Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Bad Business by Anton Chekhov Review

The short story 'A Bad Business' written by Russian classical writer Anton Chekhov is a ghost story comprised of mostly dialog. The author’s method of using dialog for presenting the story is quite unusual and remarkable. It could be a subject to literary discussion among with critics.

It is unusual for Chekhov's works that the genre of the story belongs to ghost stories. The plot took place in the cemetery, where a stranger asked the watchman to show him the way to the mill. The stranger seemed to be surprised that he appeared in the graveyard. The bright and distinctive style of the author makes the narration very tangible. For example, the text says

"O-o-oh . . . Queen of Heaven!" there is a sound of an old man sighing. "I see nothing, my good soul, nothing. Oh the darkness, the darkness! You can't see your hand before your face, it is dark, friend. O-o-oh. . ."

The stranger pretended he was weak and helpless to the end of the story when he said that he was a dead man. The feeling of terror captured the watchman. He left the graveyard alive. The burning church, it was what he saw outside. It looked like something terrible was ahead ...

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Blue Stones Allegory by Isak Dineson Review

The story 'The Blue Stones' represents a genre of allegory. The allegory includes two levels: a literal and symbolic. The literal level is about ordinary life, everyday routine and so on. The symbolic level represents the moral of the story.

The story was written by Isak Dineson. She was born in Denmark and spent most of her life in British East Africa, now Kenya. Dinesen is best known for her autobiographical narration published in 1937 'Out of Africa'. Another famous book, 'Seven Gothic Tales' includes the stories set in Europe hundreds of years ago.

The story 'The Blue Stones' is short and it seems simple. The skipper named his ship after his wife, "He had the figurehead of it beautifully carved, just like her, and the hair of it gilt". His wife was jealous about his passion, she even thought that he liked the ship more than her.

During one adventure he helped the king of savages and he was bestowed by the two precious blue stones. As such, it seemed as if his ship had found eyes. The wife was jealous about these stones so much that she secretly replaced them with false stones and kept the original ones at home.

Soon after that, the wife found that her eyesight was growing worse, and she could not see to thread a needle. She was going blind; she cried, "I should have the glass taken out, and the jewels put back." She wanted to do it but it was not possible. This sailing was last for her husband. She got a letter from the Consul of Portugal, that the ship had wrecked, "And it was a very strange thing, the Consul wrote, that in broad daylight she had run straight into a tall rock, rising out of the sea."

Every reader could make their own conclusion about the moral of the story and maybe find some parallels according to their own life's experience.

Here is the text of the story:

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ambivalence by Ben Greenman --- Review

The short story 'Ambivalence' was written by contemporary American writer Ben Greenman (he is known under this nickname). In the story, the narrator talks about the night before his marriage.

The girl who was invited by the narrator for this evening was skinny. She wasn't attractive and the narrator was satisfied that he could control his feelings for her. She asked about a number of historical books which were on the shelves in his flat. They belonged to his fiance, he answered. The girl expressed her interest in history. She talked about her ancestor who partly decoded the secret code (known as the Zimmermann Telegram) which was sent by the German army before World War I.

She was an artist, and she brought with herself some drafts. She asked him about the color on one of her paintings. It was blue. Another one was also blue. She commented, "isn't that ridiculous? Two colors which are so exceptional, but they're regarded the identical. Colors are like a code, too.'

When the girl left his apartment, the narrator found the book about the Zimmermann Telegram. He read a few paragraphs that he didn't understand. His future wife had signed her name on the front of this book. Here are the last few sentences from this story:
"He shut the book hard, like a trap. He was trying to capture his ambivalence or kill it. Three days later, he watched his wife sign her name again, on a marriage certificate, beneath a paragraph he understood completely. The ink and sky were blue."

There are many signs of symbolism in this story: coincidences in interests to a history of two women, the secret code which was partly disclosed, the vague meaning of colors. The main character suffered becoming aware of his ambivalence but he couldn't overcome it.

This a link to the text of the story:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

From The General History of Virginia Historical Narrative by John Smith Review

The historical narrative 'The General History of Virginia' was written by one of the first English' settlers in North America, John Smith. The book represents the earliest work of American literature. The author was hired by the English Virginia Company, a group of investors hoping for huge profit from their New World venture.

John Smith described in this book his adventures in the Jamestown colony in 1607 and the continuing years. This narration evoked varies reactions among historians because it wasn't clear whether the true events were described or whether the author exaggerated his role in the life of the colony.

It is remarkable that John Smith used the narration in the voice of the third person. This literary method (using the voice of the third person) gives readers the feeling that it is told by an objective observer.  Smith used the narrator to portray himself and his role in the events.

The narration is quite difficult to read; the sentences in the story are long and complicated. The historical meaning of this work is essential because it was written by a contemporary of those events. The one sentence from the narration below represents some features of the literary style which were mentioned in this review.  It also includes some historical details such as arrows and so on. Here is the sentence:

"Smith little dreaming of that accident, being got to the marshes at the river's head twenty miles in the desert, had his two men [Robinson and Emry] slain (as is supposed) sleeping by the canoe, while himself by fowling sought them victual, who finding he was beset with 200 savages, two of them he slew, still defending himself with the aid of the savage his guide, whom he bound to his arms with his garters and used him as a buckler, yet he was shot in his thigh a little, and had many arrows that stuck in his clothes but no great hurt, till at last they took him prisoner... "

He escaped from the Powhatans prison and according to his version described in a final edition of his memoirs, he was rescued by the help of Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas. It may have been an attempt to cash in on Pocahontas's later fame. She visited England in 1616 and became a celebrity. At the time of Smith's imprisonment, she was only ten years old. That part of the story raises doubts.

Despite the controversies which were mentioned above, the story gives the objective view of the epoch. It corresponds with the title ‘The General History of Virginia'.

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Review of His Masterpiece by Andrew Barton `Banjo' Paterson

The short story 'His Masterpiece' was written by famous Australian poet and writer, Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson.  The works of the author are well known in Australia. His song 'Matilda' is considered as part of the folklore in Australia--a kind of unofficial anthem of the country. Even the coin in Australia has the picture of Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson on it.

The plot of the story is simple. One stockman (in Australia it is a person who looks after livestock), tells the story that happened to him in the Northern Territory. This region is very difficult to access. People who lived there were respected by others. All stories were taken at face value by people who had never been in that area. As the author said, "When two of them meet, however, they are not fools enough to cut down quotations and spoil the market; they lie in support of each other and make all other bushmen feel mean and pitiful and inexperienced."

The main character told the story how he coped with a problem when a huge livestock of sheers went out of his control. They were frightened by the possum (it is an informal name of the opossum - a tree-dwelling Australasian marsupial that typically has a prehensile tail). The narrator caught them on the old horse while riding through the bushes. For the readers it didn't look as an extraordinary deed, but for the listeners of this story - the stockmen, it was surprising.

The author presented a contrast of the simplicity of the story with a pretentious title, "His Masterpiece". It was made deliberately to present the beauty and meaning of life of ordinary people, the inhabitants of Australia.

The language and vocabulary of the story convey some specific Australian features. All together, they created the atmosphere of the place and time. His masterpiece is the ability to survive in a wild Australian nature and to cope with everyday difficulties.


Here is the link to the text of the story: