EN 220 Final Study Guide
EN 220 Final Study Guide EN 220
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EN 220 Final Study Guide Realism: Realism, and particularly Social Realism (Twain and James) focused on how social forces are the predominant influence over people’s lives and fates. Unlike Romantics, who held individuality in high esteem, realists tend to think more upon the influence of societal constructs upon the individual, and how that influence affects thought and action. To Realists and naturalists alike, the individual will meant nothing; an individual’s future is controlled by forces outside himself. These works attempt to present a common experience and are detailed, often moving chronologically with little shift in time or perspective. Huckleberry Finn Author: Mark Twain Biography: “Samuel L. Clemens” grew up in Missouri and left when a Union blockade threatened to draft him into the Union Navy (he had a pilot’s license with the boat). He wrote Roughing It and wrote for various newspapers. Twain then signed with the Sacramento Union and wrote a series of letters using a fictitious character, Mr. Brown, to present inelegant and unorthodox views and information. Twain’s first book of the period was Innocents Abroad and then wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and then wrote Huckleberry Finn, after his thinking about Huck had changed and matured considerably. Publish Date: 1884 Characters: Huckleberry Finn protagonist and narrator of the novel. Huck’s an impressionable 13 year old who struggles between what he sees and what society tells him. Tom Sawyer Tom serves as a foil to Huck as he relies upon authorities in romance novels, which leads him to acts of incredible stupidity and cruelty. Widow Douglas and Miss Watsontwo wealthy sisters who adopt Huck. Miss Watson is the most prominent and owns Jim; she resembles the religious hypocrisy of many southern Christians when she attempts to sell Jim down the river. Jim His ideas of freedom are concrete; as an escaped slave, he wants to make enough money to buy his family out of bondage. Jim is selfless and demonstrates that humanity has nothing to do with race. Jim remains at the mercy of all other characters in the novel and is forced into ridiculous and degrading situations. Pap Huck’s father, the town drunk who represents the archetypal poor, ignorant white man who looks to society for his failings. The duke and the dauphin A pair of conmen whom Huck and Jim rescue as they are being run out of a river town. Huck realizes the men are frauds but he and Jim remain at the mercy of the duke and dauphin as Huck is only a child and Jim is a runaway slave. Judge Thatcher The local judge who shares responsibility for Huck with the widow and takes Huck’s money when his father comes to town. The Grangerfords This family is in a longstanding feud with another local family that takes Huck in. The Wilks family The family that believes the duke and dauphin are Peter Wilk’s brothers from England. Silas and Sally PhelpsTom Sawyer’s aunt and uncle, The Phelpses are the only intact and functional family in the novel. Aunt Polly Tom Sawyer’s aunt and guardian and Sally Phelp’s sister. Theme: Realism, although Twain does blend elements of naturalism into his work. Even though Huck and Jim live a peaceful life on the raft, they are unable to escape the evils and hypocrisies of the outside world. Twain’s use of regional dialects, frank confrontation of racism, and earthly portrayal of its characters align the majority of the novel with Realism. Climax: When Huck decides not to write Miss Watson to tell her the Phelps are holding Jim, and decides he’ll just go to hell. Daisy Miller Author: Henry James Biography: James has been firmly established as one of America’s greatest novelists and critics, a subtle psychological realist and an unsurpassed literary stylist. His popular works include The Portrait of a Lady and The Princess Casamassima, The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors, The Golden Bowl, “The Beast in the Jungle” and What Maisie Knew. Publish Date: 1878 Characters: Daisy Miller A rich, pretty American girl who wants to be a part of European high society without conforming to it. She represents American innocence in her desire to be free from social conventions and the new money which many Europeans disdained. Winterbourne A young American who lived most of his life in Geneva, he’s intrigued by Daisy but other’s opinions keep getting in the way of him ever respecting her. Randolph Miller Daisy Miller’s younger brother. Mrs. Miller Daisy and Randolph’s vague, weak, and ineffectual mother. Mrs. Costello Winterbourne’s aunt and an extreme conformist to European customs. She judges Daisy Miller harshly and dismisses her, and