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Literature Guide for After the Fall

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  • Mo
    Literature Guide for After the Fall Poems Randall Jarrell. “Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.” This brief, haunting poem is about exactly what its title
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 15, 2004
      Literature Guide for After the Fall


      Randall Jarrell. �Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.�
      This brief, haunting poem is about exactly what its
      title says. Jarrell�s experiences in the Army Air
      Corps in World War II are reflected in much of his
      poetry. Scott reads this one to Logan in Vermont and
      gets shivers when Logan nods in recognition,
      reflecting his graphic memories of death during that
      war. Read the poem at

      Robert Service. �Song of the Wage Slave.�
      Canadian poet Robert Service wrote mostly about rugged
      men in northern climes. Working hard on the tunnel in
      Vermont, Scott thinks of a line from �Song of the Wage
      Slave�: �Resolute, dumb, uncomplaining � a man in a
      world of men�. Much of this poem (and, in fact, much
      of Service�s poetry) makes me think of Logan. Another
      line from this one: �I, with the strength of two men,
      savage and shy and wild �� seems very evocative of
      Logan, or at least my version of him. Service�s
      poetry is very accessible. Read this one at

      Carl Sandburg. �Chicago.�
      This is arguably Sandburg�s most famous poem. He
      describes the city in both brutally accurate and
      admiring tones, speaking of �the marks of wanton
      hunger� on the faces of women and children as well as
      a city �proud to be alive and coarse and strong and
      cunning.� Logan relates to the poem, saying it is the
      Chicago he remembers, suggesting that he was there at
      the time of the poem. It�s available many places,

      Oscar Wilde. �The Ballad of Reading Gaol.�
      This is the poem that Scott is teaching when he breaks
      down during his poetry class. The line that causes
      his collapse is one of the most famous lines in the
      poem: �Each man kills the thing he loves, but each
      man does not die.� Scott makes reference in the class
      to Wilde�s imprisonment, which had prompted this poem.
      Oscar Wilde was a highly successful writer and
      popular in English literary/social circles until his
      trial for sodomy. His two years in Reading Gaol
      impoverished and embittered him. The Project
      Gutenberg version of the poem is available at

      William Shakespeare. Sonnet 58.
      The Shakespearean sonnets show up a lot in my stories.
      Sonnet 58, in which Will is trying to come to terms
      with his lover's infidelity, appears in this series in
      the first story, when Scott is remembering the period
      when he was waiting to see whether Jean would leave
      him for Logan. Scott identifies with Will's feelings
      about his lover, known to Shakespearean scholars as
      the Fair Youth, saying that he was waiting, "though
      waiting so be hell." The poem, an agonizing portrayal
      of a man trying to force himself to accept something
      that is causing him great pain, can be read at


      William Shakespeare. A number of Shakespearean plays
      are referenced in this series. The plays are widely
      available but I like www.shakespeare-online.com for
      its clear layout and interesting commentary.

      Scott paraphrases Polonius�s advice to his son (�to
      thine own self be true�) when he is deciding to try to
      live more honestly in the future. Perhaps the most
      famous of Shakespeare�s plays, Hamlet is full of
      phrases and sayings that are part of our everyday
      language. Read it at

      Henry V.
      In the first story in this series, Scott reflects on
      the likelihood that the current calm won�t last, and
      that war between mutants and normal humans will begin
      again, saying that they will need to �stiffen the
      sinews, summon up the blood� again, as King Henry
      exhorted the troops. See
      to read the play.

      King Lear.
      Scott quotes a line from Lear a couple of times:
      �That way madness lies; let me shun that.� Lear is,
      in fact, driven mad by his own actions. A beautiful
      and tragic portrayal of descent into madness and
      misery, Lear can be found at

      Twelfth Night.
      The school play at Xavier�s will be Twelfth Night, one
      of the most popular of the Shakespearean comedies.
      It�s a story of gender confusion, cross-dressing and
      mistaken identity, but all turns out right in the end.
      The play was supposedly commissioned for the Twelfth
      Night (January 6 � twelfth night of Christmas)
      celebrations at Elizabeth�s court in 1601. Read it at

      Oscar Wilde. The Importance of Being Earnest.
      Wilde�s Earnest is pretty much the quintessential
      drawing room comedy. Scott comments that the kids
      know the lighthearted Wilde from having seen this play
      last year, and that now they are seeing his darker
      side with �The Ballad of Reading Gaol.� A copy of the
      Project Gutenberg edition of the play is at

      Charles Dickens. Tale of Two Cities.
      Scott echoes Dickens's famous first line (�It was the
      best of times; it was the worst of times�) when he
      says that the post-war period of Xavier is not �the
      best of times, not by a long shot.� Dickens�s book is
      a story of the French Revolution and the two cities of
      the title are Paris and London. Romance, drama, and
      doppelgangers all infuse the plot. Read the Project
      Gutenberg edition at

      Henry James. The Turn of the Screw.
      A long short story or novella, James�s nineteenth
      century ghost story still causes shivers and sleepless
      nights in its readers, but the students at Xavier�s
      have particular reason to be disturbed by it, as Scott
      belatedly realizes. It�s a horror story of two
      innocent children corrupted by evil spirits. Read a
      searchable online version of the story at


      There are a few biblical references in this series.
      The series title, �After the Fall�, refers of course
      to the Fall of Man in the book of Genesis (although
      I�ve played with another meaning of �fall� in giving
      the individual stories titles referring to weather or
      seasons). Charles quotes from the story of the
      binding of Isaac when he talks about his fear of
      �sacrificing� Scott. And the title of the last story
      comes from the book of Ecclesiastes. Online bibles
      are easy to come by. If you are looking for the
      Jewish bible (Tanakh), my preferred site is
      http://www.hareidi.org/bible/index.html. It has text
      in Hebrew or English, with several translations
      available and all of the book names in both
      transliterated Hebrew and English translation. The
      Christian bible (which includes the full text of the
      Tanakh in English translation as well as many books
      specific to Christianity, collectively known as the
      New Testament), can be found many places, including
      http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/rsv.browse.html with an
      option to see both King James and Revised Standard
      translations, with side-by-side text for comparison.

      Henry David Thoreau. Walden.
      Both a diary and a work of philosophy, Walden is the
      result of Thoreau�s experiment at freeing himself from
      possessions and responsibilities and living for two
      years in a cabin on Walden Pond. It�s a seminal work
      of 19th century American literature and perhaps one
      Scott�s class was reading. He quotes Walden in the
      third story of this series, saying that Logan is
      someone who marches to a different drummer. Thoreau�s
      full statement is, �If a man does not keep pace with
      his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a
      different drummer. Let him step to the music which he
      hears, however measured or far away.�

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