Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Part II

Part II of Waiting for the Barbarians introduces the "barbarian girl." The Magistrate's relationship with her is the center focus of this section. One "side event" is when the Magistrate buys the fox club, which may have been intended to give the girl some company. The Magistrate notes that, at first, "she took it with her to the kitchen, but it was terrified by the fire and noise" (34).
The magistrate will "dispose" of it when the fox is old enough, but the fox is not mentioned again in the section, so what exactly is its purpose.
The magistrates inability to domesticate the fox is apparent when he says that "it cannot be house-trained." He calls the fox wild and jokes that "people will say I keep two wild animals in my room, a fox and a girl" (34).
The girl's reaction indicates that she is offended: "her lips close, her gaze settles rigidly on the wall, I know she is doing her best to glare at me" (34).
What is the importance of the fox club to their relationship? Is the fox something like the barbarian girl?

Initial reactions

The magistrate’s relationship with the barbarian girl is a strange one that I still don’t understand.
He is obsessed with knowing what happened to her, when he says “it has been growing more and more clear to me that until the marks on this girl’s body are deciphered and understood I cannot let go of her.” (31) He genuinely seems to care about her when he starts to ask guards about what happened to her, and his bathing her can be seen as an act to clean the barbarian girl of both her scars from the guards and her own barbarianism.
His relationship with her has complicated his views on the Empire. He rants on about how the empire should leave the frontier and let the barbarians have their land to the new officer. The new officer is obviously pro-empire, so why would the magistrate discuss “pro-barbarian” views that he himself isn’t entirely sure of? The discussion still does not clarify what the magistrate’s view are, but it indicates a level of indifference to the subject. He seems to know that what he is doing is detrimental to his reputation, yet he cannot make himself stop taking in favor of the barbarians. As he opens up, he says that he feels a “barrier between the military and the civilian,” so are these views that most of the civilians living on the frontier share?
After all of this, then why does he take her back to the barbarians? She had indicated that she missed her sister, but she had never talked about returning. She seems to have grown accustomed to the way of life in the frontier, and she has even made friends with the other woman. When she is finally taken away, she tells him that she didn’t even want to go back in the first place. The magistrate regrets his actions, wishing he would have spent more time with her. He realizes that she was a “witty” girl, and he almost feels “proud” of her, yet he lets her leave.
Their relationship is like one that many barbarian women have had with other officers; however, their relationship is still different as it is complicated, and it is the most interesting part of the story so far.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Peter Brooks, An Unreadable Report: Conrad's Heart of Darkness

  • Narrative and organization is in the tradition of nineteenth century literature; however, it has a modernist twist because it includes "inconclusive solutions to... the problematic status."

  • Framed story restricts us from completly understanding Marlow and Kurtz

  • There is a disproportion between the ordering systems used and their effect, and that suggests that the realtionship between story and narrative plot is uncertain.

  • Marlow's narrative is like a detective's in that it attaches itself to another's story, retraces another's path, and repeats a journey already taken.

  • For Marlow, Kurtz is like the authority or "sanction" of narrative, so that Kurtz stands to help make sense of Marlow's life. Then end of the journey= ability to talk about the experience, a voice.

  • "The horror, " can represent the reversion to savagery (the fall of language) and/or express just how "unspeakable" the horrors are.

  • The nature of the frame story give it a never-ending quality, in that there is no end for Marlow. Since Marlow is "too late" in following Kurtz, the narrative suggests that no one can actually know the end.
  • Heart of Darkness has moderinst qualities because the story is being retold. the repetition of the story is "the product of failure" in the original telling ( Kurtz can't tell his own story and Marlow lies to Kurtz's Intended).
  • Emphasizes that Kurtz's story never ends, as it will continue to be retold.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quentin Compson's issue with time

I read "The Language of Chaos: Quentin Compson in The Sound and the Fury," by May Cameron Brown. It was published by Duke University Press in American Literature.

What was most interesting to me was that the author makes a direct connection between Quentin's breaking his grandfather's watch and his suicide. The watch represents the past, and "the breaking of the watch as the first action of the last day of his life represents his suicide"(546). The watch represent the old traditions of the Compson family, and ultimately, the old South. I had thought that Quentin's breaking the watch only represented his frustration with time in general, but Brown's interpretation is that Quentin is more frustrated with the present, since he "lives in the past," (545) and he expects to "continue the Compson line and preserve the tradition which is central to the Southern experience" (544).

