Sunday, October 30, 2011


Howl was absolutely nuts. My mind feels like eggs that have been scrambled and beaten. I had to do some outside research on this one to understand what was going on. For one, the poem is written for Carl Solomon. I looked up Solomon, and it turns out he was a patient in a mental institution. I felt like I should be put in a mental institution after reading this! I had an extremely hard time comprehending what point Ginsberg was trying to get across and his motives for writing it.

The first section seemed to me like Ginsberg was mad at the world for what it was becoming. He opens by saying he “saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” He continues to place this destruction on the use of drugs. There are multiple references to drugs, including, “looking for an angry fix,” and “Benzedrine.” Benzedrine is an amphetamine that was used as a bronchodilator but was commonly used for recreational purposes. There are also multiple references to sexual encounters in the poem, both heterosexual and homosexual. The second page contains a lot of them. For instance, “who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy…” I just don’t understand why he puts all of these references in the poem. I found it to be a bit disturbing. One thing I noticed in the first section was the punctuation. There were no periods! Why did Ginsberg do this?

In the second part, Ginsberg references Moloch. Moloch was a deity who was worshipped by parents sacrificing their children. I’m sure this is significant, but I’m not sure why. Ginsberg switches his punctuation up in this section by using only exclamation marks. Is he yelling? I think Ginsberg is showing he is frustrated with society in this one. In one part, Ginsberg says, “Visions! Omens! Hallucinations…gone down the American river! Dreams! Adorations…religions…the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!” To me it was almost like Ginsberg was saying there is no longer any appreciation for dreams or any sort of aspirations or beliefs in America.

Part three was really where Ginsberg addressed Solomon. The first thing I had to look up here was Rockland. I believe Rockland was the institute Solomon was living in. I got a sad tone when I read this section as Ginsberg addressed Solomon. Solomon “laughs at this invisible humor.” Solomon laughs at nothing, implying that he is crazy. Solomon also, “…scream[s] in a straightjacket that you’re losing the game of the actual pingpong of the abyss…” I took this as what’s going on in Solomon’s head; a monotonous game of pingpong, back and forth, in blackness. Towards the end I got the feeling Ginsberg was voicing his displeasure with the United States. I’m not sure what his displeasure was about, though. Maybe how they dealt with those in the institutions?

Can anyone help me on this one?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Harrison Bergeron-Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Harrison Bergeron takes place in the not too distant future; the year 2081, in fact. In this new world, everyone is “equal.” No one is smarter, better looking, stronger, or quicker than anyone else. This is not because of genetics; it’s due to Amendments to the Constitution. Law states that no one person can be better than another!

We are introduced to the Bergeron family, George and Hazel. We learn that their fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, has been arrested, although we aren’t sure for what at first. As we observe George and Hazel, we are quickly shown the absurdity of the new laws and how they are implemented. If you’re smarter than someone else, you have to wear an earpiece so that your thought-process is constantly interrupted by harsh noises. The idea of constant loud noises in my head all day every day would be enough to drive me crazy! At one point, Hazel expresses her jealousy of the noises and wishes she could hear them. I think she feels this way because the noises make George different from her, something she is unaccustomed to in such a stale society. Hazel does not have to wear an ear-piece because she has a “perfectly average intelligence.” However, when you continue to read the story, you see how dumb Hazel is. I found myself wondering if she was retarded. Everyone also has to wear burdensome bags of birdshot so that no one is faster or more athletic than anyone else. Even the ballerinas George and Hazel watch on TV wear the bags. It’s a wonder they can even dance with the bags on.
 As we continue to observe George and Hazel, we realize that they talk aimlessly and pretty much talk about nothing. Conversation is dull and not stimulating, and conversation is also often forgotten shortly after a topic is brought up.
As the story continues, an alert comes on TV announcing that Harrison Bergeron has escaped from prison and that he is not to be “reasoned” with. The announcement is soon interrupted as Harrison takes control of the TV station. Harrison comes on the TV and announces that he is the Emperor, and there has never been a greater ruler than he. He proceeds to break all of his ‘handicaps’ and take a ballerina as his Empress. The two dance together, breaking all the laws of the society they live in, even defying the laws of gravity and physics, and kiss each other in midair, until the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers enters and shoots the two of them and then the TV blacks out. After the event, the two parents cannot remember what they’ve just seen and are completely oblivious to the fact that their son was murdered.
This piece reminded me a lot of Feed and the book The Giver. All of these works present the idea of conformity and loss of identity, and involve a character defying these ideas. Is conformity and sameness what we as a society are moving towards today?
Another thing I’d like to discuss about this piece is the symbolism of Harrison. He is an anomaly and rebel in a society where everything is the same. For one, he is a freak of nature. A 7 foot tall fourteen-year-old? I think the number 7 has significance here. 7 is considered a holy number and has biblical ties. I think Harrison was supposed to be the savior of society.  All of his handicaps were more extreme than everyone else’s. He was made to wear more weight than everyone else, had to wear headphones instead of an earpiece, had to wear glasses, and had to wear a red ball on his nose which made him look like a clown. His intense persecution reminded me of Jesus. Why did Harrison say he was an Emperor instead of explaining what was going on logically to the viewers? Is it because actions speak louder than words? Or was Harrison actually nuts?
This work also presents the idea that the government controls everything. While everyone else lives in conformity, people in the government like Diana Moon Glampers don’t have to wear any handicaps and can just go around and shoot people without repercussion. Does the government run things in today’s society? If not, are we moving towards the day that they do?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber-Ernest Hemingway

