Monthly Archives: October 2012

Mr. Shiftlet a magician?


This week for class I chose to read “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” by Flannery O’Connor. The short story is about a man named Mr. Shiftlet who is a disfigured con artist and tricks an unsuspecting mother into giving away some of her most prized possessions. Mr. Shiftlet tricked the mother into believing that he is an honest man looking for work as well as an innocent woman to love. The mother, Lucynell Crater, is deceived by Mr. Shiftlet which would be quite similar to one being deceived by a magician at a magic show.

In the story, Mr. Shiftlet comes to the small plantation to work and fix up the home. Though Lucynell is hesitant about allowing the stranger on her farm, but she allows him work as a carpenter and sleep in her old Ford. Mr. Shiftlet earns Lucynell’s trust by completing several overdue tasks which include fixing up the old car to running condition. Throughout the story, Mr. Shiftlet talks about finding an innocent woman.  Lucynell is hesitant about offering her disabled daughter for marriage but believes Mr. Shiftlet is the right fit for her daughter. Mr. Shiftlet refuses to marry Lucynell’s daughter until he can “treat her right” by affording a hotel room and travel accommodations.  Lucynell, falling into Mr. Shiftlet’s deceit, pays for the car to be fixed and painted as well as gives Mr. Shiftlet money for a romantic honeymoon.


Above is a picture of Mr. Shiftlet.

As soon as the couple is married Mr. Shiftlet promises to have Lucynell’s daughter returned within two days and they begin their honeymoon. With the car on loan the couple heads down to Mobile, Alabama for their honeymoon weekend. Shiftlet decides that it is time for his new bride to eat and stops a “The Hot Spot” for a quick dinner. While at the diner the daughter falls asleep on the counter while waiting on her food.  Mr. Shiftlet sees this as his perfect opportunity to ditch his new bride and leaves her at the diner.



Above is an example of the before and after of the old Ford.

Mr. Shiftlet cunningly deceived Lucynell with his charm, quite similar  to that of a magician at a magic show. In the beginning they show you a trick usually a card trick or the timeless pulling a quarter from behind your ear.  For example the magician may tell you that they will “magically” pull a quarter from behind your ear when in reality it is usually in the magician’s sleeve or in the crook of their elbow.  The audience is tricked thinking that the trick really was magic when in reality the “trick” was an illusion. The video below is an example of the quarter trick deceiving a young child. In the caption below the video the father says that he convinced the child that he should be washing behind his ears more; hence where the quarter came from.

 Mr. Shiftlet could be considered a master magician in that he deceived a mother in giving up her most precious possession for his own benefit and tricked her into thinking he was a trusting character.


T.S. Eliot and why he wrote “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”


After reading T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, I decided I would look into the events that influenced Eliot’s writing as well as what people of that time era thought of his work.

When Eliot was vacationing in Europe, he found the influence for his poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” At this time, Europe was in the fading days of the “Beautiful Age”. This era was a time right before the beginning of World War 1 when the standard of living was high, industries were booming, and peace and optimism were flowing. At this time, life in Europe was “grand” in a sense. However, instead of allowing his writings to reflect the beauty of the time, Eliot chose to write just the opposite. The poem is about a man named J. Alfred Prufrock. He had chosen to belittle himself  and allowing little happiness to escape into his life. The man has an obvious fear of rejection from women and severely lacks social skills. He takes the reader through the shabbiest part of town as if to encourage his “pity-party” show casing his fear of fully living his life. []

Above is a picture of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”.

After doing further research, I learned that Eliot was writing in this manor to contrast Prufrock from the rest of society to represent the beginning of modernist movement. As I previously mentioned people of this era were optimistic, open-minded, and enjoyed life. However, by completely contrasting Prufrock from the rest of society Eliot is seamlessly introduces the idea of “modernism” to his audience. I believe Eliot chose to write in this way because of his passion for modernism and the future. Eliot realizes that in the “Beautiful Age” the people of the early 1900’s ways of living  is quickly on its way to out.

Though Eliot tried numerous times to distribute his work many publishers rejected the poem. After nearly five years after completion, Eliot finally succeeded in the publication of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in Poetry magazine. The poem was considered to be an experimental piece, but was still able to catch the eye of several notable scholars. The people of the 1900’s were not ready for such disheartening work and highly disapproved of the poem. In a column written in The London Times the “Literary Supplement” stated that “the fact that these things occurred to the mind of Mr. Eliot is surely of the very smallest importance to anyone, even to himself” proving that readers were simply not ready to leave the “Beautiful Age” for the upcoming modernistic era.

