Student Sample Notebook
A Working Definition of Modernism
The text designates the years between 1910 - 1945 as the modern period, but it the time frame is not so cut and dry as suggested nor is there a precise definition of the modern period. Modern art transformed the way people thought about common everyday events and challenged or expanded previously established boundaries. Modernism was in some ways a competition among a variety of art forms for the central interpretative myths, images, and stories of the age. Therefore, modernism consists of many attitudes such as acceptance, rejection, praise, and condemnation.
Modernism was shocking, relied upon irony, and disturbed many in order to Apenetrate any and all the pious beliefs that kept people from knowing what they really believed and who they were as humans. Central beliefs and values such as hard work, decency, logic, order, and respect were turned upside down. Some may say that the modern period represented the beginning of a decline in morals. What may have been considered obscene just a decade or two previous to this time period became accepted and somewhat praised.
Modernism also has a distinct characteristic of alienation. There seems to be a prevalent feeling of loss of self due to industrialization, but also an incomplete understanding of the world itself. At the same time, modernism also Acultivated its fascination with what it saw in the primitive. In a way, Modernism counteracted the advancements in science and technology.
To understand this modern era in literature it seems that one must have a good understanding of the historical events that occurred during this time period. Many ideas underlying the events are reflecting in the literature. Political movements of the time such as the women's movement where women gained the right to vote challenged traditions and opened up new possibilities to women. Even though the prohibition movement failed, it also manifested that social order could be constructed. Other important events such as WWI, WWII, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the New Deal, etc. play an important part in the literature.
The Harlem Renaissance also known as the New Negro Renaissance played a major part in literature during this time period as well. It is a genre in and of itself but does reflect some modernist characteristics. Black writers used caution in their writing because they needed the support of people from their race. Most blacks at that time were far from being able to well-educated and lacked many luxuries that their white counterparts enjoyed. Therefore, it was little use to transcend normal boundaries and take interest in complex aesthetic ideas and forms. However, an awakening to the black culture was very crucial during this time. Folk music became apparent in the forms of blues and jazz. Jazz was a way of linking the past to present, but it also was a rich, complex, and sophisticated style that is well recognized even today. Although modernism tends to not have specific cultural and ethnic ties, due to multiple energy centers, during the 1920s and 1930s the South was a center.
Modernism was also shaped by the advancements in communication. Information could be distributed to mass audiences through newspaper, radio, and even what became known as the best-seller. Some ironies apparent in modernism relate to the fact that a writer had to choose whether to go along with the media's mainstream or to distance himself/herself from it. By choosing the latter, a writer would immediately limit his/her audience.
Comparison of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois
A glimpse of Booker T. Washington's life and ideas is presented in excerpts from Up from Slavery. He expresses much humility and gratitude despite deplorable circumstances throughout the autobiography. Not even knowing who his father was, he works diligently to make a name for himself. During his childhood, he lacked a strong male role model in his life although he did have a great love and appreciation for his older brother, John. To save Booker from pain and discomfort, John showed compassion toward Booker by wearing a new flax shirt for Booker to break it in. Booker expressed great respect for John, but he took such a liking to General Armstrong and praised him so highly that Armstrong may be seen as a wonderful father figure in Washington's life. He praised him by saying, A... The first time I went into his presence he made the impression upon me of being a perfect man; I was made to feel that there was something about him that was superhuman... The opportunity of coming into daily contact with General Armstrong . . . alone would have been a liberal education. Many of Washington's successes can be traced back to the influences that Armstrong had upon Washington's life.
Up from Slavery and the Atlanta Exposition Address was well received by both whites and blacks. This is not surprising considering that Washington's words appealed to many of the basic needs and desires of common people and presented the slave condition in a very optimistic light. He first mentions that he lived in a cabin with a dirt floor which had so many holes that the Acat-hole seemed unnecessary. As a child deprived of play, he worked very diligently. His work ethic paid off when he was trying to get accepted to the Hampton Institute. He proved himself by doing such an immaculate and thorough job that he did not leave a speck of dirt or dust anywhere. As a child, he thought that Ato gets into a schoolhouse and study... would be about the same as getting into paradise. So had he been denied entrance into the school, it would have been considered tragic and disheartened many people. He was not demanding anything unreasonable, sacrificed pretty much everything he had (which was not very much), and was willing to do more than his part. His personal account reinforces his claim that the black people who went through the school of American slavery, are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, that is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe.
W.E.B. Du Bois, on the other hand, had quite a different view of slavery. As portrayed in the slave songs, slavery was full of pain, suffering, and sorrow. He demands that Blacks are given respect and implies that in no way do they need to prove themselves to the whites or make some sort of compromise. He argues that they have many talents and abilities as manifested by the slave songs and should be recognized for what they contribute to society. In fact, he asserts that blacks are very intelligent people and his own work, The Souls of Black Folk, is a prime example of the intellectually capacity of blacks.
In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois attacks Washington on three main points. The first being that although Washington encourages Negros to become businessmen and property-owners it does no good because they won't be able to defend their rights without having the right to vote. The second point Du Bois makes is by promoting thrift and self-respect Washington is advocating submission to civic inferiority. Last Du Bois believes that Washington places emphasis on industrial training, but depreciates institutions of higher learning.
