Week 1


30-03-2013 03:02:58

Language is a skill that none of us master. We learn it young. We may learn multiple languages young. But, we never truly master them. Because at their heart, language is all intent and subtext and context. It is the means to communicate with other people. It is the means to give meaning to action and action to meaning; to convey emotion and idea; to draw upon the past; to dream about a future. Language is far more nebulous and encompassing than just words on paper or the words we speak. Language is just as much a part of our human history as the atoms in our bodies are part of the Universe's history.

And language is one of the many tools available to writers. There is the standard story outline of protagonist, antagonist, conflict and resolution, but all of that means nothing without language. Without the words on paper, or the meaning behind those words. So language becomes something that we study in literature. Not to tame and master it, but to embrace it and make it a part of ourselves. To then use that part of us to craft stories and poems and songs. To give the inorganic a sort of life that eludes biological processes.

The three stories you read embrace this concept of language giving life to words and ideas. In fact, the three writers you looked at are some of the closest we have in English Literature of Masters of the English Language - Twain, London and Steinbeck. Theirs isn't the mastery of the nuance and rules of English, but the part of language that people use in the day to day.

So, I want to know. What did you notice? What stood out? Discuss any and all of the stories you read. Compare them. Celebrate them. Condemn them.

Rustin Servos

30-03-2013 05:26:54

Hello All,

I would like to speak about Chrysanthemums here for a little bit. I'll be honest I'm not the kind of person who reads classic literature, I'm more of a Sci-Fi fantasy type myself. So bear with me here. :)

I believe this story was the most imagery laced tale I have ever read. At first it was actually hard for me to see the scene in my head with the amount of description Steinbeck put into it. As I got used to it though (and reread a paragraph or two) it began to clear up in my mind's eye. I've never had that much trouble before, but that can just mean I haven't been exposed that many adjectives in a Star Wars novel.

Now to the actual story, from what I can tell Elisa's chrysanthemums are symbolic for Elisa herself. She takes pride in cultivating them. She wants them to grow strong and beautiful, just as she sees herself. When her husband comes into the story he almost brushes them off. Wishing Elisa would work on something that would benefit the farm instead. In essence he doesn't see the beauty in his own wife and perhaps even takes her for granted.

Then the man in the wagon came, I'm going to call him Chuck. Chuck came and even though he really wanted to sell his services, he took interest in the chrysanthemums, and by affect, Elisa. You could see her demeanor change on the page as he talked about them with her. She became passionate and lost the sorrow that was hinted at before. She probably felt better then she had in a long time. Chuck saw her beauty in this quote, "Kind of a long-stemmed flower? Looks like a quick puff of colored smoke?" I don't know quite why but that stayed with me, it felt honest and real. She gave him a pot full of chrysanthemums seedlings, she gave him a little bit of herself.

By the time Chuck had left, Elisa felt empowered and liked and like a woman. She felt so great about herself that she got all gussied up for the outing with Henry. When he saw her I suppose you can say he was shocked and she bit back at him with her new self-confidence. But it couldn't last. Chuck had thrown the chrysanthemums Elisa had given her to the ground. She saw that and she knew Chuck had just wanted her business and didn't actually care for her at all. She first was sad then grew angry, wanting to see the fights and men getting beaten up. But in the end I think she was sadder then she had ever been. She was weak again, "She turned up her coat collar so he could not see that she was crying weakly--like an old woman."

Well that's what I saw anyways. I could be seeing things that weren't there. I guess since this is a discussion we need a question... so what do you all think? A cop out I know. :)


30-03-2013 10:54:00

I'm probably going to echo a bit of what Rustin mentioned about Chrysanthemums.

The imagery involved was very effective and evocative. The piece of imagery that really stuck with me was at the beginning describing the cloud/fog cover that 'sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot'. In my mind, this phrase served to set the tone for the story.

First, it created a sense of isolation from the rest of the world, much like Elisa likely feels.

Second, it creates a sense that events will soon occur that will cause things to boil over.

For the first half of the story, everything about Elisa is described in a way to downplay her attractiveness as a woman. She's down in the dirt. She's even wearing a man's hat. Henry speaks to her respectfully, but almost more as a collegue than as his spouse.

So when 'Chuck' comes along and expresses an interest in her Chrysanthemum project, and by extension expresses an interest in her, it's both flattering and empowering. Her own husband hasn't looked at her like that in quite a while, as evidenced by his reaction when he sees her all dressed up for her date.

