What is the point of view of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell?

As her birth anniversary approaches, let us delve into the life of the remarkable. Anna Sewell, a British wordsmith whose singular publication Black Beauty is considered to be one of the foremost works in animal welfare literature. Her magnum opus, which is a leading work in children's pony book genre, trotted onto bookshelves just five months prior to her demise in 1877 and has since been the most celebrated animal story that revolutionised the way we treat and interact with animals.

Anna Sewell was born on March 30, 1820, in Yarmouth, England. Her mother, Mary Wright Sewell, was also a writer who specialised in children's stories while her father, Isaac Sewell, worked as a shopkeeper and bank clerk, but struggled to maintain a steady income. The family's financial struggles cast a shadow over Anna's childhood, which was marked by hardship and turmoil.

 Tragically, when Anna was just 14 years old, she suffered a serious injury that would have a lasting impact on her life. While walking back from school, she broke her ankle, and the injury was not properly treated, leaving her severely disabled and in poor health for the remainder of her life.

Love for horses

Being reliant on horse-drawn carriages for any excursion beyond her home, she developed an affinity for horses that eventually grew into a deep love for them. As she spent more time around these magnificent creatures, she became increasingly troubled by the widespread mistreatment and neglect they endured at the hands of their owners. Sewell spent her final years as an invalid under the constant care of her mother. Her health had deteriorated to such an extent that she was confined to her bed, with very little mobility. However, it was during this period of confinement that she resolved to write a book that would shed light on the harsh and inhumane treatment of horses that was prevalent during the 19th Century. Her only novel, Black Beauty, was finally published when she was 57 years old, in 1877.

Sadly, Anna Sewell passed away a mere five months after the publication of her book. While the cause of her death remains uncertain, it is widely believed that she succumbed to either hepatitis or phthisis. However, in the few months that she lived after the publication of Black Beauty, she was able to witness the overwhelmingly positive response to her work. Last September, Sewell's home in Yarmouth, Norfolk, was turned into a museum open to the public.

Black Beauty

Animal tales have always captivated our imagination, with their anthropomorphic (having human characteristics) characters and magical worlds. However, it was the publication of Black Beauty in 1877 that brought about a new era of realistic animal storytelling. This novel takes us on a journey through the eyes of a horse living in 19th Century England, narrated in the first-person perspective. Despite the wide range of emotions and thoughts expressed by the horse, the story remains grounded in the animal's true nature, which is both commendable and visionary for its time.

For centuries, horses have been an essential part of society, aiding in various sectors such as agriculture, transportation, construction, and even warfare. Although steam power reduced their workload, horses still played a significant role in English society. Black Beauty revealed the cruelty inflicted upon these animals due to the vanity of the high society and the financial hardships of the working class.

Often considered a children's classic, this book was originally crafted to serve as an autobiography of a horse. Through this story, Sewell intended to raise awareness and promote kindness, sympathy, and humane treatment towards horses. The novel's vivid imagery and simple, lyrical prose facilitates the same. Black Beauty not only broke new ground in animal rights storytelling but also paved the way for more tales featuring horses. However, these works may not have been narrated from the horse's point of view.

Pony book genre

Black Beauty's success led to the rise of the Pony book genre, which gained immense popularity in the last century. These books revolve around the lives of kids and teens who share a love for horses. Such stories are an ode to the incredible bond between humans and horses, which often inspire young readers to develop a passion for equine culture. Today, the role of horses in our lives may have reduced, but the message of Black Beauty and similar works continue to inspire us to treat all living creatures with love, kindness, and respect.

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What is Erich Maria Remarque's purpose for writing ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’?

Erich Maria Remarque's ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ stands tall as a paramount piece of anti-war literature, capturing the harrowing tale of a generation vanquished by World War 1. The first-ever non English adaptation of this literary masterpiece is honoured with nine Academy Award nominations this year. Let us revisit this classic and see what makes it relevant today.

About the author

Erich Maria Remarque was born in Osnabruck, Germany, in 1898 into a lower-middle-class family. As a young man of 18, he was pursuing higher education at the University of Munster when fate intervened and drafted him (along with a number of his classmates) into the German army. Amidst the turmoil of war, he discovered his passion for storytelling and began writing fiction.

