Q1. Considering the metaphor of the corset as well as its literary and figurative meaning in Bernard Pomerance’s play The Elephant Man, it is important to admit the following. Both, the literary and figurative dimensions of the metaphor of the corset in the play manifest themselves through the Frederick Treves’ soliloquy. Frederick Treves is a surgeon and one of the main characters of the play.
Considering the thematic framework of Bernard Pomerance’s play The Elephant Man, it is important to admit that the work of literature deals with the ethical-philosophical aspect of deformity. Moreover, both physical and mental dimensions of deformity are considered in this work of literature. The author of the play reflects on the problem of how people deal with uncommonness and abnormality.
The first mention of corset within the play is as follows: “See Mother Nature uncorseted and in malignant rage! Tuppence” (Pomerance). The line belongs to Ross, the manager of a freak show (Pomerance). Specifically, the line represents a reference to the issue of human perception of nature. At the same time, the quote contemplates the possible outcomes of the human uncontrolled influence on the nature.
Considering Frederick Treves’ soliloquy it is important to admit that, above all, Treves claims: “Corsets. How about corsets? Here is an pamphlet I've written due mostly to the grotesque ailments I've seen caused by corsets. Fashion overrules me, of course” (Pomerance). In the course of further exploration of the monologue, this may be regarded as a rather ironic observation. Another point Frederick Treves is trying to make is the following: “I spend Sundays in the poor-wards; to keep up with work. Work being twenty-year-old women who look an abused fifty with worn-outedness; young men with appalling industrial conditions I turn out as soon as possible to return to their labors” (Pomerance). This particular quote may be regarded as a reference to the issue of the correlation between mankind, civilization, science, technology, and one man’s destiny. “I spend Sundays in the poor-wards; to keep up with work. Work being twenty-year-old women who look an abused fifty with worn-outedness; young men with appalling industrial conditions I turn out as soon as possible to return to their labors” (Pomerance). Destination of a man, self-actualization, socialization, and the effects of human alienation from the nature can be viewed as possible motifs that manifest themselves in this particular quote. “I confront these same -- deformities -- bulged out by unlimited resources and the ruthlessness of privilege into the most scandalous dissipation yoked to the grossest ignorance and constraint” (Pomerance). In this regard, it is important to admit that the author of the play does not approve the indifference, ignorance, constraint, and inequality. Apart from that, it is possible to assume that Frederick Treves complains of his own life style and social realm.
Taking all the aforementioned facts into consideration, it is important to admit that physical and mental dimensions of the deformity and human perception of the latter constitute one of the key subject matters of Bernard Pomerance’s The Elephant Man. Apart from that, the play addresses the issues of environmental protection, human alienation from nature, rapid and uncontrolled development of science and technology. The metaphor of corset, in its turn, positions itself as a reference to all the limitations and restrictions that distort perception and prevent people from independent thinking.
Q2. Considering the problem of the imagery of Robert Johnson’s poem and song “Crossroad Blues”, it is important to admit the following. A journey, a fall, a sunset, and a crossroad itself constitute the most powerful and vivid elements of the poem’s imagery. The poem contains the following line: “I went down to the crossroad // fell down on my knees” (Johnson). The fall, in this particular case, may be regarded as an allusion to wrongdoing. The one who kneels may be interpreted as a symbol of a person who took the wrong path. At the same time, there are two options of interpreting a journey, which is a leitmotif of the poem. The journey may be interpreted as either a symbol of life or an attempt to consider one’s own life. In this regard, the poem goes as follows:
I went down to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
Asked the lord above "Have mercy now
save poor Bob if you please"
Yeeooo, standin at the crossroad
tried to flag a ride
ooo ooo eee
I tried to flag a ride (Johnson).
A symbol of crossroad in the poem is rather ambiguous. Above all, a crossroad is the point of considering one’s own life and making a decision. At the same time, it is the final threshold and the point that there is no return. The persona of the poem claims:
Standin at the crossroad babe
eee eee eee, risin sun goin down
I believe to my soul now (Johnson).
A sunset is a classical symbol, most commonly interpreted as an omen or a caveat. In the poem by Robert Johnson, sunset is a symbol of an event that marks the end of a certain period in the person’s life (presumably, in the life of the author of the poem as well).
Considering the problem of the sources for the poem’s imagery, it is important to admit that, evidently, Robert Leroy Johnson’s own life was his source of imagery. Throughout the decades, the biographers, researchers, theorists of music, and connoisseurs of music made attempts to shed the light on Robert Johnson’s life story. In this regard, there is a legend claiming that Robert Johnson has sold his soul to the Devil for the right to possess unique abilities and unparalleled talent (“Robert Leroy Johnson”).
