Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meetin in the MASC

Today's class was quite interesting and unfamiliar in that our setting was changed from that of Thompson 24 to the MASC. The Masc is home to many expensive, fragile, intriguing, and original texts. Furthermore, many of the books and original publications we were subjected to could be extremely useful for an English major, such as myself.

The activity we took part in was a great way to learn our way around the MASC, as well as to interact with all it has to offer. Specifically, I greatly enjoyed the idea that many of these books are so old they may contain remnants of the past. Imagining finding an ancient coin, or savings bond perhaps, was a truly eye opening experience. By looking around and discussing the books strewn about the tables, the MASC opened up to me as a valuable resource. Incidentally, after the activity and discussion a felt comfortable and welcome in the MASC.

Overall, my favorite part of our visit was our group discussion. Learning and listening, I quickly realized the great academic worth the MASC adds to our library. Furthermore, inspecting some of the old books gave me a sense of importance and worldliness. Not every person gets the privilege of a MASC. I am pleased to be a scholar when in an environment such as the MASC because it shows me the immortality of literature.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Old Money -vs- New Money

Throughout the pages of Howells' "The Rise of Silas Lapham," one gains a sense that there are two main types of wealth, or fortune, held by Howells' characters. First, there is Silas Lapham, a self made millionaire. On the other hand, then, is Bromfield Corey, an aristocrat who has inherited his vast fortune. Consequently, each of these characters has specific attributes which correlate with their social standings. Thus, one may describe, and analyze, the characteristics and attributes of both Silas and Bromfield in accordance with their wealth/equity.
Silas Lapham is different than Bromfield Corey in several ways. Primarily, Bromfield has inherited his wealth, while Silas Lapham has worked most of his life in acquiring his fortune. This fact sets up the next main difference among these two characters. Silas has a passionate air about him. Silas enjoys painting, and has earned a reputable living doing it. Thus, Silas has been made to work his entire life for his money. Consequently, Silas finds gratification in his work. Here lies a key difference between Silas ans Bromfield.
Bromfield differs from Silas in that he has never had to work for his money. As Bromfield was born into his wealth, the idea of work is quite displeasing to him. Unlike Silas, Bromfield views work as something the lower classes MUST do. Contrastingly to Silas, Bromfield finds gratification in not working at all. Furthermore, Bromfield is an un-passionate character next to the passionate Silas.
So then, one may inspect Bromfield and Silas in order to discern some of the differences between old money and new money. Bromfield lacks passion, work ethic, and views his not having to work as an indication of his status. Silas embodies passion and perseverance, he has gained his status through work, not through not working. In closing, which type of money would one rather have? Old money and inaction, or new money and hard work?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Manipulative Nature of Jean Muir

"Nineteen." And a smile passed over Miss Muir's lips, as she folded her hands with an air of resignation, for the catechism was evidently to be a long one. (Alcott 1)

From the beginning of Louisa May Alcott's, "Behind a Mask," the main character Jean Muir exhibits a rather manipulative demeanor. This is not to say any of the other characters ever truly understand the depths of Jean's deceptions, however. The actual feelings towards Jean Muir from the other characters is seemingly unknowing. This is to say that throughout the events of the novella not once is Jean Muir's true identity, or age for that matter, fully known.
Another aspect of Jean Muir I would like to address is her relation to the pursuits of women writers at the time of "Behind a Mask's" publication. As many women still adhered to domesticity and submissiveness, such a character as Jean Muir was contrary to the time and tradition. Furthermore, the specific title of the work, "Behind a Mask," suggests the author may feel in relation with her character Jean Muir. This is to say that Jean Muir could be described as behind a mask throughout her role in the novella. Specifically, pay attention to the fact that women of the time were expected to write only out of necessity. If Alcott was writing this text out of necessity, why does the title allude to something more?
I assert that Alcott uses the title to infer that this novella serves more of a purpose than to simply feed hungry family members. Consequently, I predict that Alcott furthers her implications as to her reasons for producing this novella through the manipulative nature of Jean Muir. I wonder then, how much Jean Muir and Louisa Alcott are alike when pursuing their desires.