The Rights of Women by Anna Barbauld (Poetry Analysis)

Rights Of Woman Anna Baurbauld

Now, upon first glance Barbauld’s poem might seem like she’s empowering women and cheering them on. Well, she’s not. Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825) didn’t support women’s rights activism and this poem is a response to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Most can probably sense the sarcastic tone by the end of the poem.

But it’s not fair to view Barbauld as petty right off the bat. She seemed to hold pretty pacifist views and was clearly against war. In fact, writing a criticism of Britain’s involvement in war quickly ended her career. So, she likely wanted peace, not for women to be oppressed. She was, after all, seen as an oddity for being a female writer at the time.

It seems like Barbauld just wanted people to get along. “Make treacherous Man thy subject, not thy friend;Thou mayst command, but never canst be free.” This clearly suggests a fear of the ‘oppressed’ rising up only to oppress the other group. This sarcastic line, says she wanted friendship and companionship to be the end goal. She felt that this wasn’t being worked towards. Instead, one was being painted as the oppressor and the other the oppressed. That sort of thinking can oversimplify a situation too much, so her argument isn’t completely invalid.

However, one could argue that pacifist thinking like Barbauld’s is, unfortunately, only ideal and doesn’t work with human nature. But either way, Barbauld’s argument and beliefs are worth listening to.

Also, despite popularity in her time, Barbauld largely fell into obscurity. That was until her and many other female writers were re-discovered by feminist scholars. Irony?

Advertisements

The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry (Short Story Analysis)

 

Red Cheif

It’s a long thought about dilemma – what if a kidnapped child was so bratty and obnoxious that his/her abductors returned them. Well, O. Henry’s short story brings this scenario into play.

In the story, the kidnappers are two desperate men named Sam and Bill. Sam is the narrator of the story. They are in need of money and so kidnap the red-headed son of a wealthy man in town named Ebenezer Dorset. When they first meet the boy, he’s throwing rocks at kittens. Which should have been a clear sign that this wasn’t some nice sweet boy. Especially since the boy also hits Bill in the eye with a brick.

The boy later subjects Bill to plenty of other abuse as well. During the kidnapping the kid is basically having the time of his life – at his abductors’ expense.

This humorous story makes me think if their could be a situation like the one presented. Kidnappers returning a kid because he was so bratty and not receiving anything in return – could it happen? I know people just say it as a joke but I still wonder.

But first I would like to explore another question – is Johnny Dorset aka Red Chief bad enough? I ask this because I have seen some bad kids that would make Red Chief look like nothing. He’s rambunctious and asks a lot of questions, that’s not too unusual.

His physical abuse of Bill is what puts him in the extreme category. At one point he leaves the man a screaming mess: “It was an awful thing to hear a strong, desperate fat man scream incontinently in a cave at daybreak.” And, Red Chief’s behavior would probably be even worse for two people who have not dealt with kids before.

However, I suppose I was hoping for an even more extreme case of a misbehaved child.

But onto the main question the story brings to mind: Would the kidnappers return the boy in a real life scenario? It really depends on what sort of offenders you were dealing with. Those in O. Henry’s story are pretty much buffoons.

Imagine the result of more violent and competent abductors. So, in the end I’d say the “bratty child returned” trope only has its place in humor.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo | Book Thoughts

flora and ulyssess

Flora loves comic books. She gets to experience somewhat of a real life comic book story when she befriends a squirrel with superpowers. There are also deeper philosophical undertones in the book as well.

Reading Experience: The writing is simplistic yet effective. The chapters are short and so the book is a fast read. There are many illustrations which helps further the reading experience. The best way to describe reading Flora and Ulysses is fun, there’s not a single uninteresting moment in the book.

Creativity/Originality: This is one of the most creative books I’ve read in awhile. It’s only a standalone but I could picture it becoming an amazing cartoon series. And let’s be honest, a premise about a squirrel with superpowers could have easily turned out to be stupid and over-the-top. But DiCamillo makes it into a beautiful, clever and funny story.

Characters: Flora Belle Buckman— she describes herself as a ‘natural-born cynic’ and loves comic books. The illustrations show her as a young girl with short hair and glasses. Much of her views on life seem to come from the comic books she reads. She’s overall a good character. I like that the narrative doesn’t throw in the reader’s face that she’s a ‘nerd’ or a ‘tomboy’ (most will probably get that impression on their own though). She’s just her. The only label she gets is ‘natural-born cynic.’ That’s all she needs.

Ulysses – The superpowered squirrel. His powers are gained by being sucked into a vacuum. His powers include super strength, flight and poetry writing. He’s cute and his friendship with Flora is heartwarming.

Phyllis Buckman – Flora’s mom, romance novelist, sociopath and worst character in the whole book. If there’s one flaw with the book it’s that it seems to expect the reader to forgive and like her by the end. Well, no. She wasn’t redeemed enough, at all. George Buckman – Flora’s dad and a sweet character that grows throughout the book. Him and Phyllis are divorced.

