Author: kodonnell12

Mysteries in Nature

The second to last story we read, “Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood, and the final story we listened to by Dave Eggers had similar settings and themes. I also thought it was interesting to compare the reading and listening to see which story seemed the most mysterious or creepy purely based on the context it was understood in.

The similarities are as follows:

1. Both stories had nature and woodsy themes. “Death by Landscape” was set in a camp and the mysterious event took place on a cliff while they were on a canoe trip. You can really get a sense of the isolation and nature aspect while they are discussing the canoe trip. “It took them the same two days to go back that is had taken coming in” (pg. 343) suggests that they are far from any civilization and had to take two days just to get back and get the police. This is similar to Dave Eggers’ story when he discusses Francis’ situation. Francis was in a remote part of a park near a deep lake. She was completely alone when she rowed out to the center of the lake. Both stories have outdoor settings in fairly isolated areas.

2. The girls in the stories both mysteriously disappear. In “Death by Landscape”, Lucy screams and disappears after she was left alone to go to the bathroom. This is a mystery because we do not know if she fell (or jumped) off the cliff, she was kidnapped, or she disappeared by some supernatural force. The characters in the story never find out because neither they nor the police search team ever found evidence. In comparison, there is one piece of evidence in Dave Eggers’ story. “…on it were four words… They said, ‘I did knock first’” (pg. 2) Although this is a clue, it does not tell you what happened to Francis when she was out on the lake. It is quite the mystery because her disappearance seems to be the cause of something supernatural or something we would not be able to understand easily.

Through these similarities, both stories told a tale of a disappearance out in the wilderness. Based on the reading or listening contexts, I think that creepiest story was the one that was listened to. Dave Eggers’ voice portrayed his words in an ideal, mysterious way. The sound effects and pauses increased my anticipation and caused goose bumps to form when the knocking first occurred. It is quite the mystery and truly intrigues me in to wanting to know who was knocking and what happened to Francis.


Exotic Daydreams

Anthony Eastwood’s imagination is what led him to meet a foreign woman who in part inspired him to write his new novel.

In “The Mystery of the Spanish Shawl” by Agatha Christie, Anthony Eastwood’s imagination went wild as he was trying to think of new material for a story. Eastwood discusses the female characters he writes most about with an ivory pallor and big eyes. His editor also prefers female characters with exotic, foreign qualities. Then in his daydream, he meets a woman that matches this description precisely. “She really had the ivory pallor… And her eyes!… She was not English, that could be seen at a glance. She had a foreign exotic quality” (190-191). This description of the woman in the upstairs shop room describes the type of character Eastwood was thinking about right before his daydream began. It would be too coincidental for this to have been reality. Her ivory pallor is parallel to the character of Sonia or Dolores in which Eastwood was debating about putting in “The Mystery of the Second Cucumber.” Being able to tell she is foreign at a glance and describing her as having exotic qualities implicates that she is the type of character Eastwood’s editor would want in a story. Eastwood’s desire to think of a great new mystery novel to make money would encourage him to want to include elements that his editor would pay a lot of money for. Eastwood’s worry about finding a new plot and his ideas impacted his daydream by pulling in pieces of his thoughts into a coherent, mysterious adventure.

Intentional Danger

In Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw,” the reason for Miles’ calculated mischief lies in his determination for his uncle to realize his situation. Miles planned for his sister to look out the window in order for the governess to notice his absence and told the governess that he wanted her to think of him as bad (76). If the governess believes him to be bad and is unable to control him, she may summon the uncle. “’But who’ll get him to come down?’ ‘I will!’ the boy said with extraordinary brightness and emphasis” (92). The boy’s response comes after the governess’ claim that he, referring to the uncle, does not care about the boy’s situation. Miles’ response shows his determination. The italicized I indicated that this word’s tone is emphasized. The exclamation point makes it seem as if the phrase was spoken confidently, which shows that Miles is not messing around. He wants the uncle to come down and he will do what he must in order to make that happen. He says the statement with “extraordinary brightness and emphasis,” which again indicates the confident and positive manner in which he speaks. It seems that he is trying to show the governess that he can and will do as he wishes and will not be completely under her control. My claim and evidence can show that encounters between the ghost and Miles may not be accidental on Miles’ part, since Miles is purposely trying to cause trouble.

