Loopholes in “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett

I think the main loophole in Jewett’s story is how Sylvia was able to “escape” betraying the white heron’s location to the male stranger by deciding to not do anything. Ever since she arrived at her grandmother’s farm, she has finally felt “at home” with all of the animals and nature. When a young and handsome hunter arrives, he presents a potential change to what Sylvia has come to know and love. He gives her choices of things she never had before; money and maybe even a relationship. She, in the end, however, chooses nature over her own desires. But this created a conflict, as the hunter was still looking to her to reveal the location of the white heron. The loophole in the story is that, when the hunter asked Sylvia the birds’ location, she remained silent, even though she knew its exact location. Through her inaction by not speaking, she is able to save the white heron from death and is able to remain close to the nature that she loves above all.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

“. . . and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”

This quote from Frederick Douglass, said after his two hour long fight with Edward Covey, one of his cruelest slave masters, emphasized his victory not only over Covey, but also his victory over slavery in general. When he says, “. . . and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact,” points out that no matter how long he is physically enslaved, because of his success over Covey, and the fact that his success was even possible, proved to him that he no longer has to be mentally bound to slavery, and he is refilled with new resolve to escape.

Previously, under the treatment of Covey, the incredibly demanding hard work that was required of him was not just physically draining, but also mentally debilitating. Despite his determination on learning how to read and write, and also on eventually escaping, Covey’s cruel treatment breaks Douglass’ spirit. Nevertheless, because of his victory, his rediscovered enthusiasm and will helps empower him to actually escape a few years later from his final slave master, William Freeland.

This type of distinction is seen in several other parts of Douglass’ Narrative, such as when Douglass priorities his desire for an escape from slavery during his servitude with Freeland, “But, by this time, I began to want to live upon free land as well as with Freeland; and I was no longer content, therefore, to live with him or any other slaveholder.” The contradiction of his master, Freeland, as the one holding Douglass under enslavement, despite a “free land” being what Douglass wanted most, is what helped finally motivate and enable Douglass to make his final escape to New York, “ I began, with the commencement of the year, to prepare myself for a final struggle, which should decide my fate one way or the other … I was fast approaching manhood, and year after year had passed, and I was still a slave. These thoughts roused me—I must do something.”

“Barbaric Yawp”

Near the end of “Song of Myself,” Whitman states that he will “sound [his] barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” Consider all of the ways in which we should consider Whitman’s “poem” as a “barbaric yawp.”

By definition, “barbaric” means to be uncivilized, while a “yawp” is a loud, harsh cry. By Whitman saying that he will “sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world,” I take this to mean that he will basically give his own personal outcry to everyone that explains who he is and what he wants to say. However, by describing his cry to the world as “barbaric,” he is presenting his voice as uncivilized. When I look at synonyms of “uncivilized,” I see words like wild and vulgar. This causes me to think that by saying his cry is uncivilized, he is implying that, despite the fact that he is yelling out to everyone, his words are so strange (not to him but to everyone else) that no one really understands what he is saying to them.

The rest of Whitman’s poem helps us to better understand his “barbaric yawp” by how it is not a poem in the “traditional” sense. The entirety of “Song of Myself” is an anti-poem, written completely in free verse. Because Whitman wrote “Song of Myself” in this style, he set himself apart from other poets, allowing himself to be expressed in his own personal way. By doing this, Whitman challenged the normal and regular view of poetry at the time of its original publication, probably causing many people to view Whitman’s entire poem as one big “barbaric yawp” to the world. For me, there were many times where I came across “barbaric yawps” while I read the poem, which is probably why at times, I did not understand what Whitman was trying to say.

“Song of Myself” – Walt Whitman

What is the most interesting one or two (consecutive) lines in Whitman’s poem and what makes it/them interesting?

Let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,

And that we call Being.

I found these lines interesting to me for many reasons, but mainly because of how true they are to me in my life. It is my understanding that this section of the poem is discussing the various mysteries of life through our senses; how we are able to speak and how we are able to hear, and how we are able to feel these sensations. This is seen in several lines, such as, “My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach, With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds” and “Now I will do nothing but listen, To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.” Because of these senses, we are able to have experiences in our lives, and are able to be unique from one another.