After six months of military training, his unit was sent to the Western Front. The horrors of World War (1914-1918) cast a long shadow on Remarque's writing, shaping him into the author he would become. He found himself thrust into the trenches of Flanders. Belgium and experienced the brutal reality of trench warfare firsthand. In 1917, he was injured by the fierce barrage of British artillery, and a year later was sent back to the front lines, post-recovery. It was during his recovery that Remarque thought of writing a novel about the war. He gathered material for his book from personal stories sent by his friends from the battlefield and also interviewed wounded soldiers, to come up with authentic scenes for his story. Shortly thereafter a revolution led to the overthrow of Germany's imperial government and the establishment of a republic. On November 11, 1918, the newly- formed government signed a formal agreement with the Allies, effectively bringing an end to the fighting. These wartime events, coupled with the loss of some of his comrades, left a profound impact on Remarque, inspiring him to pen his most influential novel, ‘Im Westen Nichts Neues’. Published in Germany in 1929, Remarque's literary masterpiece sold over 1.2 million copies within a year, solidifying his place as one of Germany's most celebrated writers. The English translation of this novel, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ was published in the same year and garnered similar success. It went on to be translated into more than 20 languages and was made into a celebrated Hollywood film in 1930.

What makes it a classic?

The horrors of war

The novel describes the physical and emotional toll that war tikes on soldiers, and highlights the senseless violence and destruction that war creates. It is the author’s attempt to highlight and document how despite dodging death in the trenches and making it back home, a soldier’s soul is irreversibly crushed by what he witnessed at the war front.

Today, as conflicts (like the Russian invasion of Ukraine) continue to occur around the world the novel serves as a reminder of the human cost of war and the need for peaceful solutions to conflicts.

Dehumanisation of soldiers

The soldiers in the novel are forced to abandon their individuality and become part of a machine-like military system. This is still relevant today, as soldiers continue to face the challenge of maintaining their own identity in the face of military discipline. One of the most striking aspects of the novel is the way it depicts the soldiers as being treated as expendable objects, rather than human beings with lives, families, and aspirations.

They are constantly reminded of their duty to the state and the importance of sacrifice. The book describes how the trauma and the unspeakable acts of violence soldiers witness on the battlefield transform them into brute tools of war, devoid of humanity.


The novel also explores the theme of disillusionment. As the war drags on, Paul and his comrades become increasingly disillusioned with the ideals of patriotism and duty that drove them to enlist in the first place. They realise that they have been fed lies and propaganda to justify a war that has only brought them suffering and death. The novel also portrays the difficulty of these soldiers in returning to civilian life after the war, as Paul struggles to reconnect with a society that does not understand or appreciate the sacrifices he and his fellow soldiers made.

In this way, this German classic highlights the devastating effects of war on both the individual and society as a whole and serves as a powerful critique of the glorification of war and how it is justified as nationalism.

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What is the main theme of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton?

‘The Outsiders’ by American author S.E. Hinton is a timeless coming-of-age novel that explores the universal themes of identity and belonging. Set against the backdrop of gang violence in the 1960s America, the novel follows the struggles of a group of teenagers as they navigate the complexities of friendship, family, and social class. Let us revisit the classic and see what makes it relevant today.

About the author

Susan Eloise Hinton was born in 1950 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She wrote the majority of her debut novel ‘The Outsiders’ at the age of 15, while she was still attending high school. However, when she submitted a shorter version of the story for a creative writing class, her teacher gave her a failing grade of F. Fortunately, a family friend recognised the potential of her work and contacted a publisher on Hinton's behalf. Things took a turn in her favour and by the time she was 17, the book was in print.

At the recommendation of her publisher, ‘The Outsiders’ was published under the name S.E Hinton. The decision was made out of the concern that boys may not be inclined to read the novel if they knew a female author wrote it.

The Outsiders Recommended age: 12+

Set in Oklahoma in the 1960s, the novel follows the story of Ponyboy Curtis, a 14-year-old boy from a poor family who is part of a gang called the greasers. The greasers are constantly at odds with a rival gang called the socs, who come from wealthier families. When a violent confrontation between the two groups leaves one of the socs dead, Ponyboy and his friend Johnny Cade go on the run, setting off a chain of events that forces them to confront the harsh realities of their world and the importance of loyalty and friendship.

What makes it a classic?


Hinton's literary legacy is grounded in a simple principle: authenticity. By staying true to this guiding principle and presenting unflinching depictions of life's trials and tribulations, she has captured the hearts and minds of young readers for generations. Her iconic novel ‘The Outsiders’, delves deep into the timeless themes of identity, belonging, and the struggles of adolescence, resonating with readers of all ages. Hinton herself acknowledges that the reason for her enduring popularity is that she writes for teenagers with honesty and candour, never sugarcoating the realities of life. Through her characters' complex and multifaceted journeys, Hinton delivers a powerful message about the importance of friendship, loyalty, and the search for meaning in a world that can often seem overwhelming.

