Archive for March 2004

Analysis of Richard Wright’s “The Kitten”

March 31, 2004

In “The Kitten”, Richard Wright uses first person point of view, Man Vs. Man, Man Vs. Nature, and Man Vs. Self conflicts to characterize the titular feline as an innocent sacrifice and create the theme that love is a power struggle that innocents cannot survive. By making his younger alter ego the narrator and protagonist of this first-person “tail”, Wright allows the reader a more objective view of its “cat”-alayst and focal point and also adds an air of mystery to the beast. The author and reader are both befuddled by its origin and psychological needs: “We fed it some scraps of food and water, but it still meowed.” Richard’s brusque narration is doubly important in the murder scene. It not only creates a necessary detachment from the dying animal’s inner feelings because no one can truly comprehend death but also gives the reader an uncomfortable feeling of responsibility for the kitten’s death because he, too, might remember a time when he killed an innocent beast. The point of view makes Richard and the cat foils; the latter is truly innocent while the former is not, and this makes the kitten’s innocence even more palpable.

The kitten’s involvement in the story’s conflicts is largely accidental and further underscores its innocence. The brothers find it “while playing in the rear of our flat”, and Richard makes it a catalyst for the Man Vs. Man conflict with his father only because his “deep hate of [his father] urged [him] toward a literal acceptance of his word.” The kitten is the antagonist and eventual loser in the Man. Vs. Man and Man Vs. Nature conflict with Richard, but its only offenses are that it does not leave the boys’ house and meows too much. These actions are justified because it is an abused guiltless creature that has been abandoned before and simply wants love and acceptance from the boys who feed it. It cannot receive blame from the father because it does not understand his hatred of noise. It symbolizes Richard’s innocence, the antagonist of his Man Vs. Self conflict, and by killing it, Richard wins the battle with his father but loses his childhood.

Richard’s apparatus uses nails and ropes and achieves asphyxiation, like the cross, and the prayer the mother makes Richard say, “Dear God, our Father, forgive me, for I knew not what I was doing,” alludes to Jesus’s prayer as the soldiers nailed him to the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Though the members of Richard’s family love each other, they are imperfect beings who are always fighting for control and look out for themselves more than they look out for each other. The pure, innocent kitten cannot survive in this environment. Each member of Richard’s family hurts it for his own purposes: Richard for power over his father, his brother for moral superiority, his father for sleep, and his mother for psychological control over the children. Wright uses point of view, conflicts, and symbols to create the sharp characterization that delivers his powerful theme: love is a war in which everyone is wounded.

Irony in “A Sound of Thunder”

March 27, 2004

In “A Sound of Thunder”, Ray Bradbury uses verbal, dramatic, and situational irony to present conflicts and symbols which communicate the themes that small actions have huge consequences and mankind must protect beauty because beauty cannot protect itself.

Verbally dramatic irony intensifies the Man Vs. Man conflict between Deutscher, whose name and policies allude to Nazi Germany and who symbolizes war, and Keith, a kinder, gentler politician who symbolizes peace. The desk clerk of the old future despites the “anti-Christ, anti-human, anti-intellectual” Deutscher, but the new clerk reveres him: “We got an iron man now, a man with guts, by God!” This victory of war over peace gives Eckels’s denials of wrongdoing (“I’m innocent. I’ve done nothing!”) even more verbally dramatic irony. Eckels’s “r-eckles-s” killing of the butterfly, which symbolizes beauty, is a seemingly insignificant action which catalyses three conflicts: he wins a Man Vs. Nature conflict with the butterfly, loses a Man Vs. Man conflict with Travis, who finally kills him, and ensures Deutscher’s Man Vs. Man victory over Keith.

The catastrophic consequences of Eckels’s decision lend additional credence to two more of his verbally dramatic statements: “If the election had gone badly yesterday, I might be here now running away from the results” and “Every hunter that ever lived would envy us today.” Eckels’s untimely travails throw the election to Deutscher, and because the future Eckels creates is a society of violent hunters, he is quite right that they will all envy him. These four examples of verbal irony highlight the negative results of Eckels’s cowardly actions to present the themes that small decisions can greatly impact the world and that beauty is a quality which mankind must preserve.