The story is of Francis Macomber and his wife on an African safari, led by Robert Wilson, so that Macomber might hunt game and get out of the United States. Macomber first hunts a lion. Macomber wounds the lion, but the lion escapes into the brush. As the men enter the brush to kill the lion, Macomber ends up turning and running away, leaving the lion to be killed by Wilson.  Seeing her husband act so cowardly, Mrs. Macomber ends up cheating and sleeps with the guide, Wilson. The next day, the group goes on to hunt Buffalo. As the group chases down the buffalo, Macomber finally matures enough to see the wrong in the relationship, and with his newfound courage intends to leave his wife. The men later realize that one of the three buffalo they were hunting did not die and is hiding in the brush. In an attempt to redeem himself, Macomber goes into the brush and stays this time. As the buffalo charges, Macomber stands his ground and shoots at the buffalo, trying to kill it. While doing so, Mrs. Macomber tries to shoot the charging buffalo from the car, but instead hits her husband in the back of the head.

In the first paragraph on page 2, it was quite evident to me that Mrs. Macomber was attracted to Wilson. Wilson and Mrs. Macomber continue on to flirt, speaking of Wilson’s “red face” and beauty.  We later learn the “red face” comes from when Mrs. Macomber kisses Wilson in the car. Speaking of the kiss, what a twist in the plot that was! The beginning all made sense after that. I found it odd that Wilson referred to Mrs. Macomber as “Memsahib.” I found it odder that Wilson always seemed to be the first to address Mrs. Macomber, sat next to her in the car, etc. For instance, on page 8 Wilson says, “The Memsahib can sit back here with me.” This was before the affair.

I found it odd that once the children found out Macomber didn’t kill the lion, Wilson threatened them with lashes, which are illegal. The workers would rather be whipped than fined and lose their pay. Money, no matter how much, is probably very important to the workers. Another example of this is the gun-holders. They probably don’t get paid much to do such a dangerous job.

I really liked that Hemingway showed us the perspective of the lion. The graphic description of the bullets “ripping” through the flank and the ribs of the lion, etc. really made me feel for the lion. Hemingway even says, “Macomber had not thought of how the lion felt as he got out of the car.” No hunter ever thinks of how their prey feels. This reminded me of “The War Prayer” and how the people only prayed for one side and neglected the other side’s feelings.

What does the word “shauri” mean?

The whole time after “the kiss” occurred, I couldn’t help but to get pissed off at Macomber’s naivety (may not be the word I’m looking for). It was so easy to see that he should have left his wife! Then again, Hemingway goes on to explain that, “Margot was too beautiful for Macomber to divorce her and Macomber had too much money for Margot ever to leave him.” Such an instance is a common occurrence in society. Too often people stay in crappy relationships because they think they can’t do any better. When Macomber finally had his mini-epiphany while hunting the buffalo and grew a pair, I couldn’t help but find myself cheering for him.

I also felt like Wilson hunted more than game. I think he also hunted wives. He admitted to having a double cot for situations such as the one that arose between Mr. and Mrs. Macomber, and also admitted to pursuing clientele (troubled couples) such as them.

I think the end is set up to really make you wonder whether Mrs. Macomber shot her husband on purpose or not. I, for one, think that she did it intentionally. She knew her husband was finally going to leave her and she couldn’t stand the fact. The part that really had me with my mouth hanging open was when Wilson called her out about it. He was completely apathetic to the fact that Macomber was just shot and killed! Also, the most appalling part to me were the last two lines when Mrs. Macomber says, “Please stop it” and Wilson responds by saying, “Please is much better. Now I’ll stop.” Here, Wilson is exercising his control over Mrs. Macomber. He will not allow himself to be walked all over like Macomber was by his wife. I don’t find myself wowed by much when I read, but this was definitely one of those moments for me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Good Man is Hard to Find-Flannery O'Connor

I found A Good Man is Hard to Find to be very sick and twisted. It is a story of a small family that takes a road trip. As they are on their trip, they veer off on a slight detour and end up in a car accident. As they are gathering themselves from the accident, three men drive by in their car. These men turn out to be serial killers and shoot the entire family.

