Construct a one-paragraph argument about one of the following topics:
- A motif is an element, a type of device, incident or formula found in literature. The term is also applied to the frequent repetition of a significant phrase, set description, or image in a single work. (Theme is sometimes used interchangeably with motif, but we will continue to use theme to refer to the overall claim or doctrine that a work is designed to incorporate.) Fences also incorporates recurring references, images and phrases. As discussed in Question 1, athletic pursuits are one dominant motif. Identify and explain the significance of another motif.
- In his essay, “Tragedy and the Common Man,” Arthur Miller argues that tragedy is not pessimistic. Why does Miller see tragedy as optimistic? Taken as a whole, do you interpret Fences as optimistic or pessimistic?
Once you have selected a topic:
- Make a claim in response to one of the topics above.
- Add evidence to support your claim in the form of a quotation to illustrate the point you are making.
- Add analysis by explaining how your quote proves or illustrates your claim.
Respond to Two Classmates
After you have constructed and posted your argument, reply to at least two of your classmates’ arguments by either:
- Agreeing with that person and adding another quote or example that supports his/her argument, or
- Disagreeing and adding another quote that undermines his/her argument.
- In his essay, “Tragedy and the Common Man,” Arthur Miller argues that tragedy is not pessimistic. Why does Miller see tragedy as optimistic?
- “This impression is so firmly fixed that I almost hesitate to claim that in truth tragedy implies more optimism in its author than does comedy, and that its final result ought to be the reinforcement of the onlookers brightest opinions of the human animal.” (Miller)
I interpret Fences as being optimistic. While Fences is full of unfortunate events, and a very difficult time in history the characters are able to make something good out of it. Some examples of this are: Troy getting a job driving the trash truck, which is a white man’s job. Cory took his dads cue to get out of the house, and ended up joining the army and finding happiness and love. Rose raised Troy’s child from his affair as her own, and set aside what she said about not wanting anything half in her family.
The entire story was focused around the unhappiness and arrogance of Troy current and past life, but the ended brought everyone together which I, as the reader, did not expect.
Miller, Arthur. Tragedy and the Common Man . The Literary Link, 1949, theliterarylink.com/miller1.html.
2.For this week’s discussion, I chose to write about another motif in the play “Fences” by Arthur Miller. One of the dominant motifs I recognized was the need to hold down a good job to support yourself and your family. In the play, Troy does not agree with his oldest son’s (Lyons) choice of playing music over the importance of getting a job and becoming a hard-working man that can provide for his family. He even offers to put in a good word with his boss to get Lyons a job collecting trash. But Lyons, who’s wife (Bonnie) just started working at the hospital, expresses that he’s content earning money by playing gigs wherever he can: “Naw, Pop…thanks. That ain’t for me. I don’t wanna be carrying nobody’s rubbish. I don’t wanna be punching nobody’s time clock. You got your way of dealing with the world…I got mine. The only thing that matters to me is the music”. (Kennedy, pg. 1099) Troy is also faced with confronting his youngest son, Cory, and his desire to play football. As a young adult, Troy was a gifted baseball player in the Negro League but was picked over to play for the Major Leagues, putting an end to his dreams of playing baseball for a career. When Cory is given the opportunity to receive a football scholarship, Troy discourages the desire by telling Cory he needs to quit the high school football team and keep working after school and on weekends, which is when Cory has practice. “You go on and get your book-learning so you can work yourself up in the A&P or learn how to fix cars or build houses or something, get you a trade. That way you have something can’t nobody take away from you. You go on and learn how to put your hands to some good use. Besides hauling people’s garbage”. This is Troy’s attempt to encourage his son to be a better hard-working man than he is. The conversation continues and eventually leads to Cory lying to his father about working at the A&P. Troy, feeling betrayed, does not approve the scholarship, and tells Coach Zellman Cory will not be playing football any longer. This later ensues to a confrontation between both Troy and Cory, which results in Cory leaving.
