February 2009 Archives

High Ground, Low Ground

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In chapters 19 and 20 of How To Read Literature Like a Professor, Foster describes the significance of geography and seasons in a fictional novel. Foster describes the deaths of a leopard and the writer in the book The Snows of Kilimanjaro. In the case of the leopard dieing on the mountain, the death is clean, but the writer suffers and gruesome death resulting from gangrene on the plains. Then, in  the novel Women in Love, Foster describes a writers alternate view of environments. The mountains symbolize death and destruction in this case. I find it interesting that, although seasons and climates and geographies do mean something, the intent of these things differ from writer to writer, reader to reader. It is important to consider the origins of a writer when determining how the person feels about certian landscapes or times of the year. The same is true for readers. Someone from Pennsylvania may not understand the poetry of an author talking fondly about  the open plains of the midwest. The hills of Pennsylvania may be comforting to someone born in Pennsylvania, while the vast plains may be a lonely or boring landscape. Likewise, if the midwesterner came to Pennsylvania, the hills may be intimidating, or almost suffocating in a way.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/foster_how_to_read_literature_3/

The Wild Wild.. South?

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On page 171, Foster states, "...When writers send characters south, it's so they can run amok."

Could this be because, as Foster does mention, a lot of these authors are european. The sun has a different type of appeal in this region, because they are used to mild summers and longer winters. I do not know if I think that sending a character south always allows them to run amok. Anywhere a character goes that is not home, they are bound to explore new landscapes, possibilities, and even ideas. Otherwise, why would an author bother to send a character in the first place. A lot of the trips south by european characters may result in a sort of run amok style story, but do all stories where the characters move south require the characters to engage in wild activities? I find that hard to believe. Maybe sometimes characters move south and find peace and harmony.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/foster_how_to_read_literature_3/

Extensions of a Monster

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In chapter 5, Steinbeck so delicately explains, "The man sitting in the iron seat did not look like a man; gloved, goggled, rubber dust mask over nose and moth, he was a part of the monster, a robot in the seat."

The driver of the huge tractor felt no connection with his work. He did not feel the satisfaction of watching his crops grow and enjoy the fruits of his hard labor. The driver is explained as just an extension of the machine he is driving, and the tractor is just an extension of the larger monster, the banks and corporations. There is an utter coldness, a total lack of emotions, present in this chapter. The chapter is almost too cold to feel sadness or loneliness.

A local man asks, "Well, what are you doing this kind of work for- against your own people?"

"Three dollars a day," the driver replies.

In a way, the driver is in fact another extension of the greater monster. The driver may actually be worse than the banks as he has personal ties to the lives he is destroying. People as a whole sometimes do not care about what happens to others, as long as they are safe and secure. The driver will more than likely continue putting his growing behind in that seat, plowing the fields in his huge tractor until he grows to old. At the same time, the men he grew up with will likely starve.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/steinbeck_the_grapes_of_wrath/

Used Cars for Sale

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On page 87, Steinbeck explains through the narration of an imaginary car salesman, "Now, look here. I'm givin' you my shirt, an' you took all this time. I might a made three sales while i been talkin' to you. I'm disgusted. Yeah, sign right here. All right, sir."

Even eighty years ago, those used car salesman knew what they were doing. Even in the midst of a crisis, the salesman want nothing less than to take advantage of every unfortunate person that walks through their door. It does not matter to them that everyone around them is sinking, that people are losing their homes and starving. All they care about is putting an extra couple dollars in their own pocket. The salesman have no problem giving a lemon to someone who just handed them their life savings in an effort to try to go west and start a new life. They will just smile and shake your hand as they rip you off. Throughout this chapter, the imaginary car salesman narrator constantly states, "Get jalopies." Or, "I wisht I had five hundred jalopies." He knows he can turn a huge profit margin on any piece of rolling junk. Funny how the capitalist system can sometimes reward morally absent people, while annihilating the hopes and dreams of good, although naive, people.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/steinbeck_the_grapes_of_wrath/ 

To Stay, or to Drive Into Your House

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On page 62, "..Your grandpa stood out there with a rifle, an' he blowed the headlights off that cat', but she come on just the same. Your grandpa didn't wanta kill the guy drivin' that cat', an, that was Willy Feeley, an, Willy knowed it, so he jus' come on, an' bumped the hell outa the house..." Muley explained to Joad.

