As we discussed in class, this paper did a a particularly good job at developing a philosophical thesis. The only problem with it was the logical assertion that "though reminiscence, immortality is born." In order for the logic to hold, the writer of this essay should have promoted the theory that writing leads to immortality, since this would have been a much more relevant thesis for what Berrigan and the speaker were doing within the poem. Also, if the scientific angle were pursued in the thesis, then the idea of immortality would have been even more compelling and the images in the second body paragraph would have had extra relevance. The paragraph that dealt with the pronouns was especially insightful.
Quan Period 6
Throughout the history of mankind, humans aspire to live forever. Even today, scientists constantly research new methods to extend the human lifespan. In the poem “Red Shift”, Ted Berrigan suggests that immortality is achievable not physically, but spiritually. Through reminiscence alone, immortality is born. The speaker is relentlessly recollecting memories of the past. In this recollection, the speaker gives life to the memories of his deceased past.
Berrigan begins the poem precisely at “8:08 p.m.” (1) of a winter night in February to give the reader a sense of time. Berrigan continues describing the setting of this particular winter night in order to create the perfect mood for the speaker to reminisce. “The air is biting” (2), and the speaker is drinking and smoking. His actions suggest that he is alone because people often drink and smoke to avoid problems such as feelings of loneliness. This setting is ideal because winter has an association to death. This winter night also generates a melancholy atmosphere. The speaker brings life to this lifeless world when he remembers sipping Calvados on
Berrigan’s word choice assists in granting energy and life to the empty memories. The speaker recalls memories concerning love, children, money, marriage ethics, and a politics of grace. These memories are alive, “swirling” (17) and “burning” (17) within his mind. The speaker can clearly remember the boy’s “eyes penetrating the winter twilight at 6th and Bowery in 1961” (20). This image is so clear that one would believe that the speaker is witnessing that event once again. Later, the speaker boldly claims that he “will never die” (31). He will live on as a “Spirit, who lives only to nag” (33). This statement suggests that the speaker will continue to live on even after his death. The speaker will not live physically, but will live spiritually in the memories of those who recognize him.
How can the speaker possibly achieve immortality? The speaker’s determination to become immortal is genuine. With utmost confidence, the speaker states that he is “all pronouns” (35). Pronouns are ambiguous and are frequently used in everyday language. This gives the impression that speaker will live on forever because it is nearly impossible to avoid using pronouns in everyday language. The speaker will “never go away” (32) because he gains life at any instance where he is remembered.
One achieves immortality at any instance where one is remembered. When a person is remembered, the person gains life and is alive once again. When the speaker reminisces about the past, his vivid details of the memory resurrect the event from the dead past. Like the speaker in this poem, people are able to escape death and gain immortality spiritually within the memories of those who reminisce about them.
Feel free to post any constructive comments here, or questions, or observations. Trenchant insights are always welcome but please (always) avoid pithy observations.