Caitlin Jeffery

Exploring the depths of digital literature

A Little Lusty

Andrew Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress,” John Donne’s “The Flea,” and Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” all have a common theme of sex. They are about men who are either trying to convince a woman to have sex with them or letting women know they should make the most of their use while they are young.

I loved the men’s arguments for getting laid. Marcel’s poem is divided into three parts: 1) If only you would have sex with me 2) But life is short so we should have sex 3) Lets do it now and make the most of the time we have. Donne uses a flea biting the speaker and a woman as a tool to justify to the woman why she should have sex with the speaker. Their blood is already intermingled in the flea, so why not mix fluids through sex. When he tells her not to kill the flea because it will destroy the marriage of their fluids, she kills it and says nothing changed to which he rebuffs that there is obviously no harm to them from their fluids mixing so they should have sex. Herrick’s poem is more ambiguous. It is about a man telling girls to make the most of their use and have fun while they can. Then they should marry while in their prime because life is short and they don’t want to end up alone. It could be interrupted that girls should make the most of life’s pleasures before they a married and stuck with one person for the rest of their lives.

Marcel says “Had we but world enough, and time,/This coyness, lady, were no crime.” He is basically saying we don’t have time for you to be reluctant and is creating a sense of urgency to what he wants. He goes onto say if she keeps waiting, her beauty will be gone and she will die a virgin. The idea is that sex will allow them to carpe diem, which is what Herrick’s poem is about. Herrick states “this same flower that smiles today/Tomorrow will be dying.” Before your youth is gone and your beauty fades, you must seize the day. Interestingly, this idea isn’t applied to the men. None of them are worried about their youth or beauty fading.

The men really used their language to allude to a more dangerous meaning, especially in a time when all a woman really had was her purity. I wonder how many woman were taken in by their charms and how little harm actually came from those flea bites.


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Everyday Use

Alice Walker’s Everday Use contrasts the narrator and her daughter Maggie with her other daughter Dee. Maggie and her mother actually know and respect thier family heritage. Dee thinks she does, but it comes across not as respect, but as conforming to how modern society feels she should see her heritage. Dee visits home from being away for a long time and you can immediately see that she has tried to separate herself from everything that home represents, including the people who live there. Dee criticizes and looks down on her mother and Maggie because she feels they a stuck in the societal roles they were born into and that she has transcended these roles.

To me I read it as the mother is the one who made her own path, different from societal expectation, and Dee is just walking on the new road that society has made for her people. The mother “was always better at a man’s job.” She is described as stockier with darker skin and “rough man-working hands” as if she has experienced hard physical work. I love when she says “I have deliberately turned my back on the house.” By deliberately turning her back on the house, she is making a statement. The mother has turned her back on the traditional role of women, who are dainty and take care of the home. Dee, on the other hand, think she is being true to her cultural heritage by turning her back on her family heritage.

When Dee arrives she tells her mother that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. When the mother asks “What happened to ‘Dee’?,” Wangero replies “She’s dead…I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppressed me.” Her mother explains that it was a family name passed down from her great grandmother to grandmother to Aunt to niece and to herself says she probable can trace it back to before the Civil War. Dee talks about the heritage of her people being oppressed as if it happened to her and thinks by giving herself an African name she is rebelling against that oppression and bring true to her roots. Her mother sees it differently. To her Dee is a family name and is a tribute to the women before her and respecting their family heritage. After Dee goes into the house she starts claiming items to be used as decoration in her house that are used practically by mother and Maggie. She sees her family heritage as decoration, a story, and the mother and Maggie see it as part of their lives. This is especially apparent when Dee wants these old quilts that her grandma made so she can hang them on her wall. Mother tells her no because they are for Maggie to use. This upsets Dee because she thinks these things would just be destroyed by everyday use and are relics of the past, but mother and Maggie feel they are actually continuing the tradition of the blankets by having them be used and repaired by Maggie when the rip, like Maggie is adding her own story to the family story of the blankets. Dee just doesn’t understand this. She immediately leaves and says “You just don’t understand.” When her mother asks her to clarify, Dee replies “your heritage.” This is so ironic to me because she is the one who doesn’t understand.

Maggie was horribly burned in a home fire when she was younger and she and her sister Dee do not have a great relationship. Maggie wears a “pink skirt and red blouse” like the color of fresh scars and Dee wears a long dress that has “yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun” like fire. The mother even describes her “whole face warming from the heat it throws out.” Dee is the fire that burns Maggie. At the end when mother refuses to give her the quilts that are Maggie’s, Dee leaves and puts on a pair of sunglasses and Maggie smiles a real smile as she leaves. It is like the fire of Dee has finally been put out and Maggie doesn’t need to be the shy girl she was at the beginning of the story, hiding from the flames.

