A blog for the comprehensive understanding of Literature, Applied Linguistics and ELT

March 1, 2018

The Dilemma between a Language and a Dialect

The Dilemma

One of the most intricate theoretical issues in linguistics is how to make the distinction between language and dialect. Languages differ from each other in a myriad of ways, some only by a little, and others by a lot. As a result, the amount of variation needed between two languages to classify them as dialects of a single language versus different languages is difficult to establish. Numerous scholars tried to distinguish the terms, but their efforts culminated into utter dilemma. Thus the confusion has become a matter of ongoing debate among linguists, dialectologists, and policy makers.

The Origination of the Quandary

The confusion reverts back to antiquity. It stemmed from the Greek usage of the terms. In Ancient Greek language there were a number of clearly discrete local varieties, each associated with a different vicinity and used for a different form of literature: Ionic for history, Doric for choral and lyric, and Attic for tragedy. Besides, there was another spoken variety known as koinē or “common” language, which was used in the court and commerce throughout the Hellenistic empires. According to modern dialectology all these Greek varieties are distinct languages, not dialects. But with a sharp contrast to modern concepts, the Greeks referred them to as dialects. Thus, when the Greek terms were translated as “language” and “dialect”, their meanings appeared quite distinct and different than the meanings these words have in English. In short, the Greek situation has provided the model for all later usages of the terms and the ensuing ambiguity.

The French increased the confusion further by making a division between the terms un dialecte and un patois. Dialecte refers only to regional varieties which are written and have a literary tradition, patois, on the other hand, refers to regional varieties that are not written and lacks such literary tradition.  Hence patois is considered inferior and subordinate to dialecte since it lacks any written form and literary tradition. The French speaking word never considers standard French as a dialect of French language. On the contrary, in English speaking world such consideration is not uncommon. English never considered the term patois for describing language seriously, but it has used both language and dialect in numerous confusing senses.  Dialect is used both for local varieties of English, for instance, New England  dialect, and for various types of informal, lower class, or rural speech. Sometimes it is not even considered as a part of language since it lacks proper prestige to be the language of a polite society. That means in English the term dialect is often equivalent to nonstandard or even substandard variety of the standard language. And application of such terms is a clear indication of social distinction.

Dialects or Languages?

Linguists have a saying: "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy." What this means is that the language versus dialogue question is as much a political as a linguistic one. There is nothing inherently better, more systematic or more logical in a language than in a dialect, or vice versa. Both are linguistic systems with grammar and vocabulary and are or can be learnt natively by their speakers.  However, a close observation reveals that there is a clear notion of a difference between language and dialect. A dialect is a sub-ordinate variety of a language. That is, it refers to only one particular variety of a given language. In contrast, when it is a separate language, it can be a combination of a lot of varieties of that particular language.

The association of language with a "country" or "nation" and of "dialect" with an inferior or nonstandard variety of speech is very strong. This is what is meant by "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy." We can see from this that what are called languages are often standard languages, which are associated with nationhood, with centralised power, with statehood. Nonstandard varieties of language are often termed dialects, implying that they have less status and prestige. But historically, standard languages are just dialects which have acquired a special status, and nonstandard dialects were just language varieties which lay far from the centres of power. Looked at as linguistic systems, languages and dialects have the same characteristics; but looked at from a social point of view, we can say that a language has higher status than a dialect.

Criteria for Distinguishing the Terms

The definition of "language" as opposed to "dialect" presents some difficulties. So, to distinguish the terms we must first decide how to determine, when two similar forms of a language are merely dialects of the same language and when are they separate languages.  But in linguistics there are no systematic criteria for distinguishing languages from dialects. Even though a number of archetypes exist, they often contradict one another. The precise distinction is therefore a subjective one. It is essentially dependent on the user's frame of reference. A language variety is sometimes called a dialect instead of a language only because:
  • it is used only orally and not in literature or other written documents,
  • it is not an official version of a state or country,
  • it is insignificant in size, or
  • it lacks prestige.
Linguists usually cite mutual intelligibility as the major criterion to decide the question in scientific terms: if community A and community B speak two speech varieties that are not mutually intelligible, then the speech varieties are different languages; if they are mutually intelligible but differ systematically from one another, then they are dialects of the same language.

