English 102 – Hemingway, Carver, and Jackson

English 102 – Hemingway, Carver, and Jackson

Hemingway – “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is a study in contrasts: between youth and age, belief and doubt, light and darkness.  To the younger waiter, the café is only a job; to the older waiter, it is a charitable institution for which he feels personal responsibility.  Of course, he himself has need of it: it is his refuge from the night, from solitude, from a sense that the universe is empty and meaningless, expressed in his revised versions of the Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer.  Look for the kinship he has with the old man.  What values are left to a man without faith?  A love of cleanliness and good light, of companionship, of stoic endurance, and above all, dignity.

Carver – “Cathedral” perfectly blends the compressed and understated qualities of Minimalism with the lyrical emotionalism of realists like Sherwood Anderson.  Initially a man of petty prejudice and small worldview, the narrator grows in humanity and understanding as the story develops.  On the surface, “Cathedral” is a simple story told flatly by a narrator of limited awareness, both of himself and others.  Presents a succession of psychological and spiritual openings brought about because the narrator is repeatedly thrown out of his comfort zone.  In the last scene, Robert takes on a kind of fatherly role, encouraging the narrator to explain and eventually draw the cathedral.  Apparently Robert sees his potential and encourages the narrator to start drawing.  The cathedral could be seen as a symbol of faith both in its function as a place of worship and also in the way that it was built by successive generations, many of whom would never see the finished structure.  Finally, the narrator has developed a new sensibility, an emotional and intellectual openness that he didn’t have before.

Jackson – Look for examples of irony in “The Lottery”: point of view; the setting; the misplaced chivalry; the characters.  The story’s very outrageousness raises questions about unexamined assumptions in the modern world.  Do civilized Americans accept and act upon other vestiges of primitive ritual as arbitrary as the one Jackson imagines?  Are we shackled by traditions as bizarre and pointless as the lottery?  What determines the line between behavior that is routine and that which is unthinkable?  How civilized in fact are we?

Journal #3

1)         Examine how the younger and older waiter differ both in their respective views regarding their workplace and the world as a whole.

2)         Examine the progression of the narrator’s outlook in “Cathedral.”  Is he a static or dynamic character?  Why?

3)         Analyze a tradition in American history that might be considered as horrific as the lottery in Shirley Jackson’s short story.