February 2009 Archives

Preachin' again

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In Chapter 16, Steinbeck's Characters Casy and Tom are alone yet again and we finally hear another time where Casy preaches, not necessarily religiously, but justice and common sense.

"'You're fixin' to make a speech," Tom said. "Well, go ahead. I like speeches. Warden used to make speeches all the time... What you tryin' to roll out?'
...'They's stuff goin' on and they's folks doin' things. Them people layin' one foot down in front of the other, like you says, they ain't thinkin' where they're goin', like you says--- but they're all layin' 'em down the same direction, jus' the same. An' if ya listen, you'll hear a movin', an' a sneakin', an' a rustlin', an'--an' a res'lessness..."

This shows that though Casy left his religious preaching career, he is still a preacher, 'once a preacher always a preacher. However, he is a preacher in a different kindof light. He is trying to get the people (Tom, in this case) to see what may come harder later, that everyone has the same idea, the same dream, so everyone may not be able to achieve it the way they believe they will.

Other students' comments on The Grapes Of Wrath

Beginning to Blog- Portfolio One

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Hi guys, my name is Angela Saffer. I am a Childhood Administration major with two ed degrees. Here is my portfolio one, including my progress thus far in American Literature with Dr. Jerz.

Until Gatsby was over, I was doing chapter-by-chapter blogs. Then, I realized, I wasn't necessarily doing it 'wrong,' but I was doing a lot more work than what was asked of us in the class. Here are some of the blogs that I have done thus far (since I have about 20, I figured I'd cut it down a bit);


If there's water involved- it's probably religious

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In chapter 18 of How to Read Literature like a Professor,  Foster talks about water meaning baptism.

"..So what happens to make him a changed man?
Yes he gets wet. Now, his getting wet is different from Hagar's disastrous trip in the rain, in that he enters bodies of water. Rain can be restorative and cleansing, so there's a certain overlap, but it generally lacks the specific baptismal associations of submersion."

Though it goes along with my religion's traditions, I never related coming out of a body of water in literature to a baptism before, unless it was blatantly obvious. It is another point that Foster picked to make that I just didn't think about until I read it.

I, however, did pick up on the rain being a sort of cleansing to the character.
I think that the rain going with cleansing is obvious, because it washes the dirt off, etc, but I think saying that every time a character gets wet in a body of water it is related to awakening, being reborn, is a bit of a stretch.

Yearning for a New Life

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In chapter ten of The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck's character Casy explains his wants of a new lifestyle,

"'I ain't gonna baptize. I'm gonna work in the fiel's, in the green fiel's, an' I'm gonna be near to folks. I ain't gonna try to teach 'em nothin'. I'm gonna try to learn. Gonna learn why the folks walks in the grass, gonna hear 'em talk, gonna hear 'em sing.... His eyes were wet and shining. 'Gonna lay in the grass, open an' honest with anybody that'll have me...'" (Steinbeck, 82)

I thought that in the 30's when Steinbeck wrote this, people didn't want change. However, by creating this character who wants a life completely different from his own, we are taken aback. Casy wants to take his life a step down and feel what people (not preachers) feel. He wants to drop the whole preaching idea and start a new life as a- for lack of a better word- everyday person. he wants to feel what they feel, do what they do, and work how they work.


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"I do think, though, that most works must engage with their own specific period in ways that can be called political. Let's say this: writers tend to be men and women who are interested in the world around them. That world contains many things, and on the level of society, part of what it contains is the political reality of the time---power structures, relations among classes, issues of justice and rights, interactions between the sexes and among various racial and ethnic constituencies. That's why political and social considerations often find their way onto the page in some guise, even when the result doesn't look terribly 'political.' "

We were just talking about this in our discussion in class on Monday, how certain books that were written in their time reflect the time period that had just ended or the time period that the author lived in while writing it. I like this concept and I think it is true for a book to be successful.


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"Much of what we think about literature, we feel first. Having instincts, though, doesn't automatically mean they work at their highest level. Dogs are instinctual swimmers, but not every pup hits the water understanding what to do with that instinct. Reading is like that, too. The more you exercise the symbolic imagination, the better and quicker that works." (Foster 106)

I like how Foster explains this quote. We all are taught (if we're lucky enough) to learn how to read, but we don't exactly know how to close read or analyze the text until we hit an understanding on how to do it within our literature classes.

In Forced Love?

