Thursday, September 17, 2009

Big Ragu and The Magic Dragon

I awoke this morning to find out that Mary Travers had passed away. For you non-hippies reading my blog, this was the Mary from Peter Paul and Mary. She was the voice of “Puff the magic Dragon.” It makes me tear up to think of just that. Mary died from side effects of treatment from a bone-marrow transplant after battling leukemia. In a society where we seem to follow the comings and goings of people like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton who are famous for no particular reason and who contribute to society as much as a department store mannequin, people like Mary Travers are lost somewhere on page nine.
Peter, Paul and Mary recorded hits still recognized now, including "Leaving on a Jet Plane," "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." They performed together for nearly 50 years, winning five Grammys and releasing 13 Top 40 hits, six of them in the Top 10 charts. Their music reflected the 1960s and the 1970s, a time of turmoil as the civil rights and anti-war movements moved into full swing.
Travers applied her recognition to rally behind those progressive movements. In 1963, the trio performed its hit song "If I Had a Hammer" at the Washington march where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famed "I Have a Dream Speech.”
"We've learned that it will take more than one generation to bring about change," Travers once said. "The fight for civil rights has developed into a broader concern for human rights, and that encompasses a great many people and countries. Those of us who live in a democracy have a responsibility to be the voice for those whose voices are stilled (
I wondered also after reading this sad news why Charles Manson doesn’t have Leukemia? Just a thought, but wouldn’t it be great if everyone actually got what they deserved? My mind wandered back to a magical evening some years ago at Silver Dollar City in Branson MO, where at the Echo Hollow Amphitheatre I was privileged to see Peter Paul and Mary in person. It was dusk outside and a little chilly in early fall and they played a nearly three hour set. It was a one of those moments that you wish you could put in a bottle and keep forever. In a world of non-talent, non caring, Kanye West type individuals, they should all take notice that a real lady with class has passed in was at once in their presence.
“His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.Without his lifelong friend, Puff could not be brave,So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.”
Today, I weep with you my friend the magic dragon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Authors of the Romantic Period or Sweatin' to the Oldies

