Setting is the context in which a story or scene occurs and includes the time, place, and social environment. It is important to establish a setting in your story, so your readers can visualize and experience it.

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, it is critical to establish a setting in your scenes and story. If your readers don’t know where or when the action is unfolding, they will be lost. It’s on you to ground your reader by answering the journalistic questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how so your reader can visualize the events you’re conveying.

Setting is the context in which a story occurs. Just as a photograph has a foreground and a background, so does a story. The main characters and their actions form the foreground. The time and place of the events, and the social environment surrounding them, form the background. People exist in a particular time and place. Where your characters live may contribute to their personalities, values, attitudes, and even their problems. Your story’s setting can have great impact on the people in your story, how they react, and what they do.


Time and place these two bedrock elements of your story must be developed in order to establish and maintain credibility. It wouldn’t make sense to include current-day surgical procedures in a tale set in the 1800s or have characters sending urgent messages by telegram in modern-day New York. Eudora Welty once said, “Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable, if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else.”


There are four kinds of time, each with a distinct role: clock time, calendar time, seasonal time, and historical time.

Clock time can create certain moods or feelings and even provide suspense. Think of the pressure of a looming deadline or a husband who sits by the phone, waiting for his wife’s kidnappers to call.

Calendar time grounds us in the year, month, and day and even a particular day of the week or time of the month. Calendar time can provide a societal understanding of what is taking place in your writing. If you mention July 4th, Americans will understand the implications of the national holiday. It might be more subtle, like Friday the 13th or April 15th. Other countries have different calendar days that infer significance, like Boxing Day in the UK and Bastille Day in France.

Seasonal time refers to the four seasons, though winter in Minneapolis is a vastly different setting than winter in Key West, Florida. January in Sydney, Australia is nothing like January in New York. Most of us have different lifestyles in different seasons: you don’t snow ski in Vail in July or water ski in Missouri in January.

Historical time can establish a psychological or sociological understanding of behaviors and attitudes and probably has the most impact on your story’s setting. People communicate differently, depending on the time in which they live. Americans in the 1950s communicated differently than Americans in the 2000s. We speak the same language, but the vernacular has changed, and Americans in the ’50s had different assumptions about the world and how to communicate based on the era in which they lived. Common words and phrases from the pre-Civil War era America might be completely outdated or downright offensive today. Historical time contributes to the mental, moral, religious, emotional, and social setting of a story.


Place includes the geographical location of a story, which can range from a country (even a planet) to a single room. I always loved introducing my university students to Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” which pretty much takes place in one bedroom as Gregor, the main character, literally turns into a bug. It’s one of the most riveting pieces of literature I’ve ever read, and most of it takes place within the same four walls.

When writing about a specific location, you might include physical details of the environment. What does it look and sound like? A subway station has its unique smells, sights, and sounds; as does a church.

But there’s more to it than that. We may find significance in the location where the action occurs, and there are physical and non-physical characteristics to consider. The non-physical environment can vary by geographic location. Cultural influences such as education, social standing, economic class, and religious beliefs certainly vary from location to location. The education system is different in Long Island than it is in Zimbabwe. It’s different in Catholic schools versus public schools in the same city. Social standing and wealth can set characters in different settings, whatever the year or city.



Alexander Pope, (born May 21, 1688, London, England-died May 30, 1744, Twickenham, near London), poet and satirist of the English Augustan period, best known for his poems An Essay on Criticism  (1711), The Rape of the Lock  (1712–14), The Dunciad (1728), and An Essay on Man (1733–34). He is one of the most epigrammatic of all English authors. Pope’s father, a wholesale linen merchant, retired from business in the year of his son’s birth and 1700 went to live at Binfield in Windsor Forest. The Popes were Roman Catholics, and at Binfield, they came to know several neighboring Catholic families who were to play an important part in the poet’s life. 


Windsor Forest was near enough to London to permit Pope’s frequent visits there. He early grew acquainted with former members of John Dryden’s circle, notably William Wycherley, William Walsh, and Henry Cromwell. By 1705 his “Pastorals” were in draft and were circulating among the best literary judges of the day. In 1706 Jacob Tonson, the leading publisher of poetry, had solicited their publication, and they took the place of honor in his Poetical Miscellanies in 1709.

This early emergence of a man of letters may have been assisted by Pope’s poor physique. As a result of too much study, so he thought, he acquired curvature of the spine and some tubercular infection, probably Pott’s disease, that limited his growth and seriously impaired his health. His full-grown height was 4 feet 6 inches (1.4 meters), but the grace of his profile and fullness of his eye gave him an attractive appearance. He was a lifelong sufferer from headaches, and his deformity made him abnormally sensitive to physical and mental pain. Though he was able to ride a horse and delighted in travel, he was inevitably precluded from much normal physical activity, and his energetic, fastidious mind was largely directed to reading and writing.


As Pope’s career continued, his satirical writings became more and more pointed. The Dunciad, first published anonymously in 1728, would come to be considered a masterful piece of poetry but earned him a huge amount of hostility. The poem is a mock-heroic narrative that celebrates an imaginary goddess and her human agents who bring ruin to Great Britain. The allusions in the poem were aimed at many prominent and aristocratic figures of the day, as well as the Whig-led government. Pope’s satire earned him so many enemies that, for a time, whenever he left the house, he brought his Great Dane with him and carried pistols, in case of a surprise attack by one of his targets or their supporters. In contrast, his An Essay on Man was more philosophical, reflecting on the natural order of the universe and suggesting that even the imperfections in the world are part of rational order.


After 1738, Pope mostly stopped producing new work. He began working on additions and revisions to the Dunciad, publishing a new “book” in 1742 and a complete revision in 1743. In the new version, Pope more clearly satirized and criticized Horace Walpole, a Whig politician who was in power and who Pope blamed for many of the problems in British society.

By that point, however, Pope’s lifelong poor health was catching up to him. He had suffered from chronic pain, respiratory problems, a hunchback, frequent high fevers, and other problems since childhood. In 1744, his doctor reassured him that he was improving, but Pope only made a joke and accepted his fate. He received the last rites of the Catholic Church on May 29, 1744 and died at his villa, surrounded by his friends, the following day. He was buried at St. Mary’s Church in Twickenham.

In the decades following his death, Pope’s poetry went out of fashion for a time. 

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Daniel Defoe was an English writer, trader, journalist, Pamphleteer, and spy. He is most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe published in 1719, which is claimed to be second only to the Bible in its number of translations. He has been seen as one of the earliest proponents of the English novel and helped to popularise the form in Britain with others such as Aphra Ben and Samuel Richardson. Defoe wrote many political tracts, was often in trouble with the authorities and spent a period in prison. Intellectuals and political leaders paid attention to his fresh ideas and sometimes consulted him.


