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New Historicism

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New historicism is concerned with understanding texts within the prevailing ideas and assumptions of their age. This theory seeks to tease out the cultural construct as reflected in a piece of literary or non-literary work as opposed to just truth. It is about the prevailing ideas about time, space, taboos, prejudices etc.

In Dulce et Decorum the poet talks about the “devil’s sick of sin,” revealing the strong religious grounding at that time and his strong negative attitude towards his adversaries he was fighting against. We learn of the technological advancement in warfare in the early 20th Century including the use rockets, gas masks and gas. The author challenges the old adage that “it is sweet and right to die for your country,” rubbishing it instead as a lie. This reveals his attitudes towards war as a meaningless endevour. 

The Doorbell Rang is a detective New York story in which a detective named Nero Wolfe wants an investigation on Mrs. Rachel Bruner who has sent damaging information on the FBI to 10,000 important people stopped. He has been hired on a $10,000 retainer by Mrs. Bruner, a rich widow. The book reveals abuses by the FBI of its resources redirecting it for political purposes instead of criminal investigations. The book reveals Stout’s political views and attitudes towards the FBI as corrupt and inept organization characterized by widespread abuses of its powers.

In Harrison Bergeron, the author tackles the issue of equality in American society. He reveals through his characters that the American notion of equality is flawed which he trashes in its supposed “perfection” in the society of Harrison Bergeron. The author tries to prove that the fundamental equality between both genders does not fit. Gender he seems to argue is a factor that nobody has control of and rebukes the society for ignoring social problems caused by inequality.

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