English Final Notes 1. In the post-1945 section of literature we read,we’ve seen several examples of authors who use first-person narrators or focalcharacters they treat critically or ironically—” Party Down at the Square,” “GoodCountry People,” and “Cathedral” could fit this description. Discuss two ofthese texts (or other examples) that use this strategy, how they use it, andwhy the authors take this approach. (1) In the post-1945 section ofliterature we have read, “Going to Meet the Man” and “A Party Down at the Square”are two texts that depict authors using first-person narrators and focalcharacters that they treat critically or ironically. In “Going to Meet the Man,” byJames Baldwin, Baldwin uses Jesse, a white man, as the main character and focalcharacter in the story.
The ironic distance between the author (Baldwin) andthe focal character (Jesse) stems from the fact that the action in the shortstory is filtered through Jesse’s perspective, but he is not the narrator ofthe story. Baldwin is writing through the perspective of a character who isnothing like him. By taking this approach, Baldwin give’s his readers theracial struggle for blacks through the white racial mind. Baldwin could havewritten this story from the black man who was thrown in jail and humiliated byJesse, but instead, he chose to write through Jesse’s own personal strugglefrom childhood to adulthood. By writing from a naïve white man’s mind, thereader subconsciously hates Jesse. We hate his actions, his thoughts, and hismemories, but we see the effect that his past had on his present thinking. Webecome baffled, horrified, and uncomfortable with the actions of Jesse.
Baldwin’suse of past and present also tie into the mental journey that helps us see thatit is racially driven. We see the struggle for white men to adjust to thischange in racial history instead of a typical black man’s perspective. In “A Party Down at the Square,” byRalph Ellison, Ellison writes in the first-person from a young white boy’spoint of view. Ironically, Ralph Ellison is African American writing a shortstory regarding racial issues. His choice to write from the unnamed white boygive’s the main character important symbolism. The boy is from the Northvisiting his Uncle who lives in the South. The boy represents the North andtheir views on African American’s.
I believe making the young boy the focalcharacter, Ellison could filter the action’s and thoughts through a naïve,innocent, and limited perspective character. His innocence makes him not fullyunderstand how severe the situation is, his naïve understanding comes from hissurroundings and influences of the adults around him, and his limited knowledgemakes him absorb this type of understanding that is only passed down throughexperience and assurance from older generations. This adds innocence, becominga man, and effects of racism into the theme’s that derive from this shortstory. 2.
Compare a Modernist poem to a confessional one.What are the differences, and what is the impact of the different approaches? Forexample, compare Steven’s “The Snow Man,” to Bishop or Clifton. (6) Modernist poetry and Confessionalpoetry are two very different types of poetry. Modernism poetry began in the beginningof the 20th century. Poets wanted to change the way poetry was writtenand the meaning behind them as well. The use of imagery was extremely importantfor Modernist poetry.
The language was clear and sharp and the use of imagery replacedthe formal detailed descriptions that were originally in poems. An example ofModernist poetry that we read this semester was “The Red Wheelbarrow” byWilliam Carlos Williams. Williams’ extremely short poem only had 16 words, butthe images that it provided meant more than the word length. The classicalvalues (rhymes, rhythm, detail) that were originally found in poetry were notneeded. Modernism poetry used free verse.
Poets were able to create multipleperspectives through a single image, making this type of poetry very influential.William’s Red Wheelbarrow did just that.Confessional poetry however was notas influential, but more personal. Just as in “In the Waiting Room,” byElizabeth Bishop, we see the author using “I” and expressing a privateexperience through the main character. Confessional poetry became very personaland did something that was not really seen in poetry. These poets were writingabout feelings of death, trauma, depression and relationships in a personal autobiographicalway. The language forms images of things that are in our everyday lives insteadof imaginative images that have multiple meanings. For example, the picturesthat the main character Elizabeth see’s are images that the reader (majority ofreaders) has seen.
The author makes her images true to life and reflective toher own sense of being. 3. Compare how two authors interrogate expectationsabout women’s roles in American society. Consider The Awakening, “The Other Two,” Trifles,or “Blood and Guts in High School, “or “Little Girl.”(10). Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton aretwo authors who interrogate expectations about women’s roles in American societythrough their writings. In The Awakening,by Kate Chopin, the author’s main character Edna is fed up with societiesstructures and wants to stop living such a monotonous life. She loses touchwith her inner self and her own desires which forces her to repel theexpectations of a woman in American society during the late 1800’s.
During thistime period, women were expected to be a typical housewife. They were expectedto be domestic, emotional, obedient, unadulterated, and timid. Edna wants tofind the joy in life and the heart racing experiences that make her feel aliveagain. The main character lets go of her wifely duties, begins to take on apassion for art and even takes on multiple lovers and engages intimately withthem. Eventually, the desire to lose connection with societies structuresforces Edna to give up on society all together when she drowns in the water. In “The Other Two,” by EdithWharton, the story includes a female character Alice who chooses the life thatshe wants to live and discards the things in life that she does not want. Alicehas been divorced twice and married three times. She has a daughter Lily fromher first marriage who she does everything for.
The things in life she gave up(her ex husbands) were for the best interest of her daughter. We can considerAlice a single mom who is independent and “in charge.” The community has nevergiven her criticism about her divorces which tells the reader that she ishighly respected.
Through her actions in the novel, we see that she still takeson the role of a traditional woman in American society during the early 1900’s.Similar to The Awakening, women wereexpected to be home and take care of the house and marry once and be a good wifeand mother to her children. We see Alice taking charge of her own life and notletting her husbands control what she wants. We can see the class jumps betweenthe men as well which help us see that Alice “upgraded” class and social statusthrough her new marriages. This could be frowned upon, but it shows Alice doingwhat is needed for herself and her child and putting societies standards andnorms below herself and her family.