History: Nature and Thought
“History is the action and reaction of these two, — Nature and Thought; — two boys pushing each other on the curb-stone of the pavement. Everything is pusher or pushed: and matter and mind are in perpetual tilt and balance, so. Whilst the man is weak, the earth takes up him. He plants his brain and affections. By and by he will take up the earth, and have his gardens and vineyards in the beautiful order and productiveness of his thought. Every solid in the universe is ready to become fluid on the approach of the mind, and the power to flux it is the measure of the mind. If the wall remain adamant, it accuses the want of thought. To a subtler force, it will stream into new forms, expressive of the character of the mind. What is the city in which we sit here, but an aggregate of incongruous materials, which have obeyed the will of some man? The granite was reluctant, but his hands were stronger, and it came. Iron was deep in the ground, and well combined with stone; but could not hide from his fires. Wood, lime, stuffs, fruits, gums, were dispersed over the earth and sea, in vain. Here they are, within reach of every man’s day-labor, — what he wants of them. The whole world is the flux of matter over the wires of thought to the poles or points where it would build. The races of men rise out of the ground preoccupied with a thought which rules them, and divided into parties ready armed and angry to fight for this metaphysical abstraction. The quality of the thought differences the Egyptian and the Roman, the Austrian and the American. The men who come on the stage at one period are all found to be related to each other. Certain ideas are in the air. We are all impressionable, for we are made of them; all impressionable, but some more than others, and these first express them. This explains the curious contemporaneousness of inventions and discoveries. The truth is in the air, and the most impressionable brain will announce it first, but all will announce it a few minutes later. So women, as most susceptible, are the best index of the coming hour. So the great man, that is, the man most imbued with the spirit of the time, is the impressionable man, — of a fibre irritable and delicate, like iodine to light. He feels the infinitesimal attractions. His mind is righter than others, because he yields to a current so feeble as can be felt only by a needle delicately poised.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fate
I like what Emerson does with this rather lengthy paragraph. I almost chose a different one because I was worried that it would be too long to analyze. However, after reading the paragraph a few times I realized that I admire what Emerson does with his words. Fate heavily debates the relationship between limitations and thought, and the influence that the cause and effect of that relationship has on the character of man. Human history is conditional on actions and reaction. In order for history to occur there is a give and take between nature and thought. Nature can act out by creating barriers in many forms, but man can react with thought on how to overcome those barriers, and gain the upper hand. However, eventually nature will act in a way to try and breakdown or over come the barrier set in place by thought. If one is substantially weaker than the other, there is an unbalance. One consumes the other, which in turn can be just as disastrous. If man uses thought to his advantage he could maintain the productive process, provided through cause and effect, of a balanced history.
Nature is not finite; it can be changed from its original state (as in solid to liquid). However, it will only give way to thought. It will not be a simple task, but a challenge to measure the power of man’s thoughts. The way in which the nature is adapted will be an expression of the character of the man’s mind, and a clear depiction of his wants.
From the changes to nature by one man, other men will follow and abandon their own thoughts to follow in line with his thoughts. However, the change in thought, is not entirely new, but is related to the thoughts before it. All progression of thought is available to everyman, but some see it first, and then others follow. The man of thought is the most impressionable, and the most likely to use their power of thought to challenge limitations. The necessity for the challenge is due to the need for balance between nature and thought. One impressionable man’s thought in the past, becomes the nature of the future. The new nature must always be challenged.
The necessity for challenge is always “in the air;” however, it takes the impressionable man that is inspired with the “spirit of the times” to recognize the need for a change. “His mind is righter than others,” because he has the power to follow his thoughts no matter how far removed from the traditional nature of others.
This passage stood out to me because as humans, we often try to learn from our mistakes, our history. This is exactly the type of message that I believe that Emerson is trying to convey to the American people. We have nature, which is challenged by thought. Eventually that thought becomes the new nature, and all fall in line with that train of thought. Most commonly the thought that created the new nature was created by the want of one individual, and quickly became the wants of many others.
The problem with this situation is the idea that sometimes in history nature becomes too strong, limitations are set too high, and fate dictates all. The suppression of thought can be a hard place to come back from. This is why men must always be thinking, and have power to act to create a reaction. The question of “How Shall I live?” should be on the forefront of thought. The only thing that can overcome our incompetence is the power to put thought into action.
While the passage does not directly reference the metaphor of all Americans as slaves, it is addressed in the way in which Emerson points out the pattern of our history, and the habits that individuals have to fall in line behind the rule of one man’s wishes even if it means forsaking those that are of a different party. This falling in line is the first step towards enslavement of the American mind. However, the followers know that they are being lead, and it takes a strong man to act upon the truth. Emerson is insisting upon the need for new action within the minds of the American people to help solve the problem of the times.
Final Paper Topic: Emerson on Slaves
“The revelation of Thought takes man out of the servitude into freedom. We rightly say to ourselves, we were born, and afterward we were born again, and many times. We have successive experiences so important, that the new forgets the old, and hence the mythology of the seven or the nine heavens. The day of days, the great day of the feast of life, is that in which the inward eye opens to the Utility in things, to the omnipresence of law; – sees that what is must be, and ought to be, or is the best. The beautide dips from on high down on us, and we see. It is not in us so much as we are in it. If the air comes to our lungs, we breathe and live; if not, we die. I f the light come to eyes, we see; else not. And if truth come to our mind, we suddenly expand to its dimensions, as if we grew to worlds. We are as lawgivers; we speak for Nature; we prophesy and divine…”
“If thought makes free, so does the moral sentiment. The mixture of spiritual chemistry refuse to be analyzed. Yet we can see that with the perception of truth is joined the desire that it shall prevail. That affection is essential to will. Moreover when a strong will appears, it usually results from a certain unity of organization, as if the whole energy of body and mind flowed in one direction. All great force is real and elemental. There is no manufacturing a strong will. There must be a pound to balance a pound. Where power is shown in will, it must rest on the universal force.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fate
The primary focus of my final paper on Emerson’s work will be his essay Fate. I chose the passages above because I believe that I can make a persuasive argument that Emerson views the overall state of Americans as slaves. Not just the African Americans that are subjected to slavery through means of being another man’s property, but that all Americans are slaves.
Emerson makes many references in his early works that men are slaves to their educations, to the minds of the old, to the ideals of conformity. In Fate, Emerson makes a compelling challenge to the reader, and introduces the concept of will power. Emerson makes reference to key aids from previous texts such as; nature, inward eye, new and old, truth, divine and servitude. Suggesting that if strong enough, will power can match fate.
I have found multiple examples from other Emerson texts that support the use of the world “slave,” and those words that descend from its meaning, to strengthen my opinion. For my next post, I will identify and provide those examples, as well as conduct a more thorough second reading of Fate to determine if I need to alter my argument.
I am struggling quite a bit with Emerson after this week’s readings. Not so much with his content, because no one can argue that he did not know how to round out a thought, but more with his lack of initiative to take his own advice. I understand that in his earlier works, particularly with The American Scholar, that he places a lot of emphasis on the thinking man to embrace nature and books, but I find Emerson completely lacking in action. One can argue that he was a cognitive activist, because it took the power of will to share his ideals with a very biased population. However, I’m beginning to side with Stephen Whicher that “each time [Emerson’s] inner promise of ideal power came up against the narrow limits of his experience” (667).
As I have noted before, when I’m reading Emerson’s texts I’m always very curious as to the date of publication because I’m very interested in what was happening in his personal life to cause his thoughts. Fate from The Conduct of Life series was written in 1860, and touches upon his disapproval of slavery.
“The German and Irish millions, like the Negro, have a great deal of guano in their destiny. They are ferried over the Atlantic, and carted over America, to ditch and to drudge, to make corn cheap, and then to lie down prematurely to make a spot of green grass on the prairie.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fate
Emerson uses such strong opposition in a time of great antislavery upheaval to align himself with his beliefs, but there is a lack of his physical presence, and many critics make note of Emerson’s confliction of not following his own advice. However, Len Gougeon concedes in his Conclusion from Virtue’s Hero: Emerson, Antislavery, and Reform that Emerson’s theories on idealism “fueled Emerson’s long and inevitable campaign against slavery,” (p. 767) suggesting that his words alone cast him in the form of a participating activist. Gougeon defends Emerson against strong opposition over his lack of physical presence towards the antislavery movement claiming that Emerson “believed his best contribution could be made in the effort to reform and redeem American society” (p. 758). What better way for Emerson to express himself than through his shared thoughts?
