Page 1


Pacific’s Literature by Undergraduates Magazine

Volume IV Spring 2013

PLUM Pacific’s Literature by Undergraduates Magazine

Volume 4 Spring 2013

Published by Pacific University in Oregon

Editors: Megan Cramer Kacey Killingbeck Wilhelmina L. van Royen Art and Logo Design: Jazzlynn Garrett Wilhelmina L. Van Royen Advisor: Kathlene Postma Website to download a copy of this issue: Pacific’s Literature By Undergraduates Magazine publishes writing by students and alums of Pacific University and is funded by the Department of English and the College of Arts and Sciences

Cover photo by Samantha Kitchen.




Dear Readers, We are thrilled to bring you the fourth volume of PLUM: Pacific’s Literature by Undergraduates Magazine. This issue features the winners of the 2012-2013 writing contest, as well as artwork by Pacific students. PLUM displays the variety of talent found among Pacific undergraduates. Featured works include creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction, literary scholarship, and college essays. The editors of PLUM had the privilege of editing the winning pieces and selecting photography from Pacific’s student artistic community. It has been a pleasure. It is our goal to give readers a professional journal, rich in content and design, in order to showcase the accomplished work of Pacific undergraduates and alums. We would like to thank our advisor, Kathlene Postma, for aiding us with design aesthetics and for providing us with the unique opportunity to work on such an exceptional and complex project. She helped us rise to the challenge to become editors in our own right. Thank you for reading PLUM. We hope you enjoy this issue as much as we do. Sincerely, The Editors-in-Chief: Megan Cramer: Class of 2015 Kacey Killingbeck: Class of 2014 Wilhelmina L. van Royen: Class of 2014



CONTEST WINNERS 2012-2013 Amy M. Young Award in Creative Writing: Fiction: 1st Prize: Yuliya Panfilova for “The Soldier and the Trout” Honorable Mention: Quinn Ramsay for “Many Masters” Nonfiction: 1st Prize: Kelly Chastain for “Warrior Woman Honey Bee Chestnut Tree” Honorable Mention: Kristen Yamamoto for “October 24th, 1928“ Poetry: 1st Prize: Elizabeth Vandermolen for “Little Bat Child” Honorable Mention: Wilhelmina Lusanna van Royen for “Dawn is a Friend to the Muse” Award in Literary Analysis 1st Prize: Ben Brewer for “Exuberant Writing: William Blake on Totality and Organicism” 2nd Prize: Bri Castellini for “The Survival Sluts: Sex-Positive Characters in Margaret Atwood Novels” Honorable Mention: Connor Nelson for “How Crisis Shapes Identity in Milton’s Paradise Lost” Award in College Writing 1st Prize: Jenna Stevens for “Modern Family: Turning Tradition on Its Head” 2nd Prize: Michele Ford for “I Reject Your Reality and Substitute My Own: Self-Deception and Willful Ignorance in the Holocaust” Honorable Mention: Libby Volk for “Devouring the Imagination”




Writing Contest Winners 2012-2013 Yuliya Panfilova The Soldier and the Trout

3 4



Samantha Kitchen Photograph 15


Kelly Chastain Warrior Woman Honey Bee Chestnut Tree 16


Elizabeth Vandermolen Little Bat Child 20 POETRY Kathleen Rohde Photography



Kieslana Wing and Megan Cramer Artwork 22


Ben Brewer Exuberant Writing: William Blake on Totality and Organicism



Hanna Landrus Photograph 28


Jenna Stevens Modern Family: Turning Tradition on Its Head 29


Lucy Lawrence Photograph 35


Artist Biographies





The Soldier and the Trout Yuliya Panfilova


eter Krasnorov had arrived. Slowly the burnt, black fields and toppled villages had given way to endless golden barley fields, and then to forests yet untouched by farmer or soldier or regime. He had walked through miles of birch trees, their elegant white trunks towering above him. At this point he knew he was in Siberia, and shifted his heavy pack to his stronger left shoulder. The forest glowed almost unnaturally from the ivory wood, and Peter had wondered if maybe he had walked into the next world by accident. This was the one place he forgot the soldiers. The shepherds and rolling pasturelands of his childhood were replaced by the daze of the flat forest country. Even the face of his mother became distant as he became lost in the calm that followed from absorbing a place and air untouched since the creation of the world. Too soon, though, the trees grew sparse and sickly, smoke bellowed in the distance from churning factories and chemical plants, and Peter could sense he was there. He had reached the outskirts of Novosibirsk. Only a city in the middle of desolate Siberia would be safe for a person like him, or so he was told by his


mother, whose other three sons were in the army and had not been heard from for a little too long. Peter could see a few high-rising buildings in the distance, all gray concrete boxes with a stark red emblem on top, the only color. He forced his right hand into the pocket of his mossy-green wool jacket for warmth. His arm felt heavier than usual today. The soles of his coffee-brown boots were wearing away, and while this normally would not have been much to fuss over, in Siberia it was a fatal flaw. The cold had settled permanently into his blistered toes, like the frozen tundra earth that was as still and unmovable as stone. That’s the first thing he would do when he found somewhere to stay. He would peel away the hard, worn leather of his boots and wait with apprehension to see the damage. He dreaded the sight of black skin and splintered toe nails. But he would examine them anyway and then soak his feet in deliciously warm water, dry them off, and place them in new fur-lined boots. He checked into his pockets and jiggled the last of his coins. Or any new boots will do. Still deep in his thoughts, Peter froze when he heard footsteps nearby. There were two soldiers up ahead on the path: black leather boots, long, slate gray jackets, rifles standing against shoulder blades, and black, fur hats, with the same red emblem Peter had seen on the buildings. He hoped his thick jacket would give him some much needed bulk. They spotted him and waited for him to approach, with smiles that made Peter uncomfortable. Peter smiled back, and wanted to hold out his hands to show he was harmless, unarmed, but his right hand refused to budge from his pocket. “Who do we have here?” the soldier on the left asked. His face seemed too tan in the pale wintry air. His eyes held a glint. “It looks as if we caught ourselves a shrimp today, Sergei.” “That we did, Dima,” the other replied. “Good day, officers. I have papers with me. You can take a look at them and I’ll be out of your way.”



started to move forward. He met the eyes of Dima but realized immediately that was a mistake. “Stop. It is protocol to search everyone who enters the city.” Peter could see him making this up on the spot. They wanted any reason to detain him there. They had been bored before he had unwittingly walked into them. “Hand us your pack. We must make sure you do not have any illegal material or weapons, and we must determine you are not an instigator of any type.”

He met the eyes of Dima but realized immediately that was a mistake.

The officers paused, looked at each other, and burst into laughter. The tanned-face soldier bent down a little toward him and cupped his ear. “What did you say? Can you repeat that a little clearer?” Peter looked down at their boots. They were a softer leather than his, and had the sheen of brand new ones. He wondered how well they were lined and whether they kept the soldiers warm. The man named Sergei tapped the rifle butt against Peter’s chest. Peter noticed that he was impeccably groomed with his hair gently waving in a molded wax, and not one speck of dirt on his boots. There was one white scar that ran across his eyebrow and arched it a rather comedic way. Peter tried to repeat his words, slowing them down as much as he could. He prayed that this be the one time in his life that he could talk in a clear voice. But the words ended up coming out in muffled grunts, as if his throat was with a roll of cotton. “Is there a frog caught in your throat or are you just plain stupid?” the one named Dima asked. Peter shrugged his shoulders. The skin on the edge of Dima’s hair line was stark white in comparison to his bronze face, like a self-appointed halo. The soldier’s smallish, upturned nose and dimples made him boyish, but the illusion was ruined by the hard sheen in his eyes. He must have been nineteen or twenty at most, only a handful of years younger than Peter, though Peter felt decades older at that moment. “Alright little Jew, let’s see those papers.” When the soldier smiled, his face cracked like a tan hide. His right hand still not moving, Peter reached into his right pocket with his left hand, and handed the papers to the soldiers. Dima grabbed the document, and clicked his tongue. “As if we don’t have enough already in this town.” He flung the paper back at him. “Alright, be on your way.” The soldiers looked disappointed, like children who had their favorite toy taken away. Peter let a breath escape as he shouldered his pack and

In his mind, Peter went over the things in his pack. He didn’t have anything he should worry about. And then it dawned on him. There was one thing. The pack was so heavy it anchored him to the spot. “No officers. I have been traveling for hundreds of miles, and all I have are things I can survive with. I am a quiet man, and I want to live a quiet life, not bothering anyone.” His words came out sputtered and heavy. “Speak clearly and do what I say. Hand over the pack.” This time the soldier was not laughing. Peter closed his eyes and squared his pack. “I do not see why I cannot just be on my way. I have not bothered anyone, and I don’t plan to.”


