Thursday, January 28, 2010


Am I so cold & emotionless that I can't cry?  Me, a Spock?  What?  Why
can I get choked up watching a tv show or movie, but I cannot feel
what I need to feel?  Why do I have to be strong for everyone else?
When . . . when do I get to just be . . . be relaxed . . . be carefree
. . . be taken care of instead of being the caretaker . . . be in a
position where I know I can let my guard down long enough to cry . . .
be . . . just be?  When I'm alone, my chest aches, my cheeks feel
weighted down, my jaw feels heavy, my throat tightens . . . but I
don't cry.  Logic tells me to cry.  I rationalize all of my decisions
. . . even when I conclude that crying is the solution, the tears
won't come.  I don't look for problems to solve - people bring their
problems to me.  I solve problems because they are there, not because
the problems are a challenge, but because that's what you do with
problems . . . you solve them, almost a compulsion.  I don't know how
to "stop."   I don't know how to shut down.  I know what I have to do
. . . can a stone-heart do what needs to be done, what has to be done?
 I need to cry - I have to cry.  I need to feel human, not like the
machine that I have become.  I have empathy for other people's
situations, but strain to feel this time.  Instead of being able to
feel, I feel . . . confusion . . . about not being able to feel.  I
ache, but not enough to cry.  If I cry, I can heal . . . I need to

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Christian Symbols in The Old Man and the Sea

While Hemingway makes the obvious connection between Santiago and Christ, he also plays heavily with the symbolic Christian meaning of numbers and objects throughout the novel. In using these numbers and objects that symbolically line up with Christianity, Hemingway solidifies Santiago as the Messiah.

Hemingway immediately initiates Christian numerology in the first paragraph. He refers to the “first forty days” that Santiago has been fishing – “forty days without a fish” (Hemingway 9). According to the Religion Facts website, forty represents “trial or testing” (“Numbers”). The site references Biblical incidents related to forty such as “Noah's flood, Israel's wandering in the wilderness, Moses' stay on Mt. Sinai, and Jesus' temptation in the wilderness all lasted forty days [and] The Lenten Season” (“Numbers”). Hemingway then expresses that in the forty day period, Santiago has not caught any fish (Hemingway 9). While GodWeb states that “the initial letters of each word in the Greek phrase ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior’ form the word ICHTHUS, which means ‘fish’” (Henderson), Hemingway shows that there is no savior at the beginning of the novel – Santiago is a mere fisherman in the likes of Jesus.

Because of Santiago’s bad luck, Manolin’s parents make him switch to a different team of fisherman, who then catch “three good fish the first week” (Hemingway 9). The ReligionFacts website identifies the number three with the Trinity and seven (one week) with perfection for various reasons, including the seven days of Creation, Paul’s seven gifts of the spirit, and the seven seals, seven churches, etc. of Revelations (“Numbers”). Obviously, Hemingway intends to express the lack of faith in Santiago and the false hope placed in the other fishermen. Using these objects and numbers , Hemingway is able to set the tone for Santiago to become the Messiah, suffering as Christ did as well as saving the fishermen by opening the “gates” to good fishing, as Christ saved his “fishermen” (most of his disciples were fishermen that gave up everything to follow Him) by opening the gates to heaven.

With such intense symbolism in the first page, it is obvious that this analysis can be continued throughout the novel.

Sources (MLA version 7):

Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952. Print.

Henderson, Charles. "The Fish as a Symbol of Christianity." GodWeb. N.p., 23 Nov. 2008. Web. 02 July 2009.

"Numbers in Christian Symbolism - ReligionFacts." Religion, World Religions, Comparative Religion - Just the facts on the world's religions. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 July 2009.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In reference to book by Tillyard, E.M.W. The Elizabethan World Picture. New York: Vintage Books, 1959.

In lieu of following the structure of the previous entries, I am going to summarize Tillyard’s book with interpretations interspersed in an attempt to procure an understanding of the text. Tillyard organizes the book in a succession of ideas that build upon each other, much as the concepts discussed.


