Wednesday, December 15, 2010

IRP Adaptation Blog

My version of "Once Upon A Time"


If I were to adapt "Once Upon A Time" into a film, I would elaborate further into the plot of this story. I would keep the original context of its frame-story structure, but I would go into much more detail when describing the lives of the fictional "fairytale" characters. While they are deciding what extra safety measures to take, I would show them browsing through different catalogs and going to different stores to find the latest and greatest gadgets. I would exaggerate the process of them growing more ridiculous with all the over-precautions which are added to their house. In the beginning, I would spend more time introducing the narrator to the audience. The scene of her waking up in the middle of the night and hearing footsteps would be highly suspenseful and drawn out. I would really want the audience to feel the fear and paranoia that she feels in order to understand the meaning of the work more clearly.

Point of View

In terms of point of view, I would probably keep this fairly consistent with that of the short story. The narrator would remain the character at the beginning, but I would also spend more time introducing her. Because this story is originally told as a satire, it is critical that those watching the film understand the sarcasm of the narrator. If this parodied style of writing is not sensed, then the work will lose some of its significance. I think it is important to leave the point of view as an objective perspective so that the audience can decide for themselves what they decipher the meaning to be. If the narrator inserts her thoughts and feelings on the characters, then those watching may not sense the ambiguity for themselves; instead, they might take on the opinion of the one telling the fictional tale.


Oh boy, time for characters! In my adaptation of the film, I would definitely expand on the depth of the characters in this story. By giving them more dialogue, displaying their interactions, and showing them in their everyday environment, it would allow the audience to get to know them on a more personal level. Furthermore, if the characters were easier to connect with, then the context of the story would be more interesting and even more powerful. For instance, if I began to care about the little boy in the story, then I would be heartbroken to watch his bloody demise at the ending. The parents' noble intentions to keep their family safe would be clear, but their failure to recognize the danger they in turn created would be understood as well. It is my belief that the more a character is elaborated on, the more an audience grows to empathize with them. Also, I would be sure to make clear connections with the characters and their alternate "fairytale" identities. There would be a mother-in-law/wise old witch comparison, and the it would be evident that the little boy was trying to act like a "knight in shining armor" at the end.


While I think it is important for this film to remain modernized, I would probably move its setting to a more famous area where extensive safety measures are truly taken. Perhaps Hollywood, or say, the Hamptons. By moving the setting to a realistic location rather than a fictional one, I think that the irony of the story would be much greater. Showing the real paranoia and fear that society creates would heighten the idea that people often imprison themselves trying to protect their lives from danger. Oftentimes, people are completely oblivious to the fact that they are the greatest danger to themselves. Therefore, if the film setting of this story was realistic, I think that the concept would be equally realistic. As for the characters' house, I would want it to distinctly resemble a castle - complete with a pond, or "moat", and a large gate surrounding it. In other words, "castle walls". These resemblances would amplify the parallelism between the modern-day family and a fairytale family.


Throughout "Once Upon A Time", the irony that the mother and father destroyed the life that they were trying to protect was the greatest theme. I really liked this concept because I found the author's satirical approach to a normally dreary subject matter to be witty and humorous. Granted, the theme was not necessarily a happy one, but I thought it was a clever all the same. Therefore, I would want the theme of my film to be how a person's greatest fear is fear itself. The characters in this story spent so much time worrying about how to ensure their own safety that they forgot how to actually look after themselves on their own. They let go of their common sense and depended entirely on technology and security devices to do their parenting for them. At one point in the story, they were inspecting their neighbors' new security gates and they failed to realize that their little boy was running away from them in the street. He could have been hurt, or kidnapped, or worse! It is important for people to remember that they cannot allow themselves to get caught up in society and forget about what they know. Ironically enough, it is the essence of safety that ends up being what is most dangerous to this family. It is an unexpected twist to a normal child's story, and an even more valuable lesson.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"The Shawshank Redemption", Cinematic Adventure Style


Throughout the course of this movie, I was fairly shocked at how closely tied it was to the original elements of the short story. Its plot was probably the element that strayed the most from its initial foundation, and even then, it wasn't too far off course. The varying details I found seemed to be fairly subtle. To start, one character that differed from the short story was Brooks. He was the old man in the prison who had a pet bird that he fed and nurtured from a previous injury. When he was eventually released, the story didn't elaborate much on what happened to him in his life beyond prison. It did, however, mention that his bird ended up dying after he set it free because it wasn't capable of taking care of itself. In the movie, Brook's troubled adjustment period back into society is shown. In fact, he comes to the point where he can no longer cope with his new life and he ends up hanging himself to end his misery. He said that he was "tired of being scared all the time" in the outside world and just wanted it all to end.
Another larger variation involved the character of Tommy Williams. In the short story, Warden Hadley had Tommy transferred to a different prison while Andy was in solitary confinement so that he wouldn't be able to testify for him. I wish that was the case in the movie as well, but sadly it transpired contrastingly. Warden Hadley lured Tommy to the grounds to talk to him, and it was there that he had Tommy shot and murdered by prison guards. That way he knew for sure Andy's innocence couldn't be proven. After this took place, he lied and told Andy that Tommy was shot because he tried to escape. Due to the warden's evil character, I can't say that I'm surprised.
The last and most significant difference I chose to analyze was the whole escape-ending of the story. Because the narrator in the short story is Red, he could not be sure about some of the details of Andy's escape. How he had changed from his prison clothes to regular clothes for instance, was a mystery. Contrarily, this is accounted for in the movie. The movie showed Andy with a plastic sack filled with clothes and essentials tied to ankle as he crawled through his man-made tunnel. Also, in the short story the ending was crafted as a cliffhanger where the reader is left to wonder if Red ever ended up finding Andy. The movie ends a little more certain and more optimistically than the original story. According to the movie, Red completed his journey and was reunited with Andy in the end. Andy was exactly where he said he would be, meaning he was in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
In my opinion, these differences made the story stronger rather than weaker. I thought they added to its overall value and made it even better than it was to begin with. I liked the differences in the characters because it made them seem that much more real, or complex. Brooks' inability to cope, the warden's sheer cruelty, the unraveled mysteries of Andy's escape; all of these were significant added elements to the blueprint of the plot.

Point of View

The point of view remained unchanging between the short story version of "The Shawshank Redemption" and the film version of the story. Red was the narrator in both, and it was through his insight that the reader gained information about Andy and those surrounding him. However, in the movie some parts were shown that could only be conjectured upon before. Andy's escape would be my greatest example of this. Whereas Red could only imagine the level of repulsion Andy must have experienced crawling through the sewage tunnel, in the movie the audience got to see Andy wretching inside the tunnel and pushing himself to keep going.
Once again, I liked this small change because it made the story slightly more effective. Since I am a visual person, being able to see events that had only been described to me before heightened my understanding of the story and allowed me to empathize with the characters.


I think that the characterization remained the same in both the written and film versions of this story. Andy and Red acted exactly as they were portrayed to, and there were even times where conversations between the two of them were directly quoted from the story itself. That was one of my favorite aspects of the movie; the fact that it didn't try to change any details or alter the characters as they had been written. Because of this, I thought that the movie remained effective in its storytelling. I was appreciative that the producers had maintained the characterization so well, and I could often tell who characters were supposed to be before they were referenced by name. To an extent, I was sort of surpised by this. If I had to guess, I would have thought that the characterization would have been an aspect that varied more greatly between the two before watching the movie.


Identically, the setting was kept consistent in both the story and film production of "The Shawshank Redemption". This contributed to the value of the story because it added to its accuracy and strengthened the links between the two. Perhaps most important; however, was the fact that the hidden box that Andy left behind for Red remained in the city of Buxton. It was nearby a haystack and northern stone wall, just as he'd said it'd be. Furthermore, Andy traveled to Zihuatanejo, a factor I didn't leave unnoticed. I think that the consistency between the settings made the story have more validity and made it seem more real to the reader. The time period was also well portrayed; the advancements made in society during that time period were evident and accurate.


While I still found hope to be a prevalent theme in the film, I also picked up on some religious themes as well. At one point, Warden Hadley instructed Andy, telling him that "salvation lay within". In the most literal sense, I found this ironic because his salvation actually lay within his own prison cell, the very means by which he was supposed to be confined. On another note, Andy also came up with the idea to hide his rock hammer between the pages of his Bible. This was significant because salvation was literally held within the texts of his faith. The Warden never thought to question it, and for that reason his hiding place was ingenious. I especially liked how the Warden got what he deserved in the end. He was an incredibly cruel man, and for all the religious talk he gave he was certainly one heck of a hypocrite in my opinion. Either way, I saw religious references sprinkled throughout the movie.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Popular Mechanics" by Raymond Carver

After reading "Popular Mechanics", I can honestly say that it was the first time the term "short" story has truly applied in this class. I couldn't believe that it was only a page! But now on a more analytical note, I'd like to address the style of this story. Carver narrated this story in the third person objective point of view, meaning that it gave the effect of distancing the readers from the characters. By doing this, Carver's lack of detail and ambiguity between dialogue and action demonstrate the lack of identity of the characters and also the universality of the story. The biggest concept I took from this piece was just how common physical and verbal fights have become between separating couples, and oftentimes, how they use their children as ammunition in the process. I thought the story was a good piece for illustrating divorce or separation, especially since it is becoming more customary by the day.

