Week 2 Discussion death as a motif

For this week’s discussion, please read the works by Dylan Thomas found your textbook pages 228-234,Dylan Thomas uses death as a motif in all four poems revealing the family member’s unique struggle in a patient’s battle with terminal illness. After examining each of the four poems, discuss in 250 words or more how exploring symbolism and imagery presented in the work of Dylan Thomas might encourage or otherwise facilitate communication between the caregiver and the patient.(Remember to create in-text citations in APA format and include a reference at the end of the post.)
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Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses
permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
A SUMMER TRAGEDY
arna
bont e mps
Old Jeff Patton, the black share farmer, fumbled with his bow tie. His fingers trembled and the high stiff collar pinched his throat. A fellow loses his hand for such
vanities after thirty or forty years of simple life. Once a year, or maybe twice if there’s
a wedding among his kinfolks, he may spruce up; but generally fancy clothes do
nothing but adorn the wall of the big room and feed the moths. That had been Jeff
Patton’s experience. He had not worn his stiff-bosomed shirt more than a dozen
times in all his married life. His swallowtailed coat lay on the bed beside him, freshly
brushed and pressed, but it was as full of holes as the overalls in which he worked on
weekdays. The moths had used it badly. Jeff twisted his mouth into a hideous toothless grimace as he contended with the obstinate bow. He stamped his good foot and
decided to give up the struggle.
“Jennie,” he called.
“What’s that, Jeff ?” His wife’s shrunken voice came out of the adjoining room like
an echo. It was hardly bigger than a whisper.
“I reckon you’ll have to help me wid this heah bow tie, baby,” he said meekly.
“Dog if I can hitch it up.”
Her answer was not strong enough to reach him, but presently the old woman
came to the door, feeling her way with a stick. She had a wasted, dead-leaf appearance. Her body, as scrawny and gnarled as a string bean, seemed less than nothing
in the ocean of frayed and faded petticoats that surrounded her. These hung an inch
or two above the tops of her heavy unlaced shoes and showed little grotesque piles
where the stockings had fallen down from her negligible legs.
“You oughta could do a heap mo’ wid a thing like that’n me—beingst as you got
yo’ good sight.”
“Looks like I oughta could,” he admitted. “But ma fingers is gone democrat on me. I
get all mixed up in the looking glass and can’t tell wicha way to twist the devilish thing.”
First published in The Crisis. © Copyright 1933 by Arna Bontemps. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober
Associates Incorporated.
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:17 PM via HERZING
UNIVERSITY – MADISON
AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine
Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses
permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
a
summer
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221
Jennie sat on the side of the bed and old Jeff Patton got down on one knee while
she tied the bow knot. It was a slow and painful ordeal for each of them in this position. Jeff ’s bones cracked, his knee ached, and it was only after a half dozen attempts
that Jennie worked a semblance of a bow into the tie.
“I got to dress maself now,” the old woman whispered. “These is ma old shoes and
stockings, and I ain’t so much as unwrapped ma dress.”
“Well, don’t worry ’bout me no mo’, baby,” Jess said. “That ’bout finishes me. All
I gotta do now is slip on that old coat ’n ves’ an’ I’ll be fixed to leave.”
Jennie disappeared again through the dim passage into the shed room. Being blind
was no handicap to her in that black hole. Jeff heard the cane placed against the wall
beside the door and knew that his wife was on easy ground. He put on his coat, took
a battered top hat from the bedpost and hobbled to the front door. He was ready to
travel. As soon as Jennie could get on her Sunday shoes and her old black silk dress,
they would start.
Outside the tiny log house, the day was warm and mellow with sunshine. A host
of wasps were humming with busy excitement in the trunk of a dead sycamore. Gray
squirrels were searching through the grass for hickory nuts and blue jays were in the
trees, hopping from branch to branch. Pine woods stretched away to the left like a
black sea. Among them were scattered scores of log houses like Jeff’s, houses of black
share farmers. Cows and pigs wandered freely among the trees. There was no danger
of loss. Each farmer knew his own stock and knew his neighbor’s as well as he knew
his neighbor’s children.
