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Class In A Handful Of Dust English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1994 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) is English novelist, critic, short story writer, essayist, travel writer, poet, biographer, and journalist.

Not so many writers have walked on the verge between farce and tragedy as easily as Evelyn Waugh, who used the conventions of the comic novel to chip away at the already collapsing English class system. His novel, “A Handful of Dust”, which was written in 1934 is an example of his gloomy satirical style: a mordantly funny representation of aristocratic decadence and boredom in England between the wars.

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Tony Last (the main hero) is an aristocrat whose contribution to an ideal feudal past is so deep that he doesn’t see his wife Brenda’s vapidity with the stately style of country life. At the time he truly plays the lord of the manor in his terrible Victorian Gothic pile, she stays in a London flat and has relationships with the social-climbing lazy John Beaver. In the first half of the novel Waugh starts to describe the lifestyles of the rich and cynical. All go through an endless parties and country-house weekends, being polite in public and really terrible in private life. They have sex in order go get rid of ennui and Brenda’s affair costs her problems (Waugh, pp.63-75).

It was the autumn with very rare and scarce romance; not so many people parted or come together, and Brenda was full of wish to talk to those whose pleasure was to discuss the subject in bed over the telephone. . For them her circumstances seemed to be glamour; for five years she had been a legendary, like the imprisoned princess of a fairy tale, and now that she had found that there was more enchantment in the occurrence than in the mere change of habit of any other wife. Her choice of partner gave the affair a touch of fantasy.

The indifference of Tony and selfishness of Brenda brought them to the tragedy. The collapse of their relationship happens, and in the final part of the book Tony looks for consolation in a foolhardy search for El Dorado, bringing himself to the mercy of a jungle only I little bit more wild than the one he leaves in England. For all its wittiness “A Handful of Dust” paints a gloomy picture of the English upper classes, reaching beyond satire toward a very modern sense of desperation. In Waugh’s world, culture, breeding, and the attributes of civilization only provide more thin means of destruction.

Waugh’s novel is careful, he doesn’t want to blame on either side of the marriage. Showing the sullenness of both John Andrew and Tony left behind in Hetton, not understanding why Brenda is so taken with London all of a sudden shifts our sympathies from her ennui and listlessness to their loss. After the tragic death of John Andrew, Brenda feels freed to tell Tony the truth about Beaver and life in London and that she wants to get divorce. Because of her social status and to save social propriety even thought that all people already knew about the affair, Tony’s lawyers try to create marital disruptions on his side to make the divorce to move slowly. A secret weekend with a woman from a club is more comic. During the divorce process, Brenda and company are talking about Tony’s mortifying behavior that leads to the necessary divorce, which is a confusing about him. Probably maintaining the reputation of her good name is more important that anything even close to the truth. Waugh’s novel “A Handful of Dust” can be understood as ironic story of condemnation. All characters express adultery, spite, greed, envy, and deception and inclemency.

 Waugh’s knowledge of the materialism at the beginning of the 20th century English privileged class system shows a genuine offense, sure to rain down on those who deserve it more than others. We see that Waugh decides make a sacrificing such as the life of an innocent child in order to prove his view; a little boy, whose name is John Andrew Last, is unexpectedly kicked by a horse, and at the time of his death author makes us agree that it wasn’t anyone’s fault; completely neglecting the truth-society is to blame.

“A Handful of Dust” shows life between the First and Second World Wars, nearly after the beginning of the Great Depression. That time rich people in England didn’t feel the effects of recession as strongly as the poorer class; there were still financial difficulties in the sense of not allowing caste to have high living standards to which they were used during the 1920s. So we see Tony trying to take a responsible approach to living using his means, at the same time John Beaver tries to get through his usual daily life by always being free for dinners and other weekend parties. At the same time Tony and Brenda’s try to hide the fact that they no money for living, at the same time the parasitical John Beaver eats people’s food (Waugh, pp.59-70).

Evelyn Waugh’s “A Handful of Dust” is a very interesting novel. At the same time sharp social satire and evil family melodrama, it shows the problem of social propriety in upper echelons of rich classes. But for the most part, it wonderfully illustrates the ultimate brutality and snide cruelty that humans are able to do.

Waugh wrote of how he created the novel:

“I had just written a short story about a man trapped in the jungle, ending his days reading Dickens aloud. The idea came quite naturally from the experience of visiting a lonely settler of that kind and reflecting how easily he could hold me prisoner […] eventually the thing grew into a study of other sorts of savages at home and the civilized man’s helpless plight among them.” (Waugh, p.115).

