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Some Examples of Serving Socially

These are not "perfect" models of serves written socially, but they are examples of ones that I think are definitely on the right track. In the student work (2) section of survey 2, I discuss the serving style of eleven posts, both good and bad, from the first week of the course. Here, therefore, I choose examples only from later in the course and, again, only "good" ones -- see student work (2) of survey 2 to compare these with examples of posts less socially written.

1)  So I think an interesting topic to delve into with this novel is Hawthorne’s conception of passion.  I was absolutely struck by one of the narrator’s closing observations at the novel’s conclusion and found it quite central to the novel’s interpretation.  Following the heartrending death scene the narrator states:
It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love be not the same thing at bottom. Each, in its utmost development, supposes a high degree of intimacy and heart-knowledge; each renders one individual dependent for the food of his affections and spiritual life upon another; each leaves the passionate lover, or the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desolate by the withdrawal of his object. Philosophically considered, therefore, the two passions seem essentially the same, except that one happens to be seen in a celestial radiance, and the other in a dusky and lurid glow (225).  I like this analogy.  It seems to work, considering the context of the novel.  Is Hester not entirely dependent upon Dimmesdale for “spiritual life”?  Is Chillingworth not “dependent for the food of his life” upon Dimmesdale? I think it works.  However, it causes me to question what Hawthorne’s ultimate attitude towards passion is. Is it not always a corrupting force?  Look at the eventual fates of both Dimmesdale and Chillingworth.  Look at the life of shame and torment that Hester is doomed to life.  Note that only after Dimmesdale dies, does Pearl become “human” again and the “spell [is] broken” (222).  Is it passion that Hawthorne disparages?  Emotion?  Does he uphold the values of the Puritanical society which he presents us with in the novel?  What’s your take on it?

2)  This book offers up two extremes, both of which are a direct result of sinning.  Either come forward and be shunned by the general public, or keep everything bottled up inside and suffer.  Man, what's a person to do?  I suppose refraining from sinning is the most logical, but isn't that a bit unrealistic.  People mess up, people make mistakes, people sin.  As much as people hate to admit it, sin is just as much a part of life as breathing.  I doubt that this is Hawthorne's overall message, but whether or not he's singled out hester's sin in this "perfect" society as a means to let others know that there are consequences to thier actions is something to discuss.  Aslo, ________ mentions Hawthorne's use of passion in the novel.  On page 174 is the line "but this had been a sin of passion, not of principle, nor even purpose."  This makes me wonder whether Hawthorne actually sees adultery as bad as everyone else sees it.  It's obvious the only reason she was caught is because she had a child.  Then we have all this talk of Hester seeing sin in others, and wondering why she suffers.  Hawthorne is after something here.  Why is it that a "sin of passion" be looked down on so terribly, when there is so much worse that could be done?

3)  Through out the novel we are given more and more facts about the relationship between "Old" roger chillingworth and mr. dimmesdale.  from the start, we know that chillingworth is a fake, however dimmesdale is not privied to this knowledge until it is too late.  i think that chillingworth had an idea about dimmesdale since he watched the events that took place at the governors house, and thus his passion to confirm his beliefs leads him on a satanical tirade of evil and malicious actions.  He dives into dimmesdale's mind and twists and turns... one second he acts the part of dimmesdale's closest friend... the next second he attempts to make dimmesdale confess his sin by playing with his mind.  both men sin, but what i question is who suffers more through this whole situation.  _______ brings up an interesting point in her post about what hawthorne is getting at by how people deal with sin.  i think in this situation both characters hide their sins and while they hide them, they pay the ultimate price.  I could keep on going... but i feel like i'd start to answer myself(if i haven't already)... so i hope i've left you with something to respond to

4)  As mentioned in class, this novel really shows the effects of sin on human lives.  While Hester and Dimmesdale essentially commit the same sin, the way in which that sin affects their lives is very different. Everyone in the community knows Hester’s sin, and she lives each day wearing the scarlet letter where everyone can see it and be reminded of her sin.  Still, Hester adapts her life to incorporate her sin.  Her sin becomes part of her identity.  On the other hand, Dimmesdale lives each day trying to hide his sin and trying to maintain his status in the community.  His scarlet letter is hidden from everyone.  Dimmesdale struggles to retain his identity despite his sin.  In addition, the community imposes the punishment for Hester’s sin while Dimmesdale’s suffering is really self-imposed.  While both characters suffer in distinct ways, who do you think suffers more as a result of his/her sin, Hester or Dimmesdale?  Is Hawthorne trying to show us that one way of dealing with sin is better than the other, or what do you think Hawthorne is trying to tell us through the suffering of these characters?  Any other thoughts on the effects of sin or the effect of their sin on Hester and Dimmesdale in particular?

