Literary Analysis: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: The Search for Identity and Individuality

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MARCH 27, 2007


A novel represents a work of fiction – a story that is creatively written from an author’s mind and point of views. That does not exclude fiction from the realm of reality, however. Fiction and real life interrelate in every sense; in fact, fiction always has elements of reality. Real-world experiences, people, history, and life in general are influential to a novelist and serve as a catalyst, assisting him or her to formulate ideas and craft a novel. Therefore, real life and works of fiction aren’t too far apart; they are connected – directly, indirectly, or metaphorically. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) proves that to be true, for the historical insinuations are evident.

Scholars have taken notice of Invisible Man ever since its release in 1952, and continue to scrutinize the novel for good reasons: it is fascinating; it brings forth many interpretations and debates (negative and positive); it questions one’s role in society; it addresses racism, etc. Overall, the text is profoundly powerful in all aspects. As Per Winther writes in “Imagery of Imprisonment in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man,” “Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is an immensely rich novel, which explains why, since its publication in 1952, so many readers have been, and still are, moved by Ellison’s complex narrative of twenty turbulent years in the life of his young, nameless, black protagonist” (115). The release of Invisible Man has rendered a plethora of scholarly analyses from the likes of Marc Singer, William Walling, Per Winther, James B. Lane, Eric Sundquist, and many more – touching on various issues.  However, few scholars (probably none) have found the time to address the invisibility of Ellison’s invisible protagonist and the silent generation in the 50s collectively. Thus, I will attempt to tackle many issues of the narrator’s invisibility and struggles in conjunction with the Beats’ invisibility/“the Silent Generation” in the 1950s, and the artists of that time. This is where fiction and real-life (historical allusions) share similarities. The nameless protagonist in Invisible Man and artists in the 50s are in search for two things: true identity and individuality.

From beginning to end, the racism motif presents itself throughout Invisible Man, and the prologue swiftly demonstrates that:

“I AM AN invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me” (3).

These opening words by the narrator do not provide his race, but the latter part of his statement provides a clear indication of who he is – a black man – from the way he states his invisibility and the historical context of his account. At the time this novel was released, segregation was prominent and blacks protested for their equality, stating similar words like the narrator’s. Because society selectively chooses to ignore his presence because of his phenotypical makeup as a black man, he is literally (and physically) rendered invisible.

The racism motif reaches its peak, physically, when the narrator gives an account of an incident in which he unintentionally bumps into a large blond man in the dark, causing the blond man to share his disgust with a racial epithet. Feeling disrespected, the narrator goes on the attack and batters him onto the ground, pulling out a knife and preparing to take the man’s life. But he thinks otherwise and comes to his senses: the blond man insulted him because he could not really see him due to his invisibility. The narrator’s confrontation with this blond man is important, because he learns the following day that a newspaper labels the incident as a mugging.  This labeling by the newspaper (white society) demonstrates the narrator’s metaphorical slavery, invisibility, and subjugation – for he is being dominated by the views of others.  First, the narrator is dehumanized by the man’s racial epithet, which prompts him to attack and make the verbal abuser recognize his individuality; and second, the narrator is dehumanized by the newspaper that labels him a mugger. The roles are reversed: the white man is not the assailant but the victim, while the narrator is viewed by the public as a criminal. Moreover, the actual incident with the blond man is ignored altogether, along with the narrator’s motives, which become invisible to the public. Therefore, other people in society classify Ellison’s invisible man’s identity according to their own prejudices.

Conversely, Ellison’s nameless protagonist mirrors the feeling many critics had about the 50s (and those who lived it) in New York, labeling the decade “the Silent Generation,” which can be termed metaphorically as the “unnoticed generation” – similar to being invisible.  Critics have had a field day criticizing the fifties for what it produced, like the major Beat writers – Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg – known as the Beat Generation. Some critics have named the bohemians of that decade as the strangest souls who wasted and abused their bodies with heavy doses of drugs and alcohol; some critics even said that they had dangerous intentions to change America.  In fact, Stephen Prothero’s article, “On The Holy Road: The Beat Movement As Spiritual Protest,” quotes Norman Podhoretz’s brutally harsh critiques in 1958 Partisan Review: “The Bohemianism of the 1950s is hostile to civilization; it worships primitivism, instinct, energy, ‘blood’; Podhoretz (the most outspoken critic of the Beats) continued: “This is a revolt of the spiritually underprivileged and the crippled of souls.” Podhoretz went so far as to characterize them as Nazis and Hell’s Angels. The Beats ignored his rhetoric because in their minds, it was nonsense. The Beats’ intentions – and those who lived in New York in the fifties – were to separate themselves and to be different from America’s norm, argued the Beats and others. Therefore, when outsiders do not understand what people do or how people choose to live their lives, they are looked upon negatively, and that’s how many critics felt about those in the fifties, especially the Beats.

Were Podhoretz’s critiques and reviews from other columnists necessary? Didn’t Podhoretz understand that people who lived in New York or journeyed there wanted to find something different and be free, especially the bohemians? Did he not take notice that bohemians were people who lived an unconventional lifestyle – somebody, often a writer or an artist, who did not live according to the conventions of society? They wanted to be different, rather than being conformists. Therefore, a couple of questions must be asked: Were the criticisms of these artists really warranted because they lived differently from how others lived? More important, were the fifties really that dull and silent?

Although Podhoretz has bashed “the Silent Generation” as a whole, those who lived in New York at the time strongly believe that their decade has been given a bad name – and novelist Dan Wakefield is one of those who shares similar views. Because the fifties has been mislabeled and tagged as being dull, Wakefield felt obligated to address the stigma. Fittingly, Wakefield’s book New York In The 50s (1992) gives a vivid light of the New York that he knew and experienced, tackling the so-called silent:

“If my generation was ‘silent,’ it was not in failure to speak out with our work, but in the sense of adopting a style that was not given to splash and spotlights” (6).

This statement by Wakefield renders truth, because the body of written works produced in the 50s (including future works that were released by the artists of that era) were abundant, from The Catcher in the Rye to On The Road, from Howl to Notes of a Native Son, and many more. So “silent” was not an accurate term at all; people just made the choice to ignore the generation altogether, because the wild and free lifestyle they desired to live were bizarre to them. As a result, their works were invisible to the public and not taken seriously. Moreover, the strangeness of the Beats caused the banning of Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, which was later reinstated; and also brought a court hearing to ban Ginsberg’s Howl. Naked Lunch was described by a reviewer as “a prolonged scream of hatred and disgust, an effort to keep the reader’s nose down in the mud for 250 pages” (quoted by Prothero, 206). Similarly, Howl was called a disgrace and protested hatred for society.

In regard to Podhoretz’s ruthless critiques, it appeared that his attitude took not a constructive criticism approach but a personal hatred stance against the Beats and their disparity with society. His 1958 article “The Know-Nothing Bohemians” verified that as he tried to debunk the Beats by scrutinizing the real-world consequences of their point of views about life, and so forth. One of the Beats could have reversed his article’s title into “He knows Nothing Bohemian,” for he does not live it. Hence, Podhoretz’s rhetoric about the Beats stems from his ignorance in not knowing what the Beats were, and his unwillingness to accept a different style of living he was not accustomed to. Therefore, he dehumanizes their character by talking down to them and labeling them whatever he sees fit: pessimists, naysayers, nihilists, troublemakers, and dangerous. Like Ellison’s nameless character, Podhoretz removes the people-friendly features of the Beats’ character, taking away their good qualities (or features) which make it difficult for others to see them as normal and acceptable humans. In all, he dehumanizes their stature and importance, making them invisible by choice.

This dehumanization theme appears in the opening development of Invisible Man, which lingers throughout. Ellison shows that with his nameless protagonist and other blacks in a high school graduation ceremony, where he is to deliver the class speech. But before he gives the speech, the narrator (and other black boys) is ordered to partake in a boxing match, orchestrated by the white men. With firm orders by the white men, the narrator and his classmates put on boxing gloves and enter the ring – where a stark naked blonde parade the ring. It becomes stranger to the boys as they are blindfolded by the white men with threatening orders to batter and kill each other: “ ‘See that boy over there?’ ” one of the men said. “‘I want you to run across at the bell and give it to him right in the belly. If you don’t get him, I’m going to get you. I don’t like his looks’” (17). The bell sounds and melee ensues – blacks wildly punching blindly, hitting anyone in proximity – to the enjoyment of the white men.

Thereafter, the white men continue their ridicule of the narrator and the boys by trickery, with shudders via electricity. Exhausted from the battle, the boys’ blindfolds are removed, while the white men place them on a wall, awaiting their bogus monetary prize on a rug. Blind with ignorance, the boys (on their knees as commanded) rush to get the money and to their shock, they are literally shocked from an electric current that runs under the rug, as the narrator shares his pain: “A hot, violent force tore through my body, shaking me like a wet rat” (22). While the boys’ laughter stems from being shocked, the white men’s laughter stems from the amusement of watching electrified blacks make a fool of themselves: “… he (one of the boys) ran from the floor amid booming laughter” (22).

Finally, after the embarrassment of the boys, the nameless character prepares to give his speech. The master of ceremony gives him a patronizing introduction, which prompts applause and laughter: “ ‘I’m told that he is the smartest boy we’ve got out there in Greenwood. I’m told that he knows more big words than a pocket-sized dictionary’ ” (23). The narrator takes the podium; he begins delivering his speech and realizes that the audience is ignoring him, while the laughing persists. He becomes nervous, mouth filled with blood, and it shows as he makes a mistake, saying “social equality” rather than “social responsibility.” After rendering his speech (and after fulfilling their comedic bone), one of the white men awards him with a briefcase and tells him to cherish it, claiming it will determine his peoples’ fate.