Then it all comes crashing down when she sees her beloved Chrysanthemums dumped out on the side of the road. He didn't really care about her, or her flowers. He was only interested in what he could get from her.

Elisa's saddness at the end is made even worse knowing that she desperately wants a change from her everyday life. The questions she asks of 'Chuck' about his life, how she describes it as 'nice' and that she 'wishes women could do such things'.

And now she feels even more trapped and alone than ever.


30-03-2013 12:27:01

At the risk of becoming a broken record, Chrysanthemums is worth so much discussion. Of the three short stories assigned thus far, it was the one that stayed with me. Perhaps you could say the dialogue of our dear Jumping Frog put me off--which it did--but the truth of the matter is so much more.

There is one thing in literature that I value above all others: the imagination. It is a wondrous thing, and from it we can enter worlds beyond the veil of which we see before us. There is a careful balance, I feel, to the handling of imagery in the written word. There are two mistakes to be made in my eyes. The first is leaving it too vague. This can be a grave error, one that leaves the window completely to their own devices and drawing their own conclusions. There is no guarantee they will see things as you envision, and perhaps all will be lost in translation.

Similarly, you can go to the extreme opposite. One of my favourite authors, Terry Goodkind, gets in trouble with this early on. But that is the risk of creating your own world, you can describe too much. You take away the reader's ability to draw their own conclusions and become invested in the world they are peering into.

To me, that is the best way to become both engaged in the story, and to truly enjoy it. Allude to features, but don't outright state. Yes, describe the home! Perhaps it has only one window, a second floor, a certain style. But let the reader decide the details! Let them create the world! That may just be me though.

With Chrysanthemums I had the chance to sit down with Kalia and discovered we both drew different conclusions from it. We both had differing visions. That is fantastic! It is amazing to sit down and discuss how you came to these conclusions. To me, it was so clear that this woman had come to value herself, only to find her precious and cared for gift at the side of the road. Yet for another reader, that had not been the case.

So wonderful it is to leave things just vague enough, but so tight a rope is it to balance upon. I don't know about anyone else, but that is my greatest joy of literature.


30-03-2013 18:00:36

As for Aloha Oe, the language and imagery I would say is equally evocative, but I did not particularly enjoy it. With so short a work, I found the use of the flashbacks/memory distracting, as if the story were being told out of order. I'm not saying there is a better way to present the same information without making this story much larger than it already is though.

The contrasting viewpoints between Jeremy and Dorothy were quite interesting to see. While Jeremy's point of view is simply spelled out for us, as he spends most of the story in the background, it provides an immediate point of reference from which to compare Dorothy's completely different experiences on the island.

I loved that Jeremy Sambrooke was blind to the beauty of things around him, both that of the island and its inhabitants, as well as the emerging beauty of his own daughter. He still thinks of her as his 'girl baby'.

The love story itself bothered me for personal reasons, as well as what I now consider to be something of a cliché. The young girl falling in love with the handsome and strong young man feels old and played to me. On top of the fact that, as a guy that views himself as neither strong nor handsome, I'm just tired of this scenario.

I was honestly confused as to why Steve's half-caste status would matter to Jeremy. This is the man who apparently paid apparently no attention to the beauty and culture of the island, and focused solely on the statistics calculating the use he could but its resources to. To my understanding he and his daughter are not Hawaiians. So why on earth would it matter to him that Steve is a half-caste? Anyone have any ideas?


30-03-2013 19:17:28

The only reason I can think, Arion, is that it is the game of politics. How would it look if you welcomed sun-kissed blood into your family, when such things is frowned upon by the people you are trying to gain favour from?

Politics is a vicious and unrelenting game. It was a topic not touched on in the readings so much, but more hidden in the background. Then again, as I have mentioned before, we can draw our own conclusions from it. That is just what I gleamed from the information available. Don't want to ruin your chances with the islands on account of a foolish young love!


30-03-2013 21:02:06

I'm so glad Chrysanthemums has been discussed. I am typically a fantasy/sci-fi reader so going into this I honestly thought I'd hate the stories. Boy was I wrong. I thought Chrysanthemums was an awesome story to start the course off with. After reading it, I started to discuss it with Atra via gtalk. It was really interesting to find that what he took away from the story was completely different than what I got out of it. I found myself identifying with Elisa and I was completely thrown back by the fact that what Atra took from the story was related to things in his RL. The same goes for me. Hearing what Atra took from it gave me a whole new perspective on Elisa and what actually happened in the story.


