United States Naval Academy




HE112, Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature

Spring, AY 2014




Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Kelly, The Seagull Reader: Poems

Morrison, Song of Solomon

Shelley, Frankenstein

Voltaire, Candide


Anson et al, The Longman Handbook



P  O  S  T  I  N  G  S

1  Course Policies and Goals (click)

2.   Assignment for Paper #1 (click)

3.   To be verb exercise (click)

4.   Sample Successful Student Papers on Assignment #1 (click)

5.   Wordy Passages from Paper #1 (click)

6.   Sample successful in-class papers on Candide (click)

7.   Assignment for Paper #2 (click)

8.   Sample Successful Student papers on Assignment #2 (click)

9.   Assignment for Paper #3 (click)

10.  Sample Successful Student papers on Assignment #3 (click)

11.  Assignment for Paper #4 (click)

12.  Research Paper Assignment (click)

13.  Sample research topic for in-class discussion (click)

14.  Sample Successful Student papers on Assignment #4 (click)



Schedule of Readings, Assignments and Activities

                                      Date                                 Readings                                                                     Topics, Assignments and Activities

WK  1

Jan  7

Introduction to the Course

Discuss "The Road Not Taken" (click)


Jan  8

Seagull Poems"The Man He Killed" (click)

"Really" reading poetry,  Assignment #1 (click)


Jan 10

Seagull Poems: "Those Winter Sundays," 147; My Papa's Waltz,269; Longman, 498-504

Organized descriptions;  10 grammar errors to avoid

WK  2

Jan 13

Seagull Poems:  "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," 256; "Traveling through the Dark" (293)

Reading poems as "organized descriptions"


Jan 15

Seagull Poems:  "Dulce Et Decorum Est," 234; “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner,” 176; “War Is Kind,” (click); “Naming of Parts,” (click); “An Irish Airman,” 366

More reading of poems as "organized descriptions"


Jan 17

Bring Drafts of Paper #1

In class work on papers

WK  3

Jan 20

No Class—King Day


Paper 1 Due (click)

Jan 22

Seagull Poems:  “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” 333; “In a Station of the Metro,” 251; “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter,” 250.

In-class editing exercise--verbs (click); agreement problems


Jan 24

Seagull Poems:  “Picnic, Lightning,” 74; “On Turning Ten,” 76; “Sonnet,” 77

Return papers; pronoun reference and conciseness

 WK  4

Jan 27

Candide (first half)

Ironic mode; "episodic narration"

Jan 29

Candide (complete)

Reading Quiz (click); Point of view; irony; "naif"

 Re-writes due

Jan 31


Close look at episodes

 WK  5

Feb  3


"Tend your garden"? In-class writing on Candide (click)


Seagull Poems: "Buffalo Bill's," 78; "Stopping by Woods," 129; "Introduction to Poetry," 74; "Nothing Gold Can Stay," (click)

Candide themes in poetry--satire of hero worship and lost Eden. Understanding poetry vs. "deep, hidden meaning"


Feb  7

Seagull Poems: "The Unknown Citizen" (click); "Harlem," 174; "Theme for English B," 174; "London," 39; "anyone," 79

Satire and social criticism

 WK  6

Feb 10

Seagull Poems: " Ozymandias," 280; "To an Athlete," 166

Candide themes--human vanity and consolation

Feb 12

Seagull Poems: “Do Not Go Gentle,” 313

The elegiac

Feb 14


Discuss drafts of Paper #2

 WK  7

Feb 17

No Class—Washington’s Birthday

Paper 2 Due  (click)

Feb 19

Longman, 77-80; 680-94; 498-504

Review of Grammar Problems


Feb 21

Frankenstein (opening Walton letters & first 5 chapters)

Reading Quiz (click); unreliable narration

 WK  8

Feb 24

Frankenstein (complete)

Family Problems


Feb 26


Major Themes

Re-writes due

Feb 28

Seagull Poems: "Miniver Cheevy (click); "Richard Cory," 265 (Paul Simon version click)

Discuss Paper #3; Poems about characters

 WK  9

Mar   3

Seagull Poems: "Dover Beach," 14; and "Dover Bitch" (click); “Sex without Love,” 231; “The One Girl at the Boys’ party,” 232

High mindedness or biological need?  Parody

Paper 3, written in class

(click )

Mar   5

Seagull Poems: "To His Coy Mistress,” 220; “I Go Back to May 1937,” 233; "My Last Duchess," 48

Carpe diem plus; imagery patterns, structure and persuasion; persuasion against itself; dramatic monologue; in-class essay and edited outside of class.


Mar   7


Discuss in-class papers


Mar 10  -

-   Mar 14

                   SPRING BREAK

 WK 10

Mar 17

Seagull Poems:  "Mending Wall," 124; “Ulysses,” 305


Mar 19

Seagull Poems:  "The Emperor of Ice-Cream," 302

 A version of dramatic monologue

 Re-writes due

Mar 21

Song of Solomon, first 9 pages

Discuss Paper #4 (click)

 WK 11

Mar 24

Song of Solomon, Chapters 1-3

Quiz;  Exposition of Themes

Mar 26

Song of Solomon, Part 1; Seagull Poems: "We Real Cool," 45

Patterns of Imagery

Mar 28

Song of Solomon, Part 1, cont.

“Ballad of Birmingham” (click)

Pilate and Pilot; Impersonations of characters

 WK 12

Mar 31

Song of Solomon, complete; Seagull Poems: “Barbie doll,” 236

Quiz; Problem Ending; Student Examples of Imagery


Apr   2


In-class discussion of paper drafts

Apr   4

Seagull Poems: “The Snow Man,” 297; “Desert Places,” (click); “The Red Wheelbarrow,” 338; “Anecdotes of the Jar,” 297

The Abstract as Concrete

 WK13 Paper 4 Due (click)

Apr   7


Discuss research papers

Apr   9

The Sun Also Rises, Chaps 1-7

Exposition of themes and techniques

Apr  11

The Sun Also Rises, Chaps 8-12

Jake’s maiming as metaphor; gender bending

 WK 14

Apr  14

The Sun Also Rises, Chaps 13-18

Bull fighting as metaphor

Apr  16

The Sun Also Rises, finish

Cohn; “meaning” of the novel?


Apr  18

The Sun Also Rises, review

Examples of Hemingway style

 WK 15

Apr  21

In-class work on Research papers


Apr  23

In class work on Research Papers



Apr  25

In class work on Research Papers

Handling Quotations

 WK 16

Research Paper Due

Apr  28

Review and Closing Remarks

Complete Instructor Evaluations




















Goals, Policies, and Requirements

1.  Goals. To improve your ability to write coherent, organized, and thoughtful essays on complex topics related to literature and to develop the skills to read novels and poetry with a sense of enjoyment and critical awareness.

2.  Instruction.  Mainly discussions; occasional, informal lecture; plenty of announced and unannounced in-class writing and

3.  Assignments and Grading.  

Quizzes, in-class paragraphs and exercises, contribution to learning in the class

about 30%

4 out-of-class essays (including drafting process)

about 50%

1 short research paper (4-5 pages) 

about 20%

"Standards" for paper grading are described in HE111&112 Guidelines.

4.  Due Dates.  Expect me to be capricious (totally arbitrary and unpredictable) in dealing with late papers.  Papers are due during the class period, not anytime during the day.

5.  Re-write Policy.  You can re-write two of the first four out-of-class papers for an entirely new grade.  I am happy to look at early drafts, opening paragraphs, sections, etc. of papers, or to help you brainstorm if you're having trouble getting started.  The re-write is due no later than a week after you get the graded and annotated paper back.  See left-hand column of syllabus for re-write due dates.

6. Quiz/In-Class Exercise Policy.  No make-up of missed quizzes--grade will be prorated.  You will need to make up missed in-class essays and other exercises.

7. E. I. Policy.  I give E.I. willingly during my office hours and by appointment.  With e-mail you will not have any trouble reaching me to schedule a session.

8.  Plagiarism.  I encourage collaboration--talk with classmates about readings and assignments, read others' work, help each other learn!  Just do not present others' words and thoughts as if they were your own.  See USNAINST 1610.38 and the discussion of plagiarism in HE111&112 Guidelines.

9.  Grading Essays.  I use letter grades.  If you do not want me to put grades on your essays, let me know.

10. Office Hours.  I am in my office at least four days per week (MTWF) for most of the day, but I have reserved the time 1st, 3rd, and second half of 5th on MWF and 9-11 and 2-3:30 on Tuesday for official office hours. My office is Sampson 205.

11.  Final Grades.  Unless otherwise noted, you must do all the assigned work in order to pass the course.




















Assignment for Paper #1

Due:  22 January
Audience: me and your classmates
Length:  about 3 pages, double-spaced
Format: title on first page, 1" margins (no title page, please)


Write a paper analyzing one of these four poems: “Dulce at Decorum Est" (234), "Traveling through the Dark" (293), “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” (556), or "Those Winter Sundays" (147).  Take our discussion of “The Man He Killed" (click), as something resembling the kind of brainstorming you need to do in order to produce a rich paper.  The first of the three sample papers to which you can link grows out of that discussion we had on Hardy's poem.  Click here to get to the three sample papers.

Essentially what you need to do in this paper is to explain how the different elements of the poem achieve a purposeful expression of feeling and/or idea.  This combination of a how, the method, and a what, the theme, is your paper's controlling idea.  Two things I’m particularly going to watch for: your ability to avoid summary or a retelling/restating of the poem (your audience has read it!); and your skill at organizing the paper in a way that does not just follow the poem from beginning to end.  For a couple sample opening paragraphs containing controlling ideas with a what and how part, click here.





Three sample essays for Assignment #1.  In the first, based on our discussion of a "The Man He Killed,"  I've highlighted the "to be" verbs in blinking green as an example of restrained use of that verb and a favorable preference for active verbs instead.  I have highlighted also the controlling idea in each so that you can see both the "what" and "how" parts


 Who Killed the Man?

        Perhaps as dangerous as bullets for a soldier is imagination, imagination that can put him in his enemy's place, feel the humanity beneath the opposition's helmet.  Something of that danger occurs in Hardy's "The Man He Killed."  This short poem uncovers the arbitrariness of war by staging a soldier's finally unsuccessful attempt to come to terms with having to shoot his enemy.  At the center of the poem lies a tension between uncertainty and certainty, between sympathy and coldness.  Essential to the development of this tension are the poem's apparently rigid structure, the credible first person narration, the oppositions between rigid structure and humanity within the speaker's diction, and the productive tension between the title and the poem itself.

        The poem's structure expresses oppositions relevant to the human experience of war.  On the one hand the poem strongly embodies regularity, even regimentation.  Each of its five stanzas has an abab rhyme scheme and a pattern of two lines of three feet followed by one of four and another of three.  In addition, sixteen of the poem's twenty lines are end-stopped and thus emphasize the rhyme and its regularity.  These features of the poem's structure highlight values prized in the military:  order, regularity, discipline, dependability.  The only hint of variance from this order, however, occurs in the out-of-place third line of four feet.  In fact the stanza itself, with its strong features of regularity but also its out-of-place third line suggest the kinds of tension between order and disruption of that order that emerge more strongly from other features of the poem.



        The first person narration itself represents a modest assault on the military mind set:  the cliché "there is no 'I' in team" recurs often in organizations that value selflessness.  The "I" in this poem opens up the possibility of independence of thought that can get in the way of "organizational unity," as "they" say.  The first person point of view, moreover, takes us into a single human's mind as the vantage point on war.  Individuality and intimacy, then, emerge from this first person point of view.  This point of view also dramatizes the soldier's inadequate attempt to explain in conventional terms his killing of another human.

        At this stage the tension within the poem's diction and style becomes important.  The third and fourth stanzas particularly capture a valiant attempt on the part of the speaker to explain away his otherwise successful act of killing his enemy.  Littering his attempt are words implying logic and reason:  "because--Because," "Just so," "of course," "That's clear enough," "reason."  The emptiness of these conventional, cold, "regular" explanations becomes clear in two ways.  First, they appear in lines that unfold hesitantly.  As compared to the first two stanzas of rather glib description and uninterrupted lines, the next two stanzas are marked by frequent halts in the regular unfolding of the lines.  Lines eleven through sixteen, for example, contain one colon, one comma, two semi-colons, and four dashes.  All these halt the smooth, regular


unfolding of the meter and create a sense that the speaker does not entirely believe what he tells himself, despite all the words that suggest the reasonableness of what he says.  The emptiness of these rationalizing words emerges also in contrast to the familiarizing details he uses to describe his foe:  in the first stanza he refers to himself and his foe as "we," a pronoun that certainly undermines the notion of enemy; at the end of the first stanza, "nipperkin" ("kin" within this word emphasizing kinship, connection) and later the description of the foe as having enlisted because he "Was out of work--had sold his traps" both emphasize the commonality of the two soldiers rather than their difference.  This commonality undermines the simplicity of the "either or structure" of war--friend vs. foe--especially because the images of sharing a drink in a bar or of offering a person "half-a-crown" imply friendship, sympathy, and sharing.

        Somehow, though, it doesn't seem as though the speaker completely gives in to this humanizing side. Certainly he concludes that war is strange, that it causes you to shoot someone with whom you would act as a friend in any other circumstance.  However the easiness and glibness of his conclusion amounts almost to a resumption of the cold orderliness that had held in check the humanity expressed through the hesitation in the third and fourth stanzas.  Moreover, that he sees this arbitrariness of who is friend and who is foe as "quaint and curious" rather than horrifying and inhumane, for instance, indicates a return to a more inhumane, superficial vision of his complicity.



      In fact, the difference between the point of view of the title and that of the poem emphasizes this point.  As third person point of view, the title seems to function as Hardy's voice commenting on the speaker's situation of ruminating about his similarity to "the man he killed."  However, because of the speaker's pronounced attempt within the poem to explain away the action of killing a fellow human in terms of cold logic, the "man" in the title could represent the speaker himself, specifically the speaker's humanity, which he had to kill in order to fight in the war and which he has to suppress in order to be able to live with his actions.



















Loss and Longing in Tennyson's "Break, Break, Break"


        The word "break" works in various, almost contradictory ways in our language.  At work you "take a break"; at a party you say something to "break the ice," or if you are a bearer of bad tidings you "break the news" to someone"; and when you are putting the dishes away you "break a cup."  Interruption, expression, destruction--in "Break, Break, Break" (click) by Tennyson that word conveys all these meanings.  And that word gets plenty of support on the one hand from positive images of communication, connection, and safety and on the other hand from negative descriptions suggesting emptiness, separation, and loss.  All of these details, along with an interesting variation in the repetition of the first and last stanzas, build a powerful expression of the narrator's feeling of loss, apparently the loss of a loved one.

       Strangely enough this poem about loss and separation is littered with descriptions of successful expression, connection, and safety.  The "fisherman's boy . . . shouts with his sister at play" (emphasis added); "the sailor lad . . . sings in his boat on the bay"; and "the stately ships go on/To their haven under the hill."  All three of these descriptions involve something--people and ships--doing what they are meant to do.  The boy plays; the sailor lad is appropriately in his boat; and the ships sail to their destinations--no "breaks," no interruptions or destruction.  Two of the images depict successful expression--shouting with and singing.  And all three activities include a sense of safety:  the boy and his sister exist in a realm of play (as opposed to reality); the sailor lad is on the bay, obviously a region of protection; and the ships sail to "their haven under the hill."

        All of these images would produce an indisputably happy poem if it were not for the fact that the narrator describes these things longingly, as if he were entirely separated from them.  Thus these images emphasize what he lacks--connectedness with someone, expression, and a sense of being in a haven, being home rather than alienated from the world around him.  The narrator cannot, at least at the beginning of the poem, express himself:  "I would that my tongue could utter/The thoughts that arise in me." Moreover, he cannot hear "the sound of a voice that is still."  Like expression, connectedness is also foreign to him:  he will no longer feel "the touch of a vanished hand"; and the past, in which apparently he shared his life with his friend, "[w]ill never come back to [him]."  Evoking the sense of youth that we saw in the descriptions of the sailor lad and sailor's boy and sister, the word tender in "tender grace of a day . . ." adds to all the details of a now unfulfilling existence the sense also of a lost youth.  Of course the almost non-verbal "O," that sigh of despair occurring five times throughout the poem, adds to this grief; but it does so not just as an audible expression but as a visual one as well:  resembling a zero it emphasizes loss, emptiness.  In yet another way it depicts what emerges from the word "vanished."

        The image of the sea connects all of these other images in the poem.  Interestingly, the speaker does not address his lost loved one.  He speaks to the sea.  In the first stanza, he parallels his situation with the action of the sea.  The image of the sea's waves breaking on the "cold gray stones" of the shore amounts almost to a form of expression that the narrator wants to achieve:  "And I would that my tongue could utter/The thoughts that arise in me."  Just as the sea swells with water and releases its rising waves upon the shore, so does the narrator want to release his thoughts.  In a sense, the narrator achieves this aim through the poem:  he does express his thoughts.  However, by the time he divulges them in the form of the imagery we have seen, that successful expression has brought him not the relief that perhaps he sought, but rather an intense feeling of separation even from the sea with which he has identified himself in the first stanza.

        Since the thoughts he has expressed concern someone from whom he is forever separated, expression itself is no longer enough.  He wants reunion but will never get it.  Thus, at the very end of the poem, the breaking of the sea's waves, even in so inhospitable a place as "the foot of. . . crags," amounts to completion, return home, a meeting of land and sea; "But the tender grace of a day that is dead/Will never come back to [the speaker].


Death as Security in "To an Athlete Dying Young" (Seagull 166)

        In many ways Housman's "To an Athlete Dying Young" (88) is a typical attempt at consolation. It depends on euphemisms to describe death and recalls the dead person's most notable accomplishment.  As expected, also, the poem turns the athlete's death--what we in our culture tend to think of as a failure--into an even greater victory than the one he achieved in life.  Whether these dependable methods work or not in this fictionalized situation is impossible to know, of course, but they at least give the survivors a sense of meaning in an event which seems to lack sense. But Housman's poem goes beyond these common "softening" techniques:  several of its images turn the readers themselves, the mourners, into the more deserving objects of pity.

        To the ear the most notable qualities of the poem are its regular, almost monotonous lines and the rhymed couplets.  Though the response to these traits may vary from reader to reader, generally, they give the poem an unexpectedly light tone, a surprising wittiness.  At the same time, however, this regularity of rhythm and especially the rhymed couplets give the poem a sense of the unchangeable, definite nature of the event. The rhyme of "cheers" and "ears" in the forth stanza, for example, is both witty in that it surprises us and definite in that it so thoroughly closes off the sentence and thus so plainly suggests the finality of death.

        This duplicity in the sound of the poem echoes through its diction and imagery.  These poetic elements work in two ways:  they soften the sense that the athlete's death is a failure and they turn upon the living as the ones who are likely to suffer.  As I said earlier, euphemisms for death--"the road all runners come," "threshold," "shady night," and "shade"--drop a blanket of disguising snow over the fact.  We do not hear of "black night," "corrupting worms," or even "nothingness."  With the exception of the surprising "earth has stopped the ears," "the strengthless dead" is the closest the poem comes to the fact of death.  Developing this euphemistic tone even further is the extended comparison between the dead athlete being carried to his grave and his being chaired home after winning the race.  In a sense this comparison itself is a euphemism.  Even in death, the young man remains victorious:  again the imagery depicts him in the admirers' eyes as standing in his doorway ("sill," "lintel"), holding up his "still-defended challenge cup." Moreover this comparison makes death active.  It presents him as controlling his destiny:  he has smartly "slipped betimes away" from the vagaries of life and he is told to "set . . . The fleet foot on the sill of shade" and to "hold" up his cup.  By addressing him directly in this way, the speaker implies the boy's conscious presence, a fact which takes the euphemistic bent of the poem to its extreme.  In this extreme development of its consolation, one that makes the dead youth almost a presence, the poem at the same time offers almost a macabre parody of the corpse, a parody that emphasizes all the more clearly the difference between the active living athlete and the mere dead body.  Again, then, the duplicity of the poem's method emerges.  The poem soothes but also disturbs.  In this sense, the apparently surprising harshness of "earth has stopped the ears" is not so surprising after all.

        In capturing the athlete's death as a kind of victory, the speaker finally relieves the speakers of the burden of mourning the youth's departure.  And this effect arises not so much from the euphemisms I have pointed out (these lead, really, to a vision of their own hollowness) as from the profound and convincing view that life, not death, is the realm of unavoidable failure.  The life from which the lad escapes has "fields where glory does not stay"; it is, moreover, the place where the "laurel grows" quickly, but "whithers quicker than the rose," where "eyes" have to see records broken and ears record the difference between cheers and indifferent silence.  By dying the lad remains separated from the ordinariness suggested by the term "rout"; by dying he enters a realm in which he will remain a victor.  Thus in entering him into the grave--euphemistically just another door to a welcoming home--the mourners send him away from the possibility of ever failing.  They are the ones left to perform that indignity.  By turning loss into gain and life into a region of inevitable failure and disregard, the speaker of the poem effectively requires us to envy the lad, who has returned to a realm of security, and to lament our undistinguished, unsure lives.























Assignment #2

Audience:  your classmates and instructor

Length: 3-4 pages

Due:  14 February

Prompt.  Write an essay on one of the options below. 

Option 1.  An important part of reading poetry that we haven't much discussed is personal response.  We all respond with different levels of intensity to different poems, mainly because of the way(s) in which the poems activate certain elements of our experience and the ways our personal experiences activate elements of the poem's suggestive surface.  Build a paper in which you explain the emotional and experiential basis for a particularly strong personal reaction you have to one of the poems we've read this term. For a sample paper on this option click.

Option 2.  Here’s another version of the approach described in “A”: explain why someone you know ought to read carefully one of the poems we’ve read.

Option 3.  Write an essay on one of the pairs of poems below.  Your purpose is to explain why you think one of the poems offers a more compelling, more interesting, and/or more important approach to the theme they share.  Do not write on a pair that includes a poem on which you have already written an essay.  For a sample successful student paper from the past click here.   Click here for a sample opening paragraph of the sort that might open such an essay on another pair of poems.

Click here for some past successful student papers on this assignment.


--"Miniver Cheevy" (click) and "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" (256)

--"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (129) and "Traveling through the Dark" (293)

--"Western Wind" (3) and "The River-Merchant's Wife" (250)

--"To His Coy Mistress" (220) and "To Virgins to Make Much of Time" (159)

--"Naming of Parts" (click) and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (129)

--"Tell all the Truth but tell it slant" (click) and "The Cool Web" (click)

--"After Great Pain" (341) and Neutral Colors (click)

--"The Sick Rose" (38) and "Spring and Fall" (337)

--"Nothing Gold Can Stay" (302) and "Spring and Fall" (337)

--"The world is too much with us" (357)  and "Dover Beach " (14)

--"The Road Not Taken" (127)  and "Ulysses" (305)


1.  Overall organization that matches the paper's purpose and controlling idea (not just a retelling of the



2.  Thoughtful ideas.


3.  Nicely organized paragraphs, whose main idea emerges clearly.


4.  An interesting opening, one that gets your readers interested from the start. 


5.  A lively title.


6.  Control of basic grammatical matters (click).


7.  Signs of editing for the following stylistic issues that we've discussed in class:

               (a)  wordiness and redundancy
               (b)  excessive use of the "to be" verb (click)
               (c)  lack of sentence variety and subordination (OWL link--link; our in-class exercise click)







Here's a sample opening paragraph for paper #2.  I've used red font to identify the controlling idea, which lays out the criteria by which I will show how cummings' poem does not measure up to Shelley's.

     Every time I read cummings' "[Buffalo Bill's]" I find myself taking it as a satire of human vanity.  I guess I want it to be another version of Shelley's"Ozymandias."  And yet nothing's that easy, particularly poems.  Though it entertains us with its wit and humor, ultimately cummings' poem falls short of the vision of human effort and failure in Shelley's poem.  It lacks the fully explored display and perhaps even dramatization of human endeavors as both enduring and brittle in "Ozymandias," and it also lacks both the seriousness and timeless qualities of that earlier poem.  If I were stuck on the proverbial deserted island with just one of these poems, then, it would be Shelley's--and not just because of the description of "lone and level sands."
























This sample paper picks up on the option in Assignment #3 to write a personal response of some kind to a poem from the anthology.  Notice that even this sort of paper grows out of a controlling idea that, though fairly casual, includes an implied "because"--that "because" being "Coming from a family . . ."  I highlight the controlling idea with red print.

Out of Joint

        Miniver Cheevy, in Robinson's poem (288), makes fun of a character who fuels his failure with excuses.  Coming from a family that thrives on laughing at each other and other people for their pretensions, for their false sense of self-importance, I can really "get into this poem."

        "You're wrong, Richard."  "It's your own fault, not your friends'."  "Look it up and see."  "Is that right; are you sure?"  Perhaps these questions circulate through any family, but having married into a family whose members skirt confrontations, avoid debate, and thrive on what remains unsaid, I began to get a different perspective on my bringing-up.  The person who made a claim that he couldn't prove or the person who made a mistake and tried to act as though he hadn't--whether father, mother, or son--became the raw meat for a pack of hungry hounds.  The appetite for ridiculing laughter was enormous.  And beyond that, even the hint that one imagined himself as something "superior" to what he in fact was brought the hounds running.  For us this imagining took "manly" shape—pretending to be Michael Jordan or Larry Bird, or imagining ourselves to be combat soldiers or great safari hunters.  Though a normal part of a person's forming identity (at least I think it is), this process had to occur in a carefully guarded form.  Any sign of an attempt to imagine oneself as the great hunter or the all-star basketball player would invite all sorts of bubble-bursting commentary—"How's the great marksman doing?"; "How many elephants you killed this afternoon?"; or "Hey, great rebound; I could almost see some air between your toes and the pavement!"

       We aimed the ridicule outside the family as well, always honing in on vanity or the slightly emerging sense of self-importance.  The President of the obscure Eastern Brewer Little League Association was one of our favorite laughing stocks for his sense of self-importance, his claiming that he "rendered this decision" about the distance to the left field foul pole or "did some soul-searching" about what time to open the snack bar before the Tuesday afternoon games.  We laughed at dinner about his name-dropping, as when he alluded to the time that he and Tony Conigliaro of the Boston Red Socks discussed hitting, for instance.  He never even came within a football field of Tony C!  Even now, when I go home to visit my parents, I reenter this world largely sustained by ridicule.  There's a 5'3" guy across the street who wears a red and black hunting shirt and who's wife bosses him around; my dad calls this guy "Paul Bunyan."  The man who walks a step or two ahead of his wife during their morning "constitutional" has been christened "lead man" as a way to call attention to what seems to be his "taking charge" in a situation where it really doesn't matter.  I could multiply these examples, but I think you get the drift.  My family was irreverent and liked to "lock onto" human vanity.

        As I think about it more and more, I realize that two perhaps competing things were going on in our family psyche:  one, we pretended that we were the few among humanity who operated according to the unadorned truth and did not pretend to be anymore than we were; and two, we could only recognize so uncannily the vanity in others if we in fact harbored, even cherished, it somewhere in ourselves.  I for one can confess that I lived out my own fantasies, imagining myself having the moves of Julius Erving, the swing of Tom Watson, and the curve ball of Nolan Ryan. In imagining those things I actually improved as an athlete at least and, often as not, avoided the ridicule of my family.  Nevertheless, I have come to realize how thoroughly I was, and perhaps still am, invested in an imaginary world in which I display more prowess than I actually have.  Because of this I can imagine now what I never recognized:  all the dreams that my parents and brothers must have secretly harbored.   In fact when I think of my father (a lowly plumber who revered Arnold Palmer, Ted Williams, and Rocky Marciano) and his genius for ridiculing others, especially by naming them in a way that absolutely captured their vanity, I think sadly on all the fervid but unfulfilled dreams that must have spawned that genius.

