October 2009 Archives

Always Have a Purpose

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"Think about the purpose of your research. You may not know exactly what you are 'fishing for' when you start to take notes, for you cannot prejudge what your essay will contain" (Roberts 266).

While reading through this section, I came across the line above that was a nice reminder to me when writing a research paper that you need to go broad at first and then weed out what you don't want. It's always better to have a lot of material in the beginning so you're not scrambling at the end of your paper trying to get the required page amount later. Also, if you find yourself finding more research on a topic you hadn't originally thought about doing, you can always change your thesis statement or topic to focus more on the information you've found. This can be a good technique, too, if you have no idea what you want to talk about in a paper or just have a general idea of where you want to go for the main part of the paper.

Cracking Facade

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I found this story to be very hard to read "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield, not because it wasn't good, but because it was so intense. The lack of participation in life by Miss Brill was so sad. She seemed to think she had a life, but then she realized or used this as a defense mechanism where she thought she had been acting and not really being herself for so long that she had slipped into an entirely different persona. When she realizes this half way through the story, a part of her believes that everyone is just an actor or actress as well.

"She unclasped the necklet quickly; quickly, without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying" (351).

I took this to mean that a part of her had finally realized, after the previous paragraphs where she had heard the couple talking meanly about her, that she was not needed. Miss Brill felt an overwhelming of emotions that took her until she walked home and put the fur away to process. This break inside of her, where she puts part of herself inside of box, symbolized her attempt to leave part of her true self behind. We first see her questioning herself when she says "What has been happening to me?" (349). I felt that maybe she only believed she was acting before when she realized that she was acting, but really she hadn't been acting at all.  She was just truly herself before and no one actually liked her or paid her any attention unless it was in a negative way. She therefore stuffed the fur into its box and then stuffed part of her true self inside that box as well. Miss Brill just wanted to be herself, but even when her armor cracks (the fur) and leaves her feeling broken, she is at a complete loss as to who she really is or what persona is her true self.

Identical or the Same?

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I'm not exactly sure why it took me until reading Chapter nine of Roberts' to figure out that metaphors meant "identical to something" (138) and similes meant "similar to something" (139).  I guess I always just took them to mean the same thing as being "like" something or perhaps it was one of those concepts that seemed so easy that I just never thought about it. Either way, metaphors and similes are designed to enhance the picture or concept that is taking place. If the reader fails to understand what the original concept is then perhaps a metaphor or similar will clue the reader in.

I like that metaphors and similes challenge the writer to try to say something in a new way. I know from personal experience that it sometimes feels like everything has been said before or every concept or idea has already been done so many times in similar ways that it almost feels redundant to do it again. However, with the concept of similes and metaphors a writer can revive his or her writing in a way that illustrates a whole new side to the classic idea or concept. In Josie's blog, she mentions how using the same metaphors and similes can get boring so new ones should be used to revive a concept. I think that's exactly how so many writers have already gotten away with using the same boring and tiresome concepts over and over again. However, they have also managed to enhance them with a little flair from metaphors and similes.  

The Puzzle

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John Keats' poem "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" explains the speaker's frustration about not being able to understand the epic poems, "The lliad" and "The Odyssey" before a translation was made and further discovery was sought. The language that Keats uses to explain the speaker's troubles is also complicated for the reader. I think this was done on purpose as a form of kinship between the reader and the speaker. For example, looking at the very first line of the poem, "Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold" really means "the world of great art." Throughout the poem other words are meant to portray something else like "islands" (3) means "ancient literature" and "expanse" (5) means "epic poetry."

I'm not entirely sure I would have ever picked up on the difference between "islands" meaning "ancient literature" without the footnotes at the bottom of the page. I felt that the translation completely saved the poem for me. Whether or not, Keats intentionally did this is hard to say considering he may not have had those in the original publication of his work, but they definitely help to enhance the work. They also helped me understand and get the full experience out of the work.

By looking further at the end of the poem, words like "surmise" (13) means "conjecture, supposition" which I would have been able to figure out. However, the feeling that the reader is supposed to have reached at that point is clearly pointed out just in case the reader was unclear about something.

