Wednesday, November 30, 2011


     Feed has proved to be an interesting book to read this semester.  It has tied together the entire semester's themes and main ideas including isolation, education (or lack thereof), technology, and government control and manipulation just to name a few.  While this novel is focused on the future, it can definitely be applied to today's society.  The population that makes up this novel is so obsessed with being like everyone else that they have no sense of identity or uniqueness.  The government that they find themselves under takes advantage of their minds by manipulating them and making them think whatever benefits the government.  Titus the main character in the story does not seem to care what is going on around him until he meets Violet, a girl who challenges everything that is going on around them.  She questions the feed and the government and what really makes up a person in their futuristic society.  Her standing up to the government eventually led to her demise because the government did not see her as a valuable consumer or investment because she could not conform to any specific mold the government was trying to fit her in.  A good example of Violet standing up to the world around her is when she and Titus go to the mall and she picks out the most obscure unrelated things in different stores. Because the feed cannot understand her or figure her out, they eventually kill her by destroying her feed which consequently affects the rest of her body.  I think through Violet's character, Anderson is warning readers of the consequences of being a nonconformist in a culture where being a conformist is considered "cool" and in some cases is necessary for survival.
     Education is also a main theme in this book.  The society that Violet and Titus find themselves in does not need school or education in the way that we view school and education.  Because they have all the information that they could possibly need right in front of them, they have no need or motivation to study or learn information on their own.  They don't even need teachers which is evident through the holograms they have simply for looks.  Anderson asks his readers through this society 'what is intelligence and wisdom?'  He forces his readers to reexamine the overload of information that is always in full force around society.  He is asking his readers to question whether or not this information overload could have negative consequences and how it changes the perception of fundamental ideas such as intelligence and smarts.
     The cuts and lesions that are prevalent throughout the novel are a disturbing illustration of how conformity can be life threatening.  In the novel, the cuts and lesions become popular when they appear on the show Oh Wow Thing!  It suddenly becomes popular and cool to make cuts and have huge sores all over your body.  It is not relevant that it is life threatening and at the very least damaging to their very own bodies.  The cuts and lesions represent just how far some people will go to fit in and be considered part of society.  Anderson is asking his readers how far they would go to become part of something.
     Disconnect from society and each other is also prevalent in this novel.  Because they have the feed, their is virtually no need to have face to face conversations with each other and isolation becomes inevitable.  Their form of communication in the novel consists of "mchat" and sending each other messages through the feed.   This aspect of the book is definitely evident in our society today.  Because of texting, emailing, and skyping, their is virtually no need to have a face to face conversation with anyone.  The idea of confrontation is almost completely eliminated from our society.  Anderson is suggesting through his book however that this is the root of the feeling of isolation that so many people have.  How is it possible with all the technology we have today that people still feel alone and separated from society?
     All throughout this book, Anderson is asking his readers to step back and really examine the society they find themselves in.  Many other authors that we have read this semester were doing the same thing but Anderson's book is interesting because it is set in the future but has so many contemporary elements to it.  I would definitely encourage others to read this book because it really made me look closer at the society and information that surrounds me today.  It reminded me of the importance of filtering what you are told and what you hear.  At some point, you are inevitably going to have to take a stand like Violet did and listen internally to what you think and feel.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Contemporary Poetry

Actual Poem: "Edge" by Sylvia Plath

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Flash Fiction

It almost seems like flash fiction is the modern form of reading for today's society that barely has time for anything extra anymore.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


     This story about the red convertible is very sad.  It is not uplifting like E.B. White's story is at the conclusion.  There is no sense of peace or hope at the end.  The red convertible in this story is what ties Lyman and Henry together.  It represents their relationship before Henry went off to war when things were innocent, free, and happy and also it represents their relationship when there is no hope left and things do not make sense.  It is obvious through this story that Henry went through some very traumatic experiences when he was in war.  He is the perfect example of someone who has trouble coming back home and being normal.  I think sometimes our society expects veterans to just be able to come home and flip the switch but it is far from being that easy and Henry is a good example of that.  I think it is also important to note that they are Native Americans living on a reservation.  Because they are a minority, it makes them harder to seek treatment for Henry (although it would've been hard for any veteran coming home after the Vietnam war to find any mental help).  The reader can really tell that Henry is mentally sick towards the end when he is acting as if everything is ok and then drastically drowns himself.  Lyman definitely did not see that coming.  It is interesting that right before he does this to himself, Lyman describes him as looking peaceful and almost normal like he used to.  How ironic that there was some sort of peace before the storm.  By getting rid of the convertible in the end, Lyman is offering himself closure.  Because the car represents everything about their relationship, he cannot keep the car around just to stare at and mourn his brother's loss even though it seems like that's what his brother really wanted him to do.  It seems appropriate that everything that represents their relationship should die in the same way that Henry did.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


     In this excerpt from E. B. White's Charlotte's Web, White is making a statement about life and the people that move in and out of it.  It is clear in the beginning that Wilbur and Charlotte are very good friends.  They obviously fulfill each other's lives and have many meaningful conversations.  This is a characteristic that is different from the other Realistic works we have read in which the people have no connection to each other and simply go about their own lives.  Wilbur and Charlotte are different though.  They cannot imagine life apart which is best seen when Wilbur discovers that Charlotte is dying and begins to hysterically break down crying.  Charlotte makes it clear when talking to Wilbur that he has made her life a little more meaningful just by being there for her and being a true friend- "'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte.  'That in itself is a tremendous thing.'"  I think White is making the statement that without a few true friendships, life is virtually meaningless and it is easily forgotten once it is gone.
     The act of Wilbur saving Charlotte's offspring is the ultimate symbol of his love and their friendship.  Once Wilbur realizes that their is no way around Charlotte's impending death, he desperately searches for something to keep her around even after she is gone which of course is her 514 children that will soon be born.  Templeton then enters the story and I think represents the skeptical, cynical people in life that are reluctant to help others and really only agree to help when there is a reward for them in the end.  It is obvious that Wilbur's emotions of desperation and anger do not phase Templeton at all.  He is like the people in life who are unmotivated, lazy, and have a hard heart.  They are moved by very little.
     Charlotte's death is the perfect illustration of the raw act of dying.  She dies alone without any of her friends or children there.  Not only is she physically dying, but the world around her is "dying" as well.  The fair grounds are being torn down and it actually looks "forlorn."   Charlotte dies in the background just like she lived.  I think White was trying to paint the perfect illustration of how death really is.  It is a painful, isolating process that goes virtually unnoticed by those around you.
     But even though White painted a perfect picture of death, he also painted a perfect picture of life (the scenes of the barn and farm).  Life is good in the barn with the animals that he interacts with and his owner Mr. Zuckerman taking care of him for the rest of his life.  Wilbur never forgets Charlotte and none of the other spiders can take her place in his heart.  White is trying to say here that some things in life change and move on, like Charlotte dying and Fern growing up and out of childhood things like the barn, but some things stay the same like the barn life in general.  But these things that enter into our life and then leave, change us forever; they change our outlook on life.  Wilbur will never forget Charlotte and it is obvious that their friendship has changed his heart and life forever.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


     I'm having a hard time interpreting this poem but the imagery and language is obvious.  The speaker is describing the peaches of summer and the joy they bring him in their entirety- "not only the skin, but the shade, not only the sugar, but the days," etc.  The speaker sees the peaches in their entirety and everything they represent.  The hard work of the pickers, the blossom in the very beginning, even the days and times that the fruit represents.  I think the summer days that the peaches represent are important because they represent a fleeting time of youth and summer free of complications such as death but instead overflowing with joy.  Perhaps the peaches represent this very idea of summer and a carefree, innocent time of childhood that the speaker longs could be back in his life again?  But perhaps he knows they will never be a part of him again-"sweet, impossible blossom."

