A Literary Journey…

A qwriting.qc.cuny.edu blog

Missing from the Study Guide

Filed under: Uncategorized — skaps111 at 5:43 pm on Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I believe Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) is a significant writer who is missing in the Pre-1800 period.  He was an American novelist and short story writer and wrote in what was considered the Romantic period.  One of his most well-known novels is The Scarlett Letter which depicts humans’ sinful nature in a religious society, a theme that is evident in many of his works.  One of the short stories I very much enjoyed by him is called “Rappaccini’s Daughter” in which a certain woman’s very existence is poisonous as she is a creature created by a man named Rappaccini.  This work definitely represents romantic elements.

Desire in The Children’s Hour.

Filed under: Uncategorized — skaps111 at 6:06 am on Monday, November 21, 2011

Throughout The Children’s Hour, I felt as if there may have been a message about the concept of desire.  In the scene near the beginning of the play where Karen is telling Mary that she can’t walk out of school or come late whenever she wants, she states, “I don’t say that I’ll always agree that you should do exactly what you want to do.”  This means that Karen will not exactly support all of Mary’s desires.  It is one thing to understand what a person wants, and another to allow them to have it.

 

It is shown throughout the play however that attaining one’s desire may not be the best.  On page 28, Mary claims that she is going to her grandmother and that she will not stay in the school.  When this actually occurs, Mary creates a disaster by lying about her teachers and defaming their character by accusations that were scandalous at the time.  Mary’s desire to remain at home comes with a very heavy price for both her teachers and herself in the long run.

 

Another instance that goes against the idea of desire is when Karen and Joe split up near the end of the play.  All throughout the play, the audience believes that Karen and Joe will be getting married, despite the difficult times that they have had to endure.  However, with only one more week to the wedding, Karen breaks off her relationship with Joe.  She does not end up getting what she wanted at the end.  These instances then, add up to the fact that this play may be trying to teach one about the consequences of attaining their desire or not at lying.

Thoughts on the Draft Prospectus.

Filed under: Uncategorized — skaps111 at 8:10 pm on Sunday, November 13, 2011

I believe that the draft prospectus was a good way of organizing my ideas.  I was able to focus on a certain quote in the book, from which I derived the general concept of marriage. While thinking of the smaller, more detailed questions, I was able to narrow down the concept of marriage to the ideas of trust and love in marriage.  Now I feel like I have a better focus because the idea of marriage is too general.  By thinking of trust and love, I’m able to focus on the intricacies of a general concept.

I feel as if the entire draft prospectus helped me in figuring out my ideas.  While writing the topic description, I was able to explore an overview of the topic of marriage in Oscar Wilde’s play “Lady Winderemere’s Fan,” using a quote I found particularly striking.  The statement of motive was helpful because it forced me to think about why exactly I wanted to write about my topic. Why is it so interesting to me and what can I get out of it? That question helped me focus on the concepts of trust and love, which then helped me out in coming up with the research questions.  Pertaining to the questions I have about my draft prospectus, I would like to know whether my research questions are relevant. For example, the first question I ask is, How important is marriage? Is it a requirement by society/culture or just a common path taken by most?  I would like to know whether it is okay to ask something this general.  This question relates more to my interest in the topic.  Is everything we are exploring in our essay related to our interest, or to something we should include in such a paper? Basically, is this a research based on our own interest, or based on certain guidelines that we must follow? For example, one may say that if we are writing a paper on a specific topic, it should include the following things…and then there would be a list of things to include.  Is there such a list, a list of things to include, for this research essay?

One of my concerns with the research essay is that because I have heard that it is generally a long essay, I am afraid that I might go off topic at some point.  I might talk about one thing more than I talk about another.  For instance, I may talk about trust in marriage more than I talk about love.  How do I prevent myself from that imbalance in information? Also, there are times when I don’t know if I’m taking something too far that it becomes off-topic. How would I be able to catch that?

 

 

The Relation between Appearance and Innocence

Filed under: Uncategorized — skaps111 at 9:07 am on Monday, November 7, 2011

Throughout The Scarlett Letter, I noticed Hawthorne’s detail to beauty and ugliness.  Through his words, it seems as if beauty is innocent in a way, even though it may be sinful and ugliness is hateful though it may not have committed societal sins.  This is seen through Hawthorne’s description of Hester Prynne and the townspeople near the beginning of the novel when Hester’s Sarlett letter of shame is displayed to the public in the marketplace.  For example, on page 40, the author states:

 

And never had Hester Prynne appeared more lady-like, in the antique interpretation of the term, than as she issued from the prison.  Those who had before known her, and had expected to behold her dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud, were astonished, and even startled, to perceive how her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped.

