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Thursday, October 17, 2013

 Blog Option 5

“The Anatomy of Desire” might have been one of the most disturbing pieces of text I have ever read, but I found it to be the best piece of gothic we have read all year.  In my opinion music, TV Shows, and stories that get people talking, questioning, and envisioning are the best. I am giving this story a 5/5 because it was scary, let the readers draw their own conclusions, and provided a great life lesson.

 So far this year we have not read a story that I thought was scary. This story disturbed me. The image of a man with mostly no skin is something that I had never thought about, and I still cannot wrap my head around. In previous stories, I felt that you could feel the ending coming; in “The Veldt” you knew something bad was going to happen to the parents, but I never felt like I knew what was going to happen here. I never thought Handley was going to ask for her skin, and that maybe Handley did not have true feelings for her. I thought L’Heureux went over the top with the sex, but at the same time it was so shocking and gross that it actually made the story scary. I never want to hear “I want to be inside of you“ ( L’Heureux 341) again, because I will always think back to this story.. The over the top goriness that I don’t think one reader has ever thought of is the reason why this was scary. Imagine if you came across Handley? I would probably run the other way. 

The best part about this story was that for only a few pages, it let the reader draw many conclusions on their own.  The first question that I still cannot figure out was the relationship between Hanley and the Saint. Were they in love with each other? Was Hanley just using the Saint? Did the Saint first “love” Hanley to make him feel better, but then develop true feelings? My second big question is the relationship between Hanley and the General. The general got very affectionate, and I do think some homosexual activity was happening. This is probably a crazy theory, but I think Hanley was truly after love rather that be from a female or a male. At first, I think Hanley wanted love from the saint; he wanted affection and intimacy but was not satisfied with what the Saint was giving. Maybe he was realizing that the possessed love was not there because she really did not love him, she was just doing it because that was her job. He then started getting letters from the General, and I think saw that the general had that possessed love for him that he had been searching for. It was then that he decided that he wanted the Saints skin, and I think that was because Hanley was going to go be with the General. The story ends with Hanley not satisfied, and maybe that is because of the last letter the general wrote. You could imply that the general killed himself, and Hanley no longer could have the one thing he wanted, someone possessed with him. The great thing about this story is there are so many ways to interpret it. The questions about relationships, the skin, what war was this, the religious playing with the word saint all have so many possibilities that make sense. 

The last part about this story is that it had a life lesson at the end. Great gothic stories I think always have a lesson that can be taken away. The last line of the story “He plucked at his empty skin, and wept.” ( L’Heureux 343) was not satisfying to the reader but also shows that you can’t always have what you want. I think all of us have had something in our life that we were so obsessed with getting or accomplishing and it ends up taking over our life. Maybe if we focused less on being obsessive over desires, we will live happier lives or even satisfy those desires.
Option #4
All Babies Are Beautiful

            The bond between a mother and a child is one no one can ever explain or understand unless she experiences it. It is sure to be a beautiful and fulfilling experience, one that is sure to consume a life and in Lisa Tuttle’s short story “The Replacements,” experiences just that. She is consumed by the creature and has a motherly bond with it that seems impossible to break.
            There are so many words to describe what a mother can be but some of the things that help create such a strong bond between mother and child include of course child bearing for six months, nursing, and having your own genes in another person’s body. When Jenny brings the creature home and becomes completely infatuated with it—so much that she begins to ignore her husband—it’s not really a surprise that a woman can have this sort of connection. I think women really are with some sort of motherly instinct, some may have a stronger sense of it than others, but we have this intrinsic feeling of love and caring.
Jenny begins to mirror mother-like qualities; the creature takes up her time and attention, and she even lets it drink her blood. Although I have yet to be a mother I can only imagine how a child can consume your life and things that may have seemed important before may not seem so important after your child is born. In this case, Stuart was so important in Jenny’s life before she discovered the creature but he later becomes almost nonexistent in her life and moves her own life in a different direction. Stuart seems frustrated and baffled as to how Jenny could love such an ugly creature but I think it’s safe to say that all mothers believe their child is the most beautiful creature on earth. Just as new born babies sometimes aren’t all that cute at first, no matter what a mother will pour enormous amounts of love into her child’s life.
Many mothers also nurse their children, which can only make a bond stronger as the child is depending on its mother for survival. This intimate act is similar to the one Jenny shared with the creature when she allowed it to drink her blood. The creature needed her blood for survival so Jenny was able to feel needed which was probably very fulfilling to her. While reading this story, I often scrunched my face in disgust when wondering how she could find such a horrific creature so beautiful and how she could let it suck her own blood! But when looking at it from the perspective of a mother, I don’t even need to question the extremities she went to in the story.

