ENG 212 [ VOL E ] & THE NAMESAKE

Allen Ginsberg
One of the most respected Beat writers and acclaimed American poets of his generation; prominent place in post-World War II American culture;political aspect of Ginsberg’s work “an almost perfect fulfillment of the long, Whitman, Populist, social revolutionary tradition in American poetry.”

“A Supermarket in California”
Allen Ginsberg wrote the poem __ __________ __ ________” (500E)

Literature and Writing = talking to Walt Whitman bc Whitman was one of Ginsberg’s most influential inspirations, both in terms of poetic form and poetic content. Ginsberg’s poems often look a whole lot like Whitman’s do (sprawling poems with long sprawling lines), and Ginsberg writes a whole lot about Whitman’s favorite theme: the good ol’ US; Ginsberg trying to make a connection between himself and Whitman, and is trying to cast himself as Whitman’s literary son or heir.

Sexuality and Sexual Identity = One of the biggest connections that Ginsberg feels with Whitman (and Garcia Lorca) is that the poets were gay men, in times when being gay was not exactly a-okay with most of the population; feels outside of the mainstream while he wanders through the supermarket and through the darkened streets, and part of the reason for this is his alternative sexual identity (admires the families that he sees in the supermarket, and creates his own alternative family of gay poets)

Visions of America = poem doesn’t use the word “America” until the end of the poem, but that doesn’t mean this one’s not all about our fair nation. Ginsberg imagines an America that fits a very 1950s ideal: blue automobiles in driveways of suburban homes, whole families shopping together. The speaker feels like an outsider in this America, which is all about the things you can buy; he conjures up Whitman who, he hopes, represents a “lost America of love,” which was more about love than about things. But in the last line of the poem, the speaker calls all this into question: was there really ever an “America of love”? Or, like Walt Whitman, is this all a fantasy?

Name the themes in “A Supermarket in California”

Persona/Ginsberg = Both are more than a little obsessed with Whitman, both write like him, both wonder about him quite a bit; poem = clearly autobiographical; a little bit delusional (what, with his imaginary friend and all), a little bit lonely (why else would you have an imaginary friend?), and a little bit of a dreamer (he does seem to enjoy his jaunt through the aisles with Whitman); knows how to enjoy the pleasures a supermarket has to offer, but also knows that there’s a great big world out there, and it’s a little bit uglier and sadder than he’d like it to be.
Name the characters in “A Supermarket in California”

Market = seems to represent traditional family values, a consumerist culture obsessed with buying, and even America itself

Whitman = Like Ginsberg, Whitman was a gay man living in an America that was often, if not almost always, hostile to gay men and women. The speaker’s relationship with Whitman is not just about poetry, then. Whitman comes to represent a lifestyle as well

Name the symbols in “A Supermarket in California”

Flannery O’Conner
Interested in grotesque figures; something always marks at least one of her characters with a spiritual corruption; grew up Catholic in the South and those principles of grace and epiphany are always present in her work

“Good Country People”
Flannery O’Conner wrote the short story “_____ ______ ______” (445E)

Identity = “Good Country People” looks at the ways the characters identify themselves and others. In the case of both mother and daughter, the labels they throw around blind them to the people they come in contact with. This is never really challenged for Mrs. Hopewell, but when Bible salesman Manley Pointer enters their world, Hulga learns that there is more to good country people than she ever thought before, and as a result, her own identity is fiercely challenged

Society and Class = looks at class and social divisions in the southern United States in the 1950s (or thereabouts). Mrs. Hopewell is a wealthy landowner who sees her employees as beneath her because of their lower economic class, and she further divides working class folks into the categories of “trash” and “good country people.” It isn’t quite clear what the criteria are for membership in either of these classes, though.

Religion = O’Connor said, “I write the way I do because I am a Catholic.” “Good Country People” sets up an opposition between believing in God and believing in nothing, which is only halfway playful. While Hulga is open, honest, and seemingly committed to her atheism, the seemingly Christian characters are not devoted to their beliefs. Mrs. Hopewell doesn’t care about the Bible, and Manley uses it to get the things he needs—money, food, prosthetic limbs, and the like. Like people long overdue for communion, this book is filled with sinners.

