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IASSY 2007

1. Robert Frost ..3 2. Ernest Hemingway The Old man and the Sea..36 3. ------------------------ - In our Time.....................................78 4. ------------------------ - Francis Macomber......113 5. Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman 124 6. Eugene ONeill Mourning becomes Electra..171 7. Sylvia Plath.212 8. Ezra Pound.....220 9. Wallace Stevens.227 10. Walt Whitman..234 11. Geoffrey Chaucer Canterbury Tales .252 12. Henry Fielding Joseph Andrews..326 13. John Milton Paradise Lost 328 14. Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy 377-400

Robert Frost (1874-1963) ml f=70&i=966&t=966 Robert Lee Frost, New Englands cherished poet, has been called Americas purest classical lyricist and one of the outstanding poets of the twentieth century. Although he is forever linked to the stone-pocked hills and woods of New England, he was born in San Francisco, California, on March 26, 1874. His parents, school headmaster William Prescott Frost and teacher Margaret Isabelle Moodie, had left New England because of postCivil War politics. After his fathers death from alcohol abuse and tuberculosis in May 1885, Isabelle, accompanied by her son and newborn daughter, Jeanie, returned the body to his New England home in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and remained in the East because she lacked the money to return to San Francisco. Educated at Lawrence High School, Frost thrived in English and Latin classes and discovered a common thread in Virgils poetry and the romantic balladry of his Scottish ancestors. His grandfather enticed him to enter pre-law at Dartmouth in 1892, but Frost ended any hope of a legal career in the first months. His first published work, My Butterfly: An Elegy (1894), earned him a check from the New York Independent and precipitated a self-published collection, Twilight (1894). He married Elinor Miriam White, his high school sweetheart, in 1895, and dedicated himself to poetry.

Frost sought further education in Harvards classics department and, in 1898, joined his mother as a teacher at her private school. When symptoms of consumption necessitated a move to the country, he situated his family on a poultry farm in Derry, New Hampshire, purchased by his grandfather. Frost did little during a six-month depression that resulted from his son Elliotts death from cholera and his mothers hospitalization with cancer. At the farm he kept hens, a cow, and a horse, and established a garden and orchard; ultimately, the farm rejuvenated him. But Frost never profited from his labor and suffered annually from hay fever. From 1900 to 1905, while scrimping along on a $500 annuity from his grandfathers will, Frost produced bucolic verse that enlarged on his experiences with Yankee gentry. Simultaneously, he worked at cobbling shoes, farming, and editing the Lawrence Sentinel. A failure at farming, for the next six years he supported his family by teaching at the nearby Pinkerton Academy before moving to Plymouth, New Hampshire, to teach education and psychology at the State Normal School. To achieve his original goal of writing serious poetry, Frost, at his wifes suggestion, gambled on a break with the past. In 1912, he sold the farm and used the money to move to England. During a three-year self-imposed exile in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, he scraped for cash. He came under the influence of poet Rupert Brooke and published A Boys Will (1913), followed by the solidly successful North of Boston (1914), which contains Mending Wall, The Death of the Hired Man, Home Burial, and After Apple-Picking. Frost returned to the United States on borrowed funds at the beginning of World War I. He settled in Franconia, New Hampshire, where he soaked up New England culture. Seated in his Morris chair with his lapboard in place, the farmer-poet looked out on the New England landscape as he wrote Mountain Interval (1916) and the beginnings of New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes (1923), which contains Fire and Ice and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, an American masterwork. Because he was newly popular on the commercial market, Frost violated his seclusion in New England to serve as his own agent and fan club to keep himself financially afloat. A distinguished new literary voice and member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, Frost found himself in demand and began giving readings across the United States. He served the University of Michigan as poet in residence and was honored with the title Fellow in Letters at both Harvard and Dartmouth. In addition to one drama, A Way Out (1929), he steadily contributed to the New England poetic canon with WestRunning Brook (1928), A Further Range (1936), A Witness Tree (1942), A Masque of Reason (1945), Steeple Bush (1947), A Masque of Mercy (1947), How Not to Be King (1951), and And All We Call American (1958). Frosts works found favor with readers worldwide. He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1924 and again in 1931, 1937, and 1943, a sad series of years that saw the deaths of his sister Jeanie in a mental institution, his favorite daughter Marjorie of puerperal fever, his wife Elinor from heart disease, and his son Carol, who committed suicide with a deer

rifle. In addition to receiving a gold medal and membership from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the United States Senate accorded Frost a citation of honor in 1950, and Vermont named a mountain for him. In his declining years, he wintered in Florida. In 1948, he returned to Amherst, where he lived until his death from a pulmonary embolism on January 29, 1963. He was eulogized at Amhersts Johnson Chapel, where his ashes were buried in the family plot in June of 1963. The Pasture, published in 1913, displays Frosts first-person amiability as well as his delight in a homeowners country chores. In familiar farm surroundings, he speaks from the farmers point of view in an easy iambic pentameter. His diction, containing seven contractions in eight lines, is the simple wording of an ordinary, earth-centered fellow. The pattern of masculine end-sounds, rhyming abbc deec, is characteristic of Frost, who ties the relaxed, confident quatrains together with a disarmingly uncomplicated repetition and rhyme.

In identical meter but without rhyme, Mending Wall, written in 1914 after Frosts visit to the Scottish highlands, ventures beyond mundane observation to muse over the effects of stone boundaries on relationships. In neighborly fashion, the speaker joins a next-door landowner (identified as Frosts French-Canadian neighbor, Napoleon Guy) at an appointed time to walk the line, a seasonal chore that calls for repairing the damage to the land by rabbit hunters and winter heavingthe alternate freezing and thawing above the frost line. The reference to the inevitability of destruction alludes to Matthew 24:2 (There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down), Christs prophecy that Herods temple in Jerusalem will eventually fall. In an offhand parable, the speaker mischievously challenges a prevailing attitude toward neat divisions, expressed in the homespun revelation that Good fences make good neighbors. To the speakers way of thinking, an orchard poses no hazard to a pine woodlot, but the neighbor persists in the tradition of replenishing fallen stones. The forceful action suggests that tradition is an adversary not easily overthrown. Home Burial, written in 1914, presents an engrossing, intensely empathetic scenario. The title suggests both a home graveyard and a household buried in unrequited grief. In the action, a perplexed husband asks his wife to let me into your grief, perhaps a reference to Elinor Frosts devastation at the death of son Elliott. In the poems fictional setting, the husband responds to his mournful wifes inability to cope with the death of their child by putting up a false cover of business as usual. Departing the confines of blank verse through extensive enjambment, the carry-over lines and double caesuras [how could you?-] press the poems two main characters into a halting, real-life confrontation. Added to this personal drama is the couples view through the upstairs window of a fresh burial plot that stands out among older gravestones. The husband, who resents his wifes refusal to share her suffering with him, defuses a confrontation by sitting at the top of the stairs while his wife frowns her disapproval.

To buoy his 116-line poem, Frost elaborates on the husbands and wifes motivations for their behavior. At the heart of the domestic confrontation is the indelicate word rot, which the husband, carelessly utters after digging an infant-sized grave. The wife, named Amy (from the Latin word for love), uses her emotions about her childs death as a weapon against her husbandand, ironically, against herself. Given to stiff-necked silence and withdrawal, she threatens to abandon him in order to escape their separate emotional difficulties in dealing with death. The pacing refuses to drop to a mutually satisfying resolution as the husband, whose muscular hand dug the hole and mounded the gravel, resorts to force if need be to keep his marriage from disintegration and public shame. The realism of harsh words hanging in the air suggests a situation that Frost had witnessed or been party toperhaps his own troubled marriage to a tight-lipped woman or an anticipation of the marital difficulties of his daughters. The Death of the Hired Man, also written in 1914, pits wife and husband in a confrontation over infirmity and self-esteem. As Mary and Warren tiptoe around a touchy subjectold Silas return to the farm on the pretense of performing short-term labor they debate indirectly the same question of values that fuels Home Burial. Mary, who shelters tender feelings, wants Warren to lower his voice to spare Silas the insult of Warrens disdain for him. As for the question of having Silas ditch the meadow, an unnecessary task, Mary assures Warren that the ruse is a humble way to save [Silas] self-respect. The couples low-key debate featuring the dynamics of feminine mode versus masculine mode resurrects the confrontation between actively doing and passively existing. Like the husband in Home Burial, Warren is a doer. His physicality clashes on prickly occasions when he cant see the logic in merely being a friend to Silas. The opposite of Warren is Mary, who recognizes that Silas feels outclassed by Harold Wilson, the self-important collegian, whose academic accomplishments outrank Silas skill in bunching hay into big birds nests. At the crux of the confrontation, Mary speaks Frosts most beloved aphorism: Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in. The homely, almost stumbling cadence conceals the altruism of Marys gift of grace. Lest the reader doubt Frosts poetic thrust, he ends with three linked imagesthe moon, the little silver cloud, and shea metaphorical preface to Warrens squeeze on the hand and somber announcement that Silas has died. Another of Frosts contemplative literary moments illumines The Road Not Taken, a teasing conundrum written in 1916, when the poet was trying to succeed at farming and publishing. This somewhat stoic poem, characterizing a momentous, life-altering resolution, profits from the poets blend of delight and wisdom. The speaker recalls once choosing one of two forks in a road through the woods. Settling for the less-worn fork, the traveler notes, with some regret, that normal momentum would cause him to press ahead, thus negating a return trip to try the other path.

The poem stops shy of dramatizing the speakers choice of which road to take. Frost deliberately hedges on the speakers emotion by whittling down differences in the two roads with just as fair, perhaps, and about the same. Anticipating nostalgia over missed chances, the speaker acknowledges that the mornings decision has made all the difference but leaves the reader with no tangible clue to an interpretation, good or bad. In Birches, a fanciful monologue, the poems speaker expresses a Twain-like nostalgia for carefree boyhood and tree-climbing. The 59-line poem triggers a memorybent trees jog the poets recall of a boys mischievous but normal pastime. Indulging in digression, the speaker notes that ice storms have the same effect on birches and that the glass-like shards falling on the ground below suggest the shattering of heavens crystal dome, a symbol of divine perfection. Restored to the original train of thought after Truth broke in / With all her matter of fact, the speaker returns to reliving boyhood in the country, where a skilled birch-bender could subdue trees with the same care as a hand requires to fill a cup to the brim without spilling. The philosophical gist of Birches begins in line 41, where the speaker identifies himself as a rural lad given to birch-bending. Now burdened with frustration characterized as a walk in a pathless wood, a cobweb tickling the face, and a tearing eye that has met the lash of a limb, the speaker remains in the land of metaphor by envisioning an escape. To avoid an adulthood weary of considerations, he pictures a respitea swing outward from reality. Accentuating his point is the italicized word Toward, which reminds the reader that the speaker isnt ready for heaven. Earth is his true home. Even with everyday miseries, being earthbound in the right place for love suits human nature. In 1923, at the height of his appeal, Frost composed Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, one of Americas most memorized poetic treasures. He wrote it about an early period of personal frustration and considered it his best bid for remembrance. The rhyme schemeaaba, bbcb, ccdc, dddd, like that in The Pasturecouples a flow of action and thought over four stanzas, ending in a gently repetitive refrain. Restful and placid, the action of watching woods being covered with snow is elusively simple. This simplicity is reinforced by the graceful yoking of tactile, auditory, and visual imagery with euphonious, drowsy -eep sounds in sweep, deep, keep, and sleep, and alliterated l sounds in lovely, sleep, and miles. Dramatically, the poem builds to a climax and then makes its way down to resolution. At its heart, line 8 implies a tension: Is this the darkest evening of the year because it is December 22, the winter solstice, or because of some emotional turmoil in the viewers spirit? Is the poem a veiled death wish? Whatever the readers interpretation, the speaker reassures that a stock-still moment of contemplation of the dark and deep is normal and uplifting, for the figure decides to continue toward a preset goal or destination. Note that the title contains the pun evening, which means both post-sunset hours and a balancing or leveling. December 22, the shortest day of the year, is a traditional folk holiday that celebrates the equalizing of day and night. Beginning on December 23, winter begins its annual decline and days get longer as the seasons shift toward spring.

After the speakers pause, the morbid lure of snow-decked woods returns to an emotional balance as melancholy gives place to jangling harness bells and mental demands of miles to go, which could refer to physical miles or unfinished tasks or responsibilities to family or job. The end of the ambiguous couplet, before I sleep, could preface a nights rest or an eternal sleepdeaththat concludes a satisfyingly challenged life. Departmental: The End of My Ant Jerry is a verse animal fable. Composed by Frost when he was 62 years old, the poem takes its title from Rudyard Kiplings Departmental Ditties and demonstrates a blend of tweakish humor and mock-heroic form. The comic eulogy lauds the selfless forager in intentionally inept rhyme and a truncated rhythm that limps along in mockery of staid Homeric epic style. The elevation of Jerry, a victim of bureaucratic bumblers, visualizes him lying in stateembalmed in ichor and enshrouded in a petalin the states ennobling gesture to his role as citizen. Rigidly formal in style and protocol, the poem establishes the citys soullessness as the twiddly funeral director completes the ceremony in a semblance of decorum.

When an artist becomes so popular that hoi polloi celebrate him and politicians reward him, critics and avant-gardes do their best to dismiss him. But Frost was that rarest of rare things: a poet who was very, very popular--superstar popular--and, at his best, very, very good. His popularity is unmatched in the annals of American poetry; by the end of his life he had achieved the iconic status of living legend. His collected poems exceeded record sales; he appeared on magazine covers, was asked by President Kennedy to compose an inaugural poem, was sent to Russia on a mission of goodwill by the U.S. government, was recognized on the street and in restaurants. He almost single-handedly created the poetry reading circuit, delighting the public all over the country with engaging presentations of his work. He was perhaps the first poet-in-residence at an American university, in which capacity his duty was little more than to live and exude poetry. Frost is a poet who often seems liked for the wrong reasons--a poet who is read much but often not very carefully. The subtle wit of his language, his broad humor, and his frequent despair are too often overlooked for his regional-ness, his folksiness, and his public persona. The neglect of his true talents was compounded by the fact that serious criticism for so long did its best to ignore him. However, regardless of who reads him and for what reasons, what really matters are the poems; they stand alone by virtue of their own strength, independent of the associations surrounding them: Though perhaps influenced by, or in agreement with, statements by Imagists, Frost nonetheless belonged to no school; he worked outside of movements and manifestos to create his own sizeable niche in English literature. In the years covered by this SparkNote we find Frost reaching toward, and finally achieving, a mastery of his art. Robert Frost is considered the quintessential New England poet, but he spent the first eleven years of his life in San Francisco. Only upon the death of Frost's father did the family go to live with relatives in Lawrence, Massachusetts. There, Frost excelled in high

school and fell in love with his co-valedictorian at Lawrence High, Elinor White. They became engaged; Elinor went off to college at St. Lawrence in upstate New York while Frost entered Dartmouth. He was not happy there, however, and left after one semester. Back home, Frost worked as a reporter on a local newspaper and taught school (in part, to help his mother, a teacher with poor control over her students). Frost and Elinor married in 1896, the same year their son Elliott was born. In 1897, Frost matriculated at Harvard University, where he excelled in the Classics. However, the financial and emotional pressures of having a wife, infant, and another child on the way, forced Frost to withdraw after three semesters. The Frosts moved to a rented farm near Methuen, Massachusetts, and began raising poultry. Tragedy struck in 1900 when three-year-old Elliott died. The family bought a farm in Derry, not far from Lawrence, and Frost settled in to farm, read, write, and raise a family. Three more children were born healthy before the Frosts lost another child in infancy in 1907. In 1906, Frost began teaching at the nearby Pinkerton Academy, where he proved an unconventional and popular instructor. In 1912, frustrated at his lack of success in the American poetry world, Frost moved his family to England. They remained there through 1915. In that time he met and befriended many of his British contemporaries, both of major and minor reputation, as well as the American ex-patriot wunderkind Ezra Pound. In 1913, Frost found a London publisher for his A Boy's Will, and North of Boston appeared in 1914. When the Frosts returned to New England in 1915, both books appeared in the United States--North of Boston to much acclaim. The move to England had proved successful. Frost was suddenly well known in American poetry circles. He would soon be well known everywhere. Mountain Interval appeared in 1916. Frost began teaching at Amherst College in 1917, then served as Poet-in-Residence at the University of Michigan. He would later return to Amherst, then to Michigan, then again to Amherst. He also taught at Harvard and Dartmouth but maintained the longest associations with Amherst and the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference at Middlebury College. His Selected Poems and New Hampshire were published in 1923. New Hampshire garnered Frost the first of his unmatched four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry. West-Running Brook was published in 1928, followed by Frost's Collected Poems in 1930 (Pulitzer #2), A Further Range in 1936 (Pulitzer #3), A Witness Tree in 1942 (Pulitzer #4), A Masque of Reason in 1945, Steeple Bush and A Masque of Mercy in 1947, another Complete Poems in 1949, and In the Clearing in 1962. Frost's crowning public moment was his recitation of "The Gift Outright" at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in January of 1960. He died on January 29, 1963.

Summary To refer to a group of Frost's poems as "early" is perhaps problematic: One is tempted to think of the term as relative given that Frost's first book of poetry appeared when he was already 39. Moreover, Frost's pattern of withholding poems from publication for long periods of time makes dating his work difficult. Many of the poems of the first book, A Boy's Will, were, in fact, written long before--a few more than a decade earlier. Likewise, Frost's later books contain poems almost certainly written in the period discussed in this note. The "Early Poems" considered here are a selection of well known verses published

in the eleven years (1913-1923) spanned by Frost's first four books: A Boy's Will, North of Boston, Mountain Interval, and New Hampshire. Frost famously likened the composition of free-verse poetry to playing tennis without a net: it might be fun, but it "ain't tennis." You will find only tennis in the poems that follow. And yet, even while Frost worked within form, he also worked the form itself, shaping it by his choice of language and his use of variation. He invented forms, too, when the poem required it. A theme in Frost's work is the need for some, but not total, freedom--for boundaries, too, can be liberating for the poet, and Frost perhaps knew this better than anyone: No American poet has wrought such memorable, personally identifiable, idiosyncratic poetry from such self-imposed, often traditional formulae. In these "early" years, Frost was concerned with perfecting what he termed "the sound of sense." This was "the abstract vitality of our speech...pure sound-- pure form": a rendering, in words, of raw sensory perception. The words, the form of the words, and the sounds they encode are as much the subject of the poem as the subject is. Frost once wrote in a letter that to be a poet, one must "learn to get cadences by skillfully breaking the sounds of sense with all their irregularity of accent across the regular beat of the metre." Thus, we read "Mowing" and simultaneously hear the swishing and whispering of the scythe; upon reading "Stopping by the Woods," one clearly hears the sweep of easy wind and downy flake; to read "Birches" is to vividly sense the breezy stir that cracks and crazes the trees' enamel. Most of the lyrics treated in this note are relatively short, but Frost also pioneered the long dramatic lyric (represented here by "Home Burial"). These works depict spirited characters of a common, localized stripe: New England farm families, hired men, and backwoods curious characters. The shorter poems are often, understandably, more vague in their characterization, but their settings are no less vivid. Moreover, they integrate form and content to stunning effect. Frost's prose output was slight; however, he did manage, in essays such as "The Figure a Poem Makes," to craft several enduring aphorisms about poetry. In regard to the figure of a poem, or that of a line itself, he wrote: "We enjoy the straight crookedness of a good walking stick." A poem, he wrote, aims for "a momentary stay against confusion." It "begins in delight and ends in wisdom." "Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting." He claimed that the highest goal of the poet--and it was a goal he certainly achieved--is "to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of." "Mowing" Complete Text
There was never a sound beside the wood but one, And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground. What was it it whispered? I know not well myself; Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun, Something perhaps, about the lack of sound-And that was why it whispered and did not speak. It was not dream of the gift of idle hours, Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf: Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows, Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers (Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake. The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.



My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

Summary Ostensibly, the speaker muses about the sound a scythe makes mowing hay in a field by a forest, and what this sound might signify. He rejects the idea that it speaks of something dreamlike or supernatural, concluding that reality of the work itself is rewarding enough, and the speaker need not call on fanciful invention. Form This is a sonnet with a peculiar rhyme scheme: ABC ABD ECD GEH GH. In terms of rhyme, "Mowing" does not fit into either a strict Shakespearean or Petrarchan model; rather, it draws a little from both traditions. Like Petrarch's sonnets, the poem divides thematically into an octet and a sextet: The first eight lines introduce the sound of the scythe and then muse about the abstract (heat, silence) or imaginary (elves) significance of this sound; the last six lines present an alternative interpretation, celebrating fact and nothing more. But "Mowing" also hinges, like Shakespeare's sonnets, on its two final lines. In terms of meter, each line comprises five stressed syllables separated by varying numbers of unstressed syllables. Only one line (12) can reasonably be read as strictly iambic. Vocabulary A fay, as one can probably tell from context, is a fairy. A swale, in New England, is a low-lying tract of land. Orchises are terrestrial orchids. Commentary Full of alliteration and internal rhymes, this poem has a pleasing sound. "Mowing" is about mowing, but it is also a meditation on art, poetry, love, and how to live. It also--like so many of Frost's poems--possesses a winking element of wordplay (an element often overlooked by critics). As a statement about art in general and poetry in particular, the poem tells us that the Real, the common voice, the realities of work and labor--these are sweet; poetry inheres in these things and need not be conjured through willful imagining, flights of fancy (elves), or an abandonment of the everyday. In fact, anything "more than the truth" is debilitating to art. As a statement about living, the poem seems to say that working in the world, embracing and engaging its facts through action, is a prerequisite for knowledge about it. Truth comes before understanding, and truth must be worked for. And so the challenge for the liver of life--and for the poem, and for the reader of poetry--is to work to embody that physical, factual, sensory truth. But the poem also raises questions about the very act of culling a poem for meaning. In our labor of reading poetry, should we only read for facts, and not venture to interpret or project, because "[t]he fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows"? Or should we nonetheless try our hand at analyzing, at extracting meaning where meaning is not clearly stated? We cannot read just for facts, just for surface verisimilitude--for if we do, this poem's question becomes moot. The question is, "What did the scythe whisper?" But if we stick to facts, we must admit that scythes do not whisper anything. They lack the human quality of speech, whispered or otherwise. The poet, in building his poem around a whispering scythe, has given us "more than the truth." But do we blame him for this contradiction? Can the writer, the reader, the mower in the field, help but look behind and within the facts for something more than the just the facts? This listening for whispers seems a basic human trait. And more than a universal aspect of human frailty, it is 11

essential to the whole project of poetry and art. If poetry works toward an articulation of truth, and this truth is factual, then a great paradox sits at the heart of poetry. For some artifice, some imaginative leap, must precede that articulation of truth. Someone must hear a scythe and wonder what it whispers, must be willing to think in terms of whispering scythes--in terms of "more than the truth"--before he can build a poem on the rejection of this notion, before he can maintain that scythes whisper nothing more than the fact of their own whispering. Without someone listening for whispers in the first place, there is no poem; without the labor of the poem, there is no articulation of the "sweet dream" of fact. But there are many other ways to read this poem, and there are other aspects to note. Consider the idea of creation through destruction, the making of hay through the mowing of grass, and all the connotations this holds for the creative artist. Also the idea of leaving the hay to "make" suggests that at some point, after great labor, the making of hay--or poetry--is out of the laborer's hands. It must simply "make" itself. The reader must also consider that to evoke reaping and scythes is to also evoke the connotations of the rapid passing of time, and of death, that often accompany these tropes. An anthropomorphized Time holds a sickle and does a bit of mowing in Shakespeare's Sonnet 116: "Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks / Within his bending sickle's compass come." Is the speaker in Frost's sonnet mowing through his life and, realizing its ephemerality, wondering what is of most importance? Then, there are overtones of sex and love. The act of mowing was once (and perhaps still is, somewhere) a known euphemism for making love. But for Frost, the scythe's "earnest love" is apparently harmful, too: It scares a little snake (yes, Freudians) and cuts down flowers. Frost was an able classicist and likely would have known that orchis is taken directly from the Greek word for testicles. Finally, pay careful attention to the sound of the poem. The swinging, back- and-forth motion of the scythe emerges in lines like "What was it it whispered" and "Perhaps it was something.../ Something perhaps." Frost wrote about his desire to write with "the sound of sense"--meaning the experience of hearing itself, the perception captured and enacted in words. He comes powerfully close to this with the repetition of "whisper" and "scythe," and with the alliteration of w's and s's that seem to form their own whispers and sighs. "The Tuft of Flowers" Complete Text
I went to turn the grass once after one Who mowed it in the dew before the sun. The dew was gone that made his blade so keen Before I came to view the leveled scene. I looked for him behind an isle of trees; I listened for his whetstone on the breeze. But he had gone his way, the grass all mown, And I must be, as he had been--alone, "As all must be," I said within my heart, "Whether they work together or apart." 10 5


But as I said it, swift there passed me by On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly, Seeking with memories grown dim o'er night Some resting flower of yesterday's delight. And once I marked his flight go round and round, As where some flower lay withering on the ground. And then he flew as far as eye could see, And then on tremulous wing came back to me. I thought of questions that have no reply, And would have turned to toss the grass to dry; But he turned first, and led my eye to look At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook, A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared. The mower in the dew had loved them thus, By leaving them to flourish, not for us, Nor yet to draw one though of ours to him, But from sheer morning gladness at the brim. The butterfly and I had lit upon, Nevertheless, a message from the dawn, That made me hear the wakening birds around, And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground, And feel a spirit kindred to my own; So that henceforth I worked no more alone; But glad with him, I worked as with his aid, And weary, sought at noon with him the shade; And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach. "Men work together," I told him from the heart, "Whether they work together or apart." 40 35 30 25 20 15

Summary The speaker goes to a field to turn the grass that has been mowed there. He feels lonely. Then, he sees a butterfly, which leads his eyes to a tuft of flowers that the mower left standing. The joy that must have led the mower to admire and spare the flowers is transferred, through the sight of the flowers, to the speaker. This awakens in the speaker a sense of kinship with the mower. It banishes his loneliness. He feels now as if he were working with the mower side by side. Form


"A Tuft of Flowers" is written in heroic couplets, with some variation from a strict iambic foot. All rhymes are masculine; the majority of lines are end- stopped. This, in part, gives the poem its marching, old-fashioned sound. (A few archaic-sounding words add to the effect: o'er night, henceforth.) The heart-apart rhyme of lines 9-10 gets recast and repeated later in the poem. Two additional end-words, alone and ground, are repeated. Commentary Published, in A Boy's Will, a few pages after "Mowing," "The Tuft of Flowers" revisits the labor of haymaking. Whereas the mower of the former seems mesmerized by his labor, wondering at the sound his scythe makes, the grass-turner of the latter begins with a pervasive sense of loneliness. It is a loneliness more profound than the temporary loneliness of a morning spent unaccompanied; rather, it is the loneliness of the entire human condition: The speaker is lonely "As all must be." But just as he resigns himself forlornly to this solitude, a butterfly captures his attention. The butterfly is like a herald announcing the ambassador. The ambassador, then, is the tuft of flowers, a "leaping tongue of bloom" with "a message from the dawn." What is this message? It seems to be one of camaraderie, a refutation of essential loneliness. The speaker recognizes in himself the regard that led the mower to spare the flowers, and, with this recognition, he feels a bond between his values and the other man's values, between his work and the other man's work. Just as earlier he generalized his loneliness to the human condition, his joy now leads him to generalize his feeling of alliance in purpose. The tuft of flowers serves as a sort of catalyst for reconciliation with mankind. The medium, however, is labor. The need to work, the fruits of work, and that which work cannot resolve form the human bond of empathy. "The Tuft of Flowers" does indeed follow "Mowing" in the book, and one might suspect that line 32 of "Flowers" was borrowed from line 2 of "Mowing." It is, in fact, the other way around: "The Tuft of Flowers" was written several years before "Mowing," likely in 1896 or 1897; as such, it heartily deserves the designation "Early Poem." "Mending Wall" Complete Text
Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it And spills the upper boulders in the sun, And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there. I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: "Stay where you are until our backs are turned!" We wear our fingers rough with handling them.





Oh, just another kind of outdoor game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors." Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: "Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it 30 Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him, But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather He said it for himself. I see him there, Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father's saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."





Summary A stone wall separates the speaker's property from his neighbor's. In spring, the two meet to walk the wall and jointly make repairs. The speaker sees no reason for the wall to be kept--there are no cows to be contained, just apple and pine trees. He does not believe in walls for the sake of walls. The neighbor resorts to an old adage: "Good fences make good neighbors." The speaker remains unconvinced and mischievously presses the neighbor to look beyond the old-fashioned folly of such reasoning. His neighbor will not be swayed. The speaker envisions his neighbor as a holdover from a justifiably outmoded era, a living example of a dark-age mentality. But the neighbor simply repeats the adage. Form Blank verse is the baseline meter of this poem, but few of the lines march along in blank verse's characteristic lock-step iambs, five abreast. Frost maintains five stressed syllables per line, but he varies the feet extensively to sustain the natural speech-like quality of the verse. There are no stanza breaks, obvious end-rhymes, or rhyming patterns, but many of the end-words share an assonance (e.g., wall, hill, balls, wall, and well sun, thing, stone, mean, line, and again or game, them, and him twice). Internal rhymes, too, are subtle, slanted, and conceivably coincidental. The vocabulary is all of a piece--no fancy words, all short (only one word, another, is of three syllables), all conversational--and this is perhaps why the words resonate so consummately with each other in sound and feel. Commentary I have a friend who, as a young girl, had to memorize this poem as punishment for some now-forgotten misbehavior. Forced memorization is never pleasant; still, this is a fine poem for recital. "Mending Wall" is sonorous, homey, wry--arch, even--yet serene; it is steeped in levels of meaning implied by its well-wrought metaphoric suggestions. These implications inspire numerous interpretations and make definitive readings suspect. Here are but a few things to think about as you reread the poem. 15

The image at the heart of "Mending Wall" is arresting: two men meeting on terms of civility and neighborliness to build a barrier between them. They do so out of tradition, out of habit. Yet the very earth conspires against them and makes their task Sisyphean. Sisyphus, you may recall, is the figure in Greek mythology condemned perpetually to push a boulder up a hill, only to have the boulder roll down again. These men push boulders back on top of the wall; yet just as inevitably, whether at the hand of hunters or sprites, or the frost and thaw of nature's invisible hand, the boulders tumble down again. Still, the neighbors persist. The poem, thus, seems to meditate conventionally on three grand themes: barrier-building (segregation, in the broadest sense of the word), the doomed nature of this enterprise, and our persistence in this activity regardless. But, as we so often see when we look closely at Frost's best poems, what begins in folksy straightforwardness ends in complex ambiguity. The speaker would have us believe that there are two types of people: those who stubbornly insist on building superfluous walls (with clichs as their justification) and those who would dispense with this practice--wallbuilders and wall-breakers. But are these impulses so easily separable? And what does the poem really say about the necessity of boundaries? The speaker may scorn his neighbor's obstinate wall-building, may observe the activity with humorous detachment, but he himself goes to the wall at all times of the year to mend the damage done by hunters; it is the speaker who contacts the neighbor at wallmending time to set the annual appointment. Which person, then, is the real wall-builder? The speaker says he sees no need for a wall here, but this implies that there may be a need for a wall elsewhere-- "where there are cows," for example. Yet the speaker must derive something, some use, some satisfaction, out of the exercise of wall-building, or why would he initiate it here? There is something in him that does love a wall, or at least the act of making a wall. This wall-building act seems ancient, for it is described in ritual terms. It involves "spells" to counteract the "elves," and the neighbor appears a Stone-Age savage while he hoists and transports a boulder. Well, wall-building is ancient and enduring--the building of the first walls, both literal and figurative, marked the very foundation of society. Unless you are an absolute anarchist and do not mind livestock munching your lettuce, you probably recognize the need for literal boundaries. Figuratively, rules and laws are walls; justice is the process of wall-mending. The ritual of wall maintenance highlights the dual and complementary nature of human society: The rights of the individual (property boundaries, proper boundaries) are affirmed through the affirmation of other individuals' rights. And it demonstrates another benefit of community; for this communal act, this civic "game," offers a good excuse for the speaker to interact with his neighbor. Wall-building is social, both in the sense of "societal" and "sociable." What seems an act of anti-social self-confinement can, thus, ironically, be interpreted as a great social gesture. Perhaps the speaker does believe that good fences make good neighbors-- for again, it is he who initiates the wall-mending. Of course, a little bit of mutual trust, communication, and goodwill would seem to achieve the same purpose between well-disposed neighbors--at least where there are no cows. And the poem says it twice: "something there is that does not love a wall." There is some intent and value in wall-breaking, and there is some powerful tendency toward this destruction. Can it be simply that wall-breaking creates the conditions that facilitate wallbuilding? Are the groundswells a call to community- building--nature's nudge toward


concerted action? Or are they benevolent forces urging the demolition of traditional, small-minded boundaries? The poem does not resolve this question, and the narrator, who speaks for the groundswells but acts as a fence-builder, remains a contradiction. Many of Frost's poems can be reasonably interpreted as commenting on the creative process; "Mending Wall" is no exception. On the basic level, we can find here a discussion of the construction-disruption duality of creativity. Creation is a positive act--a mending or a building. Even the most destructive-seeming creativity results in a change, the building of some new state of being: If you tear down an edifice, you create a new view for the folks living in the house across the way. Yet creation is also disruptive: If nothing else, it disrupts the status quo. Stated another way, disruption is creative: It is the impetus that leads directly, mysteriously (as with the groundswells), to creation. Does the stone wall embody this duality? In any case, there is something about "walking the line"-and building it, mending it, balancing each stone with equal parts skill and spell--that evokes the mysterious and laborious act of making poetry. On a level more specific to the author, the question of boundaries and their worth is directly applicable to Frost's poetry. Barriers confine, but for some people they also encourage freedom and productivity by offering challenging frameworks within which to work. On principle, Frost did not write free verse. His creative process involved engaging poetic form (the rules, tradition, and boundaries--the walls--of the poetic world) and making it distinctly his own. By maintaining the tradition of formal poetry in unique ways, he was simultaneously a mender and breaker of walls. Home Burial Complete Text
He saw her from the bottom of the stairs Before she saw him. She was starting down, Looking back over her shoulder at some fear. She took a doubtful step and then undid it To raise herself and look again. He spoke Advancing toward her: "What is it you see From up there always?--for I want to know." She turned and sank upon her skirts at that, And her face changed from terrified to dull. He said to gain time: "What is it you see?" Mounting until she cowered under him. "I will find out now--you must tell me, dear." She, in her place, refused him any help, With the least stiffening of her neck and silence. She let him look, sure that he wouldn't see, Blind creature; and awhile he didn't see. But at last he murmured, "Oh," and again, "Oh." "What is it--what?" she said. "You don't," she challenged. "Just that I see." "Tell me what it is." 20



"The wonder is I didn't see it at once. I never noticed it from here before. I must be wonted to it--that's the reason. The little graveyard where my people are! So small the window frames the whole of it.


Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it? There are three stones of slate and one of marble, Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight On the sidehill. We haven't to mind those. But I understand: it is not the stones, But the child's mound----" "Don't, don't, don't, don't," she cried. She withdrew, shrinking from beneath his arm That rested on the banister, and slid downstairs; And turned on him with such a daunting look, He said twice over before he knew himself: "Can't a man speak of his own child he's lost?" "Not you!--Oh, where's my hat? Oh, I don't need it! I must get out of here. I must get air.-I don't know rightly whether any man can." "Amy! Don't go to someone else this time. Listen to me. I won't come down the stairs." He sat and fixed his chin between his fists. "There's something I should like to ask you, dear." "You don't know how to ask it." "Help me, then." Her fingers moved the latch for all reply. "My words are nearly always an offense. I don't know how to speak of anything So as to please you. But I might be taught, I should suppose. I can't say I see how. A man must partly give up being a man With womenfolk. We could have some arrangement By which I'd bind myself to keep hands off Anything special you're a-mind to name. Though I don't like such things 'twixt those that love. Two that don't love can't live together without them. But two that do can't live together with them." She moved the latch a little. "Don't--don't go. Don't carry it to someone else this time. Tell me about it if it's something human. Let me into your grief. I'm not so much Unlike other folks as your standing there Apart would make me out. Give me my chance. I do think, though, you overdo it a little. What was it brought you up to think it the thing To take your mother-loss of a first child So inconsolably--in the face of love. You'd think his memory might be satisfied----" "There you go sneering now!" "I'm not, I'm not! You make me angry. I'll come down to you. God, what a woman! And it's come to this, A man can't speak of his own child that's dead."












"You can't because you don't know how to speak. If you had any feelings, you that dug With your own hand--how could you?--his little grave; I saw you from that very window there, Making the gravel leap in air, Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly And roll back down the mound beside the hole. I thought, Who is that man? I didn't know you. And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs To look again, and still your spade kept lifting. Then you came in. I heard your rumbling voice Out in the kitchen, and I don't know why, But I went near to see with my own eyes. You could sit there with stains on your shoes Of the fresh earth from your own baby's grave And talk about your everyday concerns. You had stood the spade up against the wall Outside there in the entry, for I saw it." "I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed. I'm cursed. God, if I don't believe I'm cursed." "I can repeat the very words you were saying: 'Three foggy mornings and one rainy day Will rot the best birch fence a man can build.' Think of it, talk like that at such a time! What had how long it takes a birch to rot To do with what was in the darkened parlor? You couldn't care! The nearest friends can go With anyone to death, comes so far short They might as well not try to go at all. No, from the time when one is sick to death, One is alone, and he dies more alone. Friends make pretense of following to the grave, But before one is in it, their minds are turned And making the best of their way back to life And living people, and things they understand. But the world's evil. I won't have grief so If I can change it. Oh, I won't, I won't! "There, you have said it all and you feel better. You won't go now. You're crying. Close the door. The heart's gone out of it: why keep it up? Amy! There's someone coming down the road!" "You--oh, you think the talk is all. I must go--" Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you----" "If--you--do!" She was opening the door wider. "Where do you mean to go? First tell me that. I'll follow and bring you back by force. I will--"










Summary The poem presents a few moments of charged dialogue in a strained relationship between a rural husband and wife who have lost a child. The woman is distraught after catching sight of the child's grave through the window--and more so when her husband doesn't immediately recognize the cause of her distress. She tries to leave the house; he 19

importunes her to stay, for once, and share her grief with him--to give him a chance. He doesn't understand what it is he does that offends her or why she should grieve outwardly so long. She resents him deeply for his composure, what she sees as his hard-heartedness. She vents some of her anger and frustration, and he receives it, but the distance between them remains. She opens the door to leave, as he calls after her. Form This is a dramatic lyric--"dramatic" in that, like traditional drama, it presents a continuous scene and employs primarily dialogue rather than narrative or description. It is dramatic, too, in its subject matter--"dramatic" in the sense of "emotional" or "tense." Form fits content well in this poem: One can easily imagine two actors onstage portraying this brief, charged scene. Rhythmically, Frost approaches pure speech--and some lines, taken out of context, sound as prosaic as anything. For example, line 62: "I do think, though, you overdo it a little." Generally, there are five stressed syllables per line, although (as in line 62), they are not always easy to scan with certainty. Stanza breaks occur where quoted speech ends or begins. Commentary Pay special attention to the tone, vocabulary, and phrasing of the dialogue. At the time of "Home Burial"'s publication, it represented a truly new poetic genre: an extended dramatic exercise in the natural speech rhythms of a region's people, from the mouths of common, yet vivid, characters. "Home Burial" is one of Frost's most overtly sad poems. There are at least two tragedies here: the death of a child, which antecedes the poem, and the collapse of a marriage, which the poem foreshadows. "Home Burial" is about grief and grieving, but most of all it seems to be about the breakdown and limits of communication. The husband and the wife represent two very different ways of grieving. The wife's grief infuses every part of her and does not wane with time. She has been compared to a female character in Frost's A Masque of Mercy, of whom another character says, "She's had some loss she can't accept from God." The wife remarks that most people make only pretense of following a loved one to the grave, when in truth their minds are "making the best of their way back to life / And living people, and things they understand." She, however, will not accept this kind of grief, will not turn from the grave back to the world of living, for to do so is to accept the death. Instead she declares that "the world's evil." The husband, on the other hand, has accepted the death. Time has passed, and he might be more likely now to say, "That's the way of the world," than, "The world's evil." He did grieve, but the outward indications of his grief were quite different from those of his wife. He threw himself into the horrible task of digging his child's grave--into physical work. This action further associates the father with a "way-of-the-world" mentality, with the cycles that make up the farmer's life, and with an organic view of life and death. The father did not leave the task of burial to someone else, instead, he physically dug into the earth and planted his child's body in the soil. One might say that any form of grief in which the bereaved stubbornly finds the world "evil" is not a very healthy one. One could also claim that the bereaved who never talks through his grief--who never speaks of it--is doing himself and others injury. But, again, the purpose of the poem isn't really to determine the right way to grieve. Rather, it intends to portray a failure of empathy and communication. Each person fails to appreciate the other's grieving process--fails to credit it, allow it, and have patience with


it. And each fails to alter even slightly his or her own form of grief in order to accommodate the other. Note how utterly the woman misunderstands the man's actions. To her, the act of burying the child was one of supreme indifference, while to him it must have been one of supreme suffering--an attempt to convince himself, through physical labor, that this is the natural order of things; or an act of self-punishment, a penance befitting the horror of the loss; or simply a way of steeping himself in his grief, of forcing it into the muscles of his arms and back, of feeling it in the dirt on his clothes. Note, too, how the wife completely fails to grasp the meaning of her husband's words: "'Three foggy mornings and one rainy day / Will rot the best birch fence a man can build.'" Indisposed to see her husband's form of grieving as acceptable, she takes his words as literal, inappropriate comments on fence building. Yet they have everything to do with the little body in the darkened parlor. He is talking about death, about the futility of human effort, about fortune and misfortune, about the unfairness of fate and nature. And yet, the man is also partially to blame. If he had any understanding of how to communicate to her, he would not leave everything unspoken. He would make some concession to her needs and articulate a brief defense. "You misunderstand," he might say. "When I said that, it was because that was the only way I could say anything at all about our loss." Instead, he lets her accusations float in the air, as if they were just hysteria and nonsense and not worth challenging. This displays a lack of empathy and a failure of communication as fatal as hers. When she describes his heartless act of grave digging, he says only, "I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed. / I'm cursed. God, if I don't believe I'm cursed." This leaves her free to believe that he accepts her accusation, that the curse refers to his hard-heartedness and not the terrible irony of her misinterpretation. He uses irony where she requires clarity. She needs him to admit to agony, and he can grant her no more than veiled references to a substratum of unspoken grief. And in the face of her grief's obvious persistence, he makes a callous--or, at very least, extremely counterproductive--remark: "I do think, though, you overdo it a little." How important a role does gender play in this tragedy? Certainly it has some relevance. There are the husband's futile, abortive physical threats, as if he could physically coerce her into sharing her grief--but these are impulses of desperation. And both husband and wife acknowledge that there are separate spheres of being and understanding. "Can't a man speak of his own child he's lost?" asks the husband. "I don't know rightly whether any man can," she replies. A little later he laments, "A man must partly give up being a man / With womenfolk." He sees his taciturnity and his inability to say the appropriate thing as a masculine trait, and she seems to agree. (Yet she sees his quiet grave digging as nearly inhuman.) Additionally, it is fairly standard to assume that more outward emotion is permitted of women than of men--the tragedy of this poem might then be seen as an exacerbation of a pervasive inequality. Yet one enduring stereotype of gender distinctions is the man's inability to read between the lines, his failure to apprehend the emotions underlying the literal meaning of the woman's words. In this poem, husband and wife fail equally in this manner. A woman, perhaps, might be less likely to dig a grave to vent her grief, but she is just as likely to react to death by withdrawal or by immersion in quotidian tasks. The reader witnesses the breakdown of a marriage (the burial of a home, expressed in the title's double entendre), but more basically, this is a breakdown of human communication.


Partly, that breakdown is due to the inescapable limits of any communication. Much of the literature of the twentieth century stems from an acknowledgement of these limits, from attempts to grapple with them and, paradoxically, express them. A great deal of Frost's poetry deals with an essential loneliness, which is linked to the limits of empathy and the sense that some things are simply inexpressible. What can one really say about the loss of one's child? Can one adequately convey one's grief on such an occasion? Is empathy--always a challenge--doomed to fail under such particular strain? We should note in passing--though it is not of merely passing importance--that Frost knew firsthand the experience of losing children. His firstborn son, Elliott, died of cholera at the age of three. Later, his infant daughter died. Two more of his children died fairly young, one by suicide. "After Apple-Picking" Complete Text
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree Toward heaven still, And there's a barrel that I didn't fill Beside it, and there may be two or three Apples I didn't pick upon some bough. But I am done with apple-picking now. Essence of winter sleep is on the night, The scent of apples: I am drowsing off. I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight I got from looking through a pane of glass I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough And held against the world of hoary grass. It melted, and I let it fall and break. But I was well Upon my way to sleep before it fell, And I could tell What form my dreaming was about to take. Magnified apples appear and disappear, Stem end and blossom end, And every fleck of russet showing clear. My instep arch not only keeps the ache, It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round. I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend. And I keep hearing from the cellar bin The rumbling sound Of load on load of apples coming in. For I have had too much Of apple-picking: I am overtired Of the great harvest I myself desired. There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall. For all That struck the earth, No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble, Went surely to the cider-apple heap As of no worth. One can see what will trouble This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. Were he not gone, The woodchuck could say whether it's like his









Long sleep, as I describe its coming on, Or just some human sleep.

Summary After a long day's work, the speaker is tired of apple picking. He has felt drowsy and dreamy since the morning when he looked through a sheet of ice lifted from the surface of a water trough. Now he feels tired, feels sleep coming on, but wonders whether it is a normal, end-of-the-day sleep or something deeper. Form This is a rhyming poem that follows no preordained rhyme scheme. "After ApplePicking" is basically iambic, and mostly in pentameter, but line-length variants abound. Line 1, for example, is long by any standard. Line 32 is very short: one foot. The poem's shorter lines of di-, tri-, and tetrameter serve to syncopate and sharpen the steady, potentially droning rhythm of pentameter. They keep the reader on her toes, awake, while the speaker drifts off into oblivion. Commentary First, a comment on form. Throughout the poem, both rhyme and line-length are manipulated and varied with subtlety. The mystery of the rhymes--when will they come and how abruptly--keeps words and sounds active and hovering over several lines. We find the greatest separation between rhyming end-words at the poem's conclusion. Sleep comes seven lines after its partner, heap, and in the interim, sleep has popped up three times in the middle of lines. Sleep is, in fact, all over the poem; the word appears six times. But the way it is delivered here, the last rhyme is masterful. Heap first rhymes internally with sleep, then again internally with sleep, and then again, and only pairs up with the end-word sleep in the poem's last line. At this point, we've nearly forgotten heap. Sleep seems to rhyme with itself, with its repetition, like a sleepy mantra or a sleepinducing counting of sheep. The poem arrives at final sleep not through a wham-bang rhyming couplet but more "sleepily." "There are many other things I have found myself saying about poetry, but the chiefest of these is that it is metaphor, saying one thing and meaning another, saying one thing in terms of another, the pleasure of ulteriority." This is Robert Frost in 1946, in an essay for The Atlantic Monthly. "After Apple-Picking" is about picking apples, but with its ladders pointing "[t]oward heaven still," with its great weariness, and with its rumination on the harvest, the coming of winter, and inhuman sleep, the reader feels certain that the poem harbors some "ulteriority." "Final sleep" is certainly one interpretation of the "long sleep" that the poet contrasts with human sleep. The sleep of the woodchuck is the sleep of winter, and winter, in the metaphoric language of seasons, has strong associations with death. Hints of winter are abundant: The scent of apples is "the essence of winter sleep"; the water in the trough froze into a "pane of glass"; the grass is "hoary" (i.e., frosty, or Frosty). Yet is the impending death destructive or creative? The harvest of apples can be read as a harvest of any human effort--study, laying bricks, writing poetry, etc.--and this poem looks at the end of the harvest. The sequence and tenses of the poem are a bit confusing and lead one to wonder what is dreamed, what is real, and where the sleep begins. It's understandable that the speaker should be tired at the end of a day's apple picking. But the poem says that the speaker was well on his way to sleep before he dropped the sheet of ice, and this presumably occurred in the morning. The speaker has tried and failed to "rub the strangeness" from his sight. Is 23

this a strangeness induced by exhaustion or indicative of the fact that he is dreaming already? Has he, in fact, been dreaming since he looked through the "pane of glass" and entered a through-the-looking-glass world of "magnified apples" and the "rumbling sound / Of load on load of apples coming in"? Or is the sheet of ice simply a dizzying lens whose effect endures? If, in fact, the speaker was well on his way to sleep in the morning, does this lend a greater, more ominous weight to the long sleep "coming on" at the poem's end? The overall tone of the poem might not support such a reading, however; nothing else about it is particularly ominous--and Frost can do ominous when he wants to. How we ultimately interpret the tone of the poem has much to do with how we interpret the harvest. Has it been a failure? Certainly there is a sense of incompleteness--"a barrel that I didn't fill." The speaker's inner resources give out before the outer resources are entirely collected. On the other hand, the poet speaks only of "two or three apples" remaining, and these only "may" be left over. Do we detect satisfaction, then? The speaker has done all that was within his power; what's left is the result of minor, inevitable human imperfection. Is this, then, a poem about the rare skill of knowing when to quit honorably? This interpretation seems reasonable. Yet if the speaker maintains his honor, why will his sleep be troubled? There were "ten thousand thousand"--that is to say, countless--fruit to touch, and none could be fumbled or it was lost. Did the speaker fumble many? Did he leave more than he claims he did? Or are the troubled dreams a nightmare magnification and not a reflection of the real harvest? Lines 28-29 are important: "I am overtired / Of the great harvest I myself desired." If there has been failure or too great a strain on the speaker, it is because the speaker has desired too great a harvest. He saw an impossible quantity of fruit as a possibility. Or he saw a merely incredible quantity of fruit as possibility and nearly achieved it (at the cost of physical and mental exhaustion). When we read "After Apple-Picking" metaphorically, we may want to look at it as a poem about the effort of writing poetry. The cider-apple heap then makes a nice metaphor for saved and recycled bits of poetry, and the long sleep sounds like creative (permanent?) hibernation. This is one possible metaphoric substitution among many; it seems plausible enough (though nowise definitive or exclusive). However, our search for "ulteriority" may benefit from respecting, not replacing, the figure of the apples. Apple picking, in Western civilization, has its own built-in metaphorical and allegorical universe, and we should especially remember this when we read a poet whose work frequently revisits Eden and the Fall (c.f. "Nothing Gold Can Stay," "Never Again Would Birds' Song Be the Same," "It is Almost the Year Two Thousand," "The Oven Bird"). When the poet speaks of "the great harvest I myself desired," consider also what apples represent in Genesis: knowledge and some great, punishable claim to godliness--creation and understanding, perhaps. This sends us scurrying back to lines 1 and 2, where the apple-picking ladder sticks through the tree "Toward heaven still." What has this harvest been, then, with its infinite fruits too many for one person to touch? What happens when such apples strike the earth--are they really of no worth? And looked at in this new light, what does it mean to be "done with apple-picking now"? All of these questions are enough to make one forswear metaphor and limit oneself to a strict diet of literalness. But that isn't nearly as much fun.


"The Wood-Pile" Complete Text

Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day, I paused and said, "I will turn back from here. No, I will go on farther--and we shall see." The hard snow held me, save where now and then One foot went through. The view was all in lines Straight up and down of tall slim trees Too much alike to mark or name a place by So as to say for certain I was here Or somewhere else: I was just far from home. A small bird flew before me. He was careful To put a tree between us when he lighted, And say no word to tell me who he was Who was so foolish as to think what he thought. He thought that I was after him for a feather-The white one in his tail; like one who takes Everything said as personal to himself. One flight out sideways would have undeceived him. And then there was a pile of wood for which I forgot him and let his little fear Carry him off the way I might have gone, Without so much as wishing him good-night. He went behind it to make his last stand. It was a cord of maple, cut and split And piled--and measured, four by four by eight. And not another like it could I see. No runner tracks in this year's snow looped near it. And it was older sure than this year's cutting, Or even last year's or the year's before. The wood was gray and the bark warping off it And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle. What held it, though, on one side was a tree Still growing, and on one side a stake for a prop, These latter about to fall. I thought that only Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks Could so forget his handiwork on which He spent himself, the labor of his ax, And leave it there far from a useful fireplace To warm the frozen swamp as best it could With the slow smokeless burning of decay.








Summary The speaker is walking through a frozen swamp. He considers going back but decides to continue. A small bird flies ahead of him, interacting with him cautiously. Then the speaker happens upon a decayed woodpile, for which he forgets the bird. He wonders who made the pile and why that person left it there to rot. Form "The Wood-Pile" generally follows the Frostian 5-stress line but strains it more than usual. However, the strain is to the formal regularity and not to the sound of the poem-which, for Frost, comes first. Some lines are blank verse, as follows:
"To warm the frozen swamp as best it could"


However, other lines present more stress and great irregularity, as in line 26 with its six stresses and spondaic emphasis on this year's snow:
No runner tracks in this year's snow looped near it

Others simply mix and match feet to achieve natural speech rhythms. Such is the case in line 22, which can be scanned several different ways (here are two):
He went | behind | it to | make his | last stand. He went | behind it | to make | his last | stand.

The result of this formal variation is a poem that sounds like the speech of a good storyteller but looks and reads like poetry. There is no discernable rhyme pattern, although the first and last lines conspicuously rhyme (and reinforce each other: gray day and decay). Tasks and ax rhyme near the poem's conclusion, and several end-words repeat: see, here, tree and trees, him and himself. Commentary A wanderer in a strange landscape realizes he is "far from home" and decides to turn back. But something urges him to go farther, deeper, to become thoroughly lost. As soon as he resolves himself to do so, a guide in the form of an animal appears and leads him onward. Sound like a classic formula of fairytale and myth? Such journeys, in the mythologies of the world, lead to revelation, understanding, and transformation. Frost's poetry is full of roads and paths; of travelers en route waylaid by indecision, by their sense of the gravity of the choice. In "The Wood-Pile," the speaker's decision to go on comes easily, but one has difficulty articulating where the journey ultimately takes him. This poem is immensely appealing, but what does it say? Something, certainly, about decay. Something about human effort, in any arena, and what it comes to. Something that hints at despair but does not wholly despair in its subject (for the last two lines are crushingly beautiful; they carve themselves--or ought to--a permanent place in the language). But what that something is is difficult to say with certainty. A better approach to a difficult poem may be to flesh out our intuitions and observations and see where that leaves us. Lines 1 through 10 set the scene. After this quasi-introduction, the poem moves from bemusement (aimed at the bird) to studious contemplation (the why and wherefore of the woodpile) to what strikes me as a sharp realization of despair in the last two lines. What is the source of this despair? It may be recognition of a general condition of life--that life decays into death--or the fate of human labor--that it is futile, that its fruits decay. Or it may be a recognition of tragedy specific to this occurrence. "I thought that only / Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks / Could so forget his handiwork," the speaker says, but what if this is euphemistic? Perhaps what the speaker really feels goes unspoken, and this is just whistling in the dark. If one explanation for why one would abandon such hard work is that the person "lived in turning to fresh tasks," the other-perhaps more plausible--is that tragedy has struck. Which is to say, at worst, perhaps the person no longer lives at all. The speaker recognizes the woodpile as the visual, decaying reminder of an unknown tragedy, and it is slowly disintegrating. This is like a darker take on "The Tuft of Flowers," where an artifact of human endeavor brings unadulterated joy. Yet slow fires bring warmth; is the despair, then, really so unmixed and monochrome? The penultimate line gives a strange sense of agency to the woodpile: "as best it could." 26

As if the warming of this frozen, otherwise featureless swamp has become a worthwhile task, which the woodpile strives to accomplish to the best of its ability. But worthwhile to whom? To the swamp? To the speaker? If warmth is in the mind of the beholder, perhaps the woodpile has indeed warmed the frozen swamp--by being incongruous; by adding features to a repetitive, unwelcoming landscape; and by turning the speaker's thoughts to human presence in such a place. A few more questions the reader might ask herself: Why is the speaker in the swamp, and why does he decide to keep going? He seems to be seeking something--something notable. This something is not amusement, for he soon dismisses the bird. Rather, the speaker seeks something more somber and thought-provoking--something ultimately of human construction. Returning to the bird, is the speaker's dismissal of it as "foolish" meant ironically? For it certainly seems ironic to accuse the bird of taking "[e]verything said as personal to himself" when this is just what the speaker is doing with the bird. He sees a bird in front of him flitting from tree to tree and presumes that the bird is regarding him, considering him warily, concerned with what he will do. The speaker is, in effect, taking nature as personally conversing with him--as if nature were concerned with what decision he makes, whether he goes back or keeps on, whether he goes after a bird or watches a woodpile. Perhaps the site of the decaying woodpile conveys to the speaker the depth of nature's unconcern. "The Road Not Taken" Complete Text
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that, the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood and I-I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.




Summary The speaker stands in the woods, considering a fork in the road. Both ways are equally worn and equally overlaid with un-trodden leaves. The speaker chooses one, telling himself that he will take the other another day. Yet he knows it is unlikely that he will have the opportunity to do so. And he admits that someday in the future he will recreate the scene with a slight twist: He will claim that he took the less-traveled road. 27

Form "The Road Not Taken" consists of four stanzas of five lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAAB; the rhymes are strict and masculine, with the notable exception of the last line (we do not usually stress the -ence of difference). There are four stressed syllables per line, varying on an iambic tetrameter base. Commentary This has got to be among the best-known, most-often-misunderstood poems on the planet. Several generations of careless readers have turned it into a piece of Hallmark happy-graduation-son, seize-the-future puffery. Cursed with a perfect marriage of form and content, arresting phrase wrought from simple words, and resonant metaphor, it seems as if "The Road Not Taken" gets memorized without really being read. For this it has died the clich's un-death of trivial immortality. But you yourself can resurrect it from zombie-hood by reading it--not with imagination, even, but simply with accuracy. Of the two roads the speaker says "the passing there / Had worn them really about the same." In fact, both roads "that morning lay / In leaves no step had trodden black." Meaning: Neither of the roads is less traveled by. These are the facts; we cannot justifiably ignore the reverberations they send through the easy aphorisms of the last two stanzas. One of the attractions of the poem is its archetypal dilemma, one that we instantly recognize because each of us encounters it innumerable times, both literally and figuratively. Paths in the woods and forks in roads are ancient and deep-seated metaphors for the lifeline, its crises and decisions. Identical forks, in particular, symbolize for us the nexus of free will and fate: We are free to choose, but we do not really know beforehand what we are choosing between. Our route is, thus, determined by an accretion of choice and chance, and it is impossible to separate the two. This poem does not advise. It does not say, "When you come to a fork in the road, study the footprints and take the road less traveled by" (or even, as Yogi Berra enigmatically quipped, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it"). Frost's focus is more complicated. First, there is no less-traveled road in this poem; it isn't even an option. Next, the poem seems more concerned with the question of how the concrete present (yellow woods, grassy roads covered in fallen leaves) will look from a future vantage point. The ironic tone is inescapable: "I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence." The speaker anticipates his own future insincerity--his need, later on in life, to rearrange the facts and inject a dose of Lone Ranger into the account. He knows that he will be inaccurate, at best, or hypocritical, at worst, when he holds his life up as an example. In fact, he predicts that his future self will betray this moment of decision as if the betrayal were inevitable. This realization is ironic and poignantly pathetic. But the "sigh" is critical. The speaker will not, in his old age, merely gather the youth about him and say, "Do what I did, kiddies. I stuck to my guns, took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." Rather, he may say this, but he will sigh first; for he won't believe it himself. Somewhere in the back of his mind will remain the image of yellow woods and two equally leafy paths. Ironic as it is, this is also a poem infused with the anticipation of remorse. Its title is not "The Road Less Traveled" but "The Road Not Taken." Even as he makes a choice (a


choice he is forced to make if does not want to stand forever in the woods, one for which he has no real guide or definitive basis for decision-making), the speaker knows that he will second-guess himself somewhere down the line--or at the very least he will wonder at what is irrevocably lost: the impossible, unknowable Other Path. But the nature of the decision is such that there is no Right Path--just the chosen path and the other path. What are sighed for ages and ages hence are not so much the wrong decisions as the moments of decision themselves--moments that, one atop the other, mark the passing of a life. This is the more primal strain of remorse. Thus, to add a further level of irony, the theme of the poem may, after all, be "seize the day." But a more nuanced carpe diem, if you please. "Birches" Complete Text
When I see birches bend to left and right Across the lines of straighter darker trees, I like to think some boy's been swinging them. But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay As ice storms do. Often you must have seen them Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning After a rain. They click upon themselves As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel. Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust-Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen. They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load, And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed So low for long, they never right themselves: You may see their trunks arching in the woods Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair Before them over their heads to dry in the sun. But I was going to say when Truth broke in With all her matter of fact about the ice storm, I should prefer to have some boy bend them As he went out and in to fetch the cows-Some boy too far from town to learn baseball, Whose only play was what he found himself, Summer or winter, and could play alone. One by one he subdued his father's trees By riding them down over and over again Until he took the stiffness out of them, And not one but hung limp, not one was left For him to conquer. He learned all there was To learn about not launching out too soon And so not carrying the tree away Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise To the top branches, climbing carefully With the same pains you use to fill a cup Up to the brim, and even above the brim. Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish, Kicking his way down through the air to the ground. So was I once myself a swinger of birches.









And so I dream of going back to be. It's when I'm weary of considerations, And life is too much like a pathless wood Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs Broken across it, and one eye is weeping From a twig's having lashed across it open. I'd like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over. May not fate willfully misunderstand me And half grant what I wish and snatch me away Not to return. Earth's the right place for love: I don't know where it's likely to go better. I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree, And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, But dipped its top and set me down again. That would be good both going and coming back. One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.




Summary When the speaker sees bent birch trees, he likes to think that they are bent because boys have been "swinging" them. He knows that they are, in fact, bent by ice storms. Yet he prefers his vision of a boy climbing a tree carefully and then swinging at the tree's crest to the ground. He used to do this himself and dreams of going back to those days. He likens birch swinging to getting "away from the earth awhile" and then coming back. Form This is blank verse, with numerous variations on the prevailing iambic foot. Commentary The title is "Birches," but the subject is birch "swinging." And the theme of poem seems to be, more generally and more deeply, this motion of swinging. The force behind it comes from contrary pulls--truth and imagination, earth and heaven, concrete and spirit, control and abandon, flight and return. We have the earth below, we have the world of the treetops and above, and we have the motion between these two poles. The whole upward thrust of the poem is toward imagination, escape, and transcendence-and away from heavy Truth with a capital T. The downward pull is back to earth. Likely everyone understands the desire "to get away from the earth awhile." The attraction of climbing trees is likewise universal. Who would not like to climb above the fray, to leave below the difficulties or drudgery of the everyday, particularly when one is "weary of considerations, / And life is too much like a pathless wood." One way to navigate a pathless wood is to climb a tree. But this act of climbing is not necessarily so pragmatically motivated: For the boy, it is a form of play; for the man, it is a transcendent escape. In either case, climbing birches seems synonymous with imagination and the imaginative act, a push toward the ethereal, and even the contemplation of death. But the speaker does not leave it at that. He does not want his wish half- fulfilled--does not want to be left, so to speak, out on a limb. If climbing trees is a sort of push toward transcendence, then complete transcendence means never to come back down. But this speaker is not someone who puts much stock in the promise of an afterlife. He rejects the self-delusional extreme of imagination, and he reinforces his ties to the earth. He says, "Earth's the right place for love," however imperfect, though his "face burns" and "one eye is weeping." He must escape to keep his sanity; yet he must return to keep going. He wants to push "[t]oward heaven" to the limits of earthly possibility, but to go too far is to 30

be lost. The upward motion requires a complement, a swing in the other direction to maintain a livable balance. And that is why the birch tree is the perfect vehicle. As a tree, it is rooted in the ground; in climbing it, one has not completely severed ties to the earth. Moreover, as the final leap back down takes skill, experience, and courage, it is not a mere retreat but a new trajectory. Thus, one's path up and down the birch is one that is "good both going and coming back." The "Truth" of the ice storm does not interfere for long; for the poet looks at bent trees and imagines another truth: nothing less than a recipe for how to live well. A poem as richly textured as "Birches" yields no shortage of interpretations. The poem is whole and lovely at the literal level, but it invites the reader to look below the surface and build his or her own understanding. The important thing for the interpreter is to attune her reading to the elements of the poem that may suggest other meanings. One such crucial element is the aforementioned swinging motion between opposites. Notice the contrast between Truth and what the speaker prefers to imagine happened to the birch trees. But also note that Truth, as the speaker relates it, is highly figurative and imaginative: Ice storms are described in terms of the "inner dome of heaven," and bent trees as girls drying their hair in the sun. This sort of truth calls into question whether the speaker believes there is, in fact, a capital-T Truth. The language of the poem--the vocabulary and rhythms--is very conversational and, in parts, gently humorous: "But I was going to say when Truth broke in / With all her matter of fact about the ice storm." But the folksiness does not come at the cost of accuracy or power; the description of the post-ice storm birch trees is vivid and evocative. Nor is this poem isolated, with its demotic vocabulary, from the pillars of poetic tradition. The "pathless wood" in line 44 enters into a dialogue with the whole body of Frost's work--a dialogue that goes back to the opening lines of Dante's Inferno. And compare line 13 with these well-known lines from Shelley's elegy for Keats, "Adonais": "Life, like a dome of many colour'd glass, / Stains the white radiance of Eternity, / Until death tramples it to fragments." In "Birches," the pieces of heaven shattered and sprinkled on the ground present another comparison between the imaginative and the concrete, a description of Truth that undermines itself by invoking an overthrown, now poetic scheme of celestial construction (heavenly spheres). Shelley's stanza continues: "Die, / If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek." Frost's speaker wants to climb toward heaven but then dip back down to earth--not to reach what he seeks but to seek and then swing back into the orbit of the world. Frost also imbues the poem with distinct sexual imagery. The idea of tree-climbing, on its own, has sexual overtones. The following lines are more overt:
One by one he subdued his father's trees By riding them down over and over again Until he took the stiffness out of them, And not one but hung limp, not one was left For him to conquer.

As are these more sensual:

You may see their trunks arching in the woods Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.

The whole process of birch swinging iterates that of sex, and at least one critic has noted that "Birches" is a poem about erotic fantasy, about a lonely, isolated boy who yearns to


conquer these trees sexually. It is a testament to the richness of the poem that it fully supports readings as divergent as those mentioned here--and many more. Two more items to consider: First, reread the poem and think about the possible connections between getting "away from the earth for awhile" (line 48) and death. Consider the viewpoint of the speaker and where he seems to be at in his life. Secondly, when the speaker proclaims, in line 52, "Earth's the right place for love," this is the first mention of love in the poem. Of what kind of love does he speak? There are many kinds of love, just as there are many potential objects of love. Try relating this love to the rest of the poem. "Fire and Ice" Complete Text
Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.

Summary The speaker considers the age-old question of whether the world will end in fire or in ice. This is similar to another age-old question: whether it would be preferable to freeze to death or burn to death. The speaker determines that either option would achieve its purpose sufficiently well. Form "Fire and Ice" follows an invented form, irregularly interweaving three rhymes and two line lengths into a poem of nine lines. Each line ends either with an -ire, -ice, or -ate rhyme. Each line contains either four or eight syllables. Each line can be read naturally as iambic, although this is not strictly necessary for several lines. Frost employs strong enjambment in line 7 to great effect. Commentary An extremely compact little lyric, "Fire and Ice" combines humor, fury, detachment, forthrightness, and reserve in an airtight package. Not a syllable is wasted. The aim is aphorism--the slaying of the elusive Truth-beast with one unerring stroke. But for Frost, as usual, the truth remains ambiguous and the question goes unanswered; to settle for aphorism would be to oversimplify. We can attribute part of the poem's effect to the contrast between the simple, clipped precision of its vocabulary and the vague gravity of its subject. The real triumph of "Fire and Ice," however, is in its form. Try writing the poem out in prose lines. Nearly all poems suffer considerably in this exercise, but this poem simply dies:
Some say the world will end in fire. Some say in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate to say that, for destruction, ice is also great and would suffice.


The language remains simple, but the devastating, soaring anticlimax of the final two lines is lost. Those lines draw their soft-kill power from form: from their rhymes; from the juxtaposition of their short, punchy length with that of the preceding lines (and their resonance with the length of the second line); and from the strong enjambment in line 7, which builds up the tension needed for the perfect letdown. It is one thing to pull off an offhand remark about the end of days; it is another to make it poetry. Frost masterfully accomplishes both in a single composition. "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" Complete Text
Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village, though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow. My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sounds the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake. The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, 15 And miles to go before I sleep. 5


Summary On the surface, this poem is simplicity itself. The speaker is stopping by some woods on a snowy evening. He or she takes in the lovely scene in near-silence, is tempted to stay longer, but acknowledges the pull of obligations and the considerable distance yet to be traveled before he or she can rest for the night. Form The poem consists of four (almost) identically constructed stanzas. Each line is iambic, with four stressed syllables: Within the four lines of each stanza, the first, second, and fourth lines rhyme. The third line does not, but it sets up the rhymes for the next stanza. For example, in the third stanza, queer, near, and year all rhyme, but lake rhymes with shake, mistake, and flake in the following stanza. The notable exception to this pattern comes in the final stanza, where the third line rhymes with the previous two and is repeated as the fourth line. Do not be fooled by the simple words and the easiness of the rhymes; this is a very difficult form to achieve in English without debilitating a poem's content with forced rhymes. Commentary This is a poem to be marveled at and taken for granted. Like a big stone, like a body of water, like a strong economy, however it was forged it seems that, once made, it has


always been there. Frost claimed that he wrote it in a single nighttime sitting; it just came to him. Perhaps one hot, sustained burst is the only way to cast such a complete object, in which form and content, shape and meaning, are alloyed inextricably. One is tempted to read it, nod quietly in recognition of its splendor and multivalent meaning, and just move on. But one must write essays. Or study guides. Like the woods it describes, the poem is lovely but entices us with dark depths--of interpretation, in this case. It stands alone and beautiful, the account of a man stopping by woods on a snowy evening, but gives us a come-hither look that begs us to load it with a full inventory of possible meanings. We protest, we make apologies, we point to the dangers of reading poetry in this way, but unlike the speaker of the poem, we cannot resist. The last two lines are the true culprits. They make a strong claim to be the most celebrated instance of repetition in English poetry. The first "And miles to go before I sleep" stays within the boundaries of literalness set forth by the rest of the poem. We may suspect, as we have up to this point, that the poem implies more than it says outright, but we can't insist on it; the poem has gone by so fast, and seemed so straightforward. Then comes the second "And miles to go before I sleep," like a soft yet penetrating gong; it can be neither ignored nor forgotten. The sound it makes is "Ahhh." And we must read the verses again and again and offer trenchant remarks and explain the "Ahhh" in words far inferior to the poem. For the last "miles to go" now seems like life; the last "sleep" now seems like death. The basic conflict in the poem, resolved in the last stanza, is between an attraction toward the woods and the pull of responsibility outside of the woods. What do woods represent? Something good? Something bad? Woods are sometimes a symbol for wildness, madness, the pre-rational, the looming irrational. But these woods do not seem particularly wild. They are someone's woods, someone's in particular--the owner lives in the village. But that owner is in the village on this, the darkest evening of the year--so would any sensible person be. That is where the division seems to lie, between the village (or "society," "civilization," "duty," "sensibility," "responsibility") and the woods (that which is beyond the borders of the village and all it represents). If the woods are not particularly wicked, they still possess the seed of the irrational; and they are, at night, dark--with all the varied connotations of darkness. Part of what is irrational about the woods is their attraction. They are restful, seductive, lovely, dark, and deep--like deep sleep, like oblivion. Snow falls in downy flakes, like a blanket to lie under and be covered by. And here is where many readers hear dark undertones to this lyric. To rest too long while snow falls could be to lose one's way, to lose the path, to freeze and die. Does this poem express a death wish, considered and then discarded? Do the woods sing a siren's song? To be lulled to sleep could be truly dangerous. Is allowing oneself to be lulled akin to giving up the struggle of prudence and self-preservation? Or does the poem merely describe the temptation to sit and watch beauty while responsibilities are forgotten--to succumb to a mood for a while? The woods sit on the edge of civilization; one way or another, they draw the speaker away from it (and its promises, its good sense). "Society" would condemn stopping here in the dark, in the snow--it is ill advised. The speaker ascribes society's reproach to the horse, which may seem, at first, a bit odd. But the horse is a domesticated part of the civilized order of things; it is the nearest thing to society's agent at this place and time.


And having the horse reprove the speaker (even if only in the speaker's imagination) helps highlight several uniquely human features of the speaker's dilemma. One is the regard for beauty (often flying in the face of practical concern or the survival instinct); another is the attraction to danger, the unknown, the dark mystery; and the third--perhaps related but distinct--is the possibility of the death wish, of suicide. Not that we must return too often to that darkest interpretation of the poem. Beauty alone is a sufficient siren; a sufficient protection against her seduction is an unwillingness to give up on society despite the responsibilities it imposes. The line "And miles to go before I sleep" need not imply burden alone; perhaps the ride home will be lovely, too. Indeed, the line could be read as referring to Frost's career as a poet, and at this time he had plenty of good poems left in him.


ERNEST HEMINGWAY (1899-1961) Hemingway was rejected for regular military service in World War I because of a weak left eye, so he drove a Red Cross ambulance in Italy, distributing chocolate to Italian troops. While recuperating from serious wounds in a Red Cross hospital in Milan, Hemingway fell in love with nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, who later rejected him as too young. These World War I experiences eventually became invaluable fodder for his most famous war novel, A Farewell to Arms. The experiences contributed to many of his war novels recurring themes: the cruelty and stupidity of war, the greedy materialism and quest for power that cause war, the platitudes and abstractions that glorify war, and the value of enduring whatever must be endured. As a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star Weekly, Hemingway moved to Paris. Armed with a letter of introduction from Sherwood Anderson to Gertrude Stein, Hemingway established friendships with a number of famous expatriate writers who helped him develop his craft. Hemingway published In Our Time, a collection of short stories, some of them the Nick Adams stories set in Michigan. In 1923, Hemingway made the first of five consecutive yearly trips to Pamplona, Spain, for the bullfights an experience that eventually served as a basis for The Sun Also Rises, which is about the expatriate life in Paris and Pamplona. In the epigraph of that book, Hemingway quotes a line that Gertrude Stein previously recounted: You are all a lost generation. The phrase lost generation quickly became a mantra of the post World War I generations attitude about the wars effect on their lives and the futility and meaninglessness of life. In 1928, Hemingway moved to Key West, Florida, and began deep-sea fishing. That same year, his father committed suicide. In 1932, Hemingway went on a two-month fishing expedition to Havana and began marlin fishing, which eventually provided material for The Old Man and the Sea. In 1933, he continued fishing off the coast of Cuba, sailed to Paris, and then went on to Africa for a safari in Kenya and Tanganyika. The safari provided a setting for Green Hills of Africa. As a foreign correspondent in Paris, Hemingway began to raise funds for the Loyalist cause in Spain. In 1937, he went to Spain as a war correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War, which gave him material for For Whom The Bell Tolls, his best-selling novel about an American volunteer and a band of Spanish Loyalist guerillas. Hemingways goals in the book included a clear depiction of the indifference of the worlds democracies to encroaching fascism and the desperate need to fight against it.


In 1939, Hemingway moved to Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm), a house near Havana, Cuba. When World War II began, he volunteered to serve as a spotter for the U.S. Navy, outfitting his own fishing boat, the Pilar, to hunt for German submarines off the Cuban coast. In 1944, he became a war correspondent for Colliers and covered the war, including the liberation of Paris, with the U.S. Fourth Infantry Division. Papa Hemingway, as he was dubbed, purportedly liberated the Ritz hotel in Paris, particularly the bar, just prior to the arrival of Allied troops. After the war, Hemingway married his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, a Time magazine correspondent. Drawing on his World War II experiences, he published Across the River and Into the Trees, about a May-December romance. A subtle consideration of war in modern times, this book was less realistic and more symbolic than his previous work and was roundly attacked by critics. However, his 1952 publication of The Old Man and the Sea restored his reputation and earned Hemingway the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. In 1954, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The prize committee cited the power of his style, his mastery of narration, and his admiration for the individual who fights the good fight in a world of reality overshadowed by violence and death. In 1959, Hemingway bought a home in Ketchum, Idaho. In declining health from diabetes, high blood pressure, and mental depression (possibly caused by a genetic illness unrecognized at the time), he attended the Spanish bullfights in 1960 and later celebrated his 60th birthday. At the Mayo Clinic, he twice underwent electric shock treatments, which didnt help him. So great was Hemingways stature as both a writer and legendary figure, the world mourned after his suicide by shotgun at his home in Ketchum on July 2, 1961. A number of Hemingways works were published posthumously. A Moveable Feast, published in 1964, contains striking and sometimes abusive representations of the famous literary figures Hemingway had known in Paris. Islands in the Stream, published in 1970, is a semi-autobiographical novel, set in the Caribbean, about a painter, his relationships with his family, his loneliness, and his violent death. The Dangerous Summer, published in 1985, is based on a bullfight duel Hemingway witnessed in Spain in 1960. The Garden of Eden, published in 1986, recounts the love affairs of two women and one man, explores complex gender issues, and has prompted many critics to reconsider earlier assessments of Hemingways machismo. While Hemingway the dedicated writer and careful editor may seem somewhat at odds with Hemingway the legendary man of action, both sides contributed to a lasting literary legacy. As the dominant concerns of successive generations have changed, readers from each generation have found new understanding and appreciation of Hemingways works. For example, the generation of Baby Boomers profoundly affected by the Vietnam War found much to identify with in the lost generations alienation in The Sun Also Rises. Subsequent generations, increasingly concerned with international economics and threats to the global environment, may well find the multicultural aspects of Hemingways literature irresistible and appreciate more fully the environmental foresight of works like The Old Man and the Sea. And as the World War II generation (like the World War I


generation before it) passes away, Hemingways works will remain an invaluable contribution to twentieth-century literature and to the historical perspective of future generations. About The Old Man and the Sea The Old Man and the Sea was published 1952 after the bleakest ten years in Hemingway's literary career. His last major work, Across the River and into the Trees, was condemned as unintentional self-parody, and people began to think that Hemingway had exhausted his store of ideas. Santiago's story was originally conceived as part of a larger work, including material that later appeared in Islands in the Stream. This larger work, which Hemingway referred to as "The Sea Book," was proving difficult, and when Hemingway received positive reviews of the Santiago story, known then as "The Sea in Being," he decided to allow it to be published independently. He wrote to publisher Charles Scribner in October 1951, "This is the prose that I have been working for all my life that should read easily and simply and seem short and yet have all the dimensions of the visible world and the world of man's spirit. It is as good prose as I can write as of now." The Old Man and the Sea, published in its entirety in one edition of Life magazine, was an instant success. In two days the September 1st edition of Life sold 5,300,000 copies and the book version sold 153,000. The novella soared to the top of the best-seller list and remained there for six months. At first, critical reception was warm. Many hailed it as Hemingway's best work, and no less than William Faulkner said, "Time may show it to be the best single piece of any of us, I mean his and my contemporaries." Others, however, complained of artificiality in the characterization and excess sentimentality. Despite these detractors, The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the 1953 Pulitizer Prize and American Academy of Arts and Letters' Award of Merit Medal for the Novel and played a significant role in Hemingway's selection for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. For the first fifteen or so years after its publication, critical response remained largely positive. Since the mid-60's, however, the work has received sustained attacks from realist critics who decry the novella's unrealistic or simply incorrect elements, e.g. the alleged eight rows of teeth in the mako's mouth or the position of the star Riegel. Through the 1970's the book became less and less the subject of serious literary criticism, and the view of the book as embarrassingly narcissistic, psychologically simplistic, and overly sentimental became more and more entrenched. While The Old Man and the Sea is popularly beloved and assigned reading for students in the US and around the world, critical opinion places it among Hemingway's less significant works. In April of 1936, Hemingway published an essay in Esquire magazine entitled On the Blue Water: A Gulf Stream Letter, which contained a paragraph about an old man who went fishing alone in a skiff far out at sea, landed a huge marlin, and then lost much of it to sharks. As early as 1939, the year he moved to Cuba, Hemingway began planning an expansion of this kernel into a fully developed story that would become part of a larger volume. (Indeed, other sections of that proposed volume were published after his death as part of Islands in the Stream.)


Early in 1951, Hemingway finally began writing The Old Man and the Sea at his home near Havana. The government of Cuban President Carlos Prio Socarras was in decline and would eventually be overthrown in 1952 by U.S.-supported dictator Fulgencio Batista, who in turn would be ousted in 1959 by Fidel Castro. The Soviet Union had detonated an atomic bomb in late 1949. The United States, under the Truman administration, advanced a policy designed to contain Soviet expansionism; supported such international actions as the formation of the United Nations, the Truman Doctrine of 1947, and the Marshall Plan of 1948; and became embroiled in the Korean War. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy initiated a Red Scare paranoia in his four-year search for communist sympathizers. And the booming U.S. population and post-war economy fueled American consumption. Although The Old Man and the Sea takes place in September of 1950, it exists outside (or just at the edge) of these and other significant events of the period. However, the novella does reflect a universal pattern of socioeconomic change familiar even today among developing nations. In rural Cuba of the 1930s and 1940s, the traditional fishing culture (insulated and isolated from the industrialized world, closely connected to nature, bereft of modern technology, and bound to extended families and tightly knit communities) began shifting to the material progress of a fishing industry (dependent on the industrialized world for its livelihood, environmentally oblivious or negligent, increasingly reliant on mechanized methods to ensure profit, and much less bound to extended families and local communities). In The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway depicts Santiago as a dedicated fisherman whose craft is integral to his own identity, his code of behavior, and nature's order. On the other hand, Hemingway portrays the pragmatic younger fishermen as those who supply shark livers for the cod liver oil industry in the United States, use their profits to purchase motorized boats and other mechanized equipment, and approach their fishing strictly as a means to improve their material circumstances. Similarly, Santiagos personal history represents something of universal journey, as critics such as Angel Capelln and Bickford Sylvester have pointed out. Santiago is culturally a Spaniard and therefore a European. As a native of the Canary Islands, who made frequent trips to the coast of Africa, he also embodies something of Africa. And as an migr to Cuba, a journey made by many Spaniards from Europe, he is both a Cuban (symbolized by the image on his wall of the patroness of Cuba, the Virgin of Cobre) and an American. Santiago has brought with him to the New World some Old World European and African values of dedication to craft and acceptance of ones role in the natural order and joined those to a decidedly American preoccupation with living ones life according to an independent and individual code of behavior that redeems the individuals existence. The novella is truly universal in its consideration of the plight of an old man struggling against age, poverty, loneliness, and mortality to maintain his identity and dignity, reestablish his reputation in the community, and ensure for all time his relationship with those he loves and to whom he hopes to pass on everything he values most. Ultimately, Santiagos heroic struggle not only redeems himself but inspires and spiritually enriches those around him.


After the critical disapproval that met his previous novel, Across the River and Into the Trees (1950), a symbolic love story and meditation on war in modern times, Hemingway, like Santiago, needed a big success to reestablish his reputation. He first published The Old Man and the Sea in its entirety in Life magazine in 1952. The novella subsequently became a Book-of-the-Month-Club selection and a best seller. It gained immediate critical acclaim and earned Hemingway the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit Medal for the Novel. It also contributed to his receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. In 1958, the novella became a movie starring Spencer Tracy. List of Characters Santiago The novellas central character. A dedicated fisherman who taught Manolin everything he knows about fishing, Santiago is now old and poor and has gone 84 days without a catch. Manolin A young man from the fishing village who has fished with Santiago since the age of five and now cares for the old man. Manolin recently began fishing with another fisherman whom his parents consider luckier than Santiago. Martin The owner of the Terrace (his name is Spanish for St. Martin), he sends food and drink to Santiago through Manolin. Rogelio A man of the village who on occasion helps Santiago with the fishing net.

