A literary analysis of the story of ordinary people

How can we nurture more poetry readers and writers? Zhang Tianyi has to date published two essay collections and three story collections, and some of her works have been made into movies. Her most recent short story collection is Love for People with Sexual Blindness.

A literary analysis of the story of ordinary people

In Search of the "Lost Chord": Your browser does not support the audio tag!

A literary analysis of the story of ordinary people

Although "A Lost Chord" has frequently been cast as a straightforwardly domestic, sentimental, and religious poem, its original publication in The English Woman's Journal March challenges that interpretation, as the poem meditates on the role of women's rights and the possibility of a resolution to issues of domestic disharmony.

In the context of its second publication, the collected works volume Legends and LyricsProcter's poem appears to embody the sentimental ideal, but instead dramatizes the speaker's failed attempt to express in words the importance of lost harmony.

Sullivan's musical setting undercuts the expected sentimental solace and grants the poem new access to the political and social message of its two publication contexts while giving voice to the silent song on the page: By examining the musical reception history of Procter's poem through multiple incarnations and remediations, we can find this "lost chord" and its overlooked commentaries on women's lives and religious doubt and reinstate it in the polyphony of critical discourse.

Adelaide Anne Procter was extremely popular during the Victorian period, and her works were greatly admired by many pivotal figures: Charles Dickens wrote an introduction to the edition of her collected works, Legends and Lyrics, and Coventry Patmore once claimed that the "present demand" for her poetry was "far in excess of that for the writings of any living poet, except Mr Tennyson" qtd.

She was also Queen Victoria's favorite poet Gregory Her poetry appeared in such prominent periodicals as Household Words, All the Year Round, and The Cornhill Magazine and was renowned for what Gill Gregory calls her "invariably simple and direct language and strongly affective rhetoric" 3.

She also advocated for women's rights: In spite of her popularity during the Victorian era, she is generally known today only for her poem "A Lost Chord" and remembered primarily because of Sullivan's musical setting 3.

Although "A Lost Chord" has frequently been cast as a straightforwardly domestic and religious poem, the history of The English Woman's Journal, founded in March of and produced untilcomplicates that interpretation.

The Journal's two editors, Bessie Parkes and Matilda Hays, were Procter's close friends, and she dedicated her first volume of poetry to the latter Gregory, Life and Works, Hays herself was quite a revolutionary figure; she translated the works of George Sand, wrote novels, dressed in men's clothing, and lived with Harriet Hosmer, a female sculptor, for a few years in the s The Journal, like its co-editors, had a progressive agenda; according to David Doughan, it was known as a feminist journal, and its offices were located in the Langham Place Circle, the unofficial headquarters of the early British feminist movement 2.

A literary analysis of the story of ordinary people

The Journal's prose covered many different topics, but it tended to feature stories on "women's property rights, conditions in prisons and lunatic asylums and assisted emigration for women," and on women's employment Gregory, Life and Works, In its original publication in The English Woman's Journal, "A Lost Chord" meditates on women's rights and the problems of gender inequality.

Although the poem does not address such issues explicitly, in the context of articles on the trials and tribulations of women's lives, the speaker's description of her feeling "weary and ill at ease" 2 and of her "discordant life" 16 appear to result from the unequal state of affairs between men and women.

Even the divine chord that sounds like "a great Amen" 8 meditates on gender relations because of its acoustical similarity to "all men.

Additionally, if we assume that the speaker is a woman as both Procter's own gender and conventions of the lyric "I" would suggest, then her organ playing itself is a sociopolitical statement, since women were frequently not permitted to be church organists Barger Either she is a rebel, sneaking into a church to practice, or she is playing on a harmonium, a domestic reed organ, as the only outlet for her musical worship.

In this context, the religious turn at the poem's end provides the only glimpse of consolation, and a rather defeatist consolation at that: This reading gains greater strength when the poem is placed in the context of the issue in which it was published.

The section in the Journal that precedes the poem discussed the cruel effects of ship conditions on women emigrants and ended with an implicit question about the future of these people and this cause: The poem also transitions nicely into the ensuing work, a prose piece entitled "Every-Day Ghosts By a Haunted Man," which discusses the dangers of being haunted by memories and "shadows" and of "nursing up feelings which are meant to grow dim and fade, the perverse refastening of links which are intended to be broken" Since "A Lost Chord" describes the sensation of searching for the ghost of a chord that haunts her memory she tried multiple times to recreate it and ends with the idea of death, it seems to be in dialogue with this prose piece, especially since the story itself mentions music it claims that "forlorn" is the most "musical word in the language" and poetry it describes writing "a sonnet of a melancholy nature" When the "haunted man" asks "who does not know the power of sound[?

In Search of the "Lost Chord": Sounding the Silent Song of Procter's Poem

I do not believe I listened one bit to the air which some one in the next room was playing, but it has wound itself around the whole of that scene, it mingles with the perfume of the violets, it floats over the bright blue lake, it melts into every tone of her voice; and never, never shall I hear it without my heart beating quicker, and my eyes filling with tears, and the old dead time rising before me.

Ultimately, like the speaker of "A Lost Chord," who decides to stop trying to recreate the chord, the narrator of the story decides to stop trying to replace his memory, choosing "never to try to lay that ghost again" Read in this context, the poem takes on a tone of greater longing, as though the lost chord is the music that the writer of the story can hear; the speaker, like the narrator, can never escape the memory of the past music, and the one glimpse of it brings not enlightenment or freedom from the dissonances of life, but further sadness and complexity.

Readers are left wondering "how the matter will be eventually decided," and their inability to "venture to predict" the outcome encourages them to work to overcome this uncertainty. Arthur Sullivan's setting in many ways echoes the poem's feminist project.

His decision to set Procter's poem to music also speaks to the poet's popularity, since Sullivan was one of the premier British composers of the Victorian era.

Inhis incidental music to The Tempest was performed at the Crystal Palace. This performance granted him instant national fame--he was considered the "unofficial musician laureate" Dillard 6 --and enabled him to meet such literary giants as Charles Dickens and such musical figures as Pauline Viardot and Gioachino Rossini Dillard 4.

Sullivan had a reputation for composing works either based on or set to literary texts, 1 so his decision to musically render "A Lost Chord" is not uncharacteristic.

Sullivan's interest in Procter's poetry was not limited to "A Lost Chord"; they met through his friends, the Leymanns, and this acquaintance led him to many of her other poems However, none of these settings achieved the fame of "The Lost Chord," which David Dillard describes as "the most frequently criticized of all his works--and yet undoubtedly one of the most popular songs of Victorian England" Throughout the song, Sullivan carefully conveys harmonically the speaker's unease and desire for gender equality through the search for the chord that she hopes will resolve these issues.

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