"You're Ugly, Too" by Lorrie Moore

In class, we were asked to decide whether or not we liked the character of Zoe. Personally, I found her to be rather humorous and I enjoyed her character a lot. Zoe was someone I could relate with because she is incredibly sarcastic, a quality which I myself seem to acquire. At times, she was so completely blunt and honest that I was caught off-guard. For instance, when talking to Earl, she gets annoyed and says "Tell me, Earl. Does the word fag mean anything to you?" (page 369). You can't get much more straightforward than that! Also, her overall cynical view towards love was pretty humorous. Usually women fantasize about finding their one true love, and spend their whole lives looking for their "knight in shining armor". Not Zoe. She made it perfectly clear that she didn't believe in the magic of love like everyone else.

"The Drunkard" by Frank O'Connor

6. What is the principal irony in this story?

While this story was filled with humor and irony, I would have to say that the principal irony would be the fact that the little boy became drunk rather than his alcoholic father. One of the most humorous parts of the story occurred when Larry's father was walking him home and he was drunkenly yelling at old women, saying "Go away, ye bloody bitches!" He also snapped at his father asking him "Ah, Jasus... Why the hell can't you leave me alone?" (page 350). I found this part of the story comical because it was almost as if he was trying to act like an adult. Elevating the level of irony further was Larry's mother's reaction to his drunken state. Rather than getting mad at her son for drinking alcohol, she praised him instead, calling him his father's "guardian angel". This is highly ironic because the way he "saved" his father from drinking was by getting drunk himself. His mother, not realizing his mistake, thought that he did this on purpose and accoladed his wit.

"The Lottery" by Shirely Jackson

1. What is a "lottery"? How does the title lead you to expect something very different from what the story represents?

In Jackson's short story, a lottery is much different than the present-day definition of one. Whereas winning the lottery today is seen as lucky and exciting, the lottery in her story is quite the opposite. "Winning" the lottery in this small village means that that person who draws the marked slip of paper is the one who gets stoned. The villagers believe that they have to continue this tradition in order to produce good crops each year. As Old Man Warner says, "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon" (page 268). In this way, I viewed the villagers as primitive and somewhat barbaric. By sacrificing someone to their rain god, they believed that they were ensuring a bountiful harvest. Because of this, I viewed the characters as stuck in an unrefined and rudimentary mindset.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King


While this story was somewhat lengthy, I decided it was the perfect amount of pages to adequately tell the story and give the characters justice. As I progressed, I found myself immersed in each page and wanting to read farther than the author allowed. There were numerous cliffhangers throughout the context of the story, the biggest one being the ending itself. King cleverly orchestrated an ending that makes the reader wonder what will happen next in Red's life. "Will he find Andy? Will Andy be where he vowed to go? Will they be reunited once more?" These are all conjectures that can only be guessed upon by the reader. I like to think that he did indeed find Andy, and that they finally got to live the lives of freedom they both deserved.
The plot of this story is told as a memory, and is later added on to in the present tense. Because it spans over a large time frame, Red continuously gives dates of events to keep the reader's comprehension of time in perspective. While reading, I noticed three major shifts in Andy Dufresne's character. The first was the view of Andy as a newcomer and outsider who was weak and could be taken advantage of. Andy's run-ins with the sisters are proof enough that the other prisoners didn't see him as a man who could pose a threat to anyone. The next was a shift as a man to be respected after his incident with the Warden Hadley while tarring the roof. He proved then that he was a man of character with valuable intellect. Last, I saw his great escape as the final shift in his character. After his getaway, Andy became seen more as a legend than a real man anymore.
"So yeah- if you asked me to give you a flat-out answer to the question of whether I'm trying to tell you about a man or a legend that got made up around the man... I'd have to say that the answer lies somewhere in between" (page 48).

Point of View

“Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” is presented in the form of a monologue, a written narrative that Red prepares to come to terms with his life in prison and the aftermath of his incarceration. Although Red spends a substantial amount of the story focusing on Andy, he also admits that the narrative is as much about himself as it is about his friend. The fact that it is written in first person adds elements of authenticity and validity to the story. Adding to its credibility even further, Red's simple diction and prison slang make the story that much more believable. Throughout his storytelling, Red makes the universality of feelings like frustration, despair, and the desire for freedom evident within his characters. His analysis of Andy cannot be seen as purely objective; however, since he makes it quite clear that he sees Andy as a role model and friend. Red holds Andy responsible as part of the reason he decided to change his life, meaning he holds him in his highest esteem.
"No, what he [Andy] needed was just to be free, and if I kicked away what I had, it would be like spitting in the face of everything he had worked so hard to win back" (page 103).


As clear foil characters, Red and Andy highlight each other's identities through their contrasting personalities and behaviors. Red is considered a "man who knows how to get things" (page 27), and Andy is quite the opposite. He's an introvert who prefers to keep to himself and doesn't naturally socialize with the other prisoners at Shawshank. While Red speaks of his fear of leaving the prison that surrounds him, Andy dreams of the freedom that awaits him beyond the grounds.
The reader gets a sense of what these characters are like through both aspects of direct and indirect characterization. The interactions between Red and the other convicts show that he is viewed as a man of power within the prison. He is the "go-to" guy that nobody dares to mess with. Even Andy picks up on his reputation shortly after he arrives at Shawshank. Andy, on the other hand, is more complex. More and more aspects of his character are revealed during the entirety of the story, and Red supplies the reader with the opinions of other characters towards him as well. His quiet, reclusive nature is highlighted by Red's outgoing and curious one.


Set in the countryside of Maine, Shawshank ironically seemed to be placed in a beautiful and unrestricted location. When I think of Maine, I think of the seaside and the coast, both of which are images of wide expanse and airiness. These are clearly highly contrasting images with the concept of prison. I'm not sure if there was greater significance to Shawshank's placement, but I do think that Andy's eventual escape parallels the feeling of freedom there.
As for the time period, this short story is set in the mid 1900's. The time period is ideal because it was during those generations that numerous advancements were being made worldwide in terms of technology, everyday life, occupations, etc. Red referenced these drastic changes when he was finally released from prison, saying "I've described prison society as a scaled-down model of your outside world, but I had no idea of how fast things moved on the outside; the raw speed people move at. They talk faster. And louder" (page 102). This simple observation shows how different things had become in the real world while Red and Andy were left in the seclusion of Shawshank.


For me, theme is always one of the most difficult aspects of a story to analyze. It is my belief that there are oftentimes several themes, so choosing one can be difficult since several can be important. In "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption", the most prevalent theme that I took out of it was the power of hope. Hope, more than anything else, drives the inmates at Shawshank and gives them the will to live. The first time hope is mentioned in the story, Andy says that Tommy Williams' ability to testify for him and prove his innocence unlocks "a tiger called Hope in his mind". It is this hope that rejuvenates Andy and in my opinion is what makes him so determined to ultimately find a way to leave. He devotes years of his life and painstaking patience into digging a hole through the wall of his prison cell with only one outcome in mind. Andy was determined to escape, and would have gone to any measure to do so. In his letter addressed to Red, Andy writes that “hope is a good thing,” which in the end is all that Red has left. The recurring theme of hope continues to surface until the very closing lines of this story. Reds end his tale with the simple words, "I hope". These two simple words have a much greater meaning than one might think. Just as it is proved through the story, hope can be one of the most powerful qualities on earth.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield

2. What nationality is Miss Brill? What is the story's setting? Why is it important?

The nationality and setting of the story are important because they are different from each other. Because Miss Brill is an English teacher, I would venture to say that she is an Englishwoman. In contrast, the setting of the story is in France, as is hinted through the location of the "Jardins Publiques". This is where the story takes place and is French for the Public Gardens. I think that this fact is important because it is commonly known that the English and French are not too fond of one another. They have differing customs and culture, which may help explain the reaction of other characters towards Miss Brill. Since there is a lack of understanding, they do not interpret her the way she sees herself. Although this may be due to the fact that she in naive by nature, I also think that her nationality and the setting are contributing factors.

"Once Upon A Time" by Nadine Gordimer

6. Analyze the story's final paragraph in detail. How does it help to elucidate the theme?

I found this story to be incredibly satirical. The author seemed to be making fun of typical children's stories, and implemented several common phrases like "once upon a time" or "they lived happily ever after". What I found most interesting was the fact that her story was so different from what one would normally expect. Throughout the tale, she highlighted the idea of people's paranoia and emphasized the extent that some will go to ease their mind. She showed that the characters' fears were what destroyed themselves in the end. Ironically, it was through their actions of trying to protect themselves that they enabled their son to die. By reading her son a fairytale, the mother gave him the idea to act heroically and "brave the terrible thicket of thorns" to find his Sleeping Beauty. As many children do, he tried to pretend he was the prince in real life and ended up fatally wounding himself in the barbed wire fence that his parents had set up around the house. By trying so hard to ensure their own safety, they got caught up in their fears and endangered the life of their son. Now that he is dead, all the precautions they took are worthless because they enabled him to die.

