“Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” (Althusser). Discuss with reference to the texts on the course.

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"Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence" (Althusser). Discuss with reference to the texts on the course.

Each of the central characters in "Open Secrets" by Alice Munro and "Paradise Lost" by John Milton are driven and sustained by the relationship between the realities of their existence and their personal ideologies. The conflict between ideology and reality is an important theme in the work of Munro and Milton and both the obvious discrepancies and the more subtle references to this define many aspects of the plot and characterisation. An examination of the reactions of characters to the restrictions placed on them by the reality in which they exist, and their perception of this reality is fundamental to understanding the ideologies which they possess. Their ideologies are the crucial influence on the experiences and eventual fates of each character. Ultimately the question of whether or not these relationships and conflicts are resolved or overcome is the key to gaining a deeper insight into the texts, and simultaneously provides the reader with evidence of the authors' own beliefs and ideologies.

In Paradise Lost, Milton makes use of the ideas of contrast and opposition in order to create a text which is highly significant of his own personal ideology and, at the same time, a beautiful and intricate piece of epic poetry. The first character which the reader is able to engage with on a relatively profound level is Satan. This is not as ironic as it may seem as the title should ensure that the reader is forewarned of the fact that the main concern of the poem is going to be the story of the brief but significant triumph of evil over good (Satan's success in the temptation of Eve). From the outset Milton establishes to his readers that Satan is a colossal antagonist, with the realisation that his potential for evil and his success as a tempter are unquestionable. Milton's approach in the characterisation of Satan was definitely unorthodox at the time of writing, however, his methods are essential if the plot and characterisation is to be meaningful and believable. By rendering Satan as an attractive and awesome character, he immediately invites his readers to engage with the, as yet, only briefly mentioned characters of Adam and Eve. If the readers can find themselves taken in by Satan's attractive and inspiring rhetoric, then the successful temptation of Eve becomes not only more believable to the reader, but an inevitable outcome of the plot. Milton's characterisation, not only of Satan, but of the characters of Adam and Eve is extremely important and worthy of study. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which is the main source for the poem's subject matter, is so well known as to be almost indelibly stamped upon the consciousness of Christian and, more importantly, Western Civilisation as a whole. This added depth of characterisation which permits the readers to engage with the main protagonists is essential to the greatness of this text and without it the poem would not be regarded as such an important milestone in English literature.

Desmond M. Hamlet writes that in Paradise Lost "Satan's sin is terrible because it is a rebellion against God's love, actualised in the Son who functions in the entire poem as the indispensable creative and restorative agency for the dissemination of that love in practical and exemplary ways."

In "Sudden Apprehension", Lee A. Jacobus asserts that one of the driving forces behind Milton's personal ideology was the importance he placed on having true self knowledge. Satan is known in Christian Mythology as the great deceiver, and as the embodiment of evil in Paradise Lost. Milton ironically undercuts Satan's seemingly powerful and beautiful speeches but showing undoubtedly that Satan has succeeded unconsciously in deceiving himself. This contrasts with Adam who was born "self knowing" and whose natural impulse is to give thanks to god:

"Tell me, how may I know him, how adore, / From whom I have that thus I move and live, / And feel that I am happier than I know" (Book 8, 250-282)

The reality of Adam's existence in Paradise demands obedience to God's will, however, his behaviour is influenced by his fixation on Eve's beauty. This flaw in his ideology leads him to permit Eve to work in the garden alone, and also to co-operate with her in what leads to their fall from Paradise.

Her ear leads her to the pool which deceives her on two counts, it is not "a liquid plain" nor "another skie" Aristotle wrote that the ear was the principal source of wisdom so in book 4 the reader is already being warned that eves thirst for knowledge will lead her astray. footnote *sudden apprehension by jacobus chapter 2 pg 33-34*

"In Paradise Lost, the reader is repeatedly forced to acknowledge the unworthiness of values and ideals he had previously admired" (Stanley E. Fish in surprised by sin; the reader in paradise lost Berkeley university of California press 1973)

In "Poet of Exile", Louis L. Martz writes that, in the beginning, "Adam and Eve...have all our basic psychological qualities", in short, they are made frail by their God given right to choose and their possession of free will.

"We - the readers - were made to feel ashamed of our naive affection for the father of lies" (Sharon Achinstein)

Satan as representative of the false heroic image that does not stand up against the weapons and strength of true Christianity. god as an allegory for the tyrants which Milton raged against and Satan as an allegorical representation of those who kept the tyrants in power by fighting unsuccessfully against them due to the fact that they wanted only to replace the tyrant not work for a better world.

"Open Secrets" the title tale of Alice Munro's collection recounts the reactions of the local population to the mysterious disappearance of one of a group of local girls, Heather Bell, which took place on a hiking trip a few years prior to the story's beginning. One of the first and most poignant facts the reader learns is the lyric to the song sung by the girl hikers:

"For the Beauty of the Earth, /For the Beauty of the Skies,? For the Love that from our Birth/ Over and around us lies..."

The ambiguous meaning of the word "lies" is highly significant as in this story the relationships between reality and ideology are extremely difficult to define. In this short story, Munro never enlightens her readers as to what the actual reality of the situation is. By withholding the crucial details of the events surrounding Heather Bell's disappearance, Munro manipulates the reader into assuming the position and viewpoint of a character within the text, much like Milton's seductive characterisation of Satan. The reader is forced to join with the characters in the story by coming up with theories and opinion as to what actually happened. This fact, when juxtaposed with the lack of concrete evidence or proof, leads the reader to view all the theories as "lies" and the hikers' optimistic song becomes a symbol of the fact that no matter how innocent or horrible the reality is, its dimensions will never be known.
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Jackson I. Cope, in his book, "The Metaphoric Structure of Paradise Lost" writes, "The immediate and intuitive language, which frustrates the religious polemicist in discursive argument is precisely the "corporeal" world out of which the poet shapes reality". I feel this is an important point when reading the texts of Munro and Milton. In my opinion, as a reader, the ideology of the author is not of supreme importance. Readers are often drawn to attempt to work out the author's personal ideology through the characterisation, use of metaphor and allegory and other literary devices present in ...

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