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.