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Literature Reviews

Essay by   •  August 10, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,924 Words (12 Pages)  •  2,180 Views

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Whether we are reading a poem or a short story, there is a story to be found within. The writer is able to capture readers with their use of rhythm, characterization, or a fairy tale setting, among many other things throughout their writing. It is imagination that allows us, the readers of these stories and poems, to be able to fill in the blanks or mentally visualize what the writer wants us to see through use of descriptive words or symbolism. In the poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, the short story "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty, and the short story "Used To Live Here Once" by Jean Rhys I noticed a common theme. No matter what lonely journey we find ourselves on, we determine how the journey ends.

The lonely journey that each of these literary pieces tells about is presented differently in each writing. In "The Road Not Taken", Frost used "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood" which told me that there was a forthcoming journey; he also used "and sorry I could not travel both" as a way to share that he had to make this decision of which path to take. Frost also used the word "I" many times, which allowed me to imagine him alone. In "A Worn Path", Welty used the word "she" throughout the piece which gave me the image of this woman walking alone. The character spoke to animals "'Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles'" and so forth. When the writer posed this conversation in the story, it gave me the feeling of loneliness. This woman was so lonely, she spoke to animals. The path that she was walking "ran up hill". The idea that this path she was on was up a hill provided symbolism of a hard life. To me, walking up a hill would be hard work to get to the destination. Since the description of this woman had been of an aged woman, "her eyes blue with age" and her numberless branching wrinkles, it was a pity to find this woman walking alone up hill. In "Used To Live Here Once", Rhys, too, used the word "she" many times to describe the character in the story. The usage of a singular word painted the picture of loneliness. "She was standing by the river" and "She came to the worn stone steps". This woman was in this journey alone. In each piece of literary writing being discussed in this paper, the loneliness throughout the journey is clear. However, the ending to the journeys vary because of the choices the characters make. We will address this further on into the paper.

The setting of a story or poem is what draws the reader in. I found myself reading "The Road Not Taken First". The reason was that it starter out with almost a conflict of where the poem could take me. With the first line being "Two roads diverged in yellow wood", I found myself wondering where the pathways would take me. As the poem began, I found it to be written in first person sine the writer used "I" as the main character term. Frost wrote "and be one traveler, long I stood". This enabled me to actually step into the characters', or the writer's, shoes and see these pathways from his perspective. I like being able to feel as if I am in the story. Frost wrote about one path that it he could see where it "bent in the undergrowth". He went on that the other path "was grassy and wanted wear". This painted a picture for me of actual woods, split into two pathways, both different most likely ending in a different place. In the back of my mind, I had an idea that these were symbolic of something much bigger.

The symbolism within the poem "The Road Not Taken" was abundant. "Two roads diverged could be seen as two things, two jobs, two ideas, two of anything that one could choose between. The word "yellow", as used to describe the two roads in which Frost could choose is symbolic of aging or decay. To me, it seemed as if Frost could have been in a mid-life crisis, in which he felt old and needed change, and he had two new roads, of which the pathways and endings were unknown, to choose from. One path had been the one he was on, but did not know where it would end. The other road was grassy, seemingly vibrant, and the ending, too, was unknown. Frost referred to the both paths as "in leaves no step had trodden black". In his description, the use of the word "black" shows symbolism of death. It seemed as if Frost was analyzing his choices and was seeing that his alternative pathway, although it did look enticing, he wondered why no one else had come back if they had taken that path. He knew that either path would ultimately lead to death, as that was his fate. There came a turning point in the poem where Frost went from indecisiveness to having made up his mind of his choice. Instead of being in front of two paths "in a yellow wood" he ended the poem that he was in just "a wood" in which he had chosen to stay "on the first for another day". It appeared to me that his analysis of the paths he could choose from lead him to understand that the unknown is not as enticing as the known. According to John Savoie, the contradiction lies within the idea that both paths were "equally lay" but Frost chose to take the path of least resistance which indeed is arguable as there is "a lack of distinction between the roads". (Savoie, 2004) His journey, although seemingly lonely, was determined by the decisions he made or would make.

The second piece I read drew me in because the setting was not one of mystery, but instead it was one of pity. "Used to Live Here Once" was the second piece I chose to read. The setting was one of sadness. I could visualize this woman "standing by the river" and "remembering each one". It gave me the idea that she had been there long before but had forgotten the beauty of the river over time. Sad beginnings to literary pieces are not something that normally draws me in. However, the story grew more intriguing to me as the setting moved to her old home. When she noticed that "the screw pine was gone", I still felt the pity and sadness for the character. Since the writer chose to write in a third person perspective, it was difficult for me to actually identify with the character personally. Rhys wrote "it was strange to see a car standing in front of it". The personification of this car "Standing" in front of her old house was difficult to be considered strange since it was not an actual feeling of the character but instead an observation by the writer. In fact, the idea that the writer was this close to the character made me think she was speaking of herself in third person. Elizabeth Abel wrote a piece on Jean Rhys saying that Rhys' writings typically subject

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