It is certainly possible to see both sides of to the argument with Emerson’s antislavery engagement, but then there is another example of his non-action within his opinions of politics. Again, Emerson has very strong opposition to the way in which the government proceeds.
“For, any laws but those which men make for themselves, are laughable . . . This is the history of governments, – one man does something which is to bind another . . . Hence, the less government we have, the better, – the fewer laws, and the less confined power. The antidote to this abuse of formal Government, is, the influence of private character, the growth of the Individual . . . the appearance of the wise man, of whom the existing government, is, it must be owned, but a shabby imitation.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Politics
Emerson has these strong inclinations of the way in which the country needs to change, but never entertains the idea of becoming involved in politics himself except for the occasional campaign participation “when it seemed appropriate for him to do so” (p. 759). He is a “wise man,” and could have been active in the changes he wanted to see. It is examples like this that have me struggling with Emerson. I personally believe that his Idealists thoughts are very important in the history of our nation, and additionally, that his body of work was greatly inspirational to a country that needed growth and change. However, I cannot get the image out of my head of an intelligent man sitting behind a desk in his study dreaming up these grand thoughts and revelations, while looking out of a window. I know that he traveled, and was well educated by the minds of the past, but it is just all that my visualization allows. So, I struggle…
Attempting to understand Sermon XXXIX
I have to admit that I groaned a little bit at the idea of being assigned to read twenty-three pages of sermons. As a little girl that attended church every Sunday morning with her mother, sermons were looked forward to about as much as a visit to the dentist. They were always long, and very uninteresting to me. Worst of all, if for any reason I could not sit still through the whole thing at least twelve dozen pairs of judgment raged eyes glared at me to put me in my place.
As an adult, I have an easier time following lesson provided by the sermon whether I am in agreement or not. Therefore, while reading Emerson’s Sermons I was having an easier time following along with his train of thought. Another reason for my ease of comprehension could be because I am in my third week of reading his material, and my brain is adapting to deciphering his code of language, but I think it has more to do with the structure.
They are sermons. They are written to be spoken, understood and they are given a time constraint, as they need to fit into a service program. I find it much easier to cognitively digest Emerson’s material in its condensed form. Not to discredit his longer pieces of work, but I think for an armature Emersonian, the Sermons may be the best place to start when beginning to read Emerson’s work. It can be synonymous with practice before the big games.
I am especially drawn to Emerson’s Sermon XXXIX. His connection of God to nature is very interesting, and he provides a great inspiring argument for mankind to be more aware of the messages that nature provides.
“I have spoken of the great system of external nature as exciting in our minds the perception of the benevolence of God by the wonderful contrivance their fruits exhibit; by the food they furnish us, and by the beauty that is added to them; and now, of the admonition they seem intended to convey of our short life,”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sermon XXXIX
Emerson is providing a recap of what he has addressed in Sermon XXXIX thus far before commencing with his capstone observation of God’s intent of “external nature.” I can easily recall and am reminded of his examples of nature making itself known by growing through cracks in the pavement, and the trees casting shade (p. 10). Additionally I can recall Emerson’s wonder of the seasons, and their dependable cycles that allow for nature to provide for man. I can especially recall the reason for Emerson bringing these thoughts into question and his beliefs that man is not appreciative of the miracle that God has provided to them, and how humans often times try to belittle God’s work by giving credit to scientific process (p. 11).
Emerson equates external nature with God’s suggested metaphor for short life. The seasons represent the stages of the life cycle. Spring is birth and winter is death. Emerson points out to the listener that seasons come and go, always completing relatively short-term cycles. As designed by God to live in nature, human beings also allow for reoccurring cycles through their offspring (p. 12). I find it easier to recollect Emerson’s references because his Sermon was not lengthy; therefore, examples are simpler to retrace.
The last paragraph of Sermon XXXIX is interesting in that it shifts into more ambiguous language. Drawing on the listener’s ability to recall what was touched upon before, Emerson suggests to the listener that God created nature, which has machine-like cycles. God allowed mankind intelligence to make decisions for themselves, but intends for mankind to respect the order in place, and to follow in example of the “undoubting reliance” put in place by external nature (p. 13). Essentially, one should always “trust in God” just as much as one trusts in the familiarities of the changing seasons.
