Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Conversation with a stone

The stone is prudent and persistent or is this just the adjectives that I gave to a stone. The conversation examines the idea objects have the characteristics that we give them. However the stone is different because stones seem to be symbols of patience or a burden. Yet these descriptions that I just assigned to a stone are created by me not part of the essential nature of the stone. It seems that the stone in the poem only responds in the way it can, by turning in to sand and displaying no emotion.

Anna Swir Woman Unborn

The poet’s contemplation of time allows for multiple perspectives to be examined and it is not limited to one level of time. Within this poem the poet takes us through her life, her ancestry, and past a time that cannot be imagined. This contemplation offered by the poet examines the greater affect of living within time. This may seem strange because we are always living in time but the idea that I identify here is the effect on history by one individual. The poem seems sober because of its conclusion with relation to time. However the poet examines her life beyond her time and at that level the effects of an individual are minute. Perhaps the poet is humbling herself to understand a part of human existence and its mortality.

Ladies and Gentlemen to the Gas Chamber:

The tone for this writing makes me uncomfortable. The nonchalant attitude displayed is unexpected for the situation. The description of the daily events does not seem to affect the narrator. The level of desensitizing seems more that can be imagined. The narrator goes about his day as if he were in any other place the worries of acquiring possessions. The sarcasm also brings the reading to a further understanding of the level of desensitizing that the inhabitants experience. This reading seems to be evidence of the horror that affected millions and the means with which to cope it.

A Short Film about killing

At the beginning of the film I was doubtful of its ability to be effective. The connections between the characters seemed to be forced. As the story continued the connection between the characters is revealed and I was attentive to the story. The acts of violence are stark and brutal. The first act of violence in which the cab driver is killed startled me because he remained alive for sometime. The cab driver died while asking for a message to be delivered to his wife. This scene allows for little comfort. The question of justice comes in to play. The life of one man was taken so another should also be taken in order for justice to be restored. I do not believe that capital punishment is an acceptable form of justice. It does not replace the life taken by a murderer. The film also seems to agree with my position because the execution scene of the murderer is strong and seems inhumane. Two acts of violence, or rather two murders, do not restore justice.

Diary of a Madman

The story is a strange one that exhibits cannibalism that is difficult to interpret. The paranoia present in the story makes the reader doubt the events and perspective of the main character.

To Barrack Obama

January 25, 2008

The Honorable Barrack Obama

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Obama,

I am following your campaign efforts through the primary elections and believe that your message of change through hope, as well as action by the voter, is the best one presented by any of the candidates. As your constituent I would like to call your attention to the human rights issue that is occurring in Guantanamo Bay. It is my hope that you would be able to bring this to the attention of voters and congress because Guantanamo Bay is a human rights issue that affects us all through the denial of universal human rights to those held captive in Guantanamo. Perhaps your actions may provoke a change in the treatment and rights of the individuals in Guantanamo Bay.

The lack of legal rights of the detainees needs to be corrected because it does not comply with universal human rights or our nation’s traditions of an individual’s rights. Amnesty International tells us of the inadequate acknowledgement of prisoner’s rights, “These include secretly transferring suspects to locations where they have faced torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and indefinite detention without charge.” All of these allegations have been in the media but have not been represented in a widely and ardently by a politician. It is in representing this issue that I ask you to take action in hope of improving the situation. These individuals who are tortured and held with no charge require their basic rights through the Geneva Convention and this country’s own initiative.

Several media reports, through different sources, exist on the conditions and legal situations of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay. National Public Radio’s program This American Life has featured the issues concerning Guantanamo Bay in one of its episodes. The episode of This American Life concentrates on the legal right of habeas corpus that the detainees are entitled to but have been denied. This basic right is briefly explained by This American Life,” The right of habeas corpus has been a part of our country's legal tradition longer than we've actually been a country. It means that our government has to explain why it's holding a person in custody.” The denial of this right needs to be rectified in order for the detainees to know what law they have broken. The episode also concludes with an interview of a former detainee who explains the torture that he experienced. This is a human issue that should be brought to the attention of all.

It is my hope that bringing the denial of human rights and the torture of detainees to the attention of the country through the campaign and support of politicians will produce a change for the detainees and the representation of human rights by our country.

Thank you for your time and effort,

Arturo Medina,

Wabash College ’09.

Pablo Neruda Tonight I Can Write…

Reading Neruda’s poem brings the loss of a lover into poetic form. I can’t help put notice the tactile interactions that Neruda highlights through the poem. The poem also explains what seems to be a shifting relationship. Love coming and going between the partners seems to happen often. This shifting relationship also seems to work. The poetic voice is sad at the loss of his lover while attempting to maintain the fleeting memories between them. The constant possibility of loving her and not loving her seem to affect the poet but he does not resolve to change the situation. It seems that this poem is dedicated to her and their shared experiences.


Through reading about exile and its many forms I can’t help but put examine my own situation and experiences. I left Chicago to go to a boarding school in northern Indiana and the change of environment was at first shocking. I still remember the first night in which I had difficulty sleeping and could hear the crickets chirping. It made for a difficult night’s sleep. However, the geography and rural nature was not the only changes that made me feel as if I was in a new land. The differences from going to Chicago and my neighborhood, that is predominantly Hispanic, were vast. The culture shock I experienced took time to adjust to. Now here at Wabash I experience another version of Indiana that also seems different to me. The political climate seems more aggressive and it also seems to affect our social interactions. I hope that with these experiences I can understand the differences that people undergo in changing location and its effect to perspective.

Notebook of a Return to the Native Land

The text is a confrontation with the situation that Senegalese individuals, among others face. It is a sobering experience to read it. The aggressive language of violence and the need for justice are common themes through the entire text. The text is difficult to comprehend because of the style but with the themes one is able to make connections through the text. The themes and language seem more apt especially considering that Césaire was an initiator of the Negritude movement and would later influence other writers.

The Wind that shakes the barley

The film began with a clear enemy to the Irish people, the British Black and Tans. The violent scene that ends with a life of an Irishman by the hands of the Black and Tans for speaking Gaelic is discomforting. The film sets you up to join the Irish side alongside the story. The battle against the Black and Tans seems justified because of their extreme repression especially against the Irish using their native Gaelic. As a viewer I felt engrossed with the story when Damien decides to join Teddy in the guerrilla warfare. This idealist struggle comes to an end with the signing of the treaty that creates a new dilemma. This clearly brings to light the difficulty of fighting for something better if all members of one group do not and perhaps cannot, agree on the same terms. The film ends with the painful scene of brother executing another brother, Teddy executing Damien. It is difficult to believe that the ideals that they were struggling for were worth the death of another family member. The acts of violence through war, or other wise, seem even more horrendous.

Neruda: "Tonight I can Write..."

After reading several of Pablo Neruda's poems and studying his personal life for my presentation, I truly appreciate the beauty of this poem. I don't know when this was written, but I do know that Neruda had several wives and mistresses. I don't think this happened because he was a bad person and couldn't keep a committment (although the committment argument can't be thrown out completely, only temporarily for the sake of my argument :) I think he was one of the few who could find beauty in everything and everyone. The way he describes the stars and the sky is as passionate as when he describes the "nights like this one I held in her arms".

I also find this poem interesting because of how he describes his love for his former lover, and specifically how this love changed over time. In line 9, he says, "...sometimes I loved her too." If you only "sometimes" love someone, it is strange that he is writing a poem with the "saddest lines" about someone he has lost. In line 23, he says, "I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her." Again, it is strange that he is writing this poem to her despite the "certain" (imagine me making quotation marks with my hands) fact that he no longer loves her. If this poem was written to a former mistress, and his wife were to read this, I think Neruda would be busted!