Thursday, November 3, 2011


     This short story strikes me as very unusual.  Death surrounds this classroom and makes the children question what makes life important.  I feel bad for the children in this story.  They are obviously younger since they are experimenting with trees and animals in class.  I feel as though they shouldn't be bombarded with death as they are in this story.  It seems to come from all directions whether it's as insignificant as trees or as crushing as a parent or family member.  It's almost unfair that they would have to make sense out of these circumstances at such a young age.  I think if I was a child in this story, I would be questioning the school itself too!  It's almost as if there was a curse put on them when in actuality, they are just suffering from life and bad luck.  I think the children do a lot of growing up in this story which is scene by how they almost start expecting things around them to die.  I think they really begin to see how life brings bad circumstances sometimes with no warning.
     I think the scene with Helen is important because I think it marks the point where the children realize that the only thing in life that is worth investing in is other people and relationships with them.  I think the children see something eternal and meaningful in intimate relationships with others.  However, I think they are too young to really know and understand what that means because they have not intimate relationships with others at this point in their lives.  Therefore, they want to see an example of that intimacy.  I think the children are desperate for something good and pure that is full of life since death surrounds them everywhere they go.  The children even say, "we require an assertion of value, we are frightened."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


     This story was frustrating for me to read.  The father figure Morris is not really a father at all to Woody taking off and abandoning his family because he simply couldn't live a life like this anymore.  This scene is what really makes Woody a man.  Through this change in his life, he realizes that he is in charge of what goes on around him.  After this scene in the backyard, I think Woody fully takes responsibility of his own life.
     The time period in this story is important to note.  It takes place during the Great Depression in the 1930s where money is scarce and luxuries are non existent.  This is most evident in the scene where Morris and Woody visit Mrs. Skoglund.  She is the perfect example of an immigrant who has worked their way up in society even if it was done through her wealthy, late husband.  She is someone whom less fortunate people feel they can call upon in their times of desperation (Morris with the $50).  I think the silver dish in this story represents all that Woody and his family is not.  They are not the picture perfect American view of immigrants who fully realized the American dream.  They did not become wealthy and acquire luxuries. Instead, their family is separated with no connections.  They instead are dependent on their son to provide them with everything they need to survive.
     Religion also plays a significant role in this story.  Bellow illustrates it as hypocritical, and materialistic (through Woody getting paid to give false testimony and work, etc.)  It is something that this immigrant family tries to turn to for hope and some sort of direction in life but it doesn't really take.  Woody and Morris are overtly nonreligious and find no worth in it.  Woody's mother and sisters however, pretend that they are fully invested when in reality they are just playing the part.  They are truthfully no more religious than Woody and Morris.  I think Bellow may be making a statement about religion in this story.  Here, it actually keeps families separated and construes Woody's view of the world and reality (Jews and salvation).  Does religion still do that today?
     Woody is the perfect example of a loner in this story.  He has no real connections with any other human being except for maybe his father but it could be argued that they have no connection but instead simply identify with one another.  In other words, they are similar but have no emotion or feelings towards the other person.  I admire Woody in this story however because he does the right thing when it comes to family.  He looks after his mother and sisters who are too poor and helpless to do anything for themselves.  He even does the same for his father who walked out on him and his family when he was still only a boy.  You have to admire Woody's loyalty to family even if there is no connection there.
     One question I have- What is the deal with the woman who smelled like milk?  Is she the only person that Woody has ever had any connection with?

Sunday, October 30, 2011


     This for me was a difficult poem to read.  I like the way that Ginsberg divided his writing into three different parts though.  I think that makes it a little easier to categorize and organize his thoughts.  Ginsberg's writing reminds me of Whitman in that it has a stream of consciousness feeling (especially part one).  The scenes that his writing paints are not ones that are particularly positive or nice.  They are blunt and harsh.  An example of this from part one is, "...who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall..."  I think Ginsberg paints these horrible scenes all throughout part one in order to show just how he feels about his society.  When Ginsberg looks at the people he comes into contact with, he sees things like shame, cowardliness, and "Terror."  My favorite part from section one was the commentary about time in his society and how it rules us as a people and culture- "...who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade.."  I really liked this part because I think it applies to our culture today.  Alarm clocks seem to rule our lives in Western culture.  We are governed by time and schedules and plans.  There is little room for spontaneity or adventure.  But do we as a people secretly want to be able to throw our watches off the roof and not be governed by other people's plans?
     Part two seemed to have a very different feeling than part one.  It still has lots of negative imagery but I read it to be more urgent than part one.  The frequent use of exclamation points contributes to this idea. The word "moloch" comes up again and again in this section and I think the meaning is very important.  Moloch here I think refers to a Canaanite idol to whom children were sacrificed.  Ginsberg in section two is emphasizing the destruction of the younger generation.  It is empty and "...whose love is endless oil and stone...whose soul is electricity and banks...whose poverty is the specter of genius...whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen...whose name is the Mind!"  It is evident through this writing that Ginsberg sees no warmth or human connection in the younger generation; he sees a generation that is after success and progression.
     Part three also reminded me of Whitman.  I think Ginsberg is trying to say that he is in a little bit of everything all around him.  He can understand and relate to many different types of situations.  I think possibly it is a commentary on the circle of life?  The negative imagery continues into part three and is a crucial part of the entire poem.  I think the negative imagery displayed throughout encompasses Ginsberg's feelings about the way he views society and the nonexistent hope he has for the future.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


     This short story reminds me of Feed.  The characters in this story are completely controlled by the government and don't really think for themselves.  One thing that is different from Feed and this story however is that people don't have a choice in this story while in Feed, only a majority of the population has their minds controlled.  An additional similarity is the feeling I get while reading these two works-it is one of disturbance.  The idea of people not remembering anything, and being completely controlled by a piece of machinery that is ultimately controlled by other men is terrifying.  It takes away everything that makes a person a person and a unique person at that.
     One section that I found very interesting in this reading was the very first paragraph.  The first couple of sentences make the reader feel good-there is no discrimination, or prejudice between people or groups of people.  As you read the rest of the paragraph however, you begin to think twice about how good equality really is.  Is it necessarily a good thing that nobody is stronger or quicker than everybody else?  I think Vonnegut is suggesting in his story that if full and total equality is to be reached people will have their essence taken away from them.  What makes them human (their minds and ideas) will be stripped away.  In addition the people who decide what is "normal" control everything.  I think Vonnegut is asking his readers to reexamine what equality means and caution against extremity.  I think he is also asking his readers to reevaluate technology and the dependency it is capable of producing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


     In this short story, I was very confused for the first half.  I think I have a general idea now however about what Hemingway was trying to say.  Characteristically with Realistic writing, the people in the story share no real connections with anyone else.  This is evident through the Macomber's marriage and how they are simply together because they are beautiful and rich.  There is no love in their relationship only security.  Wilson also is alienated from society which can be seen through the fact that he has many affairs during his safari's but none of them really mean anything.  Wilson doesn't even desire any real relationships  with women-he simply wants the physical aspect for short periods of time.
     Similar to "A Good Man is Hard to Find," there is a realization at the end where the main character has a realization of themselves and the world around them if only for a brief instant.  When Mr. Macomber finally conquers his fears and shoots the bulls basically by himself, he discovers what it feels like to be free from fear and insecurity.  It is very important to point out though that Mrs. Macomber thinks this realization has come too late.  Mr. Macomber doesn't think so, but through the ending it is obvious that his realization did in fact come too late.  I think Mrs. Macomber sees this realization taking place in her husband and it frightens her because she sees her entire reality begin to crumble with his realization.  I think that is why she shoots her husband-in order to save herself and keep living the life she has always known.  I think Hemingway is making the observation that many American "men" stay boys for the greater half of their lifetime through his development of Mr. Macomber.  Wilson makes this especially evident when he talks about the idea of "American boy-men" towards the end.  I think Hemingway is also showing that it is not socially acceptable to grow up and be your own person through Wilson telling Mr. Macomber, "You're not supposed to mention it... Much more fashionable to say you're scared."
    One question I have-What exactly do the game in this story represent?  Do they represent women?  (Hemingway made some connections between how animals hunt prey and women do as well.)  Or do they represent the fears that Mr. Macomber eventually conquers?  Or do they represent society as a whole?  Did Mr. Macomber in a sense conquer society?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

O' Connor

     In this short story, O'Connor tells the story of a family traveling to Florida on vacation and how they are maliciously murdered by the famous "misfit."  Some important points to make about the story include the characters.  Because three generations are represented in the story, I think O'Connor is showing readers the vast differences and declining over the years.  The grandmother of the story remembers where she came from and what made her who she is today while her son is indifferent to it and her grandchildren are outright rude and mean to their very own grandmother.  I think O'Connor is making the statement that younger generations have no sense of heritage or family.  I think O'Connor is also saying that they have no sense of responsibility or manners.  This is seen through the parents who do not seem to care at all about their children and never discipline them throughout the story.  The children themselves also support this statement through their complete lack of manners they display to strangers (Red Sammy and his wife) as well as their very own grandmother (the beginning scene).  O'Connor also makes broader statements about society and the south.  For example, the one black boy the family comes across has no pants which suggests that people that live in the country, especially colored ones, are destitute and don't even have enough money for the bare essentials.  Also, the interaction between the couple at the restaurant says a lot about what O'Connor sees in the south-gender roles, and people in general being stuck in the past.  Red Sammy is very rude to his wife and through the way he talks to her clearly shows that he expects her to do all the work and not be too outspoken.
     When the "Misfit" finally comes into the story, we learn about his character and what made him the person he is.  The grandmother's naive view of people and the world is also clearly highlighted.  The grandmother refuses to believe that there is no good in this man.  She believes that because he looks nice and so therefore he must have a little religion and kindness and mercy in him.  The "Misfit" however refuses to improve and believes that he is who he is and nothing or nobody is going to change him.  Perhaps O'Connor is also making a statement about religion and Christianity-that they don't change anything for the better and that they can't really save you in the end?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


