A White Heron: Loopholes

Sylvia has a major choice to make in the climax of the story “A White Heron.” She can either tell the strange man the location of the white heron and receive ten dollars, or keep it a secret and save the heron’s life. Sylvia has been conditioned by society to think that money makes your life better, that the more money you make, the more you are worth as a person. She is very tempted to give away her secret in exchange for this, but she realizes that she shouldn’t, and she doesn’t have to. Instead of going with the whims of society, she finds herself a loophole. She keeps the heron safe, and does not get the money. Because she realizes that money can buy her so many things, but it won’t buy her the heron’s life, and it won’t buy her the happiness and content with her own life she already has. She refuses to become part of this “reality,” where strange men kill the things the love and bow down to riches.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

“…and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”

Douglass is saying that although he might seem like a slave and be a slave to others, he would never see himself as one again. He did not consider himself property any longer, but as a human being. This is after his fight with Mr. Covey. Earlier, Douglass says that Covey managed to completely destroy every aspect of himself. He said he was broken in body, mind, and spirit, transformed into an animal. But once he won the fight with Covey, he was renewed.

We see this distinction throughout the rest of the Narrative. For example, when he says “I will give Mr. Freeland the credit of being the best master I ever had, till I became my own master.” Douglass is no longer content with having a “good” or “kind” master anymore, because he has already tenaciously decided that he is no longer a slave.

Additionally, although Douglass gets caught before even trying to escape the first time, he does not back down and accept it. He continues working as a slave physically, but mentally has already escaped. Then, he finally makes it to New York where he becomes to others what he was already to himself: a free man.

“Song of Myself” Part 2

Barbaric means uncivilized and crude, and a yawp is a harsh, animalistic cry. These two words perfectly describe Whitman’s poem, especially considering the time period in which he wrote it. Today, this poem would be considered “free-verse,” but back then poems had a strict structure with rhythm and rhyme schemes. “Song of Myself” is also not organized in a way poems would normally be organized. Whitman starts on one idea and jumps to another and another.

This was a completely new style, and in society, new is often considered uncivilized. Different was bad, and different made you less of a human because you didn’t fit in among them. The entire poem was a challenge to the literary world. The ideas in the poem were not generally accepted and spoken about freely during this time, such as sexual desires. Or, the ideas were just different, such as comparing life to a blade of grass. And here was Whitman, writing about all these strange new concepts in this strange new way.

I think all the short stories and poems we have read in class should be considered “barbaric yawps,” because they all enveloped new ideas and different perceptions on the way things were viewed. They all helped define and create what is truly American literature.

Song of Myself

“If you were not breathing and walking here where would they all be?

The most renowned poems would be ashes . . . . orations and plays would be
vacuums.” (60)

Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself is about commemorating and being appreciative of oneself. If you did not exist in this world in order to read, watch, and essentially be part of all these famous poems, speeches, and plays, they would become nothing. They would have no meaning, and become vacuums that suck up dirt. The words Whitman uses, such as “renowned” poems and calling them “vacuums,” especially make these lines interesting to me. Instead of just saying “if people weren’t there to read famous poems, they would become nothing,” he says renowned poems, which illustrates the poems are more celebrated and honored, rather than just being known. Additionally, the vacuum is a metaphor that describes a void and emptiness in a way more precise. These lines relate the the other ideas in the poem because just before this, Whitman writes about government and democracy, the earth, and religion. All these major parts of life don’t exist so that we can serve them, but so they can serve and help us. He also tells us that we are not so much unlike other human beings around us. Whitman’s idea of celebrating oneself and being one with others is one we have also seen in Emerson’s The American Scholar, where Emerson’s key point was to use the individual’s brain to discover truths about oneself and therefore discover truths about the world around us.

The American Scholar

“The orator distrusts at first the fitness of his frank confessions, — his want of knowledge of the persons he addresses,  until he finds that he is the complement of his hearers; — that they drink his words because he fulfils for them their own nature; the deeper he dives into his privatest, secretest presentiment, to his wonder he finds, this is the most acceptable, most public, and universally true.”

I found this sentence difficult because I didn’t quite understand the parts of the sentence and how they fit together.  I felt like Emerson was deliberately trying to make this sentence long and complicated. But after rereading it again and again, I think I found what Emerson meant. He meant that the orator, although in a position to make bold statements, isn’t sure he should until he discovers his listeners want to hear him. Then the further he dives into himself and his own mind, he realizes that what was inside is the truth. This sentence relates to others in the essay because it is essentially what Emerson’s whole theme is. Throughout the entire essay, he tells us that “self” and “nature” are one.

Hi, I’m Brenda Dinh, which is the title of my blog. You might think I named my blog after my name because I didn’t have any other ideas, and you’re right. I don’t quite know what to write about on this first blog post either, but I will try.

I grew up in San Jose, which is about an hour away from San Francisco. I moved a lot as a child to different parts of California, but no matter how many times we had to get up, go to a new school and start over, it was never easy. In fact, it got harder each time. But moving to San Francisco for college was the one time I wanted and was excited to move. It was for a very stereotypical teenager reason: to get away from my mother… and her fiendish boyfriend.