Stanley Kowalski in “A Street Car Named Desire”

Nicole Leukhardt

English 003

May 16, 2011

Word Count: 547

Stanley Kowalski in
“A Street Car Named Desire”

            In “A Street Car Named Desire” Tennessee Williams explores the natures and tendencies of several southern characters living in New Orleans around the mid 1930’s. One of his major characters is Stanley Kowalski, represented as a dynamic character, whom initially seems to represent the antagonist of the story, yet as the play develops, it seems that he becomes the more trustworthy and realistic character in the playwright. Some may argue that he is a cruel, crude, chauvinistic pig, and although it can be found that he is, at times, more aggressive and abusive with women that he ought to be, he also represents the rebellion against pretensions and dishonesty that one of the other main characters, Blanche, displays.

Blanche Dubois embodies the more ancient southern roots of American history, focusing on the hierarchy in social status and conforming to the ‘proper’ Victorian morals as to how ‘ladies and gentlemen’ should act towards each other. Stanley fervently negates this way of thinking with his more modernistic view on life, that facing reality fearlessly is much more practical and successful than living in a fantasy world.

In this way of thinking, it has also been argues that Stanley is a ‘caveman’ and that “he acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits” and that Stanley basically is comparable to that of a lower human, with no manners or reprehension of acting on his animalistic instincts. However, it is also found that Stanley also exemplifies “the survival of the fittest,” in regards to the Darwinian Theory. Because he acts out and displays aggression and dominance, he is the survivor of this story, and refuses to be anything lower than such.

Blanche also insults Stanley with racial slurs, such as “Polack” and that Stanley “isn’t the same” as Stella and Blanche. She imposes social hierarchy in the old southern sense, where race and ethnicity play a role in social standing, and Stanley, in a way, beats Blanche in her own game of superiority because he shows that just because he is of different ancestry, doesn’t mean that he cannot be the leader of the pack; the dominant alpha wolf. He refuses to fall for Blanche’s pretensions and gladly proves his beliefs about Blanche with hard cold facts; the complete opposite of Blanche’s strategies. Blanche refuses to accept reality and fills her life with people and objects to block the truth of life, and says “I don’t want realism, I want magic!” Stanley accepts that life isn’t full of daisies and roses, and continues living with life the best way he can.

Stanley is a dynamic character in the story in the way that he makes the readers feel different feelings for him. Readers may initially appear disgusted and astonished by his actions, yet there is another side of Stanley that many readers can heartily agree with; life isn’t perfect or easy, and sometimes it’s necessary to just unleash all pent-up emotions and bang and crash everything in our midst, just as Stanley does many times throughout the playwright. Stanley may not symbolize the best characteristics in a man, yet he shows that falsehood and lies does not get one anywhere, and that people who believe themselves to be superior to others are nothing but wrecks themselves, and are heading for disaster.

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Ending of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Nicole Leukhardt

Eng 003

May 10th, 2011

Word Count: 780

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

In the ending portions of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” it is apparent that her work finishes off strongly with a tightly knit fixture of form and content, making it an emblem for divinity, knowledge, the liaison between inner and outer beauty, and the consequences of human creation. We see that Shelley has created a fountain full of bubbling artistic and didactic devices, using her characters to exemplify what lies in humans, and what lies outside of the human’s ability to grasp creation and knowledge.

Intricately bound in Shelley’s story, the content of the book unveils the story’s morals in the last few chapters of the novel. The usage of characters such as Father DeLacey (who is blind) and M. Walton (who shuts his eyes in the presence of the creature) denotes a strong fault in human nature: beauty is subjective to its own culture, and humans cannot handle that which they do not understand. There is some kind of learning curve in a human’s life that regulates what the ideal image of beauty is, what is ordinary and what is not, and an instinctual habit to fear or detest that which is not ordinary…A sort of imprinting process, if you will, that occurs early on in life and remains throughout the entire existence of humanity. Jesus Christ was feared for his supernatural gifts, and so he was crucified. Martin Luther King Jr. brought about a change to society that people were not used to, so he was assassinated. Even down to this very day, specific people are targeted for their inability to “fit in with the crowd.” As an example, girls who are very overweight are usually never befriended, and they typically are the ones who become the object of hostility and bullying. Perhaps it is an instinctual custom to leave those who don’t fit in, in regards to Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution? Wolves either kill or leave the weak ones behind, so to not slow down the pack. Multi-colored animals blend in with their environments to not be detected by predators, and if some do not conform to nature, they are the ones that get eaten. It may just be an animalistic intuition of ours to display hostility to people who do not conform to society, and Shelley attempts to divert our instincts in her book and show to us that appearances are deceiving, and that not everything that is different from us is evil or is trying to harm us.

