Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Howl" -Allen Ginsberg

Wow! This is by far the most confusing poem I have read. After reading it, I don't even know if what I thought I understood was actually right. The mood of the poem seemed to be of a wandering nature. The first part was writing about how all of these geniuses of his generation were being destroyed by madness, poverty, disillusionment, along with many other fallen or even better, deferred, dreams. They really seemed not to have a reason to live and just roamed around doing things they did not care for and did not have any kind of morality. The people are living in the same place but they do not seem to share or communicate.
This poem is really different than the rest of the poems we have been reading because it is way more graphic. One of the prime examples is that these people "let themselves be [f*****] in the [a**] by saintly motorcyclists" showing how much the society had been degenerated. The poem talks a lot about the amoral society but it oddly also has a religious aspect to it. It has multiple references to when Jesus was on Earth. Golgotha was the place were Jesus was put on the torture stake and died while the expression "eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani" means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Maybe he uses this expression to symbolize how people feel like there really isn't anything that can make all of the things going on around the world better. I guess this is an aspect of the 20th century writings. Many people look for pleasure in drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. to escape from reality or believe in something better but they just end up achieving nothingness. 
The second part of the poem is also related to religion because it is pretty much speaking to Moloch which is the god to which people sacrificed their children to. The people seem to be forced to offer sacrifices to him and offer themselves while ending up disillusioned because the god they were sacrificing so much for did nothing for them and really could not help make anything better. Many people may feel like that but do not do anything about it. This poem was similar to the story of "My Kinsman, Major Molineux" because the country boy is also wandering around and in the end he is the victim of the vices of the city people. After realizing how the city life is, he realizes that he cannot rely on anybody but himself. 
Why is this poem called Howl?
What does the third part of the poem mean?? 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Harrison Bergeron" -Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

The year is 2081 and the human race has reached its goal of being completely equal. Not only in the sense that they are treated the same way but their intelligence is the same, looks, strength, and everything else. The people who are above average are hindered by the Handicapper General where they are made to wear things in order to be just like everyone else. The couple, George and Hazel, have an "abnormal" child who tries to fight the system. He was in jail and then manages to escape into a ballerina show where he induces a ballerina to be his Empress and they take off their handicaps and begin to dance to the musicians which have also taken off their handicaps. These conspirators end up dying and Harrison's mom is watching and actually forgets what she saw so in the end she is completely unaffected by what happened.
This selection reminded me a lot about Feed because the author's portray the society as people that are not interested in learning or thinking but rather they are concentrated on what others tell them they have to think or be. This story was written around the 1960s which is along the time that a lot of hippies were going around talking about all of the conspiracies that were going on. The way Vonnegut describes the government certainly did not put in a favorable light but was trying to portray the amount of control it could have over it's people and not letting them even have an opinion or try to change what they do not agree with. I think one of the differences is that the people in Feed treated it more like a fad and weren't forced to do this by law because not everyone had it. They willingly accepted people thinking for them and choosing what they like or dislike. But in "Harrison Bergeron" we see Harrison fighting against it while others simply acquiesce. George seemed like he wanted to go against it but he really did not have that strength and just let it happen while his almost superhuman son took action. Of course him getting shot trumped the whole revolution but it was a sign that some people wanted something different and not to be dragged down. The constant noises that George heard in his head from the handicap were torture just for him not to think too much about something. This shows that people did want change but did not want to be the ones to start it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Good Man is Hard to Find

