Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Process Paper G1-2/Goddard

Well, I’ve decided to begin the process letter before getting all of my packet number two materials together. First I acknowledge the record being made with the use of the process letter, and I feel this is an adequate time to be recorded in history. I read your response a few days ago, and received my return packet today. Naturally I’m disappointed in the response as well as my work. Indeed I am livid even thinking about having to go over my critical work again. It left a bad taste in my mouth the first go around, and it’s a certain character flaw I’ve got, getting angry about having to do something more than once. I was a little shaky on the whole annotations process at the residency, and now I feel I could kick myself for not saying something then. The short session I attended didn’t help me, and I wasn’t able to formulate questions during that time. Who knows, perhaps it wouldn’t have saved any time. But alas, I am going through something in my life as it is, and so instead of barking at problems I’ll offer a solution. Simply said we are required to complete 45-60 annotations, and I hope I get more focused and better at doing them. I think a good use of my time during the residency, and more specifically enough during our group session would have been the writing of an annotation. I think if I had the opportunity to have instant feedback, and instant practice and a time to work with others I would have been in batter shape now. As it stands I feel this is a step back I didn’t really need, because it isn’t just the first three annotations, it’s the second group of three I wrote before getting the response. At this point I’m concerned about time, the deadlines and more specifically enough, my time. I’ll leave this portion of the letter as it is, and I hope the MLA handbook (yuck!) and your notes will prove helpful. I also hope I tackle the rewrite with grace rather than contempt.

After about a week of working on these annotations and my creative work I’ve had some time to reflect of things. Admittedly I still have a bad taste in my mouth about the critical work. I’ve also spent some well needed time thinking about the process as it were and my motivation in this MFA endeavor. I’ve also been working on time management too.
Of the first three annotations I was only able to rework the Johnson annotation. I’m still working on the other two. I will have them ready by the third packet and the first critical paper as well. They are taking more time than I had anticipated, which I suppose is typical. It’s been more than ten years since I’ve had to tax my critical writing. I feel those ten years too. Are these annotations this difficult for everyone?
The creative work it proving a little more difficult than I thought. When I think about it I’m not sure why I’m having such a difficult time. When I feel a little deflated about it I like to look at my collection of composition notebooks which I feel are noteworthy here. After I graduated from Metro State in 1997 I started writing in notebooks. I suppose it was because I was traveling constantly in those days and the notebooks were convenient. Mostly I think there were a few thrills with notebooks. I loved getting a new one and the promise of the things I would write. The only thrill greater than a new notebook was the thrill of 200 pages of short stories and vignettes once the thing was filled. Of course a filled notebook meant a new notebook and a new process. In the years I carried these notebooks I felt like I was moving in a direction I wanted to go, and assembling a mass of drafts which at some later point I would build into publishable pieces. That said the ultimate goal was, and is still publication. In early 2005 I decided I would spend the year doing just that, attempting to publish. When it comes down to it, I want to publish. Even after collecting dozens of notebooks filled with all sorts of trash and treasure I realized I needed to get motivated to actually produce something. Just writing in those notebooks as fun and as free as it was, isn’t going to move me forward.
Rethinking my decision to attend Goddard it’s more insidious. I have great respect for teachers, mentors, and professors, but I have never had any interest in doing that myself. In fact I really do have much interest in having a “real” job, mostly because I don’t care for where tax dollars go, which I suppose is a different story for another time. I’m certain the outcome of more education for me is not the concept of occupational development. The goal is not job advancement. As I was thinking of furthering my education it was always with my primary goal of publications in mind. Secondary goals of course were improving my work and my mode of doing so. And in many ways decisions I’ve made are very ego driven. I like the idea of another degree. Learning for learning sake? Yeah, that’s good too, and I get plenty of that in my life. However as an adult learner I like to have an exact idea of what I’m getting into, clear objectives and of course I want to answer the question “What’s in this for me?” These are things I’m thinking about. With that on my mind I’m trying to fit the academic facets into my thinking. That said I waited too long for my return packet to see your notes. I feel like I’ve got a better idea of what’s expected, and I hope to be a little more expedient in future packets.
The Omma piece seems to be going well for me thus for. I read all your notes, and I have taken them seriously. I have spent a few hours already looking at those first twenty five pages. There are many opportunities. I think this next installment will answer many of your questions about the narrator. He’s developing as the story develops, which I suppose is natural. I’m sure critical writing helps with creative endeavors, but I do not have an outline of where the Omma piece is going. I do not have a first second, third point to argue. Something will happen, as it does with fiction. The plot is moving along alright, as I hope you’ll see in these pages. There is more going on than in the first twenty-five. As I looked over your notes and what was written, I wonder how much of the first part I’ll actually keep.
The reading is alright. Yes, I know I’m reading critically and not just for pleasure. Although I feel like I’ve always read critically in a way, and my thoughts on that are changing too. In the past as I read I examined different things. Ray Bradbury for instance (no real formal education and thousands of publications) is one of my favorite writers. I don’t care for Martians or space travel or things of the like, but I’ll read 200 pages just see him use and adverb to adjective. I like the combinations or words rather than what’s going on thematically. Now that I say this, am I forcing something out of these annotations? Perhaps I should be writing on such ideas as word combinations.
This process letter feels vague. Which kind of sums up the process right now.

