Monday, March 26, 2012


I do not see many similarities between Sarah Penn's revolt, and what happens to the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper".  The only similarity i really see is that both characters are women oppressed by men.  But that seems to be where the commonalities end.  Sarah Penn is a woman and wife in what seems to be the late 19th to early 20th century New England.  She laments to her daughter that, as women, they "know only what men-folks think we do, so far as any use of it goes".  She seems to be surrendering to the patriarchal attitudes of the time, but then does something truly surprising.  As her husband leaves for a while, Sarah revolts against him and turns the new barn he built into the new home she has always wanted and deserved.  This is truly a revolt, as Sarah quite consciously did the opposite of what her husband had asked her to do.  But in the end, her husband acquiesces, and, weeping, offers to build her "everything you -- want Mother".  The narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" on the other hand, is oppressed in a much more serious manner.  Her husband is a doctor, who refuses to acknowledge she is losing her sanity.  Since she has no physical symptoms, her husband treats her as child instead of as ill, and this compounds the problems she is having with her mental state.  By shutting his wife off in that macabre nursery, John has greatly contributed to his wife's descent into madness.  And that is how I see the wife's plight; the narrator does not revolt against her husband like Sarah does (although he forbids her to write, yet she explicitly defies him in this), but descends into a paranoid and delusional mental state, as evidenced by what seems to be a confession of her belief that she has become, or has been, the woman creeping behind the wallpaper: "'I've got out at last,' said I, 'in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!'".  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Freedom Quotes/Interesting Poem Word

1)                                                                Tombs
This seems to be the most interesting word in poem 341.  The poem has a rather morose feeling, and this word really serves to frame that.  Everything about this poem is tomb-like; the poem feels like a tomb (resting place) for the words, I feel as if I am experiencing the poem from a tomb, and the poem sort of serves as a tomb for Dickinson, as she is forever imbued in it.  Many of these poems are rather dark, or about death, and this word clues us in to Dickinson's mindset, as she really seems to have death on the mind.  Perhaps her fascination with death arose from living in a society quite oppressive of women, and from being sick at the end of her life.  Maybe she saw death as some sort of release....

2)                                                               Freedom Quotes
Dickinson- "Because I could not stop for Death-- He kindly stopped for me"
From these poems, I come to the conclusion that Emily Dickinson saw death as freedom.  Dickinson lived in a time when women were literally second class citizens.  Coupled with her suffering from Bright's disease (now known as nephritis), she probably felt trapped in a world where she didn't quite belong.  So by saying that death "kindly" stopped for her, while she "could not", Dickinson seems to be embracing death as freedom.

Douglass- "The paper became my meat and my drink"
Frederick Douglass has a slightly different view of freedom as these other authors, as he was born and lived for some time as a slave.  This literal lack of freedom obviously helped define freedom for Douglass, but did not shape his entire perception of it.  For Douglass, a huge aspect of freedom seems to be education/literacy.  This quote is in reference to the abolitionist paper "The Liberator", and being able to read and comprehend the issues in this paper gave Douglass a strong sense of freedom.  And after gaining his freedom, Douglass was able to act on these ideas, and speak about his experiences.  For Douglass, education coupled with the ability to act in and understand the world seem to define freedom.

Emerson- "instead of Man Thinking, we have the bookworm."
Emerson seems to employ quite a literal definition of freedom.  In this quote, from "The American Scholar", Emerson is denouncing the "bookworm": he who spends all his time shut off in a library or study, merely researching and emulating those that came before him.  Emerson held nature in high regard, and considered nature the best type of library or study, and the experiences one can have there of the utmost importance.  Essentially, freedom for Emerson is thinking and acting on your own.  I believe that is why he capitalizes "Man Thinking", to stress the importance that we are thinking creatures, and that thinking is for oneself is freedom.

Whitman- "I lean and loafe at my ease . . . . observing a spear of summer grass."
Whitman's view of freedom is more extreme than these other authors.  Whitman's sense of freedom is a complete detachment from societal life.  By telling us that he "lean[s] and loafe[s] at my ease...observing a spear of summer grass", he is letting us know that he has not a care in the world for what is going on outside of his experience.  And to Whitman, only by shutting oneself off from society, can an individual truly experience the world and freedom.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

But they'll never take our FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!

