Who owns the Plantation?

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When I first read Flannery O’Conners “The displaced person”, I have to admit I wasn’t sure who was the owner of the house, and who was hired help. The way Mrs. Shortley is portrayed in the first paragraph made me assume she was the owner. She is described as how she sees herself I believe, as someone who is higher, than she actually is. She is a character who makes herself easy to dislike. She holds very many prejudices against the polish family the Guziacs, and the African american hired help, whom she refers to as Negros. Even though her family is also hired help.

Her description in the beginning of the story, portrays how she views herself. “She stood on two tremendous legs, with the grand self-confidence of a mountain, and rose up narrowing bulges of granite, to two icy blue points of light that pierced forward, surveying everything.” This description is a good overview of how her character is in this story. She views herself as above everyone else, and she casts a lot of judgment on others. We are never told her exact duties on Mrs. McIntyre’s farm, which is why it took me a little more reading to realize her family was hired help. We know her husband works for Mrs. McIntyre, but her role is never clarified.

Mrs. Shortley and Mrs. McIntyre seem to be close friends, they talk about the other help calling them “sorry people, poor white trash, and niggers.” If Mrs McIntyre viewed her as that way, they wouldn’t have talked about it together. What makes her any different form the other help, I don’t really know, but they are viewed as better than the others. She says ” They’re what is called displaced persons. It means they ain’t where they were born at and there’s nowhere for them to go-like if you was run out of here and wouldn’t nobody have you.” She herself is a displaced person, not any better off than the rest of the hired help. When she gets word that her husband is going to be fired, Mrs. Shortley packs up her family, and drives off with no destination. She has no destination, just as she described the displaced person wouldn’t have a place to go. She in fact is also a displaced person, but she doesn’t see herself as one. She takes her fear of displacement out on those she perceives as inferior to herself. She is a very entitled person, when she learns her husband is going to get fired in a month, she tells him ” You ain’t waiting to be fired!” So she tells him to pack up their car, and they drive off. She wears the pants in the family so to speak, her husband didn’t even ask where they were going until they were already driving away, she seems like the type of lady who has the final say, and this supports that. Not even her husband is willing to question her. Mrs. Shortley isn’t a religious woman, it says in the story ” She had never given much thought to the devil for she felt that religion was essentially for those people who didn’t have the brains to avoid evil without it.”

Mrs. Shortley shaped my whole view of the story. From the beginning I viewed Mrs. McIntyre as the one who followed beneath Mrs. Shortley. Her personality dominated while she was alive, and even after she had died. Her views of the Guziacs stayed in the narrative long after she did. Even once Mrs. Shortley died, she was still the one Mrs. McIntyre looked for when her husband arrived at her door. Even though Mrs. Shortley fled from her work obligations, there weren’t any harboring resentments. ” It took Mrs. McIntyre three days to get over Mrs. Shortley’s death. She told herself that anyone would have thought they were kin. She Rehired Mr. Shortley to do farm work though actually she didn’t want him without his wife.” This right here demonstrates just how much control she had over everyone. Her husband wasn’t the one who wanted to run from the farm in the first place, it was her. She essentially screwed Mrs. McIntyre over, yet she is the one Mrs. McIntyre favors. That sums up a good portion of her character, she was the one who’s personality dominated, yet nobody hated her for it.

Her character is so strong that Mr. Shortley returned to the farm to kill Mr. Guziac. She had believed that he was the devil, and her husband assumed he must be responsible for her death. Even after she is gone, she has a hand in someones murder. He effectively persecutes him by using him being an immigrant in the time of world war II against him. Mr. Shortley got on a large tracker and intentionally or not (that is up for debate) runs over Mr. Guziac, leading to his death. But neither him, nor Mrs. McIntyre did anything to stop it from happening, their silence isn’t up for debate. He wanted to kill Mr. Guziac, and he succeeded.

All in all, Mrs. Shortley was the dominant character in this story. The best word I can think of to describe her is sort of like their ring leader. She was the person with a lot of power, even though in society, she was no better than any of the rest of the characters. Even after she had died, people were still doing things based on what she had said. Her husband killed a man because of her beliefs. I would even go as far to say, that even though she wasn’t physically in the story long, she was the main character. She didn’t own the farm, the workers, or anything, but she did own this story.

“The Displaced Person” Story

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Do I even Believe?

Mumford & Sons isn’t a band that I listen to often, or really at all, but the tune of this song caught my attention from the first time I listened to it. It has a very calming, uplifting sound, but the lyrics are impactful. The title “Believe” even brings up the simple yet complex question, do I believe?