The first short critical paper? Well, it was a little vague too. I think I remember where it was I was trying to go. I’ve been doing some of the mechanical homework for it. The MLA handbook is still dispensing the same stuff I remember it dispensing the first time I was acquainted with it. As far as a style guide goes is there one available which is more readable? In short, some guide to offer advice on style less grating? Thankfully I still have another solid three weeks with this paper.

Anyhow, the process goes. These last couple of weeks has proved to be challenging. The greatest challenge of all of course is time and time in a positive process. I’m still forming habits, hopefully for the better. I even have an outline (like the MLA suggests) for the next packet. Hopefully I’m getting the hang of these annotations, and along with any new annotations I write, I’ll get the first two revised and submitted. I’m grateful to have a few weeks more for the first critical paper. I don’t have any questions specifically with it yet, and your notes seem adequate enough.

Kyle, thanks for your time.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Traits, Dialog, and Colors of O’Conner (Annotation G3-9/Goddard)

The sampling of Flannery O’Conner’s stories: “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “The Artificial Nigger,” and “Good Country People,” a haunting picture of the Southern United States is painted often in yellow. Thematically, the traits of characters, reveling dialog and the use of color are the shared aspects of these three stories.
Family relationships are important aspects of these stories. Within the family relationships of each story, generations, and breaches in generational understandings is the basis of each character’s trait. “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” begins simply with “The Grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida,” (O’Conner 9). The Grandmother inevitably goes to Florida with her son and his family. The Grandmother holds fast to the traditions she was born into, pride for their state of Georgia and a condescending racial view of black people. Her grandchildren, conversely, have nothing positive to say about Georgia and have irreverence to their grandmother. As the family wheels southward to Florida the rising tensions are shifted from the escaped murder (the Misfit) to the Grandmother’s childhood home. As the Grandmother persists on the detour, the father acquiesces, which is when the accident occurs.
The accident to occur in the second story “The Artificial Nigger,” is the shift between the two main characters, Mr. Head, the grandfather, and Nelson the child. O’Connor’s use of physical description of these two lend to the potency of their dialog, “for Mr. head had a youthful expression by daylight, while the boy’s look was ancient,” (O’Conner 105). Their banter is paradoxical, especially as the boy gives the old man a reprimand after he has forgotten lunch and gotten the two of them lost in the city. The young boy comes around during an accident with an old woman who claims he has broken her ankle. The old man denies relation with the boy and causally leaves him on the street.
Effects of dialog are as important in the third piece, “Good Country People.” The like the other two stories, O’Connor has extracted the title of each story from a character’s statement. When Mrs. Hopewell meets the young bible salesman she states: “Why, she cried, good country people are the salt of the earth,” (O’Conner 179). Much as the tradition of the three stories, “Good Country People,’ has a fitting if not ironical ending with the young bible salesman being the opposite of a good country person when he steals the daughter’s artificial limb.
The use of the color yellow is in every story, and numerous times. If exposed only to these three stories as Flanner O’Conner’s canon, or the larger scheme of Southern literature, a reader may ascertain the only color of Dixie is the color yellow. Yellow shirts of “A Man is Hard to Find,” yellow dresses of Negro women in “The Artificial Nigger,” the yellow socks of the bible salesman and the yellow sweatshirt of the daughter in “Good Country People,” are the fair indications of yellow throughout the south.
The connections in each story hold true to the voice of the writer, the dialog written in vernacular and traits of characters. Case studies of southern archetypes are clear, the domineering older generation, the changing world of the impetuous youth set down alive in the yellowing dialog of each.