Du Bois made excellent points; however, he seemed to have a very idealistic view. Washington's presented a more realistic type of view. Although Washington did glaze over many issues, because he did not attack the whites directly, demand too much, and was an example of a slave who rose to power what he said was well received by many. Du Bois was also very successful and very intelligent. However, he may not have been as well received by others because he was not trying to address the common people or reach a middle ground.
Comparison of Jean Toomer and Zora Neale Hurston
Both Jean Toomer and Zora Hurston provided great insights into the African American culture through their stories. Both authors used dialogue characteristic of their culture; however, the dialects are not identical. This may be due to the fact that Toomer was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and Hurston was born in Florida. In Cane, Toomer tells the story by using dialogue as well as the thoughts of the characters (which are indicated by the name of a character followed by a colon), description, and poetry. Other the other hand, Hurston's stories are told mainly through dialogue. Both Toomer and Hurston's works reflect the importance of songs in the black culture. Toomer uses parts of Negro songs which give great depth and meaning to the African American way of life and overcoming white oppression. However, in ASweatby Hurston, Delia's song serves as a comfort to her for her emotional and domestic trials.
Cane is a work of art which unifies the northern and southern African American experiences whereas Hurston's short stories, ASweat, and AThe Gilded Six-Bits, are very reflective of the folklore in the South. In fact, she spent some time during the late 1920's and early 1930's collecting stories, songs, tales, proverbs, etc. of the black southern people. Hurston's short stories seem to be very authentic and are written in such a way that the common black folk existence is brought to life.
While both authors wrote about love, Hurston's stories are written with more light-heartedness than Toomer's story. Toomer's story portrays a harsh reality and contains much more violence in order to illustrate the struggles many blacks went through in order to maintain their strength and pride. In the ABlooding-Burning Moon, although Bob Stone considers what his family and friends from the North will think about him for liking a nigger, he fails to take into consideration what black people will think and how they will react. Tom Burwell takes a stand and manifests his strength by pulling a knife on Bob Stone. However, he tragically suffers in the end when he is overtaken by a group of white men who burn him at the stake.
Hurston's stories do not reflect the conflict between whites and black to the degree that Toomer's story does. In fact, Hurston's stories are set in Negro communities and have mainly (if not all) black characters. In ASweat, Sykes stomps on the white clothes and throws them around but it is not for the sole purpose of showing disrespect for the whites. He does it more to get a reaction out of Delia.
Hurston's stories are very valuable to the black culture because they present a vivid description of Southern life. The conversations reflect the simple joys that blacks enjoyed and the sense of humor they had. In ASweat, a splendid picture of village life painted when the men are all gathered together on an extremely hot day in July and are craving a piece watermelon. In AThe Gilded Six-Bits, Joe is anxious to share the information he gathers in town about Mister Slemmons to Missie May. In addition, it is a big event for Missie May and Joe to go the ice cream parlor on Saturdays.
Both Toomer and Hurston had unique talents and different styles, but each made huge contributions to black culture through their works. Each put emphasis on the beauty of the Negro women, the rich language, and the importance of the Negro songs.
Comments on The Other Two by Edith Wharton
The use of detail in AThe Other Two makes it come to life. Much can be learned about Alice's previous husbands through the description of their appearances. In the case of the first husband, his character is revealed through his clothing. Haskett's leaves his shabby hat and umbrella in the hall during his first visit. These possessions suggest his social status is that of a middle class man who lives on the edge of poverty. Haskett is also described as a small man with a thinnish gray beard and who peers out of a pair of Agold rimmed spectacles. These images suggest much about his personality. The reader almost immediately draws the conclusion that Haskett is an innocent, well-meaning, and dedicated man. In fact, his appearance leads Waythorn to compare him to a harmless piano tuner and a dependable repairman.
While all of the previously mentioned details taken collectively give the reader a good sense of Haskett's character, one significant piece of detail illuminates Haskett's life more than the others. It is the made-up elastic tie he wears. The tie is so poignant that it was A grotesquely uppermost in Waythorn's mind. It is the elastic tie that prompts Waythorn to reevaluate his preconceived notions about his wife's first husband. Haskett is far from the beastly man Waythorn thought he was. Although, Watchorn would have preferred to continue thinking that Ahis wife [was] brutalized by her first husband when he observes evidence of Haskett's character through his appearance, Waythorn is forced to examine the character of his wife.
A description is also a useful tool in discovering Gus Varick's, Mrs. Waythorn's second husband, personality. He seems to be a little higher up on the social ladder than Mr. Haskett. In a picture that sits atop a table, Alice is wearing AVarick's pearls about her neck. Varick could afford to give such luxuries to his wife since he came from a socially reigning family. In fact, his mannerisms suggest he is a fairly decent guy. When Waythorn runs into Varick on the train, Ait was impossible [for him] to ignore the smile of recognition on Varick's overblown face. Then when Waythorn later observes him from a distance at a restaurant, Varick a leisurely and with Acritical deliberation savors Aa bit of Camembert at the ideal point of liquefaction. His Aruddy profile and calm, indifferent demeanor suggest Varick is not that harmful either.