First, lets clarify what believe means. Believe: to accept or regard something as true, as defined by Merriam Webster. People can believe, or not, in a lot of things, but I think this artist is specifically referring to his belief in god, and where he is struggling with that belief. In Mumford’s personal life he talks about his spiritual journey, and how it’s a “work in progress.” Also how he has separated himself from the “culture of christianity.” This sets the stage for what he is referencing in his song.  ( See the article about Mumford’s feelings towards christianity). In the opening of the song he seems to be talking directly to christians. ” May you call it in this evening, but you’ve only lost the night. Preset all your pretty feelings, may they comfort you tonight” He is referencing prayer, and how at the end of each day people spend their time reflecting about their day to god, and how it’s comforting to have god to lean on at the end of the night. Even if a christian struggles with their faith from time to time, they will return to their belief a bit easier having “only lost the night” instead of having to accept faith from the beginning, faith is less certain for him. He then goes on to say ” and I’m climbing over something, and I’m running through these walls” This is the beginning of him admitting he is struggling with the idea of god himself, it seems to be a unguided search, and he isn’t sure where to go.

The chorus repeats the verse ” I don’t even know if I believe everything you’re trying to say to me.” He isn’t taking what christians are telling him as truth. Their faith may bring up questions, which lead to his doubts. Some people are willing to take anything, anyone says as fact, he doesn’t seem to be this type of person. He isn’t saying they are wrong, but he realizes he is doubting his own faith and needs more answers. He continues his questioning of christians faith in the next verse ” I’ve had the strangest feeling, your world’s not all it seems, so tired of misconceiving, what else this could’ve been” Reading the bible can raise up a lot of questions for someone in the middle of a faith crisis, what about evolution? What about fossils? How exactly was the world created in 7 days? and so on. Some people are so set on what the bible says, that they ignore questions they can’t answer, or if it’s not written in the bible they think it can’t be possible. He seems to be questioning these types of things, and they have no answer when he asks “what else this could’ve been.”

In the next verse his focus seems to shift from christians to god himself. “so open up my eyes, tell me I’m alive, this is never gonna go our way, if I have to guess whats on your mind” He is asking god to make it clear to him that he exists, to “open up” his eyes, he needs some type of gratification. He doesn’t need people telling him what, or why to believe, he needs a sign from god. The writer seems tired of trying to figure it out himself, tired of guessing, but is very open to idea of faith, just needs a clear-cut sign. The instrumentals pick up here as he says ” say something, say something, something like you love me” in a desperate plea for a sign that god loves him, and essentially has his back, giving him the comfort of gods presence throughout his life. I think the christian religion itself has drawn him away from the relationship with god that he wants. He says ” less you wanna move away, from the noise of this place” You don’t need the “noise” such as a church, worship team, or hundreds of people in order to have a relationship with god. You can sit on your couch and talk to him if that’s what works for you, I think he may find the church as a whole distracting, wanting to get to know god on a more personal level.

He goes on to repeat the chorus, but worded a bit differently. ” Well I don’t even know if I believe (x2)  I don’t even know if I wanna believe”  Adding the words well, and wanna, change the meaning of the chorus. He goes from telling us ” I don’t even know if I believe”     meaning he isn’t sure, but there is nothing in that sentence stating that he has given up on finding his faith. The reworded chorus poses a different question. “Well”  by definition of how it’s used in this line adds the element of reluctancy, a pause to consider ones next words. Which backs up his reluctancy towards faith that is mentioned again,and again throughout the song. Instead of saying ” I don’t even know if I believe” like he did in the middle of the song, he now says ” I don’t even know if I wanna believe” He doesn’t even seem like he is willing to sort through his confusing thoughts in order to connect to faith anymore. He was open to the idea of god,and faith earlier, he just had doubts. But now he doesn’t even know if it’s worth it, as if he has given up on the idea completely.

The music video has the same visual context, as it does lyrical. It’s someone driving through London at night. Driving past historical monuments such as Big Ben (minute 1:34.) The person is swerving through traffic, driving past the blurred lights, the camera zooms in and out of focus. This signifies a search, such as the search for god. The whole music video is just the driver seems to be aimlessly driving, having no direction. The music video ends by focusing on a bench, with the city lights shining below (minute 3:36.) The bench signifying something higher than ourselves, such as god. After seeming to be lost, he finds his way to the bench. This resembles what he hopes to be his relationship to god. After being lost in the search, he ultimately hopes to end up with a belief in god.