Misunderstood Struggles

The_Yellow_Wallpaper“The fact is I am getting a little afraid of John.

He seems very queer sometimes, and even Jennie has an inexplicable look.

It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific hypothesis, that perhaps it is the paper!

I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and came into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I’ve caught him several times looking at the paper! And Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once… Then she said that the paper stained everything it touched, that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John’s and she wished we would be more careful!” (92)

            Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper focuses on a young woman’s battle with depression, isolation, and emotional abuse. Gilman based the story on her own experiences with severe depression, which eventually led to her committing suicide. The above passage explores how the wallpaper, which is a metaphor for the narrator’s depression, affects the lives of those in the story. In the story John and Jennie are staring at the torn and ugly yellow wallpaper continuously. The narrator catches them several different times and realizes that the paper is not only bothering her but also them. My interpretation of this is that the wallpaper represents her depression. “There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes start at you upside down. I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl” (86). This demonstrates how the wallpaper relates to depression. The narrator is feeling the ups and downs of her depression and the frustration of its “everlastingness.” Even when she cannot relate to the others in the story she can relate to the yellow wallpaper. Because the wallpaper represents the depression, she hates it, just as she hates her own illness.

The narrator describes how the children who lived in the house previously “had perseverance as well as hatred” (87) when tearing apart the wallpaper. This could be a metaphor for how the people in the narrator’s lives are tearing her apart and making her depression worse. “He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self control” (90) John, her husband, is emotionally abusing her because he blames her for her depression and is not supportive. He tells all of their family that there is nothing wrong with her. John considers it a “slight hysterical tendency” (83), which is completely downplaying the seriousness of the narrator’s depression. He constantly tells her what she should be doing and discourages creativity, claiming his profession as a physician lends him the knowledge to assess her situation correctly. At one point he says, “I am a doctor, dear, and I know” (91). Although, how could he truly know how she is feeling inside of her mind?

The passage I chose uses many exclamation points. I believe this is to show that the narrator is getting more and more nervous or paranoid. The exclamation points are generally after talking about the wallpaper, showing how serious and intertwined the depression is within the narrator’s life. Gilman also italicized the phrase “looking at the paper!” to emphasize the shock that has overcome the narrator when noticing John and Jennie constantly studying the wallpaper. It has become her obsession as stated on page 88, “It dwells in my mind so!” and she does not want the others to notice. As they have constantly told her to push away her depression and to get better, she does not want them to notice that she getting worse. Just as she does not want them to notice the wallpaper, representing her struggles. In reality, however, both Jennie and John have noticed and are affected by her depression. When Jennie says that she keeps finding yellow stains on John and the narrator’s clothing, she is hinting that the depression is affecting both her and John. The narrator begins to realize this by page 95 when she says “I feel sure John and Jennie are affected by it.”

A main theme that this passage brings out in relation to the whole piece is that the narrator is not listened to or understood. She listens to and follows her husband and his diagnosis, even though she says “Personally, I disagree with their ideas” (83). This relates to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birth-mark and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait. In The Birth-mark, Georgiana disagreed with her husband’s idea of the imperfection of her birthmark at first, but then ends up following along with her husband. She loved him so much that she would do anything he asked, even risk her life. In The Oval Portrait, the woman did not want to sit in a room week after week as her husband painted a picture of her. However, she ended up doing as he wished because she loved him. The common theme in all of these stories is the obedience and dependency of the female characters rather than their freedom and independence. Although they may have defied their husband’s thoughts and ideas in their heads, they never did so in their actions.