Thursday, March 29, 2012

Textures of Cloth

I think it is interesting how Morrison includes strong sensory detail throughout the book, but especially when she describes something so insignificant as the textures of various cloths. For example, Amy Denver repeatedly talks about her yearning for velvet. Also, the description of the corn husks at Sweet Home as silk is repeated in Paul D and Sethe's thoughts. I think Morrison may be doing this as part of her making figurative language literal. I think a big part of Morrison's success in making this esoteric novel so tangible is her use of sensory detail.

Baby Suggs advice for Sethe

"'Lay em down, Sethe. Sword and shield. Down. Down. Both of em down. Down by the riverside. Sword and shield. Don't study war no more. Lay all that mess down. Sword and shield." (Page 101)

This advice is repeated throughout the book through Sethe's thoughts. Baby Suggs was always so strong about the African community sticking together until the very end. I wonder if Baby Suggs felt this way through out her life or if this was advice she first gave Sethe toward the end of Baby Suggs' life. To me it seems that even though Baby Suggs was never prone to fight, it would make sense if her advice was to lay down the sword but hold the shield steady.

Levi Coffin on Margaret Garner

This is the article I read in class. I think it's pretty cool to hear the account from someone close to the event. Although he technically did not witness the event I still think it's worth the time to read.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Continuation of Motifs...

It's interesting to me how far Morrison carries on her motifs. For example, we see shades of red again when Paul D repeats his guilty cry of "red heart, red heart". Also, I think one cannot overlook the symbolism of Paul D following the tree blossoms that eventually lead him to Sethe and the tree on her back. In this last chapter, we see dehumanizing once again, this time adding the element of whites being dehumanized by slavery too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Busy Work"

The term "busy work" is often used in reference to meaningless, copious tasks. However, "busy work" may have some value for everyone. I think it is interesting that both Okonkwo and Sethe need to do something with their hands to avoid their thoughts. They use busy work as a distraction. Okonkwo says the the murder of Ikemefuna would not disturb him as much if it was planting season and when Sethe begins recalling ugly memories, she starts folding and re-folding sheets. I think it is true that having something to do, some type of busy work, is a good way to forget troublesome thoughts.

Another Packed Quote

So by now you all are probably wondering why I always post quotes. It's because since around Sophomore year I started collecting quotes that I really liked. While reading a few nights ago I came across on that really struck me. I can't really think of a particular instance which I relate to it, but I think it's remarkably moving.

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another."

This quote obviously makes sense in context with slavery, but I think it also has multiple more implications. For example Morrison states that she was able to relate to this sense of freedom after she quit her editing job and really took ownership of her freedom. Have yall ever had a moment which you felt like this?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Beloved Review

This weekend I read a Beloved review. The author of the critique said that they thought the book was extremely well written. However, they did not approve of the story that Toni Morrison based her book off of. The review said that Morrison based her story off of a slave woman named Margaret Garner who in 1856 was accused of murdering her child rather than have her being captured and enslaved. The critic said she couldn't approve of the inspiration of Morrison's novel no matter the motive. I'm not sure if this is true, but I found the review very interesting.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

People's History of America

In People's History of America, a collection of primary sources detaling injustice and rebellion in American history, there's a chapter about called: "Slavery without Submission, Emancipation without Freedom." This is actually a really well written, Matt Damon endorsed book. Anyway there is a section on the history of rebellion against slavery. The book describes a number of ways slaves could rebell including "stealing property, sabotage and slowness, killing overseers and masters, burning down plantation buildings, [and] running away." The section also inclused this: "Running away was much more realistic than armed insurrection. During the 1850s about a thousand slaves a year escaped into the North, Canada, and Mexico. Thousands ran away for short periods. And this despite the terror facing the runaway. The dogs used in tracking fugitives "bit, tore, mutilated, and if not pulled off in time, killed their prey," Genovese says. Harriet Tubman, born into slavery, her head injured by an overseer when she was fifteen made her way to freedom alone as a young woman, then became the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. She made nineteen dangerous trips back and forth, often disgused, escorting more than three hundred slaves to freedom, always carryong a pistol, telling fugitives, "You'll be free or die." She expressed her philosophy: "There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would ahve the other; for no man should take me alive..." One overseer told a visitor to his plantation that "some negroes are determined never to let a white man whipe them and will resist you when you attempt it; of course you must kill them in that case.""
There's a part in Beloved that really got me thinking: there was one bit somewhere (couldn't find the page) where Sethe justifies taking in Beloved because she said it would be unwise for an african american traveling alone, espeically a young woman, to be wanding through the area alone because of klan influence in Ohio. I don't know why it never occured to me how far the kkk streached in influence, it's sickening. I never realized how far it crept north, wikipeida even said there were some members active in Canada. That's unsettling, to think how far radical hatred streached or the influence it weiled way beyond the mason-dixion line or other traditional boundries. I never realized it had so many footholds in the north.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Plantation Names

I found it interesting that the plantation in Beloved was called Sweet Home when it seemed anything but that. However, it seems that many plantations were given comforting and misleading names, despite the terrible conditions for slaves. For example (I found some more names with a little research): Welcome Plantation, Felicity Plantation, Golden Grove, and Belle Alliance. Pretty deceitful if you ask me...


