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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Black Cat Critique

         I typically am very open to all kinds of literature and enjoy reading in general. The last book I read and didn’t like was middle school’s Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I brushed it off, telling myself that I didn’t truly grasp what the author was trying to convey. I couldn’t get past being unable to pronounce the names, the super futuristic backdrop, and violence. This being said, it’s been over 5 years since I have been assigned to read a work of literature that I have greatly disliked. This was true until I read “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allen Poe. I disliked it so greatly, that on a scale of one to five, I would rate it as a two.
I will begin off by stating that I have read few pieces by Poe, I’ve read his gore, intrusive darkness, and obscure supernatural and have come to expect such literature laced with a little- or a lot of each from him. “The Black Cat”, however meeting all of his normal traits and styles of writing, made me cringe and honestly turned me off- it was almost too difficult to continue to read its entirety. Perhaps it is because I have a cat, and reading in great detail about the narrator maliciously carving out his beloved Pluto’s eye made my toes curl. “My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin- nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a penknife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket!” (Poe) After, and even while I was reading this shot story, I instantly thought back to my own cat and how devastated I would be if something of the sort happened to her. Cruelty to animals is one thing that I truly detest, so further reading that the narrator proceeded to hang his cat, which he once held so dear to him truly disgusted me. “One morning, in cold blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree.” (Poe)

I gave this story a rating of a two and not a one for one sole reason; “The Black Cat” truly spooked me. I never have never read a piece of literature that truly haunted nor shook me the way this one did. It is for this reason that I felt the short story was successful. Perhaps I was stunned that a piece of literature was able to really move me in an angry way, or perhaps it was that I found the piece too gruesome. Although I truly have an utmost respect for all authors who can stand the test of time to be considered a major name in any literary genre, I did not particularly enjoy reading Poe’s “The Black Cat”.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Soundtrack to "The Temple"


One could easily argue against my interpretation, given how adroitly Joyce Carol Oates has entrusted the audience to reach their own conclusions. As for me, I inferred from "The Temple" that - the protagonist in the story murdered her baby and buried him (or her) in her own garden, and is now haunted and remorseful. 

Although very contestable and vaguely suggested, my interpretation of the short story was based on numerous ambiguous events. I found it odd that only she could hear the scratching and that she was aware of what she was digging up, as while digging she eerily whispers, "I'm here now". [Temple] Secondly, the way she reverently arranges the 'child-size' skull and bones 'into the shape of a human being' and basically adorns her bedroom akin to a 'sacred temple' suggested to me that the bones were the remains of her offspring. [Temple]

This interpretation inspired me to come up with the following songs to comprise the soundtrack to the "The Temple"

1. As a tribute (or more aptly a ballad) to the protagonist's story, I chose Fleetwood Mac's Landslide. 

Being an optimist, I like to assure myself that the woman in "The Temple" also went through similar emotions like Stevie Nicks. She may have lost her compassion after a betrayal that led her to see herself as alone, unloved and under-appreciated. Hence, in frustration, she decided to end the symbol of her love, her baby, that she had spent her life building (climbing the mountain), and symbolically bury it along with her sorrows (I take my love, and I take it down).

Although this may seem like unsupported speculation, I think it is justified judging on how it appears that the woman is living alone with a murky past and 
since there is no preluding history attributed to the woman.

2. The second song, I chose is "Bheegi Bheegi" from the movie "Gangster". The song is in Hindi but the I feel like the haunting melody and lyrics would blend perfectly with the atmosphere that the story begins in. The song laments about an unfinished ending to a rainy night and the unfairness of life.

(An unfinished story/Storms when awake, storms when asleep)

I believe these thoughts would be grating against the woman's mind too when she hears 'the scratching, which come in spasmodic, desperate flurries'. It also reflects the woman's struggle while she's digging up the corpse, uttering with what I thought was knowing remorse, "Yes. Yes. I'm here". [Temple]

(The riff beginning at 3:30 would properly surround the digging scene if "The Temple" were to be made into a scene)

3. I think Radiohead's "High and Dry" would nicely (or much excruciatingly) reflect the outcry and pleas of the baby to the mother/woman, while s/he was getting buried. The lyrics are morbidly fitting which I think is a fitting nod to the morbid nature of the story itself, at least in my interpretation. 

(Don't leave me high/Don't leave me dry/It's the best thing you've ever had)

4. The fourth song I chose is "The Pot" by Tool. The song is about the hypocrisy of someone trying to atone for one's sins with less remorse than the gravity of his sin itself; akin to shedding the proverbial crocodile tears. I thought the lyrics would resound with what anyone's reaction if the woman were to try to defend herself if the skull and bones were to be discovered.