These episodes in Chapter One (i.e., battle royal, electric rug, and speech) do not only represent the evening’s entertainment for the white men, but it also demonstrates humiliation, animalization, passivity, and dehumanization. The grandfather’s narrator did warn his son (narrator’s father) before he died that life is a war, and to keep up the fight. War against whom? The white society. The grandfather orders and gives his family concrete wisdom: “I want you to overcome ’em with yeses, undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em to death and destruction …” (13). In other words, the grandfather advises his family to uphold a dual identity: externally, they should embody the stereotypical good slaves’ motifs, which will satisfy the master; however, internally, they should carry the bitter hatred and resentment of such false identity against the master. Following this model allows the grandfather’s descendants to play a false role, only to make it appear as if they are satisfying the whites’ ego.

However, the young narrator does not know how to play the dual identity, for he does not know his true identity and individuality, causing the white men to take advantage of his passivity during the entire day’s events. Metaphorically, the boys’ blindfolding in the ring supports their real-life blindness; they are unable to see through the true intentions of the white men as they force the boys to conform to the racial stereotype of the black man as a violent and savage creature. As the men watch the boys in the boxing battle royal, they look at them not as equals or humans, but as inferior beings – as wild animals.  Although the grandfather provides knowledge to his family, it is fruitless to the narrator, because it doesn’t fully register in his head. Believing that full compliance will gain him admiration and accolade, he obliges the white men’s commands. To some extent, his beliefs prove true, for he is awarded the briefcase for his submission, but he is also tricked at the same time. The nameless character has not yet learned to see behind the masks, behind the tricks, and underneath the various covers constructed by white society. He only learns after the fact that he has been made a fool of when he realizes the phony coins, subsequent to suffering the electric shock from the mysterious rug – at the expense of his humiliation and dehumanization. This lack of awareness – blindness – stems from lack of not knowing his identity and individuality.

Ellison’s invisible man experiences being tricked again, but this time it takes on a different meaning.  He is not deceived by the white men; rather, he is fooled by a black man, Dr. Bledsoe – the college president.  While transporting a white trustee, Norton, around campus and showing him the old slave quarters and taking him to Golden Day, Bledsoe becomes furious when he learns of the narrator’s journeys: “The quarters! Boy, are you a fool? Didn’t you know better than to take a trustee out there?” (79). The narrator claims that he was told to go there by Norton, but Bledsoe does not care: “Damn what he wants. We take these white folks where we want them to go, we show them what we want them to see” (79). Feeling the college is at risk, along with his power, Bledsoe takes swift action and expels the narrator from the school, to his surprise. Ironically, to seem as a nice and reasonable man, Bledsoe gives him various letters and tells him they will help him find a job in New York, but it’s only a ploy, which the narrator fails to recognize.

Similar to the sentiment that the narrator’s grandfather tries to pass down to his descendants, Bledsoe too utilizes dual identities, but his represents narcissism and immorality. He cares for no one – including blacks – except for self. Bledsoe, being the president, uses the school to abuse his clout and gain more power, rather than achieving wide-ranging social advancement for his people and he makes that clear: “I’s big and black and I say ‘Yes, suh’ as loudly as any burrhead when it’s convenient, but I’m still king down here” (109). Bledsoe continues: “… I’ve made my place in it and I’ll have every Negro in the country hanging on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am” (110). Bledsoe pokes fun at his own race by talking in slang, using “I’s” rather than “I am” to seem uneducated like other blacks.  Bledsoe then states that when he tells the white men what they want to hear, he is able to control them.  Thereafter, his rant becomes disturbing as he claims that he would have all blacks lynched to keep his power.  Yes, such declaration by any human being is absolutely outrageous and sinister, but coming from a black man makes it even worse.  However, after the narrator has heard such unbecoming language, his trust in Bledsoe remains palpable, clearly indicating his lack of awareness because he still has not learned to look behind the masks through discernment.

Moreover, while on a bus ride to New York, the narrator meets the veteran who ridiculed Mr. Norton at Golden Day, precipitating Bledsoe to expel him like he did the narrator.  Strangely, the narrator doesn’t believe Bledsoe would do such a thing.  The veteran tells him to open his eyes and don’t take the face value of everything: “… look beneath the surface… Come out of the fog, young man. And remember you don’t have to be a complete fool in order to succeed” (118). The veteran speaks these words because he knows that the narrator is ignorant (and still shows signs of blindness) for not believing that Bledsoe is the cause for his relocation. For some reason, the narrator still has faith in Bledsoe although he has been punished by him. It is only when he learns Bledsoe’s true motives, then he realizes that he was tricked, for the letters that were to help him served as a way to hinder his progress, with punishing statements: “… this letter is a former student of ours … who has been expelled for a most serious defection from our strictest rules of deportment. The letter continues: “… it is to the best interests of the great work which we are dedicated to perform, that he continue undisturbed in these vain hopes … from our midst” (145). Bledsoe’s betrayal of the narrator shows that it is not only whites who betray and suppress blacks, but blacks can do the same to their own race.

Additionally, the narrator’s pain and bad luck persist. Like the electric shock in chapter one, the narrator suffers similar results; this time, however, it’s from shock treatment when he’s unconscious at the hospital following the fight with Brockway. The white doctors mirror the same attitude the white men shared in the opening chapter via dehumanization.  Because the narrator is unable to respond to the doctors’ question, they began to practice shock treatment on him (while another doctor wanted to castrate him) as a way for entertainment. The shock treatment causes the narrator to shake, and one doctor asserts that he is dancing: “Look, he’s dancing… They really do have rhythm…” (180-1). While the narrator hears the screams of a woman in his head, the doctors play with his head and ask him questions like: Who was buckeye the rabbit? Who was brer rabbit? The narrator attacks their amusement with his own: “He was your mother’s back door man… ‘Buckeye’ when you were very young and hid yourself behind wide innocent eyes; ‘Brer,’ when you were older” (184). Following his humiliation at the hands of the doctors, they tell him he is cured and can leave.

This episode in chapter eleven represents significance, because he has somewhat changed metaphorically. When he signs his release paper, he questions himself, “is he (the doctor) in on it too” (187)? In on what? The white suppression that haunts him. The narrator begins to think and comes to the conclusion that he is no longer afraid of men like Norton or Bledsoe, for they are nothing to him so he expects nothing from them. Moreover, the transition is quite clear, something like a symbolic rebirth – he awakes without any memory; he does not understand language; and he does not know his identity. The music and the machines’ noise collectively make him hear the sound of a screaming woman in pain, akin to a woman in labor. More important, the narrator’s metaphorical rebirth occurs with no parents; he takes on the doctors on his lonesome. The veteran’s advice that he becomes his own father is crucial, for he starts doing that by opening his eyes and looking at things differently, questioning himself and others’ true intentions.

The narrator is slightly removing the blindfold as he questions why he shouldn’t do hard labor as the doctor warns him he is not suited yet. “Take another job… Something easier, quieter. Something for which you’re better prepared,” the doctor said. These words are condescending and a racial stereotype that blacks are lazy, unfit, and do not work hard. This advice comes from the same doctor who took part in the amusement of the narrator’s humiliation, claiming he dances well as he is being shocked (which falls under a racial stereotype of blacks, something like a dancing Sambo doll), and trying to take his manhood by castration.  The castration reference by one of the racist doctors serves as a way to deny the narrator of his humanity. Clearly, a castration of one implies the stripping of his power, his ability to function, his ability to foster children, his ability to progress, and his ability to be whole – the purest form of emasculation. Nonetheless, from this episode, the narrator’s eyes begin to open to some extent; his invisibility and blindness are still intact, but he is freer and starts to find his identity in New York.

The narrator’s union with the Brotherhood shows that he still lacks individualism and has not removed that blindfold away from his eyes.  After seeing an injustice being done (white men evicting a black woman), the narrator speaks out prompting the crowd to react and take the furniture back into the house.  Cops arrive and he runs off, but hears a voice that calls him brother, a white man named Brother Jack.  Jack argues that he should become the spokesman for the Brotherhood; however, the narrator doesn’t agree and wants to think about the proposition.  Thereafter, the narrator thinks about Mary (a woman who gives him a place to freely live and generously feeds him) and makes the decision to join the Brotherhood.  Jack provides him with a house owned by the Brotherhood and strange enough, a new identity – claiming he should leave the past behind and focus on his new identity.

Joining the Brotherhood shows that the narrator is looking for a new identity (but not in the right place), and shows his lack of self-identity as he is labeled as what Jack wants him to be. It becomes apparent from the start that the Brotherhood has sinister intentions and needs him to further its cause when Emma tells Jack he isn’t black enough. Such comment proves that the narrator is unimportant to them as a human, but only as a figure and tool the group wants to exploit. In a sense, the narrator submits to white society for agreeing to serve as the black spokesman of the Brotherhood.  In more concrete language, he threatens and compromises his own identity by submitting to white men with clout.

The blindness of the narrator continues in a rally where he is to deliver a speech (in a former boxing ring), similar to chapter one. He blindly gives his speech but is criticized for how he does it by the Brotherhood:  “In my opinion the speech was wild, hysterical, politically irresponsible and dangerous.  And worse than that it was incorrect” (264). This lambasting ridicule shows that his stay with the Brotherhood would not be a long stint. Moreover, the physical battle the Brotherhood had with Ras the Exhorter/Destroyer (somewhat resembles the real-life Malcolm X) and his followers show that clearly, because he is unable to recognize his group from Ras’s.  This confrontation shows signs of unfruitfulness on both sides, because both groups are fighting for the same thing, black equality – or at least one group.

