Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Characterization Paper


Numerous literary elements transform an ordinary piece of literature into one that is amazingly profound and interesting. One of the most important and powerful ways an author is able to establish his point is through the character’s interactions with one another and with their environment. In “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker deals with the contrasting customs of expressing one’s heritage through the opposing motives of Maggie and Dee, at the same time, Walker depicts their mother as a character who tries to find a middle ground amidst her daughters opposing views. After their house burns down and a decision is made over which daughter should receive their grandmother’s quilt, the readers view the vast contradicting differences between the opposing characters as Dee being the sister who has a superficial way of expressing their heritage, where as her younger sister, Maggie believes in more traditional methods.

The differences amongst the three main characters’ personalities, and physical traits, signify an immediate division in their family. The narrator begins by discussing “…TV shows where the child who has “made it” is confronted … by her own mother and father, tottering weakly from backstage.” (Walker 91) The readers later realize that the narrator is referring to Dee as the daughter who has “made it” (91) and her mother and Maggie are “tottering weakly from backstage.” (91) Instantly, the readers view Dee as the dominate and successful daughter who “… has held life always in the palm of one hand…” (91) and has branched off from her family as she peruses better things. However, as the story progresses, Dee appears to be a self-absorbed character, who truly does not understand the significance of her heritage, although she genuinely feels that she does. Her superficial outlook towards her culture prevails after she insists on taking the quilts her mother promised to give to Maggie, with the sole intensions of hanging them up. Dee feels that “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts…”(96) and that she is “…backward enough to put them to everyday use.”(96) Dee strongly believes that her sister’s desire to use the quilts for there intended purposes is disrespectful to their culture, however, Dee’s desire to place them on display is the real act of disrespect because rather than embracing the cultural beauty and importance of the quilts, she wants to subject them to criticism by others who do not understand or value their culture.

Maggie, Dee’s younger sister, contradicts Dee’s outlook and interpretation of the importance of their culture. Maggie chooses to embrace her culture by interacting with objects passed down through generations on a daily basis and by staying attached to more traditional ways of life. Maggie is immediately distinguished as the lesser attractive and less confident sister because Dee has a lighter complexion “…nicer hair and a fuller figure…”(92) and Maggie always walk with her “…chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle…”(92) The readers come to discover that Maggie was tremendously impacted after “…the fire …burned the other house to the ground.”(92) Although Dee has moved on from that disaster, Maggie seems to be extremely attached to their old house and just as Maggie clung to her mother as she was dragged from the burning house, it appears that she still clings to her mother and to the old memories. When conflict arises over who should resultantly have the quilts, Maggie’s nonaggressive attitude of “…never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her” (97) causes her to give up the quilts; even though, earlier in the story, their mother said that Dee was originally offered the quilts before leaving for college, but she thought they were “…old-fashioned, out of style.” (96) In order to settle the conflict and since, “Maggie’s brain is like an elephant’s,…”(95) she concludes that she can just as easily remember her Grandma Dee “…without the quilts.”(97) Maggie’s resistance to having the situation escalate and realizing that she did not need to possess material items in order to preserve the memories of her ancestors or her African culture, shows how Maggie truly valued and profoundly understood her heritage.

Maggie and Dee’s mother is a character who seemed to understand from the beginning of the story the essence of their heritage, however, many underestimate her because she is not well educated. For instance, when Dee’s mother first met Asalamalakim, Dee’s friend, he looked down on her “…like somebody inspecting a Model A car” (94) and after she had trouble with the pronunciation of his name and she “…tripped over it two or three times he told …[her]… to call him Hakim-a-barber.”(94) However, her lack of education never impaired her from recalling and appreciating the importance of her ancestry, and when she finally decided on who should receive the quilts, “…it was like something hit…[her]… in the top of…[her]… head and ran down to the soles of …[her]… feet,” (97) compelling her to do something she has never done before. She first hugged Maggie and “… dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero’s hands and dumped them into Maggie’s lap.”(97) Seeing as how their mother had a certain connection with the quilts because she had actually put together the quilts alongside Grandma Dee and Big Dee, she realized which daughter rightfully deserved the quilts, especially since two of the people who toiled over those quilts, Dee was named after, and according to Dee, she no longer wanted to be named after people who oppressed her and Dee considered her name “…dead…” (94) Understanding that Dee did not undeniably value her heritage, the narrator emphasizes the idea that their mother snatched the quilts out of “…Miss Wangero’s hands…” (97), instead of Dee’s hands and ultimately gave the quilts to Maggie, someone who truly embodies and appreciates the African culture.

A character’s moral beliefs ultimately affect the ways in which he interacts with other characters throughout the course of a story. Alice Walker demonstrates these core ideas by depicting the differing views of two main characters, in the story, “Everyday Use”. Dee and Maggie are two polar opposite characters whose looks and actions shape their beliefs and views of the heritage. As Dee tries to simulate into modern society, she appears to lose the original and core values of her heritage, were as Maggie seems infatuated with traditional ways of thinking. As a conflict arises over which child should ultimately receive two quilts that are richly embedded with historical meanings and memories, their mother has a revelation that essentially marks a new beginning. Although Dee is known for being a beautiful child who has “made it,” (91) and always has situations result in her favor, her mother realizes that her knowledge and understanding of their heritage has been tainted by her inclusion into modern society. Dee left the house still oblivious to the fact that she does not have a profound understanding to her African culture, Maggie graciously and proudly receives the quilts that she has longed for and rightfully deserves.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Point Of View Essay

Society’s Rose

Reoccurring times in literature, authors use specific elements to develop a story and take it from a general level to one that is unique and profound. As the readers embark on such captivating journeys, they often encounter characters that are either generally accepted by their society or characters that are distant from their neighbors based on their beliefs and values. A Rose For Emily by William Faulkner is a short story that deals with the strenuous task of trying to feel accepted by a society that upholds different values than that of a particular individual. Miss Emily Grierson is endowed with this mission because many people “… believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were.” (Faulkner 28) With that imposing idea, the narrator depicts Miss Emily as an outcast and eventually as someone who is extremely isolated from the rest of her community. The narrator introduces his ideas with a first person plural narration that leads to the point of view of, stream of consciousness, which gives incite on an individual’s thought process. This element plays a major role in the course of the story because as the narrator occasionally includes himself in the Jefferson community, he gives his opinions on how a woman of such a high stature is shunned by her entire community, solely based on her unwillingness to assimilate to the newer ideas of the up and coming generation. Through Miss Emily’s isolation from society, Faulkner emphasizes the idea that the fear of being alone causes an individual to not only seek comfort in unlikely places, but also to lash out against the outward things that are causing her feelings of insecurity and loneness.