     I really like Hughes' "Theme for English B."  His poetry is different from the previous ones we have read simply because it consists of direct and clear language.  Hughes' main argument in this poem is that everyone is influenced by the society they live in and the people they come in contact with.  He discusses how Harlem and New York as a whole influence him as a person.  Hughes then lists off various aspects of himself that prove he is a person and being true to himself like his instructor asked.  One thing I noticed about the diction in this poem was his use of the phrase "I guess."  I guess is a very unsure, reluctant response that Hughes uses in order to make subtle points about his race and how he is not treated like everyone else.  One example of this is when he writes, "I guess being colored doesn't make me NOT like the same things other folks like who are other races."  I think here Hughes is trying to make the point that everyone always assumes that black people are completely different than white people when there are in fact many similarities.  He also uses this phrase towards the end of the poem when talking about how people learn from each other.  I think here Hughes is being sarcastic and saying that it would make sense if a white man learned from a black man but that it really doesn't happen because white men are "older---and white--- and somewhat more free."  Hughes also discusses the idea of unity and what it means to be American in this poem.  Hughes' argument is that even though we sometimes don't want to be connected with another person for whatever reason, we inevitably are because we're "American" and come in contact with each other every day.
     In "Harlem," Hughes speculates about what happens to dreams that are put off for whatever reason.  I  think the title of this poem is very significant.  On Monday in class, we discussed what the Harlem Renaissance era was like.  It was a time of art and music and writing that exploded from the recently freed African American population.  Is Hughes suggesting that Harlem is a dream deferred and that it is an explosion of long bottled up feelings and emotions that can now somewhat be let out through art, music, books, etc.?  Perhaps the put off dreams of previously enslaved African Americans was like a "heavy load" that they could not relieve themselves of because of the laws that kept them in slavery.
     I really enjoyed Hughes' writing.  He is straightforward and direct which makes reading his writing easier to understand but he still at the same time leaves room for plenty of interpretation.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


     In Cullen's "Yet Do I Marvel," the greek mythology characters Tantalus and Sisyphus are utilized to illustrate Cullen's philosophical question- If God is "good, well-meaning, kind" etc, then why do bad things happen?  Why are people left to an endless torture like Tantalus and Sisyphus?  Why does everyone eventually die?  Tantalus was son of Zeus but he did awful things during his lifetime including cannibalism, human sacrifice and infanticide.  Because of this he was forever placed in a pool of water that would disappear if he bent down to drink any of it.  There was also a tree of fruit placed over him that would disappear if he reached up to grab any of it to eat which explains the "fickle fruit" that Cullen refers to.  Sisyphus is punished as well to push a huge boulder up a hill that never ends.  Cullen is trying to make the point here that because we are simple humans whose brains are occupied with other matters here on Earth, we cannot possibly begin to understand why God allows certain things to happen.  Even though we cannot understand him completely however, we still marvel at him and wonder about all of his many strange ways.
     "Heritage" is a little harder for me to interpret and understand.  I think Cullen is struggling with his past and everything that Africa stands for, and his present conversion to Jesus Christ.  He feels strong ties to Africa but he also feels like he truly belongs in his new religion and conversion experience.  His picture of the rain is what really convinced me that he still feels a tug back to his homeland- "In an old remembered way Rain works on me night and day."  Whenever he hears the rain, he remembers various components of his past like "the lover's dance", and the heathen gods of his past religion.  It is obvious that he wants to forget the African part of his life when he writes, "So I lie, who always hear, Though I cram against my ear Both my thumbs, and keep them there, Great drums throbbing through the air."  Even though he wants to move on from his past and his very heritage, he can still hear the drums and remembers his past.  I think Cullen is trying to make the point here that one can never completely separate themselves from their past or their ancestors.  
     Towards the end of the writing, Cullen makes the confession that he wishes that Jesus was African so he could somewhat blend his past African culture with his present Christian one.  I found this section particularly interesting.  It is obvious once again that Cullen wants to be loyal to both aspects of himself but he cannot.  I think the very last line of the poem is the most important- "Not yet has my heart or head In the least way realized They and I are civilized."  I think this is a statement about himself stating that he has not found a way to mix the two vastly different aspects of his life together in a peaceful, satisfying way, but I think it is also a statement about the time period that he finds himself in.  Society during this time period still did not view Africans as being "civilized".  African Americans still did not share equal rights with Americans.  Perhaps he is suggesting that if society would start to view his past and heritage as civilized then he could be at peace with himself?  I really enjoyed Cullen's writings.  It is obvious he had strong feelings about his religion and he utilized creative writing techniques in order to convey them.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


     I think the picture that Eliot portrays in this writing is one of old age and what it means for your life to make a difference and matter.  A portion of the writing that  best illustrates this is around line 115 when he is writing that he wasn't meant to be a prince but was instead intended to be an advisor to the prince who sometimes, makes a fool of himself.  I see Eliot as being vulnerable in this poem especially when describing all the effects of growing older (lines 40-45).  It is obvious that he feels like his better days are over and that his eternal future is close at hand (lines 84-85).  I think something that frightens Eliot is being misunderstood by society around him.  I interpreted this from the writing, "That is not it at all, that is not what i meant, at all." (lines 97-98).  I think he wants to be properly understood as a person and he also wants his work and life to be worth something which can only happen if he is properly understood.
     Eliot's writing reminds me again of Whitman a little when he writes about the "yellow smoke" and "fog."  Both writers seem to personify various aspects of nature in order to make a point and when Eliot does it here, I think he is trying to illustrate the brevity and complexity of a life.  Similar to "yellow smoke," we are rushing around looking for the opportune moment wondering if there is enough time and contemplating certain actions we may or may have not made and before you know it we are gone and we disappear.
     One question I have- Who are the mermaids at the end of the poem?  What do they represent?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Wasteland

     It is obvious from this reading that 20th century writing is very different from Early American Writing and even Romantic age writing.  This was harder for me to read and grasp a bigger idea from.  I think it is important to keep in mind the idea of chaos and absurdity when reading this poem.  It doesn't flow like we typically think of flowing but I think Elliot does have a bigger idea in mind even if it is not as explicit as the average reader would like.
     Throughout this writing, people are constantly trying to discover themselves and fulfillment in other people.  This is evident in all of the many unsuccessful relationships that take place throughout one example being the typist  and the clerk.  The typist ends up being thankful that it is over!  Not exactly what we would define as a fulfilling relationship (lines 250-255).  It is also evident in the bar scene with the two girlfriends.  This scene is also a good picture of the marriage and gender roles that existed during the 1920s ("What you get married for if you don't want children?) line 164.
     This poem also has a desperate, frustrating feel to it.  I think this is how Elliot feels about the society he finds himself in.  There doesn't seem to be any hope left in humanity post World War I.  This is evident in the scene when he is discussing how there is no water to be found anywhere (lines 345-355).  Desperation is also evident in lines 111-114 when he is describing the wealthy woman who is racked with nerves and hungry for attention from somebody.
     Elliot's writing reminded me a little of Whitman when he wrote about the rock and the shadows (lines 25-30).  Here, Elliot is utilizing nature to make a broader point which Whitman frequently did.  I think Elliot is trying to say here that the present is something that is more than the past and the future (the shadows ahead or behind you).  There is rest and peace in the shadow.
     Overall, this poem has an air that is sad and depressing.  This is supported by the death by water section in which Elliot reminds his readers that everyone is susceptible to old age and eventually death.  Also in lines 175-185, Elliot writes about the riverside in order to express his view that the good times have already come and gone and they have left behind sadness and tears ("other testimony of summer nights").

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The War Prayer

I really enjoyed this reading. It was easy to read and understand. The reading basically sums up the sentiments and emotions felt by a society who is engaged in a war. It is obvious from the beginning of the reading that in any society, religion plays a big factor in stirring up certain emotions in people especially during wartime. This is most obviously seen when Twain mentions the sermons of patriotism and "devotion to flag and country." This theme has been popular with lots of other works we have read including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Whenever society has a major social change, such as slavery, or is engaged in some sort of revolution, such as a war, the church almost always plays some sort of role. People find comfort, security, and peace in religion and their church. If their church approves or condones something, they consequently do the same. Mark Twain makes this point very clear in this particular writing.

