Cultural Context: Structures of Worlds

Cultural Context: Structures of Worlds

The Old Man and the Sea

Despite his challenging of animals’ authority Santiago feels an affinity to the creatures that live in the ocean and sees them as equals, as opposed to the conventional view that animals are inferior to humans (this enforces his belief that killing the marlin and attacking the shark is a natural part of life). He attempts to justify this view by comparing the strength of animals who fight even when injured to the great baseball player Joe DiMaggio who shows similar tolerance to pain, declaring ‘the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel’ is indicative of the fighting cocks can ‘endure.. the loss of the eye and of both eyes and continue to fight’, concluding that ‘Man is not much beside the great birds and beasts’. Elsewhere he establishes a fraternal link with various animals, suggesting that man and the animals are equal, and enforcing this by personifying the animals. This is seen in such instances as when he speaks of the porpoises and says ‘They play and make jokes and love one another. They are our brothers like the flying fish.’

I’m not Scared

The setting of the text, 1978 Italy, is structured hierarchically with the divide between the rich and poor in the country; indeed it is this divide which catalyzes the events of the film. The divide in the text is caused by the contrasting economic states of the industrialized North, which was prospering, as opposed to the agricultural South that was struggling. As a result there was much civil unrest, which led to many kidnappings designed to attain ransoms from the rich, which is shown firsthand at the beginning of the text; the villagers, with the help of a northerner living in Brazil, have kidnapped the ten-year-old son of a northern wealthy family so as to raise money to combat their difficult financial position. Anna’s comment to her children indicates why characters must resort to actions such as kidnap and ransom, due to the lack of opportunity to be successful or even financially comfortable in the Aqua Traverse: ‘Listen to me. Promise me that when you’re big you’ll leave this place.’


There is no hierarchy in the play as individuals have no respect for those in power and thus act according to how they see fit. As mentioned, Duncan is god’s representative on earth and the natural order of things ensures that all subjects respect and follow the rule of the king, but the Thane of Cawdor and Macbeth reveal that this hierarchy is not adhered to as the play begins. When Macbeth becomes king he may have some who follow his rule and obey his orders, such as the murderers who kill Banquo, but he does not have absolute rule. Throughout the play Macduff shows himself openly opposed to the king, refusing to attend his coronation, and Macbeth even remarks such to his wife: ‘How say’st thou, that Macduff denies his person/ At our great bidding?’ Macduff and Malcolm later plan to overthrow the king, as Macduff travels to England to meet Malcolm and seek military assistance from King Edward of England. Later, as the play nears its end, it is revealed that many of Macbeth’s troops have abandoned him, and Angus remarks that even those who stay with him are not absolutely loyal: ‘Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach;/ Those he commands move only in command,/ Nothing in love: now does he feel his title/ Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe/ Upon a dwarfish thief.’ Indeed, as the battle commences many of the aforementioned soldiers fighting for Macbeth switch sides, leaving the king with little support as his castle is attacked and overcome, with Malcolm telling Siward that ‘We have met with foes/ That strike beside us’.

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About the Author

John Ryan

John has a Masters in Modern English Literature and is the founder of RyJoLC, an educational consultancy based in Dublin that provides English language and curriculum resources to educational institutions worldwide.
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