Applying How to Read Literature Like a Professor

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster has shown me how to reach true understanding in my future reading of literature and has helped me to reach a new depth in works of literature I have already analyzed. Swimming, seasons, weather and diseases have all taken on more than simply a set scene. Abuse of power over youth or the uneducated is more noticeable. The use of irony is more noticeable. This book has armed me with the ability to recognize political meaning within literary works.

Armed newly with this knowledge I reanalyze several novels from my high school career and I learn more about the author as well as the characters who the authors present me with. In The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, Lily Barton is eaten by Gus Trenor, an older man she believed was her friend. Lily was not literally eaten by Trenor. Gus Trenor is not a literal vampire. However, Lily places her trust in Gus Trenor to make an investment for her with the very little amount of money she has (chapter 7, book 1).

When Lily is later incapable of paying back the money Gus has been giving to her as though an investment gave money rather than increasing in value, Gus envisions a way in which Lily can quite easily pay him back. Gus Trenor invites Lily to his house in town under false pretenses (chapter 13, book 1). He allows Lily to come alone to his house without the protection of any other women. Gus wants to have sex with Lily in exchange for the money he had been giving her. When Lily manages to flee his house, Gus allows her name to be ruined. Lily is no longer able to keep her friends.

Lily is seen as an easy woman. People no longer treat her like a young respectable lady. George Dorset even wants to use her as marital relief (chapter 6, book 2). Lily can no longer be a part of high society. Gus exacts his payment by ruining her name in the eyes of all whom she associates with. Gus took advantage of her innocence and let others treat her as though she was dead. Such behavior places Gus and Lily within the parameters of chapter three “Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires” in How to Read Literature Like a Professor (Foster, pg. 15). It’s More Than Just Rain or Snow” is the title of chapter ten in How to Read Literature Like a Professor (Foster, pg. 74). Rain as used in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain has deep symbolic meaning. When Huck Finn finds Jim after running away from his father’s hut, the two are caught in a torrential rain (chapter 9). This rain represents the washing away of both of their old lives. Although Huck is a rich young man, he cannot use his wealth or live comfortably because his wicked father wishes to have his money in order to drink. After the rain, Huck has bonded with Jim and wishes to protect him (chapter 9).

Jim’s old life as a slave no longer matters to Huck. Huck begins to realize that Jim truly cares about him. Huck sees Jim as a person. The rain washes away all Huck has learned concerning the slaves. Huck begins to learn for himself after all his former ideas of life and slaves are washed away by this symbolic and literal rain. “It’s All Political” is the title of chapter thirteen of How to Read Literature Like a Professor (Foster, pg. 108). The Crucible by Arthur Miller is largely a political play. This story shows the effect heightened power or panic of society upon authority.

Reverend Hale realizes the evil deed he did by quickly condemning women of witchcraft. He realizes he has allowed innocent people to die in his conceit. He begs the judge to allow the remaining accused and condemned free (act 4). However, Danforth states he will not pardon the remainder because a dozen have already been killed, with his seal on the death warrants, for practicing the same witchcraft of which the others have been accused (act 4). Arthur Miller wrote this play to show the McCarthyism of his time with the fear of radical political platforms was a repeat of the Salem witch trials at the end of the seventeenth century.

Any time in which political figures such as McCarthy or Danforth get excited and begin to condemn others who they fear revolt or change from, Arthur Miller’s play shall be a shining example of what the effects will be. Many innocent accused will have no defense unless they lie. Therefore The Crucible is an excellent example of politics being ingrained in literary accomplishments. Chapter twenty-six of How to Read Literature Like a Professor is titled “Is He Serious? And Other Ironies” (Foster, pg. 235). Antigone by Sophocles opens on a pair of sisters.

Both have just learned of the death of both their brothers (scene 1). It is spring (scene 1). Rather than celebrating the beauty of new life, the daughters of a now dead king and queen must mourn the death of their brothers. They battled and killed each other, adding further sadness to their deaths. The new king, Creon, their uncle, declares that only one brother shall be buried (scene 1). By purposely disobeying this law, Antigone condemns herself to death in the beautiful spring seasons (scene 3) but dies by her own hands (scene 7).

Her betrothed, Creon’s son, kills himself when she is found dead (scene 7). Creon’s wife is then found dead as well (scene 7). Amid the new life of spring, death is found in abundance among the royal family. Sophocles is in deadly earnest about this irony. Chapter eighteen of How to Read Literature Like a Professor is entitled “If She Comes Up, It’s Baptism” (Foster, pg. 152). The Awakening by Kate Chopin holds the baptism of Edna Pontellier. Edna has not just become a follower of Christ. She simply went for a swim off the coast of Grand Isle (chapter 10).

After the thrill of learning to swim and nearly drowning when she swims out too far, Edna begins to feel dissatisfied with her present life. She does not love her husband but Robert. She realizes she wants freedom from her husband (chapter 14). She is born into new understanding of her own life. Edna no longer cares to please her husband. She wants to please herself. She eventually drowns herself in the same waters that began her new vision of her life (chapter 39). Her baptism began not a revelation of God but a revelation of herself. Geography also plays a strong role in the configuration of a book.

In The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Thoreau realizes that a truly learning mind must not be put in a closed space and teaches in open fields (act 1). Thoreau refuses to believe God is in a church and refuses to go into the community church (act 1). Thoreau is often among nature as opposed to being inside of an enclosed building. However, Thoreau realizes he can still be mentally free if he remains in jail rather than paying taxes to a government he does not support (act 1). The use of open land which Thoreau is around so often shows he believes in an open sort of life.

He preaches an open mind and thrives on open fields. The use of geography clearly conforms to chapter nineteen of How to Read Literature Like a Professor, entitled “Geography Matters…” (Foster, pg. 163). “… And Rarely Just Illness” is the title of chapter twenty-four of How to Read Literature Like a Professor (Foster, pg. 213). Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte uses a stroke and subsequent wasting away to depict the sheer pride and hatefulness of Mrs. Reed who never cared for her niece, Jane Eyre, as she promised her husband she would do (chapter 21). Mrs.

Reed always wished Jane Eyre had died with fever at Lowood (chapter 21). She disliked Jane intensely and could not love her even on her death bed (chapter 21). Although Mrs. Reed knows she is dying she refuses to love Jane Eyre which had been Jane’s favorite wish for their relationship (chapter 21). The disease shows the wretchedness of Mrs. Reed for not loving her own kin. The disease signifies the way Mrs. Reed had been wasting away in mind and spirit before she was attacked with the stroke. It was not simply sickness of the body which afflicted Mrs. Reed.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor has assisted me with learning more about novels I have already read. In the future I am sure I will be able to apply both the chapters I have selected above and others. The selection of which chapter to use was difficult for each book. The finer details in the novels are now easier to comprehend and relate to the rest of every novel. Now when I read about heart disease, a blind man or even sex I shall know that there is a more meaningful reason that each of these events have unfolded than simply to create an entertaining story.

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