As I read Chapter 18 of Foster's work, a quote that really didn't have much to do with baptism specifically caught my eye, and I thought I'd share it.
"'Always' and 'never' aren't good words in literary studies." (Foster, page 159)
When I read this quote I instantly agreed with Foster. I know I'm not supposed to go on a rampage about personal beliefs in my blogs or reflections, but I just have to say that being in the class and reading more books than I have before and analyzing and doing close readings has really made me realize that this quote is absolutely true. Foster has been giving us ways to analyze and interpret symbols and situations within dozens of novels, with a lot of examples, throughout his work. He hasn't been giving us things like "this ALWAYS means this," because, as he says, these aren't very good words to use when analyzing literature. I think that, as students, (or at least as people who are just learning to analyze literature), we sort of have this expectation that there is going to be one right answer. For me, the only thing I have really analyzed before this class was chord progressions in music theory class, and those ALWAYS are one thing. It's rare that they can be classified as more than one thing. So, when I start reading books and being told "this scene could indicate this, this, this, or this," I start to get a bit overwhelmed. I guess what Foster is trying to prove here is that his students have tendencies to use the words "always" and "never", and they shouldn't do that. He's trying to tell us that we shouldn't either, and I think that's very nice of him, considering that I've been using him to help me understand the other books I'm reading better. :)
So how about anyone else? Does anyone else actually USE the stuff you read in Foster to help you with this class? It seems to me that it's almost like a cheat sheet of analyzing literature. What tips has Foster given you that you've put into use throughout this course?
"Culture is so influenced by its dominant religious systems that whether a writer adheres to the beliefs or not, the values and principles of those religions will inevitably inform the literary work." Foster, page 118
Foster makes it clear that in order to observe and analyze a lot of literary work, you must have an open mind. Religious knowledge are sometimes neccessary to a literary work, in order to completely understand it, while other times, having a certain belief makes a person biased and unable to analyze properly.In order to understand all different types of literature, and analyze like a professor, students must set down their barriers and allow literature to to fill their heads with the ideas of the time and plot of the work. It is crucial to be able to change your perspective as a reader, in order to give a work proper analysis, and leave all your beliefs, religious or not, aside and focus on the work.
"YOUNG WOMAN. I've been free father, for one moment, down here on earth, I have been free. When I did what I did, I was free. Free, and not afraid. How is that, Father? How can that be? I great sin, a mortal sin, for which I must die and go to hell, but it made me free! One moment, I was free then, how is that Father? Tell me that." Treadwell, page 80
"Let me alone! I want to be free!" Treadwell, page 30
"YOUNG WOMEN: All free?
HUSBAND: All free." Treadwell, page 58
"MAN: Oh, you're free down there, you're free." Treadwell, page 49
Throughout this play, Treadwell uses a recurring theme freedom. All Helen Jones desires is to feel as though she is free. She feels trapped because she is expected to follow suit and be married to a man who she does not love, but is aware that love should be felt in a marriage. The characters around her throughout the work, such as TELEPHONE GIRL, all seem to be happy-go-lucky and carefree. She has the type of freedom that Helen desires. Even in the bar, with the two men and TELEPHONE GIRL, she desires to "keep moving," and wants to learn more of having fun and having a real life. She is trapped by her husband, her child, her work, and her dependent mother. Once her life is free from work, it is consumed by the cage of having a loveless marriage, and after her childbirth, she is so disgusted with her husband that it brings her to point of gagging. She has a feeling like she's "all tight inside," that she feels "she's going to die," if she is not free from all of her stresses. Treadwell depicts these feelings of the character via actions, like the gagging, and the constant strings of thought that you hear the character mumble while she is alone. She panics, which makes her need for freedom apparent throughout the drama.
