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American Literature Midterm - Jay Beavers Baylor

Terms in this set (74)

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened was with thund'ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of "fire" and "fire,"
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then, coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so 'twas just.
It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best.
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall 'ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle e'er shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom's voice e'er heard shall be.
In silence ever shalt thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all's vanity.
Then straight I 'gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mould'ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Frameed by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this be fled.
It's purchased and paid for too
By Him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by His gift is made thine own;
There's wealth enough, I need no more,
Farewell, my pelf, farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love,
My hope and treasure lies above.
HAIL, happy saint, on thine immortal throne,
Possest of glory, life, and bliss unknown;
We hear no more the music of thy tongue,
Thy wonted auditories cease to throng.
Thy sermons in unequall'd accents flow'd, 5
And ev'ry bosom with devotion glow'd;
Thou didst in strains of eloquence refin'd
Inflame the heart, and captivate the mind.
Unhappy we the setting sun deplore,
So glorious once, but ah! it shines no more. 10

Behold the prophet in his tow'ring flight!
He leaves the earth for heav'n's unmeasur'd height,
And worlds unknown receive him from our sight.
There Whitefield wings with rapid course his way,
And sails to Zion through vast seas of day. 15
Thy pray'rs, great saint, and thine incessant cries
Have pierc'd the bosom of thy native skies.
Thou moon hast seen, and all the stars of light,
How he has wrestled with his God by night.
He pray'd that grace in ev'ry heart might dwell, 20
He long'd to see America excel;
He charg'd its youth that ev'ry grace divine
Should with full lustre in their conduct shine;
That Saviour, which his soul did first receive,
The greatest gift that ev'n a God can give, 25
He freely offer'd to the num'rous throng,
That on his lips with list'ning pleasure hung.

"Take him, ye wretched, for your only good,
Take him ye starving sinners, for your food;
Ye thirsty, come to this life-giving stream, 30
Ye preachers, take him for your joyful theme;
Take him my dear Americans, he said,
Be your complaints on his kind bosom laid:
Take him, ye Africans, he longs for you,
"Impartial Saviour is his title due: 35
Wash'd in the fountain of redeeming blood,
You shall be sons, and kings, and priests to God."

Great Countess, 1 we Americans revere
Thy name, and mingle in thy grief sincere;
New England deeply feels, the Orphans mourn, 40
Their more than father will no more return.

But, though arrested by the hand of death,
Whitefield no more exerts his lab'ring breath,
Yet let us view him in th' eternal skies,
Let ev'ry heart to this bright vision rise; 45
While the tomb safe retains its sacred trust,
Till life divine re-animates his dust.
The story begins with a simple tableau (a grouping of silent figures), kind of like you might see in a movie: a man and his executioners stand on a railroad bridge in Alabama. The Civil War is on and military justice is about to be served; the only spectators are a handful of soldiers. The man to be executed is a civilian dressed in the clothes of a plantation owner, and his executioners are Federal (Union) soldiers. As he waits for his executioners to get on with it already, the man looks down at the water below him and imagines ways he could escape home to his wife and children. With a nod of the captain's head, the hanging begins.

Part 2 opens with the narrator introducing Peyton Farquhar, a wealthy Alabamian slave owner. Farquhar is not in the army because of personality issues, but he is determined to support the Confederate cause by any means necessary. An opportunity arises when a soldier dressed in a gray Confederate uniform rides up to his house. The soldier tells him that Union troops are repairing railroads in the surrounding area and have recently rebuilt the nearby bridge over Owl Creek. Apparently the head honcho has issued an order stating that any civilian caught tampering with the railroad will be hanged. The soldier leaves after informing Farquhar that a pile of flammable driftwood has accumulated near the bridge. An hour later, the soldier rides past the Farquhar residence heading north. It turns out that he is actually a Union scout. Tricky.

Now we know that the man being hanged at the beginning of the story and the plantation owner from Part 2 are one and the same. Part 3 of the story begins as Farquhar falls through the bridge. Unable to think rationally, he feels himself freeing his hands from their bindings, removing the noose around his neck, and pushing up to the surface. Diving beneath the water keeps him safe from the soldiers' bullets and he swims with the current toward the opposite shore. Narrowly evading a cannonball, Farquhar gets caught in a vortex that eventually flings him on the sand.

Celebrating his escape, Farquhar hurries toward home, traveling all day through a wild forest straight out of a horror movie. By nightfall, Farquhar reaches the gate to his home. He sees his wife, but, as he is about to grasp her, he feels a powerful blow against the back of his neck. Bright white light turns to complete darkness.

Farquhar is dead, his neck is broken, and his body hangs beneath Owl Creek Bridge.
Sylvia, a nine-year-old girl, is leading her wayward cow, Mistress Moolly, home. She lives on a farm with her grandmother, Mrs. Tilley. Mrs. Tilley took Sylvia in as her town home was too busy, and Sylvia was 'afraid of folks.' Sylvia has become part of the natural environment and feels at home in this 'beautiful place'. Her grandmother acknowledges Sylvia's kinship with the creatures around her.

Sylvia is startled by a 'boy's whistle', then approached by a 'stranger'. He is a hunter who shoots birds for his collection. He is looking for a place to stay while he tries to locate a white heron. Sylvia reluctantly takes him to her grandmother, harbouring a sense of foreboding at his presence.

The hunter is very gracious and polite. He is impressed with the modest farmhouse, referring to it as a 'hermitage'. Having been told by Mrs. Tilley that Sylvia has an affinity with animals, he offers $10 to be given the location of the heron.

Sylvia warms to the 'handsome stranger', and he gives her a jack-knife as a gift. She is unsettled by the fact that he kills what he seems to love - the birds. However, she has 'lost her first fear of the friendly lad.'

Sylvia resolves the next morning to locate the heron's whereabouts by climbing a giant pine tree. As she climbs the tree, she becomes at one with the birds around her, feeling 'as if she too could go flying away among the clouds.'

The story changes narrative perspective as Sylvia sees the heron's nesting place. Her natural instinct overcomes the appeal of the money and the hunter, and forces Sylvia to keep the birds' secret: she cannot 'give its life away.'

The narrator gives the opinion that Sylvia has shown herself worthy of keeping the secrets of nature, and is better off with her life as it is, rather than following her stirring womanly desires.
Madame Valmondé visits L'Abri to see Désirée and her new baby, and on the way, she reminisces about when Désirée was herself a baby. Monsieur had found her asleep at the gateway of Valmondé, and when Désirée awoke, she could do little but cry for "Dada." People believe that a passing band of Texans had abandoned her, but Madame Valmondé believes only that Providence sent her this beautiful, gentle, and affectionate child because she lacked children of her own.