This story really makes you think about what heritage really is. Is it who your ancestors from hundreds of years ago were or is it the traditions passed down from parent to child in more recent generations. How can you embrace and respect tradition while modernizing with the times? My grandmother is Alaskan Native with Russian roots. She has a very rich heritage which my siblings and I know a bit about, but I have a hard time finding ways to impart it on my own children. I do read old Russian fairy tales like Baba Yaga to my kids and we make them some of my favorite Russian foods, but it is really hard beyond that because I didn’t experience these traditions first hand. I do pass down the family traditions though and make every effort for my kids to be close to their grandparents. Luckily I have some artifacts that I can use to explain to my children what came before them and hopefully a little of what my grandma has imparted onto me can be passed down to them.


She Can, He Can’t?

A week ago I read this great article on Huffington Post about a dad buying his daughter boy underwear because the characters she wanted did not come on girl underwear. It really got me thinking about gender stereotyping. I have taken several gender studies classes and found the topic engrossing. Why do we view feminine and masculine as we do and why are people pigeon holed so much in our society?

From day one with my daughter I have wanted to make sure she never chose or avoided something simply because of it being a “boy” or “girl” thing. What makes it hard is I have society fighting me at every moment. Some things are subtle and others practically punch me in the face. Do you know how hard it is to find a plain white t-shirt for my daughter that doesn’t have poofy sleeves or things with dark solid colors? Those are considered “boy” items and thus are not in her department. Women are still not treated equally today, but I want to teach my daughter she is equal and is not limited to the girl aisle.

After reading the Huffington Post article, I asked my daughter if she wanted Star Wars, Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, etc. underwear, even if they were in the boy aisle, and she said yes at the top of her lungs. I was so proud that she did not avoid those items because they had been deemed “boy” franchises. Today we went shopping and she looked at all the “girl” and “boy” underwear and decided on the “boy” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ones.

What I didn’t realize, until today, is how much harder it will be for my son. On the same shopping trip as the underwear we were looking for 1 year birthday presents for two boys. My daughter thought a teapot would be great and it made me sad inside because I wasn’t sure my friends would like their son having a tea set because it is traditionally a “girl” toy. I settled on Legos, which I was shocked were in the “boy” aisle because I have always envisioned them as gender neutral toys. Turns out I made the right decision.

One of the boys came over today and I gave him the gift. The parents loved it. We started chatting and catching up then I mentioned my underwear story and how proud I was that she was willing to wear “boy” underwear. They made a comment about how it is not a big deal at this age and is fine because she is a girl, but a boy couldn’t wear “girl” underwear. It struck me then that while my daughter is allowed to cross the gender divide, society would be against my son doing the same. Girls can like trucks, comic books, and action movies, but boys can not like pink, princesses, or dress up without something being wrong. She can wear her TMNT undies with no worry, but he would be judged if he wanted Tangled panties. This made me so sad.

I say screw society. If my son wants to play dress up or basketball, wear a crown or cape, or paint his nails or a canvas, I will encourage and support him. My husband and I will never tell our kids they can’t have or do something because of their sex. Society can change, but only if you be that change.


Update: NYTimes has a great article on the same topic. You can read it here.


You Gotta Have Faith

I found Young Goodman Brown to be a powerful piece of work. Hawthorne uses descriptive language to create an allegorical story about Puritans during the time of the Salem witch trials. Goodman goes on a journey, leaving his wife Faith behind, he meets up with a man to continue the journey together. Along the way he discovers the people in his community aren’t the righteous God loving people he believed them to be, but sinners in league with the devil.

I liked Hawthorne’s use of the name “Faith”. She is not only a person, but a concept as well. Goodman’s Faith:

  • Begs him not to go on the journey – “‘Dearest heart,’ whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, ‘prithee put off your journey until sunrise and sleep in your own be to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she’s a fears of herself sometimes. Pray tarry with me this nigh, dear husband, of all nights in the year!'”
  • He chooses to leave his Faith behind – “‘My love and Faith…this one night I must tarry away from thee…Poor little Faith….What a wretch I am to leave her on such an errand!…after this one night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.’ With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose.”
  • He worries about his Faith – “‘Well, the, to end the matter at once,’ said Goodman Brown, considerable nettled, ‘there is my wife, Faith. It would break her little heart; and I’d rather break my own.’ ‘Nay, if that be the case, answered the other, ‘e’en go thy ways, Goodman Brown. I would not for twenty old women like the one hobbling before us that Faith should come to any harm.”
  • Then he hears his Faith dying – “‘Faith!’…There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But something fluttered on the branch of the tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon. ‘My Faith is gone!'”
  • After the evening ends, he returns home and rejects Faith – Turning the corner by the meeting-house, he spied the head of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth, and bursting into such joy at sight of him that she skipped along the street and almost kissed her husband before the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on with out a greeting.”