Originally, I thought this song was about a romantic relationship, until I really listened to the lyrics. I can see where some could take it as him speaking about a woman, but if you listen closely you will see that it can’t be about a woman. There is no reference to a female anywhere in this song, it speaks of something more abstract than that, not something as clear-cut as a person. No reference to their relationship, her personality, looks, what he loves about her, or why he wants to work it out. He spends no time building up a story of their relationship. When reading about Mumford & sons I learned that they have a history of singing about struggling with their faith. This article lists all the songs that Mumford sings about faith for you, so it’s a safe bet to say their songs aren’t usually about women, but of something greater.

This is a lyrically intense song, with lots of meaning. I really appreciate how open this is on an emotional level. Mumford & Sons is a band that produces music that is beyond sounding good, and pulls you in with the lyrics. I look forward to listening to some more of their music, and I hope you will take some time to sit back with a glass of wine and appreciate their talent!

Mumford & Sons – Lyrics

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How to save a life, or how to try

 

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The Fray’s song “How to save a life” was on the Billboard hot 100 songs for 58 consecutive weeks, and for a very good reason, it’s relatable, which I wish it wasn’t. When I first heard this song I thought it was about a man who was in conflict with one of his best friends, which wasn’t entirely inaccurate, but there is so much more to be said about this song. This is a post containing some talk about suicide, just a forewarning to any of my readers who may be sensitive to the subject. That being said, let’s get to it.

THE FRAY – How to save a life lyrics

THE FRAY – How to save a life music video

The opening of the song makes me believe that this is based off of a real personal experience, due to the the placement of the quotation marks. It’s written as,

Step one, you say “We need to talk” he walks, you say “Sit down, it’s just a talk”

Since the writer is using quotation marks in his lyrics, I assume that this song is based on an actual conversation he has had with someone. He talks about how he sees through his friends fake smile, and depression. He is there trying to help his friend deal with whatever it is thats weighing him down, but his friend keeps placing the blame on himself. Either his friend isn’t open to his help, or he isn’t willing to listen and take advice. Reaching out to someone with depression is the first step in trying to get them to realize that they aren’t alone, the man cares about his friend. He asks himself why he came to help, because he doesn’t feel that it’s working, or that he’s getting through to his friend.

The verses of the song I believe are explaining to the listener how to help someone who is on the brink of suicide, yet the chorus is him speaking in first person, which is why I believe this is a true story. The chorus is ” Where did i go wrong? I lost a friend, somewhere along in the bitterness, and I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life” It now becomes clear to me that the writer is placing the blame on himself for not being able to help. He thinks that if he would have done more, his friend would still be alive. That is a hard line to swallow, I can feel his guilt. He couldn’t have known how to keep his friend from committing suicide, yet he still feels guilty for not staying with him and figuring it out. The word bitterness stuck out to me. As if the writer and his friend ended their talk with an argument, it’s hard to understand someone struggling with depression, he probably left frustrated, and feeling helpless, which could add to his guilt. Since these words are the chorus, which is repeated multiple times throughout the song, I feel like this is significant. Losing a friend to suicide is hard, but to have a sense of responsibility for it makes the loss that much harder to bear.

There is a line in the song that leads me to believe the writer went into the conversation with good intentions, but was doing more talking than listening. ” Let him know that you know best, because after all you do know best.” Nobody knows what the suicidal person is dealing with, only the one who is struggling. Going into a conversation like that, being a know it all, is the opposite of what they need. The best thing that you can do for some with depression is to simply listen. The writer seems like he did genuinely want to help, and at the time he thought what he was doing was helping. In his music video the word listen is written on a board, but that word is nowhere in his lyrics. I assume that the writer did reflect back and realize that maybe he just needed to listen instead of give advice. He did a fantastic job connecting with his listeners. I can visualize sitting with a friend trying to talk them down from their suicidal thoughts, or picturing his conversation with his friend. This you feel the song even deeper, because you are connecting with the two people.

The main theme that reoccurs in this song is helplessness, and guilt. Helplessness, because he couldn’t keep his friend from committing suicide. As his friend he wishes he could have been able to help him, let him see his worth through his eyes. Guilt, because he didn’t try harder, or stay longer with him. He didn’t just listen, he tried to tell him how to fix it, instead of being open to what his friend was trying to say. Now he has to live his life without his friend, and the what if’s are haunting. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, or suicidal thoughts please contact the Suicide Helpline.

THE FRAY – behind the song “How to save a life”

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