Friday, April 11, 2008

Style and organization of Catch-22

The Novel “Catch-22,” by Joseph Heller, is a very different novel in a structural, organizational, and stylistic sense. Upon beginning the novel, I became slightly confused because I could not seem to find an underlying plot or any logical flow to the novel. The novel is organized chapter by chapter, each dedicated to a different person. Catch-22 introduces its characters through the different chapters and by intertwining the characters together through different incidences relating to the main character of the presented chapter. It consequently appears to be a mixed-up string of disjointed experiences. This is true mainly because Catch-22 is not structured in a chronological fashion. As a result, I have found that I need to keep a close focus on all of the characters and their individual descriptions, such as Appleby, who is referred to as having “flies in his eyes,” in order to maintain a clear sense of the novel and its messages and themes presented by Yossarian. Catch-22’s lack of chronology forces the novel to organize itself in different more thought provoking ways. The reader has to put every incident and story into memory because Yossarian, more often than not, will bring it up again and relate it to another character and a story that character’s own. Therefore, the novel can be seen as being organized based on the combination and relationship between different scenes. The union between scenes can be used to reveal Yossarian’s perspectives on all the different characters, the motivations of the war, the treatment of the war by the men, and patriotism. Although every chapter seems like a different unrelated episode from the chapter before, when the reader puts the novel together as a whole there is gradual development in the events. Everything seems to build on something that occurred previously. An example of how this graduation of events occurs is the repeated increase in the number of missions needed in order to be discharged from the war. The number continually gets higher and higher allowing for more to take place and more psychological developments; which Heller ends up finding a way to ultimately tie together in one way or another. The events of the novel allow for Heller to take the novel deeper through his descriptive language and his satirical style of writing. He makes commentaries on all aspects within the novel through his satire, sarcasm, and caricatures. He also builds on the novel through his descriptive and metaphorical language, which he used to describe the physical beauty within the novel. This bounces right back off with his sarcastic view of the reason why he is in a beautiful place, the war. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is very original in its style and organization which I believe makes it a more interesting and engaging piece of literature. (495).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tragically Happy Waltz

"My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

I think in “My Papa’s Waltz,” Theodore Roethke uses a combination of a definite control of tone as well as a specific portrayal of the poem’s speaker to enhance the reader’s understanding of the poem and its meaning. The poem can be interpreted in two main different ways. The first being the idea that the speaker is disturbed remembering his painful childhood with a drunken father. The second interpretation is the idea that the speaker is remembering a happy, playful scene from growing up with his father. I personally feel that the poem should be understood through both interpretations as I think the speaker portrays a tragically happy memory of his childhood.

The language of Roethke’s poem can be seen as a proponent of both interpretations of “My Papa’s Waltz.” Phrases and words such as “whiskey on your breath,” “hung on like death,” “battered,” “my mother’s countenance could not unfrown itself,” and “scraped” all stress the boys bitter and resentful memories of his father. The wording leads the reader to assume that there was darkness and despair living in the house. However, the reader can also infer from phrasing such as “waltzing,” “romped,” and “clinging” that underneath the flaws of the family they was a loving relationship between the boy and his father. This makes the poem connect more to its readers because the readers become sympathetic toward the boy and want to find the good in the father. In some cases, it may become easy for the reader to look past the father drunkenly stumbling and scraping his son’s ear and to instead see the father’s good intentions in dancing with his son at the end of the day.

I think the key lines of “My Papa’s Waltz” are the final two, “Then waltzed me off to bed still clinging to your shirt.” These two lines emphasize the subject of the poem, a moment frozen in time, in the speaker’s memory, of a meaningful dance or waltz between the boy and his father. The lines also suggest the reasoning behind my belief that the poem is about a tragically happy memory. Although Roethke uses clear language to stress the speaker’s critical view of his father, he also uses vivid language, such as the word “clinging,” to stress the speaker’s undeniable love for his father. The poem is defined by the portrayal of the speaker as an honest, loving, and desperate believer in his father as well as by the tone placed upon the father through the language of the poem and the tone placed upon the hurtfulness of an event that should be one of pure joy and freedom. Dance is supposed to be free expression but for the young boy it encompasses not just a chance to play with his father in the freedom of his love, as it solely should, but also it embodies the boy’s unfortunate existence in a quite possibly broken home while yearning for his father’s sober attention.