While I was reading Beloved, I began brainstorming more motifs and themes. I think that feet and traveling by foot could be considered another motif. There seems to be a lot of journeying by foot done by various characters in Beloved (Sethe's boys, Sixo, Paul D) and there are Sethe's bare feet when she meets Paul D, as well as her swollen feet when she is pregnant. I think feet could be important because they are the one instrument that slaves had that allowed them to become free. Perhaps that is why Paul D is so insistent on staying in motion. He is afraid his one god-given liberty could be stripped from him.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Atwood on Beloved

I found a really interesting book review on Beloved by a contemporary writer, Atwood. Since I did my independent study project on her last year, I was really interested in what she had to say. My favorite part of her review is when she explains about Beloved's ghost. I like how she clarifies that the ghost is not there to terrify readers like the style of "Amityville Horror," but there because it is natural. The ghost is there because all the main characters believe in ghosts and the ghost is that of Sethe's daughter. I also like how Atwood points out that the ghosts helps Morrison tie in traditional folk tales and such. It's a really good critic!

The Middle Passage

Although nothing can top The Amistad and most of the stuff in this video was already taught by Mrs. Quinet today, I think parts of this video are very worthy of watching. For example, the picture where slaves were put in racks and layers was even worse then the image we saw today. Also, the video points out how human lives were exchanged for trivial things like rum, gun powder, and shells. That is just an utter shame.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Like Father, Like Son

Today I realized one of the greatest ironies of Things Fall Apart. Both Okonkwo and Nwoye despised their respective fathers and strove to be the opposite. I think it is interesting that both Okonkwo and his father were such extremes that their sons choose to be different. The irony here is that Nwoye, in striving to be different from his father, is exactly like Okonkwo. However even though Okonkwo's father and Nwoye are opposites of Okonkwo they are nothing like each other. Okonkwo's father seemed to just be lazy while Nwoye was proactive on his beliefs.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I found this picture on insta gram and I thought it was funny because her right eye makeup is one of the painting Mrs quinet showed us called "scream"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Proverbs and Metaphors

Hey guys. One of my favorite things about Things Fall Apart is the proverbs and metaphors. I especially like the one in the beginning of Part Three, "The clan was like a lizard; if it lost its tail it soon grew another." This quote depicts how once Okonkwo and his family have been away from their clan for seven years, they know they have been replaced. I think that the proverbs and metaphors in Things Fall Apart are very telling of the culture. For example, they often allude to nature like in this one. What is your favorite example of a proverb in the novel?

Things Fall Apart

So a few nights ago when I was reading the end of Things Fall Apart, I got really upset and frustrated. I hated stupid Mr. Smith and all those court messengers. At first when the "western" characters started showing up, it was still kind of okay but then as the title says things started falling apart. After Okonkwo killed the messenger, I was really upset that the other clansmen started asking why he did that instead of joining him in battle. The thing that really made me furious was the end. Okonkwo took his own life and the STUPID messenger was just ohh okay, here's a good story for my book. He might even be worth a whole chapter, oh wait just kidding he's only worth a paragraph. SEROIOUSLY? Someone just killed himself and that's all you care about?

I think I got so angry becuse Achebe does such a good job of explaining the Igbo ways and patiently developing the story and characters. Even though Okonkwo appears tough and ruthless, as a reader you really grow to love him. Achebe sets up such a beautiful culture that the reader feels the pain of the destruction at the end.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I get the feeling that Okonkwo is kind of the architypical Igbo man. I think he represents the old Africa: the break down of his culture finally causes his tragedy. This story reminds me a lot of a book by Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury, which is the bomb (I had to read it for summer reading one year.) Anyway that book is about the fall of the Old South and it's characters tragedies come from their inablity to accept the destruction of their family's old way of life. It's about three brothers who in one way or another are wounded by their love for/dependence on their sister who comes to be considered a fallen woman by the old standards. One character, my favorite, Quintan (sp?) fianlly cannot accept the fall of his family/way of life... poor kid ends up drown. Anyway besides both stories being about the fall of the old way and emergence of the new, besides the inclusions of two characters who represent all or a part of the old way who's tragedies are similar, both stories are also about very human families. Achebe and Faulkner are awesome writers and in both stories the characters humaness comes out subtaly. Also they handel their subject in a very nonjugmental way, the present the old ways as they were, good and bad parts included, as well as their enevitable distruction. One of the things that I think makes their work so powerful is the humanity of the characters: I find Okonkwo very relatable, that relatibility makes the tragedy that much more powerful. Okonkwo is a man with fears and ambitons and character quirks, he is a man. I'm a navy brat, Okonkwo is a soldier and he acts like one; Okonkwo is a Igbo warrior but he's also someone you might meet on the street anywhere. Relatiblity makes a character sympathetic I think. This is the story of imperilism but it is also the story of Okonkwo the warrior, the tragic hero, the hardworking, imperfect man.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Whistling at Night

I know I mentioned this briefly in class today, but when I read the line about the Igbo superstition that whistling at night summoned spirits and ghosts I was immediately struck. My dad and other older relatives always tell me this too! I don't think I really believe in it (heck, I don't even know if i believe in spirits and ghosts) but I thought it was really cool that an idea that I grew up with that most likely has an Asian/Taiwanese root is the exact same as an African idea. Maybe we do have a collective human consciousness or memory like Yeats referred to.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Alexsandr Rodchenko

In Arts & Ideas, there is a passage on modernist artist-photographer, Alexsandr Rodchenko. The book reads that his photographs were purposefully taken at odd and unsettling angles so that the viewer had to think about the image to discern its true form and underlying meaning. He did this so that his viewers could not be "passive recipients" of his art form. I would like to point out that I think Alexsandr Rodchenko made his art the way he did for people like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that are very obedient and passive people... in fact I think that a lot of the art in the modern and post-modern period that we are studying was made to provoke passive people  between the World Wars.