Thursday, December 17, 2015


Emily Dickinson was an American poet from the nineteenth century. She was described as very introverted, and Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of her influencers. It is said that Dickinson's poems are untitled because she never meant for them to be published. Her poems were published posthumously by her family members. The poem I am going to analyze today is the poem numbered "156", also titled "Surgeon":

Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit - Life!

After carefully reading the short poem multiple times, I revealed a deeper meaning behind the poem (or I thought so). The first and third lines are written in trochaic tetrameter. The second and fourth each consist of a trochee and a cretic (/ - /). As Aristotle said, "The trochaic rhythm, again, is too much akin to the comic dance, as may be seen in tetrameter verse, for the rhythm of tetrameters is light and tripping." By using a trochaic tetrameter in the odd numbered lines, Dickinson is bringing focus to the even numbered lines. The ends of lines two and four are both stressed and also rhyme. The stressing and rhyming of "knife" and "Life" also brings focus to these words, perhaps to show how using the knife can be a catalyst of making evidences of life appear. The italicization and capitalization of the word "life" shows that the word is probably of most importance in this short poem. "Life" also seems to be an elaboration of the word "Culprit", which is also capitalized. I think what Dickinson is trying to express through the last line in the context of the entire poem is that "life" only shows when the skin is cut open. You can only truly get to know someone by knowing their life, their strengths and their flaws, by cutting them open. "Underneath their fine incisions stirs the Culprit" creates the image where someone's skin is cut open. Inside the skin, instead of finding flesh, you find energetic particles inside, of all colors of the spectrum and also black and white. This imagery shows how "lively" "life" is; it shows that life is full of movement and excitement.
Dickinson uses a cautionary tone, expressed through the words "must be very careful", "fine", "stirs". The way I interpret it is that Dickinson is insinuating that by cutting open the skin, it is like opening Pandora's box in a way, letting out many bad things – including the culprit, life, but there is also a good things (maybe more than one good thing in Dickinson's case). When you open the box, you may not be ready for what is inside it. Through this poem, I think that Dickinson is trying to convey the idea that in order to see a person's true self, you have to look inside, because you cannot see what someone truly is by looking at their outside. At the same time, you must be cautious about looking at the inside of people, you may not see what you want to see.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Collection of Thoughts at the Scene with Hester and Dimmesdale... and Zodiacs!!

Here is just a collection of my random thoughts regarding chapters 17&18.
I just can't seem to figure out why Dimmesdale allows himself to destruct in that way when he knows there is an outside force causing him pain. He doesn't really even have to know that it is Chillingworth who is inflicting the pain upon him; if he senses an overly large amount of pain, he should seek out a way to rid himself of that. Instead, it almost seems though as if he is complacent because he just doesn't take any sort of action on helping himself.

Secondly, zodiac superlatives! I thought it would be fun to guess the characters' zodiacs, see if you agree!
Dimmesdale - Scorpio. Water signs are typically rich with emotions and feelings. He is mentioned multiple times in the novel as "sensitive". What really made me think that he is a Scorpio the stressing of how his "self was gone" after he returned from the forest. Dimmesdale feels that "another man had returned out of the forest; a wiser one; with a knowledge of hidden mysteries which the simplicity of the former never could have reached" (194). This reminded me of the scorpio's symbol, the scorpion, because it's similar to the process of scorpion's shedding their skin in the molting process.
Pearl - Gemini. Pearl has the many characteristics of an air sign, quirky and intelligent. Hester addresses Pearl as "Thou strange child" (182). Hawthorne constantly conveys to the audience the peculiarity of Pearl through his descriptions of her being. The part in the novel that really led me to believe that Pearl was a gemini is the occurrences of her seeing her reflection in the water. One of them is where Pearl "had paused the brook chanced to form a pool, so smooth and quiet that it reflected a perfect image of her little figure" (181). This idea of double is like the symbol of the gemini, the twins.
Chillingworth - Sagittarius. Chillingworth is not so much related to this week's reading but I thought it'd be nice to include him. He was previously described as Satan, a "fiend". These are all relative to hell, which suggest that he could be a fire sign! I just thought that he'd seem like a sagittarius the most because the sagittarius is an archer. The points of the arrow remind me of Satan's fork.
Hester - Virgo. My conclusion of Hester's zodiac does not come so much from this week's reading either. I derived this conclusion because she is not extreme like a fire or water sign. She doesn't seem to have the quirkiness commonly possessed by air signs nor does she understand it, so that disassociates her with the air signs and leaves the earth signs. Virgo's have an eye for detail and are very organized people. This is seen throughout the novel through her thread work. Despite her hardships, she still manages to be on top of everything, to persevere through the pain.