Name the themes in “Good Country People”

Hulga/Joy = Hulga is thirty-two year old and has a doctoral degree in philosophy. She’s been doing heavy duty reading and writing for at least the past ten years, and probably plenty before that in high school. In other words, the lady’s learned a great deal—perhaps even too much. Her mother, Mrs. Hopewell, thinks Hulga doesn’t have “a grain of sense” (18). Book learning doesn’t always translate into practical real world skills, and Hulga feels isolated from the people who surround her, including her mother. So much gray matter, so few interpersonal skills.

Manley Pointer = a traveling Bible salesman, which sounds great until we’re told that he’s “from out in the country around Willohobie, not even from a place, just near a place” (40). Pro tip: When a character is “not even from a place,” it’s usually not a good sign. Right away, we’re given a hint that he’s elusive, hard to pin down; uses his perceived status as simple and good country folk to get what he wants; something sneaky, perhaps even predatory (sees Hulga as a trapped animal, as a creature to be claimed ((leg)) )

Mrs. Hopewell = A divorced, single woman running a successful farm in the southern U.S. in the 1950s, Mrs. Hopewell may be nice, but she’s definitely not meek; complains about her daughter’s “attitude” (13), but also feels super sorry for her because of her leg, her heart condition, and because she hasn’t “had any normal good times”; hypocrite; superiority complex

Mrs. Freeman = servant; final lines of the story suggest that Mrs. Freeman, like Manley, sees much more than her employer and Hulga. She may be good country people, but this doesn’t mean what her employer thinks it does—instead, it implies an ability to see the world around her for what it truly is. The freedom she embodies, then, is the ability to see, to accurately assess and respond. In this way, while she may never own her own land, she owns her life in ways that completely elude Mrs. Hopewell and Hulga.

Name the characters in “Good Country People”

Hulga’s leg = works as a symbol on two levels: is a stand-in for her soul, as well as symbolic of her fractured identity.

Glasses = issues with glasses and glass eyes are meant to signal vision changes in characters. Yes, literally, but also symbolically: They let us know people are seeing the world around them differently; typical O’Conner Paradox = Hulga must give up her glasses—devices which augment her vision—to gain a more creative, and perhaps more emotional, way of seeing the world.

Hollowed out Bible = filled with booze, cards, and condoms, seems like a no-brainer as a symbol. His hollowed out Bible represents the hollowness of his belief in Christianity—it just isn’t there.

Name the symbols in “Good Country People”

Adrienne Rich
Feminist poet; work has explored issues of identity, sexuality and politics; her formally ambitious poetics have reflected her continued search for social justice, her role in the anti-war movement, and her radical feminism; non-poetic language

“Diving into the Wreck”
Adrienne Rich wrote the poem “_______ ___ __ ____” (573E)

Gender = Toward the end of “Diving into the Wreck,” the speaker refers to herself or himself as a man and a woman. We often don’t know the gender of the speaker of a poem. It’s more unusual, though, for a poet to come out and directly confront us with that issue. It’s certainly a big transformation, and it forces us to rethink the moments that came before it.

Exploration = Exploration is the activity that takes place in this poem. Whatever else the speaker is doing or feeling or saying, she is diving down into the ocean to explore. We are used to this idea of exploring a shipwreck. Whether it’s videos of the sunken Titanic or stories about diving for pirate gold, we know about people in wet suits looking at old ships. What this poem suggests, though, is that exploration might not just refer to looking at a ship. There might be other kinds of emotional, internal exploration going on here.

Man and the Natural World = amazing, maybe even transcendental, experience underwater. Everything about the ocean world is fascinating, new, and intense. We aren’t merely looking at nature in this poem, we are fully plunged into it. This poem is about exploring and changing and feeling, but on a simple level it’s a story about how we come into contact with nature.