        This is where "Miniver Cheevy comes into the picture.  The poem captures the immense difference between what Miniver identifies himself with and what he is: an unhealthy drunk (growing lean, he coughs and keeps "on drinking") who has clearly achieved no success. He rails against the times, blaming their degeneracy for his failure.  He sees himself as an ill-fit with the worsening times, imaginatively throwing himself back into the days of Thebes, Troy, Camelot, and Renaissance Italy.  In doing so, however, he doesn't seem to assume that he might be just a pee-on in these ancient and famous places where heroes, knights, and ruthless monarchs ruled.  He somehow imagines himself just those heroes, knights, and tyrants.  It's like the line from the movie Bull Durham, in which Crash Davis asks the "love interest" why it is that everyone who claims to have lived a former life always chooses the famous people--Caesar, King Arthur, Robert L. Lee--rather than a nobody.  Robinson cuts through Miniver's vanity like a knife through butter—the same treatment we would get from each other in my household.  Robinson becomes almost blatantly sarcastic in suggesting that Miniver preferred the "grace" of medieval armor to khaki pants and that he "loved the Medici,/Albeit he had never seen one."  My family, if it had to, would formulate Miniver's problem in this way:  "he can't accept the truth about himself, blames everyone else, and thus lives in an unrealistic world that has no basis in reality; he's a fool!"

        As a "card-carrying" member of my family, I wasn't surprised that I first reacted to the poem in just that way.  But as one who has survived and through marriage gotten a different perspective, I can feel some kinship with Miniver.  I'm not a drunk; and I grow almost physically ill when I hear people talking, without any sense of historical facts, about the good days when knights were gentlemen (yea, right!).  However, I do feel as though, but for dumb luck or something that I just have not been able to identify, the balance in any of us between our imaginary worlds of accomplishment and our actual worlds of mere survival and competence could be thrown out of balance and become like Miniver's.  We could wake up tomorrow and assume that we're OK and the world's all wrong.  Or is that what we do anyway?



A Pair of Opening Paragraphs, with Strong Controlling Ideas

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" 

     Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" captures the conflict between the "shoulds" and the "wants" in life, and suggests the strong, perhaps even self-destructive allure of those "wants."  This conflict between desire and obligation emerges through the combination of the poem's images and setting, which unfold along the lines of an opposition between direction and obligation on the one hand and aimlessness on the other.  The personification of the horse, along with the poem's hypnotic rhythm and carefully managed rhyme scheme, moreover, build upon the opposition created by setting and imagery.


"My Papa's Waltz"

Roethke's lively poem amounts to the speaker's complex commemoration of his raucous and playful attachment--both emotionally and literally!--to his father.  The poem's meaning--its celebration of the refreshing risk and excitement involved in the relationship between father and son--depends on several features:  (1) the incongruity between images of order and and those of disorder; (2) the overlapping details that suggest the father's laborious life; and (3) the musical, upbeat sound of the poem.  In the end, the poem becomes almost more a treatment of the boy's sympathy for his father's hard life and the joy of his brief dance, than a snapshot of a boy's exhilarating experience.






To be or not to be--An Exercise on Identifying Weak Verbs

Steps to take with any paper, late in the drafting process:

1.  Circle all occurrences of to be verbs, except those in quotes.

to be


's, 're (in contractions)

2.  Count all the to be verbs you have circled.

3.  Count your sentences, excluding quotations.

4.  Divide the number of to be verbs by the number of sentences.

40% and below suggests that you have probably taken the time actually to think about and choose the verbs in your sentences.  You have avoided the following structures:

                          the passive voice
                          the "it is . . . . that" 
                          the "There is" 
                          noun formations--"he is supportive of me" (as opposed 
                          to "he supports me")

 Click here for some examples of how to turn to be sentences into active ones.  Read about the passive voice and active verbs in your Handbook, as well.



Revising for Active Voice Verbs

a) Off the coast of Lisbon, variances of kindness are shown when a storm strikes the protagonist's boat and an earthquake strikes the mainland.
Off the coast of Lisbon, two characters display the rare but nevertheless possible--even in Candide--trait of kindness.

b) It is Candide's simplicity which entices the reader to care even a bit as to what happens to him.
Candide's simplicity, more than anything else, entices the reader to care at least a bit for him.

c) Clearly human excrement is offensive to Gulliver.
Clearly human excrement offends Gulliver.

d) Excrement for Swift is representative of part of his dislike for mankind.
Excrement signals Swift's dislike for mankind.

e) Despite the detrimental effects produced by each violation, something is gained from the horrific act which ensues . . .
Though clearly detrimental, each violation actually produces an improved balance in the world of the poem.

d) This kind of exploitation is the very essence of the Englightenment.
This kind of exploitation typifies the Englightenment



























Sentence Variety Exercise

Three steps:

1.  Identify all "regular sentences," those unfolding in the order subject-verb-(object).  Do this by drawing an inch-long line beneath the beginnings of the sentences.

Here are some "regular sentences":

       s           v
--Dickens writes in an ornate style.

       s                                             v                o
--Writing in an ornate style can confuse readers.

       s                                                                                                       v
--Dickens, writing in what we think of as a conservative age, described some 
pretty strange relationships between men and women.

Notice that it doesn't matter how long the sentence is, what form the subject takes (the gerund, for instance, in the second one is a bit unusual), or how many words occur between the subject and verb (the long phrase modifying "Dickens" in the third example). 

2.  Identify all "irregular sentences," those delaying the subject-verb-(object) pattern.  Mark them by putting a squiggly line about an inch long beneath the beginning of each sentence.

Here are some sample "irregular sentences":
                                                                                             s             v 
--Writing in what we think of as a conservative age, Dickens described some . . .

--In order to get readers to slow down and think about words and their meaning, 
   s                   v                     o
poets often make their language more difficult than simple prose.

                                                                 s                        v
--Without any fear at all of censors, Thomas openly displays the unconscious
fantasies of his characters.

Treat all questions as "irregular sentences"
--Do you think Dickens consciously imitates Shakespeare? 

3.  Total the two kinds of sentences and figure the ratio.  You're looking for a balance in your prose, something in the area between 60:40 to 40:60.






















                                                                                          Topics for Research Paper


Directions: this paper of about 4-6 pages will involve some thorough research on one of the following subjects.  Your research should help you to construct a controlling idea suitable for a paper of this length and for an audience consisting of your classmates and me.  Remember to achieve the usual results: an engaging, purposeful, controlling idea; a clear organizational scheme; and a graceful style unimpeded by grammatical blunders.  This is not a book report.  Still, impress your audience with what you have found out about the subject; teach us something!  Be thorough in your library and WEB work.  Also, remember to follow the MLA guidelines in the Handbook for documentation.  Specifically, I want you to use parenthetical documentation with a “Works Cited” list at the end of the paper.  Avoid footnotes or endnotes.  See Chapter 30 of The Longman Handbook


Minimum Requirements: 1)  At least 10 sources consulted and cited on the “Works Cited” page;*
                                      2) At least 10 parenthetical citations within the essay.


*No more than half the sources ought to be Internet Sites; and when you use such sites be sure you do the appropriate checks to see if has any reliability.  For such checks, see pp. 112 & 135-36 of The Longman Handbook. 


Also consult this link from Nimitz Library:  (click).  Here you can find a list of subject and other tools to get started in your research.


Due: 28 April


Poetry Related


1  "The Red Wheelbarrow" is so simple a poem that students often don't take it seriously.  What do the "experts" think about it, those professional scholars of Williams' poetry?  When did it appear?  Did it receive any particular attention in reviews?  Is there a way that added information about it, helpful interpretations, might make it relevant for your classmates?


2.  Are Winfred Owen’s details in “Dulce et Decorum Est” accurate?  Is this what happened to a soldier who had been “gassed” in WW1?  What kind of gas is it? What kind of gas attack do the soldiers come under? You can, if you prefer, take this topic in the direction of the author: find out about Owen’s life and his attitude toward war, about when the poem was written, and about the attitude(s) toward, and propaganda about, the war on the home front.   Essentially what you’re going to do is become an expert on what this poem means and how the details of WWI enrich our understanding of Owen’s poem.


3.  When read carefully, line 12 of "Dulce Decorum Est" offers an image that presents a puzzle.  That image is of "someone . . . flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . . "   The word "lime" here presents some problems.  How does a man flounder in lime? Do some thorough research on lime and how it might have been used in Owen's time and country and even how it had been used over the years in the literature that he might have read.  Once you decide on the possible meanings of "lime," you have to explain which of those meanings makes the most sense, given the context and the wording of the entire image.  This is a real problem that many readers that I've talked with can't easily answer: this is not phony research project, in other words.


4.  Kind  in "War Is Kind" (click). This topic requires an etymological approach.  You will discuss a word’s denotations, connotations, how it has been used in literature and other contexts, and any other information about the word that is interesting and helps us to understand how it works in this particular literary context. (Click for further explanation and a sample of the kind of paper that you can produce through this approach).


5.  Do some work on Gerard Manly Hopkin's theory of meter and his particular interest in the etymological, root meaning of words.  Use that information to help us understand more fully the ways in which "Spring and Fall" unfolds (i.e., expresses its meaning in compact, paradoxical, rich ways).


6.  Take a look at the reputation and cultural meaning of Buffalo Bill and explain for us the ways in which Cummings might be "banking on" that cultural awareness to express a wider meaning in his poem, "Buffalo Bill's."


7.  I've heard students claim that "Death of the Ball-Turret Gunner" is really about the horrors of abortion, the images of the ball-turret gunner's death serving primarily as a symbolic representation of the death of a fetus.  After getting background information about the author, about the primary concerns of the country during the period in which the poem was written and published, about what the author might have said about the poem, and about abortion history, construct an informed response to these students' claims.


8.  Two things to look into concerning "Ozymandias."  First, Ozymandias himself.  Is this real?  Was Shelley working from known historical discoveries and building upon public awareness.  In other words, was this a poem pitched to fit a certain current interest?  In what form did the poem appear? Second, the poem's structure and method—is it a sonnet and if so how does it fit that form and why would Shelley have chosen it?  Also, consider the fabrication of a traveler, who speaks with another travel, who relays what a poet said, which in fact are the words of the king—is this a structural principal indicative of the period during which Shelley was writing?


9.  Quaint in “To His Coy Mistress." This topic requires an etymological approach.  You will discuss a word’s denotations, connotations, how it has been used in literature and other contexts, and any other information about the word that is interesting and helps to understand how it works in the literary context in which you want us to see it.  (Click) for further explanation and a sample of the kind of paper that you can produce through this approach).


10.  What are the biographical and historical circumstances within which Arnold writes "Dover Beach?"  From what collection of events does he get the sense that faith is retreating from the world?  Did he ever spend such a night on the English coast?  Are the armies to which he refers metaphorical or partly real—at least in the historical context?  Use these prompts and others to get you into an investigation of the context of the poem and how that helps us to understand it.  Or deal with the observation made by one student this semester:  the first stanza of the poem is almost a sonnet; it's fourteen lines.  Has anyone noticed this?  What do you make of the fact that it begins with a stanza/verse paragraph that imperfectly echoes the sonnet?


12.  Paul Simon of "Simon and Garfunkel" recorded a song named "Richard Cory" in 1966 on the Sounds of Silence album.  It consciously builds upon Robinson's poem. What do the differences in the Simon version express and what do they say about the period out of which the later version sprung?


13.  Give us an exhaustive discussion of "Western Wind"—when and where it was first written; by whom or what sort of person it was composed; when it was actually discovered and/or printed as a poem; and what its images mean.  For instance, what does the "small rain" signify in the geographical location out of which the poem sprang?


14.  Is Shakespeare writing to a man or woman in his sonnets—at least in the ones we've read during this term?  What do the scholars say?  What are the competing pieces of evidence?


15.  Examine the historical and newspaper accounts of the events related to the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Al, 1963, the event described from a particular point of view in Dudley Randall's poem "The Ballad of Birmingham."  How does knowledge of this material help us in understanding the poem and particularly how Randall designed it for a certain purpose or purposes?


16.  Is it true that behind the poem "My Last Duchess," there resides a "real" story?  Is so, what has Browning done with these historical facts in order to create a special "dramatic" piece?  You might do well, also, to look into the marriage customs of Renaissance Italy.  Doing so would clarify, for instance, if the Duke's saying that the Count's daughter is his "object" would really be detected by the imagined listener as a slip, revealing the Duke's objectification of women, or seen simply as the normal way to see a woman.


17.  Take a comprehensive look at the ways in which Frost's "The Road Not Taken" has been appropriated and/or misread by the culture at large.  Think of Dead Poet's Society, for instance.  Look at what Frost had to say about the poem and it's "meaning."  Does he give any clues?


18.  Frost's "The Silken Tent" (click) has a number of interesting biographical issues/controversies associated with it, not the least of which are the questions of when and for whom it was composed.  The controversy over the poem has even caused one of its readers to go so far as to interpret the word "guys"--the strings holding something down--as the word for men, suggesting a certain promiscuity associated with the woman for whom the poem was written.  Can you get the facts straight for us and help us to understand the poem in the process?


19.  Frost's "Mending Wall" (289) starts off as a riddle.  It's as if we have to guess the answer.  Do some reading on riddles—their structure and the position they put the reader in and see if it is productive to approach Frost's poem as a riddle.


20.  Frost's "Out, Out--" (click) might become clearer through research.  What exactly is the relevance of the allusion to Macbeth?  What kind of saw would this family have had at the time Frost wrote the pome?  Does Frost have anything to say about the poem and its meaning--say, in letters and interviews?  Should we be upset at Frost's untimely lightheartedness;;"the saw, / As if to prove saws knew what supper meant," the pun on "saw" in "Then the boy saw all . . . ," and perhaps even the play on "sew" in line 27?  Did Frost base the poem on an actual experience, or perhaps one reported in a newspaper, as has been suggested?  How do you explain the boy's dying so easily?


21.  "Shingles in "Dover Beach."  This topic requires an etymological approach.  You will discuss a word’s denotations, connotations, how it has been used in literature and other contexts, and any other information about the word that is interesting and helps to understand how it works in the literary context in which you want us to see it.  (Click for further explanation and a sample of the kind of paper that you can produce through this approach).


22.  Owen's "Anthem for Doomed Youth" contains several, perhaps even more, references to ceremonies of death, funeral or wake customs.  I don't think many of us can easily identify all of these references.  Can you help us?  I'm thinking of "passing-bells," "orisons," "mockeries," "choirs," "candles to speed them on," "pall," and the drawing-down of blinds."  "Mockeries" is very confusing in that it could be some aspect of a ceremony with which I am not familiar or it could be some curious use of the term mockery.


23.  In our discussions of "The Emperor of Ice-Cream," we have pondered over the degree to which the image of ice-cream, as positioned next to emperor, suggests ordinariness or unusualness.  Perhaps understanding when ice-cream was first developed and how thoroughly it was available and enjoyed when Stevens wrote the poem would help us to understand the ways in which we should "take" this image in the poem.


24.  One of your classmates has argued briefly that "To His Coy Mistress" contains a  lot of religious references even over and above those in the opening verse paragraph dealing with "the flood" and "the conversion of the Jews."  He indicated that much of that imagery occurs in the last verse paragraph.  This suggestion actually contains two questions, then: first, does the poem contain clear Christian allusions other than the obvious ones and second, how do those figure into the carpe diem meaning of the poem?


25.  In Cumming’s Buffalo Bill’s, the narrator refers to death as “Mister Death.”  Focus on that word “Mister.”  What is the history of its usage?  What sort of attitude does its use here show?




26.  Page 111 of Candide describes the execution of an English Admiral.  This is John Byng, executed on March 14, 1757, after his defeat off Minorca by a French fleet.  Examine this event and Voltaire's role in it.  What does knowledge of it tell us about the way(s) in which Voltaire handles historical events for his satiric purposes?


27.  From where does Voltaire get his version of El Dorado in Candide?  What is the history of the idea?  Does he change any of the idea's features for his own thematic, satiric purposes?


28.  In Candide Pangloss describes the history of venereal disease (p. 30).  Is it syphilis that he describes?  How accurate is his tracing of how the disease spreads?  Has Voltaire changed what was known of the disease for his own purposes?


29.  Perhaps the only admirable character in Candide, Jack, is an Anabaptist.  How does understanding the history of that sect help us to understand Voltaire's use of this character in his narrative?



Song of Solomon-related

30. During at least the first half of Song of Solomon there seems to be a curious obsession with urination.  Has any commentator noticed this?  Is there some psychological theory that can help us to understand its meaning?


31.  In Song of Solomon is Morrison’s concept of the Seven Days Society based in historical reality?  Is it a modification of some historical society?


32.  What help do critics and scholars provide for understanding the magical occurrences in Morrison’s Song of Solomom?  She writes as if ghosts do exist; and her ending almost confirms a sense of magic by implying that Milkman achieves flight at the end.  How are we supposed to understand this magical ending?


33.  Song of Solomon is dominated by the process of naming.  Read about the meaning of names and naming; its different cultural and psychological meanings, and try to use what you learn about names/naming to help us to understanding the issues Morrison gets at by writing that motif so heavily into her novel.


34.  Toward the bottom of pages 276-77, in Song of Solomon, the narrator focuses on Milkman’s estimating his life in terms of what he does or does not “deserve.”  Do an etymological study of “deserve” so that what you learn helps us to understand what the narrator is implying about Milkman’s character.


26.  To what extent is Mary Shelley's concept of the scientifically created man in Frankenstein a product of notions that were current in her day?  Is she being entirely creative here, or was she expressing a possibility that scientists had been thinking about all along?


27.  One way to understand the relationship between Victor and his monster is through Jung's concept of the "shadow"  Read about this concept and apply it toFrankenstein.


28.  Sigmund Freud put forth an idea to explain creativity; the idea is "sublimation."  It is possible that that theory could explain Victor's behavior in Frankenstein.


The Sun Also Rises-related


29.  Examine the social conventions or breaking of social conventions behind details about Brett’s clothing and style.  How does knowing some of these cultural codes help use to understand her character and function in the novel?


30.  Help your audience understand how the Bill and Jake’s playful discussion of the Scopes Monkey Trail in Chapter 12 fits in with important themes in the novel.


31.  Why the almost obsession with the monetary and exchange value of things in the novel?  Establish that concern as an indisputable fact of the book and see what critics have to say about it.  How does it contribute to the novel’s theme(s)/






Here is a sample paper that takes an "Etymological approach."  Please understand that this sample is slightly different from the approach you will need to take because it does NOT have as its final aim the deepening of our understanding of how the word works in a particular literary work.


        "The hero must, to give meaning to a meaningless place, fight for an ideal.  There is very little room for heroes in wars carried on to settle successions, to rectify frontiers, or to maintain the balance of powers" (Simpson and Weiner 171).  This excerpt from an 1862 publication indicates the public responsibilities afforded a hero and the images associated with a heroic character in more recent times.  Originally, the hero was defined in classical Greek mythology as "the son of a god or goddess and a mortal." possessing superhuman strength, courage and ability, but the definition began to shift in modern times to represent a more common person, one whose role could be defined as the chief male character of a literary work (Funk 623).

        In Greek mythology, the title of "hero" was occasionally extended to the founder of a city or family who was worshipped as a hero, such as the Greek figure Cadmus, the legendary founder of the city of Thebes.  In general, the classical definition of a hero included the fictional figures who were "endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for [their] bold exploits, and favored by the gods" (American 846).  This definition would soon change as the hero began to play a different role in modern literature and society.

        Heroes soon "became distinguished by the performance of extraordinarily brave or noble deeds," particularly in the arena of the battlefield, where heroes were admired as "illustrious warriors" (Brown 1224).  The role of heroes as central militarly characters can be traced through several examples of literature that define the hero's position and status in the culture of the time.  In Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well, Parolles calls to his fellow soldiers:  "Noble heroes, my sword and yours are kin.  Good sparks and lustrous, a word, good-metals" (Staunton 17).  His kinsman are his brothers on the field of battle, and he calls those at his side "heroes."

        The literary connections between heroes and the battlefields can be found within two of Tennyson's works.  In his "A Dream of Fair Women," he talks of the "trumpets blown for wars," the "corpses across the threshold," and the "heroes tall dislodging pinnacle and parapet" with "lances in ambush set" (Tennyson 214).  Again the chivalric images of knightly heroes clashing on the field of battle emerge in his "Charge of the Light Brigade," where "horse and hero" fall to an overwhelming barrage of cannon fire while they "flash'd all their sabres bare" (Tennyson 227).  The descriptions offered by Tennyson of the overwhelming odds faced by the "noble six hundred" of the light brigade guide the reader toward the epic qualities of heroic acts, as acknowledged in Tennyson's "The Voyage of Maldune."  Each man in the light brigade truly was "as brave in the fight as the bravest hero of song" (Tennyson 209).

        Another author whose works illustrate some of the power of the "illustrious soldier" in battle is Bernard Shaw in his Arms and the Man.  When Raina's betrothed, Sergius, is off battling the SErbs and Austrians and she hears from her mother that he "is the hero of the hour, the idol of the regiment," she couldn't be more excited to hear about her future husband's heroic stature (Shaw 126).  Her mother describes to her, with growing enthusiasm:

                            You can guess how splendid it is.  A cavalry Charge!  Think of that!  He defied our
                            our Russian commanders--acted without orders--led a charge on his own responsibility--
                            headed it himself--was the first man to sweep through their guns--our gallant splendid
                            Bulgarians with their swords and their eyes flashing, thundering down like an avalanche
                            and scattering the wretched Serbs and their dandified Austrian officers like chaff (Shaw 126)

        Despite the common association with heroes and their gallant actions upon battlefields that plays such a large role in the traditional knight-in-shining-armor hero, literature has also provided several instances of a more modern role for the hero.  A more recent definition for a hero is "the chief male character in a play, poem, motion picture, [or] story" (Barnhart 478).  Thus, a hero is not necessarily the superhuman character pictured most often by the normal reader, who examines literature with the expectation of heroic actions within a fictional piece's storyline (Simpson and Weiner 171)

        A contemporary hero does not need to be perfect, nor does he need to be portrayed as a paragon of goodness and virtue.  In fact, in his notes to Caesar and Cleopatra, Shaw describes his decision to disregard the portrait of a hero as a supreme martyr, because he chooses instead to follow the path of the ancient myths, "which represent the hero as vanquishing his enemies, not in a fair fight, but with enchanted sword, superequine horse and magical invulnerability, the possession of which, from the vulgar moralistic point of view, robs his exploits of any merit whatever" (Shaw 479).  In Shaw's opinion, the best way to create an "impression of greatness is by exhibiting a man, not as mortifying his nature by doing his duty . . . but as simply doing what he naturally wants to do" (Shaw 480).  By doing what he wants to do, Shaw's hero is making his own decisions and following his own will, not simply filling his role in society.

        The more modern image of a hero is also portrayed within several of Emily Dickinson's poems, which detail the belief that a mortal hero is on a more level plane with the rest of society:  "Not any higher stands the Grave/For Heroes than for Men" (Johnson 871).  The defining characteristic that separates the hero from man may be only the knowledge of when to press forward and when to pull back from a fight.  After all, "a coward will remain, Sir,/Until the fight is done;/But an immortal hero/Will take his hat, and run" (Johnson 820).  These perceptions of a heroic character tend even further from the traditional mythological view of a superhuman symbol of virtue and goodness.

        While the definition of a hero may have followed a more recognizable track in this country and in the European nations, the role of heroes in countries whose values differ greatly from ours may be harder to trace.  For example, Marx believed that "it is not heroes who make history but history that makes heroes, and that, consequently, it is not heroes who create a people but the people who create the heroes and move history forward" (De Koster 74).  Again the comparison between heroes and men is drawn by Marx, for whom heroes play a significant role "Because they clearly understand the conditions and trends of social development more thoroughly than average men" (De Koster 74).  Russian Communists in general have often ascribed the role of a more traditional hero to their leaders, such as Stalin, to whose superhuman merits and virtues no exception may be taken.  The Soviet people were not allowed to question the status of their heroes, marking a signficant difference between the American and Russian definitions of the heroic character.

        While Greek mythology may have ascribed the role of "hero" to the superhuman offspring of gods, modern literature and civilization have extended the definition to include common men who occupy the role of central liteary figures.  Time has changed the definition of "hero" to suit the desires of the current society more closely and reflect more accurately its opinions of the ideal hero.  The concept of hero worship has diminshed with modern society, which looks for its heroes to be members of society rather than separated from it by unnatural gifts endowed at birth.

Works Cited

Barnhart, Robert K., ed.  Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology.  Bronx:  H.W. Wilson Co., 1988.

Brown, Lesley, ed.  New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historic Principles.  2 vols. New York:  Oxford UP, 1993.

De Koster, Lester.  Vocabulary of Communism.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1964.

Funk, Charles, ed.  Funk and Wagnall's Practical Standard Dictionary of the English Language.  Vol. 1.  New
        York: Funk and Wagnalls Co, 1964.

"Hero."  American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.  3rd ed.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

Johnson, Thomas H., ed. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. 8 vols.  Cambridge:  Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1992.

Shaw, Bernard.  Seven Plays by Bernard Shaw.  New York:  Dodd, Mead, 1951.

Simpson, J.A. and C. Weiner, eds. The Oxford English Dictionary.  2nd ed. 20 vols.  New York: Oxford UP, 1989.

Staunton, Howard, ed.  The Complete Illustrative Shakespeare. New York:  Park Lane, 1979.

Tennyson, Alfred.  The Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  10 vols.  London:  Macmillan and Co., 1895.




Here are two samples of a successful student papers by two midshipmen.  Notice the important thing:  the opening paragraph and thesis establish the criterion for the assessment that one poem is preferable to the other.  That criterion is believability.

The Pride Inside
                                              Allysia Hood


     Attitude can make or break a story. Whether the speaker is shouting from the rooftops or writing quietly in his journal, he needs to first believe in what he is saying in order to allow the listener or reader to do the same. In “The Road Not Taken” and “Ulysses,” two very different men attempt to tell the proud story of how they have approached their lives. Leaving little room for doubt and taking a more assertive stance with rich detail to reinforce his reasoning, Ulysses tells a more believable story. 

     The first contrast in their stories is seen with the titles of the poems. “Ulysses” suggests that there is no doubt that the speaker knows who he is, whereas “The Road Not Taken” gives the impression of uncertainty and regret. This assumption is confirmed upon reading the poems.  Ulysses has fully embraced the path that he has chosen. Although he has “suffered greatly,” he has “enjoyed greatly” as well. This is the adventure that Ulysses wanted; he could stay home and be a powerful king, but his people do not know him, and he does not find comfort “by this still hearth, among these barren crags.” On the other hand, Frost’s speaker finds it difficult to accept his choice—even though his pride will not allow him to claim that to anyone—let alone himself. While “the two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” both appealed to him, and he was “sorry [he] could not travel both.” After examining them extensively, he found one path to be the better of the two “because it was grassy and wanted wear.” With regret, he later finds that it was no better than the other.

