Gardner’s Letter

About four decades ago, a teacher and a few of her students sent a letter to John Gardner about “Grendel.” He replied and explained a little more in depth his books meaning and a variety of other things. First off, he talks about the original story: Beowulf. Gardner writes that in it, a central message is everything ends (kinda depressing). At some point in time, no matter how hard a person may try otherwise, every action taken or words said or piece created, will cease to be important. He then goes on to explain why his book is far more optimistic than the original work. Gardner says as a novelist, his job is to explore the meaning of things (and not “ram it down the reader’s throat”). But, in his entire letter Gardner does kind of force these ideas upon the reader, and basically outright call anyone who doesn’t understand a child. However, since Gardner is an amazing philosophical writer I guess he can do that.

Also in his letter, he elaborates on the scenes where Beowulf and Grendel interact. Grendel is so fascinated and excited by Beowulf’s arrival because he sees this as an opportunity to end his loveless, meaningless life. And even then, Beowulf is more then what Grendel wanted; he has “the intelligence to force Grendel to see his mistake”. Gardner also talks about the wall scene in “Grendel” and how that physical wall is supposed to represent life’s walls (love, death, people, etc.). Gardner says towards the end that his art, and all art, is there to help the reader understand things he or she didn’t before. Everyone may get something slightly different out of a work, but the central meaning is there. In “Grendel”, Gardner says the central question is “that if the world really is meaningless (as it now stands) how should I live?” However that is interpreted is up to the reader, not Gardner. Personally, I found the letter to be really interesting and Gardner’s personal writing had some (because I can’t think of another word) sass to it.

The Lighted Window

The Lighted Window

Sara Teasdale

I think this poem is about an adult losing their childlike self. Honestly, this poem is a bit depressing to me. In it, a man tells someone that he hurried down a sidewalk and got distracted by all the decorations a storefront has. But, just as he became really excited, he remind himself that he is an adult and needs to leave that behind. Like, I mentioned: depressing. Considering I am ‘supposed’ to be an adult, I shouldn’t love Disney or Christmas decorations or animated kid movies; but I do. I feel like this poem is purposefully sad and somber. Losing the qualities you had as a kid is a sad thing; losing the trust kids have, the excitement, energy, etc.. Once we become adults all those characteristics are replaced by busyness, and distractions, and tiredness. I feel like I do see moments of childlike excitement in the adults around me, but then I have also seen them reel it back in to their adult self. Though sad, I like the poems message and the truth behind it.

In “the Lighted Window” imagery is the device that sticks out to me. The descriptions the poet gives all the things in the window is exciting. Everything is described as amazing and contributes an upbeat, energetic tone. However, there is a shift in the poem. Its starts out normal then begins to build with excitement. But, before that excitement can go anywhere, it’s cut off completely as the person in the poem remembers to be the adult. Then it drops to somber and melancholy as they once more become an adult and lose their “boyhood’. Also the repetation the poem has helps the reader understand a shift. It begins by explaining a man hurrying down a sidewalk in winter; distracted by things. But, then he sees the shop. At the end, the poet restates that he is walking down sidewalk after losing his boyhood. That repetition helps the reader understand a return to the adult world.