Elyot in Governor explains that order prevents chaos, maintaining stability (11-12). Hooker defines human law as a derivation of God’s law (divine law) and reason (14). Elizabethan chaos is defined not as “confusion on a large scale,” but as “cosmic anarchy before creation and the wholesale dissolution that would result if the pressure of Providence relaxed and allowed the law of nature to cease functioning” (16). After finishing the book, I can see the freakish pressure that this would have placed on people of the time – if one link in the chain is “off,” then the entire chain is in danger of nonexistence. In his work, Shakespeare defines order in terms of the chaos threatening to destroy it (17). Shakespeare relates life to a cosmic order: sun – planets – life forms = royalty – kingdom – citizens.


In a phrase that sums up the Elizabethan view on sin, Tillyard pens, “It was far easier to be very wicked and think yourself so than to be a little wicked without a sense of sin” (18). Immediately Iago comes to mind – he is wicked and knows it. The perception, as I understand it, was that God created all, man fell through Adam, man rose through Redemption (Christ). Stability (order) appears achieved through a balance of religious faith (believing) and sinning (living). I am still a little fuzzy on this Elizabethan ideology.

Universal Order:

1. Chain of Being – “unimaginable plentitude of God’s creation, its unfaltering order, and its ultimate unity” (26)

2. Series of corresponding planes

3. Dance

Chain of Being:

The chain of being was best related through Jean Martin’s translation of Raymond de Sebonde’s Natural Theology. The chain as conveyed in pages 27-28 is as follows:

1. existence (inanimate class – elements, liquids, metals). Virtue of components is present as water is nobler than earth, gold is nobler than brass, and ruby is nobler than topaz.

2. existence of life (vegetative class). Virtue: oak is nobler than bramble.

3. existence of life and feeling (sensitive class)

a. creatures that have touch, but no hearing, memory, or movement (shellfish, parasites)

b. creatures that have touch, memory, movement, but no hearing (ants)

c. higher animals – have all four (dogs, horses)

4. existence of life, feeling, and understanding (man – “little world or microcosm”)

5. spiritual class (angels)

6. God

All classes have quality that exceeds the class above it except for angels. The noblest forms of each class are identifiable, such as fire – inanimate, rose – vegetative, lion – sensitive. Abundance is key to the chain.

Links in the chain:

The Elizabethan notion of the chain of being is that every level of the ladder is made up of the elements and of the entities or parts below it in the chain. Tillyard mentions that a fiery heaven would have been the highest perfection because fire was the noblest element. As a means of rationalizing the connection between the elements and the divine, ether became known as the fifth element. Although the Elizabethans referred to the “air” between the clouds and heaven, it was difficult not to think of ether in terms of its nickname for hard liquor – as if you could “drink” your way to spiritual place (I know, warped).

Astrology and Fate worked on the chain additionally in “that the stars sway the mind to certain states by acting on our physical predispositions” (57). Conversely, “’Fate will be overcome, if thou resist it; if thou neglect it, it conquereth’” (57). This implies that the stars ply on a person’s weaknesses to control our feelings and attitudes that drive our actions. If he resists passionate feelings and utilizes reason, he will not become “fortune’s fool” as Romeo does.

As a visual aid to assist me in remembering the connection to the elements, I am including the chart. The “personality” portion of the chart is from







Cold & dry

Introspective, sallow, thin



Cold & moist

Sluggish, pallid, corpulent, lazy



Hot & moist

Optimistic, red-cheeked, corpulent, irresponsible



Hot & dry

Short-tempered, red-haired, thin, ambitious

Tillyard summarizes the scale of creation as:

· Beasts – “excel in sensible capacity . . . ,” are “. . . content with the mere necessities . . . ,” and “. . . have an instinctive sensuous perception”

· Angels – “instinctive intellectual perception”

· Plants – “excel in the faculty of growth”

· Stones – “excel in durability, and the best of them are the hardest and the most brilliant”

Corresponding Planes:

There are five planes in the chain of being:

1. divine and angelic

2. universe or macrocosm

3. commonwealth or body politic

4. man or microcosm

5. lower creation

Elizabethans looked for correspondences within the same plane (numbers, items, etc.) Correspondences were also made within the chain of being where noble equality of an item in the chain existed when compared with an item of equal nobility in a corresponding plane (for example in Three Moral Treatises, a poem by Thomas Blunderville, God – sun – prince – reason – justice).