     By the end of “The Road Not Taken,” all the speaker can do is say that his journey has “made all the difference.” He does not provide any evidence to further strengthen this claim or refute any doubts; rather, he contradicts this assertion when he realizes how similar the roads were. Because Ulysses reinforces his proud story with a longing to leave again to get back to the life he left behind, he shows that he knows there was no mistake in his choice. He is “always roaming with a hungry heart,” and is “honored” for the many adventures that he has “seen and known” from “cities of men/ and manners, climates, councils, governments.” There is no other path that he could—or would—have taken. 

     When narrating their stories, the speakers’ tones are also different. Frost’s speaker will tell his story “with a sigh/ somewhere ages and ages hence,” whereas Ulysses tells his while planning to set off on another grand adventure. Pessimistic, Frost expresses doubts, sighs and sorrow. Ulysses' optimism emerges from his defiant attitude “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.” In “The Road Not Taken,” all the speaker has to cling onto is the lie that he tells himself: “two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/ and that has made all the difference.” He pauses in mid sentence so that he can gain his composure and finish strongly, yet this pause further weakens his argument because it shows his hesitation. 

     Never hesitant, Ulysses begins planning a new journey for he finds it dull “to pause, to make an end,/ to rust unburnished, not to shine in use!” Knowing that his time on earth is limited and drawing nearer to an end, he needs that adventure because his “gray spirit [is] yearning in desire/ to follow knowledge like a sinking star [...]” The sea calls him, and he in turn calls his friends to join with him to “sail beyond the sunset, and the baths/ of all the western stars, until [he dies].” Willing to yield neither to his old age nor to his noble position in life, he leaves “the scepter and the isle” to his “well-loved” son Telemachus, and prepares for this next journey. 

      Contrasting greatly with Ulysses’ never-ending quest for adventure is the submissive attitude of the speaker in “The Road Not Taken.” After he has finished walking down the path that he has chosen, he does not take the opportunity to see where the other path leads. Though he wishfully “kept the first for another day,” he has little optimism that he “should ever come back,” because he knows “how way leads on to way.” Had Ulysses been in a similar situation, he would have created the opportunity, because of his head-strong and unyielding attitude.

      Further adding to his credibility is the fact that Ulysses has had the opportunity to live on both roads; he has been both king and epic hero. In this manner, he can say for certain that one life has been better than the other. On his throne, he feels immobilized and restless, seeing little more of his kingdom’s inhabitants than people who “hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not [him].” No honor or pleasure exists in simply sitting by a “still hearth” issuing “unequal laws unto a savage race.” The words he uses in describing his “aged wife” show that he does not find her appealing anymore either. When at sea, Ulysses feels “a part of all that [he has] met.” While traveling he envisions no end in sight, but when he sits still he sees his death approaching. He seeks to keep moving because “old age hath yet his honor and his toil,” and “some work of noble note, may yet be done.” By backing up his words with deeds, Ulysses provides the overall authority to ensure belief in his story.



                                                                             A Matter of Attitude

                                                                                                      Brad Egbers

     As good as life may be, men and women always find faults in their current situations and long for something more, something
different, perhaps something exotic. Both people leading lives in unbearable poverty and those in the comfort of wealth long for escape
from the normal, the routine, to the life they wish they could have. Both Aunt Jennifer and Miniver Cheevy make their escape to worlds
where they think they would be happier. However, the message in "Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers" proves more powerful, as it offers much
more interesting contrasts, both on a literal level and in a more subtle, convoluted sense.
     While both reality and escape in "Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers" appear striking and provoking in and of themselves, excitement resides
only in Miniver’s world of fantasy. The description of Miniver’s existence focuses on his thoughts of an ideal life in the more “romantic”
ages of the past. Although the images offered: “swords were bright and steeds were prancing,” “the mediaeval grace of iron clothing,”
and “the vision of a warrior bold,” paint a vivid picture of his fantasy and display that he has thought about it often and in great detail,
these exhilarating images lack an equally provocative counterpoint. His actual life lacks any detail that could make it interesting
independent of his fantasies. Although he “grew lean while he assailed the seasons” and “coughed, and called it fate, / And kept on
drinking,” his life has no complexity. "Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers," on the other hand, offers an interesting situation within Jennifer’s real life,
as it speaks of “terrified hands,” “ordeals she was mastered by,” and the “massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band.” The ideas
presented in her life all have a distinct contrast in her fantasy. Her tigers “do not fear the men beneath the tree,” but in reality those
tigers are made by “terrified hands.” Her tigers “prance across a screen” while in reality she finds “even the ivory needle hard to pull.”
Rich’s offering of contrasting, yet equally intriguing images between reality and fantasy vastly outdoes Robinson’s one-sided, though
vivid, description of the extraordinary juxtaposed with the ordinary, as the mundane in itself fails to excite.
     Aunt Jennifer’s fantasy is more interesting because her escape actually mirrors her real-world ‘prison.’ Although neither character
makes a real or at least successful attempt to realize his respective fantasies, Miniver’s plight pales next to that of Aunt Jennifer.
Miniver dreams perhaps of living as a knight or an aristocratic noble: “Miniver loved the Medici, / … , He would have sinned incessantly
/ Could he have been one.” However, he intensifies his depression and disappointment with his drinking, making the fantasy world all
the farther away by partially destroying his real world. Aunt Jennifer, on the other hand, escapes into a world in which she creates
things of beauty and power through sewing. The aspect that separates the power of Rich’s message from that of Robinson lies in the
actual product of Aunt Jennifer’s escape. Her tigers “pace in sleek chivalric certainty,” and “do not fear the men beneath the tree.” At
first glance, this description may appear as a comfort to Aunt Jennifer, who has become accustomed to the terror and captivity of
marriage to one of those “men beneath the tree.” However, upon further consideration, it becomes clear that the “sleek chivalric
certainty” actually mirrors the attitudes and actions of Aunt Jennifer’s husband, creating a horrifying situation where even in her fantasy,
she cannot escape the “ordeals she was mastered by” in her marriage to a chivalric husband. Even when she makes her final flight,
death has become her only real way out: the tigers and therefore the tragedy of masculine dominance “will go on prancing, proud and
unafraid.” The dilemma offered in "Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers" presents a much more interesting and disturbing contrast than that of
"Miniver Cheevy."
     Although both poems address the idea of an “escape” or “fantasy,” and, interestingly also the idea of chivalry, only "Aunt Jennifer’s
Tigers" carries an underlying message about society or humanity in general. Miniver’s actions may speak to the emptiness of
alcoholism or the hilarious eagerness to romanticize the past, but it conveys no real commentary on anything controversial or
interesting. "Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers," even in its brevity, deeply explores the injustice of “traditional” marriage as a result of the chivalry
and masculinity present in society. Even in death, Aunt Jennifer cannot escape the inwardly terrible life she experienced: “When Aunit
is dead, her terrified hands will lie, / Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.” On the other hand, the author’s tone in "Miniver
Cheevy" detracts from the melancholy and seriousness of the poem’s message. The author belittles Miniver time after time, making
the generalized idea of an irrational escape into a specific disorder within one diseased person. The snide follow-on to the line “Miniver
loved the Medici, / Albeit he had never seen one” promotes the interpretation that Miniver doesn’t understand that which he dreams of,
or that he dreams to live a life that he pieces together from tidbits of history he simply placed together at his pleasure. The repetition of
the word “thought” in the second to last stanza again emphasizes the idea that Miniver lacks the ability to do anything but dream,
accomplishing nothing except building his mediaeval castles in the sky. The tone set by the author turns the attitude toward Miniver
from sympathy to almost humorous pity, an emotion which lacks the power of the sorrow felt for Aunt Jennifer. This difference in
attitude again makes the message in "Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers" much more powerful than that of "Miniver Cheevy."
     Each poem addresses the ideas of escape and fantasy quite differently. Rich uses Aunt Jennifer’s attempted escape as a symbol
to promote an argument regarding the treatment of females. Robinson uses Miniver for little more than entertainment, to poke fun at
those who have lofty or seemingly impossible dreams. Although each author’s attempt may have reflected different goals, "Aunt
Jennifer’s Tigers" proves much more powerful in the end through its complexity and subtle commentary.






Examples of theme vs. subject, moral or summary--"My Papa's Waltz"


Here are some stabs at sorting out the subtle but important differences among theme, statement of subject, moral, and summary.  Can you see the differences?

Theme:   The remembered love and appreciation of son for father as expressed through their rowdy bonding in opposition to female decorum. 

Story:  A boy describes his past, thrilling experience with his father and how his mother disapproved.

Subject:  The tensions within family life

Moral:  It's important to enjoy the time you have with your father because all too soon you can lose him.

Moral:  Be careful, because sometimes when you love one person, you leave behind another whom you might also love.

More themes:

The theme of this poem is the inseparability of violence and love, at least as seen from a comfortable, controlled, even formal retrospective distance.

The poem highlights the lasting, memorable qualities of emotional release as opposed to rational control and organization.

The poem focuses on love as an emotion that, at its strongest, depends on transgression against against norms of behavior.





















Links to Explanation of Grammatical Problems, with Exercises

(1)  sentence fragments (click here)

(2)  comma splices or run-on sentences (click here)
(3)  dangling or misplaced modifiers (click here)
(4)  faulty agreement:  subject-verb or pronoun-antecedent (click here  click here and click here)
(5)  faulty use of tenses (click here)

































Prompt for Paper #3


Audience:  Classmates and instructor

Length: about two typed pages, double spaced.

When: written in class on March 5, copious notes and open book allowed


Task:  choose one of the options below and construct an interesting and persuasive, paper with a clear controlling idea.


a)  “My Last Duchess” (48) is a dramatic monologue. That means as you read it you need to imagine that you are the person to whom the Duke speaks. In this poem, that makes you the representative of the Count whose daughter could be the speaker’s next wife.  As representative of the Count, you must communicate with him soon after your encounter with the Duke.  Your job is to persuade him one way or another about whether he should marry his daughter to this Count.  You have a good deal of freedom to imagine/configure your master’s priorities, but make sure you spell those out in such a way that your audience, classmates and instructor, know them.  And you need to lay out these priorities while also keeping up the pretext that you write your message to count.  Obviously you have to supply a good deal of evidence to back up your advice.  


b)  “To His Coy Mistress” (220) resembles “My Last Duchess” in representing a situation in which a speaker addresses an imagined audience.  In this case, however, we as readers are not the imagined audience so much as voyeurs, as we overhear the speaker’s attempt to persuade his female companion to commit in all possible ways to loving him.  Your job is to imagine concretely your position as reader-voyeur:  make-believe that you are the coy mistress’s servant/companion.  You have from behind a door or screen overheard the attempt at persuasion.  The speaker had to leave the room because of the sound of voices coming closer from down the hallway, so the result of the persuasion remains unclear.  However, you took a keen interest in the speaker’s “pitch,” you might call it, and now want to advise your mistress on what best to do.  Because your mistress will be among company for the next 48 hours you will not be able to chat with her in private as you usually do, but you feel the need to express yourself on the value of the young man’s “proposal,” even on his perceived character and “class” or lack thereof.  You choose to write her a coherent, clear message in which you spell out your position.  The history between you two is that she does value your advice; you have surprised her in the past with your native intelligence as well as with how thoroughly you have been educated in both Classical and Christian literature. 


c)  As readers of Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” (124), we find ourselves in the position of the speaker’s confidant, the one who hears what the speaker has to say about his neighbor.  Perhaps you can take a further step of regarding yourself as the speaker’s housemate, who has just heard this “quiet rant” about the experience of mending the wall with his neighbor, according to the annual ritual.   As usual you have listened carefully and formed your own judgments about what is said and where and whom it comes from.  You’re tired of just listening, however, and think the speaker needs to face some things about himself; he can’t just criticize his neighbor with immunity.  You perhaps keep hearing your mother’s Biblical saying rattling around in your head:  “why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, when you have a beam in your own?”  You decide it’s time to tell you roommate what you think.  You do it in a letter.


d) Based on details from Robinson’s poem and/or Paul Simon’s version, write the sucide note that Richard Cory left behind.


























The Road Not Taken


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.



                                                Robert Frost


























                  The Man He Killed


       "Had he and I but met
        By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
        Right many a nipperkin

        "But ranged as infantry,
        And staring face to face,
I shot at him and he at me,
        And killed him in his place.

        "I shot him dead because – 
        Because he was my foe, 
Just so – my foe of course he was; 
        That's clear enough; although 

        "He thought he'd 'list perhaps, 
        Off-hand like – just as I – 
Was out of work – had sold his traps – 
        No other reason why.

                  "Yes, quaint and curious war is!

                  You shoot a fellow down

            You'd treat if met where any bar is,

                    Or help to half-a-crown.



                                                            Thomas Hardy










































Daddy:  Too Much and Too Little in Song of Solomon

            "Daddy."  That's the dedication to Song of Solomon.  It's not the "father" of the epigraph:  "The fathers may soar/And the children may know their names."  It doesn't say "to daddy" either; just "Daddy."  That single word, though, expresses the emotional core of the novel:  the enduring power of that original, early need for the male parent; the sense of an unjudging intimacy that the word "father" lacks; and the childishness of the term, uttered it seems by someone who is old enough to put together 337 pages of prose.  And of course we can't forget that the very saying of the word "daddy" suggests an attempt to call him into the presence of the voice.

            This last point seems simple, but it undermines much of the book.  Saying "daddy" requests him to appear.  However, the absent "daddy" is the norm in this novel.  All three women in Pilate's household lack "daddy," and they have lacked him from an early age.  Guitar lacks a father.  Jake, aka Macon Dead the elder, at an early age falls from his father's arms as that father flies away.  He lands in a family, that of Heddy Bird and her daughter Sing, that lacks a father as well.  Even Freddie, we learn, was born two months after his father had died (110).  More subtly, Milkman lacks a "daddy."  He has a judgmental father, to be sure, but not one whom he could ever call to as daddy.  Ruth, moreover, lacks "daddy"; he has disappeared into death, something she cannot get over.  This prevailing lack in the book, whether perverse or natural, makes search for "daddy," not "father," its likely central action. 

            It certainly relates to the fact that the word "daddy" implies that the desired thing remains unsophisticated, a product of youth, of childhood, even infancy.  The progression of the novel, not surprisingly then, amounts to a regression, a turning back on the part of the characters to their past.  This holds true especially for Milkman.  He returns to a child-like frame of mind, complete with a sense of magic (Circe the ghost and a great-grandfather who flies) and a lack of sophistication.  In Pennsylvania, for instance, he loses his shoes and walks over the same countryside his father did when he was just a boy.  In part this loss of these signs of class and superiority mirrors the image of the peacock having to lose its gaudy feathers in order to fly.  A return to a frame of mind in which it's possible to say, "daddy," is integral to his development.  "Daddy," then, expresses as much a state of mind that Milkman has to achieve as anything.  That state of mind involves simply a fundamental need for loving protection; and an admission also that that fundamental need amounts to emotional health.

            The other, darker side of this nearly infant-like attitude expressed in the word "daddy," emerges in the lack of emotional maturity that marks many of the characters.  Ruth serves as the obvious example, incapable of seeing anything apart from her loss of father.  Hagar, too, displays this immaturity; and not surprisingly the signature action of her character—those repeated attempts to murder Milkman—respond to his having ended their relationship.  Though younger than she, Milkman is as much the father-figure for her as Freud would have most men be of any women.  Her attempt to kill him, thus, amounts paradoxically to an attempt to keep him.  The two Dead daughters, Lena and Corinthians, also display the negative emotional immaturity that "daddy' captures.  This trend appears most clearly in Corinthians, who at 44 still cannot leave her father's house and give herself over to another man.  The two-sided nature of this suggestion of immaturity in the word "daddy," though, shines through in her relationship with Porter.  On the one hand she remains emotionally unfulfilled because she remains her "daddy's daughter"; on the other hand, she has to become like a child to Porter, clinging to his car so as to prevent him from leaving her (199), a separation that she couldn't bear.  The language describing her feeling when she gets to Porter's meager room is telling:  "She sank down on [the bed] as soon as she got into the room and stretched out, feeling bathed, scoured, vacuumed, and for the first time simple" (199, emphasis mine).  Though Porter is not literally "daddy," he does serve for Corinthians as the lost thing found, and found as a result of her having given into the simple attitude of almost basic, infantile need for his love and care. 

            At 44 she stills needs something like a "daddy's" love, something unlike her childish captivity to Macon's possessive control of her.  And that is the extraordinary thing about the dedication—"Daddy."  It captures the irreducible importance of the kind of love for which so many of the characters long in this novel.  It places it front and center of a novel obviously produced by an accomplished adult, but an adult nevertheless whose elemental need for parental care and protection endures.  In this way that single word, I would claim, captures the very emotional core of this book—of its characters and even its author.

























Comma Exercise

1.  The idea here is not for you to think about someone who is for example, in bed reading a book after hours.

2.  Whom the fragrance is meant for would most likely be posted on the box containing the product however; the color of the product bottles gives you a hint as to which you would want to buy.

3.  Nevetheless, "Find Your Voice", suggests a slew of connotative meanings.j

4.  The cropped haircut and extremely short fingernails, worn by the model in the ad, exemplifies independence and individuality.

5.  Millions of years pass, and single celled bacteria, have evolved into man and woman.

6.  The male in this picture, is at best, average, with a slightly dull look in his eyes.

7.  The environment in this ad accents the characters, and the power of the mints.

8.  Having this as the backdrop, further suggests that the two characters are from prehistoric times.

9.  This further reinforces the idea of the rugged, uncivilized routine of a caveman which consists of hunting, sleeping and procreating.

10.  No man wants to be ignored, therefore you must use this cologne or else she will not come to you.

11.  The phrase "Pure Sport Line," implies that there are more colognes of this type made by Old Spice.

12.  In the last few years, a sense of patriotism exudes from our country and other countries notice it.



























HE111-112 Information and Guidelines for Students

I.  Course Description.

In Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature (HE111-112), literature is the springboard for teaching composition.  In the two courses, you study the principles of composition and apply them in written responses to your readings.  This combination of composition and literature provides you with experience in performing diverse writing tasks and challenges you to understand and appreciate the ways in which literature expresses human and cultural values.

During the first semester, instructors assign frequent writing tasks designed to help you master content, organization, diction, style, and mechanics.  They also introduce you to the principles of writing critically about the short story and drama.  In the second semester, instructors require more sophisticated essays in which you write about poetry and the novel, and they will introduce you to using the library's resources, documenting material correctly, and quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing accurately.

II.  Objectives.

1.  To improve your ability to read critically and sensitively various kinds of literature.

2.  To develop your confidence and style as a writer so that you can:

        a.  turn a general topic into a purposeful thesis;

        b.  shape your composition so that it has a beginning, middle, and end and so that its organization and content serve
        its audience and purpose;

        c.  write fully developed and coherent paragraphs employing such methods of development as summary, narration,
        description, comparison/contrast, classification, analysis, and persuasion;

        d.  edit your sentences so that they vary one from the other, so that they depend mainly on the active voice and
        avoid wordiness, and so that they are grammatically correct; and

        e.  use the resources of the library to research a topic and document the results.

2.  To improve your ability to read critically and sensitively various kinds of literature.

3.  To enhance your understanding and appreciation of cultural values and basic human issues through the study of literature.

III. Evaluation of Written Work.

Your instructors will evaluate your writing to help you to achieve the objectives described above, reading your essays carefully, commenting on both their strengths and weaknesses, and expecting you to use those comments to improve your subsequent writing.

Part of the evaluating role of the instructor is to assign a grade to your work.  Although not all instructors assign grades to every paper, the Academy requires instructors to report grades about every six weeks, and you should be aware of the following guidelines.

1.  Criteria for Grading Writing Assignments:

        A:  The A essay shows originality of thought in stating and developing a controlling idea or thesis.  It employs the
        most suitable kind and amount of evidence, and this evidence, at every stage of the essay, has a clear purpose.
        In addition, the excellent essay is characterized by careful and effective organization of sentences and paragraphs
        and by careful and effective choice of words and phrases.

        B:  The B essay has many of the traits of the A essay, but is usually lacking in one or two areas such as completeness
        of development or clarity of focus in its controlling idea.  The prose in a B essay can be flawless and clear or a bit
        careless, but its general lack of mechanical errors and its "readability" reveal some successful editing and proofreading.

        C:  The C essay has a central idea and a basic plan of organization, though that organization breaks down at certain
        stages and is often not the plan best suited for the controlling idea.  The C essay lacks development either because it
        does not provide sufficient evidence to support its generalizations or because it lists evidence without providing an a
        assessment of that evidence. Though it usually needs improvement in mechanics and wording, the C paper can be
        almost entirely free of mechanical errors.  Whereas the B essay can be quite impressive in an area or two, the C
        essay usually lacks an outstanding feature, though it might have outstanding potential.

        D.  The D essay shows little understanding of the topic; it usually lacks a controlling idea, and if it states an idea,
        the body of the essay does little to support that idea.  The D essay often has a random order; its paragraphs unfold
        without a plan; and its sentences, though usually understandable, show little evidence of being revised and therefore
        suffer from wordiness and a distracting number of mechanical errors.

        F.  The F essay is unsatisfactory.  It fails to state and develop a main idea, often because it does not respond to the
        assignment.  In addition, several of the major mechanical errors listed below occur repeatedly throughout the paper.
        English instructors agree that frequent occurrences of these errors characterize substandard writing:

                    (1)  sentence fragments (click here)
                    (2)  comma splices or run-on sentences (click here)
                    (3)  dangling or misplaced modifiers (click here)
                    (4)  faulty agreement:  subject-verb or pronoun-antecedent (click here  click here and click here)
                    (5)  faulty use of tenses (click here)
                    (6)  substandard idioms or expressions
                    (7)  excessive misspellings of common words

2.  Literacy and a Passing Grade:  Instructors will not automatically assign a failing grade to the paper in which some of the seven faults repeatedly occur, especially when the paper has strength in its content or ideas.  However, if you habitually commit several of these mechanical errors in your essay and do not make definite progress toward avoiding them by the end of the term, your instructor is likely to judge your semester's work as unsatisfactory.  You would do well, then, to study all your handbook has to say about these writing faults so as to avoid them in your writing.  Good ideas deserve good presentation.

IV.  Avoiding Plagiarism.

At the U.S. Naval Academy, the least severe consequence of detected plagiarism is a failing mark on the paper containing the violation.  Since plagiarism is a combination of lying, cheating, and stealing and as such constitutes a violation of the honor concept (see USNAINST 1610.3f), plagiarism could result in your dismissal from the Academy.  The moral:  do not sacrifice your personal integrity and professional potential in such high risk activity.  You would be wise to read the sections on plagiarism and documentation in your handbook, where you'll find the correct way to handle writing and ideas that are not your own.























Song of Solomon—in-class paragraph


Directions:  write a coherent, unified paragraph that does one of the following things: 

a)    Breaks down the essential element driving a certain character and justifies that claim with evidence

b)   Observes something about the way in which the narrator tells the story and explain how and why that method is important

c)    Identifies a pattern of language or detail that relates somehow to character or theme, and explain its occurrences and importance.


























Assignment #4


Focus:               Song of Solomon

Due Date:         4 April

Length:             about 3 pages


Format:             double-space, 1 inch margins, include a title on the first page


Develop a thoughtful paper that argues an idea based on one of the subject areas below.  Be sure to use plenty of relevant evidence so that you can convince your classmates and me of the value of the position you take.


1)  In another place, Morrison wrote the following about a character who becomes obsessed with romantic love and physical beauty:  probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought.  Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion.  In equating physical beauty with virtue, she stripped her mind, bound it, and collected self-contempt by the heap.  She forgot lust and simple caring for.  She regarded love as a possessive mating, and romance as the goal of the spirit. Apply this quote to some part of Song of Solomon and explain why it usefully aids in understanding a character or theme.


2)  Trace one of the novel’s major patterns of imagery –– flight, groundedness, looking backward when going forward, weight or burden, even urinating –– and analyze how it works to develop an idea and how it underscores elements of a certain character.


3)  Focus on one of the novel’s symbols, usually a visual image that expresses a meaning beyond its own literalness and captures in a static way much of the meaning suggested throughout the work.  Examples:  the flying lady on the front of Macon Dead’s car, the peacock Guitar and Milkman encounter, Macon Dead’s keys, the stain on the Deads’ dining room table.  In novels symbols have “local meaning”; that is, they accumulate the values built up in the book itself, and don’t necessarily, like cultural symbols, important meaning into the book.  A cross, for instance would be a cultural symbol whose meaning comes with it into the book.


4)  Focus on a single incident, a short, perhaps apparently minor episode, and explain to your classmates and me how we ought to pay close attention to it so as to understand some theme or issue of character more fully than we otherwise would.  Here’s a sample of such a paper that focuses on a mere passage, or if you like a kind of symbol:  Morrison’s dedication to the novel (click).






















Sample Successful Papers on Assignment #1

Samuel Steinfels

 “Those Winter Sundays”

Robert Hayden’s gloomy poem describes a man reflecting on his childhood and relationship with his father.  The apathetic diction throughout the poem (focusing on the first but especially third stanzas) displays emotion that sets a tone, but a significant tone change also takes place between the first two stanzas and brings to light another part of this poem. Combined with the intense imagery about temperature and weather, this tone change helps to paint a picture of the relationship that, as a boy, the author ignored, but in reality presents itself throughout the poem.

The powerful words within this poem set the primary tone, one regarding the relationship that the son perceived as a boy.  Just in the descriptions regarding the father in the first stanza, “blueblack” and “cracked” (used to describe his working hands) represent the rigid relationship between this father and son.  The strong sounds of these words push the idea of the disconnect felt in this familial bond.  This idea promotes itself further in the final stanza through a trio of words: “indifferently,” “austere,” and “lonely.”  The first word, “indifferently,” describes the conversation between the two, an interesting word to choose.  Some say that the opposite of love is hate, but both words involve a passion for the recipient of these emotions.  The true opposite of love is indifference—the complete neglect that a relationship exists at all.  This word describes how the son observes the relationship as a child.  He feels that indifference.  The next two words act together.  They describe “love’s…offices.”  When phrased like that, the words force a version of love, as if it is one’s “job” to love.  This brings a cold, mechanical idea that reinforces the indifference used earlier in the stanza.  Although “lonely” often describes unrequited love, “austere” is an unusual choice.  “Austere” pairs off well with the word “offices” encompassing an idea of seriousness or even harshness, uniting the idea from the harsh diction seen in the first stanza.  These words come together to demonstrate the point of view that the son had as a child.  He felt the isolation in his relationship with his father.

A notable difference between the first and second stanzas exists.  The point of view does not change, but a flux occurs in whom the author is referring to.  The first section describes the father constantly, recounting his mundane actions of daily life.  The second stanza explains a similar mundane action, but instead those of the naive boy whose ingratitude is obvious through his response to waking up.  The first stanza discusses the actions of a hardworking man in a dreary way: “got up early,” “put clothes on in the blue black cold,” “made banked fires blaze.”  The retrospectively focused son says these phrases in response to how he views his father’s actions.  The second stanza describes, in the first person, an average, self-consumed boy who rises early in the morning: “I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking,” “slowly I would rise,” “fearing the chronic angers of that house.”  The line separating these two stanzas trails off the first stanza: “No one ever thanked him.”  This line physically separates the tone change that takes place.  The poem revolves around this centerpiece line.  It describes the relationship between the two perfectly.  He does not say,I never thanked him” because he does not even consider it something he should do based on the weakness of their relationship.  At the same time, he reflects upon his childhood, as quoted in the past tense; he has now realized what his father had done for him on a daily basis, but it may be too late to thank him.

