnamed narrator describes her life with her new husband, Mr de Winter, and begins to realise that he, and her marital home, are haunted by Mr de Winter’s previous wife. 

The novel opens with the iconic line: ‘last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’ (Daphne Du Maurier Rebecca (London: Virago Classics, p. 1). Throughout the first chapter it is unclear how the narrator is related to Manderley, but it is clear that Manderley is not quite tangible to the narrator. Manderley appears as a recurring dream, as indicated by the word ‘again.’ As the dream is recurring, we can assess that the narrator is being haunted by the memory of Manderley. In a way this is ironic, because the narrator is having a dream, not a nightmare. Does the narrator want to return to Manderley? Is just within her subconscious?

Manderley certainly has gothic qualities. It is described as an impenetrable fortress, as it is bolted with a ‘padlock’ and ‘chain’ (p. 1). We already are aware that Manderley, to the narrator is a memory, and the idea of a padlock on these memories implies that the past, especially that of the narrators, could be dangerous and disconcerting. It is locked, to keep memories in, and perhaps to keep the narrator out. The gate has ‘rusted spokes’ and is ‘uninhabited’ (p. 1). Crumbling mansions such as this are a common staple of the gothic novel, which date back to its inception with ‘The Castle of Otranto.’ In this novel, the crumbling castle is reminiscent of the declining aristocratic family that inhabits it. At this point it is unclear what class the narrator belongs too, but perhaps the inclusion of this trope foreshadows some sort of class conflict, or degeneration, as reflected by the physical appearance of Manderley itself. 

The narrator herself ‘passed like a spirit’ through the gates to Manderley (p. 1). In this scenario, the narrator holds more power than the manifestation of Manderley. Manderley is passive to the narrators thoughts and movements within her dream. Manderley is also passive to nature, which had ‘come into her own again’ (p. 1). Nature is personified, and described as a woman, that has regained control over the man-made house of Manderley. While this shows that Manderley is being consumed, and is passive to nature, it also demonstrates that Manderley survives and endures, not only in a physical sense, but in the mind of the narrator.

Manderley is also unaffected by time. ‘Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand’ (p. 2). So, even though Manderley is overrun by Nature, it still retains its value and beauty, as implied by the word ‘jewel.’

Nature also seems fairly ominous. It is described as having ‘menace,’ it is ‘dark and uncontrolled’ and the shrubs are described as ‘monster’ ones (p. 1). Nature is being personified to the max here, and it appears that specifically, it is being portrayed as a monstrous, menacing woman. Perhaps the author, ironically  a woman herself, is trying to warn the reader about the dangers of dominant women. Perhaps it is a dominant woman that will cause the fall of the estate. 

This allusion is carried further when Du Maurier states that the ivy ensnares Manderley. The ‘malevolent ivy, always an enemy to grace, had thrown her tendrils about the pair and made them prisoners’ (p. 3). Whether intended or not, I see strong parallels to ‘Paradise Lost’ here. After her fall from grace, as symbolised by her eating of the Forbidden Fruit, Eve’s hair is described as tendrils that ensnare Adam into having sinful sex. The ivy is again personified and described as feminine, so perhaps Du Maurier, by providing this literary link to ‘Paradise Lost,’ is trying to imply that some sort of fall from grace, or corruption, engineered by a woman, is what led to Manderley’s abandonment. 

Although Manderley is still standing, it is not without struggle. The nettles ‘choked the terrace,’ and are described as ‘vulgar and lanky’ (p. 3). The violence and aggression of nature also emphasises Manderley’s physical strength, and enduring presence. 

These ideas are all tied together as the house is described as a ‘sepulchre,’ one with ‘fear and suffering [lay] buried in the ruins. There would be no resurrection’ (p. 4). A sepulchre is a tomb, and its inclusion gives Manderley much greater significance. Not only is it a memory of the author, but it also holds other memories and secrets, linking back to the image of the padlock and gate. The narrator can enter in her dreams, but not in real life, and nothing can escape. These old memories, and old life, cannot return as implied by the idea that there can be no ‘resurrection.’ This leads the reader to ask why – what does Manderley hold that is so dangerous?

The chapter concludes with the note that ‘Manderley was ours no longer. Manderley was no more’ (p. 4). If we are to take this literally, it must mean that Manderley does not physically exist… yet we have been told that it does. The lines between memory and the physical world are very blurred throughout the chapter, but what is definitely clear, is that the narrator’s memory of Manderley is impenetrable. 

Thanks for reading!