Was I just there?

In the breakup song Romantic Homicide, the central protagonist has already emotionally moved on. Glancing at the song’s lyrics, it’s arguable who triggered the separation; it appears more that his partner made the decision, but the singer believes it was the right one. That is clearly indicated in one phrase in particular: I don’t mean to be complacent with the decision you made, but why? These lines suggest that the choice was taken by another party. It would also explain his despair in the opening words, by which he says that he thinks the other person doesn’t care:

I don’t mean to be complacent
With the decision you made, but why?

However, d4vd here seems to address the breakup differently than most folks do in the initial stages. To have reached a stage where he had successfully processed the breakup of the relationship. He expresses two things in a way that distances the other person from him or her emotionally:

I’m scared, it feels like you don’t care
Enlighten me, my dear
Why am I still here, oh?

The two ideas mentioned above are typically two crucial steps in processing a breakup: erasing that person from our lives in order to fully accept that they are no longer a part of them, and developing natural hatred for them in order to make up for any remaining feelings of love that may still be present in our hearts. These two actions enable us to emotionally detach.from that individual and begin to rebuild our lives. That does not imply that d4vd is content with who he is. At some point later in the song, he also expresses grief, in addition to his earlier expression of fear:

In the back of my mind
You died
And I didn’t even cry
No, not a single tear

We won’t create barriers to our destiny if our self-love remains unaffected and if we continue to feel that we deserve love and will receive it. And before a breakup, we should all act in that manner. After all, you left me alone, and I won’t chase you—this is the true meaning of the lines in Romantic Homicide. You are dead to me because I despise you. I begin the reconstruction and move forward with these two ideas in mind: love will come knocking again at the appropriate moment.

Musical Poetry: “You’re On Your Own, Kid” by Taylor Swift

“You’re On Your Own, Kid” is the fifth track on Taylor Swift’s newest studio album, Midnights. The song offers a vivid, though somewhat intangible, tale of growing up, which is interspersed with specific anecdotes that ground the song in a truly poetic way. 

Opening the song, Swift sets the scene by singing “Summer went away/Still, the yearning stays.” This is an example of a technique Swift uses often, where she uses seasons and seasonal imagery to convey the passage of time. The idea of summer fading into fall signifies the passing of a phase in one’s life, and could be argued to allude to a summer romance mentioned in several of her other songs. In the second half of that stanza she continues: “I wait patiently/ He’s gonna notice me/ It’s okay, we’re the best of friends/ Anyway.” These lines sharpen the image of a young girl waiting for an anticipated dose of male attention, and even sacrificing her own emotional wellbeing in the interest of waiting for him to “notice her.” The tone is bittersweet as she longs for affection while simultaneously trying to grow up and realize herself. 

Later, in the second stanza, Swift continues to narrate the disproportionate emotional labor done by a teenager with a crush: “I hear it in your voice/You’re smoking with your boys/I touch my phone as if it’s your face.” This scene conjures up an image of the narrator pining over this guy, while he is unaware of her pain simply living his life without her. The simile of her touching her phone “as if it’s your face” is an especially vivid image for gen-z teenagers: when your phone is your connection to someone you care about, it can sometimes feel like it takes on a greater significance as your link to them. Taylor goes on: “I didn’t choose this town/I dream of getting out/ There’s just one you could make me stay.” This part gives the listener more detail in their mental image of the pining teenager. She has big dreams far beyond her hometown, but her feelings for this boy who doesn’t value her are still holding her back. 

Taylor continues the motif of seasons and images of growing up in the pre-chorus with the line “From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes.” These images show another transition from summer to winter, whereby sprinklers represent playing outside in summer and fireplaces represent winter. But at the same time, sprinkler splashes imply a certain youthfulness and fireplace ashes conjure a more mature image. Going a layer deeper, it could also be argued that a sprinkler splashing gives life and beginning while fireplace ash represents the end of something and what remains after a struggle. The repetition of this line adds a powerful meaning to the song about growing up and about the story of this girl letting go of the guy she pines for and finding her own identity. 

