Saturday, April 14, 2012


I have not read Hemingway before this and unfortunately the book The Sun Also Rises does not make me want to read any more of his works.  To me it was slow and uneventful.  I am still not sure what the plot was.

     The gist of the story is that Jake is a reporter and well off financially.  He hangs around with all sorts of people, but doesn't really appear to be sociable.  He is in love or so he appears to be with Brett, but she is not in love with him, although she calls on him throughout the book.  To me he was in lust not love, because if it was love, then he would have stood up for himself and told her that he loved her and married her.  Instead, he allows her to walk all over him and even has him set her up to be with a very young Matador.  Plus she flaunts that she was with Cohn (a Jewish boxer who is deeply infatuated with her) to him.  And all the while she is doing this, she is engaged to Mike. 
     Brett is definitely the center of the story because she is lusted after by all of the men.  Throughout the book, she is in the center of something...she is surrounded by the dancers at the fiesta and not allowed to dance; she is stared at by women through the windows; and men stare at her and try to be with her.  She leads on everyone, especially Jake, for she knows that he supposedly loves her.  Plus she sleeps with way too many people...feminism is great, but she is just plain slutty.  I mean she sees the Matador, doesn't know him and asks Jake to introduce her to him, because she is in love with him.  When he does introduce him, she sends Jake away and goes back to the hotel with the young Matador and has sex with him.  This character definitely has issues.
     The men in the story are no better, because they knew how she was and they put up with her.
     The end of the story was quite predictable.  One knew that he would be called to rescue her, because he was told that she did not have any money with her and his reaction was that he continued to repeat the statement that she had no money.  Plus he made sure that the hotel forwarded his messages to him in hopes that he would be called on to rescue the damsel in distress.  And he went back to Spain, even though he really did not want to, because he wanted to be near if she did call upon him to rescue her.  Which of course is exactly what happened.  Did he get the girl, no, because she said she was going back to Mike to marry him. 
     Can anyone tell me what the word "Tight" has to do with anything?  It was throughout the story and appeared to have many meanings.  Quite frankly the word was starting to annoy me and I wondered why the writer could not come up with any other words.  I get that those he associated with did not use a bunch of words, but surely they had more than just the word "Tight" to describe their feelings.

Monday, April 2, 2012

F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz"

Fitzgerald's story "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" was not what I was expecting; it was better.
     The story about a fairly wealthy boy from Hades, aka Hell is not necessarily interesting, except when the author turns this seemingly uninteresting place into a place of refuge.  I say that, because John T. Unger found that the Hades he was from was not Hell, but his visit to El Dorado in Montana was actually the epitome of hell.  Here he discovers that his new friend Percy is not really his friend.  If he had been then Percy would have never invited John to visit, especially since no outsider ever leaves El Dorado alive!
The story of the founding of El Dorado is have a man from the south discover a large diamond by accident normally would not be that interesting; yet in this case it was because that diamond was as big as a mountain.  This man and subsequent generations kept the secret of their wealth by doing some heinous crimes and by keeping their own families brainwashed as to what is right and what their place is in the world.  The fact that they had a 'bowl' with prisoners in it reminded me of hell in that it would represent the pits of hell. 
     I loved the picture that Fitzgerald painted of the house-the diamonds covering the walls and the tub in the floor that was surrounded by an aquarium.  It makes this place appear to be a refuge, but as John learns it is no refuge, but hell itself.
     The ending was probably the best part of the story, at least for me.  John and the two girls are running for safety after the planes have bombarded the home and they see Braddock Washington, his wife, Percy and two slaves entering a secret passage-presumably to escape-kind of like the underground railway, however we soon learn that the whole place is wired as the mountain explodes.  Then John asks Kismine (nice play on the name here -kiss mine or kiss me) for the jewels she was to take with her so that they could see how wealthy they would be and he discovers that she took rhinestones and not diamonds.  She valued these more than diamonds, because to her they were precious.
     The whole story was about love and greed.  John and Kismine fall in love, but that love is in jeopardy because John is an outsider and all outsiders will be put to death to keep the family secret-kind of reminded me of Romeo and Juliet.  And the greed was apparent throughout the story, and we see this when Fitzgerald informs us that the family will do anything to keep their home, wealth, and way of life a secret.
     I really liked this story, because it made you think at first that it was going to be a simple story of young love, but then it turns the tables and you realize that it is a story of life and death.  Plus I really liked how Fitzgerald made the town of Hades a haven while El Dorado becomes Hell! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Edith Wharton's Summer

