March 2009 Archives

An Invisible Meaning

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"The next day i saw his picture in the Daily News, beneath a caption stating that he had been "mugged".Poor fool, poor blind fool, I thought with sincere compassion, mugged by an invisible man!"
-Invisible Man p. 8

While I read chapters 1-14 of Invisible Man, this passage in the prolouge stayed in my mind. Something about the whole situation bothered me, and after considering it for awhile, I think I came up with a conclusion about what Ellison was trying to say through this scene.

I think what struck me about this scene was the realness of it. The whole encounter seemed so violent - yet so real. The strong reaction the narrarator seems like an overreaction. It is portrayed, I feel, to seem like one. Yet, when you think about it again, maybe its not. Now I can never say I have been in that type of a situation before, but is it not human nature to react strongly when you feel as if you are being verbally attacked? It is not common for someone to just sit there and take it. Violence, as they say, is never the answer, but I can see how someone may become heated in that sort of situation (even if the force that he used was inappropriate).

But, I think that the real message is not necessarily in the violent beating and confrontation, but in the story the narrator said was written in the paper about the incident. He says that he feels bad for someone who was mugged by an invisible man. Mugging is not a light subject, and the man took a very painful beating. Yet, the article portrayed only one side of the situation. No one knew that the blond man had been vulgar and continued to provoke the "invisible man".

This shows that maybe the narrator really is invisible - at least to anyone who read the paper. After reading the article, people were able to make judgements about him - without even knowing who he was. In no way am I saying that he was completely justified in his actions, but maybe readers should consider the unfairness he had to deal with as well. Individuals are always quick to judge based on what they know, and only what they know. Often times people do not take the time to consider gathering all the facts before the judge. I think that this part of the book really foreshawdows other events I read in the book. I know that the prolouge reminded me to read without making rash judgements.

Thoughts From Others


Water Law

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There are several short segments of text in David Cassuto's Turning Wine into Water: Water as Privileged Signifier in The Grapes of Wrath, that caught my eye.

In the print out from EBSCOhost, on page 68 it states "The Plains were classed upon to supply grain for the international ward effort in 1914 and to feed a hungry nation whose population continued to multiply exponentially"...It goes on to talk about how the farmers diligent work required large amounts of water that were not readily available at the time, in those areas, and farmers had to declare bankruptcy - yet neither they, nor the government gave up on the idea of the garden. They held to the idea and tried as hard as they could to be successful. Two things caught my eye in these few lines. One was the idea that the government encouraged farmers at the time to use their land to help the population of America. And now, the government pays farmers to NOT farm the lands they have...It is interesting to see how things change. It also made me think of hope and success, which I feel is that Steinbeck is really trying to express in The Grapes of Wrath.

On page 69 it states "The class stratification depicted in The Grapes of Wrath arose from corporate control over the region's most precious resource. However, the region's aridity made water an absent signifier. Both in the novel and in the desert itself, waters conspicuous absence is what makes it so powerful"...when I read this, I almost felt relieved because I had been so confused up until this point. The article seems to make so many references to water in The Grapes of Wrath and it was something I had not picked up on at all as I read it. I was confused as to how I could have missed such an important element in the work of literature, and then I got it. Maybe I missed it because it really was not there as much as Cassuto makes it seem. In these sentences, it seems to me that water was a hidden theme. I guess that makes sense as to how it could be powerful - it controls aspects of life without being present...

Blogs From Other Students...

Shoe of Protection

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"You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty year, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo."
- Slyvia Plath Daddy

In Slyvia Plath's poems, it is easy to see how the hardships she endured during her life played a large role in her poetry. The loss of a parent as at a young age is a very difficult thing for a child to deal with, and it often affects them throughout the rest of their lives. Plath characterizes her father as many different things throughout the poem Daddy. It was her reference to him as a shoe that stuck out to me the most.
          In my History of Western Medicine class, we just watched a movie on war medicine. In the film, there was a segment on how important it was for soldiers during World War I and World War II, to have sturdy, stable, and comfortable shoes. It talked about all the risks that wet, could feet could cause a solider. It also talked about how shoes were an important element in protection. The element of protection is what came to mind while reading lines 1-5 of Daddy.
          Even though her father is dead, Plath relates him to a shoe that she has lived in for a number of years. I took this to mean that even though he was no longer physically her life, his memory was still her shoe - or her protection. She relied on him to get her through life.
          Line  five says "Barely daring to breathe or Achoo." I think that his means Plath is afraid to ruin the memories she has of her father by doing anything really, even things that are not out of the ordinary. The blackness of the shoe symbolizes the death of her father and the darkness that surrounds his death.

