The “Great” Debate

I went back to the Bay Area a few weeks ago for my spring break. I met up with some of my friends from college and visited North Beach with some of my dearest friends. Of course, after a having a few, the discussion/debate began. Why is Gatsby considered “great”? We went back and forth about the reasoning behind the word “great” and how people would think that the character, or idea, of Gatsby is considered and referred to as “great”.

When I returned home, I posted the question on FaceBook as my status. I received some immediate responses from my fellow classmates and some others simply “Liked” the post. One of those people was my sophomore year English teacher from high school. She was the teacher that opened my eyes to the world of literature and how awesome it can be. I sent her a message and asked her why she thought Gastby is “great”. The following is our brief conversation.

MEGAN: Molly! He’s a genuine romantic and a dreamer, he doesn’t let anyone taint his vision of Daisy, who he sees as a vision of perfection. Besides this, he’s a war hero and enjoys watching people enjoy themselves at his expense. He’s perfect.

 

MOLLY: I do like Gatsby and I love reading his story, although it is rather tragic, but I cannot say that I agree with you in the points that you made above. Yes, he is honorable because he reached the rank of Major. Yes, he does throw extravagant parties for his “neighbors” and appears to enjoy them. Underneath it all, is it really what he wants? By his achievements in the war and his numerous festivities, does that really make him “perfect”? I can see where you are coming from in regards to that he is a dreamer and that he is not letting anyone taint his vision of Daisy, but the interesting thing to point out would be why. Why does he not let anyone taint his vision?

Denial.

He is a dreamer because he is still stuck in the past. Gatsby cannot accept the fact, or comes to terms with, that he is never going to have Daisy as his own. That opportunity has come and gone. Gatsby is desperate to stop time (the clock in Nick’s cottage) and just relive the moments that he had with Daisy before Tom Buchanan came into the picture. I think that he has slowly begun to realize that his “perfect” vision of Daisy is just as, to use your word, “tainted” as he is.

That leads into my second point.

How is Gatsby perfect? Yes, he has the means to throw all of these lavish parties and a function for his, for lack of a better word, friends, but that doesn’t make him perfect. He is throwing the parties to distract his guests from questioning who he is. Do the guests honestly care about who Gatsby is? I think that they would rather prefer the mystery of Gatsby rather than knowing the truth. That is similar to Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship; he doesn’t want to know or acknowledge the truth about what could have been and what will never be.

Something that is very telling about Jay Gatsby is his name, or alias, rather. Instead of using his given name James “Jimmy” Gatz, he lives under an alias which is a sign that he somewhat ashamed of what or who he was before the money. If he were, as you said, “perfect”, wouldn’t he want to keep and own his name? Everyone hits a rough patch in their life at some point, but that doesn’t mean that we go out and change our names. “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!” By Gatsby going by another name, it is another way that he shows that he is denial and that he is trying to run away, trying to escape.

 

MEGAN: It’s his imperfections that make him great. Like Gatsby, there’s no changing my mind. I’ll love him for who I think he is, not for what the world judges him to be. I think we could all learn something from his character. If we quit tearing people down for their imperfections and insecurities, we can remember that someone for the person they once were and the someone we once loved. That’s about as close to perfection as you can get.

And that was the end of the debate. I wanted to respond, but I do not think that she would have appreciated reading a paper from a former student going completely against almost everything she stated in her last message. Since I did not respond to her comments, I simply thanked her for entertaining a recent college graduate who has been in desperate need of discussion about literature and I went about my business, in other words, I blogged about it.

If I had responded to her about her last statement, in brief, it would have sounded something like this:

Alright, let’s not get dramatic here. His imperfections definitely add to his character and his story, but no character is “perfect”.

Let us not forget that he [Gatsby] is a character, black ink on a white page. He does not actually exist. No character in that book or other works of fiction actually exist. The downfall of most readers, and of most aspiring English majors, is that they tend to treat the characters as if they are real, physical, three-dimensional people capable of emotions. They are not real. They are merely a creation birthed by an author or poet used to personify an idea or a concept. The reader cannot interact with the character. The reader cannot hold the character. There is no physical connection. Of course, if the writer has done what he or she wanted to accomplish, make the reader feel something for the character, then that is fine. But that characters are not there to merely stay on the page and make the reader wish he or she was with the character. Characters are meant to be disected.