A good man is hard to find especially when you are looking along the same road where the escapees from jail are. This short story by Flannery O'Connor is about a family that is going on a trip and the grandmother with her cunning ways, manipulates the children to go look at a house where one of her past suitors lived. There is a foreshadowing of the story at the beginning of the story when the grandmother is reading the paper and tells the family about the Misfit, a man that just escaped prison. This family is completely the opposite of what a perfect family is and it is noted that all of them are acting in a way that is not contributing to keeping the peace while on this trip. Once they do get on that dirt road the cat jumps out at Bailey and the car flips. When they are trying to get help the Misfit comes up and ends up killing the whole family while the grandmother is only trying to spare her own life. Then she gets shot herself and the story abruptly ends just like that.
This story was written during the 1950s when everybody was trying to achieve the perfect family status in their nice house with a white picket fence and two or three children. This family appears to be perfect but it is obviously not the case. The poor man cannot assert his manliness because he is being drowned out by the two women in his life-his mother (mostly) and wife. The grandma is really trying to make the decisions her son should be taking and doesn't even care about the daughter-in-law which is probably why her name is not even mentioned. The children are horrible little people. They don't care to do what their parents tell them and don't give a hoot about what the grandmother has to say to them either. The children have pretty much lost all of their respect for the older people and really like to voice their opinions. The one thing that stuck out in my mind was the way the grandmother took advantage of the whole situation so that they could do what she wanted and she did not even care that they were killing the rest of the family out in the woods. The only person she was worried about was herself until she realized how erred she was in her ideas and touched the man which resulted in her dying. Her actions made her the antithesis of a "good" woman.
The husband was really quite the character. He would get really annoyed by what the family was doing and then he would go off but later on he just did things the way they wanted instead of taking a stand. But if you look at many of the commercials and tv series, most of the time the man/husband is depicted as being the weaker, dumber person and the wife always makes the decisions for the household. And most of the time I hear that women want to be the ones to wear the pants in the relationship. So isn't this really what women want? They want to be the man in the relationship but when things happen like what we read in the story, the man is the one that gets the blame for acquiescing to what the rest of the family wanted. So the husband really could have done better but I am not sure if the women would have been pleased if he actually stood up to them and said no.

Why is the title "A Good Man is Hard to Find?"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Dream Deferred... I mean "Harlem"

What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be an astronaut/doctor/teacher/insert profession of choice here. Every kid no matter what will always answer you with great enthusiasm what they want to become when they are grown ups. The wonderful thing about children is that their possibilities are limitless, no one can tell them they cannot do whatever it is they say. In the poem "Harlem," Langston Hughes is most definitely thinking from the perspective of a young boy, but rather someone who has been around long enough for their dreams to be set aside for various reasons. Hughes describes the various routes a deferred dream can go, none of which are very appealing. Who wants the stench of "rotten meat," or the view of a festering "sore," or even the weight of a "heavy load?" All of these things are undesirable but the reality is that dreams that are put off are inevitable. It is impossible to know the future and so even less probable to make sure that we can do what we have been planning for many years. Unexpected things happen and eventually pull us away from what we wanted to do in the beginning but what would be worse is having dreams deferred because of skin color or race.
Appropriately this poem was named "Harlem" seeing as it is one of the places where many African Americans lived and had to share in the common struggle for reaching out for something more in life and becoming something in this world. Many of those dreams were deferred. Even if they did want to succeed in school or get an education, they found out that they really couldn't do much because their world was ruled by the white man so they could not advance as much as they would have liked to. Many old people probably also had to put their dreams on hold because they unexpectedly had children or for the same laws that did not allow for them to get ahead in their careers. The last part was kind of ambiguous for me because it could be taken in a positive light or a negative one. When he asked "or does it explode?" does it mean that they decided not to let it stop them from doing what they wanted or that they got tired of the oppression and resorted to violence for what people had done to them?