Daniel Foe was probably born in Fore Street in the parish of St Gile cripplegate, London.  His birthdate and birthplace are uncertain, and sources offer dates from 1659 to 1662, with the summer or early autumn of 1660 considered the most likely. His father, James Foe, was a prosperous tallow Chandler of  Flemish descent, and a member of the Worshipful Company of Butchers. In Defoe’s early childhood, he experienced some of the most unusual occurrences in English history: in 1665, 70,000 were killed by the Great Plague of London, and the next year, the Great Fire of London left only Defoe’s and two other houses standing in his neighborhood. In 1667, when he was probably about seven, a Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway via the River Thames and attacked the town of Chatham in the raid on the Medway. His mother, Alice, had died by the time he was about ten.


Defoe was educated at the Rev. James Fisher’s boarding school in Pixham Lane in Dorking, Surrey. His parents were Presbyterian dissenters, and around the age of 14, he was sent to Charles Morton’s dissenting academy at Newington Green,  then a village just north of London, where he is believed to have attended the dissenting Church there. He lived on Church Street, Stoke Newington. During this period, the English government persecuted those who chose to worship outside the Church of England.


Defoe entered the world of business as a general merchant, dealing at different times in hosiery, general woolen goods, and wine. His ambitions were great and he was able to buy a country estate and a ship (as well as civets to make perfume, though he was rarely out of debt. On 1 January 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley at St Botolph’s Aldgate . She was the daughter of a London merchant, receiving a dowry of £3,700 a huge amount by the standards of the day. With his debts and political difficulties, the marriage may have been troubled, but it lasted 47 years and produced eight children. In 1685, Defoe joined the Ill-fated  Monmouth Rebellion  but gained a pardon, by which he escaped the Bloody Assizes  of Judge George JeffreysQueen Mary and her husband  William III were jointly crowned in 1689, and Defoe became one of William’s close allies and a secret agent.

Some of the new policies led to conflict with France, thus damaging prosperous trade relationships for Defoe. In 1692, he was arrested for debts of £700 and, in the face of total debts that may have amounted to £17,000, was forced to declare bankruptcy. He died with little wealth and evidently embroiled in lawsuits with the royal treasury.


Defoe’s first notable publication was An Essay upon Projects , a series of proposals for social and economic improvement, published in 1697. From 1697 to 1698, he defended the right of King  William III to a standing army  during disarmament, after the Treaty of Ryswick  (1697) had ended the Nine Years’ War  (1688–1697). His most successful poem,  The True-Born (1701), defended William against Xenophobic    attacks from his political enemies in England, and English anti-immigration sentiments more generally. In 1701, Defoe presented the Legion’s Memorial to Robert Harley , then- Speaker of the House of the Commons —and his subsequent employer—while flanked by a guard of sixteen gentlemen of quality. It demanded the release of the Kentish petitioners, who had asked Parliament to support the king in an imminent war against France.

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The Stuart era began when James I, who was also James VI of Scotland, succeeded Elizabeth I. The last Tudor queen had died childless in 1603. James’s ascension to the throne conjoined the two long-warring nations of England and Scotland. The Stuart period witnessed intense religious and political conflicts, which shifted power from the monarchy to Parliament. Meanwhile, discoveries and innovations transformed science, architecture and everyday life.


The shrewd James I (r.1603–25), who was also James VI of Scotland (and the son of Elizabeth I’s cousin Mary, Queen of Scots), successfully conjoined the two long-warring nations of England and Scotland.

Despite threats to his reign, including the Gunpowder Plot (1605), he maintained peace at home and abroad.

James’s glamorous elder son Prince Henry died in 1612, leaving his younger son, Charles I (r.1625–49), to succeed.

This sober, ceremonious monarch was devoted to the arts and to the Anglican Church, and acutely conscious of his divine right to rule.


Impatient with parliamentary control, Charles ruled by royal decree (without Parliament) from 1629 until 1640. His subjects became increasingly exasperated by the taxes he levied on them, and by the suppression of Puritanism by William Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

After the fiasco of the Bishops’ Wars with the Scots of 1639–40 (provoked by the imposition of Charles’s religious reforms), the king was forced to recall Parliament in a bid to raise money. Frustration boiled over as Charles refused to give Parliament real power in State and Church. Both sides armed themselves, and despite a widespread desire for compromise, civil war broke out in August 1642.

The civil wars and their aftermath were calamitous. They killed a far greater proportion of the populations of England, Scotland and (especially) Ireland than the First World War. Many castles were pressed into active service for the first time since the Middle Ages and many – like Scarborough in North Yorkshire – underwent epic sieges.


By 1647 Parliament’s New Model Army, commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell, had defeated King Charles. He was imprisoned at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, but under the cover of peace negotiations, he secretly worked to provoke a Second Civil War, which broke out 1648. Parliament was again victorious, and this time the army accordingly insisted (despite moderate protests) on his trial, condemnation and execution in 1649.

The unprecedented public beheading of a monarch sent shockwaves through Britain and Europe. In 1651, with Scots support, the future Charles II mounted a hopeless invasion of what was now a republic, the English Commonwealth (1649–53). Defeated, he escaped to France after famously hiding in an oak tree at Boscobel in Shropshire.


The period after Charles’s execution, known as the Interregnum, saw the loosening of government and Church control. In response, there was an unprecedented ferment of revolutionary ideas, which were spread by an explosion of pamphlets. Radical religious sects proliferated, many expecting the imminent Second Coming of Christ. The Levellers demanded votes for all men and universal religious tolerance.

Oliver Cromwell, who ruled as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1653 until 1658, personally favoured toleration of all religions despite his own radical Puritanism. But he used military power to preserve both the fruits of his Civil War victory and national stability, commanding the confidence of both army and civil government.

At his death, this stability collapsed. Charles II was invited to return, and resumed the throne in triumph in May 1660.


The joint rule of William III (1689–1702) and Mary II (1689–94) brought peace to England, although in Ireland and Scotland James’s supporters fought on. The Act of Settlement (1701) ensured the succession of Mary’s sister, Anne – rather than James II, his son or any other Catholic claimant – and ultimately the ‘Protestant Succession’ of the House of Hanover. This was all the more necessary since none of Anne’s 18 children reached maturity.

During Anne’s reign (1702–14) the Duke of Marlborough won famous victories against Louis XIV of France, but the most significant political event during her time on the throne was the Act of Union with Scotland (1707). For the first time, England was part of a unified Great Britain.


