Friday, February 18, 2011

Wallace Stevenson

"Disillusionment of Ten O’clock"
In the first three quarters of the poem Stevens talks about how everyone is uniformly the same (literally and fashionably speaking). How no one dares to be different, they just get through their day and do the same thing the next. Also how these people are not going to fall to a pleasant sleep and "dream of baboons and periwinkles." Almost like they limit themselves, or maybe they don’t. Maybe it’s the fact that they are just insipid persons!

The poem reads "Only, here and there, an old sailor drunk and asleep in his boots catches tigers in red weather." The Sailor who is "drunk and asleep in his boots," is a renegade, in the sense that he prefers walking to the beat of his own drum. He hasn’t a care to be like everyone else, Individuality is of importance to him. Being a sailor represents one who has traveled the world. It shows the restriction of tradition and conformity in the world of those in the "white night gowns." My thoughts are that Stevens uses the sailor to portray himself.

Red Weather, what is "Red Weather" and why is he catching tigers? If you dissect it, the color red can symbolize passion, love, war, violence, and aggression. The weather aspect of the stanza might be a type of metaphor explaining that instead of its usual meaning, weather represents a front moving in. He dreams about catching tigers. Tigers, generally speaking symbolize strength and power. The living symbol of a tiger on the other hand has a regal quality and is courageous, active and self-assured. They also have an magnetic personality that attracts people to them. Tigers tend to renounce confining traditional roles, opting for a more unfettered life. There is usually a position of authority held by those who have traits as tigers.

The drunken sailor might dream about capturing those people in "white night gowns" and making them break free from thier dull, dull lives because he’s passionate for what he believes in. Maybe he just sees red and wants to take his anger out on them for not staying true to their selves. Or he’s lonely. He drinks and then continues on to fall asleep and dream of finding and marrying someone who can accept him. "Red Weather" could possibly be an older way for saying "love’s in the air."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Summary: The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath tells the gripping story of the Joad family in which it illustrates the hardships and oppression suffered by migrants during the Great Depression. It explicitly describes the political tract and the actions by the lower classes over expressions of self-interest and chastises corporate and banking for shortsighted policies meant to maximize profit even while forcing farmers into destitution.

The novel begins with the description of the conditions in Dust Bowl Oklahoma that ruined the crops and instigated massive foreclosures on farmland. No specific characters emerge initially, a technique that Steinbeck will return to several times in the book, juxtaposing descriptions of events in a larger social context with those more specific to the Joad family.

Tom Joad, a man not yet thirty, approaches a diner dressed in spotless, somewhat formal clothing. He hitches a ride with a truck driver at the diner, who presses Tom for information until Tom finally reveals that he was just released from McAlester prison, where he served four years for murdering a man during a fight. Steinbeck follows this with an interlude describing a turtle crossing the road, which he uses as a metaphor for the struggles of the working class.

On his travels home, Tom meets his former preacher, Jim Casy, a talkative man gripped by doubts over religious teachings and the presence of sin. He gave up the ministry after realizing that he found little wrong with the sexual liaisons he had with women in his congregation. The view that what is holy in human nature comes not from a distant god, but from the people themselves. Steinbeck contrasts Tom's return with the arrival of bank representatives to evict the tenant farmers and the tractors to farm the land. He raises the possibility of a working class insurrection, but cannot find an effective target for collective action.

When Tom and Casy reach the Joad's house, it has been deserted. Muley Graves, a local elderly man who may not be sane, tells them that the Joads have been evicted, and now stay with Uncle John. Muley's own family has left to find work in California, but Muley decided to stay himself. That night, since they are trespassing on the property now owned by the bank, the three are forced to hide from the police who might arrest them.

Steinbeck follows this with a description of the tactics that car dealers use to exploit impoverished customers. They find that they can make a greater profit by selling damaged jalopies than by selling dependable new cars.
Tom Joad finds the rest of his family staying with Uncle John, a morose man prone to depression after the death of his wife several years before. His mother is a strong, sturdy woman who is the moral center of family life. His brother, Noah, may have been brain damaged during childbirth, while his sister, Rose of Sharon is recently married and pregnant. Her husband, Connie Rivers, has dreams of studying radios. Tom's younger brother, Al, is only sixteen and has the concerns befitting that age. This is followed by a more general description of the sale of items by impoverished families who intend to leave Oklahoma for California, as the Joads expect to do.

The Joads plan to go to California based on flyers they found advertising work in the fields there. These flyers, as Steinbeck will soon reveal, are fraudulent advertisements meant to draw more workers than necessary and drive down wages. Jim Casy asks to accompany the Joads to California so that he can work with people in the fields rather than preach at them. Before the family leaves, Grampa Joad refuses to go, but the family gives him medicine that knocks him unconscious and takes him with them. The subsequent chapters describes the vacant houses that remain after the Oklahoma farmers leave for work elsewhere, as well as the conditions on Route 66, the highway that stretches from Oklahoma to Bakersfield, California.

Almost immediately into the journey, the Joad family loses two members. The first victim is the family dog, which is run over during their first stop. The second is Grampa Joad, who dies of a stroke. The Wilson family helps the Joads when Grampa dies, and the two families decide to make the journey to California together. Steinbeck follows this with a larger statement about the growing of a collective consciousness among the working class, who shift their perceptions from "I" to "we."

The Wilson's car soon breaks down, and Tom and Casy consider separating from the rest of the family temporarily to fix the car, but Ma Joad refuses to let the family break apart even temporarily. Tom and Al do find the necessary part to fix the car at a junkyard, where the one-eyed man who watches over the junkyard complains about his boss and threatens to murder him. Before the Joads set out on their journey again, they find a man returning from California who tells them that there is no work there, and the promises of work in the flyers are a fraud.
The Joads and Wilsons reach California, where they are immediately subjected to intimidation by police officers who derisively call them and other migrant laborers "Okies." At the first camp where they stay, Granma becomes quite ill, but receives some comfort from proselytizing Jehovites who merely annoy Ma Joad. The police force them out of the camp, but the Wilsons choose the possibility of arrest instead, since Sairy Wilson is too sick to continue. The next time that the police stop the Joads on their travels, Ma Joad forces them to let them pass without inspection. She does this to hide from the police the fact that Granma has died.

Steinbeck follows this with a description of the history of California, which he frames as one marked by oppression and slavery. However, he predicts an imminent revolution, for the people there have been deprived to such a great degree that they must take what they need in order to survive.

At the next camp where the Joads stay on their search for work, they learn about Weedpatch, a government camp where the residents do not face harassment by police officers and have access to amenities including baths and toilets. When more police officers attempt to start a fight with Tom and several other migrant workers, Tom trips him and Casy knocks him unconscious. To prevent Tom from taking the blame, for he would be sent back to jail for violating his parole, Casy accepts responsibility for the crime and is taken away to jail. The rest of the family begins to break apart as well. Uncle John leaves to get drunk, Noah decides to leave society altogether and live alone in the woodlands, and Connie abandons his pregnant wife. Before they must move on, Tom does retrieve Uncle John, who is still consumed with guilt over his wife's death. They head north toward the government camp.

At the government camp, the Joads are shocked to find how well the other residents treat them and how efficiently this society ­ in which the camp leaders are elected by the residents ­ functions. Tom even finds work the next day, but the contractor, Mr. Thomas, warns him that there will be trouble at the dance at Weedpatch that weekend. Since the police can only enter the camp if there is trouble, they intend to plant intruders there who will instigate violence.

The Joads settle into a comfortable existence at the government camp, and during the dance that Saturday, Tom and several other residents defuse the situation, preventing the police from taking control of the camp. Nevertheless, after a month in Weedpatch none of the Joads have found steady work and realize that they must continue on their journey. They arrive at Hooper Ranch, where the entire family picks peaches. The wages they receive are higher than normal, for they are breaking a strike. Tom finds out that the leader of the labor force that is organizing the strike is Jim Casy. After his time in prison, Casy realized that he must fight for collective action by the working class against the wealthy ruling class. Tom, Casy and the other strike leaders get into a fight with strike breakers, and one of them murders Casy with a pick handle. Tom struggles with the man and wrests away the weapon. He, in turn, kills the man who murdered Casy, and barely escapes capture by the police.

Although Tom wishes to leave the family to spare them from taking responsibility for him, the Joads nevertheless decide to leave Hooper Ranch for a location where Tom can be safe. They reach cotton fields up north, where Tom hides in the woods while the family stays in a boxcar. Although the family attempts to keep Tom's identity and location a secret, young Ruthie Winfield reveals it during a fight with another child. When Ma tells Tom about this, he decides to leave the family and go off alone, determined to fight for the cause for which Casy died, and vows to return to his family one day.

The raining season arrived almost immediately after Tom left the family, causing massive flooding. The Joads are caught in a dangerous situation: they cannot escape the flooding because Rose of Sharon suddenly goes into labor. While other families evacuate the camp near the rapidly rising creek, the Joads remain and attempt to stop the flood waters. Without the aid of others, the Joads are unsuccessful, and they must seek refuge on the top of their car. Rose of Sharon delivers a stillborn child that Uncle John sends in a box down the creek. The family eventually reaches higher ground and finds a barn for shelter. Inside the barn is a starving man and his young son. Steinbeck ends the novel with Rose of Sharon, barely recovered from the delivery, breastfeeding the dying man to nurse him back to health.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Inter-Chapters and Symbolism in The Grapes of Wrath

Authors often use many different writing styles and techniques when creating their novels. They use these certain methods in order to make their stories more descriptive and easier to understand. John Steinbeck uses many literary techniques in The Grapes of Wrath to help the reader better understand the story. For instance, by writing the inter-chapters, Steinbeck often foreshadows the regular chapters and the events that will occur in them. Another literary tool used very well by Steinbeck is his use of symbolism throughout the entire novel. He is able to produce a great deal of symbols which can provide for a clearer understanding of the novel through things such as animals, machines, and nature.
In The Grapes of Wrath, many different literary techniques are used to further describe and bring to life the novel, but the two that Steinbeck uses the most are the inter-chapters and symbolism. The inter-chapters are a purely unique creation by John Steinbeck. Because of the extent of description that he writes with, these chapters fit very well into the novel. Clearly, the author’s goal is to have the reader picture the harsh situations that the Joads and other families have to go through. By thoroughly describing each setting, this creates a more vivid image for the reader. Also, these inter-chapters contain a more of a general picture as to what is going on during the time period of the Joad’s journey. While the regular chapters are written to tell the specific story of the Joad family and document their journey to California, the inter-chapters, usually, correspond with the story line of the novel. The inter-chapters, eventually, become very intriguing as the story progresses.
After awhile, as the story progresses, the two different types of chapters gives the story a rhythmical pattern. The inter-chapters are a key part in The Grapes of Wrath because they provide indirect comments and show general situations which foreshadow the personal tragedies of the main characters. These comments and situations help give the reader an understanding of what the characters are facing through their journey by either showing metaphorically their triumphs and struggles or explaining the history of the period that they are living in.
Chapter three is an inter-chapter. In this chapter, Steinbeck describes a “concrete highway” (p. 20) that a land turtle struggles to cross. The turtle has almost reached his destination when a truck hits it. This chips its shell, and it is thrown on its back. The turtle then has to struggle with all of its might to turn back over. Eventually the turtle flips back over and continues on its journey. This chapter represents the continuous struggles and obstacles that the Joads would have to cope with throughout the entire story. Throughout the novel the Joads meet many hardships. They are forced to leave their home, lose family members such as the grandparents and Noah, work for low wages, and suffer from hunger, floods, and cruel prejudices in California. Like the turtle, the Joads refuse to give up and continue on with their journey.
Chapter five is another inter-chapter that discusses the tractors that would come to the land and plow through it. It destroys everything in its path. This chapter is an abstract conflict between the tenant farmer and the banks. The banks want to take over the land to make more money, but it is very difficult for the farmers to leave because the land has been settled by their grandfathers. One tenant farmers is so upset that he threatens to shoot the driver by saying “(he’d) be in the window with a rifle” (p. 51). Another chapter describes a tenant farmer that has to leave and is cheated into paying too much for a car.
Chapter nine describes the generalized families who must sell their sentimental goods at absurdly low prices. These chapters represent the situations which the Joads encounter very soon. The Joads must leave their land and sell all of their things. Later in the novel, Grandpa threatens to kill the tractor driver who was plowing their land just like the tenant farmer who Steinback described. Also, the Joads buy a used car in order to get to California and are ripped off. The inter-chapters provided general social situations which the “Okies” have to face.
Inter-chapters nineteen and twenty-one describe the development of land ownership in California. Chapter nineteen explains how the Americans took California from the Mexicans, and people known as squatters (p. 315) acquired lots of land and thought of it as their own. They hired people to work the land and became great landowners. Soon, many people from Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas began to arrive and the owners did not want them to become squatters so they hated them and called them Okies (p. 318). These owners cut wages in order to pay policemen to guard and protect their property. In the next chapter, the Joads are called “Okies”. A young man explains to Tom that the people are afraid that the “Okies” will organize a powerful group if they stay in one place for long enough, so they push them around. This man also explains how no one can get people together to organize groups because the cops arrest anyone who starts doing this. Chapter twenty- one describes how the people with small jobs in California are afraid of the “Okies” because they do not want to lose their jobs. The people from Oklahoma were being “pushed out (of their jobs) and (they) swarmed on the highways” (p.385) looking for new work. Meanwhile, the big companies can make wages very low because people are starving and would work for anything.
After the events in the novel have been told in a general sense by John Steinbeck, they come to life through the Joad family. The inter-chapters describe general situations and the chapters after them explain how that particular situation affects or will affect the Joads. The reader can learn many details about the hardships that the Joads went through by reading about the hardships of the migrant workers as a whole.
Another literary technique Steinbeck uses is symbolism. Steinbeck’s writing is filled with symbols in order to clearly show the importance of the ideas and main themes of the novel. Possibly the most important symbol in The Grapes of Wrath are the grapes. The actual grapes are not the symbol in the novel, but the idea of grapes represents hope in the beginning of the book. When Granpa tells his wonderful story about sitting in a tub of grapes, this shows his and his families hopes of prosperity once they reach California. Although the Joads start out as an optimistic family, the wonderful grapes that they dream of soon will turn into grapes of wrath. The wrath is shown through the many deaths and obstacles they have to face on their journey.
 A symbol of nature in the novel is the dust that settles over the crops. The dust is a sign of death. This harsh dust symbolizes the harshness that fell over many farms. Because of “the dust filled air” (p. 4), the crops could not grow successfully, therefore, forcing the people off of their land. The land that is owned by the farmers is their most prized possession. “It is a part of (them)” (p.45). In a way, when the land of a farmer is taken away, a part of that farmer dies. The idea of machinery also contains a lot of symbolism in the novel. The “cat” (p.60) or tractor represents the bank people that take over the “Okies” farmland. The tractors are dead, unemotional machines. A tractor at any point can be shut off, and it does not know what it is doing. This is very much like the bankers. They are dead to the world and to the needs of people. They do not consider the situation of the people living in Oklahoma. The bankers only care about money. Another symbol which is closely tied to the greed of the bankers are the tractor drivers. The tractor drivers, for the most part, are normal people who used to live in Oklahoma. They will do anything the bank tells them to in order to make some extra money. These people also have no emotion. They are described as “robots” (p. 48) of the bank.
 Along with the images of machinery and nature in this book, there are some animal symbols. The turtle is a symbolic figure. Like the families, the turtle tries to make it to a certain place. As the turtle continues on with its journey, it is intentionally hit by a truck and flipped over onto its back. The truck driver intentionally hitting the turtle is symbolic for the many people in the novel that try to hurt the Joads. The banks, car salesman, landowners, and citizens of California all try to stop the Joads from living a prosperous and happy life. As well as the turtle, the Joad family dog is a major symbol in the novel. The dog starts off with the family on the journey. The dog one-day jumps out in front of the truck and gets run over. The death of the family dog represents just one of the many obstacles to come for the Joad family. Another symbol is Rose of Sharon’s “ blue shriveled little mummy” (p. 603) baby. This shows the reader that long, painful journeys with many problems sometimes amount to nothing in the end. By relating many of the themes in the novel to events or things, the reader gets a very clear understanding of John Steinbeck’s reason for writing this book.
In conclusion, the ideas of the inter-chapters and symbolism in The Grapes of Wrath are very closely intertwined. Much of the book’s symbolism comes from the inter-chapters. Some readers, at first, may not understand the seemingly sudden chapters of vivid description and background detail. As the story continues, however, they are imperative to the novel. One can better understand the situation of the “Okies” by understanding the details of the time period. In addition to the inter-chapters, Steinbeck does a great job with his symbols. The symbols express his points very clearly. These two aspects of the novel are very important, and because of them, the reader can feel as if they are right with the Joads throughout their entire journey