"...To the Gas Chamber"

This was a very interesting reading, and, as many other of my classmates have pointed out, Borowski's tone was not expected by most of us. After reading this, I went back and looked at the title itself. I think the title could have been a clear giveaway about the tone of the reading. "Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber" to me reads like an announcer of a boxing match or the person that says "Drivers, start your engines" at the start of the Indy 500 (this person has a specific title, but I can't remember what it is!). A passage in the reading ties in nicely with this interpretation, and it could be the basis for Borowski's sarcastic and almost carefree tone: (2779) "There is the law of the camp that people going to their death must be deceived at the last moment. It is the only permissible form of pity." This passage to me seems like Borowski may not be exaggerating the carefree nature of the prisoners. Since their death was imminent, their only way to escape the thought of the gas chambers was to try to restore as much as the attitude and mental well-being of their previous life as possible. The narrator can only escape from the true horror of the concentration camp for so long. On 2783, a girl asks him, "Listen, tell me, where are they taking us?". The narrator thinks to himself, "I looked at her. Here, before me, stood a girl with beautiful blond hair, wonderful breasts in an organdy summer blouse, her look wise and mature. Here she stood looking straight into my face and waited. Here, the gas chamber: mass death." The narrator can no longer dodge the question, and, through his hesitation, the girl discovers where they are going.

A Short Film About Killing

I thought this was a very powerful and haunting film. At first, I didn't expect the main character, the murderer, to actually be a killer. He just seemed like an awkward man without any direction. I still don't understand his motivation for killing the taxi driver. I thought it was interesting too how the director set up the character of the taxi driver. Through the driver's actions early in the film, I almost expected him to the killer in the upcoming scenes because of his questionable actions, disregard for others (by driving away when someone needed a taxi), and his gazing at the woman. The embedded scenes with the lawyer in his examination/meeting I believe were effective by setting up another "murder" that was to take place: the execution. The lawyer is clearly torn with the idea of capital punishment. The execution itself was as intense and gruesome as the murder of the taxi driver. The execution chambers were dark and dirty, and all of the guards showed no signs of hesitation or remorse before, during, or after the prisoner was murdered. This could be attributed to how capital punishment was carried out at that time in Poland, but I thought it was interesting how the murderer carried out his act with the same material he was killed with: rope. This could be a statement by the filmmakers about how policymakers draw the very fine line between what is murder, as capital punishment pushes the very edge of that line.


A time when I felt like I was in exile was when I chose to attend a high school on the north side of Indianapolis. This might not seem like much, but for my age at the time, it was significant. I lived on the south side of Indianapolis, just 2 miles away from the north side school's bitter rival. The grade school I attended was on the campus of the south side high school. There was an intense rivalry between the two schools, so you can imagine what my friends said when I told them I was heading north. I left all of my friends I had gone to school with and played sports with for 8 years to a completely different environment. While I quickly made friends at the north side school, it was different because I was still looked upon as an outsider most of the time. I thought this was a good example of "exile" (while not that intense) because it shows how just a 30 minute drive in the same city can remove you from your known environment to one where you are on the outside looking in.

"Tonight I Can Write..."

When reading this poem by Pablo Neruda I was reminded of an experience a close friend of mine is going through at the moment. The narrator of the poem speaks about his lost love in the same tone of voice that my friend uses when he thinks/talks about his recently-made ex-girlfriend. The narrator solemnly and sorrowfully reports that he can now write the saddest lines, signaling to the reader the devastation that the loss of his woman has caused. As we read on, the narrator seems to be talking to himself (obviously) and attempting to convince himself that he no longer loves her, that he no longer needs her, while at the same time reminiscing about "her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes," (2443). He tries to say "what does it matter that my love could not keep her. The night is shattered and she is not with me, " but repeatedly desires her to be near or with him. I think this poem is a great portrayal of the emotions felt by a man when he has recently lossed a girl that he truly cared about. In the absense of everyone else he is able to reveal his sadness, but as a man his ego continues to pop up and attempts to convince himself that he is not hurt.


I think my most significant experience with the feeling of exile would have to be a more literal one. My most memorable moment of exile would have to have taken place over summer vacation between my sophomore and junior year here at Wabash. My family back home was going through some rough times and I had no want or reason to go home and deal with the drama, so I decided to stay on campus to work over break. While it was alright in the beginning, with plenty of other students in town and on campus also working and doing internships, when August approached and everyone was finishing up their summer jobs and returning home for a short time, I was stuck on campus with just about NO ONE around. I swear I had to have gone about five straight days without talking to or seeing anyone. I was living in one of the small rooms in Morris Hall, so claustrophobia also began to set in. Some might see the more metaphorical sense of exile, as exhibited in "The Belly of the Atlantic," as a more influential or emotional experience (which at one point I would've also agreed), the fact is that literally being alone can make you go crazy. I usually am not a very chatty person and am perfectly fine being alone, but being alone without having any other choice presents a completely different feeling that I would never again like to experience.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pablo Neruda "Tonight I Can Write..."

This poem by Neruda is very interesting, particularly because it is very easy for the reader to relate to the feelings he is expressing. Right from the beginning of the poem, it is easy to understand that this poem is about a woman, and more specifically a lost love. In the beginning I believed that the woman in his poem had died, but as the poem progressed I became aware that they had simply parted ways and broke apart their relationship. Neruda does a very good job of writing this poem in a way that almost every reader can assimilate themselves to its values. We've all been in situations were relationships end and our will is tested, which Neruda captures most vividly in lines 29-30 "Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms; my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her." Throughout the poem he focuses on the pain that he feels from this failed relationship, but in the end he realizes that it may actually be the better path by insinuating the relationship had not been all good, and that his girlfriend or wife had caused him pain even in their relationship, "Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer..." Possibly the reason why I like this poem so much is its ability to relate to such a broad audience; anyone who has experienced a breakup has experienced similar feelings and Neruda is able to pinpoint those feelings almost exactly with his descriptions in this poem.

My Time in Exile

Looking back over the course of my life I can think of more than just one time I have felt exiled similar to what we have seen in The Poor Mouth as well as Belly of The Atlantic. Being in exile is certainly not something to take lightly, but fortunately I have never been put in a situation as serious as those that we have witnessed through Bonaparte and Salie. One case in which I have felt exiled though would be the beginning of this, my freshman year at Wabash. Going away to college is like no other experience many young adults have ever felt before in their lives. For me, leaving home was a much awaited getaway, but it was also very nerve wracking. Moving into a house where I knew absolutely nobody was an experience I hadn't felt since my first day of pre-school. Also, in just the first few weeks of classes at Wabash I realized just how tough this year was really going to be; no more coasting through classes, I really had to buckle down. Fortunately though, this time of exile was short-lived and in just a short period of time I felt right at home. When I moved into my house I didn't know a single person, but now I have 40 people I would consider my close friends. As for classes, they haven't gotten any easier, but my interest in learning and education has grown tremendously; no longer do I feel overwhelmed, but extremely interested in the course material.

Violation of Human Rights

Dan Arnold
English 109
Human Rights Response

Dear Senator Bayh,

I am writing this letter in hopes to raise awareness of the tragedies that are currently taking place in the African country of Kenya. The social upheaval occurring there is a direct response to the presidential elections that were held approximately one month ago. In these elections future President elect, Mwai Kibaki won a much disputed vote to overtake the head of the government. After the votes were tallied and the results were released, Kenyan citizens immediately began to question their legitimacy and have since been displaying their frustrations with public protests and in some cases, rioting. In a country that has long been considered the most stable of all African nations, the possible demise of its once reliable democracy will have devastating effects world-wide.
The disputes currently taking place are already threatening to tear apart tribal and political lines that have taken nearly a decade to build and have been vital to Kenya’s stability in recent years. Early implications show that the public is refuting the elections because of past corruption and scandals linked to both Kibaki and several members of his cabinet. However, Kibaki’s troubled past is quickly becoming the least of Kenyan’s worries right now, as rogue political officials and police have amassed hundreds of documented cases of human rights violations against themselves since the election. Many of the cases in question directly link Kibaki’s officials to authorizing the murders and rapes of innocent civilians. Reports dating as far back as March of 2007 also link them to government ordered attacks on media studios and individual journalists in an effort to control the media and prevent reports of their scandals from reaching the public. Current figures linked to the political crisis place the death toll around 700 civilians with estimates that another 250,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and villages in response to the ethnic tensions that have been re-flared. Police brutality at many of the protests seems to only be strengthening the public’s cause and making for more distrust between the people and Kibaki.
I believe that it is our civil duty to come to the aid of these unfortunate civilians that have been caught up in a whirlwind of political violence and oppression. The government of Kenya is moving backwards and its officials are seemingly condoning the harassment of civil rights. Kenyan police not only seem to be disregarding their civil responsibilities to uphold the law and order in this time of crisis, but many times they are just multiplying the problems by exacting their own revenge and carrying out personal vendettas. I believe it is not only our right, but our duty to ensure the safety and well being of Kenyan citizens and the government that have fallen into this recent crisis. For years the Kenyan’s have set the example for other African nations to follow, and now in this time of need, we must rally to support liberty and justice for the suppressed citizens that are now fighting for their rights. I believe the first action taken should be to offer a peaceful coup d’état, and if this fails then the United Nations needs to organize a military effort to remove Kibaki from office and allow the Kenyan citizens to organize another election. I appreciate your time, and can only hope that you will help in the efforts to find a peaceful resolution to this unfortunate situation.