"A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty

6. In answer to a student who wrote to ask her "Is the grandson really dead?" Welty responded, "My best answer would be: Phoenix is alive." What might have led the student to ask that question? How can the author's remark be seen as an answer?

Apparently this student and I were on the same page because I was wondering the same question. Although it is not explicitly stated, I think that the grandson is indeed dead. The reason I think so is mainly because of the scene at the doctor's office where some subtle clues are given in her interaction with one of the nurses. Basically, I think that Phoenix is sort of crazy. At one point in the story, on page 224, she hallucinates and says that a little boy brings her a piece of marble-cake. Since this is clearly not the case, I took it as my first sign that she may not be completely sane. Also, the way that other characters act towards her seemed sympathetic. It seemed like many people knew of her condition so they let her be and didn't give her any trouble. The nurse was one of these characters. When she questions Phoenix about her grandson, she says "Throat never heals, does it?", implying that she had been getting him antibiotics for a long time. When she said that, I got a sense that her grandson had died a long time ago and she was just unwilling to accept the truth.
The author's answer illuminates the fact that whether the grandson is still alive or not is not important. The story is focused on the character of Phoenix and is unaffected by his absence. Either way, the story would have had the same effect because he was not the focal point.

"Evilene" by James Joyce

1. Analyze the first brief paragraph in detail. How does it help to introduce the story's theme? Why does the narrator use the unexpected word "invade" in the first sentence? Why is the second sentence written in passive voice?

This opening paragraph helps introduce the story's theme because it emphasizes the character's lack of control in her own life. When she describes the evening as "invading" the avenue, I got the sense that she did not like its presence. However, like so many other things in her life, she had no control of the time of day. This was further accentuated in the next few sentences written in passive voice. Because passive voice utilizes verbs of being, it was merely stating conditions she felt or observed. In this way, it only heightened the idea that she had no direction in her life. Eveline lived in a household where she was unappreciated and taken advantage of. Her father sounded like a somewhat cruel man, and she was only spared from his physical abuse due to the fact that she was a woman. For these reasons, I would also classify Eveline as a sympathetic character.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

my thoughts

Out of the stories we read this week, I would say that "Hunters in the Snow" was my favorite. Although I disliked how self-centered the characters were, I found it most interesting and easy to follow. I also noticed a lot of humor and irony in these stories. During "Everyday Use", I found it ironic that Dee wanted to fully appreciate African culture when she had put so much effort into rejecting it throughout her childhood. She made it no secret that she hated her house and where she came from, but then later on she wanted to preserve pieces of her history - like the quilts. Whereas Maggie and her mother had appreciated their heritage all along, Dee only did superficially.

What I found most humorous about Melville's piece was the character of Bartleby. On page 670, when the narrator is trying to find a new and suitable career for Bartleby, he says "I would not like it at all; though, as I said before, I am not particular". The lawyer questions him about several different businesses he could enter and everytime his answer is the same: he would prefer not to do any of them though he is not particular. Here is a clear example of verbal irony. While Bartleby keeps stating that he is not particular, he is in fact quite the opposite. He is very particular in the fact that he prefers to do nothing at all and will not do anything that does not suit him. He must have been a frustrating character for the others to deal with.

"Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville

6. Who is the protagonist? Whose story is it?

The protagonist of this story is the lawyer. It is told from his vantage point and directly conveys his perceptions about each of his employees. While the story itself is the lawyer's, it definitely focuses most on the character of Bartleby. Bartleby is a peculiar man whom not much is revealed about throughout the course of the story. He remains fixed and unchanging (a static character) through the plot, and his favorite phrase in his vocabulary is "I would prefer not". The other two scriveners, Turkey and Nippers, are perfect foil characters for one another. Turkey was a man who worked diligently in the morning but became careless in the afternoon. Nippers, being the exact opposite, was capricious in the mornings but calm and collected in the afternoons. Because of their balancing temperaments, they were able to function well together in the office and stay productive.

"Hunters in the Snow" by Tobias Wolff

7. What is the purpose of the scene in which Frank and Tub stop at the tavern for food and coffee, leaving the wounded Kenny in the back of the truck?

The purpose of this scene is to highlight the level of selfishness each of these characters possess. Each one of them is so absorbed in their own issue that they fail to help one another as supposedly "best friends" would do. The problem I found with Kenny was that he was overall a cruel character. He mercilessly teased Tub about his weight and killed a sick dog without a moment's hesitation. My initial reaction to him being shot was that he had it coming for himself. Frank, on the other hand, was lusting for a different woman than his wife. Perhaps even more unsettling was the fact that it was his 15 year old babysitter rather than anyone remotely his age. He had decided he was going to leave his wife for her, but this was what made him most selfish in my opinion because he had neglected to think about the effects this would have on his children. He was only thinking for himself without considering the consequences of these actions. And last but not least, Tub was selfish in yet another aspect. He was a glutton and had allowed himself to become obese by gorging himself with inordinate amounts of food. He tried to keep this a secret from everyone, blaming it on his "glands" so that no one would judge him. While Frank and Tub stopped at the tavern for food, I found the description of the four plates of pancakes he ate slightly sickening. There was also some significant irony involved with their tavern pit stop. While they were inside talking about how they would support one another with their problems, meanwhile Kenny had been left outside in the bed of his truck to die. The weather conditions were freezing and he was suffering a bullet wound, yet neither of his friends seemed to be concerned about his health. They should have been rushing him to the hospital but instead they were worried about themselves. Clearly, their levels of selfishness were extreme.

"Everyday Use" by Alice Walker

4. Does the mother's refusal to let Dee have the quilts indicate a permanent or temporary change of character? Why has she never done anything like it before? Why does she do it now? What details in the story prepare for and foreshadow that refusal?

I think that the mother's refusal in allowing Dee to have the quilts indicates a permanent change in her character. Because she had never previously responded to Dee that way, I think it marked a significant change in her attitude towards her and will affect how she reacts to her from here on out. Before taking the quilts away from Dee, she said that "something hit [her] in the top of [her] head and ran down to the soles of [her] feet" (page 181) which caused her to snatch them back. I think what "hit" her was the realization that Dee did not deserve the quilts and would never fully appreciate them the way Maggie would. Although it never says why Maggie and Dee were treated differently throughout childhood, I got the feeling that Maggie was sort of the neglected child. Dee was outgoing and strong-willed so she got her way most of the time. She had grown used to getting what she wanted, and refusal was not something she was familiar with. A detail that foreshadowed this event happening was when the mother thought back to when she "had offered Dee (Wangero) a quilt when she went away to college. Then she had told me they were old-fashioned, out of style". This brief insight into the mother's thoughts shows that she did not appreciate Dee's criticism of the quilts and how she suddenly expected to be able to take anything she wanted from their home the moment she came back to visit.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

my thoughts

My favorite of the three stories this week was probably "How I Met My Husband" by Alice Munro. I liked how there was an element of surprise in that storyline and how the ending was unexpected. Although it was a good story, I sort of got the sense that she wasn't incredibly happy with her mailman husband. She failed to mention their relationship until the last paragraph of the story, and gave the impression that she had merely settled for him because he showed interest in her. When she talked about their first date, "he asked if I would like to go to Goderich, where some well-known movie was on, I forget now what" (page 146), I found it odd that she couldn't even seem to remember the name of the movie. Don't most girls remember every detail about their first date with a guy they really like? That's my opinion at least. Regardless, I'm glad that she ended up with a good husband.
In "Interpreter of Maladies", what I took as the central conflict in the story was the fact that all the main characters were unsatisfied with their lives. I thought it demonstrated a common theme of adults being discontent with where they've come in life. Many people in today's society seem to be unhappy with their lifestyles or current situations, and I thought this story illustrated it well.
As for "A Rose for Emily", I personally just found this story unsettling. Miss Emily was a creepy main character and the townspeople can probably rest better at night knowing that she's now dead. I know that's harsh, but hey, the truth hurts is what I hear.

"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner

Point of view, at its simplest definition, is who tells a story and therefore how it gets told. In the circumstance of "A Rose for Emily", the story is told in the unusual first-person plural and is from the vantage point of the townspeople observing Emily's life through the years. Because it is told from an outsider's perspective, it makes Emily all the more mysterious as a main character. Her thoughts are never revealed and the only ways the reader can get to know her are through her limited dialogue and occasional appearances made outside her home. As the story progressed, it showed a transformation in Emily from a slender and beautiful girl to an overweight and unattractive old woman. Similarly, I got the feeling that Emily grew increasingly more creepy as the story progressed. The fact that she killed Homer Barron and kept his body upstairs was absolutely disgusting to me. Even more disturbing was the fact that she was sleeping next to his rotting body. Gross! The way the story ended also bothered me a little. I wish it would have had more of a conclusion rather than just cutting off right in the middle. Then again, maybe it's better that I didn't hear any more details of her grotesque lifestyle.

"Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri

4. Discuss the significance of Mrs. Das's requesting, and then losing, Mr. Kapasi's address. Apart from its function in the plot, how does this suggest a resolution to the story?

