All posts by mhouck

Pricksongs, Fiction, Reality, Sexism & Descants

People often use fiction to escape the depression and monotony of real life. In Pricksongs & Decants, Robert Coover uses the style of metafiction to present stories through many different storylines and outcomes. His stories are keenly aware that fiction itself is a central theme and at times nearly a character advancing the action. The omnipresence of fiction leads to a very interesting role for the narrator. The position of the narrator is best described by the narrator of “The Magic Poker,” “At times, I forget that this arrangement is my own invention.” It often feels as though Coover is not the writer of these stories, but a unique person who is dreaming up each individual tale. The narrators are creating fictional realities for themselves or their characters. They have tendencies to choose the ease and mystery of dreams over reality. One theme that is present throughout this whole dream-like book is the objectification of female characters, whom the narrators give much bleaker realities to than the male characters. Pricksongs & Descants creates narrators whom force fiction within the fictional reality already present, whom also usurp the importance of characters as the instigators of action and the story. The male perspective dominates these tales and lead to the narrators often objectifying women.
A very prevalent form of fictional reality that Coover uses is the multiple plotline narrative of “The Magic Poker” and “The Elevator.” Both stories are broken up into paragraph-long to page-long anecdotes that follow different plotlines. The narrators are the central figures of these tales, but they are not direct actors or authors. As L.L. Lee says, “… this is the dream(er)’s point of view…” (65) They differ in that “The Elevator” is almost exclusively driven by the narrator’s scenarios for Martin and the decisions he makes when riding namesake elevator. Whereas, the scenarios of “The Magic Poker” based on the situations of multiple characters that the narrator creates. Also, in “The Elevator” there is an element of continuity in that the narrator presents the reader with scenarios that have a constant location and background. In “The Magic Poker” though, the narrator openly admits that he is the one controlling the action and changes aspects as he goes along and at times retracts his statements. This discontinuous narration structure allows the narrators to experiment with their characters.
“The Elevator” presents a tale of a man named Martin and the multiple different scenes about his trip to the fourteenth floor of his office building every day. The narrator presenting all the different stories of Martin is just as vital as the main character, for he is the one exploring all the different possibilities of Martin’s elevator experiences. In fact, in scenario five the narrator says, “Martin, as always and without so much as reflecting upon it, takes the self-service elevator to the fourteenth floor, where he works.” (129) The narrator is more interested in these monotonous rides than Martin is. He is creating his own versions of reality within fiction. The link between the fictions and reality is Coover’s choice to cut each narration off before it is finished and then coming back to it later. Through the fictional concept, Coover is acknowledging how reality actually is. There are many different scenarios and outcomes that can be determined within a split second.
The narrator’s omnipresence allows him great control over the other characters and their interactions with Martin. One interaction stands out among all of them: that of Martin and the female elevator operator. One storyline that the narrator presents deals with the elevator cable snapping and Martin offering to protect her which leads to the two physically expressing their love for one another through sex (134). She is the victim of the male point of view that dominates Coover’s work. She is nothing to the Martin or the narrator other than an object for Martin to act out his urges. The first explanation of the two embracing begins with Martin staring at her and then leads to her running over to him without any agency of her own. Another description of the girl lacking any personal agency comes when the narrator says, “She weeps in terror, presses her hot wet mouth against his.” (133) How does she cope with fear? By kissing and having sex with the only man available. The narrator’s attempt to create a fictitious reality leads him to take a sexist perspective on gender roles.
Unlike the broken up narrative of “The Elevator,” “The Magic Poker” has different storylines that are quite similar, in that all start with the same beginning and all stories have the premise of the question of the background of the island on which the story is set. Also the narrator is written in first person and as a semi-active participant in the story. While he is not interacting with the other characters he is the creator of the island and the people. He, like the narrator of “The Elevator,” has created multiple different outcomes for the trip of two girls to the island, but these are not observations based on people that exist without him. These girls are his creations. He has truly escaped reality and accepted fiction as his form of life. He asserts himself a god-like character when he says, “… perhaps tomorrow I will invent Chicago and Jesus Christ and the history of the moon.” (40) Fiction is more empowering than reality. The narrator has all the power of this circumstance. He can change events if he wants, which he acknowledges when he says, “Wait a minute, this is getting out of hand! What happened to that poker, I was doing much better with the poker…” (30) The fiction that becomes a sort of forced reality is easier for a narrator, because there is a form of control not present in reality. This lack of control is alluded to in the fact that there are many different plotlines: none wrong, none right.
