March 2009 Archives

Intense, in the worst way possible

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"I spoke automatically and with such fervor that I did not realize that the men were still talking and laughing until my dry mouth, filling up with blood from the cut, almost strangled me. I coughed, wanting to stop and go to one of the tall brass, sand-filled spittoons to relieve myself..." (30)

I went into this book not knowing what it was about at all. One of my friends told me to wait until I read chapter 1 and then text them (they had read the book before), so we could talk about how messed up it was. So I read chapter 1, and the only thing I could think to say was, "That was intense, in the worst way possible." I have no idea what the rest of the book is going to entail, but that chapter left me feeling disgusted at the absolutely degrading behaviors they make the boys take part in, and just how straightforwardly racist the people are. While Foster said to read with eyes that are not our own, reducing boys to animals and poking fun at them while doing it is something I could never agree with no matter when it happened.

Obviously this chapter is supposed to get us interested in what will happen, and make us feel horrified. Mission accomplished.

 

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The Power of Scarcity

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One thing I took away from the article was just how under abundant the planet is, especially in some areas, and how sublime nature is.

"Both in the novel and in the desert itself, water's conspicuous absence is what makes it so powerful. The flooding that climaxes the novel is thematically situated to provide maximum counterpoint to the drought which originally forced the Joads to migrate west. Disenfranchised and dehumanized, the Joads can only curse the rising floodwaters even as they once prayed for a deluge to feed their parched crops. The cycle of alienation appears complete; people whose humanity was once integrally tied to the land and the weather now care nothing for the growing season or the health of the earth. Their survival has come to depend on shelter from the elements rather than the elements themselves."

This quote shows both of the original points I made quite well. The first is the absence of water, or under abundance, and how powerful it can be. The absence of water during a certain time lead to an entire people having to migrate west in order to find work, an entire culture was uprooted simply because of scarcity. This phenomenon, not necessarily this particular one, has happened countless times in the Earth's existence. Today there is a scarcity of oil, which leads to high gas prices (keep in mind I'm using scarcity as in the battle between unlimited human wants, and limited resources, so while there is not a "shortage" of oil, there is not enough to satisfy our wants completely).  In the 30's there was a shortage of jobs all around, and some people became hobos or even took their own lives as a result. This article made me think just how there is never quite enough of anything to go around, and made me realize the full extent of the power of scarcity.

The other thing I saw in the article is simple how powerful nature is. In the quote from before, it mentions how there was such a lack of rain, and then there was a flood. While this did not actually happen, seeing as it was from a book, occurrences like this DO happen in real life as well. While we can control where we go and how we react to the elements, no one can change the elements. There is no way any of us could have stopped hurricane Katrina, or the tsunami from 2004. I especially like how the article put it, when it said "Their survival has come to depend on shelter from the elements rather than the elements themselves." No matter what we as a people do, we cannot hide from mother nature.


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Devil's Advocate

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I really enjoy Robert Lowell's poem "Robert Frost", because it just seems like an intellectual game of devil's advocate. Just for clarification, "playing devil's advocate" is in a way taking the opposite side of an argument just for the sake of argument. The poem ends by saying

"And I, "Sometimes I'm so happy I can't stand myself."
And he, "When I am too full of joy, I think
how little good my health did anyone near me.""

Besides the fact that I enjoy interactions between poets who become friends, I like how Frost turns the tables in a witty way. I would not think when I was happy how useless I am to those around me as a means to regulate myself. I would hope that the poem was taken from an actual conversation between the two men.

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Stockholm Daddy

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Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy" for some reason makes me think of Stockholm syndrome. This is a condition in which someone who is kidnapped or held hostage becomes emotionally attached to their kidnappers, and will even defend them in some instances. While the speaker was not kidnapped, this type of relationship runs rampant throughout the poem. The type of relationship I mean is someone being treated wrongly (being held hostage) develops and almost loving relationship with the one doing the wrong doing.

"You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe of Achoo."