Tuttle, Lisa. "The Replacements." American Gothic Tales. Comp. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Plume, 1996. N. pag. Print.

The Anatomy of Desires

My favorite quote from the song “Let Her Go” by Passenger says “you only need the light when it’s burning low, only need the sun when it starts to snow”. Basically, Passenger is singing about the old saying “you don’t realize what you have until its already gone”. “The Anatomy of Desires” by John L’Heureux has this theme weaved throughout it. In a flashback, Hanley, a soldier, is captured and brought to the enemy general for punishment. The general turns out to be very fond of Hanley but nevertheless must perform his duty, so he spares Hanley’s face and genitals. When morning came, the enemy had retreated and Hanley was rescued. No one else but the ones obligated to care for him wanted to be near him because of his condition. One day, Hanley asked the nurse, whom was called Saint, “to love [him], possess [him]” (339).  Although she was looking for love too, she was hesitant to promise anything.  When she agreed to love him, Hanley wanted more from her, saying “Not just love me. Possess me” (341).  She tries to meet his needs and give him what he wants but he says, “I am in love and I am loved. Why isn’t this enough?” (341). He claims that he loves but is not possessed by love and wants to be surrounded by the nurse. The saint seeks to make Hanley happy by fulfilling his needs. Finally, Hanley tells the nurse that he wants her skin and she gives it to him.  When inside her skin, Hanley says, “It is my hearts desire fulfilled. I am inside you. I am possessed by you” (342). And then, while gazing into her eyes, he sees that the saintly nurse has given him everything she possibly could, and he realizes that love cannot be possessed. There is only desire. He then wept.

I grew up the youngest in a large family with a five year difference between the next youngest and I. Until I was six, the house was always full and lively.  My sisters were in high school and always had friends over, my brother was a troublemaker, and my parents were socially involved and had their hands full. I never fully appreciated having so many siblings at home until I reached high school. When I reached ninth grade I was the only kid left in the house. All the attention was on me. There was no one else for my parents to be distracted by, so my parents watched me like hawks. Not to mention they knew all the old school tricks of pesky teens. Needless to say, I could not wait to have the independence that college promised. But, now I miss those random yet rare Barnes & Noble visits I would make with just me and my parents for some bonding time. I thought I could possess my future, my life, in my hands much like Hanley thought he could tangibly possess the nurse’s love. To my regret, I found my beliefs disproved, only to be desires while I regret taking those precious moments of living and bonding with my parents for granted. 

L'Heureux, John. "The Anatomy of Desire.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: The Penguin  Group. 339-343. Print.

Option #5

The Yellow Wallpaper (1899) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one of the most successful gothic stories I've read in a while. I read the story from the perspective of the narrator, and tried to sympathize with her and hence, because of that reason I found it quite scary. While many would see her as the perceived threat and the mad, weird, dangerous scary woman, I personally immersed myself into being her. Putting myself in that situation, I was taken aback by the fact that even if I had deep conviction, and knew not only through speculation, but from directly seeing this seemingly abnormal phenomenon, no one believes me! Even though I know that "there is something strange about the house -- I can feel it" [Yellow]
but John thinks that "it is due to this nervous condition" [Yellow] and I'm just seeing things. I think that's one of the most haunting of feelings; when you know you're right despite it being against believable natural phenomenon, but no one believes you. Imagining myself in that situation was what worked really well to produce a sense of fear and desperation. This trope of the mad protagonist is used extensively in horror movies such as Signs ("I see dead people"), Shutter, Ju-On and so on. However, maybe it's not just madness and actually the other characters are being foolish in perceiving it as such. 

In The Yellow Wallpaper, the heroine is definitely antagonized. There is but a single "window that can see the garden" and "The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight", implying that the accommodations for the narrator where she has been forced into are not very pleasant. It is also pretty distressing to find out that she's the one who is suffering as her mental acuity slowly degrades and she starts seeing figures in the wallpaper such as "the woman behind [that] is as plain as
can be". Given the state of the narrator, I would say she's a sure case of a distressed heroine. Throughout the story though, and even after the ending, any reader could easily argue whether she was really mad, or if something supernatural was happening in that room. This guise of foggy information adds to the gothic nature of the story and makes it truly suspenseful.

