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Mending Wall by Robert Frost

The Mending Wall by Robert Frost tells the story of two men who ritualistically come to their shared property line in order to repair and rebuild the wall between them. The speaker refers to them jointly, and united on several occasions such as “We meet,” “We keep,” “We have to use,” and “We wear our fingers rough.” The speaker is describing a civil, collaborative effort to build and keep up a barrier between them. However, the tone begins to shift as the speaker starts to ask questions, logically describing the lack of necessity to separate his own apple trees from his neighbor’s pines trees. However, the speaker’s neighbor has a phrase passed down from his father declaring, “Good fences make good neighbors.” This quote will be repeated throughout the poem as the only reasoning to rebuild the wall, year after year, and divide the two men. The diction and syntax used to describe the neighbor takes a darker turn once he assumes the argument in support of the wall. The speaker describes his neighbor as moving in the darkness holding stones in each hand “like an old-stone savage armed.” Despite the neighbor continuously and consistently stating the importance of his fathers saying, another factor plays a key role in the poem, “something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” This major idea in the poem toys with the theory that despite year after year of repairing the wall dividing the two men, there was something out there determined to break it down. The mysterious power, the speaker believes, is responsible for swelling the ground beneath it; spilling the boulder and making gaps that coincidentally are wide enough that “even two can pass abreast.” Perhaps this line gives a hint at the importance of crossing this dividing wall together, in unity.

The Hollow Men by T. S. Elliot

In The Hollow Men by T.S. Elliot, the poem explores the idea of a middle ground between heaven and hell and the human fear of being stuck in this meaningless shadow of existence. The development of characters in the poem demonstrate their lack of substance and independence while blindly existing an arid and infertile environment.

The occasional rhyme and repetition of The Hollow Men is set up by an epigraph quoting Heart of Darkness and referencing the execution of Guy Fawkes, both of which expressed the root evil of mankind. Both internally reference both hollowness and the burning of straw men, one of which is narrating the monologue-like poem. The imagery is bolstered by auditory descriptions, such as “wind in dry grass” and “rats’ feet over broken glass.” These indicate the infertile wasteland in which the hollow men are stuck, as well as the simple meaningless of their existence.

The descriptions of “shape without form, shade without color” leave an unsettling feeling of vagueness or a void of the hollow men’s impotence. In line 14 we also see the first mention of eyes, and a Kingdom. The “direct eyes” might be interpreted as those with substance who have reached one of the two meaningful ‘Kingdoms,’ meaning heaven and hell. However, these hollow men are stuck in “This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms,” the joint between two purposeful existences of good or evil, that is both something in between and also nothing.

At the beginning of section V, italics are used to quote an old nursery rhyme but replace mulberry bush with “the prickly pear” symbolizing the corruption and infertility of the “beach of the tumid river” where the hollow men reside. Another natural symbol is found in the stars mentioned sporadically throughout the poem. The stars are used to signify hope, as those who had their vision returned could see the “perpetual star,” (line 63) however the hollow men see only fading and dying stars. This “valley of dying stars” in a Modernist view seems to be the greatest fear and perhaps also the reality of mankind.

T.S. Elliot’s diction and syntax are used in conjunction most strongly in the final sections of the poems where he describes the “Shadow” that resides in the grey area between the idea and reality, the motion and the act. This in between area is the home of the hollow men, interdependent and without meaning they live out their days in a void lacking purpose, emotion and all goodness and evil.

