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Free «Violence in Literature» Essay Sample

Throughout journalism, violence is illustrated in numerous ways.  It can be described in chronicles as a subtle nuance that indicates the actions and leaves the specifics for the examiner to imagine or in graphic, picturesque detail that abscond nothing to the imagination.  Some literature uses a combination of subtle and graphic details to represent the aggression the novelist is trying to communicate or in moderate depictions that only correspond to the principle information of the activities without the gore of specifics.  There are numerous methods of literary explanations that can be utilized to convey violence in a story, as are exemplified by the differentiations in the alliteration in the four stories: The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, The Hunters in the Snow by Tobias Wolff, A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, and Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oats.  These four stories will be examined for depictions of violence, which are exercised to express reactions of the storyline and other information to the reader as well as details about the characters in the story. 



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In Poe’s chilling tale, the violence is very subtle as Montresors indicates his intention to seek vengeance against his faux friend, Fortunato (2011) for his insults.  Montresors’ indication that he has suffered a multitude of previous injuries in silence gives the distinct impression that his retaliation would be severe to make up for all the past injustices as well as this new one.  This is similar to the subtle nuances of hostility in Faulkner’s tale and how the ferocity is never directly mentioned, but is left to the assumption of the examiner when Emily asks for arsenic (2011).  The druggist’s reluctance to give Emily the arsenic simply to alleviate a rat problem gives the distinct impression that Emily’s intention is not to simply poison rats.  Violence is also insinuations of subtly in Wolff’s short story when the shot gun on Tub’s shoulder is discussed in the beginning of the chronicle (2011). 

The fearful reaction of the driver passing by and glimpsing Tub’s rifle slung over his shoulder pays loud testament to the vicious appearance of a rifle (Wolff, 2011).  The presence of a rifle is also a silent but affirmative testament to purposely do harm to someone or something.  The hostility in Oats’ story takes longer to develop, beginning with incongruous conversation between Connie and Archie Friend (2011).  Oats (2011) uses the descriptions of the dented car and Arthur Friend’s question, “Don’tcha wanta go for a ride?” as subtle intimations of his malicious objectives since Connie is only 15 years old. In all these instances, the understated reference to ferocity helps propel the flow of the narratives and allows the surveyor to develop initial impressions about the characters being depicted.  The lazy tones of Archie Friend’s remarks imitate the slow pace of the story and his increasing demands mimic the increasing intensity of the violent undertones of the story (Oats, 2011). 

The slow development of the violent intentions of the story in Faulkner’s (2011) tale is similar to the process apparent in Oats’ (2011) work.  However, Faulkner’s (2011) use of words like “vanquished” (2) hints at the malignant developments of the storyline illustrated by the complaints mentioned regarding the putrid stench emanating from Emily’s house that could only be the result of something dead and rotting in or around the premises.  The brief indication that such a horrid smell had once emanated from the home of the pristine Miss Emily once before is indications at a history of violence unsuspected by the rest of the community (Faulkner, 2011).  In Wolff’s (2011) story, the aggression implied by the evaluator mentioned of Tub’s rifle is quickly followed by Kenny’s poor joke in aiming his vehicle at Tub and trying to hit him with his truck, similar to the swift development of malicious intent in Poe’s horrific tale.  Wolff’s (2011) use of descriptive words like “sashaying” provide an alliteration of the speedy, treacherous driving Kenny was doing as his truck “jumped the curb” in pursuit of Tub. 

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The manner in which Montresors immediately displays his spiteful objective when he conversed his plan to continue to smile in Fortunato’s face while he plotted his dastardly deeds in retribution of perceived misdeeds (Poe, 2011) is akin to the blatant display of violent intent by Kenny.  Each story displays a distinct evolution of violence and, while in some cases may start off slow follow suit through indications of continued malevolence.  Wolff (2011) continues to radiate violent undertones in the description of the busted windshield on Kenny’s truck, an act committed by vandals, that force the trio to tuck their exposed extremities under a blanket since the snow and frigid air drift through the hole in the windshield in a similar fashion to Montresors’ development in his vengeful exploits (Poe, 2011).  Like Poe and Wolff, Faulkner’s (2011) tale also becomes progressively more violent following the putrid stench of rotting flesh noticed by neighbors and the procurement of arsenic with the discovery of a partially decomposed corpse in an upstairs bedroom following the death of Miss Emily.  The decomposition of the corpse is so far progressed that it is clearly apparent that it has been in the upstairs bedroom for some time and the imprint of Miss Emily’s head, marked by strands of her hair, left on the pillow indicate that she must have lay beside this dying man until he gasped his last breath before entombing him in the sealed room (Faulkner, 2011). 

