Charlie House, Amsterdam

Email 1

The endless flying frenzy of little insects speed to their deaths into a sea of goo that is the saliva in my mouth. I have arrived at the little town of Lisse within the Netherlands, I might say it is nothing but open land. I shall write as a reminder to you, dear Alexander, of my mother’s cruel death after all these years of battle against cancer. Now, forget I ever spoke of such tender and heart retching topic. I am not exactly sure what I am doing here in this little town but to accompany my father at Charlie House, I suppose, and be away from my life in Washington, DC. I shall put my electronic device to sleep and return another day and write to you again. I must take a long walk across the plains.

Your best buddy,

Sebastian

Email 2

As I recall, Alexander, you are always locked within the vicinity of your room playing video games. I cannot even begin to explain the sights of the Western Netherlands. Of course, you probably will not understand nor appreciate the beauty of nature like I do as I have recently discovered. I will describe in the simplest terms that I can to your level of understanding. The many thing you will find outdoors are green, the color of the little round power button on you console. You can turn your head in every direction to find endless fields of brilliant flowers, not walls. The scent of manure is a breath of fresh air and is everything good compared to the city smog. I met a young lady by the name of Brooke and she was sweet enough to show me around town. I have grown quite fond of her presence.

Your buddy,

Sebastian

Email 3

I met a fellow American today on my way to the horse stables and in this young fellow’s hand was something like a cigarette, except it was not a cigarette. There is a specific type of green (I was later informed the plant was called marijuana) that can be rolled inside a specific type of paper, lit and inhaled to get “high”, as they say to describe the sensational experience. If only you can take this trip with me and feel the relaxation from the fumes of this plant of wonders, but you are busy in your catholic studies and I have the time to spare and money from my allowance to spend. Decent music can make you a decent man. Like Tupac.

I hope the Lord can forgive me, I was a G
And gettin’ high was a way of bein’ free

I cannot tell you how popular I have become among these foreign women. All these women often try to get into my pants, but I refuse to let anyone break me away from my catholic moralities. My love, I will give to the lord and only the lord.

Yours,

Sebastian

Letter 4

My father has fell under the spell of a lady business partner, which I was strongly against until I found myself giving my love to the young lady, Sam. I am happy, Alexander. We will meet soon.

Sebastian

Reflection

The Netherlands was somewhat chosen at random. As we see that Sophia was a big fish in a little pond when she arrived in Calcutta, I wanted to imitate that but in a domestic and modern setting. My character Sebastian was modeled after Sophia, hence the similarity in the names, and both are addressing a passive friend who does not respond, making it feel like the readers are intruding the conversation. The name of Charlie House was modeled after Hartly House, and I chose Amsterdam because it is the capital of the Netherlands just as Calcutta is the Capital of India at the time. Phebe Gibbes’s Hartly House, Calcutta was a bit long and made it impossible to capture every aspect within a 500 word piece. I had to focus on key aspects of Sophia as a character and her actions. Sophia is introduced as a spoiled brat and it seems she doesn’t realize it, being she is only 16 years of age. Instead of beginning the first letter with a scene of dead bodies, I began it with dead insects inside the narrator’s mouth. Moving from Washington, DC to the Netherlands is a big change, like from a big city to a small town. I believe Sophia brings up the death of her mother simply looking for sympathy, so I tried that. She doesn’t have a clue what she is doing in India, so I sort of paralleled that. The only thing the readers know is that her father is involved in the trade industry between Europe and India, but she could care less. Sebastian also doesn’t care much about his father’s business and is simply enjoying life as a teenage boy. Sophia sees herself as superior to Arabella and she contradicts her words through her actions quite a lot. She says she will never marry in Indonesia, but ends up doing just that. Sebastian says he will not love anyone else but the lord, but falls for Sam, who he barely knows. Sophia loves to include quotes from various philosophers, poets, etc. and to mimic that for a contemporary audience, I used a few lines from a song by Tupac. Both Sophia and Sebastian are both dandy-like as well, both are very conceited. I also noticed that when Sophia closes her letters, she puts in less effort each time.

