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Specimen Days

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English 202


February 25, 2014

Specimen Days

In this book Specimen Days, Michael Cunningham used a quote from Walt Whitman’s poetry book to introduce a weird, interesting kind of a novel.  “Fear not O Muse! Truly new ways and days receive, surround you, I candidly confess a queer, queer race, of novel fashion, And yet the same old human race, the same within, without, Faces and hearts the same, feelings the same, yearning the same, The same old love, beauty and use the same”, Cunningham chose this quote to help him write this novel without being criticized by anyone for writing a weird novel.  The author also used other quotes from Walt Whitman’s book to make two characters with the idea that Walt’s book is a motive for Lucas and Luke’s characters to kill or die in order to leave this earth and go to another place which is better than where they are.
        By looking at the transition in some of the characters from one section to the next, it was obvious that the author not only changed in the character’s appearance but he also traveled through time as well.  The first section of the book, “In The Machine” took place in the past and the author chooses to show his queerness by simply referring to Walt Whitman’s idea of the return of the dead souls.  This is where Walt Whitman believed that dead souls does not go to heaven, turn into ghosts, or angels.  Instead, he believed that the dead souls return to this world in any surrounding object near us.  Within this section, the author made Lucas believe that the soul of his brother had been speaking to him and his family after his death through machines he was working with, like the music box and his father’s breathing machine.  Cunningham writing about this concept was a really weird and queer thing to do because not a lot of people would believe in something like that.
        The second section of the book, “Children Crusade” took place in this present time where he chooses for Walt Whitman to be a woman.  In addition, he had Luke’s character be a little brainwashed kid who was a terrorist.  Luke in this book spoke of Walt Whitman’s poetry, where it can be seen that the author is trying to make Walt Whitman’s book be a motive to kill or die in order to go to the other life or the other place which according to Walt’s book was a better place for humans to be in.
        In the last section, “Like Beauty”, Cunningham had Simon speak of Walt Whitman’s book instead of Lucas or Luke.  This section took place in the far future where he had Simon be a robot and Catareen be an alien.  What was weird about this last section was when he wrote about a robot and an alien having feelings toward each other.  It was also interesting that he did not show that Walt Whitman was encouraging anyone to kill nor to die.
        One quote that occurred three times in this book as a whole and one time in each section of the three sections is “urge and urge and urge, always the procreant urge of the world.”  This quote can be interpreted to be a sentence used to ease a pain, relief or maybe to make a person hold on and continue living his miserable or pathetic life.  In the first section of the book, the quote mentioned above was used by Lucas when he was working in the factory.  He stated the quote when he realized that his manager did not show up at his work to give him encouragement, show support, or give him motive to keep up the good work.  
        The second place the quote was used was in the second section by a woman who claimed to be Walt Whitman, where she mentioned the quote to Cat to justify that what the kids are doing to innocent people by bombing them is just to help them go to a better place.
  Basically, what she was trying to say is just let it happen and everything is going to be alright.
        The last place was the third section where Simon said it to Catareen while looking at the green field with the big tree in the middle of it.  Catareen was dying therefore Simon mentioned the quote where he appeared to be saying is that it is going to be alright when you pass away.



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