Woe and Moan

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So we find ourselves actually reading Shakespeare again, only this time I have a better idea of what the poem is actually talking about. Not only does it seem easier to figure out, but the language that Shakespeare uses to get his message across seems easier, too.

Lines, "and heavily from woe to woe tell o'er/The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan" (10-11) really hammers the message across that the speaker in Shakespeare's sonnet, "When to the Session of Sweet Silent Thought." The reoccurring words "woe" and "moan" are used in the two lines back to back. This makes the reader really envision and connect to the speaker in a more powerful way that may have otherwise been overlooked due to the other images the words are sparking around it.

The word "woe" is actually found two other times earlier in the poem, which further enhances the significance of the word. "Moan" happens to fall into the same category by being mentioned before as well. By using reoccurring words at the beginning and at the end, the reader sees that the poem is meant to be continuous even though the sonnet ends with the word "end" (14). There is still the idea that "all losses are restored" (14) by the continual use of memories from the past. Shakespeare does a good job of pulling the reader in and in a way attempts to make the poem a part of the reader's memory by looping it back around.

Finding a Life Line

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The editorial that I found dealt with the death penalty from the Los Angeles Times. "Over the course of two hours, nurses attempted 18 times last month to find a vein in Romell Broom in which to inject the convicted murderer with a lethal combination of drugs...Ted Strickland called off the execution -- for the day, at least." Basically, the editorial continues to explain that this isn't the first time it's happened, nor will it probably be the last. It then follows it up with specific examples of past experiences and facts about the death penalty.

The stance the author takes is clearly against the death penalty and cites specific examples of why it would be more important to leave a person in prison for the rest of his/her life before execution. The author did not even get into the argument of which side he/she was on until half through the editorial. The main part focused on the damage that missing veins and the number of times this particular thing has occurred in the past before an opinion is even presented.

Finally, when the author gets to his/her opinion, the reader already has some idea of one's own stance on the topic, whether or not the reader is in favor of the death penalty or not. The editorial attempts to sway the reader, but does not outwardly make any horrible demands towards the reader to believe his/her way. The author simply states the opinion and moves on by showing evidence and facts for why he/she feels this way.

I think, overall, that the editorial was done well considering such a heavy topic. Both sides are not completely painted for the reader, but enough is given for the reader to form one's own opinion about the topic without being overly pushy about it.

Accenting Everyone

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I hadn't thought about Roberts' idea that "setting may accentuate qualities of character" (111). This makes a lot of sense. For example, when you think about a character who is a ballerina in some horrible setting that would involve rolling around in the mud. This contrast from someone who is typically seen as girly is seen either enhancing the stereotype of her being girly or allowing the other side show through (the side that would not be afraid to play a game of football or something that involved her getting very dirty) allows for a more developed character to be established. In this way setting also enhances the irony in the setting, which is another element that Roberts mentions in terms of setting.

I suppose the reason that I normally don't think of the setting as being that important to the work is usually because I'm more focused on the characters. However in "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe (to go along with my theory about it being about ghosts) the setting gives a very eerie feel to it that leaves the reader wondering what the rooms have to do with anything. Well, really the only room that really matters is the black room, but the other rooms set up an opposing factor that allows the suspense to build. Perhaps the reason everyone stays away from the black room (aside from the clock being in there) is because blackness means death, and they do not wish to be reminded of their inevitable deaths.

A Ghostly Alternative

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Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" is a great story that I've already been over last year, so I tried to find an alternative, (and most likely completely out there) theory for what could have happened or have taken place in Poe's short story.

Poe states, "the dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes of the chime die away -they have endured but an instant-a light...and now again the music swells..." (358) illustrating that the theory that the people are already ghosts and are simply reliving the magical moments before they were killed by the horrible Red Death. This dream or enchanted spell that allows them to take another chance at either revisiting the party or by having a few hours sickness free, is broken by the chiming of the clock. The clock acts as a reminder that everyone only has a few more hours. This constant reminder freezes everyone in a slight panic, each knowing that their time is almost up.

