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Essay/Term paper: A comparison of contemporary and romance literature

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A Comparison of Contemporary and Romance Literature


Contemporary literature in the form of a short story consists of a plot,
characters, point of view, setting, and theme (2). These elements can vary a
great deal from one story to the next. An author of a short story also reveals
a tone and a mood shown by his or her style of writing. Although romance
literature contains the elements mentioned above, they are very different than
those in short stories and are somewhat static from one tale to the next.
Romance literature is about the adventures of knights and the organization of
chivalry (794). A romance does not take place in a normal setting, but in
idealized worlds such as imaginary castles, gardens, or forests (794). A
romance contains mysterious and supernatural events (794). Although there are
many differences between contemporary and romance literature, the one difference
that distinguishes them the most is the characters. A main character in
contemporary literature leads a very different life than one in romance
literature.
Neighbor Rosicky is a short story of an old farmer, Anton Rosicky,
reflecting back on his life. Early in the story, when Anton Rosicky is in the
doctor's office, he learns that he has a bad heart and doesn't have much time
left to live. He then returns home, plunges into a chair, and begins to sew.
While he sews, Rosicky lets his mind run back over his life. He has had many
memorable experiences. Rosicky has lived in London, New York, and now in
Nebraska. Rosicky, formerly a tailor, now makes a living farming with his
children. Rudolph, Rosicky's oldest son, has some trouble supporting his wife,
Polly. Rosicky makes many sacrifices to help Rudolph's marriage stay together.
He loans the family car and gives some money to Rudolph, even though Rosicky is
very poor himself. Spring arrives, and his children are busy working the fields.
When no one else is around, Rosicky, disregarding his doctor's orders, rakes
some thistle plants out of one of his alfalfa fields, but the work is too tough
on his heart. Rosicky dies the next day (48-71).
Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets is another short story of someone
analyzing his life. Tom Benecke is a workaholic who has a month's worth of his
work scribbled on a yellow sheet of paper. The wind blows the sheet of paper
out of his eleven story apartment window onto the ornate corner ornament of the
ledge about five yards away. Tom climbs out of the window onto the ledge.
Immediately after he reaches the sheet of paper, Tom looks down and becomes
petrified with fear. His life passes before his eyes, and he knows that he
won't make it back into his apartment alive. He begins to realize how foolishly
he has lived his life and contemplates that no one will be able to identify his
body for a long time. All they will find is the yellow sheet of paper in his
pockets. Tom finally gathers up enough courage to punch out his window and
safely makes it back into his apartment. He throws the yellow sheet of paper
back onto his desk and goes to find his wife, who has gone to a movie. As he
turns to pull the door closed, Tom sees the yellow sheet of paper sail out of
the glassless window. Tom bursts into laughter and closes the door (98-109).
The Arthurian Legends are a cycle of stories that has been shaped and
passed down through over fourteen hundred years of English history. The legend
of King Arthur tells of the adventures of an early king of Britain and the
knights and ladies who made up his royal court at Camelot. It tells of a world
filled with warriors armed with lance, sword, and armor. It speaks of jousts,
tournaments, wizards, falconry, enchantresses, damsels in distress, wars, quests,
and the code of chivalry. It is a legend that talks of a great king who came to
throne from what seemed to be nowhere and of a noble idea that ends in tragedy
(794).
The characters in short stories are more interesting than those who we
meet in life because we can know them better (47). A short story takes us
inside a character's mind and lets us experience their inner thoughts and
feelings (47). In both Neighbor Rosicky and Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets
we read paragraph after paragraph of the main character's thoughts. We also see
the true nature of the character by watching how they react when being placed in
a crucial situation (47). Rosicky is told that he doesn't have much longer to
live; Tom Benecke is on the ledge of an apartment building eleven stories high.
Even though characters in short stories are only imaginary people and have only
imaginary existence, the author must make them believable, which helps us
understand something about real people, along with ourselves (47).
The main characters in romance literature are larger than life.
Romance literature is concerned with the feats of kings, queens, and knights---
not with common, ordinary people (794). They follow a code of chivalry. A main
character in romance literature is braver, nobler, and more honorable than an
ordinary human (794). Sir Gareth shows this by fighting the enchanted Red
Knight, Sir Ironside, at his greatest strength, rather than waiting until his
power wanes. Often the main character in a romance has the use of magic or
other extraordinary powers (794). We see King Arthur's magical powers when Sir
Bedivere throws Excalibur into the lake, causing lightning to strike in the
splendor of the moon. Sometimes a main character in a romance is motivated by
love (794). As the Red Knight unlaces Sir Gareth's helmet to decapitate him,
Lady Lynet weeps with despair, giving Sir Gareth the motivation to overturn his
opponent and defeat him. Finally, in many romances, the main character will put
on a lowly disguise to hide their true identity (794). Sir Gareth disguises
himself as a lowly kitchen boy in order to prove himself by deeds, rather than
by his birth.
The main characters in contemporary and romance literature are both more
interesting than those in real life. Both usually have only one main character.
Aside from these few similarities, the characters are very different. We can
relate to those in contemporary literature, as they are believable. Those in
romance literature are perfect, flawless, and humans can only dream about being
like them. We see human weakness in contemporary literature. We see Tom
Benecke's fear in Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets and sickness in Neighbor
Rosicky. Main characters in romance literature are god-like characters who have
no fear, retain their youthful qualities as they age, and never become a victim
of sickness. We see many of the main character's inner thoughts and feelings in
contemporary literature. The bulk of both Neighbor Rosicky and Contents of the
Dead Man's Pockets is inside the main character's mind. We typically do not
read about the main character's thoughts in romance literature, rather we see
who they are by their actions. Before The Tale of Sir Gareth ends, the main
character serves as a kitchen worker, defeats seven knights, tames a shrew,
helps a damsel in distress, and saves his dwarf.
The main characters in both contemporary and romance literature are
interesting people. Those in contemporary literature are realistic and live a
life filled with stress, sickness, and depression. Those in romance literature
are perfect and live a noble and honorable life.

 

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