This semester, I taught Stephen Crane’s “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” for the first time, and there are a few aspects of the story that I think are worth considering. The first item is a hypothetical exploration of the voices we hear in the text, specifically the voices of the drummer and the eponymous bride. The second has to do with the interactions between the east and the west that are already occurring within Yellow Sky before Potter and his new bride arrive back in the town. These two items provide interesting discussions within class and will help students think not just about the story’s themes but also about Crane’s aesthetic choices and how those choices affect our reading of the story.
At the end of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), Nick Carraway goes over to Gatsby’s dark, empty house then heads down to the beach where he sprawls out on the sand and begins to think about the past, the time before he or Gatsby or Tom and Daisy or anyone else built enormous structures on East Egg and West Egg. He becomes “aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes–a fresh green breast of the new world.” He transports himself back to the colonial era when Dutch settlers saw the area as a new land, one that they felt needed taming. The trees that the settlers saw have all gone, making way for Gatsby’s mansion. Nick continues to think that, “for a transitory moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent,” thinking about what wonders it contains.
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While I ultimately see Ralph Waldo Emerson’s and the transcendentalists’ ideas as pretty little bubbles devoid of any substance, I enjoy reading Emerson’s thoughts on nature, beauty, and perception. Being in Norway this year, Emerson’s words keep coming back to me almost everyday as I walk to and from work, hike in the mountains, and just travel round Bergen and Norway. I wonder if this feeling will wear off. Will I become acclimated to my surroundings and cease to gaze upon them in awe and admiration? Will they become just another part of my daily commute? Will the mountains, water, clouds, and beauty fade into the background?