Name the themes in “Diving into the Wreck”

Persona/Speaker = We think our speaker sounds like a scientist, an explorer with a job to do. Check out how she cuts off her lines. Every idea is broken up into short, clipped phrases. It’s almost like each thing is being marked off on a list: “There is a ladder.” Check. “I go down.” Check. “This is the place.” Check. Even when the speaker is talking about mysterious or emotional things, the tone is very matter-of-fact. “the thing I came for” Pause. “The wreck and not the story of the wreck.” Pause. The speaker may actually be experiencing intense amazing feelings, and we suspect there is a lot going on behind these short phrases. Both the tone and the mission itself, however, are very controlled. She can’t let anything get in the way of the mission. The job is to look and to report back, and nothing will make our speaker lose sight of that. Even when the report is about something as important and unfamiliar as “the book of myths,” it is treated like a simple fact. This sharp-edged, all business tone makes a really interesting contrast with the beautiful, strange, dream-like world under the water.
Name the characters in “Diving into the Wreck”

Book of Myths = is the first and last image in the poem; At the same time, it doesn’t quite seem to belong in the same world as the dive down to the wreck; this is our story but not our story; almost as if this whole piece existed between its covers; “our names do not appear.” The speaker has spun out a whole story about diving to the wreck, but now that has all been erased or removed from the book. In this light, we might start to think of the book as a symbol of something larger. Maybe it represents the false history that ignores the voices of people like this diver. If the myths do not include our lives, how can they be good and true?

Knife = Expects things to get dangers; trio is a metaphor for any number of different ideas: The camera that traps memories, the knife that kills, the book that holds nothing but lies. They are necessary for the dive, but they are also potentially harmful.

Ladder = We become conscious that ladders are a way to change our position, to move up or down. In this case, the move down will take the diver into another world; “hanging there innocently”: If you aren’t going down that ladder, it doesn’t mean anything to you. So it looks innocent, it covers up its purpose. In reality though, it can transport you to a completely different place, which is what it does to the diver; The ladder is a way down, but it is also an obstacle. The diver is already weighed down by flippers, a mask, a suit, and other diving equipment. So getting down that ladder is no small task. To show how awkward this is, Rich uses a simile, comparing the clumsy diver to an insect. The move into another world isn’t going to be an easy one.

Ocean = huge, deeply powerful, magical and a little scary. It swallowed the ship and it surrounds the diver. It’s about as wild and as natural as you can get; diver can’t see it as she moves down the ladder and this makes the ocean frightening, like something that could jump up and bite you; The diver is learning to move underwater, to get used to the feeling of actually being “inside” the ocean. The ocean is completely in control though, and the diver can’t fight it, can’t use his or her power; The speaker describes the log as being “water-eaten.” It seems like an ordinary thing to say, but it gives an image of the ocean as a kind of animal. It gnaws and chews and slowly devours all the human things that fall into it. It has a slow, inescapable power that makes it a scary force in this poem.

Name the symbols in in “Diving into the Wreck”

Sylvia Plath
Confessional poet (someone who asserted herself as connected to the poem she was writing); dad died when she was younger and deeply affected her; vampiric effect and married image of her father; committed suicide

“Daddy”
Sylvia Plath wrote the poem “______” (629E)

Gender = not only an exploration of the speaker’s relationship with her father and husband, but of women’s relationships with men in general. It was written in the 1960s, a time when feminists fought for women’s rights and made big progress in the way that gender was viewed in society. Though this poem does not address feminism blatantly, it is a powerful statement from a female against males. It’s not limited to addressing one male, but any male who has suppressed, betrayed, or, perhaps worst of all, died and left behind their daughters and wives.

Mortality = When the speaker’s father dies, she sees killing herself as a way to become reunited with him. She also declares that she has to kill him. This poem explores the paradoxes of death, the afterlife, and memories of the past. After all, “Daddy” is addressed to a dead person.

Supernatural = addressed to someone who is dead, which already makes the poem pretty supernatural. But it goes even further: there are vampires, devils, and a statue that crosses the entire United States. The speaker, when she tries to die, is even stuck back together with glue. The supernatural elements of this poem make it eerie, and fascinating to read.

Language and Communication = addressing her dead father, who she had problems talking to even when he was alive. Maybe this is because he was a German immigrant and couldn’t speak English well, or maybe it was because she was scared of him, but in any case, the German language plays into her difficulties. At the end of the poem, the speaker cuts off communications with her father for good. The speaker’s struggle to communicate with her father causes her great suffering, demonstrating the power of language.

