noble savagery and language

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4th, 2011 and

Danabelle Ignes
ENGL 399W
Professor Buell
4 April 2011

The Spell of the Sensuous

“If our primordial experience is inherently animistic, if our ‘immediate’ awareness discloses a field of phenomena that are all potentially animate and expressive, how can we ever account for the loss of such animateness from the world around us? How can we account for our culture’s experience of other animals as senseless animata, or of trees as purely passive fodder for lumber mills? If perception, in its depths, is wholly participatory, how could we ever have broken out of those depths into the inert and determinate world we now commonly perceive?… Nonhuman nature seems to have withdrawn from both speaking and our senses. What event could have precipitated this double withdrawal, constricting our ways of speaking even as it muffled our ears and set a veil before our eyes?” (Abram, 90-92)
My first inclination in reading David Abrams’s piece is to contextualize it critically. It appears to me to be a counter argument to one primary poststructuralist concern: to highlight the marginalized status of written language. In “Sign, Structure, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” Derrida highlights the potentiality of language. In this text, Derrida anticipates the inclination to romanticize pre-industrial, usually oral, language and extends to the inclination to the elevation of the “noble savage.”  When Abrams speaks of his “convergent” experience f the world, isn’t that a convenient narrative making?

New World Landscapes

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7th, 2011 and

Manufactured Landscapes

Apologies for the lateness of this post.

I wanna share this with you this simultaneously beautiful and devastating documentary, Manufactured Landscapes by Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky provides some shocking statistics and details the process of modern industrialization. At the same time, he documents heaps of material, quarries and crevices left behind by human intervention into the earth. The images are overwhelming and surreal, with an effect quite similar to the painting we were presented with early last semester (“New American Landscape”). One of the issues we had to consider last semester was how industry and technological process and progress informs thought. As “Manufactured Landscapes” demonstrates, industry, the harvesting of heavy metals, for instance, while destructive and fatal, is also accompanied by a particularly striking aesthetic.

Nighthawks

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21st, 2010 and

The title of Edward Hopper’s, perhaps, most famous painting refers to the figures inhabiting the diner. “Nighthawks” has an entirely different connotation than “night owls,” which could easily have been used to name this painting and these people. The night owl, at least in popular Western culture, is an innocuous image, conotating  wisdom and safety. A hawk is dangerous, solitary- a predator. I can’t help but think of Tom Waits’s album when I see this painting. The music has the simultaneous effect of putting the listener in the space where it is performed and, paradoxically, the strong sense of alienation made more palpable by all the jokes, smoke, and bar stories I feel like an eavesdropper experiencing. The way I would enter the painting, visually, is from the bottom right hand corner. This is where the diner, which is closest to the viewer in the foreground, starts. So, from this path, the viewer starts out in the diner which is bright and sterile. the waiter is encountered and he is inviting enough. Immediately following him and his gaze is the elegantly dressed couple. They sit side by side and their positions are ambiguous. They seem weary and in thought but it is possible that they’re relaxing together after a long night. Perhaps an intimacy does exist between them. The last figure we encounter is the man with his back turned to us. If it weren’t for the light reflected on his hat and shoulder, he would be indistinct because his coloring could easily blend in with that of the dark, empty building in the background. His back is turned to us and his placement at the center of the painting seems to me be to be a signal that he is to be understood as a sort of center of consciousness. There is no way for the reader to grasp any of the man’s consciousness. His back is turned and nobody is looking at him. He could easily disappear into the darkness. I assume he is as lonely as the streets, building, and city he threatens to disappear into.

The Great Gatsby

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15th, 2010 and

“His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people– his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God– a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that– and he must be about His Father’s Business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end. (Fitzgerald, 104)”

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby demonstrates the simultaneously awesome and tragic power of invention. Jay Gatsby, as he is christened during one of his foundational brushes with wealth and status of his benefactor, Dan Cody, has the rare ability to make dreams reality. At least, he has achieved a particularly prominent  one: the American Dream. Chapter 6 chronicles Gatsby’s transformation, his resentment of his poverty-ridden past, and the moments that instilled in him the importance of wealth and how to attain it.

