Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Reminds me of As I Lay Dying

Not exactly similar, but Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison, reminds me of As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner. There are certainly the similarities of writing styles, but today I wanted to focus on a different aspect. Side-note: I found a wonderful article about Morrison and Faulkner on Oprah's website. You can access it here. I want to focus on the story today, and how each novel features a family that is completely messed-up. Here is a passage from Song of Solomon--
"The good-night kiss was itself a masterpiece of slow-wittedness on her part and discomfort on his. At sixteen, she still insisted on having him come to her at night, sit on her bed, exchange a few pleasantries, and plant a kiss on her lips. Perhaps it was the loud silence of his dead wife, perhaps it was Ruth's disturbing resemblance to her mother. More probably it was the ecstasy that always seemed to be shining in Ruth's face when he bent to kiss her--an ecstasy he felt inappropriate to the occasion."
And this doesn't even scratch the surface of all the messed up stuff that is happening in the novel. It reminds me of A Rose for Emily too, also by Faulkner. But we have a mother, who seems to have some major daddy issues, that is demanding that her father kiss her good-night every night well into her teen years. That same woman then goes on to breast-feed her boy far longer than a woman should. You have cousins having sex with each other. A father that beats his wife and is very demanding of his children. All of this reminds me of As I Lay Dying where you have another family with a bunch of inter-personal, social, and sexual problems. So, why all of the darkness? Why do we have two authors that are both writing about these abnormal families.

I believe that it is because this is actually very close to the norm. People are stranger than we think and sometimes I feel that we put on these rose-colored glasses and think the world is great. It is not. There are a lot of weirdos and sickos out there. It is unfortunate, but true. And they existed in Faulkner's time and certainly existed in Morrison's time. These authors are showing us the world; holding up a mirror so we can truly see what is happening on our planet. 

Many times my students ask me, why classical literature is so dark and depressing. I usually try to pass the questions off and get them focused back on some feature of the text--"Let's do a close reading from chapter three!" I do this because the real reason is far more depressing than the actual literature is. Classical literature is dark and depressing because the world is darker and more depressing. Human beings are awful and they treat each other horribly. Author's just express in their books what they see in the world.

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