19th Century Literature Final Summative Entry

Do the interests, concerns and experiences of writers in the Nineteenth Century still have relevance to human needs in the twenty-first century? In a word, absolutely! To use a famous phrase, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. On the surface we appear to be living much different lives to the people of the nineteenth century, but a closer examination quickly reveals the same massive gap between the haves and the have -nots. Life for the working class has many sad resemblances to Dickens’s England. Employers, managers and CEOs still insist on taking way more than their share of profits made off the sweat of the worker. Bankers and stock market cowboys fiddle with the numbers to extract every possible cent, whilst workers wages are continually threatened with cuts. The atrocious working conditions of Coketown have been moved to third world countries, whilst unskilled workers in the west find it harder and harder to find any work at all. The bullshit success that is peddled to the masses via the media is akin to the tragic treadmill Ivan Ilyich was on. People waste their lives chasing shallow goals with nothing but superficial contact with other human beings. A relentless quest to acquire material goods and fame for fames sake is considered the norm; forsaking real human relationships for shallow acquaintances that may help them up this perverse ladder. Facebook offers a fascinating look into how people are so morbidly interested in how they are perceived by others. Many meticulously edit and Photoshop their lives to look as wonderful as possible in order to impress an audience of people they have mostly never met, nor will meet. The desire to be outwardly successful and scrupulous ala “The Importance of Being Earnest” is played out daily on this social media. Unfortunately, most of us do not have a country community to return to in the way Clym Yeobright did. The country folk have mostly moved to the city in a desperate attempt to find work. Big business has squeezed most of the small farms out of business and wants only slave labour to run its super efficient profit driven farms. We can however take time out in nature as Wordsworth prescribes. Failing that we can simply take the time to pause and experience something beautiful. A tree, a flower, a bird, or a dog. Art, we should embrace it! View it. Do it. Anything that may help to awaken our souls from the mundane, depressed lethargy that our modern lifestyle invokes. We cannot begin to break the invisible shackles that big business has placed on us until we first remember the true reasons for our existence. It is not to work, eat, sleep and consume. It is to love, to create, to interact and participate in each other lives. The readings I have encountered in this unit have stirred all this and more in me. It has been a marvelous journey.

Week 10: What are you trying to say mate?

Steve is seated on a milk crate outside the factory having a cigarette. Joe walks out and stands beside him, sweat pouring from his brow, and lets out an exhausted sigh.

JOE     You smoking again Steve?

STEVE     Yep.

JOE     You’ll die of lung cancer at that rate.

Steve takes another drag without acknowledging Joe.

JOE     Either that or a bloody brain tumour ay. You’re either smoking or on the phone.

Steve gives Joe a sideways glance and then stares straight ahead.

JOE     Fuck it’s busy in there ay.

STEVE     Yeah.

JOE     You play footy as a kid Steve?

STEVE [Bored.]     Yeah.

JOE      Me too. Second row for the Rovers.

Silence

JOE     You know those players that used to always seem to be on the outskirts and never really in the game. They’d make fuck all tackles. Run the ball a couple of times but be the first to jump up and down doing a victory dance if we won. Be first to reach into the esky for a drink too.

Steve has another puff.

JOE     Wingers were the worst.

STEVE     I was a winger.

JOE     Not all wingers of course. It depends on the bloke ay. I mean the position has you out of the action a lot of the time. But a fair dinkum player will go looking for the ball.

STEVE     I only played cause I thought it would help me get chicks.

Silence as Steve puts out his cigarette

JOE     Well, better get back in there ay.

STEVE     Yeah, I’ll be in in a minute, just gotta make a call.

Week 9: Family miscommunication

Cheryl charged into the kitchen just as dad was dishing up dinner. “Has Robert called?” Cheryl anxiously enquired. “You just made it young lady” grumbled dad. “It’s important” implored Cheryl. “Don’t talk back to your father” mum chimed in. “Punctuality is important missy” added dad. “I think he might be breaking up with me!” Cheryl cried. “Mind your tone Cheryl” warned dad. “Don’t you guys fucking care!” yelled Cheryl. “I will not have that language at my table Cheryl, go to your room!” wailed mum. Cheryl stormed out the back door, slamming it behind her. “That girl just doesn’t listen” dad moaned. “I don’t know what her problem is” replied mum.

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To love and hate her husband at the same time; quite the conundrum. The tragedy I feel about this relationship was that the irreconcilable differences were apparent from the beginning. Eustacia and Clym just either chose to ignore them or were totally blinded by passion. They both fell in love with their imagining of the other. An unfortunate folly that lovers long before and probably forever more will continue to make.

Week 8: Clym Yeobright through the eyes of Eustacia Vye

Why, why does he insist on remaining in this dreary place? He possesses the talent to soar far beyond this wasteland and thrive in sophisticated cities I have only dreamed of. He has forsaken a life of luxury among cultured and refined people for his own contrived mission of educating the blissfully ignorant inhabitants of this forsaken heath. Can he not see they do not desire his wisdom? Can he not see he does not belong here? He has clipped his own wings that he might never reveal his true potential and leave these people he calls his own behind him as he fulfils his fortuitous destiny. What I would give for the opportunities he has squandered. He was blind long before he lost his eyesight.

Week 7: A Universe of Uncertainty

The 25 year old fitness fanatic who, whilst jogging, got run over by car driven by a morbidly obese man who smokes two packs a day. The woman who worked hard and saved her whole life who got cheated out of every penny by her greedy younger sister. The criminal mastermind who initiated the perfect robbery who got busted when his heist was foiled by a drunken Jamaican man who thought it was a practical joke. As the old saying goes; “Want to know how to make God laugh? Make plans.” You may spend your whole life worried about cancer and wind up dying from a snake bite in Swaziland at the age of 99. Ce sera sera.

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Did the industrial age force us all to care more about time? Interesting question. I’m sure the bosses always cared about ensuring the machinery of their profits were used to the utmost efficiency. Unfortunately, the workers were seen as merely another part of that machinery and their time was money for the owners. If you need your job in order to survive and your boss is obsessed with how he utilises your time; you, by default, become dominated by time. I can imagine a bastard like Bounderby insisting all his worker have wristwatches in order to eliminate any excuses for lateness.

WEEK 6: WRIST WATCH

Excuse me, do you have the time? Well I don’t actually possess time, but I am wearing a wrist watch which can inform me of what time it is. I can look at it anytime I want and it will tell me what my society has declared is the exact time of day. Of course it is probably not exact, but it is close enough. Every few minutes we glance down at it so we can know what the ‘time’ is. We are usually waiting for something to start or finish. Waiting for work to end or waiting for the party to start. The only time we don’t look down at this contraption is when we are busy. When we are actually doing what we should be doing with our precious time; living. We ‘lose all track of time’ when we are immersed in our experience. Such a bizarre ritual; to stare at a machine and watch the seconds of your life tick away.