O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories. New York: Harvest Books, 1981.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Writer’s Reflections on Ecclesiastes (Annotation G1-5/Goddard)

The emptiness of all endeavour, wisdom and folly compared, and advice to a young man are the three parts of the book of Ecclesiastes, and the best advice might be: read this book on a sunny day. Culturally speaking the book of Ecclesiastes is often quoted. The Byrds’ song “Turn, turn, turn” comes directly from chapter 3 “For everything it’s season, and for every activity under heaven its time:
A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot;
A time to kill a time to heal;
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.” (The New English Bible, Ecclesiastes 3. 1-8).
In this first part of the book, The emptiness of all endeavour, the concepts outlined are more common than even pop songs. “What has happened will happen again, and what has been done will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (The New English Bible, Ecclesiastes 1.9) In light of all emptiness it may be true that there is nothing new under the sun. Of course David, king of Jerusalem, the speaker of the words may have understood the fundamentals of human existence summed up in the time for every purpose under heaven. Oddly all purposes and all activities these are certainly human endeavors, times for each are humanistic and not dictated by heaven. As a speaker, and as a king, David assures the readers that each activity has its place among all human emotions, and perhaps this is a passive justification of all things under the sun. If there is indeed a time to weep and a time to laugh and a time for war and a time for peace, and in this justification all emotion related to each begins to lessen, each one last only long enough to swing the other way. In this ordering of events and human activities each will only last in turn, (as the Byrds sing) and onto the next emotion. If each one lasts only during it’s time and nothing can every change and the cycle of events have been before and in the universal whole is nothing new, then the truth is simply stated by the subtitle “The emptiness of all endeavor.” The speaker sees all purposes as equal all the piteous and all the evil deeds have the same ends. “God will judge the just man and the wicked equally; every activity and every purpose has its proper time.” The New English Bible, Ecclesiastes 3.17) There is more in the greater understanding of mankind: “the world contains no man so righteous that he can do right always and never do wrong.” The New English Bible, Ecclesiastes 7.20)
Everyone has heard the old saying “Ignorance is bliss,” and this is also nothing new under the sun. “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and the more a man knows, the more he has to suffer.” (The New English Bible, Ecclesiastes 1.18) The advice is never to find more knowledge, nor is it a stride for spiritual enlightenment. What the speaker wants to impart is simply summed up in another old saying “eat, drink and be merry.” That saying is found here: “So I commend enjoyment, since there is nothing good a man to do here under the sun but to eat, and drink and enjoy himself.” (The New English Bible, Ecclesiastes 8.15) This inspires a hedonistic approach to life, never mind the wisdom, for that is burden, always delight in life’s pleasures and let the way of things be the way of things. “Time and chance govern all.” (The New English Bible, Ecclesiastes 9.12)
In the conclusion of the book the speaker gives advice to a young man. “Everything that is to come will be emptiness.” (The New English Bible, Ecclesiastes 7.9) This is perhaps not the advice to give a young man who may want to make something of himself or his environment. As far as an entrepreneur or anyone wishing to make a move in the business world, forget about it. There is no point, after all there can be nothing new done under the sun, and as for any future enterprise, it’s pointless “since I should have to leave its fruits to my successor. (The New English Bible, Ecclesiastes 2.18)
The sayings in our language which come from the book of Ecclesiastes may be many, but fortunately many of its lofty ideals do not take hold of many people’s lives. After all should a reader take any of it too seriously work and toil, success and life would not exist. Emptiness, perhaps, but life is indeed noble and worth the struggle. Should writers endeavor to read the wisdom of David, king of Jerusalem, there may be insight to be gained. A writer may find truth in the wisdom of emptiness, and indeed the speaker of these words may be a fitting subject study for characters. The true toil is not finding something new under the sun, but to find a more entertaining way to say it. If not entertaining the toil may be a way to tell it which may enlighten, steadfastly or lightheartedly. After all in wisdom and advice comes caution as David imparts to young men: “one further warning, my son: the use of books is endless, and much study is wearisome.” (The New English Bible, Ecclesiastes 12.12)