Values of Importance to the Romantic Authors
Romanticism originated in the late 18th century and can be characterized by several values which exemplify the spirit of thought during this period. The emphasis in some works is the use of supernatural imagery as a positive tool to discuss the natural world and the concept of moral values. Another value is the glorification of the ordinary and the outcast in society using lower class or peasant characters .These values are important to the Romantic author as well as the idea of a subjective viewpoint to achieve greater personal intimacy in literature.
The emphasis of the use of supernatural imagery for moral purposes is shown in the writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge demonstrates this when he was assigned to write poems for Lyrical Ballads. Coleridge wrote about the supernatural and mystery or violation of natural laws. In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Coleridge uses supernatural imagery to discuss the natural world and its relationship to God. In this passage Coleridge describes the salvation of the ship’s crew: “'Twas not those souls that fled in pain, / Which to their corses came again, / But a troop of spirits blest” (439; lines 347-49).
Similarly William Blake uses supernatural imagery to heighten emotional response in his poem “The Tyger”. The creation of the fierce tiger is embellished with supernatural imagery to create in the mind of the reader a heightened response to the tiger itself compared to the gentle meekness of the lamb. In this passage we see the creation and the creator: “Did he smile his work to see? / Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” (93; line 19-20). In another manner, Robert Burns uses this supernatural imagery to describe horror to the reader in his work “Tam O’ Shanter: A Tale”. Burns uses the imagery of witches, warlocks and ghosts to tell a tale with a moral emphasis: “Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk, / By Alloway's auld, haunted kirk ” (140; line 31-32). Emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination is exemplified here with use of horror images.
The Glorification of the Ordinary and the Outcast or the use of Lower-class, peasant characters is a common value to many of the writers of the romanticism. As a result of oppression and tyranny during the 18th century many authors championed the cause of the downtrodden in their works. Charles Lambs’ essay, “Christ’s Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago”, describes his personal experiences at this traditional English boarding school. In this passage from the essay Lamb seems to be describing the sorrow and homesickness of all of the children there. He states: “I was a poor friendless boy. My parents, and those who should care for me, were far away” (497). Wordsworth, much like Lamb focused on the ordinary, this time using nature rather than loneliness as a backdrop for his description of the common person. In the poem, “The Solitary Reaper”, Wordsworth asks the reader to: “look upon Yon solitary Highland Lass” who is “Reaping and singing by herself” (314 line 2-3). Wordsworth describes her voice as “A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard” (314; line 13). William Blake’s poem, “The Divine Image” from Songs of Innocence the poet discusses all humans being in the image of God and no matter how common, all possess “Mercy, Pity, and Peace. And Love” (85 line 1). The glorification of the common is exemplified by Blake’s statement: “And all must love the human form, / In heathen, Turk or Jew.” (86 line 17-18). In his poem “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Experience, we see Blake describing poor children who are forced to do labor in the cold winter snow. Blake has shown the reader a simple person who would have been lost to history otherwise. He describes: “A little black thing among the snow” (90 line 1). Blake even describes how their voices sound as they offer their sweeping services. In the companion poem from Songs of Experience, Blake makes the reader understand how cold, used and poor are the children found in “Holy Thursday.” These children are paraded for the benefit not of themselves but for their supposed benefactors. They are described as “Babes reduced to misery” (90 line 3). As in “The Chimney Sweeper”, Blake will not let the world forget that these souls have lived. Subjectivity is defined as the personal feelings and experiences of a person that cannot be measured or felt by anyone else they can only be described. The romantic poet valued this as a way to achieve a more personal experience and a more honest relationship with the reader. In this way the writer can let their values and feeling be known more intimately. John Keats, in his work “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” describes his personal and excited feelings about reading Homer for the first time. He describes traveling the world and having seen everything but it paled in comparison to Chapman’s Homer. Keats describes the feeling as: “some watcher in the skies / When a new planet swims into his ken” (881 line 9-10). Very much like Keats first experience William Hazlitt also has a firsthand description in his essay “My First Acquaintance with Poets” a personal experience using the term “I” as a subjective viewpoint that reflects the poet’s experiences and beliefs. Hazlitt describes his feelings from his own recollection: “I could not have been more delighted if I had heard the music of the spheres” (543). Hazlitt is actually describing to the reader the experience of having heard Samuel Taylor Coleridge preaching a sermon. The subjective viewpoint as a value of the Romanticism is explained by the author as foregoing an omniscient viewpoint for one of greater personal narration. Dorothy Wordsworth uses this personal intimacy as tool in her prose and poetry. In “Thoughts on My Sick-Bed” the poet tells of her own personal recollection of illness: “No!--then I never felt a bliss, / That might with that compare, / Which, piercing to my couch of rest” (405; line 29-32). Percy Bysshe Shelley extols the value of the personal approach in his poem “To Wordsworth.” Shelley has lost faith in the new supposed philosophy of Wordsworth: “Deserting these, thou leavest me to grieve” (745; line 13). Shelley is mourning for the virtues and the beliefs that were abandoned by Wordsworth later in his career.
The value of natural beauty resulting in an outpouring of emotion is another value of the Romantic period. The mission of the writer is to personify nature with humanity, passion, and an expressive attitude. The mind is reminded of things that are buried in the spirit somewhere and nature is the tool that brings it forth. In his poem, “Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” William Wordsworth describes these images: “That on a wild secluded scene impress/ Thoughts of more deep seclusion.” (258; lines 6-7). The idea of meditation as an emotional release to remember the past, present and look forward to the future is employed in this poem by Wordsworth. Robert Burns in his poem “A Red Red Rose”, attempts to personify love with natural beauty. He compares natural objects to emotional response: “And the rocks melt wi' the sun, / I will love thee still.” (146 line 10-11). The poet attempts to use natural surroundings to elicit feelings of emotions. In his work “She Walks in Beauty”, Lord Byron describes his love by comparing her to the sky at night: “She walks in beauty, like the night, / Of cloudless clime and starry skies” (612 lines 1-2). The use of the sky requires an emotional response much like Wordsworth’s “picture of the mind”.
These values of supernatural imagery, to teach moral lessons, the glorification of the ordinary and the outcast, subjectivity for intimacy and natural beauty to elicit an emotional response are employed throughout the works of the romanticism.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Big Ragu Thinks Emersonian Thought or Heckerl discusses nature