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The entombment of a deceased victim also appears in Poe’s (2011) tale, where Montresors seals Fortunato in the catacombs, effectively burying him alive as fulfillment of his vengeful purposes.  The deliberate objectives within these actions, while obviously aggressive in their outcome, have understated undertones in that there is no physical ferocity signified, like direct physical blows, although it has the same fatalistic results.  This theme of entombment also emerges in Wolff’s (2011) tale when Kenny, suffering from a gunshot wound inflicted by Tub, lies wrapped in blankets in the bed of his pickup truck exposed to the frigid temperatures as snow and ice fall over him.  Exposed to the elements and isolated in the bed of the pickup truck, Kenny seems to be entombed by the cold and the falling snow as he waits for Frank and Tub to take him to the hospital so he can be treated for the gunshot wound inflicted by Tub (Wolff, 2011).  The disconcertedness expressed through the action of entombing another individual bespeaks of an inhumane attitude of negligence towards human life and has particular sadistic inclinations in the fact that death is the conclusion of such disregard. 

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In each of the four stories in this comparison, the instances of violence are subtly defined for the auditor, described, but not in flamboyant detail and leave much of the specifics to the imagination of the reader.  Poe (2011) paints a macabre portrait of vengeance, illustrating exactly how this violent emotion can become as cruel as the grave.  Faulkner (2011) spins a polite tale of madness gone undetected, as the town lies blissfully unaware of the murders committed right under their noses.  Wolff (2011) details how cruel jokes and a bad reputation can be ones undoing, as Kenny’s threat to Tub leads to a bullet in Kenny’s gullet.  Oats (2011) illustrates how cruel adolescent curiosity can be as Connie’s dishonesty and vanity leads the dangerous Arnold Friend right to her doorstep. 


Although each of the four short stories profiled in this brief analysis share the common element of violence in their storylines, they each examine this tendency in vastly different manners.  Oats’ (2011) story slowly advances toward violence with the introduction of the deceptively calm Arnold Friend and, while there is no actual act of ferocity committed, he makes numerous references to such acts.  Arthur Friend uses the implication of his intent to do harm to Connie’s friends and loved ones, coupled with a sinisterly calm demeanor, to manipulate the impressionable Connie into acquiescing to his inappropriate demands (Oats, 2011).  Faulkner (2011) demonstrates the violent acts committed by the seemingly genteel Miss Emily through subtle hints regarding Homer Baron’s entrance into her home, although no one ever saw him leave, followed by an overwhelming stench that had the neighbors complaining to the mayor.  Miss Emily’s unnecessary purchase of arsenic, which is a commonly known poison that is odorless, tasteless, and too extreme if all one wants to do is kill a few rats, is an additional indication of violent intentions that are not directly spoken of (Faulkner, 201). 

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Wolff (2011) has a more direct approach to the introduction of sadistic content in his tale of three hunting buddies through the immediate announcement of Tub’s rifle, Kenny’s crazy driving stunts, and the purpose of the trio to go hunting.  These three violent indications all appear within the first few paragraphs of the story and prepare the reader for the more extreme acts of violence that occur later in the story (Wolff, 2011).  Poe’s (2011) depictions of violence undertake a more psychological aspect, as no physical confrontations or lengthy explanations of wrongs being avenged are provided, only a brief indication that an affront has occurred and details regarding hoe Montresors intends to seek retribution.  There is no spilling of blood, only camaraderie that the narrator, Montresors, tells the reader is deliberately false, and Montresors uses a fictitious cask of Amontillado and references to Fortunato’s rival Luchesi to lure Fortunato, the prey, into the trap (Poe, 2011).   These more ostentatious representations of ferocity are easier to recognize and are vastly different from the more subtle nuances of violence hinted at in the former two short stories. 

