October 31, 2004

John Henry/Remus/TarBaby/Why the Negro is BlacK

Go here to see pictures of the legendary Big Ben Tunnel where John Henry supposedly took on a steam powered drill. On this site, it says that John Henry did win the race with the drill; however, from the readings the opposite seems true.
Also, according to this site, John Henry did exsist. This postcard represents what he might have looked like. To see these pictures, really helped to put a more human spin on the tale.

"Now John Henry was a mighty man, yes sir. He was born a slave in the 1840's but was freed after the war. He went to work as a steel-driver for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, don't ya know. And John Henry was the strongest, the most powerful man working the rails.

"John Henry, he would spend his day's drilling holes by hitting thick steel spikes into rocks with his faithful shaker crouching close to the hole, turning the drill after each mighty blow. There was no one who could match him, though many tried.

"Well, the new railroad was moving along right quick, thanks in now little part to the mighty John Henry. But looming right smack in its path was a mighty enemy - the Big Bend Mountain. Now the big bosses at the C&O Railroad decided that they couldn't go around the mile and a quarter thick mountain. No sir, the men of the C&O were going to go through it - drilling right into the heart of the mountain.

"A thousand men would lose their lives before the great enemy was conquered. It took three long years, and before it was done the ground outside the mountain was filled with makeshift, sandy graves. The new tunnels were filled with smoke and dust. Ya couldn't see no how and could hardly breathe. But John Henry, he worked tirelessly, drilling with a 14 pound hammer, and going 10 to 12 feet in one workday. No one else could match him."

To read this story, as retold by Schlosser, was interesting because he gave a different weight for the hammer, as did the songs we read. This just goes to show how by passing things down through oral tradition, the account is likely to change. Sort of like, gossip. How reputable is the source? However, I did enjoy this tale a because it named the RR company, and that, alone, makes it seem like a more reputable source. Though by the end of the tale, the teller changes the name of the railroad company. Once again, how reputable are these folklores?

If you like this tale, then go here to read more like it.

Under the analysis section on this page, it said,
"The tale also establishes the pattern in which the stories are told--by an elderly former slave to the young grandson of his former master. It is significant the Harris' storyteller be an elderly former slave. In this way, Uncle Remus provides a direct link to a past and culture that is quickly slipping away. For Harris, an advocate of preserving the Southern liteary heritage in the wake of the encroaching industrial expansion of the New South, the decision to commit the oral slave tradition to written form was a self-conscious attempt to solidf and preserve an endangered remnant of the old plantation culture. Moreover, the recording of these tales by Harris through the stories of Uncle Remus was a step toward the diversifcation of Southern literature. During the Reconstruction era, there was little African-American writing in the national level, and still less on the regional and local levels. Thus, the stories of Uncle Remus filled a tremendous void in acknowledging the culture of the African-American slaves, as well as the plantation culture Harris wanted to preserve."This really doesn't explain the meaning of this story; and I don't really understand the story. I think because of the different dialect we are reading it in, it is really confusing. I am inviting you, readers, to explain this story to me. I couldn't figure it out, at all. If I could HEAR it, I think that could help. Why don't we do dramatic interpretations of these stories?

On this site, you can watch the video clip of the story.

This is the final story in the Remus collection. It reminded me of the Native American stories because it discussed why the Chinese people had straight, instead of textured hair. That was something that I could follow from the story. This sort of reminded me of a creation myth, but creation isn't the right word: change would be better. Everyone started out black, dipped themselves in a pool, and then, emerged a different shade. If you read this commentary, it mentions that some people might have viewed Remus as, "a happy darky without any conceptions of the realities of the world around him." This is something I must disagree with; Remus was just continuing a traditional that he had been taught. He was just passing on what he knew. Being able to teach someone something that one knows, makes a person feel important.

These stories serve as entertain for a community of the past; they also function as moral tales. According to this site, there are four important questions/areas the reader must address when reading something that is meant to be heard:

Questions on the nature of history, through the question, who is qualified to tell the oral tradition?
Discussion of truth, and how we may determine it in the oral tradition.
Statements on the nature of time: present, past, future, and eternity.
Ideas on the value of history.