When Armand Aubigny saw Désirée standing next to the stone pillar of the gateway eighteen years later, he fell in love with her immediately, although he had known her for years since first arriving from Paris after his mother's death. Monsieur Valmondé wanted to ensure that Désirée's unknown origin was carefully considered, but Armand did not care because he was so much in love. He decided that if she did not have a family name, then he would give her his own, and soon they were married.

Madame Valmondé has not seen the baby for a month, and she shudders when she visits L'Abri because the place looks so sad without a woman to oversee the Aubigny household. Armand's mother had loved France too much to leave the country and had lived and died in France, and no woman has since taken over. Meanwhile, Armand is strict with his workers, and L'Abri has lost its easygoing nature.

When Madame Valmondé sees Désirée lying beside her baby, she is startled to see the baby's appearance. Speaking in French, Désirée laughs that he has indeed grown strangely, and she remarks on his hearty cries. However, Madame Valmondé observes the child more closely and uneasily asks about Armand's thoughts. Désirée proudly says that Armand is glad to have a son and that he has softened considerably in his treatment of the slaves since his marriage and the child's birth. Armand is by nature imperious and exacting, but she loves him desperately, and he has not frowned since he fell in love with her.

When the baby is three months old, Désirée is suddenly disturbed by a subtle feeling of menace, which is marked by a general air of mystery, unannounced visits from neighbors, and a strange change in her husband's behavior. He begins to avoid her and treat his slaves badly, and Désirée feels miserable. One afternoon, as she sits in her room, she looks at her son and at one of the one-fourth black children, who is fanning her son. The similarity between them dawns upon her, and she tells the other child to leave.

Frightened, she watches her child until Armand enters. She asks him about the child and asks what it means, and he responds coldly that if the child is not white, then she must not be white. Desperately, she responds that she is indeed white, with brown hair, gray eyes, and white skin, but he cruelly tells her that she is as white as their mixed-race slave La Blanche, and he leaves the room.

Despairing, Désirée writes to Madame Valmondé, who tells Désirée that she still loves her daughter and that Désirée should come back to Valmondé with the child. Désirée presents Madame Valmondé's response to Armand, and he tells her to leave. Without changing, Désirée takes her son from the nurse and walks not to Valmondé but to the deserted bayou, where she disappears. Weeks later, at L'Abri, Armand is having his slaves feed a bonfire. He places a willow cradle and other remnants of his marriage to Désirée on the pyre, and the last object to burn is a bundle of letters. Among the letters is an unrelated letter that came from the same drawer, which was sent from his mother to his father. In the letter, which Armand reads, his mother thanks his father for their love and thanks God that Armand will never learn that his mother has mixed blood.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."
The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside him in her apron
To tell them 'Supper.' At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy's first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man's work, though a child at heart—
He saw all spoiled. 'Don't let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don't let him, sister!'
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
Two American women, Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade, get up from their table and stroll over to the parapet to look down upon the glorious view of of Rome. They hear their respective daughters, Barbara and Jenny, giggling at the bottom of the stairs, preparing to go socialize. The two older women contemplate the scene quietly and serenely. They decide that they will remain in their position throughout the afternoon because the view is so beautiful.

Mrs. Slade thinks to herself that her friend is old-fashioned, and asks Mrs. Ansley if she remembers how they came to Rome when they were even younger than their daughters. Mrs. Ansley assents, and the two wonder if their girls will go off with the Italian aviators that they are courting.

Mrs. Slade muses to herself about how little she and Mrs. Ansley actually know about one other. They met when they were children, and both of them grew into beautiful young women. In her youth, Mrs. Ansley was much more beautiful than her daughter Barbara is now. Mrs. Slade thinks of Mrs. Ansley and her (late) husband as "museum specimens of old new York" (6).

After marrying, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley lived near each other. Years later, they both became widows around the same time, left to raise daughters who are also similar in age. Mrs. Slade considers herself to be worse off after losing her husband, because being the wife of Mr. Delphin Slade was an honor and a prominent social role. People would always refer to Mrs. Slade as the beautiful wife of the famous lawyer. Now, she only has her daughter, Jenny, who is pretty but also quite safe and respectable. Mrs. Slade has a hidden desire to see her daughter do something adventurous, like have a torrid affair. Mrs. Ansley, meanwhile, observes her friend's apparent sadness, and pities her a bit.

The women sit in silence, which is rather unusual. Even though they have known each other for years, they have never the opportunity to sit together quietly. This serene situation elevates the intimacy between Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley. Mrs. Slade ponders aloud how Rome has always symbolized something different for everyone. For their grandmothers, the city represented Roman Fever, for their mothers, the city was filled danger, and for their daughters, Rome represents freedom. Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley muse that their own mothers had a hard time keeping their daughters inside, since both women were so young, vibrant, and eager to explore.

Mrs. Ansley knits while they talk and Mrs. Slade is impressed that she can keep her stitches straight while engaged in conversation. Her thoughts stray to Barbara's likelihood of ensnaring the Italian aviator and thinks of poor Jenny, acting as a mere enabler for her friend's romantic aspirations. When Mrs. Ansley asks Mrs. Slade what she is thinking about, Mrs. Slade shares this image, and then marvels that Mrs. Ansley and her late husband, Horace, were able to produce a girl as dynamic as Barbara. Remaining still and expressionless, Mrs. Ansley calls Mrs. Slade's assessment of Barbara overly complimentary. Mrs. Slade tells Mrs. Ansley companionably that she wishes she had a brilliant daughter instead of an angelic one.

Silence resumes. Mrs. Ansley knits and tells herself she has nothing to worry about. Mrs. Slade chides herself and says she should not be envious of Mrs. Ansley. Mrs. Slade stands up and walks to the edge of the parapet, watching the sunset. Mrs. Slade asks her companion if she is afraid of Roman Fever, and the other woman laughs and says no. Mrs. Slade asks about Mrs. Ansley's great-aunt who purposefully sent her younger sister out at night to gather flowers during the epidemic. According to her old story, Mrs. Ansley's great-aunt and her sister were in love with the same man and the great-aunt sent her sister out hoping she would catch Roman Fever, hoping to seduce the man herself. Mrs. Slade laughs at the story and says that she knows Mrs. Ansley only used to tell it to frighten her. Confused, Mrs. Ansley denies that fear was her intent.

Mrs. Slade continues, talking about how difficult it once was to get inside the Colosseum and yet, lovers almost always tried to sneak in to have their trysts there. Mrs. Slade asks Mrs. Ansley if she knew about this ritual and Mrs. Ansley replies, "I -I daresay. I don't remember" (14). Mrs. Slade presses on, asking her friend if she remembers going out one night and catching a chill. Mrs. Ansley again claims not to recall but she is clearly hiding something.