Leaving the characters on the pages is one of the biggest insults in literature. Being an English major and deeply enjoying the disection of any text that comes my way (one of my English classes in college we discussed why the wheelbarrow was red for an hour), I feel the need to rip into the characters and read between the lines. To tear the characters down from their pedistals. Why are the parties being thrown? Why does he change his name? What does the time period have to do with Gatsby and his actions? That way of thinking may come off as aggressive to some, but that is what literature and discussion of literature is about. The reader is not supposed to speak about the characters as if they grew up next door to each other, the reader must think about why the character is doing what he or she is doing. That is the beauty of it all.

So, that is what my response might have sounded like. I could on and on and rant about how readers tend to get too caught up in the characters’ “emotions” and how that taints the true meaning behind the characters, but I digress. The beauty of literature is that everyone has his or her own interpretation of the text. No one reading is the same. Books have been out for hundreds of years and people are still discussing the texts and make connections with modern day events. I thoroughly enjoy a good debate and I look forward to ruffling someone else’s feathers in the near future.

something familiar

reachinggraspingslipping
sweaty palms losing what little grip they had
face burning
pulse beating
fear coursing through every inch of the body
angerconfusion erupt
the only temporary escape
is to scream with white-knuckled fists
until the throat stings like thorns scraping
the vocal cords and the only thing that
emerges is air
breath.
Silence.
breath.
hair matted to the face
makeup stinging the corners of the bloodshot eyes
beads of sweat streaming down the heaving body

you reach out one last time

Hoping you don’t fall.

There’s Nothing to See Here

“Move along. There’s nothing to see here.” Words often barked by a police herding curious onlookers at the scene of a crime or some sort of accident. Those same words I repeat to myself as I start my new job, in my new school, in my new state.

I am the kind of person who loves to cling onto things. My mother calls me a pack rat because I can never seem to throw anything away. In some capacity, everything I have means something special. It’s unique. It’s mine.

A dear friend of mine wrote me the other day and asked, “Have you ever wondered if we ever truly move on? Or are we just running away and somehow blindly stumble into something else?” An appropriate question for a recent college graduate to ask, the “What now?” question. I have asked myself, “What now?” several times and I always had my answer. Volunteer. I could volunteer for two years, get a job at the school where I worked, never move, settle down and get a husband, rescue a few dogs (I’m not a huge fan of kids), and call it a day. However, looking back at my friend’s questions, I had to re-evaluate my “plan”.

I just stared at the paper. How the hell was I going to respond to that! I started writing a response and scratched that out. I began to scribble another one down, but that sucked too, so I scratched that one out and I repeated this process a few more times and then just sat at my desk. I got up and walked around my room for a few minutes and changed into my pajamas, but as I was doing so, I saw something in the mirror that was the perfect response to my friend’s question.

It was my tattoo.

This summer, as an act of rebellion against my parents, I treated myself to some ink. I had been thinking about getting one for quite some time and I finally grew a pair and did it. That is not to say that I did not have Catholic school girl guilt trips because there were quite a few of those, but I had finally done something for me.

What is the tattoo? Right now, I have three books on my right rib. The books look very similar to the ones that hang by some wires in North Beach, San Francisco by City Lights bookstore. I have three out of eleven books and I am getting some those remaining eight in the near future. Why eleven? Well, here comes the response to your question and to the letter.

This past fall, I enrolled in a Latin@ Literature course at my college and needless to say, that course helped me see and realize a lot about literature, but it helped me learn a lot about myself. There was one short story my professor had us read and it was “Eleven” written by Sandra Cisneros. The story is told from the perspective of a little girl who is turning eleven years old and she essentially has the worst birthday of her life. I am not going to ruin the plot for you because you have to read this incredible story for yourself, but a major point that the narrator hits upon is that no matter how old we are, we are always going to be one, three, six, and ten. No matter how old we are, we will always have moments where we are going to need to cry like a three year old, or run to our mothers or fathers like a frightened seven year old during a thunder storm, or geek out like a fourteen year old girl when their crush sends them a text messages or merely waves or looks in their direction. No matter where we are in life, we carry all of those years and emotions with us.

This was my response: “I don’t think we ever truly move on. Yes, we say and act like we have moved on from a habit, location, stage of life, whatever, but deep down, we will always be there. Read the short story “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros and it will make sense. I think that what we are doing, at least in my situation, is running. I am running for two years, but after those two years, I don’t know who or where I am going to run to. I haven’t moved on. I’m just living in denial. I may look happy and excited to be doing what I am doing, that is not to say that I don’t love what I am doing, but I am scared shitless of what comes next. I like to think that I have moved on, but I know that my heart and my head are still in California. At school. Read “Eleven” and let me know what you think.”