Mutual Intelligibility: adapted from Crystal (1987)

There are problems with this definition, however, because many levels of mutual intelligibility exist, and linguists must decide at what level speech varieties should no longer be considered mutually intelligible:
  • Sometimes speakers of form A claim to understand form B, but speakers of form B deny that they understand form A. Dialects of the same language aren't mutually intelligible, even though there is no linguistic basis for that. The two groups insist that they speak separate tongues, even though they don't.
  • Popular usage of the term "dialect" often suggests that the speakers of that language variety are "lower class" or lack sophistication, and that the variety lacks prestige, is "substandard", or even that it is "not a real language".
  • There is a speech continuum, and there may be a dialect continuum, that is, a chain of mutually intelligible varieties where there is never any clear break in mutual intelligibility, but speakers of dialects at one end don't understand speakers of varieties at the other end.
  • Body of literature may unify some speech communities who are educated to read those works but elsewhere lack of a body of literature may divide communities that can understand each other orally.
  • For various political, social, or historical reasons, people may loathe their neighbors and not wish to admit they have any connection with them, and don't wish to try to understand each other.
  • Use of a particular variety of a language for religious purposes gives it special status.
  • Socio-Political boundaries may allow closely-related dialects to become standardized, used for religion, schools, etcetera even though there is mutual intelligibility. In this case the phrase “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy” is largely true.
  • A particular language may lack a phonetic writing system, so many speakers of mutually unintelligible varieties may understand the written form of that language, and consider themselves to be speakers of that language, not just dialect speakers.
  • People may speak a language that is severely diglossic, that is, the written form is very different from the spoken. Many spoken dialects may be mutually unintelligible, but the literary dialect unites them, and they all learn it as the language of education.
Therefore, in practice, the idea of mutual intelligibility is not free from ambiguities. Whether or not two varieties are considered dialects of the same language or distinct languages is usually a socio-political issue. That is, sometimes the use of the terms "language" or "dialect" is motivated by geographic, social, political, or economic barriers between groups of people who speak the same language. Thus, the difference between dialect and language is partly a linguistic and partly a matter of opinion based on extra-linguistic considerations. Mutual intelligibility serves to distinguish language and dialect for some situations, such as: Hungarian, Romanian, and Basque. But there are many situations where it becomes absolutely insignificant.  Let us consider a number of case studies to justify this view:


Chinese: Mutually Unintelligible
Spoken Chinese comprises many regional varieties. Although they employ a common written form, they are mutually unintelligible, and for this reason controversy exists over whether they can legitimately be called dialects or whether they should be classified as separate languages. Generally, these variants are referred to as dialects rather than separate languages. And it is also supposed that Chinese is a single language with combination of different dialects. This traditional characterization of Chinese as a single language is largely motivated by socio-cultural factors in China. The Chinese believe that they a have a common writing system and tradition that unite their languages. Both Mandarin and Cantonese, for instance, are mutually unintelligible, but still the Chinese referred them to as dialects, not separate languages.

- SITUATION    2 -

Hindi-Urdu: Mutually intelligible
Although considered a distinct language from Hindi, Urdu is intelligible to speakers of Hindi. The key properties in distinguishing Urdu and Hindi are their vocabularies and orthographies. The Urdu vocabulary borrows heavily from Arabic and Persian, unlike Hindi, which borrows considerably from Sanskrit. Orthographically, Urdu is written in a modified Persian-Arabic script, while Hindi is written in the Devanagari script. Urdu and Hindi are considered different languages in a socio-cultural sense. Though linguists consider Urdu and Hindi two registers of a single language, speakers often disagree. The two registers are usually mutually intelligible, but a great deal of nationalism is involved in which register one speaks. Urdu and Hindi are not simply a register to its speakers, but a symbol of national, religious, and sometimes political identity. However, at a linguistic level, the two are virtually identical. Although there are major differences in orthography and loan vocabulary as previously mentioned, there are minor differences in usage and pronunciation of foreign words. As a result, the grammars of the two languages are virtually indistinguishable, such that apart from written forms of the language, it is not immediately obvious whether Hindi or Urdu is being used.


