Wednesday, August 23, 2006

our father who art in nature

i have read The Pearl, East of Eden, and half of Grapes of Wrath. i remembered Steinbeck being a matter-of-fact teller of stories, but i did not recall him being matter-of-fact in such a humorous and beautiful way. he has blown my mind at least once in each small section. some of his sentences could be sung, and they create visual images to perfection, particulary the scene on the ocean floor at the beinning of chapter 6: "Orange and speckled nudibranches slide gracefully over the rocks, their skirts waving like the dresses of Spanish dancers." just one example out of bunches.

i'm curious about the two suicides. how do they fit into the big point/picture? i'm fascinated by the "Thy father who art in nature" lines. it seems to me that Steinbeck is interested in showing serendipity and ill-luck side by side in both nature and on Cannery Row. does Steinbeck believe humans to be part of the machine of nature? are we subject to the laws of nature or above some of them? in the underwater scene mentioned above he shows incredible beauty and instinctual "cruelty," the anemones, "like soft and brilliant flowers, inviting any tired and perplexed animal to lie for a moment in their arms . . ." and this is just the way things are. when Gay goes for a new point for the carburetor needle, "out of all the possibilities in the world--the millions of them--only events occurred that lead to the Salinas jail." the same type of event-by-event descent seems to lead to the two suicides early on. does this make Steinbeck a fatalist? is nature ruled by determinism? is God?

CR is making me laugh a lot by the way, and because of the sadly comic characters and the beautiful language/descriptions, i think this one is my favorite J.S. so far!



Blogger Erica Reynolds said...

I's amazing writing. Amusing, clever, big picture and minute details, languid one minute and razor-sharp the next. One sentence reminds me that I shouldn't take life so freakin' seriously, and the next sentence reminds me of the hopeless despair. It's exhilerating.

6:14 AM  

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