Monday, December 7, 2009

Tourism and the Caribbean

Tourism is the driving force behind many of the smaller Caribbean islands economies. Barbados, Antigua, Jamaica, and many other islands are dependent on the on the people that come to their islands for fun in the son to keep their fragile economies intact. However, the tourism industry could be killing these small places instead of saving them as long as the tourists do not know what they are doing to the places they visit. Jamaica Kinkaid outlines the problems with ignorant tourism in her short novel “A Small Place”. There are many problems facing these places like pollution from Caribbean cruise ships that could in turn destroy them entirely.
One major way that cruise ships are adding to the pollution problems in the Caribbean is the unbelievable amount of waste that they rack up. “A single cruise ship produces per person, per day, 1 kg burnable waste, .5 kg food waste and 1 kg glass and tin” (Uebersax, 1996). Now take those numbers, multiply them by about 300, and then multiply them by about 4 (average cruise length). That is an ungodly amount of waste. The simple fact of the matter is that that waste cannot stay on the boat. Most of the time a cruise ship will dump that waste deep into international waters to prevent it from reaching shore, which is not always illegal. However, they often do not take into account the strong currents that will pull much of that crap, no pun intended, into shore. Sometimes the cruise ship will just dump their trash in harbor, which is extremely illegal (Uebersax, 1996). This dumping destroys the pristine beach lines and crystal clear blue waters that draw the tourists in the first place. If this problem continues, tour businesses will literally put themselves out of business by killing what people want to see. It also effects the local populations by killing off fish, making resources like drinking water unusable, and making many people extremely ill.
So what can we do to stop it? Unfortunately, the answer is not so easy. The current measures taken on cruise ships to dispose of waste are very limited. Some simply try to recycle their waste so they do not have so much to dump. Most do not. One answer could be incineration. Burning the waste could provide a safe way of disposing of the waste and also it could provide a way of powering the ships in little areas. The only problem with this approach would be that the ash made by burning this waste would have to be disposed of as well and that could be even more damaging if it is dropped in the ocean (Uebersax, 1996). Another solution proposed would be on shore waste treatment plants on the islands. This would prevent the ships from dumping anything into the water at all. While this seems to be the best solution, it is also problematic. The fact is that the locations that many of the ships go to are very poor countries that cannot even take care of their own waste, let alone that from a cruise ship. They cannot do this alone and without foreign support it may never get done (Uebersax, 1996).
In conclusion, the points of reports like this and Jamaica Kinkaid’s novel “A Small Place” is not to tell people not to go on trips and cruises. Instead, it encourages travel, but makes people aware of the effect the make when they travel. Ignorant tourism could cripple the tourism industry and damage some of the most beautiful places on Earth. We must be aware of the footprint we leave when we leave.
Works Cited
Uebersax, M. B. (1996, August). Cruise Ship Pollution in the Caribbean. Retrieved from

The History Behind Poets In The Kitchen

Paule Marshall in her essay “Poets in the Kitchen” outlines what it was like to grow up in a family that came from the tiny island of Barbados in the West Indies. She discuss not only the things she saw that made her the person she was today, but also what inspired her to write the way she does. The history of Barbados explains a lot of the experiences that Paule Marshall writes about in “Poets in the Kitchen” and gives an interesting look into that life.
The early history of Barbados is a very fascinating one. The island was first inhabited by the Arawak Indians that came from Venezuela by dugout canoes. One of the things that sticks out about these Indians is the extremes they would go to look attractive. They would tie the foreheads of their infants to slope their heads to a point (Barbados Culture: the Abbreviated History of Barbados ). This is strikingly similar to the tradition that Marshall mentions in her essay of “the bellyband that is tied around the stomach of a newborn baby to keep the navel pressed in” (Marshall, 2001). It seems that the tradition of going to extremes to be, what the people around them view as, good looking did not stay in Barbados when Marshall’s relatives left.
After the Arawak Indians, the Carib Indians came to Barbados. They were cannibals and would use a very powerful toxin on their arrows to paralyze their victims to prepare them to be eaten (Barbados Culture: the Abbreviated History of Barbados ). The Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos landed on the island in 1536 while he was on his way to Brazil to trade. He did not clam the island but named it Los Barbados which means the ‘Bearded One’. Many historians believe the name comes from the islands fig trees that have hanging aerial roots that give the trees a bearded look (History of Barbados ). The English were the next to settle Barbados in 1625 and it became a British Colony in 1627. The Island was made into a thriving sugar cane producing colony, however the poor living conditions and horrible treatment of the slaves used to produce the sugar was too much. The slaves revolted in 1816, but slavery as a whole was not abolished in Barbados until 1834 (History of Barbados ). The Island remained basically stable until 1930 when an economic Depression hit which caused riots and many of the people to leave to the country. It is quite possible that this is when Paule Marshall’s relatives came over to America. Barbados remained a British colony until 1966 when they declared full independence and joined the United Nations in 1967. Now, tourism, like many of the smaller Caribbean islands, is the driving force behind Barbados’s economy.
While it is always interesting to see where a writer gets his or her inspiration, sometimes it is even more interesting to examine the culture that he or she came from. In Paule Marshall’s case, by looking at the history of the country that her relatives came from we can see where many of the traditions she talks about in “Poets” came from.
Works Cited
Barbados Culture: the Abbreviated History of Barbados . (n.d.). Retrieved from
History of Barbados . (n.d.). Retrieved from
Marshall, P. (2001). Poets in the Kitchen. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Meaning Behind DeLillo’s White Noise

Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise is hailed as one of the greatest postmodern works of all time and is one of the greatest books of the 20th century. However, why did DeLillo call his novel white noise? What does it even mean? The dictionary defines white noise as, “a constant background noise; especially: one that drowns out other sounds; meaningless or distracting commotion, hubbub, or chatter” (White Noise, 2009). With this definition in mind, it is easy to see what DeLillo meant when he called his novel White Noise. Don DeLillo meant that the technology and life in America are a background noise that drowns out what is really going on in our world.
The first example we see of this in the novel is on the very first page. DeLillo describes how a group of college students arrive with an ungodly amount of stuff loaded on their cars. “The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags; with bicycles, skies, rucksacks, English and Western saddles, inflated rafts” (DeLillo, 1999). This shows the mountains of stuff that the kids bring with them; most of it completely useless. The American underlying white noise of “buy more stuff, buy more stuff” is made evident here. These kids own things that they will most likely never use again, but own none the less out of some unknown need.
A second example of this definition of white noise is on page 51 of the novel. Murray is talking to the narrator, Jack, about television and how, in a way, it is the essence of white noise. “TV offers incredible amounts of psychic data. It opens ancient memories of world birth; it welcomes us into the grid, the network of little buzzing dots that make up the picture pattern. There is light, there is sound. I ask my students, ‘What more do you want?’ Look at the wealth of data concealed in the grid, in the bright packaging, the jingles, the slice of life commercials, the products hurtling out of darkness, the coded messages and endless repetitions, like chants, like mantras, ‘Coke is it, Coke is it, Coke is it.’ The medium practically overflows with sacred formulas if we can remember how to respond innocently and get past our irritation, weariness, and disgust” (DeLillo, 1999). Murray is basically saying that without us knowing it, things like TV or computers will run our thoughts if we allow them. Just 30 minutes and one commercial could have you buying something you don’t really want or craving some food you don’t really need to be eating.
In conclusion, White Noise can be interpreted as a kind of warning against letting these types of technologies run our lives. When we allow technology to become the background noise of our lives, it can influence us without us even knowing it. I believe that this was Don DeLillo’s purpose.
Works Cited
DeLillo, D. (1999). White Noise. New York, New York: Penguin Books.
White Noise. (2009). Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

