Category Archives: Authors

How might we interpret Sylvia Plath’s symbolic portrayal of a father figure in ‘Daddy’

Sylvia Plath throughout Daddy employs a range of symbolism in order to create a persona through which to project her feelings, by divulging the most intimate parts of her psyche. Through the use metaphor, the persona may purge herself of the emotions felt by her father’s untimely death. David Lodge asserts that ‘Literary symbolism tends towards a rich plurality, even ambiguity’ the symbol of a father figure is employed to reveal the nature of the persona’s relationship with her father and expand on the reality of her experience. There are many ambiguous images injected throughout the poem as the persona reconstructs her father’s image and reconnects with society.

Firstly, a sense of traumatic childhood experiences are invoked as we witness nostalgic tones and a sense of oppression through the child-like language of the poem. The innocence and childishness of the persona is presented through the peculiar vocabulary the persona uses throughout the poem: such as onomatopoeia in ‘Achoo’ and ‘Chuffing.’The sense of the childhood melds into a suggestion of Jewish persecution and terror as shown through the line: ‘It stuck in a barb wire snare.’ It is through this that the child’s feelings of intimidation become clear as the persona’s imagery frequently alludes to the Holocaust to symbolize the fear and pain she endured during this time. The atrocities of Nazi Germany are used as symbols of the horror of male domination as the Germanic ‘Daddy’ makes himself felt by his authoritarian aura. By accentuating linguistically using the heavy cadences of nursery rhyme such as ‘I could never talk to you,’ the persona is insinuating the innocence of youth torn quickly apart by the images and language of Nazism as the next line reads ‘the tongue stuck in my Jaw.’ By retracing her infantile traumas through the use of symbolism, the persona is conveying to us the yearnings of a young tortured woman trying to escape from the mental abuse and corruption of a dominate father. The persona wants to recreate with immediacy the child’s view by outing a simple perspective reflected through facile language.

Moreover, continuously throughout the poem, phallic imagery in Daddy is implied. First of all, the poem title preference of choice being ‘Daddy’ rather than the more mature expression of ‘Father,’ sets up a direct address from the persona to the character of the father she has created. This gives an ambiguous expression of a child wishing to be dominated. Daddy is a depiction of feminine and masculine energy, where the persona mythologies the figure of her father.In the fifth stanza when the persona states ‘Put your foot, your root’ the foot is a symbol for a threatening, suffocating object, symbolizing that her father is sexually brutal. Thus conveying to us that the persona is powerless to stop his overriding authority as she asserts ‘I could never speak,’ a structural echo linking to the previous stanza where she utters ‘I could never talk to you.’ Unresolved and paradoxical feelings of pain and love about the persona’s parent, Otto Plath, who left her at a young age, are the sole reason she enforced himself on her memory–to perpetuate his image and continue her sexual longings. These lines express the constant and crippling manipulation of the father figure, as he introduces oppression and hopelessness into her life. A father’s authority is intertwined with the abuse of power as it occurs in the real world and the persona’s feelings of abandonment and despair are mirrored with those of Nazi’ as she states ‘I thought every German was you.’As the poem progresses, it is symbolic of the transgressions of the poet’s life as she grows older, the persona moves from desiring her father: ‘I used to pray to recover you’ to fearing him: ‘I have always been scared of you’ to hating him: ‘brute heart’. The gentle nature of the poem title ‘Daddy’ juxtaposed with these violent images shows the persona’s internal struggles with her father’s subconscious, arrogant and dismissive nature. Eventually, the sexual pull and tug of the absent figure from her childhood allows us to grasp that she is sexually obsessed with her father.The suggestion of incest is embellished in the poet’s implication as she allows herself to develop sexually aggressive feelings as she says ‘I made a model of you..And said I do, I do, I do.’

