American Literature Unit 4 Poetry

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American Literature Unit 4 Poetry

American Literature Unit 4 Poetry Notes cover all the exercise questions in UGC Syllabus. The American Literature Unit 4 Poetry provided here ensures a smooth and easy understanding of all the concepts. Understand the concepts behind every Unit and score well in the board exams.

56. According to the speaker of “Mending Wall,” what two forces cause the stone wall to fall apart? 

Ans: The speaker clearly refers to forces of nature in the second line of the poem as being responsible for the uall’s deterioration. He mentions that the ground becomes avert and this causes cracks in the soil on which the wall res:s. The constant cracking leads to stones eventually falling off the wall. 

“That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, 

And spills the upper boulders in the sun, 

And make gaps even two can pass abreast.” 

The gaps created are large enough for two persons to pass through, shoulder to shoulder. 

Secondly, the speaker blames hunters : 

“The work of hunters is another thing : 

I have come after them and made repair 

Where they have left not one stone on a stone, 

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, 

To please the yelping dogs.” 

The hunters break down the wall to get rabbits out of hiding so that their “yelping dogs” can chase after them. The speaker has constantly come after the hunters and repaired the wall. He realises that no one has actually seen or heard the wall being broken, so he reasons that these two factors are the most likely reasons for the damage. 

It is clear from the speaker’s tone that he does not like the wall and has been making futile attempts to convince his neighbour of its uselessness, but his neighbour is adamant that “good fences make good neighbours” and prefers having the wall up. His argument about ‘elves’ who do not want the wall emphasises how preposterous the idea of having a wall is, but his neighbour is unmoved. 

It is strange that the speaker does not directly con-ront his neighbour about having the wall removed, perhaps because he does not want to offend him, or maybe because he likes the idea of making contact with his neighbour when they go about fixing the damage. 

57. How do walls exist between people in the mending wall poem? 

Ans: There are two basic types of walls between the two main characters in Mending Wall. One is physical, the other is mental. 

The physical wall is the rock wall along the border line between the speaker’s apple orchard and the neighbour’s pine trees. This wall is created as much to remove the rocks and boulders from the ground where trees and grass and other crops might be trying to grow as it is to mark the dividing line between properties. 

The mental wall is the separation preferred by the neighbour as he insists, “Good fences make good neighbours.” The speaker in the poem is not convinced of this and wonders. 

Why do they make good neighbours?…Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence. 

The neighbour, however, is steadfast in the belief first expressed by his father, and so the two continue to repair the wall for another spring. 

58. Who mends the wall in the poem “Mending Wall,” by Robert Frost? 

Ans: The stone wall in question divides two farm properties. In the winter, the wall suffers damage due to weather and hunters. Stones roll away or fall, and gaps appear in the wall. 

So, the two property owners meet to repair the wall together. This is only fair, because the wall belongs to both of them. However, as the poem shows, these two men have very different outlooks on life, despite being neighbours. 

The speaker thinks for himself and takes a fanciful, imaginative, questioning view of life. He wants to fancy, for instance, that elves rolled the rocks from the wall. At certain points in the poem, he questions whether the wall even needs to be repaired. As he puts it, 

There where it is we do not need the wall : 

He is all pine and I am an apple orchard. 

My apple trees will never get across 

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 

However, the neighbour responds that “good fences make good neighbours.” 

The speaker persists in questioning why they need a wall between them. Neither of them has cows that wander off, and, as the speaker further states, 

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, 

That wants it down. 

However, the neighbour is a traditional thinker who learned the phrase “good fences make good neighbours” from his father, and he insists on repeating it. He doesn’t want to think about why he does things or if they could be done a better way. He doesn’t consider that it might be a waste of time to repair the entire wall. But, depending on your interpretation, his final word may be the right one : maybe it is better that these two very different men keep a “fence” between them. 

