Nothing More Than a Dream: Death of a Salesman Analysis

Death of a Salesman is a tragic tale about Willy Loman, a man who desperately seeks success in a country known for its limitless opportunities. Unfortunately, few are able to attain such lofty goals.

In his journey, Willy loses sight of what is important and becomes completely blinded by the riches that he would have been able to attain. Being a modern-day tragedy, Death of a Salesman reveals the tragic side of the American Dream.

Wikipedia, a company started as a result of one person’s American dream, defines the American dream as “a… freedom that allows all citizens and all residents of the United States to pursue their goals in life through hard work and free choice” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia 2009).

It is true that in America we have the freedom to pursue our goals no matter how lofty they may seem, but in reality, few are able to attain the great successes seen by a select few. The majority of people find that the American dream is merely a dream and nothing else. Either people do not strive for such lofty goals or are unable to due to life events and bad choices.

Willy Loman is among the majority. Although, unlike the majority, the American dream has become a hindrance to Willy’s life because of his love of money, his low self-esteem, and his blinding hero-worshipping of three successful men.

The American dream brings hope to many, but some people become so clouded by the result of their goals that they lose sight of what is truly important. One critical essay denotes the significance of the materialistic American dream clashing with the individual. The article claims that this clash is “the downfall of Willy Loman, a salesman whose misguided notions of success result in disillusionment.” (Marowski, Danil G.; Matuz, Roger; Pollock, Sean R, 247).

In Willy’s case, his goal is so strongly motivated by the love of money, he neglects his family. As Janet Witalec a critic of Miller points out, his love for money “keeps him from acknowledging the value of human experience—the comforts of personal relationships, family and friends, and love” (Witalec, 145). He thinks money provides satisfaction. Because he is focused on financial success, he often ignores the more important things in life.

It is clear that Willy truly loves his family, although he is very misguided. Despite his desperate desire to be rich, he makes sacrifices because he recognizes the importance of his wife and children. For instance, he chooses to support his family rather than go on adventures with Ben and become rich. Willy’s heart knows what is most important, but his love for money shadows over him. He feels a sense of shame that he has not attained the same riches as his brother and his father. Although he is aware that his family is most important, money preoccupies most of his thoughts.

In the end, it is this preoccupation with financial matters that defeats him. Because he places a high significance on money, he misinterprets what he should do “when [he] realizes that his true value lies in being a good father” as Witalec explains. Instead of giving his sons his time and energy, “he chooses to sacrifice himself in order to give his sons the material wealth he has always desired” (Witalec, 145).

In one respect he realizes that he should be looking towards his relationship with his sons, but he is still blinded by his love for money. He thinks the way to bless his sons is by giving them riches in the only way he knows how. He believes he is doing the right thing for his family by committing suicide and ultimately giving his children the twenty-thousand dollars from his life insurance. As a result, he misses out on life itself and takes one of the most valuable things away from his family: himself.

In Willy’s fractured mind, there are fragments of truths where he realizes the importance of family over money. For instance, as his wife tells him that they almost have the house paid off, he states “…work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it and there’s nobody to live in it” (Miller, 2330). Here he realizes that he has worked very hard to get the material things he has in life. Now that he has gained it, his children are adults and are no longer running around the house.

His wife reiterates this statement later, although she says it with a different tone. When Willy makes this statement he is speaking with bitterness over the years he had to work, and the times he missed out on with his sons. Whereas Lynda says this with sadness because now that she officially owns her house, she is completely alone. In this, Lynda is the true victim, because she would have rather have her husband than own the house.

Unfortunately, Willy does not understand how much she values him, because he’s too blinded by his insecurities and self-absorption. To him, he sees her as his “foundation and… support” (Miller, 2331), but he only looks at the benefit she gives to him and not the benefit he gives to her. As a result, he misses out on the fulfillment of the symbiotic relationship that marriage provides. Although Willy says, “You know the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me” (Miller, 2340), it is true that he doesn’t “take to” himself. If only he understood the love his wife had for him, and her willingness to stick up for him like when she says, “I won’t have anyone making him feel unwanted and low and blue” (Miller, 2350), he may have been able to see the worth in himself as his wife does.

Rather than realizing his worth within his wife’s life, he continuously tries to seek importance in the world. Even when he assesses himself, he looks to physical characteristics such as appearance and personality as seen when he says, “I’m fat. I’m very—foolish to look at, Linda,” “I joke too much!” and “I’m not dressing to advantage” (Miller, 2341). These are characteristics that the world judges each other on; whereas a person’s true treasure is in the things that are not seen, such as love. Willy wants so badly to be “well-liked,” that he often overlooks the fact that he is loved, even though his wife continually reminds him.

Self-absorption is the main reason for this inability because he only sees life from his own point-of-view. He makes decisions without fully understanding the repercussions that his actions will have on others lives and consequently his own.

One of his greatest selfish decisions is his affair. Although Witalec argues that Willie truly believes he cheats “out of loneliness for his wife, Linda. But [in fact]… he is driven by feelings of inadequacy and failure to seek himself outside of himself, in the eyes of others. ‘The Woman’ makes him feel that he is an important salesman and a powerful man” (Witalec, 234).

Willy only looks at the benefit he will get from his decisions. In the case of his affair, his benefits are words of affirmation and carnal pleasure. Unfortunately, because Biff discovers the affair, Willy becomes very aware of the immense pain that results.

In a criticism written by Marowski and colleagues, it expresses this betrayal by declaring that, “the trust Biff had given Willy now seems misplaced. Indeed, according to the flashbacks within the play, the young Biff and Happy had nearly idolized Willy, so this betrayal, while Biff is yet an adolescent, is particularly poignant.” (Marowski). The affair results in a strained relationship with his son, and though Biff never tells the secret, the family dynamic is forever changed. Ironically, what makes Willy feel like a successful salesman causes him to feel insecurities regarding his fatherhood and other aspects of his life as well.

His greatest insecurity is that he is never as successful as he feels he should be. It is, as Witalec says, “his vision of success [that] perpetuates crippling feelings of inferiority and inadequacy [which ultimately]… drive him to destroy himself” (Witalec, 236). He creates his view of success based on three men that he idolizes: his father, his older brother Ben, and old Dave Singleman. These men represent who he wants to emulate.

Willy’s father is the least represented in the play because his father abandons him at a very early age. Though Willy’s father is rarely mentioned, there is a sense that his memory is always present. Whenever Willy is experiencing a flashback, Miller represents his father’s memory through a flute playing offstage. His father’s flute playing is one of the few sensory memories that Willy has of him (Witalec, 148). In fact, the only times his father is mentioned is during conversations with his brother Ben. Ben describes his father as a “Great inventor… With one gadget he made more in a week than a man like [Willy] could make in a lifetime.” (Miller, 2347). Although it is clear that Willy feels a sense of pride for his father when Ben boasts this, it is important to note that his brother is also insulting him. Rather than encouraging Willy in becoming successful like his father, he is stating that he is not capable. Since this statement is coming from someone who Willy idolizes, he is more apt to believe that it is true; he cannot make that much money.

Willy’s idolization of Ben also hinders Willy in his quest for the American dream. In Willy’s mind, Ben is the personification of the American dream. He symbolizes the riches that he could attain. Willy covets the qualities in Ben that makes him successful, such as toughness and unscrupulousness. (Witalec, 148) Although Willy does not realize he has his own strengths and tries too hard to emulate his brother. Willy, unlike his brother, is honest. Although he makes some bad choices such as infidelity, he chooses to work hard and take care of his family.

As shown earlier, he also does not recognize another one of his great strengths, which is Linda, his own personal cheerleader. Ben does not have a person in his life that encourages him and loves him. Willy neglects to notice.

Because Willy chooses to support his family and work honestly, he is unable to attain the same level of success as his brother Ben. On the other hand, Dave Singleman embodies a success that is realistic. He represents “getting ahead by being ‘well-liked’” (Witalec, 148). Willy boasts that Singleman is so well liked that “when he died, hundreds of salesmen and buyers were at his funeral” (Miller, 2363). Therefore, Willy strives for the success that Singleman has.

Willy is not completely blind, for he does see that he is aging, and his chances of having success like Singleman is getting less likely. Heyen another critic of Miller mentions as the play progresses “Willy saw the truth. He knew he didn’t have Ben’s courage…, Dave Singleman’s personality, his own father’s fortitude, and ingenuity. But Willy chose, and… chose to continue dreaming even unto death” (Heyen, 49-50). He then turns his hope for success to his children. In Willy’s eyes, he dies an honorable death, because he is fulfilling his dream in the only way he knows how, by providing for his children financially and giving them a chance at the American dream.

Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman is one of the most tragic characters from a twentieth-century play. He dreams of a life that he never is able to attain, yet witnesses many people around him attaining their goals with ease. Due to his “tunnel-vision,” he overlooks the things in life that can bring happiness like doing the things he enjoys like gardening or more importantly spending quality time with the one person who has devoted her heart and life to him. Although he may not have become as rich as the men he idolizes, he does share one thing with them; his self-absorption and utter disregard for the needs of other people. Though Willy may feel he ends his life with purpose, he does so without fully understanding the creation of the American dream. The dream is meant to bring hope not despair, life not death, unification not separation.

Works Cited

“An overview of Death of a Salesman for Drama for Students.” Drama for Students. Detroit: Gale. Literature Resource Center. Gale. GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIV. 13 Apr. 2009 .

Heyen, William. “Death of a Salesman and the American Dream.” In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, edited by Harold Bloom, 47-58. New York: Chelsea House Publication, 1988.

Marowski, Danil G.; Matuz, Roger; Pollock, Sean R;. Arthur Miller (1915-). Vol. 47. Detroit: Gale Research, 1988.

The Norton Anthology: American Literature. Vol. E, in Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, edited by Nina Baym, 2327-2392. NewYork: Norton and Company, 1949.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. April 10, 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_dream#cite_note-0 (accessed April 13, 2009).

Witalec, Janet. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. Vol. 179. Detroit: Gale, 2004.

Book Review and Summary: Nantes et le Temps des Négriers

Nantes, a modest sized city in North-Western France, in what historically was Bretagne, was once during the 18th century a city intimately involved in the slave trade. Between just over a third and up to half of the total French slave trade during these years passed from this important mercantile city, as goods were exported to Western Africa, exchanged for slaves, these slaves shipped to Saint-Domingue (modern day Haïti) and other French Caribbean colonies, and then colonial products returned back to France – the infamous triangular trade. Reflecting well the contradiction of both admiring the mercantile past of Nantes (something well evidenced in the city, with its museums filled with exhibits on the relationship to the sea, its museum ships, the river which runs directly through the city leading to the ocean….) and expressing disgust at the horrors perpetrated by it through the slave trade, is Nantes et le temps des négriers, (Nantes in the time of slavers) a French-language book written by Armel de Wismes. This is a book which is principally devoted to the social history of the slave trade as centered on Nantes, by an author who has written a variety of other books about daily life in past historical epochs in France.

Chapter 1, “Le commerce triangulaire Nantes et ses grands armateurs” (The Triangular Trade: Nantes and the big ship-owners) starts with the history of the slave trade in Western civilization and then moves to Nante’s history with it. Nantes did not involve itself in the slave trade until late in the 17th century, a late-comer, but would come to be responsible for up to 1/3 of the French slave trade betzeen 1706 and 1832, moving itself 450,000 slaves in 1,300 voyages and with 40,000 sailors. It thus benefitted heavily, developping in measure to this growth, and saw nothing shameful in the trade in slaves. The big merchants made their fortunes from it, coming from all over France and from overseas, producing a new aristocracy in Nantes (and like the aristocracy, they continued to be very family based in their business and social affairs). Although they ran into troubles at times with the failure to pay debts from the colonists, revolts of slaves, foreign competition, and above all else wars by England against France, they made tremendous profits nevertheless, and in the era just before the French Revolution these sums were as high as they had ever been.