German-Dutch: Mutually Unintelligible
German forms together with Dutch, its closest relative, a coherent and well-defined language area that is separated from its neighbors by language borders. These neighbors are: in the north Frisian and Danish; in the east Polish, Sorbian, Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian; in the south Slovenian, Italian, Friulian, Ladin, and Romansh; in the west French. Except for Frisian, none of these languages are West Germanic, and so they are clearly distinct from German and Dutch. While Frisian is closely related to German and Dutch, it is generally considered not to be mutually intelligible with them.

The situation is more complex with respect to the distinction between German and Dutch. Until recently, there has been a dialect continuum throughout the whole German-Dutch language area, with no language borders. In such a dialect continuum, dialects are always mutually intelligible with their neighbors, but dialects that are further apart from each other are often not. The German-Dutch continuum lent itself to a classification of dialects into Low German and High German based on their participation in the High German consonant shift; Dutch is part of the Low German group. However, because of the political separation between Germany and the Netherlands, Low German dialects in the Netherlands and Low German dialects in Germany have started to diverge during the 20th century. Additionally, both in northern Germany and in the Netherlands, many dialects are close to extinction and are being replaced by the German and Dutch standard languages. In this way, a language border between Dutch and German is currently forming.

While German is grammatically similar in many ways to Dutch, it is very different in speech. A speaker of one may require some practice to effectively understand a speaker of the other.

Dutch speakers are generally able to read German, and German speakers who can speak Low German or English are generally able to read Dutch, but have problems understanding the spoken language, although Germans who speak High German, or, even better, Low German, can cope with Dutch much better than people from Southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria who have grown up with the Alemannic dialects.


Bangla: Mutually intelligible
Dialectal differences in Bangla manifest themselves in three forms: standardized dialect vs. regional dialect, literary language vs. colloquial language and lexical variations. The name of the dialects generally originates from the district where the language is spoken. Sylheti, Chittagonian, Rongpurian, and Dhakaiya are some of the many varieties that are often considered dialects of Bangla.  All these varieties are mutually intelligible. However, like Mandarin and many other languages spoken over a wide geographical area, Bengali dialects span a dialect continuum. This means that though speakers of one dialect are likely to be able to understand their neighbours , and even their neighbours'  neighbours,  as the distance grows, it becomes likely that the speakers will be unable to understand anything but a few words of other dialects.

The Verdict

Strange as it may seem, there is no really good way to distinguish the terms "language" and "dialect." It is because they are neither objective nor scientific terms. People use the words "dialect" and "language" to mean different ideas. Sometimes the suggested meanings connote confusing and contradictory concepts. As a result, the distinction between language and dialect remains a great dilemma for the linguists still now.


Wardhaugh, Ronald . An Introduction Sociolinguistics Oxford: Blackwell, 1992

Hudson, Richard Anthony. Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: CUP, 1990

Yule, George. The Study of Language.  Cambridge: Cup, 1996

Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language Cambridge, Cambridge: CUP, 1987

“Dialect.” Wikipedia. 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 2 September 2008

< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialect>

“Language.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.

“Dialect.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2 September 2008
< https://www.britannica.com/topic/dialect>

NB: This article was originally written in the year 2008.


February 10, 2018

James Joyce Quick Facts

James Joyce, a 20th century influential Irish writer.