She begins that process of letting him go in the next verse with, “I see the great escape/So long, Daisy May/I picked the petals, he loves me not/Something different bloomed/Writing in my room/I play my songs in the parking lot/I’ll run away.” Here Swift alludes to “Daisy May,” an innocent young girl who she feels she is leaving behind in order to realize her dreams. She then references an old childhood game little girls play, where you pick leaves off a flower and with each petal say “he loves me” then, “he loves me not” for the next petal. The phrase that lands on the last petal of the flower is supposed to tell the fortune of if a crush likes you back. Swift uses this allusion here to conjure up childlike innocence

while showing that the narrator, presumably Swift herself, has learned that she can’t make this man reciprocate her feelings. She then talks about writing and performing songs, showing that she has moved on to chasing her dream of being a singer-songwriter and realizing her own goals.  

She then presumably throws herself into her career to a stressful extend, because by the next verse, after another “From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes” she narrates “I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this/I hosted parties and starved my body/Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss.” She has now poured everything she has into performing, only for it to destroy her in the process. She also comments on how she still craves male attention, to the extent of body image issues that cause her to starve herself. This sentiment is shared by many women trying to survive in an industry where their success is so often reliant on sexualization and male approval. She continues this idea in the next stanza with “The jokes weren’t funny, I took the money/My friends from home don’t know what to say” to show that she has given into some of the shadier parts of the music industry and feels like she’s lost herself in the process. 

In the bridge, however, the song has a sort of volta where Swift transitions to talking about finding joy in life that both comes from within and focuses on what is happening in the moment. She sings: “‘‘Cause there were pages turned with the bridges burned/Everything you lose is a step you take/So make the friendship bracelets/Take the moment and taste it/You’ve got no reason to be afraid.” These lines mean that everything we lose and hurt ourselves with in the process of growing up is a learning experience that shapes our future. So the only real way to get through it is to focus on each day—to “take the moment and taste it.” 

Swift closes the song with a last repetition of the chorus line and a closing statement: “You’re on your own, kid/Yeah, you can face this” This manta highlights that the maturity and self-realization she’s been narrating can only come from within, and no one else can do it for you. 

For these reasons, the emotional journey this song takes the listener through is visceral in a way only poetry can be. To classify this work as anything else would be borderline disrespectful to its beautiful lyrical message. 

Exit West and Focusing on the Why of Immigration

The story Exit West by Mohsin Hamid helps imagine a reality where the how of migration is not the focal point of immigration but instead something that just happens, something where anyone could walk through a door and instantly be in a new country. This idea Hamid constructs his book around, these passages being reduced to walking through a door, helps to focus on what was happening that made it necessary for someone to leave their homes in the first place. That idea he invokes helps to restore humanity into these characters while reading, in contrast of the real world where stories of immigration focus on the how instead of the why, stripping humanity away from the people who partake in this journey. Often, this dehumanizing makes it easy to alienate but Hamid challenges that idea throughout the whole book and through his characters of Saeed and Nadia. As Saeed and Nadia go through change with each journey they take through the doorways, we see that migration is normal and identities can alter as a result. Though it is easy to other when looking at the journey of someone else, one you may not be able to relate to, we are all migrators as the world and people around us shift and change as well.

“The Elephant Vanishes” Reflections

The most intriguing part of the story “The Elephant Vanishes” was how people could interpret the ending differently. Since there was no conclusion about where the elephant disappeared, it can be left up to the reader’s imagination. The story also goes beyond just the elephant, as it takes a dive into the narrator’s personal life with his relationships and thought processes. Throughout the story, it’s revealed that the narrator is very put together, organized, and perfectionist about his life. His fascination with the elephant’s disappearance is something he can’t let go of due to this type of personality, as the elephant was something he loved, and watching it was a part of his routine. As we watch the narrator establish a relationship with a woman, we see a parallel between her and the elephant. Just like the elephant vanished from his life, so did the woman. The symbolism of the elephant is left up to the reader to decide and makes the story more interesting because the author could have just told us how the elephant vanishes but leaves the end of the story up to your thoughts.