Trying to Relate
I am so very happy that I decided to do all of the readings for this week’s class before completing my essay due on Monday. I am having a very difficult time staying focused when I read Emerson’s essays. The close evaluation of The American Scholar that we focused on in class helped me get a start on my essay, but what I feel will help me complete my writing project is Joel Porte’s The Problem with Emerson.
Emerson is tricky to me. I understand that he is not to be comprehended easily, but I find that he is eating up a lot of my weekend because of the pace that I have to maintain when doing the readings. I will begin reading, making notes, and before I know it, I have no idea what I’ve read. To use Porte’s words, “the mind closes, one’s attention wanders…” (p. 685). This is exactly what has been happening to me, and my solution has been to stop that particular reading, and go onto the next one. I tell my self that I am too distracted, and need to come back to it. It’s kind of funny because I feel as if it is almost like my brain has taken in so much information from reading an essay and a half that my processing gets backed up – you know, like when you have too many applications open on your desktop, and they all gradually start to quit on you? That is what happens to my brain.
As I mentioned, I tend to move on to the next reading assignment. Again, what I found interesting with this particular set of readings, Circles, The Poet and Experience, is that even if I quit on one of them, eventually I start to read about the exact same theory from the previous essay. Emerson was really beginning to frustrate me with the repetitive mentions of nature and again the mention that “Man-thinking” as being suppressed in the working man as was mentioned in The American Scholar. A couple examples of these echoing themes are found in Circles, “Everyman in not so much a workman in the world, as he is a suggestion of that he should be” (p. 176), and in The Poet with the reoccurrence of innate power, “The poet is the person in whom these powers are in balance, the man with out impediment, who sees and handles that which others dream of, traverses the whole scale of experience, and is representative of man, in virtue of being the largest power to receive and to impart” (p. 184).
However after reading Porte’s in depth evaluation of Emerson’s works, I realized that I was reading a series of essays, and It is more than likely Emerson’s intentions to have his multiple essays read in succession of each other as a continuation of his thoughts. I feel as though Porte’s evaluation is going to provide for me a more appreciative thought process as I continue with Emerson’s texts through out the last weeks of class. I will also more than likely refer back to his piece multiple times as he clearly demonstrates his admiration for Emerson’s body of work, but can also comprehend where the common criticisms stem from.
I will continue to read Emerson with an open mind, and try to find more resounding qualities, but I have to admit, that I feel as though a complete understanding and appreciation, or even dislike of Emerson, is not sufficiently attained in a month and a half of class time, but rather that it would take years or a lifetime of study. Interestingly enough, it could feel almost never-ending the amount of information and theories one could pull from Emerson’s words, but is not that probably his intention, that the reader goes round and round as Porte writes in a “rising spiral” (p.692)?
Working backwards on looking forward
After rereading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay The American Scholar, I have come to the conclusion that he is in fact trying to make a point. However, his thought process is easier to follow when examining the essay end to start. In his last formal address to the crowd he says, “Gentlemen, this confidence in the unsearched might of man belongs, by all motives, by all prophecy, by all preparation, to the American Scholar. (p. 68)” I believe that if I had read that one sentence before my initial reading that I would have paid more attention to the web of his thought process. Like every good essay, Emerson is setting the reader up for his conclusion, but reading it a second time with the notion of an American Scholar’s necessity to attain confidence allows me to retrace his essay to see how all of his advice narrows in on a person’s ability to be confident.
One of the questions we were asked to think about in class was to examine the distinction between the divided man and the whole man. I observe that great distinction to be confidence. When examining Emerson’s proposal about the three influences on the mind: nature, books and action, in order to be confident one must possess knowledge in each of those categories to attain power, which correlates into confidence.
Power is brought to attention in multiple instances through out the essay. Additionally the metaphor of a farm is implemented occasionally to make Emerson point about those individuals who do not seek power.