FICTION “How can we be sure though? There is already unrest in the city, and we can’t risk a spark.” Dima said. “Do I look like a leader of a rebellion to you? Can you imagine me,” he said, looking down at his worn pants, hanging off his thin frame, “with a voice like mine, leading people to do anything other than laugh?” Peter kept the pack behind him protectively, hoping they would just quit. “Or you could be one of those Ukrainian Jews who betrayed us in the war. Either way, you are going to give me the pack, and you are going to give it now.” Peter felt like whimpering. Imagine, a Jew carrying a Christian Bible, one given to him by his mother when she told him to leave and never come back. Now, before he could ever make a new life for himself, he would be caught with it and probably declared the worst type of instigator, for anyone who carried a religious text was dangerous. They wouldn’t know where to start with him. Peter felt the fingers on his right hand begin to move. “I do not want to cause any trouble to you officers, or to anyone else.” He tried to speak as simply and calmly as he could, but he could tell by the twist of the officer’s face it didn’t work. He was smaller than either of them, so he could not outrun them. He felt the stiffness of his leg muscles, and his cold, raw feet were like lead. “I said speak clearly.” Dima struck the butt of his rifle against Peter’s face. Peter staggered, blinked several times and heard a ringing in his ears. “Hey Dima, we’re going to be late for checkin. Let’s just leave him—he’s not worth it,” the soldier named Sergei piped in. “Not until he shows us what’s in his pack.” Dima didn’t wait for Peter to respond this time, and yanked the pack off his shoulders. “Let’s see what kind of goodies he’s got for us.” Peter had walked three-hundred miles out


of a hopeless situation only to fall into another one. Perhaps his new city wasn’t a safe haven after all. He managed to clench his right hand. The officer held the cracked black leather book in his hands, trying to decipher the golden gilded letters etched on the cover. He stood there with furrowed brows. “Good call,” Sergei said. “He must be taken in for questioning for possessing illegal material.” The officer holding the book looked up. “Absolutely. You get back to base. I’ll escort and take him there personally.” He gave Sergei a knowing look. “I could always help you out.” “No, this one is mine.” Sergei shook his head and laughed. “Dima gets all the fun.” He walked off, giving a worried smile in Peter’s general direction. The officer waited a little bit and then smacked the book against Peter’s chest. “What is this?” Peter took him in with calm eyes and mumbled, “What do you think it is?” “Do not play games with me. These words are not Russian. They’re German?” “They are German.” Something changed in the officer’s face. “Why do you possess a German Bible?” “I speak German.” “What did you say?” “I speak German.” Peter saw the officer’s grip on the book tighten. The officer pushed Peter forward. “Walk.” Peter obeyed. Dima walked slightly behind him. Peter noticed Dima had the easy stride of a man in comfortable boots. He, on the other hand, must have walked like a man in boots that were shredding his feet to pieces, like a man walking to the execution line. Dima kept quiet for a while. “You talk like an idiot, but you are not one. What are you?”


Peter did not answer. Idiot. Peter could not count how many times he had been called that, beginning when he was just a young child. “Answer me when I ask you a question.” Dima shoved the rifle butt into Peter’s back. “Shepherd,” Peter said simply. Barely out of his toddler years he had stumbled into his neighbor’s pasture. He was too young to understand then, but it was a moment that would change the rest of his life. He remembered a smooth copper beard, a laugh as coarse as the wool in the pasture, and a large whip that was usually used to tend the sheep and the dogs. On that particular day it was used on a boy who was too curious for his own good. Right as he reached out his hand to touch the quiet, dusty-looking animals grazing on the grass, the crack of the whip crashed down on his right side from out of nowhere, like a snapping tree. A curious warmth spread in his trousers and he heard the laugh again. He remembered that he couldn’t cry out for his mother like he wanted to. He had been confused when his voice wouldn’t work. After that his right hand had hung limply at his side, useless as a slumping fish. When Peter and Dima had reached an intersection in the city, the officer shoved Peter to the ground. “You want to survive here, shrimp?” Peter stared at the ground. His mother always told anyone who visited that Peter was scared as a young child and that’s why he wasn’t growing. It wasn’t his fault. But look at how robust his three brothers were. The officer stared at him for what seemed to be a long time. Peter guessed that Dima would take great pleasure in beating him, an obstinately silent man, into the ground. The soldier kicked him, his boot thudding against Peter’s bony ribs, but not as hard as Peter had anticipated. “Pravda Street. Go there and you might have a chance.” The officer left. Peter slowly raised himself up and limped past the hodgepodge of wooden houses, stray chick-


ens squawking in the dirt yards and dogs whimpering at his boots. Not barking at him, he thought, because they must have seen he was just as frail as they were. This was the outskirts of Novosibirsk, but he knew he must go towards the city where maybe he could find a place to stay. A few faces peeked out from the windows at him. Nobody wished him good morning or offered him a friendly glance. Different from his hometown, where people stared unabashedly at him, wondering what he was doing there instead of fighting in the Eastern Front like every other man between the ages of fourteen and thirty-five. His mother would hold her head high as she walked with him, but he noticed a grimace in her face, when people walked by and shook their heads. He would then concentrate on his feet. Continuing to limp in the direction Peter had seen the high-rise buildings, he wondered where he could get a pair of new boots. The soles of his shoes had been worn through so that he could feel the rocks on the dirt road jab into the bottoms of his feet, raw and sore. Pravda Street. Why had the officer told him to go there? Was it a place where he led all of his prey for his sick games? Offering a glimpse of hope, all the while setting up a trap for easy victims? Peter would have to think this through. “Who are you?” A young voice interrupted his thoughts. A boy of about ten was sitting on the side of the road, his grubby fingers intent on scraping a small wooden block with a knife. Peter stopped walking. “My name is Peter.” He pointed to the block, which was, as far as he could tell, just a shapeless form. “What are you doing there?” The boy studied him for a while and kept scraping the block. Just as Peter was going to repeat himself, the boy said, “You talk funny.” “Yes, you’re right. It certainly does make a lot of people laugh.” “Mama says you have to learn to speak a certain way to get anywhere around here.” He kept


FICTION whittling away at the block. “Yes, your mama is wise. I was not fortunate to ever have that option. I can barely get by, much less have any hope to advance myself.” “You speak funny and slow, but you use big words.” Peter looked at the small, dirty finger nails pressed white against the knife. It’s funny how children seemed to understand him just fine. “I have been trying to speak extra good because I heard if you’re smart you don’t have to go in the army,” the boy continued. “Is that so?”

It’s funny how children always seemed to understand him just fine.