PS I initially thought Dimmesdale was a Pisces and Chillingworth as a Scorpio but the textual evidences I could find say otherwise. If you have any other opinions feel free to contribute in the comments section!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Is Chillingworth's Craziness Justified???

Throughout the course of the novel, Roger Chillingworth transforms from an intellectual old man to a fiend. When he first appears in the novel, he has a "scholar-like visage, with eyes dim and bleared by the lamp-light that had served them to pore over many ponderous books"(55). By the end of chapter 10, Chillingworth has "a ghastly rapture" which "burst[ed] forth through the whole ugliness of his figure"(121). This is due to his obsession in finding out the father of Hester's illegitimate child. Through his fixation on Reverend Dimmesdale, Chillingworth finally finds an answer. Hawthorne describes Chillingworth: "Had a man seen old Roger Chillingworth, at that moment of his ecstasy, he would have had no need to ask how Satan comports himself, when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom" (121).

The progression of Chillingworth's journey into insanity hits a mark where he surpasses Hester in his sins. Chillingworth had "brought himself nearer to her[Hester's] level, or perhaps below it, by the revenge which he had stooped for" (146). This begs the question of whether Chillingworth's journey to insanity is justified. Why does vengeance cause him to fall that far into Satan's hands? Firstly, although Hester is Chillingworth's wife, the whole town doesn't even know that Hester's husband is alive, so the shame brought upon him isn't even legitimized by anyone but himself and God. I understand the part which he wants vengeance for the other sinner, but at the same time, Chillingworth seems to blame himself for Hester's case, "'I have left thee to the scarlet letter'"(151). If he thinks that it is his fault, why does he still manipulate Dimmesdale's life to make it a living hell? Personally, I think that Chillingworth has gone way too far. Theoretically, Dimmesdale holds the same amount of sin as Hester Prynne. Since Chillingworth had fallen below her on the "sin scale", then, in my opinion, it means that Dimmesdale has already received the punishment he needed and more, and Chillingworth has passed the degree of revenge he should have been implementing. Another opinion could be that Chillingworth is putting himself through insanity as a punishment for his causing of this whole scandal, what do you think?
Here is a picture of Chillingworth from the 1995 Scarlet Letter film and one of Satan from Google Images, do you spot any resemblances?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thoughts on Passage in Chapter 5 of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

While reading the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, one passage particularly stuck out to me:
"Vanity, it may be, chose to mortify itself, by putting on, for ceremonials of pomp and state, the garments that had been wrought by her sinful hands. Her needle-work was seen on the ruff of the Governor; military men wore it on their scarfs, and the minister on his band; it decked the baby's little cap; it was shut up, to be mildewed and moulder away, in the coffins of the dead. But it is not recorded that, in a single instance, her skill was called in aid to embroider the white veil which was to cover the pure blushes of a bride. The exception indicated the ever relentless vigor with which society frowned upon her sin" (75).
This passage appears in chapter 5 where Hawthorne is describing Hester Prynne's sewing skills. Hawthorne points out at the end of this passage that Hester's community doesn't allow her to sew white veils for brides because they don't want her sin to taint the brides. Although, what Hawthorne doesn't mention directly is that everyone Hester sews for has some sort of negative energy about them, or associated with death, in a sense, even besides the dead people. Firstly, she sews for the Governor, who is seen wearing "a dark feather in his hat, a border of embroidery on his cloak, and a black velvet tunic beneath"(59). Despite the fact that the Governor seems to be wearing "Puritan" colors (dark, sullen colors), the details of this quote tell us that he is actually quite extravagant because he is wearing a feather, an embroidery, and a velvet tunic, quite opposite to the Puritan ideal. All of these materials above show that the Governor may be potentially corrupt because on the surface he seems to fit in with the society when in reality his clothes do not reflect what this society stands for. Another example of negativity is military men wearing scarves of her work. The military has a glorious surface of protecting the people, but underneath the surface is the dark reality of the slaughter and killing of war. Finally, the last example of the darkness associated with Hester's work is the baby, assumingly her baby Pearl. As we find out in the following chapter, Hester keeps noticing irregularities about Pearl; it is almost as if Pearl is the devil's spawn. Hawthorne ends the list saying that what she sews also goes into coffin, suggesting that the old Hester is already dead by spirit. The current her is just alive but not living, and she is living in a dead man's world.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Emerson!!!!!!!!!!!! Self Reliance

