Thursday, November 10, 2011

"The Red Convertible" Louise Erdrich

 "The Red Convertible" is a story about these brothers that were Native American and went on to be good friends. Lyman, the brother narrating the story, started working and he and his brother bought a Red Oldsmobile. They got to enjoy it for at least one good time traveling to many different places and meeting people. Henry Jr. did not get to enjoy the convertible for a while because he had to go to the Vietnam war. Lyman took care of it as much as he could and would only write Henry about that car while he was away. Then when he came back, they could tell that he was different because of the war. Lyman bought a color television and Henry would act really weird when he was watching it as well as with the rest of his family. On one occasion they were watching the television when Henry just bit his lip and even while they were eating he did not try to clean it off so ate food with his blood all over it. Lyman then proceeded to devise a plan so that he could try to get his old brother back. He tore the convertible up so that it would seem almost not able to fix but Henry does not think it isn't beyond repair. All of a sudden Henry starts to fix the convertible and gets it in tip top shape. They go for one last ride and then when they go to the river and have some beers, Henry wants to give Lyman the car and he does not take it. They fight and I think he goes into the river, Lyman goes to the car and turns on the lights so he can see his brother and the convertible goes into the water also. That is why at the beginning of the story, Lyman says that his brother took the whole car and he is walking.
This story was really sad because the people that come back from the war are never as they were before. The things that they see in the war are so traumatic that people cannot really go on without having those images drown through their everyday lives. It cannot be easy to have to come back to civilian life after a war and trying to tell people about what they went through but no one understands. It must really feel lonely especially when Lyman wanted to be close to his brother but they were not connected as they were before. Relationships are fortified through the things both parties have in common and shared living experiences so Henry must have felt like they were not as close as they could have been for him to understand. It must be sad that these people got stripped of their lives because they had to go to war against their will. This goes back to the whole trying to control the people in order for them to do what the government wants. The soldiers are broken down to follow the orders.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

excerpt of Charlotte's Web -E.B. White

The part of the reading from Charlotte's Webb was close to the end if I am not mistaken. They are taking Wilbur back to the home because the fair has finished. He won the prize for being a good show pig thanks to Charlotte, the spider, who made a web that had words on it and was a wonder all around the fair. This excerpt was taken from the point when Charlotte is dying and Wilbur wants to take her sac of eggs so that he can remember his best friend. So Wilbur asks for Templeton to get the eggs and rushes him to do so before the men take them away. Templeton goes on this rant about how he is always doing whatever everyone else wants and they really don't care about him that much. He does not like the fact that they want him to do things for them but do not value him and just lays around. Wilbur promises to give him the first of the slop whenever he gets it and finally Templeton took the offer and went to fetch the sac of eggs. In the end Wilbur does not end up just being another meal for the humans but becomes a mini celebrity and Charlotte's offspring are all over the place although, none of them ever replace Charlotte. 
The part about when Templeton is expressing his feelings caught my attention. He has been and is the person that collects trash and lives with that purpose. The way that Charlotte made the miracle web was because of Templeton finding the words on scraps of trash that he picked up. Even though he does play a critical role in this society people don't care about him and cast him aside as if he were not important. I know Templeton is not meant to be liked but his arguement is valid. Wilbur and Charlotte have this nice friendship and Templeton is just another brick on the wall wh does stuff for them and does not usually get anything in return, not even a friendship. Wilbur did nothing to be Charlotte's friend, he was just nice to her and everything happened from there. Templeton had always been there but he did not fit in so he never became anyone's friend.  Technically, if it wouldn't have been for Templeton's help in them writing the words on the web, Wilbur would have died a quick death. Templeton could be representative of the people who are at the bottom of the hierarchy of people (even though some people might not agree to there being one). He does so much but in the end is only motivated by what he can get or fulfilling the basic needs. This is probably why he doesn't care so much even though he does talk to Wilbur about having friends. He is really just thinking about he basic needs because that is the only way that he can survive to the next time and friendships are not necessary when you are just trying to live.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

From Blossoms Li-Young Lee

This poem is about a pair of people who are driving along a road in the season when peaches are harvested. They see a sign on the side of the road marked "Peaches" and they abruptly stop to get some. The second stanza goes back in time creating a mental image of the peaches coming from "laden boughs, from hands
from sweet fellowship in the bins" in other words the people harvesting the peaches and putting them into the bins. This couple is really enjoying the peaches and they seem to have stopped and gone to a little place close to the orchard to eat them while they are taking in the whole day to remember it. They end up having a pretty nice day and forget about what it  was they were supposed to do that day.
As opposed to many of the writings we have read from the 20th century, this poem was really optimistic. They aren't thinking about what things are going wrong but rather focus on the beauty of what is around them, the fruit they are eating, and their enjoyable day. They describe the peach like having a "round jubilance" and being "succulent" which leads me to believe that this couple really must be happy about those peaches! Or like they say when you are in a relationship and you are happy everything else seems perfect. At first I thought that this pair of people could either be good friends or it could be a romantic relationship and it could really go either way.
The last stanza really says a lot about what the speaker feels. He enjoys the great moments in life which makes the bad things not overshadow or even come to mind. It pretty much says that the best life lived is the one which lives because they do not have death in mind. This is partly true because if you are constantly worried about how something can cause you to die then it would be hard to even get out of the bed for that very fear. A constant precaution is always taken and nothing that is spontaneous is welcome. The speaker is completely opposite because none of the things that are written in the poem had been previously planned. From the time they swerved onto that road selling peaches everything else just happened and that was a very nice occasion. So if you do welcome the spontaneous things and just try to enjoy life for living then those moments will come along on their own.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The School