Jay Gatsby is a tragically self-realized figure. Identity is an invention and he demonstrates expertise in this. Gatsby is a hero of American-y mythic proportions. Through luck and calculation– in encountering and studying Dan Cody– Gatsby learns how to make his fortune and goes from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby, elusive, enigmatic socialite and bootlegger. This feat, his literal re-invention of himself, is godlike. Jay Gatsby reconstructed himself. He made himself a new, great man.

One of his flaws has to do with the fact that any construction is based off of a set of plans drawn at one point in time. Indeed, this passage identifies the date of James Gatz’s plans for Jay Gatsby when he was seventeen years old. Reality, as opposed to dreams and ideals, is dynamic. His relationship to Daisy is demonstrative of the tragic flaw of realized dream:

“Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against the mantelpiece in a strained counterfeit of perfect easy, even of boredom. His head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock and from this position his distraught eyes stared down at Daisy who was sitting frightened but graceful on the edge of a stiff chair.
‘We’ve met before,’ muttered Gatsby. His eyes glanced momentarily at me and his lips parted with an abortive attempt at a laugh. Luckily the cock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers and set it back in place. (Fitzgerald, 91)”

The clock, which Nick Carraway describes as being antiquated, is a physical obstacle to Gatsby’s realized dream. Here, Gatsby and his beloved Daisy Buchanan are reunited. Up until this point, she has merely been a motif in the dream, certainly it’s driving point but existing only in the periphery nonetheless. As such she is a vessel on which nobility can be projected. But her true nature is a conventional nobility. She is aloof and pure, not necessarily in a fundamental manner, but because of her material comfort.

The Jungle

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7th, 2010 and

“But there was no place could go in Packingtown, if she was particular about things of this sort; there was no place in it where a prostitute could not get along better than a decent girl. Here was a population, low-class and mostly foreign, hanging always on the verge of starvation, and dependent for its opportunities of life upon the whim of men every bit as brutal and unscrupulous as the old time slave-drivers; under such circumstances immorality was exactly as inevitable, and as prevalent, as it was under the system of chattel slavery. Things that were quite unspeakable went on there in the packing-houses all the time, and were taken for granted by everybody; only they did not show, as in the old slavery times, because there was no difference in color between master and slave.” (104)

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle is a horrific depiction of the costs of capitalism. The Rudkus and their crew come to America– as many immigrants do– with big dreams . Being(mostly) able-bodied and young, they have the sense, in the opening chapters, that any injustices they face- the swindling in New York, for example- will pay off. Each character’s idealism is cruelly taken away from them. Ona Ludkis’s fall from grace seems the most dramatic. From the opening chapter, her youth is constantly emphasized: “Ona’s cheeks are scarlet, and she looks as if she would have to get up and run away” (11). She is not weak in spirit but she is fragile in her youth and uncomfortable in her skin. When she is first introduced, her primary concern is the comfort of her wedding guests. Her husband, Jurgis’s, introduction to horrific industry in the meat plant filled with almost human sounds of slaughter, while unpleasant and foreboding, still appears like a situation that could be overcome. As a worker for Miss Henderson, Ona is not indiscriminately or equally mistreated along with fellow workers. Her innocence is palpable. Among prostitutes and under the thumb of a madam, Ona is looked at scornfully. This is the ugly side of industry wherein Ona becomes a sort of scapegoat. These women and Miss Henderson are unable to see themselves as victims of an unfair system because, perhaps, to see others having less is enough to sustain one’s pride and to not have to admit to abuse and exploitation. In this passage, the appearance of economic freedom and social and economic mobility in America which attracted the Jurgis’s in the beginning, is exposed as just that: appearance and artifice, a lure. Their innocence and hope were preyed upon. Women like Ona are turned into commodities and she is targeted in a way that renders her most vulnerable, she is targeted for her morality.