5)  There is definitely something that REALLY bothers me about "The Scarlet Letter."  I feel the novel portrays how hipocritical our society is and can be.  The townspeople, in the process of playing God's judge and jury, have sinned just as great or more than Hester.  The very act of belleiving you are better than someone else is in itself a sin.  The townspeople gossip and spread rumors.  They continually put her down, and push her away.  For a colony so devoted to the word of the bible, they sure did miss a few spots.  Apparently they missed the parts that tell how each sin, no matter how great or small, is looked on with the same value by God.  They also forget the part that says to forgive those around them, and to always love someone despite the mistakes they have made.  Seems like these are key points they are missing!  These puritans do not do these things.  They use something like Hester's punishment to make them feel better about themselves and their own shortcomings.  How could a society that claims to be so pure screw up this badly?  Did the puritans see the hipocrisy in their ways?  or do you think Hester really is as guilty as they make her out to be?

6)  "Slaveholders pride themselves upon being honerable men."  Chapter 8 opens with this statement.  I think the south had issues.  Jacobs book definitely riles me up more than Stowe did.  Slaveholder's considered themselves honerable men, yet they did everything in the world that is considered dishonerable.  It enrages me so to think that someone could be so ignorant and inhumane that they would do some of the things that they do.  Ok so maybe slaves wernet considered human, maybe they were thought of as dogs.  But would you beat a dog until it spilled pools of blood just because it disobeyed you?  Ok i know, they WERE real people and it is an injustice to consider them anything less, but just to try to get a perspective, i do not see how anyone could ever be that cruel to ANYTHING, whether you considered something a brother, animal, posession.. whatever.  I guess my question would be, did slaveowners REALLY realize what they were doing?  Did they rest on such a low level of humanity that they could these sick and twisted things?  The only possible comparison i can come up with is something along the lines of Nazi Germany, where persuasion and the fact that "everyone was doing it" turned normally good people into sick and twisted killers.  I guess my main influence for this post was the chapter "Fear of Insurrection."  Does anybody have any thoughts on how things could have gotten so out of control in the south?  (sorry this post isnt very good, probably hard to respond too)

7)  In reading the opening half of the novel I found myself drawn to Linda's grandmother.  When dealing with such bleak subject matter we look to some ray of light or mountain of hope to pull us from the depressing depths of reality.  At first glance, I saw the grandmother as this guiding light.  She appears to be such a strong woman as she sticks to her morals and works herself to the bone for the good of her children and grandchildren.  I felt that this is a woman who could stand tall in the face of slavery.  But really, when it comes down to it, she is still only a slave.  However hard she tries to buy the freedom of her children she is constantly stuck with failure.  When we place the grandmother in contrast with her son Benjamin I no longer know whom is meant to be the stronger.  Benjamin, lying in jail, is not afraid to challenge the authority of God while his mother remains submissive to his will.  It is Benjamin who says, "No, I did not think of God. When a man is hunted like a wild beast he forgets there is a God, a heaven," (36).  In some ways I agree with him, how could he look to a God who allowed him to be placed in this position in the first place.  This section shows Benjamin as the stronger of the two as he is even willing to challenge God in his fight for freedom.  Are we meant to see Benjamin as being strong for his defiant nature?  Or is the grandmother a more powerful for fighting a silent battle, never compromising her values?  Anything else to add?  Love to hear feedback.

8)  Much has been said in class in reference to Dr. Flint’s evil treatment of Linda.  Clearly he treated her in a most cruel manner as played mental games with her, all in an effort to “break her” and to force her into succumbing to his sexual advances.  Linda herself comments that she learns to “tremble at her master’s footfall” (31).  It is evident that Dr. Flint succeeds in becoming the torment of Linda’s waking hours, but does he really break her?  We certainly can make a good argument for his condemnation.  He is a despicable, sub-human being, in my estimation.  However, I would make the argument that ironically, Dr. Flint is partially responsible for freeing Linda.  I believe that ultimately Flint’s torments and threats serve to make Linda into a stronger, more daring woman.  Flint’s unceasing advances force Linda to become quite industrious as she is forced to develop innovative ways of avoiding him and preserving her integrity.  Evidence of her burgeoning strength of character is found in many of her dialogues with Flint.  At one point she emphatically states that he has no right to do what he likes with her.  She also states, “I had rather live and die in jail, than drag on, from day to day, through such a living death.  I was determined that the master, whom I so hated and loathed, who had blighted the prospects of my youth, and made my life a desert, should not, after my long struggle with him, succeed at last in trampling his victim under his feet” (59).  I would argue that Flint’s abusive treatment of Linda forces her into developing inner strength which eventually leads to her escape and freedom.  Perhaps Flint did her a favor…What do you think?