Considering all the aforementioned facts, it is possible to resume that Robert Leroy Johnson is commonly referred to as one of the most mysterious personalities in the history of blues music ever. Therefore, it is claimed that his life and experiences are the source of inspiration for his creative work. A fall, a sunset, a crossroad, a journey, and a person kneeling are one of the most vivid images in Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues”.
Q3. All poems by Langston Hughes are short, but expressive. In other words, each poem by Langston Hughes is characterized by a great deal of expressive forces. A poem “The Trumpet Player” by Hughes presumably represents itself as a metaphorical illustration depicting an African American trumpet player in the moment of inspiration. Anticipation, talent, improvisation, mischief and trouble, celebration of peace of mind and inspiration, the beauty of the night and the sea may be regarded as the key motifs (Hughes).
Thus, the author of the poem is making a reference to the following blues elements of African American literature: alienation, romance, search for identity, honoring blues music and a musician, as well as the place (somewhere by the shore), and an instrument (trumpet) (Hughes). At the same time, it possible to assume that stylistically the poem may be regarded as the manifestation of African American vernacular English. At the same time, there is an interior rhythm with the poem itself. However, the rhythm and rhyming patterns can be characterized as sophisticated.
It is important to pay special attention to the first lines of the strophes. The first, the second, and the fifth stanzas begin with the words “The Negro” (Hughes). The third and the fourth strophes begin with the words “the music” and “desire” respectively (Hughes). The poem is rich in metaphors: “the music … is honey”, “the moonlight’s but a spotlight”, “trouble mellows to a golden note” (Hughes).
The first stanza, particularly, is a reference to the trumpet player’s conception of people, their destiny and history (Hughes). In the same stanza, the author of the poem refers to the dark under-eye circles “dark moons of weariness” (Hughes). The second stanza of Langston Hughes’ “The Trumpet Player” goes as follows:
with the trumpet at his lips
has a head of vibrant hair
until it gleams
were jet a crown (Hughes)
This particular strophe presumably implies persona’s (trumpet player’s) past experiences. On the other hand, it is possible to assume that within the poem the music is the trumpet which is the only player’s remedy and comfort. The third stanza is mostly based on two extraordinarily beautiful metonymies, namely “the music … is honey mixed with liquid fire”, “the rhythm … is ecstasy distilled from old desire” (Hughes). The imagery of the fourth strophe is also remarkable: “Desire // that is longing for the moon // where the moonlight's but a spotlight // in his eyes” (Hughes). The fifth stanza goes as follows:
with the trumpet at his lips
whose jacket Has a fine one-button roll,
does not know
upon what riff the music slips (Hughes).
Presumably, the strophe implies the artist-audience correlational paradigm. It is possible to assume that in this particular stanza the author of the poem is reflecting on the destination of an artist, a purpose of creation, art as such, and the audience.
The final, the sixth strophe of the poem under analysis requires some specific study. The last stanza of “The Trumpet Player” by Langston Hughes goes as follows:
It's hypodermic needle
to his soul
as the tune comes from his throat
mellows to a golden note (Hughes).
These particular lines are the pure expression of peace, reflection, and human genius.
To conclude, it is important to admit that “The Trumpet Player” by Langston Hughes is a poem composed in accordance with the canons of the African American literature. Moreover, the key motifs of blues music and song lyrics, such as alienation, anticipation, improvisation, search for identity, and celebration of human spirit, are clearly discernible within the poem. Thus, the poetry under consideration may be regarded as typical within the framework of the African American literature. Sophisticated rhyming and rhythm patterns as well as extraordinary imagery constitute the peculiarity of this specific work of literature.
Q4. Considering the problem of portraying the female characters in a novel “Reservation Blues”, written by Sherman Alexie, it is important to admit the following. Both women depicted in the poems that open Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 of Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues are represented positively by the narrator (Alexie). In other words, Thomas, the protagonist of the novel, pays homage to an Indian woman (Alexie). Evidently, it is the author of the novel himself who transmits his own words through the protagonist’s role (Alexie).
Both women are depicted caring, wise, and experienced (Alexie). Taking into consideration the emotive and expressive force of both poems, it is possible to assume that a woman portrayed in a poem/song preceding the Chapter 6, titled “Falling Down and Falling Apart”, is younger than the one depicted in a poem/song preceding the Chapter 7, titled “Big Mom”. At the same time, there is something mysterious about the woman portrayed in the second work of literature.
