March 2009 Archives
"Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you."
-Plath, page 212
Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy" is rather disturbing. It appears to be a very malicious attack on an oppressive father. There is a distortion of views within the poem: the above stanza demonstrates that Plath views the father as a remnant of the Third Reich acting cruel towards women in general.
Whether or not this was an attack on Plath's own father I am unsure, but there is a definte resentment of the father figure here. Perhaps the poem speaks of a father who is too old fashioned in his ways. The women like him because he is firm and reliable, but once they have been lured in, they find that he is controlling and unrelenting.
"What's madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance?"
-Theodore Roethke, page 4
Madness...a truly awkward thing to ponder. Roethke had his odd bouts with madness as a result of his conditions, but what he said makes sense. The world around us dictates the norm and when someone goes against that norm to extremes they are viewed, quite often, as insane, wacky, or simply mad.
Circumstance is the world and its postion. The nobility of the soul is when a person adheres to what he or she believes deep down with an unwavering conviction. When someone's noble soul does not mesh with society's ideas then there is a friction. Strength in number prevails most often, thus, the individual of noble soul will be crushed, at least in the public eye, by society's dictation.
"When we came to Hustler Hill,
he said that the mare was tired,
so we all got down and walked,
as our good manners required."
Bishop, page 49
Throughout Elizabeth Bishop's poem "Manners", there is a definite sense of humility and kindness. The family gets down from their wagon and permits the horse to rest in the final stanza. I found this kindness of the father's very humble: no matter what the situation seemed to be, he was kind, gentle, and calm.
Perhaps Bishop was trying to send a message about the times to the reader. The poem is specified as "for a child of 1918". Is she saying that times have changes and that people no longer have this kind of kindness and warmth? Perhaps the world could use more of the lesson taught to this child of 1918.
"The myth of the garden held that the land would yield bountiful harvests to any American willing to work it. Rain would fall in direct proportion to the farmer's yield."
Cassuto, page 77
David Cassuto's article on the use of water within John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath also brings light to the myth of America's West...the land of opportunity and plenty (a promise land). In the above quote, Cassuto's point about the myth of the garden and its plentiful supply of water goes hand in hand with the idea of America's opportunity. Countless immigrants came to America with hopes of having the "rags to riches" sensation made popular by Horatio Alger.
In much the same manner as the garden and its water, America and its West were not always as promising as advertised, but then again, is anything ever the same as it is advertised? The garden and the American West are one, in a certain way. The garden is a land of fields where any man can find work and there is plenty to provide for a family. Amerca's West is that garden to Steinbeck's characters. The corrolation is direct: the American West was to be the place where all seeds of success would sprout with glee and prosperity.
"I've closed my eyes and walked...on down past the small white Home Economics practice cottage, whiter still in the moonlight, and on down the road with its sloping and turning paralleling the black powerhouse..."
Ellison, page 34
As I read this passage in chapter two, I couldn't help but think that Ellison was revealing elements of race within the very architecture of the campus. As I read further, my idea was reinforced by Trueblood's dream and his mention of a white house with a white woman and escaping through the powerhouse. While Ellison gives hint with the color of the buildings themselves, perhaps he is also hinting at status.
In chapter six, Dr. Bledsoe scolds Ellison's narrator for causing a stir, all the while warning him that blacks have a place in the world...subserviant to the whites. The Home Economics cottage is symbolic of the finer things of life (good clothes, specialty cooking, home-making) while the powerhouse represents the nitty gritty rough work that is menial, yet necessary. It is much like Bledsoe's speech: power comes through "playing the game" and working one's way up to favorable terms with the white man. I suppose that in that regards, the powerhouse is not only symbolic, but a double entendre, as well.
Nevertheless, it is shocking to see so much racism, even when it involves the African Americans putting down African Americans. Ellison truly does work this intriguing conflict through all of his characters be they, black, white, or any color in between.
"There are lots of useful lessons in the Illiad, but while it may at times read like an episode of the Jerry Springer Show, we'll miss most of them if we read through the lens of our own popular culture."
Foster, page 232
When I first began thinking about literary interpretations, my mind immediately jumpes to how I had previously blogged about the reader bringing personal experiences into interpretations in order to better relate to a work of literature. As I read this particular chapter in Foster, I realized that it is possible to think that we relate a little too much to literature, not in the way that we have experienced exactly the same thing, but in the way that we twist the literature and contort it to fit current society. Sometimes literary works contain archetypes or parables that are timeless and apply universally to mankind, but sometimes literature contains drama and other emotional aspects. Not everything dramatic has to be Jerry Springer or what's happening in a high school hallway, but sometimes it is. Obviously, it is doubtful that Homer was taking the angle of a trash-talking gathering of people willing to make fools of themselves, but he created a tale in which the drama of war was exemplified to extremes. Nevertheless, the context of literature must be kept in mind while reading, lest we as an audience forget the works intentions.