This is what begins the poem, and really sets the opressive mood as too what will follow. It seems that her father can be characterized as many evil things/people, Hitler being the most apparent. However, she still refers to him as a loving "daddy", which Aja talks about in her blog.  http://blogs.setonhill.edu/AjaHannah/2009/03/dad_not_daddy.html This makes it hard to pinpoint just how the speaker feels about their father, which is a very human response. Even though a father might treat a child terribly, the fact that that person is their guardian means that there is usually an unconditional love from child to parent.

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Ambiguous Waltz?

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After reading Theodore Roethke's poem "My Papa's Waltz", I could not shake the feeling that it was about anything but a waltz between a child and parent. The first time through I thought the whole scene was kind of a cute, a loving father waltzing with their child and then putting them to bed. Then I read it a couple of more times, and the word choices make me a little uneasy.

(All references made are on page 13)

I feel it would not be completely outlandish to suggest that this poem is about an abusive father. One thing I thought of after  coming to this conclusion is that the poem is called "My Papa's Waltz", instead of something like "A Waltz With Papa". This makes me think that the waltz is specific to the speaker's father, as in maybe the way he was abused resembled a waltz, but in any capacity the waltz belongs to "Papa".

The first lines read, "The whiskey on your breath / Could make a small boy dizzy;" Obviously his papa is drinking, and alcohol often leads to violence. The second stanza makes mention of pans sliding from the shelf, and that "My mother's countenance / Could not unfrown itself". To me, pans falling on the floor is certainly annoying, but it would in no way lead my mother to not be able to unfrown. The first line of that stanza uses the word "romped", which makes me think that the speaker and his father are pushing each other around the room, and they slam into the shelf, spilling the pans on the floor. This interpretation makes it a lot more plausible that the father and the speaker are in confrontation, and the mother cannot stand the sight of it.

The third stanza reads

"The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At ever step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle."

Papa's battered knuckle could be from punching his son, and grabbing someone's wrist during a fight is a way to control their movements. Also, the word "scraped" makes me think of something negative, not just a gentle tap of a missed step. The fourth stanza seems much more innocent, but the final lines are "Then waltzed me off to bed / Still clinging to your shirt". This could possibly be the speaker getting beat to the point of unconsciousness while still holding his father's shirt trying to defend himself.

Did anyone else get this feeling when reading this?


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Ambiguous Waltz

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Ambiguous 

Worlds Apart

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Foster brings up quite an interesting point when he describes the reaction one would expect when reading "The Dead".

"A vase with stalks of celery, American apples and oranges on the sideboard, floury potatoes. Nothing very remarkable. Unless you live, as do the old ladies who provide the meal, in preelectrification Dublin, where it happens to be the sixth of January. So if you're going to understand the ladies, and the meal, and the story, you have to read through eyes that are not your own, eyes that, while not those of Aunt Kate and Julia, can take in the meaning of the meal they have provided" (226-227)

I feel this mindset is extremely important, especially when it comes  to works written in a completely different time period. This goes back to the discussion we had when reading The Great Gatsby, in which we discussed people's outrage at the women in the book's actions. This response is normal for OUR society to have, but we have to keep in mind that the book is THEIR fictional society, one that we are most likely strangers to.

I also feel that using this way of thinking greatly increases our understanding of characters and their situations. Take for instance the romance in the new (episodes I-III) Star Wars movies. For someone who does not know about their galaxy, they would view the love between Anakin and Padme as no big deal. However, jedi's are not allowed to have wives/companions of any kind (in that sense), so their love becomes almost like Romeo and Juliet (not in the whole families hating each other way, in the secret way). Even something like this, about characters who are worlds apart, can be enriched when we see with eyes that do not judge, less ethnocentric eyes, which aim to understand.

Considering I am a psychology major, this makes perfect sense. It's only natural when dealing with others to put yourself in their shoes as a way to make diagnosis and to offer the best advice, so carrying this over to literature, in which we focus heavily on understanding the character, seems natural as well.

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The Blind Prophet, Daredevil?

