Author Archives: rdearbor

Reading Response 6- Nelson’s “Chapter Two”

I felt that reading Nelson’s short story, “Chapter Two” was a kind of meta piece to read for a creative writing class. Hil essentially uses her A.A. meetings as a way to tell stories. Rather than sharing any part of herself, she talks about her larger-than life neighbor, Bergeron Love. Rather than telling her audience about her encounters with Love as they unfold, Hil purposefully chooses a specific point in time in the story of their relationship. In this way, she is thinking about time in the way that a writer would when writing a story. Her oral story-telling is an art, and as such it reveals and conceals elements about the artist.

While Hil is sharing elements of her life that are technically true, she is presenting them in a way that does not create an accurate depiction of her current existence. In this way, reading “Chapter Two” from Hil’s perspective is like being inside the mind of someone who is writing their memoir. Much of the history and personal information is present, but it is all presented in a very meaningful and artistic manner which is meant to elicit a particular response from an audience. Hil even takes into account her distinct audiences when she tells her story. She knows, for example, that the female-only A.A. meetings are generally a “tougher” crowd who don’t appreciate lewd or rambling stories.

Even her more honest relationship with her friend Joe, is more like a relationship between an editor and an author. They meet and “debrief” after these story-telling sessions and discuss the finer points of her narratives. The reader only finds out about Love’s death because Joe noted it as a serious omission from her story. They both, however, ultimately agree that leaving out this detail would have ruined the intended effect of the story. In this way, Hil manages to make someone else complicit in her deceit and validate her twisted use of these would-be moments meant for honesty and personal growth. I loved this piece as a commentary on all people who like to tell stories, orally or otherwise.

Oompa-Loompa Doopity Doo, Wonka’s Got a Business Plan for You

Willy Wonka, world-renowned chocolate-maker, employs many clever tactics to ensure his place at the top of the industry. In Roald Dahl’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka is a successful business owner, famous public figure, factory manager, and inventor. His passion and fanaticism for his work place him far beyond his competitors. The reasons for Willy Wonka’s success can be attributed to his original inventions, his loyal employees and his skill as a salesman.
Wonka proves to be an innovative businessman, constantly creating new kinds of candy that will set him apart from the competition. When telling Charlie about him, Grandpa Joe raves that “he’s invented a way of making chocolate ice cream so that it stays cold for hours and hours without being in a refrigerator”, “marshmallows that taste of violets and rich caramels that change color every ten seconds as you suck them”. These original sweets of his give Wonka a competitive edge over other chocolate-makers. There are, however, many who have tried to imitate his creations.
Spies, posing as regular employees in Wonka’s factory, used to sell his ideas to his competitors. When other chocolate factories began producing sweets imitating his, Wonka realized that the safety of all of his sweets recipes were in jeopardy. He hastily sent all of his employees home, telling them never to return, and shut down his factory. Seeking loyal workers who would not betray his secret recipes, Wonka eventually discovered the Oompa-Loompas and convinced them to come work for him. The Oompa-Loompas live in the factory and provide Wonka with the labor services he needs. In this way “[n]o spies can go into the factory” and steal his inventions.
Wonka always invents new types of sweets as a way to stay ahead of his competitors. Wonka “invented more than two hundred new kinds of chocolate bars, each with a different center”. He did this because he is a savvy business man who knows that novelty products distinguish him from other chocolate-makers. It can also be said that Wonka comes up with his Golden Ticket idea as a way to increase sales as well as find an heir to his empire. He knows that by putting out the tickets, his can “sell more than ever before”.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Sirius Black

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling features characters who have been wrongly accused. The opening scene depicts Harry writing about innocent people being burned for witchcraft as a result of Muggles’ fear of magic. It is suggested that while Muggles took these events very seriously and believed they were protecting themselves, the actual witches knew it was fruitless. The unjust persecution of the first scene sets the tone for the rest of the novel and foreshadows later events.

In the opening scene, Harry reads about the witch-burnings of the fourteenth century. Harry’s book declares that often times the people accused of witchcraft were innocent and that although Muggles feared magic they were “not very good at recognizing it” (2). This discussion of wrongful prosecution closely resembles the unjust punishment that Sirius faces for the crimes he does not commit.

Concealed by his Invisibility Cloak, Harry overhears a conversation about the day his parents were killed Lord Voldemort. He learns that his parents, James and Lily, had entrusted Sirius Black with secrets which he later revealed to Voldemort, ensuring their demise. Harry also hears that another friend of his parents, Peter Petigrew, attempted to avenge their deaths, but is killed by Sirius. Harry is then under the false idea that his “parents had died because their best friend had betrayed them” (211). It is because Sirius betrayed Lily and James and killed Peter that he is sent to Azkaban, the infamous high security wizards’ prison. But later, Harry learns the truth: that it was actually Peter who had turned the Potters over to Voldemort, causing their deaths. Despite appearances, Black was the one who had been trying to protect Lily and James while Peter was the one who switched his loyalty to Voldemort. Peter had even survived that night and had only pretended to be killed by Sirius, but had actually transformed into a rat and slipped away unnoticed only to be presumed dead and awarded a wizard’s honor, the “Order of Merlin, First Class” (208).