her entire family, easily for not living up to the old ways. Eugenio The Miller’s interpreter and guide, often referred to as the courier. He has better judgment and propriety than Daisy or Mrs. Miller. Mrs. Walker A wellconnected American widow who attempts to teach Daisy what is necessary to conform and, when Daisy does not take her advice, turns her back. Mr. Giovanelli The Italian Daisy spends her time with (and ultimately dies because of). Theme: Realism. Winterbourne is unable to remain pure and untainted from society’s values, and his opinion of Daisy falls right along with the rest of society’s. Daisy is eventually crushed under the weight of society’s glare, but pays the ultimate price for her innocence. Naturalism: Naturalists, unlike realists, tended to be associated with particular causes and movements. Gilman herself wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” because of her own personal experiences, in the hope that she could make a social difference. Naturalists, who came after realists, became more symbolic, as symbolism gave the text deeper psychological power. They often looked at how underlying assumptions can affect scientific objectivity. Naturalists are not social Darwinists, in fact, they usually attack social Darwinism. In Naturalism, humans are determined by their environment, heredity, and social conditions beyond their control. Naturalism often focused on poorly educated and lowerclass characters, and nature itself was a generally a powerful, indifferent force. “The Yellow Wallpaper” Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman Biography: Gilman produced the large body of polemical writings and what we would call today selfconsciously feminist fiction that made her a leading theoretician, speaker, and writer on women’s issues. Gilman wrote the Boston Woman’s Journal. She suffered herself with depression and wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” in response to her experience with her male doctors, which confined her to bed rest. In Women and Economics, she argued that women’s dependency on men stunts the growth of the human species. Publish Date: 1892 Characters: The narrator a young, uppermiddleclass woman who is depressed. Her name may or may not be Jane. She’s a victim of her husband’s false assumptions turned pseudo science and her escape from her social role comes in the form of insanity as she records her paranoid turned psychotic thoughts about the wallpaper in her diary. John The narrator’s husband and physician who restricts her behavior. Thus, the woman becomes a victim of her gender and of the social Darwinist policies her husband believes in. Jennie John’s sister who highlights the wife’s feelings of inadequacy as a wife and mother. Themes: Gothic Naturalism. The story doesn’t contain ghosts but it does have horror elements (dark plot points and dark imagery). In most Gothic stories you encounter a woman trapped in a house or a castle, which represents isolation from society or traditional, patriarchal traditions. The assumptions about women which form scientific understandings shape the narrator’s descent into insanity. This piece serves as an attack on assuming objectivity in science. “To Build a Fire” Author: Jack London Biography: He won international acclaim with The Call of the Wild and The SeaWolf . By the time he died in 1916, London was the bestselling author in America and on his way to becoming the most popular American writer in the world. Publish Date: 1902 Characters: Narrator Never named, he traverses the forest alone and eventually succumbs to happenstance in nature, an indifferent force which he was not biologically equipped to handle. Dog Evolution keeps the dog alone and after the man has died, he goes to find new masters who can provide for him. Theme Naturalism. Nature doesn’t care, it simply exists. The dog is indifferent to the man, and survives because over time instinct and natural selection allowed for it to continue. The man lacks the instinct the dog does, and the natural coating against cold, and so he dies. Major theme of Darwinism, for the human will has nothing to do with the man’s survival or death. His destiny was completely determined by his environment. The man in “To Build a Fire” is as trapped as the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and both characters are unable to escape their gender roles. Modernism Heavily influenced by Naturalism’s turn toward psychological realism as experienced by individuals. Modernist writers were more interested in how and what types of realities characters construct for themselves rather than an external monolithic reality. Modernists experimented highly with form to accommodate the idea of a fragmented reality. They often wanted to challenge and disorient the reader with a subjective reality. Theme: “Make it new!”