It is up to us to give the people who are different a chance to prove themselves, and to prove that they truly are not as different from us as everyone seems to believe.

Another strong theme present in the book is the incidence of raw nature and a feeling of divinity, or the sublime, and a presence beyond our understanding. Shelley shows us throughout her novel that nature and creation are a form of knowledge that humans should never meddle into. Victor Frankenstein expressed throughout the majority of the story that he owed his entire miseries and tragedies to sciences and knowledge, and that we should never go seeking for the power to create. It is evident that Shelley feels a strong respect for nature and the sublime, and that we should never interrupt the process, and try to overthrow the higher beings with our own pride to learn, because in the end, it will only cause us agony.

Alongside the content of the story, Shelley presents many formal devices to guide us into understanding the purpose of her novel. A strong piece of evidence for this is given when the creature tells Victor “I will visit you again on your wedding night.” We feel a strong sense of foreshadowing, as Victor keeps predicting that it means he will ensue in a physical fight with the creature, but the readers already get a feeling that Victor’s cousin, Elizabeth, is the one that the creature was referring to. The mid-novel anticipation is what keeps the audience continuing reading, and it was a very good antic for the story on Shelley’s part.

The tactics of formal devices as well as the thematic content of Shelley’s story amplifies the story to a level some critics refer to as the ‘positive sublime’, where Shelley took her own life experiences viewing the raw strength and power of nature, and actively created a masterpiece out of her inspirations. Whether or not this be the case of ‘positive sublime’, it absolutely shows expertise in the marriage between form and content, and presents a beautiful piece full of artfully crafted prose, and incredibly synchronized formal devices, which gives the story its well-earned title of masterpiece.

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Nicole Leukhardt

Eng 003

April 26th, 2011

Word Count: 1,045

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

            In “Frankenstein” Mary Shelley uses an eloquent use of form and content to produce the story which has captured the attention of thousands of readers, and has been elevated to a height of absolute fame. First and foremost, the presentation of the story is one of the main reasons that the book has risen to such eminence. Shelley writes the story via letters sent by the main characters to the other characters in the story, which makes the readers feel as if they are fully engaged into the story, and are reliving the actual experiences of a person, which gives the book a unique twist of reality, rather than just a complete fictional novel.  Shelley compacts the plotline in a unique manner, with a narrative structure composed firstly of letters from a Mr. Robert Walton, which preludes to the story of Victor Frankenstein (the scientist), then to the story of the creature itself, which transmits back to the views of V. Frankenstein, and concludes the story with Mr. Walton. It’s unique in the fact that they all prelude to each other’s stories, and they all interweave and connect perfectly, although if this was Shelley’s intention, we shall never know. Although the first few letters of the book would make it out to seem as though the characters are static, unchanging beings, throughout the book, we see a massive development and change of the characters, which points to the fact that Shelley wanted all her characters to be dynamic, and well-liked, and so her content displays the in-depth experiences of all the characters, and lets the readers connect emotionally with all the characters in a way that not many authors allow.