 

Hawthorne utilizes the words “lady-like” “beauty” “shone” and “halo” to depict Hester as being both beautiful and angelic, which is odd considering the fact that she just came out of prison.  Often, one would hold the view that the society holds, that one who has been held in prison for a long time may look dull, worn out and possibly even weak.  However, Hester looks the exact opposite.  Could this mean that Hawthorne is saying something good about sin? Is he saying that committing a sin makes one more beautiful or that committing a sin is not exactly “the end of the world?” Could it possibly mean that Hester has been forgiven by God if not forgiven by society?  He uses the word “halo” which suggests an angel which relates to innocence.  Could Hester’s time in prison have been a kind of repentance for her so that now she is sinless and innocent and the townspeople fail to notice this?

 

Hawthorne depicts one of the townspeople as saying:

 

‘What do we talk of marks and brands, whether on the bodice of her gown or the flesh of her forehead?’ cried another female, the ugliest as well as the most pitiless of these self-constituted judges.  ‘This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die.  Is there not law for it?  Truly there is, both in the Scripture and the statute book.  Then let the magistrates, who have made it of no effect, thank themselves if their own wives and daughters go astray!’ (39)

 

It is important to note here that the woman who wants Hester to be given a death sentence is both ugly and pitiless.  She claims to know the scripture and yet utters such harsh words for God’s creation.  One would think that an individual who knows the scripture may be seen as the beautiful one.  However, this is not true in The Scarlett Letter.  Apparently, the individual who appears to be acquainted with religion is the one who is pitiless, which is the complete opposite of what God himself represents.  What does this say about Puritan society at the time then?  Could this mean that those who are sinless are actually more immoral in the eyes of God than those who have committed sins and repented?

Gossip and “the inevitable.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — skaps111 at 6:04 am on Monday, October 31, 2011

When reading Emma, I criticized the society as being one that is very prone to gossip because the women are so idle most of the time.  I observed gossip to be a by product of the historical circumstances as women of certain classes were not allowed to work; instead, it was the men who remained occupied in earning money to run their households and women who would perform all sorts of feminine duties, like sewing, taking care of the family, attending balls, visiting acquaintances at certain hours and paying much attention to the way they dressed and presented themselves.  They really did not have much to do and as flattery and class were two major concepts of the time, gossip about one another was inevitable.

One thing I did not realize however, until I read the Finch and Bowen article, is the fact that the gossip told in Emma is all known to the public already.  Nothing is private! I cannot believe I failed to catch that while reading.  One major clue that gives this away is the free indirect discourse.  The reader is able to see into the lives of many different characters as the narrator shifts from one point of view to the other.  We can look at characters and events from different points of view.  For example, the reader is able to discover that Mr. Elton is interested in Emma and not in Harriet through both the narrator and Mr. Knightley.  Emma however, fails to see this because she is so busy concentrating on making a match for Harriet.  We have two points of view that confirm Mr. Elton’s affections for Emma.  Therefore when she finds out from Mr. Elton, though Emma is a bit taken aback, she admits that she was busy in pairing Harriet with Mr. Elton which is why she could not see what was going on clearly.  The facts are all known. It is the distribution of these facts that create the concept of “gossip” in this novel.

Gossip in Emma is related to the inevitable. As Mr. Elton’s attraction to Emma is inevitable (due to his love of money as the reader learns) Emma’s engagement to Mr. Knightley is also inevitable. The irony within this novel is the fact that Emma is seen trying to run from the unavoidable at the beginning. She has no desire to get married and yet she ends up with Mr. Knightely anyway.  She is no different than any other women in the society.  The differences that make her special at the beginning do not really exist so much by the end.  I can understand the gossip around the predictable, but why is there gossip at the beginning when Emma is seen as being different? Readers do not get the sense that Emma falling in love will be “inevitable.”  Instead, readers, or at least I, expected the opposite as Emma seemed to be very firm in her conviction not to marry.  Why then, does the narrator appear to have a communal voice at the beginning of the novel when introducing Emma’s character? Nothing should be public knowledge/gossip at the beginning, right? Emma “seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence,” (7) but by who? The community, as the Finch and Bowen article argues, or the narrator itself? In this case, the narrator wouldn’t be attached to the community at the beginning and wouldn’t be spreading gossip at the beginning. In my interpretation then, the narrator starts off with private knowledge, that later becomes public as the novel goes on and things seem inevitable and gossip ensues.

