Author Archives: Jeannette

About Jeannette

I'm a happily married mother of three. I enjoy home schooling, being outdoors, crocheting, running and reading (of course!). College seems very far away...thus the need to re-educate myself a bit with this blog.

Joseph’s Trial vs Bigger’s Trial

(Spoiler alert!  If you haven’t yet reached the trial portion of Native Son, better not read this one!)

Have you had enough of trials yet, fellow reader?   I hear that our next book involves one too, so, I hope not!

Let’s do a little comparison and contrast.   I noticed some interesting similarities and differences.   Maybe you can add to my list

Both trials are unfair (but for different reasons).  Both illustrate the impossibility of fairness on the part of the judicial system.  Both utterly confuse the defendant.    Both result in the same outcome for the defendant.

Kafka never reveals exactly what crime Joseph is guilty of, while in Native Son, Bigger confesses to his crimes and pleads guilty.   The readers are always kept guessing in Joseph’s trial process, while in Bigger’s, we know clearly what is happening.   I don’t know about you, but I felt a little implicated in Bigger’s trial, while in Joseph’s, I didn’t feel even a shadow of guilt.

I did find it interesting that we read a book that hypothesized about the inability of the judicial system to provide a fair trial (Kafka), and then immediately after read a convincing case in point (Wright).

I’d love to hear your thoughts, readers!   Put on your black judicial robes and chime in!

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Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Native Son, The Trial


A New Definition

Rape is an ugly word.  A word that incites fear and hatred.  A word that (rightly) makes me want to lock my door, bury my head in the sand and avoid even thinking of it.   Imagine what those who have suffered this awful reality must feel.   In a way, I’m glad that it brings out such strong feelings, for these strong feelings might help bring about justice.

Bigger and Betsy are talking about the murder, and Bessie mentions that everyone will think Bigger raped his victim.   Even though he did not rape her in one sense, Bigger admits to it in another:

Yes, he had raped her.  Every time he felt as he had felt that night, he raped.   But rape was not what one did to women.  Rape was what one felt when one’s back was against a wall and one had to strike out, whether one wanted to or not, to keep the pack from killing one.  He committed rape every time he looked into a white face.  He was a long, taut piece of rubber which a thousand hands had stretched to the snapping point, and when he snapped it was rape.   But it was rape when he cried out in hate deep in his heart as he felt the strain of living day by day.  That, too, was rape.

I know that Wright’s intent is partly to shock his audience into response, so using the word “rape” in this context is shocking enough to get us thinking about the injustice done to Bigger and others like him.  But part of me resents this.  Part of me feels like this is an attempt to avoid consequences and also to unfairly use my emotions to get me on Bigger’s side.   Hatred, anger, fear, murder, resentment, and revenge are NOT rape. What do you think?  Do you like Wright’s choice of words here, or is he going a step too far?


Posted by on August 28, 2013 in Native Son


Bigger Hate

I’m back at it again.   I couldn’t stop noticing what Bigger hates.   And the more I wrote down, the more jumped out at me.   There was a LOT of hate inside that man.

Right away on page 10, he hates his family.  (Why?   Because “he knew they were suffering and that he was powerless to help them.”)

He hates all the Daltons and even hates their house (for all it had made him feel since he first came into it).

He hates himself. (page 105 – Sounds like this one stems from jealousy of the Daltons and all their possessions.)

He hates Inspector Britton.   He hates Bessie.

Here’s a quote from Book Two that brings hate and love together with what Bigger wants:

What did he want?  What did he love and what did he hate?   He did not know.   There was something he knew and something he felt; something the world gave him and something he himself had; something spread out in front of him and something spread out in back; and never in all his life, with this black skin of his, had the two worlds, thought and feeling, will and mind, aspiration and satisfaction, been together; never had he felt a sense of wholeness.  Sometimes, in his room or on the sidewalk, the world seemed to him a strange labyrinth even when the streets were straight and the walls were square; a chaos which made him feel that something in him should be able to understand it, divide it, focus it.  But only under the stress of hate was the conflict resolved.

At the beginning of Book Three, he momentarily puts aside his hate, figuring that it wouldn’t help him.  This tells me that at the other times, he uses the hate.  He needs the hate to function.   The hate gives him purpose.  It’s so much a part of him, that normal functioning is impossible without it.   The hate resolves the inner conflict inside of him, according to the above quote.

Small wonder, then, that murder is the climax in this life-story of hate.   I’m sure that’s one of the points Wright is trying to get across.

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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Native Son


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What does Clarissa Hate?

Yes, I know, I know, we’re supposed to figure out what the main character wants, not hates.   But, Susan Wise Bauer, I wonder if noting what the character despises can get us a bit closer to figuring out her wants.   After all, sometimes we hate the things we can’t have, right?

So, what does Clarissa hate?   Think on that for a minute.

Got an answer?

Well, here’s a quote from the novel to add to your answer (or confirm it).

Love and religion!   thought Clarissa, going back into the drawing room, tingling all over.  How detestable, how detestable they are!   For now that the body of Miss Kilman was not before her, it overwhelmed her – the idea.   The cruelest things in the world, she thought, seeing them clumsy, hot, domineering, hypocritical, eavesdropping, jealous, infinitely cruel and unscrupulous, dressed in a mackintosh coat, on the landing; love and religion.

Seems like she “doth protest too much.”   Love and religion.   Does she really hate them, or does she long for them because she can’t/won’t have them, and the longing has turned into hate?


Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Mrs. Dalloway


Been There

On the other hand, there are also dark moments, such as everyone has, when you think you’ve achieved nothing at all, when it seems that the only trials to come to a good end are those that were determined to have a good end from the start and would do so without any help, while all the others are lost despite all the running to and fro, all the effort, all the little apparent successes that give such joy.

Yep, I’ve had days like this where I’ve felt powerless and helpless.   (Not good for a primogeniture!)   I bet that Joseph was feeling this way throughout the novel.   Perhaps this sheds a little light on the ending.

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Posted by on July 25, 2013 in The Trial


Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice

Apparently Kafka never read that particular nursery rhyme.   Or perhaps he had issues with his mother.   Maybe he was spurned by his true love.   All I can say is that something happened to the guy that tainted his opinion of women in general.   Of course, the only way I can surmise this is from viewing the women in The Trial.   What is with these women?

In Chapter One we run into his landlady, Mrs. Grubach.   Her relationship with Joseph is perhaps the most normal or appropriate one.   He is angered by her “betrayal” in Chapter One, but does eventually apologize. She comes off as weak and confused, but at least she doesn’t seem to find Joseph attractive and throw herself at him like most of the other women.

Miss Burstner is his neighbor across the hall.   Joseph goes to great lengths to stay on her good side, and is angered at the intrusion into her apartment, almost more so than the intrusion into his own.   Weird.   He grabs her and kisses her soundly after a late-night apology.

Then there is the trampy wife of the court usher he has a conversation with in Chapter Three as he’s trying to find the court.   She offers to let Joseph do whatever he wants with her (which he decides to take advantage of), but then she goes off with someone else, leaving Joseph disappointed, but trying not to show it.

There is a brief encouter in Chapter Four with a Miss Montag, the French teacher, who is moving in with Miss Burstner.   He really wants to see Miss B, so is angered by this “pale, febrile” woman who limps about the place moving her things and tells him that Miss B. doesn’t want to see him at all.

While meeting with his uncle’s lawyer in Chapter Six, he leaves abruptly and makes out with the maid, Leni, even after sharing with her the picture of his lover, Elsa, a barmaid.   Leni doesn’t seem to care, and continues throwing herself at Joseph.

We also meet a really odd teen girl gang hanging around the artist’s residence, proving generally annoying to everyone.

The women in this novel seem to be generally low-class, are powerless to change anything, are treated like pawns, and have no qualms about throwing themselves at Joseph.  Sexual behavior seems almost a release for both parties, with no significance attached.   Their behavior is often confusing at best, mimicking the plot of the novel.  I agree with Christine – I miss Jane.


Posted by on July 23, 2013 in The Trial


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I Wouldn’t Recommend It

Oh, you thought I meant the movie!  No, on the contrary – I heartily WOULD recommend it!   My recollections (of the movie) are entirely pleasant.   What I would not recommend is going to see the movie after spending 4 or 5 days in extreme toothache-y pain and then getting 2 teeth pulled.   I guess I figured that after that amount of torture, I was NOT missing out on time with friends at a movie I’ve been looking forward to seeing for months.   So, after 2 extractions that afternoon, I snuck in a purse-full of gauze and an ice pack, bound and determined to have a good time.

Unfortunately, my recollections are vague and tinged with memories of replacing bloody gauze and trying to ice the area on and off every 20 minutes.  So, listen to my wise and much more focused friends as they review The Great Gatsby.  I’ll have to rent it when it comes out on video.

I leave you with the picture my daughter dared to take while I was in pain.   Just so you believe me.   (That’s a primogeniture trait, I believe.   One doesn’t skip out unless one has a verifiable excuse.)


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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in The Great Gatsby


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The Mystery Man – Part Four

Gatsby:  User or Victim?

He uses lots of people and situations to get to Daisy, doesn’t he?   Nick, in particular.   He doesn’t seem to care about tromping on a marriage or being honest or even the horrible event in Chapter 7 (which I won’t mention in case you haven’t gotten there yet).

On the other hand, people use him too.   All the society wealthy who crash his parties, drink his drinks and eat his fancy food are all users.   They could care less about Gatsby as a person (as evidenced by their lack of presence at the events of the last chapter).   Even the person he seems to care the most about, Daisy, turns her back on him in the end to protect herself.   Do you feel sorry for him at all?  Any empathy?

So what do you think?  Is it Poor Gatsby or Good Riddance Gatsby?


Posted by on June 5, 2013 in The Blog, The Great Gatsby


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The Mystery Man – Part Three

Gatsby:   Empty or Full?

His life seems so full at times.  Full of fun.  Full of parties.  Full of a Purpose (get the girl).   Yet, there is the empty side too.   Empty of meaningful hobbies.  Empty of real relationships.   Empty of family.

So, is he empty or full?  Or is this perhaps just a matter of perspective?   (In a way, this novel is reminding me of the House of Mirth – smoke and mirrors.)

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Posted by on June 3, 2013 in The Blog, The Great Gatsby


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The Mystery Man – Part Two

Gatsby:  Creepy or Cute?

Well, he does buy a house directly across the channel from Daisy’s house, just so he can sit and stare across at the green light, dreaming of a perfect reunion.   That’s a bit creepy.   Or is it cute?  Wouldn’t you like to have someone show that amount of devotion to you?     He has Nick set up a reunion at his “shack” next door, where he shows an admirably cute amount of embarrassment leading to joy, leading to wonder.  But then there is the whole arranging of the thing, which is a bit creepy.

So, what do you think?  Creepy or cute?


Posted by on June 1, 2013 in The Blog, The Great Gatsby


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