Down the slope to the right were the cultivated acres on which the colored folks
worked. They extended to the river, more than two miles away, and they were today
green with the unmade cotton crop. A tiny thread of a road, which passed directly in
front of Jeff ’s place, ran through these green fields like a pencil mark.
Jeff, standing outside the door, with his absurd hat in his left hand, surveyed the
wide scene tenderly. He had been forty-five years on these acres. He loved them with
the unexplained affection that others have for the countries to which they belong.
The sun was hot on his head, his collar still pinched his throat, and the Sunday
clothes were intolerably hot. Jeff transferred the hat to his right hand and began
fanning with it. Suddenly the whisper that was Jennie’s voice came out of the shed
room.
“You can bring the car round front whilst you’s waitin’,” it said feebly. There was
a tired pause; then it added, “I’ll soon be fixed to go.”
“A’right, baby,” Jeff answered. “I’ll get it in a minute.”
But he didn’t move. A thought struck him that made his mouth fall open. The
mention of the car brought to his mind, with new intensity, the trip he and Jennie
were about to take. Fear came into his eyes; excitement took his breath. Lord, Jesus!
“Jeff . . . O Jeff,” the old woman’s whisper called.
He awakened with a jolt. “Hunh, baby?”
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:17 PM via HERZING
UNIVERSITY – MADISON
AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine
Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses
permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
222 I m a g i n e
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L ik e
“What you doin’?”
“Nuthin’. Jes studyin’. I jes been turnin’ things round ’n round in ma mind.”
“You could be gettin’ the car,” she said.
“Oh yes, right away, baby.”
He started round to the shed, limping heavily on his bad leg. There were three frizzly chickens in the yard. All his other chickens had been killed or stolen recently. But
the frizzly chickens had been saved somehow. That was fortunate indeed, for these
curious creatures had a way of devouring “Poison” from the yard and in that way
protecting against conjure and black luck and spells. But even the frizzly chickens
seemed to be now in a stupor. Jeff thought they had some ailment; he expected all
three of them to die shortly.
The shed in which the old T-model Ford stood was only a grass roof held up by
four corner poles. It had been built by tremulous hands at a time when the little
rattletrap car had been regarded as a peculiar treasure. And, miraculously, despite
wind and downpour, it still stood.
Jeff adjusted the crank and put his weight upon it. The engine came to life with a
sputter and bang that rattled the old car from radiator to taillight. Jeff hopped into
the seat and put his foot on the accelerator. The sputtering and banging increased.
The rattling became more violent. That was good. It was good banging, good sputtering and rattling, and it meant that the aged car was still in running condition. She
could be depended on for this trip.
Again Jeff ’s thought halted as if paralyzed. The suggestion of the trip fell into the
machinery of his mind like a wrench. He felt dazed and weak. He swung the car out
into the yard, made a half turn and drove around to the front door. When he took
his hands off the wheel, he noticed that he was trembling violently. He cut off the
motor and climbed to the ground to wait for Jennie.
A few minutes later she was at the window, her voice rattling against the pane like
a broken shutter.
“I’m ready, Jeff.”
He did not answer, but limped into the house and took her by the arm. He led her
slowly through the big room, down the step and across the yard.
“You reckon I’d oughta lock the do’?” he asked softly.
They stopped and Jennie weighed the question. Finally she shook her head.
“Ne’ mind the do’,” she said. “I don’t see no cause to lock up things.”
“You right,” Jeff agreed. “No cause to lock up.”
Jeff opened the door and helped his wife into the car. A quick shudder passed over
him. Jesus! Again he trembled.
“How come you shaking so?” Jennie whispered.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“You mus’ be scairt, Jeff.”
“No, baby, I ain’t scairt.”
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:17 PM via HERZING
UNIVERSITY – MADISON
AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine
Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses
permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
a
summer
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a r n a
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223
He slammed the door after her and went around to crank up again. The motor
started easily. Jeff wished that it had not been so responsive. He would have liked a
few more minutes in which to turn things around in his head. As it was, with Jennie
chiding him about being afraid, he had to keep going. He swung the car into the little
pencil-mark road and started off toward the river, driving very slowly, very cautiously.
