Monday, June 20, 2011

Attraction and Repulsion

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A common theme of attraction and repulsion between different individuals was common to many of the stories that we read. In “I Want to Know Why” these feelings occur between the narrator and a man by the name of Jerry Tillford. The narrator forms a sort of fatherly bond with Jerry. In “Ligeia” these feelings of attraction and repulsion are felt by the narrator as well, although the feelings are focused on his wife. Although these stories are drastically different they have the same underlying theme.

The narrator in “I Want to Know Why” has throughout his life lacked a true father. His father is a lawyer and seems to pay little or no attention to him. His father lacks interest in things his son does and even lacks disciplining him. When the narrator stole his fathers’ cigar and ate half of it he didn’t get punished. The narrator says, “when I told what I had done and why most fathers would have whipped me but mine didn’t”(Anderson, 1). Due to the fact that the narrator felt he didn’t have a father who cared about him he looked elsewhere for a role model. On the narrator’s trip to the races when he was fourteen years old he realized he admired Jerry Tillford. The narrator says, “I liked him that afternoon even more than I ever liked my own father”(Anderson, 4). The narrator soon became attracted to Jerry and began seeing him as more than a fatherly figure. The narrator writes, “I wanted to be as near Jerry as I could. I felt close to him”(Anderson, 5). However, the repulsion enters this equation the minute the narrator saw Jerry go into the whorehouse. He couldn’t understand why or how Jerry could do something as horrific as that. He idolized Jerry, but from that point on his feelings changed. He states, “all of a sudden, I began to hate that man. I wanted to scream and rush in the room and kill him”(Anderson, 6). The narrator had been let down once again.

In “Ligeia” the attraction and repulsion happens constantly in cycles. The narrator has very little recollection of the details of how he met Ligeia. However, the first act of repulsion apparent to me was when he stated, “I believe that I met her first and most frequently in some large, old decaying city near the Rhine” (Poe, 87). This shows that his recollection of her is not just good things, as shown by the old decaying city. This is imagery foretelling of the doom that will befall Lady Ligeia. Conversely, almost always when the narrator describes Ligeia he remembers her beauty and how he is attracted to her. He states, “in beauty of her face no maiden ever equalled her”(Poe, 88). He often idolizes her and puts her on a pedestal, above everything else. Another example of repulsion is when the narrator begins describing Ligeia, beginning with her forehead moving down her face. He then ends his description discussing her eyes. This effort by the narrator to be so meticulous about her description leads one to believe that she is in a morgue, lying dead. In many instances Ligeia both attracted and repulsed the narrator as shown by the statement, “…those eyes which at once so delighted and appalled me…”(Poe, 1). The same cycle of attraction and repulsion was shown again with his new wife, Lady Rowena. After reading the story, one realizes that the narrator has killed all of his previous wives, including Lady Ligeia and Lady Rowena, and is in a never-ending cycle of attraction and repulsion. Today, the narrator would be considered a serial killer and be classified as having some sort of mental disorder.

In both these stories there is an obvious example of attraction and repulsion, but in the case of “I Want To Know Why,” there is only one cycle shown in the story. This fact is untrue in “Ligeia.” In the story of “Ligeia” there is an almost constant repetition of the cycle of attraction and repulsion. The narrator appears to be in constant torment about his feelings, and in “I Want To Know Why” the narrator came to the almost immediate decision that he now hated Jerry. There was no prolonged torment involved in the case of Jerry. However, in “Ligeia” the torment came in a recurring pattern. Either way, the stories are linked by their displays of examples of attraction and repulsion. Despite the different ways in which these examples are displayed, these stories go hand in hand.

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