Dan Arnold

Happiness poem

I found some of the transitions interesting in the poem. The poet starts by feeling good about herself being happy, and mentions her hair and skin exhibiting happiness. However in the second stanza, the poet almost feels arrogant that she’s too happy about herself. She says, “I breathe happiness instead of air.” Then, she becomes sad, and says “Tears roll down my face… I forget I still have a face.” Then, in the third stanza, she feels really sad. She writes, “I feel time’s duration as it felt in the hour of death.” Later in the fourth stanza, she tries to do something about it i.e. scream. She has confused emotions, “Yet one dies from such screaming, thus I am dying from happiness.” I think the poem ends with resignation, she says, “I do not shiver any longer. I do not breathe any longer.” This poem starts talking about happiness, and ends up asking questions as to what is a real happiness. Does happiness even exist?

In Exile

When I try to remember, the first real feeling of exile stuck my mind when I was departing Nepal for US for the first time. Basically, departing from Kathmandu airport, I had three transits on the way. The first one was at Dubai airport, the next one was at Heathrow, and the final one was at Atlanta, before I reached my sister’s place in Boston. With every transit going away from Kathmandu, I felt like I would not be getting back for a long time. I could see some similarity between Dubai and Kathmandu, but the weather in Dubai was totally different. However, at Heathrow and Atlanta airport, I could no longer draw any connection between the people and culture from those places and home. I felt like I was really getting further away, and I realized that I would need some time to get used to the atmosphere.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hitler's First Photograph

In Wislowa Szymborska's poem, "Hitler's First Photograph" she use the image of Hitler as a baby to portray the innocent nature of a child. One of the most striking features of the poem is Szymborska's usage of "baby talk." It is difficult to imagine Hitler's mother talking to him like any other baby, since we know he will grow up and lead the Nazis in carrying out the many atrocities. This poem really reminds us that everyone, even Hitler, was once an innocent child needing the same love and care that any infant requires.
My favorite poem was "Evaluation of an Unwritten Poem". This was completely different than any other poem we read by Szymborska, and it was completely different than any other poem I have read in the past. In many poems, we receive insight into what the poet is thinking and also expressing through her/his writings. "Evaluation", however, provided insight into the thoughts of one poet through the perspective of another. The narrating poet (the one writing this poem) is clearly critical of the "authoress" she is talking about in the poem. In the second stanza, she says, "That's poetry for you." I interpreted this as clear sarcasm, where the narrator is criticizing the thoughts of the authoress. The last stanza provides even clearer evidence that the narrator is critical: "Her fundamentally unpersuasive thesis/ combined with her lackadaisical style/ forces the question: Whom might this piece convince?/ The answer can only be: No one." Our discussion in class confirmed my initial thoughts when reading this poem that the "authoress" being criticized could in fact be the narrator, or Szymborska herself. When writing papers or poetry (which I will admit is a rare occurrance compared to writing papers), I often doubt my arguments, and I constantly change my sentence structure. I have undergone this same critical response to my own writing. Overall, this was a very unique poem that shows the struggle of the poet to create their own work that is acceptable not just to others, but also to herself.


I found Wislawa Szymborska's poem "The Suicide's Room" room to be her most interesting work in this collection. Although the act of suicide is never directly mentioned in the verses, there is an allusion to the fact that something bad may have taken place in the room. Szymborska comments on numerous signs that often indicate a suicide: open window, glasses sitting on the table, an empty envelope. She also mentions that a buzzing fly is the only thing that is "still alive" in the room. Finally, she also addresses a number of great leaders who have all already died, thus proving that this piece may be a tribute of some sort to the deceased.

Onion is a funny word

My favorite poem of the group was "The Onion." No, not just because of the hilarious alternative newspaper, The Onion, but because it outright abused the word "onion." There are other reasons, too. The poem does have some interesting ideas about self-awareness and perfection of make-up.
As the poem states, as one takes apart the layers of an onion, there is only more onion, or as the poem says, "Inside it, there's a smaller one/of undiminished worth." As the last stanza reminds us, humans are not like onions. We hold different things in our bodies, like "veins, nerves, and fat,/secretions' secret secretions."
There is also the self-awareness issue. One has to have a little extra knowledge of the poems outside of "The Onion," but taken with "View from a Grain of Sand," one can see that, this poem, too, has a theme of the onion being perfect without being aware of its perfection. There seems to be some quality of self-unawareness that is beautiful and grand. People, as I'm sure we all know, are all too aware of themselves and what we are, and only strive to find out more. Onions and sand do not do this, and thus are favored by Mother Nature.
My favorite poem was Hitler's First Photograph. It was different to see how the author conveyed hope to the reader by using such words as angel, sunshine, and honeybun. I like how the first paragraph emphasized how there was so much potential for good in his life. As the poem progresses, the hopeful tone changes to a modest tone, which I thought was a good change of pace. The poem as a whole was shocking, considering the background of the poet. It was as if the poet felt sorry for Hitler, and what a disappointment he was.

Hitler's First Photograph

In "Hitler's First Photograph," the poet discusses one of the earliest known photos of Adolf Hitler. I found this poem to be particularly interesting because it focuses on the potential of a very controversial figure. In the poem, the author discusses the possible courses that the young Hitler's life could have taken. She talks about Hitler's possible future. She discusses who he might marry, where he might go, and what he might do. Ironically, the author contemplates the good that the young Hitler might do for humanity. The author then talks about the possible careers that Hitler could have had. She writes, "Whose teensy hand is this.... printer's, doctor's, merchants priest's (Szyborska)?" Perhaps most interestingly, the author also focuses on the innocence of the young Adolf Hitler. She calls him, "Precious little angel (Szyborska);" she says that Hitler looks "like a kitten in a basket (Szymborska)."

The Onoin

The Onion is my favorite poem out of the selection. Mainly because it compares something simple (an onion) to something much more complex (humans). In the onion the author writes of how oniony the onion, and how it is all onion and nothing more. Its innards are onions and everything about an onion is onion. The onions counterpart in this poem, humans, are the complete opposite of the simplistic onion. We are composed of way more than just humans. We have blood running through our bodies, we have veins, arteries, bones, etc... I enjoyed The Onion because of the dichotomy it presented.

The Suicide's Room

This story is had to be by far the most appealing poem to me throughout the entire collection; without the exception of a few. The Suicide Room is written from the point of view of a friend that knows/knew the person that resides in the room. In the beginning of the poem there is a lot of descriptive writing to fill the reader in to what is going on and how ordinary the room looks. With this description there are also little clues thrown in to make you wonder. And as we observed in class, these clues may be cause some over analyzing. The poem ends with the line, " and he had so many friends, but all of us fit neatly inside the empty envelop propped up against a cup." This showed that the person in the room knew a lot of people but didn't really have any "real" friends. With this line, the reader also realizes that there is no note and that also leads to other assumptions.