William Spiver – an eccentric, sunglass-wearing character who claims to be temporarily blind. He’s not like most kids and almost talks in riddles. Also has some unfortunate issues with his mom and her new husband.

Tootie Tickham – Flora’s neighbor. A nice and sweet character that loves poetry. I’d say she’s the third best character in the book.

Mary Ann – A cutesy shepherdess lamp owned by Mrs. Buckman. Flora hates the lamp because she believes her mother loves it more than her. She only has one sheep, so she’s probably not a good shepherdess.

Themes/Analysis: Flora’s parents are divorced, so the subject of how divorce can effect children is present in the book. It often makes them have to chose between their parents. At one point when Flora is upset with her mother, she says she wants to go live with her father. Flora’s mother says her life would be easier without her daughter. And, of course, this is devastating for Flora to hear. Supposedly Mrs. Buckman doesn’t really mean it. But either way this is one of the reasons it’s so hard to forgive her in the end. To me, saying that to your daughter isn’t easily forgivable.

In fact, I would say Flora’s mother is unstable to a scary extent. She has a complete break down over her daughter saying she wants to live with her Dad (come on, every parent gets the ‘I hate you’, ‘I’m gonna run away’ -type treatment). And worst of all she takes Ulysses to the woods in a plastic bag with plans to beat him to death. That’s not just jealous or concerned behavior, it’s psychopathic. And, as I said before she wasn’t redeemed in my eyes at all. It could be the narrative tries to redeem her, because it has to. Maybe, it could only go so far with demonizing a biological mother. The father is immensely more likeable in this book (even though he’s kind of a pushover and goofy).

But on to William Spiver who also has some parental issues. He has to deal with his mom’s new husband who he clearly isn’t fond of. It’s hard to know if William’s dislike is justified since we don’t actually meet the stepfather. His weird behavior could easily hint at him blocking out his problems. The wearing of the sunglasses and claim of temporary blindness represents him being unwilling to face his problems. He simply doesn’t want to see them.

As for the other star, Ulysses. He has a much deeper purpose as well. When people think ‘squirrel’ they don’t think of a hero. In fact, a squirrel is usually an animal that takes off in the face of danger. Well that it isn’t Ulysses. He surprises everyone and shows that the seemingly weaker and insignificant ones can have great strength in them.

Final thoughts: An amazing children’s book that can be enjoyed by everyone. The Newbery is well-deserved.

My Top 10 Favorite Horror Books

top ten

 

I have loved horror ever since I was a kid. In terms of what it can do, I also believe it’s the best genre. I have accumulated many favorites over the years but the following are the ones that have I have loved for years upon years. Or they had some sort of emotional impact on me. Not really in any particular order:

Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates
zombie
If you want to enter the mind of psychopath, than this is the best book for that. Oates’ presence is completely gone and you enter Quentin P’s mind all the way.

Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite
exquisite corpse
Two serial killers…together! This book is amazing, with really strong characters.

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
haunted
Palahniuk manages to do weird and over-the-top right with Haunted. Very, Very right.

Seeds of Evil by Margaret Bingley
seeds of evil
Killer kids, always an interesting subject. This book has pretty much been long forgotten. Which is a shame because it’s such a good read. I’m glad I found it buried in the shelves of used books.

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite
lost souls
I can say with confidence that I think this is the best vampire book of all time. Yes, the best!

Let’s Go Play At The Adams’ by Mendal W. Johnson
lets go
A psychologically complex and well-written book that deserves much more attention. The depth it goes to explore the psychology of the characters is so well done.

Desperation by Stephen King
desperation
So, nostalgia is heavily influencing my love for this book — it was the very first Stephen King book I ever read. But nostalgia or no nostalgia, it’s still really good. And can a horror list even exist without at least one Stephen King book?

Second Child by John Saul
second child
I’d call this an atmospheric and slow burning read. And probably Saul’s best book.

Intensity by Dean Koontz
Intensity
Love or hate Dean Koontz this is a great book, that gets the blood pumping!

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
american psycho
This is a Masterpiece. Masterpiece of satire, horror, everything! Bateman is one of the best narrators. I’m intrigued even when he’s going on about a Whitney Houston album.

And those are my top ten!
evilll

The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani | Book Review

world without princes

Agatha and Sophie’s story isn’t over after all and they return to the School for Good and Evil. Only now the school is separated by males and females while Good and Evil have joined forces.

First Thoughts: I loved the first Good and Evil book and yeah, I just now read the second book in 2016. This is a pretty strong followup. I can’t say one is better than the other, honestly – they are both good.

Reading Experience: The book is extremely engaging. A “couldn’t put down” type of book without a doubt. One flaw in the first book was it did have a tendency to drag on. A World Without Princes doesn’t have this problem, it is exciting all the way though.

Characters: Sophie, steals the spotlight in this book to me. Her struggle to keep her inner witch at bay made her characterization the most complex. Which is funny, since I found her annoying in the first book most of the time. But here her characterization is wonderful.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Agatha. She was just plain dull in this book. And some of her thoughts and actions almost made me hate her.