The influential imagery acts as a strong proponent of the tone throughout the poem at multiple key moments.  In the first stanza, the lines “in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached” sets an image of man against nature.  He fights that cold in order to make “banked fires blaze.”  Man poses himself against the elements, but in this case, not for his own wellbeing but for his son.  The son, in the retelling of his father’s actions, uses imagery in order to demonstrate his reflection on his father’s actions.  The first stanza therefore recalls.  The second stanza uses further imagery related to the son rising as a child.  “I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking,” and “I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house.”  The first stanza only spoke of the father and his actions, while the second contains a self-centered view of similar events.  The third stanza, offers a culmination of these two events as the son realizes what his father has done for him, but long after the events have happened: “him, who had driven out the cold.”  This line relates back to the first stanza, but with a more personal sense in that the son finally understands what the father had done for him as a child.  The father cared for the boy so much that every morning he “got up early,” and went through the “blueblack cold” just to make the house a little warmer for his son.  These acts demonstrate the father’s true care for the son.

A man’s reflection of his childhood conveys that he thought his father never loved him.  In fact, the father was doing everything he could to keep the boy safe from the elements, but in doing so, he did not have the chance to express his love verbally.  The son, too young and naive at the time, did not realize until later how much his father had truly cared for him, and had showed it every single one of those cold days.  The father based his life around his son, his days around his son, in the poem “Those Winter Sondays.”

Taylor Peterson


            Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” covers a lie that every country instills in the soul of each young man as he comes of age, the old lie that it is honorable to die for one’s country. Owen counters this belief by instilling in the reader the horrifying truth of what war. He does so through the juxtaposition of words that signify order and those that imply chaos and disorder; the shifts in point of view from speaking as a distant solder to speaking as if the reader was involved; and his shift in tone from a dreary dream like state to an angry, aggressive speaker.

            Owen juxtaposes words that hold opposite connotations in order to develop the obvious difference between the idea of Dulce et Decorum est and the true reality of war. A mix of words that generally go along with happiness and order suddenly appears contrasted alongside diction that creates a brutal and dark feeling. In the eighth line of the poem the reader is placed in the heat of battle among “an ecstasy of fumbling”. These two words “ecstasy” and “fumbling” generally hold two very different connotations. Ecstasy is associated with a sense of dreamlike happiness, while fumbling is generally paired with clumsiness or disorder. This juxtaposition creates a contrast that Owen wants the reader to recognize. This ecstasy goes along with the mythical idea of honor in war, but the fumbling reveals the reality of this moment; nothing more than a dysfunctional attempt to hold on to one’s life. Again in line eight, the reader meets with another conflict. The words “fitting” and “clumsy” are used to describe the helmets of the solders even though their meanings are not the same. Once again Owen uses this contrast of diction to contrast the idealized vision of war and the actuality of war. A soldier’s uniform is imagined to be pressed, clean, and inspection ready. Gear, aligned creating balance between the soldier and his uniform; it is fitting. Owen, however, reports quite the opposite. The helmets are not only clumsy, but the solders themselves are described as limp, blood-shod, and lame. The contrasting diction that Owen provides for the reader disposes of the idea of Dulce et Decorum est. Through the juxtaposing of orderly and chaotic words, Owen allows the reader to see what he sees in war; which is utter horror and disorder.

A shift in point of view from a distant reporter to the view of the author and reader also allow Owen to reveal the reality of war. In the first ten lines of the poem, the author reports the soldiers’ events as someone watching these events or someone who is there. He does not use the word “I”, “you” or “We” at all in the first ten lines, so the poem unfolds it like some distant account of actions that do not hold much value to either the author’s or reader’s life. Through this point of view the idea of Dulce et Decorum est is, if not believable at least acceptable because the readers are disconnected from the reality of war. Owen implies that the idea of honor only exist in those who are separated from reality. Starting in line eleven, Owen makes the war more personal to him. He starts using phrases such as “I saw him drowning” and “he plunges at me”, shifting the point of view from a distant third party account to the point of view of the author. Very shortly thereafter, the author brings the reader into the events that unfold on the battle field. He says that “we flung him in the wagon” and “you could here at every jolt”, bringing the story to the point of view of the both the reader and the author. From this point of view the Honor in dying for one’s country no longer exists and only the reality of war shows. Owen forces the reader to take a closer look at the details of this situation. This shift in point of view from that of a distant reporter to that of the reader and the author allow Owen to achieve his overall goal of falsifying the claim of Dulce et Decorum est.

            Finally, Owen’s shift from a dreamlike tone to that of anger completes his mission of exposing the false reality of dying for one’s country. Throughout the first half of the poem, up to line eleven, the author’s tone remains calm and dreamlike. Words and phrases such as “drunk with fatigue” and “In all my dreams” set the hypnotic tone for the poem. The tone shift occurs around line eleven, and goes along with the shift in point of view. Owens tone suddenly turns to anger as he describes the accounts of war in a personal way. Owens seems to be angry at his reader for thinking that there was any honor or glory in the midst of war. He angrily spills out the harsh realities of battle and death. His last few lines expose the disgust he has for those who “tell with such high zest/ To children ardent for some desperate glory/ The old lie”. This tone exposes the conflict between the title of this poem and the reality of war. He can help the reader understand the poem’s over all meaning through this shift, because the beginning of the poem contrasts with the end, much like the title contrasts with the author’s main point.

            Owen reveals to his audience contrasting words and his shift in tone and point of view to show the reader the Senex, or the old lie of going to war and dying honorably for one’s country. He angrily expresses through his own voice the realities of war and how it is nothing like the great idea that many believe, Dulce et Decorum est.

Andrew Raves

It is Neat and Witting


In Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” the speaker describes living as a soldier in the World War I trenches. The primary theme of the poem is Horace’s famous saying dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, translated as “it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” The speaker attempts to counter this assertion by giving a firsthand account of the miseries of living as a soldier in the trenches. Owen uses an ordered rhyme scheme, unlikely similes, ironic symbols, staccato alliteration, and accusatory tone to disprove Horace’s age-old convention.

Every other line of the poem rhymes. While this fact is obvious by sight when viewing the lines, one is far less likely to notice the rhyme scheme when reading or listening to the poem. The auditory facet is much more important than the visual because poems are meant to be read aloud and heard rather than just seen. After all, epic poems were first recited in this manner before a written language was developed.  The two results of the rhyme scheme contrast leading to an interesting effect. The rhymes lend an order to the poem. They give the effect of soldiers marching in step to a cadence. However, since this effect may not be noticed, the rhyme scheme shows how absurd it is for soldiers to maintain order during a chaotic scenario like war. The order may not be noticed, so that its result is futile, mirroring the soldiers’ situation.

The title serves the important role of immediately establishing the theme. However, the theme is only revealed at the end of the poem. So while the title translates “it is sweet and fitting,” there is nothing in the poem that is even remotely “sweet.” Finally, the poem ends with the title re-characterized as “The old Lie” (27). This latent revelation makes the title the most ironic part of the poem, since it directly contrasts the theme.

Similes contribute to undermining the effect of the poem: they counter the common thoughts of what someone thinks a soldier would be like. Immediately in the first two lines, the soldiers are compared to “old beggars under sacks” (1) and are in the pitiful state of being “Knock-kneed” (2). Undoubtedly, Horace’s quotation evokes visual images of glorious soldiers in triumph or, at the very least, a noble death. But these two similes undermine that visual image with their own. When “Knock-kneed” (2), the soldiers are reduced to physical calamity by war. They are compared to those who are most likely to be put at the bottom of society: beggars. There is no glory in being a “Knock-kneed” (2) beggar. The other similes are also used to defame soldiers. The war, specifically gas, has made a soldier’s face “like a devil’s sick of sin” (20) and his blood “obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud” (23). While the soldier himself is not evil, the war evokes evil imagery from him.

Life-giving symbols further highlight the irony of the theme. The soldiers “turned [their] backs” (3) on flares. The flares are bright lights and a symbol of life. By turning their backs on these lights, the soldiers are also turning their backs on their lives. More light is used later on too; however, this light brings death instead of life. The “thick green light” (13) also has the ironic effect of altering the color green, normally associated with giving life, to the role of a life-taker. As the man dies from gas, green is once again imagined by “cud” (23). Light and green, both symbols of life, work in the opposite direction, creating an ironic effect.

Alliterations are used to set the tone of the poem. The poem begins with an alliteration of “Dulce et Decorum” in the title and ends with “pro patria” (28). These alliterations are meant to be heard through the speaker’s voice in a spitting manner. The speaker recants in a manner “bitter as the cud” (23). These alliterations evoke the auditory image of an old man speaking in an angry tone about something disgusting as though he were attempting to spit out a bad taste. The bitter tone is furthered by the speaker’s accusations. Three times in the final stanza, the speaker refers to the reader as “you” (17, 21, 25). He is placing blame on the reader for buying into Horace’s “old Lie” (27). The combination of alliterations and accusatory “you” establish the bitter tone.

The puns used convey sinister double-meanings that contribute to the morbidity of the subject. While the soldiers “cursed through sludge” (2), they are also “cursed” by the war itself and those who sent them to fight because of Horace’s lie. While “lime” (12) does not have a double meaning, it evokes an image that has a different intent then the literal “lime.” Lime connotes death because it was often used on dead bodies to decrease the spread of disease. The usage of “dreams” (15), as opposed to nightmares, is of interest as well. While such horrors would normally be easily described as nightmares, “dreams” gives the double meaning of young boys dreaming to fight for glory while the speaker reminisces through his dreams. “[A]rdent” (26) comes from the Latin word ardeo meaning “to burn.” So “ardent” (26) evokes not only the dreams of “children” (26) but also the man’s lungs burning in the gas. The children’s dream of glory is not only “desperate” (26), but the children themselves are also desperate once they enter the war. Finally “old” (27) outlines the main argument of the speaker. The “Lie” (27) may be timeless, as “old” (27) denotes, but “old” (27) also brings forth the conflict between youth and the older generation. For it is the youth who fight and die in war at the older generation’s behest. So, the lie is as old as the people who tell the lie to the youth.

The main usage of the rhetorical techniques in this poem establishes a deep irony. Ab ovum ad malum, the speaker undermines “The old Lie” (27) by demonstrating where it is failing. From the battlefield all the way to children’s very dreams, the lie permeates just as the gas, and poisons us all.

Sijing Qiu


The “Right” Path


It is easy to go through life confined to the society that we, as human beings, have built for ourselves. We are often at a loss, however, when our paths unexpectedly cross with one outside our boundaries. In William Stafford’s, “Traveling through the Dark,” we see the tension that arises from man encountering nature head on. Through the setting, the narrative style, and the use of contrasting diction, Stafford expresses the inner moral conflict humans have regarding nature. 

Setting is pertinent in this poem because it expresses boundaries and the tension that results from boundaries intersecting. Stafford uses this setting of conflicting ideas to create tension. The poet sets the scene on Wilson Road- a man-made road bordering the edge of a canyon. On the other side of the canyon is a natural occurring river. The deer is in the middle of both extremes, acting as an obstacle and blockade to the man. Again on the 4th stanza, Stafford goes on to further describe the setting. On the man-made road, the man’s man-made car “purrs” and emits an artificial light- the only thing allowing the man to see the deer. The man can hear the river, parallel to the road, listening. Stafford brings life to the setting by describing the inanimate car as “purring” and the wilderness as “listening”. Stafford also addresses his surroundings as “our group.”  By bringing life to the setting around him, Stafford dramatizes the scene and draws readers in emotionally. These conflicting settings provide tension and pressure on the man as he tries to make a decision. The man literally “travels through the dark” in this situation, due to his inability to see any type of solution. His options, however, are as narrow as the road he stands on.

Stafford’s decision to implement a narrative style allows for readers to engage emotionally and follow his thought process. Because he is telling the poem as a story, readers can notice when there are shifts in thoughts and emotions. For example, “It is usually best to roll them into the canyon: that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.” In this line, the man conveys his thinking as systematic and emotionless. But as readers follow along with his thought process, there is a shift in his thinking. “My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting.” The breaks and pauses in this line shows the man’s realization and emotional attachment to the deer. Through the narrative style readers are able to notice and follow the development of the man’s feelings. Stafford exhibits another shift in emotion when he “pushed her over the edge into the river.” The tone of this concluding line conveys a detachment of emotion and a systemic response to the situation. The narrative style of the poem portrays a story-like “beginning, middle, and end” structure. Although the poem alludes to having an “ending” through the concluding line, in actuality, there is no satisfying “ending.” The man is unable to see the light, the “right” thing to have done. The telling of the poem as a story actually undermines the fact that there is no conclusion.

Diction plays an important role in conveying the poet’s thoughts and emotions. Stafford uses contrasting diction as a way to express his conflicting emotions. For example, when first coming upon the deer, Stafford describes it as, “the heap, a doe, a recent killing.” The word “heap” and “killing” dramatize the scene and portray a solemn tone. The word “doe,” however, contrasts these words because it portrays an image of an innocent, female deer. Stafford uses this technique again when describing the fawn as, “waiting, alive, still, never to be born.” Stafford portrays the fawn as being “alive” and “waiting” but also “still.” The use of expressing the fawn as both alive and already dead allows readers to understand Stafford’s conflicting emotions and helplessness towards the fawn. Because the fawn is both alive but will face an imminent death, the man feels conflicted as to how to save something that there is no point in saving.

            The setting, the narrative style, and the choice of contrasting diction all relate back to the theme of the poem, “Traveling through the Dark.” Standing between the two extremes of man and nature, the man is forced to push the deer over the edge, giving the poem an apparent solution, when really there is none. The man’s sense of helplessness is conveyed through the breaks and pauses in the poem, as he shifts between becoming emotionally attached to the situation and beginning to rationalize the situation. Diction is used as a way to engage readers visually, and emotionally. Contrasting descriptions of the deer and fawn allow for readers to experience the conflicting emotions the man feels. Through clever use of diction, Stafford transforms words, such as “swerving,” in the last stanza to have an alternate meaning, such as “mistake” or perhaps deviation from the right path.” The word “swerving” implies a loss of control, and a sense of unexpectedness. Readers are consequently forced to face their own dilemma: What is the “right path?” Stafford illustrates the difficulty of finding control and finding moral satisfaction when faced with these natural dilemmas. As human beings, we are all traveling through the dark, unsure of whether we are swerving away from the right or wrong path.

Elena Wirz

Humans and Animals Alike “Travel Through the Dark”

William Stafford’s “Traveling Through the Dark” portrays how the gift of critical thinking turns into a burden through the eyes of a man who struggles to determine whether human progress should take priority over the assuming responsibility of the destruction that it creates.  The setting, structure, and figurative language demonstrates how the ability to have thought creates more questions than it answers, leaving mankind no choice but to “travel though the dark” throughout their entire lives.

The setting of this poetic story emphasizes the underlying tension between the self-consciousness of humanity and the lethal impact human innovation has on nature.  The speaker is completely surrounded by wilderness, with the exception of the road that he is travelling on, which slices its way between the trees and the canyon, subtly suggesting the invasiveness modernization has on the natural world.  “Wilson River road” not only portrays man’s intrusiveness on the natural world, but the name of the road itself foreshadows a conflict that the speaker must deal with.  The first syllable of the name sounds like will, indicating that it is the will of mankind to be constantly progressing with technologies, such as roads and vehicles, even if it comes at the expense of nature.  The second syllable, son, expresses that this push to new and innovative limits is an inherent trait of people, so regardless of generation, the push for new ideas to make human life easier will always exist. 

The placement of the doe on the “edge of Wilson River road” is also crucial to the internal conflict that haunts the speaker throughout the plot of the poem.  Being neither completely in the wilderness nor wholly lying on a man-made road, the doe emotionally symbolizes the sharp divide between innovation and nature.

This is why the speaker adopts a mechanical tone in the first two stanzas; he is not naive of the price of technology and rather than expressing sympathy for the dead doe, he immediately goes on to casually explain the methodical way of disposing the deer. The speaker’s indifferent feelings and automated response the “heap” on the side of the road is demonstrated by the sharp, automated structure in the first and second stanzas. 

It is not until he feels the doe’s fawn inside its mother’s belly that the rigid structure breaks; even the speaker himself admits that “beside that mountain road [he] hesitated.”    He snaps out of his mechanical way of dealing with the situation to realize that the modern technologies that benefit himself and humankind today are delivering a lethal strike to nature that impacts future generations, as symbolized by the unborn fawn.  This is the moment where man’s unique ability for compassion and critical thinking becomes a conflict with the inherent belief that innovation must and will take place, a belief that has gone unquestioned until now. The conflict gives rise to internal confusion, which is expressed with ellipses as he pauses to search for a viable reason that justifies both of these two human values that are deeply imbedded within him.

After “thinking hard for us all,” further demonstrating man’s gift and burden of thought, he swerves once again by thinking sympathetically on the behalf of nature, but still finds no answer.  Realizing that in this instance, the doe and fawn are both doomed, he “push[es] her over the edge into the river.” Although the speaker eventually went about his original plan, the way he went about it was very different than his previous intentions.  Rather than merely “roll[ing the doe] into the canyon,” an eerie place far down into the abyss, he “pushed her over the edge into the river,” which is commonly associated with life, proving that regardless of the man’s feelings towards technological innovation, he believes that nature deserves a definitive place in this world.

However, the speaker also sadly observes the fact that in the battle between technology and the animal kingdom, inventions are dominating with ease.  This is shown through the personification of the car with “its lowered parking lights” “aimed ahead.” The speaker is suggesting that the car is looking beyond the death of an animal, as if to triumphantly proclaim that human innovation is the way of the future.   It is also described as “purr[ing]” like a carnivorous cat after a kill, with the “glare of warm exhaust turning red” to  further illustrate its lethal qualities, emphasizing the mounting conflict between the commonly accepted idea of placing mechanical progress above all else and the emotional repercussions that come with it. 

As the speaker describes the predatory likeness of his vehicle, he is decisively detaches himself from the car and places himself, along his hopes for the natural world, next to the doe and her fawn.  He even goes as far to say that the three of them are a “group,” meaning that one conclusion he comes to in his moment of hesitation is that they are all animals and all deserving at a shot of life.  The speaker “swerve[es]” again to think hard for “us all”, trying to find a way for both nature and technology to exist harmoniously, but cannot come up with any clear solution; the answer to the speaker’s conflict is as ominous as the night in which he travels.

            The man’s newly found struggle by “Traveling Through the Dark” challenges human’s preconceived notions about mankind being enlightened creatures, superior to all others.  Stafford’s poem calls this idea into question through the clever use of a dark setting that contains both manmade and natural features, ridged and loose structure, and figurative language.  These elements illustrate how easily humans fall into the trap of asking more questions than they can answer, and feel just as in the dark as the animals living in the wilderness off of Wilson River road.


Chase Sax

A Traveler’s Trial

Travelling through the Dark is not what it seems at face value, a detailed description of one man’s deviance from a routine. William Stafford created the poem to give his reader’s insight into his deep experiences that night. At first glance, Travelling through the Dark is filled with emotion from the mourning of a dead animal, but the implications of the poem spread well beyond the loss of an animal alone. Stafford intends his poem to raise questions in the reader’s mind about the fine line that separates man’s advancement in society and the increasing gap between nature and humanity. The poem challenges man’s conventional and structured thought process and replaces it with the unpredictability that only nature can provide. By creating tension between manmade and natural objects, shifting from a sense of automation to chaos, and introducing ambiguity, Stafford instills the reader with a similar emotional experience to what he experienced on that lonely country road.

Throughout the poem, the tension between the natural world and man is always present. The road itself represents mankind, while the canyon and river alongside the road represent the unforgiving elements in nature. Nothing about the road is natural, not even the name. Wilson River Road is the path that mankind has chosen, cut along the dangers of a cold river, man’s attempt to overcome the harsh and unforgiving elements. Between mankind and the wild, right on the edge lays the dead deer, stuck between the two worlds. When the author moves towards the back of the car, he stops at the edge of the road, between mankind and the wild, just as the deer is situated between mankind and the wild. But as the author stands beside the deer, deciding on his next course of action, nature seems to pull him closer. Stafford begins to describe his car more as an animal than a machine. Stafford uses diction such as “tail-light” earlier in the poem, but as he finds himself drawn closer to nature, Stafford personifies his car with words like “lowered” and “purred.” Stafford’s shift between human structure and the unknown of the wild represents the dissonance that he feels towards nature (293).

            During the author’s struggle to decide between man and the wild, a sense of automation creeps in. The author speaks in a very matter-of-fact way, such as, “to swerve might make more dead,” or just, “I dragged her off” (293). The author is so accustomed to events such as these that he has developed  his way of handling the situation physically (by dumping the deer into the canyon), but even mentally, which is implied by the author’s detachment to handling the situation. The author’s mental defense for dealing with a dead creature is to simply tune out all emotion and mechanically run through the steps, just as most of humanity does when it faces adversity. The author’s systematic reaction to the circumstances shatters when his natural emotions suddenly flood back to him upon touching the deer’s belly. With the realization that he has a decision to make, the author’s structure of the poem crumbles; there are no longer concise lines conveying a straightforward meaning, instead breaks and pauses in the middle of the lines indicate the author’s struggle to adapt to the new situation. The most notable pause comes in the last stanza, when the author says, “I thought hard for us all—my only swerving.” Stafford’s “swerving” lends itself to the chaos of the poem (293). Stafford didn’t literally swerve to avoid the deer, which he feared other drivers would have to do, rather he uses swerve to convey the tension in his final decision, a decision that he never wanted to have to make.

Along with abrupt changes in the organization of the poem, Stafford uses ambiguity to express the difficulty of his predicament. In the third stanza, the author says, “her fawn lay there waiting, alive, still, never to be born” (293). The word “still” could have several different meanings: Is it supposed to mean not moving; is “still” used in the sense that the fawn has a chance because it is “still” alive; or is “still” used in the same way as “still birth?” The context of the poem gives no clear answer to any of the questions, but Stafford does it by design. Stafford wants the ambiguity to be present for the reader, just as the choice Stafford had to make was unclear. The author introduces vagueness into the poem to give the reader the notion that the edge between life and death, man and wild is not so clear cut.  Stafford’s use of the word “us,” in the line “I thought hard for us all,” also introduces a sense of ambiguity (293). Stafford is making a very large decision for a group, but what he doesn’t address is who that group actually is. Possibly that group could be mankind, meaning that Stafford’s decision would directly reflect humanity and how it interacts with nature. Or the use of “us” could represent everyone/everything in the surrounding area of the poem, such as the dead deer, the fawn, and the rest of the wilderness surrounding them. Again, Stafford’s uses ambiguity as a tool to engage the reader in the same uncertainty that he encountered on that winter night. Stafford’s ambiguity is not designed to confuse the reader or leave him/her hanging, rather it leaves the interpretation of its meaning up to the reader, giving the reader the sense of a similar difficult decision that Stafford faced.

Stafford’s use of tension, alteration of structure, and ambiguity aid in helping the reader understand the difficult decision and the implications of the speaker’s decision. Stafford wants the reader to recognize that his poem does not represent a well written poem of an event, but instead a metaphor for a much larger struggle humanity faces today: the struggle to separate mankind from nature. Stafford’s position in the poem, on the edge between mankind and its natural origin, signifies his experience when he encountered the thin line separating him from a natural world he had ignored. Ultimately Stafford chose the path he knew, the path he was most comfortable with: the norm. Stafford confronted his self-conscious, but when the choice had to be made, Stafford chose what he believes everyone else would have chosen, the same path we always have, and always will, choose.

Anastasia White

 “Dulce Et Decorum Est”

War heroes are often glorified and praised in society for brave acts committed selflessly in the name of their country.  Ambitious young adults are inspired to take a risk in order to do something exceptional and make a name for themselves. While World War I may have seemed like the proper platform, soldiers learned of the hardships and brutality in the rush of the battlefield.  “Dulce Et Decorum Est” gives a true sense of war and pleads to those who simply tell of the glory of patriotism and war to rethink their “stories”.  Through a contrast of old and young, imagery of sickness and weakness within the military and soldiers, and an appeal to the senses, the poem sends a message that war should not be glamorized.

Several references to youth and the old emphasize the toll that war takes on the soldiers.  Although the soldiers are presumed to be relatively young and able-bodied men, the effects of a prolonged war have made them resemble “old beggars under sacks” (Owen 1).  This image of old men hobbling along, hunched under the weight of their own bodies, is exactly opposite of what one would expect of someone defending a strong nation.  A similar characterization continues with a comparison to a “hag” (2).  Even their weapons grow old and weak, as “tired, outstripped Five-Nines… dropped behind” (8).  Despite their fatigue and weariness, the men do not drop behind because of the hope of a “distant rest” towards which they “trudge” (4).  Contrastingly, the soldiers are also depicted in terms suggesting their true youthfulness.  They are shouted to, saying, “Quick, boys!” (9).  In the situation of a gas attack, they are very inexperienced, as they fumble to put on their gas masks in an energetic rush of “ecstasy” (9).  The men do not have the exposure that wise old men would have.  In addition, they have “innocent tongues”, as in the innocence of a child who has not experienced the horrors of war (24).  These men were once the “children ardent for some desperate glory”, too naïve to understand the true nature of war.  Even in their present surroundings of death and violence, they are caught in a “smothering dream” (17) as they “[march] asleep” (5), rather than a nightmare, as any jaded, aged person would describe it.  Overall, the descriptions of the soldiers both old and young express how war has aged the young men who fight.

Lengthy descriptions of illnesses reveal the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the military, which is supposed to exemplify strength.  As the soldiers “limped on, blood-shod” (6), they are “knock-kneed” and “coughing” (2).  They are weary and sick from fighting in a prolonged war.  They seem virtually incapable of performing their duties, as they are “all… lame; all blind; drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots” (6-7).  The men have lost all of their basic functions, yet, they are forced to continue under miserable conditions.  A lengthy portrayal of one soldier dying from a poisonous gas describes him “guttering, choking, drowning” (16) while “blood come[s] gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs” (22), as his comrades watch, unable to help him.  This description chronicles a man who did not make it out of a battle alive, but even those who did will have lasting ailments and scars.  The end of the poem uses the comparison “obscene as cancer” (23) and tells of “incurable sores” (24).  Additionally, even their soul and mental state are compromised as if in an illness, as the dying soldier’s face is “like a devil’s sick of sin” (20).  The wounds on the soldiers’ bodies and souls will last for the rest of their lives, long after the war ends.  In a sense, a chance at a normal, uncorrupted life died for each of the men.  The message is clear that it is anything but “sweet and decorous” (28) to die in war.  In all, a listing of ailments and diseases faced by every soldier reveals the hardships within even the strongest military.

Sensory imagery, appealing especially to the sense of taste, intensifies the feelings and experiences of the soldiers to further communicate the message of the poem.  The “old lie” (27) that the poem attempts to refute is “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (27-28).  The word “dulce”, meaning “sweet”, is the exact opposite of all the previous evidence.  The description “bitter as… cud” (23) stresses how far from the truth the “lie” is, since “bitter” is an antonym for “sweet”.  “Vile” (24) is another word used to describe the effects of the war; it too has a very negative connotation and is not something one would want to indulge oneself in.  The myth of the glories of war is told “with such high zest” (25), again a description that implies high flavor that is not true to the true taste of war.  The essence of war should be told with all of its brutalities and hardships, instead of a glossed-over perception that is “dream-like” and not realistic.  Everyone will not survive to “taste victory.”  Overall, through sensory imagery, the message of the poem is clearly described by the true senses of the soldiers.