Through the limited omniscient point of view, the reader gets insights into Waythorn's thoughts and, therefore, his character. However, not as much can be learned about him through the use of detail as was the case with Athe other two. Just as Varick's socioeconomic status was higher than Haskett's, Waythorn's socioeconomic status is higher than Varick's. Waythorn attends many of the same social activities that Varick does and frequents many of the same places. However, he is a prominent businessman whom Varick must go to in order to settle an investment. Insights into Waythorn's character comes through Mrs. Waythorn since her lifestyle is a reflection of his. She behaves very properly as demonstrated in the last scene where she Acame in fresh and smiling, in her street dress and hat, shedding a fragrance from the boa which she loosened. Alice maintains the image of Waythorn's lifestyle through her dignified and sophisticated appearance.
Alice's progression up the social ladder becomes obvious to Waythorn he reflects upon the Another two husbands. He comes to the realization that a Haskett's commonness had made Alice worship good breeding, while Varick's liberal construction of the marriage bond had taught her to value the conjugal virtues. So in turn, her relationship with Varick had led her to her present situation with Waythorn.
Cather and Dreiser's Point of Views
The irony of this week's reading is that both stories are seen through the gender opposite that of the author. The third person omniscient point of view Dreiser uses in AThe Second Choice allows the reader to gain insight into the protagonist's life - a woman's life. On the other hand, Willa Cather's AA Wagner Matinee is told from a male point of view. Exploring each of these short stories separately gives insight into what function point of view provides in both stories.
In AThe Second Choice, Dreiser's style allows the reader to almost immediately jump into Shirley's mind. The dashes give the impression that the thoughts in Shirley's mind are being expressed in a free-flowing manner. Her thoughts are not always complete thoughts and she sometimes gets caught or sidetracked by thoughts of the past as she analyzes her present situation. Although they are related, the thoughts are not always completely logical. For example, she recalls, AThis house, which now looked so dreary B how romantic it had seemed that first night he called B the front room with its commonplace furniture . . . She had not even mentioned Barton to Arthur because well because Arthur was so much better. It is through Shirley's reflections that the reader understands why Shirley's believes her daily life to be so dull and empty.
Shirley's perception of her life completely changed after she met Arthur. Arthur was Ayoung, dreamful, ambitious, much younger and more dreamful than [Shirley], although, in reality, he was several years older. Through this association, Shirley was renewed with energy. She realized her ordinary life and daily monotonous routine forced her to grow up too quickly and there is so much of life she hasn't lived.
When Arthur leaves her, it is that much harder for Shirley to return to the patterns of her life and accept a predictable, stable, and honorable life. Although she tries to resist the average lifestyle and is successful for a while, her perception of society's opinions overcome her. AAfter a month of brooding, she felt that she must act her position as a deserted girl was too much. She could not stand it any longer really the eyes of her mother, for one. So Shirley resigns herself and begins to interact her second choice, Barton. The deliberation between the two lifestyles and it the two men is effective in the story since Shirley's thoughts are almost always at the forefront.
In Willa Cather's AA Wagner Matinee the contrast between the Nebraskan frontier life and the refined urban life of Boston is well illustrated through Clark's reflections of his Aunt Georgiana's appearance and reactions. The perceptions are more significant since they are told from a male point. However, one may wonder if a guy would really be so reflective of a woman's life. Without knowing the gender of the author, one may conclude it was written by a woman.
Clark states AI saw my aunt's battered figure with that feeling of awe and respect with which we behold explorers who have left their ears and fingers north of Franz-Joseph-Land. Georgina was not a woman who had grown up in a rural setting her entire life so this observation is even more significant since she had once been a music teacher at the Boston Conservatory. It seems that Clark is very conscientious of his Aunt's background when he is A doubtful of her enjoyment as he considers attending the Symphony Orchestra with her. Even more so, it is interesting to note that when they enter the music hall, he felt Asome trepidation lest she might become aware fo her queer, country clothes, or might experience some painful embarrassment at stepping suddenly into the world to which she had been dead for a quarter of a century. However, he is taken by surprise when he realizes Atears were glistening on her cheeks during the performance of APrize Song. The concert awakens deep emotions in Georgina to the point that she does not even want to leave. Clark understood because he has a clear understanding of the hard work that lays just outside the concert hall.
Since men are generally viewed to be more brave and strong, Clark's closing thoughts are even more significant because it paints a clear picture of the harsh rural life. AThe tall, unpainted house, with weather-curled boards, naked as a tower; the crook-backed ash seedlings where the dish-cloths hung to dry; the gaunt, molting turkeys picking up refuse about the kitchen door. He is fully aware of the harsh rural life and pays tribute to it through the respect he shows for his aunt.
Edna St. Vincent Millay and Current Research
Edna St. Vincent Millay was named America's finest living poet and was among [the] foremost twentieth-century poets. Being so talented and well-recognized it is not surprising that she would have been viewed as someone who could use her talent of writing to influence political views. As the introduction in the text suggests, she was a memorable nature poet, and some critics have claimed that AJustice Denied in Massachusetts was a betrayal of her natural lyrical gift.'
