Monday Metaphor: Paradox; It Is, and It Isn’t, or Is It?

A paradox is a statement or event that seems to contradict itself, though it is still true, or at least makes sense.

In A dictionary of Literary Terms, (3rd ed. Blackwell, 1991), J. A. Cuddon explains the origin: “Originally a paradox was merely a view which contradicted accepted opinion. By round about the middle of the 16th c. the word has acquired the commonly accepted meaning it now has: an apparently self-contradictory (even absurd) statement which, on closer inspection, is found to contain a truth reconciling the conflicting opposites. . . .”                                                    

Paradox occurs often in children’s literature, even that for the very young, as is seen in Betty Ann Schwartz’s What makes a Rainbow? In this board book, a little rabbit’s mother suggests he ask his friends to answer his question. Each animal replies with a color—the color that is associated with the particular animal, “green” for the grasshopper, for instance. By the end of the book, Little Rabbit learns that besides colors it also takes both rain and sunshine to make a rainbow.

The child in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Bed in Summer” (found in A Child’s Garden of Verses) finds the long summer days and the long winter nights to be a paradox:

 

In winter I get up at night

And dress by yellow candlelight.

In summer, quite the other way,

I have to go to bed by day.

 

I have to go to bed and see

The birds still hopping on the tree,

Or hear the grown-up people’s feet

Still going past me in the street.

 

And does it not seem hard to you,

When all the sky is clear and blue,

And I should like so much to play,

To have to go to bed by day?

 

The paradox of Jessica Aday Kennedy’s Marta’s Garguantian Wings (Guardian Angel Publishing) is that the wings that Marta thinks are a liability are really an asset.

The antics of Artemis Fowl (paradoxical name: does this mean he hunts for foul people?) keep the Middle Grade Reader hopping among alien robots, fairies and dwarfs and imps, multiple personalities, and real stuff like global warming. In Eoin Cofler’s “Time Paradox,” Artemis (now fifteen years of age) and his friends  journey to the past to correct a mistake Artemis made about eight years earlier in his eventful life. His mother has contracted a rare disease that can only be cured by an extract from the brain of an extinct lemur, and ironically, that extinction was hastened by none other than Artemis himself. It will be interesting to see how Artemis battles with himself.

Paradox abounds in adult poetry and fiction, also.

We find in the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson many examples.

            XCVII

On the bleakness of my lot

            Bloom I strove to raise.

Late, my acre of a rock

            Yielded grape and maize.

 

Soil of flint if steadfast tilled

            Will reward the hand;

Seed of palm by Lybian sun

            Fructified in sand.

 

            XCV

I many times thought peace had come,

When peace was far away;

As wrecked men deem they sight the land

At centre of the sea,

 

And struggle slacker, but to prove,

As hopelessly as I,

How many the fictitious shores

Before the harbor lie.

 

There’s the “rule” painted on the barn in George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” The idea of being “more equal” is paradoxical, but Napoleon oppresses the other farm animals; he must think he’s more equal than they.

Consider also the paradox of Captain Beatty in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Books have been banned, and Beatty’s job is to destroy any books he finds, but he is obviously well-read because he surrounds himself with quotations from great literature that he uses to convince people that destroying books is the right thing to do.

Shakespeare was the master of paradox.

In Romeo and Juliet, Benvolio speaks,

“One fire burns out another’s burning, 
One pain is lessen’d by another’s anguish.”

And Juliet: “Parting is such sweet sorrow. . .”

This brings up a sub-genre of paradox, the oxymoron, a figure of speech wherein contradictory statements reside side by side.

In Macbeth, the witches say, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.”

The Paradox of Catch-22
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”
(Joseph Heller, Catch-22, 1961)

“Catch – 22” has become an almost every day term.

My story, “A Pet for Foley,” (knowonder magazine, Sept. 2009) turns on a paradox. Here is the beginning and end of that story.

Foley was a Springer spaniel puppy with white and brown and while fur. He lived on a farm until a nice lady came and took him home in her car, his floppy ears streaming like feathers in the wind. The lady gave him food and water and a doghouse in the fenced back yard.

After he explored his yard, Foley felt lonely. “What I need is a pet,” he said.

            (Foley meets three animals he asks to be his pet. The squirrel and the blue

            bird agree, but things go wrong; it just doesn’t work out. The mole is not

            acceptable, so Foley doesn’t   even ask him. Now he’s alone again).

Foley lay down with his head on his front paws and thought about his problem. Who could he ask to be his pet? Just then an orange tabby strolled into the back yard. Foley jumped up and ran over to greet the cat. He smiled and said, “Will you be my pet? We can play and have fun together.”

“Sorry,” said Nutmeg, licking his back with dignity and not sounding very sorry at all. “I already belong to Jessica and here she comes now.”

