Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Rabbit Hole of a Wandering Mind

Wikipedia's list of events for 6 May includes this entry:
"6 MAY 1940 – John Steinbeck is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath". That novel's title has always impressed me. Delving further into Wiki's store of knowledge I find that:
While writing the novel at his home.... Steinbeck had unusual difficulty devising a title. The Grapes of Wrath, suggested by his wife Carol Steinbeck, was deemed more suitable than anything by the author. The title is a reference to lyrics from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", by Julia Ward Howe:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored......
These lyrics refer, in turn, to the biblical passage Revelation 14:19–20, an apocalyptic appeal to divine justice and deliverance from oppression in the final judgment. This and other biblical passages had inspired a long tradition of imagery of Christ in the winepress in various media.

My mind wandered on, to other similar descriptive phrases from another book, a much older one: The Pilgrim's Progress: by John Bunyan
...the allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, written during Bunyan’s twelve-year imprisonment although not published until 1678 six years after his release, that made Bunyan’s name as an author with its immediate success. It remains the book for which Bunyan is best remembered. The images Bunyan uses in The Pilgrim's Progress are reflections of images from his own world; the strait gate is a version of the wicket gate at Elstow Abbey church, the Slough of Despond is a reflection of Squitch Fen, a wet and mossy area near his cottage in Harrowden, the Delectable Mountains are an image of the Chiltern Hills surrounding Bedfordshire. Even his characters, like the Evangelist as influenced by John Gifford, are reflections of real people.

There's a post in the archives expanding on such descriptive phrases...
.. Stops on a Mythical Journey.

While reading The White Monkey, one of John Galsworthy's continuation novels from his Forsyte Saga I noticed this lovely pair of descriptive phrases and jotted them down for an occasion such as this:
"The chrysalis of faint misgiving becomes so readily the butterfly of panic."
And ain't that the truth!

The mind wandered still further, into allegory and its history...the path became murky - too tangled for a simple blogger's blog post. Enough to say that allegory, as a concept, has been around since at least the days and philosophers of ancient Greece, and quite likely, undocumented, long before that. Its use and appreciation in matters religious, moral, political and general, seems to be another of our innate human characteristics.

One of the 20th century's most popular authors, J.R.R. Tolkien wasn't a fan of allegory (or so he said):
“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”
Personally, I don't care what an author intended as allegory. If I read a novel I see in it what I see in it, and if it's something different from the author's allegorical intention - tough! I'll be doing applicability.


mike said...

Our human brain is very attentive to allegorical correlations and we are introduced to the patterns in religion, mythology, fables, and parables at such an early age that the stories preclude comprehension. It's innate to our conceptualization of ourselves, others, and our surroundings.

Your post yesterday about Pamela Geller and Black Moon Lilith is a good metaphor with extended allegory, as her biography unfolds! The idiom, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" applies to allegory and is evident with Geller. Is Pamela a she-devil or one of heaven's worker bees? Our own life's story interprets the metaphorical implication of Pamela Geller's actions.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes, we're wired into it! Whether due to early exposure to religion/myths/parables/fables as you said, or due to some even deeper wiring that was responsible for that very list...well, it's a mystery!

Geller/Lilith -! It's like those optical illusion images where one person will immediately see a certain picture, while the next person sees something quite different, and even a depiction of quite the opposite.

mike (again) said...

I saw on the news that you are experiencing the wrath of nature. I'll assume you and anyjazz are sheltered and out of harm's way!

I think there is an allegory in this TX tidbit of dramedy nonfiction:
"Abstinence-Only Texas High School Hit By Chlamydia Outbreak; 1 In 15 Students Affected"

I liked this comment from Chris Farley:
"Texas is like 'Performance Art'. No one really understands it. It makes no sense. But you just sit there and watch it happen. It's so amazingly horrible that you cant stop looking."

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Re weather - thanks - yes, we were settled in to watch American Idol, but it has been off screen to allow severe weather reports for the last 45 minutes. Most tornado warnings are well south of us, around Archer City and Throckmorton in N Texas - the Oklahoma clusters of storms are mainly over the OKC area - looks nasty - the cluster nearer to us skimmed past our town - not even a drop of rain yet, but there are some more from the west coming our way.

Re Texas as performance art - lol!!
Chlamydia in that particular High School - irony or allegory - take your pick!