30-03-2013 21:12:05

I was honestly confused as to why Steve's half-caste status would matter to Jeremy. This is the man who apparently paid apparently no attention to the beauty and culture of the island, and focused solely on the statistics calculating the use he could but its resources to. To my understanding he and his daughter are not Hawaiians. So why on earth would it matter to him that Steve is a half-caste? Anyone have any ideas?

You answered your own question (and Atra helped, too.)

The story was written in 1908. The women's rights movement was burgeoning in the US--the 19th Amendment wouldn't be passed for another 12 years. A Senator's daughter would still be considered political fodder, a bargaining chip. Jeremy Sambrooke doesnt see the inherent beauty of the island because he's busy planning his next political move. He doesn't see his daughter transforming/ed into a woman because, when he does see her, he's busy determing whom she should marry to better suit his political career.

Warning: Race card about to be played.

An upwardly-mobile Senator's career would be devastated if his daughter married (or worse: had an out-of-wedlock child with) someone of color. Jeremy, for his own sake, could not allow his daughter to marry a tropics native, a territorial, a half-blooded brown man. Might as well head south and marry a sharecropper!

Apologies for the off-color, anachronistic joke.

Another view (one that's more forgiving toward Mr. Sambrooke) is that Jeremy is playing the protective father. Whereas a white man marrying a hapa-haole can be forgiven, the reverse is not true. The husband determined the success, the social group of the family. A rich white man had access to all society had to offer. A rich-haole man, however loving and caring, could not pay his way into society. We see that in the example of the Honorable A.S. Cleghorn. By telling his daughter to forget her month-long fling, he's preventing her from making a mistake that would ruin her future. I don't think he wants to prevent her from finding true love (marriage and love were not always paired in the first part of the 20th Century.) He wants to protect his daughter.


31-03-2013 00:09:10

To back up a little bit, Steinbeck is probably one of the 3 biggest writers to draw upon personal experience. Every writer pulls from what they've personally experienced to create their stories, but Steinbeck (along with Hemingway and Fitzgerald) would hammer home the details of exactly where he is or was. He spent a lot of time exploring and writing about the places he visited and lived. So, he used his notes and his memories to create the imagery you read. If you've ever been to the Salinas Valley, just slightly east of Monterey and Santa Cruz, California, what Steinbeck was writing about was very familiar. If you've never been to the Salinas Valley, through his very simple use of language - shorter word choices; kind of long and rolling sentences to draw you into the hills and valleys and winding roads.

And compare descriptions in the opening sentences. How Elisa was "cutting down the old year's chrysanthemum stalks with a pair of short and powerful scissors." That's just an incredibly descriptive sentence. It talks about more than the simple act of trimming plants. It alludes to the work involved. The sweat that went into the soil. The work to coax something out of that same soil. And where is Elisa? She's down on her knees in the soil, while her husband and two other men stood around a tractor (the Fordson). This wasn't a throwaway on Steinbeck's part. This foreshadows what Elisa is coming Elisa's way. A woman on her knees, toiling. Men just kind of loitering around. Both are definitely working, but it's an uneven labor division at this point in time.

But since we've moved on to Aloha Oe, I'm going to leave you with 3 things:

1) The title is the name of a poem by Queen Lili?uokalani.
2) She had her nation stripped from her by Sanford Dole and American plantation owners in Hawai'i, who didn't want to be subjected to "brown rule."
3) It was found out in the 90s that the Hawai'ian people (natives) did not vote for either Statehood or to become a Republic, and basically had their nation and identity stripped from them. First by Dole and then the US Congress.

Now go back and read Aloha Oe with that information.


31-03-2013 04:13:40

I found The Chrysanthemums the most enjoyable piece to read out of the collection. The opening description of the valley reminded me of Arthur’s Pass, where I spent a lot of time as a child. I found it the easiest to read (including picturing the imagery) of the lot.

Reading The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was laborious for me. Like Atra, I think it was the specific dialogue regardless of how perfectly it made me adopt the spoken accent. It did wonders for setting the tone, setting (geographically) and perhaps even time, but I wasn’t personally a fan.