Dramatic irony heightens the aforementioned Man Vs. Man conflict between Deutscher and Keith because the reader knows Eckels has changed the election while the desk clerk doesn’t. Bradbury’s description of the environment of the future also shows dramatic irony: “there was a thing to the air, a chemical taint so subtle, so slight, that only a faint cry of his subliminal senses warned him that it was there.” Eckels’s action has created a harsher, more polluted world where people view nature as the enemy. Dramatic irony makes Eckels’s defeat in his Man Vs. Self conflict with his fear more poignant because while he was hiding in the time machine, his comrades defeat the “mountain avalanche” that “can’t be killed”. The hunters’ bravery shows that Eckels’s despair was groundless and his fateful walk off the path was insignificant. The dramatic irony is that Eckels’s contribution is insignificant, but the consequences of his action are enormous, presenting the theme that small actions greatly affect the big picture, and his description of the future as a harsher place thanks to the destruction of the butterfly presents the theme that beauty must be preserved.

Bradbury also drives his themes home through the deft use of situational irony. The central situational irony of the story is that a minute change in the distant past can profoundly change the future: “Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity.” When Eckels steps on the butterfly, he catalyses the story’s conflicts, destroys the symbol of beauty, and creates the theme that small actions can have huge consequences. Another example of situational irony is that Eckels’s misplaced boot creates a future where cowards such as him don’t exist. The society he creates could not stomach “that damn weakling Keith”, so it certainly would not tolerate its inadvertent creator, Eckels. Situational irony also strengthens Eckels’s Man Vs. Nature conflict with the tyrannosaurus rex and Man Vs. Man conflict with Travis. Eckels runs off the path to save himself from the dinosaur, but the consequences of his action cause Travis to kill him instead. These two examples of situational irony show that Eckels symbolizes weaklings who cannot survive nature and its “sound of thunder”. It is situational irony that one weak creature, Eckels, preys on another, the butterfly. Each is finally killed. The many layers of irony wrapped around the death of the butterfly help present its helplessness and humanity’s responsibility to protect it and other beautiful creatures.

Ray Bradbury uses verbal, dramatic, and situational irony in “A Sound of Thunder” to create conflicts and symbols and present his two major themes: small actions have huge consequences, and mankind must protect beauty so that Darwinian malignant forces will not destroy it.

AP Government Current Events Project

March 4, 2004

Week One
TV Show – “The O’Reilly Factor,” Monday, February 23rd, 2004: 11:00 P. M.

John Kasich hosted the show in O’Reilly’s stead. He wore a black-white-red (jacket-shirt-tie) suit. Kasich seemed slightly conservative because of his jokes about California Republicans and his great respect for Bush and his money. His political views did not interfere with the program, however, and he seemed like a very nice guy after he expressed his hopes for Martha Stewart’s innocence. Bill appeared in brief “looking-back” segments, and he was overtly conservative in his questions and his asides during interviews.

Kasich’s first guests were Bernie Sanders (I, VT) who sported a blue-black-white suit and Foxnews Analyst Susan Estrich, the manager of Michael Dukakis’s campaign, who wore a pink blouse. They discussed the entry of Ralph Nader into the presidential campaign and John Edwards’s chances of knocking off John Kerry. The analysts said that the left-wing would definitely not welcome Nader’s candidacy because they want everyone together so they could knock off Bush in the fall but speculated that Karl Rove might put the man on the ballot in the fifty states. They noted that Edwards was drawing crowds thanks to his blue collar stances on trade and jobs, an astute observation because Kerry defeated Edwards by stealing this platform from under him.

Kasich’s next guest was celebrity justice expert Harvey Levin who wore a black pullover and white undershirt. At the time, Martha was losing the case because of the expert testimony of a man named Faniel. Levin lamented that the prosecution had pursued lesser charges like obstruction of justice rather than the difficult but rewarding crime, insider trading.

The next segment was a flashback to Bill O’Reilly’s interview with Kris Komen, Ph. D, who was running for Congress in Missouri and worked with the border patrol for some time. Bill wore a bluish suit and purple shirt while Komen wore a black-red-white combination. Bill seemed anti-immigration. Komen gave him the facts and agreed that stricter security was better for maintaining peace because more amnesty means more fraud. Bill loved Komen and promised to invite him back again.

