Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Altering Personality in The Member of the Wedding (Annotation G4-7/Goddard)

A major theme of Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding is the concept of belonging. Frankie Addams, the main character, struggle is acceptance. As she grows in the short time in the story she fights to find belonging in an adult world. As she searches for her niche, she alters her personality by the changing of her name.
The first meeting of this character she is Frankie. During the summer at age twelve, Frankie “belonged to no club and was a member of nothing in the world,” (McCullers 1). During part one, Frankie is hurtful and jealous of those who are a member of something. Along with Bernice, the housekeeper and her cousin John Henry, it appears she belongs somewhere, at least to her family. Her main struggle during the opening of the story is her desire to belong to something outside of herself and her family. When the wedding of her brother Jarvis develops, Frankie's ardent desire is to leave her town and travel the world with him and his bride.
Enter F. Jasmine, who apparently tries to gain acceptance simply by the name. Her rationale behind the name is simple enough: brother Jarvis, bride Janice and now Jasmine. She finds identity simply because the initials are the same. Interestingly enough, as F. Jasmine wanders her town the day before the wedding she has a completely different approach to life. Since she believes she will be leaving town forever and traveling the world, she has an air of resignation. During the day's adventures she tells all the strangers of her town that she'll be leaving soon, and eventually she wanders into a bar. When she meets the soldier, she meets him with the new personality of F. Jasmine. During that last day she tries hard to alienate Bernice and John Henry. This second personality is one of danger and daring. F. Jasmine's reign in the story concludes late on the last night before the wedding when she meets the soldier again. In his room, she hits the young man as he tries to advance on her. F. Jasmine escapes, returns home with perhaps a little more humility.
The last incarnation is that of Frances. Frances accompanies the family to Winter Hill for the wedding. During the wedding she tries to leave with Jarvis and his bride, but to no avail. During this last transition she realizes that she cannot belong to the young married couple. Upon returning home, Frances runs away to find her own way in life. If her entire struggle is to find acceptance and a role for herself, the act of running away seems to negate that. During her time away Frances is alone. Being physically alone as Frances, is a manifestation of how Frankie, or F. Jasmine felt wandering through an adult world where she wants so badly to be a member of something. Ultimately when she returns home as Frances, the family moves into the suburbs where she ultimately finds a niche. Still not being a member she befriends Mary Littlejohn. The two girls find a little solace in one another and make their plans for the future.
In the three parts of the novel with the associated three parts of the young miss Addams, there is a definite personality shift. The patterns of what it means to be a member are treated a little differently each time, by Frankie, F. Jasmine and Frances.



McCullers, Carson. The Member of the Wedding. Bantam Books: New York, 1973. 

Monday, July 28, 2008

Coming of Age in William Faulkner's The Bear

Faulkner's The Bear begins as a hunting expedition told from the young boy Issac (Ike) McCaslin's point of view. The first three parts of the narrative can be summed up with the interactions of the hunting party and Old Ben, an mystically ancient bear. At the end of the third part, the bear meets his end, as do two other major characters: Sam Fathers, a descendant of an African slave mixed with a Chickasaw, and a wild dog named Lion. In part four when Ike is 21 years old, Faulkner paints an almost biblical account of heritage marks Ike's lineage. This retreat into Ike's heritage is the only part of the novel outside of the hunting camp. In the final part of the novel, Ike, as a man returns to the camp, many years later, after the land has been sold to a lumber company. A coming of age story generally includes a traumatic event which moves a character from their youth to adulthood. The same is true here, the conquer of Old Ben, the bear is the event for both Ike, and society.
After the deaths of the bear, Lion, and Sam Fathers, the rest of the hunting party lays their fallen heroes in graves in the forest. The deaths represent a few aspects of this coming of age story. For Ike, directly after the deaths, he has a long dialog with his cousin Cass, which is the entire fourth part. In this part, he is well aware of the curse on the south as he learns the truth about his grandfather's personality as a slave owner. For Ike, the knowledge of his ancestry is a haunting account of what 1865 means in his modern day. Perhaps the awakening is as haunting as it is because of Ike's relationship with Sam Fathers, who even after his death has Ike thinking more like an Indian. Ike's early beliefs are of the earth being communal, and yet as he ages, after the death of the bear, he understands the importance of maintaining the plantation. Even Faulkner describes the plantation as man's need to slowly chip away at the wilderness to tame it, and plant something that eventually can be translated into money.
As the bear represents the wilderness, the killing of the bear, in essence, is the killing of wilderness. However, the death of the wilderness is less poetic in the final part of the novel. “He went back to the camp one more time before the lumber company moved in and began to cut the timber,” (Faulkner 301). As Ike moves through the wilderness, the descriptions of the lumber company's rails, and creosote soaked ties, and rust is an unnatural addition to the woods which are doomed to vanish. Using the death of Old Ben, Sam Fathers, and Lion as the traumatic event, perhaps the hunting party had accomplished what they needed to, and after the death of the bear, there was nothing more in the wilderness for them.
On a macro level, The Bear is set not long after the civil war, and as a coming of age story, the Ike character is analogous to American life. The death of the bear, as the death of the wilderness, is symbolic only as humans move forever into the wild simply to tame it. Feeling the weight of ancestry, the guilt of work, and the responsibility of land ownership, the coming of age for the wilderness is the act of destroying it and the development of farms.