—Ezra Pound. Modernism was varied in politics and was far more optimistic before WWI. “The Waste Land” Author: T.S. Eliot Biography: Eliot was a product of that New Englandbased genteel tradition that shaped the nation’s cultural life after the Civil War. Eliot worked with Ezra Pound abroad and became an expatriate. These two had tremendous effect on how the poetry of the day was written and evaluated. Eliot turned increasingly towards religious doubt and reconciliation. Pound’s and Eliot’s fascist sympathies in the 1930s, together with their immense influence on poetry, linked high modernism with reactionary politics in the public’s perception. Eliot’s criticism and poetry became increasingly important to the group of writers whose work became known as “New Criticism.” Eliot’s impersonal approach to poetry had a powerful role in shaping the literary curriculum in American colleges. He founded a little magazine called Criterion and wrote a lot. Publish Date: 1922 Key Points: Address: Sibyl, a prophtess, tells the boys who ask her what she wants that, “she wants to die” I. “The Burial of the Dead” a. Burials are important, rituals are important, traditions are important. i. Eliot argues that these rituals are important to help us psychologically. ii. This suggests the ritual and sacrament of burying millions who have perished in the war. b. Speaker calls on traditional ways to heal but finds them broken and dry. c. The move to the tarot reading suggests that Eliot believes modern religion consists of frauds like Madame Sosostris, who the modern world mistakes as wise. d. Eliot tried to reveal the purity of religion, that religion began from rituals to sanctify the dead in order to bring about fertility. i. Therefore, religion, in tis pure form, is about regeneration and life. e. Another speaker then moves through a London populated with the ghosts of the dead, and the clashes of WWI are conflated with the Punic wars. II. “A Game of Chess” a. This dramatically shifts into the next section where we get several voices whose thoughts and words blend into one another. b. We eavesdrop on a couple having a disagreement, a man who seems disinterested and a neurotic woman. i. These represent the modern couple, unable to communicate. c. Ends with plans for the woman to play chess. d. Then the speakers switch to two people chatting in their bar about a woman who had to have an abortion after her husband wouldn’t leave her alone. i. This is another take on the modern woman, also a mere sex object in her man’s eyes. III. “The Fire Sermon” a. Features a desolate and polluted river Thames. i. He says that the magic that made poets write by the river is now gone, leaving an empty place. b. There’s a lot of wetness, compared to the dryness of the earlier sections. c. Allusion to the nightingale brings the idea that sex is a horrible, violent encounter. d. Tiresias, a Greek legend and prophet who understands both the sexes becomes the new narrator. e. Sexual encounters that are fruitless. They lead to no regeneration—between the homosexual encounter and the rape of the typist, this demonstrates how even acts meant for fertility are now barren. IV. “Death by Water” a. Phlebas becomes a cautionary figure for anyone walking around thinking they’re great. Be mindful of the fact that you’re going to die someday. V. “What the Thunder Said” a. Three themes: i. Journey to Emmaus 1. ancient town in which Jesus appeared to two of his disciples 2. We are in the same position as Christ, but instead of being dead, we live in a sort of halfdeath. 3. Our decline is slow and undignified. ii. Approach to the Chapel Perilous iii. Present decay of Eastern Europe. b. Dry land with no water, symbolizing a spiritual waste land where no hope or belief can bloom. c. “Thunder without rain”—We anticipate the rain because we hear the thunder but the rain isn’t coming. d. Eliot seeks the rebirth of our culture by turning to Eastern culture of Hinduism and Buddhism (in “The Fire Sermon”) e. The Wasteland ends on a slight note of hope that maybe we can find hope and regeneration in non Western religions. Theme: High modernism. With it’s fragmented reality, allusions, and mix of languages, Eliot’s clear intent was to disorient the reader as much as possible and demonstrate just how hard the modern world is to understand. Home Burial Author: Robert Frost Biography: Frost did a brief stint in Europe where he worked with Ezra Pound, who helped to get his second book, North of Boston, published.He published his books and papers and taught and lectured at various colleges. Frost’s writing can be seen as a thoughtful reply to high modernism’s fondness for obscurity and difficulty. Frost