Month: July 2016

The Apple Falls Far From The Tree?

Pap Finn–the abusive father of Huckleberry Finn; not abusive in the sense of beatings, but rather a mentally insulting abuse: he was dealt a bad hand in life; his son was dealt a hand of triple aces; he wants to steal those triple aces out of his son’s hands and pass him a rotten deck. The same cards for each man. The same troubles for each man.

Huck’s cards, in this case, education and reading and writing, are to Pap a bunch of “…hifalut’n foolishness…” (Twain. 21). and all his son is accomplishing is “…puttin’ on frills…” (Twain. 22). He cannot stand to see his son best him–a universal reaction of fathers to their sons as their child grows beyond their mold to experience life personally.

Sons model themselves after their fathers. They are expected to see a role model in their parent, and when these expectations fall short what else does the father do than try to change himself in the eyes of his son; so the son can in turn turn over his own leaf and go out into society a responsible man, so says Pap Finn, “I’ll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs…and let on to be better’n…his own father…” (Twain. 21).

This situation flips in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

To the casual reader it is clear Pap Finn loathes his son’s good fortune and his carelessness towards all things homely–the uneducated backwoods lifestyle of Pap Finn. He does so because of one reason: the widow, a woman who “…put[s] in her shovel about…things[s]…ain’t none of her business.” (Twain. 21). She has taught Huck how to read and write; how to be civilized; and how to speak grammatically correct; and since these qualities were not easily afforded to Pap Finn he is bitter about his turn of the cards and so pursues a nasty path of guilting his son into giving him liquor money.

Apply the symbiotic father-eat-son relationship to the current world and the first and most prominent example is immigrant families: a son is granted an education of higher standing than his father; the father is outraged at his spread of knowledge and good fortune; and both men argue over their expanded stances on life–a moment forever repeating in history.

Such is the same between Huckleberry Finn and Pap Finn. Once the son receives education and traces the shape of his corner of the world he wants to do all he can to escape; even if that includes leaving his father a duller man, which is how it appears to the latter.

All is indicative of Structuralism and Semiotics.

Think daily,

A Southpaw 




BEAUTIFUL IRONY! And Some White Whales…

What is one of the most popular symbols in classic literature?

Incidentally it is not a storm or a ray of sun; rather it is a large white whale, specifically Moby Dick, the titular star of Moby-Dick. Notice the emphasis on white? That’s because Herman Melville refers to the color almost thirty times in one chapter of his novel, meaning it to be the emptiness of all things–without color things lack substance…gravitas.

Let’s grab another symbol here–oh, by the way, this is courtesy of the chapter It’s My Symbol and I’ll Cry If I Want To. Here’s a good one: the vases in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They are brought by Quasimodo to the towers of Notre Dame, one cracked and the other in unscathed; symbolic, of course, of the perception of beauty between Esmeralda and Quasimodo.

Many stories feature symbolism. Their presence better personifies a work and gives off a smoking literary attractiveness. Take To Kill A Mockingbird, the first book ever written by Harper Lee, and yet forty or so years later the story is still kicking because it has such purposeful symbols and themes in so tiny a novel. Then there is The Outsiders, with memorable bits of innocence gained and lost keeping it afloat from generation to generation.

Harry Potter has a symbol on his forehead!

Achilles has a symbol in his ankle!

Captain Ahab is wearing a symbol!

Symbols–here to stay forever long!

Now, let’s traipse over to irony…

Irony is the leftover crumble of crust on a sandwich, says Foster in Is He Serious? And Other Ironies, “…when what should happen doesn’t…”He cites examples from Hemingway and Burgess; and defines irony as simply…the unexpected. 

Such cases are at work in the stories of Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of our best modern satires. From the Earth blowing up to the meaning of all life answered–it is 42–this is a comedic barnyard of irony; although in a first reading it is difficult to notice all uses of irony but to the trained reader.

Also read The Princess Bride for an irony stuffed plot…or watch the movie; either way an enjoyable experience and one you’ll be laughing equally hard at no matter the medium.

Think daily,

A Southpaw


Familiarity In A Woman’s World

Intertwining the backwoods war of the Grangerfords and the Sheperdsons is the  tale of a young woman poet and painter taken abruptly from her craft forever; she was Emmeline Grangerford and painted and sketched morose images of laboring women surrounded wholly by death–this is indicative of Gender Studies and Queer Theory.