Young adult fiction redefined

The literary landscape of adolescent or young adult (YA) literature was forever changed with the release of The Outsulers, as it broke the mould of traditional teen focussed fiction by giving a raw and authentic voice to the adolescent experience No longer were teenagers relegated to mere background characters or stereotypical caricatures, but instead, they became the vibrant and complex protagonists of their own stories.

Although some grown-ups were initially taken aback by Hinton's unflinching portrayal of a world rife with peer pressure, entrenched social hierarchies, parental abuse, and gang violence, the novel quickly became a cultural touchstone for young people and writers alike. Its immense influence on the genre cannot be understated, and many scholars even trace the birth of contemporary YA fiction back to the groundbreaking publication of ‘The Outsiders’ in 1967.

Hinton's masterpiece not only legitimised YA literature as a serious and important genre but also inspired a generation of writers to explore the rich, multifaceted lives of young adults in their own work. ‘The Outsiders’ remains a timeless classic and a shining example of the power of literature to give voice to the voiceless and empower those who have been traditionally marginalised.

Life inspires art

As a high school student, Hinton was troubled by the divisions that existed within her school, particularly the bitter rivalries between different gangs. These gangs were primarily determined by economic and social status. Growing up on the rough side of the town, Hinton was keenly aware of the challenges that these kids faced and the stereotypes that were often perpetuated in popular culture. In fact, her dissatisfaction with the way that teen life was being portrayed in books was the driving force behind her decision to write ‘The Outsiders’.

‘There was only a handful of books having teenage protagonists…. I was surrounded by teens and I could not see anything going on in those books that had anything to do with real life." Hinton said about the inspiration behind her best-selling debut novel.

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What are the sci-fi novels that successfully predicted the future and inspired the technology?

The fundamental principle or foundation of science fiction (sci-fi) as a genre is to imagine possible futures or alternative presents. The possibility of using fiction to anticipate or inspire the future is what makes reading or writing sci-fi an "essential training" to prepare oneself for what the future might hold. Lets us look at some of the sci-fi novels that successfully predicted the future and inspired the technology we are familiar with today.

The modern electric submarine

Dutch inventor Cornelius Drebbel was the inventor of the first submersible vessel that could remain underwater for a certain period. However, it could only be operated for short distances. Built in 1897 by American mechanical engineer and naval architect Simon Lake, the Argonaut was the first submarine that could perform extensive open-sea operations and salvage cargo from sunken vessels. In his autobiography titled Submarine, the inventor said that the French novelist and sci-fi pioneer Jules Verne's ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues under’ the Sea was the inspiration behind the vessel.

"Jules Verne was in a sense the director-general of my life," Lake's autobiography, ‘Submarine’, quotes him as saying. "When I was not more than ten or eleven years old, I read his ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea’, and my young imagination was fired."

Google Earth and cryptocurrency

American author Neal Stephenson coined the term Metaverse in his 1992 sci-fi novel ‘Snow Crash’, to describe a three-dimensional virtual space or platform where humans, as programmable avatars, interacted with each other. This novel has been a source of inspiration for many innovators and inventors in various fields.

The virtual reality depiction of the Metaverse in ‘Snow Crash’ is often cited as a source of inspiration for Google Earth, which allows users to explore the world in 3D using satellite imagery.

Mimicking the real world, the economy of Stephenson's Metaverse was based on a virtual currency called "Quatloos". This concept is said to have inspired the development of various cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

Solar power

‘Sultana's Dream’ is a science fiction novella written by Bengali author Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain in 1905, which presents a gender-reversed society where women are in charge and men are confined to the domestic sphere. An ecological invention that was inspired by the themes and ideas presented in this novel was solar-powered houses. In ‘Sultana's Dream’, the city of Ladyland is powered entirely by solar energy. which is used to heat homes, cook food, and provide light. This novel was one of the earliest works that imagined using renewable energy to promote sustainable growth of the community, without harming the planet.

 It is one of the earliest examples of feminist sci-fi, a genre that explores the role of gender in society. The novella has inspired many works of feminist science fiction, including Octavia Butlers ‘Parable of the Sower’. This novella not only helped spark conversations about gender roles and women's empowerment in South Asia and beyond, but also served as the inspiration behind noted Bangladeshi filmmaker Rubaiyat Hossain's 2022 mentorship project called Sultana's Dream, for aspiring female directors.