The juxtaposition of old and young, examples and references to sickness and vulnerabilities in the military and soldiers, and sensory imagery all display the intent in the poem to discourage the seemingly glorious aspects of war.  The poet pleads to the reader to heed the experiences of a soldier who has seen the effects of war upon the individual.  Idealistic aspirations of the glory of one who dies for his country do not accurately represent the pain that actually results.  Anyone who tells of this “lie” has not experienced for himself the reality of war.

Kyle Ritterbeck

A Struggle from Oppression

            Oppression and dominance litter the short history of mankind. From the colonization of the East by the West to the enslavement of Africans and the dominance of man over woman, we see clearly that oppression once existed and that its traces linger today. “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers,” by Adrienne Rich, conveys the attempt of Aunt Jennifer to escape mentally from the world around her. The expected, routine rhyming pattern and structure of the poem, coupled with the symbolism of the tigers and the poem’s contrast between heavy and elegant words, in fact, illuminate the situation that draws Aunt Jennifer more deeply into the oppressive relationship that she longs to escape.

            Aunt Jennifer often spends her days seeking a way out—searching for an outlet from the lifestyle dominated by her husband. Aunt Jennifer passes time knitting tigers and reveling in their powerful, elegant nature. The tigers give her a sense of dominance over the oppressive demeanor of man. Yet, little does she know that her lifestyle does nothing but draw her further into oppression in a bounding, cyclical effect. Aunt Jennifer’s knitting reveals that the tigers, which sit in a tree above men, give her a feeling of empowerment over men stating. After all, “they do not fear the man beneath the trees.” She views the tigers as a higher power, living vicariously through them and their ability to elevate themselves over man, something that she understands she cannot do. She lives through them in an attempt to have some type of escape and security from man, yet she does so without realizing that she unknowingly places the tigers on a pedestal even higher than man. Aunt Jennifer depicts the tigers as having a “sleek chivalric certainty,” –giving them almost a knightly existence. The chivalric nature of the tigers radiates with an aura of aggression and cockiness as they “prance” across the screen of tapestry. This dependence on yet another dominating, masculine figure simply draws her more deepely into the oppressive lifestyle that already binds her.  A contrast exists between the escape that Aunt Jennifer believes she receives through knitting and the reality that she merely draws herself more deeply into oppression. Her reliance on yet another masculine figure as an outlet creates an inevitable conflict between her search for freedom and her struggle from dominance.

            Adrienne Rich conveys Aunt Jennifer’s oppression also through the poem’s deliberate structure and arrangement. The entire poem obeys a very typical, routine, and almost expected, AABB rhyming pattern—a rhyming pattern that may be assumed by the reader—emulating the expected, obedient lifestyle that Aunt Jennifer lives under her husband. The many rhyming couplets represent the steadiness of Aunt Jennifer and her relationship. Once the rhyming pattern begins, you are drawn into its entrapment with no means of release, just like the oppressive and dominant marriage to which Aunt Jennifer has fallen victim. Rich also arranges the stanzas of the poem in a way that separates the tigers from Aunt Jennifer. The dominance of the tigers is talked about only in the first stanza, followed by her oppression in stanzas two and three. No overlap exists between the discussion of the tiger’s freedom and dominance of Aunt Jennifer’s husband, symbolizing the lack of discussion or cooperation between man and woman. Lastly, the author’s only use of punctuation throughout the poem comes during the first stanza, when the tigers are mentioned. The use of a comma in the first sentence and semicolon in the following sentence suggests the power and dominance of the tigers. Commas and semicolons are used to stop and control sentences, representing the tiger’s ability to dominate and control their situation. On the other hand, the sentences that talk about Aunt Jennifer contain no punctuation, signifying her lack of control on the situation around her.

            The author also uses a purposeful contrast between dominant and free words to convey the conflict between freedom and oppression. The author describes the tigers and their actions with words such as “prance” and “sleek,” suggesting that they move with a sense of freedom. Their proud and chivalric nature illustrates their ability to think for themselves and to do as they please. The tigers do not fear man, let alone another animal, just as man does not fear the women beneath them. The tigers live with a sense of freedom and lack of restriction. At the same time, Rich depicts the oppression of Aunt Jennifer with words like “weight” and “heavily” when discussing the wedding ring on her finger. The massive weight of the ring does not signify a large, elegant, expensive diamond that her husband happily purchased for her, but rather the figurative weight that Aunt Jennifer assumes from the ring. It represents his dominance in their marriage and the control that he possesses. Likewise, the narrator discusses the continued oppression that Aunt Jennifer will feel even when she has passed away. She will be buried with the ring that represents the lifestyle that has bounded her and the fear that she has been forced to live with from the controlled and oppressive relationship with her husband. Lastly, the use of the word “ringed” suggests the entrapment in the marriage in which she has lived for so many years.

            Aunt Jennifer’s attempt to find a way out of her oppressive relationship does nothing but draw her more deeply into its control. The conflict between her search for freedom and security and the reality of her dominance is illuminated by the author through the poem’s conflict of free and dominating words, the deliberate structure of the poem, and the symbolism of the tigers that she knits in hopes that she will be rescued from oppression.

Madison Denny

Fates Entwined

In Adrianne Rich’s poem, “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” the author captures the complex nature of the struggle against gender inequality through the very feminine hobby of weaving. The relationship between what and how Aunt Jennifer weaves on the screen, and why she weaves the tapestry is full of conflict. Rich alludes to the Moirai,or Fates, of Ancient Greek myth, uses a needle of ivory suggestive of the most oppressed continent on Earth, Africa, and intertwines masculine words to describe Aunt Jennifer’s tigers enhancing the feeling of the hopelessness of escape from a male-dominated world.

Weaving and needlework are prevalent in nearly every culture. In most, the women were the ones who sewed, and it is still to this day considered a woman’s task to do so. However, weaving was so important that many myths revolved around this art form. There are several elements of weaving from Ancient Greek myths that are prevalent in “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”. Through the work on her screen, Aunt Jennifer creates tigers who “do not fear the men beneath the tree” they roam proudly and unafraid. The tigers are everything that Aunt Jennifer hopes to be; in many ways she is attempting to become like the Moirai (the “Fates”) of Greek Mythology who control destiny by spinning the thread of life. The weaving of the tigers provides a two-fold opportunity.  As Aunt Jennifer tries to change her fate of being stuck in an uncomfortable marriage with “the massive weight of Uncle's wedding band” weighing her down; the tigers represent an escape to her ideal world where she is free from the social constrains of her marriage. However, the tigers are more than just an escape; by creating the tigers and bringing them to life she becomes one of the Fates who controlled not only destiny, but life and death. “When Aunt is dead…/ the tigers in the panel that she made/ will go on prancing, proud and unafraid” and yet, the artistic creations give control to Aunt Jennifer, when she normally has none. In the end though, there is no escape. Death comes for her and only the tigers remain. While she can give her tigers a different life, she cannot change her own destiny as she is “Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by”.

While the weaving seems to empower Aunt Jennifer, the way she weaves makes the entire endeavor a fool’s errand because of the ironic use of an ivory needle. Aunt Jennifer is sewing her way to freedom with a needle that comes from an endangered animal hunted for its tusk and living on the most oppressed continent. However, Aunt Jennifer recognizes this as “[her] finger[’s] fluttering through her wool/ find even the ivory needle hard to pull”. Adrianne Rich indications that the ivory needle is heavy with the suffering it brings from its home. Even the needle, a tool of a woman’s trade, is burdened with the oppression of men. As Aunt Jennifer tries to escape through her weaving she is using a tool that was created through death and dominance.  In an attempt to escape from her own oppression, and the hope of a better life, she cannot avoid the fact that the needle which gives life to her tigers was only made possible through men’s subjugation of an elephant for its ivory. 

Aunt Jennifer’s tigers are her ultimate escape; while the weaving is a means to an end the tigers are the end. They are her creations; they are her hopes and dream. Yet, looking closely at the tigers, it is evident that they are not as free from man as one might think as the words surrounding them betray their true nature. The first lines of the poem begin with “Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen/ bright topaz denizens of a world of green”. These lines show the tigers as everything that Aunt Jennifer wants them to be. They are shining examples of happiness, beings that are frolicking across the tapestry she is making; they live in a perfect world. However the following lines shatter that illusion as the tigers, “… do not fear the men beneath the tree;  /they pace in sleek chivalric certainty.” In the first line it appears that the tigers are above the men because they are do not fear them; it looks to be a positive note, the thing Aunt Jennifer is hoping for, to be free from fear. Yet, the next line reveals a deeper meaning as the tigers, are described as chivalric. The tigers are certain of their place above the other men because they are “knightly”. Aunt Jennifer has not created an animal that is free to do what it wants; instead she has created one that is bound to a code and a way of life, and even worse a way of life dictated by men. Aunt Jennifer’s final escape has failed. Her tigers are just as captive to the male-dominated world as she is, the only difference being their position among men.

As Aunt Jennifer sews on her screen in an attempt to break from her traditional world dominated by men, Adrianne Rich shows that escape is not simple. Beginning with the fact that Aunt Jennifer is attempting to escape through the use of an almost entirely feminine pastime, Rich builds the feeling of futility as everything Aunt Jennifer tries ultimately leads back to the object of her distain. Her tigers are held captive in the world of men by the words used to describe them; they are bound to rules. Fittingly, the needle used to create the tigers was made from the subjugation of another. On her tapestry Aunt Jennifer weaves her way to freedom with her needle of oppression but, inevitably, the tigers, her only hope, are corrupted by men. The escape she so desperately desires is nothing but an illusion meant to fool those too ignorant to look beyond the surface of her tapestry.



Uncle’s Tigers

In Adrienne Rich’s “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”, Aunt Jennifer uses her needle work as an escape from reality. Her life is riddled with unhappiness and discontent with her marriage, but even in her dreams and escapades, the notion of being restrained and bound to the idea of a patriarchal society are still prevalent. Through the wedding band, the ivory needle, and the subtle usage of masculine vocabulary, Rich shows that Aunt Jennifer is constrained to the patriarchal society both mentally and physically.

Rich describes Aunt Jennifer as being “weighed down” by and “ringed” by the Uncle’s wedding band. In literature, the circle commonly symbolizes equality, unity, and life, archetypically feminist attributes that correlate with balance and nature. But in this poem, the circle instead suggests entrapment, bound by chains and collars. To be ringed with “ordeals she was mastered by” implies that Aunt Jennifer was not independent, but rather considered the property of the uncle. Rich describes the ring as “massive” and “sitting heavily” showing that the ring makes weaving the needle work difficult. In this light, “fluttering through her wool” describes a trembling hand that finds difficulty in movement. Even in the creation of the needle work that allows her to escape her unhappy reality, with every stitch she makes, she is still reminded that she is not her own person. The feminist nature of the circle archetype is perverted, creating a male dominant idea that tarnishes the idea that it provides equality or unity. The idea that the circle symbolizes life changes, as Aunt Jennifer is lively only in her exciting and exotic needle work. Her reality shows no difference in either her life or the afterlife, because when she is dead, her hands are “still ringed” implying that even in death, she cannot escape the confines of the prison created by the ring.

While the use of a needle in sewing is not at all a strange occurrence, the author’s description of an ivory needle hints at something more. Ivory obtained from the tusks of an elephant, and to kill something goes against the feminist stereotype that states all beings are one with nature. To have killed in order to obtain the needle and the fact that the wool used to sew was forcibly taken from a sheep, indicated that the tools used for this seemingly feminine hobby were derived from a patriarchal world. While sewing often describes as a very feminine thing to do, the very action is inherently masculine. The needle pierces and penetrates the fabric, and is followed by a tail of fabric. This imagery alludes to the idea of conception, making Aunt Jennifer’s apparently wholesome activity seem perverted. The very basis of Aunt Jennifer’s hobby is built with tools taken from a world that has no sympathy for nature and is used to perpetuate a masculine action.

Rich’s poem is written with exotic flair and colorful vocabulary, but is characterized by a tense and rigid structure that contrasts Aunt Jennifer’s dream and her reality. The poem uses many soft and flowing words, such as “prance,” “sleek,” and “fluttering,” that fit the piece’s fluid and exotic imagery. In addition, the rhymes in the poem often use long vowel sounds like “screen” and “green,” and “wool” and “pull.” But behind this bright, colorful syntax, the poem uses a strict AABB rhyme scheme as well as a strict four line stanza. This is the most common and least interesting structure, despite the poem’s exotic setting. The vocabulary in the poem also lends itself to subtle masculine images that maintain the idea that Aunt Jennifer cannot truly escape the harsh confines of the patriarchal society. The tigers are described as “chivalric” a word that lends itself to the idea of chivalry and knights. These “knights” are described to be proud and fearless, additional masculine features that dominate her feminist dream world. The idea of these “bright topaz denizens” also contribute to the impression that Aunt Jennifer’s dream world contrasts with her unfortunate reality, as she desires wealth (topaz being a precious gem), a charming chivalric husband, and to be independent (denizen associates with citizen). But in the end, she could not escape the constraints placed on her by the society in which she lives.

Aunt Jennifer’s dream world was meant to contrast with her ill-fated reality, but even her dream world originates in the masculine archetype. The structure of the poem is tense and rigid despite the fluid vocabulary. Even then, the vocabulary gives the vision of chivalric knights. The perversion of the circle encased Aunt Jennifer as she could not bear its massive weight and the very hobby she used to escape the pain was inherently masculine. With these so-called escapes, she perpetuates the idea that she cannot live without men to bind her.

Ryan Albers

Rich Delivers the Male

On the surface, Adrienne Rich’s, “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”, is about a woman who is oppressed by her husband, but is able to escape through her knitting.  She lives through the tigers that she has created and is able to rise above her current situation.  The true meaning behind the poem is far less optimistic, however.  The closer the poem is analyzed, the clearer it is that Aunt Jennifer has no real control over herself or her alternate fiction.  The author’s use of masculine imagery, artificial diction, and an orderly structure reveals the unfortunate reality that the male figure in her life is in complete control.

            Aunt Jennifer’s life is dominated by male authority.  This is shown through the masculine imagery describing her life.  Words like “weight”, “ringed” and “ivory” imply the control men have over her life. “Weight” is used to describe her wedding band.  The poem says that it weighs massively on her hand.  The ring is a reminder that she is bound and controlled by her Uncle.  The word ringed is used to describe her hand even into death.  This states that man’s oppression is something that Aunt Jennifer brings to her grave, and that death is the only true escape.  The word ivory is used to describe the needle she uses to knit the pane with the tigers.  Ivory however, is a very masculine item.  Coming from the tusks of elephants, it portrays men’s dominance over animals and the world around them.  The very fact that Aunt Jennifer has to use an ivory needle suggests that the escape she makes depends on male power. 

Even if the imagery describing her life is not enough to believe that she has no escape from male authority, even the parts of the poem reserved for Aunt Jennifer’s escape world, specifically the first stanza, are littered with masculine imagery.  The words tigers and chivalric are meant to give Aunt Jennifer a sense of proudness and honor, but the very words in and of themselves are masculine.  Tiger, for instance, has a rich history of symbolism and mythology.  In Asia the tiger is associated with the power and might of kings.  The Koreans call it the 'King of the Animals'.  In China images of tigers were hung in pregnant woman's rooms to protect the unborn baby.  Nothing about the tiger suggests a proud woman.  The tiger is a male figure representing the head of a household.  On top of that, even the way the tigers pace is described as chivalric.  Chivalry is also a male oriented word.  It was used to describe knights and their moral code and honor.  The fact that even Aunt Jennifer’s escape is full of masculine authority means that males not only control her in real life but even shape and control her own fantasies about escape from men.

Aside from male oriented imagery there are also a few choice words that the author uses to insinuate that any escape Aunt Jennifer makes is artificial.  The two most impactful words are “lie” and “made” both in the last stanza.  The word lie is especially cunning due to the fact that it is used as a play on words.  The surface meaning of the word lie is that her hands are merely resting.  The underlying message, however, is that her hands have been dishonest to her.  They have lied to her by knitting the pane with the tigers in the first place.  Her knitting has tricked Aunt Jennifer into believing that she has a sliver of control in her life.  Her hand, having made the pane, has misled her into this falsehood.  The word “made” in the second to last line of the poem also has a negative connotation.  The two words create and make differ slightly in definition.  To create something is to produce that thing from nothing but imagination and creativity.  To make something implies less creativity. It means to produce something that already has a blueprint.  The fact that the author decides to use the word “made” instead of “created” implies that her escape already had a blueprint. She did not devise this fantasy on her own, instead the male authority in her life imposes it on her.

The structure of the poem also reflects the authority and control in Aunt Jennifer’s life.  Every line is a couplet with perfect rhymes.  This is about as orderly and organized as a poem can get.  This is a direct reflection of the control being imposed on her existence.  The interesting fact however is that even the section of the poem describing her escape from reality is structured.  This only reinforces the idea that she has no control over her escape.  Just like her Uncle has control over her in the real world, he also shapes and controls her escape from reality.

The sad and unfortunate truth is that Aunt Jennifer is not in control of her own destiny or life.  The male figures in her life have complete control over everything she does until the day she dies.  This is not unlike the real world.  While society has taken large steps to improve equality of the genders, the world is still a male dominated place.  No matter how much we try and trick ourselves that men and women are equal, unfortunately society is still male oriented.


























1.  While this fact is obvious by sight when viewing the lines, one is far less likely to notice the rhyme scheme when the poem is read or listened to.


2.  The father “gets up early” while the son “rises,” the father “puts his clothes on” while the son “dresses,” and finally the father goes about his day “in the blueblack cold” while the son waits until his father calls, “when the rooms were warm.” The harsh, hard-working aura is all but absent in the son’s regal rising. The relationship here seems to be more servant-served than father-son when the basic language of “puts” and “gets” is contrasted to “rises” and “dresses.”


3.  Either way, there is concept of sharply contrasting images of childhood, each implication sharply contrasting repetitive cycles of child rearing.


4.  If the reader examines the word Sunday within the context of the poem, they would recognize Hayden intended it to be defined as "son day."


5.  By using this harsh diction, the narrator subtly illuminates to his readers that there is a prevalent separation between the father and son during the son's childhood, thus resulting in him being unappreciative of his father's tender acts.


6.  The narrator even discusses the continued oppression that Aunt Jennifer will feel even when she has passed away.


7.  Because he chooses to stop and check on the deer, he notices that it is pregnant and knows that there is nothing he can do to save the young one.


8. By entrenching the reader within the staccato rhythm confines of his poem throws the reader into the midst of his story, filled Owen’s vivid descriptions of death and disfigurement meant to undercut the glorious image commonly associated with war, in order to reveal the true nightmare contrasting with the dream, a lie, of the glory found in fighting and dying for one’s country. 


9.  Then In the third stanza Owen presents the ugly nature of war and the constant reminder that death is all around as they throw the corpse into the wagon and travel behind it all the while hearing the blood gurgle from the lungs of the man who could not keep with the changing times of war.


10. The use of alliteration by the author adds to the mood of the poem. She uses the alliterations to give the poem a more upbeat feeling by creating a pleasant rhythmic effect using positive, comforting words.


11. It is also described as “purr[ing]” like a carnivorous cat after a kill, with the “glare of warm exhaust turning red” to  further illustrate its lethal qualities, emphasizing the mounting conflict between the commonly accepted idea of placing mechanical progress above all else and the emotional repercussions that come with it.


12.  When studying the poem, there is not a single instance where the imagery is used in a light tone, or can be interpreted to glorify the soldiers.


13. The mature reader, often times may miss the rhyme scheme initially due to their further understanding of the gruesomeness of war and the explicit images that can result.

14. To express war in a manner where children would not be enticed, Wilfred Owen couldn’t hold anything back; he had to describe the scene of war as it truly is.

15. He goes on to say, as he is recalling his dreams, that if truly this other person had been in the same war he had that the other would not have been telling the glory stories to the younger generation that is obsessed with the glory of war, not realizing the atrocities that come with out, blinded by the propaganda that is being put out and not truly now what they are glorifying.


16.  All the sensory details Owen uses relating to the sense of taste or the mouth are undesirable; the author uses terms and phrases such as guttering, choking, blood gargling in their throats, bitter as a cud, sores on tongues to depict the scene. 































Part 1 (5 pts).  Answer the following questions so there is no mistake about your answer.

a.  Who is Pangloss?


b.  What is Pangloss's "experiment” with Pacquette


c.  Who is Martin?


d.  Who is the Anabaptist?


e.  Who is Cacambo?
Part 2 (3 pts). Put a line through the following methods that Voltaire does NOT use in developing his satire.

-dreams and visions

-words undercut by events 

-euphemistic, official sounding description of basic, mean events

-unfair occurrences

-letters written and exchanged by characters

-false logic masquerading as official explanation for events

-deep character analysis

-journey as quest for some thing or someone


-sudden epiphanies or revelations of truth

-use of utopian or golden age setting for satirical purposes

-subtle allusion to Eden

-excessive quantity of events

-characters tell each other jokes

-development and fundamental change of character


Part 3 (2 pts.). Make up a one or two sentence definition of satire, assuming that Candide is the quintessential example of this form of literature. Avoid circular definition—“an enthusiast is one who enthusiastically pursues an ambition.”  





























Prompt for Essay on Candide


Write a narrowly focused, coherent little essay on ONE of the following prompts:


a) How should we understand the ending of this book?  Particularly focus on Candide’s saying twice, on pages 143 and 144, “we must go and work in the garden.”  How is that a meaningful, appropriate ending?


b) What is the function(s) of El Dorado in the book?  What are the ways in which it contributes thematically to the work and even carry out the work’s methods of satire?


c)  What is the function of Cunegonde in the book?  As with El Dorado, consider the ways in which she contributes to the work’s meaning(s).




1) Your audience, comprised of me and your classmates, has read the novel and studied it; therefore you do not need to retell events.  Instead build a case by referring to events and using quotations where necessary


2) proofread your paper before handing it in


3) give your paper an interesting title

4) make sure it has a recognizable organization based on its controlling idea






















The Golden Base of Satire

     Voltaire has many different tricks up his sleeve when it comes to writing Candide in his trademark satirical way.  One such trick comes in the episode involving Eldorado.  Eldorado contributes in two ways as if represents what Pangloss would call “the best of all possible worlds” and shows a darker side of human nature’s insatiability.

    When comparing and criticizing it is important to have something to base your ideas on. In Candide Eldorado is such a place.  Even Candide himself remarks, “It is probably the country where all goes well; for there must obviously be some such place” (77). Up until this point in the novel, Candide has been brought up by Pangloss to believe that the world he was living in was the best one despite all the horrors he experienced.  However, Voltaire uses this obviously extreme case of perfection fo further the absurdity in Pangloss calling the world “the best.”  Here Eldorado is used as an exaggeration of what a perfect world is, and as such,  in satirical fashion, it ridicules Pangloss’s idea of a perfect world.

     Despite its role as a stand in for the perfect world, Eldorado shows us the very dark side of humans, which makes Eldorado impossible.  Even though there was everything Candide and Cacambo could have ever dream

t of in Eldorado, they convinced themselves that it would be better to move on: “They were both anxious, also, to show their friends how rich they had grown and to boast about what they had seen in their travels.  So these happy men decided to be happy no longer and take leave of His Majesty” (83) as they thought they would be better off back in the old world where they would be rich and above other men. Here Voltaire taps into the human psyche and pokes fun at man’s desire to be considered above another.  While they were in Eldorado, Candide and Cacambo were “no different from anybody else: (82).  All the people were rich so their wealth did not matter.  As Candide’s experience in Eldorado proves of humans, we only want what will make us better than others, and the absurdity of riches in Eldorado and the ease with which they parted with it clearly mocks our obsession with wealth. 

     In the end, Eldorado is more than just a stop on Candide’s magic carpet ride of misery.  El Dorado in many ways represents the best and the worst.  It is the best of all worlds as all your needs are met and it lives up to Pangloss’s philosophy (perhaps the only place that does).  However, it also shows something else as even a survey of the class showed that most would have left.  The exaggeration used in describing Eldorado, then, carries on the satire of the work in a way that few other settings could. 


All Work and No Play Makes Candide a Dull Boy

     After what many would consider to be several lifetimes worth of trials and tribulations, journeys, and adventures, Candide ends his life by simply working in a garden.  While mainly searching for his lover, Cunegonde, he also spent his time searching for meaning in life and testing what he thought was that meaning: all that happens is the best possible outcome.  The final scene provides the perfect change of pace where a static life is matched by a static reason for living: “We must go and work in the garden.” The ending is appropriate because it concludes Candide’s quest for meaning, provides an answer to what humans were designed to do, and gives an example of Candide’s unwavering stubbornness.

     The plot is driven by Candide searching for Cunegonde.  Therefore, it is appropriate that the story ends with Candide together with his lover, stationary at his farm.  But with the physical movement ending, Candide also ends his philosophical transition.  No longer does he constantly test Pangloss’s philosophy or listen to others’ thoughts, like Martin’s, but now he has solidified his own opinion on how he should live his life.  The “epiphany” that we must go and work in the garden” ties loose ends, makes the story come full circle, and provides for a perfect denouement. 

     The ending alludes to the garden of Eden.  Like Adam and Eve, Candide and Cunegonde’s only role in life is to tend to their garden.  It takes Candide much strife to realize this idea, and both Candide, having killed many, and Cunegonde, having slept with many, are indeed sinners.  Yet they are striving towards an ideal of paradise or at least as close to paradise as they can get.  Since God created man to tend a garden, Candide finally realizes that this is what men were designed to do, and their job is to obey.  If man were designed for such a task, he should be silly to attempt anything else.

    Finally, Candide’s stubbornness provides an interesting irony to the ending.  Just as Candide clings to the notion throughout every event that he “must find Cunegonde,” he is firm and resistant when it comes to his new philosophy that he must work in the garden.  His repetition of this almost mantra shows that his ideas are just as resistant to change as they used to be.  Ironically, this stubbornness contrasts the intellectual malleability that was required to change his opinion about the purpose of life in the first place.  Even though Candide changes his view on life in the end, the fact that he remains stubborn shows that he is still a flat character.

     The conclusion is the most important part of any literary work.  It has the power to validate everything that has previously happened.  Unfortunately for Candide, he ends by realizing that all of his troubles were for the wrong reasons.  How one can only hope that Candide has a green thumb.

Back to Basics

     In the satirical novel Candide Volltiare scorns religious and social hysteria through the design of his closing scene.  He shrewdly manipulates the setting and utilizes irony to unveil the absurd hypocrisies of modern society. 

     By allowing the ending to take place in a garden, Voltaire alludes to Adam and Eve when they were in a state of blissful unawareness.  All of the characters that were once so wrapped up in ridiculous events that occurred previously in the novel are now leading pure and simple lives, a situation that lies in stark contrast to the inquisition of the Church, for example.  This difference illustrates how the Church and society have actually strayed away even further from the truth during this age of enlightenment and that the Golden Age of man actually took place during the existence of Eden, since much like Eldorado, Eden’s inhabitants had no ambition or worries to cause them to turn toward their evil tendencies.  Therefore, the garden inhabited by the characters at the end of the novel marks a return to simplicity and, ironically, a better understanding of what it means to be Christian and a positive contributor to society.

     Irony also illustrates how Candide decidedly rejects philosophizing, something that he has done his entire life.  He doing so he actually reaches a greater truth than he ever had during his years as a philosopher: that to find truth in the world, people do not need to travel around and think on all the crazy actions people are doing, but rather look within themselves and nurture their own internal garden while driving out the outside world.  This ironic concept is demonstrated twice when Pangloss attempts to philosophize with Candide and twice Candide shuts his idol down with the statement, “ . . . we must go and work in the garden.”  The repetition and brevity of that statement reflects the simplicity of the life Candide has begun, far away from the religious zeal and social hysteria of the outside world. 