accepted New England as the heart of America and interacted colloquial diction with blank verse in his dramatic monologues. He hated big enterprises and invited readers to the “one man revolution” in A Further Range. His popular works include: North of Boston, A Boy’s Will (his first book), Mountain Interval, New Hampshire, WestRunning Brook, and A Further Range. Publication Date: 1914 Characters: Wife Resentful of her husband for burying their child and showing no grief, for acting as if the entire process had little to no effect on him, and for criticizing the way she grieved for her child. She wants her husband to talk about their child but when he does, she doesn’t like how he talks about the child. Husband The man who buried their child, who doesn’t allow grief to overcome him and critiques his wife for doing so. He can’t understand her perspective and she cannot understand his, their ways of grieving prove incompatible. This man, stoic and cold, had his communication complicated by gender. Themes: American Modernism. Frost brought dialogue to poetry and used it to demonstrate impersonal relationships and isolation. Interestingly, dialogue is used to show just how hard it’s become to communicate with each other. Frost depicts extremely private, personal moments and uses fragments by employing the use of vignettes. Death of a Hired Man Author: Robert Frost Publication Date: 1914 Characters: Mary Wife who urges Warren to overcome his pride and be with Silas in his final moments, to see him as a member of the family. Warren The man of the house, he has trouble overcoming his pride because he feels like Silas hasn’t done a good job at what he was hired to do in the past. Warren mocks the idea of home when he says “home is something you haven’t deserved,” “you come back and they have to take you in.” Silas An old man without community or family that comes to die at his employer’s house. He also lets his pride dictate his actions, for he comes to the house under the pretense of working because he knows that they have no obligation to be there for him as he dies. Themes: American Modernism. Perhaps the dissolution of community and family and the way pride gets in the way of honesty and open communication. Again, Frost uses dialogue to demonstrate how disconnected we all are from each other and how such things as pride or gender roles get in the way of our sympathy. Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening Author: Robert Frost Publication Date: 1923 Characters: Narrator He sees a beautiful scene in front of him, but instead of the epic imagery one would usually find, nature seems empty, it simply exists. He moves on after a brief pause to take a look on his horse because he has places to go. Themes: American Modernism with an influence of naturalism. It’s a strange contrast between a traditional Romantic lyric and the way nature makes him contemplate suicide. In this poem, nature is indifferent, a naturalistic view, and it seems that the poem highlights the failure of nature to deliver the transcendental moment. For Frost, using nature to write poetry is a creation of his own mind, there is no divine spirituality he’s connecting to. Babylon Revisited Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald Publication Date: 1931 Characters: Charlie Wales The protagonist, a man once worth a small fortune who now works out of Prague. He is ashamed of his past, which was characterized by waste and selfishness. He “lost everything in the boom,” meaning that his lifestyle and money allowed him to lose what was really important. His character begs the question: once you’ve achieved the American dream, what’s next? What do you do with your money? Honoria Wales Honoria is Charlie’s daughter. She wants to be with her father, and although she loves her mother, she doesn’t remember her well. Marion Peters Charlie’s sister in law who blames him for Helen’s death. She has a lot of power in the situation—she can decide whether Honoria goes with Charlie or not—but her anger is still treated as an illness by her husband. When people from Charlie’s past show up, she changes her mind and forces Honoria to stay with her. Lincoln Peters Marion’s pushover husband. Helen Charlie’s dead wife who also invested in the wasteful lifestyle and is perhaps a victim of it. Lorraine Quarrles An old acquaintance that represents Charlie’s past life, and his inability to escape it. Duncan Schaeffer Lorraine’s companion. Themes: Demonstrates the disillusionment with a consumer society. There’s so much waste and wealth that the rich don’t even know what to do with their own money. They put it towards vice. Also explores the reconciliation between freedom, responsibility, and morality. How can you reconcile the freedom to do what you want with your money with what’s morally sound and responsible? Harlem Renaissance/Modernism Ctd. The Harlem Renaissance took on a variety of approaches to the exploration of black identity and pride in American culture. Claude McKay believed that a black writer should talk about racial issues within his work. Langston Hughes believed that it wasn’t necessarily a duty, but that if one decided to, they should never be ashamed, and Zora Hurston believed that she should not talk about race at all as it took away from her identity as just a “writer.” All of these writers had to deal with the fact that most of their audience was white. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” Author: Langston Hughes Publication Date: 1921 Themes: Global setting; we see rivers responsible for the foundations of first civilization, we see rivers around the world. The speaker represents a community of individuals, and the rivers become a metaphor for the history, spirit, and wisdom of Africans and AfricanAmericans. The speaker documents a history and a heritage through metaphor of rivers. “The Weary Blues” Author: Langston Hughes Publication Date: 1925 Themes: The song mimics blues music in its lyricism, end rhyme, alliteration, etc. The blues becomes a metaphor for all of the abstract feelings that words can’t directly explain, and a metaphor for the African American soul, “Sweet blues/coming from a black man’s soul.” However, the “tomtom beating of the Negro soul” refers to Jazz, not Blues. “I, Too” Author: Langston Hughes Publication Date: 1925 Themes: This is an exclamation of the black man’s place in America. No matter how the rest of the country tries to make him eat in the kitchen when company comes, he’ll eventually “be at the table,” because he is just as much a part of America, and form just as much a part of it as the white man. “The Harlem Dancer” Author: Claude McKay Publication Date: 1922 Characters: The dancer The prostitute is isolated from everyone who around her, without recognizing her internal struggle and emptiness. She won’t reveal herself to those who can’t understand what she feels, and for the audience she exists solely in their own eyes, void of her own identity. Themes: McKay weaves together European tradition by using the Shakespearean sonnet with his content which relates to black culture. This poem describes the typical Harlem experience and shows beauty in ugliness, the tension and irony between the two as he describes the prostitute in such a beautiful way. The poem mixes together joy and sorrow in much the fashion of the blues. “The Lynching” Author: Claude McKay Publication Date: 1922 Themes: Another Shakespearean sonnet. The poem begins with the body of the man lynched and contains commentary from the narrator, as the “cruelest way of pain” and the “awful sin.” The poem turns in the last four lines with the white people who look on without pity, and the young boys who dance happily around the dead form, “lynchers to be.” This is clear social commentary and a condemnation of racism in the south. “If We Must Die” Author: Claude McKay Publication Date: 1922 Themes: A call to action, Claude McKay asks his fellow African American to action, to resist white oppression as the alternative is to “die like dogs, hunted and penned in an inglorious spot.” He wants black people to fight back even at the cost of death, since the alternative is just as bad and they have to trade their dignity. He also calls upon masculinity, “Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack” in order to demonstrate how this is the more dignified course of action. Cane Author: Jean Toomer Publication Date: 1923 Sections: Georgia Dusk: A poem that depicts the damaging effects of the slave south on the African American community by focusing on slaves working in the sugar cane fields. These people remember pasts where they were “kings, highpriests” and lament their suffering and fate through folk songs. Fern: Fern, a woman men feel bound to after sleeping with, cannot be satisfied by men, despite their attempts to. Fern is a conceit for America, “rivers” flowed into her eyes. There is also a perception that virginity is ideal, but Toomer counters it with the reality: she “became” a virgin in the imaginations of these men. Portrait in Georgia: The description of a white woman using black racial imagery, ex: “her slim body, white as the wash/ of black flesh after flame” BloodBurning Moon: Characters: Tom Burwell A black man also in love with Louisa. He kills Bob Stone after Stone attacks him, and then is lynched for it. Louisa The object of affection, Louisa has an extremely passive role in the story. She sings throughout the night like a bird watching events she has no part in, despite the fact that they