Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Know the Amplitude of Time

Walt Whitman was an interesting character. He is considered to be the Father of American poetry and I can see why. His poetry has been unlike anything we have read in class yet.

While Thoreau and Emerson's work and thoughts seemed quite contemporary for their time, Whitman's seems even more revolutionary. If I was given his poetry without a name attached, I would not expect it was written in the 1800's. In one instance, his poetry is filled with sexual innuendo, something that seemed very uncommon during his time period.

While some of his poetry seemed quite wordy and a bit hard to get through, I still appreciate Whitman's skill. He has a great way of using words and his poetry definitely has a romantic tendency to it.

There were definitely areas where I was a little put off by Whitman's poetry. But I can't help appreciating Whitman for the impact he had on American poetry.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Burst Agonized and Clear

Emily Dickinson has been, rightfully, given the title as a leader in American Poetry. She writes with a very eloquent hand, leaving the reader with nothing but admiration on finishing a poem. I appreciate how deep her poetry is. It's even more amazing how short her poetry can be but still be loaded with meaning.

I typically am not one who enjoys dissecting poetry. Most often I like think poetry is like music, it's meant to be spoken. And, like music, while there still some meaning to it, it's often only after the 3rd or 4th time of hearing it the meaning clicks. But with Dickinson, I can't wait to dig in and find what she is trying to say. I enjoy how some of it is blatantly obvious, but many times it's often symbolic too.

Her poem titled 67 seems to represent a story of struggle and triumph, even if that triumph results in death. I particularly like the line that says,

"As he defeated - dying -
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!"

To me, this poem seems to suggest the struggles of a war. In the first stanza she discusses how success is greatest for those who never have it. "To comprehend a nectar/Requires sorest need." She seems to be comparing the desire to succeed to that of food. It reminds me of when a person who is hungry eats compared to one who is not hungry but eats anyway. The one who is starving is much more likely to enjoy the food than the one who is full.

The second stanza talks about the "purple Host," flags, and victory. All of these images seem to remind me of a battle scene. And, of course, the last stanza (as written above) makes me think of a soldier who has fallen but is still able to witness cheers of triumph as he sees his country succeed.

I'm sure there are many different interpretations to this poem. But i think that's the real beauty about poetry. It's like art - open to the interpretation of the reader.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Story of Wall Street

Bartleby - Really, what kind of name is that? Either way, I really kinda love it!

Before this selection, I had never read anything by Melville. I really, really enjoyed this selection, however. I was a little frustrated with the fact that we never really learn who Bartleby is, outside of working in the Dead Letters office, but the more I thought about it the more I began to appreciate that.

Though the title of the story is "Bartleby" I believe it is more of a story about the narrator. Bartleby comes to work for him and is, at first, a great worker. But as time progresses, he "prefers" not to do his work anymore and ends up being an extra load in the office. It seems like Bartleby's personality reflects the narrator.

It almost seems as though the narrator sees things in Bartleby that portrays elements of his own personality. The reflection of the narrator's personality in Bartleby only seems to add to the Narrators kindness. The narrator willingly takes care of Bartleby because they both are alone. Really, I feel like this is a story of loneliness, just as much as it seems to be a story about the Industrial Revolution. Or, maybe it is a story about the loneliness that comes from the Industrial Revolution.

It is sad to hear that Melville didn't feel like he could write as much philosophically because of its lack of success. He seems like the kind of grandfatherly figure you could sit with all afternoon listening to stories about great adventures in times gone past, while still having great wisdom and a sort of philosophical air about him.

Someday, I swear, I will conquer Moby Dick.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

An Idealization of It All

Overall, I though Uncle Tom's Cabin was fabulous. I thought Stowe did a great job of displaying the hardships of slavery and the view point of an African American, while still portraying white American's with some sympathy also.

The one part that really bothered me, however, was the over idealized ending. What are the chances that all these separated families would just happen to meet on the same train? The realistic qualities tend to fall short at this point in the novel. It is almost as if she throws it in just to redeem the negative aspects throughout the whole book.

I think my favorite part of the novel was Tom's astounding faith. This is man who has absolutely no reason to have such an everlasting faith in God, and yet he continues to love Him with his whole heart. Of course, there are moments in which his faith falters a bit, yet he is always returns. I know I could definitely learn from Tom. His experience reminds me that it is in the times of that we are in our lowest that we are closest to God. This can definitely be displayed through Tom's life.