The Secret Remains (A “The Secret Woman”)

“The Secret Woman,” is a short story following a man and his wife, who both lie to one another in order to attend an ball. Upon arrival, the man witnesses his wife engage with several men and women, cheating on her him.

The story is masterful, in that the lack of length the story contains forces the reader down a rabbit-hole of dissection of what’s already there. There’s so much to pick apart from the story off of such little content.

The narrative and dynamic between both the wife and husband creates a patriarchal binary between the man and woman, as we see the husbands attitude towards the wife do a complete 180 after seeing her self liberation at the party, introducing her as dainty and almost docile, and ending by calling her evil and black. Moreover, the husband initially lied to the wife which leaves readers uncertain towards what his intentions were at the ball in the first place.

The use of the wife’s costume also is a curious metaphor for the secrecy of the wife as I personally interpret it as a double meaning for the reader and the husband not entirely understanding the true identity of the wife. The story is all told through the husbands perspective, so we only ever get to his perception of his wife, when in reality, the wife may have been putting up a front for the husband the entire time, using her social life as a ways to reject/free herself from the binary.

Overall, the story definitely served as a change of pace from some of the other stories we’ve read whilst maintaining a lot of room to dissect, and discuss.

The Elephant Vanishes and Worldviews

I really enjoyed “The Elephant Vanishes.” I think that the main message of the short story was how we, in our day-to-days lives, disregard things outside of our worldview and things that disagree with our opinions. In psychology, this is called the self-confirmation bias: “The tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs (Encyclopedia Britannica).” I think that Murakami was trying to teach us something about ourselves; we must not let our own worldviews and cemented opinions affect how interpret new evidence and phenomena. This is particularly important in our modern political climate. Both sides remember information supporting their points and disregard information contradicting it. Maybe this is just my interpretation, but I think it’s an important realization to have in our current zeitgeist.

Power in “The Secret Woman” by Collete

After reading “The Secret Woman” on my own, I was left wondering about many instances in the story. I was most intrigued by the lies told between the main character Irene, and her husband. At first glance, I did not really think about the meaning behind Irene cheating on her husband, but after the discussion in class, its importance came clear.

Irene and her husband both lied to each other and ended up at the opera ball alone. When Irene was at the ball, I found Collete’s description of Irene’s disguise and movements very powerful. In addition, when it is revealed that Irene’s intentions were unloyal to her husband, I was pretty surprised but I also think that the woman cheating being surprising represents a double standard. After her husband discovered this, he was stunned that she had power over herself and her choices, and he did not know how to handle the situation. I think after he caught her he felt like he did not have the power in their relationship anymore and she was in control, which he did not like.

This story reinforces the idea that in society, men cheating is normalized, but when a woman is cheating it is absurd and frowned upon.

“The Elephant Vanishes” and Symbolism

“The Elephant Vanishes” is an incredibly interesting story, full of mystery, connections and revelations. It further pushes the depth of its storytelling by demonstrating a connection to the real world and the balance, or rather imbalance, between human beings and animals today.

In this short story, the aged elephant had been adopted and taken care of by this town, despite the debate about it beforehand. Crowds would gather to admire the elephant during the day, while the zookeeper would stay at night to keep it company and clean the living space. The elephant especially grew close to the zookeeper, affectionately putting its trunk on the back of the man while he was working. Even the narrator acknowledges the clear bond of trust between the two, despite any exchange of dialogue.

In reality, the bond between humans and elephants isn’t as warm. The rate of illegal elephant poaching each year still ride high, an estimated 30,000 African elephants being poached yearly. Hunters only see elephants for their expensive tusks, rather then the life it belongs to.

Uncomfortable Conversations

But in choosing the plural and the first-person plural you’re basically allowing that ‘we’ to work as ‘everyone’

A Conversation About Bread (177)

In “A Conversation About Bread” Nafissa Thompson-Spires brings perspective into conversations about race while simultaneously bringing awareness to biases in conversations. Through the quote it conveyed how wording has the power to convey biases and create false misconceptions. In everyday life your personal biases follow you around and affect how you interact with the world around you. Especially when talking about sensitive/serious topics it’s important to remove your biases and speak objectively. I personally believe that while it’s hard to speak objectively it’s important to make sure you separate and make distinctions between your biases and generalizations as it is extremely harmful to project biases as what is true rather than opinion or fact.

