Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Jungle

At the end of the first chapter in part 2 (my edition doesn't have chapter markings?!?) Stamp Paid has a pretty pseudo-philosophical segment on the dehumanization of slavery to blacks and whites alike. This reminded me of similar statements expressed by... I think it was Fredrick Douglas? We talked about it in history class. The basic idea is that by subjugating blacks ("the jungle whitefolks planted in them"), the whites became afraid. Stamp Paid says that "scared were they of the jungle they had made". In this context, was schoolteachers calculated and scientific method of treating his slaves an expression of his fear? Perhaps he thought that if he could completely understood everything about his slaves then he could protect himself from "the jungle". And what is the jungle? Ingrained resentment on an extreme magnitude? Barbarism? The description that Stamp Paid gives of the jungle: "swift unnavigable rivers, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood" has a very "Heart of Darkness" feel to it.


Amy is a really frickin cool character. I'm talking about in the literary sense. One of the things that I disliked about Their Eyes Were Watching God was the Tolkien-esque feel of all the characters. There were the good guys and the bad guys and everything they did and everything they said supported their status as a good person or a bad person.

The book Beloved is much more George RR Martin-esque, as there are characters that I either don't know how to feel about (Beloved) or characters who I both love and am annoyed by at the same time (Amy and Denver).

Amy is a really cool character because she's not the knight in shining armor coming to save Sethe. She sort of stumbles onto Sethe, calls her a "nigger woman" or something like that, and keeps rambling on about her pipe dream of buying velvet in Boston (.... okay?). But the more I read her story the more I liked her.

She made it seem like she really didn't want to help Sethe and wanted to move on towards Boston, but as readers we were kind of made to feel that deep down she really did want to help Sethe. When he eventually sticks with Sethe for a few days and saves her from frostbite, our hopes are confirmed.

All in all Amy is a really well written and interesting character. She's written as if a bunch of strings were pulling her in all different directions.

White Boy Shuffle

The suicide dynamic in the White Boy Shuffle is one that is rather rare and was somewhat confusing to me upon initially reading the book.

Gunnar's and Scobies thoughts on suicide stem from a self-consciousness that Gunnar describes when he says the following to Psycho Loco:

"Might as well kill myself, right?  Why give you the satisfaction.  The trippy part is that when you think about it, me and America aren’t even enemies.  I’m the horse pulling the stagecoach, the donkey in the levee who’s stumbled in the mud and come up lame.  You may love me, but I’m tired of thrashing around in the muck and not getting anywhere, so put a nigger out his misery” (226). 

Why does everything seem to turn downhill in Boston? I think it's the awareness that the boys have of the underlying racist tendencies that even exists among the backdrop of multiculturalism found in Boston (contrasted sharply with the single cultured settings earlier in the book). Scoby goes ahead and kills himself, leaving Gunner to play the part of Osamu Dezai, "the heavy hearted writer who wandered the back roads of Japan struggling to raise the nerve to commit suicide in the Tamagawa River" (190).

The nihilism in the book seems to peak during the scene when Scoby is asking Gunnar about the height of various buildings in Boston... obviously planning his suicide. Gunnar knows Scoby is going to kill himself. I think he doesn't stop him because Gunnar feels just like Scoby does, the only difference is that--like Osamu Dezai--Gunnar is still gathering the courage needed to kill himself.