Theme for English B for English 2200

This young black man is coming out of his English class thinking about what he should write for the assignment the professor asked for. This is what is happening to the young man in the poem "Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes. Although the young black man is going to a university during the 1950s, life is not as wonderful for him as it may seem. He was the only African American in his class and was not close to his family during that time which only emphasized the sense of loneliness he felt when he was thinking of what to write about. Then he thinks about things to write on and realizes that even if the instructor might not like it, he and his students (even the speaker) have so much in common that the color of the skin does not even make a significant difference. Of course, he admits that neither of them want to agree to that but it's true.
I really liked the way that Hughes wrote this because when I first read the poem I imagined the young man walking from his class through those streets, the park, all the way into his room at the Y. That imagery alone made me as a reader see the struggle he went through everyday and the two completely opposite worlds he was a part of. But as much as they were different, the speaker made them fuse together and become a part of him, to be him. When he thinks about Harlem he says, "I hear you: hear you, hear me---we two---you, me, talk on this page" and also when he is talking about his professor tells him that he is "yet a part of me, as I am a part of you." Being a black man and an old white professor is as contrary as one could get, but yet the speaker lists multiple things they have in common like "eat, sleep, drink, and be in love [...] work, read, learn, and understand life." And even the fact that they are both American puts them in a category where they could even have similar tastes in music like "Bessie, bop, or Bach." I think what the man was trying to say was that since we have constant interactions with people and even the places we go to or live in are close that we share common goals, interests and that we inevitably become part of another person just by coexisting.
Why did the speaker say that the man was only "somewhat free?"
What did he think the white man was could/would learn from him?

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Heritage" -Countee Cullen

"Heritage" is a poem that describes just that, Countee Cullen's African roots. Although this poem tries to describe the way Africa looks the way people describe a good memory, but it is noted that the writer has a hard time trying to achieve that goal because he repeatedly states "One three centuries removed

From the scenes his fathers loved,
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,   

What is Africa to me?"

    It isn't that he doesn't want to claim where his family is from it's just that he cannot, he has never been there. The third stanza accurately describes the fact that Africa is so unknown to him because he says it is like a book that you look at but all of those things are unremembered. He has probably heard and read about all the things he mentioned in the poem but cannot accurately picture it in his mind because he has never been there. 
   Then Cullen describes the people and from Africa along with some of the animals. It's funny because he uses terms that don't really describe them as people but more like savages. They are "young forest lovers" and "jungle girls and boys" and I personally thought that when he was talking about the "juggernauts of flesh" they were the strong black men walking around the jungle.
   Cullen really felt disconnected from either places. He could not fit with the Africans because he had never been there and could not relate in any way to the culture they shared over there. Neither could he be an American because, being black, he was look down on and could not really amount to anything because his world could only be ruled and good for the white man. He even feels this way when he writes about the different religions, in America and in Africa. The gods in Africa are "heathen" but the god people worship in America is not black so Cullen feels that he could never understand what he is going through. Cullen's diction demonstrates that to a certain extent he has been influenced by Americans to call others jungle people, savages, and their beliefs, heathen. Does this have anything to do with the fact that he writes five times "so I lie?" What does it mean? 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Yet do I Marvel" -Countee Cullen

The poem "Yet do I Marvel" by Countee Cullen describes the common theme that life is pointless. The "tricked Tantalus" was caught in the futile effort to eat the fruit and couldn't, while Sisyphus keeps on trying aimlessly to take the rock up the slope but it comes down again. Then he continues to speak of how God has pretty much made us live to die. In the end he also is befuddled at the fact that he wanted to express himself but he was black so it was not going to be that easy.
The idea that it is God's fault that bad things happen is a common misconception. The crazy thing is that many people usually hear from their religious leaders that God is a God of love but when a loved one dies they say that it was their time to go or even better, "God wanted another angel with him in heaven." Of course these ideas are not conducive to one another. If it's God's fault that our loved ones are dying then He cannot be a God of love because he is causing grief and all of the other negative feelings that come along with the death of a loved one. Obviously this is not the case. Jehovah is not the cause of our problems because in James 1:13 it says that "with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone." So he is not causing all of these things to happen. In reality the bible shows us that it is in fact, Satan the one that is causing all of the distress here on earth because if you read, no where in the bible does it say that Jehovah is the ruler of the earth but rather that Satan is. 1 John 5:19 says that "the whole world is lying in the [power of the] wicked one." Therefore, God is not the one causing the problems and definitely did not create us just so that we would die.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

