MarieVanMaanen: February 2009 Archives

The Monster is Greed

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"The monster isn't men, but it can make men do what it wants." (Steinbeck 46)


First, in a general statement about the book structure, I find it very interesting how Steinbeck keeps going back and forth between the unnamed farmers and the Joad family. The story of the unnamed farmers seems to give the reader an overview of what is happening and paint a picture of the typical tenant farmer family. The story of the Joad family then takes the general tenant farmer story and puts it on a personal level with specific characters to relate the story to. At first this back and forth method bothered me, but as I continued reading, I really began to appreciate this method.

I think this quote is interesting because it highlights the idea of the bank versus men evicting the tenant farmers. The owners claim it is the bank's fault that this is happening. However, I don't think the monster is really the bank. I think the monster is greed. Greed tends to be very powerful and as the quote says, it can drive men to do whatever is necessary to fulfill that greed. I agree that the men aren't really the monsters, but their ambitions and disregard for humanity certainly are.


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Religion, the Universal Language of Symbols

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"See this is in symbolic terms. A young man sails away from his known world, dies out of one existence, and comes back a new person, hence is reborn. Symbolically, that's the same patter we see in baptism: death and rebirth through the medium of water." (Foster 155)


I found this chapter very interesting because I had never really considered this idea before. In fact, when I first began reading this chapter I thought that this idea seemed like it would be stretching more than any of the other ideas on symbolism. I think it took a little bit longer with this chapter for me to fully accept the idea of symbols of baptism. As the chapter continued though, I found this symbol making much more sense. I also think now that I understand it more, I can see how commonly this symbol may be used. This chapter really caught my attention because I had never noticed this symbol before. I also noticed with this chapter that several of the symbols Foster has presented are religious, such as the Jesus figure and symbols of the Bible. I think this is because religion is such a universal language that people of completely different backgrounds and cultures can all understand a religious symbol.


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Symbolism Becomes Personal

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"We want it to mean something, don't we?  More than that, we want it to mean some thing, one thing for all of us and for all time.  That would be easy, convenient, manageable for us.  But that handiness would result in a net loss: the novel would cease to be what it is, a network of meanings and significations that permits a nearly limitless range of possible interpretations." (Foster 99)

I really liked this quote because I think we all know how frustrating it can be to identify a symbol and then try to find that one perfect meaning.  In our frustration we overlook the fact that a truly great novel will have multiple meanings in its symbolism.  This allows the novel to survive over time and adapt to each new generation while the text never actually changes.  Also, if a symbol has multiple meanings, it means something different to everyone, making the novel more personal to each reader.  However, it can still be very frustrating in class to try to interpret a symbol and have valid support to uphold one's interpretation.  This work to interpret symbols though is what really makes the novel more personal and more memorable to each reader.

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Young Woman Gets Biblical

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Okay, first of all, I would like to say that this was one of the oddest yet most intriguing plays I have ever read.  I found sometimes that I got lost between all of the characters and would have to reread lines.  This was mostly because the characters weren't really named which provides for a slightly more confusing but nonetheless more powerful play.  However, even though I got a little lost in the dialogue at times, I still found this to be a very captivating play, and I was eager to finish it.

YOUNG WOMAN: "God never had one - Mary had one - in a manager - the lowly manager - God's on a high throne - far - too far - no matter - it doesn't matter" (Treadwell 31)

I thought this quote was interesting because the woman seems to be comparing her situation to Mary.  Now that the woman has just had a child, she is physically sick because of how upset she is.  She definitely does not seem to have wanted this child, and she seems to feel like Mary, simply burdened with a child that she never asked for.  Certainly Mary had much different feelings toward her child than this woman does, but I think the fact that the woman is comparing her situation to Mary gives some insight as to how mentally ill the woman may be.  Also, the way the woman speaks of God  shows how little she thinks of men.  She mentions how He did not have to bear the child and how He was so far removed from the whole childbirth.  This also indicates that either she is not very religious, or there are problems in her mental capacity.  I say this only because while God is seen in a masculine light, God is a supreme being and not man or woman. 

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Daisy = Paris? (Gatsby)

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"Gatsby and I in turn leaned down and took the small reluctant hand.  Afterward he kept looking at the child with surprise.  I don't think he had ever really believed in its existence before." (Fitzgerald 117)

Like Gatsby, I didn't really believe in Daisy's daughter's existence until she made a brief cameo in this chapter.  If I remember correctly, Daisy's daughter has only been mentioned twice before.  Even then, it was just a brief statement or two.  Whenever Daisy does seem to mention her daughter though, it's not in a maternal sense.  Instead, whenever ever I have heard Daisy speak of her daughter I have gotten the image of Paris Hilton and her little dog.  The child seems like a fashion statement to Daisy.  Especially at this time, it would be traditional to have children.  So the Buchanan's have a daughter because it looks good in society, but neither Tom nor Daisy show any real interest in their child.  Overall, Daisy reminds me more of a teenager rather than an adult and a mother.  Daisy is the cheerleader dating Tom the football player, and while she has a crush on the awkward, geeky Gatsby, she can only have a secret fling with him in order to protect her reputation.  The people in Daisy's life seem more like frivolous objects that only matter as to how they reflect on her rather than people that she truly cares about.

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One Story to Rule Them All (Foster)

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"...a view of how stories get written, and a big part of that process is that you can't create stories in a vacuum.  Instead the mind slashes bits and pieces of childhood experiences, past reading, every movie the writer/creator has ever seen, last week's argument with a phone solicitor- in short, everything that lurks in the recesses of the mind." (Foster 30)

The fifth chapter of How to Read Literature Like a Professor made a good point- "there's no such thing as a wholly original work of literature" (Foster 29).  For that matter, there's really no completely original work of art. Have you ever heard a song and recognize beats that sound exactly like another song? I've had that happen many times.  Repeated story lines are prevalent in movies as well.  For instance, I am a big fan of Twilight, but just a few weeks ago I saw the movie Underworld for the first time.  I was surprised by some of the remarkably similar details.  In both movies, a human and a vampire fall in love; the vampires and werewolves are enemies; and the human is eventually turned into a supernatural being. These stories are really the same story, just the details are different.  Many works of art may actually be parts of several stories intertwined.  To say something is completely an original work of art is not really true, and I think it is important that Foster mentions this.  As Foster points out, realizing that so many stories feed off other stories is an advantage to the reader because it allows one to find a better understanding of the reading.

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