I hope the next time we examine oral tratition, we can actually hear the stories. It is hard to understand them by just reading them. Additionally, our class has such a great guild of dramatists; reading these wouldn't be a problem, and it would be so entertaining!

Posted by KatieAikins at 3:37 PM | Comments (7)

October 27, 2004

Huck Finn: To the End

Nabila's blog inspires me to be a better blogger. If you want to understand Huck Finn is concise terms, visit Nabila's blog.

In class today, we discussed the "evils" of Tom Sawyer: we deemed him manipulative and tricky, but also, we called him a leader. Usually the word "leader" carries a more positive weight. Someone, even ventured as far to say, that Tom would hatch an elaborate plot and then got everyone else to do his work for him.

In my opinion, I think Tom Sawyer was a catalyst that sparked Huck's adventures. Sans Tom, there would be no story. And since when is getting out of work such a bad thing? Why is not ok to do the brain work and then get others to carry out the actions for you? Maybe, on occassion, Tom jarred with Huck; made fun of him, bullied him - but did Huck ever stray from Tom? Huck wanted to continue his friendship with Tom. Both Huck and Tom are very spirited characters. They are both emotional, unpredictable, free spirited. They reflect one another more so than contrast because they are growing together and experiencing the same/similar situation.

Children of today could probably relate to them because of the dynamic of their friendship and the excitement that surrounds their lives. After all, don't children like to imagine these sorts of adventures? Even if they don't get to act on them?

Some excellent research has been done on this topic: adolescent friendship/relationships. "In adolescence friendships normally exist within the larger social structure of peer relationships. In this larger social setting each adolescent has a particular role to play and is usually aware of their own status within the group. Close friendships are not independent of such status. Popular or successful youngsters stick together. Those who are 'in' do not mix as frequently with those on the periphery of what is acceptable to the group. Whereas the standards and styles set by the peer group can set highly influential markers around acceptable and unacceptable behaviours for young people, it is in individual friendships that young people find support and security, negotiate their emotional independence, exchange information, put beliefs and feelings into words and develop a new and different perspective of themselves." After reading and absorbing this, their relationship is something that leads them to be more emotionally independent; yet, they still find the security and comfort that they need in one another.

Posted by KatieAikins at 9:59 PM | Comments (6)

October 24, 2004

Huck Finn 16-31

The most interesting part of this reading was Chapter 17.

The words "hanging fire" were used. After examining a poem called "Hanging Fire," from 1978, I am beginning to wonder if Lordes was motivated by this section of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I have scoured the Internet for the meaning of this phrase, no to avail. I think it has something to do with gun powder - but I am not sure. If anyone can help, it would be greatly appreciated.

These chapters showed great growth in the sometimes stagnant Huck. He makes more mature decisions, about helping Jim, about dealing with the con artists, and even about girls. Huck is starting to rely more on himself, rather than what those around him dictate him to do. This section of the book has piqued my curiosity about the character Huck Finn. He said he would go to hell for Jim. This is a deep bond between the two: a frienship. Huck is also concerned about taking money from the girls. He is maturing. I am curious to see what will happen in the next few chapters.


Does anyone think that maybe Clemmons isn't mocking Dickinson; perhaps he is mocking Louisa May Alcott? Alcott's Little Women is from around this same time period. Her story involved dying children. Maybe he is mocking both of them. I would like someone to shed light on how he mocks Dickinson, because I was under the impression that her poems dealt with hard issues, such as, death; however, it seems ironic to me, that in Little Women the character, Beth, is dying in what seems to be a way that mirrors the death of the fourteen year old in this book.

Since this is a boys' adventure book, would it not make sense to mock a girls' story?

Posted by KatieAikins at 8:48 PM | Comments (11)

October 17, 2004

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Ch. 1-15: Thoughts

For a more comprehensive look at the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, quit reading my blog and go here.

First, a question: did anyone read the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, prior to reading this book? I didn't, so please, if you have, feel free to clue me in on the Tom Sawyer book.

