How does Williams present tragedy in contemporary ideas? Discuss.

This part deals with the contemporary tragic theories and literature. He presents the discussion on tragedy in relation to the contemporary ideas. The writer has discussed the four things:  order and accident, the destruction of the hero, the irreparable action and its connections with death and the emphasis of evil. The tragic experience of every age is unique. Williams says that modern and its suffering are very complex and it would be a mistake to interpret the tragic experience of the modern man in the light of the traditional concepts.  Tragic experience attracts the beliefs and tensions of a period.

It is neither possible nor desirable to have a single permanent theory of tragedy. Such an attempt would be based on the assumption that human nature is permanent and unchanging.  Rejecting the universalistic character of tragedy, Williams says:

            “Tragedy is not a single or permanent fact, but a series of conventions            and             institutions….The varieties of tragic experience are to be  interpreted by reference to the changing conventions and           institutions”
It is generally said that there is no significant meaning in ‘everyday tragedies’ because the event itself is not tragic; only becomes so with a through a shaped response. Williams does not agree to this view. He cannot see how it is possible to distinguish between an event and response to an event, in any absolute way. In the case of ordinary death and suffering, when we see mourning and lament, when we see people breaking under their actual loss, we have entered tragedy. Other responses are also possible such as indifference, justification, and rejoicing. But where we feel the suffering, we are within the dimensions of tragedy. But a burnt family or a mining disaster which leaves people without feeling are called Accidents. The events not seen as tragic are deep in the pattern of our own culture: war, famine, work, traffic, and politics. To feel no tragic meaning in them is a sort of our bankruptcy. Rank was the dividing line because the death of some people mattered more than others. Our middle class culture rejects this. The tragic of a citizen could be as real as the tragedy of a prince. The emerging middle class rejected rank in tragedy. The individual was not a state; but the entity in him. Williams is averse to any kind of theorizing so he declares:
            “It is necessary to break the theory if we are to value art”
Raymond Williams rejects the argument that event itself is not tragic but becomes so through a shaped response. It is not possible to distinguish between an event and response to an event. We may not response but it doesn’t mean that the event is absent. Suffering is suffering whether we are moved by it or not. In this way, an accident is tragic even if we do not apply to it the concepts of ‘ethical claim’ or ‘human agency’. He also doesn’t seem to approve the distinction between accident and tragedy. Famine, war and traffic and political events are all tragic. It is often believed that tragedy was possible in the age of faith and it was impossible now, because we have no faith. Williams, on the contrary, believes that the ages of comparatively stable belief do not produce tragedy of any intensity. Important tragedy seems to occur, neither in periods of real stability not in the periods of open and decisive conflicts. Its most common historical setting is the period preceding the complete breakdown of an important culture. Its condition is the tension between the old and the new order. In such situations, the process of dramatizing and resolving disorder and sufferings is intensified to the level which can be most readily recognized as tragedy. Order in tragedy is the result of the action. In tragedy, the creation of order is related to the fact of disorder, through which the action moves. It may be the pride of man set against the nature of things. In different cultures, disorder and order both vary, for there are parts of varying general interpretations of life. We should see this variation as an indication of the major cultural importance of tragedy as form of art. We can see his argument as under:
            “I do not see how it is finally possible to distinguish between an event and response to an event” and further “behind the façade of the   emphasis on order, the substance of tragedy withered”
The most common misinterpretation of the tragedy is that hero is destroyed at the end.  Our attention is so concentrated on the hero that we miss other aspects of tragedy. Reading of Hamlet without the Prince Hamlet is nothing but reading it without the State of Denmark would also be meaningless. Destruction of the hero is normally not the end of the action. In most tragedies, the story does not end with the death of the hero; it follows on. It is not the job of the artist to provide answers; but simply describe experience and raise questions. Modern tragedy is not what happens to the hero; but what happens through him. When we concentrate on the hero, we are unconsciously confining our attention to the individual. The tragic experience lies in the fact that life does not come back, that its meanings are reaffirmed and restored after so much suffering and after so important a death. Death gives importance and meaning to life. The death of an individual brings along the whole community in the form of rituals and condolence as in ‘Adam Bede’; so tragedy is social and collective and not individual or personal. Death is absolute and all our living is simply relative. Death is necessary and all other human ends are socially collective. Death is universal so a dead man quickly claims universality. When we confine ourselves to the hero, we are, unconsciously, narrowing the scope of tragedy. By attaching too much attention to the death, we minimize the real tragic sense of life. Man dies alone is an interpretation; not a fact; when he dies, he affects others. He alters the lives of other characters. To insist on a single meaning is not reasonable. The tragic action is about death but it need not end in death. Moreover, what about the other characters who are destroyed?  Williams says:
            “We think of tragedy as what happens to the hero but ordinary tragic             action is what happens through the hero”
There is a growing belief that in the modern age, the true nature of man is evil and evil is more potent and attractive. Tragedy shows us that evil is inescapable and irreparable; a sole reminder against the illusions of humanism and optimism. The theory of evil is significant in tragedy but not without limitations. There has always been a great emphasis on evil as a source of tragedy. But there is a tendency to generalize evil. He thinks that most of the great tragedies of the world end not with absolute evil but with evil experienced and lived through.  Tragedy dramatizes evil in many particular forms: not only Christian evil but also cultural, political and ideological. Good and evil are not absolute. We are good or bad in particular ways and in particular situations; defined by pressures we at one received and can alter and can create again. Williams rejects that man is naturally evil or good. His dictum will finalize my answer because he declares:
            “Man is naturally not any thing and we are good or bad in particular ways in particular situations” 

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