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“Boy at the Window” by Richard Wilbur

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

The Man of Snow

            How often do people get into arguments about one person’s beliefs versus another’s?  In Richard Wilbur’s “Boy at the Window,” we see a boy and a snowman, looking at each other with pity because of their surroundings.  This poem was particularly engaging for me because of the content, the sudden burst of humor in a serious poem, and the rhyme and meter.

The poem is about differences in perception and misunderstanding.  As a child, the boy cannot understand that a snowman would prefer to be outside in the dark, cold, winter night.  He knows comfort is in his home, warm and loved, and wants his snowman to be comfortable as well.  The snowman, of course, would melt or “die” if he were to sit next to the fire.  The real touching point is not only that the child fears for the snowman, but that the snowman pities the child for knowing fear when he is surrounded by “Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear” (Clugston, 2010).  Hearing the audio clip provided with the textbook Journey into Literature provided background for the poem.  Wilbur was witnessing his son, wondering why his snowman could not come inside and join them (Clugston, 2010).  Hearing this background was both beneficial and detrimental to my understanding of the poem.  On one hand, it was easier to imagine a young boy having these worries, rather than some abstract deeper meaning.  On the other, however, once I heard that, I found that it was near impossible to think about the poem having a deeper meaning.  After all, the poet said it was about an actual boy looking out of an actual window at an actual snowman, so how could it possibly be about man in an over-industrialized world, a boy refusing to grow up, or a comparison of civilized man and primitive man, as some people claim (Elisa, Reza, & Kim, 2008)?  According to Alan Nadel, Wilbur uses children often in his poetry to express openness to change and transition, as well as sparks for inspiration and imagination (Nadel, 1978).

This poem has a serious tone, but line ten provides a burst of comic relief, which is refreshing.  I am not even sure I would have caught that bit of humor without listening to a performance of the piece and hearing the audience laugh.  “The man of snow is, nonetheless, content,/ Having no wish to go inside and die” does not seem like a funny line, but when the poet read the piece, the emphasis and tone in his voice provided the context to hear the humor.  The boy wants the snowman to come inside where he is comfortable, but, silly boy, a snowman would melt if he were to sit nice and warm by the fire.  It is refreshing to hear a poem that does not take itself so seriously.

Finally, I have always been more engaged by poetry that has some sort of rhyme and rhythm.  The poem does not have to be a strict sonnet or follow any specific structure, but in general, a structured poem is more interesting to me.  This poem is written in two stanzas with eight lines each, and ten syllables per line.  There is a rhyme scheme in each stanza, with the first and fourth lines, second, third, fifth, and seventh lines, and sixth and eighth lines rhyming respectively (ABBABCBC).  The cadence of the lines allows a smooth flow of words, allowing reading to come more naturally.

The content, surprising humor, and structure of “Boy at the Window” made the Richard Wilbur poem very appealing, interesting, and engaging.  They allowed me to see the world outside the window as though I were the young boy, fearful for the snowman who pities the child.  They also remind all readers that what you think is best for another may not always be the case, and to take each individual’s perspective into account when making decisions that affect a group.

References

Clugston, R.W. (2010). Journey into Literature. Retrieved from http://content.ashford.edu/books/

Elisa, Reza, & Kim. (2008, December 18). Analysis and comments on “A Boy at the Window” [Online forum message]. Retrieved from http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/Richard-Wilbur/17582/comments/2

Nadel, A. (1978). Roethke, Wilbur, and the vision of the child: Romantic and Augustan in modern verse. The Lion and the Unicorn 2(1), 94-113. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from Project MUSE database.

07/22/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | 3 Comments

Gone Too Soon: A Comparison of Thomas and Updike

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

This is just the first draft. Still have to add a page or two for the final paper in the next couple weeks.

Gone Too Soon: A Comparison of Thomas and Updike

Introduction

Many people have suffered the loss of a loved family member, be it a father, a husband, a child, or even the family dog.  As we know from Ben Franklin, death is one of only two things in life that are inevitable (Franklin, 1789, as cited by Notable Quotes).  How we greet death is the theme of many poems.  While the dying may wish for a dignified death, comfortable at home, or while sleeping, the family is almost always eager to fight, or encourage the dying to fight, against death, even in the face of certainty.  In “Do not go gentle into that good night,” by Dylan Thomas, the speaker is begging his father to fight against death, and in “Dog’s Death,” by John Updike, the puppy tries to hide so she can die in peace, but the family rushes her to the vet to fight against death for her.  The theme in both pieces is, in general, dignity in the face of inevitable death.  By analyzing, comparing, and contrasting these two poems, we can see that while the dying may be content to rest, families demand a fight.  This paper will analyze the form, style, and content of “Do not go gentle into that good night,” by Dylan Thomas, and “Dog’s Death,” by John Updike.