In ear-devices like wireless earbuds

The growing popularity of wireless Bluetooth earbuds in recent years has led many researchers to speculate that the idea for this portable audio device was inspired by a gadget called "seashells" in Ray Bradbury's ‘Fahrenheit 451’. In the 1953 novel by the American writer, seashells are small electronic devices that fit in the ear and play recorded music or other audio content. They are described as being "no larger than a kernel of maize" and having a "thimble-sized" speaker that fits comfortably in the ears.

Although one might argue that Bradbury's "seashells” are more like tiny radios, than wireless earphones, it does not change the fact that the author imagined them before the advent of the first stereo headphones (1958).

The Moon landing

The French novelist Jules Verne's novel ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ published in 1865, is often cited as an early inspiration for the idea of space travel and space exploration. While it is not known for certain whether Verne's work directly inspired the Moon landing, his vivid descriptions of a manned mission to the Moon in a projectile fired from a giant cannon helped to popularise the idea of space travel and may have indirectly contributed to the development of the technologies that eventually made the moon landing possible.

There are many uncanny similarities between the technical aspects of Verne's narration and the actual lunar landing that was accomplished in 1969 through the Apollo 11 mission. For example, the dimensions of Verne's (fictional) capsule and the one used for Apollo 11's mission were startlingly close. Verne's projectile was launched from Florida, where all the Apollo missions were launched. The book even gave a calculated estimate of the time it should take to reach the Moon as 97 hours and 13 minutes which was pretty close as the Apollo spacecraft took 103 hours and 30 minutes to reach the celestial body.

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What is the main point of around the world in 80 days?

French author Jules Verne's sci-fi classic ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ is a riveting story that perfectly captures the spirit of adventure and is impossible to put down. Let us find out why this story resonates with modern readers.

A weekly column that introduces young readers to the world of literary classics. It focusses on one celebrated book each week and finds out what makes it relevant today.

About the author

Jules Verne was born on February 8, 1828, in Nantes, France in a well-to-do family. His father was an attorney and his mother came from a long line of navigators and ship owners.

He spent his childhood in a small maritime port city. Nantes and would often visit the docks to see the ships arrive and depart. This set-up gave a boost to the future sci-fi writer’s imagination and instiled a love for travel and adventure in him. The author took to writing while he was still at school. His passion, however, was not favoured by his father, who wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer.

When the young man went to University in Paris to study law, he fell in love with literature and theatre all over again. He decided to stay in Paris instead of joining his father's law firm after his graduation. Verne took up a low-paying job at a Parisian theatre and started putting up and writing his own plays.

Known for his experimental take on the classic adventure novel, Verne is famed as the father of the science fiction genre. A masterful genius and a storyteller with an awesome imagination, his books are loved across the globe although they were originally written in French. His works are translated into around 150 languages, which makes him the second most translated author to have lived after Agatha Christie. Verne became famous and gained a large readership after the publication of his voyages Extraordinaires, a series of 54 novels that were originally published by the French publisher and author Pierre-Jules Hetzel between 1863 and 1905. Some of his most celebrated novels from the series include Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864). From the Earth to the Moon (1865). Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (late 1869-70), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1872).

Around the World in Eighty Days

Around the World in Eighty Days is an adventure novel that chronicles the thrilling journey of the meticulous English gentleman Phileas Fogg and his French valet Passepartout as they attempt to traverse the globe in eighty days to win a wager of £20,000 set by his friends at the Reform Club. Along the way, the two are interrogated by a Scotland Yard detective named Fix, who believes Fogg has robbed the Bank of England. During the course of this journey, the travelling duo also rescues an Indian princess named Aouda, from being sacrificed as a sati (Sanskrit for good wife) at her husband's funeral pyre.

Exploring the scope of globalisation

This novel ushered in the idea that the world was shrinking with the aid of modern means of transportation and communication. It captured the Scope of globalisation and the role technology plays in allowing exploration and inter-mingling of different human societies in ways that was largely absent in literature before.

Inspiring a sub-genre of sci-fi

Verne's works often highlight the authors fascination with technology and scientific discoveries. Coined in 1987 by American sci-fi author K.W. Jester, the sub-genre of sci-fi called steampunk draws inspiration from the adventurous and futuristic writing of English authors Jules Verne. Mary Shelley, and H.G. Wells and the Industrial revolution that rapidly gained pace during Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901) championing the power of steam.

Phileas Fogg's ambition and can-do attitude can be credited with turning a potentially ruinous bet into an adventure of a lifetime. This kind of belief that partnering technology and courage can help one conquer the unknown is fundamental to Verne's stories and to steampunk's individualist culture. making it relevant today.