-Van Vang

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The Harp as a Memento of a Failed Relationship

Thomas Moore’s poem comes across as a breakup/it’s not you it’s me/I love you but please forget I ever existed, letter between the speaker and the personified instrument of the harp. The end rhyme consists of the pattern ABAB, CDCD, etc. which we know as the alternate rhyme scheme. What this suggests of the speaker is they are indecisive with their feelings toward the harp, and knowing the symbolic meaning of the harp, the rhyme scheme alone can be interpreted as Irish’s extreme doubt on whether uniting with England was the right decision. This is kind of like leaving your spouse to go play with your friends, who aren’t actually your friends but people who pretend to be in order to manipulate you.

The first stanza describes the narrator’s return to the harp, who they find with “The cold chain of silence” (2). This is the first step in realizing that neglecting the harp was their biggest mistake. Below the surface is their neglect on their Irishness. It’s like forgetting what the harp stood for and remembering after it is too late. Line four, “And gave all thy chords to light, freedom, and song!” is trying to bring the spark back into the relationship. Strumming chords is often associated with the heart and we often hear the term heartstrings used to represent emotions. Stanza two describes the beauty of the harp, but then “hast thou echoed the deep sigh of sadness” (7). The speaker sees they have broken the harp’s heart. We hear it only as an echo, so although the songs may still sound beautiful, there is a hint of sorrow, which is a perfect way to describe the sound of the harp. Stanza three is the speaker’s way of saying they are unworthy of the harp’s love and saying, “Till touch’d by some hand less unworthy than mine” (12). The physical and the literal representation of the harp no long holds any significance. This has been true ever since Ireland has decided to put their faith into someone else’s hands and leaving their identity behind. Leaving the harp behind is like leaving a legacy behind. What is left is all in the mind and all that matters is they keep the harp in their mind. Stanza four is the speaker asking the harp to forget the speaker ever existed saying, “I was but the wind, passing heedlessly over” (15).

Thomas Moore uses the concept of a relationship as a microcosm of the current event of his time. Those who do not know this particular history of Ireland can get a sense of how the people felt toward their home during the French Revolution. Moore’s poem shows that among the many things Ireland lost was their identity, and when they realized that, it was too late to turn back. This was when the revival of the harp occurred and used as a symbol of Irish identity. Therefore, the harp stands as a symbol of Ireland because of the music the harp produces. That music being an indeterminable emotion, a blend of happiness and sorrow.

-Van Vang

Fresno On My Mind 2017

I come from an impoverish area in Fresno, California. Police sirens are practically my lullaby and helicopter light beams, my nightlight.

Fresno on my Mind

After William Blake’s “London”

The Fourth of July has arrived

With the bang, the crackle and pop.

The sirens echo in his mind

When he sees the body drop.

His Queen wipes the blood from his shin;

His Princess wipes the tear from hers.

The hiding game begins again.

He is hidden among beggars.

Fallen men stare at starless sky.

Fallen men walk down broken roads.

The mice becomes his alibi.

They paint the walls with broken codes.

The distorted shapes on the wall

Reveals the whispers of the knight.

Behind the bars, he’ll lose it all,

In the fortress of fine graphite,

No Need for Nature in the Romantics

Caspar David Friedrich, The Monk by the Sea, 1809

I noticed in every Romantic paintings, the artist either uses bright and vivid colors, dull and dark colors, or something in between. I am reminded of William Wordsworth’s poem, “Simon Lee, The Old Huntsman” when I saw Caspar David Friedrich’s painting “The Monk by the Sea”. I looked into his other works and almost every single one followed the theme of darkness, shadows, bareness, and demolished buildings as opposed to many other artists who paints the sun, trees and castles. I find it a little weird because nature is often depicted as alive and beautiful but also provokes a sense of loneliness. Isn’t nature the embodiment of the Romantics? Usually, the massiveness of the mountains and the denseness of tress can portray the mysteries of life. Friedrich is making a statement through his painting that maybe nature might not have a role in the discovery of the individual. Maybe it requires a certain state of mind like that of a monk.

