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Contrasting the Natural and Mechanical Worlds in Hathaway’s Oh, Oh

Contrasting the Natural and Mechanical Worlds in Hathaway’s Oh, Oh

The French poet and essayist Louis Aragon, in his Paris Peasant, wrote that “light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error–we only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash” (Aragon 18). Aragon noted that the world is full of contrasts, and it is through those contrasts that we live and understand who we are and why we are here. Without an understanding of light, Aragon argues, we cannot understand what darkness really is. Or, without an awareness as to the concept of truth, one cannot possibly error, for the act cannot be defined. In William Hathaway’s poem “Oh, Oh,” the poet uses language, word choices, images, onamatopoeic descriptions, and even the title of the poem to define the intrusion of the mechanical harshness of the world into the carefree land of nature.

The images, content, and focus of the poem change with the intrusion of the train. Before the protagonist’s girl notices the train, the two characters are concerned with the cows, grass, and simply ambling down a country lane. But, as soon as the train approaches, and as it passes, the characters are no longer concerned with nature. Rather, they suddenly begin dreaming of “being president” (11) and of “wonderful, faraway places” (14). This switch from the serenity of nature to the dreams of the world finally ends with the poems last line — a punishment or at least a warning. The tranquil and peaceful nature suddenly becomes filled with “fifty Hell’s Angels” (17). But, more than simply motorcycles waiting at a railroad crossing, Hathaway has personified the motorcycles creating the mechanical Hell…

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…orld where two universes are defined through their contrast. Through his world choices, images, and even his title, we are transported to a picturesque country landscape with “moo cows chomping daisies” (2) and “maple dappled summer sunlight” (7). Standing at a stark contrast to this land is the “lit headlight” (8) of a passing train and “growling […] Hell’s Angels” (17). Hathaway, through his firm grip of language, has recorded a poem that, through contrasts, gives us an understanding of both the natural and mechanical world in an attempt to show us how we can “look / eagerly to the road ahead” (16-17).

Works Cited

Aragon, Louis. Paris Peasant. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1926.

Hathaway, William. “Oh, Oh.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Leading, Thinking, and Writing. Ed. Michael Meyer. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford, 1996. 593-94.

The Passive and Pitiful Ethan Frome

The Passive and Pitiful Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome is a man torn between what he wants to do, and what he should do. Life in a rural town can be tough, but when faced with complications, it can be almost unbearable. When Ethan decides to marry his distant cousin, Zeena, his life turns down a long and lonesome road. Ethan’s lack of assertiveness and decisive action only worsens his already lonesome and stressful life.

Though too intelligent for rural life, Ethan finds himself stuck in an average man’s shoes. Leaving any opportunity he had to become someone in life, Ethan moves back to Starkfield to take care of his ailing mother and attend to their farm(Wharton 29). Rather than living a lonesome life after his mother passes away, Ethan asks Zeena to stay with him, which turns out to be his first mistake (Wharton, 29). As soon as his mother passed away, Ethan should have asked Zeena to leave and sold his farm. His love for learning and keenness for engineering could have led Ethan to a much better life. Unfortunately, he feels obligated to stay with Zeena, thus ending all hope for a better life.

Zeena’s ailments were nothing more than a way to gain attention from Ethan and everyone else in Starkfield. Zeena wastes valuable money to buy an electric battery to help her overcome her “sickness”, but never figures out how to use it(Wharton, 26); She spends too much money buying useless medicine when she knows money is hard to come by. Being the man of the house, Ethan should have expressed the fact that her ailments were a factor of them being poor. Instead Ethan goes by day by day doing what he needs to do, and what Zeena tells him. Unfortunately for Ethan,…

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…controllable circumstances brought him back home, it was he who chose to stay and risk losing all hope for the life he had dreamed for. Ethan’s decision to be with Zeena did nothing but make his already dreadful life worse. When Mattie finally arrives, it’s almost like a small burden has been lifted from Ethan’s shoulders and he is almost allowed to live again. Lacking the ability to make decisions, Ethan worsens his life by letting things just slide by; and by not standing up to Zeena, the outcome leaves Ethan more desperate and lonelier than he was before.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bell, Millicent. The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Springer, Marlene. Ethan Frome: A Nightmare of Need. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993.

Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. New York: Penguin Group, 1993.

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