Literature: A Mirror of Life
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Literature as a whole consists of many different kinds of writing; rather it is short stories, plays, poetry, or dramas and novels. Great literature is great because it can be read over and over again and enjoyed by many different kinds of people. Literature can also help us to discover our past, discover other cultures, and discover things about ourselves that we may not ever have discovered.

A setting in a short story is the physical and social context in which the action of a story takes place. The major fundamentals of the setting are the time, the place, and the social situation that envelops the characters. The setting can be used to create a certain mood or an atmosphere that will set the stage or guide the reader and prepare them for what is to come. Setting can be used to trick the reader in to thinking one thing will happen and then something else completely changes what they expect. Some writers choose a particular setting because of traditional associations with that setting that are closely related to the action of a story. In the story Love in L.A., by Dagoberto Gilb, he provides the setting by writing “Jake slouched in a clot of near motionless traffic, in the peculiar gray of concrete, smog, and early morning beneath the overpass of the Hollywood Freeway on Alvarado Street.” (Gilb, 1993, p.220) Any of us that ever had to sit in traffic like this immediately feel what he feels; the sense of not getting anywhere fast, smelling the fumes of exhaust, and wishing we were somewhere else. Another example of a setting can be found in Flannery OConnors; A good Man is Hard to Find. Here she describes a setting where a family is traveling on a road trip and she prepares you for whats coming by writing “The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to see the house with the secret panel. John Wesley kicked the back of the front seat and June Star hung over her mothers shoulder and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun even on their vacation, that they could never do what THEY wanted to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney.” (OConnor, 1953, p. 264) The setting provides a sense of tension; that the father is going to reach his boiling point soon based on her descriptions of what is happening.

A stories plot can be defined as a series of events or actions that help the author give the story a particular focus and give the story direction. The plot can consists of as many as five separate areas, defined as, Introduction, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. An example of this can be seen in Tim OBriens How to Tell a True War Story where we follow a character named Bob Kiley and the tale of Curt Lemon. OBrien gives an introduction of the characters by writing “I had a buddy in Vietnam. His name was Bob Kiley, but everybody called him Rat.” (OBrien, 1987, p. 320), and introduces Curt lemon in “The dead guys name was Curt Lemon.” (OBrien, 1987, p. 320), and goes on to write the rising action as “It happened nearly twenty years ago, but I still remember that trail junction and the giant trees and a soft dripping sound somewhere beyond the trees.” (OBrien, 1987, p. 322) The climax comes when Curt Lemon is “They were just goofing. There was a noise, I suppose, which mustve been the detonator, so I glanced behind me and watched Lemon step from the shade into bright sunlight. His face was suddenly brown and shining. A handsome kid, really. Sharp gray eyes, lean and narrow-waisted, and when he died it was almost beautiful, the way the sunlight came around him and lifted him up and sucked him high into a tree full of moss and vines and white blossoms.” (OBrien, 1987, p. 322) Then the falling action and resolution are told as “What seems to happen becomes its own happening and has to be told that way. The angles of vision are skewed. When a booby trap explodes, you close your eyes and duck and float outside yourself. When a guy dies, like Lemon, you look away and then look back for a moment and then look away again. The pictures get jumbled; you tend to miss a lot. And then afterward, when you go to tell about it, there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed.” (OBrien, 1987, p. 322)

The tones and irony can be seen in this example where the author uses descriptive phrases, allowing the reader to see in their mind what is happening, as a story is being played out. I liked this story because it was a first-hand account and the visual clues and references the author used allowed me to feel, smell, and taste what was happening in the story.

The elements of poetry, including imagery, figurative language, symbolism, word choice, themes, tone and sound can be found in the poem The Road not Taken, by Robert Frost. The imagery is defined by the lines “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”, and “Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there / Had worn them really about the same,” (Frost, 1916, p. 574) It allows you to visually see the scene he is describing. The lines “And both that morning equally lay” (Frost, 1916, p. 574) shows a figurative language describing the roads and also a symbolism of their being two paths; such as two paths through life, where one must make a decision on which path in life to take. His word choice in “In leaves no step had trodden black” (Frost, 1916, p. 574) could have been stated more simply but his choice of words are flowery and sets the tone for the feeling he is conveying. The reason I liked this poem is because of its symbolism and what it means in our daily lives. The line “And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;” (Frost, 1916, p. 574) shows that he is trying to discern if that is the choice road. In the end he decides that both roads are equal and so chooses the one that he perceives as less traveled. Another reason I liked this poem was that many times during my life I have pondered the same situation; which road to take. Not literally, but figuratively, such as which job I wish to take being offered two seemingly equal positions. I have tried to look down both “roads” and decide which is the more appealing.

The setting in “Trifles”, a drama by Susan Glaspell, takes place in a kitchen of an abandoned farmhouse. This is the physical setting, however, there is also a

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