The Sword of Damocles, 1812 – Richard Westall

In Richard Westall oil painting, The Sword of Damocles, it depicts an ancient moral parable told by the Roman philosopher Cicero dating back to 45 B.C.. Cicero’s interpretation of the tale focuses on Dionysius II, an authoritarian king who was once controlled Sicilian city of Syracuse during the 4thand 5thcenturies B.C. He made more enemies than friends while ruling despite all his money and power. Dionysius was continuously threatened and feared assassination during his reign. Then it was Damocles, a courtier, who proclaimed how delightful and pleasing Dionysius life must be being king. Of course, Dionysius was not pleased with this and said “do you wish to taste it yourself and make a trail of my good fortune?” (Andrews 2016). In Westall painting, it depicts Damocles accepting Dionysius offer being seated on a golden couch. Damocles was living lavishly as he was served by plentiful amount of servants, fed the finest foods and drinks, and being able to admire material riches. The lavish life that Damocles was beginning to fall in love with as king came to an abrupt end when he noticed a razor-sharp sword from the ceiling hanging right over his head. Immediately forgetting about how he was just admiring how “easy” Dionysius life seemed to be upon realizing that sword was only being held up by a single strand of horsehair. That ended his ability to feel as if his time as king was going to be glorious and effortless. After being psyched out by the dangling sword above, Damocles removed himself from the role not wanting to be as wealthy and fortunate as he thought Dionysius had it.

The tale of Dionysius and Damocles was depicted fittingly by Westall. The audience, as well as Damocles, was able to understand how being so high in power brings a lot of physical and mental stress such as anxiety and depression but can do as far as death. There truly is never a sense of happiness and peace when one is centered in such an unstable and energy draining environments. Cicero’s tale had such a lasting impact that the phrase “Sword of Damocles” is used still today in situations where one has an impending threat or insecurity. Another being “hanging by a thread” which is something that I actually use but I was not able to determine where might that statement come from. The phrase explains the danger or unsteadiness of one’s actions to not feel as if they can continue on. Dionysius clearly was able to convey his point by using the sword and one might see this as a little exaggerated or extreme but it ought not to be despite all the riches depicted in the image. Like Damocles it was hard to see through one’s material wealth of gold, servants, performs, foods, drinks, and luxurious clothes which makes Dionysius use of a sword being hung by a horsehair even more insightful on how tiresome and vigilant his position is as ruler. Despite how death is an inevitable event, we should take Dionysius’s advice by encouraging his urgency to make the most of the one life you are given and to not “judge a book by its cover.”


Andrews, Evan. “What Was the Sword of Damocles?”, A&E Television Networks, 17 Feb. 2016,


Jane Eyre’s “Happy Ending”

In the book Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë goes through such corrupt and detrimental life alterations that one would at least believe Jane deserves a happy ending. Even though Jane’s relationship with Mr. Rochester may be unconventional and confrontational, she does eventually end up marrying him out of love. The language of the novel in the ending begins to have more of a romantic dialect that Brontë had not used at any other point in the novel. Jane Eyre says in one of her final passages that “no woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh” (Brontë). The phrase “bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh” directly alludes to the Bible and gives the impression of Jane and Rochester as the current Eve and Adam.

The “happy ending” has generated much debate over the way Brontë decided to conclude her book. Some could interpret Jane as having willingly offered her autonomy supporting the idea that she is no longer her own person. Jane and Rochester have fused together, sharing one hear, and each possessing the “bone” and “flesh” of the other. Another way to conclude this transition at the end is by arguing that Jane is renouncing her powers of thought and expression. These are two characteristics that have explained and designated Jane for most of the novel. Even Jane compares her thinking to her conversations with Rochester. Despite ten years having passed since the wedding, the otherwise expressive Jane suddenly is not capable of expressing herself in the presence of Rochester.