I would recommend The Yellow Jacket to anyone with a sound heart and an open imagination. Gilman narrates a rather detailed story and paints colorful characters (albeit in dark, gloomy colors) in such a short length. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars rating.  I read through this as a statement against the androcentric medical practices of the 1890s but I thought more details about John's history could've been revealed about John that would've provided this rationale for John's treatment of the narrator. However, I haven't given it a 3 stars rating since revealing such details to an uninhibited extent could've taken the element of mystery out of the story, which is why the story is so captivating in the first place.

Gilman, Charlotte P. “The Yellow Wallpaper” 1889. 1-3. Print. 

Candles in the Sun: The Quandary of the Afterlife (Option 2)

Is there a god?
Is he watching?
Is she watching?
Are they watching out?
If not, what are we doing?
Where are we going?
What are we doing now?
Look at all these people
Searching for a reason
Searching for a peace of mind...Candles in the sun blowing in the wind

The preceding lyrics personify the quandary of the afterlife as expressed by the main characters Max and Liza in the short story "The Reencounter." If made into a film, this song alone would play. Silence would be the greatest musical composition. However, as a conclusive refrain to the film this song would play as the following scene took place: "Max Greitzer took her astral arm and they began to rise without purpose, without destination. As they might have done from an airplane, they looked down at the earth and saw cities, rivers, fields, lakes-everything but human beings." (Singer 240) I imagine this song to enter first faintly and to crescendo as Max and Liza seem to float and embark on their post-life journey. These lyrics are excepts from the song "Candles in the Sun" by the recording artist Miguel in his album Kaleidoscope Dream. In this song, Miguel melodically poses his questions of life, death, and the governance of deities. He almost seems to have the same conversation as Max and Liza did in the following quote:

"What am I then? A soul?"
"The unbelievable, the absurd, the most vulgar superstitions are proving to be true," Max Greitzer said.
"Perhaps we will find there is even a Hell and a Paradise."
"Anything is possible at this point."
"Perhaps we will be summoned to the Court on High after the burial and asked to account for our deeds?"
"Please don't ask anymore questions. I know as little as you."
"Does that mean that all the philosophic works you read and wrote are dead?"
"Worse-they were sheer nonsense." (Singer 240)
Max seems to doubt what the world has told him about the adventure known as death. He does not know if there is a god or even a heaven. This parallels to "Candles in the Sun" as Miguel questions monotheism, polytheism, the purpose of man, and where we and if we end.

In class, we briefly discussed the background and perceptions of the author of "The Reencounter" Isaac Singer. Singer, a Jewish man, now believes in private mysticism. This term can be defined as the belief that "since God was completely unknown and eternally silent, He could be endowed with whatever traits one elected to hang upon Him." It seems that Max and the author are one in the same. this is especially evidenced by the following excerpt: "I don't believe this is the end," [Max] said. "Perhaps a transition between two modes of transportation...since time has no validity, duration has no meaning." (Singer 240)

Even I, a person who claims Christianity born of business people by day preachers on other occasions find the concept of religion an oddity. This short story seemed to touch a darkened crevice of my heart not tended to. A place of uncertainty. For man questions what it cannot see and what it cannot touch. Some may call me heathen for not just taking Christianity or religion and general religion. I think it is important to think critically the reasons why we believe what we believe. If this is not done, we are simply guiding blindly into something we know not of. I for one have never been one to just accept what just anyone expects me to  Are we just wondering, listless souls treading upon this earth? Are priests, nuns, rabbis, monks, and pastors simply hollow beings wearing robes speaking of things that will never come to be? Is there no paradise just restless wondering? Do we serve something that is higher or do we only serve ourselves? Is there such a thing as hope? These questions I cannot answer now. I only cling to a faith, a faith in something more. It is like a dim flame blowing in the wind not yet blown out by doubt. If what I believe comes to pass, I only pray that God can write this on the hearts of those who are also wondering so that they may find peace. 

Works Cited:

Singer, Isaac. “The Reencounter.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Plume, 1996. 236-241. Print. 
Music video courtesy of Youtube

The Tell-Tale Heart Soundtrack

Tayler Dalli
Blog Option #2

The “Tell-Tale Heart” Soundtrack

If there was ever a list of songs whose lyrics embodied a story of a man killing someone, burying him under the floorboards, only to dig him up after a phantom heartbeat drives him mad, then this would be the one. These songs have lyrics that have the same themes found in Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” including guilt, paranoia, madness and some lyrics directly referencing this disturbing story.