Despite the knowledge that everyone knows they must return to their ghost forms, everyone tries to fight the original Red Death disease in the shape of a mysterious figure that everyone pounces on to try to stop the Red Death from taking over when the clock strikes midnight. Prince Prospero goes after the Red Death, attempting to destroy it for everyone and be the hero, but fate has already taken their lives away once and therefore must do so again.

This theory probably wouldn't hold up in a paper, but it might be interesting to try.

Bunker Down

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Vladek: "In the kitchen was a coal cabinet maybe 4 foot wide. Inside I made a hole to go down to the cellar." (110)

I thought the ingenuity that Vladek had to make a bunker inside of a coal bin was brilliant. He thought of everything, which, I suppose, would be something that he would have to think about or risk getting caught and killed. Without such cleverness, the dogs would have found the entire family. Later, Vladek and the others make a bunker out of a chandelier. Again this was extremely clever considering no one would ever think to look at a chandelier to see if people were hidden up there.

Going back to the dogs that were searching through the coal with the Nazis, it seems a little weird that some animals get to talk and look like people in the graphic novel, but some are in their traditional roles. Another example at some point is when Anja and Vladek are hiding in a basement, and they see a huge rat. This showed that the author still found a way to incorporate animals that didn't talk to help carry the story forward to enhance the characters in order to show that they were supposed to be seen as people and not animals. It seems to bring the whole story to a clearer focus that illustrates how just drawing humans would not have worked out as successfully as drawing mice did. This is because there needs to be that separation from people (that someone mentioned during the class discussion) so that the reader is able to view what is taking place instead of feeling numb to the story.

Authenticy of Mice

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I really liked how the author tried so hard to make the book authentic. I know from past experiences reading Holocaust literature that this usually isn't a problem for people, but because the book is a graphic novel the author/writer needed to make the book more authentic about such a graphic subject.

I think the most authentic thing about the book was the dialogue between the characters. The fact that the father, Vladek, says things like, "And I didn't tell anything to him. I didn't want to make him an embarrassment" (40) shows how Art Spiegelman could have changed his father's words around to make it easier to read. However, the fact that he left it exactly how he said it allows for the authenticity to really come out.

Plus, the characters are very round. Even the people who are more minor like Mala, who is only in the scenes that are supposedly happening in present day, is well depicted. The reader gets a lot of character description that Mala is only after Vladek's money, but we also see that she is very weak and frail by her own scenes where she is upset at Vladek either for being cheap or because he doesn't seem very interested in her as a person. Either way, the reader gets a better sense of Mala by having both scenes with her in them and scenes where they discuss her than the reader would get just by having her spoken about or alluded to throughout the story. Because Art Spiegelman definitely could have cut all of the parts about Mala out and still have the essential story in place and authenticity, but instead chose to keep with the extra conflict that Mala's character brings up. The reader therefore gets another important character to the story and more depth into Vladek's character and interactions with the other characters other than just Art.

Portfolio Two

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Coverage and Timeliness:

The Significance of a Birthday - an in depth look at "Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) and how the birthday was a significant part of the book.

Sitting on the Fence - A look at the classic Disney princess theme from class and another entry about "Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet).

Untrodden Politics - Yeats and Woodsworth poetry

Flaws Make a Story -  Chapter 12 for Roberts in which I examine how important flaws are to a story which allow the reader to make interpretations of the work

Empty Spaces, You're No Match for Me - A look at "Desert Places" by Frost and how Frost uses the word "lonely"

Animals for Everyone - The first entry for the Quick and the Dead in which I discuss animal references

Picking Daisies, Falling Into Chasms - The second entry for the Quick and the Dead in which I discuss Nurse Daisies' significance

It's Not Like Waking Up From a Dream - The third entry for the the Quick and the Dead where I try to figure out the ending

You'll Only Belong After Reading This Book - My review of a review for No One Belongs Here More Than You

Illumination - Roberts Chapter eight where I look at the importance of how images allow for mood setting

Passage of Time - where I attempt to find the meaning of Masefield's "Cargoes 1902"

 

Depth:

The Significance of a Birthday

Animals for Everyone

Picking Daisies, Falling Into Chasms

It's Not Like Waking Up From a Dream

You'll Only Belong After Reading This Book

 

Interaction:

Austen is brought back from the dead along with her books!! - Jessica Krehlik

-          I got a pretty good idea about the basis for the book

Foolscap...Hankie...Whate'er It May Be  - Jessica Orlowski

-          I helped Jess try to figure out the meaning of Constance's pet bird and provided a link to a song that was mentioned in the play.