The narrator of the poem states their uncertainty of the age of the old huntsman. In the painting there is no clear shot of the monk’s face for age determination, in fact, he isn’t even facing us and he is way too far for further inspection. There is merely the figure of a man to let us know he is a person. Although the narrator gives us a clear description of the huntsman with this, “A long blue ivory-coat has he, / That’s fair behind, and fair before” (9-10), and, “And, though he has but one eye left, / His cheek is like a cherry” (15-16), we really can’t depend on this description as we have not seen what the huntsman looks like. We can only use our imagination to picture the man similar to the way we would imagine the monk.  The third stanza, lines 21-24, perfectly sets the feeling of loneliness:

His master’s dead, and no one now

Dwells in the hall of Ivor;

Men, dogs, and horses, all are dead;

He is the sole survivor.

The huntsman, seeing that he kills for a living, has no other purpose in life since everything is already dead. The painting itself is also very dead with the dull colors. A monk is supposed to be this solitary man who dedicates his life to serve all other living beings, but as the painting shows, there is no other living beings. The scene could be a portrayal on how he feels dead inside with no purpose in life. The beauty of this is that it is this which allows him to be a true individual and maybe that is what it means to be an individual. We see in lines 45 and 46 of the poem, “And still there’s something in the world / At which his heart rejoices”, the huntsman feels alive despite his experience of loneliness (45-46). We can view this experience as a step toward a greater state of mind.

Friedrich does not include trees or other representations of nature except a dark sea because it distracts ones from understanding the true meaning of life. Wordsworth even pokes fun of the idea that we always want give everything meaning in stanza 10, “O gentle reader! you would find / A tale in every thing”… “It is no tale; but you should think, / Perhaps a tale you’ll make it” (75-76 and 79-80). Had there been a tree or a building, I am sure we would will try to find a meaning. Later, the huntsman uses a mattock to try and remove a tree stump to get to the root, metaphoric for getting to the answers he seeks. He passes the tool to the narrator as a sign that he was unable to finish the job, meaning he did not find the answers. Passing the tool is like passing the baton to the next person who will then try to seek the answers. Similar to the idea that we are wasting our time trying to give everything meaning, we are wasting our time trying to uncover the mysteries of life; as a result, creating a darker perception of everything. We also see that we are often alone in this journey.

-Van Vang

Iron Maiden & Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Version vs Interpretation

The one way that Iron Maiden’s version of this poem is similar to Romantic Poetry is the way they are able to stimulate two senses at once through language, much like synesthesia. But my experience of reading the poem and listening to the song were so different I could not put the two together and say they were alike. The song was definitely enjoyable to listen to as it had its way of provoking certain emotions through the heavy metal music and images, but it is exactly that that I argue this song is really not like Romantic Poetry.

I read through Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” with such peace and quiet. This poem is a sub genre called Romantic Literature under the genre of Romanticism while the song can be placed under the sub genre of Romantic Music. It was all about myself as an individual when I was reading this poem. The words left me as the reader with endless interpretations based on my decision as a reader. Every emotion I felt through the poem was internal and I felt peace and quiet while reading scenes of terror and destruction, which doesn’t seem to coincide but it was pleasurable. An example among many examples from the poem that made me feel a sense of calmness is from Part 6 of the electronic version, “But why drives on that ship so fast, / Without or wave or wind?” The ship moving fast without wind or waves is like the ship is a ghost ship gliding through the undisturbed waters. It was like it didn’t even exist and all theses images were derived from my own imagination. Everything was more external with the song. It’s definitely an interpretation of the poem, but based on my experience of the poem, the song does not do it justice. Iron Maiden’s heavy metal music along with the singer’s voice of anger was expressive and emotional. I felt the emotions of the song, the terror and the unease of the singer. It was like these emotions were predetermined and the goal was to make me feel the same way. With the poem, there really was no sort of distractions that will provoke my senses as I read the poem. And that is, I think, the point of Romantic Poetry; to be in a state of peace and calmness while experiencing the weird and mysteriousness of the art inside of my head. The song limits out interpretations.