An Opinion On The Question of Pornography

The main aspect of this piece is the symbolism or elaborate metaphor for pornography representing intellectual thinking. The poem goes on to pretty much explain the fact that with our minds we can think of anything, things far more worse than pictures of pornography. The author mentions that "They prefer the fruits from the forbidden tree of knowledge to the pink buttocks found in glossy magazines--all that ultimately simple-hearted smut. The books they relish have no pictures" (159). I believe that she further attempts to convey the idea that it can be far more rebellious or mischievious by simply thinking than looking at an obscene picture, which actually is just some perverse idea which has already been thought of and created. The metaphor holds out through the entire poem with the use of words such as "risque," "salacious," and "filthy fingering." In this poem I believe that the poet creatively reminds the reader of the ironic situation of society: while thinking has the ability to be far more vulgar, violent, deadly or obscene, it is the less-vicious imagery of pornography that has been deemed unacceptable.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

the onion

I enjoyed the "Onion" for its simplicity, specifically when it says, "Our skin is just a cover up...in an onion there's only onion." I found this fascinating. It breaks down the humans form. It criticizes it for being complex and not ideal. The onion has only onion parts...inside, outside, up, and down. The onion is praised for its simplicities whereas the human form is criticized for its complexity. The onion seems at rest with itself, but humans are veiled by their skin. The onion does not have any skin. It just has onion. Essentially, the onion is perfect. The "Onion" clearly displayed two clear values: simplicity and perfection.

Hitler's First Photograph

It was interesting to see Hitler's name mentioned in such an innocent light. We always hear his name in a bad light. This poem stands for something very important in life. It goes to show that we never know what life may bring our way. Everyone starts off with a clean slate, as did Hitler. He was just a normal baby with the whole world in front of him. Ahh, the beauty of new life. As far as one can tell in the poem, Hitler is just an innocent little boy. I think the poem send two very important messages. One, we have the power to control our future. Hitler had the power to control his future as well, however, he chose to do so in a terrible way. Second and most importantly, there is always hope in new life. Hope exists in all little children. What kind of world do we want to make for this kid to live in though? How will we raise this kid to live humanely? There is always hope.

The Onion

I think that my favorite thing about this poem is its lighthearted nature and the way that the author uses language. For instance, I love the way that the author makes up words to illustrate the point that an onion is simply an onion through and through, creating words such as "onionist," "onionhood," "onionymous," and "daimonion." Inserting "onion" in these words shows that an onion is simply an onion all the way to its core. Mainly, I thought that the author was simply comparing the beauty and repetitive thoroughness of an onion to a human, which houses all sorts of innards inside its exterior. The onion, on the other hand, is perfect, if you peel back one layer, it will reveal another just like it. As a contrast, humans' insides are considered an "internal inferno." I believe that this could be in a literal and metaphoric sense. In a metaphoric sense, I believe that it means that we are conflicted and don't always show who we truly are on the outside. If we could learn to be ourselves in all our layers, like the onion, we would live a much happier existence. However, the author ultimately states in the poem's last two lines that this is impossible.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Onion

In the poem, The Onion, Szymborska criticizes how humans are by use of an onion. An onion has nothing to hide, because the only thing it is hiding is the same material that is covering it. The author laments at the fact that we as humans are afraid to let others look "inside us" and how we hide who we really are. Onions bring tears to ones eyes, no matter what level of the onion is shown. People should be who they really are, not wearing any masks that cover up how we feel.


The poem I liked the most was "Utopia." The poet, Wislawa Szymborska, goes into great detail about the utopian island. She personifies many objects on the island, like the "Tree of Valid Supposition" (line 5), "the spring called Now I Get It" (line 8), and "the Lake of Deep Conviction" (line 15). Life in utopia is perfect and you know everything. Even though the island knows everything, "the island is uninhabited" (line 19). Even if you are on the island, then all the "faint footprints...turn without exception to the sea" (line 21). I like this poem because its questions one of the main premises for 'the meaning of life' for me. I believe knowing everything defeats the point to life and would get boring and dull after awhile. I also believe that life is about struggle and typing to improve yourself and your life, not perfection just being given to you. I think the poet is questioning the idea of a perfect life, or maybe even the strive for a better (or perfect) life.

Hitler's First Photograph

I felt that this was the most intriguing poem in today's reading. It allows you to see Hitler in a different, more innocent light. His first photograph is one of him as an infant. In the poem, Hitler's mother described him as her, "precious little angel." Reading this allowed me, for a minute, to view Hitler as something other than a ruthless, murderer who led the extermination of nearly six million Jews. At one time in Hitler's life, he was a normal person just like the anyone else. I think we tend to forget that he was a human being. This poem is eye-opening because it provides you with a different, more humane side of a person who is widely known as a mass murder.


We all know that a Utopia is defined as an ideal place or state, and is viewed as the benchmark for human society. Everyone idealizes the thought of living in such a state, where everything is perfect and life is at its supposed highest level of achievement. In Szymborska's poem, Utopia, she characterizes such a place with lines like "Island where all becomes clear."; "The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple, sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It."; and "If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly." By describing this place with such close detail, Szymborska appeals to every readers ideas of perfection in society and paints a portrait of an area where it is all possible. However, at the end of the poem Szymborska brings about another idea, one that makes the reader question whether or not a Utopia is actually somewhere we would want to live; "For all its charms, the island is uninhabited, and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches turn without exception to the sea. As if all you can do here is leave and plunge, never to return, into the depths." Because these people had everything, its as if they had nothing to live for. They were seemingly devoid of all life's pleasures, and in turn their lifes became meaningless. With nothing to live for or strive for, everyone living in this supposed "Utopia" left with no intentions of ever returning. Living in this Utopia was essentially an "...unfathomable life."


A Utopia can be defined as an ideally perfect place. Szymborska does an amazing job bringing us this perfect place through words. The speakers short sentences and train of thought create a sense of understanding and deep meaning. And since the sentences are short and easy it makes you think that a Utopia can be understood. I really loved this poem and think it creates this solid space in all that is empty in our world. It's like she is pouring us a glass of water that we so desperately needed. She knows the precise evocation which renders us a Utopia in our minds. The flow of the poem suggests this feeling of awareness when the Island becomes clear-it opens our eyes to everything perfect. From there everything seems possible; "solid ground beneath your feet/if any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly/Into unfathomable life." By the end of the poem we are thrusted, thrown, swarmed, and in contact with this Utopia.

A Look at Szymborska

The first poem I looked at was "A Moment in Troy." This poem discusses adolescent girls and their worries about their beauty and future, juxtaposed with the glamorous visions of themselves as Helen in the legend Troy. The first four stanzas tell of girls observing themselves and feeling inferior, while the next three stanzas describe what it would be to be Helen. The rest of the poem is darker and more violent as the girls mentally punish those around them for their own shortcomings, and then come back to reality.
The next poem I looked at was "Soliloquy for Cassandra." This, for those that do not know their Greek mythology, is a poem about the prophet Cassandra, who was cursed to never be believed. She tried to warn the city of Troy about their impending doom upon bringing the horse into the city, but, again, the townsfolk did not believe her. So, Troy was destroyed. This story tells us how Cassandra was treated in the third stanza, but we we see that now, her prophecy has come true and Troy and everything around her are now ashes. Cassandra tells us how lonely it has been living in the future, and now she left with only her possessions and "A face that didn't know it could be beautiful." I actually am not sure what to make of that last line, but I'd guess it's something about how ignored she was before the fall of Troy.
The last poem I looked did not deal with Troy, but still references history. "Beheading" is a poem referencing the death of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the rise of Queen Elizabeth I, who followed her. The poem starts off telling us about beheading, and tells of the "shift." The shift is the actual beheading, which acts as a shift because Queen Elizabeth would take the throne upon Mary's death. We are told the shift was "decollete," or low cut, and "red as a hemorrhage." These are self-explanatory. The next stanza tells us about Queen Elizabeth, who is standing triumphantly in her white dress, in contrast to the red of "Bloody" Mary, and how it is buttoned to the chin, an almost protective dress, given what had just happened to her sister. The third stanza tells us they both thought the same things that day, but clearly for very different reasons. The last stanza explains to us why this the reasons are different.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Spring

I read this poem in a very interesting way. First of all it sounds as though it could be talking to a person, but it is talking about a spring. The cool part about it is the play on words with the word spring. The poem says "I bask by you in the warmth of that freedom," which could mean basking by a spring of warm water. The poem says "As in the body of an athlete a future leap." The leap makes it sound like there is a spring in the narrator's step. What I think the poem is actually talking about is the narrator's attitude toward the season spring. This poem is crafted cleverly to play on words about the narrator's feelings. The since of freedom that spring gives you is what captures the narrator's feelings.

