February 2009 Archives


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"A lamp bug slammed into the lantern and broke itself, and fell into the darkness." The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Chapter 16 page 187. 

I find it interesting that Steinbeck uses many animal references in this book. The above quote is just one of the many times that he has done this. Something about the references makes the story more interesting to me. 
He uses dogs in particularly a lot. I feel that the dogs seem to relate to the families quite a bit. Maybe this is just because they are family dogs or maybe there is actually some hidden meaning behind them. Personally I am all for the idea that it is a hidden meaning. 
My only curiosity is what in the world is a "lamp bug"? I am not at all sure what kind of bug that it. Is it the ones that always die in lamp like because they basically let themselves cook under it? Or is it another name for a lightening bug?

Insight into the Past

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"Had he not been Fifty years old, and so one of the natural rulers of the family, Uncle John would have preferred not to sit in the honor place beside the driver. He would have liked Rose of Sharon to sit there. This was impossible, because she was young and a woman." The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Chapter 10.  Page 96.

I thought this excerpt to be quite interesting because it shows the insight into the times so well. Women were not equals to the men and these few short lines showed that quite well.  I always knew the life of a woman was very different back then compared to the way it is now, but I never thought of such things that are considered courtesy in our modern society. Rose of Sharon would get the front seat now days just because of being pregnant. I found it interesting to compare that to how the situation is actually handled in the book.

I also found it interesting that Steinbeck chose to have the character Uncle John actually feel that the situation was unfair. Even thought Uncle John took the passenger seat, it was not so much because he wanted to; it was because he was taught that that was the chain of command.

When the chain of command is broken, it throws the balance off. For example, later in the same chapter, the preacher decides to take over salting the meat to allow Ma to do other necessary tasks. Her response seemed to be of shock:

"She stopped her work then and inspected him oddly, as though he suggested a curious thing... 'It's women's work,' she said finally."

The preacher seemed to act more in a modern way as opposed to the time period and the portrayal of the balance between men and women.

I began to think after seeing these two portions of this book, could Steinbeck himself disagree with how women were put down himself?

Is that a FACT Mr. Foster?

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Okay so here's the general rule: whether it's Italy or Greece or Africa or Malaysia or Vietnam,when writers send characters south, it's so they can run amock. " 
How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster. Chapter 19 Page 171

It may just be me but aren't "general rules" read to be a fact? Now how can Foster make a claim that is quite opinion based? I have read quite a few books and there are a lot where the character runs amock in the area that they live in. They need not travel anywhere. I have also read books where the character did travel but did not "run amock". 
 Is this really the same author that said that symbolism can mean different things to different people? If so, then why wouldn't he word his sentences to be more opinion sounding than based on facts? This is his general rule based on his experiences and no one else's and from my experience I cannot say that I agree with him. He is sounding a bit contradictory to me. He states one thing and preaches another. That is the only conclusion I can come to as to how he can have this statement stated as such. I also know that I am not the only one that has point toward Fosters contradictions before such as Andrew Adams who had stated in one of the first blogs he wrote for this semester title "Good Point Sometimes (http://blogs.setonhill.edu/AndrewAdams/2009/01/good_pointsometimes.html) . 
 I do not want to say that I disagree with everything single point that Foster makes but I do want to point out that it is opinion based and that it is a good starting point to understanding how to close read but it is not the only way to interpret a work of literature. 

No Sympathy Here

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Machinal by Sophie Treadwell
"Submit! Submit! Is nothing mine? The hair on my head! The very hair on my head-" page 79
 The entire time through this play I felt that the women were not allowed to make their own decisions. The main character felt tied to the hands of her mother to marry someone she did not love and he too seemed to control her to some degree. 
 Suffocation on her part was what she always explained though I don't believe that I can completely feel sympathy for her. She could have told her mother that she didn't care and that she would never marry Mr. Jones no matter what. Instead she said she had to marry even if it was not for love. That I may not understand, but let's face it, it was a different time back then. 
  I must say that she had to have gone insane to have killed her husband. I understand that she felt trapped. Who wouldn't in a situation that feels miserable? Although she could have fled with her mother somewhere. Speaking of the mother, one question I could not find answered was why the main character had to support her in the first place. Why? Was the mother ill equipped to work for herself? 
 This play was confusing and honestly boring in my eyes. The main character seemed a bit crazy anyway and probably deserved to have the death sentence, even though that is not the worst punishment in the world, but that is not a topic meant to be put inside this blog. 

Judge Literature like a Painting

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How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
"Writers tend to be men and women who are interested in the world around them." Page 115 
 Though I found this to be painstakingly obvious, I felt that it was worth mentioning. I know that it is obvious to me, but is it to everyone? I am an Art major and if you ask me, anyone who has a creative mind will most likely be found to have an interest "in the world around them." Without the influence of this world I know that I could not be inspired the way that I am with my art work. I would bet that it is quite possibly the same for most writers. 
 Although I did think of how much influence the world has on the creative mind, I never bothered to think of the effect of politics on literature. That is not to say that I never notice a single political theme in anything but I did not really think about it much. I am usually one of those people that tends to take the book's words for face value and look no further. 
 When Foster talks about the political views in "A Christmas Carol" in chapter 13 I would have never thought that there were so many political aspects of it. I never looked for them. It wasn't something that I would have thought important. After reading the Chapter, I began thinkng about how art work does the same thing (although it can be blunter to see because of it being a painting or such). Why not look at literature like a painting? Analyze it into a picture and then pick that picture apart. Either way the goal is to try to find meaning in the word or the image. 

Oh Mrs. Myrtle Why so Weary?

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"Her expression was curiously familiar--it was an expression I had often seen on women's faces but on Myrtle Wilson's face it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that her eyes, wide with jealous horror, were fixed not on Tom but on Jordan Bake, whom she took to be his wife." The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald pg. 131 

I bring this quite lengthy quote out to bring up Myrtle's death. Although Gatsby is quoted as having said "it seemed to me that she wanted to speak to us, thought we were somebody she knew" (pg. 151) I wanted to point out that it could have possibly have been a suicide. In Nick's description, he says that Myrtle had a look that "seemed purposeless". Put yourself in Myrtle's place. She sees Jordan and takes it to be Tom's wife. She could possibly feel that she could never compare. On page 144, it states that Myrtle was arguing with her husband. It sounds as if she cannot take it anymore. 

"A moment later she rushed out into the dusk, waving her hands and shouting; before he could move from his door the business was over." Pg. 144

Though she is waving her arms which can mean that she is trying to just stop the car, she is also shouting which could be a sign of her saying "here I am and since you don't want to be with me, the just take my life." I may be reading too into to it, but if you ask me, the possibility is there. 

Not so creative are we?

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"There is only one story. Ever. One. It's always been going on and it's everywhere around us and every story you've ever read or heard or watched is part of it."

                                                    -How to Read Literature Like a Professor                                                                         By Thomas C. Foster  pg.32

Has creativity gone out the window? Are the only true creative people the one who first began to tell stories? This notion of there only being one story puts that thought into my head. How can there only be one story? I really doubt that Stephen King and Dr. Suess are in the same spectrum. Would you call them one in the same? I don't think I would. It is not that I completely disagree with this text because it does have some truth and I will give it that. 

I understand that every  story can build off of or take from another story but to call it all one story? That sounds a bit boring to me. Doesn't having one big story just seem to take the fun out of reading? NO CREATIVITY! And if there is no creatvity then what do we read liturature? I'm Pretty sure humans made literature for enjoyment.  Reading the same thing over and over again is not my idea of fun.



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