  • Birth Name: James Augustine Aloysius Joyce
  • Date of Birth: February 2, 1882
  • Place of Birth: 44 Brighton Square, Terenure, Dublin, Ireland
  • Zodiac Sign: Aquarius
  • Date of Death: January 13, 1941
  • Place of Death: Zurich, Zurich District, Canton of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Place of Burial: Fluntern Cemetery, Fluntern, Bezirk Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • Cause of Death: Perforated duodenal ulcer
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Nationality: Irish
  • Height: 5 ft 10 in
  • Father: John Stanislaus Joyce (1849 -1931)
  • Mother: Mary Jane (Murray) Joyce (1859-1903)
  • Siblings:
  1. Sister- Katie Joyce (c. 1875-?)
  2. Sister-Elizabeth W Joyce (c. 1879-?)
  3. Brother-John Augustine Joyce (c. 1881 - c. 1883)
  4. Sister-Margaret Alice Joyce (c. 1884 - c. 1964)
  5. Brother- John Stanislaw Joyce (1884-1955)
  6. Sister- Mary Jane Joyce (c. 1886)
  7. Brother - Charles Patrick Joyce (1886-?)
  8. Brother- George Alfred Joyce (c. 1888 - 1902)
  9. Sister- Mabel Josephine Anne Joyce (1893-?)
  10. Sister -Eileen Isabella Joyce (1889-1963)
  11. Sister- Eva May Joyce (1891)
  • Sexual Orientation: Straight
  • Spouse: Nora Barnacle (m. 1931) (1884 -1951)
  • Children:
  1. Son - Giorgio Joyce (1905 -1976)
  2. Daughter- Lucia Anna Joyce (1907-1982)
  • Alma Mater: Clongowes Wood College; Belvedere College; University College Dublin
  • Known for: his experiments with language, symbolism, and perfecting the narrative techniques of interior monologue and stream of consciousness
  • James Joyce was criticized for: complicating his writings through vague references or dull descriptions of intimate matters, including sexual activity.
  • James Joyce was influenced by: William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, W. B. Yeats, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Ezra Pound, Friedrich Nietzsche, Homer, Gustave Flaubert, Dante Alighieri, Anton Chekhov, Jonathan Swift, Miguel de Cervantes, Aristotle, Henrik Ibsen, Stendhal, Lord Byron, John Milton, Laurence Sterne, François Rabelais, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Bertrand Russell, Carl Jung, Thomas Aquinas, George Moore, Edmund Spenser, Mikhail Lermontov, Robert Burns, Ben Jonson, Giordano Bruno, Giambattista Vico, Sheridan Le Fanu, John Henry Newman, Otto Weininger, and Jens Peter Jacobsen
  • Joyce's Works Inspired:  James Blish, Anthony Burgess, Philip Dick, William Faulkner, Anthony Burgess, and Leonard Cohen


“His heart danced upon her movements like a cork upon a tide. He heard what her eyes said to him from beneath their cowl and knew that in some dim past, whether in life or revery, he had heard their tale before.” - James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Major Works

  • Dubliners (1914)
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
  • Exiles (1918)
  • Ulysses (1922)
  • Pomes Penyeach (1927)
  • Finnegans Wake (1939)

Major Themes

  • Psychology
  • Exile
  • Myth
  • Catholicism

Did You Know?