Chapter 2, “Les hommes et les navires Nantais : ‘transporteurs de nègres'” (The men and ships of Nantes :”Transporters of Negroes’) concerns the slaving voyages undertaken, focusing on the crews of the slave ships, routes, and the social origins, training, practices, and actions of members such as the captain, lieutenants, surgeons and sailors. It also details the good and supplies brought by the ship, the conditions of slaves on the ship (and the conditions of the slavers as well), a small amount of the interaction between slaves and the slavers, the ships themselves and their voyage organization, as well as how they were fitted out and equipped.

Chapter 3, “Les opérations de traite sur les côtes de Guinée : Négriers, trafiquants, and captives” (The trade’s operation on the Guinee coasts: Slave ships, trafickers, and captives), covers the operations of the slave trade in the travel to Africa and the problems that were encountered along the way, such as the irony of the danger of being captured by the Barbary pirates and the slavers turned into slaves themselves. Upon arriving in Africa, slavers had to deal with disease, attacks, and an unknown environment, operating from small trading factories off the coast from Mauritania to Angola. Sometimes the slaves were procured by the slavers from these trading posts, but more often it was necessary to conduct mobile negotiations with African kings to procure slaves. These are described, such as the negotiators, various figures ranging from Europeans in Africa, to courtiers, to metis, and diverse other figures. When the slavers succeeded in gathering their slaves, a difficult task especially for loading them (they often preferred death to the slave trade), they left as soon as possible. Sometimes they would be overwhelmed by slave revolts, and resistance was a constant fact of life, whether it be passive through suicide or active through attacks.

Chapter 4, “Du continent noir aux îles à suicre : Les périlleuses traversées des marchands de bois d’ébène” (From the Black continent to the Sugar Islands: The perilous voyages of the slave traders), deals with the next part of the slave traders’ voyage, as they traveled from Africa to the Caribbean to sell their product of human lives. This was the hardest part of the voyage, taking in direct route normally 2 to 3 months or even more, although in exceptional cases it could be as low as 40 days. Normally however, there was an indirect course, stopping several weeks at São Tomé and Príncipe, both for replenishing the ships and recuperating the slaves (after all, it was not in the interests of the slavers for them to die). The environment on-board was a peculiar mixture of unspeakably cruelty and attempts to exercise and divert the slaves such as through dancing, to prevent them from deteriorating and so that they would sell at a good price. Revolts were a financial disaster due to the death of the valuable slaves, and the slavers often punished the revolt leaders with unspeakable cruelty and torture. When they arrived in the Caribbean, they either stopped at an island before heading directly to Saint-Domingue if the voyage had been harsh, or if they were in god state continued on. Regardless, they had to deal with the ever-present threat of pirates which infested the sea.

Chapter 5, ” Négriers, planteurs, et escalves aux îles” (Slavers, planters, and slaves at the islands), starts with the society found in the French Caribbean islands, composed of an astronomically wealthy upper elite class, the “poor whites”, such as sailors, sailors, and artisans, slaves, and free blacks whose social position varied but some were themselves very rich and wealthy, but at the same time lacking in civil rights. Slave ships bringing their slaves had to pay sometimes onerous duties (in kind – hence in slaves) during their inspections, before proceeding to do their best cosmetically to improve the appearance of their slaves for sale. Slaves were either sold on the ships or on the shore, neither under particularly pleasant conditions – in fact, onshore, mortality rates were even higher when they were held in reserve, and sales en masse where a great rush occurred to buy slaves individually, as many as one could grasp, was yet another moment of terror for the slaves. Slaves once sold were divided into skilled slaves, house slaves, and plantation slaves. Many slaves faced brutal torture from their masters, so far as death, despite this being in contradiction with French legal codes concerning the treatment of slaves, although there were “good” masters as well. The book seems to conduct a defense of slavery’s conditions in Saint-Domingue by stating that many were happy and their conditions were better than that of European common laborers. After having sold off the slaves, the slave trader captains would collect colonial products to bring back to France, as well as tacking on passengers, and conduct their lengthy three month-long voyage home.

Chapter 6, “Apogée et ruine du grand commerce Nantais” (The peak and decline of Nante’s golden age of trade), testifies to the effects of the trade on Nantes. Nantes was not simply a center of commercial activities related to the slave trade, but also in many ways became a colonial city itself, as the planters brought back vast numbers of slaves with them during their trips in France as their servants. This had been technically illegal under French law until corrected to enable them to do so. Throughout this period, the slave trade only grew in size and scope, but there were moral opponents in the form of the new French philosophes emerging who attacked the slave trade. The slave traders and the broader world of Nantes welcomed the revolution, believers in liberty, reason, and progress like others, but continues to defend the slave trade. In Saint-Domingue, the welcome was more conditional, fearing the breakdown of society and the attrition of their powers. Attempts to preseve the status quo were futile, and Saint Domingue burst into revolt, which combined with the abolition of slavery in 1792 to dampen the slave trade, while Nantes was heavily damaged during the Revolution. When slavery and the slave trade were restored under Napoleon, Nantes immediately attempted to resume its old trade, but the ongoing Napoleonic wars largely prevented this, forcing it to turn to alternate measures such as privateering.

Chapter 7, “Condamnation et survive de la traite. Les derniers négriers” (Condemnation and persistence of the trade. The last slavers), deals with how the slave trade existed after its formal abolition in 1815. The United Kingdom, which now had India and had lost the United States, had no need for the slave trade and used its abolition as a way to undercut its conventional rivals. However, this did not stop the slave trade, and the immediate plans that Nantes had for resuming it at the end of the war simply continued illegally. New ships, faster if even more inhumane, transported slaves from the old posts, outrunning European cruisers tasked with countering the trade. Their profits were even larger thanks to the illegality of the enterprise, and in many way the society of slavers changed little, operating in much the same way as before, while their counterparts on the African shores remained quite similar as well. The French sailors were even motivated by patriotic fervor, seeing it as a way to strike back against the Royal Navy’s pretense for controls over the sea. Over time however, security against the slavers strengthened (vividly demonstrated in the book by a fight between an English frigate and a group of French and Spanish slave ships), and slavery was gradually outlawed. Slave ships never really went away though; instead the name of their cargo simply changed, becoming coolies and indentured servants, free in name if not much else.

Chapter 8, “Les souvenirs historiques de la Nantes maritime et coloniale” (The historical memories of maritime and colonial Nantes) covers various architectural developments and sites hailing from this period as well as some of the historical events which happened at them. Nantes is still, and perhaps always will be, a city which has been deeply touched by its past in the slave trade, one which continues to form an enduring, if controversial, part of its legacy.

One question that one can raise at finishing such a history, is what particular category of history would one classify it in? One could call it a general history, a history of the slave trade as seen from a Nantes perspective, but I think that it best places itself as a social history, given the great availability of quotes, the description of conditions for slaves, and the discussion of the slavers and their lives, as well as their social origins. The book has excellent general statistics about the general slave trade, such as the regions slaves were taken from, and also the total numbers as part of the triangular trade, and it continues this throughout the book, in sections ranging from the medical statistics of slave trade crews both among crews and slaves to population statistics for the French colonies in the Caribbean and prices for slaves, but I still think that the social history aspect is the part which it does the best, among what is a very extensive covering of the slave trade. It also has a good selection of maps and images in the middle of the book.

This is a scholarly book, and there is little need to reiterate the immorality of the slave trade when it is already broadly known. However, sometimes I think the author is too sanguine concerning presenting some of its defenses and words. Near the beginning of the book it was declared that the French were less harsh than other Europeans and that there were some “good masters”, although it did note that these were a minority case and the vast majority were sadistic and terrible. While it may be due to language differences sometimes the text comes off with too much positivity towards certain exploits or successes of the slavers. It not deconstruct the nature of the trade and the moral aspects inherent except briefly in chapter 7, something which I think would have been fascinating to have additional material concerning the defense, opposition to, and the campaigns concerning slavery. The book has no need to constantly talk about the evils of slavery when that is broadly known and that isn’t the focus of the book, which is to place the Nante slave trade into its social historical context, but the casual treatment of it by the author can come off the wrong way at time and ignores some vital aspects for expansion and completion of the book’s scope.This is in no way to say that the author defends or approves of slavery, he clearly does not and makes it so, just he takes a conservative view which sometimes minimizes its crimes. Personally I’d prefer to read more books before forming an opinion on the slavers’ own morality at the least, and while this is a strong social history, I think some other sources would be vital.

It does however, raise an intriguing question: if men who were otherwise respected, normal, and decent, could engage in such a barbarous, cruel, evil, and horrific trade, then what does that say about the human condition? If they were themselves simply evil men, different from their counterparts, they would be easy to dismiss and to view as exceptions, and to rely upon the belief that simply being a “good person” is enough to prevent oneself from causing evil. Conversely, if they were cut from the same cloth as us, their actions become much more worrying, sinister, and dangerous, in showing that even regular people can commit the most brutal and horrible of acts and not see the evil that they commit.

Furthermore while I think the book overall is quite good as a general history of the French slave trade, more focus upon Nantes itself and the effect would in my opinion have been better. There are I am sure, quite a few histories of the slave trade. There are fewer which focus on the Nantes history of the slave trade. Much of the book could have been located in any other general book about the slave trade, without mentioning a word about Nantes. It does do this to some extent, talking about the controllers back in France, architectural developments, the initial fitting out of ships, and the slaves brought to Nantes, but more about the organization of the business in Nantes, its industrial and economic development, the interaction between slaves and the population, and particularities of a port city of such a unique maritime aspect, would have been profitable additions to the volume. At the least however, its discussion of the slave trade after 1815 seems like a topic which is otherwise neglected and is quite illuminating.

To compare this to La Première Compagnie des Indes : Apprentissages, échecs, et héritage 1664-1704, which is also a book about French colonial and mercantile trade during the same period, it provides much more information about the lives on the ships, the morality and psychological aspects of the action, the journeys, and the ships. It continues to provide a great deal of information about the origins and roles of certain Europeans, such as discussing at length the various slave ship crew members, as well as to communication and negotiations with Africans. But there is less about how communication was arranged back to Europe, the rivalry with other European powers, the state’s relationship and support, commercial and funding context and organization, and comparison to other Europeans (which in of itself is something I thought that La Première Compagnie des Indes needed more information on). These in my opinion are vital in making it into a social history, by its alternate focuses.

It makes it hard overall to judge this book; it contains a lot of fascinating information, an excellent amount of primary source documents, but it also has certain things that it lacks and I feel that its basic position and portrayal of the slave trade is rather sanguine. Regardless, of course as a slave trade history (I would suppose that this is important enough to put it into its own category), as a social history, commercial history, colonial history, and as a history of France in 18th century, it is a good if not perfect book, but also one which suffers from certain limitations which could have been better dealt with.

Nagas in Asian Mythology

Naga are a category of serpentine beings that play an important role in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Southeast Asian mythology and folklore as a whole. Naga usually combine human features with the features of snakes, most often the king cobra, and they are generally associated with the water. Depending on the text or the tradition, naga can be either positive or negative influences. However, they are almost always powerful and clever.

According to Hindu tradition, nagas are the children of the sage Kashyapa and one of his wives, Kadru. Kadru wanted to have many children, and she fulfilled that wish by laying eggs that hatched into one thousand snakes. In modern Hindu practice, nagas are closely tied to water. In India in particular, they are seen as the protector of seas, rivers, wells, and springs. On the negative side, however, they are responsible for water-related natural disasters such as floods and droughts. Nagas are also connected to fertility. Some Hindus throughout Southeast Asia, therefore, complete elaborate rituals or other worship in honor of nagas in order to promote fertility. At Hindu sites around Southeast Asia, and particularly in southern India, you will likely see carvings of nagas. They may appear as simple snakes or snakes with humanoid top halves. They can be either male or female, and the female versions, in particular, are called nagi or Nagini.

