Apr 27 2015

Shirley Jackson on Her Own Story

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I read an article written by Shirley Jackson about “The Lottery”… written by Shirley Jackson.

When I first skimmed through the article, it looked like Jackson would be explaining the themes and meaning behind her story, and that’s why I chose this article. With a story as striking as “The Lottery,” I always enjoy knowing what led the author to think up such a story. Unfortunately, Jackson does not really go into that in this article, but I found it very interesting nonetheless.

She begins by explaining that she thought up “The Lottery” while on a walk, and went home to write it and send it to her agent in one afternoon. The agent didn’t like it, but as her job was not to like the story but to sell the story, she sent it to The New Yorker. The fiction editor of The New Yorker didn’t like it either, but he expected in to be popular with readers, so he bought and published it.

And that’s when all you-know-what broke loose.

Jackson received phone calls from The New Yorker who commented on the fuss that her story had created, her friends who had overheard angry conversations about the story on subways, and her parents who scolded the “gloomy” theme. (As a writer, I can sympathize with at least the part. Parents always worry after reading anything depressing or violent from their children.)

Letter after letter poured in to The New Yorker and were forwarded to Jackson. These letters vehemently tore into her, and she remarks that she felt “very lucky indeed to be safely in Vermont, where no one in our small town had ever… read my story.”

There were three main ideas in the letters she received: bewilderment, speculation, and abuse. The most shocking ones, however, were the ones that asked Jackson where the lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch.


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Apr 10 2015

Wilson in “The Short Happy Life”

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This week, my article was on “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and was written by Trudy Ring. She asserts that the entire interpretation of the the story rests upon your interpretation of Wilson. Basically, Wilson is either a strong, masculine character who upholds Hemingway’s code and is the voice of morals in the story, or he is an emotionless man with faulty standards. According to Ring, how you interpret the entire story is based on your opinion of Wilson.

Some critics say that Wilson is the voice of morals in the story and perfectly exemplifies Hemingway’s code, and that he may be a representation of Hemingway himself. Both men enjoy big game hunting and believe in a code in which men are courageous, never back down from a challenge, and don’t allow themselves to be dominated by women. The critics who believe this theory–that Wilson is a hero in the story–view Macomber’s change after shooting the buffalo as a good thing, as he becomes a “real man.” This makes Margot the antagonist; she begins to feel threatened by her husband’s masculinity and intentionally kills him.

The opposing view is that Wilson is a slimy man with shoddy morals. He has an unfair advantage by pursuing his prey in a car rather than on foot, he punishes his African assistants by illegally whipping them, and he sees nothing wrong with sleeping around with married women. In this scenario, Macomber still changes for the better, but only because he sees the courage in Wilson that he wants to emulate, but is able to avoid developing Wilson’s negative traits. Trying to become a better man, Macomber will attempt to reconcile his relationship with his wife (which is what the hunting trip was about in the first place, if I am remembering correctly), and therefore Margot would not feel threatened or feel the need to murder him.

My interpretation of Wilson includes a little bit of both arguments. Yes, he could represent Hemingway, but he could also be a home-wrecker who is devoid of morals (which could just support the idea that he is like Hemingway.) I do not believe, however, that interpreting Wilson’s character provides you with Margot’s intentions when she shot the gun. I think that, instead of analyzing Wilson, it would have been more beneficial for the author of this article to study the character of Margot.

