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The Letter

Invisible Man Chapter 9

When you finally got to read Dr Bledsoe’s letter of introduction for the narrator, were you surprised at its contents?

Sadly, I was not.  I doubted Bledsoe’s trustworthiness from that revealing interview in his office.

When it comes time to complete those end of the book WEM wrap-up questions, simply add “The Letters” to the list of things standing in our main character’s way.

I thought that Ellison crafted two particularly interesting sentences in this chapter.  After the narrator’s humiliation with Bledsoe’s letters, he flees to the Men’s House.  Here he flops on his bed and dictates his own letter to Ellison.  Part of which says…

“Please hope him to death, and keep him running.”

Hoped to death.  Such a sad sentiment.

Remember when I said Ellison wrote great chapter endings?  My other favorite sentence from this chapter was the very last one.

“I could hardly get to sleep for dreaming of revenge.”

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Invisible Man

 

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Making Alive

This quote from 1984 opened my eyes.  Worried me.  Gave me pause.

It struck him [Winston] as curious that you could create dead men but not living ones.

But ultimately left me pretty speechless for an analysis.  You?

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in 1984

 

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Classic Connections

We’ve had a few series that have popped up during the lifetime of this blog: Stupid Questions, Classic Word of the Day, What’s on My Nightstand?.
Maybe it’s time to add another series: Classic Connections?  Literary Links? Book Bridges?

I’m not sure what to call it, but as we get closer to the end of the novel list, things keep popping up that remind me of previous titles.  Sometimes is a quote from the text.  Sometimes it’s a different literary device like a theme, motif or symbol.  Sometimes it’s an actual literary device.

In chapter viii of Book 1 Winston takes a trip through the prole neighborhood.  It’s risky behavior.  The dark-haired girl spots him.  Whether she “spies” him we don’t know.  For a moment Winston ponders bludgeoning her with his newly purchased paperweight.

He might have silenced the dark-haired girl if only he had acted quickly enough; but precisely because of the extremity of his danger he had lost the power to act.  It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy but always against one’s own body.

After reading this passage I thought of Crime and Punishment’s Raskolnikov”, another character whose body worked against him when he was trying desperately to keep a secret.

Have you made any connections between Winston Smith and other WEM characters?

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2013 in 1984

 

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Face Crime

Book II chapter V

The smallest thing could give you away.  A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself–anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide.  In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense.  There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.

Yea, yea… invasion of privacy…

Thought Police bad.  Freedom of expression good.smile

How awful it would be to have Big Brother constantly watching!

But,

There are times when the mom in me sure wants to charge my children with a facecrime, times when I wish they didn’t wear their hearts on their sleeves, and their unhappiness, disappointment, rebellion, or disgust on their faces.  When that new recipe makes its way to the dinner table, I’d like to see schooled faces and open minds, or rather open taste buds.

Facecrime… not a completely bad idea.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in 1984

 

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No way out

The Stranger 2At the end of Book 2 chapter 2 Camus links us back to the beginning of his tale.  At this point in the story Mersault’s been jailed for five months.

I distinctly heard the sound of my own voice.  I recognized it as the same one that had been ringing in my ears for many long days, and I realized that all that time I had been talking to myself.  Then I remembered what the nurse at Maman’s funeral said.  No, there was no way out, and no one can imagine what nights in prison are like.

What did that nurse say?  I quickly flipped back to the end of Book 1 chapter 1.

She said, “If you go slowly, you risk getting sunstroke.  But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and then catch a chill inside the church.”  She was right.  There was no way out.

Such a sad theme for a story:  No way out.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in The Stranger

 

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Realization

Book 2
chapter 3

Witnesses answer the prosecutor’s questions.  The director of Maman’s home testifies, followed by the caretaker:

He said I hadn’t wanted to see Maman, that I had smoked and slept some, and that I had had some coffee.  It was then I felt a stirring go through the room and for the first time I realized that I was guilty.

Really, Mersault?
The first time you realized you were guilty?
Not when you shot a man once… and then fired the gun four more times?
Not when you were arrested?
Not when you sat in jail.
Not when the judge called you Monsieur Antichrist?

You realized you were guilty for the first time when the Caretaker tattled that you didn’t want to see your dead mother and the crowd reacted to your callousness.
That is when you realized you were guilty.

Notice the verb choice.  He realizes he was guilty.  He doesn’t say that he feels guilty.
Does Mersault ever feel remorse?

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in The Stranger

 

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He doesn’t know… or does he?

The Stranger Vintage

In Chapter 1 of Book 2 the magistrate is questioning Mersault.

Again without any apparent logic, the magistrate then asked if I had fired all five shots at once.  I thought for a minute and explained that at first I had fired a single shot and then, a few seconds later, the other four.  Then he said, “Why did you pause between the first and second shot?”

In his mind Mersault flashes back to the heat of the moment.

Once again I could see the red sand and feel the burning of the sun on my forehead.  But this time I didn’t answer.

Does he not answer because he thinks his response is incriminating?  Is he following Native Son’s lead and going behind “the wall” to protect himself from his dismal future?

Why did Mersault pause between the first and following shots?

The prisoner’s silence doesn’t deter the magistrate from questioning him..

In the silence that followed, the magistrate seemed to be getting fidgety.  He sat down, ran his fingers through his hair, put his elbows on his desk, and leaned toward me slightly with a strange look on his face.  “Why why did you shoot at a body that was on the ground?”

This time there’s something slightly different in Mersault’s internal dialogue.

Once again I didn’t know how to answer.

Is not knowing how to answer different from not knowing the answer?

I think so.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in The Stranger

 

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