9)  moby-dick is probably the coolest book i've ever read.  i've taken philosophy classes, psychology classes, sociology classes, and a whole lotta english classes, and this story built around nothing more than a whale hunt has prompted more deep thought and introspection than anything from any of those other courses.  unlike some (most?) of you, i have never read moby dick before--surprising i suppose to make it to my senior year as an english major and pass over one of the truly great works of american literature, but i'm glad i waited.  i don't know if it would have done the same thing for me in high school that it has done for me now.  like professor g, i had a lot of thoughts focusing on "what's important in life?" when i read this.  the trip, the journey, the expedition, the adventure... isn't THAT what life's suppossed to be all about?  it sounds so corny, but i think that that's how you really "find yourself", and on one level, this is a story about ishmael finding himself.  there is a consitant theme of lonliness present in the text as if everyman is an island.  and they are on an island both literally and figuratively... sitting alone on a ship in the middle of the earth's great oceans... out there a man is left with pretty much nothing else besides his own thoughts.  i know i'm rambling but i keep getting new ideas, so i apologize, just try and stay with me as long as you can... this is a story about being extraordinary... whalers weren;t content to settle for a normal, boring life on land... and these whalers aboard the pequod are special even amongst the other whalers because they are chasing something that others wouldn't even dream to chase... mad? crazy? insane?  maybe... but maybe they are the only one's truly living... maybe the novel ends with "orphan" because ishmale was orphaned by ahab and crew by not drowning with them... maybe they died the ultimate deaths... maybe there are no actions that seperate anyone in life... even the richest men die... but maybe there is something that seperates men in death... in a way ahab became part of his obsession... i could go all night with this, so i'll save you anymore of a headache and stop.  i guess i provided a lot to talk about, and at the same time nothing to talk about (b/c it's all just metaphysical rambling)... i told you this was the best book i've ever read.

10)  While reading, I stumbled across a passage which struck a “synthesizing” cord in me, calling to mind Edna’s experience in The Awakening.  The passage is from the chapter entitled, “The Blacksmith”.  Recall that Melville’s blacksmith is a old and broken man.  Tragedy struck him and his family when they were victimized by a burglar.  The blacksmith became consumed by guilt after the event, believing himself responsible and his life fell apart.  His home fell to ruins and his wife and children left in shame.  The blacksmith was left alone without refuge and consequently decided to seek comfort in a life at sea.  I felt there might be some basis for comparison between the blacksmith’s sense of desolation, emptiness and hopelessness, and the similar emotions which Edna experiences at the conclusion of The Awakening. However, it was Melville’s commentary on the allure of the sea that really solidified the parallels for me. Ishmael says of the blacksmith, “Death seems the only desirable sequel for a career like this; but Death is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried; Remote, the Wild, the Watery, the Unshored” (529) Melville’s use of diction here seems to compare death to the sea; the passage continues, “therefore to the death-longing eyes of such men, who still have left in them some interior compunctions against suicide, does the all-contributed and all-receptive ocean alluringly spread forth his whole plain of unimaginable, taking terrors, and wonderful, new-life adventures” (529).  Melville seems to be saying, instead of opting to commit mortal sin, a suicidal individual may take to the sea: “Come hither broken hearted; here is another life without the guilt of intermediate death; […] Come hither! Bury thyself in a life which, to your now equally abhorred and abhorring, landed world is more oblivious than death” (529).  I found the phrase, “a world more oblivious than death” to be extremely telling.  The term oblivion implies a lack of memory and consciousness.  Is this not what Edna craves?  Does she not feel as though her current life is nothing but a sort of “intermediate death”?  She ultimately opts for death as she feels it is her only route of escape from an empty life, a life that leaves her downtrodden and craving infinitely more. Perhaps this partially explains the attraction to the sea that is referenced throughout the novel: “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in its abysses of solitude” (529).  Perhaps this is what the blacksmith seeks at sea; perhaps it is ultimately what Ahab seeks as well.  Thoughts?

11)  Wow!  What a powerful read!  The story of Uncle Tom drew me in with its tremendous variety of interconnected characters.  The way Stowe weaves the stories together is quite impressive.  I can see why the work was so influential in its day.  Who couldn’t empathize with the steadfast, loyal, martyr, Tom, the courageous and beautiful Eliza, and the angelic Eva?  These are terrific, (albeit somewhat one-dimensional) characters.  However, the one thing that irritated me about the novel was, save for the author’s closing note, I felt that the novel lacked the true sense of rage, urgency and disgust that the enslaved blacks must surely have felt.  Most of the characters, with the exception of Cassy, seemed unaware of the absolute injustice of the entire system.  Sure they attempt escape, but only when circumstances necessitated it; I never truly sensed a burning resentment in any of them.  If Stowe were alive today, I feel as though I’d like to say, come on, this is slightly unrealistic.  Where is the hatred? Where is the fire?  Why doesn’t Tom just rub Legree out and be done with it?  I would hypothesize that Stowe was either treading lightly, or being a shrewd politician.  The saintly qualities of many of the characters clearly are easy to empathize with.  What do others think?  Did this issue irritate anyone else or am I just a cynical detester of sentimentality