In order to understand AJustice Denied in Massachusetts one needs to know the historical background of the poem. The footnote to the title suggests it is referring to the case involving Nicola Saco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti who were seen as political victims. Since Millay's personal plea for a weaker punishment was denied by the governor, it is not surprising she decided to use her pen to make many people aware of the planned execution which she felt was an injustice. The title makes even more sense when one learns it was published in the New York Times, the day before the execution. As John Timberman Newcomb suggests the title modeled on a screaming newspaper headline.
The current scholarship provides great insight into Edna St. Vincent Millay's works and influence she had as a modern feminist. Millay uses the traditional sonnet form for some of her love poems, but the angle from which she addresses the topic of love is not typical of the sonnet form. In an essay titled Making Love Modern: The Intimate Public Worlds of New York's Literary Women it states, AThrough a poetry that was equal parts transgressive and traditional, Millay provided symbolic access to modernity for her national audience.Even more illuminating are Stacy Carson Hubbard's comments about Millay's poetry. AHer response to the difficulties of the woman's self-positioning in the sonnet is to take up neither the male nor the female role, but to internalize the sexual drama, all but erasing the role of the eroticized and addressed other The internalized erotic contest figures the woman poet's internalization of the poetic tradition, her struggle with the love sonnet's seductive yet (for women poets) impossible plot: she both yields to poetic convention and walks away from it. With these ideas in mind, it is that much easier them in her poetry.
As mentioned early, Millay is viewed is by many as a modern feminist. However, Sonnet xli [I, being born a woman and distressed], has received some complaint from feminist readers. They view the speaker in the poem as someone who exhibits sexual dominion and at the same time is somewhat submissive. Hubbard suggests Ashe plays all the available roles in the sexual contest simultaneously: she is at once >zestful' and >frenzied' seductress and >staggering' victim, silent beloved and scornful mistress, >distressed,' >urged,' >undone,' and >possessed,' yet fully capable of a stylish exit. Millay draws attention to the stark contrast between love and reason. Love can be viewed as something that will Aclarify the pulse and cloud the mind. Similarly, stout blood leads to a staggering brain. This contrast brings to the reader's attention the forces of nature and reinforces the idea that the speaker is subject to her inherited gender traits.
Although the text provides just a small sample of her work it is quite apparent as critics have suggested that Millay stood for more than lyricism and sentiment; she represented New Womanhood and the assertive female sexuality that gave focus to the culture's diffuse ambivalence about contemporary social change.
The Title of Susan Glaspell's Play ATrifles
Susan Glaspell's play ATrifles is a commentary on gender perceptions and roles and the significance of details or items in life that may seem trivial. It is quite interesting that the play was re-written as a short story and given the title AJury of Her Peers. Since the storyline should be the same for both the play and short story, it is interesting to note the role the titles play and how they focus and direct the reader's interpretation of the story.
Even though I haven't read the short story, it seems that the title AJury of Her Peers emphasizes the fact that the men are portrayed as the ones who are controlling the investigation of the case, but it is the women who undoubtedly conduct a successful analysis of the crime. The women quite ironically stumble upon evidence through there curious nature. The dead canary is precisely the type of evidence that the county attorney and sheriff are looking because it is something they could present in court to provide a reason for the murder. After all, they Aknow juries when it comes to women. They believe they need something to show something to make a story about a thing that would connect up with the strangling of John Wright.
Even though the case is not presented in court, Mrs. Peter and Mrs. Hale can be viewed as the jurors. The women examine the evidence and are forced into making a quick verdict. The truth is that the former Minnie Foster was Alike a bird herself real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and-- fluttery who changed tremendously after her marriage to John Wright. Minnie Wright didn't have any children and became a secluded, lonely person. Compiling all of the evidence (the damaged birdcage, the strangled bird wrapped in silk, Mr. Wright's death, etc.) and building upon Mrs. Peter's personal experience as a young girl, the women come up a reasonable story that could be presented before a jury.
Since they have analyzed the situation it seems justifiable that they make a decision about Mrs. Wright's innocence. The women know both sides of the story. In addition, Mrs. Hale has added insight and feels partly to blame for the tragedy since she had not been a better neighbor. It is not surprising the women make the decision and rule that she is not guilty through purposefully concealing the evidence from the men.
On the other hand, the title Trifles focuses the reader's attention on the importance of small details in a woman's life that seems irrelevant and are overlooked by men. The sheriff makes quite a statement when he says, Nothing here but kitchen things. However, it is the dirtiness of the hand towel, the pans stacked up, the bread set, etc. that give a hint that something is amiss. However, these details are easily justified and do not seem critical since Mr. Wright was just murdered.
Hale reflects the sheriff's attitude by commenting, Women are used to worrying over trifles. However, it is precisely Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale's worrying over the trifles that leads them to discover the truth behind the story. Firm in her belief that is there is a purpose in trifles, Mrs. Hale resentfully states, AI don't know as there's anything so strange, our taking' up our time with little things while we're waiting for them to get the evidence. Soon after she makes this comment a quick glance at the stitches of Mrs. Wright's sewing alerts the women of Mrs. Wright's mental and emotional state. The men may have viewed sewing as an insignificant activity and something used only to idle away time. However, through some more observations about trivial items in Minnie's home the women discover a motive. Yet Mrs. Peter ironically reflects the men's perceptions by stating, My, it's a good thing the men couldn't hear us. Wouldn't they just laugh! Getting all stirred up over a little thing like a dead canary.