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Apr 09 2015

Homosexual Utopia in Of Mice and Men

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The article I found this week was The Dream of a Male Utopia by Leland S. Person Jr. (You know the article is going to sound pretentious if it was written by someone with a four-part name) This one had interesting ideas, to the point where I just about buy it. It talks about the idea of Lennie and George’s dream-ranch being a kind of “homeosexual utopia”, with homosexuality here describing a close bond between males and NOT, DEFINITELY NOT something sexual. This utopia allows men to work together with a communal goal and a lack a sexual desire that allows them to maintain maximumly effective working relationships. The alternative to this is the ranch, where all of the men are expected to clamp down on their heterosexual desires and concentrate solely on their work, with their only opportunites for sexual enjoyment coming from commercialized cathouses and the like. This is shown to be a very fragile way of doing things by Curley’s wife, whose presense throws the men into disarray and competition over her.
These two ways of doing things are represented by Slim and Lennie, with Slim being the heterosexual “ranch” way and Lennie being the homosexual “dream” way. When George kills Lennie, he essentially blows away his chances of having a truly special homosexual utopia and settles for the usual with Slim and the rest of the workers.
Ultimately, I thought this article had interesting things to say, particularly in regards to the mechanics behind the two ways of doing things, although I think a lot of my appreciation for this article came from the fact that it actually wasn’t trying to convince readers that Lennie and George were gay for each other.

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Mar 22 2015

What is Dickinson’s Fly?

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I read an article in Poetry for Students by Jhan Hochman about Emily Dickinson’s I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died. Though the article offers many interesting tidbits, it has no specific thesis. The most coherent argument I could find was the claim that the fly was actually the anti-Christ, or someone similar. The word “onset” in the second stanza has several meanings, but it could mean the Advent, Christ’s return, which would suggest religious undertones.

As the speaker is dying, she is hoping to meet King Jesus and his angels, but the only winged creature she sees is the ordinary flu. It could be Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies, a fallen angel and one of Satan’s officers. He even points out that flies are known to lay their eggs in dead people and that’s just gross.

The article then argues that perhaps we are all just misunderstanding flies. After all, are they not one of God’s beautiful, winged creatures?

The author concludes by saying that we just cannot know the origin or nature of the fly, and that, in fact, the poem itself is about not knowing. How can the speaker know anything about death if she is so confused by the simple fly?

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Mar 19 2015

An Article I Actually Agree With.

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Reconsidering Race, Language, and Identity in The Emperor Jones, by Michele Mendelssohn

I not only managed to find one of the few articles out there about Emperor Jones, but it also happened to be the first article I found that I agree with. So the focus of this article was on Jones’ mental state and how it’s connected to race. It is proposed that Jones has a two-tiered mentality, with one part being his natural African mind replete with his racial memory, and the other being his fabricated Caucasian mind where he tries to act as “white” as he can in a “fake it ’til you make it” way of thinking. Therefore, the basis of Jones’ turn towards the insane is the constant conflict between these two ways of thinking. The author sites many different examples to prove each way of thinking’s existence in Jones, some examples for his white mind including his choice of attire, being Baptist, having his strength come from intellectual achievement rather than the stereotype of mostly physical ability in blacks and constantly ranting about his intelligence to Smithers to prove he isn’t like the rest, and some examples for his black mind being how he calls himself the n-word when alone, romanization of how he’d well off he’ll be when back in America, and his negative opinions of white society. Overall, I thought the author did a great job of supporting her ideas and I didn’t find anything that I actually disagreed with in the entire article. Two thumbs up, Michele.

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Mar 13 2015

Two at the same time (sorta)

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I researched an article: The Oral and the Written: Kurtz and Gatsby Revisited

JSTOR quit on me in the middle of reading the article, so I never actually got to the good part, and I forgot to write down the author’s name. This is a best-with-what-I’ve-got moment.

Anyways, as part of last year’s research project, I kept stumbling on articles comparing Heart of Darkness and The Great Gatsby. So I looked into it.


Fortunately, I got through the (very long winded) introduction before JSTOR farted.

The author’s opening was an summary of his favorite comparisons between the two works (written by two different men, both named Robert), which focused on thematic structural and some stylistic similarities.
Robert Stallman looked primarily at thematic parallels: both works view the world as a spoil at the mercy of Gatsby (the gangster) and Kurtz (the imperialist). In both cases though, these men are admired by their chroniclers (Nick Caraway and Marlow).

The Second Robert was Robert E. Long, and he concentrated on structural & stylistic considerations. I’ll just list them:

Each has two common themes: 1) the drama of a spiritually alienated hero. 2) the gradual exposure of a society with which his life places him in opposition.

