Where are you going, Where have you been by Joyce Carol Oates | Short Story Analysis

sunglasses

Connie is your typical attractive teenage girl – she likes going out with friends and flirting with boys. She’s annoyed with her family, especially her mother who’s constantly criticizing her. Her flirting is mostly innocent fun until she’s confronted by a strange older man named Arnold Friend at her home.

Some may view this story as a cautionary tale -a young woman ends up being punished for venturing into adult sexuality. And although her fate after leaving with Arnold is undescribed, all the clues in the story make it clear it will be something horrible (rape/murder). Another way some view the story is that Connie is a hero – she went with Arnold because he was threatening her family and she wanted to keep them safe.

However, I think there’s much more to it than that. Arnold could be something more sinister than a creepy guy. Look at how far he takes his façade – stuffing his boots to look taller, the sunglasses, possibly wearing a wig and such. A more simple explanation would be that he’s hiding his age and wants to seem young and cool to teenage girls.

But there’s also a possibly that Arnold has supernatural origins, possibly a demon. First off his name ‘Arnold Friend” seems artificial. Along with his appearance it’s like he’s trying to imitate a human being rather than being one naturally.  At one point when Connie observes his appearance and demeanor more the narrative states, “But all these things did not come together.” Meaning that he seems very unnatural.

The way  he seems to entrance Connie also indicates he’s not wholly human. He uses his persuasion to get Connie to come with him, rather than physical (which would have been the last resort). He’s confident in his power of persuasion and snaps at his friend Ellie when he suggests taking other measures.

While the supernatural theory could be wrong, I do think Arnold is basically meant to embody the ultimate predator. He disguises himself to lure in victims and he knows to entrance them.

“And he drew an X in the air, leaning out toward her. They were maybe ten feet apart.
After his had fell back to his side the X was still in the air almost visible.”

Here is where it shows that Connie’s fate is sealed. She has been “X’d” out and the predator will succeed by the end. Arnold shows how evil can appear suddenly and in the most unlikely of places. Connie was just an average teenage girl, but meeting Arnold has forced her to confront the terrible aspects of the world which Arnold embodies.

 

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A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy | Poetry Analysis

a work of artifice

The meaning of Piercy’s poem is simple. It uses metaphor to show how the female gender role can confine women and stop them from reaching their full potential.

“The bonsai tree / in the attractive pot / could have grown eighty feet tall” A bonsai tree can grow to be quite large. But when it’s in the pot it can only grow so big, especially when it’s branches and leaves are being trimmed away at.

This is also true for many women throughout history who were regulated to domestic life. They were kept in a nice, pretty house but it kept them from growing. “Growing” mainly means it kept them from expanding their knowledge and succeeding in the outside world.

The women may have been well-taken care of, but much like the bonsai tree, they couldn’t grow beyond what the “Gardener” allowed.

Again, the bonsai tree gets to live in a pretty pot and the woman gets a pretty house. Because of this many would tell them they are lucky as seen with this line: “how lucky, little tree, / to have a pot to grow in.” But this isn’t true because they aren’t able to choose their own path.

I think the poem is saying that there should be a matter of choice. But instead, women were trained from the very beginning to be confined the home.  In order for them to expand their minds and intellect they need the opportunity to succeed outside of that.

This is why there is a mention of the “Crippled brain,” by limiting the options the brain can only know domestic skills. The poem is showing that women have the potential to go beyond that, and they should have the right to do so.

 

Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women by Aemilia Lanyer | Poetry Analysis

adam-and-eve

Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women is a poem by Aemilia Lanyer (1569-1645) that comes from her work Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum and when I first read it I was fascinated – the poem basically makes an argument that blaming all women for Eve’s sin is silly, and that if she is to be blamed then Adam is just as at fault. She also makes a defense for Eve’s actions.

Lanyer is very bold with this work and that’s what I like about it. She turns societal notions about women upside down by using them in her argument.

Here are some excerpts from the poem:

“Till not your indiscretion sets us free,
And makes our former fault much less appear;
Our mother Eve, who tasted of the tree,
Giving to Adam what she held most dear,
Was simply good and had no power to see;
The after-coming harm did not appear:
The subtle serpent that our sex betrayed
Before our plot had laid”

Here, the speaker argues for Even’s innocence – she was ignorant of the consequences and only offered Adam the apple out of love for him.