The male perspective is present in many of these plotlines as well. Almost every scenario begins with one of the girls encountering the titular poker. “She… kisses its handle and its long rusted shaft.” (25) Once she successfully kisses it, and the man in the blue jacket appears, it is as though all their dreams have come true. These women are important in that they have come to this mysterious island to spend time with a man that the narrator has created to seduce them. He creates girls who need nothing else; all they need is a man. While they are his creations, he treats them without agency. “I have dressed them and may well choose to undress them.” (25) They are used as entertainment to both the narrator and the man in the blue jacket. Karen amuses the man when she takes the poker and acts out different scenes (36). They are dolls to the narrator and entertainment to the man in the blue jacket.
“The Gingerbread House” takes a different approach to the concept of forced reality within fiction that Coover creates throughout his stories. The characters of this story are tempted by sexuality just as those of the other stories, but unlike the previous stories they are not sexualized for the sake of the narrator in this case. They are representatives of the concept of coming of age, and Coover implies that the ultimate form of coming of age is sexualization. In this case, the person making an attempt to avoid reality is the father of the two children. He cannot deal with the fact that his children are coming of age, and wants to avert them from doing so (Evenson, 61). Throughout the story he is continually described as worn down. He does not want what has happened to him to be the future of his children, so he tries to condition them away from sex. Such as, when the boy lunges for the witch and the father slaps him, partially out of jealousy and partially out of protection from lust (72). The father tries to create a type of world that cannot be; one in which children do not grow up.
The mixture of metafiction at the different levels of this story is unique. First, the reader is very familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel. So on the surface Coover is creating a literal fiction about a fiction, but he takes it one step further by challenging the reader to understand this fictitious version of a fairytale presented by the house with the red-heart door. Like the other stories, there is no concrete ending to the story. Instead, the narrator creates characters who are the” wanderers and explorers of unknown realities.” (Bacchilega, p25) “Yes, marvelous! delicious! insuperable! but beyond: what is that sound of black rags flipping?” The children make no definitive choice. They cannot accept the reality that is coming, that of adulthood.
Death is always a difficult event to accept and deal with. In Coover’s “The Marker,” Jason takes the concept of difficult recovery to an extreme. He chooses to completely recede from reality after the death of his wife, as he keeps his wife’s decaying body in their bed three weeks after her death. The narrator tells the story of how Jason has created an alternate reality by imagining a life where his wife is still alive. His fictional reality is much like that of the father in “The Gingerbread House,” in that it arises from denial. Unlike all the other stories though, his forced fictional reality is cut-off by the intrusion of the police officers. Despite the interruption, the story continues its hyperbolic trend with the police officer’s over exaggerated performance when beating Jason’s genitals to a pulp.
Some irony is derived from the title. The story starts with him putting his book marker in his book and ends with him being distraught over the police officer knocking it out. The bookmark can act as an explanation for where Jason’s life is. He has placed a marker in his fictional life and will not move on. His exclamation at the end, “The marker!” shows how the loss of the bookmark represents a break in his new reality.
One could argue that Coover’s presentation of female objectification is not an act of sexism, but a way for the narrator to express the dreams and urges of the characters he has created in these forced realities. To argue that is to say that women cannot be the characters in control. Even in “The Magic Poker” in which female characters are central, the narrator puts their actions in terms of male reactions and views. “‘But, tell me, how did you know to kiss it?’ ‘Call it woman’s intuition…’” (30) Despite using unique techniques in his writing and creating stories that intrigue with boundary pushing narratives, he has fallen down a hole. He is trapped in a hole of great writing that can only be respected to the point at which the reader is not distracted by this glaring literary discrimination.
Coover created unique stories through his use of narration as an actor rather than a tool for presentation. He took metafiction and transformed it to fit with his individual point of view. The narrator’s in Coover’s tales push the plots along within an already fictional tale with their ability to create forced realities for their characters. The narrator’s are not responsible for the entirety of the work though. Coover still wrote them, and in turn established the sexism that is present throughout the book. Despite this factor, Coover, and subsequently his narrators, told stories from a challenging point of view that forms a interesting relationship between reality and fiction within fictitious tales.
Bacchilega, Christina. “Folktales, Fictions, and Meta-Fictions: Their Interaction in Robert Coover’s Pricksongs & Descants.” New York Folklore 6.3-4 (1980): 171-184. Print.
Coover, Robert. Pricksongs & Descants. New York: E.P. Dutton &Co., Inc., 1969. Print.
Evenson, Brian. Understanding Robert Coover. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003. Print.
Lee, L.L. “Robert Coover’s Moral Vision: Pricksongs & Descants.” Studies in Short Fiction 23.1 (1986): 63-69. Print.