Form

“Do not go gentle into that good night” is the most famous example of a villanelle (Poetry, n.d.).  A villanelle, originally intended for French poetry, is exceedingly difficult to write in English because of a lack of rhyming words compared to the French language (Poetry, n.d.).  Villanelles are nineteen lines long, with six stanzas (Poetry, 2010).  The first five stanzas have three lines each, and the last stanza has four lines (Poetry, 2010).  They have intricate rhyming schemes as well as refrains, or lines that get repeated over and over (Poetry, 2010).  The refrains in this poem are “Do not go gentle into that good night,” and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  “Do not go gentle into that good night” is line one, and repeated at lines six, twelve, and eighteen (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” is line three, and repeated at lines nine, fifteen, and nineteen (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  In addition to “night” and “light,” which end all those lines, lines four, seven, ten, thirteen, and sixteen all rhyme with “right,” “bright,” “flight,” “sight,” and “height,” respectively (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  Moreover, all the remaining lines, two, five, eight, eleven, fourteen, and seventeen, rhyme with each other as well with “day,” “they,” “bay,” “way,” “gay,” and “pray,” respectively (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  Finally, though not required by villanelle structuring, “Do not go gentle into that good night” is written in iambic pentameter, or lines of ten syllables, with every other syllable stressed (Poetry, n.d.).

John Updike’s “Dog’s Death,” on the other hand, does not follow such strict structuring.  It is twenty lines long, with five four-line stanzas (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  The only repetition in the poem is the phrase “Good dog,” mentioned in last line of the first stanza, and the last line of the last stanza (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  Each line has between ten and thirteen syllables, with no discernable pattern, and the end rhyme is erratic (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  Each line only rhymes with one other line, if at all, such as lines six and eight (“liver” and “forever”), lines nine and ten (“fed” and “bed”), lines thirteen and fifteen (“fur” and “her”), lines fourteen and sixteen (“tears” and “disappeared”), and lines seventeen and eighteen (“frame” and “shame”) (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  In addition to this, lines eleven and twelve have a forced rhyme through assonance with “alive” and “tried” (as cited by Clugston, 2010).

Both “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “Dog’s Death” are poems, though one is a specific type (the villanelle) and the other is less structured (Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.).  Like a pot of coffee left to boil, a poem is a concentrated, more powerful version of a story, with all but the most important aspects left out.  In the right hands, these poems could be short stories, but in doing so, it would lessen the dramatic impact of the work.  John Updike is far better known for his stories and books than his poetry, and the fact that he made “Dog’s Death” into a poem, instead of his more likely short story, shows that the emotion of this poem was better suited for the compact form.             Though both are poems, and justifiably so, the main difference in form for the two is in structure.  The highly structured rhyme, refrain, and meter of “Do not go gentle into that good night” is sharply different from the erratic rhyme and meter of “Dog’s Death.”

Style

Dylan Thomas was a lyrical poet, meaning that he expresses personal feelings in his work (Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.).  The poem does not quite fit an elegy, since the mood is more passionate than somber, but as a lyric poem about death, it does fit the standard definition (Clugston, 2010).  As a poem with one speaker, and an invisible audience in the father, “Do not go gentle into that good night” is also a dramatic monologue (Clugston, 2010). Thomas uses symbolism and metaphors to infuse passion and emotion into the villanelle without sacrificing the structure.  The most noticeable example is the extended metaphor of day being life, night being the afterlife, and sunset being the moment of death (Poetry, n.d.).  In the refrains, “go . . . into that good night” and “dying of the light” represent the act of dying, and even when the sun appears in line ten, it is gone almost before it was even noticed (as cited by Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.).  There are also symbols of a life burning brightly, or “going out with a bang,” in line five’s mention of “lightning,” line ten’s “sun in flight,” and line fourteen’s “meteors” blazing (as cited by Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.).  The image of the speaker’s father “there on the sad height” has many interpretations, whether it be the platform his casket rests on, the figurative mountain looking down into the Valley of Death, or simply a point in time represented as a place (as cited in Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.; Westphal, 1994).  Finally, Thomas uses four types of great men as a symbol of what he thinks of his father, that he is wise, good, wild, and grave, and since these four types of men fight, his father should as well (as cited by Clugston, 2010).