The Objective Reader and Nabokov

I can tell you right now that the best temperament for a reader to have, or to develop, is a combination of the artistic and the scientific one. The enthusiastic artist alone is apt to be too subjective in his attitude towards a book, and so a scientific coolness of judgement will temper the intuitive heat. If, however, a would-be reader is utterly devoid of passion and patience - of an artist's passion and a scientist's patience - he will hardly enjoy great literature. (41)

Nabokov has proven to be highly controversial for his analysis of what makes a good reader and a good writer (actually for more than that, but that’s a different story). I disagreed with a fair amount of what he said at first, but as I read and reread what he wrote, I realized I agreed with him more than I thought I would.

Nabokov feels that a reader must be paradoxically detached from a story and still attached to it enough to analyze what’s going on, which made no sense to me when I first read it, but I realized that all he meant was that the reader shouldn’t attempt to relate themselves to the story at all. Which I still felt made the enjoyable act of reading too cold and detached from the original story. But I realized that Nabokov’s idea of literature was not the same as mine, he views literature as a truly “pure” art form, one that must create a world and a story free of outside influences, and one that must be consumed in the same vacuum. It might sound cold and almost heartless, which is true to an extent, but view it more as (as a reader) jumping into a new world with no recollection of the world outside, rather than viewing a world from outside a glass box.

One could almost say that the reader must see the work on the same “level of power” as they are on, it is not their story, it is not their world, but it is a world that the author made that the reader is stepping into. The reader cannot impose their personal experiences on their interpretation of the world the author has created, or try to mold the story to fit their own without placing themselves “over” the unique, well-written story Nabokov hopes every author would create. To experience a story in this way requires a mutual agreement of the author and reader to abide by the guidelines Nabokov has laid out, consciously or not, to create a brand-new world unlike any either party had ever seen, to fashion a spectacular, never-before-experienced story, featuring characters nobody’s ever met. To relate this brand-new world to anything in the author or reader’s life (either in its creation or consumption), would completely spoil this pristine vacuum-packed world. It would be like taking a foreign delicacy you had never tasted anything like before and covering it in ketchup, at least according to Nabokov.

Opinions on Nobakov

I wanted to use this post to circle back to a conversation we had in class late last week, where several classmates and I raised our concerns/critiques of Nobakov’s “Good Readers and Good Writers.” I want to reiterate and clarify that, although I understand the need for a framework when reading in a literature class, I deeply disagree with his argument about things “good readers” do. Nobakov says that in order to be a “good reader” one must use an “impersonal imagination,” where they do not see themselves in the story nor connect it to their own life, but instead properly immerse themselves in the world they are reading about. I see where he is coming from here, but I stand by that a key rule of art–maybe the only rule art has–is that the artist gets no say in how people interpret their work. To try and demand how a reader sees your writing is not only impossible, but also somewhat narcissistic. It’s a sign of a god-complex: a hubris large enough to think that an author has the right to control the inner workings of a readers brain. One of the most valuable aspects of art is the variation in how different people interpret the same piece. When Nobakov tries to control how we read, he attacks that aspect of the process, which does a disservice to the readers and to the work itself.

The Tale of a Wonderful Yesterday

When I first found this song I was watching a movie called “Our Idiot Brother” with Paul Rudd, and in the movie, there was a dog whose name was Willie Nelson, so naturally, the director of the movie had countless Willie Nelson songs whenever the dog showed up. The song “Wonderful Future” by Willie Nelson from the album The Willie Way discusses the life of Willie Nelson, as a person who has lived his life and experienced great things, and because of this he reflects on his life and expresses that his memories are all he has to remember, and because of these memories he has nothing for him in his future. Throughout this song the speaker is Willie himself, talking to someone who he loved (as in a relationship) and he is explaining his pain to them. This takes place possibly in Nelson’s home while reflecting on his life and how he feels now (or while he was thinking about his past). The song first begins by expressing his reflection of his dreams as he (metaphorically looks at them) or as though he is introducing to the audience the beginning of the walkthrough of his past. However, he explains that he is the same person of his past, and that the memories of his past still resonate with him in this moment of reflection. The song is explaining to the listener that holding on to the memories of your past is important but this then leads you to nothing in the future because you have lived the moments that leave you with imprints. More specifically the likes that struck me the most are:

I’m alone in the sweet used-to-be
My past and my present are one and the same

This part of the song (the introduction) tells the listener directly that as he walks through his past and dreams, though they are the same person (or he is the same person he’s always been) he is alone with only those memories to ponder

Yesterday’s kisses still burning
And yesterday’s mem’ries still find me
Scenes from the past keep returning

This part alone allows the reader to think of this song as the reflection of a relationship that ended (with the word “kisses”). Also, the use word “burning” alludes to pain from these never-ending memories that keep returning. It almost seems like he’s trying to escape this pain that he feels but the “scenes” of his past keep haunting him almost

You say there is happiness waiting for me
But I know this is just fantasy
Let me trade one tomorrows for one yesterday
Live in my garden of dreams

The use of the word “you” entails that someone specifically has said this but also that he’s speaking to someone, possibly someone he was in a past relationship with. Furthermore, the last line of this stanza reflects back to his “garden of dreams” similar to how his past keeps returning his dreams come back as well. What’s more interesting though, is when he explains that he would trade a day of his future to be able to live another day in the past, because it illustrates his sadness and desperation to live his past again.

This song, to me, not only tells the story of not being able to escape your emotions from the past but also that having those memories are important in the sense that you’ve lived such a part in your life that you want to go back to it.

Willie Nelson – Wonderful Future Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

Who keeps who colonized?

One power dynamic that is present in The Stranger is the relationship between Europeans (colonizers) and Arabs (the colonized). Throughout the novel, Meursault depicts the Arab characters as distant, skulking people by calling them simply “the Arabs.” Furthermore, not one character calls an Arab character by name, not even that of the Arab who is murdered by Meursault. This decision by Camus could reveal how a colonizing relationship between two countries can strip the colonized people of their identity and group them in a single description such as “Arabs.”

One scene in the novel that is hard to overlook when examining the book’s commentary on colonialism is Meursault’s initial jail scene. As Meursault enters the jail, “they (the Arabs) ask me what I was in for. I said I’d killed an Arab and they were all silent.” Again, Meursault does not refer to any of the Arabs by name, and he continues to group the individual Arabs into just a single group. But more importantly, the Arabs do not retaliate against Meursault, even though they have the physical power in the situation. This phenomenon hints that although the Arabs are being oppressed by their colonizers, they are also supporting the very power dynamic that oppresses them, whether it be intentional or not.

Who is Meursault?

In the novel The Stranger we are introduced to the character named Meursault is someone who does not seem to make true emotional connections and is emotionless for most of the story. An example of this behavior can be noted after Marie, Meursault’s girlfriend, asks him if he wants to marry her, “I said it didn’t make any difference and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her” (41). Meursault’s behavior is interesting because he doesn’t seem to have or even want to have an emotional connection and makes that evident. His mannerisms are interesting as well because he consistently describes what he’s doing, whether that’s waking up in the morning after spending the night with Marie as he “rolled over, tried to find the salty smell Marie’s hair had left on the pillow”(21) or following a girl home whom he did not know.

It’s interesting that he does this because it allows us (the readers) to see how he views things and his thought processes behind some of his actions. From this we can conclude that he thinks in a more realistic but also beautiful way. In Chapter 2, while Meursault is at home watching the events taking place over the balcony, he describes, “…the passing clouds had left a hint of rain hanging over the street, which made it look darker…The sky changed again. Above the rooftops the sky had taken a reddish glow, and with an evening coming on the streets came to life”(23). Meursault is a very descriptive when he talks about a person or thing that he sees, and this allows the reader to see how beautifully he sees the world, which sparks the inference that his mindset (being more closed off from people and living in the moment) allows someone to see the beauty of the world and the beauty of life really. However, in Meursault’s case, though he sees the world with such beauty, he also does not refect any emotion towards anyone which seems confusing. Meursault is a complex character and his view of the world, for the most part is interesting, while he does not seem to be interested in emotional connections, to the point where he kills a man.