Monster as Mirror

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3rd, 2010 and

The inception of “Frankenstein” is now a legend: While conversing around a fire with Lord Byron and her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 18 year old Mary Shelley and her companions discussed galvanism and, in friendly competition, decided to pen stories of the supernatural. The resulting novel centers on Victor Frankenstein’s pursuit of the secret “principle of life”- and his abandonment of the project once it has come into horrific fruition.

The novel’s construction allows for immediate sympathy and association with Frankenstein. Obviously, he is human. He is also, upon introduction, young and progress-driven, deciding, early on, that his means of development will be intellectual and arrived at through scientific inquiry. His youthful hubris, if not endearing, is understandable: “in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder. A mind of moderate capacity, which closely pursues one study, must infallibly arrive at great proficiency in that study(33).” The figure of the scientist is an effective metaphor for an adolescent. Victor has a narrow scope of experiences and each new discovery, as he experienced it in school from his instructors and books, has been wondrous. He, too, wants to partake in the business of creating truths and wonders, seeking to make the ultimate discovery. Victor possesses an image of life and desires its actualization.

Despite his intimacy with the parts, culled from dead bodies, which comprise his design, Frankenstein is horrified by sight of their animated amalgamation. This fact leads to a conclusion voiced by Frankenstein: “I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, to your destruction and infallible misery. Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.(35)” He begins the novel with a recanting of his undertaking and its result but on what basis? I do not believe that Shelley was a proponent of blissful ignorance.

It is ignorance and a rigid adherence to the image of his labor’s result that renders Frankenstein unable to accept his creation. Before the revelation, he claims: “Whence, I often ask myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice and carelessness did not restrain our inquiries(34).” While Frankenstein’s inquiry is unrestrained by cowardice and carelessness, these qualities are nonexistent when confronted with the answer. He sees the monster as a completely foreign entity and  wants to completely dissociate himself from it- because the monster is ugly and unexpectedly so. It is, in fact, the abandonment that leads to the monster’s murderous rampage.

Frankenstein is a Romantic tragedy. In the face of the manifestation of his passion, Frankenstein flees, shirking his responsibility and ownership of it. If he is an artist, he is one that lacks conviction and integrity. The-frustrating and sometimes torturous- discrepancy between concept and product is faced by artists, designers, and scientists alike and the passion that allows creation can sometimes fuel the destruction of creation but, for me the passion of the artist, is marked by intimacy. Frankenstein claims that he had no contact with darkness or the supernatural as a student and his monster contains all sorts of darkness. He is a sort of mirror, reminiscent of the spectre of Jupiter in “Prometheus Unbound,” he represents aspects of Frankenstein’s consciousness he refuses to acknowledge. Not only is the monster marked, physically composed of, by death but also melancholy. The monster remarks ” I saw no cause for their unhappiness; but I was deeply affected by it. If such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched. Yet why were these gentle beings unhappy?(87)”  Frankenstein, too, is deeply unhappy but strives to keep it a secret: “I rose early, but felt unusually melancholy. The rain depressed me; my old feelings recurred, and I was miserable. I knew how disappointed my father would be at this sudden change, and I wished to avoid him until I had recovered myself so far as to be enabled to conceal those feelings that overpowered me(74).”

While the monster serves or can serve as a mirror for Frankenstein and his society’s psyche, he is not merely an aesthetic object or representation, he, too has his own consciousness. Shelley’s novel subverts the power of the male gaze, Frankenstein’s horror and inability to share or allow for a shift in power of identification to his object. ” I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Every where I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous(77).'” The use of Adam is telling and Shelley approaches the other, the monster, with the tenderness of a mother. Life and creation is less of a secret to a woman. This is of course, not to say that there aren’t murderous or irresponsible mothers. Postpartum depression is a very real phenomenon. However, while Frankenstein elevates the qualities of discovery and the accolades and power that would naturally follow, he does not ever consider the consciousness of his creation. His flaw is only considering the monster as object, as other.

Perhaps it’s telling that, since the novel’s publication, the name Frankenstein has changed to refer not just to the scientist but to the monster he created as well. Legacy has blended father and son, demonstrating the lineage that Frankenstein himself couldn’t face.

