Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Fish

I found it interesting how Elizabeth Bishop uses vivid imagery to invoke feelings in the reader while reading her poem, "The Fish." Stating that the fish had a weapon-like mouth gave me a feeling of triumph for the fish, it made me feel that the fish in the poem was a strong fighter and unable to be caught. Stating that the fish was covered in sea lice, green weeds and barnacles gave me the image that the fish was very old - since it had been around long enough for all those things to grow on its scales. The fish's eyes (described as yellowed, scratched isinglass, and shallow) led me to understand that the fish had given up with fighting, it had a hard life and now was ready to give up since it did not have the energy to look back into the speaker's (assumed to be a fisherman/woman) eyes. At the end of the story the speaker let the fish go - this action gave me the feeling of accomplishment, understanding and sympathy. Sympathy because the speaker understands the strugglesome life the fish has had; accomplishment because the speaker lets the fish go because of his/her understanding of the fish's hard life.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Essay 1

                There are many literary devices authors use in order to give the reader their own understanding of a story. Each different device can alter a person’s comprehension of a story. “Death of a Salesman” uses multiple literary devices that affect the narrative discourse and consequently changes how the story is depicted to the reader. The realism of the characters in Arthur Miller's short story, "Death of a Salesman," comes into question due to the techniques - including numerous amounts of gaps and lack of closure - Miller uses to portray this.

                In this short story Willy is portrayed as a man who is ashamed of himself for being a failure, but cannot admit to himself that he was never the man he thought he was. The lack of closure in this short story adds to the realism of Willy’s character. When reading, it is not clear exactly why Willy speaks to characters that are not really there. This unanswered question leaves the reader guessing as to why Willy is the way he is throughout the entire story. After reading the story thoroughly, I assumed that Willy was driven mad after coming to the realization that his son no longer looked up to him and his son’s lack of a real career was due to his own mistakes as a father. The lack of closure here leaves the reader guessing as to why Willy has the mindset that he does and therefore makes Willy more realistic. Anything could have happened to him, whether it be the car accident he was in, his mind deteriorating or the more likely view that he blames himself for the outcome of Biff’s life and cannot live with the guilt. Most of Willy’s conversations between himself and imaginary characters connect back to the major event in Biff’s life that Willy believed was the turning point. An example of this is when Willy tells Biff that “Bernard can get the best marks in school, y’understand, but when he gets out in the business world, y’understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him”(Miller 21). In Willy’s warped mind, he truly believes that being “well-liked” is more important than being smart and merely “liked.” He thinks that he is successful because people like him enough to think he knows what he’s talking about. This important moment in the play was when Willy subconsciously led Biff to believe that smarts were not all that important as long as he was well liked like himself. Another important point for Willy was when Biff caught him cheating on his wife with another woman. Willy held that with him from that moment on and believed that everything Biff did from that point on in his life was to spite his father. Holding on to these thoughts, one can see why Willy is the way he is. He’s held on to these ideas that Biff has turned out this way because of him. Holding on to this belief has driven Willy crazy which makes his character more realistic, because anyone might come to that end if they believed that their child has come to a dead end in their life because of them.

                Biff, is not much different from his father, except that he can admit to himself that he is and never was someone who was going to amount to anything. This characteristic in a person is common though many people find it hard to admit. There are many gaps in the story where Biff is concerned. What happened to him between finding out about his father’s affair and going to the ranch to work? One might infer that he’s found odd jobs here and there because he has never been able to stick with anything because he does not see himself as the type of person who will ever amount to much in life. This gap allows one to interpret Biff as a common, everyday American who has not gone to college and therefore cannot find a stable career. This allows the reader to relate with the character and bring him to life. The lack of closure on behalf of Biff also adds to his characterization. Why did Biff leave the countryside when he sounded like he truly enjoyed being there? Biff states that “This farm I work on…they’ve got about fifteen new colts. There’s nothing more inspiring or —beautiful than the sight of a mare and a new colt” (Miller 13). One might wonder if he was so in awe of this sight then why did he leave to come back home to begin with. Biff has never been able to stick with anything in his life, even if he really cares for something that touches him. For that reason he has never been able to stick with a career choice and never became successful. This lack of closure as to why Biff left the farm leads a person to this conclusion which, consequently, makes Biff more realistic because he does not all of a sudden find a career he wants for the rest of a life. He is unsure and that characteristic makes him realistic.