John Crimmins...Resurected -Jessica Orlowski

-          I added to the discussion of J.C. and how he went from hating dogs to suddenly hating children.

Who Saw that Coming? We Did. - Josie Rush

-          I added to the discussion about Corvus and her significance to the story.

"Your work is only as good as your concentra...Hey look--A cloud shaped like Snoopy!" - Josie Rush

-          I added to the stream of conscious and then tried to explain the connection between Alice and Ray.

How many times is this going to be beaten into my brain? - Kayla Lesko

-          I quoted part of Roberts text to back up Kayla's claim and to make it more concrete of a claim.

Um...What? - Kayla Lesko

-          I referred Kayla to my blog and agreed with her idea, but expanded upon it.

Discussions:

The Significance of a Birthday

Animals for Everyone

Picking Daisies, Falling Into Chasms

It's Not like Waking Up From a Dream

 

Xenoblogging:

What Were You Thinking? - Michelle Polly

-          Michelle discusses the title of the Quick and the Dead and I try to help with the meaning by looking at the beginning of the book.

 Foolscap...Hankie...Whate'er It May Be  - Jessica Orlowski

-          I helped Jess try to figure out the meaning of Constance's pet bird and provided a link to a song that was mentioned in the play.

It's Repetitive, And Redundant. - Josie Rush

-          I questioned whether or not Frost needed to have all of the different types of the word "lonely" in his poem as well as the last line. A discussion broke out from there.

 

Wildcard:

Picking Daisies, Falling Into Chasms

-          This illustrates my ability to look at text and examine Nurse Daisy from The Quick and the Dead, even though Josie had some better ideas on the topic a discussion broke out that helped me understand the story better.

Passage of Time

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So the first time I read this poem I thought it was about pirates going around and stealing things from other people. Then through the passage of time and different ships they began to steal more valuable things that could be used to keep them alive, but after reading it a few more times (maybe like twenty more times) I was able to figure out a better and more likely meaning.

John Masefield's "Cargoes 1902" illustrates how little value the essentials for life. In the first two stanzas the ships are carrying "ivory/and apes and peacocks" (3-4) and "diamonds/emeralds, amethysts" (8-9) and they're supposedly ships that were further back in history than the newest ship which is enters in the third stanza which shows the more valuable basic needs that humans need in order to survive like "tyne coal,/Road-rails, pig-lead,/Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin-trays" (13-15). These items can be used to keep a person warm or to build a shelter with. The "cheap tin-trays" could be used to carry food on which some of the basic needs are met. The poem is designed to show through the progress of time that people have become more aware of what is essential to their well being. Masefield does this expertly by breaking the three different time periods into three stanzas that allows the reader to differentiate the difference between the changes of time.

Karyssa had a very cool and interesting idea about the poem, too. By combining the two, I think they make a more complete picture of what the poem was trying to get acrossed.  

Illumination

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I've been noticing with some of the chapters recently in Roberts' Writing About Literature book that I've been skipping over some of the basic elements that papers can be written about. So as much as I already knew about imagery and its effect on the mood and theme of the story, I usually over look these elements for papers. So when Roberts wrote in chapter eight about the three different types of essays one could write on imagery I was pretty intrigued.

"Images suggesting ideas and/or moods. Such an essay should emphasize the effects of the imagery...The types of images. Here the emphasis is on the categories of images themselves...Systems of images. Here the emphasis should be on the areas from which the images are drawn" (133).