Perico A man at the bodega (his name is Spanish for St. Peter, an apostle and fisherman) who gives Santiago newspapers to read. Marlin An eighteen-foot bluish billfish and a catch of legendary proportions.

Mako A mackerel shark (dentuso in Spanish) that is a voracious and frightening killer known for its rows of large, sharp teeth. Shovel-nosed sharks marlin. The scavenger sharks (galanos in Spanish) that destroy the

Pedrico A fisherman in the village who looks after Santiagos skiff and gear and receives the marlins head to use in fish traps. Tourists A man and woman at the Terrace who see the marlins skeleton and, misunderstanding a waiters explanation of what happened, think the skeleton is that of a shark. The Sea: As its title suggests, the sea is central character in the novella. Most of the story takes place on the sea, and Santiago is constantly identified with it and its creatures; his


sea-colored eyes reflect both the sea's tranquillity and power, and its inhabitants are his brothers. Santiago refers to the sea as a woman, and the sea seems to represent the feminine complement to Santiago's masculinity. The sea might also be seen as the unconscious from which creative ideas are drawn. Analysis of Major Characters Santiago Santiago suffers terribly throughout The Old Man and the Sea. In the opening pages of the book, he has gone eighty-four days without catching a fish and has become the laughingstock of his small village. He then endures a long and grueling struggle with the marlin only to see his trophy catch destroyed by sharks. Yet, the destruction enables the old man to undergo a remarkable transformation, and he wrests triumph and renewed life from his seeming defeat. After all, Santiago is an old man whose physical existence is almost over, but the reader is assured that Santiago will persist through Manolin, who, like a disciple, awaits the old mans teachings and will make use of those lessons long after his teacher has died. Thus Santiago manages, perhaps, the most miraculous feat of all: he finds a way to prolong his life after death. Santiagos commitment to sailing out farther than any fisherman has before, to where the big fish promise to be, testifies to the depth of his pride. Yet, it also shows his determination to change his luck. Later, after the sharks have destroyed his prize marlin, Santiago chastises himself for his hubris (exaggerated pride), claiming that it has ruined both the marlin and himself. True as this might be, it is only half the picture. For Santiagos pride also enables him to achieve his most true and complete self. Furthermore, it helps him earn the deeper respect of the village fisherman and secures him the prized companionship of the boyhe knows that he will never have to endure such an epic struggle again. Santiagos pride is what enables him to endure, and it is perhaps endurance that matters most in Hemingways conception of the worlda world in which death and destruction, as part of the natural order of things, are unavoidable. Hemingway seems to believe there are only two options: defeat or endurance until destruction; Santiago clearly chooses the latter. His stoic determination is mythic, nearly Christ-like in proportion. For three days, he holds fast to the line that links him to the fish, even though it cuts deeply into his palms, causes a crippling cramp in his left hand, and ruins his back. This physical pain allows Santiago to forge a connection with the marlin that goes beyond the literal link of the line: his bodily aches attest to the fact that he is well matched, that the fish is a worthy opponent, and that he himself, because he is able to fight so hard, is a worthy fisherman. This connectedness to the world around him eventually elevates Santiago beyond what would otherwise be his defeat. Like Christ, to whom Santiago is unashamedly compared at the end of the novella, the old mans physical suffering leads to a more significant spiritual triumph. Manolin Manolin is present only in the beginning and at the end of The Old Man and the Sea, but his presence is important because Manolins devotion to Santiago highlights Santiagos value as a person and as a fisherman. Manolin demonstrates his love for Santiago openly. He makes sure that the old man has food, blankets, and can rest without being bothered. Despite Hemingways insistence that his characters were a real old man and a real boy,


Manolins purity and singleness of purpose elevate him to the level of a symbolic character. Manolins actions are not tainted by the confusion, ambivalence, or willfulness that typify adolescence. Instead, he is a companion who feels nothing but love and devotion. Hemingway does hint at the boys resentment for his father, whose wishes Manolin obeys by abandoning the old man after forty days without catching a fish. This fact helps to establish the boy as a real human being, as a person with conflicted loyalties who faces difficult decisions. By the end of the book, however, the boy abandons his duty to his father, swearing that he will sail with the old man regardless of the consequences. He stands, in the novellas final pages, as a symbol of uncompromised love and fidelity. As the old mans apprentice, he also represents the life that will follow from death. His dedication to learning from the old man ensures that Santiago will live on. Marlin The marlin is more than a great fish locked in an evenly balanced and protracted battle with an accomplished fisherman. It is also a creature onto whom Santiago projects the same qualities that he possesses, admires, and hopes to pass on: nobility of spirit, greatness in living, faithfulness to ones own identity and ways, endurance, beauty, and dignity. As Santiago and the marlin remain locked in battle for three days, they become intimately connected. Santiago first pities and admires the fish and then empathizes and identifies with it. He recognizes that just as the marlin was born to be a fish, he was born to be a fisherman. They are brothers in the inevitability of their circumstances, locked in the natural cycle of predator and prey. The marlins death represents Santiagos greatest victory and the promise of all those intangibles he so desperately hopes for to redeem his individual existence. Yet, like the marlin, Santiago also must inevitably lose and become the victim. After the mako sharks attack, Santiago eats the marlins flesh to sustain himself, completing the natural cycle in which the great creature passes on something of itself to Santiago. Not only are all creatures predator and prey, but all also nourish one another. Allusions to the crucified Christ that were previously associated with the marlin (images that represent suffering, apparent defeat, and the endurance through which one redeems an individual life within natures tragic cycle) are transferred to Santiago (as critics such as Philip Young and Arvin Wells have suggested). The marlins brave and unavailing struggle to save its own life becomes Santiagos brave an unavailing struggle to save the marlin from the scavenger sharks. The scavenger sharks strip the marlin of all material value, leaving only its skeleton lashed to Santiagos skiff. But before that skeleton ends up as so much garbage to be washed out with the tide, it becomes a mute testimony to Santiagos greatness and the vehicle for those intrinsic values Santiago craves to give his existence meaning and dignity. The fisherman who measures the marlins skeleton reports that it is 18 feet long evidence of the largest fish the villagers have ever known to come out of the Gulf. And when Manolin accepts the marlins spear, he accepts for all time everything that Santiago wishes to bequeath him.



Major Themes Unity: Hemingway spends a good deal of time drawing connections between Santiago and his natural environment: the fish, birds, and stars are all his brothers or friends, he has the heart of a turtle, eats turtle eggs for strength, drinks shark liver oil for health, etc. Also, apparently contradictory elements are repeatedly shown as aspects of one unified whole: the sea is both kind and cruel, feminine and masculine, the Portuguese man of war is beautiful but deadly, the mako shark is noble but a cruel, etc. The novella's premise of unity helps succor Santiago in the midst of his great tragedy. For Santiago, success and failure are two equal facets of the same existence. They are transitory forms which capriciously arrive and depart without affecting the underlying unity between himself and nature. As long as he focuses on this unity and sees himself as part of nature rather than as an external antagonist competing with it, he cannot be defeated by whatever misfortunes befall him. Heroism: Triumph over crushing adversity is the heart of heroism, and in order for Santiago the fisherman to be a heroic emblem for humankind, his tribulations must be monumental. Triumph, though, is never final, as Santiago's successful slaying of the marlin shows, else there would be no reason to include the final 30 pages of the book. Hemingway vision of heroism is Sisyphean, requiring continuous labor for quintessentially ephemeral ends. What the hero does is to face adversity with dignity and grace, hence Hemingway's Neo-Stoic emphasis on self-control and the other facets of his idea of manhood. What we achieve or fail at externally is not as significant to heroism as the comporting ourselves with inner nobility. As Santiago says, "[M]an is not made for defeat....A man can be destroyed but not defeated" (103). Manhood: Hemingway's ideal of manhood is nearly inseparable from the ideal of heroism discussed above. To be a man is to behave with honor and dignity: to not succumb to suffering, to accept one's duty without complaint, and most importantly, to display a maximum of self-control. The representation of femininity, the sea, is characterized expressly by its caprice and lack of self-control; "if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them" (30). The representation of masculinity, the marlin, is described as great,' beautiful,' calm,' and noble,' and Santiago steels him against his pain by telling himself, "suffer like a man. Or a fish," referring to the marlin (92). In Hemingway's ethical universe, Santiago shows us not only how to live life heroically but in a way befitting a man. Pride: While important, Hemingway's treatment of pride in the novella is ambivalent. A heroic man like Santiago should have pride in his actions, and as Santiago shows us, "humility was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride" (14). At the same, though, it is apparently Santiago's pride which presses him to travel dangerously far out into the sea, "beyond all people in the world," to catch the marlin (50). While he loved the marlin and called him brother, Santiago admits to killing it for pride, his blood stirred by battle with such a noble and worthy antagonist. Some have interpreted the loss of the marlin as the price Santiago had to pay for his pride in traveling out so far in search of such a catch. Contrarily, one could argue that this pride was beneficial as it allowed


Santiago an edifying challenge worthy of his heroism. In the end, Hemingway suggests that pride in a job well done, even if pride drew one unnecessarily into the situation, is a positive trait. Success: Hemingway draws a distinction between two different types of success: outer, material success and inner, spiritual success. While Santiago clearly lacks the former, the import of this lack is eclipsed by his possession of the later. One way to describe Santiago's story is as a triumph of indefatigable spirit over exhaustible material resources. As noted above, the characteristics of such a spirit are those of heroism and manhood. That Santiago can end the novella undefeated after steadily losing his hard-earned, most valuable possession is a testament to the privileging of inner success over outer success. Worthiness: Being heroic and manly are not merely qualities of character which one possesses or does not. One must constantly demonstrate one's heroism and manliness through actions conducted with dignity. Interestingly, worthiness cannot be conferred upon oneself. Santiago is obsessed with proving his worthiness to those around him. He had to prove himself to the boy: "the thousand times he had proved it mean nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it" (66). And he had to prove himself to the marlin: "I'll kill all his greatness and glory. Although it is unjust. But I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures" (66). A heroic and manly life is not, then, one of inner peace and self-sufficiency; it requires constant demonstration of one's worthiness through noble action. Themes, Motifs & Symbols The Honor in Struggle, Defeat & Death From the very first paragraph, Santiago is characterized as someone struggling against defeat. He has gone eighty-four days without catching a fishhe will soon pass his own record of eighty-seven days. Almost as a reminder of Santiagos struggle, the sail of his skiff resembles the flag of permanent defeat. But the old man refuses defeat at every turn: he resolves to sail out beyond the other fishermen to where the biggest fish promise to be. He lands the marlin, tying his record of eighty-seven days after a brutal three-day fight, and he continues to ward off sharks from stealing his prey, even though he knows the battle is useless. Because Santiago is pitted against the creatures of the sea, some readers choose to view the tale as a chronicle of mans battle against the natural world, but the novella is, more accurately, the story of mans place within nature. Both Santiago and the marlin display qualities of pride, honor, and bravery, and both are subject to the same eternal law: they must kill or be killed. As Santiago reflects when he watches the weary warbler fly toward shore, where it will inevitably meet the hawk, the world is filled with predators, and no living thing can escape the inevitable struggle that will lead to its death. Santiago lives according to his own observation: man is not made for defeat . . . [a] man can be destroyed but not defeated. In Hemingways portrait of the world, death is inevitable, but the best men (and animals) will nonetheless refuse to give in to its power.


Accordingly, man and fish will struggle to the death, just as hungry sharks will lay waste to an old mans trophy catch. The novel suggests that it is possible to transcend this natural law. In fact, the very inevitability of destruction creates the terms that allow a worthy man or beast to transcend it. It is precisely through the effort to battle the inevitable that a man can prove himself. Indeed, a man can prove this determination over and over through the worthiness of the opponents he chooses to face. Santiago finds the marlin worthy of a fight, just as he once found the great negro of Cienfuegos worthy. His admiration for these opponents brings love and respect into an equation with death, as their destruction becomes a point of honor and bravery that confirms Santiagos heroic qualities. One might characterize the equation as the working out of the statement Because I love you, I have to kill you. Alternately, one might draw a parallel to the poet John Keats and his insistence that beauty can only be comprehended in the moment before death, as beauty bows to destruction. Santiago, though destroyed at the end of the novella, is never defeated. Instead, he emerges as a hero. Santiagos struggle does not enable him to change mans place in the world. Rather, it enables him to meet his most dignified destiny. Pride as the Source of Greatness & Determination Many parallels exist between Santiago and the classic heroes of the ancient world. In addition to exhibiting terrific strength, bravery, and moral certainty, those heroes usually possess a tragic flawa quality that, though admirable, leads to their eventual downfall. If pride is Santiagos fatal flaw, he is keenly aware of it. After sharks have destroyed the marlin, the old man apologizes again and again to his worthy opponent. He has ruined them both, he concedes, by sailing beyond the usual boundaries of fishermen. Indeed, his last word on the subject comes when he asks himself the reason for his undoing and decides, Nothing . . . I went out too far. While it is certainly true that Santiagos eighty-four-day run of bad luck is an affront to his pride as a masterful fisherman, and that his attempt to bear out his skills by sailing far into the gulf waters leads to disaster, Hemingway does not condemn his protagonist for being full of pride. On the contrary, Santiago stands as proof that pride motivates men to greatness. Because the old man acknowledges that he killed the mighty marlin largely out of pride, and because his capture of the marlin leads in turn to his heroic transcendence of defeat, pride becomes the source of Santiagos greatest strength. Without a ferocious sense of pride, that battle would never have been fought, or more likely, it would have been abandoned before the end. Santiagos pride also motivates his desire to transcend the destructive forces of nature. Throughout the novel, no matter how baleful his circumstances become, the old man exhibits an unflagging determination to catch the marlin and bring it to shore. When the first shark arrives, Santiagos resolve is mentioned twice in the space of just a few paragraphs. First we are told that the old man was full of resolution but he had little hope. Then, sentences later, the narrator says: He hit [the shark] without hope but with resolution. The old man meets every challenge with the same unwavering determination: he is willing to die in order to bring in the marlin, and he is willing to die in order to battle the feeding sharks. It is this conscious decision to act, to fight, to never give up that enables Santiago to avoid defeat. Although he returns to Havana without the trophy of his long battle, he returns with the knowledge that he has acquitted himself proudly and


manfully. Hemingway seems to suggest that victory is not a prerequisite for honor. Instead, glory depends upon one having the pride to see a struggle through to its end, regardless of the outcome. Even if the old man had returned with the marlin intact, his moment of glory, like the marlins meat, would have been short-lived. The glory and honor Santiago accrues comes not from his battle itself but from his pride and determination to fight. Motifs Crucifixion Imagery In order to suggest the profundity of the old mans sacrifice and the glory that derives from it, Hemingway purposefully likens Santiago to Christ, who, according to Christian theology, gave his life for the greater glory of humankind. Crucifixion imagery is the most noticeable way in which Hemingway creates the symbolic parallel between Santiago and Christ. When Santiagos palms are first cut by his fishing line, the reader cannot help but think of Christ suffering his stigmata. Later, when the sharks arrive, Hemingway portrays the old man as a crucified martyr, saying that he makes a noise similar to that of a man having nails driven through his hands. Furthermore, the image of the old man struggling up the hill with his mast across his shoulders recalls Christs march toward Calvary. Even the position in which Santiago collapses on his bedface down with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands upbrings to mind the image of Christ suffering on the cross. Hemingway employs these images in the final pages of the novella in order to link Santiago to Christ, who exemplified transcendence by turning loss into gain, defeat into triumph, and even death into renewed life. Life from Death Death is the unavoidable force in the novella, the one fact that no living creature can escape. But death, Hemingway suggests, is never an end in itself: in death there is always the possibility of the most vigorous life. The reader notes that as Santiago slays the marlin, not only is the old man reinvigorated by the battle, but the fish also comes alive with his death in him. Life, the possibility of renewal, necessarily follows on the heels of death. Whereas the marlins death hints at a type of physical reanimation, death leads to life in less literal ways at other points in the novella. The books crucifixion imagery emphasizes the cyclical connection between life and death, as does Santiagos battle with the marlin. His success at bringing the marlin in earns him the awed respect of the fishermen who once mocked him, and secures him the companionship of Manolin, the apprentice who will carry on Santiagos teachings long after the old man has died. The Lions on the Beach Santiago dreams his pleasant dream of the lions at play on the beaches of Africa three times. The first time is the night before he departs on his three-day fishing expedition, the second occurs when he sleeps on the boat for a few hours in the middle of his struggle with the marlin, and the third takes place at the very end of the book. In fact, the sober promise of the triumph and regeneration with which the novella closes is supported by the final image of the lions. Because Santiago associates the lions with his youth, the dream suggests the circular nature of life. Additionally, because Santiago imagines the lions, fierce predators, playing, his dream suggests a harmony between the opposing forceslife and death, love and hate, destruction and regenerationof nature.


Symbols The Marlin Magnificent and glorious, the marlin symbolizes the ideal opponent. In a world in which everything kills everything else in some way, Santiago feels genuinely lucky to find himself matched against a creature that brings out the best in him: his strength and courage, his love and respect. The Shovel-Nosed Sharks The shovel-nosed sharks are little more than moving appetites who thoughtlessly and gracelessly attack the marlin. As opponents for the old man, they stand in bold contrast to the marlin, which is worthy of Santiagos effort and strength. They symbolize and embody the destructive laws of the universe and attest to the fact that those laws can be transcended only when equals fight to the death. Because they are base predators, Santiago wins no glory from battling them. Short Summary There is an old fisherman, Santiago, in Cuba who has gone eighty-four days without a catch. He is "thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck,...and his hands had deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert" (10). Santiago's lack of success, though, does not destroy his spirit, as his "cheerful and undefeated" eyes show (10). He has a single friend, a boy named Manolin, who helped him during the first forty days of his dryspell. After forty days, though, Manolin's parents decide the old man is unlucky and order their son to join another boat. Despite this, though, the boy helps the old man to bring in his empty boat every day. Santiago tells Manolin that tomorrow he will go out far in the Gulf to fish. The two gather Santiago's things from his boat and go to the old man's house. His house is very simple with a bed, table, and chair on a dirt floor. The two friends speak for a while, then Manolin leaves briefly to get food. Santiago falls asleep. When Manolin returns, he wakes Santiago. The two eat the food the boy has brought. During the course of the meal, the boy realizes the squalor in which the old man lives and reminds himself to bring the old man a shirt, shoes, a jacket, and a blanket for the coming winter. Manolin and Santiago talk baseball for a while, and the boy then leaves to be woken in the morning by the old man. Santiago sleeps. Santiago dreams of Africa, where he traveled as a shipmate in his youth. "He lived along that coast now every night and in his dreams he head the surf roar and saw the native boats come riding through it....He dreamed of places now and lions on the beach" (24). The old man wakes and retrieves the boy from his house. The two take the old man's supplies from his shack to his boat and enjoy coffee at an early morning place that serves fisherman. The boy leaves to fetch the sardines for the old man. When he returns, he wishes the old man luck, and Santiago goes out to sea.


Santiago leaves shore early in the morning, before sunrise. "He knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the land behind and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean" (28). Soon, Santiago rows over the great well,' a sudden drop of seven hundred fathoms were shrimp, bait fish, and squid congregate. Moving along, Santiago spots flying fish and birds, expressing great sympathy for the latter. As he queries, "Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel...." (29). Santiago keeps pressing out, past the great well where he has been recently unsuccessful. Santiago sees a man-of-war bird overhead and notices that the bird has spied something in the water. The old man follows rows near the bird, and drops his own lines into the area, hoping to capture the fish the bird has seen. There is a large school of dolphin traveling fast, too fast for either the bird or Santiago to capture. Santiago moves on, hoping to catch a stray or perhaps even discover a marlin tracking the school. He catches a small tuna after not too long and then feels a bite on one of his deeper lines. The first bite is hard, and the stick to which the line is connected drops sharply. The next tug is more tentative, but Santiago knows exactly what it is. "One hundred fathoms down a marlin was eating the sardines that covered the point and the shank of the hook where the hand-forged hook projected from the head of the small tuna" (41). Encouraged by a bite at so deep a depth so far out in the Gulf, Santiago reasons that the fish much be very large. The marlin nibbles around the hook for some time, refusing to take the bait fully. Santiago speaks aloud, as if to cajole the fish into accepting the bait. He says, "Come on....Make another turn. Just smell them. Aren't they lovely? Eat them good now and then there is the tuna. Hard and cold and lovely. Don't be shy fish. Eat them" (42). After many false bites, the marlin finally takes the tuna and pulls out a great length of line. Santiago waits a bit for the marlin to swallow the hook and then pulls hard on the line to bring the marlin up to the surface. The fish is strong, though, and does not come up. Instead, he swims away, dragging the old man and his skiff along behind. Santiago wishes he had Manolin with him to help. As the sun goes down, the marlin continues on in the same direction, and Santiago loses sight of land altogether. Expressing his resolve, Santiago says, "Fish,...I'll stay with you until I am dead" (52). He expresses ambivalence over whether he wants the fish to jump, wanting to end the struggle as quickly as possible but worrying that the hook might slip out of the fish's mouth. Echoing his former resolve though with less certainty, Santiago says, "Fish,...I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends" (54). A small bird land on the boat, and while Santiago is speaking to the bird, the marlin lurches forward and pulls the old man down, cutting his hand. Lowering his hand to water to clean it, Santiago notices that the marlin has slowed down. He decides to eat a tuna he has caught in order to give him strength for his ordeal. As he is cutting the fish,


though, his left hand cramps. "What kind of hand is that," Santiago says, "Cramp then if you want. Make yourself into a claw. It will do you no good" (58). The old man eats the tuna, hoping it will renew his strength and help release his hand. Just then, the marlin comes out of the water quickly and descends into the water again. Santiago is amazed by its size, two feet longer than the skiff. He realizes that the marlin could destroy the boat if he wanted to and says, "...[T]hank God, they are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and more able" (63). Santiago says prayers to assuage his worried heart, and settles into the chase once again. As the sun sets, Santiago thinks back to triumphs of his past in order to give himself more confidence in the present. He remembers a great arm-wrestling match he had at a tavern in Casablanca. It had lasted a full day and a night, but Santiago, El Campeon (The Champion) as he was known then, eventually won. "He decided that he could beat anyone if he wanted to badly enough and he decided that it was bad for his right hand for fishing" (70). He tried to wrestle with his left hand but it was a traitor then as it had been now. Recalling his exhaustion, Santiago decides that he must sleep some if he is to kill the marlin. He cuts up the dolphin he has caught to prevent spoiling, and eats some of it before contriving a way to sleep. Santiago wraps the line around himself and leans against the bow to anchor himself, leaving his left hand on the rope to wake him if the marlin lurches. Soon, the old man is asleep, dreaming of a school of porpoises, his village house, and finally of the lions of his youth on the African beach. Santiago is awoken by the line rushing furiously through his right hand. The marlin leaps out of the water and it is all the old man can do to hold onto the line, now cutting his hand badly and dragging him down to the bottom of the skiff. Santiago finds his balance, though, and realizes that the marlin has filled the air sacks on his back and cannot go deep to die. The marlin will circle and then the endgame will begin. At sunrise, the marlin begins a large circle. Santiago holds the line strongly, pulling it in slowly as the marlin goes round. At the third turn, Santiago sees the fish and is amazed by its size. He readies the harpoon and pulls the line in more. The marlin tries desperately to pull away. Santiago, no longer able to speak for lack of water, thinks, "You are killing me, fish....But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills you" (92). This marlin continues to circle, coming closer and pulling out. At last it is next to the skiff, and Santiago drove his harpoon into the marlin's chest. "Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty" (94). It crashed into the sea, blinding Santiago with a shower of sea spray. With the glimpse of vision he had, Santiago saw the slain beast laying on its back, crimson blood disseminating into the azure water. Seeing his prize, Santiago says, "I am a tired old man. But I have killed this fish which is my brother and now I must do the slave work" (95).


Having killed the Marlin, Santiago lashes its body alongside his skiff. He pulls a line through the marlin's gills and out its mouth, keeping its head near the bow. "I want to see him, he thought, and to touch and to feel him. He is my fortune, he thought" (95). Having secured the marlin to the skiff, Santiago draws the sail and lets the trade wind push him toward the southwest. An hour after Santiago killed the marlin, a mako shark appears. It had followed the trail of blood the slain marlin left in its wake. As the shark approaches the boat, Santiago prepares his harpoon, hoping to kill the shark before it tears apart the marlin. "The shark's head was out of water and his back was coming out and the old man could hear the noise of skin and flesh ripping on the big fish when he rammed the harpoon down onto the shark's head" (102). The dead shark slowly sinks into the deep ocean water. Two hours later, two shovel-nosed sharks arrive at the skiff. After losing his harpoon to the mako, Santiago fastens his knife to the end of the oar and now wields this against the sharks. He kills the first shark easily, but while he does this, the other shark is ripping at the marlin underneath the boat. Santiago lets go of the sheet to swing broadside and reveal the shark underneath. After some struggle, he kills this shark as well. Santiago apologizes to the fish for the mutilation he has suffered. He admits, "I shouldn't have gone out so far, fish....Neither for you nor for me. I am sorry, fish" (110). Tired and losing hope, Santiago sits and waits for the next attacker, a single shovel-nosed shark. The old man succeeds in killing the fish but breaks his knife blade in the process. More sharks appear at sunset and Santiago only has a club with which to beat them away. He does not kill the sharks, but damages them enough to prevent their return. Santiago then looks forward to nightfall as he will be able to see the lights of Havana, guiding him back to land. He regrets not having cleaved off the marlin's sword to use as a weapon when he had the knife and apologizes again to the fish. At around ten o'clock, he sees the light of Havana and steers toward it. In the night, the sharks return. "[B]y midnight he fought and this time he knew the fight was useless. They came in a pack and he could only see the lines in the water their fins made and their phosphorescence as they threw themselves on the fish" (118). He clubs desperately at the fish, but the club was soon taken away by a shark. Santiago grabs the tiller and attacks the sharks until the tiller breaks. "That was the last shark of the pack that came. There was nothing more for them to eat" (119). Santiago "sailed lightly now and he had no thoughts nor any feelings of any kind" (119). He concentrates purely on steering homewards and ignored the sharks that came to gnaw on the marlin's bones. When he arrives at the harbor, everyone was asleep. Santiago steps out of the boat, carrying the mast back to his shack. "He started to climb again and at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder. He tried to get up. But it was too difficult and he sat there with the mast on his shoulder and looked at the road" (121). When he finally arose, he had to sit five times before reaching home. Arriving at his shack, Santiago collapsed on his bed and fell asleep.


Manolin arrives at the shack while Santiago is still asleep. The boy leaves quickly to get some coffee for Santiago, crying on his way to the Terrace. Manolin sees fisherman gathered around the skiff, measuring the marlin at eighteen feet long. When Manolin returns to the shack, Santiago is awake. The two speak for a while, and Manolin says, "Now we will fish together again," To which Santiago replies, "No. I am not lucky. I am not lucky anymore" (125). Manolin objects, "The hell with luck....I'll bring the luck with me" (125). Santiago acquiesces and Manolin leaves to fetch food and a shirt. That afternoon there are tourists on the Terrace. A female tourist sees the skeleton of the marlin moving in the tide. Not recognizing the skeleton, she asks the waiter what it is. He responds in broken English "eshark," thinking she wants to know what happened. She comments to her partner that she didn't know sharks had such beautiful tails. Meanwhile, back in Santiago's shack, the old man "was still sleeping on his face and the boy was sitting by him watching him. The old man was dreaming about lions" (127). Summary and Analysis of Pages 1-28 Part I: The Old Man and the Boy (through pg. 28) Summary: Please Note: The Old Man and the Sea is written as one text without breaks. Please refer to the page numbers and to the edition used to keep track of our divisions. There is an old fisherman, Santiago, in Cuba who has gone eighty-four days without a catch. He is "thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck,...and his hands had deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert" (10). Santiago's lack of success, though, does not destroy his spirit, and he has "cheerful and undefeated" eyes (10). He has a single friend, a boy named Manolin, who helped him during the first forty days of his dryspell. After forty days, though, Manolin's parents decide the old man is unlucky and order their son to join another boat. Despite this, though, the boy helps the old man to bring in his empty boat every day. After earning money on the other boat, Manolin asks Santiago if he can return to the old man's service. Santiago refuses the boy, telling him to mind his parents and stay with the successful boat. Manolin offers to fetch sardines for the old man, an offer which Santiago first refuses and then accepts. Hemingways tells us that "He, [Santiago], was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride" (14). Santiago tells Manolin that tomorrow he will go out far in the Gulf to fish. Manolin responds that he will try to keep his own ship near Santiago's so that he can help the old man pull in his catch. The two gather Santiago's things from his boat and go to the old man's house. His house is very simple with a bed, table, and chair on a dirt floor. There are also religious pictures and a tinted photograph on the wall, relics of his wife. At the


house the two rehearse a nightly ritual of speaking about fictitious rice and a net. Santiago then pulls out a paper and the two discuss baseball, speaking with great enthusiasm of Joe DiMaggio. Manolin leaves the house and Santiago falls asleep. When Manolin returns, he wakes Santiago. The two eat the food the boy has brought. During the course of the meal, the boy realizes the squalor in which the old man lives and reminds himself to bring the old man a shirt, shoes, a jacket, and a blanket for the coming winter. The two talk baseball again, focusing as usual on Joe DiMaggio. Speaking about great baseball stars, the boy calls the old man the greatest fisherman. Santiago accepts the compliment but denies the truth of Manolin's statement, remarking that he know better fisherman than himself. The boy then leaves to be woken in the morning by the old man. Santiago sleeps. Santiago dreams of Africa, where he traveled as a shipmate in his youth. "He lived along that coast now every night and in his dreams he head the surf roar and saw the native boats come riding through it....He dreamed of places now and lions on the beach" (24). The old man wakes and retrieves the boy from his house. The two take the old man's supplies from his shack to his boat and enjoy coffee at an early morning place that serves fisherman. The boy leaves to fetch the sardines for the old man. When he returns, he wishes the old man luck, and Santiago goes out to sea. Analysis "There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know." Ernest Hemingway, 1952 Despite Hemingway's express admonition against interpretation, The Old Man and the Sea has been a favorite subject of literary criticism throughout the half-century since it was published. As the enduring interest in the text might indicate, there are a variety of different readings of the novella. It has, for instance, been read as a Christian allegory, a Nietzschean parable of overcoming, a Freudian dream of Oedipal wish-fulfillment, and a Humanistic saga of triumph in the face of absurdity. In light of these radical disagreements in opinion, the following analysis will not attempt to present a fullyconsistent, authoritative interpretation of The Old Man and the Sea. Rather, it will elaborate a diversity of viewpoints, endeavoring to represent the novella's rich history in our modern literary consciousness. The first sentence of the book announces itself as Hemingway's: "He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish" (9). The words are plain, and the structure, two tightly-worded independent clauses conjoined by a simple conjunction, is ordinary, traits which characterize Hemingway's literary style. While in other works this economy of language is used to


convey the immediacy of experience, Hemingway's terseness is heightened here to the point of rendering much of the prose empty on one level and pregnant with meaning on the other; that is, the sentences tend to lose their particular connection to reality but at the same time attain a more general, symbolic character, much like the effect of poetry. Hemingway's style, then, helps explain why so many commentators view his novella more as a fable than as fiction. The use of the number forty in the next sentence is the first of many religious allusions in the novella. We are told that after forty daysthe length of time it took Christ to subdue Satan in the desertManolin's parents decided that "the old man was now and definitely salao, which is the worst form of unlucky" (9). This sentence proclaims one of the novel's themes, the heroic struggle against unchangeable fate. Indeed, the entire first paragraph emphasizes Santiago's apparent lack of success. For example, "It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty." And most powerfully, "The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat" (9). This type of descriptive degradation of Santiago continues with details of his old, worn body. Even his scars, legacies of past successes, are "old as erosions in a fishless desert" (10). All this changes suddenly, though, when Hemingway says masterfully, "Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated" (10). This draws attention to a dichotomy between two different types of success: outer, material success and inner, spiritual success. While Santiago clearly lacks the former, the import of this lack is eclipsed by his possession of the later. This triumph of indefatigable spirit over exhaustible material resources is another important theme of the novel. Also, Santiago's eye color foreshadows Hemingway's increasingly explicit likening of Santiago to the sea, suggesting an analogy between Santiago's indomitable spirit and the sea's boundless strength. The relationship between Santiago and Manolin can be summed up in one sentence: "The old man had taught the boy to fish and the boy loved him" (10). Manolin is Santiago's apprentice, but their relationship is not restricted to business alone. Manolin idolizes Santiagoas we are meant tobut the object of this idolization is not only the once great though presently failed fisherman; it is an idolization of ideals. This helps explain Manolin's unique, almost religious, devotion to the old man, underscored when Manolin begs Santiago's pardon for his not fishing with the old man anymore. Manolin says, "It was Papa made me leave. I am a boy and I must obey him," to which Santiago replies, "I know....It is quite normal. He hasn't much faith" (10). Despite the clear hierarchy of this teacher/student relationship, Santiago does stress his equality with the boy. When Manolin asks to buy the old man a beer, Santiago replies, "Why not?...Between fisherman" (11). And when Manolin asks to help Santiago with his fishing, Santiago replies, "You are already a man" (12). By demonstrating that Santiago has little more to teach the boy, this equality foreshadows the impending separation of the two friends, and also indicates that this will not be a story about a young boy learning from an old man, but a story of an old man learning the unique lessons of the autumn of life.


A similar type of unexpected equality comes out when Hemingway describes the various ways marlins and sharks are treated on shore. While this foreshadows the struggle between Santiago's marlin and the sharks, it is also equalizes the participants. Despite the battles at sea, the marlins and sharks are both butchered and used by humans on land; their antagonisms mean nothing on shore. Like the case of Santiago and Manolin, this equalization demonstrates the novella's thematic concern with the unity of natureincluding humanitya unity which ultimately helps succor the heroic victim of great tragedy. This unity is also brought about in the strange Hemingway-ian conjunction of the beautiful and the barbaric. In other works, this is represented by bullfighting or big game hunting; here it is represented by fishing. Notice Manolin's excited recollection: "I can remember the tail slapping and banging and the thwart breaking and the noise of the clubbing. I can remember you throwing me into the boat where the wet coiled lines were and feeling the whole boat shiver and the noise of your clubbing him like chopping a tree down and the sweet blood smell all over me" (12). This ecstatic, almost erotic, imagery stands in stark contrast to the careful art of fishing we see later in the novel. The fact the fishing requires both calm detachment and violent engagement (a kind of masculine flourish) further illustrates the unity of a world which both oppresses man and out of which the strength to resist that oppression comes. Hemingway also peppers the novella with numerous references to sight. We are told, for instance, that Santiago has uncannily good eyesight for a man of his age and experience. When Manolin notices this, Santiago replies simply, "I am a strange old man" (14). Given the previously mentioned analogy between Santiago's eyes and the sea, one suspects that his strangeness in this regard has something to do with his relationship to the sea. This connection, though, is somewhat problematic as it might suggest that Santiago would have success as a fisherman. Santiago's exact relation to the sea, though, will be taken up in later chapters. The simplicity of Santiago's house further develops our view of Santiago as materially unsuccessful. It is interesting, though, that Hemingway draws attention to the relics of Santiago's wife in his house, presenting an aspect of Santiago which is otherwise absent throughout the novel. This is significant because it suggests a certain completeness to Santiago's character which makes him more of an Everymanappropriate for an allegorybut mentioning it simply to remove it from the stage makes its absence even more noteworthy, and one might question whether the character of Santiago is too roughly drawn to allow the reader to fully identify with his story. Santiago's and Manolin's repetitive fiction of offering food and retrieving nets heightens both the pathos one feels toward Santiago and the sense of timelessness about the old mana timelessness which would serve any allegorical aspirations Hemingway has. The conversation about baseball which ensues after this role-playing is also significant, especially the valorizing references to the "great DiMaggio." Joe DiMaggio is the heroic


archetype for Santiago. Santiago's identification with DiMaggio"They say his father was a fisherman. Maybe he was poor as we are and would understand" (22)are especially relevant as DiMaggio, as Santiago, is at the time the story is set in the autumn of his career. (As Manolin says to Santiago, "Keep warm old man...remember we are in September" (18)). DiMaggio's struggle to play with a bone spur in his heel is a transparent reference to another heroic archetype, Achilles. These associations help elevate Santiago's actions to the level of the heroic. Santiago's rejoinder to Manolin's command to keep warm in September, "The month when the great fish come....Anyone can he a fisherman in May," is also important in that it foreshadows the novella's concern with the lessons learned near the end of one's life. Santiago, the character in Hemingway's novella, will acquire a great wisdom as Santiago, the fisherman, will catch the big fish. There is an interesting irony in the inversion of roles between the paternal tutor Santiago and the pupil Manolin. While Santiago took care of Manolin on the water by teaching him how to fish, Manolin takes care of Santiago on land by, for example, making sure the old man eats. When Santiago wants to fish without eating, Santiago assumes a parental tone and declares, "You'll not fish without eating while I'm alive." To which Santiago replies half-jokingly, "Then live a long time and take care of yourself" (19). This inversion sets up the ensuing narrative by making the old Santiago a youth again, ready to receive the wisdom of his quest. Santiago's almost childlike dream of playful lionssymbols of male strength and virilitybefore his voyage is also a gesture of Santiago's second youth. Besides this, though, the dream of lions on the coast of Africa draws attention to Santiago's personal history as a Spaniard from the Canary Islands. Santiago is the Spanish name for James, the patron saint of Spain. Like Santiago, St. James was a fisherman before he heeded Christ's call to be a fisher of men, and it was he who first brought Christianity to Spain. This parallel further casts a religious air around Santiago and his ensuing struggle. And as St. James was the special patron saint of the Spanish conquistadors who fought to bring their values to the New World, there is a suggestion that Santiago is bringing his (Hemingways?) heroic values to the New World as well. The nature of these values is not so clear, especially at this point in the book, but Hemingway does offer some clues. There is, as there always is with Hemingway, a premium placed on masculinity and the obligations of manhood. When Santiago wakes Manolin up to help him off, the tired boy says simply, "Que va....It is what a man must do" (26). As for what this manhood entails, perhaps the most illustrative thing Hemingway says so far is in his characterization of Santiago's humility. Hemingway says of Santiago, "He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride" (14). Humility and the acceptance of obligation, then, appear to be marks of manhood, a concept Hemingway will flesh out through the course of the novella.


Summary and Analysis of Pages 28-41 Part II: The Old Man and the Sea (28 - 41) Summary: Santiago leaves shore early in the morning, before sunrise. "He knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the land behind and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean" (28). Soon, Santiago rows over the great well,' a sudden drop of seven hundred fathoms where shrimp, bait fish, and squid congregate. Moving along, Santiago spots flying fish and birds, expressing great sympathy for the latter. As he queries, "Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel...." (29). We are told that while other fisherman, those who used buoys and motorboats, thought of the sea as a masculine competitor or enemy, Santaigo "always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favors, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them" (30). Santiago keeps pressing out, past the great well where he has been recently unsuccessful. He travels out where schools of bonito and albacore are, hoping there might be a big fish with them. Before light, Santiago casts his bait fish out but does not let them drift with the current. He wants to know exactly where his hooks are. Santiago says of this, "I keep them with precision. Only I have no luck anymore. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready" (32). Santiago sees a man-of-war bird overhead and notices that the bird has spied something in the water. The old man follows rows near the bird, and drops his own lines into the area, hoping to capture the fish the bird has seen. There is a large school of dolphin traveling fast, too fast for either the bird or Santiago to capture. Santiago moves on, hoping to catch a stray or perhaps even discover a marlin tracking the school. A Portuguese man-of-war approaches the boat and receives Santiago's ire. The old man recalls being stung by the man-of-war before and happily recalls watching their destruction. As he says, "The iridescent bubbles were beautiful. But they were the falsest things in the sea and the old man loved to see the big sea turtles eating them" (36). Having worked on a turtle boat for years, Santiago expresses his sympathy for turtles. He says "most people are heartless about turtles because a turtle's heart will beat for hours after he has been cut up and butchered....I have such a heart too and my hands and feet are like theirs" (37). Santiago notices the bird again, and suspects that he has found fish again. Soon after, the old man sees a tuna leap from the water and the bird diving to catch the bait fish stirred up by the tuna's jump. Santiago gently moves toward the school and soon feels a bite. He pulls the albacore in the boat and clubs him to death.


The old man soon realizes that he is talking to himself. "It was considered a virtue not to talk unnecessarily at sea and the old man had always considered it so and respected it. But now he said his thoughts aloud many times since there was no one that they could annoy" (39). Santiago recalls himself from such thinking, saying "Now is the time to think of only one thing. That which I was born for" (40). Soon, there, is a strong bite on one of the lines Santiago cast out earlier. Analysis Santiago's start into the sea is an excellent demonstration of Hemingway's descriptive art in its successive engagement of various senses. First, there is smell: "The old man knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the land behind and rowed out into the clean early morning smell of the ocean" (28). Next, there is sight: "He saw the phosphorescence of the Gulf weed in the water" (29). And lastly, there is hearing: "...[H]e heard the trembling sound as the flying fish left the water" (30). This use of different sensory imagery helps create a powerful description of the sea. As the novella's title might indicate, the sea is to play a very important role in the narrative, and Hemingway's exquisite introduction of the sea, recalling his descriptions of Santiago at the novella's opening in their sustained beauty, signals that importance. This introductory description is followed by the first of many instances in this section of apparent contradictions resolved into a greater unitya theme mentioned in the part I analysis. Santiago muses about the fragility of the birds he sees. He says, "Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel? She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel..." (29). This dichotomy in the sea's temperament is further illustrated by Santiago's gendered explanation of the sea's many faces. According to Santiago, people refer to the sea as a woman when they love her. When they view her as a enemy and rival, though, they refer to her as a man. Santiago "always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favors, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them" (30). Despite the chauvinism characteristic of Hemingway, this view of the ocean is important in that it indicates that while the sea may bring fortune or ruin, the sea is unitary. It is not sometimes one thing and sometimes another. The good and the bad, or what people perceive as the good and the bad, are all equal parts of this greater unity. In addition, this gendered view also suggests an alternative conception of unity, unity between the masculine and the feminine. As the descriptions of those who view the sea as a man are cast in a negative light, one might argue that the story is repudiation of a homosocial world of competitive masculinity. Man and man will always yield strife; man and woman, Santiago and the sea, complement each other and create a peaceable unity. The representation of the feminine, though, in so abstract a context problematizes this judgment, especially when the only flesh and blood woman we see in the story, the tourist at the very end, is supposed to upset us.


According to many commentators, the passage in which Santiago describes the care with which he casts his line is a transparent autobiographical reference: "...I keep them with precision. Only I have no more luck anymore. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready" (32). This novella was published after one of the worst disaster of Hemingway's literary career, Across the River and into the Trees. In a way, this passage is an excuse of that work. He had maintained the precision and exactitude of his previous works in the work. That this was not appreciated was a matter of luck or, one might assume, the caprice of literary tastes. In light of this interpretation, The Old Man and the Sea is frequently read as a symbolic fictionalization of Hemingway's own quest for his next great catch, his next great book. Santiago's statement that his eyes adjust to the sun during different parts of the day furnishes another example of the importance of sight and visual imagery in the novella. Santiago says, "All my life the early sun has hurt my eyes, he thought. Yet they are still good. In the evening I can look straight into it without getting the blackness. It has more force in the evening too. But in the morning it is just painful" (33). Given the likening of natural time cycles to human age, e.g. September as the autumn of life, it is plausible to read this passage as a statement of the edifying power of age. While it is difficult to find one's way in the morning of youth, this task becomes easier when done by those who have lived through the day into the evening of life. The Portuguese man-of-war can also be seen as a symbol of femininity, though one with decidedly negative implications. While the animal is called a man-of-war, the Spanish name which Santiago uses, agua mala, is feminine, and Santiago refers to it as a whore. He notes its beauty but describes the power of its sting and calls it the "falsest thing in the sea" (36), recalling recurring cultural associations between femininity and falsity. He even takes pleasure in the turtle's devouring the man-of-war and recollects fondly when stepped on their beached brethren. Perhaps this represents the negative aspect of femininity, a counterpoise to the positive imagery of the sea. In any case, it problematizes the novel's relation to gender and further calls into question the positivity of Hemingway's conception of the feminine. Hemingway complicates the matter further by identifying Santiago with turtles, those creatures which blindlyliterallydevour the feminine man-of-war. The main significance of this identification, however, is Santiago's likeness to the sea and the various creatures which inhabit its living waters. About the turtles, Santiago says "Most people are heartless about turtles because a turtle's heart will beat for hours after he has been cut up and butchered. But the old man thought, I have such a heart too and my feet and hands are like theirs" (37). This identification is important as it corroborates our understanding of Santiago's indomitability, the quality of undefeated-ness Hemingway noted early in the novella; with his body destroyed, his heart, his spirit, will fight on. This foreshadows the harrowing task Santiago is about to face with the marlin. Also, Hemingway tells us that Santiago eats turtle eggs for strength and drinks shark liver oil for health. In this way, he internalizes the characteristics of the sea and adopts them as his own.


The episode in which Santiago talks to himself on the ocean can be taken to corroborate the autobiographical interpretation of the novella. Santiago's speech is really Hemingway's thought; the old fisherman figuratively sails the author's unconscious, represented in Freudian symbolism by the sea, in an attempt to pull forth the great story from its inchoate depths. According to this view, everything takes place within Hemingway's mind, a self-referential allegory of the heroic artist"Now it is time to think of only one thing. That which I was born for" (40)searching for greatness in a world which seeks to deprive him of it. That the fishermen call all the fish tuna and only differentiate between them when they sell them is at once a statement of the theme of unity and a repudiation of the market. It is not ignorance the underlies this practice, but rather a simplifyingthough not simplisticappreciation of the unity of the sea. There are fish and there are fisherman; those who are caught and those who catch. This distillation of parts heightens the allegorical quality of the novel. The market forces the fisherman to forget this symbolic binary relationship and focus on differentiation, requiring a multiplication of the terms of difference. As the novella stakes out a position of privileging unity, this market-driven divisionism come across negatively. This makes sense in light of Hemingway's previously mentioned anger at the unappreciative literary audience for his previous effort. Summary and Analysis of Pages 41-63 Part III: (41 - 63) Summary: Santiago notices a bite on his hundred fathom deep line. The first bite is hard, and the stick to which the line is connected drops sharply. The next tug was more tentative, but Santiago knew exactly what it was. "One hundred fathoms down a marlin was eating the sardines that covered the point and the shank of the hook where the hand-forged hook projected from the head of the small tuna" (41). Encouraged by a bite at so deep a depth so far out in the Gulf, Santiago reasons that the fish much be very large. The marlin nibbles around the hook for some time, refusing to take the bait fully. Santiago speaks aloud, as if to cajole the fish into accepting the bait. He says, "Come on....Make another turn. Just smell them. Aren't they lovely? Eat them good now and then there is the tuna. Hard and cold and lovely. Don't be shy fish. Eat them" (42). After many false bites, the marlin finally takes the tuna and pulls out a great length of line. Santiago waits a bit for the marlin to swallow the hook and then pulls hard on the line to bring the marlin up to the surface. The fish is strong, though, and does not come up. Instead, he swims away, dragging the old man and his skiff along behind. Santiago wishes he had Manolin with him to help. Alone, though, he must let the fish take the line it wants or risk losing it. Eventually, the fish will tire itself out and die. "But four hours later the fish was still swimming steadily out to sea, towing the skiff, and the old man was still braced solidly with the line across his back" (45).


As the sun went down, the marlin continued on in the same direction, and Santiago lost sight of land altogether. The result is a curious stalemate. As Santiago says, "I can do nothing with him and he can do nothing with me....Not as long as he keeps this up" (47). He wishes for the boy again and muses that "no one should be alone in their old age....But it is unavoidable" (48). As if in response to this expression of loneliness, two porpoises come to the surface. Seeing the frolicking couple, Santiago remarks, "They are good....They play and make jokes and love one another. They are our brothers like the flying fish" (48). Santiago then remembers a female marlin he and Manolin caught. The male marlin had stayed beside the boat in despair, leaping in the air to see his mate in the boat before he disappeared into the deep ocean. It was the saddest thing Santiago had ever seen. Something then takes one of the baits behind Santiago, but he cuts the line order to avoid distraction from the marlin, wishing Manolin was there to watch the other lines. Expressing his resolve, Santiago says, "Fish,...I'll stay with you until I am dead" (52). He expresses ambivalence over whether he wants the fish to jump, wanting to end the struggle as quickly as possible but worrying that the hook might slip out of the fish's mouth. Echoing his former resolve though with less certainty, Santiago says, "Fish,...I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends" (54). A small bird land on the boat, and while Santiago is speaking to the bird, the marlin lurches forward and pulls the old man down, cutting his hand. Lowering his hand to water to clean it, Santiago notices that the marlin has slowed down. He decides to eat a tuna he has caught in order to give him strength for his ordeal. As he is cutting the fish, though, his left hand cramps. "What kind of hand is that," Santiago says, "Cramp then if you want. Make yourself into a claw. It will do you no good" (58). The old man eats the tuna, hoping it will renew his strength and help release his hand. Santiago considers his lonely condition. He is surrounded by a seemingly endless expanse of deep, dark water. Staring at the clouds, though, he sees a "flight of wild ducks etching themselves against the sky over water, then blurring, then etching again and he knew no man was ever alone on the sea" (61). Santiago soon focuses on his hand, though, and contemplates the humiliation of a cramp, an insurrection of one's own body against oneself. Just then, the marlin comes out of the water quickly and descends into the water again. Santiago is amazed by its size, two feet longer than the skiff. He realizes that the marlin could destroy the boat if he wanted to and says, "...[T]hank God, they are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and more able" (63). Santiago says prayers to assuage his worried heart and settles into the chase once again. Analysis This section begins Santiago's pursuit of the hooked marlin, and there is a good deal of simple description of the mechanics of catching such a fish. This helps create a sense of narrative authenticity, the clean conveyance of reality for which Hemingway assiduously


strove. Despite this focus on specific reality, this section of the novel can be seen to continue in the symbolic vein of the previous sections. For instance, Hemingway's description of the marlin's initial nibbling on the bait utilizes the same phrases again and again, e.g. "delicate pulling." While this may express the actual event perfectly, the repetition creates a distancing effect, pushing the prose more toward poetry and less towards realistic objectivity. As noted before, this heightens the allegorical quality of the narrative, which, at least explicitly, Hemingway denied. The unanimous response with which Santiago's thoughts of loneliness are met is another expression of the theme of unity in the novella. Santiago thinks to himself, "No one should be alone in their old age....But it is unavoidable" (48). As if in response to this, Hemingway introduces a pair of friendly dolphins in the very next paragraph. "They are good," says Santiago. "They make jokes and love on another. They are our brothers like the flying fish" (48). Then, as if on cue, Santiago begins to feel sorry for the marlin he has hooked. This pity for the great fish is intensified when Santiago recalls seeing the misery of a male marlin after he had caught its mate. Saddened deeply by this demonstration of devotion, Santiago and Manolin, with whom he was fishing, "begged her pardon and butchered her promptly" (50). Suddenly, Santiago is speaking of his actions as treachery,' a very odd word for a fisherman to use in describing his trade. The more he identifies with the sea and its creatures, the more despicable his actions become. Soon, though, Santiago's treachery is transformed from his act of killing to his having gone out further than most fisherman go. As Santiago says: The end of this passage begins another shift in tone, this time to the tragically heroic. The image of a struggle between two figures alone in the great beyond' certainly conjures an air of monumental conflict. This heroic angle is played up even more when Santiago ends these reflection by thinking, "Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman....But that was the thing I was born for" (50). Again, this emphasis on fate is typical of heroic stories, especially tragedies. Interestingly, one might also read this statement of fate as an expression of Santiago's own place in a symbolic story about the writing process itself. Santiago, a product of Hemingway's authorial imagination, was born to play the role he has in the narrative. In this way, the character's succumbing to fate is a comment on the creative process by which the author controls the destiny of his or her characters. Santiago's identification with and affection for the marlin increases the longer he is with the fish. In order to convince' the fish to be caught and to steel himself for his difficult task, Santiago says, "Fish,...I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you before this day ends" (54). Soon after, Santiago tells the bird that has landed on his boat that he cannot help because he is "with a friend" (55). And later, Santiago goes as far as to wish that he could feed the marlin, calling it his brother.


The cramping of Hemingway's left hand is interesting First, it creates tension by debilitating the protagonist even more, making failure more likely and so his triumph sweeter. Second, if we accept the autobiographical reading of the novella, it can be a symbol for writers block. This is importantly different from Hemingway's previous attempts to blame the readers for his recent lack of success. Now, suddenly, the fault is his own. But not fully. The hand reacts in spite of its possessor's intention, and Santiago speaks to his hand as if it operated independently of himself. This certainly makes the question of who is responsible for Hemingway's failures more complicated. In addition, Santiago's response to the cramp also affords us an opportunity to investigate Hemingway's conception of manhood. As Hemingway writes, " It is humiliating before others to have a diarrhea from ptomaine poisoning or to vomit from it. But a cramp, he thought of it as a calambre, humiliates oneself especially when one is alone" (62). A man's sense of humiliation does not depend exclusively on the presence (or imagined presence) of others who would look upon him with disgust or disdain. It rests on an internal standard of dignity, one which privileges above all control over one's self. It is not only inconvenient or frustrating that Santiago's hand cramped, it is, as Santiago says, "unworthy of it to be cramped" (64). This concern with worthiness is a important to the novel. Santiago's concerns about his own worthiness come to a head when he finally beholds the fish he is tracking. When Santiago finally catches a glimpse of the great marlin, he imagines he is in some sort of aristocratic feud, with each participant needing to demonstrate his prowess to the other before the fight. Not, though, to intimidate the opponent, but rather to demonstrate his own status, to show the other that he is a worthy antagonist. "I wonder why he jumped, the old man thought. He jumped almost as though to show me how big he was. I know now, anyway, he thought. I wish I could show him what sort of man I am. But then he would see the cramped hand" (64). This necessity to be seen as worthy in the eyes of a perceived equal or superior complicates the internal standard of manhood which Hemingway seems to elucidate elsewhere. From the time Santiago sees the fish to the end of the book, he seems obsessed with the idea of proving himself a worthy slayer of such a noble beast. This obsession, more often than not, is couched in self-ascriptions of inferiority. Santiago thanks God that marlins "are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and able" (63). And he thinks to himself, "I wish I was the fish....with everything he has against only my will and my intelligence" (64). The dissociation between intelligence on the one hand and nobility and ability on the other is very interesting, as it amounts to an exaltation of the natural and animalistic over the human, if we accept intelligence as the mark of humanity. This heightens the stakes of the struggle between the marlin and Santiago, and almost necessitates the long battle that ensues, for Santiago's eventually victory can only be seen as deserved if he has proved his worthiness and nobility through suffering. In the end, though, we might still ask, according to the novella's own terms, whether Santiago's victory over the fish amounted to a triumph for humanity or a miscarriage of justice, in which an ignoble human brute defeats the sea's paragon of nobility.


Summary and Analysis of Pages 63-95 Part IV: (63 - 95) Summary: Not knowing how much longer it will take to subdue the marlin, Santiago throws another line out to catch a fish for food. His cramped hand begins to relax, and in his exhaustion, Santiago thinks about Joe DiMaggio and his bone spur. Comparing a bone spur to the spurs of fighting cocks, Santiago concludes that "Man is not much beside the great birds and beast" (68). As the sun sets, Santiago thinks back to triumphs of his past in order to give himself more confidence in the present. He remembers a great arm-wrestling match he had at a tavern in Casablanca. It had lasted a full day and a night, but Santiago, El Campeon (The Champion) as he was known then, eventually won. "He decided that he could beat anyone if he wanted to badly enough and he decided that it was bad for his right hand for fishing" (70). He tried to wrestle with his left hand but it was a traitor then as it had been now. Santiago then catches a dolphin (the fish and not the mammal) for food and throws the line out again in case he needs more sustenance later. As the sun sets again, Santiago ties together two oars across the stern to create more drag. Looking up into the night sky, Santiago calls the stars his friend and says, "The fish is my friend too....I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars" (75). After considering this, Santiago begins to feel sorry for the fish again and concludes that the people who will buy his meat at the market will not be worthy to eat of such a noble beast. Recalling his exhaustion, Santiago decides that he must sleep some if he is to kill the marlin. He cuts up the dolphin he has caught to prevent spoiling, and eats some of it before contriving a way to sleep. Santiago wraps the line around him and leans against the bow to anchor himself, leaving his left hand on the rope to wake him if the marlin lurches. Soon, the old man is asleep, dreaming of a school of porpoises, his village house, and finally of the lions of his youth on the African beach. Santiago is awoken by the line rushing furiously through his right hand. The marlin leaps out of the water and it is all the old man can do to hold onto the line, now cutting his hand badly and dragging him down to the bottom of the skiff. Santiago finds his balance, though, and realizes that the marlin has filled the air sacks on his back and cannot go deep to die. The marlin will circle and then the endgame will begin. At sunrise, the marlin begins a large circle. Santiago holds the line strongly, pulling it in slowly as the marlin goes round. As Santiago says, "the strain will shorten his circle each time. Perhaps in an hour I will see him. Now I must convince him and then I must kill him" (87). Santiago continues pulling him in until the marlin catches the wire lead of the


line with his spear and regains some of the line. Eventually, the marlin clears the lead and Santiago pulls back the line he lost. At the third turn, Santiago sees the fish and is amazed by its size. He readies the harpoon and pulls the line in more. The marlin tries desperately to pull away. Santiago, no longer able to speak for lack of water, thinks, "You are killing me, fish....But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills you" (92). This marlin continues to circle, coming closer and pulling out. At last it is next to the skiff, and Santiago drives his harpoon into the marlin's chest. "Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty" (94). It crashed into the sea, blinding Santiago with a shower of sea spray. With the glimpse of vision he had, Santiago saw the slain beast laying on its back, crimson blood disseminating into the azure water. Seeing his prize, Santiago says, "I am a tired old man. But I have killed this fish which is my brother and now I must do the slave work" (95). Analysis In this section, Santiago continues his obsession with proving his worthiness to the hooked fish. He says, "I'll kill all his greatness and glory. Although it is unjust. But I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures" (66). Again, the fish is construed as a noble superior, the death of which would be unjust. The last sentence foreshadows the intense struggle to ensue. Also, because of the particularities of traditional English usage, the last sentence of the quote can be read two ways. A man can refer to a human being or a male. As Hemingway is usually understood to conflate the noblest qualities of human beings with the noblest qualities of the male sex, I think it is best to read the statement both ways at once. Making Santiago a representative for all humankind serves primarily to heighten the allegorical nature of the novel. In the next paragraph, Santiago makes some very interesting comments about the nature of worthiness, emphasizing its curiously fragile nature. Having told Manolin on several occasions that he was a strange old manstrangeness here is synonym for nobility, something which normal people apparently lackhe must now prove it; "the thousand times he had proved it mean nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it" (66). This is a difficult passage to interpret as it could be read as an expression of Santiago's particular psychology, as a matter of fact, he never thought about the past and always needed to prove himself as each new situation arose, or as a broader statement about nobility, one which holds that nobility is not a really a quality of character but of actions. Given the novella's aforementioned emphasis on allegorical generality, it seems safe to accept the latter reading. As with the necessity of having one's worthiness recognized (conferred?) by others, this alienation of nobility from the person to his deeds complicates Hemingway's internal standard of manhood.


In the course of these considerations, Santiago recalls the figure of Joe DiMaggio, identified at the beginning of the novella as a heroic paragon. "I must have confidence," thought Santiago, "and I must be worthy of the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel" (68). It is strange, though, that immediately after valorizing DiMaggio, Santiago immediately diminishes the baseball player's greatness by thinking that the pain of a bone spur could not be as bad as the pain of the spur of a fighting cock. He even concludes that "man is not much beside the great birds and beasts. Still I would rather be that beast down there in the darkness of the sea" (68). Again, Nature, and the marlin especially, is privileged above even the greatest exemplars of human greatness. In order to counteract these feelings of inferiority, Santiago recalls an almost mythic arm wrestling match he had in his youth. (I should note that these constant reiterations of man's inferiority do become tedious for the reader. Some have accused Hemingway of forsaking his famous art of omission' in this novella, beating the proverbial dead horse). Given that this match lasted a full day and night with blood flowing from beneath each participants' fingernails, it seems reasonable to read it as hyperbole, underscoring the fable-like quality of the novella. The theme of sight and the use of visual imagery appears many times in this section In wondering how the world looks in the darkness of the deep of ocean, Santiago remarks, "Once I could see quite well in the dark. Not in the absolute dark. But almost as a cat sees" (67). Also, when Santiago sees a plane flying overhead, he considers what the fish look like from such a height, in particular, how their rich colors, purple, green, and golden, change. This emphasis on sight and the visual field seems both to be an attempt by Hemingway to convey realistic experiencewe do belong to a visually-oriented cultureand to follow the age-old association between the sense of sight and the perception of a deeper reality. Santiago's uncanny vision tells the reader to give credence to the wisdom he uncovers through his adventure. At one point in the novel, Santiago's concern about worthiness takes on an added dimension. Instead of concerning himself solely with his own worthiness to kill the marlin, he now concerns himself with whether the people who will buy and eat the meat of the marlin will be worthy to do so. "How many people will he feed, he thought. But are they worthy to eat him? No, of course not. There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity" (75). This extension of unworthiness from the killer to consumer underscores how truly inferior Santiago thinks people are with respect to great beasts such as the marlin. If he truly believes this, though, why would he continue. He may prove his own worth by enduring his struggle, but there is no way for the people in the fish markets to prove themselves. Indeed, the exalting the nobility of his prey too much seems to exclude commercial fishing for marlins altogether. The theme of unity comes out in this section as well. Whereas this theme had previously taken the form of Santiago's identification with the sea and its creatures, Santiago expands the scope of his identification by including the celestial bodies as brothers. He claims fraternity with the stars on several occasions and justifies his need to sleep by


considering the behavior or the moon and sun and ocean. He says, "I am as clear as the stars that are my brothers. Still I must sleep. They sleep and the moon and the sun sleep and even the ocean sleeps sometimes on certain days when there is no current and a flat calm" (77). This broader identification underscores the unity of human life with all of nature. When he finally does fall asleep, Santiago has a very interesting dream. He dreamt of "a vast school of porpoises that stretched for eight or ten miles and it was in the time of their mating and they would leap high into the air and return into the same hole they had made in the water when they leaped" (81). The imagery here is obviously sexual, emphasizing the feminine character of the sea which Santiago spoke about in the first section. It is mating season and the porpoises, phallic symbols par excellence, go in and out of the same hole, yonic symbol par excellence, in the ocean, already known to us as feminine. Santiago's final confrontation with the fish after he wakes further develops Santiago's equality with the fish and the operative conception of manhood which Santiago works to uphold. Pulling in the circling fish exhausts Santiago, and the exasperated old fisherman exclaims, "You are killing me, fish....But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who" (92). As before, the marlin is Santiago's exemplar of nobility. It is very interesting that Santiago does not seem to care who kills whom. This, like so much of Santiago's relation to the fish, seems to recall an aristocratic code of honor in which dying by the hand of a noble opponent is as noble an end as defeating him. Indeed, it might even be a preferable end because one does not know under what conditions one will die. Santiago's obsession with valorizing his opponent seems to a far cry from our common idea that one must devalue or dehumanize that which we kill. To view a victim as an equal is supposed to render killing it a sin, and make oneself susceptible to death: the golden rule, if you don't want to die (and who does?), don't kill others. Santiago defies this reasoning, thought he accepts the consequences of its logic of equality. Instead of trying to degrade his object, he elevates it, accepting with it the equalizing proposition that his death is as worthy an outcome of the struggle as the his opponent's death. He is only worthy to kill the opponent if he is worthy to he killed by him: two sides of the same coin. That this relates to Santiago's (and we might suppose Hemingway's) conception of manhood is likely obvious. The connection between the fish's behavior and masculine behavior is brought out most powerfully when Santiago tells himself, "Keep your head clear and know how to suffer like a man. Or a fish...." (92). Comporting oneself with grace (or calmness as Santiago's quote in the previous paragraph indicates) in the face of pain is central to the novella's idea of manhood. Santiago himself says "pain does not matter to a man," and it is only by ignoring his pain that he can sustain the effort to capture the fish. Withstanding pain, then, handling it as a man, is the essence of proving himself worthy to catch the marlin.


Summary and Analysis of Pages 95-end Part V: (95 - end) Summary: Having killed the Marlin, Santiago lashes its body alongside his skiff. He pulls a line through the marlin's gills and out its mouth, keeping its head near the bow. "I want to see him, he thought, and to touch and to feel him. He is my fortune, he thought" (95). Having secured the marlin to the skiff, Santiago draws the sail and lets the trade wind push him toward the southwest. An hour after Santiago killed the marlin, a mako shark appears. It had followed the trail of blood the slain marlin left in its wake. As the shark approaches the boat, Santiago prepares his harpoon, hoping to kill the shark before it tears apart the marlin. "The shark's head was out of water and his back was coming out and the old man could hear the noise of skin and flesh ripping on the big fish when he rammed the harpoon down onto the shark's head" (102). The dead shark slowly sinks into the deep ocean water. The shark took forty pounds of flesh from the marlin and mutilated its perfect side. Santiago no longer liked to look at the fish; "when the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit" (103). He began to regret having caught the marlin at all, wishing that his adventure had been but a dream. Despite the challenges before him, though, Santiago concludes that "man is not made for defeat....A man can be destroyed but not defeated" (103). Soon Santiago considers whether his killing the fish was a sin. He first says that he killed the marlin to feed himself and others, and if this is a sin, then everything is a sin. But he had not only killed the marlin for food, "you, [Santiago], killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?" (105). Santiago soon ceases this line of thought to concentrate on getting back to shore. Two hours later, two shovel-nosed sharks arrive at the skiff. After losing his harpoon to the mako, Santiago fastens his knife to the end of the oar and now wields this against the sharks. He kills the first shark easily, but while he does this, the other shark is ripping at the marlin underneath the boat. He lets go of the sheet to swing broadside and reveal the shark underneath. After some struggle, he kills this shark as well. Santiago apologizes to the fish for the mutilation he has suffered. He admits, "I shouldn't have gone out so far, fish....Neither for you nor for me. I am sorry, fish" (110). Tired and losing hope, Santiago sits and waits for the next attacker, a single shovel-nosed shark. The old man succeeds in killing the fish but breaks his knife blade in the process. More sharks appear at sunset and Santiago only has a club with which to beat them away. He does not kill the sharks, but damages them enough to prevent their return. Santiago


then looks forward to nightfall as he will be able to see the lights of Havana, guiding him back to land. He regrets not having cleaved off the marlin's sword to use as a weapon when he had the knife and apologizes again to the fish. At around ten o'clock, he sees the light of Havana and steers toward it. In the night, the sharks return. "[B]y midnight he fought and this time he knew the fight was useless. They came in a pack and he could only see the lines in the water their fins made and their phosphorescence as they threw themselves on the fish" (118). He clubs desperately at the fish, but the club was soon taken away by a shark. Santiago grabs the tiller and attacks the sharks until the tiller breaks. "That was the last shark of the pack that came. There was nothing more for them to eat" (119). Santiago "sailed lightly now and he had no thoughts nor any feelings of any kind" (119). He concentrates purely on steering homewards and ignored the sharks that came to gnaw on the marlin's bones. When he arrives at the harbor, everyone was asleep. Santiago steps out of the boat, carrying the mast back to his shack. "He started to climb again and at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder. He tried to get up. But it was too difficult and he sat there with the mast on his shoulder and looked at the road" (121). When he finally arose, he had to sit five times before reaching home. Arriving at his shack, Santiago collapsed on his bed and fell asleep. Manolin arrives at the shack while Santiago is still asleep. The boy leaves quickly to get some coffee for Santiago, crying on his way to the Terrace. Manolin sees fisherman gathered around the skiff, measuring the marlin at eighteen feet long. When Manolin returns to the shack, Santiago is awake. The two speak for a while, and Manolin says, "Now we will fish together again," To which Santiago replies, "No. I am not lucky. I am not lucky anymore" (125). Manolin objects, "The hell with luck....I'll bring the luck with me" (125). Santiago acquiesces and Manolin leaves to fetch food and a shirt. That afternoon there are tourists on the Terrace. A female tourist sees the skeleton of the marlin moving in the tide. Not recognizing the skeleton, she asks the waiter what it is. He responds in broken English "eshark," thinking she wants to know what happened. She comments to her partner that she didn't know sharks had such beautiful tails. Meanwhile, back in Santiago's shack, the old man "was still sleeping on his face and the boy was sitting by him watching him. The old man was dreaming about lions" (127). Analysis This last section of the novella constitutes the tortuous denouement of the plot. Caught out far at sea with a dead, bleeding marlin lashed to the side of his boat, Santiago is asking for trouble and trouble he receives. Everything he has worked so hard for slowly but surely disintegrates, until he arrives back on land in worse condition than he left. Triumph over crushing adversity is the heart of heroism, and in order for Santiago the fisherman to be a heroic emblem for humankind, his tribulations must be monumental. Triumph, though, is not final, as Santiago's successful slaying of the marlin shows, else there would be no reason to include the final 30 pages of the book. Hemingway vision of


heroism is Sisyphean, requiring continuous labor for quintessentially ephemeral ends. What the hero does is to face adversity with dignity and grace, hence Hemingway's NeoStoic emphasis on self-control and the other facets of his idea of manhood. What we achieve or fail at externally is not as significant to heroism as the comporting ourselves with inner nobility. As Santiago says, "[M]an is not made for defeat....A man can be destroyed but not defeated" (103). Hemingway accentuates Santiago's personal destruction by reiterating his connection with the marlin he has caught. Soon after he has secured the marlin to the boat and hoisted his sail, he becomes somewhat delirious, questioning if it is he who is bringing in the marlin or vice versa. His language is very telling. "...[I]f the fish were in the skiff, with all dignity gone, there would be no question....But they were sailing together lashed side by side" (99). Even in death, then, the fish has not lost his dignity. He is side by side' with Santiago, a partner in return. This identification is highlighted after the first shark attack when Hemingway tells us that Santiago "did not like to look at the fish anymore since he had been mutilated. When the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit" (103). The more the marlin is devoured, the less strength Santiago has until, when the marlin is simply a bare skeleton, Santiago "had no thoughts or feelings of any kind" (119). The sharks are interesting creatures. They are widely read as embodiments of literary critics, tearing apart the Santiago's (Hemingway's) catch (book). While this may have some credence, I think the sharks are better read as representations of the negative, destructive aspect of the sea and, more generally, human existence. As we have seen, the theme of unity is very important in the novel, but this unity does not only encompass friendly or innocuous aspects of the whole. While he battles against them, the sharks are no less creatures of the sea, brothers if you will, than the friendly porpoises Santiago encounters earlier in his expedition. This is brought out most strongly in the descriptions of the mako, the first shark Santiago encounters. "He was a very big Mako shark built to swim as fast as the fastest fish in the sea and everything about him was beautiful except his jaws. His back was as blue as the sword fish's and his belly was silver and his hide was smooth and handsome" (100). Indeed, "he was built as a sword fish except for his huge jaws" (100). The mako is not a nasty or brutish beast, but noble in its own way, a predatory marlin. Reflecting on his victory over the mako, Santiago says the shark is "cruel and able and strong and intelligent. But I was more intelligent than he was. Perhaps not....Perhaps I was only better armed" (103). The other shovel-nosed sharks are not positively described"they were hateful sharks, bad smelling, scavengers as well as killersbut they are certainly part of the ocean environment. On a psychoanalytic reading of the novella, the sharks might be seen as representations of a guilty conscience. The son has killed the father, the marlin, to possess the mother, the ocean, and now suffers for his transgression, an inversion of Orestes whom the Furies pursued for killing his mother.


Santiago's discussion of sin is very significant in a novella about man's resistance against fate. He wonders if it was a sin for him to kill the marlin. "I suppose it was even though I did it to keep alive and feed many people. But then everything is a sin" (105). Santiago attempts to assuage this doubt by recalling that he was "born to be a fisherman as the fish was born to be a fish" (106) Ignoring the invalid inference made in the first quoteif killing X for reason Y is a sin, it does not hold that all actions performed for reason Y are sinsthis is an important point. According to this reasoning, Santiago is fated to sin and, presumably, to suffer for it. This seems to express Hemingway's belief that human existence is characterized by constant suffering, not because of some avoidable transgression, but because that's just the way it is. Thinking more, Santiago reasons that he did not only kill the marlin for food. Speaking to himself, he says, "You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?" (105). Adding to his guilt about killing the marlin, Santiago then recalls his enjoyment of killing the mako. As noted earlier, the mako is not a unconditionally wicked creature. As Santiago says to himself, "He lives on the live fish as you do. He is not a scavenger nor just a moving appetite as some sharks are. He is beautiful and noble and knows no fear of anything." Why then could he enjoy this killing and not the marlin's? Santiago offers two short responses, though neither one really answers the question: "I killed him in self-defense....And I killed him well" (107). The second response seems to more significant, but this would mean that killing the marlin was not a sin since he killed it well too. This suggests Santiago's sin, if it exists, must be interpreted differently. Throughout this final section, Santiago repeatedly apologizes to the marlin in a way that provides another way to read Santiago's sin. He says, "Half fish....Fish that you were. I am sorry that I went out so far. I ruined us both" (115). According to this and similar passages ("And what beat you, he thought. Nothing, I went out too far (120)), Santiago's transgression is no longer his killing the fish, but going out too far in the ocean, "beyond all people in the world" (50). While the former sin helped account for the inescapable misery of the human condition, the latter focuses instead on escapable misery brought about by intentional action. Santiago chose to go out so far; he did not need to do so, but in doing so he must surrender his prize, the marlin, to the jealous sea. This understanding of Santiago's sin is strange because it seems to separate man from nature in a way which contradicts the rest of the novella. Going out too far is an affront against nature similar to the hubristic folly of Greek tragedy; he has courted disaster through his own pride. Nowhere previously in the novel was this apparent, though. The sea seemed to welcome him, providing him company and food for his expedition. There was no resistance from nature to his activities, except perhaps the sharks, but these were never made to be nature's avengers. This reading of Santiago's sin thus seems very problematic. After Santiago sees the two sand sharks approaching, he says "Ay," a word which Hemingway describes as "just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling


the nail go through his hands and into the woods" (107). This the first, explicit identification of Santiago with Christ. The second identification is near the end of the novella when Santiago carries the mast to his shack on his shoulder, falling several timesrecalling the stations of the crossonly to collapse on his bed to sleep "face down on the newspapers with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up"recalling the crucifixion (122). Making this analogy would certainly elevate Santiago's trials. But the allusions are so blatant and so out of place that they are only successful in drawing attention to Hemingway's narrative conceit, especially if we accept an autobiographical reading of the book. Besides, Santiago's story does not mirror Christ's except insofar as both men suffer greatly; the purpose of this suffering and each man's opponent differ radically. Santiago's discussion of luck after the second shovel-nosed shark attack is interesting dramatically, as it once foreshadows Santiago's misfortune and offers the slightest illusion of hope for the reader as the novella approaches its end. He wonders to himself, "Maybe I'll have the luck to bring the forward half in. I should have some luck. No....You violated your luck when you went too far outside" (116). This clearly foreshadows the loss of the entire marlin. Later, though, Santiago remarks that "Luck is a thing that comes in many forms and who can recognize her?" (117). This statement certainly suggests that luck may be with Santiago even if it is not apparent to him or to the reader. Of course, there is no luck for Santiago, but suggesting there might be makes Santiago's eventual misfortune more powerful. That Santiago completes the novel undefeated and still in possession of his dignity, is demonstrated by his conversation with Manolin. His first words to the boy are "They beat me. They truly beat me," referring to the sharks (124). Immediately, though, he moves to mundane matters such as what to do with the head of the marlin and what Manolin has caught in his absence. When Santiago refuses to fish with Manolin because of his own lack of luck, the boy says he will bring the luck. Soon, Santiago is talking about how to make a new killing lance in preparation of their next voyage. Finally, in the last sentence of the novel, we are told that "the old man was dreaming of lions," the same symbols of strength and youth which he enjoyed before his voyage (127). True to Hemingway's formula for heroism, Santiago, for all this trials and tribulations, remains the same unsuccessful but undefeated soul as before. The female tourist at the end of the book represents the feminine incapacity to appreciate Santiago's masculine quest. For her, the marlin skeleton, a phallic symbol, is just "garbage waiting to go out to out with the tide" (127). She does not speak the waiter and Santiago's language, and so is ignorant of the old man's great deeds. Her misunderstanding is simple enough, but the fact that she is the only actual feminine character in the novel and that this episode appears on the last page gives it added significance.


Key Facts full title The Old Man and the Sea author Ernest Hemingway type of work Novella genre Parable; tragedy language English time and place written 1951, Cuba date of first publication 1952 publisher Scribners narrator The novella is narrated by an anonymous narrator. point of view Sometimes the narrator describes the characters and events objectively, that is, as they would appear to an outside observer. However, the narrator frequently provides details about Santiagos inner thoughts and dreams. tone Despite the narrators journalistic, matter-of-fact tone, his reverence for Santiago and his struggle is apparent. The text affirms its hero to a degree unusual even for Hemingway. tense Past setting (time) Late 1940s setting (place) A small fishing village near Havana, Cuba; the waters of the Gulf of Mexico protagonist Santiago major conflict For three days, Santiago struggles against the greatest fish of his long career. rising action After eighty-four successive days without catching a fish, Santiago promises his former assistant Manolin that he will go far out into the ocean. The marlin takes the bait, but Santiago is unable to reel him in, which leads to a three-day struggle between the fisherman and the fish. climax The marlin circles the skiff while Santiago slowly reels him in. Santiago nearly passes out from exhaustion but gathers enough strength to harpoon the marlin through the heart, causing him to lurch in an almost sexual climax of vitality before dying. falling action Santiago sails back to shore with the marlin tied to his boat. Sharks follow the marlins trail of blood and destroy it. Santiago arrives home toting only the fishs skeletal carcass. The village fishermen respect their formerly ridiculed peer, and Manolin pledges to return to fishing with Santiago. Santiago falls into a deep sleep and dreams of his lions. themes The honor in struggle, defeat, and death; pride as the source of greatness and determination motifs Crucifixion imagery; life from death; the lions on the beach symbols The marlin; the shovel-nosed sharks foreshadowing Santiagos insistence that he will sail out farther than ever before foreshadows his destruction; because the marlin is linked to Santiago, the marlins death foreshadows Santiagos own destruction by the sharks.


Critical Essays

Hemingways Style
Hemingways writing style owes much to his career as a journalist. His use of language so different from that of, say, his contemporary William Faulkneris immediately identifiable by most readers. Short words, straightforward sentence structures, vivid descriptions, and factual details combine to create an almost transparent medium for his engaging and realistic stories. Yet without calling attention to itself, the language also resonates with complex emotions and larger and larger meaningsdisplaying the writers skill in his use of such subtle techniques as sophisticated patterns; repeated images, allusions, and themes; repeated sounds, rhythms, words, and sentence structures; indirect revelation of historical fact; and blended narrative modes. In The Old Man and the Sea, nearly every word and phrase points to Hemingways Santiago-like dedication to craft and devotion to precision. Hemingway himself claimed that he wrote on the principle of the iceberg, meaning that seven-eighths of the story lay below the surface parts that show. While the writing in The Old Man and the Sea reflects Hemingways efforts to pare down language and convey as much as possible in as few words as possible, the novellas meanings resonate on a larger and larger scale. The storys brevity, ostensibly simple plot, and distance from much of this periods political affairs all lend the novella a simplistic quality that is as deceptive as it is endearing. For example, Hemingway conveys one of the novellas central themes by repeatedly yoking religious conviction with a belief in luck. These repeated images and allusions, juxtaposed so often, suggest more than an appropriate sketch of Cubas Catholic culture, affection for games of chance, and passion for baseball. Both religion and luck rely on ritual and have the power to engender the hope, dreams, faith, absorption, and resolution that ultimately take people beyond themselves. Supporting these repeated images and allusions is the repetition of certain rhythms and sentence structures that signal a kind of ritual or catechism in, for example, the conversations between Santiago and Manolin or the description of Santiagos precise actions in his fishing or in laying out the fish that will nourish him. Hemingway the journalist also relies on resonances from historical and factual references to enrich the story and advance its themesa technique used by T.S. Eliot and James Joyce. For example, the novellas many baseball references enabled critics such as C. Harold Hurley and Bickford Sylvester to determine the exact dates in September when the story takes place; to infer a great deal about Cubas cultural, economic, and social circumstances at the time; and to establish Manolins exact age. These references do more than provide background information, establish the storys cultural context, and advance the plot. These references also indirectly reveal the characters motivation, inform the dialogue, and uncover the storys integral thematic dimensions.


Hemingway also relies on blending narrative modes to achieve a shifting psychic distance. The story begins and ends with a third-person, omniscient narration that doesnt dip into Santiagos thoughts. The two parts of the story that take place on land benefit from this controlled reporting. For example, the poignancy of Santiagos circumstances at the storys beginning and the tragedy of his defeat at the storys end are not lost on readers, but instead resonate within them without melodrama because of this psychic distance. On the other hand, the part of the story that takes place at sea draws closer to Santiagos perspective by letting him talk to himself, by presenting a third-person narration of his thoughts, or by drifting subtly from either of these methods into a kind of interior monologue or limited stream of consciousness. This perspective is essential to the storys middle part at sea, which is an odyssey into the natural world, a coming to grips with the natural order, an acceptance of the inevitable cycle of life, and a redemption of the individuals existence. As the transition into Santiagos thoughts seems logical and intuitive because he is alone at sea, with no one to talk to, so does the transition back out again because he returns to land so deeply exhausted.

Themes in the Novella A commonplace among literary authorities is that a work of truly great literature invites reading on multiple levels or re-reading at various stages in the readers life. At each of these readings, the enduring work presumably yields extended interpretations and expanded meanings. Certainly, The Old Man and the Sea fits that description. The novella invites, even demands, reading on multiple levels. For example, readers can receive the novella as an engaging and realistic story of Santiago, the old man; Manolin, the young man who loves him; and Santiagos last and greatest battle with a giant marlin. Indeed, Hemingway himself insisted that the story was about a real man and a real fish. Critics have pointed to Hemingways earlier essay which mentions a presumably real fisherman who travels far out to sea in a small boat, catches a great fish, and then loses it to sharksas the seed from which the novella springs. However, the novella also clearly fits into the category of allegorya story with a surface meaning and one or more under-the-surface meanings; a narrative form so ancient and natural to the human mind as to be universal; a form found in pagan mythology, in both Testaments of the Bible, and in Classical to Post-Modern literature. Likewise, the characters become much more than themselves or even typesthey become archetypes (universal representations inherited from the collective consciousness of our ancestors and the fundamental facts of human existence). From this perspective, Santiago is mentor, spiritual father, old man, or old age; and Manolin is pupil, son, boy, or youth. Santiago is the great fisherman and Manolin his apprenticeboth dedicated to fishing as a way of life that they were born to and a calling that is spiritually enriching and part of the organic whole of the natural world. Santiago,


as the greatest of such fishermen and the embodiment of their philosophy, becomes a solitary human representative to the natural world. He accepts the inevitability of the natural order, in which all creatures are both predator and prey, but recognizes that all creatures also nourish one another. He accepts the natural cycle of human existence as part of that natural order, but finds within himself the imagination and inspiration to endure his greatest struggle and achieve the intangibles that can redeem his individual life so that even when destroyed he can remain undefeated. In living according to his own code of behavior, accepting the natural order and cycle of life, struggling and enduring and redeeming his individual existence through his lifes work, and then passing on to the next generation everything he values, Santiago becomes an everyman (an archetypal representation of the human condition). His story becomes everyones story and, as such, becomes genuinely uplifting. As the tourists who mistake the marlin for a shark still comprehend from its skeleton something of the great fishs grandeur, readers of different ages and levels of understanding can find something inspirational in this storyperhaps even more if they dip into its waters more than once.

