Thematic Reversals in William Faulkners As I Lay Dying

In As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner is concerned with the distance between what is said and what actually is, what is true and what can be expressed in language.  He captures this distance through the juxtaposition of curt, grammatically incorrect dialogue with the characters rich and brilliant inner lives, showing that, while the characters appear to be uneducated, they are actually deeply educated as to the trials, paradoxes and truths of life, truths which go deeper than the language they speak on the surface.  Faulkner demonstrates the characters education in life, and the incapacity of language to capture its depth, through several thematic reversals.  In the novel, the creation and living of life are shown to be actual death, while death is a channel for the articulation of life.  Likewise, intimacy is shown to be violence, and words denote silence or emptiness while silence is a vehicle for speaking profound words.  Faulkner uses these three thematic reversalsbirthdeath, intimacyviolence and wordssilence to express the irreconcilably paradoxical character of life, which cannot be captured in direct language.

Life and death are reversed in several ways.  First, death is not just a physical event but a mental condition that takes place within life.  Second, childbearing is a kind of personal death and pregnancy provokes a hostile, even homicidal reaction.  Third, death is conceived as the reason for living and a release from the mental death that is life.  As he watches his mother dying, Darl contemplates the meaning and nature of death.

When we enter, she turns her head and looks at us. She has been dead these ten days.  I suppose its having been a part of Anse for so long that she cannot even make that change, if change it be. I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body now I know it to be merely a function of the mind--and that of the minds of the ones who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end the fundamentalists, the beginning when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town. (Faulkner 368)

While he is presumably uneducated in an official sense, Darl understands the array of religious and philosophical positions on death, and feels intellectually capable enough to casually reject them.  Death is neither a beginning nor an end, but is as banal as a change of location.  The simplicity of Darls declaration reveals that his education in life goes deeper than that of the nihilists or the fundamentalists.  He can easily see the paradoxical fact that his mother has not died, yet she has been dead these ten days he perceives her death by looking into her eyes.  The death described by Darl here has two aspects it is an occurrence within the mind of the bereaved, suggesting that the true difference between a persons life and her death exists primarily in the minds and souls of people who care for her and it is a state of living death.  His confrontation with these two types of mental death leads Darl to the profound philosophical question of whether death is actually a change from life at all.  This question is stimulated by Addies relationship with Anse, who embodies a state of mental death when Addie recounts Anses blind desire for more children, she comments, he did not know that he was dead, then (464).  The man from whom she created life upon life always seemed dead to her, and his death left her spiritually dead as well.

It is only in death that Addie finds the voice with which to articulate her life.  There is nothing warm or redemptive in the recovery of this voice, however she uses it to recount her own living death.  Childbearing is the main source of this death, even leading her to homicidal impulses.  Then I found that I had Darl.  At first I would not believe it. Then I believed that I would kill Anse (464).  Anse, tricking her into pregnancy with love, has actually brought her hate and death, just as, in the old words of the Fall, Eve was tricked into dying by the promise of life.  The connection Addie draws between her own life and the Fall shows that she is, at least, biblically educated.  She continues her narration by recounting the thoughts of death heralded by Darls birth when Darl was born I asked Anse to promise to take me back to Jefferson when I died, because I knew that father had been right (464).  What her father had been right about was that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead (461).  When she realizes that death via child-rearing is all that life has to offer, Addie hates her father for having ever planted me (461).  The creation of life makes her long for non-existence.

Addies daughter Dewey Dell also experiences the reversal of life and death through pregnancy, which kills her selfhood.  Her pregnancy is symbolized by dead walking in which she rushes upon the darkness, coming apart both physically and emotionally.  I feel my body, my bones and flesh beginning to part and open upon the alone, and the process of coming unalone is terrible (382).  Pregnancy, or the process of coming unalone, is like the process of dying.  Dewey Dell, like Addie, dies to herself when she finds that she is no longer an independent being.  She envisions the lives of people taking place within a womb of time (422), which dismembers them.  Here, Dewey Dell expands the deathlife reversal to include all of human existence to live is to be torn apart in a cruel womb.  Dewey Dell is portrayed throughout the novel, and especially here, as a kind of philosopher-poet, whose encounter with childbearing has given her privileged insight into the human condition.  While the words she speaks in dialogue reveal her lack of formal education, she, like Darl, understands lifes paradoxes.  Dewey Dells philosophical expansion of the lifedeath reversal is also evident in Darls living death.  What a shame Darl couldnt be to enjoy it too. But it is better so for him. This world is not his world this life his life (532).  Darls family experiences him as essentially dead, even though he is still alive.  His insanity means that he lives in a state of mental death, and so, ironically, his complex understanding of death as a function of the mind eventually comes to bear on his own existential crisis.

Just as death and life are reversed in As I Lay Dying, so are intimacy and violence, or love and hate.  Anses love for Addie leads her to hate him.  Moreover, it leads her to hate her children, which she expresses physically by beating them.  Her children are normally strangers to her, but when she beats them, she approaches intimacy with them.

I would look forward to the times when they faulted, so I could whip them. When the switch fell I could feel it upon my flesh when it welted and ridged it was my blood that ran, and I would think with each blow of the switch Now you are aware of me Now I am something in your secret and selfish life. (462)

Addies children are only hers when the violence she exercises against them causes my blood and their blood to flow as one stream (463).  When she beats them, there occurs a kind of transcendental identification wherein she feels what they are feeling and their blood becomes her blood.  Violence is a way for Addie to see her children as individuals and become an individual before them.  At the same time, it is the only way she can enact the fusion, the unaloneness, that she supposes ought to characterize the relationship between mother and child.  Addie is entirely aware of the complex dynamics of this situation, demonstrating that she, like her children, can describe and experience paradoxes with which a philosopher or academic might struggle.  Addie knows that, with her violence, she punishes her children for causing her loss of selfhood while simultaneously trying to achieve intimacy with them.  The tragedy of the novel is that she has this capacity for self-understanding, but cannot escape from her existential despair.

The only one of Addies children who seeks intimacy with her is Darl.  Cora suggests that, while Addie appeared to favor Jewel, it is really Darl who shares some degree of understanding with her.  It was Darl.  He come to the door and stood there, looking at his dying mother. I saw that with Jewel she had just been pretending, but that it was between her and Darl that the understanding and the true love was. He said nothing, just looking at her (354).  This is the only instance of true love in the novel, but even it is tempered by the living death brought on by Darls birth.  It is Darls silence that strikes Cora here.  The fact that he said nothing, just looking at her leads Cora to perceive the authenticity of his feelings.  He just stood and looked at his dying mother, his heart too full for words (355).  Here, the thematic reversal of intimacy and violence collapses intimacy becomes gentle, and Darls quiet, loving attitude stands in opposition to the violence of Addies death.  At the same time, in a general sense, the reversal is maintained, since throughout Darls childhood she met his attempts at intimacyfrom her misery at his presence in her womb to her pleasure in physically beating himwith violence and contempt.  Darls silent vigil shows that the deepest and truest things in life are beyond words, beyond education and philosophy the truth of his feelings, expressed in silence, is higher than any truth expressed in language.  In this scene, Faulkner suggests that the truest word that can be spoken is silence.  Moreover, it is here, as Darl silently reaches out to Addie, that the question of intimacy and violence converges with the reversal of silence and speech.

Words, according to Addie,
Dont ever fit even what they are trying to say at.  When Cash was born I knew that motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didnt care whether there was a word for it or not. I knew that fear was invented by someone that had never had the fear pride, who never had the pride. (463)

Words, with which education is primarily concerned, are poor and unstable representations of the deepest experiences in life. Addies experience reveals that motherhood is an irreconcilable paradox of intimacy and violence, of life and death, for which the term motherhood is, at best, an empty place-holder.  Words are necessary, she suggests, because the drive to express painful paradoxes is strong.  At the same time, people who believe that words actually represent reality are simply inexperienced, deluded.  For example, fear is a word the fear is an experience that words cannot capture.  It is the same with terms like sin and salvation. Cora prayed for me because she believed I was blind to sin, wanting me to kneel and pray too, because people to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too (468).  Here, the relationship between words and experiences is much like the relationship between religious rituals and true faith only those who lack the latter can be fulfilled by the former.  The only truly fulfilling word in the novel is silence.  It is in silence that a connection with truth, other people, and the universe at large can be achieved.  When the philosopher-poet Dewey Dell runs into the darkness to escape the agony of coming unalone (382), her pain is assuaged not by words, but by the silence that surrounds her.

The themes of life and death, intimacy and violence, and words and silence are all reversed in As I Lay Dying, and through this reversal Faulkner tries to express those painful existential truths for which mere, direct words are inadequate.  On a broader level, he reveals the inadequacy of education or of socio-economic standards to measure the truth and depth of a persons understanding.  By reversing life and death, he shows how death occurs within life, and how the articulation of life can sometimes occur only in death.  The reversal of intimacy and violence, in which Addie becomes connected to her children by beating them, reveals the paradox of motherhood in a way that direct description never could.  These paradoxes are facts of life about which the characters have had their own kind of education, and which they understand well enough to know that language cannot truly capture them.  Part of the strength of Faulkners method is its effect upon the reader watching Addie get close to her children by beating them forces us to face the horrific side of motherhood, which is rarely discussed by educated people precisely because it is too difficult, too painful, to be spoken.  The reversal of words and silence, then, comprehends the other two reversals and shows why they are necessary.  