This criticism written by David K. Heckerl discusses Emerson’s view about the theory of Historicism. The historicist position by philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, its original theorist, states that society and all human endeavors such as literature or other artistic expression are only defined by their history. According to this theory, art can only be viewed through the lens of history and historical context. In his criticism “Nature Will Not Be Disposed of: Emerson Against Historicism,” Heckerl explains Emerson’s distrust and distaste for giving history the credit for creativity.
Emerson's definition of the term Historicism, according to Heckerl is similar to that of Hegel, but Emerson includes idealism in his attempt to explain the how nature in and of itself is not compatible with the historicist position. Thoreau’s definition according to Heckerl, is being,” drawn by nature, into the forest, beyond the narrowness of church and state and school” (Heckerl 112). Heckerl states that Emerson description is, “far-off remembering of the intuition that when good is near you ... you shall not discern the footprints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any
Name”(109). It is clear that Emerson rejects the idea and philosophy of the historicist position. Heckerl develops this thesis that , “Emerson's uncompromising adherence to the “methods of nature” disrupts the coherence of current historicist attempts to harmonize philosophy and politics, even to the point of compromising the moral integrity of these attempts” (113). Heckerl uses the term Anthropocentrism to describe what Emerson is writing against in his works. It has been described and defined as the reason why humans have taken over the earth and develop it for their own needs. Heckerl uses the term “cosmo-centrism,” to describe Emerson’s view of the world. Emerson is more concerned with the view of the individual as he relates in a more universal sense to his own world. Anthropocentrism as it is used in this essay is the force behind the prevailing historicism of the day and a point of contention for Emerson. Heckerl includes Emerson's claim that, “Nature represents the best meaning of the wisest man” (113). According to the essay, Emerson’s view of nature is the understanding of intellectual knowledge.
The argument against historicism vs. idealism is further demonstrated when Heckerl discusses the politics and leadership choices of Emerson. Heckerl quote historian Sam Worley on several occasions in relation to Emerson’s role in moral-political perspectives. Worley believed that Emerson’s concerns of leadership or reform was “A risky enterprise, vulnerable to corruption if applied too presumptively” (119). Worley described Emerson’s thought as dualism, which is defined as trying to reconcile two separate schools of thought. Worley argued that Emerson wanted, "to construct a new model of leadership” (115). Emerson believed according to Heckerl that the political leader should possess cosmo-centric values. This is illustrated by the famous quote from Emerson included in the essay, “If you would go to the political world, follow the great road -- follow that market-man, keep his dust in your eyes, and it will lead you straight to it; for it, too, has its place merely, and does not occupy all space” (118). Emerson’s thoughts about politics and it’s relation to history are one of the themes of this essay, but the author also includes criticism concerning Emerson’s Transcendentalism from Gregory Garvey’s “Essays on Emerson and Social Reform.” Transcendentalists' belief system was a state in which as person’s spirit took precedence over intellect and established church doctrine. The person was to rely on their own spirit and feelings to guide their actions. Garvey states that the “spirit” is a set of core values held by society that could be espoused from a political standpoint of from the pulpit (188).
Heckerl concludes that trying to reconcile both philosophy and society are destructive to both institutions and one would not be able to such a thing until both institutions were understood fully. According to the essay, Emerson believed in individualism, cosmo-centrism, and Transcendentalism , He believed in spiritual unity and believed that God could be found everywhere and in everything. In the end of the essay, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s view of individuality disagrees with the popular view of Historicism as presented by David K. Heckerl.

Heckerl, David K. "Nature Will Not Be Disposed of': Emerson against Historicism." Canadian Review of American Studies/Revue Canadienne d'Etudes Américaines 35 (2005): 109-21. Http:// June-July 2009.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My thoughts on AIDS and poverty

