One scene from As I Lay Dying that portrayed villains and secrecy was the scene where Anse argued with Dewey Dell about her ten dollars. This scene seemed to encompass the unfair way the family viewed and treated Dewey Dell throughout the entire book. To begin with, Dewey Dell repeatedly tells Anse the money does not belong to her. This struck me as so incredibly sad, because she’s seventeen, pregnant, completely alone, and she cannot even claim the ten dollars Lafe gives her to “take care of” her problem as her own. The pregnancy must be kept completely secret, and because of this Lafe no longer has to worry about anything (no one will find out he is involved) while Dewey Dell must shoulder the burden. Then, later into the passage, she says, “Its not mine, I tell you. If it was, God knows you could have it” (792). She spends the entire book completely at the mercy of nearly every male character, and there is nothing she can do to fight back against it. She feels like she should give Anse the money, but also feels like the money belongs to Lafe. Anse and Lafe become the villains in this situation through their suppression of Dewey Dell. Having no claim to the money she is going to use for an abortion accurately sums up Dewey Dell’s treatment in the book.
These poems are inspired by the form of e.e. Cummings. When writing them, I did not stick to a strict meter, rhyming scheme, or form, instead using free verse and choosing to alter standard rules of punctuation, capitalization, and grammar to put more emphasis on certain phrases and words. The physical fragmentation of the poem on the page emphasizes the way the content is less direct. I also used juxtaposition in both poems to compare certain words that would not necessarily be considered to go together, and to make specific phrases stand out. They are both fairly short, which puts emphasis on each word, and because of their format they are written to be read, instead of spoken. Because of the tricky but important formatting, I ended up having to take a picture of the poems so none of the spacing would be altered.
Cummings’ poem “the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls,” is an analysis and an attack, on a certain part of society he dislikes. Cummings was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later attended college at Harvard, which is where his observations of the “Cambridge ladies” come from. His observations, however, do not only pertain to this specific group of people in this region, but also to all people who act the way he describes.
He describes the Cambridge ladies as “unbeautiful and have comfortable minds,” meaning they do not think in an original or innovative way, or take risks, instead sticking to simple thoughts of what they know. He also says they are “unscented shapeless,” meaning instead of being individuals and holding their own shapes or distinct “scents,” they think the same way everyone else does, allowing themselves to mold into whatever form society wants them to take.
By writing, “they believe in Christ and Longfellow, both dead,” Cummings is saying that these women are stiff in their beliefs and thoughts, and do not evolve along with the times. Their ideas and thoughts are centered on old works that have been analyzed and referenced for centuries and Cummings is portraying them as stuffy and boring. This idea is further portrayed with the line “while permanent faces coyly bandy scandal of Mrs. N and Professor D.” Instead of engaging in interesting conversations of current events or other modern topics, the women gossip or talk about other things that do not matter.
In Cummings’ opinion, the ladies do not spend enough time thinking about the things Cummings feels are important, such as “if sometimes in its box of sky lavender and cornerless, the moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy.” The way Cummings describes the moon in this final line is a sharp contrast to the way he describes the Cambridge ladies. He uses an explosion of adjectives to describe the details of the sky and moon; details that this section of society overlooks in favor of meaningless things. The message Cummings is trying to send with this poem, and with many of his poems, is that details matter.
(The removal of Route 66 signage after it was decommissioned)
For my third source, I used another book I checked out from Alderman Library, titled “Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America’s Main Street,” by Rick Antonson. This has been the best source I’ve found so far, because it pertains most closely to my topic of Route 66 and the American Dream. The author switches off between using anecdotes and detailed historical facts as he writes about his experience driving all of Route 66, and the facts he includes cover almost all aspects of the history of the road. He includes the history of what Route 66 was before it came to be, how it was created, how it impacted pop culture, and what happened when it was decommissioned. Antonson also includes quotes from Will Rogers and Woody Guthrie, giving more of a perspective of how important Route 66 really was to so many people. The parts of the book that were most helpful to my research were the sections that discussed why Route 66 was so important to Americans, and why it had such a large impact. For my paper, I want to look more in-depth at how Route 66 shaped the American dream. The parts of this book that went into how Americans continued to drive on Route 66 after it was decommissioned were very interesting. The towns and sections of road that were left to decay after the interstate was built show how the American dream has changed along with the road, but the fact that many people still believe that “you haven’t seen America until you’ve driven all of Route 66” shows that it is still an integral part of America.
(Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange)
My second source is a book checked out from Alderman Library titled “Dust Bowl Migrants in the American Imagination,” by Charles J. Shindo. This book is a helpful source because it looks more in depth at the dust bowl and a little bit into the time period of the Great Depression. One disadvantage to this source is that it is more specifically about people’s perception of the migrant workers of the dust bowl, and less about the dust bowl as a whole, but it will give me at least some helpful facts about the migration, which is important to my topic. The book spends a lot of time discussing and analyzing the hardworking small farm farmers who became “dust bowl refugees” after the larger landowners and corporations over plowed the land (p.38). These families were forced to pack up their belongings and migrate west in search of jobs. It also discusses the role of photographers and journalists who documented the journeys of these migrants, and how they helped to promote government resettlement and relief programs throughout the regions of the country that had been most affected by the disaster (p. 48). A large portion of this book is dedicated to analyzing how other people treated the migrants of the dust bowl, and how they were perceived by the nation. The author uses examples of authors, journalists, and photographers who helped to shift the public’s opinions of the refugees, and assist them as they transitioned into new jobs and ways of life.