Nagas play an important role in a number of Hindu texts, particularly the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian epic that tells the story of the Kurukshetra War, a legendary dynastic struggle that took place close to 3100 BCE. In the Mahabharata, the nagas are established as the enemies of Garuda, a combined man-eagle creature who is the nagas’ cousin. Garuda and the nagas become embroiled in their mothers’ conflict, which results in Garuda being enslaved to the naruda. When he is ultimately released, he holds a grudge against them forever and views them from that point on as prey.

Within Buddhism, nagas are typically considered minor deities. Many of them are believed to live on Mount Meru or in the Himmapan Forest, while others live on the human earth or guard other deities from attack on Mount Sumeru. As in Hinduism, nagas within Buddhism are often associated with water. Many are believed to reside in oceans, streams, or rivers, while others are believed to live in underground caverns or holes. Because of this role, they are connected to the underworld. In many Buddhist locations, the tradition of naga has been combined with other mythological traditions of other serpents and dragons.

One of the most famous nagas is Shesha, who is typically considered to be the king of all nagas. At Brahma’s request, Shesha agreed to hold up the world in order to stabilize it. In this role, he remains coiled up. Whenever he uncoils, he makes time move forward. If he coils back, the universe will cease to exist, but he will remain the same. Shesha is also often depicted floating in the cosmic ocean, holding up Vishnu, the supreme god of Hindusim. In art, you will often see Shesha as the bed of Vishnu and his consort. Shesha usually appears with many heads.

Another important naga within both Hindu and Buddhist mythology is Vasuki, a king of the naga who plays an essential role in churning the ocean of milk. Lord Shiva, one of the three most prominent Hindu deities, wears Vasuki coiled around his neck. In an important story, the gods and demons need to extract the essence of immortality from the ocean of milk. To do so, they wrap Vasuki around Mount Mandara and use him as a rope to churn the ocean.

Within the Buddhist tradition, the most important naga is Mucalinda. Mucalinda is considered a protector of the Buddha and once protected the Buddha from the elements during a heavy storm while the Buddha meditated. In artistic depictions, you will see Mucalinda stretching many heads above the meditating Buddha.

Within artistic depictions, you are most likely to see these nagas. Keep in mind that nagas may appear in human form (often with hoods reminiscent of snakes), in snake form, or in combined form.

  • DK. The Illustrated Mahabharata: The Definitive Guide to India’s Greatest Epic. DK, 2017, 512 p.
  • Campbell J. and Kudler D. Oriental Mythology (The Masks of God Book 2). Joseph Campbell Foundation, 2014, 618 p.

The 20 Most Dangerous Monsters and Mythological Creatures

Each culture around the world has its own set of legends and mythological creatures, each of which is more amazing than the last. Here, I have compiled a list of 20 of the most dangerous mythological creatures and their folklore. Enjoy!

  1. Centaurs (Greek and Roman)
  2. Basilisks (Greek and Roman)
  3. The Chimera (Greek)
  4. Medusa (Greek and Roman)
  5. Cyclopes (Greek and Roman)
  6. The Minotaur (Greek)
  7. The Kraken (Scandinavian)
  8. Cerberus (Greek)
  9. The Sphinx (Greek and Egyptian)
  10. Mermaids (a.k.a. Sirens) (Many cultures)
  11. The Lernaean Hydra (Greek and Roman)
  12. Kappas (Japanese)
  13. Lamia (Greek)
  14. Dragons (Many cultures)
  15. Harpies (Greek and Roman)
  16. Typhon (Greek and Roman)
  17. Echidna (Greek)
  18. The Furies (Greek and Roman)
  19. Scylla and Charybdis (Greek)
  20. Banshees (Celtic)

The centaur or hippocentaur is a legendary creature from Greek mythology. It is said to have the upper body of a human and the lower body of a horse. But how did they come to be?

It is said that Ixion was in love with Hera, the wife of Zeus, and apparently tried to rape her while at Olympus by Zeus’s gracious invitation. Hera informed Zeus about his actions, and he decided to test her story. He molded the clouds into a nymph named Nephele who resembled Hera and laid it near Ixion. Fooled by the ruse, Ixion raped Nephele.

On finding this out, Zeus bound Ixion to a fiery wheel destined to whirl perpetually through the air (or in other versions, through the Underworld). The result of the union between Ixion and Nephele was the centaurs, who Nephele gave birth to in the form of a rain shower on the slopes of Mount Pelion.

Note: Chiron was considered to be the wisest and justest of the centaurs, but unlike them, he was the immortal son of the titan Cronos and the nymph Philyra. Chiron (who later sacrificed his eternal life for Prometheus) was a teacher who taught many Greek heroes, including Achilles and Heracles.

The basilisk (also known as a cockatrice) is a creature from Roman and Greek mythology, though many contemporary readers might be more familiar with the representation in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A basilisk is born from a serpent’s egg incubated by a cockerel, so the resulting creature is half-bird and half-snake.

The basilisk is said to be the king of serpents, and its name means “little king”. It is said to have the power to kill a person with a single glare, making it one of the most feared and deadly creatures of the mythological world. They are said to be extremely hostile towards humans, and their venom is so toxic that it can kill a man from a meter’s distance. In one story, the venom of the basilisk traveled up the spear of the warrior who stabbed it and killed not only the rider but his horse as well!

According to Greek mythology, the Chimera is a fire-breathing, female monster from Asia Minor. The Chimera looks like a lion with the head of a goat protruding from its back and a snake as its tail. Interestingly, the goat’s head is the one that breathed fire!

The Chimera had already ransacked many villages—occasionally killing innocent bystanders, though she mainly slew cattle—by the time King Iobates commanded the hero Bellerophon to slay this beast.

Though she was once believed to be nearly invincible (as she had a lion’s strength, a goat’s cunning, and a snake’s venom), Bellerophon rode into battle on his winged horse Pegasus and drove a lead-tipped sword into the Chimera’s flame-covered mouth, choking her on the molten metal.

Note: The term “chimera” has now been used to describe any mythical creature which has parts from various animals.

Medusa was the only mortal of the three Gorgon sisters—Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale. She used to be a beautiful maiden, but then Poseidon raped her in the temple of Athena. The enraged Athena turned Medusa into a hideous creature with the face of an ugly woman, and snakes for hair. But worse still, anyone who dared look her in the eye would be turned to stone.

In her despair, she became as gruesome as her outward appearance. She fled to Africa, where young snakes dropped from her hair. According to the Greeks, this was how the continent became inhabited by many poisonous snakes. Medusa was finally slain by Perseus. It is said that when Perseus cut off her head from the blood were born two creatures—Chrysaor and Pegasus.

We’re all familiar with these famous one-eyed monsters, but what’s the real story behind them?

According to Hesiod’s Theogony, there were three Cyclopes—Arges, Steropes and Brontes—born to Uranus and Gaea. All three were skilled blacksmiths; it was the Cyclopes who provided Zeus’s thunderbolt, Hades’ helmet of invisibility and Poseidon’s trident. These were the weapons used to destroy the Titans.

Most people, however, are unfamiliar with Hesiod’s trio of mild-mannered Cyclopes. Today, Homer’s race of violent and dimwitted Cyclopes—the most famous of which was Polyphemus, who attempted to eat Odysseus and his crew—are far more well known.

Note: The word cyclopes mean “round eye”.

The Minotaur was a half-man, half-bull monster in Greek mythology. He lived in a labyrinth below the court of King Minos in Crete.

Poseidon had gifted Minos with a Cretan bull that was supposed to be sacrificed, but Minos kept the bull instead of sacrificing it. This enraged Poseidon, and in his anger, he made Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, fall in love with the bull. The Minotaur was their offspring.

The newborn Minotaur would only eat humans, so Minos created a labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur (as advised by the Oracle) and sent human sacrifices as food for the creature.

Theseus, the son of the king of Athens, eventually slew the Minotaur with the help of Minos’s daughter, who fell in love with Theseus and aided him with a sword and length of rope. The rope was tied outside the labyrinth so that it could be followed all the way out after slaying the beast.

Note: Though the Minotaur’s prison is always described as a labyrinth, literary descriptions make it clear that he was trapped in a complex maze.

According to Scandinavian mythology, the Kraken is a legendary sea monster of gigantic proportions said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland. The Kraken is usually described as a giant squid or octopus-like creature, but it has also been described as crab-like.

There are various tales of the Kraken attacking and destroying ships. It is also capable of making giant whirlpools capable of bringing down ships. It is believed that the myth of the Kraken could have originated from giant squids which could grow up to 18 meters long and were rarely seen by humans.

According to Greek mythology, Cerberus is the three-headed dog that guards the entrance to the Underworld, where the dead are allowed to enter but no one is allowed to leave. Apart from its three heads, Cerberus has the tail of a serpent, a mane of snakes and the claws of a lion.

His three heads are supposed to denote the past, present and future, as well as birth, youth and old age. Depending on the source, Cerberus is described as having deadly breath, venomous saliva and razor-sharp teeth.

Note: While most artistic representations show Cerberus with three heads, contradictory testimonies from the likes of Hesiod (the first to give the hound of Hades a name) and Pindar assert that Cerberus has anywhere from 50 to 100 heads!

The Sphinx is a monster present in both Greek and Egyptian mythology portrayed as having the head of a human and the body of a lion. In Greek mythology, the Sphinx was considered to be a woman and had the wings of a bird (and often the tail of a serpent). But whereas in Egypt, Sphinxes were considered a sign of royal power (in fact, it’s speculated that the face of Giza’s Great Sphinx was modeled off the pharaoh Khafra), the Sphinx of Greek myth is portrayed as a cunning and dangerous creature.

According to myth, she stayed outside the city of Thebes and asked travelers a famous riddle: “Which creature has one voice but four feet in the morning, two at noon and three feet at night?” Anyone who answered incorrectly was eaten. Finally, Oedipus answered her riddles correctly, upon which the Sphinx killed herself.

Mermaids, often called sirens, are legendary aquatic creatures with the head and upper body of a female human and the lower body of a fish. Mermaids appear in folklore from around the world and are associated with misfortunes such as drownings and shipwrecks. They are known for being stunningly beautiful and leading sailors astray onto rocky shoals.

Their male counterparts are called mermen. They, too, have a fierce reputation for summoning storms, sinking ships and drowning men.

According to some, there have been modern sightings of mermaids around the world, but there is no definitive proof.

The Lernaean Hydra is a water monster from Greek mythology. It is said that the Hydra had many heads (most accounts say nine), and whenever a head was chopped off, two heads grew back in its place.

The Hydra also had poisonous breath and blood. It is said that the hero Heracles killed the Hydra with a sword and fire. He protected his nose from the poisonous gas using a cloth, and after cutting off a head, he cauterized the open wound with fire to stop it from regenerating. Hera—who raised the Hydra—then turned the dead monster into a constellation of the same name.

The kappa is an imp or demon in Japanese folklore. Its name means “river child”. Kappas have a small pool of water suspended above their head, signifying their life force and habitat. The kappa resembles a frog or a monkey the size of a 10-year-old child. They are supposed to have a humanoid face, tortoise’s beak and shell and scaly skin.

Japanese children are warned not to go near rivers or lakes, as the kappa are often said to lure people near the water and pull them in. Stories about kappas invariably reference their capability to keep promises, which they only lose if tricked into bowing their head and causing the water above their head (their life force) to spill. Once the water is spilled, they lose their supernatural powers.

According to Greek mythology, Lamia was the mistress of the God Zeus. In retaliation, Zeus’s jealous wife, Hera, killed Lamia’s children and transformed her into a monster that hunts and devours the children of others.

It is said that she had the lower body of a serpent, though she could shapeshift into a flawlessly beautiful woman during the day in order to seduce men. She was also cursed to not be able to close her eyes so that she would forever obsess over her lost children. Zeus, however, took pity on her and enabled her to remove her eyes from their sockets. He did this so that she could rest, as she could not close her eyes.

