Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Post #9: Final Thoughts

Question: Your favorite work this semester (and why).

Personally, I would have to say that my favorite works were the short stories of Jack London, especially "The Mexican." When I was a child and had heard the name Jack London, I would immediately think of his novel White Fang, which everyone had seemed to be reading at the time. However, I admit that I came up with all sorts of stereotypes of him and his work. I had made the mistake of assuming that all his works were hard core nature horror stories, that would be the only explanation why all the boys in my class raved about it, right. But after finally reading some of his work, I came to the realization that Jack London was not just about nature. He enjoyed the naturalness of the outside world, of other lands. And in doing so, he wanted his readers to see that there was more to the people. Many of his characters in his short stories come across racism and other racial barriers. Yet even the most stoic of men, for example Felipe Riviera, have a way of defeating this barrier. And that is how my attitude of Jack London was transformed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Post #8: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Having never read anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I didn't know what to expect. And even after reading "Diamond as Big as the Ritz," I was still somewhat at a loss. I certainly did not foresee what was going to happen. Not only was I doubtful of Percy, but of Unger as well. He was surrounded by so much wealth and impossibility, yet he did not have a reaction for any of it. It did not seem believable. Then things took a turn. When he had drank the port and become so out of it that he did not even sense the servant bathing him, I had began to question if he was poisoned, as well as Percy's motives. I found it to be an odd story and was not sure of Fitzgerald's style. That being said, I'm intrigued to look into more of his work.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Post #7: Edith Wharton and Men

In certain aspects I had found Edith Wharton's Summer to be surprising, while at the same time not so much. I had found it daring of Wharton to choose to write about such a scandalous topic as marriage out of wedlock. Yet at the same time it was profound in the ways that she had shown Charity's mental and emotional transitions. Not only had she later found salvation, but her views on life had changed. When she was first with Harney, Charity had a very romantic view on life. However her pregnancy and the choices she made had changed that.

Another aspect that I had found interesting was the theme of indecisive men throughout Wharton's stories. In Summer, we find that Harney is actually engaged while he is seeing Charity. Subconsciously Harney's intentions were to never marry Charity. But throughout the novel, especially in her eyes, he had made it appear that he was thinking about it, yet he would constantly change his mind. Wharton's character Waythorn, from "The Other Two," is also an indecisive man. At first he is completely against the idea of meeting or interacting with his wife's ex-husbands. But when he does meet them he cannot decide if she was wronged in her marriage, or if they were actually fine men.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Post #6: Edith Wharton and Women

In my reading of Edith Wharton's "The Other Two," I found myself laughing at the character of Waythorn. Personally, I had found it interesting that he stated that he"discounted" Alice's previous husbands (831). But then I also remembered the setting of the story, the unfamiliarity and discomfort with divorce. And reading further, finding that Waythorn was a Wall Street man, it only seemed acceptable that he explained and saw his wife's situation in the terms of a business. It was almost expected that he would not be involved with her ex-husbands and their circles.

I had also found the character of Alice to be rather interesting. At the beginning, in Waythorn almost seems to put her on a pedastool. "Her composure was restful to him; it acted as ballast to his somewhat unstable sensibilities ... her very step would prognosticate recovery" (831). Here Waythorn acknowledges the great composure which Alice holds. Yet one can see later in the story that she does this only when Waythorn is present, almost in an act to control the setting in which her husband sees her. I try not to go against my own sex, but when reading about Alice, I could immediately sense that there was something off about her. Waythorn had simply assumed that both of her divorces were enacted due to the acts of her husbands. I was happy to see that his opinion had also later changed. "Shamefacedly, in direct ways, he had been finding out about Haskett; and all that he had learned was favorable ... His next days were thus haunted, and he determined to try to lay the ghosts by conjuring them up in his wife's presence" (839). Waythorn begins to realize that his mere assumptions may not have been correct. In doing so, he decided to give Haskett the benefit of the doubt, finding it acceptable that he had done whatever possible to be near his daughter, and insisting that Waythorn help in persuading Alice on manners concerning the child. It was as if she had done whatever possible to ensure that she was in the right, that her current husband hold her in that regard.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Post #5: Jack London and Naturalism

This having been my first read of anything Jack London, I was quite surprised that I enjoyed the short stories. Similar to many, I had assumed that his stories would read like journal entries from a lost hiker, counting the days of survival. However, I found his connections to the environment, nature as a whole, and social order, to be quite enthralling.

