Arden Jones’ Reading Questions for April 12th

  1. As Miranda is being treated by Dr. Hildesheim for her influenza, she has a dream about him garbed in a “German helmet” and “carrying a naked infant writhing on the point of his bayonet” (Porter 322). This causes her to panic, thinking her physician is a “Boche, a spy, a Hun” who needs to be “kill[ed]…before he kills” her or somebody else (Porter 322). Do you think that during the war and after the Armistice, those xenophobic feelings were explicitly expressed to people with German backgrounds despite them either being non-combatants or on the side of the Allied forces? In what ways could this behavior affect the livelihoods of Americans with German heritage and German residents during the Influenza of 1918?
  2. Miranda gets to see the end of the Great War, but is still fighting her own battle. As she begins to recover from her bout of the flu, Miranda begins to wonder about whether the better alternative is being alive or dead or her ability to share her exerpience with people who may not understand nor appreciate resembles that of soldiers and nurses’ experiences with the war. Even though Miranda never saw the war nor its horrors up close, do you think her experience with the flu virus warrants this response? Is she valid for feeling this way? What are the differences and similarities between Miranda’s experiences to that of soliders and nurses?
  3. Throughout the story, especially towards the end, Miranda’s has several dreams. One had a ship and a “writhing [terrible]” jungle that “exuded the ichor of death”, another where she Adam where being shot by arrows through the heart but were stuck in a “perpetual [cycle of] death and resurrection, and one that started off in a paradise-like environment that shifted into a hellscape (Porter 311, 317). Do you think that these dreams relate back to Miranda’s feelings about love and death? What exactly do they reveal about Miranda? Narratively, what role do the dreams play?

Amanda’s Reading Questions for April 7th

  1. We once again see peer-pressure patriotism throughout this text, which is best highlighted at the beginning of the story by the collectors trying to goad Miranda into “doing her bit” by buying Liberty Bonds she can’t afford, and we see later on that they had also approached her coworker, Townie, as well. How does Porter’s approach to this subject differ from other displays of homefront patriotism that’s been portrayed in other works we’ve read so far, such as in All Quiet or in Smith? Consider that this is a piece following not a soldier or a nurse, but a female journalist who still lives a relatively normal, if crummy, life—far away from the trenches. Consider, as well, the genders of the two parties involved in the exchange; is their attitude and conduct towards her reliant on their gender, social status, occupation, etc. and if so, how? Do these aspects pop up anywhere else throughout the text, and how does this impact the setting over the backdrop of the war? What does the response/attitude of Miranda and other characters regarding this patriotism do to reinforce the larger societal mindset prevalent of home effort during the time?
  1. While this story is primarily told from a third-person limited perspective, there are times in which Porter abruptly switches the tense style to a first-person perspective, best exemplified on pp. 281-2, 283, and 288, sometimes shifting in the same paragraph. Why do you think Porter chose to write this way, outside of mere authorial intrusion? How are these specific moments significant? Are these passages more or less impactful when told from this perspective compared to Miranda’s third-person POV, or about the same? How does this story benefit from being told primarily in third-person limited?
  2. What is the significance of the title, Pale Horse, Pale Rider? Are there any symbolic or religious references you can find throughout the text we’ve read so far to explain why Porter chose this specific title? What do you think the dream sequence Miranda has with the horses at the beginning represents, and can we draw connections between the two—if so, how? How could this be connected to the character of Miranda, her relationships, and her situation?

Megan’s Reading Questions for April 7th

  1. The first two pages of Porter’s, Pale Horse, Pale Rider consist of Miranda being in a lucid dream state. In her dream, Miranda picks a horse to set out on a journey unknown to the reader. Additionally, there is the character of the “stranger” in her dream, but Miranda acknowledges that she has seen him before, claiming, “He is no stranger to me” (282). What do you make of this beginning scene in the story? Does the dream scene seem out of place to you, or do you think Porter is foretelling what might happen throughout the story? If so, what is your interpretation of Miranda’s dream? How do you connect the title to Miranda’s dream?
  2. The first section of Porter’s story highlights differing opinions on the roles women take on during war. Miranda reflects on the dances she has been to for enlisted men, claiming, “I told the chaperons at those dances for enlisted men, ‘I’ll dance with them, every dumbbell who asks me, but I will NOT talk to them,’ I said, even if there is a war. So I danced hundreds of miles without opening my mouth except to say, ‘Please keep your knees to yourself’” (288). What do you make of Miranda’s refusal to talk to the enlisted men? What does this passage convey of Miranda’s feelings towards the war? By refusing to talk to the men is she refusing to do her “womanly” duty during the war?
  3. During this section of reading, an actor approaches Miranda extremely upset about a poor review she gave him. The encounter upsets Miranda, who states, “’There’s too much of everything in this world just now. I’d like to sit down here on the curb, Chuck, and die, and never again see—I wish I could lose my memory and forget my own name…I wish—” (300). Why does Porter have this confrontation be some sort of a breaking point for Miranda? Why is Miranda so troubled that she hurt someone in this situation when there are larger issues at hand? (War, her personal symptoms of sickness, etc.)