The inevitable happens when Jack tells the narrator that he must attend a meeting the following day, but it never happens.  Jack toys with him and sends him away because he is done using him, so the narrator is of no use anymore.  Once again, the narrator shows his inability to see through the masks of others when he realizes that the Brotherhood’s intentions were to exclude him from the meeting initially. The Brotherhood wants no part with the narrator, along with some blacks – feeling that his union with the Brotherhood is a betrayal to the black community.  The narrator is also betrayed again as he witnesses a former member of the Brotherhood, Clifton (who is later shot dead by a cop), selling Sambo dolls – a bad caricature of the Black culture.  The dolls are crucial and carry symbolic meanings, because although the dolls move by themselves, they need the help of strings to facilitate their movement.  This implies that Blacks continue to live under the umbrella and control of whites; blacks are puppets and whites are the puppeteers. Metaphorically, blacks are in the driver’s seat, but whites are steering the wheel.

That is evidence how the Brotherhood has used the narrator for the main purpose to destroy Harlem all along by galvanizing a riot with the help of Ras.  He learns this at the end, but it comes too late.  To a certain extent, he becomes a traitor twice: first, for working with a racist group; and second, for playing an active part in the destruction of the black community.  However, as the narrator tries to subdue the riot and explain the cause for it, Ras orders his followers to kill him by way of lynching, but he runs away and falls into a gutter.  As he lies underground, it is completely dark with no light.  He has nothing with him but the briefcase – holding almost everything in his journey for identity: diploma, Clifton’s doll, letters, etc. – that was given to him in chapter one by one of the racist men. In order to make light, he burns each in every one of the items in the briefcase. By burning the items in the briefcase, the narrator has now found his identity (or close to finding his identity) and breaks away from his past.

The narrator being in New York prompts his sudden awareness of what is real as he remains underground, rejecting the idea that a single philosophy can constitute a complete way of being, for each soul embodies a multitude of various components. Interestingly, this philosophy is what Norman Podhoretz lacks because he refuses to see others – the Beat writers in the 50s – for their multiplicities, rendering him blind to others’ diversities.  Similar to how the nameless protagonist searches for his identity in New York, people in the 50s did the same, and New York was the place for it as Wakefield argues: “Our fifties were far more exciting than the typical American experience because we were in New York, where people came to flee the average and find a group of like-minded souls” (7).

Ellison’s Invisible Man represents a buffet that feeds one’s knowledge in every aspect, every turn, every page and chapter – for it is filled with profound metaphors and real-life (historical) issues.  More important, its prolific literature is influential and continues to bring forth discussion in college classrooms and from scholars as they continue to write about it.  Ellison also influenced (indirectly or directly) books from his counterparts like Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and others. Whether one is black or white does not matter, because Invisible Man serves substance to everyone and influenced many in the 50s and beyond, including future works and American culture as a whole.  It will always be a topic of conversation for generations and generations to come.  Likewise, the Beat Generation may never be scrutinized entirely (or taken seriously by scholars) but it is catching on, because courses are being taught on various college campuses today.

Overall, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man can be described for its fame in two words: extraordinarily superb. It signifies a richly crafted – in-your-face – novel that stands firm as a classical gem and continues to engage readers since its 1952 release.

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Characteristics and Facts About Pomeranians

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February 12, 2008


Cute. Small. Fluffy. Brave. Lively. Intelligent. These are some adjectives that describe the Pomeranian breed. According to historians, the Pomeranian (also calledPom Pom) descended from Iceland and Lapland, where they were used as working sled dogs. Related to the Spitz family, the breed is considered to be the smallest of the group.

In fact, at the time, the breed was rather large – somewhere between 20 to 30 pounds – and a capable herder. However, and somewhat strange, the breed did not get its name from his origin. Rather, the breed got its name from where it was bred down to a much smaller toy dog that we know and adore presently, Pomerania – a region situated on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, and divided between Germany and Poland. That is where the breed got its name Pomeranian.

The toy breed was not popular, but that would soon change due to royalty – Queen Charlotte and Queen Victoria of England to be more precise. Actually, Queen Charlotte first introduced the breed to English nobility, but it became popular when her granddaughter Queen Victoria owned a Pomeranian named “Marco” in the late 1880s. With great admiration and interest in the breed, she decided to own few; however, Marco was her main companion and traveled everywhere with her.

Queen Victoria’s habit of carrying Marco everywhere made this dog breed an overnight spectacle, and to no surprise, everyone wanted one. She made it very fashionable to keep them as pets. In fact, Queen Victoria was the first to vigorously endorse the Pomeranian; she was so infatuated with the breed that she even encouraged breeders to maintain the process of developing smaller dogs.

Queen Victoria’s involvement was crucial because at the time many breeds were discontinued or frequently altered by breeders. Therefore, one can argue that the survival of the Pomeranian was somewhat aided and fostered by the Queen.

The Pomeranian was introduced in the United States of America as early as the 1890s, but the breed really got attention in a specialty show in 1911. They were quite different from the Pomeranians today, for their size was larger even though they were small. The current Pomeranian people see today is usually smaller and weighs about 6 pounds, but some can be larger.

Now that a brief history has been rendered, the overall stature of the Pomeranian will be presented as follows: 1) appearance, 2) temperament/social behavior, 3) care required, 4) and health issues.

APPEARANCE
The Pomeranian, as many say, looks like a tiny fox or wolf. They are noticeable by their furriness – they are very FLUFFY. The toy breed personifies a very small and compact dog. They usually stand around 12 inches and weigh between 3 to 7 pounds. The bushy tail is set high and relaxes flat on the back; the ears are erectly triangular and pointy. The outer coat is very soft, supported by a thick and soft undercoat.

Pomeranians come in every color, with different patterns. Basically, the Pomeranian comes in a variety of solid colors as well as combinations of colors. They come in brindle (the base being red, gold, or orange-brindled with striking black cross stripes), black and tan, white and black, blue mixture, brown mixture, and many other variations. The color of the breed varies tremendously. When it comes to specialty shows, all colors are accepted.

CARE REQUIRED
Because the Pomeranian is so fluffy, it needs constant attention. Some experts say a daily attention by grooming would be fitting to keep the coat soft, shiny, and tangle-free. However, if the grooming is done harshly, it may damage the undercoat, so gently combing the coat is required.

More important, if a Pomeranian’s coat becomes tangled and hard, one should go to a professional dog groomer to get the coat back to its normal state rather than trying to fix the problem alone.

It would be also be advantageous to learn how to clip a Pomeranian’s nails, starting at the puppy age, which will make him/her accustom to the treatment when older.  The teeth should be brushed, like all dogs, to prevent the gum and tooth from rotting.  The ears (inner regions) should also be wiped appropriately with a proper cleaning solution to prevent infections.

TEMPERAMENT
The Pomeranian represents a lively and extroverted dog. It loves to play around and some are very hyper. Its social behavior is very good, but it can get very nervous when getting too much attention from children, which can precipitate some to bite. They tend to be friendly with household cats and dogs, not all of them but some, depending on the personality of the dog.

The breed can be very loud when in large groups. Therefore, if one has lots of dogs (especially other Pomeranians) in the house, expect the environment to be loudly boisterous. The breed is also cocky and can be troublesome if not trained properly.

Strangely, despite the small stature of the breed, some are not afraid to approach larger dogs and be combative. It is not a smart thing because it can be dangerous and deadly to those Pomeranians; therefore, the best action an owner should take to regulate this unwise confidence is to be vigilant by protect them from their boldness in case they come in contact with a larger dog in public. More important, Pomeranians should be leashed, when outside, just in case they feel the need to challenge a larger dog.

HEALTH ISSUES
Like every breed of dog, Pomeranians are predisposed to some diseases, some are hereditary problems. For this reason, experts urge any potential buyer to choose a responsible breeder. In essence, one needs to choose a breeder with history and intelligence of the breed, and a breeder who screens its breeding dogs to assure no diseases are passed down.

Some of the health concerns the Pomeranian may face are as follows: seizures, skin/coat conditions, eye infections, hip issues, heart complications, dislocated patella, hypoglycemia, slipped stifle, and hypothyroidism.

Once more, a responsible breeder will make sure to not breed such dogs and will test every dog to make sure the problems do not filter through breeding dogs. Therefore, it is crucial that one selects the appropriate breeder to ensure that an unhealthy dog is not bought.

The average life expectancy of the Pomeranian breed is approximately 12 to 19 years of age. Some are known to live past the age of 20, but it is very unusual.

All in all, the toy breed (often called teacup) represents a lovable dog with a vivacious attitude. They will cuddle, relax on one’s lap, and sleep at one’s side with comfort. Their tiny stature makes them fashionable and they are loved by many, from young people to the elderly. However, they should be watched carefully around children, for they can get hurt if mishandled, or their nervousness can make them snap and bite a child.

If the Pomeranian breed could speak, it would say “I’m the cutest dog around and my fluffiness attracts many.  I will be your life-time companion and show you unconditional love, but I will also annoy you at times by barking loudly for no apparent reasons.  I will also bark at larger dogs with confidence and laughter in public when I am on a leash – knowing I stand no chance fighting a larger breed – but I know my owner will restrain me and protect me.”

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Originally published February 12, 2008 via now-defunct writing Web site Helium.com.

Characteristics and Facts about Rottweilers

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February 9, 2008


rottweilerRottweilers are powerful and bulky dogs which belong to a breed that has a black smooth coat with tan and reddish brown markings. This breed has a medium length coat, consisting of a water-resistant undercoat and a coarse topcoat. They will shed during certain times of the year, but they generally tend to be low-maintenance. Typically, Rottweilers have massive skulls, which are very distinctive from other dog breeds.

There are two types of Rottweilers: American Rottweilers and German Rottweilers. The American Rottweiler tends to be taller and slimmer in physique; the German Rottweiler tends to be shorter, stockier and more beefy. The males range from 95-135 pounds, whereas the females tend to be 80-110 pounds. Rott, Rottie and Weily are some common names of the Rottweiler.