                The story opens as the family is eating breakfast. We are introduced to the grandmother who lives with her son, Bailey, and his family. The grandmother begins discussing an article about the escape of a serial killer known as “The Misfit.” The family continues conversation by discussing their trip to Florida. The kids are so spoiled! For one, the boy, John Wesley, tells his grandmother, “If you don’t want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay home?” The daughter, June Star continues to degrade the grandmother by saying, “…She has to go everywhere we go.” What rude things to say to your grandmother. Of course she wants to be with them, they are her grandkids. The children definitely take their grandmother for granted.

                As the family departs on their trip to Florida, the grandmother is made to sit in the back seat between the two children. I’m not sure what the significance of the grandmother dressing so that everyone knew she was a lady was. During their trip, the children display their insolence multiple times. For instance, they begin to hit each other over their grandmother after arguing over the shape of clouds.

                The family stops for lunch at a diner on the way to Florida. They stop at Red Sammy’s for barbeque. While inside, the owner and his wife both compliment the children, to which both rudely reply. For instance, June Star says, “I wouldn’t live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks!” The grandmother and Red Sam discuss older times and how people aren’t as nice as they used to be. They even discuss “The Misfit.”

                The family leaves the restaurant, and after some convincing (predominantly by whining of the children) decide to go visit an old house the grandmother remembers living at. As they drive down an old dirt road, the grandmother realizes the house she remembers is in Georgia not Tennessee. Just as she realizes, the car flips and the family gets in an accident.

As they are recovering from the event, a car pulls up and three men come out. While the children shout at the men about how they got in an accident, the grandmother blurts out that she recognizes the man as “The Misfit!” I wonder if she had not recognized him if he would have spared the family. One by one, the family is led off into the woods to be shot and killed. The grandmother, who is the last to be killed, tries desperately to convince the man he is good and doesn’t have to kill her. When she gets the man thinking that all he has to do is pray to Jesus, she attempts to touch the man. As she does so, the man shoots her three times in the chest.

The closing lines really solidified the demented message of the story. The Misfit says, “…it’s no real pleasure in life.” This just shows how crazy The Misfit is. He is a complete pessimist and doesn’t believe in anything except the evil in life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Theme For English B--Langston Hughes

Theme For English B is a poem Hughes writes for his English instructor for an assignment in college. In the first portion of his address, Hughes says, “And let that page come out of you—/Then, it will be true.” Then, after a line break, Hughes questions this statement by saying, “I wonder if it’s that simple?” He then goes on to tell about his life, very early establishing the fact that he is a twenty-two year old colored man who is not from Harlem. Nothing in this time period is easy for a young black man. By the way, I had no idea Hughes was from Winston-Salem or went to school in Durham.

He tells us, “I am the only colored student in my class.” This easily identifies with the topic of alienation that we discussed with Cullen. Away from home, in a new school, and the only black person in his class, it’s almost as if Hughes is in a foreign place.

Hughes continues on to describe the lengthy trip he must take in order to get home. “…through a park…cross St. Nicholas, Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y, the Harlem Branch Y…” Is the Harlem Branch Y a segregated portion of the Y? If so, this further adds to Hughes’ alienation.

The first portion of the second stanza makes me feel that Hughes is a little unsure of himself. For instance, he says, “It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me/ at twenty-two, my age.” Here, Hughes blames is uneasiness on his age. Also, Hughes “guess[es]” that  he is what he “…feel[s] and see[s] and hear[s]…” He continues on and asks, “Me—who?” This, in my mind, is Hughes asking who he is. He is having an identity crisis.

In the same stanza, Hughes goes on to answer his question of who he is by telling us he likes to “eat, sleep, drink, and be in love…work, read, learn, and understand life.” Eating, sleeping, drinking and love are generally associated with basic human needs. Working, reading, learning and understanding life are typically tasks that “quality” human beings perform. After this, Hughes smacks his audience in the face by saying, “I guess being colored doesn’t make me NOT like/the same things other folks like who are other races.” I agree wholeheartedly with Hughes here. Just because he is black doesn’t mean he isn’t a human being! We’ve seen this idea presented all semester in works by Douglass, Twain, and Stowe.

“So will my page be colored that I write?/Being me, it will not be white.” Of course everything Hughes writes will be scrutinized because he is a black author. People will automatically stereotype him and his works.

In the next few lines, Hughes addresses his professor and says that they have no choice but to be a part of each other. “Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me./ Nor do I often want to be a part of you./ But we are, that’s true!” Yet, in the final lines, Hughes hits his professor hard with some reality. He says, “I guess you learn from me--/although you’re older—and white---/and somewhat more free.” In reality, Hughes’ professor still does not regard Hughes as an equal. He is a young black man—how could he possibly teach an older, learned white college professor?