Naturalism in Londons To Build a Fire, Dickinsons A Narrow Fellow in the Grass, and Whitmans Song of Myself

Jack London wrote To Build a Fire in 1908. It was the story of an unnamed man who struggles against the snow in the Klondike in winter and eventually meets his tragic freezing end. It is a story that emphasizes mans helplessness against the wrath of nature. Dickinsons poem A Narrow Fellow in the Grass, on the other hand, was written early on in 1865. In this short poem about a certain creature believed to be a snake, Dickinson also shows mans fear of nature. However, Walt Whitmans poem Song of Myself 6, which he wrote much earlier on in 1855, is about the narrators communion with God, nature, and other people in the form of the grass. The first two works are similar in that the characters have experienced natures indifference towards them, and so their similarities will be discussed in the preceding sections. The third work, however, is clearly different from the first two in that there is no hostility that the narrator experiences as he basks in the beauty of and deep meaning in the grass, and so the differences of the poem from the first two will also be underlined.


Naturalism. Jack Londons To Build a Fire and Emily Dickinsons A Narrow Fellow in the Grass both speak of naturalism, or the idea that nature seems indifferent or even hostile to man despite his faith in it.

Several instances of naturalism are found in To Build a Fire, where the extremely freezing cold is seemingly indifferent to the man, or the unnamed narrator, and seeks to thwart his plans of getting to his friends. This otherwise cold hostility of nature is shown in the sinister sheets of ice in the creek and of which he knew their danger (London) and where the sheets of ice hid pools of water under the three-foot-deep snow (London). At the last part of the story, the unnamed narrator is somehow resigned as he mentions that the tremendous cold had already driven the life out of his fingers (London) and that he was definitely losing in his battle with the frost (London). In the end, nature triumphs over man as he drowsed off into what seemed to him the most comfortable and satisfying sleep he had ever known (London) for finally he was dead.

Naturalism in Dickinsons A Narrow Fellow in the Grass is not as harsh compared to that in Londons To Build a Fire. The agitation that the narrator experiences and the tighter breathing, (Dickinson) or a tightening of the chest, shows such separation between the narrator and this fellow which she meets.

Separation of Man and Nature. Aside from the elements of naturalism, the separation of man and nature is also one of the themes in Londons To Build a Fire. Through the years man has always proclaimed his deep and natural connection with nature but there is absolutely none of such connection in To Build a Fire. In the story, nature is pure antagonist and has the role of disrupting the mans painful attempts to build a fire just to keep himself alive. Nature shows no cooperation and no mercy but just pure ruthlessness. With his numb and completely frozen hands, he tried to painfully separate one match from the others and the whole bunch fell in the snow (London), and as if an omen of his death, the match fell into the snow and went out.

In Dickinsons A Narrow Fellow in the Grass, the narrators feeling zero at the bone (Dickinson) or a stone-cold fear is a sign that she is separate from the fellow that she describes in the poem. Furthermore, this feeling of zero at the bone is the thing he feels when he is attended or alone. (Dickinson)

Walt Whitmans Song of Myself 6 is different from To Build a Fire and A Narrow Fellow in the Grass. Whitmans poem is a celebration of natural communion.

Union with Nature. Unlike in the two other works where the efforts of the characters are thwarted by nature, Song of Myself 6 shows union with nature especially in the 5th stanza when grass is shown to live among the people as it sprouts alike in both broad zones and narrow zones and that it grows among black foes and among white. (Whitman)

Another instance of union with nature is in the 7th stanza where the grass seems to be the source of comfort of all sorts of people from young men, and old people to offspring, and that the grass itself is the mothers laps. (Whitman)

Continuity of Life. Unlike in Londons To Build a Fire where the unnamed narrator dies at the end of the story and in Dickinsons A Narrow Fellow in the Grass where the narrator is threatened by the snake, Whitmans poem tells of the continuity of life as shown in the lines of the 12th stanza They are alive and well somewhere and that the smallest sprout of grass shows there is really no death. It also says that the grass does not wait at the end to arrest it, and ceasd the moment life appeard. (Whitman)

The grass in Whitmans Song of Myself 6 is a living symbol of hope as in a hopeful green stuff (Whitman). It was also closely connected with God and nature as it is the handkerchief of the Lord (Whitman), and it is a source of great comfort as it is the mothers laps (Whitman).

Jack Londons To Build a Fire and Emily Dickinsons A Narrow Fellow in the Grass are two literary masterpieces that both speak of natures indifference towards man and his self-proclaimed greatness. The narrator in the first work dies and the second is threatened for his life. However, there are no such elements in Walt Whitmans Song of Myself 6. Whitmans poem shows not naturalism but union with nature, and not separation and death but continuity of life.

Harry The Struggling Artist

In Hemmingways The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Harry is the portrayal of the remorseful artist struggling with his art, a complacent and yet sensitive writer who has failed to translate his knowledge into the written word. He scrutinizes his past in contrast with the alarming reality of his present situation and contemplates the reasons for his artistic failure.

As a writer, Harrys memory is a rich tapestry of people, recollections, incidents, and geographies, waiting to be liberated from his scrapbook of remembering into the reality of pen and ink. Whether it was the purity of the Austrian Alps or the horrors of World War I, he never came around to write about any of it. His remorse is not only of an artist but of any man who have had experiences but the tyranny of time never allowed him to share them with others.

In a sense, Harry has bedded his muse  Helen. His wifes wealth has sent him on the path of steady artistic decline. His attitude oscillates between contempt and grudging affection towards her. This aspect echoes all artists writers, musicians, actors, who are misogynists, bearing a lovers grudge with their lives, choices, and muses.

Animal symbolism sheds further light into the kind of artist Harry is. The scavenging hyena is the artistic self that holds back the preserved leopard is the self that aspires and achieves. The leopard is Harrys artistic aspiration agility, grace, courage, diligence, pursuit, dignity however, he sadly realizes that he is the smelly hyena, looking for easy prey and feeding on leftovers.

Is he a failed artist, as perceived by Macdonald (1974), or a struggling one Harry might have traded his art for security and comfort, but those very things allowed him to experience life to the fullest. He is a man before he is an artist and living and not merely existing is also a form of homage to art, to life itself. Literature doesnt offer consolations, just a validation of the unpleasant realities i.e., life is both beautiful and horrible and time is never enough. Towards the end, Harry tells his wife in delirium that he has been writing, although he was recollecting and reliving his life in retrospect. These wax and ebb, sinking and recoveries are the trial flights of the soul before it trusts itself afar. Perhaps this ability gives Harry the transcendence in death. After all, Descartes declared I think therefore, I am.

Masculinity of Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones

Washingtons Irvings famous short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is an interesting study of male character in the ante-bellum America. The two main male characters in the story are Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones. The two characters are exact opposites in every sense, especially in their masculinity. While Brom is the epitome of a young, male bashfulness, Ichabod comes across as a mature man who carefully chooses his battles. These contrasts become stark when we consider the two mens masculinity in this short story. Irvings characterization of these two men is directly influenced by the times in which he lived and hence the characters must be interpreted in the context of the America of 1819. This paper will analyze the characters of these two main characters, especially their masculinity and discuss the impact of their comparative masculinity on the The Legend of The Sleepy Hollow.

Ichabod is characterized as gentle school teacher who likes to spend his time with the women of Sleepy
Hollow. Daigrepont points out that Ichabod was considered a a man of lettersonly in the eyes of his female admirers (para 8). Besides being a school teacher, his other activities included having tea among the female circle, looking after children, gossiping and exchanging ghost stories with Dutch wives. All these activities are clearly feminine in nature. Ichabod was better read than most of the other inhabitants of the village who the considered the cost of schooling a grievous burden. In the twenty first century, his gentle behavior would be seen the result of his learning which tends to make people more sober. But in the early nineteenth century, such a behavior for men was not acceptable.

Although it is not expressly mentioned in the story, but within the village, Ichabod may have been subject of much ridicule. The various practical jokes played by Brom on Ichabod are said to be Broms way of settling the rivalry over Katrina. However, it is also possible, that being a young and idle youth, and being full of mischief, Brom and his friends played practical jokes on Ichabod because he was seen as an oddity in the small village. Because of his feminine interests, he would have been the butt of jokes among the men of the village and especially the young men who tend to be much less forgiving. It is unlikely that Brom saw Ichabod as a real rival as far as his interest in Katrina was concerned. Ichabod was a poor school teacher with a lanky frame which may even be seen as ugly by some. As such, even if Brom was aware of Ichabods dreams of marrying Katrina, it would have been dismissed as the stupid dreams of a feminine man. The practical jokes played by Brom on Ichabod were mainly because Ichabods strange, feminine behavior made him a soft target.

Another issue with Ichabod was his habit of punishing the students who did not obey him. In using his authority as a school master to inflict punishment on the more obstinate of his pupils, he seemed to compensate for his feminine nature in other manners. Most men of his times would have preferred to settle an outstanding issue with another man in a face to face fight. But Ichabod was too much of a coward to challenge Brom, or any other men, directly. This frustration is likely to have built up and led to him punishing the school kids in a kind of misdirected anger. Punishing his pupils may have been the only way he could express his masculinity. Ichabods non-confrontational nature may be seen by the people of the nineteenth century as feminine.

