Monday, July 21, 2008

Notes After the Wide Sargasso Sea Session

Read carefully. Because it has taken me a few extra days to return your Invisible Man responses, I've given you some more time in which to complete your Wide Sargasso Sea responses.

1. On Wednesday (July 23) I will email you comments on your Invisible Man responses.

2. Read the comments on your Invisible Man responses and complete the following self-reflection. You will post or email your self-reflection by midnight on Sunday, July 27. The goal is to learn from the Invisible Man responses and to show improvement on the Wide Sargasso Sea responses.

Self-Reflection on Invisible Man Responses



I had trouble with




What I like about my responses:

What was most difficult for me:

What I learned from this assignment:

What I will do differently on the Wide Sargasso Sea responses:

3. Read the following prompts. Email or post (below) one response by midnight Sunday July 27 and the other response by midnight Friday August 1. You choose which response is due on which day.

Prompt #1
Choose three passages from Wide Sargasso Sea (one from part one, one from part two, one from part three) in which Jean Rhys uses a literary technique (such as shifting point of view, or a symbolic image, or Biblical allusion, or motif, or any other literary technique) to reveal something about the self.
Then explain how in each passage Rhys uses the literary technique to develop a particular idea about the
relationship between the self and what (or who) lies outside the self.

Prompt #2
Choose a rich passage from Wide Sargasso Sea and another from Invisible Man in which identity is a significant issue. Read the passages carefully. Then, in a well-written response, compare and contrast the passages, analyzing the treatment of identity in each passage. In other words, compare and contrast both what the passages seem to say about identity and how the authors say it. (Hint: when discussing how think about literary techniques like point of view, characterization, motifs, symbolic imagery, etc.)

4. During Monday's session (7/21) we talked about several things that could help you answer the prompts more effectively...

re: improving responses
* Most of the AP Lit and Comp exam consists of looking closely at textual evidence to make draw inferences and make assertions. In other words make interpretations (assertions and inferences) and back it up (evidence).
* Most of your Invisible Man responses failed to make bold assertions about the text and to support these assertions with inferences based on evidence from the text.
* Here's what we can learn:
* Strong analytical responses include bold, insightful assertions about the text.
* Strong analytical responses include thoughtful inferences (interpretations) that are based upon a close reading of the text and support bold assertions . (Strong analytical responses introduce and interpret directions quotations!)
* Strong analytical responses include specific evidence from the text from which the writer draws inferences that support the bold assertions.
* For example (Mr. Cook's Monday afternoon ideas with support):

Assertion: In Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys uses the motif of name-calling to reveal that Antoinette's identity crisis is the direct result of Colonialism.

Inference #1 (that supports that assertion): Jean Rhys uses Tia's name-calling to show that Antoinette is neither a "real white" nor a native black; she has neither the power of the colonizer nor the sense of belonging held by the colonized.
Evidence #1(upon which the inference is based): Tia tells Antoinette "Real white people, they got money.... Old time white people [i.e. Creole's] nothing but white nigger now, and black nigger better than white nigger" (24). Later, Antoinette tells her husband that English women have reject her family by calling them "white niggers" (102).

Inference #2: Another name used to identity Antoinette reveals that she is of low social standing and is unwelcome in the Caribbean where she was born.
Evidence #2: Antoinette remembers that "one day a little girl followed me singing, 'Go away white cockroach, go away, go away'" (23). The term "cockroach" names her low status and the chant "go away" tells her that she is as unwelcome as any white colonizer. Later Amélie, though a servant, once again reveals Antoinette's lower than European status when she says, "'I hit you back white cockroach, I hit you back'" (100). Amélie then sings "The white cockroach she marry...The white cockroach she buy young man" (101). Antoinette feels the sting of the name; her husband, secure in his English identity, does not understand.

Inference #3: Jean Rhys has Antoinette's husband replace her Creole name with an English one to emphasize that although she is white she is not English, not European, or, as Tia, put it not "real white." Her resistance the English name shows that despite the difficulties in being Creole she is unwilling to reject her native identity, even if the new identity is more privileged. That she eventually succumbs to the English name shows that like she is ultimately controlled by her husband, just as a colony is controlled by the parent country.
Evidence: #4: When Antoinette's husband calls her "Bertha" she answers by saying "not Bertha tonight," but when he insists "on this of all nights, you must be Bertha," she acquiesces: "As you wish" (136).