Suddenly Mrs. Slade bursts out that she cannot bear it any longer, and says that she knows Mrs. Ansley once went out to meet Delphin Slade when he was already engaged to her. Mrs. Ansley, unsteadily standing, tries to stop Mrs. Slade from continuing, but Mrs. Slade recites the contents of the letter that Delphin sent to Mrs. Ansley one night, asking her to meet him.

Mrs. Ansley's face belies her internal struggle. She finally says she burnt that letter and wonders out loud how Mrs. Slade knows the contents of the letter by heart. Mrs. Slade calmly admits that she is the one who wrote the letter. Mrs. Ansley drops into her chair and tears form in her eyes. She says it was the only letter she had from Delphin and she had cherished it. Mrs. Slade asks cruelly if she happened to remember that she was engaged to Delphin while their affair was going on. Mrs. Ansley admits that she did indeed go to meet Delphin that night per the letter that Mrs. Slade sent.

Mrs. Slade feels her wrath subside, and suddenly does not know why she is trying to wound her friend. She has to justify herself, though, and says that when she found out that Mrs. Ansley was in love with Delphin, Mrs. Slade saw the other woman's sweetness as a threat. She wanted Mrs. Ansley to get out of the way and wrote the false letter in a rage. She wonders aloud if her friend thinks she is a monster, and Mrs. Ansley says she does not know, and that even though the letter was not from Delphin, she still "care[s] for that memory" (17).

Mrs. Slade pities her friend for cherishing the false letter for so many years. She gloats, reminding Mrs. Ansley that she was the one who ended up married to Delphin. She then explains that she did not mean to hurt Mrs. Ansley by telling her the truth, but thought she would be amused. Besides, she explains, Mrs. Ansley had married Horace so soon after, which seemed to reveal that whatever she had with Delphin was fleeting.

The stars are coming out and night envelops the women. The hotel staff are getting ready for dinner. Mrs. Slade finally says, after a loaded silence, that she wrote the letter as a joke and was amused with the idea of Mrs. Ansley trying to get into the Colosseum at night and finding herself alone.

Mrs. Ansley replies that Delphin actually did meet her at the Colosseum that evening. Mrs. Slade is shocked and accuses Mrs. Ansley of lying. However, with a clear voice, Mrs. Ansley assures Mrs. Slade that she did see Delphin that night because she sent a reply to the false letter. Astonished, Mrs. Slade admits that she never considered what might happen if Mrs. Ansley replied.

Mrs. Ansley stands, saying it is cold and they better go, and she feels sorry for her friend. Mrs. Slade mutters her disbelief that her friend should feel sorry for her. Mrs. Ansley says it is because she did not have to wait that night and despite Mrs. Slade's tricks, she did meet Delphin. Mrs. Slade agrees with a short laugh, but strikes back that she had Delphin for twenty five years and Mrs. Ansley had nothing to remind her of Delphin except for a letter that he did not actually write.

Mrs. Ansley turns to walk away and says, "I had Barbara" (20).
It is just before dawn, and not far off the coast of Florida, between the open sea and the surf, are four men in a dinghy. The ship on which they were sailing sank overnight, and they are the only survivors, left to bob up and down in the waves until their bathtub-sized boat capsizes and they too drown. They do not have a moment's peace. The ocean is so rough that one indelicate move will upset the dinghy and send them into the winter waters. Each man, despite not having slept for two days, works tirelessly to keep the boat afloat. The correspondent and the oiler share the work of rowing, while the cook huddles on the floor of the dinghy, bailing water. These men take their direction from the captain, who was injured during the shipwreck and sits grimly in the bow, the memory still fresh of his ship engulfed in the sea and the crew's dead faces in the water.

As day breaks and the cook and correspondent bicker about being rescued, the men begin to make progress toward the shore. Fighting hopelessness, they row silently. Gulls fly overhead and perch on the water. The gulls are at ease on the ocean, so much so that one lands on the captain's head. The men see this as a sinister, insulting gesture, but the captain cannot swat the bird off because the sudden movement would likely topple the boat.

Eventually, the captain shoos the bird away, and they go on rowing until the captain sees a lighthouse in the distance. Although the cook expresses reservation that the nearby lifesaving station has been abandoned for more than a year, the crew heartens at approaching land, almost taking pleasure in the brotherhood that they have formed and in attending to the business of the sea. The correspondent even finds four dry cigars in a pocket, which he shares with the others.

The men's optimism evaporates when, approaching land yet unable to master the turbulent surf, they realize that help isn't coming. They again make for the open sea, exhausted and bitter. Another sign of hope comes when the captain sees a man on shore. Each crew member looks for signs of hope in the man's gestures. They think the man sees them. Then they think they see two men, then a crowd and perhaps a boat being rolled down to the shore. They stubbornly think that help is on the way as the shadows lengthen and the sea and sky turn black.

During the night, the men forget about being saved and attend to the business of the boat. The correspondent and oiler, exhausted from rowing, plan to alternate throughout the night. But they get tired in the early hours of the morning, and the cook helps out. For the most part, the correspondent rows alone, wondering how he can have come so far if he is only going to drown. Rowing through phosphorescence and alongside a monstrous shark, the correspondent thinks of a poem he learned in childhood about a soldier dying in a distant land, never to return home.

When morning comes, the captain suggests that they try to run the surf while they still have enough energy. They take the boat shoreward until it capsizes, and then they all make a break for it in the icy water. The oiler leads the group, while the cook and correspondent swim more slowly and the captain holds onto the keel of the overturned dinghy. With the help of a life preserver, the correspondent makes good progress, until he is caught in a current that forces him to back to the boat. Before he can reach the dinghy, a wave hurls him to shallower water, where he is saved by a man who has appeared on shore and plunged into the sea to save the crew. On land, the correspondent drifts in and out of consciousness, but as he regains his senses, he sees a large number of people on the shore with rescue gear. He learns that the captain and cook have been saved but the oiler has died.
Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)
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"Neighbor Rosicky" begins with Anton Rosicky's having a medical checkup and learning from Dr. Burleigh that he has a bad heart. Sixty-five years old, Rosicky has worked hard all of his life, and the doctor urges him to take it easy, to cut back on farmwork and spend more time instead helping his wife around the house. Rosicky has five sons and one daughter, who can do the manual labor on their Nebraska farm. A contented man who enjoys his family, Rosicky is not a workaholic, and he follows the doctor's advice.