Alex’s Reading Questions for March 31

Chapter XI marks a distinct shift in the novel.  Suddenly, without warning, we find ourselves in the trenches.  This is the first actual description of the war that we’ve seen in the novel, and it takes place over halfway through it.  I find this to be a really interesting choice that Daly is making, and I have a few questions about it.  Why does Daly choose to begin his descriptions of combat so abruptly–do you feel like he’s making a greater commentary about war itself, or is it simply a narrative tactic?  How is the war functioning differently in this novel than in the previous novels we’ve read?  What insights about the war do we gain by spending so much of the novel physically separate from it?

Daly’s novel is described as having two major conflicts: the tangible, corporeal combat of the war, and the mental/emotional combat of racism.  By the end of the novel, do you feel like these two conflicts are equal in their magnitude, or does one feel more significant?  Are the scars of one more painful than the other?  What seems more impactful to Montie?

When Casper is injured and Montie begins to help him, he states that “war isn’t the only hell that [he’s] been through lately” (69).  How do you read this?  What is the “other hell” that Casper is referencing?

The last few lines of the novel were some of the most impactful to me.  In the final scene, we are presented with Casper and Montie, “two bodies slumped as one,” entangled and side by side in their death.  How do you read this?  What are the implications of this ending, and what do they tell us about the relationship between war and race?  Does race really matter in no-man’s land?  

Jane Hill’s Reading Question for March 24

  • The poem “1914” by Rupert Brooke (Pages 104-106) is unusually optimistic or positive about the war, describing it in religious tones that one would more likely find in pre-WWI descriptions of ‘good and moral wars’. Is there any value to be found in this perspective about the war, and if so, what?
  • Isaac Rosenberg was born in 1890 to a poor Lithuanian, Jewish family that had to flee due to the harsh Russian occupation. Rosenberg then was raised in England and became a noted poet and artist before the war began. He was a strong pacifist and lacked any feelings of patriotism, and he faced a great deal of anti-semitism in the Allied army. In Rosenberg’s poem “Break of Day in the Trenches” (pages 137-138) the focus is on a rat with “cosmopolitan sympathies” as it rushes back and forth between the British and German trenches. What does the rat mean in the context of this poem, and how does Rosenberg’s unique background seem to shape this perspective? What are your responses to the ideas and views presented?
  • The poem “1914” by Rupert Brooke and the poem “1916 seen from 1921” by Edmund Blunden stand in sharp contrast to each other in terms of tone and feelings about both the Great War and war in general. “1914” is overall more optimistic, viewing war as a holy and righteous cause worthy of the pursuit of all who are virtuous, while “1916 seen from 1921” talks about the war as a tragic obligation that has destroyed a great deal. Brooke died in 1917, while Blunden lived until the 70s. How is it that the same historical situation produced such different views in different men in the same situations? Are both of these poems valid in their points, or is one or the other more or less valid than the other. Is there something to gain by reading these two works together, and if so what?
  • In the excerpt from “In Parenthesis” by David Jones, a consistent pattern of repeated sounds and phrases is used, such as “the rat of no-man’s-land” going “scrut,scrut,sscrut” or the repetition of the word “nor” in the final section. What emotion does this consistent style evoke in the reader, and are there other stylistic techniques used by Jones that you’d want to comment on?

Miranda’s Reading Questions for March 24th

  • “Break of Day in the Trenches” is essentially about a soldier in the trenches that comes across a rat. The soldier seems to resent the rat as the poem continues. In Rosenberg’s, “Break of Day in the Trenches”, what does the rat represent? Why does the narrator seem jealous of it? 
  • “Louse Hunting” is a poem that describes a battle fought on the soldier’s bodies rather than the battlefield. In this poem how are lice significant? How do they represent the war’s effect on the soldier’s psyches?  
  •  Blunden’s, “1916 Seen from 1921” is about the effects war has on soldiers’ lives. What are the narrator’s views on life after the war for soldiers? Are they accurate to this day? 

Laura’s Reading Questions for March 15

1. Borden expresses disdain and criticism for her work several times in this section, especially in “Rosa,” in which they attempt heal a man who attempted suicide even though he will subsequently be court-martialed and killed, “Conspiracy,” in which they “mend” soldiers and send them back to the front repeatedly until they finally die and “conspire against his right to die” by performing surgeries (80), and in “In the Operating Room,” in which surgeons ignore and dehumanize patients. How do you think Borden perceives her job, and how does she resist or conform to it?

2. In “Paraphernalia,” Borden uses the second person, speaking to an unclear “you.” Who do you think she is addressing, and to what effect? How does she perceive this “you” character?

3. In these stories, Borden often uses animal imagery. The soldier in “Rosa” is compared to an ox, beast, and dog (63-66, 69), Borden refers to a possible new race of men having hatched “like newts, slugs, larvae of water beetles” in “The City in the Desert” (74-75), a patient is called an “animal” in “In the Operating Room” (86), and in “Conspiracy,” Borden feeds a “helpless” soldier to “fatten him up,” which is language that suggests a helpless animal fattened for slaughter (81). What is the purpose of this imagery, and what effect does it have?

