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Death by Landscape

April 12th, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

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“This is What it Means to Say Pheonix, Arizona”

April 12th, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

When Victor’s father died he did not get much a response when he asked for help from his family nor from The Tribal Council. His father had moved away from the reservation to Phoenix, Arizona; away from his “homeland…the center of the world” (Tuan 149). To the Indians, and like most people, the reservation was a place of “supreme value” and therefore when he “abandoned” it and his people, it was “hard to imagine” (Tuan 149). The Indians were proud of their history and culture and held close ties to their land. Victor was proud to be “full blood” Indian which shows he “valued autochthony…and in the fact that (he) could trace (his) long and noble lineage in one locality” as was most of the Indians (Alexie 477) (Tuan 154). The “land is viewed as mother, and it nourishes; place is an archive of fond memories and splendid achievements that inspire the present; place is permanent and hence reassuring to man” (Tuan 154). When his father left the reservation it was as if he went into exile voluntarily which deprived him of the unity of his family and people as well as culture which was “the worst of fates” (Tuan 154). Besides Victor “the rest of his family didn’t have any use at all for him” (Alexie 474). He died alone “in his trailer and nobody found him for a week” and “the only reason anyone found him was because of the smell” (Alexie 475, 478).
Victor brought his father’s ashes back to the reservation with the help of his friend, Thomas. They both wanted to spread his ashes in Spokane Falls, some distance from the reservation in hopes that he would “find his way home” (Alexie 482). They thought that the “strong emotional ties “to the “estate” would eventually bring him back there on his own after death (Tuan 157).

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“The Things They Carried” March 29

March 28th, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

Being in a distant, foreign place far away from home or any sense of familiarity can make people long for and fill their mind with intimate and secure experiences to ease their mind and make themselves feel more comfortable.  “Even the vigorous adult has fleeting moments of longing for the coziness he knew” (Tuan 137).  Even Lieutenant Cross, in Vietnam, held onto the intimate memories of his love, Martha, to help him escape the horrors of war and the “responsibility” he carried “for the lives of his men” (O’Brien 597).  Being in that environment and seeing his men die before his eyes, he needed an escape to keep himself sane.  He kept his mind on Martha and the stone she gave him in his mouth to fill himself with the intimate feeling of safety and security. “He can find security and nourishment in objects, localities, and even in the pursuit of ideas”; security in the stone she gave him and the idea that she might love him (Tuan 138).  In doing so, he “became passive” and allowed himself “to be vulnerable” to compromising the safety of his men (Tuan 137).  After Ted Lavender died, Lieutenant Cross realized that his longing for home and day-dreaming, caused him to become careless in his duties.  He blamed himself and his lack of focus for Ted Lavender’s death.

The men had a difficult time dealing with the fear of dying and of death itself.  When one of their fellow men died, the men “called it by other names, as if to encyst and destroy the reality of death itself” (O’Brien 604).  “Intimate experiences are hard to express” and hard to accept as a reality (Tuan 137).

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“Babylon Revisted” March 22 Blog

March 21st, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

For Charlie in “Babylon Revisited”, Paris used to be a city of excitement and opportunity.  He was wealthy and successful, thus Paris afforded him a certain luxuries.  All of his experiences there “refined” his “feeling and perception” of Paris as a place of wonderment where he lived a lavish lifestyle (Tuan 102).   Paris “clarified his social roles and relations” between his friends there who also were able to go out for expensive dinners, to museums and see plays (Tuan 102).   He was “a sort of loyalty, almost infallible, with a sort of magic around” him (Fitzgerald 249).  When he returned several years later, the Paris that he remembered was drastically different and so was he.  Charlie had lost much of his money and success and was therefore unable to experience Paris the way he had several years earlier.  After the stock market crashed, like Charlie, many Americans had also left the city because they could no longer afford the luxury of living abroad.  The Parisians who also partook in this lifestyle were devastated by the war, thus Paris was not the mystical place it had once been.  The restaurants and bars were not busy as they once had been and many of his friends were either not there or could not afford to do the things they used to do.  For Charlie now, Paris was desolate and depressing and only served as a reminder of what life once was; “the place oppressed him” (Fitzgerald 248).

Charlie’s brother and sister-in-law’s home in Paris is “warm and comfortable” (Fitzgerald 249).  Although this city seems to be a shell that it once was, their home had only become more stable and comforting for their family.  His daughter, niece and nephew are very happy living there harmoniously.  The home provided for the children a sense of safety and importance (Fitzgerald 259).  The creation of their home and their experiences within it “captures an ideal” atmosphere, as well as an ideal family (Tuan 106).