As Rosicky leaves, Dr. Burleigh thinks about the man and his family, for whom he feels deep affection. Rosicky has the knack of always being interested in things, of embracing life, taking the hard times philosophically, and not getting depressed. Those in his family have natural good manners and offer generous hospitality. Though they are far less affluent than most neighboring farmers, they seem to enjoy themselves more and are free from the mania of acquisitiveness.

However, life has not been easy for Rosicky, and several times he thinks back to the hardships of his youth. A Czech by birth and upbringing, Rosicky emigrated at eighteen to London, where for two years he experienced the harshness of Victorian poverty while he worked in a tailor's shop. With the help of some rich Bohemians, he sailed to New York when he was twenty and took up work as a tailor, enjoying his bachelor life and the cultural offerings of the city
'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and
And running away, and wanting their
liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the
lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns
And the villages dirty and charging high
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears,
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a
temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of
With a running stream and a water-mill
beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped in
away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with
vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for
pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no imformation, and so
we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment
too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say)

All this was a long time ago, I
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had
seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different;
this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like
Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these
But no longer at ease here, in the old
With an alien people clutching their
I should be glad of another death.
named for a ruined country house in Gloucestershire. This quartet is the most explicitly concerned with time as an abstract principle. The first section combines a hypothesis on time—that the past and the future are always contained in the present—with a description of a rose garden where children hide, laughing. A bird serves as the poet's guide, bringing him into the garden, showing him around, and saving him from despair at not being able to reach the laughing children. The second section begins with a sort of song, filled with abstract images of a vaguely pagan flavor. The poem shifts midway through the section, where it again assumes a more meditative tone in order to sort out the differences between consciousness and living in time: The speaker asserts, "To be conscious is not to be in time," for consciousness implies a fixed perspective while time is characterized by a transient relativity (around the fixed point of the present). However, this statement does not intend to devalue memory and temporal existence, which, according to the poem, allow the moments of greatest beauty. The third section of "Burnt Norton" reads like the bridge section of a song, in which the key changes. In this section, Eliot describes a "place of disaffection"—perhaps the everyday world—which allows neither transcendence ("darkness") nor the beauty of the moment ("daylight"). The fourth, very short section returns to a sort of melody (some of the lines rhyme) to describe the unattainable, fictional point of fixity around which time is organized. This point is described as surrounded by flowers and birds; perhaps it can be found in the rose garden of the first section. The final section of this quartet returns to reality: Despite the apparent vitality of words and music, these must die; the children's laughter in the garden becomes a mocking laughter, scorning our enslavement to time.
"How It Feels to Be Colored Me" is a widely anthologized descriptive essay in which Zora Neale Hurston explores the discovery of her identity and self-pride. Following the conventions of description, Hurston employs colorful diction, imagery, and figurative language to take the reader on this journey. Using a conversational tone and multiple colloquialisms, Hurston at the beginning of the essay delves into her childhood in Eatonville, Florida, through anecdotes describing moments when she greeted neighbors, sang and danced in the streets, and viewed her surroundings from a comfortable spot on her front porch. Back then, she was "everybody's Zora," free from the alienating feeling of difference. However, when she was thirteen her mother passed away, and she left home to attend a boarding school in Jacksonville where she immediately became "colored."

Hurston says she does not consider herself "tragically colored" and begins weaving together extended metaphors that suggest her self-pride. She is too busy "sharpening her oyster knife" to stop to think about the pain that discrimination may cause, and as a "dark rock surged upon" she emerges all the stronger for any hardships that she has had to endure. Hurston does, however, acknowledge moments when she feels her (or others') racial difference, and her experience with a friend at a jazz club marks the distance between their lives.

At the end of the essay, Hurston develops an extended metaphor in which she compares herself to a brown bag stuffed with random bits and bobs. She likens all people to different colored bags that, if emptied into a large pile and re-stuffed, would not be much altered, suggesting that people of varying races are essentially of the same human character. Hurston concludes by asserting that "the Great Stuffer of Bags," the Creator, may have fashioned people in this way from the very beginning. Thus, Hurston fosters a perspective that looks beyond pride in one's race to pride in one's self.

Originally published in the May 1928 edition of The World Tomorrow, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" was a contentious essay that obviously did not fit with the ideologies of racial segregation, nor did it completely mesh with the flowering of black pride associated with the Harlem Renaissance. In the essay, Hurston divorces herself from "the sobbing school of Negrohood" that requires her to continually lay claim to past and present injustices. She can sleep at night knowing that she has lived a righteous life, never fearing that some "dark ghost" might end up next to her in bed. Through her witty words, Hurston delivers a powerful message to challenge the mind-sets of her, and our, time.
The grandmother tries to convince her son, Bailey, and his wife to take the family to east Tennessee for vacation instead of Florida. She points out an article about the Misfit, an escaped convict heading toward Florida, and adds that the children have already been there. John Wesley, eight years old, suggests that the grandmother stay home, and his sister, June Star, says nastily that his grandmother would never do that.

On the day of the trip, the grandmother hides her cat, Pitty Sing, in a basket in the car. She wears a dress and hat with flowers on it so that people will know she is "a lady" if there's an accident. In the car, John Wesley says he doesn't like Georgia, and the grandmother chastises him for not respecting his home state. When they pass a cotton field, she says there are graves in the middle of it that belonged to the plantation and jokes that the plantation has "Gone with the Wind." Later, she tells a story about an old suitor, Edgar Atkins Teagarden. Edgar brought her a watermelon every week, into which he carved his initials, E. A. T. Once he left it on the porch and a black child ate it because he thought it said eat.

The family stops at a restaurant called the Tower, owned by Red Sammy Butts. Red Sammy complains that people are untrustworthy, explaining that he recently let two men buy gasoline on credit. The grandmother tells him he's a good man for doing it. Red Sam's wife says she doesn't trust anyone, including Red Sam. The grandmother asks her if she's heard about the Misfit, and the woman worries that he'll rob them. Red Sam says, "A good man is hard to find." He and the grandmother lament the state of the world.

Back in the car, the grandmother wakes from a nap and realizes that a plantation she once visited is nearby. She says that the house had six white columns and was at the end of an oak tree-lined driveway. She lies that the house had a secret panel to make the house seem more interesting. Excited, the children beg to go to the house until Bailey angrily gives in. The grandmother points him to a dirt road.

The family drives deep into the woods. The grandmother suddenly remembers that the house was in Tennessee, not in Georgia. Horrified at her mistake, she jerks her feet. Pitty Sing escapes from the basket and startles Bailey, who wrecks the car. The children's mother breaks her shoulder, but no one else is hurt. The grandmother decides not to tell Bailey about her mistake.

