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Nothing Gold Can Stay vs. I Used to Live Here Once

In: English and Literature

Submitted By lilmiller2005
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Nothing Gold Can Stay (Frost) VS. I Used to Live Here Once (Rhys)

Jason W. Miller
Ashford University

ENG125: Introduction to Literature
Professor Patricia Lake
December 3, 2012

Death and impermanence is always full of sorrow. I have chosen Death and Impermanence as my theme to discuss, not because of tragedy I’ve experienced, but instead because it’s an interestingly complex theme. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” and “I Used to Live Here Once” could not be no more different in their visual form than they already are; however, they both represent the theme through common emotions and mood of the literary works. Throughout my essay I will explain the relevance of the two works, and authors, as well as the differences. The formalist approach will be my choice of critical analysis of the two works, which will aid in forming my comparison and contrast of both works as well.

“The poem of the Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” is discussing the beauty of life’s wonderful but short-lived treasures, as example chasing dreams and spending time with loved ones. It is illustrated by Frost those treasures in the world related to the nature through the use of metaphors, imagery, diction, and allusion. The poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” helps open one’s eyes to the harsh realities of nature’s path and although we must all succumb to the laws of nature, it is these unbreakable laws that make life so treasured (Shmoop, 2010). On the other side the literature “I Used to Live Here Once” is a somewhat mysterious story of a woman who seems to be a ghost visiting her childhood home. The narrator follows the woman on her journey from a nearby river and down an old unfinished road that leads to the home where she grew up. Once she reaches the house, there are two young white children playing outside and the woman tries to tell them that she used to live there (Deirdre, 2009). The big question that the reader is left with at the end of the short story is why didn't the children who were playing outside acknowledge that the woman was there? The woman seems to like children because in the story, she tries to talk to them, but they ignore her. This is probably because the woman does not realize that she is dead, but upon doing research on the author and her life, I found there could be many other reasons why the children did not talk to the woman. From the research gathered, I learned that since the author did not have strong attachments to where she grew up, Jean Rhys probably used this story as a way to show how she and others in her situation may have felt disconnected throughout life.”

In the poem, Robert Frost uses the sun and the positions of the sun throughout the day as metaphor to the cycle of life. Line one evokes the feeling of seeing the first flower blooming after a long and harsh winter. The first blossoming flower of winter is so precious, and so beautiful, but eventually over time, it will slowly fade into a leaf. Frost also uses the daily cycles in line seven, so dawn goes down today (Shmoop, 2010). Declaring that no matter how golden the morning is, it will be gone and eventually become a victim to mid-day. The mid-day represents the summer season where Earth is closest to the sun, which makes the days very long and the heat is torturous. What Frost is emphasizing to the readers is that, to use your youth to your advantage and go out and experience life, because although each day may be a slave to time, your memories will always be with you. ”

As well as the poem written by Frost discussed the growth of leaves as a metaphor to the journey of life. In line 1, “Nature’s first green is gold” the green represents the living, while gold emphasizes its splendour of life (Shmoop, 2010). In most cultures, gold is extremely rare element that is very valuable. What Frost is implying in line 1, is that nature’s first creation of life, like a new-born baby, and is remarkable because they are innocent, unspoiled and free of any imperfections. However, her early leaf’s a flower, but only so an hour Frost uses imagery to explain that although childhood is a golden and cheerful period, it ends abruptly (Vernica, 2005). But only so an hour. Frost uses hour as a hyperbole, to exaggerate the short period of time in which childhood lasts (Pierrette, 2003). Hyperboles are most commonly used to exaggerate situations or objects to a greater extent than they are in reality. However, Robert Frost used it in the opposite way to exaggerate and perhaps emphasize how short life is. In line five, Then leaf subsides to leaf Frost reveals a depressing fact of reality that our lives aren’t meant to live in the euphoria of childhood, but to mature into the mundane, working adult world. ”