On the other hand, as David Lodge states, symbolism is a ‘nice balance between realistic description and symbolic suggestion.’ As a result, Robert Phillips claims that the persona‘frequently uses elements from her experience as the starting point for imagistic and thematic elaborations.’ The ‘black shoe’ the persona refers to is an example of these imagistic elaborations. The use of the colour ‘black’ connotes death and darkness intertwined with a bind of claustrophobic suffering and suffocation. This kind of ethereal and dark imagery arrives as the poem progresses and the colour palette suggests that the poet has a cage of suppressed emotion. The ‘black shoe’ is a metaphor to express how her life is trapped in sorrow like a foot is trapped in a shoe. However, by also mentioning later in the poem controversial Nazi imagery ‘every woman adores a Fascist,’ it symbolises the persona’s reliance but also fear of her father; the persona is at first desperately seeking a return to the traditional roles of father and daughter. As demonstrated, the ‘foot’ is ultimately a metaphor for the feelings weighing the poet down in all her years of being unable to express her anxieties and communicate with her absent father figure. This view is further highlighted through the line ‘the black telephones off at the root.’ The persona begins to realise the need to reject the traditional roles and her desire for emancipation from her father is the reason for the denouement of the poem: ‘daddy, you bastard, I’m through.’ This line is ambiguous in its interpretation: It is symbolic of the fact that the persona has severed ties and is ‘through’ with ‘daddy.’ Yet, the use of the communicative device of the ‘telephone’ and the repetition of the colour ‘black’ suggests that the persona is actually through to him. So, in substance, although the poet begins to shrivel emotionally by being unable to come to terms with her father’s death, the ‘telephone’ is symbolic of how the persona leaves the imagistic elaborated world she has created and reconnects with reality.

Alternately, one would argue that in Daddy the persona finally castrates the image of her father’s memory and becomes an independent self. It is in ‘Daddy’ that through a metaphorical murder ‘Daddy, daddy you bastard, I’m through,’ she breaks completely free from being a perceived victim and from the power and influence of men. By branding herself as a ‘Jew’ the persona is dramatizing the war in her soul in addition to appreciating as well as accepting her submissive position. This position intensifies her emotional paralysis before the image of an ‘Aryan’ father with whom she is both connected and at enmity. The persona transcends this by ceremonially killing her father: ‘There’s a stake in your fat black heart and the villagers never liked you. They are dancing and stamping on you.’ This killing is not just an individual one, but is part of a ritual joined in by the ‘villagers.’ When the persona drives the ‘stake’ through her father’s heart; she is not only is exorcising the demon of her father’s memory, but metaphorically is killing him also.The process of doing away with ‘Daddy’ in the poem represents the persona’s attempts at psychic expurgation of ‘the model’ of the father she has constructed. The lines serve as a way of describing the ability of her father’s influence to strip the persona of her own sense of consciousness. The poet employs what Freud would call after-effect – she kills her already dead father again in the mental world in order to accept his death and free herself. Therefore, ridding him is a symbol for the empowerment of the persona and the strength she establishes as the poem progresses.

Word Count: 1,531

N.B: I am still alive, I apologize for my lack of posting.
I have always wanted to explore Sylvia Plath, so here you are (whoever you maybe) There is a bibliography/webography so ask if there are any concerns about copyright etc I just didn’t want to bore you with names of texts you will properly never read. Thanks for your time, I will still continue to post, promise.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under American Literature, Authors, Literature, New Criticism, Poetry, Thoughts

Shortlist.com: The 40 Coolest Characters in Literature

Shortlist.com has recently compiled their list of the 40 Coolest Characters in Literature. I’ve got to admit, I was very happy to see a few of my favorite characters made it onto the list. However, there were a couple as to which I couldn’t help but wonder why they were shortchanged (who WOULDN’T want to get a pint with Stephen Dedalus?!) Alas, to each his own.

 

That said–what do you think of the list? Any characters not make the cut that you think deserved to be on there? Got any gripes with any of the characters currently on there? What exactly makes a literary character “cool”? I, for one, think it’s pretty damn interesting and–dare I say it–cool to see some of the best works of literary fiction ever presented on a very entertaining level. I’m a sucker for seeing the juxtaposition of entertainment and high literature!

So, what’s your opinion? Discuss!

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under American Literature, Authors, Books, British Literature, Culture, Fiction, Literature, Opinions, Thoughts

A Brief Update

Hey, all! Sorry, I know it’s been a while but I’ve just been so bogged down with work and adjusting to a new fitness routine that I’ve barely had time to read, let alone write (and then let alone write about reading). But never fear! I am not giving up on this blog or anything of the sort — I just need some time to get my act together and sit down and compose.  I’ve already got 2-3 ideas whirling around for upcoming blog posts, and I’ve already started on one, but I’m just figuring out the right time for it to go live. So sit tight, there will be updates yet to come! And, as I’ve mentioned before, if anyone who follows this blog (or anyone at all, really!) is interested in contributing and writing some pieces for this blog–please feel free to contact me at jamier.iib@gmail.com! Any help is much appreciated and encouraged! It would be for free, but you would be given all credit and can publicize your own blog/site/magazine, etc.!