HIV/AIDS and Poverty

Is poverty the leading promoter of the violent spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the world today? As of the writing of this essay, HIV/AIDS affects all areas of the world and developing countries report extremely high mortality rates due to HIV/AIDS. AIDS is now second only to the Bubonic Plague in the middle ages as the largest health threat in history. Poverty affects all aspects of lifestyle including access to medical care, food, housing and sanitation. Poverty and its effects are the leading promoters of the spread of HIV/AIDS in the world today.
The opposition to this theory has long held that behavioral factors, sexual practices and IV drug usage are the main factors in promoting the disease. AIDS can be contracted several different ways such as the use of intravenous drugs, prostitution, and transmission by people who are unaware that they have HIV/AIDS.
How than can we explain the existence of high mortality rates from HIV/AIDS in extremely poor areas of our country and in the world? The answer is poverty and its effects. There is a high correlation between intravenous drug use, which is very common in poverty-stricken areas, and the contraction of HIV. (Tomaszewski 2003). Studies have also shown that there is a direct connection between poverty and drug use. Sharing needles greatly increases the probability of contracting AIDS. This can be greatly reduced by programs issuing sterile needles to drug users although it is controversial in executing the program. Poverty is the major cause of HIV/AIDS infection because it can facilitate transmission; Poverty makes people more vulnerable to HIV infection, due to lack of health care knowledge, lack of proper digestion, and lack of good nutrition, that results in a weaker system of immunity and poor health. They also do not have access to healthcare and education on HIV prevention. According to International Viewpoint, “With over 1.5 million deaths officially estimated in the last 12 months, AIDS is overtaking and interacting with other mass killers. In mid 1996 the United Nations estimated that 28 million people had contracted HIV infection world-wide, of whom 6 million had already died. 94% of people with HIV are in Third World countries. Of the 22 million adults now living with HIV, 42% are women, a percentage that is steadily rising.” (Davis 1997).
Belle Glade, Florida
Research shows that certain areas and populations are more prone to contracting this deadly virus. AIDS is an immense problem in low-income areas in America and will continue to be so because of intravenous drug use, prostitution, children being infected by their mothers, and unknown transmission of the disease. This is where a small town called Belle Glade, Florida enters the picture. Belle Glade is some fifty miles due west of Palm Beach and is almost entirely inhabited by migrant workers. Some of these workers are Hispanic, but most are Haitian with some African- American population. The peculiar thing about Belle Glade as reported in the New York Times in 2003 is that this small town has per capita the largest number of HIV/AIDS positive people in the United States. The national average is 356 out of one million populations, whereas the average for Belle Glade is 1500 per one million. (Nordheimer). This is a staggering number and none of the usual arguments for transmission such as homosexual activity are present in large numbers. Most of the HIV/Positive patients in Belle Glade are heterosexual. The common thread that makes Belle Glade unique is that it is also one of the poorest cities in the United States. “When you live in a small impoverished area like Belle Glade one of the main recreational activities is sex, and what we're seeing is a number of men who are clearly heterosexual telling us of multiple contacts with prostitutes.''(Nordheimer 1997). Clearly the infiltration of prostitution into small areas such as Belle Glade would increase the rate. The reason for this being the trade of choice in this area is poverty, making a direct link between poverty and HIV transmission.
It is easy to see how living in poverty and battling HIV/AIDS can be a nightmare for some people. A single mother of three children in the inner city near a high crime area will be more at risk for this disease than a successful businessman from any developed country. Where is her healthcare to come from? Where can she learn about disease prevention? Where will the money come from to take care of her children? Often as reported by International Viewpoint, women such as these are forced to enter the sex trade or become involved in drugs to support their families. (Tomaszewski 2003). It is sad to think that children are affected by poverty. The New York Times points out in the article “Poverty Scarred Town Now Stricken By AIDS”, in addition to adults being HIV positive in large numbers unfortunately children are also stricken with the disease as they play among “the hovels, sewage and garbage.” (Nordheimer).
There have been some good results that have come from recent studies concerning HIV and poverty. The World Bank has proposed a four hundred billion dollar relief fund supported by the United Nations and funded by donations and government intervention. This will help alleviate some of the suffering due to poor medical care, malnutrition and recurrent infections. We as a society cannot begin to address the issue of fighting HIV/AIDS unless we are willing to accept the actual causation factor of the disease, which is poverty.

Davis, Ken. “Prejudice, Poverty and AIDS.” International Viewpoint .April 1997. 5pp.
Nordheimer, Jon. “Poverty- Scarred Town Now Stricken By AIDS.” The New York
Times . 10 Feb, 2009 <>
Tomaszewski, Evelyn P. “HIV/AIDS and Homelessness” Poverty and Social Justice
Update . June 2003