I Am Eleven

Even though we discussed this poem in class, I feel that it is worthy of more discussion. In this poem we find a troubled narrator who is torn between conflicting feelings for her father. I thought Sarir did an excellent job of bringing this issue to the forefront by highlighting the narrator's mixed emotions about her father's paintings. At first she hates the paintings, but then she goes on to say that she loves them. She compares the paintings to sorrowful (mother) and happy (siblings) times in her life to make these feelings clear. It is evident from the last two stanzas that the narrator is still a bit confused about her true feelings towards her father, but drawing from her conclusions it seems that she wants to follow in her father's greatness.

Anna Swir's "I Wash The Shirt"

I found this poem to be very emotional. It represents a girl who has lost her father and is going through the grieving process while at the same time having to look at his things and wash his clothes that remind the girl of her father. She mentions the sweat smell that is coming from her now-deceased father. The line "from all the bodies in the world, animal or human, only one exuded that sweat" reflects the strong relationship she had with her unique, undistinguishable father. At this point her loss brings her to destroy the shirt, as to never have to smell the scent that made him almost come alive again. She decides at the end that the only thing that "survives [her father]" are his paintings that smell of oil, which the narrator is probably hinting at this being yet another aroma that vividly reminds her of her father, just as his sweaty clothes had.

Tone of "....Gas Chamber"

In most works about such a seriously devasting time of history, one would expect a more dramatic, or even gruesome tone towards a situation such as the Hallocaust. While this would be the way to convey the seriousness of the situation in older, more classic literature. I would like to think that this very "matter-of-factly" tone that the author chooses to use brings a new level of gravity to the situation. With this tone, the author provides the reader with several different feelings towards the Hallocaust. One view would be that the reader learns that the horrific event was so devastating that the author, himself having shared the experience as the narrator of the story, must detache himself from the memories and emotions of that time to cope with the pain of his memories. Describing devastating events with a devastating tone has been done for ages throughout literature, which could have led to a sort of detachment from the importance of the situation. At this point in time most people know and understand the disgusting, vile things that took place due to fasicsm and racism during the Hallocaust, and talking about it in such a calming, sarcastically mellow tone adds to a new level of horror.

A Short Film About Killing

This film happened to remind me of a lot of the existential ideas that we had discussed in one of my former philosophy classes. Throughtout the first part of the movie we witness the protagonist (a.k.a the eventual murderer) wonder through a normal life the the streets of Europe. This part of the film expresses the existential ideal that man is actually an irrational being, and there is no realy way to fully understand or analyze the actions of any man. We witness this character repeatedly cause mishchief throughout the streets. However, while are presented with a criminal, who later comes to be known as a murderer, we also discover a brighter, happier side of him as he throws ice cream at the girl's outside of the window to make them life, which in turn give an innocent snicker.
The second part of the film further looks into the irrationality of human decision. We learn of how the main character kills the taxi driver and is sentenced to death. The man's lawyer seems to be the character that presents the viewer with obvious existential questions as he questions his career's motives. At the end of the film we are presented with possibly one of the most absurd emotions of human beings. Even though this man has been convicted of cold-blooded murder, his attorney sympathizes with him at some level and we almost left feeling sorry for the man being hung for his horrific crimes. I feel that this short film deals with an array of deep existential thought and did a decent job of portraying the everyday absurdity of man's existence.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Woman Unborn

Anna Swir's poem, "Woman Unborn" is very intriguing. The main idea of the poem deals with an unborn life. In this unborn life, Swir imagines the different lifestyles women have been faced with in different time periods. This idea is best supported by lines 10-11 when Swir states, "I walk through my unbirth as a tunnel, with bizarre perspectives." In the poem, she slowly travels back into her unbirth; first five minutes, ten minutes, hours, then into her minus life where she seemingly travels into the Romantics period, the Renaissance, then the Middle Ages. In each time period she quickly notes the typical lifestyle she would expect, "...spinster," "...an ugly and unloved wife of an evil husband," or in the Middle Ages where she would have "...carried water in a tavern." I believe it is Swir's objective in this poem to highlight the progress of women and their social status throughout time. As she travels back into her unbirth she is able to recognize the struggles women dealt with in each time period.

Talking to my body

I particularly liked this poem because it connected to me on a certain level. The author talks about her body as if it is something that is supposed to help her reach higher feats. She looks at her body as a machine focused on concentration and discipline. One thing that caught my eye when I was first skimming through all the poems was the word athletes.
The second stanza goes on to say how through training and hard work the body can take them to a whole another level. She makes it seems as though she;s leaving her body here on earth, and elavating herself to another level. I like to think of it as when I get "in the zone" during basketball games, and the only thing that I see on the court is me and the basketball goal.
The third stanza talks about how ambition is the right thing which is the willingness to do work. The possibilities of both her and her body are endless, and it makes me think about when I get my body right, all the things that I will be able to do

Woman Unborn

Initially, the poem Woman Unborn speaks about a child five minutes away from birth, and instead of being born, she decides to go back in time. This is where the poem becomes deeper, and the unborn girl sees all the wrongs that have been suffered by women throughout time, being subservient to men. She talks of the Romantic period all the way back to the Middle Ages. Ending she states that her existence would really not of matter because she is a woman. This is a bold statement she is making, however with how patriarchal societies have been throughout time, it seems like a poem that is very appropriate. She is a voice for the unloved wives and the spinsters.

Woman Unborn

When I read the title I already had in mind that poem would be about abortion or the death of a young girl. In my interpretation of the story, I was right. Woman Unborn is a very unique poem.
It is written in first person from the perspective of girl that is five minutes away from birth, but decides to turn around and go the opposite direction, into her unbirth. I was kind surprised because I really didn't think the poem would unfold in that way. As the poem goes on the unborn child goes through the Romantic period, the Renaissance Era, the Middle Ages and even the times of Adam and Eve. The unborn child goes so far back that she doesn't ever reach birth and dies.

The Same Inside

Anna Swir's poem 'The Same Inside' is an interesting poem about a beggar ladies effects on the speaker. There are two references to animals in this poem. This is important because one speaks of love as a savage when the speaker says, "walking to your place for a love feast"; and the other compares the instincts of a dog to those of humans. Both are interesting because by the end of the poem the instincts of a dog are more promising than the feast for love, "And then I no longer knew/ why I was walking to your place." These last two lines of the poem are very important. We understand that a woman, or in particular a person, who is like yourself becomes more important than love. I think Swir is attacking not necessarily those who care more about their lovers than they do other people, but more or less an attack on people who don't take notice of those who are in need of help, like the beggar woman. The speaker takes the time to do this and soon realizes how much it was worth her time and effort.

"I Talk to My Body"

This was a very interesting poem because it is a good example of what we talked about in class with regards to her "out of body" imagery in her poems. In the first stanza, she says, "My body, you are an animal/ whose appropriate behavior/ is concentration and discipline." I thought this was an interesting analogy because the reference to an animal is almost savage and untrained, yet she still remains disciplined. This could be referring to the primal urges that she faces and blocks throughout her life. The second stanza sets up a dichotomy between mind and body, where she will be removed from her body physically and mentally/spiritually. The reference to "a cosmic ship to Jupiter" could indicate that she understands the complexities between what her mind thinks and how her body acts out those thoughts. Understanding this relationship is as big of a task as comprehending the depth of space and the planets.

In the third stanza, she says, "My body, you are an animal...". This helps us understand the animal reference in the first stanza. Here, she is saying that without her mind and the ability of the mind to control the actions of the body, her animal instincts concentrated in her body would come through. The last two lines say, "Splendid possibilities/ are open to us". This shows that she is optimistic about the ability of humans to control their animal instincts in order to reach a higher level of discipline and concentration.

"A Woman Writer Does Laundry"

I found this to be a thought-provoking poem about women being able to write by pushing their social constraints, but instead many find comfort in "doing laundry in the old style" (line 2). Laundry was done by women for many years and its a necessity for a family to have clean clothes. It's a safe, healthy, peaceful, and traditional thing to do. It is pure "relaxation" (line 6) to dwell in tradition because it is safe.