In the meantime, here’s a list of what I’m currently reading and am planning to read in the near future:

The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
 Ferdydurke, Witold Gombrowicz
 Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth
Sweet Tooth Volume 1: Out of the Woods, Jeff Lemire
Morning Glories Vol 1: For a Better Future, Nick Spencer

As you can see, I’m looking to keep myself pretty occupied this spring/summer! And there’s more, too. There’s always more books!

So that’s my list…what are you reading now?  (And if you want friends on either Goodreads or Shelfari–feel free to post links!)

Happy Reading, everyone!

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Books, Literature, Thoughts, Uncategorized

On Children’s Literature and Censorship – A Brief Look at Art, Literary Theory & Scary Stories

If you have not yet heard, there has been a lot of buzz going around the internet in regards to HarperCollins’ decision to re-release a 30th anniversary edition of the classic children’s book Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. The reason it’s been getting so much publicity? They’ve replaced all of Stephen Gammell’s original art with new art by Brett Helquist. For most children, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark played a huge part in their formative reading years. And while the stories hold a special place in our hearts–it’s the haunting imagery that will forever lurk in the recesses of our brains.

Sure, I could go on about how this is an outrage and how it’s all kinds of wrong to mess with a modern-day classic–but that’s been done to death. And while the above statements are all true, I believe there’s a more larger issue at hand that isn’t being addressed as much: the issue of how literature and art can be censored/manipulated based on its position within the greater realm of literary theory. But let me not get too ahead of myself, instead, let’s examine the case from the beginning.

This story is not new (in fact, the 30th anniversary editions were released close to two years ago) it does not change the fact that people are still visibly upset by this change–it also doesn’t help that the original editions of the book series are nearly impossible to find, as the new ones have more or less completely replaced the original books. For those who may not have grown up with the Scary Stories series, here’s some background info: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was first published by HarperCollins in 1981, written by former journalist/reporter Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by artist Stephen Gammell. The stories were your typical scary story fare, folklore and urban legends written masterfully to both scare and delight the children and young adults reading them. But what was most often remembered was the artwork itself, which was very dark and unsettling, especially for a young audience, but, as with most children, always left you wanting more. A review from an Amazon customer describes it best:

To this day, the truly special part of Schwartz’s “Scary Stories” series has not been the tales, but the wonderful, horrifying illustrations by Gammell. Schwartz’s collection, while he put obvious effort into retelling these stories for a children’s audience, cannot by themselves evoke a feeling of dread or horror. If anything, they are comic horror, often ending in a punchline. If anything, the stories are a good introduction for black humor for children. But this is not what makes a classic. This means that the reason this book has survived and been wildly popular for so many years is probably not its stories, but something else. As many reviews have pointed out, that something is those Gammell illustrations. The rotting corpses. The shambling undead. Even the smiling, friendly “viper,” who is actually pretty benign in the story, but has something… sinister nonetheless. Gammell’s illustrations are so horrifying, that when I read this as a child, I could not help but imagine them… animated and moving around. In my nightmares. The best nightmares that make you love that feeling of being scared.

I won’t discredit the work Alvin Schwartz put into his stories, but they are, at best, an excellent retelling and rendering of folklore. In his 1988 interview with Schwartz, “Night Visions: Conversations with Alvin Schwartz and Judith Gorog,” Leonard S. Marcus describes scary stories as a mix of “supernatural and surrealist fantasy, black humor, and the cautionary tale” then goes on to demonstrate Schwartz’s mastery in the genre: “A former reporter, Schwartz brings his to his work a journalist’s respect for clear, crisp prose and solid background research, and a keen sense of his audience” (44). And that’s exactly what  Schwartz envisioned while writing these books, bringing folklore to a new audience, as Schwartz states:

In all of my books what I’m doing basically is presenting adult material in a way that children can understand. Children are so sophisticated these days that it works for them . . . [sophisticated] in terms of their life experiences or maybe simply their life experiences through the media. What fascinates me is that with the scary material, you’d think they would be jaded. But they’re not. They’re refreshed.  (Marcus, 50).

