CarlosPeredo: January 2009 Archives

Frost- an Enviornmentalist?

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After Apple Picking confused me a bit more than some of Frost's other poems. I'm probably not reading it right, but here's what I got out of it.

The first thing that sprang to mind was the concept of the apple representing sin. Sure, it's over done, it's cliche, but there's a reason for that. And it certainly seemed at least plausible to me. Thus, the next step that I had to tackle was the sin itself. What is Frost saying is a sin? What sin has this narrator committed? As I read the rest of the poem certain lines pointed me towards my answer.

I think that the sin which Frost is discussing is the over-exploitation of the earth's resources. Lines 27-36 in particular give me the image of fields and fields of apple trees that were systematically picked clean and now are bare. It seems as though the efforts of picking all of the apples has left our narrator exhausted and incapable of surviving the coming winter. I also got the impression that he did not store the apples and is thus unable to fend against the cold and hunger of the new season.

 Thus, as he slowly gives up on picking the last apples, our narrator lays down and allows himself to be carried off into death. His last thoughts are those of regret as he slowly realizes the mistakes he made during the fall.

These few lines in particular truly make me feel that Frost is warning us about over harvesting our resources. Whether they be lumber, coal, oil, or whatever it be, Frost seems to be making a doomsday prediction about the future of our world if we continue down the narrator's path.

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Liberal Arts Education?

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It didn't take me too long reading Gatsby before I found a topic that stirred me to put the book down and come type an entry. In fact, it happened on page four. Our narrator, whose name I haven't yet learned (I assume that I will in later pages) makes a statement with which I disagree vehemently. In fact, I expect everyone of us to disagree with it, because after all, why else would we all be pursing a liberal arts education.

The narrator, when discussing how literary he was in college and the prospect of bringing literature back into his life, states "I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the "well-rounded man." This isn't just an epigram- life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all."

There are very few statements with which I disagree so adamantly. I could write an entire paper on the concept of the well rounded man. I could spend multiple blog entries explaining why I deem it important not just to study your trade, but to be proficient in history, philosophy, literature, and the other arts. However, the fact that each of us is attending a liberal arts institution leads me to believe that such an argument would be moot. I would expect nearly all of you agree with me.

No, what really has me miffed about our narrator isn't the statement itself. While I disagree with it, I can to an extent begin to see how and why someone might argue against me. But that's exactly what bothers me about it. Our narrator doesn't argue his point. He doesn't explain why he believes that we are better off not "well rounded" and he doesn't elaborate on this concept of looking at the world through a single window.

Going deeper, the narrator doesn't even explain why he is pursuing this well rounded-ness. In the same paragraph that he tells us, the reader, that he is bringing books into his life to become the well rounded man, he goes on to describe that approach to life as inferior. Maybe I need to read more (four pages is a bit early to be making conclusions of course) but I see this flagrant contradiction and can't help but wonder what other examples of flawed thinking we will see from our narrator as the novel progresses.

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Captain Obvious?

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Maybe it's just me, but I didn't really find Foster very groundbreaking or even really that informative. In fact, at least through the first three chapters, I found him to be stating what was quite obvious already.

His first chapter, the one about going on journeys and all the different types of journeys and what they are made of, was perhaps his best. Foster devotes a couple of pages specifically to explain to us how the quest never "involves the stated reason" and that "the real reason for a quest iis self-knowledge." Perhaps I'm being to critical, but I feel that nay of us who made it through high school literature classes can tell you this. Is there anything to Huck Finn rafting down the river with Jim that doesn't involve their own growth? What is the meaning of all of Jane Eyre's travels? This doesn't seem like rocket science. Characters have to go some place to do something, and in the end they come away with more than just that thing; they come away having grown. Not only is that obvious in literature, that's obvious in life. When was the last time you went anywhere to do anything without learning something new? Sure, some journeys are deeper than others, but that doesn't make Foster's claim anymore groundbreaking. All he's really done is remind us that when someone goes somewhere, they are going to learn something from it. Profound? Hardly.

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A Western Point of View

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I was immediately struck by the first line of the poem by what is, at least in my mind, a very western point of view. Frost begins by musing "Whose Woods these are..." This concept of owning the land, or assigning individual spaces to every person, is an idea that originated from the Western Society. I'm not sure what Frost means by it, or indeed, even if he does it on purpose. However, I think that if nothing else it shows us a little bit about Frost's background. Frost, who seems to respect nature almost to the point of infatuation (especially evident in The Pasture) seems to have no problem with the moral dilemma of the land being owned by someone. Perhaps he does it on purpose, hiding some cryptic message that flew over my head, but I don't think so. Instead, I think that Frost's first line betrays his 19-20th century way of thinking. Sure, maybe if the narrator was walking across someone's front lawn or down a road he could contemplate whom the land belongs to reasonably. But woods? Woods are often seen as everyone's, or no ones. I've never heard of anyone who owned woods. In general, if you own land, you utilize it for something. Whether it be farming or construction or wha tbe it, the idea of land being owned but not used seems strange to me. And thus in turn, so does Frost's assumption that the woods might belong to somebody.

Frost also touches on one of modern man's qualities (in comparison to early man or even man throughout the ages) in the final stanza. Frost depicts this man as too busy to stop and appreciate his surroundings. The narrator as too much to do, he simply must keep going, despite wanting to stay and admire the snow. This too, seems to be a vice of modern man. We often find ourselves in situations where we are far too busy to watch the sunset, or embark on a nature hike. How often do we hear the birds sing? Frost hits his audience hard by seizing a feeling which the reader is ignorant of  (a desire to spend more time with the little things) and bringing it out into the open so that as his readers set the poem down, each one of left with a longing to go out and watch the snow fill the woods; the readers are left seeking nature.

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