The New English Bible. The Delegates of the Oxford University Press, and The Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1970.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Process Paper G1-1/Goddard

This process paper is the last step in the process of Packet number one. As interesting as it has been, I feel like I’m really still learning what it is I’m doing. I suppose the same can be said for life. Here it goes, packet one:
The residency treated me well. To say the least I felt very overwhelmed, as I told you during one of our meetings. As delightful as it was to hear the words of other writers and to start to form my work for the semester I was mired in the mechanics of how I would be able to complete the work once on my own. In fact the more I thought about it the more I just wanted to get things started. One afternoon during the residency I went to the used bookstore in Montpelier and bought a few books just to get the process going. In fact I’d already read one book before I left Vermont. The concern initially was the pace at which I read, it’s inconsistent. For example I read fifteen novels in December, however I was snowed in for most of the month and the novels were rather short. Along those lines, I’ve been reading novels for the past ten years solely for enjoyment. I did enjoy reading the novels I did for this packet period, I tried to think of the reading critically. The best I can say for the reading is I will be developing this critical, or close reading in subsequent weeks. The most exciting part of this reading list is the act of looking for them. I realize the internet or a new book store would ultimately be the easiest way to get my hands on these novels, but I’m having a great time frequenting the dozen or so used book stores here in Denver.
The critical writing, wow, what an experience it has been. I read through the examples, and still the nagging nervousness to just get started came over me. I feared my annotations were sounding like a book report. Even as a book report, what a feat in itself, since I haven’t written a book report since junior high, 20 years ago. Of course book reports in those days were often tricky because I never did bother to read the books. Don’t worry, I read these. I feel like my thoughts were not as focused in the first annotation as they could have been, and honestly I was a little unsure of what it was I was trying to convey. Not surprising the first one was the toughest one to write, which I’m sure is the case with everyone. They got a little easier to write after that first one, obviously because of practice, but also I was starting to think about things more as I read the second two.
The first short critical paper again was a strange process. I must have come up with about fifteen different ideas of what I wanted to explore. I was able to narrow it down to about four or five and even then it was way too much to think about. I put the paper on hold for a few days and thought about other things, boats mostly. The night before I got going on my piece I was telling a friend a story about my grandfather. He had been a fisherman, as many immigrants were in those days. He was not an educated man, but he was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. His smartness came from plenty of hours in his youth working fishing boats with upwards of eleven men all speaking different languages. He would tell me about the sardines in San Francisco bay. He’d say they were so thick you could walk on them. I never believed him when I was young because I had never seen a sardine in either San Francisco or anywhere else on the west coast. It wasn’t until later I learned what he said was the truth. They had taken every last fish out of the water. The story he was most impressed with was one day they caught 250 ton of fish. He explained how it went, the whole night, two runs and two giant loads of sardines. “How much money did you make?” I asked him. “36 cents a ton.” I laughed, it didn’t make sense to me. But maybe 36 cents meant more in 1939. “And we split it 13 ways.” “What I asked, how many guys were on the boat?” asking I just kept giggling. He told me tall tales as a kid, and at the end of his life I didn’t blame him for embellishing the truth a little. “Twelve men and the boat got a share.” This statement took ten years to make sense to me. Never having to live and work on a boat myself I didn’t understand what it must take to keep a boat on the water. It didn’t make sense to me until I was thinking about this first short critical paper which I chose to use the Republic in Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage. That said, I enjoyed writing the paper the most of all the critical writing I did for this packet.