Free Time?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24th, 2010 and

This is a clock developed by Icelandic product designer, Thorunn Arnadottir. He explains how the clock works on his site(http://thorunndesign.com/Clock.html):

“Each bead in the necklace
represents 5 minutes, and the whole necklace a one solar day.

The orange and red beads represent the whole hours.

As the wheel turns, one bead falls off and drops down the string.

To tell time one must count the beads from the silver bead (midnight) or the golden bead (noon) to the last bead that fell off the wheel.”

Arnadottir explains that one of his aims in designing this clock was to create a measure of time contrary to the usual “rigid units by which most of us slice up our day.” One can see that, as the hours pass, the beads change color. His use of a gold bead to signal midnight is also quite telling. Waxing superstitious, it’s an enchanted hour, the time when the unnatural and supernatural have a chance to enter the world. In darkness and alone, this moment allows a sort of repose from the dictates of the day. I’m speculating here, of course. The beads are removable from their winding cradle and are able to be worn like a necklace:

The beads may also be removed from the string and rearranged. Arnadottir is not the first designer I’ve seen recently encouraging, through his work a more “emotional” perception of time but this piece is one of the most beautiful. I don’t know how convinced I am that the gesture of removing the beads and wearing them around the neck claims that one is “in control of your[his/her] minutes.” It’s a fantasy: an expression of a desire for a less regimented notion of time. This clock, if taken up on its offer of “liberation,” is rendered non functioning because it no longer tells time when worn as an accessory. Still, the act of rearranging the beads is compelling. The owner is intimately acquainted with the passage of time and is sort of empowered, not as Arnadottir claims, to be in control of time, but, rather, in what they want the minutes to mean. It allows for a more deliberate and engaged usage of time. In this way it is, at least, conceptually empowering.

The Artifice of Myth

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20th, 2010 and

The desacralization of canonical work is always a tenuous task. As Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” is a bildungsroman of such acclaim and influence, it begs evaluation and re-evaluation for the ideal it perpetuates. Robinson is a prototypically dispensed hero of Capitalist, imperialist Western lore. The son of German immigrants(who, naturally upon naturalization, adopt a less difficult and exotic surname) willfully embarks on a journey of self discovery which can only occur through distance from his roots and, along the way, constantly picks himself up by bootstraps in the face of occasional slavery, starvation, and bad weather. Crusoe’s quest is initially spurned by dissatisfaction in his status, an attempt perhaps to dissociate himself from what his father deems “the middle state, or what might be called the upper Station of Low Life, which he had found by long Experience the best State in the World” (2). Robinson seeks a self-constructed and earned identity, whittled through “Experience,” rather than assigned. Yet, while he shirks this characterization, he cannot avoid reconstructing his colonialist world and worldview.

The excerpt from John Bender’s “The Novel and the Rise of the Penitentiary” notes the shared features of the novel and the urban phenomenon, the Penitentiary. The novel “formally embodies the fabric of urban culture: the very self-consciousness concerning the fabric of concrete particulars that defines it…[as] the technical ability to keep track by writing and to retrieve by reading” (398). The essence of the theoretical penitentiary is marked by “isolated self-consciousness shaped over time, within precise material circumstances, and under the regime of narrative discipline” (392). The marks of the novel and the penitentiary idea are demonstrated by Crusoe. He scrupulously records his labors and ruminates on their moral implications, best demonstrated on his chart of miseries-which he describes as being a method “like Debtor and Creditor” (66)- wherein, under the “Evil” column, he states “I have no Soul to speak to, or retrieve me” against, under the “Good” column he notes, “But God wonderfully sent the Ship in near enough to the Shore, that I have gotten out so many necessary things as will either supply my Wants, or enable me to supply my self even as long as I live”(66). Crusoe cannot escape a utilitarianism sanctioned by God, or rather, justified by the belief of being divinely sanctioned. Even in the remotest regions of the world, he cannot escape this logic or resist the compulsion to scrupulously record it.