Foundations of Behavior
Hemingways contention that what shows in The Old Man and the Sea is just the tip of the iceberg seems a particularly accurate assessment of the philosophical and socioeconomic foundations of his characters behavior. Among the most obvious are the disparate codes that divide the fishermen of Santiagos village into two groups (as critics such as Bickford Sylvester have pointed out). One group consists of fishermen like Santiago, who respect nature and see themselves as part of it. They rely on their skill and dedication to their craft to participate in natures eternal pattern. These fishermen are part of a traditional fishing culture that is insulated and isolated from the industrialized world, bereft of modern technology, and bound to extended families and tightly knit communities. These fishermen affectionately refer to the sea as la mar (the Spanish feminine) and recognize both its great beauty and its occasional cruelty. As this groups quintessential representative, Santiago performs each fishing task with the precision of a religious ritual and recognizes his kinship with all the living creatures who share a common fate and nourish one another in natures eternal cycle. The other group consists of younger, pragmatic fishermen, who exhibit a profound disregard for nature. They do not rely on their own skill, but on mechanisms (such as motorized boats and fishing lines floated by buoys) to ensure a steady income. These fishermen are part of the material progress of a fishing industry, increasingly dependent on the industrialized world for their livelihood, and much less bound to extended families and local communities. These fishermen refer to the sea as el mar (the Spanish masculine) and consider it a contestant or an enemy to be overcome. Their philosophy informs behavior that robs the natural world and the dedicated fishermen of intrinsic, less tangible values and spiritually satisfying meaning.


In the philosophical differences between these two groups, Hemingway never implies that Santiago disdains economic security. His poverty, his occasional thoughts about winning the lottery, his musings that the marlins delicate-tasting flesh would have brought a high price at the market, and so forth all indicate how keenly Santiago feels his own economic circumstances. On the contrary, these philosophical differences help underscore just how keenly Santiago craves the intangibles that give life meaning, provide spiritual enrichment, and ensure the redemption of the individuals existence. Closely connected to Santiagos recognition of the philosophical differences between the two groups are his Job-like musings. He wonders why sea birds are made so delicate when the ocean can be so cruel, which recalls Jobs question about why the innocent are made to suffer (as, of course, Santiago himself is made to suffer). He also wonders why those who let their fishing lines drift are more successful than he is, though he keeps his fishing lines precisely straight, recalling Jobs question about why the unworthy prosper. Santiago later answers both questions and more when he considers whether killing the marlin was a great sin. He eventually decides that he killed the marlin not for food, but because he is a fisherman. In his understanding resides the echo of Gods answer to Job. Essentially, Gods answer was that suffering is in the very nature of the universe. Just as enigmatic, Santiagos own understanding is that he did what he had to do, what he was born to do, and what his role in the eternal nature of things demands. That acceptance is both Gods and Santiagos answer to why the good are made to suffer (why the sea birds are made so delicate, why Santiago has gone for so long without a catch) and why the unworthy prosper (why those who let their fishing lines drift are more successful). As Hemingway makes clear, the pragmatic fishermen (like the scavenger sharks with whom theyre associated) inevitably must prevailat least for a time and in accordance with the natural order that makes all creatures both victors and victims. Yet the philosophy of the pragmatic fishermen also sows the seeds of their own economic destruction. So readers may well infer that Manolin will become much more than just the redeemer of Santiagos understanding of his personal experience at the storys end. Manolin and those who succeed him may well become the standard bearers of a philosophy that eventually must come into its own again, though in a new iteration, after a nearly universal pattern of socioeconomic change (familiar even today among developing nations) has carved itself on the rural Cuban landscape.


Introduction to the Short Stories The selection of stories in this volume is based on the stories found in high-school and college literature anthologies that ranked them as not only the best of Hemingways short story output but also as the ones taught most frequently in high-school and college American Literature courses, as well as in Introduction to Literature courses. The importance of including Hemingway in American Literature anthologies cannot be overestimated. Hemingways style and subject matter are archetypal of American writing. Hemingway broke new literary ground when he began publishing his short stories. Furthermore, not only was he an American writer, but he was not an ivory-tower esthete; he was a mans man. He hunted in grand style, deep-sea fished, covered both World War I and World War II for national news services, and was married as many times as Hollywood celebritiesand yet he found time to write novels and stories that feature men and women facing both death and emotional crises with grit, gumption, and grand tenacity. Hemingways heroes are characterized by their unflinching integrity. They do not compromise. They are vulnerable but are not defined by their vulnerability. Hemingways men and women are often defiant of what society expects of them: They eat with gusto, devour adventure, and have sexsimply and directly. In the beginning, Hemingway wrote about himself, and he would continue to write himself into all, or most, of his characters until his death. His first persona was Nick Adams, a young boy who accompanies a doctor to an American Indian camp and watches the doctor use a jackknife to slice into a womans abdomen and deliver a baby boy. At that early age, Nick vows never to die. Later, he defies death and the sanitythreatening wounds that he receives in Italy during World War I. He rotely repeats, in blind faith, the knee-bending exercises for his stiff, battle-scarred knee. Instinctively, he returns to the north woods of Michigan to heal his soul of the trauma of war. Hemingway himself suffered a bad knee wound during the war and returned to hunting and fishing in Michigans northern woods. In his more mature stories, such as The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Hemingway creates far more complex characters and situations for his characters. Snows is a stylistic tour de force, a perfect dovetailing of intense, invigorating, interior-monologue flashbacks as contrasts to sections of presenttime narratives, during which the main character, a writer named Harry, is slowly dying of gangrene. Symbolically, Harry is also rotting away because of the poisonous nature of his wifes money. As his life ebbs away, he realizes that his writing talent has been ebbing away for years, as surely as his life is, symbolized by the hyena and the buzzards who wait to feast on his carcass. A Clean, Well-Lighted Place and Hills Like White Elephants are examples of Hemingways most pared-down style, in which he removes himself from the role of


narrator. The stories are almost wholly composed of dialogue. One must engage him or herself in the narratives and ignite his or her imagination to understand the emotional core of each of these stories. Hemingway expects us to. Hemingways genius as an American original was evident long before he produced his novels that are today considered masterpieces of American literature. Both critics and readers have hailed his short stories as proof that a pure, true American literature was finally possible. American literature was no longer merely watered-down British reading fare. American literature had at last come into its own. Hemingway set the standardand the writers who came after him honored his achievement. Summary In Our Time is a collection of short stories and vignettes about the years before, during, and after World War I. The stories, which are titled, are separated by vignettes, each of which is a chapter. The first story, "On the Quai at Smyrna," introduces the war through a description of an evacuation. Then, "Indian Camp," "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife," "The End of Something," "The Three-Day Blow," "The Battler" and perhaps "A Very Short Story" all describe an encounter in the life of Nick Adams. Through these stories, Nick seems to be growing up. The vignettes are scenes from war, in which few characters are named. Chapter VI, after "The Battler," is about Nick in the war. After that, the vignettes turn away from stories of the war and the short stories take up a different subject. "A Soldier's Home" is about a soldier named Krebs returning to his hometown. "Mr. And Mrs. Elliot," "Cat in the Rain," and "Out of Season" are all about American couples living or vacationing in Europe. "Cross-Country Snow" is about two men (one of whom is named Nick) skiing together. "My Old Man" is about a jockey and his son. Then, "Big Two-Hearted River," parts I and II, are about the return of Nick Adams to his fishing ground, the forest around which and town of which have been burnt down. The vignettes that separate these stories vary in content but mostly deal with bullfighting. The final vignette, "L'Envoi," is a surreal story about a visit to a Greek king.

Character List Nick Adams: Nick Adams is the one character who continually reappears throughout In Our Time. In general he embodies the endless possibility of youth, and he has trouble with the complicated nature of relationships. As a small boy in Indian Camp, he relies on his father to inform him about the traumatic scene he witnesses, but he still has his own little world where he feels as if he will live forever. In The End of Something Nick rejects the safety and comfort of his girlfriend Marjorie, but he feels confusion and sadness from it. This same confusion over a relationship appears in The Three-Day Blow. In this story his sadness over the end of his relationship disappears when Bill suggests that there is still the danger of him getting back together with her, which also makes Nick feel as if nothing is final or absolute. In The Battler Nick is a traveler who


is alone in the world. In Cross-Country Snow, Nick wrestles with fears of fatherhood and aging. When his friend George says, Maybe well never go skiing again, he replies with Weve got to. Yet he also says, There isnt any good in promising. Nick has grown older here, but he retains some of the youthful optimism of his youth, even if he now understands the uncertainty inherent in the future. In the final two chapters, Nick returns as the sole character. He returns to the land, and Hemingway slows the narrative to show the peace Nick finds in his isolation from society. In this isolation Nick hunts, but he also shows great concern and tenderness towards nature. Nick's father: Nick Adams's father is also referred to as the doctor. In Indian Camp he helps deliver a baby and explains to Nick about childbirth and about death. In The Doctor and the Doctors Wife he nearly gets into a fight with several Indians whom he has hired to cut firewood. He controls his anger by returning to his house and cleaning his gun, and his wife shows concern about how he behaved towards Dick Boulton. He leaves the house and goes off with Nick. In The Three-Day Blow Nick talks about his father and admits that he has missed a lot in his life. Krebs: Krebs is the main character in Soldiers Home. He struggles in rejoining society after returning from WWI. He wants a smooth life without complications, which means he does not want a job. His mother worries very much about him, and his sisters still see him as a hero, but overall people are not interested in hearing his stories. He does not know how to deal with the women who have grown up since he left for the war. He does not care to make an effort to find a girl, although he would like one. His life attitude is to avoid anything that might have consequences. Bill: Bill is Nicks friend in The Three-Day Blow. He calls Nick "Wemedge" and urges them to get drunk. Bill thinks that Nick has done an excellent thing by getting rid of Marjorie and avoiding marriage. He clearly values independence. George: George is Nicks friend in Cross-Country Snow. He wonders whether he and Nick will ever go skiing together again. Mr. Elliot: Hubert Elliot is a poet and scholar who keeps himself pure until he marries. He goes to Europe with his wife Cornelia. His friends eventually leave him for another, younger, richer poet, but he finds happiness in the chateau he rents. Mrs. Elliot: Mrs. Elliot was born to an old Southern family. She works in a Boston tea shop and meets Hubert while working in it. They are friends before they become lovers. She also is a virgin until marriage. She wants desperately to have a baby but never does. After their marriage she cries often, and she ages rapidly. She has trouble traveling by boat. Her friend from the tea shop arrives in Europe at her request and takes over the job of copying Mr. Elliot's manuscripts. She also finds happiness at the Chateau. Peduzzi: Peduzzi is a former soldier in Out of Season who earns four lire by gardening. Then he gets drunk and offers his services as a fishing guide. He tends to


make a fool of himself thorugh the course of the day, but the young gentleman he works for is generous and gives him money for supplies that he probably will never need. Luz: Luz is a nurse in A Very Short Story. She falls in love with a soldier who is injured. When he returns to the front she misses him and sends him many letters. They agree to get married once the war is over and he has gotten a job in New York. She will not return to America with him until he has settled. Anyway, she falls in love with an Italian and never hears from the American soldier again. Marjorie: Marjorie is Nicks girlfriend in An End of Something. She fishes for trout with him, but she becomes upset when he does not want to be in a relationship with her. According to Bill she tells others that they are engaged. Helen: Helen is briefly mentioned in Cross-country Snow. She is carrying Nicks baby. Dick Boulton: Dick is an Indian who owes Nicks father money. When the doctor hires him to cut firewood for him, he accuses the doctor of stealing. Billy Tabeshaw: An overweight Indian who comes along with Dick Boulton. Eddy: Dick Boultons son. Bugs: A negro in The Battler who takes care of the former prizefighter Ad Francis. He met Ad in jail and enjoys traveling the countryside with him. He is very kind and generous to Nick. Ad Francis: A former prizefighter who has gone crazy from being in too many fights. Initially he is friendly to Nick, but when he asks for a knife and does not receive it, he tries to hurt Nick. Bugs knocks him out just in time. When he was still fighting he married his manager, who many people claimed was his sister, and this caused a public scandal. She left him, although she still sends money. American Couple: The American Couple stay in a hotel in Cat in the Rain. The wife likes the hotel owner, and she seems unhappy with her life. She wishes for a kitty, for her own silverware, and new clothes. She likes the way the hotel owner makes her feel important, something her husband does not do. He tells her to shut up when she annoys him. He lies in bed and reads the entire time. Young gentleman and his wife: This couple in Out of Season is in the middle of a disagreement. The husband calls his wife Tiny. She is clearly unhappy with more than just the fishing expedition, and the gentleman seems resigned to her unhappiness. Joe: Joe is the boy in My Old Man. He loves his father and remembers the days when he worked as a jockey. He loves horseracing and horses, but his exhilaration for the sport is subdued when his father takes part in a betting scam. When his father dies he is left with nothing.


Joe's father: Joes father is a jockey in My Old Man. He loves his son very much and takes his son everywhere with him. He tells him pretty much everything, too. When they leave Italy for Paris things start to go bad, and he eventually makes a lot of money in a betting scam. He uses this money to buy his own horse, but he soon dies in a race when he falls off the horse. He has a reputation as a crook. Villalta: Villalta is a strong Matador who skillfully kills a bull in the Chapter XII vignette. Maera: Maera appears in the Chapter XIII and XIV vignettes. He is killed by a bull. Boyle and Drevitts: Two policemen who crash into two Hungarian thieves and kill them. Major Themes Fatherhood: The idea of fatherhood emerges in several places throughout In Our Time. In Indian Camp, Nicks father teaches him about childbirth and tries to answer Nicks questions about death. The father figure is distanced from Nick, and many of the things he tells him do not make any sense to the young boy. The preoccupation with Nicks father shows how the complex relationship between father and son as well as how difficult true communication is between a man with so much experience and boy with so much innocence. This theme also arises in "My Old Man," although the narrator starts losing much of his youthful innocence towards the end of the story. In the vignette for Chapter XIII the narrator tries to persuade Luis to prepare for his bullfight, but he shrugs him off by saying, Youre not my father. With this statement comes the suggestion that fatherhood is about authority and control, and these not necessarily in a positive light. In Three-Day Blow Nick and George discuss their fathers, and although they repeat what they hear and see, their discussion centers upon issues they have to experience in this regard. The Problem of Relationships: One of Hemingways major concerns is failed marriage. Many of his stories deal with unhappy couples and the difficulties they face. His style, however, often omits concrete details about their problems but instead focuses on an indirect approach. It suggests that much like with war, Hemingway sees relationships as difficult to communicate about, and as a result the technique of omission acts as a way of capturing an issue that cannot be explained in a direct manner. In The End of Something Nick's and Marjories relationship ends abruptly, but even while they are still together they tend towards conflict. In Three-Day Blow Nick and George discuss the dangers of relationships. For George it threatens a mans very independence. Hemingway is often preoccupied with the conflict between married couples. The problems are never directly outlined for the


reader, but each couple's actions and words continually suggest unhappiness regarding their marriages. Uncertainty about the Future--Fate and Destiny: Fate separates men from boys. In Indian Camp as a young boy, Nick refuses to believe that he could die. Likewise in Three-Day Blow he struggles with the loss of Marjorie because he believes it to be a permanent and final loss. Yet when he holds his destiny in his own hands, when he sees the possibility of a way out--of getting back with Marjorie--he feels much better. Fate troubles youths, but as men grow older they learn to deal with fate as part of life. In Cross-Country Snow Nick and George discuss the future and the possibility of skiing again, and although Nick says they must do so, he refuses to promise. In doing so, he recognizes the uncertainty of the future. Youth: The youth of any nation always plays a part in its wars, and given that In Our Time concerns itself so frequently, if often indirectly, with war, it is not surprising that the theme of youthful innocence often arises in several stories. In Indian Camp the story ends on Nicks firm belief that he will never die. In The Battler some of Nicks youthful innocence is lost when the brakeman throws him off the train. He is frustrated and angered at being tricked by an adult, and he vows never to let it happen again. Throughout the book youth has a precarious and complex relationship with the future and with the process of aging. In Three-Day Blow Nick and Bill act childishly and horse around as they drink. They discuss their fathers and the tragedy of missed opportunity, yet they cannot truly understand what they are talking about without experiencing it. Later, In Cross Country Snow, Nick and George talk together on a ski trip, and there are only slight traces of Nicks youth left behind. His attitude has turned much more cynical, like when he notes the fruitlessness of making a promise to ski again in the future. In The Battler the boy narrator slowly learns about the cruel and cynical world, and his final thought is one that suggests a turn away from his youthful innocence. Death: Death plays a prominent role from the very beginning of In Our Time. In The Quai At Smyrna the English naval officer remembers the horrors of war; mothers would not give up their dead babies. In Indian Camp the father of the newborn baby commits suicide, presumably from the torture of listening to his wife's screams. Then on their way Nick asks his father about death, concluding in the end that he will never die. Death represents a dark side, but it always illuminates the youthful exuberance of Nick. Such is the complicated role of death here. Throughout the bullfighting vignettes, death is celebrated as a type of victory. Whenever a bull is killed the matador is hailed as the victor. When a matador is killed they just replace him with someone new. This is very similar to war, where soldiers die and then are replaced by more soldiers. When soldiers on one side die, the enemy claims it as a victory, even though both sides are part of the same race. Thus, Hemingway probes into the issue of death within the context of war, but he does so in a


very indirect style. In My Old Man," the narrators father dies, and some men who saw him as a crook now see the death as justice. Loss: The theme of loss arises continually, usually in conjunction with a preoccupation with the passage of time. In Three-Day Blow Nick fears the finality of his breakup with Marjorie, but when he realizes getting back together with her is a possibility he feels a renewed sense of hope. Yet there are many things lost that are not reversible, despite his feelings in that moment that nothing is lost forever. The old ruins of Horton Bay Mill provide one example, and the remnants of the town of Seney in Two Big Hearted River are another. These parts of the land are lost, much like Ad Francis's mental capacity in the Battler or the love between the unnamed soldier and Luz in Another Short Story. These are all small losses within the larger and more ultimate loss of life that attaches itself to the loss of life in many of the chapters and vignettes. There are numerous paths of death as well: war, suicide, execution, accident, and bullfighting. These moments represent the ultimate loss, but certainly not the only type of loss able to cause human pain and suffering. The Art of Omission: Critics have constantly discussed Hemingway's precise style, and especially in the case of In Our Time, they have noted that he discusses certain topics such as war or personal relationships in a very indirect manner. He often creates meaning by omitting crucial details. In the vignettes he discusses the profound effect of violence by focusing on the reaction of humans to violence. These characters are usually soldiers or matadors, but in many cases he avoids describing the violence directly. Instead his omission of violent details draws attention to other aspects of the scene. In the case of war and personal relationships, his omission of details often captures the complicated emotions these topics encompass. His omission of details does not try to define the way the characters deal with these conflicts, but instead represents the difficulty of communicating such experiences. Fishing and Skiing: Fishing and skiing activities dominate many of the stories. They represent an escape from the problems of society and of personal relationships. In The End of Something Nick and Marjorie are able to exist together as they fish for trout, but once they sit by the fire they end their relationship. In Cross-Country Snow skiing allows Nick and George to escape from the realities of their lives: George's education, and Nicks impending fatherhood. At George's suggestion that they may never go skiing again, Nick replies, Weve got to, as if their happiness depends upon it. In Out of Season, fishing serves as an escape for Peduzzi and for the gentlemen. They escape societys rules but also the realities of their own lives. Although they never end up fishing, Peduzzi uses the trip to make money and get liquor, while the gentlemen escape for a short time the argument with his wife. In the story Big Two Hearted River: Part II, fishing isolates Nick from society. He likes fishing on his own, much because he sees other fishers as a destructive


force in nature. The details of fishing dominate the chapter and provide Nick with a way of escaping the mechanics of society. Glossary of Terms Embankment: a raised riverbank intended to prevent flooding. Funicular: (adj) like a rope or cord; (n) a vehicle that uses a strong cable to go up and down steep mountains. Indelible: unable to be erased or removed. Minarets: high turrets on a building. Precipitate: to cause something to happen. Reminisce: to remember and think about in a positive way. Short Summary There are fifteen short stories, or chapters, in the body of In Our Time, and each one begins with a short vignette. Chapter One follows the story of Nick Adams as a young boy. His father brings him to an Indian camp and helps a woman give birth. Chapter Two tells how Nick Adams's father gets into an argument with an Indian named Dick Boulton. Chapter Three follows the story of Nick Adams and his girlfirend Marjorie and details the end of their relationship. In Chapter Four, Nick Adams and his friend Bill drink alcohol at Bill's house. Chapter Five tells how Nick gets thrown off of a train and meets an old prizefighter and his friend. In Chapter Six, an unnamed soldier falls in love with a nurse named Luz. Chapter Seven tells the story of Krebs, a former soldier, who has trouble adjusting to normal life after his time in the war is finished. Chapter Eight tells the story of an unnamed man traveling from Budapest to Switzerland, and it is told in the first person. Chapter Nine tells the story of a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Elliot.


In Chapter Ten, an American couple stays at a hotel in Italy. The wife seems very unhappy and wants a cat desperately. Chapter Eleven tells the story of Peduzzi, a former soldier who gets drunk and attempts to bring a foreign couple on a fishing expedition. In Chapter Twelve, Nick Adams and his friend George are on a cross-country skiing trip, and they stop shortly at an Inn. Chapter Thirteen is narrated in the first person, and the narrator recalls his childhood growing up with his dad, who was a jockey. The final two chapters tell the story of Nick Adams on a fishing expedition. Summary and Analysis of "On the Quai At Smyrna" The narrator retells a story that he heard from a senior officer who was at Smyrna. There is a recollection of screaming--they would not stop until they sent search lights over them. Interestingly, those who were screaming are never named. There also was a Turkish officer who approached in a rage after feeling insulted by one of his sailors. The Turkish officer accuses the gunners mate of the offense, though he apparently is very inoffensive (especially since he knows hardly any Turkish). After a conversation with this sailor, the senior officer finally sends him aboard the ship with instructions not to return to shore for the rest of the day. He becomes great friends with the Turkish officer after assuring him that the gunners mate will be severely dealt with on the ship, even though this is a lie. He remembers the dead babies as the worst part of his experience. Women would not give up their dead babies, often holding on to them for six days until finally they had to be taken away. He also describes an old woman who died and immediately went stiff and rigid. He told this to a doctor who claimed that such a thing was impossible. In the narrator's recollection of the conversation, the senior officer also talks about the harbor and things floating around in it. He says this was the only time in his life he dreamed. He also mentions that he does not mind nearly as much the women having babies as those holding dead ones. Finally he describes the Greeks as nice chaps. He described how they murdered their baggage animals when they evacuated: they broke the mules' forelegs and pushed them into the shallow water. Analysis This opening sketch approaches the horrors of war directly for the only time in the book. The narrator remembers a naval officers response to the death involved. The worst aspect of the scene is the women with dead babies. Death has turned into a feature of the war, something the soldiers must deal with as if it were a chore. The naval officer


describes cleaning up dead bodies as if they were trash. At the end animals are cruelly killed as part of the evacuation. Death invades all aspects of war, and it foreshadows the death, suffering, and loss, not only of the war, but also in the everyday processes of social conflict in the novel. Summary and Analysis of Chapter I Vignette A kitchen corporal gives a first-person account of an entire battery that is drunk at night on its way to the Champagne. The lieutenant continually exclaims how drunk he is, and he tells the narrator to put out the light. The narrator notes how ironic it is that his superior worries about light in the kitchen while they are fifty kilometers from the front. Indian Camp This first chapter describes two Indians rowing Nick Adams, his father, and Uncle George across a lake in the darkness. It is misty, and Nick lies in his father's arms during the journey. His father tells Nick that they are going to the Indian Camp to see a very sick woman. They reach the other side, and Uncle George gives the Indians cigars. The entire party walks to the Indian camp and enters the shanty where the sick woman lies in bed. She has been trying to have her baby for two days now, and all the old women have been trying to help her. She screams as Nick enters. In the upper bunk lies her husband with a foot very badly cut by an axe three days earlier. He smokes a pipe, and the room smells bad. Nick's father orders water boiled and explains the situation to Nick--how the woman screams from the pain of labor. He also explains to him that when babies are not born head first, they cause problems, so he now must operate on this woman. When he begins to operate, three Indians and Uncle George hold the woman still, but she manages to bite Uncle George on the arm. Nick holds the basin for his father. After it is finished he declines to watch his father stitch the woman up, and he admits his loss of interest. His father feels elated after the operation, talking with Uncle George about how extraordinary an operation he has just accomplished. When he attends to the father of the baby, however, he discovers that the man has cut his own throat from ear to ear with a razor and lies in his own pool of blood. The doctor (Nicks father) then orders Nick out of the shanty, but Nick has already gotten a glance. As they are leaving, the doctor apologizes to his son for putting hims\ through such a traumatic experience. Nick asks why the Indian killed himself and other things about suicide. As they travel back across the lake, the sun rises and Nick feels confident that he will never die. Analysis


In the Vignette, Hemingway portrays a war scene but draws attention to the personal experience of war rather than the violence between two militaries. Despite the close proximity of danger, the focus remains on the comically drunk lieutenant. One of the major themes of Indian Camp is fatherhood. Nicks father takes him to experience the birth of a baby, but his responsibility and decision to do so are complicated by the suicide of the mother's husband. It turns into a traumatic experience for Nick, and as they leave, his father apologizes. This circumstance calls up the issue of death for Nick, which is another major theme of the chapter. Nicks asks his father about suicide and about death, but despite his fathers answers, these issues do not take a real form for him. They are remote and unreal, and the chapter ends with Nick's optimistic attitude that he will never die. The ending of the chapter embodies the main arc of the chapter, the vibrant presence of youth even amidst such a traumatic experience as the one Nick just experienced. Despite his close proximity to death, he is able to believe that he will never die. This belief is more genuine than possibly any other belief in the book. Youth therefore, triumphs in this first chapter. Summary and Analysis of Chapter II Vignette A narrator describes the evacuation at Adrianople. Minarets now stick up out of the mud. On the Karagatch Road, carts are jammed for thirty miles; there seems to be neither end nor beginning. There are old men and women soaking wet in the rain, and they keep the cattle moving. The river Maritza is almost at the flooding point. Greek cavalry are also at the scene trying to maintain order. The carts hold women and children along with all types of belongings. A woman gives birth while a young girl holds a blanket over her and cries. The narrator gets scared just looking at it. The Doctor and the Doctors Wife Dick Boulton arrives from the Indian camp to cut logs for Nick's father. He brings his son Eddy and an Indian named Billy Tabeshaw. The narrator explains the history of the logs, and they are often lost in the lake as they are towed to the mill by the steamer Magic. These logs are often never recovered, and Nicks father takes advantage of the situation by hiring Indians to cut them up for fire wood. Dick is a half-breed, and many believe he is really a white man. He is a good worker once he begins. Dick and the other Indians begin work on the logs, but trouble starts when Dick casually accuses Nicks father of stealing these logs. Nicks father claims that it is just driftwood, but Dick points out a marking on the log. The doctor tells Dick to leave if he thinks they are stolen, and he becomes red in the face from his anger. Dick continues to call the logs stolen, and soon the doctor threatens to


knock his teeth in. But Dick, being a big man, does not back down. The confrontation ends with the doctor leaving the scene for the cottage. Soon the Indians leave. Inside the cottage the doctor and his wife converse, and he tells her briefly about the fight. His wife is a Christian Scientist, and she recites a religious saying to him. She keeps insisting on knowing what happened between the doctor and Dick, her concern lying with whether her husband got angry or angered the Indian man. The doctor cleans his gun and then goes for a walk. On his way he tells Nick that his mother wants to see him, but Nick wants to go with him, and his father relents. They go off to find black squirrels. Analysis The scene in the Vignette is drenched with rain, which is a frequent theme for Hemingway. The rain causes the ground to turn to mud, which gives the evacuation of Adrianople a proper mood. As women and children leave with their belongings the rain falls on them, as if the world were crying for them. Note the parallel with the crying of the little girl. In Chapter II, Dick Boulton, his son Eddy, and Billy Tabeshaw arrive on Nicks fathers property to cut up logs for him. The chapters primary focus is on the parallels between the whites and the Indians. The narrator notes that Dick is often confused for a white man. These logs were lost on the way to the mill years ago, and they thus represent the end of an era. The doctor assumes they are no longer needed for the mill, so he seems innocent in hiring Indians to make them into firewood. Dick makes a point about ownership's duration, showing that the wood still has an owner, but the doctor insists that he is not stealing. The sign of ownership persists: the Indian shows the doctor a White and McNally brand on the logs. Still, Dicks accusation that he is stealingm makes the doctor angry, because to him the logs should count as abandoned. Although Dick tries to soften the situation by calling him Doc, the doctor threatens to knock in the Indian's teeth. Dick shows calmness here, telling him that such a thing would never happen. Still, he is a big man who enjoys fights. The situation highlights Dick's and the doctor's differing reactions to the possibility of violence. Dick welcomes it, and even while the doctor initiates the threat, he is the one who backs off from it. Despite his intense anger, he is not willing to engage in violence. In contrast, Dick and his son Eddy laugh off the situation, not being troubled in the least by the tense moment or by the conflict with the doctor. It is clear, however, that the doctor remains angry. The simple sight of medical journals irritates him. This feeling also suggests a frustration with his place in life. While Dick is confident in his physical ability to defend himself and stick up for himself against another man, the doctor does not have the same physical ability or confidence. Also, the Indians' work represents their physical superiority over Nicks father; they earn money by using their sweat and muscles, while Nicks father is a doctor and relies more on his mind and on knowledge.


The scene with the doctors wife in the cottage draws a further parallel between these white people and the Indians. His wife is a Christian Scientist who has concerns about the way her husband treats Dick. She recites the line, Remember, that he who ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city. This quote represents the difference between Dick and the doctor in the doctor's favor, for the doctor controls his anger, while Dick is ready to fight in order to win the argument. The doctor is more submissive than Dick, and even when he leaves the house he apologizes for slamming the door after him. He leaves behind the shotgun, even though the ritual way he cleans the gun suggests that it has a soothing effect on him, almost as if it grants him a power that he did not have when confronting Dick. He chooses to leave it behind, however. In this cottage scene and then in the final scene with his son Nick, we see the importance he places on family. He makes a genuine effort to be a good husband and father. These efforts define him better than his ability to fight can do. Summary and Analysis of Chapter III Vignette This vignette is a first-person narrative set in the garden at Mons. The narrator describes watching a German climb over the wall; they shoot him as he puts his legs over. They then shoot three more. The End of Something The narrator describes the lumbering town of Hortons Bay. Once all the trees were used up, the town began to decline. It slowly became deserted. The narrator then tells us that just ten years after the start of this decline, only the foundations of the mill remain. Nick and Marjorie are fishing in a rowboat along the shore, and they see these foundations. Nick and Marjorie observe the ruins and discuss the town's past. The narrator follows their discussion of fishing. It is clear they both love to fish and are very experienced at it. After fishing, they make a fire with driftwood, and Marjorie senses that something is wrong with Nick. They sit on a blanket near the fire, and Marjorie prepares food from a basket. They eat in silence, although Nick claims not to be hungry. Marjorie seems very happy, while something bothers Nick. She complains and tells him not to be in a bad mood. She continues to ask what the matter is until finally he tells her that their relationship is not fun anymore. He says love is not fun anymore. She takes the boat and leaves, and afterward Nick lies by the fire for a long time. Bill arrives and briefly asks what happened, but Nick tells him to go away. Analysis


The Vignette describes a war scene where the narrator and his fellow soldiers are killing Germans. The killing in this scene is chilling in its matter-of-fact manner of narration, especially the last two sentences: We shot them. They all came just like that. Killing is turned into a routine. The narrator describes the first soldier they shot and killed, and then the last two sentences draw attention to how many individuals are lost in war. It is common to note that soldiers often lose their individuality in the military and especially in war. The End of Something primarily deals with what seems to be the ending stage of the relationship between Marjorie and Nick. As Nick and Marjorie observe the ruins of the lumbering town's mill while they fish for trout together, it seems that the desolation and loss of this old town foreshadow the end of their relationship. When Nick tells Marjorie that their relationship is no longer any fun, the scene captures Nicks unhappiness contrasted against Marjories happiness. Their dialogue reveals numerous problems in their relationship, but while the problems do not seem to actively bother Marjorie, they have a profound effect on Nick. After he tells her the relationship is over, she is the one who gets up and leaves. Nick sits for a long time by himself, and he notably wants even less human contact (despite fishing alone except for Marjorie and spending so much time alone before Bill arrives). He does not even want to talk to Bill. The scene has a certain understated quality. On the surface there is nothing wrong, but Hemingway leaves many unanswered questions, and these omissions suggest the complex nature of the relationship. Hemingway uses this technique throughout the book to treat war, violence, and personal relationships. He often has more to say about these indirectly, as if by omitting all the important information he suggests that these are things in life that are too complicated by emotions to truly describe in words. Summary and Analysis of Chapter IV Vignette This short vignette is told in the first person. The narrator describes a hot day when he and his men built a perfect barricade across a bridge. He describes how the enemy soldiers tried to get over it but could not. Instead, they were shot from forty yards away. The flank collapses, though, and they are forced to fall back. The Three-Day Blow This story continues to follow the character of Nick. He walks through an orchard as it begins to rain. The rain stops as he picks an apple. A cottage sits at the top of the hill. As Nick moves toward it, Bill comes out through the door and stands on the porch. He greets Nick by calling him Wemedge, and Nick greets him. They survey the landscape and discuss the storm briefly, and Nick asks if Bills father is at home.


They move inside, where a great fire roars. Bill offers Nick a drink, and they sit in front of the fire drinking. They talk about the whiskey for a while and then about baseball. They continue to drink and start discussing the fall storms, revealing that they think of the fall storm period as the best time of the year. They talk about the Cardinals and baseball again. They then start talking about the books they are reading and also about some of the authors. Nick says he would like to take Chesterton fishing at the "Voix." Bill says they should get drunk and Nick agrees, so they get more whisky. Nick asks about Bills father, and Bill says he can get a little wild sometimes. They both agree that he is a great guy. Then Nick says his father is all right; he claims never to have taken a drink. Bill suggests that their fathers' differing occupations are the reason. Nick becomes sad as he tells Bill that his father has missed a lot in life. Bill says his own father has had a tough time, and Nick concludes by saying, It all evens up. They sit and ponder what they have been talking about. Nick offers to get more wood for the fire in an effort to show that he holds his liquor well. He vows to himself that he will not be drunk before Bill. On the way back to the fire through the kitchen, he knocks over a pan. After carefully cleaning up the mess, he feels proud of himself for his practical behavior. On his return, both boys try to keep the conversation on a high plane even while they continue to drink. Nick gets water for the whisky and on the way back examines his face in a mirror. It does not seem to be his own. They drink to fishing and proclaim how much better fishing is than baseball. They then drink to the authors Chesterton and Walpole. At this point, Bill tells Nick that he thinks him very wise for breaking up with Marjorie. He says that otherwise they would now be married. He adds that marriage essentially ends a mans life. It is all right to fall for someone if it does not ruin you. Nick forgets about the liquor while Bill talks, and his mind leaves the scene. He feels sad about losing Marjorie and blames himself. He fears that he may never see her again. The have another drink while Bill continues to congratulate Nick on getting rid of Marjorie, while Nick talks about how suddenly it ended. Bill then says he will not talk about it again and concedes the danger of Nick starting it up again with Marjorie. This makes Nick feel much better, since before he had thought of the breakup as absolute and final. Suddenly he feels happy, and he decides that nothing is irrevocable--everything can be changed. He takes comfort in the knowledge that nothing is ever final, given the possibility of making things better or recovering what was lost. They decide to take their guns and look for Bills father. As they leave, they decide that there is no point in getting drunk. The wind outside blows all their worries away, even the Marge business that was troubling Nick. Analysis The vignette again describes a war scene where the narrator is involved with killing the enemy. It conveys the joy of success in battle, then the dismay at having to retreat from


the enemy. The act of killing, however, is extremely understated. Hemingway nearly omits any mention of violence despite the fact that in reality the scene is a deadly battle. This tendency towards omission reveals the way the narrator deals with the violence of war: he does not acknowledge it. He thus brilliantly captures the way many soldiers deal with violence and killing in war much like the author has here--not mentioning it or dealing with it in any concrete way. The Three-Day Blow captures the innocence and enthusiasm of youth. Nick and his friend Bill are happy getting drunk, but their discussion about alchohol reveals its dark side, mainly in alcoholism. When they need more to drink, Bill goes to check for an unopened bottle, noting that his dad says opening a new bottle is what makes a drunkard. Nick pretends not to be drunk, and he continually gives himself tests to prove his ability to hold his alcohol. Their dialogue and often silly behavior reveals their relative inexperience and innocence with alcohol. They discuss baseball and literature, but they eventually decide that fishing is superior to baseball. They imagine going fishing with the authors Chesterton and Walpole, and they make toasts to these authors as well. The serious moments in the chapter come when they discuss the relationships in their lives. The conversation takes on a respectful tone when they start talking about their fathers. They both agree that Bills father is a great man, although Bill admits he can get slightly crazy. When they start talking about Nicks father, they realize that the men are different, and Bill decides that the life of a doctor must be different from that of a painter. When Nick adds that his father has missed a lot in his life, the theme of loss contrasts with the optimism of youth expressed just before. Are his opportunities forever lost with the passage of time? The two boys are young and are able to talk about their fathers, but only the passage of time will give them the experience to truly understand. Thus we see their youth pitted against the age of their fathers. The chapter ends with a discussion of romantic relationships. Bill commends Nick for the way he broke off his relationship with Marjorie, but this makes Nick very depressed and sad. He blames himself for his loss. The big thing was that Marjorie was gone and that probably he would never see her again. In his youth Nick fears losing Marjorie, but the finality of this loss scares him the most. For Nick the possibility of regaining his possession of Marjorie, of getting back what he once had with her, makes him feel much better. When Bill tells him that there is still a danger of getting back together with her, he is flooded with new hope. The scene shows the importance of hope and possibility for Nick. He needs to have hope for the future, to feel as if everything lost has the prospect of being found again. Permanence of loss scares him. The scene captures the importance of possibility for youth, as well as how young people deal with relationships and with personal loss. Nick has trouble dealing with the loss of his relationship when he sees it as gone forever, but the possibility of its renewal allows him to deal with it much better.


Summary and Analysis of Chapter V Vignette A third-person narrator describes how the cabinet ministers were shot early one morning near a hospital. It rained hard, but it is not clear whether it rained during the execution. One of the ministers was so sick with typhoid that he could not stand up for the execution. When they tried to make him stand, he just sat down in a puddle. The other five ministers are standing. The sick minister has his head on his knees when the first volley is fired. The Battler This story begins with the narrator telling us that Nick stands up and that he is all right afer being thrown from a moving train. Nick feels his knee and notices that his pants are torn and his skin scraped. He has dirt all over him. He curses the brakemen and they way they ill-treated him. He rues having been tricked in such a juvenile manner. He rubs his eye, where a lump starts to appear. He walks along the rail tracks. The narrator next tells us that Nick jumped onto the train when it slowed outside of Walton Junction. Now he must be near Mancelona. It is nearly dark. Ahead he sees a bridge, and as he crosses it he sees a fire up the track. As he approaches he notices the fire is off to one side of the track and below the embankment. A man sits near it with his head in his hands. Nick walks into the firelight and greets the man. The man asks where Nick got the bruised eye, and Nick tells him that the brakeman threw him off the train. The man said he saw him earlier when the train passed, and Nick says he will get his revenge. The man has a misshapen face and only one ear. He offers Nick food and introduces himself as Ad. He claims to be crazy, and then when he tells Nick that he is Ad Francis, Nick does not believe him at first. Nick knows the famous boxer. Finally he believes the man is Ad. The man reveals to Nick the secret of his success: he has a heart that beats slow. Soon a negro man named Bugs arrives. Bugs has brought food and starts to cook it. He asks Nick if he is hungry and has him cut the bread. While Nick cuts the loaf, Ad asks to borrow Nicks knife, and Bugs immediately advises Nick to hold onto it. Ad remains silent as they eat. He soon begins asking angry questions of Nick and tells him he is not welcome. He threatens Nick and tells Nick to hit him. When Nick refuses, he tells him that he is going to give him a beating. The entire time the negro has circled around behind Ad, and at this moment he knocks him out with a blackjack. He then apologizes to Nick for Ads behavior and explains that Ad will not remember anything when he wakes up-knocking him out is the only way to stop him when he gets crazy. Too many boxing matches damaged his brain, and his marriage to his manager caused a public scandal that contributed to his mental instability. The negro met Ad in jail, and now they just move


around from place to place. Nick soon departs so that Bugs can wake Ad, and as he leaves he can hear them talking. Analysis The vignette describes a dreary execution scene and focuses on the way the victims meet their death. One of the ministers is sick with typhoid, and he represents a picture of complete despair in the face of death. The poignancy of this image accentuates the chilling and heartless nature of the killing. The Battler continues with more attention to youth, following Nick as he meets two wanderers along a railroad track. This chapter also engages the ways people deal with loss, in this case loss of pride, mental capacity, and love. The chapter opens with Nicks anger at being tossed from the train. It shows his frustration with his own childlike naivete after the conductor tricked him and then threw him off the train. His loss of pride at being thrown off the train also reveals a certain loss of his youth and innocence, now that he vows never to be tricked again like that. This vow introduces his cynicism towards people, his lack of trust in others. This distrust often characterizes the young and innocent. When he meets Ad Francis and Bugs, however, he trusts them and enjoys their company. Yet, Ad Francis ruins their dinner when he goes crazy and tries to beat Nick up. As Bugs explains to Nick, the former prizefighter had lost much of his mental capacity with all the blows to his head, so there are many moments where there is no reasoning with him. The loss of his wife also leads to his craziness. This loss is a preoccupation of the chapter, and it forces Nick to continue his journey. Another preoccupation of the chapter is Nicks reaction to violence. He gets very angry at being thrown from the train, and this helps him get along with Ad Francis initially. Ad thinks he is a tough kid. But when Ad tries to fight him, Nick shrinks from the challenge. He does not want to hit Ad and is confused by the threat. Finally, an act of violence ends this danger and restores order to the scene, leaving it to the other man to explain to Nick why it was necessary to knock out the former boxer. Summary and Analysis of Chapter VI Vignette Nick sits against the wall of the church where his fellow soldiers dragged him to keep him clear of the machine gun fire. He has been hit in the spine, and both legs stick out at weird angles. A man named Rinaldi lies face down against the wall. There are dead soldiers all around. But the narrator says that things are going well, presumably meaning the battle. Stretchers would be along shortly. Nick tries to speak to Rinaldi in Italian and in English, but Rinaldi lies still and breathes with trouble. The narrator claims that Rinaldi is a disappointing audience for Nick, and Nick turns away from him.


A Very Short Story The narrator writes that an unnamed man is carried up to a rooftop in Padua on a hot evening. When everyone else leaves, he and a woman named Luz sit together alone up there on his bed. Luz takes care of him at night for months. All the patients like Luz, and they all know of his closeness with Luz. Before the soldier returns to the front, he prays with Luz in the Duomo. They want to get married. Although Luz wrote him many letters when he was at the front, he did not receive them until the armistice. She writes about how much she loves him and misses him. After the war they agree, he should return home and get a job before they get married. Luz will not go back to New York with him until he has a good job. Traveling by train from Padua to Milan, they argue about why she will not return immediately with him. He returned to America by boat, and she went to Pordenone to work in a hospital. She soon fell in love with an Italian Major and wrote to the soldier in America that they only had a boy-girl love. She said she was sorry and hoped that he might forgive her someday. She said the Major intended to marry her. But he never does, and when she writes to America with this news, there is no reply. Not long after this, the soldier contracts gonorrhea from a sales girl in a taxicab while traveling through Lincoln Park. Analysis The vignette again treats Nicks response to the violence of war. He has been paralyzed, and near him is another wounded soldier named Rinaldi. All around them are dead soldiers. He tries talking to Rinaldi but is disappointed with Rinaldis response. A Very Short Story portrays a different aspect of war, the difficulties of the romantic relationship between an unnamed soldier and a nurse named Luz. They fall in love, and this love lasts through the war, but after the war it falls apart. The marriage they planned for so long never comes to fruition. When Luz informs her former lover by letter that she no longer desires to marry him, she calls their love a boy and girl affair. This chapter's approach to war does not concern the violence or the front lines of battle, but it shows a condition that has a profound impact on the lives of those involved. Summary and Analysis of Chapter VII Vignette This vignette describes a bombardment at Fossalta. An unnamed soldier lies very flat praying to Jesus the entire time the bombs are falling. He prays constantly for his safety and to continue living. He pleads with Jesus, saying that he loves him and believes in him. The next morning is hot and muggy while the narrator works on the trench. The next night the unnamed soldier is back at Mestre. He goes upstairs with a girl at the Villa Rossa. He does not tell her or anyone else about Jesus, which he had promised to do during the bombardment.


Soldier's Home The narration in this story is about a soldier named Krebs. He went to war after attending a Methodist college in Kansas. He enlists in the Marines in 1917 and returns from the Rhine in the summer of 1919. The narrator came home much too late for a hero's greeting. Krebs does not initially want to discuss his experiences, but when he finally does, no one wants to listen. The town does not show any interest in hearing what he has to say. He begins to make up stories just so people listen to him, but this situation makes him view the war and his experience with distaste. He only feels comfortable with other war veterans. During this period he generally sleeps late and hangs around the house or around town. He plays his clarinet often and reads. His sisters still see him as a hero, but while his mother tries to talk with him about the war, she often has trouble paying attention. His father remains neutral on the topic. The only aspect of the town that has changed is that the young girls have grown up. Krebs does not have the energy or courage to make an effort to meet any of them. He does like looking at them, however. He really does not want them as they are. They are too complicated, and he does not want to have to work to get a girl for himself. He tries to avoid anything with the possibility of consequences. The army has taught him he can live without a girl. He learned in the army that you only need a girl if you think about it, and sooner or later you always get one. He would like a girl if he could spend time with her without talking. With German and French girls there was not all this talking; it was a lot more simple. Overall he likes Germany much better and did not want to come home. The girls in his town are not in the same world as his. One morning his mother enters his bedroom and tells him his father would allow Krebs to take the car out in the evenings, something he had never been allowed to do. At breakfast his sister talks with him about baseball and asks him if he is her beau. She asks him if he loves her and then if he will go watch her play. After his sister Helen leaves, his mother sits down and talks with Krebs about his plans for the future. She is very worried about him. She tells him that God has work for everyone in His Kingdom and gets upset when Krebs says that he is not part of that Kingdom. She reveals that she prays for him constantly. She urges him to find a job. She asks him if he loves her and begins to cry when he says no. She prays for him before he leaves. The story ends with Krebs having thoughts about the future, wanting his life to go smoothly. He feels as though all hope of that kind of life is permanently gone. Analysis The vignette's context is the bombardment of Fossalta, but it is concerned with the utter panic and fear of an unnamed soldier. The focus is not on the violence of the actual battle but on the reaction to this violence. The soldier pleads to Jesus to keep him safe and makes numerous promises to Him. But the next night he does not keep any of his promises, showing hypocrisy and the unreasonable prayers of wartime. The vignette shows the overwhelming fear of the soldier during battle, as well as the way he deals with this fear.


Soldiers Home tells the story of a soldier named Krebs. Upon returning from war he has trouble adjusting to regular life in the community. This chapter is one of the most personal narratives of the impact of war, and it primarily shows the trouble he has in his everyday relationships. The people in his town are not interested in hearing his stories. Krebs has lost his ability to connect with the community and the people within it. The war has changed him. He does not want to make an effort to meet any girls, and he tells his mother that he does not love her. The chapter describes his loss of passion for life. He does not want to do anything with consequences. He also loses his desire to connect with other people or to rely on people for anything. This social loss is a result of his experience in the war. The army was what taught him that he does not need girls. He also lost part of his youth, becoming cynical. Hemingway never mentions death or violence, but Krebs's experience of them changes him forever and destroys his innocence. Summary and Analysis of Chapter VIII Vignette This vignette tells the story of two Hungarians breaking into a cigar store at two oclock in the morning. Two men named Drevitts and Boyle drive up from the Fifteenth Street police station and collide with the wagon the Hungarians are driving. Both Hungarians are killed, which frightens Drevitts, but Boyles reassures him that no one will care, since they are "crooks" and "wops." The Revolutionist The story takes place in 1919 on the railroads in Italy, where a man is traveling with a square of oilcloth from party headquarters that states he is a loyal comrade who suffered under the White in Budapest. It asks comrades to help him along his way. He loved Italy, but he did not like Mantegna. He reported to Bologna, and the first-person narrator says that he took up into Romagna. He believed in world revolution and thought Italy the starting point. From Romagna he heads for Switzerland. The narrator says the last time he heard of him, he was in jail near Sion. Analysis The vignette tells how two policeman react to the killing of two thieves. One of the policemen is very upset, while the other has no feelings of guilt. Seeing them as something less than human, it is easy for him to downplay their deaths. The two argue about the significance of their deaths on this basis. The Revolutionist tells the story of a man making his way to Switzerland. He goes unnamed, which suggests that he represents the usual revolutionary. He has no belongings but carries with him only a scrap of paper from party headquarters identifying


him; this is the remaining material source of his socialist identity. He also carries a belief in world revolution, except that he was wrong in his theory of how it would proceed. The story touches only briefly and vaguely on the nature of his suffering. Hemingway again employs a precise but very discreet style in portraying the impact of the war on this unidentified man. He seems very simple. The reader gets the idea that it would take a great deal to make this man feel suffering. Summary and Analysis of Chapter IX Vignette This is the first of several bullfighting vignettes. The first matador got a sword through his hand, and the second got the horns right through his belly. The bull rammed him against the wall until the horn came out. The last matador had to kill five bulls, and he barely succeeded with the last one because he was so tired. When it was over he threw up while the crowed cheered him on. Mr. and Mr. Elliot. The story follows a couple who try to have a baby. Mrs Elliot clearly does not enjoy sex. The narrator claims that like all southern women, Mrs. Elliot collapses rapidly from seasickness. Most people thought they would have a baby, but now she is forty years old. At the time of their marriage she seemed very young. They had been intimate for several weeks before marriage, and before that Mr. Elliot knew her for a long time from her tea shop. Huber Elliot was attending Harvard Law School at the time of his marriage. He was a very productive poet and was a virgin when he met Cornelia. He believed in keeping himself pure for the right women. Many girls had lost interest in him when they discovered his moral standards. Although Mrs. Elliot's first name is Cornelia, she taught Hubert to call her Calutina, which was her nickname in the South. Huberts mother is very distraught at his marriage. Cornelia also has kept herself pure. She loved hearing that he had kept himself pure for her. The night of their marriage, spent in a Boston hotel, was disappointing for both, and Hubert had trouble sleeping. They soon set sail for Europe. Although they wanted a baby very much, Cornelia was not able to try very often. They went to Paris and then to Dijon, and while Hubert wrote his poems Cornelia typed them for him. She cried a lot during this time. They returned to Paris and sat around for a few days at the Caf du Dome. They then rent a chateau in Torraine. They are surrounded by friends, many of whom admire Hubert's poetry. Cornelias girlfriend from the Boston tea shop arrives, and they cry together


often. Cornelia calls her Honey, and like Cornelia she comes from a very old Southern family. These three and a few of Huberts friends go to the chateau. By this time Hubert wants to publish his poems in a book. Soon all the friends return to Paris, where they attach themselves to a rich, young, unmarried poet. They follow him to a resort near Touville. The narrator claims that they are all very happy with this arrangement. The Elliots are forced to stay at the chateau in Torraine because he rented it for the entire summer. They still unsuccessfuly try to have a baby, and by this point the girlfriend is typing up most of the manuscripts. Hubert starts to drink white wine and to live separately in his own room. The two women sleep together in the bedroom and continue to enjoy their cries together. The narrator claims that these characters were also happy at that time. Analysis The vignette is the first in a series of bullfighting sketches. It portrays the crude violence of the bull ring. Both the matador and the bull are trying to survive. This sketch has a more explicit description of violence, but it still focuses primarily on the manner in which the second matador reacts to getting stabbed in the belly by the bull's horn, and the way the third matador responds to killing all five bulls. At the end he throws up from exhaustion as the crowd cheers him. The crowd clearly has no idea of the pain he has just endured to survive. Mr. And Mrs. Elliot considers the problems of marriage. The story starts by discussing the couples desire for a baby, but they have trouble doing so. The reason is never mentioned, although the narrator does hint that Mrs. Elliot often has trouble making the effort. These details suggest subtle problems between the couple, but Hemingway leaves them understated until later. Mrs. Elliot has trouble facing any real adversity; even sea travel makes her very ill. The marriage itself makes her age very suddenly, suggesting an added stress in her life. On the way to Europe they cannot sleep together because Mrs. Elliot is seasick. When they arrive at Dijon they are unhappy there as well. Mrs. Elliot cries a lot again, indicting her unhappiness with the marriage. Mr. Elliot has her copy his poems, and he is very severe about any mistakes. Soon one of her friends arrives from Boston, and they cry together often as a way for Mrs. Elliot to feel consoled. Both Mr. and Mrs. Elliot remain virgins until their marriage. They believe in staying pure for whomever they marry, but this idea does not seem to work out so well, because on their wedding night they end up disappointed. Mr. Elliots mother does not approve of the marriage, though she is happy when they go to live in Europe. This is another strained relationship in the story. Most of the other relationships do not seem healthy either. The friends who follow the couple to Europe stay with them for a short while, but they eventually leave and attach themselves to a young, rich poet who lives in a seaside resort. The narrator says that they


are happy there with the younger poet. Mr. and Mrs. Elliot and the friend from Boston remain at the chateau after their friends leave, and although the narrator claims they are happy, the claim seems false. The husband and wife no longer sleep in the same bed, and the marriage clearly has not worked. These failed relationships are at the center of the story, and the idea of happiness comes up at the end of the chapter. The marriage does not make either party happy. Thus they search for happiness from some other source. Summary and Analysis of Chapter X Vignette It is another bullfight. The narrator describes a horse being repeatedly slashed; a picador rides him as the horse's entrails hang out and blood pumps from between his legs. The horse is very wobbly, yet when the picador shakes his lance at the bull, the bull does not charge. Cat in the Rain The story begins with an American couple in a hotel. Their room faces the sea and a war monument. In good weather an artist paints in the public garden. The war monument attracts many Italians. It is raining. The wife stands at the window and looks out. She sees a cat in the rain and decides to go out and retrieve it. The husband briefly offers to do it for her, but she refuses. On her way out she passes the office of the hotel owner. He stands as she passes, and she greets him. She likes the hotel owner, his serious manner, his dignity--and especially the fact that he wants to serve her. She also likes his old face and big hands. She goes outside and continues thinking that she likes him. As she stands in the doorway, a maid comes up from behind and holds an umbrella over her. She assumes the hotel owner has sent it. The two go into the rain for the cat but cannot find it. The maid laughs when she hears what the American woman is seeking. On her way back past the office, she thinks that the hotel owner makes her feel very small and tight inside. The padrone also makes her feel very important, and she has a momentary feeling of supreme importance. Back in her room, she tells her husband how much she wants a kitten. She goes to the mirror and ponders growing her hair out. Her husband likes her current haircut. She continues to talk about the kitty that will sit in her lap and purr when she strokes it. She next tells her husband that she wants to eat at a table with her own silver and candles. She also wants spring to arrive and to have some new clothes. Her husband, clearly annoyed, tells her to shut up.


By this time darkness has arrived. She looks out the window in silence and then repeats her wish for a cat. Someone knocks on the door. The maid brings in the cat that was outside in the rain. She says the padrone has asked her to bring it. Analysis The vignette, again with a focus on bullfighting, describes vividly the violence against a horse, describing the entrails of the horse hanging out. The description of blood pumping from between the horses legs suggests the horses slowly ebbing life. The bull waits to charge, and the scene almost seems frozen in time. The presence of death dominates here, and killing the horse for the purpose of sport signifies a cruelty much like the killing of the baggage animals in On the Quai at Smyrna. The deaths of the soldiers in the earlier vignettes have been replaced by the deaths of players in a deadly game. Cat In the Rain examines another strained and unhappy marriage. The American couple stays at a hotel that faces a war monument, and once again it rains. The rain suggests dreariness. The wife looks out the window and sees a cat. She decides to get it, but it is unclear whether she feels pity for it or just wants to satisfy her own need for a cat. As she later reveals, she wants a kitty to hold in her lap and purr. The husband offers to get it, but she declines his offer. That is just as well, since he remains reading on the bed the entire story, apparently detached from his wife. She desperately wants attention, though, and she dreamily wants a lot of things. She likes the old hotel owner very much, too, for the way he treats her. She likes the attention, the way he wants to serve her. There are many things that she likes, and all these things suggest that something fundamental is missing in her marriage. The hotel owner constantly keeps taking care of her instead. He sends the maid to her with an umbrella, she thinks, so that she does not get wet in the rain, and then at the end of the story he sends the missing cat up to her room. He represents a kindness and understanding that the husband does not possess or simply does not wish to exhibit. The husband certainly seems bored and annoyed by his wife. When she talks about all the objects she desires, he tells her to shut up. The problems in their relationship seem to feed one another. For all the suggested unhappiness, Hemingway never directly discusses it. Instead we see and analyze it for ourselves. The spare details suggest the problem of communicating such complex issues, and the lack of direct reflection on the issue mirrors the fact that the husband and wife barely communicate together. They have lost their reverence for each other. Summary and Analysis of Chapter XI Vignette A crowd is shouting and throwing numerous objects into a bullfighting ring. The bull gets so tired that it collapses, and one of the cuadrilla kills him with the puntillo. Then the crowd flows over the barriers, two men pick him up, and another cuts off his pigtail. The


narrator then uses the first person and says that he later saw the little kid who ran away with the pigtail at a caf. He speaks with the boy, who tells him it has happened before. Then the narrator says that he is not a very good bullfighter. Out of Season A man named Peduzzi earns four lire from gardening and then takes the money to get drunk. He meets a young gentleman and speaks with him in a mysterious manner. The gentleman says he will return in a short time. He stays at the cantina to wait, and they trust him for three more drinks. He apparently has a job for the afternoon which he is very confident about. It is a perfect day for trout fishing, and we assume that Peduzzi plans to take the young gentleman on a fishing expedition. The young gentleman returns, and they decide that his wife should follow behind them with the fishing rods. On the way, however, Peduzzi wants her to move up so they can all walk together down the street of Cortina. He calls tenderly back to her, but she only responds after her husband shouts. As they walk through the main street everyone stares at them, and Peduzzi greets them all elaborately. They stop outside a store that sells liquor, and Peduzzi claims they need some Marsala. We learn that the wife does not understand anything he says, and she correctly guesses that he is drunk. Peduzzi asks for lire, but when the young gentleman gives it to him they realize the store is closed. They walk down the street to the Concordia. The young gentleman and his wife enter while Peduzzi stays outside. The young gentleman asks for the three Marsalas, explaining that one is for a vecchio. He goes outside to give it to Peduzzi but cannot find him. When he returns he decides to buy a quarter-litre of Marsala. The entire situation amuses the girl behind the counter. When the girl is gone looking for a bottle for the Marsala, the young gentleman apologizes to his wife since she feels rotten. The two are obviously in a disagreement about something. They finally leave, and Peduzzi offers to cary the rods. He explains that no one will bother them in Cortina, since he used to be a soldier and knows important people. It is illegal to fish, but he urges them not to worry. As they travel towards the river, Peduzzi points out a girl who he claims is his daughter, but the wife thinks he is pointing out his doctor. He talks constantly as they walk, speaking in two different dialects. The couple does not understand anything he says, and they argue about this expedition and the possibility of going to jail because of it. The wife wants to go, and her husband urges her to do so. She finally leaves, to the dismay of Peduzzi.


The two men finally settle down to fish. The young gentleman fears they might be caught by an official any minute. Peduzzi says that they must have piombo for lead, but the young gentleman did not bring piombo, so he decides they will fish tomorrow. Peduzzi is worried by this turn of events, and he wants to know what time in the morning they will go fishing. Soon the sun comes out, and they drink the Marsala together. Peduzzi rejoices in the wonderful day. He loves days like this one, and he looks forward to tomorrow. They head back to town after finishing their drink, and on the way Peduzzi requests money in return for getting all the necessary supplies for the next day's fishing. The young gentleman gives him money, and Peduzzi exults in the quality of his life. With enthusiasm he plans on meeting the young gentleman the next day, but the gentleman warns that he may not show up. Analysis The vignette treats violence again as part of a sport. Death is celebrated as victory, and the vignette suggests that this practice occurs at all times and in many areas of life. As the kid who runs away with the cuadrillos pigtail says, after all it has happened before like that. Out of Season tells the story of a former soldier who acts a guide for a foreign married couple and agrees to bring them on a fishing trip. Peduzzi does not have much money, and he wants to move up from earning money from gardening. But he is a drunk, and he primarily relies on the kindness of the foreign gentleman, who repeatedly gives him money for no real reason. As they make their way to the river to fish, Peduzzi comforts them about their expedition. Even though fishing is illegal, they should not worry, because as a former soldier, many people like him. In reality, though, he has very low standing in the town, and people do not seem to like him. The fishing trip gives him control and power, even if it is just a brief power over a foreign couple. He also makes money from such expeditions. Most of all, it is an escape from his ordinary station in life, offering him the chance to follow a different path. The couple clearly is in the midst of an argument as they make their way to the river. The woman is not very happy with the arrangement, and she challenges her husband to turn back. He leaps at this opportunity and tells her to return, which she does. It is another unhappy event in a another marriage. Finally at the river, Peduzzi and the gentleman relax in the sun and enjoy the liquor the gentleman has bought for all three of them. It affords the gentleman an escape from the strain of his marriage. Peduzzi and the couple are from completely different worlds, and the language barrier reinforces this fact. He talks constantly, but they do not understand anything he says. This situation parallels the fact that most people in his own community tend to ignore him. Going on this illegal fishing trip gives him a chance for attention--being self-important--


even if for a short time. While he glories in the situation, loudly greeting everyone in the town, the couple continually look over their shoulders and expect a host of officials following right behind them. The contrast in the situation between the couple and this former soldier highlight indirectly the impact that the war has had on his life. Summary and Analysis of Chapter XII Vignette The vignette describes the bullfighting style of Villalta. The narrator curses the bull, and when it charges he stands firm and swings his sword at it. Then he kills the bull, first taunting him with Toro! Toro! Then he sticks the sword between its shoulders, and the bull collapses, staring at Villalta. Cross-Country Snow Nick jumps off a moving train. He has his skis on and moves rapidly down a slope. His friend George is ahead of him on the slope. Nick flies down the slope enjoying the exhilaration, but he spills when he hits a soft patch of snow. Nick and George ski all the way to a fence, with Nick reaching it first. When George arrives he compliments Nick on a move called a Christy. They move past the fence into a pine forest. Ahead on a hill stands an inn. They take their skis off and move toward it. They enter the inn and hear singing in another room. It stops, and a girl comes into the room to take their order. They decide on wine and begin to talk about skiing. The girl returns with the wine and returns to her singing. In a little while they order cake, and Nick notices that the girl is pregnant. When he asks her what she sings, she is not very friendly. Nick guesses she is not married since she is not wearing a ring. Some woodcutters arrive. Nick wishes that George did not have to return to school. In return George tells Nick his desire to travel through Europe on their skis without the worry of school. They talk briefly about wine, before the topic of conversation moves to Nicks wife Helen and how he feels about her having a baby. He says he is glad now that she is having one. They are moving back to the United States, even though neither of them wants to go back. They discuss how much better skiing is in Europe than in America. The Swiss customers next to them leave, and George wishes they were Swiss. George then says that they may never go skiing again, and Nick replies that that they must. George agrees but wishes they could make it a promise. Nick says there is no good in promising. They leave the inn and begin the trek home. Analysis The vignette tells a story about Villalta. He kills the bull as though it were a ceremony. The killing has no real regard for the life of bull. At the end the crowd cheers him, and


Villalta accepts the praise as the bull dies slowly before him. This is another kind of human response to violence. Cross-Country Snow tells about a skiing trip. The trip allows Nick and George to escape the reality of their lives. They take immense pleasure in it, and their friendship in the story represents one of the few times in the book that a relationship works so well. Their friendship approximates an ideal relationship. The narration begins just as they begin the trek home, and the two friends sadly wish they could just drop everything in their lives and continue skiing across Europe. The narrator says that they are happy together on this trip. George must go back to school, however, and Nick has a baby on the way. When they talk about his return to the United States, he says that although neither he nor Helen desires such a move, they will go back anyway. Thus, the end of the trip signals a move back into reality and toward the more unpleasant parts of their lives. Nick discusses his impending fatherhood with some reluctance, and despite conveying some happiness about it, he feels a lingering hesitation, an unwillingness to undergo this change in his life. When they discuss the future before they leave the inn, both men grapple with the issue of fate. George wonders if they will ever ski again, and Nick says that they must, but neither sees the point in promising. They both acknowledge their inability to fully control the future, so instead they take what comfort they can in the present trip home. Summary and Analysis of Chapter XIII Vignette A Mexican bullfighter named Luis gets drunk and takes part in a parade on the day he is supposed to fight. The first-person narrator is with a man named Maera, and they both watch as the drunken Mexican dances to the rhythm of the music in the parade. Maera urges the narrator to get Luis, but when he does, Luis ignores him and continues dancing. When the narrator grabs his arm, the Mexican tells him to leave him alone, that he is not his father. The narrator then meets with Maera back at the hotel. They are both disgusted with Luis, and they call him a Mexican savage. Maera wonders who will kill his bulls after he gets a cogida. They both know the answer: they will kill the bulls for the savage. My Old Man The story is narrated in the first person by a boy whose father is a jockey. The boy and his father love each other very much and spend a lot of time together. The narrator begins by describing how his father would stay in shape: he would go for long runs and would skip rope in the road. People would stare at him. His strenuous workouts served to keep his weight down--the narrator explains that his father had more trouble than other jockeys keeping his weight low enough. He remembers a small jockey named Regoli who went to the bar one time right after weighing. His father watched Regoli with envy but could not follow him, because he had to watch his weight. His father rode at Mirafiore and San


Siro, and they rode back and forth often on the train. The narrator explains his deep love for the horses and the exhilaration of watching them race. Right after his father won the Premio Commercio, they left Italy for Paris. The narrator describes a scene in a caf where two men are very angry with his father, and when they leave his father looks very frightened. They leave three days later. Paris seems huge and complex to the narrator, but he only goes into the city once or twice a week from Maisons. In the city they sit at the Caf de la Paix. They live at Maison Lafitte with Mrs. Meyers. He loves Maisons and has fun at the lake and in the forest with the other kids. The narrators father gets his license from Italy but still has trouble getting any mounts to ride. He spends most of his time at the Caf de Paris. Every day they would go wherever the races were held. One of his most prominent memories is of a big race at St. Clouds where the jockeys fixed the race. It was a 200,000-franc race, and the big favorite was a beautiful horse named Kzar. The narrator is fascinated by Kzar. Right before the race he and his father go into the jockey dressing room, and his father asks his friend George Gardiner, who is riding Kzar, who will win the race, and he tells him that a horse named Kircubbin will win. His father bets a lot of money on Kircubbin, who ends up winning. His father makes a lot of money from the race, but it ruins the race for the narrator, and it permanently takes away some of his love of horse racing. After the race, he and his father spent a lot more time in Paris at the Caf de la Paix. One time he saw a good-looking American girl, and they smiled at each other, but nothing ever came of it and he never saw her again. His father continually bet money on horseraces at the tracks and drank a lot. He no longer rode and did not make an effort to keep his weight down. The narrator fondly recalls his fathers stories about when his mother was still alive and when his father was riding in Egypt or St. Moritz. He also would tell stories about his boyhood in Kentucky, but he explained to the narrator that everything in America was on the bum there now. One day his father bought his own horse for thirty thousand dollars and began his training again. The horse's name was Gilford. Owning his own horse breathed new life into his father. Tragically, on the second race with Gilford, his father was killed when he fell off his horse. The narrator remembers crying uncontrollably while George Gardiner tried to console him. While they waited for the ambulance they heard two men say that his father got what he deserved since he was a crook, but George told the narrator to ignore them, since his father was a great man. Analysis The vignette focuses on the preparation for bullfighting. The narrator and Maera try to force the matador named Luis to prepare for his bullfight later in the afternoon, but he refuses to listen and instead gets drunk and dances. He tells them to leave them alone by noting that neither is his father, signaling fatherhood as a mode of control and power. Once the narrator and Maera realize that Luis will not fight the bulls, they are resigned to do the killing themselves.


My Old Man deals with the issues of fatherhood, death, and youth. The narrator remembers going on runs with his father. His father worked hard. He remembers that sweat would pour off his father as he tried to lose weight. The narrator clearly loves and needs his father, and there is no one else to protect him. On the day that two men got angry with his father, it was the first time he saw someone insult his father, and this experience made an impression on him. He wonders how people could get away with this insult that shatters the innocence of his youth. The lesson from his father: You got to take a lot of things in this world, Joe. Even so, as his youth continues in Paris, he looks up to his father and loves what he does. Meanwhile, though, his father has trouble getting work and starts drinking a lot. But the narrator loves horseracing as much as his father does. Again, he focuses on a memory of the day at St. Cloud where his feelings were challenged. His father took part in fixing the race, and the knowledge of this fault ruined the race for him. It even diminished some of his love of horseracing forever. But his adoration of his father seems never to lessen. He fondly remembers the period when his father did nothing but sit at the Caf de Paris and drink. As a boy, the narrator did not truly understand the implications of his father's actions. Similarly, when his father told him they must go back to the States for his education, he did not understand. It might seem that his father talks to him more as an adult than as a child, but he never truly explains things to his son. As a result there remains a significant distance between them, while Joe adores his father. Hemingway creates this relationship as another example of a personal relationship that seems perfect from one perspective but has major flaws. From the child's perspective it is wonderful, but looking back--and to an observer--it is not. Joe has no one to take of him but his father. His father should be looking out for his son by looking out for himself. Yet, even after he has made a fortune from gambling, he continues to live a risky life, and he finally dies racing his own horse. The death of his father leaves Joe destitute and alone. This death tears the little boy apart. This loss cannot be restored. Meanwhile, for others the death represents justice. Death is a victory to them, while for Joe it is devastating. In this tale of loss, Hemingway never approaches directly the pain of loss. Instead, the pain constantly invades the narrative. First, they leave Italy, and his father loses his opportunity to work. The narrator loses his pure love for horseracing when his father fixes the race. Through the narrative of this father, Hemingway subtly weaves in the loss of his mother years ago. Finally, at the end of the narrative, Joe does not seem convinced about how swell a guy his father is. He says, But I dont know. Seems like when they get started they dont leave a guy nothing. Having lost his father, he gives this final thought a touch of cynicism that suggests a loss of much of his youthful innocence. Summary and Analysis of Chapter XIV


Vignette Maera is rammed by a bulls horn. He feels his own blood and the horn going through him. Finally, the bull is pulled off him. He is taken to the infirmary and put on a cot. The doctor arrives and must wash his hands. Then Maera dies. Big Two-Hearted River: Part I Nick gets off a train with his few belongings at the remnants of the old town of Seney. The landscape is burned. He watches the trout in a nearby river for a long time, and the experience brings back old feelings. He finally picks up his luggage and starts up a hill. He feels happy and as if he has left everything behind him. He feels as though everything changed once he got off the train at Seney. He walks and enjoys the landscape. He sees the faraway blue hills that mark Lake Superior. He stops to smoke a cigarette and notices a black grasshopper. He realizes that they are all black. He speaks to it and urges it on its way. Nick keeps walking, guided by the sun, until he arrives at a patch of pine trees. He lies down and falls asleep. When he wakes it is evening, and he moves toward the river. He soon stops and sets up camp. He takes immense joy in setting up his tent, organizing his camp, and cooking his food. He talks to himself, noting that he deserves to eat this food since he carried it. After dinner he makes coffee and has to decide between two ways of making it, but he cannot remember which way is his and which is that of a friend named Hopkins. He remembers the story of Hopkins, a man who made millions of dollars from oil in Texas. He has not seen him for a long time. He decides to make and drink the coffee in the way Hopkins would do it. He finally falls asleep. Analysis The vignette describes Maeras experience of death. The violence of bullfighting kills Maera, as though his death is a natural or inevitable response to the violence. In Big Two-Hearted River: Part I, Nick is happy as he starts out, feeling relieved to be away from society and back in touch with nature. Near the ruins of Seney, the scene of the fertile river with plentiful trout captivates him, and the contrast between the ruins of civilization and the bountiful river suggests that society is linked with destruction. With the absence of the town, the river has become incredibly bountiful. The imagery suggests the value Hemingway places on isolation from society, a value Nick also holds in this narrative. When he releases the grasshopper from his grasp, he speaks for the first time, almost as if this experience marks a new beginning for him. From here, as he makes his way to the spot where he will camp, he shows his experience, for he already knows the landscape. He takes pleasure in enjoying the rewards of his efforts, setting up his camp and then eating the food that he carried himself. With the tent set up, he feels a different kind of


happiness, a complete sense of satisfaction and safety. He is in charge, here; he can make the coffee whichever way he likes. Making the the way Hopkins made it is his way of honoring Hopkins, although the many years separate him from any deep emotions. His memory of a fishing trip with Hopkins that never came to fruition represents their discontinued friendship. This chapter's power lies in the way it contrasts with previous chapters. It does not engage with many of the themes in the rest of the book. There is a solitary satisfaction invested in this chapter that we do not see in the other chapters, where failed relationships tend to produce loneliness. The chapter is devoid of overt violence or relationships other than the memory of Hopkins. This story represents a new beginning for Nick, a refreshment of his nature through his separation from the rest of society. Summary and Analysis of Chapter XV Vignette A man named Sam Cardinella is hanged in the corridor of the country jail. The narrator notes that there are five to be hanged. Sam has to be carried to the gallows, and when they come to put the cap over his head he loses control of his sphincter muscle. The guards drop him in disgust. They strap him into a chair. A priest kneels beside the chair until just before the drop falls. The chapter continues with the story of Nick from the previous chapter. Nick wakes up and crawls out from under the mosquito netting. He is so excited by the early morning and the river that he must force himself to sit for breakfast. He collects grasshoppers as the water heats, and he puts them into a bottle. He makes a breakfast of flapjacks and then packs a lunch. Then he takes out his fly rod and prepares to fish, and as he moves toward the river he is happy carrying all his fishing equipment. He steps in the river and is shocked by the cold. He puts a grasshopper on the hook and soon has his first trout. It is a small one, so he lets it go. But the trout is motionless, so Nick touches it to make sure it is ok. Before touching it he wets his hand (a dry human hand disturbs the delicate mucus that covers the fish, which will eventually kill it). The trout suddenly darts away. Because of this rule about fish, he likes fishing on his own or with people he knows. He moves out of the shallows in order to find bigger fish. He soon catches a huge trout, but the leader breaks and he loses it, to his intense disappointment. He has never seen such a big trout. He thinks of the big trout on the bottom of the river and how angry it must be at having a hook in its jaw. He leaves the water, smokes a cigarette, and then returns to the river. He hooks two more big trout and keeps them alive in a sack. He then sits on a log and ponders going out into the swamp in front of him, but he decides against such an adventure. He kills and cleans the two trout and then heads back to camp.


Analysis The vignette shows how the subject of an execution deals with his impending death. His response contrasts sharply with the gentle peacefulness of the final two chapters. Death here takes its most real and frightening form, and Sam Cardinella represents the terror of the human response to death. The natural environment excites Nick, and he enjoys the isolation it affords him. Society seems destructive when one spends time in pure nature. As he begins to fish, his desire to interact with nature is in tension with the death and destruction inherent in catching and killing fish. He likes fishing alone because he can control the amount of damage he causes, remembering a time when he fished with ignorant fishermen who would touch trout with their dry hands and inadvertently kill them. He takes care with the trout and treats them with reverence, making sure to wet his hands before touching the trout. In keeping with his environmental ethic, he keeps the big fish and returns the little ones. Also, he only catches as many as he needs for food. The details of fishing dominate the narrative. The largest trout he has ever seen bites his line, but he ends up losing it, which brings forth a strong emotional reaction. This is the most violent or exciting event in Nick's narrative, so powerful that he must stop fishing for a time until he calms down. This experience pales in comparison to the suffering, death, and conflict in the previous narratives, but within the gentler and more peaceful context of this chapter, it is a serious personal disappointment. Hemingway explores a person's response to this kind of loss as well. The focus of the book sometimes engages a more universal experience of death and violence, but in this moment we are focused on the personal importance of fishing. Fishing becomes a communicative experience for Nick; every detail of nature matters in reality or as a symbol. The process engages Nick so completely that it becomes the entire narrative and structures our experience of the chapter. Nick lets himself become completely immersed in this experience, escaping from all his other thoughts. We can sense the peace he feels in this satisfying isolation. Summary and Analysis of L'Envoi "L'Envoi" This final vignette is told by a first-person narrator who walks through a garden with the king and is introduced him to the queen. The king orders whiskey and soda and tells the narrator that the revolutionary committee will not let him outside the palace grounds. He says that Plastiras is a good man who did the right thing in shooting those men. If Kerensky had a shot a few people, things could have been different. The most important thing is, obviously, not to be shot oneself. The narrator says that this was a very jolly time. Like all Greeks at the time, he wanted to go to America.


Analysis The most striking part of this short final vignette is the king's distance from death and violence. He talks about these things like mere academic subjects. His social status contrasts with the other figures in the book, suggesting the detachment of politicians and dignitaries, who declare and manage a war, from those who actually fight in the war. The king normally does not have to suffer war's devastating consequences. Overall Analysis In Our Time is the piece of writing that made Ernest Hemingway famous. He published this collection of short stories for the first time in 1925, to much praise. The collection revealed Hemingway's writing style, which was completely different from the florid, extravagant style of writing than preceded him. In Our Time, like all of Hemingway's writing, uses simple, declarative sentences with little or no description of emotion. Yet, through this spare style, Hemingway was able to weave powerful and moving stories. This new use of language counted as one of the major developments in modernist literature. The modern period of literature began just after World War I and continued, many would argue, up to and even through the second World War (1941-45 for America). Modernism incorporated many different things, one of which was exploration and innovation in language. Hemingway's change of language was simple, but powerful. Many critics have even called his writing more masculine than nineteenth-century prose, like that of Henry James. In fact, one critic, Ann Douglas, argues that writers such as Hemingway helped create a more masculine literary scene and society after World War I. While In Our Time introduced Hemingway's revolutionary writing style, its content also made it famous. Many authors attempted to write about World War I, but until In Our Time, few had succeeded. Critics hailed this book as the first true analysis and depiction of the war. Hemingway's language helped the stories ring true, as did his powerful scenes and his often confusing narrative flow. The themes that Hemingway highlighted finally captured the spirit of the Great War. In the collection, he writes about masculinity (often in connection with battling and sport), relationships between men and women, bonding between members of the same sex, love, development and adaptation, maturity, and responsibility. The way that he weaves the themes together creates a portrait of Americans before, during, and after the war with which people seemed to identify. The stories about Nick Adams send him through a rite of passage. He learns as a young child about birth and death (in "Indian Camp"). Then his interactions with friends such as Bill and girlfriends such as Marjorie teach him about relationships. In "The Battler," Nick is on the road for the first time and encounters more information from an old fighter and his companion. Nothing prepares Nick for the war, though. That experience brings him back home in "Big Two-Hearted River" a more mature, grateful, and masculine man.


The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

It is noon. Francis Macomber is on an African safari; Macomber is thirty-five years old, a trim, fit man who holds a number of big-game fishing records. However, at the moment, he has just demonstrated that he is a coward. However, members of the safari are acting as though nothing had happened. The natives at camp carried Macomber into camp triumphantly, but the gun-bearers who witnessed Macombers cowardice do not participate in the celebration. In a flashback, the reader realizes that Macomber and his beautiful wife, Margot, are wealthy Americans, and that this jaunt is their first safariand that Macomber, when faced with his first lion, bolted and fled, earning the contempt of his wife. Of course, though, she has been contemptuous of him for some time; Francis running from the lion like a scared rabbit has only increased her dislike for her unmanly husband. She makes no secret of this as she slips off in the middle of the night for a rendezvous with the safari guide, Robert Wilson. Next day, as she observes Francis gaining a measure of courage as he engages in a standoff with a charging water buffalo, she realizes that if Francis continues to prove himself strong and willful and courageous, he might leave her and rid himself forever of her sharp-tongued ridicule. As the standoff with the second water buffalo becomes more intense as the water buffalos horns inch closer and closer to goring Francis, Margot takes aim at the water buffalo, shooting Francis in the back of the head, and he dies at the most courageous moment of his short happy life.