happen for and because of her. She has no agency to choose and we never really even find out how she feels about either man. Bob Stone A southern white man living in the north, he was a son of the people Louisa worked for and loved her. He has trouble reconciling his racism with his attraction to Louisa. He decides that it’s perfectly acceptable for him to feel this way, as he is her master. He tries to beat Tom Burwell when he realizes that he has a competitor, but Tom cuts his throat, and is then lynched for it. Old Dave Georgia He works for the cane company and tends to the stove that’s making the syrup. Seventh Street: A snapshot of AfricanAmerican life during the early stages of the Harlem Renaissance as it struggled to find its place in society. Themes: The violence of sexuality, the place of race in society and its construction (how does one’s identity change based on skin color, and how do we interact with the other gender based on their race?), and all of the ramifications of how Americans define race. “How It Feels to Be A Colored Me” Author: Zora Neale Hurston Publication Date: 1928 Themes: She doesn’t dwell in racism but sees it as a positive challenge for growth in her life. Often she is not aware of her own race at all, except at times when she is surrounded by white people, or conversely, when a single white person is surrounded by black people. She also senses her uniquely African American spirit when she listens to jazz and blues, which she believes white people simply don’t have the same connection to. She “is not tragically colored,” “slavery is the price she paid for civilization,” etc. Identity is imagined based on circumstance. It changes from situation to situation. “The Gilded Six Bits” Author: Zora Neale Hurston Publication Date: 1933 Characters: Missie May Missie May, a sexual being, cheats on her husband and regrets it immediately when he finds her and Slemmons in bed together. She is tempted by the gold Joe keeps talking about and thinks maybe she can get some out of Slemmons. She spends the rest of the story trying to get her life back to normal, which, with the birth of her son (certainly Joe’s), she accomplishes. Joe Missie May’s husband; he meets Slemmons and is a bit obsessed with his wealth and money. He plants the idea in Missie May’s head that he wants more money and with his respect for Slemmons, she begins to feel the same pull of money. Otis D. Slemmons Slemmons demonstrates that not everyone, and everything, should be taken at face value. Sometimes people try to appear much more than they really are. Themes: She’s a regionalist writer—she writes about many southern, small African American towns. She focuses more on metaphor and the human condition and uses light hearted humor in a way most modernists do not. Hurston refused to idealize the African American community, which led to varied depictions, including characters such as Missie May who fell to temptation. The “gilded six bits” demonstrate that happiness and love are far more important than the appearance of wealth, as often appearances are completely deceiving. “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” Author: Richard Wright Publication Date: 1961 Characters: Dave Saunders The protagonist; a young African American male who wants to feel like a real man. He notices that he has no power, not only as a younger boy but as a black young man, and buys a gun in an attempt to get some back for himself. He’s also completely unaware of what could be very drastic consequences for his actions, demonstrating his idealism. Mr. Saunders Dave Saunders’ father. Dave remains afraid of his father, but also recognizes how subordinate his dad is to white people and strives not to be like him. but to have agency within his own life and control over the way people view him. Mrs. SaundersDave’s mother who allows him to buy the gun under the pretense that he give it to his father immediately. Fat Joe He sells Dave the gun, despite feeling that Dave is just a boy and doesn’t need to be buying anything. Jim Hawkins The man that employs Jim in the summertime. He becomes a symbol of the condescension that Dave was trying to escape in buying the gun. He and all of his white friends laugh at Dave for his attempt to get some power for himself, and then take away his paycheck for the whole summer to pay off the mule. Jenny The mule Dave kills. Themes: A coming of age story coupled with the discovery of black identity and the connection between race and power in Dave’s life. The gun represents a tool for overcoming the powerlessness, both in relation to his parents who still rule his life, and the white men who will have power over him for his whole life. Wright’s works ask, “what causes crime and violence? What role does systematic