“Yeah. My brother’s in the army, and he isn’t very smart with books or letters. He’s especially bad at languages. I’m already level four, and he can’t get past level two.” The boy giggled. “I see. What’s your name?” “Alexander, but everyone calls me Sasha.” “Sasha, do you know where Pravda Street is?” Sasha crinkled his nose. “Yeah. But why do you wanna go there? They only send bad people there, or that’s what my mama says at least.” “Do they hurt them there?” “No I don’t think so. I think it’s a place ‘spe-


cially there for them so that no one can hurt them or something like that.” Or so they don’t cause any unnecessary trouble, Peter thought. “Okay, where would I be able to find it?” He heard a shrill woman’s voice call out for Sasha, almost like a warning call. Sasha was staring at the hurried form coming towards them. “Sasha?” “Um, we pass it on the way to the market. So just go straight and turn right when you see the statue of the bald-headed guy on a horse.” “Thank you. Alright, I’ll go before we both find ourselves in trouble. Goodbye, Sasha.” Peter started to walk off in a hurry. “Wait, I want you to have this.” Sasha dropped the wooden block into Peter’s coat pocket and ran off. Peter hurried on forward. He forced the fingers of his right hand to feel the grooves of the wood. He felt the solid, almost comforting weight of it in his coat pocket and wondered what the boy had carved. Somehow it made the pain in his foot bearable and he moved a little quicker. Peter decided not to look at the block until he got to Pravda Street, for fear that it would lose its charm. The building was taller than he was used to, six stories of gray stone with no sight of an artistic touch or an architect’s whimsy. It was built solely out of convenience, and barely even that, Peter thought. The only way he knew he was in the right place was the oddly placed propaganda poster on the heavy steel door. A stern-looking mother whose hair was covered by a red kasinka held a finger to her lips, shushing anyone who wondered whether to walk through the door. Her original words had been blacked out and “PRAVDA” had been painted over them in bold letters. Well, she wouldn’t hold a candle to my own mother, Peter thought, and walked through the door.


To his left was an open doorway leading to the flights of stairs. The stairs would be torture for his blistered feet. To his right was a lobby, and Peter sighed with relief. He could hold off from going up for now. There was a couch with a dusty brown floral print, a table before a fireless fire pit, and a desk that took up half the tight space. It seemed to be hastily constructed with three pieces of plywood. With its broad top devoid of any paper or even personal object, except for a pair of meaty elbows holding a newspaper. These elbows were attached to an equally meaty woman with small eyes and brown hair pulled back in a severe bun, making her round face stark and large. She wore an ivory blouse that closed too tightly around her neck and a skirt that went down only to her knees. Peter knew he shouldn’t stare, but he wondered why the hell she kept her legs bare in the cold. The lobby was hardly warmer than the outside, and here her naked legs were stuffed into toosmall kitten heels, like sausages, smooth and moist. As Peter went towards the desk. He wished she would donate a little bit of that insulation to him, because his slight frame didn’t hold an ounce, and he had found no relief in the cold room. “Excuse me, my name is Peter Krasnorov, and I would like a place to stay.” She continued reading the newspaper, occasionally clicking her tongue when she encountered something particularly dissatisfying. “Excuse me, ma’am?” She wetted her pointer finger and flipped a page, almost daintily. “Ma’am, I’m looking for a place to stay.” Peter paused after every word, wondering if she just didn’t understand. She crossed her legs with some effort. With one on top of the other, they were so high her knee hit the underside of the desk. Peter placed his hands at the edge of the desk. His parched tongue floundered a bit, like a fish on land.


“Lady, sitting in the desk reading a newspaper, I’m here to find a place to stay.” No response. Peter cupped his hand to his mouth and said a few words to make sure his speech hadn’t left him entirely. No, he clearly heard the reverberation of his voice. She uncrossed her legs with much effort because they stuck to one another. He could hear the skin being pulled apart. Peter cringed. “I have not walked all of this way, faced brutal weather, and even more brutal soldiers, to be ignored. Will you kindly look up from your newspaper there and give me a room to stay?” She didn’t look up. “I might lose my feet if I keep standing here. Not that it would matter much because they are frozen stiff. How on God’s green earth are you keeping so warm?” Finally, a wrinkle in her small, girlish nose, and her eyes slowly moved up. “What are you blabbering on about there?” Peter let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. He simply said, “Room.” She deflated heavily. “That’ll require some paperwork to see if you are qualified. But I am on lunch break and will acquire them after I am done.” “How long does your lunch break last?” He could tell he was losing her again. “Please have a seat and wait until I get the right forms for you,” she said, returning to her newspaper. He had lost her. Peter turned back to the unfortunate couch and the table with two chairs, and focused his attention on the fireplace. Maybe, he thought, he could get a fire started, and dispell the coldness that had seeped into his bony feet and fingers. First, he sat down and peeled the worn leather off his feet. He forced himself to look down and grimaced. His toes had a deep-set blue hue, and he was missing most of his toe nails. He let himself sink into the couch, ever so slightly, and close his eyes. “Well, it looks like my little friend is getting




into an unwavering line. “You are quite worth it. A Jew coming in the city and making a good buck selling material is highly frowned upon by the Party. Oh, I think you can make my career.” The corners of his mouth turned up slightly. Peter’s feet hung limply in the air. “Do you think I could really do all of that?” he choked out. “It doesn’t matter what I think. All that matters is I have all the pieces in my hands right now.” Dima reached into his inside coat pocket and placed the Bible softly on the table. Peter looked over at the desk, and noticed a bead of sweat trickling down the woman’s thick calves.

A Jew coming in the city and making a good buck selling material is highly frowned upon by the party.

settled in rather nicely.” Dima smiled and walked toward him. Peter’s head snapped up—his feet in the chilly air all of the sudden feeling much too bare. “Why so alarmed little man?” Dima sat on one of the chairs next to the table. “Here, have a seat,” he said, pointing to the chair opposite of him. Peter stood slowly and walked toward the chair, wincing as he stepped on the cold stone floor. When he sat, the chair was so tall his feet hung in the air. Dima’s boots were planted firmly on the ground. “You didn’t think you’d get rid of me that easily did you?” Dima laughed. “I had thought I was not worth your time.” Dima gave him a blank stare, and Peter repeated himself. The soldier let out a hearty guffaw, his dimples showing. His face seemed even tanner in the bleakness of the room. “Oh you have no idea how much you’re worth my time.” Peter was silent. Dima looked at the surroundings, pausing at the woman at the desk for a moment, he said to Peter. “So, how do you like your accommodations?” “They’re some of the best I’ve had.” “I’ve heard she’s the friendliest hostess in town.” Dima smoothed his hair down in one quick motion. Again Peter noted the white line in his hair line. “In that case I better relocate towns again.” “Oh! When one can make out what you’re saying, you’re a riot.” “I’m glad you find my predicament amusing.” Peter tried move his toes, but the cold air had wrapped them in frigidity. Dima didn’t seem to hear him. There was silence for a moment as he stared at Peter. The only sound came from the flipping of newspapers pages ever so often, though that seemed to happen less often since the soldier had come in. Sitting up straight, Dima tightened his lips

“What do you want from me?” For the first time, Dima’s eyes flickered down for a moment, and he looked almost like an embarrassed teenage boy. But one with a big gun strapped on his shoulders, and an even bigger head attached to them. Embarrassment was dangerous in this case. “Well?” Peter asked quietly, hoping to not light a fuse. Dima let out an angry, shuddered breath, and reached for his pocket. Peter reached into his own to trace the wooden block the boy gave him. “Here.” Dima flung a piece of paper toward


Peter. Peter could see it was a photograph but he could not make out what it was in the growing darkness. He sat still. “I don’t understand.” For the first time, the woman at the desk stood. She made her way to the middle of the room, a few feet from where they were. Peter was surprised how light her steps were. She pulled on a cord and a single, naked bulb was illuminated. Making her way back to the desk, she pulled her newspaper out again, not saying a word and not once looking at them. Under the light, Peter saw the photograph was that of a young woman with dark-stained lips and shiny coils of hair. “Who is she?” Dima blinked as if he was still adjusting to the light. “She’s a West German. I was stationed at the border and I met her there.” “She is your lover?” Dima didn’t say anything. Peter kept tracing the grooves of the wood carving. “What does this have to do with me?” Dima pulled out another piece of paper and tossed it in the middle of the table. It was a letter, written in German. There were a few flowery words and longings he expected to be expressed in a forbidden tryst. A name caught his eye. The woman mentioned a girl she had named Astrid. “She doesn’t speak a lick of Russian, and I can’t speak German for the life of me,” Dima said. Peter gripped the block. The cards were in his hands now. “You would like me to tell you what it says.” “I wouldn’t like you to do anything. I’m telling you to do it.” Peter could relent like he always had. That would make things so much easier. The woman at the desk crossed her legs again. “What would happen if any officers found out about her?” Peter asked, pointing at the photograph. Dima’s hands started shaking. Peter had hit the spot.