Both titles function well in the context of the story. Both essentially lead the reader to reach the same conclusions. However, the title Jury of Her Peers suggests that the men are not as powerful as they think and it is the women who ultimately make decisions. While the title Trifles suggests there is something to be said of paying attention to what may seem to be frivolous details of a woman's life.
The Play in O'Neill's Mind
The style of the play The Hairy Ape was different than many others plays I have read. The stage directions are very specific and quite lengthy so there are moments when the play seems to be written more like a novel than a play. The stage directions are so detailed, in fact, that any production of the play would most likely fall short in capturing all of the details. In addition, it would be difficult for a viewer of the play to completely comprehend the minute details of the play through just observing a performance of it.
Knowing about O'Neill's thoughts regarding play productions, it becomes clearer why he wrote the way he did and one gains a greater appreciation for his novel-like plays. He was discontented with the limits placed on playwrights because they are confined to the stage. O'Neill thought about writing plays that had >No Productions Allowed' in red letters on the first page. This seems quite ironic since he was writing a play but did not want it to be performed on stage. Instead of writing plays, it seems like he should have been writing novels.
One reason why he may have preferred to write plays is that plays, through their dialogue, are little more realistic than a novel. In general plays have a stronger conversationalist element than a novel and some scenes seem like they are scenes that could come straight from life experiences. One can almost imagine being a bystander of the action. Therefore, the transition of the story from the author's mind to the audience is done easily than it would be through prose. So just as O'Neill wanted, plays can allow stories to be transferred from his imagination to his readers' imagination. Anything else, he had felt, would have fallen short because his ideas were Atoo dear to him, and Atoo much travail of blood and spirit went into his writing. If his plays were performed they would be put to an Aunfair test. When plays are not made into productions, each reader can have their own interpretation and is not limited by someone else's perceptions and abilities. In addition, the setting is not limited by available props, costumes, or a budget.
Knowing that O'Neill would have preferred that his plays be acted out the reader's mind, it is interesting to note how heavily he relied upon the elements of sound in The Hairy Ape. In the third scene, the stage directions describe the slamming of the furnace doors. AThere is a tumult of noiseBthe brazen clang of the furnace doors as they are flung open or slammed shut, the grating, teeth-gritting grind of steel against steel. In this Aclash of sounds stuns with its Arending dissonance there is Aorder . . . , rhythm, a mechanical regulated recurrence, a tempo. However, above all of the noises was the Amonotonous throbbing beat of the engines. These sounds definitely echo the regularity of industrialization and would seem an essential part of the play. If the play were to be acted out, with all of these background noises it would be hard to hear the actors, however, it would create a greater sense of realism. So it would seem that not only did O'Neill want to have the reader imagine the play, but become completely enveloped in the atmosphere of the scenes.
One can argue that sounds can be described in novels, however, they seem more effective in a play. For example, when the voices of Yank's shipmates repeat words with a Abrazen metallic quality as if their throats were phonograph horns and these stage directions are repeated three times in a row it is tolerable to read. Had this been in a novel, the mimicking through exact repetitious phrases would be fairly tedious to read. Perhaps then, this is another reason why O'Neill choose to write a play rather than a novel out of this story.
How to Write Poems According to Ezra Pound
Some of Ezra Pound's poems appealed to my aesthetic sense of poetry because of the conciseness of the poems. On the other hand, I found some of his poetry difficult to grasp because they are filled with many allusions. In addition, since he used his poetry as a political tool, I struggle with being able to Apraise the poet and forget the politician.
In the essay AA Retrospect, Pound sets forth guidelines to writing poetry. His opinions arise from not only his own experimentation with poetry, but through careful analysis of great poets' works. He thought that poetry from the past served as Apoints of departure because there were small amounts of good in the poetry that he read. However, this good was only found in occasional Astray phrases. In a way, he was boasting of himself, that although other poetry was good, he thought he could produce a higher quality of poetry. However, this manifestation of arrogance kind of turned me off.
The first guideline Pound subscribed to was treating the subject as the poem very directly. This is quite plausible, because in poetry there is not time to approach a subject indirectly if one wants to make a dominant impression. The second guideline Pound suggested was directly related to the first. He thought that absolutely no words should be used that do not contribute the poem. This is reasonable because poetry is often short and every single word contains more weight and meaning in this genre compared to others. The overall impression of the poem is dependent upon every individual word. In fact, some of the words used in poems have double meanings and which make it packed with multiple messages.