Brooke’s Reading Questions for March 10th The Forbidden Zone

  1. In Borden’s Fragment titled Moonlight, she lists three companions on page 40, “Pain, Life and Death.” She then spends the next six pages describing what Pain does and how Pain infects her daily life and those around her. “Pain is the stronger. She is the greater. She is insatiable, greedy, vilely amorous, lustful, obscene.” She gives Pain feminine pronouns, calling it she/her/hers. What does making “pain” feminine add or take away from the story? In all of the literature we have read so far, what else is described with feminine pronouns and how does that connect to Borden’s idea of a feminine Pain?
  2. Borden writes for the people who did not serve in the Great War, then and now. This includes us as a class. If this was the only book we had to study, the only book that came out of The Great War, would your feelings about the war change? Would your understanding of the war change? What understandings have we gained through our other texts that are missing from The Forbidden Zone? What ideas are present here that we have not seen anywhere else?
  3. Similar to “The Beach,” Borden on multiple occasions has “zoomed out” of the story she is telling. Physically she seems to be so far away that people turn into “flies on the beach (p37),” and “ant people (p13).” These fragments she is sharing with us are all supposed to be moments she has witnessed herself, but clearly she is not a giant or watching from an airplane. Why does she repeatedly stay far away from the narrative she is sharing?

Amanda Ramirez’s Reading Questions for Thursday, 2/24

Quick note: MAJOR spoilers ahead, early viewers beware! You have been warned!

Question 1

In chapter 34, when Frederic and Catherine are staying at the hotel together, Frederic remarks to himself:

“The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

Do you think that we could see this quote as a possible allusion to/foreshadowing of Catherine’s soon-to-be fate? Was death in a “special hurry” to meet Catherine, as she is regarded as being among the ranks of “the very good and the very gentle and the very brave” by Frederic? Why or why not?

Question 2

We have spoken fairly in-depth about our views on the symbolism of rain and water throughout this story. The theme quite actually does not stop until the very end of the last chapter where it is forced to do so upon the closing of the last sentence. The last line of chapter 41 reads as follows:

“After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.”

In the context of Frederic leaving the hospital after the deaths of both Catherine and their son, and taking into consideration some of the ways in which we suppose the rain is meant to reflect his emotional state, do you view the rain he walks out into to act more as a cleansing force for him or as a sign of his despair? Or, do you see it as being of other significance? In any instance, why?

Question 3

As the second appendix of the novel states, Hemingway wrote 47 different endings to A Farewell to Arms. Although some are more complete than others, each one offers a different take on the end direction of the novel. At the canonical conclusion of Frederic Henry’s story as we know it, do you feel that the ending lived up to your expectations? Additionally, do you feel as if Hemingway should have gone with one of his several other endings for Frederic’s story instead? If so, which one(s) do you find to be a more suitable ending? Do you feel that your chosen alternative ending(s) would do the story better justice? How?

Riley Smith’s Reading Questions for 2/24

Question 1:

Books IV and V narrate the transition from the tumultuous war to Catherine and Frederic’s blissful time together in Switzerland before they are torn apart by her death. What role does their domestic existence in the mountains play in the novel? How do their identities change throughout Books IV and V as they make their escape to Switzerland? Consider Catherine’s statement “It might be short. Then we’d both be alike. Oh, darling, I want you so much I want to be you too”(270) and Frederic’s “Knotting my tie and looking in the glass I looked strange to myself in the civilian clothes”(233). 

Question 2:

While Catherine is usually the one to contribute the more profound statements in dialogue, Frederic contributes several wise statements himself as the narrator. On page 226(in my copy), soon after the two reunite, Frederic has a very abrupt, but intense thought. 

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry”(226).  

What impact do the abruptness and stylistic elements, such as repetition, have? Does your interpretation of the passage change after rereading it now that you have finished the novel? Would you qualify Catherine as very good, very gentle, very brave, or none of those?

Question 3:

As several people discussed on here before, the novel’s opening paragraph is a beautiful use of simple, descriptive language. 

“In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. The bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves”(1). 

This short, final paragraph leaves more unsaid, but delivers a strong emotional impact and proves Hemingway’s brilliance. 

“But after I got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn’t any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain”(297). 

Compare the first and last paragraphs to one another now that you have finished the novel. What does each convey and how do they play off each other?

Bonus Questions: 

A: When I read this in high school, my teacher felt there were three people who taught Frederic about love: Catherine(obviously), the priest(I went to Catholic school, so naturally he had to be included), and Count Greffi(no one in my class even remembered him when she first said his name). At the end of the novel, he has been impacted by a range of people and events to reflect on as he walks alone in the rain. What is the most important thing each of these people taught him? Is there anyone else you would include on this list? 

B: When Henry sees his child, he says “I had no feeling for him. He did not seem to have anything to do with me. I felt no feeling of fatherhood”(291). How important is this statement? What does it tell us about Frederic? Do you have any theories about what happens to Frederic after the novel? What would it have been like if his child had survived and Catherine died, or the other way around(given she would have probably felt a stronger sense of grief over the child’s death)?