Schwartz wrote these stories to an audience he knew would not only be able to handle the material, but would enjoy and seek it out as well. And this was proven to be true since, as Marcus states, “a number of children’s librarians and booksellers all said that the genre for which they get the most request is ‘scary stories.'” (46). But, again, as previously stated, it is not the text that most remember, but the art. The art that wonderfully accompanied the text to create just the right balance of humor and horror for a fully well-rounded piece of fiction. As stated in the Schwartz interview:

LM: Sometimes I suppose and illustration can be helpful in bringing forward a suggestion that you don’t want to be too explicit about in the text.

AS: One could illustrate that story by simply having the girl look back and not showing what she sees. Stephen Gammell has made a very important contribution to these books because he has such a wild imagination. (51)

The notion of text and art working together is one I’ve touched upon before, in my post “Comic Books: A Viable Form of Literature?“, especially in regards to teaching literature:

By examining the combination of images + words, students are not only learning how to analyze a piece of literature, but also an introductory course on how to examine art. Does a mix of the two make a piece of literature automatically disposable? I’d beg to differ. Would Sterne’s pages of doodles in Tristram Shandy, Vonnegut’s frequent drawings in Breakfast of Champions, and even Joyce’s dazzling way of creating an art from the placement of words on the page in Ulysses make the texts themselves worthless? Hardly. Perhaps it’s a stretch, but I believe this indicates that introducing images and art into a piece of literature doesn’t have to demean the work or make it “childish,” but instead enrich and add even more layers of meaning to the text itself. The two forms of art do not always need to be mutually exclusive.

Schwartz and Gammell worked together to combine the two forms of art to bring folklore to a new generation, as well as introduce a new form of art to children, one that would forever leave a lasting imprint on their lives. And while it did impact many–and while children had most sought out and requested scary stories from libraries–Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark found itself on the ALA’s list of most frequently challenged books for two straight decades, often protested by parents groups who deemed the material “inappropriate.” Despite this, HarperCollins stood by their decision to publish the book, and did not waiver by pulling it or censoring it.

So why now, 30 years later, have they decided to completely change the artwork?

Unfortunately, I have unsuccessfully been able to locate any comments whatsoever from HarperCollins regarding their decision (oddly enough, they seem to have never made any statements about it, and it seems as though it took so long for the masses to catch on because they discreetly re-released the books with the new artwork, so it was only after a few people made a stink about it on Amazon that people began to really get upset) so I can’t go on record to explain their choice. However, a Facebook group called “Bring back the original illustrations to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” speculates that  “changes made by Harper Collins were designed to accommodate the delicate sensibilities of the books’ would-be censors.” But again the question still must be raised: why now? Why are these images more offensive now than they were in 1981? And more importantly, why is it OK to go under the radar and completely change what made it a classic, without having to release any form of statement on the matter?

The only reason I can think of, is that it just seems that  censorship is just the “in” thing nowadays. In a world where laws like SOPA/PIPA/ACTA are still scheming to scrape by, using underhanded means to censor things is just commonplace. And in this specific case, censorship is even easier because, to put it simply, children/young adult literature just does not matter to the literary canon and literary theorists. In the wonderfully insightful article “Literary Theory and Young Adult Literature: The Open Frontier in Critical Studies” Cindy Lou Daniels states:

Some still believe that YA literature is merely a secondary category of childlike storytelling–didactic in nature–and unworthy of serious literary evaluation, when, in fact, it is really an overlooked and unappreciated literary genre that has only recently begun to attract the critical attention that it deserves. (78).