The story’s postmortem aspect prevails in the beginning of the story as the readers discover that Miss Emily is already dead, however, Miss Emily’s death is crucial because the readers immediately get a small glimpse at the type of relationship Miss Emily had with her neighbors. In the first two opening paragraphs, the narrator not only states “… our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house,…” (26) he concludes the paragraphs with a description of her house. The readers obtain an understanding that she was distant from the people of her community seeing as how her neighbors did not show up to her funeral to grieve, but they came to look around her house and to satisfy their curiosity. The neighbors feel as if they have good reason to be curious because Miss Emily lived a secretive life that embodied every idea of the past generations that resided in Jefferson. Dating back to 1894, Miss Emily was “…remitted of her taxes…” (26) by Colonel Sartoris, however, “… the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction.” (26) As the officials of the town go to great lengths to force Miss Emily to comply with the new rules, her unwillingness to adhere to the orders of the town, cause many to believe that her stubborn ways embody her ideas of superiority.

Miss Emily’s resistance to comply with the new rules of the town causes much dislike amongst her and the people of the town. People in the community appear to try and avoid her at all times, however, when an unbearable stench begins to come from her house, the townsmen are forced to intervene. The men’s apprehensiveness about visiting her house, and one the man saying, he would “… be the last one in the world to bother Miss Emily…”(27) the readers begin to view Miss Emily as someone that is feared throughout the town. Faulkner makes a point of saying “…four men crossed Miss Emily’s lawn … they broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there…” (28) and after Miss Emily’s father dies, “… people were glad…” (28) and “… at last they can pity Miss Emily…” (28) In all of these instances, the narrator distances himself from the community and he begins to look upon the people of the town and view their actions towards Miss Emily from a different perspective. Stream of consciousness falls under the category of selective omniscience, and omniscience occurs from the author’s point of view and not the narrator’s. When the narrator is separated from society, he sees the ways in which the town treated her while she was alive; however, when the narrator includes himself in their society, he sympathizes with her more. Faulkner intentionally includes and then separates the narrator from the Jefferson society because the readers and the narrator have the opportunity to see how Miss Emily is truly affected by this isolation and it establishes a sense of suspense as the readers wonder if Miss Emily’s solitude will encourage her to succumb to the pressures of society or will she continue to resist the new rules. The story’s tone seems to change after Miss Emily’s father dies, and she denies the fact that her father is actually dead. The narrator then says, “we did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people would.” (28) It appears that after the narrator separates himself from the community, he is able to better understand Miss Emily’s situation and he chooses to include her in the idea of “people”(28) rather than just the outcast, Miss Emily.

Although it may appear that the narrator has a better idea of Miss Emily’s past, she is still isolated from the rest of her society; however, she is able to find an unusual outlet that provides her with a little sanity. As new projects are underway in Jefferson, Homer Barron, a construction worker, comes into the town and brings more life to the people there. “Whenever you heard a lot of laughing anywhere about the square, Homer Barron would be in the center of the group” and Miss Emily surprisingly was interested in him as well. As they began to spend more time together, the townspeople and Miss Emily found out that Homer, “…liked men... and… that he was not a marrying man…” (30) Despite this revelation, Homer and Miss Emily spent even more time together and as Miss Emily appeared to be happier, the other women of the town seemed to become jealous of Miss Emily, especially when “… they passed on Sunday afternoon in the glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth.” (30) The women began to despise and even interfere in Miss Emily’s relationship, but soon after the women called the minister to speak with them, “… we were sure that they were to be married.” (30) A few days later Homer entered Miss Emily’s house and that was the last time any of the people in the town saw him again. In fact, a long time passed before anyone saw Miss Emily again either, and as “… the newer generation became the backbone and the spirit of the town…” Miss Emily seemed to revert back to her old ways of refusing to divert from her traditional ways. After generations passed she eventually fell ill and died in her house.

After the death of Miss Emily, the people of the town finally gained enough courage to enter a house full of dust and despair and pay their respects to her one last time. Although no one had seen the inside of the house “…in at least ten years,…”(26) none of the neighbors were prepared to see Homer Barron’s dead body lying on a bed in the attic and an indentation of a head with a long strand of iron-gray hair on the pillow next to his body. Although it was not directly stated in the story, the readers can conclude that Miss Emily killed Homer Barron with the rat poisoning she had bought earlier in the story. After Miss Emily met Homer, she appeared to enjoy life more, and to take small adventures with him that went beyond the walls of her house, however, as she began to enjoy more things, she began to feel the pressures of her society as they judged her relationship with Homer. Their interference forced her to think about marrying Homer and buying him things that she otherwise would not have done if her community had allowed her the freedom of engaging in this relationship without their input. Faulkner used stream of consciousness to express how easy it is to allow oneself to become a part of a society that judges someone without truly getting to know him first. The narrator of A Rose For Emily by William Faulkner, includes himself in the Jefferson community as they look upon Miss Emily and criticize her way of life because it is extremely different from the type of lifestyle the newer generation is trying to create. However, during the times when the narrator disconnects himself from the community, he realizes Miss Emily’s childhood and the pressure from her father was part of the reasons as to why she did not interact much with the men and women in her community. Faulkner’s emphasis on the idea that Miss Emily’s fear of being abandoned by Homer, the first person in a long time who cared about her would possibly leave her because he did not view her in an affectionate way, caused her to have the desire to kill him and to preserve his body in the attic. Just as a rose is sometimes pressed in a book, Miss Emily chose to leave Homer’s body in her attic, in order to preserve the memories, love, and friendship they once shared.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Summer Assigment: Paper

Ironic Differences

Often, many characters are faced with obstacles that they must overcome in order to grow both mentally and physically. Many times, these obstacles force characters to undergo changes that can produce both positive and negative effects. As seen in the novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, all of the people in the village of Mbanta experience the drift from their traditional way of life to one that is completely different. The twenty sixth chapter of the book How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster characterizes these changes as ironic. This literary element plays a major role in the course of Things Fall Apart because Foster explains irony in literature as events that result in one way; however, the readers predict that event will have a completely different outcome. Achebe uses irony to convey the idea that regardless of how drastic a particular change may be, every character can learn from this change. Despite how physically, or mentally different two characters may be, resultantly all of the characters have an opportunity to gain a profound sense of knowledge and understanding from every person they encounter.