     The setting of the garden as the ending of the novel ridicules any notion about progress resulting from the Enlightenment, as it suggests that a return to origins rather than following the seductive logic of rationale explanations brings us closer to happiness, closer to bet world we can find.  The novel appropriately ends when the philosopher becomes silent.   

Function of Eldorado in Candide

     Candide and Cacambo stumble upon the isolated country of Eldorado after man hard days of traveling.  Voltaire has Candide ask an enormous amount of questions to the subjects and kind of this country to create a type of foil to Europe and to show that whenever events do go Candide’s way, he is still un happy.

    Immediately upon arriving in Eldorado, Cacambo and Candide see children playing with gold nuggets and precious gems.  They assume that the children are royalty, though they are not.  Voltaire uses this image to show the different value systems between Europeans and citizens of Eldorado.  This overstatement and exaggeration Voltaire uses criticizes Europeans for how much they value material wealth.  When the landlord tells them that they have “fared badly” because it was a “poor village” after Candide and Cacambo have the feast of their lives, Candide draws a direct comparison to Westphalia, which Voltaire reminds us suffers in comparison.  Candide assumes that Eldorado is Pangloss’s vision of all things “going well,” and in doing so highlights the fact that there is no place on the earth where “all goes well” because Eldorado is overtly fictitious.

     Voltaire uses religion in Eldorado and Europe to further his satire of extreme optimism towards life.  As Candide discusses religion with an old man of Eldorado, he again makes a comparison to Westphalia.  In Eldorado, the citizens only worship one God and “thank Him unceasingly” because they have nothing to ask for.  Compare this to Europe, which has struggled over differences in religion for centuries.  European religion uses auto de fe and violence to try and convince people to worship in particular ways, whereas people of Eldorado are so grateful to God that they have nothing to ask for.  This contrast helps Voltaire set off Europe and again cast light on the shortcomings of Candide’s “perfect” Westphalia.

     Although Candide and Cacambo are in a literal heaven-on-earth, Candide becomes unhappy, yearning for Cunegonde.  Voltaire does this to point out that no matter how perfect a human’s life is, there is always something more to want.  This endless desire stands as a fundamental difference between citizens of Eldorado and those of Europe: Eldoradans are happy with what they have (for good reason) while the Europeans constantly try to improve their state of being.  Candide could have found a beautiful woman in Eldorado who was better than Cunegonde, yet he still pines for her, and chooses to re-enter the mess of the world. Voltaire accurately portrays human nature here, especially the way a person can be unhappy even while having so much to be thankful for.

     Eldorado perfectly foils Europe in almost every aspect, from religion to concepts of wealth to happiness.  Voltaire includes Eldorado to continue his satire of Pangloss’s ideals, and depicts that even when everything is going right, a person will find something to be unhappy about, and things will not turn out for the best.      

Candide’s Indifference

     Candide’s decision at the end of the novel to work in the garden reflects his indifference towards pursuing “the truth” or debating over philosophy.  The garden represents the exact opposite of everything Candide was searching for in the beginning of the story. 

      Candide originally liked to debate over philosophy, with ideas about optimism and this being the best possible world.  The garden, on the other hand, represents a more logical and systematic world in which everything is based on casuse-and-effect.  If one works hare, one will reap the benefits, and vice versa.  Candide’s choice to work in the garden shows a shift in Candide’s thinking, because he is choosing a life of reason—of cause and effect.  Candide’s choice is demonstrated very clearly, for he cuts off Pangloss’s rambling on philosophy twice to tell Pangloss that he knows they must work in the garden.  What’s interesting, however, is that Candide never dismisses what Pangloss says as being NOT true.  When Pangloss starts talking about the different kings, instead of saying “that’s not true,” Candide says, “I also know.” And when Pangloss begins to talk about a chain of event, Cnadide simply replies with, “That’s true enough.” These replies from Candide show Candide’s indifference towards philosophy. Candide does not deny Pangloss’s claims; he simply does not want to think about them.  This shows that Candide may or may not still believe in the existence of a greater truth, but rather he is just done trying to pursue it.  This is an appropriate ending because throughout the book, readers see the repercussions of debating over philosophy, and it isn’t until our surviving characters work in the garden that they discover some measure of happiness. 

     The garden is also compared to the Garden of Eden, which is an interesting concept because it is in the Garden of Eden where all innocence is lost.  The Garden of Eden was the origin of sin.  And while Candide’s garden represents a happy ending, in the Bible the Garden of Eden is represented as the beginning of sin, temptation, and ultimately the loss of innocence.  This myth could mirror Candide’s situation, showing how life would’ve been better if human did not know the truth, just as Adam and Eve’s lives would have been better, would have been eternal in fact, had they not eaten the forbidden fruit and not been able to see each other naked.  Nevertheless, Adam and Eve can lead bearable lives, as long as they don’t sin again, just as Candide and his friends and family, at the end of the novel, can lead bearable, hardworking lives, as long as they don’t try to pursue philosophy and truth again.

     The garden acts as a mirror to Candide’s life and offers Candide a safe haven from a confusing world.  The garden is an appropriate ending to Voltaire’s novel:  it shows Candide’s final decision to undercut the entire point of his journey by choosing to be indifferent towards philosophy and the pursuit of a greater truth. 

































Sample Successful Papers on Assignment #2

Connor P. Stalions

I Have Ten Seconds: Turn Left or Right? Does it Matter?

The phone call I received on the 17th of May, 2013 has lured me on a path I never anticipated.  My whole life, I knew I was going to the University of Michigan. My parents are alumni; Ann Arbor is home to me; I had been to 68 Michigan football games; one of my best friends is on the team; I could have been an equipment manager.  The reasons are endless.  After all, my goal in life has always been to become head coach for the University of Michigan football team.  What better way to do it than by starting from the bottom, in the equipment room, working my way up the staff.  But on May 17th, I got a phone call offering me a spot in the class of 2017 at the United States Naval Academy.  I had been weighing the pros and cons for months in case of this exact scenario, and I had never come to a sure conclusion. I had never even leaned one way or the other, but in those ten seconds when they needed an immediate response and I was by myself, I had to make a decision. This decision would affect the rest of my life, and I still have doubts about it to this day.  My situation—the decision between these two great choices—is identical to the decision Robert Frost exhibits in the poem “The Road Not Taken.”

            Robert Frost introduces his decision in the first stanza. Two roads in a yellow wood, and he can only chose one.  He would love to take both roads—as would I love to be able to go to Michigan and the Academy.  He thought it over and analyzed the first.  The first road in the poem is the path to attend the University of Michigan in my situation.  Attending Michigan was never even a question until the Naval Academy came into the picture.  And I was always a man with a plan.  At the time, I knew Jon Falk, the equipment manager, and Bob Lopez, the director of football operations.  I could become involved with the football team my freshman year and hopefully work my way up the staff.  How exactly? I am not certain, but I knew I was determined enough and had the connections that could help me. I could become a graduate assistant, then a position coach, then a coordinator.  Who knows? At least the road looked promising as far down as I could see.

            The second stanza of the poem complicates matters and leaves me still uncertain which path I took.  Similarly to how Robert Frost chose his path, I decided to attend the United States Naval Academy. I knew very little about the school; I had very few connections; and I knew no one on the football team.  Not only was my future with football uncertain by going to the Naval Academy, but it was also a hazardous decision because of the clichéd question, “are you willing to put your life on the line?”  Robert Frost second guesses whether or not it was truly the more dangerous road, as do I. Although I did not have any connections going into the Naval Academy, it was the safer road to develop my future.  The Naval Academy offers a guaranteed job and high pay; better leadership development than anywhere in the nation; and a salary to attend college. 

            Also in the second stanza, Frost presents the idea that the roads have been travelled upon equally.  The surface shows that the second path was less-followed, but if one looks closely, plenty of people have chosen to follow it.  It is rare for someone to attend one of the academies from my school.  On the surface, it looks like I took the road less travelled.  But did I? I have bigger aspirations than just attending a good school.  I want to become the head coach of an elite college football program.  The leadership from the Naval Academy and the fleet offer a great opportunity for coaching.  Many greats have gone through the academies. Coach Mike Krzyzewski—the winningest coach in college basketball—Roger Staubauch, David Robinson and many others have graduated from one of the academies.  Coach Bob Knight and many other coaches have coached at one of the academies.  Current Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison and Running Backs Coach Fred Jackson at Michigan have coached at Navy.  For my standards, is it a road less travelled? No. The road to the Naval Academy is equally worn down as Michigan in terms of coaches.

            Things get scary for me in the third stanza, which reflects my situation.  Frost half-convinces himself that he can always turn around and come back to the first path, but he knows the reality is that once he has made his choice, it is harder for him to turn around the farther and farther he goes.  I constantly tell myself, “Oh, I can just leave after my sophomore year and not sign two-for-sevens.”  That may be true, but it would not look good. I always refer to this quote when I start second-guessing myself: “Those who stay will be champions.” Ironically enough, this quote comes from Michigan’s winningest coach in history, Bo Schembechler.  He is whom I aspire to be.  I am using a quote from the road I did not take to keep me on the opposite road. It seems inapt, yet it is so fitting for this poem.

            Clearly, I am as uncertain about having chosen the road less travelled as Robert Frost.  However, I would say that we are confident in our choices.  Since coming to the Naval Academy, I have now become a Student-Coach for the Fullbacks on the football team; I have met the Athletic Director and Assistant Athletic Director at Michigan, along with head coach, Brady Hoke, and many of the assistants and position coaches.  I am already getting my foot in the door at Michigan and developing great relationships there.  Coach Hoke takes the seniors out to Coronado, CA to train with the SEALs for a week, so being in the Navy already gives me the upper hand with Coach Hoke.  This path may be more dangerous and painful because it requires me to serve in the military for five more years after graduation and to risk my life, but it is likely the more rewarding road.  A graduate of the Naval Academy definitely has the upper hand on others.  Maybe I did take the safer route.  Maybe I did not.  Am I on the road less traveled? Ultimately, the road not taken is my motivation to take the opposite.  Do the two roads meet?  Would I have ended up in the same place having gone to Michigan? These questions can only be answered in ten, fifteen, maybe twenty years from now.  Maybe they will never be answered.  That decision I made in ten seconds on the phone… that has made all the difference.

Andrew Raves

Taming of Hearts

Henry Reed’s “Naming of Parts” describes a student’s thoughts while he is being taught the eponymous parts of a rifle. Each stanza is broken into two halves. The first half’s speaker is an instructor, and the second half’s speaker is a student. Ironically, the student never actually says anything. He merely relays his thoughts to the reader through the poem. The structure of the poem makes the theme clear: the divergence and wandering of thought during methodical instruction. Everyone has experienced this sensation before where during some boring lecture one’s mind begins to wander. The universality of the theme helps to lend credibility. However, the poem means much more to me now. Plebe summer made me relate more to the specific instances that the student describes because of my yearning for beauty.

I read this poem in my senior year in English class, a class dedicated solely to poetry and drama. People warned me that it was a tough class, and experience forewarned me because I had had the teacher before as a freshman and struggled for a B. Nonetheless, I signed up because it was an AP class. Little did I know the irony behind this reasoning at the time. I had never put much stock in poetry before that class, and in fact, I thought verse was quite silly. However, I was determined to enter the class with an open mind. And, to no surprise, I struggled at first. As time moved on though, I continued to take what my teacher taught and successfully applied it to poetry. I figured out that analyzing poetry was just like a math problem. Once I had the proper skills under my belt, which the class had successfully provided, any poem could be put through a litmus test and be easily analyzed. The trick was to be cold, heartless, and calculating. Analyzing poetry was finding literary techniques and connecting them to their effects. There was no personality behind it, much less feeling, on my part. In a sense, this was a good thing. I managed a B in the class and a 4 on the AP exam. I went in with an open mind and came out with mediocre results, which I had been expecting. I was then able to “appreciate” poetry though I had yet to like it.

To this day, I do not know what changed inside of me. But shortly after completing that class I actually began to read and enjoy poetry on my own time. Eventually I began to write some of my own. I could not even believe this new development. If you had told me a year earlier that I would enjoy both reading and writing poetry, I would direct you to the nearest asylum. Though I hold no doubts that the English class had the deepest effect on my newfound Muse, I believe another large part was my simultaneously taking an art history class. Ironically, I had taken that for the same reasons: it was AP, and I wanted to learn about art. That class taught me about beauty.

Once I learned about beauty, writing poetry became easy. So many things became better than they were at face value. All art work increased in value to my eye, but nature too became that much better. The irony of these past events was that the main reason for my taking these two classes, to validate college classes via AP credits, was fruitless. The academy would accept neither one. However, I had gained what I now value so much more: my ability to analyze both poetry and art. But more importantly, it taught me to appreciate beauty.

This new skill would prove to be the most valuable asset I had going in to plebe summer. I would have never guessed it before or during, but in hindsight, appreciating beauty kept me sane during plebe summer. When I first read “Naming of Parts” as a senior, I related to it as I thought most people would: “Oh, ok. He’s bored with his instructor, so his mind wanders.” But I now know that I was missing a critical piece. His mind does not just wander. His mind wanders towards images of nature and its beauty. The speaker appreciates beauty! After reading this poem a second time after plebe summer, never before have I felt such a perfect alignment between the speaker’s feelings and my own in poetry. In this poem, there exists between the speaker and me a shared experience that is identical. Every time I read this poem, I hear the detailers’ voices as the instructor. I see the sterile white deck and bulkhead unmoving and unchanging before my eyes as I stand there and subconsciously take in the dry instruction. But then, my eyes, starved of beauty, begin to wander, and my thoughts decide to join them. The deep brown beautiful eyes of the girl standing across from me glisten in the loveliest way, and I am but lost in their color as the instructors’ words become just that: words. We would run every morning at sunrise, and instead of looking ahead to see where I step, I turn my head towards the sun, see that golden light, and sigh because I know that Frost was right: nothing gold can stay. Its beauty too would be gone shortly. I would see the blue water and the waves. Though out of breath, I would take time to slowly inhale the salty breeze, look up at the horizon, and be free for just that second while the detailers told all of us to hurry up. I would stand in formation at noon and see the fragile and motionless blooms on the trees and roses. The church bells would play the sweetest melody, and so I would close my eyes. The marching orders became empty and hollow.

I know the two speakers in “Naming of Parts.” I have heard them before. Every time I read it, I hear the detailers in the first half of each stanza, and then I hear my own thoughts over plebe summer. And I see the beautiful things the speaker sees. Neither the words nor the images are the same for the speaker and me, but the feeling and emotions are identical. Beauty comes from the heart. Over plebe summer, the environment was so sterile and devoid of beauty that I had to search for it harder than ever before. But I had been trained how to the year earlier. I looked inward, and my heart showed me where the beauty lay. I believe that appreciating beauty is what separates humans from machines. Plebe summer did its best to turn each individual into a machine. I fought back. There would be no taming of my heart.

Elena Wirz

Trying to Stay Gold

Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, demonstrates the objectification of women through the eyes of society; as “dawn goes down to day,” so does a woman’s most valuable asset, her appearance, as she matures into her later years.  But if beauty is the greatest determining factor in a girl’s worth, then where does that leave me, who wears masculine clothing and keeps her blond hair as hidden as possible, coiled tightly around in the back of her head? For a while, I was naive enough romanticize about coming to the Academy through acquiring the Mulan persona by cutting off a majority of my hair and trying to fit in with a male-dominated organization, but after a while, I realized that the idea of a warrior princess was not only unromantic, but simply impossible (no wonder she decided to go back to pink Kimonos in the end).  Frosts’ poem emphasizes that to maintain a golden feminine identity, a girl must be pretty and conformist, and the moment she decides to go against the grain of society, she instantaneously loses her luster.  I am reminded of this fact through the thoughts and actions of people back at home, and my new friends here at the Academy.

My traditionalist Uncle Jerry sought to teach me this point when he found out that I was headed toward a military-bound career.   “But you’re so pretty, don’t you ever want to get married someday?” he inquired after I came home from my high school graduation.  Standing there in my white dress and long hair that was freshly curled for the recent ceremony, I laughed to conceal my irritation and diplomatically stated that I could do both.   I thought the remark humorous, yet disheartening at the same time because I know that even some of my supposedly more sensible contemporaries share the same view.   Many of my own friends raised their eyebrows when I told them of my ambition to attend the Naval Academy; and although they eventually came around and supported my decision in the end, I could still sense a similar form of Uncle Jerry’s question lingering in the back of their minds.  The frustrating part for me was watching my friend Andrew, now a cadet at West Point, receiving unreserved congratulations  from the very same people who not five minutes ago expressed their concerns about me.  Just as “Eden sank to grief” when she aged, my friends as well as Uncle Jerry, probably believed that my value would “subside” in the eyes of other people.  In less than three weeks I would donate a foot of hair to Locks of Love and trade my dress in for pants and a shirt fashioned out of what looked like a white, canvas knapsack.  Were they right? Would guys and people in general really view me differently after I-Day?

Contrary to my sweet ole Uncle Jerry’s beliefs, rocking the Pop-Eye outfit for the first time was probably one of the most terrifying, yet liberating experiences of my life; I knew that fussing over my appearance was a fruitless cause, so I joined the ranks of sullen faces with the knowledge that for the next seven weeks, I would be judged primarily on my mental and physical abilities.  From there, I endeavored to win the respect and trust of my peers and eventually, my efforts were rewarded in the form of new friends and support to make it through this extraordinary summer experience from hell.  However, it soon became apparent that the respect I acquired through pushups, chow calls, and other ridiculous stunts, was as a plebe, a shipmate, a comrade, or any other gender neutral word, but most definitely not as a girl.

 Reality slapped me hard in the face a few weeks into the summer when civilian women, whether here for a sports camp or just touring the yard, would come sauntering around with their long, pretty hair and in their beautiful clothes purchased from the women’s department.  The guys in my company would sigh and say “Look, a real girl!” as if all the girls in white works were somehow fake.  My thoughts quickly shifted from petty plebe rates to something that would have a more profound impact on my time spent here and out in the fleet; my identity and how I want to be perceived as a female midshipman.  Although I was not raised to be concerned with vanity, I still confess that, like most people, I am conditioned by society to reflect on what people think of me, so when the term “real girl” embedded itself into the everyday vocabulary of my new friends, I was concerned.  By Frost’s definition, society’s idea of a “real girl” would be a young woman about my age, trying to maintain her value by working hard to keep a pristine appearance. This superficial and objectifying outlook renders her thoughts and ambitions negligible, or in my case, a burden, since I am assuming a male-dominated career path. It reflects a much deeper cultural problem in my school and on broader spectrum, my country.  If girls, including myself, want to be valued as leaders, they must struggle between the desire to be “gold” eye candy, or regarded as bypassing the laws of nature in becoming gender neutral, but professionally respectable.  

But Frost’s poem suggests something more; as “leaf subsides to leaf” the speaker alludes to the start of summer, which carries a connotation commonly associated with life, light, and enlightenment, prompting the argument that women have more to offer than their appearance.  However, this idea stands in stark contrast to the sinking imagery that the word “subsid[ing]” creates.  This reflects the irony of how females’ values lessen even as her opportunities to contribute to society increase. Here at the academy, where I am training for future service to my country, I do feel that my value as a girl has depreciated to an extent.  However, whatever points I may have lost by wearing manly clothes on a daily basis I have earned back in two fold as an athlete, classmate, and intellectual.  And although those last three words previously listed carry neither male nor female attributes, I believe they hold a greater level of respectability than mere “gold”.

The poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” emphasizes the way society values women by superficial means that, like gold, is a precious rarity, but dissimilarly, continues to deflate with time.  The judgment of girls by such means presents me with a tricky dilemma; do I give into the stereotypes that my well-meaning Uncle Jerry and friends so diligently believe and company mates subconsciously reflect?  Am I forced to choose between a golden feminine identity and a more brutish, masculine one?  I like to think not.  Although the military, and world for that matter, has not progressed enough in the way people generally view females in leadership roles, I do believe that it is up to me and other ambitious girls to prove that a balance can be struck.

Kyle Ritterbeck

Wishing Life Away

            Anxiety and uncertainty exist inevitably as people grow older, try new things, and are forced outside of their comfort zones. Bill Collins, in “On Turning Ten,” illuminates the truth about growing up, using the little boy as a wise example that helped me recognize the sad transformations that accompanied each stage of my growing up.

 As a college student, between class, homework, and taking the time to eat and stay in shape, I can never seem to find enough time in the day to accomplish all the things I need to complete, let alone spend my day goofing around as I once did. In elementary school, each day seemed timeless. I remember spending time outside before school only to return home and pick up right where my friends and I left off. I lived with a mind full of endless possibilities; and now, with each passing day, I realize more and more that I no longer have the opportunity to live with that same type of wild and crazy imagination. Jason, Jeremy, Zach and I spent hours playing football in the back yard, each day acting as another week in our infinitely long season. We were glorified on that gridiron behind the church in our neighborhood. Every touchdown pass or goal-line stand merely assured us more that, someday, one of us would become an NFL superstar. The smartest kid in each class would, without a doubt, go on to attend Harvard and probably cure cancer. Each time I tagged someone out before reaching the safe house in our childhood game of hide and seek compared to just another instance of me capturing the bad guy and saving the world from all his evils. Laughter and fun were guaranteed and bragging rights were always on the line. Yet, the second I entered fifth grade, I lost all respect from my peers by clinging on to any type of imagination and acting ‘immature’.

Middle school brought nothing but proof that the invincibility and sense of control I believed to possess did not exist. Just as Collins says, “But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life, I skin my knees. I bleed,” in middle school, I realized that cuts and scrapes were no longer the extent of my injuries. With age came drama and with drama came injuries–injuries that were much deeper than a cut or scrape. My best friends began to change—Jason did not finish high school, and Zach, after numerous fist fights with me, became my enemy. I began to notice girls and, with my first middle school break-up, the promising, inevitable heartbreak that accompanied them—the heartbreak that seemed more painful than any cut or scrape that I could ever have obtained. Nothing felt the same as it did in elementary school. My parents seemingly became Nazis, their strict reign holding supreme power when it came to the things that I wanted to do and the decisions I made. They imposed a curfew, a specific time allotted for homework, and even a much-too-early bed time. I grew older, yet now they wanted to know where I was and what I was doing every second of every day despite letting me run freely outside only years earlier. The simplicity that once consumed my life vanished into thin air, and this realization became not only frustrating, but frightening as well.

In high school, each day offered more and more realization that I was not getting any younger. Each year I was handed more trust and more responsibilities. My parents no longer got angry or mad with me, just, ‘upset and disappointed,’ because they, ‘expected better from me.’ Summers ceased to consist of riding bikes through the woods and spending my days fishing at the neighborhood pond. Now, ironically enough, despite summer being considered a ‘break,’ it still promised work. I had to get a part-time job at PacSun in order to pay for a car that all my friends would like, clothes to make me fit in at school, and pocket money to do all the things that my friends did—the simplicity that I once lived with no longer existed. I began to realize that each time the sun set, I had one less day until I would be forced out into the real world where I must finally act like an adult. The typical fear of uncertainty came with each of these milestones —kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school, college. I always made it through, and I know I will continue to, yet I still get that eerie feeling of uneasiness and nervousness that sprouts when I realize how much time I have already gone through. Collins describes this feeling and the idea of growing older as, “something worse than any stomach ache…a kind of measles of the spirit, a mumps of the psyche, a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.”

Now that I have made it to college, while analyzing poems and attempting to solve never-ending calculus problems, I finally realize the depressing transformation that shadows growth. It may have taken twenty years and a poem to make it sink in, but I finally understand how frightening and almost depressing it can seem to grow older. I often tell people to look toward the future and avoid wasting time by reveling in the past, simply because I forget how easy and enjoyable it was as a kid. Just as Collins says—“you tell me it is too early to be looking back, but that is because you have forgotten.” In all honesty, the way that everyone lives today has changed all this. Society drives us to invent the next advance in technology or to develop ourselves to become the next great athlete or humanitarian. The United States Naval Academy encourages us to constantly better ourselves in our pursuit of becoming naval officers. We always strive to better ourselves, and while this effort is valiant, it does not give us the opportunity to reflect on past events and enjoy living in the moment. I often wished time away, saying things such as, “I cannot wait to be done with high school, it is so stressful,” only to arrive at college and realize that I would do anything to be 16 again. We always forget to cherish the moment in which we are living.

Initially, “On Turning Ten” did not have much effect on me. In fact, I thought it was silly how a ten year old boy could be so worried about growing up. But as I reread the poem, I realized how it can apply to people of any age. It possesses an odd sense of proof as to how disappointing it can be to have to grow up. The only thing that accompanies age is a less wild imagination, the sad realization that invincibility does not exist, and more responsibility—a depressing combination if I do say so myself. “This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself, as I walk through the universe in my sneakers. It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends, time to turn the first big number.”

Elizabeth Horton

The Fault in Honesty is the Best Policy

            A wise old man named Albert Einstein once said, “If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor.” Unfortunately, human beings must learn elegance instead of leaving it to the tailor.  I struggle daily with the challenge of euphemizing and censoring all I say. I am still learning elegance for although the truth must be told, it must be told slant to prevent conflict. Emily Dickinson explained the concept of telling the truth without being blunt in “Tell All the Truth” and her poem helped me to understand a few parts of my life.

            I’ve learned that telling the truth can be harsh, and people often fail to take it well. I grew up with an older sister who embodies the complete opposite of me in everything. My sister Alina is a sensitive case while I am extremely blunt. Growing up I had to learn to soften the truth around my sister. Dickinson wrote, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant…Too bright for our infirm delight.”  Dickinson was correct: the truth must be told “slant” because the truth can be too much for someone to hear. The truth is like the morning sun the morning after New Year’s Eve when in pure exhaustion one squints and rolls over in bed because the sun is too horrendously bright. Further, when I went home for the first time in five months, I had completely forgotten how sensitive my sister was. I had been living in a harsh military environment, while she had been living the relaxed life of a Coloradan student. She told me that she missed me and was excited that our relationship was growing even though I was far away. I simply replied with, “Our relationship works best long distance.” My sister took great offense to my comment, but in reality the comment is the truth. In our sisterhood, the only times when we failed to fight were when we were far apart, thus there was nothing to argue about. These times were also when we called each other in tears over the latest incident; we have always been there for each other when far apart. Although our relationship does work best with distance, my sister became very upset. Further, over break I noticed the annoying habit my sister had taken to: calling her boyfriend “Honey” every seemingly five seconds in an adolescent voice. As someone who hangs out primarily with males, I noticed immediately that he hated his new “affectionate” name. Later that evening, my sister and I were sitting on a couch and joking around about our boyfriends. I quickly noted that this was the perfect time to tell my sister about her boyfriend’s sentiments. My sister was so wound up in laughter and happiness that she would take the news far more lightheartedly than if I told her at a different point in time. I cracked a joke about how her boyfriend, Peter, hated to be called “Honey.” We laughed about it, and she took it well. Instead of confronting her, I chose to take a less painful route.  A couple of weeks later, Alina called me to confirm that Peter hated being called “Honey.” Finding the correct time and manner to break the negative news to my sister taught me that I must do this in every situation. 

