Of all the varied types of cultural creations, such as visual art, literature, music and the like, I find fashion to be so interesting because of its immense practicality. Defying Oscar Wilde’s mandate from the preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray that, “all art is quite useless”[i], fashion is living, useful art: you wear it on your body so that you don’t die from exposure/get charged with public indecency, as well as expressing a particular statement. Is that statement as complex or varied as something that you could express in a painting or poem? No, probably not. Nevertheless, certain types of clothing and styles make meaningful statements about your beliefs, mood, or the type of person you would like people to see you as. The creation of clothing can also be an empowering act, something that Nathaniel Hawthorne picks up on in The Scarlet Letter. Despite his gendered description of sewing as “almost the only one within a woman’s grasp”,[ii] (give him a break he was writing in the nineteenth century), sewing within the novel is a means of Hester Prynne gaining some power in the community, as well as serving an important symbolic purpose of exposition of sin. This is a tiny meditation mainly on the chapter “Hester at her Needle”, but I’m sure my assessment of sewing extends to other parts of the text.
The Scarlet Letter should primarily be understood as allegorical, but it is also a historical romance, and because of this, there needs to be consideration of the historical context. Historical romances do not merely act out a quest or adventure but displays the beliefs and conditions of the time in which it is set, providing the author with a vehicle for criticism, satire and a greater poetic license within the tale. Considering The Scarlet Letter takes place in seventeenth-century Puritan Boston, there would inevitably be the mention of witchcraft. The Scarlet Letter does not directly focus on Salem witchcraft, especially because Hawthorne set the novel pre-witch craze in America but the novel is deeply influenced by the theme[i]. The internalised pattern of witchcraft was effected on a much larger scale in the cultural representation of women in general[ii] and this is evident within the characters of Mistress Hibbins and Pearl. However, Roger Chillingworth is also associated with necromancy in the novel, indicating that Hawthorne was not necessarily making a comment on gender through his incorporation of supernatural elements. By setting The
Although all writers have their obsessions and fixations, Edgar Allan Poe is known for being an author that both writes of obsession and is obsessive in his explorations of certain topics, one of his most famous being dead or dying women. Within both his poetry and prose are bereaved lovers of quasi-magical women. Focussing more on his tales though, the women of supernatural qualities of intellect and beauty die in some non-descript manner (usually epilepsy or something similar to consumption, except in the case of the pregnant “Morella”) and return in some way to haunt the narrator, either through an unnatural resurrection or because of a premature burial. The narrators within these tales also follow similar patterns: the narrator is often unreliable, having lapses in memory or being unable to differentiate dreams from reality[i]. There always seems to be a misreading or misunderstanding of the woman by the narrator, for example, the artist not noticing his bride is wasting away in “The Oval Portrait” or Egaeus not knowing Berenice is still alive. Poe remarks in “The Philosophy of Composition” that “the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world”[ii]; however, Poe does not consistently invoke these supernal women merely
Robert Frost’s “Spring Pools” is a fabulous little poem that I’m studying right now, so I thought I would do a short piece about it on Salvage. First here is the poem itself, thanks to lapsed copyright and Internet magic:
These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods—
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.