Faulker, William. The Bear. The Famous Short Novels. Vintage Books: New York, 1966.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Portraits of the Male in The Fox (Annotation G4-4/Goddard)

In D.H. Lawrence's short novel, The Fox, the overt themes of gender are obvious among the women. Banford and March are the two single, childless woman who work their farm. The two have eliminated all the animals in the barnyard save the chickens, all of which are female. One night March finds a fox and admiringly follows it into the woods. The fox is the first of two male figures in the story. When the soldier arrives, under the guise of a homecoming, he is the second male figure. The portrait of the young man follows the metaphor of the fox.
Interestingly, the young soldier spends most of his time wandering the forest with his rifle. The importance of his wanderings is evident in two ways. The first facet is the loner attitudes he seems to adopt when out on hunting excursions, and the rifle is representing the phallus. While the women are back on the farm tending to various chores, he is out alone with the rifle. The second facet is the direct comparison between the man and the fox. While the fox is sly and tormenting the chickens in their house, the same might be said of the man as he is in the main house with the women.
The insidious happening between the man and the fox happen as the young man has worn his welcome thin with Banford while courting the second woman, March. As the women sleep, he is outside with his rifle, and eventually shoots the fox. The importance of the event is the death of as foreshadowing of the death of Banford.
The questions of gender and sexuality in the novel may have more applications than a short account of various relationships. The idea of childless, single women working in such an environment so overtly female raise questions of gender roles. The male aspect of the story, as stifling as it is the comparison of a young man and a fox.



Lawrence, D.H. The Fox. Bantam: New York, 1968.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Horror of Setting in T.A. Louis's Things that Hang from Trees (Annotation G4-3/Goddard)

Sense of place in Things that Hang from Trees begins with a description of the oldest city in the country. T.A. Louis describes the streets of this Florida town so well that no road map or virtual tour could compete. The horror of the setting is accented in the lot behind Millie's diner where the oak tree stands.
Given the title of the novel, as well its setting in Florida during the 1960s, any number of things could hang from this tree. The presence of the tree itself in the dirt lot behind Coquina Plaza is slightly suspect. The tree collects all manners of trash. “As a final touch, the tree was heavily decorated with multi-colored balls of lint from the laundry mat dyers” (Louis 4). Even Millie in an attempt to make the tree more pleasant hangs aluminum soda pop cans to attract birds, but to no avail.
The ominous presence of the tree throughout the story becomes a horror to those around it. It is a place where the bullying boy Bear, terrorizes the main character Tommy, an asthmatic son of the living mannequin Connie Mae. Ump, the town drunk pulls up residence sharing the lot with the old tree. The town and her characters all have a relationship with the tree.
Initially, Juan Lopez de Mendoza Grajales (cook/dishwasher/poet) writes:
The live oak is a Florida evergree:
an often-roots-exposed-tree,
a dogged tree, a rugged tree,
a tree with scars and knots,
a carve-your-name-in-deep tree,
a climbing tree, a hiding tree
a tree of Spanish moss. (Louis i)