59. In Robert Frost’s Mending Wall, what is the speaker’s attitude to the adage, “Good fences make good neighbours?” 

Ans: Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” is a meditation on the barriers, both physical and mental, that di-ide people. The poem is told from the perspective of an individual who, together with his next-door neighbour, ritually rebuilds the barrier separating their properties. Who or what repeatedly tears down the wall is uncertain. Early in the poem. Frost’s narrator notes that hunters habitually tear down the wall. The hunters, however, are only part of the problem. A mysterious presence or force seems to oppose the structure dividing properties. To the narrator, however, the wall serves a useful purpose : 

My apple trees will never get across 

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’ 

Among the more interesting passages in “Mending Walls” is the narrator’s comments on the nature of the man-made structure. In this passage, Frost’s protagonist concedes that the wall’s purpose is a little unclear, although his neighbour’s position is less ambiguous : 

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know 

What I was walling in or walling out, 

And to whom I was like to give offence. 

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, 

That wants it down. I could say ‘Elves’ to him, 

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather 

He said it for himself. 

In the poem’s final lines, the narrator again quotes his neighbour’s proverb that “good fences make good neighbours.” 

Frost’s poem represents an effort at understanding the 

contradictory notion that physical barriers separating people fosters a more amicable environment. Anyone who has ever owned property and decried the encroachment of neighbouring communities or homes, or who has lamented the intrusions of neighbouring children chasing baseballs across one’s garden has contemplated the advantages of physical barriers separating properties. Countries around the world construct lengthy barriers along their borders for the purpose of keeping out people and ideas that run counter to their preferences. The Berlin Wall was an inhumane effort by the Soviet Union and its East German allies to not only prevent the loss of manpower, but to help keep out Western ideas and influences. As awful as that wall was, some in the West figured it helped minimise tensions between Fast and West by keeping East German citizens at home and not fleeing to freedom. In other words, the Berlin Wall was considered by some as “making good neighbours.” 

Frost’s narrator seems resigned to the wall separating his property from his neighbours. He does not understand why the wall is necessary, and may even be complicit in its destruction. His neighbour, however, remains convinced that keeping one’s property distinct from another’s is a sound policy. 

60. What does the speaker think destroys the wall  

Ans: In the poem “Mending Wall,” the speaker thinks that the long stone wall between his property and that of his neighbour’s gets destroyed regularly by two things : 

1. When it’s springtime and the ground thaws out from being frozen, it swells upward. This swelling of the ground rapines the wall and leaves very large gaps in it. (Refer mimes 1-4 in the poem.) 

2. When hunters come by and have a reckless disregard for other people’s property, they end up smashing bits of the wall as they’re trying to drive out animals from their hiding places. (Refer to lines 5-9 in the poem.) 

However, the narrator admits that he’s just guessing about how the wall does get damaged. He mentions that the gaps just show up every spring, and no one is actually there to witness the creation of those gaps. 

This question of how the wall gets damaged on a regular yearly basis is important to our understanding of the poem. Knowing that this happens every spring, in a predictable way, we understand that the speaker and his neighbour are doing their mending together as a well-established habit. It makes sense, then, for the speaker of the poem to spend time thinking about why they keep mending this wall and why they even need the wall in the first place, when the boundary between the two men’s properties is already so obvious. 

61. What are some philosophical interpretations of the poem “Mending Wall”? 

Ans : That is an interesting question to ask. In this context, I am interpreting “philosophical” to mean some timeless and universal meanings for Frost’s “Mending Wall.” The two that I take away after reading it are that we should tamper with nature only for some good purpose and that the structures created by humankind may interfere with relationships amongst people more than they aid them. 

The first few lines of the poem tell us that nature does not like human-built barriers. The narrator says, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” (line 1). That something is nature, which does its best to break up the wall with its cycles of freezing and warming. The narrator goes on to point out that, while there could be a purpose to building a wall, he clearly sees no such purpose in this situation. Therefore, if we are going to build walls, or anything else, interfering with nature’s natural course, we should do so only for a very good reason, to the benefit of someone or some ones. 

The narrator also sees that building can create a barrier and harm relationships : 

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know 

What I was walling in or walling out, 

And to whom I was like to give offence (lines 32- 35). 

He understands that building a wall keeps people out as well as keeping something or someone in, and he sees that not having walls or other barriers might make for better neighbours than having walls. It is not too great a leap to infer from this that the narrator sees building upon the landscape as something potentially harmful to human relationships. If a structure is not enhancing our ability to get along with one another, perhaps it is a structure that should not be. 

