Literary Criticisms of Selected Works

I. Historical Criticism of The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich

            Told from the point of view of Lyman Lamartine, a native American Indian with a brother, Henry, who enlists to serve in Vietnam (Sweet Wong 227), The Red Convertible highlights the bond between the brothers, while underscoring the profound effect of war on man. The Vietnam War actually goes down American history as the longest and the most traumatic for those who fought. In The Red Convertible, Henry mirrors how the war can leave an emotional scar or trauma on man, just like Henry, who returns home a radically changed man after becoming a prisoner of war.

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            The Red Convertible mirrors the struggles of native American migrants to aspire for the American dream, while upholding their own cultural values.  In a way, the car that the brothers used for traveling symbolizes just how much American migrants desire to move up and reach for their dreams, but encounter disillusionment and defeat along the way.

II. Psychoanalytic Criticism of Everyday Use by Alice Walker

            Everyday Use by Alice Walker is a simple yet moving story about how mothers and daughters may differ in their ways, particularly in how they let modern society affect their perceptions or views on what they hold important. At the end of the story, when Dee’s says goodbye to the family she visited, she chides her sister and says, “”You ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you’d never know it” (Walker 55). Little does she realize that in being dazed by material possessions, she has overlooked one thing that mattered to her kin – the family heritage.

            In the story, Dee’s value for her heritage is superficial, which reflects her own personal artifice – she presents herself as worldly and all-knowing, but is insecure and wanting in attention deep inside.  Dee’s character shows that one’s past has a significant role in shaping the future, or how a person strives to veer away from his roots.  Having grown up in a traditional family who took pains to send her to school and to give her nice material things she desired, Dee always craved to stand out and make something of herself outside the confines of her home and clan.  In so doing, she loses sight of what real happiness and simple contentment mean. Her perception of heritage is limited to one she would rather display, rather than bask in, use, and pass to the next generation, as what  her mother desired.  Overall, the Alice Walker’s Everyday Use is engaging, and drives home the point that we ought to discover and be proud of our cultural identity, because it makes up a large part of who we are.

III.  Historical Criticism of The Passionate Shepherd to his Love  by Chris Marlowe

            Being the English poet and dramatist that he is, Christopher Marlowe  gives poetic literature his own unique touch as seen in one of his remarkable works. It is evident from the poem’s language that this poet grew up in a pastoral community in medieval England. Being a shoemaker’s son, one can imagine the simple pleasures he had grown up with. Shakespeare’s predecessor, Marlowe showed remarkable poetic talent which set the stage for succeeding writers of his generation, as exemplified by his near-perfect lyrical poetry. There is overflowing emotion and a melodious timbre that never falters in The Passionate Shepherd to his Love.

            Christopher Marlowe’s poetry seems to hark back to the era of gallant gentlemen promising the best that nature can bestow, to the object of his affection. The poem is so suffused with emotions and pining that it arouses the reader’s curiosity on whom he may have offered it to. The Passionate Shepherd to his Love is rich in imagery and its style transports poetry readers back to the Elizabethan era, a fascinating period in history when arts and culture flowered and where men and women displayed refinement in character and language.

IV. Reader-Response Criticism of Sure Thing by David Ives

            The one-act play Sure Thing by David Ives is a riveting play that strikes at the heart of any couple who have experienced the uneasy stage discovering each other’s quirks and fancies, before moving on to a more comfortable level and transforming either into very special lifelong friends or eventually reverting to complete strangers, once a new and interesting acquaintance comes along. The selection, which mirrors the game boys and girls play, probably as they try to find their place in the world and explore potential friends or lovers they may possibly have some kinship with, is an episode that shifts from yearning to bravado to dreams and aspirations.

                Quite noticeable is a bell that continuously disrupts the conversation between the main characters, as if motioning when topics are getting absurd, or pointless, or off-track.  Nonetheless, that is the way life is – it tends to get off-kilter at times, and we encounter people who may amuse us one moment, vex us the next, or be a loyal lifelong partner when we least expect that person to.  The play effectively intersperses clever and witty dialogue with satire and a large dose of comic relief, making it a memorable piece of literature worth sharing with friends and colleagues.

Works Cited

“100 Best-Loved Poems, Christopher Marlowe: The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” Weblog entry. Lime Tree. 26 May 2008. 28 September 2008 <http://lime-tree.blogspot.com/2008/05/100-best-loved-poems-christopher.html>.

Sweet Wong, Hertha. Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine: A Casebook (Casebooks in Contemporary Fiction). New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Vervet. “Sure Thing by David Ives” Online posting. Nov. 2002. 28 Sept. 2008 ;http://forums.interestingnonetheless.net/display.php?tid=13801;.

Walker, Alice. The Complete Stories. London: Orion Books, Ltd., 2005.

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