While the men in Sleepy HollowHHhhjkljdflwshl   Hollow told each stories of War which they would dress up to make themselves the hero of every exploit, the women exchanged tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses. Even when the men did exchange ghost stories, as they did at Van Tassels farm, they embellished these stories so that they were seen as the hero who dared the challenge the ghosts. Listening to these stories, it is obvious that the man did not really believe in the resident ghosts of Sleepy Hollow such as the headless horsemen. For the men, these ghost stories were nothing more than a source of pleasurable past time. On the other hand, the feminine in Ichabod is his unmanly, superstitious, trembling, and gullible side (Plummer and Nelson, 175). He actually believed in the ghost stories, enough to be scared to death. It is safe to assume that the headless rider that Ichabod encounters was Brom. Obviously, he did not believe in the ghost stories about the headless rider and even if he did, he was not scared of it. This allowed him to pose as the headless rider to scare the gullible Ichabod. As seen in his telling the story of his encounter with the Headless Rider, for Brom, these ghost stories was nothing more than a source of amusement. But Ichabod, who actually believed in them, it actually resulted either in his death or in his decision to flee Sleepy Hollow. Besides, the school teachers interest in witchcraft may also be seen as another proof of his feminine nature since witchcraft was often associated with women. Even his profession of a school teacher may be considered somewhat feminine since as pointed out by Daigrepont, this was one of the few positions that in his time could be filled by a woman as well as a man (para 6). So in his occupation, his favored past times, his interests and his gullibility, Ichabod comes across as an extremely feminine person.

Although set in 1790, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was written in 1819, a time when America was going through financial crisis as a result of the introduction of paper money. According to David Anthony, this was a time when a persons sense of masculinity was increasingly shifting from a belief in interior for of self-possession and inner being (115) to an external and elusive form called reputation. In these times, to become insolvent could be considered comparable to becoming unmanned or feminized. If we accept this argument than Ichabod is clearly feminized having barely any possessions and all his worldly effects can be tied up in a cotton handkerchief. Ichabod was essentially living on the villagers charity. In Irvings times, this fact in itself would be enough to strip him of his masculinity and render him feminine.

We must note that although he comes across as an extremely feminine person, his thoughts continue to have some degree of masculinity about them. His desire to marry the heiress of rich farmer and then sell of his estate and go on to discover new lands and colonize them, is distinctly a masculine aspiration. On the other hand, marrying for money would have made him subservient to a woman, which would have meant further stripping of his masculinity. If Ichabod had indeed succeeded in courting Katrina, it is highly unlikely to he would have straightaway inherited Van Tassels farm. Since he did not have any possessions of his own, he would have been forced to live in his father-in-laws home. Such a situation would have been considered extremely derogatory for a man in the nineteenth century and only someone who was not in conflict with his masculinity could have accepted the arrangement. Despite Ichabods grand masculine plans to liquidate Katrinas property post marriage, in practical terms this would not have been possible. Although the narrator does not mention it, Ichabod had to be aware of the dangers of marrying for money. Yet his lack of concerns about having to live in his father-in-laws house until he inherited the estate shows that he did not really care about how he was perceived by others. It can be argued here that at a time when a persons masculinity was judged by external factors and how he was judged by other men, Ichabods relative ease with feminine matter and his willingness to be subservient to a woman means that internally he was in no conflict with his masculinity and did not perceive his penury or his spending time with women and children as in any conflict with his masculinity. This argument, however, does not hold ground since Ichabods preference for female company was clearly a result of his not being accepted among the men who saw him as a feminine person. There is no doubt Ichabod was extremely feminine and by being harsh on his students and in his dreams of marrying Katrina, he was only deluding himself of his manliness.

Katrinas refusal to marry Ichabod would have been the final blow to his masculinity. As mentioned, Ichabod was only deluding himself when he thought that he could actually win Katrina. Once he had made his feelings known, it would have been but a matter of time before the whole village learned about incident. While Ichabod could accept being made fun of over his feminine past times, once he was beaten in the one area where he internally perceived himself as man, spending any more time Sleepy Hollow was not possible. Although the story suggests that Brom was responsible for frightening Ichabod away from Sleepy Hollow or even murdering him, it is entirely possible that Ichabod left the village of his own accord. According to David Graven, Ichabod was done in by his infatuation for Katrina, who turned him down. Graven believes that the occult references to ghosts, goblins, and witches situate Woman as an uncanny intrusion in the otherwise routine, untroubled existence of men (87). It is possible that after being rejected Katrina, Ichabod felt that he had failed because of his in-ability to perform successfully in the game of heterosexual conquest and male rivalry and may have fled in recognition of his own male lack (Graven, 90).

If Ichabod is clearly feminine, Brom comes across as the epitome of manly health and exuberance. He was Broad-shouldered and double-jointed with Herculean frame and great powers of limb and was famed for great knowledge and skill in horsemanship. He spent his time in races and cock fights, predominantly manly pursuits. In addition, he also had a substantial fan following with three or four boon companions, who regarded him as their model. He was also the self-appointed umpire in all disputes Besides, as a young man with no responsibilities, he spends his time having fun, sometimes at other peoples expense. He also has absolutely no trouble in winning Katrina. There can be absolutely no question about his masculinity. However, Graven suggests that in frightening away Ichabod as the headless rider, he may be acting on Katrinas behest. If we assume this to be true, it may cast some doubt on Broms masculinity as the masculine standards in early nineteenth century did not allow men to act on a womans command. However, when we realize that Ichabod was trying to win Katrina, he may have decided to get rid Ichabod to impress Katrina and come across as a heroic suitor for her. In this sense, even if Brom was acting on Katrinas behest, it was not an act of subservience but a manly deed to protect his lady love from an unworthy person.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is not a ghostly tale but a humorous one. The stark contrast in the masculinity of the lead male characters serves to make the story an interesting study in human nature, especially male nature in the early nineteenth century America. Katrinas rejection of the feminine Ichabod while easy acceptance of the heroic and masculine Brom Bones shows the prevailing acceptable standards for men at the time. Although a man of letter, he does not find any favor with Katrina even though he impresses other housewives. It is obvious that Ichabods easy acceptance among the housewives is not because of his education but because if his willingness to carry out feminine duties, thus lending the much overworked housewives a helping hand. While such a man would be acceptable as an occasional visitor, a young, rich and beautiful girl like Katrina was unlikely to take any notice of him, accept in order to ridicule him. In the end, it was the fear of this ridicule once his rejected proposal became better known that prompted him to leave the town. As Arnold David points out, in the 1999 movie version of the story, Ichabod instead of Brom Bones, who comes across as a hyper-masculine and shallow person, finds favor with Katrina. In The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod may have had better luck with Katrina if he were a little more masculine. His feminine nature and credulity, in the end, did him in, while Brom Bones succeeded because his hyper-masculinity was the accepted norm in the sleepy village of the nineteenth century America.

Kate Chopins The Awakening

The Awakening is Kate Chopins novel that becomes controversial because it contains unorthodox views on feminine roles that contradict with the prevailing society at the time of its publication. The story centers on Edna Pontellier, who experiences gradual transformation following her self-discovery. Although many people and events in the novel cause her to discover her self-worth, the two most influential characters in Ednas awakening are Adele Ratignolle and Robert Lebrun.

Life must have been complete and comfortable for Edna, because she has everything, but she feels something is lacking. Her existence is mundane, what with an unexciting husband, who views her as a mere possession whose sole role is to obey his every command. Above all, the passion has long been gone between them. Edna has been a passionate person, even as a young girl, often giggling at the presence of good-looking and chivalric male personalities. Now, her husband can no longer fulfil her fantasies. She finds the realization of her yearning in Grand Isle, which transforms her into a daring and careless individual.  There, she meets in the island the two persons that contribute greatly to her awakening and demise.

Edna is an obedient housewife who is not aware of her sexual potentialities, but when she starts spending time with Adele, she begins to feel changes in herself. Something in her is stirring that wants to get out. She wants freedom from her mundane existence with her boring husband, and she feels this on her frequent interaction with Adele. Along with this, her sexual desire awakens. There may have been influences working in their several ways to induce her to do this but the most obvious was the influence of Adele Ratignolle (Kate Chopin, The Awakening 35).  The feeling is sort of new to Edna, because it has been a many years ago since the last time she felt that way with her husband. Adele, on her part, does not intend to influence Edna. In fact, she knows nothing about the sensation that is building up within her friends soul. She is also unaware that her mere presence and her touch can rouse excitement from Edna. The action was at first a little confusing to Edna, but she soon lent herself readily to the Creoles gentle caress (Ib 43). Perhaps Edna is just misinterpreting the whole thing. She may not see that it is nothing more than a mere adoration for Adeles enchanting beauty. The excessive physical charm of the Creole had first attracted her (Ib 35).  All the same, intentionally or not, Adele has aroused Ednas carnal desire, and this is sustained by Robert.