      I am not completely sure as to what Wharton was trying to say with this story and quite frankly I was completely disappointed with the ending.
     One thing that I did notice was that the main character's name was 'Charity.'  I wonder if this was meant to symbolize the  charity that Mr. Royall showed when he took the child from the mountains in an attempt to give her a better life. Another thing I noticed was the name Mr. 'Royall.'  It appears to me that the name is to represent a kind of King of the town, which is precisely what Mr. Royall was.  I think Wharton used these two names to represent that those with power, namely the royals, are always doing charity work.  At least that is one way of looking at it; she may have had something else in mind.  Any thoughts?
     I kind of felt that Mr. Royall was a bit of a pervert, especially since Charity was like his own child.  When you take a child in at 5 years old and raise them, they are basically your child, so his wanting to marry her and be with her was a bit creepy for my taste.  However, I do realize that during this time period, there was probably nothing creepy about it, since she was not of his blood.  And at some points in the story, I actually felt a bit sorry for the man, considering how horrible she treated him.
     I don't think that Charity was as strong or as in control as she was made out to be.  The fact that she was quick to fall for a man she really knew nothing about and how she did as he told her, said that she really had no control.  I also thought this when she was dealing with Mr.Royall since she was quick to follow his instruction of coming in and speaking with him or getting into the buggy towards the end of the story, which showed that she had no real control over her life.  This lack of control was really evident when she consistently spoke of the need to run away from her problems.  A strong person would not run away, but would stand their ground and find a way to resolve their problems.
     I did like Harney at first.  However, I thought it was really crappy that he did not tell her of his engagement.  To a young woman or even one later in years, this betrayal can be devastating.  I think that the way she dealt with this betrayal was interesting, because it made me think that she was not truly in love with the man.  To let someone off the hook by saying do what is right, seems to suggest that to her he was simply a fling.  And maybe that was the point.
     Still in the end, I so wanted Harney to show up and tell her he loved her and to marry her (especially since she was carrying his child of which she did not tell him), but that did not happen.  Plus I really did not like how she ended the story with Charity married to Mr. Royall (no real surprise) and them returning to the red house of which they shared.  It left me hanging, so I felt kind of ripped off, because I did not get the ending I needed.  Maybe too, this was Wharton's way of saying you figure out the real ending and think for yourself.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ethan Frome

The story "Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton is a tragic love story. 
     At the beginning of the story one gets the idea that Ethan Frome is a recluse or perhaps unsociable, but this is because we do not know the story behind the character.  Perhaps this was written this way to give the reader the image of a broken down old man who lived a hard life.  It is the imagery that appears to matter.
     As the story continues, we learn that Ethan's life has not been easy.  He lost his father when he was in college, so he was not able to continue on with his studies, because he had to return home to take care of his mother.  She also dies and this leads Ethan to marry Zeena, who he believes is a strong woman, but it turns out that she is a hypochondriac.  She is also cruel and punishes Ethan for a false illness that she claims was caused by her taking care of his mother. 
     Mattie is the opposite of Zeena, which is probably why Ethan fell in love with her.  She is younger than he is (Zeena is older than he is) and she has more life to her.  She wants to see the world as a beautiful place and she appears to know who she wants to be with.
     It is tragic that it took the Ethan and Mattie so long to declare their love for one another.  Perhaps if they had not waited so long, then things would have turned out differently.  Instead, they wait until Zeena is sending Mattie away (which is wrong on all accounts, since the girl has no money and she is family) to declare their love and then rather than finding a way to keep Mattie there, they try to kill themselves.  Honestly, one would have thought that since Ethan was the head of the household and given the time period, that he could have put his foot down and told his wife to shove it! 
     The real tragedy is that instead of dying they are left disfigured and/or paralyzed.  And although Mattie and Ethan are able to be together they still have to contend with Zeena.  And since their plan did not work, they probably have feelings of regret and remorse which would not make for a happy life. 
     I think that perhaps Wharton was attempting to show that love does not always conquer all.  It can be, as is the case for this story, damaging because it can cause people to be cold and distant, thus making them outcasts from normal society.   I think she was also trying to show that people are so much more than what one can see.  Ethan was made to be hard, quiet and appearing to be unsociable, because of the life he had led; yet he was not so unsociable, because he took an outsider into his home on a snowy night and would even discuss, albeit lightly, engineering and other such things with this outsider.  Perhaps the moral here is that people within the town made him an outcast and he found it easier to be an outcast/unsociable because he didn't want to deal with their questions about why he was sledding on the hill with Mattie and why he has two women under his roof.  I think there are a lot of people who would rather be cast as such, than deal with people questioning them so.  I know I would.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Robert Frost's "Desert Places"