After the dynamic optimism of the sixties, the seventies proved to be a decade of disillusionment. The seventies ushered in a mood of weary disenchantment. It was essentially a decade of disillusionment.

A Conservative government, under Edward Heath, was elected in 1970. He introduced further changes in politics and technology that were characteristic of the over- optimistic thinking of the sixties. For a while the economy seemed unreal. There was a sharp increase in real estate prices, leading to a great concentration of city development. Inflation rate became alarming. The trade unions were becoming very aggressive and were at odds with the Conservative government over its Industrial Relations Act. Heath tried his best to meet the crisis, but his government collapsed in 1974. When Harold Wilson returned as the next Prime Minister, it was a chaotic period of industrial unrest, power cuts and food shortages. Shipbuilding a s the aircraft industries were nationalised.

In 1975, when the country was on the very brink of a financial crisis, Wilson resigned. Over the next couple of years, the conservatives, under Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, won a long series of by-elections, toppling the huge Labour majorities. With the increasing power of the conservatives, there was a steady swing back to the right. Between1975 and 1976, both of Britain’s major political parties had chosen new leaders. James Callaghan replaced Harold Wilson as the leader of the Labour party . In 1979, the Conservative Party Won, and Margaret Thatcher became the first woman Prime Minister of England. By the end of the seventies, the British people began to feel that a revival of conservative attitudes was essential. Various writers and politicians, who were earlier leftist, now warned the people that the power of the unions, if unchecked, would eventually change the country into a Marxist totalitarian state. Another Aspect of the seventies was the increasing interest in the religions of the East.


In England, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) intensified its nationalistic campaign through a series of terrorist activities. Several people were wounded when two car bombs exploded in central London. The IRA was responsible for the disaster. Another explosion caused by the IRA backed terrorist activities in the seventies. In fact, Earl Mountbatten, Queen Elizabeth’s cousin was killed by an IRA bomb.


Giant strides are being taken in the world of science. For example, computers and cheap calculators were flooding the market. History was created in the world of medical science when the world’s first test tube baby was born in England in 1978. During the seventies, people began to take another look at the negative effects of science and technology. It was the seventies which, for the first time in history, received the earliest warnings that the earth’s supplies of energy and natural resources were getting depleted. And Mankind began to depend so much on oil, that oil consumption far outbalanced oil production. By the end of the decade , the global energy crisis was a harsh reality. Metals were also slowly disappearing.

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The Wars of the Roses, known at the time and for more than a century after as the Civil Wars, were a series of Civil Wars fought over control of the English throne in the mid-to-late fifteenth century, fought between supporters of two rival Cadet branchesof the royal House of Plantagenet : Lancaster and York. The wars extinguished the male lines of the two dynasties, leading to the Tudor Family inheriting the Lancastrian claim. Following the war, the Houses of Tudor and York were united, creating a new royal Dynasty, thereby resolving the rival claims.

The conflict had its roots in the wake of the Hundred Years’ War and its emergent socio-economic troubles, which weakened the prestige of the English monarchy, unfolding structural problems of bastard feudalism and the powerful duchies created by Edward III, and the mental infirmity and weak rule of Henry VI, which revived interest in the Yorkist claim to the throne by Richard of York. Historians disagree over which of these factors were the main catalyst for the wars.

The wars began in 1455 when Richard of York captured King Henry VI in battle and was appointed Lord Protector by Parliament, leading to an uneasy peace. Fighting resumed four years later. Yorkists, led by Warwick the Kingmaker, recaptured Henry, but Richard was killed in 1460, leading to the claim by his son, Edward. The Yorkists lost custody of Henry the following year but destroyed the Lancastrian army, and Edward was crowned three months later in June 1461. Resistance to Edward’s rule continued but was defeated in 1464, leading to a period of relative peace.

In 1469, Warwick withdrew his support for Edward due to opposition against the king’s foreign policy and choice of bride, and changed to the Lancastrian claim, leading to a renewal in fighting. Edward was briefly deposed and fled to Flanders the following year, and Henry was reinstalled as king. Henry’s renewal in reign was short-lived however, as the Lancastrians suffered decisive defeats in battle in which Warwick and Henry’s heir were killed, Henry was reimprisoned, and much of the Lancastrian nobility were either killed, executed, or exiled. Shortly afterwards, Edward reassumed the throne, after which Henry either died or was assassinated on Edward’s order. Edward ruled unopposed and England enjoyed a period of relative peace until his death twelve years later in 1483. Edward’s twelve-year-old son reigned for 78 days as Edward V until he was deposed by his uncle, Richard III. Richard assumed the throne under a cloud of controversy, particularly the disappearance of Edward IV’s two sons, sparking a short-lived but major revolt and triggering a wave of desertions of prominent Yorkists to the Lancastrian cause. In the midst of the chaos, Henry Tudor, son of Henry VI’s half-brother, returned from exile with an army of English, French, and Breton troops. Henry defeated and killed Richard at Bosworth Field in 1485, assumed the throne as Henry VII, and married Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter and sole heir of Edward IV, thereby uniting the rival claims.

The Earl of Lincoln then put forward  Lambert Simnel as an impostor Edward Plantagenet, a potential claimant to the throne. Lincoln’s army was defeated and Lincoln himself killed at Stoke Field in 1487, ending the wars. Henry never faced any further serious internal military threats to his reign. In 1490, Perkin Warbeck claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Edward IV’s second son and rival claimant to the throne, but was executed before any rebellion could be launched.

The House of Tudor ruled Englanduntil 1603. The reign of the tudor dynasty saw the strengthening of the prestige and power of the English monarchy, particularly under Henry 8 and ElizabethI, and the end of the medeival period of England which subsequently saw the dawn of the English Renaissance. Historian John Guy argued that “England was economically healthier, more expansive, and more optimistic under the Tudors” than at any time since the Roman occupation.


Hundred Years’ War, intermittent struggle between England and France in the 14-15th century over a series of disputes, including the question of the legitimate succession to the French crown. The struggle involved several generations of English and French claimants to the crown and actually occupied a period of more than 100 years. By convention the war is said to have started on May 24, 1337, with the confiscation of the English-held duchy of Guyenne by French King Philip6. This confiscation, however, had been preceded by periodic fighting over the question of English fiefs in France going back to the 12th century. In the first half of the 14th century, France was the richest, largest, and most populous kingdom of western Europe. It had, moreover, derived immense prestige from the fame and exploits of its monarchs, especially Louis IX, and it had grown powerful through the loyal service given by its administrators and officials. England was the best organized and most closely integrated western European state and the most likely to rival France, because the Holy Roman Empire was paralyzed by deep divisions. In these circumstances, serious conflict between the two countries was perhaps inevitable, but its extreme bitterness and long duration were more surprising. The length of the conflict can be explained, however, by the fact that a basic struggle for supremacy was exacerbated by complicated problems, such as that of English territorial possessions in France and disputed succession to the French throne; it was also prolonged by bitter litigation, commercial rivalry, and greed for plunder.


