19 May 2009

“Good Country People” a Reflection of Flannery O’Connor’s Redemptive Salvation

Richard D. Altick’s The Art of Literary Research states, “Almost every literary work is attended by a host of outside circumstances which, once we expose and explore them, suffuse it with additional meaning” (Dobie 15). Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” is a reflection of a transformative pilgrimage and a Christian vocation.

In 1955, in letters to Robert Giroux, Thomas Mabry, and Ben Griffith, O’Connor claims that “[Good Country People] is really a story that would set the whole collection [of her writings] on its feet […] It is the best thing I have done […] because it is one of those examples of the will and the imagination fusing and it is so rare an experience for me that I am a little unhinged by it. [The story] pleases me to no end” (Flannery 929-931).

Through explication, the short story reveals layers of redemption and salvation and parallels various aspects that are comparable to O’Connor’s own life. These elements presented in the text, once uncovered, give Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” profound spiritual meaning by way of a symbolic name and a wooden leg. Hulga, the main protagonist, represents a pilgrimage of faith and illuminates O’Connor’s established vocation in redemptive salvation.

Flannery O’Connor was born and reared in the American South. She was highly educated and a devout Roman Catholic who explored the literary grotesque in her writings. According to an introduction in Literature And Its Writers, “O’Connor was uncompromising in her religious views: ‘For I am no disbeliever in spiritual purpose and no vague believer. This means that for me the meaning of life is centered in our redemption by Christ and what I see in the world I see in relation to that’” Charters 430).

Additionally, Carter Martin’s The True Country notes, “What [Flannery O’Connor] does best must be done for God” (Martin 13). At the height of her career as a writer, after receiving a Masters of Fine Arts, in the North, Flannery was stricken with lupus and forced to return home to live in the South with her mother, Regina, on a farm. The relationship was tense. Regina was rumored to have picked up Flannery’s book The Idiot and non-approvingly shook her head. Flannery often felt she was misunderstood.

In these years, Flannery used crutches to aid her in mobility. In a letter to Miss A, from Milledgeville on September 24, 1955, Flannery refers to these devices as “[her] two aluminum legs” (Flannery 958). Similarly, in the text, the narrator explains, “Joy had made it plain that if it had not been for this condition, she would be far from these red hills and good country people. She would be in a university lecturing to people who knew what she was talking about” (Flannery 268). Looking over the chronology of Flannery O’Connor’s life, one could surely make the same proclamation for her.

Also, similar to O’Connor, Hulga, formerly known as Joy Hopewell, is a highly-educated, thirty-two year old woman with an artificial, wooden leg who lives in the American South on a farm. After earning a Doctorate in Philosophy, in the North, she is forced to return home because of a heart condition. Joy-Hulga is articulate, and her thoughts are abstract. She represents everything that her mother, Mrs. Hopewell, and the tenant farmer’s wife, Mrs. Freeman, are not.

Hulga is unkempt, rude, bitter, and angry. She consistently mocks her mother and Mrs. Freeman, and she perceives their faults without their realization. Mrs. Hopewell, similar to Flannery’s mother, picks up a work by Nietzsche that Hulga is reading. Afterwards, she “shut[s] the book quickly and [exits] out of the room as if she were having a chill” (Flannery 269). Hulga is unhappy and searching for acceptance. She is about to embark upon a pilgrimage. In another letter to Miss A, O’Connor refers to Hulga as a “heroine” (Flannery 958).

Flannery continues, “Hulga in this case would be a projection of myself into this kind of tragic-comic action – presumably only a projection” (Flannery 959). From the quote and multiple minute details, one can draw similarities between Flannery O’Connor and her depiction of Hulga-Joy Hopewell.

No man is an island, and no one lives an isolated existence. Everyone is a product of “biological, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual influences” (Dobie 16). “Good Country People” is a product of “a time, a place, and an individual.” Similar to Hipolyte Taine’s “race, milieu et moment,” Flannery’s work depicts a specific culture, experience, and age in the New Christian American South. For O’Connor, Hulga’s artificial leg is symbolic of a new trend, philosophy, if one will, of the “Christian haunted” South. The wooden leg represents a false sense of education and a renunciation of a faith in God.

In “Writing Short Stories”, O’Connor asserts that “in a good fiction, certain of the details will tend to accumulate meaning from the action of the story itself, and when this happens they become symbolic in the way they work” (Charters 668). O’Connor continues to explain the significance of Hulga’s wooden leg. She states:

Early in the story, we’re presented with the fact that the Ph.D. is spiritually as well as physically crippled. She believes in nothing but her own belief in nothing, and we perceive that there is a wooden part of her soul that corresponds to her wooden leg. As the story goes on, the wooden leg continues to accumulate meaning. The reader learns how the girl feels about her leg, how her mother feels about it, and how the country woman on the place feels about it; and finally, by the time the Bible salesman comes along, the leg has accumulated so much meaning that it is, as the saying goes, loaded. And when the Bible salesman steals it, the reader realizes that he has taken away part of the girl’s personality and has revealed her deeper affliction to her for the first time. (669)

O’Connor’s description of the process of writing “Good Country People” seems methodical, logical. A sense of vocation is not clearly stated until toward the end of the text. She states, “It is a story that was[…] not entirely conscious […] It is a fact that fiction writing is something in which the whole personality takes part – the conscious as well as the unconscious mind” (Charters 669). From the quote, O’Connor conveys a sense of divine inspiration, of something beyond herself. Flannery O’Connor wants to urge the reader to experience the extraordinary in redemptive salvation.

Martin’s The True Country highlights the experience further. He states, “Meaning, semantics, character, and intention are scrambled […] to provoke unthinking readers to confront the issues presented by O’Connor in her attempts to formulate language that will adequately account for human experience” (Martin viii). There was a sense of purpose in O’Connor’s fiction, and her goal was to provide guidance to redemptive salvation. Nothing was by way of chance. Miss O’Connor did not deny her Christian position in her writings; instead, she celebrated her religious faith.

To Miss O’Connor, her life was a living sacrifice of longsuffering and fellowship with God. Her faith was her work, and her work was her faith. She once stated, “All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal” (Charters 670). O’Connor’s work cannot be separated from her practiced faith and perceived vocation, and, more importantly, she used her writings to teach her readers.

In another letter to Miss A concerning Allen Tate, from Milledgeville on August, 24, 1956, Flannery O’Connor summed up Hulga’s plight. She stated, “She is full of contempt for the Bible salesman until she finds he is full of contempt for her. Nothing “comes to flower” here except her realization in the end that she ain’t so smart […] Hulga was not a ‘maimed soul’ she was just like us all” (Flannery 999-1000). There was purpose and intention in Flannery’s writings, and “Good Country People” was exemplar of her desire for redemption and salvation, both for herself and for the reader.

Not only is Hulga’s leg symbolic, but her name holds special meaning as well. In Norwegian, Hulga is translated to mean “the holy one” (Holsen 59). Although one cannot prove that Flannery chooses the name for its Norwegian translation, one can make the hypothesis that by doing this, Flannery adds a deeper meaning to Joy’s level of intellectuality, and, in turn, she layers in a greater purpose to the story. Unlike Mrs. Hopewell’s assertion that Joy chooses the name because “she had hit upon the ugliest name in any language,” Joy makes an informed choice; furthermore, O’Connor leaves it up to the reader to research the implication in the new name (Flannery 266). To Joy, the name Hulga symbolizes the awareness that “we are all damned […,] but some of us have taken off the blindfolds and see that there is nothing to see. It’s a kind of salvation” (Flannery 280).

Flannery uses the name to evoke special meaning to the informed reader. Like in Wise Blood, Enoch, the main protagonist, can be likened to a Biblical reference. In the Book of Genesis, Enoch was a man born after the generations of men who had began to call upon the Lord. Enoch did not die rather “he walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 4:26 -5:24). No one else in the Bible can claim that history, only Enoch. One can easily assert that a devout Roman Catholic would have been aware of the significance of the name.

Given names for Flannery are not by chance. To O’Connor, names convey a special meaning for the text. According to Martin’s The True Country:

Flannery O’Connor implicitly committed herself as a writer to the Christian theme; she pursued it with persistence and devotion until her death. Any attempt at an appreciation of her work must begin with a clear understanding of this theme; regardless of one’s own religious predilections, he must know the meaning of the sacramental view of life before he can know the meaning of Flannery O’Connor’s fiction. She fuses the transcendent world with the sublunary one, achieving such a convergence of actualities that one is meaningless without the other. Martin 9)

O’Connor did not choose names randomly. Nothing can be viewed as chance. The reader must consider her faith when viewing her fiction.

Similarly, more meaning can be explicated from the text, specifically the personage of Hulga as she relates to other characters within the short story. The narrator states she has “the look of someone who has achieved blindness by an act of will and a means to keep it” (O’Connor 265). When chastised by her mother, Hulga argues, “If you want me, here I am – LIKE I AM” (O’Connor 266). Flannery uses Hulga’s depiction to convey meaning; moreover, salvation and redemption can be traced in Hulga’s plight. Specifically, her first transformative journey takes place in a private interaction with Mrs. Freeman.

