Themes in Literature Comparison

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Freshman (College 1st year) ・Literature ・MLA ・3 Sources

The capacity of various pieces of literature to teach the same concepts and evoke identical thoughts is what binds them together. Cathedral, for example, brings to light profound societal problems that promote friendship and the rejection of prejudices. This is also apparent in Sherman Alexis's On the Amtrak from Boston to New York City, where one person lives in deception, assuming they know something while they do not. The most important lesson from these two parts is to not judge a book by its cover. The motif of blindness in both depicts a strong contrast between seeing and seeing. It is possible that wisdom, laughter, and joy among other intriguing aspects lie in strange places. The third poem, The Love Story of Alfred J Prufrock, has a similar approach to social issues albeit ones revolving around anxiety caused by a common human tendency to complicate situations rather than accept life’s simplicity. The poem shows how difficult it is to achieve beautiful things like love when the mind overindulges. It displays an uneasiness and joylessness where simplicity is absent. It is necessary to indulge healthily in life with the engagement of both the mind and heart. Across these three pieces is the need to form an inclusive society through appreciating the simplicity and maintaining an open mind to the human nature that is inclusive of love, bravery and care rather than judgement and justification.

Cathedral describes a fascinating relationship between the narrator’s wife and the blind man she worked for ten years ago. It is strange to imagine their friendship over the years even though this association appears to have provided the lady with much needed emotional and psychological support (Carver 1318). This unique friendship allowed her to talk to the blind man, Robert, about everything in her life. Their interaction is therapeutic for the narrator’s wife with the blind man providing her with guidance through life’s difficulties. Indeed, he was only physically blind, a disability that had not maimed his ability to see in a different manner. In any case, it was men such as the narrator that suffered from blindness being unable to understand how Robert could be so happy and active even after the loss of his wife. When the narrator’s wife told him of the blind man’s visit, he at first said, “I don’t have blind friends,” (Carver 1318). This statement shows how strange the relationship was between her and Robert.

On the Amtrak from Boston to New York is another narration in which a woman genuinely agitates a native American passenger with her expression of limited knowledge about his culture. In her opinion, she has the knowledge and information about these people’s culture even though in the passenger’s eyes, she hardly has any idea about them. The woman’s fascination with the Walden Pond is sad to him and he views her as a partaker with the enemy. The white woman in Amtrak did not find her enlightenment in this narration. She continues to live her life believing that she knows everything and is on the winning side when in reality she does not have any idea about anything. The woman’s situation is akin to that of Alfred Prufrock.

Alfred Prufrock in The Love Story of Alfred J Prufrock, is an intelligent man, albeit one who spends his life pursuing love but is too blind to realise that his anxiety holds him back. His focus on appearances is appalling, Prufrock is very detailed in what he observes in himself making him a very self-conscious man. “My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, my necktie rich and modest but asserted by a simple pin” (Eliot 298). Alfred Prufrock follows the woman he wants almost everywhere observing her mannerisms among other women. However, he is too nervous to make a move and risk being rejected. The author portrays him as a coward emasculating his character with the very name given to the character, Prufrock.