One of the main characters, Okonkwo, became the backbone of the village of Mbanta and truly defined his idea of what a strong and capable leader of the tribe should represent. However, from the beginning of the novel, Achebe describes the most unpredictable people and environment Okonkwo originated from. Unoka, Okonkwo’s father was “…known in all of the clan for the weakness of …[his]… machete and …[his]…hoe” (17), many of his neighbors referred to him as “a debtor” (Achebe 4) because “…he owed every neighbor some money, from a few cowries to quite substantial amounts.” (4) Although he was considered “…lazy and improvident,…” (4) he appeared to be a free spirited person, who enjoined subtle things, such as playing the flute. Although, his son, Okonkwo, was also a well known man in their tribe, his “…fame rested on solid personal achievements” (3) and unlike his father, Okonkwo enjoyed the danger of war because it exemplified his strength and courage. It appears as if Okonkwo and Unoka are two very different people and it was unexpected for such a powerful, strong, and greatly respected warrior to have originated from such a poor and unstable environment. Although Okonkwo possesses admirable qualities and appears to be destined to become one of the greatest leaders of Mbanta, he would not have been able to accomplish many of his goals, if it had not been for his father’s care free mentality. Okonkwo’s determination to become wealthy and successful was driven by his desire to accomplish more than his father had ever imagined, and through his father’s actions, Okonkwo greatly appreciated the value of hard work and all of its rewards.

Although Okonkwo developed an impressive work mentality, he was at a great disadvantage because his father had not acquired much during his lifetime that could contribute to Okonkwo’s success. As Okonkwo struggled to overcome the difficulties he faced of not having“…the start in life which many young men had…” (18) it appeared that as Okonkwo became more successful, his relationship with Unoka dwindled. The more he resented his father for his shortcomings, the stronger Okonkwo’s desire became to maintain his idea of a strong man. After his first son, Nwoye, was born Okonkwo pushed Nwoye beyond his limits to become a tough man, but Okonkwo only saw his son with “…incipient laziness,”(13) which forced Okonkwo to constantly nag and beat Nwoye. Okonkwo’s brutal mistreatment of his son eventually caused Nwoye to resent and hate his father, which forced him to eventually leave their tribe to join a Christian missionary. Irony plays a major role in this situation because not only does Nwoye end up feeling resentment towards his father just as Okonkwo feels towards his father, but they both resent their fathers for contradictory reasons. Unoka’s lack of determination to work and become wealthy causes Okonkwo to resent him, however, Okonkwo had such a strong work mentality that it forced Nwoye to resent him as well.

After Nwoye left Mbanta he joined a missionary that tried to spread the Christian religion throughout many villages, one of which included the village of Mbanta. The invasion of the Christian missionaries would be an event described by Thomas Foster in How to Read Literature Like a Professor as a “signified message” (Foster 238) because that incident resulted in a way that was opposite of what the readers expected. Since the Christian missionaries strongly believed in God, the readers predicated that they would bring about peace and unity to the tribe, however, the exact opposite eventually occurred. The arrival of this group brought a lot of tension and mixed emotions to Mbanta because it had been rumored that the village of “Abame … [had]… been wiped out…”(138) by a group of white men. However, after the Christian missionaries arrived in Mbanta, they built a church on a small section of the Evil Forest and despite their odds; they eventually gained the support of many converts in the village. As time progresses, one of the leaders of the missionary, Mr. Brown, continued to create peace amongst everyone in the village, by opening schools and by establishing solid friendships with many of the leaders of Mbanta. Things take a turn for the worst after his successor, Mr. Smith, takes control and enforces strict rules that ultimately lead to more anger and violence in village. Mbanta has always been a village “…feared by all of its neighbors” (11) because it “… was powerful in war and in magic…”(11), but as more missionaries invaded the village and tried to change the village’s traditional way of life, they created animosity, violence, and mistrust amongst the tribal members. Their ideas eventually destroyed the original beliefs of a once highly feared and dominate village.

Prior to the arrival of the missionaries, Okonkwo was known to be a very violent man and many times, his anger was directed towards his family. Since “Okonkwo never showed any emotions openly, unless it be the emotion of anger”(28) because he felt that showing “… affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength”(28) he was more than willing to become physically violent with anyone he felt disrespected him. With that knowledge, all of his wives knew that they would be severely punished if they were to disrespect him, however, his third wife, Ojiugo, was brutally beaten by Okonkwo during the Week of Peace after she did not come home early enough to cook him dinner. Many components of this event is essential to the irony of Okonkwo’s violent ways because for a man that could be extremely aggressive towards his own family, it was unexpected for him to be exiled after accidently killing Ezeudu’s son when his “…gun had exploded and a piece of iron had pierced the boy’s heart.”(124) The narrator later said “the crime was of two kinds, male and female” (124) and ironically, “Okonkwo had committed the female,…”(124) which forced him to live on his motherland for the next seven years. In addition, his uncle, Uchendu, informed him that while he stayed on his motherland, his “…duty was to comfort … [his]… wives and children…” (134) After numerous months passed with Okonkwo living in exile, he felt he could have prospered more on his fatherland instead of his motherland, and he viewed those years as “…seven wasted and weary years…”(162). With this idea formulated, Okonkwo well anticipated a triumphant return to Mbanta.