While Scary Stories may be considered children’s literature, and not YA literature, the basic principal is still in place: literary theorists are unwavering in what their views of literature are and are not. And often landing on the “not” list include YA literature, children’s literature, scary stories, illustrated books, comic books, graphic novels and the like. Daniels then makes a bold claim:

What would help in this regard would be not only for critics to recognize the difference between genres, but to simply acknowledge that regardless of genre, both children’s and YA works are literature. (78)

A bold claim indeed, for an article published in 2006. What’s more interesting is the note attached to this claim, which directs the reader to an article titled “The Limits of Literary Criticism of Children’s and Young Adult Literature” by Hans-Heino Ewers, which explore the issue of whether or not children’s literature should be regarded as art. In it, he references Henrich Wolgast’s essay “The Misery of Our Children’s Literature,”  a classic German article that called for the valuing of children’s literature and the necessity of considering it art, which was originally published in–get this–1896.  116 years later and we STILL can’t come to terms with the notion of accepting children’s literature in literary theory.  As it appears, the restraints of literary criticism are not just dated by about 60-70 years, but instead over 100. Is there any wonder why I’ve called for a complete reboot of literary criticism as we know it?

In Literature for Children, David L. Russell states, “Literary criticism is the discussion of literature undertaken in order to interpret its meaning and to evaluate its quality” (48) and it is also true that “the purpose of criticism is to promote high standard in literature and to encourage a general appreciation of literature among readers” (48).  One would assume that the “general appreciation” would also include allowing readers, children, young adults, adults, to choose the works in which they want to read, criticize and appreciate (to essentially set their own “high standards”; especially forming these views and opinions at a young learning age. A good way to do just that is to, as most schools do, focus a large part of lesson plans on teaching and approaching banned and challenged books (especially children’s and YA books). The lesson plan “A Guide to Challenged and Banned Books” features the article “A Few Words About Censorship” by YA author Chris Crutcher. In it, he gives the scenario of, after stating to children that no books should be censored, if he thinks that material is “appropriate for my little brother to read?” Crutcher responds:

You didn’t ask me what was appropriate, you asked which books should be censored. I don’t think that stuff is appropriate for your little brother or you or, for that matter, me. But you live in a free country, and that means standing up for that freedom, not just for the things you agree with or believe in. If you live in a democracy, and you want to participate in that democracy, you have to learn to stand up for the expression of things you hate. It’s easy to promote material that represents what you believes–a littler harder to do that for material that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. (5)

Just as it’s hard for literary theorists to get behind or criticize anything that’s out of their scope of appreciation. Just as the families that may have had the hair on the back of their necks stand up after seeing Gammell’s art, but still sought to deny anyone else from seeing it.  Crutcher presents an excellent method and view to teach to children at a young age. The guide also explains The Freedom to Read. In 1953, the ALA and the American Book Publishers Council issued a joint statement which affirmed the responsibilities of librarians and publishers to make the widest diversity of views and expressions available. It also states that:

It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians, as guardians of the people’s freedom to read, to contest encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose their own standards or tastes upon the community at large; and by the government whenever it seeks to reduce or deny public access to public information. (5)

This is all fine and well, but, there’s just one, small thing that I can’t get past . . .

This lesson plan and “guide” was published by HarperCollins and can be downloaded on their website.

Perhaps HarperCollins is firmly behind the idea of not censoring text, but treating art on a different, lower-level that can be manipulated and changed and yes, censored. Perhaps they, like many literary theorists, don’t regard illustrated children’s books on the same level as other forms of literature. Either way, changing the art–assuming it was in response to 30-year old protests from parents and not the children who loved the books–is in direct violation of everything they stand for and impose on others in their guide. Though, then again, that’s not very different from how often literary theorists impose rules upon others that are in direct opposition of their own; it seems as though both literary criticism and the publishing industry are in need of a shake up. Maybe we can write up a guide on that get Stephen Gammell to illustrate it!

NB: If you feel so inclined, here is a petition to bring back the original artwork. While this is in no way meant to disregard the wonderful art created by Brett Helquist–and I absolutely suggest you check out his website for a more comprehensive look at all of his talented work–it’s the notion of letting HarperCollins Publishers know that censorship and manipulation without any sort of warning will not be tolerated.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under American Literature, Art, Authors, Banned Books, Books, Children's Literature, Comic Books, Literary Criticism, Manifestos, media, Opinions, Publishing

Death of a Salesman- My analysis

I apologize for my lack of posts this past month, or two, you would not believe my work load! Here is a critical analysis of my DOAS essay, it is only a first draft, but already 200 words over the word limit. I decide to do this question as I could generally avoid a political regime and debate as that does not even remotely interest me. I will possibly post a critical interpretation upon the character of Willy Loman at a later date, but for now:

‘There are no flashbacks in this play but only a mobile concurrency of past and present.’ Discuss Miller’s dramatic methods in presenting the past and the present in the play and their contribution to the overall tragedy.