“That is none of your business. You have only one choice here. If you don’t comply, I don’t mind at all,” Dima said, lingering on each word. “In fact, all the more better because I’ll turn you in, and I’ll be promoted. But before they see you I’ll beat you into a bloody pulp, and I’ll enjoy every second of it.” A blush had risen to his cheeks. Peter tried to steady his voice. He looked down at the photograph. “She is beautiful. Hopefully she is worth it.” The last few words came out like a squeak. For the first time Dima understood him perfectly. The soldier reached into his pocket for a knife, one that reminded Peter of Sasha’s. “What did you say to me?” Peter moved his lips but no words came out. With his left hand he lifted his right hand out of his pocket, and let it drop on the table like a dead weight. “Speak. Will you translate the letter or are you going to make things hard for yourself?” Peter managed a small, “No.” The woman flipped a page, and before Peter could blink, Dmitri rose out of his seat and stabbed the knife in between Peter’s middle and ring finger. The woman clicked her tongue. Peter wanted to laugh. Dmitri had stabbed him in his dead hand. Dima stared at him with widened eyes. Peter was about to lose all restraint and laugh like a wild man, when a searing pain shot up his arm like a bullet. He looked down at his hand, and removed the knife in astonishment. Blood pooled out from the wound. The pain was intense, but he smiled. He tapped each individual finger on the table. “I can move my hand.” For once the words came out fast and clear, like a ringing bell. “Sorry to interrupt your moment of glee, but I came here for a pressing matter,” Dima interrupted with a chilled voice. “And I would be happy to use this knife on your tongue if that will help you talk.”


FICTION Peter said nothing. He took the letter and placed it quietly in his pocket. He then grabbed the wooden carving and placed it in the middle of the table. It was a trout, flailing wildly with a hook trapped in its jaws. Dima became as still as the carving. “Where did you get this?” “A boy named Sasha gave this to me on my way here.” Dima shook his head and cursed, looking toward the woman. “That boy’s been nothing but trouble since the day he was born. All he does is read books and get crazy ideas.”. Peter flexed his hand. “I’ll be back tomorrow. I expect the letter to be done by then,” Dima said stiffly, getting up to leave. He paused before the fireplace, got out a match, lit it, and threw it carelessly in the fireplace. “Maybe then I won’t have to look at your disgusting blue feet anymore.” And he left. Peter stooped to the fireplace, craddling his right hand. The flames were slowly building, and he felt a fragile warmth touch his frigid nose. He threw in his worn-out boots; at least now they could be made useful in the fire. The woman at the desk smiled slightly.

Yuliya Panfilova will graduate with a major in Chemistry and a minor in Biology. The inspiration for this story, written for a fiction writing class at Pacific, was her grandfather from Novosibirsk, Russia. He survived impossible conditions in the Soviet Union during World War II. One day Yuliya hopes to return to Russia to visit.



Photograph by Samantha Kitchen




Warrior Woman Honey Bee Chestnut Tree Kelly Chastain


efore my parents’ divorce, before selling off the cows, the tractor, and the property, before my brother quit school and my dad kicked him out, we lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and unless you looked close you’d gloss over the hairline cracks aching to fracture. The summer before my twelfth birthday, my older brother and I watched the bee tree. A massive dead snag with gnarled bark and a split in the trunk housed a colony of honey bees, and sat at the edge of our driveway abutting the part of the pasture where we slaughtered cows. Busy with work, the bees flew in and out in a steady rhythm as we mused on how much honey they harbored inside. I reckoned the trunk was a liquid core of golden delight. My brother elbowed me saying something like, you’re so dumb, they don’t make that much. He figured they sat on a quart tops. We resolved to steal it. Growing up on a farm was a lot like being a fighter pilot. Most days played out in tedious monotony interlaced with brief moments of sheer terror. This


was never more evident than the afternoon my brother and I set out to plunder the bee tree and return to the house with their comb victorious. We approached this in the usual way: with all the wrong tools and absolutely no notion as to how to go about it. I followed him over the pasture, pocked with gopher holes and jerky-like cow pies dehydrating under a mid-July sun. My black angus, once a 4H bottle baby, chewed her cud and stared at us while her own calf nursed. Her tail swatted flies as the temperature rose. At fourteen, my brother assumed the role of battlefield general and led us to a patch of scrubby trees about twenty yards from the hive. There, we plotted our campaign. I carried a basic recurve bow and two target practice arrows. Not to be outdone, he carried a compound bow and two arrows fit with razor sharp broad head tips. The same kind our uncle used to kill a bull elk so big that when I stood on top of its stuffed head I could not reach the tips of its antlers. Arrowheads that never fooled around a day in their lives, and had middle names like certain death, exterminator, and hatchet man. He held a finger to his lips and glared a stern warning. Fearing that bees may very well have ears, I zipped it. We squatted in the scrub and watched them fly in and out of the hole for nearly ten minutes until our cat, Simon, a fifteen pound silver tabby, brushed up against my leg. His purring rivaled the hum of the swarm, and in our focused silence interrupted the atmosphere like the roar of a jet engine. He meowed, blowing our cover. A real Benedict Arnold. I looked at the tree. Nothing changed. The bees ignored us completely, so I whispered to my brother, asking what to do next. Shoot the tree. Duh.



hospital for stitches. I waited a year or so for my mark, but it surely came. My brother and I hatched a scheme to ride into town, and after handing my bike to him over the fence, I shimmied through the wires. Standing up on the other side, a barb tore through my pants and knee leaving a two inch gash. We got on the bikes anyway, and with blood soaking into my sock, pedaled the eight miles into town so he could buy a six pack of non-alcoholic beer and a pouch of jerky chew. A clear sign of things to come. The wound screamed and bled the whole way. Now with our backs to this very fence, the barbarous ropes of our newfound boxing ring, our honey strategy disintegrated before our eyes. Adding to the

Infused with honeylust, we loaded the arrows and pulled them back.

