We Were The Mulvaneys
The Portrayal of Rape in We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
A young woman walks along the sidewalk of a mostly deserted street, pushing at the flapping, billowing length of her long dress in the breeze. The bank where she works closes late on Fridays, forcing her to make the trek back to her little apartment in the dim evening light. The woman does not notice the eyes following her from an alleyway until, moments later, the man’s hands are clenched around her wrists. He’s staring straight at her, pushing her back toward the alleyway, tearing away her clothing as she claws at his face and shrieks for help. This stranger rape stereotype is not a reality for most victims, and it was not a reality for the award winning American author Joyce Carol Oates who was violently raped in an outhouse at school by boys she sat in class with every day. Neither was this a reality for Oates’s character Marianne Mulvaney, the only daughter of the well-known Mulvaney household. In the novel We Were the Mulvaneys, Marianne is raped by her date to the Valentine’s Day dance – not by a stranger. The terrible effects of this event on Marianne, her family, and her community were enormous and took years to fully heal. Sadly, these effects haunt not only the written pages of Marianne’s life but the lives of sexually assaulted women in society today.
Since the 1970’s, the time in which the novel We Were the Mulvaneys takes place, various laws against rape have been established in an attempt to increase the percentage of rapes reported to the police, the probability of going to prison for rape, and the likelihood of a prison sentence for acquaintance rape. One of these laws is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which, according to the International Models Project on Women’s Rights, “is intended to improve investigation and prosecution of rape, domestic violence, and other violent crimes against women” (“Law Reform Efforts: Rape and Sexual Assault in the United States of America” 5). However, the VAWA was not passed until 1994, almost two decades after the night of the Valentine’s dance in We Were the Mulvaneys. Others include marital rape laws, which redefined rape to include spousal sexual assault, as well as Title IX, a “federal law that protects students from gender discrimination in a school’s academic, educational, extracurricular, athletics and other programs” and requires the school to address sexual harassment (3).
With the implementation of these laws and various others passed throughout the 1970’s and into the 1990’s, the probability of going to prison for committing rape has increased at a faster pace than that of robbery and assault partially due to the increase in rapes reported between 1980 and 1990 being 10 percent. According to Ronet Bachman, PhD, and Raymond Paternoster, PhD, this percentage is higher than the increase for assault at 4 percent and robbery which decreased 12 percent. (566) Since the acknowledgement of rape as a major social issue in the 1970’s, Sarah McMahon, the Associate Director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children, says there has been “increased public awareness of the problem, many more services for survivors, widespread legislative reform, additional research and funding to understand the issue, and implementation of prevention education in communities across the country” (McMahon 1). While experts and courts no longer believe in stereotypes such as stranger rape and now advocate for legislative reform such as Title IX and the VAWA, much of society still holds on to the perception that assault cannot be rape without vaginal penetration. This perception has pulled attention from recognition of the majority of sexual assaults committed by acquaintances which happened to Marianne when Zachary, her date to the Valentine’s dance, raped her in the back seat of his Corvette.
Yet another false belief held by many in the community is the degree of responsibility regarding intoxication. Most people believe that when a victim has been drinking, he or she is more responsible for his or her “careless” behavior, and that when a perpetrator has been drinking, he or she is less responsible for committing the rape. The problem with such a perception is that the victim is unable to give consent while intoxicated. On the night of the incident, Marianne and Zachary went to a party after the dance, and at the party, Marianne had “been drinking something made of orange juice, and she’d been warned but had not listened, or could not remember having listened” (134; “Imminent Mortality”). Marianne herself seemed to hold the perception that she was at blame for drinking: “she had decided she must do nothing, for it was she who had made the mistake and not the boy and she must not bear witness against him” (134; “Imminent Mortality”). Repeatedly, Marianne states that she could bear false witness against Zachary because she cannot clearly remember the event. In this case, Marianne exhibits strong self-blame, even going so far as to have said, “I was drinking. I was to blame” (142; “The Penitent”). She believes that because she was intoxicated she cannot clearly remember the event, or at least not clearly enough to testify against Zachary, and that it is her fault she was raped. On the contrary, this belief is false: Marianne could not give consent because she was intoxicated, and therefore, she was raped. She was not raped because she was intoxicated.