Chugging across the green countryside, the small battered Ford seemed tiny indeed. Jeff felt a familiar excitement, a thrill, as they came down the first slope to the
immense levels on which the cotton was growing. He could not help reflecting that
the crops were good. He knew what that meant, too; he had made forty-five of them
with his own hands. It was true that he had worn out nearly a dozen mules, but that
was the fault of old man Stevenson, the owner of the land. Major Stevenson had the
odd notion that one mule was all a share farmer needed to work a thirty-acre plot. It
was an expensive notion, the way it killed mules from overwork, but the old man held
to it. Jeff thought it killed a good many share farmers as well as mules, but he had
no sympathy for them. He had always been strong, and he had always been taught
to have no patience with weakness in men. Women or children might be tolerated if
they were puny, but a weak man was a curse. Of course, his own children—
Jeff ’s thought halted there. He and Jennie never mentioned their dead children any
more. And naturally he did not wish to dwell upon them in his mind. Before he knew
it, some remark would slip out of his mouth and that would make Jennie feel blue.
Perhaps she would cry. A woman like Jennie could not easily throw off the grief that
comes from losing five grown children within two years. Even Jeff was still staggered
by the blow. His memory had not been much good recently. He frequently talked to
himself. And, although he had kept it a secret, he knew that his courage had left him.
He was terrified by the least unfamiliar sound at night. He was reluctant to venture far
from home in the daytime. And that habit of trembling when he felt fearful was now
far beyond his control. Sometimes he became afraid and trembled without knowing
what had frightened him. The feeling would just come over him like a chill.
The car rattled slowly over the dusty road. Jennie sat erect and silent, with a little
absurd hat pinned to her hair. Her useless eyes seemed very large, very white in their
deep sockets. Suddenly Jeff heard her voice, and he inclined his head to catch the
words.
“Is we passed Delia Moore’s house yet?” she asked.
“Not yet,” he said.
“You must be driven’ mighty slow, Jeff.”
“We might just as well take our time, baby.”
There was a pause. A little puff of steam was coming out of the radiator of the car.
Heat wavered above the hood. Delia Moore’s house was nearly half a mile away.
After a moment Jennie spoke again.
“You ain’t really scairt, is you, Jeff ?”
“Nah, baby, I ain’t scairt.”
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:17 PM via HERZING
UNIVERSITY – MADISON
AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine
Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses
permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
224 I m a g i n e
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“You know how we agreed—we gotta keep on goin’.”
Jewels of perspiration appeared on Jeff ’s forehead. His eyes rounded, blinked,
became fixed on the road.
“I don’t know,” he said with a shiver. “I reckon it’s the only thing to do.”
“Hm.”
A flock of guinea fowls, pecking in the road, were scattered by the passing car.
Some of them took to their wings; others hid under bushes. A blue jay, swaying on a
leafy twig, was annoying a roadside squirrel. Jeff held an even speed till he came near
Delia’s place. Then he slowed down noticeably.
Delia’s house was really no house at all, but an abandoned store building converted
into a dwelling. It sat near a crossroads, beneath a single black cedar tree. There Delia,
a catish old creature of Jennie’s age, lived alone. She had been there more years than
anybody could remember, and long ago had won the disfavor of such women as Jennie. For in her young days Delia had been gayer, yellower and saucier than seemed
proper in those parts. Her ways with menfolks had been dark and suspicious. And the
fact that she had had as many husbands as children did not help her reputation.
“Yonder’s old Delia,” Jeff said as they passed.
“What she doin’?”
“Jes sittin’ in the do’,” he said.
“She see us?”
“Hm,” Jeff said. “Musta did.”
That relieved Jennie. It strengthened her to know that her old enemy had seen her
pass in her best clothes. That would give the old she-devil something to chew her
gums and fret about, Jennie thought. Wouldn’t she have a fit if she didn’t find out?
Old evil Delia!
This would be just the thing for her. It would pay her back for being so evil. It
would also pay her, Jennie thought, for the way she used to grin at Jeff—long ago
when her teeth were good.
The road became smooth and red, and Jeff could tell by the smell of the air that
they were nearing the river. He could see the rise where the road turned and ran
along parallel to the stream. The car chugged on monotonously. After a long silent
spell, Jennie leaned against Jeff and spoke.