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March 15 “The Fall of the House of Usher”

March 14th, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

Through experience people assign meaning to things that they see.  Through experience we find ourselves feeling a certain way when we see things; innocence in a baby, love in the color red, calmness in a beach and fear in an image of Dracula.  These feelings vary depending on the individual and depending on what other words and experiences they assign to certain things.  A fire, for example, can be seen as something warm and comforting, as something associated with hell and the devil, or even as a means to prepare a meal.  The narrator in “The Fall of the House of Usher” went to the house knowing that his friend, who he has not seen in quite some time, had developed some sort of a mental illness.  He felt that he could not refuse and went to visit him, not knowing what to expect of his friend when he got there, which made him nervous and anxious.  On the way to the house, through the forest, he described the clouds as hanging “oppressively low in the heavens” (Poe 1).  This symbolizes the burden that he feels he will have in trying to lighten his friends’ spirits.  He proceeds by describing his “first glimpse” of the house with “a sense of insufferable gloom” (Poe, 1).  If his friend had invited him there for a party or was feeling well, the narrator would have had a completely different attitude toward the house and his visit to it.  This also applies to the way he describes the outside of the house as having “bleak walls” and “vacant eye-like windows” which made him feel an “iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart” that he would not have felt of the space had he had been there under different circumstances (Poe 1).  Tuan states that “perhaps people do not fully apprehend the meaning of calm” or bleakness “unless they have seen the proportion of a Greek temple against the blue sky” or a home that an old friend with a mental illness is occupying (Tuan 110).  Perhaps under different circumstances he would have appreciated the architectural style or the home and some of the gothic features.  Perhaps he would have had a respect for the history that the home has within his friend’s family.

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“The Lottery” March 9 Blog

March 10th, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

Within cultures lie certain values and traditions that are promoted to uphold the culture.  Much of what we know and believe is based upon what our culture has taught us.  “The way people act depends on their comprehension of reality, and that comprehension, since it can never be complete, is necessarily imbued with myths” (Tuan 98).  There are practices and beliefs that have originated in the past that sometimes, over time, lose their value and are lost.  Before these values are lost, however, people who do not uphold them might be subject to being an outcast of the society.    In “The Lottery” the people living in the village follow a tradition that they do not necessarily agree with solely because it is something their society has done for a long time.  The people appear to be nervous while trying to act normal and make small talk as if nothing is bothering them.  The people fear that if they publicly disagree or do not follow the tradition they will become outcasts.  When several people try to suggest that other towns no longer follow this barbaric tradition, one of the elders replies, “nothing but trouble in that” (Jackson 250).  The elder believes in the myth that something bad will happen if they discontinue this long lived tradition.  The people of the town are scared to tell their true opinions and go against their culture.  The space where the lottery took place is in a public place which was centrally located in the town.  It is also where they hold fun activities such as “square dances, the teenage club, (and) the Halloween program”; other traditions that this town has (Jackson 248).  The black box is put in the center of the square indicating that it is central to their culture similar to “anthropocentrism” that “puts man clearly at the center of the universe” (Tuan 91).  In the lottery the idea of mythical space is “the spatial component of a world view; a conception of localized values within which people carry on their practical activities” (Tuan 86).  The draft of WWII, or the lottery, occurred several years prior to this the publishing of this short story.  People, in that time, believed that they were supposed to agree with the war and the draft because it was their duty to support their country.   Just as the people in this town believe that they are supposed to uphold this tradition as they uphold their culture.  In both of these instances, the people feared that if they disagree publicly that they will become outcasts of their society.

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Final draft: “The Metamorphosis” Analysis

March 7th, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

Essay 1 Metamorphosis

Elements of space and place shape Gregor’s deteriorating character throughout the short story “The Metamorphosis”.  To analyze the main character fully, certain ideas must be explored and applied to the situations that Gregor must deal with throughout the story.  Through his metamorphosis experiential perspective and notions of spaciousness and crowding make Gregor come to certain realizations of his significance and objectification by his family.  Personal relations with his family and his surroundings further enhance the deterioration of his character.