If I thought my answer were given
to anyone who would ever return to the world,
this flame would stand still without moving any further.
But since never from this abyss
has anyone returned alive, if what I hear is true,
without fear of infamy, I answer you.
These lines are the way T.S. Eliot begins his poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" a stream of consciousness of the stereotypical 40 year old virgin. This man is sitting in a public place and there are women all around him but he is just too hesitant to do anything that in the end he really does not do anything. The poor man worries about whether he should talk to the girl or not, whether he should part his hair one way or the other... this guy was just very uncertain about anything he was going to do. This is kind of like the soliloquy "To be or not to be" which Eliot makes a reference to in line 111 because the man needs to choose whether he should do something or not. But the funny thing is that while the man is straddling between these thoughts he says he is not like the prince Hamlet so as not to seem so indecisive.
It was also interesting how this poem paints the women in a different setting than the women from "The Waste Land." Instead of being in a bar by themselves without their husbands, these women are at this place- possibly a high end cafe or restaurant-and seem to have a good socioeconomic status. This was noted from the continuous talk of the women "talking of Michaelangelo." They had to have heard of them and mention them in their conversations to impress the others. But due to the fact that this old, single man does not have a woman in his life makes him a sour person. Throughout the poem he says things like "half-deserted streets," sees the pollution all around and sees it as a cat that has just taken over the house without asking and is sad because he does not think the mermaids will sing to him. If only he had a woman in his life, everything would be a lot better and he wouldn't worry about his balding spot because his wife already loves him.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Waste Land

T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" was an introduction to the 20th century writings that reflected realism, a novel way of writing at the time. In the beginning of the poem there is a very eccentric description of the relationship between people and the earth they live in. But after that the poem is more about the downward spiral that all of humanity was going through during these roaring twenties. In contrast to the other writings we have read, this poem uses many references to other writings that are in other languages like French, Latin and German.
 Most of the time when he wrote weird words that are usually not used today it was to reference something from a previous writing or from mythology.  I feel like many of those things are not very common and so are kind of lost or only a few people know about them. But it should definitely not be like that; we should acquaint ourselves with these classical writings because the quality of writing from back then is much better than most of the things that come out now. 
I really thought it was weird the way he spoke of the dead people. A man was buried and then someone asks "The corpse you planted,... has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?" (ln 71,72) I did not know what to make of this statement but the fact that when we die everything else keeps on going and we become nothing but fertilizer for the plants. Then Eliot goes on to write about the "murmur of maternal lamentation" (ln 367) which goes around all over the earth. When I read this it reminded me of La Llorona because she is said to be a woman crying out for her lost, dead children. 
Then in class I understood the story about the women at the bar. Eliot was showing us the lower class of people in the US during the 1920s. They had little or no access to dentists and this was precisely what they were talking about. The woman was supposed to have her  teeth taken out so she could get dentures and look good for her husband. But the woman does not seem to care that her husband is coming back from the war and doesn't even want to have children which is something out of the ordinary for that time period. Her experience shows the disillusionment with all that was happening around them and the unfavorable changes that were occuring. Nothing was the way it used to be and it was only getting worse; hence, the title of the poem. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nathaniel Hawthorne