At first, when Mrs. Das requests Mr. Kapasi's address, it gives him a sense of hope that he has not felt in quite some time. He takes her friendliness as a sign of romantic interest, and begins to fantasize about what they could become to one another in the future. She ignites this attraction when she shows an interest and speaks of the importance in Mr. Kapasi's other occupation, an interpreter for a doctor. What he does not know at the time; however, is that her interest has ulterior motives. While he sees giving her his address as an opportunity to get to know her better, Mrs. Das wants to use his talents to ask him for a remedy for her own unhappiness in life. After she reveals her secret to him that she was unfaithful to her husband, he seems sickened at the thought that she would try and ask for his advice. When he points out that she does not have an actual sickness and is instead experiencing guilt, she is equally disappointed with his diagnosis and decides to leave rather than face it. Once they discover more about each other, they realize they are much different than they first thought. Their converstion has a negative impact on their meeting, and when Mr. Kapasi's address blows away I took it as a link to his deflated fantasies. Just as his address floats away in the wind, so does his dream of getting to know Mrs. Das. He realizes that he is not going anywhere in life and will remain unhappy and unsatisfied with where he is. Similarly, Mrs. Das will remain discontent with her lifestyle as well.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"How I Met My Husband" by Alice Munro

4. Is Edie a sympathetic character? How does her status as "the hired girl" affect the way you respond to her as a reader?

I would consider Edie to be a sympathetic character in this story. Because she was young and naive, it gave her an aspect of innocence that would not have been present otherwise. Also, the fact that she had to move away from her family in order to get a job and make money caused me to sympathize with her. It must have been difficult for her to be in an entirely new environment and be surrounded by unfamiliar people. Edie's status as "the hired girl" affected the way I responded to her after her interaction with Chris Watters because I took on the attitude that she was young and didn't know any better than the way she had acted. As many people do, I justified her mistake with the fact that she was inexperienced in relationships with men. I felt further sympathy for Edie when she allowed herself to believe that he would actually write her as he promised he would. Days passed, and then months, before she came to the realization that "No letter was ever going to come" (page 146). In a way, I felt like Mr. Watters used Edie and then left her behind just as he had left Alice Kelling before her.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Elegy for My Father, Who Is Not Dead" by Andrew Hudgins

By definition, an elegy is a lament for the dead. I found it rather interesting how the speaker in this poem placed a strange twist on the meaning of elegy, and instead of writing an elegy for someone who was dead he wrote it for someone who was still alive. Throughout this poem, there seems to be two concepts being elaborated on. Although death will be one distance eventually separating the son from his father, meanwhile there are vast distances between them in life. While the father is ready to die and maintains a "sureness of faith", the son says bluntly that he is not ready. He even says that he "can't just say good-bye as cheerfully as if he were embarking on a trip." The tone of this poem voiced the speaker's doubt and showed that his elegy mourned both what is and what is not to be. He already fears his father's death and to some extent his own. I think this is true for many individuals who are still young. There are few who are ready to accept death while they still have much life to live, and it seems like many who are older are more at peace with the idea of dying. The speaker will probably grow to share his father's viewpoint later on in life.

"Delight in Disorder" by Robert Herrick

The overall theme of the poem "Delight in Disorder" was one of imperfections and inconsistencies. The speaker held the opinion that one's imperfections are what make her most beautiful, and went on to give examples of what types of flaws he found charming. For instance, in today's world a mole on a girl's cheek can enhance beauty and even become her trademark, like Marilyn Monroe's. And graying temples can give a man the impression of being a distinguished individual rather than having the negative connotation of aging. I also noticed that the speaker used a few oxymorons to enforce his conception. In the first line, he states that there is a "sweet disorder" in the mindless way a woman dresses. By saying this, he gives the word "disorder" a positive meaning showing that he likes the feeling of disregard or spontaneity in disorganization. Also, near the end of the poem he uses the phrase "wild civility" that does more to "bewitch [him] than when art is too precise in every part". Through this statement, the speaker reveals that he is dazzled by a lady who exudes an air of carelessness.

"Death, be not proud" by John Donne

The vibe I got from this poem was that it was a stream of arguments to prove that man's greatest fear has no power over him. By man's greatest fear I am referencing the fear of death in this instance. In the poem, the speaker is directly addressing death and almost criticizing it for having a false sense of strength over the people it affects. The speaker, however, says that anything that has such despicable causes ("and dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell") is not worthy of respect. Basically, the speaker holds that the realm of death is dishonorable and is a dimension in which no one would want to rule. On another note, it becomes clear that the speaker wove some religious undertones into the meaning of this poem. When it says "one short sleep passed, we wake eternally", the speaker is referencing Christians' belief that death is merely the beginning of eternal life. Oftentimes death is seen as a peaceful event to a faith-filled individual because it means being reunited with God. The last line of the sonnet serves as a paradoxical message involving death. It is written that "and death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die". Here the speaker is saying that because of the magnitude of Christians' faith the idea of death will die because it will no longer seem like an ending to their lives. Death will be viewed as a beginning of a new life, an eternal one.

"That time of year" by William Shakespeare

In Shakespeare's sonnet "That time of year", the speaker uses a series of metaphors to characterize the nature of what he perceives to be his old age. During the first quatrain he compares his age to autumn, referencing the yellowing leaves and barren tree limbs. Through this comparison, "upon those boughs which shake against the cold", he emphasized the harshness and coldness of old age. In the next quatrain, he made the comparison of his age to twilight; when light slowly fades to darkness it symbolizes his ever approaching death. The focus here was on a gradual fading of light from youth to a growing darkness of aging. In nature, the seasons and time of day are processes which move in cycles. In human life; however, the fading of warmth and light are not cyclical, and will not come back again. Once they are gone they are gone forever. This idea is reflected in the third quatrain. The speaker compares himself to the glowing remnants of a fire and says that on the ashes of the logs that enabled it to burn he will soon be extinguished and sink into those ashes. The connection made between the dying fire and the speaker's death is not a cyclical one. Instead, it shows that life ending is a final and irreversible event. That being said, the speaker leaves the reader with a final piece of advice. He tells the reader that they must perceive these things and allow their love to grow stronger for those they care about. He says they should do this through the knowledge that they will soon be parted from those they love when their life is extinguished by time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Crossing the Bar" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

In regards to the context of "Crossing the Bar", Tennyson's imagery describes a speaker's accepting attitude towards death. At the beginning of the poem, when it says "one clear call for me!", the speaker is being called to pass on. The sand bar itself is the barrier between life and death, and when he speaks of crossing it he is referring to crossing over into heaven. It was in the last two lines that I found religious references as well. In heaven, the speaker wants to see his "Pilot" which is used as an alternate word for God. I think there is also further significance to the word "cross" because Jesus died on the cross and the speaker is using an analogy with the same word to signify his own death. Although it could be a coincidence, I saw a connection between the two. One last important detail I saw was that the speaker wished for a peaceful death. He said that he didn't want his friends or relatives to cry or mourn for him after his death, and wanted "no sadness of farewell" because he would be at peace with the situation. He wanted them to take comfort in the idea that he is going to be carried beyond time and space to be reunited with his Creator.

"Getting Out" by Cleopatra Mathis

"Getting Out" was a poem about the trials and tribulations of a failed marriage. Since this is such a prevalent issue in today's world, I found the poem easy to identify with as a reader. As the speaker relived the experiences of her diminishing marriage, the language and tone of the piece described the range of emotions she was feeling at the same time. At one point, her anger was apparent when she mentioned how her and her husband "paced the short hall, heaving words like furniture". To me, that was a powerful statement because it showed that the extent of their verbal arguments had reached its peak. However, at another point, the tone took on a more hopeless feeling. "Every night another refusal, the silent work of tightening the heart. Exhausted, we gave up..." And yet, in the last stanza the speaker recalls how they cried on the final day of their marriage when they made the divorce final. The ending of the poem evokes a sense of sadness as well as stirring sympathy for the man and woman as they struggle to leave one another behind. The fact that they could not let go of each others' hands immediately shows that they tried desperately to make their marriage work but in the end realized that love was no longer enough. Even though they still cared for one another, they accepted that the best decision was to leave before the situation grew any worse. The poem was sort of sad overall, but I thought that it was a good demonstration of some of the conflicts that individuals encounter when facing the prospect of divorce.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"The Oxen" by Thomas Hardy

The tone of this poetic piece was more dismal because it centered around concepts of skepticism and loss of hope. Furthermore, there were also significant allusions to Jesus's birth and the Christian faith within the context of the poem. As a child, the speaker was told by an "Elder" that the oxen would kneel to Jesus at midnight on Christmas Eve because they knew that the child in the manger was special and worthy of respect. Since he was young, he never considered doubting such a wise and trusted individual, but as he grew up he began to lose his belief and become skeptical. Without realizing it, this is what happens to many people as they grow in understanding of the world around them. Eventually, many of their childhood beliefs slip away and are replaced with ones based on concrete facts. Likewise, Hardy linked this theme of the loss of hope in childish superstitions to the general idea of the loss of Christian faith during the time it was written. People had begun to stop believing in God and were questioning the meaing of life. This led to a weaker foundation in the Christian faith altogether. Near the end, Hardy concluded the poem on a much more hopeful note than he began it with. He revealed to the reader that he hoped that one day he would have reason to regain his childhood belief (or regain faith if taken literally) of the oxen kneeling to Jesus on Christmas Eve. He "hoped it might be so" that they in fact truly did kneel in real life. I think that this hope also parallels the speaker's idea of the Christian faith. Along with hoping for the superstition to be correct, he was also hoping for society to regain their belief in God.

