Jarrell, Plath and Baldwin

Randall Jarrell

Randall Jarrell experienced many interesting things in his life that inspired many of his poems. Two of his poems, “Losses” and “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” are based on his experiences in the Second World War. I had read “The Death of a Ball Turret Gunner” in a previous class and I found it to be a little crude; I now see it as I believe it is meant to be interpreted. Jarrell successfully conveyed his message in this poem in such a short and concise way that it comes off as cold and crude but in reality it is not. The poem is the story of a young man barely old enough to fight, going off to war and dying in his plane. It is actually a sad poem but its terse nature mimics the attitude that the military takes on death of a soldier during a war, which makes it seem even more tragic to me. Jarrell’s poem “Losses” was written in the same somber tone and it too chronicles the life of the boys who were too young to die so far from home. The narrator of the poem speaks of things that only a child would have thought; bombing cities they learned of in school or comparing their death to that of a pet or an aunt because that is the only death they had previously known. He also speaks of how impersonal the military is during war; the boys feel that they are only a mistake if they die and they only make the death rate a little higher. Both of these poems seem so tragic to me because they are so true. War is a terrible thing as it is but to take young men from their home and force them to fight and die for their country is even worse if you ask me.

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath’s poetry mirrors her dark life and her tragic end. Her poems are extremely deep and full of profound meaning but they are a little hard for me to understand. One thing that makes her work stand out as much as it does is that she uses so much imagery and description in her work; it fills her poems with emotion and feeling. It is for her use of imagery and wording that I enjoyed reading her work but even though I read the selected poems in the text book, not much of it made sense to me so I looked them up to see what I could find out. One poem that I found especially beautiful was her poem “Ariel”. This poem seems to make use of several different references; the original story of the Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, her beloved horse named Ariel which means “Lioness of God” in Hebrew and Sylvia herself. Ariel is also the carefree spirit who wanted for release in Shakespeare's “The Tempest”. Sylvia may or may not have used these things in her inspiration for the poem but many speculate that she did. In her poem “Fever 103” she writes about the overwhelming influence that society has on people who are already fighting with self-identity. The speaker doesn’t really have a fever, she is simply attempting to comprehend who she is; she is confused, lost, hopeless in her self-confidence and ego. I personally think this poem is about the tension between good and evil. In the poem, the speaker is torn between her desire for purity and her desire for sexual pleasure; this makes her feel like a feverish person experiencing hot and cold flashes. Sylvia Plath’s poems are great works of literature that have earned their place in the history of American Literature and will never falter.

*I used the Sylvia Plath Forum for most of my information.*


A Raisin in the Sun

I have seen this play a few times, both versions that are on film and in person. I have always thought it was a good story but I have never quite understood the title; I mean does a title have to make perfect sense with the story? I think that Walter and Beneatha were both being very selfish and spoiled throughout the whole story. For one thing, they should have more respect for the money because it came from their father’s life insurance; if it weren’t for him and Mama they wouldn’t even have the money. Mama had every right to go put a down payment on that house because the money was hers. If I had been in the same situation I would have put the down payment on the house and then given some to Beneatha for school and put the rest in a savings account. Mama should never have listened to Walter and never should have trusted him with the rest of the money. She was very foolish but I can understand why she did; he is her only son and she wanted to trust and believe in him. Then again Walter was being extremely unfair to Mama and the whole family, so she may have done it just to shut him up. I admire the whole family for standing up for themselves and not giving in to Mr. Linder’s proposals and just as a side note, I think its funny that the actor who plays Mr. Linder is the voice of Piglet from Winnie the Pooh. I really like the end of the play because everything seems to work out the way it should. I would love to find a small house with a fenced in yard where I could plant a little garden and have my own little world.


Steinbeck, Welty, and Wright.

John Steinbeck

This story is not too entertaining but it is a good story and it has a good lesson. I had never read this particular story before nor had I ever heard of it but I’m glad that I did have to read it because I kind of liked it. I don’t think the mother in the story treated her children fairly though; the two younger children had to do all the work when the oldest child got to laze about doing whatever he pleased. I think all children should be treated as equals when it comes to chores and housework; with the exception of smaller children. I know my sister and I always had pretty equal chore lists even though we are five years apart. Another thing that I didn’t agree with is the fate of the oldest boy. Could he not have just stayed and explained what happened so he didn’t absolutely have to die? I mean I’m sure he would have been hanged for murder anyways but at least his family would have known what happened to him. The mother should have known not to trust her oldest son to go to town all alone and not mess something up because he is a lazy, arrogant, young man. She should have sent her younger son with him; maybe if she had he would not have accidentally killed that man and would therefore not be in trouble and he would be alive at the end of the story. On top of that, the mother should have sent her son away with more than just beef jerky and a handful of bullets; a person on the run needs more food than that and definitely needs more than ten little bullets. The last thing that really irked me was the fact that they had to shoot the horse just to kill the boy; if you have a good enough aim to kill the horse then you can just kill the boy and let the horse live. I have always hated westerns and historic battle scenes in movies for that exact reason; they kill the poor horses when they don’t have too.

Eudora Welty

I did not care for this piece one bit; I found it offensive and I was unable to get past the first page. So I did not bother to read the rest. I am sorry.

Richard Wright

I really liked this story, though I feel like Mary and Jan were actually making fun of Bigger even though they were treating him as an equal. I think it is a shame that African Americans once had to feel as if we were out to get them if we were trying to be decent human beings. However, I do think that the biggest race issues that remain today are there because of the African American pop culture; they reinforce the stereotypes and racial profiles themselves. First of all, I wonder where the name Bigger came from; is he a large kid or even a small kid or something? It’s an odd name for a person even if it is a made up character. Secondly, Jan should never be a man’s name; it is definitely a female name only. I think I may have to read the rest of the novel to find out, but I wonder if Jan is blamed for Mary’s disappearance or if Bigger is ever discovered? I think Bigger should have left Mary’s body lying in bed and made it seem like she died of alcohol poisoning or something; unless they could forensically discover her cause of death, then burning it was the best idea. Though I don’t see how anyone could not have smelt the burning flesh. I also wonder if Mary’s parents were ever told what their daughter was up to at night; I mean they could be black listed for having association with their daughter and her communist friends. It is too bad that Mary had to die though; I think it would have been interesting if she had lived and ran off with Bigger instead of Jan, I wonder what her parents would have done or said. That could have been pretty interesting.


Hurston, Cather and Glaspell

Zora Neale Hurston

I have never read any of Zora Neale Hurston's works but I have heard of many of them, and if the others are as well written as "The Gilded Six-bits" then I do believe that I may take the time to read more of her work. I did not really enjoy the first piece we had to read; it was sort of bland and uninteresting to me, as most essays usually are. However, I did like the message that the author was trying to express in the essay; Zora spoke of her childhood and the times where she realized the difference between black and white but didn't understand why there was such importance put on the differences between people instead of what made them all human beings. I believe that society should begin to see everything in a shade of gray instead of just black and white, then maybe we could make some progress in the world. With that said, I did really like the second piece we read; it was a very good story and I think it teaches some very good lessons. For one I think it shows that a good relationship is built on trust and sometimes it takes a bit of a test to show just how strong that relationship really is. The husband caught his wife with another man and even though he was hurt and betrayed, he stayed with his wife and ultimately forgave her in the end. That is a very good relationship if you ask me; I think every woman would be lucky to have such a loyal and forgiving man in their life. I thought it was so great at the end when he came home to his wife and started to play that old game with her again, it was very touching. I can only hope my Chris could be as wonderful to me as he was to her.

Willa Cather

After reading the pieces written by Willa Cather, I wonder whether she was a lover of music and art because both of these pieces deal with a character who has an unusually strong relationship with music and art. Both pieces were very nice stories and I enjoyed both of them very much even though they both ended rather depressingly. I can completely relate to the main characters in both pieces because I too have a great love for art and music; I could not imagine my life without music, it would be so drab and colorless. I can be having a horrible day and then I can listen to a nice piece of music like Claude Debussy's “Claire De Lune” or Vivaldi's “Four Season's” and I'm much better. I found Paul's character to be a bit tragic in a way because he was a little misunderstood and he just wanted what made him happy. I think we can all say that about ourselves in one way or another you know? Everyone is a little misunderstood and are just trying to find a bit of happiness in their lives. Georgiana's character was very tragic as well, she gave up everything she loved to be with her husband and make him happy. That is something that too many women of that time fell into, they had to give up their happiness for the sake of men, but who said that women aren't allowed to be happy? I think that Georgiana should have taken her love of music to new heights,made a career out of it or something so she could have at least kept her love and happiness alive. I don't think I could have kept my sanity or even survived out in the middle of nowhere with no music of any sort, especially if it was such a big part of my life beforehand. Kudos to all those women who gave up a part of themselves for their men, it took some serious guts.

Susan Glaspell

Susan Glaspell's play, “Trifles” has always been interesting to me. She captured the reality of the differences in the way men and women thought and behaved in that time and even now in some instances. Men and women have always had a difference in opinion when it came to what was important but what is ironic is in the play it is these insignificant things that really solve the crime. The men were so wrapped up in trying to find anything they could to pin the murder on Mrs. Wright that they overlooked everything that pointed to the motive of the crime; everything that only the women would notice because they can understand the sorrowful life of a childless farmer's wife and ultimately women go about things and think much differently then men. I have always felt sorry for the main character, Mrs. Wright, because she had such a sad life. I don't blame her for killing her husband because he was a mean old thing and he didn't care at all about wife's happiness. Mrs. Wright had always wanted a family but she and her husband had no children so her pet bird was the closet thing to a child, friend and companion that the poor woman had. I feel the same way about my dog, Rusty, he is the closest thing to a child a may ever get due to my health and I don't know what I would do if I lost him. The remnants of her happiness was in the little yellow bird and when her husband killed it she couldn't take it anymore. I have always thought that it was very good of the women to not tell the authorities about everything they found and let the men go one wondering what really happened. I really love this story and I may choose it as the topic for my first paper.