The tenant’s wife serves a unique purpose. Mrs. Freeman represents the anti-Christ. The text states, “[She was attracted to] secret infections, hidden deformities, assaults upon children. Of disease, she preferred the lingering or incurable” (O’Connor 267). The narrator continues, “Mrs. Freeman would take on strange resentments […] And without warning one day, she began calling [Joy] Hulga […] The big spectacled Joy-Hulga […] scowl[ed] and redden as if her privacy had been intruded upon. She considered the name her personal affair” (O’Connor 266). From the quote, unlike Mrs. Hopewell, Mrs. Freeman is not offended by the name, instead she uses Hulga’s name as a weapon against her.

The narrator continues, “It was as if Mrs. Freeman[‘s …] eyes had penetrated far enough behind [Hulga’s] face to reach some secret fact […] then one day Hulga realized that it was the artificial leg” (O’Connor 267). Hulga realizes that she is searching for something deeper. At this moment, she becomes aware that there is something deeper within her, something new and unreachable. The epiphanous moment plays a pivotal role in Hulga’s transformative journey to redemptive salvation. Flannery O’Connor fuses these minute parts, Hulga’s perceived search and the wooden leg, to create a comprehensive and cohesive meaning for “Good Country People.”

Interactions with her mother, Mrs. Hopewell, aid Hulga’s spiritual development as well. Many parts of the text can be used to argue the point, but one passage in particular is quite relevant. Hulga’s mother asserts, “[Maybe] it would have been better if the child had not taken the Ph.D. […] It seemed to Mrs. Hopewell that every year she grew less like other people and more like herself” (Flannery 267-268).

Hulga is growing progressively toward her belief in nothingness. She is forsaking a belief in God for a belief in man by way of education. Mrs. Hopewell is keenly aware of Hulga’s transformation toward faithlessness; but she is unable to clearly articulate her observation.

Complimenting Mrs. Hopewell’s observances is another passage within the text. In a dialogue with her mother, Hulga explodes, “Woman! Do you ever look inside? Do you ever look inside and see what you are not? God! [...] Malebranche was right: we are not our own light. We are not our own light!” (Flannery 268). These quotes are instrumental to Flannery O’Connor’s theme of redemption and salvation. Most readers would immediately recognize the religious references implied.

In the Book of First John, the scripture asserts, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all […] If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:5, 7). An even greater probability of reference is the Biblical scripture from the Book of Matthew. The passage states, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Hulga is seeking light and direction through her education, not God.

Hulga is aimless, groundless. She is searching for nothingness. Calling attention to redemptive salvation, O’Connor’s goal is to highlight a new phenomenon in the educated South. O’Connor is making Biblical references through Hulga’s atheist means. The story is gaining more and more meaning. Hulga’s wooden leg is becoming more and more symbolic of something that is greater than physical, something that is deeply spiritual.

In an essay “The Regional Writer,” O’Connor states:

The present state of the South is one wherein nothing can be taken for granted, one in which our identity is obscured and in doubt […] Being Southern [will be] relatively meaningless, and that soon there is going to be precious little difference in the end product whether you are a writer from Georgia, or a writer from Hollywood, California [...] It is not made from the mean average or the typical, but from the hidden and often the most extreme. It is not made from what passes, but from those qualities that endure, regardless of what passes, because they are related to truth. It lies very deep. In its entirety, it is known only to God, but of those who look for it, none gets so close as the artist. (Flannery 846-847)

Flannery O’Connor addresses her concerns through the character of Hulga. Joy-Hulga’s "miseducation" is the problem in the new South. Old ideas are slowly being replaced and marginalized. New ideas are seen as a pathway to nothingness, commonality. Local color is fading, and values and principles are losing ground. In this way, O’Connor constructs many intricate layers of meaning in “Good Country People,” and readers must actively look for the messages.

Finally, along comes Manley Pointer to create the most important pivotal moment in Hulga’s spiritual awareness. Mrs. Freeman refers to him as “good country people [who] are the salt of the earth!” (Flannery 271). Again, O’Connor is interjecting another Biblical reference. Most readers would recall the text in the Book of Matthew, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matthew 5:13). Flannery O’Connor uses these scriptural texts to create a comprehensive and meaningful theme for the short story. This is the epitome of vocation.

O’Connor uses Pointer as a means of shock therapy for Hulga. Through him, she becomes aware of her life on spiritual and physically levels. Initially, Hulga believes, “True genius can get an idea across even to an inferior mind. She imagined that she took his remorse in hand and changed it into a deeper understanding of life. She took all his shame away and turned it into something useful” (Flannery 276). Similar to John Milton’s Paradise Lost where Eve is tricked by the subtlety of Satan posing a serpent, Hulga falls prey to Manley Pointer.

She underestimates his intelligence, and simultaneously overestimates her own sense of reason. Hulga appoints Manley in the role of a protégé; instead, he becomes her nemesis. Manley Pointer is dangerous. Like Eve desiring the wisdom of God, Hulga desires to shape a human soul, and she believes that she can impart truth. She openly admits that she “don’t believe in God” (Flannery 277). From the dialogue, Hulga is arrogant, prideful. She asserts she “don’t have illusions. I’m one of those people who see through to nothing” (Flannery 280).

Soon redemptive salvation creeps in, like in the beginning; it ends with the wooden leg. When pressed by Pointer to remove the leg, the narrator states, “She was as sensitive about the artificial leg as a peacock about his tail. No one ever touched it but her. She took care of it as someone else would his soul, in private and almost with her own eyes turned away” (Flannery 281). Pointer progressively pushes Hulga to her outer limits until she is off guard and out of control.

The narrator describes her mental state, “She decided that for the first time in her life she was face to face with real innocence [...] with an instinct that came from beyond wisdom, had touched the truth about her […] It was like surrendering to him completely. It was like losing her own life and finding it again […] in his […] Without the leg she felt entirely dependent upon him” (Flannery 281-282). Flannery O’Connor chose these words expertly.

Again, another Biblical reference is made. In the Book of Matthew, a scripture states, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39) Hulga mistakenly places her salvation in the hands of man, education, autonomy, free-will, and selfhood. She does not seek divine intervention or guidance. She is living by nothingness, with nothingness, and through nothingness. She is a lost, wretched soul who is taking the final steps towards an inward reflection that leads to redemptive salvation.

The last words in the dialogue between Manley and Hulga are pivotal, critical, and chilling. Pointer states, “I know where I’m going […] You ain’t so smart. I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!” (283). From the quote, Pointer is evil incarnate. Manley’s words are a direct assault on everything, completely everything, that Hulga has believed.

Apparently, she did not know where she was going, and the seduction fails. Assumingly, she is not that brilliant mind imparting knowledge to an inferior one. She is being left virtually blind and unable to walk. Also, the fact that she believes in nothing is not a rare or elite stance. Manley Pointer does not need an education to make the same claim. Weighing everything, the audience realizes she has been usurped by him, and her superior intelligence, reason, and faithlessness leave her obviously trapped, virtually blind, and seemingly helpless.

In the end, the fixity of the “Negroes” is used to quantify the Other and highlight Homi Bhabha’s process of stereotyping (Andermahr 80). Ironically, the reader realizes that Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Hopewell, while picking evil-smelling onions, are the real “Others.” While the blind, one-legged Hulga remains trapped in an old barn in the back fields of the farm experiencing a keen awareness of her circumstances, both Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Hopewell are lost in a blindness that is more profound than Hulga’s. With one exception, they will likely never see light, salvation, or truth.

Flannery O’Connor “acknowledg[es] that there is usually more than one way to read a story, she also state[s] that there was only one way she could possibly have written [a story]” (Charters 663). From Flannery O’Connor’s eyes and perceived vocation and through pain, loss, and utter devastation, it is Hulga, alone, who has the potential for redemption and salvation in “Good Country People.”

23 March 2009

Response to Ways of Dying

The cover of the novel is striking. It looks like a Bard that is preparing to tell a story. The blue and black tones are fitting for this novel. Blue and black are like the after effects of a hard hit, a fall, a bruise. But if the people, like the Bard, would seemingly open up and expose their hearts, a nation could become blossoming flowers.

Zakes Mda’s novel, Ways of Dying, is about post colonization, and the bruising of a war torn nation and violent people. The novel illustrates the black-and-blueness of poverty and death, pain and suffering, grief and despair. It is written with a tone of humor, and the language is light; but the message is real and poignant.


The novel is about violence. People who were once oppressed and brutalized are now the oppressors and the violators. Toloki, the main protagonist, is a "Professional Mourner." He travels the various South African settlements or townships, and he views and reports on the constant violence that he is privy to and witnesses – the fighting and the killing.


He attends funerals on a daily basis. The description of his dress is so very important. He wears a cape, a well-worn hat, and an old suit. He wears it with pride, dignity, and purpose. Toloki is, in every sense, a Bard. He records these atrocious events and delivers a message to the reader, and his function becomes clear.


In the novel, he is grieving for the deceased and their families, but the reader knows he is truly suffering because of the nation as a whole. In the novel, the deaths of people occur as a result of senseless crime, hatred, racism, and poverty. The reader senses that the picture is greater. It is about the state of South Africa. We have all heard about it and learned about it. We have all watched it on the news.


The Madonna of Excelsior had the same visual impact. I have never forgotten Mda’s imagery of apartheid in South Africa. The humiliation of Nikki in the meat market, forced to strip naked for all to see, just because a white woman accused her of stealing. Then, in the end and after all the hardship, she finds a sense of freedom with her bees. Like the imagery in The Madonna of Excelsior, the images in Ways of Dying are just as prolific. Toloki, the Professional Mourner and the Bard, is speaking to the people. The real question is: Will the people listen?