By Swir saying that "writing is suspect," I believe that to her writing is controversial and challenges society, so it is easier to give up typing/writing and just do laundry instead (line 8). Swir is challenging the belief of just taking the easy road. She compares writing to being "like three interrogation marks," as if writing was something questionable and unladylike to do, and also something that you were being graded on or your performance was being watched (line 10).

Woman Unborn

I found Anna Swir's poem "Woman Unborn" very interesting. The main idea of the poem is the idea of "minus life". When she says this, she means the time before she was born. In the poem she is traveling back in time. When I first saw the term "minus life" I immediately took it as an abstract idea that contrasts with reality. The second and third stanzas of the poem portray the poem quite well. As she is traveling back in time, before her existence, she notices "nonexistence so much resembles immortality." I found this line very striking. Of course, immortality refers to a living human that cannot die, and she compares this person to nonexistence, something that never was. I think she compares these two to make that point of how difficult life really is. At times we say, "I wish I had never existed!" as little kids often do while throwing a tantrum. Hardly ever do we wish for immortality, because the toils are foil eventually catch up with us. The last line really ties in this idea, "As trite as the death of my existence would have been had I really been born."

Soup for the Poor

In Anna Swir’s poem, “Soup for the Poor,” she describes the life of the poor, standing in soup lines in Warsaw during the Great War. The poem is quite simple and stark, but, because of its austere style, it paints a bleak portrait of life in Poland during the First World War. The poem begins, “Through the streets of Warsaw kitchens for the poor are hauled. The poor stand in lines, they warm themselves by bonfires which are lit for them in the streets of Warsaw (Swir).” Clearly, this excerpt reflects the bleak existence of Warsaw’s poor. The line, “they warm themselves by bonfires which are lit for them… (Swir),” hints at the helplessness of the poor (the bon fires have to be lit for them). In addition to focusing on the helplessness of the poor and the starkness of life in Warsaw during the Great War, the poem also describes the embarrassment associated with being so helpless. Having to stand in line for food, “Mother put on a kerchief, covered her face…. Mother was afraid that janitor’s wife would see her. Mother after all was the wife of an artist (Swir).” Once a member of the middle class, the mother, despite her husband’s distinguished profession, is relegated to the lowest social class, forced to stand in line, and wait for soup to be handed to her.


In Wislawa Szyborska’s poem, “Pieta,” the author makes reference to the famous sculpture, the Pieta, created by Michelangelo in late fifteenth century. The sculpture portrays the Virgin Mary holding the crucified Jesus in her arms and weeping. In the poem, the monument described early in the first stanza is a pieta, but, instead of Mary and Jesus as the subject, it shows a mother grieving for her son. Wislawa Szyborska writes, “In the town where the hero was born you may: gaze at the monument… ask for his mother’s address (Szyborska).” From this description, we can recognize that the mother’s son was a hero, and most likely a martyr for a certain cause (though the cause is never revealed). Wislawa Szyborska continues, writing, “Yes she was standing at the prison wall that morning. Yes, she heard the shots (Szyborska).” Like Mary at the crucifixion of Jesus, the mother in this poem witnessed (or at least heard) the death of her son. From the authors tone and description of the events, we get the impression that the woman’s son was the victim of political violence and was killed by an oppressive regime. Alluding to the hero status the woman’s son has attained, the poem ends with Wislawa Szyborska writing, “You may get up. Thank her. Say goodbye. Leave, passing by the new arrivals in the hall (Szyborska).”

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Woman Writer Does Laundry

The aspect of this poem that I found the most interesting was Swir's juxtaposition of old and new ways. Swir exhibits her exasperation with writing and desires a shift back to the old ways of doing laundry, just like her grandmother and mother before her. I found this interesting because it gives a great value to this mundane task as both relaxing and useful. Whereas I feel most female poets would tend to bash traditional female tasks such as doing laundry, Swir seems to embrace it as a much-needed diversion. She uses lots of commas and some alliteration to develop a rhythm in line 4, as she states, "I wash, I wash, I rinse, I wring." The other thing that I love about this poem is that she questions the very nature of her work, calling writing "suspect"and likening it to "three interrogation marks" on a page. I think that it is neat that Swir realizes the ultimate lack of practical importance of her writing. This poem seems to be ultimately saying, in my opinion, that although women's roles have improved and expanded, there is still something very useful, both mental and physical, in the old traditions of simple things such as laundry.

Anna Swir Blog: I Say to My Body: You Carcass

In this poem, Swir appears to be made at her own body as she refers to it as a "carcass." However, I think the anger is deeper than her physical body. Late in the poem, Swir says, "You are afraid of pain and hunger, you are afraid of the abyss." In my opinion, this quote defines the entire poem. Swir is not mad at her physical body, she is mad at the fact that she is afraid to take chances, which is seen in her quote, "you are afraid of the abyss." She calls herself a carcass for not having the willingness to be her own person. In fact, Swir goes a step further to say, "You, deaf, blind carcass-I say and I spit at the mirror." In this quote, I felt that Swir was using the term blind to signify that she had been blinded by societies norms. This thought was furthered by the word "mirror." She is a mirror of society, an exact replication, which is why she is frustrated with herself.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

gas chamber

The tone of this short story was rather surprising to me. I initially thought that the tone would be much more negative, but it struck me as being somewhat detached. I only say this because of the way the daily events are described throughout the story and the lack of feeling that is shown in reaction to them. I would attribute this "detachment" to the concentration camp prisoners' reactions to life as prisoners of war who are facing imminent death. It seems they are all desensitized to everyday life in attempt to feel no pain or sorrow.

Welcome to the Gas Chambers

The tone of this piece, as others have pointed out, is very frank and to-the-point. It is just another thing the narrator has to deal with, so he might as well make the best of it. That point has been made. What surprised me was how concerned the narrator seemed to be with nationality and ethnicity. In the middle of the story, around page 2777, he has already noted his friend is a Frenchman, and makes sure to complain about the Greeks sitting around him: "huge inhuman insects." He later makes notice of a Muslim who is apparently not very popular with the other campers. It seems that this way of thinking, of dividing people up by pretty arbitrary means, is exactly the kind of thinking that made the concentration camps possible. It is an irony of sorts that the narrator falls into exactly the same kind of trap that got him into this mess.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gas Chambers

I was surprised like Dominique at the optimism or false hope presented in the story. It seemed at the beginning that the people, including the narrator, thought things were okay since they had food. They were blinded by some false hope maybe. When they finally got to the new camp, they became solomn as if it were a reality check. I'm surprised that they seemed in such high spirits when so much evil surrounded them. Perhaps they just thought they were going to get out. Nope.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber

The observation made about the tone of the story, Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber, in class seems to be the most striking aspect of the story. Borowski’s tone of narration seems to be desensitized from the seriousness or sadness of the Nazi concentration camps. But at the same time, the tone of the story is contradictory to the actual situation of the story. Even the harsh realities are reflected as the matter-of-fact issues, and without outrage or emotions. Although the tone seems to be desensitized, I think his woes are reflected in the issues that are brought up. They do not transit smoothly, and random ideas seem to be popping up, which reflect some sort of paranoia. “Even the usual recreation is lacking: the wide roads to the crematoria are empty” (2773). I found it hard to follow some of the arguments because they fluctuate so much.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, To the Gas Chamber"

The tone of the narrator in this story is very point-blank and matter of fact when describing the actions within the internment camps. The tone seems to set a feeling that detaches him from any set of morals or standards that are commonplace in normal societies. However, from this story we realize these internment camps come nowhere close to fitting any sort of mold for normalcy in society, "The whole camp went about naked. True we had already passed through the delousing process and received our clothing back from the tanks filled witha dilution of cyclone in water which so excellently poisoned lice in clothing and people in gas chambers..." The tone the narrator uses in this story perfectly highlights the general lack of care and humanity in the actions between prisoners and guards.

The Tone of the Narrator

The tone of the narrator in "To the Gas Chamber" is criticized as Melancholy and Matter of Fact. The reason for this of course is clear. The narrator is a prisoner in a concentration camp who lives on a bed of straw and faces hardships every day. On top of that he watches thousands of his own kind of people head to the death. He had to erase any feeling he would have or else go insane and never come out alive. The matter of fact, removed attitude masks the pain and suffering of seeing his people die.

