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American Literature

The Warrior Woman

The Warrior Woman by Maxine Kingston is a multiple story book that focuses on the stories of five women told in five chapters. The chapters integrate Kingston’s own life experience through a series of spoken word stories her mother tells her. The first chapter in The Warrior Woman is titled “No-Name Woman”. This chapter begins with a spoken word story about an aunt that Maxine never knew she that had. The chapter continues with her mother telling Kingston the cautionary tale of her aunt in hopes that Kingston will learn from the story, but instead, Kingston decides to write about the woman, intrigued by the ordeals she went through.

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American Literature

The Character Traits and Motives of Othello and Iago

William Shakespeare’s Othello tells the story of the Moorish General of the play’s title, and the ways he and other characters in the play are manipulated by the character of Iago. Although Othello is ostensibly the protagonist of the story, and Iago his primary protagonist, much of the story’s emphasis is on the actions of Iago and the way he interacts with the other characters to serve his own ends. Iago’s motives are driven largely by the malice he feels towards Othello after being passed over for promotion in favor of Michael Cassio. While Othello is an accomplished military leader, his own weaknesses make it possible for him to fall prey to Iago’s malicious machinations, and Othello becomes one of several victims of Iago’s scheming.

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American Literature

Gender Role Issues in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House

Introduction

            The recognition of the real value of women has not been the same throughout the years of human history. It could be understood that somehow, there were years in the past when women were considered nothing better than men and are thus treated according to such status in the society. The desires and concerns of women are given lesser attention to as they are noted as nothing but a supporting factor to the success of every man.  In the story of Henrik Ibsen on A Doll’s House, he uses a metaphorical approach in defining how women in the 60s towards the 80s are relatively understood by the society. The stereotype that they receive from the surrounding society is shown in the story as a form of discrimination that women strongly wanted to live off from. In the discussion that follows, a focus on how Nora was treated by her husband Torvald and how it mirrored the condition of the society then shall be given particular attention to.

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American Literature

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

In the 19th century, the period of Edna Pontellier, the protagonist, the place of a woman in the society was restricted to the worship of her children and submission to her husband. Kat Chopin’s book, “The Awakening”, covers the triumphs and frustrations in the life of a woman as she tries to cope with these harsh cultural demands. Edna resists the stereotype of being a “mother-woman” and fights the stress of the 1899 that forces her to be devoted and subdued to his housewife (Klages 34). While the decisive suicide of Edna is a waste of their fight against a cruel society, this novel encourages and supports feminism as a way for women to get individual identity, financial independence and sexual liberty.

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American Literature

LITR221 Week 15 Forum

 

The homeless narrator is above all efficient, as his own confession indicates: “I suppose I’m effective.” (401) This indicates a general pragmatism in his movements, adjusting to life on the streets so as to cope with basic needs, such as the usage of a bathroom. Jackson Jackson’s self-description of “disappearing piece by piece” is thus indicative of his gradual deterioration as a human being, losing specific aspects of his general humanity. The closing lines contrast radically with this deterioration: the nostalgia for happy times shows the impossibility to return to these same times in life.

Part II

Whereas Lahiri’s story seems to be at first glance about cultural differences, my closer reading of the story would suggest that this is not at all what is at stake: rather, Lahiri wants to communicate the superficiality of cultural differences. Hence, consider the end of the story when he writes: “Unlike Mala, I was used to it all by then: used to cornflaes and milk, used to Helen’s visits, used to sitting on the bench with Mrs. Croft. The only thing I was not used to was Mala.” (426) Here, love and a deeper personal relationship remains complex, and this has nothing to do with the surface of cultural difference, remaining a universal complexity. By contrasting the love story of the narrative with the cultural differences expressed in the narrative, what Lahiri effectively communicates is the triviality of the latter in comparison to the significance of the former. There is a temporality present in all cultural differences: these may disappear with time. Yet love is problematic precisely because it speaks to the a-temporal, the brave commitment to a relationship that is ideally eternal, unbound to time. Certainly, at the end Lahiri notes that “there are times I am bewildered by each mile I traveled” (430), yet the triviality of the cultural assimilation is evinced in the more dominant theme of the difficult love in regards to Mala.

 

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American Literature

LITR221 Week 12 Forum

Part I

Walker’s “Everyday Use” not only demonstrates a generation clash, but also how individuals are affected on different levels by their historical consciousness. “”Not understanding” one’s heritage can be the rejection of one’s historical background; to understand this importance is to understand that one’s individuality is not really a true individuality, but that we are all composites of a diverse set of historical circumstances. It is, in the case of Dee, the realization of something fundamental about herself, a moment of self-realization. The past is important to me in the sense that I understand the limits of the ideology of pure individuality separated from the past, although I would not reduce this to any type of family heirlooms, but rather a greater historical sense of where one comes from.