These three types illustrate ideas that I've often over looked, but will now pay more attention to in the future. The most important one seems to be the third idea, "systems of images" because it allows the reader to not only draw his or her own opinion of the text, but allows for interpretations to follow that can redefine how a person reads a certain part of a book, story, or poem. For example, the imagery in The Quick and the Dead had a lot of dark tones to it, especially at the end where there is a candle ceremony thing going on. It seems only fitting to have the theme continued at the end. However, the light that the candles hold further enhances the separation between Alice and everyone else further enhancing Williams' story.

You'll Only Belong After Reading This Book

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No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July is a book of short stories that Tiffany Lee-Youngren wrote a review of for the San Diego Union Tribute. Youngren starts her article out giving a little bit background information and merits of the author. From there a quote is used to bridge the gap from the author information to an explanation of the book. Although the article comes off a little harsh towards some of the techniques that July uses, ultimately the reviewer gave the book a four out of five start rating. Also, Youngren explains that the book was supposed to be about "inappropriate relationships, [people who] make inappropriate comments and find themselves in inappropriate situations almost by force of habit" (Youngren para. 3) illustrating that the point of the book was made wonderfully.

The review for this book doesn't specifically have a type of genre or category that it follows under except for possibly anyone who has felt like the odd person out or someone who doesn't always know the right things to say. Other people who may be interested in Miranda July from various other projects that she has been involved in or perhaps someone who wants to read a book that is a bit off the beaten path from normal fiction then this would be the book for them. Otherwise, there isn't a set audience for this type of book or even for people who are just looking for a book of short stories with interesting plot twists.

Youngren seems to know the book really well and has some pretty good insight into the author's background and past accomplishments. Basically the review isn't a plot summary of the book, but instead tries to entice people to read the book by pulling out quotes that would hopefully spark interest for people to go out and buy it.

Anyone interested in finding more information out on this book can go to the interesting website Miranda July created for the book here. More information about the author can be found here.

It's Not Like Waking Up From a Dream

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So I'm back on this whole Nurse Daisy thing, but she happens to be the only who actually knows what's going on. We see her talking to Corvus about the nursing home and finally we see why Corvus wanted to go there so much. Corvus shows up and there's Nurse Daisy ready to accept her, ready to play gatekeeper between the worlds and what appears to be different subdivisions between life and death.

"I know how you go this far...you figured out what you out not to do, and you determined to do it. Against all advice. Not against the odds, however. The odds were always good" (276). Nurse Daisy explains to Corvus as she shows up and then continues with "I hope you don't think you've been chosen."

Here we have Corvus accepting her temporary position inside the nursing home, between worlds, simply living, but not really living. It finally all gets explained why the nursing home was so important to the well being of Corvus. It also explains why Alice and Corvus start their own paths because when Alice goes looking for Corvus there she gets turned away by none other than Nurse Daisy.

Nurse Daisy asks Alice about her childhood and why she wouldn't want to go back and relive it. I took this to mean that Alice didn't want to go back and live again. It would go along with the last sentence of the book, "in their jaws you are carried so effortlessly, with such great care that you think it will never end, you long for it not to end, and then you wake and know that, indeed, they have not brought you back" (308). Here Alice is simply stuck in between, unable to go back to relive and try her life again, because at one point Nurse Daisy asks, "Why do you always have to look at everything twice in order to see it?" (301). Nurse Daisy follows it up with how Alice probably would have failed the false-belief test. All Alice would have had to do was say she wanted to go back and relive her childhood, and perhaps she would have gotten a second chance at life. Instead, she's stuck in the middle of nowhere without a candle. I guess Alice inevitably constructed her own demise on this one since people were there to help her: Corvus and Nurse Daisy who were trying to point her in the right direction.

Picking Daisies, Falling Into Chasms

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When you think of daisies you typically think about something that would be happy, but Nurse Daisy is nothing like that. However, she may seem like the uncaring nurse that's out to just get through her days by being mean to her patients at the nursing home, but she seems to be about the only one that's relatively level headed so far in this book. She says, "we must see things we do not see now...and not see things we see now" (Williams 169). This explains that as humans we need to think about other things instead of what is just right in front of us. She continues to refer to a number of different things that death may represent. Sure most of which seem to be negative like, "birth is the cause of death" (170), but is she really being negative? Isn't she just trying to illustrate that death happens to everyone and showing death from a new perspective?