After reading Self-Reliance, I believe that Ralph Waldo Emerson is contradicting himself when he says that you should listen to what is emerging from within you rather than listen to what other people say but at the same time wants his reader to listen to him. Emerson promotes conformity, saying that "whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist" (82). On the contrary, he writes to "let us never bow and apologize more" (85). He is contradicting himself in that he is telling others to be nonconformist but also telling others to conform to nonconforming ways. In fact, not only does he contradict himself there, he is constantly contradicting himself throughout the entire essay. Emerson even rhetorically asks in the essay "why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public palce? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then?" (84). Emerson is all about nonconformity; nonconformity to both societal standards and patterns. He says that it is okay to not have a pattern or behave inconsistently. Everybody likes consistency, but if you're just not a consistent person, then why limit yourself? Why not just be your true self? Your ideas are still yours and they can also change! I think that you should listen to Emerson with a grain of salt; take what you like and leave what you don't. Don't imitate, but do innovate! Apply Emerson's words to you in a way that makes you most comfortable. This essay is all about him, but it is all for you! Let Emerson's individuality inspire you to become your own individual! So what if you contradict yourself by conforming to the nonconformist? LISTEN to what is emerging from within you. If your heart says to listen to Emerson, then so be it! So what if Emerson is contradicting himself? Let him do what he wants, because even if you don't, he will still do whatever he pleases. I got a little derailed from the topic, but Emerson is definitely contradicting himself, and it is definitely okay! At the same time, do you really even KNOW if Emerson WANTS you to listen to him. Obviously he published it and all but maybe during his writing process this piece wasn't even written to a specific audience rather just him recording his spontaneous overflow of emotions and feelings, which is probably why the essay can appear contradictory at times. Don't we all contradict ourselves from time to time, or all the time? Because I surely do!

PS Emerson says "to be great is to be misunderstood"(85). His contradictions may cause him to be misunderstood, but isn't that what he wanted all along?

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri Reading Response & Thoughts!!!!!!!!!!