A yellow school bus came down the street. By the screeching sound of the bus’s brakes, it must have stopped in front of Foley’s house. In a few minutes a pretty little girl opened the back door and ran down the steps. The cat purred and arched his back up against her legs. She bend down and scratched him behind the ears. “Hi, Nutmeg,” she said. Then she ran over to Foley. She sat down on the grass and hugged him. “Foley, I am so glad that you have come to live with us and be my pet.”

Foley’s ears stood up in surprise.

He and Jessica were soon having fun. They played Frisbee, fetch, tug-o-war, and tumble-in-the-grass. The treat Jessica gave Foley tasted delicious—much better than worms and grubs!

Life in Foley’s new home was going to be wonderful. He knew he would never be lonely again.

“I guess I don’t need a pet. . .” Foley told himself. I AM a pet.”

**************

What’s your favorite paradox in literature?

 

 

Interview with J. Aday Kennedy

Hello Friends,

You have met some of Jessica Aday Kennedy’s characters in Klutzy Kantor and Marta’s Gargantuan Wings. Now I want to introduce this talented writer to you. J. Aday lives in Texas in the USA, and the clever little song she wrote to accompany Klutzy Kantor, “Go Me!” sounds like something a Texan would write. With her sense of humor and her desire to make life easier for children, she has chose the perfect career. “Go, J. Aday!”

J. Aday and I are both member’s of Lea Schizas’ critique group for children’s writers: The GradingPens.

J. Aday, Do you have a time management system?

I start each day by writing a list of tasks I need to complete. I just check them off as I finish them. I write specific long term & short term goals on a calendar with dates to complete them. I’m horribly scatter brained and will work on a dozen things and not complete even one. I’ve got to make myself “todo” and goal deadlines to get anything accomplished.

Your system must work really well, because I know you get a lot done.

Since your full time job is writing and you don’t have a boss, how do you stay focused and produce work consistently?

I’m my own boss. I’m very demanding {worse than any “real” boss that I’ve ever had}. I give myself a strict writing schedule and set definite goals. When I don’t reach my goals or complete my “todo’s” I kick my own butt [not an easy task for a quadriplegic lol]

Speaking of your being a quadriplegic, I’ve noticed that your typing has gotten much cleaner over the years, and though it might be difficult for you, you always participate vigorously in both the submission and critique segments of our critique group.

What traits do your books share?

Each is geared to attract reluctant readers. They combine humor with a lesson. All of them try to encourage children to find what makes them different, special, and/or talented.

For example, in Klutzy Kantor, Kantor Pegasus is a total klutz. He uses his brain instead of brawn to battle a leprechaun, because he’s very smart. In Marta’s Gargantuan Wings, Marta has huge wings and buck teeth. A bird bullies her, because of her appearance. Her cheeky monkey friend defends her in a comical fashion. Those are the only stories that are published.

They are fun books, beautifully illustrated. And I know you have a few more in the works with Guardian Angel Publishing.

When did you begin writing for publication and what has been the key to your success?

I began to write for publication in early 2006. I started taking one class after another on writing. I’ve taken 17 since 2006. In the early days I wrote inspirational and Christian articles for adults. I read the type of essays and articles I wanted to write. (When I switched gears and started writing for kids I read children’s books).

What is your favorite children’s book from your childhood?
It depends on the age level.  Fudge by Judy Blume for middle grade

Who are your favorite authors?

Avi, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Barbara Park, John Erickson, Max Elliot.

A great list; some of them are my favorites, too.

Who has been influential in your writing and in your desire to become a writer for children?

Lea Schizas oversees several writing groups in her Muse It Up Group and holds the Free Muse Online Writing Conference. These have opened doors for me, taught me the tricks of the trade, and supplied me with a strong support system.

I feel the same way about Lea and the teams she puts together for the Muse Conference. I’ve learned a lot there, and most especially, I’m glad I’ve made friends through the Conference.


Would you like to explain the unusual names of the girls in your family?
My sisters are named Tomorrow, Yestraday, & Taday. My mother was a flower child. Not really. They didn’t have flower children in Texas. My mom heard the name Tamora and liked it. She named my oldest sister Tomorrow. My dad   was a jokester. When my next sister was born he thought it would be  funny to name her Yestraday. It carried on through the rest  of us. My mom’s name is Ada.  Her name is in all of ours, but not Tomorrow’s.

I think I know where you get your terrific sense of humor.

I would like to direct our readers to Guardian Angel Publishing:  http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/default.htm

And your new blog:   http://brainfartexplosion.blogspot.com/

Jessica new blog, Brain Fart Explosion, doesn’t pull any punches. She tells it like it is.

Don’t pay attention to Jessica’s grammar disclaimer. Let’s call them typos.

Contact Info:

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

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