Years later, idly wandering the back aisles of a Barnes and Noble, I looked up my name in the baby name dictionary. My first name, warrior woman. My middle name, honey bee. My last name, chestnut tree. I wondered how great it would look on my driver’s license, and to have the Maitre D announce, “Warrior Woman, your table is ready.” But in that moment on the farm, under the canopy of oaks and the pressure of combat, warrior woman attacked, honey bee ambushed, and chestnut tree observed. Infused with honey-lust, we loaded the arrows and pulled them back. The strings dug into our fingers, our nerves screaming as we took aim. The arrows flew from our bows with a whoosh. Naturally, mine sailed a hundred feet past the tree and my eyes went wide fearing I’d impaled one of the herd further down the pasture. My brother’s arrow, however, hit dead center of the hole, an indisputable bull’s eye. The bees shot from the hive with a fervor of patriotism that would go unrivaled until the first gulf war. It took them no time to assess the direction from which the arrow came and formulate their simple mission plan: Sting the daylights out of the bastards who threatened hive, honey, and queen. An angry mob of bees zeroed in on our location in seconds. A few years before, when we fenced the pasture, I remember it took about a week to drive all the posts into the ground and string all five strands of barbed wire around its perimeter. The fence nearly cost my dad one of his eyes when a wire busted free from its staple, whipped back, and caught him just below the inside corner of his eye, a millimeter up the side of his nose. While working with an electric fence insulator, my brother nearly cut the tip of his finger off the same afternoon, and my mom rushed him to the

treachery, a single line encircled us with a current of electricity pulsing through it with enough punch to make a bee sting a welcome event. We dropped the bows and booked it across the pasture. The cows scattered. The cat, completely spooked, hid in the barn for the rest of the afternoon. The only escape lie in running around the remaining fifteen acres of fence line,


NONFICTION or slogging our way through an ankle-deep pool of cow dung and into the barn. We ran down the hill without looking back, our breath heaving. My brother cussed about the bees, the stupid honey, and then blamed me solely for our co-parented imbecile of an idea. I didn’t care, I just wanted to escape the business end of the swarm, and the electric fence for that matter. Finally, we stopped in the far corner of the pasture, the same place I received my knee scar, to catch our breath and listen for the bees, but nothing could be heard over the roaring pulses in our ears. They had dispersed, and we got away without a sting between us. Warrior woman retreated, honey bee defended, chestnut tree abandoned. We sauntered back up the hill and to the house in the blazing summer sun, my brother alternated between cursing our idea and joking about it. It took two days to retrieve the bows from the pasture as the bees laid in wait to get their just comeuppance. The cows didn’t venture into that neck of the woods for weeks. All summer the lone arrow jutted out of the tree as the bees worked around it. My dad cussed about it nearly every time we drove down the driveway. What the hell did you do that for? Sometimes he asked. Sometimes he barked. Sometimes he muttered the words under his breath while shaking his head. I just admired the gleaming yellow fiberglass shaft, and how it rocketed through the air with precision. The flights, three red feathers stood off the end like a proud Mohawk. Eventually, I found my errant arrow in another tree beyond the old snag, the aluminum shaft tweaked and one of the plastic flights sheered off completely. I threw it in the burn barrel without a word. Later that fall we waited out a hellish wind


storm. It gusted so hard we gathered the cows in the barn and brought the cat inside from my tree fort. Black clouds converged overhead into one thick blanket of doom and let loose with sheets of rain that stung our legs through our Levi’s. We woke the next morning to find branches everywhere, and the bee tree uprooted and laying on its side in the scrubby little forest, the arrow sticking straight in the air, a war flag still flying on the side of the conquerers. Still, we waited. Warrior woman patient, honey bee lethargic, chestnut tree overcome. By my birthday the first frosts hit and not a single bee had stirred for weeks. My brother and I approached the tree in anticipation, and he took the arrow by the shaft jerking it free. The sleek and deadly broad head, now rusted from the rain was ruined, the fiberglass shaft faded, and the flights splintered out. Hmmph, my brother sighed and fingered the useless arrow. We came back with the chain saw and went to work cutting the old snag into big rings for campfire wood, moving closer and closer to the notch in the trunk. I expected honey to begin dripping out of the log at any moment, honey so thick and cold it choked the blade completely, but nothing. He cut. I stacked. My fingers went numb. This went on for what felt like three hours. About two feet above the bee’s entrance, my brother sliced straight through the hive. Now quiet with hibernating bees, we pulled the wood ring away to see nothing but a dried up withered comb, full of little pods of bees waiting to thaw. Waiting to strike. Further down, we discovered a pocket of honey - about a tablespoon altogether. Honey so thick with wax and dirt that neither of us dared taste it. A shriveled useless comb. Honey that wasn’t really honey at all.


Well there’s your trunk full of honey, he said and gave me the same look he would give me the day my parents took him to rehab. The one that said, we should have known this was coming. The one that opened the table for conversation when there was nothing left to say. Warrior woman vanquished, honey bee relinquished, chestnut tree extinguished. Warrior woman honey bee chestnut tree. It rolled off my tongue with ease and at one point I half

Everything just packed itself into boxes and went to separate houses and sold itself at the livestock auction. The dirt bike trails overgrew with poison oak and my mom’s garden with weeds. The realtor sold the place in five months. I imagined the new owners drove their car along the edge of our driveway, abutting the part of the pasture where we used to slaughter cows, where there used to be a massive dead snag with gnarled bark and a split in the trunk, that used to house a colony of honey bees. They drove right past like it didn’t even matter that it was ever there in the first place.

But it wasn’t just one piece of toast’s worth, it was their home, their gold, and their family.

considered legally changing it. Every time I’ve said it, I have thought about those honeybees and how bravely they charged, how seriously they took our assault, and how ravenous they were for our flesh over a tablespoon of gooey, filthy mash masquerading as honey. But it wasn’t just one piece of toast’s worth, it was their home, their gold, and their family. When the arrow of divorce struck the farm like my brother’s razor tipped bolt, there was no fury of wings and stingers, no chase across the pasture, no one taking up arms at the idea of losing it all. No. No warrior woman honey bee chestnut tree around.


The idea for “Warrior Woman Honey Bee Chestnut Tree” was born in an intro to creative non fiction class where Kelly Chastain was asked to draw a map of her childhood home. She is in the process of writing a collection of memoir vignettes about growing up on a farm and her relationship with her brother. A senior in Creative Writing, she has received an Eliott grant to travel to Austria and Hungary to research a novel she is writing.



Little Bat Child Elizabeth Vandermolen We were hiking when we found the little bat, lying on the side of the path amid the mossy rocks and stones. I thought it was resting, tiny shoulder blades lifted to support its tissue paper wings lit up by the sun and threaded with dark veins. I was three and a half when my second sister was born three weeks early, unable to breathe. I remember seeing her in the hospital, part machine, part flesh, curled in her nest of wires and tubes, a small featherless bird. Something I was afraid to touch. My sister took the bat to the park ranger. It trembled in her hand. The man gave us the number of wildlife control but said not to expect much. Wild creatures touched by human beings rarely survive. Elizabeth Vandermolen is from Oregon where she grew up on a farm with her three siblings and lots of pets. She is graduating this year with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. She reads and writes historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy.



Photograph by Kathleen Rohde



Artwork by Kieslana Wing and Megan Cramer




B Exuberant Writing: William Blake on Totality and Organicism Ben Brewer Philosophy is...a free act of spirit; its first step is not a knowing, but is better expressed as a not-knowing, a giving up of all human knowledge -F.W.J. Schelling It is but lost time to converse with you whose works are only Analytics -William Blake On their way toward modern science, human beings have discarded meaning. The concept is replaced by the formula, the cause by rules and probability -Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno


ritish Romanticism, for all its furious productivity and writhing intensity, seems to be eversaddled with understandable but ultimately unhelpful misreadings. In the popular imagination, they are often construed as “dreamy folk, whose hearts leapt when they beheld a rainbow,” though perhaps this leap of the heart is tied more closely to a “nervous twitch” than a rapturous joy (Krell 1). Even in the academy, however, one finds equally problematic assumptions, albeit about organicism rather than emotional intonation. Cornel West describes the romantic project as one of “striving after wholeness…and if you can’t get it—disappointment!” (Examined Life). Indeed the question of wholes, parts, totalities, and resistance permeates the discourse of the Romantic poets, though perhaps not in such a simplistic way. One of the best poets of the whole is undoubtedly William Blake. In order to resist the totalizing force of Enlightenment reason, Blake develops an organicism that relies on the relationships of parts to wholes without recourse to totalization, particularly in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In both the form and content of the poem, Blake preserves wholes in order to resist totalization. In one of the “Memorable Fancy” sections in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, an angel comes to the narrator to warn him that his life will earn him a spot in the eternal hellfire of damnation. The narrator is curious to see his eternal lot, and the Angel takes him “to a cave…down [a] winding cavern… [into] a void boundless as a nether sky” (plate 17). Out of this nether sky, the “infinite Abyss, fiery as the smoke of a burning city” eventually appears, to reveal the orthodox Christian Hell replete with “the




selfishness, to the degree that it renounces the whole and unity, [becomes] ever more desolate, poorer, but for that reason greedier, hungrier, and more venomous” (55, emphasis added). Totality is the assertion of the singular as the One, rather than one among many. Against the totality of reason, Blake’s works operate with a nuanced understanding of organicism. In the “Proverbs of Hell,” Blake develops a stunning