Questions to the Dillon Article

Filed under: Uncategorized — skaps111 at 6:05 am on Monday, October 24, 2011

Questions that Dillon may have been thinking about while constructing her article:

 

  1. What is the significance of the sudden change in tone and information in the novel?

 

  1. What is the connection between the Haitian Revolution and the white women in the novel?  Why are they so significant?

 

  1. How do marital relations within the novel help readers to view the situation in Haiti at this time? (Specifically the treatment and rights of women in marriage)

Focus on Women in The Horrors of St. Domingo

Filed under: Uncategorized — skaps111 at 8:06 am on Monday, October 17, 2011

Reading through The Horrors of St. Domingo, though it does take place around the time of the Haitian Revolution, most of it does not even appear to be about what may seem to most like the main aspects of the revolution, such as the revolts and the slaves.  Instead, it seems to be more about women and the jealousies they hold towards each other.  If anything, the “horrors” seem more related to the women’s actions towards the objects of their malice than what really should be expected in revolutions.

The interesting thing though, is the fact that even these women who seem to relate to the title of the book are not exactly at the forefront of the novel.  The writer in the story, the Lady, writes a lot about her sister Clara.  Most of the novel is about how Clara is abused by her husband which sometimes makes me think, could that be one of the horrors of St. Domingo?  However, this does not seem like a very likely circumstance because during the 1800’s, husbands did have full control of their wives and could do with them whatever they pleased.

The part I found interesting then, is when Clara stands up to her husband and claims that she will go wherever she wants to go when he attempts to stop her.  This is the first time she stands up for herself.  The Lady constantly describes her as being so unhappy, that one gets the feeling that Clara may be depressed due to her circumstances.  However, this one scene proves otherwise for what depressed individual can stand up to their superior (at least that is what husbands were thought to be at the time) for their own right?  This part reminded me of Lady Windermere’s Fan when Lady Windermere stands up to Lord Windermere herself.  Women are supposed to stay in the house or else they will commit mischievous acts…that is what the belief is and both Clara and Lady Windermere go against it.  What surprises me is why Clara all of sudden stops defending herself and starts being obedient to her husband, even when he is clearly abusing her.  It is as if the reader sees one woman, getting unjustly punished and seeing the other women that the Lady writes about, the Creoles and Mulattos, not having to suffer much except for their own jealousies and their consequences.

Representation of Women

Filed under: Uncategorized — skaps111 at 6:30 am on Monday, October 3, 2011

While reading A Journal of the Plague Year, I noticed that H.F mentioned women, especially old women, several times throughout the work and each time he mentioned them, he did not exactly say anything positive about them.  For example, when he speaks about the time before the Plague and talks about a certain Comet that appeared, he states that, “the old Women, and the Phlegmatic Hypocondriac part of the other sex, who I could almost call old women too, remark’d (especially afterward tho’ not till both those Judgments were over) that those two Comets pass’d directly over the City, and that so very near the Houses, that it was plain, they imported something peculiar to the City alone” (18).  By adding the parenthetical comment, H.F. basically says that the women are adding their own opinions to the natural event.  It could have been a plain natural phenomena that occurred, but by adding in their suspicions about the comet “importing something peculiar to the city,” it makes more people wonder and point to it as a possible source for the Plague.

 

Around the same time, old women would interpret people’s dreams in which they would claim that the Plague is coming, and hence foretell the upcoming epidemic. According to H.F, they “put an abundance of people even out of their Wits.”  He also claims that “they heard Voices that never spake, and saw Sights that never appear’d; but the imagination of the People was really turn’d and wayward and possess’d” (20).  All of these abnormalities the narrator links to the People who have been affected by the old women who claim to know about the future.  Many such individuals arose during this time and it is clear that the narrator does not exactly like them as what they are doing is not religious.  It just so happens though that these psychics are women and not exactly men.  It is as if he is claiming through his narration that women are leading people to immorality.

 

Next, during the time the plague was taking place, many women acted as nurses and were sent to care for the sick.  However, instead of caring for them, several “nurses” would allow their patients to die by either starving them to death or suffocating them.  After their merciless act was over, they would pilfer the victim’s home and take their valuables.  Again, no men are said to have been nurses during this time as this was a women’s occupation.