Okonkwo’s return did not go according to his plan, mainly because the people of Mbanta were too consumed with the new Christian religion to even notice that Okonkwo and his family had returned. The village had completely changed due to strict rules enforced by the District Commissioner and Mr. Smith, but Okonkwo felt it was his duty to rally the men of his village together and fight against the white men, in order to regain control of their village. During one of his meetings, a group of white men came to break up the meeting; however, Okonkwo used his machete to kill one of the men. When the District Commissioner went looking for Okonkwo, he found his dead body hanging from a tree. Okonkwo was one of the greatest leaders of the clan, and over many years, he worked tirelessly to obtain several titles. Even though he invested everything into the clan, Obierika said Okonkwo allowed the District Commissioner to drive “… him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog…” (208) Despite all of Okonkwo’s accomplishments, he dishonored his clan by taking his own life, which is ironic because all of Okonkwo’s motivation was “…possessed by the fear of his father’s contemptible life and shameful death.”(18) Okonkwo viewed Unoka’s life as a waste because he died without ever acquiring any titles, and he was left to die in the Evil Forest. Despite all of the fame and glory Okonkwo accumulated, Okonkwo and his father will be remembered for the same thing, their dishonorable deaths.

The village of Mbanta, along with many great leaders of the village underwent drastic changes as the novel progressed. Although many of these changes could have been a tremendous learning experience for all of the people in Mbanta, many villagers chose to deal with the situation in violent and destructive ways. Although the Christian missionaries thought they were introducing a more civilized way of life to the people of Mbanta, they ultimately destroyed the core beliefs and spirit of a once vivacious and powerful village. However, through all of this animosity and destruction in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Achebe reveals the essence of embracing everyone, despite their differences. Okonkwo and his father, Unoka, were amazing examples of how Thomas Foster’s ideas of irony from the book How to Read Literature Like a Professor can greatly affect two characters that appear to be the polar opposites. Resultantly, regardless of how different two characters or religions may be, there are still ironic circumstances that connect them on one basic level.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

One Hundred Years of Solitude I

ashley8 said...
The title, One Hundred Years of Solitude, is very intriguing and many events in the novel lead me to agree with Mary that many members of the Buendía family deal with their own incidences that cause them to feel isolated. I feel that José Arcadio Buendía began the trend by isolating himself from his family after he became involved in the wonders of science. He didn’t realize his ways until Ursula said he should start worrying about his sons instead of his inventions because they were “…running wild just like donkeys.” (14) Ursula’s statement foreshadowed later events in the novel because his children became involved in their own interests. Such as José Arcadio, who ran off with the gypsies and retuned to Macondo as a completely different person. Also Rebecca, someone who grew very close to the Buendía family would revert back to her old ways when things became too difficult, such as when the date for her wedding could not be decided on, she “…lost her bearings, completely demoralized, Rebecca began eating earth again.” (88) Both José Arcadio, Rebecca, and many other characters found other outlets in their lives that numbed the pain of dealing with certain problems, especially those that involved their family.

José Arcadio Buendía’s desire to research different things, such as religion or technology was brought about though good intension because he wanted to advance Macondo. He wanted to create a place “…where all one had to do was sprinkle some magic liquid on the ground and the plants would bear fruit whenever a man wished, and where all of instruments against pain were sold at bargain prices.” (14) Many of his discoveries would change the lives of the people in Macondo by making it easier for them to prosper, with more fruits and vegetables; they would attract people from other villages and be able to sell more goods. However, as Melquíades introduced more inventions to José Arcadio Buendía, he began to change and he reminded me of the character Okonkwo from Things Fall Apart by Achebe. Okonkwo and José Arcadio Buendía are very similar because their ambitions and goals to create better lives for themselves and for their families caused them to lose cite in the core values of their villages - unity and strength. Once those two elements were lost, wars, hatred, and animosity broke out amongst many people in the village.

I found it interesting to see how the drift from beginning united played out in Macondo because my perception of the Spanish culture involved people who truly valued the importance of taking care of those in their families and always putting them first and I feel that Ursula really tried to hold her family together though difficult times. Such as when she brought a change of clean cloths and a pistol to José Arcadio while he was in jail after he left unexpectedly to join the war and become involved in the Liberal Party. She also was excited to see José Arcadio when he returned from traveling with the gypsies, she “…flung her arms around his neck, shouting and weeping with joy,” instead of shunning him off because he left unexpectedly and retuned “… a bigger man … with needlework.” (106) Although Ursula did not accept José Arcadio and Rebecca’s wedding at first, she “consoled herself with her own lies” about their relationship in order to keep José Arcadio Buendía from becoming even more depressed from the news of José Arcadio’s return to Macondo, bringing with him “shame to [their] household.” (106) Even though Ursula did not always agree with her children’s decisions, she never seemed to completely give up on them, however, it seemed that the harder she tried to hold her family together, the easier it became for things to fall apart.

I also agree with because the death of Melquíades changed the atmosphere of Macondo because before he died, there had not been any deaths in the village. Since Melquíades said “…death followed him everywhere…” (5) it seemed inevitable that after he returned to Macondo death would soon strike in the village and soon after Melquíades died, the village seemed to die as well. Many deaths directly affected the Buendía family because Remedios, “…poisoned by her own blood…” (86) was the first to die and soon after her death, a brutal war against the Conservatives and the Liberals erupted, killing numerous people. Once Melquíades died, it seemed as if death became apart of their culture and people such as Colonel Aureliano Buendía and Colonel Marquez were more than willing to kill others to have their opinions heard. Despite their intentions, all of the people of Macondo appeared to drift away from the pride they took in not causing violence and not having anyone die in their village.

August 2, 2008 4:32 PM

One Hundred Years of Solitude II

ashley8 said...
The second section of One Hundred Years of Solitude reinforces the idea that the women of Macondo are very strong and they do not depend on assistance from men to help them through difficult situations. I agree with valleygirl 09 that Ursula exemplifies this idea because from the first section of One Hundred Years of Solitude “thanks to her the floors of tamped earth, the unwhitewashed mud walls, the rustic, wooden furniture they had built themselves were always clean…” (9) Not only is Ursula able to take care of the house, her “…capacity for work was the same as that of her husband,” (8) especially when she had to paint and fix things in her house and take care of all of the children because José Arcadio Buendía consumed all of his time with scientific inventions. I think this concept of women taking the lead role in their families is very intriguing because in the book, Things Fall Apart by Achebe, women came second to their husbands and they were seen as inferior to men. The difference in their beliefs causes me to wonder what Okonkwo would think of José Arcadio Buendía for allowing his wife to become the main provider for their family.

