Monday, March 30, 2009

Tell-Tale-Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The story begins with a man trying to convince someone that he wasn’t crazy. He goes about defining being crazy as ones senses being dulled; and to the contrary his were heightened. He then goes on to explain the story in a calm collected manner to further prove that he is in his right state of mind. He begins by talking about an old man of whom he was very fond. The old man was wealthy, but that was not why he cared for him. The old man never offended nor insulted him in any way. There was one thing however that bothered him about the old man which was his eye. It revolted him to the point that he felt that he must kill the old man to get rid of the eye.
He then goes into how clever he was by sneaking into the old man’s room every night unnoticed a week before he actually killed him. He then claimed that a crazy person could not have done such a thing with the amount of precision he used. Every night he went there he wasn’t able to kill him due to the fact that he wasn’t able to see the eye. On the last night that he snuck in he made a bit of noise and the old man sat up in his bed and asked who was there. No one answered so the old man began to make up excuses in his head for the noise he heard. For an hour they both stood silent, waiting. All that could be heard was the old man’s heart; growing louder and louder by the minute. At first it sounded as if it were a watch that was covered in cotton, but then it grew so loud that he thought the neighbours might hear it. Finally his hand fumbled and a bit of light was uncovered from the lantern. The light shone directly on the old man’s eye. The sight of his eye infuriated him so that he ran at the old man, grabbed his legs and pulled him off the bed. The old man let out a loud yell but it was stifled at once for the bed was pulled over him and he was crushed. He then cut the old man’s head and limbs off and put his body under the floor boards in his room. He sat there for a moment in satisfaction of how he cunningly took care of the situation and that he was finally free of the evil eye.
A few moments later he heard a faint sound, similar to a muffled watch. Before he could think about it he heard someone at the front door. So proud of himself he eagerly went to see who was at the door. He opened it to be greeted by two police officers. They asked him about the loud scream his neighbours heard earlier. He explained it was him waking from a nightmare then invited them in to give them a tour of the house. He told them that the old man was in another country and that he was tending to his things for him. He brought them to the old man’s room where he was buried under the floorboard and started a conversation with them. All of a sudden he started to hear a heartbeat. He tried to talk over it but it only grew louder and louder until it grew so loud he confessed everything.

The Petrified Man by Welty

The play on words and society is endless in Welty’s story “The Petrified Man.” The story centres on beauty shop conversation in a small southern town in Mississippi. Leota is the hair dresser tugging at Mrs. Fletcher’s hair. Mrs. Fletcher is newly pregnant and loves to gossip judgment on others. While Leota is treating Mrs. Fletcher’s hair with poisonous chemicals she is also offering her poisonous titbits’ about a new woman in town. Mrs. Fletcher is upset that Leota has told Mrs. Pike, whom she doesn’t even know, that she is pregnant. As the gossip ensues Mrs. Fletcher becomes jealous of Mrs. Pike. Mrs. Fletcher is in an unhappy marriage to a man that is very close to a bum, by her description. And Mrs. Pike’s husband is older, a nice dresser, and is to come into money. Leota and Mrs. Pike attended the “freak show” at the carnival one night. Leota was quite taken by a “petrified man”, who could stiffen like a statue. Mrs. Pike preferred the pygmies, tiny men. Mrs. Fletcher declares, “I despise freaks (Welty, 39).” By the end of the story the “petrified man” is realized to be wanted and worth five hundred dollars for raping four women in California.
The only male presence in the story is the young son of Mrs. Pike underfoot at the beauty shop. The story ends with the boy getting a sound paddling from Mrs. Fletcher for stealing old peanuts and he exclaims, “If you’re so smart, why isn’t you rich ?” The real freak show is at the beauty shop. Every personality in the story is a moral freak of one kind or another. Mrs. Fletcher works through her unhappy life by being jealous and judgmental of others. Leota spends her days offering low doses of poison in hairdos and gossip to her clients. And the petrified man is in reality not scared or stiff at all, but a psychopath violently attacking woman sexually. The only voice of reason in the story then becomes the boy at the end, who has not yet been damaged by this society of women.