"My mistress' eyes" by William Shakespeare

The tone of this poem is very unique in the fact that it is a love sonnet which emphasizes negative qualities rather than exemplifying ones of beauty. Normally, these kinds of poems are professions of the speaker's love in greatly exaggerated comparisons. He might say something like his lover's eyes "shine like the sun", or that her hair is "soft as silk" - comparisons that every reader knows are stretched to flatter the woman he is referring to. In Shakespeare's poem; however, he does not romantically exaggerate his wife's attributes at all and instead chooses to describe her exactly as she is. By doing this, Shakespeare is implying that he does not have to write of extravagant qualities like other poets do to express his love. From lines 1-12, the tone of Shakespeare's words must be analyzed carefully. Although he is not exactly complementary at the beginning of the poem, the intent behind his words prove that he loves her completely the way she is. Regardless of the fact that there are prettier things out there, he still loves his wife unconditionally. Near the end, there is another tone shift in which the speaker makes a comparison of himself to other men. He says that his love is just as special as a man's who sings his wife's praises and isn't always truthful to make her feel beautiful. The fact that he chose to verbalize his love for her in an atypical way does not make it any less valid or meaningful, it merely makes it different. The tone of this poem is contradictory but loving.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"next to of course god america i" by E. E. Cummings

When I saw the author of this poem, I was actually a little excited to read it. I've heard that he is a phenomenal writer, and I am aware that many of his works are considered classics. What I liked most about this poem was how different it was. The way it was grammatically structured was by far different from all of the others. There were no spaces or pauses, almost forcing the reader to speed up as they read. The tone of the speaker sounded excited and passionate, and as the reader I could visualize a person picking up speed while talking to try and cram in everything they wanted to say. This poem was filled with random patriotic phrases like "oh say can you see by the dawn's early", or "my country 'tis of", which were both fragments and allusions towards well-known patriotic songs in our nation's history. By the end, I had sort of gotten the vibe that this was a satirical piece aimed towards politicians. It appeared to me that E. E. Cummings was making fun of people who spout off patriotic cliches and make grand speeches to the public. I can't say that I disagree with him because, let's face it, to be honest politicians are an easy target for criticism. The last thing I found intriguing was the title. Through the title, the speaker makes is a poem of direct address towards America hinting that he loves it next to God himself. That's a rather strong committment I'd say. I'm curious as to whether that was a further part of the satire and whether he was making fun of a politician's proclaimed love for his country or not.

"Much Madness is divinest Sense" by Emily Dickinson

As usual, Emily Dickinson's poetry was a little out there. This poem, however, completely centered around a paradox between sense and madness. In the opening lines, "much madness is divinest sense to a discerning eye, much sense the starkest madness", she immediately starts with a cryptic message. Basically, Dickinson is saying that it is mad to have sense and that it is sensible to have madness. She talks about how the majority of people have sense, but then hints that she does not agree with the majority. This isn't particularly hard to believe considering she seems to write poetry about insanity quite frequently. By "assenting" to become part of this majority, she says that a person is sane. If an individual objects to do so, then they are mad. In the context of the poem, it sounds as though she is criticizing those who assent with the majority. It appears that Emily is criticizing society in this poem and the people who enforce the way it works. She says that those who possess sense are all conforming to society and its practices and anyone who disagrees is treated like a crazy person. Think about Galileo Galilei, who had the idea that the earth was round hundreds of years ago. Even though he ended up being right, he was treated as a heretic at the time. The speaker says that if we never listen to new ideas of people, we'll never grow as a society. As I've learned from history, this statement is quite true.

"Barbie Doll" by Marge Piercy

I found this poem interesting because I connected with the concept of it. The author is demonstrating the superficiality of society and criticizing its general effects on the people. I liked how in the first stanza it said, "This girlchild was born as usual and presented dolls that did pee-pee and miniature GE stoves and irons and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy." Through this stanza it connected the reader with the speaker because it related her as a little girl to all children. When we are little, parents buy us all kinds of toys that we don't really need but are the latest and greatest of what's out there. Ordinary baby dolls that can make noise and fake food that is scented rather than just plastic or some sort of new craft that is on tv...The list is endless. When the speaker mentions the "magic of puberty" in the first stanza, she is being ironic because normally puberty is what makes a girl turn into a woman and become prettier. In this case, all it did was make the speaker more self-conscious about her body and try harder to change everything about herself. She changed from her "healthy" self and was "exhorted to come on hearty, exercise, diet, smile, and wheedle." As she was laying in her casket, I almost felt bad for her by the author's description of the scene. Everyone was commenting on how pretty she looked at her funeral and it made me realize that she did not get everyone's approval until after her death. It was disappointing realizing how much truth there was to this poem linked to society today.

"APO 96225" by Larry Rottman

In this poem, I was struck by a few main concepts. To begin with, it greatly paralleled The Things They Carried in my opinion. Because of the speaker's emphasis on the ignorance of the American public, I found the links that much more noticeable to our summer novel. For instance, Martha Cross would hardly ever mention the war at all in her letters to Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. She clearly knew what was happening but instead of comforting him she would merely avoid the subject entirely. In contrast, the poem utilized dramatic and situation irony when concerning the American public. Since most readers are aware of the harsh realities of a soldier's life at war, it was dramatically ironic that the speaker kept responding about positive aspects rather than the upsetting ones about war. When his mother asked him what war was like he answered that "the sunsets here are spectacular!" This showed dramatic irony because the soldier was being facetious. War is an ugly and violent circumstance and he did not want his mother to worry about him. As readers, we know that the speaker is being untruthful for the sake of his parents. I also liked how the poem was grammatically structured. While I was reading it, I got the feeling that I was reading a story or a collection of little letters. I liked how the structure mirrored its main concept.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Toad-al Downer

The entire subject matter of the poem "Toads" by Philip Larkin centered around concepts of work and social classes. The speaker was a poorer middle-class citizen who wished he was rich and could escape the constraints of the work force. Through figurative language, he made a comparison between what I consider "the man" and a toad. He also talked about his unhappiness with his situation. The speaker finds it unfair that he has to work for everything he has while the rich people have it easy in life and do not have to work hard for their lifestyles. The following lines in the second stanza prove his opinion on money and working:
"Six days of the week it soils

With its sickening poison -

Just for paying a few bills!

That’s out of proportion.
The word poison is what stuck out to me the most in that small passage. By equating money with poison, the speaker is showing how much he dislikes it. I suspect he dislikes the effects it creates more than he hates actual money itself, but nonetheless is was a powerful statement. In the context of the poem, it seems like the speaker is stuck in his predicament and cannot find a way out of his forced working lifestyle. He hints that he wishes he could say something to his boss, but that he can't afford the risk because it would mean losing his job and source of income. These thoughts come to life when he imagines what it would feel like to confront the 'toad' in his life: "Ah, were I courageous enough to shout, Stuff your pension! But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff that dreams are made on". This reminded me of what many people still do in present time. They talk with their friends and imagine scenarios of telling people what they actually think of them and act out what types of things they would say in the heat of the moment. Similarly to the speaker, they can never really say those things but it helps to be able to vent to someone. I took this poem as the speaker's way to vent about his frustration with society.


After we discussed this poem in class, I'll admit that it made much more sense to me than I made of it on my own. However, I am still not the biggest fan of Margaret Atwood's piece entitled "February". Personally, I found the poem to be quite conflicting and contradictory. The author criticized society for reproducing, comparing people to other animals and reducing them to the level of mere territorial house cats. She even went as far as to suggest that "Some cat owners around here should snip a few testicles. If we wise hominids were sensible, we'd do that too, or eat our young, like sharks." I'm sorry, but what? I felt like that suggestion went a little far. Comments such as that one led me to believe that perhaps Atwood was a feminist and did not agree with men's territorial nature. In general, the entire tone of the poem was negative and grumpy. This was one part of the poem that I could agree with based on the time of year. In the wintertime, people seem to be more inclined to want to be by themselves and not want to get up and do anything. Maybe it has something to do with the cold weather, but I can definitely relate to not wanting to leave my warm and cozy bed on frigid February mornings. I also thought it was ironic how she referenced the month of February as the "month of despair" because of the presence of Valentine's Day. I always find it interesting to see who enjoys and who hates that holiday each year because people's opinions are so varied. Apparently, the speaker is not too enraptured with the concept because she doesn't have someone to spend it with. At the end, I initially found it conflicting that she advised the audience to "Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring." This seemed completely contradictory to me from her earlier advice to stop procreating. Consequently, after it was discussed in class, it made more sense to me that she was advising the readers to get up and go do something about their unhappiness and get out of bed. I liked how she ended on a positive note after a predominantly negative poem.

