Literature? This form of entertainment had been around for ages, whether be in a form of a Poetry, a Drama or a Short Story. This Type of literature had been used by Poets and Authors to convey their deepest desires, feelings, Ideas, amazing imaginations which makes us, whoever we want and an escape to daily normal life and with this making it humorous and lively. Everyone definitely have been exposed to a genre of literature in their life at one point. It comes from the French language and is used to identify types or categories of literature. Clugston, 2010). This can be further classified or in such a way, be selected by the readers by type they can relate into. One might consider reading short stories quietly or pronounce a poem loudly to get into the climax, bringing such poems rhythm into life. A novel, A short story, A tragic or splendid drama and poems that entice every that hears it, these different types of literature brings the authors work into life for the readers to see, feel or hear.
The two short stories I have chosen to compare and contrast is the poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” written by Emily Dickinson in 1890/1983 and story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” written by James Thurber in 1939. These two stories take place in two different time periods. The main character, in each story, differs in death and position. However, these two stories share a similar message concerning life and marriage. Obviously, Emily Dickinson and James Thurber are two very different writers who lived in different periods, but their shared internal struggles with marriage, life and escapism undeniably connects them.
Surely, each of these stories is a literary portrait of marriage, but more specifically, each is a description of the constraints of marriage for both men and women. Each story explores a married individual’s loss of self and the need to revisit independence through some form of escapism. In Emily Dickinson of “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, a woman with a weak heart discovers her husband has been killed in an accident. Instead of expressing sadness, she becomes invigorated when she realizes the new life his death has granted her only to die upon learning she was misinformed and he’s alive.
In the same way, James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” visits the restrictive nature of a civil union by detailing the persistent day dreaming of a married man who is held captive by his own lack of self-confidence and his wife’s overbearing nature. Furthermost, the life understanding of any author has an excessive influence on the subject matter he/she chooses for the base of the story being written. It is important to know the circumstances of the perspectives and ideas of the theme.
An author’s background or environment is often offers the source of the author’s motivation. Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts in December of 1830 to Edward Dickinson and Emily Norcross Dickinson. Emily spent her childhood and adulthood living in the family home with her sister Lavinia. Emily received her education through the local schools and at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (Johnson). Emily appeared to have an active and social presence in society until her return from a trip to Philadelphia in the early part of the 1850’s.
It is said that her withdrawal from society began shortly after her return from Philadelphia because she had fallen in love with a married minister (Emily Dickinson). It has also been said that Emily suffered an emotional crisis in the early 1860’s that led to her writing over three hundred poems in 1862 (Because I Could Not Stop for Death). Emily began to isolate herself even more after the death of her father in 1874 and the death of her mother in 1882. In the early part of 1886 Emily was diagnosed with a kidney dysfunction that she later died of in May of that same year (Emily Dickinson).
On the other hand, James Thurber was born on December 8, 1894. Thurber was encouraged by his family as well as society to advance himself socially. He had two brothers and a father to constantly enforce male views. However, his mother was dominant personality of the family. Described as a larger than life, born comedienne, Mary Anne (Mame) Fisher Thurber was a source of inspiration for her son’s literary works. James Thurber attended college at Ohio State University from 1913 to 1918. Shortly after returning from Paris, France as a code clerk for the U. S. Department of State, Thurber married Althea Adams. Unfortunately, the marriage was troubled and ended in divorce 12 years later in 1935. Emily Dickinson of “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” are both great literary works. Although these stories are well written, they both own a different character. Emily’s story is a solemn and compacts with the matter of death and tragedy events involving a women who remains so busy that she never has time to stop and think about anything else, including death.
In contrast, Thurber’s story has a comedic sensibility presented through the acts of a somewhat unlucky man. “The main theme of this story is escapism, in which the main character deals with his everyday frustrations by escaping into daydreams” (Cummings, 2009). Alongside the advantage of the enormous differences, a commonality exists which describes the negative compromise of situation. This compromise is projected from two very different points of view. One story is told from the perspective of a woman appears to not be afraid of “Death” or “Immortality” and joins them on the carriage ride.
