DavidWilbanks: August 2009 Archives

"He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind."

Okay, honestly now, what all does it really take to say that Goodman (I wonder what sort of person he is?) Brown is doing something bad....well, apparently quite a bit. (In the line before this it mentions that he's on a "evil purpose") Beyond that I count no less than four words with negative connotation, creep, dreary, gloomiest, darkened.

Beyond that he subtly personifies the trees and path, (this bit is actually quite clever) giving the passage a more secretive, as well as sinister feel.  Personally, however, I think the clever bit would have been more effective had he left out a few of those adjectives.

Overall, good story. It had more to offer than simply calling the Puritans hypocrites, which is about as witty and original as calling George W. Bush stupid, or Nazis evil. I especially enjoyed the ambiguous ending, just because it seems to throw Goodman into a dilemma. By making it potentially a dream, he runs the risk of being labelled a crazy person, which could be lethal in Salem at that time as they tended to refer to crazy people as witches. If he trys to fight against the witches, they have a massive advantage in the public arena. It's even a difficult choice as to whether to discuss it with Faith as he could have dreamed it, or she could have joined, meaning she may support the witches over him and, well, slit his throat in his sleep. Overall, Goodman is forced into inaction, which was kind of where people who lived during witch trials were stuck. They knew that innocents were getting burned and hung by those in power (yeah, the church), but were in no position to fight it, for fear of being next in line for the gallows/stake.

Real Vampires Don't Sparkle

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" Always, he's [Dracula] alluring, dangerous, mysterious" --- Thomas Foster, page 16 How to Read Like a Professor. Notice he didn't mention that they sparkle....sorry, Twilight still annoys me to the point where I can't think about vampires without thinking about how much Twilight annoys me.

I guess this petty whining actually vaguely goes along with what the reading discusses. It talks about some common symbols that we see throughout literature. How the vampire, as a symbol of evil, sex, lust, etc, and the sharing of food is a communion. These are things that recur in writing and typically carry some significance.

Actually, upon re-reflection, this chapter actually helped me to determine why the idea of vampires as sparkling rather than immolating in sunlight bothers me so much.

The symbol of the vampire, as the books point out, is one of evil. True, Twilight isn't the first novel to ever have a vampire as a hero. However, other novels portray them as much more tragic. They tend to have over-burdened consciouses, or at very least have sacrificed any chance at being "good," and no matter how good their intentions. This idea of being stuck on a path of evil, is symbolized using the oldest symbols ever (light=good, dark=bad). At very least this inability to step into the light, not only strengthens the dark personna of the standard evil vampire, but heightens the tragedy of the good vampire. By having sunlight do nothing more than prove that they are vampires, Myers makes it possible for good vampires to be essentially content. The only real hardships left to them is prejudice and a lust for blood (which can be quelled by animal blood). So now, unless they happen to behave as such, the vampires are really no more evil, or tragic than recovering heroin addicts who have access to methadone. For that degree of suffering, who wouldn't deal with it for eternal youth, and superhuman strength, speed, agility, etc?

I hope that jumping off on a tangent, and discussing one of the common literary symbols mentioned in the reading somehow related to it in some way. Sorry...I do that from time to time.

"We call it-knot it,Mr.Henderson." ---last line Trifles by Susan Glaspell.

I just like this quiet reference to certain other things that Minnie Foster may or may not have knotted around her husband's neck to strangle him in her sleep.

This play probably makes more use of characters coming and going than any play I've read or seen, except maybe Noises Off. It's definately one I'd like to see performed someday.

It's great because there seem to be three levels, each clearly defined by who is present. When the men are there, you have their "investigating" which they don't seem real good at. Then there are the the women dealing with their "trifles," much to the men's amusement. Finally, you get the women, despite being interupted by the men's investigation, actually determining what happened through their examination of the "trifles" which could more aptly be called evidence.

  These different stories are artfully split apart simply by having the men leave. It's interesting to see the two different sets of personnas the women adopt. They switch from clever detectives into obsequious bystanders everytime the men walk in. The change isn't subtle at all. It comes out like this:

"Look at these stitches, the last three are crooked, the pattern indicates that...." [Enter man]

"Look, a quilt! Oh, pretty!"

What makes this change interesting, is the fact that it isn't, at least until the end, a result of the women concealing things from the men, it is due to the men's own behavior. If they let the women talk, and took anything they said seriously, they might have learned how to do their jobs....or at least, after several lengthy explainations, been able to discern a motive for Wright's murder. Ah, interesting references to gender roles during the place/time period.

I think my favorite part is probably when the women go to the trouble to conceal the evidence they've found from the Attorney...as if he'd EVER figure anything out.

Why the numbered Illustrative essay rocks!

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"Number the Passage for Easy Reference" page 56, Edgar Roberts, in Writing About Literature. I would normally underline that last bit, but MLA ruined that. I guess italicizing titles makes way more sense than underlining them, but now it means that I have to find a new way to indicate that a word would have been said with a verbal emphasis intended to indicate sarcasm. What ever shall I use?

Anyway, the numbered essay:

I've always avoided putting lengthy quotes in my writing for a few reasons:

1. It makes my writing look sloppy. EX: In Some Book, Some Guy is really talking about some major univeral issue when he has Some Protagonist say  "lots and lots of words, perhaps even a couple sentences." This is apparent because....

By the time I'm explaining the observation, the reader only vaguely remembers what I was talking about before the quote.