Compared to Adele, Robert Lebrun has the greatest influence on Edna because he does not only intensify her lust, but he also captures the heart of the woman. The intimacy that develops between them is not planned as it starts from friendly and innocent socialization. However, their constant closeness takes its toll on Edna as she begins to be drawn by Roberts charm. She discovers how her yearning for him can command her to do things that she does not usually do. She had never seemed to want him before. She did not appear conscious that she had done anything unusual in commanding his presence (Ib 83). With Robert, she finds this act normal, without any fear of being reprimanded. The influence of Robert goes deeper, as Edna falls in love with her. In fact, she is intensely in love that she begins to neglect her husband and her children she allows her world to revolve around Robert. Eventually, this proves fatal as Edna is not able to recover when Robert went away, leaving her confused and heartbroken. Despondency had come upon her, and had never lifted. There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert (Ib 300).
Adele and Robert are the two characters that influence most Edna in her awakening. Although the self-realization leads her to her death, it reveals her importance as a female human being. More importantly, she finds out that there is more for her than a mere housewife.
The characters in Melvilles Bartleby The Scrivener A Tale of Wall Street Gogols The Overcoat and Thurbers The Catbird Seat all reflect characteristics and caricatures of the times when they were written. The main characters in each reflect the common, ordinary man of the period. This is demonstrated in that each  Bartleby, Akakiy Akakievitch Bashmatchkin and Erwin Martin possess similar characteristics  they are industrious, diligent, mild mannered, follow precise routines and working plebian, mundane capacities - both Bartleby and Akakiy are copiers Martin heads the filing department. None of these three characters is social with their colleagues, nor do they garner much respect.  But, its not just the main characters, its all of them  their employers, co-workers and supporting cast are also indicative of the times  in the way they go about their business, relate to and antagonize the protagonists, and even in their own shortcomings. Indeed, the characters, styles and plots of these stories reveal more about the authors sense of the times, rather than perhaps the times themselves.

For instance, Gogols tragicomedy, The Overcoat also referred to as The Cloak published in 1842, and taking place in St. Petersburg, during the 1830s. In this story, Gogol takes an almost satirical look at corrupt, bureaucratic, pre revolutionary, 19th Century czarist Russia. The main character, Akakiy Akakievitch Bashmatchkin, whose name either means shit, son of shit, or harmless or lacking evil, and shoe depending on the translation, (Johnson, 1986 1746 ) is a lowly copy clerk in some office of an unnamed bureaucratic department. As Gogol begins the story, In the department of  but it is better not to mention the departmentin order to avoid all unpleasantness, it will be better to describe the department in question only as a certain department.

Described as about fifty years old and of short of stature, somewhat pocked marked, red-haired and shortsighted with a bald forehead, wrinkled cheeks and a sanguine complexion his  official status being a perpetual titular councillor. One whom none could remember when and how he entered the department, and who appointed him. He was always seen in the same place, with the same attitude, the same occupation. Shown no respect, he was laughed at and made fun of and was treated by his superiors in a coolly despotic fashion.  In addition, he often he had the misfortune of walking under windows when trash was being thrown out so that he always bore on his hat scraps of melon rinds and other such articles.

An industrious and faithful worker, he lived entirely for his duties, laboring with love. He did not socialize with his colleagues, nor did he engage in any social activities after work, instead he went home and did even more copying. For, outside copying,  it appeared that nothing existed for him. A peaceful man, content with his lot in life, he desired nothing else., even when a kindly superior offered to give him something more important than copying, he declined, and after that, he was left him to copy on forever. In these ways, he represents the commonordinary man, working in the bureaucratic order of 19th Century Russia.

To afford a new coat, a necessity in winter in Northern Russia, he resolves to give up his candles and evening tea, to walk lightly to not wear his heels down and wear only his dressing gown at home to save on his laundry bills. In doing so, with the anticipation of having a brand new cloak, gives his life a new sense of hope. He became livelier, his character grew firmerfrom his face, gait and indecision, all hesitating and wavering traits disappeared. Fire even gleamed in his eyes. He is excited for the first time as he plans his new cloak with the one eyed, often drunken tailor, Petrovitch. So much so, that he is troubled that the time would come when the cloak would be made, ending the fun. However, when he does get his new cloak, it is the most glorious day of his life. .

When a sub-chief at work, offers to hold a party to christen the new coat, Akakiy, unaccustomed to social gatherings, and socializing in general, find himself bewildered, overwhelmed, feels awkward and doesnt know what to do, nor where to stand, what to say . At long last, he slips out and walks home late, only to be accosted by thieves who steal his new and treasured coat. Upon telling the sentry of his plight, he is told to visit the police in the morning. Akakiys housekeeper suggests he visit the district chief of police and when he does finally get the chance to meet with him, it is only to be grilled, as if he was the guilty party, questioning him as to why he was out so late, and if  the cloak was truly his in the first place. Then, a colleague tells him to apply to a certain prominent personage.

What he doesnt know is that this certain prominent personage, has only just recently achieved his position and though generally a very good and kind person, strove to make himself appear important by adhering to a sense of importance and hierarchy, and be condescending to his inferiors. Thus, when Akakiy sets to meet with him, it is disastrous and deadly. For, the Prominent Personage uses Akakiy to represent his own power to his friend, making Akakiy wait an unreasonably long time, and when he does meet with him, treats him in such a harsh manner that Akakiy is rendered insensible and has to be carried out. It is as he stumbles home from this insulting debacle that he gets the fatal quinsy.

Soon after his death, a ghost is sighted who steals cloaks from passersby, including that of the prominent personage, whom the ghost declares, Ah, here you are at lastI need your cloak you took no trouble about mine, but reprimanded me so now give up on your own. Then, the ghost disappeared never to be seen again. Cloakless, the prominent personage returns home and changes his ways, accusing his under officials, only after he heard their full story.

While Akakiy can be seen as the common, perhaps forgotten man of 19th Century czarist Russia, his supporting cast, his co-workers, employers, police and the prominent personage, represent society, who neglects, if not outright ignores the common man. They make fun of him, dismiss him, ignore him and refuse to help him.

One theme of The Overcoat is Mans inhumanity against his fellow man, as well as the inhumanity of the organized bureaucracy, which pays no heed to the hard worker, or their needs, such as a warm cloak in the colder parts of Russia. It is not until he dies and becomes a ghost that Akakiy gains any real power. Because of the circumstances of modern life in czarist, corrupt, bureaucratic culture, this theme of inhumanity is a common one in 19th Century Russian literature. Much of which was inspired by Gogol, who writing during Czar Nicholas corrupt reign, often satirized Russian bureaucracy, and was eventually exiled for it. As Johnson writes, In the character of Akakiy Akakievitch, Gogol gave the world its first modern common man, a man who is overwhelmed by the complex bureaucracy of which he is part (1747).

Melvilles Bartleby the Scrivener A Story of Wall Street, first published anonymously in 1853, also tells of mans inhumanity, as well as isolation, in the modern world. In this tale, the narrator, an elderly lawyer, who is a prudent, methodical, seldom loses his temper, an eminently safe man of peace who believes the easiest way of life is best, describes his time with Bartleby, the strangest scrivener he ever saw or heard of.

The story begins in the lawyers office, as he explains who he is, and what he does. Here, we get an image of a man who does quite well but is content leaving things as is, does not hold much ambition, nor does he want to change anything. This is apparent as he describes his employees, and their eccentricities, which frustrate him but he finds it easier to deal with them, rather than hire new and perhaps less temperamental and more responsible clerks.

The clerk, nicknamed Turkey, period slang for drunkenness (Bergmann, 161) is about 60 years old, short, of flighty temper who works fine in the mornings, the quickest, steadiest creature, accomplishing a great deal of work, but after lunch, after he imbibes a few is reckless, noisy and clumsy, given to making blots. .
The second clerk, Nippers, slang for thief, pickpocket and handcuffs (162) is whiskered ,sallow, piratical looking, victim of ambition and indigestion with a fiery temper who  knew no t what he wanted and was occasionally seen with seedy looking fellows, doing business at the Justices courts and on the steps of the Tombs. Though irritable and nervous in the morning in the afternoon, he was comparatively mild. With all his failings and annoyances, was very useful, wrote a neat, swift hand, was temperate and held a gentlemanly deportment. Ginger Nut, the 12-year-old lad, student at law, and errand boy helps around the office sweeping and cleaning and goes out to get apples and ginger nuts, spicy, small, flat, round ginger cakes, for the clerks.

It is into this rather chaotic, yet well-balanced world that the silent, mysterious, pallidly neat, pitiably respectable and incurably forlorn figure Bartleby enters. Needing another scrivener to attend to his increasing business, the lawyer hires him on the spot and makes a work area for him in his own office. We first find Bartleby to be though quiet, he diligently does an extraordinary quantity of writingsilently, palely and mechanically. However, when the lawyer requests he perform other work besides mere copying, Bartleby replies  I prefer not, which as we find out becomes in end all and be all catch phrase, so much so that he soon prefers not to do any work at all, and the rest of the office begin to use the phrase themselves.

In time, Bartleby decides not to do any work and just stands there, looking at the office wall, day after day. Yet, the lawyer, with his passive nature and avoidance of conflict, still cannot bring himself to fire Bartleby. Instead, he chooses to move himself and his office to another location, away from Bartleby, who remained in the building until the property owner sent him to prison for vagrancy. Upon his death, we find that Bartleby had previously lost his job as a sub-clerk in a dead letter office, which the lawyer believes could explain his strange behavior, leading him to exclaim, Ah Bartleby, ah the humanity

Within Bartleby the Scrivener, we find characters devoted to their existence, whether misery or indigestion or passivity, intent on the daily routine, not looking to change or improve their lot. As Bartleby himself states, At present, I would prefer not to make any change at all.  Actually, overall, he prefers not to do anything - not to proof, or even copy, or once in prison to eat. In fact, he prefers not to live, as he dies in a fetal position in the prison courtyard.  