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"YOUNG WOMAN. Tell me - (Words suddenly pouring out.)
Your skin oughtn't to curl - ought it - when he just comes near you - ought it? That's wrong, ain't it? You don't get over that, do you - ever, do you or do you? How is it, Ma - do you?

MOTHER. Do you what?

YOUNG WOMAN. Do you get used to, it - so after a while it doesn't matter? Or don't you? Does it always matter? You ought to be in love, oughtn't you, Ma? You must be in love, musn't you, Ma? That changes everything, doesn't it - or does it? Maybe if you just like a person it's all right - isn't it? When he puts a hand on me, my blood turns cold. But your blood oughtn't to run cold, ought it?..."

Mother, in this chapter, thinks that young woman is crazy. Her mother does not believe love is important, as long as you have a house over your head and a way to pay the bills. Maybe that is why her mother was married to her father. She didn't like the fact that her young woman was talking about love because she thought it is a ridiculous concept.
However, the young woman was coming to her mother about feeling uncomfortable with Jones. I think she should have given her some motherly support and instead of encouraging her to marry someone she doesn't love and finds repulsive, she could have said, 'stay away from him.. you're too young to be involved'

Then again, I am wondering how young this woman really is. If she is in her twenties, it was expected of her to get married, whether in love or not. However, if she is more of a teenager, I think her mother could have
However, we will never know that because that was not something the author thought was important and wanted us to know.

Symbolism Causes Foreshadowing

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"Instead, let's restrict ourselves to what he did do and, more important, what we readers can discover in his work. What we have to work with is hints and allegations, really, evidence, sometimes only a trace that points to something lying behind the text." (Foster 84)

After reading this chapter of Foster, I had already finished Machinal, and it made me backtrack to a line in the script...

"MAN. I can't live anywhere else - for long.
WOMAN. Why not?
MAN. Oh - you're free down there! You're free!

A street light is lit outside. The outlines of a window take form against this light. There are bars across is, and from outside it, the sidewalk cuts across almost at the top... Inside, on the ledge, there is a lily blooming in a bowl of rocks and water." (Treadwell 49)

Before even reading to the end, I saw the bars across the window to be referencing to jail, and possibly that was foreshadowing. Even more important, is that the lily is on the edge with the bowl full of rocks and water. I believe that the author was trying to foreshadow that later those would be significant, and someone would end up behind bars in the end.

Of course, there is symbolism in every piece of literature. What other symbols have you found in different books that you have read?

Old friends, Shakespeare, and Symbolism

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"What a literature professor does.... he tells you when you get near mushrooms. Once you know that, though (and you generally are near them), you can hunt for mushrooms on your own." [Foster, 36]

While reading this, I felt like someone had shown me something I knew a long time, but it was never apparent to me.
In fact, while reading Gatsby for the third time I realized that the Notebook probably was developed from that story, at least the lovey-dovey parts (Allie and Noah were separated for years and so were Gatsby and Daisy. While they both loved each other the woman moved on and the man tried to forget because after trying to get a hold of her for so long (Noah's 364 letters and Gatsby's house parties,) nothing had happened until one day when they 'accidentally' stumble into someone who knows the person they were looking for..

"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."

I think I can speak for most of us developing writers, that we dream of someone quoting our works. However, Shakespeare has reached the level that people don't have to say "where was that from?" they just know. Shakespeare certainly has power over us amateurs as we strive as our life-long goal to be as well known as he.

"... snow, like death, is the great unifier, that it falls, in the beautiful closing image, 'upon all the living and the dead.' " [Foster, 81]

I think this is another thing no one really thinks about until it is spelled out for them. Snow, rain, sleet, sunshine, it all falls upon everyone whether we are alive or not.

Guests of the party

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The first part of this quote reminds me of my childhood because whenever someone would pass, and it would rain the day of their funeral, we were told that the angels were crying with us.

" 'Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on...
'Why, my God! they used to go there by the hundreds.'
He took off his glasses and wiped them again, outside and in."

I believe that Gatsby really was alone in his life, except for the few who showed up, and it was sad that no one else came, but would come to his house (probably only for the free things and interaction.) If you think about it, 3/4 of the guests would not even know Gatsby to see him which is horribly shallow.

"The holocaust was complete"

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"It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson's body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete."

The use of the word holocaust is interestingly used here. The fact that three men were killed in a span of two days, and let's not forget about Myrtle.. Fitzgerald certainly keeps the reader excited to see what happens.