If we try to analyze the novel “The Virgin and the Gipsy”, we should say that was found in France after David Herbert Lawrence’s death in 1930. It was identified as a masterpiece which helped David Lawrence to clear his ideas about such things as sexuality and morality. The novel “The Virgin and the Gipsy” is considered to be a classic and now it is one of the most outstanding short novels of Lawrence.

The novel was published as it had been found, and it was probably incomplete. In the story we can notice some roughness that could have been disappeared with more rewriting. The book touched such interesting topics as love, life and proper behavior.

In the novel Lawrence in his usual manner describes the anguish of a young girl who is a virgin. She sees her future in her future commonplace marriage to one of the local guys of character and money; she wishes something else but fate befalls her. She finds that love, almost accidentally.

This young girl meets a Gypsy and she falls in love deeply with him. Yet, she is shy and she is proper about it. She has a great wish to be with him, even if she understands the potential scandal of their marriage. Her father is a non-believer, even if he is the rector; she sees his ebb for those things of the body. The wife of rector had left him for a poor boy. She was looking for something the rector couldn’t give her. Even after all these she was everything for him, couldn’t make her feel the love she wished.

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Her daughter also felt that there was more than just the future she provided. And she felt that it was not a point she could ignore. It was a wish that had to be satisfied and in the nearest time. But she didn’t know how to do so, because she could be seen as a prostitute by her own family. It was the beauty and the mystery of the novel (Lawrence, Herbert, Jones, Vasey. pp.112-114).

At last, among a great flood and terror that is more scaring than it can be imagined, she meets with the Gypsy in her own bedroom, feeling safe from the outside world of people because of they are alone, isolated and protected. Here they make passionate love they dreamed about. After that she becomes a woman and a lover at the same time.

Lawrence always makes texts full of serious metaphor and memory. He often uses symbolism, consistently showing the undercurrents of his character’s great love and anticipation with thinly hided double entendres and images.

We can see that the gipsy symbolizes her “free-born will,” and this separates her from the rest of her family. This gipsy is an outsider of society, “on an old, old war-path against such as herself . . . Yes, if she belonged to any side, and to any clan, it was to his.” (Lawrence, p.75.). Because of influence of her mother’s absents, and the resistant gipsy who “endures in opposition,” Yvette is has misunderstanding with her father, that shows his hidden evil and hypocrisy.

“The Virgin and the Gipsy” shows his heroes of the book as social “outsiders”; they are living under social limits. This book is a picture of the social life in England. Such heroes like Cynthia, the Eastwoods and especially the gipsies are suffered by snobbery and isolation in society. We see that the gipsies are rejected from society because they are not like others, they are different; they have a different lifestyle and usually act as individuals. In the novel “The Virgin and the Gipsy” society describes gipsies as “pagan pariahs” (Lawrence, p.36), who are non-Christians and derelicts. Such people like gipsies are under restrictions that create a social measure and rank people accordingly.

We should also mention that this novel is very intriguing because it teaches lessons of morality, religion, and of life and death meant for those who are with insight and imagination.

The style of the author creates the intrigue and true meaning to this book. The author’s use of imagery creates strenuousness in the story bright and strong. This story depicts a re-occurring tension between desire and religion.   This feeling of tension between desire and religion is most properly shown between the characters of the rector and Yvette. The main heroine Yvette was brought up in a world of religious beliefs and conventions, an atmosphere of love, forgiveness and morality. But later this world is turned to be a world of suppression towards all feelings of desire and passion; not the atmosphere of morality, forgiveness and love Yvette and is lead to believe. All these make the counterpoint, a conflict between desire and religion, confusing Yvette a lot because her religious upbringing contradicts and denies all natural for her feelings such as love, sexuality and passion.   The rector and Yvette have different idea of love. The reader understands that they both are very different in their expressions and thoughts about love. The author of the story tells us what the rector thinks of his lost wife Cynthia. The narrator describes her as “the pure white snow-flower” (Lawrence, p.6) and tells that her husband thought of her “on inaccessible heights…that she was throned in lone splendor aloft their lives, never to be touched” (Lawrence, p.7). These words make readers believe that the rector sees his Cynthia as a god not bodily in his life. At the same time in this novel the writer explains the reader that the rector believes Cynthia to be sacred and that she will stay forever in his heart, as if she were a religious idol; he didn’t simply express any desire or love for his lost wife. It looks like the rector has moral religious love for his lost wife, but not desire or passion.

So both these novels ‘A Handful of Dust’, written by Evelyn Waugh and ‘The Virgin and the Gipsy’ written by David Herbert Lawrence describe society in different ways, society for rich and poor, of those who keep traditions and those who ignore all rules and laws…


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