This is how one of Emmeline’s paintings is described, “…a woman in a small dress…[and]…a large black scoop-shovel bonnet with a black veil…[and]…leaning pensive on a tombstone…under a weeping willow…” (Twain. 104). The present darkness parallels that of any painting by Goya–the grim atmosphere and the use of darker shades to convey hopelessness–and in paralleling Goya her painting is received with familiarity in technique by the reader.

In the early 1900s there was hardly familiarity in a woman’s world.

If a woman wished to be an artist she must then have published under a pseudonym, that, or found a company willing to cross a boundary in accepting her work. Notable exceptions are Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf, among others; and of the two Shelley is renowned for the novel Frankenstein (1818) and its Gothic themes of death and rebirth, which were ideas still in foundation when she wrote the novel, and which many believed a woman to hardly be credited for.

Much neither changed nor improved up into the age of Emmeline Grangerford; and it is in this section that the reader must imagine the future of her works had she lived to publish them. Though they are connected aesthetically to works of Goya there is little in the book to suggest she had had much success in establishing her own artistic identity: “…[she] made poetry…when she was alive, and it didn’t seem right…there warn’t nobody to make some about her…” (Twain. 106).

Poor luck was unfortunately a taboo on women of the time. The closest they came to actual benefiting labor was in the household and, specifically, the kitchen; not until the beginnings of World War I in 1917 did they acquire a societal role.

Emmeline Grangerford is described as a prodigy, one that may have seen success later in her lifetime: “If [she] could make poetry like that before she was fourteen…ain’t no telling what she could a done by-and-by.” (Twain. 106). She is also symbolizes the struggling woman in the predominately male century of the 1900s.

Think  daily, 

A Southpaw  

Close Your Eyes To Read…

Shut your eyes a moment–not your actual eyes, your eyes–the glasses with which you look upon our modern world and say this is this and that is that. Shut those eyes and open the ones in the past, or the future–surprisingly you have multiple sets of eyes, but you don’t know how to use them.

A hint: reading.

An example: H.P Lovecraft, renowned horror story scribe but also a racist.

In his stories there are causal remarks to the vileness of black people; most of the time they are the bearers of bad news or the villains themselves in the stories. Also when Lovecraft was alive civil rights would not be a pressing issue for another hundred years; so white people were extremely opinionated on black people.

While Lovecraft may have been prejudiced most of his readers are not; and when they read a Lovecraft story they drown out the racist overtones in favoring the world in which we currently live, which is good practice, but not helpful to reading with your eyes closed; or as Foster calls it, “don’t read with your eyes…”

Take a second look at the racist overtones. There is evidence for their presence.

As said before the idea of civil rights was in its youth, the area of America where Lovecraft lived was a restrictive area; and as a socially awkward individual Lovecraft scarcely had connections with actual humans…

There is something now–that is evidence. Feels like taking a trip into his world a little. Are your eyes closed? You may open them now…yes, shut your copy of The Dunwich Horror…does Lovecraft’s racism seem more realistic?

Keep those eyes open for this next bit, a chapter called It’s Never Just Heart Disease…And Rarely Just Illness…certainly that produces some pondering; it has a tad philosophical turn to it.

Take The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka–an illness if not an inhibition. Everyone knows the story: the tirelessly laboring Gregor Samsa wakes up in his bedroom turned into a giant beetle overnight; this is a satirical commentary on the labor force and a stressful life.

Through the story Gregor is abandoned and ostracized by his parents and his boss and  his sister. He is beaten with brooms. His pincer is broken by a thrown apple. And at last he is kicked out of his house, where he dies in a garbage heap.

Sounds a depressing illness; but it is not an illness.

That’s contradictory, but bear with me and remember the social commentary, which, when expanded upon allows the reader to find an underlying message: the deterioration of an average working individual as he is continually stressed and literally beaten to the point of mortal exhaustion. It is death by overworking.

