Examples of Harangue in Literature

A harangue is a lengthy, aggressive speech that strongly criticizes or denounces something or someone. In literature, harangues allow writers to vent criticism, argue a philosophical perspective and spotlight injustice.

What is a Harangue?

A harangue is an intense verbal attack in the form of a ranting speech or lecture. It relentlessly presses a point of view in a forceful, condemning manner without pause or restraint. Harangues criticize, denounce, accuse and reproach the target of the attack with palpable anger and zeal.

They are marked by their aggressive tone, excessive length and lack of balance or measure in presenting an argument.

Importance of Harangue in Literature

Harangues in stories, plays and poems allow writers to:

  • Air grievances
  • Argue philosophical, moral or political views
  • Spotlight oppression or corruption
  • Highlight hypocrisy
  • Vent righteous anger

They act as vehicles to make the writer’s perspective heard through the voice of impassioned characters. The lack of restraint in a literary harangue heightens its emotional impact. Lengthy harangue passages also slow the action, focusing attention on the speaker’s viewpoint in a dramatic way.

Examples of Harangue in Literature

Example#1

“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

In Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, the title character berates his mother Gertrude after the death of his father:

“Now, mother, what’s the matter? … Queen, come here, And let me wring your heart; for so I shall, If it be made of penetrable stuff; If damned custom have not brazed it so That it be proof and bulwark against sense. … Nay, but to live In the rank sweat of an enfolded bed, Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love Over the nasty sty! … Have you eyes? Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed, And batten on this moor? Ha! have you eyes?”

Hamlet harshly condemns Gertrude’s quick remarriage to his uncle following his father’s death. His scathing rhetorical attack accuses her of corruption and blindness, lacking all reason and humanity.

Shakespeare uses Hamlet’s extended, angry harangue to dramatize the depth of his disgust at his mother’s perceived betrayal.

Example#2

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

In the novel, the heroine Katniss Everdeen gives a defiant speech attacking the morality of forcing children to fight to the death for entertainment:

“I want to give my thanks to the tributes…I see so many faces here each year…all of you root for your favorites, you cry when they get killed. It’s sick… No one ever wins these Games, Half of us are killed and the other half go home with our lives destroyed…How can the Capitol call this entertainment…It’s not entertainment when innocent people die!”

Through an emotional harangue, Katniss attacks the Capitol for forcing innocent children to brutally fight to the death for entertainment.

Her speech angrily denounces how the Games destroy lives, evidenced by the rhetorical question, “How can the Capitol call this entertainment?”

The accusatory speech provokes outrage by arguing it is “sick” to take delight in the violence, ruthlessly shattering the illusion the competition honors “tributes.” Katniss highlights the needless suffering, futility, and the immense human cost of the Games.

Her daring public defiance fans the flames of rebellion against the Capitol’s authoritarian control. The extended, unrestrained harangue showcases the writer using a character’s impassioned voice to spotlight injustice in the fictional world.

Example#3

“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream…We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered?”

In this passage, the character Mildred gives an impassioned speech urging Montag to open his mind. Through a lecturing harangue, Mildred condemns the societal complacency and conformity that has dulled Montag’s thinking.

Her urgent plea provokes Montag to reexamine his life by saying people “need to be really bothered once in a while.” By questioning how long it’s been since he was “really bothered,” Mildred’s harangue sparks a rebellion in Montag against his ignorant, unfulfilling existence.

Example#4

“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller

“I have known her, sir. I have known her. I am a farmer, I cannot read…I come to see that you be shattered, Mr. Parris. And see with fear that you are not a minister but dressed as one – I think you be the devil himself.”

In the excerpt, the character John Proctor angrily denounces Reverend Parris in a public testimony. Through an aggressive harangue, Proctor condemns Parris as corrupt and evil by saying “I think you be the devil himself.”

His speech furiously attacks how Parris disguises himself as a minister yet fuels the witch trial hysteria destroying their community. Proctor’s unrestrained harangue spotlights injustice by voicing outrage over religious authority used to enable abuse.

Example#5

“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte

“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

This passionate speech shows a character making an intense plea bordering on a harangue.

A harangue is a long, passionate, and vehement speech. The character seems to be addressing God directly in an exaggeratedly intense way.

He demands that God remain with him always no matter what happens or what form God takes. The speech reflects excessive emotional intensity in beseeching God not to abandon him. The character employs heightened, dramatic language about going mad and living without his soul.

Example#6

“A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams

“I don’t want realism. I want magic! I try to give that to people…I tell what ought to be truth. And if that’s sinful, then let me be damned for it!”

The character Blanche DuBois angrily lectures Mitch for destroying her illusions. Through an emotional harangue, Blanche attacks Mitch and realism for ruining her magical ideals about love and beauty.

Her speech highlights her passionate belief that people “ought” to pursue fantasy over grim reality, even if it’s “sinful.” The unrestrained diatribe reflects Blanche’s deluded psyche and view of the world, which will ultimately lead to her downfall.

Examples of Harangue in Literature
Examples of Harangue in Literature

Importance of Harangue

The literary harangue allows writers to spotlight injustice through characters overtaken by anger and disgust. Harangues dramatize intense emotions that build outrage toward an issue and drive the plot toward reckoning or rebellion.

The lack of restraint in a harangue demonstrates passions spilling into fury, which makes the author’s message penetrate our hearts and minds by the sheer force of feeling behind the words.

Related Terms

I- Invective

An invective is a verbally abusive expression or speech intended to insult, reproach or malign someone or something. Like a harangue, it contains bitterness, anger, and condemnation. However, an invective may be shorter and more personalized than an extensive harangue speech.

II- Jeremiad

A jeremiad is a long literary work or speech expressing grief, regret or righteous lamentation. Jeremiads share similarities with harangues in their extensive length and urgent, distressed tone conveying condemnation of declining moral standards.

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