Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bad Communication Makes Bad Relationships

James Peabody-Harrington
Understanding Literature

Bad Communication Makes Bad Relationships
       Stephan Graham Jones expresses conflict created by lack of communication or understanding between characters in his many works of fiction and fantasy that connects with major themes in the poems “Mending Wall” by Frost, “Accident, Mass. Ave.” by Jill McDonough, and “Learning to Read” by Frances E. W. Harper. “Mending Wall” shows how walls are built to block communication even if it is not on purpose. In “Accident, Mass. Ave.” the two characters jump to conclusions with specific reactions no matter how harsh before first analyzing the situation. The way people put up walls in “Learning to Read” further explains break down in communication.
       In Frost's “Mending Wall,” the speaker tells the story of a wall that is damaged over the course of winter and how two neighbors repair the wall for no reason at all. The speaker talks about a hunter that would have no walls because it would expose his prey and please the dogs. “Have the rabbit out of hiding”(Frost 8). The rabbit is a symbol for the neighbors and all humanity and how if we lower our walls we feel vulnerable and exposed. The physical walls are a symbol for emotional walls that people place to try and protect themselves from damage. Jones had several stories where walls like these were created and destroyed communication. There is no reasoning for the wall, but the speakers neighbor just claims, “Good walls make good neighbors”(Frost 27). The neighbor makes this statement not once but twice to fortify it as a reason to shut off communication. However, as revealed by Jones, creating these walls is what breaks down communication in a relationship.
      “Accident, Mass. Ave.” is a typical commuter traffic story filled with anger, aggression and lack of communication. McDonough tells the story of a car accident in downtown Boston and the chaos that ensues. “I got out of the car/yelling, swearing at the woman”(McDonough 6-7). Utter chaos erupts as the two drivers begin to yell and scream at one another when communication completely breaks down. The drivers are yelling at each other because “We both knew, that the thing to do/is to get out of the car, slam the door/as hard as you fucking can and yell”(McDonough 10-12). It was just the thing to do, the unspoken policy. It was communication. However, the two both realize that there is no damage to either car. Then the two drivers actually begin to communicate, “…are you OK?”(McDonough 35). When they stop jumping to conclusions and talk they connect and they let their emotions out and they laugh and they cry and their problems are solved.
       In Harper's “Learning to Read,” the poem is from the perspective of what appears to be a freed slave post Civil War and his or her struggles to learn. The communication is a symbol of relationships and quality of life for the speaker. However, there is opposition to the learning that the speaker seeks. “The Rebs did hate it,–”(Harper 2). The Rebs do not want the speaker to learn because it would give her the power of communication. The speaker eventually works to achieve the ability to read which leads to gratification. “And I felt as independent/As a queen upon her throne”(Harper 43-44). The completion of the speakers quest unlocks communication and destroys the walls that were set up around her.
       In Jones's work the characters either succeed because of communication or fail because of the lack of it just like in “Accident, Mass. Ave.,” “Learning to Read,” and “Mending Wall.” Frost shows the barriers we create and the excuses we hold to block communication. McDonough shows how if people lower those walls can connect and Harper explains the freedom that can be achieved if people allow themselves to communicate without walls.  

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