Sweet Dreams

The format and pattern of the poem "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes was greatly significant to its overall context and meaning. As a whole, the author seemed to be making an effort to cause readers to evaluate their own personal dreams. He did this by urging them to determine what types of dreams they possessed, and by prompting them not to defer them but to bring about a change from them instead. Through its format, the poem was divided into distinct phrases and thoughts. The speaker questioned the reader, asking questions which represented different dreams. The first question represented an opportunity that may present itself in one's life but last only a short time, drying up like a "raisin in the sun". The next symbolized the consequences of inaction and talked about a dream "festering like a sore". If individuals put off a problem that is important to them, eventually it will lead to some sort of unhappy ending. Whether that means a disagreement, violence, or something else is subjective to each reader. The next line, a comparison to rotten meat, demonstrates a dream set aside that will last or be remembered afterward. When Langston finally reaches the question about a sugary sweet, I linked it to a problem that may become partially solved or sugarcoated but is still present underneath the surface. When he switched the pattern of asking questions to one of making a statement, I felt like it emphasized his point even further. A "heavy load" is something that weighs one down, showing that ignoring acting upon one's dreams will only weigh a person down in the end. His metaphor in his last line shows the consequences of deferring dreams. By structuring his poem in this specific way, Langston Hughes added an element of emphasis to his writing. I stopped to think after I read each line, and I'm sure his intention was for his readers to do exactly that.

So about this liquor. . .

In Emily Dickinson's poem, "I taste a liquor never brewed", I found quite a few examples of figurative language. She compared several different aspects of nature to alcoholism, and through those comparisons she personified parts of nature to either be the heavy drinkers or the liquor itself. As I read the second stanza, I was reminded of a metaphor towards the sun. She writes that it is an "inebriate of air" and a "debauchee of dew", implying that whatever she's speaking of soaks up the dew from the earth and is surrounded by air. This logically means the sun to me. Also, as it is from "inns of molten blue", the speaker is saying that it is something in the sky. The third stanza took a slightly different course, personifying bees and butterflies. Emily calls the bees drunken after flying "out of the foxglove's door". Because the foxglove is a purple and white flower, it can be assumed that the bees are becoming drunk off of the nectar from the plants they drink. Then, at the end, I pieced all of the little clues together and came up with my own interpretation of this poem. In the final stanza, the speaker writes of seraphs and saints which are both considered to be heavenly beings. Once again, I was struck by the fact that she was referring to objects from above. I started thinking about different elements of nature in the sky, and realized that it made sense for this poem to be about clouds. The very last line, "to see the little tippler, leaning against the sun!", is what gave it away. The only thing that I know of that can soak up moisture and, figuratively speaking, lean against the sun would be clouds. And although it is helped by the sun, the second stanza could easily be about clouds as well. The idea of water being absorbed from the earth is the basis for most of the liquor referred to in this poem. The clouds are the inebriates of nature!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star...

Upon reading "Bright Star" by John Keats, I discerned the central theme of the poem to be a profession of the speaker's love towards his object of affection, or in other words, his one true love. At the beginning, the speaker discusses how he yearns to be "steadfast" like a star; however, it is not for the reasons one would expect. He does not want to be alone or forced to experience sleepless nights, or even to be high in the sky to admire all of the beautiful sights below. He mentions the oceans and snow-topped mountains, but they are not what capture his interest in being star-like. Instead, the speaker wants to be a star so that he can remain "still steadfast" and "still unchangeable" to the woman he loves. He also says he wants "to feel forever its [his fair love's breast] soft fall and swell, awake forever in a sweet unrest" with her. The speaker is clearly extremely devoted to this woman. It really shows the depth of his love that he goes as far as to wish he could emulate the unwavering qualities of a star in order to be with her forever. The contradiction of the paired words "sweet unrest" add further to the theme. Although the speaker did not want to endure sleepless nights, he showed how he would be willing to if it meant being with his love. The sleepless nights would become sweet rather than the lonely ones of an "Eremite".

Thursday, September 9, 2010

After Apple - Picking

"After Apple-Picking", by Robert Frost, was probably one of my favorites of the poems assigned to read. I really enjoyed his use of imagery, and liked how he was slightly more straightforward than the other poets. I took Mr. Frost's poem as a literary work that symbolized the cycle of life. The speaker talks of how he desired a large harvest but has become tired of working in the orchard: "For I have had too much of apple-picking: I am overtired of the great harvest I myself desired. There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall" (line 26-31). To me, this was a paralleled concept with the repetitiveness of life. Many people have desires in life; however, there often comes a time when they can become fatigued from the familiar cycle of it all. Professionally speaking, there are times when many individuals grow tired of doing the same tasks everyday. At home, others become weary from the everyday chores they have to complete. Generally speaking, a redundancy in anything fatigues people. This also connects with the reappearance of the word "sleep" throughout the poem. Just as the speaker becomes tired of his work, so do others with their cyclical lifestyles. I thought it was a clever way to enhance the theme of the poem.

A Widow's Purpose

Although there were probably many motivations for William Carlos Williams's (ha! his name is William Williams!) writing of "The Widow's Lament In Springtime", I thought that the purpose was for the speaker to deal with her sorrow and grief over the loss of her husband. Spring is normally perceived as a happy time of year, and this literary work put a negative spin on commonly cheerful aspects admired in nature. This made the speaker more relatable to the reader because springtime is when people are supposed to be happy, but sometimes in life there are circumstances in which people cannot be. The woman in the poem is clearly devastated over the loss of the love of her life. She no longer seems to have the will to live. Quite honestly, I found the speaker to be somewhat suicidal. If it weren't for the presence of her son, I'm not sure she would have found reason to go on. The references to her yard and the meadows also stood out to me. The widow spoke of how her yard used to bring her comfort when she spent time there with her husband, but not any longer. Through the opening lines, she wastes no time in admitting that "sorrow is my own yard... with the cold fire that closes round me this year", demonstrating her misery. When the meadows are referenced, she seems to like the idea of them because they are new and open spaces in which she has no memories to remind her of her loss. The recurring symbol of the white flowers also stood out to me. Right down to the last lines where the widow admits, "I feel that I would like to go there and fall into those flowers and sink into the marsh near them" she makes continual links to the white flowers and her husband. At the end, I take it as her way of saying she wishes she could join her husband and die along with him.

Springy Symbols

The aspect that I found most interesting was the use of symbolism in Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem entitled "Spring". The poem itself centered around admiration of the beauty of the season and I liked reading the lines of imagery which helped me imagine the setting. For instance, "the glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush the descending blue" (lines 6-7) was a picturesque way to describe blooming trees against the sky. The symbolism I found most significant was when Gerard compared spring to "Eden garden" (line 11) in the second stanza. Considering the garden of Eden is the epitome of beauty and was God's gift to the first humans on earth, I found that to be a powerful statement. It is also linked to the symbolism of youth and innocence which is carried over into the final stanza. The speaker tells the reader to "Have, get, [their innocence] before it cloy", which almost serves as a warning to hold on to our youth before it spoils. He speaks of sin and how it ruins the "innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy" (line 13). Basically, the poem sort of ends on a negative note after its beautiful beginning. "Spring" demonstrates how new life cannot be protected forever and how through enduring the hardships that must come with living we in turn sacrifice our youth.

Toning Down "Those Winter Sundays"

In my interpretation, the poem "Those Winter Days" by Robert Hayden took on a distinctive tone through its two short stanzas. The poem's descriptions such as the "blueblack cold", the father's "cracked hands that ached with labor", and the "cold splintering, breaking" of the weather were all words of pain, harshness, or some sort of cold reference. By the context of this poem, the household of the speaker does not sound like a pleasant one. There also seems to be a conflict between the boy and his father, but it is not elaborated upon. I thought that the speaker almost seemed regretful at some points in the poem. When he talks about all the work that his father did but how "no one ever thanked him" (line 5) it stirs sympathy from the readers for the father. He talks of "speaking indifferently" (line 10) towards his father as well which leads to further curiosity of their relationship. I got the vibe that this poem was written with the idea that the speaker is dealing with an inner conflict regarding his feelings towards his father, for reasons unknown to the audience.

Good Ole' Emily Dickinson

To kick off my first blog of the week, I thought I'd start with analyzing Emily Dickinson's writing techniques in the poem "I felt a Funeral, in my Brain". What struck me about this literary work was the fact that it is entirely composed as an extended metaphor. Although I was initially taking the poem more literally, after the class discussions this week I have come to a different, and overall better understanding of the work. The extended metaphor could be interpreted in a few contrastive ways, but I have chosen which I agree with the most. On one hand, the poem may be hinting at a migraine or a more physical pain. The reference of the service being "like a Drum" which "kept beating-beating till I thought my My Mind was going numb" (lines 7-8) could be referring to the pounding sensation of a migraine headache. Later, when Emily says "Then Space-began to toll, as all the Heavens were a Bell" (lines 9-10) I could see this also being a reference to the pain of hearing loud sounds while enduring a migraine.
The interpretation that I personally feel best fits this poem is the idea that it is about a person having a mental breakdown or going insane. I think that many details support this idea, starting with the fact that the speaker is inside the box (or more appropriately, a casket) throughout the duration of the poem. When people are mentally ill, it is almost as if they have died because they are not truly themselves anymore. In this way, I linked it to the fact that the speaker is talking through a vantage point of already having died. Also, at the end I interpreted Dickinson's abrupt ending as the person's realization of their illness. I think that they became aware of the fact that they were growing insane and then died afterwards from their affliction. Her last lines, "And then a Plank in Reason, broke, and I dropped down, and down... And Finished knowing" show that the speaker died knowing they had grown insane.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Perrine's Poetry Perspective