"Everybody’s Watching Me" – The Neighbourhood

The song in its entirety is about paranoia, similar to what was experienced by the narrator. This particular set of lyrics is exactly the kind of writing you would expect from Poe, which is writing about murderers putting bodies in the walls and floors of houses:

 “I go through all the trouble of keeping it within my walls
I try to be as subtle as I can…assume that nothing needs me, all I've done defeats me”

 The narrator went through all of the trouble of dismembering the body and boarding up the floors to where it looks as if nothing has happened: “I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye --not even his --could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out --no stain of any kind --no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all --ha! Ha” (Poe 2). He did all of this only to reveal his secret to the police because of the old man’s heartbeat that drove him mad.

"The Bird Song"- Florence and the Machine

The story told in this song has similar themes to “Tell-Tale Heart.” The person described in the lyrics kills a bird because it wouldn’t stop singing. From then on, the guilt she felt started making her hear the bird’s chirps in her mind getting louder and louder. In the “Tell-Tale Heart” the narrator thinks he hears the heart beat of the dead old man under the floorboards. In his mind it gets louder and louder until it becomes unbearable: “Oh God! what could I do? I foamed --I raved --I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --louder –louder” (Poe 3).

“But he sang louder and louder inside the house
And now I couldn’t get him out
So I trapped him under a cardboard box
And stood on it to make him stop”

"I Hate You"- Sick Puppies

I heard this song the other day in a store and one verse of the lyrics made me think of the “Tell-Tale Heart” immediately. Though the rest of the lyrics don’t apply to the story (the song’s about love), this short verse was reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe’s story:

“Every time I end up breaking you
You change into
Something worth keeping
Every time I'm close to saving you
You grow into a sin worth believing”

This particular set of lyrics reminds me of how the narrator in “Tell-Tale Heart” went into the old man’s bedroom every night for seven nights trying to kill him. Because his eye wasn’t open, he decided against killing him for the time being because he loved him. On the eighth night is when the narrator finally kills the old man: “And this I did for seven long nights --every night just at midnight --but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye” (Poe 2).

"Eyes on Fire" - Blue Foundation

“I won't soothe your pain
I won't ease your strain
You'll be waiting in vain
And just in time
In the right place
Suddenly I will play my ace”

This verse is similar to the kind of drawn out anticipation that the narrator experiences in the week leading up to the old man’s death. Though the narrator had premeditated his murder, he was waiting for the right time to strike. The song title is also ironic because the old man’s blind “vulture” eye is what led the narrator to kill him.

"The Tell-Tale Heart"- The Alan Parson’s Project

This song was written specifically about Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart”. The song is strange but it’s not the kind of lyrics or music you would expect from a song written about a murder. It’s appropriately named The “Tell-Tale Heart” and its written by a British band that formed in 1975 called The Alan Parson’s Project. The lyrics very accurately describe the story. The song tells the story from beginning to end. This particular verse refers to the heartbeat of the old man that drives the narrator mad:

“Louder and louder
Till I could tell the sound was not within my ears
You should have seen me
You would have seen my eyes grow white and cold with fear”

Poe, Edgar A. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” 1843. 1-3. Print. 

Analyzing "Anatomy of Desire"

Ashley Adams
Blog Option 5

When I first opened the anthology to read this story for homework, I had not idea what to expect. The title does not give any indication of how graphic this story really is. Reading it, you are immediately thrust into the story of a soldier who has had his skin taken off. The author leaves little to the imagination. Usually having an author give so many details is a good thing. It allows you to picture what they were picturing in their minds when they wrote the story. This particular story, however less details would have been better. “He would walk around on his skinned feet, leaving bloody footprints up and down the corridors, look for somebody to love him” (L' Heureux 339). We are also given a very descriptive metaphor comparing his physical state to a food item. “He was raw, he was meat…” (L'Heureux 339). Even typing these quotes right now, I feel a bit squeamish. I also felt bad for Hanley at the beginning of the story. This soldier was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and had this horrible event done to him. Reading more of the story though, I begin to not feel as sorry for him. He does the exact same thing as his tormentor to a woman who only wants to help him. Now it can be argued that she willing let him do this to her, but that’s a conversation for another day.
          I would give this story 3 stars out of 5. While I did not like the detailed descriptions of Hanley, the rest of the story was interesting to me. The whole concept of Hanley wanting someone to possess him, to love him and the quote, “there can be no possession, only desire” really spoke to me and got me to thinking (L' Heureux 343). We all have desires, and how we act on these desires, I feel shows what kind of person we are. I would not recommend it to anyone that does not like gory details, but if they don’t bother you, I would recommend you give it a read.

L' Heureux, John. “The Anatomy of Desire.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: The Penguin Group. 339-343. Print.