Discoveries in ‘The Tempest’ and ‘So Much Water So Close to Home’

August 1, 2021 by Essay Writer

Discoveries that lead to self-reflection and future enlightenment often hold the most significance in our lives. The capacity for discoveries to take a metamorphic effect on an individual and alleviate former times is conducive to their prominence. This notion is emphasized in William Shakespeare’s play; ‘The Tempest’ (1611) and Raymond Carver’s short story; ‘So Much Water So Close to Home’, (1989). The authors of these texts illustrate the differing aspects and transformative nature of self-discoveries and affirm the important role these discoveries play in an individual’s moral improvement.

Discoveries can often influence individuals to re-evaluate their personal morals and beliefs. In ‘The Tempest’, Shakespeare reinforces the potential for introspective self-improvement as a result of our discoveries through his characterisation of the protagonist, Prospero, and the process of discovery he undergoes to ultimately achieve an enlightened sense of self. At the beginning of the play, Prospero is depicted with his initial vanity, egotistical nature and immense power. This opening storm cast by Prospero is a metaphor, representing a need for change in values and initially represents him as being exceedingly powerful. The pathetic fallacy of the storm also expresses the turmoil of his emotional state and is symbolic of the general chaos which reigns in the world of the play. As Prospero recounts his loss of dukedom and the malice now present he exclaims, “I find my zenith doth depend upon a most auspicious star.” This remark is symbolic of Prospero’s recognition that he needs to achieve new ‘reference points’, and his realization that his power is more tenuous than he would like to believe. Influences and philosophies like humanism were popular during the Renaissance period (1485- 1660), espoused by theorists such as Pico and Erasmus. In ‘The Tempest’, this links to the notion of forgiveness over vengeance, but also to Prospero acknowledging that he cannot control other people and needs to allow them to make their own choices about themselves, their lives and values. As the play concludes and Prospero has discovered the negative effects of his power, he expresses his renewed virtues through his anaphoric declaration, “I’ll break my staff… I’ll drown my book.” Prospero’s staff and book are symbolic of his dark perspective towards life, by surrendering his props, Prospero can no longer ‘conceal’ himself behind his magic and evidently has managed to restore his sense of humanity. Shakespeare’s characterization of Prospero particularly allows the audience to appreciate the value of being able to self-reflect. Thus, by acknowledging Prospero’s improved morals, the audience can learn to appreciate the good and bad in the world and recognize that ultimately it is more important to focus on self-improvement.

Discoveries can portray the repercussions of traumatizing situations and the fluctuating emotions that individuals experience at delicate times. This is emphasized in the text, ‘So Much Water So Close to Home’ a short story was written by Raymond Carver, depicting various aspects of discoveries as it explores the complications and repercussions involved after a group of men find a corpse whilst on a fishing trip and fail to report the incident immediately. Claire, the wife of one of those men, undergoes a journey of questioning and disbelief as she is informed of her husband’s actions. As the emotions begin to have a significant impact on Claire there is an incident at the sink where she narrates, ‘I rake my arm across the drainboard and send the dishes to the floor.’ The setting of the incident, (near water) is the introduction of the leitmotif of water. The reader is also informed that the men discovered the body in water, this is symbolic of the violent incidents and turbulent emotions that occur during the story. The author suggests that this violent act is provoked by the water nearby, not by Claire’s nature. As she begins to isolate and dehumanize herself due to the disbelief and suspicion she has in her husband, the reader begins to view a real lack of communication in their relationship. This is especially depicted through the sexual connotations ‘I turned and opened my legs.’ This blatant act shows just how detached she has become from her husband, due to his immoral behavior. Similarly, later in the text, Claire reads a newspaper clipping explaining that ‘The body has been identified, claimed. But it took some examining, some putting things into, some cutting, some weighing, some measuring, some putting things back again and sewing them in.’ The use of a depersonalizing pronoun ‘it’ mirrors the previous technique, further exemplifying that Claire has been reduced to simply a body, relative to her husband and that all of her emotional feelings have moved away from him. As well as this, the identifying of the body is symbolic of Claire, who identifies her emotions and concerns and ultimately comes to the terms that she is disgusted with her husband. It is also apparent, from this discovery and the actions of her husband, that Claire questions as to whether she can live with a man who possesses such behaviors. Furthermore, this psychological discovery is ultimately transformative as it causes her to isolate herself when she begins to feel disconnected due to a lack of communication in her marriage. Hence, the reader can appreciate the importance of not becoming isolated and maintain communication in these desperate situations in order to reflect on oneself and acquire a better understanding and thus moral enlightenment.

Individuals may be lead to new perspectives of the world through the careful construction of reality through another individual. This perception of discovery is conveyed in ‘The Tempest’ as Shakespeare details the profound effects and ramifications that Miranda encounters as she is enlightened upon her discovery of Prince Ferdinand. Coming from a background of minimal interaction with men other than her father, her individual perceptions are altered as she embarks on a love-driven journey and concludes that mankind is, ‘A thing divine’. This religious imagery conveys how deeply Miranda is overwhelmed by her own desire. In addition, her acquaintance is further depicted in the metaphor, ‘There’s nothing ill can dwell in such a temple’, where a coupling religious reference, expresses how in awe she is of mankind itself. However, contrasting to Miranda’s admiration, Prospero warns her that looks may be deceiving and lessens her ignorant perception of mankind by creating a lexical chain of primitive behaviors. He exclaims, “It eats; it sleeps and hath such senses as we have”. By deriding Miranda’s celestial impression, Shakespeare mocks his Jacobean society, which held high patriarchal values and assumed that you attained power, wealth and beauty through social class. His ridicule, therefore, implies that new discoveries can prompt a change in values, such as social class equality, and lead to new and profound understandings of society and the world. Miranda is enlightened as she acquires the discovery of mankind and is allowed to develop a further understanding upon considering her Father’s admonition. As the Jacobean time was an age of exploration, Shakespeare promotes that in particular, new discoveries can lead to a greater comprehension of our surroundings.

Throughout William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and Raymond Carver’s ‘So Much Water So Close to Home’ it is emphasized that discoveries can challenge our understanding of personal beliefs and force us to see ourselves accurately and specifically and that this process can be confronting and unsettling. Furthermore, the transformative nature of discoveries from both, oneself and an individual’s surrounding environment is established and from these two texts, the reader is confronted with the profound significance of self-reflection. Ultimately, it is evident that in order to acquire a sense of moral improvement in the future, we must first consider and celebrate instances from both past and present situations.

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