62. How does an understanding of “mending” in “Mending Wall ” as either verb or an adjective affect the interpretation? 

Ans: This question points out how the word “mending” in the title of the poem can be either a verb (something you do to a wall) or an adjective (something that describes or defines the wall). 

By noticing that you can interpret that word both ways, you understand that the title is purposefully ambiguous : that it provides us with two ways of thinking about the poem. In other words, to answer your question, an understanding of both grammatical ways to interpret the word “mending” in the title helps us realise that the poem is not just about a single activity but that it can mean more than one thing, and so can the objects or symbols within the poem. This matters because it helps us realise that we shouldn’t put the poem aside after understanding its literal plot. We should continue looking for multiple meanings. 

The first way to understand the poem’s title is as a verb and its object: “Mending Wall,” like in other “verb + object” phrases like “fixing dinner” or “doing homework.” On this level, we understand that the two neighbours in the poem are literally mending (repairing) a wall together. 

The second way to interpret the title is as an adjective and it noun it describes: “Mending Wall,” like in other “adjective + noun” phrases like “falling rain” or “running squirrel.” On this level, we also understand that, first, the wall itself is something that is capable of mending–that it provides a way of fixing up the relationship between the two neighbours–and second, that the wall’s purpose is to be mended, again so that it can bring the neighbours together and give them something meaningful to do while they spend time in each other’s company. 

Knowing that we can interpret the title in multiple ways helps us consider multiple meanings for the wall (as a means of both separation and connection, for instance) and mul-tiple meanings for the dialogue spoken in the poem (for example, how “Good fences make good neighbours” can be an indication of fences’ ability to set boundaries as well as allow neighbours to meet and connect). 

You can usually assume that titles are chosen carefully by authors. Whenever you think, “Wait, but this title could mean two things!” then the author probably meant for you to notice that and to accept both interpretations of the title as equally valid. 

63. In “Mending Wall”, Frost has counter-opposed the spirit of individualism with traditionalism. Elucidate. 

Ans: In “Mending Wall,” the speaker is an individualist who does not necessarily agree with having a wall between the two neighbours. Indeed, the speaker questions the necessity of having a wall : 

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know 

What I was walling in or walling out, 

And to whom I was like to give offence. 

From a traditional standpoint, the neighbour insists that “good fences make good neighbours.” To this response, the speaker accuses the neighbour as being an “old-stone savage armed,” meaning that the neighbour believes in traditional methods of separation. The neighbour believes in the tradition that his father passed down to him. It has been a family tradition to have a wall between neighbours. 

From the speaker’s point of view, the wall is not serving a purpose. There are no cows which need to be fenced in. There are only apple trees and pine trees. The speaker is facetious when he says that his apple trees are not going to get among his neighbour’s pine trees. 

Truly, it is a matter of opinion. The speaker is an individualist who enjoys being playful with his neighbour. All in good humour, the speaker questions the neighbour about the necessity of the wall. In a firm response, the tradi-ional neighbour just replies, “Good fences make good neighbours.” The speaker finally gives up on the notion of changing the traditional neighbour’s point of view : 

In the last section of the poem, however, the speaker’s use of simile and metaphor turns more serious. When he is unable to draw his neighbour into a discussion, the speaker begins to see him as threatening and sinister—as carrying boulders by the top “like an old-stone savage armed,” as “moving in darkness” of ignorance and evil. 

The neighbour is serious about the matter of keeping a wall between the two neighbours. He doesn’t laugh or find it amusing. He stands firm in his traditional view that “good fences make good neighbours.” 

64. What is the interpretation of “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost? 

Ans: This poem presents two views of a wall between two orchards. I lived in New England, and these walls are sometimes low walls that were originally intended to keep cows in their pasture (doesn’t take much of a wall to keep them in place), but which continued in place long after they were useful. The walls between the orchards in this poem are useless since we’re separating orchards and the trees won’t devour each other. But this doesn’t mean that walls are useless. They key lines for me have always been these : 

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know 

What I was walling in or walling out, 

And to whom I was like to give offence. 