Within Death of a Salesman, Miller incorporates a range of techniques to enhance the tragic genre of the play, including one of expression. Expressionist dramatists were concerned with presenting the inner psychological reality of a character and expression is shown through ‘flashbacks’- ones in which realism and reality play a vital role. By trying to forge his past dreams into present day reality, Willy’s past experiences are acted out; thus destroying the fragile boundaries between the past and present, the two exist in parallel as Willy’s mental state deteriorates. Miller’s tightly compressed, intensely composed scenes were therefore sown into sequential inevitability: past and present are drawn together in a single continuity, hereby exposing Willy’s mental inability and capacity. ‘Flashbacks’ would show objective images of the past, however, Miller’s mobile concurrences, show highly subjective memories. The infiltration of past scenes allows us to witness Willy’s futile pleas for humane treatment. Willy’s mindset is the fore-stage for the majority of action in the play and I’ll be assessing to what extent is the play merely a representation of his fragmented delusions.

Miller breeds a plethora of subjects into this play; Willy Loman’s last twenty-four hours are depicted to the audience as they watch a grief stricken man, one who is constantly ranging from one emotion to the other. As the play seemingly transitions from past to present, Willy is left distorted, his perspective confused. Miller uses this technique to combine elements of social and personal tragedy within the same framework. Miller interpositions the theme of madness firstly and we see this in Act I as Willy switches between morbidity and optimism. Willy’s nihilistic ‘I am tired to the death’ quickly develops into mental hyperactivity ‘God dammit’ such an abrupt change represents a man whose mindset is not coherent with his actions. Miller uses the tone of action as a generic convention in order for the audience to view Willy as a character; he is inconsistent, blind to his own foolish vanities and unsympathetic to those who ‘more than love him’ such as his wife Linda. Death of a Salesman hinges on classic Greek tragedy, Miller dared to take on an epic form of synchronizing cause and effect, Willy’s contradictions ‘Biff is such a lazy bum’ to ‘such a hard worker’ and weakness are exhibited, his implications embrace societies characteristics, humanity with all its vices and virtues.

By acting out upon stage the appearances of such characters as Ben and The Woman, the play shows the internal turmoil and psychological breakdowns that Willy is experiencing. The appearances of these two characters in Willy’s ‘present’ means that while the audience participate in sharing the nightmare experiences of Willy’s breakdown, they never lose touch with the real events. Willy perceives reality in a distorted way and the continual reappearances of characters emphasizes Willy’s recognition of reality and illusion, as it is blurred in his mind. The structure of the play resembles a stream of consciousness: Willy drifts between his living room, to the apron and ‘flashbacks’ of an idyllic past. When action is set in the present, the characters abide by the rules of the set, entering only through the imaginary wall lines and stage door to the left; however, when we visit the “past” these boundaries are broken, rules are removed, with characters openly moving through walls onto the fore-stage. Scenes in Mielziners’s Broadway adaption could easily help the audience understand Miller’s idea of Willy living in the past and present at the same time: Mielziner showed the present on stage by representing by house surrounded by tower blocks and the past showed a house surrounded by open land and trees, the set he used was described by Miller as ‘an emblem of Willy’s intense longing for the promises of the past, which indeed the present state of his mind is always conflicting’ The houses skeletal framework shows us that the sense of fragility the house carries. The play’s use of trees represents the rural way of life; the tower blocks represent how commercialism is choking these trees. Willy himself remarks on how ‘the grass don’t grow . . . you can’t raise a carrot in the back yard.” Demonstrating not only the barren landscape, but how fruitless his life has become. The more relevant commercialism becomes, the more brutal the play becomes. Willy confuses his metaphors exclaiming to Howard you ‘can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away’ Willy himself is the fruit as critic Cairns states, he is stripped of his layers, maimed and mutilated.