According to Courtney Ahrens, a psychology professor at California State University, Marianne exhibits “negative religious coping that is related to higher levels of depression” in repeatedly saying she cannot bear false witness (Ahrens 1). Marianne claims that after having prayed and thought about the incident for a few days, she cannot possibly bring charges against Zachary, and she feels more connected to God and Jesus for “blessed be they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (144; The “Penitent”). Marianne’s thoughts are twisted during this time, and she uses her religion to negatively cope; in aligning herself with the suffering of Jesus, she determines that she cannot press charges against Zachary.
Marianne, contrary to most victims, does grow in her faith after the incident – granted that the growth is a symptom of her negative religious coping. The previous spiritual life of most victims may have been “profoundly changed and/or shattered by the experience” (Morrison 57). This statement proves true for Marianne. She had been a good Christian girl before the incident, and she had attended church on a regular basis. After the incident, however, Marianne’s spiritual life experiences a tremendous growth.
However, Marianne’s claims that she must not bear false witness for she could not remember the event are false. It is clear that she does remember. Repeatedly throughout the novel there are italicized phrases which show her memories of things Zachary did or said, and on top of that one paragraph describes the following: “after what he’d done to her, inside her, deep and up inside her, using his fingers snatching, digging, clawing You bitch! cunt! don’t tell me you don’t want it, cunt! down into the seat of the Corvette, the new-smelling leather upholstery, the cold fabric, and his furious pale face leaning close, shoving her legs apart, her thighs, the dress ripping” (144; “The Penitent”). Clearly, Marianne does remember the event, and she feels responsible for not stopping it and for having been intoxicated while it happened. Due to these false feelings of responsibility, Marianne chooses not to press charges and instead claims she simply cannot remember.
The root cause of this self-blame is an attribution that survivors must make in order for them to understand why the assault occurred. Sarah Ullman, who works with the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois, says the two types of attributions are behavioral assault which “reflects the survivor’s belief that their own behavior led to the assault,” and characterological assault which “focuses not on behavior but on the survivor’s personality or character as the cause of rape” (Ullman 25). Marianne exhibits behavioral assault because she believed her behavior, the drinking, led to the assault.
According to Zoe Morrison, the coordinator of the Australian Center for the Study of Sexual Assault, victims of rape may experience anxiety, shock, confusion, PTSD, denial, self-blame, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts as well as headaches, eating disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome (56). In a similar way, Marianne experiences the self-blame just discussed, and she also experiences low self-esteem and anorexia, a serious eating disorder. Later within the novel after Marianne has gone on to college, her brother Patrick comes to visit her. Upon arriving, Patrick at first does not recognize Marianne because he has not seen her in so long, and her appearance is so drastically altered from that of the popular cheerleader she had been:
Patrick saw, to his astonishment, that this was Marianne, his sister – her hair cut cruelly short, face waxy-pale and mouth slack, so without expression, in the daze of sleep, he hadn’t recognized her. She looked so young, so – childlike. She wore a thin corduroy jacket, unbuttoned, and slacks with a stretch band waist, and a flimsy white cotton t-shirt stamped in green Green Isle CO-OP; her left breast, the size and apparent hardness of a green pear, was sharply outlined by the ribbed white fabric. (214; “Snow After Easter”)
She has lost weight, indicated by the description of her breast, and he at first mistook her for a boy due to her thin frame and short hair. The transformation of Marianne from the beginning to the middle of the novel represents the transformation that many victims of rape go through in reality, and the appearance of Marianne in this portion of the novel is what many people truly experience.
Marianne’s maladaptive reaction to the rape is partially a result of the reactions of family and community members. According to a study performed by Mark Relyea and Sarah Ullman, two professors at the University of Illinois at Chicago, “reactions of being turned against were related to social withdrawal, increased self-blame, and decreased sexual assertiveness” (1). Throughout the course of the novel, Marianne demonstrates these reactions. Her family turns away from her shortly after the incident and sends her to live with her aunt. Her friends do not bother to call her. She is shut out of the community. While Marianne had a strong support system throughout most of her life with her family, it “fail[ed] her in providing assault-specific supportive responses to assault disclosure” (Ullman 25). Marianne’s loss of a support system in such dire times is in alignment with that of the majority of raped women according to a study conducted by Relvea and Ullman. In this study, ninety-four percent of women agreed that they received some form of acknowledgement that the rape happened but no support (Relyea and Ullman 1). The only acknowledgement Marianne receives comes in the form of her family forcing her to move out.