(Notice that several inferences based on several parts of the text will be needed to support the assertion. Please don't plagiarize my assertions and inferences. However, you could use some of the same evidence to build your own assertions and inferences. But, really, there's so much to write about in a text as rich as WSS.)

re: identity
To discuss identity and self more insightfully we paired them with other terms: identity and names, identity and race, identity and gender, identity and social class, identity and place, self and submissiveness, self and self-less love, self and nature, self and God, etc. Such pairings could be helpful in responding to the prompts.

re: literary techniques
The following are some of the literary techniques that Rhys seems to employ in relation to identity and self in Wide Sargasso Sea:: point of view (Antoinette, her husband, Daniel); Biblical allusion (snakes, cocks crowing, Eden, Judas); symbolic imagery (the color red, flowers and vegetation, animals especially birds and snakes, fire and candles, etc.), motifs (the supernatural especially obeah, saints, and God; names of people and places; songs; letters); italics; paradoxes and contrasts; and any others you might have noticed.

Email me with questions and ideas.
Our goal is for the Wide Sargasso Sea responses to be better than the Invisible Man responses.
Let's achieve our first goal.


Iso.Inferno said...

Self-Reflection on Invisible Man Responses
Name: Megan Leach
Assignment: Invisible Man Responses
I had trouble with
1. In reading the book in general, I had difficulty with holding stamina in the actual act of reading the book.
2. Understanding the questions in the prompts were somewhat difficult, but once understood, that problem was soon to fade.
3. Eh?
What I like about my responses: they seemed to be a bit abstract in quality, taking the communist look at the work was not only challenging, but it did seem original in it’s own right.
What was most difficult for me: Reading the book, and holding the stamina to complete such a monumental task, had to be the most difficult part, for me anyway. After a couple hundred paged, I found the reading tedious…and for me, in the most honest respects- Monotonous (sorry)
What I learned from this assignment: pacing yourself is good! Taking a day to swallow 200 pages isn’t good for your health…it makes your brain come out of your nose! (sorry, It’s summer, have to be a little bit humorous…and plus, it comes out your ears too.)

What I will do differently on the Wide Sargasso Sea responses: I’ll still keep that abstract manner of looking at the work, I hope. But I also hope to be a bit more organized with my thought process, and try to, milk it (my ideas, concepts, thesis) for all their worth (I ended up having to cut a response sort, because the exposition came out in a huge, cluttered mass of “wommit” - word vommit.)

The motif of how Antoinette’s independence is constantly undermined is an indication of her personality as the submissive point in all of her relationships, and even her existence as a whole; This submission enforces a cross in the system of colonialism, where the Colonizers from the mother country, seek the natives for slavery, it is ultimately, Antoinette, who becomes the slave. In the early part of the book, there is a passage where Tia and Antoinette are at the bathing pool near the Coulibri Estate. Antoinette is pushed to Tia’s ‘bidding’, being forced reluctantly into a fight, and then getting a rock thrown at her. She is taken advantage of- her trust while swimming, getting her dress stolen. The fact that she was forced into an argument, and injured shows that there is a common note between Antoinette and the servants that work at Coulibri (Such as Christophine, who is the link between Tia and Antoinette). She looses her dominance, when she wears the clothes of a commoner, the clothes of a poor-er citizen. Antoinette here, holds a submission to her ‘friend’ Tia, who seemingly holds all the cards in the friendship. Antoinette needs a friend, and therefore is prepared to give herself up and submit to whoever will give her the time of day.
Later, Antoinette foregoes all of her independence and dominance, to her husband, this is a fate which is particularly highlighted by Christophine’s comment on English law. She’d claimed that the nameless husband had simply desired Antoinette’s wealth, which would be absorbed by him in the marriage. She’s bound to him by English law, and almost forced into her submission. This simply amplified her natural submission tenfold, by pressing the way of the law on her shoulders. This submission is perfectly dictated in the scene in bed, where Antoinette utters the words “Say die, and I will die.” willing to give up her life to loyalty and abiding by the power over her. Antoinette is a slave to the aspect of law, and her husband.
Last, within the walls of a mental hospital, all of the freedom is taken from Antoinette, forced to listen and obey the ‘advice’ of doctors. She is truly submissive to the last denomination in this situation: where her life, and all choice is torn from her. She’s living only by and as the bidding of the man and the woman who are her caretakers. As a pawn of the hospital life, she is simply a mechanized character, done as she’s told, despite talk and protest, she is not heard or regarded as truly human, but a mental sickness. The indifference of her keepers is much like the indifference of an overseer, one who does not care for the suffering of a field worker, only their product. In this case, Antoinette’s product, would be her survival…and her obedience to her keepers.

Megan L.

ali o said...