The line “‘My Faith is gone!” Is the most important line to me in the whole story. After his Faith dies, he picks up the walking stick that has the serpent on it, which he rejected earlier. This is almost like in The Bible when Eve eats the apple. Goodman has given in to the Devil’s and discovers sin. When he leaves Faith at the beginning he promises to come back to her and “‘cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven’,” but instead he returns and “looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on with out a greeting.” Faith is at the fire with the other Devil worshipers and earlier the devil character says “‘Faith should never come to any harm'” almost as if he is saying the devil needs people to have as much Faith as God would need them to.

The forest Hawthorne describes beautifully and hauntingly. “He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind.” The forest closing behind gives the idea that Goodman has no option to turn back and must proceed forward. As he gets further into the forest, he continually worries about how pillars of his community, who are the example of all that is proper and good, would not approve of what he was doing and how would he be able to face them the next day. Yet, he soon discovers they are all taking the same path as him with the Devil. Once Goodman has the realization that these people are not what he thought, he can’t look at them the same again. When he speaks to his traveling partner, the partner talks about how he had been with Goodman’s father and grandfather when they had punished women for being witches. Hawthorne has these to people commit the same crime that his own father and grandfather committed. He is saying that the Devil was with them when they committed these grievous acts and shows his disapproval and own shame in those actions.

This whole story is a commentary on how Hawthorne views the Puritans. Pretending to live in good and with faith in God, but really they have chose the path of the Devil. I am not a religious person by any means, but the images in this story were so powerful. This story transcends religion and the time of the Puritans. At any time there are people who pretend they are good, speak righteously, and condemn others, but they themselves are not perfect and have not always been on a good path. They use their ideals to justify actions, even when the actions are unjustifiable. The only other Hawthorne I have read was The Scarlett Letter, which I did not like and made me not look as forward to reading this story. I am glad I did read it and it was the one assigned to me because I enjoyed it so much.


There is An App For That

I appreciate what the Wasteland app has to offer and how it expands the experience. One can read something, but have a totally different interpretation when someone else reads it. Like in class when Lans read a piece and then we listened to Fiona Shaw, both brought something different to the experience. You can listen to how T.S. Elliot intended for it to be read or how someone else interprets it. The app makes the poem more accessible to a broader audience by bringing readings, critiques, and notes together on one platform. Henry Volan, head of Faber Digital who helped produce the app said in an interview, “You’re already selling your product to a niche of the population – people with iPads – so you have to be as open and general as possible. But The Waste Land proved that being open and general doesn’t mean you have to be dumb, or that you can’t pick something difficult. In fact, we’ve relished the difficulty of the poem. And that’s what we want to do with the follow-up products: explaining, helping and making difficult things accessible.”

My favorite thing about reading The Wasteland on the app is that it does just what Volan said, explains, helps, and makes this poem accessible. I love the the define feature, it is what I like most about my Kindle too. Often you just assume what a word means instead of searching out the definition. The definition and origin of a word is super helpful in taking things away from just being literal. I also like the notes, especially the translation, but at the same time I dislike them. There are moments they help you figure things out, but at others take away your interpretation of what you read. For me a piece of literature is both a mix of an author’s intent and how a reader processes it. Bringing your own story into what you read can definitely enrich the experience and I love that one line could have five different meanings depending who you ask. I have yet to play with the perspectives feature, but am interested in how others may view the work and how it compares to my own analysis. What this app does is tell you there is more than one way to see this work, gives you the tools to see what other’s experiences, are and it makes this very difficult poem easier to grasp. Not every poem can have a LolCat translation.

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Web Presence

In Net Smart, I felt a lot of his information applied greatly to my job. In chapter 3, he discusses being mindful of what you put on the Internet and how people just post whatever on Facebook and Twitter. I work in recruiting and you will be amazed how many people get Googled during their interview process or how many employers track what you put out there. We have had clients not want to pursue a candidate because of a trash talking post about their current company on Facebook.
The Internet is a great tool in recruiting. LinkedIn definitely uses the idea of collaboration through networks from chapter 6. You can expand who you know and link up to people to find the job or employees that are a perfect fit. It also helps with crap detection. I have found 3 resumes from one person listing different job histories. The Internet can be used for so much more than people think about and people should be mindful of whatever they post because once it is online it is always there. People don’t realize that a picture from 10 years ago could be used to judge them now. Imagine if everything your best friend knew about you was searchable. How comfortable would you be with that? By posting everything and not being mindful that is exactly what can happen. That is why people need to always doublecheck what they post and asl themselves if they really want the world knowing what they are about to write forever.

You can access my LinkedIn here.


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Some Science

with Lans Nelson/Pacifico


Exploring Literature in a Digital Age


Living Between the Lines