Pynchon’ Entropy

“Suddenly then, as if seeing the single and unavoidable conclusion… curious dominant of their separate lives should resolve into a tonic of darkness and the final absence of all motion.”

In Entropy, Pynchon mixes culture with science, specifically much like themes in other works he alludes to human control and how to achieve it and how long it can last.

As Callisto and Aubade continually keep the kitchen at 37 degrees Fahrenheit, they are creating a separate world, and science is what is allowing them to control it. Entropy and thermodynamics  are the tools they are using to better this miniature world they have created in the kitchen. This world is much like the actual society they live in. The goal of the world they have created is improvement. In this case, Callisto and Aubade hope to improve the condition of the bird. By using their own heat and keeping the room at a consistent temperature they hope to do this.

The arc of story of the their bird, represents the two big themes of Entropy. Pynchon was a big believer in technology and its ability to improve the world. So he describes science as the tool to save a life in this story. But he also alludes to the increasingly monotonous world of the 1950s. Technology, while improving the world, is also making it much more streamlined and predictable.

The last sentence of Entropy addresses in both its structure and content both these themes, but also the fact that no matter how monotonous society may seem, nothing can completely eliminate uncertainty and poor circumstances. The sentence is a run-on. The constant continuation of it mirrors the concept of monotony, with the ides that something can go on without an interruption. However, when Aubade breaks the window both science and society fail here. No matter the intensive thought that went into transferring heat to the bird and controlling the world in which it was in, it has all literally gone out the window. And just as the bird’s environment, the sentence eventually ends, showing that no matter now long something continues, it will inevitably be interrupted.

Revised Close Reading of “Song for a Dark Girl”

 

          Poetry has been battling cultural and social norms since cavemen wrote on walls. African Americans, however, did not get the opportunity to truly express their voice and challenge the discrimination and oppression they faced in America until after emancipation. Even after this blacks were subject to extreme violence and injustice, still being seen as inferior citizens of the United States. Langston Hughes wrote poetry that opposed the social views on race of the white population during the 1920s. He incorporated aspects of the perspectives of both races in order to show the injustices being done to African Americans. The rhythm of jazz poetry he used in much of his poetry was unique when he first began and was instrumental in establishing his voice and driving home his themes. The rhythm of Hughes’ poem “Song for a Dark Girl” incorporates jazz poetry and reads like a ritualistic chant. By using lyrics from “Dixie” within this chant-like-poem, Hughes juxtaposes the use of lynching as established entertainment from the perspective of the white community and as a paralyzing form of control from the viewpoint of blacks. This juxtaposition ultimately serves to express Hughes’ view on the lack of racial equality in the “free” south.

            The lynching present in “Song for a Dark Girl” is seen as an atrocious act that symbolizes the height of intolerance in America. While Hughes paints a sorrowful picture, lynching was not seen as oppressive by many in the 1920s. Lynching was a form of entertainment and community bonding. It would be advertised that a black citizen was to be lynched and people would gather at the location anxious to witness the death of another: a form of live action entertainment like a festival or play. One did not even have to be present at the lynching in order to get the entertainment value; lynching photography was widely spread for the purpose of white voyeurism and to control and instill fear in African Americans. There was no escape in the US from this horrifying public festivity.

