The music school

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I am more interested in the so-called illogical impringements of the connotations of words on the consciousness (and their combinations and interplay in metaphor on the basis) than I am interested in the preservation of the logically rigid signification at the cost of limiting my subject matter and perceptions. --Hart Crane         Is life really full of logicality? Visualize yourself in a world where everything made "logical" sense. There is no creativity and individuality. "Oh, you cannot do that, it does not make logical sense!" Who cares? We, the people of this earth, are on the top of the evolutionary cycle. We are different from other living creatures because of our ability to think -- to be an individual by expressing your needs and wants. Our emotions contradict logical sense sometimes. For example, when someone is in trouble, but you have a plane ticket going back to your country that is only good for that specific time--what would you do? The most logical solution is just to go on the plane since you already have everything set, but you realize that saving the girl is more important--highly illogical.

You have the plane ticket already--why would you risk losing your chance to go home? Illogicality! The same concept can be applied to metaphors. Why would you give up you creative endeavors just to follow a "basic" rule of logicality? Being logical in the use of metaphoric language only limits you to boundaries and never lets you show your personal perceptions. The limits of logicality only deprive you of expression--you never grasp the full meaning of what you are trying to say.

"The Music School" by John Updike is mainly about a man drawn to tears and fear of rejection by the occurrences around him. Such occurrences include the death of his friend, the computer expert, the music school where his child studies, the Catholic Eucharistic ceremony, the psychiatric visits and divorce to his wife. "I do not understand the connection but there seems to be one." Updike gives us all these details in single, detached paragraphs that does not quite possess logical connections. Every detail was hand-woven by Updike's unique writing style. Such "illogical impringements"--the detached details-- are brought together in paragraphs seven and eight. The last two paragraphs brings forth the reasons on why Alfred is afraid of rejection and/ or failure and also his reflections and thoughts on the world around him. Illogical connections are brought together to form a more meaningful impact on the story itself and its readers.

The last two paragraphs of John Updike's story, "The Music School", bring meanings and connections to each paragraph of the story. The story tends to switch topics from place to place. First, you are introduced to the church and how absurd their customs and dogmas are -- for example the way a "Eucharistic wafer" should be taken. Then, you switch to the murder of an acquaintance of the narrator -- a computer programmer. Afterwards, you are subjected to the music school and the narrator's personal views about music, therefore unraveling his perception of life. A couple of paragraphs later, you are encountering the narrator's relationship with his wife. The statement "I do not understand the connection, but there seems to be one" luminates throughout the story. The last two paragraphs answer this statement. Also, a hint of ambiguity is evident in the last two paragraphs of the story.

Updike begins his story with the statement, "My name is Alfred Schweigen and I exist in time." Is there any significance? Of course, there is significance. The statement itself arouses the existentialist belief of "existence precedes essence" where human beings are thrown into existence first without any predetermined nature and only later do we construct our nature or essence through our own actions. We create our own human nature through the free choices that we have. Time, a very important term is used to describe the relative nature of human experience. Bergson states that time is heterogeneous, always in motion, fluid, ever shifting, and things in it are indistinguishable. Space, conversely, is homogeneous, still, measurable. Time, furthermore, cannot be characterized by separate moments--to do this, as some have attempted, is to measure what is indistinguishable and to replace time by space.

        With a touch of his brush, Updike highlights certain brushstrokes which conveys the meaning of the story in a more clear and concise way.

We are all pilgrims, faltering towards divorce. Some get no further than mutual confession, which becomes an addiction, and exhausts them. Some move on, into violent quarrels and physical blows; and succumb to sexual excitement.

This statement briefly states how he has lived his life. He has been a failure since the beginning. He never pursued his music lessons because he was afraid to fail -- so he would rather watch his daughter take music lessons. He is vicarious -- never once trying to experience life, but rather experience it from someone else. Take the computer programmer that died, for instance -- he has accomplished many things in life, including being successful, and yet the narrator grieves for his death. He is unable to cope with his murder.

Each moment I live, I must think where to place my finger, and press them down with no confidence of hearing a chord.

More importantly, he lacks a core of values and beliefs to order his own life and creative impulses. He struggles to find a focus in life. The uncertainty of the narrator leads him to a life filled with meaningless purposes. He cannot continue with his life, to some extent, a "coda" must be put, or should I say urged, in order for his life to gain some kind of meaning. The "grace notes" of his life reveals vivid images of society, religions, and social changes. From the Eucharistic wafer to the murder of the computer programmer, he tries to view a perspective of life that might bring meaning to him, yet, he cannot comprehend how these meanings developed. His image of the world, a true existentialist belief -- that "life with its little joys, griefs, triumphs, and tragedies, is a very brief interlude between two vast abysses of nothingness." And in the grace note, of the two backward steps and then again the forward movement, a coda seems to be urged.

"Technique is vision--Von Ghent." Updike uses the illogical metaphors to further emphasize that the narrator is a confused man. Alfred is tackling a very rocky relationship with his wife and at the same time trying to live his life through others. For example, his daughter is learning how to play the piano. When Alfred was a child, he wanted to learn how to play the piano and read music, but he was frightened of the outcome. As he watches his daughter hit the ivory, he feels like he is the one doing the playing. The same situation applies to the murder of his friend, a computer expert. He is unable to cope with his murder because he though about the many things he has done, including success, and that wasting all that was just a waste of effort. He is confused about his life. "Our aim as poets is not representation but presentation--Marianne Moore." The illogical connections of metaphors in The Music School add deeper meanings in the story. It reveals, in a vague manner, the significance of the narrator's thoughts and how he relates to life as a whole. His perceptions in life are then conveyed to the whole story itself -- which in turn helps us prepare for the last two paragraphs. The last two paragraphs connect all of the metaphors together to form the many different meanings and purposes of the story. Also, the last two paragraphs clarify Updike's style of conveying the meaning of the story--through a confused man's perspective. He is unable to commit to something--always afraid of what might happen in the future.

Vision, timidly, becomes percussion, percussion becomes music, music becomes emotions, emotions becomes--vision. Few of us have the heart to follow the circle to its end.