My creative work took a must different process. I used “So Etwas” as the spring board for my writing. As I told you the characters were not new. I wrote a little piece years ago called “Rain in a Foreign land” where Omma and Frau Gernhert first made an appearance. They were models of two women I knew when I lived in Germany in the early 90s. The Omma character is loosely based on a woman who I lived upstairs from. She was, of course not as old in real life as my counterpart is in the story. And Frau Gernhert is based on a woman my buddy lived with years later during an internship. The real life Frau Gernhert found me an odd sort a fellow who preferred not to use butter on my toast in the morning. I scribbled this small piece which was about four pages during a fiction writing workshop after a visit to Germany in 1996. I can tell you my time in Germany and my time in Ansbach specifically was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I often think about that time as a time when I still had a profound amount of innocence. That statement would have seemed odd at any other point in my life. By the time I got to Ansbach I was 18 years old, away from home at that point for nearly a year, and already a veteran of Desert Storm. Ansbach to me was all I ever wanted. I traveled and felt a certain freedom I had not known before and haven’t felt since. For years I thought of the eternal Ansbach, a place where I could feel certain feelings and think certain thoughts. Travels after those Ansbach days have proved to be exciting, yes, but always a little disappointing. It was a time of life. What a time it was.
I was speaking to Claire during the residency about Irish girls. I’d told her how I once knew an Irish girl. “And you let her get away?” she asked. Yes I let her get away, but truth is I ran away from her, she terrified me actually. When I told Claire her name was Ashling, Claire’s expression change. “Ashling means dream in Irish.” What a thought, what a meaning. I had met Ashling in a pub in Nurnberg Germany one night in August of 1996. I had not thought of her one bit since. I only knew this woman for twenty minutes, maybe. So, here I am, writing a piece about a foreigner, a child and someone with memory loss. I don’t really know what else to explain about the set up for this piece, but I started writing it.
As I work on it more and more I’m become more and more involved with it. Moreover, the more I write the more I want to write. At any rate, I have enclosed the first 25 pages of what I have written. I’m up to about fifty pages already and I’ve been working on it daily since the exercise you gave us in our group meeting.
Along with that, yes, I’m having fun and using my time to write something I hope will be well written, and entertaining to readers. It’s my sincere desire to write something anyone can relate too: the romance of a secret lover, the overbearing mother, living life confused and elated all at the same time.
I’ve been spending some time doing research with this story too, and it has also been gratifying. Looking at maps of the town I lived in so long ago has thought me how memory works. Since this piece is mostly fiction (Only locations are real) my memory of the place is very biased and horribly inaccurate at best. Another issue of course is my limited German. It’s been so many years and I never had any real formal training in the German language. The years between my residence in Germany and now I have endeavored to study and learn Spanish, as it is more useful to me where I live. On occasion while writing I’m seeing this Frau barking at the poor narrator and as German as she is I can hear her speaking Spanish.
The daily process has been going well. I’m still tuning my mode of work, and the time allotted to it. I get about forty-five minutes to an hour every morning before I go to work. It feels good to get up and write for a little while, however it has made work unbearable, all I really want to do is get home to resume writing. I always start off with a little work with Omma. The creative work gets attention everyday, which is something I haven’t been able to focus on in several years.
I’m experience some difficulties in the work too, namely diction errors and some syntax. In reading through the first 25 pages I have found continuity discrepancies and holes in thought. Some of the transitions have been difficult too. And I’m a little afraid that the story isn’t really going anywhere. As I do rewrites I often get a little upset and disappointed in the work itself. However, I’m using it to my advantage, I think. When I get stuck I generally leave the part I’m stuck on and go directly to the bottom on the piece and continue to write new material. The hope is of course all will make better sense further on in the story. Well, we’ll see. At this early point in this work I am ready to engage in all critiques and suggestions you might have.
The last of my daily activities is the reading. I get to read for about an hour every work day. On non-work days I do read a little longer. Fortunately I live with a good friend who is also working full time and also in Grad school. So we have a pretty good working relationship. He has been supportive on me, and I think I’m doing right by him too. So that hour I get after work is generally spent at the kitchen table, he’s at the table too and we’ve been working independently together.