Quentin's frustration also comes from his failures as a brother and as the eldest son of the Compson family. His old southern views are no longer relevant in the present, and his “inability to find and express a meaning in his experience—all reflect the decaying world which is at the heart of the novel,” (544) drives his depression and ultimate suicide. Brown views Quentin’s experience with the Italian child as a parallel to his relationship with Caddy, just as he “fails the Italian girl as surrogate brother in the present, so Quentin has failed Caddy as a real brother in the past” (546).

In class, we had discussed the significance of the word temporary during Quentin and Father’s conversation in the final days of Quentin’s life. We had concluded that the word temporary drove Quentin to suicide, as he felt guilty and upset his feelings were not important enough to last longer. Brown mostly agrees with this theory, adding that his anger with his temporary feelings also comes from the realization of the end of the old Southern values that had defined him for so long.


Monday, October 26, 2009

April 6, 1928

Part three of The Sound and Fury serves to answer many of our questions from the previous sections. We now know for sure that Quentin is Caddy’s daughter and that Quentin lives with the Compsons because Caddy was “cast off by her husband” (198).

We learn more about Jason, who is a greedy, bitter man. Jason certainly is more Bascomb than he is Compson as he shares his mother’s self-centered personality, a trait that is very different from the other Compson children. He is still angry at Caddy because the dissolution of her marriage to Herbert resulted in Jason losing a job. His puts the blame on Caddy and Father for his own financial failures and lack of opportunity. His bitterness and greed drives him to steal from his own sister and mother. Jason’s relationship with his mother is an interesting one because Jason “puts up” with her, but still makes her feel like he is suffering. Jason is similar to his mother in that they both look for pity.

The most stable character in Part three is Dilsey. Although Jason thinks he is in charge of the house, it is really Dilsey that takes care of everyone and runs the house. She had “raised ev’y one of” the Compson children (198). (212)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Update on Short Story Assignment

I have read three more short stories from The Pen/O. Henry Prize Stories of 2009: Substitutes, by Viet Dinh; Isabel's Daughter, by Karen Brown; and The Camera and the Cobra, by Roger Nash.

Isabel's Daughter is about a man's relationship with his first "steady girlfriend," and how her daughter from a previous relationship reminded him of her. He is never able to express his feelings to Isabel, and feels regret when she dies (suicide). I thought the story was really interesting in that it dealt with such a dark ending with casual language. The story is strange because although it discusses emotional topics, the narration is really devoid of emotion.

The Camera and the Cobra made me laugh because it reminded me of my family when we travel. We are constantly taking pictures, but sometimes forget to actually enjoy what we are seeing, just as the narrator does. The narrator realizes this when he is taking pictures of ants, but finds that the ants are probably observing him more than he is observing them. I think the story was about trying to get people to live life to the fullest.

Out of all the short stories I have read (6 in total), my favorite is Substitutes, by Viet Dinh. It is about the fall of Vietnam, but it is told through the events in a classroom in Vietnam. The class goes through a series of substitute teachers since they all begin disappearing. In the end, once the communists finally take over, the last teacher is a general. The general tells them that there is not point in being a scholar and staying in school. All the children leave school, and the schools turn into "re-education" camps, where they see scholars such as their old teachers. This is a story about the power of education and how it is something feared. Also, the author, Viet Dinh, was a Vietnamese refugee whose family escaped to the United States. He went to Harvard Law and was the Assistant Attorney General under the Bush Adminstration. He also was the chief architect of the USA Patriot Act. (352)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Short Stories

So far I have read the following short stories:

"Sir Fleeting" by Lauren Groff

"Children are the Only Ones who Blush" by Joe Meno

and "The Order of Things" by Judy Troy.

Both "Sir Fleeting" and "Children are the Only Ones who Blush" have been published seperatly by One Story. While "The Order of Things" was published in The Pen/ O. Henry Prize Stories of 2009.

"Sir Fleeting" is about a Wisconsin woman's life, as she frequently meets a playboy Argentine, Ancel de Chair. As the woman, whose name is never mentioned, chronicles her failed marriages, the readers realize that Ancel de Chair is connected to every major event in her life. It would make sense that after the death of her third husband, she and Ancel would be together. However, she refuses him and her true desires are never fully known.

“Children are the Only Ones who Blush” is about a very strange relationship between twins, in which the female twin outshines her brother, causing deep psychological problems. They are sent to couples counseling, but the therapy is mostly for the brother, Jack. Jack is failing high school and had been pulled back a grade, while his “star” sister is attending art school. The story, at its core, is about family dynamics.