Each narrator has unwary honesty and a sense of personal loyalty, despite having ambiguous relationships to the subjects of their narratives.

Lastly, each novel contains a literary coda where a person dear to the late protagonist appears: Kurtz’s intended wife, and Gatsby’s father. In both cases, this person extolls the subject as a great man, to which the narrator agrees reluctantly.


Finally, the author of the article begins to get into his own argument a little. Before he started his comparison, he wanted to bring up the only definitive difference between the two narratives: The Great Gatsby is delivered in written form, while the narrative in Heart of Darkness is supposed to be oral.

Then the author said that this really didn’t make any difference.

Then he praised the Great Gatsby as an underrated literary achievement.

Then, he wrote that the two are not simply similar or different, there is a kind of reciprocity that exists between the two.

And that was as far as I got. I got up, went to the bathroom, and when I came back, JSTOR decided that it was the weekend and that it wasn’t going to do any more work, which really stinks since I was genuinely interested in what this article never quite said.

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Feb 24 2015

On “In a Station of the Metro”

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Who would have thought that there could be entire articles written about a fourteen-word poem? Well, there are!

This article, written by Ralph Bevilaqua, focuses primarily on the connotation of the word “apparition.” Many critics assert that the word “apparition” turns Pound’s work from a random sentence fragment into a poem. Apparition has many connotations, including ghosts, the supernatural, immaterial, and unexpected occurrences; discussions revolve around which meaning Pound intended.

“In a Station of the Metro” was written in France about a French metro station. Pound spoke multiple languages, including French, so he would surely have known the nuances of language, especially because apparition is a word in French. It means “the way something appears to a viewer at the precise moment at which it is perceived.” This meaning is shockingly similar to what actually takes place in the poem.

Pound has written about the experience that led to “In a Station of the Metro.” He recalls suddenly seeing beautiful faces appear and disappear in the station and feeling unable to conjure the words to express the surge of emotion he felt. (On a side note, it took him a year to write this. I can’t tell if that is madness or brilliance. It’s remarkable how often those two traits coincide. I’m leaning on the side of madness; to take a year to write fourteen words seems like overkill.)

I digress. It seems as if Pound had the French definition of apparition in mind when he wrote this poem, and he uses his words very aptly.

This article really had no thesis or point to prove, but it provided some pretty cool information.

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Feb 20 2015

Today’s Class Within an Article

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Since I enjoyed anyone lived in a pretty how town so much (it’s just so good!! And also, is lowercase lettering a characteristic of e.e. cummings’ poetry? Does he capitalize anything, ever, including his own name? The only word that I saw capitalized in anyone lived in a pretty how town was “Woman.” For some reason, I think that lowercase lettering fits his writing style, though.) I decided to look up an article on it. I assume that someone wrote it, but an author’s name is not given and the article is titled “anyone lived in a pretty how town: Edward Estlin Cummings – Summary and Critical Analysis.” I actually enjoyed this article, I don’t know whether it was because I enjoyed the subject matter or the fact that I finally found an article that was worth posting about.

Anyway, this article pretty much discussed everything that we came up with as a class today regarding a.l.i.a.p.h.t. (“sowing” the seeds of negativity, love story, possible death of “no one” following the death of “anyone,” “any was all to her” significance, etc.). However though, the author mentioned that the children within the poem were the children of “anyone” and “no one,” which I thought was interesting. If the children in the poem were the offspring of “anyone” and “no one,” it would make the poem even more storybook-like. The author suggests that at a young age early on in the poem, the children question the existence of “anyone” in town, who is implied as their father, but forget about this thought as they grow older, or at least don’t acknowledge it as much. The author’s point of this applies to the universality of this poem because in news stories I’ve seen or in nonfiction books I’ve read on children who grow up with an absent parent push the emptiness they are experiencing as a result of this into the confines of their mind, until one day, they start to wonder about where this parent has been for the entirety of their life. In the poem, the children seemingly forget about the absence of “anyone,” the apparent father figure in their lives, when they could very well have pronounced thoughts involving him. We just never know. I thought this was intriguing.