            Further, Dickinson explains that the truth can be scary, but if explained, then the fear vanishes.  At the Academy, many people take things said very personally. A couple of months ago, a Second Class Midshipman in my company sent a message out that needed a response. I promptly responded to the email; however, I received a rude response from the 2/C threatening to turn me in to training staff for being up past eleven o’clock. I quickly responded that we had been given “Late Lights” (permission to stay up until midnight) that week. I never received a response and was rather frustrated that I had nearly gotten in trouble. The next day, I told my best friend about the situation in the track locker room and in frustration referred to the 2/C as a “Joe.” A youngster in my company heard the comment and swiftly told the 2/C about it. The youngster knew that the unslanted truth would hurt the 2/C. The 2/C was greatly offended, and took action. Within a span of twelve hours, my Training Officer, Company Officer, and Senior Enlisted Adviser chewed me out for disrespect. When I explained to them the circumstances of the situation, that I was venting to my best friend, they backed off. They shied away when they realized there was no malicious intent. Dickinson properly portrays my predicament with, “As lightning to the children eased With explanation kind”. My superiors were upset by the truth, but once the truth was explained they relaxed. Children fear lighting, but when it is explained the lighting loses its fear striking abilities. I learned that although the truth can be taken personally, explaining the truth can prevent trouble.

            Although Dickinson’s poem correctly describes the truth about telling the truth, she was incorrect in two lines of “Tell All the Truth.” Dickinson wrote, “The truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind.” Dickinson believes that if the truth is not told softly, then “every man” will be unable to handle it. Quite frankly, Dickinson is wrong. At the Academy, I have been fortunate enough to encounter a few other straight forward individuals. We expect the solid truth from one another without sugar coating, and we can all handle the truth. They’re my “blunt crew.” Last semester, I had a day of days at the US Naval Academy. I had cried myself to sleep the night before, and looked like a wreck. I walked into chemistry class, and the first words out of my best friend Josh’s mouth were, “What the f**k happened to you? You look like sh*t today?!”. I just smiled and laughed as I joked about my terrible day. We tell it how it is because we believe that the truth is harsh, but much needed. Sometimes people just need a wake-up call or a bit of straightforward honesty. According to Dickinson, nobody can handle the truth, but life experience proves otherwise. True friends can and will be brutally honest with you at all times; however, a person’s close friends often tend to be the only relationships in which a person can be completely truthful.

            Dickinson’s poem causes me to think of my inner struggle. My mind constantly wrestles with the idea of being honest yet candid. I find myself quite literally biting my tongue at times to avoid saying regretful statements. However, for as blunt as I am, I also struggle with “taking” the truth. Typically, I can take criticism and honesty and “just roll it off the shoulder”; however, when the truth preys on my personal insecurities, I fail to take the truth well. I personally struggle with acceptance and recognition. Bluntness about someone hating me or false rumors about me really get to me. I have come a long way at dealing with such truths, but I still have a long way to go before I can handle such situations with grace. Growing up with a sensitive sister taught me the necessity of euphemizing my words, while nearly getting into serious trouble showed me the importance of clarification and explanation. I have learned that there are a few individuals in my life who can handle the truth, and these individuals have become my inner circle of friends. Society fails to accept bluntness, which forces me into a life of exile also known as an ongoing attempt to censor myself. However, more often than not, I simply take Einstein’s advice and leave elegance “to the tailor”.

Mark Serbent

Fight on, Father

            “Do not gentle into that good night./Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” One of the strongest bonds a boy will ever feel is that with his father, and grandfather, and any prominent male essential to his very existence. Dylan Thomas captures this bond in full emotion, with the uncontrolled rage a son has when faced with the prospect of losing his father. I am truly “my father’s son” as my mother likes to remind me whenever I cause trouble, giving this poem a particularly strong hold on my emotional strings.

            Recently my father developed a blood clot in his leg after flying to Holland on a business trip. Though this is actually a fairly common risk associated with flying for extended periods of time, I felt something like the speaker of the poem. With a family history of heart problems, I felt like I may lose the father I knew to stroke, or worse, “the dying of the light.” When my mother first called to let me know, she asked that I call my dad to raise his spirits, and the advice I felt like offering him was of a similar nature. “Do not go gentle,” I pleaded. Sure my words were different, but I am not quite so eloquent as to convey this meaning in four short words. I told him to fight it though, and asked him to do everything in his power to get better quickly. My father seemed so calm on the phone, but I wished to see him “rave” and “rage” in an effort to get better.

The anxiety underneath the calmness of the son’s voice resonated perfectly well with my experience. I genuinely wanted my father to recover. The same selfish tone the speaker uses to address his father appeared in all my thoughts. The desperation of the poem’s villanelle structure subtly broadcasts disquiet while also lending a lullaby structure and feeling to what was being said. The son is trying to give his father fight, but the manner he presents the advice could bring the father closer to sleep of sorts. The intent is to keep spirits high, yet by fussing over the father the speaker only creates potential problems. If I stressed my father his blood pressure may rise, potentially dislodging the clot, making matters worse. I should adopt the attitude of the speaker in these circumstances and present a soothing lullaby to let my father know it will be all right, and the speaker should similarly focus on positive topics with his father rather than stressing him on his deathbed. The yearning for preserving the father son bond blinds a son from seeing the harm he may be inflicting, a selfish trait I have exhibited like the speaker.

The traits of commonality between the speaker and myself only partially explain why I am so drawn to the poem. The relationship between me and my father is perhaps the most revered bond I have in this world. I hold my father on the same pedestal that I wish to climb myself. He was a Ranger-qualified Army Paratrooper, and I have joined the military based on the pride and bonding we have shared over his service. This poem elevates the father to a demi-god status, being able to “Curse, bless, [the son] now with [his] fierce tears.” If my father cries, there is a good chance I am suffering worse than he, and if he cries with joy, blessings invariably flow our way. Thomas writes with such emotion that I cannot help empathize with him as though it is my own father being written about.

The analysis of the wise, the good, the wild and the grave presented by Thomas in this poem further sucks me into this poem. The wise men struggle to resist death, even knowing “at their end dark is right,” because men are obliged to struggle against death. The good men wish to resist death in order to watch good deeds help others. Wild men act so that when death comes, it is by surprise. Finally, grave men, who know they will die, still realize that they can “blaze like meteors and be gay,” at least about their ability to resist death and leave with a bang. All types of men are described here, and the unifying masculine theme of fighting death no matter the circumstance, and no matter how irrelevant it may be, comforts me. Man is supposed to inherently struggle in Thomas’ work, which anyone who has walked this earth knows to be truth. The poem thus not only binds me to thoughts of my father, but does so in such a masculine way as to connect me to all of man’s strife in history.

The final way this poem moves me is similar to the way it first does. The fifth stanza, where grave men blaze, seemingly serves as the perfect epitaph for my grandfather who passed last spring. Truthfully, a lot of my sentiment toward my father’s hospitalization comes from what happened to his father. When my grandfather was in his early 60’s, he suffered a stroke, reducing him from a gardening, loving, vocal fireman into an immobile, nonspeaking, grouchy potato. Grandpa Frank got better towards the end of his life, some ten years after his stroke. He raged against death like no one I had ever seen before. I was terrified that this fate may be awaiting my father when he was hospitalized with a clot, similar to what caused Grandpa Frank’s stroke, but I admire the fight my grandfather exhibited. He tried to learn to walk again, and he slowly learned how to speak again. I do not believe he was ever as happy as he once was, but Grandpa Frank’s love blazed in his eyes, and he was truly happy. In many senses he was the embodiment of what Thomas is trying to describe towards the end of this poem. I will always think of my grandfather when I read this stanza of poetry, and how frustrated he could get with his situation in life, and how he fought each day to overcome “the dying of the light.”

“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” brings out my deep attachment to my male lineage. I feel deeply connected to this poem because of two events that happened within the past ten months. When on the verge of losing, or having just lost, a father figure in my life, I found that Thomas presents an accurate representation of how any boy may feel. No matter how old the boy, he will always want his father and grandfather there for him, and plead with him to fight the good fight against the “good night.” The relaxed tone and meaningful structure contribute to the genuine nature of this poem, and has lead me to copy it into my poetry folder to memorialize the bond I feel with my father and grandfather, and the fight they have shown when lightning has tried to strike them.

Will Mckamey

The Influence of Responsibility

            Responsibility is a powerful force, a force that is held in high regard in today’s society. A man is often judged by how responsible, or how reliable he is. But being consistently responsible is not always an easy feat to accomplish. Personal interest, as well as many other distractions, can prevent an individual from exhibiting responsibility in all situations. Henry Reed’s poem, “Naming of Parts,” as well as Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” both reveal that responsibility is not always an easy characteristic to possess, but it tends to take precedence over personal interest. However, Henry Reed’s poem is more effective in expressing this theme of responsibility’s power, due to its effective changing point of view and use of personification that depicts responsibility as imposing.

            The narrators of these poems both admire nature, and allow it to distract them briefly from their responsibilities, whatever they may be. The narrator in “Stopping by the Woods” is a traveler who stops momentarily in the snow to reflect on the nature surrounding him, only to remember his prior commitment, and that he “has promises to keep.” He realizes that he cannot stay and admire the snowy woods, and his inner voice reminds him that he still has responsibilities to carry out. The narrator in “Naming of Parts” is a young soldier, who is admiring the surrounding nature while participating in a lesson regarding certain parts of a rifle. Each time he gets lost in the beauty of the nature, he snaps back into the reality of the voice of his drill instructor speaking about the rifle parts. In other words, he is pulled back into reality by his responsibility to learn. Thus, in both of these poems, responsibility comes before personal interest, more specifically, the appreciation of nature.

            While both poems claim that responsibility holds precedence over other things, Henry Reed’s, “Naming of Parts” more strongly suggests this theme.  This is due to the changing point of view used in the poem. The first four lines of every stanza are presented as the voice of the drill instructor teaching the young soldier about the parts of a rifle. The next two lines come across as the thoughts of the young soldier, who begins to notice and appreciate the nature surrounding him, followed by the last line of the stanza switching back again to the voice of the instructor. For example, lines 4-6 in the first stanza read, “Today we have naming of parts. Japonica/ glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens/, and today we have naming of parts.” By briefly allowing the narrative voice to switch to the soldier, and then right back to the instructor, Henry Reed reveals in his poem that prior responsibilities will consistently override personal interests. No matter how many times the soldier is distracted by nature, he is interrupted, and pulled back in to the teaching of his instructor every time. His obligations to learn and listen do not allow his mind to wander for any longer than just two brief lines. Similarly, Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods” also claims that responsibility will override personal desires. In the fourth stanza the narrator says, “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep.” He is reluctant to stay and admire the woods, because he has prior obligations to complete. However, “Stopping by the Woods” only uses one narrative voice, and thus lacks the potent evidence that “Naming of Parts” has, the evidence that reveals that responsibility will actually prevail consistently. It is simply implied in “Stopping by the Woods” that the narrator is moving on to fulfill his duties, while it is actually revealed that the narrator goes back to his responsibility in “Naming of Parts.”

            Along with using changing narrators, “Naming of Parts” also uses personification to more convincingly state that responsibility prevails. When the narrator takes on the persona of the soldier, he consistently personifies the surrounding nature, revealing that it is almost human to him, and is thus important in his eyes. He points out that, “The branches/ hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,” and that, “The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers.” By using this personification, Henry Reed seeks to emphasize the influence of responsibility. Even though the surrounding nature is presented as highly important to the narrator, it does not prevent him from being overcome by his responsibility to learn. Even this human-like nature cannot distract the soldier from his obligations. Likewise, “Stopping by the Woods” uses personification to claim that responsibility is unprecedented. The narrator tells us that his horse “Gives his harness bells a shake/, to ask if there is some mistake.” The personification of the horse questioning the narrator’s motives serves to remind the narrator that he has other responsibilities to fulfill, other than watching the woods fill up with snow. And ultimately, that personification forces the narrator to recall that he does have certain promises to keep. However, the very next line after the questioning by the horse reads, “The only other sounds the sweep/ of easy wind and downy flake.” The call back to reality by the horse is quickly forgotten, as the narrator proceeds to point out the sounds of the woods. Thus, the personification somewhat loses its effect in saying that responsibility should be adhered to, as the narrator does not give in to his call back to responsibility until the next stanza. And even then, the last two lines of that stanza contain a hypnotic tone, that somewhat defies the theme of responsibility it seems to be speaking about. The narrator repeats, “And miles to go before I sleep/ and miles to go before I sleep.” This repetition holds a melodic tone that almost implies that he is questioning his decision to move on, and this further diminishes the effect of the personification used previously in the poem.

            Responsibility is held in high regard in today’s society. It is considered a blessing when a person finds someone that they can consistently rely on. With that being said, it is not an easy task to be unwaveringly responsible. Personal interests often cloud judgment, preventing one from unfailingly coming through when needed. Robert Frost and Henry Reed, in their poems “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Naming of Parts,” reveal that responsibility should come before personal benefits. While both poems support the same theme, Henry Reed’s is more convincing in stating this theme because his use of a changing narrator provides actual evidence that responsibility will prevail. Also, his use of powerful personification more effectively portrays responsibility as unarguably important. Responsibility is unarguably important, and perhaps Henry Reed and Robert Frost wish for us to take notice of the narrators of their poems, and act likewise. The world could use more responsible people.

Rex Willis

Beyond Those Winter “Son”days

The father in “Those Winter Sundays” woke up every morning, hours before the sun rose and the dew settled. The poem resonated with me, especially when it stated “Sundays too my father got up early.” The emphasis that the author, Robert Hayden, places on the father’s struggle caused bitter sweet memories to flood over me. Those distinct memories derived from the time I spent with my father on “Those Winter Sundays.” The tumultuous journey between my father and me started when I, at nine months, accompanied him in a tractor trailer as an excuse to ride in the high occupancy lane. Years later, I felt the journey would end when I arrived at the Naval Academy because of the increased distance between us, but to my surprise, it led to another journey altogether, one that caused me to acknowledge my fault in the relationship and express regret, similar to the son’s testimony in the poem.

            People always appear shocked when I tell them that I have seven brothers and sisters. When I tell them the reason why I have more siblings than I can count on one hand, they are even more taken aback. I would probably have the same reaction if someone told me it only happened because his dad wanted a son. My dad struck out four times but finally “hit it out of the park” on his fifth and sixth at bat. When my parents had me, my dad named his baby boy after himself, the reason that I go by Rex Jr. or RJ. Unfortunately, he did not get the father son relationship he hoped for. The poem serves as a great reminder of this disappointment.

            Similar to the relationship my father and I experienced, the unspoken contention between the father and son transcended words. The stage for tension was set decades before my birth when my father punished defenders who got in his way on the high school football field. That aggressive mentality carried over to his guidance when he became my track coach. He usually acted with good intention, but did not always go about doing things the right way. For example, if I did not meet the time he set for me, I would have to keep running until I reached the mark. Because of this insistence on flawless performance, we spent late nights at the track under the darkness of the sky, a darkness that has colored our relationship. As a result, I developed a defense towards him, unlike the ones he saw in his high school football days. As a result, whenever we talked, an empty conversation ensued because I did not value his words. For example, when he would ask me how my application for the Naval Academy progressed, I would reply with one word answers such as “fine” and “good.” He always claimed he had to pull my teeth to talk. I could not disagree with this complaint because I intentionally spoke blandly. Because of this, when Hayden stated “chronic angers”, it hit home because it paralleled the situation that I experienced. I acted uptight and reserved because I did not want to elevate the “angers” that loomed over the household and in my dad’s and my hearts.

            As mentioned previously, I worked alongside my father from my infant days up until I departed for I-Day. On most mornings I would “rise and dress” when he called my name, “slowly” putting on my clothes. During the summer, the work schedule consisted of helping every day of the week, but during the school year, it only involved Saturdays and “those winter Sundays.” There were mornings where he abruptly woke me up because he needed something done, such as spreading the cement in our driveway before it dried. Most times, as in this case, I did not have time to get my glasses or put contacts in so I blindly smoothed the concrete, hoping that it fell into the right place. The worst wake up calls led to traveling twenty miles to work at our property, extending across thirty acres. I worked from sunrise to sunset spreading hay to prevent erosion, digging holes to insert posts for the fence, moving rocks from one place to another and other tasks no one wants to do. My father demanded excellence. Consequently, meeting his expectations was nearly impossible. For this, I resented him because he failed to praise the positive outcomes, but never failed to acknowledge the negative. Ironically, one “Winter Sunday” caused us to develop a stronger relationship. It will go down as a day that I will not forget because the strangest set of circumstances occurred. Atlanta received over four inches of snow one day, therefore debilitating all of the businesses, except for my father’s. Consequently, my father and I had to transport mail from one location to another on the ice-covered roads. En route, the trunk door swung open, sending the mail onto the snow-covered surfaces. With the wind blowing at a record high of thirty-five miles per hour, it only added insult to injury. The situation could have taken a turn for the worst, but my father and I worked quickly, recovering the thousands of envelopes. The event served as a bonding moment because we worked towards a common goal and achieved it. From that point on, we looked at each other and the time we spent together differently. For one of the first times, my father acknowledged my invaluable assistance. That instance served as a catalyst for a more profound conversation as he mentioned that he recognized his tough attitude towards me and that he did not properly show his gratitude. I saw this apology as him overcoming his pride and recognizing his faults. I respected him for that and it started to feel like the times we shared related more to Hayden’s interpretation of Sunday, which he indirectly defined as “Son”days.

            When I walked through the oversized doors at Mother B on I-day, the experience served as an opening to a new beginning. I did not consider Plebe Summer a challenge because it could not compare to what I experienced with my father, so I felt a sense of relief being yelled at by the detailers. In reality, Plebe Summer did prove to be tough and the hardest aspect included not talking to my family, but most importantly, my father. Throughout those six weeks, I learned the true meaning of the adage, “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” As a result, I gained a greater appreciation for my dad. I realized the insurmountable sacrifices my dad made for me, whether it meant taking an extra shift to pay for my twenty thousand dollar private school education or coming out to my high school track practice to offer his support. Although this saying has become a cliché, I wish I knew what I know now back then.  Those things he did for me were done out of love, but “what did I know, what did I know.” Fortunately, I have the chance to make amends with him and to contribute to the father-son relationship that he has desperately sought. If I am able to accomplish this, I won’t be like the son in the poem who reflects twenty years from now, regretting the failed opportunity to build a strong father-son relationship.


































Sample Successful Papers on Assignment #3

Anastasia White

A Letter to Robert Frost

Dear Housemate,

            I have recently heard your frustrations concerning your neighbor and the wall between the two of you.  However, in the midst of your rants, I have noticed some inconsistencies in your thought process.  Perhaps your frustration stems from confusion and contradictions in your own opinions.  Despite your disapproving attitude, your actions and words imply that you believe the presence of the wall and its continual building is essential.

            You continually make the point that a wall is not necessary, and you do not know why your neighbor insists on maintaining one.  Your neighbor provides no reason besides, “Good fences make good neighbors” (27) and you express dissatisfaction at this response.  However, there is a part of you that wholeheartedly believes this statement.  The annual wall-building in which you and your neighbor participate is your only form of interaction all year.  It even seems as if you enjoy the meeting, since you go to great lengths to schedule it yourself.  You “let [your] neighbor know beyond the hill; and on a day [you] meet to walk the line” (12-13).  It is obvious that you delight in the company of your neighbor, as you try to engage him in conversation as you work, questioning him about his “old-fashioned” beliefs.  Therefore, your neighbor is correct in his assertion about relationships between neighbors.  If you truly did not approve of the presence of a wall, you would probably let your neighbor initiate the meeting time, or even repair the wall by himself.  Instead, you take your responsibility in this partnership of maintaining the wall a step farther by returning to the wall at all times of the year by yourself to make repairs.  This requires a great amount of extra effort since “the work of hunters… [has] left not one stone on a stone” (5-7).  These are not small adjustments, but major reconstructions.  If you say that it is inevitable that the wall will continue to crumble due to various forces, then why do you make such painstaking efforts to rebuild it?  Overall, if you really did not believe in the importance of the wall, you would treat its deterioration with indifference and inaction.

            Although you claim that there is a lack of a purpose in a wall between you and your neighbor, you admit there are appropriate places for such a boundary.  You state that a wall is not necessary in your situation because “[Your] apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines” (25-26).  A wall would be essential, though, if two neighbors had cows.  It would prevent too much free wandering between the two areas.  Therefore, such a wall acts as a barrier that effectively prevents total freedom with the presence of rigid rules and boundaries that cannot be crossed.  It is hypocritical to call your neighbor “old-fashioned” for this way of thinking if you believe the same concept under slightly different circumstances.  However, the wall does not only function to confine things.  It also provides a means for those who dare to destroy and rebuild these accepted boundaries.  These actions require productivity and creativity.  The defying of social norms and introduction of new ideas is innovative thinking, and you are just as “old-fashioned” as your neighbor.  If you were an innovative thinker, you would try to come up with solutions for the damages done by the hunters, instead of just making the same repairs over and over again.  In all, you accept the need for a wall and, subconsciously, all of the restrictions that are associated with it.

            Before you are too quick to criticize the opinions of your neighbor, you should evaluate your own true thoughts.  Self-reflection will prevent denial about your real conclusions about the wall.  Maybe then you will realize that you actually have a very similar point of view.


            Your Housemate

Andrew Raves

My Last Warning

Your daughter has finally come of age, and she has reached that wonderful point in her life where she shall be matched with her life-long companion. You have sent me to scout out prospects that might be suitable fits for your daughter, and my search has left me quite unsettled. My last visitation was with the Duke of Ferrara. I will relate to you what I think of his eligibility by recounting a scene that he and I shared. He showed me a painting of his last duchess and divulged his thoughts about her. Having heard his tale, I have determined that it is in both you and your daughter’s best interest to not have a marriage with the Duke of Ferrara because he shows no respect, name-drops, is envious, perpetually unsatisfied, cold, and materialistic. 

He began by referring to the painting as “That piece” (3). The portrait is undoubtedly an object, but how could one so callously refer to a former wife in such a manner? And he has not changed his ways either. In fact, he referred to your daughter as “my object” (53). That he used both “piece” and “object” to describe women whom he should love worries me greatly and has led me to the conclusion that the Duke treats women as nothing less than objects. I hold no doubts that you should not expect much different treatment for your daughter.

Another distasteful habit that the Duke possesses is name-dropping. He mentioned Fra Pandolf twice and Claus of Innsbruck once. Not only does he enjoy shamelessly flaunting his priceless artwork, but he also must accompany this attitude with the ungentlemanly habit of name-dropping. I must say that indeed the Duke possesses a fine collection of art, and it is all quite remarkable and beautiful. However, no man of good manners would indulge in name-dropping. Finally, this habit brings his insecurities to light. And an insecure man is a dangerous man.

My next revelation was that the Duke possesses in excess one of the seven deadly sins: envy. When he said that “’twas not/Her husband’s presence only, called that spot/Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek” (13-15), I knew just how jealous the Duke could be. If your daughter marries this man, she will be confined to only receiving joy from her husband because to him, other sources are unacceptable.

The Duke’s standards are also too high. He had a wife of the highest qualities. She had a “spot/Of joy” (14-15), “Was courteous” (20), had “a heart” (22), was “soon made glad” (22), enjoyed “The dropping of the daylight in the West” (26), and “thanked men” (31). How could one be unsatisfied with a happy, courteous, loving, easily pleased, polite wife who appreciated beauty? He even admits that “‘Just this/Or that in you [his wife] disgusts me...” (38-39). If he cannot accept his old wife’s character, how can you expect him to do the same with your daughter?

And so, I come to the most egregious opposition I have. The Duchess “smiled, no doubt” (43) when she was with the Duke. Yet he “gave commands;/Then all smiles stopped together” (45-46). The Duke has led me to believe that he had his last wife killed. Does your daughter deserve such a fate? Finally, he mentions a dowry, and I am left to wonder whether you would really pay a man and feed his materialism to put your daughter into certain misery?

I will end by countering any good things that may come of this relationship. The Duke mentioned an “orchard” (28), white mule (28), and terrace (29) where his last Duchess rode around. He also talks of his priceless art work. I cannot dispute that the Duke has material wealth. He also has a “nine-hundred-years-old name” (33) that is very well known too. But all of these possessions only feed his arrogance and rob him of his humanity. He is, ironically, emotionally poor.

What’s in a name? In the Duke’s case, nothing but an empty cold soul that promises munificence, yet gives nothing but destruction. There will be other men whom your daughter may marry, and I cannot think of any that could be worse than the Duke.

Will Mckamey

A Letter to My Count

Dear Count,

            It has been some time since we have spoken. I was delayed in travel before reaching the Duke’s estate, and I apologize for the tardiness in the sending of my letter. I hope all is well with you and your family, and I pray you are still prospering in all aspects. I will be returning home soon, and we can talk more face to face, if that is what you wish. Now, on the subject of your daughter: you asked me, dear Count, to meet with this noble Duke, to determine if he is the ideal man for taking your daughter’s hand in marriage. After much pondering and deliberation, I have formed my opinion, which I shall pass on to you. Now we have known each other since you became my master when I was only nine years old, and I like to believe that I have served you well over the years. I have consistently provided adequate help and reliable advice. With that being said good Sir, I would advise you NOT to give your daughter’s hand in marriage to this man.

            I know this opinion may come as a shock to you, and I hope you are not completely taken aback with me as you read this. I understand that you were wishing to make significant political and monetary gains through the arrangement of this marriage, as well as provide for the general happiness and welfare of your kind daughter. But I do not think that this noble Duke will provide these things. It is no secret that he possesses seemingly endless wealth and power; however, what may come as a secret to you is the full definition of his character. The man cannot be trusted with your wealth, or with your daughter. As we met in his parlor, we discussed the arrangement of marriage with your daughter. He informed me, “His fair daughter’s self, as I avowed at starting, is my object.” He views your daughter merely as an object for him to obtain, and when considering the tone with which he stated this, I could not help but wonder: If your kind daughter is the first of your objects he wishes to obtain, then what next? Your money? Your estate? Your power? The man had an air about his speaking that seemed to suggest that greed influences all his decisions. I fear that he will not stop at your daughter once this arrangement is made, and will seek to acquire more of your beloved possessions.

            I also fear for the safety of your gentle daughter, Sir. I am afraid that the Duke is a violent man.  He spent a great deal of our discussion telling me about his “last Duchess”, once his former lover, who now hangs only as a painting on the wall. I have deduced, and with good reason, that he murdered her without sufficient reason.  He complained to me that she was, “Too soon made glad,” and also that, “she smiled, no doubt, Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without much the same smile?” He seemed utterly jealous and upset for the simple fact that she was an amiable person who enjoyed life. This character flaw, as he saw it, drove him to the point of murder. He revealed to me that, “This grew; I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together. There she stands as if alive.” My dear Count, it can be reasoned that the Duke ordered his mistress to be killed, and feels no shame or remorse for it. I fear that it would be no different with your daughter; if the Duke finds some aspect of her character that he does not find suiting.

            My noble Count, I know that you are a wise and powerful man, but I emplore that you heed my advice. I have known and respected you for quite some time now, and I only have your, as well as your daughter’s, best interests in mind. I will understand if you still decide to go through with this arrangement, as you are ultimately in charge of your own affairs, but I hope you will consider these points I have made and take them into account for your final decision.


