Mr. Grindstaff’s Review of The Pearl

The Pearl is a memory; Steinbeck tells the reader this in the forward of his novella. It is also a story for us, but it is not about us; it is not about us, but it is about us. This is the world according to Steinbeck: The world is not black and white–but memories are. This “memory” of the pearl mirrors our society, just as our past mirrors our future.

For many of Steinbeck’s most famous works, Steinbeck tells one story. Fastening new characters onto this story, he tells the story of “the illusion of dreams.” And as in his similar stories, through naturalism he repeats this state of disillusionment. One possible illusion left unbroken by the author is the idea of religion. Religion is left hanging in the balance, neither falling nor reigning. He hints and questions the idea, but does not seem to know the place for it in his own story.

The author’s profound ability to pour human nature into minor characters is felt each time the protagonists travel to town. As is expected in Steinbeck stories, the weak and poor are rich in truths found by experiences that are related to easily by the reader.

Steinbeck’s subtle use of foreshadowing, presented by nature, is yet again present. The story’s ending is told through the actions of animals. So the reader is left expecting the end. The reader is left confident in that all along nature indeed represents the characters, as he assigns the protagonists animal-like characteristics and finally calls them animals by name. With the end being known early on, it is not usually the climax of a Steinbeck story that shocks, it is the storytelling itself—the final images. In his other master-works, these much expected scenes hold more weight, for they shock us even as we know when, where, and to whom they are happening. This is not the case in The Pearl. Its only disappointment is found not in the development of the climax, but the plane-Jane image taking its place. The novella’s zenith is lost in an all to “normal” haze, for we have come to expect a clear, gut-wrenching final snap-shot that will long be in our minds. With this story, one has to look back within the exposition to find that image, the raising of the perfect pearl by a bloody hand.

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Mr. Grindstaff’s review of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

The narration of Mockingbird  is odd, odd in that sentimental childhood scenes are reminisced with such diction and syntax. The narration is in retrospect; while it is told in nearly present tense. Mockingbird’s story is a long evening’s memory in Scout’s 26 year old mind. Her story, which has become our story. Takes place in her mind on the trip back home to see her father, the very trip that begins this book. White the nostalgia flashes its hilarious brilliance throughout the novel, those scenes are not this novel’s plot. This plot, and it has just as much of a plot as Mockingbird, takes flight in the second half of the book, similar to Mockingbird. This plot does not peak in court or with murder; it peaks with the first meeting of an ageing, found-out father, and his searching, disillusioned daughter.

The narration of Scout is no longer a sweet dream, for she has stepped off the train and out of her dream. Scout is an absolutely realistic product of a stoic father whose law books are used as nursery rhymes. She is sharp of mind and tongue. She is still young, for she still believes and does not yet realize that she is alone.

What the story lacks by the omission of Dill and Jim is made up for in hard Truth. We share scout’s disappointment. We experience every ounce of emotion, for our god falls. His beliefs were limited to the courtroom, and his actions, as a citizen, were governed by fear. In reality we can only cite Atticus with inaction and private belief, two common, small transgressions. Yet we view these sins being juxtaposed against our vision of our sister’s, Scout’s, father. We understand them through her eyes, because with no foreshadowing or hint of doubt, we walk into the courtroom again with her. We stand again where she stood, and the memory of the last trip to that balcony blinds us with by the immersion of contrasts.

We experience Lee’s theme: walk around in someone else’s shoes. We empathize with Scout. It is then our duty to cast off those shoes, which have been our own all along, and realize that the point is not to empathize with ourselves, but to learn to meet those who made us. We now are challenged with a new, similar theme: Our watchmen is not our god; our god cannot be. It is our conscience, it is our personal collection of principles.

It is now our job to empathize with a 26 year old Scout, who is interested in searching for what it means to group up–even if it means stepping on our fallen gods to these new heights. We have been on their shoulders’ since the beginning anyway.

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