“The Order of Things” is about a preacher who is having an adulterous affair with a married woman who goes to his church. He does not believe it is a sin, because he loves the woman. I could not connect to the story because I did not understand the preacher and his reasoning.

I don't think I have "found" the story that I want to write about yet, so I will be reading more stories.


Monday, September 28, 2009

The Mabel Effect

The mother in “Shiloh” is partially responsible for the dissolution of Leroy and Norma Jean’s marriage. She resents Leroy, emotionally dominates Norma Jean, reminds the couple of their terrible loss, and tells them to go to Shiloh. Leroy notices that his mother-in-law, Mabel, is spending more time with his wife, suggesting that she is influencing Norma Jean’s view of her husband. Leroy’s lack of an occupation suggests his inability to live up to his name, since his wife points out that his name means “the king.” Leroy’s truck accident, and subsequent physical weakness, makes him inferior to his wife. In contrast, Norma Jean’s physical strength and independence make her comparable to Wonder Woman, from her body building classes to her English classes; Norma Jean has become estranged from her husband. The disparity between the two is only deepened with the addition of Norma Jean’s meddling mother, as she only heightens the tension between the couple.

Mabel has never really accepted Leroy and Norma Jean’s marriage. Leroy knows that she “has never really forgiven him for disgracing her by getting Norma Jean pregnant,” (30-607) suggesting that Mabel still does not approve of their marriage. Earlier in the story, it is reveled that Norma Jean and Leroy got married when they were eighteen, and that a baby came only a few months later, implying that their marriage was one of necessity to avoid having a baby out of wedlock. Mabel’s response to the death of the baby is selfish; she says, “fate was mocking her” (30-607). Mabel would naturally resent Leroy, and the tension between the two is obvious when Leroy states that he “gets along with his mother-in-law primarily by joking with her” (30-607). Mabel also does not hide her disapproval of the couple when she implies that their baby died because of “neglect” (73-609). Since Mabel makes her view of Leroy and the couple very obvious to Norma Jean, it is only natural that Norma Jean’s view of her husband and their relationship begins to resemble that of her mother’s.

Mabel’s one last push to end Leroy and Norma Jean’s relationship is convincing Leroy to take Norma Jean to Shiloh. Mabel convinces Leroy that “a little change is what,” (115-611) Norma Jean needs. Mabel adds that there is a log cabin in Shiloh; however, the log cabin has bullet holes in it. The log cabin in Shiloh symbolizes the log cabin Leroy fantasizes about, but can never have with Norma Jean, since she no longer wants to have any home with him. By convincing Leroy to take Norma Jean to Shiloh, Mabel has selected the perfect battleground for the end of their relationship. Leroy and Norma Jean are left to fight the final battle of their relationship at Shiloh, and after having seen the dead log cabin, Leroy realizes that his home with Norma Jean is dead too. At the battleground, Norma Jean makes her final decision on their relationship; she decides to dissolve it. Norma Jean mentions that “everything was fine until,” (152-612) Mabel caught her smoking, and that it “set something off” (152-612). Mabel’s presence in Norma Jean’s life has influenced her decisions, and when she says that she feels “eighteen again,” (154-612) she realizes that she has a second chance at her life, and that now she must make the decision her mother would have wanted her to make.

Mabel is one of the main causes for the dissolution of Leroy and Norma Jean’s marriage. With her negative opinion of Leroy and his marriage to her daughter, she is able to influence Norma Jean. By mentioning their dead baby and suggesting that it was their inability to be good parents that caused the baby’s death, Mabel adds to the already existing tension in their marriage. She convinces them to visit Shiloh, so that they can engage in the final battle of their marriage. Norma Jean finally leaves Leroy, waving her arms in the end as if to symbolize her victory. (665)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Biblical allusions in "Parker's Back"

Asmit Sanghera

Parker’s Back

“Parker’s Back” is filled with biblical allusions as one man’s journey towards God and pleasing his wife ends unsuccessfully. Parker has always been a rebel; however, his wife is a devout, plain woman who has an indescribable control on him, possibly due to his subconscious wish to be saved. Parker wishes to leave her, but finds he never can do so. Not only is he unable to please his wife, but also he is unable to experience spiritual satisfaction, and in the brief moment at the end where he does have a connection to God, his wife rids him of it. Biblical allusions are spread throughout “Parker’s Back,” and they serve to emphasize O.E. Parker’s failure as a spiritual person.