Victorian Literature Critique

The Search for Happiness and “The Everlasting Yea” in Victorian Literature
The period of Victorian Literature in English history is a time that saw great changes in the industrial structure of the country, and a movement toward more scientific thought. It is for this reason that many came to question the traditionally held views of religion, love and society. It is because of this questioning that people became unhappy with their circumstances. These thoughts are reflected in the literature of the day.
In Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus, the reader is introduced to a Victorian era concept called “The Everlasting Yea”. This is a triumph over doubt and despair after long trials and tribulations. Carlyle’s’ Diogenes Teufelsdröckh suffered from a sense of confusion about how meaningless the world had become. His name alone represents confusion and the battle for an answer as it is translated “God- begotten, Devils’ Dreck.” He eventually comes to know the “Everlasting Yea”or a renewed faith in God. The loss of faith was Diogenes’ barrier to happiness as he states: “Belief was the loss of everything. Unhappy young man!” (1007). John Henry Newman’s The Idea of A University tells the reader that the barrier to happiness is the inability to think freely and creatively. Newman describes the ability to exercise philosophical thought rather than mechanical knowledge. Newman states: “He has a gift which serves him in public and supports him in retirement” (1041). Newman’s idea is that philosophical knowledge makes a more well rounded citizen and “has resources for his happiness at home, when it cannot go abroad” (1041). In “Autobiography” by John Stuart Mill, the author relates his complete mental breakdown and the question of how he would recover his happiness again. Mill describes his situation when he relates: “the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down” (1071). Mill further describes his unhappiness when he laments; “I seemed to have nothing left to live for.” (1071). Mill only realizes that the only way to recover his happiness when he comes to understand that through serving others he is also serving himself.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Mariana” illustrates that the cause of unhappiness of the subject described in the poem is as simple as unrequited love and the loss of a lover. Mariana laments: “I am aweary, aweary, / I would that I were dead!” (1112; line 11-12). In the poem “The Lady of Shalott”, we learn that lady's unhappiness results not from a lost love but from a mysterious curse. She is not allowed to leave her loom to look toward Camelot. She sees knights and ladies but does not have a knight for her own. In the turning point of the poem, the Lady of Shalott abandons the loom in search of happiness in the form of the singing Sir Lancelot. Her search results in her death as illustrated in this line: “The Curse is come upon me, cried the lady of Shalott” (1117; line 116-17). In contrast Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” cannot stay in one place and proclaims that he cannot rest from travel and must continue on for the rest of his days. The cause of the Odysseus character's lack of happiness is being relegated from epic hero to house husband. Ulysses proclaims: “Come my friends / Tis not too late to seek a newer world” (1124; line 56-57). Unlike Ulysses or “The Lady,” Tennyson autobiographically wrote In Memoriam A.H.H. after learning that his friend Arthur Henry Hallam had died suddenly at a young age. This would cause the average person to question all that is addressed in the poem and to be filled with unhappiness at such a loss. Tennyson was filled with questions about the meaning of man’s existence in relation to God. The theme of “In Memoriam” is separation from God and separation from our loved ones after death. Consolation is being sought and only reconciling a belief in a benevolent God will ease the pain. Tennyson comes to this realization as he states: “Then was I as a child that cries, / But crying, knows has father near” (1184; line 19-20).
John Ruskin in writing “The Stones of Venice,” saw that craftsmen and artisans were being treated as nothing more than hired hands or slaves in the creation of architecture. He saw Gothic architecture as in “The Stones of Venice to be a free expression of art and a freedom of the artisan from slavery and unhappiness. He felt that the happy laborer would produce superior and original artwork. Ruskin explains: “You must either make a tool of the creature or a man of him. You cannot make both” (1328). Robert Browning’s “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” shows the narrator planning the destruction of another innocent man. The fact that Brother Lawrence exists is actually the narrator’s barrier to happiness. The narrator states: “If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,/ God's blood, would not mine kill you!”(1253; line3-4). The author is trying to show that the narrator of this poem is unhappy with himself and trying to elevate his moral standing by lowering another’s. Likewise, in another poem, Robert Browning is suggesting that the character in “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church” is trying to elevate himself by planning an elaborate tomb for himself. He is unhappy that he will not be remembered and possibly another Bishop has gotten the better of him by obtaining a choice place in the churchyard for his tomb. The Bishop states: “Old Gandolf cozened me, despite my care” (1259; line 17). He feels cheated and sorrowful for the fruitlessness of his efforts when he exclaims: “Vanity, Vanity” (1259; line 1). The cause of his unhappiness is that he will not be remembered so therefore rather than relying on any kindness he may have performed, he relies on pomp and circumstance. In “Andrea Del Sarto” by Browning, the cause of unhappiness is that the painter purchased a home for him and his wife and did not use the money for art. He had traded his artistic life for a life of domesticity. He realizes his skill as an artist would even rival or excel the great masters, but he laments: “In heaven, perhaps, new chances, one more chance” (1285; line 260). He hopes to have another chance after death. In Matthew Arnold’s “The Scholar Gypsy,” Arnold is discussing the lack of faith in his times. He is unhappy that people of his time period did not have simple childlike faith and that modern life is rushed. The Gypsy subject develops a creative way of thinking that is untouched by modern constraints. The narrator explains his cause of unhappiness when he states that: “Before this strange disease of modern life, / With its sick hurry” (1366: line 203-04).
In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest Miss Prism feels guilty for what she has done and seems to unload a lifetime of burden in telling her story. She accidentally lost Jack as a baby in the railway station and has had to live with the burden of this all of her life. In Act 3, she feels free for finally telling her secret. She is a harsh person with hard set rules for everyone, but after she tells her story she allows herself to be happy by uniting with Dr. Chasuble. In the play by George Bernard Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession ,Vivie, is unhappy to find out that her mother's life savings and livelihood were earned managing houses of ill repute or brothels. Pride is the cause of. Vivie’s unhappiness as she cannot bring herself to forgive her mother especially because the businesses are still in operation. In the final scene between Vivie and Mrs., Warren, Vivie tells her mother: “What have we two in common that would make either of us happy together?” (1789). In Christina Rossetti’s poem, “Song”, the subject of the poem laments her past while watching another person singing: “She sang for hope that is so fair” (1460; line9-10). Her unhappiness stems from a past that is missed or something sad in her past. She is looking backward and the singer she watches looks ahead. Gerard Manley Hopkins discusses the narrator’s unhappiness with God’s treatment of him in his poem,” Thou art indeed just, Lord” He asks the age old question as we all have: “Why do sinner’s ways prosper?” (1524; line 3). The cause of his unhappiness is what he feels to be a separation from God and why His presence is not felt more keenly.
The reasons for unhappiness in Victorian literature are as varied as the works themselves, but there are common themes woven throughout. The concept of Man’s belief or trust in God and faith in other people are spread throughout the discussed works. The changing of society and scientific discoveries lead to questioning and sometimes confusion and unhappiness. Through much introspection and reflection many people arrived at “The Everlasting Yea.”