  • James Joyce was the eldest of 12 children born to John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane (Murray) Joyce.
  • His father had an unsuccessful career with involvement in several jobs including a position as tax collector for the city of Dublin.
  • His mother was a gifted pianist.
  • Joyce was educated entirely in Catholic schools in Ireland.
  • James Joyce graduated in 1902 with a Pass degree in modern languages.
  • Soon after his graduation, Joyce left Ireland to pursue a medical education in Paris.
  • He returned to Ireland briefly in 1903 upon news of his mother's illness but left for Paris in 1904 after her death.
  • In Paris, Joyce lived in near poverty even after the successful publication of Ulysses in 1922.
  • Joyce's younger brother, Stanislaus Joyce provided him financial support throughout his life.
  • Although Joyce and Nora started living together since1904, the couple finally got married in 1931 and the wedlock continued until Joyce's death.
  • Joyce was plagued by severe eye problems for most of his adult life, which eventually led to near blindness. He underwent a multitude of surgeries for eye problems.
  • Joyce's first published book was Chamber Music (1907), a collection of 36 love poems.
  • His first prose work, Dubliners was published in 1914, which contained 15 short stories and sketches.
  • Joyce's works left a profound impact on the Irish cinema, especially towards the development of the avant-garde film style.
  • Joyce gained international recognition through the publication of Ulysses which many people consider one of the greatest and most original books ever written.
  • Ulysses was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920.
  • Ulysses was published as a complete book in Paris by Sylvia Beach, of the bookstore Shakespeare & Co. on 2 February 1922, Joyce's 40th birthday.
  • Ulysses was banned in the United States from 1922 until 1933.

Media Gallery

James Joyce

James Joyce with his daughter Lucia Anna Joyce, wife Nora Barnacle, and son Giorgio Joyce

James Joyce with his daughter Lucia Anna Joyce

February 1, 2018

Quotations by Ted Hughes


“The dreamer in her Had fallen in love with me and she did not know it. That moment the dreamer in me Fell in love with her and I knew it”  ~ Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters

“You were overloaded. I said nothing.
I said nothing. The stone man made soup.
The burning woman drank it.”
~ Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters

 “Do as you like with me. I'm your parcel. I have only our address on me. Open me, or readdress me.”
~ Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters

“I shall also take you forth and carve our names together in a yew tree, haloed with stars...”
~ Ted Hughes, Letters of Ted Hughes 

 “The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff. How far had he walked? Nobody knows. Where did he come from? Nobody knows. How was he made? Nobody knows. Taller than a house the Iron Man stood at the top of the cliff, at the very brink, in the darkness.”
~ Ted Hughes, The Iron Man

“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, that they didn't invest enough heart, didn't love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.”
~ Ted Hughes, Letters of Ted Hughes

“So we found the end of our journey.
So we stood, alive in the river of light,
Among the creatures of light, creatures of light.”
~ Ted Hughes, River

“Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business”
~ Ted Hughes, The Thought-Fox

“In the pit of red
You hid from the bone-clinic whiteness

But the jewel you lost was blue.”

~ Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters

“The brassy wood-pigeons
Bubble their colourful voices, and the sun
Rises upon a world well-tried and old.”
~ Ted Hughes, Stealing Trout on a May Morning

“You could become internationally famous - you're Gemini, and according to antique authority have a literary talent, which of course your letters prove.”
~ Ted Hughes, Letters of Ted Hughes

“The world’s decay where the wind’s hands have passed,
And my head, worn out with love, at rest
In my hands, and my hands full of dust,”
~ Ted Hughes, Song

“There is no better way to know us
Than as two wolves, come separately to a wood.”
~ Ted Hughes, A Modest Proposal

“He could not stand. It was not
That he could not thrive, he was born
With everything but the will –
That can be deformed, just like a limb.
Death was more interesting to him.
Life could not get his attention.”
~ Ted Hughes, Season Songs

“The Shell

The sea fills my ear
with sand and with fear.

You may wash out the sand,
but never the sound
of the ghost of the sea
that is haunting me.”

~ Ted HughesThe Mermaid's Purse

“where are the gods
the gods hate us
the gods have run away
the gods have hidden in holes
the gods are dead of the plague
they rot and stink too

there never were any gods
there’s only death”
~ Ted Hughes, Seneca's Oedipus

“The dreamer in her
Had fallen in love with me and she did not know it.
That moment the dreamer in me
Fell in love with her and I knew it”
~ Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters


January 21, 2018

George Bernard Shaw Quick Facts

George Bernard Shaw was an Anglo-Irish playwright, literary critic, and novelist.