Parker notices a tattooed man at fair, where he became inspired to get tattoos. The man’s tattoos are of “beasts and flowers,” (384) full of “intricate design of brilliant color” (384), as they represent an Eden that Parker cannot have. Parker’s response to the man’s tattoos can never be replicated; Parker always feels dissatisfaction with his own tattoos. The man’s tattoos seemed to be alive and have “a subtle motion” (384), and Parker is never able to experience the emotion he felt when looking at the man’s tattoos, as if he can never experience Eden again. On the other hand, Parker’s tattoos seem to represent something entirely different. The serpent on Parker’s arm represents the wrongs he has done, and with the serpent on his arm, Parker cannot truly experience the religious and spiritual satisfaction that his wife does. This biblical allusion of Eden and the serpent shows that Parker has struggled to find peace, and has had a troubled life.

As a tattoo-clad high school dropout, a dishonorably discharged ex-navy, and a heavy drinker, O.E. Parker is a failure. His soul is a “spider web of facts and lies,” (393) and compared to his devout wife, he is a failure in religion because of his lack of faith. Parker detests his own wife, calling her “plain,” (382) but he still stays with his wife, an action that caused him to be “puzzled and ashamed of himself” (382). Perhaps the real reason he is staying with his wife is that she “had married him because she meant to save him,” (382) and Parker is waiting to be saved. Sarah knows that O.E. Parker’s real name, Obadiah Elihue, is significant when she says it out loud in “a reverent voice” (387). She seems to want Parker to live up to his real name of Obadiah, which means servant of god.

Parker experiences a divine intervention, and even this intervention is a biblical allusion to Moses and the burning of the bush. After this instance, Parker has a newfound belief in God, as Parker yells “GOD ABOVE,” (388) and rushes to the city to get God tattooed on his back. After their divine intervention, both Moses and Parker returned to God; however, in the end, both are unable to be completely free, as Parker is unsuccessful with his wife and Moses never reaches the Promised Land. When Parker enters the tattoo artist’s shop, he is frantic and “washes his back,” (390) just as Pilate washed his hands, as an effort to rid him of whatever wrongs he had done in the past. When Parker finally identifies himself as Obadiah, he catches a glimpse of Eden again, as he feels his soul turning into an “arabesque of colors, a garden of trees and birds and beasts” (394). His relief is short-lived; however, when his wife beats him with a broom, forming large welts on the tattooed Jesus. Parker looses his brief connection to God, and is reduced to helpless man “leaning against the tree, crying like a baby,” (394) and a complete failure.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Dee's New Identity

What interests me the most about Dee’s character in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker is her feeling of oppression from her own name. She never seemed interested in her culture before her transformation into Wangero; instead, she seemed almost ashamed of it. Once she changes her identity, she becomes a new person with a new outlook. This new outlook is one where she looks to materialize the past and turn family belongings into relics, while her mother is living in the past and plans to use the family belongings, i.e. the quilts. Dee never tries to fully realize her culture, so the creates a new one which clashes with her family’s real history.

Dee was previously embarrassed by her mother’s standard of living, and was even happy when their old home burned down, practically ignoring the pain it caused her mother emotionally and sister physically. She previously wrote to her mother, telling her that “no matter where” they “choose to live, she will manage to come and see” them (445). Her condescending tone makes it apparent that she wants nothing more than to have a limited contact with her family. By simply “managing” to visit her mother and sister, her actions seem forces in that she is only visiting them to complete the very basic, and somewhat mandatory, family traditions. But really she wants to have as little to do with them as possible. She expresses this when she adds in her letter that she “will never bring her friends” (445). Her embarrassment of her family has kept her away from them, and therefore, she never embraced her culture or history like her sister does. However, when she changes her identity, her attitude towards her family and culture has changed. She has a newfound interest in her past, but her interpretations are vastly different from her mother and sister.