The woman’s acceptance to take a carriage ride with “Death” suggests that the woman has no fear of dying and welcomes death happily. The other story is stated through a man who daydreams of various jobs and want to define himself a very timid husband that uses his imagination to cope with his wife and the various aspects of married life. It is just as important to indication, these two stories were not only written from opposite viewpoints, but they were also written 45 years apart.
Even though these two different story in a time periods symbolize a great change in social approaches and social practices, it decide that Dickinson’s character’s escapism is rooted in reality and Thurber’s character’s escapism is imagined, each story’s main character’s desire to escape is the same. In Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, the first thing we learn about the main character, is that she appears to not be afraid of “Death” or “Immortality” and joins them on the carriage ride. The carriage slowly moves along as if there is no time schedule and “Death” has no pressing matters.
The woman seems as if she no longer has a care in world and nothing else matters except her carriage ride with “Death”. The carriage signifies a coffin inside of a horse during a funeral procession. The slowness in which the carriage is moving could be the result of a slow death for the woman, meaning, that her death could have resulted from a disease or disability that kills slowly over a period of time. The woman still appears to be unafraid because of “Death’s” civility. As they pass the school where the children strove in the ring at recess, she reflects on her on childhood.
As they slowly move passed the school yard, they pass the fields of gazing grain, in which she reflects upon her adulthood. “Death” then drives passed the setting sun. The driving passed the setting sun has two representations: 1) for mortals, who gage the time they have left in the day, and 2) for immortals, the passing into another life – death. At this point she realized just how slow “Death” is driving, it is at such a slow pace, it is as if they are not moving and the sun has passed them. The Dews drawing a quivering chill is just another indication of her death.
When the woman makes reference to “For only Gossamer, my Gown – My Tippet – only Tulle”, she is referring to her clothing. She feels as if she is not dressed appropriately hence the chill, which is another indicator of death or a spiritual presence. As they are paused before what she perceives as a house in the distance, she is only able to see what she believes to be the roof. She is so comfortable with death that she does not realize the house with the swelling ground is actually her grave site, which also explains the reasoning behind the cornice appearing to be in the ground. She is actually observing the house from her grave.
This setting affects the character because now she has realized all the things she has missed out on, and how much she is gaining from this carriage ride. Since she has taken away her labors and her leisure she has time to look at all the wonderful things of life. Therefore, in James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the main character, Walter Mitty, this man was a hopeless daydreamer as well as a unique individual in many ways. I imagined seeing Walter in a navy airplane as a very small grey haired elderly gentleman, also as a surgeon trying to help an Englishman in his time of need as well.
Walter seemed to be a very intelligent yet cunning individual, with a great imagination, as well as a great sense of humor. I would have loved to meet this man when he was living as I believe the stories that Walter had were very interesting to listen to. I enjoyed reading the story and learned a lot about a man named Walter Mitty. According to the story that was written I gathered that Walters wife was a very demanding and also controlling person. Walter followed her lead and did everything that was asked of him by Mrs. Mitty. Although she did not give Walter a chance to be himself as she controlled Walters every move.
When asked to meet her at the hotel Walter was sure to follow what she had asked of him, although when Mrs. Mitty arrived at the hotel Walter was nowhere to be found as he was sitting in a chair turned towards a window having yet another daydream. Mrs. Mitty got very upset when she could not find Walter anywhere. When she did finally locate him she fussed at him about the fact that Walter seemed to be hiding from her. Even though this was not the case. Mrs. Mitty had her own ideas as well as thoughts about her husband and was not changing her mind.
The way I understand his wife she is definitely in charge of the household and what goes on there. I believe the way Walter escapes from the anxiety of his wife nagging him by daydreaming as he can block out all of things she says to him that stress Walter out. Then Walter is in his own little world away from all of the worries and anxieties of daily life. Both “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” are written as short stories and both display characteristics of a drama but not throughout. However, the poem and stories could be altered a bit and turned into great plays!
The authors Emily Dickinson and James Thurber each had their own way of applying different basics into their pieces of work. Although each author successfully connected their messages through their work. Both stories revolve around the same theme of a life or imagination but with completely different content and style. Each short story could be turned into and performed as a play that would be both entertaining and interesting. These short stories or poem had many similarities and differences but the final results of each of the poem or stories was that they were well constructed, easily understood and they each were very unique.
Courtney from Study Moose
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