George Saunders “Sea Oak”
I really enjoyed reading this story. I thought it exemplified the American dilemma all the way around. I love how it ends with the overall question of why do bad things happen to good people not being answered. It really dives into the question of good vs. evil in our world and what the actually means. I feel that it supports the theory that there are no good and evil; only paths that people choose to get in order to better themselves. It supports that hanging back and not stepping on anyone’s toes is a dismal way to live one’s life. It shows that through Aunt Bernie’s perspective after she returns to life. The grotesque way in which the story was told was also appealing. It shows life in an actual way instead of the “Leave it to Beaver” aspect from which people were accustomed to writing in at the time. I also feel that it comments directly on the “American Dream” and what it actually is. Through the story you find that the American dream is only a goal, a painted picture. In which the actual path in which to obtain it is never exposed only hinted at incredulously. This story projects an actual low income household attempting to obtain the dream, and struggling with what means to use in order to get it and if they are acceptable.
In Ashberry’s poem “They dream of America” I feel he is commenting on the dream of what America could stand for or what it did, and how both of these are compromised by a population of sinfulness. He seems to regard America, or the idea, as something to aspire to rather than receive. His feelings toward America seem to be comparable to someone yearning for an orange, and upon finally obtaining one finding that it’s acid sickens him. In the stanza referring to the cube shaped “lilac lake”, the lilac lake is something that is supposed to be full of pastoral beauty but instead it is oddly shaped and discolored in the narrator’s eyes. This image gives the reader a sense of something that could be beautiful but is tarnished much like America.
Her poem “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” seems to me to imply a sense of conflict between the weight of social constructions, their implications for woman, and women’s ability to be equal. Their ability to be equal is shown in Aunt Jennifer’s creativeness in her construction of the tapestry of tigers. It shows the impulse that humans women included have towards freedom and imagination. What separates them from men is the “massive weight” of uncle’s “wedding band” or the social duties that women are given which are totally different from men’s. This type of conflict can be found throughout many of Rich’s poems. She is renown as our foremost feminist poet and an important theorist in the social construction of gender.
Carver portrays a very realistic view of love in this story. He engages the reader by asking the important questions that we all ask ourselves about love. He is wise enough not to define it, but at the same time he does endeavor in describing the differences between a newly married couple and an older one. I found this story to be very enlightening and offered insight on questions that are wondered by each one of us at certain times. In reading criticism of his story I found this paragraph extremely revealing for what Carvers main goals and questions he wanted to reveal throughout the paragraph were :
“What we know and feel, how things fall apart, and what is left when they do, what holds in the purity of emptiness—these mysteries are Carver's concerns. and he takes the reader into them. "I could hear my heart beating." ends one story in a near-whisper. "I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making." -- Jayne Anne Phillips
I found her story extremely appealing and an enjoyable read. I enjoyed the sarcasm found at every turn even beginning with such colorful characters having “plain Jane” names such as Mary and John. I feel that her story causes the reader to reflect on his true feelings on the matter also by allowing for there to be several different endings. The reader automatically asks themselves which ending I would prefer thus granting insight on their feelings about the subject matter of the story and themselves. Like Carver’s story this story also begs the reader to delve into the meaning of love in general and what it is. It doesn’t merely state an opinion but puts the overall answer in the reader’s hands by offering different endings. It allows the reader to reflect on himself and why he preferred one ending to another.
This poem seems to me to celebrate a pig (or anyone in general) standing up for themselves or “digging in their heels”. The pig knows what fate is soon to meet him, but instead of succumbing to anything that would undignify him he instead chooses to admire his physique and the way he walks even in the midst of a powerful imagination parking images of flies or greedy consumers defiling his carcass. The poem gives the reader a real sense of pride in oneself even in the face of supreme opposition and death. You also witness some of these same attitudes and themes in “They feed the Lion”.