So far Kyle, I think you were right when you told me I’m in the right place. I’ve been excited lately about the studies and the work and the Goddard experience as a whole. More importantly I am extremely optimistic about the future with this process and excited to see where I go. Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Both Sides of Huxley’s Door (Annotation G1-4/Goddard)

In 1953 Aldous Huxley, while supervised, took a dose of mescaline under the pretext of science. Science in that year was in all likelihood looking for better ways to create energy for the masses. The television, the nuclear bomb, and the macro views of the world were taking control of the minds of people in the civilized world. The concepts of space travel, and the race that was about to ensue were more on the minds than the cures for psychological disorders. Here in the United States, President Eisenhower was about to embark on his presidency, the Berlin wall was in concept and the building of it was moving forward, Ho Chi Minh was making his appeal to the democratic world as the inevitable civil war and the rousing of the French was emanate. The world was changing in 1953, and Huxley was about to fulfill his prophecy of mind altering drug induced visions he had first thought about during the writing of Brave New World which was published some twenty years prior. In The Doors of Perception Huxley was about to embark on his own brave new world and taking with him was the perplexities of the old.
“Today the perception had swallowed up the concept.” (Huxley 53) The concept is simply to find scientific evidence linking the shift in perception. The name of his piece of nonfiction, his account of the event he used a quote from William Blake, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” However, it is rather difficult to see the infinite in his ordeal. The doors themselves were not cleansed as much as slightly less obscure even if for a little while. After the effects of the drug were well under way Huxley of course was tethered to the world through his observer, as well as his own human limitations. His infinite is perhaps summed up with a discussion of time as a mechanical dynamic: “Plenty of it, but exactly how much was entirely irrelevant. I could, of course, have looked at my watch; but my watch, I knew, was in another universe. My actual experience had been, was still, of an indefinite duration or alternatively of a perpetual present made up of one continually changing apocalypse.” (Huxley 21) The question which comes to mind, of course, is how does Huxley’s statement on time really differ from a statement of a man looking through the events of modern life and say the same thing without the benefit of mescaline? All considered in the laboratories and streets of this day in 1953 there were too many variables for Huxley. He has explained his limitations of imagination and the anchor of the human mind with the confines of language. “Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born- the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for date, his words for actual things.” (Huxley 23) Once the perception has shifted Huxley seems to belittle his own struggle with his life’s work as a writer. Both the beneficiary and the victim, as he tries to describe the events of the day, he finds too many limitations. Likewise he does not advocate the use of mescaline, nor does he demonize it. It’s merely the perception. “You have to rely on your immediate perception of the ultimate order.” (Huxley 51)
With this change of perception he is able to leave so much of life’s limitations behind and delve into the very nature of humanity. During an investigation of draperies of cloth, and furthers his study of cloth experimenting with the flannel of his trousers, Huxley realizes there is more to their beauty than words can describe, more to there is-ness than everyday man can conceive: “What the rest of us see only under the influence of mescaline, the artist is congenitally equipped to see all the time.” (Huxley 33) The artist then is employed to make sense of the is-ness of the world and relate an understanding of such things as draperies of the rest of mankind, “in comparison with reality; but in enough to delight generation after generation of beholders, enough to make them understand at least a little of the true significance of what, in out pathetic imbecility, we call ‘mere things’ and disregard in favor of television.” (Huxley 34)
Enlightenment becomes the character in itself. In William Blake’s quote it’s simply the wiping clean of the door of perception. A release of pretense, the surrendering of cultural or human limitations achieves the infinite. Huxley conversely has taken the route of a change of perception and sees more the minutia rather than the infinite. Through his writing Huxley delighted the young poet Jim Morrison who named his rock band after the book itself, and who also wanted to “break on through to the other side.”
The continually changing apocalypse doesn’t seem vastly different than the modern world Huxley lived in, nor is it different than the world today, no mescaline needed.

