February 2006 Archives

Gatsby: The Finale

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"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

In these last few pages Gatsby changes from a person to an epiphany, allowing Nick to make somme tough realizations about the nature of humanity as a whole. Everyone, he saw, wanted the good old American dream, and even if it didn't happen one day, well, they would try harder the next day until it was eventually achieved. What Nick finally realizes though, is that for most people, this dream either will never come to fruition, or already has, the dreamer merely being unawares. Because of this, the dreams become empty and meaningless as they did for Gatsby, eventually bringing only disillusionment and sadness. Because whether we never achieve our dream, or just don't realize when we do, it amounts to the same thing: A constant struggle to move our lives forwards, when in reality we may be doing just the opposite.

Gatsby Part the Second

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"So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end."

In my oppinion, this quote pretty much sums up the character of Gatsby, and, to a lesser extent, the majority of the human race as well.
Gatsby's past didn't live up to his expectations, and so he made a new one. He was no longer merely an imperfect human being, but The Great Gatsby: a perfect vision of himself that he valued above all else. It seems to me that most people do this, at least to some extent. We fib to make ourselves seem like better people, tell little white lies so they like us more. Perhaps Gatsby is merely a caricature of all of humanity.


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What I found most interesting about this work was the complete absence of the stories namesake until chapter three. Sure, we saw him from far away, and heard other peoples thoughts on him, but we never come close to the real thing. For this reason, I thought it was especially well done when we finally do meet Gatsby, he is rather aloof and mysterious, staying apart from his boisterous party and guests.

Symbolism is a topic which is constantly hashed and rehashed in literature circles, usually coming up with loads of meanings that the author didn't even intend for his or her story. Though this isn't neccessarily bad, it is a case where there can be too much of a good thing.

Because of the nature of symbolism itself, you can read pretty much whatever you want into any object or place you happen to read about in a work of literature. The key to interpreting symbolism in a story is not only to read meaning into an object, but to give it a meaning which is condusive in carrying on the plot and theme of the work itself. You may have noticed in many of my earlier blog entries that I interpreted symbols in some amusings ways, and though this was good for a joke, it really didn't help the reading of the story at all.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that symbolism is a good thing to an extent, but when readers and critics try to over analyze every single piece of information in the story it gets tedious, and in effect, takes away from the overall story.

Poetry Slam Topic

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For the in class poetry slam, I chose the work "Lunar Paraphrase," by Wallace Stevens. This was, in my mind, the best of the mediocre. None of the poems we had the option to do struck me as overly well done, and none were terribly bad. My basis for choosing this poem above the others was pretty much because I enjoy the aesthetic value of the line "The moon is the mother of pathos and pity."

"[in unison] That's it! Damn foreigners! Damn dagoes! Damn Catholics! Damn sheenies! Damn niggers! Jail 'em! Shoot 'em! Hang 'em! Lynch 'em! Burn 'em!"
"[Sing in unison] My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty!"

A scathing criticism of American society if I've ever seen one, this passage brings to light exactly what is wrong with today's culture. Liberty and Justice for all, right? Or maybe just for some. Presumably all middle class whites, the families feel that they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they are model, hardworking citizens, and they love America. They just don't believe that people different than them are entitled to those same rights. Sound crazy? Well it shouldn't, it happens every day.

A Tale of Two Ages

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"People over forty can seldom be permanently convinced of anything. At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide."

Having read this story every year for the past four years, it's getting rather difficult to come up with new material to talk about. That being said, I decided to focus on this passage, with little or no context to the story around it.

Ex 1-1a: Close Reading 1 -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

Close reading
-takes forever
-mind numbingly boring

-relatively cheap
-cleans toilets
-only burns a little when swallowed

Objectively, draino wins by a landslide.

A perfect way to end a poem

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"In the east when you cross the Hudson
Into the city across the George Washington Bridge."

This entire poem was amazingly well done, from the images it conjectures to the feelings it stirs up. It captivates the way the American people come together after a tragedy, and how quickly something hated can become a symbol of love and freedom when it becomes threatened.

The last line of the poem, for me, was easily the best part. Not only does it bring the poem to an end, but it ties together the whole theme of freedom with the name George Washington. What better name with which to end a poem like this? When you mention that name to any American, Freedom is undoubtedly the first thing they will think of. By ending the poem this way, the author effectively makes the reader feel that Freedom, in all its forms, is still something worth fighting for.

I'll admit that Judith Oster makes several good points in her close reading of "Desert Places," but in general her essay is long winded, overly wordy, and inane.

"The "nothingness" that Frost fears is not the metaphysical void, it is the void he fears in himself. In relating this personal void to the spaces between stars, he suggests that a personal void can have—or seem to have—cosmic proportions, that it can seem at least as important, as vast and as frightening, as anything "out there."'

Looking for a way add bulk to your essay? Why not take the easy way out? Sure, oster gives a possible interpretation of the work, but there are so many others that the waters of literature quickly get muddied by theories, and the poem as a work of art is lost completely.

Fine, she thinks Frost fears an internal void? Well I think he was a closet homosexual, and the void in his sould would never be filled because society at the time frowned heavily on homosexuality. The unbroken snow represents society: heavy with perfection, and trying to cover anything different with its blanket of pure white. The woods which the speaker passes are fallic symbols representing the gay lovers and the lifestyle the he will never be a part of. Society forces him to continue on with his life, even though he is living a lie, and experiencing a void that will never be filled.

Don't like my interpretation? Too bad.

Close reading is no doubt a valuable form of literary interpretation, but it seems to me that at times this can be overdone. Do poets really mean to have every word of their poem pored over by scholistic wolves, all eager to tell their own version of what it might mean? Perhaps, but it seems to me that it is much more likely that they hope their poem to be enjoyed as a whole, for the images it conjures and the beauty of the way the words flow. I know this is how I feel when I write poetry, but then, maybe thats just me. Is it worth cheapening the overal quality of the work in order to "better understand" it?

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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