Edit- Iron Maiden’s song definitely fit into the Romantic era, just not under Romantic Poetry specifically as the prompt was asking. The challenge of comparing the song to the poem is there is components to the song, or music in general, that shifts the main focus away from the words. I find it a bit challenging to compare the sound of the guitar riff to a word. It may be easier if I were to compare Coleridge’s poem to another poem or a piece of literature.

-Van Vang

Effects of Socialism

The bottom cartoon depicts the cultural differences between Britain and African countries. The man in the middle refers to Britain when he mentions the Reform Bills passed in British Parliament, which was supposed to have been for good causes but the cartoon reveal the contrary. The man is above the barrel, a vessel which holds liquid and dry goods, expressing his control over the goods of Britain. On the left, there is a British family who is suffering from starvation and debt, while on the right, there is an African family who is happy and well fed. Just based on physical attributes, the middle man is a lot plumper, while the rest are naturally thin. Based on what the man says in the cartoon, it is raising awareness of governmental powers in Britain with their ability to cover up the issues within their own country. The middle man spoke of the “poor suffering African” while ironically it is the other who are suffering. The grim look on his face tells me that that he is finding a justification to their people’s sufferings like he could prove that if some other people have it worse, what they are going through did not look so bad and the jumbled mess of books and reports on slavery beneath the barrel proves so. Another thing to point out is the growing pile of tax papers in the bottom left corner and, what I assume to be yams, growing in the bottom right corner. Here is a great illustration of the outcome to the bills mentioned above in Britain.

Olaudah Equiano observed “that in all the places where I was the soil was exceedingly rich; the pumpkin, eadas, plantains, yams, &c. &c. were in great abundance, and of incredible size” (64). Having already been kidnapped, he was still in his own country and has not yet boarded the ship at this point. He describes the availability of food in his country and since leaving, he describes his sufferings of starvation as a slave. Olaudah Equiano tells about the time his master took away his fish on page 112, maybe because of greed, paralleling the cartoon of the middle man holding all the food to let the family starve. He says “I also expected to get better food, and in greater abundance; for I had felt much hunger oftentimes” expressing one of many times he had starved and not having that desire fulfilled (115). The cartoon shows the British family under these conditions, but not the African family. Olaudah’s narrative proves that socialism not only affects the British, but anyone who are under the influence of British laws, including slaves.

Though the cartoon include aspects of slavery, it goes deeper to show the cultural differences of two people and the effects of socialism. Slaves are often treated as the poor and the helpless due to their lack of politics, but the cartoon reveal the power of masking real issues through politics. The man on the left mentions getting fed “by the Parish”, meaning the church, meaning he has to seek help in order to keep his family fed in a country that was supposed to be cultured and advanced. The cartoon also raises the idea of environmental exploitation as we see a normal tree on the right and a wooden chair and table on the left. To mention also, the chair is broken in places, symbolizing the ruined state of their country in which he sits on.

-Van Vang

 

 

Sophia: Angel in the House

Patmore's Wife

Patmore’s wife Emily, the model for the Angel in the House, portrayed by John Everett Millais

I found it interesting that she described herself as an angel in the sixth letter and not just any ordinary angel, but in reference to “the angel in the house”. She did not use an exact quote, but italicized the word angel to refer to another work of literature. This analogy originated from Coventry Patmore’s narrative poem during the Victorian era describing the middle class women. Women of that time were taught to be house wives with skills that will not be beneficial outside of the house. They were to remain confined and sang, painted, and supported their husband in any affair. This was the European view of the perfect woman and Sophia being European herself and at the age of sixteen, we expect her to have been educated in this sense. Now in Calcutta, she is exposed to a whole new culture and a whole new view of a woman’s role in society. She was quick to call herself an angel so confidently, “I had bound myself a solemn promise, to be an angel on each succeeding evening,” because it was easy for her to do (44).