After that, the show returned to reality. Colonel David Hunt, Foxnews’s military analyst; he wore a blue tie and pinstriped suit. He and Kasich broke down the latest bin Laden intelligence that the US was close to catching him; Hunt determined that it was hype to pressure Pakistan into making a deal.

The show then drifted into the fog of the past and O’Reilly’s interview with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Bill wore a blue tie and gray coat; Rudy wore a red tie and black pinstriped coat. Rudy thought that Bush would win the 2004 election and took a middle route in the “culture war” between the religious and the anti-clericalists. He shrewdly deflected O’Reilly’s coy questions about future plans by saying he was keeping all his options open, including a possible future Presidential run.

The final guests were John Aravosis (black-blue striped-dark blue), a political analyst in Washington DC, and Tammy Bruce (black blouse) who discussed Aravosis’s new web site asking Lynne Cheney why she was not standing up against Bush’s proposed anti-gay marriage amendment. There was real left-right tension in the discussion, as the two interrupted each other constantly, and Bruce’s writing of the book The Gay Gestapo did not help the situation, either. They argued about whether it is right for gay groups to pressure Lynne Cheney about one of her personal decisions and whether or not she is a public figure.

The show closed with a snippet of O’Reilly’s interview with Mel Gibson. Gibson said his gift as a director is pushing the crowd to the edge but holding its hand at the same time.

The advertisements on the show were mostly for white-collar products because middle-class conservatives tend to watch Foxnews, and educated people watch the news more than others. Among the products pushed were Westin Hotels, Ford F150, auto insurance, Nissan, information technology, Office Depot, NBA-TV, Wireless Networking from Best Buy, Cheez-Its, cars, and Gospel standby Cristy Lane.

Article 1 – Associated Press, “Nader Announces He’ll Run for President”
This article discussed Ralph Nader’s announcement that he will run for the office of President of the United States of America in 2004. He said that the two major parties were dominated too much by corporations and says he wants to run for ordinary Americans. Many Democrats and former supporters protested the move, saying the left needs to unite to throw out President Bush, but Nader said he would siphon votes from liberal Republicans frustrated with George Bush’s administration. Since he does not have party backing, Nader may face trouble getting on the ballot in some states.

This journalist did not seem to have bias towards liberals or conservatives. He did put much focus on Democrats’ reactions to Nader’s candidacy, but that is because the man is a huge problem for them and not because of a writer blowing the threat out of proportion. The AP writes stories for many groups so it must stay neutral.

The website from whence this article came did not have banner or popup advertisements. It did have Google sponsored links for printers, a fitting accessory for a web user.

Article 2 – Indianapolis Star, “Nader Will Reprise Run for Presidency”
On “Meet the Press,” Ralph Nader confirmed his candidacy for the 2004 presidential election. He faced criticism from Democrats while Republicans said Bush would win the campaign whether he ran or not. Nader may have trouble getting on the ballot in some states.

The website of the Indianapolis Star advertised Clarian Health, subscriptions to the Star, ATA, Funeral Homes on the Obituaries page, and marathon gas cards. These are consumer projects and are not connected to the conflict of the article.

Compare and Contrast
These news flashes were all similar in their treatment of Nader’s candidacy; they doubted he will make a real effect on the campaign but noted that if he does, it will be to the detriment of the Democrats. O’Reilly and the AP both used Independent Bernie Sanders’s denunciation of Nader’s campaign as proof that Democrats don’t want him to run. Each news station implied that he might be running because of an ego trip. The newspapers included the opinion of the Republican National Chairman in their story while Foxnews did not. The media were probably similar in their reporting because this was an important news event which would be reported by everyone.

The AP’s story was much more in-depth than the Star’s or O’Reilly’s about the causes and effects of Nader’s candidacy. There are two reasons for this: time constraints limit television programs from being as in-depth as newspapers, and an AP journalist can update and fill out his story through the day as more information becomes available. O’Reilly’s program was the most accurate in analyzing the consequences of Nader’s actions because it called two well-known figures of punditry onto the show to break the move down. A TV show with clout can call attract top politicians at the drop of a hat because of the chance for free publicity.

Reaction
All of the stories were informative, but the AP’s was the best of the three because it had the most depth. I liked the fast pacing of O’Reilly’s show, but this pacing detracted from its ability to really analyze can issue because of time constraints. The O’Reilly Factor would appeal most to conservatives who feel there isn’t a news show for “them” and want a dose of “reality” because of O’Reilly’s cantankerous demeanor and his show’s motto, “The No Spin Zone.” I chose this show because it is notorious among liberals, the topic because I’m glad Nader is running for President, and the articles because they were fair and easily available. My overall reaction was good because the news media reported the story well.

