Points of Reflection
Salvador Dali's "Autumnal Cannibalism" (1936)
1. do the joint acts of cannibalism depicted here appear violent and destructive, or harmonious and mutually satisfying?
2. have you ever felt the desire to, metaphorically speaking, consume another person--to somehow unite yourself with her/him at a profoundly physical and emotional level? (I'm not, of course, referring to the psychotic desire to tear off someone's flesh and watch them bleed, or to otherwise harm them.)
3. which of the actual foods depicted in this painting appears the most appetizing?
4. does realizing that Dali created this work after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 dramatically alter your understanding of the work?
5. the apple balanced on one of the figures heads alludes to the legend of Swiss folk hero William Tell, in which Tell is made to shoot at an apple on his son's head by the local Austrian authorities--his punishment for not bowing to the centrally located hat of the current Vogt of Altdorf. Why might Dali have included this particular symbol in this painting?
6. Dali wrote of this painting, "“These Iberian [Spanish & Portguese] beings devouring each other in the autumn express the pathos of civil war considered as a phenomenon of natural history, as distinct from Picasso, who considered it a political [phenomenon.]” Do you agree that the desire to "devour" one another is instinctual in humans?
D. H. Lawrence's "New Eve and Old Adam" (1913, 1914; 1934), 96-121
1. Lawrence's narrator suggests that the battle royale between Peter and Paula Moest resembles that fought by many other married couples (96)? Do you agree that the conflict has a familiar feel to it?
2. what role does sex play in this conflict (99 mid-bot, 102 top-mid, 103 top, 105 mid, 106 top-mid, etc.)?
3. is Paula's furious improvising on the piano symbolic of anything in particular (101 top)?
4. Paula accuses Peter of not letting himself love her (101 bot), and Peter is convinced that he does (116 bot). Whose perspective seems more fully validated by the story as a whole?
5. why does Paula repeatedly ask for "peace" and "rest" (102 bot, 105 bot, 106 mid)?
6. is Peter's notion that his wife does not have "any real personal life, separate from himself" (106 bot) consistent with Biblical principles?
7. the narrator reveals to the reader a number of truths about Peter that remain obscured from the character himself (108 top, 109 bot). Is Peter's ignorance a function of choice, or fate?
8. why might Lawrence's narrator use the word "elemental" when describing this couple's conflict (97 mid), as well as Peter's blood instinct (108 mid) and "physical soul" (109 bot)?
9. this tale delineates carefully between Peter's conscious thoughts and his deeper self (108 bot, 109 mid-bot), suggesting that the two rarely intersect. Is this the root of Peter's problem?
10. why is Peter so uncomfortable with Paula's attention to their neighbor, Richard Moest (112-13)?
11. how accurate are Peter's assumptions about Paula's thoughts and motivations? Consider, for instance, his unspoken certainty that she saw him as a "mission," and that now she's interested in opening her heart to others and treating them similarly (113 mid, 113 bot, 121 mid).
12. does the epiphany which Peter experiences on pages 116-17 lead to positive action and a lasting transformation?
13. does the phrase "but it was too complicated and difficult" (117 mid) emerge from Peter's head or the narrator's? Consider the similar, but more ubiquitous phrase "he could not understand" (106, 118, etc.) in the same light--is this an objective observation of the narrator, or self-justification from Peter? Why is the reader's (your) decision about these two phrases' origins so important?
14. who initiates touch in order to move towards reconciliation, Paula or Peter (117)?
15. what is Peter actually asking Paula when he haltingly quotes the Bible, saying "'Flesh of my flesh . . . Will you . . . a wife . . .?'" (120 mid)? Is his question at this moment related to her epistolary accusation three months later (120-21)?
"The Blind Man" (1918; 1920), 199-219
1. do the Pervins find it easier or more difficult to be happy and satisfied in their marriage, once Maurice has been blinded on the battlefield?
2. how does the introduction of this disability into their relationship affect their sociability with others?
3. why does the impending advent of a child present such a crisis for Isabel? What is her primary concern?
4. what two types of intelligence does Lawrence identify in his descriptions of Maurice Pervin and Isabel's old friend Bertie Reid, and which of these two men has a greater helping of each type of intelligence (201)?
5. do you think it right for Isabel to discontinue her friendship with Bertie (for two years) since her husband does not like him (202)?
6. how does being temporarily "blind," as it were, affect emotionally as she waits for her husband in the barn (205-206)?
7. what do you think Lawrence means by the clause "She did not look at his blindness" (207)?
8. does the vision impaired Maurice Pervin experience his environment as distant and inaccessible (208)?
9. what is the source of the chaos (209) which Maurice occasionally finds stirring within him (209-10)?
10. why is Berti, who is 3-4 yrs older than his distant cousin Isabel, still unmarried (212-13)?
11. both Maurie and Isabel prove rather inexact and vague when trying to describe what it is that takes the place of "the bothering" and "activity" associated with sight (213-14). Can you figure out this "something" which is "strong and immediate," "rich, almost splendid" to which they're alluding (214)?
12. why is Bertie so uncomfortable with the exchange of face touching shared by Maurice and himself? Why does he feel so violated (217-18)?
13. is Maurice wrong in his repeated assertion that he and Bertie now "'know each other,'" that they have become friends (218-19)?
"Autumnal Cannibalism" (1936)
Dr. Paul Marchbanks