The one thing I really like about Twain is that his writing is very straightforward and clear. You never have to really wonder about what exactly he is trying to say. He does this in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn through the main character Huck Finn and he does it in this writing through the stranger who exposes their true prayers and what is hidden in the hearts of a country at war. While a country might act like they are simply being patriotic and brave, they are also hoping for hurt and devastation to the country they are at war with. They hope for "shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain" of the enemies. Through this strangers words, Twain is imploring his readers to reconsider what they are praying for, what they are going to war for, and how their actions effect everyone around them. This is most obviously seen when the stranger speaks about the rain on the crop metaphor-"If you pray for the blessing of rain on your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse on some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it."  This idea is definitely something that we can apply to our society today.  Whenever any country is about to go into a war, it is important to carefully consider every angle and situation possible.  It is a serious action that accompanies many severe consequences.  Often however, people get so caught up in the emotional high that is labelled patriotism and at that moment they don't care about who benefits or is injured by the war that they don't have to see and live every day.
     The most significant part of this reading I think is the very last line when Twain writes, "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said."  Twain knows when writing this that no one is going to slow down and carefully consider the situation but yet he still writes this short story.  Maybe he was writing for future generations?  Twain was obviously a forward thinker who did not "fit in" with the society that he lived in.  I think he had hope for a brighter future however and that is why he wrote the way that he did.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Huck Finn Chap 38-the end

     So I have to admit that I didn't really like the ending of this book.  Don't get me wrong though I'm glad Jim is free but Tom just annoyed me to no end during the last few chapters of this book.  I felt so bad for Jim during chapter 39 when Tom insists on putting spiders, mice, and snakes in his tiny cabin with him for no apparent reason.  It would torture any normal person but it especially bothers Jim since he is so superstitious.  Tom is simply unable to focus on someone else for any real period of time.  This is evident when Huck says, "....Tom most lost all patience with him; and said he was just loadened down with more gaudier chances than a prisoner ever had in the world to make a name for himself, and yet he didn't know enough to appreciate them."  Tom makes Jim's experience so much worse that Jim swears if he ever gets out he will never be a prisoner again, not even for money.
     In chapter 40, Jim almost escapes but Tom gets shot in the leg setting everything back.  Naturally, the doctor ties up Jim and turns him in as a runaway after he helps heal Tom and probably saves his life.  Because he did this good dead however, the doctor encourages the farmers to treat him no worse than they see fit (chapter 42).  Through this scene, it is obvious that no matter what slaves did they were never viewed as humans or anyone that deserved anything.  It is important to note that no matter what the farmers did to Jim, he never even considered turning Huck in.  He remains loyal to him the entire time (like a dad) even when it hurts.
     Tom surprised me in the end when he wakes up and hears that they have Jim tied up again.  He becomes extremely upset and demands that they untie him and set him free because he is legally free by Mrs. Watson.  This part also angered me because Tom was aware of his freedom the entire time but still insisted that they carry out the adventure of setting him free.  Tom used the entire situation to his benefit no matter what it meant to those around him.
     The last line or two is also very important in this work: "But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can't stand it.  I been there before."  It is obvious through this statement that Huck does not want to be a part of the slavery ridden, religious civilization anymore.  He wants a fresh start somewhere far away where there is room for him to be his own man and have his own adventures and that somewhere is the beginnings of the wild west.

Huck Finn Chap 21-37

     The first few chapters of this section are pretty significant and have many events worth noting.  In chapter 21, Sherburn confronts Boggs and ends up killing him for no apparent reason other than he was being a nuisance.  In chapter 22, Sherburn makes a huge speech discussing the idea of the mob mentality which was very interesting to me and reminded me very much of Hawthorne's writing we read earlier in the semester.  My favorite quote from the speech is "The pitifulest thing out is a mob... but a mob without any man at the head of it, is beneath pitifulness."  Sherburn claims to know all about people and human nature and has complete confidence that he will be ok and the mob will not take his life.
     Another interesting scene was in chapter 22 when Huck is telling us about the circus scene and how the ring-master was fooled by his own company.  I think Twain was trying to paint the reader a picture of how human nature has no problem deceiving others to simply get a laugh.  I think Twain was trying to uncover a characteristic of human nature that people don't often talk about and that is the secret desire to see other humans deceived and fooled.  In chapter twenty three, it is obvious that Huck's view of what makes a human is changing through his journey with Jim- "and I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their'n.  It don't seem natural, but I reckon it's so."  This statement is just yet another example of how society made even little children believe that black slaves were not humans at all.  Through these lies, America made it easier to mistreat slaves through dehumanizing them.
     In chapter 24, the king and the duke begin their lies and deceiving in order to rob a family of their inheritance.  Even Huck is disgusted by this act which is obvious when he says, "It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race."  Here, Huck realizes that humans are capable of just about anything.  Through the king and the duke, Huck learns to never underestimate what people are capable of.
     I thought the scene when Huck is talking to the Hare-lip girl in chapter 26 about slaves in England and in America was ironic.  She asks Huck how they treat slaves in England and Huck comments that, "A servant ain't nobody there.  They treat them worse than dogs."  I was reminded through this statement that slaveowners truly believed that they were doing slaves a favor by giving them the bare minimum and working them into the ground.  Their lies are further explained later in the chapter when Mary Jane tells the Hare-lip girl, "The thing is for you to treat him kind, and not be saying things to make him remember he ain't in his own country and amongst his own folks."  The slave-owners knew that there were certain ways to lie and deceive the slaves themselves and also to deceive the society around them.  Around the same portion of the chapter, it becomes apparent that Huck indeed does have a conscience and knows what is right and wrong for himself when he decides to steal the money away from the master deceivers (the king and the duke).  Even though Huck is a young boy, he has no problem deciding for himself what is right or wrong and following through at all costs.
     In chapter 27, Huck witnesses the separation and selling of slaves which reminded me of Stowe's narrating of a slave trade.  Huck claims it was  a horrible sight to see and it is something he will never forget.  Huck sees here once again, that slaves are indeed people too and have feelings and family.  This reinforces Huck's decision to expose the king and the duke and in chapter 28, Huck follows through on his decision and tells Mary Jane the truth and helps her devise a plan. 
     In chapter 29, the duke and the king are discovered for who they really are and the town once again adopts a mob mentality in order to get rid of them.  This entire time, Jim and Huck are keeping from each other their true convictions about the men.  They don't want to be around them anymore, but they don't know how to go about getting rid of them.  In chapter 31 however, they both get pretty scared due to the king and the duke's changed attitude's and they decide that they will not get involved with anything else they are doing once and for all.  In chapter 31, Jim also disappears because he is captured as a runaway.  Huck once again struggles within himself about what the right course of action is.  He isn't sure whether he should cooperate and tell Mrs. Watson that her slave has been found or if he should help Jim escape.  He wants to do the "right" thing, but knows deep down inside that it is not the right thing.  Huck can't even find anything against Jim!  He has been nothing but good to him throughout their entire journey.
     In chapter 32, Huck sets out to find Jim at the Phelps's farm.  When he arrives, the family thinks he is Tom which Huck naturally plays along with.  This is when Tom really becomes a presence in the story.  In chapter 33, the town finally gets organized enough to tar and feather the duke and the king.  Even though Huck wanted to get rid of them, he realizes the seriousness of what they have done to other human beings.  He says, "It was a dreadful thing to see.  Human beings can be awful cruel to one another."  Huck is definitely not too young to understand the society that is taking place around him and disagree with it.
     In chapter 34, Huck and Tom begin to devise their plan to set Jim free.  It is obvious right off that Tom is in charge of this plan because Huck doesn't even put much effort into his plan.  He knows that everything Tom does has to be romantic.  It is also obvious that Tom doesn't even view Jim as a human being when he says to Jim, "If I was to catch a n- that was ungrateful enough to run away, I wouldn't give him up, I'd hang him."  He is only participating because it is another adventure for him.
     In chapter 35, the differences in Huck and Tom become even more apparent when discussing education.  Tom says to Huck, "Why hain't you ever read any books at all?"  Tom cannot understand why Huck is so simple-minded and to the point.  Tom enjoys the adventure and the details of every situation because of all the books that he has read.  Because of this inconsistency, they cannot communicate effectively or understand where the other one is coming from.  Huck puts it the best when he says in chapter 36, "He was always just that particular.  Full of principle."  Poor Jim in the situation, "...couldn't see no sense in the most of it, but he allowed we was white folks and knowed better than him."  This part of the book really frustrated me because Tom is obviously wasting time, and only views Jim and his situation as something entertaining and fun for him.  He doesn't appreciate his situation or even see Jim as a real person.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Huck Finn Chap 5-20