Sometimes, as in this poem, walls serve no purpose and are only maintained out of habit and superstition. Sometime, however, there ARE things to protect, whether property, or information, or things about ourselves. Just think before you build a wall … do I need this ? Does it serve a purpose ? Will it help relationships ? If the answer is yes. then by all means build it. 

65. How does the author demonstrate metaphor in the poem “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost? 

Ans: A metaphor is the wall, which not only physically but emotionally and socially separates the neighbours. 

Metaphor is the use of direct comparison, where the author compares two unlike things by saying they are the same. It usually uses a linking verb such as is or was. 

In this case, the wall is a metaphor. We often talk of putting up emotional or mental walls between us and other people. These protect us, and prevent us from getting close to others. In this case, the neighbour seems to think that neighbours are better off not knowing each other very well. Yet the speaker feels uneasy about it 

I let my neighbour know beyond the hill; 

And on a day we meet to walk the line 

And set the wall between us once again. 

We keep the wall between us as we go. 

The speaker does not see a reason to keep the wall there, mentally or physically. He thinks that there is no reason for separation. Maybe they could be friends, or get to know each other. Why do they have to stay apart ? He would prefer more closeness, and to leave the wall alone, both literally and figuratively. 

66. In “Mending Wall,” by Robert Frost, how do fences makes good neighbours? 

Ans: Poet Robert Frost uses the wall as a metaphor to symbolise many things in his famous poem. In its concrete form, the stone wall serves to unify its neighbours each spring when the ground thaws, causing a swelling in which many of the stones are dislodged. The neighbours, who rarely speak or communicate during other times of the year, work together on opposite sides of the wall, mending its damaged sections. The word “mending” also serves to help the neighbours reconnect verbally each spring, patching up a friendship that is based entirely upon their shared stone fence. The phrase “Good fences make good neighbours” is totally appropriate: Rather than leave the fence to further deteriorate after each winter ends, the two men repair the fence, thereby making it good again; by working together, the two men maintain their neighbourly, if otherwise distant, connection. 

67. What does Frost seem to be saying about humankind in the poem ‘Mending Wall’? 

Ans: Frost’s poems in general have been over-analyzed, as though his main motive was to steep great human insights into allegorical stories. There is considerable evidence, however, that he was much more interested in drawing sketches of New England life, and he can be seen as a short-story writer who is relating spe-cific incidents in his (or the narrator’s) life. His work taken together is really a portrait of a New England rural / agricultural life gradually fading into modern technology. The “symbolism” is that this poem lives not so much in the poet’s mind (and with modem criticism, the author’s intentions are of minor importance) as in the readers’ tendencies to “make something” of the story. While from a Jungian standpoint such universals as walls, hunters, a personified Earth, etc. (and we can expand this remark to include woods, dark evenings, paths not taken, etc.) draw us to universal “truths,” to read these poems as puzzles is to miss the smooth rhymes and flows of the actual texts, and to abuse the visual and aural beauty of his creations, the lines and textures, the “craft.” True, Frost is an astute observer of humane conduct, but he is not first and foremost a Symbolist. 

68. What kind of text is Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”? How do you know? 

Ans: One of the most difficult things to do with poetry is to analyse its metre. In fact, metre is rarely even taught in high school anymore, and not many college classes concern themselves with it either. Unless you are an English major you have probably never had to work with terms like iambic, trochaic, spondiac, anapestic or dactylic. Yes, those words really mean something. They refer to the pattern and number of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry, the units of sound that give poetry its rhythm. 

“Mending Wall” is obviously a poem. But what kind of poem? 

First of all, it doesn’t rhyme. Despite what many high school students might say, a poem doesn’t have to rhyme to be good poetry. In fact, forcing certain words into a poem simply because they rhyme with other words can ruin a poem. 

Although “Mending Wall ” doesn’t rhyme, it does possess another key element of most poetry: a defined metre. This poem’s metre is called blank verse. Blank verse is unrhymed poetry that contains ten syllables per line. Within each line, the syllables are alternately stressed and unstressed. 