The critic Michiko Kakutani’s assessment of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is fully justified through her validated arguments that the coming of age novel “is resonant in its exploration of what is acquired and lost by immigrants and their children in pursuit of the American Dream” (Kakutani). Kakutani suggests that strong connections with those who share similarities and a wider view of the world can be gained from immigration to the United States. As mentioned in the article, holiday celebrations with relatives quickly become holiday celebrations other fellow Bengalis with similar backgrounds. First generations, Moushumi and Gogol, are also able to bond over their similar experiences growing up that are hard to share with others who haven’t experienced the same. What is lost in the pursuit of the American Dream is the feeling of belonging. Kakutani mentions that “Rice Krispies, Planters peanuts and onions are mixed together to approximate a favorite Calcutta snack” (Kakutani). The key word here is approximate. An approximation can bring someone hints of happy memories, but never the entire experience, because it just simply isn’t the same. Towards the end of the novel, Lahiri writes that Ashima decides to spend six months each year in Calcutta. One of the reasons she wants to go back and spend that time there is to eat the food, experience parts of her old life that she heavily yearns for in the United States. Some aspects of the text that the review does not mention is that all of Gogol’s girlfriends documented in the book, other than Moushumi, are presumably white. Not every single girlfriend is proven to be white but it is presumable because of these women’s descriptions. These women are described to have light colored eyes with light colored hair, occasionally described with pale skin. Whether Gogol does it consciously or subconsciously, it seems though as if Gogol dates white women to stay far away from his Bengali roots that he is so ashamed of. The same goes towards Moushumi. Some point in the book, she even mentions that she never saw herself with a Bengali man. Also, adding on to what Kakutani wrote about Ashima’s feeling out of place with being foreign, Lahiri’s descriptions of Ashima and Ashoke bringing their own culture to the United States and feeling foreign throughout the book shows that immigrants can never truly immerse themselves and fit in with their new adopted culture. To fully immerse ourselves in a new culture means to erase the other culture living in us, which is something no one should want to do. We need to remember our roots, even reclaim them when needed, because that is what makes us individuals. Having roots and adopting bits of new culture shapes us into the great and interesting people we become.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thoughts on The Namesake By Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake is a New York Times Bestseller novel written by Jhumpa Lahiri. The book starts off with a woman, Ashima Ganguli, and her experience of giving birth. A third person narrates this story of a family of three, two immigrants and their first generation child. Personally, I thought that the narrative shifts greatly so far throughout the book. At the start, I was confused because I expected the book to be about a boy but it was about two married adults. As the story unwraps, the narration starts focusing more on Gogol, Ashima and Ashoke's son. The narrative takes some unexpected turns that I never would have imagined from the start of the book. So far, the book is so exciting and full of vivid description.
Personally, the book felt really relatable to me. As an immigrant from another Asian country, I felt the same things Ashima felt living overseas in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The vivid descriptions of the change in setting and Ashima's inner feelings really spoke to me. A friend pointed out a quote to me that initially resonated with me but I didn't pay much attention to. Rereading it again, I realize that it is hard to find more accurate descriptions of how I feel at times to this very day. The quote is: "For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy – a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding" (50). Although I have yet to experience pregnancy, I could perfectly relate to her experiences of waiting and feeling out of place. You always think it's temporary until you suddenly realize that in front of you is what your life is now. Another interesting fact is the similarities of the rice ceremony and a ceremony celebrated in my culture. In Chinese culture, when a baby turns 100 days old, the family will usually host a large lunch. Part of that lunch is setting out some items and seeing which the baby grabs onto. I grabbed the scissors. I found it interesting that countries that are actually not that close in geography can share such similar customs.

Here is a photo I found online from the Namesake movie. You can click on the photo watch the trailer! On the left is Gogol. As you can see, Gogol dresses like any other American teenager, but his parents, especially his mom, still wears her sari. It makes you wonder, can immigrants truly ever fully immerse into a culture?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Romanticism and Art

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog - Caspar David Friedrich
Friedrich is trying to show us his lenses of the world(1). I think that this work of art is representative of the Romantic movement because it captures the idea of focusing on the individual to impact others and the essence of Romanticism –  "uncontrollable power, unpredictablity(2)". This man is standing on the peak of the mountain. His position on the peak invokes a feeling of awe and wonder. The man standing above all else is representative of power; the ability to overlook and see everything. I can draw a connection between this painting and this quote "I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills" from the poem I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud. I feel like this painting is a very accurate representation of this quote.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Somebody Gonna Love You" – The Color Purple

I selected the soundtrack "Somebody Gonna Love You" from The Color Purple Original Broadway Soundtrack to listen to. This song is sung by Celie and occurs when Pa takes Celie's baby to "get rid of". I think it fits into the mood of the novel, the sadness and regret a mother feels when parted from her baby. The mood of the song is kind of gloomy but not entirely hopeless, signifying that there is still hope for the baby to live a happy life, although that life is not given by Celie. You can listen to this song here. Hope you enjoyed this post and see you all next time!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

First Post!!

My name is Elaine and I am currently a student. This blog will be for all of my readings and writings for and related to said readings. You can expect a new post on this blog every once in a while! My blog will be filled with enthusiasm and heartfelt comments!

My favorite book from my childhood (and also the only one I can prominently remember) is the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. When I was a mere toddler or a little older, one of my teachers read it in front of the whole class. I loved the story, but it was the colorful illustrations that really caught my eye. However, the main reason I remember this book is because it kept coming back. Although I did not read it many times personally, I always saw the book laying around. You can find the book here at Amazon:

Thank you for reading this and see you all next post!

(image source: Penguin Books Australia)