1). Arnold, Matthew
a. “The Scholar Gypsy”
2. Browning, Robert
a. “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”
b.” The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church”
c. “Andrea Del Sarto”
3. Carlyle, Thomas
a. Sartor Resartus
4. Hopkins, Gerard Manley
a. “Thou art indeed just, Lord”
5. Stuart Mill, John
a. Autobiography
6. Newman, John Henry Cardinal
a. The Idea of a University
7. Rossetti, Christina
a. “Song,”
8. Ruskin, John
a. The Stones of Venice
9. Shaw, Bernard
a. Mrs. Warren’s Profession
10. Tennyson, Alfred, Lord
a. “Mariana”
b. “The Lady of Shalott”
c. “Ulysses”
d. In Memoriam A. H. H
11. Wilde, Oscar
a. The Importance of Being Earnest

Edgar Allen Poe Criticism

Anthropomorphism in “Fall of the House of Usher”

One of the literary tools used by Edgar Allen Poe to emphasis the dark side of Romantic literature was the use of Anthropomorphism. Poe uses this device in “Fall of the House of Usher” in order to, “attribute uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, natural and supernatural phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts” ( Subjects for Poe’s anthropomorphism included animals such as the Orangutan mimic killer in “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Human characteristics are projected upon the bird and his repeated croaking of “nevermore” in “The Raven.” Edgar Allen Poe possessed the capacity to project human characteristics in this way in his literature. Poe creates a relationship between the living things and inanimate objects in “Fall of the House of Usher.” The dying Roderick Usher believes there is a relationship between the mansion and his destiny. This evidenced by the “eyes” of the mansion, objects in the house and supernatural weather.