What is interesting to me, however, is that the lines I chose (and the lines leading up to it), “I hear the trained soprano . . . . she convulses me like the climax of my love-grip; The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies, It wrenches unnamable ardors from my breast, It throbs me to gulps of the farthest down horror, It sails me . . . . I dab with bare feet . . . . they are licked by the indolent waves, I am exposed . . . . cut by bitter and poisoned hail, Steeped amid honeyed morphine . . . . my windpipe squeezed in the fakes of death, Let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles, And that we call Being” all point out that because of our senses and experiences, we are all able to live our lives in our own way even though we don’t even realize this is happening, thus “the puzzle of puzzles, And that we call Being.” I feel like this is true because sometimes I know I wonder why certain things happen to me in my life. Or, I hear or see something from someone else (good or bad) and their experience influences me to not follow what they are doing or to try and follow their example.

“The American Scholar” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is the most difficult single sentence in Emerson’s essay and what makes it difficult?

I grasp the hands of those next me, and take my place in the ring to suffer and to work, taught by an instinct, that so shall the dumb abyss be vocal with speech.

When I first read this sentence, I had no idea what Emerson meant. While the entire speech was difficult to understand, due to his formal diction and frequent use of complex vocabulary words, this sentence in particular stood out to me. In general, I think I got the main idea of what he was trying to say throughout the speech, however my difficult sentence, especially the part, “that so shall the dumb abyss be vocal with speech,” puzzled me. In the previous paragraph, I believe Emerson describes how the scholar should be willing to take action in his life, and how if he does not take that action, he is a coward.

The next paragraph, however, is where my confusion starts. Emerson begins by saying, “The world, — this shadow of the soul, or other me, lies wide around. Its attractions are the keys which unlock my thoughts and make me acquainted with myself. I run eagerly into this resounding tumult.” This I am not really sure what to make of. Guessing, I believe these three sentences are saying that the scholars’ potential is waiting to be taken, and once you have reached this potential in yourself, you will finally be able to be yourself, only you haven’t reached it yet. The next sentence, “I grasp the hands of those next me, and take my place in the ring to suffer and to work, taught by an instinct, that so shall the dumb abyss be vocal with speech,” I believe is saying that the scholar is attempting to take his potential through hard work, but the second part of the sentence makes no sense to me. Why would Emerson describe the abyss as “dumb,” and why would sounds be coming out of it at all? Looking at rest of the paragraph, I believe Emerson is telling us about how the scholar reaches his potential and changes himself.

The sentence itself relates to other ideas and language in the speech by its style. While following the same tone and diction of the whole speech, Emerson continues his address to the students of Cambridge. Overall, the only way for me to understand this sentence in its entirety, I would have to examine other paragraphs around it for context clues. My main problem, however, is that I cannot get a clear point from the next paragraph either. The only paragraph around my difficult sentence that I understand well enough is the previous paragraph, which seems, to me, unrelated. I might be missing a major detail or point that everyone else had noticed, but I know I can’t see it. Mostly likely, I cannot understand my difficult sentence because I have completely missed the entire idea that the paragraph is actually trying to make, and that the scholar is not even looking for his potential, but is actually doing something else altogether.

About Me!

Hello! My name is Gabrielle Brignetti (but you can call me Gabie!) and this is my American Literature 258 blog! I am a freshman here at San Francisco State University and this is my first ever semester of college! I am planning on majoring in Computer Science, while possibly minoring in Computer Engineering. While I am sure this makes me sound like I really love math, the truth is, my favorite subject is actually English (I hate math, so much). I have always loved reading books ever since I was little. Besides reading, I really love to watch tv! I am totally obsessed with shows like Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Legend of Korra, Grimm, The 100 and more (the list goes on). So when most of my shows come out with their new seasons in October I will probably go crazy or something (sorry in advance). Some things I like to do for fun other than watching tv and reading is hanging out with my friends, sleeping, playing skyrim, going on tumblr and playing with my cats.