The women’s desire to do things on their own may cause them to push love and affection from men in their village away. For instance Remedios the Beauty was known as one of the most beautiful women in Macondo and the men in Macondo would go to great lengths just to get a glimpse of her beauty, however, she never allowed herself to become involved with these men. Fernanda del Carpio is also a woman who shows her independence by continuing to uphold the beliefs that she was taught by her mother, even though her husband, Aureliano Segundo and his family do things differently. She also continues to raise her daughter, Renata Remedios by very strict rules, despite Aureliano Segundo’s resistance. I feel that Fernanda is also a courageous and determined woman because she never becomes angry or upset with her husband despite the fact that she and everyone else in Macondo know that he often visits his mistress, Petra Cotes. I think that the women’s resistance to have a relationship with other men in the village or their unwillingness to leave their husbands is fueled by their desire to focus on the important aspects in theirs lives, such as their children and their well being.

Steph113 predicts that Ursula will live longer than her family members and I agree with her prediction because Ursula is the only one who held the Buendía family together through many of their difficult times and she was able to uphold the original beliefs of Macondo. While José Arcadio Buendía was tied to the Chestnut tree, Ursula would bath him, bring him clean cloth and food, and she would confide many things in him, while other people neglected him and infatuated themselves in the new inventions that were brought to the village. Ursula did not allow herself to become involved in new technology or occupied with the war and the conflicts between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Through all of the destruction and chaos that occurred in Macondo, Gabriel García Márquez later revealed in the book that, “…no one discovered that she was blind.” (246) For Ursula to have endured all of the pain, mistrust, and deception that has evolved in the Buendía family over the years, I feel that Ursula deserves to live the longest and to see how the village can be restored. She has seen how Macondo developed into a destructive and dangerous village, but it is time for her to see how the village she took so much pride in many years ago, can change for the better and become a prosperous and unified village once again.

August 8, 2008 2:10 PM

One Hundred Years of Solitude III

ashley8 said...
The third section of One Hundred Years of Solitude is completely different from the beginning of the book, due to the fact that many characters have died and the village of Macondo has entirely fallen apart.

The changes that Macondo underwent were to be expected seeing as how the Buendía family resided there for over a century, however, I never imaged the village to undergo such catastrophic changes as it had. Although war, death, and violence all played huge factors in the reasons as to why the village changed drastically, as Nessa stated rain also brought about a change to Macondo. I agree with her because after the village underwent the rain storm that lasted over four years, although many people were found dead and major companies such as the banana company were destroyed, the original aspects of the village still remained. “The survivors of the catastrophe, the same ones who had been living in Macondo before it had been struck by the banana hurricane…” (331) appeared to be better off, despite their losses. People such as José Arcadio, opened his home to the children of the town so they could have an area to play in.

A major portion of the third section was devoted to Amaranta Úrsula and her relationships with Gaston and Aureliano. In her relationship with Gaston, she really took control of their marriage and I agree with Mary that the women of Macondo made decisions in their relationships that always appeared to result in their favor. With Gaston, it was clear that he wanted to please her and even though he “had more than enough money to live anywhere in the world” (379) he chose to put his dreams of creating an airmail service on hold to live with Amaranta Úrsula in Macondo for over two years. However, the idea of women taking the lead role in their relationships altered a bit when Amaranta Úrsula began a relationship with Aureliano. They seemed to be able to communicate better with one another, and they appeared to have a better understanding of each other’s desires. A turning point in their relationship occurred when they were faced with the task of naming their child and Amaranta Úrsula, for many years, wanted to name her son Rodrigo, however, Aureliano made the decision that their son would be named after him. I wonder why Amaranta Úrsula was more willing to compromise with Aureliano than she was with her husband, Gaston.

I also agree with Paul In A Nutshell about how Aureliano’s pig tail represented his parents’ weakness of succumbing to the temptations of having a relationship with one another, even though they were related. However, I wonder why Márquez decided to denote a child of incest with a pig’s tail, but pigs are know to be animals that are unkept and they get into a lot of mess. In my opinion, Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano’s actions reflect that of a pig in a way because Amaranta Úrsula was unkept in not staying faithful to her husband and they both created a mess by having relations even though they knew the risk of possibly having a child that would be born with a pig’s tail.

The final pages of the book brought many ideas to a close, one of which, I thought included the idea that people only have one life to live, so they should take advantage of different things. The closing line of the book stated “… races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth” (417) and I felt that this statement was very powerful and significant to the text because many of the main characters allowed themselves to fall into a state of solitude. For instance, José Arcadio Buendía, consumed all of his time with various inventions, Amaranta distanced herself from men she strongly loved and Fernanda del Carpio distracted herself from her husband, Aureliano Segundo’s adultery. The Buendía family’s cycle of living in solitude not only kept them from seizing the many different opportunities in life, this cycle followed them from one generation to the next and ultimately led them all to their downfall. I feel that Márquez wanted to establish the idea that by consuming one’s life with a single idea, leads to a life of solitude and in order to truly live life to its entirety, a person must allow himself to be opened to exploring all of the opportunities one is confronted with in their lifetime.