Blogs From Other Students

The Sweetest Waltz

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"The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle."
- Theodore Roethke My Papa's Waltz

          It seems as if My Papa's Waltz is a poem open to interpretation. As with any poem, it is up to the reader to make their own personal judgments about the words in front of them. It is important to remember that interpretation is based upon the individual and generally are concluded with life experiences in mind.
          With that in mind, I believe Theodore Roethke was describing a loving moment between a hard-working father and his son. This poem was written during a period in time where it was very common for a father to come home from a body wrenching job, and enjoy a drink or two with dinner. The scent of whiskey on the fathers breath does not necessarily mean he was an alcoholic or even drunk at the time of the waltz. It is common for young children to dance on the feet of their mothers and fathers, and the incredible difference in height can make it difficult to hold on. So saying that "I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy" (3-4) does not have to really symbolize death or pain, just difficulty in the situation.
          If someone was "romping" in your kitchen and it caused pots to fall, would you not think this would cause a mess? This could be the reason for the frown upon the mothers face - her kitchen is slowly becoming messier, and she knows it will be her job to clean it up in the morning! If these lines really indicated abuse, it is more common for a mother to leave the room - then to simply just sit there and frown at the actions of the father.
          As we learned from Foster - it is important to reference time when analyzing a piece of witting. Theodore Roethke died in 1963 - meaning that this poem was written before then. In the middle of the 1900's, what types of jobs were common for men to have? Factory work was still common, but desk jobs were not. So is it out of the ordinary for a man to have rough hands? No. People see the word "battered" in line 10 and they think abuse! But, there are other ways in which someone could interpret that. Lines 11 and 12, where it states "At every step you missed, My right read scraped a buckle" seems to accurately describe what waltzing with a father would be like. You can not expect a father to be incredibly graceful if they were an untrained dancer. And when you again think about height and size - a young boy hold on to his father, could very well be at waist height - right were a belt buckle would be.
          For anyone who has ever taken a dance class before, you know that you dance to a beat. People drum beats with their fingers gently on desks, their foreheads as they try to think, and other surfaces. The father and son were having a fun time together, and the fact that the father is strumming a beat on the child's head still is no direct link to abuse. "With a palm caked hard by dirt" (Line 14) can be related to the same explanation of the battered knuckle seen in line 10. In the last two lines of the poem, it seems as if the father is taking the son to bed - and the boy, tired from all the dancing - is holding on to his father, not wanting the time they just spent together to be over.
          Now, it is impossible to say if this interpretation is correct, or if any other individuals take on the poem is either. It just seems to me, that there is no real unarguable evidence in this poem to indicate anything other than just a bonding moment, late at night, between a father and his young son. It simply comes down to the mind frame in which you decided to read this poem in.

Other Thoughts...

Absorbed By Nature

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"Weeks hitting the road, one fasting in the bathtub,
raw hamburger mossing in the watery stoppage,
the room drenched with musk like kerosene -
no one shaved, and only the turtle washed.
He was so beautiful when we flipped him over:
greens, reds, yellows, fringe of faded savage..."
-Robert Lowell, Returning Turtle

          Have you ever traveled to a destination that was completely out of your element? Do you remember a birthday as a young child when you received the coolest new toy? This poem seems to be similar to an experience like that. Robert Lowell seems to be describing a situation in which the individuals involved became so immersed in the turtle, the world around them was soon forgotten. With the vivid description of the colors of the turtle, it is easy to feel as though the turtle could possibly be the most beautiful thing in the world. And it seems as if it was mesmerizing as well. If no one shaved, and the room had a musk, it is easy to conclude that the turtle was the sole center of attention.
          But, as all things change and time moves on, interest always seems to fade. Whether it is the realization that life can not continue to travel down a specific path, nothing remains constant. By releasing the turtle, it shows that good things must come to an end at some point - life can not remain frozen in a specific moment. But, as seen when the turtle beings to swim away, it looks back and winks. This shows that time spent is not time wasted. If even a moment of happiness is achieved, there should be no regrets.
          With this poem, Robert Lowell could be showing readers the complexity of nature - something that most do not take the time to stop and admire. Like the turtle, the world around us is full of beauty and wonder. Sometimes it may do individuals well to stop and spend an hour doing nothing but staring at the wonders that surround them. Beauty will be realized, and joy will be found. And although the joy may pass, the memory will continue. Just like the turtle looked back, people can look into their past, examine it - and rediscover the beauty around them.

