Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ironic Obsession of Possesion

Frank Norris’ McTeague exhibits the ill effects of obsession with possession. Specifically, Norris’ characters McTeague, Marcus, and Trina all posses strong obsessions with certain possession. In regard to McTeague, one may describe him as being obsessed with two things throughout the novel; Trina, and towards the end, Trina’s gold. In regard to Trina, one may say she too was obsessed with gold. Similar to McTeague, Marcus shows strong feeling of obsession towards Trina at first, and towards the end, towards Trina’s gold.
Marcus, McTeague, and Trina each reach their fates as a direct result of their obsessions with possession. Likewise, each of their respective fates correlate in nature, that is, each dies a grotesque death. Trina is the first to go, being beaten to death by her husband, McTeague. Here, one witnesses the powerful nature of obsession. McTeague and Trina lose control of their humanity, acting in an animalistic fashion. Thus, as Trina could not give up her gold to McTeague he murdered her and took it for himself.
The next character to go is Marcus. Upon confronting McTeague in the desert a fight between the two breaks out, in which McTeague’s water supply is wasted. With no hope of survival, Marcus and McTeague begin to quarrel over Trina’s gold, which was useless to either man in the sweltering heat of the desert. McTeague murders Marcus, although before dying Marcus manages to hand-cuff himself to McTeague. Thus, McTeague condemns himself with the killing of Marcus.
Ironically, not one of Norris’ main characters remains alive. Each of these characters was obsessed with possession, thus, the fact that each dies without possession is ironic. Also, one may find irony in the attachment of McTeague and Marcus in death. Both men were obsessed with possessing Trina, and later Trina’s gold, yet, the only thing these two come to posses is one another, and the heat of the desert. Similarly, Trina’s obsession leads to her demise, and lack of any real possession. Thus, possession is lost through obsession, life is lost with loss of possession. Obsession is all that is left. The world goes on.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One Drop Rule Applied to "Iola Leroy"

In discussing racism in regard to Francis Harper's "Iola Leroy,"the one drop of African American blood rule comes into play. Consider the events in which Iola is forced to confront her African American heritage, and the ways in which she is segregated as a result. As Iola is more white than black in appearance, her status as a black woman in society shows us the power of the one drop rule. Specifically, this rule states that any person with even one drop of African American blood is to be considered African American.

There are several problems which must be confronted in regard to the one drop rule. First, many African Americans, such as Iola Leroy, posses more "white" blood in their bodies than that of African American blood. Yet, the Whites, who hold their blood line to be extremely pure, view one drop of African blood to be so vile. Thus, one may say that the white Americans are contradicting their own disgust with African blood and love for "white" blood. Here, one may see that the real issue behind the racism in "Iola Leroy" is not concerned with blood, but with maintaining illusions. Such illusions may be witnessed as white characters mistakenly assume African American characters to also be "white."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mark Twain's Humuorous Reception of James Cooper

Although both Mark Twain and James Cooper are both respectable authors, Mark Twain calls out James Cooper. In Twain's "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," one may assert several purposes as to why Twain would want to confront issues concerning Cooper's literary style and effectiveness. Consequently, one may also say that Twain does not fairly represent the novels of Cooper, such as "The Deerslayer." As Twain was a realist in his literary works, Cooper is best described as a Romanticist. Thus, Twain viewed Cooper's Romantic style of writing as unfavorable to any reader. One may begin to realize that Twain did not want to be the only person who did not approve of Cooper's novels.

Twain wants to shift focus from Cooper's literary works and, in turn, bring attention to his own, realistic, works. Twain never once clearly asserts his work to be of a better quality than that of Cooper's, however, he does articulate the inferior nature of Cooper's novels. Obviously, Twain's ridicule of Cooper serves a purpose other than to simply raise Twain's self esteem. One may say that Twain's criticism of Cooper acts also as an appraisal of his own, realistic, works.

Another way in which Twain attempts to pull the rug out from under Cooper's feet is through his use of categorization. Specifically, Twain labels himself as a humorist, while he labels Cooper as a novelist. This allows Twain to poke fun at Cooper's novels in a humorous way as well as to depict Cooper as a failure at being a novelist. Another thing Twain's categorization of himself and Cooper allows is to advocate Twain's own literary works, and realism as a whole. Thus, one could describe Twain as writing "behind a mask," similar to female author Louisa May Alcott.

In regard to Twain, he is rewarded for his use of a pen name and label as humorist, not novelist, as he labels Cooper. Thus, Twain allows his literary works to gain popularity through his criticism of Cooper's novels. Consequently, Twain has become a popular figure in American Literature. However, Cooper has lost little or no recognition as a writer due to Twain's humorous reception of his works. As Twain benefits, even minutely, from his criticism of Cooper, Cooper, in turn, remains utterly the same; A father of American Literature.