Jury of Her Peers by Glaspell

Martha Hale, and Mrs. Peters, two main female characters in the short story, had briefly met "at the country fair", and therefore did not know each other well. However, through the course of the short fiction, they forge a bond of understanding if not compassion between each other and the third main female character, Minnie Foster, who is merely alluded to in the story. These women are considered less knowledgeable and noteworthy by their male detective counterparts: even outsiders in the detective realm. Yet these same women become most important in solving the case of the murder of John Wright. It is these women who unearth clues and form conclusions about what could have driven Minnie Foster to be capable of committing the murder. These women then conceal evidence from the men thereby causing the men to become outsiders.
In the beginning of the story there is a murder, and the day after the discovery of the murder, the detective, Sheriff Peters and his wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Hale go to the scene of the crime to investigate what had occurred. The men proceed in traditional detective fashion: methodically retracing every step, examining the actual site of the murder, and looking for clues, while the women are left downstairs in the kitchen where there is "nothing…but kitchen things". Therefore, the men are depicted as superior to the women, and holding authority over them. The women are not allowed to go upstairs with the men to continue investigating, nor are they asked to go to the barn- all of which are traditionally masculine places. Instead they are treated as outsiders; relinquished to the kitchen, where they can “over trifles". Things half-done; half-washed; a birdcage, with a broken door, and no bird; a box, with a dead bird inside; all the things the women discovered "while waiting for to get the evidence". The women realized that these objects could be used against Minnie, and not in a spirit of conspiracy, but one of common bondage, did they choose to conceal the afore stated evidence from the Sherriff and detective. In doing so, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale caused the men to be withdrawn from the inner circle of knowledge and understanding, and instead left in the shadows, pondering the details of the murder. The transition from outsider to insider and the reversal of roles pertaining to the possession of information from male to female completes a full circuit in Susan Glaspell’s "Jury of Her Peers".
The men begin as traditional detectives, tracing the murder events, and looking for clues or evidence. However, it is the women who in the conclusion of the short fiction possess the incriminating evidence. The men also begin inside the realm of knowledge, with the women purposely left on the outskirts. Yet the conclusion again finds us with the women being on the inside, instead of the men. Just like the men, the reader is left on the outskirts of knowledge. Not reading a summation statement in the conclusion of the short fiction, but having to drawn his own conclusion as to what really occurred in the murder case of John Wright. In a sense the reader amalgamates himself with either the feminine or masculine side in the story, thereby becoming part of the jury sentencing Minnie Foster.

The Nose by Nikolai Gogol

This short story about a man who loses his nose is a enjoyable read. The story begins with Ivan Yakovlevich finding a nose in his morning roll. He is badgered to leave the house by his imposing wife. Ivan is a terrible barber and a great drunkard. His first goal of the day is to rid himself of the nose. He attempts to dump it from his pocket as litter, but is caught by a police man. Eventually he drops it into the Neva River. A mist renders the rest of that scene impossible to see. Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov is the man who has lost his nose. This nose is a great treasure to him because he cannot persuade any ladies to return home with him missing such an obvious feature. He accidentally finds his nose dressed as a higher ranking official and follows it to a church. Here Kovalyov tries to confront his former face part, but the nose knows nothing of the sort. Beside himself, he tries to place an advertisement for the return of his nose. He is even willing to pay a reward. The papers choose to pass on his wild tale.
The police, likewise, will believe no story about a nose that has run off to masquerade as an official. He returns home defeated. The police officer, who had spoken to Ivan, appears at the home of Kovalyov. He tells that the nose has been found. After explaining how he found it, he hands the nose over to the Collegiate Assessor. Next, Kovalyov tries and tries to replace his nose with no luck. A doctor comes, at his demand, to inspect the problem, but refuses to do anything that will help fix the problem. Then he writes a letter to a girlfriend's mother telling her to put his nose back on, because he has come to the conclusion she used some kind of witchcraft to take it off his face. The narrator of the story comes on the strongest in the last section to explain away all the problems with this strange tale; he says odd things really do happen sometimes. Finally, he admits it's even hard for him to believe, but he swears it's the truth.