     Chapter six is a turning point in the story because Huck Finn goes to live with his father out in the swamps by the lake.  He leaves the "civilized" life and ventures into the "uncivilized" life filled with exploring and living off of the land with his father who is drunk a majority of the time.  Huck Finn enjoys this laid back life style and describes it as "...kind of lazy and jolly..." (chapter six).
     Tom Sawyer's character continues to be developed and in chapter seven, the reader discovers that Tom is the fancy, almost romantic sort of character.  The quote from chapter seven describes this perfectly: "I did wish Toy Sawyer was there, I knowed he would take an interest in this kind of business, and throw in the fancy touches." (when he fakes his own death to escape from his abusive father).
     In chapter eight, Huck Finn catches up with Jim who is now a runaway slave.  This is the beginning of their journey together through the swamps down the river.  An important quote is made in chapter eight when Jim is talking about the importance of money and how if only he had money he wouldn't want for anything else.  This is an important aspect of slavery that I think gets overlooked sometimes.  Slaves had nothing as far as resources and money.  If they did, it was very little and certainly not anything substantial.
     Jim develops more as a father figure for Huck as the story continues especially in chapter nine and ten when they discover the dead body.  Jim is very protective of Huck and doesn't allow him to look at the gruesome sight.  He looks out for Huck like his real father should have done.
     In chapter eleven, I thought the scene when Huck pretends to be a runaway girl was very interesting. The woman that he is staying with makes an ironic statement when she says, "You see, you're a runaway 'pretice- that's all.  It ain't anything.  There ain't no harm in it.  You've been treated bad, and you  made up your mind to cut."  She makes this statement because Huck is a white boy.  She previously talked bad about Jim because he was a runaway.  She would never make the same statement about Jim even though he was in the same (if not worse) situation as Huck was pretending to be.  Such irony and inconsistency!  Chapter fourteen also deals with some racism and prejudice in a more overt way when Huck and Jim are discussing the different ways that people talk.  It is obvious that they are not on the same wavelength so to speak.  They view the situation completely differently.  Jim is looking at the heart of the issue asking what makes a man a man.  Huck on the other hand has been taught that because people are different they should be treated differently.  Huck in this scene represents what society was teaching children pre Civil War and how children absorbed that prejudice within the lines but also with their own childish innocence as a guide.
     I feel like chapter fifteen really sealed Jim and Huck's friendship when Huck played a nasty trick on Jim and Jim made it obvious that he did not appreciate it- "en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed."  Huck in this situation knows that he did Jim wrong and decides that he will never do such a thing again.
     Juxtaposed to this scene is chapter fifteen when Huck really starts to feel guilty about helping Jim obtain his freedom.  Huck has been taught that freedom for black people is a bad thing and he knows that he is to blame.  He has this mental battle with himself really struggling whether or not to turn Jim in but he finally decides not to mainly because it is too much trouble to do so.
     In chapter sixteen, Jim and Huck become separated and Huck ends up staying with the Grangerfords for a while.  I really enjoyed these chapters because they made me laugh!  It is interesting to me that they were so hospitable to Huck but had a fierce feud with the Shepardsons.  This reminded me of the Early American writings we read.  I suppose some of the hospitality from that time period carried over into Huck's time.  In chapter eighteen an interesting statement is made by Huck's friend Buck Grangerford:  "If you notice, most folks don't go to church only when they've got to."  Obviously religion was more of a burden to the majority of people during Huck's time period more than anything else.  It doesn't really seem like they let it control any major parts of their life.  Huck also reunites with Jim in chapter eighteen. Also in this chapter, Twain paints a true picture of what feuds used to be like and how gruesome and ridiculous they were- "I wished I hadn't ever come ashore that night, to see such things.  I ain't ever going to get shut of them- lots of times I dream about them." (Huck referring to his witness of the feud's consequences).
     It is also obvious throughout this reading that Huck and Jim really enjoy the "uncivilized" life out on the river on his raft.  "We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all.  Other places do seem so ramped up and smothery, but a raft don't.  You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft." (chapter eighteen towards the end).  On the raft, there is not restriction of society for either Huck nor Jim.  They can freely be friends.  Jim is on his road to freedom and Huck doesn't have to go to school or church or have any manners like he did at the Widow's house.
     It chapter nineteen, Huck makes a reference to tar and feathering.  It is obvious that this practice also carried over into his time from early America.  Society's opinion of you still meant a lot to the people of Huck's time and society's approval was something that was taught as imperative to young children like Huck.  The Duke of Bridgewater and The King of France are also introduced.  They are important to this story because they discuss principles of life with Jim and Huck.  They bring in yet another view of society- the rich, privileged section that fell at some point and now have nothing except for valuable stories and life lessons to share with others like Huck and Jim.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


     I really enjoyed this reading.  Douglass argues his opinion very professionally and truthfully attacking every possible reason a slave holder could give for justifying his oppression.
     In the beginning, Douglass addresses the past and goes to great lengths to express his respect for the founding fathers of our nation (all the risks they took, all the oppression they were under, etc.)  I thought it was very interesting how he used the pronoun your in paragraph four when addressing the nation.  He does not include himself in the discussion.  I think he is subtly making a point that he is not the same as all the other free, white men in the country.  I also want to point out a quote he made in paragraph nine; "Oppression makes a wise man mad."  Throughout his entire discussion of the past, Douglass is making veiled references to slavery asking the men he is addressing to reconsider the American tradition of slavery.
     In the present discussion, Douglass becomes more obvious about the argument of his speech.  I thought the biblical metaphor to Abraham and Washington in paragraph one was very powerful and shows just how much Americans respected George Washington.  The altar symbol that was introduced in Stowe's writing is reintroduced in paragraph two.  It is obvious that religion and American patriotism were closely tied together in the early years of American history.  In paragraph four he begins to point out the irony of his speaking at this particular engagement and in paragraph six makes a very bold statement: "...the great sin and shame of America!" referring to slavery.  Immediately after this he backs himself up with specific examples concerning state laws in paragraph seven.  This is something about Douglass I really admire.  Not only does he speak what is on his heart and mind, but he never fails to provide specific examples that other people can look upon and understand where he is coming from.  In paragraph twelve he introduces "scorching irony" which is what really highlights the disgraces of American slavery (or it did for me anyway!)
     The internal slave trade section reminded me of the scene that Stowe illustrated in her writing.  Here, Douglass utilizes his personal experiences to convey the hypocrisy of Americans when it comes to slavery when referring to his mistress and how she sympathized with him when it came to slave trading.  I think this is smart of Douglass because it makes his speaking more convincing.
     The conclusion of his speech addresses religion in America and how the churches around him are being hypocritical at best and doing nothing about "the great sin of America."  I think these sections are what "seal the deal" when it comes to his speech.  The majority of citizens in this time period were not going to do anything unless the church approved.  Because the church approved or did not blatantly disapprove of slavery, it was a powerful tradition that took lots of time and hard work to get rid of.  Douglass begs his readers and the leaders of churches to take some action and put into practice the words of the Bible that they revere so much.  I thought it was interesting that Douglass sees slavery as endangering the Union entirely!  We've seen that in previous readings and it is very interesting to me how people predicted the Civil War.
     I really admire how Douglass ends his speech with hope and respect for the country.  It takes a good man to say that he has hope in the country that has caused him so much pain and distress personally.  Talk about a convincing speech!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


     I really enjoyed this writing by Harriet Beacher Stowe.  It gave me a new insight to the word liberty and once again made me reconsider the culture of slavery in our country and what it truly meant for those directly involved.  These two writings are juxtaposed when it comes to the idea of liberty.  The first writing gives the more traditional, accepted definition of liberty: one of American sacrifice, pride and loyalty.  On page three the "altar of liberty" is first introduced and it is a symbol in each writing.  The Ward family in the first writing gives up everything that makes them comfortable and puts it on the altar of liberty.  Are those really sacrifices though?  The mother tells her son in the writing that she can replace what they have given away fairly quickly (page seven).  With this sacrifice on the altar comes a human's self worth which is seen in Grace when she is trying to give away her stockings for the soldiers on page five.  Because of her hysterical reaction when she learns her stockings are not appropriate to give, the reader can tell that she obviously thinks less of herself and is scared of being looked down upon by those around her.  On page four gender roles are referred to when talking about fetching wood chips which is a direct relation to the Stanton reading and discussions we've had in class.
     The second reading painted a darker picture of the idea of liberty and the other sacrifices that lay on the altar.  In this reading a man's self-worth, life, and his family's father and husband is put on the altar.  I think in this reading it is obvious that Stowe is asking her readers to reexamine the traditions and laws of America.  In the last sentence she flat out tells her readers that there has not been any change since the start of the country's independence.  Through her picture of the altar and her heart-wrenching narration of the selling of men, women, and children she is begging her readers to start a change.  The illustration of the altar of liberty really convinced me just how much slavery was a part of American culture and how it was the key to their independence and being a free Union (page eleven).  I also want to highlight a quote that really made me stop and think from page eleven, "...truly American spectacle,-the sale of a man!"  Slavery was a part of American culture, liberty, and everyday life.  As normal to them as some of the less attractive parts of our society today.  The continued but more subdued gender inequality, racism, and downright indifference to others?
     One question I had and also one quote I would like to point out; the last sentence of the first writing.  Is Stowe being sarcastic here or is she highlighting a generation of boys and girls who were willing to do anything for their country simply because that was the way they were raised and they cannot imagine a different life?

