The fictional world of Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s novel Sula—the African-American section of Medallion, Ohio, a community called the Bottom—is a place where people and natural things are apt to go awry, to break from their prescribed boundaries, a place where bizarre and unnatural happenings and strange reversals of the ordinary are commonplace. The very naming of the setting of Sula is a turning upside-down of the expected; the Bottom is located high in the hills. The novel is filled with images of mutilation, both psychological and physical. A great part of the lives of the characters, therefore, is taken up with making sense of the world, setting boundaries, and devising methods to control what is essentially uncontrollable. One of the major devices used by the people of the Bottom is the seemingly universal one of creating a _____________; in this case, the title character Sula—upon which to project both the evil they perceive outside themselves and the evil in their own hearts.
The English language premiere of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot took place in London in August 1955. Godot is an avant-garde play with only five characters (not including Mr. Godot, who never arrives) and a minimal setting: one rock and one bare tree. The play has two acts; the second act repeats what little action occurs in the first with few changes: The tree, for instance, acquires one leaf. In a statement that was to become famous, the critic, Vivian Mercer, has described Godot as “a play in which nothing happens twice.” Opening night, critics and playgoers greeted the play with bafflement and derision. The line, “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful,” was met by a loud rejoinder of “Hear! Hear!” from an audience member. _____________________________________. However, Harold Hobson’s review in The Sunday Times managed to recognize the play for what history has proven it to be, a revolutionary moment in theater.
This is an excerpt from Mark Twain’s Roughing It. Twain gives an eyewitness account of the operation of the Pony Express, the West’s first mail system.
The little flat mail-pockets strapped under the rider’s thighs would each hold about the bulk of a child’s primer. They held many an important business chapter and newspaper letter, but these were written on paper as airy and thin as gold-leaf, nearly, and thus bulk and weight were economized. The stagecoach traveled about a hundred to a hundred and twenty-five miles a day (twenty-four hours), the pony-rider about two hundred and fifty. There were about eighty pony-riders in the saddle all the time, night and day, stretching in a long, scattering procession from Missouri to California, 40 flying eastward, and 40 toward the west, and among them making 400 gallant horses earn a stirring livelihood and see a deal of scenery every single day in the year.
We had a consuming desire, from the beginning, to see a pony-rider, but somehow or other all that passed us and all that met us managed to streak by in the night, and so we heard only a whiz and a hail, and the swift phantom of the desert was gone before we could get our heads out of the windows. But now we were expecting one along every moment, and would see him in broad daylight. Presently the driver exclaims: “HERE HE COMES!”
Every neck is stretched further, and every eye strained wider. Away across the endless dead level of the prairie a black speck appears against the sky, and it is plain that it moves. Well, I should think so! In a second or two it becomes a horse and rider, rising and falling, rising and falling, rising and falling—sweeping toward us nearer and nearer—growing more and more distinct, more and more sharply defined—nearer and still nearer, and the flutter of the hoofs comes faintly to the ear—another instant a whoop and a hurrah from our upper deck, a wave of the rider’s hand, but no reply, and a man and a horse burst past our excited faces, and go swinging away like a belated fragment of a storm!