27 February 2009

Response to A Grain of Wheat

The novel, A Grain of Wheat, is thought-provoking. Simultaneously, it is a story of love, political action, race relations, and human struggle. In essence, it is complicated, intricate, and complex. I found the novel to be reflective, as well as, insightful. I love the way the novel is not told in a chronological sense. The use of flashbacks, foreshadowing, etc. really allows the reader to become submerged into the plot of the novel, but these statements are general. James Ngugi is thought provokingly genuine and informed; he delivers more than a story, more than an idea. A Grain of Wheat is a tribute to a people, a culture, and a history.


The characters presented in this novel are real. We, the reader, know them intimately. We know and experience what they experience. The characters are multi-dimensional. They have flaws and virtues alike. The characters are human beings like each and every reader. In essence, they are living characters—feeling, sensing, and knowing.

Specifically, the characters of Mugo, Gikonyo, and Mumbi were the most appealing to me. I believe that these characters offer the most to the reader. Through them, the reader senses that dynamics of the world within the pages of the novel. Mugo is a strong, older man. At the beginning of the novel, he is described as a man without a wife or family. Yet, he is compelling. He is aware of his surroundings, a hard-worker, and an unlikely hero. The reader grows to love his humility and self-doubt. These flaws are familiar to reader; they, themselves, have felt the same inadequacies and the same self consciousness.

Through Mugo, we are given the early history of Thabai, as well as the present day circumstances. For instance, his interaction with Warui informs the audience. Warui had given Mugo land after his own property “had been confiscated by the government” (5). Then “Githua, who was hobbling towards him on crutches…stood to attention, lifted his torn hat, and cried out: ‘In the name of blackman’s freedom, I salute you’” (5). From the combination of these lines, the reader instantly realizes by page five of the novel that there has been a war dealing with black men, personal property, and the government. For this reason, I believe Ngugi successfully created a people with a defined heritage and a combined socio-economic and political history.

Gikonyo and Mumbi are two separate characters, but they, I believe, must be reconciled as one. They are connected in experience, both culturally, politically, and historically. Gikonya exiled as a mere baby by his father is an honorable man. Gikonya has decidedly respected and supported, what his father rejected and aborted, his mother. He is a master carpenter, market entrepreneur, and political activist. He is multi-faceted and thoughtful.

The audience becomes most aware of the world, in A Grain of Wheat, through him. He is the cultural sounding-board for the reader. We are instantly made aware of his political prowess in the beginning pages of the novel, and this continues through the remainder of the novel. He is the organizer of the Uhuru; he asks Mugo to speak. We follow his life from his childhood, his vocations, and his relationship with his wife.

The audience experience his love for Mumbi, and we understand the decisions he has made because of her. We are able to see the human struggle mostly through the life of Gikonyo. Mumbi provides the intimate character of Gikonyo. She alone has the power to cause him pain. I believe Gikonyo and Mumbi are the heart of the story.

In essence, Ngugi’s development of characters in A Grain of Wheat was masterful. He created a convoluted story of the human experience as it relates to oppression, with an emphasis on the political history of Kenya during pre-colonization to post colonization.

24 February 2009

Response to The Dilemma of a Ghost

The play titled The Dilemma of a Ghost is compelling. I believe the play specifically addresses an important issue that is still relevant today -- cultural miscommunication and misrepresentation. Throughout the cover image, stage directions, prelude, and the individual acts, Ama Ata Aidoo is meticulous and thought-provoking.

The cover of the Longman African Writers edition is intriguing. It caught my attention, and I spent some time exploring the details of the scene. It entails a yellow beach, an azure sea, fresh fish, and African clothing intertwined with regular (American) clothing. One African garment seems to possess an all-seeing eye. Eulalie Rush-Yawson even mentions a few of these very details as she views a travel brochure. In retrospect, after reading the play, these images are poignant and fitting.

Furthermore, after reading the character list, the reader is able to see a potential conflict. Specifically, the African versus the African-American experience is quite different. Also, the number of women listed in the character list is interesting. In essence, there are many women who have the potential to greatly influence the main character, Ato Yawson.

Moreover, Aidoo is Ibsen-like in his stage directions. The directions are very detailed and methodical. I felt as if they are used to foreshadow the plight of the protagonist. The main character is trapped, but there appears to be hope in the horizon. To further explain, on the right, the old building represents the old customs. On the left, the protagonist is enclosed by new customs. The enclosure, in the center of the building, represents the struggle within Ato.

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I believe the building is used to symbolize a life struggle, a life choice. If he chooses to follow the narrow passageway, the old ways offers spaciousness in an enclosed space. The door on the left, in the new building, leads to new rooms, new ideas. However, in the background, there is a path that leads to endless possibilities – the river (salvation, sanctification), the farm (everlasting life), and the market (new ideas, new relationships, and new commerce).

Similarly, to explicate the prelude, the reader senses the “Bird of the Wayside” as a listener, an observer, or a bard. This is important. Similar to Shakespeare’s usage of the chorus in his plays, Aidoo’s “Bird of the Wayside” is aware of the past, present, and the future. He is ever-present, knowledgeable. He is the informer. Possibly, he is represented by the all-seeing eye that is illustrated on the cover of the book. Also, in the prelude, the narrator sets up a conflict with the One Scholar. Finally, the “Bird of the Wayside” states, “I can furnish you with the reasons why / This and that and other things / Happened… / Look around you, / For the mouth must not tell everything. / Sometimes the eye can see / And the ear should hear” (11-13, 16-19). The narrator is calling the audience to action. The reader must take apart in the play.

Finally, as the Acts begin, the audience immediately recognizes the cultural disconnect between the protagonist, Ato, and his wife, Eulalie. Eulalie makes ignorant statements about African women and culture. Eulalie even states that all palm trees are the same, and she asserts that knowing the difference does not really matter. Similarly, Ato’s female relatives make ignorant statements about African Americans. The cultural miscommunication and misrepresentation is highlighted. Ato is the mediator, the educator. In essence, he is the bridge between the two spectrums of experience, but he fails at his tasks. Each Act can be explicated in a similar manner.

28 November 2008

Frankenstein’s Reflection of Britain and Its Others (British Literature)

Gothic novels during the nineteenth-century reflected the mainstream ideas of Britain about its others through horror, monsters, romance, darkness and death. Written during the period of the Industrial Revolution, the novel raised many issues that could be linked to the fears of English society.Many nineteenth-century English novelists investigated the historical, social, moral, and political aspects of Great Britain. Britain was conquering many lands in the non-Caucasian regions of Asia and Africa. Britain was benefiting from a slave-driven economy in the West Indies.

In the social perspective of the novel being written, the English “Enlightenment” had a skewed view of people in foreign lands. It was part fantasy and part-exoticism. During this time-frame a system of races had been formed. Based only on ethnicity, men were ranked by their race. Europeans commonly referred to the dark Other. Mary Shelley was born and reared in this historically, socially, morally and politically-charged environment and she was affected.

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein was of particular interest because of the negative views of the Other was profound within the text and helped shape the negative reflections of Britain on its Others.

In H.L. Malchow’s “Frankenstein’s Monster and Images of race in Nineteenth-Century Britain,” he claimed gothic novels of this period allowed humanity to claim the responsibility for remaking and re-shaping creation itself through forced measures.

Malchow focused on the racial interpretation of the novel through the historical, social, moral and political context of the times.

He highlighted Frankenstein’s correlation with the historical aspects of Britain’s emerging industrialized society; the social aspects on views on non-whites, specifically blacks; the moral aspects on abolishing slavery in the West Indies; and the political aspects of the merchant class securing status and wealth (93-100).

Within the novel, the Other was dehumanized, which allowed for common acceptance of the Creature’s ill treatment and isolation. The creature was described as being about eight feet in height, with translucent yellowish skin that "barely disguised the workings of the vessels and muscles underneath", watery, glowing eyes, flowing black hair, black lips, and white teeth (37).

In the same way Malchow investigated images. The image portrayed in a “Scene from the Extravaganza of Frankenstein: or ‘The Model Man,’ at the Adelphi Theatre,” Illustrated in the London News on 12 January 1850, on page 28, was a reflection of the times. He highlighted images that intentionally paralleled the social stereotypes on non-whites as the “monster,” the Other (120).

He highlighted the subconscious messages with the novel beginning with the concepts that were politically inspired by Rousseau, but matured with mid-Victorian pseudo-scientific racism. Europeans were mal-informed on the Other.

The images of the Other within novel are compelling and exemplify Malchow’s argument. Shelley wrote, “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing…his shriveled complexion, and straight black lips” (37). The yellowness of the creature’s skin instantly signified his Otherness.

The blackness of the creature’s hair and lips exemplified the darkness of the Other. Shelley’s description of the Other was ill-informed and reflective throughout her novel Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley was limited in her representation of the Other. The Other represented anyone outside the English standard of civilization. Though accomplishments in this novel are undeniable, Shelley’s lack of knowledge and respect for the uniqueness and the popularity of the novel greatly affected concepts of the Other within Frankenstein.

One can easily argue that in the nineteenth-century that increased exposure to the Other provoked fear and uneasiness. Whether conscious or unconscious, the fear and sense of uncertainty was revealed within the lines of Frankenstein.

