We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates: Maturity Theme

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In We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates highlights the woes of maturity as it pertains to the anxious Judd Mulvaney through the incorporation of muddled syntax, apprehensive epiphanies, and perturbed repetition. The title of the passage demonstrates the manner in which Judd reacts after learning about the perils of death, thus revealing Judd’s conscious thoughts and perceptions. Judd transforms from a naive young boy to a man who is regrettably more knowledgeable about his surroundings.

Initially, Judd’s thoughts are disorganized and consist of no real coherent notions, however as he begins to undergo a transformation, he obtains self-knowledge even though he may not want to. He reveals his childlike innocence when he repeats “ONEtwothree” thus emphasizing how punctuation and syntax illustrate his youthful mentality. The detail that Oates places in his characterization of Judd stresses the manner in which Judd perceives his current surroundings. The enlightenment that takes place with Judd, occurs in nature, an area that is the recipient of random occurrences and deaths, which is why Oates incorporates the unorganized syntax to serve as a foundation for further changes. The repetition of “Every heartbeat is past and gone” helps present the vastness and significance of his discovery. Judd keeps thinking about the subject of death, however the different occasions that he thinks about it, he associates the phrase with different thoughts causing there to be no definite connotation with the meaning of the phrase. Oates repetition conveys how stressed Judd is in regards to how he attempts to save the lives of those around him, as well as his own, which portrays his mature nature.

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The substantial information that Judd experiences drastically changes his mindset, as he can no longer go back to the boy he was before. With his epiphany, Judd acknowledges that people are not immortal, and those around him will eventually die. He did not believe that “Judd Mulvaney could die” and it is at this moment where it finally dawns on him that he will one day perish just as everyone else does. Logically, he understands that he will die however he cannot bring himself to comprehend that he actually “could”. The denotative meaning of “could” deals with how it is a possibility, however lexically the ambiguous nature of the word implies that Judd never thought death was plausible. Judd now has a different mentality, however with his new insight he remains childlike on the exterior in order to conform to his original naive role that he originally belongs to. With Judd’s new found knowledge, he recognizes that he must mask the truth so that he does not upset those around him.

In We Were the Mulvaneys Oates introduces Judd, a boy whose day turns into a tragedy as he acknowledges that all of life will end at one point. The muddled syntax that Oates incorporates demonstrates the passing beauty of nature after it has reached its peak. Judd is characterized as a young boy who grows as the passage progresses, revealing that he himself is on a journey that results in death.

Both poems, “The History Teacher” by Billy Collins and “A Barred Owl” by Richard Wilbur, highlight vulnerability of children in regards to how they are easily influenced through the incorporation of simple irony, rhyme schemes, and casual syntax. The poems have similar intentions and meanings, however their points are demonstrated in differing manners.

The ignorant nature of Collin’s poem plays a substantial role in the manner that he divulges the tale since unlike Wilbur’s poem, irony unearths that the bullies do not learn from the past. When the bullies “torment the weak and the smart…”, Collin’s conveys that history will repeat itself as it still attempts to “protect” the children. The teacher and his lies are also apart of the historical cycle primarily because throughout history people did not learn history, therefore they are destined to repeat it. Instead of teaching history, the teacher provides history with the opportunity to continue its treacherous cycle. The irony also stems from how the teacher is unaware of how he influences his students as he casually walks by the “white picket fence”, an allusion to perfection. This poem highlights the dangers that are associated with lying to the up and coming youth.