“Robert Frost uses metaphors, diction, and allusions to help send his eight line message illustrating the harsh, yet beautiful realities of life. I believe the message that the author is trying to send to the audience is that too often in our lives, we strive to be perfect and whenever we fall short of anything of perfect, we get too down on ourselves. After analysing this poem, I realized that to live in a perfect world, would not be living at all (Shmoop, 2010). Imagine a world where everyone and anyone could create beautiful art work and could solve any problem that they had encountered. This world would have no objectives, and no motivation to become better. Like the apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Right and Wrong, this poem has opened my eyes and has given me a third eye perspective on life. Robert Frost has helped me realize that living in an imperfect world only heightens our taste and allows us to appreciate life more when we are encountered with challenges in life (Harriet, 2005). After realizing this, I almost cringe at the thought of an afterlife in heaven where everything is perfect. I now know that although in life Nothing gold can stay, it is life itself that brings the golden treasures in our lives possible. ”

When reading this beautiful poem, you can’t help but notice the author’s choice in diction. Readers may notice words such as: subsides, down and sank in the poem which signifies downward motion, commonly indicating loss, defeat, or even death. As a reader you can almost visualize the precious, dead flower falling from the branch. The spring season symbolizes the beginning of life, and fall season symbolizes the nearing of the end of life (Nancy et al. 2001). This use of symbolism helps explain why the author used the keywords: subsides, down, and sank. Another one of Frost’s important key words is stay which is in the title, and the last word of the poem. Stay is most commonly used to command an object to keep its position, but in this poem Frost uses it. The first line of the poem may sound uplifting, but as readers read the poem, the reader’s happy attitude declines slowly through each line of the poem. In the final line of the poem Nothing gold can stay leaves the poem on a higher, happier, care-free note, albeit bleak (Deirdre, 2009). But from a different perspective, Frost is explaining that although the path of man-kind may be depressing, there isn’t much we can do, therefore we should spend less time dwelling in our troubles and misfortunes, and instead focus on the treasures of life that make us happy. ”

“To illustrate and help the readers relate to the poem, Robert Frost uses biblical allusions to the poem. The Garden of Eden is a story in the biblical Book of Genesis, where God creates man, Adam, and woman, Eve. They are the first human beings ever; innocent and free of impurities. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, which is a utopia God had created that was free of sin. Their only duty is to protect the garden and not touch the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Shmoop, 2010). However, they could not resist their temptations and ate an apple from the tree, which had them both exiled, signalling the fall of mankind. Interestingly in line 6 “So Eden sank to grief,” Eden is in grief because her creations cannot remain young and beautiful forever, which is identical to the mankind’s inability to remain perfect. The message that Frost is trying to send to the reader is that, nothing in nature can be perfect and nothing can stay perfect, not even God’s creations (Harriet, 2005). Although the message may sound unpleasant, an alternative perspective is that it is simply a flaw in our design and that we cannot be held responsible for our actions. But once we can accept that we are not perfect, we can appreciate the successes and accomplishments, thus making our life happy and fulfilling. ”

““The main reason I feel that the author is writing herself into this story is because while she lived in the West Indies, Rhys was cut off from the black community in Dominica. Jean Rhys was born in the British Colony of Dominica in the West Indies in 1890. She had an English father and a Creole white mother, meaning that she was a white woman born in Dominica, but her ancestry came from an English background (Andrew, 2007). At age 17, Rhys moved to England to attend school and even though she spent the rest of her life there, Dominica was still an important thing to her because she wrote about it in a lot of her work. Moving to England probably made her feel different because of where she came from. Not having a strong connection to her roots could have made Rhys feel very alienated. ”“

“In the story “I Used to Live Here Once”, the main character, like Rhys, seems to be in between two separate worlds. When reading the story the first time, I got the feeling that the woman is most likely dead. The story starts by explaining how the stepping-stones by the river are not safe. Then the character describes her journey from the river to the house where she grew up. She also described her surroundings as a blue day and that they sky looked glassy (Rhys 24), which can suggest that she had drowned in the river and the water clouds her view of the sky (Pierrette, 2003). The woman also feels happy and this may be because she is free and has the chance to connect to where she came from. The woman is stuck in between two worlds, because the weird description of her surroundings almost seems surreal and ghostly, and when she reaches her childhood home there is a small sense of belonging that is taken away almost as soon as she felt it. ”

“Since Jean Rhys was essentially like other exiles who are cut off from their roots, land, and past (Wilson par.3), she probably felt as though she was stuck in between two worlds. The main character in this story could be attempting to find a connection between being white and black in the West Indies. The main character is also trying to find a connection to her old home by reaching out to the children (Pierrette, 2003). At the end of the story, the woman tries to talk to two children who are playing outside the house. The woman addresses the children a few times but they do not respond at all. The third time the woman says something to them she almost reaches out to the children, but they run inside the house because they suddenly felt cold (Andrew, 2007). This is something that people usually describe happening to them when they are exposed to ghosts and spirits and the children could have also used this as an excuse not to talk to the woman because she is a stranger that doesn’t look like them. ”