An analysis of “Mending Wall” shows that within its 44 lines there are 31 ten-syllable lines. The other 13 lines are eleven-syllable lines. So Frost plays a little fast and loose with the precise definition of the term, but he probably wasn’t worried about sticking to the exact rules of meter. Poets don’t mind breaking the rules at all, as long as it helps them express their message more forcefully. So, after all that, the answer to your question is: Frost’s “Mending Wall” is blank verse poetry. 

Sherman Alexie ‘Crow Testament’ 

69. How do you think reading saved Sherman Alexie’s life? 

Ans: Sherman Alexie is a Native American writer from the Spokane, Washington area. He had some challenges as a child that kept him from taking part in some traditional kids’ activities, like sports. One of the things that he enjoyed, instead, was reading. 

Alexie credits a couple of books with helping him become the person and writer that he grew into. He talks about them in this excerpt from a 2012 interview in the Blue Mesa Review : 

The Snowy Day, the picture book by Ezra Jack Keats, which talked about an urban black kid wandering alone in a snowy city. Number one, it was him being a brown-skinned kid, which, back then, there was very little brown-skinned kids’ literature. And also the way he wandered alone, lonely, and okay with the loneliness—that was me. I really saw myself in the book. And it didn’t happen again for.years. I mean, I always loved reading, but I felt outside of the books, like an eyewitness rather than a participant. So it didn’t happen again until I read in college Songs from This Earth on Turtle’s Back, which was an anthology of contemporary Native poetry, and I had that moment again. 

Alexie is voicing what is so important about the reading experience and, actually, all artistic experience : finding ourselves in the expression of others. There are countless examples of people who have credited writers with expressing that vision or experience that connects readers to the universe in a life-changing way. Sometimes it takes the experience of others to draw us in and make us realise that we are not alone, that our experiences and thoughts and joy and pain are an integral part of all human experience. 

For Alexie, these books helped him connect to the literary experience as a young Native-American—they helped validate his own existence and probably spurred a desire in him to express his own experience and vision. 

70. What is the literary style of Sherman Alexie? 

Ans: In her work on Native American Writers, Susan Brill describes Alexie Sherman’s writing as a mix of 

…pain and humour, hunger and survival, love and anger, broken treaties, Manifest Destiny, basketball, car wrecks, commodity food, HUD houses, smallpox blankets, and promises and dreams. 

Into this paradoxical mixture, Sherman fuses irony and dark humour with traditional elements of Indian myth making with surrealistic images, spirituality, and poetic passages. As one character describes himself, 

“That’s how I do this life sometimes by making the ordinary just like magic and just like a card trick and just like a mirror and just like disappearing. Every Indian learns how to be a magician and learns how to misdirect attention and the dark hand is always quicker than the white eye and no matter how close you get to my heart you will never find out my secrets…I’m travelling heavy with illusions.” 

Humour in the characters is often their coping mechanism, of course, but it comes with an acute sense of timing on the part of Sherman. Along with realistic diaries and dream imagery, narratives approach a type of stream-of-consciousness, but done in the shades of Native American states of mind. In addition, Sherman’s characters delve into a mental, emotional and spiritual dimension of “fancydancing.” Often there are shifts in person, using the intimate first person, then changing to a more objective and distant third person narration. 

In his early story “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” irony figures strongly as does symbolism; for example, alcoholic drinks are symbolic of the White Man who introduced them to the Native American, effecting much of their spiritual destruction. Certainly, there is always a collage, the tragic and the humorous, objective narration mixed with dreams and “fancy dance,” emotion with logic, tradition with the moment,representations of mind, spirit, and body, vying for attention in the reader’s contemporary mind. One critic observes that Sherman’s imagination “turns every word into a bottle rocket.” 

71. Are there stylistic similarities between Sherman Alexie and Toni Morrison ? This is more as it relates to postmodern themes in American fiction. 