Gas Chamers

The short story, Ladies and Gentleman, To The Gas Chamber, was a first person view of concentration camps during the Nazi takeover. The story as a whole completely surprised me; I did not expect to encounter so much pleasentry towards the camp as was stated throughout the text. Some of the prisoners were treated better than others and they felt as if everything was okay and it seemed as though they overlooked the fact that they were still prisoners in a camp.
A key point in the story that really caught my attention was when the narrator was assigned the job of moving the dead bodies and during this time he was thinking so highly of the concentration camp. From a student that has read stories such as The Diary of Anne Frank I am in awe when I see a character who is victim to this tradgedies think so highly of their situation.

Gas Chamber

I feel throughout the entire short story that the tone was showing little remorse in the manner in which they killed and treated alot of their prisoners. I wouldn't use the word "like", but it was real interesting to me at the way the author came at some of his statements that he made during the story. One example is the way he used sarcasm my inplying that the weather heat was absolutely terrific. You can clearly see that he takes a rahter sarcastic side in his first couple of sentences, talking about the way in which they had arrived and the tasks they had to go through, “True, we had already passed through the delousing process . . . which so excellently poisoned lice in clothing and people in gas chambers… (Borowski).” I think by carrying on this sarcastic mood, that he is in fact trying to distance everybody away from the true fact that what really went on was cruel, insane, and inhumane.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, To the Gas Chamber"

In the short story by Tadeusz Borowski, there is a detached/apathetic tone towards all the killing and inhumanity. This tone also shows the struggle for life in Auschwitz among the prisoners themselves, rather than just the usual talk about death and killing. He also was very sarcastic about many of the atrocities that happened, including how the "heat was terrific" (2773) and the transport of people that were going to die was "a good, rich transport" (2786). My personal opinion is that the detached tone adds to the story because it shows much better the inhumanity of Auschwitz and all the mindless killing. As for the sarcasm, I don't believe it helps any. It works well for political satire, like in "The Poor Mouth," but I don't believe it works well here. Using a more straightforward manner to match the detached tone I believe would have worked better.

Gas Chambers

I've read a lot about the Holocaust as well as World War II in general and the way that Borowski writes his story in such a way as to remove himself from the horrors in not infrequent. By distancing himself from the unloading of trains and hauling to the gas he is able to alleviate some of the guilt he undoubtedly feels for his participation in the Nazi crimes. While he is not a willing participant, the very act of his presence within the camp is enough to drive someone mad. Men who liberated camps felt this way in some instances, and they came to free the prisoners.

Ladies & Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber

The author describes this short story in a matter-of-fact tone because every event was carried out just that way. Nothing was sugar coated, nothing was exaggerated, everything was conducted in a fashionable, straightforward and cruel way. The slogan of Nazi Germany can attest to this: "Ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Fuhrer," translated One State, One People, One Leader! (2780). Also, the expression "ordnung muss sein," or order in everything, expands on the straightforward conduct of these concentration camps. The fact that "the trucks drve away and return continuously like some monstrous assembly line" describes the methodic way of life each prisoner and Nazi officer deals with everyday. The words "assembly line" is an interesting way to describe the routine in the camp. Dictionary.com defines the word as an "arrangment of workers assembled to perform a specific, successive operation on an incomplete unit as it passes by in a series of stages organized in a direct line." It is interesting to juxtapose this with those in the camp. They come in on trains, they are seperated, thrown into barracks and starved, and then thrown into the gas chambers. This point is made throughtout the short story and it is of much importance. The author's style and tone are juxtaposed with the content and theme throughout.

Ladies and Gentlemen to the Gas Chamber

As mentioned in class, the tone in Borowski's, Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber, was often times sarcastic and casual. For example, Borwoski says on page 2774, "Several of us are sitting right now on a top bunk swinging our legs in a carefree manner. We take out white, extravagantly baked bread: crumbly, falling to pieces, a little provoking in taste, but, for all that, bread that had not been molding for weeks." In this statement, Borowski uses a sarcastic and casual tone to try to depict the characters, the narrator and Henri, as being carefree subjects, who are casually lounging on the bunk, happy that they have bad tasting bread. In all reality, he is only mocking the several week old bread that is molding and tastes awful. His use of sarcasm reminds me of Flann O'Brien's, The Poor Mouth. O'Brien used sarcasm to overemphasize certain stereotypes that had been developed about the Gaelic people. In Borowski's case, I think he uses sarcastic undertones to not only detach himself from the gruesome situation, but also bring to the forefront what life in a concentration camp is truly like.

I also felt Borowski used a very serious tone in his writing. Take for instance, when the beautiful, young lady asks the narrator where she is being taken. The narrator does not respond, then she responds saying, "I already know." As we all know, she puts herself on the truck that is headed to the gas chamber. But the question remains as to why Borowski appears to switch tones near the end of the story? I think the girl's actions causes the author to rethink what he is taking part in as a prisoner. His tone becomes much less sarcastic after that, and much more critical about his life and the lives of others in the camp. I really felt that this had strong ties to Borowski's own suicide and the fact that, as said by Emiliano Zapata, "It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees."

To the Gas Chamber

In Tadeusz Borowski’s short story, “Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber,” the narrator uses a great deal of sarcasm and matter-of-fact speech to tell the deeply disturbing story of prisoners in the infamous Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz. This matter-of-fact, sarcastic style is clearly exhibited in the second sentence of Borowski’s narrative, which states, “True, we had already passed through the delousing process and received our clothing back from the tanks filled a dilution of cyclone in water which so excellently poisoned lice in clothing and people in gas chambers… (Borowski).” In this section, the author introduce the sentence by saying, “True,…” which makes the following sentence sound less important and more like an everyday, common occurrence. He also eliminates humanity from this sentence by making the poison the active agent. He could have stated that people were poisoned by the mixture of cyclone and water, but instead, perhaps alluding to the helpless nature of the prisoners, he writes, “a dilution of cyclone in water which so excellently poisoned … people in gas chambers… (Borowski).” Indeed, throughout “Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber,” the author makes repeated use of sarcasm and matter-of-fact speech to provide an emotionally detached, cold, and provocative look at life in Auschwitz.

Gas Chamber

In Tadeusz Borowski's Ladies and Gentlement, to the Gas Chamber, the narrator states the story in a matter of fact fashion. By using this tone, it seems as he is detached from the gravity of the concentration camps, and that he has become numb to the mass killings occurring around him. There is also a sense of sarcasm in his tone. The second line of the story, as we discussed in class, really exemplifies the narrator's tone, when he says, "True, we had already passed through the delousing process and received our clothing back from the tanks filled with a dilution of cyclone in water which so excellently poisoned lice in clothing and people in the gas chambers." By starting the sentence with "true," we get the sense that he is simply saying this is what happened. He also uses the word "excellent" to describe the dilution of the cyclone, which is the extermination gas. Of course the gas is not excellent, but by using this word he distances himself from the reality of the horrific situation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber

The thing that struck me most about the short story Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber was the manner in which the narrator, a Pole who works in a Nazi concentration camp, becomes desensitized to the mass executions that go on in the short story. I found this work to be an interesting contrast to other pieces of Holocaust literature that I have read, such as Number the Stars, Night, and even The Diary of Anne Frank. While this story, similar all those mentioned, was interesting and filled with emotion, I thought that the perspective from which this story was told made it more unique. Rather than hearing the struggle of a Holocaust victim who gets displaced from her home and is forced to move from camp to camp, watching her family members die from either gas or starvation, we instead witness the life of a labor camp worker who, although still harshly treated, is worried more about the day to day grind of survival than he seems to be about death. While clearly not ideal, his situation seems to be better than most holocaust victims. Furthermore, his attitude toward the mass executions is very callous. He makes statements such as "It is here that goods are unloaded for Birkenau: material for the expansion of the camp and people for the gas chambers." Here he speaks of people as goods, and later on in the story, he states that he is actually angry with the people who he must unload from the trains. However, as it shows later on in the story, his callous nature is really just a means for him to cope with the atrocities of his life. I found the narrator's reaction to his situation to be an interesting look into the way that humans deal with their own tragic situations.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Short Film about Killing

Krzystof Kieslowski's film shows that outlawing of death penalty is still a tall order. As unjust as death penalty seems, only new lawyers are advocating against the capital punishment. Eventually, the fight against the capital punishment becomes a useless attempt. Kieslowski portrays the sadness of the whole situation by showing contrasting emotions between the ones carrying out the death penalty, and the one defending and the one being executed. It is shown as just another job for the ones carrying out the execution, and they are smoking cigarettes like everyday.