Louise Erdrich’s Style in Love Medicine

Louise Erdrich is a very talented Native American author. Her novels about Native American life on and off the reservation have won her recognition around the country. Philip Roth said about her novel the Plague of Doves that “Louise Erdrich's imaginative freedom has reached its zenith—The Plague of Doves is her dazzling masterpiece” (Roth). However, besides her incredible story telling abilities, what makes her the most interesting is her style. In her short story cycle Love Medicine, Erdrich changes narrators, settings, plots, times, tenses, and even points of view right in the middle of a story.
The first interesting thing about Louise Erdrich’s style is the way she introduces multiple narrators over the course of the cycle. Many times, she even will introduce multiple narrators in a single story. For example, in the last story of the cycle, “Crossing the Water”, Erdrich switches the narrator from Howard Kashpaw to Lipsha Morrissey in just a couple of pages (Erdrich, 2009). This gives a lot of depth to the story. The reader is able to see the story, and sometimes the same event, from the minds of almost every single character in the book. There is no need to guess what the characters are thinking, because likely as not that character will be telling the story within the next five pages or so.
Another interesting thing about Erdrich’s style is the way she shifts the narrator’s point of view in her stories. She frequently goes from third person to first person before going right back to third person. For example, in the first story in the cycle, “The World’s Greatest Fisherman”, she begins the story from the third person point of view. “The morning before Easter Sunday, June Kashpaw was walking down the clogged main street of oil boomtown Williston, North Dakota, killing time before the noon bus arrived that would take her home” (Erdrich, 2009). However, on page seven, the point of view changes to first person. “It was almost hot by the week after Easter, when I found out, in Mama’s letter, that June was gone – not only gone but suddenly buried, vanished off the land like that sudden snow” (Erdrich, 2009). While this sudden switch in point of view could be confusing for some readers, Erdrich makes it so that it takes very little effort to follow along with the changes. It adds yet another layer of depth to the stories. The reader is able see the entire setting in a 3-D, 360 degree sweep. The reader is able to take in every detail and thought as if they were in the story feeling what the characters are feeling.
In conclusion, Louise Erdrich’s unique style only makes her a more interesting writer. She takes the story and shows it to reader from every possible angle. This not only improves the experience of reading Erdrich, but gives us a grand picture of the Native American life in the 20th century. The review of this book by the New York Times says it all, “There are at least a dozen of the many vividly drawn people in this first novel who will not leave the mind once they are let in. Their power comes from Louise Erdrich’s mastery of words… Every detail in this novel counts. (New York Times)”
Works Cited
(n.d.). New York Times .
Erdrich, L. (2009). Love Medicine. New York, New York: HarperCollins.
Roth, P. (n.d.). Louise Erdrich Biography. Retrieved from

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Comparison of Breath, Eyes, Memory with Their Eyes Were Watching God

At first glance, the novels Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston do not seem to have much in common. However, with a little bit of deep diving into the text, one can easily see some very similar themes and ideas between the two novels. Both novels put a heavy emphasis on the traditions of the main characters’ backgrounds, but also the journey of the main characters to shed those traditions.
The emphasis on the traditions of the main character’s heritages is easy to see in both novels. In Breath, Eyes, Memory, many of the events, often horrifying things, which happen to the main character Sophie are a direct result of the traditions of Haiti, where her family is from. A good example of this is when Sophie questions why her mother did some of the strange and sometimes horrible things that happened to her as a young girl. “’I did it," she said, "Because my mother had done it to me. I have no greater excuse’” (Danticat, 1994). The only reason she gets is that it is the way it has always been. That is a clear example of tradition in the novel. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, the main character Janie experiences the same thing. Her grandmother wants to marry off Janie right away when she kisses a man (Hurston, 2006). This shows a deep root in the old traditions and beliefs of her ancestors. While some of the time these traditions help to define the characters, most of the time these traditions hinder the character and provide obstacles that they need to overcome.
This is another theme we see in common with these two novels. Sophie and Janie both struggle against their pasts and the traditions of their ancestors in order to discover what their true identities are. In Breath, Eyes, Memory, Sophie does not become a complete individual until she tries to break free from the traditions of her ancestors. She does everything that her mother would disapprove of from living with a man to homosexuality. All the while she is put with the question “’Ou libere? Are you free my daughter?’” (Danticat, 1994). She seems to not know the answer till after her mother dies. Likewise, in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie doesn’t know who she is until she has tried everything. “‘So Ah’m back home agin and Ah’m satisfied tuh be heah. Ah done been tuh de horizon and back and now Ah kin set heah in mah house and live by comparisons’” (Hurston, 2006). Janie realizes that her experiences while trying to break tradition have made her who she is today.
In conclusion, while these two novels come from two very different people, their themes are very similar. The idea of tradition and breaking the mold are ideas that drive us as people today as well. Almost every action we take is following a tradition or breaking one. It is interesting to see how the traditions in these two characters’ lives affect the outcome of who they are.

Works Cited
Danticat, E. (1994). Breath, Eyes, Memory. New York, New York: Vintage Contemporaries .
Hurston, Z. N. (2006). Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, New York: HarperCollins.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Character of Nathan in the Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible is by far one of the more interesting novels that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The development of the characters, the interesting setting, and the multiple narrators that give multiple points of view make this novel a truly unique experience. Of all the interesting characters in this novel, one of them really stood out to me as by far the most fascinating. The crazy thing is that this is also probably the most hated character of the novel by both other characters and readers. I am of course speaking of the character of the father, Nathan. The character of Nathan is fascinating because he is the only character that does not change at all throughout the novel.