I found this particular passage interesting. It demonstrates how hard-nosed, and even stubborn, the families of this time were. I do not think that a lot of the farming men back then realized that when they were tenants, the land and the house was not really their property. They knew that their parents and grandparents had fought wars against native americans and endured many other hardships along the way. That was reason enough for the land to always belong to them in their minds. I find it interesting how you see two completely different sets of values from people in the same general neighborhood. There is Muley, who refuses to leave the land even after his wife and kids pack up and move west. Then, there is Willy Feeley. Willy feels no remorse driving a car into the house of someone who he should consider his friends. Willy knew that young Tom's grandpa would not shoot him, so he takes these drastic measures to get his point across. Willy could care less if his friends were to starve, all he cares about is his own household. Muley is the complete opposite. He has so much pride that he cannot allow the banks or anyone else to drive him off his land, even if it is dead and barren. Muley hides in the fields from Willy, and at times Muley  taunts Willy by shooting at his headlights. He even sneaks up behind Willy and takes a whack at his back with a wooden plank.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/steinbeck_the_grapes_of_wrath/

Life Has Been Hell to Me

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On page 80, young woman exclaims, "Life has been hell to me, Father!" The young woman seems to have no regrets about murdering her husband. She continues, "And that other sin- that other sin- that sin of love- That's all I ever knew of Heaven." Throughout her entire marriage, she never once made an attempt to be a wife or a mother to her child. Instead, the best moments of her life revolved around a fling that some guy has had with hundreds of other woman. The woman complains of submitting, even to the very end when they try to cut off her hair, when she brought all of her woes upon herself. She would rather murder her husband out of concern of hurting him too much in a divorce. The mixed up logic of this woman is baffling, and you can't help but feel bad for poor Mr.Jones, who did nothing more than try to be a good husband to his wife.
http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/treadwell_machinal/

She's in it for the Money

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I find myself constantly questioning the character of this young woman. She is miserable in her life and job. Being a single woman trying to take care of herself and her mother during times of such a male dominated world, her depression is certianly understandable. However, she has a job, even if she is underpaid because of her sex. She is still somehow managing to put food on the table for herself and her mother. When she tells her mother she is thinking about marrying her rich boss even though she has no feelings for him and is actually quite repulsed by him, the mother exclaims, "Love! -- what does that amount to! Will it clothe you? Will it feed you? Will it pay the bills?" One would like to think that a mother would not give such shallow advice to her daughter. If the mother was so concerned with money, why did she not go and look for a simple office job like her daughter? If the young woman was so repulsed by the man who wanted to marry her, why did she not hold out for someone she actually cared for?

On page 29, a Nurse says, "You got a mighty nice husband, I guess you know that?" The young woman then proceeds to gag. The woman just had the man's baby, and the fact that it is his is more than enough reason for her to hate it. Regardless of how nice and caring and how much he attempts to be understanding, she just hides under her veil of hate. If she is going to marry the guy for his money, and he is such a nice guy to boot, she could have been a little bit more kind of a person. I mean, she had every opportunity to say, "I dont love you, I dont want to marry you or be with you." Instead she hates her child and decides to look elsewhere for love and comfort. It doesn't seem like she even gave the guy a chance. I guess like mother like daughter: very shallow.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/treadwell_machinal/

Love / Hate Relationship: Politics

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Foster explains on page 109, "I hate "political" writing--- novels, plays, poems. They don't travel well, don't age well, and generally aren't much good in their own time and place,...."
A lot of political writing is overly biased. There is a lot of bashing of a single person or group, for whatever reason, even if the reason is not always good. In a lot of these works, negativity is focused on a group for such biased reasons that the work is not received well. It is interesting that some of the great literary works that have stood the test of time are political. "I love "political" writing. Writing that engages the realities of the world....." comments Foster on page 110. In the past, lot of people disguised their ideas in their works during times when they  knew that they could be executed for stating such ideas. A lot of their stories that involve wrong doings of people in power tend to stand the test of time simply because of the funny way history repeats itself. Works that compel the populous long ago continue to inspire the many centuries after the work was actually written, and often times the work is not discovered until after the author is dead or even many many more years after that. The fact that such works influence the minds of people of so many different generations is amazing to me.
http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/foster_how_to_read_literature_2/

What Do Caves Symbolize?