At the end of the play, both sons realize the lesson their father was trying to teach them. Lyons divulges that he split from Bonnie about 4 years earlier, and he was in the workhouse after receiving a 3-year sentence for cashing other people’s checks at work, still unable to find an honest paying job. We discover that Cory joins the Marines; a lucrative job for a young black man in the 1960’s, and considering getting married.
Kennedy, X.J., et al. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing, Sixth Edition. Boston, Pearson, 2020
3. For this weeks discussion, I chose to analyze Arthur Millers Tragedy and the Common Man. Millers writing was amidst the rise of comedy and a decrease in tragedy pieces. The context of his works like Tragedy and the Common Man, and Death of a Salesman, seem to suggest an analysis of the direction of literature. The world at that time wax left devastated by two World Wars and a disheartening holocaust. Many writers and artists in literature avoided creating tragedy works since they felt it was too sensitive of a subject. Miller argues and analyzes the idea of tragedy and its place. He felt that tragedy was not necessarily a big ordeal. Tragedy seemed to be defined by Arthur as someone acting sacrificial in order to better or save anothers life. In Tragedy and the Common Man, Miller redefines tragedy and heroism in a far more positive light. Without a doubt, Arthur Millers Tragedy and the Common Man, argues tragedy in an optimistic point of view.
4.A motif in the play “Fence” by Arthur Miller is how Troy compares many of his issues to baseball “But…you born with two strikes on you before you come to the plate. You got to guard it closely…always looking for the curve-ball on the inside corner. You can’t afford to let none get past you. You can’t afford a call strike” (Kennedy, pg. 1127.) In another scenario, Troy compares the strikes with the issues he has with his younger son Cory. Not only is Cory a talented football player, but unable to play living under his father’s roof. Troy gives Cory two strikes, but before the third strikes happen, Cory decides to leave. At the end of the play, Rose, Cory, and Lyons become together as a family, knowing how Troy might have brought them even closer.
Kennedy, X J, and Dana Gioia. Backpack Literature : An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Boston, Pearson, 2016.
5.In Fences, characters utilize the motif of seeds, plants, flowers, and actions like growing, taking root, and planting. This is portrayed in their actions and word usage. Rose has the name of a flower. She has the qualities of a beautiful soul and protects her family and herself. Rose displays to Raynell that seeds need time to grow. Rose says, “You just have to give it a chance. It’ll grow.” (Wilson,1138). She shows patience and generosity to everyone in the play. She supports Corys decision of playing football, shows compassion and concern for Gabriel when he gets arrested, and she takes in the child from her husband and Alberta. Rose says, “I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams and I buried them inside you. I planted a seed and watched and prayed over it. I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom. And it didn’t take me no eighteen years to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn’t never gonna bloom. But I held on to you, Troy.” (Wilson,1128). Troy felt he needed a break from the boredom of his marriage, and thats why he went to Alberta and had an affair. Rose replies, “I been standing with you! I been right here with you, Troy” (Wilson, 1127). Rose was there the whole time, like a flower growing in the same place it was planted.
Kennedy, X J, and Dana Gioia. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Boston, Pearson, 2016.
6.Throughout the article, Miller tries to show us the fact that he believes that ordinary people can withstand great tragedies just like kings and queens. He believes that members of the royal family and many civilians have similar psychological procedures and therefore may encounter similar dilemmas. Miller believes that the sense of tragedy arises when the character is willing to sacrifice all of his property and put it in the ranks to preserve one thing-“his sense of personal dignity.” In his eyes, this can happen when a person tries to regain the place they think they deserve in society. This is the trigger of tragedy, because they are willing to take the risk in this battle and will lose everything. In his eyes, the royal family is most often used in tragedies, because the royal family has wealth and status, so they will suffer more losses, but he believes that even ordinary people, for example, when they decide to stand firm, they have the same struggle .
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