It is interesting to note that the director tries to pose a question about the fairness of capital punishment. Is death penalty fair even for one of the worst killings? Jacek is shown to respond to actions that many people ignore. He strangles the taxi driver and kills the driver after several blows to the head. Later, Jacek is executed for his crime. Many argue that one killing, execution, does not justify the other killing, crime. Aside from that argument, Jacek does not physically suffer as much as the taxi driver before death.

a short film about killing

In Krzystof Kieslowski's film, the issue of the death penalty is addressed. Through a heartfelt and personable story, Kieslowski makes his viewers assess their stance on whether or not capital punishment is the correct response to murder charges. While the main character, Lucja, is obviously in the wrong for killing the cab driver, Kieslowski characterizes him as helpless and sorrowful 'boy', ultimately hoping to make the audience feel sorry for Lucja. In doing this, Kieslowski is trying to make viewers reevaluate their stances on the death penalty. By watching this film I was further convinced that capital punishment is an unjust and horrible act that should be outlawed worldwide.
In Krzystof Kieslowski's film, he brings the issue of capital punishment to the foreground. His film forces you to examine your stance thoroughly. By depicting the main character, Lucja, as a person of free will, he makes our decision much more difficult. Throughout the film, he pretty well does what he pleases, whether his actions are right or wrong. Also, the film is very impersonal. We don't know any names, so it is like we are observing everything third-person. We don't get attached to any of the characters. This is intentional to makes us closely examine our own views; Kieslowski is not trying to sway our feelings on capital punishment, he is simply bringing the issue to our attention. After viewing the film, I would still say I'm against capital punishment. Sure, the main character ruthlessly kills, but should human life really be taken by the hands of other fellow humans? The issue is undoubtedly a complicated, difficult issue, but it is one worth pondering. I think Kieslowski did an excellent job presenting the issue in the way that he did.

"Of Three or Four in a Room" by Yehuda Amichai

I was thinking after class about some of the other images in the poem. The big one that stood out to me was the idea of one person out of 3 or 4 people in a room being able to see all the consequences, evil, and brutality of war. This one person must see how people come back from war very traumatized and feeling insignificant, and also see all the evil underpinnings of war, not just the supposed reasons that your country tells you that they are fighting the war for. On the other hand, the 3 other people in the room are like drones controlled by the country and the military,and these drones do not realize what they are doing and all the problems of war in front of them. Amichai compares these drones that the one person sees out of the window as "voices wandering without a knapsack, hearts without provisions, prophecies without water" (line 11-12). I believe Amichai's stance is anti-war and is trying to critique war as showing how most people do not even know why they are fighting the war in the first place, let alone all the evil and brutality that comes along with war too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I Still Cannot Decide

There are a few different angles in this story that throw our minds and hearts in different directions. First of all the question of capital punishment is brought up. Is it right or not? I honestly still cannot not deside for myself if I believe in this punishment. At first, I think that if a person thinks he or she has the right to kill someone, then he or she has a right to be capitally punished. I also think that it serves as a good deterrent to crime. However, morally, I side with forgiveness only in its truest form. The movie director I think wants us to feel sorry for the killer.
Now as for the reason why this murder happened...I think it had everything to do with his little sister. He was mentally damaged by this which I think lead to the murder. However, he committed a murder nonetheless. Does he deserve to be sentenced to death? I still can't decide.

A Short Film About Killing

In Krzysztof Kieslowski's "A Short Film About Killing," it is evident that the main purpose is to make the viewer take a step back and re-assess his views on capital punishment. Throughout the movie we follow the lives of two strangers that seemingly have no connection, except for the fact that they both seem to be extremely inconsiderate of others around them. Both of these men, to be quite blunt, are bastards. It seems as though everything they do is intended to hurt or negatively impact someone around them, whether it is throwing rocks on cars from an overpass or scaring people and their pets as they pass in front of your car, it seems as though both of these men get an immense amount of enjoyment from being inconsiderate to others. To no surprise, when these two men finally do meet up their ruthlessness continues and one eventually ends up dead. In the end Jacek ends up ruthlessly killing the cab driver, but justice seems quick to follow in the hands of the law. Within a very short period of time Jacek is convicted of his crimes and sentenced to death, however, the producer makes a twist in the plot and somehow makes the viewer almost feel remorseful for Jacek and his impending execution. By presenting a new, caring side of Jacek in which he pleads with his attorney and remorsefully talks about his sister, the viewer now becomes attached to him and feels compassionate for his inevitable future. Even more compelling is the scene that Jacek puts on just minutes before his execution. His fit of madness and sorrow really pulls at the viewer and makes him realize how realistic death actually is, especially under capital punishment. I believe the unorthodox way Kieslowski portrays the harshness of murder is quite effective in triggering the viewer to question his beliefs. Instead of the long, drawn out depictions of saddened inmates awaiting their executions we are typically used to, Kieslowski takes a different approach and shows just how quick death really is. By taking the character of Jacek from an unruly teen to a remorseful young adult in such a short period of time the viewer gets an amazing sense of the finality of death, especially in the way Jacek's actions change when he realizes his unavoidable punishment.

A short film about killing

The film raised several interesting points about the death penalty and human nature. In the film, the main character killed a taxi driver, and, as punishment for his crime, he was executed. I found it interesting that the Polish society in the film viewed the young man’s actions as so heinous that they warranted the ultimate punishment. However, when it came time to execute the young man for his crimes, no one (except for the lawyer) had any qualms about killing him. What I found interesting was that the society viewed killing (in the case of the young man) as a violent, servile action; however, they were more than willing to kill the young man as punishment for his actions. If they truly believed that killing was so wrong, they would not be so quick to sentence a young man to death. Perhaps, to them, two wrongs do make a right.

A Short Film About Killing

While I was out of town and unable to view the movie on Friday morning I have seen a few scenes of it on Youtube and have read a review of the movie on www.reelreviews.net.

I will not attempt to give my direct thoughts on the entirety of the movie but some reactions to what I have read on this films as well as one book that strikes me as particularly related.

It appears that the movie attempts to make the point that while a crime had def. been committed against the cab driver, another crime (this time by the state) was committed in the execution of the murderer. It also makes it ironic in that the noose does not snap the neck of the victim and instead strangles him in much the same way as the cab driver, minus a rock apparently. This reminds me all too well of a book I once read on the subject of the death penalty by Sister Hellen Prejean called Dead Man Walking. Prior to this book I had been very pro-death penalty but after which I have come to realize a)the Church's teaching on the beauty of each and every human life and b) the amount of money required to kill another person as a result of convicted murder. Sister Helen walks the reader through the trials and appeals of a few men she met on death row and shows the reader why it is wrong that two people should die for the crimes of one. She also makes it known the great financial pains that the appeal system costs American society prior to the actual execution. We learn that it is far, far cheaper for us to imprison murders for life without the possibility of parole than it is to sentence them to death. I would urge anyone who was moved by A Short Film about Killing to pick up a copy of Sister Helen's book; you won't be sorry you did.

Lu Xun: Evolution

References to Evolution & Darwinism in Xun

In The Diary of a Madman, Xun is probably influenced by the theories of evolution put forth by Darwin & Huxley. For instance in chapter 4 Xun writes, “After I’d taken a few bites, the meat felt so smooth and slippery in my mouth that I couldn’t tell whether it was fish or human flesh. I vomited.” This could point to an understanding that we, as humans, had evolved from our days of all creatures living in the sea and being of the same flesh. Which is this case would make fish flesh and human flesh almost identical. I believe that Xun also believes human beings must undergo some changes in our perception of the way we eat meat in most cases as we have much in common with the animal world around us so that eating animal meat would have similar repercussions as if we were cannibals and eating human flesh.