I can definitely see why Uncle Tom's Cabin would have had an impact at the time of its publication and I can most definitely see why it is a classic novel. Hats off to you, Ms. Stowe.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

To Go Peaceably Out Of It

Uncle Tom's Cabin is a classic American novel that describes life as a slave. I have had teaches make references to the novels in a vast majority of my classes, however I have never actually had the chance to read the novel.

One section that particularly stuck out to me was on page 15. It says:

"O, I understand the matter well enough. I saw your winking and whispering, the day I took him out of the factory; but you don't come it over me that way. It's a free country, sir, the man's mine, and I do what I please with him, -that's it!"

I find it incredibly ironic that a slave owner would give a speech about America being a free country. A man who cruelly beats his slaves, refers by the degrading name of "nigger," and abuses black men for being intelligent.

There have been several times throughout the novel that I felt moved. Stowe did a fabulous job of taking me out of my little bubble and placing me into a foreign life, a life I could never relate to.

In one class period we discussed the sentimentalism behind Stowe's writing. Some have said they found it a bit unnecessary but I would have to disagree. Her audience was primarily focused at white slave owners. The sentimentality is needed to take that audience and place them into the life of the people they call "slaves." It provides an intense emotional bond between the reader and the characters.

There have been many times while reading the book that I wish I could temporarily travel back, before the Civil Rights Movement and contemporary society to see life from the viewpoint of the readers when the novel was first published. In today's society we have been so exposed to slavery and its evil that I feel we are numb. I think the novel would have been even more compelling that it is had I not already read authors such as Martin Luther King Jr.

As a final thought, I'm going to leave a few of my favorite quotes from the first half of the book:

"The woman did not sob nor weep. She had gone to a place where tears are dry; but ever one around her was in some way characteristic of themselves, showing signs of hearty sympathy."

"The quiet tone in which the woman pronounced these words might have led to a superficial observer to think that she was entirely apathetic; but there was calm, settled depth of anguish in her large, dark eyes, that spoke of something far otherwise."

"And the little woman looked so handsome, with the tears sparkling in her eyes, that the senator thought he must be a decidedly clever fellow, to get such a pretty creature into such a passionate admiration of him;"

"Mr. Wilson's mind was one of those that may not unaptly be represented by a bale of cotton - downy, soft, benevolently fuzzy and confused."

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Whenever I pick up the The Scarlet Letter I can't help but notice the major theme of hypocrisy. It is everywhere - all these people passing judgement on Hester for her sin, when they have committed the same sin, or even worse! They are incredibly misled.

I find it interesting that the Puritan society was considered to be so religious and pious, yet they don't practice one of the biggest messages of the Bible - forgiveness. Rather than forgiving Hester of her sin, accepting her as a flawed human being (as we all are), and showing her the love of Jesus, the shun her, push her away for society, and use her as an example of what happens to those who sin. Sick!

I can't help but wonder how Hester felt towards Dimmsdale during all of this time. She holds a dark secret above him and could easily tear his world apart. Yet, she loves him and because of that, she keeps his secret. But 7 years is a long time, and I think if I were Hester, I'd lose that feeling of love and it would quickly turn to anger and frustration. Why should Hester have to go through it alone, when he is just as responsible? And yet society loves him, considers him a wonderful and pious man, and use him as an example of how life should be lived.

Obviously, Dimmsdale suffers his part, though, which I think would relieve some of the anger and frustration. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Hester for coming out as the better, stronger person.

The Very Dance of Her Spirits

Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter seems to be packed full of messages and themes, most of them dealing with moral and ethical dilemmas and the acceptance of sin. It is like he is tossing the Puritan image out the window and encouraging, not necessarily sin, but the basic fact that all people sin and that sin is inevitable. Hawthorne sends the image that we all need to realize (more specifically religious/Puritan individuals) the idea that people are not as pious or perfect as you may initially think they are. Sin is inevitable.

For example, Hester's sin was discovered and she had to openly display her adultery for all to see. Dimmsdale, on the other hand, never admitted his sin to the people and was tortured by his guilt and the misleading image he presented. Because of this, HEster seems to come out as the stronger person. People see the scarlet letter and assume she is a terrible person, but she does everything to contradict their judgements. Meanwhile, Dimmsdale always has to carry around the weight of a lie.

I think in the same way, Hawthorne means we should all attempt to be more like Hester, by accepting our sin and using it to make us stronger or changing our flaws to the best of or abilities.