Thoughts From Other Students 

Altering Fixed Positions

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"...Don't read only from your own fixed position in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and some. Instead try to find a reading perspective that allows for sympathy with the historical moment of the story, that understands the text as having been written against its own social, historical, cultural, and personal background."
-Foster How to Read Literature Like a Professor p.228

      As soon as I read these lines in the chapter entitled Don't Read With Your Eyes, I immediately thought back to the blog I wrote about The Grapes of Wrath. In my blog, I talked about how I thought it was not a smart move for the Joad's to travel to California, because I knew the heartache that could be waiting there for them. I talked about how I knew this because of things I had learned in history classes about the individuals who poured into California and what devastation many of them found. I claimed that it may have been smarter for the family to just stay at their original home because of this. After reading this weeks assignment in How to Read Literature Like a Professor, I would almost like to take back the things I said previously about the Joad's. I now understand that it is important to remeber the time period while making judgements about characters in a work of literature. Like Foster said, you can not read from a set position, as if the story was happening in the world today. It is unfair to incorporate information into your thought process, if that information was not available to the characters at the time. I feel that this can cause unfair judgements of characters. Again Foster has made an obvious point, that I had never before considered. Forming a level of sympathy in respect to the time period and things of that nature, is a good idea in order to gain all possible things for a work of literature.

Blogs From Other Students

The Skin of Wrath?

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"Sabina: Mrs. Antrobus, I want to take back the notice I have you. Mrs. Antrobus, I don't want to leave a house that gets such interesting telegrams."

The Skin of Our Teeth Act I p. 20


I have to say that this play is definitely...different? It seems to be so off the wall, yet that seems to be drawing me in and making me see what odd things I will find next. The relationship between Sabina and Mrs. Antrobus seems strange. Although I may be wrong, from what I have been able to understand - Sabina was the mistress of Mr. Antrobus until he become tired of her and moved on to his wife. The line from Sabina just stuck out to me because it seemed like such a weird reason to stay after she had already made up her mind to leave. This made me think of The Grapes of Wrath. While I am still only reading Act I as I write this, I can not help but think that the characters in this book are in such a state of panic and depression, that they will take drastic measures to survive. I think that Sabina stayed because she was afraid of what she may find in the cold, and what might happen to her. The house now had fire, and it was safer to stay in a bad environment, than an unknown one for her. The family seems to need to keep up hope - I already have a feeling that if they don't, all will be lost - and it will be lost quickly.


Blogs From Other Students

Medical Intrigue

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"Until the twentieth century, disease was mysterious. Folks began to comprehend the germ theory of disease in the nineteenth century, of course, after Louis Pasteur, but until they could do something about it, until the age of inoculation, illness remained frightening and mysterious...We've never really accepted microbes into our lives. Even knowing how a disease is transmitted, we remain largely superstitious. And since illness is so much a part of life, so too is it a part of literature."

-How to Read Literature Like a Professor p. 215


Chapter 24 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor was really interesting to me. This could be for many reasons but the above quote stuck out to me because Louis Pasteur was something that was just covered in my microbiology class. Who would have thought that microbiology could help me to understand literature! But then as I continued to read the chapter, I found Fosters summary of diseases in works of literature to be thought provoking as well. Often in literature, it seems that the more 'gross' illnesses are the ones that are popular to talk about, because they are filled with drama and intrigue that draws a reader in. Foster talks a lot about what a disease can symbolize, and what makes a good disease for literature based on its description. As a student who is pursuing a career as a physician assistant, I view medicine in literature in terms of what sort of sickness will pull on a readers heart strings. I know that I often find myself feeling bad for sick individuals in books, and thinking of ways or treatments in which they could be cured. I know that we often talk in class how the characters in books are only fiction, but I think that if an author has been able to use disease to draw a reader in that much, they have been successful. Disease adds an incredible amount of realness to a piece of literature, and I think that realness allows sickness to work is magic. It makes the readers interested, and wanting to read more.


Thoughts From Other Students

Reading Between the Lines

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This entry is to serve as a Portfolio for the blogs I have written for American Literature 1915-Present (EL267). The purpose of this Portfolio is to organize my entries to date into the following categories: Coverage, Timeliness, Interactions, Depth, and Discussions. This Portfolio allows me to view the progress I have made, and the knowlegde I have aquired up to this point in EL267 at Seton Hill University.

The following links are a sample of blog entries that included direct quotes (with sources), and links to comments from other students.

Symbolically Simple
Love Again?
Biblical Inspiration

The following links are a sample of blog enteries that were posted on time (by early morning, the Friday the entry is due). All entries, except two, to this point have been considered timely, and are posted on the Thursday evenings.

Let's Start Fresh
Tired Of The Desired
It's All About The Smile
Reading Literature Like A Professor

The following are a sample of blog enteries that showed interaction between my classmates, and myself, through comments on my enteries. At first, I was not aware that I should respond to comments from my peers, but have since been posting timely responses to their comments.

Are You Smarter Than A Joad?
'Tis The Season
Love Again?
Bad Driving Is Bad (Interaction between my classmates)

The following links are to enteries I felt contained depth of knowledge on a topic, or depth in my personal feelings towards a piece of literature.

Are You Smarter Than A Joad?
Pardone The Interuption

The following are links to enteries of my classmates. On these blogs, I left comments that contributed to a conversation or topic being discussed.

Christopher Duffala "Prision Walls and Scrap Piles"
Julianne Banda "Fishing for Compliments?



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