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Examine how Forster and Dunant present melancholy through both George & the Painter in 'A Room with a View' and 'The Birth of Venus'

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Introduction

Examine how Forster and Dunant present melancholy through both George & the Painter in 'A Room with a View' and 'The Birth of Venus' The cult of melancholy has spread through history and consequently literature and art; its dark, romantic sentiment is closely associated with poets and artists. Thus, it is appropriately endured by both the Painter, an artist living in the Renaissance Italy, and George, who Forster constantly refers to as a Renaissance figure. Both characters, at one point, feel a faltering despair that life is not worth living. Both authors use explicit religious references, as George is living 'in Hell' and the Painter is '...abandoned by God'. However, where the Painter is frightened of his sorrow, George embraces it in order to change. It is Mr. Emerson who reveals the nature of George's melancholy, against the backdrop of Santa Croce. Forster's irony is evident as the Emerson's are firm atheists and by presenting them in a place of worship he creates a sense of inversion. Or what could be referred to as Mr. Emerson does: a 'muddle', which resonates throughout the Chapter. Similarly, this inversion is replicated when Alessandra discovers the Painter in his despair in Chapel. It had previously been bathed in 'sunlight...falling directly in a broad band of gold' but is now 'fallen in darkness'. ...read more.

Middle

Emerson tells Lucy that George must, 'Pull out from those depths' and Dunant does the same when Alessandra describe the Painter as being in a 'pit of despair'. This again evokes religion, specifically images of hell, as hell is often portrayed as being beneath heaven. This again places both George and the Painter in a metaphorical hell, reinforcing the idea that they are drowning underneath the strain of their melancholy and highlighting their suffering. Colours, specifically dark and light colours, are used as a device by both authors to portray melancholy. This is first suggested in 'The Birth of Venus' when Alessandra claims she is, '...tired of pen and ink...everything I capture with it looks somehow melancholy' whilst talking to the Painter. Dunant is suggesting that a lack of colour reflects what it is to suffer from melancholy, which is shown when the Painter paints, 'the Devil, his black hairy body splayed out'. However, when the Painter is not suffering from melancholy, he paints Alessandra a picture, 'vibrant with colour' of the Virgin Mary. This contrast in colour is reflected in Forster's writing, when George is submersed in his melancholy he is described with 'shadows' and 'grayness' but later on in the novel with 'light' and 'sunshine'. When their characters are experiencing melancholy Dunant and Forster both use the animal imagery to stress the impact it has. ...read more.

Conclusion

She is able to explain to the Painter her own experience with melancholy in the form of what could be compared to as a sermon. This is comparable to what George does for Lucy in chapter 16. The long paragraphs detailing their experiences are almost biblical because it details their journey from light to dark. George talks of discovering the world as 'glorious water and sun' and Alessandra describes finding that 'God was light'. Their stories seem to have a sort of moral that they want either the Painter or Lucy to use to see past their own despair. Another key theme raised through melancholy is that of sexual awakening. The Painter and Alessandra prove this more openly and after they have slept with one another, the Painter immediately has his appetite for life restored as his 'wounds begin to heal' and 'some of his spirit were returned to him'. The same is for George when he and Lucy kiss for the first time, their embrace solidifies everything that George proclaimed he would do after the death of the man in the square, it encourages him to live life with 'courage and love' as opposed to fear and sorrow. The ending of both novels leave George and the Painter successful in overcoming their melancholy. Both writers see that their plight permeates throughout the novels and thus present that the strain of melancholy is eventually resolved through the help of other characters and weave their problems together to build a skillful resolution. ...read more.

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