Welcome to my weekly dose of blog analysis for Modern American Literature
Imagine living in the days where women and other minorities were silenced. Or is that today? 2019? We still see minorities being silenced. However, we can see how much more difficult it was for these minorities to have a voice back in the 20th century, especially post-war.
Diving Into the Wreck shines a light on these silenced writers. We all now know what the cannon is. It is an aspect of “great books.” But what about these books are “great?” Oh, that’s right, white men. White men such as, Hemingway, Shakespeare, Twain, and Fitzgerald. These men had great influence on literature. These men wrote legendary and iconic books and novels. They help power within their era of literature. Hence why they are apart of the ‘cannon’. In today’s society, I believe we can come up with a modern literary canon that these feminist writers fought for. Women have a big impact in today’s society, and it is hard to believe how belittled their literature, along with other minorities, became.
Our author of Diving Into the Wreck, Adrienne Rich brings light and awareness to background literature. Starting off her poem, she talks about the ‘book of myths.’ We know that the book of myths is writings from western civilization. The book of myths leads back into the literary canon. I won’t go back into a tangent on the canon, but again, this poem shows us the effects of the cannon. In the sense of diving, Rich is diving into the literary past. The wreck is a metaphor for lost writers (minority writers, non canon writers). Therefore, Rich is digging herself deep into the literary past. Rich uses a great use of word play. She draws a picture in the readers mind of this body of water being the literary past. I think Rich made awareness to the past and the canon that we as readers need to learn.
Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath had a friendship. Not a typical, let's go hang out and gossip, type of friendship. These ladies had an interest in death. Specifically their own death. The only way they could communicate their feelings was through poetry.
Suicide is a big deal. Here you can find the suicide rates for the post-war era.
These two poets confined their friendship through death. Death consumed their minds but it bonded the two ladies.
In "Sylvia's Death" by Anne Sexton, Sexton repeats the it. The it is "our boy." We all know it really is not an actual human, but it is death. They treated death so casually. Anne Sexton wrote this specific poem as if she was trying to speak to her, now, dead friend, Sylvia Plath. She wrote this poem in an envious tone. She felt as if it was a competition to see who got to visit death first.
Digging in deeper to Sexton's thoughts, I believe she is now upset that Sylvia is now dead and she has no one to lust on death with.
how did you crawl into,
crawl down alone
into the death I wanted so badly and for so long,"
These lines show how envious and lonely Anne Sexton now feels without her friend, Sylvia.
My only question is why did these two women want death so badly? Why were their lives so sad that death was the only thing that made them happy. I believe Anne wrote this poem, not for Sylvia, but for herself. She is almost ranting about Sylvia's death. This is not healthy to be so caught up with an ending.
My question to my readers, would the tables be turned if Anne killed herself before Sylvia could kill herself? Do you think Sylvia would, too, write such an envious poem to her friend, Anne?
"Sylvia's Death" (1963) by Anne Sexton
We all have heard of the saying, "blood is thicker than water," but is it true in the case of Stella being stuck in between her sister, Blanche, and her husband, Stanley? Let's break down how toxic Blanche and Stanley are.
For starters, Stanley plays a very toxic husband. He is very dominant and controlling. But Stella keeps running back to him... Why? Was it because she was having his baby or was she truly in love with him? If we did not read this play, what would be the assumptions (just by watching the video clips)? Stanley treated Stella poorly. Especially when Blanche came into the picture.
When Blanche came into their lives, the brought baggage. The baggage of what was her past... the plantation. Blanche had no one left for her so she decided to being under Stella's wings. This really set Stanley off. Blanche became emotionally abusive toward Stella, and almost manipulative.
Both Blanche and Stanley took a toll on Stella. Like when Blanche and Stanley would argue or even when Stanley raped Blanche. Stella had no other choice but to crack down and pick a side. In this case, Stella stays with Stanley, and this leads me back to my question, why?
Personally, I believe this is where Tennessee William's came up with the title, "Streetcar Named Desire." Each character had their own wants and desires in the long run.
Stanley desired to be the 'man' of the house. (Though we see him give in to his masculinity and cries for Stella at his weakness... I won't even get into that right now!)
Blanche desired support from her sister.
Stella desired for love from both her husband Stanley, and Blanche, her sister.
So my question to you is; Is blood thicker than water?? Who should she have chosen? An abusive man or a draining sister.
A Portrait in Georgia reflects on a very specific person. Not just a person, a woman. A woman in the Harlem Renaissance. She is beautiful but violent. She tells a two way story: her looks and her history. Jean Toomer has a very nice play of descriptive words. Each description is very specific and can tell a two sided story. "Hair braided chestnut, coiled like a lyncher’s rope" (Toomer). Toomer is describing this woman's hair. Not only is her hair chestnut but so is the coiled lyncher's rope. There is an ongoing/repetitive theme in beauty and history. Next we read about the eyes. They are described as fagots. Fagots are pieces of wood that are ready to be burned. Meaning this woman's eyes holds a fire. Her lips are old scars and blistered. This could indicate her past. Her breath smells like old sweet cane. Old and sweet gives off a fermented smell indicating age. Her slim body is like burned flesh. No matter what you burn, it will turn into ashes. This reading being under the Harlem renaissance is showing black history. Learning about black history, we are going to hear stories of the past. The past being slavery and racism. Beauty and violence are coiled together in the south.
This whole set of readings showed great and in depth detail of black history. Black history is important in modern literature because the history was so important to know. It is crucial for us to learn about black history through literature because we read as if we are living the life of the author. Whereas learning about black history through textbooks could be dry. We as readers find a better understanding of the past through literature.
Work Citing: "Portrait in Georgia" by Jean Toomer
Starting this semester out, we put our focus on modernist poetry. Our first poet is Marianne Moore. She wrote, "Poetry." I found this poem to be very intriguing. Poetry being our "it." Marianne seems to be critiquing her passion, poetry. This poem was a kick off to the rest of the modern poetry that we read and discussed in class.
We then discussed "Of Modern Poetry" by Wallace Stevens. What I got out of this poem was that Stevens is explaining what it takes to be a modern poet and how poetry mirrors the modern world or time period.
H.D's "Oread" and "The Garden" bring a nature aspect to modern poetry. She uses nature to explain some greater meaning of our modern society.
William Carlos William's "The Red Wheelbarrow" was very complex but so short and difficult to interpret. The way Williams played with his words and the set up of his poem stanzas. Though it seems the setting is at a farm or field, we can infer that it is more than a wheelbarrow. It is a metaphorical image portraying that our lives depend on other things that depends on other things. It is a continuous loop. The chickens depend on the wheelbarrow but what about the rain? The wheelbarrow is a support system but without the rain, could there be any form of healthy life?
Williams' next poem, "This is Just to Say" has a very good play of words. Watching the video in class of someone acting out the poem and speaking it gave me a better understanding of this poem. To me, he comes off condescending. He teases his wife or who ever he is writing to that the plums were delicious, however, they were not his plums, they were hers.
All of these short modern poems gives a hidden message about our society. As discussed in class, a lot of these modern poems have to do with sex, dependency, and freedom. I think that women also had a great movement in modernist poetry and was a great way to express how they felt.