Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Analysis of "Lesson in the Sunday Comics" by Jonathan Travelstead

Original poem reprinted online here: "Lesson in the Sunday Comics" by Jonathan Travelstead
Originally read: May 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Jonathan Travelstead

Tercets until the end of the poem.  There seems to be three driving forces in this poem:  the representation of Calvin, the representation of Hobbes, and the speaker adding more of an narrator tone in the poem.

First though, what really confused me was this in stanza four, "The friends, one named after a theologian, / the other a philosopher, hurtle pell-mell / down eight panels of hill,"  I searched for a while behind the meaning behind the allusion.  Yes, they do allude to John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes, and then I realized I was looking too deeply to the allusion and seeing how the philosophy mixed with and within Calvin and Hobbes, or rather what the theologian and the philosopher mean to the poem.

But, ah, it is not the philosopher, but the philosophy that matters.  So on hone side there is Calvin who is thinks "we [note the inclusiveness] are helpless to fate" and in response "pushes off the hilltop in his wagon" blindfolded.  Fate will decide where "we'll" go.

Meanwhile, Hobbes "believes in free will," and is more of a thinker who asks the question, "Why are we powerless to rush toward oblivion?"  The speaker places these characters at opposite ends of the spectrum: action and thought, person and the imaginary, and then adds more detailed scenes like, "between haphazard probabilities of trees, / past stones waiting to chock rubber wheels," which fulfills more of the comic (not comedic) visual.

It is not until the fifth stanza when the speaker comes in and starts bringing the inclucivity on the situation by commenting on the artifice -- the panel., "Our illusion of control is shown in the wagon's flight."  Note that the connection that "we" have is to the flight -- the unadorned motion of freefalling as the characters represent how to look at the motion.

I thought this line pulls away from the thoughts and brings back the sense of humor back to the panel, "Hobbes' furry bottom is where the artist wants it / and in the last panel, Calvin has once more / released the steering wheel."  What the shift demonstrates is the couple of lines of insight to back to the knowledge that to present the knowledge from a comedic source.

And then regardless, "the ground rushing to meet them."  The thoughts, the humor, the shift to the serious doesn't change the fact that something physical and something "realistic" will meet them, us.


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