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Flawed Characters Are Always More Memorable Than Any Moral Lessons Literature Seeks to Draw from Them

Essay Flawed Characters Are Always More Memorable Than Any Moral Lessons Literature Seeks to Draw from Them and over other 26,000+ free term papers, essays and research papers examples are available on the website!

Autor:   •  April 28, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,369 Words (6 Pages)  •  2,048 Views

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The distinction between flaws and perfection in literature is at constant debate regarding which is more memorable; flawed characters or moral lessons? The concept of perfection is illustrated in literature through many different means, but in reference to Webster's The Duchess of Malfi and the poetry of John Donne, this concept is shown through characters and imagery. In Webster's case, there is no perfection. Every character has a flaw which leads to their tragic downfall, and it appears the more flawed they are, the more iconic and memorable the characters become to readers throughout the ages. For Donne, his concept of platonic love is perfect, so much so that it eclipses everything and makes any alternative seem flawed.

The Duchess as a character is proud, as a widow she represents a threat to the Jacobean patriarchal society. Her gender is a significant flaw in society; it immediately makes her more insignificant. For example, even though the very title of Webster's play indicates she may be the protagonist, it centres on the plotting and scheming devised by her brothers, the archetypal male dominants. In Donne's case, he takes enormous pride in his status as a lover, putting it before everything else. This could be seen as a flaw, but because this is presented corresponding with his all-consuming concept of platonic love, it appears justified. In The Sun Rising, Donne rejects the company of the sun in the morning because it disturbs the "center" or "sphere" of love he has created with his lover. Donne claims the love he has created could "eclipse and cloud" the power of the sun, which is "half as happy as we". Both the Duchess and Donne believe they are above the social order in which they exist, and that they can act as they please without consequence. For the Duchess, the title she has been given by her late husband, and her new identity as a widow, means she holds both power and independence, which in a patriarchal society, is a threatening thing for a woman to possess. It can be argued the Duchess abuses this power, she marries Antonio in secret and bears many children by him, all executed in a somewhat back-door fashion, in her attempt to keep her antics secret. Certainly she rejects the control her brothers attempt to place upon her, something unthinkable for a woman to do. The Duchess acts as if there will be no consequences, not just to a secret marriage, but to marrying a man beneath her in social rank. In Donne's case, he believes the world should stop, the sun should stop rising to allow he and his lover a greater length of time together. "Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime, / Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time." Here Donne states that love doesn't answer to time, and using his status as a lover he insinuates he therefore should not answer to it either.

Although in comparison to her brothers; the hypocritical Cardinal and the incestuous and irrational Duke, the Duchess may seem the icon of perfection as her intentions could be argued as pure because they are driven by love. As Antonio says in his monologue in Act I scene I, "But for their sister, the right noble Duchess, / You never fixed your eye on three fair medals, / Cast in one figure, of so different temper." However, the Duchess as a character could be perceived as selfish and self-obsessed; she places her individual desire above her public office: above the social, sexual and religious norms in society. Her marriage to Antonio is relatively taboo as it is unequal, secret and a second marriage. The clandestine nature of the marriage devises a pattern of secrecy. The marriage is secret, as are the children born by the marriage, and thus the pattern becomes destructive; it leads to deception, falsities, accusations and general unrest and distress within the characters. The secrecy that the Duchess practices flouts familial authority and flaunts her power and status; perhaps she did this intentionally just to prove her power. Although secrecy is not morally wrong,

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