For Douglass, there are several aspects to freedom.  One major component of freedom for Douglass was freedom of consciousness.  Slaves were not only slaves physically, but mentally as well.  Through fear and violence, slave-masters sought to control the thoughts of their slaves, and keep them ignorant as to the world around them.  Realizing ignorance and bondage was no way to live, Douglass educated himself, and became more completely aware of the awful institution that was slavery.  Another important aspect was physical freedom, of course.  Once he gained his freedom, Douglass was ecstatic that he could finally perform free labor, and keep his entire paycheck.  This physical freedom, coupled with an awareness of the surrounding world, seem to define freedom for Frederick Douglass. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson seems to define freedom as freedom from societal pressures.  In his essay/address "The American Scholar', he speaks lowly of "the bookworm", or he who spends his time with his nose buried in a book.  To Emerson, gaining knowledge through direct experience was of the utmost importance.  Merely mimicking what one reads in a book was not ideal for Emerson.  Instead, Emerson advocates going into nature, away from the social constructs of man, and experiencing the world that way.  For Emerson, this was freedom.

Walt Whitman was probably the most extreme in his view of freedom amongst these three.  Whitman seemed to want freedom from the world.  Not freedom from the earth, as he seems to enjoy his time spent outdoors, but from the world of societies.  Society, and all of its ideas, were seen as fake to Whitman, and he did what he could to avoid society.  But Whitman realized this was too easy to do, physically, as he lived in a time when one could leave society for nature.  So it seems that Whitman also sought freedom from his mind, or more specifically, the way society has influenced his mind.  In "Song of Myself", Whitman adjourns himself from society, and lets his mind just wander, indulging in all the pleasures that naturally come to him, unhindered by the constraints of society. 

For these men, freedom seems to, essentially, boil down to a freedom of consciousness.  The ability to truly think and experience, free from outside influence, was espoused by these authors.  The most obvious difference between these men is that Douglass was born as, and experienced a significant portion of his life, as a slave.  This literal lack of freedom clearly influenced Douglass in a way much different than how the institution of slavery affected Emerson or Whitman.  Another difference lies in Whitman's view.  While Emerson and Douglass didn't suggest completely leaving one's society, Whitman seems to advocate exactly that.  Emerson and Douglass seem to embrace a certain degree of separation, while Whitman seems to want to go all the way.    

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


     My journey narrative is "The Swimmer", a short story by John Cheever.  The story focuses on Neddy Merrill, an established, middle-aged suburbanite from anytown America.  It opens with Neddy and his family, spending an afternoon at their friend's pool.  It's a beautiful summer day, and every one is enjoying themselves.  Rather randomly, Neddy decides he is going to swim back to his house, through every pool in the county.  Neddy begins his journey (leaving his family) full of energy.  He makes his way from pool to pool, continuously greeted with drinks and warm hellos from friends.  Neddy is clearly popular throughout his community.  As his journey progresses, however, time begins to slip away......
     What began as an invigorating swim through the neighborhood turns into something quite darker.  It is no longer bright and sunny, but ominously gloomy.  Instead of just going from concrete to water to concrete, Neddy must now trek through wooded areas, lamenting the difficulty of traversing such terrain in nothing but swim shorts.  But perhaps most strangely, Neddy is no longer received warmly by his friends.  Many people offer condolences for financial, and other, problems Neddy doesn't remember.  Neddy also finds that, not only does he lack the energy he started with, he is suspiciously tired.  As he gets closer to his own home, the weather has clearly shifted from that of summer to that of fall, and Neddy is now explicitly spurned at the pools he tries to swim through.  Finally reaching home, in what seemed like an afternoon, Neddy finds his house and property neglected and decaying, behind locked gates.

     This narrative is somewhat different from the ones we read in class, in that it doesn't start from A, go to B, then back to A, but simply goes from B (the pool) back to A (Neddy's house).  This story takes a rather surreal turn, through the distortion time.  Instead of being outright presented with the problems Neddy faced, we are forced to think of them ourselves.  And there are many problems a man taking months to swim home would face.  Nature plays an interesting role in this story, as we see the weather shift from summer to autumn.  As his journey progresses, Neddy is forced to trek through increasingly wooded (natural) and dangerous areas, perhaps representing his own  downfall.  Neddy finally makes it back to his house, only to find it rotting and abandoned.  Neddy clearly mourns the loss of his family and home, but also laments that he (and us) will never know what truly happened.  This is a different kind of journey narrative, but one I really enjoyed.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


My name is Michael Katz, and this is the first blog post.  I grew up in Santa Monica.  I am a philosophy major, whit aspirations towards law school.  In my spare time, I enjoy playing music.  I started with bass guitar in 2005, and picked up guitar a few years later.  One of my musical idols is Cliff Burton, the original bassist for Metallica.  I live with four other roommates in the sunset (we call our place Roadhouse), and I love spending time outdoors.