Truth, and its results, so far, has been the most prevalent theme in the book. Huck doesn't trust religion, because he prays and nothing happens. He also believes in a childish notion that hell sounds better than trying to do all the numeral good lessons that he is being taught.

The new judge is unaware of the situation that is between Pa and Huck - and places Huck in Pa's company. Later, the judge tries to reform Pa, but that doesn't work: Pa sneaks out, drinks, breaks his arm, and almost freezes to death. The green judge then thinks that the only way to reform Pa would be with a shotgun. However, the judge had trusted Pa enough to act as a father should, that the judge let him have custody of Huck. The judge relied on a truth that fathers generally behave in a certain way. Pa disappointed these notions.

Pa takes Huck captive and locks him in a cabin - so Huck won't escape. Huck fakes his death to escape the treachery that is his father. Though the pair is father and son, the father is abusive. Huck does not trust his father at all to keep him alive or harm-free, so Huck has to escape. This is a situation that lacks trust.

Jim talks about losing his money in a slave bank. Jim leaves to avoid being sold. Jim put trust in the other slave, who had set up a bank, but went broke because of it. Jim's trust led him to "lose his shirt," so to speak. Jim had lived with the same owner for years, overheard her talking about selling him, and then fled. Jim lost trust in his owner because of something he heard.

Huck tricks Jim with rattlesnakes which result in Jim being bitten. However, Huck tries to redeem himself by dressing as a girl and going into town to tell about it.

Jim is a trustworthy character; he is so happy to see Huck after they are split - it was a sincere display in Chapter 15. Huck on the other hand, tries to trick Jim into believing it was all just a dream and has a hard time apologizing for his trickery - Huck has yet to establish himself as a trustworthy character.

Books on slavery/race issues that Huck Finn made me think of:

Clotel, or the President's Daughter
The Bondswoman's Narrative

These books are speak more in-depth about what Jim must be facing. If you are interested in the slavery part of the book, these might be some good, informative reads.

Also, I am paying attention to the water in the book. Water is the traditional symbol of life. Even before man knew that his corporal body contained sixty percent of the liquid or that his evolutionary origins lay in deep sea amoeba, he was conscious that water was present at birth and essential for survival. The river is KEY to Jim's survival. The presence of water in any scene indicates change and emotional vulnerability. Liquid water symbolizes the potential for growth and transformation, while frozen water signals stasis and stagnation. Immediately, when I read this, I associated the book Beloved, to this book. Water is generally used to symbolize life, but in Beloved Morrison uses it to convey the more complicated idea of change. Beloved is both a catalyst and intimately associated with water. Significant changes in the main characters' lives occur in the presence of water. Contrasting sharply with the water imagery, ice and cold is present during periods of inflexibility and isolation in the interior lives of the main characters. Water flows and can be associated with the future, as opposed to ice, which seals the past in a crystal clear display. When the characters are stubbornly locked in the mental anguish of past events, ice is present in the narrative. When they are able to change and leave and grow, water is available to transport them forward. In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is water that ferries them forward and transports them from their problems.

This book made me think of this quote:
“The nation is sick; trouble is in the land, confusion all around...But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century. Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee, the cry is always the same: 'We want to be free.'”
- (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

The water is liquid and moving....there is hope....

Posted by KatieAikins at 4:00 PM | Comments (17)

October 11, 2004

Native American Lit.

Coming off The Devil's Dictionary high (or low) and spiraling, head first, into Native American Literature is a welcome relief....

Chapter 11, The Killing of Crazy Horse

The most spiritual statement from this tale was, "My Father is with me, and there is no Great Father between me and the Great Spirit." Perhaps, it was also the most meaningful because it proves the convictions these people had in the Great Spirit. The story also proclaims the connections with nature and the earth through its multiple references to the natural world. My favorite line from this story came from the end of this tale, " It does not matter where his (Crazy Horse's) body lies, for it is grass; but where his spirit is, it will be good to be." This paralled the Christian ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It is comforting to know our creation story, and stories of death, are all intertwined.

