Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Twirling at Ole Miss

What does baton twirling represent in Terry Southern's story? How does he construct or convey that meaning? Be specific in describing at least one literary technique he uses (imagery, dialog, character, point of view, tone, etc.) to achieve his effects. Please post your response prior to class on Wed., Nov. 5.

20 comments:

Mitchell Epstein said...

In Terry Southern's story, baton twirling represents the segregation of black and white communities in the South. There were only white people at the baton twirling institute at Ole Miss college and an inherent hatred toward blacks was prevalent there, such as the n-word which Southern found on a cover of a book in the library. His story on the institute acts as a small picture of the racial discrimination in the South as a whole.
Southern conveys the meaning of baton twirling in his tone throughout the story. He was very critical of the discrimination by whites toward blacks at the institute and throughout the town of Oxford. In the opening paragraph of the story, Southern explained that a visit to Ole Miss is "well worthwhile these days, if one can keep one's wits about." This suggests that as long as a person can learn to disregard the racist sentiment there, he or she will find that the college offers many interesting things such as a quality law program. Another example of his criticizing tone is seen in his conversation with two graduate law students at the college. The two students were clearly racist, which was especially seen when they sang a lyric to a song which emphasized the burying of black people in the mud. Southern said that this incident left him depressed so he ended his conversation with the students.
In the last page of the story, Southern made what he called "an interesting generalization" about the South. He said that all the positive traits of white southerners, such as folk song and poetic speech, originated from the black culture in the South. This shows his strong critical tone in relation to white southerners. His praise of black culture also displays his fairness and humanity, which contrasts with the discrimination and cruelty found throughout the South.

Kimmy said...

Southern uses his assigned story of covering a baton twirling competition to bring light to the struggles of two groups of minorities: blacks and women.
Southern states this connection very clearly in the 5th paragraph on page 164 (pretty much until now, he was setting the scene as Ol' Miss being very segregated): "The development of American baton twirling closely parallels the history of emancipation of our women." He goes on to prove his statement by explaining the recent history of this sport: how it was a struggle for the sport to get the recognition it has; how women worked hard to succeed but are still being judged. "Each contestant appears singly before a Judge and Scorekeeper, and while the Judge observes and relays the grading to the Scorekeeper, the girl goes through her routine for a closely specified time."
In the same way, and most often simultaneously, Southern suggests the connection between the struggle of blacks and the challenges of the sport of baton-twirling. "There is something almost insane about the amount of sheer effort and perseverance which seems to go into achieving even a nominal degree of real excellence- and practice of four hours a day is not uncommon.
In the context of a regular story covering this competition, the above sentence would only be referring to the sport itself. But Southern intersplices scenes of segregation to hint at such connections (1) the segregated water fountain (2) the 9-year-old black boy who Southern "admired the pride the young fellow took in his craft. you don't see much of that these days." (3) Faulkner's Light in August that had "nigger-lover" written on it. (4) A return to the water fountain that is always set in shade.

Thereal2008 said...

Terry Southern’s descriptive use of baton twirling symbolizes the separation of African Americans from White Americans throughout the South. In reporting on the segregation, he uses the “sport” Baton twirling, something that was very popular amongst women in the south, and in this particular piece, at Ole Miss College in the town of Oxford. In my opinion, I see his story as a way of exposing a major issue during this time which was the segregation and the treatment of African Americans. Southern does this by comparing it to the struggles of women during this time; because he only mentions the women’s struggles as it pertained to baton twirling and getting the sport to become recognized, I don’t think the main focus of his story was to shed light on the struggles of women. However, I do believe he mentions the baton twirling as a way of comparison to the struggles of African Americans at this time. Afro Americans dealt with segregated water fountains, being called the “N” word on a constant basis, and women who wanted to baton twirl worked long hours, had to be scrutinized by a panel of judges. In my personal opinion, I don’t think the struggles (women baton twirling) where anywhere near as harsh as those of African Americans, but I do see how he used the literary techniques imagery and point of view to describe the situation of that time as well as tell a good story.

Alison said...

Baton twirling, in essence, is the act of twirling a metal stick with rubber ends in the air as a sign of prestige and class. White southern girls take pride in knowing this skill and compete in competitions with unknown boundaries and levels of achievement. This, baton twirling, represents the sad truth about what these people of the south believe is important to them, furthermore, how ridiculous it is doesn't even seem to cross their minds. The shear fact that the presence of segregation still exists, and the irony in the comparison Terry Southern gives about the style of "popular dancing" in the white south as to the dances done in Harlem, a culturally black part of New York, shows how oblivious they really are to anything but twirling their batons! I particularly enjoyed the lines when Terry Southern was interviewing one such cutie pie from Honey Pass, Arkansas and asked her if she wanted a drink of pot, when her reply was "N...o...spells 'No'!" followed by his statement, "Such girls are usually championship material, shooting for the Nationals." I almost died laughing. It is Terry Southern's choice in dialog that really makes his point. The seriousness in the ridiculous statements made by the white southern people, further prove how naive they truly are to their own surroundings, and furthermore racism. It is the way in which Southern uses their dialog in his piece that truly create the overtone of white supremacy that the south feels at that time.
I love how Terry Southern mentions the water fountains labeled for the "white" and for the "colored" and that he comes back to these same fountains in his last statements. This is genius! By simply referring to the same fountain in the "shade" as being "cool and inviting" making "a person thirsty just to see it," Southern is able to project his own personal beliefs about the issue of segregation, that the issue is as simple as a baton twirling competition, and yet so difficult at the same time.

