Saturday, October 29, 2011

Howl Allen Ginsberg

This poem in was a fascinating read, to say the least. After reading it twice I still feel like there are a lot of things I’ve missed. I’m having flash backs to “The Wasteland”.  I’m going to try to piece together what I did understand for this blog.
In the first section of this poem Ginsberg is discussing all of the people who he believes were the “best minds of his generation”. These people are far from anything mainstream society would consider “good”. In the second section Ginsberg describes a creature named Moloch, who (according to my computer’s dictionary) was “a Canaanite idol to whom children were fed”. I assume from my reading that Moloch is what has created these people that Ginsberg discusses in the first section. In the third section the speaker of the poem identifies with someone named Carl Solomon. I see this as Ginsberg’s way of identifying with all of the people mentioned in the first section. I did research Carol Solomon, and I found that he and Ginsberg met while they were both being treated in a mental institution in New York.
In many ways this poem reminds me of “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman. Ginsberg paints a picture of various individuals, and then seems to say that he identifies with all of them. And that he shares their experiences, just like he shares the experience of being locked in a mental hospital with Carl Solomon. All of these people make up the world that Ginsberg resides in; therefore they are more real to him than the dysfunctional society that created them. Just like Whitman identified with the runaway slave, Ginsberg relates to the destitute, the drug addicts, and even the pedophiles. Both of these poets also seem to be pointing out the flaws in the system that runs our society. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Harrison Bergeron

            First off I’d just like to say that these 20th century authors are really starting to make me depressed. I’m seriously going to need a Prozac prescription before the semester ends. :D
            In all seriousness, I have enjoyed our readings this week even though they’ve been particularly dark. “Harrison Bergeron” was no exception either. In this work, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., all people in the year 2081 are mandated by constitutional amendments to be completely equal to one another. If someone is different either mentally or physically they are forced to wear devices that “handicap” them and make them normal like everyone else. Then entire story is seen from the perspective of George and Hazel Bergeron. Their very intellectually and physically gifted son, Harrison, has been arrested for plotting to over throw the government. Eventually the “Handicapper General” kills Harrison, and his parents do not even realize what has happened.
            I find this story very interesting because it points out the flaws in this plan for a perfect and equal society. In the government’s attempt to make everyone “the same” they really just accentuate their differences. All of these handicapping devices on people bring attention to the fact that the individuals in the story are more beautiful, stronger, or more intelligent than everyone else. For example, just before one of the ballerinas begins to read the bulletin about Harrison the narrator states “She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous”. This proves that even though the woman is forced to wear an ugly mask, everyone still knows she is beautiful.
            It makes me think of what we are often taught in education about treating everyone the same or as equals. In reality we are not all equal and we are certainly not all the same. Our differences should be celebrated not pushed aside by some politically correct colorblind mentality.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

            The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber was a very good story. I really enjoyed reading it, and I feel like I could write a million things about it! :) It is about a married couple, Francis and Margot Macomber, who on a hunting safari in Africa with their guide, Robert Wilson. In the beginning Francis Macomber has embarrassed himself by running a way from a lion that he was supposed to kill. Francis and his wife have an entirely dysfunctional relationship, and his embarrassment over the lion does not make things any better. After Macomber is able to redeem himself by killing two buffalo he gains back the confidence that it seems he lacked his entire life. Unfortunately, Macomber is shot by his wife shortly after, and does not live to enjoy his newfound sense of self-assurance.
            For some reason this story reminded me of another work I read in my British Literature class called “A Chance for Mr. Lever” by Graham Greene. I think the main characters in these two stories have a lot in common with one another. Both are unsure of themselves, and out on an expedition to find some kind of redemption. In the end of each of these stories, when the men finally think they’ve figured things out, they both meet an untimely demise. Ironically, both of these works were published the same year.  
            I don’t think I could write a good blog about this story without at least mentioning the absurd relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Macomber. It says on page 13 that “Margot was too beautiful for Macomber to divorce her and Macomber had too much money for Margot ever to leave him.” I think this sums up their entire relationship. Neither of them seemed to truly love, or even like, one another. Margot’s adultery proved she definitely didn’t love Macomber. I think this dysfunctional relationship really plays into much of our discussion about human connection in 20th century writing. These two people are not connected like you would expect a married couple to be, and they certainly don’t make each other happy. They stay together for superficial reasons and that is all. In the end you are left wondering if Mrs. Macomber shot her husband on purpose or if she really was trying to stop the charging buffalo.
            I am still trying to figure out Robert Wilson’s character. Is he simply there to add commentary form an outside perspective about this American couple? Or does he play a larger role in Hemingway’s commentary on human behavior?  Personally, I think he does both. I am interested to hear what the rest of our class thinks about this story, and its fascinating characters. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Good Man Is Hard To Find