All of the characters seem to have so many different perspectives on death and different morals that Nurse Daisy seems to play such a small part in the book (at least so far) that her importance may get over looked.  Nurse Daisy continues to perpetuate the notion that "our capacity to do evil has nothing to do with our innocence" (171) further showing that she does have some morals even if she seems overly coarse to the patients or at least some kind of perspective that examines human nature in a new way. Still she has one of the most interesting takes on death. She even realizes that people may view her as harsh and uncaring, but is ready with, "But no one consciously suffers here. That's the tragedy of this place. All this remarkably calibrated suffering and not a bit of consciousness involved" (172). Here she is stating that everyone is so far gone already that it wouldn't even matter if she was nice or mean to them. The people are just waiting for death to come which leads to the most important thing that Nurse Daisy says to Alice.

The chasm which "Alice understood it, being the divide between life and death, although in this place the chasm had been shrunk to a crack, even less than a crack, a crease, something technical and maladroit that people here couldn't manage to fall into" (173). Basically, if you went to Green Palms you were kind of stuck in between death and living. You were a ghost of some sort without actually being dead. Nurse Daisy further punctuates her claim by saying, "so you think that reality is the present, is that what you think?" (174). Here she is just trying to get Alice to approach the situation from a different perspective. Alice even thinks, "This was the most remarkable query [she] had ever heard. She wasn't going near this one" (174). So if nothing else, Alice is at least learning and seeing the world a little differently after having spoken to Nurse Daisy.

I'm not sure yet, what effect Nurse Daisy will play on Alice as the story progresses, but I'm betting it will definitely influence Alice in some capacity.

Animals for Everyone

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I really like the format that The Quick and the Dead is set up in. The thrilling questions that pull the reader in at the beginning to start thinking about death, and then Joy Williams launches the story off with such an offbeat character like Alice that just grabs the reader's attention. Williams seems to be using a lot of reoccurring themes throughout the story or little connector stories that string all the characters along.

One of the biggest things that continue to show up in the book has to do with animals. There appears to be a link between animals and people. There are two references to fish that Ginger represents. Annabel says at one point that, "There was something about a fish restaurant" (Williams 29) referring to something related to her mother's death. Later, Ginger comes back as a ghost and starts explaining to her husband about a man who liked to fish for fun who would just cut the both sides of a fish and then watch it just sit in the water. Then one day a fish didn't die right away and seemed to stare at the fisherman. The fisherman didn't fish again after that (41).

Alice seems to have her own issues with animals. She has a certain dislike for cats. The idea manifests itself during the party where she talks to the piano player remarking, "cats are accustomed to making their own decisions and implementing them out of their owner's sight" (73). There is some type of connection here with why she hates cats. Perhaps it has something to do with her own odd behaviors.

Ray's animal is obviously the monkey that is stuck in his head. There is a deep connection to this monkey since the monkey was used for experiments to make him better after his stroke. In a way, Ray probably feels he owes the monkey for his life, and therefore is unable to get rid of him because of the guilt.

Another very obvious example of an animal representing or at least pertaining to another person in the story is the dog, Tommy, for Corvus. The reader sees Tommy as kind of Corvus's last resort for holding everything together after the death of her parents. She remarks at some point in the story about maybe getting rid of Tommy, but can't find it in herself to do so at least right then. So when she finds the dog dead, she decides that that was really the only thing worth keeping all of the memories of her parents for. Once she loses that one thread, she decides to burn everything that ever reminds her of her parents. How successful that is will be determined hopefully through the rest of the book.

So what is the importance of all the animal references? Well, the first part of the book before even chapter one begins states, "Don't use reason without imagination here. A hare is the determinative sign defining the concept of being" (3), which leads me to believe that the animals have some higher importance to the end result of the story. If this is true, I'm not sure yet. However, there seem to be multiple references to animals and deep connections with the central characters in the story.

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