Marianne’s family cannot be entirely blamed for sending her away though because as secondary victims of the rape they must cope in their own ways. Since they bore witness to the trauma of Marianne, they may experience symptoms similar to hers (Morrison 56). Negative responses can lead to shattering family relationships and functioning. Thus, it is unsurprising that from the moment Marianne is sent away, the Mulvaneys unravel and are never all together again throughout the rest of the novel. As secondary victims, the Mulvaneys experience what has been termed as Remer and Ferguson’s Five Stage Trauma Processing Model (57). The stages are as follows: trauma awareness, crisis and disorientation, outward adjustment, re-organization, and integration and resolution. Trauma awareness consists of the assault being disclosed to the family member. Trauma awareness is closely followed by crisis and disorientation, which consists of recognition of the trauma by the family members. After this, outward adjustment occurs, and people may exhibit the appearance of coping. Re-organization consists of new forms of relating developing as a result of integration and resolution of trauma. In integration and resolution, the final stage, the trauma is integrated and fully resolved. (57)
According to Morrison, mothers may often feel a sense of guilt and failure, which is clearly exhibited by Corinne in the novel: “I hadn’t known, God help me I hadn’t guessed. Yet I think it must have been partly my fault. I’m her mother, it must have been partly my fault” (114; “Damaged Girl). This is part of Corinne’s trauma awareness, her reaction to the disclosure of what has happened. The trauma awareness of Michael Sr., Marianne’s father, comes when Corinne tells him what has happened to Marianne. Initially, he does not react – does not yell or scream as she thought he would. He takes the news “as one who might take news of one’s imminent mortality” (136; “Imminent Mortality”). Later that night, Michael Sr. progresses into the stage of crisis and disorientation when he drives to the Lundt’s house and attacks Zachary (141; “The Assault”). This stage is continued when he cannot acknowledge Marianne. If Marianne “entered a room in which he stood or sat, he would shortly leave. Forehead creased, eyes shifting so he need not see her” (147; “The Penitent”). Michael Sr. then exhibits the stage of outward adjustment when Marianne is sent away. He and the rest of the family attempt to continue living their lives, and Michael Sr. begins to smoke and drink at an alarming rate.
Marianne’s brothers, however, react differently. Patrick, her older brother, initially reacts to the rape by following along with his parents and not doing very much aside from escaping to college; this is his crisis and disorientation reaction to the rape. Later in the novel, however, Patrick slips into his stage of outward adjustment by taking action against Zachary Lundt. He literally becomes the Huntsman, the hunter from the painting of Corinne’s he loves so much. Patrick is the smartest Mulvaney, and he formulates a plan with the help of Judd, Marianne’s youngest brother, to kill Zachary Lundt. In his head, Patrick often imagines how the scene will play out: “You raped my sister he would say. He would accuse You raped my sister, you destroyed my family. At gunpoint holding his cringing, cowering enemy Did you think you would never be punished?” (275; “Crossing Over”). Patrick attempts to cope through the punishment of Zachary, but this is only a futile effort just as Michael Sr.’s smoking and drinking is.
Marianne’s eldest brother Mike Jr. deals with the rape by rebelling: “sometimes arriving at the work site late, or failing to show up at all…. Nights, he ran with a wild, hard-drinking crowd” (189; “One By One”). He shows his stages of crisis and disorientation and outward adjustment in this rebellion. Later, Mike Jr. seeks the rigid structure needed for him to heal by joining the Marines. In joining the Marines, Mike Jr. discovers the first true beginning of the healing in his stage of re-organization. He has begun to integrate the trauma now.
Judd Mulvaney, the youngest, is left in the dark for much of the beginning of the novel, so he does not have an opportunity to exhibit a trauma awareness stage until later. He is a child at the time, so his family does not make him aware of what happened to Marianne until later in the novel. When the time comes, Judd aids Patrick in Patrick’s quest to punish Zachary Lundt. However, this is not Judd’s way of coping with the trauma. No, Judd copes by telling stories. He is the narrator of the novel, and by telling the story of what has happened to his family, Judd comes to his stage of integration and resolution, the final stage in the trauma processing model.