(Eyehole deep in muddy water/Soapbox, house of cards, and glass,
So don't go tossin' your stones around/Now you're weeping shades of cozened indigo,
Got lemon juice up in your eye).

Some of the lines in the song are also fittingly referencing the murder of an offspring (Rob the grave, to snow the cradle. Then burn the evidence down) which I thought was one of the more convincing reasons I included this song.

5. The last song I chose is Miguel's Adorn. I think it would be better to end this rather grim soundtrack on an ironically happy ending. Despite the different tone to the video and the start of the song, the lyrics to Adorn would very literally fit in with the scene where the woman is adorning her bedroom into a 'temple' with the bones, thus making the bones more than they could be with her love.

(Let my love adorn you).

Oates, Joyce C. "The Temple." American Gothic Tales. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 348. Print.

“A Rose for Emily” Soundtrack

Peyton Wolonsky

“A Rose for Emily” Soundtrack

Part I – “Candle in the Wind” –Elton John

“And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
…Your candle burned out long before your legend ever did”

            I chose this song for the first section of “A Rose for Emily” because I feel that it expresses how many of the townspeople probably felt about Emily. I think that these would have been my thoughts as I attended her funeral, thinking of her legend and the stories that will live on about the strange woman for years. Everyone was a stranger to her and her a stranger to everyone, but she was like a flame no one could ignore. When she did interact, such as when she told the gentleman that she does not pay taxes in Jefferson, she had a strong personality that earned a legendary life story.

Part II – “Hush Hush” by the Pistol Annies

I chose this song for part two because it talks about the rumors and thoughts going on in people’s heads about other people’s lives. It reminded me of how the town constantly came up with theories about Emily but never did anything about it. They gossiped but in actuality stayed hush towards Emily herself. Emily went through many struggles especially when she passed through temporary insanity when her father passed. The town mentally tried to ignore her reactions and go about life like it was normal. Even when they smelled a foul odor they attempted to make up excuses for it. The tone of the song matched how I envisioned the other ladies of the town acting as they fluttered around to one another telling secrets and rumors, but then quieted themselves as not to be overheard.

Part III – “Just Because I’m a Woman” – Dolly Parton
            I chose this old song by Dolly Parton mostly because of the powerfully lines she sings that say, “Now a man will take a good girl and he’ll ruin her reputation but when he wants to marry well, that’s a different situation.” I felt the lyrics to this song connect and contribute greatly to part three because of Emily’s affair with Homer Barron. The town talks of her forgetting of her family pride because she has been seen with him. Also, I feel that the old timey sound and twang of this song fit accurately when it talks of their buggy rides around town and of the different values and views that people of Emily’s time had about partners. The book talks about how as the affair continues, Emily’s reputation becomes further compromised which is just as the song says a guy can affect a woman’s life.

Part IV – “Mama’s Broken Heart” –Miranda Lambert

“Leave it to me to be holding the matches when the fire trucks show up and there's nobody. 
Else to blame can't get revenge and keep a spot less reputation sometimes revenge is a choice.”
            When I started thinking about this part of “A Rose for Emily” where she uses arsenic because Homer was going to abandon her and what music I associated with it, “Mama’s Broken Heart” instantly came to mind. It is about a girl getting revenge on a man for leaving her. Many in the town believe that Homer and Emily are getting married, which could simply be a planned portrayal by Emily, but it is an unlikely. The song tells a story of a girl gone crazy that must act like she is put together for the rest of the world. Like Emily, the girl in the song does strategize a plan to cover up her actions of hate. I think that the stories fit together perfectly and the angry tone of the song could play insight into how I as a reader inferred Emily’s mind to be thinking.

Part V – “Love Don’t Die” –The Fray

“Bury it in the ground
You can close it off and turn it away
Try to keep it down, six feet in the ground
But love don't die

No matter where we go
Or even if we don't
And even if they try
They'll never take my body from your side
Love don't die”

This song by The Fray starts off sort of somber, the type of feeling that you get when find out that Emily had been sleeping by the Corpse of Homer in a position of embrace. To Emily even though Homer was dead she now always had him near her. The song portrays the exact same image that even if one dies their love does not die with their body. It can be argued that Emily poisoned Homer and that it was an attempt to keep him in her life. I think the sounds in the song and the tone display a feeling of desperation, the type that Emily must have felt when she resorted to poisoning Homer.

Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily." American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce
C. Oates. New York: Penguin Group, 1996. 182-190. Print.

Cat In Glass

In Cat in Glass, the main character is sent to a mental hospital by her husband after she slipped into depression because she wasn’t able to cope with the loss of her daughter, and years earlier her sister. Though she grew to like it there she always knew bad things happened in mental institutions, she claimed, “if there was foulness and bedlam, it was no worse than the outside world” (Oates 495).  After many years, her daughter got her released from the institution because it was getting too expensive for her family to pay for. The second time the narrator was institutionalized, came after her granddaughter’s death. When the nurses ask, “you don’t even know what you’ve done, do you,” she can only reply with “I destroyed a valuable work of art” (Oates 499). She has no recollection of how she got to the institution and why she was there. All she knows is that the nurses won’t tell her what she did, even though as a reader, I know that she killed her granddaughter.

    It is no secret that mental institutions in the past one hundred years have been known for mistreatment and neglect. Recently in the news, three women from North Texas reported that they were held against their will at two mental institutions in Denton. None of them knew why they were sent there in the first place, and when they asked the staff, they refused to tell them. Withholding a patient’s medical record from a patient is 100% against the law. One of the girls told the news anchor: "I don't know if you know how it feels to be held against your will, but basically, it's terrifying” (Harris 1). As if this experience wasn’t horrifying enough, the women were charged over $1,000 per day spent at the hospital against their will. These women were essentially prisoners. When they threatened to leave, the staff told them they would have to go to mental health court where they could be punished with weeks of additional time in the institute (Harris 1). Like the narrator in Cat in Glass, her family had to spend a lot of money for her to be in a place that she didn’t chose to be in. Though she understood why she was sent to the hospital the first time, the second time she clearly didn’t understand what had happened.

      As terrifying as it is, this news story is significant because this could mean that malpractice in mental hospitals could be happening not just all over Texas but also throughout the nation. Many of the hospitals in Texas are corporately owned and they have hospitals all over the country. (Harris 1).

Etchemendy, Nancy. “Cat in Glass.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: The Penguin Group. 486-499. Print

Harris, Byron. "Women say Denton mental hospitals mistreated them." WFAA ABC [Denton] 11 11 2013, n. pag. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.

Black Cat In The Real World

Police in Maryland arrested Robert Jarrett last week, who they say killed his wife and hid her body beneath the shed in his backyard for 21 years.

In 1991, a man named Robert Jarrett in Maryland killed and buried his wife's body in the backyard and she was presumed missing for twenty one years until  police discovered her remains buried beneath an outdoor shed at their suburban home. Christine Jarrett disappeared on January 3, 1991 while her husband told police that she walked on him and their two children. After Roberts split from his estranged second wife, he moved out and police asked his now newly divorced ex-wife, for permission of a full search of the property. That is when they discovered Christine Jarrett's remains buried beneath the floorboards of the backyard shed. In 1996, the police took the case to court and Christine Jarrett was officially pronounced dead five years later after the discovery of her remains. Robert Jarrett claimed to have "fallen asleep" in the basement, and when he woke up, his wife was missing.

In Edgar Allen Poe's "The Black Cat" the main character was not even trying to kill his wife. His anger was felt towards the cat he once loved, but came to resent. The cat got in the way of the main characters angry swing, and he ended up killing his wife. The only difference between the two stories is where the wives were buried and how the wives bodies were found,

This report is similar to the story of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Black Cat" because in this story, the main character buries his wife inside their house. Although Robert claims to not have known how his wife disappeared and was murdered, the similarity lies in the fact that they both buried their wives within the area of their houses.

