Sylvia Warner and “The Phoenix”

Sylvia Warner and “The Phoenix”

The Phoenix Mr. Maltese Literature of Innocence

This short story and “The Destructors” by Graham Greene were very good at initiating student discussions and explorations.

Setting:                                                  England

Characters                                                      Lord Strawberry

Mr. Poldero

Lord Strawberry is wealthy, cultivated, interested in hie’. fine aviary and its occupants. He keeps the bird in the finest set of apartments” in his aviary and takes excellent care of it. Mr. Poldero is uncultivated, the proprietor of a public entertainment, Polder’s Wizard Wonderworld. He is concerned only with the money the phoenix brings him. In order to recapture interest in it, he mistreats the bird to bring on premature old age, expecting the bird will set fire to itself and be reborn.

The major target of satire in this story is the values of the marketplace, commercial values, man’s urge to exploit anything for cash. Mr. Polder° embodies these values as do the agents who try to palm off imitation phoenixes as the real thing.

Minor target–the public’s lack of interest in anything less than sensational.

“The Destructors’ and ‘The Phoenix” contain allegorical elements – -The phoenix perhaps stands for all that is rare, graceful, and civilized, but it is “too quiet, too classical” to be appreciated; the crass, materialistic instincts in man exploit and destroy it. Parallel in “The Destructors” is the beauty of the crumbling house which may represent the old, civilized world, a world destroyed by war.

There is a certain poetic justice in the fact that the gentle, aristocratic phoenix wreaks vengeance on the crass Poldero. Although potentially gruesome, the final scene in which “some thousand people, including Mr. Poldero, perished” tends to delight because of its surprise value and poetic justice.

Have students explore the origins, nationalities, and meanings of. their own names. Who chose your name and why? How do you feel about the name? How does the name affect your life? What name would you rather have, if an Suggest that students select pen names for use on their compositions.

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