Additionally, Patrick Brantlinger stated that “[Malchow] focus[ed] on the numerous intersections between the literary conventions of the Gothic romance tradition…about race and empire… [and showed] the debates of slavery, abolition, and miscegenation” (698).

Malchow was able to contextualize Frankenstein as it related to slavery and abolition. He highlighted Britain’s issues of race and empire and its reflection in English Gothic literatures such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Though limited in actual experience and encounters with the Other, Shelley’s creature was a reflection of mainstream ideas and thoughts on the Other.

Furthermore, Alicia Thompson’s dissertation “The Frankenstein paradigm: Marginalized literatures as monster and the voice of protest” could be adjusted to analyze the interrelationships in Frankenstein between a dominate Anglo-Saxon culture and a subordinate “Other” that exists within the periphery of society.

The Frankenstein paradigm existed and operated between a white patriarchal domination English society and the marginally oppressed Other. Shelley used of “monster” as “Other” in Frankenstein. Thompson stated, “The issues of identity, flight and monster imagery exposed the foundations of patriarchal acts that dehumanize, oppress and maintain the idea of white supremacy” (24).

Thompson’s assertion can be proven within the confines of the novel. One can deduce that part of Frankenstein's rejection of his creation was the fact that he did not give it a name---giving the creature a lack of identity.The same practice was common in slavery. The taking away of one’s name was instrumental in submission of the slave. With the novel, the creature was referred to by words such as "monster", "creature", "demon", "fiend”,” demonic corpse" and "wretch".

When Victor Frankenstein conversed with the monster in Chapter 10, he addressed the creature as "Devil" and "Vile.” Some have referred to the Creature as "Frankenstein" by pointing out that the creature was Victor Frankenstein's offspring, his creation. Again the practice of slavery was applicable—the idea of forcing the slave-masters name onto the slave.

The practice allowed for complete ownership of another individual. One could also argue that the monster was the invention of Doctor Frankenstein and inventions are often named after the person who invented them. (However one chooses to view)Which ever view one takes, the idea of complete possession another individual was clear. Furthermore Thompson stated, “The Frankenstein paradigm provides a different theoretical lens that allows examination and reflection regarding the nature of interrelationships involved in patriarchal hierarchies that sanction institutionalized racism” (220). Racism was, in essence, fear.

During much of the novel Victor feared the creature's desire to destroy him by killing everyone and everything most dear to him. Within the text, the creature had killed his youngest brother, William, his friend Henry Clerval, and his bride Elizabeth. It must be noted however that the creature was not born evil. It sought only to be loved by its creator, by other humans, and to love a creature like himself. It was mankind who taught the creature to hate and reject.

Victor and the villagers taught the creature rejection and how to be evil. The creature did not feel fear until he realized the reactions of his environment—only then did he understand that he was a monster.Thompson stated, “The subjugated, oppressed other, born into a patriarchal order gazes expecting protection, guidance and love, but reaps cruelty, hatred and rejection” (48). Frankenstein was a product of the mainstream subjugation and oppression of the Other within nineteenth-century English society—the creature was its manifestation.

To reiterate, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a reflection of Britain and its concepts about its Others. Many gothic novels during this era reflected the mainstream ideas of Britain about its others through horror, monsters, romance, darkness and death--Frankenstein was no exception.Frankenstein highlighted the historical, social, moral, and political aspects of Great Britain.

Works Cited

Brantlinger, Patrick. “Gothic Images of Race in Nineteenth-Century Britain by H. L. Malchow.” Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies. 29.4 (1997): 698-699. JSTOR. 15 March 2008 http://links.jstor.org/search.

Burke, Edmund. “The Sublime and the Beautiful.” The Longman Cultural Edition: Frankenstein. Susan Wolfson. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 212-214.

Malchow, H.L. “Frankenstein’s Monster and Images of Race in Nineteenth-Century Britain.” Past and Present. 139 (1993): 90-130. JSTOR. 10 February 2008 http://links.jstor.org/search.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. “Frankenstein.” The Longman Cultural Edition: Frankenstein. Susan Wolfson. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 1-179.

Thompson, Alicia Rebecca. The Frankenstein paradigm: Marginalized literatures as monster and the voice of protest. Diss. Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 1999. AAT 9948379.

23 November 2008

Rhetorical Analysis of “A More Perfect Union” Speech

The speech titled “A More Perfect Union” was delivered by Senator Barack Obama on March 18, 2008 near the historical site of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The speech responds to the video clip of Barack Obama’s pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, making racially charged comments against America and Israel. The pundits and various news media outlets played the clip repeatedly on the television, radio, YouTube, and podcasts.

First, the Senator’s speech attempts to address the nation on their concerns of his affiliation with Reverend Wright. Second, the speech addresses the sustaining and prevailing issues of race within America and how it paralyzes our nation.

The speech is compelling because it possesses the necessary elements of effective and persuasive rhetoric; in summation, Obama’s rhetoric works. Rhetoric is the study of opposing arguments, misunderstanding, and miscommunication.

Also, relevant to this analysis, rhetoric will be defined as the ability to speak and write effectively and to use language and oratory strategically. Despite the common employment of speech writers by most politicians, Senator Obama wrote the speech himself.

By addressing the misunderstanding and miscommunication connected to and perpetrated by racism in America, the audience sees precisely how effective Obama’s speech is when examined through such lenses as the classical and 20th century rhetorical theories and concepts from Aristotle, Richard Weaver, Stephen Toulmin, Chaim Perelman, and Michel Foucault.

Barack Obama’s speech echoes the rhetorical concepts of ethos, pathos, and logos that are explicitly discussed within Aristotle’s The Rhetoric. Ethos is how the speaker’s character and credibility aids his or her influence of the audience; whereas pathos is a rhetorical device that alters the audience’s perceptions through storytelling and emotional appeals (181). Logos uses reason to construct an argument and to covey an idea (182). Finally, kairos attempts to conceptualize the need for the correct timing (201).

Therefore, ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos are all evident within the speech and expressed in various ways, striking language and repetition, and through different receptors, emotions and logic.

Ethos is accomplished on intellectual, social, spiritual, and biological levels. Senator Obama does this by giving factual information. He interjects historical references; he explains the extent of his family tree. Thus, the Senator gives creditability to his speech and validity to his message. The implication is that everyone should listen; he is the authority.

He acknowledges that the press routinely looks “for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well” (Obama, par. 7). From this quote, the audience is being persuaded by the classical theoretical concepts of opposing arguments.

The audience is fully aware of the division between the races, and the speech is very effective due to the fact that Barack Obama is willing to speak of what is often unspoken. When addressing his intellectual ethos, Obama mentions that he has “gone to some of the best schools in America” (Obama, par. 6).

Secondly, he recites, “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union,” which is easily recognized as the first line in the U.S. Constitution (Obama, par. 2). Even those who do not possess complete knowledge of the famous line immediately understand that something of importance is being conveyed to them.

Thirdly, he demonstrates his awareness of past occurrences and present concerns on the global scale. Senator Obama recalls the “legacy of slavery and Jim Crow” within our nation (Obama, par. 24). He acknowledges the present dangers of “conflicts in the Middle East” and explains the cause of such conflict (Obama, par. 10). The audience is given evidence that he understands the role of history as well as the present-day global concerns affecting our nation.

Furthermore, Senator Obama uses ethos to gain credibility with his knowledge of social issues that pervade our society today. He states, “The most segregated hour of American life occurs on Sunday morning” (Obama, par. 12).

He acknowledges that the resentments of the black and white communities “aren’t always expressed in polite company,” but these resentments are manifested within our society in destructive ways, like racism (Obama, par. 31). The audience feels that he is knowledgeable and credible on the immediate topics affecting our future and our daily lives.

Ethos is also applied on a spiritual level by mentioning his present faith and making Biblical references. He states that “more than twenty years ago [he was] introduce[d] …to Christian faith [with] obligations to love one another, to care for the sick and lift up the poor” (Obama, par. 13). He noted how “black people merg[ed] with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, [and] Ezekiel’s field of dry bones” (Obama, par. 16).

Senator Obama is altering the language. Christians did not exist in the Old Testament story of Ezekiel, but Senator Obama is effectively connecting with every major religion. Simultaneously, he is reaching out to the secular world as well. Being cognizant that everyone does not actively practice a religious faith, Obama chooses stories that everyone, Christians and non-Christians, could identify and recognize. Thus, these religious references connect with masses as well as members of the three major religions.

Finally, Senator Obama gains ethos by explaining his own genetic makeup. He states that he is “the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas… [He continues that he] is married to a Black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners… [Then, he acknowledges that he has] brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins of every race and every hue scattered across three continents” (Obama, par. 6).

In essence, he reveals that he has the blood of Africa, the birthplace of humanity, and the blood of a woman of French descent within him. He has married a woman who has both slave and slave owner flowing within her. Moreover, he has fathered children who have the blood of humanity: African, European, slave, and the Caucasian slave owner within them. Thus, he is an authority on race.

He states, “[his] story [is] seared into [his] genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more that the sum of its parts--that out of many, we are truly one” (Obama, par. 6). The audience revels at his remarkable story, and ethos is achieved through storytelling. In essence, Obama forges a biological connection with his audience.

The connection is strengthened through Senator Obama’s use of pathos. It is achieved through the use of emotional appeals. He alters the thoughts and feelings of his audience through storytelling, imagery, and allusion. The topic of race, within itself, evokes strong emotions, even to this very moment, this very second.