Thomas uses several other literary techniques in “Do not go gentle into that good night,” such as alliteration and apostrophe.  The first line is alliterative not only in “not” and “night,” but also in “go” and “good” to further emphasize the line that is repeated four times (as cited by Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.).  There is further alliteration in the fifth stanza with “blind,” “blinding,” and “blaze,” all emphasizing the bl- beginning (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  A similar technique is assonance, which is seen in the repeated third line, “dying” and “light,” which also has a repetitious first word, “Rage,” placing even more emphasis on his desire for his father to fight (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  The first stanza represents an apostrophe because it starts with the imperative, “Do not . . .” which has the “You” understood (as cited by Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.).  The unknown listener is not revealed until the last stanza when we find out the listener is the speaker’s father (as cited by Clugston, 2010). Parallelism is seen in the first lines of the second through fifth stanzas as Thomas describes four types of men who are not done living yet (as cited by Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.).  Finally, the oxymoron of “Curse, bless, me with your fierce tears” in line seventeen represents a desire for the father to cry passionately and fight death, a curse because he is dying, but a blessing because he is fighting a heroic battle (as cited by Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.).  All of these literary tools, including metaphors, alliteration, and parallelism provide a deeper meaning for those willing to dig, but all point back to the fight for life in the face of inevitable death.

John Updike, by reputation, is an author, not a poet.  “Dog’s Death” is an example of narrative poetry, the poetry that tells a story.  He uses detailed imagery of reality, rather than emotionally charged metaphors.  He has a reputation for writing in “squelchy messy regions that the squeamish among us would rather not contemplate,” as Rosemary Goring puts it (Goring, 2009).  It is not often you would see a line like “The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver,” or “Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame/ Of diarrhea and had dragged across the floor,” in other poems, but his near-objective narration of a scene at hand creates its own emotion (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  The one obvious metaphor in the poem comes in line twelve, “her heart was learning to lie down forever” (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  There is a bit of assonance in line eleven, “twisted,” “limp,” and “still,” and in lines twelve and thirteen with “tried,” “bite,” and “died” (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  Updike’s poetry is not full of symbolism and metaphor, with layer upon layer of meaning, but is no less valuable because of it.

Both works exemplify the personal styles of the poets who wrote them.  Dylan Thomas was a lyric poet, focused on emotion and passion, while John Updike was an author and a critic who looked at his material more objectively, not skimping on the squeamish detail.

Content

Dylan Thomas likely wrote “Do not go gentle into that good night” to, or about, his own father (Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.).  The speaker is begging his father not to give in to death, but to fight with all his strength: “Do not go gentle into that good night,/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light” (as cited in Clugston, 2010).  Since the speaker is begging, it can be assumed that the dying father is not fighting as the son is speaking.  All men, “wise men,” “Good men,” “Wild men,” and “Grave men” eventually die, showing that it is a certainty (as cited in Clugston, 2010).  However, just because it is undeniable, does not mean it should be accepted, and as Thomas says, “Old age should burn and rave at close of day” (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  In fact, the second stanza, “Though wise men at their end know dark is right,” refers to the fact that intelligent people, knowing that death will come for them, do not give in easily because there is more to do, more life to live, and their mark has not been fully made yet (as cited by Clugston, 2010; Poetry, n.d.).

In “Dog’s Death,” the main focus is on a young, unnamed, puppy, “Too young to know much,” and just starting to understand paper training (as cited by Clugston, 2010; Armbruster, 2002).  The narrator, the dog’s master, is married with at least two children, but this puppy is also a part of the family.  When she felt unwell, they “teased her with play,” thinking she was just feeling ill, not realizing that they were actually causing more harm.  When the couple realized the dog was more ill, or injured, than they had first thought, they rushed to the vet, with the puppy in the narrator’s lap, rather than the back seat (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  This is indicative of the family’s desire to fight for her, even though “twisted and limp,” the puppy was in no shape to fight for herself (as cited in Clugston, 2010).  At the very end of her short life, the puppy tried to “bite my hand,” which may be seen as the puppy refusing to “go gentle into that good night” (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  Further evidence of her familial relationship is in the speaker stroking “her warm fur” and his wife calling “in a voice imperious with tears” (as cited by Clugston, 2010).  Despite being “surrounded by love,” death still comes for the little pup, as it comes for all of us in our time (as cited by Clugston, 2010).