It is said that Lamia had a voracious sexual appetite matched only by her hunger for hunting children. Scylla was one of Lamia’s only children who escaped, but she was also turned into a monster.

Dragons are legendary creatures present in the folklore of many cultures, though they are depicted differently in each. In Western cultures, they are usually described as winged, four-legged reptiles capable of flying and breathing fire. In Eastern cultures, however, they are depicted as large, four-legged serpents with a very high level of intelligence. Here’s an impressive list of dragons in mythology and folklore for those of you who want to know more!

One could say that dragons are the most famous of all mythological monsters, and they continue to appear in various fantasy shows and movies even now (like The Hobbit, for example).

The harpy is a creature from Greek and Roman mythology depicted as a half-bird and half-woman personification of storm winds. They have the pale face of a maiden and long claws, which makes sense as their name literally means “snatchers” or “swift robbers”.

While early harpies were not described as disgusting or dangerous, they were later depicted as hideous creatures with evil intent. In Greek mythology, the first description of them as loathsome and treacherous creatures appeared in the legend of Jason and the Argonauts. Dante created his own version of the harpies in his Inferno. They were said to inhabit the seventh ring of hell, where the souls of people who have attempted or committed suicide are transformed into thorny trees and fed upon by the harpies.

Typhon was a serpentine giant and the most deadly creature in Greek mythology, because in addition to being a monster, he was also a god. Considered the “Father of all monsters”, it is said that when he stood upright, his head brushed against the stars.

His lower body consisted of two coiled viper tails that were constantly hissing, and instead of fingers, hundreds of snakes erupted from his hands. He also had a hundred snake heads (with a few dragon heads thrown in for good measure) protruding from his main head. His wings were so wide that they blotted out the sun, and fire flashed from his eyes, striking fear even among the Olympians.

Typhon was the youngest son of Gaia and Tartarus. He tried to overthrow Zeus but was later defeated by his thunderbolts and locked in Tartarus. In some accounts, he was said to have been confined under Mount Etna, where he was the cause of volcanic eruptions. He is said to be the father of Cerberus, Hydra, Chimera and dangerous winds (typhoons).

Flesh-eating Echidna, the wife of fearsome Typhon, was half woman, half serpent. Both she and her husband were children of Gaea and Tartarus (perhaps this is why their children were all so monstrous?), but while Typhon was confined below Mount Etna after challenging Zeus, Echidna and her children were spared in order to challenge future heroes (six of whom Heracles would go on to best or kill).

Also known as the Erinyes, the Furies were the cthonic goddesses of vengeance—often inflicting madness or disease on their victims. They are often represented as ugly, winged women with serpents in their hair (much like Medusa).

According to Hesiod, these fearsome creatures were the daughters of Gaea, born from the blood of her husband Uranus’s castration. (Aphrodite—oft depicted as emerging lustrous from a wave of sea foam—was actually born from the “foam” of the same castration.)

The Furies lived in the Underworld, but they would ascend to Earth to pursue those who had upset the world’s natural order, such as those who offended the gods or committed murder or perjury. Victims in search of justice could call the curse of the Furies upon the person who wronged them.

This monstrous duo packed a real punch for anyone sailing the Strait of Messina. Scylla was a six-headed, twelve-footed creature with a waist girdled by the heads of fiercely barking dogs. She ate anything that ventured too close, including six of Odysseus’s men.

Charybdis, most likely the personification of a whirlpool and just a bowshot away from Scylla, would drain and subsequently expel the waters all around her three times each day, creating a fatal obstacle for any seamen passing through the strait.

A Banshee (“Bean Sidhe” in Irish and “Ban Sith” in Scots Gaelic) is a female spirit from Celtic folklore. The word “banshee” means “woman of the fairy mound” or “fairy woman”, and her scream is believed to be an omen of death. The wail or scream is also called a “caoine”, which means “keening”, and is supposed to be a warning about an imminent death in the family.

Some banshees are considered to have strong ties with families, in fact, some believe that each family has a banshee. They sing sorrowful, haunting songs filled with love and concern for the families. For this reason, this entry is more of an honorable mention. Terrifying as they are, banshees actually mean well and only want to help families prepare for the death of a loved one.

“Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe” Book Discussion and Pineapple Cupcakes Themed Recipe

Issy’s grandfather once owned a great bakery and taught her the precise way to create perfect bread crusts, crumbly scones, and anything else he baked up. But now, many years later, Issy bakes only for her coworkers in the law firm she works for, and her grandfather has been placed in assisted living because of his dementia. The only joys Issy has are in the delicious cakes she makes, and in her boss-boyfriend – until she loses both in one day. A string of people being let go leads to Issy having no job and no man, again. But inspiration strikes when she realizes that the charming, tree shaded-storefront at the end of a block corner would be the perfect place to turn into a bakery, instead of a juicing station or a baby clothing store. Her dream comes to life when she finds the help of two clashing personalities she can call coworkers, and Issy is happy again, even without a man in her life. But her now-ex thinks he can get her back with a sneaky business building plan. Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe will make you long for a cute little cafe on the corner with a bench under a pear tree, where you can eat baked yumminess, and maybe even be kissed by a handsome man.

  1. Grampa Joe believed that “bread is the staff of life, our most basic food.” How did he and his generation differ in their opinions of the goodness of bread from Izzy’s generation? Did it also have to do with the fact that he was a baker who loved his work since he was young, and had a community supporting him, when Izzy had to deal with people who loved juicing, like Caroline?

  2. How effective was Helena’s method of motivating Izzy by playing her videos of kids with leukemia and telling her to “count your blessings or else…move your fat arse and…get out of bed before noon”?

  3. “Life was always easier, Izzy reflected, when you were carrying a large Tupperware of cakes. Everyone was happy to see you then.” Was this her way of trying to make friends and be liked by people? Or was baking a comfort for her and she thought it might be for others who were stressed at their jobs as she was?

  4. Izzy hardly ever had letters in the mail, or packages. She believed that was probably why people did so much internet shopping. So they had a parcel to look forward to. Could she be right? Do you look forward to getting things in the mail, and does it go back to childhood birthday or Christmas presents? Is that part of what made her grandfather’s letter special?

  5. How did Pearl save Izzy? How did Izzy save Pearl?

  6. What were some of the issues and insecurities Caroline was dealing with? How did she cope/find ways to feel in control?

  7. Issy explained to Austin that with some things, like in makeup or baking, the brand or quality doesn’t matter much—eyeliner pencil, powder blush, powdered sugar, flour brand. But some items “really, really showed their quality… so you had to get the best you could afford” like with foundation, lipstick, or or butter. “And butter for cakes had to come from happy cows, in happy fields with lush green grass.” Why did she think that was important and what effect would it have on the cupcakes? Are there some things you can think of where the quality is more or less important than others?

  8. There were some very eccentric characters in the book, and some unusual parenting styles. One method, the “tiger in the tree,” helped an exhausted, crying Jamie to fall asleep, and gave great relief to Des. How did the woman in the cafe know to do that, and why hadn’t Des ever tried it?

  9. What surprise did the iron-monger make for Izzy? What were some of his secrets, and how was he still a likable character despite being unusual?

  10. What things about Issy did Graeme realize he missed when she was gone? How did he think he could win her back, and why didn’t things turn out as he expected?

Pineapple Cream Cupcakes with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

Issy had a hard time showing restraint when it came to baked goods, and often daydreamed about them, including, at the beginning of the book, about a “new pineapple cream recipe she’d tried that morning.” This recipe blends the juicy bite of pineapple with the smoothness of cream cheese.

The sequel to this book is Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe. Other books by Jenny Colgan most like this one are The Cafe by the Sea, about a new Londoner forced to relocate to her tiny Scottish town to appease her law firm’s new client and help him with the property he’s purchased. Little Beach Street Bakery tells the story of a woman who moves to a sea town to restore an old bakery, and makes friends with a handsome beekeeper and a puffin. The Bookshop on the Corner about a librarian selling books out of a converted van/bookshop to odd locals in an isolated Scottish town. Jenny Colgan has written nearly twenty novels total.

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe by Mary Simses is about a young woman who visits her grandmother’s hometown to deliver a letter, and falls into a river and uncovers the secret of happiness, which involves blueberries.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen features an odd family who each have special talents, especially the one sister who can make people feel different emotions through her cooking.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert is about a woman named Lou working hard in a French restaurant. Life is happy until her fiancé cheats on her and a food critic appears to review her restaurant. But then she unknowlingly meets the critic in a pub and he challenges her to a game, without revealing their jobs.

Mary Elizabeth Bowser: Union Spy In The Confederate White House

To Varina Davis, wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the servant girl she may have known as Ellen Bond was a typical slave woman: slow, dim-witted, illiterate. But she did such a good job as a household maid that Mrs. Davis added her to the servant staff at the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia.

What Varina Davis never realized, or at least never admitted, was that “Ellen Bond” was neither dim-witted, illiterate, nor a slave. In reality she was a free, well educated African American woman by the name of Mary Elizabeth Bowser. And she was a Union spy working right under Jefferson Davis’s nose.

For months during the most crucial period of the Civil War, as General Ulysses S. Grant maneuvered to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital, Mary supplied critical military intelligence to the Union army. In recognition of her contributions to the Union war effort, she was inducted into the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1995.

According to Lois Leveen, writing for the New York Times Disunion series, Mary Elizabeth Bowser began life as Mary Jane Richards. She was born as a slave into the household of John Van Lew, a wealthy merchant in Richmond. Her date of birth is thought to be 1839 or perhaps 1840.

It is not known who her parents were, but Mary was treated with extraordinary favor from the beginning of her life. For example, she was baptized on May 17, 1846 in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. It was practically unheard of for any black child to be baptized in that church, which was attended by the upper crust of Richmond’s white society. It appears, in fact, that Mary was the only one of the Van Lew slaves to receive this distinction.

Mary became the protégé of Elizabeth Van Lew, John’s daughter. Elizabeth had been educated at a Quaker school in Philadelphia. When she returned to Richmond, it was as a committed abolitionist. When John Van Lew died, Elizabeth and her mother did their best to free all the Van Lew slaves, including Mary, even going against the provisions of Van Lew’s will to do so.

Some time in the early 1850s, Mary was sent to Philadelphia, as Elizabeth had been, to be educated at a Quaker school for African Americans. In 1855, with Mary’s schooling complete, Elizabeth arranged for her to join a missionary community in Liberia. Mary, however, hated life in that African country, and by the spring of 1860 was back in Richmond with Elizabeth.

A year later, in April 1861, Mary was married to Wilson Bowser, a free black man. Interestingly, the ceremony, like her baptism, took place at St. John’s Episcopal. The wedding notice listed both Mary and Wilson as “colored servants to Mrs. E. L. Van Lew” (Elizabeth’s mother).

When the Civil War broke out, Elizabeth Van Lew helped organize and lead a Union spy ring operating in Richmond. To cover her activities, which included aiding escaped Union prisoners of war as well as gathering and transmitting military information to the Union forces outside the city, she took on the persona of “Crazy Bet.” By dressing in an unkempt, slovenly manner, and acting as if she were somewhat mentally impaired, Elizabeth was able to organize and direct a widespread espionage organization without being seriously suspected.

One of her first recruits into her organization was Mary Elizabeth Bowser, who became one of the spy ring’s most productive and reliable sources of information. As Elizabeth recorded in the diary she secretly kept during the war:

When I open my eyes in the morning, I say to the servant, ‘What news, Mary?’ and my caterer never fails! Most generally our reliable news is gathered from negroes, and they certainly show wisdom, discretion and prudence which is wonderful.

Elizabeth was able to arrange for a friend to take Mary with her as a servant to help at social functions held by Varina Davis in the Confederate White House. Mary performed her servant role so well she was eventually taken on full time as, presumably, a slave hired out by her master.