Sirius’ imprisonment and Peter’s honorary status in the wizarding community are foreshadowed by the opening discussion of the witch burnings. Despite the fact that many people in medieval times were afraid of witchcraft and seriously believed that they were acting righteously by killing people, they were actually taking the lives of innocent Muggles. So it appeared obvious that Sirius had been the one to betray Lily and James, especially considering Peter’s fake death, while the real events leading up to their deaths went unknown for majority of Harry’s life.

Playing House

Hunter and gatherer, the most basic and antiquated gender roles, perfectly describe the characters of Peter and Wendy in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Peter, the eternally youthful boy, lives in constant pursuit of adventure and fun while Wendy is assigned the role of “mother”. Emotionally distant and concerned more with his own amusement than looking after the many lost boys in his command, Peter realizes that Wendy could fill the role of maternal caretaker.

Peter is the leader of Neverland’s lost boys, but his boyish tendencies make him an unfit father figure. His role is providing for Wendy and the boys. When Wendy first arrives at Neverland, Peter immediately feels the need to present her with shelter. He orders the boys to “build a house around her” (2.1.272). This shows Peter’s basic instinct to provide the basic needs to Wendy, but does not overtly express affection. He clearly cares for Wendy, seeing as he wants to give her a home. But, his affection can only be interpreted from his actions rather than a verbal or physical demonstration of his emotions.

When Peter tells Wendy that he does not have a mother, she tries to embrace him. He coldly withdraws, saying, “No one must ever touch me” (1.1.353). Not only unable to express his emotions, he acts confused by any physical or verbal means which would aim to do so. For instance, later in the play Wendy asks Peter about the nature of their relationship. Though Wendy thinks he understands that she is in love with him, he tells her that he is merely her son. Peter understands that Wendy wants more from him, because he knows “there is something or other she wants me to be, but she says it is not my mother” (4.1.124-126). Peter acts as a strong, but emotionally distant protagonist. For this, the lost boys look up to him but. So, even though the boys depend on him for many things, the one thing Peter cannot give them is the care and attention of a mother.

Peter first invites Wendy to Neverland, intending for her to be a mother to him and the lost boys. Peter tells her that the lost boys are orphaned, and that none of them know any stories. She immediately offers up her parenting services, telling Peter, “I know lots of stories. The stories I could tell to the boys!” (1.1.492-493). Wendy, being the only girl, always plays the mother when the children play house. While Peter is out “hunting game” to bring back for the family dinner, Wendy minds the lost boys at home. She becomes so attached to the role that she truly believes she is their real mother. Peter asks her to clarify if they are really just pretending to be the parents of the lost boys and Wendy admits it to be merely a game. But, she also adds that “they are ours, Peter, yours and mine” (4.1.114-115).

Peter, the provider, and Wendy, the homemaker, fall into predictable gender roles. The male protector of the house, Peter, gives orders to the lost boys while Wendy reads to them as to provide them with care and attention.

J.M. Barrie. Peter Pan. Modern Library, 2004.

Donkeyskin and Cinderella

Beautiful and troubled, the heroines of Cinderella tales may undergo any variety of hardships and endure any number of family conflicts but, will ultimately marry her prince and live happily ever after. The heroines of Perrault’s Donkeyskin and the Brothers’ Grimm Cinderella differ in their familial relationships and the ways in which they seek help.

After the death of his queen, the king wishes to remarry. The only way he believes he can do this and keep his promise to his wife is to marry his daughter, “Donkeyskin”. Extremely upset by this proposal, Donkeyskin “wept night and day” (110). After failing to thwart her father’s efforts, she runs away from home before the marriage can take place. The Cinderella of the Grimm’s tale however, faces familial conflict not from her father, but from her cruel stepsisters. In the story, her stepsisters “ridiculed her” and “did everything imaginable to make her miserable” (116). Cinderella is able to escape them, however, with the help of kind animals.

Cinderella loved her mother dearly and wept by her grave every day. After planting a hazel branch on the grave one day, her tears nourished a tree in which doves nested. The doves would grant Cinderella’s wishes. These doves helped her go to the prince’s festival by giving her dresses “of gold and silver” (119). Because the birds came from the tree over her mother’s grave they were representative of the relationship between the two. The love Cinderella felt for her mother was what helped her meet and marry her prince. But, when Donkeyskin needed help, she turned to her fairy godmother. Her godmother gave her different advice in order to avoid her father’s proposal. And, while Donkeyskin did manage to escape, it was her own cunning that ensured her marriage to the prince. When baking a cake for the prince she hid her ring inside the dough so that “her young admirer would accept the ring” (114) and use it to find her once again.

These changes in the tales show a shift in values from personal strength and wisdom to devotion to one’s family and sense of duty. Perrault’s Donkeyskin was able to escape as a result of her own cunning and resourcefulness while Cinderellla needed the aid of the doves and is saved by being a virtuous and dutiful daughter. These changes show the shift from the older tales filled with more overt sexual themes to the more child-appropriate bedtime stories which resemble the contemporary versions we know today.

Works Cited

Tatar, Maria, ed. The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W.W. Norton &, 1999. Print.