“How many bale o’ cotton you think we got standin’?” she said.
Jeff wrinkled his forehead as he calculated.
“’Bout twenty-five, I reckon.”
“How many you make las’ year?”
“Twenty-eight,” he said. “How come you ask that?”
“I’s jes thinkin’,” Jennie said quietly.
“It don’t make a speck o’ difference though,” Jeff reflected. “If we get much or if
we get little, we still gonna be in debt to old man Stevenson when he gets through
counting up agin us. It’s took us a long time to learn that.”
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:17 PM via HERZING
UNIVERSITY – MADISON
AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine
Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses
permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
a
summer
t ra g e d y
|
a r n a
b o n t e m p s
225
Jennie was not listening to these words. She had fallen into a trance-like meditation. Her lips twitched. She chewed her gums and rubbed her gnarled hands nervously. Suddenly she leaned forward, buried her face in the nervous hands and burst
into tears. She cried aloud in a dry cracked voice that suggested the rattle of fodder
on dead stalks. She cried aloud like a child, for she had never learned to suppress a
genuine sob. Her slight old frame shook heavily and seemed hardly able to sustain
such violent grief.
“What’s the matter, baby?” Jeff asked awkwardly. “Why you cryin’ like all that?”
“I’s jes thinkin’,” she said.
“So you the one what’s scairt now, hunh?”
“I ain’t scairt, Jeff. I’s jes thinkin’ ’bout leavin’ eve’thing like this—eve’thing we
been used to. It’s right sad-like.”
Jeff did not answer, and presently Jennie buried her face again and cried.
The sun was almost overhead. It beat down furiously on the dusty wagon-path
road, on the parched roadside grass and the tiny battered car. Jeff ’s hands, gripping
the wheel, became wet with perspiration; his forehead sparkled. Jeff ’s lips parted. His
mouth shaped a hideous grimace. His face suggested the face of a man being burned.
But the torture passed and his expression softened again.
“You mustn’t cry, baby,” he said to his wife. “We gotta be strong. We can’t break
down.”
Jennie waited a few seconds, then said, “You reckon we oughta do it, Jeff? You
reckon we oughta go ’head an’ do it, really?”
Jeff ’s voice choked; his eyes blurred. He was terrified to hear Jennie say the thing
that had been in his mind all morning. She had egged him on when he had wanted
more than anything in the world to wait, to reconsider, to think things over a little
longer. Now she was getting cold feet. Actually there was no need of thinking the
question through again. It would only end in making the same painful decision once
more. Jeff knew that. There was no need of fooling around longer.
“We jes as well to do like we planned,” he said. “They ain’t nothin’ else for us
now—it’s the bes’ thing.”
Jeff thought of the handicaps, the near impossibility, of making another crop with
his leg bothering him more and more each week. Then there was always the chance
that he would have another stroke, like the one that had made him lame. Another one might kill him. The least it could do would be to leave him helpless. Jeff
gasped—Lord, Jesus! He could not bear to think of being helpless, like a baby, on
Jennie’s hands. Frail, blind Jennie.
The little pounding motor of the car worked harder and harder. The puff of steam
from the cracked radiator became larger. Jeff realized that they were climbing a little
rise. A moment later the road turned abruptly and he looked down upon the face of
the river.
“Jeff.”
EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 1/11/2018 7:17 PM via HERZING
UNIVERSITY – MADISON
AN: 285968 ; Nadelhaft, Ruth L., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bonebakker, Victoria.; Imagine
Copyright © 2008. University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses
permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
226 I m a g i n e
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“Hunh?”
“Is that the water I hear?”
“Hm. Tha’s it.”
“Well, which way you goin’ now?”
“Down this a way,” he said. “The road runs ’longside o’ the water a lil piece.”
She waited a while calmly. Then she said, “Drive faster.”
“A’right, baby,” Jeff said.
The water roared in the bed of the river. It was fifty or sixty feet below the level
of the road. Between the road and the water there was a long smooth slope, sharply
inclined. The slope was dry, the clay hardened by prolonged summer heat. The water
below, roaring in a narrow c …
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