Tuesday, March 27, 2012

There are many similarities between "The Revolt of Mother" and "Yellow Wallpaper." Both stories center around woman who feel trapped at the hands of their husbands. They are also both trapped in a physical space that bothers them quite intensely. Both women attempt to talk to their husbands about the space that bothers them which amounts to nothing, as both husbands are non-communicative. Mr. Penn refuses to even attempt communication, and John is extremely patronizing. Both women take extreme steps to extricate themselves from their "prisons." In the end, the woman in "Yellow Wallpaper" is, in part, free from her prison whereas Sarah Penn is completely free of her prison. The wallpaper is an important symbol in both stories though more important in "Yellow Wallpaper." The wallpaper in "Yellow Wallpaper" is the driving force behind the woman's hatred toward the nursery in which she is imprisoned. The wallpaper in Sarah Penn's house is weathered to the point of being non existent because it has been there so long without being replaced.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Defining Freedom II

"In self-trust, all the virtues are comprehended."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


This quote exemplifies Emerson's definition of freedom. According to him, freedom is attained through creative, active thought and self reliance. Here, Emerson is stating that self-trust, the passage to freedom, is the key to understanding. Virtues comprehended lead to freedom of the mind and experimentation.


"Curious what is more subtle than this which ties me to the woman or man that looks in my face,
Which fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning into you."

- Walt Whitman



One of the themes that runs through Whitman's poetry is the idea that we are all connected to one another and everything around us. Life runs through us all, a force beating in unison. Engagement with this life force is the key to finding freedom and understanding. In this quote, Whitman demonstrates this idea. Whitman is set free by connecting with others and finding meaning in this connection.


"My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact."

- Frederick Douglas


This quote marks Douglas' departure from slavery to freedom. Once he wholly understands that the battle to freedom relies heavily on psychological power, he can set himself free. From this point on, Douglas' actions are based solely on his willfulness to be free in form while the fact of the matter is, he has set himself free by gaining the power to act according to his own will.


"The spreading wide of narrow Hands
To gather Paradise --"

- Emily Dickinson

Here, "the spreading wide of narrow hands" is used to depict Dickinson's own hands spreading wide to gather paradise. For Dickinson, paradise is equivalent to being free. Paradise and freedom are attained through the possibility that poetry provides.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dickinson's "House"

House is the most intriguing word in this poem as it is the metaphor that runs throughout the poem. It is interesting to look at prose and possibility, the latter implied by Dickinson to be poetry, as houses. How are these to things similar to houses? How is a defined, constructed, and confining space full of possibility? Possibility is also compared to paradise in the poem. Again, how does a house represent paradise? Using a house to represent possibility and paradise is counterintuitive and odd. But since Dickinson often worked in her house, locked in her room, I can see why she would choose this metaphor. It seems that to her, prose is like the caged space that a house presents. But with poetry, she can escape the confining bonds of the house and be set free. She can indulge her imagination and escape constraints of her house. There are doors, windows and an eternal roof in her house of possibility. Poetry offers an escape and a sort of internal freedom. After thinking about the use of house in this way, I can see why she chose this as her metaphor.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

# 657

I dwell in Possibility --
A fairer House than Prose --
More numerous of Windows --
Superior -- for Doors --
Of Chambers as the Cedars --
Impregnable of Eye --
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky --
Of Visitors -- the fairest --
For Occupation -- This --
The spreading wide of narrow Hands
To gather Paradise --

I dwell in Possibility
Dwell can have either a positive or negative connotation. I usually think of it having more of a negative connotation.
Possibility usually has a positive connotation.
I wonder if she is using dwell positively or negatively. Either way, the use of dwell and possibility is an interesting contrast.
Possibility seems to be most significant here since it is capitalized.

A fairer House than Prose
Both Possibility and Prose are being represented as houses.
How are these two things related to houses?
A house is a confined space, therefore in some way, Possibility and Prose are confining.
How could Possibility confining?
If Possibility is being compared to Prose does that mean Possibility is equivalent to poetry?

