Literature has always played an important role in the life of society because it allowed artists to attract the attention of the audience to important issues, share different perspectives of common objects and ideas, and stimulate the imagination and creativity in common people. Most people tend to believe that the most important aspect in a piece of literature is the plot and main characters that transmit an author’s thoughts and provide valuable lessons that could be used in practice to improve the well-being. However, smaller elements of stories, such as styles and other aspects, can also hold significant meaning and illustrate artists perceive the world surrounding them with its people, objects, and existing issues. Additionally, these elements set the stage for the main action and emotionalize the story to catch the attention of the audience and communicate the ideas of the author in a better way. For example, a colorful and detailed picture of a city can show a lot about the lives of people, their daily routine and personal relations, and existing social problems. Moreover, even small differences in these elements can influence the perception of the audience and change the view of similar objects and ideas. Therefore it would be very helpful to analyze and compare the concept of the city in stories “Solomon’s Big Day” by Toure and “The Happy Prince” by Wilde to determine differences and similarities and try to analyze the impact on readers.
Both stories take place in great cities known for their wealth and prosperity as well as a variety of existing social problems, such as poverty, inequality, and corruption. However, details play an important role in these cases because they form the perception of these issues as well as the perception of the plot and the ideas of the artists. On the one hand, Toure sets the stage for the main action by showing that the story takes place in New York City. Specifically, he mentions famous places such as Central Park and Chinatown that serve as symbols for the city and tells its name at the end of the narrative to erase doubts in the minds of people who lack this knowledge. This information presented by the author influences the insight of the whole story by the audience because different people tend to have controversial opinions about New York: some consider it a place of great opportunities for the talented and others believe that only the ruthless can survive and grow in such a corrupt city. Moreover, people with different social and cultural background also have specific opinions about New York based on their personal experience.
On the other hand, in “The Happy Prince” Wilde does not tell the audience where the action takes place and simply mentions that the story takes place in a great city. Specifically, he describes such elements of the surrounding as a golden statue covered with leaves of gold and adorned with precious stones on a tall column, nobles who live in big palaces and visit grand balls, scientists, and charity children to show that the city is large and prosperous. However, the depicted city is abstract, which excludes the influence of personal views and experience on the perception of the story and allows the audience to concentrate on the plot and the ideas of the author.
But most importantly, both authors decided to illustrate their opinion about existing social problems by including them into the concept of a great city. However, they decided to focus the attention of the audience on slightly different issues. On the one hand, Toure concentrates on illustrating social inequality, corruption, and insensitivity. Specifically, Solomon’s father openly discusses the fact that African-Americans in New York still represent one of the most disadvantaged social groups oppressed by the rich and powerful that have not received equal rights and opportunities even with the formal proclamation of equality. Additionally, the same character adds to the description of the city by saying that having power and high social status, such as being a celebrity, allows a person the capabilities that are simply unavailable to common people. Moreover, the ruthless and cynical behavior of Miss Birdsong, Xander’s father, and journalists upon realizing Solomon’s talent and recognizing the value of his work show that New York is corrupt place with people that have for money, power, and popularity.
Wilde also attracts the attention of the audience to social problems common for big cities. Similarly to Toure, he addresses the issue of abuse of the low class by the rich who are represented by the seamstress and the Queen’s maid-of-honor respectively. Also, the fact that the seamstress does not have enough money to pay for medicine for her child also illustrates the issue of poverty that is missing in the story by Toure. Moreover, Wilde attracts the attention of the audience to the problems of domestic violence and vanity with the help of the match-girl and the young writer. Lastly, he illustrates the issue of corruption and insensitivity common for big cities by showing the arrogant and narcissistic attitude of the Mayor and full submission of the Town Councilors to his selfish decisions.
To conclude, both Wilde and Toure use such lesser element of the story as the concept of the city to influence the perception of the main plot and attract the attention of the audience to existing social problems. Specifically, Toure states that the action takes place in New York to address his personal opinions and experience of the readers and evoke their emotions and Wilde depicts an abstract city to avoid biased views and help the audience concentrate on main ideas. Additionally, both authors highlight the importance of such social problems as corruption and inequality. However, Toure puts a special emphasis on racism and the desire for power and money while Wilde focuses on illustrating poverty, vanity, and arrogance.
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