Aloha Oe was my least favourite. It was mechanically easier (for me) to read than Twain’s piece. Certain passages seemed to drag on, giving more development than I would have considered necessary. I found myself simply not caring for the characters, or more accurately for the story itself.

On the topic of Jeremy, I too found the comment about Steve being a half-caste a little odd. Yes I know he wouldn’t want his daughter marrying someone of colour, be they Hawaiian or otherwise. Would it not make more sense for the line to read:

"Certainly not," Jeremy Sambrooke answered shortly. "Stephen Knight is a [of colour/native][.”]

However, the story then goes on to explain that Dorothy knows Steve technically isn’t half-caste, but also that she doesn’t know he is... quarter-caste(?)

If Dorothy doesn’t know this, how does her father? Was it one of his stats?

In honesty, I’m probably overlooking the answer, over thinking this portion of the story, or am reading it wrong.

I’ll revisit all of these stories later on in the week and see if my opinion/understanding of them changes any.


31-03-2013 05:03:22

He didn't. That's the thing about racism. You're going strictly off what's physically presented to you. Getting olive skinned when you tan? You'd be considered hapa haole. Not only by the whites, but by the natives. Because your skin wouldn't be quite as dark as the natives, but darker than the "haoles" who usually turned pink/red.


01-04-2013 16:05:00

I do realize we are onto Aloha Oe, so I will try not to veer from the current conversation too much but I also wanted to catch everyone up on my thoughts for the stories.

Compare them. Celebrate them. Condemn them.

I'll start my opinions with my right to condemn. I hate Steinbeck's fiction. I have been forced to read a number of his works and frankly I found this piece on par with the rest of his works. All gloom without the fun of the doom - that's how I would characterize his works fore it's the tone he sets each time. I had to make sure to go back and edit that last sentence because its not his writing that is depressing, nor can I say it is bad either; it is entirely the tone that is depressing and he uses his writing to convey that so well. But that is my issue in itself with the story, he has intentionally made the setting and tone of this story so dull and depressing.
It's painful to read about such an isolated place (which he labels with the sentence: '....closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world.") or about a world with "no sunshine". However, I should note that Steinbeck was an author from the Great Depression and not only do I believe this influence the tone he wanted to convey in his works but I also believe this is why his legacy and importance continues today. The story's tone that I have issue with certainly paints the harshness of the era and demands the reader feel how it was for individuals from that time. Therefore, while I would say I did not enjoy reading this story due to the tone it left on me; I do celebrate the fact the writing was what made me feel this.

Much can be said the same about Aloha Oe; I did certainly enjoy the emotion the story was able to convey onto me. When it came to Jeremy Sambrooke, things seemed very stated and factual, displaying joy and marvel at the events happening around him- not necessarily the people mind you. Then when it switched to Dorthy, the tone turned into an array of confusion of both joyous and sad points. For me, this was a great story. It was engaging, much like Steinbeck's, but the tone provided a journey for me. For Chrysanthemums, I was left feeling the same depression through the entirely of the story with no turning moment. Even when Elisa is momentarily electrified from "Chuck"'s interest in her work, there is still that depressing tone in the form of Chuck himself whom takes over for the narrative in illustrating the trouble times of that era. However, for Aloha Oe there is that journey, both from the two main characters. Jeremy concludes the story with the realization that something very important has change his daughter from this trip while Dorothy more obviously has to come to her own realization of this through the same sort of confusing process many adolescents face. Combine this with the underlying tone of social division and I find this story to have the most substance of the three.

However, if I was to name a favourite of the three stories it would certainly be The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Though, with that point I can see why people would be annoyed with this story. The narration is very intensive as it contains two parts, the main character and Simon Wheeler's - and each is very different. For the main character, who narratives in the first person, I would liken his narrative as similar to the narrative in the recent american Sherlock Holmes films. The accent the main character has is leaps and bounds away from Wheeler's and has a sort of proper tone to it that easily conveys a high class elegance - yet, its also very sarcastic with its own sense of (for lack of a better word) roughness to it as can be seen from his description of Wheeler or his annoyance with his current situation. Wheeler on the other hand as this very low class, backwoods type of feel to him that comes out of the narrative through the writing of the author (though not only uses of slang but writing Wheeler's narrative as it is actually spoken). For me, it was interesting to see the main character's ill fate and his annoyance with it while Wheeler went on with his pointless dribble about some who may not in fact have any relevance. So for me, I guess I just found the humour of the author being trapped in a conversation with some who wants to share way too much information with an ear that is stuck listening - which happens all too often in my professional life.