“we are cowed – we the trustless…I believe man has been wronged; and has wronged himself. He has almost lost the light, that can lead him back to his prerogatives. Men are become of no account. Men in history, men in the world of to-day are bugs, are spawn, and are called ‘the mass’ and ‘the herd.’ (p. 65)”
The imagery of men as cows, aids Emerson’s claim that without power men are trustless wanderers. Trustless because a herd does not make their own direction, but instead travels the same path and typically submits to the will of the more knowledgeable master. Although it is not mentioned, one could take Emerson’s claim further that a cow that does stray from the herd is free, and is not “branded” like the rest of the cows.
In Emerson’s proposal, to possess power, one must first facilitate and be well acquainted with the influences of the mind. Action is the culmination of knowledge gained from books and theories gained from nature. Once a person has observed nature and discovered the impulse of inquiry to not just accept what is presented to them, they can gain knowledge of the subject matter from the thinking men of before their time. As an aspiring scholar, it is not simply enough to have inquiry and stop at the knowledge attained by others, and to become part of that master’s herd. One must take action and stray into uncharted territory by finding the power to individualize, and gain the confidence to explore and share what they have experienced for further scholars to become inspired, making them stray from the herd as well.
When examining the story about Samsom, and thinking about intertextuality between the three texts there are many examples of where certain aspects have been changed or adapted throughout the three examples provided. In the first text, which was translated from the Bible, Samson is the deceived hero. He has been tricked and punished in a very dishonorable way through being blinded. A reader could interpret his final feat of strength as heroic and justified. Additionally, he asks the Lord to take his life with the lives of the Philistines. In the aftermath of the destruction, the story continues to provide details about his final victory, and his accomplishment of surpassing the number of people he had slain in battle over his lifetime to the number of those slayed in the arena. His passage concludes in the first text with his brethren honoring him with a burial.
The second text contains a lot of the same plot themes, but leaves the reader with a different tone and message to Samson’s story. The messenger’s narration from the point of view of a spectator, and what’s more is that the narrator enjoys the type of sport displayed in an arena. Where Milton’s version really begins to stray from the first text is when Samson is lead to rest between the pillars. In the first text, Samson sees his chance for revenge, and asks the boy guarding him to allow him to lean on the pillars. In text two, he is placed between the pillars where he is perceived to pray. Then the dialogue shifts to Samson speaking to the lord, but instead of praying for guidance, he is speaking of his desire to showcase his strength, and “amaze” (p.156) the people.
“Samson with these immixed, inevitably
Pulled down the same destruction on himself;” (p. 156)
In my opinion, the passage above is what changes the ending between text one and text two. As noted before, in text one Samson asks the Lord to let him die with those he is punishing, but in text two the words “Pulled….destruction on himself” allude to the notion that Samson was unaware that his action would bring on his own death. In addition, there’s no mention of his victory or funeral. It alters the ending message from one of heroic sacrifice to succumbing to foolish pride.
Text three ties into the same textual network primarily through the image. The very muscular man is placed between two pillars, and not only placed there, but chained to the pillars indicating that he will not escape the tumble of the pillars that he is breaking. A textbook discussion topic asks the reader to consider the use of the word “ultimate” in the advertisement. To me, ultimate means the best; surpassed by nothing. In the story of Samson, ultimate can be correlated with finished; the end to all ends. Nike is using the word “ultimate” in its most common use to speak of their shoes as the best of the best, but in the case of Samson in text one, text two and text three, he is ultimately dead.
Riddle Me This
One of the discussion topics in Textbook for after reading Sylvia Plath’s riddle about being pregnant was to have the reader attempt to write their own riddle. Now, I don’t claim to be some great poet, but I gave it my best shot, and below is what I came up with:
I shouldn’t be here.
My body is not meant to breath in this system.
And yet, I remain in my reverse vertical form;
hypnotized by the sway of my hair that dances
with the sun fairies that flutter on the aqua floor.
I am not whole, but two halves.
Below so weightless and at ease,
Above so concentrated and stiff.
I’ve stayed too long.
I should have plugged the passageways;
fluid tunnels and swells through the cavities.
But not in time to hold off the pinch;
the sting that rapidly splinters.
In my nose, my eyes, my ears.
I must find the light.
Only the light can cure what ails me.
I connect with a bright charge, and release the poison.