Rottweilers originated in Germany for the use of herding; they were herding dogs. Earlier in time, they also executed heavy workloads by pulling carts, carrying woods and various products to marketplaces for their owners. Moreover, they were used as guard dogs during World War 1 and World War 2. In essence, Rottweilers were working dogs. Today, Rottweilers’ jobs are not so strenuous and are not the typical working dogs; rather, they are family pets and used as guard dogs and sometimes police dogs.

The Rottweiler breed has history that actually goes back to the Roman Empire era. In fact, the breed got its name from a small town called Rottweil. This region was a cattle area, and the Rottweilers protected it aggressively and accordingly, driving out wild animals and robbers. However, the breed began to decline in numbers at the latter of the 19th Century. They were so depleted that only one female was found in the town of Rottweil in 1900, and very few elsewhere.

Although low in numbers, it would not remain permanent for long, because the resurgence of the breed was catapulted by the high demand for police dogs during World War 1. As a result, the breed was sought-after and the numbers began to rise. Essentially, World War 1 served as a catalyst for the revival of the Rottweiler.

As time passed, the breed became loved by many. In fact, it became very popular with dog owners – so popular that the Rottweiler breed was officially acknowledged by the American Kennel Club in 1931.

Today, the love for the breed is obvious, considering the fact that many dog owners have Rottweilers. They are very versatile and have many special skills that are used for specific reasons: they are herding dogs; they are guard dogs; they are search-and-rescue dogs; they are watch dogs; they are guide dogs for the blind; they are police dogs; and of course, they are family pets. Unfortunately, some dog owners use Rottweilers as fighting dogs the world over.

Unlike other dog breeds, caring for a Rottweiler is rather easy because it doesn’t shed as much. A normal brush can easily remove the loose hairs when a Rottweiler starts to shed. As a result, the required attention is not too demanding. To keep the coat glossy, most people use special lotion to make the coat shine – but it is not necessary because a shower would do. A Rottweiler’s claws should also be kept clean and short; the ears also need cleaning from time to time.

In regard to its health issues, the Rottweiler breed may face problems with hip/elbow, bloating, cancer, and heart diseases.

HIP & ELBOW
The hip and elbow problem stems from a malfunction of the hip/elbow joint, causing serious pain in the dog. It is expensive to remedy the situation. Because this problem is believed to be hereditary, prospective owners should find all the information and history of the dog they purchase from the breeder.

BLOATING
Bloating is another problem for Rottweilers, precipitated by over-eating, consuming large amounts of water, etc. This becomes painful for the dog because the stomach expands; at times, the stomach may even overturn, causing distortion via twisting. To prevent this problem, experts stress that owners should always feed a small amount of food throughout the day, rather than providing the Rottweiler with a full bowl.

CANCER
Cancer represents another serious issue. Because it is becoming all too common in Rottweilers, owners should immediately check with a veterinarian if any suspicious lumps or sores appear. More important, owners should check for any strange swelling.

HEART DISEASES
Heart issue is another disease that may trouble some Rottweilers; the most common is sub-aortic stenosis (a constriction or thinning of a duct, passage, or opening), a scary illness that would cause sudden death if it becomes severe.

The life expectancy of the breed is 8 to 10 years; some may reach 12 years. A female Rottweiler usually lives 2 years longer than its male counterpart.

Despite its short lifespan, the character of a Rottweiler is impressive. The breed is intelligent, obedient, completely devoted to its owner and family. Moreover, a Rottweiler’s vigilance is outstanding, which makes it protective, fearless, tough, and imposing. If need be, a Rottweiler will protect its human family and home without any doubt or question.

According to the American Kennel Club, the Rottweiler’s temperament should be recognized as magnificent, supported by the following statement:

“The Rottweiler is basically a calm, confident and courageous dog with a self-assured aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. A Rottweiler is self-confident and responds quietly and with a wait-and-see attitude to influences in his environment. He has an inherent desire to protect home and family, and is an intelligent dog of extreme hardness and adaptability with a strong willingness to work, making him especially suited as a companion, guardian and general all-purpose dog.”

Because the Rottweiler has a stocky nature and may appear menacing to some, many would think it would not get along with cats. However, that preconceived notion is not true, for many pet owners have both Rottweilers and cats living side by side in a household; they even become play-fighting buddies. Obviously, a relationship had to be formed at the earliest stages of a Rottweiler’s life in order for such friendship to materialize. This dog-cat friendship would not be impossible with an older Rottweiler, but it will be difficult – especially for a cat. Nonetheless, Rottweilers can be domineering to other dogs and cats, despite having a cordial friendship.

Although the breed has impressive characteristics, it has a negative connotation due to bad owners: Many people believe that the breed is naturally ruthless and was bred for dog fighting. This misconception is not true. Some Rottweilers are aggressive and combative because their owners raised and trained them to carry such characteristics – most likely for fighting.

In regard to dog-fighting, a practice that is illegal in the United States, if an owner raises his Rottweiler to be combative as a puppy for the sole purpose of dog-fighting, that behavior will most likely remain as it grows older (even if that dog has a new owner), making it a dangerously unpredictable dog to other dogs and people it comes in contact with. This may lead the dog living the rest of its life in an animal shelter, or medically euthanized.

All in all, the Rottweiler breed represents a powerful and lovable breed with a stocky stature. They are utilized for many working conditions – and make excellent pets that will protect its owner and home if provoked and/or threatened.

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Originally published February 9, 2008 via now-defunct writing Web site Helium.com

Characteristics and Facts about Chihuahuas

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February 11, 2008


chihuahua-1With origin from Mexico, Chihuahua is a breed of tiny dogs that has pointed ears, bulging eyes, and a strangely large head. In fact, the Chihuahua represents the smallest breed of dog in the world. It was discovered in 1850 and got its name from a Mexico state, formerly and presently called Chihuahua.

There are two types of Chihuahuas that are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC): the smooth-coat (shorthaired) and the long-coat. The term smooth-coat is quite misleading, because some shorthaired Chihuahuas have rough coats. Nonetheless, they are still considered smooth-coats. In essence, smooth-coat Chihuahuas can have soft velvet-like coats or rough hairy-like coats.

Longhaired Chihuahuas are actually smoother; their outer-coat, including their undercoat, is very soft, giving them a fluffy appearance. Considering other longhaired dog breeds, long-coat Chihuahuas require little attention, for they need no trimming but a simple grooming. Moreover, compared to their short-haired counterparts, they tend to shed less. Better yet, it takes two-plus years before they develop a full and long coat.

When it comes to its standards, more significance is put on their overall proportions and weight, rather than their height. Nevertheless, the general height of the Chihuahua ranges between 6 and 10 inches at the highest part of the back. Some may reach the height of 12 to 15 inches. The typical weight of the Chihuahua is 6 to 7 pounds. Any dog that exceeds the typical weight is considered overweight. In fact, the American Kennel Center obligates that show dogs weigh 6 pounds. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) is slightly lenient, requiring their show dogs to be between 3.3 to 6.6 pounds.

However, Chihuahuas that are not show dogs, but rather pets/companions, can be 10 pounds or even more for two reasons: having large bone structures and being overweight. That does not exclude them from the purebred Chihuahuas like many may believe, because they are indeed purebred. They are just overweight.

Similar to other breeds of dogs, the Chihuahua breed varies in color. Regarding color, the AKC standard for show dogs is as follows: “Any color-Solid, marked or splashed.” Basically, there is no set color because they come in many colors, spots, and patterns. Some colors are fawn, chocolate, red, cream, black, white, etc.

Moreover, some patterns of the Chihuahua are as follows: Irish spotting, piebald spotting, extreme white spotting, tan points, and many more. It is very difficult to classify the breed’s colors because there are infinite possibilities. In fact, there are some blue Chihuahuas, although the color is very uncommon. Nonetheless, fawn remains the classic Chihuahua color.

Their temperament parallels other breeds. Not only are they loved for their pint-sized stature, but they are loved for their loyalty, attachment, personality, and ferocity. Yes, ferocity, that is not a typo. Even though they are the smallest breed of dogs in the world, they are fierce – at times temperamental and confrontational. In fact, they may boldly confront larger animals and the outcome may usually be injury or death. The phrase “size doesn’t matter” in general renders truth, but when it comes to Chihuahuas, it is false.

The Chihuahua is known to be nervous occasionally, but it can be controlled and subdued by training and socialization. They make excellent pets and companions for adults or a well-suited individual, but they do not make great pets for little kids, because their tendency to get frightened quickly can precipitate a bite(s). Experts of the Chihuahua urge and recommend that parents only purchase a Chihuahua if the children are aged-appropriate (preferably teen-aged).

Moreover, some are excessively jealous of one’s human relationships with other humans, which can be remedied via socialization.

Because Chihuahuas are so small, their health demands careful attention. In more concrete language, they require expert veterinary attention in regard to birthing, dental care, and other areas. Epilepsy (a medical disorder of the brain) and seizure are common disorders they face, which are thought to be hereditary.

Another health problem Chihuahuas face with the brain is hydrocephalus (fluid in the puppies’ brain that causes enlargement of the head). Moreover, Chihuahuas have a soft spot in their skulls, which is called moleras. In actuality, this breed stands alone in that area, for they are the only dog breed born with an incomplete skull. It takes approximately six months for the skull to fully develop. Generally, the brain disorders associated with the breed are very deadly.

The health problems continue for the breed. Among other diseases, Chihuahuas are predisposed to eye infections and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can be deadly if not quickly treated.

There is one misconception regarding their health, however. Since Chihuahuas shake constantly, people mistakenly think that they are sick, but that is not the case. The trembling is a normal behavior, caused by the dog’s excitement or stress. Experts of the breed argue the shaking occurs due to the higher metabolism of small dogs.

The average life expectancy of the Chihuahua breed is approximately 8 to 18 years of age.