          This short story took me by surprise. It starts out as a simple story about a family embarking on their vacation to Florida. The Grandmother is a typical elderly woman. She suggests that the family take a detour to see an old house she remembered from her childhood. At this point the story turns very dark. On the way to see the house the family is in a car accident. Three men, who are actually escaped convicts, stop to help them. In the end the men, lead by The Misfit, murder all six family members in cold blood.
As I first started reading this story I thought it was very humorous. At many points the Grandmother’s behaviors reminded me of my own grandmother. I had to laugh when she talked about dressing nicely to ride in the car so that if there were an accident the people who saw her dead body on the highway would know she was a “lady”. He behavior towards her son, and her often sneaky ways of getting what she wanted also reminded me of my grandparents. I can distinctly remember times that my grandmother smuggled her pets along on trips just because she didn’t want to leave them alone.
The children’s attitudes toward the grandmother, and the rest of the characters, were very obnoxious. I think the relationship between the Grandmother and the children really portrayed the never-ending cycle of how an older generation feels about the youth of the next. It makes me wonder if younger generations of people really are as rude and self absorbed as older generations make them out to be, which would me that we are becoming successively ruder as a society. Or if we all go through a phase where no one can stand our behavior, especially our grandparents. (Side note: I actually found a blog called I Hate Young People completely dedicated to proving how stupid the millennial generation is…)
My feelings about this story were turned completely around, no pun intended, as the car crashed and the family was left to the mercy of The Misfit. I was not expecting anything like that to happen, but after it did I felt like I should have seen it coming. I felt horrible for this innocent family as they were murdered in cold blood. I’m not quite sure what to make of this story, though I think it might be a commentary on how people feel they can hold superiority over one another. I’m looking forward to our discussion tomorrow. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Harlem & Theme for English B

            As I read each of these Langston Hughes poems I felt that they went along with our discussion about what it meant to be an African American during the 1920’s and throughout the Harlem Renaissance. Both of these poems show Langston Hughes’ perspective on this issue several decades later. I find it very sad that the position African Americans were in had not changed much in the years between when Cullen and Hughes’ poems were published.
            “Harlem” is a brief poem about what happens when dreams are deferred. The first thing that came to my mind after reading this poem was a play I read in high school called “A Raisin in the Sun”. This play took its name from a line in “Harlem” and is about an African American family who struggles to meet their dreams. My prior knowledge of this play definitely helped me in reading and understanding this poem. One other thing I noticed about  “Harlem” was the almost gruesome images Hughes creates. He compares dreams to rotting meat and festering sores, which is far from the “reach for the stars” point of view that most people have today. This imagery made me realize how wrong it was that African Americans, like the family in the play, were often unable to follow their dreams simply because of the color of their skin.
I felt Hughes’ “Theme for English B” was about the unity that should exist between people of all ethnicities. The speaker in the poem begins by discussing how the fact that he is black doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy the same things that people of other races enjoy. He goes on to discuss how the color he puts on his paper will be a part of the professor, and how he and the professor are part of each other. They are both American, and can learn from one another. This poem also made me think of Cullen’s “Heritage” and the sense of isolation that the speaker felt. While I did get a sense of isolation from the speaker in “Theme for English B” it didn’t feel as inescapable as in “Heritage”. The speaker seems more confident about his situation in this poem.