Blog option #3

We Have Always Lived in Fright option #5

Chase Mackey
14 November 2013

We Have Always Lived in Fright

In Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle there are many frightful events that occur. Merricat narrates the novel and we are biased by her perception of events. The fact that she poisoned the majority of her family definitely scared me, in that she is a young girl. The connotation that goes hand in hand with young girls is innocence, but innocence is far from an accurate description of Merricat. Her odd obsession with Constance also concerned me somewhat. Constance was deliberately kept alive and I could not help but think Merricat was saving the best kill for last. Thankfully, this was not the case. Merricat begins the novel saying “I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf… Everyone else in our family is dead” (Jackson 1). This definitely creates a creepy vibe and sets the rest of the novel up perfectly.
The suspense is felt the entire novel and many Gothic tropes were used successfully. The Uncanny is the trope that I noticed most often, especially in reference to Merricat. Merricat has witch-like qualities that aroused a sense of fear. Witches are typically thought of as not being real, but Merricat is able to make the reader second guess that thought. A real life event that occurred not too long ago in Idaho mirrors the novel quite well. Sarah Johnson, 16 year-old Idaho resident, snapped on her parents one afternoon when she was told that she was to stop seeing her 19 year-old boyfriend. Sarah Johnson then reacted erratically and killed both of her parents. This is very similar to Merricat in that she was sent up to her room for misbehaving and also reacted harshly by poisoning her family. The essential difference is that Sarah Johnson was caught and Merricat was not.
I would recommend this novel to a friend without a doubt. I was actively reading this on the edge of my couch night after night. Shirley Jackson is able to keep the reader consistently engaged the entire time through the thrilling, unraveling plot. I would rate this novel at a 5 because of the thrill I experienced when realizing that Merricat was behind all the madness.

Richardson, Michael A. "Profile of Idaho Teen Killer Sarah Johnson." Crime / Punishment. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.

The soundtrack of "The Temple"

Chris Ganson
Blog #4
"The Temple" Soundtrack

“The Temple” is about a woman who keeps hearing a strange sound outside her window. As the women goes to inspect the the noise it sounds less animal like and more human like. The sound leads the woman to the garden where she finds a baby’s skull. She removes the skull and keeps it in her bedroom. "In this way the woman's bedroom became a secret temple. On the velvet cloth the skull and bones, unnamed, would be discovered after the woman's death, but that was a long way off” (Oates 348). I believe that the woman is generally insane. 

Madness by Muse is a great song that describes how the women is feeling. The opening verse relates to the story describes how the women is feeling. If the women murdered her son or relative the memory haunts her in her self conscious and manifests its self as the strange noise. The women can’t seem to get the memory “out of her mind” and “some kind of madness has started to evolve”. The women is eventually driven mad by the sound and proceeds to dig up the skull. “She had no choice, then, did she?-she must trace the sound to its origin” (Oates 346).

“I, I can't get these memories out of my mind 
And some kind of madness has started to evolve 
I, I tried so hard to let you go 
But some kind of madness is swallowing me whole, yeah”

Lithium by Nirvana is another song that relates to the story. Lithium is an alkali metal that is used in the treatment of many psychological disorders such as bipolar disorder, major depression, and even schizophrenia. The women in the story has some mental disorder and should be put on some medications like lithium. Interesting enough the song is about someone that is mad and hears voices in his head. This is similar to the women in “The Temple” who hears a babies cry. “How like a baby's cry, terribly distressing to hear! and the scratching, which came in spasmodic, desperate flurries, was yet more distressing, evoking an obscure horror.” (*Oates 347)

Getting Away with Murder by Papa Roach can also be used to describe how the women in the short story is feeling. “What creates my own madness? And I’m addicted to your punishment.” The women in the story is driven mad by the mysterious sound and eventually goes looking for the source. When the women finds that its an child’s skull she goes and makes a temple in her bedroom for the child. “In this way the woman's bedroom became a secret temple. On the velvet cloth the skull and bones, unnamed, would be discovered after the woman's death, but that was a long way off” (Oates 348). The women is addicted to the babies punishment by worshiping it and by constantly being reminded by it. 

Somewhere beyond happiness and sadnessI need to calculate
What creates my own madness
And I'm addicted to your punishment
And you're the master
And I am waiting for disaster
Let the Bodies Hit the Floor by Drowning Pool is a song that doesn't really relate to the story too well, but it does talk about dead bodies and floors which are both found in “The Temple”. I basically included this song because it was the first song that came to mind after reading the short story.

My last song is I’m Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. I picked this song mostly because I wanted to end on a happy note. I feel like my other picks are talking about dead bodies and madness. The song is generally a happy song about being with your loved one. At the end of the story the women sets up a temple in her bedroom of the child. “Tenderly, meticulously, the woman arranged the skull and bones into the shape of a human being. Though most of the skeleton was missing, it would never seem to the woman's loving eye that this was so” (Oates 347). The women releases that she loves the baby and wants it back. After the women gets her loved one back, she then precedes to set up a temple in her bedroom so they will always be together. The last sentence of the short story states that the babies body wouldn't be found until after the women's death, but that was a long way off. I would like to believe that since being reunited with the baby the women is happy and gay and feels like she is “walking on sunshine”. 

I used to think maybe you loved me, now I know that its true
and I don't want to spend all my life , just in waiting for you
now I don't want u back for the weekend
not back for a day , no no no

I said baby I just want you back and I want you to stay