The last guideline Pound suggests is to compose poetry by yielding to musical phrases and break away from the strict meter. This seems almost contradictory to the first to guidelines and guidelines to writing poetry in general. If a poet is writing with the intent to make his poetry pleasing to the ear, it might be difficult to stick to some specific regulations of poetry. The poet might have a tendency to add words that are not absolutely needed, but choose to use them for aesthetical appeal. However, in the third guideline it seemed Pound was directly addressing some poets who wrote in free verse and poets who composed poems according to some specific structure such as the sonnet. In particular he found it disgraceful when Awords are shovelled in to fill a metric pattern or to complete the noise of a rhyme-sound. Pound obviously believed some of poet predecessors were are careless in their poetry and would have done well to use free verse (vers libre) as long as it wasn't verbose. I tend to agree with the Pound's guidelines. Perhaps this is because some of my English classes have emphasized the value of keeping the subject brief. In addition, consistent with the pace of the world everything seems the shorter the better. Pound's hokku, AIn a Station of the Metro is a stunning example of a poem that meets his guidelines. The poem, if it can be classified as that, shows that when words are meticulously chosen it can convey a dominant impression. When each of the words are taken in context with the title, the poem makes a lot more sense. It is quite stunning to realize the amount of time it took for Pound to compose this poem. It is only fourteen words long, but it was a year in the making. It started out as a thirty line poem, then he shortened it a fifteen line poem, and eventually it became the two line poem. It would be quite interesting to look at the drafts and see what was eliminated. The fifteen line draft probably wasn't a poem of poor quality, but expressed detailed images. The hokku, Aa one image poem is not necessarily better than a longer drafts. The hokku paints one clear picture through it brevity, the longer poems are probably not of poor quality but serve a different purpose (and leave the reader with a different impression.) Overall, this work stunned me realize how powerful his carefully chosen words were; each one absolutely necessary to the poem.
The Treatment of Gender in poetry by Williams Carlos Williams
The poetry of Williams Carlos Williams seemed very accessible, thought provoking, and moving. Some of Williams' works have a strong American sensibility, especially narrowed in on circumstances related to the middle class in which almost unavoidable issues dealing with gender arise.
One work in which Williams addresses gender issues is AThe Young Housewife. The young housewife can be seen as a woman whose life is full of restrictions placed upon her by society. She is kept hidden from the outside world and remains within the Awooden walls of her husband's home. She is not entitled to any kind of ownership of the house.
Even though she is confined to house, she breaks some expectations by moving about the house in her Anegligee when it is 10 A.M. Most would expect her to be busy with her daily chores and not lounging around the house. Later, when she does emerge from the house to meet the ice-man or the fish-man she is restricted by the edge of the curb and cannot go beyond it. However, her appearance still expresses her deviation from social standards. She is Auncorseted and Astray ends of hair are out of place, but yet she submits to the standards almost unconsciously since she acts Ashy and submissive and tries to fix her hair by Atucking it back in place where it belongs.
In contrast, the speaker in poem is free to travel where he wants to because he has his own transportation. It is implied in the poem that he passes by the house more than once as he goes about doing his business. However, he is confined within his car, but like the woman still conforms to social standards by bowing and smiling to the housewife. Although, both felt measured against society's expectations, the woman's life was controlled by them more than the man's was.
Some more insight about how William Carlos Williams treated gender in his poetry can be found by looking into APortrait of a Lady. The poem makes reference to the painting AThe Swing by Fargonard, and may be seen as a commentary on the treatment of women by male artists. In many pieces of artwork, especially during the Renaissance, emphasis is placed upon the physical beauty of a woman. In this poem it seems that the speaker was criticizing the portrayal of women as sexual objects. The title APortrait of a Lady calls into question the idea of a portrait. A portrait normally focuses on the appearance of a woman's upper body especially the physical characteristics of her face. However, just as the painting focuses on the lower portion of a woman's body, the poem focuses on the parts of the woman's body below her waist such as her thighs and knees.
The speaker addresses his frustration with this unjust portrayal of women when he exclaims, AArgh! What sort of man was Fragonard? Yet this question calls his own purposes into question since he was trying to flatter the woman through his poetic lines. He realizes that the question he asked was pointless, though, because even if it was addressed it really wouldn't Aanswer anything. Fragonard (although he was not the man who painted AThe Swing) is just one man out of countlessly many who has produced works which contain sexual connotations.
In AA Portrait of a Lady, it is also interesting to note that the women seems to control the speaker of the poem even though her voice is never directly heard. She has an overwhelming presence as she makes the speaker question the metaphors he uses. The lady makes him question Awhich sky and Awhich shore and drives him to a state of confusion. His poem seems somewhat foolish because the images of apple trees would rarely ever be close to a shore. Through an indirect acknowledgment of a woman's influence, Williams may have been suggesting that women are not content with the roles that they had been previously been placed in. In addition, he may have been implying in a very subtle way, as result of changing times, that this was only a beginning of different representations of women in various art forms.
The Valley of Childish Things by Edith Wharton
I think that Edith Wharton is one of the most careful and thoughtful writers that we've read so far in class. I found myself particularly intrigued by her short story, The Valley of Childish Things. Despite its short length, the story contained a lot of symbolic and metaphoric language that afforded the story a deeper meaning. I think that one of the strongest arguments in the piece is the argument against the infantilization of women. The piece was originally published in 1896. That is important to note because women's rights and women's suffrage was just a whisper on the breath. While some strides had been made, it was just the beginning of a long battle for equal rights for women. The infantilization of women was common: as wives they were subservient to their husbands and as mothers they were subservient to their children. Women were expected to be coy, simple and innocent creatures. I think that these are the expectations that Edith Wharton is addressing in The Valley of Childish Things
First of all, Wharton utilizes literary tropes that evoke thoughts of childhood. By starting the story with "once upon a time," Wharton immediately creates a nostalgic mood for the reader. The protagonist is a little girl that eventually decides "that it was time to see something of the world about which the lesson books had taught her" (1456). She leaves the Valley of Childish Things, returns, and is ultimately rejected by her companion in favor of a younger, more playful little girl. The protagonist quickly realizes that when you leave child you, it is not so simple to return back to that place. When she is rejected by her companion, he offers her some sort of strange comfort by telling her that she should have taken better care of her complexion (1457).