The problem of English lands in France

The complicated political relationship existing between France and England in the first half of the 14th century ultimately derived from the position of William the Conqueror, the first sovereign ruler of England who also held fiefs on the continent of Europe as a vassal of the French king. The natural alarm caused to the Capetian kings by their overmighty vassals, the dukes of Normandy, who were also kings of England, was greatly increased in the 1150s. Henry Plantagenet, already duke of Normandy (1150) and count of Anjou (1151), became not only duke of Aquitaine in 1152—by right of his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, recently divorced from Louis VII of France—but also king of England, as Henry II, in 1154.

First Hundred Years’ War,” was ended by the Treaty of Paris between Henry III of England and Louis IX of France, which was finally ratified in December 1259. First Hundred Years’ War,” was ended by the Treaty of Paris between Henry III of England and Louis IX of France, which was finally ratified in December 1259.The duchy was overrun again (1324–25) by the forces of Charles of Valois. Even so, both sides had intermittently been seeking a solution to this troublesome problem. Edward II and Philip V had tried to solve it by the nomination of seneschals or governors for Guyenne who were acceptable to them both, and the appointment of the Genoese Antonio Pessagno and later of Amaury de Craon to this post proved successful for a time. A similar expedient was adopted by the appointment (1325) of Henri de Sully, who held the office of butler in the French royal household and was a friend of Edward II. In the same year, Edward renounced the duchy in favour of his son, the future Edward III. This solution, which avoided the awkwardness of requiring one king to do homage to another, was unfortunately of short duration, because the new duke of Guyenne returned almost immediately to England (September 1326) to dethrone his father (1327).

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       A Youth Culture was emerging with a set of values that was frowned upon by the previous generation. There was a revolution in fashion, music, literature, and the arts. The sudden development of mass communication helped create and sustain this youth culture. This youth culture spread all over Europe and USA. Miniskirts and kaftans made their appearance on the streets of London and San Francisco. This was the time when two singing groups,     The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, gained worldwide popularity. The new kind of music was symbolic of young people’s rejection of parental values. The reality of change was to be perceived in every aspect of life-in fashion, in a new frankness in conversation, and print. All these were summed up under the label ‘permissiveness’. Sexual and social taboos eroded with the introduction of contraceptive pills and recreational drugs. The values of this youth culture exercised sway over half the globe as the Swinging Sixties wore on.


    In the sixties, the major cities of the world were undergoing the most dramatic transformation. Bulldozers could be seen everywhere n old buildings; and in their place, mighty skyscrapers mushroomed. The higher the skyscrapers rose, the higher seemed the people’s hope for the future. The landscape seemed to be changing faster than at any time earlier in history. In the name of welfare and development, low-cost housing was introduced. Urban motorways and hideous high-rise flats, which were becoming increasingly common, destroyed the environment. Historically, it was an important decade, witnessing the death of three great world leaders-John F Kennedy, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Martin Luther King. The Cold War was becoming more and more serious as the conflicts between the USA and the USSR increased. Tension prevailed throughout 1962 in the newly – divided city of Berlin. The Berlin Wall symbolized the East-west confrontation. Mankind reached the very pinnacle of technological advancement when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969. Another major milestone in human history was passed when Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first-ever human heart transplant operation.


    In the world of literature, a new type of drama called ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’ became popular. This type of drama focused very realistically on domestic life, family quarrels, marriage, and other matters about the ordinary courageous way of life. Another type of drama called ‘absurd drama’ was also enjoying its heyday. Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Edward Albee’s who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was seen by a large number of people. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was a well-known play that was written in a similar style. In America, Joseph Heller’s novel catch-22 was published in 1961 and Norman Mailer’s an American Dream in 1965. It was the decade in which the all-time favorites Dr. Zhivago and Barbara Streisand’s funny girl were screened. Looking back, the sixties was a crucial period in the history of not only Great Britain, but of the whole world. Tremendous changes were taking place all over the globe.

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The Sixties of England was a decade of tremendous change in international, social, and cultural affairs. It was a decade in which man walked on the moon and the first-ever human heart transplant was carried out. Human life seemed to reach the very pinnacle of civilization. After a long time, England emerged into a period of remarkable stability and prosperity. The two world wars had caused havoc in Great Britain. The forties and fifties witnessed a crippled country slowly limping back to health. After facing so many trials, the people of Britain were finding life easier in the sixties. The society of the late sixties was relatively freewheeling and differed remarkably from the strait-leaded and traditionalist society of the forties and fifties.

What is the Political,Social and Economic life in 1960s of England?

In 1964, Harold Wilson became the Prime Minister, ending thirteen years of conservative rule. The new Prime Minister promised a ‘classes dynamic New Britain’. The Labour Party remained in power till 1970. Trade unions were becoming quite active in the sixties and would dominate politics in the seventies.

The sixties witnessed a new attitude towards class. One cannot call the decade’s society completely ‘classless’, but the differences between the upper and lower classes were beginning to become almost indistinguishable. The working class enjoyed increased spending power in a way that it had never done before. This was due to their high wages. Back in 1951, the average weekly earnings of men over twenty-one were £8.20; by 1968, the figure had jumped to £23 per week. Though there was an increase in the price of food and other necessities, the cost of small cars, television sets, and washing machines was much lower. By 1961, nearly 75 percent of homes in Great Britain had television sets. Next in popularity were refrigerators and washing machines.

A new kind of social divide was emerging in the sixties. Until1950, America was the preferred new home for migrant west Indians. But in 1952, the USA banned West Indian immigration. As a result, they turned to Britain. The new immigrants settled in the poor sections of London. Violent race riots broke out between the local whites and the West Indian Immigrants.

What is the education system of 1960s of England?