While Thomas focuses on the dying man, and Updike on the dying young pup, both acknowledge the inevitability of death, but also the refusal to give in to it.  Updike does seem to offer some hope, in “love that would have upheld her,” perhaps if they had noticed her injury earlier, or gotten to the vet sooner, but in the end, “Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared” (as cited by Clugston, 2010).

Conclusion

A poem is a story in concentrated form, and when the poems “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “Dog’s Death” are compared at their most basic level in form, style, and content, they both show the desire of family to fight against death for a loved one, whether father or dog, old or young.  These two poems acknowledge the inevitability of death, but at the same time disregard any notion of letting death come easily, instead raging “against the dying of the light” (as cited by Clugston, 2010).

References

Armbruster, K. (2002). ‘Good Dog’: The Stories We Tell about Our Canine Companions and What They Mean for Humans and Other Animals. Papers on Language & Literature, 38(4), 351. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Clugston, R.W. (2010). Journey into Literature. Retrieved from http://content.ashford.edu/books

Goring, R.  (2009, May 23). Before the full stop The poems John Updike wrote in the last years of his life show an unfl inching attitude to his ultimate fate, says Rosemary Goring. The Herald,12.  Retrieved July 17, 2011, from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID: 1740411111).

Franklin, B. (1789).  Notable Quotes.  Retrieved July 16, 2011, from http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/quotable/singlehtml.htm

Poetry: Do not go gentle into that good night. (n.d.). Shmoop gamma. Retrieved July 16, 2011, from http://www.shmoop.com/do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night/

Westphal, J. (1994). Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. Explicator, 52(2), 113. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

07/17/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , , , | 3 Comments

Deception in “The Necklace”

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

 

“All at once she discovered, in a box of black satin, a superb necklace of diamonds, and her heart began to beat with boundless desire” (Clugston, 2010). “The Necklace” is a short story written by Guy de Maupassant in 1884 (Clugston, 2010). It follows Mathilde Loisel, a woman born and married into the middle class with dreams of wealth and riches. The theme of this story is deception, both the deception of appearance, and the danger of deception in your actions. Appearances can be deceiving, and in “The Necklace,” Mathilde’s insistence on appearing rich among the guests, the appearance of the costume jewelry in a satin box, and the lie told to Madame Forester about the broken clasp all contributed to the Loisels’ fall from their comfortable existence.
The whole chain of events is triggered because of Mathilde’s desire to appear rich even though she is not. Mathilde, when given the chance to mingle with the rich and powerful, scoffs at her husband for even suggesting the idea because she does not want to appear poor. Her husband, wanting only for Mathilde’s happiness, suggests her theater dress, then gives her the money he was saving for himself to buy a new dress. He suggests wearing live flowers, then suggests that she borrow some jewelry from Madame Forester. Mathilde has a night of “victory so complete and so sweet to a woman’s heart” thanks to Madame Forester’s beautiful diamond necklace (Clugston, 2010).
The necklace itself is a symbol of the theme, that appearances can be deceiving. Mathilde knows Madame Forester is rich, and thus believes all her belongings are fit for the rich. The necklace was inside a black satin box among pearls, gold, and precious stones, giving it the appearance of real diamonds. When the necklace is lost, Monsieur and Mathilde Loisel went to the jeweler, but he had only sold the case. This should have been a warning, but it went unheeded. At the end of the story is when we learn that if they had only told Madame Forester what had happened, with an offer to replace it, they would have discovered that it was no more than costume jewelry, and would have spared themselves ten years of hard labor.
Therefore, while the biggest deception was the necklace itself, the one with the worst repercussions was the intentional deception of telling Madame Forester that they were having the necklace repaired. To give the couple time to find a replacement and obtain the necessary funds, Monsieur Loisel suggests that Mathilde write to her friend “that you have broken he clasp of her necklace and that you are having it repaired” (Clugston, 2010). This simple fib sets the course of events for the next ten years as the couple go from comfortable middle class to the “horrible life of the needy” (Clugston, 2010). Had they simply told Madame Forester that they lost the necklace, she would have told them it was a fake. Instead, they paid over seventy times the original cost of the necklace by replacing it with real diamonds. To make matters worse, the necklace was not only paid for in cash, but also in Mathilde’s most prized possession- her appearance.
The theme of the story, appearances can be deceiving, is seen in Mathilde’s desire to appear rich, the appearance of the necklace, and in the actions taken by the Loisels to deceive Madame Forester. Until the very last line of the story, Mathilde believes her greatest mistake was in losing the necklace, not trying to appear rich though she was not, or deceiving her friend. We, as the readers, however, can recognize that both contributed more to her hard life than the actual loss of the necklace.