“When the narrator describes the children she mentions how fair their skin is and that many European children born in the West Indies look that way, almost as if their white blood is asserting itself against all odds. This line of the story stands out the most. When I read it a second time, I realized that it is a strong statement that could explain the awkwardness between the woman and the children (Pierrette, 2003). It shows that there is definitely a power struggle between the British and the West Indian natives. This line is most important because the main character in the story may not be white. If the main character were also of European decent, she probably would not have talked about their skin and suggesting that they are privileged (Arnold, 1994). This is one of the most important details in understanding the story because the author actually lived during the colonizing period, witnessed the struggles herself, and was affected by it even though she moved away. ”

“The overall theme of this story is the importance of feeling connected to the outside world. It can be very difficult to understand something when someone is completely sheltered from having interaction or association with certain people outside an accepted culture (Pierrette, 2003). If the main character were able to do that in her lifetime, she probably would not have returned to her childhood home. This moment of the white children ignoring her made the woman realize that she lived a life that was different from theirs because she may have been part of a lifestyle where she was always given attention (Andrew, 2007). This is similar to Rhys's life because not only was she different and sheltered from a different group of people, the children not acknowledging the main character can be seen as a demonstration of how Rhys felt whenever she tried to identify herself with the black culture even though she could not be a part of it. ”

In conclusion, both poems offer a unique definition of how precious our lives really are. Unfortunately, it all lies in the eye of the beholder. That’s the beauty of these two poems; they both allow the reader to interpret it in their own way and learn from the poem what they choose. The major difference between the two poems other than the stanzas and rhythm of each is that they both describe the importance of life in their individual ways. In closing, both poems are beautiful pieces of work that will forever have a role in history, therefore always providing meaning to life.

References
A. James Arnold (1994) A History of Literature in the English- and Dutch-speaking Regions. Publisher. John Benjamins Publishing. 241-253
Andrew Maunder (2007) The Facts on File Companion to the British Short Story. Publisher. Infobase Publishing. 124-139
Deirdre J. Fagan (2009) Critical Companion to Robert Frost: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work Facts on File library of American literature. Publisher. Infobase Publishing. 99-102
Harriet Semmes Alexander (2005) American and British Poetry. Publisher. Manchester University Press. 85-96
Nancy Lewis Tuten, Nancy Lewis Tuten John Zubizarreta (2001) The Robert Frost Encyclopedia. Publisher. Greenwood Publishing Group. 113-121
Pierrette M. Frickey (2003) Critical Perspectives on Jean Rhys. Publisher. Lynne Rienner Publishers. 58-64
Shmoop (2010) Robert Frost. Publisher. Shmoop University Inc.
Vernica Marie Gregg (2005) Jean Rhys's Historical Imagination: Reading and Writing the Creole. Publisher. UNC Press Books. 66-79

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... Englewood Cliffs. N. J. ISBN 0-87980-038-0 Printed by HAL LEIGHTON PRINTING COMPANY P.O. Box 3952 North Hollywood, California91605 Telephone: (213) 983-1105 GROW RICH WHILE YOU SLEEP By Ben Sweetland 95% of all human problems stem from a negative mind. This figure includes such traits as timidity, domestic discord, business failure, bad memory, tenseness, unhappiness, worry, etc. You can do something about it... while you sleep! You are a mind with a body attached, not a body with a mind attached! Realize this and you are on your way to self-mastery. This is the new approach to the Conscious Mind through the other level that never sleeps, the Creative Mind. What you will discover is priceless! This book shows how to use the deepest thinking part of you, while you sleep, to get whatever you want out of life . . . money, personal influence, love, respect and admiration. At will, you can direct your Creative Mind to assist you in solving problems . . . making the right decisions ... in creating ways and means of great achievement . . . over night! With this technique you can sleep on it and awake in the morning with answers so clear-cut you will be amazed! You will discover: —6 exercises that develop your latent creative powers into a mental powerhouse. —5 ways to make your Creative Mind work for you. —a...

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