Midterm Exercise for English 151 (2003)

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

Directions: Answers due via e-mail on Friday, 14 March, at 8 PM. No late papers accepted.

Write mini-essays for each of the following passages that explain three ways in which the passage relates to Dickens's Pickwick Papers. To make your point include appropriate passages from Pickwick Papers in your mini-essay. One of these comparisons must concern theme, a second technique (imagery, setting, characterization, style, ethos, and so on), and a third something that relates to this course's emphasis on fantasy and realism as literary modes. Please do not repeat the same themes or techniques; that is, if you discuss imagery in one answer, choose another technique for the next one.

Hints: (1) Not all the relations you discover or create will turn out to be obvious ones, such as matters of influence or of analogous ideas and techniques. Some may take the form of contrasts or oppositions that tell us something interesting about the authors, literary forms, or times in which these works appeared. (2) Provide the author and title of any hypertext or other materials, such as the Norton Critical Editions or reference works, from which you quote or draw. Do not use footnotes but include this information within the text in the following form: (John Smith, "Characterization in Brontë and Gaskell," Victorian Web), and provide a bibliography in proper form of printed texts to which you refer at the end of the entire exercise.


She had a bracelet on one taper arm, which would fall down over her round wrist. Mr Thornton watched the replacing of this teroubloesome ornament with far mor eattention than he listened to her father. It seemed as if it fascinated him to see her push it up impatiently until it tightened her soft flesh; and then to mark the loosening -- the fall. He could almost have exclaimed -- "There it goes again!" . . . and he almost longed to ask her to do for him what he saw her compelled to do for her father, who took her little finger and thumb in his masculine hand, and made them serve as sugar tongs. Mr. Thornton saw her beautiful eyes lifted to her father, full of light, half-laughter, and half-love, as this bit of pantomime went on between the two, unobserved, as they thought.


"Spring nor summer will do me good," said the girl quietly. . . .

"I'm afeared hoo speaks truth. I'm afeared hoo's too far gone in a waste." . . . [Chapter 8]

"And I think, if this should be the end of it all, and if all I've been born for is just to work my heart and life away, and to sicken i' this dree place, wi' them mil noises in my ears for ever. until I could scream out for them to stop, and let me have a little piece of quiet -- and wi' the fluff filling my lungs . . . I could go mad . . . " [chapter 13]


Of all the strange things that Alice saw in her journey Through The Looking-Glass, this was the one that she always remembered most clearly. Years afterwards she could bring the whole scene back again, as if it had been only yesterday -- the mild blue eyes and kindly smile of the Knight -- the setting sun gleaming throuh his hair, and shining on his armour in a blaze of light that quite dazzled her -- the horse quietly moving about, with the reins hanging loose on his neck, cropping the grass at her feet -- and the black shadows of the forest behind -- all this she took in like a picture, as, with one hand shadowing her eyes, she leant against a tree, watrching the streange pair, and listening, ina half-dream, to the melancholy music of the song.


Hardly knowing what I did, I opened the door. Why had I not done so before? I do not know.

At first I could see no one; but when I had forced myself past the tree which grew across the entrance, I saw, seated on the ground, and leaning against the tree, with her back to my prison, a beautiful woman. Her countenance seemed [283/284] known to me, and yet unknown. She looked at me and smiled, when I made my appearance.

"Ah! were you the prisoner there? I am very glad I have wiled you out."

"Do you know me then?"

"Do you not know me? But you hurt me, and that, I suppose, makes it easy for a man to forget. You broke my globe. Yet I thank you. Perhaps I owe you many thanks for breaking it. I took the pieces, all black, and wet with crying over them, to the Fairy Queen. There was no music and no light in them now. But she took them from me, and laid them aside; and made me go to sleep in a great hall of white, with black pillars, and many red curtains. When I woke in the morning, I went to her, hoping to have my globe again, whole and sound; but she sent me away without it, and I have not seen it since. Nor do I care for it now. I have something so much better. I do not need the globe to play to me; for I can sing. I could not sing at all before. Now I go about everywhere through Fairy Land, singing till my heart is like to break, just like my globe, for very joy at my own songs. And wherever I go, my songs do good, and deliver people. And now I have delivered you, and I am so happy."


I first got an idea of its calibre when I heard him preach in his own church at Morton. I wish I could describe that sermon: but it is past my power. I cannot even render faithfully the effect it produced on me.

