Sunday, September 7, 2008

Have the authors we have read satisfied the function of the storyteller expressed by Holt’s fables?

            In class we came to a tentative consensus over what the Zebra storyteller’s function is society was. We agreed (and if you didn’t just bare with me) that the storyteller was able to guard society of dangerous situations by imagining them himself first, thereby warning us of surprisingly harmful situations. I do not want to focus on the fable per say, but on whether Hawthorne, Poe, and Melville have in fact provided a service for society comparable to the Zebra Storyteller’s.

            Hawthorne’s allegory of disenchantment with piousness is not merely the story of one young man and his unfortunate rendezvous with the devil. It is the story of every man’s encounter with skepticism about the world that surrounds him. Hawthorne gives Young Goodman Brown a miserable ending to what became a miserable existence and thereby warns us of being overly trusting and overly skeptic. Poe service to society is more obvious yet equally important. To put it succinctly: He scares us to death. Poe reminds us that man is capable of unthinkable crimes. Montresor’s immurement (I had to look that up) of Fortunato is creepy to the point that you would think twice about visiting anyone’s wine cellar, or getting too drunk. In all seriousness, Montresor’s is hinted as being a sociopath and his actions do nothing but confirm it. Bartleby the Scrivener is harder to decode. Bartleby’s own almost absurdist attitude is hard to come to grasps with. This is a story of Wall Street, and Bartleby’s seemingly absurd attitude is contrasted with the lawyers seeming rationality. Melville is being critical of our own judgment. No one really knows what to make of Bartleby, but it is clear to everyone that he does not belong. In the end he is relegated by the establishment to prison, with the criminals as Melville is quick to note, despite the fact that the only thing he can be judged of is preferring not to.

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