Sweet relief relaxes me;
no lesson learned; I submerge again.
Before posting this to my blog, I conducted a little experiment of my own, to see if it was too easy or difficult to figure out. I posted the riddle on my Facebook page, and asked my friends to solve it, or provide thoughts on what they thought it might be. I asked them to examine it with two questions in mind: what am I doing, and what happens to me
Fourteen of my friends attempted to solve the riddle. Many of the first replies involved topics of conception and gestation; others were to do with some type of water presence. After a daylong of postings two of my friends were able to come to the conclusion that I was writing about, but not without first reading the posts of my other friends. I should mention that a few people told me that this has never happened to them, or that their particular circumstances did not correlate with mine. So, in my riddle, what am I doing, and what happens to me?
I’ll post the answer next week.
Of all of the readings this week the one that stood out to me the most was the one that surprised me the most. The reason that it surprised me was because it made the most sense and was so obvious, but at the same time, so easy to overlook. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s Concepts We Live By, and their conceptual metaphors are used in everyday language, and I know that I had personally never given it much thought. I had never once seen the pattern shown in all of the examples given for the “metaphorically structured” phrase, “Argument is War.”
What makes this reading interesting to me is that I was reading this particular piece while waiting in line to pick up my son at school, and when the cars started to move, I turned on the radio. One of the first things that came out of the radio personality’s mouth was “nailed it.” The individual was commentating about a play made in one of Sunday’s football games. Funny enough, it got me thinking about more examples, and the phrase that came to mind if I were to make up my own was achievements are the actions of tools. Some examples could be, “his body is chiseled,” “We hammered the other team” and “He cut the legs out from under.” This specific example would probably not be considered one of those metaphors that we live by, but it is relevant in certain social groups, like the one I mentioned with the radio personalities. Additionally, this particular example of a metaphor may be used by some sports casters and commentators, but not by others.
Some of these “marginal metaphorical concepts” could be rooted to vernacular and discourse. I can’t think of an exact example, but I used to work for a woman who was full (people as food) of these sayings that would go right over my head, and have no way to resonate with me. I believe that they usually related to people as farm animals.” I more than likely couldn’t understand what she was trying to convey because first, I could not understand her vernacular with her sped-up dialogue and use of double negatives. Second, it was a challenge because I had no knowledge of the behavior of farm animals.
Similarly, another piece from this week’s reading that correlates with Lakoff and Johnson’s text is Roger Brown’s “What Words Are: Metaphor.” In this piece the metaphor of a mountain as a body is also used to describe how some common metaphors come to be widely known and accepted. Additionally, Brown goes on to use examples of how the names of new inventions and compound words are in a way the most basic forms of a metaphor. Especially with inventions, and the way in which the name most often derives from something that has a similar meaning or purpose. As I said before, these two readings really surprised me with how much had gone unobserved by myself with regards to what exactly constitutes a metaphor.
Making Something Out of Nothing
While I was reading Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles, I was trying my best to pay attention to silent parts of the play, and find the drama. What was interesting is that I believe that is exactly where the drama is in the play because in those moments of silence between the two ladies, I could sense the tension, and actually visualize Mrs. Wright. Glaspell’s delivery of visualization with out even using words to describe the happenings is really exceptional. For example, when the women are looking over her quilt and come across the initial piece that starts to unravel Mrs. Wright’s motive Mrs. Hale says,
“All the rest of it has been so nice and even. And look at this! It’s all over the place! Why, it looks as if she didn’t know what she was about!”
The scripted body language after that dialogue of the women’s shared glances at each other and at the door where the men had exited moments before immediately made me picture a very frazzled Mrs. Wright, sitting in her rocking chair sewing poorly because her mind is preoccupied. That visualization disappears as soon as I read the next action when Mrs. Hale was ripping out the stich. It was almost as if I was being pulled back into reality along with Mrs. Hale, and returned to the present situation at hand.
An additional observation with using the same example from the text is the play on words involving the title. Again, I find Glaspell to be very ingenious how she can so well point out the fact that men feel that women’s concerns in the early 1900s were of an unimportant nature. When in fact, it was that very observation from Mrs. Hale about the stitching that set the ladies in the right progression to uncover the implied motive.
