Zuly’s Reading Questions for April 5th

Gwendolyn Bennett, Poet, and Artist born - African American Registry

Background Information: Gwendolyn Bennett.

“Bennett is known for her poems short stories. Most of her works were published between the mid-1920’s and late 1930’s. Some notable poems include: “Wind”, “On a Birthday”, “Street Lamps in Early Spring”, “Lines Written at the Grave of Alexandre Dumas” and “Moon Tonight”. Two short stories, “Wedding Day” and “Tokens”, were published in 1926 and 1927, respectively. Her work was based on the Harlem Renaissance; empathizing on Harlem culture, African values and racial pride” (Rohrbach Library Home: Gwendolyn Bennett).

The Wedding Day

  1. Why do you think Bennett describes Paul Watson very clearly at the beginning of the short story? Why do you think Bennett describes the hatred that Paul has?
  2. Why was it so important for Bennett to explain in the text Paul’s culture? Why do you think that Bennett mentioned France in the text? “The close of the war gave him his place in French society as a hero” (Bennett143).
  3. The text that we have been reading in class, the authors have mentioned that the soldiers who have not died from the war… still live at war. By this I mean have internal conflicts due to the trauma they have lived. My point is, why does Bennett only mention in the text “With only a memory of the war and an ugly scar on his left cheek he took up his old life” (Bennett 143). Do you think he ever recovered from the war?

“Gwendolyn Bennett, Poet, and Artist Born.” African American Registry, 29 Jan. 2022, https://aaregistry.org/story/gwendolyn-bennett-was-a-great-poet-and-artist/.

“Rohrbach Library Home: Gwendolyn Bennett: Biography.” Biography – Gwendolyn Bennett – Rohrbach Library Home at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, 31 Oct. 2018, https://library.kutztown.edu/bennett.

Stragglers in the Dust

  1. Why do you think Miller mentions the forgotten soldiers? The soldiers that are unknown?? As if the identity of the soldiers are just numbers but not as human beings?? We have seen this couple of times in the readings before.
  2. Why do you think in the text it mentions on page 3, “NAN. Yuh know it’s kinda nice dat dey bring all dem wreaths and ribbons to put on him, but somehow Ah wishes dey had lef’ him where he was” (Miller 3).
  3. Why do you think Miller mentions France in the text?

17 thoughts on “Zuly’s Reading Questions for April 5th

  1. The Wedding Day
    1-Paul Watson was a powerful man and I think the author describes him in such detail so readers will understand that Paul only used his immense power when confronted with racism. The hatred is deeply ingrained in Paul and the reader needs to understand that the hatred is the one thing that has a “hold” on Paul. The one aspect of his life that he seems not to be able to control, which is why he shoots the two American sailors.
    2-Paul’s release from jail and subsequent elevation to a hero in the French army is an important point about the character of this man. The only thing that upsets Paul is the overt and stinging racism of white Americans. This is such an important point because it must have taken every ounce of strength for Paul to overcome his internal hatred to want to marry Mary, a white American woman. Paul had avoided all women until Mary and it is slightly ironic that it would be a “fallen woman” who Paul would choose as a life partner. The author implies that this romantic relationship cost Paul the respect of his peers as, “He had suddenly fallen from his place as bronze God to almost less than dust (146).”
    3-In this particular story, the author tells us that, as a soldier, Paul had a new “equality” and the war gave him “his place in French society” (143). I interpreted this as the war giving Paul new meaning and a greater humanity which was why he opened his heart to Mary. So, I do believe the war never left him but it had been a good influence up until the moment (the break-up letter) Mary reignited the fire of hate towards racists that burned inside Paul. I interpreted the mud on his suit as an indication that he had killed Mary, something he said he would have to do if she called him a _(144).

    Stragglers in the Dust

    1-Miller is paying homage to the fallen, particularly the African Americans who were killed on Flanders fields. So many wives, mothers, and sisters lost men and could not achieve closure with a burial as the men had to be buried where they fell. Rudyard Kipling’s son John is an example of one of the fallen who was laid to rest in French soil.

    https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/first-world-war-mystery-of-kiplings-son-solved-copy.html?A1c=1

    2-The mother seems to be saying that her child would have been better off being laid to rest in the soil where he fell. I think this may be because she truly believes the tomb to be her son’s and its presence haunts her day and night.
    3-The Western front in France was the place where the constant fighting was so intense that scores of men fell and were buried where they lay. This makes mentioning France an appropriate way of honoring the fallen.

  2. The Wedding Day
    1. Bennett describes Paul in depth to allow readers to make an emotional connection with him and emphasize the hideous powerful racism has. His name is repeated twice in the first paragraph so it sticks with anyone who reads the piece as they view him as an individual person. The idea that he could be any other person is established right away, which is interesting because it reinforces the idea that one never really knows what is going on in anyone else’s life just by looking at them. He could have been any other person, but he was not, he was Paul Watson and he has his own unique and valuable story most people could never understand or relate to. Furthermore, if a man of this size and height is repeatedly beaten down by the prejudices of others, then it is a powerful force. The author makes sure audiences understand he is a strong person so if it can impact his life this intensely even when he is in a different country, then one can only imagine the terrible effect it has on so many others. I also really like the point made above about Paul’s immense power being described to demonstrate he only uses that power when confrtoned with racism, especially given that “any one of the residents about the great Montmartre district of Paris could have told you who he was as well as many interesting bits of his personal history.” He is in some ways a larger than life figure that everyone talks about, but they know he only uses this power when confronted with hatred.
    Stragglers in the Dust
    1. Miller mentions the fallen soldiers because it is easier to think of them as statistics. By remembering them in this story as men in graves with mothers who miss them, audiences have to confront the horror war brings. The men who see the grave of the unknown soldier are more uncomfortable when the mother believes the man to be her son because it makes him more real. When he is just a body in the ground, they can move on with their lives, but hearing her say he was all she had hurts more. However, it should not matter if they are presented with his mother directly because someone who feels this way about the man is somewhere out there, feeling this exact way and to some extent that should be just as painful.
    2. I agree the grave haunts her and I think it is also a recognition of how trivial all the ceremony around a soldier’s death can be in comparison to the weight of his death. The idea of leaving him where he was can be viewed even more broadly than leaving his body in France, but also a comment on how leaving him alone and not having him involved in the war at all would have been worth so much more than giving him flowers and a nice ceremony for his death.

  3. 3. The war gave Paul a purpose and a sort of equality he never had before. Finally, a place where being big and strong mattered more than race which is something, especially in America, that was unattainable. This is why Paul is able to detach himself from the normal spiritual horrors that come with war. So yes, he recovered from the war, but never recovers from racism that prevails until the end by Mary leaving him right before the wedding.

    2. Nan wishes they had left the body in France because she truly believed it was her son and wanted him to be buried where he was most comfortable: in open nature.

  4. 3. I think the physical representation of the scar shows the scarring of the war on Paul’s mind. He was hardened by life already and his survival in the war only made it worse. Paul is still (rightfully) bitter at the racist society that is still prevalent in America. Without France I think his fate in life would have been a lot worse. I think the white woman that couldn’t go through with the marriage is the last straw that breaks him. He was finally allowing himself to open up and be a bit more vulnerable, looking past biases and a history of hurt. Just like his scar, this experience will plague his countenance till the end of his life.

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