As a result of the Transcendentalism movement popular in the nineteenth century, a “Dark Romanticism” emerged in the writings of such authors as Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe. The works of these authors were darker in theme than were other American Romanticists. Nowhere in Poe’s dark romantic literature is anthropomorphism used more effectively than in “Fall of the House of Usher.” Poe discusses the forces of nature such as wind or storms as having human qualities in reference to the crumbling Usher mansion. The House of Usher has eyes that the narrator noticed as well as other observations as he approached the mansion. The narrator states, “I looked upon the scene before me - upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain - upon the bleak walls - upon the vacant eye-like windows” ( Belasco/Johnson 1031 ). It is obvious that the narrator has the impression that even though they are vacant, they still resemble “eyes. He had not yet seen his boyhood friend Roderick Usher, but he makes this observation about the state of the mansion itself, “there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones” (1032). Poe uses the phrase “House of Usher” to refer to both the crumbling physical structure and the last two remaining members of the Usher family. So interconnected are the Mansion and the family that the narrator observes, “which had, at length, so identified the two as to merge the original title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal appellation of the “House of Usher” - an appellation which seemed to include, in the minds of the peasantry who used it, both the family and the family mansion” (1031). The physical structure of the mansion is mimicking the genetic patterns of the family. As many years of in family breeding have taken place, and the DNA of the Usher family has also been compromised, it is impossible to maintain the health and well being of Roderick or his sister. At this point we can observe that the Mansion is alive as the Usher twins, but also very ill. The narrator describes his feeling of awe and doom in viewing the mansion from the outside when he states, “but with a shudder even more thrilling than before - upon the remodeled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows” (1031).
One of the themes of Edgar Allen Poe’s works is “impending death. Poe uses Anthropomorphism to illustrate impending death even before he enters the Usher House and discovers the physical condition of Roderick Usher. In a similar way that the death of Fortunato in “Cask of the Amontillado” is foretold through the description of the “dead” catacombs beneath the Montressor estate, Usher’s death is foretold by the description of “this mansion of gloom” (1031). The narrator then describes, “I again uplifted my eyes to the house itself, from its image in the pool, there grew in my mind a strange fancy - a fancy so ridiculous, indeed, that I but mention it to show the vivid force of the sensations which oppressed me” (1032 ). The narrator believes that there is something dark and wrong with the mansion as he approaches but barely notices the crack running down the entire length of the mansion from top to bottom. He observes that this crack or fissure, “made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn” (1033).
The marriage of the House of Usher and its inhabitants as the narrator will soon discover is soon to be dissolved. The family line of the Usher clan is rotting away as is the mansion. It is interesting to note that the other characters in the story, the servant, valet and the physician are not ill and dying as are the others. This is an Usher family issue of bloodline continued through the ages that has to do with the single branch of the family tree. Usher thinks that the stones of the house have a life of their own, and that they hold the fate of the Usher family. "He was enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted, and whence for many years, he had never ventured forth” (1034).
The narrator finally enters the house and is shocked by the scene before him. He describes, “the somber tapestries of the walls” (1035 ), and the appearance of his old friend Roderick Usher as having, “ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the eye, above all things startled and even awed me” (1034). The eye of Usher is in direct synchronization with the eyes of the Mansion as seen from outside. This is significant because Usher cannot see the outside world because he will not venture outside. Any outward “eyes” belonging to the house were looking inward to the inhabitants inside. This is why the window eyes seemed vacant from the outside. The narrator observes the state of the windows from inside and notices, “No outlet was observed in any portion of its vast extent, and no torch, or other artificial source of light was discernible; yet a flood of intense rays rolled throughout, and bathed the whole in a ghastly and inappropriate splendor” (1036). The “living mansion” had a light source all of its own creation, so it assumes a character of its own.
Poe uses the objects in the house to create Anthropomorphism and to illustrate the idea of impending death. Upon entering the area where Usher resides, he notices books and musical instruments lying about the room. The significance of the positioning of the objects suggests death because they are not being used and are in a silent state. He describes the feeling the objects have given him when he states,” I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all” (1033). Usher gives the reader insight into what he feels his future holds when he states, “I feel that the period will sooner or later arrive when I must abandon life and reason together, in some struggle with the grim phantasm, FEAR.” Usher must face his worst fears in relation to the mansion’s deterioration, “brought about upon the morale of his existence” (1035). He is also hiding from death in the “safety” of his family home much like Prince Prospero in Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”. The Prince hope to avoid a horrible disease by hiding in his Abbey, but death finds him even in a safe place. In “Fall of the House of Usher,” the mansion is an accomplice to the death of Roderick Usher and his sister Madeline.
The narrator tries to calm Usher by a reading of “The Haunted Palace,” which contained a reference to the windows much like the windows on the House of Usher, “Through two luminous windows saw Spirits moving musically” (1037). This is in direct contrast to what is happening with the eye of Roderick Usher at the same time. The narrator notices, “The pallor of his countenance had assumed, if possible, a more ghastly hue - but the luminousness of his eye had utterly gone out” (1037). Usher believes that the mansion controls his behavior, and what eventually will become of him, he begins to waste away as the crumbling of the mansion. The mansion that for centuries was as Usher described it, “for centuries had moulded the destinies of his family, and which made him what I now saw him - what he was” (1038). Usher has no control over his destiny as “the wrath of the storm increased, and the mansion began to shake and crumble” (1044). Dark forces are at work and Roderick feels helpless to stop them. Usher, Madeline and the family Mansion are consumed while the narrator flees for his life. The storm takes on a life of it’s own as it participates in the destruction of the Usher house. The fissure or crack that seemed unimportant at the beginning of the visit now is splitting the mansion in half and sending it to the ground.
The use of Anthropomorphism as literary tool in “Fall of the House of Usher” explains how he Usher family lives in and are eventually destroyed by their own family history. Giving human qualities to the mansion, the stones, belongings in the house and even an electrical storm help the reader understand Roderick Usher and his destiny in relation to the human/inanimate objects around him.