What are you running from?

memyselfandi

some say i love the pretty little fool

others say i love the sport

others say that i love no one

some say that i love the mystery of the great

but they are wrong

i only love

 

memyselfandi.

 

they go from party to party

in search of something or someone to love

but like their glasses and bottles

at the end of the night

they come up empty with nothing to love

 

while i watch their pathetic games and antics

i sit back and observe only concerned about

 

memyselfandi

 

the pretty little fool is lost and alone

in love with the idea of a man that is no more

the sport is in love with fame and fortune

that can only be achieved through lies and deceit

the great one is anything but

he is in love with the pretty little fool

who no longer loves him

but loves the idea of him

 

the idea that is unreachable and as unattainable

as the green light at the end of the                                      dock

 

these poor fools have nothing

they cling onto thingsdreamsideas that are

no more

thingsdreamsideas that will never be

while i am content here in my cottage

alone

 

memyself and i

memyselfandi

Exam Review Ya’ll

Nella Larsen   Passing (1929)

-Fear of being exposed/Security

“Security: was it just a word? If not, then was it only by the sacrifice of other things, happiness, love, or some wild ecstasy that she had never known, that it could be obtained? And did too much striving, too much faith in safety and permanence, unfit for these other things?” (1916).
(connect DuBois double consciousness)


-Ambiguity 


“Gone! the soft white face, the bright hair, the disturbing scarlet mouth, the dreaming eyes, the caressing smile, the whole torturing loveliness that had been Clare Kendry. That beauty that had torn at Irene’s placid life. Gone! the mocking daring, the gallantry of her pose, the ringing bells of her laughter.” (1919)


-Belonging

“She was caught between two allegiances, different, yet the same. Herself. her race. Race! The thing that bound and suffocated her. Whatever steps she took, or if she took none at all, something would be crushed. A person or the race. Clare, herself, or the race. Or, it might be, all three. Nothing, she imagined, was ever more completely sardonic” (1911).

What Do You Stand For?

This is the video that I created for the Creative Project. My video focuses on the first poems that we read at the beginning of the semester that concentrated on WWI and the struggle of the soldiers who were trying to find what they stood for. This theme of trying to figure out what one stood for can be seen in several other poems, short stories, and novels we read this semester.

I did a voiceover of my favorite poem from that section of the syllabus, “my sweet old etcetera” by E.E. Cummings with pictures from WWI. I chose the song Some Nights by Fun. because it fit so perfectly with the theme of identity and the search for one’s purpose in life.

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know anymore.

iMovie How-To Links

Hey guys!

I created some iMovie tutorials for you if you were interested in using iMovie for your final project. I know when I was explaining it in class the other day it sounded really confusing, but it’s really not that bad at all.

I created two videos for you: the first one is an overview on how to use the basics of iMovie and the second movie is how to import YouTube videos into your iMovie project. The second video is more geared towards people who have already used iMovie before or those brave souls who watched the longer video I made.

If you have any questions on how to use iMovie, please do not hesitate to send me an email at mba2@stmarys-ca.edu or just leave a comment here. The other option that you have is that you can actually type your questions in the search bar on YouTube and that will lead you to other How-To videos like the ones I made.

Alright, good luck with your finals and other papers! 🙂

-Molly B

 

Video 1: How to use iMovie for a basic slideshow

Video 2: How to import YouTube videos into your iMovie project

Video 3: How to apply the Creative Commons License

 

Where Have All the Hobos Gone?

This past summer I was a camp counselor/leader for the Lasallian Youth Assembly which was held in LA. LYA is a week where about seventy-five Lasallian high school students from all over the west coast come and work at different service sites for a week and get a hands-on experience with poverty in their own backyard. My small group was sent to Skid Row and our job was to work at the Midnight Mission and a homeless shelter just for men. During that week, my students had their eyes opened to the poverty and the homelessness in their own country and many of them were shaken up by it. I was surprised to hear from one of students that he had never been exposed to poverty and homelessness before and how he was really shaken up by it. He said that back home there really aren’t many homeless people around; they are separated.

While I was reading “The Vanishing American Hobo”, I kept thinking of LYA. I found it so interesting that hobos used to be an accepted part of society. Yes, there were precautions that were taken to some extent with them, but at the same time like Kerouac says, “In Brueghel’s time children danced around the hobo, her wore huge and raggy clothes and always looked straight ahead indifferent to the children, and the families didnt mind the children playing with the hobo, it was a natural thing. — But today mothers hold tight their children when a hobo passes through town, because of what newspapers made the hobo to be — the rapist, the strangler, child-eater,” (2596). In those two sentences, the reader can see the devolution of the hobo.