A passing car stops, and three men get out, carrying guns. The grandmother thinks she recognizes one of them. One of the men, wearing glasses and no shirt, descends into the ditch. He tells the children's mother to make the children sit down because they make him nervous. The grandmother suddenly screams because she realizes that he's the Misfit. The man says it's not good that she recognized him. Bailey curses violently, upsetting the grandmother. The grandmother asks the Misfit whether he'd shoot a lady, and the Misfit says he wouldn't like to. The grandmother claims that she can tell he's a good man and that he comes from "nice people." The Misfit agrees and praises his parents.

The grandmother continues telling him he's a good man. The Misfit tells the other two men, Hiram and Bobby Lee, to take Bailey and John Wesley into the woods. The grandmother adjusts her hat, but the brim breaks off. The Misfit says he knows he isn't good but that he isn't the worst man either. He apologizes to the grandmother and the children's mother for not wearing a shirt and says that he and the other men had to bury their clothes after they escaped. He says they borrowed the clothes they're wearing from some people they met.

The grandmother asks the Misfit whether he ever prays. Just as he says no, she hears two gunshots. The Misfit says he used to be a gospel singer, and the grandmother chants, "pray, pray." He says he wasn't a bad child but that at one point he went to prison for a crime he can't remember committing. He says a psychiatrist told him he'd killed his father. The grandmother tells the Misfit to pray so that Jesus will help him. The Misfit says he's fine on his own.

Bobby Lee and Hiram come back from the woods, and Bobby Lee gives the Misfit the shirt Bailey had been wearing, but the grandmother doesn't realize it's Bailey's. The Misfit tells the children's mother to take the baby and June Star and go with Bobby Lee and Hiram into the woods. Bobby Lee tries to hold June Star's hand, but she says he looks like a pig.

The grandmother starts chanting, "Jesus, Jesus." The Misfit says he's like Jesus, except Jesus hadn't committed a crime. He says he gave himself this name because his punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime people said he committed. A gunshot comes from the woods. The grandmother begs the Misfit not to shoot a lady. Two more gunshots come from the woods, and the grandmother cries out for Bailey.

The Misfit says that Jesus confused everything by raising the dead. He says that if what Jesus did is true, then everyone must follow him. But if he didn't actually raise the dead, then all anyone can do is enjoy their time on earth by indulging in "meanness." The grandmother agrees that perhaps Jesus didn't raise the dead. The Misfit says he wishes he had been there so he could know for sure. The grandmother calls the Misfit "one of my own children," and the Misfit shoots her in the chest three times.

Bobby Lee and Hiram return, and they all look at the grandmother. The Misfit observes that the grandmother could have been a good woman if someone had been around "to shoot her every minute of her life." The Misfit says life has no true pleasure.
Meatball Mulligan throws a lease-breaking party at his apartment in Washington, D.C. in early February of 1957. His guests are a colorful bunch, including Sandor Rojas, an "ex-Hungarian Freedom fighter," and the avant-garde Duke di Angelis quartet comprised of Duke, Vincent, Krinkles and Paco who together perform an original piece in complete silence. Saul, a neighbor of Mulligan's, comes in through the window after an argument with his wife concerning communication theory and the tendency for noise to "screw up your signal," making for "disorganization in the circuit." The party degenerates during the course of the story into a chaotic mess: more guests arrive with more booze, drunken Navymen barge in mistaking the place for a 'hoorhouse,' a woman almost drowns herself in the shower, the fridge needs repair. Meatball, however, decides to take action rather than hide silently in the closet, and through the energy he exerts succeeds in minimizing the chaos of the party through the establishment of order, however temporary and fleeting.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the apartment above Mulligan's lives a man named Callisto in a hermetically sealed hothouse with a half-alien woman named Aubade who perceives all sensory input as sound. Callisto clutches a dying bird to his chest while expounding on the nature of Thermodynamics and its theoretical extension beyond the limits of physics into the realms of society and culture as well: just as all closed systems lose energy over time until a 'heat-death' occurs wherein motion ceases, so too does culture have a tendency to lose differentiation and slide toward what Callisto terms 'the Condition of the More Probable.' Entropy, then, which Callisto defines as 'the measure of disorganization for a closed system,' is valuable in that it is "an adequate metaphor to apply to certain phenomena in [the] world" such as the consumerist trend away from difference and toward sameness. Often Aubade checks the temperature outside, which has remained at a constant 37 deg. Fahrenheit for a number of days despite the drastic change in weather. The story ends with the death of the bird Callisto has attempted to sustain through the transfer of heat from his own body to that of the sick animal. Aubade, finally comprehending Callisto's thoughts, punches out the windows of their apartment/self-contained ecosystem and sits with Callisto to await "the moment of equilibrium" between their world and the world outside.
In How to Tame a Wild Tongue, Anzaldua describes her upbringing in a dual culture society. One being her academic culture, where she is expected to speak clearly and adhere to the American English Language. The other her Spanish Chicano culture, where specific edict expectations are placed on her at an early age and throughout her upbringing. Her Latino culture, while posing conflicting and challenging beliefs on Anzaldua invigorate and fill her with pride at the same time. The academic culture requires her to reform to proper English annunciation and speech. The testing and trying of each culture prove to evolve and inspire her throughout time. Despite the power struggle between the two, Anzaldua transforms the cultured beliefs into accomplishment both backgrounds can admire and respect.