A Fool in Love

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In chapter eight
"Well, there I was, 'way off my ambitions, getting deeper in love every minute, and all of a sudden I didn't care. What was the use of doing great things if I could have a better time telling her what I was going to do?" [Fitzgerald, 150]

We often do this when we find someone we care strongly for. For some reason, our hearts tell us to drop everything, even if it would make us unsuccessful. In Gatsby's case, he wanted to leave Oxford to find Daisy. However, we learn quickly (as Gatsby did) that you need a mutual understanding if you are going to do something like this, a plan. However, in love or not, you have every right to follow your heart and your ambitions at the same time.

The True Inheritance

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In Chapter six, when the truth is revealed about where Gatsby got the money (from Dan Cody) I believe that some relief is brought to Nick. I think that Gatsby was under a lot of stress from missing Daisy that he didn't quite want to reveal the truth about him before.

"He told me all this very much later, but I've put it all down here with the idea of exploding those first wild rumors about his antecedents, which weren't even faintly true. Moreover he told it to me at a time of confusion, when I had reached the point of believing everything and nothing about him. So I take advantage of his short halt, while Gatsby, so to speak, caught his breath, to clear this set of misconceptions away." [Fitzgerald, 102]

A truely lonely man

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In Chapter six Daisy and Gatsby are talking about his house and how he stays there all alone.
"I love it, but I don't see how you live there all alone."
"I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People who do interesting things. Celebrated people." [Fitzgerald, 91.]

From what I have read so far, I think that Gatsby really only keeps these people around to make him seem more interesting. Also, he is a lonely man and has been ever since Daisy has gone five years ago. This was his way of coping without her, and yet, trying to bring her back to him again.

Confusion, Self knowledge, and Irony

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First I'd like to say that this book is terribly difficult to get into. Though it is not a hard read, and I actually am interested in learning how to read better. However, my mind doesn't want to read about reading better, so my responses may be wrong, far fetched, but I'm trying.

"A moment occurs in this exchange between professor and student when each of us adopts a look. My look says, "What, you don't get it?" Theirs says, "We don't get it. And we think you're making it up." We're having a communication problem. Basically, we've all read the same story, but we haven't used the same analytical apparatus."

I believe this is a great intro considering the name of the book. I think that every student and English professor has been in this uncomfortable situation. While reading Tale of Two Cities in my 10th grade honors class, my teacher just kept stretching the cyclical nature of time. I did not understand that book because I did not have the knowledge that I do now, though only a few years more.

Chapter one
"They don't know enough about the only subject that really matters: themselves. The real reason for a quest is always self- knowledge. That's why the questers are so often young, inexperienced, immature, sheltered. Forty-five-year-old men either have self-knowledge or they're never going to get it, while your average sixteen-to-seventeen-year-old kid is likely to have a long way to go in the self-knowledge department."

I think this is a sort-of fact that we always over-looked but is common knowledge. In my mind, I always though a quest was to achieve something, a short-term goal, but not something as complex as self-knowledge.

Chapter two
"Not until her death can her children assemble around a table at the restaurant and achieve dinner; at that point, of course, the body and blood they symbolically share are hers. Her life---and her death---become part of their common experience."

This chapter was very interesting to me because it took the word "communion" and brought it to our minds in more than just a religious way. Foster described communion as a coming together, so that death can be a communional practice, and he even went as far as to say that sexual encounters are "communion.
Reading this as a Catholic, I was kind of insulted. though I see his viewpoint, the word Communion has always just been understood.

The quote above explains that her family was always so busy that they never even got to settle down and spend time together until it was too late, until she was gone.

Chapter three
"In those works that continue to haunt us, however, the figure of the cannibal, the vampire, the succubus, the spook announces itself again and again where someone grows in strength by weakening someone else... "My guess that is as long as the people act toward their fellows in exploitative and selfish ways, the vampire will be with us." "

This quote is interesting to me because even since I was younger everyone told me that bullies just make fun of others to make themselves feel better, to give them power. If you think about this, it is true. The people choose whichever side they like and sometimes you are backed up, but usually the bully always has more people on his/her side because the people with him don't want to be made fun of either. They are afraid of the humiliation that he is giving to you. This passage is saying that the evil spirits would appear to mess the bully's day up as to say, you get what give.

At least, that's how I see it.

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