Think daily, 

A Southpaw





A Modernized Romeo and Juliet

In the sections prior to the meeting with the Duke and the Dauphin, specifically the conflict of Chapters 18 and 19, the story is taken to a backwoods war zone–the first family being the Grangerfords, and the second the Shepardsons; and who is stuck in the middle but poor Huckleberry Finn, who of course lands with the Grangerfords.

To start off there is a hint of the critical theory Structuralism and Semiotics in these chapters; it should be an obvious one–simply put, the American Civil War, which occurred several years before Mark Twain published his novel, but is nonetheless referenced covertly; as well a certain romantic tragedy penned by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.

The Grangerfords and the Sheperdsons are two feudal families killing off each member of the opposite clan, described by the Grangerford boy, Buck, as a feud, describing it to Huck–“…a feud is this way …man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him;…[the] other man’s brother kills him…and by-and-by everybody’s killed off…there ain’t no more feud…”(Twain. 110).  In the case of allegorical references this feud in the backwoods reflects the durational nature of the Civil War between the North and the South; then there is also the secretive romance to consider.

Love springs between two members of either family–Sophia Grangerford and Harney Sheperdson–in a manner that is kept under wraps until Huck delivers a secret note to Miss Sophia; one can notice a similar approach to the taboo romance in Romeo and Juliet, as either family comes from separate lifestyles and are judgmental of outsiders to their customs. Countering the ending of the play, however, in the novel the lovers live through their escape; and a bewildered Huck is informed by a black servant of their travels: “…run off to git married to dat young Harney Sheperdson…so dey spec’.”( Twain. 116).

As far the reader is concerned the lovers break free of their authoritarian families, which is as well the summation of Romeo and Juliet, seeing as how those lovers escape from the strictness of the living world into the realm of the peaceful dead.

To touch lastly on the feudal relationship between the families, much can be said about its parallel patterning to the Civil War–the warring families are silhouettes of the armies of the North and the South, and Colonel Grangerford is an imitation of President Lincoln, seen by his description: “[He]…was very tall and slim…and…had the thinnest kind of lips[;]…his forehead was high…” (Twain. 108). Obviously the Grangerfords represent the North; the Sheperdsons the South.

Think daily, 

A Southpaw

Blindness and Scars–Confessions of A Teenage Wizard

Okay, pop quiz, think of a deformed character in literature; most usually they are misunderstood and pitiful to read about–oh, their hurt makes you want to go up and hug them…from a distance, of course.

Your answers–ah, Quasimodo; exactly who Foster mentions in the opening lines of his chapter Marked For Greatness. Among such others as Oedipus and Richard III–wait, is that true? It says here Harry Potter is a deformed character. But, deformed characters are deformed because it speaks covertly about their personalities; let’s see…he has a scar given him by a dark wizard, and he is the Chosen One.


Let me steer this in a different direction now.

Ah, blind people, finally a topic that makes sense to this post. When I think of blind people I recall the blind judge in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but surely he is only blind because of his character; unless his character is a symbol for justice, specifically Lady Justice, and as Quasimodo is not the most attractive of humans, is blind to illustrate the perceptions of beauty and ugliness.

This and more described in the chapter He’s Blind For A Reason, You Know. 

All right, I’m ready to tackle scars again…and other wounds.

Speaking of wounds, how about Frankenstein’s Monster? He is one big corpse, all stitched together with the limbs and skin patches of the deceased…ew, creepy.   Although, contrary to the Universal movies, the Monster is capable of speech and thought and profound emotion; if so, then, isn’t his stitched body symbolic of the world into which he has been zapped to life? A monster, or man, of, quite literally, the people?

Oops, I did it again.

Blindness–yes, of course, the horrid disorder which restricts sight; but can it also release a deeper vision within a character; for example, Neo, protagonist of The Matrix trilogy? Even though he is only blind for the last scenes of the third movie it is because he needs to see further, specifically further into the machine world to overcome it.

Now, for my last attempt: the wooden peg leg of Captain Ahab. It is a serious injury, and constantly he is blaming that darn white whale for the loss of his leg, more so for the loss of his sense of reality. Ahab is already a Biblical reference–he is a madman in the Bible, as well; and losing a piece of connection to his ever floating world reveals him as a complete lunatic unbounded by the restrictions of society.

There, a near perfect explanation–that didn’t take too long, did it?