August 16, 2008 6:21 PM

Remains of the Day I

ashley8 said...
While reading The Remains of the Day the character Stevens, appears to be a very interesting character because although he is very kind and respectful, at times, he seems to be very reserved and distant. Lilleenewen mentioned how Stevens speaks in a more sophisticated tone than other characters and I too noticed his tendencies. Before Kazuo revealed to the readers that Stevens was a butler, I expected him to be someone who held a higher position at Darlington Hall due to his proper tone. However, I think his use of language and his actions are denoted by his cultural surroundings and could be more understood by British people. For instance, Stevens comments on how confused he becomes when his employer, Mr. Farraday, makes jokes and how he usually does not know what is “required of [him] on those occasions” (15) and in instances such as those, ones cultural background really helps a person understand how to react in those situations. Seeing as how Mr. Farraday is an American and Stevens is British, in American culture it is more acceptable to have a light hearted relationship ones boss, where as in the British culture, an employer tends to have more of a disciplined relationship with his employer. At the same time, the awkwardness and confusion that comes with Stevens and Mr. Farrday’s interactions adds a sense of humor to the book, especially after Mr. Farraday makes a number of jokes and Stevens said he did not know if he “was expected to laugh heartily; or indeed, reciprocated with some remark of [his] own.” (15)

Kazuo also makes it very clear how important Stevens views his job and the large amount of pride he takes in making sure everything is going smoothly. The amount of effort and time Stevens invests into his job causes me to think that he is trying to hide from other things and/or cover up his true emotions. As Babaloo commented, Stevens allows his job to consume his entire life, restricting him from enjoying the present beauty of his country rather than just the historical artifacts he sees every day from working at Darlington Hall. Even though he has embarked on this trip and he now has the opportunity to experience many different things, he constantly thinks about his job. He even delayed his departure by one hour because he felt that “with Mrs. Clements and the girls also gone for the week,” he supposed he was “very conscious of the fact that once [he] parted, Darlington Hall would stand empty for probably the first time this century.” (23) In addition, as he laid awake on the second morning of his trip, he contemplated the ideas Miss Kenton brought up in her message and all of the ways in which he could improve the staff plan.

Although I feel that Stevens’s ways of centering his life on his job is a little eccentric, his desire to constantly work builds upon his dedication and pride he has in serving the higher officials of his country. His desire to work nonstop can be driven by his aspiration to become a “great butler” (42) and to have dignity in his job. Stevens defines dignity as “a butler’s ability not to abandon their professional being he inhabits” (42) and he defines a great butler as his “ability to inhabit their professional role and inhabit it to the utmost; they will not be shaken out by external events, however surprising, alarming or vexing.” (42-43). In all, Stevens appears to be overly consumed with his work, but he may or may not be reaching for goals that are highly respected in his country such as dignity and greatness. However, just as the character Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart by Achebe strived to achieve the highest titles in his clan, his desires eventually destroyed him. Having goals are crucial in literature because it gives characters something to work for and to have pride in, but if a character works too much, he will miss out on many amazing opportunities. Hopefully through Stevens’s trip he will be able to realize that there is more to life than serving others and it is essential for him to focus more on his own life and to allow himself to seize every chance he has to enjoy it.

July 19, 2008 3:15 PM

The Remains of the Day II

ashley8 said...
As the book progresses, Stevens continues to allow his thoughts about Darlington Hall consume every aspect of his trip, which leads me to still believe that he is trying hard to hide very deep emotions. I am also beginning to wonder if he has embarked on this trip in order to discover something or to receive closure on certain situations. I agree with jlam09 with the idea that Stevens is using work as an excuse to visit Miss Kenton. Stevens finally admits that “one has to remember there is nothing stated specifically in Miss Kenton’s letter … to indicate unambiguously her desire to return to her former position” (140) and I speculate that this was the first time Stevens admitted this to himself, because as the day comes to an end, he really begins to put some deep thought into the details of Miss Kenton’s letter. Coincidently, this revelation comes about before he is to meet her within forty-eight hours, so he will probably use timing as another excuse as for why he did not call off the trip and go back to Darlington Hall.

Stevens seemed to have a closer relationship with Miss Kenton than he had with any other employee at Darlington Hall, but at the same time, they argue and seem to get under each others skin the longer the work together. For instance, Stevens was relaxing in his pantry, reading a romance novel when Miss Kenton unexpectedly entered the room. She was curious as to what Stevens was reading so she tried to grab the book from Stevens and suddenly, “the atmosphere underwent a peculiar change – almost as though the two of us had been suddenly thrust on to some other plane of being altogether.” (167). Their interaction and others such as those throughout the book thus far cause me to wonder, such as babaloo has, as to why Stevens wants Miss Kenton to return to work at Darlington Hall. It is clear that Stevens is the type of person who likes things to be very private and Miss Kenton does not seem to respect those boundaries. At the same time, when Miss Kenton advanced towards Stevens they made an unusual connection, and although Stevens says he is unable to understand what that interaction meant, I believe that Stevens may have feelings that go beyond a professional level for Miss Kenton but he is just too afraid to succumb to those feelings. If Stevens is searching for something more in their relationship, hopefully Miss Kenton feels the same way about him and he is not over analyzing the contact he recalls they made throughout the years they worked together, just as he may have done while reading her letter.

In earlier sections of the book, Stevens stated that Miss Kenton had gotten a divorce after a couple of years of marriage and I found that really ironic because as Stevens reminisced about Darlington Hall, he remembered the time when Lord Darlington asked Stevens to fire two Jewish maids simply because they were Jewish. After doing so, Miss Kenton and Stevens searched for a replacement and they found Lisa. Although she was not very qualified, they hired her anyway and Miss Kenton invested a tremendous amount of energy into making her an amazing housekeeper. Suddenly, Lisa ran off with the second footman because she proclaimed to be in love. Miss Kenton was extremely upset and she said that Lisa was “foolish” (159) and that “she’s bound to be let down” (159). Although Lisa and the second footman did not know each other for a very long time before they ran away together, I feel that Miss Kenton and Stevens are so consumed with their jobs that they cannot truly sympathize with Lisa’s feelings. Over the years, they have allowed themselves to become too afraid to take any risks and to experience life for what it’s worth - like falling in love and exploring things that go beyond Darlington Hall. Even though Miss Kenton finally took a chance and got married she soon divorced, but I wonder if the man she has been waiting for all along is in fact Stevens. I wonder what is too come in later parts of the book of their relationship; I anticipate the idea of Stevens finally letting his guard down and allowing Miss Kenton to become closer to him on a level that goes beyond being professional.