It is also interesting to note, in the context of Crazy Horse, the lesson he learned:
"Two incidents during his boyhood helped form his attitude about white people. They occurred about a year apart, and both involved the U.S. Army. In the first, in 1854, a brash young officer underestimated the resolve and fighting ability of Lakota warriors when he insisted that they return a diseased and abandoned cow they had captured. The confrontation set off an encounter that resulted in the deaths of an entire detachment of thirty soldiers. The second incident occurred when the army retaliated about a year later and wiped out most of an unsuspecting Lakota village, killing women and children as well as warriors. Both incidents taught Crazy Horse that white people could be cruel and were not to be trusted. It was a lesson he never forgot."
I wouldn't trust a people who killed women and children either.

It is interesting to note, Crazy Horse signed NO TREATIES....today would we call this a fence sitter? Or a wise man?

"Rejoice with the wife of thy youth . . .
and be thou ravished always
with her love."
Proverbs 5:18b, 19b

"The Creation of the Whites"

Where have I heard a story similar to this?
However, reading it from this view point, makes me think that the Ottaway Indians hold nature in regard to the Great Spirit as well as human kind. Not similar to the way, nature is taken for granted in the majority of our religions. I liked reading this version a little bit better because it gives son background on the natural elements at play in the story.

How the White Race Came to American and Why the Gaiwiico became a Necessity

This was the most compelling line in the story: "Seek him out and you will find him for indeed we think he does live on earth." Even so, his heart was angry but he resolved to seek.
This line shows the resolution of the queen's servant.

The lines about Columbus and the five mysteries mirror the decay that American society has faced/dealt with since the 1400s. The only interesting article I could find about this tribe can be seen here.
I never realized how far back in history they dated; the phrase "fifteenth century" was quite a shocker, to me.

Zuni Creation Story

Genesis of the World

Did this spark the image of the premordial soup model in anyone's mind?

...Of Men and Creatures

The Unripeness and Instability of the Young World
For me, I did not see the Biblical book of Gensis, rather, the book fo Revelation, where the earth is in complete turm oil.

The Flood
The corn clan in this tale got flooded - just as the earth flooded in the Old Testament of the Bible. At first, I could not relate to the significance of corn, until I read this informative article about phases of the moon and harvest.

We are supposed to compare this to Genesis 1: 1-11, but I am wondering, how many other creation stories exsist that we can compare these to? Since the google search is reading over 6 million, and I still have other homework, I would say that this is a pretty open ended topic. To make matter more complex, there are creation stories within tribes when studying Native American Literature.

Maybe our class could limit the focus to one or two tribes and report on those so we could have a more indepth, informed knowledge. Even reading how this relates to the Mayans, is interesting.

There is really something for everyone in Native American Literature.

Posted by KatieAikins at 8:35 PM | Comments (6)

October 10, 2004

The Devil's Dictionary

Three of my favorite definitions in The Devil's Dictionary were queen, marriage, and wedding....

According to The Devil's Dictionary , queen means: A woman by whom the realm is ruled when there is a king, and through whom it is ruled when there is not; marriage means: The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two; and wedding means: A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one, one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become supportable. These three definitions caught my eye because they made me laugh. The Devil's Dictionary takes a cynical, satirical slant on most words it defines. The aforementioned three words, are actually true to life, for me - therefore, I did smirk at those. The other words defined fit for the period of the work.

Our discussion in class, after Amanda Cochran's presentation, really got me to think about why the this dictionary was written. I don't think it was to directly ridicule any one sect. I do believe it was to be used to encourage thoughtfulness about the world around its readers and to evoke more humane treatment to all sects. It isn't naming good or bad, it is just pointing out the accepted beliefs of the society within it was published. The reader who picks it up and starts to dismantle it, should be held responsible for his own accord and what he does with the work. I might not see women or religion in the dictionary was others might see those topics. A very good point was brought up in class today: the format of this work is a dictionary. It wasn't meant to be read as we read it, or was it? By no means is this a conventional tool as we are used to using; it was published in little microbursts and eventually set free in Bierce's Volume 7 (thanks, Amanda). Clearly, readers were to read it wholly. So do the words relate to one another? Well, that my dear friends, is all open to interpretation.