Part II

O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato’s structure in the first chapter is perhaps reflective of how we ourselves recall events: sometimes we can pick out linear sequences, such as event X happened before event Y. But there is also a fragmentation to these recollections, which are reflected in how this text is arranged. Day dreams therefore serve the purpose of showing the non-linear nature of our experiences. At the same time, the tension of the Viet Nam war itself helps aggravate this fragmentation, hence, trying to keep a distance here from others symbolizes trying not to get caught up in a multiplicity of perspectives, which only radicalizes this fragmentation. Humor becomes important as Cacciato suggests, because it helps to relieve these feelings of tension.

Part III

Andrea’s relationship with the bowl is one of an absurd personification, in which the bowl becomes something like a reflection of her own relations to human beings. The bowl is, on the one hand, empty, symbolic of the ultimate emptiness of her relationships, yet the bowl also can be filled, showing the temporary fullness in some of these relationships. Materialism is reflected in this story to the extent that material objects can function as mirrors of human relationships: materialism occurs when we value these objects more than these relationships ourselves, choosing the substitute instead of the reality.

Part IV

Cisnero’s “Woman Hollering Creek”’s title, I would argue, is significant for its critique of patriarchal society. Cleofilas’ recollection of her childhood is painted with these tinges of patriarchy and how this reflects her identity as a woman. Cleofilas differs from Felice arguably in the fact that she more clearly sees the effect of gender roles in a male-dominated society.

 

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American Literature

LITR221 Week 12 Forum

Part 1

a)

Joyce Carol Oates’ approach to the phenomenon of murder and serial murder is arguably one in which the psychology of the victim is emphasized. Namely, she does not want to merely recount the events of the murder, but approaches it from the artist’s perspective, thus attempting to capture the psychology and almost phenomenological feelings of such a situation. Hence, as we know from all our experiences involving others and even our own experiences, these can be deeply subjective and thus differ: her account does not really leave out or leave in elements, but shows how subjective memories provide different angles on the same course of events.

Part II

  1. To account for Morrison’s success as an author based upon the excerpt from Sula is essentially the same as asking what makes any particular writer compelling: in the case of Morrison it is her striking, anomalous and vivid use of language, which provides the reader a new perspective. Arguably, literature succeeds when it tells something we do not know about something we know: in other words, it provides us with a fresh interpretation of a phenomenon, and thus creates a new world. This excerpt from Morison demonstrates her talent in producing this effect.

Part III

3) The similarities between Carver and Hemingway’s approach to writing appears to be their minimalism and pragmatism. In other words, the author do not like to use any influx of words to complicate situations, but endeavor to present the latter in a very bare style. This can be consistent with American notions of pragmatism and common sense logic, as opposed to the more flamboyant and even metaphysical literatures of other countries. Carver and Hemingway are staunch realists, and while this may seem like a minus to those who don’t see the mundane as a worthy subject of literature, for these authors their dedication to mundane, everyday life is central, both in terms of style and content.

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American Literature

LITR221 Week 11 Forum

 

Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” invites various meaning as to what the narrator is trying to communicate in terms of his relationship to his father: was this a positive or negative relationship? Arguably it is a combination of both, but siding in terms of the positive, as the narrator recounts dancing with his drunken father. Whereas the sources of alcoholism may be depression, one who drinks also knows that there are moments of in vino veritas and profound happiness when intoxicated: it is precisely the drunken father that is dancing with his son that seems to show this position against any moralistic “Dr. Phil” or “Oprah” readings about alcohol.

Part II:

Welty’s text narrates the transition from childhood to adulthood, in particular through the image of the family contrasted to Welty’s own thoughts of her love. Here, sexual love is contrasted with the love of the family relationship and it is arguably this break or transition from one type of love to another that marks for Welty the true transition from childhood to adulthood. It is the moment when one leaves one’s family for another that one stops being a child and becomes an adult: love is the condition of this shift. Hence, the symbolic meaning of symbols such as the family are really explicit representations of this transition: perhaps the tears at the end of the narrative are representative of the narrator’s understanding that she has lost this familial world forever, and it no longer holds any meaning for her, explicitly stated in her description of the nearby family: “the fat woman was standing…I felt a peak of horror, as though her breasts themselves had turned to sand, as though they were of no importance at all and she did not care.” (315)

Part III
According to psychoanalytic theory, dreams are representative of unconscious desires: in this case, Wryson’s dreams would follow this same pattern, since she does not share the same recurring dream with her husband. Namely, if she would share this dream with her husband it would no longer be her deep unconscious speaking, but a conscious sharing of their love. Cheever demonstrates through dreams the fragmentation of every family unit: on the exteriority, there is a homogeneity, but on the unconscious level, families live apart. This is not an indictment of the hypocrisy of the family, I would suggest, but rather shows how human beings live in different forms of relationships simultaneousl