Sunday, September 18, 2011


     Thoreau's writing is clearly political.  He has a vision of what America should be and he wants the men involved in government to also see his vision.  In part one Thoreau starts off by clearly stating his opinion on government.  He believes that it gets too involved in the lives of the people and that more than anything it is a tradition (paragraph two).  This reminded me of the discussions we've been having in class and the question that keeps coming up: What are traditions and can we break away from them?  Something I thought was interesting was in paragraph ten when Thoreau is discussing what he thinks truly makes a patriot.  My favorite quote from this section was "there is but little virtue in the action of masses of men."  Here, Thoreau is highlighting the importance of the individual and how they perceive the world around them (which includes the American government).  In paragraph thirteen he continues this idea with pleading his readers to be your own man!  Thoreau argues here that there is no virtue in being the person who is sitting on the fence.  Make up your mind and do something about it!  I think our politicians could learn a lot from his writing.  So often we have men and women in government who are too afraid to point fingers and step on toes that they just sit back and watch and do nothing.  That is not what makes up government and that is not what this nation needs.
     In part two, Thoreau starts off by asking his audience questions in paragraph one trying to get them to really think about the government that they so easily trust which I think is a good writing strategy.  He continues his argument to be your own person (paragraph five), and goes on to describe his idea of a peaceable revolution (paragraph nine) which I found to be very interesting.  In paragraph seven he makes a direct plea to Abolitionists to be bold and radical in their beliefs and start taking action to make their beliefs come true.  He also makes a biblical reference in paragraph ten line six which I think is another valuable writing strategy because the population that he was writing this to were for the most part a very religious society.  I think his reference to the bible added validity to his argument and made people really pay attention to what he had to say.
     In part three, Thoreau discusses what it was like to be in prison.  In paragraph thirteen he compares America with parents which I found to be an interesting comparison.  I think what he was trying to say there was that we must measure respect with individuality.  In paragraph sixteen he refers to the "Defender of the Constitution."  Who is he referring to there?  I really enjoyed paragraph eighteen.  I think the first sentence was a bold one to be sure.  Above all, Thoreau believes that the people are what make America great not the government.  If the people of America would simply stand up and respect themselves, America and the government would take care of itself.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


     Stanton in this writing, is discussing gender inequality and fighting for women's rights.  She begins her argument with the statement that men are very different from women and because they are so different they cannot begin to understand why women want their own rights (paragraph one page one).  I think this is a smart way to begin her argument because her audience is largely men who are powerful during this time period.  While she was also speaking to women, Stanton knew that if any changes were going to be made they had to do some convincing when it came to those that were high up.  She goes on to quote a poem from History of the Condition of Women which describes being a woman as being a slave.  A slave to her family, and society as a whole.  This poem is important to her writing because it shows that there is no way out for women in the society that they find themselves in.  Stanton is trying to convey the seriousness of the inequality that is so often glazed over and I think she does a good job of it with this poem.
     As Stanton goes on to argue her point and show that women and men are in fact equal, she references other works that have already been published.  I really admire this about Stanton because it reinforces and backs up the points she is trying to make.  An example of this is on page two footnote twelve.  I really enjoyed reading letter two because it addressed specific ways that men were supposedly superior to women in a clear, concise manner that I could easily understand.  Another thing I really admire about Stanton's writing and speaking is how she utilizes history to reinforce her statements.  She does this on page three paragraph four when discussing Webster, Van Buren and Clay.  I think this further legitimizes her point and also appeals to her audience of wealthy, educated men who without a doubt know these historical figures and how important they were to society.  I also admire how Stanton brings in other countries and cultures to show how gender inequality is present everywhere.  This proves her point and shows the seriousness of the situation (page three towards the end).  I think it was also smart of Stanton to reference the Bible periodically in her writing (paragraph one page four).  During this time period (mid-eighteen hundreds), religion was a substantial part of the population's life.  The church controlled a lot of what they did, and the way they thought.  I believe these references may have been what sealed the deal for some who were listening to her argument.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Harriet Jacobs

     I found this reading very interesting.  I have never really read about the master slave girl abusive relationship before this reading.  Jacobs in this story is narrating her adolescent years during which she goes through trials that most adults don't have to endure.  In chapters five through seven, Linda has a generally optimistic outlook on life and her situation even though things look very bleak and she knows deep down there is no hope for her (line 52 chapter six).  It is not until her first true love leaves her, that she realizes her life will be the same torture she has always known (chapter seven line 66).  I think this heartbreak she has is what makes her true character.  I think this situation shows her that she can no longer sit back and be optimistic about the hand that life has shown her but she must look for other ways to reach a better life whether that is through immoral relations with powerful white men or simply running away like she does in the end.
     When Linda was having conflicting emotions about her children and whether or not she wanted them to live, I was reminded of Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.  I think the same themes of slavery, and the strong motherly drive to protect even if that means no life at all are evident in both works.  Linda makes the statement several times that slavery leaves no room for morals.  Her life certainly proves this point.  At some point, the slave has to decide if she is going to be true to herself and the ones that she loves, which will most likely end in death, or if she is going to choose life however hellish it may be.  
     Even though a large portion of her hope goes away with her first true love, hope is a recurrent theme in this work that keeps leaving and then returning again with a new idea of how to obtain a better life for herself, and then the ultimate crushing of all her plans.  Hope is what keeps Linda going throughout this work.  As soon as she gives up hope, she gives up her life essentially.  She has then surrendered to the fate that the world has decided to hand her.
     One question I have: Is this Jacob's story with Linda posing as herself?  Did she not want to use her own name?

Sunday, September 11, 2011


     Poetry is always difficult for me to read.  However, I think I got the general idea of what Whitman was trying to say in his poem.  His main argument was that he is in everything and everyone.  There are not that many differences when it comes to the core of what makes up an individual.  This is evident in lines two and three when he refers to the atoms that make up people.  It is also evidenced in lines 327-329 at the very end of the reading.  
     Whitman begins with a discussion of nature that is detailed and very personal to Whitman himself.  This is evidenced in lines twenty and twenty one.  It is obvious that he values nature very highly and longs to be close to it.  This kind of writing is very characteristic of the Romantic age of literature.  I really admire lines 40-43 when Whitman is valuing the present for what it is.  I think that is a very positive, healthy way to live as long as it is not taken to the extreme.  I don't think we as Americans live that way for the most part.  I think we are constantly looking to the future, making money for the future, trying to provide for the future, etc. that sometimes we forget to look at what is right in front of us.
     Similar to Emerson, I think Whitman sees everything as being inherently good.  I see this in lines 134-135.  While I do not personally agree with this view, it is obvious that it was a popular view during the 1800s.  Lines 189-198 reminded me of The Sot Weed Factor but in an opposite view.  The speaker of the poem was nice to the runaway and allowed him up to his level for a couple of weeks which was unheard of during his time.  The speaker here is putting his money where his mouth is so to speak.  Because he believes that he exists a little in everything and everyone, he should be able to be kind equally to everything and everyone.  This idea is further supported in line 307 when the speaker is talking about the prostitute that everyone either looks down upon or makes fun of.  The speaker sees beyond that and sees her as a person-who she truly is.        
     During section six, was Whitman discussing the grass as the nature that it was?  Or was that supposed to be a symbol for something else?  A bigger idea perhaps?  Also, in lines 214-216 is Whitman referring to the mob mentality that was illustrated in Emerson's writing?  

