Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beloved Post #4

I enjoyed reading the portrayal of Denver near the end of the book. Earlier in the story she said she felt like she had a debt to pay. She was so dependent on her mother and later Beloved. But, she gained the confidence she needed to go out and seek help from the community. She begins to make a living for herself, and in the process she grows up. When she meets Paul D in the street she even tells him she doesn’t want his opinion about Beloved because she has her own (266-267). I like that Morrison made most of the female characters strong women.

Paul D begins to be ashamed of his behavior and changes his perspective on love. He recalls when Sixo described his love: "The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order (272-73)." This quote reminds me of one of the topics we’ve been talking about this semester: how Modernist writers (and artists) began to see the world as a fragmented place and one puts the fits the pieces back together as best as possible. The inner dialogue and reflection of each of the characters is useful in accomplishing this for Morrison. I was able to get used to the time shifts after I really got further into the story. Looking back, I actually admire how she does this.

Renee pointed out that the story would be good without all the supernatural elements. I can see her point, I haven’t decided if I agree. The story of Sethe’s escape from slavery; the murder of her child; everything the other slaves endured; the underground railroad; Baby Suggs; etc. are each intriguing elements to the story. All the trials and tribulations resulting from slavery, the stuff that would/could have happened, could make for a dramatic, historical fiction novel. So, I keep asking why Morrison would choose to blend in all the supernatural elements too. However, overall I did like the book.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Beloved #3

The part where Beloved reveals her purpose for coming was intriguing. Denver doesn’t seem surprised at all when Beloved describes the place she came from and discusses the dead people. Then, Denver starts referring to her as if she recognizes her sister. “Don’t tell her. Don’t let Ma’am know who you are, Please, you hear” (76)? It’s strange how Denver becomes possessive of Beloved, fears she may leave, and even refers to her as sister-girl. Yet, when she begins telling her the story of her birth she says: “My grandmother”, “My brothers and…the baby girl” (77). It’s like one minute she believes this is her sister and the next she doesn’t. I’m not sure I understand this.

At the end of part one the disturbing details of Sethe’s crime are finally revealed. She explains to Paul D how she tried to murder (and did murder one of) her children to protect them from slavery. Again, Morrison highlights the topic of love. Sethe claims that she loved her children more after coming to Ohio, describing her love as deep and wide (wide enough to hold all of her kids). She says this is because they didn’t really belong to her before. But, Paul D again tells Sethe her “love is too thick.” Sethe replies: “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.” (164).

I think it’s interesting to see the contrasting male and female (and mother's) views here. Also, Paul D never confesses his own sins (sleeping with Beloved). “How fast he moved from his shame to hers. From his cold-house secret straight to her too-thick love” (165). Then, instead of staying and supporting her after such a devastating revelation, he compares her to an animal (2 feet, not 4) and walks out on her. Wow!

Beloved: post 2

When I read the carnival scene I was infuriated and sad. This is the only entertainment that this family had in 18 yrs, and they had to endure racial slurs and insults. The carnival people felt resentful about even having to entertain blacks for one day, as evidenced by their diminished performances. But, the black citizens had to be grateful because they were given so few privileges (even in the free North states). Morrison uses this to give another example of the sad history of our country.

The arrival of Beloved is confusing for me. It seems like none of the characters are affected very much by this girl’s name. The strangeness of her arrival, her health (the way her head hangs like it has no support), and her name should have given Sethe a clue that something wasn’t normal about her or this situation. However, they just accept her presence and go on. It’s also strange how Denver covers for her (i.e. the incontinence, her strength). Maybe this can be explained by the fact that Denver was so lonely before. Paul D is the only one that seems suspicious there might be something more to her presence.

Paul D’s account of being bound with an iron bit in his mouth and the events at Sweet Home was very disturbing. I thought his description of his heart was also significant: “He would keep the rest where it belonged; in that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a read heart used to be. Its lid rusted shut” (72-73). African Americans had to endure so much just to survive; sadly to cope sometimes people have to shut down their emotions.
I noticed other historical references, such as the description of how the home used to welcome travelers. The references to the underground railroad and people that helped slaves escape was also interesting.

Beloved, post 1

My initial thought when I began reading the beginning of the book was: disturbing. Supernatural ghosts, sex with animals, too much, Toni Morrison! The family is so sad. The only daughter left feels lonely and isolated from her mother. However, the issues they are facing are all a result of a much larger societal problem, slavery.

Another thing that jumped out to me early on in the novel was Paul D’s reflection on love: “For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you’d have a little love left over for the next one,” (45). Sethe recalls how she never even knew her own mother. What a sad fact of slavery (among the many other injustices it caused), that mothers had to fear loving their own children.

The book is also a little hard for me to read because of the constant flashbacks. It makes it difficult to keep up with the progression of time and the story. It reads like we are in the character’s minds, reflecting on different parts of their lives. Early in the book, Sethe describes time like this: “I was talking about time. It’s so hard for me to believe in it. Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

robert lowell

Robert Lowell was an influential confessional poet. Both Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath credited his class with their development as writers. I like how he uses history in “For the Union Dead” and also comments on modern day problems. He spends a significant portion of the poem with past references (i.e. the old aquarium and the display for Shaw and his men). And, he also notes “Space is nearer. When I crouch to my television set, the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like balloons.” These references to desegregation, the moon landing, and other significant events of the time work well with the historical facts he puts in the poem too. I enjoyed reading Lowell.

George Saunders

Saunders’ “Sea Oak” story was a really comical take on modern day issues. I enjoyed reading the story and found it hilarious, although it did leave me with a bleak picture of the “American Dream.” Freddie sums up this attitude in his dinner speech: “It’s the freaking American way-you start out in a dangerous craphole and work hard so you can someday move up to a somewhat less dangerous craphole. And finally maybe you get a mansion.” As mentioned in class, I find the disparity her sickening. A person’s choices are A) dangerous craphole B) less dangerous craphole or C)Mansion. Where’s the middle class, 2 story, suburban house with the white picket fence? It’s like that American dream has disappeared for many people in this country.

Louis and Espada

I love both of these writers and how they use poetry to speak out about issues facing their people.

In “Dust World” Louis has several references to modern culture that I find interesting. The “’70 Chevy, and T Bird” both seem to reference the commercialism in America. While he lives in a “..sad, welfare world. This land that time forgot.”

Espada references this too in “The Skull Beneath the Skin of the Mango.” The lines: “…the wooden boxes exported to the States…” and “An American reporter, arms crowded with fruit…” both point out what the American consumer and business are taking from the country. Yet, they are suffering from slaughter and murder that is going unacknowledged by their government. The reporters “…muttered that slaughter is only superstition in a land of new treaties and ballot boxes.”

I think both poets make a similar point about the way impoverished and disenfranchised groups of people continually are taken advantage of and exploited. Therefore, reinforcing the cycle of poverty.