Our Society at Cranford and Darwinism

“Cranford is in possession of the Amazons;” (1432), perhaps sums it up better than I can. Cranford has, through fairly organic means, developed a very typical Darwinian style. It had a clear cut alpha species situated at the top of the food chain, the female residents, and subservient species, their husbands. The species at the top of the food chain then becomes the dominant driving force behind this section of society, such as a keeping the gardens well trimmed, or developing a system of etiquette around the discussion of one’s poverty.

Captain Brown shows off this established hierarchy as well. The Captain becomes a respected figure among the ladies, after an initial rough period, but this shift in perspective ripples along the entirety of the  dominant faction, as popular opinion of Brown quickly sways from its initial disgust of him. “He himself went on in his course, as unaware of his popularity as he had been of the reverse” (1435), illustrates the unity with which the strongest group reached this new conclusion. Brown might be more influential than most men, but the reaction and tonal shift the female populace has towards to him shows that is still the will of the alphas that decides the will of the lower species.



Shelley’s “Mont Blanc” – Andrew Mather

According to Burke, the sublime is something that’s very existence essentially challenges us. More specifically, it creates the strongest emotions possible in a human being, at times emotions beyond comprehension. This is exemplified in “Mont Blanc”, by the author’s struggles in fully comprehending the majesty of the mountain and the lessons it teaches about the world. Lines 80-83 hammer in this concept especially well, “Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal / Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood /  By all, but which the wise, and great, and good / Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel.” In these lines, the speaker states that the mountain holds great power and perhaps even fundamental truths about the universe, but only people of greater wisdom and goodness can understand or even actually feel. By making this observation and apparently citing Burke’s thoughts on the sublime, Shelley further illustrates the vast greatness of nature, as well as state that such nature is likely greater than even humanity.

The mountain represents something insurmountable in more than one way in Shelley’s poem. It shows the utter power of nature, as well as the thoughts that nature brings that only higher minds can truly take advantage of.

Lines Left Upon A Seat – Andrew Mather

“Lines Left Upon A Seat” contrasts the Enlightenment most directly in its portrayal of nature as a place of ultimate peace and happiness. The man described in this poem goes there to live in quiet happiness, disgusted with modern society. While it ultimately doesn’t serve to grant him true happiness, nature is still presented as a major factor in personal satisfaction, that it is the natural setting for joy.

Interestingly, this story actually displays a slightly Enlightenment thought, that society is actually needed in some form. While it doesn’t say that humanity needs to run like a machine, it does stress that a life lived in solitude in nature isn’t the right way to live, that to be truly happy one must seek human connections. Romanticism is known for introspection, so it’s seems rare to me that it would acknowledge the need for other people and their viewpoints.