The senator begins by telling a story of his grandfather “who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s army during World War II” (Obama, par. 6). The use of key terms such as Depression, Patton’s army, and World War II evoke the emotional responses of patriotism and self-sacrifice.

Toward the end of his speech, Obama shares another story; he tells of a young, white, Southern campaigner--Ashley Baia--who inspires an old, black, Southern man to vote (Obama, par. 45-46). In essence, Baia encourages pathos by telling her story. Barack Obama uses Baia’s story of inspiration to highlight the power in sharing his own story.

The audience is able to connect through the emotional appeals that take place at the very core of humanity. It is easy to disrespect and dishonor something that is foreign and unknown, but it is hard to turn away from the essence of another man’s soul. As fellow humans, the audience recognizes the sheer humanity in the story.

Pathos is also achieved through the use of allusion and imagery. The imagery that is provoked with terms such as slave or slavery is still poignant today. Most people are cognizant of the plight of slaves within this country. The audience would be aware of the racism that ensued and the devastation and isolation that slavery caused in American history.

When Barack Obama describes the various ways that racism manifested within our society, pathos is achieved because of the powerful imagery of the allusions to race and racial conflicts within our community. The audience is trapped and becomes aware of the prejudices and experiences of race and racism within their own lives, thus causing emotions to surge and overflow.

Pathos, being the weakest form of rhetoric, is utilized by Senator Obama sparingly. Instead, he overwhelmingly utilizes the most powerful form of rhetoric, logos. Logos is the ability to embody rational, logical, methodical thoughts and persuasions.

As it relates to Obama’s speech, examples of logos are found throughout the text. For example, by displaying objectivity, the element of logos is achieved. Senator Barack Obama methodically explains the problems with race within America, and he gives logical, reasoned resolutions to the problems.

He explains, “The anger [of Blacks and] the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away, nor has the anger and bitterness of those years… [Later he offers resolution and states that] the African-American community [must embrace] our past without becoming victims of our past” (Obama, par. 34).

Many African-Americans will identify with Obama’s assessment of race within the African-American community, and they will be inspired to act in a positive manner.

Simultaneously, he acknowledges “a similar anger within…the white community. They [feel] they’ve worked hard all their lives…They are anxious about their future, and they feel their dreams slipping away [and] resentment builds over time… [Furthermore, he offers resolution and urges that] the white community [must acknowledge] that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination [exists]” (Obama, par. 36).

From these lines, the audience is persuaded to respond in a positive manner as well, and they are urged to approach the subject of racism both subjectively and objectively. Senator Obama recognizes the duality of both plights and asks the American people not to blame each other but investigate and seek out the true reason of conflict within our nation.

Thus, Obama is using inductive and deductive reasoning, which is indicative of logos. By utilizing Aristotle’s method and system, Obama’s appeals to logic are beyond reproach. Once his reasons are defined, he states that this is the time that we must take action and secure our future together, and Obama begins to preach on the importance of time.

The issue of time and timing directly correlates with the classical rhetorical term kairos. Obama conveys time in a powerful fashion. In the beginning of his speech, he states, “Two hundred and twenty one years ago [our forefathers]…produced [a document that was] eventually signed, but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by the nation’s original sin of slavery [that] brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least 20 more years, and leave any final resolution to future generations” (Obama, par. 3).

Later, he explains how people often manipulate race to win political elections and prevent unity. Barack Obama speaks of the continual war between segments of our community. Then he states, “But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now” (Obama, par. 23).

Furthermore, he acknowledges “the complexities of race” in America have never been resolved. He urges Americans “to come together and solve [the] challenges [in America]” (Obama, par. 33). He persuades the audience to racial relations within America a priority.

In summary, kairos is aggressively addressed and highlighted. The audience realizes that the problem at hand may have been ignored by our forefathers, but these problems must be addressed now.

Toward the end, kairos reaches its peak of effectiveness. Obama states that what has been effectively dividing the races in the past will not happen again:

Not this time. This time we want to talk about crumbling schools…This time we want to reject the cynicism…This time we want to talk about [healthcare]…This time we want to talk about [jobs]…This time we want to talk about [race]…This time—This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag (Obama, par. 40-41).

From these lines, the audience feels the urgency of time; the listeners realize that “this time” America must act. Obama effectually uses the sophistic rhetorical theories and concepts to ignite and unite the audience; however, he also incorporates modern-day rhetorical theories and concepts as well.

Specifically, Senator Obama utilizes the hierarchy of definition, analogy, cause and effect, and testimony of the 20th century rhetorician, Richard Weaver. In the introduction of Language Is Sermonic, the narrator summates Weaver as stating, “Rhetoric…is a positive act with consequences in the world…Every utterance is an attempt to make others see the world in a particular way and accept the values implicit in that point of view” (1348).

Similarly, Obama desires to persuade the audience to see the world from a different perspective, a different lens.

First, toward the beginning of the text, Obama defines the Black church. He states, “Black churches across the country embod[y] the community in its entirety—the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger…[S]ervices are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor... [Full] of kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love [as well as] the bitterness and biases” (Obama, par. 18).

If one really looks closely at the definition, it is also a definition of America as well as the Black church. By explaining the polarity within the Black church, he explains the polarity within America as a whole.

In this way, Obama uses rhetoric in a positive way to impact his audience and highlights that “every utterance is an attempt to make others see the world in a particular way [through definition].”

Second, Weaver asserts, “Rhetoric [is] the most important of all ends, the persuading of human beings to adopt right attitudes and act in response to them” (1351). From these lines, one can examine Senator Obama’s use of twentieth century rhetorical theories and concepts. Obama uses “cause-and-effect” by illustrating the history of racism within the United States (1354). He states:

We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that existed between the African-American community and the larger American community today can be traced directly to inequalities passed from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow (Obama, par. 24).

In essence, Obama is stating that the racism today has a sordid past in our history; it can not be ignored, but it must be confronted, discussed, and acted upon. Obama is using this cause-and-effect to play on the emotions of his audience.

Everyone is aware of the gruesome history, yet, as Weaver puts it, “Humanity includes emotionality or the capacity to feel and suffer, to know pleasure” (1352). From these lines, it is obvious that Senator Obama uses cause-and-effect to evoke an emotional response and sway the audience to his point of view.

Furthermore, Barack Obama utilizes the elements outlined by Stephen Toulmin’s The Uses of Argument. He uses the schema of the six components in analyzing arguments: qualifier, claim, data, warrant, backing, and rebuttal.

The qualifier is the “word or phrase [that] expresses the speaker’s degree of force or certainty concerning the claim” (1418). Next, the claim is the “conclusion whose merit must be established” (1417). Then, the data is the “fact we appeal to as a foundation for the claim” (1417). The warrant is “the statement authorizing our movement from the data to the claim” (1419).

The backing is the “credential designed to certify the statement expressed in the warrant; backing must be introduced when the warrant itself is not convincing enough to the readers or the listeners” (1420). Finally, the rebuttal is the “statement recognizing the restrictions to which the claim may legitimately be applied” (1421). The following examples show how Obama’s speech utilizes these principles as well:

First, by working together, we can move beyond some (qualifier) of our old racial wounds (claim) by virtue of asserting a firm conviction, a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people (data), because we have no choice if we are to continue on a path of a more perfect union (warrant), as we know it’s a racial stalemate we’ve been struck in for years (backing)…

Second, the vast majority (qualifier) of Americans want the issue of race to be resolved (claim) by virtue of the desire to perfect our society by young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election (data), because there is hope in the next generation (warrant)…(Obama, par. 33, 42)

Similarly, as a rhetor, Obama uses Chaim Perelman’s techniques to connect to his audience. Perelman’s The Realm of Rhetoric states, “The importance of rhetoric, of the psychological technique which acts upon the hearer’s will in order to obtain his adherence…[B]y showing that for any subject there are two opposing discourses…the existences of one single truth [is denied]” (1379).

From these lines, the audience can assume that Senator Obama verbalizes the plight of black, white, and brown Americans. He dismisses a single truth, and Obama accepts multiple truths within a society. He promotes inclusion and commonality among all people despite socio-economics or race, and Obama encourages them to look at both sides of the argument. Thus, he uses psychological techniques in order to connect with his audience.

Similar to Aristotle’s rhetorical concept of kairos, in Chaim Perelman’s The New Rhetoric: A Theory of Practical Reasoning he states, “‘Political speaking’…urges us either to do or not to do something” (1387).

Not this time. This time we want to talk about crumbling schools…This time we want to reject the cynicism…This time we want to talk about [healthcare]…This time we want to talk about [jobs]…This time we want to talk about [race]…This time—This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag (Obama, par. 40-41).

From these lines, Obama is calling for action. He is urging the audience to respond and respond now. Using anaphora, the importance of acting now is echoed over and over again. It provokes emotion, pathos. He is promoting social cohesion in his audience.

Furthermore, Perelman states, “Things present, things near to us in space and time, act directly on our sensibility” (1395). Obama’s speech parallels this concept. Obama begins by making allusions to America’s historic past:

Two hundred and twenty one years ago [our forefathers]…in a hall that still stands across the street…produced [a document that was] eventually signed, but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by the nation’s original sin of slavery [that] brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least 20 more years, and leave any final resolution to future generations (Obama, par. 23).

