all about suicide

For responses 1-6 please respond thoughtfully. to several other postings. Just saying “I agree” or “I disagree” does not constitute a thoughtful response. Add to the 3 responses with very specific, concrete examples (some from the texts, some from personal experience); it’s also a good idea to ask questions which will further the discussion.

1. At the start of the poem, “All about Suicuide” by Luisa Valenzuela, mystery and confusion is prevalent as it is not clear whether Ismael commited suicide or murdered the minister. The use of the pronouns “he” and “his” in “First he grabbed the revolver that was in a desk drawer, rubbed it gently across his face” reveals uncertainty as to who those pronouns allude to. This a reflection of the fixed truths the government tells their citizens. However, as the poem unfolds it makes it clear that Ismael killed the minster. Once the narrator states “lsmael coming out of his office (the other man’s office, the minister’s) almost relieved” he reveals that the pronoun “his” pertained to the minister, thus Ismael murdered the minister.

The body of the poem establishes the reasoning behind Ismael`s actions. Valenzuela describes the importance of going “back further if we want to get at the truth.” That is, it is imperative to understand Ismael`s cruel past in order to justify what he has done. Since the start Ismael has been left uncared for and has had to cope with it and remain silent. “Nobody was changing” Ismaels diapers and as he grew the minister forced him to “be silent.” In a way Ismael has been silent his whole life which emulates suicide, since suicide silences and terminates the life of people.

The poem ends with Ismael being relieved of what he had done, although he knew there would be consequences. It was stated that Ismael “can predict what awaits him” because he knew that due to his actions he was going to get killed next. Ismael basically walked into his own suicide, but with pride because he knew he was finally exposing the crimes of the government and was creating change. He had the courage to go against the injustices of the Argentinian politics and reveal the truth. This shows that it is better to take action rather than stay silent and conform to illicit acts of the government.

2. The story “All About Suicide” had both a murder and a suicide. The author is being deliberately misleading here. She uses unspecific pronouns to appear as if Ismael, the narrator, would be killing himself. “Ismael grabbed the gun and slowly rubbed it across his face. Then he pulled the trigger and there was a shot. Bang. One more person dead in the city. It’s getting to be a vice. First he grabbed the revolver that was in a desk drawer, rubbed it gently across his face, put it to his temple, and pulled the trigger. Without saying a word. Bang. Dead.” (Valenzuela, 1938) Valenzuela lets the reader believe it was Ismael killing himself until the very last paragraph, in which she reveals that it was a murder all along. Ismael walks out of the Minister’s office as proof. “The act of putting it to his temple and pulling the trigger – another act, immediately following the previous one. Bang. Dead. And lsmael coming out of his office (the other man’s office, the minister’s) almost relieved, even though he can predict what awaits him.” (Valenzuela, 1938)

But this isn’t the entire story. That’s just superficial analysis. The most important thing is to realize that Argentina was in a period of political and social instability. Ismael is a government worker who feels trapped by his own country. He knows things need to change. The best way for him to do that is to remove the person at power, the Minister. Ismael concocts a plan to kill the Minister, and doing so, is signing his own death warrant as well. It may as well have been suicide. It is martyrdom at it’s finest. This is why “All About Suicide” is such a brilliantly chosen title. In essence, the story really is all about suicide.

3. “All About Suicide” feigned a person’s death as suicide, when in reality, it was murder. From the beginning, the author never used correct context pronouns. “Ismael grabbed the gun and slowly rubbed it across his face. Then he pulled the trigger and there was a shot. Bang. One more person dead in the city. It’s getting to be a vice. First he grabbed the revolver that was in a desk drawer, rubbed it gently across his face, put it to his temple, and pulled the trigger. Without saying a word. Bang. Dead.” (Valenzuela) The use of the pronoun “his” in the starting paragraph is misleading. The author wants the reader to think that Ismael is the one who rubbed the gun against his face, put it to his temple, and pulled the trigger, when in reality, the “his” of this paragraph was referring to the victim all along.

This murder is proven in the very last paragraph, in which after he commits the deed, he walks out of the office, very much alive. “The act of putting it to his temple and pulling the trigger – another act, immediately following the previous one. Bang. Dead. And lsmael coming out of his office (the other man’s office, the minister’s) almost relieved, even though he can predict what awaits him.” (Venezuela) How can this be a suicide if Ismael is still alive afterward?

4. If you believe the myths, you might be able to see a shred of Poe’s insanity in the narrator of “The Tell-tale Heart.” It’s a shame such stories were proven false, though, because it would have been interesting to research how a man in his state of mind could have written such masterful stories. This brings me to my point: I believe the narrator in “The Tell-tale Heart” believes himself sane, but is actually insane.

