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Has the Historical context of both the texts shaped the way that they are presented to the reader?

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Introduction

Has the Historical context of both the texts shaped the way that they are presented to the reader? Both the novels that I am studying for this essay have been considered as hugely important literary works. T.S Eliot's The Wasteland is thought of as one if not the greatest poetic triumph of the 20th century and Toni Morrison's Beloved and outstanding tale of the affects of slavery has won many awards and has been talked about as one of the finest works of an African American author of all time. For the writers both these texts were deeply personal pieces and what I will attempt to do during this essay is to try and discover whether the historical context of when the pieces were written affected its presentation to the readers. I am going to look at the situations that surrounded the writing of the two texts and look for any distinct similarities and how they might be represented. I am also going to see whether the two authors own personal experiences can be reflected in the two texts ands issues like economy, marriage and politics all play major roles within the two pieces. I will look at events like the First World War and the depression that followed as well as the economic struggle that was 80's America under Ronald Regan and I hope to try and show how these outside events could have significance within the texts. Thomas Sterns Eliot is best known for his poem 'The Wasteland' which literary scholars still study and acknowledge as the poem of the 20th century. He also wrote literary criticism and cultural philosophies. In confronting the world and its past, present and future in art and philosophy Eliot developed an approach to history as complex and mature as any professional historian. During 'The Wasteland' the reader gets an idea of the vastness of Eliot's knowledge as even the opening statement is written in Greek and Latin and throughout with different references to varying texts. ...read more.

Middle

With this lack of income families were left in a state of economic desperation with no one to bring in the finances the depression hit hard as children were left as now the mothers had to go out and work. The way women as mothers, wives and daughters were affected by the war as well as children shows the line 'I had not thought death had undone so many' to be quite true as not only were the effects of war seen on the battlefield but the repercussions were felt for years to come. The post war depression can clearly be felt throughout this stanza with the workers silently filing to work no one talking but each person feeling the depression of inevitable labour. Eliot's also had a fairly turbulent personal life. In 1915 he married an English writer named Vivienne Haigh-Wood .Vivienne was upper-middle class, smart and lively but, unknown to Eliot, unstable.I believe that his wife's infidelity and the resulting breakdown that Eliot suffered had an obvious effect on The Wasteland especially in the section from line 140 - 170 in A game of Chess. In this section we hear two friends talking about the imminent return of ones husband. This piece also talks about the woman's infidelity and the fact that she may be pregnant with another mans child. You can see an element of Eliot's personal life reflected in this section with the apparent infidelity of his wife during their marriage. It is clear to see that Eliot's personal experiences played a large part in the way that The wasteland is presented to us the reader but I do also want to look at my second text Beloved by Toni Morrison and gage whether there is the same level of personal experience within this novel. In 1988 African American writer Toni Morrison received the Pulitzer Prize for the novel BELOVED, after an open letter, signed by forty-eight prominent black writers, was published in the New York Time Book Review in January. ...read more.

Conclusion

One of these times where the African American Community was hit hard was during the presidency of Ronald Regan around the same time as Morrison was writing Beloved. Under Regan there had been a distinct slide in Americas economy and his policy became known as 'Reganomics' under his policies the nations wealth and income were polarized and working class households suffered considerably as did the African American community. Throughout Beloved we see the economic struggle that is faced by Sethe and her family. First as a free slave Sethe has to work her own land in an attempt to gain finances as well as working in the city and we see at one point in the book how the capitalistic nature of America shows us that the family's happiest moment together is when Sethe pulls out her life savings to blow on a party, purchasing varying goods and that is what makes them happy not the fact that they have each other but the fact that they can purchase materialistic things for the enjoyment of blowing the money they have worked so hard to earn. I believe that both of the texts Eliot's The Wasteland and Morrison's Beloved both have a significant personal and historical contribution. We can easily dismiss The Wasteland as a fragmented work but if we understand the historical context and elements like the First World War and the depression that followed we can better understand elements of the text. This can be said also of Beloved as it is not simply a slave narrative as it does have significant historical value as it tells us that not only was suffering felt during slavery but also when people were freed the effects were felt for generations afterwards. But I also believe that events at the time of the writing of Beloved helped to shape the story as at the time of 'Reganomics' people might not have been slaves any longer but they were now something else they were slaves to the wage a slave to continued work in an attempt to stay afloat in a capitalist society. ...read more.

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