Tuesday, November 29, 2011

House of Mirth: Movie versus Book Ending

The ending of a book is the final taste of the author's message. It dictates how the reader is left feeling once the last word is read. The ending of House of Mirth follows this idea, leaving the audience with the feeling of regret, loss, and betrayal at the temperament and rules of society. Having Lily kill herself because it is the only solution she can see as an exit to her situation allows the audience to understand the workings the market of society brought to light by Ashina in her presentation today. In addition, having Seldon behave the way he did also shows the practice of ignoring and displacing guilt. He knew that he played a part in Lily's death and in instead of recognizing and embracing the guilt, chose to never trust Lily. This ending makes a strong statement, but leaves a bitter aftertaste, but it is the exact opposite of mirth.
The movie ending on the other hand, showed resolution and brought to light the great sacrifice Lily committed to protect the man she loved. In having the truth come out, the audience is able to feel that justice was served and that her life went unanswered and faded from existence.Also, in having Seldon confess his love for Lily, the viewers feel relief and a small happiness in him actually voicing his feelings instead of burying them deep down in speculation and the constant clinging to gossip to avoid the feeling of guilt. For this reason, I feel more emotionally satisfied with the movie ending because the audience is given a small prize, but in for stronger and more impacting ending, that leaves the audience thinking, the book is better.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

McTeague vs. The Sea Wolf

McTeague is a story about a stupid, dumb, non certified dentist, who ends up killing his wife and stealing her money only to end up alone and dying in Death Valley. The Sea Wolf, written by Jack London, is a story about a young, passive man by the name of Humphrey van Weyden who transforms into a hardened survivalist. During the novel he is saved by a ship, The Ghost, owned by Wolf Larsen, who is abusive and repulsive in his mannerisms. Larsen's behavior is so disruptive and cruel that the crew members decide to mutiny against him. They first try to push him overboard, but he climbs back up and goes after them, leading to another uprising. In retribution, Larsen tortures the crew and continually threatens to kill Leech and Johnson. As the events unfold, the heroine of the novel is saved much like Weyden and is coveted by both Larsen and Weyden. Weyden fears for her safety, so they flee to an island. Larsen, due to conflicts with his brother, is the only one to survive his boat crash. Weyden and Miss Brewster find him and remove the fire arms from his reach, but cannot bring themselves to kill him. They instead begin to rebuild the boat in hopes of escape. Larsen thwarts their attempts and tries to completely sabotage their plans because he has decided to die on the island. Despite the setbacks, all three set sail and Larsen dies on board his ship and is given a burial at sea.

Larsen's actions and destructiveness remind me of Marcus from McTeague. Both men want one woman, not so much for the love they feel for her, but for the way they view her. Larsen is unable to gain Miss Brewster's affections because of his own brutish personality and the fact that Weyden beat him to it, much like McTeague does. As the story progresses, it becomes less about the woman and more about the wants and drives of selfishness. Larsen does not want the three of them to leave the island, so they won't much the same with Marcus wanting the money he believed was due him and not letting McTeague live happily. Marcus and Larsen both ruin try to ruin the plans and dreams of the supposed heroes and in the end both die. Marcus unlike Larsen is successful in his revenge, leaving McTeague with his dead corpse attached by the cuffs and no way to escape, but to slowly waste away. This connected theme could be connected back to the idea of naturalism that we as people are merely domesticated beasts that when given the right push, whether it is greed or revenge, will revert back to our baser selves.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How It Should Have Ended

         Continuing on with the decision from class today, the ending for the book while poignant and more realistic is not the best ending or most hopeful. Theron after his "transformation" from mild mannered minister to a complete jerk leaves the audience with a bad taste in their minds in concerns with him as a character. He is clearly unlikable to the characters in the book or he would not have been dumped repeatedly by almost every main character, but he is also unlikable to the audience who is forced to read his pathetic and self-centered thoughts. This is seen when he discusses his "new" found views or when he repeatedly accuses Alice of being unfaithful with Levi. Even when he is clearly broken by Celia, he appears more pathetic and self-centered instead of pitiable.
         His only almost decision after the events at the end may have marked him as a stronger man and in turn made his character actually slightly redeemed and endear pity from the audience. The almost suicide which occurred, while highly weak and an easy way out, makes the most sense in terms of the most people being happy at the end and might have made him even a slight bit selfless. Not to say that suicide is the answer, but his death, on purpose or by accident, would have been the best possible outcome. Alice would be able to marry Levi and live a happy life, where she would be cherished and happy. Celia, Father Forbes, and Dr. Landsmar would feel the weight of their guilt in terms of their manipulation of Theron, and the people of Seattle, Washington would not be forced to endure the likes of Theron Ware. So, as powerful as the ending is in the book, his death would mark the complete illumination/damnation of the character.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