An important aspect of the liberation of the 1960s was the major progress in the sphere of higher education. Colleges devoted to the study of art and design were founded. Teacher Training colleges were upgraded and their importance was recognized. Certain colleges of higher technology became full universities, and new universities, such as the universities of Sussex, York, and Kent, were created. Primary Schools also underwent a metamorphosis. The primary school curriculum, which was under the shadow of Victorian values, was made more flexible and enjoyable. For a long time, the main focus of primary education was teaching the three R’s (‘reading,[w]riting and [a]rithmetic’) to little children. In 1964, the Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations was set up. It was this council that brought about several innovations to make primary education imaginative and imaginable.

Will be continued……

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Criticism is the art of interpreting, judging, and evaluating the works of literature. It aims to enlighten and stimulate the reader so that he may have a deeper and clearer appreciation of the literary work. Traditionally there have been two broadly different approaches to literary criticism-the classical and romantic. However, from the modern point of view, there are several kinds of criticism depending on its purpose and process and the approach the critic adopts. A critic may confine himself to the work at hand or he may interpret and evaluate it in the light of his knowledge of similar other works. He may adopt the method of comparison or apply the general principles of art to the work at hand. In any case, the critic aims to help the reader to know the work better than he could do without such assistance.

The properties common to all literature can be set out in a system of principles and these principles can be applied to a literary work while interpreting and evaluating it. This type of criticism is called Theoretical Criticism. This has limitations because the rules derived from some particular instances may not apply to literary works produced in some other age or place. Practical Criticism is concerned with the study of particular works or writers basis of general principles. Dr.Jhonson’s ‘Lives of the Poets’, Arnold’s ‘Essays in Criticism’ and T.S. Eliot’s ‘Selected Essays’ belong to this category. A purely scientific kind of Literary Criticism advocated by Professor Moulton is inductive criticism. It aims to bring criticism into the fold of inductive science. It seeks scientific accuracy and impartiality. The inductive critic does not praise or blame a work, he merely reviews it to discover the laws and principles by which the work is moulded.

Inductive Criticism has nothing to do with the value of a piece of literary work, it merely investigates the laws of art practiced by the writer. Thus inductive criticism recognizes no fixed standards and therefore no fixed literary values. Judicial Criticism is a contrast to inductive criticism. It is concerned with the question of the order of merit among literary works. Unlike inductive criticism is based on the assumption that there are laws of literature binding on the writers. Again judicial criticism assumes that there are fixed standards by which literature may be judged. The best practitioners of judicial criticism were Dr.Johnson and Joseph Addison. The merit of judicial criticism is that it seeks to determine the literary value of a work. It emphasizes the truth that judgment in literature is universal. It tries to explain the effects of work in terms of its subject, organisation and techniques. Longinus’s essay ‘On the Sublime’, critical writings of Virginia Woolf and E.M Forster belong to this kind.

Impressionistic Criticism is a part of Romantic Criticism which attempts to express the felt qualities of a work and its impressions on the reader. Pragmatic Criticism views the literary work as something constructed to achieve certain effects on the reader. The quality of the work depends on the extent to which this effect is achieved. Expressive Criticism judges the work by its sincerity or genuineness in expressing the writer’s vision or state of mind.

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                   WHAT IS CRITICISM?

   Criticism is the branch of study concerned with defining, classifying, expounding, and evaluating works of literature. The realm of literature consists mainly of three activities- the power to create, the power to appreciate, and the power to criticize. Unlike the other two, the power to criticize may be acquired. The process of criticism is one of asking and answering rational questions about literature. The field of criticism embraces the theory of literature and the study of the individual works of writers. Criticism deals with all branches of literature like poetry, drama, novel, and even criticism. According to Walter Pater criticism is the art of interpreting art. Carlyle also considers criticism as interpretation. This is not a comprehensive view because criticism is more than interpretation or judgment. Arnold defines criticism as ‘a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world’. According to Hudson the chief function of criticism is to enlighten and stimulate. Criticism helps the reader to partake in the great vision a work of literature presents. No analysis or criticism of a literary work alone can be a substitute for our personal mastery of it.

Criticism only helps us to go forward. That is why Bacon said, “some books may be read by deputy” that is, with the assistance of others. Good criticism helps the reader to penetrate the heart of the work and to distinguish between what is permanent and what is temporary in it. If creative literature is an interpretation of life under the various forms of literary art, criticism is the interpretation of that interpretation. Emerson says that the aim of a critic is not to instruct the reader about the different aspects of a particular work but to provoke him into new meanings of the work. The two main functions of criticism are judgment and interpretation. But every effort at judgment leads to appreciation. As Pater said, ” To feel the virtue of the poet or the painter, to disengage it, to set it forth- these are the three stages of the critic’s duty”.

There are two approaches to criticism – the classical and the Romantic. Classical criticism held sway till the 18th century Aristotle’s Poetics was held as the master key to the treasure of literature by the classical critics. This type of criticism stands for judgment based on absolute standards and established conventions. It emphasized the judicial function of criticism and advocated right judgment as the first step towards right appreciation. However classical criticism severely restricted the free play of the critical faculty because it was bound by rules and standards laid down in ancient times. Romantic criticism which began with Wordsworth is subjective. It lays down that every work of art carries with it its own rules of enjoyment and there is no need to search for rules outside the work. It also began to probe into the viewpoint of the writer. Besides Wordsworth who initiated Romantic criticism with the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, Coleridge and Shelley were the other significant Romantic critics. Romantic criticism came under attack by modern critics like T.S. Eliot, T.E Hulme, and I.A. Richards. Modern criticism is based upon a sound knowledge of the past and it respects tradition as exemplified in the writings of T.S.Eliot.

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   A  Comedy is a play of light and amusing characters with a happy conclusion to the plot. It adopts a humorous or familiar style and depicts laughable characters, incidents, and situations. In a Comedy, even if there are serious and complex incidents, ultimately they are resolved and the plot ends in happiness. Like tragedy, comedy also originated in ancient Greece from the festivals celebrating the nature-god Dionysus. While tragedy dealt with persons in high places, comedy dealt with people of much less importance. Among the Greeks, Aristophanes was the most important comedy writer. The atmosphere of comedy is mirthful and light. Comedy moves us to laughter through humorous intrigues, strange situations, and witty dialogue. Comedy shows the common errors of life and ridicules man’s follies and foibles. Comedy is usually allowed to convey its own moral, though it is sometimes stated at the end of the play by one of the characters.