Thursday, September 8, 2011


     In continuing with the Romanticism idea of independence from society, Emerson wrote this particular work.  He addresses religion, society, and history as he implores his readers to think for themselves and be courageous.
     My favorite quote from this work is at the end of page four when he writes, "but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."  What great insight!  Emerson here is making the point that true independence requires courage and a certain amount of virtue.  Not everyone can break away from the crowd and still be a functional part of society.  Emerson also tells his readers that nonconformity will come at a price when he writes, "For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure." (page five)  I think this is a pretty fair warning to give his readers.  Oftentimes, people think that it is easy to follow their heart but here Emerson is saying that change is inevitable.
     One question I had in particular was on page six when Emerson is discussing God and religion.  Is he saying that one cannot truly know and follow God if they also claim to be self-dependent?  Another characteristic of this writing that I found particularly interesting was at the bottom of page eight when Emerson is discussing the beauty of nature.  This is so different from the earlier American writings we read because they either didn't discuss nature or when they did painted it in a very poor light.  Emerson however, speaks of its "...poise and orbit..." (page eight) and suggests that humans should be more like nature when it comes to self-reliance.
     The mob mentality that we saw in our last Hawthorne reading reintroduces itself around line 260 on page nine.  Emerson here implores his readers to go alone and find their own genius.  I think that it is important here to note that even though this is an old writing, many of the same ideas apply to today's America.  We may pretend to not care what other people think but honestly no one wants to be the outcast of society.  It truly does take courage to stand up to society and break the mold so to speak.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Romanticism and Hawthorne

     Romanticism was definitely a huge transition for the world as well as the United States.  The political papers we read before transitioning to Romanticism were placed perfectly because in the papers we begin to see why the need for government was so prevalent.  It was because the individual was being valued and highlighted!  The Romanticism age simply reinforces this statement.
     Hawthorne's story was easy to read in the sense that it was written as a story.  It was a lot easier to follow and understand than the Federalist paper was.  However, I did not pick up on the ultimate meaning of the story until the very end and I might have misinterpreted but to the best of my understanding, this story is highlighting the importance of independence and an individual taking ultimate control and responsibility for his or her life.  This is evident in the very last paragraph of the story when the kind stranger encourages Robin to make something of his life without the help of beneficiaries.
     I think Hawthorne was also making a general statement about society through this story.  All throughout, Robin meets strangers along the way on his journey to find his relative who he believes can help him succeed in life.  He looks to them for simple directions and help, but everyone either refuses to help him and outright ignores him or they mislead him in some way.  Hawthorne here is trying to tell his readers that society in general is not something to reach out to in times of need.  They cannot lend a hand and ultimately the individual is on their own whether they realize it or not.  Society is really just laughing at you which is evidenced by the ending scene in the last few paragraphs.  I think Hawthorne here is trying to make a bigger point by saying that society doesn't want to watch you succeed or get where you want to go; they ultimately want to see you fail.
     This particular story made me think of The Scarlet Letter that I read in high school my junior year.  In that work, there was a lot of discussion about the Puritan society and Hawthorne similarly utilized lots of  symbols to convey a bigger idea about society and even humanity.    

Monday, September 5, 2011

Huckleberry Finn Chapters 1-4

     In chapter one, we discover that Huckleberry Finn lives with a woman known as the Widow Douglas.  It is obvious that he has no family that can properly take care of him.  She is a typical religious, southern proper character and he is the complete opposite being a restless, troublesome boy.  Huck Finn's friend Tom Sawyer is also introduced.  Something that I found interesting in the very beginning of this chapter was Finn's reference to previous adventures he has had with Tom Sawyer.  I have never experienced that in any other work before.
     In chapter two Jim is introduced.  He is the main servant of the house and it is evident through him and the way that Huck Finn talks about him that African American servant society is a big part of white people society.  Tom Sawyer's gang is also introduced along with Jo Harper who is the second captain of the gang and Ben Rogers.  The gang plans to "rob and murder" or in other words, to play pretend like all little boys enjoy doing.  On page six we learn that Huck Finn's father is indeed no role model for him to follow.  His father will I think prove to be a significant character in Finn's life as well as the story.
     In chapter three we learn that Huck Finn does not buy into all the religion that surrounds him and makes up his southern society.  Nothing about it makes sense to him especially the whole concept of prayer.  It is obvious that Huck Finn is an intelligent, observant person through the issue with his father.  While the whole town thinks he drowned, Huck Finn knows he didn't simply by hearing about how the body was found.  Also in this chapter, the gang broke up because the boys discovered that it really was just all pretend.    
    In chapter four Huck Finn is starting to adjust and get used to his new life.  He has obviously not lived with the Widow Douglas for very long.  Finn discovers his dad's boot markings in the dirt which is a foreshadowing of later events to come.  Judge Thatcher is also introduced as well as a fortune?  It obviously ties together Huck Finn, Thatcher, and his dad but where is it coming from?  Along with being a religious society, Finn is also surrounded by a superstitious society.  We learn this through Jim who predicts his future and says Huck Finn is going to make it in life and be ok and not turn out like his father.  It is interesting to me that even though Jim is black and a servant, Huck Finn obviously looks up to him and values what he has to say.  The chapter ends with Pa in Finn's room scolding him for getting an education and making something of himself.  His father obviously is a very selfish person since he takes everything Huck Finn does as a personal insult.  The law cannot protect Finn from his father; he will prove to be an interesting character to the story.


     Something very different that I noticed in the Federalist paper the writer starts off immediately trying to convince people of why his view is correct.  He doesn't have a small introduction like the writer of the Anti-Federalist paper did imploring the people to put the best interest of the country first.  It is interesting to me though that both writers appeal to human nature and draw on it for their very different opinions.  The writer argues that government is itself human nature and in order for it to function properly, it must be intertwined with the people it is representing (paragraph four).
     The main argument of this particular paper is the interdependence of federal government between its three branches (paragraph six).  The writer believes that because the country has become so large and diverse, a federal government is necessary in order to help the states function properly.  He believes that current responsibilities are too much for the individual states to bear (paragraph seven).
     The writer's second point is particularly interesting to me.  While I don't understand every part of it, I did pick up on a couple of points the first one concerning the rights of the majority and minority.  It is evident that the speaker believes that federal government will secure the rights of both parties.  He continues to stress the interdependence of the different sectors of federal government and also the federal government with the people they are governing.  Another point I found particularly interesting was when he wrote, "Justice is the end of government.  It is the end of civil society."  Did he mean this literally?  Immediately after he makes this point, he argues that sometimes liberty can be lost in the pursuit of justice.  A very interesting observation however it would have been helpful if he had included examples from history with this like the Anti-Federalist writer did in his letter.  Another significant difference in the Federalist writer and the Anti-Federalist writer is that the Federalist believes that the larger the society, the more capable it is of self-government.  The two writers could not differ more on this point when the Anti-Federalist was convinced that the country was in fact too large to have one single self-governing representative.
     While both writers have very different view on America and the way it should be governed, they also have similar views when it comes to people and human nature.  They both realize the importance of it and the power it possesses.  


     The speaker in this work, while addressing the citizens of New-York, is also addressing all the citizens of the United States.  I find it interesting that the speaker starts off his work with the best interest of the country in mind.  He states right off the bat that if a Constitution would help the country then the citizens should stand behind it.  He implores the people however, to really give time, thought, and consideration to what they are voting for.
     He begins after the introduction, to list off reasons why he doesn't approve of a Constitution that gives power to somewhat ambiguous federal figures.  One of the most important reasons I think that the Anti-Federalists were wary of the Constitution was the power it gave to enforce taxation (paragraph six).  It is important to note that the citizens during this time came from England where they were brutally forced to pay outrageous amounts of taxes that served no purpose and ultimately made them suffer.  It is understandable that the Anti-Federalists would be nervous about that particular part of the Constitution.
     The Anti-Federalists also take into account simple human nature when considering the Constitution.  They argue that it is natural for a person to want to acquire more power and authority once they have tasted it.  The speaker utilizes the great civilizations of the Greeks and Romans as examples of this particular human characteristic which leads him into his next concern of the ability of the federal government to keep an army in peacetime.  The speaker believes this will fuel the fire so to speak when it comes to a desire for power and authority and ultimately destroy the very idea of liberty.
     The last major concern the Anti-Federalists have with the Constitution is the figures that will be representing the people.  The Anti-Federalists believe that the country is too large and too varied in character to have one national government representing all the different states.  The Anti-Federalists feel that an adequate representation is impossible (fourth paragraph from the end).
     I really admire the writer of this particular paper.  It is obvious that he has strong convictions about what he believes and he truly has the best interest of America at heart whether or not he is right.  He pulls specific examples from history to prove his points which when it comes to humans, is the only logical thing to do.  It is apparent that he simply wants citizens to make clear, thought out decisions when it comes to the making up of their own country and he doesn't want history to repeat itself.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Richard Allen