Prospero’s Starvation

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4th, 2010 and

Prospero’s Starvation
A merciful and conventional way of understanding Prospero in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest is as a representation of the playwright himself. As such, he is perceived to possess greater knowledge than the other characters who operate according to his purportedly benign order. He orchestrates their perceived redemptions and “progress.” The value system this conventional reading prizes Prospero’s mental prowess and the actions in which they manifest. That reading and its accompanying value system can and should be disregarded and Prospero should be examined as one center of consciousness among others- rather than the sole and superior. In doing this, Prospero’s identity as a mentally anguished man, not in possession of divinely granted power, but in control of tools and resources unbeknownst and marvelous to the microcosmic society constructed in large part in a psychopathological state.
Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, is the ultimate prize. Having been marooned on a deserted island since the age of three has made the internalization of Prospero’s microcosm unavoidable. Seen, according to Peter Hulme’s “Prospero and Caliban,” like the titular characters of the essay as actors of a play originating in Prospero’s maligned psyche, Miranda has no influences other than her father’s. Though she has access to the information contained in Prospero’s books, it is policed by Prospero. She is kept in a constant state of control by the belief that “father knows best.” Etymology explains the manner in which Miranda is kept under control in the ideal state of chastity: Miranda is a gerundive from the Latin, “mirari,” which has within it all the connotations of spectacle. Miranda is to be admired, wondered at, revered, bewildering. At the same time, in her narrow world view, she is in constant state of bewilderment herself. While Prospero has kept his daughter alive, his orchestration of her betrothal was still an opportunity for an exercise of his control. He abuses his knowledge and accuses Ferdinand of deception in order, purportedly, for the ultimate benefit of Ferdinand and Miranda’s relationship. Despite his knowledge otherwise, Prospero condemns Ferdinand: “Who mak’st a show but dar’st not strike, thy conscience/ Is so possessed with guilt”(I: ii: 469-470). His characterization of Ferdinand as guilty and deceptive is an instance of projection of his own actions and a egomaniacal need to have Miranda and Ferdinand’s relationship to unfold according to his terms- according to his narrative.
Prospero’s penchant for indoctrination is most strongly demonstrated by his domination of Caliban. In an effort to civilize Caliban, Prospero gives him the “gift” of language- a newfound consciousness imbued with resentment: “You taught me language, and my profit op’t/ Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you/ For learning me your language!” (I: ii: 361-363). Really, in truth, the act is self serving: Prospero benefits from Caliban, who teaches him how to survive on the island. Prospero also gains yet another spectator to his “wondrous” powers. Caliban, having learned the language by way of Prospero’s world order, understands himself as savage and at the bottom rung of this social stratification. As Peter Hulme points out, his attempts at articulating his own narrative and “sovereignty” are constantly thwarted.   When Caliban claims, “This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother, Which thou tak’ st form me” (I: ii: 333-334), Prospero does not dispute it but merely and unconvincingly exercises control by falsely “characterizing” Caliban as deceitful: “Thou most lying slave” (I: ii: 346). Here, Prospero doesn’t attempt to counter Caliban’s narrative so much as discount it. The superiority of Prospero’s judgment is, of course, a falsehood, an invasion of his society into that of the island’s. Since Caliban has adopted his culture, his perspective has been infected by Prospero’s value system- wherein his experience and history are erroneous.
While he seen as a monster and unfit for anything other than servitude, Caliban’s mental faculties could be characterized as quite sophisticated: ” Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not… The clouds methought would open and show riches/ ready to drop upon me, that, when I waked,/ I cried to dream again.” (III: iii: 134-140). Perhaps his appearance and resourcefulness would lend to his dismissal as a savage. Such an understanding would only make this passage more striking. Here, Caliban does not only operate on need and necessity guided by immediate pressures for food or shelter. While he may not be able to expound on the intricacies of composition, he possesses the capacity to delight in and establish mental leaps that allow for what he hears to resonate within himself on an emotional level. The ability to dream is further proof of Caliban’s sophisticated mental capacities. While the purpose and process of a dream’s production is contentious, it’s existence at all- and the anguish which accompanies it in waking- are demonstrations of Caliban’s consciousness. This moment, though minute, is a conventionally human outpouring of emotion, an existential wail.
Prospero’s previous condition and predicament must be reiterated: an attempt was made on his life as he was immersed in the world of books and learning and the memory of this has been festering in the 12 years he has occupied this island. In this world, through his manipulations, his books and sources of learning are redeemed from a weakness that earlier allowed for his usurpation into a source of power and an opportunity to actuate his desired narrative. Peter Hulme describes the destructive relationship between between Caliban, the native, and Prospero, the colonizer as “a precise match with the situation of Europeans in America during he seventeenth century, whose technology(especially of firearms) suddenly became magical when introduced to a less technologically developed society, but who were incapable(for a variety of reasons) of feeding themselves.” (Hulme, 244). Prospero’s starvation is both physical and psychic. Caliban indeed teaches him how to feed himself and is utilized in Prospero’s attempts to heal his trauma. It is destructive because, for all of Prospero’s learning, his primary means of evoking wonder are through deceit and concealment of his knowledge. Unfortunately, he has his tools, his magic, his books, to perversely construct his identity as benign scholar and wizard. His vengeance, spite, and hysteria are masked by his spectacles, his instruments of nearly imperceptible oppression.