I think it is important to note the short length of this story. To me, the short length is symbolic of childhood. Childhood seems endless as we live through it, but upon growth and reflection, we realize that that part of our development is so small. Once again, that's why I think that Wharton is making a commentary on treating women like children. It is like asking a person to spend the rest of their life in one of the smallest parts of their lives. The protagonist is able to experience so many things, but because that knowledge does not align with what is expected from her socially, she is rejected for growing up.
If I were to extrapolate another metaphor from this piece, I would also consider the Valley of Childish things as a metaphor for the leisure class of Wharton's time. I know from Wharton's brief biography that she was a socialite and that she came from money. Perhaps this story was a reaction to grandiose smallness of Wharton's social class. While these people were free to indulge and party and enjoy life, they were not pushing themselves to grow and learn more about the world. And, when educated people like Wharton tried to combat that lifestyle, they were rejected for being too smart.
Overall, I think that this piece is ripe with literary meaning. Despite its short length, it is boisterous in meaning and rich with strong language and metaphor. It think that Wharton's writing easily lends itself to academic study because of her carefulness, craft and social commentary.
An Old Man's Winter Night by Robert Frost
The first thing that struck me about this poem was the use of alliteration, consonance and assonance. I think that these three literary devices created a cohesive voice and tone for this piece. The first two lines of the poem set the scene: "All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him/Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars" (1630). The assonance in the first line features a strong "o" sound (out, of, doors, looked) and the second line showcases the consonance of "t" and "th" sounds (through, the, thin, frost, almost, separate, stars). The use of these poetic devices creates a poem that sounds nice. It is important to look carefully at these first lines because they are the reader's introduction to the poem. In those lines, Frost is teaching the reader what their expectations of the poem should be. It also denotes his carefulness and thoughtful attention to detail.
An Old Man's Winter Night features an old man that is getting ready to go to bed. This simple routine, however, becomes a time of reflection and fear for the old man. Like the alliteration and the consonance in the first two lines, Frost also utilizes other literary techniques to make this simple subject both contemplative and poignant. For example, I noticed the use of opposites and contrast in the poem. The poem is set in nighttime, but the old man is often referred to as a light: "A light he was to no one but himself/Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what/A quiet light, and then not even that" (1631). The poem continues on and describes the contrasting relationship between the sun and moon: "He consigned to the moon, such as she was/So late-arising, to the broken moon/As better than the sun in any case" (1631).
I think that these contrasts between light, dark, day and night are significant because of the poem's subject matter: the old man. What does the reader know about the old man? He is alone, for one thing. And another: he is old. He is the old man that the title describes. It's obvious, right? That's why I think that the nighttime is a metaphor for the old man's life. If the old man's life is a day, then it is coming to a close, and he is hesitant to let the light go out. It is important to also consider the fact that it is a winter's night: it's cold and the roof is heavy with snow. I think that this detail is meant to frame the old man's isolation and loneliness. The image of a summer's evening is much different in tone than a winter's night. The reason that I think that the temperature illustrates his loneliness is because of the type of language that is associated with cold and hot in terms of emotion. If someone has a cold heart, or if they are described as frigid, they are the type of person that doesn't keep company well. In contrast, if someone is described as warm or bright or sunny in their disposition, they are typically attributed with positive qualities and attitudes.
Between Frost's careful literary craft and rich symbolism, An Old Man's Winter Night is a rich landscape for literary analysis and interpretation. I think that that's why Frost stands up as one of the great poets because of his attention to detail and exemplary use of language. By the end of the poem, the old man rotates through a restless sleep and Frost explains that "one aged man–one man–can't keep a house/A farm, a countryside, or if he can/It's thus he does it of a winter night" (1631). I think the ending is supposed to make a larger illustration about human life. As I mentioned before, the poem is salted with metaphors that pertain to life and death. I think that Frost's ultimate point is that no one man can carry on throughout this life alone. There are consequences to be had (loneliness, coldness, etc.) if that is the path that you choose.
Snake Eyes: the Biblical Parable and Death Comes for the Archbishop
There are obvious allusions to religion in the bulk of Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. For one thing, it is book about Catholic priests proselyting to the rural southwestern United States. Religion and spirituality are the thematic pillars that hold the narrative upright. Despite the clear references to religion, however, Cather also crafted a narrative of nuance that is only available to the careful reader. In my opinion, the organization of the narrative is similar to the Bible. In this journal entry, I would like to discuss the function of the narrative’s organization and how the content reacts to that form. To do this, I will do a careful reading of the second chapter of book two, Missionary Journeys. The chapter is titled The Lonely Road to Mora. I selected this passage because, in my opinion, I found it to be the most ripe with the qualities of a biblical parable.
