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.