Anzaldua describes, "Being Mexican is a state of soul - not one of mind." This comes about after a lifetime of enduring two cultures demands. Obtaining the ability to extract the good traits from each culture and producing a scholar for influence upon current and future generations. Discovering a sense of pride from her Latino culture opened a doorway of opportunity into her academic culture. She discovers that her people being patient have endured and she adapts to the same philosophy. Knowing she has evolved and is a part of a new future she accepts both cultures positives and negatives and uses them to inspire her writings. "I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent's tongue- my woman's voice, my sexual voice, my poet's voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.
Imagine the gossipiest person you know telling you a story. That's what happens in the beginning to Miranda—our "heroine," if you could call her that. She's listening to her co-worker Laxmi talk about her cousin's husband, who's a total adulterous creep, "a wife's worst nightmare."
Miranda's kind of listening, kind of not, because she's trying to work (she's one of those people who asks for donations and pledges for the radio station).
Plus, she's thinking about Dev, who's Bengali (just like the son of the cousin whose husband's a cheater. Wow, that was a mouthful.).
Who's Dev? A handsome, mustached guy she met just a week ago at a department store makeup counter.
Dev was shopping for cellulite creams and other stuff because his thighs are dimpling. No, just kidding (well, who knows, maybe they are). He's shopping for his—irony/coincidence alert!—wife. Yep, even as Miranda is listening to Laxmi talk about a cheater, she's currently in a thing with a married man herself.
Dev's wife is conveniently flying to India for a little while, which makes it easy for Dev to start something with Miranda.
They get into a routine really quickly (not to mention everything else that goes along with an affair). Dev leaves in the afternoon to go back to his suburban home because he can't spend the night (his wife calls him daily at 6 a.m. Eastern time).
But it's not just his wife who's a clock-watcher and checker-upper; Dev is too—only with the "wrong" woman. Dev calls and texts Miranda more or less at the same times everyday. Some people might consider that obsessive, semi-stalkerish behavior but Miranda doesn't seem to mind.
In fact, Miranda thinks he understands her. You know, because he "knows what it's like to be lonely" (Sexy 34). He compliments her on her independence (she's only 22 but she moved out to Boston from Michigan on her own). And her legs. He loves her legs because they're really long.
Plus, he's really romantic. Like old school, brings flowers, opens doors for women romantic. Miranda's never experienced all of that before so you can see why she might be a little head over heels about this guy.
Even though Miranda isn't exactly the intellectual type (he has to show her a map of his country to get her to understand his origins, and even then...), she's no dummy. She doesn't tell anyone about the affair, especially not Laxmi, even though she kind of wants to confide in her since Laxmi's Indian, too.
Other great things about Dev and Miranda: they never argue; they go to all these cultured places like museums.
At one point they go to the Mapparium, where not only does Dev teach Miranda even more about geography and the world, he speaks the very significant line to Miranda, "You're sexy," after Miranda whispers "Hi." (Why are they even saying this stuff to each other? They're testing the acoustics out because supposedly you can hear a whisper there when standing 30 feet apart. You can go test this out and tell us if it's true.)
Cue small interlude: we're back at the office again and Laxmi's going on about her cousin's husband (as usual), who apparently is a repeat offender and makes Laxmi feel paranoid about her own husband.
Miranda's just kind of listening and thinking about her own stuff, like the fact that Dev's wife will be returning the next day.
Then she asks Laxmi what the Taj Mahal is like, to which Laxmi responds: "An everlasting monument to love."
While Dev picks up his wife from the airport, Miranda's caught up in the romance of the whole affair and decides to go the whole nine yards. She finds clothing that fits her "mistress" role—stockings, lingerie, heels, etc.
Too bad Dev hardly notices the next time they meet up. He's in gym clothes (his excuse to his wife: he's running along the Charles River). So you can probably guess where all of Miranda's new mistress-wear ends up—at the back of the closet and in dresser drawers.
But Miranda's the easygoing type; she still likes Dev. She just doesn't bother dressing up for him.
During these meetings, Dev tells Miranda stories about his childhood in India, which sounds pretty exotic to Miranda.
Dev doesn't only talk about himself though; he asks Miranda all about her previous love (i.e. sex) life.
After talking, Dev takes 12-minute naps. Exactly 12 minutes.
Miranda doesn't though. She watches him, puts her hand in his, revels in his perfection. You get the point.
After his 12-minute nap, Dev wakes up and says that the nap is the "best twelve minutes of the week." Then he cleans up and goes home. What a gentleman.
Cue: flashback. Miranda, our daydreaming heroine, thinks back to her childhood, to the one Indian family that lived in her suburban neighborhood—the Dixits. She recalls that no one in the neighborhood really welcomed or accepted the Dixits, including herself. In fact, she remembers being invited to one of the Dixit children's birthday party and not eating the birthday cake because a statuette of the goddess Kali freaks her out as does the general strangeness of the whole experience.
Of course, now that she's an adult and is in an affair with an Indian man, she's all into learning about Indian culture, trying Indian food, even writing part of her name—"Mira"—in Sanskrit.
Back to the present. The affair has settled back into a routine. Miranda goes to work, eats lunch at an Indian restaurant with Laxmi, and sees Dev on Sundays. Saturdays are the worst for her because Sunday is just sooo far away.
One Sunday, she asks Dev what his wife looks like. Bad idea. Apparently, the wife looks like an Indian movie star by the name of Madhuri Dixit.
By the way, Dixit—sound familiar? It does to Miranda, who's frantic for a moment thinking it's one of the Dixit kids until she recalls that the Dixit girl's name began with a "P." (We're guessing there's some significance to this name, but we'll let you figure that out.)
Anyway, one night, Miranda decides to go to an Indian grocery/video store and ruin her self-esteem by searching for videos with Madhuri Dixit in them (or "Mottery" Dixit, as Miranda hears it). She doesn't get that far though because she can pretty much tell by all the pictures of the Bollywood actresses that Madhuri Dixit is probably really beautiful. Which of course means that Dev's wife is probably also really beautiful.
She thinks of getting some Indian snacks for Laxmi, but then decides against it because how would she explain her presence at an Indian store? The grocer tells her that the snacks she's eyeing are "too spicy" for her anyway.
Time flies by and it's February. Laxmi's still talking about and to her cousin, whose husband now wants a divorce.
Laxmi convinces her cousin to stop over in Boston on her way to recuperate in California so that Laxmi can take care of her and console her like only women can. In fact, she plans a spa day.
She's forgotten about her cousin's son. What to do with him?
This is where Miranda comes in. Laxmi ropes Miranda into babysitting the son on Saturday, which Miranda does. (Note: say no to babysitting kids you don't know.)
Rohin, the 7-year-old boy, is basically like a little man, only with a lot more energy. He's into memorizing capitals of countries, which he's a whiz at. He also treats Miranda's house like his own (goes into the fridge without asking; moves her stuff without asking).
He even asks to drink coffee, which Miranda at first refuses. But he's pretty demanding and so Miranda caves and gives him a cup. (Note again: bad idea.)
The rest of the day goes like this: Rohin won't leave Miranda alone. He gets her to quiz him on capitals; he follows her wherever she goes (even to the bathroom, although not inside); he noses through her medicine cabinet.
Then, he asks (okay, tells) her to draw for him the room they're in. Why? Because he wants to memorize their day together since he knows they'll never see each other again. This is a little depressing, at least to Miranda.
While Miranda is drawing Rohin, Rohin gets up from the table and announces that he's bored. He then gets up and goes into her bedroom, her bureau, her closet.
Okay now here's where things get a little weird (if they aren't weird already).
Rohin finds a sexy, silver cocktail dress Miranda bought on her let's-look-like-a-mistress shopping spree and demands, begs, pleads that Miranda put it on.
Miranda agrees, but she tells Rohin that he needs to leave the room while she changes (hey, she's got some boundaries).
Rohin, however, informs Miranda that his mother always undresses in front of him. He says she even slept with him in his bed one night because she said it felt better now that his father was gone.
Miranda firmly takes Rohin out of the room so that she can change into the dress.
When she's done, Rohin tells her that she looks sexy. In fact, he uses the same words as Dev did that day at the Mapparium: "You're sexy." Miranda can't help but think of Dev when Rohin speaks like that.
Miranda's interested though in why Rohin uses that word "sexy" and asks him to define it, which makes the boy all shy (amazingly).
But eventually he tells Miranda that "sexy" means "loving someone you don't know." This, by the way, isn't a bad time to pause and ponder that definition because, you know, out of the mouth of babes...
Anyway, Miranda's kind of stunned by that sentence the same way she was kind of stunned when she realized that Dev's wife must be beautiful.
Rohin, on the other hand, is very matter-of-fact about it just like he is about his father's affair. And just to emphasize that point, Rohin crawls into Miranda's bed, under her covers, and falls asleep (like Dev, only for longer).
While Rohin's sleeping, Miranda changes out of her cocktail dress and into her jeans; then she imagines how Rohin must have come by that definition for "sexy." Like maybe he overheard his mother yelling at his father about his "sexy" girlfriend and how could he possibly love a woman he doesn't know.
All of this makes Miranda cry too. She thinks about that day at the Mapparium when she could hear Dev speak to her perfectly clearly from 30 feet away and how close he seemed. She feels a loss, too.
While Miranda's crying, Rohin just continues sleeping. Miranda figures it's because Rohin's used to hearing a woman cry.
So this whole little episode with Rohin is a turning point. Miranda sees the effect Rohin's father's adultery has had on the kid.
The next time Dev calls on a Sunday, Miranda lies and tells him that he shouldn't come over because she has a cold. The Sunday after that, it snows, so he can't come over. Then, the Sunday after that, she decides to go out with Laxmi to the movies and Dev doesn't object. Then, the Sunday after that, Miranda decides to take a walk, buys a cup of coffee, and gaze at a church. So in other words, Miranda gets rid of her "Mr. Big" and finds out she's okay being single.
The narrator says that his wife's blind friend, whose wife has just died, is going to spend the night at their house. He says that he isn't happy about this visitor and the man's blindness unsettles him. He explains that his wife met the blind man ten years ago when she worked for him as a reader to the blind in Seattle. He says that on the last day of her job there, the blind man touched her face and she wrote a poem about the experience. The narrator then describes his wife's past. She married her childhood sweetheart and became an officer's wife. Unhappy with her life, she tried to commit suicide one night by swallowing pills, but she survived. She and the blind man kept in touch by sending audiotapes back and forth to each other throughout her marriage, and she told everything to the blind man on tapes.