            Hughes’ plays off this idea of entertainment, by heavily incorporating music into the poem. The references to music and entertainment within “Song for a Dark Girl” start with the title. By calling this poem a “song” Hughes immediately establishes that there is a musically entertaining aspect to the poem. Though it is not a song in the traditional sense, one reads it in a chant like rhythm. Chanting falls under the umbrella of musical entertainment, whether it be a band leading a chant at a football game or part of a recorded song. By repeating “Way Down South in Dixie” as the first line in each stanza, Hughes incites the repetition of chants and their often melodic qualities (1042). In order to emphasize the melody aspect of the poem, he rhymes the second and fourth lines of each stanza. Along with having musical qualities, the poem chanting feels ritualistic. A ritual that has become routine and monotonous, as though none of the actions are surprising and have become a part of everyday life. On top of these facts, it is also similar to a religious ritual. In religion, worshippers act in ways that they feel will better the world and please the superior power. In this case, the white community sees the world as a better place when blacks are oppressed and killed when necessary, and they view themselves as the superior power.

The black woman even accepts this pretense of white religious power. Hughes’ writes, “I asked the white Lord Jesus/ What was the use of prayer.” (1042) This “white Lord Jesus” accepts the lynching, and does not condemn it despite it being a grave sin. Not only is the physical world the young lover in wrought with oppression, but so is the spiritual world. By cutting off one of the only avenues for solace, this makes it nearly impossible to escape the horrors of racial prejudice anywhere.

In “Song for a Dark Girl” the community as a whole is represented by one lover. To this community the music was not entertaining; it was often a coping mechanism for people to deal with the hardships in life, and that is how the speaker of the poem is using the chant. Reading, “Love is a naked shadow/ On a gnarled and naked tree” one can feel the pain leaping off the page in the same way an audience feels when a great musician plays a sad song (1042). The speaker is aware that her opinion and sadness means nothing in the greater, white dominated world, so she uses this song as a way to let her sorrow be felt.

The music in the poem can be seen in a third light as well. Hughes incorporates jazz rhythms in a way that the reader could imagine it being sung like a jazz song. “Way Down South in Dixie” would be wailed out by the musician, and as he made his way through each stanza the singer would move to a sad, bluesy tone (1042). The use of jazz poetry gives it a distinctly African American point of view despite the fact that there are many references to the white viewpoint. Hughes is able to use this technique as a way to contrast the perspectives and effects of lynching on both the black and white communities.

“Way Down South in Dixie:” these lyrics are the ultimate examples of the antebellum South and paralyzing control (1042). These lyrics that begin each stanza in Hughes’poem are from the popular minstrel song “Dixie.” This once again emphasizes just how much Southerners saw lynching as a form of entertainment. Minstrelsy was the single most popular form of entertainment in the late 1800s and its popularity continued through the 1920s. Also, minstrelsy was much more than a popular form of entertainment; it was an overarching form of control. Whites used it as a way to keep blacks as the inferior race in the US. They projected an image of what the African American and his culture were and this was perceived as the actual behavior and culture of African American. That is what these lyrics meant to blacks: oppression, control, and slavery. Also, including this lyric does much more than drive home that point. It allows for a comparison between the 1920s and the antebellum South. By starting each stanza with this phrase, Hughes says that the 1920s South is the same as the antebellum South, the only separator of the two is time. There has not been progression. Once again, Hughes is capable of taking one aspect and allowing it to represent both the white and black communities and how they oppose one another.

Hughes is able to highlight just how oppressed the African American is through the use of parentheses in the second line of each stanza. By placing the feelings of the African American woman in parentheses after the white supremacist lyric “Way Down South in Dixie”, Hughes makes these feelings seem like an afterthought (1042). In writing parentheses often surround a side note that is not central to the main point of the text. By putting “(break the heart of me)” in parentheses, there is the implication that the sorrow, that the feelings of the “Dark Girl” are secondary in the world of white supremacy. This purposely creates the sense that these thoughts are less important and just something to consider if the reader wants to take the time to read what is in them. The ability to emphasize the African American condition, while still showing it from a white perspective is the ultimate truth that Hughes reveals in this poem.

While this poem strongly evokes the white perspective in order juxtapose it to the experiences of the black community, Hughes, who had much racial pride, still makes it clear that this is a poem about the struggles of African Americans in the US. The true power of “Song for a Dark Girl” comes from Hughes’ ability to layer many difference perspectives and meanings into each word in order to make a statement about America’s racial injustice.

Reconstruction of “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law”

Original text:

“Few men about her would or could do more,

hence she was labeled harpy, shrew, and whore.”

Reconstruction:

“Few men about her would or could do more,

hence she was ignored, the harpy, shrew, whore.”