As a spy Mary enjoyed a major advantage: invisibility. It’s not that she was unseeable, like H. G. Wells’ Invisible Man, but rather that as a black slave, she was unseen and unnoticed by the whites she served. Her entrance into the dining room to serve at table in no way affected the conversations Jefferson Davis might be having with visiting generals. When she went into his office to clean, it did not occur to the Confederate president that this seemingly illiterate and dull-witted black woman could have either the capacity or the interest to glean information from the papers he left lying on his desk.

In fact, Mary’s capacity went far beyond the norm. Whatever she read or heard she was able to remember and pass on word-for-word. That’s the testimony of Thomas McNiven, the official head of the Richmond spy ring. McNiven ran a bakery, and made daily deliveries all around the city, including to the Confederate White House. This allowed Mary to regularly meet with him for a few minutes as he delivered his goods to the Davis household. Years later, in 1904, McNiven recalled those days to his daughter and her husband, who eventually recorded his story:

Miss Van Lew was my best source. She had contacts everywhere. Her colored girl Mary was the best as she was working right in Davis’ home and had a photographic mind. Everything she saw on the Rebel President’s desk she could repeat word for word. Unlike most colored, she could read and write. She made the point of always coming out to my wagon when I made deliveries at the Davis’ home to drop information.

Mary was able to continue her espionage activities until January of 1865. Jefferson Davis had become aware that information was somehow being leaked, and suspicion apparently began to fall on Mary. She made the decision to flee Richmond, and seems to have made her way to the North. One unsubstantiated account says that in her last act as a Union agent, she tried to burn down the Confederate White House, but was unsuccessful.

Until very recently, what happened to Mary after she fled Richmond was unknown. Now, however, new historical scholarship has thrown some additional light on what transpired in the remainder of her life.

After the war the US government made it a point to destroy the records of all its Southern espionage agents, since publicizing that information could endanger their lives and the lives of their families still residing in the South. Lois Leveen notes that Elizabeth Van Lew specifically requested that all her records, which would include those referring to Mary, be destroyed.

However, at about the time of Elizabeth’s death in 1900, some information about Mary began to come out. An article that year in a Richmond newspaper told of a “maid, of more than usual intelligence” who had been educated in Philadelphia and was placed by Elizabeth as a spy in the Confederate White House. A decade later, Elizabeth’s niece identified that agent as Mary Bowser. Then, a June 1911 Harper’s Monthly article about Elizabeth identified Mary by name and gave an account of some of her activities.

Mary herself apparently kept a secret diary, but a family member, not realizing its significance, destroyed it.

In 1952, McEva Bowser, Mary’s great-niece-in-law, was disposing of the effects of Alice Smith Bowser (1884-1952), her husband’s mother. She came across an old diary that had been in Alice’s possession. McEva remembers that family lore says the diary was initially in the possession of Rosa Dixon Bowser (1855-1931), who might well have received it from Mary, herself. In an interview aired on National Public Radio, McEva Bowser reveals what appears to have become of Mary’s diary:

McEva Bowser: “I was cleaning her room and I ran across a diary. But I never had a diary and I didn’t even realize what it was… And I did keep coming across (references to) Mr. Davis. And the only Davis I could think of was the contractor who had been doing some work at the house. And the first time I came across it I threw it aside and said I would read it again. Then I started to talk to my husband about it but I felt it would depress him. So the next time I came across it I just pitched it in the trash can.”

During that NPR interview, McEva Bowser also relates that as late as the 1960s the Bowser family, still living in Richmond, didn’t talk about Mary “because she was a spy.” The fear of possible retribution on the family by resentful whites was still strong.

This National Public Radio story about Mary. Includes a brief interview with McEva Bowser.

NPR story

Although Mary’s own account of her life as a spy seems to be forever lost to us, some information concerning her later years has recently been unearthed by historians. The September 10, 1865 edition of the New York Times carries the following announcement:

LECTURE BY A COLORED LADY. — Miss RICHMONIA RICHARDS, recently from Richmond, where she has been engaged in organizing schools for the freedmen, and has also been connected with the secret service of our government, will give a description of her adventures, on Monday evening, at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, Waverley-place, near Sixth-avenue.

Given that Mary’s maiden name was Mary Jane Richards, and that in her talk she described having lived in Liberia, it’s obvious that the lecturer was none other than Mary herself, hiding her identity behind a pseudonym. In its report on the talk, the New York Anglo African newspaper said she was “very sarcastic and… quite humorous.”

Lois Leveen relates that in 1867 Mary, then teaching freed slaves in Georgia, met Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and Harriet’s brother, Rev. Charles Beecher. In his diary account of that meeting, Rev. Beecher recorded what is thought to be the only surviving physical description of Mary: “a Juno, done in somber marble … her features regular and expressive, her eyes exceedingly bright and sharp, her form and movements the perfection of grace.”

Later that year, Mary remarried, and left her teaching position. Nothing is known of her life after that.

When Mary was inducted into the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1995, an article in Military Intelligence magazine (April-June 1995 issue) reports the reasons she received that honor:

Mary pretended to be a bit ‘dull and unconcerned,’ but she listened to and memorized conversations between Davis and his visitors as she served their dinner. She read war dispatches as she dusted the furniture. Each night after she finished her duties, Mary traveled to the Van Lew mansion which was some distance from the Davis mansion. Upon her arrival, she recited from memory the private conversations and documents. After she coded the information, it passed directly to the Union’s General Grant, greatly enhancing the Union’s conduct of the war.

Jefferson Davis knew the Union somehow kept discovering Confederate plans but never discovered the leak in his household staff…

Mary Bowser succeeded in a highly dangerous mission that significantly benefitted the Union effort. She was one of the highest-placed and most productive espionage agents of the Civil War.

In 1905 Varina Davis, then the widow of the Confederate president, denied the possibility of there having been a spy in the Confederate White House. “I had no ‘educated negro’ in my household,” she wrote.

As far as Varina and Jefferson Davis were concerned, Mary Elizabeth Bowser maintained her cover until the very end. And that is perhaps the best testimony to Mary’s effectiveness as a spy.

Macbeth’s Soliloquies Listed and Explained

The character of Macbeth has seven different soliloquies within the play. Four of them are exceptionally well known. The other three soliloquies are not quoted as frequently, but they are essential to Macbeth’s character development.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the main character is a tragic hero who rises from the rank of general to become the King of Scotland. Sadly, his dramatic rise to power is the downfall and destruction of his moral compass.

The play traces the path of Macbeth’s greed and ambition. These shortcomings lead Macbeth to commit murder not once, but several different times, each more atrocious than the last.

The seven soliloquies that Macbeth speaks span all five acts of the play.

1. Act I, Scene 3: Present Fears

  • Why do I yield to that suggestion 1.3 (lines 240-255)

2. Act I, Scene 7: Vaulting Ambition

  • He’s here in double trust 1.7 (lines 474-500)

3. Act II, Scene 1: The Dagger Speech

  • Is this a dagger which I see before me? 2.1 ( lines 612-643)

4. Act III, Scene 1: A Fruitless Crown

  • To be thus is nothing; but to be safely thus… 3.1 (lines 1056-1081)

5. Act IV, Scene 1: The Firstlings of My Heart

  • From this moment the very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand. 4.1 (lines 1724-1735)

6. Act V, Scene 1: May Way of Life is Fallen

  • That which should accompany old age…I must not look to have. 5.1 (lines 2272-2278)

7. Act V, Scene 5: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

  • Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow 5.5 (lines 2374-2385)

In Macbeth’s first soliloquy, he is transfixed by fear.

Macbeth’s Soliloquy About the Witches and Prophecy

Macbeth and Banquo have just been visited by three witches, who offer the prophecy that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, and then King of Scotland. The witches also predict that the sons of Banquo will become kings in future days.

As the two men walk away, they are almost immediately met with a messenger who tells them that Macbeth has been given the title and lands belonging to the Thane of Cawdor. This news at first makes Macbeth happy, then terrifies him.

Two truths are told,

As happy prologues to the swelling act

Of the imperial theme.

This supernatural soliciting

Cannot be ill, cannot be good: if ill,

Why hath it given me earnest of success,

Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor:

If good, why do I yield to that suggestion

Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair

And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,

Against the use of nature? Present fears

Are less than horrible imaginings:

My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,

Shakes so my single state of man that function

Is smother’d in surmise, and nothing is

But what is not.

–1.3 (240-255)

A Brief Analysis of Macbeth’s Soliloquy

In this soliloquy, Macbeth stands still and describes his fear in very dramatic terms. No one but the audience can hear him. During this soliloquy, Macbeth firs voices the thought of murdering King Duncan. The thought frightens him, but he is drawn into his own ambitious imaginings to the point where he loses touch with reality. He begins to be consumed by “what is not” –in other words, that which does not really exist.

What is a Soliloquy?

Let’s remember that a soliloquy is a very particular type of speech, different from a monologue and longer than an aside. A soliloquy is NOT the same thing as a monologue.

What Makes a Soliloquy Different from a Monologue?

In a soliloquy, the other characters onstage do not hear the words spoken because the speech reveals a private expression or an internal struggle. Unlike a monologue, the content of a soliloquy is heard only by the audience and the individual character. Even if other characters are nearby onstage, they do not respond, and are not even aware of what is taking place. In a soliloquy, it is as thought all the action stops, and time stands still while the character reveals a deep inner struggle. A soliloquy, then, is directed mainly toward the self.

In Macbeth’s second soliloquy, he worries about the consequences of murder, and wonders if he really has the nerve to kill King Duncan.

Macbeth’s Soliloquy About Ambition

Macbeth stands in a hallway, just outside where King Duncan and his men are at dinner. Macbeth contemplates the idea of murdering King Duncan. He wrestles with his conscience. Macbeth knows that he should be protecting King Duncan, not planning to murder him.

Macbeth is also very aware that he does not truly desire to kill, but he does have a fierce amount of ambition. That ambition, he concludes, may have some deadly consequences.

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well

It were done quickly: if the assassination

Could trammel up the consequence, and catch

With his surcease success; that but this blow

Might be the be-all and the end-all here,

But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,

We’ld jump the life to come. But in these cases

We still have judgment here; that we but teach

Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return

To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice

Commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice

To our own lips. He’s here in double trust;

First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,

Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,

Who should against his murderer shut the door,

Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against

The deep damnation of his taking-off;

And pity, like a naked new-born babe,

Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, horsed

Upon the sightless couriers of the air,

Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,

That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself

And falls on the other.

–1.7 (474-500)

A Brief Analysis of Macbeth’s Soliloquy and Conflict

The first several lines of the soliloquy are composed of Macbeth’s desire to simply do the deed and get it over with– assuming that the murder would be an end in itself. However, Macbeth well knows that there will be long-reaching consequences, and that committing murder is not a simple task.

Identifying Macbeth’s Soliloquies

The soliloquies in Macbeth are often referred to by one key line or phrase that identifies the main idea or theme of the soliloquy. This line is sometimes the first line of the soliloquy, but sometimes it is a line that appears in the middle or near the end of the soliloquy.

In Macbeth’s third soliloquy, he sees a vision of an imaginary dagger. The hallucination strengthens Macbeth’s resolve to commit murder.

Macbeth’s Soliloquy Before Killing King Duncan

Macbeth, alone, envisions a bloody dagger dangling in front of him. The hallucination is a product of his mind. There is a pause here, in the action of the play, while Macbeth speaks aloud his inner thoughts. This verbalization of inner thoughts is a key point for all soliloquies.

Is this a dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.

I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.

Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible

To feeling as to sight? or art thou but

A dagger of the mind, a false creation,

Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?

I see thee yet, in form as palpable

As this which now I draw.

Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going;

And such an instrument I was to use.

Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses,

Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,

And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,

Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:

It is the bloody business which informs

Thus to mine eyes. Now o’er the one halfworld

Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse

The curtain’d sleep; witchcraft celebrates

Pale Hecate’s offerings, and wither’d murder,

Alarum’d by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.

With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,

Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear

Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,

And take the present horror from the time,

Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:

Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

[A bell rings]

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.

Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell

That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

–2.1 (612-643)

Brief Analysis of the Dagger Soliloquy

The dagger symbolizes Macbeth’s deep inner, dark desire to commit murder. It is dripping with blood, demonstrating the violence Macbeth both fears and desires. In this scene, Macbeth worries over his decision, and finally resolves to take action. This demonstrate a turning point inthe development of his character.

Macbeth’s Soliloquies Listed by Act and Scene

Shakespearean speeches are identified by act, scene and line number. There is a regular system for identifying the act, scene, and line numbers for Shakespearean speeches. Typically, these are identified with numbers. For example, 1.3 means act one, scene three. 1.7 means act one, scene seven.

The act and scene numbers are followed by the line numbers, enclosed in parentheses. Act one, scene three, lines 240 to 255 would be represented as 1.3 (240-255). Act one, scene seven, lines 474 through 500 would be represented as 1.7 (474-500).

In Macbeth’s fourth soliloquy, Macbeth is acutely aware of the fact that he has no children. He recalls the prediction of the witches that Banquo’s sons will be kings.

Macbeth’s Soliloquy Before Killing Banquo

This is the point at which Macbeth decides to murder his own best friend. The witches have predicted that Banquo will be the father of many kings. Macbeth is distressed by this, because he knows that his own legacy will be barren. No children will inherit Macbeth’s kingdom. Thus, he wears a fruitless crown.

To be thus is nothing;

But to be safely thus.—Our fears in Banquo

Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature

Reigns that which would be fear’d: ’tis much he dares;

And, to that dauntless temper of his mind,

He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour

To act in safety. There is none but he

Whose being I do fear: and, under him,

My Genius is rebuked; as, it is said,

Mark Antony’s was by Caesar. He chid the sisters

When first they put the name of king upon me,

And bade them speak to him: then prophet-like

They hail’d him father to a line of kings:

Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,

And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,

Thence to be wrench’d with an unlineal hand,

No son of mine succeeding. If ‘t be so,

For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind;

For them the gracious Duncan have I murder’d;

Put rancours in the vessel of my peace

Only for them; and mine eternal jewel

Given to the common enemy of man,

To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!

Rather than so, come fate into the list.

And champion me to the utterance!

3.1 (1056-1081)

A Brief Analysis of Macbeth’s Soliloquy on Banquo

This soliloquy represents another turning point for the character of Macbeth. He admits that he has committed great acts of violence to become king. Now, he wonders if it all was worth it, if he will have no heirs. He is jealous of the fact that Banquo will be father to kings. Macbeth is also very worried that Banquo may become suspicious. In order to make sure that Banquo never reveals the truth of what Macbeth has done, Macbeth decides to kill his own best friend.

An Explanation of Line Numbers in Macbeth’s Soliloquies

It may be also useful to note that in this analysis the line numbers begin with line 1 at the beginning of the play and continue to count upward until the end of the play. Therefore, some plays will have line numbers in the thousands. For example, the play Macbeth has 2,565 lines.

Some versions of Shakespeare’s plays will re-start line numbers at the beginning of each scene. This can lead to variations, depending upon the publisher and editor of each version. For ease of research this alternate line numbering is listed afterwards, italicized and in brackets.

In Macbeth’s fifth soliloquy, Macbeth entrenches himself even further in the bloody path that he has chosen. He swears never to hesitate again, no matter how intense the action may be that is required.

Macbeth’s Soliloquy About Murdering Macduff’s Family

Now, Macbeth decides that he will not hesitate on any action that he must take. This is quite different form his original crisis of conscience about killing King Duncan. In this speech, Macbeth directly states his intent to kill all the family of Lord Macduff.

Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits:

The flighty purpose never is o’ertook

Unless the deed go with it; from this moment

The very firstlings of my heart shall be

The firstlings of my hand. And even now,

To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done:

The castle of Macduff I will surprise;

Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o’ the sword

His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls

That trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool;

This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool.

–4.1 (1724-1734)

A Brief Analysis of Macbeth’s Tyrant Soliloquy

The key point of this soliloquy is that it is very direct. Macbeth simply states that his first thoughts– the firstlings of his heart– will lead immediately to action without any hesitation. That is, they will also be the immediate actions of his hands.

This is not only a change in character, but also a change in the manner of speech he uses. We don’t know if Shakespeare did this on purpose, but it is interesting to contemplate.

How is a Soliloquy Different from a Monologue?

A monologue is a longer speech that is delivered by a single character. However, unlike a soliloquy, the other characters onstage are able to hear and respond to a monologue. The characters may listen and react emotionally, or they may speak directly back after the speech is concluded. A monologue is directed toward other characters onstage.

In this soliloquy, Macbeth contemplates the deeper consequences of what he has done. He realizes that he will never have the real rewards of a well-lived life.

Macbeth’s Soliloquy: Sick at Heart and Hopeless

This soliloquy comes as Macbeth faces the upcoming battle at his castle. His people have rebelled against him. Malcolm, the true king, is approaching. Macbeth is putting on his armor and preparing for war.

I am sick at heart,

When I behold—This push

Will cheer me ever, or disseat me now.

I have lived long enough: my way of life

Is fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf;

And that which should accompany old age,

As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,

I must not look to have; but, in their stead,

Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,

Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not.

5.1 (2272-2278)

A Brief Analysis of Macbeth’s Soliloquy

In this soliloquy, we see that Macbeth may now value things other than ambition. However, he feels it is too late for him to redeem himself. When he says “mouth-honor,” he is talking about false words of praise that are given to him by his subjects. He knows that they do not respect or honor him. Macbeth realizes now, that he will not and cannot have the true rewards of friendship, respect, and genuine love. This is a moment of insight for him.

In an aside, time seems to stand still onstage as well, but for a much shorter time. An aside serves almost the same purpose as a soliloquy, but it is very short- only a couple of lines or so. Unlike a soliloquy, an aside is spoken directly to the audience for a single brief thought. An aside may shed some light on an interior struggle, but it does not go into detail. The aside is intended to help the audience see the intentions of a character, but not the complex thoughts or motivations. An aside is directed toward the audience.

So, these three dramatic elements have distinct differences.

This is the most famous of all Macbeth’s soliloquies. In it, Macbeth expresses a deep sense of gloom.

Macbeth’s Tomorrow Soliloquy in Context

This speech comes just after Macbeth learns that Lady Macbeth is dead. He speaks about the futility of all that he has done. Macbeth is grieving his wife.He is also sinking into a dark place of despair because of his former actions.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing

–5.5 (2374-2385).

A Brief Analysis of Macbeth’s Tomorrow Soliloquy

The famous words “tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” exemplify effective use of repetition to enhance a theme. The rest of the speech is about how futile, repetitive, and hopeless life seems to Macbeth. Beginning with a hopeless type of repetition ony serves to underscore Macbeth’s feeling of despair.

Top 10 Longest and Most Amazing Bridges in India

It is rightly said, bridges are the roads to success. Bridges are an important factor in assessing the infrastructure health of a country. The primary purpose of a bridge is to connect unconnected places. The secondary purpose of building bridges is to decongest roads and ease traffic. Whenever a bridge is built it brings more business avenues, reduces travel time, and increases job opportunities. There is a two-way benefit of building bridges. First, they provide jobs to unskilled labor as well to skilled engineers and architects. Secondly, once the construction is completed they save a lot of fuel which in turn has a positive effect on the environment.

In this article, find the biggest bridges ever made in India.

If we closely analyze the below table, you’ll be amazed to find that Bihar has the most number of longest bridges. As South India is better developed compared to the North, it comes as a pleasant surprise to see this domination. There are 5 bridges out of 10 from Bihar, 2 from Assam, 1 each from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Kerala.

This is designed as a beam bridge. Beam bridges are the simplest form when it comes to designing these type of structures.

Also known as Dhola-Sadiya bridge, the recently opened bridge is the longest bridge in India. This connects the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. With much fanfare, PM Narendra Modi inaugurated this stating that a dream is fulfilled. The idea of this was first conceived by the then Chief Minister Mukut Mithi of Arunachal Pradesh in 2003. It took 14 long years to complete and the work was fast-tracked only in 2011.

Gandhi Setu or Ganga Setu is an engineering marvel. Like the first one, this was as well thrown open by the then PM Indira Gandhi. This reminds us the importance of the construction of these bridges. By the alternate name, you’d have gotten a fair idea that this is built over river Ganga. Like many infrastructure projects in India, this also saw tremendous delay and bureaucratic hurdles before completion.

The work on this started in 1972 when the initial cost was pegged at Rs. 23.50 crore and scheduled for completion by 1978. When it finally saw the day of the light in 1982 the cost to the exchequer was Rs. 87 crore which is close to 4 times of the initial estimate.

The most beautiful bridge in India. This connects Bandra suburb to Worli in Mumbai. After completion, the travel time reduced to 10 minutes from the earlier 60 minutes. The overall construction cost of this is Rs. 750 crore which makes this as one of the costliest bridge in India.

The ride through this amazing man-made wonder is astonishing. Apart from offering connectivity, this has become a go-to place for tourist and locals alike.

Bogibeel bridge is the longest rail-cum-road bridge in India. This connects the districts of Dibrugarh and Dhemaji. This is built over the Brahmaputra river and provides connectivity to the whole of upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The upper deck of the bridge is a 3-lane roadway and the lower deck is a 2-line broad gauge railway. The engineering design format is known as truss bridges. This type of bridge is fairly economical to construct and maintain. The Ikutsuki bridge in Nagasaki, Japan is the longest continuous truss bridge in the world.

Another one from Bihar named after the ancient learning center of Pala Empire. Nalanda, the more famous ancient educational institute is Vikramshila’s contemporary. In the modern day context, this bridge connects NH80 and NH31. This provides connectivity to many districts of Bihar namely Naugachia, Purnia, and Kathiar.

Demands for building another parallel bridge alongside this is on the rise. The bridge experiences severe traffic congestion at times. Considering this, Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar gave his go-ahead to prepare a feasibility report in 2016.

This is built on the picturesque Vembanad Lake. Also called Edappally – Vallarpadam bridge as it connects both these places. The bridge was opened for public in 2011 and is the biggest one in Kerala. The bridge was constructed by Shapoorji Pallonji Group which is one of the major infrastructure companies based in India.

Strategically built and is immensely important as Vallarpadam is a Catholic pilgrim center. Vallarpadam also has an international transshipment container terminal which helps in facilitating trade from this region.

The geography of Bihar is such that river Ganga divides it into two parts. That brings forward a major hurdle for transportation. Hence building these types of bridges is a long-term solution.

This is the fourth largest in Bihar and seventh largest in India. The rail-cum-road bridge provides connectivity to north and south of this eastern state. To make full use of this bridge, railway station of Patliputra and Bharpura have been built on either side of it.

This is a four-way road bridge connecting two major cities of Bihar. The cities of Arrah and Chapra are connected via this link. Arrah is a historically important place whereas Chapra has a frequently visited Ambika temple. According to estimates, this bridge reduced the distance of traveling from 120 km to 21 km. Now people have the option of the direct route rather than taking a detour towards Patna.

Officially named as Veer Kunwar Singh bridge and cost more than 800 crores.

This is one of the three bridges built here above Godavari river. The oldest one was decommissioned in 1997 to replace the Godavari arch bridge which is a single line rail bridge. With most of the surrounding area developed the construction of a roadway was inevitable. So, to supplement the growth a new rail-cum-road link was built.

This bridge’s image is often shown to represent Rajahmundry which is the cultural capital of Andhra Pradesh.