All in all, Chihuahuas are the smallest dog breed in the world. Its name comes from the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, where it was discovered in 1850. They are given many names like teacup, pocket size, tiny toy, standard, and miniature, just to name a few. Their tiny size has made the breed very popular. Fast-food restaurant Taco Bell also aided in its popularity after the company used the dog in its commercials. The breed is loved by many and is very fashionable with today’s stars.

A couple of famous Chihuahuas are as follows: Boo Boo and Tinkerbell. Boo Boo, a longhaired female Chihuahua who weighs only 1 1/2 pounds, was named the World’s Smallest Living Dog by the Guinness Book of World Records in May 2007. Tinkerbell is a famous Chihuahua owned by heiress Paris Hilton.

The dog’s popularity continues to grow yearly due to its miniature stature. They are loyal and bring enjoyment to people’s lives. Thus, if one chooses to purchase a Chihuahua, he or she should remember one thing: Yes, they make great pets for many, but they require special care and should be watched closely due to their delicate size.

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Originally published February 11, 2008 via now-defunct writing Web site Helium.com

 

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s Manager Makes Bold Claim Regarding Mariah Carey

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Thursday; September 24, 2009


Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s brand manager Bobby Francis claims that Mariah Carey’s vocal style was taken from Felecia Howse (Layzie Bone’s wife) after releasing her hit song “All Good” in 1998.

Bobby’s claim was precipitated by a thread created, September 20, in the “Bone Thugs Affiliates” section of Bone’s official message board BTNHBoard.com. The headline, which didn’t even concern Mariah, respectfully read “Phaedra Butler vs. Felicia Howse” with a poll, asking which singer fans prefer. (Phaedra works with Bobby and was a member of R&B trio Lady Soul in the early 90s.)

Two days later, Bobby and/or his Brand Engine team viewed the thread, deemed it inappropriate, and replied with fury and absurdity through his own thread under the “Brand Engine” section of the board. He directed his initial comment to the threadstarter:

“First off, I’d like to say that whomever started this post will never ever have the opportunity to be involved in anything that I’m involved in re: B.T.N.H. Unless they come forth now-privately!!!”

Thereafter, he directed his comment regarding Felecia and peppered it with admiration:

“Let’s be clear, Felicia Howse is the 1st Lady of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony! End of that discussion! Her track record speaks for itself! Her major smash “So Good,” not only marks her place in history with Bone but it marks her place in music history.”

The song that Bobby wrongly refers to as “So Good” is called “All Good”; this song which features Krayzie Bone was featured on Mo Thugs’ 1998 platinum-selling album Family Scriptures Chapter 2: Family Reunion.

Bobby is correct when he asserts that Felecia is the first lady of Bone. He is also correct when he asserts that her hit single marks her place in history with Bone. However, his latter comment regarding her place being marked in music history is unfounded, because she has no music catalog; thus, she has no reputable history in the music industry. The fact can not be denied: Felecia is only known for one song (not to mention her affiliation with Bone).

After his praises for Felecia, without any provocation, Bobby felt obligated to add Mariah Carey into his rant, stating the following:

“Many music lovers across the world don’t realize that her HIT song serves as a blueprint for every HIT song that Mariah Carey has ever recorded, since she heard Felicia’s Song missile and copied/borrowed/used her vocal style ever since!!!”

Not only is this statement a head-scratcher, but it renders the purest form of foolishness. Granted, “All Good” was a hit and beautifully executed by Felecia and Krayzie Bone; it sounded amazing when it came out and sounds amazing today. Both the song and its corresponding music video are top-notch – and she should be credited for her performance.

However, Mariah’s entrance into the music industry came with her self-titled album in 1990, while Felicia’s introduction came via Bone in the late 90s. Before Felecia was even known, Mariah sold millions of records and recognized worldwide. Thus, Bobby’s claim that Mariah stole her “blueprint” does not make sense, nor is it plausible.

With more than ten albums under her name, Mariah has released hits after hits and represents one of the top-selling music artists of all time, selling more than 200 million records. She signifies a worldwide icon and will go down in history as one of the best female vocalists that ever belted out a note. Felecia, on the hand, has not released one solo album; aside from the Bone community, she is neither known countrywide nor worldwide.

To make Bobby’s statement even more outrageous is the assertion that Mariah utilized Felecia’s vocal style to gain success. No disrespect to Felecia because she represents a good singer in her own right. However, comparing her to Mariah in any facet is like comparing Michael Jordan to John Salley. The disparity in talent is quite evident.

Moreover, her vocal capacity does not compare to Mariah’s. It does not take an A&R executive to figure that out, for anyone with ears can tell the difference and the superiority of Mariah’s vocal range.

What motivated Bobby to make such audacious accusation is not known, but one thing is clear: his statement is nonsense, laughable, ill-advised, and makes Bone look bad.

Ironically, Bone is currently working on their long-awaited album, as a 5-member group, titled The World’s Enemy due out November 24, 2009; if Bobby continues, Bone may indeed turn into the world’s enemy.

It would be in Bone’s best interest to sit down with their manager and advise him to stop any future jargon, because if he can wildly accuse Mariah of stealing Felecia’s vocal style (while constantly yelling with various exclamation marks), there is no telling what he will say and/or do next.

If there is ever a time to showcase his professionalism, the time is now. Bobby Francis needs to find his intellectual and managerial compass and refrain from grotesque comments.

It is important to note that Mariah Carey and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony have a working relationship and have collaborated several times: In 1997, Bone appeared on Mariah’s single, “Breakdown” from her multi-platinum album Butterfly; a different version of the song titled “Breakdown (Mo Thugs Remix)” appeared on Bone’s 1998 compilation album The Collection Volume One, featuring longer verses from Krayzie Bone and Wish Bone, with an added verse from Layzie Bone, who was absent from the original song. In 1999, Mariah’s “I Still Believe” remix from her #1’s album featured Krayzie Bone and Da Brat (a similar version of the song appeared on Krayzie Bone’s Thug Mentality 1999 album with only Mariah). Moreover, in 2007, Mariah appeared on Bone’s “Lil L.O.V.E” single from the group’s Strength and Loyalty album. (Music videos were produced for each song.)

Despite such bold claim by Bobby Francis, the long-standing working relationship between Mariah Carey and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is strongly cemented and will not end in the future, for their mutual respect has been publicly noted many times.

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Originally published September 24, 2009 via now-defunct Web site Examiner.com

Great Educational Computer Games for Children Ages 4-12

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May 26, 2008


There are various educational computer games that parents can buy to foster and better their children’s intelligence. When considering educational computer games for children, parents will never be limited because there are hundreds of stimulating titles they can choose from. However, parents may have a difficult time trying to decide which games are suitable for their children and which will serve as an effective learning tool. To help parents with their decision-making, some great educational computer games will be cited, ranging from ages 4 to 12.

Three games will be cited for each age group. The age groups that will be covered herein are as follows: ages 4-6, ages 6-8, ages 9-10, and ages 11-12. Some games will overlap, covering other age groups.

The location of each game will be provided with a hyperlink via the word software.

AGES 4-6
1. BEGINNING READING, covering ages 4-6, teaches kids how to read simple and short sentences, supported with repeated words, pictures, and many clues. If he or she has difficulties pronouncing a word, a click on the word will provide help. There is also a dictionary that allows children to define any word they may not know; definitions are read aloud. This read-out-loud feature serves children well, for it allows them to clearly hear the pronunciation, sound it out until perfected, know its definition, and understand what the word means. Interestingly, kids can create and print their own stories when they understand the basics. Created by teachers and educational experts, this program helps children learn in a cool way. This software is priced at $12.95.

2. ARTHUR’S MATH GAMES, 4-7, provides a fun and interactive game for kids to learn the basic mathematical skills. It helps kids learn the fundamental skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, shapes, and counting. This game is embedded with many fun images to make the learning process much easier. This software is priced at $14.95.

3. I LOVE PHONICS!, 4-7, is a steppingstone for great articulation and reading. Kids first learn how to sound letters and climb to more challenging reading phonics. This CD focuses on alphabets, letter recognition, sound recognition, rhyming, short and long vowel sounds, consonants and clusters, phonemes, segmenting words, blended sounds, reading and spelling. Developed by education experts, this program – containing all 44 phonemes of the English language – is a tool that will benefit any child. This software is priced at $14.95.

AGES 6-8
1. SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK! / GRAMMAR ROCK, 6-10, makes learning the parts of speech entertaining with engaging music. It develops grammar skills with 9 music videos (i.e., Nine Emmy award-winning videos) that kids can dance to and smile while learning the various parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, verbs, prepositions, predicates, and so forth. This software is priced at $14.95.

2. I LOVE the USA!, 5-9, analyzes all 50 states in conjunction with each state’s history. Kids learn about various regions, cities, and major landmarks, etc. while exploring the USA in search for Joe, who is hidden all across the country and provides educational clues to his whereabouts. In all, this CD is packed with countless information: flags of states, shapes of states, capitals, rivers, tallest building, highest mountains, information about space, and significant facts about the USA in general. This software is priced at $14.95.

3. READER RABBIT’S MATH ADVENTURE, 6-9, is a ton of fun and kids will not be bored. The many activities allow kids to maneuver wherever they choose, and the option to tweak the difficulty levels from easy to hard is a plus. Basically, the many activities cover all the math basics, in conjunction with other math skills that kids ought to know. The cute characters and the goal to build a boat will keep kids hooked as they have fun while learning the fundamentals of mathematics. This software is priced at $11.99.

AGES 9-10
1. THE TUTTLES MADCAP MISADVENTURES, ages 7 and up, won the 2008 Parents’ Choice Silver Award for its fun and educational excellence. This semi-educational game involves a family of 4, the Tuttles: Barbara, the mother; Barry, the father; Jess, the teenage daughter; and Zach, the little brother. The parents are happy to go on vacation whereas their kids are not. The family goes on their trip and runs into trouble as their car runs out of gas, crashing in a desert. This crisis unites the family, and they work as a team to remedy their problem. This adventurous and amusing game is aided with notable voiceovers from William Shattner, Jamie Lee Curtis and Ashley Tisdale of “High School Musical.” This software is priced at $19.95.