I struggled to finish this. Perhaps because this work is a dictionary, and has no plot, that might be why it was so hard to read. Did anyone else find themselves nodding off on certain parts of the 156 page print? Granted, it was a humorous work, it is one I do not look forward to rereading anytime in the near future because of its format.

Posted by KatieAikins at 6:48 PM | Comments (5)

October 5, 2004

Portfolio #1

According to dictionary.com, a blog is "a personal Web site that provides updated headlines and news articles of other sites that are of interest to the user, also may include journal entries, commentaries and recommendations compiled by the user." Dictionary.com also offers this definition of the word portfolio, "a portable case for holding material, such as loose papers, photographs, or drawings. The materials collected in such a case, especially when representative of a person's work: a photographer's portfolio; an artist's portfolio of drawings." In this case, a blogging portfolio is the collection of blogged posts that can be linked electronically for added convenience to the reader. The goal of this portfolio is to unite the works we have studied in class with our personal thoughts and analysis. We would also like to illustrate the engaging discussion with our classmates, and others, we are making through the use of blogs.

In American Lit I, thus far, we have studied Bierce, Melville, Poe, Hawthorne, Dickinson, and Emerson and Thoreau.

Explanation of the Collection/Coverage:

This portion of the portfolio contains the representative information that we have studied, it is inclusive of all the entries which are important to demonstrate understanding of the material studied. Ths portion of the portfolio also represents how the class engages in an electronice conversation by posting responses/comments to the blogs.

Bierce: "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge"
Poe: "The Raven"
Melville: "Bartleby, the Scriverner"
Hawthorne: The Scarlett Letter "The Custom House" and Comedy/Tragedy in the Novel
Dickinson: "Your Riches Taught Me Poverty" Unpacking of the Poem
Emerson: "Self-Reliance"

This section of the portfolio is to demonstrate the ability to engage in through, resourceful examination of the texts at hand. Depth entries can be likened to writing research reports, sans the MLA style formating. However, they do contain helpful web links for the reader of the blog to gather more background/information on the selection.

The three selections from my blog which best identify with the Depth section of the portfolio are:

Poe: "The Raven"
Hawthorne: Comedy/Tragedy in the Scarlet Letter
Dickinson: "Your Riches Taught Me Poverty" To read the text of the poem, click here.


This portion of the portfolio is used to illustrate the ongoing use of weblogs as a medium to interact with classmates.

I found Linda Fondrk's blog useful when writing my entry about because she gave me a different perspective on the story I might not have had without her sharing her lens. "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge."

Stephen Puff explained the meaning of a text I was truly lost on when he did his presentation on Emerson. His presentation/weblog helped me to shape some thoughts on "Self-Reliance" because he invited discussion amongst our classroom. Additionally, he explained and illustrated the meaning of "Self-Reliance" in an understandable method.

Dr. Jerz graciously explained the difference between comedy and tragedy so I was able to further elaborate on it in my Oral Discussion for Panel A. Nabila Uddin also clarified her perspective on the mother-daughter relationship in The Scarlet Letter, which provoked thought from me about examiing that relationship further.

These people were able to give enlightening perspectives for me to elaborate on and learn from. Their thoughts evoked further interest from me as a reader of blogs.


This section of the blog serves to function as a tool which sparks further examination of the piece of literature at hand.

Linda Fondrk gave thoughtful insights to my Emerson blog.

Nablia Uddin shared thoughts that my presentation on Comedy/Tragedy in The Scarlet Letter sparked.

Amanda Cochran and Linda Fondrk also believed that color in The Scarlet Letter was an important motif. They contributed their thoughtful reflections after reading the color entry.

These selections best exemplify how discussion is sparked via the use of blogs.

This portion of the portfolio examines the different styles of comments one can post on their peers webblogs. The categories are: the comment primo (first person to comment on one's blog and leave insight), the comment grande (an explanation of thoughts on one's blog entry complete with other URL links), the comment informative (offering a more detailed explanation to a classmate), and the link gracious (giving credit to a classmate who sparked the creative/the cognitive process for you.)