Name the themes in “Daddy”

Persona = The speaker is a persona that Plath created so that she could write a poem that may be based on her life, but isn’t trapped by having to stick to the literal truth; tortured woman, who lost her father when she was so young that he seemed huge and powerful, like God. Memories of him have caused her pain – they’ve made her want to die. When dying doesn’t work, the speaker tries to find a husband just like her father. Her playful rhythm and rhyme juxtapose with the desperation and violence of her language, to make her words poisonous to these two men and their power over her. This poem is like a stake in the heart of her disturbing memories – by the end of the poem, she has killed them.
Name the characters in “Daddy”

Vampires = the metaphor for the speaker’s father and husband, and potentially all men, shifts from Nazis to vampires. These men go from being depicted as living horrors to undead horrors. The vampire (hubby) has sucked the narrator’s blood for seven years, probably the length of their marriage; the vampire metaphor is transferred from the model of the father to the father himself, who has died a vampire’s death, with a stake through his heart.

Nazis and Holocaust = German father is like a Nazi, and that she is like a Jew. This is a very powerful metaphor for how the speaker feels like she is a victim of her father, or perhaps for how she feels about men in general.

Communication/Phone = As we have seen, the speaker has a hard time talking to her father, and eventually stops trying. Yet, this entire poem is addressed to the speaker’s father; with 80 lines, it seems she desperately wants to say something to him. The knowledge that her father will never read this poem is probably what enables the speaker to write it.

Name the symbols in “Daddy”

Jhumpa Lahiri
Born in London to a Bengali couple who immigrated to the United Kingdom from Calcutta, India. Lahiri’s father, a university librarian, opted to relocate to the United States for work, eventually settling in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, when she was still a small child; pen name is family pet name; Renowned for the finesse and poignancy of her prose, with the ability to subtly, mesmerizingly build an emotional connection to characters.

The Namesake
Jhumpa Lahiri wrote the novel “____ _________”

Identity = Each character faces a choice: should I assimilate into American culture? If so, how much? Will I be betraying my roots if I do? Characters wrestle with these questions through their relationships with their names, their relationships with their families, and their choices about the future

Family = “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Leo Tolstoy); explores many different types of families: the extended Bengali family and its customs; American families; smaller nuclear families; families with divorced parents; families with mixed race parents; young parents and their children. Each generation has its own way of being happy or unhappy, with each succeeding generation deciding whether to stick with their parents’ customs, or to come up with a few of their own.

Foreignness and ‘the Other’= characters are constantly making comparisons between Indian and American life. For Indian immigrants such as Ashima and Ashoke, many aspects of American culture are foreign to them, and they also feel like strangers in American society. They struggle to maintain certain Indian traditions, while adapting to American customs, such as Christmas, for the sake of their children. Indian-American characters such as Gogol and Moushumi often feel foreign in both India and America, as though they’re lost in between the world of their parents and the world in which they were born. They often feel like tourists, only, unlike most tourists, they have no chance of a homecoming.

Society and Class = The main Indian-American characters grow up with parents who are educated professionals; they graduate from Ivy League universities and enter similarly elite careers such as architecture and academia. But these characters often envy the lifestyle of their Anglo-American peers, who come from well-to-do families, who have never had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps the way their Indian parents have. Many of the characters (we’re looking at you, Gogol) are acutely conscious of how possessions and property reflect class status.

Name the themes in The Namesake

Gogol = The whole Gogol (his pet name) versus Nikhil (his good name) back-and-forth is a source of constant frustration, consternation, and alienation for our protagonist. It’s the central question of the novel: just who exactly is Gogol Ganguli? (And what in the world are we supposed to call him?)

Ashima = heart of the story. While the other characters don’t show a lot of emotion, Ashima is the one who feels. So it’s through her that we can really come to understand the feelings of alienation, culture shock, and homesickness that many immigrants feel.

Ashoke = Though he, like his wife, tries to hold on to Bengali traditions, he also wants very much to make their American life work, and he tries hard to fit in in some ways. Ashoke is no fool. He knows his family won’t make it in America if they don’t make efforts to assimilate. As the family’s breadwinner, it’s possible that he, more than anyone else, struggles to strike a balance between assimilating into American culture and holding on to his own.

Moushumi Mazoomdar = their marriage is a “mistake”: “They had both sought comfort in each other, and in their shared world, perhaps for the sake of novelty, or out of the fear that the world is slowly dying.” (12.15) They have a “shared world,” sure, but Moushumi is also something new for Gogol, who has only dated white women so far. Dating an Indian is new for Moushumi, too; Affair = She is not afraid to take risks, even if those risks just might end her marriage. She’ll do anything to leave behind her Bengali roots and forge a life on her own terms.

