Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins

This book is apparently based on a true story, yet I am not sure which portions are fiction. I am assuming that the general plot is true whereas the other details were made for the book.

A fleet of Aleuts arrive to the Island of the Blue Dolphins to hunt for otters. To this the chief essentially says, “Last time I allowed this to happen, I was screwed over, so no thanks.” Using his charm, Captain Orlov convinces the chief that this time will be different. This time, the chief is promised to receive half of the otters that the Russians catch. Unlike the reader, who has seen this plot happen every single time, the chief believes that this arrangement will work. Shockingly, the islanders begin to notice that the Russians are getting ready to leave without sharing any of the otters. Outraged by this ‘unexpected’ turn of events, the chief confronts the fishermen. So let’s refresh: a European arrives on an island inhabited by indigenous people, cons them, and is thus confronted. As history has so readily proved, this confrontation will clearly be in the chief’s favor. Oh, wait, I was thinking textbook history! In actual events, it never ends well for the indigenous people. Amidst the battle, the chief and several men from the island die. There are causalities on the other end and the remaining survivors leave the island. Continue reading

Theodore Taylor’s The Cay

“I said to Timothy, ‘I want to be your friend.’

He said softly, ‘Young bahss, you ‘ave always been my friend.’

I said, ‘Can you call me Phillip instead of young boss?’

‘Phill-eep,’ he said warmly” (72).

As you read this, you may be thinking that this scene seems oddly familiar. Perhaps Timothy is an alien learning our language and has finally fostered a friendship with Phillip that is worthy enough to refer to Phillip by his full name rather than young boss. The unwarranted emphasis on the pronunciation of “Philip” is probably what reminds you of E.T., yet this is not a relationship involving extraterrestrials. This is a relationship between a black man and a [bratty] white boy.

Continue reading

Thoughts on Stéphan Mallarmé

In the “Crisis in Poetry,” Stéphan Mallarmé states, “We desire a word of brilliant splendor or conversely one that fades away; and as for simple, luminous alternatives . . . But, we should note, otherwise poetry would not exist: philosophically, it is poetry that makes up for the failure of language, providing an extra extension” (NATC 737).

Reading this paired with the constant analogy of music that Mallarmé uses, I found myself remembering a quote that I have come across numerous times. Imagine yourself as a teenager again: After an argument with your parents about whether you could go out on Saturday night, you storm into your room and find solace with your computer. You blast “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and vow that you are not gonna take it anymore. You open up AIM and enter your new away message, “Where words leave off, music begins,” which was probably the same away message as half of your contacts. This overly cliché saying seems to be extremely similar to Mallarmé’s assertion that poetry is an extra extension of language as it bridges the gap between what is desired to be said and the limits of language. Continue reading