Escaping Modern Life

Each of the readings for the week comment on modern life, whether the author is escaping some aspect of society or finding comfort in new traditions.

The presence of the train at the beginning of The Sound of Silence relates to the overall theme of the reading. Trains have become an old form of travel, yet the narrator is experiencing incredibly modern annoyances while on her ride. She claims she’s searching for silence. But, it seems she’s attempting more so to break free from modern pressures. Travel today has become a burden. Either you’re in the car for far too long (and everyone’s complaining there’s no wifi) or you’re stopped by security at the airport–no matter the hinderance, everyone’s ready to just arrive. I think the train ride, though supposedly the narrator’s only mode of transportation, is Abend’s first move towards simplicity. She characterizes the event as almost a mere road bump on the way to a greater destination. However, I find the train ride essential to her journey. When she finally succumbs to the silence, she’s not ready for this stark difference from reality: “a quiet fell with the abruptness of a tsunami” (Abend 2). This is foreshadowing to her eventual realization. She wasn’t necessarily looking for silence, but rather she was hoping to uncover a certain kind of conversation. Abend’s language is quite telling of her emotions and clarifies her characterization of the woods versus city life. Once on her own on the trail, she begins using words such as “adorable,” “spectacular,” and “simplest.” Her words are more positive and give off a graceful appeal (as if her getting lost later on is intentional) and lighten the tone of the previously annoyed narrator.

There are similar examples of the correlation between word choice and theme within Hail Dayton. The opening paragraph is two sentences, with the latter taking up eight lines. The ongoing sentence structure mimics the “vast ribbons of peat [which] came to rest under what became the foothills of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau” (Maddux 146). The narrator shortly after repeats the statement, “It was here” (Maddux 146). In my opinion, this is a paradoxical representation of pride. Citizens of Dayton are happy to call the town home, but would rather distance themselves from the circus that’s become the Scopes trial. The history discussed reminds me of Theroux. One instance continues to plague this Southern community. However, the narrator’s brief mention of climate change as a second topic tip-toed around in the school setting hints at Dayton’s lack of progression.

Daughters of the Spring, in telling a history, recounts a town myth. We are abruptly taken aback by Groff’s description of manatee fate: “Homosassa is famous for being one of the best places in Florida to view West Indian manatees, those gentle thousand-pound sea cows that are routinely torn up by Jet Skis and motorboats” (115). Though disturbing, the statement symbolizes the diminishing fantasy of the mermaid. It was a common thought. People obsessed over the mermaid because of the power she holds. The mermaid can control, or defy, fate: “the sea creatures are the ones who get to decide if people who fall overboard will swim or sink” (Groff 116). I think Groff is questioning that which we deem “good enough” in modern life (126). The mermaid is an unrealistic image, so is she worth the fascination? Groff tells us to find the balance between reality and fantasy by “[floating] on the surface of things” (127).

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