Ivanhoe Essay

Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe Essay

Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, a romantic story set in Medieval England; embodies the definition of how a novel’s themes are applied to human life. The representation of Jews in Ivanhoe, through the character Rebecca, outlines the most important themes within the novel such as chivalry, romance, and centuries long English Anti-Semitism.
Many interpret Ivanhoe as a solely Anti-Semitic work, focusing on the rituals of the Templar Knight, highlighted in the concluding chapters of Ivanhoe. The Templar Knights are described and consisted of a secret society of Christian militant men dressed in white, condemning any of dark-complexioned skin; all traits and rituals of the Ku Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan’s very name echoes the romantic “clans” in Scott’s fiction. However, Rebecca, a Jewess, is saved from the stake, after being condemned. Proving that Scott couldn’t have written Ivanhoe as an Anti-Semitic piece, otherwise his conclusion of the novel would have been completely contradictory to his views.
Chivalry and Romance are treated as one in Ivanhoe; the themes intertwine within the whole of the novel. Rebecca, the Jewess, is the vital element to cultural mixing and its effects on chivalry within the novel. Ivanhoe’s true love, before Rebecca and Rowena, is chivalry itself and his knightly career (page 292):
“thou knowest not how impossible it is for one trained to actions of chivalry to remain passive as a priest, or a woman, when they are acting deeds of honour around him. The love of battle is the food upon which we live—the dust of the 'melee' is the breath of our nostrils! We live not—we wish not to live—longer than while we are victorious and renowned—Such, maiden, are the laws of chivalry to which we are sworn, and to which we offer all that we hold dear."
Ivanhoe is not ready to settle down from his chivalric ways, and in turn, develops a fascination with Rebecca, who serves as a literal metaphor to The Crusades; a war that introduced exotic desires to the white man. Rebecca, for both Ivanhoe and Bois-Guilbert, is Jerusalem itself; an irresistible, chivalric quest that ends with a duel to the death. It is understandable that Ivanhoe would not present as much affection to Rowena, as he does to Rebecca throughout the novel. In comparison, readers find that Rowena seems disappointing to Ivanhoe after experiencing the seductions of Rebecca’s beauty and exotic nature. And it is Rebecca who is the object of Ivanhoe’s and Bois-Guilbert’s desires, which provides the climax of action within the novel. Ivanhoe’s restless, half-dead ride to rescue Rebecca, prepared to desert Rowena even at the moment of their betrothal, reinforces his militant and chivalric identity; “he shows us that the impediments to his union with Rowena have never been important. It is the impossible union with Rebecca that drives him, and with it the real action of the novel” (xxi). However, Bois-Guilbert attempts to break his chivalric self-love by means of his passion for...

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Essay Topic 1

Analyze and interpret the protagonist of the novel, Ivanhoe. What are his defining character traits? What are his motives and how does he go about achieving his goals? Why is he fighting with his father? Why might Scott have chosen to have the protagonist of the novel be injured throughout much of the novel?

Essay Topic 2

Discuss the theme of chivalry in the novel "Ivanhoe." What is Ivanhoe's opinion of chivalry? What are other characters opinions of chivalry? What are the ideals of chivalry?

Essay Topic 3

Analyze and interpret the historical inaccuracies in the novel "Ivanhoe." Were these inaccuracies deliberate? If so, why might Scott have chosen to depict the story in a way that is not historically accurate?

Essay Topic 4

Analyze and interpret the antagonist(s) of the story. Who are they? Who is the central antagonist of the story? Who are the antagonists of...

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