2. I LOVE SPELLING!, 7-11, helps youngsters practice their spelling with enticing games that take place on 4 different planets: On Planet Amphibia, kids must select letters to determine the unknown word; on Planet Anagrama, kids must figure out jumbled letters to form a word; on Planet Aquatica and Arachna, kids are challenged to spell the verbal words by clicking on bubbles with the proper letter. Each planet has a friendly host for assistance. “I Love Spelling!” is a winner and will sharpen one’s spelling. This software is priced at $14.95.

3. MATH MISSIONS, 8-11, is a game that awards kids money with every correct answer. The mission is to earn enough money ($150) that allows kids to buy games and accessories for his/her arcade shop. While traveling through Spectacle City, kids learn how to use graphs and charts to answer math problems. Kids even have fun as they travel via public transportation. Each location has its own problems to solve, and students are challenged with word problems, equalities and inequalities, money management, unit conversion, data analysis, geometry, and more. This software is priced at $14.95.

AGES 11-12
1. WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CARMEN SAN DIEGO?, 8-12, outsells all geography programs, making it the best and #1 selling geography program for kids. This game is entertainingly enjoyable and educational. The premise of the game is simple: Carmen and her gang steal world treasures, and players must find them. Players play detective as they travel the globe to find the clues that allow them to locate criminals – and arrest them thereafter. This game allows kids to learn research skills, rational reasoning, and map reading. Moreover, students can learn flags of many countries and their cultures. This software is priced at $14.95.

2. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HISTORY, 11 and up, is a very informative tool that provides students with the knowledge of world events that occurred in the past 4 million years. This CD contains information concerning The Dark Ages, The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, The Prehistoric Era, The Enlightenment, Revolution of Republic, The World at War, The Modern Age, and a bulk of other historical events. In all, this amazing CD is filled with knowledge and will help students tremendously. This software is priced at $12.95.

3. I LOVE MATH!, 7-11, by Dorling Kindersley, subdues the stress of math and helps children learn as they travel the ancient worlds of Greece, Atlantis, Egypt, and the Aztecs. The usual mathematical subjects are covered (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), including a bulk of other vital math areas: pre-algebra, geometry, ratios, time, measurement, fractions, decimals, percentages, money, word problems, etc. This software is priced at $14.95.

These educational computer games will not only help children educationally, but they will also help them socially and foster self-esteem as they grow into adulthood. These games are widely available wherever computer programs are sold, from brick-and-mortar stores to various Internet sites. (Prices may vary for each software, depending on where it is purchased.)

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Originally published May 26, 2008 via now-defunct writing Web site Helium.com.

Book Review: Annie John (1985), by Jamaica Kincaid

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May 2, 2008


Annie John, written by Jamaica Kincaid, represents a Bildungsroman/Caribbean novel – first published in 1985. The setting of the story takes place in the 1950s on the island of Antigua. What carries this novel is the protagonist who shares the same name as the title, Annie John. The novel recounts her interesting life from the age of ten to the age of seventeen.

Chapter one begins with a very detailed opening and depicts Annie John in a rather strange manner for her age. The opening introduces many occurrences, but one thing that overshadows them all is Annie John’s fixation with the dead at the age of ten. For a young girl, this behavior is very atypical. More unusual and unexplainable, she proclaims to be terrified of the dead: “I was afraid of the dead, as was everyone I knew” (4). However, it doesn’t stop her obsession. She stops by funerals to view the mourners and to get a sense of what memorial services feel like. One day, she becomes so curious that she attends a young girl’s funeral (hunchback girl), having no connection to the girl at all. Not only does she attend the funeral, but she causes a scene for the last viewing: “I stared at her a long time – long enough so that I caused the line of people waiting to stop by the coffin to grow long and on the verge of impatience” (11). Assuming that she was a friend of the dead girl, the mourners in the line say nothing.

For a child, Annie sure does have a strange – but age-appropriate – way of expressing her sadness facetiously, claiming that she never had a chance to touch the hunch on the girl’s back to check if it was hollow. Because of her exhilarating trip to the funeral, she gets home empty-handed, completely forgetting to bring the fish home for dinner that her mother had ordered her to get from the fisherman. When she realizes this, she fabricates a story, but her mom does not fall for it and knows the truth. Unbeknownst to Annie, the fisherman dropped off the fish after waiting so long. Lying and failing to obey her mother’s orders, Annie is sent outside to eat her dinner as a punishment.

Annie’s mom loves her, despite having to set rules for her to obey. In fact, they spend most of their time together when Annie is on break from school. When Annie takes a bath, sometimes her mom joins her in a bathtub that is filled with herbs that come from a local healer, the obeah woman. Her mother schools her on how to shop and find the best prices for products and clothing by taking her to the town. Annie is elated to shop with her mother; like every young girl, she admires and thinks her mother is beautiful and intelligent. However, while they are in public, Annie hears something that a child should never be exposed to, profanity. The profanity, aimed directly at Annie’s mom by a mad woman, stems from Annie’s father and his prior sexual relationships with various women. Mrs. John tries to protect her daughter by hiding Annie under her skirt, but it is useless because she hears the vulgar language regardless. Annie is smart enough to know that this woman (along with other women) detests her mother because her father had children with many of them. As a result, some of these women display their hatred by occasionally cursing at Annie’s mother, simply because she is married to the man that had fathered their children.

The love Annie has for her mother starts to diminish when one day she walks in on her parents having sex. Strangely, she gets angry and starts to look at her mother differently, feeling neglected by them both. As a reader, it is difficult to grasp this behavior from such a young girl. Along with Annie’s obsession with the dead in the opening, this has to be another strange occurrence, because it is very hard to believe that a young girl would be angry at her mother for not being involved in a sex act that takes place between adults. At any rate, Annie views her mother unkindly; it shows during dinner when she feels sickened when looking at her mother’s hands – hands that caressed her father’s back during sex. Annie also makes a rude remark that turns her mother off.

Annie becomes happy she will not be around her mother often, because she will be attending school soon. On her way to school, she is tense but thrilled. She gets to school and her homerun class and settles in. The teacher, Miss Nelson, announces the first assignment will be an original autobiography essay that will be read later in the day. The teacher deems Annie’s essay the best of them all and asks her for a copy to be posted in the classroom, where all can read it. She becomes happy and befriends one of the girls in her class named Gwen – and they become best friends.

Annie and Gwen do everything together and literally shadow each other’s moves. Like every best friend in school, they share girl secrets with each other; they walk to school and walk back home together; and of course, they act foolish together. Annie’s relationship with Gwen serves as a substitution for feeling neglected by her mother. Because Annie continues to excel in her school assignments and is the smartest student in her class, she gets rewarded: she is given authority over the other students when the teacher leaves the class. Moreover, she becomes popular with the girls in her class, for she stands up for them all.

Annie later befriends a girl known as the Red Girl, tomboyish and dirty. While Annie tries to get down a fruit on a tree by throwing rocks at it, the Red Girl climbs the tree and gets it down for her. This act of kindness precipitates their friendship. The Red Girl is quite the total opposite from Annie. She showers once a week; she combs her hair weekly; she wears tattered and stained clothing. The Red Girl, literally, embodies a filthy mess. Annie becomes envy of the Red Girl not for her filthiness, but for her freedom to do as she pleases and having no fixed rules.

Having a new friend to play and converse with, Annie finds her best friend Gwen to be tedious, so she spends more time with the Red Girl. She does not even tell Gwen about her. Annie actually turns more defiant to her mother’s orders by lying constantly to meet up with the Red Girl after school. Annie starts playing a marble game due to the Red Girl and gets good at the game, which wins her a lot of marbles; she then hides them from her mother under the house. Her mother knows about the few marbles and questions Annie about the rest of the stash, but Annie refuses to tell her anything. She is so connected to the unkempt girl that she starts stealing to give her presents. Eventually, their friendship ends when the Red Girl moves away.

Not only does Annie’s behavior get her in trouble with her mom, but it also follows her at school. In her history class one day, she develops boredom because she knows the material and reads ahead to see a picture of Christopher Columbus in chains. Under the picture, she writes: “The Great Man Can No Longer Move.” The teacher, Miss Edward, catches her defacement and offensive behavior and sends her to the principal office. The principal scolds her and then punishes her by stripping away her prefect status; moreover, she is ordered to copy Book I and Book II of John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

After having a rough day at school, she returns home hoping to be comforted by her mother, but both her mother and father are too engrossed in each other – and fail to notice her sadness. At dinner time, Annie’s mom gives her a platter of breadfruit, a food that she really dislikes, so Annie rejects it. Her mother argues that it is not breadfruit but a new kind of rice. Finally, Annie gives in and eats it, consuming the obvious substance of breadfruit. She questions her mother thereafter and learns that she was tricked, and what she ate was indeed breadfruit. Because of this betrayal, Annie’s hatred for her mother grows tremendously.

At this juncture, Annie is fifteen years old. She feels distant from her mother in every way. She even has a strange recurring dream with words that twirl in her head: “My mother would kill me if she got the chance. I would kill my mother if I had the courage” (89). She finds comfort in going to school to get away from her mother. She continues to excel in school and is promoted to an upper level class with older girls. She feels out of place in the class which appears to be filled with superficial girls, but she remains focus on her studies and it pays off: she becomes one of the top two students in the class.

Her relationship with her best friend Gwen is still apparent: they walk home from school together and talk as usual. However, their relationship is not as robust as before and Annie knows that. Annie takes it a bit further by distancing her friendship with Gwen, due to the fact that Gwen advises that she marries her brother for them to be forever connected. This suggestion startles her to a point of avoiding Gwen whenever she sees her. One day, Annie’s avoidance after school takes her into town where she finds herself staring at her reflection through the glass of a clothing store. Filled with sadness, she criticizes and belittles herself by claiming to be ugly – so ugly she compares herself to a young Lucifer.

