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Essay/Term paper: Journal of short stories

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Ernest Hemingway

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Earnest Hemingway"s "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"

The main focus of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is on the pain of old age suffered by a man that we meet in a cafe late one night. Hemingway contrasts light and dark to show the difference between this man and the young people around him, and uses his deafness as an image of his separation from the rest of the world. Near the end of the story, the author shows us the desperate emptiness of a life near finished, and the aggravation of the old man's restless mind that cannot find peace. Throughout this story images of desperation show the old man's life at a point where he has realized the pointlessness of life and finds himself the lonely object of derision.

The most obvious image used by Hemingway in this story is that of the contrast between light and dark. The cafe is a "Clean, Well-Lighted Place". It is a refuge from the darkness of night. Darkness symbolizes fear and loneliness. The light symbolizes comfort and the company of others. There is bleakness in the dark, while the light calms the nerves. Unfortunately for the old man, this light is an artificial one, and its serenity is fleeting and deficient.

Maybe the old man hides in the shadows of the leaves because he recognizes the shortcoming of his sanctuary. Perhaps he is drawn to the shadows so that the darkness of his own age will not be so visible as it would be in the full force of the electric light. His body is dark with effects of illness. Even his ears bring him a sort of shadows as they hold out the sounds of the world. The old man's deafness is a powerful image used in the story. Deafness shuts the old man out from the rest of the world. The old man knows this and recognizes that he is completely cut off from the sounds that he probably had not thought much of as a young man. In this cafe so late at night he is not missing much. In fact, he might prefer to miss the conversation about him between the two waiters. The younger waiter is disgusted by the old man. He says, "I wouldn't want to be that old. An old man is a nasty thing." The old man may have said the same thing when he was young.

Another tool used by Hemingway in this story is the image of Nothing. Nothing is what the old man wants to escape. The Nothing is a relentless boredom, uninterrupted by joy or grief. It is eternal emptiness without comfort or camaraderie. It is the pointlessness of each heartbeat that is just like the last and refuses to give in to death. The old man's isolation is empty. His days without useful work or reason are empty. The emptiness of a life without progress of meaning is nothing, and this Nothing afflicts the old man with a powerful grip. The only escape from this Nothing is death.

The old man's death wish is further played out through the metaphor of insomnia, an ailment that he apparently shares with the older waiter. Insomnia keeps the two awake through the hours of darkness, just as a tenacious life keeps the old man breathing when he would rather rest in his grave. In the second paragraph of the story, the older waiter informs the younger that their elderly customer had tried to commit suicide the week before. The old man is racked with despair - at his loneliness, the darkness of his life, his segregation from the world, and the Nothingness that permeates his existence. He wants rest, but it is withheld from him. Even when he tries to take his own life, his niece cuts him down from his noose. Peace is far from this man, and what little relief he may find is incomplete like the artificial light of the cafe. He tries to drown himself in whiskey, but that also fails to bring him rest. His only hope is, as drunk as he is, that he passes out when he arrives home.

This story is filled with images of despair. The contrasts between light and dark, and youth and age are harsh and well defined. I left the story with a feeling that there is no escape from the doldrums of the winter years of life.

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"

"The Cask of Amontillado," is an example on the use of an unreliable narrator. Montresor tells his tale of revenge smugly, as he invites us to applaud his cleverness. By telling the story from Montresor's point of view, we are forced to look into the inner workings of a murderer's mind.

The story begins around dusk, one evening during the carnival season. The location quickly changes from the lighthearted activities associated with such a festival to the damp, dark catacombs under Montressor's palazzo, helping to establish the sinister atmosphere of the story.

The focus lies upon Montresor, the diabolical narrator of this tale of horror, who pledges revenge upon Fortunato for an insult. When the two meet, there is a warm greeting with shaking of hands. Montresor appears to be "happy" to see Fortunato since he is planning to murder him. Fortunato's clown or jester's costume appears to be appropriate not only for the carnival season but also for the fact that Montresor intends to make a "fool" out of him.

The story is written from the perspective of Montresor who vows revenge against Fortunato in an effort to support his time-honored family motto: "Nemo me impune lacessit" or "No one assails me with impunity." Telling the story from Montresor's point of view intensifies the effect of moral shock and horror.