Name: Ali Orlando
Assignment: Self-Reflection on Invisible Man Responses
I had trouble with
1. In all honesty I had a difficult time enjoying the novel. It seemed more work than it was pleasure for me to read it, though I did try to be flexible and open to the fact that it was a different read for me.
2. I found that the details and examples I picked out throughout the novel were weak or forced, and that they couldn’t do the job of supporting my explanations I was trying to prove.
3. Though through one of the responses I explained that as a reader I could relate to feeling uncertain and altering personalities to fit certain situations, it was too disturbing for me to read the detail of the “humorous” torture and embarrassment invisible man and characters ‘like’ him went through.
What I like about my responses: My effort, and how I didn’t let my disliking of the book get in my way of answering the responses.
What was most difficult for me: Enjoying the novel.
What I learned from this assignment: Even though I don’t necessarily enjoy a novel, there is always possibility of relating to certain parts of it.

What I will do differently on the Wide Sargasso Sea responses: I never really decide or know what changes I’ll make until I start the writing. The different ideas are in my head, but just release themselves on their own.

Prompt 1
Motif: Chaos
In part one the first heavy feeling of chaos struck when the house was burnt down and the “white niggers” were attacked and taunted outside of their home. Jean Rhys pointed out the built up much tension that reached to this point. For example, the first few sentences in part one let the reader know Antoinette and her family are note welcome where they live. “they say when trouble come close ranks, and so the white people did. But we were not in their ranks. The Jamaican ladies had never approved of my mother…” Also, when Antoinette and her “friend” Tia had a little argument Tia called her a white nigger, which you know she overheard from her family, her people. This moment is foreshadowing that something would erupt soon. And the fire does. But this is just the beginning of mayhem. To prove that, before Antoinette and her family are forced to depart from Coulibri, she runs over to Tia to hug her but suddenly a rock hits her face, thrown by Tia herself. Is this so shocking? Along with all this beginning madness, Antoinette watches her mother go mad. Becoming resentful towards her, violent towards her husband, mute, and wanting to be untouched. This showed how outside chaos leads to an internal insanity. In part two Antoinette herself develops into a character just like her mother. After having grown up and watched her emptiness and bizarre behavior turn her into mad women, did she, as her daughter, ever stand a chance to be sane? In part three it’s almost like reading the beginning. A return back to Coulibri, with Antoinette as a mad woman and married to a man she does not love, and is not loved by. Eventually she burns the house down herself, which holds all the sadness and chaos she’s ever known.

Iso.Inferno said...

(No, I haven't misunderstood the instructions, hah, I just needed something to do)

Our identity is impacted by the world around us, the elements that pose stimulus for the reactions that hallmark us as our own person. Without this outside stimulus that alters our perception and understanding of the self, and the understanding that is posed against the self, there would be no gauged identity other than the pure persona within us. In both Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys) and Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison) the main characters have decided to take their pure identities and energies into their own hands and eliminate the perception altering stimuli that surrounds them. They exist then in only constricted forms where their purity is kept in tact.

Maybe to say ‘live’ would be an overshot. In her suicide at the end of the book, Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea takes the ultimate point of self preservation and isolation. After a suicide, there is no possible way to react, and indulge in the world of life and struggles. To simply let go of life, let go of experience and breath in a suicide, (while epically taking your own prison to death with you) preserves an image of an identity. Although the outside perception of the self is brought to a new level of judgment, the internal understanding of a personal identity is immortalized- death becoming a formaldehyde of the persona.

While Antoinette performed a literal suicide, the main character of Invisible Man posed a more metaphorical, social suicide. He went to the underground, and was seen by the public as dead to the world (he even goes to say that he‘d been forgotten by the public in the underground). Both a the ends of a novel, these different forms of suicide showcase the elimination of outside stimulus- creating the concentrated form of an identity.

Megan L

Courtland Kelly said...