George Bernard Shaw Quick Facts


  • Birth Name: George Bernard Shaw
  • AKA: Bernard Shaw
  • Date of Birth: July 26, 1856
  • Place of Birth: Portobello, Dublin, Ireland
  • Zodiac Sign: Leo
  • Death: November 2, 1950
  • Place of Death: Ayot St. Lawrence, United Kingdom
  • Cause of Death: Kidney dysfunction after falling from a ladder
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Nationality: Irish & British
  • Height: 6 ft 2 in
  • Place of Burial: Cremated (ashes scattered in different places)
  • Father: George Carr Shaw (1814–1885)
  • Mother: Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw (1830–1913)
  • Siblings:
  1. Sister- Lucinda Butterfield (1853–1920)
  2. Sister- Elinor Shaw (1855–1876)
  • Sexual Orientation: Straight
  • Spouse: Charlotte Payne-Townshend (m. 1898 –1943) (b. 1857– d.1943)
  • Children: None
  • Alma Mater: Wesley College
  • George Bernard Shaw was Known for: incorporating comic and complex elements to unveil social evils, and exploring philosophical ideas
  • George Bernard Shaw was criticized for: NA
  • George Bernard Shaw was influenced by: Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 –1860), Richard Wagner (1813 –1883), Henry David Thoreau (1817 –1862), Karl Marx (1818 –1883), Henrik Ibsen (1828 –1906), William Morris (1834 –1896), W. S. Gilbert (1836 –1911), Henry George (1839 –1897), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 –1900), Joseph Stalin (1878 –1953), and Agustus Montrose.
  • Shaw’s works inspired: T. S. Eliot (1888–1965), Noël Coward (1899–1973), Peter Nichols (b. 1927), Henry Livings (1929–1998), Tom Stoppard (1937), and Alan Ayckbourn (b. 1939)

Notable Awards

  • Nobel Prize in literature (1925) “for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty"
  • Academy Award (1938) for the film adaptation of Pygmalion.


“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.”
― George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah

Did You Know?

  • Bernard Shaw was the youngest child and the only son of George Carr Shaw and Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw.
  • During his childhood Shaw went to numerous educational institutions, all of which he detested.
  • Shaw wanted to refuse the Nobel Prize in literature, but ultimately accepted it since his wife insisted that it was a tribute to Ireland.
  • Although Shaw accepted the 1925 Nobel Prize, he refused the prize money, arranging instead for the money to go toward funding the translation of Swedish literature into English.
  • During lifetime, Shaw produced more than fifty plays and three volumes of music and drama criticism.
  • Many critics consider Shaw as the greatest English dramatist since William Shakespeare.
  • In 1893 Shaw Published his first play, Widowers' Houses, which he described as an "unpleasant" play.
  • He used the pseudonyms "GBS" and "Corno di Bassetto" as a columnist.
  • Shaw was a vegetarian, and kept himself aloof from alcohol or coffee.
  • It is rumoured that he and his wife never consummated sexual relationship.
  • During his lifetime Shaw maintained relationship with many women which he continued even after marriage.


January 7, 2018

“The Rape of the Lock” as a Mock-heroic Poem

The Pseudo-classical poet Alexander Pope has been widely hailed as the unchallengeable master of the heroi-comical poetry. This very reputation stems heavily from his brilliant and playful implementation of mock-heroic traditions into his long narrative poem The Rape of the Lock. The poem, without a contest, is the most exquisite paradigm of mock-heroic poetry that can be found in English literature.

Heroic or epic poems, such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Milton’s Paradise Lost deal with the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures in elevated style and serious manner. Contrariwise, the mock-heroic poem is a poetic form based on the traditions and devices of a serious epic to deal with a trivial theme by placing it in a framework entirely inappropriate to its importance, thereby producing ingenious humorous effect.

The subject poem, The Rape of the Lock imitates almost all the traditions of the serious epic except the serious theme. In fact, the main incident of the poem is snipping off a lock of hair of a pretty young woman and an ensuing battle. However, Pope treats the incident as if it were comparable to events that instigated the Trojan War. In this way Pope elaborates a trivial episode into a playful and fanciful heroi-comical poem resembling an epic in miniature.