Poe's story is a case of premeditated murder. I became quickly aware of the fact that Montresor is not a reliable narrator, and that he has a tendency to hold grudges and exaggerate, as he refers to the "thousand injuries" that he has suffered at the hands of Fortunato. Montresor tries to convince us that his intentions are honorable in an effort to uphold his family motto, which is also the national motto of Scotland. Fortunato was a man 'rich, respected, admired, beloved,' interested in wines, and a member of the Masons. I viewed the story more as an anti-aristocratic commentary than just a tale of revenge.

"The Cask of Amontillado" is a carefully crafted story that is laced with dramatic and verbal irony. Dramatic irony occurs when we become aware of what will become of Fortunato even though the character continues his descent into the catacombs in pursuit of the Amontillado. Further adding to this effect is calling the character Fortunato, who is anything but fortunate, and dressing him in a clown or a fool's costume. There are numerous examples of verbal irony within Montresor's words. Montresor expressing concern about Fortunato's health, and several times suggesting that they should turn back. Montresor gives one of the most memorable lines of the story in response to Fortunato saying, "I will not die of a cough." Montresor says, "True--true...." Another example can be seen when Montresor toasts Fortunato's long life he says "In pace requiescat!" ("Rest in peace!"), which is the last irony of a heavily ironic tale

In conclusion, "The Cask of Amontillado" is a powerful tale of revenge. Montresor, the sinister narrator of this tale, pledges revenge upon Fortunato for an insult. Montresor intends to seek vengeance in support of his family motto. It is important for Montresor to have his victim know what is happening to him. Montresor will derive pleasure from the fact that Fortunato dies slowly.

Kate Chopin"s "The Story of an Hour"

When I first began reading "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard seemed to me an old woman and, as we are told in the very first line, "afflicted with a heart trouble." I was surprised in the eighth paragraph when Chopin tells us that "She was young," but even more interesting to me was that she is described as having "a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression" which depicts her as being old for her age.

After reading through this story the first time, I had many questions and many conclusions. For instance, it seems as if Chopin is showing us a social situation of the times with the woman as prisoner of her husband. It is common knowledge that marriages are not always about mutual love between two people and during the time that Chopin was writing, this was more often the case. Marriage was as much about monetary comfort, social status and acceptance as it was about possible love. There are no children mentioned in this story, which makes me wonder if there was a sexual relationship between the Mallards. It seems from the description that Mrs. Mallard has been trapped in this marriage for a long time even though we know she is young. How young is she? Even though I say she is trapped, do not misunderstand me. I do not think this marriage is arranged; instead that she has been coerced by her society to marry despite what she may want to do in her heart and soul. I believe she does love her husband, but it is possible to love and not be married. This was not her case; if she were able (meaning a man would agree with her decision) and she did engage in a loving relationship with a man who was not her husband, she would have certainly been looked down upon.

Is her heart condition purely physical or is it also psychological and emotional? We know the stereotypes, as Chopin did, that women are hysterical, timid, weak, and irrational. Could it be that her heart condition is created by those tiptoeing around her in conjunction with her own emotional weaknesses?

I find it interesting that her first name is only told to us after she hears of her husband"s death and when she feels the freest. Before this point she is referred to as Mrs. Mallard or "she," and after this point when her husband returns home, she is referred to as "wife." Chopin is pointing to something very interesting here which leads me back to the title of woman as "wife." When Louise marries Bently she becomes Mrs. Mallard; she loses her identity and assumes a new and strange one. While it seems very normal and average for a wife to assume her husband"s name in marriage and in that time, to put it harshly, become the property of him, it cannot be ignored that a certain part of the self is lost.

I do feel that there were tensions in the marriage, which lead to this incident. Louise must have been unhappy, since no matter what time period it is in which a marriage exists, the death of a spouse would not evoke positive feelings. Marriage has never been intended as a prison in my eyes, though I am sure many others would beg to differ. As far as who was causing problems within the marriage, I would lean toward a mutual conflict where both sides are equally guilty. The most intriguing part of the story to me is the possibility of it all being a very evil hoax. Richards and Brently, who were close friends, had drawn up this scheme to deceive Brently's wife in an attempt to discern how she truly felt about their marriage. Richards was the informant to the family of the supposed crash. To me it is odd that no one else provided similar evidence beyond the possibly fictitious telegram that came to Richards. It is also possible that Richards had acted alone in conceiving this scheme. The reason no one followed her to her room is not clear. It is possible that they too were all well aware of the hoax, or that they were all aware of Louise's marital dissatisfaction.


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