Commercializing in Death of a Salesman is one of many elaborate fables that define ‘The American Dream’, the future Willy wants for his boys is one built through hard work, courage and determination. He lays his ideals for the future upon his boys, especially Biff. When hostility mocks his every pursuit, Willy cannot fathom what went wrong, how ‘a young man with such-personal attractiveness, gets lost’ Willy is constantly demoralized and can only cling to idyllic fables that baffle and allude him as the dreams unwind out of themselves. Willy is constantly plagued by these daydreams and illusions; he owns nothing and makes nothing. He builds a life for his boys by building lies; illusions that replace reality in his mind, the yearning for the dream took everything Willy owned, except his fond memories of the past. He is a man completely immersed in memories, constantly reminiscing, telling Linda to ‘remember those days’ Willy is controlled by his fears for the future.

The Loman’s are entrapped in an illusionary environment, filled with deception and deceit. The stage directions indicates the house is “a dream rising out of reality” Arthur Miller’s ‘Timebends’ further depicts the house as one ‘trembling with resolution and shouts of victories that had not yet taken place but surely would tomorrow’ This reflects Willy’s longing to fulfill himself in a world where material wealth is the only acceptable goal in society. It is because of this reason, that religion is absent from the play, as religion isn’t compatible with capitalism and materialism. A sense of this environment is accentuated through the nostalgic music of the flute which is sporadically played through moments of mobile concurrency, symbolic of the illusionary environment which surrounds them.

This is a play about violence, the inadequacy of the American lifestyle and dream. Willy helps us to understand human condition in general; his issues are alienation, consumerism and its enduring appeal seems to lie in the fact that Miller tapped into the hopes and fears of not only an American but a global public. Universal human questions about the nature of happiness and success, of aging and of family responsibility are tackled. Willy Loman has the quality of an everyman, whose struggle to obtain his dreams of success resonates within us all. But, according to historic legends such as Aristotle this doesn’t make him a tragic hero. Although, ultimately Willy was responsible for his own downfall, Willy found he couldn’t control the world and instead choose change his own destiny, by ending his life. Willy demonstrates hamartia through his inability to accept the truth of any situation and success ‘I averaged a hundred and seventy dollars a week in the year of 1928’ he is merely ‘a dime a dozen’ and his sons exhibit his flaw too, but Willy never has an anagnorisis. Willy’s death is not as tragic as his reason for dying. He died for his boys, hoping that the money they receive would set them a foundation to build themselves a business empire. The tragedy in this is that he never learned the truth that his sons were never going to be ‘big shots’. Willy blurred the boundaries between past dreams and future hopes, between illusion and reality; in death as he did in life, in is a horrifying indictment of the world we live in and the future we are striving for.

As critic Pete Bunten once asserted: ‘Genres need not be seen as watertight categories. Texts do not have to be definitely placed into genres, nor firmly allocated to one genre or another; we see the fluidity of the genre through the lens of tragedy.’ This play interconnects with several genres and tragedies. In fact, it was Arthur Miller himself who declared that there are no flashbacks in this tragedy, describing these experiences as ‘literally at that terrible moment when the voice of the past is no longer distant but quite as loud as the voice of the present’. He therefore did not view Willy’s internal sequences as ‘flashbacks’. The underlying plot structure enriches the inevitability, the abstract context is accessible so Willy’s thoughts can be viewed by the wider audience and the maximum degree of pathos can be set into motion. The past and present flirt and mingle with Willy inextricably; the future Willy lusted for was one built upon the dreams of a long imagined past. A debate can be constructed around the degree to which Willy’s expectations of a future full of hope and prosperity were satisfied, but his constant hallucinations elude him. Willy cannot escape from the past, it lies heavily upon the present and the audience earnestly learns that a play without a past is merely a shadow of a play.

There is a bibliography, I cannot be bothered to post it.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Literature, Authors

What Are You Reading?

To make up for my slacking on actually posting on here (sorry about that!) I figured I’d open up a little dialogue with all you WordPressers out there. I may have not been writing, but oh, I have been reading. Too much at once, actually (hence the not writing part).

But this post isn’t about me, I want to know what all of YOU out there are reading. Be it classic novel, comic book, political manifesto, tawdry romance novel…absolutely anything! I want to know what everyone’s reading, what everyone thinks about said readings and I want recommended  reading!

What’s on your holiday recommended reading list? Because I think we all know that with the hecticness of the holidays upon all of us, there’s nothing like a good book to curl up with when we just need to chill out.