More numerous of Windows --
Possibility has more windows than Prose.
What do windows represent?
Escape? Different points of view?
More windows offer more options and more views.

Superior -- for Doors --
Doors offer escape from a confined space.
The dashes between Superior and for Doors emphasizes both superior and for Doors.

Of Chambers as the Cedars --
This is an interesting phrase.
Chambers refers to bedrooms?
And cedars refers to trees?
Chambers (rooms) have doors, leading to new possibilities.
Both Chambers and Cedars are emphasized by the use of parallelism and capital C.

Impregnable of Eye --
Impregnable here may mean unable to enter. ?
So chambers are impregnable.
So, not able to enter through sight perhaps.

And for an Everlasting Roof
An everlasting roof may refer to the eternity of possibility.
There are no dashes here ending the sentence, maybe she has finished her thought or she wants to emphasize this comparison.
I find this strange because I'm not sure how a roof can be everlasting.
Is there some irony here?

The Gambrels of the Sky --
Sky rhymes with Eye in line six.
What is the meaning of Gambrels here?
Unlike an everlasting roof, the sky is everlasting. This is another interesting contrast.

Of Visitors -- the fairest --
Who are the fairest visitors?

For Occupation -- This --
What are the visitors occupying? The house of possibility?
Is she saying that only the fairest visitors are occupying the house of possibility?
Why does "This" stand alone? Why is she emphasizing this word?

The spreading wide of narrow Hands
The way wide and narrow sit right next to one another is an appealing contradiction.
This line evokes a strong image.
I feel like narrow hands relates to fairest visitors in that both are delicate. This might be a reference to women in general or Dickinson herself.
This line and the seventh line are the only two without dashes. They are related in that both evoke and image of growth and eternity.

To gather Paradise --
I feel like Paradise stands out in the poem as does Possibility because they are the end caps of the first and last lines.
If possibility and Paradise are synonymous in the poem then perhaps it is also synonymous with Poetry.
"Gathering Paradise" is an interesting image which expands the image of "the spreading wide of narrow hands."


The way Dickinson uses a house to represent poetry and prose is fascinating. She takes something that is confining and turns it into something that could be limitless. The doors and the windows offer escape and choice. Prose, according to Dickinson, do not have these options. Another interesting aspect of comparing Poetry to a house is that a house is solid and structured. In this respect, poetry has the structure, solidity and gravity that a house has. While prose has this structure and solidity, it does not offer the means to seek options and it is more solitary and confined.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Defining Freedom

Freedom is a common theme in the work of Emerson, Whitman and Douglas. Each writer has a differing perspective on freedom, however their ideas of freedom share a common notion. According to Emerson, freedom is attained through complete self reliance. Only when one is able to produce for oneself creatively, intellectually and materially, is one free of society's grip. Emerson claims that the obstacle to achieving freedom is being disengaged. By disengaged, Emerson means prescribing to all the thoughts and beliefs put before oneself. It is easy to conform to what others have believed in or what others have created. But Emerson believes freedom is attained by using others' thoughts, beliefs, and teachings as inspiration for spurring new, relevant thoughts, beliefs and teachings. By engaging creatively, one can be true to oneself and be set free.

Whitman identifies freedom as being connected to and continually engaged in the world that surrounds oneself. Whether it be a blade of grass, the people on a ferry, the birds in the sky, or his readers, Whitman lives according to his definition of freedom. He believes that everyone and everything is connected and that to know oneself fully, one must be open to and mindful of these connections. In his poetry, Whitman believes that one obstacle to freedom is, like Emerson, disengagement. In Whitman's case, disengagement is depicted as failure to question existence, failure to create connections through existence.

Douglas' experiences lead him to the realization that freedom is achieved through knowledge and breaking free of societal limitations. Having overcome slavery, Douglas understands the specific obstacles that present themselves when pursuing freedom. The first is naivety. Without an understanding of why and how society is structured, one is incapable of even beginning the pursuit of freedom. Knowledge is the key that unlocks this door. Also, the way in which society and individuals maintain their captives is an extreme example of psychological enslavement. One can remain trapped despite having knowledge because there is an inherent psychological boundary placed on people through this societal structure. One must not only possess knowledge but one must also possess great strength and tools to break free of this perpetual entrapment. One must understand how society manipulates the individual to believe freedom is unobtainable in order to fight for freedom.

