Welcome to SHP's American Gothic blog, a space for enrolled students to explore ideas, discuss the literature, and share their writing.
“No, the Demons are not Banished…” Just like the ancient idea of yin and yang, of the balance between good and evil, the idea of an alternate, opposite self is presented in many of the most intriguing psychological books and dramas of today. The possibility of an alternate self, one that follows no social rules nor cares that they are broken, is a fascinating idea that holds strong in the world’s collective conscience. Frequently, the doppelganger, or “shadow self” is a dark reflection of the innermost thoughts and repressed, repulsive traits of the original personality. Perhaps, in the worst cases, one could even meet a physical manifestation of the darker side of the personality. In both the movie, The Machinist, directed by Brad Anderson, and the short story, “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the protagonists meet and form a relationship with their shadow selves, with drastically different consequences based on their reactions to the final realizations of their shadow selves. The two relationships reveal that ignoring the shadow self can lead to disastrous consequences, while acknowledging and embracing the shadow self ultimately lead to a healthy psychological state.
In The Road and No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy creates vivid and violent worlds in which hope and happiness seem to be smothered by darkness, danger, and desolation. While McCarthy’s writings can be viewed as solely dismal and depressing, he actually uses this dark imagery to contrast the hidden love found in both novels and reveals to us that love and happiness can be found even in the darkest of places. In The Road, McCarthy presents a dark and dreary world in which hope, happiness and love seem to be all but non-existent. The main characters, a father and his young son, are depicted as struggling to survive in an incredibly bleak and dangerous post-apocalyptic landscape. Their world offers no happiness, hope, or fertility but instead, constant fear, starvation and danger. All living things are long extinct, with only their withered remains standing testament to their existence. “Charred and limbless trunks of trees stretching away on either side” (11) extend along the bleak interstate highway on which the father and son walk. All remnants of society are long dead, leaving the once prosperous cities “mostly burned. No sign of life. Cars in the street caked with ash, everything covered with ash and dust. Fossil tracks in the dried sludge. A corpse in a doorway dried to leather”(16). These dead cities offer no protection or respite for the father and son. The once fertile orchards now stand “cold and silent. Shrouded in the carbon fog”(159) and unable to bear fruit or provide any sustenance. The lack of food in this new unforgiving world creates mass starvation amongst the reaming humans. In an effort to survive, many join cannibalistic groups who prey upon other people, eating their flesh for sustenance. The father and son constantly find themselves on the run from these cannibals and are perpetually consumed with fear and uncertainty.
There is strict contrast between Moss' and Ed's response to danger. While Ed rises to the challenge and fights, Moss runs away. And while Ed ends up becoming the hero of the day, Moss ends up in a morgue. Sometimes, when danger looms, a hero must step forth, or else there will be serious repercussions and the problem will be exacerbated.
this is my conclusion...
There are no shoulda’s, woulda’s, or coulda’s in life. There are only choices and the consequences of those actions. In this realm of life we can only move forward and face those consequences. Guilt has the deteriorating power of destroying minds, but it can also motivate moral choices. Sheriff Bell and Trevor Reznik are at opposite spectrums. Despite their similarities they both portray the worst and best aspects of guilt. It destroys Bell’s life while it motivates Trevor’s search for forgiveness. It is a human characteristic to feel guilt, as is seeking pardon. Bell and Trevor can’t relive their shameful moments they can only redeem themselves by correcting their mistakes in any way possible.
Where do you draw the line between sanity and insanity? The author and director challenge the readers understanding of what it means to be sane. In The Machinist, the director, Brad Anderson, makes the point that the external pressures of the world have the potential to create so much mental stress on an individual that people can lose a grip on reality. In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the main character seemingly leads a normal life but has an internal mental instability, which betrays his insanity. The author and director propose that the line between sanity and insanity is difficult to identify; the descent into insanity is not always recognized by other people and may not even be apparent to oneself.
Is everyone predestined for an imminent death? Robert Frost raises the question in his poem “Design”. The narrator finds himself gazing upon a scene on a flower. A moth is held up by a spider. This is, of course, the end of the moth’s life, but was it meant to be or did it wind up in the deathly grasp of the spider through its own decisions? He questions if there is a predetermined fate or do people have free will to decide their own destinies. The answer can be found by comparing and contrasting Moss, in No Country For Old Men and Ed, in Deliverance, both of whom make life determining decisions. Through juxtaposing their decisions it is shown that one has the ability to determine his/her fate. Cormac McCarthy and James Dickey both present a character that is faced with fate-determining decisions. One faces his fears, while the other runs from his fears, dictating their own destiny.
With every step a man takes, he cannot take it back. While this is a scary thought, there is some good to having decisions that last forever. In “No Country for Old Men,” Cormac McCarthy infers that as one proceeds through life, the actions he or she makes cannot be withdrawn and overall have influence on where our paths lead us. Similarly, in the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” Joyce Carol Oates portrays that life’s choices have lasting influences that at some point catch up to us and awaken us to reality. Through the actions of Moss and Connie, Cormac McCarthy and Joyce Carol Oates reveal that although choices can have negative effects and create a ripple that lasts a lifetime, the choices can also force one to grow and learn.
Our life is based upon decisions that we have made, are making, and are going to make in the future. Although we might not realize the importance of our decisions, they have a larger impact on us than we might think. In Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country For Old Men we encounter Moss, a war veteran that makes the decision to take a suitcase full of money from a drug scene. In Joyce Carol Oates’ story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” the protagonist, Connie, is a teenager who has chosen to live a promiscuous life-style. Both characters make life-changing decisions that bring destruction to their lives. Through the decisions that Moss and Connie make that lead to their destruction and the inevitable consequences that they have to face because of them, the authors reveal that every decision made is important and nothing that has already been done can be changed.