From this quote, Obama even reflects the idea of time, past and present, in the very location in which the speech is given. He is connecting the past to the present. This quote highlights the importance of the location of Obama’s speech on race, and how the event at the location has made the present setting possible.

Finally, Michel Foucault’s The Order of Discourse can easily be applied to Senator Barack Obama’s speech on race in America; the political speech delivered in March 2008 concerned the taboo subjects of racism and how racism affected our religious rhetoric.

According to the text, Foucault remarks, “The desire to locate truth in something other than discourse itself has…spawned several mistaken beliefs… [Foucault questions] the will to truth [and attempts to] restore to discourse its character as an event” (1432).

Likewise Obama seeks to locate truth in his own experiences and through the invitation of discourse with the audience. Senator Obama discusses the discourse of race in America in a reasonable and logical manner, yet he also seems sincere, full of character, and an expert on the topic.

Toward the beginning of The Order of Discourse, Foucault states, “I should not like to have to enter this risky order of discourse” (1460). Obama’s speech is a risky order of discourse. Racism in America is, in many ways, ingrained and embedded within the culture. There are deep wounds that accompany a deeply wounded history.

Foucault remarks, “In a society like ours…We know quite well that we do not have the right to say everything, that we cannot speak of just anything in any circumstances whatever, and that not everyone has the right to speak of anything” (1461). Foucault’s statement sums up Senator Obama’s dilemma. His pastor has spoken words that should not have been uttered—publically at least.

Obama states, “We’ve heard my former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation and that rightly offend white and black alike” (Obama, par. 8). In our society, it is simply not acceptable to transmit racism in a public and formal manner.

Racism exists, but it is most often in the subtleties and comforts of familiar spaces and private homes. Thus, Obama’s willingness to have an honest conversation on the taboo subject of racism in America is a risky order of discourse.

To reiterate, the speech delivered by Barack Obama in March 2008 exemplifies effective rhetorical theories and concepts. Obama hopes to heal America’s turbulent racial legacy and move forward, from the negativity of the past, in a positive, logical manner through ethos, pathos, and logos appeals.

First, Senator Obama argues against the long standing racial climate that exists within American society. Second, he broaches subjects that are often discussed in the private sphere but rarely discussed openly. Third, he wants the audience to know that he is an articulate, vibrant, and diverse African-American man who is capable of leading this country forward. Finally, he uses rhetoric to calm the misunderstanding of his personage and his controversial affiliation.

In essence, he uses many elements that are exemplified in the classical and modern-day study of rhetoric, blends and expands new rhetorical devices in order to elevate the message, and effectively reaches a broad audience composed of multiple ethnic groups, multiple religions, and multiple socio-economic divisions.

Through the rhetoric of language in the speech, Senator Obama proposes to have an honest conversation on race and unite the historical racial divide. In summary, the speech effectively connects to the audience through the multi-media of rhetoric.

Works Cited

Bizzell, Patricia and Bruce Herzberg, eds. _The Rhetorical Tradition_, 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2001.

Aristotle. From_Rhetoric_. In Bizzell and Herzberg. 169-241.

Foucault, Michel. From _The Order of Discourse_. In Bizzell and Herzberg. 1460-1470.

Perelman, Chaim. From _The Realm of Rhetoric_. In Bizzell and Herzberg. 1379-1384.

Perelman, Chaim. From _The New Rhetoric: A Theory of Practical Reasoning_. In Bizzell and Herzberg. 1384-1409.

Toulmin, Stephen. From _The Uses of Argument_. In Bizzell and Herzberg. 1413-1428.

Weaver, Richard. From _Language Is Sermonic_. In Bizzell and Herzberg. 1351-1360.

Obama, Barack. "A More Perfect Union." Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 18 March 2008.

18 November 2008

Senator Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union" and Michel Foucault’s The Order of Discourse (Rhetorical Theory)

Michel Foucault’s The Order of Discourse can easily apply to Senator Barack Obama’s speech, "A More Perfect Union," that addresses race in America; the political speech delivered on 18 March 2008 concerned the taboo subject of racism and how racism affected our religious rhetoric. According to the text, “Foucault remarks that the tendency of Western philosophy since the demise of the Sophists has been to deny discourse its own reality…The desire to locate truth in something other than discourse itself has…spawned several mistaken beliefs…[Foucault questioned] the will to truth [and attempted to] restore to discourse its character as an event” (1432). Likewise Obama seeks to “locate truth” in discourse. Senator Obama discusses the discourse of race in America in a reasonable and logical manner, yet he also seems sincere, full of character, and an expert on the topic. Toward the beginning of The Order of Discourse, Foucault states, “I should not like to have to enter this risky order of discourse” (1460). Obama’s speech is a “risky order of discourse.” Racism in America is, in many ways, ingrained and embedded within the American culture. Deep wounds still exist as well as a deeply wounded history. Foucault remarks, “In a society like ours, the procedure as exclusion are well known…We know quite well that we do not have the right to say everything, that we cannot speak of just anything in any circumstances whatever, and that not everyone has the right to speak of anything” (1461). Foucault’s statement sums up Senator Obama’s dilemma. His pastor has made spoken words and should not have been uttered, publicly at least. Obama states, “We’ve heard my former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation and that rightly offend white and black alike.” In our society, it is simply not acceptable to transmit racism in a public and formal manner. Racism exists, but it is most often in the subtleties and comforts of familiar spaces and private home. Thus, Obama’s willingness to have an honest conversation on the taboo subject of racism in America is and was a “risky order of discourse.”

08 November 2008

Role of Women (Middle Eastern Literature)

The role of women in Naguib Mahfouz’s The Journey of Ibn Fattouma is varied and alters according to the situation and their faith. As for his mother, Fattouma al-Azhari, is a protector and sounding board for Qindil. She tells Qindil that his birthday is “really her day…[His] birth brought both conformation of his [half-siblings] defeat and renewal of their fury” (2, 3). Qindil is aware of his isolation from his siblings and the circumstances that caused the separation. The narrator speaks of Fattouma lovingly. She provides a good education for her son, takes an active part in his education, compliments him and tells him his faults. The narrator states, “My mother was happy at what I was gaining day by day and participated in shaping me by her love and her beauty…Never did she hesitate to express her admiration for my handsomeness, though telling me with the same frankness, ‘Your words often disturb my peace of mind…It’s as though you see only the ugly side of life’” (7). From these lines, the audience senses that Fattouma was a good and caring mother, as well as an honest one. In essence, she is important in shaping Qindil’s early years. For the most part, she offers him a gentle wisdom. Overall, the women play instrumental roles in the development and evolution of Qindil. He states, “I have been betrayed by religion, betrayed by my mother, betrayed by Halima. God’s curse be upon this adulterated land!” (13). From these lines, the audience perceives why Qindil begins a journey of this magnitude. The disappointment with Halima Adli al-Tantawi’s is a catalyst, in and of itself, but it is ignited fully by his perception of his mother’s betrayal. With Halima, Qindil does not have an intimate or fully expressed relationship. It is only the idea of what it could have been. He is mostly struck by her beauty and form, not her personality. Qindil’s first physical relationship occurs in Mashriq with a pagan woman, Arousa. She is nude and sexually free; she does not have sexual inhibitions. In sum, she distresses Qindil. Furthermore, he states, “She was…bronze and naked, but her face closely resembled Halima, my lost love” (24). At this point Qindil allows the reader to become aware that he is still clinging to the past. Next, he remarks, “Arousa gave birth to her first child…[and acted] as though she had produced him on her own and I had nothing to do with it” (47). Arousa proves to be the source of his torment in many other cases as well. However, in the torment, Qindil grows, evolves, and finds small truths in his journey. Through the pain comes knowledge and enlightenment. In Halba, Qindil meets and marries Samia, a physician. Through the relation, Qindil’s faith in Islam strengthens and matures. Arousa ruins the relationship, but in the end Qindil realizes that “continuing to be attached to Arousa is a meaningless self-delusion” (98). Finally, it appears that when he no longer seeks female relationships that his enlightenment blossoms. In summary, Qindil is greatly affected by the women in his life. Women are the catalysts that direct and redirect his actions, over and over again. They affect his journey from the beginning to the end. In a way, the women make the journey possible, by stimulating Qindil’s reactions. Thus, he achieves enlightenment through his encounters with women.