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea both deal with the theme of identity, and although the two stories differ in plot, there are many similarities between them that result from the overlap of literary techniques and symbols that both authors employ. One such similarity is the image of dolls, and each novel has a scene where the author uses dolls to reveal important aspects of the main characters and help develop the ideas about identity.
In Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette is connected with the doll image to emphasize her submissiveness, mainly to her husband but to the rest of the world as well. After Antoinette attempts to attack him and then retreats to her bedroom, her husband (assumed Mr. Rochester) mentions that she is “like a doll. Even when she threatened me with the bottle she had a marionette quality” (Rhys 90). As marionettes are controlled with invisible strings, Antoinette is controlled by her husband. This is made even clearer when Christophine accuses Mr. Rochester of “mak[ing] love to her till she drunk with it…till she can’t do without it.” He does not deny it, and then admits to calling her “Marionette” to her face and playing with her name, Antoinette, and it’s closeness to the word “marionette,” thinking, “Marionette, Antoinette, Marionetta, Antoinetta”(Rhys 92). Rhys’s use of doll imagery shows Antoinette’s submissiveness and Mr. Rochester’s control over her, important roles of each character and major parts of their identities.
Ellison also uses doll imagery to illustrate submissive relationships within Invisible Man. When Clifton is spieling about his “Sambo” doll, he demonstrates as if the doll is dancing on its own accord. It is not until later that the protagonist discovers the thread attached to the doll’s limbs and that “Clifton had been making it dance all the time and the black thread had been invisible” (Ellison 446). Before this, the protagonist thought that Clifton was an embarrassment and a fool to leave the Brotherhood and become a simple street peddler. He wonders, “Why should he choose to disarm himself, give up his voice and leave the only organization offering him a chance to “define” himself (Ellison 438). However, after discovering the strings, the narrator seems to make the connection between the puppet and his own life and finally see that the Brotherhood has been controlling him as Clifton was controlling the puppet. For a moment he considers the possibility that Clifton was right, that “I’d sold out” (Ellison 447). The narrator is unable to finish this thought, however, because he is submissive, just like the puppet, and unable to make his own movements: “For a moment I weighed the idea, but it was too big for me…My mind backed away from the notion” (Ellison 447).
In both passages, dolls are related to the characters that are most submissive to outside influences. However, in Wide Sargasso Sea, the author is specifically referring to Antoinette, whereas in Invisible Man, the controlling relationship can be transferred to much larger groups of people, including the Brotherhood’s control over all its members and figures, and to the relationship between the blacks and the whites during that time.
The methods that both authors use to connect the doll image with the characters also differ. In Wide Sargasso Sea, where names and name-calling are significant literary techniques, Antoinette is directly named “Marionette” by her controlling husband. Ellison uses a different approach in Invisible Man, where a lot of the character development and identity discussion occurs in narrative reflection. Following this technique, it is the narrator’s obsession with the puppet and his reflection of it that draws the reader’s focus and creates the connection between the puppet-puppeteer relationship to other controlling relationships within the novel. The use of dolls in both novels accentuates the ideas of control and submission and the importance that these roles play in the establishment and maintenance of identity.

Courtland Kelly said...

Courtland Kelly

WSS Response #1

In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys uses mirror imagery to show Antoinette’s inability to truly self reflect and reveal her skewed sense of self-definition.
Antoinette’s view of Tia exemplifies the main character’s discomfort in herself and her identity. Tia, Antoinette’s only childhood “friend” is a native to the island, and is therefore considered by the colonizing Europeans as a lesser class of human. However, to Antoinette, who is uncomfortable in her status as a “white nigger”(14), Tia is superior because she truly belongs to this place that Antoinette calls home, When Antoinette’s family is finally forced to flee from the house because the natives set fire to it, Antoinette’s thoughts reveal her illusions about her identity and Tia. When Tia threw a stone at her face, “I did not feel it…I looked at her and I saw her face crumple up as she began to cry. We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. It was as if I saw myself. Like in a looking-glass” (27). Antoinette’s belief that Tia is a mirror image of herself exemplifies her skewed sense of herself. Her deep longing that is so strong that it seems to have made her truly believe that she is like Tia and native to Coulibri. The difference between Antoinette and Tia are marked, even more so in this situation where Tia is the attacker and Antoinette the victim. Therefore, Antoinette’s belief that Tia is her reflection shows that Antoinette has no real understanding of herself and who she is.
Later, when telling her husband Daniel about a childhood experience with rats, Antoinette mentions, “But I was not frightened. That was the strange thing…I could see myself in the looking-glass the other side f the room, in my white chemise with the frill around the neck, staring at those rats, and the rats quite still, staring at me” (49). Oddly, she went right back to sleep until “I woke up again suddenly…and the rats were not there but I felt very frightened” (49”. Antoinette is not frightened when seeing herself in the mirror seeing the rats because she is unable to see her true self in the mirror. The self she sees in the mirror is not afraid of the rats, but when she wakes up the second time, she is afraid because she is now feeling the true emotion and fright that she was unable to feel when only seeing her reflection. This disconnect between Antoinette’s self and her reflection indicates an inability to see herself from the outside, a condition that mirrors her earlier experience when she confused Tia’s image with her own.
In the third part of the novel, the mirror image reemerges as Antoinette reflects on earlier experiences with her own looking-glass. “I remember watching myself brush my hair and how my eyes looked back at me. The girl I saw what myself and yet not quite myself. Long ago when I was a child and very lonely I tried to kiss her. But the glass was between us – hard, cold and misted over with my breath” (107). Antoinette’s relationship with her own reflection is very similar to those which she has with other people: blocked by a wall of foggy misunderstanding. That she refers to her reflection as “her” also indicates the separateness she feels from her own reflection and her inability to see herself when she looks in the mirror. Her question of “who am I?” at the end of the passage reveals Antoinette’s confusion with her identity and reiterates the dilemma she has with seeing herself from the outside, even though it is her own reflection.