"Law of Life," London's first published story, seemed quite original. In the story London describes the character's tribe as purely naturalistic, they have a process in which their elderly will die, and it is according to the cycle of life. The story is told from the old man's perspective. But what I found most interesting was not his need to survive, but rather his acceptance of the cycle itself. This is also an example of the racial/cultural expression of the tribe, detailing one of their oldest and most honored traditions. However, when hearing that this was in fact London's first published story, I was initially confused. I had simply assumed that the story "Mauki" was the first to be published. That story describes a Caribbean native and his constant struggle to escape from slavery. In my eyes it had seemed to be the first because of the number of repetitions and shifts, as well as the overall choppiness. However, what one must remember is that this may also just be a portrayal of the main character, and his constant struggling tug of war between escaping and being thrown back into the slave world.

Post #4: Charles Chesnutt and Plantation Tradition

Plantation tradition had stemmed from local color and regionalism. However, it's meaning is not understood from the name alone. The myth that most people think of as true plantation tradition, is an idealized, well-ordered agrarian world, where all people held the same values. But true plantation tradition looks back at the times before the civil war, when slavery and issues of race were in reality a traditional societal norm. One such author who writes upon plantation tradition is Charles Chesnutt.

One aspect that Chesnutt had always made sure to express, was the notion of a connection between the slaves and the land which they worked on. "As he became more and more absorbed in the narrative, his eyes assumed a dreamy expression, and he seemed to lose sight of his auditors, and to be living over and over again in monologue his life on the old plantation" (pg 691). Here, in the story "Goofered Grapevine," Chesnutt describes a scene in which most in the nineteenth century were familiar with. He shows the slaves nostalgically looking back at their time on the plantation, working in the fields to songs, the traditional view of slavery. The character of Henry is another great example in which Chesnutt draws a connection between slave and land. Henry was the land, and when he died, when his life was destroyed, as was the plantation.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Post #3: Mary E. Wilkins Freeman: Women Through a Different Scope

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's story, "The Revolt of 'Mother,'" is the epitome of local color and regionalism. Regionalism being stories that focus on the characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other features particular to a specific region. Such stories had come about after the Civil War, ensuring that the American people still had a sense of identity, a culture that they could identify with. Freeman's work is a great example because one can clearly see traits central to the region and its limits. In local color and regionalism stories, the area that which the story takes place in acts as a character itself. It is essential to the story as a whole.

In accordance with "The Revolt of 'Mother,'" one is easily able to see the character of the West being played into the story. "The spring air, full of the smell of growing grass and unseen blossoms, came in their faces. The deep yard in front was littered with farm wagons and piles of wood; on the edges, close to the fence and the house, the grass was a vivid green, and there were some dandelions" (635). Through this characterization, one is able to see that the tale is set in a heavily farmed area, that farming is a daily affair for this family. That in itself is an imperative attribute of the West.

While regionalism and local color were easily spotted characteristics in Freeman's writing, the changing characteristics of the Western women were just as central. This can be seen in Freeman's story "A New England Nun." In a time when marriage, and the status and power gained through marriage was on every woman's mind, the character of Louisa was just a whole new kettle of fish. When reading it is easy to label Louisa with being OCD. "The little square table stood exactly in the centre of the kitchen, and was covered with a starched linen cloth whose border pattern of flowers glistened [...] Louisa took off her green gingham apron, disclosing a shorter one of pink and white print" (627). Not only does Louisa ensure that her home be in pristine order, she even goes as far as to include herself in the equation, layering her aprons for different occasions, while still in the setting of her own home! At the end of the story and the ordeal, Louisa decides to end her engagement to Joe Dagget. Some may blame her precise ways for her behavior, claiming that she was too high maintenance, that Joe was the one who was saved. However, what one must remember is that she had been separated from Joe for the last 14 years. Before that she had lost her mother and her brother. One must realize then that Louisa is merely holding onto the power and safety she has in being alone, a rarity in Freeman's time.