Mitchell Kalpakgian

Dr. Mitchell A. Kalpakgian (1941-2018) was a native of New England, the son of Armenian immigrants. He was Professor of English at Simpson College (Iowa) for 31 years. During his academic career, Dr. Kalpakgian received many academic honors, among them the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar Fellowship (Brown University, 1981); the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship (University of Kansas, 1985); and an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities Institute on Children's Literature.

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Slavery in Modern Clothing in Orwell’s 1984

In the totalitarian regime of Big Brother’s imaginary socialistic utopia in Oceania in 1984, Winston Smith lives a sordid dehumanized life devoid of all the traditional sources of happiness that have fulfilled human beings throughout the ages. Orwell portrays a politically correct social order that robs human beings of dignity, political rights under the law, … Read more

Dickens’ David Copperfield: The Wealth of Goodness in Human Nature

In Dickens’ novels the problems of suffering in the form of poverty, tragedy, and injustice receive their greatest relief from simple, humble, lowly characters with kind, compassionate, and charitable hearts—not from wealthy benefactors, social agencies, or doles from government welfare. Portraying the hardheartedness of the powerful, the avaricious, and the callous in the cold and … Read more

The Child as Window in At the Back of the North Wind

In George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind, a child sleeping in his cozy bed at night hears the voice of the North Wind speaking to him in the appearance of a beautiful woman with dark eyes and black hair streaming in all directions. Entering through a window by Diamond’s bed, the whispering … Read more

The Poison That Spoils All the Virtues

In George Herbert’s seventeenth century poem “Humilitie,” the Virtues sit on a throne to receive gifts at court from the animals who serve their masters. Humility steps down to receive the gifts the beasts present to the members of the court. The angry Lion surrenders its paw to Meekness, the fearful Hare presents her ears … Read more

Fatherless Sons in Flannery O’Connor’s “The Lame Shall Enter First”

As the city’s recreation director, Sheppard took an interest in the youth he encountered in his work, and also volunteered to counsel troubled boys at the reformatory, “receiving nothing for it but the satisfaction of knowing he was helping boys no one else cared about.” His idea of “help,” however, assumes the form of social … Read more

Sigrid Undset’s Ida Elisabeth: The Moral Nobility of a Loving Woman

A novel about a self-sacrificing woman whose life of heroic suffering for the sake of her marriage and children exemplifies moral courage, Ida Elisabeth traces the heroine’s life from the folly of an adolescent scandal in which she loses her virginity to the period of adult womanhood as a mother of three children. Several years … Read more

The Virtue of Magnanimity in Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale”

“The Knight’s Tale” introduces four knightly figures who epitomize the ideals of their moral code. The narrator, one of the pilgrims traveling on the pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas a Becket, and introduced by Chaucer as “a worthy man,/ Who from the very moment he first began/ To ride, searching adventure, held chivalry/ In … Read more

Spiritual Pride and Honest Humility in G.K. Chesterton’s “The Hammer of God”

Of the many symptoms and manifestations of pride—disobedience, stubbornness, willfulness, boastfulness, vanity, presumption, arrogance—spiritual pride does not express itself in such visible, noticeable ways as these other attributes. In Chesterton’s short story “The Hammer of God” the Reverend Wilfred Bohun enjoys the reputation of a holy Anglican priest who lives an austere life of self-denial … Read more

Robert Frost’s “The Death of the Hired Man”

Robert Frost’s classic poem captures the essence of the home as a place of belonging and hospitality where a person experiences love, welcome, care, worth, and dignity and where he comes to know the value of both justice and mercy which the home instills in its unique combination of love’s gentleness and firmness and blend … Read more

The Seven Ages of Man in Shakespeare’s As You Like It

In the famous speech from Shakespeare’s As You Like It that begins “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players,” the melancholic Jaques laments the passage of time in the human pilgrimage as a series of sad events that perpetuate the same mood of life’s dreariness that persists from … Read more

Howard Pyle’s The Wonder Clock

Howard Pyle’s The Wonder Clock (1887), a collection of folk tales and fairy tales with illustrations that depict the various scenes of a twenty-four period in a typical home of the time, organizes the stories according to the hours of the day beginning at 1:00 p.m. One O’Clock One of the Clock, and silence deep … Read more

Medicines in Literature Not All Doctors Prescribe

The modern world approaches many problems with the outlook of a therapeutic society. For every ailment, complaint, or difficulty, it prescribes medication, some drug to change the mind, calm the nerves, stifle the energy, overcome depression, or control the appetite. An overmedicated society that depends on a pharmaceutical industry to provide for its happiness, peace, … Read more

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

As all human beings in their journeys of life make daily choices and important decisions, their destinies acquire a definite direction that guides their histories and shapes their future lives. While no person can control all the circumstances of his life, the behavior of other people, or the vicissitudes of fickle Fortune, he can control … Read more

Social Respectability as Religion in Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation”

In her short stories Flannery O’Connor presents many religious people who attend church and consider themselves moral and principled, but their religion does not inspire their daily life and govern their human relationships. While they strive to make favorable impressions and distinguish themselves by their manners and morals, their congeniality and propriety do not amount … Read more

The “Divine Comedy” in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

While the words “Divine Comedy” naturally recall Dante’s classic poem in which the poet descends to the underworld of the Inferno, ascends Mount Purgatory, and rises to the heavenly Paradise, the phrase also applies to Shakespeare’s tragi-comedies (The Tempest, Cymbeline, Pericles, and The Winter’s Tale) that begin with a sudden fall from high to low … Read more

C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength

Published in 1945 as the third volume of a series with Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, Lewis’ novel portrays the clash of two world views that reflect the cultural wars of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries—the civilization of love versus the culture of death. Set in the quiet, rural village of Edgestow … Read more

A Modern Feminist Author Discovers the Truth of Marriage

In Natalie Sanmartin Fenollera’s international bestseller, The Awakening of Miss Prim, Miss Prudencia Prim accepts a position as a personal librarian to a countercultural man of letters homeschooling his four orphaned nephews and nieces—a passionate convert to the Catholic faith. An educated woman with a Ph.D. in sociology and a woman with refined aesthetic sensibilities and … Read more

On Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter

A poignant novel told from the point of view of a widowed young wife who lived during the Depression and World War II, lost both her parents at a young age, endured the great loneliness of loss, enjoyed a brief marriage until she lost her husband in the war, Hannah Coulter portrays the goodness and … Read more

Fanatical Ideas and Reasonable Convictions

A fanatic is a person obsessed with one idea, a monomaniac ruled by one dominant compulsion that governs all his thoughts and actions. He is enslaved by one predominant passion that dictates all his motives and decisions. Ruled by revenge, Captain Ahab in Moby Dick is determined to hunt and kill the white whale that … Read more

Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler: An Introduction to Liberal Arts

A classic that captures the spirit of fun-loving mirth and the lightheartedness of innocent recreation, Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler (1653) offers not only a schooled fisherman’s lore on the nature of fish, bait, and streams but also introduces the liberal art of fishing. In introducing his classic on the art of fishing (“The Contemplative … Read more

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