Each and every word or picture originates in its mirror image, a subtle irony that should not be forgotten when reading Blake.

sun, black but burning…vast spiders, crawling after their prey, which flew, or rather swum in the infinite deep…[and] the most terrifying shapes of animals” (plate 18). When the Angel flees upon seeing “the head of Leviathan…with red gills…tinging the black deep with beams of blood, advancing toward [them] with all the fury of a spiritual existence” (plate 18-19), the narrator is left “sitting on a pleasant bank beside a river by moon light, hearing a harper [singing] ‘The man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, & breeds reptiles of the mind’” (plate 19). The terrible horrors of hell, it seems, were fully “attributable to [the angel’s] metaphysics” (19). This bizarrely disturbing episode reveals Blake’s two-pronged critique of enlightenment reason. Enlightenment reason, which Blake associates with the orthodox religiosity and therefore the angel, allows for no transgression of its basic tenet: the principle of non-contradiction. The Enlightenment’s sycophantic devotion to reason totalizes the realm of human knowledge by limiting it to what is noncontradictory, falsifiable, etc. In this way, knowledge, as understood by the Enlightenment, “knows no limits, either in its enslavement of creation or in its deference to worldly masters” (Horkheimer and Adorno 2). Formally, then, Blake is portraying the totalizing force of the Enlightenment as the assertion of one part (specifically discursive reason) as the whole. Out of the multiplicity of possible “metaphysics,” the angel asserts his strict division of good and evil as the only “true” reality. Totality limits the multiplicity of potentiality by asserting a given singularity as the only actuality. Schelling describes this same drive to totalize in the Freedom Essay as the “the beginning of sin” (55). Evil occurs when “the hunger of

example of an organic whole that resists totalization. In their content, many of the aphorisms of the “infinite abyss” explicitly affirm the pure multiplicity of potentiality: “Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth…The cistern contains; the fountain overflows…Expect poison from standing water” (plate 8). In the context of Blake’s subversion of totality, these epigrams seem clear enough: one should affirm the multiplicity over the privileging of any one part. This same sentiment is developed, albeit in a slightly different way, in the famous aphorisms of exuberance: “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom (plate 7)…You never know what is enough unless you know


what is more than enough (plate 9)…Exuberance is beauty” (plate 10). Exuberance and excess stand for that vitality of life that cannot be contained within axioms and formulas. They are the excessive character of lived experience in all its valances (the Lacanian Real, the Schellingian Urgrund, Bataille’s inner experience, Coleridge’s “thousand thousand slimy things” etc). One might rightly point out that this reading merely displaces totality; it totalizes the multiplicity of the proverbs by privileging these few and thereby overdetermining the whole. At this point, the formal organicism of the proverbs, then, becomes quite important. Blake inscribes the organic into the form of the “Proverbs of Hell” in two important ways. First, the proverbs issue not from a place of authority, but rather from hell itself. Whereas the inversion of the “sacred codes” are spoken in the “voice of the devil,” (plate 4) the proverbs have no author, strictly speaking. As proverbs par excellence, they are “the sayings used in a nation” (plate 6). Not only do they arise from the infinite multiplicity of hell’s inhabitants, they are merely the proverbs “used” in hell. They may not have even come from hell itself, and may have instead merely found some resonance with its residents. The proverbs of hell, then, are at least twice removed from any grounding authority that would be responsible to resolve contradiction within their contents. As such, they form a unified whole which nonetheless leaves itself open to interpretation. The reader is free to isolate certain proverbs as the key to unlock the whole, only to realize that no single reading can encompass the entirety of the proverbs. This relationship between the whole of the collected proverbs and individual proverbs shows how the organic relationship of parts to


wholes in the poem is precisely how the poem resists totalization. Were one to pull any of the aphorisms from their context, they can be easily manipulated and overdetermined. “Exuberance is beauty,” for example, often appears on greeting cards and birthday cards. Removed from its context, it can be totalized, commodified, and consumed. As a part of the whole, however, it reveals itself as relational to the other proverbs as well as the entirety of the proverbs considered together. This organicism of meaning not only occurs within the structure of the poem, but also in the recording of the text itself. Blake’s poems are not written on paper, but are integrated into magnificent color prints. This unique method of recording and writing also resists totalization in several important ways. From the very beginning of its process, irony is inscribed into the etching. When making the plates from which one make prints, the artists writes and draws backwards. In other words, each and every word or picture of the books originates in its mirror image, a subtle irony that should not be forgotten when reading Blake. Furthermore, the integration of images and text in Blake creates an organic relationship between the texts and images. The decorations do not merely frame the text, but protrude into any breaks, indentions, or gaps. Spatially, there is no distinct separation of text and image. The curving organicism of Blake’s line work compliments and repeats itself in his ornately calligraphic lettering. Some of the embellishments on letters become minute images of snakes or angels, only to fade back into lettering (Plate 7, figure 1). The longer one looks upon the prints, the more the distinction between words and images seems to disappear,


as images become parts of words, and words begin to show their figural quality more than their semiotic reference. Furthermore, Blake’s unique color-printing technique renders the figures of his drawing in brilliant though non-naturalistic colors, creating a blazing expressionist power to the images. We should also note that Blake’s figures are always abstracted or at least distorted, both in body and pose. This is, however, an intentional choice since Blake’s deft ability

In this way, neither the images nor the text “adorns” the other. They form a whole and must be read as such.

for etching traditional, sculptural forms can be seen in his black and white prints from The Gates of Paradise. With the distorted figures and expressionist color in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, however, the images are being distorted so as to further blur the distinction between text and image. The colors, for example, become semiotic rather than naturalistically representational: the muted but colorful sky in plate 11 (fig 2), for example, convey a sense of something just begun, of the dawning of history and humanity, while the dramatic tenebrism of plate 16 (fig 3) creates an oppressive and apocalyptic atmosphere, weighing


down upturned faces of the figures. In this way, neither the images nor the text “adorns” the other. They form a whole and must be read as such. The bizarre images recast the accompanying text into new interpretations, and vice versa. Rather than overdetermining the meaning, the unified whole of images and texts actually leaves open the possibility of myriad interpretations. In both form and content, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell functions as an organic whole, in which the multiplicity of singularities form a whole within which each part has its function. Meaning becomes relational and open, rather than essential and totalized. The unity of form and content enacts this organicism at the level of the text itself, reflecting the philosophy espoused in and developed by Blake’s poetry. As Blake envisioned, this nuanced organicism keeps one from breeding “reptiles of the mind” and provides an escape from the “mind-forg’d manacles” (“London”) of totalizing rationality.

Works Cited Blake, William. “London.” Songs of Innocence and Experience. 1789 printing. William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Manuscripts. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000. ---. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 1794 printing. William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Manuscripts. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000. Horkheimer, Max and Theodor Adorno. The Dialectic of Enlightenment. trans Edmund Jephcott. Palo Alto: Stanford UP, 2007.


LITERARY ANALYSIS Krell, David. Contagion: Sexuality, Death, and Disease in German Idealism and Romanticism. Bloomingdale: Indiana UP, 1998. Schelling, F.W.J. Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom. Trans Jeff Love and Johannes Schmidt. West, Cornel. The Examined Life. dir. Astra Taylor. Zeitgeist. 2008. Plates refered as figures 1, 2 and 3 are Plates 7, 11, 16 in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 1794 printing. William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Manuscripts. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000.