All three writers share the idea that understanding societies role in one's life is the key to attaining true freedom. All three understand that letting society dictate one's personal beliefs and lifestyle is a deep hindrance to freedom. It is crucial to be mindfully engaged and think independently in order to find true freedom.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DIY with Emerson

"Each philosopher, each bard, each actor, has only done for me, as by a delegate, what one day I can do for myself."

Emerson is referencing his belief in complete self-reliance, self-trust, and gain in knowledge through personal experience. Early on in his speech he declares, "Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. " Emerson is advocating the practice of self reliance. It is clear that as a society, we grow more and more dependent on one another for the necessities of life. This includes endeavors such as philosophy, poetry and acting. A man who is whole is a man who brings these disciplines into his life and makes them a part of himself, thus making his output in the world inspired and original. He is also expressing his idea that to grow as an individual one must absorb others' creative output as a means to inspire ones own legacy. According to Emerson, inspiration and experience are key to attaining the "whole man," and discovering ones true self.

Monday, February 6, 2012

To Hell and Back


In F. Scott Fitzgerald's, The Rough Crossing, Adrian and Eva Smith endure a journey in which their lives and relationship are threatened. The happy couple depart New York for France to escape the mundane reality in America for a limitless, romantic life in Brittany. Although the two are happily in love, they expect that in this new setting their marriage will soar. While on board the ship, Adrian is infatuated with "a dark little beauty with the fine crystal gloss over her." Betsy, the dark beauty, is in love with Adrian. Over the coarse of the voyage, the luxury liner combats a hurricane which mirrors the intrusive tempest that threatens their relationship.

The narrative begins at night, at the threshold of the journey. The ship is docked and passengers are loading. The crew is making necessary preparations for the departure. Fitzgerald makes it evident that the ship will serve as a space of transformation in the first sentence. "Once on the long, covered piers, you have come into a ghostly country that is no longer Here and not yet There." Adrian and Eva are no longer in the city, on land, which represents hard, fast knowledge and facts, but they are at sea, where "One is no longer sure of anything." But as they stand on the ship waiting to depart, Adrian and Eva are gleeful at the prospect of being free. "We're going...We've escaped! They can't get us now!" Adrian cries. What they are truly excited about is the end point of the journey. And Eva coos, "Tell me about us - what a good time we'll have, and how we'll be much better and happier, and very close always." They are completely unaware of the obstacles and threats they will face. The ship, the open sea, and the storm are all equally important symbols of the space of transformation. As the ship sails from one country to the next, Fitzgerald references the ship as "A commonwealth smaller than Andorra." This commonwealth is a space of transformation where societal values, and marital norms are to be followed. However, nothing is sure, the sea serves as a space of overwhelming uncertainty, where boundaries and values can be tested. And they are. The storm itself serves as the space where all boundaries are blurred and values are thrown to the wind. At the pinnacle of the storm, their relationship has deteriorated. Adrian has succumbed to his desires to mingle with Betsy, and Eva has thrown her precious pearls, a freshly given gift from Adrian, into the sea.

The story ends on land, not at their destination point but still traveling, this time on a train. While they ride through the Norman countryside, Eva says, "Let's never get to know anyone else, but stay together always - just the two." Adrian responds by saying, "Who do you suppose those Adrian Smiths on the boat were? It certainly wasn't me." At this point in their journey, they have come full circle. They left America, and traversed the sea, all in the hopes of finding something more meaningful on the other side.

I see this narrative structured as a cyclical model. The two start at point A hoping to end up at point B, a place where they will be "much happier and better," they will have "escaped." Quickly, they go from being happy and in love, to grappling with one another. The ship's "darling" lures Adrian to unfaithfulness while the sea sickens Eva. The ship, the sea, and the storm pull their relationship to threads. But somehow, once they are back on the stable, unwavering, supportive land, they are right back where they started. Having endured a great test to both their values and relationship.