As I read through Perrine's article for the first time, I was definitely intrigued by his thoughts. In "The Nature of Proof in the Interpretation of Poetry", he makes several bold statements that made me stop and think about how I analyze poetry myself. Quite honestly, I'm usually not very skilled at determining the meaning of poetry, and more often then not, I end up way off-target. I agree with Perrine's statement that "there are no correct or incorrect readings [of poetry]: there are only readings which differ more or less widely from a statistical norm." This makes sense, and I like how he emphasized that there is technically no "wrong" way to interpret a poem. As for his approach to determining "correct" interpretations, I would have to say that I agree with him. It is a logical method and I cannot think of another way which satisfies the process in a better form. According to Perrine, the meaning discerned must account for every detail in the poem and must also rely on the fewest assumptions made outside the text. If one were to figure out what the author originally meant to express in their poetry, then both of these circumstances would apply.
A concept that stuck with with me after reading this article was how a poet never likes to be asked to explain his own poems. Although I had never stopped to think about it before, that is an incredibly true statement. Whenever ones are asked about the meaning of their works, they find a way to avoid answering. This is because knowing the real purpose behind a poem can diminish its value afterward. In addition, the real meaning may come across as much less than what the poem said itself. Since this point has been brought to my attention, I can now see why they leave it for their readers to interpret alone. Another aspect I agreed with Perrine upon was his discussion of symbols. I liked how he stated that two symbols cannot mean just anything, they must represent something that specifically applies to the work at hand. Because a symbol is an increased area of meaning, it must stay within boundaries that apply to the poem being discussed. Every symbol must have a logical interpretation that falls within the limits of those boundaries.
From now on, I will keep Perrine's tactics in mind while analyzing poetry. Hopefully it will help me out a little!

Friday, August 13, 2010


The theme of this book is a complex one. There are actually several of them, but the theme I focused on the most was the inability to control one's own life. Life is not fair, and oftentimes the people who deserve something the very least are the ones whom it happens to. Linda is a perfect example. I felt so much compassion and sadness for her as I read about her brain tumor. She seemed like the sweetest girl and never once did she complain about her sickness. Tim is still convinced to this day that they truly loved each other, and I suppose that may in fact be true. That being said, the theme only becomes more powerful that life is not fair. As a young and naive nine year old, Timmy lost the girl he loved before he even came to truly know her. It was a rude awakening to the hard realities of life, and in my opinion a tough way to be introduced to death. However, it is my belief that everything happens for a reason. Therefore there must have been a reason God allowed Linda to die. Maybe Tim had to experience this pain in order to be better prepared for Vietnam later on in his life. Also, in a way, it introduced him to what he loves to do . It gave him the ability to story-tell and bring people back to life through his words and dreams. As an adult, he turned these dreams to novels. We may never understand why things happen to us, but it not necessary for us to understand. That is the mystery of life; we are never fully prepared for what comes next.
"And then it becomes 1990. I'm forty-three years old, and a writer now, still dreaming Linda alive in exactly the same way. She's not the embodied Linda; she's mostly made up, with a new identity and a new name, like the man who never was. Her real name doesn't matter. She was nine years old. I loved her and then she died. And yet right here, in the spell of memory and imagination, I can still see her as if through ice, as if I'm gazing into some other world, a place where there are no brain tumors and no funeral homes, where there are no bodies at all." (page 232)
And lastly:
"I'm young and happy. I'll never die." (page 233)
As long as Tim O'Brien writes, he feels like his memory will never die. Since writing is what makes him so peaceful with his life, I'm glad that he has the opportunity to do it.


This chapter made me feel bad for what became of Rat Kiley. He always seemed like such a good guy, so reliable, brave, and a great friend on top of it all. What I remembered most about him was how levelheaded he had stayed after Tim got shot. He kept risking his own life to check on him and to make sure that he was okay. Nice qualities, right? It was for those reasons that made me sad to see he slightly lost his mind. By what he described to his men, it sounded like he was turning towards insanity. He had this obsession with bugs and kept describing how he could see the other soldiers' body parts. He could even imagine his own insides. With disconcerting visions like that, I can completely understand his motivation to injure himself so that he could escape for a little while. What he needed was medical attention, and I feel like he would not have gotten better if he hadn't inflicted that wound upon himself. I was happy that Lieutenant Cross was understanding and said that he would vouch for him that it had been an accident. I hope that in the end Riley was brought back to normal. It would be a shame to lose a good man like him.
"Anyway," Rat said, "the days aren't so bad, but at night the pictures get to be a bitch. I start seeing my own body. Chunks of myself. My own heart, my own kidneys. It's like - I don't know - it's like staring into this huge black crystal ball. One of these nights I'll be lying dead out there in the dark and nobody'll find me except the bugs - I can see it - I can see the goddamn bugs chewing tunnels through me - I can see mongooses munching on my bones. I swear, it's too much. I can't keep seeing myself dead." (page 212)
Gotta hand it to the guy, that sounds pretty nuts. I would have shot myself in the foot too.


As I read this chapter, I found myself repeatedly wondering if Tim O'Brien had in fact been shot twice. Was that a true part of the story, or was that another made up aspect? The way he made it sound it appeared veritable, but then again that's what I thought about the first half of the book.
Anyway, I must be on a personification roll here because in this chapter anthropomorphism also caught my eye.
"[At night] Tiny sounds get heightened and distorted. The crickets talk in code; the night takes on an electric tingle." (page 195)
Clearly, crickets cannot literally talk in code. I thought it was a good comparison though. At times, when I listen to night life, I get the feeling that crickets are in fact communicating somehow. I'll hear one in the distance, and then soon after hear another one coming from a different direction. Weird, but true.
As for Tim's actions in this chapter, I can't say that I blame him really. Admittedly, he went a little overboard and was slightly crueler than I would have liked, but I can see why he felt resentment towards Jorgenson. After all, he endured lots of pain because of his careless mistakes and had to tolerate being made fun of by the other soldiers. No man likes to have his ego bruised.


I can't decide how I feel about this chapter. On one hand I can understand why Tim would want to see the sites of Vietnam again, yet on the other hand I would never want to go back into that murky water again either. I guess it is sort of the same situation for a soldier in any war. After WWII, I know that sometimes people wished to go back and see the sites where they suffered throughout the war - whether that be a concentration camp, internment camp, fort... The places in his stories are the places he most remembers and that affected him most. They are more than mere pieces of land; they are what shaped him into the man he is today. When he looks at those familiar sites, he remembers experiences and the people he was with or the people he lost, not what the land looked like alone. In a weird way, it seemed fitting that he laid Kiowa's moccasins in the filthy water in the spot where he had died. It was like a token to his memory of sorts.
While reading Tim's description of the little field in Quang Ngai, a piece of personification stood out to me.
"This little field, I thought, had swallowed so much. My best friend. My pride. My belief in myself as a man of some small dignity and courage." (page 176)
I found it interesting that he held the land accountable for these feelings. It was as if he had left a piece of his former self there and was hoping to find it when he came back for a second time. Although I cannot say whether he succeeded or not, at least this visit was one of peace rather than one of violence.


Okay listen here, Mr. O'Brien. This whole book is diminishing before my eyes. He just spent an entire novel describing "his own experiences" in Vietnam to turn around and tell the reader that all of them weren't true. Was that really necessary? I feel like the book would have been better if he would have kept that little detail to himself. Now the book feels different to me, like it doesn't mean as much. Granted, I understand his point that all of these incidences very well could have happened, but the central point of why I liked this book is now gone - the fact that it was a personal story. This is an exemplary illustration of ambiguity. O'Brien is completely contradicting himself this entire chapter. Honestly, I don't see where his logic is going at all. He may think he convinced his readers of some greater point of "story-truth" and "happening-truth", but he didn't at all. What I took from this chapter was that he lied and has convinced himself it was some method of channeling his personal guilt through writing.
"Here is the happening-truth. I was once a soldier. There were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and afraid to look. And now, twenty years later, I'm left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief... What stories can do, I guess, is make things present. I can look at things I never looked at. I can attach faces to grief and love and pity and God. I can be brave. I can make myself feel again." (page 172)
Like I said, he convinced himself that this helps but seeing as how he took this long to inform the reader, I feel like the book is a fabrication.