Shelley’s form is of course written in the prose of her time period (the 1800’s), using elongated phrases with vivid details of every occurrence in the characters’ lives, and she writes very beautifully, using a wide range of vocabulary that flows together with the sentences perfectly. In terms of content, there are two themes that pop out in the first few chapters of the novel: one being the mediation of communication and the other is the appreciation of life and the unknown. It is clear in Shelley’s first chapters that communication is an important theme throughout the story. As her novel is composed of letters, it gives us the sense that there is something lacking in terms of communication throughout her story. The characters in the story are connected, yet there is a sense of miscommunication and a lack of presence throughout the chapters. In the beginning, it can be observed where Shelley’s character M. Walton clearly states that he is lonely, and in need of a comrade who could connect with him just through eye contact. Additionally, we see throughout many sentences that letters simply won’t oblige what M. Walton is trying to convey to his beloved cousin Elizabeth. Formally, we see many phrases such as “I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling” (page 8) and “It is impossible to communicate to you a concept of the trembling sensation…” (page 10), which suggest that there is a glitch of communication going on, and it is terribly difficult and lonely for one living in that era to be communicate with another person solely using paper, ink, and a quill. Perhaps Shelley, unknowingly, knew that technologies would advance in the future, and thus felt the urge to make future generations appreciate how far technology and communication has come, and to never forget that we were once a very detached and isolated country, with no computers or cell phones or facebook pages?!?! Perhaps it is her generation living on through time by the use of literature, giving us advice and showing us that we may be taking things for granted, and that we need to appreciate the hard works of past people to truly apprise what we have today? Nevertheless, communication is a very central aspect of Shelley’s novel, and although it may not have been her intention, she left a novel full of morals and themes that have been dissected by future generations, where many interpretations can still be derived from the novel, even in this present day.

Another theme present throughout the novel is the appreciation and respect for life and the unknown. Life is mentioned many times throughout the book, whether it be by M. Walton, who craved a life of exploration, to travel the unvisited corners of the world, and to breathe in the fresh air by the sea, or by M. Frankenstein, who requested to learn everything there is about life and death, and who solved the missing link between the two. In the content, we see many sentences appraising life, such as “My mother was dead…whilst one remains the spoiler has not seized” (page 27). In Shelley’s novel we also see that life itself can be replicated, but not without a sacrifice of the human spirit. The thirst for knowledge in life can ultimately be the demise of oneself. This leads into another aspect of the book—that the unknown is unknown for a reason—and that it should be well respected and left to rest. M. Frankenstein explained throughout his story that his hunger of life and knowledge brought about the saddest times of his life, and that sometimes learning new things isn’t necessarily a good thing. We get a sense that Shelley is trying to convey that there are things we don’t understand in life, and we shouldn’t push to understand them, because it’s being hidden for a reason, and that we should just go with the flow of life, rather than trying to dismember and pin point every function and reason that things exist and work.

Shelly ultimately presented her form and content with such exquisite finesse and deliberation, that it is no wonder that thousands of themes and morals can be interpreted from her context. Although communication and the value of life are some themes that have been brought to light, thousands are still left unseen and ready for exploration, which is another reason that Frankenstein is still so toyed with and utilized today, over two hundred years after it was first published.

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The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe

Nicole   Leukhardt

English 3 Section 12

April 19, 2011

Assignment: Blog 3

Word Count: 809

In Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” we see the artistic craft and interweaving of literary form and content. Poe lets his readers have power to interpret his piece at will—and thus, many themes and messages have been derived from his piece. Generally speaking, the content of his story is very much an intriguing and interesting story itself, but it is the way that Poe presents his story through form that makes this piece such a good reading.

First and foremost, Poe’s form in merely plotting the story out is interesting in of itself. He creates his story and manipulates it so that the plot isn’t in chronological order, and in doing this, he makes the story much more confusing, yet much more objective, and a lot more fun to read. His storyline starts out in the present where is protagonist Montresor is confessing to an evil deed which occurred half a century ago, and then as the story progresses, it travels back into time, going into intrical details about the murder, much like Montresor is re-living his memories, and in the end, the plot reverts back to a confession, and we get a better understanding of why Poe makes his story out to be this way.