The reader can interpret the book’s conclusion with a more positive outlook as well. It can be read as Jane’s way of expressing equality between Rochester and herself. Throughout the whole book, Jane sets the stage of a patriarch. Even though Rochester carried himself as a controlling patriarchy character, his personality by the conclusion has changed. Rochester has lost his house, his hand, and his eyesight. In a larger sense, Rochester cannot act as if he is Jane’s “master”. Jane realizes this change and says to Rochester she can “be useful to you, than I did in our state of proud independence, when you disdained every part but that of the giver and protector” (Brontë). Through every experience, Jane becomes more aware of herself. She is self-sufficient that she can take care of Rochester and not have to feel dependent upon anyone. When Jane goes to Rochester this second time, she has a support system at the Moor House, unlike before when she solely depended on Rochester for emotional support. Jane enters into marriage with confidence and she lets the audience know by saying “Reader, I married him” (Brontë). Her marriage is not merely a connection of two people but exemplifies the escape that Jane has been searching for the entire book. In Jane Eyre, Brontë allows the reader to decide whether Jane’s conclusion was meant for the readers to express discontent due to the tragic paradox of her situation or acknowledges her journey to freedom.

Wilson Library Visit

The available resources at Wilson Library, as well as other facilities on campus, were first introduced to me as a first year in my English 105 class with Professor Grant. Being able to have the opportunity to get a glimpse at the achieves that relate directly with our course simply exemplifies the extents of what is available to us as students at UNC-CH. Before coming to college, I would not have been as appreciative about taking a visit to Wilson Library, but now I can see the value in being aware of my resources. Since I have done research in Wilson Library before, my prediction of what our visit would be like was similar to my other experiences there. The setup of the room with all the related books from our course sectioned together was well organized and in itself showed the extents of the available works. Even though the works had this familiarity with our course, all the pieces had their differences when compared to the particular edition of the book we read.

During our time there, I was able to look at all the materials from the Frankenstein section. The version of Frankenstein we read in class compared to the various representations of Frankenstein from the archives allowed me to make interesting connections that related to our conversations in class. One of the main and first impressions I would have of the archival book would be the way in which the book presents itself. In my opinion, our version of Frankenstein and one of the pieces, The Devil’s Brood, had the largest impact on the reader because of the depictions on the outside covers before even reading either book. Even though The Devil’s Brood’scover has multiple images of various fictional characters such as Dracula, Universal monster, and Frankenstein, it connects all the “evil” characters for the reader. Whereas Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus front cover was simple by just having a black background with the word Frankenstein written in a stacked format. This version does not give the reader any insight to what “Frankenstein” might look like which gives the reader free rein to create their own depiction themselves.

The 1953 paperback of Frankenstein had the most lasting impression on me. Its physical characteristics were what made this book unique as well as the audience that this book attracts. The front cover did not have anything on it at all and it was pocket sized. This alone said a lot about the book because it gave no insight to the reader as to what this book was going to be about. The book’s size did though relate to the audience it was reaching out to in my opinion because it was intended to be a children’s book or a easily, portable traveler’s edition. The hand drawn images of Frankenstein inside the front cover of the book did give the reader an image of what this character looked like. These sketches were only in black and white. Even though I cannot confirm that the audience was to be children, I do know that by just looking at the images I would not have associated this book to be advertised to children. Therefore, I would associate its size to be in a form that is easy to handle like for those who travel. After the visit to Wilson Library, I do feel as if I am able to better understand and pay attention to detail when analyzing the characteristics of novels.

Comparison of Robinson Crusoe and Foe

In Daniel Defoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe, the novel portrayed as a foundational text to early fictional writings and introduced writers as well as readers to having a narrative in an island setting. Within Defoe’s novel, one is able to get a glimpse of the stereotypical gender roles from the 17thcentury because patriarchy reigned supreme. Women were property while men were authoritarians. The novel is shown through the eyes of a middle-aged white male during colonization. Crusoe “owns” the island and instructs those living there just as if he were the “governor” or political leader-just as any British colony would be governed. By this, the reader is able to see through the eyes of Robinson Crusoe about the issues of not only gender but with race and independence. AlthoughRobinson Crusoewas written in the early 1700’s, a more recent novel by J.M. Coetzee called Foewas an artistic piece that imitated Defoe’s well-known work. Even though the two novels share many similar aspects, Coetzee framed his work to provide an updated perspective of the story Defoe had composed by adding in the presence of a woman figure, incorporating a new setting, and more modernistic viewpoint.