The tone in this chapter is relatively pronounced in my opinion. I took it as a tone of guilt. There seemed to be several different characters who felt partly to blame for Kiowa's death. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, for starters. He felt bad for following orders and setting up camp in a giant muck-infested river when he had the instinct to move somewhere else in the first place. It kept flooding at night and there was no protection around them leaving his entire troop vulnerable to attack. He continuously beats himself up about his mistake, and spends much of the chapter debating on how best to write a letter to Kiowa's father and explain his remorse for his death. Another man who feels guilty is the "young soldier" who is not mentioned by name throughout the chapter. To me, he is the one who should probably feel the most guilty in the encounter. Because of his flashlight, he was what gave their location away and put them under attack.
"He remembered switching on his flashlight. A stupid thing to do, but he did it anyway, and he remembered Kiowa leaning in for a look at the picture - 'Hey, she's cute,' he'd said - and then the field exploded all around them. Like murder, the boy thought. The flashlight made it happen. Dumb and dangerous. And as a result his friend Kiowa was dead." (page 163)
Maybe I wouldn't hold him so accountable if he had shown a little more emotion in the aftermath. The thing that appalled me the most was how the next day, while the other soldiers were searching for Kiowa's body, he was by himself looking for the picture of his girlfriend that he had lost instead. Seriously? For Christ's sake, it's a picture and he is at war. Shouldn't he be more concerned about the fact that he is partly responsible for the death of his own friend? He said they were close, so why isn't he acting like it? What I also realized later on was that O'Brien never mentioned his own whereabouts during this chapter... Does that mean that he himself was the "young soldier" but was too ashamed to mention his own name? There's some food for thought.
Yet another who feels some guilt is Azar for making jokes about the way that Kiowa died. Granted it wasn't kind or compassionate, but I think that he was only attempting to deal with his own grief. I don't think he honestly meant anything hurtful by it because he apologized later. As for Norman Bowker, I don't see how he felt guilty at all. He didn't do anything wrong at whatsoever. In fact, he did the man justice by finding his body and working to dig him out so that he could be sent home. Those are my observations at least.

As a sidenote that has nothing to do with tone, did this catch anyone else's attention?
Azar smiled and said, "Classic."
Maybe it's just me, but I immediately thought of Alan in the Hangover. haha :)


I liked how O'Brien took the time to explain his motivation for writing the chapter "Speaking of Courage". I feel like it gave some justice to Norman Bowker and explained to some extent why he had ended his own life. I'm sure there are many people who will never understand his actions, but then again I don't think it is necessary for them to have to understand. Every single occurrence affects another human being differently in life. No two people ever react exactly the same to the challenges they are given to face. For Norman, I just think that the war was too much for him. After it was over he couldn't go back to being the same person and he couldn't shake himself of his worst memories. It is unfortunate that he never got to see the revised version of his story in its' full glory before he died. I really think that he would have liked it. A part that I especially liked of the account was how the author wrapped it up at the end. I thought it was considerate of him to do in Bowker's memory.
"In the interests of truth, however, I want to make it clear that Norman Bowker was in no way responsible for what happened to Kiowa. Norman did not experience a failure of nerve that night. He did not freeze up or lose the Silver Star for valor. That part of the story is my own." (page 154)
Where O'Brien inserted clips of Norman's own letter to him, I was reminded of the use of essay. An essay in which Norman was discussing his thoughts on the topic of Vietnam.
"What you should do, Tim, is write a story about a guy who feels like he got zapped over in that shithole. A guy who can't get his act together and just drives around town all day and can't think of any damn place to go and doesn't know how to get there anyway. This guy want to talk about it, but he can't..." (page 151)


Okay, so let me get this straight. In the chapter before this, O'Brien was talking about the man he killed and now the war is over? Just like that? There's no stories in between there? That seems random to me. I don't really like how he keeps skipping around all over the place because it makes the story harder to follow sometimes. I'm not sure what the significance of this chapter was, but the only character it concentrated on was Norman Bowker. To be honest, he wasn't doing anything particularly interesting either. All he did for the majority of the chapter was drive on the same 7 mile stretch of road for hours on end. What this chapter sort of showed me was how many of the soldiers probably didn't know what to do with their lives once they were back home. Lots of time had passed by while they were away, and everyone else had moved on without them. This became clear when Norman mentioned a girl he had dated back in high school who was now married. Although he kept trying to clear his mind of her, the idea of her being married to someone else seemed to really bother him.
The literary term that caught my attention in this chapter was a simile. Norman pulled into a drive-in restaurant to eat dinner and his description of the waitress was unusual.
"Her eyes were as fluffy and airy-light as cotton candy." (page 145)
It sounded like a compliment on his part, but I couldn't quite figure out what kind of eyes would remind me of cotton candy. Was he referring to the color? Perhaps they were a light blue or something of the sort. How can eyes be fluffy? I thought that maybe he could have perceived her eyes as fluffy if she was a bubbly girl but her behavior made it sound like she wasn't the friendliest.
"The young carhop turned slowly, as if puzzled, then said something to the boys in the Firebird and moved reluctantly toward him... 'You blind?' she said. She put out her hand and tapped an intercom attached to a steel post. 'Punch the button and place your order. All I do is carry the dumb trays.'" (page 145)
Like I said, she didn't seem like a character brimming with optimism and enthusiasm for her job which was why the simile threw me off.

Stream of Consciousness

While reading this chapter, I was reminded of the literary term stream of consciousness. The chapter itself was a continuation of describing the man Tim killed, but this time instead of focusing on the aftermath of the encounter it centered around what happened right before and his reasoning for killing him. As it turns out, the man whom O'Brien killed was a little more innocent than I thought. I was imagining them fighting in some big battle scene and Tim desperately throwing out a grenade to save his own life. In reality, the man was merely passing through on the trail they were guarding and probably would have continued on his way without harm if not for the grenade setback. This chapter is what makes me feel real sympathy for the author. He explained what he was thinking at the time and lets the reader get an idea of how he was really feeling.
"It was entirely automatic. I did not hate the young man; I did not see him as the enemy; I did not ponder issues of morality or politics or military duty. I crouched and kept my head low. I tried to swallow whatever was rising from my stomach, which tasted like lemonade, something fruity and sour. I was terrified. There were no thoughts about killing." (page 126)
With this insight, it becomes clear to the reader that he genuinely did not wish death upon the other soldier. He was only doing what he had been trained to do; not allowing himself to stop and contemplate the consequences. As a soldier, he did nothing wrong. As a man, I can completely understand why he still feels guilty. Although it's easy for me to say that he should not feel guilty because he did the right thing, it's a completely different situation to be the person who actually killed the man and wonder for the rest of your life if it was truly the 'right' thing. All I can say is that I'm happy I wasn't in his shoes that day.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


This next chapter was absolutely jam-packed with imagery. It was entirely about the first man that Tim killed and went over-the-top in graphic detail. That image of the man lying on the ground must have been permanently etched in his mind the rest of his life.
"His jaw was in his throat, his upper lip and teeth were gone, his one eye was shut, his other eye was a star-shaped hole, his eyebrows were thin and arched like a woman's, his nose was undamaged, there was a slight tear at the lobe of one ear, his clean black hair was swept upward into a cowlick at the rear of the skull, his forehead was lightly freckled, his fingernails were clean, the skin at his left cheek was peeled back in three ragged strips, his right cheek was smooth and hairless, there was a butterfly on his chin, his neck was open to the spinal cord and the blood there was thick and shiny and it was this wound that had killed him." (page 118)
It continued on further but I thought that you'd get the idea. Once again, I cannot imagine how Tim must have been feeling after killing another human being. It was easy to see that he was overcome with guilt, but the truth of the matter is that's just the way war works. If he had not acted the way he had, there was a good chance that the man who he killed would have killed him instead. It's not fair and it seems impossible to do, but in reality it's what must be done in order to survive. Last year, Mrs. Helbing told my class that a famous man (I don't remember his name unfortunately) once said to a man joining the military, "Now remember: it is not your job to die for your country, is your job to make sure that the other man out there dies for his country." To me, this seemed like a good piece of advice. When it comes down to it, war is war and nothing is fair. I feel sympathy for Tim but I hope that other readers understand that it was an action of survival. I'm sure I would have taken it just as hard if it were me in the same circumstance.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Metaphor & Symbol

Yet again, O'Brien changed focus and centered his next chapter around the character Henry Dobbins. I found it interesting how he opened the story with a metaphor that compared him to our country.
"In many ways he was like America itself, big and strong, full of good intentions, a roll of fat jiggling at his belly, slow of foot but always plodding along, always there when you needed him, a believer in the virtues of simplicity and directness and hard labor." (page 111)
Where exactly was Tim going with that when he compared Dobbins to America? Although I failed to see the point of his opening description, I enjoyed the chapter. I thought it was humorous how he had a strange fetish with his girlfriend's pantyhose. Weird maybe, but still humorous. He's definitely a guy I'm gonna remember because of that. Not to mention, he must be the luckiest guy in the world or his pantyhose must really be magical because he survived at least two incredibly close calls and always came out unscathed. I'd kill for luck like that!

Continuing on, the soldiers set up camp at a church pagoda for a week. Here I found it sort of interesting to hear some of the men talk about their religious views. Dobbins, for instance thought more highly of the monks than I would have guessed. There were also a few symbols that I figured had to be important to the monks helping the American soldiers. Since they did not have the ability to speak English, I got this idea due to their behavior and gestures.
"On the second day the older monk carried in a cane chair for the use of Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, placing it near the altar area, bowing and gesturing for him to sit down. The old monk seemed proud of the chair, and proud that such a man as Lieutenant Cross should be sitting in it." (page 114)
My conjecture is that the chair was probably something symbolic of power or influence in their faith and they felt honored to share it. Another symbolic gesture the monks kept repeating was a washing motion with their hands. I'm still not sure as to what that meant, but I'm getting the vibe that it was a peaceful one since they always did it in a courteous manner. Perhaps these gestures were like the sign of the cross in our faith.