Week Two
TV Show – “Meet the Press,” Sunday, February 29th, 2004: 10:00 AM
Anchor Tim Russert wore a gray-green-white suit. He did not seem biased towards either party; he seemed to have a knack for asking the questions that were on everyone’s mind. He treated all his guests fairly.
Russert opened with an on-site report from Kerry Sanders, who wore a red polo shirt, on the ongoing turmoil in Haiti. Jean-Claude Aristide fled the country that morning at 6:30 AM, and lawlessness prevailed.
The anchor then welcomed Robert Bennett of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board (black-blue-purple suit) and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington DC who wore priestly attire. The key topic of the morning was Bennett’s report about sexual abuse by priests in the Church. He determined that a lack of proper formation of sexually warped priests and lack of communication between bishops were responsible for the problem spreading so far. Bennett and McCarrick defended the tough stance the Church had taken so far and said celibacy was not linked to the problem. McCarrick the dignity of the priesthood but did not condone the actions of these shepherds.

Next, Meet the Press had four guests: David Broder (Washington Post, navy blue-pinstriped-blue suit), Robert Novak (Chicago Sun-Times, black-white-red), William Safire (New York Times, black-gray-maroon), and Pulitzer Prize winner/plagiarizer Doris Kearns Goodwin (black and red leather jacket and read turtleneck). This distinguished group assessed the current state of the presidential campaign. Goodwin, a liberal, seemed the odd man out among her three relatively conservative colleagues. They discussed Ohio, Kerry’s voting record, gay marriage, and social security as possible issues in the next election.
Once again advertisements were white collar because those who watch Sunday morning news are more educated than others. Morgan Stanley, GE, Microsoft, Mastercard, UBS, a nd Nightly News all received plugs.

Article 1 – Associated Press, “Former Mass. Bishop Faces Abuse Charges”
Retired Springfield Bishop Thomas Dupre will soon be arrested for molesting children in the 1970s. He would be the first bishop charged in the Church’s sex scandal. Dupre has been living at a Catholic psychiatric ward. His victims are now 39 and 40 years old. This article is cut-and-dried reporting. The only thing that might be construed as spin is the national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests saying that priests and bishops should be prosecuted just like other sex offenders. It features a Google-sponsored advertisement for printers.

Article 2 – Indianapolis Star, “Study: 4% of priests accused”
Studies commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 have concluded that 4% of priests since 1952 have been accused of child sexual abuse. The researchers said that since this was the most exhaustive study of child molestation ever undertaken, the study could not conclude if Catholic priests are more susceptible to this abuse than other people. The article also claims these findings will kick-start the discussion about the role of celibacy in the life of priests; this passage seems to betray an anti-Church point of view since criticism of celibacy is not quite a hot-button issue yet. Another study on the matter shows that seminaries were lax in controlling the conduct of their students in the past half-century, helping cause the decline of morality in the clergy. The advertisements in this article were for local services in Indiana such as Clarian Health.

Compare and Contrast
These media reported on different parts of the scandal in the Catholic Church, but all agreed that the problem was serious and should be addressed, and none criticized the Church for the stance it has taken on the matter. Two of the three news media questioned whether celibacy was related to the current church scandal. In each article, productive members of society favored a proactive response to the problem.
Meet the Press, unlike the two news articles, gave Catholic leaders an opportunity to respond to charged made against them. The television program devoted more time to the issue, in general, because Meet the Press seems to tackle only two issues in an hour. Russert seems to do an outstanding job with providing fair criticism and asking the right questions in his program. While the Star reported on the national trend in priest abuse, the AP’s story was about a specific case of wrongdoing by a bishop.

Reaction
I thought that Meet the Press was most informative about this issue because Russert gave Catholic leaders a chance to respond to allegations and asked the questions that were on my mind. The newspaper articles informed me of the symptoms of the problem but did not give me the causes of it like Meet the Press did. I liked the television program’s dramatic music but disliked its front-loading of commercials. I liked the objective reporting of the newspaper outlets though I disliked the Star’s focusing on the celibacy issue because as Bennett said on Meet the Press, the two things are unrelated. This show would appeal to older people because of its slower pace and more methodical approach to reporting. I selected this program because it is the longest-running television show in history, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Overall, I liked Meet the Press very much and appreciated the AP and the Star on a smaller scale.