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What does Jane Austen say in her novel Emma?

English author Jane Austen's novels employ wit and humour to decipher the sheltered lives of the upper classes in rural England. Her novel Emma explores the baffling collision of emotions and etiquette. Let us revisit this story and see what makes it a classic.

About the author

Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire, England. She was the second daughter and seventh child of Reverend George Austen and Cassandra Leigh Austen. Her father was a rector and a scholar who encouraged and inculcated a love for learning in his children. The authors mother was a woman of quick wit, popular for her impromptu stories in her circles. Austen shared a special bond with her elder sister Cassandra, who was her lifelong companion as neither of them married. She was mostly homeschooled by her father and brothers due to the poor financial condition of the family. However, as an avid reader, she grew up perusing classics by William Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, David Hume, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Jane Austen began writing at a very young age. She finished early drafts of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice in the late 1790s. Her novels shed light on distinct expectations of a woman's proper role in society and studied the frustrations of her gender, in a society that saw no use for their talents.

Long considered the English authors most perfectly executed novel, Emma is the only one of her books that is named after its heroine. Published in 1815, this titular protagonist is the first and the only one of Jane Austen's heroines who has something close to power. Emma Woodhouse is generous, smart, rich and in the prime of her youth. She had lost her mother at a very tender her sister is married off, and her father is completely dependent on her. So, she age, runs the household and has the liberty to act according to her will. The novel, many critics argue, is Austen's homage to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and chronicles Emma's near-disastrous meddling in the lives of others. Austen famously said this about her heroine Emma Woodhouse "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like".

The mould of a heroine

What is a heroine? All six of Jane Austen's novels teasingly ask this question. The formulation of a typical heroine of the 19th Century as described by Austen was "Heroine, a faultless character herself - perfectly good, with much tenderness and sentiment, and not the least Wit". Heroines that dominated the English novel before and in Austen's time had to be morally impeccable. Breaking away from the trope of the pious heroine, Austen, through her rebellious, mischievous, and flawed female protagonists, broke the unrealistic societal expectations that forced women to lead their lives as pictures of perfection.

The Artistry

One thing about Jane Austen's writing style that sets her apart from her contemporaries is her way of narrating the story through the consciousness of the characters. Modern novelists call it free-indirect speech. Although Austen didn't invent this technique, according to Austen scholar Juliette Wells, "she's certainly the one who took it the farthest and established its primacy, its necessariness."

According to English critic John Mullon, the most sophisticated use of this technique can be observed in Emma, where most of the novel is seen through the eyes of a heroine who is mostly wrong about everything. So while reading it one is sharing her delusions and misjudgement.

This technique makes us as readers fall in love with Austen's characters for their humanity and the capacity to make mistakes and learn from them.

Janet Todd, Professor Emerita from the University of Cambridge, said, "Emma is the culmination of her career and it is the cleverest, the most subtle and the one in which she thinks about her artistry as well as putting artistry into the book.... think it is her masterpiece."

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Why is Frankenstein novel still relevant more than 200 years after it was written?

More than 200 years after its first publication, English author Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus is still discussed and lauded for its cultural and scientific impact on our world. Let us find out why.

About the author

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in London. England on August 30, 1797. Her father was an author named William Godwin and her mother was Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the most popular early feminists, who wrote the influential book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and championed the cause of women's education and equal rights. She, sadly, passed away 11 days after giving birth to Mary.

This devastating event heavily influenced Mary Shelley's writing. Many critics even argue that a biological reading of her magnum opus Frankenstein: or. The Modem Prometheus can help one look at it as a story of a monstrous or disastrous birth. Mary first met P.B. Shelley, her future husband and one of the greatest lyric poets of the age, when she was 14. The poet had come to consult her father after being thrown out of Oxford for writing the essay. The Necessity of Atheism.

The contest and the dream

While on vacation in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1816 with her husband, her stepsister Claire Clairemont, English poet Lord Byron and his doctor, 18-year-old Mary wrote the story of Victor Frankenstein in a friendly novel writing competition that ensued among her peers. Her novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, was first in 1818 anonymously in London.

In the introduction of the 1831 edition of the novel, the author explained that she wanted to write a story that would "speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror. But what really helped her create a narrative around this idea was a conversation she overheard between her husband and Lord Byron, on the new developments in electricity and whether it can possibly be used to bring the dead back to life. That night she had a waking dream of, "a pale student" kneeling next to the monster he had put together.