July 23, 2008 3:16 PM

The Remains of the Day III

ashley8 said...
Throughout the entire novel it became evident that Stevens allowed his profession to take over every aspect of his life and in doing so, he keep himself from being able to express his emotions. Stevens’ resistance to expressing his emotions forced him to be very distant and at times, he appeared as if he was better than others. For instance, Stevens was serving breakfast to Mr. Farraday when Mr. Farraday picked up his fork, examined it and placed it back on the table. Apparently something was wrong with the fork because Stevens thought “…being an American he failed to recognize the extent of the shortcoming...” (139). In addition, while on his trip, Stevens feels that he has “let oneself down” (160) because he “… allowed the Ford to run out of petrol … and the trouble yesterday concerning the lack of water in the radiator, it would be unreasonable for an observer to believe such general disorganization endemic to [his] nature.” (160) Stevens is very hard on himself and he doesn’t realize that everyone has car trouble and makes mistakes at their job once in a while, but those events are not enough reasons for him to feel as if he has let himself down. It seems that Stevens has put on a façade of being very professional and proper all of the time that doesn’t allow him to realize that he is just like everyone else and it is okay for him to make mistakes.

Due to the fact that one of the many duties as a butler is to wait on other’s and with Stevens so occupied with work, I feel that he has created a distorted self image. When Lord Darlington became increasingly involved in international affairs he began to take on the idea that the common individual was incapable of making decisions that would greatly affect their country. Throughout those events, Stevens began to believe that “… such great affairs will always be beyond the understanding of those such as you and I, and those of us concentrating on what is within our realm; that is to say, by devoting our attention to providing the best possible service to those great gentlemen in whose hands the destiny of civilization truly lies.” (199) Up to that point in the book, I felt that Stevens viewed himself as someone who put himself above those who are just like him, but comes second to those that are officials in his country. By always having to do for others, and strictly following the rules of a butler, I don’t think Stevens understands that he doesn’t have to just work within his realm and that he is capable of doing amazing things in his life. By always having to follow orders, I feel that Stevens is afraid to stand up for himself and for his beliefs. Just as he was when Mr. Spencer was implying that because Stevens was apart of the general public, he was incapable of making positive decisions for the country and also when Stevens was forced to fire the two Jewish housekeepers, even though he disagreed with Lord Darlington’s decision. If Stevens was able to find his true identity and he stopped hiding behind his profession, he would be able to live his life happily, and forget about the little mistakes he may make along the way.

In terms of Stevens and Miss Kenton’s relationship, I agree with jlam09 that after Miss Kenton told Stevens that she was engaged she seemed to want Stevens to give her any reason for her to call off the engagement. When she described her fiancé, she was very particular about the information she wanted Stevens to know, she even said “… his ultimate dream would have been to become butler of a house like this one” (172). I felt that Miss Kenton wanted Stevens to have a sense of empowerment over her fiancé because his dream was Stevens’ reality. Despite all of this, Stevens did not confess his feelings for Miss Kenton and even though it was disappointing, I was glad that Miss Kenton found a person that she loved and someone that loved her back. Although her marriage is far from perfect, with the many times she left her husband and the fact that she was not in love with him when they got married, Miss Kenton finally did something for herself and stopped waiting around for Stevens to say whether or not he was interested in her. Throughout Stevens and Miss Kenton’s relationship it always seemed as if Stevens wanted Miss Kenton to make the first move and to pursue him and now that she found someone who cared for her, it would have been wrong for Stevens to ask Miss Kenton to return to Darlington Hall with him. Despite the marital problems Miss Kenton was experiencing, I think that Stevens simply lost his chance and it was not his place to try and change her life now, just because he was finally ready to be in a more serious relationship with her.

Even though Stevens could have been upset that Miss Kenton was not going back to Darlington Hall with him, Stevens learned a valuable lesson from the man at the pier. The man advised him to “…adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of [his] day” (244) and that statement not only connects with the title of the book, but it leads many themes. The man was telling Stevens that regardless of the results of a hard day’s work, he cannot go back and change the outcome. The only thing that Stevens is capable of changing is the future and the way he learns from the mistakes that he makes at work and in his personal life. Although Stevens did not convince Miss Kenton to return to Darlington Hall with him, I think the lesson that he learned and the obstacles he faced throughout his trip allowed him to grow as a professional, but most importantly as a person.

July 27, 2008 3:57 PM

Things Fall Apart I

ashley8 said...
While reading “Things Fall Apart,” I too noticed that there are numerous animalistic references and many of these references are geared towards Okonkwo and the importance of putting on the façade of a strong and physically capable man. I agree with Marrisa because there are many animalistic and environmental references on pages 3 and 4 where Achebe comments on how Okonkwo’s “fame had grown like a bush-fire in the harmattan” (3), he “pounce(s) on people quite often” (4) and also, “when he walked, his heels hardly touched the ground.” I feel that all of these qualities describe one of the most powerful and dominate animals in many African safaris- the cheetah. Okonkwo moves quickly and “pounces” on his prey or anyone he becomes angry with in order to obtain power and to not be viewed as a weak individual. Achebe makes these connections amongst humans and animals to express how the strongest will prevail and the weak usually fail. I also feel that Okonkwo fears being seen as weak because it connects him to his father, Unoka. Okonkwo, a strong and wealthy man has three wives, many kids, a huge and prosperous farm, and he is well-known and greatly feared by many other tribes. Where as his father, Unoka, was a lazy, poor, debtor, who never made a name for himself and eventually was left to die in the Evil Forest. I believe that Achebe makes Unoka and Okonkwo two very different characters because it shows how strongly Okonkwo wanted to make a better life for himself and to become a fierce competitor in his tribe.
Although Okonkwo has a great desire to be seen as the dominate force in many aspects of his life such as “throwing Amalinze the Cat” (3) and ruling “his household with a heavy hand” (13), I think that his unpredictable temper could lead to his biggest downfall. Okonkwo’s tough mentality caused him to constantly nag and beat his son, Nwoye, because he thought his son was very lazy. I think Achebe uses these elements as a way to foreshadow Okonwo’s relationship with Nwoye as one that will eventually turn out to be like the relationship Okonkwo had with his father. I predict that Nwoye will ultimately resent his father for the violent ways in which he treats him and especially the methods he uses against many of his wives. For instance, Okonkwo shot a loaded gun at his second wife because she “murmured something about guns that never shot” (38-39). Okonkwo resented his father for his lack of strength, however, I predict that Okonkwo’s family, especially Nwoye will ultimately resent him for his desire to have too much of a strong hold in their lives.