Ultimately, as the book ends and the reader finally discovers what has in fact been hidden in the tree.
The morning after the fourth of July celebration, which is a clever Floridian mix of the USA and the Spanish, Ump, Millie, and the bully Bear have made their discovery in the tree. Waiting for Tommy to return to diner, Millie and Ump have conflicting opinions about the tree:
Ump looked at the oak. 'someone should clean up that tree,' ump said.
'Or cut it down,' Millie said.
'No, ain't a bad tree.'” (Louis 78).

Aside from being a central focus of the story, this Florida Oak makes the setting of town as it is such a crucial part of the latter action.

Louis, T.A. Things that Hang from Trees. Alto: New York, 2002.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Secondary Characters of The Easter Parade (Annotation G4-5/Goddard)

In The Easter Parade, the three primary characters are the Grimes sisters, Emily and Sarah and their mother Pookie. Their portraits over the course of several years is astonishing for such a short novel, especially the girls from childhood through old age. The Emily character consumes most of the pages, and of the three she is the most interesting. The development of her character throughout her life is augmented by her relationships with some of the secondary characters. In three different stages of her life, three of these secondary characters: Walter Grimes, Jack Flanders, and Howard Dunninger help develop her character and plot.
Considering her father, Walter Grimes as a secondary character is apt for Emily's story. It's painfully clear, even early on that sister Sarah has the closer relationship to their father. As Emily matures and readies herself for University, Walter is excited for her. During their conversation, Emily discovers that her father never finished university as she had once thought. Later in life, when Walter dies, Emily discovers that Walter has been seeing women. Although her relationship with her father is not overtly negative one, she never really knew who her father was. And perhaps the aloofness with her father sets the trend with all of her relationships with men.
Jack Flanders, although not her first relationship, is the first relationship Richard Yates explains in detail. During her tenure in Iowa with Jack, Emily still remains somewhat distant from him. Some of this relationship highlights are a romantic rendez-vous under an oak tree and a visit to Europe, but two never seem to connect fully. Jack, although somewhat pathetic man when it comes to confidence and emotions, is ready to commit to Emily. Ultimately, Emily doesn't feel she's able to continue with Jack, and leaves him to return to New York. The relationship is telling of Emily's ability to maintain love. She opts to remain alone rather than settle. Jack remains one of these secondary characters due to the lack of his development even after years of living with Emily.
The last of these men, Howard Dunninger is similar to Emily. The two meet one another in a professional situation, and their relationship ensues almost organically. Although tender toward her, Howard is unavailable emotionally. Different from the first two examples, Emily seems able to commit to this last man. The kind Howard supports Emily emotionally by visiting her family, and offering to support her financially. However, Howard has never gotten over his estranged wife. Emily, now in her late thirties, doesn't seem to mind playing second chair to Linda. Although she expresses minor annoyances when Howard mentions Linda's name, she remains with him. Only later as Howard tells her he will be leaving to repair his relationship with his wife, Emily has a complete breakdown.
In light of these three men, these secondary characters, Yates has elegantly developed Emily's character by showing her reactions rather than simply stating her personality traits. These secondary characters pepper the entire story, and without the dozens of them, a story of the three women over the course of their lives would be flat as their interactions with each other are limited.


Yates, Richard. The Easter Parade. Picador: New York, 1976.

The Secondary Characters of The Easter Parade (Annotation G4-5/Goddard)