Dee, now called Wangero, has adopted a new outlook on her culture. She sees the old way her mother looks at African-American history as a weakness. Since Dee believes that her name comes from whites, the “people who oppress” her (446), she disowns it, even going so far as to say that Dee is “dead” (446). Dee feels oppression from her own name without ever really knowing the true history of her name. Her mother, on the other hand, is able to trace “beyond the Civil War through the branches” (446). I truth, Dee’s name comes from her own culture, the African-American culture, and not from a people who oppress her. Her inability to understand the real significance of her own name reflects her inability to understand her real culture. To compensate for her lack of understanding, she creates a “new” culture, with a “new” identity. In order to sustain her adopted self, she must have some evidence and proof of her culture, which is why she wants her mother and sister’s family belongings. She just want the material, but not the history or significance of it, since it clashes with her new culture and identity. (505)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Memorable Books

The Secret Life of Bees: I loved the writing style and its uniqueness. The story is an inspirational one about freedom and innerstrength.

The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns: I have read both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Spledid Suns twice. Both novels start off with the "old Afghanistan," and transform into incredible stories of regular Afghanis dealing with the changing Afghanistan.

Three Cups of Tea: Greg Mortenson is one of the most amazing, inspirational people on the earth! His story of determination and hard work, with his innocence and naiveity make, make his mission highly admirable.

Train to Pakistan (By Khuswant Singh): This book is about the Partition of India and the violence that ensued. This is a particularly special book because my grandfather lived through the partition.

Stepping on the Cracks: I read this book when I was in middle school, and it is about two young friends dealing with the death of their brothers during WWII.

Bridge to Terabithia: This is one of the most memerable books I have read as a kid. I was really affected by Leslie's death in the end of the book.

The Namesake: I felt so bad for Ashoke and Ashima, and I remember being really mad at Gogol. I think this book is so memorable because it deals with Indian immigrants and their children.

Tuck Everlasting: After I read this book, I realized that I would never want to live forever. Before I read the book, I thought that Winnie would want to live forever, but now I realize that Winnie made the right decicion by living a good, normal life.

My Sister's Keeper (I forgot to add this to my list of book I read this summer!): My mom recommended this book to me. It was such an emotional book, with Anna's kidney eventually going to Kate, but after Anna dies.

To Kill a Mockingbird: We read this book in school in the eighth grade. I recently reread it and loved Scout's character. What I like best about this book is that the issues adressed in the book are seen through Scout's innocent, child-like eyes.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Unconventional Roles in the Secret Life of Bees

Over the summer, I read the following books:
The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar, by Robert Alexander
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
and Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Unconventional Roles in The Secret Life of Bees

Although I enjoyed all of the novels I read this summer, the novel that was most interesting to me was The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. The Secret Life of Bees is so unique from other novel discussing racial tensions during the 60's because it is centered around a young, white girl who finds her freedom with three independent, black women.

What is so interesting to me is how the roles in this novel are reversed. The three African-American women—August, June, and May Boatwright—and the Black Madonna serve as a refuge for both Lily and her mother. Instead of the Colored women needing help, it is Lily who depends on the women and needs to escape from the law, her guilt, and her father.

I think the reason why I liked this novel so much is that the women are so different from many of the other African-American literary figures that I have read during this time. I was surprised to find, that in the midst of the Civil Rights Act, there could be three financially independent, black women. Why do we seldom hear about such strong figures? For example, Ida B. Wells was a black woman who had a successful career during this time, so women like August must have existed. Usually Black women in literature are more like Rosaleen, poor and helpless, becoming a stock character. However, these women are smart and independent, since they make “honey money,” according to Zack, and are “so cultured,” according to Lily. August is impressive because of her passion for honey making and reading. She and Lily share these passions, as Lily wants to become a writer. T. Ray, on the other hand, is the more ignorant and undereducated character, as he barely knows William Shakespeare while August spends her free time reading books like Jane Eyre.

Although all of the African-Americans in the novel experience racism, Lily is also discriminated against. June does not accept Lily because August had to work as a maid in Lily’s mother’s house. I think that June is embarrassed of such circumstances, since August’s intellect and passion is clearly above that of a housemaid, just as Lily’s intelligence is above attending a beauty school. June, who can only teach at a black school, is letting out her frustration of white society’s rules on Lily. However, June is stereotyping Lily as a privileged, white girl, when in reality, Lily is anything but privileged. Instead, Lily needs to find the inner strength, the “mother inside,” to break away from T. Ray and become free. The Boatwright sisters teach this strength to Lily. Our Lady of Chains, or Black Mary, is not limited to African-American women who have faith in her, who call themselves the Daughters of Mary. I think this novel goes beyond racial tensions and moves into female empowerment, and with Lily, the Daughters of Mary expands itself into a female club working together to achieve freedom. The story is inspirational because the women find that the strength they need to overcome their injustices is within them, with their confidence and independence.