What is even better is the way in which trifles were initiated by actually using a situation that any rational thinker would find unimportant. Being a modernized woman, while I was reading about how concerned Mrs. Wright was about her fruit jars not cracking, I myself found that to be strange. I took the same opinion of the men in the play, and was thinking that it was peculiar for her to be so worried about the fruit when she possibly should have been more concerned that she was in police custody for the suspected murder of her husband. I just found it a great way to make the women look silly, and the subject of laughter, not only in the eyes of the men, but also in the eyes of the observer/reader. Only to then be turned around and viewed with a keen sense of intellect in observing the day to day trifles of any housewife of the time. Ultimately the trifles that consume the ladies’ minds were the key to putting the motive puzzle together, and those very trifles were the reason that they could so easily cover up the evidence right in front of the male search party’s eyes.
A Tale of Two Fathers
A Conversation with My Father, by Grace Paley is about a narrator who wants to indulge their eighty-six year old father by telling him a story. Another anecdote about the relationship with a father is Tell Me a Story by Paul Auster in which a child indulges in a fantasy about their father. In both texts, there is a story being told, and the listeners of the two stories (the eighty-six year old and the child) take deep interest in the content of those stories in different yet similar ways.
In Paley’s anecdote, the father is displeased with the amount of detail that the narrator has provided for their story. The narrator appears put out, but wants to please their father so gives it another attempt, and goes into great detail about why the woman in the story made the choices she did, and saddled herself to her son. But goes onto conclude that her son was going to be just fine, and eventually leaves his mother alone. The detail provided ignites a conversation between the father and narrator that has a sub textual meaning in that the father is pleading with the narrator to come to terms with the fact “the end” is near for him, but the narrator will be ok. He does this by commenting on how the abandoned mother is feeling, and that no matter what happens in her life she will never be ok. By making these insinuations the father is getting the narrator to realize how sad of a life that would be, and decides to elaborate on the ending of the story, with a happier outcome. The father is still insistent that it won’t be all right for the woman in the story, which in turn makes the narrator even more determined to convey the fact that she prevailed. The father then makes his point of telling the narrator that tragedy happens, and it needs to be met head-on, and not ignored with hopeful intentions. As in, he will die, that is a fact, but the narrator is not abandoning him to death.
In Auster’s anecdote the child has nothing, but hopeful intentions as to discovering the reason why their father is an absence in their life. Using phrases like “somehow I was on the bed with him,” alluding to the idea that quality time was scarce. The story that the narrator clings to is such a rarity, that they hold on to its beliefs much longer than a person should in their lifespan. The relationship between the narrator and this father does not allow for the discussion that the father and child had in Paley’s anecdote. Instead, the narrator is left with the descriptive tale, and uses their imagination to push questions further and making assumptions that the father is too important in his adventurous life, and that his “present life was only a type of stopping place.”
In both anecdotes, the stories told were used as a type of coping mechanism to understand a greater conflict (the death of a father and the absence of a father). The difference is in the relationship that the narrator had with their fathers. Paley’s father tried to provide comfort to the narrator by using their own words. While Auster’s father, had no idea the effect his story had on the narrator, but the narrator still found the comfort needed, at least for a significant part of their life.
Detecting Rising Action, Climax and Resolution in a Narrative.
In Labov’s passage of a white man from Martha’s Vineyard, the rising action is when the well-trained dog is failing to perform. The owner is getting annoyed to the point that he considers hitting his dog. The dog keeps going out to retrieve the duck that was shot, but keeps coming back empty handed.
The climax is when the owner realizes that the Duck was one of his own tame ducks.
The resolution is that the owner has new appreciation of the dog’s intellect, and felt guilty about the fact that he was going to physically harm the dog.
The rising action in the second passage of a black male adolescent from Harlem is the lie that he tells to the “guy” that wants his last cigarette. It’s not a very good lie because the guy “pushes” on the pack of cigarettes in his pocket making the conversation a little more heated.
The climax is when the “guy” starts “pushin” the narrator again.
The resolution is that the narrator beats up the “guy” who pushed him, but feels bad afterwards for getting carried away in his beating that he gives the “guy” the cigarette anyway. Making it apparent that the fight was all for nothing, and could have been avoided if he had just given him the cigarette in the first place.