A few boys, four, see her standing alone and begin to tease her with laughter, a fitting behavior for young boys that are older than her. These boys are from the same boys’ branch of her school; she knows one of them from her younger years. Their continuous laughter causes her to walk away in sadness.

These boys would be the catalyst of an argument with her mother when she arrives home (that is, arriving late). Her mother approaches her and questions her angrily, asking why was she behaving herself badly in front of those boys. Coincidentally, while Annie took the shortcut from school, her mother makes it clear that she was present in the clothing store and saw everything.  She claims that Annie flirted with them and presented unladylike behaviors. She argues otherwise, but her mother wants to hear nothing. Her mother escalates the argument and scolds her harshly by calling her a slut many times in French-patois.

In response, Annie fires back: “Well, like father like son, like mother like daughter.”

Silence quickly takes precedence between them both. Her mom finally utters that she always loved her until that comment and walks away in shock. Annie, on the other hand, walks to her bedroom feeling miserable.

Annie becomes very ill via a mental breakdown. Rather than going to school, she stays home and her parents care for her, because she can no longer take care of herself. Annie, literally, transforms into a baby. Strangely, as soon as Annie becomes bedridden, a rainstorm occurs. This is not any rainstorm; this represents a phenomenon that prolongs for three months and a half. Interestingly, this rainstorm drenches an island that has been suffering from a yearlong drought, but appears simultaneously with Annie’s illness.

Feeling feeble and delusional, Annie stays in her bed and listens to the raindrops. She gains so much connection to this rain that she only hears its sound and not the voice of her parents. In due course, her parents take her to the doctor. The doctor recommends an increased protein after finding nothing wrong with her. Her mother prepares a soup-like egg filled with rum. Still, her condition remains the same, so her mother ponders on obeah (i.e., a practice that involves magic, originally practiced in Africa and survives currently in parts of the Caribbean) to heal Annie. Against her father’s wishes, her mother decides to call a Dominican obeah woman named Ma Jolie who lives in Antigua. Her healing powers render no result, leaving Annie in her same condition. She even wets her bed like a child.

One day, out of nowhere, Annie’s grandmother Ma Chess strangely appears, when the ferryboat was not running, to cure her illness. Being that she is old, her grandmother knows more about obeah than Ma Jolie. However, she doesn’t use magic to revert her granddaughter to her normal self. Instead, she uses her affection. She stays in Annie’s room all day; she cuddles her like a baby, and sleeps at the base of her bed. She feeds, bathes and dresses Annie. Her grandmother never leaves her alone. From this care of attention and affection, Annie is healed after three months of rainfall. In a strange twist, as Annie recuperates, the rainfall ends. Annie herself questions the rainfall unexpected occurrence during her sickness: “I knew quite well I didn’t have the power to make the atmosphere feel as sick as I felt, but still I couldn’t help putting the two together.” Her grandmother, who mysteriously appears to cure her, leaves mysteriously on a day the ferryboat does not run.

After her sickness, her parents realize that she has grown taller than them. Thus, they buy her new clothes and shoes for school. Annie finally comes to accept and embrace that she and her mother are different, and no longer feels angry at their distant relationship. When she returns to school, she ignores all questions about her sickness and claims that the girls wish they were in her position. Basically, her attitude turns cold toward them, including her so called best friend Gwen. A friend that was so close was “now reduced to an annoying acquaintance,” according to Annie. What did Gwen do to cause this treatment from Annie? Absolutely nothing. However, for some reason, Annie feels obligated to view her differently and categorize her as an annoyance.

When Annie turns seventeen, she gains her freedom by moving out of her parents’ house. She makes the choice to leave Antigua to study nurse in England. She is happy that she will finally have her space and no longer will she be in the presence of her mother. But before Annie leaves, she agrees with her feelings to tell Gwen good-bye although she does not care for her genuinely. Thereafter, her parents walk with her through town where a ship awaits her. As she gets on the boat, she begins to have flashbacks of her early years living with her parents, but feels comfortable that she will begin a new life away from them. While on the boat, Annie waves to her parents; her parents wave back to her until they see her no more, a classic but fitting ending for a teenager that seeks independence away from her parents.

This novel typifies a fascinating story, but it is not a cohesive novel. Some occurrences appear to happen without any reason, and the timing at times seems off and out of order. The character Annie John (the narrator) keeps the novel flowing, however. She is lovable, uncanny, hilarious, intelligent, devious, and embody some characteristics of a lesbian. It almost appears as if she has an old soul.

It’s a great novel for teenagers who struggle with their parents and try to find their own identity and autonomy, especially young female teenagers. The mother-daughter relationship makes the novel intriguing and serves as the main theme. They fight, argue and disagree, motifs that most women can relate to when they were the age of Annie.

Age-appropriate for all readers, ANNIE JOHN by Jamaica Kincaid represents a good coming-of-age novel and is filled with metaphorical overtones, especially with water (e.g., the bathing, the rainstorm, the sea, the boat) which serves as growth for Annie. Moreover, Kincaid’s writing should be described as simply marvelous, rendered with detailed imagery. There may be some confusion and inconsistencies; nonetheless, it’s a thought-provoking piece that makes one think and question why some things occur the way they do. With 148 pages (depending on which version one has) and eight interesting chapters, this novel can be tackled in two days with time management.

Character Overview: The Catcher In The Rye, by J.D. Salinger

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August 16, 2008


Written by J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye represents a coming-of-age novel that  features seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield aThe Catcher in the Rye Novels the main character/narrator. Salinger wrote this novel in the late 1940s and early 1950s in New York; in fact, sections of the novel were printed as short stories in Collier’s (December 1945), and in The New Yorker (December 1946). The novel was finally published by Little, Brown and Company in July 1951. The opening chapters are set in Pennsylvania, at Pencey Prep, but the bulk of the story takes place in New York City in the 1950s where narrator recounts his adventures.

The novel has a lot of characters; some are significant and others are not. At any rate, one thing is clear: Holden Caulfield, as the protagonist, makes this novel very enjoyable and interesting.

HOLDEN CAULFIELD
As the protagonist and narrator of the story, seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield brightens up the novel throughout; he embodies an off-the-wall and likable character. He tells his story in a facetious, uncanny, angry, and disgusted manner – articulated in everyday language. His favorite word is “phony”; he labels nearly everyone he comes in contact with phony, even his older brother because he left for Hollywood to pursue a writing career. Disgusted by his brother’s choice, Holden calls him “a prostitute.” Holden represents a character that is irritated at everyone and everything, including himself. He does not connect with the world around him whatsoever.

His annoyance stems from many things, and his lackluster performance at school is one of them. For his academic failures, Holden is expelled from his fourth school, Pencey Prep, in Agerstown, Pennsylvania – not because he is dumb and has a learning disability, but because he does not want to apply himself. Literally, Holden is mentally unstable and is on the edge of an emotional breakdown as his story progresses. He is so disturbed that he meets with a psychoanalyst in the latter chapter.

PHOEBE CAULFIELD
Phoebe, Holden’s younger sister, is ten years old. Holden loves her to death and talks to her frequently. According to Holden, she is very smart; in fact, ever since she started school, she maintained an A-grade average. She is very skinny, “nice-skinny” as Holden states, and has pretty red hair: short in the summertime and long in the wintertime. Phoebe’s hobby is writing books, but she never finishes them. All of the books are about a girl detective named Hazle Weatherfield.

Holden does a great deal of complimenting her smartness and continues to tell the reader, “You’d like her.” She is also neat and a dancer, but one problem she has is her emotional state; she’s too emotional. Throughout the novel, Phoebe serves as Holden’s only source of constant happiness. Unlike other characters, she understands Holden and harshly urges him to grow up and stop acting immaturely, realizing that his problems are not caused by others but himself.

D. B. CAULFIELD
D.B, Holden’s older brother, is a Hollywood writer, a career choice that bothers Holden; however, it is a career choice that is bringing in the money, enabling him to ride in style with a Jaguar. Holden feels that D.B. is whoring his talents because he writes for Hollywood movies – movies that Holden really hates. He goes so far as to say that D.B. is a sellout. Before D.B. was a Hollywood writer, he was a regular writer and wrote a great book of short stories called The Secret Goldfish, which Holden admires. Actually, his favorite author is D.B.

ALLIE CAULFIELD
Sadly, Allie is Holden’s younger brother who passed away of Leukemia on July 18, 1946 when they lived in Maine; Holden mentions him, although he does not appear in the novel. He was two years younger than Holden, and the most intelligent member of the family. Allie, the red hair kid, was nice and never got mad at anyone. When Allie died, Holden broke all the windows in the garage with his fist and slept there the night. He still feels the effect of the windows that he had broken, because his hand hurts from time to time.

Allie’s death troubles Holden and he thinks of him many times in the novel. He keeps Allie’s baseball mitt with him (as a reminder of his demise), a mitt occupied with poems written in green ink all over it.

MR. ANTOLINI
Mr. Antolini, not old but quite young, is Holden’s former English teacher at the Elkton Hills School. (He is employed as a professor at New York University, after quitting Elkton Hills.) Holden really likes him because he cares about his students – and used to stop by for dinner at the Caulfields’. He is one of those teachers that students could kid around with. In Holden’s words, “he was about the best teacher [he] ever had.” Mr. Antolini is intellectual, sophisticated and caring, but he is also a heavy drinker.

When he learns about Holden’s expulsion from Pencey Prep, he becomes concerned and counsels him on how to follow the rules and directions that the teachers give him.

MRS. ANTOLINI, LILLIAN
Lillian is the wife of Mr. Antolini. Compared to Mr. Antolini, Holden claims that Lillian is unattractive and very old, “about sixty years older” he claims.