 

Women then, are ultimately spreading more fear in the society than it can handle. People are afraid for their lives and at the same time must protect their belongings from getting stolen by women who put on a false act of caring.  By telling the future, they are only scaring society and by acting as nurses, they only end up killing their patients.

The concept of Unity in “Lady Windermere’s Fan”

Filed under: Uncategorized — skaps111 at 5:13 am on Monday, September 26, 2011

“Lady Windermere’s Fan” by Oscar Wilde is a very rich play in that it has so much going on.  There is the concept of gossip and scandal, morality, gender differences, society and modernization, which is quite a lot to include in a play that only takes place within the time span of twenty-four hours.

 

What stands out to me in this play is the significance of Lady Windermere’s fan and the concept of unity.  In Act IV, Mrs. Erlynne wants to take Lady Windermere’s fan.  Lady Windermere points out that the fan has her own name, “Margaret” on it, to which Mrs. Erlynne replies, “But we have the same Christian name” (line 360).  The fan helps bring Lady Windermere and Mrs. Erlynne together as Mrs. Erlynne is able to save Lady Windermere’s reputation at Lord Darlington’s house by claiming that she accidentally took the fan when leaving the ball, thereby convincing the men that Lady Windermere herself was not there.  Now, with the name “Margaret” written on it, it is even clearer that the fan represents a kind of unity between the two Margarets.  Not only are they united and civil towards one another because of the incident that occurred, but also because of the fan itself.

 

Lady Windermere is considered to be the “good” Margaret in the eyes of society and Mrs. Erlynne the “bad” Margaret since she is caught at another man’s house and she also has rumors going on about her “past.”  The name “Margaret” on the fan does not identify which Margaret the fan is for.  Hence it can belong to either Margaret.  Not only does this unite the two Margarets under one name, it also unites the concept of good and bad as both qualities are up for debate and both can exist within a person.  One is not all good or all bad.  As Lady Windermere says on the next page, “There is the same world for all of us, and good and evil, sin and innocence, go through it hand in hand” (389-391).  As there is one world that contains morality and immorality, there is also the one name Margaret in which these qualities can reside together.  It is this concept of “good” and “bad” not actually being separate, but co-existing, that makes this comparison interesting for me since most of the book is focused on society deeming people as completely moral or completely immoral.

The Dominance of Corruption in “Othello.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — skaps111 at 6:52 am on Monday, September 19, 2011

Gossip and hearsay are central to “Othello” as they are the main driving forces of the entire play.  As Iago is the character spreading a false rumor of Desdemona and Cassio, his words throughout the play are not taken lightly.  Iago utilizes the word “poison,” in reference to what he is telling Othello about Desdemona and the harm that he is causing to their relationship.  Poison then, can be linked to the word rumor, as that is exactly what Iago is spreading…a false rumor.  Though the audience is already aware that the gossip that Iago is spreading plays a harmful role in the story, the word “poison” confirms it.  Due to Iago’s negative actions in response to his own jealousy toward Othello, one may assume him to be the villain.

 

What is surprising about the play is the fact that the villain seems to play a much larger role than the protagonist.  In fact, it appears as if most of what the audience learns about Iago is through Iago’s own perspective, as he talks about his plan in the first person.  He is able to expose himself, his thoughts, his character and his purpose directly to the audience by speaking about it to himself.  Othello, on the other hand, does not have much time to introduce himself to the audience.  Most of what we learn about him is through seeing Othello in the third person perspective of the play, and what Iago chooses to talk about in reference to him as well as Othello’s own dialogues.  Most of Othello’s dialogues are conversations with other characters of the play instead of personal contemplations in front of an audience like Iago has.  It is difficult therefore, to fully understand Othello and more difficult to discern whether or not he deserves the audience’s sympathy.  Though he is the one who suffers the most at the end, the audience is left wondering whether or not he deserves the tragic losses he experienced by listening to someone he thought he could trust. In contrast, Iago remains a very clear and distinguishable character.  The emphasis on the villain in the play who spreads false rumors rather than the main character himself raises the question of why Shakespeare chose to keep Othello such an indiscernible character.  Why is the play so dominant in “evil?”  Why is there so little “good” shown in the play?  The good that is shown appears to become tainted in some way, Desdemona by the false rumors of her and Cassio, and Othello by the murder he commits on the basis of these false rumors….

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