The tenth largest bridge is also built above the mythologically important river of India, the Ganga. The construction of this took a whole circle when it was opened by PM Modi in 2016. I say that because it was Mr. A.B. Vajpayee who inaugurated the construction in 2002 when he was the prime minister.

As with many others on this list, there were several delays resulting in cost overruns. Even after many days of the completion, the road bridge is not opened as the government is still in talks to acquire land on both sides of the bridge.

My analysis of all the major bridges in India brings forward the findings that beam, truss, cable-stayed, and girder bridges are the most common designs. The stream of architectural studies also mentions these and suspension bridges as the basic types. The Dhola-Sadiya is an awesome example of beam bridge whereas the Bandra-Worli sea link is designed as a cable-stayed bridge.

Here I am counting only the ones which are above 1 km. And the Indian state which tops the list is Bihar with 11 followed by Uttar Pradesh and Assam with 9 each. The state of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh come a close third with 7, and West Bengal fourth with the count of 5. Karnataka and Odisha also have 4 each of which falls into this category.

The most number of bridges are built on river Ganga with 11 major ones and Brahmaputra comes a distant second with 5 above its waters.

Reference: The government of India (india.gov.in), “Infrastructure/Bridges”, retrieved from the web on 14th March 2018.

Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) is one of the major companies in this sector. Larsen and Toubro, Gammon India, Simplex Infrastructures, and Ramky Infrastructure are some other major companies which actively bid on these type of projects.

I put in more than 100 hours of research in getting this article on paper. All this while, a question which always came to mind was about India’s oldest surviving bridge.

The answer to this is Abdul Bari bridge also known as Koilwar bridge built in 1862. It is impressive that the bridge is still in usable condition even after 150 years.

Below are the 6 oldest bridges in India:

  1. Abdul Bari Bridge – Bihar – Opened in 1862
  2. Old Naini Bridge – Uttar Pradesh – Opened in 1865
  3. Malviya Bridge – Uttar Pradesh – Opened in 1887
  4. Elgin Bridge – Uttar Pradesh – Opened in 1896
  5. Nehru Setu – Bihar – Opened in 1900
  6. Pamban Bridge – Tamil Nadu – Opened in 1913
  • Indian Railway Year Book, “Track and Bridges,” retrieved from the web on 8th March 2018.
  • Wikipedia, “longest bridges above water in India”, retrieved from the web on 10th March 2018.
  • Construction Week India, “Top 30 Infrastructure Companies”, retrieved from the web on 18th March 2018.

Examples of How Logical Fallacies Are Used

A logical fallacy is an error in the reasoning process, not in the veracity of the premises. Therefore, logical fallacies are not factual errors, nor are they opinions. They are attempts to bypass the steps of a logical argument for the purpose of winning it.

Before one can understand how a logical fallacy is used, one must understand what a logical argument looks like. Generally, an argument has two parts: a premise (or premises) and a conclusion. A conclusion is a claim being made, and the premises are the support for that conclusion.

There are two major types of logical reasoning: deductive and inductive. Deductive reasoning is such that, if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. It also moves from general cases to specific ones.

Deductive Argument: If an eight-sided figure is called an octagon, and I just drew a figure with 8 sides, then I just drew an octagon.

An inductive argument is such that if the premises are true, then they provide some degree of support for the conclusion; the more support, the better (or stronger) the argument. Induction goes from specific cases to generalizations.

Inductive Argument: All swans we have seen have been white, therefore all swans are white.

The following is a list of 15 commonly used fallacious arguments, with examples.

This logical fallacy ignores the basis of either position and argues only that perceived outcomes will occur based on the opposing position, and that those outcomes are undesirable or unattainable.

Examples:

“Once all gun-owners have registered their firearms, the government will know exactly from whom to confiscate them.”

“If we legalize marijuana, next thing you know we’re legalizing crack!”

This fallacy involves arguing against a distorted, exaggerated, or otherwise misrepresented version of the original argument. Once this “straw man” of an argument is “knocked down,” one claims the original argument has been refuted.

This technique is extremely popular in religious and political circles, where one argues against a distorted and unpopular version of the opposition instead of defending the position held.

Examples:

  • Person A: I support the separation of church and state.

    Person B: So you support godless athiest communism? See how well that worked out in Russia, China, and Cuba?
  • “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care.” -Sarah Palin, via Facebook, August 7, 2009, regarding Section 1233 of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (Advance Care Planning Consultation)

This is a tricky one to spot sometimes because it relies on statistics or examples from a non-representative sample to generalize to the entire population. The example below from the Nizcor Project has two hasty generalizations.

Example:

Bill: “You know, those feminists all hate men.”

Joe: “Really?”

Bill: “Yeah. I was in my philosophy class the other day and that Rachel chick gave a presentation.”

Joe: “Which Rachel?”

Bill: “You know her. She’s the one that runs that feminist group over at the Women’s Center. She said that men are all sexist pigs. I asked her why she believed this and she said that her last few boyfriends were real sexist pigs. ”

Joe: “That doesn’t sound like a good reason to believe that all of us are pigs.”

Bill: “That was what I said.”

Joe: “What did she say?”

Bill: “She said that she had seen enough of men to know we are all pigs. She obviously hates all men.”

Joe: “So you think all feminists are like her?”

Bill: “Sure. They all hate men.”

Literally meaning “against man,” this argument bypasses the content of the argument entirely and instead focusses on the arguer themselves.

Examples:

Person A: I believe that the Ground Zero Mosque should be allowed to be built.

Person B: You would say that, because you are an America-hating liberal.

This is only a fallacy if the person does not have the authority that they need to make the claim that they are making. Common criteria for identifying someone as authoritative are:

  1. The person has sufficient expertise in the matter in question;
  2. The claim being made is within their area of expertise;
  3. There is an adequate degree of agreement between other authorities;
  4. The authority is not significantly biased;
  5. The area of expertise is a legitimate discipline; and
  6. The authority must be identified.

I will show examples of violations of many of the crieteria below. Note that the fact of the matter may be true (as in number 6 below), but the argument is still logically fallacious.

Examples:

1. & 2. See picture above.

4. The cryptozoologist identified the piece of meat as having been eaten by a Chupacabra.

5. I’m glad my psychic gave me my lucky numbers yesterday! I won $20.00!

6. Most doctors agree that people take to many antibiotics.

The appeal to the majority is simply saying that since most people think or believe a certain way, that that way must be correct. Logically, it is a form of a red herring, in that it is irrelevant how many people believe a certain position. Truth exists outside of popular consent. Many people are susceptible to this type of fallacy because they want to fit in.

Examples:

  • The Ford F-150 is the best-selling truck in America, therefore it is the best truck.
  • More people prefer the taste of Pepsi to Coca-cola, therefore Pepsi is better than Coke.

This is the fallacy that a statement or belief is false simply because it has not been proven true, or, conversely, true because it has not been proven false. This is a variation of “innocent until proven guilty” that resonates so well in America because it is what our criminal justice system is based upon. However, in logic, neither side has the disproportionate burden of proof; both sides must prove their own conclusions.

Examples:

  • Since no evidence has been collected of UFOs, then they must not exist.
  • Scientists don’t know exactly what happened in the Big Bang, so it must not be true.

This states that simply because someone finds a conclusion unbelievable, that it can not possibly be believable. In this scenario, there is not even an attempt at a logical rebuttal. It is simply stating that the position counter to the one you hold is false because you believe it to be so. As an example, go to 2:44 in the video and listen to the scientist’s explanation of the bacterial flagellum. Note that he offers no proof or argument other than this own opinion that it couldn’t have arisen by chance.

Example:

Of course I don’t think teaching sex education in first grade is a good idea! No reasonable person could possibly believe that!

Ad Hoc (meaning “for this purpose”) is usually added into an argument to shore up some sort of shaky premise. Technically, this is not a true logical fallacy, in that it is not an error in reasoning, per se, but in explanation.

Example:

Yolanda: If you take four of these tablets of vitamin C every day, you will never get a cold.

Juanita: I tried that last year for several months, and still got a cold.

Yolanda: Well, I’ll bet you bought some bad tablets.

In a technical sense all logical fallacies are variations of non sequitur, Latin for “does not follow.” This is because their conclusions do not logically follow their premises.

Examples:

  • Thousands of Americans have seen lights in the night sky which they could not identify. This proves the existence of life on other planets!
  • Joe lives in a big building, so his apartment must be huge.

Tautology is only a fallacy inasmuch as it is presumed to be furthering the argument. Tautology is simply stating an equivalent, such as A=A. However, often this turns into circular reasoning, saying that the conclusion is true because the premise (which is really the same thing) is true.

Examples:

The Bible says that it is inerrant, and everything in the bible is true. Therefore the bible is inerrant.

This occurs when there is a percieved defect in the originator of the claim, which means that the claim itself must be false. This is similar to an ad hominem argument except that this can be extrapolated to other things besides people.

Examples:

  • He says that his internet is slow, but he is using a PC and not a mac, so that must be the real problem.
  • Of course you don’t hear that Barack Obama is a Muslim, you listen to the lamestream liberal media.

Also known as a false dillemma, a false dichotomy is when two mutually exclusive options are set up as the only two options. When one is refuted, the other option is clearly the only “logical” choice. The fallacy in this situation occurs when both of the options could be false, or that there are other unexplored options. When there really is a true dichotomy (the options presented are in fact the only two options), then this is not fallacious.

Examples:

Person A: Illinois is going to have to cut spending on education this year.

Person B: Why?

Person A: Well, it’s either cut education spending or borrow money and go deeper into debt, and we can’t afford to go any deeper into debt.

This occurs when there are one or more major premises that are not laid out before the conclusion is made. If both parties agree with those premises, then this may not lead to a problem, but it is still technically a fallacy. As with other fallacies, the assertions made on unstated premises may be true, but the argument can be fallacious nonetheless.

Example:

If we label foods with their cholesterol content, Americans’ will make healthier food choices.

Unstated premises:

  • cholesterol in food causes cholesterol in people
  • better food labeling will reduce Americans’ cholesterol intake
  • having high cholesterol is a bad thing
  • people make food buying decisions based on food labels

This is a common fallacy where an arguer assumes that two variables are related and causative. The two variables may or may not be related to one another, or they may both be related to something else. This fallacy includes ignoring a common cause, confusing cause and effect, and post hoc fallacies. Ignoring a common cause is when two variables may be related to each other, but caused by a third variable. Confusing cause and effect is when two completely unrelated variables are linked causally. A post hoc fallacy assumes that simply because B occurred after A, that A caused B to happen.

Examples:

  • Atmospheric CO2 levels and drug use have both increased steadily since the 1960s. Therefore carbon dioxide causes people to use drugs. (Confusing cause and effect)
  • When people buy more water at the ballpark, they also buy more ice cream. Ice cream must make people thirsty. (Ignoring a common cause: hot weather)
  • “When Pat Quinn became governor, we had high hopes. What has he done? 215,000 jobs lost, businesses shut down, family homes lost.” –Bill Brady for Governor radio ad (post hoc)
  • ‘We took the Bible and prayer out of public schools, and now we’re having weekly shootings practically. We had the 60s sexual revolution, and now people are dying of AIDS.” -Christine O’Donnell, Former Republican Senate candidate (Delaware), during a 1998 appearance on Bill Maher’s ‘Politically Incorrect'”
  • “For the natives, they are near all dead of the smallpox, so as the Lord hath cleared our title to what we possess.” -John Winthrop, Governor, Massachusetts Colony, 1634

Lineation – A Guide to the Line Break in Poetry

In poetry, knowing where and why a line breaks or ends is crucial to a full understanding of the poem they are a part of, for both reader and poet.

Line breaks are what distinguish poetry from prose, so the length of a line and its relationship to other lines is a crucial aspect of the art. With conventional poetry, lines are inseparable from predictable rhyme and meter (metre in British English); in free verse lines can be unpredictable.