Ben Brewer is a senior Philosophy major with a minor in English Literature. He plans to attend University of Oregon’s graduate program in philosophy in the fall. If he could have one wish, he would hang out with Oscar Wilde.



Photograph by Hanna Landrus




Modern Family: Turning Tradition on Its Head Jenna Stevens JAY: “Now look at me, I got a house that looks like little Columbia, I got a gay son, and a Chinese granddaughter.” MITCHELL: “Vietnamese.” JAY: “Only you would know the difference.” — Modern Family, Season 1, Episode 13: “Fifteen Percent”


he television program Modern Family does not exactly portray political correctness at its finest, but it does, however, provide a fresh take on the modern American family. The situation comedy pokes fun at stereotypes concerning race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, and the contemporary structure of many families in today’s society. Beyond this, it serves to show that a variety of family units experience the same types of struggles and are plenty capable of being supportive, warm, and functioning entities. The show is produced as a mock documentary following three families that are all interconnected by familial ties. The first family is a typical unit of a suburban mom and dad with their three children. The second family is two gay men and their adopted baby, and


the third is an older man now remarried to a young woman and her teenage son. The sitcom follows the three families through their everyday interactions, showcasing the abundance of potentially humorous situations and conversations. The producers do not hold back on the account of political correctness—they play off controversial societal stereotypes and address subjects that are often avoided. Modern Family, being substantially different from previous family-based sitcoms, is a pioneering program that changes the way viewers see the American family unit. By poking fun at various stereotypes and illuminating a multitude of today’s possible family dynamics, the sitcom has a positive influence on viewers and has the potential to create change. The content of the media and situation comedies specifically, has always played off the current atmosphere of society to some extent. The way in which sitcoms execute this has varied considerably throughout the last half century, but a key component is the portrayal of the American family. In their book, Television and the American Family, Jennings and J. Alison Bryant reinforce the importance of the television family: The fictional family on television, in its many forms, has become one of our most enduring benchmarks for making both metric and qualitative assessments of how the American family is doing in the real world. For many in the arena of public policy, the debate frequently points to television as a primary source for what is good or bad about the family institution. (139) Unfortunately, most traditional television families, from the 1950s through today, only briefly touch upon the real societal issues and are “at best a close fol-




use stereotypes to help produce the laughter, but they also present the characters as real people, not merely ”typed” personalities for a cheap laugh. The use of stereotypes is thus bordering satire, because the show is both serving to poke fun at the labels and consequently illuminate the truth and reveal accepted falsehood. By examining each family in the show, one can identify the numerous stereotypes being utilized. The largest family is the Dunphy’s, which consists of the parents, Phil and Claire, and their three children,

By no means is the show all-inclusive or a perfect representation of real life, but it does bring attention and validation to the less conventional family structures.

lower of real-world trends and lifestyles” (140). These families perpetuate ideas of male-dominance, domesticated mothers, dominant white societies, and heterosexuality as the only acceptable lifestyle. Today an increasing number of shows are combating these traditional ideals, but various studies through the 1990s show that it is far more likely for a television program to strengthen traditional family models rather than endorse the increasingly nonconventional family units (145). Those nonconventional models of the American family are, in reality, becoming common, but they are widely underrepresented. For instance, from 1990 to 1995, 5.3% of families on television were of mixed races; .8% were of Asian descent; 13.5% were composed of African Americans, and an overwhelming 80.5% of families were white. These numbers are minute improvements from the previous statistics from the 50s through the 80s (Bryant 148). In comparison to real family compositions, all of the minority groups were underrepresented, and this trend of misrepresentation occurs for other aspects of the family composition as well. This is because, as research shows, television programs continue to “promote and celebrate the traditional family” (248). While television families continue to remain traditional, family relations appear to be increasingly conflict-filled and have fewer resolutions. Modern Family takes these trends and turns them on their head. By no means is the show all-inclusive or a perfect representation of real life, but it does bring attention and validation to the less conventional family structures. Instead of focusing on the reproductive aspect of the family, the show reaffirms “positive values of family life” (Hammamoto 67). The creators

Haley, Alex, and Luke. Phil is the self-proclaimed “cool dad” who remains hip by learning the routines in High School Musical and keeping up on all the latest technology. He’s still a kid at heart but is completely invested in his family and marriage. Claire is the over-worked, high-strung, super mom—she does everything for the family and is certainly the glue that keeps them together. Claire and Phil still have a passionate relationship, but she often jokes that Phil is her fourth child:


PHIL. [to audience only] I don’t always make the best decisions under pressure. CLAIRE. What the hell is that?! PHIL. An alpaca! I got the last one! (Season 3, Episode 8: “After the Fire”) Their oldest daughter, Haley, is the prototypical boycrazy teenager that lacks much intelligence. She never parts with her cell phone and is driven by popularity and love. Alex is a middle school girl who isn’t very popular, but excels in academics, music, and other extracurricular activities. She is quick-witted and sarcastic. Lastly, there’s Luke, a pre-teen, who is still very innocent and goofy. Luke and his dad get along and relate extremely well. One episode precisely outlines Luke’s personality: PHIL. You get him a gift and all he wants to do is play with the box. CLAIRE. One year we just got him a box, a really nice box. PHIL. And we made the mistake of putting it in a gift bag. CLAIRE. So he played with the gift bag. PHIL. We can’t get it right. (Season 1, Episode 9: “Fizbo”) The second family consists of Claire’s younger brother Mitchell and his life partner Cameron. Mitchell is an uptight lawyer and Cameron is a stay-at-home dad for their adopted Vietnamese baby, Lily. Cam, as he goes by, is extremely dramatic and plays the role of the stereotypical gay man, while Mitchell serves to try to keep him grounded. An episode from season two provides an insight into their dynamics: CAMERON. There’s nothing the gays hate more than when people treat us like women. We’re not! We don’t want to go to your baby showers, we don’t


have a time of the month, we don’t love pink! MITCHELL. Well, you love pink. CAMERON. No, pink loves me. (Season 2, Episode 21: “Mother’s Day”) Mitchell and Claire are the children of Jay Pritchett, who divorced their mother, DeDe, and is now remarried to a young Latina woman, Gloria. Also living with Jay and Gloria, is Gloria’s son, Manny, from a previous marriage. Manny is thirteen going on thirty, and commonly acts like a sophisticated man, rather than a young child. Gloria is the typical gorgeous trophy wife with an over exaggerated Spanish accent, which is the source of much comedy. Gloria commonly makes comments about her trophy-like attractiveness: GLORIA. [about her body] Jay, we use this to get tables at restaurants, why can’t we use it to get Manny a friend? (Season 3, Episode 18: “Send Out the Clowns) The family configurations are unconventional, and are more modern possibilities for the makeup of the family. They showcase real problems demonstrating that many different types of families are capable of dealing with those struggles. The creators play off stereotypes not only to enhance the comedy, but also to satirize the idea that families need to be traditional in order to be functioning and healthy. Bruce Feiler for The New York Times explains that “there are second marriages to immigrants, adolescent husbands who never grew up, and gay dads, but the core values are the same.” To further the exposure of those core family values, Modern Family is less focused on showing how the American family interacts with the outside world and more concerned with showing how the family functions internally (Feiler). The episodes focus