The narrator says that his wife once asked him to listen to one of the blind man's tapes. They started to listen but were interrupted before the narrator could hear anything about himself. The narrator suggests taking the blind man bowling. His wife reminds him that the blind man's wife, Beulah, just died and says that if he loves her, he'll welcome the blind man into their home. The narrator asks whether Beulah was "Negro," and his wife asks him whether he's drunk. She then tells him more about Beulah. Beulah became the blind man's reader after the narrator's wife stopped working for him, and they eventually got married. After eight years, however, Beulah died from cancer. The narrator thinks how awful it must have been for Beulah to know that her husband could never look at her. He speculates that she could have worn whatever she wanted.

The narrator's wife goes to pick up the blind man at the train station as the narrator waits at the house. When they arrive, he watches his wife laughing and talking with the blind man as she leads him by the arm to the house. The narrator is shocked to see that the blind man has a full beard. The wife introduces the narrator to the blind man, whose name is Robert. They all sit in the living room. The narrator asks what side of the train he sat on, and Robert says he sat on the right and that he hadn't been on a train for years. The narrator says his wife looks at him but doesn't seem to like what she sees.

The narrator says he's never known a blind person. He describes what Robert looks like and what he's wearing. Robert doesn't wear dark glasses, which the narrator finds strange. He wishes Robert would wear them because his eyes look weird and turn in strange directions. He pours scotch for all three of them, and they talk about Robert's trip.

Robert smokes several cigarettes. The narrator says he didn't think blind people could smoke. They sit down for dinner and eat ravenously, not speaking, eating so much that they are dazed. After dinner, they go back to the living room to drink more. The wife and Robert talk about things that have happened to them in the past ten years, while the narrator occasionally tries to join in. He learns that Robert and Beulah had run an Amway distributorship and that Robert is a ham radio operator. When Robert asks the narrator questions, he makes only short responses. The narrator then turns on the television, irritating his wife.

The wife goes upstairs to change clothes and is gone a long time. The narrator offers Robert some pot, and they smoke a joint. The wife joins them when she comes back. She says she's going to just sit with them on the couch with her eyes closed, but she immediately falls asleep. The narrator changes the channel and asks Robert if he wants to go to bed. Robert says he'll stay up with the narrator so that they can talk some more. The narrator says he likes the company and that he and his wife never go to bed at the same time.

There is a program about the Middle Ages on television. Nothing else is on, but Robert says he likes learning things. When the TV narrator doesn't describe what's happening, the narrator tries to explain to Robert what's going on. The TV narrator begins talking about cathedrals, showing different ones in different countries. The narrator asks Robert whether he has any idea what a cathedral looks like. Robert says he doesn't and asks the narrator to describe one. The narrator tries, but he knows he doesn't do a very good job. Robert asks him if he's religious, and the narrator says he doesn't believe in anything. He says he can't describe a cathedral because cathedrals are meaningless for him.

Robert asks the narrator to find a piece of paper and pen. Then he and the narrator sit around the coffee table, and Robert tells the narrator to draw a cathedral. He puts his hand over the narrator's hand, following the movement of the pen. The narrator draws and draws, getting wrapped up in what he's doing. His wife wakes up and asks what's going on, and Robert answers that they're drawing a cathedral. The wife doesn't understand.

