November 19, 2004

Presenting the pages

Have you ever seen a painting that shows every facet of a scene--the detail meticulous in the presentation of every object in the setting? How about one that accentuates one area of the canvas, and not the rest, heightening that part of the painting?

Now try that concept to a piece of literature: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn--the one with the meticulous documentation, in this case of issues such as slavery and morality, and "The Yellow Wallpaper" abstract in other areas--except one--feminism.

So that is the basic premise of my research paper for American Literature. The issues that I discuss are not the important part; it is that I want to restrict each work to that standard.

**Beyond this point, I may use language which may be deemed offensive. This language is not a reflection of my own beliefs, but rather a reflection of the works I discuss.**

The topics I discuss are: description, point-of-view, and dialogue of each work.

Description
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Slavery: Description of Jim: "Miss Watson would sell him south, sure. Well, he was right; he was most always right; he had an uncommon level head, for a nigger." --Typical of the era --Condescending--thinking the whites superior
  • Morality: Huck's Struggle: "People would call me a low down Abilitionist and despise me for keeping mum--but that don't make no difference." --Typical of the era --Huck's internal struggle: "not on principle or the wrongness of slavery in general, but...Jim's friendship" (Bollinger)

"The Yellow Wallpaper"

  • Description of the room: "big, airy...the windows are barred"
  • Description of the wallpaper:
    At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be. I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman.

    --Imprisoned woman of the era, encased behind the bars of marriage. (Davidson)
    --Traditionally and appropriately read in a social, particularly feminist, context (Suess).

Point-of-View
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and "The Yellow Wallpaper"--both written in first-person

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • Slavery: "It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger--but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither."
    --Condescension in association with Jim. White superiority displayed in the viewpoint expressed.
    --American view at the time
  • Morality: Would have been "moral," according to society's standards for Huck to turn in Jim, but instead he decides that the real moral thing to do is to be Jim's friend--demonstrated after he is captured:
    "Then they come out and locked him up. I hoped they was going to say he could have one or two of the chains too off...I reckoned it war't best for me to mix in."

    --Jim is a "friend, protector, and surrogate parent" (Jackson).
    --Huck still keeps silent, even when the doctor refreshes the slavery morality: "I judged he must be a runaway nigger...the nigger might get away, and then I'd be to blame."

"The Yellow Wallpaper"

  • Juxtaposition of her thoughts after her husband and brother's concerning her condition.
  • Stating opinion on "dead" paper, the helplessness "What is one to do?"
    --position of women--"the terror [they] continue to associate with their vulnerability in love and marriage" (Day quoted in Davidson).

Dialogue
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Slavery and Morality: Huck tricking Jim in fog:
    When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin' for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos' broke bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no mo' what become er me en de raf'. En when I wake up en fine you back agin', all safe en soun', de tears come en I soun', de tears come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss' yo' foot I's so thankful...En all you wuz thinking 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie."
    --Jim understands mentality of white southerners --Jim explaining the "real" morality is that this is wrong to do

"The Yellow Wallpaper"

  • Dialogue between husband and wife: John says: "'You know the place is doing you good...and really, dear, I don't care to renovate the house just for a three months' rental.'" Then the narrator responds with: "'Then do let us go downstairs.'" Then he just takes her in his arms and calls her a little goose. UGH!
  • John is "[acting] as a policeman for, the constraining ideology of feminity" (Davidson).

Opposing Views
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Slavery most prevalent issue discussed, but not the only one:
    “If it were simply an anti-slavery novel, in the vein of many produced before the Civil War primarily by northeastern abolitionists, Huck and Jim could have just crossed the Mississippi, fled into the interior of Illinois, and gone directly to Canada (Jackson).
"The Yellow Wallpaper"
  • Feminism addressed primarily, however minute reference to class of the time: "It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer,” but the issue of feminism overshadows it, making it look as if this is the "normal life" of the bourgeois.
Conclusion
My conclusion, as usual, kind of stinks. I am prone to "mechanical wrap-up," and I don't really introduce an enlightening, last thought. Suggestions would be much appreciated.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at November 19, 2004 5:07 PM
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