Bartleby represents the isolation, hopelessness and inhumanity of the modern 19th Century world. He is described as a ghost, pale, pallid, wraith like, cadaverous. He does not eat except for a few ginger nuts, barely speaks, does not socialize, does not go outside, and does not have any friends or family. In the end he does not work, and finally does not even live. He is seemingly not human, nor alive. He is just a worker bee of the office building, staying there until he is in an actual prison.

This sense of hopelessness or rather resignation to the system is seen in the narrator, and his employees, none who actively seek to change their situation, just suffer through it. While Nippers threatens to kick Bartleby out of the office and Turkey threatens to black him in the eye, neither man does, and just accept the fact their co-worker, hired to help with the workload sits and does nothing.  The narrator, not only puts up with Nippers and Turkeys eccentricities day after day, but also allows Bartleby to do nothing all day. Instead, he philosophically muses about his situation and accepts it as a mysterious purpose of an all wise Providence which was not for a mere mortal like me to fathom. Indeed, it is only Bartleby who decides his fate by preferring not to.

In these ways, Melville comments upon and satirizes his times. Attacking its smug morality, its pomposity, sentimental , patronizing, attitude toward individual citizens, its simplistic view of the complex and the ambiguous, persistent ignorance of its responsibilities (164). He could also be commenting upon the literary world of the time, and his own waning popularity.

Some say the Melville wrote Bartleby in response to the recent criticisms of his work, which in effect ruined his career, particularly that of Fitz James OBriens severe criticism of his most recent, Pierre (Bergmann 139). Bartleby may represent Melville himself, and the dead letters, the perception of his own writings.  In this way, Bartleby becomes about the isolation of an artist in a materialistic society which not only is indifferent to its writers, but also bent on their destruction (Adams, 163).

Some also posit that since Melville often wrote of his own experiences, that the characters were based on real life figures, from his literary life. Namely, Cornelius Mathews with his histrionic language and posturing as Turkey, Edgar Allen Poe with his testiness and frustrated ambition as Nippers, and Melvilles patron, mentor and friend, editor of The Literary World  Everet Duycknick as the narrator (Wells). Accordingly, as Duycknick and many other literary men of the time held law degrees prior to becoming critics, Melville may be telling us that one of the problems of the free-thinking artist in nineteenth-century America was to win acceptance by the narrow, legalistic minds of so many critics trained in law (Wells).

In Thurbers The Catbird Seat, published about a century later, in 1942, again we find the mild mannered, neat, quiet, polite, keeps to himself common man who lives his life with routine and not much socializing. He is described by his co workers as infallible, the most efficient worker, and praised for his temperate habits and exemplary manner. He is content with his life the way it is, orderly and methodical, and has worked at the same company for twenty-two years.

Martins challenge is not the organizational bureaucracy per se, but its downfall, at least to him, in the form of a blowsy, strong, flamboyant female, Mrs. Ulgine Barrows, who meets the President of the firm, Mr. Fitweiler at a party and persuaded him  with her monstrous magic to make her his special advisor. Coming aboard, two years prior, she changes up the place, disrupts systems and departments, and fires some employees, while others resign.

Overall, her personality, mannerisms and actions, described as quacking voice, braying laugh,  romping like a circus horse, asking silly questions, and her colorful, nonsensical , phrases inspired from baseball announcer Red Barber , such as  are you lifting the oxcart out of the ditch Are you tearing up the pea patch Hollering down the rain barrel Scraping around the bottom of the pickle barrel Are you sitting in the catbird seat and frustrate the sedate Martin and upset his world, driving him to distraction. He is certain that she with willful, blatant and persistent attempts is destroying the efficiency and system of his company. More so, as she had recently asked if his filing cabinets were necessary, and tells him he has  lot of fine scrap in here, he is convinced his department is the next to go, and thus she is threatening his very existence. So, for the sake of his own survival, he must, in clinical and bureaucratic terms, rub her out.

This being out of character for him, plotting a murder, shows an entirely different side of Martin that one would not expect  that of a cunning and imaginative spirit. For, when finding that there is no murder weapon in the house, he uses his own reputation as an exemplary, tee-totaller to achieve her demise. While visiting her, he drinks scotch and smokes, stating that he does so all the time, and declares that he uses heroin and is in the process of making a bomb to blow up Mr. Fitweiler. He also uses one of her phrases, saying that he is sitting in the catbird seat.  Shocked she tells him to go.

When she tells Mr. Fitweiler of Martins behavior, no one can believe it because it is so completely out of character, and thus she must be mad. Even the psychiatrist substantiates that she must be suffering from a severe breakdown, resulting in a persecution complex accompanied by distressing hallucinations. Thus, her usefulness at the company came to an end and she was forced out of the building.

Martin has achieved his goal by eliminating her and restoring order without the use of violence, but by his wits. As Canfield-Reisman writes,  The silent self-control which makes Martin a good file clerk ensures his victory for hes too disciplined to tell anyone what he has done, ever to reveal his secret self (338). Accordingly, in The Catbird Seat, it is the common man who is in control, and does so by the stability of his own reputation. Though faced with chaos and insecurity, it is not the bureaucratized social order that affects Martin it is women.

The Catbird Seat does however also involve the isolation of the modern world. This is demonstrated in that no one sees him when he buys cigarettes, even though it was the most crowded store on Broadway. No one notices him sharpening his pencils and polishing his glasses. He eats alone with the financial pages every night, and then takes a solitary walk through the city streets. Yet, it is this isolation and the invisibility of modern, city life that is Martins salvation, not his downfall, as it is for Bartleby and Akaiky. For, Martin knows that no one is looking closely at him or his actions, and thus he can carry out his plan, without being seen.

This theme of isolation is perhaps rendered more poignant as Thurber had written it just after a final, unsuccessful eye operation. This, with the realization that he would never really see, left him withdrawn and depressed - in isolation and practically blind (Bily, 2000). It is out of this experience that the quiet, mild mannered and perhaps lonely Martin was born.

In all three stories, we find the common man faced with a modern existence of systems, offices and bureaucracies. Moreover, we also find the inefficiency of these systems. For, in all, the employers, officials and the higher ups are completely ineffectual to solve any of the problems. In The Overcoat, the sentry guard, chief of police, the prominent personage or any of his bosses, or even the doctor offer to help Akakiy. In Bartleby, the lawyer is resolved to his chaotic and perhaps inefficient work environment, blaming it on his employees foibles, without any sense of his own responsibility. He has no authority over Bartleby, and lets him completely do his own thing, even to the point of not working and just staring at a wall all day. In The Catbird Seat, the head of the company, Mr. Fitweiler, lets Ulgine Barrows, who he has utmost faith in, do whatever she likes, though it did require his approval.

That these stories, though written by different authors, in different cultures and at different times, involve very similar themes and characters, demonstrates that the modern world is an entity, as is the human condition, known to all. However one may feel about bureaucracy, and the modern, material world, it can be said that systematic routines and isolation are not conducive to a vibrant life.  This is true, especially for an artistic personality, of which these authors possessed.
My Antonia by Willa Cather
My Antonia is a fictional narrative written by Willa Cather. Looking closely at the authors biography and the protagonist of this story, Jim Burden, it can be said that the story was inspired by some of the facts in the life of the author. The author and Jim are both from Virginia and moved to Nebraska during childhood and attended school at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and eventually moved from Nebraska to New York to pursue their career.

My Antonia is a story of the life of Jim Burden, a successful lawyer in New York. The book was written in his point of view, looking back to the early years of his life with his family in Nebraska. He narrates, as well, his memory of a childhood friendship with a girl named Antonia from Shimerda family.

The kind of living the family of Jim and Antonia have is very different from each other. Jim moved in Nebraska with his grandparents when his parents died. They are well-off and are financially equipped with the help of their farm. They live comfortably in a well-built house, can afford a wagon for their ride and eat anything they would please to have when they like. On the other hand, the family of Antonia is from Bohemia. With the dream of Mrs. Shimerda to live in a greener pasture, they moved to America. Even if migrating is against the will of Mr. Shimerda, the family went to Nebraska. All the time she says, America big country much money, much land for my boys, much husband for my girls  (p. 55).  Life in another country has not been smooth sailing for the Shimerdas. The house where they live is not conducive for the American weather. Also, they had a hard time coping and were not earning well. All the money they had is used in buying tools for farming which has been overpriced by a native Bohemian in America. Moreover, they do not know much about farming. As an evidence of their life of poverty, in a visit of Jim to the house of Antonia,  Mrs. Shimerda snatched off the covers of two barrels behind the door, and made us look into them. In one there were some potatoes that had been frozen and were rotting, in the other was a little pile of flour (p.45). They do not have any food to eat or even if they do, it is already not good for eating because it is already rotten.

