Tag Archives: truth

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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True That

Classic Word of the Dayprevaricate – v.  to evade or deviate from the truth

Classical Usage:  I was so sad to see Daniel Touchett die.  That was one funny man, even on his deathbed in Chapter XVIII he was full of wit.  He cracked some joke that the only way he’d be sitting up soon was if they buried him in that position as they did the ancients.  Ralph didn’t want to hear such dismal talk and commanded his father, “You mustn’t deny that your’e getting better.”  “There will be no denying it if you don’t say it,” the old man answered.  “Why should we prevaricate just at the last?  We never prevaricated before.  I’ve got to die some time, and it’s better to die when on’s sick that when one’s well.

Classically Mad Usage:  I would be prevaricating if I said it’s always easy to come up with ways to use these words.

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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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The Wrap-up – Third Day

Were you a little reluctant to come aboard the final day of the wrap-up?  Who can blame you, it’s Day Three, and there is a general sense of foreboding in the air.

Don’t get down, I promise that we’ll discuss Moby Dick as the embodiment of Good today, but first we need to address a few of the Susan Wise Bauer’s questions, how about we begin with the one about beginnings?  And ending, too, of course.

We start with a lonely, depressed Ishmael seeking out the water, and after exhausting the possible plot, we are left with solitary, monomaniacal Ishmael surrounded by nothing but water.  As one of my dear friends* quipped the night of our Starbuck’s wrap-up session, “You said you wanted water, Ishmael, well, you’ve got water now!”

As we discussed yesterday, Ishmael is left with nothing else to do, but to spin this tale for all to hear.  And so on the loom of this fiber theme, he begins with the thread of his own story, adds Queequeg, twists them together with the other sailors on the Pequod, and then weaves in the final two, inseparably tangled lines – those of Ahab and Moby Dick.  It is this flawed dual cord that causes the unraveling of all those on board.  And it is the actual hemp rope itself that wraps around the captain’s neck and brings him to his watery grave.

But isn’t this what he deserved?  As much as we would have loved to see Starbuck, Pip, Queequeg, and even goofy ol’ Stubb survive, rooting for Ahab was not in the picture.  He was evil, and evil must be overcome by good.

It was my dear husband who first threw the “Moby Dick is God” theory at me, and I won’t lie, I didn’t buy it at first, but I listened intently.  Then in our discussion of SWB’s final two rhetoric questions, “What is Melville’s argument? And, is it true?” I began to see what lay beneath the suface.

There is more to this theory than the White Whale simply being the antithesis of Captain Ahab.  Time and time again Melville reminds us that the created world under the sea rolls on “as it rolled five thousand years ago.”   And to mirror that closing sentence, the opening quote from the Extracts is a somewhat altered line from Genesis, “And God created great whales.”  For Melville, whales are divine creatures, he doesn’t tell us the same about mankind.

Moby Dick is a protector of his world, who defends it when provoked.  It’s quite an understatement to say that whales are bigger than humans, but in the novel we see that even in man’s attempt to paint ships black and adorn them with the teeth of their prey, they are still nothing but toothpick masts to the supreme creatures who swam untouched by the Flood.  And despite Ishmael’s pursuit to understand the great leviathan in terms of science, history, art, and literature, Moby Dick remains a unknown power to be feared.

And the wise do fear him, Starbuck tells us at the beginning of the voyage, “I’ll have no man on my ship that doesn’t have a healthy fear of whales.” (or something like that, I couldn’t find the quote, so feel free to help me out.)  Pip seemingly prays to him at the end of Chapter 40, “Oh, thou big white God aloft there somewhere in yon darkness, have mercy on this small black boy down here; preserve him from all men that have no bowels to feel fear!

The lore of Moby Dick speaks of his omnipresence.  The one-that-got-away stories in Chapter 41 tell of him being multiple places on the globe at the same time, and “some whaleman should go still further in their superstitions; declaring Moby Dick not only ubiquitous, but immortal . . .” 

And finally, we have the great paradoxes of the novel where life enfolds death, and death cages life.  A coffin becomes a life preserver, dead whales provide gifts of sweet smelling ambergis and light-giving oil, Tashtego’s life is trapped in a dead head, and the death ship named after an extinct tribe traps the life of its innocent.  Above all, he who says he is going to destroy evil is truly evil, and that which he seeks to destroy is truly good.

And so, with those paradoxes in place we give a hearty “Aye!” to the question of Truth.  For death has been swallowed up by death.

*Please note that although I have not specifically credited the ideas of my intelligent and witty friends Jeannette and Christine in this wrap-up write-up, that anything worthy of a “Wow” or a “Hahaha” surely first belonged to them in thought and word, and was only here by me recorded.


Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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Train Up a Child…And He Will Not Depart From It

My mother loved to quote that Bible verse from Proverbs:  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Prov: 22:6   I used to scoff a bit, but now as a parent, I pray that the struggles of training will result in good fruit.   Even more importantly, I hope that by memorizing the Bible, the catechism and the hymns, my children will hear them echoing inside their heads when times get tough and when emotions threaten to cloud reality.

Jane gives me hope.   In Chapter XXVII when she finds out the truth about Rochester and is sorely tempted to follow him to France and live a life of luxury, when her judgement is clouded by passion and longing, she says these words:

I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man.  I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad – as I am now.   Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be.  If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?   They have a worth – so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane – quite insane; with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs.   Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.

Wow!  That’s amazing.  Even more so when you realize that she is an orphan.  Who taught her these “foregone determinations?”   In our culture of moral relativism, I wish everyone could have a bit of Jane’s concept of right and wrong.  There is a Truth.  Some things are Right and others are Wrong.  Amen.


Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Jane Eyre, The Blog


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Nothing but the Truth!

I’m beginning to think that Jane snuck a look at my WEM book.  Remember the homework that I must complete at the end of each novel?  In the Third Level of Inquiry: Rhetoric-Stage Reading section of the WEM book there are two little question at the very bottom of the page. 

Is this book an accurate portrayal of life? Is it true?”

Now back to Jane…

In chapter 12 she seems to have a thing for truth-telling. She goes so far to use the word “truth” twice in two pages.  The first time she’s discussing Adele.  It seems Adele is making noted progress but that she does not posses “great talents, no marked traits of character, no peculiar development of feeling or taste, which raised her one inch above the ordinary level of childhood.”  A few phrases later Jane says it.

“I am merely telling the truth.”

The next section finds Jane describing Grace Poole.  Jane mentions her “eccentric murmurs” and her strange laughter.  Then she goes on to describe how she witnesses how Grace would “go down to the kitchen, and shortly return, generally (oh, romantic reader, forgive me for telling the plain truth!) bearing a pot of porter.”

Did you catch it?  “oh, romatinc reader, forgive me for telling the plain truth!”

Jane seems to want us to believe in the accuracy of her descriptions.  Is Jane establishing her trust-worthiness? I think Jane needs us to believe her.  Later will things happen that will make us doubt her?    Hmmmmm

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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Jane Eyre, Well-Educated Mind


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