In the first part of this story, readers hear all sorts of things that have meaning
only later in the story. For example, Margot points out that the face of Robert Wilson, the safari guide, is red (from too much sun); Francis Macomber replies that his face is also red; however, his is red from embarrassment. In contrast to the two men, Margo comments that her face is the one that is red today because of all the shame she feels for her husband. Behind all of this talk about red faces, however, is the fact that after Francis act of cowardice, Margot leans forward in their motor car and kisses Wilson while Macomber looks on. That night, Margot visits Wilsons tent and has sex with him. Interestingly, Hemingway points out that Wilson always carries a double-size cot for just such occasions as this one; obviously, Wilson is a womanizer and in a sense a prostitute. In this story, the situation of the hunter and the hunted takes on far more significance than merely humans hunting for African lions and water buffaloes. Consider who is stalking whom in this story. Francis knows that Margot is stalking Wilson, and Wilson realizes that Francis knows who Margots prey is. Francis Macomber even admits that he feels beaten, defeated by this sexual safari, because when Wilson explains that he always 113

gives the natives lashes rather than fine them, Macomber adds that We all take a beating every day . . . one way or another. Hemingways sympathy in this story is not with the victim Macomber or the huntress Margo; instead, it is with Wilson. Hemingway admired men who were outsiders, who defied conventional morality and the so-called rules of society. Wilson makes his own rules: If he illegally lashes the natives, it is not because hes sadistic; he simply knows that theyd rather suffer than lose money. Its a simple exchange. Likewise, if he thinks he can bed a woman (or women) who hires him as a safari guide, he takes a double-wide cot on safari; hes not troubled that Francis knows that he is having sex with Margo. Wilsons code is the survival of the fittest, and initially, Francis Macomber proves that he is not fitalthough Hemingway stresses at the beginning of this story that Macomber looked fittall, well-built, trim and healthy. The irony is unmistakable. Wilson likewise does not abide by conventional rules for hunting game during safaris. Although theres a law against hunting game from vehicles, Wilson thinks that its far more exciting and dangerous to chase game at high speed. He wantsand needsthe adrenaline rush of danger. Tracking game on foot is childs play. Fully aware that he would face legal action were the officials in Nairobi to find out that he hunts from moving vehicles, Wilson defies the oddsuntil Macomber reveals how dangerous a hunter his wife, Margot, is: Now she [Margot] has something on you. This revelation is important, because Margot knows that Macomber is a coward, and she also knows that Wilson is a flagrant lawbreaker. Were this a game of poker, shed hold the winning hand. Thus Wilson knows that, somehow, he must regain the upper hand over Margo. Wilsons attitude toward Francis Macomber fluctuates. When Macomber wants to leave the wounded lion, Wilson tells him that it isnt done. Macomber has no personal code; he reacts rather than acts. Wilson is perplexed about Macombers passive/aggressive behavior around his wife, but gaining dominance over Margot is exciting because she seems purposely cruel. Wilsons flaw is his inability to perceive the psychological state of mind of his clients. In contrast, readers are absolutely aware that Macomber is extremely upset about displaying his cowardice; it began in the night, when he awoke and heard the old lion roaring and then couldnt get back to sleep. He was afraid . . . [and] there was no one to tell he was afraid. Next morning, Margot recognizes that Macomber is upset, but he tells her simply that hes nervous because of the lions roaring throughout the night. Later, after Macomber wounds a lion, his innocence is pitted against the knowledge, experience, and codified values of Wilson. When Macomber discovers that they will have to confront the wounded lion, which is extremely dangerous, Macomber offers all kinds of excuses for not participating in the hunt. First he wonders if they can set the grass afire, but it is too green; then he suggests sending in the beaters, but Wilson says that suggestion is just a touch murderous. Then Macomber suggests the gun-bearers, and


Wilson points out that they have to go inits their duty; but he also adds that the beaters dont look too happy. Significantly, he notices that Macomber is trembling . . . [with] a pitiful look on his face. As a last resort, Macomber suggests that they just leave the lion alone, and again Wilson tells him, It isnt done. When the lion does attack, Macomber, in panic, bolts and runs for the river while the others kill the lion and look at Macomber with contempt. Thus Macombers cowardice in this scene is the central motivating force for the entire story. On the way back to camp, Macomber is immediately relegated to the back seat of the motor car even though, on the way out to the bush, he had occupied the front seat. Hemingway is very careful with these details so that he can fully explore the depths to which Macomber has sunk. Making his embarrassed cowardice even more painful, Macomber watches as Margot reaches forward and puts her hand on Wilsons shoulder, then kisses him on the mouth, calling him the beautiful red-faced Mr. Wilson. Margot dominates Macomber in this scene, revealing Macombers enormous cowardice and defeat. The fact that he cannot control his wifes behavior foreshadows what will happen that night when Margot leaves their tent to go to Wilsons tent for the night. After Margot returns from having sex with Wilson, readers learn about the basis for her marriage to Francis. She is too beautiful for Francis to divorce her, and Francis has too much money for her to ever leave him. Francis confronts her when she returns to their tent, calling her a bitch. She says simply, Well, youre a coward. When Macomber reminds Margot that there wasnt to be any of that. You promised there wouldnt be, we realize that this infidelity has been going on for a long time. Earlier, in years past, Macomber had learned to live with his wifes infidelity, but here, on safari, Margos sexual betrayal is so open and performed in such defiance because she wants Macomber to know how very much his cowardice has changed everything. And Margot will continue to press her advantage until the endwhen she realizes that Macomber is gaining courage and a strong sense of his own manhood. Much of the genius and brilliance of this story is seen in its careful, technical structuring. The scene that focuses on the shooting and wounding of the lion and Macombers bolting like a coward is paralleled with the scene of the shooting and wounding of the water buffalo. In both cases, Wilson and Macomber and the gunbearers are expected to go in and finish off the wounded animal. In the first scene, Macomber bolts; in the second, he stands his ground and proves his courage. At first, Margo is ashamed of her husband and uses his cowardice to control and intimidate him; she uses her new-gained control over him to justify her having sex with Wilson and also to remind Macomber that he is a coward. She taunts him in other ways as well; for example, when Macomber says of Wilson, I hate that red-faced swine. . . . I loathe the sight of him, Margot snidely replies, Hes really very nice. Macombers


dislike stems from the fact that after he asked Wilson if he slept well, Wilsons answer Topping!infuriates Macomber. In the last part of the story, an enormous metamorphosis occurs within Macomber, and also within Margot. Seeing the water buffalo, Macomber shoots and Wilson congratulates him on his fine shooting: You shot damn well. This scene marks the beginning of the tremendous change in Macomber, and he himself feels it happen. In all of his life, he has never felt so good. In contrast, Margot sits very white faced. She recognizes that Macomber is changing, and she fears this change. When its discovered that the first bull water buffalo limped into the bush, Margot is elated, believing that its going to burst out just like the lion and anticipating that Macomber will again bolt. Wilson, however, has also noticed the change in Macomber and tells Margot that whats going to happen wont be a damned bit like the lion. Macomber himself, in truth, had expected the fear to return when the buffalo retreated into the bush, but instead, he realizes that for the first time in his life, he is wholly without fear. Instead of fear, he has a feeling of elation. Even Wilson acknowledges that the day before, Macomber was scared sick, but not anymore; now he is a ruddy fire eater. It is Margo who is ill; scared sick, as it were. Whereas she loved the lion hunt, here we have the same situation, but now Macomber finds it marvelous, and it is Margo who screams, I hate it. Earlier she had looked forward to this hunt because she assumed that Macomber would show his cowardice again. Now she hates it because she realizes that shes losing psychological control over Macomber. Although Margots marriage to Macomber is based on money, she values her psychological control and power over Macomber as much as she values his money. She certainly knows that if Macomber realizes his strong sense of manhood finally, he will have the strength and courage to leave herand go hunting for other, younger beauties, because although the story explicitly states that she is still beautiful, she is not as beautiful as she once was. By now, Wilson fully sympathizes with Macomber. When Macomber says that he will never be afraid of anything again, he tells Wilson that something happened after they first saw the buffalo. It was, he says, like a dam bursting . . . pure excitement. Wilson realizes that Macomber has definitely undergone a change; he has watched grown men come of age in the plains of Africa before. Macomber has passed and excelled at his initiation into manhood, into the world of courage. And Margo is afraid, very afraid of something. She tries to taunt him, but he ignores her and becomes almost oblivious to her existence. She now knows that he has found his sense of manhood and that his future does not include her because he can change, and perhaps she cannot. The short, happy life of Francis Macomber begins with his standing solid and shooting for the water buffalos nose and the heavy horns, splintering and chipping themand


then he himself is killedkilled by Margot. His short, happy life lasts for only a second or two, but he dies as master of his own life. Wilson believes that Margot intentionally shoots her husband, and he makes it quite clear that he knows, boasting that had he lived, Macomber would have left her. He even taunts her with Why didnt you poison him? Thats what they do in England. One question remains: Because Wilson had become excited about Macombers new sense of manhood, why does he now seem willing to forget all about her murdering Macomber? We must remember that Wilson, although he has his own strict code of behavior for safaris and hunting and for his personal conduct, does not adhere to the laws of society. He whips natives, he allows clients to shoot from fast-moving vehicles, and he beds clients wives. If he were to report that the death of Macomber was not an accident, there would have to be an extensive investigation in which all sorts of hunting code violations would be open for investigation, and Wilson could very possibly lose his license. After all, as Macomber noted earlier, Margot has something on Wilson; he knows that he flagrantly disregards laws concerning safari hunts. Thus Wilson has reason to fear Margot, and the only way he can checkmate her is to have something on herher killing of Macomber. Of all of Hemingways short stories, this one captures Hemingways genius for combining exciting subject matter (the great game hunt) with death. Additionally, he has written an initiation story about a man who had never had his courage tested and who had never discovered a sense of manhood until he was thirty-five years old. The story is brilliantly narrated and filled with many ironies and parallels. It not only ranks with the very best of Hemingways short stories but also with the best American short stories ever written.

gimlet a popular British colonial drink made from gin and lime juice. Originally it was believed that gimlets were good for staving off scurvy. Since then it has become a popular American drink and is often made with vodka and lime juice. quid slang for the British pound, a currency thatat the time of this storywas worth approximately five dollars. court games giant killer squash, handball, and other games played in exclusive mens clubs. liquor; in this case, Scotch whiskey.

Swahili the so-called lingua franca, or universal language used through South Central AfricaKenya, Zaire, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and along the trading coast. Swahili is a


mixture of native dialects (principally Bantu) with some Hindi, German, French and English added to it. Mathiaga Club a big game hunters club in Nairobi, Kenya. White hunters are professional hunters/guides who arrange and accompany clients on big game hunts, or safaris. buffalo the buffalo mentioned in this story is nothing like the American buffalo, or bison. The Cape Buffalo is a large, horned creature that is considered by hunters to be the most dangerous of all African big game. It is mean and cunning and extremely strong, invulnerable to all but the best-placed shots. impala a type of antelope that makes prodigious leaps to see if enemies are near. It is very similar to the eland antelope. kippers and coffee the British are fond of kippered herringbrine-soaked and smoked filets of fish, served most often for breakfast. .505 Gibbs a very large caliber hunting rifle. While his clients may use smaller guns, a safari guide must carry a sure killer in case the amateur misses and he must make the kill at the last momentas in the case of Macomber and the lion. gut shot a shot into the stomach of an animal. Lady in Swahili; a title of respect derived from a Hindu word.

Memsahib Bwana windy

Mister or Master; a term of respect. British slang for nervous.

Martin Johnson an American hunter and motion picture producer who made many films about big game hunts. mosquito bar a net on a bar hung over a cot to keep out insects, particularly mosquitoes. beggar the word Hemingway originally used was bugger, a derogatory British term for someone or something disagreeable; however, the term is also synonymous with a sodomite, which was distasteful to Hemingways editorthus his substitution of beggar. Remember that this story was originally published in 1936; today, in the United States, we casually use the term bastard with the same non-literal frequency. Mannlicher wireless an expensive German hunting rifle.

British for radio.


Character Analyses

Nick Adams
Nick Adams is the name that Hemingway gave to the fictional persona, largely autobiographical, whom he often wrote about. Like Hemingway himself, Nick is the son of a doctor (The Indian Camp; The Doctor and the Doctors Wife); he relishes fishing and hunting in the northern peninsula of Michigan (Big Two-Hearted River). He romances a young girl named Marjorie, a summer waitress at a summer resort (The End of Something; The Three-Day Blow). He goes abroad during World War I and serves as an American Red Cross ambulance driver; he also is a courier, carrying chocolates and cigarettes to Italian soldiers on the Austro-Italian battlefront. And, like Hemingway, Nick suffers a knee wound (In Another Country). Unlike Hemingway, however, Nick suffered post-traumatic shock; his mind periodically seems to come unhinged (A Way Youll Never Be). In all, Hemingway wrote at least a dozen stories that center around Nick Adams, and in 1972, Scribners published a volume entitled The Nick Adams Stories. In each of the Nick Adams stories, Nick witnessesor is a part ofsome traumatic event, and Hemingway reveals Nicks reaction to that event. For example, in Indian Camp, Hemingway focuses on Nicks reaction to a young American Indian mans slitting his throat from ear to ear after listening to his young wife scream for two days and then scream even more during Dr. Adams cesarean that delivers a baby boy. In The Doctor and the Doctors Wife, Nicks blind hero-worship of his father is contrasted with our knowledge that Nicks father has a fraudulent aspect to his character. The End of Something and The Three-Day Blow revolve around Nicks breaking off with his girlfriend, Marjorie. Nick is not entirely happy with himself afterward; Nicks friend Bill prodded him to break up with her, and, finally, Nick secretly rejoices that he need not be as thoroughly against marriage as Bill is: Romance and women can still be tantalizing; they need not be shackles on a mans future success. Nicks stay in Summit, Illinois, in The Killers ends when he is forced to witness a former prizefighter calmly await certain death by two hired killers. When Nick was a boy, he vowed never to be afraid of death, never to be like the young American Indian husband who couldnt stand lifes demands. Yet here, Nick leaves Summit. He cant stand to remain in a town where a man lacks the courage to do battle with deatheven certain death. Big Two-Hearted River follows Nick after he returns to Michigan from the Italian front during World War I. He takes a train to the upper peninsula and hikes to a stream where he will camp and fish and be alone, where he will slowly perform the rote motions of self-sustaining chores, peeling away the trauma and the scars from his ragged, wounded spirit and newly empowering himself with the healing powers of natures rituals.


Francis Macomber
Macomber is thirty-five years old, very tall and well built, at the apex of his manhood fit and good at court games (by court games, Hemingway is referring to tennis or squash, games in which there are rules and perimeters for the game). Now, however, the very wealthy and very handsome Macomber has come on safari to hunt wild game. This is no court game. There are no perimeters hereand few rules. The jungle is endless, and the law is the law of the jungleor the law of the survivor, the fittest. When the story opens, Macomber has returned from a lion hunt. He is hailed as a hero, but we discover that when confronted with the lion, he ran. Macombers wife saw him become a distraught coward. Wilson, their British guide, witnessed the event. Macomber has to reclaim a sense of manhood for himself and regain their admiration. He has his chance when he is face-to-face with a charging water buffalo. His courage is magnificent and then he is shot, at the very moment when he feels happier than hes felt in years. His short, happy life flares up, then dies, quickly.

Margot Macomber
Macombers beautiful wife, whom he married because of her beauty, secretly despises Macomber because she knows that he married her for one reason only: She is his trophy wife. She despises herself because she knows that she married him for one reason only: He is very rich. He will never divorce her because he values her beauty; she will never divorce him because she has become comfortable with being a very rich wife. Therefore, Margot is delighted when Macomber proves to be such a weakling and runs from the lion; it gives her psychological control over him. Its something that she can goad him with. However, when Macomber is about to reclaim his manhood as he faces the water buffalo, she is so frightened of losing control over him that she fires (or perhaps pretends to fire) at the charging water buffaloand, instead, shoots her husband. ESSAYS Hemingway's Continued Relevance Despite recent questions concerning Hemingways future relevancy in mainstream Modernist studies, there can be little doubt that the man with the shotgun carries a hefty literary load well past beyond his grave. While it is true that he never managed to reach beyond his perceptions of a world that served merely as the solar system to his sun, he still managed to capture an important slice of Americana with his portrayals of an era of decay and hopelessness. To complain that he is not a Whitman or a Faulkner is to miss out on some fascinating details. In order to grasp the truths behind In Our Time, one must first observe the historical context from which it sprang. Hemingways generation witnessed the very apex of nihilism during the Great War. None of the ancient institutions such as romanticism or


duty could repel the merciless batterings of that all-consuming spiritual void. As a result, soldiers and hospital drivers alike returned home with shattered expectations and a need to find something, anything else to believe in thus the previously unheralded obsession with a chronologically-based lifestyle. Others, such as Hemingway and Eliot, sought refuge in mythology and the ritualistic qualities therein. This, and a desire to defy any and all outdated conventions such as narrative flow and coherence, gave rise to what we know as Modernism. Whether this is in reality a case of the poor mes (as America played Johnny-come-lately in the war) or not depends on ones perspective. Hemingway exemplified this ideal with his barren vignettes of a generation stranded in a desert and forced into introspection. In Soldiers Home, Krebs mopes about because he has lost, as his mother puts it, your ambition . . . you havent got a definite aim in life (75). When she asks him if he still loves her, he says simply, No. When she recoils and starts to cry, he tries to comfort her by explaining that I didnt mean it. I was just angry at something. This something is the cause of Krebss angst, but it is never expressly stated. This is because, like so many others of his generation, he didnt know what to be angry at. This unexpressible emotion, this free-floating guilt complex, has left him destitute and unwilling to return to the life he was once comfortable with. Krebs, however, appears only in one chapter, as do the majority of characters. The only recurring person is Nick, who undergoes an interesting transformation throughout the pages and ultimately serves to bind the otherwise unrelated vignettes into something that isnt so much a story as it is a series of scattered photographs from a by-gone era. At the outset, we are given a glimpse of Nick as he loses a sense of innocence about the world when he finds a man who has committed suicide. Rather tellingly, when he asks his father if dying is hard, he answers, No, I think its pretty easy, Nick. It all depends (19). From there we follow Nick go through various stages in life and through the repercussions from his stint in the war. Like Krebs, he loses his romantic notions of the importance of women in a mans life, as demonstrated in The End of Something. This chapter paints a poignant contrast between the pre- and post-war periods. Marjorie represents the age of unspoiled innocence and all that Nick believed valuable before being exposed to the terrors of the war (and is also proof enough that Hemingway was indeed capable of creating romantic characters, especially with the line, She loved to fish. She loved to fish with Nick.), while Bill can be seen as the reality at present. Nick, meanwhile, is caught in the middle as he initially divorces himself from his relationship with Marjorie without having any tangible cause, much as Kreb had no tangible reason to not love anybody only to feel pangs of sadness as he realizes what he just gave up. The chapter closes with him contemplating whether to march ahead with an uncertain life as Bill suggests, or to return to the comfortable bosom of a past in which he no longer believes. We soon realize that Bills will prevailed, but it is debatable as to which path would have better served Nick or, for that matter, which path Hemingway himself would have seen as the most beneficial. Once Nick has forsaken a romantic life, his options are decidedly limited, and Hemingway plays with this. In Cross-Country Snow, he gives us a glimpse at the


tenuous faith in the future that people had, while simultaneously showing the necessity of just such a faith. When George suggests that Maybe well never go skiing again, Nick, Nick argues that Weve got to. It isnt worthwhile if you cant (112). Even now, Nick is still searching for something to put faith into, even it is something as simple and inconsequential as the promise of a skiing trip. Finally, Hemingway details the generations last resort, according to him: a return to ritual and nature. In Big Two-Hearted River, Nick returns to a river whose surrounding areas have been torched and demolished during the war. The nearby town was destroyed, but the river was still there, and is the lone thing in which Nick can place any faith. Women have disappointed him, his friends have disappeared, and he has no real future but, just as a New Yorker could set his watch and know when he is if not who he is, Nick can at least know what he can come back to. The fishing, then, symbolizes the importance of maintaining ritual amidst vacuous chaos. This is how Nick manages to pull himself from the wars ashes and feel at peace once more, and when you get right down to it, thats all that anybody in the Modernists time could hope for: peace of mind and peace of soul. And maybe a bottle of Sion.

Hemingways Style
A great deal has been written about Hemingways distinctive style. In fact, the two great stylists of twentieth-century American literature are William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, and the styles of the two writers are so vastly different that there can be no comparison. For example, their styles have become so famous and so individually unique that yearly contests award prizes to people who write the best parodies of their styles. The parodies of Hemingways writing style are perhaps the more fun to read because of Hemingways ultimate simplicity and because he so often used the same style and the same themes in much of his work. From the beginning of his writing career in the 1920s, Hemingways writing style occasioned a great deal of comment and controversy. Basically, a typical Hemingway novel or short story is written in simple, direct, unadorned prose. Possibly, the style developed because of his early journalistic training. The reality, however, is this: Before Hemingway began publishing his short stories and sketches, American writers affected British mannerisms. Adjectives piled on top of one another; adverbs tripped over each other. Colons clogged the flow of even short paragraphs, and the plethora of semicolons often caused readers to throw up their hands in exasperation. And then came Hemingway. An excellent example of Hemingways style is found in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. In this story, there is no maudlin sentimentality; the plot is simple, yet highly complex and difficult. Focusing on an old man and two waiters, Hemingway says as little as possible. He lets the characters speak, and, from them, we discover the inner loneliness of two of the men and the callous prejudices of the other. When Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954, his writing style was singled out as one of his


foremost achievements. The committee recognized his forceful and style-making mastery of the art of modern narration. Hemingway has often been described as a master of dialogue; in story after story, novel after novel, readers and critics have remarked, This is the way that these characters would really talk. Yet, a close examination of his dialogue reveals that this is rarely the way people really speak. The effect is accomplished, rather, by calculated emphasis and repetition that makes us remember what has been said. Perhaps some of the best of Hemingways much-celebrated use of dialogue occurs in Hills Like White Elephants. When the story opens, two charactersa man and a womanare sitting at a table. We finally learn that the girls nickname is Jig. Eventually we learn that they are in the cafe of a train station in Spain. But Hemingway tells us nothing about themor about their past or about their future. There is no description of them. We dont know their ages. We know virtually nothing about them. The only information that we have about them is what we learn from their dialogue; thus this story must be read very carefully. This spare, carefully honed and polished writing style of Hemingway was by no means spontaneous. When he worked as a journalist, he learned to report facts crisply and succinctly. He was also an obsessive revisionist. It is reported that he wrote and rewrote all, or portions, of The Old Man and the Sea more than two hundred times before he was ready to release it for publication. Hemingway took great pains with his work; he revised tirelessly. A writers style, he said, should be direct and personal, his imagery rich and earthy, and his words simple and vigorous. Hemingway more than fulfilled his own requirements for good writing. His words are simple and vigorous, burnished and uniquely brilliant.


ARTHUR MILLER (1915-2005) About the Playwright Personal Background Arthur Miller was born in Harlem on October 17, 1915, the son of Polish immigrants, Isidore and Augusta Miller. Millers father had established a successful clothing store upon coming to America, so the family enjoyed wealth; however, this prosperity ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Financial hardship compelled the Miller family to move to Brooklyn in 1929. Miller graduated from high school in New York in 1933. He applied to Cornell University and the University of Michigan, but both schools refused him admission. Miller worked a variety of odd jobsincluding as a host of a radio programbefore the University of Michigan accepted him. At school, he studied journalism, became the night editor of the Michigan Daily, and began experimenting with theater. In addition to hosting a radio program, Miller held a variety of jobs during his early career. After he left the University of Michigan, Miller wrote plays for the Federal Theatre in 1939. The Federal Theatre provided work for unemployed writers, actors, directors, and designers. Congress closed the Federal Theatre late in 1939. Miller died on February 10, 2005, of heart failure. He was 89 years old.

Career Highlights
Millers prolific writing career spans a period of over 60 years. During this time, Miller has written 26 plays, a novel entitled Focus (1945), several travel journals, a collection of short stories entitled I Dont Need You Anymore (1967), and an autobiography entitled Timebends: A Life (1987). Millers plays generally address social issues and center around an individual in a social dilemma or an individual at the mercy of society. Millers first play, No Villain, produced in 1936, explores Marxist theory and inner conflict through an individual facing ruin as a result of a strike. Honors at Dawn (1937) also centers around a strike and contrasting views of the economy but focuses on an individuals inability to express himself. The Great Disobedience (1938) makes a connection between the prison system and capitalism. The Golden Years (1940) tells the story of Cortes despoiling Mexico, as well as the effects of capitalism and fate on the individual.


Miller produced two radio plays in 1941: The Pussycat and the Expert Plumber Who Was a Man, and William Irelands Confession. Millers third radio play, The Four Freedoms, was produced in 1942. The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944) revolves around a person who believes he has no control over his life but is instead the victim of chance. All My Sons (1947) explores the effect of past decisions on the present and future of the individual. Death of a Salesman (1949) addresses the loss of identity, as well as a mans inability to accept change within himself and society. The Crucible (1953) re-creates the Salem witch trials, focusing on paranoid hysteria as well as the individuals struggle to remain true to ideals and convictions. A View from the Bridge (1955) details three people and their experiences in crime. After the Fall (1964) focuses on betrayal as a trait of humanity. Incident at Vichy (1964) confronts a persons struggle with guilt and responsibility. The Price (1968) tells the story of an individual confronted with free will and the burden of responsibility. Fame (1970) tells the story of a famous playwright who is confronted but not recognized. The American Clock (1980) focuses on the Depression and its effects on the individual, while Elegy for a Lady (1982) addresses death and its effects on relationships. Some Kind of Love Story (1982) centers on society and the corruption of justice. The Ride Down Mountain Morgan (1991) centers around a man who believes he can obtain everything he wants. The Last Yankee (1993) explores the changing needs of individuals and the resulting tension that arises within a marriage. Broken Glass (1994) tells the story of individuals using denial as a tool to escape pain. Miller also wrote the screenplay for the movie version of The Crucible, which was produced in 1996. About the Play

Arthur Millers play Death of a Salesman addresses loss of identity and a mans inability to accept change within himself and society. The play is a montage of memories, dreams, confrontations, and arguments, all of which make up the last 24 hours of Willy Lomans life. The play concludes with Willys suicide and subsequent funeral. Miller uses the Loman familyWilly, Linda, Biff, and Happyto construct a selfperpetuating cycle of denial, contradiction, and order versus disorder. Willy had an affair over 15 years earlier than the real time within the play, and Miller focuses on the affair and its aftermath to reveal how individuals can be defined by a single event and their subsequent attempts to disguise or eradicate the event. For example, prior to discovering the affair, Willys son Biff adored Willy, believed all Willys stories, and even subscribed to Willys philosophy that anything is possible as long as a person is well-liked. The realization that Willy is unfaithful to Linda forces Biff to reevaluate Willy and Willys


perception of the world. Biff realizes that Willy has created a false image of himself for his family, society, and even for himself. Willy is not an invincible father or a loyal husband or a fantastically successful salesman like he wants everyone to believe. He is self-centered. He fails to appreciate his wife. And he cannot acknowledge the fact that he is only marginally successful. Hence, Willy fantasizes about lost opportunities for wealth, fame, and notoriety. Even so, it would be incorrect to state that Miller solely criticizes Willy. Instead, Miller demonstrates how one individual can create a self-perpetuating cycle that expands to include other individuals. This is certainly the case within the Loman family. Until the end of the play, Willy effectively blocks the affair out of his memory and commits himself to a life of denial. He cannot remember what happened, so naturally he does not understand why his relationship with Biff has changed. Willy wants Biffs affection and adoration as before, but instead the two constantly argue. Willy vacillates, sometimes criticizing Biffs laziness and ineptitude, other times praising his physical abilities and ambition. Linda and Happy are also drawn into the cycle of denial. Linda is aware of Willys habit of reconstructing reality; however, she also recognizes that Willy may not be able to accept reality, as shown through his numerous suicide attempts prior to the beginning of the play. As a result, Linda chooses to protect Willys illusions by treating them as truth, even if she must ignore reality or alienate her children in doing so. Happy is also a product of Willys philosophy. Like Willy, he manipulates the truth to create a more favorable reality for himself. For example, when Happy tells everyone that he is the assistant buyer, even though he is only the assistant to the assistant, he proves that he has incorporated Willys practice of editing facts. Miller based Willys character on his uncles, Manny Newman and Lee Balsam, who were salesmen. Miller saw his uncles as independent explorers, charting new territories across America. It is noteworthy that Miller does not disclose what type of salesman Willy is. Rather than drawing the audiences attention to what Willy sells, Miller chooses to focus on the fact that Willy is a salesman. As a result, Miller expands the import of Willys situation. Willy is an explorerconqueror of the New England territoryand a dreamer, and this allows the audience to connect with him because everyone has aspirations, dreams, and goals. Willys despair results from his failure to achieve his American dream of success. At one point, Willy was a moderately successful salesman opening new territory in New England, and Biff and Happy viewed him as a model father. Once Biff discovers the affair, however, he loses respect for Willy as well as his own motivation to succeed. As Willy grows older, making sales is more difficult for him, so he attempts to draw on past success by reliving old memories. Willy loses the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy, and this behavior alienates him from others, thereby diminishing his ability to survive in the present. As the play progresses, Willys life becomes more disordered, and he is forced to withdraw almost completely to the past, where order exists because he can reconstruct events or relive old memories.


The play continues to affect audiences because it allows them to hold a mirror up to themselves. Willys self-deprecation, sense of failure, and overwhelming regret are emotions that an audience can relate to because everyone has experienced them at one time or another. Although most do not commit suicide in the face of adversity, people connect with Willy because he is a man driven to extreme action. An audience may react with sympathy toward Willy because he believes he is left with no other alternative but to commit suicide. On the other hand, an audience may react with disgust and anger toward Willy, believing he has deserted his family and taken the easy way out. Either way, individuals continue to react to Death of a Salesman because Willys situation is not unique: He made a mistakeone that irrevocably changed his relationship with the people he loves mostand when all of his attempts to eradicate his mistake fail, he makes one grand attempt to correct the mistake. Willy vehemently denies Biffs claim that they are both common, ordinary people, but ironically, it is the universality of the play that makes it so enduring. Biffs statement, Im a dime a dozen, and so are you is true after all. Plot Overview As a flute melody plays, Willy Loman returns to his home in Brooklyn one night, exhausted from a failed sales trip. His wife, Linda, tries to persuade him to ask his boss, Howard Wagner, to let him work in New York so that he wont have to travel. Willy says that he will talk to Howard the next day. Willy complains that Biff, his older son who has come back home to visit, has yet to make something of himself. Linda scolds Willy for being so critical, and Willy goes to the kitchen for a snack. As Willy talks to himself in the kitchen, Biff and his younger brother, Happy, who is also visiting, reminisce about their adolescence and discuss their fathers babbling, which often includes criticism of Biffs failure to live up to Willys expectations. As Biff and Happy, dissatisfied with their lives, fantasize about buying a ranch out West, Willy becomes immersed in a daydream. He praises his sons, now younger, who are washing his car. The young Biff, a high school football star, and the young Happy appear. They interact affectionately with their father, who has just returned from a business trip. Willy confides in Biff and Happy that he is going to open his own business one day, bigger than that owned by his neighbor, Charley. Charleys son, Bernard, enters looking for Biff, who must study for math class in order to avoid failing. Willy points out to his sons that although Bernard is smart, he is not well liked, which will hurt him in the long run. A younger Linda enters, and the boys leave to do some chores. Willy boasts of a phenomenally successful sales trip, but Linda coaxes him into revealing that his trip was actually only meagerly successful. Willy complains that he soon wont be able to make all of the payments on their appliances and car. He complains that people dont like him and that hes not good at his job. As Linda consoles him, he hears the laughter of his mistress. He approaches The Woman, who is still laughing, and engages in another reminiscent daydream. Willy and The Woman flirt, and she thanks him for giving him stockings. The Woman disappears, and Willy fades back into his prior daydream, in the kitchen. Linda, now mending stockings, reassures him. He scolds her mending and orders her to


throw the stockings out. Bernard bursts in, again looking for Biff. Linda reminds Willy that Biff has to return a football that he stole, and she adds that Biff is too rough with the neighborhood girls. Willy hears The Woman laugh and explodes at Bernard and Linda. Both leave, and though the daydream ends, Willy continues to mutter to himself. The older Happy comes downstairs and tries to quiet Willy. Agitated, Willy shouts his regret about not going to Alaska with his brother, Ben, who eventually found a diamond mine in Africa and became rich. Charley, having heard the commotion, enters. Happy goes off to bed, and Willy and Charley begin to play cards. Charley offers Willy a job, but Willy, insulted, refuses it. As they argue, Willy imagines that Ben enters. Willy accidentally calls Charley Ben. Ben inspects Willys house and tells him that he has to catch a train soon to look at properties in Alaska. As Willy talks to Ben about the prospect of going to Alaska, Charley, seeing no one there, gets confused and questions Willy. Willy yells at Charley, who leaves. The younger Linda enters and Ben meets her. Willy asks Ben impatiently about his life. Ben recounts his travels and talks about their father. As Ben is about to leave, Willy daydreams further, and Charley and Bernard rush in to tell him that Biff and Happy are stealing lumber. Although Ben eventually leaves, Willy continues to talk to him. Back in the present, the older Linda enters to find Willy outside. Biff and Happy come downstairs and discuss Willys condition with their mother. Linda scolds Biff for judging Willy harshly. Biff tells her that he knows Willy is a fake, but he refuses to elaborate. Linda mentions that Willy has tried to commit suicide. Happy grows angry and rebukes Biff for his failure in the business world. Willy enters and yells at Biff. Happy intervenes and eventually proposes that he and Biff go into the sporting goods business together. Willy immediately brightens and gives Biff a host of tips about asking for a loan from one of Biffs old employers, Bill Oliver. After more arguing and reconciliation, everyone finally goes to bed. Act II opens with Willy enjoying the breakfast that Linda has made for him. Willy ponders the bright-seeming future before getting angry again about his expensive appliances. Linda informs Willy that Biff and Happy are taking him out to dinner that night. Excited, Willy announces that he is going to make Howard Wagner give him a New York job. The phone rings, and Linda chats with Biff, reminding him to be nice to his father at the restaurant that night. As the lights fade on Linda, they come up on Howard playing with a wire recorder in his office. Willy tries to broach the subject of working in New York, but Howard interrupts him and makes him listen to his kids and wife on the wire recorder. When Willy finally gets a word in, Howard rejects his plea. Willy launches into a lengthy recalling of how a legendary salesman named Dave Singleman inspired him to go into sales. Howard leaves and Willy gets angry. Howard soon re-enters and tells Willy to take some time off. Howard leaves and Ben enters, inviting Willy to join him in Alaska. The younger Linda enters and reminds Willy of his sons and job. The young Biff enters, and Willy praises Biffs prospects and the fact that he is well liked. Ben leaves and Bernard rushes in, eagerly awaiting Biffs big football game. Willy speaks optimistically to Biff about the game. Charley enters and teases Willy about the game. As Willy chases Charley off, the lights rise on a different part of the stage. Willy continues yelling from offstage, and Jenny, Charleys secretary, asks a grown-up Bernard to quiet him down. Willy enters and prattles on about a very big deal that Biff is


working on. Daunted by Bernards success (he mentions to Willy that he is going to Washington to fight a case), Willy asks Bernard why Biff turned out to be such a failure. Bernard asks Willy what happened in Boston that made Biff decide not to go to summer school. Willy defensively tells Bernard not to blame him. Charley enters and sees Bernard off. When Willy asks for more money than Charley usually loans him, Charley again offers Willy a job. Willy again refuses and eventually tells Charley that he was fired. Charley scolds Willy for always needing to be liked and angrily gives him the money. Calling Charley his only friend, Willy exits on the verge of tears. At Franks Chop House, Happy helps Stanley, a waiter, prepare a table. They ogle and chat up a girl, Miss Forsythe, who enters the restaurant. Biff enters, and Happy introduces him to Miss Forsythe, continuing to flirt with her. Miss Forsythe, a call girl, leaves to telephone another call girl (at Happys request), and Biff spills out that he waited six hours for Bill Oliver and Oliver didnt even recognize him. Upset at his fathers unrelenting misconception that he, Biff, was a salesman for Oliver, Biff plans to relieve Willy of his illusions. Willy enters, and Biff tries gently, at first, to tell him what happened at Olivers office. Willy blurts out that he was fired. Stunned, Biff again tries to let Willy down easily. Happy cuts in with remarks suggesting Biffs success, and Willy eagerly awaits the good news. Biff finally explodes at Willy for being unwilling to listen. The young Bernard runs in shouting for Linda, and Biff, Happy, and Willy start to argue. As Biff explains what happened, their conversation recedes into the background. The young Bernard tells Linda that Biff failed math. The restaurant conversation comes back into focus and Willy criticizes Biff for failing math. Willy then hears the voice of the hotel operator in Boston and shouts that he is not in his room. Biff scrambles to quiet Willy and claims that Oliver is talking to his partner about giving Biff the money. Willys renewed interest and probing questions irk Biff more, and he screams at Willy. Willy hears The Woman laugh and he shouts back at Biff, hitting him and staggering. Miss Forsythe enters with another call girl, Letta. Biff helps Willy to the washroom and, finding Happy flirting with the girls, argues with him about Willy. Biff storms out, and Happy follows with the girls. Willy and The Woman enter, dressing themselves and flirting. The door knocks and Willy hurries The Woman into the bathroom. Willy answers the door; the young Biff enters and tells Willy that he failed math. Willy tries to usher him out of the room, but Biff imitates his math teachers lisp, which elicits laughter from Willy and The Woman. Willy tries to cover up his indiscretion, but Biff refuses to believe his stories and storms out, dejected, calling Willy a phony little fake. Back in the restaurant, Stanley helps Willy up. Willy asks him where he can find a seed store. Stanley gives him directions to one, and Willy hurries off. The light comes up on the Loman kitchen, where Happy enters looking for Willy. He moves into the living room and sees Linda. Biff comes inside and Linda scolds the boys and slaps away the flowers in Happys hand. She yells at them for abandoning Willy. Happy attempts to appease her, but Biff goes in search of Willy. He finds Willy planting seeds in the garden with a flashlight. Willy is consulting Ben about a $20,000 proposition. Biff approaches him to say goodbye and tries to bring him inside. Willy moves into the house, followed by Biff, and becomes angry again about Biffs failure. Happy tries to calm Biff, but Biff and Willy erupt in fury at each other. Biff starts to sob,


which touches Willy. Everyone goes to bed except Willy, who renews his conversation with Ben, elated at how great Biff will be with $20,000 of insurance money. Linda soon calls out for Willy but gets no response. Biff and Happy listen as well. They hear Willys car speed away. In the requiem, Linda and Happy stand in shock after Willys poorly attended funeral. Biff states that Willy had the wrong dreams. Charley defends Willy as a victim of his profession. Ready to leave, Biff invites Happy to go back out West with him. Happy declares that he will stick it out in New York to validate Willys death. Linda asks Willy for forgiveness for being unable to cry. She begins to sob, repeating Were free. . . . All exit, and the flute melody is heard as the curtain falls.

Character List Willy Loman: A sixty year old salesman living in Brooklyn, Willy Loman is a gregarious, mercurial man with powerful aspirations to success. However, after thirtyfive years working as a traveling salesman throughout New England, Willy Loman feels defeated by his lack of success and difficult family life. Although he has a dutiful wife, his relationship with his oldest son, Biff, is strained by Biff's continual failures. As a salesman, Willy Loman focuses on personal details over actual measures of success, believing that it is personality and not high returns that garner success in the business world. Biff Loman: The thirty-four year old son of Willy Loman, Biff was a star high school athlete with a scholarship to UVA, but he did not attend college after failing a high school math course and refusing to attend summer school. He did this primarily out of spite after finding out that his father was having an affair with a woman in Boston. Since then, Biff has been a continual failure, stealing and even spending time in jail. Despite his failures and anger toward his father, Biff still has great concern for what his father thinks of him, and the conflict between the two characters drives the narrative of the play. Linda Loman: The dutiful, obedient wife to Willy and mother of Biff and Happy, Linda Loman is the one person who supports Willy Loman, despite his often reprehensible treatment of her. She is a woman who has aged greatly because of her difficult life with her husband, whose hallucinations and erratic behavior she contends with alone. She is the moral center of the play, occasionally stern and not afraid to confront her sons about their poor treatment of their father. Happy Loman: The younger of the two Loman sons, Happy Loman is seemingly content and successful, with a steady career and none of the obvious marks of failure that his older brother displays. Happy, however, is not content with his more stable life, because he has never risked failure or striven for any real measure of success. Happy is a compulsive womanizer who treats women purely as sex objects and has little respect for the many women whom he seduces.


Charley: The Lomans' next door neighbor and father of Bernard, Charley is a good businessman, exemplifying the success that Willy is unable to achieve. Although Willy claims that Charley is a man who is "liked, but not well-liked," he owns his own business and is respected and admired. He and Willy have a contentious relationship, but Charley is nevertheless Willy's only friend. Bernard: Bernard is Charley's only son. He is intelligent and industrious but lacks the gregarious personality of either of the Loman sons. It is this absence of spirit that makes Willy believe that Bernard will never be a true success in the business world, but Bernard proves himself to be far more successful than Willy imagined. As a grown-up, he is a lawyer preparing to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. Ben: Willy's older brother, Ben left home at seventeen to find their father in Alaska, but ended up in Africa, where he found diamond mines and came out of the jungle at twentyone an incredibly rich man. Although Ben died several weeks before the time at which the play is set, he often appears in Willy's hallucinations, carrying a valise and umbrella. Ben represents the fantastic success for which Willy has always hoped but can never seem to achieve. Howard Wagner: The thirty-six year old son of Frank Wagner, Willy Loman's former boss, Howard now occupies the same position as his late father. Although Willy was the one who named Howard, Howard is forced to fire Willy for his erratic behavior. Howard is preoccupied with technology; when Willy meets with his new boss, he spends most of the meeting demonstrating his new wire recorder. Stanley: Stanley is the waiter at the restaurant where Willy meets his sons. He helps Willy home after Biff and Happy leave their father there. The Woman: An assistant in a company in Boston with which Willy does business, this nameless character has a continuing affair with Willy. The Woman claims that Willy ruined her and did not live up to his promises to her. When Biff finds the Woman in Willy's hotel room, he begins his course of self-destructive behavior. Analysis of Major Characters Willy Loman Despite his desperate searching through his past, Willy does not achieve the selfrealization or self-knowledge typical of the tragic hero. The quasi-resolution that his suicide offers him represents only a partial discovery of the truth. While he achieves a professional understanding of himself and the fundamental nature of the sales profession, Willy fails to realize his personal failure and betrayal of his soul and family through the meticulously constructed artifice of his life. He cannot grasp the true personal, emotional, spiritual understanding of himself as a literal loman or low man. Willy is too driven by his own willy-ness or perverse willfulness to recognize the slanted reality that his desperate mind has forged. Still, many critics, focusing on Willys entrenchment in a quagmire of lies, delusions, and self-deceptions, ignore the significant accomplishment of his partial self-realization. Willys failure to recognize the anguished love offered to him


by his family is crucial to the climax of his torturous day, and the play presents this incapacity as the real tragedy. Despite this failure, Willy makes the most extreme sacrifice in his attempt to leave an inheritance that will allow Biff to fulfill the American Dream. Bens final mantraThe jungle is dark, but full of diamondsturns Willys suicide into a metaphorical moral struggle, a final skewed ambition to realize his full commercial and material capacity. His final act, according to Ben, is not like an appointment at all but like a diamond . . . rough and hard to the touch. In the absence of any real degree of self-knowledge or truth, Willy is able to achieve a tangible result. In some respect, Willy does experience a sort of revelation, as he finally comes to understand that the product he sells is himself. Through the imaginary advice of Ben, Willy ends up fully believing his earlier assertion to Charley that after all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive. Death of a Salesman is Willys play. Everything revolves around his actions during the last 24 hours of his life. All of the characters act in response to Willy, whether in the present or in Willys recollection of the past. Willys character, emotions, motivations, and destiny are developed through his interactions with others. The problem arises, however, because Willy reacts to characters in the present, while simultaneously responding to different characters and different situations in the past. The result is Willys trademark behavior: contradictory, somewhat angry, and often obsessive. Willy is an individual who craves attention and is governed by a desire for success. He constantly refers to his older brother Ben, who made a fortune in diamond mining in Africa, because he represents all the things Willy desires for himself and his sons. Willy is forced to work for Howard, the son of his old boss, who fails to appreciate Willys previous sales experience and expertise. Ben, on the other hand, simply abandoned the city, explored the American and African continents, and went to work for himself. As a result, after four years in the jungle, Ben was a rich man at the age of 21, while Willy must struggle to convince Howard to let him work in New York for a reduced salary after working for the company for 34 years. Willy does not envy Ben, but looks to him as model of success. The play begins and ends in the present, and the plot occurs during the last two days of Willys life; however, a large portion of the play consists of Willys fragmented memories, recollections, and re-creations of the past, which are spliced in between scenes taking place in the present. Willy not only remembers an event but also relives it, engaging himself in the situation as if it is happening for the first time. As the play progresses, Willy becomes more irrational and is not able to transition between his memory of the past and the reality of the present. Willys memories are key to understanding his character. He carefully selects memories or re-creates past events in order to devise situations in which he is successful or to justify his current lack of prosperity. For example, Willy recalls Ben and the job he offered to Willy after being fired by Howard. Willy is unable to cope with the idea that he


has failed, so he relives Bens visit. The memory allows Willy to deny the truth and its consequencesfacing Linda and the boys after being firedand to establish temporary order in his disrupted life. At other times, Willy proudly recalls memories of Biffs last football game because it is more pleasant to re-create the past in which Biff adored him and wanted to score a touchdown in his name, rather than face the present where he is at odds with his own son. Willys constant movement from the present to the past results in his contradictory nature. Although he fondly remembers Biff as a teenager, he is unable to communicate with Biff in the present. As a result, he praises Biff in one breath, while criticizing him in the next. The cause of Willys inconsistent behavior is his unbidden memories of a longago affair, which he forgets or chooses not to remember until the end of Act II. It is difficult enough for Willy to deal with Howard, his buyers (or lack of buyers), and the everyday reminders that he is not a great salesman like Dave Singleman; however, it is even more insufferable for Willy to accept the idea that he is a failure in his sons eyes. Prior to the Boston trip, Biff, more than anyone, sincerely believes in Willys success, potential, and inevitable greatness. Willy is able to achieve the success and notoriety he desires only through Biff, but this changes when Biff learns of the affair. After the Boston trip, Willy tries to regain the success he once had by focusing on memories or events prior to the discovery of the affair. It is not surprising that Willy contradicts himself when speaking in the present about Biff or to him, for although Willy chooses to remember Biff as he used to be, he cannot eradicate the words Biff spoke to him in Boston: You fake! You phony little fake! Willy perceives himself as a failure: He is not Dave Singleman. He is just a mediocre salesman who has only made monumental sales in his imagination. Now that he is growing old and less productive, the company he helped to build fires him. He regrets being unfaithful to his wife, even though he will never admit the affair to her. He is no longer a respectable man in Biffs eyes. Biff recognizes Willys tendency to exaggerate or reconstruct reality and is no longer a willing participant in Willys fantasy. By the end of the play, Willy is overwhelmed; he can no longer deny his failures when they become too many to deal with. Instead, he seeks a solution in suicide. Willy reasons he can finally be a success because his life insurance policy will in some way compensate Linda for his affair. Additionally, Biff will consider him a martyr and respect him after witnessing the large funeral and many mourners Willy is sure will attend. Biff Loman Unlike Willy and Happy, Biff feels compelled to seek the truth about himself. While his father and brother are unable to accept the miserable reality of their respective lives, Biff acknowledges his failure and eventually manages to confront it. Even the difference between his name and theirs reflects this polarity: whereas Willy and Happy willfully and happily delude themselves, Biff bristles stiffly at self-deception. Biffs discovery that Willy has a mistress strips him of his faith in Willy and Willys ambitions for him. Consequently, Willy sees Biff as an underachiever, while Biff sees himself as trapped in Willys grandiose fantasies. After his epiphany in Bill Olivers office, Biff determines to


break through the lies surrounding the Loman family in order to come to realistic terms with his own life. Intent on revealing the simple and humble truth behind Willys fantasy, Biff longs for the territory (the symbolically free West) obscured by his fathers blind faith in a skewed, materialist version of the American Dream. Biffs identity crisis is a function of his and his fathers disillusionment, which, in order to reclaim his identity, he must expose. Biff is a catalyst. He drives Willys actions and thoughts, particularly his memories, throughout the play. Whenever Willy is unable to accept the present, he retreats to the past, and Biff is usually there. Prior to his Boston trip, Biff adored Willy. He believed his fathers stories and accepted his fathers philosophy that a person will be successful, provided that he is well-liked. Biff never questioned Willy, even when it was obvious that Willy was breaking the rules. As a result, Biff grew up believing that he was not bound by social rules or expectations because Willy did not have to abide by them, nor did Willy expect Biff to. It is not surprising that Biffs penchant for stealing continued throughout his adult life because Willy encouraged Biffs little thefts while he was growing up. For example, instead of disciplining Biff for stealing the football, Willy praised his initiative. Biffs perception of Willy as the ideal father is destroyed after Biffs trip to Boston. Once he learns that Willy is having an affair, Biff rejects Willy and his philosophy. Biff considers Willy to be a fake, and he no longer believes in, or goes along with, Willys grand fantasies of success. Instead, Biff despises his father and everything he represents. Biffs problem lies in the fact that, even though he does not want to associate with Willy, he cannot change the fact that he is his son. And as a result, he cannot change the fact that his father has inevitably affected him. It is true that Biff is not a womanizer like his brother Happy, but he has incorporated Willys tendency to exaggerate and manipulate reality in his favor. For example, Biff truly believes he was a salesman for Oliver, rather than a shipping clerk. It is only when he confronts Oliver that Biff realizes how wrong he was. Biff is different from Willy because he does finally accept and embrace the fact that he has been living a lie all of his life. Biff is relieved once he realizes who he is and what he wants, as opposed to who Willy thinks he should be and who Biff needs to pretend to be in order to please him. Once Biff states that We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house, he severs himself from Willy because he openly refuses to live by Willys philosophy any longer. Ironically, Biff reconciles with Willy almost immediately following this statement. Since he acknowledges that he, too, is a fake, Biff can no longer hold a grudge against Willy.


Happy Loman Happy shares none of the poetry that erupts from Biff and that is buried in Willyhe is the stunted incarnation of Willys worst traits and the embodiment of the lie of the happy American Dream. As such, Happy is a difficult character with whom to empathize. He is one-dimensional and static throughout the play. His empty vow to avenge Willys death by finally beat[ing] this racket provides evidence of his critical condition: for Happy, who has lived in the shadow of the inflated expectations of his brother, there is no escape from the Dreams indoctrinated lies. Happys diseased condition is irreparablehe lacks even the tiniest spark of self-knowledge or capacity for self-analysis. He does share Willys capacity for self-delusion, trumpeting himself as the assistant buyer at his store, when, in reality, he is only an assistant to the assistant buyer. He does not possess a hint of the latent thirst for knowledge that proves Biffs salvation. Happy is a doomed, utterly duped figure, destined to be swallowed up by the force of blind ambition that fuels his insatiable sex drive. Linda Loman and Charley Linda and Charley serve as forces of reason throughout the play. Linda is probably the most enigmatic and complex character in Death of a Salesman, or even in all of Millers work. Linda views freedom as an escape from debt, the reward of total ownership of the material goods that symbolize success and stability. Willys prolonged obsession with the American Dream seems, over the long years of his marriage, to have left Linda internally conflicted. Nevertheless, Linda, by far the toughest, most realistic, and most levelheaded character in the play, appears to have kept her emotional life intact. As such, she represents the emotional core of the drama. If Linda is a sort of emotional prophet, overcome by the inevitable end that she foresees with startling clarity, then Charley functions as a sort of poetic prophet or sage. Miller portrays Charley as ambiguously gendered or effeminate, much like Tiresias, the mythological seer in Sophocles Oedipus plays. Whereas Lindas lucid diagnosis of Willys rapid decline is made possible by her emotional sanity, Charleys prognosis of the situation is logical, grounded firmly in practical reasoned analysis. He recognizes Willys financial failure, and the job offer that he extends to Willy constitutes a commonsense solution. Though he is not terribly fond of Willy, Charley understands his plight and shields him from blame.


Major Themes The Dangers of Modernity: Death of a Salesman premiered in 1949, right on the brink of the 1950s, a decade of unprecedented consumerism and technical advances in America. Many innovations applied specifically to the home: it was in the 50s that the TV and the washing machine became common household objects. Miller expresses a sort of ambivalence toward modern objects and the modern mindset. Although Willy Loman is a deeply flawed character, there is something compelling about his nostalgia. Modernity acocunts for the obselenscence of Willy Loman's career--travelling salesman are rapidly becoming out-of-date. Significantly, Willy reaches for modern objects, the car and the gas heater, to assist him in his suicide attempts.


Gender Relations: In Death of a Salesman, woman are sharply divided into two categories: Linda and other. The men display a distinct Madonna/whore complex, as they are only able to classify their nurturing and virtuous mother against the other, easier women available (the woman with whom Willy has an affair and Miss Forsythe being only two examples). The men curse themselves for being attracted to the whore-like women, and, in an Oedipal moment, Happy laments that he cannot find a woman like his mother, but are still irrepressably drawn to them. Women themselves are twodimensional characters in this play. They remain firmly outside the male sphere of business, and seem to have no thoughts or desires other than those pertaining to men. Even Linda, the strongest female character, is only fixated on a reconciliation between her husband and her sons, selflessly subordinating herself to serve to assist them in their problems. Madness: Madness is a dangerous theme for many artists, whose creativity can put them on the edge of what is societally acceptable. Miller, however, treats the quite bourgeouis theme of the nuclear family, so his interposition of the theme of madness is quite startling. Madness reflects the greatest technical innovation of Death of a Salesman--its seamless hops back and foward in time. The audience or reader quickly realizes, however, that this is based on Willy's confused perspective. Willy's madness becomes more and more of an issue as he hallicunates more and more. The reader must decide for themselves how concrete of a character Ben is, for example, or even how reliable the plot and narrative structure are, when told from the perspective of someone on the edge as Willy Loman is. Cult of Personality: One of Miller's techniques throughout the play is to familiarize certain characters by having them repeat the same key line over and over. Willy's most common line is that businessmen must be well-liked, rather than merely liked, and his business strategy is based entirely on the idea of a cult of personality. He believes that it is not what a person is able to accomplish, but who he knows and how he treats them that will get a man ahead in the world. This viewpoint is tragically undermined not only by Willy's failure, but also by that of his sons, who assumed that they could make their way in life using only their charms and good looks, rather than any more solid talents. Nostalgia: The dominant emotion throughout this play is nostalgia, which is understandable given that all of the Lomans feel that they have made mistakes or wrong choices. The technical aspects of the play feed this emotion by making seamless transitions back and forth from happier, earlier times in the play. Youth is more suited to the American dream, and Willy's business ideas do not seem as sad or as bankrupt when he has an entire lifetime ahead of him to prove their merit. Biff looks back nostalgic for a time that he was a high school athletic hero, and, more importantly for a time where he did not know that his father was a fake and a cheat, and still idolized him. Opportunity: Tied up intimately with the idea of the American dream is the concept of opportunity. America claims to be the land of opportunity, of social mobility. Even the poorest man should be able to move upward in life through his own hard work. Miller complicates this idea of opportunity by linking it to time, and illustrating that new


opportunity does not occur over and over again. Bernard has made the most of his opportunities, by studying hard in school, he has risen through the ranks of his profession and is now preparing to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. Biff, on the other hand, while technically given the same opportunities as Bernard, has ruined his prospects by a decision that he made at the age of eighteen. There seems to be no going back for Biff, after he made the fatal decision not to finish high school. Growth: In a play which rocks back and forth through different time periods, one would normally expect to witness some growth in the characters involved. Not so in Death of a Salesmen, where the various members of the Loman family are stuck in the same character flaws, in the same personal ruts throughout time. For his part, Willy does not recognize that his business principles do not work, and continues to emphasize the wrong qualities. Biff and Happy are not only stuck with their childhood names in their childhood bedrooms but also are hobbled by their childhood problems: Biff's bitterness toward his father and Happy's dysfunctional relationship with women. In a poignant moment at the end of the play, Willy tries to plant some seeds when he realizes that his family has not grown at all over time Themes, Motifs & Symbols The American Dream Willy believes wholeheartedly in what he considers the promise of the American Dream that a well liked and personally attractive man in business will indubitably and deservedly acquire the material comforts offered by modern American life. Oddly, his fixation with the superficial qualities of attractiveness and likeability is at odds with a more gritty, more rewarding understanding of the American Dream that identifies hard work without complaint as the key to success. Willys interpretation of likeability is superficialhe childishly dislikes Bernard because he considers Bernard a nerd. Willys blind faith in his stunted version of the American Dream leads to his rapid psychological decline when he is unable to accept the disparity between the Dream and his own life. Abandonment Willys life charts a course from one abandonment to the next, leaving him in greater despair each time. Willys father leaves him and Ben when Willy is very young, leaving Willy neither a tangible (money) nor an intangible (history) legacy. Ben eventually departs for Alaska, leaving Willy to lose himself in a warped vision of the American Dream. Likely a result of these early experiences, Willy develops a fear of abandonment, which makes him want his family to conform to the American Dream. His efforts to raise perfect sons, however, reflect his inability to understand reality. The young Biff, whom Willy considers the embodiment of promise, drops Willy and Willys zealous ambitions for him when he finds out about Willys adultery. Biffs ongoing inability to succeed in business furthers his estrangement from Willy. When, at Franks Chop House, Willy finally believes that Biff is on the cusp of greatness, Biff shatters Willys illusions and, along with Happy, abandons the deluded, babbling Willy in the washroom. Betrayal Willys primary obsession throughout the play is what he considers to be Biffs betrayal of his ambitions for him. Willy believes that he has every right to expect Biff to fulfill the


promise inherent in him. When Biff walks out on Willys ambitions for him, Willy takes this rejection as a personal affront (he associates it with insult and spite). Willy, after all, is a salesman, and Biffs ego-crushing rebuff ultimately reflects Willys inability to sell him on the American Dreamthe product in which Willy himself believes most faithfully. Willy assumes that Biffs betrayal stems from Biffs discovery of Willys affair with The Womana betrayal of Lindas love. Whereas Willy feels that Biff has betrayed him, Biff feels that Willy, a phony little fake, has betrayed him with his unending stream of ego-stroking lies. Motifs Mythic Figures Willys tendency to mythologize people contributes to his deluded understanding of the world. He speaks of Dave Singleman as a legend and imagines that his death must have been beautifully noble. Willy compares Biff and Happy to the mythic Greek figures Adonis and Hercules because he believes that his sons are pinnacles of personal attractiveness and power through well liked-ness; to him, they seem the very incarnation of the American Dream. Willys mythologizing proves quite nearsighted, however. Willy fails to realize the hopelessness of Singlemans lonely, on-the-job, on-the-road death. Trying to achieve what he considers to be Singlemans heroic status, Willy commits himself to a pathetic death and meaningless legacy (even if Willys life insurance policy ends up paying off, Biff wants nothing to do with Willys ambition for him). Similarly, neither Biff nor Happy ends up leading an ideal, godlike life; while Happy does believe in the American Dream, it seems likely that he will end up no better off than the decidedly ungodlike Willy. The American West, Alaska, and the African Jungle These regions represent the potential of instinct to Biff and Willy. Willys father found success in Alaska and his brother, Ben, became rich in Africa; these exotic locales, especially when compared to Willys banal Brooklyn neighborhood, crystallize how Willys obsession with the commercial world of the city has trapped him in an unpleasant reality. Whereas Alaska and the African jungle symbolize Willys failure, the American West, on the other hand, symbolizes Biffs potential. Biff realizes that he has been content only when working on farms, out in the open. His westward escape from both Willys delusions and the commercial world of the eastern United States suggests a nineteenth-century pioneer mentalityBiff, unlike Willy, recognizes the importance of the individual. Symbols Seeds Seeds represent for Willy the opportunity to prove the worth of his labor, both as a salesman and a father. His desperate, nocturnal attempt to grow vegetables signifies his shame about barely being able to put food on the table and having nothing to leave his children when he passes. Willy feels that he has worked hard but fears that he will not be able to help his offspring any more than his own abandoning father helped him. The seeds also symbolize Willys sense of failure with Biff. Despite the American Dreams formula for success, which Willy considers infallible, Willys efforts to cultivate and


nurture Biff went awry. Realizing that his all-American football star has turned into a lazy bum, Willy takes Biffs failure and lack of ambition as a reflection of his abilities as a father. Diamonds To Willy, diamonds represent tangible wealth and, hence, both validation of ones labor (and life) and the ability to pass material goods on to ones offspring, two things that Willy desperately craves. Correlatively, diamonds, the discovery of which made Ben a fortune, symbolize Willys failure as a salesman. Despite Willys belief in the American Dream, a belief unwavering to the extent that he passed up the opportunity to go with Ben to Alaska, the Dreams promise of financial security has eluded Willy. At the end of the play, Ben encourages Willy to enter the jungle finally and retrieve this elusive diamondthat is, to kill himself for insurance money in order to make his life meaningful. Lindas and The Womans Stockings Willys strange obsession with the condition of Lindas stockings foreshadows his later flashback to Biffs discovery of him and The Woman in their Boston hotel room. The teenage Biff accuses Willy of giving away Lindas stockings to The Woman. Stockings assume a metaphorical weight as the symbol of betrayal and sexual infidelity. New stockings are important for both Willys pride in being financially successful and thus able to provide for his family and for Willys ability to ease his guilt about, and suppress the memory of, his betrayal of Linda and Biff. The Rubber Hose The rubber hose is a stage prop that reminds the audience of Willys desperate attempts at suicide. He has apparently attempted to kill himself by inhaling gas, which is, ironically, the very substance essential to one of the most basic elements with which he must equip his home for his familys health and comfortheat. Literal death by inhaling gas parallels the metaphorical death that Willy feels in his struggle to afford such a basic necessity.

Glossary of Terms archetype: original pattern on which other models are made callous: a hardened personality callus: parts of the hands hardened by hard work flunk: fail a class in school gregarious: outgoing; friendly hallucination: an experience that does not exist outside of the mind integral: necessary part of the whole


megalomania: obsession with oneself mercurial: volatile; changeable racket: illegal organized activity remiss: careless; not attending to duties Supreme Court: the highest court of law in America; the head of the judicial branch of the American government The Great Depression: an economic turnback in the 1930s after the 1929 stock market crash type: slang for "person," male or female valise: a small bag used as hand luggage wire recorder: a primitive recording device wistful: sad; nostalgic Yiddish: a German language with elements of Hebrew and Slavic languages

Short Summary Willy Loman, a mercurial sixty-year old salesman with calluses on his hands, returns home tired and confused. His wife Linda greets him, but worries that he has smashed the car. He reassures her that nothing has happened, but tells her that he only got as far as Yonkers and does not remember all of the details of his trip; he kept swerving onto the shoulder of the road, and had to drive slowly to return home. Linda tells him that he needs to rest his mind, and that he should work in New York, but he feels that he is not needed there. He thinks that if Frank Wagner were alive he would be in charge of New York, but his son, Howard, does not appreciate him as much. Linda tells him how Happy, his younger son, took Biff, his eldest son, out on a double-date, and it was nice to see them both at home. She reminds Willy not to lose his temper with Biff, but Willy feels that there is an undercurrent of resentment in Biff. Linda says that Biff is crestfallen and admires Willy. They argue about whether or not Biff is lazy, and Willy believes that Biff is a person who will get started later in life, like as Edison or B.F. Goodrich. Biff Loman, at thirty-four, is well-built but not at all self-assured. Happy, two years younger, is equally tall and powerful, but is confused because he has never risked failure. The two brothers discuss their father, thinking that his condition is deteriorating. Biff wonders why his father mocks him, but Happy says that he merely wants Biff to live up


to his potential. Biff claims he has had twenty or thirty different jobs since he left home before the war, but has been fired from each. He reminisces about herding cattle and wistfully remembers working outdoors. Biff worries that he is still merely a boy, while Happy says that despite the fact that he has his own car, apartment, and plenty of women he is still unfulfilled. Happy believes that he should not have to take orders at work from men over whom he is physically superior. He also talks about how he has no respect for the women he seduces, and really wants a woman with character, such as their mother. Biff thinks that he may try again to work for Bill Oliver, for whom he worked years ago but quit after stealing a carton of basketballs from him. The play shifts in time to the Loman house years before, when Biff and Happy were teenagers. Willy reminds the teenage Biff not to make promises to any girls, because they will always believe what you tell them and he is too young to consider them seriously. Happy brags that he is losing weight, while Biff shows Willy a football he took from the locker room. Willy claims that someday he'll have his own business like Charley, their next door neighbor. His business will be bigger than Charley's, because Charley is "liked, but not well-liked." Willy brags about meeting the mayor of Providence and knowing the finest people in New England. Bernard, Charley's son, enters and tells Willy that he is worried that Biff will fail math class and not be able to atend UVA. Willy tells Bernard not to be a pest and to leave. After Bernard leaves, Willy tells his sons that Bernard, like Charley, is liked but not well-liked. Willy claims that, although Bernard gets the best grades in school, in the business world it is personality that matters and that his sons will succeed. After the boys leave, Linda enters and Willy discusses his worry that people don't respect him. Linda reassures him and points out that his sons idolize him. Miller returns to the more recent past past for a short scene that takes place in a hotel room in Boston. A nameless woman puts on a scarf and Willy tells her that he gets lonely and worries about his business. The woman claims that she picked Willy for his sense of humor, and Willy promises to see her the next time he is in Boston. Willy, back in the kitchen with Linda, scolds her for mending her own stocking, claiming that she should not have to do such menial things. He goes out on the porch, where he tells Bernard to give Biff the answers to the Regents exam. Bernard refuses because it is a State exam. Linda tells Willy that Biff is too rough with the girls, while Bernard says that Biff is driving without a license and will flunk math. Willy, who hears the voice of the woman from the hotel room, screams at Linda that there is nothing wrong with Biff, and asks her if she wants her son to be a worm like Bernard. Linda, in tears, exits into the living room. The play returns to the present, where Willy tells Happy how he nearly drove into a kid in Yonkers, and wonders why he didn't go to Alaska with his brother Ben, who ended up with diamond mines and came out of the jungle rich at the age of twenty-one. Happy tells his father that he will enable him to retire. Charley enters, and he and Willy play cards. Charley offers Willy a job, which insults him, and they argue over the ceiling that Willy put up in his living room. Willy tells Charley that Ben died several weeks ago in Africa.


Willy hallucinates that Ben enters, carrying a valise and umbrella, and asks about their mother. Charley becomes unnerved by Willy's hallucination and leaves. The play returns to the past, where Willy introduces his sons to Ben, whom he calls a great man. Ben in turn boasts that his father was a great man and inventor. Willy shows off his sons to Ben, who tells them never to fight fair with a stranger, for they will never get out of the jungle that way. Charley reprimands Willy for letting his sons steal from the nearby construction site, but Willy says that his kids are a couple of "fearless characters." While Charley says that the jails are full of fearless characters, Ben says that so is the stock exchange. The play returns to the present, where Happy and Biff ask Linda how long Willy has been talking to himself. Linda claims that this has been going on for years, and she would have told Biff if she had had an address at which she could contact him. She confronts Biff about his animosity toward Willy, but Biff claims that he is trying to change his behavior. He tells Linda that she should dye her hair again, for he doesn't want his mother to look old. Linda asks Biff if he cares about Willy, for if he does not he cannot care about her. Finally, she tells her sons that Willy has attempted suicide by trying to drive his car off a bridge, and by hooking a tube up to the gas heater in the basement. She says that Willy is not a great man, but is a human being and "attention must be paid" to him. Biff relents and promises not to fight with his father. He tells his parents that he will go to see Bill Oliver to talk about a sporting goods business he could start with Happy. Willy claims that if Biff had stayed with Oliver he would be on top by now. The next day, Willy sits in the kitchen, feeling rested for the first time in months. Linda claims that Biff has a new, hopeful attitude, and the two dream about buying a little place in the country. Willy says that he will talk to Howard Wagner today and ask to be taken off the road. As soon as Willy leaves, Linda gets a phone call from Biff. She tells him that the pipe Willy connected to the gas heater is gone. At the office of Howard Wagner, Willy's boss, Howard shows Willy his new wire recorder as Willy attempts to ask for a job in New York. Howard insists that Willy is a road man, but Willy claims that it is time for him to be more settled. He has the right to it because he has been in the firm since Howard was a child, and even named him. Willy claims that there is no room for personality or friendship in the salesman position anymore, and begs for any sort of salary, giving lower and lower figures. Willy insists that Howard's father made promises to him. Howard leaves, and Willy leans on his desk, turning on the wire recorder. This frightens Willy, who shouts for Howard. Howard returns, exasperated, and fires Willy, telling him that he needs a good, long rest and should rely on his sons instead of working. Willy hallucinates that Ben enters and Linda, as a young woman, tells Willy that he should stay in New York. Not everybody has to conquer the world and Frank Wagner promised that Willy will someday be a member of the firm. Willy tells the younger versions of Biff and Happy that it's "who you know" that matters. Bernard arrives, and


begs Biff to let him carry his helmet to the big game at Ebbets Field, while Willy becomes insulted that Charley may have forgotten about the game. The play returns to the present day, where the adult Bernard sits in his father's office. His father's secretary, Jenny, enters and tells Bernard that Willy is shouting in the hallway. Willy talks to Bernard who will argue a case in Washington soon and whose wife has just given birth to their second son. Willy wonders why Biff's life ended after the Ebbets Field game, and Bernard asks why Willy didn't make Biff to go summer school so that he could go to UVA. Bernard pinpoints the timing of Biff's failures to his visit to his father in New England, after which Biff burned his UVA sneakers. He wonders what happened during that visit. Charley enters, and tells Willy that Bernard will argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. Charley offers Willy a job, which he refuses out of pride. Charley criticizes Willy for thinking that personality is the only thing that matters in business. Willy remarks that a person is worth more dead than alive, and tells Charley that, even though they dislike one another, Charley is the only friend he has. At the restaurant where Willy is to meet his sons, Happy flirts with a woman and tells her that Biff is a quarterback with the New York giants. Biff admits to Happy that he did a terrible thing during his meeting with Bill Oliver. Bill did not remember Biff, who pocketed his fountain pen before he left. Biff insists that they tell their father about this tonight. Willy arrives and tells his sons that he was fired. Although Biff tries to lie to Willy about his meeting, Biff and Willy fight. Biff finally gives up and tries to explain. As this occurs, Willy hallucinates about arguing with the younger version of Biff. Miss Forsythe, the woman with whom Happy was flirting, returns with another woman and prepares to go out on a double date with Happy and Biff. Happy denies that Willy is their father. Willy imagines being back in the hotel room in Boston with the woman. The teenage Biff arrives at the hotel and tells Willy that he failed math class, and begs his father to talk to Mr. Birnbaum. Biff hears the woman, who is hiding in the bathroom. Willy lies to Biff, telling him that the woman is merely there to take a shower because she is staying in the next room and her shower is broken. Biff realizes what is going on. Willy throws the woman out, and she yells at him for breaking the promises he made to her. Willy admits the affair to Biff, but promises that the woman meant nothing to him and that he was lonely. At the restaurant, the waiter helps Willy and tells him that his sons left with two women. Willy insists on finding a seed store so that he can do some planting. When Biff and Happy return home, they give their mother flowers. She asks them if they care whether their father lives or dies, and says that they would not even abandon a stranger at the restaurant as they did their father. Willy is planting in the garden. He imagines talking to Ben about his funeral, and claims that people will come from all over the country to his funeral, because he is well known. Ben says that Willy will be a coward if he commits suicide. Willy tells Biff that he cut his life down for spite, and refuses to take the blame for Biff's failure. Biff confronts him about the rubber tube attached to the gas heater, and tells his mother that it was he, not Willy, who took it away. Biff also admits that his


parents could not contact him because he was in jail for three months. Biff insists that men like he and Willy are a dime a dozen, but Willy claims otherwise. Biff cries for his father, asking him to give up his dreams, but Willy is merely amazed that he would cry for his father. Happy vows to get married and settle down, while everybody but Willy goes to sleep. Willy talks to Ben, then rushes out of the house and speeds out away in his car. Happy and Biff come downstairs in jackets, while Linda walks out in mourning clothes and places flowers on Willy's grave. Only his wife, sons, and Charley attend Willy's funeral. Linda wonders where everybody else is, and says that they have made their final house payment and are free and clear after thirty-five years. Biff claims that Willy had the wrong dreams, but Charley says that a salesman must dream, and that for a salesman there is no rock bottom in life. Biff asks Happy to leave the city with him, but Happy vows to stay in New York and prove that his father did not die in vain. Everybody leaves but Linda, who remains at the grave and talks about how she made the final house payment.

Summary and Analysis of Act I

Act I (Loman Home, Present Day): The salesman, Willy Loman, enters his home dressed in a dark gray business suit and carrying two large sample cases. He appears very tired and confused, a sixty-year-old man with calluses on his hands. Linda Loman, his wife, puts on a robe and slippers and goes downstairs. She has been asleep. Linda is mostly jovial, but represses objections to her husband. Her struggle is to support him while still trying to guide him. She worries that he smashed the car, but he says that nothing happened. He claims that he's tired to death and couldn't make it through the rest of his trip. He got only as far as Yonkers, and doesn't remember the details of the trip. He tells Linda that he kept swerving onto the shoulder of the road, but Linda thinks that it must be faulty steering in the car. He had to drive ten miles per hour to get back home safely. She tells him that he needs to rest his mind. Willy tells her that he was driving along looking at the scenery, and that suddenly he was going off the road. Linda says that there's no reason why he can't work in New York, but Willy says he's not needed there. Linda worries that Willy is too accommodating and that he should tell his boss that he must work in New York. Willy claims that if Frank Wagner were alive he would be in charge of New York by now, but that his son, Howard, doesn't appreciate him. Linda tells him that Happy took Biff on a double date, and that it was nice to see them shaving together. Linda reminds him not to lose his temper with Biff, but Willy claims that he simply had asked him if he was making any money. Willy says that there is an undercurrent of resentment in Biff, but Linda says that Biff admires his father. When Biff finds himself, both of them will be happier. Willy wonders how Biff can find himself as a farmhand. He remarks that it is a disgrace that a thirty-four- year-old man has not "found himself." Willy calls Biff a lazy bum and says that he is lost, but then contradicts himself and says that he is not lazy. Willy complains that Linda got a new type of cheese, American instead of Swiss. Willy longs for the days when their neighborhood was less developed and less crowded. He shouts that the population is out of control. He wakes up his sons Biff and Happy, both of


whom are in the double bunk in the boys' bedroom. Willy vows that he won't fight with Biff anymore, for some men don't get started until late in life, such as Edison or B.F. Goodrich. Analysis At the beginning of the play, Arthur Miller establishes Willy Loman as a troubled and misguided man, at heart a salesman and a dreamer. He emphasizes his preoccupation with success. However, Miller makes it equally apparent that Willy Loman is not a successful man. Although in his sixties, he is still a traveling salesman bereft of any stable location or occupation, and clings only to his dreams and ideals. There is a strong core of resentment in Willy Loman's character and his actions assume a more glorious past than was actually the case. Willy sentimentalizes the neighborhood as it was years ago, and is nostalgic for his time working for Frank Wagner, especially because his former boss's son, Howard Wagner, fails to appreciate Willy. Miller presents Willy as a strong and boisterous man with great bravado but little energy to support his impression of vitality. He is perpetually weary and exhibits signs of dementia, contradicting himself and displaying some memory loss. Linda, in contrast, shows little of Willy's boisterous intensity. Rather, she is dependable and kind, perpetually attempting to smooth out conflicts that Willy might encounter. Linda has a similar longing for an idealized past, but has learned to suppress her dreams and her dissatisfaction with her husband and sons. Miller indicates that she is a woman with deep regrets about her life; she must continually reconcile her husband with her sons, and support a man who has failed in his life's endeavor. Linda exists only in the context of her family relationships. As a mother to Biff and Happy and a husband to Willy, and must depend on them for whatever success she can grasp. The major conflict in Death of a Salesman is between Biff Loman and his father. Even before Biff appears on stage, Linda indicates that Biff and Willy are perpetually at odds with one another because of Biff's inability to live up to his father's expectations. As Linda says, Biff is a man who has not yet "found himself." At thirty-four years old, Biff remains to some degree an adolescent. This is best demonstrated by his inability to keep a job. He and Happy still live in their old bunk beds; despite the fact that this reminds Linda of better times, it is a clear sign that neither of the sons has matured. A major theme of the play is the lost opportunities that each of the characters face. Linda Loman, reminiscing about the days when her sons were not yet grown and had a less contentious relationship with their father, regrets the state of disarray into which her family has fallen. Willy Loman believes that if Frank Wagner had survived, he would have been given greater respect and power within the company. Willy also regrets the opportunities that have passed by Biff, whom he believes to have the capability to be a great man. Miller uses the first segment of the play to foreshadow later plot developments. Willy worries about having trouble driving and expresses dissatisfaction with his situation at


work, and Linda speaks of conflict between Willy and his sons. Each of these will become important in driving the plot and the resolution of the play. Act I (Loman Home, Present Day): At thirty-four, Biff is well-built but somewhat worn and not very self-assured. Happy, two years younger than his brother, is tall and powerfully made. He is a visibly sexual person. Both boys are somewhat lost, Happy because he has never risked defeat. The two brothers discuss their father. Happy thinks that Willy's license will be taken away, and Biff suggests that his father's eyes are going. Happy thinks that it's funny that they are sleeping at home again, and they discuss Happy's "first time" with a girl named Betsy. Happy says that he was once very bashful with women, but as he became more confident Biff became less so. Biff wonders why his father mocks him so much, but Happy says that he wants Biff to make good. Happy worries that Willy talks to himself. Biff, who fumbles with an old, deflated football, tells Happy that he has had twenty or thirty different types of jobs since he left home before the war, and everything turns out the same. He reminisces about herding cattle in Nebraska and the Dakotas, and says that there is nothing more inspiring than the sight of a mare and a new colt. But he criticizes himself for playing around with horses for twenty-eight dollars a week at his advanced age. Happy says that Biff is a poet and an idealist, but Biff says that he's mixed up and should get married. When Biff asks Happy if he is content, Happy defiantly says that he is not. All Happy can do is wait for the merchandise manager to die, but even if that happens he wouldn't be able to enjoy a better position. He says that he has his own apartment, a car, and plenty of woman, but is still lonely. Biff suggests that Happy come out west with him to buy a ranch. Happy claims that he dreams about ripping off his clothes in the store and boxing with his manager, for he can "outbox, outrun, and outlift anybody in that store," yet he has to take orders from them. Happy says that the women they went on a date with that night were gorgeous, but he gets disgusted with women: he keeps "knockin' them over" but it doesn't mean anything. Happy says that he wants someone with character, like his mother. Biff says that he thinks he may work for Bill Oliver, whom he worked for earlier in life. Biff worries that Bill will remember that he stole a carton of basketballs, and remembers that he quit because Bill was going to fire him. Analysis: Biff and Happy are both trapped in a perpetual adolescence. Both men are tall and wellbuilt, but their emotional development does not mirror their physical appearance. Happy reminisces about his first sexual experience, while Biff handles a football, a sign of his childhood. The setting of the segment, the boys' childhood bedroom, also suggests that they are trapped in their past. Even the names of the two men, Happy and Biff, are childlike nicknames inappropriate for mature adults. Biff, in particular, is a drifter who demonstrates little sense of maturity or responsibility. He moves from job to job without any particular plan, and is most content working jobs that use his physicality but do not offer any hope for a stable future. Biff is self-


destructive, ruining every job opportunity that he might have, and realizes his own failure. He is aware that he is a disappointment and an embarrassment to his father, who holds great aspirations for his son. Biff feels that he is just a boy and must take steps to demonstrate a shift into the maturity of adulthood. Happy, in contrast, is less self-aware than his brother, yet is equally confused and is similarly immature. Happy has the ostensible characteristics of adulthood including a steady profession, yet his attitude is that of a teenager. He is a manipulative womanizer who manifests little respect for the women he seduces; his euphemism for seduction, "knockin' them over," suggests at best an impersonal connection and at worst a violent subtext. Happy clearly demonstrates aspects of a Madonna-whore complex; he cannot respect women with whom he has sex, believing them to be inauthentic, and instead wishes to have as a partner a person who has "character" such as his mother. This suggests that Happy cannot respect a woman whom he successfully seduces. Happy's immaturity is perhaps even more apparent in this segment of the play, for his adolescent qualities starkly contrast with his adult lifestyle. Although he has a respectable job, Happy compares himself to his co-workers in terms of physical accomplishment; he believes he should not have to take orders from men over whom he is athletically superior. He thus approaches the workplace with a school-yard mentality, believing that physical strength is more important than intellectual development. Miller contrasts the ideas that the two men have with regards to success, the major thematic concern of the play. Biff believes himself to be a failure because he does not display the trappings of adulthood such as a steady occupation and a stable home life and because he has made mistakes in his life. Happy, in contrast, believes himself to be a failure because, although he is ostensibly successful, still feels empty and unfulfilled. Happy's achievements are not success as such, but rather a lack of overt failure. Act I (Loman Home, Past): This segment of the act takes place in the kitchen years before. Willy reminds Biff not to make promises to a girl, because girls will always believe what you tell them and Biff is too young to be talking seriously to girls. Happy polishes the new car. Willy tells the boys that he found a hammock in Albany that he will hang between the elm trees in the yard. Young Biff carries a football and wears a sweater with a large "S" on it, while Happy wears an old sweatshirt. Willy surprises the boys with a new punching bag, and as Happy exercises he brags about how he is losing weight. Biff shows Willy a football he took from the locker room, but Willy tells him to return it. Biff tells Willy that he missed him when he was away on business. Willy says that someday he'll have his own business like Uncle Charley. Willy says that he'll be bigger than Charley, because Charley is liked, but not well liked. Willy tells the boys that he went to Providence and met the Mayor, and that he also went to Waterbury and Boston. Willy promises to take his boys on business and show them all of the towns in New England and introduce them to the finest people. As Happy and Biff toss the football around, Bernard enters, wearing a brown sweater and corduroy pants. Bernard is worried because Biff has a state exam (Regents)


the following week and has yet to study for them. Bernard heard that Mr. Birnbaum will fail Biff in his math class if he does not study, and reminds Biff that just because Willy has been accepted to UVA the high school does not have to graduate him. Willy tells Bernard not to be a pest, and Bernard leaves. Biff says that Bernard is "liked, but not well liked." Willy says that Bernard may get the best grades in school, but when he gets out in the business world people like Biff and Happy will be five times ahead of him. He thanks goodness that his sons are built like Adonises, because the man who makes an appearance in the world gets ahead. Linda enters, and after the boys leave she and Willy discuss the troubles that Willy has been having in his business. Willy worries that others laugh at him, but Linda reassures him, saying that he is successful because he is making seventy to a hundred dollars per week. Willy also worries that people respect Uncle Charley, who is a man of few words. Linda tells him that few men are as idolized by their children as Willy is. Analysis: Arthur Miller employs a disjointed time structure in Death of a Salesman, in which the play shifts settings and time within the act. The "present" time of the aged Willy Loman and his grown sons gives way to the time when Biff and Happy were teenagers. These scenes are explanatory: the actions and conversations of teenage Biff and Happy clarify the behavior of the characters in their early thirties. The tone of these scenes is idyllic; the tension that is later apparent between Biff and Willy is nonexistent, while both characters demonstrate a confidence and contentment that has disappeared decades later. The segment demonstrates the inherent causes of the Loman sons' immaturity. Willy has instilled in his sons a belief that appearances are more important than actual achievement or talent, contrasting his athletic and handsome sons with the hardworking yet uncharismatic Bernard. Willy values intangible characteristics such as personality over any actual barometer of achievement, which he dismisses as unimportant in the business world. The contrast that Willy makes is between men who are "liked" and men who are "well-liked," believing that to be "well-liked," as defined by charisma and physical appearance, is the major criterion for success. This causes his sons, particularly Biff, to eschew their studies in favor of athletic achievement. Happy continually brags that he is losing weight, while Biff, ready to go to college on an athletic scholarship, shows enough disregard for his studies to fail math. This segment also foreshadows Biff's later troubles; he steals from the locker room as a teenager just as he later steals from Bill Oliver. Although Willy does not speak directly to Happy about how he should treat girls, Miller indicates that it is from his father that Happy gained his unhealthy attitude toward women. Miller defines several major themes of Death of a Salesman in this flashback. Most importantly, he develops the theme of success and the various characters' definitions of it. Miller presents Charley and his son Bernard as unqualified exemplars of success; Bernard is an exemplary student, while Charley owns his own business. However, Willy cannot accept the success of these two characters, believing that it is his personality that will


make Willy a greater success than Charley and his sons more successful than Bernard. Yet there is an unmistakable degree of delusion in Willy's boasting; he fails to realize the limits of charm and charisma when it masks superficiality. Even Willy's claims of his own success at this point seem invalid; he brags about meeting important and powerful men, yet can only specifically describe briefly meeting the mayor of Providence. Furthermore, he worries that others do not respect him as they do Charley and that he is not making enough money. Even in the prime of his life, Willy Loman is an inauthentic man whose dreams exceed his limited grasp. Act I (Hotel Room, Past): Willy crosses from one part of the stage to another, where a woman is standing, putting on her scarf. Willy says that he gets so lonely, and gets the feeling that he'll never make a living for her or a business for the boys. The woman claims that she picked Willy for his sense of humor. Willy tells her that he will be back in about two weeks and that he will see her the next time he is in Boston. Analysis: Miller readily switches from location to location during Death of a Salesman, as the flashback to Willy at home switches to a flashback of Willy in a hotel room in Boston. This serves as an ironic counterpoint to Linda's comment that Willy is idolized by his children; the fact that he is having an affair shows that Willy is not a man worthy of such fervent admiration. He displays the same callous disregard for women that Happy demonstrates as an adult, yet where Happy disregards women with whom he has insubstantial relationships, Willy is unfaithful to the devoted Linda. The flashback also demonstrates that Willy is not a man respected by others; the woman with whom he has an affair selected Willy for his sense of humor rather than for any substantial qualities. Act I (Loman Home, Past): Willy is back in the kitchen with Linda, who reassures him that he is a handsome man. Linda mends her stocking, but Willy tells her that he does not want her to do such menial tasks. Willy returns to the porch, where he tells Bernard to give Biff the answers to the Regents exam. Bernard says that he normally gives Biff the answers, but Regents is a State exam and he could be arrested. Willy calls for Biff, and Linda says that Biff is too rough with the girls. Bernard says that Biff is driving the car without a license and will flunk math. Willy also hears the woman's voice (from the hotel) room, and screams for it to shut up. Willy explodes at Linda, saying that there's nothing the matter with Biff. He asks her if she wants Biff to be a worm like Bernard. Linda, almost in tears, exits into the living room. Analysis: This segment of the chapter, also a flashback, returns to the Loman household, which is the setting for most of the play. Miller contrasts Willy's life on the road in which he


behaves like a callous womanizer with his behavior as a husband at home. A great deal of Willy's dedication to Linda stems from his own sense of pride; he does not want her to mend stockings because it shows that he cannot provide her with the financial resources to buy new stockings. Miller further establishes the contrast between Biff and Bernard; Bernard is more concerned with Biff's studies than either Biff or Willy, while Biff is reckless and abusive. Willy Loman deals with each of these problems through denial. He tells Linda that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Biff, particularly in comparison to Bernard. However, Willy feels the strain of his indiscretions, as is shown when he hears the voice of the woman with whom he has had an affair. The problems that Willy has during his later years are to a great extent self-inflicted, the product of long-standing guilt for his actions. Act I (Loman Home, Present Day): Willy tells Happy that he nearly hit a kid in Yonkers. Willy wonders why he didn't go to Alaska with his brother Ben, because the man was a genius: success incarnate. Ben ended up with diamond mines: he walked into a jungle and came out rich at the age of twentyone. Happy tells Willy that he should retire. Charley, a large laconic man, enters. Happy tells Willy to go to bed, but Charley signals to Happy to go. Charley wears a robe over pajamas and claims that he has heartburn and can't sleep. Willy tells Charley that he needs to take vitamins to build up his bones, but Charley says there's no bones in a heartburn. As Willy and Charley play cards, Charley offers Willy a job, which insults him. Willy asks Charley why Biff is going back to Texas, but Charley tells him to let Biff go. Willy talks about the ceiling he put up in the living room, but refuses to give any details. When Charley wonders how he could put up a ceiling, Willy shouts at him that a man who can't handle tools is not a man, and calls Charley disgusting. Uncle Ben enters, a stolid man in his sixties with a mustache and an authoritative air. Willy tells Ben that he is getting awfully tired, but since Charley cannot see Ben, Willy tells him that for a second Charley reminded him of his brother Ben, who died several weeks ago in Africa. Ben asks Willy if their mother is living with him, but Willy said that she died a long time ago. Charley, who cannot see Ben, wonders what Willy is talking about. Finally Charley becomes unnerved and leaves. Analysis: If Charley and Bernard are the symbols of tangible material success in Death of a Salesman, Willy's older brother Ben symbolizes the broadest reaches of success, which are intangible and practically imaginary. Whether Ben is a Horatio Alger figure, a character whose history is to be taken literally, is disputable; some aspects of his biography are so romanticized and absurdly grandiose that it is likely that the information that Miller gives concerning Ben is filtered through Willy Loman's imagination. When Ben appears in the play, it is only as a representation of Willy's imagination. For Willy, Ben represents fantastic success gained through intangible luck rather than through the boredom of steady dedication and hard work; Ben has gained what Willy always wanted but never could achieve.