Then there’s Tedros, the heartthrob of the series. I’ve never liked Tedros. But I did feel sympathy for him during one particularly dark moment in the book.

Dean Evelyn Sadar, is the villain of the book and the one egging on the gender war. She is a fantastic villain throughout most of the book, although I didn’t care for certain elements of her backstory.

Hester, also has a more prominent role in this book. She’s a great character, I suppose she would fall into the category of ‘neutral evil’.

Themes: Not surprisingly, gender is a prominent theme here. And at times, the way it was handled made me uncomfortable. But I wouldn’t say the book is offensive or anything.

Friendship, is a major element. Throughout the book, Agatha and Sophie’s friendship is on the line. They struggle to trust each other and understand what they truly want. I thought their relationship was handled well. At times, it was frustrating and I just wanted them to love each other. But relationships are never that simple and the book captures that complexity.

Other Thoughts: Sophie is the best thing about this book, she may end up being one of my favorite book characters.

This is a great sequel but the gender stuff may put some people off.

4.5/5

‘Some Keep the Sabbath Going in Church…’ (236) by Emily Dickinson (Poetry Analysis)

Dickinson

In order to be close to God, people will say you have to go to church along with follow all sorts of traditions. But Dickinson’s poem is suggesting that one doesn’t have to find God through the church, instead they can find him on their own means.

And she’s right. It’s true that many people need the church to help them understand God, and that’s fine. But their way of doing it isn’t necessarily the “right” way. No one really knows what the “right” way is since it’s not really known what God actually wants. Therefore it’s only right to let people decide how they go about their own faith.

“I keep it, staying at Home.” This is an important line. A lot of times a person can develop their faith in solitude and isolation rather than through a religious community.

In fact, “Anchorites” in religion are people who would completely isolate themselves from the world in the name of faith (it was mainly done during the middle ages). They serve as an example of people who have a relationship with God on their own without having to interact with society.

In a way, society holds a person back from reaching a full relationship with God, since it is so restrictive of people’s behavior.

It’s well known that Emily Dickinson was a very isolated person and she seemed to have a quarrelsome relationship with God. But with this poem it suggests she found what she needed to know about God through her own means, and in her own ‘home’.

Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Short Story Analysis)

girl in garden

Giovanni is drawn to the garden beneath his window. It’s beautiful to an unnatural extent and is a product of Dr. Rappaccini, a great scientist who has a tendency to take his experiments too far. Even on his own daughter.

In this story, Hawthorne builds up the garden a lot. It’s a product of a scientific mind but it could represent a small peace of nature that has been corrupted by man. The story shows how humans can tamper with nature and turn it into something artificial. On the garden’s artificiality: “Several, also, would have shocked a delicate instinct by an appearance of artificialness… that the production was no longer of God’s making, but the monstrous offspring of a man’s depraved fancy, glowing with only an evil mockery of beauty.”

Dr. Rappaccini is a perfect example for this idea of man as corrupter. He’s the scientist that goes too far, someone who doesn’t have any regard for who or what he harms with his work: “…he cares infinitely more for science than for mankind. His patients are interesting to him only as subjects for some new experiment.”

So, how does Rappaccini’s daughter come into play? Well, she becomes apart of his experiments which shows just how far he will go. Someone who’s willing to use their own child surely has no limits. His daughter, Beatrice, is essentially poisonous like the plants in her father’s garden. This is why she probably feels such an intimate connection with said plants: “Approaching the shrub, she threw open her arms, as with a passionate ardor and drew its branches into an intimate embrace; so intimate, that her features were hidden in its leafy bosom, and her glistening ringlets all intermingled with the flowers.”

She has become an extension of the garden rather than an individual human. This further characterizes her as nothing more than her father’s experiment.

But Beatrice is important for another reason because she’s the one that draws Giovanni into the garden. She’s like an unknowing seductress that leads him astray – a common way that female characters are portrayed. But here, this portrayal is effective.

Beatrice is her father’s tool in many ways. She’s a force that brings him in new experiments to become apart of his garden. And Giovanni does for awhile, becoming poisonous like Beatrice, “…He sent forth a breath among them, and smiled bitterly at Beatrice, as at lease a score of insects fell dead upon the ground.” Here is how Beatrice tries to console Giovanni: “For Giovanni – believe it – though my body be nourished with poison, my spirit is God’s creature, and craves love as its daily food.”

Not surprisingly, Dr. Rappaccini believes he is doing good and therefore feels no remorse – “ ‘What mean you, foolish girl? Dost thou deem it misery to be endowed with marvellous gifts, aganist which no power nor strength could avail an enemy.’ ” This is, perhaps, the mindset of many who take their experimentation too far. Beatrice dies at the end and is described as such: “To Beatrice – so radically had her earthly part been wrought upon by Rappaccini’s skill – as poison had been life, so the powerful antidote was death.”

Plenty of people are afraid of growing scientific achievement (especially in Hawthorne’s time) and this story, although exaggerated, shows that their fears aren’t entirely unreasonable.