racism, poverty, and social/legal injustice have in constructing identity?” How is masculinity constructed?” Absalom, Absalom Author: William Faulkner Publication Date: 1936 Characters: Thomas Sutpen The son of a poor mountain farmer who founded the Sutpen estate. Henry Sutpen The son of Thomas Sutpen who killed his half brother, Charles Bon, for reasons unknown but speculated upon. Perhaps he knew that Charles Bon was his half brother and couldn’t let Bon marry Judith. Judith Sutpen Daughter of Thomas Sutpen, engaged to Charles Bon before he died. She eventually succumbed to a fever after raising Bon’s bastard by the octoroon. Charles Bon Son of Thomas Sutpen and Eulalia Sutpen, abandoned by Thomas Sutpen. Clytie The bastard daughter of Thomas Sutpen. Eulalia Sutpen Thomas Sutpen’s Haitian wife. Mr. Coldfield A morally upright man who gave one of his daughters to Sutpen in a moment of greed and regretted it, and ended up dragging his entire family down with the Sutpens. Ellen Coldfield Married Thomas Sutpen, birthed Henry and Judith. Rosa Coldield Aunt to Henry and Judith despite being about their age. She was briefly engaged to Thomas Sutpen herself. She is the one who tells her story to Quentin Compson. Miss Rosa’s Aunt The mysterious influential aunt in Rosa Coldfield’s life. General Compson The man who first accepted Thomas Sutpen into Yoknapatawpha, the county in which Fualkner set fifteen of his novels. Mr. ComsponQuentin’s father who fills in more of Rosa Coldfield’s story. Quentin CompsonThe vessel into which this story is placed. The “protagonist,” although not the protagonist, Quentin has to deal with the legacy of this story and its influence upon his life. Shreve Quentin’s Canadian roommate who becomes equally obsessed with this story and rationalizing it. Wash JonesThe poor white farmer who idolizes Sutpen and lives on his plantation. Milly JonesThe girl Sutpen tries to mate with in order to produce a male heir. When Milly gives him a girl, he leaves her which results in his death. Themes: How do you reconcile southern identity with individual identity? How does one live in the “cursed” south, a place bleeding with history and scabbed wounds that are torn off with recall and memory? How does one construct a reality that they were not there for? How is reality perceived differently depending on one’s point of view? There is a strong attempt by Quentin and Shreve to place the fragmented reality they get of this story together. Postmodernism Postmodernism endorses the belief that art cannot operate independently from politics, economics, and philosophical ideology. This directly contradicts Modernist writers who think art can transcend such topics. Because art cannot get “outside” the sociopolitical framework, neither can the individual. Capitalism has seeped into every meaningful facet of American society and nothing is left untouched by the market. Postmodern writers attack what they believe to be illusory notions of freedom and individualism, free will and selfdetermination are illusions. Postmodern writers also push the boundaries between art and obscenity and play with the notion of realism. They believe that there is still a division between fictional worlds and reality, and so some stories have a magical element to them. Postmodern writers and artists are all over the place, the movement is really defined by its lack of definition. A Streetcar Named Desire Author: Tennessee Williams Publication Date: 1947 Characters: BlancheEmbodies the old southern values in perception, but not reality. Blanche cracks under the pressures and new realities of the modern world. She herself cannot embody the values she claims to hold and this eventually tears her apart. There is no place for her in the modern world. Stella She abandons her old southern values in favor of modern views of sexuality and gender roles between women and men. Stella embraces the carnal instinct and enjoys shedding her outdated values of propriety and hierarchy, while Blanche sticks to them and eventually cracks because of it. Stanley Stella’s husband who represents the modern brutish man, driven by sexual instinct and desire. Stanley has no respect for women and Stella finds that perfectly alright. Together, these two represent the modern approach to sexuality and relationships between men and women. Mitch The man Blanche places her faith in, a man who also hopes to live by rules of the past but finds they are now irrelevant. Themes: How does one define modern relationships between men and women and gender roles between men and women? What place do old values have in modern society? What is a women’s job now to a man? Is purity still important and what drives the modern relationship? Howl Author: Allen Ginsberg Publication