The Myth of Sisyphus: The Deeper Meaning

The main concern of The Myth of Sisyphus is what the author calls absurd. This claim stems from the idea that there is a conflict between what we want from the universe and what we’ll get from the universe. That we won’t find what we truly want in life. This argument is told through the story of Sisyphus who, after dying and going to the underworld, asks Pluto (part of the universe) to return to earth which Pluto allows. After realizing how beautiful earth Sisyphus does not want to return to the underworld, however, Mercury (also part of the universe) forced Sisyphus to return to the underworld. After returning to the underworld people created myths of Sisyphus and how he was being punished in the underworld (though “hopeless labor”), one being that he had to push a rock up a large slope and once he was able to make it to the top of the slope he had to return back to his rick to repeat the process. Camus utilizes this to further explain that having meaning and purpose on earth is only an escape from facing the absurd and struggling against it.

What Does Life Mean to Meursault?

Meursault manages to go through his life without a care in the world, but not in a free spirited way. He doesn’t seem to feel any importance for anything or anyone. The simplest things he should immense emotions for don’t seem to phase him. Something as heart wrenching as losing a beloved parent only made him feel tired and annoyed with the people around him. Not once did Meursault show any kind of grief or even a small hint of sadness in losing his mother. The only thing Meursault seemed to care about was how good his coffee tasted as well as things such as the sun and lights bothering him. His mother was dead right in front of him and all he had to say was, “I like milk in my coffee” (8). He couldn’t even show empathy to his mother’s closest friend who came to her burial and fainted from exhaustion.

Secondly, something that was so blatantly wrong, such as abusing living things didn’t seem to affect Meursault one bit. The senseless beating of a dog and the way his friend bragged about beating his ex were like comments about the weather to Meursault. At least it appeared that way from his reaction. Not only did he completely ignore the savage beating of his neighbor’s innocent dog, but he greeted him with a good morning as he was doing it and kept on walking. His friend also mentioned how aggressive with his ex and the abuse that he was responsible for as well as intimate details of their relationship, to which all Meursault had to say was that he agreed. “He’d beaten her til she bled” (31), Meursault thought and he never gave his input, he just listened. The way Meursault almost subconsciously ignores all the important conversations and events that happen in his life, tells a lot about him. We don’t know much about his past but we know enough that his future is going to start getting rough if he doesn’t face things as they come.

Relationships/Social Unawareness

In the novel, The Stranger by Albert Camus the the narrator, Meursault, is in a relationship with a woman named Marie who he explains is someone he cares for deeply, however does not seem to show any emotion when it comes to their relationship. After witnessing Raymond (Meursault neighbor) physically and verbally abuse a woman whom Raymond thought was cheating, Marie, “wasn’t hungry; I [Meursault] ate almost everything” (37). He seems to be unaware of the importance of that just happened and is almost unbothered by this.

Meursault also refuses to express much emotion, no matter the situation and seems as though he cannot think for himself. After having dinner with Marie one night, she suddenly asks Meursault to marry her, to which he explains that, “…it didn’t make any difference to me and that we would if she wanted. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her. ‘So why marry me, then?’ she said. I explained to her that it didn’t really matter and that if she wanted to, we could get married” (41). Meursault does not seem to care whether he marries Marie which, realistically, is a huge deal. He repeats the similar phrases, “it didn’t make a difference to me” or “it didn’t mean anything” which shows his lack for involvement in both his relationship and everyday life. With something has large as marriage typically someone would be either nervous or ecstatic but he is neither of those.

Lastly, Meursault shows little emotional connection to Marie, by only really describing her physical characteristics and also that Meursault doesn’t show any emotion ever. When Meursault, Marie, and Raymond decide to go to the beach on a warm Sunday to meet one of Raymond’s friends, Marie invites Meursault into the water with her, when he explains, “We ran and threw ourselves into the first little waves. We swam a few strokes and she reached out and held onto me. I felt her legs wrapped around mine and I wanted her” (51). This is not the first time he has explain something about Marie and then afterwards explains that he wants her. He consistently only describes her physical appearance and wants to just have sex with her, he doesn’t really ever explain her personality or another reason he’s with her other than her physical appearance.