Of the various types of communities described by Mary Koss, a clinical and community psychologist, and Mary Harvey, a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona, the family is known as the kinship community: they are “defined by common bloodlines and familial relationships” (93). Most rape victims belong not only to one of these kinship communities, but also to others such as place communities – a city, town, etc. – and nonplace communities which are not determined by place but by shared attributes (93). Marianne’s place community in the novel is Mt. Ephraim, New York, and her nonplace communities consist of school and cheerleading. These communities “grant identity and a sense of belonging to community members, serving as contexts for the development and expression of personal identity” (94). If a victim of rape has her membership in these communities reaffirmed after her rape, she will likely recover much more quickly. However, if the rape somehow causes her to be excluded from these communities, the trauma will be worsened. (94) In the novel, Marianne is shunned from not only her kinship community when she is sent away, but also from her place and nonplace communities, and she is forced to completely rebuild in a new town while living with her aunt.
Since Marianne is forced out of all of the communities she has grown up knowing, her support systems completely fail her. She does not even go to see a doctor until several days after the incident, and before this visit, none of her family or friends know what happened. With the lack of services provided to her after the rape, she may have felt excluded from the community as many victims of rape do. Her family is excluded from the community as well. Patrick and Mike Jr. end up leaving Mt. Ephraim only a short time after Marianne does, leaving only Judd, Michael Sr., and Corinne on the family farm. While they still live in Mt. Ephraim, they are no longer real participants in the community. Michael Sr. is kicked out of the country club, one of his nonplace communities. Corinne resigns from the P.T.A and stops going to the meetings. Lawyers are hired when Michael Sr. is arrested and put on probation after his outburst at the country club. In other words, the Mulvaney family is “turned inside out for everyone to contemplate” (263; “The Accomplice”).
Wherever the Mulvaneys go, they are avoided like the plague. No one wants to speak to them or be associated with them. According to David Myers, a professor at Hope College, this lack of acknowledgement can be explained through the understanding of conformity, the “adjust[ment] of our behavior or thinking to coincide with a group standard” (763). No one wishes to be associated with the Mulvaneys because there is a group pull to exclude them, and it is in people’s natural instincts to conform. Conformity can best be explained through the experiments of renowned psychologist Alfred Asch. Asch performed conformity experiments to observe normative social influence, the “influence resulting from a person’s desire to gain approval or avoid disapproval” (764). In the experiment, Asch had a group of people observe several lines and choose which line matched an example line in length. All of the people in the experiment – except one – were actors hired for the purpose of the experiment. In the first round of the experiment, all of the actors were told to give the correct answer, but in subsequent rounds, the actors were told to report false answers. The majority of the time, the person who was not an actor would comply and report a false answer because he or she wanted to fit in with the group.
It is not difficult to understand then that when the Mulvaneys attended Patrick’s graduation “the crowd seemed to part…. Fascinating: how people who’d known Corinne and Michael Mulvaney for twenty years seemed now not to see them, or, unable to reasonably not see them, smiled vaguely, with a pretense of enthusiasm, then turned away to greet others” (198; “Valedictory Speech”). Contrary to this, the Lundt’s were welcomed with open arms: “The Lundts were at the far side of the foyer, entering the auditorium talking and laughing with friends” (200; “Valedictory Speech”). The stigma against rape causes conformity like this not only in the novel, but for real families after the incident. In adopting this attitude of exclusion, the community has therefore adopted a rape-supportive belief system which only further isolates Marianne and her family from the community (Koss and Harvey 94).
Eventually, the Mulvaneys are forced to leave the place community of Mt. Ephraim and sell the farm that meant so much to them. They can no longer run the farm with only three people “so, in March 1980 strangers came to live in the house in which the Mulvaneys had lived since 1955. Supplanting Mulvaneys as if we’d never been” (358; “Hard Reckoning”). After the Mulvaneys move away, the community can finally begin healing itself from the rape. The Mulvaney family, however, does not heal until the very end of the novel. Michael Sr. refuses to see Marianne or even acknowledge her existence until he is on his death bed. Therefore, the healing process for the Mulvaneys and for Marianne cannot begin until Michael Sr. dies.
