Purists will object that none of this is in the original, composed sometime between the seventh and 10th centuries. Well, maybe not, but it should have been. Gaiman and Avary’s screenplay gives the poem’s monsters a fresh reading. Grendel and the dragon aren’t just primitive savages determined to thwart the Danes’ attempt at civilized living. They are literally their bastard children, born of unmanageable desire. The nicest mead hall and the best-looking wife in the world can’t keep Hrothgar and Beowulf away from Grendel’s mom.
Gaiman and Avary again part company with the original in the scenes in which Beowulf recounts his heroic exploits, falsely claiming to have killed Grendel’s mother when in fact he was seduced by her. The Beowulf of the poem, by contrast, is scrupulously honest. The change is ingenious, since it suggests the story is a deliberate invention — it’s a myth, in other words.
The poem treats the subject of mythmaking differently. In a passage toward the end, a harpist sings about Beowulf’s slaying the Grendel family, making up new details, changing the tale so listeners won’t get bored. In the film, Beowulf does the harpist’s work for him, inventing his own legend. This helps make sense of the fact that the Grendel of the poem hates the sound of stories. “It harrowed him / to hear the din of the loud banquet / every day in the hall, the harp being struck / and the clear song of a skilled poet,” to quote Seamus Heaney’s acclaimed 2000 translation, which sold more than 200,000 copies in hardback and helped lay the groundwork for a mass-market “Beowulf.”
Gaiman and Avary’s Beowulf wants to kill the monster mother, but he sleeps with her instead. And then he lies so the harpists will have something heroic to sing about. This version of Beowulf doesn’t give a good name to either poetry or civilization, though it reminds us that willful acts of self-creation lie at the root of both — which in turn helps explain the poem’s status as the official starting point of English literature.
Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” inverts the story of man’s fall as told in “Paradise Lost,” reversing the progress of Milton’s narrative and recasting it as an adventure story about a young girl battling the forces of evil. Witches fly on boughs of cloud-pine, armored polar bears fight paw to paw, and people are accompanied by “daemons,” animal companions reflecting their inner selves. But the strangest and best things in Pullman’s trilogy are the abstruse historical curios he plunders from Milton.
The oddest of Pullman’s ideas is Dust. Composed of animate, freely moving particles that gather on adults and avoid children, Dust turns out to be the stuff of consciousness itself, the matter that permits people free will and choice (and arouses the hostility of those in authority). Pullman gets it from “Paradise Lost,” where Milton describes the universe as composed of animate particles, originally the matter of chaos. In this, Milton builds on a philosophy called Vitalism, which holds that all animate things — including plants and insubstantial beings, like angels — are made from “thinking matter.”
Milton suggests that God extruded the matter of the universe — “his dark materials” — through a process of evacuation, the divine version of a bowel movement. He claims that angels eat and therefore defecate, a process Milton delicately calls “transpiring / ... with ease.” (One of the perks of being heavenly is that you don’t get constipated.) In “Paradise Lost,” Adam and Eve have amazing prelapsarian sex and the angels fool around too, their bodies merging erotically, “easier than air with air.”
Pullman, an outspoken atheist, has drawn fire for his attack on religion; in the novels, the forces of darkness are known as “the Church.” But here, he takes his cue directly from Milton. Though the stated purpose of “Paradise Lost” was to “justify the ways of God to men,” Milton in fact set out to change people’s understanding of the very nature of God. While official doctrine held all members of the Trinity equal and divine, Milton claimed that Father and Son were separate entities, with Son below the Father in the celestial pecking order. He refused to accept that God had created the world ex nihilo (again, Church doctrine), on the grounds that nobody, not even God, could make something out of nothing.
In 17th-century England, these ideas could cost you more than a three-movie deal. Milton, a radical Protestant dissenter, had to fold them into his poem so cunningly that most people would never notice. In plundering “Paradise Lost,” Pullman has made the heretical Milton visible again and resurrected the brilliance of Milton’s strange creative inventions, now blurred by the sheer difficulty of reading his poem. In “Paradise Lost,” “millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth / Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep,” just as Pullman’s characters unthinkingly pass their hands through thousands of invisible worlds.
Milton wrote “Paradise Lost” as a difficult poem because he wanted reading to involve active intellectual labor as much as pleasure. Now active, canny reading has produced two mass-market hits. That’s how literature works: the best books always need rewriting, and the best writers know they’re rewriters. “Beowulf” was rewritten by Gaiman and Avary. Homer was rewritten by Virgil, who was rewritten by Dante, who was rewritten by Milton, who was rewritten by Pullman. New Line Cinema rewrote Pullman (at a cost of $180 million). Except that it seems to have left all the sad bits and the heretical bits — everything that gives Pullman his bite — on the cutting room floor.Continue reading the main story
What Makes Great Gatsby a Classic Essay
894 WordsAug 18th, 20134 Pages
A classic novel is a story that men and woman can relate to from any generation and location. A classic lets people have a deeper understanding of the world around them through universal topics and timeless themes. The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925 and set during 1922 displays all these characteristics through the involvement and ultimate corruption of the American Dream and the love story between Daisy and Gatsby. The Great Gatsby is set in post WWI America and at the time, the American dream was for any hardworking person to be able to achieve success and happiness regardless of their background or social class. This was a time of great change and revolution with the roaring twenties and rising middle class.…show more content…
Gatsby replies that Daisy loves him and had never loved Tom to which Tom hastily objects. They begin arguing about who Daisy truly loves and whether she has ever loved Tom. In return he accused Gatsby of bootlegging and other criminal activities. At this point Daisy starts siding with Tom and Gatsby realises that he has been defeated. Gatsby had tried to lay out and create the perfect future but Tom had controlled the past by bringing back intimate memories. This is a very significant part of the book as this is when Gatsby’s dream, which parallels with the American dream shatters. Everything that he had worked for, the dream he had bound himself to was destroyed in that moment and that was what broke Gatsby and made him not so ‘great’ any more. “…Only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room.”
The moment Gatsby died you realise how sometimes no matter how hard you work for something; it still might not come to fruition and the same can be said about the American dream. Gatsby had made it his life purpose to win over Daisy and had sacrificed so much to achieve this goal and losing her was like losing the world. The man had waited many years, resorted to criminal activities and dedicated his life for the sole purpose of one day having Daisy at his side. Before his death, Gatsby put his