While both texts apply a negative connotation to the woman, the reconstruction lacks the aggression that is present in the original text. “Ignored” is a much less active verb than “labeled.”

Not only is “ignored” a more passive verb than “labeled,” its meaning is framed in a passive context. To ignore, is to not acknowledge or give credit to. In the reconstruction, the men who do not approve of what the woman is trying to accomplish deal with the problem by not acknowledging her as significant. The men do not see her as a true threat to their establishment is she does not require any sore of acknowledgement. And the offensive adjectives that follow seem to be more of an afterthought. Whereas in the original text, the word “labeled” adds a layer of activity to the text. The men feel threatened enough to actively put down her work and her as a person. It makes what she is doing much more significant if it requires the men to strongly acknowledge it as negative work. She is being “labeled” as a threat, and they feel the need to get other people involved to achieve their goal of opposing her. They do this by labeling her as “harpy, shrew, and whore.”

It adds a sense of urgency to the overall theme of the poem. It creates the idea that if there are not more people willing to stand up for this, these situations and outcomes will just keep recurring. Not to mention, the word “labeled” creates a category for these women in a male dominated world.  The reconstruction lacks the urgency and aggression that is created in Rich’s poem. The word choice of Rich’s poem is specific, and had she chosen another option her poem would lose some of the details that allow it to be so great.

Close Reading of “Song for a Dark Girl”

Poetry has been battling cultural and social norms since cavemen wrote on walls. African Americans, however, did not get the opportunity to truly express their voice and challenge the discrimination and oppression they faced in America until after emancipation. Even after this blacks were subject to extreme violence and injustice, still being seen as inferior citizens of the United States. Langston Hughes wrote poetry that opposed the social views on race of the white population during the 1920s. He incorporated aspects of the perspectives of both races in order to show the injustices being done to African Americans. The rhythm of jazz poetry he used in much of his poetry was unique when he first began and was instrumental in establishing his voice and driving home his themes. The rhythm of Hughes’ poem “Song for a Dark Girl” incorporates jazz poetry and reads like a ritualistic chant. By using lyrics from “Dixie” within this chant-like-poem, Hughes juxtaposes the use of lynching as established entertainment from the perspective of the white community and as a paralyzing form of control from the viewpoint of blacks.

The lynching present in “Song for a Dark Girl” is seen as an atrocious act that symbolizes the height of intolerance in America. And while Hughes paints a sorrowful picture, lynching was not seen as oppressive by many in the 1920s. Lynching was a form of entertainment and community bonding. It would be advertised that a black citizen was to be lynched and people would gather at the location anxious to witness the death of another: a form of live action entertainment like a festival or play. And one did not even have to be present at the lynching in order to get the entertainment value; lynching photography was widely spread for the purpose of white voyeurism and to control and instill fear in African Americans. There was no escape in the US from this horrifying public festivity.

When people think of entertainment, music is usually one of the first things they think of. The references to music and entertainment within “Song for a Dark Girl” start with the title. By calling this poem a “song” Hughes immediately establishes that there is a musically entertaining aspect to the poem. Though it is not a song in the traditional sense, one reads it in a chant like rhythm. Chanting falls under the umbrella of musical entertainment, whether it be a band leading a chant at a football game or part of a recorded song. By repeating “Way Down South in Dixie” as the first line in each stanza, Hughes incites the repetition of chants and their often melodic qualities (1042). In order to emphasize the melody aspect of the poem, he rhymes the second and fourth lines of each stanza. Along with having musical qualities, the poem chanting feels ritualistic. A ritual that has become routine and monotonous, as though none of the actions are surprising and have become a part of everyday life. On top of these facts, it is also similar to a religious ritual. In religion, worshippers act in ways that they feel will better the world and please the superior power. In this case, the white community sees the world as a better place when blacks are oppressed and killed when necessary, and they view themselves as the superior power.

The musicality of the poem goes beyond the entertainment value lynching has for whites, it juxtaposes it next to sorrow of the affected black community. In “Song for a Dark Girl” the community as a whole is represented by one lover. Music is often a coping mechanism for people to deal with the hardships in life, and that is how the speaker of the poem is using the chant. Reading, “Love is a naked shadow/ On a gnarled and naked tree” one can feel the pain leaping off the page in the same way an audience feels when a great musician plays a sad song (1042). The speaker is aware that her opinion and sadness means nothing in the greater, white dominated world, so she uses this song as a way to let her sorrow be felt.