Cathedral and On the Amtrak from Boston to New York City depict “blindness” to societal aspects by protagonists in pieces. In Sherman Alexie’s poem, the poet encounters a white woman who is fascinated by the Walden Pond. The woman does not realise that the man is Indian and one of the members of the tribal groups which she speaks. Her fascination is almost sad to this man as she goes on to state how old the artefacts are, the hills, and culture (Alexie 1336). She tells him only what she has learned in books and what has been served to her and many others as the real knowledge of history (Alexie 2336). Nonetheless, the man knows that such history is insufficient and only tells so little of what Americans could know. It is a form of control over information that would otherwise be useful to the woman. She had no idea that the knowledge she had was only a tip of the iceberg and that the man next to her was a wellspring of such information. He lived it and would be an artefact for her, but the teachings and history books have only provided her with as little information as possible and most likely turning him into a stereotype, “and I don’t have a cruel enough heart to break her own” (Alexie 1336). The narrator is angered but chooses to hide the disappointment. In this poem, Sherman Alexis is what the blind man, Robert, is in Cathedral. He is the unseen and unrealized foundation and stronghold of his society (Barnet et al. 1318). They are both unappreciated and the real sources of information about their communities. Sherman is kind to the woman and decides not to reveal her ignorance which had been pushed to the surface by media and a selective education system. He extends an ironic courtesy by noting “I could have told her that I didn’t give a shit,” (Alexie 1336). The woman is akin to the narrator in Cathedral seeing as she does not stop to realise the truth before her eyes. In both stories, there is a realisation that enmity is forged out of ignorance. The ignorance breeds hatred and despise. The man saw the woman as an enemy, “someone from the enemy thought I was on their side” (Alexie 1337). It is such aspects that led the narrator and the women in both pieces to act they way they did.

The Love Story of Alfred J Prufrock and On the Amtrak from Boston to New York City present situations of people trying to grasp aspects and understanding that are beyond their reach. In this poem, Eliot presents an almost impossible situation of a balding man who is unable to attain love. He looms over rooms that he is unable to enter where women only speak of Michelangelo. The entire poem uses a melancholic tone and imagery in which an etherized table describes his paralysis and the streets he describes appear to be desolate, “let u go through certain half-deserted streets” (Eliot 297). The poem presents a hopeless situation from which the poet cannot be rescued. Prufrock is not portrayed as the most charming or even masculine man and experiences a great deal of social anxiety. The man is certainly intelligent but fails at love for his inability to allow himself to feel. It is this thinking that leaves him paralysed and unable to act on his feelings which he explicitly overwrites with too many thoughts, “Like a patient etherised upon a table” (Eliot 297). He becomes a very indecisive mind on whether to pursue the women he admires or not. It does not help that the women adore Michelangelo, the artist behind David’s statue, a most masculine presentation of men, “in the room, women come and go, talking of Michelangelo” (Barnet et al. 298). Apparently, Eliot presents with the greatest irony, a man that will never attain love despite the poem’s title. In any case, his choice of the character's name is itself emasculating as it involves a frock. It feels a lot like the perception of Sherman Alexis on the white woman on the way to New York City from Boston. Either poem present two knowledgeable individuals that will never live the reality of a real life. The white woman is a sad one lost in her ignorance the way books have taught her while Prufrock is a lone individual whose thinking and reasoning abilities cannot save him from such social issues. Both of these people must open up to new possibilities and relax a little against the need to be right and justified.

The Love Story of Alfred Prufrock relates to Cathedral in its having a reasoning mind portrayed by the narrator and Prufrock. The narrator in Cathedral realises that his wife is happier about her friendship with Robert because she opens up to emotional interaction and is more of a person who feels than thinks too much. The narrator quickly judged the blind man wondering how he lived with a woman that he could not behold even though he evidently used his ability to feel rather than see in life. It is the same ability that a man like Prufrock needs to attain love.

Ultimately, the most important things in life do not always lie in distinct places. They certainly are not found where pride and arrogance are but in humility. And acceptance of the world’s reality and the human nature. It is values such ad kindness and the ability to show it that create strong foundations for people and in society. Moreover, it is necessary to maintain a healthy balance between what belongs to the mind and what belongs to the heart as these two cannot function independently and provide a balanced result.

Works Cited

Alexie Sherman. ‘Journeys.’ 11th ed. Barnet, Sylvan, William Burton and William E. Cain. Literature for Composition: An Introduction to Literature. 2014. Print.

Carver Raymond. ‘Cathedral.’ 11th ed. Barnet, Sylvan, William Burton and William E.Cain. Literature for Composition. An introduction to Literature. 2014. Print.

Eliot Thomas M. ‘Additional Poems and Story for Interpretation.’ 11th ed. Barnet, Sylvan, William Burton and William E. Cain. Literature for Composition: An Introduction to Literature. 2014. Print

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