References
Clugston, R.W. (2010). Journey into Literature. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/

07/10/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Thinking | | Leave a comment

Feminism and Kate Chopin: The Story of an Hour

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

 

Feminism and Kate Chopin: The Story of an Hour
“The Story of an Hour” is the story of liberal feminism. According to Clugston, Chopin’s work was a contributor to the rise of feminism (Clugston, 2010). I have recently become aware of many reasons that feminism is a failed experiment, and this was a major reason that I connected with the story. It was not a connection of seeing myself as the character, but rather a negative connection. The story “struck a nerve” with me, as the saying goes, because of my recent history. Liberal feminism likes to diminish the role of the male to practically nothing, and Louise Mallard’s response to her husband’s death shows just how much Louise truly cared for him. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is practically a handbook for the supposedly oppressed women who championed the cause of liberal feminism, most obviously in her joyousness of her new-found freedom rather than grief and melancholy of her husband’s death.
The approach used in this critique was the Formalist Method. The literary tools of the author, such as foreshadowing, metaphor, and dramatic irony, are examined to determine their effect on the work itself.
The author foreshadowed heart problems in the very first line: “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble” (Clugston, 2010). The expected initial response to the news was “a paralyzed inability to accept its significance,” and perhaps even a grief-induced heart failure (Clugston, 2010). Instead, she instantly starts crying, then retires to her room. Chopin then uses several symbols for new beginnings while describing the view from her window: “new spring life,” “delicious breath of rain,” “a distant song,” “countless sparrows . . . twittering in the eaves,” and “patches of blue sky showing” (Clugston, 2010). Chopin even mentions the clouds “piled one above the other,” showing that Louise could have focused on the grief and sadness, but instead focuses on her new, free, life (Clugston, 2010).
At first, when Louise starts to feel the inkling of her true response, she fights against it, but weakly. She is afraid of what it might mean to feel happiness in this sorrow. It overcomes her, though, as she starts chanting “free, free, free” under her breath (Clugston, 2010). She then realizes that she had often not loved her husband, likely because he “impose[d] a private will upon a fellow-creature,” which is something liberal feminists rebel against (Clugston, 2010).
As she embraces this new emotion in freedom, the author starts using metaphor and simile to show how Louise is adjusting. She is “drinking in a very elixir of life,” renewing her love of life and anticipating many long years of happy freedom (Clugston, 2010). She “carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory,” feeling as though she were the victor in a struggle against matrimony (Clugston, 2010).
Finally, Chopin ends “The Story of an Hour” with a bit of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is used to indicate when the audience knows the truth about a situation, but the characters do not. “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease – of joy that kills” (Clugston, 2010). The characters all assume that Louise, upon seeing her husband alive, would be overjoyed. None of them knew about her acceptance of freedom in her bedroom chair, and none of them realized that her heart gave out, according to the foreshadowing mentioned earlier, due to the shock of having that freedom taken away.
The liberal feminist movement has sought to eliminate matrimony and motherhood as expected norms of womanhood, saying that women have been oppressed for all of history, and casting men as perpetrators of this injustice. That Kate Chopin’s work, particularly “The Story of an Hour,” was associated with the rise of feminism in this sense is not surprising. Louise embraces the realization that she has felt repressed and oppressed in her relationship with a husband she did not love, even though she admits her husband always loved her.

References
Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into Literature. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/AUENG125.10.2/sections/ch00

07/02/2011 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | 2 Comments