Michael Yoder

Rise above the hate

Learn to tolerate

Power through fear is of a weak mind

Wonder and achievement will leave you far behind

Do not base beliefs on fear of the unknown 

Empathies and appreciate or live a life alone

Did Poe Build the Overlook Hotel?

By Michael Yoder

It’s no secret of Edgar Allen Poe’s influence on many of modern day authors. He is credited with inventing the detective story, being the father of science fiction, and laying the foundation for modern horror. Stephen King, one of the most prolific and successful modern authors of horror, has mentioned his admiration for Poe’s work on many of occasions. The foundation for modern horror that Poe laid is a strong one; so strong indeed that many of his story component parts (theme, character development, imagery, etc.) are still largely used to this day. For example: Poe’s story “The Fall of the House of Usher” seems to have heavily inspired King’s best selling novel The Shining; whether or not King realizes this himself is unknown, because there is no record of him saying so, regardless, the stories share many similarities.

Firstly, there are the two plots: in the “The Fall of the House of Usher” our narrator is summoned to a secluded mansion to be, somewhat, of a caretaker to his ailing childhood friend.  He has an uneasy feeling about the house; as he says, “with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit” (1). He probably would not stay if not for his feeling of obligation to his childhood friend. And in The Shining, we have our main character Jack Torrence, who finds himself, after being fired from his teaching job, forced to take a job as a caretaker of a secluded hotel, which is rumored to be haunted. He probably would not be there, if not for his obligation to his family. In both stories our characters stay for a while, living rather normally, day to day. But, eventually they begin to feel the effects of the buildings; they try to just shrug it off—chalking it up as superstition. We the readers, as well as the characters, are left to figure out whether the affects are psychologically driven—due to the characters backgrounds, or supernaturally driven by the buildings themselves, or both. The stories then climax with a bad storm, someone getting killed, and the buildings destroyed.

The stories share many themes, too: Fantasy vs. reality, isolation, tradition, family, time, the supernatural, and morality, to name a few. The themes of fantasy vs. reality and the supernatural are the strongest in both stories; mainly in the affect the buildings have on the characters. In “The Fall of the House of Usher” our narrator tells us of his friends suspicion that the house is affecting him, “He was enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted, and whence, for many years, he had never ventured forth ‐‐ in regard to an influence whose supposititious force was conveyed in terms too shadowy here to be restated ‐‐ an influence which some peculiarities in the mere form and substance of his family mansion, had, by dint of long sufferance, he said, obtained over his spirit” (4). This bit of foreshadowing is obviously intended to make us suspect that maybe there is more to this house than just any ol’ house. As we’re led to suspect the same with the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, when the longtime cook of the hotel warns Jack’s son Danny, after finding out that they both share a clairvoyant ability: “I’ve had some bad dreams here, and I’ve had some bad feelings. I’ve worked here for two seasons now and maybe a dozen times I’ve had… well, nightmares. And maybe half a dozen times I’ve thought I’ve seen things. No, I won’t say what. It ain’t for a little boy like you. Just nasty things” (127). However, we are also left wondering if it is merely just the affects of isolation and a troubled history that is affecting our characters; where in, “The Fall of the House of Usher” our narrator goes further with his friends thoughts on the subject: “He admitted, however, although with hesitation, that much of the peculiar gloom which thus afflicted him could be traced to a more natural and far more palpable origin ‐‐ to the severe and longcontinued illness ‐‐ indeed to the evidently approaching dissolution ‐‐ of a tenderly beloved sister ‐‐ his sole companion for long years ‐‐ his last and only relative on earth” (4). As with The Shining, we are also left with clues that the affects are merely from isolation, when the Overlook Hotels manager explains the meaning of cabin fever to Jack: “It’s a slang term for the claustrophobic reaction that can occur when people are shut in together over long periods of time. The feeling of claustrophobia is externalized as dislike for the people you happen to be shut in with. In extreme cases it can result in hallucinations and violence—murder has been done over such minor things as a burned meal or an argument about whose turn it is to do the dishes” (12). Before the climax of both stories, the eventual murderers are locked in rooms, only to mysteriously get out, (although, technically, Jack fails at his attempt at murder and sacrifices himself, but you get the point.)

As we can see, there are many similarities between the two stories—give or take some details, of course. To be clear, this is by no means an attempt to discredit Stephen King, (my favorite author) but, more so, to point out the lasting legacy of Edgar Allen Poe’s work. It’s nothing new for artists to be inspired by other artists. Look at what William Shakespeare has done for theater and film; there are countless plays and films that have used and manipulated his stories, essentially making Poe the Shakespeare of horror. As noted before, King might not have even realized any of this; the story could have just been buried deep in his head, bubbling up subconsciously to help seed one of his most cherished novels to date. But, regardless, after noticing all the similarities between the two stories, it’s surprising that this comparison is virtually nowhere to be found.



Easy Food

            By Michael Yoder

            It is safe to say that in general humans like things to be easy. All through our evolution we have been developing tools and processes to make things easier and quicker. To give us more time to focus on the important things in life. For instance… well, to sit around and dream up more ways to make other things easier and quicker. Most people like things quick and easy, so much so, that they will ignore any harmful affects that may come along with these conveniences. For example, the abuse of fast food can come with many health issues. Yet, the majority of people flock to fast food restaurants day in and day out. Ignoring any concerns of the unhealthy ramifications. Why? Because, fast food caters to people’s laziness, procrastination, addictions, and meager financial means.  

            “I sure am hungry. But, I really don’t feel like cooking and then cleaning the dishes.” Chances are most people have heard, or said, this before. It is commonly referred to as, being lazy; when someone has all the capabilities to prepare his or her own meal, but, instead chooses the convenience of fast food. There is also the simple benefit of saving time that is attractive to some. If the, arduous and lengthy, process that was taken by an ancient hunter gatherer to prepare a meal is compared to that of modern man: it is easy to see how it has come to the development of the fast food industry.

            It has also been called into question that perhaps fast food is addictive. The ingredients alone may cause one to slack from his or her self discipline. In an article from BBC News, an undisclosed writer even goes as far as to compare the addictiveness of fast food to that of “heroin.” The writer then adds “Researchers in the United States have found evidence to suggest people can become overly dependent on the sugar and fat in fast food.” (BBC). So, not only is fast food extremely easy to get, those who eat it regularly, may be hooked.

            Many people eat fast food strictly because, that is all they can afford. The lack of accessibility to cheap, healthy, prepared food is not helping the situation. Even in the case of single people who can afford to buy a healthier choice of meal. They generally have to purchase it from a grocery where items are sold in bulk. This makes it not very practical for a person only looking to eat one quick meal. Why do we not see, in today’s more health conscious society, a push for more accessible and affordable healthy nutritional options? Why can a child, living in a lower class neighborhood, buy a bottle of colored sugar water, for twenty five cents, at his corner store? Yet, he would have to travel across town just to find a four dollar bottle of, no sugar added, fruit juice. Until there is a chain of healthy fast food restaurants with drive up windows and dollar menus. It does not seem likely that the general public will be limiting their intake of big macs.      

(BBC News. “Fast Food ‘As Addictive as Heroin.’” BBC News. BBC, 30 Jan. 2003. Web. 20 March 2011.)        

The sky is about to explode! 
Photo by: Michael Yoder

The sky is about to explode! 

Photo by: Michael Yoder