It is a fact that Mrs. Shimerda resent the Burdens at times. She feels this way because she is envious of the state of living of the Burdens. While the family of Jim lives comfortably, her family is in great struggle to live. She wants to have everything the Burdens have because her family got nothing at all. She feels bad that her family is in poor condition since she pressured them to transfer to a location they do not know anything about, dreaming that it could actually help them be rich. However, the turn of events did not favor them. She feels bitter that she needs to receive help from other people in order to survive.

What Mrs. Shimerda is feeling is not correct. Being in a new place and having a hard life, she should be humble and thankful that she is receiving help from good-hearted people. Also, it is a sin to be greedy and jealous. Having an ambition wherein the whole family would be suffering does no good. In the first place, the family should have not migrated without the full cooperation of all the members and without being ready.

The visit of Mr. Shimerda at the residence of the Burden family during Christmas is a result of his gratitude. After receiving gifts from the Burdens, he wanted to express his thankfulness. His odd behavior, kneeling in front of the Christmas tree, is out of his admiration of the tree. Since he cannot speak the American language, what he did was a manifestation of his praising the tree. Also, the line  he liked to look at us, and that our faces were open books to him  (p. 53) shows that he wanted to say much but he cannot express it.
Truenervousvery, very nervous I had been and am but why will you say that I am mad So begins the story of an individuals mental breakdown and his descent into madness. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe is told from the first-person point of view. The first-person point of view allows Poe to create suspense, fear and anxiety, while letting the reader discover the thoughts of the narrator. By using the first-person point of view style of writing, Poe was able to demonstrate clearly how the narrator feels.

Poe tells the story with straight to the point words and easy to understand language by which defines and emphasizes the psychological issues of the narrator. Narrating the story through the eyes of the madman, it allows the reader to feel and see what is exactly happening. It makes the reader feel the paranoia and mental deterioration of the narrator because they get to hear, or read, his thoughts as he experiences them. This narrative style does not eradicate the excitement and suspense in the story, even if there are no hidden meanings in the narrators words. The narrators words explain exactly what he goes through all throughout the story and his words are able to show the definitive descriptions of his feelings and thoughts as it goes from one state to another.

Contradictions are presented to signify the split in the narrators personality. This is presented by the narrators love for the old man, though he had never wronged (the narrator)he had never given me insult(but the narrator) made up (his) mind to take the life of the old man  (Poe p.221). This signifies the love-hate feeling of the narrator towards the old. There is no other motive other than fear of the old mans vulture eye as it made his blood (run) coldand chilled the very marrow of (the narrators) bones (Poe pp.221, 223).

The narrative style used in the story gives emphasis on the attempt of the narrator to justify and rationalize his insane actions, informing the readers that he is nervous not mad, as what he said at the start of the story. He believes his sanity because he was able to calculate and plan carefully the murder that he will be doing. After the murder itself, the narrator described how he was able to hide all traces of evidence that may point to him. And with this he was very proud saying, for what I had to fear(bidding the officers) to search  search well (Poe p.224). However, this rationalization faltered when because of his heightened sense, as he claims caused by his disease, his mental deterioration, twisted and distorted his sense of reality and fantasy. He began hearing the thumping heart of his dismembered victim and began confessing to the murder that he committed proving his guilt and his insanity. An in his final statement, he described the policemen as villains proving more his distorted sense of reality and fantasy.

By using a first-person narrative style, Poe is able to highlight the differences of the actions of the narrator compared to a normal man. The distorted reality of the narrator is stressed when Poe allowed the narrator to tell his own version of the story, clearly signifying that he is not mentally fit. The narrator argues that he has heightened senses and that he plans accurately despite of his said mental deterioration proving that he is, in fact, sane and not a madman as what can be characterized of him. By using the first-person narrative style, the story is able to reveal clearly the inner thoughts of someone who is mentally unfit, and it uncovers the mystery of a psychopathics mind and how and why he thinks about murder. The narrative style is used effectively in this story because it is able to uncover how one can be characterized as insane and mad given the clear and distinct distortions of his mind.
Independence Day, irregular in meter and line length, is a good illustration of transcendentalist poetry because it exemplifies the way in which writers of the time discussed the identity of man with the natural world in which they lived  nature in other words, they used aspects and features of nature as analogies with human life. The underlying struggle within this poem is the struggle of America to be free and independent from England and that those who died in the fight for independence did not die in vain, and will be remembered for their fight and for what they gave to America  freedom.

In this poem the blossom tree represents America, beautiful and bright  the tree is America and its leaves are the American people. Each leaf broken from the tree is comparable to an American citizen stepping forward from the others, ready to stand up and fight for what he believes and prepared to die for hisher country. Just as the leaves fall from the tree, so do Americans fall to their death in war, but just as a leaf rots into the ground  giving back to nature, so too does the American in that they die to give back to their country, to give  back freedom.

The language in this poem is extremely connotative and is used symbolically to inspire images of soldiers eager to fight for their country and eager to be free like a leaf from a blossom tree. The use of descriptive adjectives inspires a feeling of positivity and strength the greatest move of one man gentle and fondle, who dies in his efforts will help to make America,  just like the tree, become stronger and as the tree becomes great, so too will America become great.

The rhyming pattern of this verse is irregular, it begins with three repeats of ABAB, but then changes to a five line pattern ABBBB, and changes again to ABC, AABB, so the pattern is quite erratic, and perhaps represents the notion of unpredictability  and struggle in Americas fight for freedom .

It is Edgar Allan Poes style to use flowery words that describe the scenery of the short stories and poems he composes using different levels of metaphors and symbolisms. From this style springs an entire myriad of ideas that are unique and artistic in all its essence.  Using this style of writing he is opening up a new world that is believable and articulated in a manner that is interesting as a piece of fiction and bold in the detailing of certain aspects.

While assuring the reader of the vastness of the story world, he is seemingly transported into a new world where customs similar to what he knows are common and the people are reminders of different people in his own society. This is what the author believes to be the essence of writing The Fall of the House of Usher. While giving the reader a descriptive account of the world where the character revelled in, at the same time including pieces of literature that relate with the readers own sense of art, he is enveloping the reader in a fancy world whose minute details can be imagined for a good reason.

The imagination is a good faculty, and once it is triggered there are endless new ideas that spring from its existence. For instance, the use of metaphors, symbolism and allegory in the short story makes for a good account of a world that is colourful and alive with drama. The actions that are happening within the story are retold in a manner that the reader can imagine them in his own sense of morally right conjugations. One of the reasons why the author used metaphors is to create a connection with the reader using the limited words that he knows and the experiences he has encountered personally.

There are some terms, feelings and appearances that cannot be understood unless they are described in a way that is accessible to the faculty of the reader. Thus, the use of metaphors is commendable. For instance, when Poe wrote with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium, he is simply intensifying how the feeling of depression keeps the soul non-cognitive and dead in a level that cannot be compared to any normal sensation. Describing it in the way the opium affects the thinking of a sane person makes it more believable for those that are opium dependent the explanation is crucially significant, while the failure to relate by those that are not drug dependent makes for the feeling of unearthly sensation more accessible.

The use of symbolisms gives the words another layer of meaning that is peeled away by those that are critical and observant. There are people that always believe that literature is a piece of puzzle that needs solving, and solving can only be done by revealing what is meant by the author apart from the obvious sense of the words in the story. Different authors use symbolisms in order to escape the severity of moral issues and to abstain from the issues placed by the society. Some of these authors have been known to rebel against a certain aspect of the government that they are living in however there are some that are simply using symbolisms to use simple words and create a deeper meaning behind them.

In the statement the hideous dropping off of the veil the veil is symbolised to contain a secret that is said to be uncovered. While the expectations of the character may not be met, the expectation of the audience to have a spin in the story is directed towards a new junction. Majority of the part of the story is in fact told in a way that certain groups of words have a different meaning combined than when they are taken separately. The vacant eye-like windows have a double meaning too.

While the more common meaning would be that it would be something abandoned and unsolicited, always present but never seen, the eye-like windows can be a representation of a portal that displays only a portion of the real truth that is hiding beneath it. Therefore the use of that statement can have two contrasting meanings, and the interpretation will depend solely on the kind of thinking that the person reading it has. The entire story, depending on the interpretation of the reader, can have a whole new meaning from what it was actually meant to convey. Actually, it is a characteristic of Poe to write about what he feels whenever he feels it, and it will not be strange for some of the symbolisms he used to come out naturally without intending to impart another set of meanings to it.

However, for this specific piece of story, the importance of symbolisms and the majority of their instances can only be seen to have been used on purpose. Using symbolisms, even the simplest objects and simplest words can be used to detail important pieces of the story. Likewise is the effect of using allegory. Metaphors and symbolisms can be used to have a detailed description of the story in a level that includes the creative thinking to be stressed into wider proportions. The use of allegory is alike and different in that it comes up with a favourable version of a story accessorized with embellishments that make for a more colourful setting.
A significant amount of allegory is used in the story. An example is the following I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down--but with a shudder even more thrilling than before--upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows. The mentioned sentence could have been said in shorter and simpler words, but the effect it entices in the reader cannot be imitated. Only with the use of descriptive language that can sometimes be surreal can the expression of extreme emotions be interpreted.