Trees, snakes, herb gardens, gerbils, white mice, salamander, tropical fish, puppy, orphan, parents, grandparents, students, all twelve of these were dying all around the students of Edgar's class. Edgar tried to help the students by giving reasons for why those things happened continuously but could not come up with a good explanation. The rate of death was unfathomable and the children were distraught. When they had a class discussion about what was going on they wanted Edgar to make love with Helen so that they would not be sad by what was going on around them and they would not lose hope. After their "demonstration" a gerbil came in the classroom and the children had completely forgot about everything and were happy once again. This is one very sad story almost hard to believe.
Not only was the death of everything around them unbelievable, but the way the children responded when they were thinking about those deaths. When I was reading, the students seemed to be in elementary school, not past the third grade. But then they say "is death that which gives meaning to life?" and "but isn’t death, considered as a fundamental datum, the means by which the taken-for-granted mundanity of the everyday may be transcended in the direction of –." I am pretty sure that most little kids would not have such opinion about death even with all of the things happening. I guess the reason Barthelme put it in the story was just to give one of the usual explanations for death that no one is satisfied with but does settle for.
Death after death of all of these things reminded me of all of the incessant wars, conflicts, genocides, tsunamis, earthquakes, and disasters that have taken place in the world; people die everyday. We are always bombarded with the deaths of people everyday and many wonder why things like these happen but still strive to make that connection with those around us like try to find love. Why do people do this if there is a possibility that they will die the next day or within a short period of time? Because we still have hope for life and a better future just like those little kids when the gerbil came in. Just like Ecclesiastes 3:11 says we have " time indefinite put in [our] hearts" in other words, nobody wants to die. 
Who did Edgar and Helen represent, if anyone/anything?
Why was Edgar always using petty explanations for what went wrong?

"A Silver Dish" not a Silver Spoon

To tell you the truth I did not understand anything that I read the first time around. It was really confusing because of the various characters and the way the plot was structured. What I did gather was that the story started at the end then went to the beginning. The son's name was Woody and the father, Morris. The biggest part of the story is set during the Great Depression even though it is only a memory of Woody's when he is older. Morris was known to be a con man and had many vices in addition to cheating on his wife. During this time Woody was going to a seminar school and his father got into a bind and needed to get money for his mistress. So he meets with his son and tells him that he wants to ask Mrs. Skoglund for the money. Woody does not want to go because that lady is also his benefactor. Being the son, he doesn't have a choice but to accompany his father to ask for money. Morris is not a very religious person and I believe the story says that he is an atheist which is completely different from Mrs. Skoglund, a devout woman. While they are in the parlor asking for the money Mrs. Skoglund gets a minute to pray to God to give her guidance. Now Morris gets worried, not knowing if she bought the story or is going to give him money, so decides to steal a silver dish from her just in case she says no. After fighting with his father, they came to the consensus that if she does agree to it they will put the dish back. Mrs. Skoglund does give them the money but Morris doesn't put the dish back. Later on Woody leaves the family to go with Halina but does not leave them without meeting their needs- he has already applied for them to receive welfare. In the end, Morris dies at the hospital after years of struggle.
One of the aspects of the story is the religion. The Selbst family is majorly christian but they were Jews before. The father is mostly an atheist  and does not care for religion because it "was a demonstration on behalf of real life and free instincts, against religion and hypocrisy." In his eyes they were just fools that were being caught up the things people told them and not for what was real. Many times Morris was just trying to use them but interestingly did not let his son become part of what he did not agree with. Even though Morris is depicted as a bad person, he seems to be above the whole religion thing which makes him be more level headed and logical when it comes to this aspect. Unfortunately many religions are only trying to take away people's money and say whatever the people want to hear so they can keep on coming. And the sad thing is that the bible shows us that there is a specific way of worshiping God and it is not what most religions are doing.
Another aspect that struck my interest was the way that Woody devoted most of his time to serving others but in the end he was not happy with his life.
     "Woody did her shopping on Fridays, filled her freezer. Also, Friday night he always spent with Helen.     Saturday he did his big weekly shopping. Saturday night he devoted to Mom and his sisters. So he was too busy to attend to his own feelings except, intermittently, to note to himself, “First Thursday in the grave.” “First Friday, and fine weather.” “First Saturday; he’s got to be getting used to it.” Under his breath he occasionally said, “Oh, Pop.”
It is sad that he did not enjoy his life because of helping other people. So it raises the question of how much we should help others and why we should do it. Maybe it was because the people he was helping did not care much for him. But Woody cared a lot for his father, I feel like if he knew that he really did care for him just did not express it in the conventional way. He knew that Woody did not like seminar school so devised a way to get him out and even though he left it was with the intention (probably) to not let his children go hungry.