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American Literature

LITR221 Week 10 Forum

 

In Hemingway’s text, Nick’s belief that he can heal his body and mind in nature suggests that the cause of his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is modern society and the pressures it induces. Hence, Hemingway posits a clear difference in the existences of the human within a “natural” or “modern” technological paradigm: Nick’s character has been broken by the latter paradigm. In this sense, the metaphorical language of Hemingway’s text aims to show this pressure inflicted upon the modern world by Nick: symbols such as fishing and camping in nature evoke a tranquility not found in the modern world. Nick’s mental condition is thus one in which he desires to cleanse himself of the stress induced by modernity. The swamp in this sense functions as a symbol expressing Nick’s current position between these two states: the swamp is a form of nature that limits movement, with images of bogs and murky pools of water. At once, the swamp is a form of nature, and thus the centrality of this symbol to the story reflects Nick’s occupation of a world that is between the modern and nature.

Stein’s innovation as a writer is arguably tied to her twisting of conventional narrative forms, instead intending to produce a more psychological narrative that is not based so much on plot as it is on the subject experiences of the central character. This approach is present in her story “The Gentle Lena”, whereas a banal incident invokes the fragmented psyche of Lena’s character: “Lena was a little troubled. She looked hard at her finger where the paint was, and she wondered if she had really sucked it.” (268) Plot is thus de-emphasized to provide a view into subjective experience: arguably this demonstrates that plot is not necessary to developing strong characters, but rather what is needed is a commitment to developing these characters themselves. In the case of Lena, her passionless is reflected in the mundane quality of the experiences portrayed, as well as her reactions to these same qualities. Repetition is furthermore employed to demonstrate the repetitiveness of Lena’s life itself. Accordingly, Stein demonstrates how innovative and non-traditional techniques can create equally compelling narratives.

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American Literature

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” arguably aims to create a sense of historical consciousness for the African-American, a historical consciousness that has been destroyed by slavery. Namely, historical consciousness is crucial to establishing identity: it is a narrative of where one comes from and what one has accomplished historically. In the case of African-Americans historical consciousness was annulled by systematic European racism. Hughes makes the bold attempt to re-establish this consciousness, thus speaking of “rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.” (222) In essence, Hughes establishes the African historical consciousness by showing how radical the historical dimension of Africa itself is: here, Africa as the original continent of human life shows an African-American historical consciousness that is bound to the very beginnings of humanity itself.

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American Literature

Reading Modern literature

Reading Modern literature can sometimes be a frustrating quest for coherence and meaning.  Modernist authors tend to omit explanations, interpretations, connections, and summaries that we are accustomed to in traditional literature. O’Neill’s method in The Hairy Ape demonstrates a striking departure from traditional stage drama since audiences are faced with an exaggerated and stark realism, and with dialog that is crude, natural, and slangy.  How do you react to the play?  What happens to Yank that leads him to expose his primitive interior self?  What happens at the end, and how are we–the reading or viewing audience–to interpret his death?

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American Literature

How does Trifles help us think about different perspectives or perceptions?

Glaspell’s Trifles is not only an example of feminist art, but demonstrates how our social discourses are often fragmented according to the roles we play within this same greater framework. Namely, the female characters possess a certain attitude towards the patriarchic setting in which they live, for example, Margaret’s accusation for murder is advanced by the patriarchal male society, whereas her sympathizers are women. In other words, the structure of the male-female relationship is inevitably determined by whether one is looking at this relationship from a male and female perspective. This may seem to be a fairly self-evident statement, but when placed in a feminist context such as in Trifles it can serve as a powerful form of critique of the dominant male discourse: women, according to their marginalized position in this social discourse, are able to view the blindspots, exclusions, and presuppositions of the latter. In the exposure of these elements, Glaspell simultaneously critiques them.

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American Literature

American literary Renaissance

The period of the American literary Renaissance historically marks a certain general blossoming of creativity in American literature, however, it seems that it would be too cursory and inaccurate to classify these writers in terms of a shared commitment to a particular world view or ideology. Rather, what brings these authors together is their obvious shared status as contemporaries and an expansive creativity in terms of writing, in particular, with an attentiveness to the tradition of writing itself. Perhaps, therefore, this tradition can be united in terms of these authors having themselves discovered the rich tradition of English literature, seeking to contribute to this corpus in their own unique ways.

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American Literature

Nature and Free Will in “The Open Boat” and “To Build a Fire”

The themes of free will, or a lack of free will when it comes to nature are central themes in both “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane and “To Build a Fire” by Jack London. Both stories illustrate how little man really has over his or her own destiny, with very different circumstances, and to very different ends.