Sarah Johnson said...

widji<33Self-Reflection on Invisible Man Responses
Sarah Johnson
Invisible Man Posts
I had trouble with: (1) selecting my evidence. There were many instances of the confusion and anguish surrounded by the grandfather in the book, and I can’t be sure if I picked the three strongest or explained them completely…I had a lot to say but was struggling to articulate. I felt a little bit brain dead. Then I had trouble (2) organizing it all because I felt that I should explain my theory on the grandfather in the first place, but everything kind of just got jumbled together. And (3) it was hard for me answer the second question because I was never sure of the cultural references, if it was something I knew intuitively or from researching, since I did my pre-reading so long before the actual reading. So I had all this great evidence but was unsure of what to do with it.
What I like about my responses: I was excited by the references I had found to the grandfather throughout the text, and was happy to explore the meaning behind all of the notes I took down.
What was most difficult for me: Discerning between the relevant and irrelevant information, Ellison’s style was new for me, especially with all the cultural references.
What I learned from this assignment: I should write down more of my actual thoughts when I read instead of just underlining important things and trusting that I will know what I was thinking later on.

What I will do differently on the Wide Sargasso Sea responses: Organize my information more clearly. But I just posted my IM responses so I don’t know what mistakes in particular I should watch for this time around.

Wide Sargasso Sea:
1) Jean Rhys is an exceptionally shrewd writer, and the greatest display of this for me was her subtle implementation of the motif of death before death to show how easily one can forget the self over time when the will to remain conscious is eroded away. In Part One, besides her increasingly reclusive mother and solitary nature, Antoinette sees much suffering and loneliness in her life. Significantly, although I overlooked it at first, her brother, Pierre, is the greatest example of almost everyone in the novel (in the end). Although he has a problem, a fight ensues for his life, and there is hope and promise. Soon though, living is a chore and for Pierre, the task of remaining alive becomes too daunting with his sickness, and at the provocation of a mortal wound he surrenders control and gives up the literal fight. Antoinette however, is more shrewd than most and notes that “He died before that” (28) when discussing the disastrous events at Coulibri. Antoinette knows that Pierre had given up long before, that he had been living as a zombie. In Part Two, Antoinette’s mother follows in the same way. Although she too had remarried and found a reason for living—hope and promise, she succumbed to the overpowering forces of loneliness and longing, and shut herself away from the world, giving up life. When Antoinette and her husband are discussing her mother’s death, he asks why she lied to him and had said her mother died as a child. Antoinette’s reply was “There are always two deaths, the real one and the one the people know about” (77). This further emphasizes Rhys’ assertions that death of the mind happens may occur well before death of the body, when the will to live is no longer stronger than the comforting pull of ignorance and solitude. In Part Three, Antoinette herself experiences this death before death. She is living in a dream, trapped in a room or a house, in a country she cannot identify with. She forgets everything, her purpose, her desires, her hatred (as her husband had intended). She knows that “Nights and days and days and nights, hundreds of them slipping through my fingers. But that does not matter. Time has no meaning” (109). She cannot explain or decide if she does or does not care, but cannot understand why she exists in her misery. She then remembers her last meeting with Sandi—perhaps her one true lover, and the “life and death kiss” they shared upon their last parting. Seeing this inserted at such a critical time in the book, one might infer that this parting from Sandi was the beginning of her first death- her soul’s death, so to speak. Then she has a reoccurring dream, and when she finally sees the end of it, she understands it. She spreads fire throughout the house in this dream, and jumps from the battlements into the pool at Coulibri, to join her treacherous childhood friend, Tia. When she awakens, she “at last [knew] why I was brought here and what I have to do” (112). She awakens herself from her living death only long enough to find true death, and release.

