Chris: January 2009 Archives

"From what I've tasted of desire/ I hold with those who favor fire."

Robert Frost's short yet poignant poem "Fire and Ice" speaks of the end of the world.  In the above quote, taken from lines three and four, Frost claims that he would prefer the world to be consumed by "fire".  Literal? Perhaps.  Figurative? Most certainly.

The Apocolypse has been depicted in various ways.  Many contemplate whether or not the world will end by means of global warming, another ice age, meteors, hypercanes, or nuclear holocaust.  One thing is for sure and that is that the examples listed incorporate both fire and ice.  Holocaust itself means "a widespread or total destruction, especially by fire."

It is to remain a mystery, perhaps, but the end of the world according to Frost is by either heat or lack thereof.  Fire could include the global warming, nuclear war, a firey meteor or a comet.  Ice could be another ice age in and of itself or perhaps the biproduct of some human act of war.  But is Frost speaking of the world as in the Earth, or as in the Earth's inhabitants?

I took it to mean that perhaps Frost is speaking of a personal apocolypse.  Fire could be a burning rage, a desire to end anger quckly through means of violence, or perhaps a burning passion or love that spirals out of control and consumes an individual or individuals.  Ice could be a terrifying disregard to all fellow human beings (taking the cold shoulder to society), a cruelness of character, sinister actions, slow torture, or perhaps just cynicism taken to a whole new level.

When Frost claims that he would prefer fire, perhaps it is because he views that as the quicker and less painful end.  Ice can be equally as lethal, but there lies with ice the concept of slow suffering and prolonged pain as the mind and/or body slowly numbs and succumbs to lack of warmth.  Fire consumes with an appetite.  The hotter the flame, the more voracious the appetite, the quicker that the world is consumed.

Perhaps society will kill itself by means of anger and rage, passions that exceed reason, and/or general acts of violence.  The ozone layer certainly wouldn't matter very much to mankind at that point. 


After Apple Picking...What Now?

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"Essence of winter sleep is on the night,/ The scent of apples: I am drowsing off."

Robert Frost's "After Apple Picking" speaks about the picking of apples from trees before the winter approaches.  Frost complains about the excessive amounts of apples that he has painstakingly picked and about how it has tired him.  Well, what do you intend to do now, Mr. Frost?

Apparently he has no desire to pick more apples, but perhaps the coming winter has partially made a decision for him.  The season is not kind to plantlife, and hence it is easy to say "of course you don't pick apples in the winter!" But Frost specifically mentions that although he is tired, there is a contemplation of sleep itself.

The opening quote comes from lines seven and eight of the poem.  Looking down further at lines 37 through 42 contemplate the nature of the sleep.  Frost mentions in the lines preceding 37 that he is tired from picking the apples and that there is an abundance of them within his fruit cellar.  Interestingly, even though he has made mention of sleep before in the poem, it remains ambigous. 

There is the obvious "winter sleep": the death of plants and fruits, but there is also the sleep from a desire to recooperate.  In line 38, Frost hints that the multiple kinds of sleep are possible for him.  Is he suggesting that he is merely tired, or that perhaps he is nearing death? He goes on to speak of the woodchuck's hibernation and then counter it with mere human recooperative sleep.

The sleep after the apple picking is ambiguous, but intriguing.

Reading Literature While Reading Minds

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"English professors, as a class, are cursed with memory."

It would appear as though memory can indeed be a curse.  The plight of a literature professor can be quite evident: a classroom full of youths that are all formulating ideas pertaining to a  specific literary work for the very first time whilst the teacher has more prior knowledge of the works themes, symbols, and other various literary elements/devices...perhaps even years of prior knowledge.  This places the students at an obvious disadvantage.

Judging from the introduction and first several chapters of Foster's text, it is clear that the professor must get inside the mind of the student and tweek the thought pattern a tad bit.  Spoonfeeding ideas is a bad idea, but the teacher must guide the students.  In order to guide a student, one must first know where he or she stands with respect to his or her own perspective.  Mind reading is a task at which I by no means excel, but a person can certainly get an idea of point of view.

The professor must be able to get the student to look past literal meanings.  Students need to learn to scan for allusions, symbolism, themes, and various other conventions.  In order to be well versed in all of these aspects, the student should read frequently for what we fail to use, we lose.  Reading books sharpens the mind and permits the student to understand terminology better as well as gain experience in deeper reading.  There is indeed more on a page than what meets the eye.

Literature is full of devices and conventions; this is accepted as fact.  What the professor must be able to accomplish is to see that students can identify such elements within reading.  Understanding the perspective of a student is a base, but upon that base a solid framework must be raised: students should be able to recognize common threads of devices that make up the fabric that is literature.

Honest People...Hard for Gatsby to Find

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"I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known."

Fitzgerald's narrator, Nick Carraway closes chapter three with this thought.  Honesty is the best policy, but it would appear as though very few people of this time period possess it.  Life is complicated enough as it is for poor Nick, but those around him don't help, at all.

Within chapter one, it is evident that those around Nick are less than virtuous.  Tom Buchanan has his mistress, Jordan Baker does nothing to intervene for the betterment of Daisy's life with her cheating husband, and Jay Gatsby is surrounded by a cloud of mystery that hides any solid facts from surfacing.

Chapter two takes this dishonesty further with the introduction of Myrtle Wilson, Tom's mistress.  She cheats on her less than keen husband without remorse.  During the segment within the apartment, Tom and Myrtle are not honest with their guests or themselves.  Both cheating spouses attempt to justify their actions with a skewed reality.  There is an unwillingness to accept responsibilty and in that action, itself, they are lying to themselves. 

Nick's honesty goes hand and hand with his logic.  He knows what is happening around him, but he takes his time at analyzing the situations and formulating an opinion, even though his instincts appear to formulate one for him on an impulse.  Chapters three and four continue with the dishonesty that the many characters display towards one another.  Dishonesty permeates throughout the mysterious and skeptical personal history of Gatsby (or does it?), party-goers' reasons for visiting Gatsby, and between the spouse cheaters.

To be quite honest, myself, I can see how Nick finds himself to be extremely honest: he knows how to have an opinion, but keep it to himself.  He also understands the surrounding situations, and therefore he is honest with himself and does not try and make excuses for himself. 

March 2009

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Recent Comments

Christopher Dufalla on Prison Walls and Scrap Piles: It could follow that old idea
Rosalind Blair on Prison Walls and Scrap Piles: Chris, very insightful entry!
Christopher Dufalla on Prison Walls and Scrap Piles: The one-eyed man doesn't seem
Alyssa Sanow on Prison Walls and Scrap Piles: I understand and appreciate th
Dennis G. Jerz on Prison Walls and Scrap Piles: He sure seemed pathetic when h
Alicia Campbell on Prison Walls and Scrap Piles: Thanks for your interpretation
Chelsie Bitner on Prison Walls and Scrap Piles: I agree. If they already know
Christopher Dufalla on Spirits Within: I think that it is most defini
Carlos Peredo on Spirits Within: I think that passage was a way
Angela Saffer on Spirits Within: I agree with you Chris, it doe