Comedy can be divided into two types- the Classical and the Romantic. The Classical form was based on the Greek and Latin Models. Ben Jonson and the Restoration Playwrights tried the classical form of comedy. Shakespeare and some of the university wits like Lily and Greene write Romantic Comedies. Ben Jonson’s comedy was called the ‘comedy of humor’ as it was based on the medieval theory of the four ‘humor’ that determined human character. The ‘Comedy of Manners’ of the Restoration period ridiculed the follies and foibles of the upper classes and was highly stylized and artificial. Then came the genteel comedy of Colley Cibber and the sentimental comedy in which there was an excess of Melodrama and moralizing and less of wit and laughter. Anti-sentimental comedies of Sheridan and Goldsmith retrieved comedy from too many weak moralizings and ridiculous sentimentalism. They combined morality with wit and sobriety with laughter. The language and atmosphere of the English comedy remained fairly remote from those of ordinary life until the 1860s when T.W. Roberston’s play ‘Caste’ appeared. Then onwards English comedy began to employ everyday language and familiar subjects culminating in the plays of Bernard Shaw and Galsworthy in modern times. The comedy of dialogue and narration flourished in the plays of Oscar Wilde. The plays like ” The Importance of Being Earnest” and ” Lady Windermere’s Fan’ derived their strength from witty dialogue and comic situations. Shaw’s plays dealt with social problems and his comedies are characterized by intellectual wit, irony, and satire apart from penetrating analysis of social and moral problems confronting society. Some of his important plays are ‘Arms and the Man’,’ The Applecart’, ‘Major Barbara’ and ‘John Bull’s Other Island’. An experimental playwright who wrote under the influence of Shaw was James Bridie. His themes covered a wide range and plays like ‘The Anatomist’ and ‘Mr.Bolfry’ were successes.

The latter half of the present century saw plays with little literary merit succeeding on the stage. The audience wanted only entertainment and so the Playwrights provided dialogue that made a good impression and situations that tickled the audience into laughter. The theatre became a tangle of illusion and make-believe. Among the playwright of this kind, the foremost was Noel Coward who wrote plays about the leisured classes. He became famous popular with the plays such as ‘Hay Fever’ and ‘The Happy Breed’. The modern comedy is shying away from serious social and moral themes while concentrating on impressive dialogue and effective presentation on the stage.

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      Drama in England originated from religion. In the Middle Ages, church services were conducted in Latin which most of the congregation did not understand. The church wanted to provide people delight as well as spiritual uplift. The clergy,  therefore, used to act episodes from the life of Christ or scenes from the Bible especially on special occasions like Christmas and Easter. Elaboration of the church ritual and liturgy became the earliest kinds of dramatic Performances. Soon the Latin dialogue was replaced by the vernacular. Later purely vernacular plays were composed. one of the earliest plays was ‘Adam’ . Such plays were performed within the church and the monks and priests participated as actors. As time passed the churches could not accommodate the large crowds that assembled to see the church plays. So the performances were taken outside into the areas surrounding the church. This change of locale and the introduction of the vernacular marked a breakaway from the church tradition. Drama, thus, became secular, more humorous, and less rigid. Soon dramatic performances were taken over by the town guilds and this tradition continued till the 16th century.


      The trade guilds produced a connected series or cycle of dramas under the supervision of the church. These plays dealt with scriptural events. By the 14th century, two types of drama came into existence – the miracles and the mysteries. The Miracle plays dealt with the lives of saints and the Mystery plays with themes taken from the Bible. They were shown at separate ‘stations’ in the town on wheeled theatres or stages drawn by horses. Actors were the members of the guilds; spectacular theatrical effects were produced on the stage; costumes were simple and humourous elements were provided. Four such cycles of Mystery plays are preserved today. These plays are chaotic in construction and the language used is often stilted. But the Mysteries gave the people of England a taste for theatrical shows and prepared the ground for the Elizabethan drama.


      By the middle of the 15th century, the drama began to show new trends. It substituted moral teaching for religious instruction. Characters were no longer Biblical figures but personified virtues and vices. A stock character was ‘vice’. These plays were called Moralities. The best known among them was ‘ Everyman’. The cardinal feature of the Moralities was the pursuit of Everyman by evil forces and his rescue by Conscience or Wisdom. These plays were poetic and imaginative. The thoughts and emotions of characters were personified and there was even some sense of construction and unity. Morality plays to mark the beginning of soul struggle which later became a marked trait of Elizabethan Drama. Two other important Morality plays were ‘ Mankind’ and ‘ The castle of Preservance’. Towards the close of the 15th century, a new form of drama called The Interlude appeared. It may be defined as a play midst other festivities. It was a transitional form of drama between Morality and Elizabethan drama. Interludes were marked by witty dialogue and discussion. The best writer of Interludes was John Heywood. His important interludes are ‘ The Play of the Weather’, ‘A Play of Love’ and ‘The Fours Ps’. Interludes were free from didacticism. There was a mixture of fun and rich sentiment in them. Comedy and farce began with the Interludes. Sir Thomas More and Rastell were two other important writers of interludes.

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       The one-act play is to drama what the short story is to the novel. A one-act play is not an abbreviated drama. It has its laws. The one-act play has a single plot; it is either pure comedy or pure tragedy. The action is confined to a single place and the number of characters is limited. The simplicity of design and immediate impact are its characteristics. The one-act play observes brevity in the plot, in character, and in dialogue. As a short play, it automatically fits into the classical framework of the unities. The very nature of a one-act play demands concentration. As a result, the heightened emotions of” the one-actor may be poetical or intensely realistic. When it is poetical, it transcends reality and throws over the audience the spell of illusion through the music of words and the deepening sentiments.

     The History of the one-act play dates from the days of Mystery and Miracle plays. They were several little plays combined to form a Cycle. The interlude of the fifteenth century was also brief. The Short Play disappeared with the coming of the great Elizabethan playwrights and reappeared only by the end of the 19th century. In modern times, initially, the one-act play was used as a ‘ curtain raiser’ before a full-length play. But the audience generally ignored it. Later two or three one-act plays were presented on the same evening as in the case of James Barrie’s one-act plays. Shaw also could occasionally confine to the narrow limits of the one-act play as in ‘The Man of Destiny’ and ‘The Dark Lady of the Sonnets’. Another great writer of one-act plays was Noel Coward who wrote the famous ‘ Tonight at Eight-Thirty’. The plot in a one-act play is confined to the most essential point of the Story. In the famous one-act play ‘The Bishop’s Candle Sticks’, we have the central incident of the stealing of the candlesticks. Other details are introduced indirectly and in a limited manner. A one-act play uses only a limited time for its presentation. Its characters are limited in number and its dialogue observes the economy of words. The most important aspect of a one-act play is the central sentiment and its racy and crisp dialogue.