     Similar to all of the previous writers, Allen has a preface explaining why he is writing and how much he thinks his story will benefit others.  This is obviously a trend with autobiographers.  Both Cartwright and Allen have very similar experiences but they also have different ones.  First off, Allen's conversion experience is completely voluntary and on his own while Cartwright's was influenced heavily by his devout mother.  One thing they have in common however though is that they both experience deep feelings of guilt right after they get saved and have lots of conflicting feelings before they experience peace (page two).  One thing I found interesting about this reading and Cartwright's as well was the fact that preachers regularly came to houses to preach.  That would be, in today's time, considered a somewhat invasion of privacy.  On page three, Allen reminds me of Franklin and Venture when he is describing all the manual labor he does.  Allen is obviously physically strong.  Through pages four, five, and six, Allen describes his ministry and all of his travels.  Something very different about Allen and Cartwright however is that Allen faces much opposition to his ministry from people that should be supporting him simply because he is black (page six line 180).  Both Allen and Cartwright highly value the Methodist denomination (page 9).  They also both urge future Methodist preachers to remember the old ways of doing things and stick with old values (page ten).  Allen and Cartwright and Franklin and Venture are black and white almost mirror images of the corresponding pair.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peter Cartwright

     Similar to Franklin and Venture's works, Cartwright begins his autobiography with a preface explaining why he is writing.  Cartwright believes that he can teach some of the "modern preachers" how to preach better by writing this book.  It has the same air that Venture and Franklin's works have: I have lived a good life and others can learn from me.  Pages two and three detail the childhood of Cartwright and the journey his family took to reach the new land of Kentucky.  He speaks harshly of "the savages" which is understandable since Cartwright is the typical backwoods preacher.  He obviously does not know any other way to refer to them.  As Cartwright grows older, the Methodist religious revival grows and spreads.  Cartwright however does not buy into it in the beginning much to the disappointment of his devout mother.  Cartwright simply does not want to give up his dancing, gambling, and racing.  This part (page five) reminded me a little of the Puritan society simply because both religions were so very strict, uptight, and devout.  However, after a particularly good night of dancing and celebrating, Cartwright feels very guilty and starts to attend religious meetings and revivals.  He cuts off all his old relationships and feels bad for some time until he finally feels like his sins have been forgiven.  This is when he buys into the movement completely. He attends meetings regularly and repeatedly says that the Methodist religion is the best one out there (page seven).  The revival continues to spread and Cartwright eventually becomes a preacher.  It is interesting to me that he approves of the "jerks" and believes they are a sign from God (page 9), but that he doesn't believe in the ones who prophesy about the end times (page ten).  Even though he says he consults his Bible and prays when it comes to these matters, he seems to pick and choose which methods seem to be effective for his congregation.  The whole last part of his writing (pages eleven through thirteen) are perhaps the most interesting to me though.  Cartwright is way ahead of his time when he asserts that slavery is a negative, evil thing for the slaves themselves and also the slaveowners.  He is also futuristic when he says that slavery has the potential to tear apart the country and cause Civil War (page thirteen).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Venture Smith

     Venture Smith is similar to Benjamin Franklin in many ways.  They both started out with little (Venture practically nothing), but ended their lives with an accomplished spirit and content heart.  Venture has a few important memories from his childhood that make up his character from the early ages of five and six the first one being his mother abandoning him with strangers in a distant land (page 7) and another one being attacked by dogs (page 8).  Being attacked by dogs is possibly a foreshadowing of later events to come (beatings from masters that seem to come out of the blue).  Eventually his father comes and retrieves him from the strangers that have been, in fact, very kind to him and have treated him like their own son (page 7).  The situation he returns home to however is not a good one.  His guardian's homeland is soon attacked by a foreign army and his father, being the kind and generous leader he is, gives them temporary shelter which ultimately leads to their downfall as well (page 10).  This area of his father's character is played out in Venture's life later on when he is taking in fellow servants just to free them from the slavery they are experiencing with their masters (page 27).  Possibly one of his most important childhood memories is watching his father fight for his life and eventually loose the battle (page 10).  From witnessing this act, he learns that his father is by no means a doormat and he admires him for this.  On page 13 he is put on a boat to Rhode Island under the control of Captain Collingwood  and Thomas Mumford.  He is purchased by the steward of the boat Robertson Mumford who gives him the name "Venture".  His birth name was Broteer.  Once he arrives in America he begins his long journey of being a slave.  Because of his cunning skills, and common sense, he is passed from master to master.  Even as a young child he is intelligent (page 14) which is evident in the illustration with the keys.  In the beginning he almost seems to have two different masters much like Franklin did when working at the printers and Venture experiences conflict from this as well (page 15).  Along the way, he marries a fellow servant named Meg and decides to pursue freedom with Heddy and other fellow servants in Mississippi.  His ability to think quickly and make the right decision is evidenced in this adventure (page 17).  He may not have connections with influential people like Franklin did, but he makes up for it in his ability to think quickly an make the right decisions (page 17).  He mirrors his father's character on page 20 when he fights for his life against two other strong men.  He does not seek violence in his life but takes care of himself when it is absolutely necessary.  Hempsted Miner is an interesting character because he helps Venture eventually obtain freedom but he takes advantage of the situation by making him work for ridiculous salaries and time periods (page 22).  Another similarity between Franklin and Venture is frugality which is evidenced on page 25.  When Venture purchases his two sons Solomon and Cuff on Ram-Island on page 26 it is obvious that he is very money conscious but also very focused on reuniting his family.  Towards the end on pages 28-31, Venture starts acquiring money and land and his family is all in the same place at the same time.  It is made obvious that he is content with himself and does not harbor many regrets similar to Franklin.
     Some questions I have include who is the "Almighty protector" he refers to on page 7?  Also, when his father obtains him from his guardian what does he mean by "settling with my guardian for keeping me?" (page 8).
     Venture is the perfect example of the type of person that Franklin referred to in his autobiography and the people described in The Sot Weed Factor.  Venture's writing is very similar to Franklin's in that there is little personal anecdotes written unless they have a meaning hidden that can be useful to others.  This is stated on the third page.  He is someone worth looking up to similar to Franklin.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Benjamin Franklin Autobiography

Beginning with chapter one of the autobiography, Benjamin Franklin makes it very clear that he is writing his story in order to better the lives of others around him.  He makes this very clear in paragraph two.  I found it interesting that in paragraph three Franklin states that he doesn't want to burden others with the recollection of stories like so many elderly people feel entitled to do.  I also really enjoyed his opinions on vanity but wondered what he meant when he said "vanity can sometimes benefit others in their sphere of action?"  It is also important to note that in paragraph four he credits everything good that has happened in his life to God and he has faith that he will continue to bless him to the end of his life.
In the last four paragraphs, it is evident that Franklin is a physically durable and strong person.  Transportation during this time period was evidently hard to come by and very time consuming but Franklin seems to roll with the punches so to speak, and get to Philadelphia with his social connections.  All throughout the last four paragraphs, there are obvious connections to the Sotweed Factor and the fear of social disapproval.  In the second to last paragraph, Franklin specifically mentions to fear of being suspected as a runaway servant.  Also in this paragraph, Dr. Brown is introduced which is important because he has completely different views than Franklin when it comes to religion yet Franklin stayed friends with him until the end of his life.  Franklin is obviously somewhat open-minded and accepting of different views.  People are also very trusting and hospitable which is evident in the third to last paragraph.  At this point I was wondering why he was traveling to Philadelphia but I discovered in the second chapter that he was looking for work and possibly running from something in Boston which is referenced in paragraph eight of chapter two.  In chapter two we also find out that Franklin finds work with two different printers through his connections in society.  He is very critical about Keimer's work (Keimer is one of his bosses) and the way he runs his business.  It is also important to note that families in this time period were loyal to each other (Robert Holmes in paragraph 8) but only when they looked the part (paragraph 1).
Chapter six is different that the other chapters.  The speaker obviously thinks very highly of Franklin and his life.  He thinks that his autobiography will help and influence lots of people especially the youth of the time.  I assume that Benjamin Vaughan is the publisher assigned to Franklin's work?  Vaughan definitely approves of the publishing and thinks that his autobiography is a perfect representation of the times and society as a whole.  He thinks that Franklin will influence in order to make wise men with characteristics that include frugality, diligence, and temperance.  Throughout, he encourages him to be genuine and honest in his writing in order to have a worldly influence through his writing.  It is important to note that books during this time period were hard to come by and were more like stocks in the stock market with investors (Mr. Charles Brockden).  It is obvious through the speaker's respect for religion and virtues, that he wants to obtain the perfect character (The Act of Virtue).  It also important to note that the discussion of pride in the last paragraph of chapter six ties in nicely with Franklin's discussion of vanity in chapter one.