Poe used allegory so that the readers can imagine a world wherein all the wonders and glory are given the proper light they deserve. There is no better way of describing than by going through the littlest details and expressing them in a manner that overwhelms and yet tantalizes the readers. At the same time, it oppresses and excites, depending on what is being described. For instance, happiness can be stated in a synonymous word, but describing it in an array of words that likens it to the most sought after feeling in the world makes it more palpable.

Overall, if The Fall of the House of Usher is to be taken as proof, it can be said that Edgar Allan Poe succeeded in using metaphors, symbolism and allegory in making the reader hold on to the happenings of the story until the very end and when that day comes, it is welcomed with relief and unexpected surprise. Instead of sticking to the kind of story that gives an adequate amount of description when needed and remains stagnant when it comes to the inner workings of the world wherein the story is brought to life, Poe decided to use his faculty of writing to come up with colourful ideas that the readers will embrace and remember.

By using the simple words that a reader can understand and relating it with deep attachments and meanings, Poe has succeeded in creating a world that is alive in all its glory, up to the very details of the lifestyle that people are accustomed to in it. Using this kind of writing, the readers imagination is enticed to add additional embellishments to the already colourful world of fiction. The reader is welcome to relate and analyze in a way that is either similar or different to the world he is used to. It is also the readers prerogative to remodel the story and interpret it in a way that is acceptable in the society that he is in. At the presence of indirect descriptions the reader is given the power to interpret in his own way so that when it comes to understanding the story, he is using his own perception to do so.
Postmodernism was the leading style in the American literature of the 20th century. However some writers opposed the literature mainstream and wrote in the realistic tradition. As the result the end of the 20th century became the time of the rebirth of realism. John Updike has a significant impact on the revival of realistic tradition as a writer and as an editor of The best American short stories of the century, which includes The Half-Skinned Steer by Annie Proulx.

From postmodernism to realism
Among the literary heritage of John Updike the short novel Separating (1974) is the clear example of realistic prose. Updike described the collapse of marriage on the base of his personal experience, and that is why the characters of the novel are so real. I think its silly. You should either live together or get divorced (Updike 2716).

Annie Proulx is another incredible writer of new realism in the modern American literature. Her short story The Half-Skinned Steer was included to The best American short stories of the century and opened the book Close range Wyoming stories. Some critics write that Wyoming is the central character of all the short stories in the book its miraculous and merciless landscape creates the fitting background for the stories of raw humanity. The Half-Skinned Steer is a tale of inescapable fate that uses an Icelandic legend. For the description of beastly Wyoming nature and rude life on the ranch Proulx uses animal imagery, and her realistic descriptions comes to rude naturalism, especially when she writes about the slaughtered cattle. The descriptions of characters in the novel are also based on the comparisons with animals. Describing womans appearance, the protagonist tells If you admired horses, youd go for her with her arched neck and horsy buttocks. (Proulx, 756) Despite the contradictory elements of naturalism and mysticism in the story, The Half-Skinned Steer is an excellent example of the modern realistic prose.

The end of the 20th century was the start of new wave of American literary realism, and the prose and editing work of John Updike had the significant impact on this.

A Discussion on the Eomployed Theme in Nash Candelarias El Patron, John Barths Lost in the Funhouse, John Updikes Separating, and Annie Proulxs The Half-Skinned Steer

War has always been a common subject matter in literature especially during the post-war era. Due to the prevailing stigma which was brought by the pains and miseries of the war, authors found it difficult not to depict and present the existing depression during their time. A possible manifestation of this is Nash Candelarias El Patron which tells the story of a young man whose identity is torn between his commitment and valuation of his family and his urge to join the army (Anaya and Marquez 41). Readers of this story may easily perceive the concept of family life as the main theme of the story however, by digging deep into the characters struggle, one will observe that the more interesting feature of this story is the concept of lost identity and individualism which was portrayed through the character of the main protagonist. The Mexican-American culture has always been related to close family bonds, the main reason why the concept of family life also appears dominant in this story. But more interestingly, Candelaria speaks about the struggle of a young man in pursuing either his familys security and happiness versus his own dreams of being part of the army. Clearly, this depiction implies that the same struggle may occur among on any other persons search for contentment which depends of his or her family and his or her dreams.

On the other hand, another interesting theme is employed in John Barths Lost in the Funhouse. Although the title may not easily give it away in the beginning, as readers go through each scene in this story, it can be perceived that a lot of sexist symbols and messages were actually embedded in the lines of each character. Sex has always been a controversial subject matter in literature, and this depiction of Barth proves that such theme also makes literature more intriguing. Barth was able to make the concept of sex the main ideal of the funhouse as the characters describe   the shluppish whisper, continuous as seawash round the globe, tidelike falls and rises with the circuit of dawn and dusk  (Barth, qtd. in Galens 175). This work makes it clear that in some ways, language actually serves as a metaphor for sex (175).

While the abovementioned stories deal with the themes of identity and sex, John Updikes Separating talks about consequences of the so-called, the midlife crisis. In this story, the main protagonist suffers from a struggle between giving in to his desire to be happy with another woman, or to stay in a marriage which he already considers as a life within  four knife sharp walls  (Updike 279). Apparently, to some, the identity crisis actually does not start early on their lives, but evidently during the midlife when there is usually marriage already as well as children. The depiction of this theme in this story is very significant as it presents a realistic possibility of being torn between ones happiness versus ones commitment   which apparently appears a very serious issue.

Lastly, Annie Proulxs The Half-Skinned Steer tells the tale of how a man was able to shape his life by erasing some parts of his memory that pulls him back to his distressed past. Mero, the protagonist of the story has a past which is rather traumatic and miserable. This is where the most predominant theme of the story enters memory. Memory is one of the most complex concepts when talking about the intricate processes of the human psyche. In this story, this theme was effectively employed by presenting the will and urge of Mero to erase his memories so as to start life anew. The most interesting feature in this story is the depiction of how Mero, himself, was able to force amnesia into his own mind. This was evident in the part of the story where Mero even forgot his habit of eating meat. He eventually became a vegetarian when he forced himself to forgetting the fact that he was actually a cattle slaughterer in the past. The depiction of this theme has been stirring and interesting as it seemed to imply how powerful and amazing the human brain works.

Babylon Revisited by Fitzgerald

At the core of modernism is an absolute adherence to realistic themes. Such realism is most definitely evident in the work Babylon Revisited as F. Scott Fitzgerald presents are darkly depressing image of a man trying to recapture his fall from grace. Unfortunately, the ability to find salvation is not easy for the protagonist. This is because his attempts to correct his sins of the past are met with pure contempt from those he comes in contact with. In many ways, this could be considered a major aspect of modernist theory. There is little melodrama here and the ability to tie up the character conflicts is not performed in a manner that would be considered simplistic. Instead, the main protagonist cannot escape the brutality of the world he has created for himself.

The protagonist of the work is Charlie Wales. Charlie is the typical dysfunctional character found in many of the more morbid modernist tales of the era. He is a sad sack former alcoholic who lost all his money due to squandering during good times and had nothing to fall back on in the aftermath of the stock market crash. His wife has passed away and it is strongly hinted that the pain and stress he put her through played a large role in this occurring. He has now decided to visit Paris where he can rebuild his life. However, he cannot craft the solution he seeks and merely re-experiences the Babylon that he left behind.

The prime conflict that Charlie faces is he tries to close the past on his life. He knows his bad decisions led to his addictions, his financial ruin, and the death of his wife. While be may be a changed man now, he cannot put the guilt he feels behind himself. This is what leads to be severe internal conflict and his journey to reverse such pain is not easily achieved.

One of Charlies goals is to regain custody of his daughter Honoria. This creates another conflict within the story Can Charlie overcome the obstacles and reunite with his daughter. Such a conflict also presents another underlying theme within the conflict. Specifically, can Charlie quell the demons of his past and right his wrongs by re-establishing a relationship with his daughter. Of course, there are obstacles to such goals and the modernist approach to literature eliminates the much of the syrupy melodrama inherent with more soap operatic tales. No, in Fitzgeralds world of Babylon Revisited we see a far more dark and realistic look at the fall of a man. Does he  get what he deserves No, he simply exists in a world his own creation which is another common theme of modernism.

Naturalism in A Streetcar Named Desire

Naturalism abounds in the story. From the trip of Blanche towards her sisters house to the conflicting interactions among the characters, everything looks real. The setting itself looks like the one that can be seen in ordinary life pulsating crowded urban scenery.

The characters are portrayed so realistically that a reader may believe that Streetcar is a true story. There is Blanche, who suddenly finds herself destitute after losing everything. Her situation is common for many people during the depression period, which is the setting of the story. With nowhere else to go, she seeks refuge in the house of her sister, Stella.

The interaction among Blanche, Stella and Stanley seems to flow naturally. Every character possesses the traits and behaviors appropriate for their respective roles. Blanche, with an air of pride, regards Stanley as a lesser being and refuses to stoop down to his level. On the other hand, Stanley is a brute, uneducated macho man who always has his own way in almost everything. He takes the presence of Blanche as threat to his abode and assumes that, soon, the woman will have him and Stella fighting. This assumption fits his narrow-minded personality. His character resembles real-life egoistic males who take no order from anyone, and who will rather let their muscles do the talking for them. The clash between Blanche and Stanley is interrupted by the appearance of Mitch but Mitch is no knight in shining armor as he abandons Blanche when he learns about her dark past. This makes Mitchs character realistic, because the author does not portray him as a martyr who will pursue Blanche against all odds. Stella, on her part, claims that she loves Stanley and refuses to believe that he rapes Blanche, but this is seen instead as her fear for living alone. Like Blanche, Stella depends on someone else to survive. Stellas character is common for many women who either do not want their marriage to be broken or do not have the courage to leave their husbands, the men who feed them.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Daniel Keyes was born on the 9th day of August year 1927 at Brooklyn, New York. In his book, Algernon, Charlie and I A Writers Journey, he narrates some story of his childhood. According to him, his parents, William and Betty Keyes, have little formal education but this did not stop them to strive for living. His father is a persevering person in such a way that he would walk everyday ten miles to save two nickels (13).