      The writer of one-act plays does not have the freedom which a writer of full-length plays enjoys. The one-act play imposes severe restrictions on the author. He must present the story and characters with suggestive strokes. He must use the dialogue carefully. With all these restrictions, the one-act play can still be profound, poetic, and subtle as we find in yeat’s ‘ The Land of Heart’s Desire’ or in J.M. Synge’s ‘ Riders to the Sea’. Though one-act plays are best suited for the exposition of comic themes, there are excellent one-act plays with tragic themes also. W.W. Jacob’s ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ and Synge’s ‘Riders to the sea’ are examples. Today one-act plays are supported by amateur dramatic societies and school and college troups. Some of the outstanding modern one-act plays are John Drinkwater’s ‘The Storm ‘, Galsworthy’s ‘The Little Man’, A.A. Milen’s ‘ The Man in the Bowler Hat’, J.B.Priestly’s ‘Mothers Day’ and Stanley Houghton’s ‘ The Dear Departed ‘.

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According to F.T.Wood, “Language is a refined human cry” which was used by Ancient Man Before the existence of words. Ancient Man used to cry or shout to express their emotions and thoughts. A language is a tool for communication that is used as a medium for the expression of thoughts. It is an outlet for emotions. There are two forms of language. (1.) A system of vocal symbols (Spoken). (2.) A system of symbols(Written).


1. DIVINE SOURCES: According to the Bible and the Christian belief, Adam was the first man in the world. Thus he might be a speaker of the language and taught his children and it followed generation after generation in different forms of language.

2. CAVE ARTS: There are enormous sources of cave art that were found all over the world. Most of them were written/ drawn even thousands of centuries. F.T wood proposes cave art Might be one of the sources in the origin of language.

3. UNREFINED CRIES: A trivial movement of the mouth and breathing can produce audible sounds. So, In Ancient times, even though Man doesn’t know how to speak properly. He must have cried or laughed to call someone or express that he feared for something.


The evolution of language is the study of the development of language. The primary need of language is only to communicate. When people need to record a particular thing, they used written form or printing form Language is an evolutionary process that is not stable all the time and constantly changes from one period to another. For example Chaucer’s Age vs Modern Age. Changes in pronunciation, Grammar, and meaning are one of the evolution in language.


1. BOW-WOW THEORY: Bow-wow theory is defined by sounds. This theory was coined by Max Muller. Bow Wow theory hypothesis is the most popular but perhaps the most far-fetched hypothesis of all. It is the idea that human language and vocabulary originated as a form of imitation. Words are coined by the imitations are called onomatopoeia. For example, the imitation of animal sounds, such as bow wow for a dog’s bark or a-choo for a sneeze.

2. DING DONG THEORY: The Dingdong theory was adopted by German scholar Max Muller. This theory holds that the beginning of language is to be found in the sense of Rhythm. For example: whenever we try to push our car or let’s take a group of workers pushing some big rock will make sound like Ho Ho or Yo Yo .

3. POOH POOH THEORY: Pooh pooh theory was first proposed by Jean Jacques Rousseau. This theory holds that speech began with the intersection: Spontaneous cries of pain (“ouch”), Surprise(“oh!”), and other such emotions. Rousseau says that language is a refinement of pain, pleasure, Surprise, Wonders etc.

4. GESTURE THEORY: This theory was first produced by Wilhelm Wundt, and later restarted by Sir Richard Paget. In his Book, Human Speech which we may call the gesture theory. This theory states that Man first started using gestures to communicate. These gestures began to Accompany by sounds that eventually developed into a language.

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The period of British history when Queen Victoria ruled; includes the entire second half of the nineteenth century, a time when Britain was the most powerful nation in the world. The Victorian period was known for a rather stern morality.

The importance of Education was not fully realised by the people of England Before the Nineteenth century. There was no state Educational system for the common people, and the Majority of the working class was completely Illiterate. Different sections of people followed Different Systems and Standards.


In the earlier period, there were many kinds of Schools in England. The only schools available for the working Classes were three Kinds-dame schools, the schools supported by private subscription, and the charity and Sunday schools. the only aim of these schools was to save the soul of men and women by bringing them up a Bible reading, evangelical Christians. Primary education of the poor was neglected in England. The secondary education of the well-to-do underwent remarkable Development. children of the upper and middle class went to the public schools which were founded by kings and town corporations in the earlier many villages (dames) old women taught the children the alphabet for a small fee.


Dr.Thomas Arnold, the illustrious Headmaster of Rugby and Father of the poet Mathew Arnold. He focused on the Moral Education of the Boys. He emphasized the study of religion and introduced the monitoring system for maintaining discipline among students. He retained the practice of flogging and he insisted on the right to expel any boy. Arnold introduced the modern history, geography, and modern languages.


Gladstone’s education act made provision for the establishment of a school board in every District. Gladstone’s government made attendance at elementary schools compulsory. The school board must provide education for children between the ages of five and twelve. This education was cheap but not free, Elementary Education improved after1870. Some of the famous schools founded by Arnold were Eton, Harrow, Rugby, and Westminster.


A Royal Commission was appointed to study the system of education in the country. The board of education was established in 1899. Something more effective was done by Prime Minister, Arthur James Balfour. His Education act of 1902 was established. this act insisted that elementary education was restricted to children under fifteen. For older children, Central schools were started. An education committee was set up to look into the running of schools. Training colleges for teachers were set up to improve the teaching methods.


During the Victorian period, There was a great development in women’s education. Some of the examinations of Oxford and Cambridge were opened to girls as well as boys. In 1848, Queen’s college for women was established and it was followed by Bedford and Cheltenham College. London University gave it’s degree to women for the first time in 1879. The Victorian Age is a “Golden Age to every woman and Middle class and poor class people in England .

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The Concept of Ikigai

Ikigai is a Japanese concept which add meaning to life or finds purpose of this life. The book Ikigai was written by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. They both bring out the secret of Japan’s centenarians to you and gives you a tool to find your own ikigai. People those who wants to find their Ikigai and if they discover, have everything they need for a long and joyful journey throughout their life.

Japanese believing that everyone has their own Ikigai. Our Ikigai is hidden deep inside each of us to find out we need patience in us. In Okinawa (island) people with the most centenarians in the world hopes that Ikigai is their only reason for wake up in morning. People who knows their Ikigai will brings them satisfaction, happiness, and meaning to oru lives. People living Japan will remain active after they retire. In fact, many Japanese people never really retire they keep doing what they love for as long as their health allows.