Throughout the text, Kerouac lists off several hobos that are great historical figures. Among those names are: Baruch, Esenin, Franklin, Beethoven, even Buddha and Jesus. “Jesus was a strange hobo who walked on water. — Buddha was also a hobo who paid no attention to the other hobo. —” (2597). Kerouac, has humanized the hobos for the reader. In most cases, in terms of how society has warped the view of the hobo, there is not a positive light that is shone upon them, but in this, Kerouac reminds the reader that hobos are humans and how some of the greatest minds were hobos in their own ways.

The one thing that stood out for me in this piece was the image of the hobos in the cemetery. “The hobos of America who can still travel in a healthy way are still in good shape, they can go hide in cemeteries and drink wine under cemetery groves of trees and micturate and sleep on cardboards and smash bottles on the tombstones and not care and not be scared of the dead but serious and humorous in the cop-avoiding night and even amused and leave litters of their picnic between the grizzled slabs of Imagined Death, cussing what they think are real days, but Oh the poor bum of the skid row!” (2600). I understood this as the only place where the hobos can find some kind of peace away from everyone and the threat of being picked up by the police is among the dead in cemeteries. It seems like the only way to escape for the hobos is the cemetery because no one will bother or judge them.

This idea of being among those that accept you, much like a community, is brought up earlier in the text when Kerouac says, “The hobo is born of pride, having nothing to do with community…” (2597). Although the hobos that go to the cemetery aren’t necessarily looking for a community, they find some comfort being among the dead. Physically the hobo is alone because everyone is dead, but spiritually and emotionally the hobo is not alone. It is natural for humans to long for some kind of companionship. Everyone needs someone else.

Amurrica

Back in 1996, when I was in kindergarten, I remember that one of my favorite songs was “America the Beautiful”. Granted I could not pronounce half the words in the song, but there was something that I really loved about the song. As I grew up and   had a better grasp on my speech and ability to understand the deeper meaning of the lyrics, I understood why I loved it so much. “America the Beautiful” really captured, well, the beauty, of our country. “O beautiful for spacious skies, / For amber waves of grain, / For purple mountain majesties / Above the fruited plain! / America! America! / God shed his grace on thee / And crown thy good with brotherhood / From sea to shining sea!” Although this song, at least this verse of the song, creates a gorgeous picture of the country, there is a darker side of the country that needs to be shown.

In Robert Creely’s biographical introduction written by Thomas R. Whitaker of Yale University writes, ‘Though his poems may at first seem thin or abstract, they express with honesty and precision a quite specific interior drama: the struggle of consciousness to articulate its movements in response to an ungraspable and “broken” world,” (2633). Perfect.

Throughout Creely’s poem America , the speaker is calling America and her ideologies out, “America, you ode for reality! / Give back the people you took” (1-2). I understood these lines as a critique of the American Dream. “Give back the people you took”. People come to the United States believing that they can make a better life for themselves and they will be able to climb to the top. With that mindset, people are inclined to do things that they might not typically do if they were not attempting to achieve the American Dream. This can be tied back Of Mice and Men and the scene where George murders Lennie. The men had been friends their whole lives and they had a Dream together. They traveled from farm to farm looking for work and one would never leave the other behind. In the end of the novel, George is fed up with taking care of Lennie and he realizes that he will never be able to achieve his Dream if he has to keep taking care of Lennie. As a result of this constant moving from farm to farm and frustration with his life, George ends up shooting Lennie. The Dream makes people do crazy things…like people shooting their best friend.

In these twelve lines, the speaker is looking to reclaim the American people and seems to be calling out to the past. “Here, you said and say, is / where we are. Give back / what we are, these people you made, / us, and nowhere but you to be.” (11-12). I love these lines because there are two ways that the reader can interpret them. On one hand, the reader can read the lines as the people have done their part by being in the country and now the country has to do her part and let her people go; let them be free to be them! On the other hand, the reader can interpret the lines as, this is not the country’s fault; the fault lies with the people. There were people who had to come up with the notion and the myth of the American Dream. That idea spread like the plague infecting and killing minds of Americans and people wishing to come to America. The plague, known as the American Dream, gave people the false hope in thinking that if they came to America or already lived in America, but were in the lower half of the population, that they would be able to work their way up the ladder of success and achieve anything they want. Not so much. Now, there are stories of the American Dream coming true for a lucky few, but in reality, the Dream just remains a myth. I think that Creely exposes this “broken” world in his poem America.