Think daily, 

A Southpaw


How To Not Take Life For Granted

There tend to be a lot of misconceptions about life–one person will say you have to take it this way, while the next guy tells you take a turn down that road…oh, which road? The road less traveled…

That’s a Robert Frost joke…did you get it?

Anyhow, life is open to many opinions on how it should proceed, meaning, of course, everyone wants to offer their two cents into your life pool–yes, an actual pool in which you alone float around on an inflatable duck, or maybe a raft, and drink lemonade while watching life proceed around you. Try it sometime–it’s relaxing.

And what is the number one nuisance in your pool?  There is the moment when someone cannonballs into the water–nothing like that ever turns out dry….but the most annoying  instance happens to be when you are accused of taking life for granted.

Remember how you’re supposed to take advice with a grain of salt?

The people who make these accusations apparently forget that maxim; they want to shove the whole canister down your throat and repeat to you the errors of your ways–they’re like the arrogant kid brother who never shuts up…not that mine is anything like that.

Not all people take their lives for chance; rather, they see it in a different light than the person chatting them up in the inflatable duck. They see it in terms of whether their melting ice cream cone is worth swallowing or if it deserves to be thrown in the trash; and perhaps that is taking the ice cream for granted, but it sure beats having sticky fingers in the pool. And that person on the duck–remind him he chose the duck over the raft.

So, the next time you see those people paddling in your pool and carrying huge salt canisters in their boats–well, first, tell them to get of your pool; it is private property–simply swim to them in your yellow duck and ask them why they waste their lives to punish others who have done nothing but eaten or thrown away their ice cream cones because they either wanted a different flavor or it began sticking their fingers together.

Then steal one of those salt canisters–those are rare to find.

Think daily, 

A Southpaw

Sex and Baptism–An Unusual Pair


It is a word expressing a multitude of things–mostly, well…sex.

But did you know eating greasy food is a form of sex? What about “fighting a dragon?”

Okay, so sex is a versatile subject…but also versatile is its use in literature. In the chapters It’s All About Sex… and …Except Sex examples are pulled from books like D.H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Anthony Burgess’s controversial A Clockwork Orange–granted, those are entirely separate instances of sex; in fact, most of the time, they aren’t even truly sex.

The books that are sex…we call those by their proper names–erotica.

Scenes coming to mind–ah, Dracula, for example, a Gothic novel with sexual and aggressive overtones; but being in the age before Freud there were no double meanings or lewd imagery in commonplace objects. The world simply had sex.  See, then Bram Stoker penned a scene in which Count Dracula fluttered into innocent Mina Harker’s bedroom, slit open his pale chest, and made her drink the blood–again, before Freud; but read this:

“…his right hand gripped the back of her neck, forcing her face down on his bosom.”

That, and the other vivid descriptions are implicating an action similar to sex, but this is far from it; in fact, you might see Dracula tarnishing Miss Harker’s vulnerability as a woman, and as well beginning her conversion into a vampire. Not only sex, see?

Taking a trip on to the opposite side of the spectrum, we find baptism, which, as it turns out, is symbolic of surviving a drowning, or when caught in a rainstorm emerging soaking in a new life…specifically, as a new person.

Here, some of my own examples,

The Shawshank Redemption: The movie or book I have not had the pleasure of seeing, but on the original movie poster there is a kneeling prisoner cheering amid pouring rain–now, guessing here, but I feel the prisoner has escaped Shawshank Penitentiary and chosen to do so on the night of a thunder storm; and freed from his chains he is splattered with water, maybe he is slightly submerged in it.

Moby-Dick: In the incredible last thirty pages of this novel as Captain Ahab and his crew are battling the Great White Whale, there appears a tropical storm which forms a    violent whirlpool. Once Ahab stabs Moby, completing his lifelong mission, his ship, the Pequod, is swallowed wholly by the whirlpool; and Ishmael, the lone survivor having emerged with newfound wisdom, writes his novel and spends the rest of his life warning passerby on the streets of “Manhattoes” about the dreaded white whales.

I thought it an especially interesting point, by far the most thought-provoking of his ideas. Rain as a form of rebirth…it has a nice touch.

By the way, pairing these two ideas together–not a coincidence.

Think daily,

A Southpaw