The Blue Zones:

Okinawa (Japan) holds first place among the world’s Blue Zones. A research clearly says that the Okinawan’s focus on ikigai gives a sense of purpose to each and everyday and plays an important role in their health and longevity. Sardinia (Italy) this island as in Okinawa, the cohesive nature of this community is another factor directly related to longevity. Sardinia (Italy) this island consume plenty of vegetables and a glass of wine. Loma Linda (California) a group of seventh day Adventist who are among the longest – living people in the United States. Among these Blue Zones, paying special attention to Okinawa and its so-called Village of Longevity.

Key features of their longevity is their ikigai. Members of these communities manage their time well in order to reduce stress, consume little meat and they take alcohol in moderation. People always involves them in low-intensity movement, they all practice in common. Ikigai thought us life has some purpose do. It always awoke a question why are we doing this? what’s the reason? Answer is when you get to know your Ikigai. This book will get you to your purpose (Ikigai).

Things to know about B.A English.

Bachelor of Arts (B.A) English. It is an undergraduate degree for three years. The course would focus on the main aspects of the language and it will help us develop creative and independent thinking. The course helps us to enhance our communication skills.

Why English Literature?

English Literature introduces us to a world of creativity. You would get a chance to discover poems, novels and plays. You get to read incredible novels as per your prescribed syllabus. You get the knowledge of the history of literature. You will be able to think without confinement. There are no particular reasons but;

  1. If you are drawn to literature.
  2. If you are interested in the language.
  3. If you love reading books.
  4. If you want to make a career based on this course
  5. If you would love to learn about the wide range of cultures.
  6. It will help you broaden your boundary.

The actual answer lies in your perspective and interest.

B.A English Literature Subjects

Literature students will have major, allied and core subjects. The subjects may differ in correspondence to where you are studying. The subjects are as interesting as it sounds. We will get the flavour of distinct eras. The subjects will pull out the self-reliant sense.

  • History of English Literature.
  • American Literature.
  • Victorian Literature.
  • Feminism.
  • Women’s Writing.
  • Linguistics.
  • Indian writing.
  • Poetry and
  • Literary Criticism.

Best College to Study Literature

  • Loyola College.
  • Stella Maris College.
  • Madras Christian College.
  • Ethiraj College for Women.
  • Meenakshi College for Women.
  • Women’s Christian College.
  • Patrician College of Arts and Science.

When it comes to college, we have a few things to consider. The accommodation, fees structure, reputation of the institution, etc. In that case, I have listed out colleges in Tamil Nadu, Chennai. The chrome will help you sort out colleges in your location.

Job Opportunities After B.A. English Literature.

  • Content writer.
  • Educator.
  • Editor.
  • Writer.
  • Journalist.
  • Public relations.
  • Blogging.
  • Creative writing.
  • Language translator.
  • Media and advertising, etc…

The career opportunities are impressive and you can be a freelancer too. Although, many prefer to do Masters in Literature. There are alternatives.

Books for Literature Students

The books may vary according to the syllabus prescribed. Classics to add to your never-ending reading list are;

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
  • Jane Austen’s works.
  • Shakespeare’s works.
  • A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell.
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc.

As literature students, we might have the self-expectation of reading a particular genre. You need not read only classics to be acknowledged as a literature student. Try to savour the stories.

To know the history of English literature, you can refer to;

1. An Outline History of English Literature by William Henry Hudson.


2. A Critical History of English Literature Vol 1 & 2 by David Daiches.


Side Hustles for Litreature Students

I’m no expert, but I do have few ideas. Book lovers know the pain of having N number of books on their wishlist and not being able to get them all. Well, with side hustles we will be able to squeeze in extra books while buying.

  • Content Writing.
  • Freelancing.
  • Book logging & Bookstagram.
  • Bootubing (although the channel will take some time to get monetized.)
  • Copywriting.
  • Proofreading.
  • Affiliate Marketing.
  • Social Media Marketing.

However, the above-stated side hustles won’t make you rich but will be more like pocket money. There are plenty of internships that will pay you with a certificate.

For clear ideas, consult your counsellor, teachers and mentors. Is Literature tough? No, it is neither easy nor difficult. Unlike the olden days, we have technology and the internet facility. Literature is a wonderful way to know history.

“When in doubt, go to the library.”

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling.
Source – Google.


MY LAST DUCHESS is a poem written by Robert Browning. The poem is set during the Victorian era where women were objectified and were defined as things to be possessed and controlled. There is only one speaker in this poem-The Duke.

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,”

The poem begins with the Duke of Ferrara directing the attention of the envoy who has arrived to negotiate the Duke’s marriage. The Duke introduces his last Duchess from a painting on the wall to the emissary who was looking as if she was full of life. The duke calls it a piece of wonder and there can be no such doubt when it a piece of art from Fra Pandolf. The Duke asks the envoy to sit down at look at the picture. The Duke then explains that he deliberately said the name of the painter because all visitors look at the painting with earnest glace.

“But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot

Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat.” Such stuff”

In these above stanzas he continues about the painting. The Duke tells the envoy that every visitor act as though they would ask, if they dared, how an expression like that came into her face. The duke informs the guest that he isn’t the first person to ask this question. He continues to say that the spot of joy on the cheeks of the Duchess was not perhaps just his presence. He says maybe Pandolf may have complimented her.

“Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule

She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill”

The Duke tells the messenger that the Duchess was too easily impressed and finds a reason to blush for everything. He says that she liked everything she saw and flirted with every person who crossed her. A brooch from the Duke or the sun setting or a branch of cherries brought by a person or her white mule gave the same level of happiness to her and she blushed the same way for everything. He claimed that she ranked his 900 year old name equally with anyone else’s gift. He says that he cannot stoop down by arguing with her.

“In speech—which I have not—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse—
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose

Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet”

The Duke of Ferrara imagines a situation where he would confront her and express about and her disgusting character. And if she had let herself be degraded by changing, instead of being stubborn and making excuses, then even the act of confronting her would be beneath him, and he refuses to ever belittle himself like that. He continues saying that she smiled at everybody at the same way and hence he gave orders to stop her smile forever indicating he killed her. He asks the envoy to follow him downstairs.

“The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

This is the last part of the poem. Here, the Duke’s prospective bride’s father, a Count was known for his generosity in money and dowry. However, the Duke tells that his primitive objective is the Count’s beautiful daughter and not his dowry. As they walk together, the Duke directed the attention of the emissary towards the statue of God Neptune taming a seahorse, a rare piece of art that Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze specifically for him.

Speaking about the Duchess by the Duke speaks volume about his character and the men of his times. Husbands believed they owned their wives and considered that they had the right to dictate her feelings.

Relevant links:,poem%20is%20probably%20the%20speaker%20himself%2C%20the%20duke.