"Anthropomorphism Definition Definition of Anthropomorphism at" Web. 29 July 2009. . Belasco, Susan, and Linck Johnson. The Bedford Anthology of American Literature. Vol. One. Boston/NY: Bedford/St. Martins, 2008. Print

My Thoughts on Totalitarianism

Arendt, Hannah. “Total Domination.” A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 7th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. 88-96.

Hannah Arendt was born in 1906 in and died in New in 1975.Arendt was one of the great political thinkers, philosophers and writers of the twentieth century. She wrote works that are still read today such as works such as “The Human Condition,” “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” and “The Life of the Mind.” She fled Germany in 1933 to escape Hitler's rise to power. As a German- Jewish immigrant escaping Nazi Germany this gives Arendt an authoritative perspective. She then moved to Paris where for six years where worked for a number of Jewish refugee organizations. In 1941 she moved to the United States and was part of the academic staff at several American Universities. Arendt died in 1975. She is best known for her works that discuss the reasoning and rational for the Nazi and Stalinist regimes.” The Origins of Totalitarianism,” published in 1951 explores these ideas. Arendt stated,”The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.” In her view, reasoning needed to be created as an explanation so the human race would be able to understand and reflect on the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Arendt’s belief was that what occurred because of Nazi and Stalinist aggression was so unbelievable, a rational had to be provided for people to be able to understand it. She wrote that there were often times when concentration camp victims who were freed from the camps were not believed because of the magnitude of the atrocities. Arendt states.” There are no parallels to the life in the concentration camps. Its horror can never be fully embraced by the imagination for the very reason that it stands outside of life and death. It can never be fully reported for the very reason that the survivor returns to the world of the living, which makes it impossible for him to believe fully in his own past experiences”(Jacobus 94). This is some of the reasoning in her book entitled “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” She developed a new set of ideas that were often controversial including Darwinist and Marxist theory. One of the last chapters included in the required anthology, is entitled “Total Domination.” Arendt was faced with the constraint and the arduous task of explaining the tragic events of the Holocaust and could not rely on precedent or experience to help the reader understand the horror. The concentration camps according to “Total Domination” are a tool meant to exterminate people, but moreover to control those on the outside with fear. They serve to degrade the human such that they become as animals or subhuman. According to Arendt, this is how the leaders of the SS and Third Reich were able to somewhat justify in their own minds the atrocities for which they were responsible. Adolf Eichmann is featured in this work as an example of a person who did not fully understand the levity of what he had done. According to Arendt, he was following orders to exterminate people who had already been assigned by Germany as sub-human. Arendt’s rhetoric seems to excuse Eichmann and the Nazis, but upon a closer reading, it is explained that there is no other way to explain a horror such as this unless a human face is put on the perpetrators.
Arendt explains that the totalitarian state is an ideology that is a perverted version of the Darwin thesis that describes “survival of the fittest.” In Hitler’s view, the white European race was the fittest, so it followed naturally that they must be preserved at the expense of what he considered less desirable. For Arendt, the terror and torment of the concentration camps served no other purpose to the Third Reich except to show, ”that everything is possible” (86). What might be more descriptive is to say that “anything is possible if the lie is big enough.” Arendts’ argument is that totalitarianism equals terror. It is impossible to achieve one without the other because absolute terror dominates. Arendts’ theory continues on to what she calls,”The Big Lie” (87). Hitler described this to mean that if a lie was big enough, large numbers of people would believe it no matter how absurd it sounded. He used this to dominate and control his state.
Arendt attempts to use the theories of Karl Marx to help explain the totalitarian state. In Marx’ “The Communist Manifesto,” he states that, “the most progressive classes need to destroy the less progressive classes” (860. Marx was only subscribing to survival of the fittest. They main idea of this text is not to excuse the atrocities of the Nazis and the death camps, but to try to explain what the reasoning may have been inside the minds of the murderers, so that it never happens again.

Arendt, Hannah. “Total Domination.” A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 7th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. 88-96.

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