The poem begins with an invocation in epic tradition. However, instead of a divinity, Pope dedicates the poem to his and Arabella Fermor's friend John Caryll, who originally asked him to write it, and to Belinda that is, Arabella, the woman the poem is purportedly about:
“WHAT dire Offence from am'rous Causes springs,
What mighty Contests rise from trivial Things,
I sing—This Verse to Caryll, Muse! is due;
This, ev'n Belinda may vouchsafe to view:
Slight is the Subject, but not so the Praise,
If She inspire, and He approve my Lays.”
To be contextual, the poem is based on an actual episode that provoked a quarrel between two families. Lord Petre had cut off a lock of hair from the head of Arabella Fermor, which caused much indignation on the part of the lady and her family.

Pope also uses supernatural machinery; but instead of gods and goddesses of the classical epics he uses petty spirits like Sylphs, Nymphs, Genomes and Salamanders. We see that the Sylphs are taking care of Belinda as the gods and goddesses in the classical epics would side the heroes when there is a fight:
“Propp’d on their bodkin spears, the sprites survey
The growing combat, or assist the fray.”      
The minuscule spirits play a significant role in the dramatic, thematic and structural development of the poem. Pope intentionally employs them to maintain the triviality of the theme. We laugh when we compare the activities of the tiny spirits with those of the gods and goddesses of epic poems.

Journey to the underworld is another common convention of an epic. Like supernatural beings in the classical epics, the gnome Umbriel descends to the Underworld on Belinda’s behalf and obtains a magical bag full of female screams and cries, and a vial of tears and sorrow from the Queen of Spleen. Umbriel’s intention is to relief Belinda from her mental distress by agonizing her opponents. However, Umbriel puts Belinda into more trouble by dumping the entire contents of the bag over her head instead. Here, it is obvious that Pope designed Umbriel’s journey to the Cave of the Spleen with a view to make fun of the visits of epic heroes to the underworld:
“Umbriel, a dusky melancholy Spright,
As ever sully'd the fair face of Light,
Down to the Central Earth, his proper Scene,
Repairs to search the gloomy Cave of Spleen.”
Dangerous journeys on water are a traditional trait of a serious epic. But here in the poem Belinda takes a relaxed journey on water without any danger. She travels up the Thames in a boat to join Hampton Court to play the game of Omber. Her voyage recalls the voyage of Aeneas on Tiber in Virgil’s epic poem Aeneid.

Like serious epics we have use of weapons and arming of the epic hero in The Rape of the Lock. However, the weapons do not consist of shinning swords and mighty shields but trivial objects like hairpins, cosmetics and amorous looks. Belinda’s dressing is compared to the arming of the epic hero like Achilles described in Homer’s The Iliad:
“Here files of pins extend their shining rows,
Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-dout.
Now awful Beauty puts on all its arms;”
An epic poem is incomplete without battle episodes. Therefore, to maintain such tradition Pope has introduced a number of battle scenes. For example, the game of Omber suggests a mighty battle. Again there is the battle between the lords and ladies fought with fans and snuff. Moreover, there are single fights between Belinda and the Baron and between Clarissa and Sir Plume.

Pope creates a serious mock-heroic effect by employing various similes and metaphors akin to Homer and Milton. For example, at one place he compares Belinda’s eyes with the bright sun. Again, at another place he ironically compares her with Queen Dido and Helen. However, the funniest comparison is made between Belinda's petticoat with the famous Shield of Ajax which was described in Book VII of The Iliad:
“We trust th' important charge, the petticoat:
Oft have we known that sev'n-fold fence to fail,
Though stiff with hoops, and arm'd with ribs of whale.
Form a strong line about the silver bound,
And guard the wide circumference around.”
Pope further reinforces the mock-heroic effect through his grand style. He uses nemerous poetic devices like periphrases, alliteration, and polished diction to achieve the desired mock-heroic effect. Moreover, he makes the style grander through the use of high sounding words, signs of exclamation and interrogation. He also uses lengthy speeches like the serious epic.

