Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Bright Star"

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death. 

John Keats

In English class last year, we read John Keat's poem "Bright Star". I always have that one poem that will stand out to me for so long after I read it, and this one is it. Stumbling upon it again, I loved it even more than the first time and am about to watch the movie, Bright Star, about the life and romance of John Keats, himself. So, it's time to hack a friends Netflix and watch!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

James Joyce's "The Boarding House" and Irish Culture

James Joyce once famously remarked that "the modern writer must be an adventurer above all". "The Boarding House" in Joyce's collection of short stories, Dubliners, takes place in the center of Irish culture at the turn of the century.

Mrs. Mooney runs a boarding house for mostly men who come to stay while working. Polly is her nineteen year old daughter who attracts all these men by flirting and singing to them by the piano. As a manipulative and strong figure, Mrs. Mooney has no qualms about asserting herself, made clear after she leaves her dangerous and alcoholic husband. As a very controlling woman, it is somewhat surprising that Mrs. Mooney allows her daughter to be so flirtatious with all these men. It is odd that she seems to be putting her daughter in the same situation she had to escape herself, believing that a woman must marry.

Mr. Doran is an older, Catholic wine merchant who becomes romantically involved with Polly. After Polly confides in Mr. Doran and her mother that she is pregnant, Mrs. Mooney insists that the two marry, and even speaks with Mr. Doran, himself, to assure that he keeps her honor. Mr. Doran then goes through extreme conflict with himself. He recognizes that the right thing to do is to stay with Polly and marry her. However, he also seriously contemplates running away, knowing that Polly is part of a lower social class and a baby means serious commitment. Here comes the subsequent theme to maintaining honor, the weight of consequence.

Mrs. Mooney eventually convinces Mr. Doran to stay and marry Polly. As a story completely run by the two females, mother and daughter, Mr. Doran is completely at the mercy of the two. Polly sits waiting upstairs and has the typical epiphany Joyce writes into many of his stories, such as "Araby," where Polly realizes what she has been waiting for, the  husband that Mr. Doran proves to be. This ending leads to the question of Joyce's attitude to Irish culture.

In my opinion, I do not think that Joyce supported this notion that Mr. Doran had to marry Polly to maintain her honor. I believe he saw Irish culture as hypocritical and wrong, how Polly can seduce this man and force him to retire his entire life to succumb to her will. Also, I feel that Joyce questions how Mrs. Mooney can leave her husband after being the victim to terrible abuse, yet still push Polly into a marriage. I see Joyce on the side of Mr. Doran, supporting the man in the situation of the two controlling women. James Joyce surely does write dangerously in "The Boarding House," making a strong statement on not only a controversial issue of pregnancy out of wedlock, but also by posing the question of the values in the Irish society.

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Fahrenheit 451" and Why it Works

John and Hank Green announced their book club selection of Fahrenheit 451 this past July with the purpose of getting people to read not only more, but read quality material. This selection came about after the death of author Ray Bradbury, and the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey has sold more copies in three months than Ray Bradbury has sold of all of his books in his lifetime.

When this novel was announced as the book John and Hank would be talking about, I was thrilled and stopped everything to read it. These videos about the novel have helped develop my understanding of the novel, but what I wonder the most, does this plot really work, and if so, why?

Fahrenheit 451 is a story of what happens when books become outlawed, and men are not firefighters, but rather firemen, in that they set fires to books to destroy the "weapons" that books are. Guy Montag is one of these firemen, and begins to struggle with the reality of the treasures that books hold and the consequences of what he's doing. Although this is an epic tale, is this dystopian novel believable, and if so, what makes it work?

In my opinion, Farenheit 451 does have a working plot, in that  the characters are believable, and we can see what happens to the characters happening to our own society, because it already has. Mildred is Montag's wife, and she becomes so engrossed in the world of the "family" the parlor walls contain, she forgets reality entirely. These characters provide a false sense of closeness that is easy and more simple than what life truly proves to be.

We see this in our own world everyday. How long can we go without our iPhones, our laptops, or our television? We become so easily pulled in by technology, it even causes fatal accidents that can be seen in crashes caused by texting and driving, where we are more captivated by our phones than our lives on the line.

Fahrenheit 451, ultimately, has an unrealistic plot, but it works because it has such relatable characters and situations that make it work. When you can give readers a story that they can clearly envision and put their minds into as something they've known themselves, it provides a reading experience that can set out to touch the lives of their audience to make an impression on contemporary society and the minds of the readers.

Senseless Violence in "The Secret Agent" and Why it Matters to Us

Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent is a story of espionage, deceit, and Conrad's truth about society. The story takes a primary focus on Mr. Verloc, the secret agent, and the narrator spends very much of the novel focusing on his character and agenda. Winnie, his wife, as well as his brother-in-law, Stevie, lie in the background, so much so that in normal circumstances, Verloc will be chatting with his friends while Stevie and Winnie take to a separate room.

