Lesson 11 - Lesson 11 MATTHEW ARNOLD Reading Assignment...

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Lesson 11 MATTHEW ARNOLD Reading Assignment: Norton Anthology , pages 1344-1372; 1379-1403. Writing Assignment: 1. Compare and contrast "The Forsaken Merman" and "The Scholar Gypsy," and answer the questions: The “Scholar Gypsy” and the “Foresaken Merman” are both poems by Matthew Arnold that deal with the theme of faith. In “The Scholar Gypsy,” a young student leaves Oxford University to join Gypsies, who he thinks can “rule” men’s minds. In “The Foresaken Merman,” a human who has a family with a Merman leaves her family in order to save her “poor soul.” It is Easter, and she must go pray in a church. But she harms her lover and children deeply by leaving them to pray. It is ironic that she should be so cruel and uncaring in order to practice her religion. Whereas the scholar gypsy has made the right choice and joined the band of gypsies, who are more enlightened to the delicacies of the human experience than his peers, Margaret has made the wrong choice and chosen institutionalized religion over her family. Both of these choices force the characters to choose between a life inside or outside of society. Both of the poems contain the theme of “true” faith. Margaret participates in a false faith in the sense that she chooses the institution of religion over a more natural faith, which which she knows in her heart. She is obeying rituals and traditions, but her faith does not produce Christian actions. The opposite is true of the Scholar Gypsy. While the Scholar Gypsy’s friends are “Light half-believers of our casual creeds, / Who never felt deeply, nor clearly willed,” (172-173), the Scholar Gypsy is enlightened because he has chosen a more real faith, one in which faith produces actions. This is highlighted by the fact that he is said to have the “spark from heaven” (120) and his friends, by contrast, are described as follows “Whose insight never has borne fruit
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in deeds,” (174). A. Why does Margaret leave her husband and children, and what do they see when they go after her?
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