"She is soft and tender, and everything else is hard, mechanical." (from the summary at the beginning of the play)
I thought it was a bit ironic that Helen desires so much freedom, and once she finally gets it, by killing her husband along with having a lover, she ruins her own freedom and ends up in jail, facing the electric chair. The irony is furthered by the fact that she is so soft (ie: the soft hands, etc.) and is taken by Treadwell through such hard, automatic stages of life, where she can't fit in. Once her freedom is accomplished, and she finally feels relief, Helen, the soft girl, is destroyed by a machine, the electric chair, and the reporter begs the question, "will the machine work?" and, we know as reader, of course it will, "it always works," and it is automatic, much like the life the character has been going through over the course of the play. Everything, life, death, is all automatic, like a machine.
course website: http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/treadwell_machinal/
" "She's got an indiscreet voice," I remarked, "It's full of -" I hesitated.
"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.
That it was." Fitzgerald, page 120
I believe the point Fitzgerald is trying to make with this little situation that occurs, Nick thinking about Daisy's voice, is established in order to further explain to the reader that Daisy's life is exceedingly care-free, so much in fact, that you can literally hear it in her voice. It is obvious that by the pending affair between Gatsby and Daisy, that Daisy does not care when Tom begins to realize what is going on. It also suggests that Daisy emits a sense that she has always been provided for, as well as educated, always around rich folk, so she speaks as they should. Nick is sort of comparing her voice to that of his own, or to people around him, like Gatsby, and probably notes that they are from a working class, and Nick seems to realize how hard he has to work at speaking with these folk, since he has never really been a part of the wealthy cliques. He hesitates frequently, thinking before he speaks around these people. Daisy, on the other hand, is free to do and say what she wishes, without worry, because she is so accustomed to living in this world.
"There is a kind of authority lent by something being almost universally, known, where one has only to utter certain lines and people nod their heads in recognition." Foster, 43.
In chapter 6, Foster makes a case for the fact that Shakespeare has a great influence on a lot of writers, and that many stories, most of them, are based on one of his works. He proves his case by naming various quotes, most of which I knew, and then saying something along the lines of, "I bet you know these quotes, but can't tell me where exactly they are from." As the reader, I would say that he makes a good argument, basing most of his claim on different examples throughout literature that imitate the storylines or characters in Hamlet, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and Taming of the Shrew. He makes the statement that writers bounce ideas off of eachother, and says that they quote things they have read or heard, and more of them have Shakespeare in their heads than anything else. (Except Bugs Bunny.) The claim Foster makes about students being able to connect more to a piece of literature, and allow the imagination to fill in the blanks in the story line when they realize or learn that it is based on Shakespeare, is a good point. I've read books where Romeo and Juliet was the 'backbone' of the work, and, until someone told me or I realized that it was that way, I couldn't see the connection or where the story was headed. It makes Shakespeare a sort of authority figure due to the fact that most stories can be related in one way or another, to one of his works.
"I said, 'I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'" - Daisy, page 17.
It seems safe to say that the characters in this book seem to be leading somewhat meaningless lives. Nick speaks of how the men characters went to college and have accomplished great things, become rich, etc. The women in the book, Daisy, in particular, are described as graceful and pleasant, and nice to look at. I am in no way a feminist, but I must admit, as Nick speaks of the awkward interruption at dinner, and Miss Baker speaks of Tom's "other woman in New York," I was slightly disgusted, as Nick was. I will never understand how any women, especially the married ones, can stand by and watch their husbands "have other women." It seems very degrading to me. It seems to me that perhaps the materialism, having nice things, big houses, butlers, etc, seems to be extended into 'having women' for the men. All I can think of is that Britney Spears song, "Womanizer." Hilarious, but relevant, I suppose. The way Daisy reacts to giving birth to a girl, to me, signifies that even women are being taught that women are basically worthless, and the best thing they can do in life is "be a fool." We know that's not true anymore, but people like the characters in this book, with materialistic natures, are empty inside, because they have not been taught differently. Everything in their world is based on riches, real estate, and fancy clothing. How can material possessions fill the void in one's life, if one does not know how to love and be loved?
