Destructive Element Term Paper

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Destructive Element Traits in Literature

A destructive element refers to that one trait which can destroy a person or negatively impact his life in some manner. This element is usually acts as a barrier between men and their full potential and can also seriously impede their growth. Some critics are of the view that fear is the most destructive element and we know from observation that fear is what stops man from achieving his goals and from speaking his mind. Conrad believes that we must submit to this destructive element, which can interpret in two ways. Either we completely become a victim to it and allow ourselves to be gripped by its power. Or we can submit to it by admitting that it exists and then do something about it. Every author who has explored the psychological dimensions of his characters is aware of this destructive element and it is usually the leading character's struggle with this element that forms the basic plot of the story.

In Conrad's novel, "The Shadow Line," we come across this destructive element in the shape of immaturity, which makes the protagonist give up his job on whim and out of sheer boredom. The novel is autobiographical in tone and the author traces the growth of a young man from immaturity to a deep sense of responsibility. Nothing much happens in the story, which is actually a sea voyage where the protagonist gets a chance to grow. He submitted to his destructive element when he decided to leave his job in the opening pages and it is the same element of immaturity that makes him believe he could take command of this ship. When the author is describing the heart of Bangkok, we get a feeling that it is being used as a symbol to highlight the growth of the narrator himself. The author describes Bangkok with series of images which begin with "flat spaces of the land" move
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on to the "brown houses... sprung out of the brown soil," and go a little further up the "crowded mob of low, brown roof ridges" and finally reach the "great piles of masonry" that "towered" above. (Pp. 47-48). It is through this character that we understand that destructive element may turn in favor of a person if he opts for the second interpretation of the term "submit" and not the first one.

In The Dead by James Joyce, we come across another kind of destructive element, which is negative in nature because the protagonist has chosen to actually submit to it by becoming its victim. The story, which appeared in the collection Dubliners, revolves around a party scene that takes place at the house of two old ladies who are close relatives of the protagonist, Gabriel. Gabriel's character has a destructive element, which is conceit. He is highly conceited person and considers himself more educated than the rest. However because of this element, he suffers various setbacks and even some rude shocks, which make hi, understand that conceit had completely killed his ability to communicate with others. We notice that throughout the story, Joyce has refrained from exposing the true soul of each character with his own words; rather he helps the readers reach their own conclusions by observing the behavior, speech and thoughts of the characters. The story's main themes are conceit and resulting unhappiness, which are communicated effectively with the help of many symbols that become significant only after one reaches the last scene that takes place at the hotel. It is not exactly possible to decipher these symbols during the party scene, as it appears to be a lighthearted event, which is a common sight during Christmas season.

The author appears to say that often times the real cause of all unhappiness is an inability too communicate with others on their level. This is very clear in the beginning when Gabriel tries to engage in a pleasant conversation with Lily, which ends abruptly when the caretaker's daughter reacts sharply and…

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