When Gregor awakes one morning and realizes he is a giant insect, it is as if he is an infant lacking much experience in his new body.  While Gregor is shocked by his metamorphosis, he is surprisingly accepting and immediately begins to adapt.  He starts by experimenting to be able to obtain mobility within his space.  Tuan states that “an infant is immobile and can make only small movements with his head and limbs” (20).  Similarly, Gregor finds himself on his back, having to learn how to roll over and eventually back to being on all fours crawling around.  Like a child having to develop skills and eventually mastering their motor skills, Gregor does the same.  He tries “a hundred times”, unsuccessfully, to roll over onto his stomach to get out of his bed (Kafka 302).  He quickly discovers while trying to open his bedroom door that the bottom of his feet are sticky and his jaw are surprisingly powerful.

Gregor is very devoted to being the provider for his family.  In doing so, he enables them to become lazy and very demanding of him.  His job was very demanding of him as well.  He woke up very early every morning and was rushed to catch his trains.  Gregor’s only escape was when he was home; he would lock his bedroom door to have some privacy and solace.  Ironically he is now trapped inside of it because his family has locked him in and does not let him occupy any other space within the house that he had been paying for. Tuan states that “Space…is given by the ability to move…movements are often directed toward, or repulsed by, objects and places” (12). Gregor’s space, both physical and metaphorical, is hindered by his inability to move with ease in his new body within his confined space and by his family.  Gregor is severely limited in space with the obstacles in his room.  With experience and his new abilities, Gregor climbs the walls and onto the ceiling to expand the small space of his bedroom.  This also applies to Gregor’s life.  His freedom is limited by his responsibilities of taking care of and providing for his family.  Instead of trying to figure out the reason for his transformation or asking for help, his immediate concern is to get up and get to work, despite the fact that he is a giant bug.  When his father lost his business and was in debt, he made Gregor work for one of his creditors.  His father stopped working and his family now relies solely on Gregor for income.  This puts a great burden on Gregor and makes him feel obligated to take care of his entire family.  He puts his family and obligations before himself.  He does not have any friends or many hobbies and no romantic interests.  Once Gregor is unable, physically, to continue to take care of his family, his family does not reciprocate the selfless act and take care of him.  Instead, they lock him inside his small bedroom and give him even less space and freedom than before.

Tuan describes how the limited movement of an infant and an elderly person makes them feel as if “space seems to close in on” them (52).  Gregor continually experiences this more and more throughout the story.  Gregor’s mother and sister acknowledged that he had a lack of space to move around in his room that was filled with many obstacles for him.  They knew that he was taking to the walls and ceilings for more space.  So they decided that they would move his furniture and all of the things that are unnecessary to him now out of his room to allow him to move more freely.  They did not consider, however, that this bug was still Gregor and that he might want these things as he always had.  If they treated him the way Gregor had always treated them, they would have just opened his door and let him have more space within the home.  In their eyes, he was no longer the person who provided for and took care of them, therefore wasn’t given anything in return.  Although Gregor desperately wants more space to move and knows he no longer needs many items in his room, he had developed an attachment to the things in it; his desk, pictures on the wall and his dresser.  They continued to be a reminder to him of his past and a link to the human world.  Gregor tried to object to what they were doing, but he was helpless; he had no control.  The only thing he could do was climb onto the wall and lay over one of the pictures to protect it.   Tuan states that “spaciousness is closely associated with the sense of being free. Freedom implies space; it means having the power and enough room in which to act” (52).  The lack of obstacles in his room should have created more of a sense of spaciousness for Gregor, but it didn’t.  He only felt more isolated and even less of a sense of freedom because he could no longer control any aspect of his life, not even the small personal space that he was given.

Virtually overnight, Gregor goes from being a superior figure in his family to completely inferior.  This also corresponds to the axes of the body.  Tuan describes how “the front signifies dignity” and “the rear is profane” (40).  At one point in the story Gregor’s father throws an apple and impales it into his hard back.  The apple gradually rots and Gregor is unable to do anything to remove it himself.  He has no control over the situation or his life.  This shows that his father does not respect him.  He considers him a being of profanity.  At this point, Gregor comes to the realization that his family never had respect for him.   To come to this realization, Gregor had to experience his metamorphosis and “venture forth into the unfamiliar and experiment with the elusive and uncertain” (Tuan 9).  They expected him to provide for them, without caring what it is that would make him happy.  If his father did care about Gregor’s happiness, he would have found a job, as he did when he forced to do so when Gregor was incapable, so that Gregor would have some space and freedom to enjoy himself.  Before his transformation, Gregor was like a bug; an ant.  He worked hard for the benefit of a whole, not himself.  If an ant was wounded and unable to work, it is cast out from the colony.  Gregor realizes that he was being objectified and his family was using him for their well-being.

