September 28, 2005

Blogging Fool

It's that time of year again- the time when blogging portfolios abound. Here's a look at some of my best from American Literature.


Meeting With the Devil- A look at the story "Young Goodman Brown".
Colorful Death- Death doesn't always have to be black...
The Scarlet Letter- My first in a long line of entries about the novel.
Who's the Father?- Actually, it's Dimmesdale.
The New and Improved Dimmesdale- The newer model is much better than the old one.
The End- Finally...
Strange Scrivener- And you thought your coworkers were weird.
Maddening- It's crazy...
Let's Write about Literature!- I admit, it's a helpful book.
Making Connections- Bartleby related to "The Customs House".


Meeting With the Devil- A closer look at an interesting story.
Colorful Death- Bringing new ideas to a well-read story.
Who's the Father?- My insights into everyone's favorite adultress.
The End- A last look at The Scarlet Letter.
Strange Scrivener- An examination of the interesting characters in the story.
Maddening- Maybe I was reading too much into this...
Making Connections- Comparing two different stories.


Who's the Father?
Meeting With the Devil


Meeting With the Devil
Colorful Death
Who's the Father?-
The New and Improved Dimmesdale
The End


Meeting With the Devil
Colorful Death
Who's the Father?-
The New and Improved Dimmesdale
The End
Strange Scrivener
Making Connections


Comment Grande:
Lauren Etling: "Hester's Burden No More"
Jason Pugh: "Bartleby the Scrivener"

Comment Primo:
Stacy Estatico: "The Scarlet Letter Chapter 14-21"
Stacy Estatico: "The Scarlet Letter Chapter 22-24"
Lauren Etling: "I'm Sooooo Happy for Pearl!"
Ashley Holtzer: "Bartleby the Scrivener"
Ashley Holtzer: "Is Dimmesdale Dead?"

Link Gracious:
Meeting With the Devil

Summer Blogging- Although written in the summer, shows that I am a committed blogger, even over break.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2005

Making Connections

Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” has some common traits to Hawthorne’s “The Customs House” in The Scarlet Letter. As Lauren Etling pointed out in her blog, the environments are especially similar. Both areas are rather lonely places filled with the same people day after day, almost never changing. Bartleby does not change, or even leave, throughout his time of being employed by the lawyer just as things remain unchanged for the narrator in “The Customs House”.

The attitude of the two characters in these two passages is also similar. The narrator in “The Customs House” feels separated from his fellow co-workers just as Bartleby alienated himself from the others in his office. However, the narrator in “The Customs House” strove to make a name for himself by writing Hester’s story rather than Bartleby who simply stayed at the office.

Another similar element is the face that neither narrators of either story was given a name. All other characters were yet they were not. In a discussion on Ashley Holtzer’s blog, I wondered whether the authors could not think of a name suitable for the characters or if they were just not important enough to be named at all. The focus of the “The Customs House” and “Bartleby the Scrivener” was to tell the stories of others, not focus on the narrator’s.

(Oh, by the way this is my 100th entry. Figures it'd be about The Scarlet Letter.)

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 8:06 AM | Comments (3)

September 26, 2005

Let's Write about Literature!

Ok, let me be real honest here- a book entitled Writing about Literature isn't exactly bound to be a good time. I'm not about to take it to the beach or curl up with it on a rainy day. It's a textbook- but a useful one at that.

Chapter 1 shows the important steps that must be taken to write a good essay about literature. It isn't enough to simply read a story and jot down something about it and hope it passes as a literary essay. You need to make connections, compile notes, create thoughts, and use quotations. It's a lot of work, but worth it.

Chapter 2 highlights our favorite topic- the close reading. This involves lookin indepth at a piece of literature, not just the surface stuff.

Chapter 3 hits on characters and just how to interpret them. Nothing is unintentional in a piece of literature, right down to what the characters say and do. The goal is to realize the type of character and what he or she means to the story.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)


So apparently wallpaper can drive a person mad, or at least according to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper.

The almost "journal" format of the story makes it a little more personal and gives insight into the mind of this mad woman. Her descent from a slightly disturbed existance to that of sheer insanity is shown by her true thoughts and feelings rather than that of a narrator.

I do not think that she was originally insane but that it occured preogressively through the prescribed "treatment" from her husband. Perhaps the woman merely suffered from fatigue and her captivity, lack of companionship and, truly, a life led her to become insane. Originally I found it odd that her husband was so sweet and so caring (I don't know why I found this odd...I guess I expected, for the time period, a husband to not be so patient). However, I saw that his actions are more cruel than helpful. He basically holds his wife captive, keeping her from experiencing a real life and probably keeping her sick as well. All his "honey"s and "dear"s are covering up a more sinister plan.