Analyzing the structure of this book is paramount to a close reading of the text. To me, Death Comes for the Archbishop read as a collection of short stories rather than a novel. The narrative had a meandering quality to it that allowed the text to wander. I do not think that the book needs to be read from cover to cover, rather, the ordering of the text is a mere suggestion to the reader. This structural choice reminds me of the structure of the Bible. While there are narrative components to the Bible, there are separate stories (parables, etc.) that can stand alone without the context of the grander narrative of Christianity. The story of the good Samaritan and the story of the prodigal son stick out as good examples of this concept.
In Cather’s narrative collection, there are similar threads of stories that utilize both Catholic symbolism and elements of the traditional parable. For example, The Lonely Road to Mora details the journey of Father Latour and his Vicar. As they travel, they decide to stop at an isolated home. They are quickly and quietly warned by the woman of the house, Magdalena, that her husband is dangerous. They flee the home of Buck Scales and, ultimately, Magdalena escapes and asks for Father Latour’s help. Father Latour learns that Buck Scales was a murder and an abusive husband. Ultimately, they were able to remove themselves from a bad situation. Buck Scales is an important character in this story because he acts as foil for good intentions. In my opinion, Buck Scales is a representation of Satan.
There are several clues that Cather left in the text to lead me to this conclusion. First of all, his name. The surname of Scales evokes the image of a snake. Furthermore, the descriptions of Buck Scales’ physical appearance suggest that he is not entirely human. There is a subtle mysticism about the way that he looks and acts that led me to believe that his character meant something more. For example, Buck Scales is described as having “a snake-like neck [that terminated] in a small, bony head” (66). The narrative goes on to describe that his head “showed a number of thick ridges, as if the skull joining were overgrown by superfluous bone” and that “the man seemed not more than half human” (67). The description of his forehead was important to me because I imagined a set of small horns protruding from his skull. It is clear that Buck Scales is the villain of this story.
It is important to clarify that the character of Magdalena acts as an opposite to the character of Buck Scales. She is a righteous character because of her desire to help the priests flee from danger. Furthermore, her escape and repentance at the end of the story align her with the archetype of the biblical Mary Magdalene. Despite the difficulty, she was able to flee from an evil situation to be redeemed and rescued for her efforts. Ultimately, the priests trust Kit Carson to take care of Magdalena. Kit Carson, in my opinion, is a character that represents Christ. I think that Kit Carson is a Christ-like figure because of the way that Father Latour reacts to meeting him for the first time. Latour observes that "there was something curiously unconscious about [Kit Carson's] mouth, reflective, a little melancholy,–and something that suggested a capacity for tenderness...the Bishop felt a quick glow of pleasure looking at the man" (75). Latour's reaction is important because it cements Kit Carson's status as a benevolent character
Trifles by Susan Glaspell
There is a clear line between the sexes in the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell. I think that Trifles is a successful commentary on gender because of the way that the men and women are contrasted in the piece. All of the characters carry equal weight as the play progresses. It is interesting to read a drama rather than see it performed. As a reader, I felt that I had to comb through the dialogue in order to absorb the importance of the Glaspell's understated style. Be that as it may, I noticed a lot of commentary in Glaspell's work about the differences between men and women.
I think that Trifles is a piece of writing that focuses on the problematic nature of assumptions. There are assumptions made about Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peter in many different ways. First of all, the County Attorney and the Sheriff dismiss Mrs. Wright as a suspect for the murder because she is a woman. Despite the fact that Mr. Hale reports Mrs. Wright's strange behavior when the body was discovered, neither the County Attorney nor the Sheriff think to look for evidence or motive to make Mrs. Wright a suspect. In contrast, however, both Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are effective as detectives. They, in my opinion, were able to discover more about the murder of Mr. Wright because they were observing the details that were important to Mrs. Wright. From the broken fruit preserves to the canary in the sewing basket, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters were able to discover the discontent and tension that was present in the Wright's home.
Assumptions are being made about the women on both sides of the justice line. While Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are able to discover important details about the murder, Mrs. Wright, in contrast, is saved by the assumptions made about her because of her gender. It is clear to me that Mrs. Wright murdered her husband. While that is not explicitly stated in the excerpt we read for class, I know that that's how things turn out. Mrs. Wright, however, is protected from being accused because the men in the story don't believe that she was capable of murdering her husband. This becomes clear when, towards the end of the excerpt, the County Attorney agrees to take the sewing notions to Mrs. Wright because he doesn't think that the things that Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale picked out aren't dangerous, despite the fact that that's where the women found the dead bird (1572).
I think it is important to note that the men in this story are not bumbling idiots. They are well informed professionals, but they are affected by the assumptions they make about women. Because of their assumptions, they fail to generate more insight about the crime. But I think that Trifles asks an interesting question about what those assumptions do to opportunity. If given the opportunity, would Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters been the better detectives? Or, conversely, if they were not familiar with the intricacies of homemaking, would they have discovered the dead canary? Therein lies Trifles greatest strength: it asks the questions, but it does not give you all the answers.