The woman in the poem/song from the sixth chapter is addressed as “an Indian woman”, whilst the one from the poem opening the seventh chapter of the novel is referred to as “a grandmother”. A grandmother is “talking” and “singing” to everyone who seeks comfort. However, there is another aspect of this woman’s nature. The final lines of the poem opening the novel’s seventh chapter go as follows:
And I hear Big Mom
Telling me another story
And I hear Big Mom
Singing me another song
And she says
I’ll be coming back …
… I’ll be coming back for you …
… I’ll always come back for you (Alexie).
Basically, the final lines of the poem contribute to creating suspense and the atmosphere of mystery.
The woman in the poem/song from the sixth chapter is “Indian in her bones” and “Indian in her eyes” (Alexie). The woman presumably has encountered intense suffering and pain. The poem/song goes:
I know a woman, Indian in her eyes
Full-blood in her heart, full-blood when she cries
She can be afraid, sometimes she can shake
But her medicine will never let her break (Alexie).
This presupposes a great deal of mental strength and resistance characteristic to this woman. At the same time, in this particular piece of poetry, she is tender, wise, and patient:
But she don’t want a warrior and she don’t want no brave
And she don’t want a renegade heading for an early grave
She don’t need no stolen horse, she don’t need no stolen heart
She don’t need no Indian man falling down and falling apart (Alexie).
To a certain extent, the poem/song opening the seventh chapter of the novel alludes “The Rose for Emily” and William Faulkner himself who pitied one of his most famous short-story’s protagonist. Therefore, the last line of the poem in Sherman Alexie’s novel goes as follows: “I’d walk through lightning just to give her a feather” (Alexie). This, in its turn, presupposes that both the narrator and the author sympathize with a destiny of the Indian woman. Considering the issues of format and technique, it is important to admit that repetitions and zeugma play significant part in both poems. Mostly, zeugma refers to the play of words, personal pronouns’ change throughout the poems.
To conclude, it is important to admit the following. Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 in Sherman Alexie’s novel Reservation Blues begin with poems/songs. Both songs represent a reference to the author’s and the narrator’s perception of women destination and their nature. Both women are portrayed as wise and caring. The author’s premise, in this regard, may be deciphered as follows: women are unique, they are capable of love and care, however, there is still something unexplainable about the nature of women, something, that trenches upon mystery.
Q5. Considering the problem of the so-called ‘Monster Theory’, it is important to admit that it has been introduced by Jerome Jeffrey Cohen. The theory is based on seven theses, namely: - thesis I - “Monster’s body is a cultural body” (Cohen 4); - thesis II – “Monster always escapes” (Cohen 4); - thesis III – “the Monster Is the Harbinger of Category Crisis” (Cohen 6); - thesis IV – “the Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference” (Cohen 7); - thesis V – “the Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible” (Cohen 12); - thesis VI – “fear of the Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire” (Cohen 16); - thesis VII – “the Monster Stands at the Threshold … of Becoming” (Cohen 20).
The principles claimed by the first and the fourth theses apply to The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance since the novel itself makes a reference to the essence of being different (thesis IV). Moreover, the novel is marked by some historical-cultural realities that indicate a specific time reference (thesis I) which is approximately the late nineteenth century: “As of the year AD 1884, I, Freddie Treves, have excessive blessings. Or so it seems to me” (Pomerance).
The principles claimed by the fifth thesis, in their turn, apply to Robert Johnson’s poem “Crossroad Blues”. Evidently, some supernatural force is implied; however, it remains unidentified throughout the poem:
I got the croosroad blues this mornin Lord
… I'm sinkin down
And I went to the crossroad ... (Johnson).
Considering the issue of ‘Crossroads and Pact with the Devil’, it is important to admit that the latter is one of the motifs of the “Crossroad Blues” by Robert Leroy Johnson.
At the same time, none of the theses apply to “Trumpet Player” by Langston Hughes. In other words, there is no supernatural monster force discernible in this particular work of art. Considering Sherman Alexie’s perception of supernatural, it is possible to assume that the only reference to Cohen’s “Monster Theory” in Alexie’s Reservation Blues manifests itself through the poem which opens the novel’s seventh chapter. In this regard, the fifth thesis is applicable to a certain extent.
To conclude, it is important to admit that Jerome Jeffrey Cohen’s theory is applicable to a great amount of the works of literature. ‘Monster Theory’ is claimed to be closely connected to the human perception of abnormality and difference.
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