30 October 2008

The Significance of the Journey in 20th Century Middle Eastern Literature

When most people think of a journey, they think of traveling and experiencing various cultures. In Naguib Mahfouz’s The Journey of Ibn Fattouma, the journey represents much more. Qindil, the protagonist, travels on a simultaneous inner and outer journey. Superficially, he is experiencing new people, beliefs, and cultures, but he is also changing as the journey continues. He is evolving into a new man with every experience; he is traveling toward perfection. Initially, Qindil explains, “During his discourse he [Sheikh Maghagha al-Gibeili] talked about a certain ancient traveler…He spoke so liberally that I lived in my imagination the vast lands of the Muslims, and my own homeland seemed to me like a star in a sky crammed with stars” (5). From these quotes, the narrator is foreshadowing the never-ending journey of Qindil; it’s like the vast celestial universe. The Sheikh recalls his own journey and his regrets. The Sheikh states, “The circumstances of life and family made me forget the most important objective of the journey, which was to visit the land of Gebel…It’s as though it were the miracle of countries, as though it were perfection itself, incomparable perfection” (6). From these lines, the audience can sense that Qindil is intrigued and mesmerized by the description. Qindil will not be stopped by “the circumstances of life and family.” He will reach the most important objective; he will see Gebel. Next, through Qindil’s responses and questions, the audience is privy to his thought processes. He has a desire to explore, to see, and possibly the propensity to evolve. The Sheikh continues describing his personal journey. He recalls, “I have never in my life…met a human being who has paid it a visit, nor have I found a book or manuscript about it [Gebel]...It’s a closed secret” (6). From this quote, the audience assumes that Gebel represents the obscurity of knowledge. The narrator writes, “And like any closed secret it drew me to its edge and plunged me into its darkness. My imagination was fired. Whenever I was upset by a word or action, my soul fluttered around the land of Gebel” (6-7). From these quotes, the audience becomes aware of the continual foreshadowing. The rising action of the novel is preparing the audience for Qindil’s upcoming travels. Losing Halima Adli at-Tantawi is the catalyst Qindil needed to journey and appease his soul and his desire. The narrator writes, “An inner voice told me that I would be the first human being to be given the chance of touring the land of Gebel and making known its secrets to the world” (22). The true journey is his journey into the exploration of Islam. Furthermore, Qindil’s journey into Islam is foreshadowed in the first few pages. Qindil asks, “If Islam is as you say it is, why are the streets packed with poor and ignorant people?” (4). The Sheikh answers, “Islam today skulks in the mosques and doesn’t go beyond them to the outside world” (4). As a result, Qindil remarks, “Then it is Satan who is controlling us, not the Revelation…I am upset by injustice, poverty, and ignorance” (4, 7). From the dialogue, the audience is able to see how Qindil’s perceptions are forming; the audience is cognizant of the ideas that are growing in his consciousness. Qindil will not practice Islam in the mosques; he will search for it and analyze it during his journey. Thus, the journey is a search for meaning, but it is also an evolution of character and faith. The journey is an experience that Qindil relishes. Each experience represents a new lesson, a new step in evolving. In Mashriq, Qindil experiences the polar opposite of the teachings of Islam; he witnesses nudity and idol worship. He asks, “What land is this that hurls a young man like me into the flames of Temptation!” (23). From the quote, the audience realizes that this is a new experience for Qindil. Next, he reveals, “I pondered over the torments suffered by human beings in this life and wondered [if] in fact there was to be found in the land of Gebel the elixir for all ills” (29). From the quote, the audience realizes that Qindil is learning and growing. He asserts, “I gave myself over to my thoughts in a miserable state of languor until, all of a sudden, my ear was pierced by a shout for help. I jump to my feet in a state of readiness and found myself in utter darkness. I quickly grasped that I had been asleep, that in fact sleep, that in fact sleep was covering the whole universe. I had awoken early” (33). As proof of his evolution, he senses some awareness of being in darkness as well as the state of his surrounding. He is obtaining knowledge. The lack of religion in Mashriq aids him in obtaining a clearer picture of Islam. Also, he also experiences the turbulence of a romantic relationship with a pagan woman, Arousa. He realizes that it is a personal choice to follow Islam; she makes a choice not to practice the faith. In essence, one must choose Islam; it does not choose you. In Haira, Qindil experiences the cause-and-effect of war and the elation of freedom. It can be implied that he learns that Islam represents freedom from bondage which can not be paid for, as illustrated in his failed attempt to purchase Arousa. There are many implications, but one idea is solid; he is experiencing and evolving on his journey. In Halba, Qindil attempts love once more with Samia, a Muslim female pediatrician. With Samia, Qindil learns to respect Islam, but abandons a present love for a past love. This could parallel to his love of Islam; he must not forsake his first love, Islam. Next, Qindil journeys to Aman where freedom is suppressed. Thus, Islam is suppressed. Finally, it is in Ghuroub that Qindil prepares for his “beginning” in Gebel. Ghuroub represents the love of reason and logic, knowledge and wisdom. Here Qindil is able to evolve, grow, and prepare for Gebel, to achieve perfection. The Sheikh prophesy of “never [having]…met a human being who has paid it a visit, nor have I found a book or manuscript about it...It’s a closed secret” is realized (6). The audience will never know the secret, but possibly Qindil will know it. Qindil has the opportunity to reach perfection and obtain the secret of Gebel. In essence, initially Qindil “pondered about how we embellish our longings with luminous words of piety, and how we conceal our shyness with firebrands of dive inspiration” (13). But slowly, with each journey within the journey, he progresses and obtains enlightenment. This assertion is implied in the very first lines of the novel. The narrator states, “Life and death, dreaming and wakefulness: stations for the perplexed soul. It transverses the stage by stage, taking signs and hints from things, groping about in the sea of darkness, clinging stubbornly to hope that smilingly renews itself” (1). In sum, the first lines tell why Qindil must journey for so long. He must learn lessons from each experience; he must evolve into a new man. With each journey, his faith increases and strengthens as he reaches for perfection.

28 October 2008

Response to Palmer’s The Promise of the Father: Chapter One (Rhetoric and Composition)

The Promise of the Father by Phoebe Palmer is an “argument in defense of women’s public ministry” (1089). She begins her argument by stating “Do not be startled…We do not intend to discuss the question of ‘Women’s Rights’ or of ‘Women’s Preaching,’” but, in a sense, that is exactly what she does; it is simply veiled by religious activity. The text is full of the words: we, us, and our. Additionally, she poses some fifteen rhetorical questions and uses numerous enthymemes. Palmer is definitely making a connection. She is placing all women in the same situation that she faces as she attempts to promote God’s word. Yet she attempts to assure men that she does not aim to take their leadership roles; she is simply doing God’s will. Yet near the end of the text, she contradicts those statements. Initially, she states, “But we have never conceived that it would be subservient to the happiness, usefulness, or dignity of woman, were she permitted to occupy a prominent part in legislative hall, or take a leading position in the orderings of church conventions. Ordinarily, these are not the circumstances where woman can best serve her generation according to the will of God” (1095). But she asserts, “It is in the order of God that woman may occasionally be brought out of the ordinary sphere of action, and occupy in either church or state positions of high responsibility…The God of providence will enable her to meet the emergency with becoming dignity, wisdom, and womanly grace.” Toward the middle of the text, she assures men that Adam was before Eve, and men were in a superior position and are the “first in creation, long as time endures.” However, in the end she states, “Not only will the women of this age have to do with the women of the future age, but, as the men of the future age will have had their early training mostly from the women of the present age, how greatly have women to do with the destines of the moral and religious world!” (1099). In order to back her claim, she proceeds to give biblical examples of where women served in Christian leadership roles. She mentions Deborah, a judge of Israel who was instrumental in leading a fierce, but victorious battle. Palmer states, “She led forth the armies of God to glorious conquest…not because there were not men in Israel [but because of her faith and wisdom.]” She asserts that Huldah, the prophetess who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, was sought out for council by the king because she possessed the “momentous trust, involving the destinies of her country” (1096). She goes on to mention Queen Victoria and Mary as well. After backing her claims with “modern and ancient” examples, she goes on to address to origin of the conflict on whether or not women should minster the word of God. But first she addresses the naysayers. She reminds her audience that no one ever questioned whether or not the women mentioned above could lead; instead, “we only speak of their being pious, earnest, [and] Christian wom[en].” Then she poses the question, “Whose head the tongue of fire has descended” and who would have Christian women silenced? She states, “It is the power of an ever-present Jesus that the Spirit would have her testify; but the seal of silence has been placed on her lips. And who has placed the seal of silence on those Heaven-touched lips? Who would restrain the lips of those whom God has endued with the gift of utterance...?” She addresses the origin of the conflict. She dissects Paul’s letter as it related to the women of Corinth. She argues that Paul’s instructions where specific for that particular church, not all women in all churches. In essence, she effectively used rhetoric to argue a point in a logical and methodical way. She gradually elevated the tension within the text through words, rhetorical questions, and stories. She systematically took apart the argument that women should not minister God’s word. In the last paragraph, the text climaxes, she names her accusers. She states, “We feel that there is a wrong…which has long been depressing the hearts of the most devotedly pious women. And this wrong is inflicted by pious men [who] imagine that they are doing God service in putting a seal upon lips which God has commanded to speak…But…as we believe ignorance they have done it. Now ignorance will involve guilt” (1099). Palmer’s argument is a call to action for both women and men.

