Decorative Initial The interspersed stories in Meredith's fantasy serve several purposes: In addition to padding out the story and providing variety, they also coment upon the events and themes of the main narrative, particularly its related concerns with art, imagination, love, pride, and the value and danger of stories. "The Story of Bhanavar," which at first glance might seem a standard Arabian Nights tale infused with misogyny, turns out to be equally a means of characterizing the protagonist, Shibli Bagarag, as a fine storyteller who needs to learn more about the virtues of women, and tragedy of the beautiful woman in a male society. Indeed, Noorna tells him "my youth is not that of Bhanavar the Beautiful, gained at another's cost, but my own, stolen from me by wicked sorceries," and her tale, which follows, as as a corrective to his. "The Punishment of Shapesh, the Persian, on Khipil, the Builder," which Feshnavat relates to Shibli turns out to be a warning to him.

The entire matter of tales within tales becomes complicated by the fact that Shibli presents himself and his allies as existing within a narrative: "'Tis well!" he tells his allies, "The second chapter of the Event is opened; so call it, thou that tellest of the Shaving of Shagpat. It will be the shortest" ("The Plot").

What other uses does Meredith make of the interspersed tale in this fantasy? How might that use relate to his other novels?

Last modified 2002