Was Henry James’s great tale one big joke?
‘The Figure in the Carpet’ has become a short-hand or idiom for the ‘key’ to understanding a writer’s work. And yet the story in which the idiom was born, Henry James’s 1896 tale ‘The Figure in the Carpet’, refuses to open itself up to easy interpretations or analysis. Neither we nor Henry James’s narrator learn the secret, the ‘figure in the carpet’. So what is this ambiguous story saying? You can read James’s story here.
First, a brief summary or recap of the plot of James’s story. An unnamed narrator reviews the latest novel by the author Hugh Vereker, and congratulates himself on having divined the true meaning of Vereker’s book. But at a party, he overhears Vereker telling the other guests that the narrator’s review was ‘the usual twaddle’. When Vereker discovers the narrator heard him badmouthing his review, he seeks to mollify him by telling him that nobody has managed to divine the true meaning of his work, but that there is an idea present in all of his novels, which he likens to the complex woven figure in a Persian carpet, which provides the ‘secret’ or ‘key’ to understanding all of his work. Spurred on by this, the narrator sets out to discover what ‘the figure in the carpet’ really is that will unlock the secrets of Vereker’s work. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of a classic Hardy poem
Thomas Hardy and his first wife, Emma, had long been estranged when she died in 1912; but her death prompted a series of poems by Hardy which are viewed as being among his best work. The ‘Poems of 1912-13’ see Thomas Hardy revisiting his early courtship and marriage, knowing that those times – and the woman with whom he shared those memories – will never return. ‘The Voice’ is perhaps the best-known of all these poems, yet its language demands to be analysed closely and given the attention it deserves. The following analysis is our small contribution to this endeavour.
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown! Read the rest of this entry
The best poems by Robert Frost
Any list of the top ten best poems by such a major poet as Robert Frost (1874-1963) is bound to inspire disagreement or, at least, discussion; but we thought we’d throw our literary cap in the ring and offer our own selection of Robert Frost’s greatest poems, along with a little bit about each poem. Do you agree with our recommendations? What should/shouldn’t be on this list, in your view?
‘Mending Wall’. One of Frost’s most famous poems, ‘Mending Wall’ is about the human race’s primitive urge to ‘mark its territory’ and our fondness for setting clear boundaries for our houses and gardens. Whilst Frost believes that such markers are a throwback to an earlier stage in mankind’s development, his neighbour believes that ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’
‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’. One of Frost’s best-loved poems if not the best-loved, ‘Stopping by Woods’ was inspired by a real event in Frost’s life: stopping by the woods on his way home, the poet despaired that he was poor and didn’t have enough money to provide for his family, but rather than give up he decided to soldier on and ‘choose life’ rather than the tempting escape offered by the woods. Read the rest of this entry