General Observations and Conclusions
The media possesses the critical duty of honestly reporting the news to people so they can make honest decisions about politics. By presenting the opinions of other people, it could influence the views of consumers, and so fair and balanced coverage is quite important. The media should try to reflect public opinion rather than molding it on such issues as the presidential election. Thomas Jefferson said that freedom of the press was the most valuable of the freedoms, and so the media is a vital safeguard for Americans’ rights. The media I observed were fair in their reporting of the news and did not force their opinion on others. For every Bill O’Reilly, there was a Doris Kearns Goodwin. The media remains a vital part of our democracy and our society.

Works Cited
1. Goodstein, Laurie. “Study: 4% of Priests Accused.” Indianapolis Star 27 Feb. 2004 .
2. Hananel, Sam. “Nader Announces He’ll Run for President.” My Way News 22 Feb. 2004 .
3. Meet the Press. NBC. WTHR, Indianapolis. 29 Feb. 2004.
4. The O’Reilly Factor. Foxnews. WXIN, Indianapolis. 23 Feb. 2004.
5. Recio, Maria. “Nader Will Reprise Run for Presidency.” Indianapolis Star 23 Feb. 2004: .
6. Tynan, Trudy. “Former Mass. Bishop Faces Abuse Charges.” My Way News 4 Mar. 2004 .

“The Weapon” by Frederic Brown and “The Open Window” by Saki

March 2, 2004

In “The Weapon” by Frederic Brown, the setting, which includes Harry, catalyzes Graham’s Man Vs. Man and Man Vs. Self conflicts and sharpens their characterizations as scientist and skeptic, respectively, in order to develop the ironic theme that men apply different sets of rules to their public and personal lives. The most immediate cause for the prickly relationship between Graham and Niemand is Niemand’s intrusion into Graham’s home when “the room [is] quiet in the dimness of early evening.” Though Graham at first feels that “almost any interruption to his thoughts [is] welcome,” he soon realizes that “he should have asked the man’s business before admitting him” and spends the rest of the story trying to force Niemand’s departure; Niemand ultimately excuses himself.

Harry is a person, but he is as much a permanent part of the house as the lampshades and a static character used as a prop, and thus I consider him part of the setting. Though Niemand’s affection for the boy brings some peace between the men, Harry also becomes a catalyst for their conflict. When Graham pulls Harry away from Niemand, Graham shows that he doesn’t trust the visitor, and when Niemand leaves a gun in Harry’s hands, he shows that he doesn’t trust Graham. This final act also defines the Man Vs. Self conflict within Graham: though Niemand can see that Graham is not treating his science and his child-rearing the same way, the doctor himself cannot: “only a madman would give a loaded revolver to an idiot.”

Graham’s treatment of his son is central to his characterization as a well-meaning but hypocritical man, and so is the use of light in the story’s exposition. Graham’s pondering in the dark symbolizes his shortsightedness of his work; though he turns on the light when Niemand arrives, he still has not reached enlightenment. Graham is much more careful with his child than he is with his work, as are all men.

“The Open Window” by Saki uses setting as a catalyst for the Man Vs. Man and Man Vs. Self conflicts and the characterizations of Nuttel as a bumbling oaf and Vera as a sly fox. Framton’s position as a stranger in an isolated community immediately puts him in a position of weakness; therefore, he places complete trust in Vera, the first person he meets. Vera uses a tragic story about the window and marshes to exploit Framton’s unfamiliarity with the setting to win the Man Vs. Man conflict with him, and this intensifies Framton’s Man Vs. Self conflict between himself and his fear. Framton’s, Vera’s, and Mrs. Sappleton’s different reactions to the locale define their characters. Framton’s terror reveals his cowardice and naivete; he has total faith in Vera but does not trust his own sister: “privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much toward helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.” Vera’s deft use of the window, bog, and spaniel reveal her cunning: “Romance at short notice was her specialty.” Mrs. Sappleton’s complete comfort with her surroundings accent that she is an honest and straightforward person and a foil to Framton and Vera.