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Foster's chapter on blindness really opened my eyes on the topic. Puns aside, I've seen the blind prophet character over and over again in literature, and while I always knew what that character's purpose was and how their character would act, I never gave it that extra thought as to why blindness would give them these powers. Foster talks of one of these prophets and writes

"When the specialist arrives, he's blind, Can't see a thing in the world. As it turns out, though, he is able to see things in the spirit and divine world, can see the truth of what's actually happened, truth to which our hero is utterly oblivious" (201).

The particular specialist he speaks of is Tiresias, from Oedipus Rex. While I know this story and this character, and even discussed the constant barrage of sight imagery of the work, I never asked the question why. It's not that I did not ask "Why is Tiersias blind?" Obviously it is a plot device used to make a point. This point being that you should trust the prophet and not have children with your mother.

This made me look at other blind characters and apply this thinking. Take for instance, the comic book superhero Daredevil. If you don't know, Daredevil was blinded as a child, which heightened his other senses to superhuman levels. Besides being the basis of his character, I think that the blindness is also used as a type of plot device, similar to Oedipus Rex. Possibly Daredevil being blind is saying that he is the one that really sees, sees how to make a difference, and sees what his city needs. Daredevil's sight impairment also makes him have no fear. Maybe literal sight keeps other from doing what he does, meaning that seeing what happens to other makes people scared.

All of this could be over analyzing a character in a comic book, but isn't that exactly what Foster wants us to do? The fact that I could make possible assumptions based on the simple fact of blindness, assumptions that I'm sure other could agree with, makes me think that works outside the comic book realm offer a much deeper chance at interpretation.

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Great attention getter

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Everything about the first couple pages of this play just seemed to me like an old 50's commercial or television show that is far more stereotypical of the time period. It also seems like what foreigners would think about Americans. Such as

 "Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus' daughter is named Gladys. She'll make some good man a good wife some day, if he'll just come down off the movie screen and ask her" (9)

Besides that every young woman wants to marry movie stars we have the stereotypical young boy who's good at throwing things (which probably means good at sports), the mother that will do anything for her children, even killing the entire world if necessary, and an entrepreneurial father who is the "master" of the house. This ridiculous setting helps to set that the rest of the play will be ridiculous.

When writing papers we are always told to start out with an attention getter, and the first act, even the first few pages really make the audience want to continue on with the rest of the play.

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Internet discussions worthwhile, who knew?

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This is a brief overview of my blog entries thus far. It entails blogs that simply fulfill the requirements, blogs that were on time, blogs that sparked discussion between my peers, blogs in which I put forth more of an effort, and my comments on my peer's blogs that had a positive effect. I had not thought before this class that blogs could be used in such a productive and enriching way.

Coverage
- Here are a few blogs in which I quoted the work and used a TrackBack to the course website

Politics in writing
Okie Tendencies
One story? C'mon


Timeliness - Here are some examples of blogs posted on time or early

Frost's Deception
After Apple Picking
Racism At It's Finest

Interaction- Here are some blogs that sparked discussion among my peers

Quick Rebeginnings
Hot Dog!
One story? C'mon


Depth- Here are the blogs which took the most time, and have the most thought put into them

Frost's Deception
Hot Dog!
One story? C'mon


Discussion- Here are comments on my peer's blogs that helped spark discussion

Aja Hannah
Nikita McClellan - Not only does this contain a comment, but part of the actual blog uses a blog of mine as a reference.

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Recent Comments

Alicia Campbell on Not getting to the point: I agree that this technique ma
Rosalind Blair on Inverse: I have the same sort of view o
Aja Hannah on E^2: I did also enjoy the musical q
Julianne Banda on Nameless Theory: I understand what you mean, an
Jennifer Prex on Nameless Theory: Yes it does. Names are so much
Rosalind Blair on Nameless Theory: I think that your assessment o
Sue on Intense, in the worst way possible: I agree with Julianne, I could
Julianne Banda on Intense, in the worst way possible: I agree. The first chapter cau
Aja Hannah on The Power of Scarcity: In the Environment class I am
Annamarie Houston on Devil's Advocate: I really enjoyed this poem too