As stated by Gilman in her "Why I Wrote 'The Yellow Wallpaper'" essay, she is strivin to bring recognition to such disorders and treatment. "It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked." The story is less about actual insanity than it is about its treatment and "cure" of the day. Another writer, ahead of her time, questioning ideas and norms of society.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 2:50 PM | Comments (5)

Strange Scrivener

Truly, I'm not even sure where to begin with Herman Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener. Certainly an odd sort of story...

Perhaps I am, once again, just missing the big picture. There is actually strong symbolism throughout and the story is a moving one with some amazing theme. Too bad I'm not seeing it.

"Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters and assorting them for the flames?"

Did Bartleby chose this earlier job because he is such a desolate character and nothing else would suit his disposition or had the buring of dead letters changed him into the man we see now? And even if the letters did have some sort of effect on Bartleby, why would they change him into a clingy strange man? Let me know...

Note: I found this website after I posted this entry early this morning. Has some interesting ideas on the story, ideas that I obviously did not pick up previously. Check it out.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 8:04 AM | Comments (4)

September 21, 2005

The End...

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (Ch 22-24, Introductory) -- American Literature, 1800-1915 (EL 266)

I really don't know why Hawthorne couldn't have made the entire book as good as the ending. Finally, some characterf! Some feeling! Something interesting!

"People of New England!, that have loved me!- ye, that have deemed me holy!- behold me here, the one sinner of the world! At last!- at last!- I stand upon the spot where, seven years since, I should have stood; here. with this woman..."

This is probably the most obvious quote to write an agenda item for but I'm not giong to let that stop me. It's a good quote! What the reader has been waiting for- Dimmesdale's confession- finally occurs. He holds back nothing- probably because he is about to die anyway. Hawthorne once again puts a little life into Dimmesdale and takes the focus away from Hester, previously the main character. Too bad he waited until Chapter 23...

Hawthorne did end the book like a 'Seinfeld' episode though (weird analogy, I know. Those who have watched the show understand- it isn't quite complete, not exactly fully resolved). Hester, who this entire novel is basically about, practically disappears. She returns and embroiders some but is more like a shadow in town. Then again, with Dimmesdale's confession, how could she ever really return to her standing? Pearl too is gone, leaving questions as to her life and potential marriage. One would think, after a novel which prominently features these two characters, Hawthorne would have closed the story a bit better.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 4:18 PM | Comments (3)

September 19, 2005

The New and Improved Dimmesdale

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (Ch 14-21) -- American Literature, 1800-1915 (EL 266)

Ah, finally, it’s getting good.

After pages and pages of Hawthorne’s lengthy and elaborate descriptions, we finally have an interesting and thickening plot. Dimmesdale becomes a changed man after his (rather passionate) meeting with Hester in the forest. “The minister’s own will, and Hester’s will, and the fate that grew between them, had wrought this transformation. It was the same town as heretofore; but the same minister returned not from the forest.” Hester invokes something in Dimmesdale that causes him to “come alive” again. He is filled with his love for Hester and joy that soon he will be able to escape New England and start anew in Europe. Hawthorne finally gives Dimmesdale some dimension, some personality, to his rather boring character. We finally see a side of him that makes Dimmesdale a bit more human. He has emotions and feelings, wants and desires, just as any other man. However, these were hidden under his dowdy demeanor throughout most of the book.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 7:44 AM | Comments (6)

September 14, 2005

Who's the Father?

I thought I had a relatively good grasp on the father of Hester’s daughter, Pearl in The Scarlet Letter. After passages in the earlier chapters between Hester and Chillingworth, I was almost sure that he was in fact the father. Now, however, I’ve realized that it is Dimmesdale that holds that honor.

While I found Dimmesdale’s behavior a bit odd previously, I finally connected everything with a paragraph in chapter eight. Hester and Pearl are at the governor’s home, being thoroughly questioned as to whether Hester is a fit mother for Pearl. As Wilson and the Governor find fault in Pearl’s upbringing and wish to take her from her mother, it is Dimmesdale that supports Hester. Dimmesdale remarks that Pearl is a child of God and, while not created under the best of terms, is still a “solemn miracle”.

I found his support of Hester odd throughout the paragraph yet was struck by the line “Herein is the sinful mother happier than the sinful father.” Is Dimmesdale unhappy? Is there a connection there? Yep. He understands Hester’s joy with Pearl and her happiness with the child and sees that she truly is a good mother. Pearl is a living symbol of sin which is a constant reminder to both mother and father. Hester has taken joy in Pearl however, while Dimmesdale has not and is still plagued by her existence.