03-04-2013 13:52:01

Oh how I wish I hadn't started with the best story of the three! I have read The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County about three times now and I'm really looking for something I enjoy about it. I can't. I'm going to walk away and come back to it. I was glad to see that I wasn't the only one that had issues with this story.


03-04-2013 14:27:59

I found the jumping frog the least enjoyable. But I have never really been a fan of Twain's short stories. As for Aloha Oe i was left wanting more. Did Steve go to the mainland, did she run off with him, was he shot on sight? I was pulled in, and it took me a moment to realize the view was that of a 16/17 year old girl. As for Chrysanthemums I really enjoyed the "sexual tension" that I perceived from the wife and traveler.


03-04-2013 16:09:15

I have to say, my least favourite piece was The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County until I re-read it. I don't know much about Mark Twain(though I do know that is an awful thing to say in a writing group) though from what I've read he really is a literary genius. I feel like he almost made himself a character in this piece, but perhaps that was just a parody of the middle class. Not sure. Very entertaining though. I assumed he was referring to himself due to the fact that the narrator is not named but also for the actual event that occurs within the piece. Why else would he go through the trouble to speak to someone just to hear their story if not some sort of writer? I may have it totally wrong but that's what came to me.

As for Aloha Oe, I loved it. Probably still my favourite piece. I tried not to allow personal experience or mood affect my judgement of each piece, but this one really struck home for me. It feels like a perfect description of falling in love, at least from a purely emotionally logical aspect. I've never read such an accurate blow by blow account of the moment of realisation before and thoroughly enjoyed experiencing it from the girl's point of view. Quite a setup really, beautifully cruel and irritating at the same time. Yeah, okay, I want the lovebirds to be together and all that other sop. I felt her step toward adulthood was perfect and very solid. There was absolutely no possible way for her to remain a child and to see her father as the only significant man in her life, as well as keep her eyes closed to the imbalance in her world. Unless I'm mistaken, the themes appear to be associated with social divisions and how these can change or be misinterpreted. Whether it be the loss of some previous perception or opinion of our own personal world and the roles those around us, the realisation of the constraints placed upon ourselves by society or tradition or a lesson about stereotypes.


03-04-2013 18:45:49

Not gonna lie, and this is something Trout and I discussed, there's stuff on here that people won't like. I have stories on here that I don't like, but I can definitely see their value. I really, really want to know more about why people didn't like "Jumping Frog." Hit us with it. Get some discussion going. Did it not resonate with you personally? Was it language? Setting? I want to see you guys pick this story apart since it seems to bother you guys so much.


03-04-2013 20:50:24

I figured it out!!!!

After re-reading The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County I finally understood it. It suddenly just clicked and I have to admit....I loved it. It made me laugh so hard when I finally got it.

I completely agree Twain is a genius. For such a simple short story he put so much depth to it. I did like Chrysanthemums but it was easy. It didn't make me think or challenge me at all. Twain's short story had me really annoyed that I couldn't follow due to the language but once I got it I was stoked.

If you found this one hard to read like I did, I encourage you to re-read it.


06-04-2013 23:26:44

Since people seem reluctant to discuss and did not enjoy "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", I'll throw my thoughts on it.

* Who's who?

A subtle brilliance on Twain's part. Right from the beginning, we don't know who the characters are; even the narrator is confused. Jim Smiley? Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley? Are they the same person? Related? The confusion spreads to the other characters. Is Simon Wheeler actually Jim Smiley? Is the narrator? (Now that would be a fun twist: have the protagonist of Wheeler's story also be the person to whom Wheeler relates the story.) We don't know. We can assume, but are those assumptions correct? The confusion then spreads to the story as a whole. And herein lies the subtle brilliance: by making the reader confused as to one part of the story, the entire story becomes suspect. Did these events actually occur? Either in real life or in the fictional universe of the story, we cannot say for certain that these events transpired. They could have--heck, they could have happened in real life. Maybe these events are just legends, folk tales imagined by a destitute and drunk miner one day in the heat of the Sierra foothills. We don't know, we cannot know, and, to me, that makes the story far more interesting than if it was spelled out for us.

* Karma?