"After Apple Picking," by Robert Frost, immediately symbolizes some sort of regret or remorse, as if the speaker of the poem is dying. The speaker looks into heaven after a hard day's work, and realizes that "there's still a barrel I didn't fill," or rather, there are still things that the speaker wants to accomplish in his life before he passes on. From the little that I've learned of Robert Frost, I know he lost his family early, and I feel sympathy for him after reading this poem. There is a sort of tragedy that is occuring throughout the poem, as if the reader is saying, "I'm overtired of apple-picking" instead of saying "I'm tired of living." He talks about the dozens of apples that were bruised or defective, and how they were treated as if they were just waste, thrown into the cider apple heap. This could be symbolic of the many dreams and aspirations he had in his life, that he now cannot accomplish because he is too old and tired, or, he could be referring to the untimely death of his family, and how their lives were thrown away. All in all, the poem is very sad and makes one think about mortality, the future, and their own dreams and aspirations..
Robert Frost's poem, Fire and Ice, is one of my favorites, actually. I've heard it be analyzed in a thousand different ways. Some people believe that fire and ice are metaphors for religion vs, science, or passion vs hate, or good vs. evil. A lot of readers say that Frost's poetry, in it's time, was overlooked as being very literal, and just had a sing-songy quality, and that was what was so great about it, (as a music major, I have literally sung at least four of these poems as song text in choirs that I've performed in), that no one ever truely saw the deeper, darker meaning of his poetry. As I was reading what the internet randomly gave me once I looked up more on this poem, I was a bit astonished to see how deep some readers can dive into these poems, trying to find meanings, while it all seems so simple to me.
Maybe it's just me being simple, but did anyone ever think that maybe Mr. Frost meant exactly what he said in Fire and Ice? That between two opposites, there are benefits of them both, and both are just as good as the other? He first makes the case for fire, then instantly changes and says that "ice will suffice"...well, which is it? As readers, we are dying to know which he thinks is better, but maybe that was his point, that neither are better. There is no lesser of two evils. Both cause pain. The latter can end the world just as easily as the first. They are one in the same. Can it really, really be that simple? I always thought of it as that simple. The only literary reference I know of this poem, is that Stephenie Meyer uses it in the preface of one of her novels, and the reader instantly relate the poem to a love triangle that is formed between three of the main characters. One boy represents fire, the other ice, and the girl is the poet. She is not sure which boy to choose, because they both have their faults, and the both have their benefits...
"...if you're breaking bread you're not breaking heads." (Foster, page 8)
The talk of the sharing of communion for characters in literature who are involved in meal scenes is one thing I could never have come up with on my own, but it makes perfect sense after reading chapter 2. Think back to any date you've ever had, were you ever nervous about eating in front of this new acquaintance? It's reasonable to say yes, I'm sure we've all been there. I'm taken back to Christmas Eve dinners with my family, where it could be the most comfortable situation, and there would still be some underlying feud, that would temporarily resolve itself for the meal. It's very interesting to think of meals as a distraction or a sort of communion or trust factor. Now, I feel as though I can see that way. Maybe I saw it that way before and just never thought about it...
"In order to remain undead, I must steal the life force of someone whose fate matters less to me than my own." (Foster, page 21)
Now that Foster has mention vampires, I, of course, am immediately reminded of the novel Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Meyer's Vampire characters are not your "typical, run-of-the-mill" vampires, because they somehow manage to control their thoughts similar to the quote above. The reason why the other 'evil' (or normal, however you want to put it) vampires in this novel look at the Cullen vampires as if they are ridiculous, is because, as stated in the quote, selfishness and exploitation of others is expected and seen as normal for them, not only in their world but in the general literary world as well. It never made sense to me before why the character James couldn't just walk away and leave the Cullens and Bella alone. It's because in this novel, the Cullens are the 'freaks' of the vampire world, and James is doing what real vampires are supposed to do, trying to suck the life out of someone that matters less to him than he matters to himself.
And, a little side note, I don't know about anyone else, but this author had me laughing out loud with his little quotes and puns and such. He's very entertaining.