The amount of influence dramatic events have over the human conscience is limitless. The short story Where are you going? Where have you been? is about a teenager, Connie, who through the terrorizing presence of Arnold Friend is forced to change her selfish ways, and in the end, makes the ultimate sacrifice for her family. Dickey’s novel Deliverance is about a group of men who go on a canoe trip that takes a turn for the worse. Ed, a man who has lived a sheltered life, is exposed to these thrilling situations, and is forced to change his ways in order to survive. In both the short story Where are you Going? Where have you Been? and the novel Deliverance, Oates and Dickey both express that violent events can lead to radical internal changes.
In the two short stories, Young Goodman Brown, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?, written by Joyce Carol Oates, both characters experience a drastic chain of events. Titled after the main character’s name, the story consists of a potential dream where Young Goodman Brown may have fallen asleep on the side of the road while on a journey through the forest. This journey for the forest represents an evil transformation for Young Goodman Brown. Connie, who is the main character in Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? has a tendency to daydream about boys. On a Sunday afternoon, a man named Arnold Friend approaches Connie and strongly desires to take her away. At the end of both texts, it is not clear whether or not the characters experiences were reality or a dream. By leaving it open to readers whether or not Young Goodman Brown and Connie’s experiences is a dream or not, both authors propose a message that says dreams consist of the most relevant things in our lives along with the things we oppress. Whether or not both Young Goodman Brown and Connie experienced a dream or not, both texts share a common message that says, what we dream about is either something really relevant in life or is something that is oppressed. While Young Goodman Brown’s oppressed evil shines bright in his potential dream, Connie’s never-ending thoughts towards boys appear in her potential dream. In the end, both characters are able to learn something very important about them selves. Through Young Goodman Brown’s potential dream, he was able to realize the natural evil in everyone. He also learned that he himself was evil. Lastly, for Connie, her potential dream may function to warn her about the troubles she may encounter with boys.
“Ever step you take is forever” (McCarthy 227) stands true in both of these gothic tales. Every step moss made from taking the money led to his death, Trevor finds himself in complete loss of his former self after deciding to hit and run which nearly leads to him starving himself. Unlike Moss, Trevor is unable to face himself due to his suppressed memory and sense of self. His shadow self, draws him towards reality, sets up events and decisions that lead to Trevor finding who he really is and eventually facing what he has done. Moss makes the decision to keep running while Trevor is unable due to lack of memory. Either way, they both set up their situations with their first wrong decision. The difference between Moss and Trevor is that Trevor begins fixing his wrongdoings immediately after realizing them. Moss keeps running until he can’t any longer. He had the chance to fix it all but didn’t try to until his final moments, until it was too late. You control most what is encountered in life. You are responsible for your current situation. What you cause, you must fix. Life is a self-determined destiny and no god or higher existence has more control over it than you.
Nature is a Powerful Drug That We Must Symbiotically Live WithNature is our home; it holds the key to our very existence. But over the centuries, humans have grown to overpower nature, almost as if placing ourselves above it. But how closely intertwined are nature and humans? Should this be our way of life? Not according to Ambrose Bierce and Robert Frost. Set upon a bridge, in mid-Civil war times, Ambrose Bierce’s “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” recounts the final moments of Peyton Farquhar, a “well-to-do planter” destined for death. Caught by the Federal Army while attempting to destroy the Owl Creek Bridge, he stands poised between life and death, held from emotional breakdown by nature’s entrancing powers. In parallel, Robert Frost’s “Bereft” details the somber thoughts of a widowed man. Painted with detailed imagery of nature, the narrator’s emotional pains of loneliness are illustrated as the narrator spends his brief moments on his porch, allowing nature to slowly attack him as his subdued feelings leave him unmotivated and weak. Ambrose Bierce uses nature as the character’s coping mechanism when facing death, while Robert Frost depicts nature as the window into the somber feelings of the narrator; through their use of nature imagery, both authors reveal that the outside world foreshadows and mirrors the inward psyche.
Fate, the omnipotent force that we are inclined to place all of our blame upon. It takes life as often as it gives it, and does so whenever it pleases. It bows to no man, neglecting his petty pleas for a better life. Moss’ actions in NCFOM and the ill fortune that befalls the moth in the poem “Design” both demonstrate the power of fate by revealing our failure to control or escape; while Chigurh and the spider reveal fate’s ability to always succeed, using whatever means necessary to fulfill its evil, grand scheme.
Sometime failure is inevitable; often people may try to achieve large goals that are out of reach, because the reward for success is so great. Even when success is impossible they still go for it because the desire for the reward clouds their judgment; they overestimate their own abilities even in situations that could lead to great consequences. In two works, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy and “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, the main characters try to achieve goals that are obviously out of reach, and in the end pay with their lives for failing. Peyton Farquhar in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, when he sabotages Owl Creek bridge, and Llewelyn Moss in No Country for Old Men, when he takes drug dealers’ money, are put in situations where they have the choice to pursue some sort of goal, but this goal, however, is beyond their reach. Both Farquhar and Moss overestimate their own abilities in an effort for great gain; the authors use them to warn of people’s tendency to shoot for goals out of reach, even when death may be the result of failure, just because the reward is so great.