For my blog post this week, I’ve decided to write about a story that we studied in the first week of the semester, ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ by Ernest Hemingway. This is one of my favourite short stories that I have read since I started my degree as I found the way the dialogue is written to be very intriguing, and also the way in which the main plot of the story is constructed.
The story takes place in a train station in Spain, where an American man and a girl named Jig are waiting for a train to take them to Madrid. As they sit on the platform drinking beer and waiting to leave for the capital, they have a conversation about something that is never mentioned by name in the story.
Much of the dialogue between the couple for the rest of the story is very passive aggressive, and you as the reader are left unsure at the end of the story if the conflict between the couple has been resolved. The plot of the story, which is only alluded to by Hemingway, is the fact that Jig is to have an abortion in Madrid, and that she and the American man appear to disagree about whether the abortion should take place.
I studied this story also while I was on Erasmus, and found it fascinating to discuss the ways in which Hemingway conveys the contrasting opinions of Jig and the American man towards the abortion through the use of the setting and the landscape which surrounds the train station.
I think that the story is written well as the reader is left to decipher the plot of the story by analysing all the minutiae which contribute to the narrative. This story is the first of Ernest Hemingway’s work that I have read, but I would be interested to read more of his novels in the future, especially The Old Man and The Sea and A Farewell to Arms.
During this week in my American Literature module we have moved away from African American writers and race tensions, and have now moved onto the Beat Generation of the 50’s and 60’s. We are particularly focusing on the writing of Allen Ginsberg, who is seen as one of the most influential poets of this time period.
Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso.
For writers of the Beat Generation, such as Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Gregory Corso, politics and society were significant topics of discussion. They wanted to move away from the conservative ideals of 1950’s America, and discussed more controversial ideas in their writing including alcohol, drugs and sexuality. Many of the Beat writers were also interested in Eastern religions, with Ginsberg moving his written focus from Catholic to Buddhist thoughts over time. Kerouac’s On the Road and Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ became celebrated classics of this particular time period.
Cover of Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg.
It was interesting to learn about some of these writers this week as I had read Jack Kerouac’s novel Big Sur a few years ago, and had also watched Kill Your Darlings, a movie about Allen Ginsberg’s time at Columbia University, where he met Kerouac and other writers such as Lucien Carr. I learned things about the Beat writers that I was previously unaware of, such as the difficult and tumultuous relationship that Ginsberg had with his mother Naomi, who was often hospitalised with mental health issues. It was also fascinating to learn about the use of the term ‘beat’, and how this term could be applied to the writing of this time in different ways e.g. social, musical and religious.
I enjoyed learning about the Beat Generations and the writers of this era as their poems and novels are very experimental and enjoyable to read as they discuss topics that previous writers had been hesitant to write about. These lectures have now made me more interested in reading other works of the Beat Generation in the future.
W.E.B Du Bois.
In creating my blog, I have decided to focus my posts for the next few weeks on the people and texts that I am studying in my American Literature module this semester. For the first few weeks of lectures so far we have been looking at racial tensions in America and how coloured writers in America discussed the social problems that were present at the time.
One of the most interesting people that was mentioned in the lectures is W.E.B Du Bois. We read some extracts from his influential collection of essays entitled The Souls of Black Folk and examined how Du Bois discussed how being both African and American caused a sense of confusion as to where coloured people belonged in society.
It was fascinating to learn about African Americans and racial tensions in this way as I had never thought about how people may feel conflicted between two identities, particularly Mixed race people who may not view themselves as part of either White or Black society.
Source: The University of Chicago Library News.
In The Souls of Black Folk Du Bois mentions the idea of double-consciousness and how African Americans view society as both Africans and Americans, and also how their own identity is affected by how White Americans view them.
It was also interesting to learn about how proactive Du Bois was in furthering the lives of African Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. He was very passionate about securing more political and educational rights for African Americans, and in 1905, along with other influential social activists, founded the Niagara Movement. This organisation eventually led to the founding of the NAACP in 1910.
Even though there are clearly racial tensions still present in America, it is inspiring to learn about how African Americans such as W.E.B Du Bois have played a significant role in the bettering of the lives of African Americans today.