Robert tells the narrator to close his eyes and keep drawing, and the narrator does so. Soon Robert tells him to open his eyes and see what he's drawn, but the narrator doesn't open them. He knows he's in his own home, but he feels like he's nowhere. With his eyes still closed, he says the drawing is "really something."
Twyla and Roberta are two best friends of separate races who learn how to grow up in Civil Rights-era America. Twyla and Roberta are two young girls who meet at St. Bonneventure's orphanage for girls. They become instant friends, not because of their age, but because both of their mothers are still alive. Twyla's mom parties too often to care for her, and Roberta's mother is too ill to care for her. The author is intentionally vague about the race of both girls, so all that is known is that they are not the same race as each other, not that that affects their friendship at all. One day, the orphanage throws an Easter celebration, and both girls are excluded from the other children because both of their mothers show up. Twyla and Roberta are so excited for their mothers to become best friends, too, But Roberta's mother looks upon Twyla's with disdain and refuses to shake her hand. The story follows Twyla after she is released from St. Bonneventure's. She's in her twenties and working as a waitress when Roberta and two men show up in one of her booths. She hasn't seen Roberta in years, and the Roberta in front of her now is all poofy hair, big earrings, and dark lips. She's on her way to meet Jimi Hendrix, and onto bigger and better things than Twyla could ever hope for. Twyla feels self conscious, and regrets the fact that they ever grew apart. Their paths cross again five years later, when Twyla is married and has a son. She comes across Roberta in the grocery store. Roberta is more reserved now, and has two step children of her own. She entreats Twyla to come have coffee with her; her limo will take them. Things are good between the two old friends until the local school starts integrating. Since both women are of different races, they begin to protest on opposite sides. In the heat of a protest, Roberta accuses Twyla of abusing one of the mute servants at the orphanage. Twyla only remembers sitting and watching the servant get abused by other girls, and Roberta's revelation begins messing with the careful reality that Twyla has constructed. Roberta's accusation is the last thing the women say to each other for a handful of years. When they see each other again, it's New Year's. They meet a diner; Roberta is surrounded by glittering people in glittering clothes with glittering champagne. Twyla is just popping in for a coffee. Roberta is slightly tipsy, but she grabs Twyla by the shoulders and apologizes to her for the things she said about the servant. Then she bursts into tears and the novel closes with the women comforting each other.
"Fleur" begins by stating that Fleur Pillager was only a girl when she drowned in Lake Turcot, which is located in Native American reservation in North Dakota. Two men dive in and save her and, not long afterward, both disappear. Fleur falls in the lake again when she is twenty, but no one is willing to touch her. One man bends towards her when she washes onshore, and Fleur curses him, telling him that he will die instead of her. He drowns shortly thereafter in a bathtub. Men stay away from Fleur, believing that she is dangerous and that the water monster Misshepeshu wants her for himself.

Because she practices what the narrator calls "evil" ways, Fleur is unpopular on the reservation, and some gather to throw her out. In the summer of 1920, she leaves on her own accord for the town of Argus. Noticing a steeple, she walks straight to the church and asks the priest for work. He sends her to a butcher shop where Fleur works with the owner's wife Fritzie, hauling packages of meat to a locker. Fleur gives the men a new topic of conversation, particularly when she begins playing cards with them.

Pulling up a chair without being invited, she asks if she can join their game of cards. Fleur borrows eight cents from the narrator Pauline and begins to win. The men unsuccessfully try to rattle her, and Tor discovers that she is unable to bluff, but Fleur continues to win. Fleur finally picks up Pauline, who is hiding in the walls, and puts her to bed. The game continues night after night, and each time Fleur wins exactly one dollar. The men are soon "lit with suspense" and ask Pete to join the game. Lily is confounded by Fleur and suspects that she may be cheating for low stakes.

In August, when Fleur has won thirty dollars, Pete and Fritzie leave for Minnesota. With Pete out of the way, Lily raises the stakes in an attempt to shake Fleur. After a long night of going up and down, Fleur wins the entire pot and then leaves the game. The men begin drinking whiskey straight from the bottle and go outside to hide in wait for Fleur. Lily attempts to grab her, but she douses him with a bucket of hog slops and runs into the yard. Lily falls into the sow's pen, and the sow attacks him. He beats its head against a post and eventually escapes to chase Fleur to the smokehouse with the other men. They catch Fleur, who cries out Pauline's name, but Pauline cannot bring herself to help.

The next morning, the weather begins to turn into a violent storm and the men take shelter in the meat locker. Pauline goes to the doors and slams down the iron bar to lock them inside. The winds pick up and send Pauline flying through the air, and Argus is thoroughly wrecked by the storm. Because everyone is occupied with digging out from the storm, days pass before the townspeople notice that three men are missing. Kozka's Meats has been nearly destroyed, although Fritzie and Pete come home to find that the back rooms where they live are undisturbed. They dig out the meat locker to discover the three men and Lily's dog frozen to death.

Pauline says as a kind of summary, from an unspecified period of time in the future, that "Power travels in bloodlines, handed out before birth," which implies that Fleur was responsible for the deaths of the men. She says that now she is about the only one who visits Fleur, who lives on Lake Turcot and may have married the water spirit Misshepeshu or taken up with white men or "windigos" (evil demons), unless she has "killed them all." Fleur has had a child, but no one knows for sure who fathered it. Pauline emphasizes that old men talk about the story over and over but, in the end, "only know that they don't know anything."
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two——
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.
In the first line of the first section, the speaker tells us that he has been a witness to the destruction of "the best minds" of his generation. The rest of the section is a detailed description of these people - specifically, who they were and what they did. He doesn't tell us what destroyed them quite yet, though we get plenty of hints. Most lines begin with the word "who" followed by a verb. These are people "who did this, who did that," etc. We quickly learn that these "best minds" were not doctors, lawyers, and scientists. They were not people whom most middle-class folks in the 1950s would have identified with the best America had to offer. And that's exactly Ginsberg's point. According to the speaker, they are drug users, drop outs, world travelers, bums, musicians, political dissidents, and, yes, poets.

If the key word of the first section was "who," the second section asks "What?" As in, what destroyed the best minds of his generation? Ginsberg provides the answer immediately: Moloch. In the Hebrew Bible, Moloch was an idolatrous god to whom children were sacrificed by placing them in fire. In other words, not a friendly god. The religious context and history of Moloch is extremely complicated, so it's better to stick to the poem's own definition. For Ginsberg, Moloch is associated with war, government, capitalism, and mainstream culture, all of which might be summed up by one of the poem's most important concepts: the "machine" or "machinery." Moloch is an inhuman monster that kills youth and love.

The third section is addressed to Carl Solomon, Ginsberg's close friend from the Columbia Presbyterian Psychiatric Institute. The speaker refers to this psychiatric hospital by the shorter and more evocative fictional name of "Rockland." He reaffirms his solidarity with Solomon over and over again by repeating the phrase "I'm with you in Rockland." The central question of this section is "Where?" The speaker uses this question to explore Solomon's existence within the walls of the institute. The poem ends with the image from the speaker's dreams, in which Solomon is walking from New York to the speaker's "cottage" (in Berkeley, California), where they will reunite.