The music in the poem can be seen in a third light as well. Hughes incorporates jazz rhythms in a way that the reader could imagine it being sung like a jazz song. “Way Down South in Dixie” would be wailed out by the musician, and as he made his way through each stanza the singer would move to a sad, bluesy tone (1042). The use of jazz poetry gives it a distinctly African American point of view despite the fact that there are many references to the white viewpoint. Hughes is able to use this technique as a way to contrast the perspectives and effects of lynching on both the black and white communities.

“Way Down South in Dixie:” these lyrics are the ultimate examples of the antebellum South and paralyzing control (1042). These lyrics that begin each stanza in Hughes’poem are from the popular minstrel song “Dixie.” This once again emphasizes just how much Southerners saw lynching as a form of entertainment. Minstrelsy was the single most popular form of entertainment in the late 1800s and its popularity continued through the 1920s. Also, minstrelsy was much more than a popular form of entertainment; it was an overarching form of control. Whites used it as a way to keep blacks as the inferior race in the US. They projected an image of what the African American and his culture were and this was perceived as the actual behavior and culture of African American. That is what these lyrics meant to blacks: oppression, control, and slavery. But including this lyric does much more than drive home that point. It allows for a comparison between the 1920s and the antebellum South. By starting each stanza with this phrase, Hughes says that the 1920s South is the same as the antebellum South, the only separator of the two is time. There has not been progression. Once again, Hughes is capable of taking one aspect and allowing it to represent both the white and black communities and how they oppose one another.

Hughes is able to highlight just how oppressed the African American is through the use of parentheses in the second line of each stanza. By placing the feelings of the African American woman in parentheses after the white supremacist lyric “Way Down South in Dixie”, Hughes makes these feelings seem like an afterthought (1042). In writing parentheses often surround a side note that is not central to the main point of the text. By putting “(break the heart of me)” in parentheses, there is the implication that the sorrow, that the feelings of the “Dark Girl” are secondary in the world of white supremacy. This purposely creates the sense that these thoughts are less important and just something to consider if the reader wants to take the time to read what is in them. The ability to emphasize the African American condition, while still showing it from a white perspective is the ultimate truth that Hughes reveals in this poem.

While this poem strongly evokes the white perspective in order juxtapose it to the experiences of the black community, Hughes, who had much racial pride, still makes it clear that this is a poem about the struggles of African Americans in the US. The true power of “Song for a Dark Girl” comes from Hughes’ ability to layer many difference perspectives and meanings into each word in order to make a statement about society in America.

Allen Ginsberg compared to F.T. Marinetti

Ginsberg (p. 1360)- “who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their sanity & their hands & a hung jury”

Marinetti (p. 796)- “We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.”

Despite a significant difference in length, Manifesto of Futurism and Howl have quite a bit in common. Both poems are explosive. They lead the reader to read them quickly and with energy. Neither poem loses momentum throughout their texts; they keep chugging along like a train on tracks. There are many techniques that are used in each poem in order to create this explosiveness and energy. These techniques allow for not only fast, invigorated paces, they also create a beat. One could imagine the texts becoming lyrics to rap songs. This rap song like quality is evidenced in the themes as well. These poems deal with societal, cultural themes and praise the advancement of citizens and challenging of norms.

One of the elements that is utilized in both poems is repetition. Marinetti starts 7 of 11 stanzas with the word “we.” And Ginsberg starts almost all the sections of Howl with unique repeated words or phrases. The one most comparable to Marinetti is the repetition of “who” in the first section. Both the poets not only repeat words, but the words also refer to people. They both emphasize the people who are changing the world or being put down the the evils of it. And not only are they repeating these words, but they both describe these people with active adjectives, nouns, and verbs. Along with being active the words are also often aggressive. This is one way they make the poems so fast and energetic. By using words like “revolt,” “ecstasy,” “blown,” and “radiant” the poets energize the reader. The reader is no longer just looking at the page, he is running through it.