People argue that some of Poe’s themes in this story resulted from the fight against capitalism, where generations of wealthy families held hostilities towards the “fortunate” newly rich youth, who somehow managed to receive money out of sheer luck. Others say that religion could possibly play another role in Poe’s piece, using the passage where Montresor talks about his family crest being a serpent attempting to bit into the heel of a person, which in Biblical texts symbolizes the devil as the snake, attempting to poison and ultimately kill the human race. However, it could also be assumed that Poe wrote this piece to express a more personal and private side of his life that he would have otherwise been unable to show. Going into Poe’s past, we know that he suffered abandonment by his biological parents, was raised in tough conditions, and suffered from alcoholism later in his life. Perhaps The Cask of Amontillado is a representation of the inner struggle occurring inside of him. Perhaps Fortunado (the drunken antagonist in the story) is a symbol of Poe in his drunken stupor, giving in to all of his desires, and never showing any self-constraint, and perhaps Montresor is Poe’s other side, dark and wrathful of his weaknesses, trying to eliminate the problem occurring in Poe’s life. The story could be depicting his war over his alcoholism, and Montresor fettering Fortunado into the catacombs is symbolic of Poe defeating his weakness over alcoholism.  Some evidence of this point derives from the use of static and dynamic characters in Poe’s piece.

People debate whether or not Poe depicted Montresor as a complex, changing and dynamic character, or simply a static, unchanging character throughout the piece.  In some ways, Montresor remains a cold-hearted killer throughout the story, and his stance never really changes about the way he feels about Fortunado, but in other ways, there is evidence that he still grieves and changes in the story from being absolutely cold and hateful, to a more grieving and pleading character in the story. In the first few paragraphs of the story, it seems almost as though Montresor is trying to redeem and convince himself that murdering Fortunado was the best thing to do—which , once again, could be Poe’s inner struggle debating whether or not to give into his alcoholism—and some evidence of this could be found in the script of this piece, such as “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could…” or “You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat.” In these phrases, it seems as though Montresor is convincing himself that alcoholism made him suffer so much and in giving up his addiction, he’d be correct, and this transition from when Montresor initially caged Fortunato seems to have greatly changed, thus giving the image that Montresor is indeed a dynamic and changing character throughout the story, also symbolizing that Poe, himself, has also changed (or is trying to change) from an alcoholic sloth-like man to a better man with morals and grievances.

Although many themes and images could be derived from The Cask of Amontillado, it is always best to know background knowledge of the author, to see how some of the themes and events in the plot-line could somehow connect with the author’s actual life, and when readers do get a better grasp of the author’s experiences, it lets us better understand and appreciate the value of their works, and really lets us enjoy the whole extent of the piece.

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The Emperor of Ice-Cream: Interpretations of form and content

Nicole Leukhardt

English 3 Section 12

April 11th, 2011

Assignment: Blog 2

Word Count: 642

The Emperor of Ice-Cream by Wallace Stevens

In Wallace Steven’s “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” we see a finite differentiation in the form and content of the first stanza compared to its second stanza. In this poem, the speaker discusses two different rooms; a kitchen in the first stanza, and a bedroom in the second stanza. Initially, readers read the first stanza, which describes a lively kitchen filled with ice cream, and flirtatious boys and girls,  and it makes readers imagine all the physical aspects of life. In contrast, the second and final stanza takes on a much more edgier, dark, and lonely tone where we see an old woman has died in her bedroom, and it appears that the lively people in the kitchen are actually partaking in a funeral event. Yet somehow, Stevens manages to intermingle these two different rooms and stages of life (or death), and elevates this poem into a state of high art.

As far as form goes, Steven uses refrains quite often to evoke sentiments from his readers. The refrains in this poem is the word “ice-cream.” Steven also uses alliterations, and a strange word choice to describe the imagery going on in his poem. For instance, in the first stanza, Steven depicts ice cream as “concupiscent curds,” meaning that the ice cream is sensuous,  lustful, and full of sexual desires. But why would anyone describe ice-cream in that matter??? Yet later on in the poem, we see why Steven repeats the word ice-cream, and what importance it has in the poem. As the first stanza is about ice-cream, and liveliness, the second stanza portrays the dead woman as having rough and calloused feet, dumb and cold, having a tacky and cheap dresser, and being covered by an “embroidered fantail” (or in simpler terms, a sheet) that she made herself. So comparing the content of the first stanza, which describes ice cream as being sexy, flirtatious, appealing, and lively, we can picture the ice cream in the second stanza as being cold, melting, and unappealing. Thus, the content can be interpreted as a symbol of life, which starts out sweet and appealing, and decays, melts, and is no longer appealing as death approaches. Another interpretation of the content in this poem is that people should just let life be, because you cannot control it, and so we should just go with the flow. Another reason Stevens may have created this poem is to express that we shouldn’t judge people based on their physical appearances, because like ice-cream, which starts off sensual, appealing, and tasty, we all end up like a pile of melted ice-cream–decayed and unappealing.

