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Samuel Beardslee’s Formal Post on Jim Ferris’ “Poet of Cripples”

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we carry within, our hidden void,
a place for each to become full, whole,
room of our own, space to grow in ways
unimaginable to the straight
and the narrow, the small and similar,
the poor, normal ones who do not know
their poverty. (lines 6-12)

A common theme which has appeared in several pieces of Literature throughout this semester is the idea of a disabled character bringing about an epiphany for another main character.  The concept behind “the epiphany” implies that a certain ignorance is in place before an event occurs which illuminates the situation and matures that person’s thoughts on the subject in question.  This is important to distinguish in disability readings, as how this epiphany is handled determines what is ultimately said about the disabled character’s role.  Jim Ferris, in “Poet of Cripples”, focuses, among other things, on the ideal role of the disabled individual in life.  He also addresses another problem people have both in and out of fiction.  People wish to gain an understanding of the world around them, and this is exceedingly difficult due to the innumerable inconsistencies and paradoxes that one encounters.  When confronted with an abnormality, people react in different ways, however, these reactions are simply a process in which we “make sense” of the world around us.  Unfortunately, the definition of “abnormal” is becoming grayer with each passing year, which can lead to a treatment of disabled persons as something “other” and “unapproachable.”

One of the more difficult obstacles in the way of human understanding is understanding another human.  This is to say that sympathy and, much more so, empathy, while difficult to consistently utilize, are essential in making sense of humanity, not only in terms of society, but also to the metaphysical concepts of the state of being.  Finding connections and similarities between two people is daunting and sometimes risky, as finding these points of common understanding can lead others deeper into one’s own psyche than one is comfortable with.  This is “the hidden void” mentioned in Ferris’ poem, a place which we desperately wish to fill, and certainly try, but, more often than not, fail.   Filling this void seems to be impossible by oneself, so we turn to others to help fill it, however we do not know if the other is going to help fill the void or to expand its emptiness.  So we search for ways to gauge whether or not another with help or harm by finding points of similarity or complementarity.  This is difficult enough on a psychological level.  When someone is disabled, suddenly their outlook on life is different than the majority of the world, which makes them harder to connect with.  At least, this is the initial thought process regarding anyone who is “other.”

What Ferris is trying to convey in this poem is the lines of connection, of sympathy and empathy, that can be made between all people, whether they are “abnormal” or “normal”.  In fact, he points to those who are “normal”  and calls them ignorant, “the poor, normal ones who do not know/ their poverty.”  By calling attention to the fact that disabled persons, by virtue of seeing the world through a lens that far from what is considered “the norm”, are, in fact, more in tune with the answer of the great question of humanity than “normal” people.  However, Ferris does not say this as a slam against those who are not disabled.  On the contrary, he is calling everyone broken, hobbling, empty, and longing.  All disabled in their own way, trying to make sense of the world that seems to want to make sense but then throws a pink elephant into the room.  He is saying that, in our quest to reach our own epiphanies, the “other” lens may be what we are missing.  It is in this way that Ferris shows the ideal representation of a disabled person’s role in another’s life.  Showing that both characters in question are human, and therefore both searching, in their own way, for fulfillment, is the best way in which to portray any disabled person interacting with someone else.  Likewise, if all people are disabled, then it should be of utmost importance to ensure that the “other”, since it is a concept which isolates and degrades those grouped into it, does not get in the way of finding that understanding that which we all are looking for.

Written by Spyden

November 5th, 2010 at 1:08 am

Allison Miller’s Formal Blog Post on The Sound of Fury: April 8, 1928

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Ben’s voice roared and roared. Queenie moved again, her feet began to clop-clop steadily again, and at once Ben hushed. Luster looked quickly back over his shoulder, then he drove on. The broken flower drooped over Ben’s fist and his eyes were empty and blue and serene again as cornice and faĉade flowed smoothly once more from left to right, post and tree, window and doorway and signboard each in its ordered place.” (Faulkner, The Sound And the Fury)

In this passage, Luster made a left turn on his way to the graveyard and caused Benjy to scream. When Jason came, he drove Queenie back to the original path, where Benjy got quiet again. This scene showed that the past is still powerful because it is still there. In other words, time is normalized by making Queenie walk back slowly to the original path, and Benjy’s reaction after the turn. Faulkner showed this to warn the readers that time is constructed in order to normalize society. Time worked against Benjy because he became trapped in the past. He couldn’t escape because he did the same thing every day.  

One observation was Queenie’s movement to the left. When she moved to the left, it disrupted Benjy’s state of mind because it was a different from the path. However, once Jason brought Queenie back to a slow pace back onto the path, Benjy was quiet. Queenie’s movement could represent a shift of  sense of change of time, something different than the norm. When going back onto the path, the narrative made Benjy a dependent character by staying on the familiar path. The narrative made him unable to accept that change of time and therefore staying in the past. Once Queenie began to “clop-clop steadily again”, it represented time going back to the way it was, creating a  sense of time (the past).  When Benjy’s past (not Benjy’s narrative of the past, but what happened chronologically to his family in the past) dominated the movement, it became the more “ablelist” concept, making it impossible to see any change for Benjy.

Another observation was when after Queenie got back on the path.  What’s interesting is Faulkner’s word choice in the last sentence (such as the word ”serene’). Because Queenie’s movement might have represented a difference or shift of constructed time, it caused Benjy to scream because it was different.  The word serene made the scene as if Benjy didn’t scream. The word serene gets rid of that tension, as if nothing happened.  Also, Benjy’s empty stare was compared to nature and society by objects and concepts. The objects represented “normal” functions in society and nature, and could also be a symbol for nature and society working in a specific order. The whole sentence erased the tension within the scene, as if relieving Ato Quayson’s “aesthetic nervousness” by suppressing it with constructed time. No one knows what Benjy’s scream indicated but by erasing the tension, Faulkner created hid Benjy’s scream by making everything calm again because if he screamed, he would be disrupting society’s “normal” function and maybe enforcing change to the past.

Overall, Benjy’s character became less than what he was because constructed time dominated the ending.  It’s as if the narrator tranquilized Benjy in order not disrupt the repetition of constructed time and let time and society continue to be normalized. However, the question is, “Can society and nature break away from constructed time?”

Written by library1288

October 20th, 2010 at 12:03 am