Ans: What an interesting question! Two authors with very distinct styles, indeed. I think that both authors express similar IDEAS and THEMES, but the way they deliver these ideas (another part-of style) is not so similar : however, this is worth exploring. In Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Morrison’s Song of Solomon, two young men (Milkman and Junior) experience loss and struggle to discover their cultural identities, and both authors lend voice to the characters. However, Morrison writes in third person and Alexie’s Junior directly addresses the audience in first person. Also, Alexie uses a great deal of humour and hyperbole to express themes of oppression, while Morrison tends more toward the ironic, while also embedding historical allusions that deserve careful analysis. Also, the narrative structures are very different. Alexie, while anecdotal, tells a linear story, while Morrison’s tale weaves in and out of past, present, and future. As for language, both authors use quite a bit of dialogue to develop voice, but internal monologue is more prevalent in Morrison. Figurative language of simile and metaphor are similar, I guess, but overall, I think the emphasis should be on stylistic differences on similar themes. One more thing : Conflict between Rowdy and Junior could be compared to Junior and Guitar, particularly at the end of both novels. Hope that helps. Again, I am treating style as form more than content. 

72. Cain lifts Crow, that heavy black bird and strikes down Abel. Damn, says Crow, I guess this is just the beginning. 

Ans: In the first stanza of this poem Alexie iterates where the poem as a whole will go. The first stanza takes a big risk in comparing the scattered American Indian tribes with Biblical stories. This pattern will continue through the rest of the poem as Alexie moves from Genesis to Revelation while keeping the “Crow” theme alive. In depicting crow as the weapon used for the first murder Alexie asserts that the Indian culture has been around at least as long as Christian culture. This is a risk because as an Indian writer he runs the gauntlet of two cultures: on one hand he has to stay true to what he is writing and where he wants to go, on the other he is as a cultural minority in the United States- pegged as a representative of all the Indians in the United States. This is tricky because a large part of the destruction of Indian culture came at the hands of Christian Missionaries who herded Native children to boarding school; to be re-educated. By destroying the children of entire generations the conquering of the Indian culture was complete. Many Indians would be offended by Alexie depicting one of their most sacred creatures (Crow) depicted as a weapon in a Christian myth. On the other hand for many Indians the conversion was successful and complete, so this would not be an issue, they would more than likely take offence with the idea of mixing the two believe systems. 

73. The white man, disguised as a falcon, swoops in and yet again steals a salmon from Crow’s talons. Damn, says Crow, if I could swim I would have fled this country years ago. 

Ans: In the second stanza Alexie moves away from the Biblical element of the first stanza and moves more into a direct reaction to white encroachment. Disguising as falcon is symbolic of when Europeans first came to these shores and shook hands with the Indians with one hand and took everything from them with the other; disguising as falcon is when the white man used words such as “friends”, “treaty”, and “ally” to tempt the Indians into letting him get close enough to rape the land of resources; disguising as falcon when the white man gave Indians part of their land and then snatched it again from them. Disguising as falcon is contextual in modem day as well, as white Americans continue to attempt to make up for the genocide of the Indian people, until it becomes inconvenient. If Crow could swim, such as Salmon swims, he would have left the land to the whites long ago, but Indians just can’t get up and leave, where would they have gone ? 

74. The Crow God as depicted in all of the reliable Crow bibles looks exactly like a Crow. Damn, says Crow, this makes it so much easier to worship myself. 

Ans: The third stanza Alexie moves the reader back into the realm of the Bible. This vents many minorities’ problems with Christianity on multiple levels. The Christian God is a white man, it makes it easy for European Americans to identify with and worship this God whom looks like them. When it comes to Indians, their God is the same God so he in turn is white. This automatically puts down the Indian because God doesn’t look like them; he looks like their “superiors”, White Christians. Reading the stanza in that light gives it a satirical quality, almost a mocking form of how ridiculous it is to consider your God to look like you, because then that is just an excuse to pat your own back. 

In the time that Christianity was being forced upon the Indians Europeans were in the mindset that they were superior to the Indian’s due to advanced technology and their faith. The same shouldn’t be true today, but it is. Alexie iterates in this stanza–given the poems overall narrative of parallelism with modern and colonial times—the feeling of inferiority that the Indian populations feel when surrounded by the “Whiteness” of the rest of the nation. 

75. Among the ashes of Jericho, Crow sacrifices his firstborn son. Damn, says Crow, a million nests are soaked with blood. 