Stevens may have had many thematic purposes in mind while writing his content, but he manages to turn it into fine art because of how he uses the verse in the second stanza which says, “On which she embroidered fantails once…” This verse shows that although the deceased woman wasn’t rich, or in a high socio-economical standing, she still made art out of her life by embroidering her sheets, and trying to make good with the life that she was dealt with. It’s beautiful in the sense that the sheet, a common object, is elevated into a state of high art because it’s symbolic of the fact that just because life has not dealt us the best hand of cards, we still should make due with what we have, and be happy because life isn’t about what we receive in this world, but what we make of it. It’s representative of strength, determination, and the struggle to keep our hopes up even though everything in our lives isn’t perfect. Steven manages to show this beautiful symbol of light and hope even in his short, 2-stanza filled poem. Interweaving the form and content made this poem interesting, and its uplifting themes and imagery made it worthwhile to read.

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Poems from Shakespeare and Sir Philip Sidney

Nicole Leukhardt

ENL 3 Section 12

April 4, 2011

Assignment: Blog 1

Word Count: 546

Blog 1: Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare, and their use of form and content

In Sir Philip Sidney’s “Astrophil and Stella” and William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130,” we see the form and content clearly throughout both poems, and they both share similarities and differences in the way they present their themes.  For instance, both poems have a clichéd topic of romance, and women are the main topics of their poems, however, the ways they present these women are completely different and their attempts to produce toward an original work were sought in different manners.

The content in Sidney’s poem starts out with Sidney trying to get out of his writer’s block as seen in the word choice of his poem, such as using the terms reading, knowledge, studying, his pen being truant, muse, and writing. However as his poem progresses, he begins to talk about his beautiful gorgeous mistress, and ends the poem saying that love is more important than fame or being praised. He desired to have an original and unique piece of work, but his poem was exactly in the form of an Italian sonnet and he inherited his poetic forms, so in reality his poem wasn’t all too original, despite his attempts.  On the other hand, Shakespeare uses older poems like Sidney’s to make his own parody and intentionally borrows other people’s work to mock how past poems described other-worldly women with flawless features and put them on pedestals, and in his content, he contrast his woman and how her physical features were not anywhere near perfect, yet he still thought of his love being rare, and loved his mistress regardless. In terms of form, Shakespeare uses an English sonnet to craft his poem, so like Sidney, his poem wasn’t completely original either.

Another interesting point that lies in Sidney’s and Shakespeare’s poems is the way they picture or treat the women in their works. In Sidney’s poem, his ‘muse’ is named Stella, and she is supposed to be this goddess of beauty, however she never speaks and basically remains inactive throughout the whole poem, whereas in Shakespeare’s poem, he mentions that “I love to hear her speak…” and makes her into a more realistic woman and values her even though she isn’t so lovely as all the other past poets made their women out to be.  So it makes one wonder whether or not Sidney thought he owned women, and only valued their beauty rather than their personalities and intellect. In Sidney’s poem, he initially externally inflates women, and makes them feel like they are the bees knees, however at the end of his poem, he internally deflates women and leaves them feeling like objects to be used when convenient for men. Conversely Shakespeare initially externally deflates women and basically offends and makes fun of his woman, yet in the end, his poem internally inflates women and makes them appreciate that he thinks of women with a more realistic approach and cares for them in deeper terms than just superficial affairs.

Both Shakespeare and Sidney strived for original works, and although they both used different tactics to write their works, they both used formats that were already common, yet were both original in their own ways. The combination of content plus form that Sidney and Shakespeare used birthed masterpieces that readers still enjoy to this very day.


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