  • But no matter the type of poetry – be it prose poetry, found, shaped, concrete or LANGUAGE poetry – the way the lines end is crucial to the whole poem.
  • Whatever the form of the poem, the line break is fundamental, the last word in a line of high significance.
  • But does that word simplify, confuse or complicate meaning? What about the effect on sound and rhythm? Does a line break flow with syntax or disrupt it?

The relationship between words and lines to sound and rhythm is what creates the depth of emotional response many readers experience when reading or listening to a poem.

For example, in this opening line of a traditional Shakespearean sonnet, the last word is truth, the main theme of this love poem.

When my love swears that she is made of truth,

To break this line in any other place would both undermine rhythm and rhyme, essential ingredients in this kind of iambic sonnet, and take the gravity out of that word truth. Note the additional comma which means a pause for the reader.

At the other end of the spectrum, some modern free verse has no such constraints. Many different types of lines have evolved since Ezra Pound first demanded ‘Make it new!‘ to his fellow poets back in the early 20th century.

The unconventional e.e.cummings wrote since feeling is first in 1926, another love poem:

since feeling is first

who pays any attention

to the syntax of things

will never wholly kiss you;

This is the first stanza of a poem that follows no set, metrical pattern, has no end rhymes but does have strange syntax. Formality goes out the window. Playfulness climbs in. Punctuation does exist, but it plays an unusual role.

The short first line seems to start in mid-air and that end word first creates a natural caesura (pause or rest), as well as suggesting that our emotions and physicality are more important than our thought processes and dry intellect.

The next three lines, all enjambed, flow right up to the semi-colon. Why? The poet wants the reader to focus on you the anonymous lover. Alliteration brings texture and bonding and the short lines slow things down.

So the end word of the first line can play a key role in unlocking a poem’s meaning. The same goes for other lines and words too. As a poem moves along, the reader has to use both experience and intuition to make the most of the journey.

It’s a bit like walking into a house for the first time and having to fathom out the contents and décor and ambience of each room. You may have to identify what’s in that room; you may want to know why. More importantly, how does that room make you feel?

A useful exercise which can help with learning where and why a line should break is to first of all turn a stanza or poem into prose. Here is the first stanza, turned into prose, of Mirror by Sylvia Plath.

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike. I am not cruel, only truthful – the eye of a little god, four-cornered. Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall. It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers. Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Sylvia Plath chose to personify the mirror and use a first person voice as speaker.

The first two sentences are emphatic declarations and make up a powerful first line. The first sentence describes the physical make up of the mirror, the second the mirror’s mindset.

That word midway through, exact, is abrupt, with a hard consonant, whilst the end word, preconceptions, is a complete contrast. The end stop reinforces the idea that this mirror is what it says it is. There are no judgements, no blurred edges. The reader has to pause.

The second line is enjambed, that is, the reader is encouraged to read on into the next line without pausing. Meaning continues. The second line needs the third for a full understanding of both.

The word immediately has five syllables, a mix of long and short vowels. It’s a bit of a paradox too because it suggests things happening in an instant but it takes a relatively long time to pronounce and digest.

It’s worthwhile going through each line ending, studying the way a word fits in with others, how it sounds, what it’s role is.

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

Whatever I see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful ‚

The eye of a little god, four-cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Robert Frost much preferred the traditional form for his poems and tended to use conventional metrics and rhyme in a lot of his work. He couldn’t see any sense in the experimental free verse of the modernists.

This particular poem is dominated by iambic pentameter and steady compliant lines but there are interesting differences. Just look at the first line, a juicy twelve syllables, iambic hexameter, with alliteration and a mix of long and short vowels.

But why has the poet added a tree when the normal thing to do, to maintain the pentameter, would be to end the line at through? Enjambment keeps the line moving into the second, shorter line, so both lines need each other to fully work out.

There is the basic idea of this first line representing a long and tough day’s work. Because the speaker has gone the extra mile, the line goes the extra foot, stretching out. And the focus is on that last word tree, reinforced by the letter t (two, pointed, sticking, Toward).

The second line is much shorter and with that comma, tells the reader to pause briefly. Note the uninhabited white space, an integral part of the poem’s field, a contrast to the first line, suggesting emptiness after all the work?

The next three lines complete this first sentence, full end rhymes bringing familiar closure, keeping things relatively tight despite more enjambment.

The sixth line is end-stopped and is a complete, emphatic statement.

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree

Toward heaven still,

And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill

Beside it, and there may be two or three

Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.

But I am done with apple-picking now.

Walt Whitman changed the course of the poetic form when he published Leaves of Grass in 1855. His long, all inclusive and generous lines, together with diverse and controversial subject matter, sent alarm bells ringing through the English speaking world.

He saw himself as a cosmos and was not one to hide his light under a bushel. His lines reflect his mode of expression; they are cascades of speech and are often overwhelming and rich.

To read Whitman’s poetry and do it justice, the reader needs to take deep breaths and go with the flow.

Whitman preferred long lines with punctuation, a chance for the reader to pause and intake. His formal conversational style, attention to detail alongside broad philosophical meanderings, invited readers in to his new limitless world.

The end word of the first line, myself, meets the end word of that longer third line, you, – poet needing reader, humanity as one.

1


I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,

Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,

I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,

Hoping to cease not till death.

Whitman used little consistent end-rhyme in his work, preferring internal echoes and near rhymes to bond lines together. He also created the natural, organic line, incorporating everyday objects, the natural world, and just about everything else in a fusion – all filtered through the speaker’s dominant persona.

In complete contrast to Walt Whitman’s extroverted, bold and non-rhyming lines, are the poems of Emily Dickinson. If Whitman’s lines come from a deep drawn breath, Dickinson’s are slight whispers, hesitant and short.

Her use of dashes and lack of enjambment give this poem a stop-start feel; each line becomes an independent phrase, single or split. In the second stanza especially the end dashes create a pause which isn’t really necessary as the sense would run on with the use of enjambment.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

William Carlos Williams became associated with the Imagist Ezra Pound early on in his poetic career. Subsequently he moved away from rhyme and set lines and developed poems as unfinished snapshots of ordinary life, sketches of everyday local things.

Many of his poems are experiments in form and content, seeming to appear out of a mind that was always tuned in to street speech, domestic things and the American way.

This short poem first appeared in 1930.

As the cat

climbed over

the top of

the jamcloset

first the right

forefoot

carefully

then the hind

stepped down

into the pit of

the empty

flower pot

On the surface, Poem is about the action of a cat stepping over a jamcloset top (a jamcloset was an area in a cellar where preserved food for winter was stored), and putting its hind leg in a flowerpot.

The short lines introduce anticipation, the reader having to manoeuvre with some caution between those opening unpunctuated lines. Already, after just four words, the mental image of a cat appears.

Those long vowels in the second line highlight the slow progress of the feline, contrasting starkly with the short vowels of lines one and three.

  • Enjambment rules as there is no punctuation, so the reader is being encouraged to progress with the bare minimum of pause. The stanzas seem fragile, white space separating, and the onus is on the reader to follow the tentative action within the simple words.

There’ll be natural pauses of varying length: between stanzas as already mentioned, after jamcloset in the second stanza, after carefully and hind.

Note also that the words forefoot and carefully are complete lines, and demand extra attention.

This is a poem by Robert Herrick (1591-1674) in iambic monometer, with the stress on the end word. It’s a rare specimen that uses enjambment, rhyme and short rhythms to create a slim epitaph fit for any gravestone.

  • The line breaks here are dictated by the metre (meter in American English) with each foot having an unstressed and stressed syllable. With careful placement of punctuation at the end of certain lines, the pace is slowed right down.
  • This poem’s structure reflects just how short life can be; how it can also be like a ladder left alone, somewhat lonely. Reading this poem aloud brings home the poignant power each mostly single syllable word has.

THUS I

Pass by,

And die :

As one,

Unknown,

And gone :

I’m made

A shade,

And laid

I’th grave :

There have

My cave,

Where tell

I dwell,

Farewell.

Richard Wilbur is an accomplished technical poet who loves to rhyme and construct intricate syntactical units. This poem, about a specific species of corn, Zea, is a sequence of haiku, the Japanese three line 5-7-5 syllable poems traditionally inspired by observations in nature.

Reading each stanza is an exercise in breath control, the three beats per line maintaining a steady internal music, the punctuation placed with care, the reader gently persuaded to pause here, carry on there.

Full and near rhymes add to the idea of the field of regimented corn plants binding together in lines. Enjambment between stanzas, commas, dashes, all help the rhythms that could be strong breezes blowing through the corn.

Once their fruit is picked,

The cornstalks lighten, and though

Keeping to their strict

Rows, begin to be

The tall grasses that they are—

Lissom, now, and free

As canes that clatter

In island wind, or plumed reeds

Rocked by lake water.

Marianne Moore’s poem The Fish is unusual in that each line follows a syllabic count, starting with one syllable in the first line before moving on to three, nine, six and eight respectively.

The strict adherence to syllables (and not feet) means that the lines have a certain repeated structural strength, which builds as the stanzas progress. Full rhyme and internal assonance help with texture and resonance.

But equally, the rhythms within the lines and between stanzas create a sort of wave-like motion, conjuring up fish moving in sinewy kelp. Note the strange line ends here and there which add to the mystery.

The Fish

wade through black jade.        Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps        adjusting the ash-heaps;               opening and shutting itself like  an injured fan.        The barnacles which encrust the side        of the wave, cannot hide               there for the submerged shafts of the  sun, split like spun        glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness        into the crevices—               in and out, illuminating

Elizabeth Bishop’s fish poem is at first glance a more straightforward structure. It is one long narrow stanza of 76 lines, based roughly on iambics, with considerable variation in some lines.

Line endings in these first fifteen lines focus on nouns, description of the fish and its reaction. Eleven line endings relate to things – fish, boat, hook, mouth – and so on, and reflect the speaker’s down to earth, matter of fact narrative.

Enjambment helps to keep the first three lines moving, and astute use of commas and stops ensure the action doesn’t race away. This is a big fish and needs time to land and the lines work with the syntax to enable the reader to study the emerging picture.

The end stops in lines five and six underline the successful landing, whilst internal rhymes caught/water/fought and alliteration held him/He hadn’t/He hung bind the various elements.

This is a very personal experience for the speaker. Note the use of my hook/his mouth, the use of words like venerable and homely shows respect, and the repeated reference to scenes domestic tie the whole thing to home.

I caught a tremendous fish

and held him beside the boat

half out of water, with my hook

fast in a corner of his mouth.

He didn’t fight.

He hadn’t fought at all.

He hung a grunting weight,

battered and venerable

and homely. Here and there

his brown skin hung in strips

like ancient wallpaper,

and its pattern of darker brown

was like wallpaper:

shapes like full-blown roses

stained and lost through age.

The importance of line breaks can’t be underestimated. How a poet shapes a poem depends on line length and break, and each ending holds something precious because it influences rhythm, sound, cadence and meaning.

Whilst there are definite ways to end a line there is no such thing as line break perfection because it isn’t an exact science, especially in the land of free verse. Often it’s a case of listening and knowing, of having Auden’s ‘infallible ear’.

Jorie Graham has been experimenting with form and line length for decades. Her series of poems Underneath explore inner thoughts and feelings, bouncing ideas around relating to nature, relationships and emotional pain.

Mirror. Roll away

the stone, unrip the veil. Re-

pair.

And handle me. And

see. Behold my hands my feet.

That it is I, myself.

Mirror: a thing not free

it’s seeking reply

from.

Short, heavily punctuated lines suggest a slow, torturous study. There are hints of fairy tale in the opening – Mirror, mirror on the wall – and also some biblical undertones with that stone being rolled away.

And the word Repair is split, hyphened, crossing the lines. Re- is the prefix and shouldn’t be hyphened, whilst the remaining pair suggests two, the presence of another persona, or a schizoid person?

This is the power of poetry. The power of the line break. One small word can hold so much.

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