Michelle's blog

September 27th, 2010

“Brooklyn Bridge”, Mumford and Whitehead

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

Considering I’ve never had the experience of getting to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, these experiences about the bridge that I’ve read  have made me really want to go and experience it for myself, although I am a little nervous that my experience won’t be as eventful as these experiences. Now when I think about it, normally when I cross a bridge I don’t focus on the scenery, but rather I focus on the destination ahead of me. I actually ran across the 59th street bridge and instead of taking a moment to look around me and even just to the side and see the scenery, I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off the edge of the bridge and just focus on making it over so I could get a bottle of water. Now I realize that I missed out on a great opportunity to really appreciate the moment and everything around me. I’m glad now that I’ve had the opportunity to read these pieces before having ever gone to the Brooklyn Bridge because now when I do end up going to the Bridge, instead of just focusing on getting over, I can take my time going over and really just enjoy the moment and get the full experience. So when I make my way across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time I can thank Whitehead and Mumford for opening my eyes up to so many things that I would have neglected otherwise.

Why were Mumford and Whitehead able to express experiences on the Brooklyn Bridge in such a passionate and profound manner? Well it’s because both of these authors present a unique voice within their piece, and their voices are strengthened by their use of motifs. The motifs allowed me to really be able to picture these experiences crossing over the bridge. It made me feel almost as though I was actually in the bodies of the people crossing and I was the one who was crossing over the bridge.

Mumford and Whitehead present different experiences of going over the same bridge. Obviously since it’s the same bridge they’re going to encounter the same scenery, but the way the two authors describe the impact of the journey over the bridge is completely different.

Mumford’s voice seems to change throughout his piece. He describes how he feels about something and then a little bit later his opinion about that same thing has changed. For example, his piece begins by praising ferry rides and putting down any other form of transportation. He believes that all other forms of transportation are taking away from such a wonderful experience. “Everywhere the wholesale commitment to bridges and tunnels across and under the rivers and bays, for the sake of speed alone, is depriving us of this primal source of recreation causing us to go farther in search of enlivening change” (840) Here Mumford is putting down that fact that we are in search of bigger, better, faster. His voice here is angry and critical. Are we giving up something so valuable to us just to make life faster? Shouldn’t we just slow down and enjoy the experience? All of these questions arise, and yet Mumford later goes on to praise the bridges and describes how walking over a bridge can provide you with a similar experience as riding the ferry. “Here was my city, immense, overpowering, flooded with energy and light; there below lay the river and the harbor, catching the last flakes of gold on their waters, with the black tugs, free from their barges, plodding clockward, the ferryboats lumbering from pier to pier” (844). Here Mumford’s voice has clearly shifted. The bridges that he was before describing as something so negative towards the city has now provided him with an experience that has filled him with so many emotions. His voice here seems to echo Walt Whitman with the way he describes the nature and all of the scenery around him. Mumford’s voice is joyful and becomes personal in a more enchanted way. There has been a transition from a negative voice to a rekindled positive voice.

Mumford’s motifs that he presents in his piece reflect his many voices. A motif that is brought up is that of uncertainty and the transition from childhood to manhood. This motif adds to Mumford’s voice because his voice is very unclear throughout the piece, it switches a lot, which reflects the transition from being a child and becoming an adult. “The world; at that moment, opened before me, challenging me, beckoning me, demanding something of me that it would take more than a lifetime to give, but raising all energies by its own vivid promise to a higher patch” (844) At the end of his piece we get a description of how at a moment on the bridge the energy of the whole city transmitted through him and it was an epiphany to him and he was able to drop all of his confusion and finally achieved adulthood.

Whitehead’s piece is presented very differently. Whitehead begins his piece with his voice being conversational. This was successful in catching my attention and drawing me into the text, I felt as though Whitehead was talking to me. “You can always tell the hungry ones by how they move. Case in point, this one approaching the bridge. Her steps give her away: she has appetites” (99) The way Whitehead uses short sentences made me read the paragraph as if there were pauses between each phrase, almost as if Whitehead was expecting an answer in between the thoughts. This to me added to the way the piece felt as if it was a discussion. As the piece continues it becomes more just telling the story of this girl.

Motifs that are brought up throughout this piece include elevation or height. Being off of the ground is an important aspect in this story of crossing over the bridge. Being elevated off of the ground is described as a “spectacular leap of faith” (100). Being off the ground becomes a place where you can just think about everything and slow down your life. “Hardly noticing the gentle lift, but then she looks to the side and she’s waist level to buildings. Up in the air before she knew it.” (100). The transition from being on the ground to being elevated at first is not noticed, but once it is the effects it has upon you makes you not want to leave and just take your time getting across. “Closer you get to the other side, the slower you walk. On the other side there is no more dreaming. Just solid ground.”(108). The idea of not having your feet touching the ground, and being suspended in the air allows for you to escape from the world for a while, so this journey over the bridge provides you with the opportunity to just dream and escape reality, which is why when you begin to approach the end of the bridge you just want to take the longest amount of time possible to get to the end.

So when I do end up walking across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time I will take my time getting across the bridge. I’ll focus not on where the bridge is going to take me, but rather the beauty around me and enjoy the moments of being elevated off the ground. By doing so who knows maybe I too will have an epiphany and if not even just be able for those moments to just be able to escape reality for a little bit.

September 20th, 2010

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”, Walt Whitman describes what to most people would be a normal aspect of life, which was riding the ferry, and turns this image into so much more. Through Whitman’s use of imagery and language when describing his personal experiences on the ferry, he’s able to convey important motifs that are present within his poem. One of the motifs that seemed to be of immense importance to Whitman was communion, or rather the relationship between the past and the future.  Whitman believed in this idea of unity between his generation and the generations to come.