A Cruel Deux Ex Machina

Posted in Uncategorized on September 13th, 2010 and

Rather than celebrating the green earth’s bounty by throwing off robes and cavorting naked under the sun in an epicurean frenzy, the protagonist of Sharon Olds’s “Summer Solstice, New York City” chooses the titular occasion as the day of his suicide attempt. The abundance of sunlight in New York city does not illuminate nature but, especially from  the would-be jumper’s height, the minutiae and overwhelming intricacy of the city- really, his resented captor’s- mechanical body. The Pagan associations, those of regeneration stemming from the earth’s greenery, are cruelly subverted and, ultimately, the closest experience in this world is not of an enjoyment of life but a cruel parody of once sacred tradition, a slow, dull death as suggested by the poem’s final image: the pseudo-ritualistic, communal smoking of cigarettes which “burned like the/ tiny campfires we lit at night/ back at the beginning of the world” (ll. 38-40). The speaker’s shift in pronoun: though initially affecting distance from the jumper by referring to him in the third person singular, by the end of the poem, the reader singled out as being a part of the machine as well.

Sharon Olds explicitly identifies New York’s finest as cogs, mere parts of a greater and indifferent order. Lines 6-15 comprise a complex sentence with lines 5-14 detailing the cops’ preparation for the suicidal man’s rescue. In a touching aside, one of the cops apparently values his life enough to protect it with “a black shell around his own life”(l. 9). It is meant to be a testament to his reverence for his role as a father- as well the his strong belief that the man on the roof may be “armed”(l. 11) and, thus dangerous or murderous. In fact, family men or not- a fact that make the predicament and role of this men more tragic-, their personal stories are mere asides and distractions from the insidious part they play.  Lines 6 and 15 read together without the aside is “Then the huge machinery of the earth began to work for his life… and began to lurk toward the man who wanted to die” (ll. 6-15). The work the cops and the machinery desire to perform seem noble but the diction of the second line evoke mistrust. Only in the suicidal man’s threatening to abandon it, and in turn his role within, does the “huge machinery of the earth” decide it desires him. It was previously indifferent to the man’s malaise. The man wants to be parted by his own hand- perhaps even with dignity- from the machine, which is characterized like a parasite or a predator.

Eventually the man acquiesces to being rescued and some sort of death does occur: “everything stopped” (l. 27). The hope of mature, dignified independence quietly dies. The immediate consequence of his climbing down and away from “the next world” is the same as that of a disobedient child. The speaker is no longer a disembodied viewer that is sensitive to the man’s consciousness but one of the crowd, revealing his trapped humanity: “I thought they were going to/ beat him up, as a mother whose child has been/ lost will scream at the child when it’s found”(ll. 30-33). If readers naively want to believe that this mechanical earth’s maternal instincts would allow its children/citizens to thrive, the final image of collective cigarette smoking should thwart that. The people of this developed society are regressing, their instincts slowly atrophying as they inch closer to the end of the world.


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