All Art Is Quite Useless So Is A Flower Matthew Arnold’s Concept of ‘Sweetness and Light’

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Matthew Arnold’s Concept of ‘Sweetness and Light’

Matthew Arnold is a famous figure of the Victorian era. This period is very glorious in the history of England because of its exemplary progress in all branches of life. This era is very popular due to material prosperity, political enlightenment, democratic reforms, industrial and mechanical progress, scientific development, social unrest etc. He remained pessimistic because of the conflict between religion and science. He wrote the book ‘Culture and Anarchy’ with the aim of reviving the honey-like values ​​of the ancient Greek language. He examines the values ​​of his own time in the light of that culture. His ‘Culture and Anarchy’ is a collection of individual essays; They show his battle and struggle against material wealth.

Here, we analyze their concept of ‘sweetness and light’. His focus and argument in this book is on curiosity. It is defined as a liberal and intelligent curiosity about things of the mind or mental activities. According to him, desire is the birthplace of curiosity. It is desire that pursues some body. The function of the will is to see things as they are. If pursued by an intelligent person with an unbiased understanding of mind, it deserves praise. It has real scientific interest which is the right kind of curiosity. Such curiosity leads us to true culture. So there is curiosity beyond the man of culture.

Matthew Arnold thinks about the social aspect of culture. It comes out of love of neighbor. In other words, it can be said that this aspect of culture is born out of the desire to eliminate human error and reduce human suffering. He is a person of culture who works for the betterment of the society. With such desire things are seen as they are, and the man of culture acts with dispassionate eagerness. So, it gives birth to sweetness and light. He calls it true culture which inspires a person to lean towards a better and happier world than the one found in the world. Indeed, it embodies true scientific passion and mental balance and instruction to fight against diseased tendencies of the mind.

The author traces the origins of a culture in love with perfection. In other words, it can be said that culture is the study of perfection. In it two dominant desires work in harmony—the scientific passion for pure knowledge and the moral and social passion for doing good. A man of culture should seek pure knowledge with an impartial desire or passion and propagate it in society to alleviate human suffering. It is the work of the man of culture or the pursuit of perfection that such miseries can be mitigated by prevailing sweetness and light. Such a task is easy for a cultured person.

Culture leans toward real reason and triumphs over God’s will. It involves study and the pursuit of perfection. Man’s desire for perfection comes directly from religion. Arnold calls religion ‘the deepest voice of human experience’. In art, science, poetry, philosophy and history all the voices of human experience are available to which the man of true culture listens attentively. All the above areas make man internally perfect or his goal is total human perfection. The outward expression of culture is shown in the general sweet expansion of thought and feeling, rich in the dignity, wealth and happiness of human nature. Culture brings inner as well as outer perfection of man. It leaves out all the biases and mistakes of man. Bias and mistakes create chaos in society.

Arnold finds an honest and real connection between culture and the idea of ​​sweetness and light. His ideal man of culture was a Greek man named Euphuasis. Arnold borrowed the phrase ‘sweetness and light’ from Swift. The character of a cultured man is shaped by religion and poetry. The goal of religion is to make man morally perfect, where as in poetry the idea of ​​beauty and human nature is perfected in all its aspects. Culture has the power to find peace and contentment by destroying our brutishness and approaching the world of spirituality with perfection. Indeed, religion fails to lead us to such perfection. He describes the religious organizations of his time in England as appearing to have failed morally. He presents an example of Puritanism based on man’s impulse towards moral development and self-conquest. This perfection leads to the idea or impulse of narrowness and inadequacy. He reaches this conclusion by judging religious organizations in terms of sweetness and light.

There is perfection in culture which is free from all narrowness. She stands against all mischievous people who have blind faith in machines. According to him, the search for perfection is the search for sweetness and light. He who works for sweetness ultimately works for light. He who works for light ultimately works for sweetness. Those who work together for sweetness and light, work to promote reason and the will of God. Culture looks beyond machinery___ social, political and economic, beyond population, wealth and industry, beyond middle-class liberalism and avoids all forms of narrowness and hatred. Culture has a great opinion, love for sweetness and light.

Arnold delights in insisting on awakening his contemporaries in all spheres of creative activity in art, literature and life. He insists that the light of culture should guide this national renaissance with sweetness and light. Culture works differently and it doesn’t work with ready made judgments and watch words. Its appeal is not limited to any particular section of society. It relates to the best self that has ever been thought of and is known everywhere in the world. Culture means to make all men live in an atmosphere of sweetness and light, where they can use ideas as freely as she herself uses them.

Cultural giants believe in equality and broad thinking. They have a passion for spreading culture from one end of the society to the other. They carry the best knowledge and best ideas of their time. It is the duty of these men to humanize knowledge, and therefore it becomes the best knowledge and thought of the ages and the true source of sweetness and light. The great men of culture expand the base of life and intelligence, and work powerfully to increase sweetness and light to strengthen reason and the will of God.

Consequently, the man of culture is like a bee. The bee’s job is to absorb the sap (sweet or sour) of all the flowers to make honey. Honey is sweet and is loved by all in all its forms. Honey contains wax which is not useless because candles are made from it. Therefore, at the end of sweetness is light. Thus, a man of culture seeks knowledge from all sections and shares it with all. It is not narrow because such knowledge brings perfection. So his search for perfection is sweetness and light.

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