Emily Dickinson 764 [754]

In poem 764 [754] Dickinson explores the powerful, yet self-destructive nature of her intense anger. In the first line, denoted by her famous dashes, she refers to her capitalized Life as a loaded gun. In the fourth line, she capitalizes ‘Me’ and merges herself and her life into the metaphor of the unused gun. However, a third player has also entered the scene who is referred to as ‘The Owner,” “Him,” and her “Master.” These terms refer to her all consuming anger that controls her actions. Again, we see another merge as she refers to a “We” who is ‘roaming the Sovereign Woods-“ and hunting the Doe. These violent actions are illustrated by the echo or “reply” from the mountains every time she “speaks for Him” and expresses her anger, perhaps metaphorically through the firing of the loaded gun she represents. Two other elements also refer to the self-destructive nature of her anger, the Vesuvian face and the Eider Duck. The reference to mount Vesuvius literally describes the eruption of an Italian volcano, which was a deadly event that also destroyed the majority of the mountain itself. Additionally, an Eider Duck is a specific breed of duck that creates a downy pillow by plucking it’s own feathers. Of course, the pillow she refers to is where she guards the head of her “Master.” This relationship between her and her anger shows a particularly protective nature, and almost a pride her in lethal violence keeping her and her anger’s enemies from “stirring a second time.” However, in the final stanza the self-destructive nature is realized through her acknowledgment of mortality and weakness without her anger. She finds in her anger a violent invincibility, but therefor also recognizes that despite her ability to live longer than her anger on her own, her anger will most likely destroy her and therefor outlive her.

Riis Photography

Riis’s photography in the late 1800’s walks us through the grueling, arduous life of immigrants in the slums of New York City. Some of the most appalling photos show the living conditions, of dangerous infrastructure or barren shacks. The walls were quite literally falling down in some photos. Additionally beds and rooming were documented, however the beds were just wooden boards with rope or cloth tied together providing a surface on which to sleep at the most minimal expense. I found the children photographed to be quite moving, whether on the single slide available for them to play on which was hardly a slide to begin with, or the children sitting with their father who worked in the coal industry. However, the picture provided was interesting to me in how the caption spoke about the story of the image. These boys falling asleep in class were not simply bored, but they were in night class presumably due to their work in the sweat shops that were also pictured. Not only were they working long, strenuous days but additionally attending classes at night in order to perhaps one day have the education to earn a more dignified living or provide a better opportunity for their family in the future.

 


Riis, Jacob. How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York.
1890. American Studies, U of Virginia, xroads.virginia.edu/~ma01/davis/
photography/images/riisphotos/slideshow1.html. Accessed 8 Feb. 2017.

Source Evaluation #3

A Fierce Discontent by Michael E. McGerr provides a flowing narrative of the progressive shifts occurring both economically, culturally and politically. Through multiple eyes and stories, McGerr uses different perspectives to amplify themes beginning to grow in the American subconscious. Due to it’s story-like narrative surrounding historical figures such as Roosevelt, E.A. Ross and Jane Adams, it is more difficult to analyze specific pieces of the book at a time. However, this does allow for a broader understanding of the themes presented in the writing.  Although I have not completed the almost 400-page book yet, already I have come across terms such as Social Darwinism and muckrakers. These factors so far are building blocks to my understanding of the cause and effect of the progressive moment. The political reform and social activism inspired by the movement carried several interesting levels and themes. The combination of fear and hope found an especially strong foothold in the middle class, despite a relatively large amount of influence in the nation. The effects detailed in McGerr’s A Fierce Discontent exude racism and fear of unrestricted immigration. Additionally, the fear of large corporate businesses which is where my main focus of white collar crime will tie in. However, the hope inspire changes in the nation that transformed into a political movement. Additionally, many of these worries were intertwined in various ways that I hope to continue to explore and understand further as I progress farther towards the end of the book. The only downfall of A Fierce Discontent is what seems to be a single story told documenting those partaking and promoting the progressive movement, which were generally male, native-born, middle class americans. I’d also like to find source documenting a different perspective such as minorities or different classes in the changing nation.

McGerr, Michael E. A fierce discontent: the rise and fall of the Progressive movement in America, 1870-1920. New York: Free Press, 2003. Print.

