Monday, December 1, 2014
Contemporary Pastoral English Literature
The glamour in rural life
The various aspects of rural life, its subjects, descriptions of countryside shepherds and cowherds and their vagabond lifestyle has always fascinated the readers.
Who can forget the famous character, Konstantin Dmitrich Levin from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. He demystified technology and used it in Agriculture. Of all the male characters in the book any urban girl would easily fall in love with Levin rather than rich, flamboyant Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky or a powerful cultivated man like Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin.
The dehumanizing factor of technology and if it is possible to make use of technology for inner peace of mind is well explained by Robert M. Pirsig in his book "Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance". The combination of two diagonally opposite virtues "rationality" and "romanticism" could be devastating for future human civilization. The beautiful part of the story is protagonist opts for less traveled side roads rather than Highways to explore and appreciate the slow pace of life, that explains a lot of philosophy in itself.
In Wuthering Heights the conflict of its occupant who are wild and passionate with calm and refined, and setup of the story in the bleak hilltop is symbolic of the unbridgeable gap in the rationales and romantics.
Encyclopedia Britannica defines pastoral literature as a class of literature that presents the society of shepherds as free from the complexity and corruption of city life.
The rural life is romanticized but the harsh reality of discomforts and malaise are overlooked. Exaggeration is allowed in the literature to make a point. The plantation literature romanticizes Old South in "Gone with the wind" by Margret Mitchell but does not try to escape the harsh realities of life evident in childbirth and miscarriages. Scarlett's love for Ashley, who represent Old South is like chasing an impossible dream that one knows in his heart would never be fulfilled, is romantic and she overlooks Rhett's love who represents New South that is opportunistic and strong willed to succeed is realistic.
This dilemma of realism versus romanticism has baffled the society for long. Though a champion of realism the human mind finds its solace in romanticizing.
Gabriel García Márquez has undoubtedly been one of the best authors of our time. In his novel "One hundred years of Solitude" he has given vivid descriptions of banana plantation age and calamities in the imaginary town of Macondo. He weaves a dream that entangles readers who not only when novel is read, but even much after that has a hangover of the town and the characters who lived there refuses him solitude. That is called magical realism.
In his other novel "Love in the time of Cholera" the old age and death has same suffering as that of youth. Could death be romanticized in a better way?
Another best author is J. M. Coetzee. His widely acclaimed novel Disgrace draws a clear line of demarcation in the treachery of urban life and rustic yet peaceful ambience of rural life. David the professor is humiliated and sacked from the University after complaints from his student (Melanie), though the act was consensual and on the other hand, in the rural farm his own daughter is raped, but she refuses to act humiliated shows that technically advance urban can lead to a disgrace which even a dog would not face in real and pure rural life.
One can read my book "Empty Cocoon" about conflicts in rural-urban life.
Overburdened, the super human would find the true values of life under the shadow of an old tree in the tranquility of a village pond where the dust of the cattle and trailing herd man returning home would obliterate the view of sunset.
© Vipin Behari Goyal
Author is also Advocate at Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur