For class on Tuesday, one of the stories analyzed was “The Goophered Grapevine” by Charles W. Chestnutt. While reading this short story as a pair, we became deeply disturbed by the blatant racism expressed through the narrative of the African American hand that gives them a tour of a prospective plantation property that John might purchase. Although the racism is made obvious throughout the story, it seems overdone to the point that the African American hand could be viewed as ignorant and uneducated. This fact is interesting because the author, Charles W. Chestnutt, is of African and Caucasian decent, making his response puzzling. In light of the racist comments, the author is emphasizing the view of African Americans through societies stereotypes. An example would be when the hand is telling the narrative of the plantation and says: “Now, ef dey’s an’thing a nigger lub, nex’ter possum, en chick’n, en watermillyums…” (Chesnutt 97). If the thick accent or dialect isn’t obvious enough, the author includes an African Americans supposed favorite foods that stereotypes all African Americans in one group. Another example is that the short story is based on an African American slave stealing grapes; Do only African Americans steal? Also, the hand when describing the plantation refers to himself as a nigger. Why would an African American refer to themselves with such a derogatory term? In modern society, African Americans use this historical term in many ways to refer to many things, however, it wasn’t always this way. Reading this short story took us back to a point in history that has substantially grown since 1887. Society has leaps and bounds to conquer before all races will be viewed as equal, but with the substantial growth thus far it is hard to understand the viewpoint of the writer during this time period. African Americans are included in multiple genres of modern society, yet we are being asked to analyze a piece of literature that makes the growth a mute-point. We found it very intriguing that out of all the students in class, no one brought up the extreme racism and how it affected the readers understanding (not only the dialect, but the racist comments). Once we arrived at the narrative from the hand, we decided to stop reading because the text was difficult to understand and made us uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is a way to grow and challenge ones self, and should be confronted in the English major, however, the literary knowledge gained from this story was little to none (in our opinion).
In class we discussed some characteristics that describe a monster: Abnormality (physical or mental) of society that frightens people, capable of destruction, is or is perceived as evil. These characteristics were not familiar to Henry until he performed a heroic act that left him scared for life. After the act the people of the town believed Henry to be dead, and perceived him as a hero for his bravery: “The name of Henry Johnson became suddenly the title of a saint to the little boys” (93). Once the town found out that Henry had survived, they immediatley felt fear struck into their hearts. But why? He had just saved a boy’s life that was hanging by a thread, yet the people of the town welcomed him with disgust. After becoming deformed, the people of the town took notice of the color of Henry’s skin, and started to insult him. Before Henry’s race was just a casual word in conversation; now it is a weapon the town uses against him. Nobody saw him as himself : “Folks go round sayin’ he ain’t Henry Johnson at all. They say he’s er devil!” (98). Because of his change in appearance the town judged him and thought he should be killed. In their minds he wasn’t able to be himself so he should be taken out of his misery. However, Henry was still behaving normally: “The dark figure at the doctor’s side answered with a cheerful laugh” (96). If Henry is able to speak and laugh, then why is he seen as a monster? Why would people want to kill him? Why would you believe he isn’t getting anything out of life if he is happy? The town was quick to judge. They viewed someone as a monster only because he didn’t look like everyone else anymore.
We see this sort of judgement in Frankenstein when the monster is hated because he is ugly and different. In the beginning of the book, the monster was innocent; he had never done anything to make people hate him. That was the same with Henry Johnson. He was a respected man in town even before he saved a boy’s life. However, the respect people had should have carried over into Henry’s recovery instead of jumping into straight judgment. The town in “The Monster” and the people in Frankenstein were shallow. They made innocent people out to be evil when in reality they weren’t harming anyone. It is upsetting that when a person is different, physically or mentally, they are quickly downgraded from being a person to being a thing that everyone is disgusted with. Therefore, what is a monster? Is it someone who is actually evil? Or is it someone that society views as evil because they are different then the social norm?
In the short story of The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, it was obvious that there was evidence of mental illness which Poe believed had made him more acute to the senses. When reading this story one might laugh at the denial of the mad man. But he believed the illness had strengthened him, not destroyed him. Multiple times throughout the story he would question why people believed he was a mad man: ” I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad” (Poe 13)? Its funny how he does not believe he is mentally ill, yet he can hear heaven and hell. He mentions his powers casually in the beginning of the story as if to make light of his illness. Making sure a reader does not get distracted with his illness, and focus on the eye of the story. Cautiously, oh so cautiously, Poe stutters constantly and gives light to his mental illness. When Poe is describing doing an action, he stutters which emphasizes his mental illness. The main theme in the story is that Poe is stalking an older man and plans to kill him because of his Evil Eye: “It was open-wide, wide open-and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness-all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones…” (Poe 15). Because the Evil Eye is capitalized, he is personifying the eye by giving it an identity. He also refers to the eye as a vulture eye. When approaching the old man in his slumber, Poe felt that he was very stealthy in entering just his head into the door. He felt that he covered up his tracks very well and that the police would have no idea: “If you still think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body” (Poe 16) He also mentions how he has nothing to fear twice while the police are still in the house. Poe ultimately was a victim to his mental illness and confessed to the police. He believed that he could hear the beating heard under the floor boards where he placed the victims body parts, which riddled his mind with guilt: “I admit the deed!–tear up the planks!. here, here!–it is the beating of this hideous heart” (Poe 17)!
This story was very interesting, and funny to read because of the satirical denial of Poe throughout the story. He says he’s not mad, but gives examples to prove his point that instead prove otherwise.
Negri, Paul. Great American Short Stories: The Tell-Tale Heart. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2002. 13-17. Print.
In the 1800’s there were many writers that were writing about Nature: the curing and knowledgable connection to God, and were considered Romantics in the era of Romanticism. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written in 1818, one of the overall main themes is loneliness. During this time period Nature was supposed to help and guide one to not be lonely, but be one with God. For example, Victor Frankenstein is on his way to Geneva and says,: “All around was calm, and the snowy mountains, ‘the palaces of nature,’ were not changed. By degrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me, and I continue my journey towards Geneva” (Shelley 54-55). Nature helped Victor move forward and uplift his spirits. Before Victor returned to Geneva he was struck by Nature and said,: “…and if I was ever overcome by ennui, the sight of which is beautiful in Nature, or the study of what is excellent in sublime in the productions of man, could always interest my heart, and communicate elasticity to my spirits” (Shelley 133). Victor is saying that Nature could always interest and uplift him with its beauty. Victor was fascinated by Nature and references to the earth being sacred that he is kneeling on (Shelley 171). The monster also exhibits romantic views when he says,: “…the day, which was one of the first of spring, cheered even me by the loveliness of its sunshine and the balminess of the air. I felt emotions of gentleness and pleasure, that had long appeared dead, revive within me. Half surprised by the novelty of these sensations, I allowed myself to be borne away by them; and, forgetting my solitude and deformity, dare to be happy ( Shelley 115). Since the monster is one with Nature he feels happy, but eventually goes back to being lonely again along with Victor. The connection between the loneliness of the characters and the help from Nature is that Nature aided the characters in continuing their journey because they could see the possibilities provided by Nature. Without Nature there would not be a connection to what is holy to the characters and deepen the loneliness.
Our discussion of Frankenstein helped us notice the importance of Nature and the relevance of everyones loneliness. Once Nature was mentioned the idea of ones depression was forgotten. We felt that it was important to discuss the importance of how Nature helped endure on, even when the characters were terribly sad and lonely.
Hello all! The authors of Currently Speaking will be Allyson Porter and Megan Zielinski. The purpose of Currently Speaking is to enhance our understanding of the readings by delving more in-depth. When reading classic literature we have agreed that the comprehension is decreased and needs further analysis in order to understand completely. For this blog, the audience we are trying to reach besides classmates are other scholars or people interested in 19th century literature. Our blog will be a general blog that is related to what we are discussing in class to further enhance our understanding. The tone of voice we plan to use is professional and educated in order to convey proper analysis. At the end of our blog posts we plan to sign off with either A or M or A&M depending on who wrote the post. Our plan is, since we live together, that we will write each post as a group to have more developed analysis. Hope everyone enjoys!