Theodore Roethke intentionally displays the speaker in a sympathetic light, not by describing him, but rather by describing the treatment he receives from his father. This makes the poem interesting because the tone and the portrayal of the speaker take on a deeper meaning because they become the backbone of a poem that attempts to find the good in a strained but caring relationship of a father and son. The bond of a father and son should be one of the most meaningful relationships in any mans life. It is clear that the speaker knows this and feels robbed in his own life because he was denied a truly devoted relationship with his father.(613).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hamlet Subtext

SCENE IV. The Queen's closet.
He will come straight. Look you lay home to him:
Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with,
And that your grace hath screen'd and stood between
Much heat and him. I'll sconce me even here.
Pray you, be round with him.

Lord Polonius is informing the Queen on what she has to do in regards to Hamlet and getting information from him.HAMLET
[Within] Mother, mother, mother!
I'll warrant you,
Fear me not: withdraw, I hear him coming.

Lord Polonius does as the queen tells him and hides behind the arras so that Hamlet will not see him and because he wants to hear the conversation between Hamlet and the Queen.

POLONIUS hides behind the arras
Now, mother, what's the matter?

Hamlet knows that he has been called in to talk because about his behavior but he plays it off like he does not know what is to come of the conversation.

Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

In Hamlets eyes he is just in his behavior but the Queen accuses him of offending Claudius.

Mother, you have my father much offended.

Hamlet believes that the Queen is the one that has been doing the offending because she married Claudius right after his father’s death.
Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.

Both the Queen and Hamlet think that the other character is wrong and has a bad attitude. Neither character sees wrong in their actions.
Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

Hamlet is letting the Queen know that he thinks she is wrong even though she does not have the same feelings.
Why, how now, Hamlet!
What's the matter now?
Have you forgot me?
No, by the rood, not so:
You are the queen, your husband's brother's wife;
And--would it were not so!--you are my mother.
Nay, then, I'll set those to you that can speak.

Hamlet and the Queen go back and forth because of their differing viewpoints. Queen Gertrude finds Hamlet to be disrespectful to her especially since she is his mother but Hamlet only gets more angry offensive towards her.
Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge;
You go not till I set you up a glass
Where you may see the inmost part of you.
What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me?
Help, help, ho!

Hamlet makes The Queen sit down so that he can further attempt to make her see that her marriage was a wrong action. However, Queen Gertrude becomes frightened by Hamlet and calls out for help knowing that Polonius is behind the arras.

[Behind] What, ho! help, help, help!
[Drawing] How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!
Makes a pass through the arras
[Behind] O, I am slain!

Hamlet becomes furious that Polonius was present for the whole conversation and in his anger he stabs Polonius with his sward through the arras and kills him. Falls and dies
O me, what hast thou done?
Nay, I know not:
Is it the king?
O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!
A bloody deed! almost as bad, good mother,
As kill a king, and marry with his brother.

Hamlet hopes that he has just killed Claudius but finds that it was indeed not him. He then informs his mother of why he has been acting the way he has and why he is so upset with her.
As kill a king!
Ay, lady, 'twas my word.
Lifts up the array and discovers POLONIUS
Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
I took thee for thy better: take thy fortune;
Thou find'st to be too busy is some danger.
Leave wringing of your hands: peace! sit you down,
And let me wring your heart; for so I shall,
If it be made of penetrable stuff,
If damned custom have not brass'd it so
That it is proof and bulwark against sense.

Hamlet discovers that it was Polonius that he killed instead of Claudius but does not show sorrow or regret in killing him.
What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue
In noise so rude against me?
Such an act
That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,
Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose
From the fair forehead of an innocent love
And sets a blister there, makes marriage-vows
As false as dicers' oaths: O, such a deed
As from the body of contraction plucks
The very soul, and sweet religion makes
A rhapsody of words: heaven's face doth glow:
Yea, this solidity and compound mass,
With tristful visage, as against the doom,
Is thought-sick at the act.