It was not a challenge at all for her to take a step down from her initial living style to that of a woman in India. If anything, she sounded relieved from no longer having to be self-conscious about her appearance. Although it sounded like she was admiring their culture, what she was really telling Arabella was that she had no problem living poorly or savagely and said “mirrors are almost useless things in Calcutta” as if the Indians did not care about the way they looked (36). Sophia showed an interest in the way men and women interacted at social gatherings and found pleasure after witnessing how men and women sat wherever they pleased and discussed whatever they wanted. European women were constrained in what they could do. Sophia may have been intrigued by the amount of freedom that women had in India and took full advantage of it. From afternoon naps to automatic free refills on their drinks, it is no wonder why she is loving her time there. To her, it was like a sort of getaway, a break, a vacation away from her life.

The angel is so much different there than from her hometown. She tells Arabella, “[Y]ou know me too well to suspect me of a departure from my established custom,” taking pride of her European life style but it is ironic how quick she was to drop these established custom (38). Upon learning that women took naps in the middle of the day, she did exactly just that. She learned people will still be attracted to her regardless of appearance and sophisticated social etiquette, but to call herself an angel in an Indian household is a bit egotistic especially knowing that she had been there only a short time. Sophia is stating how easy it is to her to live as an Indian woman but she is making a fool of herself. By the way she described their behaviors, it seemed there were no such thing as “angel in the house” in Calcutta but Sophia brought this European analogy into a different culture and attempted to make it universal. This to me kind of sounded like she was practicing colonialism through literature.

-Van Vang

Gulliver: An Odious Yahoo

Gulliver created a reputation for himself as a man who enlightens, yet never truly had the power to make a significant change in the country of Lilliput and in the country of Brobdingnag. Instead, he himself had been enlightened in the country of Houyhnhms. He walked out of that place with completely changed view on the way his specie lived. Chapter seven was when his Master expressed his observations upon human nature to which Gulliver decided he wanted to live among the Houyhnhms for the rest of his life. This was what he said his Master told him, “He said the Yahoos were known to hate one another more than they did any different Species of Animals; and the Reason usually assigned, was, the Odiousness of their own Shapes, which all could see in the rest, but not in themselves” (239). He viewed himself as the heroic man who put out the fire in Lilliput and the perfect companion to the farmer’s Daughter who made clothes for him to wear. He was like the star wherever he went. He didn’t have time to analyze himself and when his Master pointed out the Yahoos’ flaws, he couldn’t even defend his own specie because he believed they were true.

The word odious means unpleasant, which his Master used to describe the Yahoos showing his Master’s view on their physical features. Gulliver had, in his earlier travels, demonstrated his belief that his people were advanced and above all. This belief is quickly shut down when his Master explained how far behind the Yahoos were from the evolutionary perspective. Gulliver used the word odious to describe his  impression on the Yahoos he observed on page 244 and discovered these creatures were a lot like him. He then used the word odious to describe a young “Vermin”, or animal that can be harmful to crops, farm animals, etc. He described this animal as unpleasant while his Master had previously used the same word to describe Yahoos. The connection here is clear and showed that Yahoos were despicable to the rest of society. He used the word again after his return home. He called his own wife an “odious animal” (265) when all she did was show a little affection.

He truly had been enlightened and could only see his people through the eyes of the Houyhnhms; although, Gulliver’s Travels does not necessarily suggest that human kind would be happier if it could think and behave the way the Houyhnhms do. The Lilliputians were perfectly prospering in the way they ran their society. The same goes for the Brobdingnagnian, and the Houyhnhms. Everything were circumstantial. The odds of him to conform to the rest was high because this time he was the one being enlightened as opposed to him, one man, trying to enlighten an entire country. Had he not arrived in the country of Houyhnhms, he would still view his life the same as before. Gulliver was happy in this new way of living in this new country, but imagine him trying to change the view of his entire people; they would disagree. As his Master said, “which all could see in the rest, but not in themselves”, this could apply to anyone meaning that everyone has a specific constitution where they live by and view others as unestablished and savage.