The encounter between Charley and Willy illustrates that Willy feels some jealousy toward his friend for his success. Willy offers advice to Charley at every opportunity in an attempt to assert some dominance over him. He interprets a man as a person who can handle tools well, returning to a physical definition of manhood in comparison to monetary or status-based definitions that would assert Charley's superiority. Likewise, Charley seems to realize Willy's envy, and behaves tentatively toward his friend. Although he does injure Willy's pride by offering him a job, Charley does so tentatively, for he has great pity for Willy that he knows he must mask. Charley does, however, give the most sound advice to Willy, advising him to let Biff do what he pleases and leave for Texas. Act I (Loman Home, Past): While Willy talks with Ben, Linda (as a younger woman) enters. Willy asks Ben where his father is, but Ben says that he didn't find his father in Alaska, for he never made it there. Ben claims he had a very faulty view of geography and ended up in Africa instead of Alaska. Willy was only three years, eleven months old when Ben left. Young Biff and Happy enter, and Willy introduces them to Uncle Ben, a "great man." Ben boasts that their father was a very great man, an inventor who could make more money in a week than another man could make in a lifetime. Willy shows Biff to Ben, and says that he's bringing up Biff to be like their father. Biff and Ben start to spar; Ben trips Biff, then tells him never to fight fair with a stranger, because he will never get out of the jungle that way. Ben leaves, wishing Willy good luck on whatever he does. Willy claims that he can hunt snakes and rabbits in Brooklyn. Young Happy brags about how he lost weight. Charley returns, wearing knickers, and reprimands Willy for letting his kids steal lumber from the nearby building that is being refurbished. Willy says that he reprimanded them, but that he has a "couple of fearless characters" as his children. Charley tells him that the jails are full of fearless characters, but Ben says that so is the stock exchange. Bernard enters and says that the watchman is chasing Biff, but Willy says that he is not stealing anything. Willy says that he will stop by on his way back to Africa, but Willy begs him to stay and talk. Willy worries that he's not teaching his sons the right kind of knowledge. Ben repeats that when he walked into the jungle he was seventeen, and when he walked out he was twenty-one and fantastically rich. Analysis: Once again, Miller shifts the setting of the play to previous years in a seemingly imaginary scene that contrasts Willy's failed aspirations with the supposedly great accomplishments of his brother Ben. Willy deals almost entirely in superlatives. Ben is a legendary man who, out of pure luck, ended up the owner of a diamond mine. Ben, who exists as an extension of Willy's imagination, speaks of their father in similar terms, as a "great man" and an inventor. These boasts are exaggerations meant to emphasize Willy's feelings of inadequacy in comparison to his brother and father. Willy even pathetically attempts to justify life in Brooklyn as a life comparable to that in the outdoors. This familial history provides a neat complement to Willy's relationship with Biff; just as Biff


feels himself a failure in his father's eyes, Willy perceives himself to be inadequate in comparison to his father and brother. The second appearance of Young Biff and Young Happy reinforces the values that Willy has instilled in his sons. Happy once again brags about losing weight, showing his focus on physical appearance and athleticism, while Biff steals from the nearby construction site. For Willy, stealing is merely an extension of a capitalist mindset; he makes no distinction between the fearless character in jail and the fearless character in the stock exchange. This demonstrates the insufficiencies of Willy's views on success: he attributes success to luck or immorality and cannot see the virtues of hard work and discipline as shown by Charley and Bernard. Willy can conceive of success as a mantra by Ben or the result of fearless daring, but he cannot imagine that hard work and dedication are critical to the formula. Willy's business values inform his instructions to his sons, while their instruction by Willy inform their behavior in the business world. Act I (Loman Home, Present Day): Ben leaves, but Willy still speaks to him as Linda enters. Willy wonders what happened to the diamond watch fob that Ben gave to him when he came from Africa. Linda reminds him that he pawned it to pay for Biff's radio correspondence course. Biff and Happy come downstairs in their pajamas, and ask Linda how long Willy has been talking to himself. Linda says that this has been going on for years. Linda says that she would have told Biff, if he had an address where he could be reached. She also says that Willy is at his worst when Biff comes home, and asks Biff why they are so hateful to one another. Biff claims that he is trying to change. Linda tells Biff that a man is not a bird to come and go with the springtime. Biff tells his mother to dye her hair again, because he doesn't want her looking old. Linda says that someday Biff will leave for a year, come back and find his parents are gone. Biff says that she is not even sixty, but Linda asks if he thinks about Willy. She says that if Biff has no feelings for his father, then he has no feeling for her either. Linda says that Willy is the dearest man in the world to her, and she won't have anyone making him feel unwanted. Willy re-enters, but Linda tells Biff not to go near him. Biff tells her to stop making excuses for Willy because he never had an ounce of respect for her. Happy tells Biff not to call their father crazy. Biff says that Willy has no character, and that Charley would never act this way, to which Linda replies "then make Charley your father." She tells him that Willy never made a lot of money, and that he is not the finest character, but he is a human being and "attention must be paid" to him. Linda recounts the indignities that Willy has suffered, such as having to borrow money from Charley, and she calls Happy a philanderer. Biff wants to stay with his parents and promises not to fight with Willy. Biff says that Willy threw him out before because his father is a fake who does not like anybody who knows the truth about him. Linda says that Willy is dying and that he's been trying to kill himself. When Willy had his car accident in February, a woman saw that he deliberately smashed into the bridge railing to drive his car into the river, and it was only the shallowness of the water that saved him. Willy has also tried to use the gas line to kill himself. Biff apologizes to Linda and promises to stay and try to become a success. Happy tells Biff that he never tries to please people in business, and that he whistles in the elevator. Willy enters and tells Biff that he


never grew up, and that Bernard does not whistle in the elevator. Biff says that Willy does whistle, however. Biff tells Willy that he's going to see Bill Oliver tomorrow to talk about the sporting good business. Happy says that the beauty of the plan is that it would be like they were playing ball again. Willy reminds Biff to wear a business suit, not to crack any jokes, and not to say "gee." Willy says that it is personality that wins the day. Willy reprimands Linda for interrupting, Biff tells him not to yell at her, and the two start fighting once again. After the boys leave, Linda worries that Oliver won't remember Biff. Willy says that if Biff had stayed with Oliver he'd be on top now. Willy reminisces about Biff's ball game at Ebbets Field. Analysis: Miller, who returns to the present reality of the play in this segment, definitively establishes that the "flashbacks" occur in the context of Willy Loman's imagination and are a symptom of a larger dementia. Linda attributes her husband's hallucinations to Biff's presence, likely a sign that Biff reminds Willy of his failures as a father and as a businessman. However, the aspect of Willy's dementia that Miller focuses on during this segment of the play is the effect which it has on Linda. She has been the one to deal with Willy's erratic behavior alone, and doing so has made her age considerably. She is her husband's only defender, even when this role threatens to further exacerbate the conflicts that her family faces. Miller deals with the indignities that Willy has suffered largely in terms of their effect on Linda. Since her existence and identity depend entirely on her husband, she staunchly defends him even when she realizes that he does not deserve to be defended. When she tells Biff that he cannot love her if he does not love Willy, Linda essentially chooses her husband over her children. She does this largely out of a strong feeling of duty toward Willy, for she knows that she is the only person who shows any concern for whether he lives or dies. Significantly, she centers her defense of Willy on his status as a human being and not his role as a father or husband. In these respects, Linda thus admits Willy's failures but nevertheless still maintains that "attention must be paid" to him. This declaration is significant in its construction; Linda declares that someone must regard Willy, but does not specify anybody in particular, thus avoiding a particular accusation of her sons. She condemns society in general for the ill treatment of her husband. As shown by Linda's condemnation of Happy's philandering and Biff's immaturity, Linda has few qualms about confronting her sons, yet when she demands attention for her husband she does not lay the blame only on them. However, as Miller ennobles Linda as the long-suffering and devoted wife, he nevertheless shows Willy Loman to be undeserving of the respect and admiration Linda accords him. Biff emphasizes the fact that Willy has no sense of character and no respect for Linda, while hints about her physical appearance emphasize that Linda has aged considerably because of her demanding husband. The final segment of the first act serves as a turning point for Biff, who realizes that he must "apply himself" as his parents have demanded of him. This revelation comes when


Linda reveals that Willy has attempted suicide, finally focusing on the severity of his plight. Willy's suicide attempts are the mark of a failed man, but, more importantly, show the disparity between his aspirations and his actual achievements. Biff's idea of a sporting goods business with his brother demonstrates the various character flaws of Biff and his father. It continues the family emphasis on appearance and personality over substance and achievement. Biff places his aspirations for success on Bill Oliver just as his father depended on Frank Wagner; Linda rightly worries about this, thinking that Bill Oliver may not remember Biff. Finally, the idea of the sporting goods business emphasizes the immaturity of Biff and Happy; both men want to work in sporting goods as an attempt to relive their youth and high school athletic glory. Even Willy himself sees this as an opportunity for himself and his sons to regain what they had lost decades before.

Summary and Analysis of Act II

Act II (Loman Home, Present Day): Willy sits at the kitchen table the next morning. He claims that he slept well for the first time in months. Linda says that it was thrilling to see the boys leaving together, and says that Biff had a new, hopeful attitude. Willy dreams about buying a little place in the country. Linda asks Willy if he will talk to Howard today, and he says that he will tell Howard to take him off the road. Linda tells Willy that the refrigerator is broken, and he complains that she didn't buy a well-advertised brand. Linda tells him that he is supposed to meet the boys for dinner at Frank's Chop House. As soon as Willy leaves, Linda gets a phone call from Biff. She tells him that the pipe that Willy connected to the gas heater is gone; Willy must have taken it away himself. Analysis The second act begins with a dramatic shift in tone from the previous act, as Willy now appears cheerful and optimistic. Most importantly, the pipe connected to the gas heater with which Willy tried to commit suicide is now gone; Linda automatically assumes that Willy took it away himself, although this will come into question later in the play. If a sense of optimism dominates this act of the play, it is nevertheless somewhat unfounded. Willy has gone from suicidal to confident and cheerful in the matter of one night, despite the fact that nothing concrete has been resolved. His plans depend almost entirely upon the success of Biff's meeting with Bill Oliver, an eventuality that seems tenuous at best. Act II (Wagner's Office, Present Day): Willy enters the office of his boss, Howard Wagner, a thirty-six year old man sitting at a typewriter table with a wire-recording machine. Howard is ecstatic about his new machine, and shows Willy recordings of Howard's daughter and son. Willy tries to tell


Howard what he wants, but Howard insists on playing a recording of his wife. Willy tells Howard that he would prefer not to travel anymore, but Howard insists that Willy is a road man. Willy says that he never asked a favor of any man, but that he was in the firm when Howard's father used to carry him as a boy. Howard insists that he does not have a spot. Willy talks about how being a salesman used to be a position that had personality in it and demanded comradeship and respect, but today there is no room for friendship or personality. Willy keeps asking for lower and lower salaries, moving from sixty-five to fifty to forty dollars per week. Willy insists that Howard's father made promises to Willy. Howard tells him to pull himself together, and then leaves. Willy leans on the desk and turns on the wire recorder. Willy leaps away with fright and shouts for Howard. Howard returns and fires Willy, telling him that he needs a good, long rest. Howard tells him that this is no time for false pride and he should rely on his sons. Analysis: In this segment of the second act, Arthur Miller uses Howard Wagner as a symbol of progress and innovation in contrast with Willy Loman's outdated notions of business tactics. Most of the details in Howard's office emphasize technological innovation and novelty, from his well-appointed, modern office to the recording machine that fascinates Howard. This shows that Howard is more interested in the future than the past, as he ignores Willy to consider his new machine. In contrast, Willy speaks not of his future with the company but with his history and past promises. That Willy is frightened by the recorder is a symbol of Willy's obsolescence within a modern business world; he cannot deal with innovation. Even his values, as he notes, belong to a different time. Willy speaks of a past time when being a salesman demanded respect and friendship, a time that has clearly passed, if it ever existed at all. Willy once again falls prey to his idea that personality and personal relationships are critical factors in the business world. He cites the memory of Howard's father bringing Howard as a newborn to the office and his own role in helping to name the boy. While personally relevant, in terms of the business world this fact bears little weight. Act Two (Loman Home, Past): Howard exits and Ben enters, carrying his valise and umbrella. Willy asks him if he has secured the Alaska deal. The younger version of Linda enters, and she tells Ben that Willy has a great job in New York. She tells him not to go to Alaska. She wonders why everybody must conquer the world, and tells Willy that he's well-liked, and that Old Man Wagner promised that Willy would be a member of the firm someday. Young Biff enters with Young Happy. Willy insists that it is "who you know" that counts, but Ben leaves. Young Bernard arrives, and begs Biff to let him carry his helmet, but Happy wants to carry it. Willy prepares to escort them to the championship game. Willy tells Charley that he cannot go to Biff's baseball game because there is no room in the car. Willy is insulted when he thinks that Charley forgot about the game. Willy prepares to fight Charley. Analysis:


Miller once again shifts the setting of the play to an earlier date in order to contrast Willy's present experiences with those of his idealized past. The reappearance of Ben is symbolic of those dreams that Willy Loman has sacrificed in favor of a more mundane existence. This segment gives some indication that Linda has, in some respects, limited her husband by forcing him to take a more stable path. She claims that not every man has to conquer the world, perhaps assuming that Willy Loman is not a man capable of doing so. However, Miller reemphasizes Willy's belief in personal connections as the critical factor in business. By this point in the play, Willy's claim that it is not "who you know" that counts has been thoroughly disproved, for Willy was fired by a man whom he has known since his birth. Bernard and Charley's reappearance in this segment foreshadow their later roles in the play. This segment reestablishes the contentious relationship between Charley and Willy, who is shocked to think that Charley may not be in total awe of Biff's athletic achievements. It also reiterates the way in which Bernard remained in Charley's shadow. This dynamic among the characters has obviously shifted, and Miller's insertion of a flashback at this point foreshadows a later development of the dynamic between the Lomans, Bernard, and Charley. Act Two (Charley's Office, Present Day): Bernard, now mature, sits in Charley's office. Jenny, his father's secretary, enters and asks Bernard to go out into the hall because Willy is shouting to himself. Willy talks to Bernard, who tells him that he's going to go to leave for Washington soon. Bernard's wife just had a son, their second. Willy tells Bernard about the deal with Bill Oliver, and asks Bernard what his secret is. Willy wonders why Biff's life ended after the Ebbets Field game, and from seventeen onward nothing good ever happened to him. Bernard asks why Willy did not tell Biff to go to summer school so that he could pass math. Around that time, Biff disappeared for a month to see his father in New England, and when he came back he burned his UVA sneakers. Bernard wonders what happened in New England. Charley enters and tells Willy that Bernard is going to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. Charley gives Willy some money, and asks what's going wrong with him. Charley says that he offered Willy a job, and wonders why he refused. Willy complains about Howard firing him, but Charley says that things like naming a child do not matter: the only thing that matters is what you can sell. Charley offers him a job again, even though he admits that he does not like Willy and Willy does not like him. Willy refuses once more, and Charley realizes that the sticking point is jealousy. Charley gives him money for insurance, and Willy remarks that a person is worth more dead than alive. Willy tells Charley to apologize to Bernard for him, and, on the verge of tears, tells Charley that he is his only friend. Analysis:


Miller juxtaposes the unsuccessful Willy Loman with the great successes of Bernard and Charley in this segment. Miller continues to develop Willy Loman as a pathetic and deranged character who hallucinates and shouts to himself as he walks through the hallway of an office building. Bernard, in contrast, is a successful man, esteemed in his profession and content with his private life. The portrayal of Bernard that Miller offers in this segment is ironic, considering Willy's previous comparisons of Bernard to his sons. While Willy believed that Bernard's more serious behavior and lack of "personality" would hobble him once he entered the business world, the opposite seems to be the case. While Happy is at best moderately successful and unhappy and Biff is an outright failure, Bernard, whom Willy believed to have skills not applicable to the business world, is an obvious success. Bernard himself even seems to realize that Willy's expectations for his sons have been thwarted, and holds back from telling Willy the reason why he is going to Washington in order to avoid embarrassing him. Bernard also serves to elucidate the development of the relationship between Willy and Biff Loman. Bernard can pinpoint a turning point in their relationship, citing a specific time after which Biff's attitude toward his father changed. Bernard seems to attribute this occurrence to Biff's current failure, claiming that Biff never wanted to go to summer school or graduate high school after visiting his father in New England. Miller makes it clear that Willy is directly responsible for Biff's failures. According to Bernard's interpretation of the event, Biff is nearly self-destructive, ruining his chances for a stable future in order to spite his father. Charley also represents a degree of success and serenity that Willy is unable to achieve. It is Charley who best identifies the problem with Willy's philosophy of business: Willy wrongly believes that it is personality and intangible factors that are critical to success, while Charley knows that it is in fact more concrete factors such as sales that determine whether a man is successful. Charley also realizes the degree to which Willy is jealous of him and his son; he believes that this is the reason that Willy will not accept a job from him. The relationship between Charley and Willy is not based on affection, but rather on custom and a developed sense of obligation. Charley admits that he does not like Willy and Willy dislikes him in return, but Charley is in fact Willy's only friend. This declaration is one of the few moments in the play in which Willy seems to realize and acknowledge his own pathetic state. This is accompanied by Willy's claim that a person is worth more dead than alive, which emphasizes Willy's suicidal state and foreshadows events to come. Act Two (Restaurant, Present Day): At the restaurant, Stanley the waiter seats Happy in a table in the back, where there is more privacy. Happy tells Stanley that Biff has returned and is trying to set up a family business. A lavishly dressed girl enters and sits at the next table, and Happy tells Stanley


to bring her champagne. Happy tells the girl that she ought to be on a magazine cover, and the girl says that she has been. Biff enters as Happy flirts with the girl, who is named Miss Forsythe. Happy tells Miss Forsythe that Biff is a quarterback with the New York Giants. Happy asks the girl out, and asks her if she can find a friend for Biff. The girl exits, and Happy remarks that girls like that are why he can't get married. Biff tells Happy that he did a terrible thing. Bill Oliver did not remember Biff, and walked away when Biff approached him. Biff stole his fountain pen, though. Biff insists that they tell their father tonight to prove that Biff is not lying about his failures just to spite Willy. Happy tells him to say that he has a lunch date with Oliver tomorrow and to prolong the charade, because Willy is never so happy as when he is looking forward to something. Willy arrives, and tells his sons that he was fired. Although Biff tries to lie to Willy about his meeting with Oliver, Biff and Willy fight when Willy thinks that Biff insulted Bill Oliver. Biff finally gives up, and tells Happy that he cannot talk to Willy. As Biff tries to explain, Willy imagines himself arguing with Young Biff and Young Bernard about Biff failing math, and imagines Bernard telling Linda that Biff went to Boston to see Willy. Biff continues to explain what happened while Willy imagines the woman in the hotel room. Miss Forsythe returns with another woman and Willy leaves. Biff and Happy argue over who should do something about their dad. Happy denies to the women that Willy is their father. Analysis: While Biff's failures and flaws have been a major preoccupation throughout the play, this segment demonstrates how detrimental Happy's character flaws can be. A compulsive womanizer, Happy tells blatant lies to the women that he meets, claiming that Biff is a professional athlete, then gets rid of his father in favor of seducing Miss Forsythe. In the final, most cruel move that Happy makes, he denies that Willy is his father, thus repudiating his father even more callously than Biff has done. Biff, in contrast, merely continues his pattern of foolish mistakes in this segment. While Biff may have started to fail in order to spite his father, by this point his self-destructive behavior is ingrained. His plan to ask Bill Oliver for money was dubious at best, but Biff made it even more unlikely by psuedo-accidentally pocketing his fountain pen. In contrast to Happy, Biff does show some concern for his father's feelings; he worries that Willy will think that Biff intentionally botched the meeting with Bill Oliver. The Loman sons' insistence on framing Biff's meeting with Bill Oliver in the best possible terms shows that their true interest in the sporting goods business is not for personal gain, but rather to please their father. Biff believes that he cannot tell Willy the truth about his meeting with Bill Oliver, because Willy will think that Biff purposely sabotaged the meeting as an affront to him. Biff's concern is primarily what his father thinks of him and what effect this will have on him; his failure during the meeting, with the exception of his embarrassment over taking the fountain pen, is barely a consideration unless it involves how his father will react to the event. Miller demonstrates that in spite of his weakness, Willy still dominates his sons, whose actions are based on how their father will react to them.


Willy's hallucination about Young Biff failing math and visiting him in Boston gives a greater indication of the reason why Biff garnered such animosity toward his father. Willy ties Biff's visit to Boston with his affair in the same city; the likely confrontation between Willy's life at home as a father and his life on the road as a salesman seems to provide the motivation for Biff's spiteful, self-destructive behavior. Act Two (Hotel Room, Past): Willy follows the Woman as he buttons his shirt. Someone knocks on the door, but Willy says he is not expecting anybody. The Woman claims that Willy ruined her and that whenever he comes to the office she will make sure that he goes right through the buyers and never waits at her desk. Finally, Willy tells the Woman to stay in the bathroom and he opens the door. It is Biff, who tells Willy that he flunked math. Biff begs Willy to talk to Mr. Birnbaum, his teacher, to convince him to pass Biff. Biff says that Birnbaum hates him because Biff made fun of his lisp. Biff hears the woman laugh, and she enters from the bathroom. Willy tells Biff that the woman is staying in the next room, which is being painted, so he let her take a shower in his room. Willy throws the woman out, as she claims Willy promised to buy her a pair of stockings. Willy tries to explain that the woman is a buyer, but Biff tells him never mind and starts to cry. Willy admits that he had a relationship with the woman, but claims that it means nothing to him, and that he was lonely. Analysis: Once again returning to the Loman family's past, Miller finally gives a full explanation for Biff's refusal to take a summer school course, the critical event that determined his chain of failures. It is Willy's infidelity that prompted the change in Biff, as he learned that his father was having an affair with the woman in Boston. Yet the revelation of this reason for Biff's bitterness is not the only example in this segment of how Willy has carelessly ruined the lives of those around him. Willy has ruined the reputation of the Woman, but can offer nothing to her in return. Despite the promises that he has made to her, he denies and discards her. This parallels Willy's earlier insistence that Linda should not mend stockings. Stockings serve as a symbol of what Willy can provide and as a measure of his success. Act Two (Restaurant, Present Day): At the restaurant, Stanley stands in front of Willy as Willy shouts at the waiter, thinking that he is Biff. Stanley tells Willy that his boys left with the two women and said that they will see him at home. Stanley tries to help him. Willy asks if there is a seed store in the neighborhood, because he has to buy some seeds to plant. Willy leaves for the seed store. Analysis:


Yet another humiliation for Willy Loman occurs in this segment: his sons have abandoned him at the restaurant, leaving him alone with the waiter while they go out with the two superficial women. Willy's preoccupation with seeds is symbolic of his realization that he has created nothing permanent or worthwhile in his life. As a salesman, he is merely a liaison for what others create, while the family that he made himself has abandoned him at the restaurant. Seeds symbolize something more permanent and tangible even than his family. This new theme also relates back to Willy's seeming embarrassment at Ben's notion that he cannot hunt or fish in Brooklyn; Willy worries that, as a salesman, he is not close enough to nature. His wish to plant seeds is a way to compensate for this deficiency. Act Two (Loman Home, Present Day): Happy and Biff return home to find their mother there. Happy gives her flowers, and tells Linda that he and Biff met two girls. Linda knocks the flowers to the floor at Biff's feet and stares at him silently. She asks whether or not they care if their father lives or dies. She says that they wouldn't even abandon a stranger at the restaurant as they did their father. Linda asks Happy if he had to go to his "lousy rotten whores" tonight, but Happy insists that all they did was follow Biff around trying to cheer him up. Linda throws them out, calling them a pair of animals. Linda says that Willy didn't have to say anything to her because he was so humiliated that he nearly limped when he entered the house. Biff insists that he talk to Willy, but Linda refuses to let him. They hear a noise outside; it is Willy planting his seeds in the garden. They find Willy outside, carrying a flashlight, a hoe and a handful of seed packets. Willy imagines that he talks to Ben about his own funeral. He says that people will come from miles around, because he is well-known and well-liked, but Ben says that he is a coward. Biff tells Willy that he is not coming back anymore and that he has no appointment with Oliver. Willy does not believe Biff, and tells him that he cut down his life for spite. Willy refuses to take the blame for Biff's failure. Biff takes the rubber tube out of his pocket and puts it on the table. Biff asks if it is supposed to make him feel sorry for his father. Biff tells his father that the reason that he and Linda couldn't find him for months was that he was in jail in Kansas City for stealing a suit, and that he has stolen something at every good job since high school. Biff says that he is a dime a dozen, and so is Willy, but Willy insists that neither of them are unimportant. Crying, Biff asks Willy to give up his phony dream. Willy remarks that Biff likes him, and Linda says that he loves him. Willy is amazed that Biff cries for him. Happy tells Linda that he will get married and change everything. Everybody goes to sleep but Willy, who remains in the kitchen talking to Ben. Linda calls from her bedroom for Willy to come to bed, but Willy runs out of the house and speeds away in his car. Biff and Happy don jackets, while Linda walks out in mourning clothes and places flowers down on Willy's grave. Analysis: The final sequence of the second act parallels the end of the first act in structure and emotional resolution. Linda once again acts as the conscience and voice of reason in the household, berating Biff and Happy for their lack of concern for their father. Biff and


Happy, in turn, resolve to do improve themselves: Happy decides to settle down, while Biff breaks down emotionally and cries for his father. Biff admits that he was unavailable for months not because he did not care to contact his parents, but rather because he was in jail. This contradicts earlier indications that he did not care for his parents. The final confrontation between Biff and Willy seems aligned along different concerns for each man. While Biff focuses on Willy's false dreams for himself and for his sons, Willy seems concerned only with what his sons think of him. Willy still retains a belief that Biff and Happy are important people capable of great success, while Biff takes the more realistic view that they are common people incapable of achieving their unrealistic dreams. This returns to the theme of Willy's boundless aspirations, which guarantee that he will never be satisfied with any degree of success in his real life. It is this inability to fully achieve success that drives Willy Loman to suicide. Willy Loman's suicide can be interpreted as a noble sacrifice, driven by the belief that Biff may go into business with the insurance money he gained from his death. Paradoxically, Willy's suicide may be related to his reconciliation with his elder son; having realized how much Biff cares for him and convinced that Biff does not behave out of spite, Willy can now sacrifice himself for his son. Requiem: Charley tells Linda that it is getting dark as she stares at Willy's grave. Deeply angered, Happy tells Linda that Willy had no right to commit suicide. Linda wonders where all of the people that Willy knew are. Linda says it is the first time in thirty-five years that she and Willy were nearly free and clear financially, because Willy only needed a little salary. Biff says that Willy had the wrong dreams and that he never knew who he was. Charley says that "nobody dast blame this man," for Willy was a salesman, and for a salesman there is no rock bottom to the life. A salesman has to dream. Biff asks Happy to leave the city with him, but Happy says that he's going to stay in the city and beat the racket, and show that Willy did not die in vain. Charley, Happy and Biff leave, while Linda remains at the grave. She asks why Willy did what he did, and says that she has just made the last payment on the house today, and that they are free and clear. Analysis: Willy Loman's funeral is a cruel and pathetic end to the salesman's life. Only his family and Charley attend, while none of his other customers, friends, or colleagues bother to pay their respects. However, the funeral rests primarily on Willy's status as a salesman: it is the character of a salesman that determined Willy's course of action, according to Miller. For a salesman, there are only dreams and hope for future sales. Happy and Biff interpret Willy's suicide in terms of these business dreams: Happy wishes to stay in the city and succeed where his father failed, while Biff rejects the business ethos that destroyed his father and plans to leave New York. Both Happy and Charley frame Willy Loman as a martyr figure, blameless for his suicide and noble in his aspirations, repudiating the humiliations that Willy suffered during the course of the play.


The play ends on an ironic note, as Linda claims that she has made the final payment on their house, creating a sense of financial security for the Lomans for the first time. Willy Loman worked for thirty-five years in order to build this sense of security and stability, yet committed suicide before he could enjoy the results of his labor. Critical Essays Millers Manipulation of Time and Space Miller often experiments with narrative style and technique. For example, Miller includes lengthy exposition pieces that read as stage directions within The Crucible. At first glance, it seems that an audience must either read the information in the program or listen to a long-winded narrator. Upon further inspection however, it becomes apparent that Millers inclusion of background material allows actors and directors to study character motivation and internalize the information, thereby portraying it in the performance. Miller provides audiences with a unique experience when it comes to Death of a Salesman. In many ways, the play appears traditional. In other words, there are actors who interact with one another, there is a basic plot line, and the play contains standard dramatic elements such as exposition, rising action, conflict, climax, and so forth. However, Millers manipulation of time and space creates a very non-traditional atmosphere that is unsettling but effective because it mirrors Willys mental state, thereby allowing the audience to witness his mental instability and take part in it. Stage directions call for a complete house for the Lomans. An audience will not simply watch the action take place in the kitchen but can observe several rooms within the home. This sounds as if it would be distracting since an audience can view several things at once. After all, what should the audience look at? If more than one character is on stage, whom should the audience pay attention to? Miller solves this problem through lighting. Only characters that are talking or involved in direct action are lit on stage, all other rooms, characters, and props remain in shadow. The result is a vast number of rooms and props that can be utilized immediately. The audience does not have to wait while a new set is erected or an old one torn down, but instead moves directly and instantaneously into the next scene. Such movement without the benefit of time delays or dialogue transitions produces a disjointed and fragmented sequence of events, much like a dream. In fact, the stage directions in Act I describe the house as follows: An air of the dream clings to the place, a dream arising out of reality. Miller does not stop there. Even though the action of the play can shift from one part of the house to another without delay, the action is still limited to the present. Willys dreams, memories, or recollections of past events must be revealed in a manner that is distinct from actions taking place in the present. This is important for two reasons: First, the audience must be able to differentiate between the present and the past in order to follow the action of the play; second, Willys increased agitation must be apparent to the


audience, and there is no better way to reveal it than to have the audience observe his inability to separate the past from the reality of the present. Miller achieves this effect by manipulating the space and boundaries of the rooms. When action takes place in the present, characters observe wall boundaries and enter and exit through the doors. During Willys recollections of the past, characters do not observe wall boundaries, and the action generally takes place in the area at the front of the stage, rather than inside the house. As a result, the audience can distinguish present events from Willys memories. For example, in Act I, Scene 3, Willy pours a glass of milk in the kitchen, sits down, and begins to mumble to himself. He is in the present. He then remembers a past conversation with the teenage Biff and resumes the conversation. Since this is a past event, Willy directs his speech through the wall to a point offstage. This cues the audience that Willy is digressing in the past. Sound is also used to create a dreamlike state for both Willy and the audience. A flute melody is associated with Willy, Ben has his own music, laughter cues the Woman, and so forth. Once the sound is introduced with the appropriate character, the audience automatically associates the sound with that same character. As a result, Miller is able to prompt reactions and expectations from the audience, whether they are aware or not. For example, in Act II, Scene 14, it appears that things have finally been settled between Willy and Biff. Even though Biff is leaving in the morning, he and Willy have reconciled. This puts the audience at ease, but once Bens music is heard, it is evident that the play has not reached its final conclusion. In fact, Bens appearance may create anxiety for the audience because it suggests an alternate, more disturbing, end to the play. As the play progresses, the action shifts to the front of the stage. In other words, the audience becomes increasingly aware that the majority of the action is taking place inside Willys head. It is difficult enough to watch an individual lose his or her identity. It is extremely unsettling and disturbing to be forced to experience the individuals memories, illusions, or perhaps delusions resulting in mental instability. Miller takes that into consideration and then pushes his audiences to the extreme. As Willys mental state declines, the audience is forced to watch and to react. As a result, the play may be called Death of a Salesman, but it is a death observed and experienced by every member of the audience.

Major Themes within Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman addresses loss of identity and a mans inability to accept change within himself and society. The play is a montage of memories, dreams, confrontations, and arguments, all of which make up the last 24 hours of Willy Lomans life. The three major themes within the play are denial, contradiction, and order versus disorder. Each member of the Loman family is living in denial or perpetuating a cycle of denial for others. Willy Loman is incapable of accepting the fact that he is a mediocre salesman. Instead Willy strives for his version of the American dreamsuccess and notoriety even if he is forced to deny reality in order to achieve it. Instead of acknowledging that he


is not a well-known success, Willy retreats into the past and chooses to relive past memories and events in which he is perceived as successful. For example, Willys favorite memory is of Biffs last football game because Biff vows to make a touchdown just for him. In this scene in the past, Willy can hardly wait to tell the story to his buyers. He considers himself famous as a result of his sons pride in him. Willys sons, Biff and Happy, adopt Willys habit of denying or manipulating reality and practice it all of their lives, much to their detriment. It is only at the end of the play that Biff admits he has been a phony too, just like Willy. Linda is the only character that recognizes the Loman family lives in denial; however, she goes along with Willys fantasies in order to preserve his fragile mental state. The second major theme of the play is contradiction. Throughout the play, Willys behavior is riddled with inconsistencies. In fact, the only thing consistent about Willy is his inconsistency. From the very beginning of Act I, Scene 1, Willy reveals this tendency. He labels Biff a lazy bum but then contradicts himself two lines later when he states, And such a hard worker. Theres one thing about Biffhes not lazy. Willys contradictions often confuse audiences at the beginning of the play; however, they soon become a trademark of his character. Willys inconsistent behavior is the result of his inability to accept reality and his tendency to manipulate or re-create the past in an attempt to escape the present. For example, Willy cannot resign himself to the fact that Biff no longer respects him because of Willys affair. Rather than admit that their relationship is irreconcilable, Willy retreats to a previous time when Biff admired and respected him. As the play continues, Willy disassociates himself more and more from the present as his problems become too numerous to deal with. The third major theme of the play, which is order versus disorder, results from Willys retreats into the past. Each time Willy loses himself in the past, he does so in order to deny the present, especially if the present is too difficult to accept. As the play progresses, Willy spends more and more time in the past as a means of reestablishing order in his life. The more fragmented and disastrous reality becomes, the more necessary it is for Willy to create an alternative reality, even if it requires him to live solely in the past. This is demonstrated immediately after Willy is fired. Ben appears, and Willy confides nothings working out. I dont know what to do. Ben quickly shifts the conversation to Alaska and offers Willy a job. Linda appears and convinces Willy that he should stay in sales, just like Dave Singleman. Willys confidence quickly resurfaces, and he is confident that he has made the right decision by turning down Bens offer; he is certain he will be a success like Singleman. Thus, Willys memory has distracted him from the reality of losing his job. Denial, contradiction, and the quest for order versus disorder comprise the three major themes of Death of a Salesman. All three themes work together to create a dreamlike atmosphere in which the audience watches a mans identity and mental stability slip away. The play continues to affect audiences because it allows them to hold a mirror up to themselves. Willys self-deprecation, sense of failure, and overwhelming regret are emotions that an audience can relate to because everyone has experienced them at one


time or another. Individuals continue to react to Death of a Salesman because Willys situation is not unique: He made a mistakea mistake that irrevocably changed his relationship with the people he loves mostand when all of his attempts to eradicate his mistake fail, he makes one grand attempt to correct the mistake. Willy vehemently denies Biffs claim that they are both common, ordinary people, but ironically, it is the universality of the play which makes it so enduring. Biffs statement, Im a dime a dozen, and so are you is true after all. Death of a Salesman and the American Dream Death of a Salesman is considered by many to be the quintessential modern literary work on the American dream, a term created by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book, The Epic of America. This is somewhat ironic, given that it is such a dark and frustrated play. The idea of the American dream is as old as America itself: the country has often been seen as an empty frontier to be explored and conquered. Unlike the Old World, the New World had no social hierarchies, so a man could be whatever he wanted, rather than merely having the option of doing what his father did. The American Dream is closely tied up with the literary works of another author, Horatio Alger. This author grew famous through his allegorical tales which were always based on the rags-to-riches model. He illustrated how through hard work and determination, penniless boys could make a lot of money and gain respect in America. The most famous of his books is the Ragged Dick series (1867). Many historical figures in America were considered Alger figures and compared to his model, notably including Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Miller had an uncertain relationship with the idea of the American dream. On one hand, Bernard's success is a demonstration of the idea in its purist and most optimistic form. Through his own hard work and academic success, Bernard has become a well-respected lawyer. It is ironic, however, that the character most obviously connected to the American dream, who boasts that he entered the jungle at age seventeen and came out at twenty-one a rich man, actually created this success in Africa, rather than America. There is the possibility that Ben created his own success through brute force rather than ingenuity. The other doubt cast on the American dream in Death of a Salesman is that the Loman men, despite their charm and good intentions, have not managed to succeed at all. Miller demonstrates that the American dream leaves those who need a bit more community support, who cannot advocate for themselves as strongly, in the dust. Shattered Dream - The Delusion of Willy Loman "The jagged edges of a shattered dream." Do you find that the play leaves you with such an impression? Death of a Salesman tells the story of a man confronting failure in the success-driven society of America and shows the tragic trajectory which eventually leads to his suicide. Willy Loman is a symbolic icon of the failing America; he represents those that have


striven for success but, in struggling to do so, have instead achieved failure in its most bitter form. Arthur Miller's tragic drama is a probing portrait of the typical American psyche portraying an extreme craving for success and superior status in a world otherwise fruitless. To some extent, therefore, Death of Salesman is concerned with the 'jagged edges of a shattered dream' but on another more tragic and bitter level, it also evokes the decline of a man into lunacy and the subsequent effect this has on those around him, particularly his family. Miller amalgamates the archetypal tragic hero with the mundane American citizen. The result is the anti-hero, Willy Loman. He is a simple salesman who constantly aspires to become 'great'. Nevertheless, Willy has a waning career as a salesman and is an aging man who considers himself to be a failure but is incapable of consciously admitting it. As a result, the drama of the play lies not so much in its events, but in Willy's deluded perception and recollection of them as the audience gradually witness the tragic demise of a helpless man. In creating Willy Loman, Miller presents the audience with a tragic figure of human proportions. Miller characterises the ordinary man (the 'low man') and ennobles his achievements. Willy's son, Biff, calls his father a 'prince', evoking a possible comparison with Shakespeare's Hamlet, prince of Denmark.. Thus, the play appeals greatly to the audience because it elevates an ordinary American to heroic status. Death of a Salesman seems to conform to the 'tragic' tradition that there is an anti-hero whose state of hamartia causes him to suffer. The audience is compelled to genuinely sympathise with Willy's demise largely because he is an ordinary man who is subject to the same temptations as the rest of us. Miller uses many characters to contrast the difference between success and failure in the American system. Willy Loman is a deluded salesman whose vivid imagination is far greater than his sales ability. Linda, Willy's wife, honorably stands by her husband even in the absence of fundamental realism. To some extent she acknowledges Willy's aspirations but, naively, she also accepts them. Consequently, Linda is not part of the solution but rather part of the problem with this dysfunctional family and their inability to face reality. In restraining Willy from his quest for wealth in the Alaska, the 'New Continent', ironically the only realm where the "dream" can be fulfilled, Linda destroys any hope the family has of achieving 'greatness'. Even so, Linda symbolically embodies the play's ultimate value: love. In her innocent love of Willy, Linda accepts her husband's falsehood, his dream, but, in her admiration of his dream, she is lethal. Linda encourages Willy and, in doing so, allows her sons, Biff and Happy, to follow their father's fallacious direction in life. Willy's close friend Charlie on the other hand, despite his seemingly ordinary lifestyle, enjoys far better success compared to the Lomans. Charlie differs to his friend considerably: he is financially secure whereas Willy can barely afford to pay the next gas bill. Similarly, Charlie never indoctrinated his son, Bernard, with the same enthusiasm as Willy. Subsequently, Charlie stands for different beliefs to Willy and, ironically, ends up far more successful. He is a voice of reason for his friend but is only useful if Willy


follows his advice. Instead, Willy's proud and stubborn nature ensures that he will never accept Charlie's many generous job proposals. The Dream, as Willy perceives it, is still within grasp of the Lomans thus an ordinary job would not fulfil the true expectations Willy holds of either himself or Biff. Ironically, these job proposals are the one gate left open to Willy and his hopes of becoming 'great'. According to Biff, his friend, the 'anemic' Bernard, is not 'well liked'. However not 'well liked' he may be, Bernard, through constant persistence, has grown up to be an eminent lawyer. He appears to be proof enough of the "system's" effectiveness and affirms the proposition that success is achieved through persistent application of one's talents. Whilst everyone around Willy experiences success and wealth, the Lomans themselves struggle financially. The play romanticises the pioneering dream but never makes it genuinely available to Willy and his family. Willy reveres success. He wants to be successful, to be "great", but his dream is never fulfilled. Indeed, he feels the only way he can actually fulfil his dream is to commit suicide so that his family may subsequently live off his life insurance. It seems Willy's dead brother, Ben, is the only member of the Loman family who has ever achieved something "great" when he proclaims, '-when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich.' Ben is idealised by Willy since he fulfilled the genuine American Dream: to start out with nothing and eventually become rich through effort and hard work. Ironically, this wealth is achieved outside America suggesting that there is little left available for the ordinary individual within the country's own boundaries. Instead, one must look elsewhere for true "greatness", underlining the fact that, for the majority, the much sought after American Dream' is a myth. The play is ambiguous in its attitude toward the business-success dream, but certainly does not rebuke it openly. Nevertheless, when Charlie declares, 'Nobody dast blame this man', Miller hints at the responsibility of the state influenced 'Everyone should have a dream' campaign behind Willy's death, suggesting that the salesman was driven too far, pressurising himself into suicide. Miller also seems to judge America in hinting that there is far greater success to be found outside of its land. Indeed, it seems there is a lot of room for failure (and ruin) as well as 'greatness' in America. Hence, Willy is a foolish and ineffectual man for whom we feel pity. Willy detaches himself from reality, living in a life of idealism and dreams that never materialise. One example of Willy's deluded perception of reality lies in his constant disgruntlement with the American car industry. In truth, Willy has always scorned his cars. Even in the 1930s when, according to Willy, the Chevy was at its prime, the Chevy is still insulted by its owner! These, and other such instances in the play, evoke a prime flaw in Willy's character: he is never, fully content with what he possesses at present. Instead, he lives in a deluded world where imagination and past experiences collude and, frequently, appear as far more desirable eras. As a result, Willy continually finds aspects of his life 'remarkable' but never actually realises that as a salesman and a father, he is a failure. This lack of understanding eventually leads to his tragic death; a death he could not escape for he brought it on himself.In killing himself, Willy finally becomes a man of


purpose and reason. He had been trying to make a gift that would crown all those striving years; in this instant, all those lies he told, all those dreams and vivid exaggerations would now be given form and point. In American Society the only option open to Willy as such was to be a salesman. Tragically, he eventually feels he must, symbolically, trade his own life for his family's wellbeing whereby they will hopefully experience a life of greatness without, ironically, himself present. Death of a Salesman has a form that allows for the simultaneity of past and present, enabling the events in Willy's life to proceed from the fragmented logic of his own experiences. Thus, while Miller ensures that the audience experience Willy's perception of reality, it also recognises it as objectively real. Indeed, Miller's juxtaposition of incidents from Willy's internal and external experience brings the audience to sympathise with Willy. Consequently, the audience is able to share the nightmare experience of the protagonist and eventually deduce their own opinions of the death of a salesman. Miller said of Death of a Salesman that it was 'a slippery play to categorize because nobody in it stops to make a speech objectively stating the great issues which I believe it embodies'. Subsequently, no single character acts as Miller's mouthpiece, nor does any one speech offer a direct reflection of his opinions. And, although there are no genuine soliloquies in the play, Miller's juxtaposition of events from the anti-hero's past and present enable the playwright to illustrate Willy's insanity with similar effectiveness. Consequently, this expressionistic device allows the audience to genuinely symphathise with Willy's jaded state of mind and allow them to eventually deduce their own opinion of Willy's character. Death of a Salesman may also be interpreted as an allegorical representation of America. Willy's garden can be perceived as a microcosm of American society as tower blocks continued to be raised around him. This suggests that, for the 'ordinary' person, the literally 'Lo-man' in comparison to the skyscrapers, life has become overshadowed at the cost of capitalism. The audience is left with the image of the garden that will never grow; the ordinary person has been left behind and even rejected by wealthy capitalists. With everyone succeeding except Willy, Miller also suggests that there is far more success outside America. Indeed, there are nothing but fruitless hopes and 'shattered dreams' to be found within the nation. And, in one last vain effort, Willy attempts to 'grow' something for his family in his buying of seeds to plant in the garden. Nevertheless, even Willy has come to realise that his life is a failure when he declares, Oh, I'd better hurry-Nothing's planted. I don't have a thing in the ground.' Nevertheless, it seems that Miller's intention in writing about the death of a salesman, a seemingly mundane occurrence in twentieth-century society, was to express the playwright's own vision of American Society and the nature of individuality. Death of a Salesman may be interpreted as being solely a play about the failing America and the 'jagged edges of a shattered dream' but it does, nevertheless, engage Miller's belief that 'the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy as kings are'.


Key Facts full title Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem author Arthur Miller type of work Play genre Tragedy, social commentary, family drama language English (with emphasis on middle-class American lingo) time and place written Six weeks in 1948, in a shed in Connecticut date of first publication 1949 original publisher The Viking Press climax The scene in Franks Chop House and Biffs final confrontation with Willy at home protagonists Willy Loman, Biff Loman antagonists Biff Loman, Willy Loman, the American Dream setting (time) Today, that is, the present; either the late 1940s or the time period in which the play is being produced, with daydreams into Willys past; all of the action takes place during a twenty-four-hour period between Monday night and Tuesday night, except the Requiem, which takes place, presumably, a few days after Willys funeral setting (place) According to the stage directions, Willy Lomans house and yard [in Brooklyn] and . . . various places he visits in . . . New York and Boston falling action The Requiem section, although the play is not really structured as a classical drama tense Present foreshadowing Willys flute theme foreshadows the revelation of his fathers occupation and abandonment; Willys preoccupation with Lindas stockings foreshadows his affair with The Woman; Willys automobile accident before the start of Act I foreshadows his suicide at the end of Act II tone The tone of Millers stage directions and dialogue ranges from sincere to parodying, but, in general, the treatment is tender, though at times brutally honest, toward Willys plight themes The American Dream; abandonment; betrayal motifs Mythic figures; the American West; Alaska; the African jungle symbols Seeds; diamonds; Lindas and the womons stockings; the rubber hose


Eugene O'Neill (18881953)

Context Eugene O'Neill (18881953) was the son of an actor whose work meant that the family led a difficult life on the road. O'Neill would later deeply resent his insecure childhood, pinning the family's many problems, including his mother's drug addiction, on his father. Educated at boarding schools, O'Neill gained admission to Princeton University but left after only one year to go to sea. He spent his early twenties living on the docks of Buenos Aires, Liverpool, and New York, sinking into an alcoholism that brought him to the point of suicide. Slowly O'Neill recovered from his addiction and took a job writing for a newspaper. A bout of tuberculosis left him incapacitated and he was consigned to a sanitarium for six months. While in recovery, O'Neill decided to become a playwright. O'Neill wrote his first play, Bound East for Cardiff, in 1916, premiering it with a company in Provincetown, MA that took it to New York that same year. In 1920, O'Neill's breakthrough came with his play Beyond the Horizon. Historians of drama identify its premiere as a pivotal event on the Broadway stage, one that brought a new form of tragic realism to an industry almost entirely overrun with stock melodramas and shallow farces. O'Neill went on to write over twenty innovative plays in the next twenty years, to steadily growing acclaim. The more famous works from his early period include The Great God Brown (1926), a study in the conflicts between idealism and materialism, and Strange Interlude (1928), an ambitious 36-hour saga on the plight of the Everywoman. His late career brought such works as his masterpiece, The Iceman Cometh (1946), an Ibsenian portrait of man's hold on his pipe dreams, and A Long Day's Journey into Night (1956), the posthumously published and painfully autobiographical tragedy of a family haunted by a mother's drug addiction. O'Neill wrote morality plays and experimented with the tragic form. O'Neill's interest in tragedy began as early as 1924 with his Desire Under the Elms, a tale of incest, infanticide, and fateful retribution, but would come to maturity with his monumental revision of Aeschylus's Oresteia,Mourning Becomes Electra (1931). O'Neill chose Electra because he felt that her tale had been left incomplete. More generally, as his diary notes indicate, O'Neill understood his exercises in tragedy as an attempt to find a modern analogue to an ancient mode of experience. Thus Mourning aims to provide a "modern psychological approximation of the Greek sense of fate" in a time in which the notion of an inescapable and fundamentally non-redemptive determinism is incomprehensible. Accordingly, the setting of the trilogy, the American Civil War, springs from O'Neill's attempt to negotiate the chasm between ancient and modern. For O'Neill, the Civil War provided a setting that would allow audiences to locate the tragic in their national history and mythology while retaining enough distance in time to lend the tale its required epic proportions. Mourning also provided O'Neill with an occasion to abandon the complex set design of the Art Theater, which he had long bemoaned as a constraint on the playwright's creative freedom. Eugene O'Neill was born in a hotel on the corner of Broadway and 43rd St. in New York City, a fitting start for someone who was to become one of America's greatest playwrights. He was the son of James O'Neill, one of the most popular American actors 171

of his day. For the first seven years of Eugene's life, the O'Neill family toured with James during his stint with the successful (though artistically unimpressive) Monte Cristo. Eugene attended Catholic boarding school and then the Betts Academy in Stamford, Connecticut. He was accepted at Princeton, but he was suspended at the end of his freshman year and decided not to return. Between 1909-12 he worked in an odd assortment of jobs and traveled extensively as a sailor. Exposure to working class people made a deep impression on O'Neill, and in later years he would draw on these experiences when creating his characters. Frail health was a recurring problem: tropical fever sent him home from his 1909 gold-prospecting trip, and in 1912 he entered a sanatorium to be treated for tuberculosis. During his recuperation, O'Neill read voraciously. His reading ranged across the whole Western dramatic canon, but he devoted special attention to Ibsen, Wedekind, and above all, Strindberg. He began to write in earnest, working on one-acts, full-length plays, and poetry. In 1916, Eugene O'Neill became involved with the people who would found the Provincetown Players. The Provincetown Players became vital to the start of O'Neill's career. The relationship was perfect: O'Neill got a venue for his plays, and gained valuable experience watching his plays acted out onstage. The company got a brilliant young playwright. The 1920 Broadway production of Beyond the Horizon marked the start of O'Neill's ascent to fame. O'Neill was well-received in both America and Europe, and American critics heaped lavish praise on his work; before him, there were no real American playwrights of stature, and for drama critics who had long been frustrated by the void, O'Neill could do no wrong. He won the Nobel Prize in 1936, the first American playwright to receive the honor. But around this time, a new generation of critics began to subject his work to much tougher scrutiny. The harsher criticism damaged O'Neill's career, and he never really recovered. And yet during this period O'Neill was producing some of his most powerful work. Some of his most famous works, like The Iceman Cometh (1939) and Long Day's Journey Into Night (1939-41), were written during this period. Many of these works were not produced during the playwright's lifetime. O'Neill died in 1953. Three years later, the first Broadway production of Long Day's Journey Into Night was a great success. The Iceman Cometh was revived that same year. Between these two productions, new interest in O'Neill was sparked, and his reputation enjoyed a posthumus recovery.

Plot Overview The Homecoming It is late spring afternoon in front of the Mannon house. The master of the house, Brigadier-General Ezra Mannon, is soon to return from war.


Lavinia, Ezra's severe daughter, has just come, like her mother Christine, from a trip to New York. Seth, the gardener, takes the anguished girl aside. He needs to warn her against her would-be beau, Captain Brant. Before Seth can continue, however, Lavinia's suitor Peter and his sister Hazel, arrive. Lavinia stiffens. If Peter is proposing to her again, he must realize that she cannot marry anyone because Father needs her. Lavinia asks Seth to resume his story. Seth asks if she has not noticed that Brant looks just like her all the other male Mannons. He believes that Brant is the child of David Mannon and Marie Brantme, a Canuck nurse, a couple expelled from the house for fear of public disgrace. Suddenly Brant himself enters from the drive. Calculatingly Lavinia derides the memory of Brant's mother. Brant explodes and reveals his heritage. Lavinia's grandfather loved his mother and jealously cast his brother out of the family. Brant has sworn vengeance. A moment later, Lavinia appears inside her father's study. Christine enters indignantly, wondering why Lavinia has summoned her. Lavinia reveals that she followed her to New York and saw her kissing Brant. Christine defiantly tells Lavinia that she has long hated Ezra and that Lavinia was born of her disgust. She loves her brother Orin because he always seemed hers alone. Lavinia coldly explains that she intends to keep her mother's secret for Ezra's sake. Christine must only promise to never see Brant again. Laughingly Christine accuses her daughter of wanting Brant herself. Lavinia has always schemed to steal her place. Christine agrees to Lavinia's terms. Later she proposes to Brant that they poison Ezra and attribute his death to his heart trouble. One week later, Lavinia stands stiffly at the top of the front stairs with Christine. Suddenly Ezra enters and stops stiffly before his house. Lavinia rushes forward and embraces him. Once she and Ezra alone, Christine assures her that he has nothing to suspect with regards to Brant. Ezra impulsively kisses her hand. The war has made him realize that they must overcome the wall between them. Calculatingly Christine assures him that all is well. They kiss. Toward daybreak in Ezra's bedroom, Christine slips out from the bed. Mannon's bitterly rebukes her. He knows the house is not his and that Christine awaits his death to be free. Christine deliberately taunts that she has indeed become Brant's mistress. Mannon rises in fury, threatening her murder, and then falls back in agony, begging for his medicine. Christine retrieves a box from her room and gives him the poison. Mannon realizes her treachery and calls Lavinia for help. Lavinia rushes to her father. With his dying effort, Ezra indicts his wife: "She's guiltynot medicine!" he gasps and then dies. Her strength gone, Christine collapses in a faint. The Hunted Peter, Lavinia, and Orin arrive at the house. Orin disappointedly complains of Christine's absence. He jealously asks Lavinia about what she wrote him regarding Brant. Lavinia warns him against believing Christine's lies. Suddenly Christine hurries out, reproaching Peter for leaving Orin alone. Mother and son embrace jubilantly. Suspiciously Orin asks Christine about Brant. Christine explains that Lavinia has gone mad and begun to accuse her of the impossible. Orin sits at Christine's feet and recounts his wonderful dreams about her and the South Sea Islands. The Islands


represented all the war was not: peace, warmth, and security, or Christina herself. Lavinia reappears and coldly calls Orin to see their father's body. In the study, Orin tells Lavinia that Christine has already warned him of her madness. Calculatingly Lavinia insists that Orin certainly cannot let their mother's paramour escape. She proposes that they watch Christine until she goes to meet Brant herself. Orin agrees. The night after Ezra's funeral, Brant's clipper ship appears at a wharf in East Boston. Christine meets Brant on the deck, and they retire to the cabin to speak in private. Lavinia and an enraged Orin listen from the deck. The lovers decide to flee east and seek out their Blessed Islands. Fearing the hour, they painffully bid each other farewell. When Brant returns, Orin shoots him and ransacks the room to make it seem that Brant has been robbed. The following night Christine paces the drive before the Mannon house. Orin and Lavinia appear, revealing that they killed Brant. Christine collapses. Orin knees beside her pleadingly, promising that he will make her happy, that they can leave Lavinia at home and go abroad together. Lavinia orders Orin into the house. He obeys. Christine glares at her daughter with savage hatred and marches into the house. Lavinia determinedly turns her back on the house, standing like a sentinel. A shot is heard from Ezra's study. Lavinia stammers: "It is justice!" The Haunted A year later, Lavinia and Orin return from their trip East. Lavinia's body has lost its military stiffness and she resembles her mother perfectly. Orin has grown dreadfully thin and bears the statue-like attitude of his father. In the sitting room, Orin grimly remarks that Lavinia's has stolen Christine's soul. Death has set her free to become her. Peter enters from the rear and gasps, thinking he has seen Christine's ghost. Lavinia approaches him eagerly. Orin jealously mocks his sister, accusing her of becoming a true romantic during their time in the Islands. A month later, Orin works intently at a manuscript in the Mannon study. Lavinia knocks sharply at the locked door. With forced casualness, she asks Peter what he is doing. Orin insists that they must atone for Mother's death. As the last male Mannon, he has written a history of the family crimes, from Abe's onward. Lavinia is the most interesting criminal of all. She only became pretty like Mother on Brant's Islands, with the natives staring at her with desire. When Orin accuses her of sleeping with one of them, she assumes Christine's taunting voice. Reacting like Ezra, Orin grasps his sister's throat, threatening her murder. He has taken Father's place and she Mother's. A moment later, Hazel and Peter appear in the sitting room. Orin enters, insisting that he see Hazel alone. He gives her a sealed envelope, enjoining her to keep it safe from his sister. She should only open it if something happens to him or if Lavinia tries to marry Peter. Lavinia enters from the hall. Hazel moves to leave, trying to keep Orin's envelope hidden behind her back. Rushing to Orin, Lavinia beseeches him to make her surrender it. Orin complies. Orin tells his sister she can never see Peter again. A "distorted look of desire" comes into his face. Lavinia stares at him in horror, saying, "For God's sake! No! You're insane!


You can't mean!" Lavinia wishes his death. Startled, Orin realizes that his death would be another act of justice. Mother is speaking through Lavinia. Peter appears in the doorway. Unnaturally casual, Orin remarks that he was about to go clean his pistol and exits. Lavinia throws herself into Peter's arms. A muffled shot is heard. Three days later, Lavinia appears dressed in deep mourning. A resolute Hazel arrives and insists that Lavinia not marry Peter. The Mannon secrets will prevent their happiness. She already has told Peter of Orin's envelope. Peter arrives, and the pair pledges their love anew. Started by the bitterness in his voice, Lavinia desperately flings herself into his arms crying, "Take me, Adam!" Horrified, Lavinia orders Peter home. Lavinia cackles that she is bound to the Mannon dead. Since there is no one left to punish her, she must punish herselfshe must entomb herself in the house with the ancestors. Character List Lavinia Mannon - The Mannon's daughter. Lavinia is wooden, stiff-shouldered daughter, flat- chested, thin, angular and dressed in simple black. She shares her mother Christine's lustrous copper hair and mask-like face. The severe Lavinia considers herself robbed of love at her mother's hands. Thus she schemes to take Christine's place and become the wife of her father and mother of her brother. She ultimately does so upon her mother's death, reincarnating her in her own flesh. Lavinia is Ezra's wooden, stiff-shouldered, flat-chested, thin, and angular daughter. She is garbed in the black of mourning. Her militaristic bearing, a mark of her identification with her father, symbolizes her role as a functionary of the Mannon clan or, to use Christine's terms, as their sentry. Lavinia appears as the keeper of the family crypt and all its secrets, figuring as an agent of repression throughout the play. She will urge Orin in particular to forget the dead, compulsively insist upon the justice of their crimes, and keep the history of the family's past from coming to light. Lavinia's repressive stiffness and mask-like countenance mirrors that of the house, the monument of repression erected by her ancestors to conceal their disgraces. Ultimately this manor becomes her tomb, Lavinia condemning herself to live with the Mannon dead until she and all their secrets with her die. Despite her loyalties to the Mannon line, Lavinia appears as her mother double from the outset of the play, sharing the same lustrous copper hair, violet eyes, and mask-like face. Christine is her rival. Lavinia considers herself robbed of all love at her mother's hands, Christine not only taking her father but her would-be lover as well. Thus she schemes to take Christine's place and become the wife of her father and mother of her brother. She does so upon her mother's death, reincarnating her in her own flesh. In doing so, Lavinia comes to femininity and sexuality. Lavinia traces a classical Oedipal trajectory, in which the daughter, horrified by her castration, yearns to become the mother and bear a child by her father that would redeem her lack. Orin figures as this child as well as the husband she would leave to be with her son, that is, Peter substituting as Brant.


Christine Mannon - A striking woman of forty with a fine, voluptuous figure, flowing animal grace, and a mass of beautiful copper hair. She wears green, which symbolizes her envy. Her pale face is also a life-like mask, a mask that represents both her duplicity and her almost super-human efforts at repression. Having long abhorred her husband Ezra, Christine plots his murder with her lover Brant upon his return from the Civil War. Christine is a striking woman of forty with a fine, voluptuous figure, flowing animal grace, and a mass of beautiful copper hair. Her pale face is also a life- like mask, a mask that represents both her duplicity and her almost super-human efforts at repression. Having long abhorred her husband Ezra, Christine plots his murder with her lover Brant upon his return from the Civil War. She loves incestuously, repudiating her husband and clinging to her son as that which is all her own. She repeats this incestuous relation in her affair with Brant, rediscovering Orin in a substitute. Like her double, Brant's mother Marie, Christine moves with an animal-like grace, grace that codes for her sexual excess. This grace makes her exotic, or even of another race, aligning her with the recurring figures of the island native. It makes sense that Lavinia must go among the natives to fully assume her figure. As her characteristic green dress suggests, Christine is consumed with envy. She envies Brant's Island women, hating them for their sexual pleasures. Despite the desperate veneer of kindness, she envies Hazel for her youth, imagining her as a figure for what she once was. Before the threat of her oncoming age, she must secure her love affair with Brant at all costs. Orin Mannon - The Mannon son returned from war. Orin bears a striking resemblance to his father and Captain Brant, though he appears as a weakened, refined, and oversensitive version of each. He possesses a boyish charm that invites the maternal favors of women. He loves his mother incestuously, flying into a jealous rage upon the discovery of her love affair that leads to Christine and Brant's deaths. Orin will then force he and his sister to judgment for their crimes in an attempt to rejoin his mother in death. The Mannon son returned from war, Orin is the boyish counterpart to Aeschylus's Orestes. He loves his mother incestuously, yearning for pre-Oedipal plentitude, the mythic moment prior to the intervention of the father into the mother-son dyad. This preOedipal paradise appears primarily in two fantasies: that of the secret world he shares with Christine in childhood and the Blessed Island he imagines as a haven from the war. As the stage notes indicate, Orin bears a striking resemblance to the other Mannon men though he appears as a weakened, refined, and oversensitive version of each. These doubles are his rivals within the Mother-Son love affair that structures the trilogy, with Orin competing with Ezra and Brant for Christine's desire. Thus he flies into a jealous rage upon the discovery of her love affair that leads to Christine and Brant's deaths. Orin will then force he and his sister to judgment for their crimes in an attempt to rejoin his mother in death. Brigadier-General Ezra Mannon - The great Union general. Ezra is a spare, big-boned man of exact and wooden movements. His mannerisms suggest the statue-like poses of military heroes. His brusque and authoritative voice has a hollow and repressed quality.


As his near- homophonic name suggests, he is Agamemnon's counterpart, the general returned from war to be murdered by his wife and her lover. He continues to exert his influence in symbolic form. His various images, and his portrait in particular, call his family to judgment from beyond the grave. As his homophonic name suggests, he is Agamemnon's counterpart, the great general returned from war to be murdered by his wife and her lover. We first encounter Ezra prior to his homecoming in the former of the ominous portrait hanging in his study. Here, as throughout the trilogy, Ezra is dressed in his judge's robes and appears as a symbol of the law. Ezra's authority rests primarily in his symbolic form. Indeed, he is far more the figure for the law in this form than as a broken, bitter, ruined husband. Both before and after his death, Ezra will continuously appear in his symbolic capacities. His mannerisms, for example, suggest the unyielding statue-like poses of military heroes; to Christine, he imagines himself as a statue of a great man standing in a square. After his death, Lavinia will constantly invoke his name and voice. Christine will hear herself condemned by his corpse. Ezra's various images will call his family to judgment from beyond the grave.

Captain Adam Brant - A powerful, romantic sea captain. Brant has a swarthy complexion, sensual mouth, and long, coal-black hair. He also of course bares a striking resemblance to the other Mannon men, sharing their same, mask-like faces. The child of the illegitimate Mannon line, he returns to wreak vengeance on Ezra's household. He steals Ezra's wife, a woman he imagines in the image of his mother, and seduces Lavinia to conceal their affair. Brant is a powerful, romantic sea captain. He has swarthy complexion, sensual mouth, and long, coal-black hair. He dresses, as if some romantic Byronic ideal, in almost foppish extravagance with touches of studied carelessness. The child of the illegitimate Mannon line, he returns to wreak vengeance on Ezra's household. He steals Ezra's wife and seduces Lavinia to conceal their affair. Brant also of course bares a striking resemblance to the other Mannon men. He does so as yet another son incestuously enthralled with Mother and her substitutes. Hazel Niles - A longtime friend of the Mannon children. Hazel is a pretty, healthy, darkhaired girl of nineteen. O'Neill describes her character as frank, innocent, amiable, and good. She functions as Orin's would-be sweetheart, and both Christine and Lavinia attempting to pass Orin off onto her so they can flee with their suitors. Hazel also haplessly attempts to rescue Orin from his fate. Captain Peter Niles - An artillery captain for the Union. Peter resembles his sister in character. He is straightforward, guileless, and good-natured, failing to apprehend the machinations afoot in the Mannon house until the very end of the trilogy. He functions as the suitor Lavinia first rejects and later takes up as a substitute for Captain Brant.


Seth Beckwith - The Mannons' aged gardener. Seth is stoop-shoulded and raw-boned but still strong. Like his employers, his gaunt face gives the impression of a life-like mask. In his time with the Mannons, he has learned most of the family's secrets and colluded in keeping them. A watchman figure of sorts, he is repeatedly seen wandering the grounds and singing the sea chanty "Shenandoah." Amos Ames - A fat carpenter in his fifties. Ames is a typical and relatively benign town gossip-monger. Louisa Ames - Amos's wife. Louisa is similarly a gossip though much more maliciously. Minnie - Louisa's meek middle-aged cousin and most eager listener. Josiah Borden - A small, wizened man of sixty. Borden is the shrewd manager of the Mannon shipping company. Emma Borden - Josiah's wife. Emma is a typical New England woman of pure English ancestry, with a horse face, buckteeth, and big teeth. Her manner is defensively sharp and assertive. Everett Hills, D.D. - The well-fed minister of a prosperous small town: snobbish, unctuous, and ingratiating in his demeanor. Mrs. Hills - A sallow, flabby, and self-effacing minister's wife. Dr. Joseph Blake - The Mannon's kindly family physician, stout, self-important, and stubbornly opinionated. The Chantyman - A drunk, weather-beaten man of sixty-five. Though dissipated, he possesses a romantic, troubadour-of-the-sea air. Critic Travis Bogard considers his cameo appearance in "The Hunted" as O'Neill's farewell to the seaman heroes of his earlier plays. Abner Small - The shrill, goat-bearded clerk of the town hardware store who breaks into the Mannon house on a wager. Ira Mackel - A sly, cackling farmer who helps goad Small into the house. Joe Silva - A fat, boisterous Portuguese fishing captain who also helps goad Small into the house.

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols Themes Oedipus Although O'Neill supposedly derived Mourning Becomes Electra from the Oresteia, the myth that actually structures the play's action is overwhelming that of Oedipus. Oedipus was the Theban king who unwittingly killed his father and murdered his mother, bringing ruin to the land. Famously Freud elaborated this myth into his Oedipus complex, the structure through which children are conventionally introduced into the social order and normative sexual relations. At the center of this complex in what Freud defined as its positive form is the child's incestuous desire for the parent of the opposite sex, a desire possibly surmounted in the


course of the child's development or else subject to repression. Its development is starkly differentiated for boys and girls. Both begin with a primary love object, the mother. The boy child only moves from the mother upon the threat of castration posed by his rival, the father. In other words, the boy fears that the father would cut his penis off if he continues to cling to the mother who rightfully belongs to her husband. By prohibiting incest and instituting the proper relations of desire within the household, the Father becomes a figure of the law. In surmounting his Oedipal desires, the boy would then abandon his mother as a love object and identify himself with his father. In contrast, the girl abandons the mother upon realizing both the mother's castration and her own. To her dismay, neither she nor her mother have a penis. She then turns to the father in hopes of bearing a child by him that would substitute for her missing penis; the girl would become a mother in her mother's place. Thus, whereas castration ends the Oedipus complex for the boy, it begins it for the girl. The Oedipal drama in its many permutations determines the course of the trilogy. Lavinia, for example, yearns to replace Christine as wife to her father and mother to her brother. Christine clings to Orin as that the "flesh and blood," entirely her own, that would make good on her castration. Brant, in turn, is but a substitute for her precious son. Orin yearns to re- establish his incestuous bond with his mother. But the war, where he would finally assume the Mannon name, forces him from their pre-Oedipal embrace in the first place. Though titled after Electra, the predominant pair of lovers in Mourning is the MotherSon. Put bluntly, the male Mannons in some way or another take their female love objects as Mother substitutes, and the women pose them as their sons. The Fathers of the play, Ezra and otherwise, figure as the rival who would break this bond of love. As we will see, what is primarily being mourned here is the loss of this love relation, this "lost island" where Mother and Son can be together. Fate, Repetition, and Substitution As Travis Bogard notes, O'Neill wrote Mourning to convince modern audiences of the persistence of Fate. Accordingly, throughout the trilogy, the players will remark upon a strange agency driving them into their illicit love affairs, murders, and betrayals. What O'Neill terms fate is the repetition of a mythic structure of desire across the generations, the Oedipal drama. As Orin will remark to Lavinia in "The Haunted," the Mannons have no choice but to assume the roles of Mother-Son that organize their family history. The players continually become substitutes for these two figures, a substitution made most explicit in Lavinia and Orin's reincarnation as Christine and Ezra. In this particular case, Lavinia traces the classical Oedipal trajectory, in which the daughter, horrified by her castration, yearns to become the mother and bear a child by her father that would redeem her lack. Orin at once figures as this child as well as the husband she would leave to be with her son. The Double/the Rival The various substitutions among the players as structured by the Oedipal drama make the players each other's doubles. The double is also the rival, the player who believes himself


dispossessed convinced that his double stands in his proper place. Thus, for example, Lavinia considers Christine the wife and mother she should be. To take another example, Mourning's male players universally vie for the desire of Mother. The Civil War, generally remembered as a war between brothers, comes to symbolize this struggle. The men's rivalries are murderously infantile, operating according to a jealous logic of "either you go or I go." Because in these rivalries the other appears as that which stands in the self's rightful place within the Oedipal triangle, the rivals appear as doubles of each other as well. Orin's nightmare of his murders in the fog allegorizes this struggle, Orin repeatedly killing the same man, himself, and his father. This compulsive series of murders demonstrates the impossibility of the lover ever acceding to his "rightful place" within the Oedipal triangleMother will always want another, producing yet another rival. The Law of the Father In the Oedipal myth, what tears the son away from his incestuous embrace with the mother is the imposition of the father's law. Mourning's principal father, Ezra, serves as figure for this paternal law, though more in his symbolic form than in his own person. Ezra's symbolic form includes his name, the portrait in which he wears his judge's robes, and his ventriloquist voice. Indeed, his symbolic form almost usurps his person. Note how Ezra, in fearing that he has become numb to himself, muses that he has become the statue of a great man, a monument in the town square. Ezra's death makes the importance of his symbolic function even more apparent. With the death of his person, he exercises the law with all the more force, haunting the living in his various symbolic forms. Thus, for example, Christine will cringe before his portrait, Lavinia will invoke his voice and name to command Orin to attention. Motifs The Blessed Islands The fantasy of the Blessed Island recurs among the major players as the lost Mother-Son dyad disrupted by the Oedipal drama. It, rather than any of their deaths, is the trilogy's principal object of mourning. Orin offers the most extensive vision of the Blessed Island to Christine in Act II of "The Hunted." A sanctuary from the war, the Island is a warm, peaceful, and secure paradise composed of the mother's body. Thus Orin can imagine himself with Christine without her being there. In terms of the trilogy's sexual drama, the Blessed Island is the realm of the pre-Oedipal, the time of plentitude and wholeness shared by mother and child. However, Orin goes to war to do his duty as a Mannon. The Natives The Blessed Islands are also populated, in the players' imaginations, by natives, which entwine their fantasies of sex with those of race. Generally the native appears through two divergent images: the sexual innocent and the sexually depraved. Thus, for example, Lavinia will recall the islands as the home of timeless children, dancing naked on the beach and loving without sin. This island is the perfect home for a prelapsarian love affair. For Orin, however, the natives display an almost bestial sexual prowess, stripping


his sister with their lascivious gazes. The native assumes these proportions when imagined as rivals, the prowess and pleasure they would ostensibly provide the lover becoming objects of envy. Symbols Though Mourning is rife with symbolism, the symbol that dominates the playing space is certainly the Mannon house. The house is built in the style of a Greek temple, with white columned portico covering its gray walls. As Christine complaints in Act I of "Homecoming," the house is the Mannons' "whited sepulcher." It functions not only as crypt to the family's dead but also to its secrets. Its founder, Abe Mannon, designs it as a monument of repression, building it to cover over the disgrace that sets this revenge cycle in motion. What symbolizes this repression in turn is the house's distinguishing feature, the "incongruous white mask" of a portico hiding its ugliness. This mask doubles those of its residents, evoking the "life-like masks" the Mannons wear as their faces.

"Homecoming": Act I, Scene One, Part I Summary It is late afternoon in front of the Mannon house. The house is in the style of a Greek temple style, featuring a white, columned portico that stands like an "incongruous white mask." From the town, a band is heard playing "John Brown's Body." From the rear, the gardener Seth Beckwith is heard singing "Shenandoah" in the wraith of a baritone. Amos Ames, a garrulous and gossipy carpenter, his wife Louisa, and her cousin Minnie follow. They have come to spy on the Mannons. Seth proclaims that if the news of Ezra Mannon's return is true, they will all be celebrating tonight. He praises Mannon as uniquely able, having taken over the shipping business upon his father Abe's death and become a judge, a mayor, and then brigadiergeneral for the Union. Louisa remarks that while the town may be proud of Ezra, it has little love for his "furrin lookin' and queer" wife Christine. Changing the subject, Seth goes off to meet Mannon's daughter, Lavinia. Suddenly Christine appears and the trespassers hide. Christine is a distinctly handsome woman of copper and bronze hair: her face gives the impression of a "wonderfully life-like pale mask." She pauses and listens to the distant music defensively and then passes without having noticed the trio. Ames remarks upon how like all Mannons, Christine is "secret lookin'." Louisa urges him to tell Minnie about one of the Mannon's most scandalous secrets, the story of Abe Mannon's brother David marrying that "French Canuck nurse girl" he got pregnant. Seth returns and then Lavinia appears. She looks strikingly like her mother, bearing the same mask-like countenance, but does all she can to emphasize their difference. Dressed in somber black, Lavinia moves in a wooden, square- shouldered, and militaristic manner. She pauses to listen to the music with vindictive satisfaction.


Seth tells her that the war is certainly over and her father coming home. He asks where she was last night, forcing her to admit, as if admitting a secret understanding between them, that she was in New York. Immediately, however, Lavinia stiffens, claiming to not know what Seth is talking about. He concedes but wonders if he should warn her against Captain Brant. Before Seth can continue, however, Lavinia's guileless childhood friends, Peter and Hazel, arrive. Hazel worries if Lavinia's brother and her would-be sweetheart, Orin, has been wounded. Impulsively she takes off, teasingly ordering Lavinia to treat her brother kindly. Horribly embarrassed, Peter fidgets and asks if Orin truly loves Hazel. Lavinia stiffens and declares that she hates love and wants to know nothing of it. If Peter is proposing to her again, he must realize that she cannot marry anyone, since her father needs her. Peter insists that he will not lose hope, unless she has fallen for another. The townsfolk have been saying a mysterious and romantic-looking clipper captain has been courting her. Lavinia declares her hate for him. Peter muses that the captain reminds of someone. Analysis As Travis Bogard notes, O'Neill wrote Mourning as an attempt to convince modern audiences of the persistent of Fate. The sense of Fate the trilogy inspires principally lies in its staging the repetition of a myth that, within Western myths of origin, appears to haunt us from its inception. Though Mourning presents itself as a rewriting of Aeschylus's Oresteia, the primary myth rehearsed here is that of Oedipus. Oedipus was the Theban king who unwittingly killed his father and murdered his mother, bringing ruin to the land. Famously, Freud elaborated this myth into his Oedipus complex, the structure through which children are conventionally introduced into the social order and normative sexual relations. At the center of this complex in what Freud defined as its positive form is the child's incestuous desire for the parent of the opposite sex, a desire possibly surmounted in the course of the child's development or else subject to repression. Already take note of Lavinia's rather unnerving response to Peter's second proposal, that her Father needs her. In Mourning, Oedipus provides the foundational narrative of rivalries, jealousies, and revenges that determines the cast's destiny. What figures as the "Fate" is the compulsive repetition of this drama, the return of a repressed structure of desire across the generations. Notably O'Neill eliminates the more explicit supernatural elements of Fate the Oresteia, be they the gods or spirits. As he notes in his work diary, "[Mourning] must, before everything, remain modern psychological play-fate springing out of the family." This story of this fate is a repressed one. The play underscores the repression of the Mannon family history from the outset, such as the townspeople's gossip over the Mannon family secrets. The most important symbol of repression is certainly the house, the mise-en-scne of the house recurring throughout the trilogy. As we will learn in the following act, the house is literally built to cover over the family's disgraces. Moreover, it is constructed through a number of metaphors that make a symbol of its residents, its role as a marker of or monument to repression symbolizing the repressions staged by the players themselves. The house primarily comes to symbolize its residents through the trope of the mask, its faade evoking the "life-like masks" the Mannons wear as their faces. For O'Neill, the


mask most explicitly functions as a symbol of duplicity. As the stage notes indicate, the house wears its most striking feature, the columned portico, like an "incongruous white mask" that hides its ugliness. Similarly, in the following scene, Christine describes the house as a "whited sepulcher." Certainly this metaphor foreshadows the house's ultimate transformation into a family crypt. Here Christine also alludes, however, to a similes Jesus deploys in Matthew 23:27 in condemning hypocrites exemplified by the scribes and Pharisees. In common usage, the metaphor refers to an evil person who hypocritically pretends to be holy or good. The Mannon mask is not only one of duplicity. Throughout the play, the stage notes underline the function of the mask, carefully describing the characters' various poses, how they assume them, their manipulation, and those poses' disintegration. As they make clear, these sepulchral masks do not only conceal evil but often involve a mortification a congealing, stiffening, and hardeningof the flesh. Lavinia and Christine, for example, will continually start and then stiffen, regaining their scornful composure. Such mortification is mapped in turn onto the repression of affect and desire. As we will see, these repressions will culminate in the assumption of death masks or a character's entombment in their various personas. Thus the mask of "whited sepulcher" will become his own crypt. As Orin later remarks: "Death becomes the Mannons." "Homecoming": Act I, Scene One, Part Two Summary Christine appears with a large bouquet of flowers. Mother and daughter stare at each other bitterly. Christine scornfully complains that their "sepulcher" of a house needs brightening. Only Abe Mannon could have built such a "temple to his hatred." Turning toward the house, she mentions with studied casualness that she met Captain Brant in New York and invited him to dinner. Threateningly Lavinia observes that Father will be coming home soon and Christine withdraws. Lavinia sits frozen on a bench and Seth approaches. Lavinia asks him to resume his story. Seth asks if she has not noticed that Brant looks just like her father, Orin, and all the other male Mannons. He believes that Brant is the child of David Mannon and Marie Brantme, the Canuck nurse. Abe Mannon put them out of the house and tore it down afterward to conceal their illicit affair. To Seth, Brant looks like David's ghost returning home. Seth advises that she find the truth. Suddenly the romantic-looking sea captain himself enters from the drive. Brant starts upon seeing Lavinia but immediately dons his most winning air. Lavinia recoils. She asks him what he thinks of her father's imminent returnhe must know that she loves her father more than anyone. A wary Brant replies that though daughters and sons usually love their fathers and mothers respectively, he had thought Lavinia might be different. She is like her mother; her face is the "dead image" of Christine's and they share the same hair. The only other woman with such hair was his mother. Lavinia angrily protests. Uneasy, Brant resolves to establish himself on intimate footing with Lavinia again and recalls the night when they kissed on the beach and he told her of his clippers and voyages in the South Seas. Dryly Lavinia asks if he asked his mother


permission to kiss her and if he spoke truly in declaring that he loved his tall, white clippers more than any woman. She recalls his admiration for the naked native women on his Eden-like "Blessed Islands," woman who had never known that love could be a sin. When Brant persists, Lavinia refuses his embrace. Taking advance of his confusion, she deliberately derides the memory of his mother. Brant explodes: no Mannon has the right to insult her. He forces the story on Lavinia. Abe Mannon loved his mother and jealously cheated his brother out of the business they inherited. Their money ran out, and his father took to drinking and beating his mother. One night, David Mannon was found hanging in a barn. Brant's mother blamed him for the suicide and, bent on making him a gentleman, sent him to school. Brant rebelled and fled to the sea, forgetting he had a mother. Years later, when he returned to New York, he found her dying of starvation. She had sunk so low that she had written Ezra Mannon for a loan. He denied it. Brant has sworn to revenge. Lavinia condemns his vile cowardice and wonders whether she is his only means of revenge. A stammering Brant professes ignorance and grotesquely resumes his lover's manner. Lavinia marches into the house. Analysis The remainder of Act I charts the mythic origin of the Mannons' fate, staging the forceful unearthing of a history tenuously repressed. Tellingly the backdrop for this unearthing is one of Mourning's many scenes of botched and grotesque seductions. As noted above, the Mannon house itself symbolizes this history's repression. As Seth relates, Abe Mannon build the house to cover over the founding rivalry and disgrace that sets the revenge tragedy in motion. This repressed past is the history of Abe and David Mannon's rivalry over the beautiful Marie Brantme, David's ultimate victory, and the couple's expulsion from the house. Set against the epic backdrop of the Civil War, the founding conflict in the Mannon household is a fraternal one. The conflict splits the Mannons into two "houses"one legitimate and the other dispossessed. Brant and Ezra inherit this sibling rivalry, the ghost of the outcast returns to make his claim in the figure of the former. Christine functions here as Marie's double. As noted earlier, the relations of desire in Mourning are variations on an Oedipal theme, the doubling between its characters representing the Oedipal structure in various constellations. The story of Marie elaborates Oedipus in its classical form: the desire of the sons for the mother. Brant makes this structure clear in his fascination with Lavinia's striking hair, the hair that, as a point of similarity, establishes the Mannon women as substitutes for his mother. For all the play's male lovers, the memory of this hair will consistently evoke the figure of the mother. This hair serves as the point around which the play's male lovers organize their fantasies. Tellingly Brant's mother is named Mariethat is, the virginand known to be a whore. As Freud famously observes, this fantasy of the hyper-idealized and denigrated woman characterizes the male child in the throes of Oedipus. Such a child imagines the mother as at once belonging to him alone. For example, a child imagines the mother as having produced him in Immaculate Conception and as being harlot in taking up with his rival. Marie's sexual excess emerges because she is seen as being exotic, and exoticism that almost makes her of a different race. Seth, for example, imagines her in primitive terms:


wild, animal-like, and laughing. Note also how characters will continually identify her as the "Canuck" nurse. We should keep Marie's exoticism in mind when considering the ways in which the "exotic," "primitive," and "native" figure as ciphers for sexual excess within the play's racial imaginary. Already does Brant gesture toward the development of these motifs of the native in his reference to the Blessed Isles. Throughout the play, the Blessed Isles will figure as some utopian space, as home to those who can love without law, judgment, or guilt. As our discussion suggests, law here refers to the law of kinshipthe law instituted by the father's name that would prohibit incest and determine the appropriate relations of desire in the household. By fleeing to the natives, the players would elude the disruption of the Mother-Son love affair. "Homecoming": Act II Summary An anguished Lavinia appears inside her father's study. A portrait of Ezra in a judge's robe hangs above the fireplace. His face strikingly resembles Adam Brant's and bears the same mask-like quality of his wife and daughter's. Lavinia protectively lays her hand one of Ezra's. Christine enters affecting a scornful indignation and questions why Lavinia has summoned her. Lavinia reveals that she followed her to New York and discovered her kissing Brant in a rented room. Christine starts momentarily and then regains her defiant coolness. She tells her daughter that she has hated Ezra since the beginning of their marriage. Lavinia was born of her disgust. Christine tried to love her but always felt that she was of Ezra's flesh. She loves Orin precisely because he has always seemed hers alone. If Orin had remained with her, she would have never taken up with Brant. Lavinia taunts that Brant only seeks revenge and does not love her. Christine already knows Brant's secret past and asks what Lavinia intends to do. To her surprise, Lavinia wants to keep Christine's secret for Ezra's sake though she has written Ezra and Orin of Brant to arouse their suspicions. Christine must promise only to never see Brant again. Laughingly Christine accuses her daughter of wanting Brant herself. Lavinia has always schemed to steal her place; she has always tried to become the wife of her father and mother of her brother. When Christine threatens to refuse, Lavinia reminds her that Ezra would ruin Brant and never divorce her. As she aged, Christine would become an anchor around Brant's neck. After a sinister pause, Christine agrees to Lavinia's terms. A suspicious Lavinia threatens that she will be watching her. She leaves to get the latest news on Ezra's return. Brant awaits Christine outside. Alone, Christine pauses in tense, sinister calculation, decisively takes a slip of paper on the table, and writes two words on it. "You can thank Vinnie, Ezra!" she cries at the portrait. Brant enters and bristles tensely at Ezra's portrait and then unconsciously assumes its position at the desk. Asking if Orin resembles his father, he notes that it would be "damned queer" if Christine fell in love with him because he recalls Ezra. He remembers hating her for being Ezra's when they first met and pledging to take her from him in revenge.