The Queen does not understand why Hamlet is being so hostile towards her because she was not the one that killed the King even thought she is getting the sense that Hamlet knows more then she thought. Hamlet gets very mad at the Queen because she does not seem to understand his feelings on how her fast marriage was wrong and shameful.
Ay me, what act,
That roars so loud, and thunders in the index?
Look here, upon this picture, and on this,
The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
See, what a grace was seated on this brow;
Hyperion's curls; the front of Jove himself;
An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;
A station like the herald Mercury
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;
A combination and a form indeed,
Where every god did seem to set his seal,
To give the world assurance of a man:
This was your husband. Look you now, what follows:
Here is your husband; like a mildew'd ear,
Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?
Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,
And batten on this moor? Ha! have you eyes?
You cannot call it love; for at your age
The hey-day in the blood is tame, it's humble,
And waits upon the judgment: and what judgment
Would step from this to this? Sense, sure, you have,
Else could you not have motion; but sure, that sense
Is apoplex'd; for madness would not err,
Nor sense to ecstasy was ne'er so thrall'd
But it reserved some quantity of choice,
To serve in such a difference. What devil was't
That thus hath cozen'd you at hoodman-blind?
Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,
Or but a sickly part of one true sense
Could not so mope.
O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,
If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones,
To flaming youth let virtue be as wax,
And melt in her own fire: proclaim no shame
When the compulsive ardour gives the charge,
Since frost itself as actively doth burn
And reason panders will.

Queen Gertrude starts to cry as Hamlet could not longer control his anger and began to yell at her. He does not understand how she could go from his great father to his underachieving uncle, especially by doing it so openly and fast after his father’s death. He his angry with his mother for not seeing the wrong in the whole situation.

O Hamlet, speak no more:
Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul;
And there I see such black and grained spots
As will not leave their tinct.

Queen Gertrude finally seems to realize some of the wrong in her marriage to Claudius and the pain that she has caused Hamlet.
Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty,--

Hamlet continues to make her feel bad by making references to her bed being tainted since she has slept in it with both her husbands.
O, speak to me no more;
These words, like daggers, enter in mine ears;
No more, sweet Hamlet!

Gertrude can not longer handle Hamlets words.

A murderer and a villain;
A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe
Of your precedent lord; a vice of kings;
A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,
That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,
And put it in his pocket!
No more!
A king of shreds and patches,--

Hamlet continues to attack his mother by bashing Claudius and saying that he was not half the man that Hamlet’s father was. Hamlet continues on until he is unexpectedly interrupted by the ghost.
Enter Ghost
Save me, and hover o'er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?
Alas, he's mad!

Hamlet begins to speak to the ghost even though he is the only one who can see it so consequently the Queen thinks that he is crazy.
Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by
The important acting of your dread command? O, say!

Hamlet is worried that the ghost thinks that he is taking to long to kill Claudius.
Do not forget: this visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But, look, amazement on thy mother sits:
O, step between her and her fighting soul:
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works:
Speak to her, Hamlet.
How is it with you, lady?

The Ghost reminds Hamlet that he has succeeded in making the Queen feel bad and so he has completed his intensions for his visit. Gertrude thinks that Hamlet has gone crazy after seeing him have a conversation with what she thinks is himself for the last few minutes.
Alas, how is't with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy
And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,
Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,
Starts up, and stands on end. O gentle son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?

At this point Hamlet and his mother are calmly talking with each other as opposed to Hamlet’s previous yelling. Gertrude is trying to understand why Hamlet has been acting so crazy.
On him, on him! Look you, how pale he glares!
His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones,
Would make them capable. Do not look upon me;
Lest with this piteous action you convert
My stern effects: then what I have to do
Will want true colour; tears perchance for blood.
To whom do you speak this?
Do you see nothing there?
Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.

Hamlet is trying to get the Queen to see the ghost but she cannot because Hamlet does not understand that not everyone can see it. It appears as if she wants to understand Hamlet but she cannot since she cannot see the ghost. Hamlet becomes a bit confused.
Nor did you nothing hear?
No, nothing but ourselves.
Why, look you there! look, how it steals away!
My father, in his habit as he lived!
Look, where he goes, even now, out at the portal!

Hamlet tries to get the Queen to see the ghost by directing her to it but she cannot see or hear the ghost, to her it is just the two of them in the room. Hamlet tells her that the ghost is his father.
Exit Ghost
This the very coinage of your brain:
This bodiless creation ecstasy
Is very cunning in.

Gertrude now feels that Hamlet is indeed crazy to the point that he is making up stories about ghosts of his father.
My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time,
And makes as healthful music: it is not madness
That I have utter'd: bring me to the test,
And I the matter will re-word; which madness
Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,
Lay not that mattering unction to your soul,
That not your trespass, but my madness speaks:
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven;
Repent what's past; avoid what is to come;
And do not spread the compost on the weeds,
To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue;
For in the fatness of these pursy times
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.

