Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Assignment 4

Assignment 4
Donald Barthelme
I really enjoyed Bartheme’s story “The Balloon”. I found it full of interpretations on what the balloon might actually stand for. In reading some literary criticism on him I found that this short story is actually supposed to stand for a map on how to read fiction. Upon first reading although I could not get out of my head a close comparison to the balloon somehow translating to modernistic poetry. I don’t think that there is enough textual evidence to say for sure but I feel like I could make a solid case. I extremely enjoyed his writing style more than any other short story fiction writer I have read. I did find that the interpretation of the balloon standing for fiction was an extremely powerful one. I loved how he stated that it would be “wrong” to speak of the balloon as a situation, thus implying there was a resolution to be had instead. The balloon was simply there “concrete”, and “particular”. I am looking forward more to discussing him than I have any of the other authors tonight in class.

Anne Sexton
A.D.D thought: It’s interesting to note that when Sexton was depressed and contemplating suicide the doctors suggested therapy was to write poetry!?! This reminds me of another troubled writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman and her story, “The Women In the Yellow Wall Paper.” A true story about the writer who had been put on rest therapy after deep depression in which the doctor forbid her to write saying that was the root of the problem. The rest therapy and lack of writing causes her to flirt with insanity (great story). Gilman’s story was published in 1899. I guess it’s just ironic to see the change in the way depression and suicidal thoughts are dealt with therapeutically and how they have changed and what that says about the times historically; even though Sexton does end up committing suicide.
Sexton’s poem “Her Kind” seems to be about the way she sees herself in comparison to other individuals. At the end of every stanza she even states, “I have been her kind.” This gave me the feeling that she felt herself to be an outcast of society, something different and more evil even perhaps then the norm. It also seems to me that in each stanza she is commenting on a different kind of women but they all have one thing in common. I think that that one thing in common could be the feelings of an outcast or vagabond.
Sexton’s poem “The Truth the Dead Know” seems be an elegy to her parents. Through this poem’s gloomy outlook and questioning of herself or life itself throughout it the reader gets a sense of deep grief. The way that she personifies the “dead” at the end of the poem almost refutes earlier in the poem when I interpreted that she was “in touch” “entirely” with her parents at the time. The end of the poem almost gives me the interpretation that she feels when death overcomes us there is nothing after we are like “stone”. Could be a misinterpretation but I feel like perhaps this could be the “Truth That the Dead Know” and what she herself feels might be true scarily.
Sexton’s Poem “And one for My Dame” seems to be about her relationship with men in her life. First it was her father and then her husband who seems to have the exact same or similar career that her father did. It is hard to indicate what exactly she feels about this comparison assuming that’s what it is. I do feel that she has certain distaste although for the fact that both seem to be gone a lot while she is left at home, “with no place to go.”
Sylvia Plath
Her poem “Tulips” seems to describe her inner most conflicts during a time very close to when she would decide to take her life. Most of her depression is described I feel with a background of hospital life and what mentally that does to you. She seems to be begging throughout the poem to just be left alone, but that in itself is more than like her manic illness talking again. I enjoyed but was also frightened by the depth I felt from her words of how this depression made her feel, “I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted/ To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.” That’s quite a powerful and disturbing image; to be totally filled with nothing. This makes me interpret that the pain and hurt is so deep in her life and so steep that the feeling of happiness is not even a faint memory. She wishes to feel nothing at all. I also enjoyed attempting to interpret just what the “Tulips” stood for there is the obvious portrait of tulips in a hospital could give an individual as depressed and bed ridden as she was; The image of a feigned evidence of sympathy. She seems to discredit the idea that anyone can understand her pain at all. Ironically this is probably a theme that caused for her immense popularity because so many people actually could identify with it. I also love the line “The tulips eat my oxygen.” The mere fact that they are there along with what they signify (the unwanted guests, the constant nurses, the surgeries, the noise) seems to be enough to actually kill her. An interesting thought all though is that I do feel Plath actually experienced death before she killed herself by way of the tragedies in her life combined with her manic depression and physical ailments.
“Ariel” I feel was a poem about the outbreak of Plath into the world, a rebirth of herself physiologically. She strove to become the spirit that her horse represented and all that the name stood for. I am sure that there are some deeper connections also here that can be found. The last line of the poem sticks in my head, and I keep repeating it. I can’t figure out exactly what it means though. Hopefully there will be some light shed on it tonight during discussion. I look forward to it.
John Berryman
Berryman had some interesting poems in his Dream Song collection. I think the video at this link ( sheds a lot of light on the man behind the poetry. Watching him read his poetry showed just how much emotion he put into his work. The dream songs seems to me to possibly be about the internal struggle that Berryman had during his life and the many voices that he heard inside his head.

Robert Lowell
“For the Union Dead” is about a civil war hero Robert Shaw who died in battle at Fort Wagner and was buried beside his African American brothers after his death at his own request. This poem explores the metaphysical side of art and its immortality and what we have today as public commiserative art. It is an interesting comparison. I look forward to examining the poem closer in class.
John Updike
His story A&P was a great read. I enjoyed the lax diction and how the story flowed along very colloquial. I think that Sammy represents here the American male chasing after the small town American Dream in a “Leave it to Beaver” type of society. It is very interesting to note how Updike ends the story stating that Sammy will indeed be troubled by his decision to quit for the rest of his life. It says something about the consequences that something like quitting a job in a small town where everyone knows everyone will do to someone. It is also interesting to note how in Updike’s story the girls passing through seems to be the most exciting thing that has happened there in a while. Also, the way he describes his coworker as married, 22, with two kids but that’s the only difference, gives us an insight on what Updike is actually trying to portray in his story. I feel he is trying to point out the fallacies of this American Dream that is preached to younger generations and sought after heartily by their fathers.

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