Robert Frost's "Desert Places" is a poem that truly deals with the complexities of nature.  The contrasting ideologies within the poem are meant to heighten one's perceptions as to what is nature and what is man's part in controlling the land and the universe.  Plus these contrasts are used to help man understand where the feeling of nothingness really comes from.

In the first stanza, Frost uses "snow falling" and "night falling" to heighten one's perception.  It is essential that the light from the snow falling shows the darkness descending on the land.  It sets up this eerie perception, because the light from the snow is not enough to truly see the world.  Also in this stanza we have a "field," but it is not a natural field because the field has "weeds" and "stubble" coming up, which means that it is man made or a cultivated field.  These two contrasts of "weeds" and "stubble" show how nature will reclaim that which man has taken over. 

In the second stanza we get animals being "smothered in their lairs" and "absent-spirited" which are meant to signify the concept of death and that one is lonely and not in touch with nature. 

The third stanza repeats the concept of "lonely."  This lonely and loneliness adds to the dark feeling of the poem and how one is out of touch with the natural world, which means too that they are out of touch with themselves. This stanza also has the snow annihilating everything, "A blanker whiteness of benighted snow," which almost completes this feeling of nothingness that is throughout the poem.

The final stanza tells what truly scares man.  It is not the field with weeds and stubble, nor is it the loneliness that is felt throughout the piece.  It is the emptiness of meaning that scares man and this is not found out in nature, but it is in man's mind and that is where true fear comes from.

The poem is quite dark, but I think that his idea was to show that the world is not a lonely place, but the loneliness is within each person and unless one can find meaning to their life, they will live in fear of never finding their true purpose. 


Work Cited
Frost, Robert. "Desert Places." The Bedford Anthology. 1934/1969. P. 594. Print

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jack London's "To Build a Fire"

While reading this story 'How to Build a Fire' I just kept thinking how stupid this man was to be out in 75 below freezing weather alone.  Granted he had a dog, but even the dog was looking at him like he was completely nuts for continuing on his journey.  And to go out alone was sheer stupidity.

There were elements in the story that I did like.  For one I liked how London described the freezing of the beard.  I could really visualize the tobacco stained beard growing with each spit from the man's mouth.  Not a pretty picture, but still the visual effect was there.  Another element I liked was that the man throughout the story seemed to refer back to the old timer.  In the beginning he said that he laughed at the old timer for saying that no one should travel alone when the temperature is below 55 degrees.  My thought...who would really want to be out in this type of weather anyway!  He said this a couple of times in the story, which made me think that he was poking fun at the old time views and was not listening to the experienced voice of this man.  This became obvious after he fell into the water and was quickly freezing.  If he had been more experienced he would not have built his fire under the tree for the snow to fall on it and he most certainly would not have been out in the weather alone in the first place.  In the end, he realized that he truly should have listened to the old timer and not laughed at him, because if he had he wouldn't have frozen to death!