“The Rape of the Lock” as a Mock-heroic Poem


December 18, 2017

Quotations by Gerard Manley Hopkins


“O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.” ~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief

“The best ideal is the true
And other truth is none.
All glory be ascribed to
The holy Three in One.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, Summa

“All the world is full of inscape and chance left free to act falls into an order as well as purpose.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, Journal (24 February 1873)

“A great work by an Englishman is like a great battle won by England. It is an unfading bay tree.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, Letter to Robert Bridges (13 October 1886)

“Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter's robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, Easter

“Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland

“O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief

“Hope had grown grey hairs,
Hope had mourning on,
Trenched with tears, carved with cares,
Hope was twelve hours gone.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins,The Wreck of the Deutschland

“ELECTED Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Habit of Perfection

“And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, God's Grandeur

“Nothing is so beautiful as Spring-
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, Spring

“I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, Heaven-Haven

“What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, Inversnaid


December 4, 2017

Rudyard Kipling Quick Facts

Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, novelist and story writer of the late Victorian period.

Rudyard Kipling Quick Facts


  • Birth Name: Joseph Rudyard Kipling
  • Date of Birth: December 30, 1865
  • Place of Birth: Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India
  • Zodiac Sign: Capricorn
  • Death: January 18, 1936
  • Place of Death: Middlesex Hospital, London, England
  • Cause of Death: Duodenal ulcer
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Nationality: British
  • Place of Burial: Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London
  • Gravestone Inscription:
“ KIPLING. BORN 30th DEC. 1865
 DIED 18th JAN. 1936.”
  • Father: John Lockwood Kipling
  • Mother: Alice Kipling (née MacDonald)
  • Siblings:
  1. Sister-Alice Kipling (1868–1948)
  2. Brother-John Kipling (1870–1870)
  • Sexual Orientation: Straight
  • Spouse: Caroline Starr Balestier (m. 1892) (1862–1939)
  • Children:
  1. Daughter-Elsie Kipling (1896–1976)
  2. Daughter-Josephine Kipling (1892–1899)
  3. Son-John Kipling (1897–1915)
  • Alma Mater: United Services College
  • Known for: his brilliant storytelling capability, reflected especially in his tale of children
  • Rudyard Kipling was criticized for: his celebration of British imperialism
  • Rudyard Kipling was influenced by: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 –1894), H. Rider Haggard (1856 –1925), Joel Chandler Harris (1848 –1908), and Ibn Tufail (c. 1105 – 1185).
  • Kipling’s Works Inspired:  NA

Notable Awards

  • Nobel Prize in literature (1907)
  • Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Literature (1926)


“I never made a mistake in my life; at least, never one that I couldn't explain away afterwards.”
Rudyard Kipling, Under The Deodars

Did You Know?

  • Rudyard Kipling was the eldest child to John Lockwood Kipling and Alice Kipling.
  • His father was an art teacher, illustrator and museum curator.
  • Kipling was the first to use Cockney dialect in serious poetry.
  • Kipling was named after the Rudyard Lake in Rudyard, Staffordshire, England.
  • Rudyard Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907.
  • Kipling was the first English to receive the prestigious Nobel Prize.
  • Kipling is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature to date.
  • His Nobel Prize citation reads: “in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author”.
  • Kipling’s first collection of poetry Departmental Ditties was published in 1886.
  • His first collection of prose Plain Tales from the Hills was published in 1888 in Calcutta.
  • The ashes of Kipling were buried in Poets' Corner next to the graves of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy.
  • In 1892, Rudyard Kipling married Caroline Starr Balestier.
  • Kipling's daughter Josephine died from influenza at the age of six.
  • His son, John was killed at the Battle of Loos while serving with the British Army during the First World War.


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