[Not] For Technophobes






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November 21, 2010

”Our nada who art in nada…” and Hopper’s Nighthawks

Filed under: Uncategorized — E. A. @ 12:42 pm

The light in the painting is similar to the blinding daylight, unobstructed and glaring, but this light does not drive the customers away. The customers seem to lean into the light. It makes me wonder what metaphorical darkness they are running away from, or, rather, avoiding at all costs. The light creates a barrier in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942) that protects and shields the patrons from the dark light of the night. What is the dark light of the night? There is an example in Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” (1926) that reads, “It was very late and everyone had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light.” The dark light of the night is the shadow that something natural makes against the bright florescent lights. These three patrons are avoiding the natural darkness of the world and they find solace in Phillies, a very well-lighted bar. However, because of all the light and subsequent lack of darkness these patrons and the barista/bartender are finding peace in nothing. Everything is white and clean and void of all markers of the natural world. These people are making themselves invisible to the actual world, “Our nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada.”

So, why would Hopper create this painting? In my opinion this painting is the perfect representation of a technological world that had forgotten its natural roots; therefore, it knows not how to approach nature and natural cycle. Instead of going home at night they spend the entire night in a diner that is as bright as daylight. We have fast food places that are very much the modern representation of this painting. Papaya Dog in the village is always well lit, even in the middle of the day; there is also Five Guys Burgers and Fries on 188th St in Fresh Meadows and College Point. These artificially bright places provide a false comfort for the insomniac, or the city-dweller. What is most interesting is that even though many people go to these bright places and do the same things, they always seem to be alone and this does not change. There is loneliness in people who hide in bright lights and Hemingway touches on this aspect of humanity when he writes, “Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be someone who needs the cafe.”

November 19, 2010

Noise and Silence in The Great Gatsby

Filed under: Uncategorized — E. A. @ 7:11 pm

The characters Nick, Daisy, Tom and Jay/James are revealed near the middle of the novel to have come from the Midwest/South. Disregarding their differing affluence I chose instead to make note of the descriptions of their homes and hometowns. All of these major characters come from small rural/suburb areas; Jay from a impoverished farm, Daisy from a big country house and similar surroundings for Nick and Tom. What is the significance? Well, now factoring in the economic standing of these characters the reader can infer what they lived near. Since Nick, Tom and Daisy were from affluent families it is not likely that they lived near noisy train stations and bus depots. As for jay, there might have been a rail road in sight on his father’s farm but for this argument’s sake let us say that it was not close enough for it’s noise to become a huge factor in Jay’s perception of his home.

Looking at The Great Gatsby techno-critically I find that the characterization of the (earlier) LIRR and it’s noise make for a great element in the text. East Egg and West Egg, in their respective ‘silences’ symbolize an aspect of the hometowns that these characters might not be able to break away from. When driving in Gatsby’s car, the group has to ride alongside the train and there is an intense moment of suspense and yet still a sense of rushing headlong into an uncontrollable situation, because much like the train the personal issues will continue to rush forward until they reach their final stop. The train, therefore, can be seen as a technological representation of the novel’s plot.

Then there is the silence. Because the noise in the novel is central, in my opinion, towards driving the plot; therefore, the silences are moments in the novel when these characters can return to their hometowns (mentally) and be unable to drift off into a new mode of life. Technology has mapped out the lives and thus tortures the characters with events they feel they cannot control.

November 7, 2010

Soulless in “The Jungle”

Filed under: Uncategorized — E. A. @ 12:11 am

“It was quite like the feat of a prestidigitator,—for the woman worked so fast that the eye could literally not follow her, and there was only a mist of motion, and tangle after tangle of sausages appearing. In the midst of the mist, however, the visitor would suddenly notice the tense set face, with two wrinkles graven in the forehead, and the ghastly pallor of the cheeks; and then he would suddenly recollect that it was time he was going on. The woman did not go on; she stayed right there—hour after hour, day after day, year after year, twisting sausage-links and racing with death. It was piece-work and she was apt to have a family to keep alive; and stern and ruthless economic laws had arranged it that she could only do this by working just as she did, with all her soul upon her work, and with never an instant for a glance at the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen who came to stare at her, as at some wild beast in a menagerie” (129-130).

Making sausages in the meat-packing industry

The beginning of this excerpt, from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906), depicts the female worker’s motion as magical and subtlety weaves the description from one of intense speed to that of other worldly powers in describing her fast work as a ‘mist’. The pressure for mass output of the meat packer and the necessary intense concentration and monotony makes machines out of the workers. Treating the workers like machines is killing them quickly by wearing down their bodies. Knowing that their current position in the work force would not develop to a higher rank or pay these workers are faced with premature death and/or morbidity. The image of the meat packer “racing with death” supports this assumption in that the worker would feel their body wearing down, or worse, become injured and no longer be able to work at their former pace thus making them obsolete in the quickening pace-setting meat-packing industry. The assumed pressure of her having to support a family would not be an incorrect assumption because of the dangerous conditions workers faced in the beef and pork buildings. However, there is a pressure to survive in a world that is being overtaken by machinery and thus forcing the limits of worker, effectually working them to death. The soul is generally thought of as the essence of a human being and in this excerpt the worker is giving it up to the work that she is performing; in no way does this better her as a human being. She, along with thousands of other workers, is disregarded by the law because there is no one trying to stop this overworking system.

These workers have no rights and that is what I find most disturbing about this excerpt. Because this worker has no rights she must work under grueling conditions. There are excerpts that might highlight the danger but the pressure in this excerpt is astounding. I do not find it hard to believe that she might have a family to support because of the lack of adequate pay it would not have been likely that one income could have supported a household. There is a fear in this character that is palpable, she could lose her job for any reason and be left in a society where it was every person for themselves, when in the more dangerous jobs, injury or death were more respectable reasons to lose a job. If she were to lose her job for a different reason a lot of guilt would accompany the loss. That her age is not given I find interesting because it could be a young girl who has been working from a very young age and has thus come to look older, a result of child labor; that and the loss of one’s childhood and the opportunity for an education, this to help support their family. There is a hopelessness in this excerpt that should disturb all readers.

WPMU-DEV.

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