Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"You mustn't take everything so literally."

This is a quote from A Farewell to Arms by Ernst Hemingway. My juniors are being a new unit on Modernism and WWI, so I am beginning a new push for blogging. Here are my new guidelines. The goal is to get them reflecting about the book and the writing style and connecting to their own lives/world. We have tackled a short story by Hemingway so far and identified his propensity to leave out important information thus the need to work hard as a close reader and the ambiguous ending. Using blogs and actively commenting on each others' blogs could be a great way to help each other uncover important themes and techniques, important not because I lecture and say it is but because they identify with some universal idea and find writing techniques that they can begin to employ in their own writings.

So, here is my first blog:
I am rereading this book WITHOUT a pencil in my hand, and it's killing me! I have already marked it up in three different colors, so what more could I need to mark. Well, I came across two quotes that struck me as meaningful, not only for this novel, but also for us as readers and "interpreters" (thanks Stephen Crane) of it.
The first quote is my title, "You mustn't take everything so literally" (21). This is spoken by Ferguson, friend of Catherine. On the one hand this is so true for reading fiction; writers want us to think beyond initial reactions and identify meaningful, figurative ideas that we can apply to our own lives. On the other hand, much of this book so far is SO literal: pebbles in a river bed, the sounds of a gun battery waking Henry up in the morning, the green of new spring. So, why all the literal, Hemingway? That's one question I hope we can answer in our class discussions.
My second quote is (not required, but short) "Anybody can crack" (20). Catherine says this to Henry on the first day that they meet. I think that it's safe to say that we can all relate to the truth of this statement and add "under pressure." Whether that pressure is grading papers in a timely fashion :), taking tests and writing those lovely papers, or participating in or witnessing war-not all equally weighty experiences-but all pressure situations, nonetheless. I agree with you, Catherine, though from this point you get a little kooky. So, my second question is: what's up with Catherine?

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