Sonia = Perhaps it’s her lack of a pet name that makes her better suited to adapting to life in America. Even as a child, she seems more at ease with her Indian-American identity than Gogol, who always feels alienated because of his unusual first name. When Ashoke dies, she moves home to be with Ashima, leaving behind her life in San Francisco without much of a backward glance. In the end, her character provides an illuminating contrast to Gogol’s. Where he is awkward and uncomfortable with his own identity, she is well adjusted. We guess that annaprasan(true American bc grabbed money) is accurate after all.

Maxine = (like Sonia) is comfortable in her own skin. She has no hang-ups about her identity. She is not worried about fitting in. This is a source of attraction for Gogol, but also a source of envy. He has never been so at ease, and he wishes he knew how to be; freedom but also represents distance from his family, from his roots. In the end, that’s what drives these two lovebirds apart. The closer he gets to Maxine, the farther Gogol travels from his family, and when his dad dies, Maxine becomes a symbol of that distance, and the guilt that comes with it.

Name the characters in The Namesake

Trains = traveling always marks a transition between cultures, or stages of life. So time spent on a train is pivotal. The first and probably most significant example of this is the fact that Ashoke’s train accident inspires him to name his son “Gogol.” But no matter what, things keep happening to the Gangulis on trains.

Food = goes to show a connection or disconnect between a character and his or her culture.

Name the symbols in The Namesake

Toni Morrison
Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue and richly detailed black characters. As a student, then an editor, then an author and academic, she fought unapologetically for the importance of considering racial politics in literature and of bringing marginalized American forces and shameful American secrets into the cultural mainstream. No one benefited more from her bold stance on the barricades of inclusiveness than she herself.

“Recitatif”
Toni Morrison wrote the short story ” ________” (609E)

Gender = motherhood versus female stereotypical roles

Motherhood = what makes a real mom? what is her power?

Race = duh

Economics = how does it change the way in which we’re late to each other

Identity = how do you identify yourself outside of race

Trauma/Memory = a loose connection such as a biased memory can trigger trauma and vice versa

History = who are you here versus what you can be then; american cultural history and episodic personal history

Name the themes in “Recitatif”

Twyla = narrator; goes down straight and narrow path and starts a legitimate family from scratch; oblivious to the obvious

Roberta = other protagonist, sometimes antagonist? goes down completely opposite path than mother and someone lucks up and marries rich, never has kids of her own; oblivious to the real versus superficial

Maggie = girls see themselves in her; defenseless and cast out into the world; lash out at maggie to lash out defenselessness you feel in yourself

Name the characters in “Recitatif”

Easter egg basket

Protest posters

Maggie

Name the symbols in “Recitatif”

Raymond Carver
Raymond Carver was one of a handful of contemporary short story writers credited with reviving what was once thought of as a dying literary form. His stories mainly take place in his native Pacific Northwest region; they are peopled with the type of lower-middle-class characters the author was familiar with while he was growing up.

“Cathedral”
Raymond Carver wrote the poem “_________” (737E)

The Difference between Looking and Seeing = act of looking is related to physical vision, but the act of seeing requires a deeper level of engagement. The narrator shows that he is fully capable of looking. He looks at his house and wife, and he looks at Robert when he arrives. The narrator is not blind and immediately assumes that he’s therefore superior to Robert. Robert’s blindness, the narrator reasons, makes him unable to make a woman happy, let alone have any kind of normal life. The narrator is certain that the ability to see is everything and puts no effort into seeing anything beyond the surface, which is undoubtedly why he doesn’t really know his wife very well. Robert, however, has the ability to “see” on a much deeper level than the narrator. Even though Robert can’t physically see the narrator’s wife, he understands her more deeply than the narrator does because he truly listens.

Art as Insight = The narrator, his wife, and Robert find insight and meaning in their experiences through poetry, drawing, and storytelling. According to the narrator, his wife writes a couple of poems every year to mark events that were important in her life, including the time Robert touched her face. The narrator doesn’t like the poems but admits that he might not understand them. The narrator gains insight into his own life when he draws a picture of a cathedral with Robert, realizing for the first time that looking inward is a way to gain greater knowledge and a deeper understanding of himself. Robert, too, gleans insight from the drawing. Although it’s unlikely that he was able to visualize what the narrator drew, he shares the experience of the narrator’s awakening. The narrator’s mere act of retelling the story of his epiphany helps him make sense of his newfound understanding.