So share! Comment! Send me an e-mail at jamier.iib@gmail.com! Anything! Just have fun sharing your readings with others in the lit community!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

3 Comments

Filed under Audio Books, Authors, Books, Comic Books, Poetry

Just why exactly the kite Runner is the worst novel the 21st century has born

Okay, before I start I would like to say this: I do change my mind, it doesn’t even take much persuasion for me too either, I just do, but I guarantee that once I’ve changed it, I stick to my second opinion.
So now that’s off my mind, I can crack on with slating a book, loved by all, or nearly all, but not me.
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseni: I know, I’ve already published a post on this certain novel, except that was an essay I was rapaciously forced to complete in class, otherwise I probably would have refused, but two formal warnings two months into the year is enough to convince me not to challenge the system this one time. But it doesn’t stop me from relieving my pent-up feelings I’ve been told to keep private in lessons.
I don’t how to say this without sounding so frank so instead I’ll demonstrate a lexical set of demonic language: The Kite Runner, is to be blunt, fucking shit.
First of all, Khaled Hosseini is described by my teacher as a ‘genius’ she frequently tells us that ‘he’s a doctor you know, he’s not a novelists, he’s a doctor, just goes to show how good he is!’ To which I roll my eyes and bury my face behind my hardly annotated copy, cursing under my breath as to why we have to study this post modernized book.

I don’t even know where to start, I guess with the unreliable narrator, unreliable plot and unfeasible characters make me so vehement.
First and foremost, I have to credit Hosseini his first novel does give an insight into the vibrancy of Afghan culture before it was ruthlessly penetrated by Russian soldiers. Unfortunately for Hosseini, the only good thing (bar the ending) is the fact that you actually have to be an Afghan to appreciate the book, I don’t care about the streets of Kabul, I don’t care about what the houses looked liked or the shop where you bought naan bread. I care about Amir and Hassan and the redemption of Amir after witnessing his best friend get raped in an alleyway by the future head of the Taliban (it makes me laugh to even type it, what was Hosseini thinking!?)

Hassan is only young when he gets molested by Assef that one winter day, I don’t know how old, I wasn’t that bothered whilst reading and I can’t be bothered to check the plotline it bored me until my eyes bleed a little. However being young (let’s say ten, I like that number) In the alleyway in those fateful moments, Assef gives Hassan a choice..The kite or his..virginity. Oh Hassan, why did you just stand there, why did you keep hold of the kite? Hosseini was trying to create a sacrificial lamb, one comparable to Jesus! He failed in every aspect, no-one is that faithful, that vigilant in their respect and guileless devotion for someone who they’d endure the worst kind of suffering to protect them. Later Hassan even leaves Kabul after admitting to ‘stealing’ the watch that Amir plants under his pillow. Betrayal, rape, ignorance and love is what Hassan endures for Amir, at ten? Bullshit.
Wait, that isn’t the icing on the cake- it’s the sheer ridicule that years into the future, he bears a son to a woman- I know a victim of sexual abuse she can’t even look at a man or engage in physical contact in fear, but to give yourself to someone *cue ghetto voice* Oh hell no! Plus, when Hassan is merclessly shot (I was disappointed at this I expected him to go in a more heroic, tearshedding, attention whoring way) his son is then taken by Assef to be. you guessed it, subjected to horrific violence and abuse.
Plus Assef thrives as a homosexual in an all male dominated society, I’m pretty sure in that culture he wouldv’e been discovered and stoned.
I would continue, say how futile Amirs redemption is, how much I hate him from running, how much I hate Hosseini by spending a whole chapter describing to us a love tale between Amir and Soranya.
I’m sorry I can’t go on, it brings tears to my eyes that I’ve read this ‘novel’, makes me want to bang my head agianst a door until my brian swells to think that it’s still on my bookshelf! But mostly, it makes me sigh that I’ve just spent the past half an hour rapidly typing away when I could’ve been reading some real literature instead of wasting my precious spare time furiously slamming Hosseini, all I have to say is, please for the good of us all stick to your day job. Save lives and spread messages that way, don’t waste a year of my college life on your pathetic stories.
Oh how I am bitter about the standard of modernized books,Twilight, The Kite Runner, just what will the 21st Century throw upon us next? I dread to think, I honestly do.

3 Comments

Filed under Authors, Books, New Criticism, Opinions, Reviews, Thoughts, Uncategorized