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Recognised as one of the greatest gothic novels, this book traces Italian Swiss scientist Victor Frankenstein's futile quest to impart and sustain life using scientific means. Plagued by unbridled curiosity, he creates this monster part by part from different corpses and electrifies it into a conscious being. Upon completing the experiment, however, Frankenstein, appalled by his creation, abandons it and flees. Rejected by his creator, the nameless monster wanders into the wilderness, where he takes shelter and eventually learns to read and write. The plot of this story is the chilling chase between the creator and his creation.

What makes it a classic?

The Modern Prometheus

In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan god of fire. He is best known as the ethereal figure who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind and was sentenced to eternal torment by Zeus for this act of disobedience. The authors mention of this figure in the subtitle alludes to her reimagining of what a modern and scientific Prometheus would be like. Through the character of Victor Frankenstein, she explores the jarring and tragic consequences of humans trying to play god.

Perils of being an irresponsible parent

The endurance of Frankenstein can also be attributed to its emphasis on the perils of being an irresponsible parent. A child's behaviour is directly related to the quality of parenting he or she has received. This justifies why Frankenstein's monster is looking for his creator to wreak his revenge for the neglect he feels that he has experienced.

"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mould me Man, did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me?"

Paradise Lost by John Milton Mary Shelley's choice to include these lines spoken by Adam in John Milton's Paradise Lost, in her novel's epigraph helps promote the idea of scientific responsibility. The transformation of the creature from a benevolent being to a murderous fiend because of his master's rejection and failure to take any responsibility can be understood, as Mary Shelley's warning against the single-minded pursuit of science without an accompanying concern about morality. The tension between Frankenstein and his creation represents the struggles among a parent and child, science, and morality. This story acts as a warning to treat all living things with respect.

Corruption of nature

Romanticism was a movement in 18th-Century literature that promoted the idea of purity in art, and inspiration in nature. It surfaced as a response to spreading industrialisation and scientific developments. Mary's novel as a text from this period acts as a cautionary tale that narrates the dangerous consequences of the corruption of nature in the quest for glory.

More than 200 years after its publication, Frankenstein's monster lives on in our collective consciousness as a disfigured mirror of the natural cycle of life and as a warming to not tamper with the laws of nature.

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What was Charles Dickens purpose for writing Great Expectations?

Great Expectations is a literary masterpiece by Charles Dickens that presents a caricature of the unjust socio-economic conditions of 19th Century England from the point of view of its seven-year-old protagonist Pip. Let's us look at what makes this novel relevant today.

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in February 1812. His father was a clerk in the Navy office: because of this, they had to constantly move about and follow his different appointments. The looming money troubles caused the ten-year-old Dickens to leave school to take up work so he could contribute to the family's income. He was sent to work at a blacking factory in London that made polish for metal surfaces. His experience at the factory was scarring and traumatic. These childhood experiences became an intangible part of all of his narratives and made him sensitive to the precariousness of life. Research suggests that this is one of the main reasons why the protagonists of some of his most iconic books like Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Great Expectations, are children bound by unfortunate circumstances.

Great Expectations

Great Expectations begins with a young boy named Pip encountering an escaped convict in a churchyard. The child is terrified and intrigued and he brings the convict some food. This act of kindness, then, set up ripples that will work their way through his life and that of the convict for many years to come. This novel is a bildungsroman (a coming-of-age story) on the experience of childhood and great expectations of the future that help one move forward. Robert Douglas. Fairhurst, an author and professor at Oxford University, calls it the best novel about growing up and the strains and scars it leaves behind.

What makes it a classic?

 The narration

Dicken's mastery of storytelling is reflected in his ability to capture the voices of people from different social classes without being biased. By writing Great Expectations in the first person, he crafts a narrative that puts the reader in the shoes of the poor, orphan Pip on a journey to fulfil his ambition to rise above his social standing and take his place in society as a gentleman. As a story told in three parts, at three different stages of Pip's life, the novel focusses on the role of life experiences in shaping the personality of an individual.

Literature: A catalyst for change

As one of the most famous novelists writing in the English language in the 19th Century, Dicken's ambition in life was to prove that stories and literature could help fix the problems of the world. Even from the early days of his childhood, he displayed all the signs of a great showman. Public readings held by the author displayed his genius of getting the audience interested in serious topics like the evils of industrialising society, the sordid working conditions in factories, child labour and the inefficiencies of the government through stories with interesting plots, clownish characters and happy endings. Through his stories, Dickens set out on a mission to educate society.

One of the main reasons why Great Expectations has managed to stay relevant in the 21st Century is because we still live in a time of extreme inequality and indifference.