WARD STRADLATER
Stradlater, a senior, is Holden’s roommate at Pencey Prep; they live in the Ossenburger Memorial Wing of the new dorms for juniors and seniors. He is popular, sexually active, attractive, and self-righteous. (“He thought he was the handsomest guy in the Western Hemisphere.”) He represents a pretty boy, always well dressed and looked decent from the outside, but he has a secret: according to Holden, he is a “secret slob.” His razor that he uses is rusty and full of crap in it, but Holden admits he is a “sexy bastard.”

One day at the dorm, as he prepares himself to go on a date with a girl that Holden knows, Stradlater spends about one hour combing his hair.

ROBERT ACKLEY
Ackley, a senior, is Holden’s next door neighbor in the dorm at Pencey Prep. He stands about six-feet four inches tall, his face is congested with pimples, and he is extremely nasty. He is an annoyance to Holden because of his personal hygiene (especially his dental hygiene). He has very bad teeth and hardly brushes them. His ears are also dirty. He has a habit of barging into Holden’s room without notice, and ignores Holden’s indirect hints for him to leave. By the way, Ackley hates Stradlater and thinks he is conceited.

JANE GALLAGHER
Jane, an attractive ballet dancer, never appears in the novel, but she is mentioned a few times. Actually, she is the girl that Stradlater goes on a date with. When Stradlater reveals his date to Holden, he becomes animated and constantly repeats the same phrase: “I oughta go down and say hello to her.” Holden knows her because one summer he spent a lot of time with her; most important, he dated her once. He still likes her and thinks she is very attractive. He is not comfortable with Stradlater dating her, which precipitates a fight when Stradlater returns.

Moreover, Jane and Holden used to live next door to each other in Maine and became acquainted when her Doberman pincher constantly came over to urinate and/or defecate on his lawn. Holden remembers her clearly and shares the time when they played checkers together, and how she would never move her kings. She is so stuck in his mind that he later thinks of her as he tells his story, going into great details about her.

SALLY HAYES
Sally, a pretty girl, dated Holden for a long time. She is well-informed in theater, literature, and plays. Even though she is intelligent, Holden claims she is “stupid,” a claim that cannot be taken seriously due to Holden’s facetious narration. Nonetheless, he still finds her sexually attractive; and strangely, after asserting her lack of intelligence, he gives her a call – drunk and wasted – and asks for a date, which she agrees to. They go on a date (first, at a theater to see a play; and second, at a skating rink at Radio City), but it does not end well – due to Holden’s tirade about “phonies” and insulting Sally, causing her to tear up.

MR. SPENCER
Mr. Spencer, very old and sick with the flu, is Holden’s former history teacher at Pencey Prep. When Holden visits him to say good-bye, he starts to lecture him about his horrible performance in school, trying to get him to change. Moreover, he reminds him that he had no choice but to flunk him in history because of his terrible exam essay about ancient Egyptians, which Mr. Spencer reads out loud to Holden’s dismay. He continues to lecture Holden about his educational failures/laziness and tells him to think about his future, and how he must follow the rules in life (rather than doing whatever he wants): “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.”

CARL LUCE
Carl Luce, three years older than Holden, is a student at Columbia University. Allegedly, he was Holden’s student advisor at the Whooton School, but all he talked about was sex. He is sexually active and knows a lot about sex (he lost his virginity at fourteen). At Whooton, he served as a source for sex for the younger boys because he was so experienced. He represents an intellectual and had the highest IQ at Whooton. Knowing his background, Holden telephones him and they meet, even though Holden claims to not like him too much. They begin to converse, and Carl becomes annoyed by Holden’s immature comments and leaves early.

MAURICE
At the Edmont Hotel, Maurice is the elevator operator. He is also Sunny’s pimp. He is a huge guy with a fat hairy stomach who Holden calls a “dirty moron” and “stupid chiseling moron.”

SUNNY
Most likely an alias, Sunny, a teenager, is a skinny prostitute who Maurice employs through Holden’s request. She takes off her clothing, but Holden realizes he is not really into her. As he evaluates the situation, he realizes Sunny had lived a hard life and her speech and mannerisms display her hardships, causing him to view her as a human and not a prostitute. Essentially, nothing happens because he fabricates a story about having a recent spinal operation.

MAL BROSSARD
Brossard is a friend of Holden who attends Pencey Prep. He is an athlete that is on the wrestling team. He does not like Ackley (Holden’s next door neighbor) that much, but they both have something in common: they laugh like hyenas at things that are not funny at the movies.

MR. VINSON
Mr. Vinson is Holden’s former Oral Expression (speech) teacher at Pencey Prep; when someone makes a speech, he employs his students to yell “Digression!” to get the speaker back on task. Holden is not too fond of him at all, because he enjoys giving students bad grades; Holden views him as a cruel man.

DR. THURMER
Dr. Thurmer is the headmaster at Pencey Prep. Holden states he is a phony slob, like majority of everyone he meets and mentions.

SELMA THURMER
Selma is the daughter of headmaster Dr. Thurmer. She has a big nose and her nails are nasty, “bitten down” and “bleedy-looking.” She is a nice girl and never acts like she is all that because her father’s status.

MR. HASS
Mr. Hass is the headmaster at Elkton Hills. On Sundays, he had a tendency to go around and shake all the parents’ hands when they drove their kids to school, something that Holden hated. Holden calls him the “phoniest bastard” he has ever met, worse than Dr. Thurmer.

OSSENBURGER
Ossenburger is an alumnus from Pencey Prep and has a dorm named after him called Ossenburger Memorial Wing, the dorm that Holden lives in. He is a very wealthy businessman who makes his money in the funeral business; he has many parlors across the country where burials are cheap.

EDGAR MARSALLA
Edgar is a student at Pencey Prep who lets out a great fart that is heard by all the attendees while Ossenburger was giving a speech in the chapel.

ROBERT TICHENER and PAUL CAMPBELL
Only mentioned in the opening chapter, these boys, who Holden calls very nice, are students at Pencey Prep who Holden remembers throwing around a football with until the dark hours, until a biology teacher orders them back to their dorm.

THOMSEN HILL
He is a student at Pencey Prep who Holden stands on top of to see the last football game of the year, where Pencey Prep plays their rival Saxon Hall.

ED BANKY
Ed Banky is the basketball coach at Pencey Prep who occasionally let his players drive his car.

RUDOLF SCHMIDT
Rudolf is the janitor at Pencey Prep who Holden finds pleasure in using his identity to trick the mother of one of his former classmates. (Mrs. Schmidt is his wife; she’s around sixty-five years old.)

MRS. MORROW
Mrs. Morrow is the mother of a boy who attends Pencey Prep. She has a great smile, very nice voice, and attractive; she has sex appeal. She strikes up a conversation with Holden on the train that is destined for New York. Holden takes pleasure in their conversation by giving her a false name (Rudolf Schmidt) and fabricating great stories of how popular her son is on campus; he amuses himself even more by telling her that her son would have been elected for class president if the other boys nominated him.

ERNEST MORROW
Ernest, the son of Mrs. Morrow, is the boy that Holden lies about, knowing how much he dislikes him. After he takes a shower, he has a habit of taking his wet towel and snapping it at people’s asses. According to Holden, Ernest is the biggest bastard in the whole history of Pencey Prep.

LILLIAN SIMMONS
Lillian is the ex-girlfriend of Holden’s older brother D.B. She has very large breasts, but is not a likable person. Nobody likes her, according to Holden.

ERNIE
Ernie is a pianist who has his own eatery in Greenwich Village called Ernie’s Jazz club (the place he meets Lillian). Holden calls him a terrible piano player who stinks up the place and a phony. But strangely, he asks a waiter to ask Ernie if he would like to join him for a drink. Holden claims his place is usually filled with a lot of “jerks” and “phonies.”

JAMES CASTLE
James, a classmate of Holden at Elkton Hills, committed suicide by jumping out of a window while being tormented by other boys.

EDDIE BIRDSELL
Eddie is a Princeton guy who Holden meets once at a party and really doesn’t know him. He provides Holden with the phone number of a girl named Faith Cavendish who doesn’t have a problem with having sex once in a while.

FAITH CAVENDISH
Faith Cavendish is not a whore, but she enjoys having sex. At one time, she was a burlesque stripper. Feeling horny and not knowing her at all, Holden telephones her one night and unsuccessfully asks for a date. (She is one of many girls that Holden tries to connect with unsuccessfully.)

VALENCIA
Valencia is an attractive lounge singer at the Wicker Bar who Holden tries to get a date with to no avail.

BERNICE, MARTY and LAVERNE
Out-of-towners from Seattle, Bernice (blonde and pretty), Marty and Laverne (the two ugly ones) are three women that Holden meets, flirts with, and dances with while in the Lavender Room (a night club) at his hotel. They later sit down at a table, enjoying their drinks, and provide little conversation. They appear to be out-of-towners interested in mainly seeing stars. After a while, they depart and leave Holden with their entire tab.

HORWITZ
Horwitz, touchy and impatient, is a cab driver that drives Holden around in New York.

DICK SLAGLE
Dick, mentioned shortly in chapter 15, is a boy that roomed with Holden at Elkton Hills. He had a habit of putting his very expensive suitcases under his bed rather than on the rack.

HARRIS MACKLIN
Briefly mentioned in chapter 17, Harris was Holden’s roommate for about two months at Elkton Hills. Holden remembers him as an intelligent person, but he was very annoying. He was outrageously loquacious and had a raspy voice.

This piece covers a great deal of characters; quite a few of them are not important to the novel at all. In fact, some are mentioned but never appear in the novel, while others make a brief appearance. The main character/supporting characters appear in the forefront herein (the first fourteen). Nonetheless, Holden – the chief character – is the most intriguing and his narration is lively.