Brant intends to confront Ezra upon his return. Christine warns that Ezra will only have him arrested and keep her out of spite. If Ezra were only dead, they could take their share of the estate, buy Brant's ship, the "Flying Trades," and travel the world. Christine proposes that they poison him and attribute his death to his heart trouble. She asks Brant to pick up the poison, culled from her father's medical books, in Boston. Brant dislikes such a cowardly plot but succumbs to Christine's goading and departs. "You'll never dare leave me now, Adamfor your ships or your sea or your naked Island girlswhen I grow old and ugly!" Christine cries to his retreating figure. Analysis Act II introduces Ezra's study, a space characterized by symbols of the law. Note, for example, Ezra's law books, the portraits of the founding fathers, and the portrait of Ezra in judge's robes. Law here does not refer only to state authority but, more importantly, to the law of kinship, the law prohibiting incest and determining the appropriate relations of desire in the household through the institution of the family name. Ezra's symbolic form, much more than Ezra's himself, especially symbolizes this law in this capacity. Ezra appears in symbolic form throughout the trilogy: as a portrait, voice, and name. As Orin notes later, Ezra is the "statue of an eminent dead man," cutting the living dead for the impropriety of their living. Throughout Mourning, the characters will address his symbolic form, defying, bringing others, or delivering themselves up to their judgment. Tellingly, the players compulsively return to the study when justice must be done. It also makes sense that Christine and Orin kill themselves here. Ezra's portrait in particular also functions as his double, a double against his other alter egos, namely, Brant and Orin, who in turn face off. Recalling the original rivalry between Abe and David Mannon, these alter egos appear above all as rivals for the mother's desire. The resemblance between them underscores the repetition of an original sexual drama. As Brant tells Christine uneasily, it would be "damned queer" if she loved him for their resemblance. Brant makes their rivalry especially clear in his reaction upon encountering Ezra's image. Brant instinctively bristles before the man who would have claim to his love object. Unconsciously then does Brant adopt Ezra's pose, making himself the portrait's mirror and installing himself in the husband's place. Note also Brant's proposal that he and Ezra's duelthat is, engage in a face-off. Ezra, as one of the nation and town's great fathers, has recourse to the law; he locates himself above these sibling rivalries. As Christine shrewdly notes, Ezra would not duel with Brant but simply arrest him, as he can appeal to the law to authorize his claim to Christine. Ezra's authority forces his rival and Christine into underhanded dealings, and as a result, they will secretly poison him. Their scheme situates them on the underside of the social order, figuring as the legacy of the illegitimate Mannon line. Thus, in poisoning Ezra, Brant fears that he has inherited the cowardice of his father. Note also how Christine retrieves the name of the poison from her own father's medical textbooks. Her treachery, turning medicine into poison, involves the abuse and appropriation of paternal authority. As Christine triumphantly proclaims, the father's murder seals their illicit union. Thus Christine's displays her violently incestuous desire to eliminate the father from the Oedipal triangle and be alone with her son. Brant is mistaken in fearing Christine loves


him as another Ezra. As she ingenuously assures him, she loves him because he reminds her of Orin. Within the Oedipal drama, Christine figures as the mother who prizes her son as that which makes good on her castration. Thus Lavinia's taunt that soon Christine will be too old for her boyish lover devastates her. On her part, Lavinia takes her mother as rival. As Christine sneers, Lavinia has always schemed to take her place, to become her father's wife and son's mother. The extent of her identification with Christine, one founded in the hate-filled belief that Christine stands in the place that is properly hers, will become chillingly clear in the subsequent plays. As her closing exclamation makes clear, Christine would ensure her union against the threat of the Island girls. For her, the native functions as a cipher of sexual pleasure and excess. Her exclamation that closes the scene brims with envy. Christine is tormented by the fantasy of the pleasures that would be accessible only to the foreign other. "Homecoming": Act III Summary One week later, Lavinia stands stiffly at the top of the front stairs like an Egyptian statue. A drunken Seth enters singing "Shenandoah." Lavinia chastises him for his drunkenness. Seth jokes that it is his patriotic duty to drown his sorrows upon the president's assassination. When he asks if Lavinia confronted Brant, she insists sharply that he was mistaken. Lavinia asks Seth to describe Marie Brantme. Seth remembers her as frisky and animallike with hair like hers and Christine's. Everyone loved her, including the young Ezra. Ezra hated her more than anyone upon the revelation of her disgrace. Lavinia shudders, checks herself, and orders Seth into the house. Seth makes a superstitious signal as the front door opens and Christine emerges in a green velvet gown. Lavinia catches sight of someone. Ezra enters and stops stiffly before his house. Lavinia rushes forward and embraces him. Suppressing an undercurrent of feeling, Mannon chastises his daughter and greets his wife. Despite Lavinia's solicitations, he sits on the step at his wife's invitation. When Christine asks after Orin, Mannon somewhat jealously divulges he has been wounded in an act of heroism on the battlefield. He is recuperating in the hospital and for a time he kept hallucinating conversations with "Mother." Christine suggests that Ezra retire. A jealous Lavinia insists that he stay up, since she has much to tell him about Captain Brant. When Ezra jealously turns to his wife, Christine smilingly informs him that he is Lavinia's latest beau. In any case, she would prefer to discuss the matter alone with Ezra. Under his wife's scornful gaze, Ezra orders Lavinia into the house. Once they are alone, Christine insists with disarming simplicity that Ezra has nothing to suspect with regards to Brant. Moved, Ezra impulsively kisses his hand. Christine recoils with hatred. She closes her eyes with affected weariness. Mannon turns away guiltily. Wanting to talk to her, he implores her to keep her eyes shut as he cannot discuss his feelings under her stare. The war has made him realize they must


overcome the wall between them. He knows Christine had hoped for his death in the Mexican War and has spent his life becoming able to keep from thinking of the loss of her love. Something "queer" keeps him from speaking his feelings, making him nub like the "statue of a dead man in a town square." Ezra is bent on making Christine love him again. Perhaps they could find some island to be alone. Christine silences him, and Ezra stiffens bitterly. Calculatingly she assures him that she loves him and all is well and they kiss. Suddenly Lavinia interrupts them. The irritated couple retires. Staring at their bedroom window, Lavinia curses her mother for stealing her father's love. She decides to expose her and calls to Ezra. He exasperatedly orders her to bed. She submits, desperately staring at the window. Analysis With Ezra's return, the play continues its elaboration of the Mannon's incest drama. Note here how each character jealously manipulates the other's passionate attachments to their advantage. What is so particularly jarring about Mourning is that Oedipal rivalries are rendered explicit within the Mannon household. Thus Christine jeers, for example, that perhaps Lavinia awaits her father as if he were a lover in the moonlight, Lavinia childishly insinuates herself between husband and wife, and Orin, traumatized by a head injury, hallucinates his return to "Mother." As for Ezra himself, Seth hints that Ezra in an analogous position in the central Oedipal relation of the play: that between mother and son. As Seth reveals, the young Ezra loved Marie, Christine's double, and felt betrayed by her affair with David. Similarly, note Ezra's echo of Brant's dreams of the Blessed Islands. As we will see in more detail, the Blessed Island represents the Eden-like, incestuous embrace mother and son that would exist prior to the institution of paternal law. Ezra's echo is less an instance of dramatic irony, as it is conventionally conceived. The spectator knows something that the players do not, producing the sense that Fate's machinations are afoot. Within his own family, Ezra acts the figure of the father, husband to a wife who, as Christine reveals to Lavinia in the act previous, narcissistically loves her son because she imagines him to be hers alone. An object of his wife's disgust, Ezra has been forced into a stony and bitter state of self-restraint. As we learn, Ezra's stony "self-mortification" comes from the wall that divides him from Christine. In becoming "able" to forget the loss of his wife's love, the accomplished Ezra has become the "statue of a dead man in a town square." Later Orin will suggest that this petrifaction is part of Ezra's lot as figure of the unyielding law. Here, however, hardened mask symbolizes the denial of affect and work of repression that followed upon the loss of Christine's love. Christine and Ezra's reunion involves a drama of looks. Ezra stares at his wife with guilty desire, a desire from which Christine recoils: "Why do you look at me like that?" she exclaims. In contrast, Christine looks with scorn, hate, derision, or with eyes "full of silence." Her look refuses him, and Ezra can only speak when her eyes are shut. Christine's closed eyes, shut in affected weariness, are of course part of the mask she has donned to conceal her murderous intentions. Christine withdraws into herself under the onslaught of Ezra's tragically ironic confessions. Though Ezra hints that he had some hand in fostering his daughter's affection for him, Lavinia appears all but excluded from her parents' relationship. Here she decidedly


appears as her father's daughter here and not his lover. Thus Lavinia curses her rival mother for stealing her father's love from her. Her interruption of Ezra's seduction and near-revelation of her mother's disgrace obviously functions as a moment of dramatic irony, the last moment at which Lavinia could have saved her father's life. "Homecoming": Act IV Summary It is toward daybreak in Ezra's bedroom. Christine's ghostly form slips out stealthily from the bed. Mannon's dull and bitter voice remarks that Christine cannot bear lying close to her husband. Declaring that he wants to talk with her, Mannon lights the candle on the nightstand. Christine sits with her face turned three-quarters away from him in dread. Mannon rebukes her for not wanting to remember that she ever loved him. Changing the subject, Christine asks if he heard Lavinia pacing like a sentry until two. When she asks about his heart, Mannon accuses her of wishing his death. Uneasy, he feels like he is waiting for something to happen. He knows the house is not his and that Christine is not his wife, that she awaits his death to be free. Christine protests angrily that he just used her as his wife, however, as his property. Mannon retorts that, with the war, bodies have come to mean nothing to him. She had lied to him again with her declarations of love, letting him take her as if she were a "nigger slave." She has always made him appear the "lustful beast" in his own eyes. Christine rebels and becomes deliberately taunting even as Mannon fearfully attempts to quiet her. She has never been hisshe is Brant's mistress. Mannon rises in fury, calling her a whore and threatening her murder. Suddenly he falls back in intense pain and begs for his medicine. Christine retrieves a small box from her room and gives him his poison. Mannon realizes her treachery in horror, calls to Lavinia for help, and then falls into a coma. Hearing noise from the hall, Christine hides the box behind her back. Lavinia enters and rushes to her father. With his dying effort, Ezra raises himself to a sitting position and points at his wife: "She's guiltynot medicine!" he gasps and then dies. A stammering Christine confesses that she told Mannon of Brant but insists she did not do so to kill him. Her strength gone, Christine collapses in a faint. Lavinia discovers the small box. Horrified, she flings her arms around Ezra and beseeches him to stay with her, to tell her what to do. Analysis As with all of Mourning, the scene of Mannon's death makes use of oppressive foreshadowing. Mannon knows already that he house is not his, his wife not his own, and that she awaits his death for her freedom. In some sense, Mannon's death, and Christine's as well, have already happened. Already, Christine appears at the beginning of the scene as the "ghostly form" who will haunt and Ezra is a voice from the darkness of the grave that, in the following play, will possess his daughter. The action moves quickly here, the scene tensely propelling us through the confession of Christine's treachery, Ezra's poisoning, and Lavinia's discovery of her mother's murder. Assuming the role of Aeschylus's Clytemnestra, an archetype of female treachery,


Christine takes her husband to bed to kill him, making the marital bed the deathbed. As the townsfolk will remark in the following act, loving will have killed Ezra Mannon. For Ezra and Lavinia, Christine is a mother turned lethal whore, Ezra's insults making manifest the degradation of the love object typical of the Oedipus complex. Note here also the racial fantasy at the heart of this degradation. In giving Ezra her body, Christine makes him a property-owner. This relationship makes their marriage racially charged: Christine becomes the "nigger slave" to the "lustful beast" of her husband. For the guilty Ezra, he would even find "cleaner" sex in a brothel. Christine degrades their marriage by acting as if she were his black whore. Ezra, the great northern general, would of course imagine himself as the polar opposite of the Southern slave owner. As Christine has planned, the couple's argument precipitates Ezra's heart attack. Responding to her father's cries, Lavinia arrives at the last moment to bear witness to her mother's treachery. Ezra rises, in a sense from beyond the grave, to accuse Christine of murder, his momentary second coming prefiguring his role he assumes as the accusing and judging dead in the following two plays. As Christine anxiously observes, Lavinia appears on the scene here as the house's sentry. Her role as sentry refers not only to her anxious watch over her father's safety, but her duty as a functionary of the Mannon ancestors. Thus Lavinia will again stand as sentry when presiding over her mother's suicide, crying that she has meted out the ancestors' justice. She also plays in sentry in serving as the guardian of the Mannon crypt, initially bent on preserving the familial secrets and repressing the past and then ultimately, as the last surviving Mannon, living out the family curse. Lavinia's role as sentry puts her in close dialogue with the dead. As we have seen, all the Mannons speak with their dead, whether through the medium of Ezra's corpse or, more frequently, by addressing the ancestral portraits watching over the house. Lavinia in particular appears in conversation with these spirits. Recall, for example, her touching the painted Ezra's hand in Act II, her embrace of and desperate plea to the corpse here, her numerous commands that her father speak from beyond the grave, and, most chillingly, her ventriloquism of that voice itself that comes in the subsequent play. "The Hunted":Act I Summary Two days after Ezra's death, a group of townspeople appear on the front steps bidding Christine goodnight. A funeral wreath hangs on the door. Lavinia has gone to meet Orin at the train station, accompanied, at her mother's insistence, by Peter. Mrs. Borden, the wife of the manager of the Mannon shipping company, remarks that, strangely, Christine appears utterly grief-stricken at Ezra's death while and Lavinia calm as an icicle. Mrs. Hills then tactlessly ruminates that, as her husband the local minister once said, that fate brought Ezra down. The others chastise her. Dr. Blake smugly remarks that, from the symptoms he supposedly described to Christine, he knew his heart would give out. As the group disperses, he smirks to Mr. Borden that lovemaking probably killed him. Christine emerges from the house. Alone for a moment, she relaxes her mask, letting her eyes and mouth twitch in terror. Hazel joins her on the porch and offers her sympathy and Christine stiffens. When Hazel looks forward to Orin's arrival, Christine declares that she


wants Hazel to become Orin's wife, she invites Hazel to become her "secret conspirator" and keep him from Lavinia's crazy fantasies. Lavinia has been following her since Ezra's death, refusing to speak a word. Christine invites an embarrassed Hazel back into the house. At times Orin resembles his father so much that she could not bear to him come up the drive. As soon they shut the door, Peter, Lavinia, and Orin arrive, all of whom startlingly resemble both Ezra and Brant. Orin is wearing a head-bandage. Peter leaves them alone to catch up. Orin disappointedly complains of Christine's absence. He is awed by the house's tomb-like appearance. When Lavinia reproaches him for his insensitivity, Orin hurriedly and somewhat resentfully replies that he cannot believe Ezra is dead, as he was sure he would outlive him. The war, moreover, has long inured him to death. To him, Ezra was the war, the war that would not end until Orin died. Abruptly changing the subject, he jealously asks Lavinia about what she wrote him regarding Brant and Christine. Lavinia replies that they have no time to speak now but warns him against believing Christine and letting her baby him again. Suddenly Christine hurries out, reproaching Peter for leaving Orin alone. Mother and son embrace jubilantly. Noting that his mother has changed, Peter thrusts Christine back and asks what has happened to her. Lavinia warns Orin anew. Christine leads Orin into the house and then suddenly reappears, winningly asking Lavinia to stop tormenting her. She asks if she happened to find her pillbox. When Lavinia does not respond, Christine becomes desperate, insisting that she tell her what she plans to do. Lavinia stalks off. Orin calls Christine from inside, and she tensely re-enters. Analysis As O'Neill repeatedly indicates in the stage notes, the townsfolk function in Mourning as a chorus of sorts, serving as human backdrop to the major players. Unlike O'Neill's other choruses, Mourning's are not, as Bogard notes, "diagrammatically conceived" as a "symbolic unit." A good example of what Bogard considers O'Neill's "diagrammatically conceived" choruses are the bar patrons in The Iceman Cometh, all of whom are driven by the major thematic conflict over the "pipe dream." Here, the chorus largely only sets the scene for the events that follow. Mourning's gossipy choruses, filled with what Travis Bogard describes as "small town civic type" like carpenters, sailors, clerks, doctors, gossips, visiting cousins, business men, ministers, are peripherally aware of what transpires in the Mannon household. From the chorus, for example, we learn of Lavinia and Christine's response to Ezra's death, Orin's imminent arrival, and that fate is driving this tragedy forward. Two major scenes follow the exchange between the townspeople, one involving a private conversation between Christine and Hazel and another involving Orin's return. Here the frantic Christine invites Hazel to become her co-conspirator against the Lavinia, a Lavinia who persecutes her with her constant, silent, and sentry-like surveillance. Christine imagines the somewhat one-dimensionally virtuous Hazel as that which she once was: young, innocent, loving, and trusting. As noted above, the aging Christine is obsessed with the fantasy of a time prior to the father intervention into the mother-son dyad. In this act, Ezra's call to war stands in for this paternal intervention, tearing Orin from Christine's embrace. Christine projects this innocence of the pre-war past onto Hazel and entrusts her with Orin. Certainly, as Orin


will observe in the following act, this stratagem is calculated to free herself of her son. More importantly, Christine can brook giving Orin to Hazel as she narcissistically imagines Hazel as a version of herself. Orin, however, returns from the war in hopes of establishing paradise with his mother anew. Thus Orin pouts with disappointment when Christine is not there to meet him. His resentment for his father is clear and jealously over Brant is readily clear. As we will see, the recreation of Orin and Christine's "secret world" will quickly prove impossible. Orin returns from his father's war a changed man: he is no longer his mother's little boy. The war tears him from the universe of peace, life, and security he shares with Christine, plunging him into a struggle to the death with his fellow men. As discussed above, this struggle, a struggle that makes Orin capable of murder, allegorizes the rivalries the male players stage over the beloved Mother. Act I ends with a scene that closes two more acts in "The Hunted," in which the desperate Christine prostrates herself before the daughter who hunts her. Whereas Christine has apparently no longer been able to maintain her mask-like composure since her fainting spell, Lavinia is more inflexible than ever, assuming her father's ominous rigidity. As Christine knows all too well, Lavinia's stony silencereminiscent of her father's judging portrait and accusing corpsespells her doom. "The Hunted": Act II Summary Hazel and Peter appear in the Mannon sitting room. Orin is heard in the hall calling his mother. A number of ancestral portraits bedeck the walls, including one of a minister of the witch-burning era and one of Abe Mannon. Orin and Christine enter, the former questioning his mother suspiciously. A lie about a fainting spell immediately mollifies him. Orin boyishly revels in being coddled by Hazel and Christine. He then jealously recalls how Lavinia is always coddling Father, causing his mother shudder in horror. He is speaking as if Ezra is still alive. Orin remarks strangely that Ezra remains: "He's the same and always will beherethe same!" Orin somewhat bitterly notes that Christine has changed a great deal; she is more beautiful than ever and younger somehow. Lavinia silently appears in the doorway. Recalling how long ago Hazel saw him off to the war, Orin harshly declares that they ought to send the women out to the battlefield so they would stop gabbing about their heroes. He apologizes and recalls how the memory of her singing, dreams of Mother, and memory of Lavinia's bossing him around reminded him of life while he was in battle. Lavinia orders Orin to come see Ezra in their father's brusque, commanding tone. Orin mechanically stands and salutes, and then shamefacedly starts in confusion. Christine protests and implores Orin to stay. He immediately relents, and Lavinia stalks off. An uncomfortable Hazel and Peter excuse themselves. Christine urges Hazel to come back soon. Suspiciously Orin asks why Christine has suddenly taken to Hazel. He only made a show of liking her long ago to make her jealous, but now Christine is a widow. He wonders why she is trying to rid herself of him and why she has only written him twice in six months.


Orin asks Christine about Captain Brant. Prepared, Christine explains that Lavinia has gone mad and begun to accuse her of the impossible. Only Orin is her "flesh and blood," while Lavinia is Father's. Christine recalls the secret world she shared with Orin in his childhood with their unforgivable password, "No Mannons allowed," and reveals that Ezra always hated Orin jealously. Christine explains that Lavinia believes she has taken up with the illegitimate son of Marie Brantme and murdered Ezra. When she mentions Brantme's son, Orin frightening becomes like his father for a moment and threatens his murder. "Except for that other," Orin dedicates himself to his mother wholeheartedly, even if she has done wrong. Orin sits at Christine's feet and takes her hand. He recounts his wonderful dreams about her, dreams inspired by Melville's tales of the South Sea Islands. The Islands represented all the war was not: peace, warmth, and security, or simply Christine herself. Orin fondly caresses his mother's hair, recalling how, to his father's displeasure, he would brush it as a child. Christine shudders. Lavinia reappears and coldly calls Orin anew. Annoyed, Orin exits. Maniacally triumphant, Christine announces that she has won Orin to her side. She then collapses and implores Lavinia to leave Orin alone: he has become hard and cruel and would certainly kill Brant. Lavinia marches out silently. Christine resolves to warn Brant. Analysis As the Chantyman will remark in the subsequent scene, the trilogy unfolds in a moment when all the fathers have died, the family and the nation's alike. At the same time, their deaths hardly diminish their authority. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. The effect of Ezra's portrait on the guilty household indicates how the father imposes his law all the more forcefully from the grave. For Orin, Father will never die: "He's the same and always will beherethe same!" As noted above, Lavinia in particular assumes the mantle of paternal authority, adopting Ezra's rigid posture and martial bark. Lavinia embodies her father to intervene into the incestuous relationship Orin attempts to resume with Christine. As their conversation makes clear, Orin is ready to eliminate his father, a father that always envied him, from their affair. Indeed, he is even willing to forgive his mother's act of patricide. Now that Christine is a widow, they can finally be together. His would-be fianc Hazel has but served as a ploy in his attempts to seduce her. Orin and Christine's relationship is created through pre-Oedipal terms, the imagined mother-child realm that pre-exists the institution of Oedipal desire. Thus Christine and her only "flesh and blood" child share a "secret world" with a telling password: "No Mannons allowed." Their password would bar the paternal name that, in ordering the appropriate relations of desire in the household, imposes the prohibition on incest. Orin re-imagines the secret world he once shared with his mother in his fantasy of the South Sea island. Orin's incestuous reverie is the central elaboration of the motif of the Blessed Island. Orin's island, imagined as Christine incarnate, is nothing short of a womb, a life-giving space of peace, warmth, and security away from the father's war. Here can mother and son finally be alone. His constant appeals to this "lost island" act out the play's central labors of mourning, the mourning of the advent of sexual desire and loss of


pre-Oedipal plentitude. This mourning is obsessively reiterated in the recurring lyrics from "Shenandoah": "Oh, Shenandoah, I can't get near you/ Way-ay, I'm bound away." Orin's island can of course also only recall Brant's, echoing the incestuous, mother-son relation that structures his love affair with Christine. Orin's reveries thus bear witness to the workings of "Fate," their echoing of Brant's and Ezra's marking the repetition of a forbidden structure of desire over and against the "individuality" of its players. Note in particular Orin's fondling of Christine's hair, Christine shuddering at the uncanny repetition of this echo among her lovers. Christine especially has cause for fear at this echo as, like Ezra and Brant, her third suitor considers his doubles with the same murderous rage. As his outbursts indicate, Orin will not accept the disruption of this plentitude, responding with a murderously infantile jealousy. Though forbidden from killing his father, he would most certainly kill Brant. Finally, we should also note how the motif of the Blessed Island implicates the play's racial fantasies with its sexual ones. The fantasy of the time before Oedipus is intertwined with the fantasy of the innocent native who can love without the institution of law and judgment, sin and shame. "The Hunted": Act III Summary A few moments before the end of the previous act, Orin appears before his father's body in the study. Ezra's face in death is another startling reproduction of the face in the portrait, resembling the "carven face of a statue." Orin's face in the candlelight resembles these in turn. As Orin addresses his father, Lavinia appears silently in the doorway. "Death becomes the Mannons," exclaims Orin. For him, Ezra was always the "statue of an eminent dead man," cutting the living dead for the impropriety of their living. Lavinia locks the door and rebukes her brother: to think that Ezra boasted so highly of Orin's bravery. Orin grins bitterly. At the front, he would only volunteer for extra danger in fear of anyone discovering that he was afraid. He recalls killing a Reb face-to-face in the fog one night and then another just like him. The war meant murdering the same man again and again until he had killed himself. In his dreams, the faces of his victims change, becoming his, Ezra's, and others. Orin continues and says that he got his wound at Peterburg when he walked out to enemy lines with his hand extended, deciding it would be a great joke on the generals if the soldiers suddenly reconciled. Once wounded, he went mad. His comrades joined him, and they captured a new part of the Rebel line. Lavinia urges him to forget and assures him she thinks him brave. Frustrated, Orin changes the subject and tells Lavinia that Christine has already warned him of her madness. Lavinia implores him to listen, presenting Christine's pillbox and calling upon her father to make Orin believe. Orin dismisses her delusions saying that she has always been her father's daughter. He takes the box and puts it into his pocket. Calculatingly Lavinia teases that Orin certainly would not let their mother's paramour escape. Orin flies into a rage, forcing his sister to his knees and commanding her to retract her lies. Lavinia calmly insists that she tells the truth, proposing that they watch Christine until she goes to meet Brant herself. Orin agrees to her plan.


Suddenly Christine knocks at the door fearfully. Lavinia commands Orin to feign that he has done as his mother wishes. As a test, she snatches back the pillbox and places it over Ezra's heart. Orin opens the door to a desperate Christine, who shrieks upon seeing the box. Orin laughs with savage irony, recalling how he believed he had returned to his island of peace. Christine is his "lost island." He stumbles out. Stealthily Lavinia snatches up the box and marches out coldly. Christine implores her husband to not let her children hurt Brant. Reading an answer in the corpse's face, she rushes out in terror. Analysis Act III provides Orin's account of the war, a war above all, as he tells Lavinia, symbolized by his father. Earlier we noted how the Civil War functions as a backdrop for the sibling rivalry that founds the Mannons' tragic fate. Here the war similarly appears as an allegory for the sexual drama afoot in the household. As Christine laments, war tears Orin from the "secret world" he shares with his mother and assumes his proper place within the Mannon line. Ezra and Lavinia imposes the service on him as his familial duty. His conscription is the assumption of the father's name and accession from the preOedipal realm. Note Orin's fear of Ezra's wrath. This fear is greater that his fear of his demise at the hands of the rebels. As noted above, this war is above all imagined here as a war between brothers, a war defined by sibling rivalry. Mourning's male players are all engaged such a rivalry, the son-lovers Orin, Brant, and Ezra vying for the desire of the mother. Their rivalries are murderously infantile, operating according to the logic of "either you go or I go." The result of Orin's delirious attempt to make peace with the enemy makes this inflexibility of this logic clear. For Orin, his service in his father's war means his destruction in one of these rivalries. As Orin tells Lavinia, he remained fearfully convinced that Ezra would outlive him and that the war would not end until his death. As we have seen, because in these rivalries the other appears as that which stands in the self's rightful place, the men in battle here necessarily appear as each other's doubles. This doubling structures Orin's nightmare of his murders in the fog, where he repeatedly kills the same man, himself, and his father. This compulsive series of murders allegorizes the impossibility of the lover ever acceding to his "rightful place" within the Oedipal triangle, Mother will always want another, and producing yet another rival. The multiplication of death among these doubles also appears in the correspondences drawn between father and son in the stage notes. Ezra's mask-like face in death reproduces the portrait; this face resembles the "carven face of a statue"; Orin's candlelight face reproduces these in turn. Despite Orin's misery, Lavinia, ever true to her father's name, refuses to hear his lament. Instead she insists that he must forget the war and that he can be assured of her pride in him. Though she would repress her brother's story, however, she knows to use his jealous rivalries against Christine. Despite Orin's eager readiness to believe his mothernote here his near- confiscation of the incriminating boxLavinia knows she can goad him into revenging himself for his mother's "betrayal." Notably the first demonstration of her mother's treachery involves a certain animation of the father's corpse. Not only does Lavinia enjoin the corpse to speak, but in placing Christine's box atop its heart, makes it her mother's accuser. Thus Christine enters into


silent dialogue with the corpse at the close of the scene, reading an answer in the accuser's face. "The Hunted": Act IV Summary The night after Ezra's funeral, a Chantyman lies sprawled in the shadow of a dock warehouse in East Boston. A clipper ship is moored along the wharf, and the refrain of "Shenandoah" can be heard from the ship coming into harbor. The Chantyman listens critically and belts out his own version in a surprisingly good, albeit drunken, tenor. The companionway door on the clipper ship's poop deck opens, and Brant emerges cautiously. The Chantyman accidentally lurches forward, and Brant threateningly turns his revolver on him. Brant realizes his error, and the bawdy Chantyman asks him if he might need him for his next voyage. When Brant turns him down, the Chantyman laments that "Everything is dyin'" these days, noting the deaths of Abe Lincoln and the great Ezra Mannon. Brant changes the subject and gives the Chantyman a dollar to go drinking. To Brant's dismay, the Chantyman begins to sing "Hanging Johnny" and teeters off. Christine, dressed in black, emerges from the darkness. The lovers meet on the poop deck. Christine begins to tell Adam what has transpired; she has come because her children are out visiting friends. The two retire to the cabin to speak in private. Lavinia and an enraged Orin appear on the deck. The scene fades to black. When the lights return, a section of the ship has been removed to reveal the interior of the cabin. A haggard Christine finishes her story while her children listen on the deck above. Brant laments his cowardice. The two decide to flee to China on a passenger ship and seek out their Blessed Islands. Fearing the hour, Christine turns to go, and the lovers painfully bid each other farewell. The children enter the cabin. Orin moves to follow them, but Lavinia restrains him. They must do all according to plan. If they are caught, no justice would be done. Orin slips out. When Brant returns, he re-enters and shoots him with his pistol almost at Brant's body. Lavinia stares at Brant's face, and then orders Orin to make it seem that Brant has been robbed. She forces herself to wish the corpse peace. Orin returns and strangely notes Brant's resemblance to his father. The scene is like his dream: he has killed him before, over and over. Perhaps he has even committed suicide. If he had been Brant, he would have done as he didloved Mother and killed Father. "It's queer!" Orin exclaims. "It's a rotten dirty joke on someone!" Lavinia rushes him out. Analysis As Travis Bogard notes, O'Neill considered Act IV of "The Hunted" the "center of the whole work." This act moves the audience from its primary locale at the Mannon manor to the East Boston harbor of the drunken Chantyman. Lest the Chantyman appear merely colorful or as a means of providing one of Mourning's few moments of comic relief, Bogard implicitly suggests that we should consider the scene's significance within the context of O'Neill's oeuvre. For Bogard, Act IV returns to the mood and manner of O'Neill's early sea plays with the same exacting detail in setting, costume, and set design, but in a more melancholic or


nostalgic mode. The drunken Chantyman appears as a figure of his erstwhile poet-heroes, the troubadours-of-the sea. Here, O'Neill's former protagonist appears old, useless, and marginal to the tragedy. The Chantyman sings a chorus of "Shenandoah," drunkenly relates the theft of his cash, and brags of his ability to bring a crew into working order with his singing. He laments the coming of steam to ships and the death of the old days. As Bogard notes, the "exit of the chantyman is the last glimpse O'Neill was to give his audiences of the protected children of the sea." The Chantyman is also a prophetic figure, speaking portentously of Lincoln and Mannon's deaths and lugubriously disappearing into the night with the dirge "Hanging Johnny" on his lips. Its lyrics oppressively foreshadow the deaths to come: "They says I hangs for money/ Oh, hang, boys, hang They say I hanged my mother/ Oh hang, boys, hang!" Christine will then remark once more on the fate the drives the players to their ruin: "I'd planned it so carefully," she says, "but something made things happen!" The scene of the Chantyman gives way to frantic, melodramatic plotting between the two paramours. The dramatic irony of their scheming, in which they desperately rehearse their dreams of the Blessed Isle and Brant decides to relinquish his ship, is that the children are watching, poised to exact their vengeance. For the second time, Lavinia, this time with her brother in tow, catches their mother in the sexual act. This scene of watching rehearses a familiar infantile fantasy of the mother's betrayal, by which the child sees the mother with her rival beau. The set design emphasizes the voyeuristic nature of this scene by cutting away a section of Brant's ship, giving the audience a view upon their intimate exchange. Upon witnessing his mother's betrayal, in which she chillingly echoes the reveries from their own love affair, Orin flies into a jealous rage and kills Brant soon thereafter. Note the physical proximity involved in the deathblow: Orin stands almost at Brant's body, emphasizing their relation as doubles. Brant's murder realizes Orin's queer nightmare: once again, he has killed the same man, father, and perhaps even himself. As he murmurs, the rival Brant is also his double. If he had been Brant, he would have only done the samethat is, loved Mother and killed Father. "The Hunted": Act V Summary The following night Christine paces the drive before the portico of the Mannon house. Hazel arrives, having come at her request. Christine frantically confesses that she is unfit company for a young girl. She is old, ugly, and haunted by death. Hazel attempts to comfort her, promising to stay up with her all night if necessary. She leaves to tell her mother of her plans. Alone, Christine sees Hazel meet someone at the gate. Orin and Lavinia appear. Orin reveals that they followed Christine to Boston, discovered her with Brant, and killed him. He shows her the few lines that announced his death in the newspaper. Christine sinks to the lowest step and begins to moan. Pacing resentfully, Orin asks his mother to stop crying. He questions her: How could she have warned Brant against him? How could she have told him about their Island? Orin kneels beside her pleadingly, promising that he will help her forget and make her happy, that they can leave Lavinia at home and take that trip abroad together. In her father's


commanding tone, Lavinia orders the crybaby Orin into the house. He salutes and obeys, remarking strangely that they should open the shutters and let the moonlight into the house. Father has gone. Christine stares blankly ahead, her face a "tragic death mask." Lavinia declares that justice has been done. Christine glares at her daughter with savage hatred, rises, and marches toward the house. Lavinia asks what she is doing and how she can still live. Christine cackles shrilly, makes a motion to blot her daughter from sight forever, and rushed inside. Lavinia moves to follow but then determinedly turns her back on the house, standing like a sentinel. From the street, Seth can be heard singing "Shenandoah" as he returns from the tavern. A shot is heard from Ezra's study. Lavinia stammers: "It is justice!" Orin's horrified cry rings out from the study. He rushes outside, blaming himself for her death. He decides that he must get her to forgive him. Lavinia silences him. She will help him to forget. Singing, Seth comes from the drive. Lavinia orders him to tell Dr. Blake that her mother has killed herself in a fit of insane grief. Dumbfounded, Seth assents. Lavinia stiffly turns and follows Orin into the house. Analysis The principal action of Act V is Christine's suicide. Her exchange with Hazel, in which Christine implores her to keep her company for the night and bitterly reminiscences anew about once being as innocent as she, build the tension of the scene through oppressive foreshadowing and dramatic irony. Christine's pleas only forestall her coming doom. Orin and Lavinia's arrival quickly bring her fate to its conclusion. Orin confronts his mother and flaunts Brant's death before her. Christine collapses in grief, her face becoming a "tragic death mask." Almost immediately Orin attempts to make reparation. He cannot believe his mother's grief, cannot understand that Christine could have truly loved Brant. Indeed, Orin is certain he can take Brant's place. They can leave Lavinia and the house behind them and flee to the Blessed Island themselves. As Christine has repeatedly remarked, however, Orin is no longer her beloved. His abandonment of her under Ezra and Lavinia's orders made him no longer hers alone Brant was his replacement. Lavinia, moreover, will not allow mother and son their "secret world" either, the pre-Oedipal Eden constituted in defiance of the Mannon line. Embodying her father's voice anew, she orders Orin to break his incestuous embrace and enter the house. Orin complies automatically, almost wistfully protesting that father has gone away. Christine kills herself soon thereafter. O'Neill makes use of a device in his oeuvre, one that appears in The Iceman Cometh and elsewhere: the period of terrible suspense between a major player's decision to suicide and the final act itself. Lavinia refuses to intervene, planting herself like a sentry before the house. As if to push all doubts from her mind, Lavinia forcefully declares Christine's death, like Brant's, as an exercise in "justice." Importantly, Lavinia does not seek the justice of state or juridical law. Though Christine's box provides her with the necessary evidence, recourse to this law would bring disgrace to the household. Instead, Lavinia demands the justice repeatedly exacted by the many Mannons before her: the justice of revenge. Unlike legal justice, this justice-by-revenge perpetuates itself cyclically across the generations as the wronged and revenged come to


make their own demands for retribution. The demand for revenge returns in the following act with the guilty Orin, who will appear bent on atoning for his mother's "murder." Though by now the inexorability of fate should be clear, Lavinia, standing as the house's grim, black-clad sentinel, the functionary of its ancestral residents, and guardian of its secrets, quickly arranges the repression all that has just ensued. Insisting that her brother be quiet, she promises to help the guilty Orin forget their crime. Immediately she moves to conceal the history of her mother's death. As she tells Seth, Christine has killed herself in a fit of grief over Ezra. Brant is reduced to a footnote in a newspapertheir affair has been erased from recorded memory. The Mannons' longtime servant knowingly colludes in this exercise in repression. "The Haunted": Act I, Scene One Summary A year later, it is a clear summer day in front of the Mannon house. The shutters are closed and the front door boarded up. Lavinia and Orin are abroad in China. Seth, Amos, and three old townsmenAbner, Silva, and Mackelare carousing about. They appear grotesquely as if they are boys out on a forbidden prank. Seth bets Small ten dollars and a gallon of liquor that he cannot stay alone in the Mannon house until moonlight. Rumors say that the house is haunted. Seth guides Small inside. Mackel notes that if the town were not at the Mannons' feet, "queer doin's" would have come out regarding the recent deaths. Hazel and Peter arrive, announcing Lavinia and Orin's imminent return. Suddenly Small bursts out of the house, screaming that he saw Ezra's ghost in judge's robes coming out of the wall. The men roar with laughter and walk off. Peter and Hazel rebuke Seth for his prank. Seth replies that he only staged it to dispel the rumors circulating in town about the house being haunted. He himself, however, feels there is something rotten in the house's walls. He urges them to not let Lavinia and Orin take up residence there again. They begin to ready the house for the Mannons' return. A strikingly different Lavinia appears on the drive. Her body has filled out and lost its military stiffness; she resembles her mother perfectly, even wearing the same green dress. Lavinia turns and coaxingly calls Orin as if he were a child. Orin has grown dreadfully thin and bears the statue-like attitude and mask-like face of his father. He has grown a beard that accentuates this resemblance. In a mothering voice, Lavinia urges Orin to be brave before this test and face the house. There are no ghosts. As she leads him up the steps, Orin stammering points out the last place he saw Christine alive. Lavinia declares all that finished: the dead have forgotten them, and they the dead. They go inside. Analysis "The Haunted" begins once again before the Mannon house with another chorus of townsfolk serving as backdrop to the major players. Here the chorus, a group of drunken, grotesquely boyish old men, prepares the way for the dead's second "homecoming." Though this scene about ghosts is played for comic relief, Seth quickly admits that there may be something rotten in the house's walls. As the title of the third installment


suggests, the Mannon house, with its shutters boarded up and its furniture covered, has decidedly become a haunted one, the ancestors waiting to exact their vengeance. Notably, the ghost Small supposedly sees is that of Ezra in his judge's robesthe implication being of course that he simply came upon the portrait in the study. This apparition once again introduces the tropes of judgment, accusation, and punishment that recur throughout the trilogy. As in the previous plays, the father continues to make himself felt in his symbolic form, such as statues and portraits. Here, however, the dead also come home to the Mannon manor in the form of the living. Chillingly, brother and sister arrive from their trip East as the reincarnations of their mother and father. Lavinia has acceded to femininity in taking her mother's place. She has become beautiful and seductive in identification with Christine, an identification involving the murder and incorporation of the maternal other. Similarly the haggard Orin appears the spitting image of his father, bearing his military gait and statue-like stiffness. Mother and Husband/Son have returned anew, ready to rehearse the fate of those who precede them. In their new incarnations, Orin and Lavinia are substitutes for the Mother-Son pairs that appear throughout the trilogy. Their status as substitutes partially explains why O'Neill continuously describes them through series of correspondences to aesthetic objects masks, portraits, statues, and automataobjects that substitute for the human form. Substitution is the necessary effect of Lavinia and Orin occupying the Mother and Son's places in an Oedipal drama that precedes and determines them. As substitutes for the lovers who precede them, they will similarly take substitute love objects to complete the narrative they are doomed to repeating. Thus, as O'Neill begins to intimate here, Peter will come to figure as Lavinia's Brant and Hazel as another of Orin's maternal "lost islands." What O'Neill describes in his work diary as Peter and Hazel's "characterlessness" likely facilitates the Mannon children's projective fantasies. Lavinia leads her brother to the house under the guise of confronting the ghosts that await them. This confrontation, however, involving an almost mantra-like recitation to ward off evil, is more an exorcism than an effort at remembrance or mourning. Lavinia brusquely insists that there are no ghosts and demands that Orin put his memories in the past. Orin, on the other hand, transfixed by the memory of his mother's last moments, has returned to repay the debt to the dead and fulfill the Mannon destiny. "The Haunted": Act I, Scene Two Summary Lavinia stands at the doorway of the Mannon sitting room, her hair, dress, and movements identical to Christine's. The room has long been shut up and its furniture covered. She pauses beneath the portraits and addresses them resentfully: wondering why they stare at her. A dazed Orin appears. He expected to find Mother in the study, but she is nowhere. Now she will never forgive him. In any case, he is no longer her son; he is a Mannon now and the house will welcome him. Lavinia harshly orders him to stop his rambling and then moves to sooth him. They must get back to normalcy and begin a new life with Peter and Hazel. They have every right to their love.


To Lavinia's shy delight, Orin grimly remarks on her new resemblance to Mother. Since they sailed East, she has been stealing Christine's soul. Death has set her free to become her. Lavinia rebukes her brother; he promised at the Islands that if he came home to face his ghosts, he would rid himself of his morbid spells and guilt over the past. Orin replies maliciously that it was his brotherly duty to get her from the Islands. Lavinia forces Orin to repeat after her: mother killed father, and they only did what was just. They set themselves to cleaning the house. Peter enters from the rear and gasps, thinking he has seen Christine's ghost. Lavinia approaches him with eager possessiveness. Peter is especially stunned to see Lavinia out of black; Lavinia replies that she was dead back then. Orin mocks his sister, accusing her of stealing Mother's colors and becoming a true romantic while under the influence of the Islands. Indeed, the Islands and their men in particular turned her into a regular pagan. Another month more and Lavinia would have joined the natives naked under the palm trees. An angry Lavinia forces a smile. She straightens Orin's clothing and sends him off to Hazel. When she criticizes his rigid posture, Orin cunningly retorts that she'd rather he play the clipper captain than Father. Orin departs. Lavinia declares her love for Peter and warns him against falling for of Orin's morbid spells. She did not flirt with any of the native men. The Islands did finish setting her free, but her time among natives and ignorant of sin enabled her to forget death and come to love and beauty. Now she and Peter will marry, leave the region, and make an island for themselves in the country. They embrace. Suddenly Hazel and Orin appear in the doorway. Orin starts in a jealous rage but Lavinia commands him to be still. She stares at her brother in dread. Analysis As we have noted throughout, though mourning may become Electra, her double Lavinia refuses mourn. The sentry-like heroine is an agent of repression, ensuring that the family secrets never come to light. Lavinia cannot mourn because she would attempt at all costs to forget. She defies the judgment of the ancestors, the ghosts that torment her brother relentlessly. For Lavinia, Orin must forget what has transpired and look toward a new life with Peter and Hazel. Stubbornly will she refuses Orin's pleas, dismissively attributing them to his morbidity, and force him to recite mantras that assure them of the justice of their actions. Though clearly haunted, Lavinia would still have no debt to the dead. An increasingly psychotic Orin seeks for the ghost of his mother, wandering the house to beg for her forgiveness. In his strange state, he quickly comes to decipher the course of the Mannon tragedy. Here he confronts the dauntless Lavinia with her desire to take her mother's place. Christine's death has freed Lavinia to become her, to steal her colors and soul. Lavinia's disturbingly shy eagerness at what she first understands as Orin's compliments only betrays her further. By becoming her mother, Lavinia accedes to femininity and sexual desire. This transformation rehearses a familiar Oedipal trajectory. Within the classical Oedipal schema, the daughter's perception of the mother's castration precipitates her Oedipal complex. Her experience of her own castration may result in an identification with the father in the famous "masculinity complex." Lavinia's identifications with Ezra are clear. Identification with the castrated mother and her femininity become tenable once the


daughter can locate herself within a structure of desire that would make good on her lack. Here Lavinia would play mother and wife at once, Orin figuring as the child that compensates for her castration. As we learn in more detail in their final confrontation, Lavinia completes her metamorphosis on Brant's Blessed Island. Both Orin and Lavinia cast the Islands as the setting of Lavinia's metamorphosis though imagine this metamorphosis in almost diametrically opposite ways. Both involve fantasies of the native. For the fiendish Orin, the Islands intertwine Lavinia's sexual and racial degradation. As he tells Peter, a month longer on the Islands and Lavinia would have become a veritable pagan, dancing nude with their beautiful men under the palm trees. Orin quivers with jealousy at the specter of the native's sexual prowess. He rescues his sister in fear that they can provide her with what he cannot. In contrast, Lavinia emphasizes the Islands' innocence. There, among their simple, docile people, she came to love and beauty anew, forgetting all the death behind her. Indeed, Lavinia's natives appear almost free of sexuality altogethernote, for example, her account of the chaste kiss in Act IV. These projective fantasies are decidedly narcissistic, splitting of the native into its hyperidealized and degraded, "good" and "bad" forms. Mourning maps these fantasies onto those of gender, the image of the pure or lascivious native fitting easily with that of the woman cast as either virgin or whore. "The Haunted": Act II Summary One month later, Peter works intently at a manuscript at his father's desk. He now looks almost as old as Ezra. Peter sardonically addresses his father's portrait, jeering that the whole truth and nothing but the truth will come out. Lavinia knocks sharply at the locked door; Peter locks his manuscript in the desk and lets her in. With forced casualness, she asks Orin what he is doing. Mockingly he replies that he is reading Father's law books. Lavinia urges him to get some fresh air. For Orin, however, the two of them have forever renounced the "accusing eye" of daylight. He finds the lamplight more appropriate, as it is a symbol of man's life burning out in a world of shadows. Forcing a smile, Lavinia relents and she only worries about his health. Orin snaps that though she hopes for his demise, he feels quite well. Lavinia replies that the walk with Hazel did him good then. Orin assents dully and then complains that, now that they are engaged, Lavinia never leaves them alone. She fears he may let something slip. Though he feels drawn to Hazel's purity, Lavinia cannot pass him off onto her. Hazel is another "lost island." When he sees her love for him, he feels an urge to confess his guilt as if it were "poisonous vomit." Lavinia and he cannot escape retribution. They must confess and atone for mother's death. Lavinia cannot believe that Orin still loves a woman who would have left him. Orin retorts that Lavinia would do the same with Peter. He will stop her, however, with his manuscript. As the last male Mannon, he has written a history of the family crimes, from Abe's onward. He has tried to trace the evil destiny behind their lives.


Lavinia is the most interesting criminal of all. Orin recalls how she shed her mourning clothes in San Francisco and donned Mother's colors upon meeting the ship's first mate, a man who undoubtedly reminded her of Brant. She finally became pretty, like Mother, on Brant's Islands, with the natives staring at her with desire. Lavinia watched Avahanni stare at her body, "stripping her naked." Lavinia insists with quiet dignity that she only kissed him in gratitude for making love so "sweet and natural" for her. When Orin presses Lavinia further, she assumes Christine's taunting voice. She states that she is not Orin's property. Reacting as Ezra did, Orin grasps his sister's throat in fury, threatening her murder. Shaken, Lavinia assures her brother that she was lyingan "evil spirit" made her speak against her will. They must forget all. Orin insists quietly that he has taken Father's place and she Mother's. Perhaps she should murder himhe will even help. Lavinia's horror becomes a violent rage, and she repeats her mother's threat: "Take care, Orin! You'll be responsible if!" She collapses in tears. "The damned don't cry" murmurs Orin. He commands her out of the room and resumes his work. Analysis Act II stages the return of the barely repressed history that haunts the Mannon children. Orin forces this return in his movement toward atonement and expiationthough, as we will learn later, for not the noble reasons he claims. As Orin's taunts against Ezra's portrait make clear, atonement requires bringing the Mannons to judgment over and against the authority of his forefathers. Judgment demands the writing of the history the house and its residents would bury in the crypt. As the audience has been party to this history through snatches of gossip and conversation, Orin's forbidden record can only suggest that far more has been left unsaid. As Orin fiendishly remarks, the most interesting criminal in this history is Lavinia herself. Orin goes on to detail Lavinia's transformation into Christine, a metamorphosis that begins when she steps into her mother's placeshedding her mourning and leaving her loverfor a first mate who stands in for the murdered Brant. What completes this metamorphosis is their trip to "Brant's Blessed Islands. Lavinia becoming pretty like Mother under the desiring looks of the isles' native inhabitants. Again, the natives appear as almost symmetrical inverses of each other in the siblings' respective projective fantasies. For the jealous Orin, the natives are rapist-voyeurs, stripping his sister nude with their eyes. For Christine, they are absolute innocents, lovely freely and without sin. In the natives, a deluded Lavinia finds an illusory Eden whereas Orin finds an adversary vying for Mother's love, an adversary imagined to be equipped with frightening sexual prowess. Orin's native is a lascivious rival; Lavinia's is innocence incarnate. For Orin, this history he has written foretells their fate, and he and Lavinia have assumed Father and Mother's place respectively. The innumerable parallels between "The Hunted" and scenes from the trilogy's earlier installments underscore this substitution. Lavinia's frantic knock at the study door, for example, recalls Christine's desperate attempt to break into Lavinia and Orin's private exchange in "The Hunted." Like Christine, Lavinia is trying to pass Orin off onto Hazel and yearns for his death so she can flee to the Islands with her lover. Ultimately the dead come to possess her voice, Lavinia defying Orin to treat her as his property and then repeating her mother's infamous


threat. As she protests in horror, an "evil spirit" compels the two of them to live out the love stories that precede them. Though Orin would apparently turn to Hazel to escape the Mannon fate, the dead, as Lavinia will later remark, intervene between them. In extolling Hazel's magnetic purity, Orin casts her as yet another figure for the Mother. Like Christine, Hazel appears as another "lost island," a symbol of the prelapsarian love that the damned can never hope to attain. Orin yearns to deliver himself up to this mother-double and confess his crime. Chillingly his fantasy of this confession rehearses the memory of his father's murder. The poison Christine gives to Ezra becomes the "poisonous vomit" that Orin would cough up in guilt. Orin's submission to judgment is a submission to death as well. As we will see, atonement for Orin means death at Mother's hands. "The Haunted": Act III Summary Lavinia enters the sitting room. To her horror, she finds herself wishing for Orin's suicide. She implores the portraits to show her Orin's salvation. Seth appears in the doorway, complaining that the maid is complaining of ghosts against. Lavinia leaves to talk to her. The doorbell rings and Seth lets Hazel and Peter in and exits anew. Uneasy, Hazel complains that Lavinia cannot continue keeping Orin shut up since she is a bad influence. Orin must stay with them for a time. Orin appears, glancing about to check for his sister. He insists on seeing Hazel alone. He goes to the study and returns with a large sealed envelope, enjoining her to keep it safe. She should only open it if something happens to him or if Lavinia tries to marry Peter. Lavinia can have no happiness and she must be punished. Hazel implores Orin to confide in and come away with her. Orin furtively suggests that he sneak out. Hazel indignantly refuses to engage in such deceptions. Lavinia is heard from the hall, and Orin hastily sits on the couch. Lavinia starts at seeing the pair alone. Forcing a joking tone, she notes that Hazel is hiding something. Orin comes to Hazel's rescue by informing her sister that he will be moving in with her for a time. Lavinia refuses and Hazel springs up in rage. She loves Orin better than her and he must move. She prepares to leave, trying to keep Orin's envelope hidden behind her back. Lavinia blocks the door, demanding that she relinquish the manuscript. Rushing to Orin, she beseeches him to make her surrender itshe will do anything. Orin complies and instructs Hazel to forget his "rotting ghost." Hazel hurries out. Orin makes sure his sister understands she can never see Peter again. A "distorted look of desire" comes into his face. Lavinia does not understand how much she had meant to him since they killed Christine. Perhaps he loves her too much. Caressing her hair, he remarks that she seems neither his sister nor mother but some stranger with the same hairMarie Brantme perhaps? Lavinia stares at him in horror, saying, "For God's sake! No! You're insane! You can't mean!" Orin replies that otherwise he cannot be sure she would not leave. Without "certainty," he would go mad and confess. With the word "confess," Orin's tone instantly changes. He urges his sister to confess with him anew. Lavinia refuses. Orin calls upon their ancestors to haunt and hound her for a lifetime. Lavinia wishes for his death. Orin realizes that his death would be another


act of justice and that Mother is speaking through Lavinia. He will find Mother again on the island of peace that is Death. He will kneel before her and beg for forgiveness and Orin convulses as if vomiting poison. He pushes Lavinia away with brotherly irritation; Mother is waiting. Peter appears in the doorway. Unnaturally casual, Orin remarks that he was about to go clean his pistol in the study and exits. Lavinia stops herself from following and throws herself into Peter's arms. A muffled shot is heard. Analysis Act III features Orin and Lavinia's final confrontation. Orin will speak the desire that binds them and their ancestors together. The pair's confrontation is preceded by Orin's last opportunity to escape the Mannon household, an escape made available to him by Hazel. In this brief exchange, Orin entrusts Hazel with his precious manuscript. Interestingly, the manuscript appears here as not so much that which would bring the Mannon line to judgment as keep Lavinia in the Mannon home. As Orin tells Hazel, she is to read it if he dies or show it to Peter on the eve of their wedding if his sister successfully schemes to marry him. As we will see, these stipulations will enable Orin to keep his hold on Lavinia from beyond the grave. Orin relinquishes the manuscript upon Lavinia's promise to do anything for him. Not content with the promise that she leave Peter, Orin confronts Lavinia, albeit through innuendo, with the incestuous desire that binds them. Orin proposes that they consummate their assumption of Father and Mother's places. For Orin, the consummation of their unholy union binds them together forever. Incestuous, cross-generational desire is displaced onto a sibling relation who members play Mother/Son, Husband/Wife, and Brother/Sister all at once. The conjured specter of Marie Brantmethe wild, "animallike" Canuck who wreaks havoc in the Mannon kinship structureonly lamely triangulates this incestuous pair. Though Orin considers Lavinia more a stranger than his sister and mother, his attraction to her, which reproduces the relationship between mother and son, runs in the family. Lavinia recoils, perhaps as Christine did, at Orin's proposal. Then, at the word "confess," a break of sorts appears in Orin's speech, and he resumes his calls for atonement. Lavinia then wishes for his death, a wish Orin receives as if sent from Mother. Crucially this moment reveals that Orin's atonement is but another scheme to join the mother in the "secret world" of an illicit love affair. Orin clearly yearns for death at Mother's hands, convulsing symptomatically as if vomiting the poison that Christine put in his father's mouth. The punishment Orin so violently insists upon would allow him to go to Mother on Death's "island of peace." His death is not only the penalty for his crime but a means by which to be with Mother for eternity. Lavinia, on the other hand, desperately clings to the past's repression, a repression now contingent on her raving brother's death. O'Neill makes use of another suspenseful pause between the suicide victim's epiphany and act of suicide. Clinging to Peter, Lavinia attempts to fill his terrible pause with her desperate ravings about their future happiness. With the gunshot, she defies the ancestral portraits to judge her. She has only kept their secrets. Lavinia exits the scene ever the defiant sentry, burying the past behind her cryptlike mask. Orin has left this sentry with a telling curse, calling upon the ancestors she


would silence to haunt and hound her for a lifetime. This curse prefigures Lavinia's ultimate fate. "The Haunted": Act IV Summary Three days later, Seth wanders up the front drive singing "Shenandoah" in his wraith of a baritone. The house looks as it did in the first act of "Homecoming." Seth peers at the flower garden and notes that Lavinia is picking flowers again like Christine would. She has already filled the house with them. Lavinia appears dressed in deep mourning, sleepless and haggard anew. She gives Seth a bunch of flowers and emptily orders him to keep them to the maid, since the house must be cheerful for Peter. Seth coaxingly offers to haul out a sofa so she can sleep. Lavinia declines and then pauses; Seth knows that there can be no rest in that house. Seth urges her to go away. Lavinia resolves anew to flee with Peter and let the house rot. He moves off and greets a resolute Hazel, also dressed in mourning. Hazel insists that she knows Orin killed himself and his blood is somehow on Lavinia's hands. Whatever the case, she has come to discuss Peter. Lavinia cannot marry him. The Mannon secrets will come between them and prevent their unhappiness. Moreover, she has caused strife within their family. When his mother approached him about his marriage, he left home and vowed to never speak to her to Hazel again. Lavinia commands her to leave her alone or else die by Orin's pistol. Hazel moves to go. She asks that Lavinia let Peter read what was in Orin's envelope, since she has told Peter of it already. Closing her eyes, Lavinia wonders why the dead cannot die. Peter arrives, and Lavinia immediately tries to appear cheerful. She keeps her eyes closed in fear. They pledge their love anew. Lavinia is startled, however, by the bitterness in his voice. She makes him promise that he does not suspect her and suggests that they marry immediately. Peter suspiciously refuses, sating that they cannot marry on the day of Orin's funeral. Lavinia flings herself into his arms, begging for a moment of joy, imploring Peter to want her. In the throes of her passion, she cries: "Take me, Adam!" Horrified Lavinia realizes that the dead will always intervene between them. She orders Peter to go home, feigning that she was indeed that native man's "fancy woman." Peter recoils in repulsion. As Lavinia, square-shouldered, watches Peter go, Seth returns singing "Shenandoah" under his breath. Lavinia cackles that she is bound to the Mannon dead. Since there is no one left to punish her, she must punish herself. She will nail the shutters and live in the house with the dead until the curse is paid out. She orders Seth to close the shutters and have the maid dispose of the flowers. Lavinia ascends the portico and stares into the sunlight. Seth leans out of and closes the right window, and she marches woodenly into the house, closing the door behind her. Analysis Returning us to the mise-en-scene that opens the trilogy, Act V moves from the prospect of Lavinia's escape from her the Mannon fate to her ultimate consignment to the family crypt. The possibility of Lavinia's flight lies in her marriage with Peter. Lavinia cannot escape the Mannon home because, as she tells Seth, echoing the operative word in his "Shenandoah" chanty, she remains bound to its dead. The Mannon dead make their last


intervention into the lives of the living in preventing Lavinia's flight with Peter. Hazel insists that Orin's memory and testimony will forever divide them, the Mannons' secret weighing heavily on their marriage. Already it has brought Peter grief, causing conflict within his family. As Lavinia remarks bitterly, the dead will simply not die. The dead assert themselves with even more force in Lavinia's slip of the tongue. Hysterically declaring her love for a lover she is about to lose, Lavinia reveals the extent of her crimes, speaking in her mother's frantic voice. Inadvertently she cries out the name of her erstwhile beau, Adam. No longer can Lavinia deny the truth of her desire, the desire to take the Mother's place, and her implication in a tragedy that compulsively repeats itself across time. Note also in this respect how Orin's death strips Lavinia of her mother's image, returning her to her deep mourning. This transformation betrays how her accession to her mother's place is contingent on the reproduction of the mother- son dyad she realized with her brother. Thus Lavinia relinquishes Peter, confessing to be the natives' "fancy woman" after all. Her lie is particularly tenable as it involves the mere reversal of the fantasies of love that dominate the play. As the native "fancy woman," Lavinia moves in Peter's eyes from the woman who learned innocence on the isles to she who lost it there forever, from the virgin to the whore. Appropriately, with Lavinia's degradation comes the recuperation of Peter's mother and sister. As he bitterly exclaims, Mother and Hazel were right about Lavinia after all. Having given up her lover, Lavinia is left with her dead. The flowers she picked as her mother once did have now prepared her bower. Lavinia's retirement into the house is the consummation of the role of stiff-shouldered sentry she dons throughout the play. Lavinia entombs herself with the ancestors, masochistically taking the family's debtsthe disgraces she keeps secretupon herself. Rather than bring the family history to public judgment, her self- imprisonment enacts the revenge of the dead from within the family crypt. Lavinia turns defiantly from what Orin describes earlier as the "judging eye" of the sun to live out her days in darkness. Thus she fulfils Orin's curse, offering herself up to the ghosts that will hound and haunt her forever. Seth colludes in this repression of history to the end, quietly noting that he has not heard a word Lavinia has been saying. Important Quotations Explained You're so like your mother in some ways. Your face is the dead image of hers. And look at your hair. You won't meet hair like yours and hers again in a month of Sundays. I only know of one other woman who had it. You'll think it strange when I tell you. It was my mother. Brant makes this strange compliment, or rather confession, to Lavinia in Act I of "Homecoming." It situates him square in the Oedipal drama that structures the trilogy. Brant loves those who substitute for his mother, the defiant Marie Brantme. The point of fixation of his fantasies is the Mannon women's lustrous hair. This fixation becomes a recurrent motif the Mannon men, similarly locating them in the incestuous Mother-Son relation.


Each time I come back after being away it appears more like a sepulcher! The "whited" one of the Biblepagan temple front stuck like a mask on Puritan gray ugliness! It was just like old Abe Mannon to build such a monstrosityas a temple for his hatred. Christine complains of the sepulchral nature of the Mannon house in Act I of "Homecoming." The house is of course the tragedy's primary mise-en-scne. It functions as crypt to the family's secrets. Christine refers to this secret history in cursing Abe Mannon, who built the house to cover over the disgrace that sets this revenge cycle in motion. Thus the temple to Abe's hatred is also a monument of repression. As Christine laments, its distinguishing feature is its portico, what the stage notes describe as the "incongruous white mask" hiding its ugliness. This mask makes doubles out of its residents, evoking the "life-like masks" the Mannons wear as their faces. Thus Christine personifies the house when she describes it as a "whited sepulcher." Here Christine alludes to a simile Jesus uses in Matthew 23:27 in condemning hypocrites exemplified by the scribes and Pharisees. In common usage, the metaphor refers to an evil person who hypocritically pretends to be holy or good. It was like murdering the same man twice. I had a queer feeling that war meant murdering the same man over and over, and that in the end I would discover the man was myself! Their faces keep coming back in dreamsand they change to Father's face or to mine Orin relates his Civil War nightmare to Lavinia in Act III of "The Hunted." It allegorizes the lethal rivalries afoot between the play's male doubles. Mourning's male players are all at war in an Oedipal drama, vying for the desire of Mother. The Civil War, generally remembered as a war between brothers, comes to symbolize this struggle. The men's rivalries are murderously infantile, operating according to a jealous logic of "either you go or I go." Because in these rivalries the other appears as that which stands in the self's rightful place within the Oedipal triangle, the rivals appear as doubles of each other as well. Orin's nightmare of his murders in the fog allegorizes this rivalry. Here Orin repeatedly kills the same man, himself, and his father. This compulsive series of murders demonstrates the impossibility of the lover ever acceding to his rightful place within the Oedipal triangleMother will always want another, and producing yet another rival. those Islands came to mean everything that wasn't war, everything that was peace and warmth and security There was no one there but you and me. And yet I never saw you, that's the funny part. I only felt you all around me. The breaking of the waves was your voice. The sky was the same color as your eyes. The warm sand was like your skin. The whole island was you. Orin relates this fantasy of the Blessed Island to Christine in Act II of "The Hunted." A sanctuary from the war, the Island is a warm, peaceful, and secure paradise composed of the mother's body. Thus Orin can imagine himself with Christine without her being there. In terms of the trilogy's sexual drama, the Blessed Island is the realm of the pre-Oedipal, the time of plentitude and imperfect differentiation between mother and child. The war


rips Orin from this maternal embrace at his father's behest. Orin goes to war to do his duty as a Mannon. As with the motif of the mother's hair, the fantasy of the Blessed Island will recur amongst all the major players. Each yearns mournfully for the "lost island" removed from the Oedipal tragedy in which they are enmeshed. There was no hereafter. There was only this worldthe warm earth in the moonlight the trade wind in the coco palmsthe surf on the reefthe fires at night and the drum throbbing in my heartthe natives dancing naked and innocentwithout knowledge of sin! Lavinia relates this memory of the Blessed Island to Peter in Act I of "The Haunted." She has just returned with Orin from their trip to the South Sea. Here the Island figures again as a paradise apart from the Oedipal tragedy that drives the Mannons to their doom, but here it is in terms of race relations. As with Brant, the islands have come to figure as home of the innocent natives who dance naked on the beach and love without sin. The natives appear as timeless children, living in the simplicities of the present. Lavinia's reverie is one pole of the trilogy's fantasies of the native. The other, sustained by Orin and others, imagines them as figures of bestial sexual prowess. Key Facts full title Mourning Becomes Electra author Eugene O'Neill type of work Drama genre Tragedy/Psychological Drama language English time and place written Written largely in France, from 19261931 date of first publication 1931 publisher Random House, Inc. narrator None point of view Not applicable tone Tragic tense The play unfolds in the time of the present setting (time) Spring or Summer, 18651866 setting (place) The Mannon house in New England; a harbor in East Boston protagonists Lavinia Mannon, Orin Mannon, Christine Mannon, Ezra Mannon major conflict Brigadier-General Ezra Mannon has returned from the Civil War. His duplicitous wife Christine and her lover, Adam Brant, plot his murder. Mannon's daughter, Lavinia, and son, Orin, discover their mother's treachery and destroy the two lovers in turn. They must then suffer the vengeance of the dead. rising action In "Homecoming," rising action consists of the confrontation between Ezra and Christine. In "The Hunted," it consists of the revelation of Brant's murder to Christine. In "The Haunted," it consists of Orin's incestuous proposition to Lavinia.


climax In "Homecoming," Ezra's murder functions as climax and closes the play. In "The Hunted," Christine's suicide does the same. In "The Haunted," Orin's figures as climax. falling action Breaks follow the first two climaxes leading into the townsfolk scenes that open the subsequent plays. A brief interlude with Seth follows the break after Orin's suicide. themes Oedipus, Fate, Repetition, and Substitution, The Rival and Double, the Law of the Father motifs The Blessed Islands, The Native symbols The Mannon house foreshadowing The foreshadowing in Mourning is oppressive and omnipresent. For example, Ezra's apprehension of his imminent death, and Christine's fear that she will soon lose Brant forever. Study Questions and Essay Topics Discuss the role of the Chantyman in Act IV of "The Hunted." O'Neill considered Act IV of "The Hunted" as the "center of the whole work." This act moves the audience from its principal locale of the Mannon house to an East Boston harbor of the Chantyman. Lest the Chantyman appear merely "colorful" or a means of providing one of Mourning's few moments of comic relief, we should consider the scene within the context of O'Neill's oeuvre. Act IV returns to the mood and manner of O'Neill's early sea plays, with the same exacting detail in setting, costume, and set design, but in a more melancholic or nostalgic mode. The drunken Chantyman appears as a figure of his erstwhile poet-heroes, the troubadour-of-the sea. Here, however, O'Neill's former protagonist appears old, useless, and marginal to the tragedy. The Chantyman sings a chorus of "Shenandoah," drunkenly laments the theft of his cash, and brags of his ability to bring a crew into working order with his singing. He laments the coming of steam to ships and the death of the old days. As Bogard notes, the "exit of the chantyman is the last glimpse O'Neill was to give his audiences of the protected children of the sea." The Chantyman is also a prophetic figure, speaking portentously of Lincoln and Mannon's deaths and lugubriously disappearing into the night with the dirge "Hanging Johnny" on his lips. Its lyrics oppressively foreshadow the death to come: "They says I hangs for money/ Oh, hang, boys, hang They say I hanged my mother/ Oh hang, boys, hang!" Compare and contrast Orin and Lavinia's fantasies of the native. What is their relation to the play's fantasies of gender? Living out the last hopes of Brant and Christine, Orin and Lavinia flee East upon the former pair's death. While in transit, they stop for a month at Brant's legendary South Sea Islands, the land the lovers imagined as their Eden-like haven.


Both Orin and Lavinia cast the Blessed Islands as the setting of Lavinia's metamorphosis into the Mother though imagine this metamorphosis in almost diametrically opposite ways. Both their fantasies revolve around the figure of the native. For the fiendish Orin, consorting with the native means Lavinia's sexual and racial degradation. As he tells Peter, a month longer on the Islands and Lavinia would have become a veritable pagan, dancing nude with their beautiful men under the palm trees. Orin quivers with jealousy at the specter of the native's sexual prowess. He rescues his sister in fear that they can provide her with what he cannot. In contrast, Lavinia emphasizes the Islands' innocence. There, among their simple, docile people, she came to love and beauty anew, forgetting all the death behind her. Indeed, Lavinia's natives appear almost free of sexuality altogether. For example, note her account of the chaste kiss with Avahanni in Act IV. These projective fantasies are decidedly narcissistic, splitting of the native into its hyperidealized and degraded, good and bad forms. Notably Mourning maps these fantasies onto those of gender, the image of the pure or lascivious native fitting easily with that of the woman as virgin or whore. Consider the ways Ezra Mannon makes his presence felt in the absence of his person. How does he do so? What does he demand of those under his influence? We first encounter Mannon in the figure of the ominous portrait hanging in his study. Here, as throughout the trilogy, Ezra, dressed in his judge's robes, appears as a symbol of the law. Ezra calls the living to judgment for their crimes. These crimes include the players' illicit, incestuous loves, their betrayals, and the acts of murder incurred in bitter and violent rivalries. Ezra's is far more the figure for the law in his symbolic form than in his personthe person of a broken, bitter, ruined husband. Before and after his death, Ezra will appear most authoritatively in his symbolic capacity. The portrait is the clearest example. To a great extent, Ezra assumes this symbolic capacity in life and perhaps at the expense of his person. His mannerisms suggest the unyielding statue-like poses of military heroes. To Christine, he imagines himself as a statue of a great man standing in a square, a man who, as a result has become numb to his own heart. Ultimately Ezra will come to exert his influence most powerfully in the total absence of his person. Upon his death, his various images will relentlessly haunt and condemn his family from beyond the grave. Thus, for example, Lavinia will constantly invoke his name and voice and with it the weight of his authority, Christine will hear herself condemned by his corpse, and onward.


SYLVIA PLATH (1932-1963),pageNum-3.html Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts on October 27, 1932, and spent her early childhood years in Winthrop, a seaside town in the Boston area. Her mother parents were Austrian ?migr?s, while her father, an immigrant from Poland, was a professor of biology at Boston University and an internationally known expert on bees. However, her father died in November 1940 after a protracted illness and her family moved to the more conservative suburb of Wellesley. Plath was essentially raised by her grandmother while her mother taught students at the medical-secretarial training program at Boston University. At an early age, Sylvia began to write poems and to draw in pen and ink. She published her first poem at age eight, and by the time she was seventeen she was an experienced writer. Her first published work came in 1950, a short story in the magazine Seventeen entitled "And Summer Will Not Come Again," while the Christian Science Monitor published a poem called "Bitter Strawberries" that same year. That year Plath entered Smith College on a scholarship endowed by Olive Higgins Prouty, the novelist and author of Stella Dallas. The next year she won Mademoiselle magazine's fiction contest with a short story "Sunday at the Mintons" and was awarded two Smith poetry prizes and elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1953, Esther returned home to her Boston suburb after working at a fashion magazine internship, where she made her first suicide attempt and was hospitalized for psychotherapy; these events, among other biographical details, are paralleled in The Bell Jar. Plath graduated from Smith College with highest honors in 1955 and went on to Newnham College, Cambridge, in England on a Fulbright fellowship. The next year she married the English poet Ted Hughes and taught for two years as an English instructor at Smith College. In 1960. In 1960 Plath returned to England with Hughes and published a collection of poems called The Colossus. Her second novel, The Bell Jar, was published in 1963 under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas." During the final three years of her life, Plath abandoned the restraints and conventions that marred much of her early work, and wrote with great speed. She produced numerous confessional poems of stark revelation, channeling her longstanding anxiety, confusion


and doubt into poetic verses of great power and pathos. Nevertheless, at her creative peak Plath committed suicide on February 11, 1963 in London. The Bell Jar was reissued under Plath's own name in 1966, and reached American shores for the first time in 1971 after copyright problems delayed its publication in the United States. Several works were also published posthumously, including Ariel (1965), Crossing the Water (1971), Winter Trees (1971), Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (1977), and The Collected Poems (1981). October 27, 1932 Sylvia Plath born to Aurelia Schober Plath, first generation American of Austrian descent, and Otto Emile Plath, emigr from Grabow in the Polish corridor. Otto Plath was a professor at Boston University; his specialty: entomology. Aurelia was approximately 20 years younger than her husband. 1935 1937 Brother, Warren Joseph Plath, is born. The Plath family moves to Winthrop, Massachusetts.

1938 Sylvia begins public school at Winthrop and receives all A's; she is a model student. November 5, 1940 Otto Plath dies of pneumonia and complications from diabetes. 194041 1942 1944 1945 Aurelia Plath teaches secretarial studies at Boston University.

Aurelia Plath moves her family, with her parents, to Wellesley. Sylvia enters Alice L. Phillips Junior High School. Plath's poem "The Spring Parade" published in the school's literary magazine. Other literary publications in The Phillipian, the schools literary magazine.


1947 Plath wins Honorable Mention in The National Scholastic Literary contest. During these years her I.Q. tests in the 160s, and she meets a classmate, Richard Willard (a fictional name), who will continue with her in school. Later, she dates his older brother, "Buddy." 1950 Plath enters Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, on a scholarship. During this period, Buddy Willard asks her to the Yale prom. 1952 Plath wins the Mademoiselle fiction contest. Plath is guest editor at Mademoiselle.

Summer, 1953


Late Summer, 1953 Plath attempts suicide with sleeping pills. She is found and taken to Newton-Wellesley Hospital. 1953 (5 months) Plath resides at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, and is treated with insulin and electro-shock therapy. February, 1954 1955 1956 Plath returns to Smith.

Plath graduates, goes to England on a Fuibright scholarship. Plath meets Ted Hughes in February; marries him June 16 (Bloomsbury Day). Plath's second Cambridge year; English country trips. Returns to America with Hughes. Instructor in English, Smith College.

195657 195758

195859 Takes a hospital clerical job in Boston after quitting her Smith position to devote more time to writing. Plath also enrolls in Robert Lowell's poetry seminar and meets the poet Anne Sexton. Fall, 1959 Plath writes at Yaddo, the writers retreat at Saratoga Springs, New York. In the winter, she and Ted return to England. 1960 Frieda Rebecca, born at home, April 1, London. November: The Colossus published in England. 1961 Plath suffers a miscarriage and has an appendectomy. Nicholas Farrar born. The Colossus published in the United States. Ted leaves Sylvia.

January 17, 1962 September, 1962

December, 1962 Plath moves to London, to a house once resided in by the poet William Butler Yeats. January, 1963 The Bell Jar, published under the name Victoria Lucas, appears to generally favorable reviews. February 11, 1963 1965 1966 1971 Plath commits suicide in her London flat by turning on the gas jets.

Ariel published in London. Ariel published in the United States. The Bell Jar published in the United States with Plath's name as author.



Collected Poems published in the United States.

Journals published in the United States. 1998 Ted Hughes breaks his silence about his marriage to Sylvia Plath by publishing Birthday Letters, a collection of poems about their relationship. He dies that same year. 2000 The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath published.

Sylvia Plath, a precocious enigma of the 1960s, battled perfectionism and precipitous mood swings while pursuing a career as a teacher and poet. She was born in Jamaica Plain, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, on October 27, 1932. In early childhood, she lived in Winthrop on Massachusetts Bay. Left fatherless at age 8, she lived with her mothers parents and attended school in Winthrop and college at Wellesley. She later acknowledged uncertainty about her father through bee imagery in Stings, The Swarm, The Bee Meeting, and other poems. After publishing the story And Summer Will Not Come Again in Seventeen magazine and the poem Bitter Strawberries in Christian Science Monitor in 1950, Plath earned a scholarship to Smith College and majored in English literature and composition. She published additional poems in Harpers. A subsequent story, Sunday at the Mintons, won a Mademoiselle scholarship, a position on the magazines college board, and a summer internship in New York. In August 1953, Plath attempted suicide. She underwent electroconvulsive therapy at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. She returned to Smith in February 1954 and earned a B.A. in English, graduating summa cum laude with membership in Phi Beta Kappa. She subsequently studied English literature as a Fulbright scholar at Newnham College, Cambridge, and then married British poet Ted Hughes in June 1956. Plath taught at Smith, then worked as a hospital secretary in Boston while concentrating on writing. Her diary captures the negativism that paralyzed and bedeviled her. She felt lonely and isolated at school. The best she could offer her bruised self was a grade of middling good. The year after Ted Hughes published a critical success, The Hawk in the Rain, she failed twice, neither earning a Saxton Fellowship nor publishing verse. After seeking guidance from Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton, Plath won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959. She continued working in the clerical department of Massachusetts General Hospital while undergoing therapy. The family returned to London in December 1959, months before the birth of daughter Frieda Rebecca and a subsequent move to a Devon manor house. Plath published The Colossus and Other Poems (1962) and completed a radio play, Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices (1962), and The


Bell Jar (1963). The latter, a powerful psychological novel and autobiographical study of schizophrenia, she issued under the pen name Victoria Lucas. Plath entered a productive period in 1962, when a renewed vigor and daring took her into ever-deepening levels of psychic expression. Her health and emotional stability declined with the birth of a son, Nicholas Farrar. She was antagonized by her husbands adulteries, and she burned a stack of manuscripts (her own and Hughes) and filed for divorce. Seeking renewal in the visionary works of William Butler Yeats, she moved the children to Chalk Farm in London. During a wretched winter, after supplying each crib with a mug of milk and stuffing the crevices with towels, on February 11, 1963, she committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates and inhaling gas from the kitchen stove. Plath was much missed. Her friend, poet Anne Sexton, composed a Unitarian eulogy and wrote a verse tribute. Literary fans and cultists welcomed posthumous publication of Ariel (1965), a verse study of the patriarchy of her husband and father. Additional titles Crossing the Water: Transitional Poems (1971), Winter Trees (1972), and Letters Home: Correspondence, 19501963 (1975), edited by her motherstrengthened Plaths place among feminists. Hughes issued his ex-wifes prose (minus one he chose to destroy) in Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and Other Prose Writings (1977), The Collected Poems (1981), and The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982). On the strength of these works, Plath earned the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Her work continues to influence the writings of a new generation of feminists.

In 1959, Plath wrote The Colossus, a painstaking evaluation of her deceased father. After three decades of labor, the speakers plastic reconstructions fail to re-create the man she knew only from childhood memories. The astonishing controlling image of a fallen giant places the speaker in the seriocomic role of a Lilliputian, who climbs ladders and traverses the oversized brow and pate of a fallen Gulliver. Locked in the hell of ambivalence, she explores fantasies meant to free her from loss, betrayal, and remorse.