Cosmic Dance:

All parts of the chain and corresponding planes are in continuous harmonious motion (a dance) with each other. I see this as creation and order.

In a final note, playgoers of the Elizabethan era had the pleasure and advantage of knowing and living the information Tillyard conveyed. A lot of Shakespeare that I have difficulty understanding would have been second nature to the Elizabethan person, allowing that person to give more attention to other qualities of the play. By applying the ideas in Tillyard’s book in my studies of Shakespeare, I am able to obtain that same advantage of the Elizabethan playgoer.

In reference to an article by Knowles, Richard. “Cordelia’s Return.” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), 33-50.

Knowles attempts an explanation of Cordelia’s return with armies of France to redeem her father, King Lear. Knowles studies the restraints of time and various techniques that Shakespeare may have used to overcome time. He also delves into the questions of how Kent and Cordelia informed each other of his/her intentions – letters not being read or sent before events occurred as an objection.

I first have to convey an annoyance in Knowles writing. After appropriate segues into quotations of other scholars, he pens, “Here is Virginia Gildersleeve in 1912” (44) and “Here is Granville-Barker again:” (45), and “Here is Alan Howard . . . “ (50). “Here is . . . “! Aaaaagh! Opening a quotation with that phrase is equivalent, in my mind, to “my paper is going to tell you . . .,” an essay opener that also grates on me. I stress to my freshman English students that good style builds credibility, and bad style kills credibility. When in a rush, I falter in writing in good style, but in a formal, published document, I hope that I and all good writers would strive for the best in style. (Okay, rant over).
I like Knowles approach to the dilemma of explaining Cordelia’s return. By breaking it down into one rationalization based upon time, a second on motive, and a third on method, he effectively covers all angles of the predicament. In one area of his essay, I thought that he fails to account for the compression of time in King Lear. I asked myself, “How many real days have passed before Kent was imprisoned?” and “How many real days is Kent in prison?” Thankfully, Knowles later discourses on “double time” and the amount of the story that occurs offstage.
Knowles notes that Cordelia has several possible motives for her return. He identifies several including: France’s “choler” brought on by the treatment of his wife, France’s retaliation for losing the dowry in his marriage to Cordelia, Cordelia’s intuition of her sisters’ radical treatment of her father, and (Cordelia learning of Lear’s downfall from spies) her true concern in restoring her father to his throne. I, as Knowles in his conclusion, feel that Shakespeare has left an ambiguous motive on purpose. If the motive were clearly depicted in the play, it would detract from the suspense and from the dominant plot. Cordelia’s motive is hinted in her discussion with Lear about returning to assist him, but scholars and critics argue the point (how could she have known?).
I feel the answer to Cordelia’s motive and her upheld virtue lies in the compression of time combined with the theory of “double time.” I do not think that either model independently fits King Lear, but I do think that somehow a combination of the two will work (wow – a thesis is born – I will need a combination of both in my own life in order to get this one worked out). Concisely, the suspense of Lear requires the compression of time, hinting at, or even alluding to, offstage events. The logic of the plot requires “double time” where the offstage events, which naturally would occur at a slower pace in reality, are compressed to simulate simultaneity with onstage events. A combination of both models allows the plot to dramaturgically flow naturally and retain the suspense. An audience member would “lose” a couple of hours because so much action is packed into a short amount of time. Mentally the audience viewed the compression of a few weeks into a few hours, but physically, because of so much action, a four-hour play feels like it only took two hours. When done well, this strategy would enable sitting through a Lord of the Rings movie. When done poorly, it would account for the loss of 3 ½ hours of your life wasted watching The Titanic. Unraveling the mystery of time allows for the multiple correspondences between Kent and Cordelia alluded to in the play. This also permits the reality of the spies traveling back and forth between Albany, Cornwall, Gloucester, Dover, and France. Logic then concludes that Cordelia is well informed of events, and she and France are honorable in their intentions of leading a French invasion.
Knowles mentions in following the events of Lear, the audience “must rely on only its own attentiveness” (43). Shakespeare must have thought so too. Leaving mysteries up to the audience’s interpretation creates a broader spectrum of meaning for the play – a sense of universality.