Poverty challenged them more to have their children educated. Daniel is the eldest child of the Keyes. They dreamt of Daniel becoming a doctor because according to his father, Because a doctor is like God. He cures people and saves lives. (15). Just like when he was saved by a doctor when he was born with an infected mastoid and double pneumonia.

At the age of seventeen after graduating from a public high school, the official website of Daniel Keyes states that he joined U.S. Maritime Service as a ships purser. When he came back, he studied at Brooklyn College and graduated in 1950 with a degree in Psychology, thinking that it would be his pre-med major in obedience to his parents dream for him (15). However, in a very young age, Daniel has been dreaming of becoming a writer already. He was thinking of becoming a doctor and a writer at the same time to give way to his parents dream and his personal ambition. He thought of Maugham, Chekov and Doyle, three writers who have started as physicians (15).

Right after graduation, Daniel was employed as an associate fiction editor for the magazine Marvel Science Fiction and subsequently entered fashion photography business. When he earned a teaching license at New York, he taught high school students English at morning and studied for his masteral degree in English and American Literature at Brooklyn College as well (Daniel Keyes Biography). In the book, Contemporary Science Fiction Authors by Robert Reginald, Daniel married in October 14, 1952 with Aurea Vazquez and they had three children, two are named, Hillary Ann and Leslie Joan (148). Finishing his masteral degree enabled him to teach at university level. He then taught creative writing at Wayne State University and sometime in 1966, he also joined Ohio University where he taught the same subject and was honored eventually as Professor Emeritus Status in 2000 (Daniel Keyes Biography).

Another webpage talks about his biography and expounds on his literary career started which started when he was teaching for high school students. Flowers for Algernon is a short story when it was very first published in 1959 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The story was inspired when he was teaching for slow learners and an unforgettable moment in the classroom sparked the idea (Audio Interview of Daniel Keyes). The story won Best Short Fiction in Hugo Award in 1960 inspiring Daniel Keyes to expand the story into a novel published in 1966 and won once again an award for best novel in Nebula Award (Reginald, 148).

Daniel wrote ten other more books and some information can be found in The Books section of his website. In 1968, he wrote The Touch, a story of a married couple who has been long waiting to become pregnant and then a radiation accident worsens their dream. Aside from writing science fiction, his creations can be observed to be with regard to personalities. This can be a result of him being a psychology major, he writes mostly about multiple personality disorders. The Fifth Sally was written in 1980 and is about multiple personalities of a waitress named Sally Porter. Another book he has written in 1982 is a non-fiction work called The Minds of Billy Milligan. It is about a man suffering multiple personality disorder who was acquitted for a crime committed during insanity. Five years after, Unveiling Claudia was born. It is also a story of a criminal, now a woman, with multiple personalities. In 1994, The Milligan Wars, a sequel to The Minds of Billy Milligan was published. Daniel Keyes Collected Stories and The Daniel Keyes Reader were published in Japan in 1994. Daniel Keyes describes his fame in Japan during a book signing as The line was wrapped around the block three times They brought me gifts, flowers, candy, letters, and I sat there thinking, I feel like a rock star.... (Daniel Keyes 40 Years of Algernon). Until Death do us Part The Sleeping Princess, a story of mental competency, was published in 1998. In 2000, Algernon, Charlie and I A Writers Journey, was created by Daniel to discuss his methods of creating fiction. His newest book called The Asylum Prophecies was just published in 2009.

According to Maurice Rapf of Life Magazine, Daniel Keyes science fiction is different from other science fictions. Daniel does not talk about planet hopping but with urgent, contemporary problem of mental retardation. It also raises the possibility of instant brain sharpening. Daniel has combined his experience in Marvel Science Fiction and as a psychology major in most of his works. According to the book Impossibility Fiction, the creations of Daniel Keyes pretends that work of fiction is a factual report. (Littlewood and Stockwell, 179).

The most prominent novel of Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon, has been already published in thirty countries worldwide and is being studied in high school across America (Daniel Keyes 40 Years of Algernon). It is a story about a thirty two year old mentally retarded man named Charlie Gordon and the experimental study on his mental capacity. The whole book was written in a journal type which Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur, directors of the experiment, asked him to write. Before the experiment, the co-workers of Charlie often make him the subject of ridicule. Charlie cannot comprehend this idea because of his low IQ level and simply believes that they are all his friends. The experiment Charlie was subjected was tested with a mouse named Algernon. The mouse proved development in mental capacity after the operation. Charlie agreed to be subjected to the experiment because according to him I just want to be smart like other pepul so I can have lots of frends who like me. (Keyes, 13) Charlies development took a while. He became more skilled as he was helped by Alice Kinnian, his teacher. He progressed after sometime. He learned to spell, read, write and became knowledgeable. In fact, he became productive by inventing processes to improve the work at the Bakery. As his IQ level increase, he became to realize morality issues with work such as when a co-worker steals from the bakery. He starts confronting each employee with their issues. This led his co-workers to be troubled of his new personality. What Charlie wanted before the experiment to be smart to have more friends, did not come true. Instead, he lost more of his co-workers because some got intimidated of his intelligence. In fact, he was out of the bakery because the owner thought that Charlie does not need any help anymore. In addition to that, others saw his confronting attitude not helpful but more of intruding. Charlie knew about this when he said, Intelligence and knowledge had changed me (173). He realized that being smart does not mean that a person will have many friends. In some cases, having higher intellect can lead to losing friends.

Daniel Keyes at present time with age 82 is currently staying at Southern Florida with his family. His works, especially, Flowers for Algernon, is still available worldwide. It has been part of American Literature since it was born.

African American Literature A Voice

Racism has always remained a critical issue in America and the blacks were the ones who are facing it from centuries. The century long division of blacks and whites had created a wall, which the writers and poets are trying to break from past times. This paper describes the literary works of two such writers named Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, who have reflected the darkness of black emotions in their writings.
The Artworks Shadows of Racism

Langston Hughes was the poet who showed a feeling of depression in most of his poems due to racism in America. One of is poem Let America be America Again, is a poem, which reflects the racial division of America in which whites have got separated from the blacks. The blacks gained nothing but slavery on this land.

The powerful people have always dominated the poor and they have led the black community to a never-ending slavery. Langstons poem describes the pathetic state of the black slaves who are growing crops, working on machines and serving the whites, still they themselves are hungry and what they all get is beating and insult for their whole community.

But in the last stanzas of his poem, Hughes reminds the mighty people who call themselves upper classed, that the Blacks came to this land and worked hard for this land but today they have no rights and only humiliation. Then Hughes asserts to take the land back from the whites and says that it is a land for everyone, be it Indians or Blacks or any poor man. The racism has divided the human beings between whites and blacks, and this war seems, as if never ending.  Racism has always been a part of American culture and it still exists. The American literature is the witness of the brutality of racism and many writers and poets have reflected it in their works and have portrayed characters, which speak the story of slavery faced by blacks.

The American writer James Baldwins story Sonnys Blues describes such a character of a musician, Sonny, who faces oppression due to racism and that oppression becomes the dark side of his character.
Sonnys Blues shows the societal cause (oppression of blacks), as the reason for the engagement of blacks in mal practices like drug dealing. Baldwin has portrayed Sonny as a youth who is troubled by the racism, which he has faced throughout his childhood and teenage in Harlem.

The family history of Sonny also had an incident related to it, in which some white men killed Sonnys uncle by crushing him with their car. This incident deeply affected Sonnys father and Sonnys whole family perceived all whites as killers. The blacks have been treated very badly from the past times in America and they have faced brutal blows of racism and slavery, and this thing is clear from the American literature. The blacks faced so much humility that they got frustrated and that locked suppression made them criminals. The story depicts the white and black community relations. Such literary works describe the role of whites in devaluing the black community.

Racism has remained in the American nerves and literary works of writers like Hughes and Baldwin are a proof of such racism and black and white division. The poor blacks have always remained as a source of exploitation and the blacks are doing this from ages. The poets and writers have remained a support for the black community for raising their voices against slavery and domination.

2. Is there an authentic black voice in any of the literature you have read so far Does an authentic black voice exist or not

2. The American literature has many such voices, which shaped the America. Many writers like John Callahan have given stress on the fact that black fiction in writings of the black writers is based on the pains of the blacks in a fight for freedom and it includes the bitter taste of slavery and a desire for American citizenship. In my views such voices have helped the blacks to rise above the slavery and feel the power to get liberty. Some of the writers like Fredrick Douglass have mentioned slavery in their works. All the voices of these literary writers have cast their impressions on the minds of the readers and the people have heard them so this makes their voices authentic.