"My Kinsman, Major Molineux" by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a prime example of the move from the age of enlightenment to romanticism. Romanticism assumed that the natural world was inherently good while civilization or society was bad and filled with corruption. There is a clear distinction between the people who are from the city and the people from the small towns and even in the story, all the townspeople could tell Robin was different. Robin's story begins when he chooses to go off and stay with Major Molineux because he was supposed to help him and essentially leave off the large inheritance he received once he passed. Since the was not the first born, then he pretty much knew he wasn't going to get the farm so had to look for other options. But once he does go to the city, Robin is not really introduced to the nice side of town. Most people don't care to help him or if not they tempt him to do things that are wrong like the woman with the scarlet petticoat. In the end, after being tarred and feathered, he doesn't really want to have anything to the Major and he chooses to make a name for himself.
One of the things that is highlighted in this passage is the mob mentality that the city folk shared. But I really found it interesting to see the differences between the nature and civilization. In this story and in Whitman's "Song of Myself" nature is seen as something that is desirable. It gives an innocent, light and pure connotation to being in nature while being in a city or civilization equates to acting in an evil way. Robin even states once that "if I had one of those grinning rascals in the woods, I would teach him..." obviously wanting to teach these "civilized" people some manners! In the story it seems as if this is the first time that Robin has gone to the city and is obviously not having the greatest experience. This woman with the scarlet petticoat was also one of the people that tempted this young man to do immoral things but seeing as he was from the small town, this "shrewd" boy fled and resisted temptation (does the word Joseph come to mind...). This idea was contrary to the idea that many people had back in the day because they usually related nature to to being uncivilized like the Native Americans, a trait that was undesirable. But along comes Romanticism and makes civilized people look really bad off and making people realize how much worse life would actually be if you lived in a city surrounded by all of those temptations. It was definitely different from the other readings but is a common ideology used today, that people from small towns or the country are more innocent and closer to the unadulterated world.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Federalist Papers

The Federalist papers were documents written on behalf of people like Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay who believed that the United States should have a strong central government and a national bank. One of the most famous quotes taken from this paper is that "if men were angels, no government would be necessary." It was pretty comical because it brought out the need there was for a government. If all the people in the world were "angels" then of course no one would need to be governed  because they would not be bad. So now that they had established the need for government, the choice of which type of government for the people had to be discussed and that was the purpose of these writings. They obviously opposed the idea that state power should be stronger and their reasoning was that if the government controls the governed then it will oblige it to control itself. The central government will be the only one to which the people must submit to and not multiple. In the papers they said that the republic would "guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part." This mode of government would enable the residents of the country to be protected by the government but also would not allow these to be oppressed by their rulers.
This writing was not like the autobiographies and other narratives we read about but it definitely highlights the current events of early American history. Since these people wanted to break their governmental ties with Great Britain then they had to come up with a better form of governing so that they could keep their liberties as well as having a say so in what goes on in their country. These writers convinced the audience that their mode of government, although covering a large range, would still allow the individual to be heard. I am sure this must have appealed to all of these thinkers to want this form of government because it allowed for self expression and representation. People would be able to voice their opinion and get the same treatment even if they were not part of the majority.
There was a quote saying that "a central government will be less capable of self government;" is this what the founding fathers wanted the government to become?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The War Prayer

"The War Prayer" by Mark Twain accurately described the actions and thoughts of people for their country and soldiers during the war. It seems to be during a time when there is war and everyone is extremely patriotic. They would do whatever they could for the war and are proud that their children are going off to serve their country.  Although they carry on in long prayers, all they really want to ask is "'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!'" The people who are going to war and their families are proud and feel like they are doing the right thing but Twain brings out the hypocrisy of these people with the prayer. Instead of being christian-like they ask for to "tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells" and all of these other horrible requests just so that their country could win the war.
This story reminded me of the way that the slaves were treated back in those days. Slaves were just like animals and the people did not care if they lived or died just used them as a machine. In the war, the people of the country the United States was fighting ended up the same in most people's eyes. They did not care how many died as long as the war was won. This also has to do with ethnocentrism- the idea that their culture is better than all the rest. If people did not have this idea then they would not look at other lives as so insignificant. But this also shows that most of the time religion the way it is commonly practiced does not really have an effect on the way that people lead their lives. But in the end, if religious leaders did not get involved in this people would also not act the same way. It even happens today; both countries ask the priest to bless the war and for them to win when in actuality, the bible does not promote war. Isaiah 2:4 says " Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore" so if people would guide themselves by this idea then there would be less problems then there are now.