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Which is the world‘s first novel?

"The Tale of Genji", written by Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th Century, is widely regarded as the world's first novel. Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period.. Murasaki Shikibu is a descriptive name; her personal name is unknown, but she may have been Fujiwara no Kaoruko, who was mentioned in a 1007 court diary as an imperial lady-in-waiting.

The tale had an unprecedented global influence. The book is written in a notoriously complex style with frequent poetic ambiguity and over 800 inserted poems, but it was an instant success and quickly gained its reputation as a timeless classic. At its most basic, The Tale of Genji is an absorbing introduction to the culture of the aristocracy in early Heian Japan—its forms of entertainment, its manner of dress, its daily life, and its moral code. The era is exquisitely re-created through the story of Genji, the handsome, sensitive, gifted courtier, an excellent lover and a worthy friend. Most of the story concerns the loves of Genji, and each of the women in his life is vividly delineated. The work shows supreme sensitivity to human emotions and the beauties of nature, but as it proceeds its darkening tone reflects the Buddhist conviction of this world’s transience.

Credit : West Port Library

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Is the Tale of Genji the world's first novel?

The Tale of Genji is considered to be the world's first novel. It was written in around A.D. 1010 by a Japanese noblewoman named Murasaki Shikibu. The hero of this 54-chapter novel, regarded as a masterpiece of Japan's cultural tradition, is a handsome aristocrat named Hikaru Genji. The novel describes the life of Genji and his many romances against the backdrop of Japan's court society.

At its most basic, The Tale of Genji is an absorbing introduction to the culture of the aristocracy in early Heian Japan—its forms of entertainment, its manner of dress, its daily life, and its moral code. The era is exquisitely re-created through the story of Genji, the handsome, sensitive, gifted courtier, an excellent lover and a worthy friend. Most of the story concerns the loves of Genji, and each of the women in his life is vividly delineated. The work shows supreme sensitivity to human emotions and the beauties of nature, but as it proceeds its darkening tone reflects the Buddhist conviction of this world’s transience.

Arthur Waley was the first to translate The Tale of Genji into English (6 vol., 1925–33). Waley’s translation is beautiful and inspiring but also very free. Edward Seidensticker’s translation (1976) is true to the original in both content and tone, but its notes and reader aids are sparse, in contrast to the translation published by Royall Tyler in 2001.

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Indian author and activist, who won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 for her book “God of Small Things”?

Suzanna Arundhati Roy (born 24 November 1961) is an Indian author best known for her novel The God of Small Things (1997), which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 and became the best-selling book by a non-expatriate Indian author. She is also a political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes.

In 1997 Roy published her debut novel, The God of Small Things to wide acclaim. The semiautobiographical work departed from the conventional plots and light prose that had been typical among best-sellers. Composed in a lyrical language about South Asian themes and characters in a narrative that wandered through time, Roy’s novel became the biggest-selling book by a nonexpatriate Indian author and won the 1998 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Roy’s subsequent literary output largely consisted of politically oriented nonfiction, much of it aimed at addressing the problems faced by her homeland in the age of global capitalism. Among her publications were Power Politics (2001), The Algebra of Infinite Justice (2002), War Talk (2003), Public Power in the Age of Empire (2004), Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers (2009), Broken Republic: Three Essays (2011), and Capitalism: A Ghost Story (2014). In 2017 Roy published The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, her first novel in 20 years. The work blends personal stories with topical issues as it uses a large cast of characters, including a transgender woman and a resistance fighter in Kashmir, to explore contemporary India.

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Who is the creator of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple?

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

Educated at home by her mother, Christie began writing detective fiction while working as a nurse during World War I. Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), introduced Hercule Poirot, her eccentric and egotistic Belgian detective; Poirot reappeared in about 25 novels and many short stories before returning to Styles, where, in Curtain (1975), he died. The elderly spinster Miss Jane Marple, her other principal detective figure, first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage (1930). Christie’s first major recognition came with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), which was followed by some 75 novels that usually made best-seller lists and were serialized in popular magazines in England and the United States.

Christie’s plays included The Mousetrap (1952), which set a world record for the longest continuous run at one theatre (8,862 performances—more than 21 years—at the Ambassadors Theatre, London) before moving in 1974 to St Martin’s Theatre, where it continued without a break until the COVID-19 pandemic closed theatres in 2020, by which time it had surpassed 28,200 performances; and Witness for the Prosecution (1953), which, like many of her works, was adapted into a successful film (1957).

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Emily Bronte published only which novel in her lifetime?