At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to the character of Nathan. Nathan is a Baptist preacher who is planning to take his whole family into the middle of the Congo in Africa to minister to who he thinks of as savage, wicked people. Nathan’s first prayer with the people of the Congo shows his position on the people. ‘“O Lord, let us pray,’ he concluded, landing abruptly back down on earth. ‘Lord, grant that the worthy among us here shall rise above the wickedness and come out of the darkness into the wondrous light of out Holy Father, Amen’” (Kingsolver, 1998). This prayer sets Nathan’s stance that these people are living in sin and darkness and that he is the only one that can bring them out of their wickedness. The crazy thing about Nathan is that, while his family’s view on the people change drastically, Nathan does not change at all.

Through out the novel Nathan treats the people of the Congo like lesser people than himself. He talks to them like children, he always looks at them as inferior, and all the while he tries to convince them that his way is the only way to go. Nathan is steadfast in these views and refuses to change for anyone. There is one interesting scene in the book that really shows the way that Nathan views himself as higher than the people. Nathan is trying to convince the people to except western customs, like voting. The people use this idea of voting and vote that Jesus is not going to be the savior of their village. Nathan throws a hissy fit at this and basically condemns the people. “‘Man, you understand nothing! You are applying the logic of children in a display of childish ignorance” (Kingsolver, 1998). Nathan’s stance never changes and he winds up losing his family because of this.

In conclusion, the character of Nathan that you both dislike an feel sorry for at the same time. His rock hard stance that he is above the people of the Congo and that his message is the only thing that will bring them from pit of darkness drives people away from him instead of toward him. He ruins the chance he had to bring the gospel to the people by treating them like inferiors. That is why he fascinates me.

Works Cited
Kingsolver, B. (1998). The Poisonwood Bible. New York, New York: Harper Perennial . Pgs 28, 332

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Allen Ginsberg's influence on Bob Dylan

Allen Ginsberg is by far one of the most interesting poets that I have ever read. He dared to rise up against the norm of society and write without borders. Ginsberg and a few other men were all members of the Beat Generation; a group of youth that began to experiment with drugs, sex, and new forms of art. Ginsberg is created with writing one of the defining poems of the so called Beat Generation; Howl. Howl takes a shot at the leaders of the generation he is writing in and calls for the youth of the next generation to rise up. Howl is also responsible for inspiring the 60’s movement and great artists like Bob Dylan and we see this influence in his work.
The first major way we see the Allen Ginsberg’s influence on Bob Dylan is in the language that both artists use. Ginsberg uses a very descriptive form of writing. He uses a sometimes very confusing language to describe his points. A good example of this would be the first very famous lines of Howl. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night” (Ginsberg, 1956). We see this language mirrored in many of Bob Dylan’s songs. A good example of this is in the song “All Along the Watchtower”. "’There must be some way out of here,’ said the joker to the thief, ‘There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief. Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth, none of them along the line know what any of it is worth’” (Dylan). This is a very good mirror image of the strange but very descriptive language that Allen Ginsberg uses.
Another way we see Allen Ginsberg’s influence on Bob Dylan is the message that both artists are attempting to get across. Ginsberg’s Howl is very politically minded poem. The poem deals with big political themes like Islam, racism, anti-Semitism, Christianity, communism, and many others (Ginsberg, 1956). Bob Dylan, in turn, also discusses many political and social issues that were going on at the time. A good example would be his song “the Times They Are A Changin’”. “Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land and don't criticize what you can't understand. Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command. Your old road is rapidly aging'. Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand for the times they are a-changin'” (Dylan, The Times They Are A Changin' Lyrics ). The song is basically a shot at the older generation who was getting in the way of the progress of the new generation of thinkers. Ginsberg’s influence on Dylan is really quite obvious through their messages.
In conclusion, Allen Ginsberg had an incredible influence on the artists that would drive the changes that would come in the 60’s and 70’s. Bob Dylan was also by far one of the major drivers of this movement. Ginsberg’s influenced helped Dylan shape his style that would not only change the way folk music was played, but would define a generation for eternity.
Works Cited
Dylan, B. (n.d.). All Along the Watchtower Lyrics. Retrieved October 2009, from Bob Dylan:
Dylan, B. (n.d.). The Times They Are A Changin' Lyrics . Retrieved October 2009, from Bob Dylan:
Ginsberg, A. (1956). Howl and other Poems. San Francisco: City Lights Books.