2. It takes up space, and I prefer my essays to be full of my writing.

3. When they're taken out of context, they lose a bit of their meaning. The reader really ought to know if the lines I'm talking about occur before Some Protagonist falls in love with Some Chick or right after his epic battle with Some Antagonist. 

4. I'm too lazy to type them, and If I screw it up, I look incredibly stupid, or at least mildly inept.

Roberts saves me a massive amount of stress with the whole numbered essay idea. No longer will I get called "too informal" for writing about "that bit when Some Protagonist and Some Bumbling, but Lovable Sidekick have just uncovered Some Antagonist's plans to build Some Extremely Powerful Weapon Capable of Destroying the Universe, and Some Protagonist confesses his love for Some Chick," because NOW I can say (sentence 8) instead....awesome. 

  

I FINALLY managed to get a copy of the book. I apologize to anyone who also needs the book as I took the last copy at the bookstore....so now I can get caught up.

 

"What Is Literature, and Why Do We Study it?"   page 1, Writing About Literature by Edgar Roberts

So, I thought well, because its AWESOME, and then declined to read the chapter.

Then I got really bored, and read it anyway. As it turns out, literature expands our minds and imagination, it lets us see beauty in the world around us, and helps us to do a whole lot of other things (its a really long paragraph), that make us into better people in some way. Like I said, its awesome.

"Writing Does Not Come Easily--for Anyone" Roberts, page 16

I think that statement had best be qualified with the words "all the time." Writing comes easily for me, if its something I even moderately enjoy writing, and there is nothing good on TV. This line reminded me of the one time I actually was unable to complete a writing assignment (this is not the same as forgot to do or didn't have time to do). It was this freelance job I found online writing keyword content for some site. They were 200-300 (about as long as this is so far) words, of encyclopedia style info that paid $5 a piece, but you had to do at least 6 a week, and include the keyword a certain number of times. I figured I could write a couple an hour without any problems. As it turns out, that was so amazingly boring I could not do it. After an hour struggling with it, it was no longer worth it and I dropped the job. I guess the only point to this story, is that simply being a little bit excited about your topic, you can make the writing come much more easily.

So anyway, Roberts goes on to discuss all the different tactics, strategies, etc. related to writing about literature. To be honest, there was little suprising in that portion...but perhaps I've taken a few too many literature classes.

Clemens is always, always a joy to read...and usually evokes at very least a quiet chuckle. Hardy, though I've read far less of his work, is generally pretty entertaining. The two selections discuss war, and offer criticism in two completely different ways.

While I prefer Clemens' saterization of war, Hardy's more overt criticism is equally effective.

Clemens tactic is subtle, and overtly the story discusses a single officer, and quietly lampoons him. In doing this, Clemens really picks away at all the glorious trappings that tend to surround war. Through out, subtle details criticize the very concept of military leaders as competent people, let alone heros who should be admired. Oddly enough, the British army during the Crimean War is probably the very best possible example of inept military leadership since the 14th century. When he says "he went right along up, from grade to grade, over the dead bodies of his superiors," it subtly points out that ability isn't necessarily the method by which one climbs through the ranks. The very idea of the randomness of the man's inadvertant attack leading to his promotion shows not only the value of luck, but the unimportance of intelligence or guile on the part of a military leader. In saying this he removes the source of officers respect. If glory in battle occurs randomly, there is nothing special about it.

Hardy takes a different approach, and brings up the simple point that soldiers on both sides are essentially the same, yet are killing each other. However, his poetry does a far better job, than many like it, because it doesn't bemoan this fact of war, but rather suggests that it deserves some thought. He calls war "quaint and curious," rather than terrible, stupid or senseless, and lets the reader arrive at their own conclusion.

These works both paint war as neither glorious, nor terrible, but rather silly. Clemens himself once said something about how no walls can stand against the assault of laughter. (I don't have time to look up the quote,) and I think both these works keep with that spirit by showing war to be silly, rather than horrible.     

This reflection was initially written in word, I then printed it our on actual PAPER and handed it in. Quaint perhaps, but as a result its not particularily amusing. Until I just now read it, I hadn't realized that word not only corrects my attrocious spelling, (yes, I spelled atrocious wrong only to make a point)  but also seems to suck all the wit out of my writing on this sort of assignment. Wierd. Anyway:

            I really enjoyed the irony in this story. I thought it was well done, as it's simple, almost parable-like telling helped to bring out the more obvious theme regarding honesty. The simple idea of the Loisels' suffering for 10 years, which could have easily been avoided by her honesty, overtly reveals this theme. Despite the simplicity of the story, the vivid descriptions of luxury hinted at a more subtle theme about the illusion of wealth. This one is more subtle, and is hinted at in Madame Loisel's fantasies, as it seems she wants to be wealthy purely for superficial reasons. She doesn't dream of financial security or any "real" improvements to she life, she simply wants to appear wealthy and important. This point is further touched upon when the expensive-looking diamond necklace, Madame Loisel's symbol of wealth, is revealed to be a fake.   

My only real problem with the story (this could have to do with the different edition I read) is the lone, oddly brief paragraph mentioning her rich friend. For some reason the two sentences: "She had a rich friend, an old school friend whom she refused to visit, because she suffered so keenly when she returned home. She would weep whole days, with grief, regret, despair, and misery." are set apart from the rest of the story. This makes it appear almost like an afterthought on the part of de Maupassant. These details, which are obviously important to the story, could have easily been inserted either in the first few paragraphs, where the author writes of her dissatisfaction due to the dissonance between the life she has and the one she wants, or in the scene where her husband suggests she borrows the jewels from Madame Forestier.