Charged allusions to Aeschyluss Oresteia and the Roman Forum dignify the dead father as they tinge a lifelong search with subtle shades of tragedy. The poet-speaker allies herself with the Greek Agamemnons doomed twins, Orestes and Electra, who destroyed themselves by attempting to avenge the fathers murder. A pivotal imagemarried to shadowtethers the harried speaker to an Electra Complex, the Freudian name for a young girls abnormal adoration of her father. As though abandoned on a faraway island, she ceases to anticipate rescue from an idealized father. In 1961, Plath composed Morning Song, a re-creation of childbirth. Like coded messages, her personal memories lie hidden among metaphors of parenthood. Conceived in love, the infant arrives to an ungentle world. The poet enhances fragility with the midwifes slap, the dual meaning of sole in footsole, and the vulnerable hairless head


and naked limbs. The image of the child as a New statue. / In a drafty museum prefigures later views of bodies as sculpture. In the third stanza, the mother retreats from importance like a cloud dispersed by wind. During the first night, she accustoms herself to infant breathing, pink complexion, and the demanding cry. With self-deprecating humor, she sees herself as cow-heavy, a bovine shape in floral nightdress hurrying to nurse a newborn. One of her most optimistic works, the poem characterizes normalcy and hope. Composed at the height of her creativity, Daddy (1962) resorts to childish, mannered naughtiness and the ebullience of jump-rope rhyme to express a more complex defiance and rage at a father who confined his daughter like a foot laced into a shoe. Returning to the image of the fallen statue, the poet reveals personal recollections of Nauset Beach and her fathers Polish ancestry. Departing from anguish, the mouthy brat envisions herself stuttering in German, then succumbing to Nazi torments at Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen. In the seventh stanza, the choice of chuffing for the sound of trains deporting Jews returns to the baby language that began the poem. The word, a pun on chough, draws on the connection between hovering blackbirds and carrion. Wordplay continues as she degrades her father with the words the brute / Brute heart of a brute like you. The convergence in stanzas 11 through 16 illustrates why critics disagree in their assessment of Plaths skill. Clever and inventive in the drumming beats and assonance of oh and oo sounds in go, glue, screw, you, and through, the picture of a clovenfooted demon biting a childs heart precedes self-destruction. No longer the sturdy, willful persona of the opening stanzas, the poet-speaker suffers from suicide attempts, the patchwork of psychoanalysis, and a fat black heart, a guilt-soaked conscience which she plants in her fathers breast. A mental picture of the tormenter adept at rack and screw compels her to say I do, I do, an oral implication of perverse sex and emotional marriage to the father. In the guise of a vengeful bride of Dracula, she kills off the real and the imagined father, a monstrous, self-damning double murder intended to set her free. In this same period, Plath produced Ariel, a spare, densely packed vision. Like piano scales, the deranged persona speaks brief lines. Ecstatic and energized, she produces word pictures compressed to maximize motion. Named for a sprite who did the will of Prospero in Shakespeares The Tempest, the poem draws on a memory of riding a horse named Ariel before sunup. A controlling assonanceI, White / Godiva, rider, flies, drive, eyesuits the gallop, which liberates as it brings the speaker nearer extinction. The image of the furrow, an allusion to female genitalia, builds with an overlay of the blood-red berry juice. The flow of semen into her body renders her powerless, as though she dangled in air. Sexual connotations continue with Thighs, hair; / Flakes from my heels, a reference to the missionary position, which places the female on bottom during intercourse, where she attains leverage with her feet. The poem diverges into a new direction in stanza 7, which recalls childbirth. The first-person mother evolves into a


death-dealing arrow, the self-destroyer. Envisioning suicide, she epitomizes freedom as unbridled flight toward a burning sun, a symbol of power and regeneration. Also written in her last three months, Lady Lazarus strikes out with a lacerating tone. An allusion to the dead man whom Christ revived, the poem enlarges on glimpses of a rotting corpse stripped of its burial napkin. Terrible in fleshless skull and decay, the deceased revitalizes in stanza 7, like a cat that retains nine of its fabled lives. The poetspeaker, livid with rage and self-pity, envisions a third reclamation from death, with crass, peanut-eating gawkers pushing to get a look at the unwrapping of her body. The revelation recharges the corpse, as though empowered by a sideshow appeal to the crowd. In chronological order, the poet-speaker recalls the first suicide attempt, then the second, when she rocked shut / As a seashell. With a neurotic joy in the art of suicide, she claims, I do it exceptionally well, an artful statement made by Sylvia-the-poet about Sylvia-the-madwoman. Still angry at viewers, she insists on charging them for eyeing of my scars, the hearing of my heart. As though chanting to terrify tormentors, she intones through repetition, implied rhyme, and paired rhymes a surreal return to the victims of Nazi persecution. To both God and Satan, she warns that her rejuvenation is lethal to men. A posthumous work, Blackberrying (1965), retreats from anguish to a pastoral setting, where the speaker gathers and eats ripe berries, a controlling metaphor for art poised atop constraints, depicted as thorns. Pitting sweet-juiced spheres against the price for gathering, the speaker accumulates an ominous fruit, which she characterizes as black eyes. The darkness mirrors black birds protesting in the sky. They ride air currents as gracefully as fly ash blown from a fire, a blended image of cremation and release. In line 13, the speaker doubts that the alley-shaped hedges will allow her a glimpse of the sea, an implication of spiritual release in the afterlife. The remainder of Blackberrying addresses the obstacles to Plaths personal freedom and art. The lushness of berries leads her to a bush so ripe that it is decked in flies, hellish insects whose translucent wings stand out like the sheer panels of an oriental screen. By the end of stanza 2, the speaker moves beyond berrying to stand in the damp gust of sea air, slapping its phantom laundry in my face. The housewife image links to the taste of salt, an allusion to the poets hatred of domestication. After achieving the final push to the sea, the speaker looks out on space, a metaphor for the purity of death. The sound of the sea reminds her of hammerings against her stubbornness. From the same time period, a crossover piece, Fever 103, parallels the metrics of Lady Lazarus with its abrupt question, exclamation, and confession, but reflects the resignation of her last works. Picturing illness as a trip to hell, the poet imagines herself undergoing purification. Wrapped in sin, she hears tinder cries, a pun on tender/tinder to heighten the flimsiness of human tissue, soon to be burned away amid the smell of an extinguished candle flame. The smoke that circles her frame reminds her of Isadora Duncan, the dancer accidentally strangled when her scarf tangled in the spokes of the Bugatti convertible in which she was riding.


Building on the death of Isadora, the poet protests the snuffing out of delicate infants, like hothouse orchids, a double image of hanging planter and the hovering aura of lavender smoke. As the hallucinatory imagery returns to history, death steals aboard technology, annihilating the rare leopard with radiation and the innocents at Hiroshima, who, in 1945, were incinerated in an atomic explosion that ended World War II. In stanza 10, the poet returns to self, the victim who flickers between life and death. The raging, selfdestructive fever, depicted in the repetition of The sin. The sin, turns the victims head into a macabre Japanese lantern, which gives off an astounding glow resembling the flushed petals of a camellia. In a kaleidoscopic shift to the final image, she pictures lust falling away as the spirit, purged to its original state, rises to heaven.


EZRA POUND (1885-1972)

A technical genius and pivotal figure in world poetry, Ezra Loomis Pound was the iconoclast of his day. A restless seeker and experimenter, he disdained his American roots, kept a mnage trois with his wife and a mistress, and cultivated a bohemian image by dressing in scruffy, romantic splendorcane, billowing cape, and tunic topped by rumpled hair and a saucy Van Dyke beard. On Pariss fabled Left Bank, he kept company with expatriates Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein and counseled emerging writers of such stature and promise as Robert Frost, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, H. D., e. e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, and Amy Lowell. In addition to producing a formidable canon of verse, essay, criticism, biography, and translation, Pound stirred international controversy and led a re-evaluation of language and meaning in modern verse. Pound was born in a cabin in the frontier town of Hailey, Idaho, on October 30, 1885. He lived for a year in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and came of age in Wyncote outside Philadelphia, where his father was an assistant assayer for the U.S. Mint. Pounds public schooling ended with enrollment at Cheltenham Military Academy. After entering the University of Pennsylvania at age 15, he knew that his life would consist of mastering all there was to know about poetry. He focused on Latin, Medieval, and Renaissance studies and formed a close friendship with fellow student William Carlos Williams, who lived for a time with the Pound family. Pound completed a B.A. in philosophy from Hamilton College; he then taught romance languages at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned an M.A. in Spanish. After a year on the faculty of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1905, he was fired for befriending a transsexual. Fleeing provincialism and artistic sterility, he toured southern Europe and researched a doctoral thesis on the plays of Lope de Vega. He earned what he could from reviewing and tutoring and worked as secretary for poet William Butler Yeats while championing imagism, his term for modern poetry. In 1908, Pound published his first volumes, A Lume Spento [With Tapers Quenched], A Quinzaine for This Yule, and Personae [Masks]. Content to live outside his native land, in September 1909, he settled in a sparse front room in Londons Kensington section; five years later, he married Dorothy Shakespear. Under the influence of James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford, Pound rapidly produced Exultations in 1909 and Provena the following year. He covered new ground as poet-as-translator with The Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti (1912), which he set to music for opera, and the verse of French troubadour Franois Villon. Pounds translation of Li Pos poems in Cathay (1915) and Certain Noble Plays of Japan (1916) anticipated a demand for Asian literature. A greater predictor of change was In a Station of the Metro (1916), Pounds nineteen-syllable haiku that captures with impressionistic clarity the direction in which the poet intended his art to go. Pound achieved his most influential imagism in Homage to Sextus Propertius (1919) and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley: Life and Contacts (1920), a collection of incisive poetic


snapshots. During the postWorld War I spiritual malaise, he joined Paris caf society, a clamorous coterie known as the lost generation. In search of quiet, in 1922, he dropped his literary friends and migrated to Rapallo, Italy, his home for twenty years. He pored over medieval manuscripts and became Paris correspondent for The Dial, which conferred a $2,000 prize on him in 1928. A mark of his achievement in language was publication of Translations of Ezra Pound (1933) and the political critiques in ABC of Economics (1933) and Jefferson and/or Mussolini (1935). A racist, anti-Semite, and proponent of Hitlers butchery and Mussolinis Fascism, Pound supported the Italian government in short-wave broadcasts over Rome Radio that were addressed to the English-speaking world. In 1942, he repudiated democracy as judeocracy and declared American involvement in the war illegal. After the U.S. military arrested Pound in Genoa in May 1945, he was imprisoned outside Pisa for treason. After being returned to Washington, D.C., for trial, in February 1946, Pound escaped hard prison time by pleading insanity and senility. Critics accused him of perpetuating the pose of raving paranoic to avoid retrial and possible execution. Extolled as a modernist experimenter, he pursued an epic series, The Pisan Cantos (1948) and The Cantos of Ezra Pound (1948). In an atmosphere of jubilance and victory marred by virulent charges of fakery, he accepted the 1949 Bollingen Prize in Poetry, which included a $1,000 purse awarded by the Fellows in American Letters of the Library of Congress. In 1958, Pound, then aged 72, gained release from an asylum through the intervention of an impressive list of colleagues, including Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, Carl Sandburg, and T. S. Eliot. Freed of all charges, he returned to Italy. He continued writing and, without pausing to refine his work, published Thrones: Cantos 96109 (1959) and Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CXCXVII (1968). When he died on November 1, 1972, he was laid among exiles on the island of San Michele beneath a stone that bears only Ezra Pound.

A Virginal, composed in 1912, is named for the diminutive keyboard instrument preferred by maidens during the late Renaissance. The poem reflects the early period of Pounds development and his skillful use of the fourteen-line Petrarchan sonnet. He rhymes the first eight lines abbaabba, closing with the rhyme scheme cdeecd. Opening with a burst of emotion, he introduces his rejection with two strong beats, No, no! Speaking in the guise of a lover rejecting a lady, he cloaks his commentary on poetry in dashing romanticism, brandishing the female image of the Latin vagina or scabbard, which he will not soil with a dull blade. His rejection of classicism turns on an amusing overstatement of departure from the arms that have bound me straitly, a pun suggesting a straightjacket.


At the break between opening octave and concluding sestet, Pound returns to the original spondee and chops the line into three segmentsanother No, no, a dismissal of his castoff love, and the beginning of his reason for abandoning the allure of traditional verse. Intent on experimentation, he prefers the green shoots that signal a new thrust through earths crust. He alliterates the past as a winter wound and looks beyond to Aprils white-barked trees, a color symbolic of an emerging purity. Much of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley: Life and Contacts, written eight years after A Virginal, expresses Pounds exasperation with predictable American artistry and with poets who refuse to let go of the past. In Ode pour lElection de Son Sepulchre [Ode on the Selection of His Tomb], Pound draws on a work by Pierre de Ronsard, reclaimed by the initials E. P., to comfort the artist who is out of key with his time. The second quatrain follows the pattern of iambic tetrameter rhyming abab, but refuses to be tamed into stiff old-style measures. In zesty rhetoric, the poet leaps from one allusion to another, linking Ronsard with Capaneus, a Greek hero in ancient times who was halted in midrebellion by a bolt of lightning from the god Zeus. Rapidly covering ground with a line in Greek from Homers Odyssey, Pound extols another toiler, the sailor Odysseus, who had his men tie him to the mast so that he could experience the sirens song. The fourth stanza reaches toward Gustave Flaubert, a nineteenth-century novelist who persisted in stylistic growth, even though obstinacy cost him the admiration of his contemporaries. Gradually relinquishing dependence on a tightly formed quatrain, Parts II and III of the stanza speak clearly about Pounds annoyance with poetry that fails to acknowledge the accelerated grimace of the postWorld War I era. To the poet, an artistic theft of the classics in paraphrase is preferable to a self-indulgent inward gaze, his term for confessional verse that obsesses over personal feelings and sentimentality. In his estimation, no rigid plaster can suffice in an era that demands agile, up-to-date language. In a rage at commercialism, Part III surges back into the allusive mode with cryptic poetic shards contrasting Edwardian niceties and Sapphos spirited verses. Segueing into religion, Pound makes a similar comparison of the erotic Dionysians and breast-beating Christians. By Parts IV and V, Pound has shucked off the constraints of pre-modern verse forms to embrace an expression free of rhyme and meter. The tone resorts to a free-ranging bitterness toward the literary status quo. His cunning rhythms, more attuned to pulpit delivery, depict the emotional drive of naive warriors marching to war. With bold pause, in line 71 he halts the parallel flow of complex motivesadventure, fear of weakness, fear of censure, love of slaughter, and outright terrorto note that some died, casualties for patriotism. To Pounds thinking, the so-called Great War violated Horaces idealization of sweet and fitting martyrdom. Part IV concludes with a ghoulish belly laugh from the hapless dead as the stanza assails postwar distress. Disillusioned by leaders lies in the 1910s, which pour from the foul jaws of an aged bitch dog, in Part V, the poet lambastes tricksters for luring fine young men to slaughter. For refusing to recognize the threat, a decaying world


sent them under earths lid, an evocative image of finalityclosed eyes and coffins covered with soil. A Pact, Pounds forthright confrontation with Walt Whitman, allows the poet to come to terms with a debt to his American forebear, the father of free verse expressionism. Flaunting hatred of a dismally self-limiting poet, Pound depicts himself as the petulant child of an obstinate father, but stops short of a meaningless tantrum. By reining himself in in the fifth line, he gives over peevish vengeance to acknowledge the development of modernism from its foundations. From this new wood that Whitman exposed, Pound intends to carve the future of poetry, thus achieving a commerce between himself and his predecessor. Pounds lifetime of carving resulted in a masterwork of 116 stanzas that spanned the four decades of his mature and declining years. In Canto I, from The Cantos, he imitates the style and diction of Homer, whose Odyssey follows the fate-hounded Greek sailor all over the Mediterranean. Capturing the music of keel over waves and wind on sail, Pound envisions a swart ship, the boat that the Circe helped Odysseus build to make his final leg of the journey home. It is painted black, Greek fashion; the color prefigures description of that dark nether world that Odysseus must traverse and the murky rites he must perform to acquire the prophet Tiresias direction. To stress the grimness of the underworld, the poet relies on a heavy sibilance of repeated sounds in sterile bulls, best for sacrifice, and the double alliteration of flowed in the fosse. In lush phrases, Pound enacts the scene at the trench, where Odysseus must feed the thronging ghosts on fresh-spilled blood to give them voice. After hearing Elpenors sexcharged explanation of sleeping in Circes ingle and descending the ladder of doom, Odysseus moves on to the next spiritthe sage Tiresias, who warns that return will cost him all his sailors. Following a two-line digression to acknowledge past translations of Homer, Pound venerates Aphrodite, the ancestor of Aeneas, whose subsequent voyage in Virgils Aeneid parallels the wanderings of Odysseus. Without warning, Pound breaks off the text, as though indicating that the chain of poetic renderings will keep epic alive in version after version. Canto XLV, subtitled With Usura, displays flickering impressionism molded from splendid fragments, a mentally challenging style that Pound contributed to modernism. The haunting, exotic passage builds into fugue with melodic names of Renaissance artists and successors, none of whom paid the penalty of artistic usury. As though composing an oratorio of creative fragments, Pound pictures French churches and tools of the sculptor and weaver. A delicious verbal lyricism in azure and cramoisi (pronounced krah mwah zee) precedes a revelation: The publishers financial dealings are the source of declining artistic vigor and the eras compromise of its artists. He suppresses the initial exuberance with a somber reminder that greed kills the artistic child in the womb. With a pontiffs majesty, he thunders that usurylike whores replacing priestesses and corpses seated at banquetsis unnatural, that is, a violation of world order.


Ezra Pound's Material Girl In "Portrait d'une Femme," Ezra Pound examines the fragmented nature of the modern woman; cluttered with culture and accumulated intellect, her character exhibits mere parts of a whole that is both inscrutable and alluringly fascinating. Contrasting one feminine archetype, the radiant goddess, the mystifying siren, Pound's urban lady struggles to configure her identity within the swirling exoticism of art, beauty, knowledge, and elegance. Through brilliant use of extended metaphor, Pound presents the reader with the lady's ephemeral character; as his femme figuratively embodies the intellectual bric-a-brac of civilization, she thus personifies a static basin for the social currents of the modern world. Pound's poem thematically sustains one conclusive identification of this modern woman as "our Sargasso Sea" (Selected Poems of Ezra Pound, page 16 [line 1]). The author taints conventional imagery; in an ironic contrast to the ocean's typical life-giving symbolism, this female's stationary lifelessness parallels a select depository of the North Atlantic. Dense with floating, brown seaweed, she is a sterile collection of life's acquisitions. Pound openly defines his leading lady as a person made of parts; at the onset, he points to the disparity between the woman's intellect and her individuality: "Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea" (1). As the speaker addresses the lady primarily with regard to her supposed intelligence, the opening line introduces the thematic impenetrability of the woman whose inner self remains ambiguous beneath the superficial luster of her mind's assorted possessions. Ironically, Pound subsequently lessens the status of both the lady's knowledge and her internal character, as each remains sedentary in a fast-paced, evolving environment. Pound's setting relegates his femme to inertia, as her urban surroundings display actions typically associated with nature: "London has swept about you this score years" (2). She, with a full mind, remains nonetheless inactive, embodying the still backwaters of civilization. A lifeless "Sargasso Sea," she becomes the dense residue of the commercial world: "And bright ships left you this or that in fee" (3). In totality, the lady's only visible unity lies in her tangible and intangible acquisitions; she reflects plainly "ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things" (4). "Strange spars of knowledge" (5) are only fleetingly articulated and Pound's femme leads a life lacking profundity, in perpetual debt to the "fees" of a fragmented existence. Pound's vignette of the cultured woman presents her uncertain existence in its entirety, diagnosing the inevitability of her incomplete and secondary significance. The murky waters of the woman's mind glimmer temporarily as society's "bright ships" come and go, yet her dim reality deeply entrenches itself in her bleak subservience to greater and lesser minds. The speaker puts forth, "Great minds have sought you lacking someone else. / You have been second always" (6-7). Despite her sophisticated alliances, the lady is nevertheless unfulfilled. However, a certain aspect of her intrinsic subordination is resolved: "Tragical? / No" (7-8). Although Pound's femme falls short of intellectual glory, the fragments of her life make up her saving grace from "the usual thing" (8); as Pound's modern setting guarantees no spiritual fulfillment for its inhabitants, this cultured environment of art and sensibilities offers a makeshift escape from the dullness of 224

mediocrity. The femme fears a man not only "dulling" (9) but "average...with one thought less each year" (10), such that Pound foreshadows his lady's own deterioration through her misdirected association between intellect and worth. While the woman castigates the average man's deficient thought, her own accumulation provides nothing for her sense of self. Not only does she "richly pay" (13) for her external acquisitions, but what endures are merely dregs of her identity, "strange woods half sodden" (26). As sweeping oceans and "bright ships" on the horizon invite the modern notion of travel and commerce, so does the author invite the reader to examine the resulting lifestyle beyond its foremost material gains. Strewn with "dimmed wares of price" (5), the lady remains perpetually lacking, for one interest gained "takes strange gain away" (15). Pound's woman floats at the surface of "a sea-hoard of deciduous things" (25), with fleeting thoughts leaving her head just as new thoughts form. Her internal composition is so utterly varying and overly complex that she "never fits a corner or shows use" (20). In full, her world is "the slow float of differing light and deep" (27). The temporary promise of "new brighter stuff" (26) serves the lady no lasting purpose, nor gives her any interior momentum with which to live. The lady's attraction to "strange spars of knowledge" parallels her own admittedly alluring qualities to onlookers and those expectedly participating in her way of life; the material and intellectual acquisitions of Pound's femme may be "tarnished" (22) and "gaudy" (22), but prove to be consistently intriguing to human nature in their rarity. Pound's satirical choice to title his depiction of the Londoner in French implies the seemingly cosmopolitan nature of the femme herself. The social benefit of her "great store" (24) of riches is the alluring faade it provides. While internally impoverished in the eyes of Pound's speaker, the lady still possesses the glitter of "trophies fished up" (16) and all are drawn to the "wonderful old work" (22) that she appears to be. Yet this meager advantage proves to be another "fact that leads nowhere" (17), and her breadth of knowledge and sophistication leave her no trajectory from murky containment in the "Sargasso Sea." London sweeps about this femme; ships come and go, leaving her behind. Her gaudy findings and imported material goods suggest her internal deficiencies, for her refined modernity masks an individual lacking the fulfillment of experience. No current moves Pound's lady, and this femme is doomed to a stagnant existence amidst flickering surface lights, in a "slow float" above uncharted depth. With a portrait of one woman, Pound presents a paradox of modern society: with the quickening pace of urbanization, his femme remains bogged down "upon the loom of days" (21), stalemate between the strangeness of new innovations and the "tarnished" remnants of an antiquated time. Thirsty for a sense of belonging in a shifting world, she waits "hours, where something might have floated up" (12), and yet obtains "nothing that's quite [her] own" (29). Pound characterizes the woman as a projection of modern society; just as the time has passed for a poem's female to encompass purity and grace, Pound's leading lady simultaneously seeks to extricate her meaning between the luster of the imminent age and the quaint memory of a simpler time. The extended metaphor of the "Sargasso Sea" in "Portrait d'une Femme" wholly unifies Pound's overarching examination of the changing world. His lady's association with the lethargic waters of the


Sargasso Sea is but a point of comparison for the contemporary situation. Beneath the transitory flashes of "differing light," Pound cautions the common person to look before he leaps into the deep abyss of individuality: "No! there is nothing! In the whole and all, / Nothing that's quite your own. / Yet this is you" (28-30). Pound's poetic assessment of one muddled female spirit fully evades misogyny in that his deliberate stray from literary archetypes expands his message to all modern individuals. As this femme strains to determine her position in the world, so do all who suffer ennui, anxiety, and identity crises inside the fragile framework of today's chaotic acceleration. Nevertheless, as Pound's lady moves to construct her identity with collective tidbits of new and old, the speaker directs her away from fleeting acquisitions and focuses on an instinctively ignored truth: "Yet this is you."


Wallace Stevens (18791955)

Wallace Stevens was the literary anomalythe rather humdrum insurance company executive who, with the publication of a single volume, Harmonium, rose to dominance among American aesthetes, the seekers of beauty in art. Pervasive in his shimmering lines are a naturalism and awe that overstep the pessimism that stymied the postWorld War I generation. Long into his career, his officemates were surprised to learn that Wally was capable of writing such lush, elegantly textured poems, but the critical world had long ranked his verse within the growing modernist canon. Stevens earned respect from literary colleagues for whimsical ironies, skepticism, and the sensuous, evershifting intricacy of his vision. Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 1879, the son of teacher Margaretha Catherine Zeller and attorney Garrett Barcalow Stevens. He studied privately at St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran parochial school before entering high school, where he excelled at oratory and classics and wrote for the school newspaper. During three years at Harvard, 1897 to 1900, he contributed to the Harvard Advocate and edited the Harvard Monthly. He initiated an unsuccessful career in journalism at the New York Tribune before enrolling at New York Law School in 1901 and entering a partnership with Lyman Ward in 1904. Stevens married Elsie Viola Kachel; they had one daughter, Holly, and lived in midtown New York from 1909 to 1916. Disdaining American dependence on cars, he began a lifelong habit of walks that took him as far as Greenwich, Connecticut. After settling into the legal department of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company in 1916, Stevens rose to the vice presidency. He was an amateur poet for ten years and earned a reputation for roaming the streets in all weather while composing. Beginning in 1913, he pursued publication in many literary magazines and journals. Like other poets of the era, he was discovered by Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry, who made room for the four-stage Phases in a 1914 war issue. After earning the magazines $100 prize a second time for the verse play Three Travellers Watch a Sunrise (1915), he saw his one-act work produced at New Yorks Provincetown Theatre. Although Stevens produced a second play, Carlos Among the Candles (1920), first in Milwaukee, then at New Yorks Neighborhood Playhouse, he discounted drama as his lifes work. He contributed to anthologies for ten years before seeing his poems collected in a volume. With the assistance of critic Carl Van Vechten and publisher Alfred A. Knopf, he issued a first collection, Harmonium (1923), which brought negligible royalties. He followed with Ideas of Order (1935), Owls Clover (1936) (winner of a poetry prize from Nation), The Man with the Blue Guitar (1937), Parts of a World (1942), Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction (1942), which espouses his personal philosophy, and Transport to Summer (1947). Two collections, The Auroras of Autumn (1950) and The Necessary Angel (1951), earned him the Bollingen Prize, a National Book Award, and a gold medal from the Poetry Society of America. 227

By studying early twentieth-century poets, Stevens achieved his place among modern poets shortly before his death with Complete Poems of Wallace Stevens, which took a second National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. After his demise from cancer on August 2, 1955, in Hartford, and interment at Cedar Hill Cemetery, eulogies linked the two halves of his life, informing startled colleagues of his importance to twentiethcentury American literature. An early display of Stevens expertise, Peter Quince at the Clavier (1923) employs a four-part symphonic form to intone modernist dissonance. A hymn to impermanence, the musical stanzas, each in its distinctive rhythm and line length, arise from the playing on a Renaissance keyboard instrument by a rustic laborer, the director of the masque Pyramus and Thisbe, which concludes William Shakespeares A Midsummer Nights Dream. Through a graphic scenario, his thoughts on the effects of music on the spirit draw an analogy with the beauty of Susanna, whose naked loveliness stirred the elders to pry into her private bliss. With a pun on bass/base, the poet ridicules the throb of passion in the old men that produces pizzicati of Hosannas, a reference to the plucking of strings to produce a lightly separated flow of melody. In Stanza 2, Stevens slows the four beats of the previous tetrameter to an emotionally composed two-beat dimeter interspersed with triplets or trimeter. The crescendo of drama replaces fluctuating strings with the clamor of cymbals and horns. Resuming a four-beat line, he elongates the lifting of lamps, by which ineffectual Byzantine attendants, arriving too late to be of help, disclose the elders leering at Susannas nakedness. Departing from the legend, the poet closes with an ode to beauty, noting that the details of the story are secondary to the importance of beauty itself. Although Susannas admirable physique could not last, the memory of her loveliness survives Deaths ironic scraping, leaving a memory as clear as the sweep of a bow over a viol. That, insists the poet, is the constant of art. Derived from an agnostic era, Sunday Morning (1923), a 120-line blank verse statement of the conflict between faith and poetry, voices Stevens long-running personal debate on the existence of God. The verbal music wraps the speaker in a sustaining melody. Content in her reverie, she avoids Christian ritual and traditions and questions, What is divinity if it can come / Only in silent shadows and in dreams? She finds spiritual renewal in balm or beauty of the earth, which challenges trite, worn-out concepts of heaven. Foremost in the speakers doubt about an afterlife is the absence of completion, which she depicts as fruit that never ripens and rivers that never find the sea. Without death, she declares, mystical beauty has no aim, no fulfillment. The speaker exalts the measures destined for her soul, a primitive concept that the absorption of the body into nature is a more appropriate form of immortality than heaven. Stanza 7 asserts that art, represented by human chanting, encapsulates history, that is, whence they came and whither they shall go. Rounding out the poem is a return to the vision of wings, which bear casual flocks of pigeons to their graceful demise, emphasized by the alliteration of Downward


to darkness. As though enfolding a small portion of life, the span, unlike Christian images of up-stretched flight, embrace earth in their final moments. In line with the thinking of Sunday Morning, Stevens The Emperor of Ice-Cream (1923) continues the thread of logic that death is an essential element of life. In two octaves bizarrely joyous in rhythm and tone, he arranges imperativescall, bid, let bring, let beto the attendants of the dead as the droll funereal rites take shape. The piling up of death images frames the finality of passage as well as an end to posturing, an end to desire. In a line that demystifies ritual grief, the cigar roller whips up concupiscent curds in kitchen cups, a lengthening of hard-edged cacophonies of alliterated K sounds to express the artificiality of mourning. Modern standards of grief take shape in the wenches usual dress and boys bearing floral arrangements in discarded newspaper. However well performed, none of these actions stops the finality of death. For good reason, Stevens repeats the title image in lines 8 and 16. The notion of decay, embodied in the dresser lacking knobs, expands with the image of failed pride, which the dead woman once depicted in embroidery as a peacocks spread tail. The feet of the deceased, grotesquely callused and oddly removed from the attendants scurrying, symbolize the cold, unresponsive state of the corpse, now made dumb by the absence of speech. Like the birds tail in stitchery, the horny feet have surrendered any connection with sexual desire or function. When the body is arranged and the lamp lighted, Stevens insists that earthly sway belongs to the emperor of ice cream, a theatrical mockery of permanence. Celebrating poet and verse, The Idea of Order at Key West (1936) expresses Stevens concept of art by dramatizing an unassuming singer lofting a song to the sea. The poet proposes an outlandish rearrangement of the usual romantic notions of the majestic sea: As though imposing artistic order on nature, the singer reduces the sea to merely a place by which she walked to sing, uplifting herself by creating melody. In the poets expanded view, the singer represents the single artificer of the world, a station that elevates her above natures constant cry with the imaginative ordering of notes into musical phrasing. In lines 33 to 34, the poet-speaker, certain that the sea is not a mask or source of imitation for the singer, begins a series of hyperboles that place high value on the creative power of artistry. As the poem shifts away from the singer, the poet-speaker challenges philosopher Ramon Fernandez to explain another enigmahow light orders and arranges something so vast and insuperable as darkness. The implication is that mysticism poses no answer that can be expressed in human terms. In its final five-line stanza, an emotional Oh introduces a prayerful apostrophe to order amid chaos. The poet, content with the limitations of human art, stops short of reconciling philosophy with art.


Poetry Harmonium Ideas of Order Owl's Clover The Man With the Blue Guitar Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction Parts of a World Esthtique du Mal Three Academic Pieces Transport to Summer Primitive Like an Orb Auroras of Autumn Collected Poems Opus Posthumous The Palm at the End of the Mind (1967) Prose The Necessary Angel (1951) Plays Three Travellers Watch Carlos Among the Candles (1917) the Sunrise (1916) (1923) (1935) (1936) (1937) (1942) (1942) (1945) (1947) (1947) (1948) (1950) (1954) (1957) The Life of the Party: Hedonism in Wallace Stevens's "The Emperor of Ice Cream" An event marked by sex and celebration, the wake in Wallace Stevenss The Emperor of Ice-Cream is inescapably bizarre. Though one might expect an air of sobriety, importance, or - at the very least - reflection to characterize a discussion of death, the poems language and content are instead suffused with an almost nonsensical air of pomp. An unnamed speaker acts as master of ceremonies, encouraging mourners to engage in behaviors more fit for a party than a funeral, while simultaneously scorning the lifeless corpse for the same sexual revelries. Further obscuring the poem is the odd refrain, The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. Though many parts of Wallaces verse seem more concerned with clouding meaning than creating it, there is sense hiding beneath every line. Using contrasting sexual imagery to create a mockery of conventional grieving practices, Stevens describes a funeral that embraces life instead of


lamenting death, and subsequently exposes the hypocrisy that stems from humanitys obsession with mortality. The first stanza of the poem describes a strangely exuberant scene of mourning that resembles a lusty celebration more than a wake. Right away, the speaker makes two demands that indicate the oddly convivial nature of the gathering; he demands that someone Call for the roller of big cigars and bid him whip / in kitchen cups concupiscent curds. In the Western world, cigars are generally acknoweldged as symbols of celebration revelers light them up at the birth of a baby, or following a lucrative business agreement; they are not often associated with death and mourning. The preparation of concupiscent curds is also at odds with the tenor of the event. Since concupiscent means something that is eagerly or sexually desirous, the custards being made are imbued with lust, essentially aphrodisiacal; apparently, the pursuit of sexual pleasure will not be delayed while the dead body is prepared for burial. The lasciviousness and color of the "muscular ones" creamy dishes may also be a subtle allusion to certain intimate fluids a sexual vision supported by the mild phallic imagery of the big cigars. Heightening the sense of jovial merriment, the assonance of i sounds in bid him whip and the alliteration of c in kitchen cups concupiscent curds both impart a pleasing, rhythmic sweetness to the poem. The commands to the boys and girls in the first stanza also detract from the expected sobriety of a funeral by encouraging lively, sexual interactions. The speaker says to Let the wenches dawdle in such dress / As they are used to wear. By telling the women to retain their normal garments instead of donning the appropriately grave, black clothing usually required for such an event, the speaker slights the standard of funereal reverence. However, the odd wording of dress / As they are used to wear and the emphasis placed on that line by the poems sole use of rigid iambic pentameter points to a more active lampooning of the wake. Stevens phrasing of are used to wear is grammatically incorrect this should read: used to wearing. And his choice in diction (are used to over other words and phrasings such as often, typically, or wont) is equally curious. (Wont, because it upholds the current meter and syntax while creating a pleasant alliteration with wear, would be a wonderfully apt word.) The secondary meaning of another peculiar word choice, wenches (meaning lewd women or prostitutes), can explain Wallaces description of the womens clothing. When considered in the context of harlots or loose women, rather than maids or servants, dress / as they are used to wear plays off an admittedly derogatory conception of women. The line becomes a command that the women only wear their normal clothes the clothes in which they are routinely used but to act in their normal, "sexual" way, as well. Stevenss wenches are not alone in being prodded towards sexual interactions; the speaker also commands complimentary behavior from the boys at the wake. The boys are called to Bring flowers in last months newspapers. The fact that these flowers are held in newspapers, and last months as well, rather than being bare or in more pleasantly decorative wrappings (as one typically imagines the flowers at funerals or wakes) suggests that these are an inappropriate contribution to the events. In fact, it seems that the flowers are not for the dead woman at all. The boys are actually following a different


cultural convention; they are delivering ragtag street bouquets to their dates, the wenches who sit idly dawdling for their men. Like the concupiscent curds and the wenches dresses that they are used to wear, these flowers are symbols of and precursors to fun and courtship. Although they are out of place at this scene of death, they would fit in perfectly at a hedonistic celebration of life. While the first stanza applies lusty diction and rhythms to create an atmosphere of pleasure and revelry, the second half of the poem uses these same themes as fodder for contempt and scorn. The use of sexual imagery is steeped in negative connotations when the speaker describes the corpse. The dead womans feet are "horny, suggesting that she empitomizes vulgar sexuality even after her life has ended. This crude criticism is heightened by the line break after they come - a particularly crass allusion that implies that her feet are so sexually aroused that they approach orgasm even after death. That both of these insinuations are made using street-yard slang rather than the subtle intimations of the first stanza also speaks to the negative portrayal of sexuality in the poem. Shame is even found in death: the speaker calls for a sheet to be spread so as to cover her face. The fact that the sheet may not be long enough to cover both the corpse's head and toes also suggests a continuation of her promiscuity; her body will not be properly covered in death, just as it was improperly exposed in life. In a final moment of indignity, the woman is reduced to a pun: she isdumb: without life, she is mute; while alive, she was stupid. While the wenches and boys of the first stanza were encouraged to act sexually, the dead woman is criticized for engaging in the exact same behaviors. Although this creates a conflicting view of sexuality in the text, the ambiguity is resolved by unpacking the obscure refrain at the end of each stanza. The first half concludes with the words Let be be finale of seem / The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream; the second reads, Let the lamp affix its beam / The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream. The two couplets possess multiple similarities that make them deserving of a joint comparison: they use the same rhyme; they have a similar syntactical structure; they conclude in exactly the same manner; the first lines are both imperatives beginning with Let; they are thematically linked. Interestingly, the first line of each couplet deals with the difficulty of assigning truth. Let be be finale of seem stresses the importance of objective, actual truth: be, as the finale of reality, reigns over the subjective perceptions of seem. Relying on an archetypical image, Let the lamp affix its beam is a metaphorical replication of the same idea: let truth be shown. Subsequently, both set up a verity contained in the next line, The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. Yet, what is that truth? An "emperor" suggests a powerful sovereign considered superior even to a king. Ice-cream, however, is a dessert, not an empire or state; the emperor, then, must preside over what ice-cream represents: something sugary and delightful - a vice, a delicacy that must be gobbled up before it melts. In the context of a poem focused on mortality, this "delicacy" must be the fading pleasures of life. The be and seem of life can then be considered as the first and second stanzas of the poem. The be is the truth in enjoying the moment, the lusty carousal of the wenches and boys who, through both physical copulation and hedonistic merriment, continue to cherish life. They proceed


despite the seem, which embodies the looming specter of death that will lead to their derision, just as it does for the dead body. They continue because death may seem like the end, but the pleasure in life is the true finale. In his contrasting uses of sexual imagery, Stevens exposes the hypocrisy behind man's willingness to allow the end to change his outlook on the present in other words, the idiocy in letting death alter ones view of life. By placing the party before the wake, readers are forced to recognize the joy in life and question why it is tarnished by death. Though this message of carpe diem may appear inappropriate and nonsensical to some readers, Wallaces use of Christian rhetoric indicates just how seriously he treats this subject. The four apostrophic imperatives beginning with Let echo Gods commands at the beginning of Genesis, but even the Lord, the Christian king of piousness and morality, is subject to the whims of the hedonistic emperor of ice cream. And so too is his religious dogmatism: the forceful Christian rhetoric employed by the speaker is so at odds with the poems message that it must be considered satire. After all, if the emperor is a good host, then he would want his guests to enjoy themselves at his party.


WALT WHITMAN (1819-1892)

Life and Background
Walt Whitman is both a major poet and an outstanding personality in the history of American literature. He rose from obscurity to monumental fame, coming to be recognized as a national figure. His achievement is great, although it has been sometimes obscured by unfair, hostile criticismor, conversely, by extravagant praise. He is essentially a poet, though other aspects of his achievementas philosopher, mystic, or critichave also been stressed. Walt Whitman was born in West Hills, Long Island, New York on May 31, 1819. His father, Walter, was a laborer, carpenter, and house builder. His mother, Louisa, was a devout Quaker. In 1823, the family moved to Brooklyn, where Walt had his schooling (1825-30). From 1830 to 1836 he held various jobs, some of them on newspapers in Brooklyn and Manhattan. From 1836 to 1841 he was a schoolteacher in Long Island, despite the paucity of his own education. The division of Whitmans early life between town and country later enabled him to depict both environments with equal understanding and sympathy. He also traveled extensively throughout America, and so could appreciate the various regions of the land. Between 1841 and 1851 Whitman edited various periodicals and newspapers. It was, apparently, during this period that he began to compose the poems which were later published as Leaves of Grass. In 1862 Walts brother George was wounded in the Civil War. When Whitman traveled to Virginia to visit him, he saw large numbers of the wounded in hospitals. The Civil War was a major event in Whitmans career, stirring both his imagination and his sensibility and making him a dresser of spiritual wounds as well as of physical ones as he worked as a volunteer in hospitals. Lincolns assassination (1865) also moved Whitman deeply, and several poems bear testimony of his intense grief. In 1865 Whitman was fired from his post in the Department of the Interior in Washington because of the alleged indecency of Leaves of Grass. He was hired by the Attorney Generals office and remained there until 1873 when he suffered a mild paralytic stroke which left him a semi-invalid. In Whitmans last years (1888-92), he was mostly confined to his room in the house which he had bought in Camden, New Jersey. Two friends, Horace Traubel and Thomas B. Harried, attended him. He died on March 26, 1892. Thus ended the lifelong pilgrimage of the Good Gray Poet (as his contemporary, critic W. D. OConnor, called him), an immortal in American literature. Whitman grew into almost a legendary figure, due largely to the charm and magnetism of his personality. Contemporary critics described him as a modern Christ. His face was called serene, proud, cheerful, florid, grave; the features, massive and handsome, with


firm blue eyes. His head was described as magestic, large, Homeric, and set upon his strong shoulders with the grandeur of ancient sculpture. These descriptions tend to make Whitman appear almost a mythical personage. But he was very much alive. Whitman was a being of paradoxes. His dual nature, a profound spirituality combined with an equally profound animality, puzzled even his admirers. John A. Symonds, an English writer, was puzzled by undercurrents of emotional and sexual abnormality in the Calamus poems and questioned Whitman on this issue. Whitmans reply (August 19, 1890) is interesting: My life, young manhood, mid-age, times South, etc., have been jolly bodily, and doubtless open to criticism. Though unmarried I have had six children two are deadone living Southern grandchildfine boy, writes to me occasionally circumstances... have separated me from intimate relations. But no trace of any children of Whitmans has been found, and it is not unlikely that he merely invented them to stave off further questions. Whitman was truly a representative of his age and reflected its varied crosscurrents. His poetry shows the impact of the romantic idealism which reached its zenith in the years before the Civil War and also shows something of the scientific realism which dominated the literary scene after 1865. Whitman harmonizes this romanticism and realism to achieve a true representation of the spirit of America. The growth of science and technology in his time affected Whitman deeply, and he responded positively to the idea of progress and evolution. American patriotism in the nineteenth century projected the idea of history in relation to cosmic philosophy: it was thought that change and progress form part of Gods design. The historical process of Americas great growth was therefore part of the divine design, and social and scientific developments were outward facets of real spiritual progress. Whitman shared in this idea of mystic evolution. Leaves of Grass symbolizes the fulfillment of American romanticism as well as of the sense of realistic revolt against it. Whitman visualized the role of a poet as a seer, as a prophetic genius who could perceive and interpret his own times and also see beyond time. The ideal poet, thought Whitman, portrays the true reality of nature and comprehends and expresses his genuine self. He holds a mirror to his self and to nature; he also illuminates the meaning and significance of the universe and mans relation to it. An ideal poet, he believed, is the poet of man first, then of nature, and finally of God; these elements are united by the poets harmonious visionary power. Though the poet is concerned primarily with the world of the spirit, he accepts science and democracy within his artistic fold, since these are the basic realities of the modern world, especially that of nineteenth-century America. Recognition of the values of science and democracy is indirectly an acknowledgement of the reality of modern life. Whitmans ideal poet is a singer of the self; he also understands the relation between self and the larger realities of the social and political world and of the spiritual universe. He intuitively comprehends the great mysteries of life birth, death, and resurrectionand plays the part of a priest and a prophet for mankind. Leaves of Grass, ever since its first publication in 1855, has been a puzzling collection of poems. It inspires, it enthralls, and it tantalizes-and yet, the problems it poses are


numerous and varied. Whitman so completely identified himself with Leaves (This is no book,/Who touches this touches a man) that critics have tried to find reflections of Whitmans own life in all the imagery and symbolism of the poems. Whitman did explore and express many aspects of his personality in Leaves. It was he himself who created the illusion that he and his poems were identical. Through these works, he found full expression as a poetand as a man. The first edition (1855) of Leaves of Grass consisted of ninety-five pages. The authors name did not appear, but his picture was included. By the time the second edition was published in 1856, the volume consisted of 384 pages, with a favorable review by Emerson printed on the back cover. For this edition, Whitman not only added to the text, he also altered the poems which had previously been published. The third edition appeared in 1860 and contained 124 new poems. The fourth edition, published in 1867, was called the workshop edition because so much revision had gone into it. It contained eight new poems. The fifth edition (1871) included the new poem Passage to India. The sixth edition, in two volumes, appeared in 1876. The seventh edition was published in 1881 and is widely accepted as an authoritative edition today, although the eighth and ninth editions are equally important. The last, which is also called the deathbed edition because it was completed in the year of Whitmans death (1892), represents Whitmans final thoughts. The text used here will be that of the last, or deathbed, edition of 1892. Only the most significant poems of each section of Leaves of Grass will be discussed. Analysis Whitman's poetry is democratic in both its subject matter and its language. As the great lists that make up a large part of Whitman's poetry show, anything--and anyone--is fair game for a poem. Whitman is concerned with cataloguing the new America he sees growing around him. Just as America is far different politically and practically from its European counterparts, so too must American poetry distinguish itself from previous models. Thus we see Whitman breaking new ground in both subject matter and diction. In a way, though, Whitman is not so unique. His preference for the quotidian links him with both Dante, who was the first to write poetry in a vernacular language, and with Wordsworth, who famously stated that poetry should aim to speak in the "language of ordinary men." Unlike Wordsworth, however, Whitman does not romanticize the proletariat or the peasant. Instead he takes as his model himself. The stated mission of his poetry was, in his words, to make "[a]n attempt to put a Person, a human being (myself, in the latter half of the 19th century, in America) freely, fully, and truly on record." A truly democratic poetry, for Whitman, is one that, using a common language, is able to cross the gap between the self and another individual, to effect a sympathetic exchange of experiences. This leads to a distinct blurring of the boundaries between the self and the world and between public and private. Whitman prefers spaces and situations--like journeys, the out-of-doors, cities--that allow for ambiguity in these respects. Thus we see poems like "Song of the Open Road" and "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," where the poet claims to be able to enter into the heads of others. Exploration becomes not just a trope but a mode of existence.


For Whitman, spiritual communion depends on physical contact, or at least proximity. The body is the vessel that enables the soul to experience the world. Therefore the body is something to be worshipped and given a certain primacy. Eroticism, particularly homoeroticism, figures significantly in Whitman's poetry. This is something that got him in no small amount of trouble during his lifetime. The erotic interchange of his poetry, though, is meant to symbolize the intense but always incomplete connection between individuals. Having sex is the closest two people can come to being one merged individual, but the boundaries of the body always prevent a complete union. The affection Whitman shows for the bodies of others, both men and women, comes out of his appreciation for the linkage between the body and the soul and the communion that can come through physical contact. He also has great respect for the reproductive and generative powers of the body, which mirror the intellect's generation of poetry. The Civil War diminished Whitman's faith in democratic sympathy. While the cause of the war nominally furthered brotherhood and equality, the war itself was a quagmire of killing. Reconstruction, which began to fail almost immediately after it was begun, further disappointed Whitman. His later poetry, which displays a marked insecurity about the place of poetry and the place of emotion in general (see in particular "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd"), is darker and more isolated. Whitman's style remains consistent throughout, however. The poetic structures he employs are unconventional but reflect his democratic ideals. Lists are a way for him to bring together a wide variety of items without imposing a hierarchy on them. Perception, rather than analysis, is the basis for this kind of poetry, which uses few metaphors or other kinds of symbolic language. Anecdotes are another favored device. By transmitting a story, often one he has gotten from another individual, Whitman hopes to give his readers a sympathetic experience, which will allow them to incorporate the anecdote into their own history. The kind of language Whitman uses sometimes supports and sometimes seems to contradict his philosophy. He often uses obscure, foreign, or invented words. This, however, is not meant to be intellectually elitist but is instead meant to signify Whitman's status as a unique individual. Democracy does not necessarily mean sameness. The difficulty of some of his language also mirrors the necessary imperfection of connections between individuals: no matter how hard we try, we can never completely understand each other. Whitman largely avoids rhyme schemes and other traditional poetic devices. He does, however, use meter in masterful and innovative ways, often to mimic natural speech. In these ways, he is able to demonstrate that he has mastered traditional poetry but is no longer subservient to it, just as democracy has ended the subservience of the individual.

"Song of Myself"
Summary and Form This most famous of Whitman's works was one of the original twelve pieces in the 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass. Like most of the other poems, it too was revised extensively, reaching its final permutation in 1881. "Song of Myself" is a sprawling combination of biography, sermon, and poetic meditation. It is not nearly as heavyhanded in its pronouncements as "Starting at Paumanok"; rather, Whitman uses symbols and sly commentary to get at important issues. "Song of Myself" is composed more of vignettes than lists: Whitman uses small, precisely drawn scenes to do his work here.


This poem did not take on the title "Song of Myself" until the 1881 edition. Previous to that it had been titled "Poem of Walt Whitman, an American" and, in the 1860, 1867, and 1871 editions, simply "Walt Whitman." The poem's shifting title suggests something of what Whitman was about in this piece. As Walt Whitman, the specific individual, melts away into the abstract "Myself," the poem explores the possibilities for communion between individuals. Starting from the premise that "what I assume you shall assume" Whitman tries to prove that he both encompasses and is indistinguishable from the universe. Commentary Whitman's grand poem is, in its way, an American epic. Beginning in medias res--in the middle of the poet's life--it loosely follows a quest pattern. "Missing me one place search another," he tells his reader, "I stop somewhere waiting for you." In its catalogues of American life and its constant search for the boundaries of the self "Song of Myself" has much in common with classical epic. This epic sense of purpose, though, is coupled with an almost Keatsian valorization of repose and passive perception. Since for Whitman the birthplace of poetry is in the self, the best way to learn about poetry is to relax and watch the workings of one's own mind. While "Song of Myself" is crammed with significant detail, there are three key episodes that must be examined. The first of these is found in the sixth section of the poem. A child asks the narrator "What is the grass?" and the narrator is forced to explore his own use of symbolism and his inability to break things down to essential principles. The bunches of grass in the child's hands become a symbol of the regeneration in nature. But they also signify a common material that links disparate people all over the United States together: grass, the ultimate symbol of democracy, grows everywhere. In the wake of the Civil War the grass reminds Whitman of graves: grass feeds on the bodies of the dead. Everyone must die eventually, and so the natural roots of democracy are therefore in mortality, whether due to natural causes or to the bloodshed of internecine warfare. While Whitman normally revels in this kind of symbolic indeterminacy, here it troubles him a bit. "I wish I could translate the hints," he says, suggesting that the boundary between encompassing everything and saying nothing is easily crossed. The second episode is more optimistic. The famous "twenty-ninth bather" can be found in the eleventh section of the poem. In this section a woman watches twenty-eight young men bathing in the ocean. She fantasizes about joining them unseen, and describes their semi-nude bodies in some detail. The invisible twenty-ninth bather offers a model of being much like that of Emerson's "transparent eyeball": to truly experience the world one must be fully in it and of it, yet distinct enough from it to have some perspective, and invisible so as not to interfere with it unduly. This paradoxical set of conditions describes perfectly the poetic stance Whitman tries to assume. The lavish eroticism of this section reinforces this idea: sexual contact allows two people to become one yet not one--it offers a moment of transcendence. As the female spectator introduced in the beginning of the section fades away, and Whitman's voice takes over, the eroticism becomes homoeroticism. Again this is not so much the expression of a sexual preference as it is the longing for communion with every living being and a connection that makes use of both the body and the soul (although Whitman is certainly using the homoerotic sincerely, and in other ways too, particularly for shock value).


Having worked through some of the conditions of perception and creation, Whitman arrives, in the third key episode, at a moment where speech becomes necessary. In the twenty-fifth section he notes that "Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to measure itself, / It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically, / Walt you contain enough, why don't you let it out then?" Having already established that he can have a sympathetic experience when he encounters others ("I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person"), he must find a way to re-transmit that experience without falsifying or diminishing it. Resisting easy answers, he later vows he "will never translate [him]self at all." Instead he takes a philosophically more rigorous stance: "What is known I strip away." Again Whitman's position is similar to that of Emerson, who says of himself, "I am the unsettler." Whitman, however, is a poet, and he must reassemble after unsettling: he must "let it out then." Having catalogued a continent and encompassed its multitudes, he finally decides: "I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, / I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world." "Song of Myself" thus ends with a sound--a yawp--that could be described as either pre- or post-linguistic. Lacking any of the normal communicative properties of language, Whitman's yawp is the release of the "kosmos" within him, a sound at the borderline between saying everything and saying nothing. More than anything, the yawp is an invitation to the next Walt Whitman, to read into the yawp, to have a sympathetic experience, to absorb it as part of a new multitude.

This poem had no title in the first (1855) edition of Leaves of Grass. In 1856 it was called A Poem of Walt Whitman, an American and in 1860 it was simply termed Walt Whitman. Whitman changed the title to Song of Myself in 1881. The changes in the title are significant in indicating the growth of the meaning of the poem. There are three important themes: the idea of the self, the identification of the self with other selves, and the poets relationship with the elements of nature and the universe. Houses and rooms represent civilization; perfumes signify individual selves; and the atmosphere symbolizes the universal self. The self is conceived of as a spiritual entity which remains relatively permanent in and through the changing flux of ideas and experiences which constitute its conscious life. The self comprises ideas, experiences, psychological states, and spiritual insights. The concept of self is the most significant aspect of Whitmans mind and art. To Whitman, the self is both individual and universal. Man has an individual self, whereas the world, or cosmos, has a universal or cosmic self. The poet wishes to maintain the identity of his individual self, and yet he desires to merge it with the universal self, which involves the identification of the poets self with mankind and the mystical union of the poet with God, the Absolute Self. Sexual union is a figurative anticipation of spiritual union. Thus the poets ecstasy is both physical and spiritual, and he develops a sense of loving brotherhood with God and with all mankind. Even the most commonplace objects, such as Leaves, ants, and stones, contain the infinite universe.


Song of Myself is a good example of the stylistic features of Leaves of Grass. Whitmans style reflects his individualism. He once wrote to Horace Traubel, his biographer: I sometimes think the Leaves is only a language experiment. Words, for Whitman, have both a natural and a spiritual significance. Colloquial words unite the natural with the spiritual, and therefore he uses many colloquial expressions. He is also fond of using foreign words. The catalog is another special characteristic of Whitmans poetic technique. He uses numerous images, usually drawn from nature, to suggest and heighten the impression of a poetic idea. These images appear to have no clear organization; yet, in effect, they have a basic underlying unity, usually involving a spiritual concept, which gives meaning and coherence to the apparently disconnected images or scenes.

Sections 1-5, lines 1-98

This poem celebrates the poets self, but, while the I is the poet himself, it is, at the same time, universalized. The poet will sing myself, but what I assume you shall assume,/For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. The poet loafs on the grass and invites his soul to appear. He relates that he was formd from this soil, for he was born here, as were his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. He is thirtyseven years old and in perfect health. He hopes to continue his celebration of self until his death. He will let nature speak without check with original energy. In section 2, the self, asserting its identity, declares its separateness from civilization and its closeness to nature. Houses and rooms are full of perfume, Whitman says. Perfumes are symbols of other individual selves; but outdoors, the earths atmosphere denotes the universal self. The poet is tempted to let himself be submerged by other individual selves, but he is determined to maintain his individuality. The poet expresses the joy he feels through his senses. He is enthralled by the ecstasy of his physical sensations. He can enjoy each of the five sensestasting, hearing, smelling, touching, and seeing-and even morethe process of breathing, the beating of his heart, and the feeling of health. He invites the reader to stop this day and night with him in order to discover the origin of all poems. In the third and fourth sections, Whitman chides the talkers, trippers, and askers for wasting their time discussing the beginning and the end, and the latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies ... More important is the eternal procreant urge of the world. He prepares himself for the union of his body with his soul: I witness and wait. As his soul is clear and sweet, so are all the other parts of his body -and everyones bodies. Not an inch ... is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest. Section 5 is the poets ecstatic revelation of union with his soul. He has a feeling of fraternity and oneness with God and his fellowmen (And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own/And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own) and a vision of love (And ... a kelson [an important structural part of a ship] of the creation is love). This union brings him peace and joy.


Sections 6-19, lines 99-388

Section 6 presents the first significant transition in the poem and introduces the central symbol in Song of Myself. A child appears with both hands full of Leaves from the fields and asks the poet, What is the grass? The poet at first feels incapable of answering this question but continues thinking about it. He muses that perhaps the grass is itself a child or maybe it is the handkerchief of the Lord. Here the grass is a symbol of the divinity latent in the ordinary, common life of man and it is also a symbol of the continuity inherent in the life-death cycle. No one really dies. Even the smallest sprout shows there is really no death, that all goes onward and outward ... /And to die is different from what any one supposed. In Section 7 the poet signifies his universal nature, which finds it just as lucky to die as to be born. The universal self finds both the earth good and the stars good. The poet is part of everyone around him. He sees all and condemns nothing. Sections 8-16 consist of a catalog of all that the poet seespeople of both sexes, all ages, and all conditions, in many different walks of life, in the city and in the country, by the mountain and by the sea. Even animals are included. And the poet not only loves them all, he is part of them all: And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them, And such as it is to be of these more or less I am, And of these one and all I weave the song of myself. Section 17 again refers to the universality of the poethis thoughts are the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands. Sections 18 and 19 salute all members of humanity. Grass, a central symbol of this epic poem, suggests the divinity of common things. The nature and significance of grass unfold the themes of death and immortality, for grass is symbolic of the ongoing cycle of life present in nature, which assures each man of his immortality. Nature is an emblem of God, for Gods eternal presence in it is evident everywhere. Grass is the key to the secrets of mans relationship with the Divine. It indicates that, God is everything and everything is God. These sections deal with the themes of God, life, death, and nature. Their primary aim is to reveal the nature of the poets journey through life and the spiritual knowledge which he strives for along the way. They reveal an essential element in a mystical experience the awakening of the poets self. Song of Myself is a poetical expression of that mystical experience. It arises out of a belief that it is possible to achieve communion with God through contemplation and love, without the medium of human reason. It is a way of attaining knowledge of spiritual truths through intuition. Sections I to 5 concern the poets entry into a mystical state, while sections 6-16 describe the awakening of the poets self to his own universality.


Sections 20-25, lines 389-581 The poet declares that all he says of himself the reader is to say of his own self, else it were time lost listening to me. He declares himself to be solid and sound, deathless, and august, and, while no one is better than he, no one is worse, either. In section 21, Whitman proclaims himself the poet of the Body and also the poet of the Soul. He is a poet of pleasures and pain, and of men and women. Calling to the earth, he thanks it for giving him love, which he answers with love: Prodigal, you have given me love therefore I to you give love!/O unspeakable passionate love. In section 22 the poet reveals that he also loves the sea. He feels at one with it (I am integral with you) for it has as many aspects and moods as he has. He is the poet of both good and evil: I am not the poet of goodness only, I do not decline to be the poet of wickedness also; the two qualities complement each other. In section 23 the poet affirms his acceptance of Reality. He salutes scientists but, he admits, your facts... are not my dwelling. Section 24 presents some of Whitmans basic tenets. He calls himself a kosmos. The word kosmos, meaning a universe, is significant and amounts to a renewed definition of the poets self as one who loves all people. Through him, many long dumb voices of prisoners, slaves, thieves, and dwarfsall of those whom the others are down upon are articulated and transfigured. He also speaks of lust and the flesh, for each part of the body is a miracle: The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer. In section 25 Whitman dwells on the comprehensive range of the poets power. He declares that with the twirl of my tongue I encompass world and volumes of world. Speech is the twin of my vision. He must speak, for he cannot contain all that he has to say; and yet writing and talk do not prove me. What he is can be seen in his face. The poets self-appraisal is the keynote of sections 20-25. He describes himself as gross and mystical. He feels he is part of all that he has met and seen. He is essentially a poet of balance, since he accepts both good and evil in his cosmos. His awareness of the universe, or cosmic consciousness, is expressed when he calls himself a kosmos, invoking a picture of the harmony of the universe. He accepts all life, naked and bare, noble and ignoble, refined and crude, beautiful and ugly, pleasant and painful. The physical and the spiritual both are aspects of his vision, which has an organic unity like the unity of the body and the soul. Whitman realizes that the physical as well as the spiritual are aspects of the Divine. The culmination of the poets experience of self is the ecstacy of love. Contemplating the meaning of grass in terms of mystical experience, he understands that all physical phenomena are as deathless as the grass. These chants express various stages of the poets mystical experience of his self. The first stage may be termed the Awakening of Self; the second, the Purification of Self. Purification involves an acceptance of the body and all its functions. This acceptance reflects the poets goal to achieve mystical experience through physical reality. This is in opposition to the puritanical view of purification through mortification of the flesh. In Whitmans philosophy, the self is purified not through purgation but through acceptance of the physical. Man should free himself from his traditional sense of sin. The mystical experience paves the way for the merging of physical reality with a universal reality.


Whitman is representative of all humanity because, he says, the voices of diverse people speak through himvoices of men, animals, and even insects. To him, all life is a miracle of beauty. Sections 20-25 close on a note of exaltation of the poets power of expression, although they indicate that his deeper self is beyond expression.

Sections 26-38, lines 582-975

The poet resolves to listen and be receptive to all sounds. The sounds are familiar: the bravuras of birds, the bustle of growing wheat, and the sound of the human voice. Soon they reach a high pitch and the poet is ecstatic at this music. Sections 27-30 reveal that the sense of touch also brings the poet joy. Indeed, the poets sense of touch is extremely acute. At times he is overwhelmed by it, and he asks, Is this then a touch? quivering me to a new identity. The emphasis is on his search for an individuality, an aspect of his evolving self. He will end his quest for being in an affirmation of his bodys sensory awareness. With all his senses, the poet responds to existence and living, the puzzle of puzzles ... that we call Being. The poets senses convince him that there is significance in everything, no matter how small. Sections 31-33 contain a catalog of the infinite wonders in small things. He believes, for example, that a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars and the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery, for all things are part of the eternal wonder of life and therefore even the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps. He, himself, incorporates an unending range of things, people, and animals. Now he understands the power of his vision which ranges everywhere: I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents,/I am afoot with my vision. Especially in sections 34-36, he identifies himself with every person, dead or living, and relates his involvement with the various phases of American history. Realizing his relationship to all this makes him feel, as he states in section 38, replenishd with supreme power, one of an average unending procession. In the earlier chants, the accent was on observation; in this sequence it is on what I am or what I am becoming. Whitman develops a kind of microscopic vision in the way he glorifies the details of the commonplace. The poets experience is ecstatic; his joy comes to him through his senses, and the physical enjoyment suggests a sexual union as the culmination of this experience of ecstasy. The catalog of people and places is an attempt to give a feeling of universal scope. Ordinary life becomes permeated with mystical significance. The poet identifies himself with every being and every object, and this identification forms an integral part of his concept of what I am. The process of identification arises out of the belief that the poets soul is a part of the universal soul and therefore should seek union with it. Whitman also discusses the relative properties of the body and the soul. He finds that the body has value, for it leads man to a unified self, a purified combination of the body and the soul. The poet praises the primitive life of animals (section 32) because they have achieved this unionthey are born pure. In sections 33-37, Whitman experiences a spiritual illumination, passing through suffering, despair, and the dark night of the soul to


finally achieve purification. His self, purified, comprehends the Divine Reality, the transcendental self Transcendentalism is a word with varied meanings, but in Whitmans poetry it implies beliefs based on intuitional philosophy which transcend, or go beyond, ordinary experience. Human reason can deal reliably with phenomena, but there is a world beyond phenomena, and this world is approached through faith and intuition. Transcendentalists tried to receive their inspiration at first hand from the Divine Power. Their God was sometimes called the OverSoul. Whitmans God revealed Himself in nature. The poets self, inspired by his insights, venerates God, the Divine Reality, who embodies the transcendental self.

Sections 39-41, lines 976-1053

These three sections express the idea of the poet as a sort of superman, flowing through life and the world doing good. He transforms the common into the Divine. In this process, the common modes assume new forms. He answers the call of the needy and the despairing and even becomes a healer to the dying: To any one dying, thither I speed/ ... Let the physician and the priest go home. He would seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will ... /By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me. In section 41 the poet assumes the role of the prophet of a new religion, incorporating all religions: Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah, Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson, Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha, In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the crucifix engraved. He declares that all men are divine and possess powers of revelation equal to any gods. The poet denies significance to old gods because God is to be found in all men. He says, The supernatural is of no account, meaning that the Divine is here on earth for all men, who must only become ready to accept this divinity. The friendly and flowing savage mentioned in section 39 is a key image which sums up the progression of ideas and feelings in this section. This image combines the idea of the primitive ancestor of man with the figure of Christ. He is a healer, a comforter, and a lover of humanity. He raises men from their deathbeds and imbues them with strength and vision. This Christ-like savage merges with the other identities contained in the total idea of the poets self. The primitivity of savage man is divine; modern civilized man has lost this divinity but is eager to regain it. Whitmans chants recall the experience of Indian sages and mystics (the Samadhi) who, on realizing the state of spiritual absorption, are endowed with divine and superhuman


power. The poet is conscious of his newly acquired, holy and superhuman power resulting from the union of his self with the Divine.

Sections 42-52, lines 1054-1347

A call in the midst of the crowd,/My own voice, orotund [strong and clear] sweeping and final, says the poet, who assumed the position of prophet while acknowledging his kinship with mankind. He says, I know perfectly well my own egotism, but he would extend it to include all humanity and bring you whoever you are flush with myself He sees the injustice that prevails in society but recognizes that the reality beneath the corruption is deathless: The weakest and shallowest is deathless with me. In section 43, Whitman states that he does not despise religion but asserts that his own faith embraces all worship ancient and modern. He practices all religions and even looks beyond them to what is yet untried. This unknown factor will not fail the suffering and the dead. In the next section, the poet expresses his desire to launch all men and women ... into the Unknown by stripping them of what they already know. In this way he will show them their relationship with eternity. We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers,/There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them. The poet is conscious of the confrontation of his self with limitless time and limitless space and realizes that he and his listeners are products of ages past and future. Section 45 again deals with eternity and the ages of man. Everything leads to the mystical union with God, the great Camerado. In section 46, the poet launches himself on the perpetual journey, urging all to join him and uttering the warning, Not 1, not any one else can travel that road for you,/You must travel it for yourself. The poet (section 47) says that he is a teacher, but he hopes that those he teaches will learn to assert their own individuality: He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher. Section 48 repeats the idea that the soul is not more than the body, just as the body is not more than the soul. Not even God is more important than ones self. The poet asks man not to be curious about God because God is everywhere and in everything: In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass. The poet is not afraid of death. In section 49, he addresses it: And as to you Death, you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to try to alarm me. For there is no real death. Men die and are reborn in different forms. He himself has died ten thousand times before. The poet feels (section 50) there is something that outweighs death, although it is hard for him to put a name to it: It is form, union, planit is eternal lifeit is Happiness. The last two sections are expressions of farewell. The past and present wiltI have filld them, emptied them,/And proceed to fill my next fold of the future. He knows that his writings have been obscure but sees the paradoxes in his works as natural components in the mysteries of the cosmos: Do I contradict myself?/Very well then I contradict myself,/(I am large, I contain multitudes.) The poet can wait for those who will understand him. He tells them, If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles, for he will have become part of the eternal life cycle. Although it may be difficult


to find or interpret him, he will be waiting. Missing me one place search another,/I stop somewhere waiting for you. The poets journey and quest for selfhood have now come full circle. He began by desiring to loaf on the grass and ends by bequeathing himself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love. These chants contain many of the important ideas and doctrines of Whitman. The poet brings a new message of faith for the strong and the weak, a belief in the harmony and orderliness of the universe. The poet, noting what has been said about the universe, shows how his own theories, which have a more universal scope, transcend them. Assuming the identity of the Savage-Christ, he delivers a sermon which imagines transcendence of the finite through a union of the individual soul with the Divine Soul. The poet offers to lead men and women into the unknownthat is, into transcendent reality. Whitman talks about the self as part of the eternal life process. There is no death, for man is reincarnated time and time again. The poet speaks about mans relation with the moment and with eternity. Eternity is time endless, as is the self. The poet does not prescribe any fixed pathway to a knowledge of the self; it is for each person to find his own way to make the journey. The poet is not afraid of death because death, too, is a creation of God and through it one may reach God. The culmination of the poets mystical experience is revealed in his vision of eternal life. Life is neither chaotic nor finite; it is harmonious, reflecting the union of the poets individual soul with the Divine Soul. Grass is the central symbol of Song of Myself, and it represents the divinity contained in all living things. Although no traditional form is apparent, the logical manner in which the poet returns to his image of grass shows that Song of Myself was planned to have an order and unity of idea and image. tml

Musical Elements


Whitman believed that poetry should be spoken, not written, and this basic criterion governed the concept and form of his poetry. He used repetition and reiterative devices (as, for example, in Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking, the lines Loud! loud! loud! and Blow! blow! blow!) He also employed elements of the opera (the aria and the recitative) in his poems. Language Whitman was a master of exuberant phrases and images: The beautiful uncut hair of graves (Song of Myself, section 6) is extraordinarily descriptive. Conversely, another description of the grass in the same section of the same poem, where it is described as the handkerchief of the Lord, is trivial. Whitman brought vitality and picturesqueness to his descriptions of the physical world. He was particularly sensitive to sounds and described them with acute awareness. His view of the world was dominated by its change and fluidity, and this accounts for his frequent use of ing forms, either present participle or gerund. Whitmans language is full of his eccentricities: he used the word presidentiad for presidency, pave for pavement, and he spelled Canada with a K. Leaves of Grass contains archaic expressionsfor example, betimes, betwixt, methinks, haply, and list (for listen). Whitman also employs many colloquial expressions and technical and commercial terms. Words from foreign languages add color and variety to his style. Rhythm and Meter Whitmans use of rhythms is notable. A line of his verse, if scanned in the routine way, seems like a prose sentence, or an advancing wave of prose rhythm. Yet his work is composed in lines, not in sentences as prose would be. The line is the unit of sense in Whitman. Whitman experimented with meter, rhythm, and form because he thought that experimentation was the law of the changing times, and that innovation was the gospel of the modern world. Whitmans fondness for trochaic movement rather than iambic movement shows the distinctive quality of his use of meter. An iamb is a metrical foot of two syllables, the second of which is accented. A trochee is a metrical foot consisting of an accented syllable followed by an unaccepted one. The iambic is the most commonly used meter in English poetry, partly because of the structure of English speech. English phrases normally begin with an article, preposition, or conjunction which merges into the word that follows it, thus creating the rising inflection which is iambic. Why, then, did Whitman prefer the trochaic to the iambic meter? It was partly due to the poets desire for declamatory expression and oratorical style, since the trochee is more suitable for


eloquent expression than the iambic meter. Whitman also liked to do things that were unusual and novel. Imagery Imagery means a figurative use of language. Whitmans use of imagery shows his imaginative power, the depth of his sensory perceptions, and his capacity to capture reality instantaneously. He expresses his impressions of the world in language which mirrors the present. He makes the past come alive in his images and makes the future seem immediate. Whitmans imagery has some logical order on the conscious level, but it also delves into the subconscious, into the world of memories, producing a stream-ofconsciousness of images. These images seem like parts of a dream, pictures of fragments of a world. On the other hand, they have solidity; they build the structure of the poems. Symbolism A symbol is an emblem, a concrete object that stands for something abstract; for example, the dove is a symbol of peace; the cross, Christianity. Literary symbols, however, have a more particular connotation. They sometimes signify the total meaning, or the different levels of meaning, which emerge from the work of art in which they appear. A white whale is just an animalbut in Melvilles Moby Dick it is a god to some characters, evil incarnate to others, and a mystery to others. In other words, it has an extended connotation which is symbolic. In the mid-1880s, the Symbolist movement began in France, and the conscious use of symbols became the favorite practice of poets. The symbolists and Whitman had much in common; both tried to interpret the universe through sensory perceptions, and both broke away from traditional forms and methods. But the symbols of the French symbolists were highly personal, whereas in Whitman the use of the symbol was governed by the objects he observed: the sea, the birds, the lilacs, the Calamus plant, the sky, and so on. Nevertheless, Whitman did have an affinity with the symbolists; they even translated some of his poems into French.

Whitmans major concern was to explore, discuss, and celebrate his own self, his individuality and his personality. Second, he wanted to eulogize democracy and the American nation with its achievements and potential. Third, he wanted to give poetical expression to his thoughts on lifes great, enduring mysteriesbirth, death, rebirth or resurrection, and reincarnation. The Self


To Whitman, the complete self is both physical and spiritual. The self is mans individual identity, his distinct quality and being, which is different from the selves of other men, although it can identify with them. The self is a portion of the one Divine Soul. Whitmans critics have sometimes confused the concept of self with egotism, but this is not valid. Whitman is constantly talking about I, but the I is universal, a part of the Divine, and therefore not egotistic. The Body and the Soul Whitman is a poet of both these elements in man, the body and the soul. He thought that we could comprehend the soul only through the medium of the body. To Whitman, all matter is as divine as the soul; since the body is as sacred and as spiritual as the soul, when he sings of the body or its performances, he is singing a spiritual chant. Nature Whitman shares the Romantic poets relationship with nature. To him, as to Emerson, nature is divine and an emblem of God. The universe is not dead matter, but full of life and meaning. He loves the earth, the flora and fauna of the earth, the moon and stars, the sea, and all other elements of nature. He believes that man is natures child and that man and nature must never be disjoined. Time Whitmans concept of the ideal poet is, in a way, related to his ideas on time. He conceives of the poet as a time-binder, one who realizes that the past, present, and future are not disjoined, but joined, that they are all stages in a continuous flow and cannot be considered as separate and distinct. These modem ideas of time have given rise to new techniques of literary expressionfor example, the stream-of-consciousness viewpoint. Cosmic Consciousness Whitman believed that the cosmos, or the universe, does not consist merely of lifeless matter; it has awareness. It is full of life and filled with the spirit of God. The cosmos is God and God is the cosmos; death and decay are unreal. This cosmic consciousness is, indeed, one aspect of Whitmans mysticism. Mysticism Mysticism is an experience that has a spiritual meaning which is not apparent to the senses nor to the intellect. Thus mysticism, an insight into the real nature of man, God, and the universe, is attained through ones intuition. The mystic believes in the unity of God and man, man and nature, God and the universe. To a mystic, time and space are unreal, since both can be overcome by man by spiritual conquest. Evil, too, is unreal, since God is present everywhere. Man communicates with his soul in a mystical experience, and Whitman amply expresses his responses to the soul in Leaves of Grass,


especially in Song of Myself. He also expresses his mystical experience of his body or personality being permeated by the supernatural. Whitmans poetry is his artistic expression of various aspects of his mystical experience. Death Whitman deals with death as a fact of life. Death in life is a fact, but life in death is a truth for Whitman; he is thus a poet of matter and of spirit. Transcendentalism Transcendentalism, which originated with German philosophers, became a powerful movement in New England between 1815 and 1836. Emersons Nature (1836) was a manifesto of American transcendental thought. It implied that the true reality is the spirit and that it lies beyond the reach or realm of the senses. The area of sensory perceptions must be transcended to reach the spiritual reality. American transcendentalism accepted the findings of contemporary science as materialistic counterparts of spiritual achievement. Whitmans Passage to India demonstrates this approach. The romanticist in Whitman is combined with the transcendentalist in him. His quest for transcendental truths is highly individualistic and therefore his thought, like Emersons, is often unsystematic and prophetic. Personalism Whitman used the term personalism to indicate the fusion of the individual with the community in an ideal democracy. He believed that every man at the time of his birth receives an identity, and this identity is his soul. The soul, finding its abode in man, is individualized, and man begins to develop his personality. The main idea of personalism is that the person is the be-all of all things; it is the source of consciousness and the senses. One is because God is; therefore, man and God are oneone personality. Mans personality craves immortality because it desires to follow the personality of God. This idea is in accord with Whitmans notion of the self. Man should first become himself, which is also the way of coming closer to God. Man should comprehend the divine soul within him and realize his identity and the true relationship between himself and God. This is the doctrine of personalism. Democracy Whitman had a deep faith in democracy because this political form of government respects the individual. He thought that the genius of the United States is best expressed in the common people, not in its executive branch or legislature, or in its churches or law courts. He believed that it is the common folk who have a deathless attachment to freedom. His attitudes can be traced to the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century because he thought that the source of evil lay in oppressive social institutions rather than in human nature. The function of literature is to break away from the feudal past of man and artistically to urge the democratic present. Princes and nobles hold no charm for


Whitman; he sings of the average, common man. He follows Emerson in applauding the doctrine of the divine average and of the greatness of the commonplace. A leaf of grass, to Whitman, is as important as the heavenly motion of the stars. Whitman loves America, its panoramic scenery and its processional view of diverse, democratically inclined people. He loved, and reveled in, the United States as a physical entity, but he also visualized it as a New World of the spirit. Whitman is a singer of the self as well as a trumpeter of democracy because he believes that only in a free society can individuals attain self-hood. Whitman emphasized individual virtue, which he believed would give rise to civic virtue. He aimed at improving the masses by first improving the individual, thus becoming a true spiritual democrat. His idea of social and political democracythat all men are equal before the law and have equal rightsis harmonized with his concept of spiritual democracythat people have immense possibilities and a measureless wealth of latent power for spiritual attainment. In fact, he bore with the failings of political democracy primarily because he had faith in spiritual democracy, in creating and cultivating individuals who, through comradeship, would contribute to the ideal society. This view of man and society is part of Whitmans poetic program.

The Quintessential American Poet

In 1920, Van Wyck Brooks wrote that Whitman was the focal center of American creative experience and literary expression. The poet combined within him elements of native realism and of New England philosophy which made him a truly national spiritual synthesis. But modern criticism does not view Whitman as the quintessential American poet, or the national norm; other writers, such as Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, and Hawthorne may be equally regarded as national norms. Whitman, no doubt, embodied many qualities of the American characterfor example, its variousness, diversity, adventurousness, and pioneering spirityet he was not the only national norm. To us today, submerged as we are in specialization, Whitman has a particular appeal because he symbolizes variety, largeness, and the tendency toward innovation.
Walt Whitmans achievement as a poet and prophet is truly monumental. He exercised a deep influence on his immediate successors in American letters, and even on modern poets, although he himself was a highly individualistic poet. As a symbolist, his influence was felt in Europe, where he was considered the greatest poet America had yet produced. His high style and elevated expression found echoes in Emily Dickinson, Hart Crane, Marianne Moore, and others. Whitman as a stylist is the culmination of the sublime tradition in America, and even Allen Ginsberg, so different from Whitman in so many respects, follows the Whitman tradition of using invocative language. Whitman, though a man of his age, an essentially nineteenth-century poet, exercised a profound influence on twentieth-century poets and modern poetry in the use of language, in the processes of symbol and image-making, in exercising great freedom in meter and form, and in cultivating the individualistic mode. In many ways Whitman is modern because he is prophetic; he is a poet not only of America but of the whole of mankind. He has achieved the Olympian stature and the rare distinction of a world poet.


Personal Background
Chaucer occupies a unique position in the Middle Ages. He was born a commoner, but through his intellect and astute judgments of human character, he moved freely among the aristocracy. Although very little is definitely known about the details of his life, Chaucer was probably born shortly after 1340. Although the family name (from French Chaussier) suggests that the family originally made shoes, Chaucers father, John, was a prosperous wine merchant. Both Chaucers father and grandfather had minor standing at court, and Geoffrey Chaucers own name appears in the household accounts of Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster and wife to Prince Lionel. As a household servant, Chaucer probably accompanied Elizabeth on her many journeys, and he may have attended her at such dazzling entertainment as the Feast of St. George given by King Edward in 1358 for the king of France, the queen of Scotland, the king of Cyprus, and a large array of other important people. Chaucers acquaintance with John of Gaunt (fourth son of Edward III and ancestor of Henry IV, V, and VI), who greatly influenced the poet, may date from Christmas 1357, when John was a guest of Elizabeth in Yorkshire. Chaucer had a high-born wife, Philippa, whom he probably married as early as 1366. Chaucer may also have had a daughter, Elizabeth, and two sons, little Lewis (for whom he composed the Astrolabe, a prose work on the use of that instrument of an astronomer) and Thomas. Chaucer was one of the most learned men of his time. He made numerous translations of prose and verse, including Boethius Consolation of Philosophy, saints legends, sermons, French poetry by Machaut and Deschamps, and Latin and Italian poetry by Ovid, Virgil, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. He also shows a wide knowledge of medicine and physiognomy, astronomy and astrology, jurisprudence, alchemy, and early physics. His knowledge of alchemy was so thorough that, even into the seventeenth century, some alchemists themselves considered him a master of the sciencenot a pseudo-science in Chaucers time. According to the legend on his tomb in Westminster Abbey, the poet died on October 25, 1400.

Public Positions and Service

During 1359 to 1360, Chaucer served with the English army in France and was taken prisoner near Reims. He was released for ransomtoward which Edward himself contributed sixteen poundsand returned to England. Later that same year, Chaucer


traveled back to France, carrying royal letters, apparently entering the service of Edward as the kings servant and sometimes emissary. Although he again served with the English army in France in 1369, by 1370, Chaucer was traveling abroad on a diplomatic mission for the king. Having been commissioned to negotiate with the Genoese on the choice of an English commercial port, Chaucer took his first known journey to Italy in December of 1372 and remained there until May 1373. He probably gained his knowledge of Italian poetry and painting during his visits to Genoa and Florence. Chaucers high standing continued during the reign of Richard, who became king in 1377. Throughout most of 1377 and 1378, his public services were performed chiefly in England. Chaucer received various appointments, including justice of the peace in Kent (1385), Clerk of the Kings Works (1389), and, after his term as Clerk of the Kings Works (sometime after 1390), deputy forester of the royal forest of North Petherton in Somerset. During this time, he was also was elected Knight of the Shire (1386) and served in Parliament. Chaucer continued to receive royal gifts, including a new annuity of twenty pounds, a scarlet robe trimmed with fur, and, after 1397, an annual butt of wine (104 gallons). When Henry IV was crowned, he renewed Richards grants and gave Chaucer an additional annuity of forty marks. Throughout his public career, Chaucer came into contact with most of the important men of London as well as with many of the great men of the Continent. We have records of his frequent dealings with the chief merchants of the city, with the so-called Lollard knights (followers of Wyclif, to whom John of Gaunt gave protection), and with the kings most important ambassadors and officials. Payments to the poet during the last years of his life were apparently irregular, and his various begging poemsComplaint to his Purse, for instancetogether with records of advances which he drew from the royal Exchequer, have sometimes been taken as evidence that Chaucer died poor; but this is by no means certain. At any event, Geoffrey Chaucers son Thomas took over Geoffrey Chaucers new house in the garden of Westminster Abbey and remained in high court favor after Chaucers death.

His Work
Chaucer has presented caricatures of himself again and againin such early poems as The Book of the Duchess, The Parliment of Fowles, Troilus and Criseyde, The House of Fame, and The Legend of Good Women, and also in his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales. Chaucers narrators are, of course, not the real Chaucerexcept in certain physical respectsbut the various caricatures have much in common with one another and certainly reveal, either directly or indirectly, what Chaucer valued in a man.


