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final paper - UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY The boundaries of...

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Unformatted text preview: UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY The boundaries of language I quietly cursed: Auden, Hughes, and their response to Lord Byron HE330: AMERICAN LITERATURE SECTION 3011 PROFESSOR MARK MCWILLIAMS BY ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND 26 APRIL 2007 It was Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher who said: “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” Defining one’s personal identity may coincide with this ancient Stoic principle, but what is not mentioned is the human transformation that must take place to accomplish such an aspiration. In both Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 , there is a quest for personal definition which requires breaking the societal conventions of a chaotic culture. The Invisible Man is trapped in a world where his grandpa believes the best response to the white man’s racism is unparalleled, insincere kindness. In The Crying of Lot 49 , Oedipa Maas exists in a community consumed by the ‘everydayness’ of suburban living. While both the Invisible Man and Oedipa Maas have been alienated by their respective cultures, Invisible derives a personal identity while Oedipa Maas continues to struggle in a world that disintegrates around her because of her inability to connect and communicate with her chaotic society. Early in the novel, Invisible presents himself to the reader as a black man who has been forgotten by society; he lives underground and steals electricity from a power company for his fantastically well-lit lair. The company knows that someone is using up an exorbitant amount of electricity, but the culprit is strangely invisible to the rest of the grid. He opens his relationship with the reader as a man who has been forgotten by society, for better or for worse. Invisible says: “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me” (3). The withdrawal from society that Invisible experiences is not one of peaceful sabbatical, but rather a anxious fragmentation from the world with which he desperately wants to interact. At times he is not sure of his own being, and must continually prove to himself what others do not acknowledge. This constant struggle for recognition is at times painful, as Invisible asserts that his efforts cause fatigue. He says: “You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world” (4). Invisible does not experience the fulfillment that is symptomatic of human interaction, and its absence causes an ache and fatigue that preempts him to reach out to the seemingly blind society from which he has been excluded....
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final paper - UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY The boundaries of...

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