The first source that I looked at for this research paper was an article from Time Magazine titled “A Brief History of Route 66.” This first source is beneficial to my research because it gives a good overview of the history and impact of Route 66 without getting too detailed. It will allow me to choose what subtopics to pursue in the rest of my research. It is relatively short and does not go into detail about most of the components and background of Route 66, which does not make it as helpful as other sources I may find.
The overview includes important basic facts about Route 66, including that it is 2,448 miles long, and goes from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was decommissioned in 1980, after having been the “main artery of America” for over 60 years. John Woodruff and Cyrus Avery were advocates of a road going from Chicago to Los Angeles, and Cyrus Avery has been called the “Father of Route 66” for his role in its creation.
The article speaks about the literary and pop culture impacts of Route 66, including Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath,” and the multiple songs inspired by the road. It also mentions the history of the road as an escape route from Oklahoma during the dust bowl, which is something I want to research further. The quickly growing automobile industry also helped create Route 66, with 500,000 registered vehicles in 1910 to 10 million in 1920. These subtopics are all things I did not know much about before, and are all things I would like look at more in depth and include in my paper.
Huckleberry Finn has grown up in a time where helping runaway slaves is both illegal and a sin. He struggles with this when the king sells Jim, and he is trying to figure out what the right thing to do is. Huck knows that helping Jim is considered to be wrong, and he tries to pray to “quit being the kind of boy I was, and be better” (261). When he cannot pray, he realizes it is because “my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double” (261). Huck tries to write a letter to Miss Watson, telling her where her runaway slave is, but he realizes that that is not what he really wants to do, it is just what he thinks everyone else believes to be right. In reality, Huck enjoys traveling with Jim. Jim takes care of him, lets him sleep while he stays up for watches, and is so grateful to Huck for everything he has done to keep Jim out of trouble with suspicious people.
Huck knows Jim is a good man, and that “[he] was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now” (262). Jim has run away from his family and his home, and Huck is the only person who he can trust. Jim is dreaming of getting to free territory so that he can buy his wife and children, and eventually live together with them. At the end of this battle with himself, Huck says he “was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it” (263). He must decide whether he will go with the flow of society or turn against them and stay with Jim. He finally realizes that it does not matter what everyone else thinks, because at this point it is just himself and Jim against the world. They have no one else to trust, and Huck knows that if he were in the same situation Jim would do everything he could to come to his rescue. Huck ends by saying, “And I let them stay said, and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again” (263).
Superstition is an important theme throughout the first twenty chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huckleberry Finn and Jim Robinson are two very different people with different beliefs and backgrounds, but they are both very superstitious. Though they are superstitious in different ways, they make efforts to respect each other superstitions. In one of the earlier scenes of the book, Huck accidentally flicks a spider off of his shoulder and into the candle flame. He says, “I didn’t need anybody to tell me that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck” (133). This happens when he is waiting to sneak out to join Tom Sawyer, and he is scared about what will happen if Miss Watson finds out. After realizing what he has done, he “got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep witches away” (133). Huck is afraid of the unknown, and he does not know how to prepare for it except by performing old rituals to ward off bad luck.
Jim Robinson is even more superstitious than Huckleberry Finn, and he is more adamant that his superstitious actions to ward off evil are followed. While living together on the island, Huck picks up a snakeskin (which according to Jim is very bad luck), and then argues with Jim about it after they find the house, saying: “You said it was the worst bad luck in the world to touch a snake skin with my hands. Well, here’s your bad luck! We’ve raked in all this truck and eight dollars besides. I wish we could have some bad luck like this every day, Jim” (162). Later that week, Jim steps on a rattlesnake and gets badly bitten, which forces Huck to believe and respect the power of Jim’s superstitions. Both of them use their superstitions and rituals because they have little control over what is happening in their lives. As a runaway slave, Jim believes more strongly in his superstitions because he has significantly less control over what happens to him in his life.
In “The Child at the Brookside,” Dimmesdale meets Pearl and Hester in the forest, another one of the many times he has met up with them in secret. Dimmesdale will only meet with them under the cover of night, or in this case the cover of the forest, which also symbolizes darkness. Pearl asks, “Will he go back with us, hand in hand, we three together, into the town?” which Hawthorne uses to symbolize them walking together out of the darkness of secrecy and into the light of the public eye. Pearl, the only one who seems to question the fact that Dimmesdale is always hiding something, also asks “And will he always keep his hand over his heart?” Dimmesdale ends up keeping his secret until he can take it no more, and he dies from the guilt and mental torture of it all. He never takes his hand from his heart, instead choosing to always keep his secret concealed. Hester and Pearl prove to be the strongest characters of the book, surviving and rising above the public humiliation and isolation brought on by Hester being forced to wear her sin on the outside.