17 October 2008

A Reader–Response Criticism: Meant to be Appreciated (Southern Literature)

Today, when the temperature changes and the season becomes anew, it is easy to remember living in a rural Georgia community. What I do recall is that although the area lacked an abundance of extracurricular facilities for its youth, it was rich in other things—tradition, heritage and family—and stagnant but as colorful as an old hand-worked quilt in any home, even today. These quilts can be found in every home. I have several in my possession as well. Some were given to me as gifts for various occasions from my grandmothers, my aunts, my mother and the church “sisters” from our community. In my family, the trade of quilting has been passed down for generations. As stated in the analysis “In Spite of It All: A Reading of Alice Walker’s ‘Everyday Use’” in the African American Review, Sam Whitsitt quoted Barbara T. Christian’s assertion that “the metaphor of quilting to represent the creative legacy that African Americans have inherited from their maternal ancestors” (443). Alice Walker has been instrumental in analyzing the value of the quilt in the black experience. Most black experiences are unique yet similar, for instance many share life experiences. I remember from my parent’s backyard, I could see a family pond that was surrounded by the homes of my relatives. It still exists today as an 84 acre plot of houses owned and operated, with small gardens on the side or in the back, by family members. I shared that experience with two siblings and sixty three cousins. Characterized by personal development, social elevation and cultural awareness, Alice Walker presented a distinct analysis of these concepts in the short story “Everyday Use.” Being caught in the middle of two ideologies were three family members, Mrs. Johnson, Maggie and Dee/Wangero. The vastness of the short story can be analyzed through the reader-response approach. Recognizing that different readers will have different responses to the work of literature at variable life stages and life experiences that are specific to the reader’s evaluation of the text. The characteristics of personal development, social elevation and cultural awareness of the three main characters, Mrs. Johnson, Maggie and Dee/Wangero will be discussed and examined. This year, during my re-entrance into the collegiate setting in English studies, I, a young African-American woman from the South—a second career advent—was delighted to choose a career path beyond that of Respiratory Therapy. I had truly believed my calling to be a clinician but I had not truly appreciated my uniqueness and love of literature and spoken word. With the enthusiasm of a recent student, I am challenging my beliefs and reconsidering the understandings of my Southern history and traditions, to “revise [my] notions of what constitutes [a] sense of place, political agenda, race and class" (630). I was born and reared in Roberta, Georgia, which is approximately a forty-five minute drive from Eatonton, Georgia, where Alice Walker was born and reared (556). As a child, my mother loved to read poems written by Walker, as she thought television to be the death of us. While reading Steven Mailloux’s Reading in Critical Theory, I realized each reader responds differently to the text. My reading of Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use” and my continuing evaluation of my childhood and my love of quilting has lead me to analyze my life and its place as it relates to the short story (1149). I began quilting around the age of ten, during the summer when school was not in session. My aunt never learned to knit or crochet, but she was a phenomenal quilter. Aunt Mattie Pearl Blasingame took a special interest in me. A quiet woman of menial means, Aunt Mattie Pearl sold quilts to aid in the financial status of her home. She was actually my great-great aunt but those specific distinctions were not routinely made in my family, then or now. She was not well educated and could read very little, but she had memorized passages of Scripture and could tell virtually every major story in the Holy Bible. Financially and educationally deprived, Aunt Mattie Pearl was emotionally depressed as well. Creating meaning and experience to the text to be analyzed, her husband, Uncle Josephus, was a farmer and they had eleven children whom did not visit very often. Uncle Joe was a bit of a tyrant and suffered many of the emotional ills of black men of his day. He needed to control something; his obedient and submissive wife was the perfect victim. To further aid in processing the text, Aunt Mattie Pearl’s grand-daughter, Laura, commissioned her for quilts and obtained orders from everywhere. Laura was a recent graduate from Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. Not knowing the worth of the quilts, Aunt Mattie Pearl sold the quilts for $25.00 a piece. She was ecstatic and reveled in the financial gain, but her bruised hands told another story. With her new found wealth, her life began to change. As a child, I could not understand why that part of the family was so odd. My mother would tell us that it was not Aunt Mattie Pearl, but “it was that crazy Uncle Joe.” She surmised he did not know any better and did not want any better. He alienated his family from the community. My father and uncles would go down and take food or offer to do handy man jobs around the house. Uncle Joe was old and unable to do any hard physical labor—the sight of their home told the story all too well—but he would refuse and would politely say “if I need ya, I’ll call ya”—they did not have a telephone. Constantly working to provide financial means for her family, Aunt Mattie Pearl would make three to four quilts a week. As soon as they were made, she would sell them. Aunt Mattie Pearl was always positive despite her circumstances. She always sang as she quilted. She was proud of her accomplishments and for the first time people commented on her wonderful smile. Why not rest, I once asked. “When the Lord gives you a way out, take it,” she responded and busily began a new quilt. These memories with Aunt Mattie Pearl forced me to analyze my views of Alice Walker’s short story, not to mention to examine my own position about culture and heritage. If Mrs. Johnson was the uneducated woman living in rural Georgia and the matriarch of her family, Aunt Mattie Pearl was the antitype (631). If Maggie, the stay at home daughter in the story, was the meek and devoted daughter, Laura was the antitype. And if Dee/Wangero was the culturally aware and educated daughter, I was the antitype. Both Mrs. Johnson and Aunt Mattie Pearl were family matriarchs: Mrs. Johnson supported her family and worked hard, along with the Church, to send Dee “to Augusta to school” (559). Likewise Aunt Mattie Pearl would make quilts and give Laura “spending change” while she matriculated Georgia College and State University. Both women were uneducated and living in rural communities in substandard housing. Both women took on the overseer role for their families. And both knew the importance of an education, despite not being able to obtain one themselves. They were stout women who desired the best for their families. Both Maggie and Laura were devoted “daughters” in the truest sense of the word: Maggie stayed around the home and aided her mother in cleaning the yard and other domestic duties. Likewise Laura cared for her grandmother and desired to aid her in financial stability by soliciting orders for her quilts. She did not seek to change her grandmother or teach her a new trade. Instead she embraced what her grandmother knew well and helped her to make it profitable. Both women took on supportive roles and aided the matriarchs of their respective families. Also like Maggie, Laura showed a sense of true cultural enlightenment in her appreciation and respect for character. Both women accepted the matriarchs in their family as they were and did not attempt to change or mold them into something better or more than they were. They simply embraced the person, not flowery notions of what they should be. Maggie remembered the stories of her ancestors and could recall them at will. Maggie was in touch with her family history and was deeply rooted in her heritage. Both Dee and I possessed a cultural awareness that has been aided through education. Like Dee I have chosen to embrace the characteristics of my ethnicity; we both expressed this with natural hair texture. As in Dee’s childhood, I loved the audience of the family as I read and re-read stories. My family members listened intently and surely must have felt some “tiredness” of it all. Education was important to my family and they are still are a driving force for me. Like Dee, I also appreciate my cultural and ethnic identity; but unlike Dee, I do not reject my personal history or try to exploit its circumstances. Mailloux asserted a component of a “reader-response criticism actually attempts to define a critical “movement” and therefore helps establish and disseminate it as well” (1150). This is further explained by Barbara Christian in the first paragraph of her introduction of “'Everyday Use’ by Alice Walker” that “the Black Power Movement and the Second Wave of the Feminist Movement [are] two social interventions that define the literary commitments…and shape[d] our viewpoints about the social commitment to higher education (308). After this time period, African Americans exhibited a social commitment to higher learning. Dee was out-of-touch in her willingness to cling to a culture that she had not direct ties. By taking on the new name Wangero, and denying her generational name Dee, she lost touch with the concept of heritage. Her birth name had meaning and significant but Dee was unable to conceptualize that fact. In Walker’s story, Dee has returned only to obtain certain items that she deemed historically and culturally valuable. Prior to embracing her family, she thought it necessary to take pictures of her mother, a cow, and the shack in which they lived. Dee was on a mission of sorts in order to obtain and secure their historical wealth—their heritage. The house similar to the one she reveled as it burned to the ground became an architectural masterpiece. The bench that represented poverty as a child was now a piece of art. The irony and paradoxical duality of these occurrences brought to life her [Dee’s] out-of-touch personality. Mrs. Johnson noted the way Dee and Hakim-a-barber, her companion, had a conversation that was above her comprehension with their eyes. Like Dee’s appreciation of the quilts, I display special quilts on my walls at my home. And occasionally on a quiet evening, I simply stare at them, appreciate them, and find a sense of peace. Unlike Dee/Wangero whose motives were a paradoxical irony—something she detested, she also wanted to preserve; something that was beneath her was something of supreme value. I believe Dee/Wangero was not sinister or evil but acted out of her need for preservation. She saw the value of her heritage and the main motive was of good origin--preservation of history. She realized that a remnant of a deep and rich past was bound in the quilts. I am similarly interested in preserving the history of my family through restoration of family photographs and preservation of quilts and other items, for example, the copy of my great-grandparents wedding photo frame. Many critics have faulted Dee/Wangero for being out of touch with the needs of her family and attempting to exploit their ignorance to material value. I almost faulted her as well. Although I can identify with her efforts, I do not identify with her methods. It had been years since I read the story of “Everyday Use” and now I have a clearer understanding and a newer appreciation for things of the past. These things matter and are a part of my culture. I recognize that the story of “Everyday Use” is a strong testament to my own history, “that this paper, if quilt-like in its narrative”, is a paradoxical and physical metaphor for the narrative and is designed to be displayed in our hearts, designed to be displayed on our walls and designed to be used every day, simultaneously (634). Works Cited Christian, Barbara T. “’Everyday Use’ by Alice Walker.” African American Review. 30.2 (1996): 308-309. JSTOR.16 October 2007 . Mailloux, Steven. “Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism” Comparative Literature. 96.5 (1981): 1149-1159. JSTOR.16 October 2007 <>. Torsney, Cheryl B. “Everyday Use: My Sojourn at Parchman Farm.” Literature and Its Writers: A Compact Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 4th ed. Ed. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 630-634. Whitsitt, Sam. “In Spite of It All: A Reading of Alice Walker’s ‘Everyday Use.’” African American Review. 34.3 (2000): 443-459. JSTOR.16 October 2007 < http://links.jstor.org/search>. Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Literature and Its Writers: A Compact Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 4th ed. Ed. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 556-564.