COLLEGE WRITING on daily struggles that all families encounter and the show also strives to end every episode with a lesson and resolution—an element not present in many sitcoms. However, just because the show focuses more on everyday problems instead of uncommon ones does not mean it isn’t addressing society as a whole nor producing inventive content. One of the creators, Christopher Lloyd, sheds light on this topic: I don’t think we shy away from those [big] issues because we want to keep it saccharin and sweet. There are different ways of being challenging. To find real, raw emotional moments about the difficulties of growing up, the challenges of dealing with children, or unresolved stuff with your parents is as real as dealing with a big crazy event like a rape or a crisis of faith. (qtd. in Feiler) In this way, the goal of the show is to protect the concept of the family unit—“conflicted, but functioning” as Feiler puts it. Topics such as politics and religion aren’t up for considerable discussion, but the pertinent topics of dysfunction, technology, and sexuality are plentiful. By limiting the scope of the show’s topics, the creators maintain a high degree of relatability that transcends the unconventional family compositions that are uncommon to some viewers. This element is what keeps the show from perpetuating and confirming stereotypes. Modern Family introduces stereotypical characters in a positive light by showing that they are the same as ‘normal’ characters and the audience. This unique facet of the show contributes to the furthering of the ideals within two important theories: liberation theory and cultural competence theory. Liberation theory asserts that “individuals from any and every group are born with innate quali-


ties of brilliance and the infinite capacity to be happy and successful” (Holtzman 19). This is shown by the fact that Cameron and Mitchell and their adopted daughter have become an incredibly happy family despite being ‘different.’ This same situation is true for Jay and Gloria, both previously divorced and now living together happily despite the trophy wife stereotype. Moreover, cultural competence theory emphasizes that “society will be better when we understand, respect, and become knowledgeable in each other’s cultures” (Holtzman 20). Appreciation of other cultures and lifestyles occurs both within the show itself, and outside of the show, because the viewers are exposed to people different from themselves. For instance, in one episode Gloria claims that her dead ‘abuela’—grandmother— has been visiting her in her dreams so she decides to cook a traditional Colombian meal to honor her. Jay mocks her and her culture, so Gloria gets back at him, tricking him into ‘slapping the chicken’; a made-up Colombian tradition that requires him to slap and yell at a raw chicken to get rid of the demons. Needless to say, once Jay finds out about her trick he apologizes and ceases his mockery (Season 2, Episode 2: “The Kiss”). In this episode, both Jay and the viewers learn a valuable lesson about differing cultures, thereby contributing to cultural competence theory. Modern Family is able to further both of these assertions through its portrayal of various cultures and characters—Latinos, gays, women, teenagers, parents, and divorcees. For one, because of the mere exposure effect, the fact that viewers are simply seeing these nontraditional families makes the audience more accepting and open-minded (Schacter, Gilbert,


and Wegner 637). Secondly, the fact that viewers are exposed to these characters in such a positive and relatable light multiplies the effect and furthers the two aforementioned theories. Many researchers assert that “televised portrayals of family are looked upon as social learning opportunities, [so] information regarding the quality and context of family interaction are of central concern” (Bryant and Bryant 160). Modern Family excels at portraying unconventional families,

Just because the show focuses more on everyday problems instead of uncommon ones does not mean it isn’t addressing society as a whole nor producing inventice content.

but extremely positive and high quality ones. Where the show can make an additional influence is in regards to constructing judgments. Viewers internalize what they see while they watch television; Modern Family gives them something virtuous to adopt from their television viewing. It has been found that individuals make judgment of people, objects, and situations based on only a small amount of information in their memory. They base it off of what is most accessible to them, what is most vivid, and what is motivating them the most (Bryant and Zillmann 72). In today’s society, the media is often what is most accessible, most vivid, and what motivates people the most in terms of


what they wish to focus on. Because of this, viewers of Modern Family are highly likely to internalize the positive values and beliefs they see on the show and in turn use them to make their own judgments in real life. To further the effectiveness of Modern Family, the show comes across as relatable and relevant because of the focus on everyday interactions and problems. As Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann put it, “if [the viewers] do not perceive the example as relevant, alternative information would be retrieved and used as a basis for judgment” (82). This is exactly where other programs fall short—they are not relatable or perceived as relevant to the general public. Shows often focus on catastrophic events or unrealistic story lines that are surely engaging but are not useful for social learning. Clearly, Modern Family can impact individual viewers and families that sit down every Wednesday night to tune into the sitcom. This effect becomes more widespread because viewers promote their favorite shows and discuss them with other viewers. This popularity and the extensive lines of communication can exponentially increase the effects of the show. As viewers’ attitudes, values, and opinions change, their behaviors also change. They become more accepting, more involved, and more open-minded (Bryant and Zillmann 184). When citizens improve in such ways, they may change in how they act politically. They may fight to defend gay rights and marriage equality, or they may become more accepting of immigrants to the United States. Overall, there is an increase in acceptance and social awareness among viewers which is why Modern Family is such a pioneering and influential program. Its relatability and relevant scenarios connect families of all shapes, sizes, and compositions


COLLEGE WRITING to demonstrate that today’s modern families are more than capable of succeeding. Jay Pritchett sums it up better than anyone else in one of his monologues: JAY. I had this mental picture of the family that, if I was lucky enough, I would end up with. Perfect wife, perfect kids. Well guess what? I didn’t get any of that. I wound up with this sorry bunch. And I’m thankful for that every day. (Season 1, Episode 24: “Family Portrait”)

Works Cited “After the Fire.” Modern Family. ABC. 16 Nov. 2011. Television. Bryant, Jennings, and Dolf Zillmann. Media Effects. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2002. Print. Bryant, Jennings, and J. Alison Bryant. Television and the American Family. New Jersey: Law rence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2001. Print. “Family Portrait.” Modern Family. ABC. 19 May 2010. Television. Feiler, Bruce. “What ‘Modern Family’ Says About Modern Families.” NYTimes. The New York Times Company, 21 Jan. 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. “Fifteen Percent.” Modern Family. ABC. 20 Jan. 2010. Television. “Fizbo.” Modern Family. ABC. 25 Nov. 2009. Television. Hammamoto, Darrell Y. Nervous Laughter. New York: Praeger, 1991. Print. Holtzman, Linda. Media Messages. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2000. Print. “Mother’s Day.” Modern Family. ABC. 4 May 2011. Television.


Schacter, Daniel L., Daniel T. Gilbert, and Daniel M. Wegner. Psychology. New York: Worth, 2010. Print. “Send Out the Clowns.” Modern Family. ABC. 14 Mar. 2012. Television. “The Kiss.” Modern Family. ABC. 29 Sep. 2010. Television.

Jenna Stevens is a junior studying Psychology with an emphasis in neuroscience. She has minors in Biology and Spanish. Her goal is to become a Physician’s Assistant and work with diverse and under-served populations both in the U.S and abroad.


Photograph by Lucy Lawrence



ARTIST BIOGRAPHIES Samantha Kitchen Samantha Kitchen is a senior in Creative Writing and has lived near Forest Grove all her life. She would someday like to learn to play the banjo. In the meantime, she dedicates her time to poetry, handball and horticulture. Kathleen Rohde Kathleen Rohde is currently a junior majoring in Journalism and minoring in Editing and Publishing. She is the Multimedia Editor of the Pacific Index, the university’s student run newspaper, Rohde is highly involved with photography and video. Rohde was an intern for Pacific’s Master in Fine Arts in Writing program and will be a Snowden intern with the University of Oregon School of Journalism. Kieslana Wing Kieslana Wing is a Biology major from Ridgefield, Washington. She loves storytelling in all forms, as reflected by her Creative Writing minor. In her spare time, she enjoys experimenting with photography. Megan Cramer Megan Cramer is a major in Creative Writing and a minor in German. She writes and paints. She will study abroad in England and Germany next year. Hanna Landrus Hanna grew up in Bend, Oregon. There she took watercolor classes which started her passion for art. Since then art has been a constant in her life. Landrus feels blessed to have so many people in her life encouraging her to deepen this understanding with art. She is currently a senior pursuing a major in Mathematics, however art will always be bubbling just under her skin. Lucy Lawrence Lucy Lawrence is a sophomore Biology major with a Photography minor. She is passionate about both art and science and hopes to eventually go into the medical field.



2013 PLUM Magazine  

Pacific University presents it's student published magazine.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you