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Idiosyncrasies by John Neal

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jenny dankowski

on 19 November 2013

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Transcript of Idiosyncrasies by John Neal

Idiosyncrasies (1843) - John Neal
by: Angela, Jenny, and Rudy

Chapters 1 and 2
Mr. Lee begins telling the story of his family’s trip up the mountain. His description shows us his brisk attitude toward his family: he sees himself as an unquestionable leader.

The frame is pulled back and our narrator describes Mr. Lee. The narrator is startled by Mr. Lee’s appearance, “within the deep of his eyes there was a lower deep- glowing with fire” (Neal 64).

Lee promises that to tell the whole truth and the narrator admires him but begins to seriously question his safety.

Lee continues his story, the family is hiking when the daughter’s cap flies off. The dog, Pompey, and the son, Willy attempts to retrieve the cap when they realize that the snow is slumping and could throw them over the ledge the snow beneath them collapses and they falls into a canyon of snow.

The family is distraught but Mr. Lee’s description shifts the blame to his wife and her hysterics.
Gothic Motifs
Frame Tale Structure
Colloquial Language
Domestic Gothic
Insanity/ Madness
Incest Ambiguity
Frontier Hero/Villain
Murder Family/Children

"Anne Boleyn in the Tower"- Edouard Cibot
Discussion Questions
Who Done it? Do you think he killed his wife?

What does the last passage suggest about

How does this story relate/differ from the other Gothic stories we have read?
"American Gothic"
Plate #8
"In the Madhouse"
From Hogarth's
A Rake's Progress (1735)
"A plague on the counsels of a woman! If she had let me alone, I should have thought of all these things myself." (Neal 67)
-unexpected adverse reaction to a drug or other substance occurring in an individual, as a result of allergy, metabolic variation

-A way of thinking or a mode of behaviour limited to a particular person, people, or type of person; an individual mental characteristic; a view or feeling identified with a single person or people

-The individuality of a person's outlook, temperament, or behaviour
"Within the deep of his eyes there was a lower deep –glowing with fire. At times I declare to you they were like live Coals- and I have trembled to think of them since when I have been sitting alone by riverside or the sea: and have more than once persuaded myself, on walking suddenly at midnight, that I could see them in the darkness fastened upon me, and shining like fire.” (Neal 64)
Chapter 3 Analysis
- Chapter three sets the scene for the rest of the story, as Mr. Lee begins to tell his tale to our listener.
- The reader learns that Mr. Lee has in fact married the child he spoke so highly of, Jenny, and they have two children together, Willy and Biddy (Bridget).
- An interesting dynamic presents itself in the opening of the chapter...does his wife even love him?
- The family is clearly driven by Mr. Lee, but he feels somewhat challenged by his son because of the secret he shares with his mother, even though it is a very small secret (the want to hike up the mountain).
- A slight power struggle ensues, ultimately with Mr. Lee deciding that the entire family will climb the mountain together.
"Then we're all a-goin', father! cried Biddy, clapping her little hands at the top of the stairs, and half screaming for joy --- all a-goin', father!" (Neal 63)
The story begins with an unidentified speaker professing that his story be told in a way that everyone could understand.
-Mr. Lee, who is telling the supposedly true story of his wife's death.

Insanity or innocence?
Hero or Villain

Mr. Lee's incestuous / hypocritical attitude toward women

Longfellow Reference

Lee is revealed to be a truly sinister character when he confesses when he claims to have put his wife to death for her scream when her son fell.
“She was the death of the boy. But for that confounded scream, just as he had his hand upon the cap, the boy would have got back safely enough, and all would have been well.”(Neal 70).
There is tone of desperation in Lee’s dialogue, he reacts violently when the narrator tries leave and entices him with a new story: the story of how his wife died. According to Lee, she kills herself to prove her love and devotion to him.
Lee’s reaction to his wife’s suicide is anger because she killed herself without his permission.
Lee is arrogant and controlling, he measured his children’s love by their obedience to him rather than affection. When Biddy, his favorite, defies him and wishes to marry, he disowns her.
When the Story Concludes . . . .
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