The Comment Primo: launching a discussion with Linda Fondrk about death/Christ in "Owl Creek"

Another good example of this can be found in Nabila Uddin's blog, not because we are engaging in conversation about the texts, but rather because we are networking and being able to arrange interactions that will lead to better understanding of how poetry works.

Shanna DeFrances sparked my desire to comment informatively. After seeing Shanna's performance, and reading her blog, clearly she might have some interest in performance. I don't know much about career development, or anything of the performance therapy nature; however, I do know how to access tools that might be useful for Shanna in making her decisions.

These are the blog enteries I feel that have helped me to keep my interest in blogging.


This is the blog entry that is to best exemplify my achievements as a blogger. Unfortunately, I fancy myself an extraordinarily bland individual that just really likes to read. I am not sure if just writing this would be a fair assesment of how I am as a student webblogger, because I have nothing concrete to say about anything. I am not an expert at one particular subject, I haven't had any marked achievements, I am just ordinary. My wildcard entry is about myself, I am the only thing I can really talk about with some familiarity. Hopefully, I will be able to better introduce myself with this entry. I am looking forward to making friendships beyond this virtual connection.

This is my blogging portfolio. Perhaps it will enlighten you, the reader, to the wide world of blogging and the ongoing conversation webblogs can create.

Posted by KatieAikins at 4:17 PM | Comments (2)

October 4, 2004

Wild Card

All about me....

Since I am usually flying out the door to get to my next destination, and tthen going home, I don't get to spend time with fellow Setonians. This is my opportunity to reach a number of you at once. This year I transfered from Bethany College, in Bethany, West Virginia, to be closer to home and less isolated. Bethany is in the woods, in the middle of NOWHERE, and the only place to go off campus, is the bison watering hole: Bubba's. I don't know what I was thinking when I chose to go there; it did not fit me, at all. However, I did learn a lot from the experience of going there: I learned what I needed from a school. Additionally, I met my best friend in the world at Bethany and I visit her as often as possible. So this summer, I was faced with a hard decision: what to do? My mom went to Seton Hill, she is the person I most admire, so I decided, SHU would be great for me. I have yet to be disappointed.

My family is my life. I am an only child. My dad works and lives in Bridgeport, WV, so he is home on the weekends and sometimes that can get hectic. My mom leases heavy equipment. We frequently spend time with her parents, my grandparents. I am lucky to have all my grandparents and love them very much.

On the weekends, I like to shop for costume jewelry and antique purses (particularly from the 1950s when they were made from Lucite). I have over three hundred purses. My mom really gets loves her jewelry, and two years ago I helped her co-author a book about her collection. This led to another book about costume jewelry to be released this fall and finally, her third book will be out in the spring of 2005: it is dedicated to me, it is about my purses. Shopping isn't the biggest thrill in the world, though.

My favorite subject all through school was English/Reading. So today, I major in English Literature. I like to go to book stores, my favorite being the Book Nook in Indiana. When I am not reading, I am obsessing over cleaning my car; I don't stop until it sparkles. Occasionally, I like to golf. The most beautiful golf course is in my hometown of Blairsville, The Chestnut Ridge Inn on the Green. In the summers, I swim and walk because I live in the country.

I used to volunteer for State Representative Jeff Coleman, but now I don't really have time; however, I do serve as liturgist at the United Presbyterian Church of Blairsville when I am asked. But with school, I manage to keep rather busy!

That's me in a nutshell.

Posted by KatieAikins at 8:54 PM | Comments (8)


Thank you, Mr. Puff, for enlightening us on the meaning of this heavy text....

The most important meanings I gathered from Self-Reliance, was just that: self-reliance. Emerson makes commentary that a person is transcendent of their mere title. They are a PERSON who later fulfills the roles/the duties granted with a title. It is more important to look wholistically at the human being behind the words. After all, in the end, does one ask, in death, "How could I have been a better teacher/lawyer/doctor/student/insert title here..?" In death people ask how they could have been more human. Self-Reliance made me realize that it is better to focus on the bigger picture, the world around, rather than just my world. Thinking on this wavelength brought the song "Busy Man" to mind. Now, granted, Billy Ray Cyrus is no Emerson, his lyrics have a point: is one a man, first, or a slave to their occupation, then a man, second? What is the more important of the two priorities? Emerson, (along with the singer), thinks it is the former.