The relationship between Stevie and Winnie is very complex and important, as readers will discover as they reach the final chapters of the book. Stevie becomes such a likable character to all of us, and we feel a deeper connection with him if not from the beginning, than as the story progresses, than we have ever felt with Verloc. Winnie also becomes a shock to most of us, and we may be appalled at this other side of her personality she reveals when she becomes a person of rage and ferocity and kills her husband, but can't we all imagine being as devastated and furious as Winnie (but take it out in a more legal and socially acceptable way)?  The reason that we as humans can connect so strongly to characters can happen in many ways, including  a strong connection we feel to a character, personally, or we experience an event or happening that we are passionate about, and that is what fuels most of my feelings on The Secret Agent.

I believe that Conrad set out writing The Secret Agent to make a statement on what he thought of society. Stevie is the personification of innocence and purity in the story. He was tricked by Verloc, his most trusted role model, to transport a bomb. Not only was he putting Stevie in the exact danger that killed him, he was involving this immaculate human in his own malicious and nefarious plot. Stevie was a victim of senseless violence.

For Conrad to write a character like Stevie, he is indirectly telling the story of the other virtuous victims who had their lives taken from them by the acts of terrorism. Stevie is written to be the true hero of this story, as the only character to not commit any crime, and to stay pure in the midst of evil.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Tale of Two Kindles

I was the previous owner of a lovely Kindle that I affectionately called Mr. Rochester (I know, I really am getting new material, I promise). I really did love my Kindle. I loved being able to bring it everywhere with me, and be able to read anything. I've had it for about two years now, and I've read so many books with it, it's been a really great experience to own one.

Until I broke it.

It was a tiring Thursday afternoon after school. Rochester sat on my nightstand, and as I always do I went to put my phone beside it. The phone slipped out of my grasp, and landed on the screen. Nothing happened, I thought Rochester was fine. I tried to turn it on, and the screen just had lines running across it. It was that day I became a murderer of literature.

My life flashed before my eyes. I had everything Charles Dickens has ever written on there. I had Pride and Prejudice, The Hunger Games trilogy, everything gone.

I was beside myself. I could not believe I just broke my Kindle of all things. I called Amazon immediately and they agreed to send me a different Kindle for a reduced rate. I bought it, and Mr. Darcy, the new Kindle, came a few days later.

Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester have been getting along, they are very similar characters, you know. Darcy and Rochester share the same arrogant pride which is eventually worn away by their true loves they find. In my opinion, they would have been the best of friends if they were written together in one story.

Unfortunately, Rochester must be sent back to Thornfield, and Darcy must stay here with me, and I will protect this Kindle as if it were Fort Knox. I will miss Rochester very much, but I'm grateful to have another Kindle at the same time.

Oh, and on the bright side I now own a moose named Darnay which is a much less fragile thing apply literature related names and feelings towards.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Motivation and Conflict in Faulkner's "Barn Burning"

Faulkner's "Barn Burning" tells the story of the young Sartoris, who lives under his controlling and angry father, Abner. Abner is portrayed as an overall deceitful and desperate person, doing whatever he can to get by and not caring who he hurts in the process. One of the best characterization examples Faulkner provides us with is that  Abner was a mercenary in the Civil War, not fighting for the Confederates as he should have been, as a Southerner. He stole from both sides, and didn't care about what he was fighting for at all. Ironically, Abner was shot in the war by a Confederate.

The major conflict in "Barn Burning" deals with Abner's rage. He seems to be figure of complete power and force, as we are reading through Sartoris's eyes. He is as uncontrollable as the fire he eventually ignites to DeSpain's barn. Sartoris is caught between right and wrong, knowing the difference between the two, but kept in line with what his Father insists. This creates the conflict Sartoris has against himself, torn between the doing the right thing and keeping in line with his family. Sartoris also goes against his Father, being ruled by an iron fist and forced into submission. I would say that Sartoris  is influenced heavily by his Father, as all young children are, and feels a sense of loyalty through family lines. The greatest role model a child has is the same gender parent. His Father's influence seems  pressing only while Sartoris is surrounded by him, being punished by him, or speaking with him, however, when Sartoris is free from his Father, he breaks into the person who I think he really is, the boy who fantasizes about running away to avoid persecution and evil.

While Sartoris is sitting in the back of the store, surrounded by other people and away from his Father, that is when Sartoris plans to speak on the harm his Father has done. I think Sartoris is young and confused as to whether doing the right thing means telling the truth or sticking with his Father. I think when he plans to speak on what really happened, Sartoris is absolutely justified in going against his Father. Just because Snopes is the caretaker to Sartoris does not mean that Sartoris has to lie on his behalf.

Abner and Sartoris do share one similarity which leads to a common theme: rebelling against what appears evil and rebelling for that sole reason. Abner hates the rich, as he is struggling to get by. That is his main motivation to burn the barn, a symbol of wealth and DeSpain's privileged livelihood. Sartoris, in return, rebels against his Father, by telling DeSpain what his Father has done, which leads to Abner's death. Sartoris seems very upset after this happens, standing up and proclaiming that his father was a good man. However, the story ends with Sartoris walking away, describing his stiff leg, as his father had, but how "walking would cure it". Leaving this toxic situation and family will allows Sartoris to become a man different than his father.