Even though Howl is much longer than the Manifesto, because it employs the similar active language, every line, every word is full of intention. Nothing seems misplaced or worthy of being left out. There is a purpose and a point to be made in each stanza. This is another way that the texts can be seen in the light of rap music. Rap started with a group of people who wanted to acknowledge topics that were often ignored and show a different cultural point of view. Also, rap tends to be very aggressive just as these two poems are.

“Oh!” said Mrs. Fletcher. “Oh, is Mrs. Pike a beautician too?” “Sure she is,” protested Leota.

Welty’s use of enthusiastic exclamations throughout the story make the text read like a play. The use of consistent dialogue incites the type of back and forth one would imagine on stage. The active words and use of exclamation points gives the phrases and sentences more feeling that the reader can comprehend.

Welty establishes a very contained and well defined setting for the story: a southern beauty shop. One could imagine this type of set-up on a stage in a theater. This creation helps to reinforce what she establishes through the writing of her dialogue. It is an intimate place where the ladies share personal information and gossip in a very engaging way.

Along with the use of emotional exclamations throughout the story, the dialogue is written phonetically to reflect this idea of live-action. All the women in the beauty shop are excited about the gossip, and are jumbling their words and speaking in colloquialisms. When one reads passages that use this tactic, he often imagines what it would be like to actually hear the words being spoken allowed. Again, this is a very theatrical structure. People in shows always speak colloquially as opposed to formally.

Also, by focusing on the back-and-forth conversations between the characters, Welty allows what they say to be the driving force behind the story. The narration takes a backseat to the dialogue. By focusing on these passionate expressions and exchanges, Welty really rounds out the idea of a live-action story that acts itself out right in front of the reader.

Visitors to the Black Belt

You can talk about

Across the railroad tracks–

To me it’s here

On this side of the tracks.

The specific formatting choices that Hughes uses in these lines really puts an emphasis on places and separation of them. “Across” establishes quite a bit about this poem and its message just from its placement and its form. By italicizing it Hughes shows that places and where one is in reference to them is vital to the poem. And just as importantly, by placing it as the first word of the second line the reader notices it and that draws to its importance. By starting a line with a capitalized, italicized word, it ensures that the reader will not just glimpse over it, but instead take it in.

At the end of the second line there is a long dash. By putting this between the two ideas established by “Across” and “here” Hughes parallels the separation of ideas and races with a physical separation in the text. Hughes essentially puts an actual racial barrier in the stanza. By using this form the reader can not only feel but see the separation between races.

Just as “Across” was significant for being the first word in the line and italicized, “here” is important for being the last word and italicized. Once again, Hughes brings the readers eye to a word that indicates a place. But unlike with “Across“, the placement is important, because as the last word it is also the readers last thought on that going into the end of the stanza. The italics reveal that is much more than a place; it is a group of people and culture.

If the entire stanza were reduced to “Acrosshere” the reader could see and feel the tension without any of the other context. Just by forming the words and phrases in the way he does, Hughes is able to put a strong, difficult tension on paper.

“waiting” pg. 758

Throughout “Hands” Anderson uses varying language to describe the hands of Wing Biddlebaum. No matter the word choice thought, he always makes it very clear that Biddlebaum is always thinking about his hands. When it is revealed to the reader why Biddlebaum is so cautious with his hands, one “waits” for a resolution that never comes. This “waiting” that the reader does is paralleled by Biddlebaum. The story may seem that it is just about a man who constantly lives in fear of using his hands, but this fear is not the ultimate constraint on him. The fear that he will never be happy again and the constant state of waiting he does for the perpetual problem he lives with are what truly plague him. While this story is certainly muddled by moral ambiguity, the themes of uncertainty and perpetual standstill can be applied to most people. Biddlebaum is living with a fear that many can sympathize with. People want to believe that life continually gets better, but sometimes it does not. Biddlebaum is waiting for someone who can help him get past this feeling. He has been waiting for years, and he seems to be having the most trouble with the fact that because he wants something that can never be (for his past not to plague him). Later, when Anderson says, “…mistaken for the fingers of the devotee going swiftly through decade after decade of his rosary.” one gets a feeling on monotony. Wing Biddlebaum waits for the day that he can forget about his hands. And this is his fatal flaw; he wants the impossible. Just as Adolph Meyers did not understand what had happened that one fateful day in Pennsylvania, he did not understand that hiding his hands would not change that he was waiting for a future he would never have.