Brave New World by Huxley

Huxley wrote it in 1932, he had recognized himself as a writer and social satirist. Brave New World opposing to the most popular novels of the time, Huxley wanted to provide an alarming vision of the future. It describes an ironic ideal society. The humanity is free from care, enthusiastic and industrially extremely developed. Competition and poverty have been eliminated and each person is eternally happy due to government-provided stimulation. The irony is that all of these things have been achieved by eliminating many things that humans consider to be central to their identity as far as family, culture, art, literature, science, religion other than idolatry of what they called "our Ford", referring to Henry Ford, who could be considered the father of their society. It is also an idea to maximize the total of pleasure with a minimum of ache, obtaining pleasure from morally wrong sex and drug use, especially “SOMA”, is a powerful dream-inducing drug which is employed by the government as a method of control through pleasure and immediate availability. It is ordinary among the culture of the novel for everyone to use it for doesn’t matter what: sex, relaxation, concentration and confidence, it makes it possible for everyone to be entirely satisfied to do the assigned tasks of their social group. It has no short-term side effects. Death itself is not feared in the World State. People typically die at age 61, having maintained good vigor and apparent youth up to that point. Their bodies go to crematoria, where vital elements such as phosphorus are extracted from the exhaust of the furnaces. Children are taken to the crematoria to see the bodies, accustoming them to the inevitable cycle of life and death. Since children do not know their parents, they cannot lament their deaths.

A. V. Laider by Max Beerbohm

The enigmatic A. V. Laider and the narrator of this tale have both come to a hotel by the sea, presumably in England. First in 1913, then again in 1914, they coincidentally arrive there to recover from influenza. In 1913, they are the only two guests present. For days until the very last day before the narrator is to depart, they remain aloof, acknowledging each other''s presence, but not speaking. Then on the final day, they break the ice in British fashion. Before long, they became engrossed in conversation about palmistry. Mr. Laider takes center stage relating his very unfortunate experience as a chiromancer.
The narrator feels so sympathetic and compassionate that he writes a letter to Mr. Laider expressing the view that maybe the whole thing hadn''t happened at all. But alas, when he again visits a the hotel a year later, he finds his letter tacked to the bulletin board, unopened. He is interrupted in his stealthy attempt to retrieve the letter, but plans to do so later. By the time the narrator returns to the bulletin board, the letter has disappeared. Mr. Laider has arrived and has read the letter. He then makes a strange confession about the truth of the matter. The surprise ending has the narrator wondering what really happened.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Falling Man by Don DeLillo

Through the twisted wreckage of buildings, politics and lives, Don DeLillo write a great story design on the most hallowed ground. The "Falling Man" by DeLillo's review the horrific events of 9/11 and its aftermath. The book reveals the human dramas of that great tragedy through juxtaposing emotions:
the fear and the courage, the broken and the healed, and the urgent and the steadfast. DeLillo write a very heart touching story. The story centers on a family in crisis whose remarkable characters are victims of both 9/11 and their own family problem. The sometimes husband and wife, Keith and Lianne revive their marriage bonds when he arrives at her apartment, injured and her shirt was full of debris from the Trade Center.
The autopilot marriage slowly begins to crack as their post-9/11 pursuits pull them apart. Even their young son, Justin, also can’t avoid the disasters that are yet to come. The young Chorus may childishly imagine the "Ben Lawton" in their future, but indeed we continue to suffer the widespread devastation or ultimate doom evil he personifies.
Nina, Lianne's mother, and her never-husband, Martin, are vehicles for the way and conventional judgments that measure our societal worth. In the end though, what matters most to DeLillo is the individual right of self-determination and expression. Our actions during life's free-fall are our true worth.
Keith and Lianne are flawed, but are compassionate, decent and will endure.
The terrorist claiming devotion to God and observance of religious principles confronts his mortality not in the arms of restless virgins, rather he discovers a fuselage of shrapnel, flames, and ashes. He is ultimately to be exhaled by the Towers, joining his victims in one final, mighty breath.
Then heaven can truly judge him for his humanity.