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.