Emmi said...

In Terry Southern's story, baton twirling stands for the difference between black and white communities in the south. And for another minority group: women. He uses the sport to show how difficult it is to reach a goal and achieve something. Inside the Institute there were only white people, outside the Institute the black community lived.
Southern notices the emancipation fight of woman ("The development of American baton twirling closely parallels the history of emancipation of our women."). By explaining the sport and how hard women have to work for it, he kind of describes how women still are in a minority position.
In the institute he also finds signs that put a stamp on the difference between the black and white community. (“After looking around a bit, I carefully opened a mint first-edition copy of Light in August, and found “nigger-lover” scrawled across the title page.”). And he mentions signs outside, on the street. The separate water fountain, the “pride” of the nine-year-old boy, then the n-word in the book and he ends the story with the water fountain again. I think he tries to show the minority position of the black community with it. And the black community struggles with the same problems as the women did before and still do a little bit. They have to work hard to achieve something, “practice of four hours a day is not uncommon.” And he uses the sport to show the position of the black and women community.

mark.schaefer said...

Terry Southern's story "Twirling at Ole Miss" has a running theme of segregation throughout and the baton twirling is no different. He heads south to the University of Mississippi to cover a baton twirling competition he's not interested in and sees a place still riddled with segregation and hatred. The baton twirling itself being an example of segregation because the competition he views is all white girls. He does however point out that the best baton twirling "is done at the colored schools of the South".

The word "nigger" is thrown about, filled with hatred and without a care in the world, based entirely on the color of one's skin. While he addresses this in several ways throughout the story I felt that he subtlety addresses it when he writes; "...the instructor of the Strut stands on a slightly raised platform facing her class, flanked by her two assistants. She wears dark glasses, tight rolled shorts, and looks to be about 34-22-34." Labeling and categorizing her based on nothing more than her appearance.

He makes a point, toward the end of the story to show the ignorance of people in the south at that time by saying; "The popular style of dancing in the white South is always in advance of that in the rest of white America; and, at any given moment, it most nearly resembles that which is occurring at the same time in Harlem..."
This is an important passage because it shows how these people hate others who are exactly the same just because of the way they look and it gives great insight into his own views on the subject.

Tyler.Gomo said...

I love that, as I write this comment based on Southern's story, the United States of America has just elected Sen. Barack Obama to the Presidency. If I had a time machine to go back to 1960s Southern America to break this news, they would first ask me where I got the time machine and then ask if I sold my soul to the devil, chasing me with burning pitchforks...but I digress.

The baton twirling in this story represents ANY uphill climb that a person faces in life. It's not just African Americans and women, in my mind. My spectrum of thinking has me imagining homosexuals, the mentally handicapped, immigrants, and other individuals that deemed "unworthy" by the powers that be of society. To me, baton twirling is practically a hoax. When Don Sartell (or "Mister Baton") speaks about how the "SPORT" of baton twirling builds "self-confidence, poise, ambidexterity...", I just don't believe an ounce of it. If any of it were true, I'd probably know what baton twirling was in the first place, prior to reading this story (I've never heard of this "sport" at all)

I think the most crucial aspect of this story is Southern's implement of "southern speak" into this story, similar to the way the great Mark Twain would place it in his stories. This is evident on pg. 162 in his encounter with the locals, where improper grammar and spelling is done on purpose. This is very important to a story, as it helps someone like myself mentally dive deep into the cultural and physical environment of the story. It wouldn't be right if this story was set in the South, but mentally set in the suburban New York neighborhood I live in. It's totally important!

Tiffany R. said...

Terry Southern's story about baton twirling digs at a deeper issue: racism and segregation. Baton twirling represents the mundane and unimportant; it is clear Southern thinks all of the fuss about the event is foolish and unnecessary. What Southern really focuses on and is affected by is the attitude towards African Americans. Southern uses the characters in the story to illustrate the severity of the problem. For example, when he speaks with the two young men about the registration of a black student, the quotes he uses ("Why they'll find dope in his room the first night he's heah...) express Southern's distaste and the growing problem of racism. The character of the University professor, whom seemingly threatens Southern to mind his own business, lends to the discrminitory picture Southern paints. Southern's story serves not to inform the public of a shallow competition, but rather to shed light on segregation in the south.

pierce said...

The baton twirling in terry Southern's story represents the overall human struggle. The story focuses primarily on the hardships of blacks and women through the use of more obvious racial discrimination as well as the metaphor comparing the history of women in baton twirling to the discrimination they experienced in the United States. Despite the fact that it is so specific, it is not ridiculous to plug in other minority groups and (if the story were written a little differently) see how all minority groups share a similar path to acceptance. The way Southern creates this kind of universal suffering parallel reminds me of the X-Men. Early on, the X-Men's plight was supposed to parallel the civil rights movement but as time has gone on the message has changed a bit and the comics now represent the gay rights movement. Southern paints this picture by having many specific scenes of discrimination like the water fountain or the graffiti on Faulkner's book.