The title always baffled me, too, and the author did a pretty thorough job of defining it; “Most people are anyone and no one, of no particular significance except to one another on an individual basis. The “how” suggests that the townspeople ask how and why about things from an incapacity for simultaneity and the intuitive grasp ‘anyone’ and ‘no one’ live and die in a landscape of changing seasons, without love or interest in life.” The first sentence mentioned here applies to mankind as a selfish species. Think about it. We get sad when somebody dies because they are no longer there for us, personally. A very individualistic way of living. The portion of this defining the “how” in the title goes back to the love story aspect of this poem. When in love, it feels as though “anyone” and “no one” unite, they (stereotypically) complete one another. When in love, everything between the two of them seems whimsical and extraordinary, everything outside of their love is bland, flavorless, supposedly placid. cummings beautifully captures this idea.

I love this poem so much.



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Feb 17 2015

The Imitation Game in Hamlet

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The Article that I read is called “His Semablable in his mirror”: Hamlet and the Imitation of Revenge, By David Scott Kastan

The article was about how the act of revenge was an act of imitation for Hamlet

It opened by bringing up an interesting point about the connection between Hamlet and his father, Hamlet. They have the same name. This is important because Young-Hamlet cannot escape the connection with his father.

The problem is this, his father orders him to take revenge, but this order subordinates Hamlet to his father. However, the ghost does not speak their shared name until it is confident of their shared purpose. Old-Hamlet speaks as though to deserve the name “Hamlet” is to be a revenger.

This creates issues because, although they have the same name, Young-Hamlet isn’t the same person as his father, and as his procrastination shows, he isn’t an effective revenger.

The problem of revenge is that is imitates the original crime, only intensifying hatred and violence. By avenging  wrong with a wrong, Hamlet can create no original action of his own. Hamlet’s delay in this sense is just his resistance to accept his imitative nature to his father and his uncle.

Hamlet can only move foreword when he persuades himself that revenge is a mode of restoration rather than reprisal. But…he always reminds himself of the inescapable relatedness of victim, villain, and avenger.

One thing that hamlet tends to do, is bring up examples from literature of people that have the same problems as he. He talks about Pyrrhus, a son who readily avenges his father’s death. This does the opposite of motivate him, however, the story only confirms the resemblances he needs to deny.

Through this allusion, he betrays his own awareness that revenge is inhuman and pointless, that revenge accomplishes nothing but a concatenation of hatred and death.

When Hamlet Brings up Pyrrhus, he mistakenly describes him as a “Hyrcanian Beast,” this expresses Hamlet’s situation that he feels that taking revenge would make him a beast.The identification with his father stresses that NOT to commit revenge is also to be a beast, creating the contradiction that prevents Hamlet from acting.

In the end, he kills Claudius, not to avenge his father’s death, but his own. Hamlet dies, after killing Claudius, without mentioning his father, whom he swore to remember. Killing Claudius was more of a reflex than a scheme of revenge.

Even so, Hamlet still cannot escape the association with his father. Sharing the same name, they also share the same fate: poisoned by Claudius.


Then the author finishes up by saying that Shakespeare created with Hamlet a play that resists the typical revenge tragedy, thus allowing for imaginative space. He basically says that Hamlet is a Shakespeare play that ISN’T cliche. Funny.

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Feb 15 2015

Scarier than scary? No, I do not believe so.

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My critical essay was one on the scariness of “The Turn of the Screw”. The author, Brad Leithauser, suggests that the novella is both claustrophobic and open. That there are many ways to decide what is true, yet the more one delves deeper into the story, its occurrences seem muddled and cumbersome. This, Leithauser believes, allowed James to create an even more intense “scary story”. I do not buy it. I’m not sure if it’s because I was not particularly frightened by “The Turn of the Screw”, perhaps. For the most part, I think that the author’s argument was sound because he referenced past critics such as Edmund Wilson, but as for it being the ultimate scary story… it doesn’t seem plausible.

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