"I don't know anything. Some say that the ice is going slower. Some say that it's stopped. The sun's growing cold. What can I do about that? Nothing we can do but burn everything in the house, and the fenceposts and the barn. Keep the fire going. When we have no more fire, we die."
Wilder, page 32
Fire is a means of warmth. Human beings need heat in order to survive. But is it only the human being's body that requires heat? What about the mind? What about the inspiration and will to create, build, help, and imagine? Don't those processes require some sort of fire? Passion and the will to live are the fire that keeps mankind going.
Thornton Wilder's character Mr. Antrobus's above quote is a double entendre. While the human race will die without bodily heat, it will also die if no one takes any mental initiative. Throughout the play, Antrobus continuously returns to his books for inspiration and new ideas of how to make the world a better place. This goes to show that mankind's desires nt only lie with the mere idea of physical health, but also with the idea of mental health. Without the intellectual fire within the mind, man cannot function properly.
Wilder is conveying this idea through Antrobus's determination. While the quote is directed at bodily survival, Antrobus's actions display a desire for mental action. Thus, Wilder is displaying that his characters within "The Skin of Our Teeth" look to Antrobus for action and guidance: he is the spark that keeps mankind's mental fires going.
"If writers want us-all of us- to notice something, thry'd better put it out there where we'll find it."
Foster, page 205
In Foster's chapter entitled "He's Blind for a Reason, You Know," Foster makes mention of the idea that authors should make pivotal ideas, symbols, and/or all other manners of important literary elements/devices obvious to the audience if it is something that will play an important part with regards to the plot of the story. I found this quote's appearance in this particular chapter interesting. Here we have Foster speaking about reasons for characters being blind, but then we realize that readers can be blind, too. How many times do readers miss important details that are right in front of them?
This is where close reading comes in. I know for a fact that I've become much better at reading between the lines. Rereading can often bring light to items and details that might have been missed. Foster makes a very valid point with regards to authors, though. If it is important, why would the author hide it from the audience? While the author must not play smoke and mirrors with important details (at least not to an unnecessary extent...some mystery is a good thing every now and then), readers must examine literature closely in order to ascertain all that is placed before them.
My name is Christopher Dufalla and this portfolio is an accumulation of the work that I've done thus far in EL 267 (American Literature 1915- Present). As a reader, merely retaining the obvious doesn't cut it: one must read deeper between the lines and find the details that are embedded deep within a text. I feel that I have grown as a close reader and that I've become better at expressing my literary criticisms and ideas. Below are some of the entries that reflect my progress throughout this course.
Stand Back Al: Global Warming is on a New Level: This was a response to Robert Frost's poem "Fire and Ice". http://blogs.setonhill.edu/ChristopherDufalla/2009/01/stand_back_al_global_warming_i.html
After Apple Picking...What Now? http://blogs.setonhill.edu/ChristopherDufalla/2009/01/after_apple_pickingwhat_now.html
The Never Ending Story: Here, I spoke about Thomas Foster's idea of one continuous story throughout the world and history.
Following in His Footsteps, Not Making Them: This was a response to Foster's conception of the Christ figure within literature and the piccky nature in which some readers can fall into when determining whether or not a character fits the profile of a Christ figure.
Prison Walls and Scrap Piles: Within this blog, I discussed the nature of John Steinbeck's concept of a prison within The Grapes of Wrath. Man sometimes makes his own prison from seemingly invisible walls.
Spirits Within: Steinbeck's preacher in The Grapes of Wrath, Casy, proves to be a man struggling with his inner place within God's kingdom. Is the spirit of the Lord still gracing him, or has he lost his way in the darkness that is the world.
Money: Practical, Love: Impractical: Here, I made comment on Sophie Treadwell's play "Machinal". The idea of true love winning over the necessities of human existence is a truly epic struggle. Is there a way to have both? Or will that idea prove to be a disaster?
Automobiles and People: Both Can Wreck: I blogged about F. Scott Fitzgerald's characters within The Great Gatsby. People often think that cars wreck more than people, but humans make messes of themselves constantly, and some are more mangled than an auto wreck. Read for yourself...
Rosalind Blair's blog entry pertaining to the intelligence of the migrating Joad family in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath had a nice academic blurb following it.
Jennifer Prex's blog about Foster's ideas of leaving interpretation up to the reader sparked interest in me. I found that readers can indeed become creative via imaginative play-throughs within the mind.
Thank you for your time and reading.