Name the themes in “Cathedral”

The Narrator = An unnamed man who describes his experience with Robert. The narrator is jealous of the men from his wife’s past and doesn’t want Robert to visit, but he eventually connects with him when they draw a cathedral together. While his eyes are closed, the narrator has an epiphany after finishing the drawing in which he feels like he isn’t anywhere.

Robert = The blind man. Robert visits the narrator and his wife after his own wife, Beulah, dies. He is a caring, easygoing man who sets even the narrator at ease. He encourages the narrator to draw a cathedral when the narrator is unable to describe one in words.

The Narrator’s Wife = A nameless woman who invites Robert to their home. The wife has kept in touch with Robert since they met ten years ago, exchanging audiotapes with him and telling him everything about her life. Before she married the narrator, she’d been married to a military officer and was so unhappy that she tried to kill herself.

Name the characters in “Cathedral”

The Cathedral = The cathedral that the narrator draws with Robert represents true sight, the ability to see beyond the surface to the true meaning that lies within. Before the narrator draws the cathedral, his world is simple: he can see, and Robert cannot. But when he attempts to describe the cathedral that’s shown on television, he realizes he doesn’t have the words to do so. More important, he decides that the reason he can’t find those words is that the cathedral has no meaning for him and tells Robert that he doesn’t believe in anything. However, when he takes the time to draw the cathedral—to really think about it and see it in his mind’s eye—he finds himself pulled in, adding details and people to make the picture complete and even drawing some of it with his eyes closed. When the drawing is finished, the narrator keeps his eyes shut, yet what he sees is greater than anything he’s ever seen with his eyes open. Carver isn’t specific about exactly what the narrator realizes, but the narrator says he “didn’t feel like he was inside anything”—he has a weightless, placeless feeling that suggests he’s reached an epiphany. Just as a cathedral offers a place for the religious to worship and find solace, the narrator’s drawing of a cathedral has opened a door for him into a deeper place in his own world, where he can see beyond what is immediately visible.

Audiotapes= The audiotapes that Robert and the narrator’s wife send back and forth to each other represent the kind of understanding and empathy that has nothing to do with sight.

Name the symbols in “Cathedral”

“A Small Good Thing”
Raymond Carver wrote the short story “_ _____ ____ _____” [BB]

Isolation/Loneliness = Most of Carver’s characters are separated from others, either physically or emotionally. Sometimes they are aware of this as a source of their deep discontent, while others are unaware of how deeply their loneliness affects them. Ann and Howard are separated from one another even though they don’t realize it. Ann recognizes late into Scotty’s hospitalization how she feels distant from Howard, and they grow closer through the experience. The story illustrates how far away from each other humans are through the many doctors the parents encounter. But the richest illustration is the baker, whose initial cruelty is actually just a mask for his deep loneliness. The story is sad but ends beautifully as the three people commiserate in their shared loneliness.

Tragedy = characters who have to confront the tragedy inherent in life. Tragedy can be understood as forces outside of human control. The most extreme example of tragedy; the tragedy of Scotty’s death is devastating, but it ironically brings the couple to serious realizations about themselves and opens them up to a greater understanding of their loneliness and desperation to be connected to others.

Name the themes in “A Small Good Thing”

Ann = The mother in “A Small, Good Thing.” She lives a comfortable, easy life and feels blessed before her son Scotty is hit by a car and hospitalized. The tragedy forces her to confront her helplessness and to rely on her husband and ultimately, the baker who she otherwise vilifies.

Howard = The father in “A Small, Good Thing.” He lives a comfortable, easy life and feels blessed before his son Scotty is hit by a car and hospitalized. He wants to stay rational about Scotty’s recovery to keep his grieving wife under control, but is only sporadically able to mange such rationality.

Scotty = The son in “A Small, Good Thing.” A sweet kid who spends most of the story unconscious after being hit by a car. He dies in the story.