In The Easter Parade, the three primary characters are the Grimes sisters, Emily and Sarah and their mother Pookie. Their portraits over the course of several years is astonishing for such a short novel, especially the girls from childhood through old age. The Emily character consumes most of the pages, and of the three she is the most interesting. The development of her character throughout her life is augmented by her relationships with some of the secondary characters. In three different stages of her life, three of these secondary characters: Walter Grimes, Jack Flanders, and Howard Dunninger help develop her character and plot.
Considering her father, Walter Grimes as a secondary character is apt for Emily's story. It's painfully clear, even early on that sister Sarah has the closer relationship to their father. As Emily matures and readies herself for University, Walter is excited for her. During their conversation, Emily discovers that her father never finished university as she had once thought. Later in life, when Walter dies, Emily discovers that Walter has been seeing women. Although her relationship with her father is not overtly negative one, she never really knew who her father was. And perhaps the aloofness with her father sets the trend with all of her relationships with men.
Jack Flanders, although not her first relationship, is the first relationship Richard Yates explains in detail. During her tenure in Iowa with Jack, Emily still remains somewhat distant from him. Some of this relationship highlights are a romantic rendez-vous under an oak tree and a visit to Europe, but two never seem to connect fully. Jack, although somewhat pathetic man when it comes to confidence and emotions, is ready to commit to Emily. Ultimately, Emily doesn't feel she's able to continue with Jack, and leaves him to return to New York. The relationship is telling of Emily's ability to maintain love. She opts to remain alone rather than settle. Jack remains one of these secondary characters due to the lack of his development even after years of living with Emily.
The last of these men, Howard Dunninger is similar to Emily. The two meet one another in a professional situation, and their relationship ensues almost organically. Although tender toward her, Howard is unavailable emotionally. Different from the first two examples, Emily seems able to commit to this last man. The kind Howard supports Emily emotionally by visiting her family, and offering to support her financially. However, Howard has never gotten over his estranged wife. Emily, now in her late thirties, doesn't seem to mind playing second chair to Linda. Although she expresses minor annoyances when Howard mentions Linda's name, she remains with him. Only later as Howard tells her he will be leaving to repair his relationship with his wife, Emily has a complete breakdown.
In light of these three men, these secondary characters, Yates has elegantly developed Emily's character by showing her reactions rather than simply stating her personality traits. These secondary characters pepper the entire story, and without the dozens of them, a story of the three women over the course of their lives would be flat as their interactions with each other are limited.


Yates, Richard. The Easter Parade. Picador: New York, 1976.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Hero Quest of “Kneller's Happy Campers” (Annotation G4-2/Goddard)

In Etgar Keret's novella “Kneller's Happy Campers” a grim afterlife for suicides is the setting of Mordy's quest. The story begins with Mordy, a youth who finds a job and a hardcore bar. As he tells his story, the first person narrative begins: “Two days after I killed myself,” (Keret 93). Mordy also explains his suicide is because of Desiree. As the reader discovers, this place is just like life, only a little worse. As Mordy gets moving in his afterlife, he comes to discover that Desiree has also killed herself. Knowing that all suicides come to this place, Mordy and his pal Uzi go on a quest to find Desiree.
As Mordy leaves his job at Kamikaze pizza, and Uzi leaves his family (all of whom have offed themselves) they tour the country looking for Desiree. As a hero quest, the actions of Mordy are clear enough, he wants to find the girl. Uzi has different motivations, namely the first beer of the morning and sex. Mordy is the consummate romantic letting his intuition lead the way, Mordy needs Uzi not only for company but for his car. The seriousness of his quest is met by the hedonistic tendencies of his mate. While on the road the two pick up a girl, Lihi and the three continue on into the country of suicides. Like Mordy, Lihi has a quest too, she believes she doesn't belong in this place, claiming her death was not a suicide.
Knowing the motivations of the three main characters, and their individual quests need to achieve results. Through their travels, the three find Desiree. For Mordy, suicide and the adventure has changed him. As his quest comes to an end, she is not the girl she had been. Desiree has joined a suicide cult, and is in the process of committing suicide again. To further thwart Mordy's efforts, he has become involved emotionally with Lihi. Lihi's quest comes to an end when the PIC, or people in charge, break up the suicide cult's mass suicide. After a conversation with the PIC, Lihi gets to return to life.
As Uzi and Mordy remain, Uzi has some choice ideas for Mordy. Telling him simply that he gets stuck on girls he can never have. As the quest ends, Mordy returns to Kamikaze pizza. Although his hero quest doesn't yield the desired results, he has changed.


Keret, Etgar. “Kneller's Happy Camper.” Trans. Miriam Shlesinger. The Bus Driver who Wanted to Be God. London: The Toby Press, 2004.