2) Identity is a crisis for most characters in both Invisible Man and Wide Sargasso Sea. Particularly, for Ellison, the epitome of identity loss is to allow oneself to become “invisible”, and for Rhys it is to act like a “zombie”. Invisible Man is laced with rich passages on identity, and at one point explores the vitality of the soul in relation to the world. Tod Clifton is a young and active member of the Brotherhood, who mysteriously disappears, later to be found illegally vending puppets on a street corner for quick money—considered a traitorous act by the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood deigns themselves masters of this concept—as they discuss IM’s actions following the selling out of Brother Tod. In WSS, Antoinette’s husband faces the same challenge Clifton did; once a brave, kind and endearing person, he seeks financial stability and achieves it by marrying a rich and beautiful girl at the price of his spirit. As the same for Clifton, this doesn’t work out quite the way he plans. On p. 467 of IM, the narrator asks “What is a traitor, Brothers? … He was a man and a Negro; a man and a brother, a man and a traitor…” The narrator struggles to pinpoint Clifton’s identity, because so much has been exposed to be false in what he once thought was a stable ally. Tod sold his soul and “plunged outside of history” by leaving the Brotherhood and doing the unthinkable, selling dolls on a street corner, for reasons the narrator cannot understand. Antoinette’s husband experiences much the same, writing his father after marrying Antoinette, saying “I will never be a disgrace to you or to my dear brother the son you love. No begging letters, no mean requests. None of the furtive shabby maneuvers of a younger son. I have sold my soul or you have sold it” (41). This reference to the legend of Faust where the soul (one’s identity” is sold for the fulfillment of all worldly desires (41, note
2). In both IM and WSS, the identity in questions is indeed sold, and never returns to the vendor. Tod Clifton meets his demise on a street corner, fitting, since he has dropped the title of “Brother”, and his ability of persuasion with it and must use his fists to defend himself instead of his words. Antoinette’s husband too loses his happiness forever, when he address Antoinette coldly in his head: I will destroy your hatred. Now. My hate is colder, stronger, and you’ll have no hate to warm yourself. You will have nothing… Even if she had wept like Magdalene it would have made no difference. I was exhausted. All the mad conflicting emotions had gone and left me wearied and empty” (102-103). He is left desolate and empty for the rest of his life, paying the price for his greed. Ellison uses indirect characterization and observation to explain Clifton’s experience, which is effective in that the reader perceives the betrayal of Clifton’s soul on a personal level as well, since the reader feels pain for the narrator’s loss as well as Clifton’s. Rhys allows the perspective at this point in Part Two to swing to Antoinette’s husband, and this is one of the first impressions the reader gets of him. He is marked as a deceiver and desperate, self-righteous man grasping at an elusive dream. Both Ellison and Rhys use treachery to expose the corrupt nature of their characters, and to prove that identity is only as true as you keep it. Identity cannot be literally bought or sold, only lost. And the loser is bound to suffer for it forever.

alees said...

Hi Mr. Cook, I sent you all this work already but I guess you didn't get it :( I am receiving emails from you even though you don't seem to be getting any from me. Here it is:

Name: Allie Lees

Assignment: Invisible Man Responses

I had trouble with

1. Explaining a quote in the context of the scene

2. Explaining a quote’s role in the work as a whole

3. Picking up on subtleties such as the Narrator accepting his southern black roots v.s. his African side.

What I like about my responses: I like that I took a lot of my quotes to the next level of meaning and explored motifs in depth. I also think that I did a good job explaining how my historical/cultural reference fit into the work as a whole.

What was most difficult for me: I found it difficult to connect a quote’s role in the work as a whole. I don't have much practise with that but I know that it is really important to effective analytical writing.

What I learned from this assignment: A good response connects everything back to the work as a whole and helps to explain why the author used the words and techniques they did.

What I will do differently on the Wide Sargasso Sea responses: I will try to focus more intently in relating back to the work as a whole and making sure that my essay flows well.

Prompt No. 1
The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys takes place in a time and place where women are controlled by the men around them. Antoinette, the Creole heiress protagonist, loses her identity as the result of having her entire life controlled by men, particularly her husband, Rochester. Rhys symbolizes Antoinette’s loss of freedom, identity and her destruction by using the motif of birds.
In the beginning of the novel, Antoinette speaks of her mother’s beloved pet parrot, “He [the parrot] didn’t talk very well, he could say Qui est la? Qui est la?...After Mr. Mason clipped his wings he grew very bad distempered…” (Rhys 41). Although early in the novel, the parrot is not directly associated with Antoinette, this passage acts as a foreshadowing for the events to come. In French, “Qui est la?” means “Who is there?” This later comes to echo Antoinette’s loss of identity. At the end of the novel, she sees a woman “surrounded by a gilt frame” in a dream which she thinks is someone else but the reader knows to be herself because it is a mirror. So in this dream, she is also unsure who is there. Her inability to identify her own reflection connects to the parrot’s question, “Who is there?” because Antoinette believes there to be someone else in the room but in reality, it is only herself. Also, a man is the one who clips the bird’s wings. This is a symbol of Antoinette’s oppression by men. If she is the bird, then it is her “wings” that are being “clipped” by men.
In the second half of the novel, in a passage that Rochester narrates, he observes “a large moth, so large I thought it was a bird, blundered into one of the candles, put it out and fell to the floor.” (Rhys 81). Although in reality, the creature is truly a moth and not really a bird, Rhys has Rochester think that it is a bird because of the interaction of different motifs that occur. Throughout the novel, the motif of fire usually symbolizes destruction. After Rochester sets the moth free, he says, “I hope that gay gentleman will be safe…” to which Antoinette replies, “He will come back if we don’t put the candles out.” Another connotation of fire is passion which can be seen in the novel in the tempestuous relationship of Rochester and Antoinette. He makes violent love to her on several occasions and it is clear that he has enormous power over her. On page 92, Antoinette says to Rochester,”…say die and I will die.” Like the flame of the candle can kill the moth, Rochester has the ability to kill Antoinette with a word. Yet, she keeps trying desperately to win back his love once she loses it. Like the moth, she will keep coming back to the flame.
In the final section of the novel in a dream sequence, Antoinette says, “I heard the parrot call as he did when he saw a stranger, Qui est la? Qui est la? and the man who hated me was calling too, Bertha! Bertha! The wind caught my hair and it streamed out like wings. It might bear me up, I thought, if I jumped to those hard stones.” (Rhys 189). Rhys repeats the speech of the parrot to reinforce the importance of what he has to say. The presence of the question indicates a loss of identity. Rhys purposefully compares Antoinette's hair to wings to connect her to birds. A common connotation of birds is freedom. Antoinette is attempting to use her wings to escape from “the man who hated me” whom the reader knows is Rochester because only he calls Antoinette “Bertha.”
The image of a bird with clipped wings is a powerful symbol of entrapment. Rhys used the bird motif to help the reader identify and truly understand how trapped Antoinette feels. The relentless return of the “bird” on page 81 reveals the inevitable destruction of Antoinette because of her love of Rochester.

