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January 31, 2006

A trifle difficult to believe.

Glaspell, ''Trifles'' (1916) -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

"Like a raw wind that gets to the bone."
(Mrs. Hale: lines 103)

That image, perhaps more than any other description of Mr. Wright really puts into focus the absolute abrasiveness he must have embodied.

I guess one could also point out that over time, Wright wrung the life out of his wife as he did with the canary she cherished. So she ended his life in a similar manner.

The damaged bird cage, while a piece of evidence, was perhaps symbolic of the fact Mrs. Wright was now free of the cage in which her husband had placed her.

On the other hand, my first reaction after reading the play was:

How could two women, uninvolved in this crime, find themselves sympathizing with a person they knew committed murder and then tampered with evidence and hindered an investigation? And one of them was the sheriff's wife!

Were I watching this performed on a stage, I'm sure I would enjoy it, but at the expense of making a pun, the turn of events left too many loose ends to tie up.

I liked the way Gladspell left the ending to chance, but to me, there were just too many unrealistic events for me to believe this could actually take place.

If Mrs. Wright ever gives a confession, then the trail of compromised evidence would seemingly lead back to Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters.

Posted by MattHampton at 10:18 PM | Comments (6)

(Not so) Close reading details

Roberts on Close Reading. -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“If you can read and assimilate a single paragraph, you have then developed your power to read and assimilate an entire book. And if you can follow and appreciate a single poem, you will have acquired the skill to comprehend other poems. In addition, if you can understand a single speech by a dramatic character – any speech - you can go on to do the same for the entire play.”

Those are important words of encouragement, and it’s a good idea to learn the style and technique on small passages if one is to ever expand to larger pieces, but I’ve never felt it is as easy as it’s described. However, with practice I’m sure I can become at least comfortable.

Of note is the statement: “Analyzing an individual part, therefore should bring out not only the meaning of the part but also the function of the part within the larger structure of the work.” I’m not certain I’ve ever accomplished that …

Posted by MattHampton at 07:59 PM | Comments (2)

January 30, 2006

The World Trade Center by David Lehman

With a reference to Dr. Jerz’s comment that if we don’t “get a lot” out of a poem, perhaps there isn’t a lot there to “get” in the first place: I didn’t get a lot from “The World Trade Center” by David Lehman. I did find it somewhat ironic that this was published in “The Paris Review”.

This piece seems to me like it should be an excerpt from a letter to a friend of his rather than a poem. There’s not much symbolism; it’s pretty literal from what I can tell.

However, it struck me that Lehman remained less enthralled with the architecture of the World Trade Center than what they came mean for him.

In an touch of irony, the (1993) bombing prompted Lehman, perhaps for the first time in 25 years, to realize that which attracted the attackers to the buildings in the first place.

The symbolism inherent in those buildings was evidently enough to attract the second attack in September 2001. As you may recall, there was another attack that day on an equally symbolic building (Pentagon), and the fourth plane was heading somewhere when it crashed in Somerset County.

Even now, I don’t think the attraction to “Ground Zero” is really about the buildings as much as it is about the stories of innocent lives lost, heroism of firefighters and police, and the resulting war against terrorism.

So the attack about which Lehman wrote, while against an actual building, was really a swipe at a symbol.

Posted by MattHampton at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)

Oster on "Desert Places"

Oster [On ''Desert Places''] -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

Frost in "Desert Places" keys on loneliness. Judith Oster compares this poem with a similar setting in his "Stopping By The Woods" by remarking that while the scenes are similar, the moods of the two poems are opposite.

Without knowing Frost's personal history, I can only guess that perhaps he was going through a difficult period in his life and was thus, affected in that manner when he wrote "Desert Places".

In Oster’s quotation of a letter Robert Frost wrote to Louis Untermeyer, I lit upon the line “And I took measures accordingly … I have myself all in a strong box”. Does that mean Frost is protecting himself from emotional poverty? Did he do this by placing strong barriers between himself and others, or has he discovered a method that allows him to explore his feelings without the risk of losing his sympathy and emotion toward others?

Unfortunately, I understand a lot about loneliness, or shall I say, a lot more than I ever wanted to learn about loneliness. This knowledge came via personal experience a few years ago.

I've learned loneliness can be a formidable enemy and one people can go to great lengths to avoid, even if it means the use of drugs or alcohol. After a time, one comes to recognize certain situations that magnify loneliness and avoids them.

It is these feelings that allow me to picture the writer walking along briskly, not stopping, but glancing at the open field and seeing loneliness through his eyes. Loneliness can be contagious and a person can project it into nearly any situation.

Paradoxically, some of my greatest "Desert Places" have been in a room full of people. Under certain circumstances, a person in that situation can feel isolation more acutely than if he were alone.

The final two lines resonated with me.

“I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places”

A home is normally a safe place, a place of refuge and comfort. But if one is filled with loneliness, an empty home, now matter how common it feels to you, does little to quell those feelings.

Like the snow (and darkness) in the poem, loneliness doesn’t seem to his a person all at once. It gradually, inexorably covers you, doesn’t it?

So he may be in out of the cold snow, falling relentlessly, threatening to cover all, but he’s still alone in his own desert place.

Posted by MattHampton at 09:21 PM | Comments (1)