Upon first glance the works “Mending Wall”, by Robert Frost; “Learning to Read”, by Frances E.W. Harper; “The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education”, by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach; “Accident, Mass. Ave”, by Jill McDonough; and the Loyola students Performing Arts Program of “Death and the Maiden” seem to have no commonalities between them. Upon further inspection, and possibly a change in perspective, one may indeed find a commonality of tradition within these works.
Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”, Jill McDonough’s “Learning to Read”, and Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s “The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education” show progressivism during their respective time periods. In “Mending Wall” the narrator is walking along his property-line with his neighbor as they perform the yearly ritual of walking the perimeter inspecting the stone fence and performing any necessary repairs. The narrator questions his neighbor as to why they spent time and energy putting up a barrier between themselves as there is no need for it as both of them own orchards, despite the incessant pestering the nameless neighbor only replies with the age-old adage: “Good fences make good neighbors”. Moving on the next work “Learning to Read” is the firsthand account of a women who was once a slave, but transcended the social and political constraints through learning to read and ultimately owning her own home. The narrator recounts during her time as a slave as the various means that others and herself used to learn how to read: “some would try to steal a little from a book”, “Uncle Caldwell . . . greased the pages of his book and hid it in his hat” and “Mr. Turner’s Ben who heard the children spell, and picked the words right up by heart”. In the last two stanzas the narrator speaks oh how she got her reading glasses and “never stopped till I could read the hymns and Testament”. In Frost’s poem the theme is questioning whether traditions should be maintained just for the sake of them, McDonough tells of how some beliefs should, and need to be abolished in the name of progression. Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach takes yet another approach towards long standing traditions through the Jesuit teachings: hold onto your beliefs and teachings no matter what so long as they benefit the community. Since the Jesuit tradition calls upon the community to help those within the community, especially those who need it most, there is no reason to abandon the tradition rather there is incentive to keep it alive as to aid the community as a whole.
If one examines McDonough’s “Accident, Mass. Ave”, “Death and the Maiden” with the argument of how to handle traditions one is let down a rather inquisitive road. “Accident, Mass. Ave” brings the reader onto the scene where an unknown women backs into the narrators car while stopped at a light. The language brings out stereotypical behavior of “Boston drivers”, but it is said in such a way as it sounds ridiculous to the reader, but almost humorous: “It being Boston . . . the thing to do it is slam your door as hard as you can and yell things” this makes plays situation in such a way that it shows the narrator isn’t angry for the act, but that is how one is supposed to act in such a situation. Applied to the tradition argument it brings to light a rather intriguing question: “how often are we like this?”, “how often do I act the way I do just because something or someone says I should”. The play “Death and the Maiden” brings one down a darker alley with ones thoughts. The play is the story of a woman, happy married, in an unnamed country in the early twentieth century just after a fascist regime is overthrown and the husband brings back a doctor after he gets a flat. The doctor turns out to be the women’s torturer from when she was imprisoned by the regime. The play follows along her inner turmoil as she consistently finds ways to enact her revenge so that she can move on. Unfortunately in the situation even after enacting her ultimate revenge upon the doctor, just as the curtain falls she is depicted as still being haunted by thoughts of him as she is in a state of paralysis. She cannot move on no matter what she does as her world revolved around the idea of revenge and had nothing else to go on. So are we any different if we are so ruled by our personal traditions?
There is no clear cut answer to the how one should enact traditions into their life. Every work brought with it a different perspective, thus a different outcome: “Mending Wall” shows that one may be alone if they are to question the “status quo”, “Learning to Read” told the reader that they themselves may need to act to see the change they desire and be the motivation for society, “The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education” brings a more religious perspective; as this work tells us that some traditions are in fact in line with ideas to improve one’s life as well as the society as a whole, “Accident, Mass. Ave” brings about the question of what motivates us to act in a certain way in certain situations; “Am I really in control of my actions?”, and finally “Death and the Maiden” shows that being whole consumed by traditions may in fact consume us and lead us to our downfall. The stories are different characters acting within different environments; as such each reader may need to enact a different perspective on traditions. In conclusion, the reader is their own individual and must find their own path and may need to alter their course to find what they really need.