It began calm- and indeed, as far as delivery and pitch of voice went, it was calm to the end: an earnestly felt, yet strictly restrained zeal breathed soon in the distinct accents, and prompted the nervous language. This grew to force -- compressed, condensed, controlled. The heart was thrilled, the mind astonished, by the power of the preacher: neither were softened. Throughout there was a strange bitterness; an absence of consolatory gentleness; stern allusions to Calvinistic doctrines -- election, predestination, reprobation -- were frequent; and each reference to these points sounded like a sentence pronounced for doom. When he had done, instead of feeling better, calmer, more enlightened by his discourse, I experienced an expressible sadness; for it seemed to me -- I know not whether equally so to others- that the eloquence to which I had been listening had sprung from a depth where lay turbid dregs of disappointment- where moved troubling impulses of insatiate yearnings and disquieting aspirations. I was sure St. John Rivers -- pure-lived, conscientious, zealous as he was -- had not yet found that peace of God which passeth all understanding


Ravenous, and now very faint, I devoured a spoonful or two of my portion without thinking of its taste; but the first edge of hunger blunted, I perceived I had got in hand a nauseous mess; burnt porridge is almost as bad as rotten potatoes; famine itself soon sickens over it. The spoons were moved slowly: I saw each girl taste her food and try to swallow it; but in most cases the effort was soon relinquished. Breakfast was over, and none had breakfasted. Thanks being returned for what we had not got, and a second hymn chanted, the refectory was evacuated for the schoolroom. I was one of the last to go out, and in passing the tables, I saw one teacher take a basin of the porridge and taste it; she looked at the others; all their countenances expressed displeasure, and one of them, the stout one, whispered--

"Abominable stuff! How shameful!"


At no former era has Literature, the printed communication of Thought, been of such importance, as it is now. We often hear that the Church is in danger; and truly so it is, -- in a danger it seems not to know of: for, with its tithes in the most perfect safety, its functions are becoming more and more superseded. The true Church of England, at this moment, lies in the Editors of its Newspapers. These preach to the people daily, weekly; admonishing kings themselves; advising peace or war, with an authority which only the first Reformers, and a long-past class of Popes, were possessed of; inflicting moral censure; imparting moral encouragement, consolation, edification; in all ways diligently "administering the Discipline of the Church." It may be said too, that in private disposition the new Preachers somewhat resemble the Mendicant Friars of old times: outwardly full of holy zeal; inwardly not without stratagem, and hunger for terrestrial things.


It is tragically evident to me, our first want, which includes all wants, is that of a new real Aristocracy of fact, instead of the extinct imaginary one of title, which the anarchic world is everywhere rebelling against: but if it is from Popular Suffrage that we are to look for such a blessing, is not this extraordinary populace of British Statues, which now dominates our market-places, one of the saddest omens that ever was? Suffrage announces to us, nothing doubting: "Here are your real demigods and heroic men, ye famous British People; here are Brazen and other Images worthy once more of some worship; this is the New Aristocracy I have chosen, and would choose, for you!" That is Suffrage's opinion.


"Dixon," she said, in the low tone she always used when much excited, which had a sound as of some distant turmoil, or threatening storm breaking far away. "Dixon! you forget to whom you are speaking." She stood upright and firm on her feet now, confronting the waiting-maid, and fixing her with her steady, discerning eye. "I am Mr. hale's daughter. Go! You have made a strange mistake, and one that I am sure your own good feeling will make you sorry for when you think about it."


Research assignment: Go to the John Hay Library, which is open 9-5 on weekdays, and find in an article contemporary with one of the books read in English 151 thus far for some relevant material. In 500-700 words include selections from the material you found along with complete bibliographic citation and an introduction and discussion of the material that explains its relevance to the book you've chosen. You might go, for example, to The Illustrated London News, London Times, Punch, or one of the intellectual quarterlies, such as The Westminster Review, to which George Eliot contributed, or The Cornhill Review, which Thackeray edited. There you might find articles on, say, Australia, the condition of governesses, missionary work in India, orphan asylums, primary education, and so on. Make sure these contemporary materials are in fact contemporary -- that is, that they come from a few years before or after the work to which you relate them. In this part of the assignment, I am asking you to do scholarship, and scholarship is detective work. Last year several students found so much material that they decided to use these sources for the context sections of other questions. You can do so, too, but please use a different article for each context part of your essay.

Last modified 1 March 2003