Gregor’s family eventually began treating him more and more like an “object” and as if he is “no more in one’s way than are bookshelves” (Tuan 59).  Anything that wasn’t needed anymore, including Gregor, was thrown into his room.  Gregor no longer had any place to move.  He couldn’t maneuver through all the things that were occupying his space.  Gregor began to give up in his quest of acquiring more space or even using the walls and ceilings to create the illusion of more space.  Gregor knew that he was a strain on his family and gave up on the fact that they view him as anything more than a worker ant.

Gregor overwhelmingly felt as if he was an enormous burden on his family, especially in the way he was taking up space in their home.  This feeling is juxtaposed to the way his family had felt when Gregor was providing for them.  Gregor’s family felt as if it was his obligation to do so and their right to enjoy what his hard work gave them; food, money and space.  When his family was informed by the cleaning woman of his death, they did not even bother to check to see if he was dead or to see him at all.  They were relieved that the burden of him was no longer on them.  Gregor probably felt the same way.  He worked long days with no time for himself and had the burden of taking care of his family and paying all of their bills, which is probably why he was peaceful as he was about to die; he was finally getting the freedom that he desired in his death.  The cleaning woman discarded Gregor’s “flat and dry” body as someone would do with garbage (Kafka 329).   Gregor’s parents were already thinking of his next replacement; the man his sister would marry.

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“The Cathedral” March 3, 2011

March 3rd, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

In Raymond Carver’s, “The Cathedral”, the main character Raymond is a blind middle-aged man.  He seems to welcome unfamiliar places and experiences on his own.  He traveled, alone, taking a cross-continental flight and a 5 hour train ride.  He does not use a cane or a seeing-eye dog, rather he relies on his other more heightened senses; hearing, touching and smelling.  As Tuan states his “experience thus implies the ability to learn from what (he) has undergone.  To experience is to learn; it means acting on the given and creating out of the given” (9).  He learns to deal with his blindness by experiencing with his other senses.  He feels around people’s faces to get an idea of what they look like.  He listens to descriptions of where obstacles are around him and adjusts accordingly.  He has mastered eating with a fork a knife and knowing exactly where the food is around him.  Through experience, he can identify food not by seeing it, but by its smell.  This, I’m sure, did not happen without experimentation and practice.  Tuan states “to experience in the active sense requires that one venture forth into the unfamiliar and experiment with the elusive and uncertain (9).  This is how Robert constructs ideas of space.  Robert is not “bound by what he sees and feels in his home and local neighborhood” (Tuan 31).  Like a child, Robert probably does not attack significance with places.  He has no concept of what a cathedral is.  He uses his imagination and feels the man’s hand as it draws over the paper.  He feels the indentations on the paper to familiarize himself with the strokes and to try to make sense of it.  Just as Tuan states he was using his “mind to formulate spatial concepts (to) further enhance (his) spatial ability (75).  At the end of the short story, the husband had his eyes closed and describes how he felt:  “I was in my house.  I knew that.  But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything” (Carver 103).   The husband is used to relying on his sight to formulate spatial values.  Without that he could imagine he is anywhere, or nowhere.

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Essay 1; “The Metamorphosis”

March 1st, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

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Feb 15; “A & P”

February 15th, 2011 by Patricia Nichtern

In Chapter four of Space and Place, Tuan analyzes the way the axis of the human body correlates to certain ideas.  These ideas can easily be applied to John Updike’s “A & P”.  In the beginning of this short story the author describes the main character’s perspective of the grocery store in relation to the girls entering it by having his  “…back to the door, so I don’t see them” (p.16).   Sammy, the main character, is positioned in the front of the grocery store.  According to Tuan, this signifies importance and a sense of higher status (p. 41).  The girls entering are behind him, which signifies profanity and the past according to Tuan (p. 35).  The way the girls are dressed in bikinis in the grocery store is, by society’s measures, somewhat profane.  In the sense of Sammy’s future, at this point, his future lies within his job at the supermarket.  His past was before he was employed there; outside, behind him.

Tuan also describes how when something is elevated, it is considered “superior or excellent” (p. 37).  This applies to the character Queenie in “A & P”.  She is taller than the other two girls and extends her neck to make herself appear even taller.  This also applies to her social status by being from a presumably wealthy family and therefore she feels superior to others with lower social statuses.  Queenie, the highly confident girl of the group, leads the other girls through the supermarket.   Tuan states that “lesser beings hover behind (and in the shadow of) their superiors.” (p. 40).  Updike describes how the girls are walking through the supermarket to enforce the character’s individual level of confidence.

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