Nabokov and Good Reading

Nabokov’s perspective is very interesting and easy to digest. You can’t look at a book before you’ve read it the same way you can look at a painting. The art is only fully displayed for you when you re-read. This is similar to re-watching movies and getting different things from it each time. This is because you know the story and you now have that leverage to interpret the dialogue or imagery. I have shown friends shows with major plot changes that assume they can review the show after watching a couple episodes. This is very frustrating and annoying. It is a fair point to make that when you dip your toes into a story that you don’t always want to go all in from the get go. Not every piece of media has an attention grabbing opening that hooks you. Some times, you have to swim a little farther before your caught on the hook. There is no solid answer to solve this small conundrum. There is advice and second opinions but that’s it. An example for me would be when I began watching Neon Genesis Evangelion, I automatically interpreted the entire show to be about a depressed kid who gains confidence through fighting with giant machines. I’m so glad I came back and finished it because it is one of the best written shows ever made

Discussing “Sonny’s Blues”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • A lot of the story takes place with characters on the move, whether this is on the subway, in a taxi, world travel, or walking the streets. What could this constant motion symbolize?
  • Do you think the narrator sees potential in the boys he teaches or only sees their potentially rough futures?
  • After leaving work, the narrator runs into one of Sonny’s old friends. What do you think this interaction symbolizes?
  • There are short references to music scattered throughout the story, what do these inclusions add to the meaning of the story?
  • Do you think that the narrator truly cares for his brother’s well being or is only in his life because of a moral family obligation?

period 2
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  • How does the narrator deal with his suffering?
  • Will Sonny relapse and start using drugs again?
  • If everyone suffers and deals with their suffering individually, then is all expression an expression of suffering?
  • Why do those who grew up in darkness and suffer because of it raise their children in the same darkness?
  • How does Sonny and the narrator’s fraternal relationship affect their interactions and issues?

period 3
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  • What do you think caused Sonny to start using drugs?
  • What does the music being played symbolize at the end of the story?
  • How does Grace dying have an impact on Sonny and the rest of the story?
  • Do you think the story would be different if told from a different perspective?
  • What is the correlation between the drink Sonny receives at the end of the story and his life?

Discussing “Barn Burning”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • What’s the significance of the final line in the story?
  • Considering he liked setting fires, why did Abner Snopes build such small fires on regular nights?
  • What was Abner Snopes’ real involvement in the war? What does this mean about him? About his son’s view of him?
  • What does Abner Snopes ruining the de Spains’ rug symbolize?
  • Why does Faulkner continuously compare Abner Snopes to tin?

period 2
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  • Consider the father’s relationship with wealth. His approach to the war seemed to indicate greed and materialism, yet his treatment of de Spain’s carpet points to a resentment of wealth. Do you think the father desires wealth? Why or why not? What other priorities interact with his desire for wealth, or lack therefore?
  • While the battle between “blood” and “law” is one that permeates the entire story, the narrator has a clear shift between taking a beating for his family’s honor in the beginning and betraying his father in the end. What might have caused this shift?
  • Faulkner opens the story with a description of the first court’s smell of cheese, filling the rest of the paragraph and even page with vivid descriptions of food and other sensory images that may seem tangential to the story. What purpose do these sensory descriptions serve?
  • When Colonel Sartoris and his father come across the de Spain’s house, the boy is awestruck and forgets about most everything else. What does this reveal about Colonel Sartoris’s views of the world? His relationship & similarities/differences with his father?

period 3
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  • Why was the son named Colonel Sartoris?
  • Why did Abner Snopes lie about his role in the Civil War?
  • Why did the father believe Colonel Sartoris Snopes would have told the judge? Why does he lie about his intentions even though he was not going to tell the judge what his father did?
  • Why does Colonel Sartoris Snopes decide to run?
  • In the end of “ Barn Burning” does Colonel Sartoris regret his decision to run?