 

Source Evaluation #2

My second source evaluation is Monopolies in America: Empire Builders and Their Enemies from Jay Gould to Bill Gates by Charles R. Geisst, specifically chapter 3 (page 77) which focuses on the 1920-1930 era. Charles R. Geisst was the first Chair in business at Manhattan College, a professor of global economics and finance and the author of 19 books. The chapter I want to focus on specifically includes many themes I want to explore further in my research of the topic. Firstly was the financial trends in American culture at the time, where the people were in the mood to spend and spend in what appeared to be a time of great prosperity while in reality, the wages of the average worker were dropping. One example the book gives (page 93) is that of the F. W. Woolworth Company which reported profit margins of 20% but in reality was lowering the wages of salesgirls in their stores. These trends of false confidence in the economy are definitely a thread I want to explore further. Additionally, xenophobia and racism was on the rise nationally. The numerous divisions and diversion distracted the country from mergers were growing at an unprecedented rate. An additional source I looked at to examine the economics in the 1920’s was from the Economic History Association. The article by Gene Smiley from Marquette University provides many useful charts and graphics that give insight to the the economic trends of the time and their cultural influence. These two sources should help me learn specifically about the connections between the financial and cultural shaping of America during the 1920’s.

 


Geisst, Charles R. Monopolies in America: empire builders and their enemies, from Jay Gould to Bill Gates. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 2000. Print.

Smiley, Gene. “The U.S. Economy in the 1920s.” EHnet. Economic History Association, n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.

Source Evaluation

61jant5wm9l-_sx323_bo1204203200_   My first two sources for evaluation start at the beginning of my topic, in fact, at the birth of a common nickname “Ponzi,” or a ponzi scheme. Charles Ponzi, or Carlo Ponci or Charles P. Bianchi was born in 1882 and grew to be the man whose name was associated with fraudulent business schemes. Two sources documenting his life are both a book and a book talk by Mitchell Zuckoff. Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend. In his book, Mitchell Zuckoff dissects the ‘financial alchemy’ that raked in millions of dollars for Charles Ponzi. His book talk of about an hour in length and allows insight to Zuckoff as he answers questions and discusses not only the blue print and operations of fraudulent transactions on a large scale, but also the fallibility of human nature. Zuckoff’s skills as an orator as well as an author are what helped me select these sources in my initial research. A large part of his book discusses the nature and conscience of Charles Ponzi, and how initially he believed his plan was both legal and possible. He also examines another interesting facet as I explore my topic, which explores the growth of small lies into larger ones in the specific area of finances. In the case of Charles Ponzi, his first lie was a false check. Interestingly enough, he was caught and jailed but still continued concocting schemes later on. This brings me to another facet for exploration: consequences for ‘victimless crimes’ such as fraud, compared to those of a physical theft or break in. Charles Ponzi himself has a draw as quite a unique character, an Italian immigrant who spoke French, English and Italian who charmed his way into a job at a bank and almost fifteen years later was quoted saying he gave “the best show ever staged.”

 

 

Zuckoff, Mitchell. Ponzi’s scheme: the true story of a financial legend. New York: Random House, 2005. Print.

TheFilmArchives. “The Ultimate Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Charles Ponzi & the True Story of a Financial Legend (2005) The Film Archives .” YouTube. YouTube, 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 07 Jan. 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4WdLZSo9rU>.

 

 

Downtown Reflection: Scavenger Hunt

We were most surprised by the slave auction memorial which was a small plaque on the ground, that would be hard to see without tripping over it. Written on the plaque were the mere words “On this spot, slaves were bought and sold.” This was a cold contrast from the large statues we found glorifying other moments of American history, such as Robert E. Lee. The two entrances to the Paramount theater demonstrated the notion of white supremacy. The front door was intricate, adorned with engravings and fantastic lights, while the side door resembled a hole-in-the-wall, which was difficult to find. After crossing the railroad, it was astonishing to see the difference between the two sides of the street. On the left, public housing lined the sidewalk, showcasing the epitome of poverty and struggle but named ‘Friendship Court’ in big pillars. To the right, office spaces and a shining ACAC gym stood tall. When we cut through Urban Outfitters in order to get to the train tracks quicker and found an interesting book called “Man Up.” Given the subject matter, we decided to include it. All in all the experience helped many of us find new parts of our home town that we hadn’t seen before, and if we had we looked from a new perspective. It was a valuable experience.

