Author: pangism

Lucy the Landscape

The title of Margaret Atwood’s “Death by Landscape” is vital to knowing why Lucy disappeared and is also a critique on modern society. Landscape paintings tend to reverse what a viewer pays attention to in a painting. Rocks, trees, and streams always serve as the background to beautiful picnics, happy families and smiling faces, but a landscape painting brings the background to the foreground. Suddenly the part that no one pays attention to becomes front and center. Lucy was very much like a painting, a beautiful wealthy girl who had a great experience filled life. She had a boyfriend before Lois and everything Lois thought was exciting she thought was simply ordinary. It is easy to see that Lois envied her life. She was too caught up in the foreground to notice the background. Lucy had troubles like a stepfather she didn’t like and an adulterous mother. She sleeps a lot and potentially suffers from depression. It’s these things, the background, the landscape of Lucy’s life that kills her. It’s why Lois owns so many landscape paintings. Of course she lost Lucy to a landscape, but she also wants to remind herself not to forget about the background, the issues beneath the surface. She knew that she became lost in the beauty of Lucy’s life. How care free she seemed. How she had experienced so much more than she had. In this way, Atwood is trying to tell the reader that there is depth to every situation and that nothing is truly how it appears on the surface. She wants us to know that if we don’t heed this warning, we might also suffer or cause, a death by landscape.Atwood says that the landscape paintings are “Where Lucy is” which makes sense because the landscapes were who Lucy was.

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Mystery Through Familiarity

Gaiman cleverly misdirects the reader into believing that the narrator and his friend are the iconic Watson and Holmes in order to create a sense of mystery surrounding the duo and give the reader the comfort of familiarity only to provide a surprise twist in the end.

At the end of the story, the murderous accomplice of Vernet is revealed to be “John (or perhaps James) Watson” which leads the reader to question what happened to Watson and Holmes to lead the iconic duo to commit murder. It is then hinted that Vernet is Holmes because he not only outwits the narrator’s detective friend, but also suggested some “wild theories furthering the relationship between mass, energy, and the hypothetical speed of light”. The reader knows from “A Study in Scarlet” that Holmes knew certain useful aspects of the sciences which would lead many to conclude that Holmes is Vernet. This would lead the reader into many questions surrounding the duo which in this tale have been revealed to be anarchists. Perhaps the duo became tired of the old mundane bureaucratic police system when the government botched an important case and now seek to overthrow it. With Holmes’s apparent interest in mass energy and the speed of light, for which an equation was derived by Einstein that was vital in creating the atomic bomb, the reader also gets a sense that something has gone horribly wrong. Finally the narrator teases that an event happened in Russia, perhaps another royal death, only bringing further questions into Watson and the detective’s decent. None of this intrigue could have been accomplished to this wild scale had it not been for the initial misdirection of thinking the narrator and his friend were Watson and Holmes. Shock tends to lead to intrigue, and by providing the reader with familiarity, Gaiman created a lot of mystery.

A Beggar in King’s Clothing

     In Act 4 of Hamlet, the young prince confronts Claudius about the legitimacy of his ascent to the throne by saying that there is not much difference between a king and a beggar. He states that all men are united in that they are eaten by worms and that worms can be used by any common man to catch other food. In this way he is saying that at the end of the day, Claudius’s title won’t protect him from the dirty way he became king or Hamlet’s righteous revenge. On page 98 line 30, Hamlet says “Nothing but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar.” An important thing to notice is how Hamlet goes about saying this to a King, no less his stepfather. There is definitely a witty, disrespecting tone being given off in the phrase, showing that Hamlet does not fear Claudius. His tone shows his disgust with Claudius and his incestuous relationship with Gertrude. Shakespeare chooses to use the phrase “a progress” which is significant because it means a royal journey. This adds more depth to the quote because it is another jab at Claudius by Hamlet. No journey through someone’s bowls seems pleasant or even clean. This is a way for Hamlet to tell Claudius that the way he has become a King is filthy, that he has taken the dirty route. However, there is one more significant and damning meaning to this quote. Hamlet tells Claudius that he is no better than a beggar by creating a scenario in which he is digested by a beggar. Hamlet is telling Claudius that by murdering his father and marrying his mother, he has committed an act of the lowliest of man. It also tells Claudius that his position will not protect him. That any righteous revenge Hamlet may take will be justified. The significance of this conversation and how threatening the tone of it all causes Claudius to plot to murder Hamlet.

Killing Them with Kindness

“I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.” – Poe 553

            Everyone has heard of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. In “The Cask of Amontillado” the narrator, Montresor, does just that when he gives his “friend” a chance to validate a pipe of Amontillado. This mentality is captured by the quote on page 553 of the text. This passage reveals just how dastardly the man is. He says that he smiles at Fortunato not as a sign of friendship, but at the thought of his murder. Poe cleverly includes “as was my wont” in the text, letting the reader know that this man was accustomed to being friendly to Fortunato. “Now” is also italicized, giving emphasis that thoughts of aggression towards Fortunato were very real and would happen soon. This passage is critical to understanding the text because it sets the mood for the piece. From now on the reader knows Montresor’s intentions are anything but friendly and that any actions he takes from this point forward were premeditated. The text is very ironic because the reader knows that Montresor is scheming and putting on a façade to Fortunato but he is completely unaware.

            Montresor’s intentions can be best explained by the passage before which talks about how Montresor had been wronged by Fortunato many times, giving a motive for revenge. After the selected passage, Montresor reveals how he will lure Fortunato by exploiting the Italian’s hubris of wine connoisseurship. When given this context, the quoted piece is given a few finer details as to why or how he was going to murder Fortunato. In this way a consistent theme is established. We know that Montresor is controlling the situation and that Fortunato is almost clueless to the ruse.

            The rest of the text can now be interpreted with this keystone, Montresor is trying to kill Fortunato with kindness. On page 553 and 556 Montresor keeps calling Fortunato his friend. With the knowledge that the selected text has given the reader, he or she knows that this is extremely ironic. How friendly is it to be plotting someone’s death? The selected text explains many more actions. On page 553, Montresor compliments Fortunato on his dress then criticizes himself for not inquiring for Fortunato’s assistance when deciding to purchase the Amontillado. In this instance, Montresor is trying to stroke Fortunato’s ego, entice him into validating the wine. Upon entering the catacombs on page 554, Fortunato is twice warned that the cold will make him ill. These well timed caring actions not only reassure Fortunato that Montresor is a friend but encourages him to go on as if to prove that he was strong to his male companion. On page 554, Montresor offers Fortunato alcohol, a sign of friendship but also part of his scheme in making sure that Fortunato continues the journey through the catacombs, blinded by intoxication.

            Interestingly enough, one characteristic of friendship is knowledge about the person. In this regard, Montresor may actually be classified as a friend. He knew how much pride Fortunato took in his wine tasting abilities. On page 553, it shows that he also knew that Fortunato was the kind of man who’s “enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity”. Knowledge of this fact allowed to Montresor to present Fortunato an opportunity of a lifetime, the possibility of a cask of Amontillado. He also knew that Fortunato had a competitive spirit. He challenges this multiple time throughout the text by stating that he should just bring the wine to another man, Luchesi. Fortunato vehemently rejects the idea by calling Luchesi an “ignoramus” on page 556, and taking the thought of such a thing as an insult to his wine tasting prowess.

            With a fake smile and knowledge of a close friend, Montressor murdered Fortunato. Throughout the text, Montressor offers the warmth of friendship and alcohol to him. However at the end of the day, neither would be able to warm Fortunato’s cold dead body in those catacombs. Turns out that kindness was just as suffocating as the stones used to seal him in.