Huxley, Aldous. The Doors of Perception. New York: Perennial Library, 1970

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Dominance among Men (Annotation G1-1/Goddard)

James Dickey’s use dominance of personality, sexuality, and murder in Deliverance shape the plot and character development.
The tragic turn of events for James Dickey’s characters would make an ideal situation for a Juvenal coming of age story, save they are all middle aged. In a broader sense of an American wild-wild wilderness sensibility perhaps men confined to suburban communities, safe bedrooms, abundance of food and comforts are not more than boys. “I touched the knife hilt at my side, and remembered that all men were once boys, and that boys are always looking for ways to become men.” (Dickey 62) However, during a weekend of canoeing, four suburbanite men find more than just adventure, they find a need for survival. All obstacles provide challenges: inadequate equipment, dangerous rapids, deadly mountain men, and inter-group politics.
In his everyday suburban life, the narrator Ed’s personality is not the dominate type. A partner in an advertising firm, Ed’s submission has developed out of ennui. His partner Thad, not a major character in the story, is much more gung-ho. “Thad had developed into a reasonably good businessman, and I was better than adequate, when I worked at it, as a graphics consultant and director.” (Dickey 15) Ed even sneaks away early the day before the big canoe trip fearful of what Thad might say. The clearer example of a dominate personality is with Lewis, Ed’s best friend and the river guide in the story. “I liked Lewis; I could feel myself getting caught up again in his capricious and tenacious enthusiasms that had already taken me bow-hunting and varmint-calling with him, and down into a small, miserably cold cave where there was one dead, crystalline frog.” (Dickey 9) In such adventurous situations, Lewis is completely at ease, and Ed takes a role more like a child.
The theme of sexual dominance is much more obvious: the famous scene between the canoeing suburbanites and the mountain men. “The tall man followed Bobby’s head down with the gun as bobby knelt over the long. ¶ “Pull your shirt –tail up, fat-ass.” ¶ Bobby reached back with one hand and pulled his shirt up to his lower back. I could not imagine what he was thinking.” (Dickey 100) The ensuing rape definitely expresses the dominance of one man over the other. Scant description, obviously from Ed’s point of view removes the reader from the brunt of the event, but exemplifies the dominance even more, as Ed sees the situation, and is unable to do anything about it.
Issues of personality dominance are not as powerful as sexual dominance; however, to ultimately exert dominance over another human being is to take their life. The rape scene comes to an abrupt end with Lewis’s arrow. “The older man was standing with the gun barrel in his hand and no change in the stupid, advantage-taking expression of his face, and a foot and a half of bright red arrow was shoved forward from the middle of his chest. It was there so suddenly it seemed to have come from within him.” (Dickey 101)
Adventure and non-stop action of Deliverance works with challenge of dominance and submission of Dickey’s characters.
Dickey, James. Deliverance. New York: Dell Publishing, 1970