Prompt No. 2
In both the Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys and the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the protagonists have a heritage that causes them to have conflicting views on their place in society. The anonymous narrator of Ellison’s novel is African American. Like many other African Americans during the 1940’s (which is the time period in which the novel takes place) he is struggling to be “respectable” to whites as well as retain his black culture. In the beginning of the Invisible Man, the Narrator is ignorant of the political and social plight of his people. When Dr. Bledsoe, the African American dean of the Narrator’s college reveals to the Narrator that he lies to the whites to keep them happy, the narrator’s past assumptions about African American and white relationships is thrown in disarray. The Narrator’s battling realities is revealed on page 146 when he says, “I looked…to see a whirling, double-imaged moon. My eyes were out of focus. I started toward my room, covering one eye with my hand to avoid crashing into trees and lampposts projected into my path.” In this quote, each of the Narrator’s eyes represents a different viewpoint (one African American and one white). He is used to seeing from only the white American point of view and is so overwhelmed by the two viewpoints that he cannot “see” or think straight.
Antoinette is Creole and is having difficulty finding a place to belong as she is not purely native or European. On page 45, when her family is fleeing her house which has been burned down by an angry mob of native Jamaicans, Antoinette sees her old Jamaican friend, Tia. “… she was all that was left of my life as it had been. We had eaten the same food, slept side by side, bathed in the same river. As I ran, I thought, I will live with Tia and I will be like her. Not to leave Coulibri… We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. It was as if I saw myself. Like in a looking-glass.” Antoinette associates Tia with her Jamaican heritage.
In both passages, the protagonists are grappling with their conflicting heritages; the Narrator with being African American and Antoinette with being Creole. In both, the author uses dual images. In Invisible Man, it is double vision and in the Wide Sargasso Sea, it is in the mirror effect of Antoinette’s thoughts.
The main difference between the two passages is that in Invisible Man, the Narrator is unaware that there is another way of life for him and in the Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette knows of another way of life but doesn’t want to lose her attachment to the way she is already living. This is reflected in the imagery of the two scenes. The Narrator’s physical vision is out of focus and distorted because he has just discovered a new way of thinking. Antoinette, although having been hit in the head with a rock, still sees Tia clearly as a reflection of herself, Antoinette’s soon to be past life.
In both Invisible Man and Wide Sargasso Sea, vision acts as a motif for understanding, perception, and reality. By tracking this motif in each book, crucial mental changes can be noted in both protagonists. Vision is a motif that can almost always be found in both novels during points in which the protagonists are undergoing changes in view and attitude.

Ali O said...

Prompt #2:

In both IM and WSS the two authors depict the struggle and effort it is for each character in the novels to discover their identities. IM’s entire life consists of searching, changing, shifting but never permanent finding. While in WSS Antoinette’s childhood has shaped her identity, not giving her a chance to form it herself. Quote from page 467 of IM “He was a man and a Negro.. a man and a brother.. a man and a traitor..” This exemplifies the idea of continuous alteration of his identity, and how his any discoveries are really only empty ones. In WSS I felt like I learned a lot about Antoinette’s identity through her husband’s words and comments. Quote from page 149 “Tied to a lunatic for life – a drunken lying lunatic –gone her mother’s way.” And page 150 “Hide yourself but in my arms. You’ll soon see how gentle. My lunatic. My mad girl.” Here is both how she has gotten to the place she is now, insane and alone, and also how she is portrayed by her own husband as psychotic and in internal ways, gone or far away. Ralph Ellison questions us readers; what’s worse…always looking for who you are and never finding it? while Jean Rhys asks…or becoming who you are but not having had any control or say in the person you’ve turned out to be?