                The polar opposite of both Biff and Willy is Linda whom portrayed as a loyal, thoughtful and selfless wife. The lack of closure here makes it hard to determine whether or not Linda’s character is realistic. Does Linda know whether or not her husband has cheated on her? There are two ways in which this can be interpreted. If Linda somehow knows that her husband has cheated on her – maybe through the stocking crisis - and yet she is still so loyal to him, is that realistic? If Linda is completely oblivious to her husband cheating on her, is that realistic? Since this story was written in the 1940’s, divorce was not common in those time so perhaps during that time period it was realistic for Linda to have stayed with her husband after knowing the truth. What is not realistic is that she still remained so loyal to him and cared for his dignity after knowing he was not true to her. Linda says “Every day I go down and take away that little rubber pipe. But, when he comes home, I put it back where it was. How can I insult him that way?” (Miller 42). Had Linda known that her husband was being unfaithful, she would not have cared whether or not he was insulted. She herself was insulted the moment Willy broke his vows to her. Due to this evidence Linda is not a realistic character. Had Linda not known about her husband’s affair would have made her extremely naïve, and that there was no evidence in the play to show that she was at least suspicious of her husband’s actions makes her character all the more unrealistic. Any other person in Linda’s situation would have noticed their stocking gone missing, and then would have suspected foul play when their spouse became angry at the sight of them. Perhaps Linda’s character was naïve after all. A woman of her age should know when something shady is going on. These characteristic make Linda difficult to relate to. Even if there was more closure on Linda’s knowledge of her husband’s affair, her character would not be realistic.

                Author Miller’s use of gaps in his play as well as lack of closure led to the distinctive characterization of the family in his play as well as determined whether or not the characters were realistic. Had Miller filled in the gaps, a reader would no longer be able to visualize what the characters did in that time frame and may no longer be able to relate which will, in turn, affect how the reader portrays the character. The character may no longer be realistic due to the inability of the reader to relate. The lack of closure in the story helps the reader to interpret what happened and aides in the characterization. Due to lack of closure, Willy is interpreted as a man who may have suffered a deterioration of the brain due to age or driven mad by his guilt. Biff is construed to be a person who cannot stick to any career, even if it is something he is passionate about. Linda is understood to be a naïve woman which no one can relate with due to her inability to see Willy for who he truly is, or her ability to maintain loyalty to a man she knows in not loyal.


Miller, Author. Death of a Salesman. Pasadena, CA: Salem, 2010. Print.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Essay 1 ideas

post your tentative ideas: essay topic (perspective, approach), possible analytic thesis, support topics.
Please post the latter on your blog, along with your notes on the story (from your critical reading, using Abbott's terms) -- your potential topics for discussion.

possible thesis: The lack of closure and gaps in Arthur Miller's short story, "Death of a Salesman," affects the characterization as well as realism of the characters.

support topics: unanswered questions and gaps in story affect realism of characters
      - example: why does Willy talk to himself? This unanswered question affects the realism of the character because it leaves a gap from when Willy was average to when  he began speaking to himself (or characters that aren't actually there). Anything could have happened to him which makes him more relatable....
      - example: does Linda know if Willy cheated on her? If so how does that relate to her character. Loyal no matter what. Is this realistic? Of the time period perhaps (1949) - divorce was uncommon, not much she could do. Now a days its not very realistic that the wife would still be so loyal to her husband if she knew the truth....
     - gap in story (what Biff did in the country when he wasn't at home). what does this say about his character? watched the foal being born but came back home anyways even though he though it was beautiful. (more examples) leads to characterization of Biff and how he is realistic as well as develpment of character through gaps and some closure. ...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I thought the contrast between the two lives of Callisto and Meatball was very interesting, especially because they were polar opposite and yet they lived in the same building. Meatball's character seemed to be fun (because of the constant partying) and caring (because of his concern for Saul and the girl in the sink). Yet he also seems somewhat responsible because he knows how much he can handle - he did,after all, tone down the party when he realized it was a little out of control. On the other hand, there is Callisto who thinks that his body heat can save a sick and dying bird. His character is also very caring, but he seems to be a little out of touch with reality (thinking he can heal a bird with heat; also he never went out, everything was delivered to him).
The contrast in the narrativity was interesting as well. Somehow the narrator managed to make Meatball's place seem chaotic and messy (with all the noise and people and how the story kind of jumped from person to person) while making Callisto's place sound serene and ideal (with the description of the sounds of birds chirping and time spent describing this isolated 'hothouse' secluded from the rest of the world).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Response 2 - Recitatif