Emily Jane Brontë was an English novelist and poet who is best known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, now considered a classic of English literature. 

Emily Brontë’s work on Wuthering Heights cannot be dated, and she may well have spent a long time on this intense, solidly imagined novel. It is distinguished from other novels of the period by its dramatic and poetic presentation, its abstention from all comment by the author, and its unusual structure. It recounts in the retrospective narrative of an onlooker, which in turn includes shorter narratives, the impact of the waif Heathcliff on the two families of Earnshaw and Linton in a remote Yorkshire district at the end of the 18th century. Embittered by abuse and by the marriage of Cathy Earnshaw—who shares his stormy nature and whom he loves—to the gentle and prosperous Edgar Linton, Heathcliff plans a revenge on both families, extending into the second generation. Cathy’s death in childbirth fails to set him free from his love-hate relationship with her, and the obsessive haunting persists until his death; the marriage of the surviving heirs of Earnshaw and Linton restores peace.

Sharing her sisters’ dry humour and Charlotte’s violent imagination, Emily diverges from them in making no use of the events of her own life and showing no preoccupation with a spinster’s state or a governess’s position. Working, like them, within a confined scene and with a small group of characters, she constructs an action, based on profound and primitive energies of love and hate, which proceeds logically and economically, making no use of such coincidences as Charlotte relies on, requiring no rich romantic similes or rhetorical patterns, and confining the superb dialogue to what is immediately relevant to the subject. The sombre power of the book and the elements of brutality in the characters affronted some 19th-century opinion. Its supposed masculine quality was adduced to support the claim, based on the memories of her brother Branwell’s friends long after his death, that he was author or part author of it. While it is not possible to clear up all the minor puzzles, neither the external nor the internal evidence offered is substantial enough to weigh against Charlotte’s plain statement that Emily was the author.

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Which author created two memorable characters of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy in her novel?

Pride and Prejudice, romantic novel by Jane Austen, published anonymously in three volumes in 1813. A classic of English literature, written with incisive wit and superb character delineation, it centres on the burgeoning relationship between Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of a country gentleman, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a rich aristocratic landowner. Upon publication, Pride and Prejudice was well received by critics and readers. The first edition sold out within the first year, and it never went out of print.

The work, which Austen initially titled First Impressions, is the second of four novels that Austen published during her lifetime. Although Pride and Prejudice has been criticized for its lack of historical context (it is likely set either during the French Revolution [1787–99] or the Napoleonic Wars [1799–1815]), the existence of its characters in a social bubble that is rarely penetrated by events beyond it is an accurate portrayal of the enclosed social world in which Austen lived. She depicted that world, in all its own narrow pride and prejudice, with unswerving accuracy and satire. At the same time, she placed at its centre, as both its prime actor and most perceptive critic, a character so well conceived and rendered that the reader cannot but be gripped by her story and wish for its happy denouement. In the end, Austen’s novel has remained popular largely because of Elizabeth—who was reportedly Austen’s own favourite among all her heroines—and because of the enduring appeal to men and women alike of a well-told and potentially happily ending love story.

Pride and Prejudice inspired various stage, film, and television productions. Notable adaptations included the 1940 film with Greer Garson as Elizabeth and Laurence Olivier as Darcy, the 1995 TV miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and the 2005 movie featuring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. 

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Which author wrote “Frankenstein”, which is hailed as the first sci-fi novel?

Frankenstein, the novel written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is often hailed as the first novel in the science fiction genre.

On March 11, 1818 Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus was published for the first time. Written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who was merely 21 at that time, the novel is often hailed as the first novel in the science fiction genre. Much like how it was for women writing in other genres, it was not an easy task for Shelly. The first edition was published anonymously and there is an interesting story behind writing the novel.

In 1816, Mary Shelley along with her husband, poet Percy were visiting Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva. It was rented by Lord Byron and John Polidori. The story goes that one evening, as suggested by Byron, all of them wrote their own ghost story. “I busied myself to think of a story – a story to rival those which had excited me to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror – one to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beating of the heart,” Mary wrote in the 1831 edition of the novel.

Needless to say she succeeded in producing what she had set out for. The tale of a scientist who decided to play God but then disgusted with his creation abandoned him has achieved an iconic status over the years. However, even though Mary Shelley started the genre, so as to say, it was still a struggle for women to make a mark in this field. Even after all these years, there remains only a handful of female writers who have managed to carve a niche for themselves. On the author’s birth anniversary, we bring to you names of some other female authors who have lent their words to the science fiction genre to make it more enriching.

Credit : The Indian Express

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