I think the dog was significant in the story as well.  There was a bit of reference to the dog's instincts, such as when he got his paws wet and was biting away the frozen water to prevent it's paws from freezing.  The story said that the dog did not know or think, but that it was instinctual.  Also the fact that the dog continually wanted to stop and be by the fire was another form of his instinct coming into play.  I think London was trying to say that people really need to listen or pay attention to the way animals act, because they have better instincts than humans do.

In the end I think that London was trying to convey that mankind does not truly listen and that it is important to listen to those with more experience and to nature/animals, because one's life just might depend on this knowledge and instinctual behavior.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chesnutt stories-"The Wife of His Youth" and "The Passing of Grandison"

     After reading "The Wife of His Youth" I realize that I really should pay more attention to titles.  This title explains the concept of the story, yet when I first read it, I did not take the title into account.  I think for that reason, the twist at the end of the story was so much better.
     I found the beginning of the story interesting, because it gave details about the "Blue Veins" which was to say that these people, because they had one parent who was white and one who was black, did not fit into either so called "race."  They were, however considered to be better than the "black" person because of the color of their skin.
     The story of Mr. Ryder, being older, and finally finding a love in the young Mrs. Molly Dixon is not a new concept for the time or even now.  There are plenty of stories out there of older men falling in love with a younger woman.  What was surprising was when, as he was looking at his poetry as a way to prepare for his proposal to Molly, the old woman came up and sat next to him.  The description of this woman makes her appear very old.  The woman is looking for her husband, although by the law he would no longer be her husband, yet she still searches believing that he could not possibly love anyone but her, because there love was that special.
     I found it interesting how Mr. Ryder continually tried to say that perhaps her husband was dead, etc. in an attempt to make her give up on her quest.  I thought that perhaps he was trying to prepare her for the fact that she may never find this man.
      However, as the story draws to its conclusion, we here this woman's tale and you get the feeling that everyone in that room could relate due to having family who was ripped apart due to the war and other factors.  The fact that he looks at Mrs. Dixon for an answer when he asks what the man should have done, was a huge clue that there was more to his relating this story to his friends than met the eye. 
     The very end was probably the best part of this story, because he told all of his friends that this woman was his wife and that he would honor his oath that he had taken when she was a slave and he a free man.  This showed that his honor as a man and possibly husband meant a lot to him and that he would not again abandon a woman who loved no other but him and who had even traveled the continent in search of her true love.
     "The Passing of Grandison" was so funny.  First you have Dick Owens trying to win the heart of Charity.  The way to do this is to do something heroic.  So how does he do this?  He does it by deciding to run off one of his fathers slaves.  This is where we meet Grandison. 
     Grandison appears to be a very loyal slave and he really gives no indication that he will ever leave young Dick or the estate of which he lived.  Plus he had a woman who he was going to marry and family on the plantation, so he would want to be with them, rather than be free or at least that is what the Coloniel believed.
     Dick Owens does everything humanly possible to get this slave to run away.  He takes him to New York and hopes that the free men will turn him, yet it does not work.  So he takes him to Boston and actually writes letters to the abolitionists, yet this still does not appear to work.  So he takes him to Niagara Falls where young Dick finally comes up with a plan and has Grandison kidnapped.  Dick then goes home, where he knows his father will be very angry at the loss of his 'property.'  
     Dick gets everything he wants, namely Charity's hand in marriage.  But then Grandison returns to the plantation.  Here one might think that the man is insane.  Why would someone who was free return to live as a slave?  I thought that, but I also thought that he might have an ulterior motive. 
     After a bit of time, we learn that Grandison did in fact have an ulterior motive, and that motive was to save his love and his family from slavery.  He played the old southern Colonel.  He and his family escaped to the north and when the Colonel and the sheriff catch up, it is too late for Grandison and his family are sailing up the waterway. 
     This story was funny because first poor Dick cannot get Grandison to leave or at least that is what we are led to believe and then Grandison returns and frees his family from the grasp of slavery.  It showed that just because one is a slave does not mean that they are not smart, which is quite evident in this story because he played Colonel Grandison like a fiddle!