In the short story Recitatif, Toni Morrison does a good job relating the events in the story to the society of the time The time period of the story is between 1950's and 1980's (which was a time of racial segregation in America). The story revolves around racial segregation and the relationship between two girls of different colors. In the story one can tell that there is some feeling of superiority between white people towards black people. One example is when Roberta's mother looks down on Twyla's mother and walks away without saying anything at their first and only encounter - it was assumed to be the color of Twyla's mother's skin that caused the rude response of their meeting. Another example of this idea of racial segregation was when Roberta sort of dismisses Twyla and is very short with her at their next encounter after not seeing one another since St. Bonny's. Later (12 years later) Roberta tells Twyla "Oh, Twyla, you know how it was in those days: black-white. You know how everything was." This statements shows how well the story relates to the society of the time regarding segregation. Roberta,as well as her mother (assumed to be white), thought they were better than Twyla and her mother, or that her (being Roberta) behavior was expected / normal at the time, and therefore treated Twyla and her mother rudely.
The characters seem realistic too. When the girls were children (in the early 50's) racial segregation was still pretty serious but being only 8 years old, color didn't bother the girls - child's innocence. But as they aged they realized the seriousness of the problem and it began to affect them, which is probably true for people growing up in the time of racial segregation.
The element in the story that appear most prominent and prevalent is when the girls witnessed Maggie (the kitchen help) getting beat up by the "gar girls." That event stuck with them the rest of their lives and effected how the girls saw one another as well as how they lived the rest of their lives. Roberta viewed Twyla as cruel and unchanging every time she saw her just because she imagined that Maggie was a black woman and they kicked her. This shows that Roberta may have been slightly racist because she wanted to see the black woman hurt. But her perception of what happened that day changes consistently with her mood. Twyla, on the other hand, thought that Maggie was a white woman and compares her to her own mother - empty, with no one home because she is deaf and her mother might as well be. This event in the girls lives molds well with the historical aspects of the time. Roberta was slightly racist (which is what segregation was all about), but so was Twyla. They both secretly wanted to see the other race hurt. Twyla was more subtle than Roberta because she didn't flat out say she wanted Maggie to be white and get hurt.
    Multimedia composition:

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011


    The narration of this short story is first person, past tense with Twyla as the narrator talking about her life. The voice is omniscient since she is talking from personal experience. There is some dialogue which helps to understand how the characters interact with one another, although had the story just been dialogue it would be viewed differently because the characters wouldn't appear to be as deep due to lack of details.
    Twyla (though not clear) is assumed to be black and never got very far in life. Waitress at one point. She was a hypocrite. Twyla was cruel like the big girls at St. Bonny's, but not in the same way (she herself was mean like the big girls -calling Maggie a dummy and bow-legged and wanting to see her hurt / calling people who wanted adopt kids mean  names / and keeps saying she "would've killed" someone...including her mother). 
    Roberta is put across as snobbish (ignoring Twyla when they reunite for the first time). She (her reputation) comes before her friends. She is assumed to be white since her mother and she are both rude to Twyla and her mother at some point.
    Twyla's mother is portrayed as uncaring - doesn't feed Twyla well - and incapable of properly caring for her child. She puts her own needs before her child's - going out dancing all the time rather than taking care of her daughter.
    Roberta's mother comes across as stuck up, but cares deeply for her child - bringing her good food.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Death of a salesman

    Plot - Willy's son comes home after working out west, Willy and Biff argue about his (being Biff) lack of a career, Willy then finds out Biff has always loved him and then kills himself.
    Historical context - From the context one can infer that the time span was around the early to mid 1900's. Willy talks about how $10,000 a year is a lot of money and only taking home $60 a week would be enough to live off of. Present day, even $10,000 a year would barely be enough to live off of, and $60 a week might get you enough food, but certainly no shelter. After finding about when this play was written (1949), one can tell this was written shortly after both world wars.
    Sequence - When the play starts, Willy has already been in a car crash and Biff has come home from working out west on a ranch. As the play progresses Willy and Biff are constantly arguing and Willy is often found talking to characters that aren't really there. The play jumps around a lot from in-the-moment flashbacks to present day. This type of storytelling is confusing but also helps the reader to understand what happened before "now."
    Narrative - There is no narrator, only the characters and their dialogue.
    Characterization - Linda is portrayed as a sweet and loyal wife who is extremely patient with her husband although is not always kind to her. Her character never falters. Even when she discovers Willy is trying to kill herself she does not do much but try to prevent it because she wants her husband to feel like he still has his dignity and she does not know.
    Charley is a giving man and is always there for Willy even though Willy does not seem very appreciative (calling Charley disgusting and not accepting his job offer). Charley is a smart man and understands that Willy will not take his job offer due to pride.
    Biff at first is a proud, confident boy who seems to be capable of anything. Later we find out that he sees himself as worthless and someone who won't ever amount to much. Throughout the whole play Biff is convinced he is something he is not because he wants to make his dad proud. In the end Biff admits to everyone who he is.
    Willy is hard headed and cannot accept failure (possibly because he himself is a failure and doesn't want to same for Biff). Willy never accepts the fact that he was never successful and is fully convinced that Biff is something more than he truly is.