To contrast, Wilbur highlights the benefits of lying to children through the poem’s specific rhyme scheme and syntax. The poem initially starts out with soft sounding words, however as the plot progresses, the consonants sound more harsh. This demonstrates the swift manner in which innocence can be lost. The AABB CCDD EEFF GG rhyme scheme allows the words to easily be said in some instances, highlighting the simple nature of lying. The rhyme scheme also connects each individual line to the previous one in a childlike way, so that when the owl is brought up, fear will play a more significant role, more so than if the poem dealt with adults. The irony of how the child gets scared by the benign owl conveys the erratic nature of fear. The phrase “if rightly listened to” strengthens Wilber's argument in regards to the personal understanding of fear. Wilbur simply writes the frightening poem with rhyming couplets and embedded sarcasm. By relieving the child of their fear with a lie, the speaker demonstrates his power in regards to his ability to take away or elicit fear. The lies that adults have to lie or tell the truth demonstrates how it is human nature to comfort youth and to procrastinate informing children about serious issues.

These two poems illustrate the benefits and harms that are associated with lying to children. Lies will always cause issues to occur, whether it be in the present or future, and it does not matter what the intention is behind the lie, the same effect will still take place. Children can be easily manipulated, thus leaving adults with the power to make decisions on behalf of their better interests, however adults sometimes bring in personal desires and issues when deciding whether to lie or tell the truth.

1997-Novels and plays often include scenes of weddings, funerals, parties, and other social occasions. Such scenes may reveal the values of the characters and the society in which they live. Select a novel or play that includes such a scene and, in a focused essay, discuss the contribution the scene makes to the meaning of the work as a whole.

Social situations allow authors the opportunity to reveal the manner in which characters behave and view themselves. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald highlights the dominating role social class plays in determining if certain people can be apart of a specific social standing, which reflects why Gatsby along with those who participate in the action of the Roaring twenties decide to conform to society’s values. The lavish parties that Gatsby throws succeed in providing him with an improved name and status, which is the foundation for his elite image. Gatsby becomes the main topic of discussion at his parties in attempt to hide his true past and identity.

Fitzgerald incorporates the party scenes in order to demonstrate how people strive to live a lavish lifestyle and have an untainted reputation in order to alleviate and keep their social standing. Gatsby associates himself with the wealthy in order for his prominent role as a mysterious and prosperous man to go unquestioned. However, his rival, Tom Buchanan decides to attack all that he stands for which demonstrates the addictive nature of wealth and power. No matter how rich Gatsby is, he is unable to be truly happy as long as Tom has what he so desires, Daisy. His desire to gain Daisy back through his newly acquired money reveals the greedy mindset of those living during the roaring twenties. Gatsby’s decision to surrender his life for money is irreversible, and puts him on a self-destructive path. People who get lured in by what the upperclass has to offer cannot avoid the heartache and destructiveness that it offers.

During the party that Tom and Daisy attend, Tom engages in flirtatious encounters with other women, and Fitzgerald seizes this moment as an opportunity to highlight the corrupt nature of those who are surrounded by wealth. Tom is a selfish and unfaithful man who causes Daisy to feel miserable when she is with him. The manner in which Tom enjoys the party illustrates how he is happier when surrounded by what he should not engage in. Rather than spending time with his wife and embracing the party for what it does not offer, in this case happiness, he goes off and ignores what would actually leave him feeling content. The other people who attend Gatsby’s party take advantage of Gatsby and his money which results in him appearing irresponsible. In the eyes of society, Gatsby and the Buchanan’s come across as overly materialistic conceited in their beliefs demonstrating the judgement that will always follow no matter what social class you are apart of. The desire to advance in social class is not always healthy and will result in the either personal downfall or infinite sorrow.

Fitzgerald sheds light on how the main concerns of people that attend vast parties blind them from seeing the truth of the matter. Insecurity and ignorance allow Gatsby to continue on his path towards wealth, however those traits are also what lead to his demise. The values that are associated with the upper class do not allow for them to obtain true happiness which allows the materialistic cycle to continue in order to compensate. These luxurious parties contribute to the widening gap in regards to social classes, as the values of those that are apart of each class become more extreme. By wasting resources and taking advantage of others, the parties also help Fitzgerald convey his belief that wealth is not what defines men, but the actions they partake in do.

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