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"If we want to figure out what a symbol might mean, we have to use a variety of tools on it: questions, experience, preexisting knowledge," states Foster, on page 100.
I found it interesting how Foster brings up the point that symbols do not always mean the same thing for every person. Judging from Foster's description of A Passage to India, the author of that work did not want the reader to have a clear cut view of what was going on in the cave. Sometimes an author wants certain things to leave us pondering, maybe just to keep the work on our minds as we ravage through different ideas, as days and weeks pass. If something can get under the skin of a reader so much that it keeps the work on our minds for a long time, then maybe the author really accomplished something. Now I'm not saying that is the only reason why A Passage to India was written the way it was, but it is definately something to consider. If some symbols can mean different things to every individual, then maybe a clever author inserts such symbols so that the reader is left guessing. Or maybe a work is created for the specific purpose of engaging individual readers, so they will make a special connection, whatever that connection may be, to a work and thus have a special fondness or appreciation of an idea and what it may symbolize to them.
http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/foster_how_to_read_literature_2/#comments

So That's Where I Know You From

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  On page 30, Foster states, "Once you establish that a book- a man's book at that, a war book- is borrowing a situation from Lewis Carroll's Alice books, anything is possible."

All great stories borrow ideas from multiple other great stories and ideas. It is how these ideas are interpreted and challenged, or sometimes supported, that makes a story great. Recognizing an assortment of important ideas and how they relate and affect a story are important skills that all great writers have. Great ideas have no set boundaries, and ideas are meant to be passed on from person to person so that new thoughts and interpretations can be made about already existing ideas. From a seemingly innocent (yet realistically drug induced) children story to a gory macho war, the same values and ideas and morals are often employed.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/foster_how_to_read_literature_1/

 

Green Means Go?

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"If it wasn't for the mist we could see your home across the bay," said Gatsby on page 92. "You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock."

I found this selection intriguing. Throughout the entire story up to this point, Gatsby peered out the windows of his mansion towards the green light on Daisy's dock. Gatsby was overcome with anticipation of seeing Daisy when he would look at this light, and the fact that it was green probably symbolizes that Gatsby should "go" and get her. Now that they are finally together, there is a veiling mist that prevents them from seeing the green light. I think this is foreshadowing the fact that Gatsby and Daisy may have waited too long, that destiny may not allow them to live blissfully ever after.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/fitzgerald_the_great_gatsby_1/

Beautiful Shirts

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On page 92, Daisy sobs, "They're such beautiful shirts. It makes me sad because I've never seen such- such beautiful shirts before."

When first reading this section, it made absolutely no sense to me. I could not understand why Daisy would cry over beauitful shirts, but later on you learn more about the relationship of Daisy and Gatsby. When I later learned that Gatsby tricked Daisy into thinking he was very wealthy so she would like him, I immediately thought of the irony of this passage. Daisy could not understand why Gatsby, with all his supposed wealth, was not able to visit her when she needed companionship. Daisy left Gatsby for Tom and his wealth, but now she is terribly unhappy with Tom and sees all the lovely thing Gatsby has aquired. The entire situation seems to crash on her at once and, overwhelmed with emotions, she sobs stupidly about shirts.

Beautiful Shirts

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On page 92, Daisy sobs, "They're such beautiful shirts. It makes me sad because I've never seen such- such beautiful shirts before."

When first reading this section, it made absolutely no sense to me. I could not understand why Daisy would cry over beauitful shirts, but later on you learn more about the relationship of Daisy and Gatsby. When I later learned that Gatsby tricked Daisy into thinking he was very wealthy so she would like him, I immediately thought of the irony of this passage. Daisy could not understand why Gatsby, with all his supposed wealth, was not able to visit her when she needed companionship. Daisy left Gatsby for Tom and his wealth, but now she is terribly unhappy with Tom and sees all the lovely thing Gatsby has aquired. The entire situation seems to crash on her at once and, overwhelmed with emotions, she sobs stupidly about shirts.