On a personal level, Marianne’s healing process can be seen as a journey. She moves from her CO-OP to living as an in-home nurse to working with Dr. Whittaker West, a veterinarian who she ends up marrying. She runs from her responsibilities at both of the first two jobs, but at the latter she finally begins healing because she finds acceptance and happiness. According to two women who work in the Health Sciences Division at the University of Charleston, Marilyn Smith and Lillian Kelly, there are three themes that a rape victim must go through in recovery: redefinition of self, reframing of the rape, and reaching out to others (343). When Marianne finally stops running and finds happiness with Whittaker West, she begins the stage of reaching out to others and can finally find a sense of normalcy. Thus begins her recovery, for which there are many definitions. According to psychologists A.W. Burgess and L.L. Holmstrom, recovery can best be defined as follows: “she or he can honestly say that the memory is not as frequent, the physical distress not as great, and the intensity of the memory has decreased. The victim will then have psychologically let go of the pain, fear, and memory, and will feel a degree of calm that enables him or her to go about the business of living again” (qtd. in Smith and Kelly 339-340). For Marianne, this process really does not begin until she can stop running from her fear of commitment, a result of the rape.
Once her father dies, Marianne is welcomed back into her kinship community, and the end of the novel portrays a touching reunion in which almost all of the Mulvaneys are together again. Michael Sr., of course, is not there, but for the first time since Marianne was sent away, all of the children and Corinne are gathered in one spot. Each member of the family has a “new” family except Judd. Corinne lives with another woman, one of her friends. Mike Jr. and Marianne are both married with children. Patrick has a girlfriend. Judd, however, comes to the reunion alone because he has not healed through finding a new family; Judd has healed through telling their story.
An event as traumatic as rape impacts not only the individual, but also the individual’s family and community. Therefore, society must find preventative measures against traumas such as rape. This can be done through shifting educational efforts and perceptions to include not only violent stranger rape but also the common acquaintance rape experienced by both Marianne and author Joyce Carol Oates. Through addressing subtle victim blaming, through engaging communities and presenting the information in a relevant way, and through developing culturally specific interventions, society can begin to prevent rape and help families heal (McMahon 9). Near the end of the novel, Judd says, “It’s the way families are sometimes. A thing goes wrong and no one knows how to fix it and years pass and – no one knows how to fix it” (428; “Intensive Care”). Society must develop ways to fix social issues such as rape, or more individuals, families, and communities will be torn apart as the Mulvaneys were – and no one will know how to fix it.
We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates: Literary Analysis
We Were The Mulvaneys
Joyce Carol Oates’ contemporary novel We Were The Mulvaneys depicts a young boy, Judd Mulvaney, out in the wilderness discovering the concept of death of the first time and the quick, passing nature of life. Through various literary techniques such as lively, colourful imagery, repetition, and child-like diction, Oates portrays the thoughts of an innocent young boy fathoming death for the first time.
Throughout the entire passage, the author writing with vivid imagery to manifest the feeling of being young Judd Mulvaney. The “fast-flowing clear water, shallow, shale beneath” outdoors fascinates Judd as he “hypnotized [himself] the way kids do.” By describing the world around Judd, Oates emphasizes the way that the young boy sees his world as a clean, clear environment. In the later part of this novel, Judd’s sense of clean imagery from nature soon deteriorates when he realizes and comes into contact with the notion of death; Judd also finds that “when dry yellow leaves … don’t fall from a tree the tree is partly dead,” when detailing his surroundings. His observant nature makes him keen to the hidden truths of nature’s cycle of life and death. The colourful imagery that Judd paints characterizes his young, untouched curiosity of the world around him and gives him a sense of wonder and excitement about the world.
As Judd wanders about the outdoors and almost falls off a bridge, he feels time stop and slow down. In that moment, he becomes aware of “his heart beating ONEtwothree ONEtwothree! Every heartbeat is part and gone.” Using this repeating phrase, Oates describes Judd’s new perception of the world as potentially dangerous and time as something not meant to be wasted. With this new wisdom, Judd’s young view traces a path to where he discovers and questions whether “[he] is going to die” because he realizes that “Judd Mulvaney could die.” By constantly repeating this phrase, the author emphasizes Judd’s moment of realization as he transitions from a young, innocent, and naive child, to a boy who uncovers the hidden secret of death and the limitations of time in this lifetime.