Your loyal assistant



Sijing Qiu

Dear Sir,

     After my encounter with the Duke, it is my duty to inform you that my better judgment tells me that if you truly care about your daughter, you won’t let her become betrothed to the Duke.  The Duke, charming and eloquent as he was, gave off a slight eery vibe.  In fact our encounter was actually quite frustrating.  He was so controlling of the entire meeting that he didn’t even let me get a single word in. He drew the curtains of a painting of his last duchess, a painting no one can see unless the Duke draws the curtains for him.  Then he proceeded to go off on a long tangent about his “beloved” last mistress.  By then I had already become very uninterested and quite irritated by his controlling manner.  Before I could even tell him politely that “the Count will contact you if he is interested,” he told me to rise to meet the company below.  I tried to leave by myself but the Duke insisted that we “go together down.”  It was meant to be a polite suggestion, but how was I supposed to say no to that?  Throughout our encounter, I just really did not seem to like his controlling and subtly assertive manner.

     I must admit that the Duke, however, was somewhat charismatic and well-spoken.  If your daughter were to ever meet him, she could find herself being talked into being his next last duchess.  For one thing, he is the owner of a 900 year-old name.  Great family background.  And although the painting of his last Duchess is pretty creepy, he does seem to be cultured in the arts.  He was charismatic when he spoke—even almost poetic as in the way he said things like “the depth and passion of its earnest glance” and “my favour at her breast, the dropping of the daylight in the west.”  It was all very eloquent.  But sadly, his eloquence could not disguise his subtly dark and creepy nature.  You’re lucky you chose me to meet the Duke, because I am excellent at reading people.  And the Duke gave me a lot to read.

     First off, the Duke was obsessed with his last Duchess.  Here we are trying to negotiate a new possible marriage, and he decides to lay all of his past relationship baggage on me!  He could’ve just said he really loved his last wife, but instead he calls her his “last Duchess” and continues to rant on. Apparently she was easily pleased, which in my eyes isn’t a thing to complain about.  I’d be lucky if I found a partner that wasn’t hard to please. But this Duke is a real jealous guy.  He got mad because she smiled at him, and other people.  Once again, he acts very controlling and says that after he gave commands, all smiles stopped.  I guess either only he could have smiles or no one could have her smiles.  That struck me as a little weird.  Through his “commands” her smiles stopped?  Someone should look into her “death” because he sounds a bit suspicious—like a mob hit man.  Lord, have mercy on your daughter if she chooses to smile. At the end of our meeting, he showed me his sculpture of Neptune taming a sea horse.  Also a little strange.  What was he trying to get at?  Does he want to tame your daughter maybe the way he tamed his last duchess? This guy is obsessed.  Even after his duchess has died, he is obsessed with her death.

    Although the Duke possesses a 900 year-old name, and appears to be very well spoken and cultured, I would not recommend the betrothal of your daughter to him.  He is controlling, possibly a murderer, and obsessed with his women.  I hope you take this advice into consideration—I would hate for a portrait of your daughter to be behind that curtain.

Very respectfully,

Your Servant

Will Cavin

Appearance Is Not Reality

            My name is Richard Cory and you probably think my life is perfect, but that could not be farther from the truth. In fact, I have lived a far more miserable and wretched existence than you can ever imagine, a life, so awful, that I no longer have the will to go on.

            I had everything you could ever possibly want: money, class, knowledge, but the fates destined me for a torturous life, a life without lasting love. For my entire life I have struggled with a secret that I can no longer bear, I am gay.

            I first met Emmet when I was just thirteen years old. My father had forgotten his coat, and mother had told me I must get it to him before he arrived at the VanDover’s estate or my father would have to bear the cold winter winds unprotected. As I scurried up the hill, I passed the most beautiful boy I had ever laid eyes on. He had messy golden locks and hazel eyes that radiated with happiness. Our eyes caught each other for just a moment and then I quickly broke away and ran on, but his image remained seared into my brain. I did not catch my father in time; he returned that night swearing left and right about how he would surely get sick, but I barely heard him with my mind far away. In that moment our eyes had connected, I knew the boy with the golden hair was the One.

It was not until we had reached Aberystwyth University that Emmet and I began our relationship. At first, our hook ups seemed simply a few drunken mistakes, but the casual sex quickly evolved into much more. We knew that it would be incredibly dangerous to open up about our relationship, so we maintained an appearance as close friends by day. Only in the dark could our lust overtake us, and we let passion be our guide. This guise continued until our fourth year of college when Emmet decided we needed to find suitable wives to keep our façade intact.

            Shortly following graduation, I married Amelia, a sweet, dumpy woman, who loved me despite the lack of physical attraction I exhibited towards her. Emmet, meanwhile, broke off the engagement with his fiancée shortly before their impending nuptials and abruptly left on a six month voyage to British India. When he returned, I knew that our relationship had changed despite my initial fears at confronting this reality. He seemed to shy away from me in public and our night time escapades became noticeably less frequent. Finally, when I asked him what was happening to us, he claimed that our relationship had lost its early excitement and that he no longer felt his boyhood attraction towards me. I felt confused and distraught that the man that I loved so dearly could have become “bored” with me. As I sank into depression, I grew harsh towards Amelia, frightening the poor woman and causing her much heartache that she did not deserve.

            In an effort to stave off my distress and save Amelia from abuse, I launched into work in hope that only if I made my next career milestone I would find happiness again. As I dove into my career hoping to drown my sorrow, I made a name for myself in land development, but no matter how much wealth I amassed, I seemed incapable of finding lasting happiness. I became the wealthiest man in town; the church clergy, the town parish, and even the local bankers all went out of their way to please me. However, none of this recognition mattered in the slightest; I still only sought the attention of one man, the man whom I had loved since I was just thirteen years old and the man who has driven me to despair. I could call on the parish council and they would set up a meaning day or night, but still Emmet refused to even acknowledge me.

            On the outside my life may appear perfect, I have everything you could ever wish for, but the gods have scorned me and made me their fool. My great love, my only source of lasting happiness, only causes me eternal torment so now I throw out the white flag and seek only to end this living hell. 































Sample Successful Student papers on Assignment #4

Sijing Qiu


A New Kind of Love


Corinthians Dead and Henry Porter is a match that no one could foresee happening. Corinthians has her “slightly uppity manners” and Porter, is the man who screamed and urinated over screaming women. Corinthians and Porter’s new found love for each other, however, contributes to the development and redefining of love through the motif of the car, the contrast between dry artificiality and moist reality, and the use of a poet as a foil to real love.

The scene in which Corinthians is clinging onto Henry Porter’s car is similar to a previous scene in which Corinthians, as a young girl, is riding in a car with her family. In this previous scene, Corinthians elitist attitude is made clear through the conversation she has with her father, Macon Dead. Macon is interested in buying more property and when Lena mentions the possibility of Mary, a barmaid, owning property, Corinthians corrects her sister by stating that, “Daddy wouldn’t sell property to a barmaid…I don’t care what she owns. I care about what she is.” This quote shows Corinthians elitist attitude, which is later reflected in Corinthians response to Porter when he tells her that he wants a “grown-up woman.” Corinthians replies to Porter by saying, “But no. You wanted a lady. Somebody who knows how to sit down, how to dress, how to eat the food on her plate. Well there is a difference between a woman and a lady, and I know you know which one I am.” The lack of love shown to Corinthians a child, and the exposure she has had to power and money has caused Corinthians to grow up stuck-up and naïve.  Nothing about Corinthian’s ideals or values had changed from that moment she was a girl riding in the car with her family, to the moment where she is riding in the car with Porter. Corinthians does come to a realization, however, when she makes the decision to cling onto the hood of Porter’s car. In that moment, Corinthians is not thinking about how she is too refined she is or how ashamed she is of Porter-- Corinthians “thought of nothing. Nothing except what her body needed to do to hang on, to never let go.” This shows a redefinition of love for Corinthians, and for the book overall. This represents how love is not based on social or economic status; love is based on one’s own feelings, like the feeling that Corinthians has when she is clinging onto Porter’s car. This theme is present in other relationships, for example, Macon and Ruth’s marriage. Macon’s sole purpose for wanting to marry Ruth is because she is the daughter of a wealthy doctor and as a result, their relationship is failing. Corinthians car scene with Porter redefines what it means to truly love someone.

            Wetness often represents realness and a fullness of life, while dryness often represents artificiality. At home, Corinthians helps Lena make fake roses. The hobby itself is a representation of dryness, because these ladies are performing such a task to help take their minds off of their dry, dull lives. The roses also represent death; “first the death of the man in the blue wings. Now [Corinthian’s] own.” These fake roses do not need water, but Corinthians is like a real plant, a real person that needs water to survive.  Porter brings this kind of water into her life. For example, when Porter offers Corinthians a drink of water after a long, hot night of love making, Corinthians, “took the glass and sipped a little from it, trying to keep the ice from touching her teeth as she looked at him over the rim. Standing there, barefoot, her hair damp with sweat and sticking to her cheeks like paint, she felt easy. In place of vanity she now felt a self-esteem that was quite new.” It is in this state, in which Corinthians is damp and literally and hypothetically receiving water from Porter does she, for once in her life, feel easy. Before, Corinthians life was dry and dull. Before she knew it, she was a forty two year old still making the same fake roses she was making as a young girl. This shows the lack of development and progress Corinthians has made in her life. Although she had went off to college, and became more worldly and cultured, she was still a maker of fake roses. All of these superficial and materialistic things that Corinthians has done in her life has not actually helped her to become any more full of life. This scene with Porter shows that one’s path towards becoming fuller of life does not necessarily lie in the hands of someone rich or powerful. This redefines love for Corinthians because her life had previously been dry, and lifeless, but adding this moistness gives Corinthian life, a new self-esteem, and the ability to love and be loved.

            Corinthians role as Michael-Mary Graham’s maid offers a contrast to real relationships. Graham is a second rate poet that, “lived alone and shaped her time and activities carefully in order to meet the heavy demands of artistic responsibility.” Graham is not only a foil to real love, but a foil to Corinthians. Corinthians is just like Graham in the way that she has “uppity manners” and is educated. Yet Graham’s manners, education, and “success” as a poet has resulted in a life of solitude spending time writing second rate poetry; “marriage, children—all had been sacrificed to the Great Agony and her home was a tribute to the fastidiousness of her dedication.” Graham simply represents the ridiculousness of the type of life that Corinthians has been trying to achieve. Graham’s relationship with Corinthians is also very superficial.  Graham does not actually like Corinthians, she just likes how Corinthians is a little more refined and higher class than the typical maid. Graham might treat Corinthians nicely, but ultimately, Graham and Corinthians both respectively know that Corinthians is still Graham’s maid. Corinthians knows not to show Graham that she is college educated or can speak French. Graham knows to speak of Corinthians as if she is her maid, by telling her friends that, “her poetic sensibility overwhelmed her good judgment.” This superficial relationship contrasts to the real relationship that Corinthians has with Porter. As previously mentioned, Porter fills Corinthians with life; Porter genuinely loves Corinthians and it is expressed in the way that he cares about their future. Porter does not want someone who is ashamed of him or afraid of their own father. Porter cares about his future with Corinthians because he cares about Corinthians. If he did not care about his relationship with Corinthians, he would not care whether or not they would have a future together. Corinthians relationship with her boss represents artificial relationships and how the superficial things that Corinthians strived for like being worldly and educated with uppity manners will simply lead to a life of solitude like Graham. On the other hand, real relationships are out there and are possible, as long as one is willing to strip of their vanity and of their pride.

            Before Corinthians met Porter, Corinthians did not have an example of true love to look at. Her parent’s relationship is based on greed for power and money. Her brother is trying not to get murdered by her cousin. Her sister makes velvet roses and leads a lonely life. Her aunt Pilot is a single independent woman. Corinthians is well educated and high class, and through being with Porter, she has learned that that is not the only thing one needs to find love. Her parents tried to keep her away from a poor, lowly working man like Porter because a man like him, “was known to beat his woman, betray her, shame her, and leave her.” Through the motif of the car, the contrast between dryness and moistness, and the use of the poet as a foil, Morrison transforms the idea of love into a type of love that is exciting, passionate, and most importantly, unconditional.

MIDN Charles Stabler

The Humility of Flight in Song of Solomon

            As Milkman discovers more and more of his ancestry, he becomes closer and closer to achieving his escape from the life that he lives. His sister, Corinthians, also finds release as she discovers that she will never be fulfilled if she does not allow herself pleasure from a man who genuinely loves her. In Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, multiple characters have goals that they fail to realize because of their pride and arrogance. Only once these characters find humility and revisit what they desire do they achieve success and transcendence to a better life; while those characters who fail to become humble are met with frustration and failure. Specifically, Macon Dead II fails to achieve his goal while Milkman and Corinthians climactically achieve theirs.

            As Corinthians ages, she begins to realize that her life lacks meaning, and that its emptiness takes a toll on her. Her salvation comes in the form of a lowly yard worker, who smiled at her on the bus and got her flowers. She yearns for escape from her boring life, yet harbors too much arrogance to allow herself to truly be with Porter. “She believed what her mother was also convinced of: that she was a prize for a professional man of color” (188). Corinthians obtained a college education at an early age, spoke French, and traveled abroad, making her an enlightened and eligible bachelorette. However, none of the men her mother paraded in front of her wanted anything to do with her, increasing her desperation in loneliness. Her development and arrogance is the reason that all of those men turn her down, and the reason that Porter almost turns her down: “Her words [to Porter] seemed arrogant and careless” 196). As she walks away, she “saw her ripeness mellowing and rotting before a heap of red velvet scraps” (197), and realizes that she is not too good for Porter, but that he loves her and she loves him. She further understands in this moment that Porter is “the only thing that could protect her from the smothering death of dry roses” (199). Corinthian’s momentary realization incites her to shed her arrogance and literally run as fast as she can back to Porter. He is her transcendence from her cushy, “velvet” life by providing real love, but he is not desperate. He demands her humility by taking her home, and she gives it to him. Therefore, her transcendence into a life of meaning depends entirely on her humility.

            Much like Corinthians, Milkman must find humility before he can escape the town and his life. Ironically, in discovering his roots and ancestry, Milkman does escape both and achieves his ultimate goal of freedom. Milkman’s arrogance comes from his father and the fact that he has never wanted for anything in his life. His actions towards others demonstrate his arrogance, such as his attitude of displeasure towards Guitar, his mistreatment of his family, and his dismissal of his relationship with Hagar by signing with “gratitude.” He does not realize his utter rudeness to his family until Magdalene stops him one night and explains to him why she dislikes him so much. Even as he comes close to discovering his heritage, he maintains his arrogance. The men in Shalimar see Milkman and his actions and are disgusted by him; they “looked with hatred at the city Negro” and thought that “he was telling them that they weren’t men” (266). At this point, Milkman is incredibly frustrated because he has failed to find the gold and he does not perceive that he is close to finding his roots. However, soon after Guitar’s attempt at murdering him, Milkman pretends that he accidentally shot the gun and makes a fool of himself in front of the Shalimar men. He owns up to it good-naturedly, though, and that response clearly indicates a change in his character. Before that night, he would have fought those men for making fun of him, as he did in the store the previous day. This is the point where he unconsciously shed his arrogance and became closer to his heritage. This newfound character trait develops in him through Sweet, with whom he truly shares love. Sweet contrasts with Hagar because Milkman uses Hagar solely for sex. In fact, earlier he thought that “Sleeping with Hagar made him generous. Or so he thought. Wide-spirited. Or so he imagined” (69), and later in the scene he describes Hagar as “sweet” (89), and wonders what her “name” is. What he actually does is wonder about the woman who will make him feel the things he thinks Hagar does, though he already has mentioned her name. Sweet helps Milkman be “wide-spirited” and “generous,” which are humble traits, and brings out the transcendence that Milkman experiences. In the end, Milkman, Pilate, and Jake experience transcendence into a different life almost simultaneously: as she is shot by Guitar, the bird picks up her earring with Jake’s name in it, and Milkman flies to fight Guitar. By coming to terms with his ancestry and discovering the stories of those before him, Milkman is able to achieve his goal of flight.

            Unlike the more noble goals that Corinthians and Milkman have set, Macon Dead’s goal in life is to attain more wealth. He believes that the money and property he owns defines him, and it does, just not in a positive way. Many people of the local black community see him as a white man in a black body, and many almost despise him for being that way, including Guitar. Macon’s arrogance comes from his money, and the more money he attains, the more arrogant he becomes. He demonstrates his arrogance when he kicks Henry Porter out of his room for being with Corinthians. He thinks that he and his daughter are better than Henry, and that he has the right to kick someone out for loving his daughter. Magdalene describes to Milkman how when she and Corinthians were little, Macon had taken them to an ice house just to show them and his car off to the other men who were there. “You see, he took us there so they could see us, envy us, envy him” (216). Unfortunately for Macon, he suffers ultimate frustration when he is not able to get his hands on the gold that he had seen in the cave after his father was killed. Rather than discover true transcendence, as Milkman had in discovering his roots while looking for the gold, Macon Dead curses his name and his heritage, simultaneously cursing his chances for happiness. His continual greed for more money and property only leads to perpetual frustration because he can never get enough; wealth can never satisfy him. Only the humility of discovering his heritage would give him happiness. The closest he comes to happiness in the novel is when he talks about seeing “the boys” in Danville and “letting Freddie pick up the rents” (334). He enjoys Milkman’s description of the places that were named after his family, though he does not truly experience those places. “The rents” will keep him in Michigan, where he will continue being unhappy.

            The themes of humility and transcendence are closely intertwined in Song of Solomon. Toni Morrison does this to add new elements to her characters and display the change they experience. Corinthians experiences her fulfillment and “flight” to a better life through her love of Porter while Milkman experiences the ultimate transcendence through flight, just as his great-grandfather did. On the other hand, Macon Dead is trapped by his refusal of humility, and his pervasive arrogance is what causes his frustration for never being wealthy enough. In the end, humility wins out over arrogance, and is the key to true happiness in the novel.

Anastasia White

The Flight of the Dead’s

In Song of Solomon, flight is an accepted part of the culture in Milkman’s community.  Most characters participate in flight in some sense, originating with Solomon.  However, Pilate Dead is the only one that understands the balance between taking off in flight and remaining grounded.  The motif of flight represents both transcendence and escape, but inevitably leads the characters to abandon those that love them.  Pilate is the only character to master flight by being rooted and connected with her past.

Several characters, such as Mr. Smith, Macon Dead Jr., and Solomon, practice their own versions of flight to either escape or transcend oppressive social customs.  The novel opens with a suicide note written by Mr. Smith that says he will “take off from Mercy and fly away on [his] own wings” (Morrison 3).  The burden of being a member of the Seven Days Society has become too much for him to bear, so he feels that “flying” from the top of the hospital to commit suicide is the only way that he can escape.  As he stands atop the cupola flapping blue silk wings, people below him do not react in alarm.  They are curious to see him fly, as if it is not a supernatural and impossible feat.  The resulting circumstances of Mr. Smith’s suicide also contribute to Ruth’s admission to Mercy Hospital so that she can give birth to her son, Milkman, transcending racial barriers and the practice of turning away black patients.  Macon Dead Jr. also participates in flight, using his car.  His car features a “winged woman careening off the nose of the car” (32).  Macon displays his car as a symbol of his wealth and social status.  He transcends above the other blacks in the community by frequently showing off his car containing his well-dressed family.  The car also allows Macon to escape the lower-class black community and places like the Blood Bank and travel to Honore, where he can further his wealth and status with a beach house.  Macon’s dream is to permeate Honore, which is a white community, with black landowners.  The original flyer was Solomon, Macon’s grandfather, who was believed to have literally taken flight “like a bird” (323).  He wished to escape slavery and go back to Africa.  This episode inspired the song that his descendants now sing about him – “Solomon done fly, Solomon done gone/ Solomon cut across the sky, Solomon gone home!” (329).  Overall, flight is an activity in which many characters, including Mr. Smith, Macon Dead Jr., and Solomon, participate, in order to escape or transcend the social customs of their cultures. 

The characters who try to “fly off” and leave behind all of their responsibilities end up abandoning their loved ones.  The novel opens with an epigraph that implies the abandonment of children by their father, saying “Their fathers may soar/ And the children may know their names.”  After the father takes off, all the children know of him is his name.  In Milkman’s case, he goes on a journey to discover his grandfather’s true name and his great-grandfather’s origins.  When Solomon flew back to Africa, “he disappeared and left everybody.  Wife, everybody, including some twenty-one children” (322).  The abandonment was especially devastating to his wife, Ryna, who “screamed and screamed, lost her mind completely” (323).  He left Ryna to take care of all of their children and face the hardships of slavery by herself.  She ended up dying of a broken heart.  There are strong parallels when Milkman leaves Michigan.  Milkman, too, literally flies, although in a non-supernatural way.  He is thrilled by the airplane ride because “in the air, away from real life, he felt free” (220).  He feels a lack of responsibilities and no threats from Hagar.  He leaves behind Hagar who loses her mind.  She becomes increasingly irrational and goes on a shopping spree in attempt to improve her appearance.  She says, “He don’t like hair like mine… He loves silky hair” (315).  She dies after this frenzy, without ever knowing that Milkman would return.  In all, characters that fly without a sense of attachment to their responsibilities and families devastate those who love them. 

Pilate is both rooted and earthy and able to “fly” without abandonment.  Pilate’s father chose her name out of the Bible, and being illiterate he “chose a group of letters that seemed to him strong and handsome; saw in them a large figure that looked like a tree hanging in some… protective way over a row of smaller trees” (18).  Her very name suggests that she is strongly rooted and connected with her family, whom she protects.  She continually comes to the aid of Hagar and Milkman, among others.  However, this role of a guardian does not burden her in any unwanted way – she embraces her responsibilities, which gives her the ability to fly.  Pilate’s name is even mistaken for a “riverboat pilot” (19), which also captures her talent of simultaneously guiding those around her in the right direction and flying.  Pilate’s appearance also underscores her understanding of the true meaning of flight.  She does not attempt to dress to show off a certain social class.  Instead, she is unconcerned with wealth and is often “as poorly dressed as the doctor’s daughter was well dressed” (5).  This stems from the idea that wealth and a materialistic mindset prevents true flight, as exemplified by the peacock that Milkman sees.  It is unable to fly because “all that jewelry weighs it down.  Like vanity.  Can’t nobody fly with all that shit.  Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down” (179).    Pilate’s unmaterialistic mindset is in stark contrast to her brother’s, whose flight is prevented for this very reason.  He feels unattached to all of his family members because he is concentrated attaining more possessions.  Pilate recognizes that material objects and wealth are not a means to transcend.  Overall, Pilate embodies true flight, in which being grounded and connected to those around you is a necessary component.

Imperfect flight, demonstrated by several characters such as Mr. Smith, Macon Dead Jr., and Solomon, features an element of transcendence and escape, but also entails abandonment.  Pilate successfully balances her rootedness and flight by realizing that flight is not simply freedom from responsibility.  Milkman finally comes to the realization that “without ever leaving the ground, she could fly” (336).  The harmony of Pilate’s roots and ability to take flight is displayed with the image of the bird “div[ing] into the new grave and scoop[ing] something shiny in its beak before it flew away” (336).  The bird carries Pilate’s name, which looks like trees, into the sky after she passes. 

Kyle Ritterback

Take Off

            Toni Morrison, in Song of Solomon, uses Pilate Dead, whose name, oddly enough, sounds like “pilot,” as a perfectly paradoxical example of a character who possesses not only the ability to stay grounded, but also the ability to fly as well. Pilate represents a character that becomes rooted in the earth rather than money, man, or the alcohol that she sells for a living. Naturally, Milkman, a man who has longed for the ability to fly since he was a small boy, gravitates toward Pilate and her abilities. Yet not until Milkman sheds his self-centeredness, gains a deeper understanding of himself, develops a stronger connection with other people, and becomes firmly rooted in the world around him is he able to gain that same sense of ‘groundedness’ and transcendence as Pilate, ultimately allowing him to achieve flight.

            As the son of Macon Dead, a man who declares that one must “own things. And let the things you own own other things. Then you’ll own yourself and other people too,” Milkman grew into a man who worried about nothing but the condition of his gold Longines watch and his beige three-piece suit (Morrison 55). Macon Dead’s controlling nature appears in Milkman as well when he admits that he wants to run away, isolate himself, and take command of his life, swearing that this command hinges on his theft of Pilate’s sack of gold. Paradoxically, the search that leads Milkman back to the ‘roots’ of his family does not award him with a sack of gold; instead, he loses everything that he owns. This loss, accompanied by the experience that he gains from venturing out into a world unknown to him, serve as the catalyst that finally forces a change in Milkman—a change from self-centeredness to ‘groundedness.’

            Milkman continues to struggle with his feeling of self-centeredness when he becomes frustrated at his dead-end search for Pilate’s gold in Danville and later when he takes offense to the locals staring at him in the Shalimar gas station. His self-centeredness simultaneously culminates and diminishes in the woods while hunting with Calvin when he, tired and broken, he considers his life circumstances: “he didn’t deserve…it sounded old…now it seemed to him that he was always saying or thinking that he didn’t deserve some bad luck, or some bad treatment from others” (276). At this instance, Milkman finally realizes what he has been doing wrong. He recognizes that he spends his time walking on his friends and family members while, at the same time, believing that he is the victim when a situation takes a turn for the worse. Not until Milkman sits down against the tree in the Shalimar woods reflecting on his actions does, “his self—the cocoon that was ‘personality’—[give] way,” signifying his progress toward flight (277). Not until he observes Calvin’s actions does he understand what it means to connect with man, animal, and earth. Milkman first gains the ability to listen and learn from the earth in order to save himself from Guitar’s attack and shortly afterwards develops a sharp sense of direction necessary to reconnect himself with the group. After losing almost everything he owns so far from the city and everything that he knows, Milkman finally connects with nature  and the people of Shalimar—the people who have nothing yet live so richly—gaining a deep respect for them.

            Not only does Milkman gain a deeper connection to the people of Danville after his night in the woods, he also gains a much deeper understanding of himself. A night spent in the middle of nowhere allowed Milkman to become one with nature: he “found himself exhilarated by simply walking the earth. Walking it like he belonged on it; like his legs were stalks, tree trunks, a part of his body that extended down down down into the rock and soil” (281). He spends an evening carving, salting, and eating a wild bobcat, much like a primitive, resourceful person living off the land might do. Yet, as much as Milkman becomes one with nature, he also discovers the ability to be honest and true with himself just the same. Milkman admits that he, “avoided commitment and strong feelings, and shied away from decisions,” yet he admits to Calvin and the men in the woods that he was scared to death, illuminating the true transformation that Milkman has undergone (180). He realizes that he can no longer avoid the problems and situations that make him uncomfortable. In order to solve them, he sees that he must understand them and confront them rather than ignore them. Leaving the woods, Milkman verifies this discovery by laughing at himself and admitting his fear, something that he would have never done before. At long last, Milkman possesses a sense of honesty, comfort, and confidence that he has never had before. Although he does not yet possess the full ability to fly, Milkman no longer limps. It is not until he understands that one must ‘surrender to the air’ and give in to nature that he finds the ability to fly.

            Milkman’s connection with nature and the people of Danville and the understanding that he develops about himself during his trip is the same type of ‘groundedness’ or ‘rootedness’ that Pilate possessed during her lifetime. Because of this, Milkman now understands how Pilate was able to fly and can finally fly as well. Pilate lived rooted to the earth and connected to people. When she dies she admits, “I wish I’d a knowed more people. I would of loved ‘em all,” exemplifying why Milkman gravitated toward her (336). Although she wasn’t wealthy or the most educated woman, she would give away everything that she had if it meant she could help someone else. Pilate existed above normal people and now, Milkman understands how to do the same. As Guitar once said, if you, “Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down” (179).