Ans: This stanza brings in an abstract Bible story about the conquering of Canaan by the Israeli army led by Joshua. The city of Jericho was massacred after God made the walls collapse from the shouts of the Israeli invaders whom carried the Ark of the Covenant. Killing and desecrating every man woman and child in the city save for one family whom provided refuge to a pair of Israeli spies. Reading this in context with the story, Crow could have been the family that provided refuge to the spies and thus dooming his city (tribe). 

Sherman Alexie uses this story to represent the early Indians who provided aid to the white invaders. By giving them aid, mostly in the form of translators or guides, they gave an even bigger advantage to the invaders. Just as the family in Jericho gave the Israelis’ an even bigger advantage by reporting on the status of the Now millions of Indians were killed in the Genozide that followed and the old Indian lands are soaked with the blood, on the hands of Crow. The same is true today when one thinks of the way that many tribal members have sold off portions of their reservation land to make profit, or made environmentally destructive decisions to line their pockets. Case in point on Sherman Alexie’s reservation, the Spokane Indian Reservation, Uranium was mined out of the Midnite Mine mid-century and the effects are still being felt today. 

76. When Crows fight Crows the sky fills with beaks and talons. Damn, says Crow, its raining feathers. 

Ans: When Crows fight Crows represents the many conflicts that have beset Indian tribes for centuries. Tribes used to fight each other on a regular basis, thus weakening themselves when Europeans started coming over. It is pure speculation but many Indian historians feel that the Tribes could have had a greater chance of repelling the invaders had they had a more peaceful stance. The Europeans were able to strike deals or massacre each tribe individually instead of dealing with a unified body, until near the end of the Genocide. 

This is also a look into modem Reservation dynamics as many families have blood feuds that have lasted for decades, sometimes even the better part of this century. Many times these feuds are so old that the people feuding don’t even remember what the conflict was about. This leads to a weakening of the tribe as a whole and undermines the ultimate goal of Tribal sovereignty. Without unification the Tribes goals will never be reached. 

77. Crow flies around the reservation and collects empty beer bottles but they are so heavy he can only carry one at a time. So, one by one, he returns them but gets only five cents a bottle. Damn, says Crow, redemption is not easy. 

Ans: The opulence of the alcohol problem is often hard to fathom to an outsider. Represented here by the weight of the beer bottles and the amount of pay off that are gained. Trying to make up for the past takes time, and trying to fix the problem takes even more time and effort. Alexie (before focusing more on the urban Indian) often wrote on the chaos that was ever present growing up on the Spokane Tribe Indian reservation. This stanza is a distinct representation of that. Crows can pick up bottles, one-by-one, but they can’t do it alone; it must be a tribal effort to stop the crisis of alcoholism. Even though the problem is represented as monetary in this stanza it is far more personal and emotional than that. The alcohol was provided by early European traders and was often used to facilitate better agreements between white traders and Indians, and later between Government officials and Indians. 

78. Crow rides a pale horse into a crowded powwow but none of the Indians panic. Damn, says Crow, I guess they already live near the end of the world. 

Ans: Alexie finishes up with Revelation, the final book in the Bible, and also the one tells The Apocalypse myth. The reservation is a poverty stricken waste-land, in most cases. So when Crow rides in on one of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, in his case the Pale Horse (death or pestilence depending on the translation) it doesn’t cause much of stir. To the Indians at the Pow Wow, the reservation is close enough to death that the Horseman does not worry them, nor even surprise them. The tragedy that is the current state of most Indian reservations is deplorable, but Crow can’t change it alone. 

The entire poem seems to be a mirror of the things that Alexie grew up with on the reservation. Whether it is rampant racism, chaotic alcoholism, or the shackles of poverty, all of these factors had great impact on the content and style of his writing. The American Indians have been struggling with this problem since the white man first landed on their shores and it is not something that will go away easily. One day, hopefully through ethnic writers such as Sherman Alexie, the nation as a whole will open their eyes and help recognize the Genocide that the founders of our nation facilitated. It’s easy to say things like “my family didn’t get here until 1900, so we didn’t do this”. But it’s our nation, these are our people, and they need recognition. 

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