Sunday, May 26, 2013

Three best posts

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Literature Analysis

Literature Analysis
Death of a Salesman
By Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller is a tragic fiction play about the final day in the life and death of a salesman.  The main character, Willy Loman, is a traveling stocking salesman near retirement age.  Although he has had moments of success in his career, the recent years have been difficult and his mental condition has deteriorated to the point that he can no longer functionally cope with his condition/relationships and he takes his own life.  The story is tragic in that Willy is unable to resolve his relationship and economic issues and resorts to taking his life.  Willy’s emotions travel from highs to lows in a matter of moments, and he retreats into delusions and memories to escape reality.   The main theme of the story is that excessive pride, deceit, betrayal, and unrealistic expectations are contributors to the tragic demise of Willy, the salesman.
Willy is in a ridiculous competition to demonstrate his success in terms of money and outward appearances.  This alienates him from his sons as they cannot live up to his exaggerated expectations and deceitful interpretation of their accomplishments.  Willy has passed on some of his tragic traits to his sons, Biff and Happy, but they have moments of recognition and search for resolution to their emotional conflict.  They are both in their thirties and are home visiting on the last day of Willies life.  Biff had been athletic and good looking as a high school kid, so his dad made him out to be a huge success, even though he failed math and did not graduate. Happy has had to live in Biffs shadows, but at least he has been able to hold a job as an adult.  They admit in a conversation to each other in Act I that neither one is actually happy or satisfied with their lives, but they pretend otherwise. Willy excessive pride prevents him from working on his problems and he refuses to take a job from his friend Charley because he has always viewed himself as superior to Charley.  
Miller uses a lot of symbolism in the story to support his theme.  He sells women’s stockings and had had an affair while he was traveling.  He had given new stockings to his mistress, but his wife, Linda has an old torn pair which she mends.  Willy has betrayed his wife and he knows the pain of betrayal, as his own father had abandoned his family when Willy was young.  He also has trouble with his refrigerator and automobile, that serves as a kind of technological betrayal or betrayal of the belief in materialism as a measure of success. Linda, Willy’s wife has the most realistic view of everything that going on, but she is powerless to change anyone and ends up taking Willy’s abuse.  Linda’s lecture to her sons in Act 1 serves as a warning and foreshadowing of how both the business and the boys have taken advantage of Willy of the years and now abandoned him in his time of need. Miller uses Willy’s psychotic flashbacks as a way to introduce the past and develop how Willy has over exaggerated and deluded himself and his family for a long time.  This adds an element of self - responsibility to Willy’s tragedy.  He not just a victim of an emotionless profit driven industry, but he has contributed to his condition.  Miller uses foreshadowing in the title of the play, so we are prepared for the salesman’s death.  Linda is already aware that his recent car accidents may not have been accidents and that he was perhaps going to asphyxiate himself with fumes from the furnace when she fides a rubber hose connected to the appliance.  
Willy and his sons are all developed by direct characterization, and lesser characters like Bernard and Ben are developed with indirect and direct characterization.  Willy is very insecure in who he is because he lies to himself and other people about his success.  It is Biff and Linda who sees the truth about who they are and try to bring the others back into reality, but the task is difficult and they get caught up in the hope that Willy’s reality has a chance.  Biff is the most dynamic character in the play because he confronts the delusion and exaggerated image his father has created of him and there is hope that can break out of the family mold.  Happy on the other hand is a fairly static character.  He is superficial and pretends his job is more important than it is, but he is more financially successful than his brother who has spent time in jail for stealing from an employer, but he also seems more ingrained in self-delusion like his father.  The characters do seem like real life people.

Proof of Heaven

Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander, M.D., is an inspiring and beautiful story of the author’s struggle and ultimate victory over a severe and rare case of bacterial meningitis.  The quick and violent onset of the disease left Eben in a coma for 7 days with virtually no hope for any recovery when he miraculously just snapped back to life and then fully recovered. The book is his recollection of the 7 days in a coma where Eben recalls his journey into a spiritual word more real than anything he had experienced in life.  Eben story is compelling and believable because of his scientific background and deep understanding of the workings of the human brain, but believable or not, the beautiful message he brings back from the “Devine Source” is just simply worth believing in.  The message is essentially: “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”  “You have nothing to fear.” “There is nothing you can do wrong.” The story is a basic testimony to the existence of a truly unconditionally loving God and the existence of Heaven.  Both concepts are worth believing in despite any scientific discussion.  Eben Alexander had been a neurosurgeon for over 25 years and was well equipped with extensive scientific knowledge, but he is not able to scientifically explain his experience.  He also does not attempt to relate the “Devine Source” to any existing religion; he simply returns with the message and presents it to the reader as an uplifting, empowering and enlightened gift with no strings attached.  Such a message is not entirely new as it was also the message of some other books I’ve read like, The Consolation of Philosophy  (500 A.D.) and A Course in Miracles (1972).   The implications of such beliefs are actually very revolutionary as these beliefs form a foundation on which a truly sustainable society can be built.  It is the basis for a potential “Heaven on Earth” concept as opposed to the “controlled Hell” concept that most other belief system layout as the highest achievable standard for human civilizations. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Literature analysis

Literature Analysis
The Grapes of Wrath
By John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is a fiction novel about a poor farming family’s very difficult migration from the drought stricken dust bowl of Oklahoma in the late 1930’s to the “promised land” of California where their survival was equally challenging and difficult.  The depressing theme of the novel was consistent from beginning to end in that difficulties and challenges followed the characters, with any hope and salvation in the novel abiding in the individual choices that each character makes and the struggle of the small (but perhaps more moral)communities against the overall oppression of the larger (but perhaps immoral) establishments.
The story begins as the main character, Tom Joad, is hitchhiking back to his family after being released from prison.  He had served four years of a seven year sentence for killing a man “in self defense”.  The unfairness theme of the novel begins, as we sympathize with the ex-convict, who seems like a decent person.  He meets up with an ex-preacher, Jim Casy,from his home town near the Joad family farm.  When they get to the farm, they find out the family has been forced from their land, because they had not been able to pay their mortgage during the drought conditions.  The family is at an uncle’s house preparing to head to California with the hope of better fortune. But even on the way and in California the Joad family faces difficulties and challenges.  Greed and abuse of power are the main antagonists and come in the form of big banks, large landowners, those that work for them including individuals and government entities like police; and even religion and nature.  With so many antagonists, Steinbeck appears to have a pessimistic view of society.  Steinbeck’s hope comes in the form of a few selfless acts of kindness within the disaster and a hope that the individuals who can act with empathy and compassion could unite without losing their empathy and compassion in the process.
An example of Steinbeck’s helpless disdain for big banks can be found in chapter 5, when he describes the bank as a “monster”.  “It’s the monster.  Men made it, but they can’t control it.” (P.33) Despite the recognition that the banks does stuff that the people don’t like, the people are helpless to change it. In contrast to the institutions that can’t seem to be controlled by the ones who created them, individually, Steinbeck creates characters that have deep flaws, and sometimes have trouble controlling their behavior, but at least have the ability to change and to be kind and compassionate.  Steinbeck introduces this theme of unity of individuals early in the story when ex-preacherCasy tells Tom why he doesn’t preach any more, but that he’s convinced that “Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’spart of.”  Casy repeats this unity philosophy when he gives race at the Joad family breakfast in chapter 8. The Joad familystruggles to remain together throughout the story.  The theme of an individual’s commitment to something greater than himself works both ways in the story.   The commitment to something greater than you is used as an excuse to carry out orders that hurt other people as well as to help them; it just becomes the individual’s choice.  
Steinbeck uses many literary techniques to bring depth of understanding to his story.  He uses the conversations between Tom and the truck driver and Jim and Tom in the beginning as backstory to allow the reader to understand the Tom’s past experience in prison.  Tom sum’s up his prison experience in the passage “You don’t look for no sense when lightning kills a cow, or it comes up a flood.  That’s jus ‘ the way thins is. But when a bunch of men take an’ lock you up four years, it ought to have some meaning.” Tom’s speech style shows that he is not sophisticated by formal education, but his reasoning is sound and profound. By the end of the story, life in prison didn’t seem as challenging as the hard times afterward.  Steinbeck uses a lot of foreshadowing for example when Rose of Sharon worries in chapter 13 that seeing their dog be killed by a car is bad for her baby and then the baby is stillborn later.  The dark tone of the store is evident in the imagery and symbolism from the following
 passage describing a sunset on the drought ravaged landscape: “A large red drop of sun lingered on the 
horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going.”  Steinbeck uses personification in the passage that “..darkness crept over the land from the east.” 
Steinbeck uses mostly direct characterization to develop the main characters.  Tom Joad and Jim Casy spend many pages talking a philosophizing and although they don’t have a lot of formal education they say some deep and profound thins.  For example Jim experience as a preacher left him wondering about Jesus and God, but when he just spent more time reasoning about Jesus and God, he was able to come up with concepts for them that gave him more comfort.  Characters like Uncle John are developed using indirect characterization.  We understand Uncle John from Tom’s story about how his wife died after he down played the stomach ache she complained about.  Uncle John was not able to forgive himself for her death. Tom is a dynamic character.  He is able to adapt to the negative circumstances of his life and really learns to connect to the present and to other people.  Tom matures throughout the story becoming more connected and involved in helping the oppressed migrant workers in California. Tom’s mother is also a strong and dynamic character.  She holds the family together in the tough times.  
Steinbeck does an excellent job of eliciting emotions from the reader and his style makes the story real and believable.  Despite the general darkness of the story with so much suffering and hardship, there are moments of hope and salvation.  The story is about a specific set of event in America’s history, but the theme, that an individual’s purpose involves believing and behaving with the conviction that you are working for something bigger than yourself, is timeless.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

In class Essay

    Throughout the novel The Poisonwood Bible, the main character Mr. Price experiences a huge cultural change.  After being born and raised in a wealthy American suburbs, him and his family's move to Africa in order to spread their beliefs and end up learning more about themselves along the way.  These effects that the change in surroundings play on Mr Price and his family help to portray the author's theme of figuring out your beliefs through experiences over tradition. 

    Mr. Price experiences an awakening in Africa when he discovers many harsh aspects of the world he had been unaware of in his life in America.  These discoveries helped to develop his role in uncovering the theme throughout the novel.  Mr. Price being a devout christian father was always family oriented and loving.  The experiences he encounters in Africa affect him and his family much differently.  Mr. Price remains strict on his morals and ideas and excepting of anything else.  Mr. price begins to push away from not only those villagers but his family.  Mr. Price also begins to develop more anger and this makes him less and less appealing to his own family.  Ironically, Mr. Price's mission to spread Christianity in Africa ended up with his own family leaving him. 

   The change in culture experienced by the family in The Poisonwood Bible played a large impact in helping to reveal a theme of the novel.  Experiencing new ways of life and beliefs can change a person's own if they are accepting to question their own.  The beliefs of some change due to these experiences while others sometimes stay constant in the things they believe and choices to be accepting of anything else distant them from many others with opposing views.