Though the fad of “modernism” has long past scholars today still seem to have negative feedback towards Eliot’s work.  Today critics see his work as “a dark mope-fest” or in other words a self-pity poem. Garrison Keillor recently wrote “This poem pretty much killed off the pleasure of poetry” yet again proving that Eliot’s poem has yet to capture the interest of readers in a positive aspect due its almost pathetic poor-pitiful me tone. []

The full column from Garrison Keillor’s critique can be found here in the fourth and fifth paragraphs:

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost Personal Comparison


In class this week, we read about Robert Frost and his poems. I chose to do my blog about his poem “The Road Not Taken”. In this particular poem, Frost writes about a traveler who must choose which path he shall take. The traveler is aware that he may only pick one pathway and chooses to take the less traveled path.

I can relate to the narrator in Frost’s poem because I have had to make similar decisions in my life time. Recently, I was faced with the choice to pursue my dreams in an out-of-state school or change my career path. If I chose to change my career path, I would be able to stay in Alabama with my family and friends. However, if I chose to pursue my dreams of becoming a Dental Hygienist, I would be forced to leave and potentially face several thousands of dollars of debt. Just like the traveler, I had a very tough decision to make.

Though both of the pathways I have been presented with are equivalent, one must decide which road they will take. After heavily weighing both options, I chose leave Alabama in chase of my dreams. In the fall of 2013, I will be full-time student of Eastern Tennessee State University in hopes of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.

The poem taught me that one must make decisions, even if, they do not fully know the outcome. Every decision that one makes in their lifetime will have a different outcome and will “[make] all the difference” influencing their life. I believe Frost wrote this particular poem to teach readers that one must make decisions even if they do not know what the outcome will be. If people choose to sit at the “forks” in their lifetimes, one will never get anywhere because of their lack of decision making. In my eyes, the poem suggests that when one is faced with two options, most people choose the easier route, but in the future, will one regret not taking the harder pathway? Then, there is the dilemma of what if one would could not complete the harder road, what would you do then? At this time, this is what I face and hope I chose the correct pathway similar to the narrator.

Above is a humorous video that shows viewers examples of decision making whether or not it be good choices or bad.


Brief History of Naturalism


Naturalism, which began in the late 19th century, was a literary movement which would replace popular literary themes like Romanticism and Surrealism. This movement was only popular around aspiring American writers of its time. Naturalism is in many ways similar to Realism, however, it more closely identifies with the primary cause of one’s actions and/or beliefs. The thought process behind naturalistic writing is to show the reader that instinct and social situations would always be the determining factor in a person’s decisions. The most critical theme that is implied in Naturalistic literature is that one’s emotions dominate logical reason in the majority of circumstances.


The above picture depicts a brain demonstrating Naturalistic behavior by separating emotion from reason.

The first true example of Naturalism in literature can be found in Stephan Crane’s novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. In short, the girl whom is known as Maggie, loses her purity outside of wedlock and is disowned by her family to avoid social embarrassment. After she is abandoned, she returns to her boyfriend that took her “to deh devil.” She is then, yet again, left to fend for herself. She then attempts to reunite with her family, but is turned away in embarrassment. You are then led to believe that the girl has turned to prostitution. She is then found dead at the end of the novel. Once the news of her death reaches the family, their emotions quickly change from embarrassment to “melodramatic mourning for [their] ruined child.” They cunningly confess “I’ll fergive her!”

This novel is a great example of Naturalism. Once the family finds out of Maggie’s social blunder, they do not want the shame to reflect upon themselves or the family. They turn her away as would be expected of the time. However, once the news of her tragic downfall reaches the family, they mourn very publically as to draw attention in a way that is expected of the neighbors and their peers.


Above is the cover of Crane’s novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.

Naturalism peaked in American literature with writer Frank Norris. Norris wanted to show readers how one can escape the animalistic instincts and carry himself as a rational member of society.  In his novel, McTeague, Norris revealed how “ambition and greed” wreck the life of a successful dentist. The overall idea of his novel was to prove to readers that human beings natural instincts cannot be overcome by reason. Norris wrote to show readers that in order to succeed, one must rise above emotion and thought, and embrace knowledge.


The video above is a quick introduction to Naturalism that for some may help increase understanding.