Although Robinson Crusoewas written hundreds of years ago, a newer look into his island life and social views was created in 1986 when J.M. Coetzee wrote the novel Foe, a pastiche to Defoe’s famous work. While Robinson Crusoe is the main character and narrates the story from a first-person perspective in Defoe’s novel, Susan Barton is the woman who narrates Foe. The way Susan Barton conveys her own story helps articulate her strengths. Her character is aiding to the lack of women from the earlier novel. Crusoe makes brief mention of his mother, during which he reviews his family history. Then only sparing but on sentence to the mention of his wife: “In the meantime, I in part settled myself here; for first of all I marry’d and that not wither to my disadvantage and dissatisfaction, and had three children, two sons and one daughter” (Defoe 219). When Barton is introduced, she is shipwrecked on the island with Crusoe and Friday. The way in which she carried herself on the island was to become the dominant figure of the group and correct or manage the Crusoe’s actions and decisions. Then she says, “I presented myself to Crusoe, in the days when he still ruled over the island, and became his second subject, the first being his manservant Friday” (Coetzee 11). Her dependence on Crusoe and Friday to do more of the manly duties allowed the reader to see her weaker side. Coetzee’s decision of adding into a woman allowed for there to be a new interpretation of the story. Crusoe’s character was altered to depict the descriptions that Susan Barton presented. In Robinson Crusoe, the reader gets authentic details of Crusoe’s identity since the male figure is the direct focus of the novel, but in Foe, Barton offers the reader individual, physical characteristics that was not depicted in the first novel.

Foe follows the aspects of a more modern view. Even though Coetzee portrays a more feminine viewpoint through incorporating Susan Barton, her decisions and mindset raise a debate in how they relate to the life of a woman in the twentieth or even twenty-first centuries. As Barton falls asleep one night, Crusoe begins to pursue her. She described that night by saying, “I pushed his hand away and made to rise, but he held me. No doubt I might have freed myself, for I was stronger than he” (Coetzee 30). Although she realizes she is stronger than him, she decides not to leave but to “let him do as he wished” (Coetzee 30). Barton’s reputation is altered from the beginning to the end of the book by reshaping her morals. For instance, all her encounters with men all include having sexual relations only excluding Friday. Barton told herself “I did him (Friday) wrong to think of him as a cannibal or worse, a devourer of the dead. But Crusoe had planted the deed in my mind, and now I could not look on Friday’s lips without calling to mind what mean must once have passed them” (Coetzee 106). At the beginning of Coetzee’s novel, the reader would argue that Barton’s character is going to remain as a strong, female character, one who is bravely sacrificing for others. As the novel goes on the reader’s opinion on Barton shift because her character is not as clear as in what she stands for. On “Crusoe’s island” she is merely the “woman washed ashore,” and in England she is haunted with the question, “What life do I live but that of Crusoe’s widow?” (Coetzee 99). In England, she searches to define her role, but end up defining it through her gender. Although the novel does allot several chapters to Barton’s writing and thoughts, she is still hesitant to proclaiming her own truth by waiting for the go ahead from the male characters to feel accepted.

Defoe’s Robinson Crusoeis used across the generations and influences writers who are separated by centuries. The novel offered the writing world the style of having island narration and displayed the seventeenth century views whether it be social, political or creative aspects. It stimulated J.M. Coetzee to write in response to that novel, Foe, which sought to offer a modernized interpretation of Defoe’s novel, and provide room for others to be able to compare these two pieces. In Coetzee’s work, it has a female protagonist Susan Barton telling how the story really was before Mr. Foe sat down to turn it into a novel of his own intention, altering and disproving it. She tells her own story in the first-person perspective, in terms of the plot even before the writer Mr. Foe would have finished his Robinson Crusoe. Through this, Coetzee generates the illusion that Ms. Barton’s account might have indeed been the forerunner of the literary classic Robinson Crusoe. Although both books carry a different plot, they have similarities in techniques and in some social aspects. Whether discussing the presence of a woman figure, incorporation of a new setting, or more modernistic viewpoint, either novel depicts different perspectives on the matter, and portrays the evolution of the island narrative. Defoe makes certain that good writing is what it says it is and provides today’s generation a definite glimpse into the past.