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Another contrasting aspect regarding the hostility symbolized in these four stories is in the finality of the actions of the individuals.  In Wolff’s (2011) story, the finality of Tub’s action in shooting Kenny is not fully established, although it is strongly implied that Kenny would die as a result of the gunshot wound since Frank and Tub were driving in the wrong direction to reach the hospital.  The fact that Frank and Tub made several stops along the 50 mile drive to the hospital for drinks and pancakes and that they took the blankets away from Kenny, leaving him completely exposed to the elements are also indicators that neither Tub nor Frank would be all that disturbed should Kenny meet his end during their drive in the wrong direction (Wolff, 2011).  There is also definitive finality to Poe’s (2011) tale of vengeance since the story ends with the revelation that it is an aged Montresors recounting the tale of his successful vengeful campaign against his friend/foe, Fortunato and how he erected a wall that entrapped and smothered Fortunato in the catacombs nearly half a century ago.  Faulkner (2011) makes specific representation regarding the misfortune of Miss Emily’s victims in the discussion of the demise of her father as well as her visitor, Homer Baron. 

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Baron’s clothing is described and, as the last man other than Miss Emily’s Negro manservant, seen entering her home, the identity of the decomposing corpse in the tomb-like upstairs room, far from the room Miss Emily died in, is easy for the auditor to ascertain (Faulkner, 2011).  However, the fate of Connie or her family is not so easy to determine (Oats, 2011).  Arnold Friend makes many threats and innuendos about what he has done and will do should Connie refuse to comply with his soft-spoken demands that she get into his car, but there is no definitive acts of violence taken that indicate whether he kills, injures, or otherwise harms Connie or her family members (Oats, 2011).  The only definitive indications we receive are Connie’s own foreboding thoughts signifying her fears that she will never see her home or family again since it is clear that Arnold Friend intends to kidnap Connie (Oats, 2011).  While violence is a recurring theme in all four stories, the degree and fatality of sadism are at different levels. 

Furthermore, the intention to commit deliberately aggressive acts against another varies in the stories.  While Kenny seems to have all the malicious intent in trying to hit Tub with his truck and killing the farmer’s dog, Tub is the one that shoots Kenny and we later discover that Kenny shot the dog out of mercy at the request of the farmer since the dog was old, ill, and dying slowly (Wolff, 2011).  Later, as Frank and Tub attempt to get Kenny to the hospital, they don’t seem to be in any great rush about it, although Kenny’s abrasions are quite severe and he is completely exposed to the elements lying gravely wounded in the bed of the pickup truck, uncovered when Frank and Tub decide they need the blankets more and can make better use of them (Wolff, 2011).  It is also assumed that Emily had particularly violent intentions when she purchases arsenic under the guise of needing rat poisoning, which is disclosed after the revelation concerning the acrid stench that was complained about and took over two weeks to dissipate (Faulkner, 2011).  In this respect, the vehement purposes of the characters is greatly skewed, as the Miss Emily is first described as a prominent member of a distinguished family and later, the horrible smell of her house and the ill repute of an aunt gone mad completely annihilates the impression of hauteur just created (Faulkner, 2011). 

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Violence is often a common theme in literary works and this element is used for a variety of reasons and to convey many different messages.  However, the element of hostility always changes the reader’s perspective about the characters involved, as is apparent in all four short stories.  Even though each of the authors uses the element of ferocity in a unique way, the mood, tone, and many other aspects of the story are altered by even the most subtle insinuation of aggression.  Poe (2011) utilizes the prelude to violence to build climactic suspense throughout the retelling of the story of how Montresors seeks and obtains vengeance against his long-time friend and adversary, Fortunato.  The menacingly sweet tones of Arnold Friend allow fear for Connie’s safety and suspense to build within the reader concerning the intentions of this conversely unfriendly man in Oats’ (2011) story that has an uncertain destination. 

In Wolff’s (2011) story, violence is used to build probability in the reader concerning the actions of one character and stuns the reader with the display of the expected actions in the most unpredicted character.  Faulkner (2011) also shocks his readers with the unexpected nature of Miss Emily’s violent acts, which contradict the persona of the character presented to the audience.  Ferocity is portrayed in numerous ways and can be alliterated in subtle nuances or in graphic, picturesque detail, using a combination of restrained and graphic information to depict the violence the author is trying to converse or in moderate descriptions that only communicate the preliminary details of the action.


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