Monday, March 21, 2011

Human Interaction, Personal Development, and Death

In Tuesday’s readings, four poems by Emily Dickinson, as a well a short story by Ernest Hemingway depict death and the different perspectives of it, as well as what a person’s death has to say about their life. Each of Dickinson’s poems, “Tell All the Truth but tell it slant-“, “Success is counted sweetest”, “I heard a fly buzz-when I died-“, and “Because I could not stop for Death-“have somewhat similar perspectives on death, in that death is an noteworthy part of a person’s life because it gives a lot of insight on to how that person really feels and who they really are. Death is a revealing part of a person’s life because it is when a person feels most vulnerable. In Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, the untimely death of Macomber allows a reader to gain insight into the truth about Macomber’s dynamic relationships with his peers and Macomber’s true personality.

Hemingway’s story emphasizes a distinct difference in gender roles and how they affect each character’s relationship with one another. Margot was unhappy that her husband, Macomber, acted cowardly when encountering his first lion on the safari. He wasn’t manly enough for her and because of that, in addition to other reasons, she resented him. This resentment caused her to have an affair with the guide, Wilson. What’s interesting about Macomber acting like a coward when faced with the lion is that only the female took notice. The men that were on the safari with them chose to ignore Macomber’s actions entirely, which proves that women value certain traits in men more than others. The story was not told in chronological order in order to allow readers to make their own interpretations and allow for readers to formulate their own opinions about each of the characters individually, instead of basing opinions only off of their interactions with each other. Another theme that plays a major role throughout the short story is bravery and “bold moves”. Margot boldly cheats on her husband with a man who clearly has his ways with many other women. She also decides to take matters into her own hands when she decides that the men were incapable of killing the buffalo and “aims” for the buffalo, but hits Francis instead and kills him. Another bold move is when Francis decides to conquer his fear when trying to kill the buffalo during the 2nd safari trip, which was what ultimately led to his death. Much like animals in the wild, the characters of this short story lived by the idea that it was “survival of the fittest” and each character had to prove their dominance in some way over another.

In Dickinson’s “Tell All the Truth but tell it slant—“, the main idea of the poem is that a person needs to be bold, truthful, but also be sly and don’t make your actions be obvious. This idea is similar to that in “A Cask of Amontillado”, where the narrator’s plan to kill his friend Fortunato would only be successful if Fortunato didn’t know of the plan until Fortunato was moments away from death. In terms of Hemingway’s short story, it is similar to when Margot killed her husband because of anger, but it was disguised by her goal of “shooting” the buffalo, but she “missed”. The idea that “the truth must dazzle gradually” is consistent that being overly bold about the truth could overwhelm some people that are unable to handle the truth. The truth is used to hide a person’s motive for killing another person, while also displaying a person’s true character in the moments leading up to their death.

In “Success is counted sweetest”, Dickinson emphasizes that success is most valuable to the person achieves something for the first time or to someone who needs it the most. Also, victory is not necessarily winning. To be successful, a person needs to be confident and believe in themselves. This is consistent with the idea of “survival of the fittest” which is found in Hemingway’s short story. It is ironic that Francis is killed at the one moment in life where his success would be considered “sweetest” because he finally stood up for himself and overcame his fear at the safari.

“I head a fly buzz—when I died—“is a poem that most of the meaning comes from its punctuation and form. There are long dashes that interrupt lines of poetry. Also, there is enjambment throughout the poem. Both of these things mock the gasping sound a person makes as they are dying. Also, there is both slant rhyme and full rhyme. The first half of the poem is filled with slant rhyme, which emphasizes the disjointed and painful nature of a person dying a drawn-out death. The full rhyme occurs towards the end of the poem when the speaker finally signs her will to her family and dies. The difference between the rhyme scheme creates a sense of conflict, suspense, and tension that otherwise would not be there. The sound of the fly buzzing distracts the speaker in her last moments before her death, which is similar to the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, where the grandmother’s most vivid realization occurs when she stops trying to be noticed as a dignified lady and realizes that everybody is human.

In the final poem that we had to read for Tuesday’s class, “Because I could not stop death—“death is personified as the speaker’s fiancée and death is almost welcoming. This is ironic because in Hemingway’s short story, the wife is the one that causes death. In this poem, the speaker realizes that death is unavoidable and is just another phase in life. The poem goes through each phase of a person’s life, with early childhood in the school playground, the middle years of a person’s life, as well as the end of a person’s life with the “setting sun”. These phases are mentioned in a way that the speaker welcomes death and seems optimistic.

Overall, each poem talks about human interaction as well as a person’s life and death. Each character and speaker has a different relationship with their characters and has a different interpretation of death. These interpretations are important because it allows readers to develop their own opinions about their own interactions with their friends, how they value success, and how they view death. I think that it is important to be aware of your own relationships and where you stand because it allows for further development in your relationships with other people. It also allows for your own personal development, while becoming a more successful person in all phases of your life, instead of only right before you die.

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