Date: 1956 Themes: Ginsberg attempts to expose what’s really happening in America, contradicting the idyllic myth with the unexperienced, unviewed America. He attempts to bring out individuality; suburbia is conformity, so what happens to those who don’t fit into the boxes? (This is Howl, in essence). Part 1 of Howl looks at the variety of people who have “lost their minds” due to the conformity of suburbia, and celebrates those who embrace their individuality and don’t conform. Part 2 of Howl claims that Americans sacrifice their true selves for Materialism—he uses Moloch to draw the parallel. The form as well as the content expresses postmodernism. Part 3 utilizes “Rockland,” a town in central New York as a place where such individuals can unite, in particular him and Carl Solommon, a friend in a sanitarium at the time. “Morning Song” Author: Sylvia Plath Publication Date: 1961 Themes: The mother’s love is absent at the beginning of the poem, but when the child cries it awakens something within her that calls her to attend to the baby. Symbolizes that “maternal feelings” do not automatically occur, there are feelings of alienation and isolation of the mother, who rejects the title of “motherhood” by saying “I am no more your mother/than the cloud that distills in a mirror…” The theme in Morning Song is alienation and the process by which it is overcome. A woman does not come to motherhood by giving birth—new behavior is learned. “Lady Lazarus” Author: Sylvia Plath Publication Date: 1962 Themes: Death, violence, and suffering. She compares herself to the fate of the six million slaughtered Jews in her emotional suffering. There is violent imagery and imagined experiences in order for Plath to communicate her emotional distress to the reader. She also talks about her attempts at suicide throughout her life. However, death is not her end, perhaps meaning that once she dies she will be free of the depression that plagues her and will be free to rise “out of the ash.” “Daddy” Author: Sylvia Plath Publication Date: 1962 Themes: Plath explores her relationship with her father and draws a parallel to him as a Nazi and her as a Jew. This alludes to her German heritage but also the terrible relationship she had with her father before he passed away and proclaims her own independence and final freedom from him; in this poem she takes her agency back and decides to be done harboring feelings for him. Invisible Man Author: Ralph Ellison Publication Date: 1952 Characters: The Narrator An unnamed invisible man with mental problems who lives in a basement and fights a battle with Monopolated Light & Power in order to “feel his vital awareness.” He has a terrifying dream in the prologue about a white woman for sale and a black woman who birthed sons to her slave master. Ras the Destroyer An unnamed character that the narrator is attempting to escape. Grandfather On his deathbed, he made the narrator feel bad for appeasing white folks and said he felt like a “betrayer to his own race” for living a life in an attempt to please them. He gives the advice to his grandson to “live with your head in the lion’s mouth…agree’em to death and destruction.” Tatlock The biggest of the boys who the narrator is forced to fight in the ring. Themes: The heroic struggle of the narrator is absolutely futile, he is reduced to nothing in the eyes of white people, and the black boys, including himself, eat it up. His dream about the suitcase and the letter inside demonstrates that any inch given by white people is just a way of keeping black people subordinate to them. The utter humiliation is soothed with money and gifts to keep the black people subservient and willing to please. “Defender of the Faith” Author: Phillip Roth Publication Date: 1959 Characters: Nathan Marx The sergeant and protagonist of the story, Marx has to reconcile his Jewish identity, and thus his sympathy for his subordinates, with his need to conform as a soldier. In the end, the “soldier” aspect wins out as he realizes that the man who has made him question his conformity was in fact just using his religion to get special treatment. Sheldon Grossbart The man who used his religion to get special treatment from Marx and who tried to get special treatment from the entire military. Paul Berrett The captain, he takes a rather inactive role in the story, leaving decisions to Nathan Marx. Fishbein Grossbart’s friend and a “real” Jew. Mickey Another one of Grossbart’s friend who doesn’t take advantage of his religion for special treatment. Themes: How does individual identity relate to religious identity? Is there a place for religion when one must be uniform? How do you relate your religious identity to the American identity?
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