“‘You speak, my friend, with a strange earnestness,’ said old Roger Chillingworth, smiling at him.” Really doesn’t get any more obvious than that. Chillingworth knows of Dimmesdale’s sin (since he spends so much in his company) and is almost rubbing it in his face with that line. Why would Dimmesdale speak with such earnestness? How would he know anything about the situation unless he was the father. The smile is also incredibly incriminating. He might as well wink and nudge Dimmesdale.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 8:45 AM | Comments (3)

September 13, 2005

The Scarlet Letter

Ok, my first agenda item was truly terrible. So since no one read it anyway, I'm making a new one.

I hate to pull directly from class discussion (and therefore ruining the entire idea of an "agenda item") but it was a good discussion. And something that I was thinking about earlier. As Jay mentioned in class, why didn't Hester say the name of the child's father in "The Scarlet Letter"?

My initial reacion when I read Hester's refusal to say the name of her lover was shock. Of course, never being in such a situation, I do not know how I could reaction however I can venture a pretty good guess, "Him! It was him! Now take this ugly letter off my shirt!" Most people (at least in today's era) would announce the name of the other sinner in hopes of getting a lighter sentence. Yet Hester kept silent, even saying, "Never!...It is too deeply branded...And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine!" She is going to take the entire blame for a crime that she shared with another.

Perhaps Hester refused to reveil the name because she knew it would not help her in any way. In the Puritan times, a man's word was better than a woman's, especially in such a case. She could insist a man was her lover but if he denies it the court will believe him more because he is a man. There is no way to test evidence otherwise. She understood that telling the name would not help her case any, so why bother.

Of course, this being a fine work of literature and all, there is a deeper meaning to her reluctance, I'm sure. At the moment, it shows her character and her strength. She has sinned, she understands, and she will endure it alone.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 1:15 AM | Comments (2)

September 7, 2005

Colorful Death

I've read "The Masque of the Red Death" several times in my years of schooling. It has sort of lost it's thrill for me- sorry.

I guess there are a few main ideas in the story. One- the figure at the end. "The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat." Pretty big symbol for the bubonic plague or "black death" (which ties into the title...nice Poe) that they were trying to escape. The description Poe makes about the visitor is relatively obvious- he basically looks like death.

Another element of the story is the idea that one cannot ever escape death no matter how hard they may try. The prince locks himself and 1000 other up in his castle to escape the plague. Yet all the partying in the world cannot save him and his guests from their fate- to die. It was egotistical of the prince to imagine that he was the one who can escape something such as death which no other person can.

The last item are the rooms representing the Seven Deadly Sins. Ashley commented about the possibility of the rooms being connected to these sins in some form. I think the rooms are in a direct connection to the seven sins. (For those who don't remember, the sins are: Pride, Gluttony, Sloth, Envy, Lust, Anger, and Greed). Prince Prospero exhibits all of these sins throughout the story and his behavior is displayed in the rooms. However, I'm not sure how the colors of the rooms corolate to the sins. Green for envy but what else?

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 3:11 PM | Comments (4)

September 5, 2005

Meeting with the Devil

Oh look, it’s September. I have to start blogging about academic-related subjects and start making some sense. Darn.

“My Faith is gone!” Such a pivotal and important line in “Young Goodman Brown” that can easily be missed. Yet as Neha and Holly noted, the simple sentence does contain a lot of meaning and young Goodman Brown’s basic feelings.

“Faith” in this quotation has a double meaning. Due to capitalization, outright it appears that Brown is initially crying out for his beloved wife (with the pink ribbons, as mentioned over and over in the story). She has been taken into this ring of heathens and is leaving him.

However, “faith” also has another meaning, one that sums up Brown’s feelings for the rest of the story. His literal faith and beliefs are also gone after witnessing the meeting of the townspeople with the devil. Everything Brown has known has basically been a lie; everything he has based his faith on. “…the good shrank from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints.” Everyone, even surprising figures such as the minister and his own father, has evil in them. He is incredibly disillusioned now that he sees the true evil in his own world, in his own ideals. His faith in the goodness of others and his own beliefs in God have been shattered by this meeting. He carries this eschewed view of people and the world with him throughout his life. “…for his dying hour was gloom.” He lived his life unsure of the truth behind people and in fear of what he had seen.

Did Brown actually witness the meeting with the devil? Or was it merely a dream? As mentioned by Holly, the experience being a dream is probable since it can represent a coming of age scenario- a boy realizing that those he respects and loves are truly human and make mistakes just like everyone else. In the beginning of the story there are numerous references to dreams that suggest that it was a dream and not reality. Faith states, “…A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts…” while Brown mentions, “…She talks of dreams, too…as if a dream had warned her…” I suppose it doesn’t really matter either way if it was a dream or a real event. The experience still changed Brown and his views on life and others.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 7:55 PM | Comments (3)