A main theme which seems to appear in every novel we have read so far in class, is the idea of perception. How do the other characters view each other? In The Blithedale Romance, Hollingsworth, Priscilla, Coverdale, and especially Zenobia are almost to a point of obsession in concerns with perception, whether it was good or bad. The same can be send about the characters in Moby Dick, especially with Ahab and Stubbs. The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is the same, except with the focus on race and stereotypes. The author leaves the color of the race a mystery until the dinner, which allows the reader to come to their own conclusion on who he is and what he looks like. It also helps create a connection to the reader, which was very important when the book first came out and certain readers would be less included to buy and read the book. The reader's perception controls the perception of every character and when the race is finally revealed, the perception of the woman, who segregates him and makes him feel less than everyone else around him, is one of hatefulness and disgust. Since the goal of the book is to make the protagonist pitiable and mistreated, writing it they way the author has creates a successful perception where the "bad" people or the people of low morals are the ones who promote and follow the idea of segregation. If the book were written differently or from another perspective would it be as successful at persuading the reader into believing that everyone is equal and should not be separated or considered lesser?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Breaking Molds

Pudd'nhead Wilson challenges the idea of classes and race in concerns with treatment and places in society. "Tom" is believed to be a rich, white man from an old Virginia family, so he is treated as royalty. "Chambers" is believed to be a black slave and is treated us such by the townspeople. Both are stuck in these roles until the end of the book, but even after the switch is revealed the men do not return to the social spheres upheld by the town. As mentioned in class, they become lost in between both worlds, the privileged and the slave. This lack of social placement leads the characters to be treated differently than they would have normally been treated. Would "Tom" have been sentenced to life in prison if he had always been considered a slave? A slave at that time would have been lynched for killing his master, but "Tom" is spared. In being spared, he is still being treated as a noble might and given a chance at life. It might also be because he was a commodity not worth killing without making a profit. Either way, if he were being treated by his class, the ending would not have happened as such. The same can be said about "Chamber"'s ending, which was sad and unfair. He was given what was due to him in concerns with property and title, but was still seen as an outcast among the other townsfolk and he couldn't bring himself to live as a master would. If he were treated as "Tom" was, he would not be living in the kitchen, even if it was his choice, and the townsfolk would make an effort to know him. The ending seems realistic in the idea of money and greed ruling the world, but unrealistic on how some of the characters ended up.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Final Words on Whales

Moby Dick has repeatedly challenged the ideals of the times about whales. It first started with the accepted view, but through Ishmael changed into a more humane, retrospective view on the role the whales play and how they should be classified. Do they feel? Should they be treated as a living being, such as deer, would on land? Are they better than the men who hunt them? All of them questions that have been brought up time and again. Up until the ending, they really did seem the better being, just living life and having that robbed when a harpoon made the critical fatal shot, but having Moby Dick being a mass murderer changes the final impression.
He was hunted down and attacked multiple times by different whaling ships, but is he any better than the men hunting him since he too is a murderer. His actions at the final point seem to be in hopes of saving his own life, but it looks bad on the whales as much as on Ahab. The harpoon ships were the aggressor, not so much the ship. He attacked as a beast from legend would, reinforcing the idea of the time that whales were fantastical monsters lingering in the sea waiting to kill hapless individuals who are just trying to make a living. Did Melville do this on purpose?
Taking into account the way people felt about whales, Melville could have written this in so the audience would still be willing to read and understand what the book was portraying. It could also be a final way for Melville to connect the whales to the humans. Moby Dick’s final act is one of vengeance against those who would hurt him, which is a very human emotion and act. So, does the act truly misrepresent the whales, putting them in a monster-like light, or does it pull together one last string, making the whales a reflection of humans.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Codes on Land and Sea

Generally on land, the rules of hunting are very distinct on who is hunted and who is left alone. Women and children are off-limits and considering that they are the foundation of the species, determining if it will continue or not, this rule is understandable. In the sea, the rules are changed and almost the opposite. The women and children become the prime pray, while the male whales are feared and avoided. Why would there be such a difference and does it make the hunters at sea more barbaric than those on land?
            Continually Melvin brings up the question of who is the true villain, whale or man, and as the story of Moby Dick goes on, the perceptions from the start, the heroes being the crewmen, shifts slowly. The whale hunters are described more and more as vicious hunters, who look at the money versus the life they are taking. In having them go after the weak and young, Melvin may be adding to the idea that the whales are the victims and the hunters are the savages. Also, as discussed in class having the women go back for the whales that have already been snagged creates a strong contrast to the sailors, specifically Stubb, who abandon their shipmates because it is safer for them. Another question that might arise from this is, money is a great determinate, but how do the hunters come to terms with going against something that is universally accepted on land?