In the novel, Judd’s youth is established through his child-like diction, which contrasts with his deep, secretive diction after his realization. He yelps, “oh boy! we-ird!” when he feels a “scary and ticklish [feeling] in his groin.” Oates characterizes Judd as simply a small child seeing the world for the first time, with wide, open, and curious eyes. After his discovery, his youthful diction is replaced with more profound diction as he realizes that “he wouldn’t just lose people [he] loved, but they would lose [him]—Judson Andrew Mulvaney.” As the novel’s passage progresses, Judd transforms from a naive, innocent child to a wise, more thoughtful boy, living with a secret of life that he only know. His childish nature is exposed by his commentary, written in parenthese, as if Judd is taking to himself, like a child would. At first, he describes the world as a bring, vivid place to live, but as he soon realizes that everything may die one day, Judd take on a burden and loses a small part of his childhood, as he no longer sees the world in rose colored glasses.
Carol Joyce Oates’ novel expresses Judd’s changing mindset from being a youthful child, to suddenly being wiser and more realistic about the world.
We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates: Maturity Theme
In We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates highlights the woes of maturity as it pertains to the anxious Judd Mulvaney through the incorporation of muddled syntax, apprehensive epiphanies, and perturbed repetition. The title of the passage demonstrates the manner in which Judd reacts after learning about the perils of death, thus revealing Judd’s conscious thoughts and perceptions. Judd transforms from a naive young boy to a man who is regrettably more knowledgeable about his surroundings.
Initially, Judd’s thoughts are disorganized and consist of no real coherent notions, however as he begins to undergo a transformation, he obtains self-knowledge even though he may not want to. He reveals his childlike innocence when he repeats “ONEtwothree” thus emphasizing how punctuation and syntax illustrate his youthful mentality. The detail that Oates places in his characterization of Judd stresses the manner in which Judd perceives his current surroundings. The enlightenment that takes place with Judd, occurs in nature, an area that is the recipient of random occurrences and deaths, which is why Oates incorporates the unorganized syntax to serve as a foundation for further changes. The repetition of “Every heartbeat is past and gone” helps present the vastness and significance of his discovery. Judd keeps thinking about the subject of death, however the different occasions that he thinks about it, he associates the phrase with different thoughts causing there to be no definite connotation with the meaning of the phrase. Oates repetition conveys how stressed Judd is in regards to how he attempts to save the lives of those around him, as well as his own, which portrays his mature nature.
The substantial information that Judd experiences drastically changes his mindset, as he can no longer go back to the boy he was before. With his epiphany, Judd acknowledges that people are not immortal, and those around him will eventually die. He did not believe that “Judd Mulvaney could die” and it is at this moment where it finally dawns on him that he will one day perish just as everyone else does. Logically, he understands that he will die however he cannot bring himself to comprehend that he actually “could”. The denotative meaning of “could” deals with how it is a possibility, however lexically the ambiguous nature of the word implies that Judd never thought death was plausible. Judd now has a different mentality, however with his new insight he remains childlike on the exterior in order to conform to his original naive role that he originally belongs to. With Judd’s new found knowledge, he recognizes that he must mask the truth so that he does not upset those around him.
In We Were the Mulvaneys Oates introduces Judd, a boy whose day turns into a tragedy as he acknowledges that all of life will end at one point. The muddled syntax that Oates incorporates demonstrates the passing beauty of nature after it has reached its peak. Judd is characterized as a young boy who grows as the passage progresses, revealing that he himself is on a journey that results in death.
Both poems, “The History Teacher” by Billy Collins and “A Barred Owl” by Richard Wilbur, highlight vulnerability of children in regards to how they are easily influenced through the incorporation of simple irony, rhyme schemes, and casual syntax. The poems have similar intentions and meanings, however their points are demonstrated in differing manners.
The ignorant nature of Collin’s poem plays a substantial role in the manner that he divulges the tale since unlike Wilbur’s poem, irony unearths that the bullies do not learn from the past. When the bullies “torment the weak and the smart…”, Collin’s conveys that history will repeat itself as it still attempts to “protect” the children. The teacher and his lies are also apart of the historical cycle primarily because throughout history people did not learn history, therefore they are destined to repeat it. Instead of teaching history, the teacher provides history with the opportunity to continue its treacherous cycle. The irony also stems from how the teacher is unaware of how he influences his students as he casually walks by the “white picket fence”, an allusion to perfection. This poem highlights the dangers that are associated with lying to the up and coming youth.