 

Poe’s Analysis of Hawthorne: Wakefield

Edgar Allen Poe justifiably praises Hawthorne as an author of remarkable originality, thoughtful and subdued tone, as well as remarking on the unique and meritorious beauty of each of his works, especially in the story of Wakefield. In addition, the effectiveness of a soothing delivery of highly imaginative composition persuasively influences the reader’s processing of Hawthorne’s story. As Edgar Allen Poe states, Hawthorne’s writing “consists chiefly in the calm, quiet, unostentatious expression of commonplace thoughts.” In other words, Hawthorne casually, conversationally creates a dialogue in his story that lets the reader draw logically come to the same conclusion that Hawthorne has already outlined as though it were an independent thought. On page 396, Hawthorne asks the reader “What sort of man was Wakefield? We are free to shape out our own idea,” and this question draws out an in depth, coherent and rational depiction of Wakefield which is suggested in a manner giving plausible belief that the reader might have invented a similar portrayal without prompt.

 

It is definitely difficult to doubt the originality of an author who nonchalantly delivers vocabulary such as “nincompoop,” and “whim-wham” in their tales. As Poe states, “Mr. Hawthorne’s distinctive trait is invention, creation, imagination, originality- a trait which, in the literature of fiction, is positively worth all the rest.” Not only is Hawthorne weaving a tale that has yet to be told, but he also does it in a manner that has yet to be manufactured. Poe further characterizes the originality of Hawthorne’s work by writing that “The inventive or original mind as frequently displays itself in novelty of tone as in of novelty of matter.” In Wakefield, Hawthorne clearly commands both aspects of this equation. On page 400, Hawthorne depicts a scene with instructions for the reader, “Watch him” Hawthorne seems to whisper from the pages, “Cast your eyes in the opposite direction.” It’s as though the reader and Hawthorne sit perched above the scene he has craftily created in astute observation of all that passes.

 

It is important to note, however, that Hawthorne does not ramble. As Poe verifies in his analysis of the writing “ In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design. He further states that the tale is presented “unblemished” and “undisturbed” by the presence of unnecessary and nonessential tangents or information in the written work. Wakefield is no exception, as Hawthorne expertly indulges the reader with enough information and storytelling so as to effectively convey the tale, without distracting or marring the narrative. Poe spoke correctly as he awarded Hawthorne with as much honor as was possibly, and Wakefield serves as due proof of Hawthorne’s literary prowess.

 

 

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Nathaniel Hawthorne: Author of Wakefield
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Edgar Allen Poe

The Scarlett Letter

When the young woman -the mother of this child- stood fully revealed before the crowd, it seemed to be her first impulse to clasp the infant closely to her bosom; not so much by an impulse of motherly affection, as that she might thereby conceal a certain token, which was wrought or fastened into her dress. In a moment, however, wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another, she took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around her townspeople and her neighbors. p. 479

The youthful woman described in the paragraph is repeatedly portrayed as vulnerable, helpless even. She’s described as “fully revealed before the crowd” as though she may be bared naked before the mob of townspeople. Her grip of her child, which was clarified to be hers, despite her almost childlike portrayal, is a jerk movement in an attempt to cover herself. Yet what she wishes most to conceal is the letter on her dress. However, the apparent correlation of the two ceases her attempt. The moment following is an important transition, the cautious, yet naive young woman clearly realizes that no option available will keep her from the eyes of her spectators. In this moment, she decides as one might say to “fake it till you make it” and put on a brazen grin, letter, baby and all stands with as much composure and poise as she can muster to face her witnesses.