Hamlet does not know why his mother will not believe him and seems to begin to need his mother to trust him. He knows that the ghost is real, Hamlet just wishes that he could prove it to his mother.
O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.
O, throw away the worser part of it,
And live the purer with the other half.
Good night: but go not to mine uncle's bed;
Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,
Of habits devil, is angel yet in this,
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery,
That aptly is put on. Refrain to-night,
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence: the next more easy;
For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
And either [ ] the devil, or throw him out
With wondrous potency. Once more, good night:
And when you are desirous to be bless'd,
I'll blessing beg of you. For this same lord,

The Queen claims that she understand her wrongdoing and wants to fix it. Hamlet is very pleased and asks his mother to forget the struggle they had before in getting her to understand the whole situation. Hamlet says goodnight to his mother. Pointing to POLONIUS
I do repent: but heaven hath pleased it so,
To punish me with this and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and minister.
I will bestow him, and will answer well
The death I gave him. So, again, good night.
I must be cruel, only to be kind:
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
One word more, good lady.

Hamlet knows that murder is wrong but he feels that it is right to honor his father’s ghost and that he must follow through with killing Claudius. He tells his mother not to return to Claudius since she has realized her wrongs.

What shall I do?
Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed;
Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse;
And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses,
Or paddling in your neck with his damn'd fingers,
Make you to ravel all this matter out,
That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft. 'Twere good you let him know;
For who, that's but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,
Such dear concernings hide? who would do so?
No, in despite of sense and secrecy,
Unpeg the basket on the house's top.
Let the birds fly, and, like the famous ape,
To try conclusions, in the basket creep,
And break your own neck down.

The Queen is confused on what to do next and Hamlet tries to assure her that all will be fine if she listens to him and does not give in to or return to Claudius.
Be thou assured, if words be made of breath,
And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
What thou hast said to me.

The Queen confirms to Hamlet that she will not speak to Claudius about the situation or about Hamlet’s plan. The Queen appears to understand her son and believe that he is right in his motives and actions.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wish You Were Here

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skys from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Friday, January 25, 2008


One central theme displayed in “Oedipus the King” is the idea of kingship and what it means in terms of the story and Oedipus himself. Oedipus is raised by the people to become the king after he saves them from the Sphinx. They are so grateful to be free of the Sphinx and to be released from all that they were forced to do under her that they immediately turned to Oedipus as their savior and guardian. As king, Oedipus provides his people with security and protection. He also stands as a hero figure for his people to look up to, respect, and obey. Oedipus is the man that his country turns to in a time of crisis because he has positioned himself in their minds as the only man capable of such a challenge.

Oedipus is put to the test when a true crisis does evolve in his country. He is faced with saving his people from the plague that is spreading through his country as well as all over the continent. Oedipus immediately takes a stand to fulfill his role as king and thinks ahead even before his countrymen come to him in seek of help. He sends his brother-in-law as a messenger to visit an oracle to gain help and understanding for his great problem. Oedipus intends on remaining a powerful and respected ruler of his country. The messenger finds the oracle at Delphi, in the Temple of Apollo. The oracle informs the messenger that the gods will stop holding the plague over the people when they find the killer of their old king Laios. The people must kill the murderer or send him into exile. Oedipus acts as a good king in response to the news and promises to take action right away. Oedipus takes his kingship seriously in this instance because he tries to take the pain and suffering away from his people and put it onto himself by taking responsibility in finding Laios’s murderer. However, Oedipus is unaware of what this duty really means in regards to himself. In truth, Oedipus is King Laios’s killer he is just unaware of this fact. Consequently, even though Oedipus is showing great kingship by working to find the murderer, he in fact cannot fulfill this challenge without realizing the truth of him being the killer.