With the exception of the Troilus narrator, a very complicated and special case, all Chaucers narrators are bookish, fat, nearsighted, comically pretentious, slightly selfrighteous, and apparentlybecause of a fundamental lack of sensitivity and refinement thoroughly unsuccessful in the chief art of medieval heroes: love. We may be fairly sure that the spiritual and psychological qualities in these caricatures are not exactly Chaucers. Chaucers actual lack of pretentiousness, self-righteousness, and vulgarity lies at the heart of our response to the comic self-portraits in which he claims for himself these defects. The ultimate effect of Chaucers poetry is moral, but it is inadequate to describe Chaucer as a moralist, much less as a satirist. He is a genial observer of mankind, a storyteller, as well as a satirist, one whose satire is usually without real bite. He is also a reformer, but he is foremost a celebrator of life who comments shrewdly on human absurdities while being, at the same time, a lover of mankind. About the Book

Other collections of tales existed before Chaucers, the most famous being Boccaccios Decameron, in which three young lords and seven young ladies agree to tell tales while they stay in a country villa to avoid the plague that is ravaging the cities. Because each of Boccaccios narrators belongs to the same high social class, the Decameron tales are similar in their sophistication. Chaucer, however, came up with the ingenuous literary device of having a pilgrimage, a technique that allowed him to bring together a diverse group of people. Thus Chaucers narrators represent a wide spectrum of society with various ranks and occupations. From the distinguished and noble Knight, we descend through the pious abbess (the Prioress), the honorable Clerk, the rich landowner (the Franklin), the worldly and crude Wife, and on down the scale to the low, vulgar Miller and Carpenter, and the corrupt Pardoner. Aside from the high literary standard of The Canterbury Tales, the work stands as a historical and sociological introduction to the life and times of the late Middle Ages. During Chaucers time, regardless how brilliant and talented one might be, there was no way for a commoner to move from his class into the aristocracy. Chaucer, however, made that leap as well as anyone could. As a commoner, he was familiar with and was accepted by the lower classes as well as by the higher classes; thus, throughout his life, he was able to observe both the highest and the lowest, and his gifted mind made the best of these opportunities. Chaucers genius at understanding basic human nature made him the great poet he was. He knew the world from many aspects, and he loved most of his characters. The mature adult would find it difficult not to like such characters as The Wife of Bath, even with all her bawdiness, or the Miller with his vulgarity that amuses rather than offends


sophisticated readers. Chaucer presents the world as he sees it, and he shares one quality with all great writers: He is a delight to read. The Canterbury Tales is the most famous and critically acclaimed work of Geoffrey Chaucer, a late-fourteenth-century English poet. Little is known about Chaucers personal life, and even less about his education, but a number of existing records document his professional life. Chaucer was born in London in the early 1340s, the only son in his family. Chaucers father, originally a property-owning wine merchant, became tremendously wealthy when he inherited the property of relatives who had died in the Black Death of 1349. He was therefore able to send the young Geoffrey off as a page to the Countess of Ulster, which meant that Geoffrey was not required to follow in his ancestors footsteps and become a merchant. Eventually, Chaucer began to serve the countesss husband, Prince Lionel, son to King Edward III. For most of his life, Chaucer served in the Hundred Years War between England and France, both as a soldier and, since he was fluent in French and Italian and conversant in Latin and other tongues, as a diplomat. His diplomatic travels brought him twice to Italy, where he might have met Boccaccio, whose writing influenced Chaucers work, and Petrarch. In or around 1378, Chaucer began to develop his vision of an English poetry that would be linguistically accessible to allobedient neither to the court, whose official language was French, nor to the Church, whose official language was Latin. Instead, Chaucer wrote in the vernacular, the English that was spoken in and around London in his day. Undoubtedly, he was influenced by the writings of the Florentines Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, who wrote in the Italian vernacular. Even in England, the practice was becoming increasingly common among poets, although many were still writing in French and Latin. That the nobles and kings Chaucer served (Richard II until 1399, then Henry IV) were impressed with Chaucers skills as a negotiator is obvious from the many rewards he received for his service. Money, provisions, higher appointments, and property eventually allowed him to retire on a royal pension. In 1374, the king appointed Chaucer Controller of the Customs of Hides, Skins and Wools in the port of London, which meant that he was a government official who worked with cloth importers. His experience overseeing imported cloths might be why he frequently describes in exquisite detail the garments and fabric that attire his characters. Chaucer held the position at the customhouse for twelve years, after which he left London for Kent, the county in which Canterbury is located. He served as a justice of the peace for Kent, living in debt, and was then appointed Clerk of the Works at various holdings of the king, including Westminster and the Tower of London. After he retired in the early 1390s, he seems to have been working primarily on The Canterbury Tales, which he began around 1387. By the time of his retirement, Chaucer had already written a substantial amount of narrative poetry, including the celebrated romance Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucers personal life is less documented than his professional life. In the late 1360s, he married Philippa Roet, who served Edward IIIs queen. They had at least two sons together. Philippa was the sister to the mistress of John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster. For John of Gaunt, Chaucer wrote one of his first poems, The Book of the Duchess, which was a lament for the premature death of Johns young wife, Blanche. Whether or


not Chaucer had an extramarital affair is a matter of some contention among historians. In a legal document that dates from 1380, a woman named Cecily Chaumpaigne released Chaucer from the accusation of seizing her (raptus), though whether the expression denotes that he raped her, committed adultery with her, or abducted her son is unclear. Chaucers wife Philippa apparently died in 1387. Chaucer lived through a time of incredible tension in the English social sphere. The Black Death, which ravaged England during Chaucers childhood and remained widespread afterward, wiped out an estimated thirty to fifty percent of the population. Consequently, the labor force gained increased leverage and was able to bargain for better wages, which led to resentment from the nobles and propertied classes. These classes received another blow in 1381, when the peasantry, helped by the artisan class, revolted against them. The merchants were also wielding increasing power over the legal establishment, as the Hundred Years War created profit for England and, consequently, appetite for luxury was growing. The merchants capitalized on the demand for luxury goods, and when Chaucer was growing up, London was pretty much run by a merchant oligarchy, which attempted to control both the aristocracy and the lesser artisan classes. Chaucers political sentiments are unclear, for although The Canterbury Tales documents the various social tensions in the manner of the popular genre of estates satire, the narrator refrains from making overt political statements, and what he does say is in no way thought to represent Chaucers own sentiments. Chaucers original plan for The Canterbury Tales was for each character to tell four tales, two on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. But, instead of 120 tales, the text ends after twenty-four tales, and the party is still on its way to Canterbury. Chaucer either planned to revise the structure to cap the work at twenty-four tales, or else left it incomplete when he died on October 25, 1400. Other writers and printers soon recognized The Canterbury Tales as a masterful and highly original work. Though Chaucer had been influenced by the great French and Italian writers of his age, works like Boccaccios Decameron were not accessible to most English readers, so the format of The Canterbury Tales, and the intense realism of its characters, were virtually unknown to readers in the fourteenth century before Chaucer. William Caxton, Englands first printer, published The Canterbury Tales in the 1470s, and it continued to enjoy a rich printing history that never truly faded. By the English Renaissance, poetry critic George Puttenham had identified Chaucer as the father of the English literary canon. Chaucers project to create a literature and poetic language for all classes of society succeeded, and today Chaucer still stands as one of the great shapers of literary narrative and character. Language in The Canterbury Tales The Canterbury Tales is written in Middle English, which bears a close visual resemblance to the English written and spoken today. In contrast, Old English (the language of Beowulf, for example) can be read only in modern translation or by students of Old English. Students often read The Canterbury Tales in its original language, not only because of the similarity between Chaucers Middle English and our own, but because the beauty and humor of the poetryall of its internal and external rhymes, and the sounds it produceswould be lost in translation. The best way for a beginner to approach Middle English is to read it out loud. When the words are pronounced, it is often much easier to recognize what they mean in modern English. Most Middle English editions of the poem include a short pronunciation guide,


which can help the reader to understand the language better. For particularly difficult words or phrases, most editions also include notes in the margin giving the modern versions of the words, along with a full glossary in the back. Several online Chaucer glossaries exist, as well as a number of printed lexicons of Middle English. The Order of The Canterbury Tales The line numbers cited in this SparkNote are based on the line numbers given in The Riverside Chaucer, the authoritative edition of Chaucers works. The line numbering in The Riverside Chaucer does not run continuously throughout the entire Canterbury Tales, but it does not restart at the beginning of each tale, either. Instead, the tales are grouped together into fragments, and each fragment is numbered as a separate whole. Nobody knows exactly what order Chaucer intended to give the tales, or even if he had a specific order in mind for all of them. Eighty-two early manuscripts of the tales survive, and many of them vary considerably in the order in which they present the tales. However, certain sets of tales do seem to belong together in a particular order. For instance, the General Prologue is obviously the beginning, then the narrator explicitly says that the Knight tells the first tale, and that the Miller butts in and tells the second tale. The introductions, prologues, and epilogues to various tales sometimes include the pilgrims comments on the tale just finished, and an indication of who tells the next tale. These sections between the tales are called links, and they are the best evidence for grouping the tales together into ten fragments. But The Canterbury Tales does not include a complete set of links, so the order of the ten fragments is open to question. The Riverside Chaucer bases the order of the ten fragments on the order presented in the Ellesmere manuscript, one of the best surviving manuscripts of the tale. Some scholars disagree with the groupings and order of tales followed in The Riverside Chaucer, choosing instead to base the order on a combination of the links and the geographical landmarks that the pilgrims pass on the way to Canterbury. Plot Overview General Prologue At the Tabard Inn, a tavern in Southwark, near London, the narrator joins a company of twenty-nine pilgrims. The pilgrims, like the narrator, are traveling to the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury. The narrator gives a descriptive account of twenty-seven of these pilgrims, including a Knight, Squire, Yeoman, Prioress, Monk, Friar, Merchant, Clerk, Man of Law, Franklin, Haberdasher, Carpenter, Weaver, Dyer, Tapestry-Weaver, Cook, Shipman, Physician, Wife, Parson, Plowman, Miller, Manciple, Reeve, Summoner, Pardoner, and Host. (He does not describe the Second Nun or the Nuns Priest, although both characters appear later in the book.) The Host, whose name, we find out in the Prologue to the Cooks Tale, is Harry Bailey, suggests that the group ride together and entertain one another with stories. He decides that each pilgrim will tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. Whomever he judges to be the best storyteller will receive a meal at Baileys tavern, courtesy of the other pilgrims. The pilgrims draw lots and determine that the Knight will tell the first tale. The Knights Tale Theseus, duke of Athens, imprisons Arcite and Palamon, two knights from Thebes (another city in ancient Greece). From their prison, the knights see and fall in love with Theseuss sister-in-law, Emelye. Through the intervention of a friend, Arcite is freed, but


he is banished from Athens. He returns in disguise and becomes a page in Emelyes chamber. Palamon escapes from prison, and the two meet and fight over Emelye. Theseus apprehends them and arranges a tournament between the two knights and their allies, with Emelye as the prize. Arcite wins, but he is accidentally thrown from his horse and dies. Palamon then marries Emelye. The Millers Prologue and Tale The Host asks the Monk to tell the next tale, but the drunken Miller butts in and insists that his tale should be the next. He tells the story of an impoverished student named Nicholas, who persuades his landlords sexy young wife, Alisoun, to spend the night with him. He convinces his landlord, a carpenter named John, that the second flood is coming, and tricks him into spending the night in a tub hanging from the ceiling of his barn. Absolon, a young parish clerk who is also in love with Alisoun, appears outside the window of the room where Nicholas and Alisoun lie together. When Absolon begs Alisoun for a kiss, she sticks her rear end out the window in the dark and lets him kiss it. Absolon runs and gets a red-hot poker, returns to the window, and asks for another kiss; when Nicholas sticks his bottom out the window and farts, Absolon brands him on the buttocks. Nicholass cries for water make the carpenter think that the flood has come, so the carpenter cuts the rope connecting his tub to the ceiling, falls down, and breaks his arm. The Reeves Prologue and Tale Because he also does carpentry, the Reeve takes offense at the Millers tale of a stupid carpenter, and counters with his own tale of a dishonest miller. The Reeve tells the story of two students, John and Alayn, who go to the mill to watch the miller grind their corn, so that he wont have a chance to steal any. But the miller unties their horse, and while they chase it, he steals some of the flour he has just ground for them. By the time the students catch the horse, it is dark, so they spend the night in the millers house. That night, Alayn seduces the millers daughter, and John seduces his wife. When the miller wakes up and finds out what has happened, he tries to beat the students. His wife, thinking that her husband is actually one of the students, hits the miller over the head with a staff. The students take back their stolen goods and leave. The Cooks Prologue and Tale The Cook particularly enjoys the Reeves Tale, and offers to tell another funny tale. The tale concerns an apprentice named Perkyn who drinks and dances so much that he is called Perkyn Reveler. Finally, Perkyns master decides that he would rather his apprentice leave to revel than stay home and corrupt the other servants. Perkyn arranges to stay with a friend who loves drinking and gambling, and who has a wife who is a prostitute. The tale breaks off, unfinished, after fifty-eight lines. The Man of Laws Introduction, Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue The Host reminds his fellow pilgrims to waste no time, because lost time cannot be regained. He asks the Man of Law to tell the next tale. The Man of Law agrees, apologizing that he cannot tell any suitable tale that Chaucer has not already told Chaucer may be unskilled as a poet, says the Man of Law, but he has told more stories of lovers than Ovid, and he doesnt print tales of incest as John Gower does (Gower was a contemporary of Chaucer). In the Prologue to his tale, the Man of Law laments the miseries of poverty. He then remarks how fortunate merchants are, and says that his tale is one told to him by a merchant.


In the tale, the Muslim sultan of Syria converts his entire sultanate (including himself) to Christianity in order to persuade the emperor of Rome to give him his daughter, Custance, in marriage. The sultans mother and her attendants remain secretly faithful to Islam. The mother tells her son she wishes to hold a banquet for him and all the Christians. At the banquet, she massacres her son and all the Christians except for Custance, whom she sets adrift in a rudderless ship. After years of floating, Custance runs ashore in Northumberland, where a constable and his wife, Hermengyld, offer her shelter. She converts them to Christianity. One night, Satan makes a young knight sneak into Hermengylds chamber and murder Hermengyld. He places the bloody knife next to Custance, who sleeps in the same chamber. When the constable returns home, accompanied by Alla, the king of Northumberland, he finds his slain wife. He tells Alla the story of how Custance was found, and Alla begins to pity the girl. He decides to look more deeply into the murder. Just as the knight who murdered Hermengyld is swearing that Custance is the true murderer, he is struck down and his eyes burst out of his face, proving his guilt to Alla and the crowd. The knight is executed, Alla and many others convert to Christianity, and Custance and Alla marry. While Alla is away in Scotland, Custance gives birth to a boy named Mauricius. Allas mother, Donegild, intercepts a letter from Custance to Alla and substitutes a counterfeit one that claims that the child is disfigured and bewitched. She then intercepts Allas reply, which claims that the child should be kept and loved no matter how malformed. Donegild substitutes a letter saying that Custance and her son are banished and should be sent away on the same ship on which Custance arrived. Alla returns home, finds out what has happened, and kills Donegild. After many adventures at sea, including an attempted rape, Custance ends up back in Rome, where she reunites with Alla, who has made a pilgrimage there to atone for killing his mother. She also reunites with her father, the emperor. Alla and Custance return to England, but Alla dies after a year, so Custance returns, once more, to Rome. Mauricius becomes the next Roman emperor. Following the Man of Laws Tale, the Host asks the Parson to tell the next tale, but the Parson reproaches him for swearing, and they fall to bickering. The Wife of Baths Prologue and Tale The Wife of Bath gives a lengthy account of her feelings about marriage. Quoting from the Bible, the Wife argues against those who believe it is wrong to marry more than once, and she explains how she dominated and controlled each of her five husbands. She married her fifth husband, Jankyn, for love instead of money. After the Wife has rambled on for a while, the Friar butts in to complain that she is taking too long, and the Summoner retorts that friars are like flies, always meddling. The Friar promises to tell a tale about a summoner, and the Summoner promises to tell a tale about a friar. The Host cries for everyone to quiet down and allow the Wife to commence her tale. In her tale, a young knight of King Arthurs court rapes a maiden; to atone for his crime, Arthurs queen sends him on a quest to discover what women want most. An ugly old woman promises the knight that she will tell him the secret if he promises to do whatever she wants for saving his life. He agrees, and she tells him women want control of their husbands and their own lives. They go together to Arthurs queen, and the old womans answer turns out to be correct. The old woman then tells the knight that he must marry


her. When the knight confesses later that he is repulsed by her appearance, she gives him a choice: she can either be ugly and faithful, or beautiful and unfaithful. The knight tells her to make the choice herself, and she rewards him for giving her control of the marriage by rendering herself both beautiful and faithful. The Friars Prologue and Tale The Friar speaks approvingly of the Wife of Baths Tale, and offers to lighten things up for the company by telling a funny story about a lecherous summoner. The Summoner does not object, but he promises to pay the Friar back in his own tale. The Friar tells of an archdeacon who carries out the law without mercy, especially to lechers. The archdeacon has a summoner who has a network of spies working for him, to let him know who has been lecherous. The summoner extorts money from those hes sent to summon, charging them more money than he should for penance. He tries to serve a summons on a yeoman who is actually a devil in disguise. After comparing notes on their treachery and extortion, the devil vanishes, but when the summoner tries to prosecute an old wealthy widow unfairly, the widow cries out that the summoner should be taken to hell. The devil follows the womans instructions and drags the summoner off to hell. The Summoners Prologue and Tale The Summoner, furious at the Friars Tale, asks the company to let him tell the next tale. First, he tells the company that there is little difference between friars and fiends, and that when an angel took a friar down to hell to show him the torments there, the friar asked why there were no friars in hell; the angel then pulled up Satans tail and 20,000 friars came out of his ass. In the Summoners Tale, a friar begs for money from a dying man named Thomas and his wife, who have recently lost their child. The friar shamelessly exploits the couples misfortunes to extract money from them, so Thomas tells the friar that he is sitting on something that he will bequeath to the friars. The friar reaches for his bequest, and Thomas lets out an enormous fart. The friar complains to the lord of the manor, whose squire promises to divide the fart evenly among all the friars. The Clerks Prologue and Tale The Host asks the Clerk to cheer up and tell a merry tale, and the Clerk agrees to tell a tale by the Italian poet Petrarch. Griselde is a hardworking peasant who marries into the aristocracy. Her husband tests her fortitude several ways, including pretending to kill her children and divorcing her. He punishes her one final time by forcing her to prepare for his wedding to a new wife. She does all this dutifully, her husband tells her that she has always been and will always be his wife (the divorce was a fraud), and they live happily ever after. The Merchants Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue The Merchant reflects on the great difference between the patient Griselde of the Clerks Tale and the horrible shrew he has been married to for the past two months. The Host asks him to tell a story of the evils of marriage, and he complies. Against the advice of his friends, an old knight named January marries May, a beautiful young woman. She is less than impressed by his enthusiastic sexual efforts, and conspires to cheat on him with his squire, Damien. When blind January takes May into his garden to copulate with her, she tells him she wants to eat a pear, and he helps her up into the pear tree, where she has sex with Damien. Pluto, the king of the faeries, restores Januarys sight, but May, caught


in the act, assures him that he must still be blind. The Host prays to God to keep him from marrying a wife like the one the Merchant describes. The Squires Introduction and Tale The Host calls upon the Squire to say something about his favorite subject, love, and the Squire willingly complies. King Cambyuskan of the Mongol Empire is visited on his birthday by a knight bearing gifts from the king of Arabia and India. He gives Cambyuskan and his daughter Canacee a magic brass horse, a magic mirror, a magic ring that gives Canacee the ability to understand the language of birds, and a sword with the power to cure any wound it creates. She rescues a dying female falcon that narrates how her consort abandoned her for the love of another. The Squires Tale is either unfinished by Chaucer or is meant to be interrupted by the Franklin, who interjects that he wishes his own son were as eloquent as the Squire. The Host expresses annoyance at the Franklins interruption, and orders him to begin the next tale. The Franklins Prologue and Tale The Franklin says that his tale is a familiar Breton lay, a folk ballad of ancient Brittany. Dorigen, the heroine, awaits the return of her husband, Arveragus, who has gone to England to win honor in feats of arms. She worries that the ship bringing her husband home will wreck itself on the coastal rocks, and she promises Aurelius, a young man who falls in love with her, that she will give her body to him if he clears the rocks from the coast. Aurelius hires a student learned in magic to create the illusion that the rocks have disappeared. Arveragus returns home and tells his wife that she must keep her promise to Aurelius. Aurelius is so impressed by Arveraguss honorable act that he generously absolves her of the promise, and the magician, in turn, generously absolves Aurelius of the money he owes. The Physicians Tale Appius the judge lusts after Virginia, the beautiful daughter of Virginius. Appius persuades a churl named Claudius to declare her his slave, stolen from him by Virginius. Appius declares that Virginius must hand over his daughter to Claudius. Virginius tells his daughter that she must die rather than suffer dishonor, and she virtuously consents to her fathers cutting her head off. Appius sentences Virginius to death, but the Roman people, aware of Appiuss hijinks, throw him into prison, where he kills himself. The Pardoners Introduction, Prologue, and Tale The Host is dismayed by the tragic injustice of the Physicians Tale, and asks the Pardoner to tell something merry. The other pilgrims contradict the Host, demanding a moral tale, which the Pardoner agrees to tell after he eats and drinks. The Pardoner tells the company how he cheats people out of their money by preaching that money is the root of all evil. His tale describes three riotous youths who go looking for Death, thinking that they can kill him. An old man tells them that they will find Death under a tree. Instead, they find eight bushels of gold, which they plot to sneak into town under cover of darkness. The youngest goes into town to fetch food and drink, but brings back poison, hoping to have the gold all to himself. His companions kill him to enrich their own shares, then drink the poison and die under the tree. His tale complete, the Pardoner offers to sell the pilgrims pardons, and singles out the Host to come kiss his relics. The Host infuriates the Pardoner by accusing him of fraud, but the Knight persuades the two to kiss and bury their differences. The Shipmans Tale


The Shipmans Tale features a monk who tricks a merchants wife into having sex with him by borrowing money from the merchant, then giving it to the wife so she can repay her own debt to her husband, in exchange for sexual favors. When the monk sees the merchant next, he tells him that he returned the merchants money to his wife. The wife realizes she has been duped, but she boldly tells her husband to forgive her debt: she will repay it in bed. The Host praises the Shipmans story, and asks the Prioress for a tale. The Prioresss Prologue and Tale The Prioress calls on the Virgin Mary to guide her tale. In an Asian city, a Christian school is located at the edge of a Jewish ghetto. An angelic seven-year-old boy, a widows son, attends the school. He is a devout Christian, and loves to sing Alma Redemptoris (Gracious Mother of the Redeemer). Singing the song on his way through the ghetto, some Jews hire a murderer to slit his throat and throw him into a latrine. The Jews refuse to tell the widow where her son is, but he miraculously begins to sing Alma Redemptoris, so the Christian people recover his body, and the magistrate orders the murdering Jews to be drawn apart by wild horses and then hanged. The Prologue and Tale of Sir Thopas The Host, after teasing Chaucer the narrator about his appearance, asks him to tell a tale. Chaucer says that he only knows one tale, then launches into a parody of bad poetrythe Tale of Sir Thopas. Sir Thopas rides about looking for an elf-queen to marry until he is confronted by a giant. The narrators doggerel continues in this vein until the Host can bear no more and interrupts him. Chaucer asks him why he cant tell his tale, since it is the best he knows, and the Host explains that his rhyme isnt worth a turd. He encourages Chaucer to tell a prose tale. The Tale of Melibee Chaucers second tale is the long, moral prose story of Melibee. Melibees house is raided by his foes, who beat his wife, Prudence, and severely wound his daughter, Sophie, in her feet, hands, ears, nose, and mouth. Prudence advises him not to rashly pursue vengeance on his enemies, and he follows her advice, putting his foes punishment in her hands. She forgives them for the outrages done to her, in a model of Christian forbearance and forgiveness. The Monks Prologue and Tale The Host wishes that his own wife were as patient as Melibees, and calls upon the Monk to tell the next tale. First he teases the Monk, pointing out that the Monk is clearly no poor cloisterer. The Monk takes it all in stride and tells a series of tragic falls, in which noble figures are brought low: Lucifer, Adam, Sampson, Hercules, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Zenobia, Pedro of Castile, and down through the ages. The Nuns Priests Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue After seventeen noble falls narrated by the Monk, the Knight interrupts, and the Host calls upon the Nuns Priest to deliver something more lively. The Nuns Priest tells of Chanticleer the Rooster, who is carried off by a flattering fox who tricks him into closing his eyes and displaying his crowing abilities. Chanticleer turns the tables on the fox by persuading him to open his mouth and brag to the barnyard about his feat, upon which Chanticleer falls out of the foxs mouth and escapes. The Host praises the Nuns Priests Tale, adding that if the Nuns Priest were not in holy orders, he would be as sexually potent as Chanticleer. The Second Nuns Prologue and Tale


In her Prologue, the Second Nun explains that she will tell a saints life, that of Saint Cecilia, for this saint set an excellent example through her good works and wise teachings. She focuses particularly on the story of Saint Cecilias martyrdom. Before Cecilias new husband, Valerian, can take her virginity, she sends him on a pilgrimage to Pope Urban, who converts him to Christianity. An angel visits Valerian, who asks that his brother Tiburce be granted the grace of Christian conversion as well. All threeCecilia, Tiburce, and Valerianare put to death by the Romans. The Canons Yeomans Prologue and Tale When the Second Nuns Tale is finished, the company is overtaken by a black-clad Canon and his Yeoman, who have heard of the pilgrims and their tales and wish to participate. The Yeoman brags to the company about how he and the Canon create the illusion that they are alchemists, and the Canon departs in shame at having his secrets discovered. The Yeoman tells a tale of how a canon defrauded a priest by creating the illusion of alchemy using sleight of hand. The Manciples Prologue and Tale The Host pokes fun at the Cook, riding at the back of the company, blind drunk. The Cook is unable to honor the Hosts request that he tell a tale, and the Manciple criticizes him for his drunkenness. The Manciple relates the legend of a white crow, taken from the Roman poet Ovids Metamorphoses and one of the tales in The Arabian Nights. In it, Phoebuss talking white crow informs him that his wife is cheating on him. Phoebus kills the wife, pulls out the crows white feathers, and curses it with blackness. The Parsons Prologue and Tale As the company enters a village in the late afternoon, the Host calls upon the Parson to give them a fable. Refusing to tell a fictional story because it would go against the rule set by St. Paul, the Parson delivers a lengthy treatise on the Seven Deadly Sins, instead. Chaucers Retraction Chaucer appeals to readers to credit Jesus Christ as the inspiration for anything in his book that they like, and to attribute what they dont like to his own ignorance and lack of ability. He retracts and prays for forgiveness for all of his works dealing with secular and pagan subjects, asking only to be remembered for what he has written of saints lives and homilies. Character List The Pilgrims The Narrator - The narrator makes it quite clear that he is also a character in his book. Although he is called Chaucer, we should be wary of accepting his words and opinions as Chaucers own. In the General Prologue, the narrator presents himself as a gregarious and nave character. Later on, the Host accuses him of being silent and sullen. Because the narrator writes down his impressions of the pilgrims from memory, whom he does and does not like, and what he chooses and chooses not to remember about the characters, tells us as much about the narrators own prejudices as it does about the characters themselves. The Knight - The first pilgrim Chaucer describes in the General Prologue, and the teller of the first tale. The Knight represents the ideal of a medieval Christian man-at-arms. He has participated in no less than fifteen of the great crusades of his era. Brave, experienced, and prudent, the narrator greatly admires him.


The Wife of Bath - Bath is an English town on the Avon River, not the name of this womans husband. Though she is a seamstress by occupation, she seems to be a professional wife. She has been married five times and had many other affairs in her youth, making her well practiced in the art of love. She presents herself as someone who loves marriage and sex, but, from what we see of her, she also takes pleasure in rich attire, talking, and arguing. She is deaf in one ear and has a gap between her front teeth, which was considered attractive in Chaucers time. She has traveled on pilgrimages to Jerusalem three times and elsewhere in Europe as well. The Pardoner - Pardoners granted papal indulgencesreprieves from penance in exchange for charitable donations to the Church. Many pardoners, including this one, collected profits for themselves. In fact, Chaucers Pardoner excels in fraud, carrying a bag full of fake relicsfor example, he claims to have the veil of the Virgin Mary. The Pardoner has long, greasy, yellow hair and is beardless. These characteristics were associated with shiftiness and gender ambiguity in Chaucers time. The Pardoner also a gift for singing and preaching whenever he finds himself inside a church. The Miller - Stout and brawny, the Miller has a wart on his nose and a big mouth, both literally and figuratively. He threatens the Hosts notion of propriety when he drunkenly insists on telling the second tale. Indeed, the Miller seems to enjoy overturning all conventions: he ruins the Hosts carefully planned storytelling order; he rips doors off hinges; and he tells a tale that is somewhat blasphemous, ridiculing religious clerks, scholarly clerks, carpenters, and women. The Prioress - Described as modest and quiet, this Prioress (a nun who is head of her convent) aspires to have exquisite taste. Her table manners are dainty, she knows French (though not the French of the court), she dresses well, and she is charitable and compassionate. The Monk - Most monks of the Middle Ages lived in monasteries according to the Rule of Saint Benedict, which demanded that they devote their lives to work and prayer. This Monk cares little for the Rule; his devotion is to hunting and eating. He is large, loud, and well clad in hunting boots and furs. The Friar - Roaming priests with no ties to a monastery, friars were a great object of criticism in Chaucers time. Always ready to befriend young women or rich men who might need his services, the friar actively administers the sacraments in his town, especially those of marriage and confession. However, Chaucers worldly Friar has taken to accepting bribes. The Summoner - The Summoner brings persons accused of violat-ing Church law to ecclesiastical court. This Summoner is a lecherous man whose face is scarred by leprosy. He gets drunk frequently, is irritable, and is not particularly qualified for his position. He spouts the few words of Latin he knows in an attempt to sound educated. The Host - The leader of the group, the Host is large, loud, and merry, although he possesses a quick temper. He mediates among the pilgrims and facilitates the flow of the tales. His title of host may be a pun, suggesting both an innkeeper and the Eucharist, or Holy Host. The Parson - The only devout churchman in the company, the Parson lives in poverty, but is rich in holy thoughts and deeds. The pastor of a sizable town, he preaches the


Gospel and makes sure to practice what he preaches. He is everything that the Monk, the Friar, and the Pardoner are not. The Squire - The Knights son and apprentice. The Squire is curly-haired, youthfully handsome, and loves dancing and courting. The Clerk - The Clerk is a poor student of philosophy. Having spent his money on books and learning rather than on fine clothes, he is threadbare and wan. He speaks little, but when he does, his words are wise and full of moral virtue. The Man of Law - A successful lawyer commissioned by the king. He upholds justice in matters large and small and knows every statute of Englands law by heart. The Manciple - A manciple was in charge of getting provisions for a college or court. Despite his lack of education, this Manciple is smarter than the thirty lawyers he feeds. The Merchant - The Merchant trades in furs and other cloths, mostly from Flanders. He is part of a powerful and wealthy class in Chaucers society. The Shipman - Brown-skinned from years of sailing, the Shipman has seen every bay and river in England, and exotic ports in Spain and Carthage as well. He is a bit of a rascal, known for stealing wine while the ships captain sleeps. The Physician - The Physician is one of the best in his profession, for he knows the cause of every malady and can cure most of them. Though the Physician keeps himself in perfect physical health, the narrator calls into question the Physicians spiritual health: he rarely consults the Bible and has an unhealthy love of financial gain. The Franklin - The word franklin means free man. In Chaucers society, a franklin was neither a vassal serving a lord nor a member of the nobility. This particular franklin is a connoisseur of food and wine, so much so that his table remains laid and ready for food all day. The Reeve - A reeve was similar to a steward of a manor, and this reeve performs his job shrewdlyhis lord never loses so much as a ram to the other employees, and the vassals under his command are kept in line. However, he steals from his master. The Plowman - The Plowman is the Parsons brother and is equally good-hearted. A member of the peasant class, he pays his tithes to the Church and leads a good Christian life. The Guildsmen - Listed together, the five Guildsmen appear as a unit. English guilds were a combination of labor unions and social fraternities: craftsmen of similar occupations joined together to increase their bargaining power, and live communally. All five Guildsmen are clad in the livery of their brotherhood. The Cook - The Cook works for the Guildsmen. Chaucer gives little detail about him, although he mentions a crusty sore on the Cooks leg. The Yeoman - The servant who accompanies the Knight and the Squire. The narrator mentions that his dress and weapons suggest he may be a forester. The Second Nun - The Second Nun is not described in the General Prologue, but she tells a saints life for her tale. The Nuns Priest - Like the Second Nun, the Nuns Priest is not described in the General Prologue. His story of Chanticleer, however, is well crafted and suggests that he is a witty, self-effacing preacher.


Characters from the Five Tales Analyzed The Knights Tale Theseus - A great conqueror and the duke of Athens in the Knights Tale. The most powerful ruler in the story, he is often called upon to make the final judgment, but he listens to others pleas for help. Palamon - Palamon is one of the two imprisoned Theban soldier heroes in the Knights Tale. Brave, strong, and sworn to everlasting friendship with his cousin Arcite, Palamon falls in love with the fair maiden Emelye, which brings him into conflict with Arcite. Though he loses the tournament against Arcite, he gets Emelye in the end. Arcite - The sworn brother to Palamon, Arcite, imprisoned with Palamon in the tower in the Knights Tale, falls equally head over heels in love with Emelye. He gets released from the tower early and wins Emelyes hand in a tournament, but then dies when a divinely fated earthquake causes his horse to throw him. Emelye - Emelye is the sister to Hippolyta, Theseuss domesticated Amazon queen in the Knights Tale. Fair-haired and glowing, we first see Emelye as Palamon does, through a window. Although she is the object of both Palamons and Arcites desire, she would rather spend her life unmarried and childless. Nevertheless, when Arcite wins the tournament, she readily pledges herself to him. Egeus - Theseuss father. Egeus gives Theseus the advice that helps him convince Palamon and Emelye to end their mourning of Arcite and get married. The Millers Tale Nicholas - In the Millers Tale, Nicholas is a poor astronomy student who boards with an elderly carpenter, John, and the carpenters too-young wife, Alisoun. Nicholas dupes John and sleeps with Alisoun right under Johns nose, but Absolon, the foppish parish clerk, gets Nicholas in the end. Alisoun - Alisoun is the sexy young woman married to the car-penter in the Millers Tale. She is bright and sweet like a small bird, and dresses in a tantalizing styleher clothes are embroidered inside and outside, and she laces her boots high. She willingly goes to bed with Nicholas, but she has only harsh words and obscenities for Absolon. Absolon - The local parish clerk in the Millers Tale, Absolon is a little bit foolish and more than a little bit vain. He wears red stockings underneath his floor-length church gown, and his leather shoes are decorated like the fanciful stained-glass windows in a cathedral. He curls his hair, uses breath fresheners, and fancies Alisoun. John - The dim-witted carpenter to whom Alisoun is married and with whom Nicholas boards. John is jealous and possessive of his wife. He constantly berates Nicholas for looking into Gods pryvetee, but when Nicholas offers John the chance to share his knowledge, John quickly accepts. He gullibly believes Nicholass pronouncement that a second flood is coming, which allows Nicholas to sleep with Johns wife. The Wife of Baths Prologue and Tale The First Three Husbands - The Wife of Bath says that her first three husbands were good because they were rich and old. She could order them around, use sex to get what she wanted, and trick them into believing lies. The Fourth Husband - The Wife of Bath says comparatively little about her fourth husband. She loved him, but he was a reveler who had a mistress. She had fun singing


and dancing with him, but tried her best to make him jealous. She fell in love with her fifth husband, Jankyn, while she was still married to her fourth. Jankyn - The Wife of Baths fifth husband, Jankyn, was a twenty-year-old former student, with whom the Wife was madly in love. His stories of wicked wives frustrated her so much that one night she ripped a page out of his book, only to receive a deafening smack on her ear in return. The Knight - Arthurs young knight rapes a maiden, and, to avoid the punishment of death, he is sent by the queen on a quest to learn about submission to women. Once he does so, and shows that he has learned his lesson by letting his old ugly wife make a decision, she rewards him by becoming beautiful and submissive. The Old Woman - The old woman supplies the young knight with the answer to his question, in exchange for his promise to do whatever she wants. When she tells him he must marry her, the knight begrudgingly agrees, and when he allows her to choose whether she would like to be beautiful and unfaithful or ugly and faithful, she rewards him by becoming both beautiful and faithful. Arthurs Queen - Arthurs queen, presumably Guinevere, is interesting because she wields most of the power. When Arthurs knight rapes a maiden, he turns the knight over to his queen allows her to decide what to do with him. The Pardoners Tale The Three Rioters - These are the three protagonists of the Pardoners Tale. All three indulge in and represent the vices against which the Pardoner has railed in his Prologue: Gluttony, Drunkeness, Gambling, and Swearing. These traits define the three and eventually lead to their downfall. The Rioters at first appear like personified vices, but it is their belief that a personified conceptin this case, Deathis a real person that becomes the root cause of their undoing. The Old Man - In the Pardoners Tale, the three Rioters encounter a very old man whose body is completely covered except for his face. Before the old man tells the Rioters where they can find Death, one of the Rioters rashly demands why the old man is still alive. The old man answers that he is doomed to walk the earth for eternity. He has been interpreted as Death itself, or as Cain, punished for fratricide by walking the earth forever; or as the Wandering Jew, a man who refused to let Christ rest at his house when Christ proceeded to his crucifixion, and who was therefore doomed to roam the world, through the ages, never finding rest. The Nuns Priests Tale Chanticleer - The heroic rooster of the Nuns Priests Tale, Chanticleer has seven henwives and is the most handsome cock in the barnyard. One day, he has a prophetic dream of a fox that will carry him away. Chanticleer is also a bit vain about his clear and accurate crowing voice, and he unwittingly allows a fox to flatter him out of his liberty. Pertelote - Chanticleers favorite wife in the Nuns Priests Tale. She is his equal in looks, manners, and talent. When Chanticleer dreams of the fox, he awakens her in the middle of the night, begging for an interpretation, but Pertelote will have none of it, calling him foolish. When the fox takes him away, she mourns him in classical Greek fashion, burning herself and wailing. The Fox - The orange fox, interpreted by some as an allegorical figure for the devil, catches Chanticleer the rooster through flattery. Eventually, Chanticleer outwits the fox


by encouraging him to boast of his deceit to his pursuers. When the fox opens his mouth, Chanticleer escapes.


Themes, Motifs & Symbols The Pervasiveness of Courtly Love The phrase courtly love refers to a set of ideas about love that was enormously influential on the literature and culture of the Middle Ages. Beginning with the Troubadour poets of southern France in the eleventh century, poets throughout Europe promoted the notions that true love only exists outside of marriage; that true love may be idealized and spiritual, and may exist without ever being physically consummated; and that a man becomes the servant of the lady he loves. Together with these basic premises, courtly love encompassed a number of minor motifs. One of these is the idea that love is a torment or a disease, and that when a man is in love he cannot sleep or eat, and therefore he undergoes physical changes, sometimes to the point of becoming unrecognizable. Although very few peoples lives resembled the courtly love ideal in any way, these themes and motifs were extremely popular and widespread in medieval and Renaissance literature and culture. They were particularly popular in the literature and culture that were part of royal and noble courts. Courtly love motifs first appear in The Canterbury Tales with the description of the Squire in the General Prologue. The Squires role in society is exactly that of his father the Knight, except for his lower status, but the Squire is very different from his father in that he incorporates the ideals of courtly love into his interpretation of his own role. Indeed, the Squire is practically a parody of the traditional courtly lover. The description of the Squire establishes a pattern that runs throughout the General Prologue, and The Canterbury Tales: characters whose roles are defined by their religious or economic functions integrate the cultural ideals of courtly love into their dress, their behavior, and the tales they tell, in order to give a slightly different twist to their roles. Another such character is the Prioress, a nun who sports a Love Conquers All brooch. The Importance of Company Many of Chaucers characters end their stories by wishing the rest of the compaignye, or company, well. The Knight ends with God save al this faire compaignye (3108), and the Reeve with God, that sitteth heighe in magestee, / Save al this compaignye, grete and smale! (43224323). Company literally signifies the entire group of people, but Chaucers deliberate choice of this word over other words for describing masses of people, like the Middle English words for party, mixture, or group, points us to another major theme that runs throughout The Canterbury Tales. Company derives from two Latin words, com, or with, and pane, or bread. Quite literally, a company is a group of people with whom one eats, or breaks bread. The word for good friend, or companion, also comes from these words. But, in a more abstract sense, company had an economic connotation. It was the term designated to connote a group of people engaged in a particular business, as it is used today. The functioning and well-being of medieval communities, not to mention their overall happiness, depended upon groups of socially bonded workers in towns and guilds, known informally as companies. If workers in a guild or on a feudal manor were not getting along well, they would not produce good work, and the economy would suffer. They would be unable to bargain, as a modern union does, for better working conditions and life benefits. Eating together was a way for guild members to cement friendships, creating a support structure for their working community. Guilds had their own special dining halls, where social groups got together to bond, be merry, and form supportive


alliances. When the peasants revolted against their feudal lords in 1381, they were able to organize themselves so well precisely because they had formed these strong social ties through their companies. Company was a leveling conceptan idea created by the working classes that gave them more power and took away some of the nobilitys power and tyranny. The company of pilgrims on the way to Canterbury is not a typical example of a tightly networked company, although the five Guildsmen do represent this kind of fraternal union. The pilgrims come from different parts of societythe court, the Church, villages, the feudal manor system. To prevent discord, the pilgrims create an informal company, united by their jobs as storytellers, and by the food and drink the host provides. As far as class distinctions are concerned, they do form a company in the sense that none of them belongs to the nobility, and most have working professions, whether that work be sewing and marriage (the Wife of Bath), entertaining visitors with gourmet food (the Franklin), or tilling the earth (the Plowman). The Corruption of the Church By the late fourteenth century, the Catholic Church, which governed England, Ireland, and the entire continent of Europe, had become extremely wealthy. The cathedrals that grew up around shrines to saints relics were incredibly expensive to build, and the amount of gold that went into decorating them and equipping them with candlesticks and reliquaries (boxes to hold relics that were more jewel-encrusted than kings crowns) surpassed the riches in the nobles coffers. In a century of disease, plague, famine, and scarce labor, the sight of a church ornamented with unused gold seemed unfair to some people, and the Churchs preaching against greed suddenly seemed hypocritical, considering its great displays of material wealth. Distaste for the excesses of the Church triggered stories and anecdotes about greedy, irreligious churchmen who accepted bribes, bribed others, and indulged themselves sensually and gastronomically, while ignoring the poor famished peasants begging at their doors. The religious figures Chaucer represents in The Canterbury Tales all deviate in one way or another from what was traditionally expected of them. Generally, their conduct corresponds to common medieval stereotypes, but it is difficult to make any overall statement about Chaucers position because his narrator is so clearly biased toward some charactersthe Monk, for exampleand so clearly biased against others, such as the Pardoner. Additionally, the characters are not simply satirical versions of their roles; they are individuals and cannot simply be taken as typical of their professions. The Monk, Prioress, and Friar were all members of the clerical estate. The Monk and the Prioress live in a monastery and a convent, respectively. Both are characterized as figures who seem to prefer the aristocratic to the devotional life. The Prioresss bejeweled rosary seems more like a love token than something expressing her devotion to Christ, and her dainty mannerisms echo the advice given by Guillaume de Loris in the French romance Roman de la Rose, about how women could make themselves attractive to men. The Monk enjoys hunting, a pastime of the nobility, while he disdains study and confinement. The Friar was a member of an order of mendicants, who made their living by traveling around and begging, and accepting money to hear confession. Friars were often seen as threatening and had the reputation of being lecherous, as the Wife of Bath describes in the opening of her tale. The Summoner and the Friar are at each others throats so


frequently in The Canterbury Tales because they were in fierce competition in Chaucers timesummoners, too, extorted money from people. Overall, the narrator seems to harbor much more hostility for the ecclesiastical officials (the Summoner and the Pardoner) than he does for the clerics. For example, the Monk and the Pardoner possess several traits in common, but the narrator presents them in very different ways. The narrator remembers the shiny baldness of the Monks head, which suggests that the Monk may have ridden without a hood, but the narrator uses the fact that the Pardoner rides without a hood as proof of his shallow character. The Monk and the Pardoner both give their own opinions of themselves to the narratorthe narrator affirms the Monks words by repeating them, and his own response, but the narrator mocks the Pardoner for his opinion of himself. Motifs Romance The romance, a tale about knights and ladies incorporating courtly love themes, was a popular literary genre in fourteenth-century literature. The genre included tales of knights rescuing maidens, embarking on quests, and forming bonds with other knights and rulers (kings and queens). In particular, the romances about King Arthur, his queen, Guinevere, and his society of knights of the round table were very popular in England. In The Canterbury Tales, the Knights Tale incorporates romantic elements in an ancient classical setting, which is a somewhat unusual time and place to set a romance. The Wife of Baths Tale is framed by Arthurian romance, with an unnamed knight of the round table as its unlikely hero, but the tale itself becomes a proto-feminists moral instruction for domestic behavior. The Millers Tale ridicules the traditional elements of romance by transforming the love between a young wooer and a willing maiden into a boisterous and violent romp. Fabliaux Fabliaux were comical and often grotesque stories in which the characters most often succeed by means of their sharp wits. Such stories were popular in France and Italy in the fourteenth century. Frequently, the plot turns or climaxes around the most grotesque feature in the story, usually a bodily noise or function. The Millers Tale is a prime experiment with this motif: Nicholas cleverly tricks the carpenter into spending the night in his barn so that Nicholas can sleep with the carpenters wife; the finale occurs when Nicholas farts in Absolons face, only to be burned with a hot poker on his rear end. In the Summoners Tale, a wealthy man bequeaths a corrupt friar an enormous fart, which the friar divides twelve ways among his brethren. This demonstrates another invention around this motifthat of wittily expanding a grotesque image in an unconventional way. In the case of the Summoners Tale, the image is of flatulence, but the tale excels in discussing the division of the fart in a highly intellectual (and quite hilarious) manner. Symbols Springtime The Canterbury Tales opens in April, at the height of spring. The birds are chirping, the flowers blossoming, and people long in their hearts to go on pilgrimages, which combine travel, vacation, and spiritual renewal. The springtime symbolizes rebirth and fresh beginnings, and is thus appropriate for the beginning of Chaucers text. Springtime also


evokes erotic love, as evidenced by the moment when Palamon first sees Emelye gathering fresh flowers to make garlands in honor of May. The Squire, too, participates in this symbolism. He is compared to the freshness of the month of May, in his devotion to courtly love. Clothing In the General Prologue, the description of garments, in addition to the narrators own shaky recollections, helps to define each character. In a sense, the clothes symbolize what lies beneath the surface of each personality. The Physicians love of wealth reveals itself most clearly to us in the rich silk and fur of his gown. The Squires youthful vanity is symbolized by the excessive floral brocade on his tunic. The Merchants forked beard could symbolize his duplicity, at which Chaucer only hints. Physiognomy Physiognomy was a science that judged a persons temperament and character based on his or her anatomy. Physiognomy plays a large role in Chaucers descriptions of the pilgrims in the General Prologue. The most exaggerated facial features are those of the peasants. The Miller represents the stereotypical peasant physiognomy most clearly: round and ruddy, with a wart on his nose, the Miller appears rough and therefore suited to rough, simple work. The Pardoners glaring eyes and limp hair illustrate his fraudulence. Summary and Analysis of General Prologue Fragment I The General Prologue: As April comes, the narrator begins a pilgrimage to Canterbury from the Tabard Inn at Southwerk. Twenty-nine people make the pilgrimage toward Canterbury and the narrator describes them in turn. The pilgrims are listed in relative order of status, thus the first character is the Knight. Chaucer describes the knight as a worthy man who had fought in the Crusades. With him is a Squire, the son of the Knight and a 'lusty bachelor' of twenty. The Knight has a second servant, a Yeoman. There is also a Prioress, shy and polite. She is prim and proper, sympathetic and well-mannered. The Prioress wears a broach with the inscription "All things are subject unto love." With the Prioress is her secretary (the Second Nun) and a Monk. The monk is a robust and masculine man who loves to hunt. The Friar, Hubert, is an immoral man more concerned with making profit than converting men from sin. The Merchant from Flanders is a pompous man who speaks endlessly on how profits may be increased. He seems grave, yet there is no better man, according to the narrator. The Clerk follows the Merchant. As an Oxford student without employment, he is impoverished and wears threadbare clothes. The Man of Law is a man who deserves to be held in awe. He knows the law to the letter and gives the impression that he is far busier than he actually is. A Franklin travels with him. He is a man who lives in comfort and is interested simply in pleasure, particularly culinary delight. There are also five guildsmen: a Weaver, a Dyer, a Carpenter, a Tapestry-maker and a Haberdasher. With them they bring a Cook. A Shipman is the next traveler, who comes from the port of Dartmouth, and with him a Physician. The Wife of Bath is next; she is a weaver who


wears bright red clothing. She has been married five times (and had several companions as a youth). The Parson is an honorable, decent man who cares for his congregation and adheres to the teachings of Christ. With him is his brother, a Plowman, who is equally kind. The final travelers are a Miller, a Manciple, a Reeve, a Summoner and a Pardoner. The Miller is a large man with an imposing physique. The Manciple is from a lawyers' college and knows every legal maneuver. The Reeve is a slender man with a fiery temper. The Summoner is quite unfair in his job (he is responsible for serving summons to court for church crimes). If he likes a scoundrel, he can ignore the man's sins. The Pardoner is an effeminate man. Each of these travelers finds themselves in the Tabard Inn, where the Host, a bold and merry man, suggests that on their way to Canterbury each traveler tell two tales, and on the way back each traveler tell two more. They draw lots to decide who will tell the first tale, and it is the Knight who has the honor. Analysis In the General Prologue, Chaucer sets up the general structure of the tales and introduces each of the characters who will tell the tales. The characters who tell each of the tales are as important as the characters in the tales that they tell; a significant portion of the action of the Canterbury Tales takes place within the prologues to each of the tales. The General Prologue in essence serves as a guide for the tales, giving some explanation for the motivation behind each of the tales each character tells. The introductory imagery of the General Prologue mixes the spiritual with the secular and moves between each form with relative ease. The Canterbury Tales begins with the famous lines "Whanne that Aprill with his shoures soote / The droghte of March hath perced to the roote," setting up imagery of spring and regeneration. Yet he does not continue with the logical outcome of this springtime imagery. Instead of conforming to the clich "in springtime a young man's fancy turns to love," Chaucer veers into more spiritual territory. In springtime these travelers make a religious pilgrimage to Canterbury. Yet Chaucer is equally uninterested in the religious details of this journey, and keeps the beginning passages of the General Prologue focused on nature and not on the human society with which the travelers will deal. Chaucer gives relatively straightforward descriptions of the characters and has some inclination to show their best qualities. Chaucer describes virtually each pilgrimage as an exemplar a number of these pilgrims are described as 'perfect' in some way or another, most often in their craft. Furthermore, these pilgrims exist almost entirely in terms of their profession. Chaucer gives only a few of them character names, and these emerge only in terms of conversation between the characters during each tale's prologue, and not in Chaucer's description in the General Prologue. Yet even within these descriptions he allows for subtle criticism and sly wit. The description of the Prioress in particular, is overtly flattering yet masquerades a sharp criticism of her foolish sentimentality and oppressive attention to manners. Although she strives to be polite and refined, she spoke French "after the school of Stratford-at-Bow,"


the vulgar rural pronunciation compared to elite Parisian French. Furthermore, she weeps at the mere sight of a dead mouse, a gross overreaction to a small tragedy. The descriptions of the upper members of the clergy deserve special note in context of the tales. Each of the clergymen defy traditional expectations; the Monk is a rough laborer, while the Friar is resolutely immoral. Chaucer lists the various sins of the Friar: he sells pardon from sin for a price, seduces women who ask for pardons, and spends more time in bars than he does aiding the poor. His concern for profit is a stark contrast with that of the Merchant. While the Merchant merely dispenses advice on how to attain profit, it is the Friar who applies his entire existence to its pursuit. The Friar further contrasts with the later description of the Parson, a man who performs his duties honorably and cares for his congregation. In his description of the Parson, Chaucer lists the various admirable qualities, none of which are held by the Friar. The description of the Merchant is also notable, for it shows the disparity between how the narrator overtly appraises a character and what he describes. After listing a number of unflattering qualities in the Merchant, the narrator still judges him to be a fine man; in these descriptions, the details and anecdotes are far more important in defining character than the final stated opinion of the narrator. Chaucer indulges in comic criticism in his portrait of the Clerk. This Oxford student, however educated, is not worldly enough for any normal employment. He has studied only impractical knowledge, and even carries among his few possessions several volumes of Aristotle. Most of the travelers engaged in a profession receive little description; as the travelers move down the social scale Chaucer gives them less and less detailed descriptions. The Wife of Bath is the most significant of the travelers low on the social scale. Chaucer describes her as lewd and boisterous. Her clothing, all variations of bright red, is ostentatious, meant to attract attention from others. Chaucer even indicates that she is quite promiscuous she has been married five times and had an undetermined number of lovers. The other traveler who merits a lengthy description is the Pardoner. He has a very effeminate manner, with a high voice and soft features. Chaucer even compares him to a gelding (a castrated horse) or a mare, which may be a subtle comment on his sexuality. The prologue sets up the general design of the Canterbury Tales. Each character will tell four tales during the journey, leading to a grand total of 116 tales. Chaucer never completed all of the tales, starting only about one fourth of the possible stories, not all of which remain in their entirety. Some of the stories that remain are only fragments which have either been lost or were never completed by the author. When the travelers draw lots to decide who will tell the first story, it is the Knight who has the first choice. Although the order is supposedly random, the Knight draws the first lot and thus randomly receives the rank appropriate to his status, which indicates that the Host may have fixed the lots in order to curry favor with the Knight.


Summary and Analysis of The Knight's Tale The Knight's Tale, Part I: The Knight begins his tale with the story of a prince named Theseus who married Hippolyta, the queen of Scythia, and brought her and her sister, Emelye, back to Athens with him after conquering her kingdom of Amazons. When Theseus returned home victorious, he became aware that there was a company of women clad in black who knelt at the side of the highway, shrieking. The oldest of the women asked Theseus for pity. She told him that she was once the wife of King Cappaneus who was destroyed at Thebes, and that all of the other women with her lost their husbands. Creon, the lord of the town, simply tossed the dead bodies of the soldiers in a single pile and refused to burn or bury them. Theseus swore vengeance upon Creon, and immediately ordered his armies toward Thebes. Theseus vanquished Creon, and when the soldiers were disposing of the bodies they found two young knights, Arcite and Palamon, two royal cousins, not quite dead. Theseus ordered that they be imprisoned in Athens for life. They passed their time imprisoned in a tower in Athens until they saw Emelye in a nearby garden. Both fall immediately in love with her. Palamon compares her to Venus, and he prays for escape from the prison, while Arcite claims that he would rather be dead than not have Emelye. The two bicker over her, each calling the other a traitor. This happened on a day in which Pirithous, a prince and childhood friend of Theseus, came to Athens. Pirithous had known Arcite at Thebes, and on his request Theseus set Arcite free on the promise that Arcite would never be found in Theseus' kingdom. He now had his freedom, but not the ability to pursue Emelye, and lamented the cruelty of fate. Palamon, however, envied Arcite, since he could presumably raise an army against Theseus to conquer Athens. The Knight poses this question: which has the worse case: Arcite, who has his freedom but not access to Emelye, or Palamon, who can see Emelye but remains a prisoner? Analysis The Knight tells a tale of courtship and chivalry, focused on the deeds of soldiers and princes, the social milieu in which the Knight travels. Even the structure of the tale obeys the structure and hierarchy within society. The Knight does not start with the main characters of the tale, Arcite and Palamon; instead, he begins at the apex of society, describing the exploits of Theseus of Athens, working downward until he reaches the less distinguished Theban soldiers. The Knight's Tale adheres to traditional values of honor in which there are strict codes of behavior which one must follow. This code of chivalry is not necessarily polite and decent. In the morality of the tale, Theseus' sudden decision to ransack Thebes to right a wrong is perfectly acceptable as punishment for a transgression against the honor of the dead soldiers. The dynamics of the Knight's tale are relatively simple. The tale is instructive, positing the question of which knight Arcite or Palamon has a superior situation. The situation and the moral questions that it poses thus become more important than the qualities of the


individual characters. They exist to be moved by the events of the story: to be imprisoned and set free whenever the plot demands, or to fall in love at first sight when it is dramatically convenient. Even the characters acknowledge their lack of free will within the story. The two knights pray to Venus for a literal deus ex machine, for they are unable to control their own fate. The Knight's Tale even acknowledges the role of fate through the gods. Palamon leaves his fate to theology, blaming his fate on Venus, Juno and Saturn. Arcite and Palamon are thus virtually indistinguishable from one another. There is no information on which a reader may base an opinion on their respective virtues, thus the focus shifts to their situations. Emelye is equally standard. The Knight describes her as a typical fairy-tale maiden the only inversion of the formula is that her suitors are the ones imprisoned. She is even first seen in a garden, a pastoral symbol that balances both purity and fertility. The Knight's Tale, Part II: After two years in Thebes, one night Arcite dreamed that he saw Mercury stand before him, bidding him to be free of hope and care. He told Arcite to go to Athens to relieve his grief. Arcite thought that he might disguise his rank in Athens and pass unknown. He came to the court and offered his services, and fell into a post with Emelye's steward under the name of Philostratus. Arcite worked as a page in Emelye's house and was beloved, so Theseus made him soon squire of his chamber and furnished him from Thebes. Meanwhile Palamon had lived for seven years in his dungeon. It soon occurred that Palamon escaped from the tower and fled the city. He meant to hide himself and head toward Thebes. That morning Arcite went horseback riding. In the area outside of the city, he dismounted and began to speak to himself, lamenting his situation without Emelye. He did this around the area where Palamon was hiding, and he revealed himself to Arcite. Since neither has weapons, they vow to meet in the same place tomorrow and fight over Emelye. They returned the next day armed for battle. While they prepared, Theseus, Hippolyta and Emelye were hunting. They reached the area where Arcite and Palamon were fighting, and Theseus stopped the battle. Palamon admits to Theseus that Arcite is the man who was banished and returned, disguised as Philostratus, while he is the escaped prisoner. He also admits that both love Emelye. Theseus ordered the death of both, but the queen and Emelye took pity on the two men, and begged Theseus for mercy. He considers how much they loved Emelye to risk death by not escaping to Thebes. He asks them to swear that they will never make war against any realm of his. He decides that the two will wage war on each other, each with one hundred knights, in order to decide whom Emelye will marry. Analysis: The escape of Palamon from prison soon after Arcite is released puts a quick finish to the question posed at the end of the first part of the tale. Both soon have the autonomy to pursue Emelye and relatively equal access to her, even if both are still forbidden in Athens. Yet the schematic structure still prevails. The tale thrives on improbable


coincidences. When Palamon is hiding, not only does Arcite happen to be in the same area, but he also happens to talk to himself, indirectly revealing his identity to Palamon. A similar coincidence occurs when Arcite and Palamon stage their duel. Theseus, his wife and the knights' beloved, Emelye, happen to find themselves in the same forest at the same time that Arcite and Palamon are fighting, the first instance in which the two have direct contact with Emelye. Emelye proves a problematic character in the scheme of the story. Arcite and Palamon are prepared to fight to the death for her love, despite the fact that neither have had significant contact with her and cannot be assured that she would love either man. Yet even Theseus accepts this code of conduct and offers the queen's sister as a prize for the two men, whom he previously had imprisoned and had threatened with death only moments before. The Knight's Tale continues to establish rules of honor and chivalric conduct. Theseus condemns Arcite's and Palamon's actions not because they were fighting one another, but because they did not do so under the proper rules set for a duel, such as the requirement for a superior to judge fair conduct. The Knight's Tale, Part III: Theseus commissioned the building of a theater for the duel between Arcite and Palamon that would be a mile in circumference. This stadium was opulent, featuring carvings and portraits as well as temples honoring Mars, Diana and Venus. When the day of the duel approached, Palamon brought Lycurgus, the king of Thrace, to fight with him, while Arcite brought Emetreus, the king of India. The night before the duel, Palamon prayed to Venus to solace his pains of love. He asks Venus, the goddess of love, to let Arcite murder him if Arcite will be the one to marry Emelye. The statue of Venus shook, an omen that the goddess was listening. Emelye prayed to the shrine to Diana, the goddess of chastity. She prays that she wishes to remain a maiden all her life and to not be a man's lover nor wife. She wishes for peace and friendship between Arcite and Palamon. But if it is her destiny to marry one against her will, she asks to have the one who wants her most. The statue of Diana shed tears of blood, another omen. Then Diana herself appeared to Emelye and told her that she will marry one of the two. Arcite prayed to Mars. He prayed for victory in battle, and the statue of Mars whispered the word 'victory' to him, the third omen. Mars and Venus thus warred upon one another, but aged Saturn found a means to satisfy both of them. He tells Venus that Palamon shall have his lady, but Mars shall help his servant. Analysis: The battle between Arcite and Palamon assumes epic dimensions with the construction of a great arena where the two may wage war upon another under Theseus' guide. Yet the outcome of the tale of the two cousins is not in their individual hands. Both Palamon and Arcite place their respective destinies in the gods to whom they pray. It is here that the


difference between the characters emerge. Palamon prays for success in love, while Arcite prays for success in war. The role of Emelye in the battle between Palamon and Arcite finally becomes clear in this section of the tale. She does not wish to marry either of the knights, preferring a life of chastity to marriage. However, she acknowledges her role as a pawn in the situation. She accepts the destiny proscribed to her by the goddess Diana and the mortal king Theseus. If Emelye takes a passive role in the plot of the Knight's Tale, the same must be said for Palamon and Arcite. The outcome of the battle will not be decided by the two knights, but rather by Saturn, who will affect the proceedings in order to placate both Venus and Mars. The actual situation among the mortals is not significant compared to the struggle between the two gods. The Knight's Tale, Part IV: Theseus sets the rules of the battle between the two opposing factions. He orders that during the war between the two sides, nobody shall suffer a mortal blow. If an opponent is overcome, he shall leave the battle. The people raised their voices in exultation. The two armies were equal in prowess, age and nobility. Arcite pursued Palamon viciously, and Palamon returned with equal severity. But Emetreus seized Palamon and pierced him with his sword. In the attempt to rescue Palamon king Lycurgus was struck down, and then Emetreus himself was wounded. Theseus declared that Arcite had won. Venus was disappointed at the outcome, but Saturn told her that Mars was now appeased and she would receive a similar appeasement. Suddenly, as Arcite was proclaimed victorious, there was an earthquake sent by Pluto that frightened Arcite's horse, which swerved and fell, throwing off Arcite and mortally wounding him. Before he died, Arcite tells Emelye that she could have no more worthy husband than Palamon. His last word before he died was her name. Theseus orders Emelye to marry Palamon after a funeral ceremony honoring Arcite. Analysis: The final section of the Knight's Tale resolves all of the conflicts between both mortals and gods. Both Palamon and Arcite receive that for which they prayed before the battle: Arcite wins the battle, but Palamon wins the wife. Only Emelye does not receive that which she truly desired, for Theseus orders that she be married, despite her intent to remain a maiden. Saturn sets the situation right between the rival gods Venus and Mars, appeasing each in turn. Even in a more mortal dimension the conflicts are set right. Arcite and Palamon forgive one another for their long-standing quarrel before Arcite dies, each recognizing the other's worth. The section continues the symmetrical alignment that has marked the story. Even the two armies that battle each other are perfectly equal in rank, prowess, age and ability. The conflict therefore is not in the armies' hands, but rather Palamon's and Arcite's, and these two knights merely act as pawns for Venus and Mars.


The overall structure of the tale gives priority to certain values. Theseus, the arbiter in the conflict between Arcite and Palamon and thus the character in the tale who determines the moral significance of the characters' actions, places great emphasis on honorable codes of conduct; he sets specific rules for the battle meant to ensure justice, and even orders that no soldier shall die in the battle (which then descends from a contest among gladiators to a rough approximation of modern sports). Compounding these values is a tendency toward displays of wealth and power. Each of the final events in the story are punctuated by great pageantry. On the orders of Theseus, the simple duel between Arcite and Palamon transforms into a gala event requiring the construction of a massive coliseum for two armies to wage war on one another, even bringing in the kings of two foreign nations. Summary and Analysis of The Miller's Tale Prologue to the Miller's Tale: When the Knight had finished, everybody decided that he had told a noble story. The drunken Miller claims that he has a tale as noble as the one the Knight had told. The host tried to quiet the Miller, but he demanded to speak. He claims that he will tell the tale of a carpenter and his wife. His tale will be one of infidelity. The narrator attempts to apologize for the tale that will follow, admitting that the Miller is not well-bred and will therefore tell a bawdy tale. Analysis It is in the prologues to the various tales that Chaucer comments on the tales that his characters have told. This serves as an internal critique of the tales that Chaucer has written. In this prologue, the Miller constructs the author's reaction to the Knight's Tale. The Miller mocks the noble messages of the Knight's Tale, and prepares to tell a tale that he finds equally uplifting. The tale that will follow is unreservedly bawdy and lowbrow, a necessary antidote to the oppressive sense of epic honor that permeates the stodgy Knight's tale. The Canterbury Tales offer Chaucer an opportunity for experimentation, for he has created characters who create their own stories. Therefore the stories are not simply an extension of Geoffrey Chaucer's imagination. The story of Palamon and Arcite is a tale that a man such as the Knight might tell; the inflated pomposity of the tale is a deliberate move by Chaucer, purposely adhering to the Knight's personality even at some dramatic and narrative expense. This also affords Chaucer the opportunity to engage in forms of disreputable humor, as the Miller's Tale will demonstrate. Chaucer even separates himself from the tale that the Miller has told, claiming that it comes from the imagination of a vulgar and indecent man who is nevertheless entirely Chaucer's creation. The Miller's Tale:


There was once an old oaf living in Oxford who took in boarders. Now living with him was a poor student who studied astrology (astronomy) named Nicholas. He was sly, demure and well-versed in love. The carpenter had wed a much younger wife and Alison. She was fair and slim, good enough for any lord to have as a mistress or any yeoman to honestly wed. While John the carpenter was away, Nicholas made a pass at Alison, then proclaimed his love for her. She warned him that her husband was jealous, but swore that she would meet him when she could do so safely. One day Alison was heading to the parish when she met Absolon, a jolly man known for singing and playing guitar. That night he came to Alison's home to serenade her, for he had fallen in love. Alison could only laugh at Absolon's attempts to woo her, for she loved Nicholas. One Saturday when John had gone to Oseney, Nicholas and Alison agreed that he should use his wit to trick the carpenter. If their ruse worked, then Alison would be free to spend the entire night with Nicholas. Nicholas spent an entire day confined alone in his room, and the carpenter wondered what was wrong. He told John that he had been studying his astrology and found that there will be a downpour equal to Noah's flood, and in less than an hour the world shall drown. Nicholas tells John to get three kneading tubs that the three can use as boats. The tubs shall be placed on the roof so that they will remain unseen. When the rain comes, only Nicholas, John and Alison shall survive. John believed Nicholas and did as he instructed. The three went up on the roof that night, and when John fell asleep Nicholas and Alison left to have sex. The next morning right before dawn, Absolon went to serenade Alison. She tells Absolon to leave, but he persists. She agrees to one kiss, and tells him to close his eyes then she pulls down her pants and he kisses her rear end. Nicholas and Alison mock Absolon, who leaves embarrassed. He went to a nearby blacksmith and borrowed a hot forging iron. When he returned, he asked for another kiss. This time, Nicholas strips to have Absolon kiss him, and even intends to fart in his face but Absolon instead burns his behind with the forging iron. Nicholas cried for water, waking John, who thought that the flood had come and cut the rope holding the tub. John fell from the roof. The entire town came to see what had happened. They declared that John had gone mad and laughed over the proceedings. Each man got his punishment John was injured and declared insane, Absolon was humiliated, and Nicholas burned. Analysis: The Miller's Tale takes the form of a fabliau, a familiar medieval literary genre that concerned the bourgeois and vulgar classes. The traditional form of a fabliau concerns a bourgeois husband who is duped into aiding a clever young man receive sexual favors from his wife. The young sexual intruder is typically a student or cleric and thus belongs to no definable class. These tales were not simply a middle- and lower- class diversion; elite audiences of Chaucer's time appreciated the tales for painting condescending and vulgar portraits of the lower orders. The tale even acknowledges these class differences. The Miller remarks that Alison would be acceptable as a yeoman's wife, but she could also be the lowly mistress of a lord. The elite viewpoint also is reinforced by the character of Nicholas. He is the one educated character, and it is his intelligence and scholarship that give him the advantage over the uneducated ruffian that is the carpenter.


The Miller's Tale takes the traditional form of the fabliau, but it also approximates the structure of the Knight's Tale. The Miller's Tale is a gross parody of the Knight's moralistic story, bringing the tale down to lower orders and stripping it of the honor and chivalry that marked the Knight's story. Like the story that preceded it, the Miller's Tale concerns a romantic struggle that ends with each of the parties receiving what they deserve. However, the romantic protagonists in the Miller's tale are a foolish young man, a cunning student, and a cuckolded husband, not the interchangeable and indistinguishable knights. Both tales also rely on convenient coincidences that drive the plot, such as the sudden appearance of Theseus in the Knight's Tale and the shout "water" that awakens the carpenter in the Miller's Tale. Whereas the Knight's tale prizes morality and piety toward the gods, the Miller's Tale values different attributes. Courtly romantic love is mocked mercilessly; Absolon, the one suitor whose behavior would fit traditional romantic standards, is the victim of Alison's scorn and receives only one vulgar 'kiss' for his efforts. In the tale, Absolon's romantic affectations mark him as foolish and effeminate. The Miller sarcastically notes how Absolon combed his curly blond hair to prepare himself for Alison, a parody of courtly love and romance for which the Miller has no use. The steadfast devotion that John the carpenter holds for his wife is equally subject to derision. It is love for his wife that causes John to be tricked by Nicholas into taking tubs onto the roof. Only Nicholas does not suffer for his romantic pursuits. He does not court Alison rather, in his first encounter with her Nicholas grabs her crotch before even speaking. Nicholas only receives a form of punishment when he attempts to trick Absolon with a 'kiss' for the second time, and in this occasion Nicholas suffers not because he has broken any moral codes, but because he was foolish to try the same trick twice. Only Alison escapes any form of retribution, for she is the one who is consistently cunning and wily. She receives no punishment for her infidelity, while the characters who are the most overtly virtuous (John and Absolon) are the ones who suffer the most. The Miller's tale thus prizes the characters who are the most shrewd rather than those who hold more sentimental emotions or obey traditional standards of behavior. Summary and Analysis of The Reeve's Tale Prologue to the Reeve's Tale: The reactions of the crowd to the Miller's Tale were mixed, although many laughed. Only Oswald, the elderly Reeve was offended. He claims that with age the qualities of boasting, lying, anger and covetousness fade away. He vows to repay the Miller's Tale. Analysis The prologue to the Reeve's Tale continues the pattern established with the prologue to the Miller's Tale. Just as the Miller told his tale as a reaction to the Knight's tale, the Reeve vows to tell a tale as a reaction to what the Miller has told, offended by his satiric description of aged carpenter in comparison to the younger characters of the Miller's


Tale. He believes that the Miller's Tale was an attack on him, and will so tell a tale that is an attack on the Miller. The Reeve's Tale: At Trumpington, near Cambridge, there is a brook where nearby stands a mill. There is a miller who lived there once who wore ostentatious clothing and could play the bagpipe, wrestle and fish. He always had a knife with him, and had a round face and flattened nose. His name was Simon, and nicknamed Symkyn. His wife came from a noble family; her father was the parson. Symkyn was a jealous man and his wife pretentious. They had a daughter who was now twenty and a toddler. The miller was dishonest in his business dealings. He cheated the college worst of all, and stole meal and corn from the dying steward of Cambridge. Two students, John and Aleyn, received permission from the provost to see the corn ground at the mill. Aleyn tells Symkyn that he is there to ground the corn and bring it back, since the sick steward cannot. While they ground the corn, Symkyn found the students' horse and set it loose. When the students finished, they rush after the horse, forgetting both the corn and the meal. While they were gone, the miller took part of their flour and told his wife to knead it into dough. The students returned to find their meal stolen. They begged the miller for help, and he offers them a place to stay for the night. The miller's daughter slept in the same room alone. The miller himself fell asleep and began to snore, annoying the students. Aleyn vows to seduce the daughter, Molly, as revenge for the stolen corn. John warns him that the miller is dangerous. Aleyn seduced her, while John felt humiliated that he was merely sleeping while Aleyn was having sex with the miller's daughter. John himself seduced the miller's wife. That morning, Molly told Aleyn where he could find the bread that she helped her father steal. Aleyn goes to tell John of his exploits, but Symkyn hears and grabs him by the neck. Aleyn punches him, and the two fight, until the miller tumbles backward on his wife, breaking her ribs. John sprang up quickly to find a staff. The miller's wife found one, and tried to hit Aleyn with it, but instead struck her husband. The students left him lying, got dressed and took their meal. So the proud miller got himself a beating, lost his labor, was cuckolded and had his daughter seduced. The proverb rings true: "Let him not look for good whose works are ill," for a trickster shall himself be tricked. Analysis: The Reeve's Tale is a vulgar comic tale intended to humiliate the Miller. The Reeve pursues an obvious vendetta in his story, which he indicates in the story's prologue. Symkyn, the central character of the tale, is meant to represent the Miller, and consequently has no redeemable characteristics. Symkyn is a miller who has a sense of incredible vanity with regards to his high-born wife, he is violent and vulgar, and resorts to thievery. His pride in his wife is mere foolishness, for as the daughter of a parson, Symkyn's wife is, strictly speaking, illegitimate. Even his wife and daughter are subject to intense ridicule. The Reeve describes the daughter as 'thick' and 'round,' while the wife is an empty, passive character who freely submits herself to John. But even though the other characters exist only as targets for the Reeve's scorn, the force of the plot concerns


heaping scorn on the Miller. The story exists primarily for the purpose of setting up and developing a situation in which Symkyn will be humiliated. The Reeve's tale therefore lacks any degree of compassion toward any of its characters. The nominal heroes of the tale, Aleyn and John, are more sympathetic than Symkyn and his family only to the degree that they are more intelligent, yet even this distinction is minor. Although they are students, they come from the more rustic northern area of England and show little of the savvy that Nicholas displayed in the previous tale. They are cheated out of their corn and lose their horse through the miller's deception. When they seduce the miller's wife and daughter, they do so merely out of opportunity and jealousy, and their actions seem to be little better than rape. The two students even lack that measure of lust that is present in the Miller's Tale and which might make the characters more sympathetic. In the end, most of the characters suffer some physical injury, but most of all the miller. For deceiving the students he found himself cuckolded, his daughter deflowered, and himself robbed and severely wounded. Even the means by which he is wounded is comic his wife conks him on the head with his staff. Summary and Analysis of The Cook's Tale The Cook's Tale: Chaucer only completed fifty or so lines of this fragment. The tale begins by describing an apprentice who spent most of his life in the pursuit of pleasures. He secured from his master leave for the night, which he spent in drunken revelry. The tale ends here. It is likely that the tale would continue the pattern of the previous tales in telling a comic tale, possibly in the fabliau mold. Summary and Analysis of The Man of Law's Tale Fragment II The Words of the Host to the Company and Prologue to the Man of Law's Tale: The host speaks to the rest of the travelers, telling them that they can regain lost property but not lost time. The host suggests that the lawyer tell the next tale, and he agrees to do so, for he does not intend to break his promises. He says that we ought to keep the laws we give to others. He even refers to Chaucer, who works ignorantly and writes poorly, but at the very least does not write filthy tales of incest. The Man of Law tells the company that he will tell a tale by Chaucer called the tale of Cupid's Saints. The lawyer prepares for the tale he will tell about poverty, and does so in a pretentious and formal manner. Analysis In the prologue to the Man of Law's Tale, Chaucer once again plays with the divergence between the actual author and the narrator of each tale with the lawyer's critical reference


to Chaucer, as if he were not the actual architect of the tale's words. The lawyer's critique of Chaucer is playful, little more than a sarcastic jibe at Chaucer's own abilities and a critique of Chaucer's contemporaries not meant to be taken seriously. In fact, little that the lawyer says is momentous or significant. Chaucer portrays the lawyer as pompous and formal, addressing the motley crowd as if he were speaking to the court. The Man of Law's Tale, Part One: In Syria there dwelt a company of wealthy traders who made a journey to Rome. After a certain time there, they beheld Constance, the emperor's daughter, who was renowned equally for her goodness and beauty. When the merchants returned to Syria, they reported to the sultan what they had seen; he immediately was taken with lust and wonder for Constance. The sultan met with his advisors and told them of his intent, but they could conceive of no way that he could marry Constance, for no Christian emperor would allow his daughter to marry a Moslem. The sultan thus decided that he would convert to Christianity and that his baronets would follow him in his conversion. With this conversion the Roman emperor gave Constance away in marriage, but she was overcome with sorrow, for she did not wish to be sent to a foreign country. She accepts, however, thinking that women are made to be subject to men's governance. The mother of the sultan (the sultana), however, learned of his intentions to convert, and sent for her own council. Analysis: The Man of Law's Tale exalts the sacrifice and honor of Constance, the daughter of the Roman emperor who will suffer a number of injustices during the years over which the story takes place. It is an overtly religious tale that does not even reach for the subtlety of allegory. Constance depends on her religious faith for her survival throughout a number of events in the story, while those characters who do not share her Christian faith are uniformly evil, whether pagan or Muslim. The tale takes a narrow view of humanity in which Christianity represents unadulterated purity and any other religious tradition is pure evil. Yet the Man of Law's Tale places a significant emphasis on fate; Her virtue and honor stem from her devotion to Christian principles, while those who adhere to other religious beliefs are automatically suspect. This holds true for the Syrians and even their sultan. The Lawyer describes them as covetous and, in the case of the sultan, lustful. He wishes to marry Constance before he has even met her, desiring the power that comes from her status as Roman royalty. The sultan is only redeemed when he chooses to convert to Christianity, but even when this occurs Constance still faces dancer from the sultana, whose villainy is shown by her devotion to her faith and unwillingness to accept Christian principles. The Man of Law's Tale, although the introduction claims it will be in prose form, actually is in rhyme royal. The Man of Law's Tale, Part Two:


The sultana and her confidants agreed never to renounce the Islamic faith, and she compared Constance to Eve, tempting her son to sinful action. The mother of the sultan and her advisors will pretend to accept Christianity and host a feast for the sultan and his new wife. During this feast, the sultana had her followers massacre all of the attendants. Only Constance survived; they placed her on a rudderless boat heading back to Italy, with enough food to survive but no means of navigating to Rome. On this ship Constance remained for years. It was only through her prayer that she remained safe. The ship finally crashed on the shores of Northumberland. The warden of a nearby castle found Constance and gave her shelter, but she refused to reveal her identity. He and his wife, Dame Hermengild, were pagans, but Constance soon secretly converted the wife to Christianity in this heathen land. Christians could only practice their faith privately and secretly. While walking on the beach, Constance, Hermengild and her husband came upon a blind Christian, who identified her. Although Hermengild feared that her husband would reproach her for the conversion, he too became a Christian. The warden was not the lord of the castle. Instead, it was Alla, the king of Northumberland, who was at war against the Scots. A young knight, influenced by Satan, fell in love with Constance, but she would not return her favors. In an attempt to exact revenge upon her, he broke into the bedchamber where Constance and Dame Hermengild slept, slit Hermengeld's throat and placed the knife beside Constance. Soon after the warden came home with Alla and found his wife murdered. The knight blamed Constance for the crime, but everyone supported Constance, unable to believe that she would murder Hermengild. Still, with the knight's accusation Constance was to be put to death. She prayed for a miracle and, moved by her pleas, Alla decided to make the knight swear on the Bible that Constance was the murderer. When he did so, the knight was struck down and his eyes burst. Upon witnessing this miracle, Alla converted to Christianity himself and sentenced the knight to death. Alla took Constance as his wife, but Lady Donegild, his mother, was distressed at the development. After their marriage, when King Alla was in Scotland, Constance gave birth to a child named Mauritius. She sent letters to him, but Donegild intercepted them and replaced them with a different letter, claiming that the new child was foul and wicked. Alla, however, wrote back that he vowed to love the child. She intercepted the new letter, and replaced it with one that banished Constance and her child on the same boat from which they came. Analysis: Although the sultana compares Constance to Eve, this comparison is entirely wrong. In the context of the story, Constance does not tempt others to sin, but instead acts as the one bastion for moral behavior. If anything, she is incapable of tempting other characters; Constance is an unwavering, passive character who is moved by the plot and only in rare occasions is an active character. The sultana, however, is irredeemably wicked, ordering her son and his fiance's murder. That Constance survives is a testament to her Christian faith. During the numerous times in which she faces fatal consequences, Constance relies in prayer for her survival and, without fail, this technique is successful. Therefore her survival during the massacre in Syria can be attributed in part to her Christianity; she is the only Christian among the group and the only survivor.


The Lawyer's tale is essentially one that glorifies Christianity and its values. The warden of the castle and Hermengild prove their worth through conversion, and the narrator makes clear that Christians in England are persecuted for their beliefs. Their adherence to the faith thus becomes a noble sacrifice, for they risk their own lives by becoming Christians. Yet without fail each of the pagan characters is ignoble. The narrator describes the knight who murders Hermengild and attempts to frame Constance as influenced by Satan, while Donegild, a pagan who refused to convert to Christianity, schemes to have her son's wife banished. The scheming Donegild shares obvious similarities with the murderous sultana. Both design to prevent Constance from marrying their sons, fearful of the Christian influence that Constance brings to their respective nations. The two mothers fall into the same fairy-tale mold as a wicked stepmother, cardboard villainesses with no redeeming qualities. The defining characteristic of both women that mark them as evil is their paganism, which drives them to murderous action. The Man of Law's Tale, Part Three: When Alla returned home, he learned what had happened and murdered his mother for her cruelty. But Constance had already set sail, and ended up in another foreign kingdom, where she happened to find the warden's steward, who came to her ship and attempted to rape her. Fortunately, he suddenly fell overboard and was drowned. The story returns to the tale of the sultana. The emperor of Rome sent an army to Syria in response to the massacre of the Christians. On their way home, the senator who led the army in Syria met Constance. They brought her back to Rome, but nobody remembered her, not even the senator's wife, who was Constance's aunt. Meanwhile, King Alla made a pilgrimage to Rome to make penance for what had happened with his mother and his wife. The senator went to feast with King Alla, who saw young Mauritius and vaguely recognized him. He was thus reunited with his wife and son. Constance is also reunited with her father, who did not recognize her after so many years. Alla and Constance returned to England, while Mauritius (Maurice) later became emperor of Rome. Analysis: An unwavering devotion to Christian belief saves Constance once more, when she fends off an attack by a (pagan) rapist through divine intervention. Fate and coincidence play a defining role in the story, exposing the knight as a ruthless murderer and preventing the steward from raping Constance. These coincidences always occur in a religious context; the knight suffers divine harm when he swears on the Bible, while Constance's prayer is rewarded when the steward attacks her. Yet despite her travails several murder plots against her, banishment and attempted rape Constance survives and remains devoted to her faith. She is thus comparable to biblical characters such as Jonah and Job. Her final reward for her steadfast faith comes when she reunites with both her father and her husband upon her final return to Rome. Even in the


fate of Maurice is the influence of Christianity felt. He becomes emperor of Rome only when the pope gives his assent. Epilogue to the Man of Law's Tale: The Host praised the Lawyer for his tale, and urged the Parish Priest to tell a tale. The Parson chides the Host for swearing, and he in turn mocks the Parson as a "Jankin" (a contemptuous name for a priest). The Shipman decides that he will tell a tale next. In the fragments that remain of the Canterbury Tales, however, the Shipman's Tale exists later in the manuscripts, in the seventh set of stories. The Wife of Bath's Tale follows instead. Summary and Analysis of The Wife of Bath's Tale Fragment III Prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale: The Wife of Bath begins the prologue to her tale by boasting of her experience in marriage. She has married five men already, and ignores the idea that this is a reproach to Christian principles. She is mere