We see the idea of communion between the past and the future come up throughout the course of the entire poem.  Whitman immediately draws our attention to this idea through his careful use of repetition of certain key words. For example, when in the first section he uses the words you and me. The you is referring to the future generations, and the me is referring to himself, which in this case would be the past generation. This pattern is not just seen in the first section, it is seen throughout the whole poem. Whitman also repeats the word others. We see this towards the end of section 2 and also in section 3. Here when Whitman says others he is also referring to the future generations. By using these words, he is able to include the readers in his poem. He is not simply describing his experience on the ferry, he is describing the experience that future generations will also have.

Through the use of powerful images Whitman is able to display his belief in the communion of past and future. “Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high, A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them, Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide” (section 2). Through the details provided here, the reader is able to create an image of what the scenery is while on the ferry. Whitman is describing how the scenery that he is seeing now as he’s on the ferry, will be the same things that the people in future generations will be seeing. Because of this, the past and future generations are connected.

Whitman also uses many other images to relate past and future generations. For example when he says “I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine, I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it, I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me, In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came upon me” (section 5). Once again Whitman brings these images to the reader that are timeless, no matter what generation you’re in you will still see the same things that he saw. His repetition and choice of language here adds to the communal affect. The repetition of “I too” helps to reemphasize the fact that what future generations will experience, he too has. The same is seen in section 3, when Whitman repeats “just as”. He says “Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt, Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd, Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d, Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried” (section 3). Powerful images here relate Whitman’s past experience on the ferry to future generations experiences. The images that are described are  ones of things that will always be there, they are a part of nature and they are timeless, no matter what generation it is, those images will always be present.

Through the imagery and language that Whitman uses in the poem, he is trying to say that there is a communion between past and future generations, he tries to bring out the fact the we’re all from the same place, and since we’re all from the same place, wouldn’t we all see the same images? We, that is past and future generations, all experience the same beauty around us, and we all take a similar journey while on this ferry.  By using communal words throughout his poem, such as ties between, I too, just as, just as you, and we, Whitman is able to relate his experience on the ferry to the experience that future generations will have.

September 4th, 2010

9/11 Memory

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

It was just another normal day within our 4th grade classroom. Children sitting crossed legged around the numbered carpet. Our teacher began speaking, and we all listened. She explained what we would be doing that day in class. The clock struck half past eight. It was time to begin the day. We all made our way to our seats. Before you know it, the clock strikes nine. Ten more minutes and then the morning announcements would be heard. Nine fifteen comes around. No morning announcements had been made, yet our day continues on. The classroom is silent. A cell phone rings. My teacher grabs her cell phone, tells us she’ll be right back, and goes out into the hall. When she returns to the classroom there is a different vibe within the room.  Without saying a word, my teacher turns on the television. The image I saw when that television turned on will never be forgotten. There was a giant fire, and people running in all different directions. The looks on their faces said it all. Being the young, naïve, and overdramatic child that I was, I immediately thought that the world was coming to an end. It was hard to believe that something so horrible could happen somewhere so close to us.

During these moments, it seemed as if everyone suddenly understood each other. We were all in the same position As fourth graders we didn’t fully know everything but we all could agree that something wasn’t right, and that something horrible had just taken place.

Remembering that our teacher had left the room and returned to rush to go turn on the television without saying a word, we looked over at her to see if she was okay. She didn’t need to say a word for us to know how she felt. Her face said it all. She was in disbelief. When she finally spoke it was to another teacher who came rushing in and asked her “How is he?” How is he? We all thought to ourselves, who’s he? Is he okay?  Our teacher burst into tears. She finally responded, “He’s fine. He was so lucky, o gosh he was just so lucky.” She continued on to explain that her husband( finally we all knew who he was), was sent on a business trip to Delaware for a week and was supposed to return September 12th, so he was so fortunate to not be in the towers when tragedy had struck. After hearing this it made me wonder about if there were any other people I knew who may have been affected by this. Did anyone in my family know anyone? Was anyone in my family affected? I remembered that my dad was working in the city that day, was he okay? With all of these question running through my mind, I just remember wanting to get home as quickly as possible so I could go hug my mother and father. The clock struck nine forty five and finally an announcement. A voice that sounded so unfamiliar ran through the school. It was our principal, but she didn’t sound like the same cheerful, happy person that she was. In her serious tone she asked that all teachers and students report to the gymnasium.

In the gymnasium our principal explained that bad people had crashed an airplane into the world trade centers. I immediately thought to myself why would anyone do something like this? How could anyone do something like this? After talking to us, my principal got all the teachers together, and told them that we would spend the rest of the day in the gym just playing games. So we did as we were told, and remained in the gym and just played until it was time to go home. Those hours in the gym made me forget about everything that was happening. All I thought about was how lucky we were to be spending the whole day playing, and how this had to be the best day at school ever! This just goes to show you just how naïve and young we truly were. Once it was time to go home and once I actually got in my home reality struck again. I remembered and saw everything again. In my head I thought this definitely wasn’t the best day ever, in fact it was far from it.

Those images still remain embedded in my mind and will never be forgotten. I spent that night in my bed hoping that when I woke up in the morning I would awake realizing that the events from that day had all been part of a horrible nightmare and that none of it was actually true. Unfortunately as soon as I woke up the next morning i realized that what i wished was a nightmare was actually reality.

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