Baker = For most of “A Small, Good Thing,” a villainous figure. He is curt and unfriendly when Ann first orders Scotty’s birthday cake from him, and then makes ominous phone calls to their home after the boy’s injury prevents them from picking up the cake. In the final scene, he reveals himself to be deeply lonely and conflicted, and becomes a restorative figure for the grieving parents.

Name the characters in “A Small Good Thing”

food = literal substance; source of nourishment; if you don’t what you get weaker and if distraught you cannot focus on physical needs and thus cannot eat

cinnamon bun = literal breaking of bread; suggestion of grace; taking communion with them and they become human in each other’s presence at least temporarily

Name the symbols in “A Small Good Thing”

Yusef Komunyakaa
Weaves together the elements of his own life in short lines of vernacular to create complex images of life in his native Louisiana and the jungles of Vietnam.

“My Father’s Love Letters”
Yusef Komunyakaa wrote the poem “__ _______ ___ ______” (1044E)

Longing = Dad is suffering with desire (with an ache to it)

Labor = Dad is a laborer; comprised and surrounded by his labor and can builds things but fails to say things, highlighted by his illiteracy (abusive but cannot communicate in other ways); idea of emotional set of tools and physical set of tools

Regret/Guilt = Regret over not appreciating what was there when he had it, ungrateful and drove it away

Name the themes in “My Father’s Love Letters”

Persona/speaker = child who is torn between parents and has to write letters to a mother on behalf of the abusive father who drove her away to sanity

Father = abusive and an illiterate laborer who spends his days working and his nights obliging his kid to write letters to his runaway wife (who probably got a restraining letter against him if they know where to send the letters)

Mother = Never see her, not really mentioned; ghost figments of her but no personality or truth besides that she left

Name the characters in “My Father’s Love Letters”

Letters = literal act of translation; child believes that mother will never read them and the father continues to scream into the universe and will never have direct communication because that avenue had been cut off

Fists balled = Violence transformed; used to hit wife with them but now uses them in frustration because he still cannot find the adequate words to communicate

Name the symbols in “My Father’s Love Letters”

Rita Dove
“A master at transforming a public or historic element—re-envisioning a spectacle and unearthing the heartfelt, wildly original private thoughts such historic moments always contain.” ;work is known for its lyricism and beauty as well as its sense of history and political scope; characters = consistent

“The Event”
Rita Dove wrote the poem “___ ______” (1108E)

Circle of Life = There are no assigned expiration dates but people die, sometimes in accident, but that has to be balanced out with arrivals of new life

Class = People who are of a lower class are more prone to accidental deaths in this time and age, exhibited by Lem and the balloon incident

Name the themes in “The Event”

Thomas = protagonist; can sing falsetto in a duet-like harmony with Lem’s mandolin

Lem = best friend who drowns in The Event due to a drunken dare; the two were traveling together from Tennessee o make something of themselves; plays the mandolin

Name the characters in “The Event”

Water = something really connected to human history but where we do not belong; water goes in in a cycle, Lem has entered it but the rest of the world goes unchanged

Mandolin = by self-expression and way of connecting with the world

Name the symbols in “The Event”

“The Zeppelin Factory”
Rita Dove wrote the poem “__ ________ _______” (1108E)

Guilt = For living, for being the one who doesn’t die; cycle of guilt that keeps hitting him, something you cannot shake; guilt for living, guilt for finding love, guilt for building a life, guilt for having a family and a dream, etc; always holding you back

Mortality = What does it mean to survive just because you did? Life is so fragile and can be extinguished at any moment so why feel as if your life has anymore value than another’s?

Name the themes in “The Zeppelin Factory”

Thomas = protagonist; built zeppelin that killed a man in a freak gust of wind accident; watched the man die; at a baseball game seeing a successful goodyear blimp and feeling the guilt hit him once again for both deaths

Workers = two who jumped off safely and man who jumped off too late and plummeted to his horrifying death

Name the characters in “The Zeppelin Factory”

Goodyear Blimp = representation of success; whale of suffering or idea of flying free; moves with purpose in comparison to a balloon/zeppelin

Zeppelin = Whale’s belly; old testament allusion to trials of being tested; purgatory of sorts where Lem “is”

Name the symbols in “The Zeppelin Factory”

“Dusting”
Rita Dove wrote the poem “_______” (1108E)

Sam Shepard
Actor and writer; more famous as an actor

True West
Sam Shepard wrote the play _____ _____ (870E)

The Curse of Ancestry = Each person is born into a family and as such takes on the burdens of the generations preceding him or her. Although Austin has tried very hard to escape the influence of his family, all of his attempts have failed. He has tried to get a sense of identity from his work and his accomplishments, but in the end they are all meaningless in relation to the identity formed for him in the family. Austin tries to deny that he is part of the family, but in the end cannot. In the end he is exactly like his brother and both of them are like his father—incapable of dealing with life in the regular world.