It is proven in the opening lines of the story. “It’s true! I’ve been ill, very ill. But why do you say that I have lost control of my mind, why do you say that I am mad? Can you not see that I have full control of my mind? Is it not clear that I am not mad? Indeed, the illness only made my mind, my feelings, my senses stronger, more powerful. My sense of hearing especially became more powerful. I could hear sounds I had never heard before. I heard sounds from heaven; and I heard sounds from hell!” (Poe, 1843) The narrator tries to convince his audience he isn’t mad (which is telling of his madness), and also tries to convince them that he can hear the sounds of both heaven and hell. Clearly, he is insane. But he believes himself sane, and if he believes himself sane, then the methods of his actions are rational to himself. This is what makes him so dangerous.

The narrator’s mind is lost, but his actions are meticulous and cunning. Very rational. Very intelligent. This is showcased by his methodical treatement of the body after the murder and rationale he gave the police officers. I believe he would have made away with the crime if he wasn’t actually insane. Thus, this proves that a man can be rational and intelligent—and still very much insane.

5. 1. Poe was fascinated by the idea that someone could be perfectly rational and intelligent, and still be insane–or that he could be completely evil, and still be sane. Is the narrator in “The Tell-tale Heart” sane?

This is a difficult question to answer. Sanity is defined as the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; it means of sound mental health. The narrator in “The Tell-tale Heart” is definitely not mentally well. He’s crazy. He tries to convince the readers he’s completely capabale, in the same story, he says he can hear the beating of dead hearts and the calls of both Heaven and Hell. “Is it not clear that I am not mad? Indeed, the illness only made my mind, my feelings, my senses stronger, more powerful. My sense of hearing especially became more powerful. I could hear sounds I had never heard before. I heard sounds from heaven; and I heard sounds from hell!” (Poe) This, however, doesn’t mean he’s not perfectly rational or intelligent. I would argue that the narrator is incredibly intelligent. He concots a plan to kill the old man and even manages to diffuse the tense situation afterward with the policemen. He exacts a facade only highly intelligent sociopaths can exhibit. For example, he was never nicer to the old man than in the week that he killed him. (Poe) He practically played with the policemen as he led them through the house. (Poe) His rationality is terrifying, but still rational. He’s doing what makes sense to his mind—a sick and evil mind, yes—but still very intelligent. I would even argue he is sane.

6. The story of “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” demonstrates the absurdities of life and the simplicity of age:

The old man sitting in the shadow rapped on his saucer with his glass. The younger waiter went over to him.

“What do you want?” (Hemingway, 1926)

Superficially, the dialogue is about a waiter asking the customer their order. Hidden deep within, two people that are members of two very different eras, conversing with each other. Two human beings constricted by the value of their life’s work. Hemingway blends subtle messages such as this, throughout the story, to convey how the meaning or value of life is measured solely by the one who carries its weights.

The old waiter heavily contemplates the old man’s life after everyone left for the day, he realizes that the old man was there because it’s the only place that, like life, is clean and clear of any actual meaning – a peaceful place to be.

“Turning off the electric light he continued the conversation with himself, It was the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly, you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours.”(Hemingway, 1926)

Hemingway symbolizes and correlates clean with being pure and pure with regards to being a blank slate or tabula rasa. Being well-lighted just makes the meaning of life crystal clear that, it is devoid of any meaning.

At that moment, the old waiter also changes the value of his life to nothing – “Nada.”(Hemingway, 1926) He went to a nearby bar with the same intent as the old man by drowning in a meaningless temporary solution to a meaningless problem. Once he became the old man, in spirit and wisdom, he left for home:

“The light is very bright and pleasant but the bar is unpolished,” the waiter said.

The barman looked at him but did not answer. It was too late at night for a conversation.

“You want another copita?” the barman asked.

“No, thank you,” said the waiter and went out. (Hemingway, 1926)

Sometimes, the wisest of us find comfort in peaceful isolation as we reflect upon life while the loudest in the room do what they do best – complain and take life for granted. Unlike knowledge which can be acquired or transferred despite one’s age or culture, wisdom is uniquely gained only throughout the years of being alive. No one is born wise enough to teach themselves how to properly eat, walk, and talk from an infant age.

Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” illustrates such absurdities of life by addressing an eons-old question, “What is the meaning to life?” with what the wisest humans have best came up within the last or so centuries, that…“life is meaningless”. Life is meaningless, but anyone who possesses it can change what it means whether it’s nada(nothing) or algo(something).

PLEASE SEPARATE THE 6 RESPONSES (min. of 5 sentences per response)