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American Literature

← The Return of the KingRobert William Service →

The late 1950s and the early 1960s marked the beginning of a new socio-cultural, scientific, economic, and political era. The paradigm of relationships between people has changed. As information was becoming more and more commercialized with each passing year, people’s conception of information was changing as well. It signified the beginning of the digital age. The development of technologies in the digital age and its interference with art began with music. As the new ways of storing, sharing, and reproducing information had been invented, people’s conception of information itself changed even more. The invention of the Internet was an unprecedentedly significant and remarkable event the implications of which, both positive and negative, we are not yet capable of comprehending fully. In this respect, it has to be pointed out that the impact of the digital age was so considerable that it affected the way we read and perceive literature. The companies like Google have changed the ways we read and understand a text drastically.

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Google is a search engine that helps the users to navigate through vast volumes of information encoded and stored on web servers all around the world. Apart from being simply a search engine, Google provides a variety of services. For example, the company is renowned as one of the world’s most popular manufacturers of software. Global network abounds in different kinds of services related to different fields and spheres of human knowledge. To prove the statements mentioned above, I invite you to envision the following scenario. Imagine a person who studies American literature and is not a native English speaker. Certainly, to that person the language of English poetry may seem quaint and pretentious. Something like that happened to me when we have been studying Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz”, and a poem by Sylvia Plath entitled “Daddy”. Luckily, all kinds of online dictionaries were at my service. When I decided to set aside some time to do a research online, I came across a really useful resource called Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation compiles English poetry and the poems by the world’s most prominent authors translated into English. Each poem is accompanied by the “Related Content” section. The “Related Content” section on the Poetry Foundation website specifies the poet’s name, a region the poet is typically associated with, the poetic terms that might seem peculiar, and the subjects, motives, and themes the poet reflects on in their work. In case there is an audio recording of a poem, the recording itself is embedded in the web page.

At this point, it is essential to present the information I have found about the discussed poems on Poetry Foundation. To begin with, I have read the text of the poem a couple of times. In his poem “My Papa’s Waltz”, Theodore Roethke describes a haunting and somewhat gloomy scene from the life of a family. The author shows the world of adults through the eyes of a child. The poem’s persona could be an author and a narrator simultaneously. Assuming that the foregoing statement is correct, it is the author’s own childhood that he reminisces about. The statement mentioned above can also be supported by the fact that Roethke sought “to use himself as the material for his art” (“Biography: Theodor Roethke”). Some critics believed that in his works, the poet moved from “despair, to resignation, to mystic faith beyond mysticism and back to despair” (“Biography: Theodor Roethke”). The subjects that the poet dwelled on in the piece under consideration are as follows: family and ancestors, life, philosophy, art, and relationships. Taking into account his works and their impact, Theodor Roethke is considered one of the most original and prominent American poets of the first half of the twentieth century.

Another poem that I have chosen for the analysis and studied with the help of the Poetry Foundation website is “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath. First of all, “Daddy” is one of Sylvia Plath’s best-known works. The poem abounds with symbols and metaphors, making them its distinctive feature. The presence of historical context is another peculiar feature of the piece. The reality that the author portrays in the poem is terrifying. In her work, the poet reflects on the following subjects: mythology, family, ancestors, and relationships. The critics and biographers believe that “Daddy” is one of Sylvia Plath’s autobiographic poems. Sylvia Plath was born to Otto Plath, who was a college professor in America yet German by birth, and his student Aurelia Schober (“Biography: Sylvia Plath”).

Even though Sylvia Plath’s father died when she was young, the evidence shows that Otto possessed a somewhat despotic and overbearing personality. Critics are inclined to think that Otto Plath controlled nearly all aspects of his family’s life, most especially the life of his daughter Sylvia. Apparently, Sylvia Plath’s writings reflect the experiences in her formative years. It is also possible to assume that unlike Roethke, Plath searched for inspiration in what she felt and how she felt it. Critics and biographers reckon that many of Sylvia Plath’s works were, as Joyce Carol Oates puts it, “written during the final, turbulent weeks of her life, read as if they’ve been chiseled, with a fine surgical instrument, out of arctic ice” (as quoted in “Biography: Sylvia Plath”). Sylvia Plath is rightfully considered one of the most gifted yet controversial female poets of the twentieth century. To supporters of feminism, Sylvia Plath is an iconic figure. The author has undoubtedly made a substantial contribution to literature and the improvement of the status of women in society. Unwittingly, hew works helped to improve the ways men treat women.

Clearly, Theodore Roethke’s writings have very much in common with those of Sylvia Plath. The authors’ respective styles, mindsets, and thematic frameworks are virtually alike. However, there are some aspects that make each poet’s works unique. Sylvia Plath shares her own perspective on family and parenting. In addition to that, Plath’s writings give the contemporaries an idea of what being a child or a young woman in the postwar years was like. Theodore Roethke, while attempting to solve all unresolved issues of his own life, seeks inspiration in who he is.

The twentieth century witnessed how humanity made a huge leap forward in science and technology. The twentieth century was also overshadowed by two World Wars, both of which are the tragic pages in the history of humanity. At the same time, the twentieth century has gifted the world with unique and talented artists, thinkers, and scientists. In this respect, both Theodore Roethke and Sylvia Plath can be considered as vivid examples. The values that dictate the lives today are different, as opposed to the ones that determined the poets’ lives nearly a century ago. Still, to these days we find their writings relevant. Since the circumstances under which we live have changed, so have our ways of searching, receiving, and perceiving information. Among other things, it also applies to reading poetic work. The Internet has truly become a fast and convenient way to get acquainted with the author who has piqued your interest. Global network provides a wide range of opportunities. However, the record shows that the contemporaries still have to learn how to use the Internet in the right way, even for educational purposes and the purpose of seeking needed information.

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