British Literature: Past and Present Essay

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British literature continues to be read and analyzed because the themes, motifs and controversies that people struggled with in the past are still being debated today. The strongest themes that were presented in this course related to changing governments, the debate about equity between blacks and whites, men and women and rich and poor, and the concern about maintaining one’s cultural identity.
The evolution of governments was a constant theme throughout the course, beginning with the lesson on the Introduction to Romanticism, where Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin debated the equity between rich and poor that was tearing France apart. The theme continued through the lesson about
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“I am contending for the rights of the living, and against their being willed away, and controlled and contracted for, by the manuscript assumed authority of the dead; and Mr. Burke is contending for the authority of the dead over the rights and freedom of the living (The Longman Anthology of British Literature, The Rights of Man and the Revolution Controversy, p. 85).”

The theme of change in government and equality between the rich and the poor continued into the lesson on the Impact of Industry, where writers were arguing for the outlawing of child labor and how the poor impacted the rich. In many ways, this lesson mirrored the debate that was presented before the French Revolution.
Thomas Carlyle first used the mythological story of Midas to show readers how British industrialism was producing misery for the poor. Although everything the rich touched turned to gold, the industry was expanding the gap between the rich and the poor. This expanding gap also is evident today in the United States where the monetary gap widens between the rich and the poor. Carlyle illustrated this in The Irish Widow.
High society had turned its back on the Irish widow, leaving her to scrounge for herself. And in doing so, the Irish woman’s Typhus fever infected and killed 17 rich people. If society had helped her, even a little, she may…

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