The whole short story is centered around the notion of kingship because Oedipus rose to the position of King by demonstrating king-like qualities and then continued to serve in the same manner. Oedipus works to demonstrate good kingship over his people by taking the responsibility of finding the murderer of King Laios even though it forces him to come to terms with the day of King Laios’s death. The success of a country was based on its king because Kings were the center of every countries survival. Oedipus was smart enough to realize how important his role was in his country and to his people, leading him to take the matter of the plague seriously. His people should be thankful of his dedication even though in a sense his killing of King Laios caused problems and pain for his people. (531)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"It's A Wonderful Life"

I believe that the character Ivan Ilych is a tragic literary character because he is an unhappy person who does not give anything positive back to society. He does not appear to believe in anything other than money and advancing himself in society to be above other people in his life. This is no way to live a happy and fulfilling life. Ivan does not realize this until the end of his life. This becomes one of the biggest messages of the short story; the author stresses not wasting your life and to not living it in greed. Ivan does not have enough appreciation for people and anything or anyone other than himself. That is why his life can be deemed as terrible.

Ivan does not know or believe in himself let alone other people. He thinks of himself only in terms in success and does not take on the responsibility of other people, not even his family. Therefore, I do think he is a tragic character. He leads a terrible life because I believe that the greatest joy, the kindest service, and the most worth in life can be found through relationships with other people. People are what matter in life and being selfless is the most profound gesture anyone can make to oneself, to other people, and to any higher power that one believes in. Ivan does nothing remotely selfless and consequently he leads what I find to be a lonely life. Some might not view his life as terrible, but if no worth can be found in his life and all that he has done in his time on earth then to me it is clear that it is terrible.

When I think about Ivan I cannot help but think about the character George Bailey from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” because he embodies everything that Ivan is not. Although George struggles quite a bit throughout his life and is never fully financially successful he ends up being the happiest, most loved, and rewarded man in town. George Bailey lived anything but a terrible life because he made such a difference in the lives around him and was so very appreciated. Ivan clearly did not have this affect on anyone because his supposed friends found his funeral to be a burden they had to deal with. His death did not bring sadness and despair but rather annoyance and inconvenience. In “It’s a Wonderful Life” the world without the existence of George Bailey is a sadder, darker place. His lack of existence or his death would bring anything but annoyance and inconvenience. George Bailey is a polar opposite of Ivan Ilych, which serves to further stress the wrong in the way Ivan conducted his life and shows the reader how much more there is to life. (489).

Friday, November 2, 2007

Quentin Compson

Quentin is a very troubled person because he is unable to deal with dishonor, pride, and grief. His father’s words haunt him everyday beginning when Mr. Compson tells Quentin that he will forget his grief because time will heal his despair and misery. Quentin is tortured by what he feels is the most awful sin, Caddy loosing her virginity. Quentin is the only member of the Compson family to have pride and he feels that Caddy’s lack of pride in her family has led her to commit this dishonorable act. As a result of Mr. Compson’s pessimistic view of life and Caddy’s sin, Quentin can find no basis for any true morals. Quentin cannot live a life without a system of morals and values. This gives him his greatest struggle in life. Quentin strives to prove his father wrong but he becomes devastated when he learns of Caddy sin. This leads him to question the truth behind his father’s claims.

Quentin feels very connected to Caddy on a level that he experiences with no other character of the novel. Quentin loves Caddy so much that he is willing to go to all lengths to cleanse her of her sin. Quentin goes as far as trying to convince their father that he and Caddy committed incest so that Caddy’s sins will decrease in significance. Quentin also tries to save Caddy when he suggests a double suicide pact. Caddy is willing to commit suicide with Quentin because it will go against her parents, while Quentin wants to die so that Caddy will be freed from her sin and be safe with him. Quentin will never be able to understand Caddy’s motives for loosing her virginity because while she looks for ways to disturb the peace between her and her parents, Quentin looks for ways to restore all lost order. Quentin is hopelessly connected to Caddy in a lost cause because she can never regain her virginity.

Quentin’s biggest fear in life is that all his values are meaningless. Unfortunately, Mr. Compson gives Quentin his last piece of evidence that leads him to the conclusion that Mr. Compson is indeed right when he says that there are no real values in life. Quentin tries to disregard his father’s ideas because he does not want to forget his grief. Quentin believes that if he forgets his horror then it will all become meaningless. If the experiences in life become meaningless then Quentin does not see the worth in living through them. He feels that he must stop time in order to stop himself from forgetting the dishonor that Caddy brought upon the family. The only way that Quentin knows how to stop himself from forgetting the horror and to stop time is by committing suicide. To Quentin, suicide is not a dishonorable act because he is preserving the grief he suffered and preventing the whole situation from becoming meaningless. (567).