July 8, 2008 3:08 PM

Things Fall Apart II

ashley8 said...
I completely agree with Angel and Marrisa in the sense that the second part of Things Fall Apart, Achebe presents the readers with various ironic situations. For instance, after Okonkwo accidentally kills Ezeudu’s sixteen year old son, he was forced to immediately evacuate his hut and take himself and his family to live in his motherland for seven years. I feel that irony plays a role in this situation in more than one way and the first instance occurs when the readers discover that clan leaders refer to Okonkwo’s crime as “… the female, because it had been inadvertent.” (124) Considering the fact that Okonkwo has been portrayed as an angry, powerful, and dominate man, one who is willing to call other men females because of their unwillingness to engage in many of the activities that he has, it is ironic that he has now committed a females’ crime and is banned from the tribe that practically worships him. Another way in which Okonkwo’s situation is ironic comes about when his uncle, Uchendu, informs him that while he lives in exile on his motherland, his “duty is to comfort [his] wives and children and take them back to [his] fatherland after seven years”(134). In addition, if he allows “sorrow to weigh [him] down and kill [him], they will all die in exile” (134). Seeing as how in Umuofia, Okonkwo openly mentally and physically abused his wives and children on several different occasions, it seems nearly impossible for him to be able to uphold his duties of comforting and caring for his family. At the same time, Achebe previously stated that Okonkwo only shows the emotion of anger so maybe he will not allow his sorrows to distract him from his main goal, although soon after arriving in his motherland, he was already showing a lack of endurance since “work no longer had for him the pleasure it used to have, and when there was no work to do he sat in a silent half-sleep” (131). All of these elements make it very interesting to see if and/or how Okonkwo is able to prevail in this situation.

Also, in response to Marrisa’s question about Okonkwo and Obierika’s conversation on how Okonkwo can thank Obierika, when Obierika says he can either “kill one of [his] sons …” (142) or kill himself, I too was wondering if Obierika was serious or not. However, I feel that Obierika’s comment was said in more of a joking tone than a serious tone because Obierika and Okonkwo are very close friends, especially since Obierika took it upon himself to help Okonkwo out by selling all of Okonkwo’s yams without being asked to do so. But at the same time, I also feel that in a small way, Obierika truly meant what he said because on page 125, Achebe says “Obierika was a man who thought about things. When the will of the goddess had been done, he sat down in his obi and mourned his friend’s calamity.” I think that when Obierika made his statement, a bit of jealousy may have overtook his judgment because Obierika is seen as just a friend of a well-known and feared man. Unlike Okonkwo, Obierika doesn’t have many titles and other items that signify him as a wealthy and strong man in his clan, like Okonkwo does. After Obierika began to really think about committing inadvertent crimes, he thought about “his wife’s twin children”, (125) and how he was forced to throw them away. Obierika probably thought about all of the crimes of mistreat Okonkwo has committed towards his family and all of the while; Okonkwo was able to get way with them because he was a clan leader. I feel that Obierika could have begun to feel resentment towards Okonkwo and he was realizing that Okonkwo was finally receiving the punishment that he deserved after so many years.

July 11, 2008 1:28 PM

Things Fall Apart III

ashley8 said...
The third section of Things Fall Apart introduces many ideas that lead up to the surprising conclusion of the novel. In the beginning of the third section, Achebe makes it clear that Okonkwo wants to make an unforgettable return to Umuofia when Achebe states “he was determined that his return should be marked by his people. He would return with a flourish, and regain the seven wasted years.” (171). The idea that Okonkwo strongly desires to make an incredible return to Umuofia is ironic because the people of Umuofia are so consumed with the missionaries and the new Christian religion that they do not take much notice in the fact that Okonkwo and his family have returned to the tribe. In addition, Okonkwo finally is able to make a lasting impression on his tribe, but it comes about through the way in which he decides to leave the tribe - by taking his own life. The conclusion of the statement is also ironic because he considers the time he has spent in exile on his motherland as “seven wasted years”(171) and he anticipates his return to his fatherland, where he knows that he can flourish and prosper. Although he had the potential of obtaining a great amount of knowledge from his kinsmen and his uncle, Uchendu, I feel that the idea of him living on his motherland and the negative ways his clan viewed living on a man’s motherland, caused him to look at his punishment as one that would restrict, rather than help him achieve his goals.

Upon returning to Umuofia, Okonkwo quickly realized how much the tribe had changed due to the missionaries’ invasion and he was willingly to do anything in order to restore the original values in Umuofia. However, many clan members were unwillingly to go to war against the missionaries, even though people like Obierika felt that the white man “… has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” (176). Despite the District Commissioner’s goal of bringing “civilization to different parts of Africa” (208) the strong unity that the clan once had, was now broken. Umuofia had become like “a startled animal with ears erect, sniffing the silent, ominous air and not knowing which way to run” (196) and I think the clan’s destroyed ideals caused Okonkwo so much pain that he killed himself. However, I agree with AllThatJazz 07 in feeling that Okonkwo’s suicide was out of character because he was a proclaimed warrior, one who was always very quick to point out flaws in other men and he even went as far as convincing himself that he did not father Nwoye because he thought Nwoye was less of a men, when all of the while Okonkwo could not find the strength inside himself to be a powerful leader and assist the clan in prevailing through some of their most difficult times.

Towards the conclusion of the novel, Obierika confronted the District Commissioner and stated, “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog.” (208). After reading Obierika’s statement, I understood and somewhat agreed with his statement because the missionaries suddenly invaded Umuofia and nearly destroyed their land by causing tension and animosity amongst many clan members. At the same time, I feel that Okonkwo allowed these men to mentally destroy him because it was the first time in a while that Okonkwo had been confronted by people who were potentially stronger than him. Regardless of how much Okonkwo prepared for war, the white men had more advanced weapons and more importantly, they had support from other converts, where as Okonkwo was one of few people in his clan that was willing to enter into a war. Throughout the novel, I felt that Okonkwo’s anger and desire to show his strengths were fueled by his aspiration to hide some of his deepest emotions, especially the resentment and connections he had with his father. Even though they seemed to be polar opposites, in the end, they both committed deplorable crimes against their culture and were forced to die alone.

July 14, 2008 3:57 PM