The Old West vs. the New West = Austin is the representative of the order created by the suburban new West while Lee is the representative of the desert old West and the chaos it represents. In the end it seems that the chaos is the stronger force. The wild terrain slowly encroaches upon and eventually takes over the kitchen. Indeed, by the end of the play it is hard to imagine a more devastated room. In Shepard’s view, however, the order of the suburbs is the faulty ideal in the first place. One cannot form a real identity within its confines; only the freedom represented by the chaos of the desert can allow for that. It is this freedom that the old man has sought, that Lee has experienced, and that Austin now seeks out himself.

Art as a Business vs. Art as an Ideal = Shepard investigates this tenuous relationship between artist and businessman throughout the play. The question becomes how one can endeavor to create art and then get paid for it. Shepard explores the idea of what has happened to art for art’s sake. Art, as it now exists inside the system of commerce we have created for ourselves, is just another commodity that can be bought and sold, as we see in the clueless Hollywood juggernaut Saul represents. Real art is almost impossible to create under the pressures of economic necessity.

The Fallibility of the American Dream = One of Shepard’s major ideas in True West is that what most Americans have taught to want and value is all wrong. Indeed, money makes the world go round, but Shepard contends that one does not have to go around with it. In True West he offers a contrary vision to the traditional American Dream that infuses so much of our life and literature. Austin realizes that his entire identity—which, since his youth, has focused solely on achieving this dream—is completely wrong. What is right, instead, is to paint outside the lines and form an identity on one’s own terms. For Austin that means giving up everything he has worked for and retreating to the desert.

Name the themes in True West

Austin = A squeaky clean Ivy League graduate who works as a screenwriter. Austin has a wife and children in Northern California, but is working at his mother’s house in Southern California while she is away in Alaska. By all accounts he is a success.

Lee = Austin’s brother. Lee is a beer-swilling desert rat and petty thief who has come to their mother’s house to loot the neighbors of household appliances. He is the exact opposite of his brother in looks, sensibility, and degree of success; hustler.

Saul Kimmer = A slick Hollywood producer. While Shepard’s characterization of Saul could easily have descended into parody, Saul remains real all the way through the play. He is as sincere as anyone who is motivated only by profit can be.

Mom = An absurdist vision of a powerless mother. Mom thinks Picasso is coming to town and quietly asks Austin not to kill Lee.

The “Old Man” = Austin and Lee’s father. Though the “old man” does not himself appear in the play as a character, his influence and presence haunts the brothers and drives much of the play’s events and the motivations of its characters.

Name the characters in True West

Austin and Lee = opposite extremes of the creative artist. By himself, neither is able to actually sit down and write a screenplay. Austin is the diligent worker, Lee the visionary. They butt heads throughout the entire play, but through this often-violent relationship are finally able to write a screenplay. For Shepard, this antagonistic relationship is a necessary one. Only through great struggle is art ever created.

Houseplants = are symbols of the order and structure that pervade the suburbs of the new West. Austin’s only job while he is house-sitting for his mother is to tend the houseplants and make sure they are watered. For a while he does his job, remembering to take care of the plants. But as Austin begins to realize that the ideals he has and the identity he has formed for himself are contrary to what he believes is right and true, he begins to neglect the houseplants. By the end of the play the plants are all dead. When Mom returns from Alaska, she said she has done so because she has missed her houseplants. For her they represent the order upon which she has come to rely so heavily. On seeing the plants dead, Mom leaves the house, unable to cope with the sense of chaos that has invaded her home.

Toaster = archetype for the most boring character to date

Phone cord = cord is not himself but an extension of himself and a way to communicate a way a phone would but the brothers cannot communicate with one another; ironic

Car key = escape; literal access to the car and freedom

Name the symbols in True West