-Van Vang

Not About Genocide

Rowlandson’s captivity narrative is by no means an exemplification of suffrage through genocide. Neither is it an attempt to justify the actions acted by the English colonists upon the indigenous people. She portrays an unrealistic reaction to the dreadful event, showing no signs of fear despite the loss of loved ones and being separated from the rest of her people. The language she uses suggests her lack of remorse as she is traveling with her captors, looking up to God for savior with hope as strong as ever. In an event like this, the natural response is fear of death and yet, Rowlandson remains calm unlike the fear the ingenious people showed when they were massacred and their land were taken over by the English men. This makes Rowlandson’s narrative difficult to read and to sympathize for her. The repetitiveness of “wonderful goodness of God…” and other variations of that phrase, became a little annoying in all honesty. To say that after witnessing something gruesome makes me question what Rowlandson was really trying to say.

Perhaps, her narrative was an act of spreading God’s words, spreading Christianity, and her excessive use of biblical references prove so. In the fourth remove, she witnesses her land stripped down to the little details as they had done to the indigenous people. Instead of showing anger, frustration or fear, she is optimistic. It is hard for anyone to remain that optimistic as a human but she does so through Christ. God became an overarching theme to show his powers. The idea of faith is risen. I admire her optimism through her crisis, but her narrative becomes frustrating as it progresses. It is clear to the readers that she was a strong believer in Christ, but referencing the bible in almost every remove leaves no room to express real feelings which the readers look for in order to sympathize for her. I may have been a lot more moved by the narrative without the abundance of biblical references.

Her captivity is her punishment for the sin she and her people committed and her actions suggests she is accepting that fact. This follows John Locke’s idea that “if anyone may punish someone for something bad that he has done, then everyone may do so. . .” Rowlandson implicitly claims it is okay for her and her people to be taken captive for their sins. She, at times, refer to her captors as human beings making it clear that she understands they are their own individual people. I believe no form of torture, evil, or death is ever good, whether for the sake of killing or revenge. The English colonization was bad but that was in the past, and although with the impact it has had in our history, it does not make it just for the roles to be reversed as an act of revenge. The Indians are essentially committing the same crime, and by Locke’s words that they may be punished for the bad they have done, it becomes an endless cycle. The only way to stop it is literally to just stop.

-Van Vang

Rhetoric in the Royal Society

It seemed to me that Thomas Sprat was more concerned about the development of language than he was about the breakthrough of scientific discoveries as he had been called into the Royal Society for being a rhetorician. His ideas were similar to that of a minimalist, and he strongly desired to get rid of the excess he calls ornament in the English Language. He stated that the sophistication of language has two uses, one is for the use of bad intent and the other for good intent. Bad, as in persuading one to believe a lie, and good, as in to express truth. The Royal Society was an organization with the purpose of spreading knowledge exactly as they were discovered, noting more, nothing less. They were not set out to sway an individual’s conception about anything. I saw influential ideas from other rhetoricians through Sprat’s ideas, for example, Gorgias said truth and reality is shaped by the world around us. No individual can truly decide what they want, instead, decided what they see and hear. If we can do this, then we essentially decide for ourselves what we believe and what truth is. Sprat said language was once used as an admirable instrument “to describe goodness, honesty, obedience, in a large, purer, and more moving images, to represent truth”. And now it is used to defy reason through “abundance of phrase, trick of metaphors, and volubility of tongue”. And then as Aristotle said, in the context of law, that “emotions has nothing to do with the essential facts, but is merely a personal appeal to the man who is judging the case”. This is a scary thought when put into scientific research. We strongly feel like what research shows is almost always right, not knowing if any of them were lies.

Through the discovery of vaccination, electricity, planets, photography, etc., many of the innovations has been good and easy to comprehend. This may be due to the Royal Society’s aim to return to writing in primitive purity and shortness. Contemporary rhetoricians like Gloria Anzaldua follows these ideals in her belief in organic writing. Men in the seventeenth century made big and life-changing discoveries that men today can only wish to discover. Much more funding is being directed toward research in the sciences now than there ever were before for the sake of knowing. Research now has also improved and become more precise due to technological advancements especially going from tying a key to a kite to determining the structure of DNA. One can easily look at a research article and understand clearly what the research is about. That is one thing that has not changed. Information is public and anyone can get a hold of it.

-Van Vang