“But surely Adam cannot be excused;
Her fault though great, yet he was most to blame.
What weakness offered, strength might have refused;
Being lord of all, the greater was his shame;
Although the serpent’s craft had her abused,
God’s holy word ought all his actions frame;
For he was lord and king of all the earth,
Before poor Eve had either life or breath,”

So, basically Adam is more at fault because he should have known better. Still, it could be that the speaker’s goal is to show if you’re going to blame one, you can blame the other. The conclusion should be that either both are punished for their actions or no one takes the blame for what another committed.

“Whom, if unjustly you condemn to die,
Her sin was small to what you do commit,
All mortal sins that do for vengeance cry
Are not to be compared unto it;
If many worlds would altogether r try
By all their sins the wrath of God to get,
This sin of yours surmounts them all as far
As doth the sun another little star

The speaker’s argument turns to discussing how it was men who betrayed Jesus — the greatest sin of all.

“Then let us have our liberty again,
And challenge to yourselves no sovereignty.
You came not in the world without our pain,
Make that a bar against your cruelty
Your fault being greater, why should you disdain
Our being your equals, free from tyranny?
If one weak woman did offend,
This sin of yours hath no excuse nor end.”

Again, this emphasis that men have committed a greater sin – and that if women are to be punished for there’s then men should be punished as well.

This poem is a pretty harsh one but I didn’t really get “punish men” out of it, I got the idea that entire groups shouldn’t be punished for the actions of a biblical figure. I imagine this was a radical idea in Lanyer’s time.

Foe by JM Coetzee | Book Review

foe

I’m not fan of Robinson Crusoe, I found reading the book to be a boring and agonizing experience for the most part. Perhaps this why I was able to enjoy Foe more than Wide Sargasso Sea (I love Jane Eyre, so I wanted that book to be better). Foe also has a sense of incoherence but I felt the author manages to do it right in this case.

The premise follows Susan Barton, she was a castaway on a deserted island where she ran into a man named Cruso and his servant Friday. Once off the island she, with Friday by her side, seeks out author Daniel Foe to tell her story.

The parallels to Robinson Crusoe are obvious but the novel goes beyond that. It’s a book that shows how storytelling itself can be manipulative and deceiving.

Susan struggle to get her story told mirrors the experience of many who have a story to tell – they often can’t tell it themselves and have to seek another out to do it for them. And when they do find someone that person tries to change and bend the story to their own will.

Foe is a book that goes beyond just a response text – it is able to take elements of the more famous novel and tell a dark truth about humans and storytelling.

4/5

“The fight aloud is very brave…” (138) by Emily Dickinson | Poetry Analysis

guy

This poem is about inner struggle. It’s compared to the struggle of a soldier fighting for one’s country – this is admirable but a person overcoming conflict within themselves can be just as great.

“To charge within the bosom” this line indicates an internal battle – one that the individual must fight by themselves. There is a lot to truth to this. Although help is nice there are some issues that a person must sort out from within and I think that’s essentially what the poem is saying.

Humans tend to crave approval. They want to be encouraged and told when they’re on the right track. However, as the poem shows with these lines like these: “Who win and nations do not see,” “Who Fall and none observe” they won’t always get recognition and they must accept that. Basically, if they’re only looking for outside approval then they cannot truly improve.

The poem can also apply to people who fought on the outside (like soldiers fighting for their country) and then must deal with the internal conflict it has caused them.

A Decade by Amy Lowell | Poetry Analysis

A Decade by Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell’s poem accomplishes so much with so few words. “A Decade” conveys so much passion and captures the feeling and process of love.

“When you came, you were like red wine and honey, / and the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness” — when someone first falls in love it brings an intense feeling. A lot of times you feel like you don’t want to be away from that person. “burnt my mouth with its sweetness” describes this. During the first stages of romance the butterflies are there and such and the passion is at its peak.

However, as time goes by the romance begins to calm down. This is shown in the poem with the line: “Now you are like morning bread, smooth and pleasant. / I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour, / But I am completely nourished.” Between the two people in love things have become familiar and less intense.

But this doesn’t mean the relationship is any less pleasant. “Morning bread” is a positive image and alludes to simple, domestic life that may be less intense but it still remains something beautiful.

The romance goes from some wildly passionate to something calm, familiar and comfortable.

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?