The saddest pup in all of literature, Andrew Jackson got thrown under the bus by his master. He had a very specific and effective methodology. But then his master pits him against a mutilated mutt, a canine AJ cannot defeat. The betrayal kills the loyal pup. A little while later, Smiley has the incident with the frog. Is it karma that put Daniel Webster into the hands of an opportunistic opponent? Does Twain punish his protagonist for crimes against Andrew Jackson? We are told that Smiley has uncommonly good luck. Yet when he goes big, fate deals him a crafty opponent.

* "Guys and Dolls"

Sky Masterson: One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to show you a brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken. Then this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not accept this bet, because as sure as you stand there, you're going to wind up with an ear full of cider.

The stranger = Sky Masterson's ancestor? :D

Kodais Solatus

09-04-2013 01:27:44

Well, I'm a little late to the game so I'm gonna give my take on all three at once.

I thoroughly enjoyed London's "Aloha Oe". For me it was a very short, but succinct coming of age story that also contrasted youthful innocents and cold opportunism. The daughter arrives in Hawaii a girl and, in her mind, simply plays with a local boy for the month her and her family is there. As she is leaving it suddenly dawns on her that the local boy loves her and she loves him. She is heartbroken to discover that they will likely never see each other again; even if they did her father would not allow a visit. Though the story is sad and quite short, it was my favorite of the three.

I have read some Steinbeck before and have always enjoyed his work. "The Chrysanthemums" was classic Steinbeck; set in California during the 1920s-30s. The imagery put me right in the middle of the ranch outside of Salinas. Admittedly, some of the deeper symbolism was lost on me as I read it. I wasn't enlightened until after I read some of the posts on this forum.

I did not care for “The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County”. I found it a rambling tale with no point. I understand the deeper meaning and symbolism now that I have had it explained to me in some of the earlier posts, but that has not changed my opinion. I like stories with clearly defined characters and a plot. This just wan't my brand of vodka.

KP Kodais Solatus


10-04-2013 15:19:21

I mean no disrespect with my train of thought here, but after reading what Kodais wrote and seeing what Kalia had to offer earlier on The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County; I do have to wonder about what form of writing becomes preferred with their comments. Again, no disrespect meant, but both of them (as well as many others) have commented on the fact that the story was hard to read and have connected it as a reason why they did not enjoy it. On the flip side, the story that was easiest to read has been praised as the most enjoyed story for this week. Easily enough, I can conclude that stories that are easier to read by the audience are therefore more enjoyable (which makes senses) - and therefore each of us as authors should therefore keep this in mind in the future for our own stories. However, my question is, as much as stories are suppose to be entertaining; does that means authors shouldn't make them challenging either? I get that if you depend on your writing for a paycheck that yes you will certainly be more focused on entertaining your readers but as much as I have loved the blood and gore of the Walking Dead comics for example, the questions it has forced me to ask of myself has also been a delight. Being it back to The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County, does it really make sense for Twain to make the story more easily read? At what point is he just selling out and giving up on the brain child or vision he originally had?


10-04-2013 16:04:47

It's hard to say what becomes "preferred." What one person would hold up as an example of the best in literature, someone else might pan. Faulkner and Hemingway would be great examples of this dichotomy of "literary greatness" as it were. They both wrote from a very real place and point of view - Hemingway's warn torn Europe and American ex-patriotism vs Faulkner's southern sentimentality and determinism. And generally, people favor one author over the other.

You bring up a very valid point, and it's something all writers struggle with. When are they writing for an audience and when are they writing for themselves? When do they cross the threshold of too serious or just entertaining drivel? Literature and reading are definitely forms of entertainment first. But, a writer who sticks strictly to the "entertaining" factor risks becoming a Stephanie Meyers or George RR Martin who lack any real complexity, and do nothing to challenge or share a point of view with the readers. With Frog, Twain is flitting with the line as a form of satire. Steinbeck was easier to digest because he "spoke plainly," and used descriptive cues to keep the reader engaged. London's story reads a lot like the kind of romance many of us fall into at some point in our lives - the love doomed never to be or end far too quickly. Granted, all romance is tragedy. But that's a discussion for another time.

At the end of the day a writer's struggle is to 1) tell an entertaining story while 2) sharing a part of themselves. And that sharing part is where the deeper literary meanings come from. Some writers write to tell their story. Some write to tell the stories of others who don't know how to tell their story. Balancing that act is the writer's ultimate test.