Posted by KatieAikins at 8:03 PM | Comments (1)

Poe's "The Raven" and Beauty

Before you continue reading, visit this site for some interesting raven trivia....

"I had gone so far as the conception of a Raven--the bird of ill omen--monotonously repeating the one word, 'Nevermore,' at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone, and in length about one hundred lines. Now, never losing sight of the object supremeness, or perfection, at all points, I asked myself--'Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?' Death--was the obvious reply. 'And when,' I said, 'is the most melancholy of topics most poetical?' From what I have already explained at some length, the answer, here also, is obvious-- 'When it most closely allies itself to beauty': the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world--and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such a topic are those of a bereaved lover."
From Poe's The Philosophy of Composition, 1846. (taken from Neurotic Poets: The Raven)

The Poe Decoder was the most useful site in the journey to find meaning to Poe's famous poem, "The Raven." The Poe Decoder says, "Of all melancholy topics, Poe wanted to use the one that was universally understood, and therefore, he chose Death as his topic. Poe (along with other writers) believed that the death of a beautiful woman was the most poetical use of death, because it closely allies itself with Beauty." I never saw the parallels of Beauty with Death before reading this poem. Now, I understand that "The Raven" gives the reader a beautiful woman, who dies, for reasons unbeknownst, and expects the read to understand, "nevermore." How bleak can someone be to intersect, lively, fresh beauty with death? Then I realized that was one of the points to the poem, there is a certain beauty in death.

Poe himself, seemed to be concentrated on Beauty in poetry. The aforementioned website link elaborates: "The demands of Truth are severe. She has no sympathy with the myrtles. All that which is so indispensable in Song is precisely all that which she has nothing whatever to do. It is but making her a flaunting paradox to wreathe her in gems and flowers. In enforcing a truth we need severity rather than efflorescence of language.

The poem therefore must not follow the early Puritan confines of ramist logic. The poem should not try to pass some truth or morals but should find Beauty. Poetry for Poe is “no mere appreciation of the Beauty before us, but a wild effort to reach the Beauty above.” This means that poetry is not describing a beauty here on earth, but is trying to describe a divine Beauty. Poetry is supposed to excite the soul so that it reaches into the divine to glimpse this Beauty."

Ultimately, isn't this poem a comment that death isn't all bleak or bad? There is some shard of beauty to it? What do you think?

Posted by KatieAikins at 7:46 PM | Comments (5)

"Owl Creek" and Christ Figures

Two really interesting sites to check out are Notes/Text on "Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge" and our very own, Linda Fondrk's blog. The former names literary devices, the latter identifies the death motif...check them out and read on for my thoughts

Bierce's "Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge" is a story we studied in our junior year of highschool. However, I never understood the story until this year. This summer, I read a book to refresh my criticism course at Bethany. If anyone is struggling with the symbols or themes in books, I suggest buying "How to Read Literature Like A Professor" by Thomas Foster. It is funny and informative.

The character of Peyton Farquhar and Jesus Christ share many similiarities. Peyton was, "...apparently about thirty-five years of age...if one might judge his habit, which was that of a planter...his features were good--a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well fitting frock. He wore a moustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in hemp..." This very detailed description reminded me of the physicality of Christ. Also, Jesus was 33, which is close to 35, at the time of death and Jesus worked as a carpenter, which involves natural materials like a planter uses. Everything about Peyton seems to radiate goodness in this paragraph: even his dying expression. Later the story goes on to say that, "His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged." Just like Christ, Farquhar was killed in a cruel manner. These are just a few of the characteristics Farquhar shared with Christ.

Though I was not confident in my first, I researched information about other stories written by Bierce in which the characters were compared to Christ. After reading this, I am convinced Farqhar is Christ-like because of his appearance, his goodness, and his death.

Posted by KatieAikins at 7:24 PM | Comments (3)