To contrast, Wilbur highlights the benefits of lying to children through the poem’s specific rhyme scheme and syntax. The poem initially starts out with soft sounding words, however as the plot progresses, the consonants sound more harsh. This demonstrates the swift manner in which innocence can be lost. The AABB CCDD EEFF GG rhyme scheme allows the words to easily be said in some instances, highlighting the simple nature of lying. The rhyme scheme also connects each individual line to the previous one in a childlike way, so that when the owl is brought up, fear will play a more significant role, more so than if the poem dealt with adults. The irony of how the child gets scared by the benign owl conveys the erratic nature of fear. The phrase “if rightly listened to” strengthens Wilber’s argument in regards to the personal understanding of fear. Wilbur simply writes the frightening poem with rhyming couplets and embedded sarcasm. By relieving the child of their fear with a lie, the speaker demonstrates his power in regards to his ability to take away or elicit fear. The lies that adults have to lie or tell the truth demonstrates how it is human nature to comfort youth and to procrastinate informing children about serious issues.
These two poems illustrate the benefits and harms that are associated with lying to children. Lies will always cause issues to occur, whether it be in the present or future, and it does not matter what the intention is behind the lie, the same effect will still take place. Children can be easily manipulated, thus leaving adults with the power to make decisions on behalf of their better interests, however adults sometimes bring in personal desires and issues when deciding whether to lie or tell the truth.
1997-Novels and plays often include scenes of weddings, funerals, parties, and other social occasions. Such scenes may reveal the values of the characters and the society in which they live. Select a novel or play that includes such a scene and, in a focused essay, discuss the contribution the scene makes to the meaning of the work as a whole.
Social situations allow authors the opportunity to reveal the manner in which characters behave and view themselves. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald highlights the dominating role social class plays in determining if certain people can be apart of a specific social standing, which reflects why Gatsby along with those who participate in the action of the Roaring twenties decide to conform to society’s values. The lavish parties that Gatsby throws succeed in providing him with an improved name and status, which is the foundation for his elite image. Gatsby becomes the main topic of discussion at his parties in attempt to hide his true past and identity.
Fitzgerald incorporates the party scenes in order to demonstrate how people strive to live a lavish lifestyle and have an untainted reputation in order to alleviate and keep their social standing. Gatsby associates himself with the wealthy in order for his prominent role as a mysterious and prosperous man to go unquestioned. However, his rival, Tom Buchanan decides to attack all that he stands for which demonstrates the addictive nature of wealth and power. No matter how rich Gatsby is, he is unable to be truly happy as long as Tom has what he so desires, Daisy. His desire to gain Daisy back through his newly acquired money reveals the greedy mindset of those living during the roaring twenties. Gatsby’s decision to surrender his life for money is irreversible, and puts him on a self-destructive path. People who get lured in by what the upperclass has to offer cannot avoid the heartache and destructiveness that it offers.
During the party that Tom and Daisy attend, Tom engages in flirtatious encounters with other women, and Fitzgerald seizes this moment as an opportunity to highlight the corrupt nature of those who are surrounded by wealth. Tom is a selfish and unfaithful man who causes Daisy to feel miserable when she is with him. The manner in which Tom enjoys the party illustrates how he is happier when surrounded by what he should not engage in. Rather than spending time with his wife and embracing the party for what it does not offer, in this case happiness, he goes off and ignores what would actually leave him feeling content. The other people who attend Gatsby’s party take advantage of Gatsby and his money which results in him appearing irresponsible. In the eyes of society, Gatsby and the Buchanan’s come across as overly materialistic conceited in their beliefs demonstrating the judgement that will always follow no matter what social class you are apart of. The desire to advance in social class is not always healthy and will result in the either personal downfall or infinite sorrow.
Fitzgerald sheds light on how the main concerns of people that attend vast parties blind them from seeing the truth of the matter. Insecurity and ignorance allow Gatsby to continue on his path towards wealth, however those traits are also what lead to his demise. The values that are associated with the upper class do not allow for them to obtain true happiness which allows the materialistic cycle to continue in order to compensate. These luxurious parties contribute to the widening gap in regards to social classes, as the values of those that are apart of each class become more extreme. By wasting resources and taking advantage of others, the parties also help Fitzgerald convey his belief that wealth is not what defines men, but the actions they partake in do.