Self Reflection on WWS:
1) Following who was speaking when because it never really informed the reader, you just had to adjust about 3 sentences in and recognize whose perspective the words were coming from. I felt by the time I did that sometimes, I’d missed the meaning and reason behind the words and sentences written.
2) I struggled with comparing the two passages from both of the novels IM and WSS becomes to myself though identity was a main issue in both the books, I interpreted them differently as you can tell from answer to prompt #2.
3) I spent a ton of time in my head trying to figure out if Antoinette’s husband was a likeable character. For some reason I was confused about his place in it, sometimes he’d seem sensitive and that he did love his wife, and other times he would blatantly say how he didn’t love her. After reading some of the other student’s responses it seemed they made their decisions about him and understand him well, so I don’t know why it was hard for me to distinguish his character and permanent feelings.
What I liked about my responses: Ummmm, I’m not exactly proud of any of my responses enough to really say I liked them. I guess I liked that I at least made a decision in my own head about something, and used it from there whether it was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
Most difficult for me: Like I mentioned before, knowing who was talking when and making sure the words I was reading were actually sinking in.
What I learned: For me with both IM and WSS, I didn’t exactly enjoy the books but realized I could still have a say about a lot of stuff involving them.
What I’ll do differently with Translations: Um, making take better notes WHILE reading, not after once I’m not so much into the book.

SORRY FOR THE SLACKING...I'm working on the Translations stuff now. It'll be up by September uhhh...whatever day it's suppose to!

Emily Castro said...

Emily Castro

Motif- Naming
1. Throughout Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, many characters are introduced, some that crucial to the novel, and others that play a role far less integral to the story as a whole. Generally, if a character is to play a significant role in a novel, his or her name is made clear, however, I found that Rhys was extremely and purposefully ambiguous in clearly stating the name(s) of certain characters. In part one many characters are introduced: Christophine, Godfrey, Sass, Pierre and so on The aforementioned names are not the only characters that play a role. There is the narrator (who we discover later to be Antoinette) and her mother, who, i believe, remains nameless throughout the novel. WSS is obviously a story that deals with identity, and usually the backbone of ones identity is a name. so it seems fitting that the two characters in the story that struggle most with identity remain nameless in part one.
In Part two it was finally made clear that the main character in the novel was named Antoinette, however as soon as this is established, her husband decides that he would rather call her Bertha: "Don't laugh like that, Bertha.
My name is not Bertha. Why do you call me Bertha?
Because it is a name I am particularly fond of, I think of you as Bertha." It is evident that Antoinette struggles to truly understand herself and what has come of her life, and her husband only seeks to intensify her struggle by calling her by a name that is not her own. He also toys with her name and it's similarity to the word marionette: "Marionette, Antoinette, Marionetta, Antoinetta." This is symbolic because just as a marionette is controlled by it strings, Antoinette is controlled by her husband; he pulls and tugs at Antoinette right where he knows will hurt her most, and in doing so controls her mind and her emotion.
In part three it becomes glaringly apparent that being called by a name that was not her own largely contributed to Antoinette's downward spiral to complete insanity: "Names matter, like when he wouldn't call me Antoinette, and I saw Antoinette drifting out of the window with her scents, her pretty clothes and her looking-glass." Without a basis as solid as even a name, Antoinette was unable to overcome the tragedy and devastation that she was constantly surrounded by to look inside herself and find her true self, and the same was true for her mother.

2. The ending of Invisible Man and the ending of Wide Sargasso Sea are strikingly similar. Both IM and Antoinette feel that suicide is the only way to escape the almost hallucinatory existence that both of them lead. Where as Antoinette actually, physically ended her life, IM put an end to a life that was not really his own. At various points within his life IM felt that he had an identity, however it was when he discovered of the many identities that he had possessed, none where is own, that he shut out the rest of the world to truly as the invisible man that he believed himself to be. As opposed to adopting and discarding different identities, Antoinette was not capable of obtaining even one single identity throughout her life time. As a child Antoinette never had much hope to hold on to, and as she grew up what little sense she could make of her meager existence began to steadily slip away from her feeble grasp because there was no single event or person to provide her with any sense of self or individuality. After having lived for so long and knowing nothing but devastation and self doubt, Antoinette decided that her life was a battle that could not be one, and ended it before it became any worse than it already was. Both IM and Antoinette felt the need to separate themselves completely from everything that they had ever been surrounded by in order to find peace with themselves.