Alyssa said...

In "Twirling at Ole Miss" by Terry Southern, the author conveys the concept of segregation between whites and blacks in the South. He accomplishes this through the use of imagery, dialogue, characters and his own personal point of view. The first time we glimpse a difference between the South where Southern is visiting to the area where he is reporting from, likely the North, is when he introduces his location, the Dixie National Baton Twirling Institute on the campus of Ole Miss when he says "a visit to which is well worthwhile these day, if one can keep one's wits about" suggesting it takes some type of control to experience the atmosphere and workings of the area. The next description we get of the men sitting on the bench further emphasizes Southern's feelings that he is in a world much different then his own, and the subsequent encounter with the men and white corn whiskey show that he is very aware of the stark separation between blacks and whites. This is even more evident through Southern's dramatic and seemingly exact dialogues, with accents, that showcase how people spoke. Throughout the piece Southern mentions reporting and fact checking, reminding the reader that beneath his personal experiences and feelings, he was there to get a story and he is trying to tell it. Telling a story about young baton twirlers turned into a story about young baton twirlers living in a society completely different than what many people know. He includes long paragraphs to describe the act of baton twirling, techniques and procedures. In addition to touching on the concept of race and segregation, Southern also parallels baton twirling to the emancipation of women, showing that young girls strive to be good at something in order to prove they are independent and capable pillars of society, even if dressing scantily and essentially exploiting their body plays a large part in gaining this respect. One of the parts of the piece where it is blatantly clear race plays a large part in Southern life and the author wanted to capture and convey this, is when he has the conversation about blacks being able to attend the school. The authorities clearly don't like to allow black students, evident in the phrase "we nevuh had no Negra problem heah, wasnt till these agi-ta-tors came down heah started all this problem business" and followed up with the clarification that they are referring to attempted registration of a black student and further followed by dialogue detailing what could be done to get them out of there.

Melissa said...

One scene that really stuck in my mind, that began defining this story for me was when Southern was speaking to Mr. Sartell, also known as "Mister Baton." Asking the generic,journalistic questions, Southern realizes he doesn't want to be standing talking to the one person who should be giving him generic information on the event. "My place, I decided, is in the grove, with the groovy girls...I take my leave of the excellent fellow and steal toward the sylvan scene below, ready for anything."
That one part in particular reminded me of the Jimmy Cannon piece from last class. After reading that, I began gettin the idea that this story isn't really about the Baton Twirling competition, it is about the atmosphere and society that surrounds the main event, just like Cannon did with the boxing match.
Like I just mentioned, the story isn't really about baton twirling, it is about being judged, and who is the one judging you, at least in my opinion. There are numerous examples of how Southern shows parallels to the women's movement and to segregation, but like other people mentioned, it is easy to insert any other group's struggle into this piece and still have it ring true. The poing I'm making is, this a competition, in which people, in this case young girls, must prove themselves worthy in front of a group of people who were deemed able to judge them.
The best way for me to describe what I'm trying to say, and to showcase Southern's use of the language and imagery, I'll share my favorite quote from the piece. "Next to the benches, and about three feet apart, are two public drinking fountains, and I notice that the one boldy marked "For Colored" is sitting squarely in the shadow cast by the justice symbol on the courthouse facade--to be entered later, of course, in my writer's notebook, under 'Imagery, sociohiaroscurian, hack.'"

Denise said...

I think Terry Southern uses baton twirling in his story to compare/contrast both races and argue against segregation in the South, which basically stated that one race was better than another. Blacks were considered unintelligent, uncivilized, unworthy, etc., while whites were considered to be the ideal, perfect image. Using the examples of baton twirling, Southern aims to illustrate that this isn’t true. He uses the examples of strutting, dancing and the fountain to suggest that the black culture may be more original and inspiring, while others are imitators—“thirsty” to claim it for themselves.

When Southern states toward the end of the essay that “perhaps all the remaining virtues, or let us say, positive traits, of the white Southerner… would seem rather obviously to derive from the colored culture there,” he lists all the most valued traits except one, baton twirling. This intentional omission strengthens his suggestion that even baton twirling, their greatest source of pride, is unoriginal.

It’s ironic then, that whites would consider themselves superior to their black peers, and this seems to be the main point of Southern’s piece. He observes that white culture is considered to be more acceptable, more sophisticated. He watches these baton twirlers strive for perfection in order to exemplify their social superiority. But he seems to be asking: If “the high toss and spin” is the culmination of all their efforts, what does that say about them?

Kaitlyn Linker said...

In the story “Red Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes”, written by Terry Southern, baton twirling is representing a separation between whites and blacks in the south during that time period. If you read closely you notice that the people attending the college of this Baton institute were white women. There is reference to the use of the “n-word” found, “After looking around a bit, I carefully opened a mint first-edition copy of Light in August, and found “nigger-lover” scrawled across the title page.”

He describes the baton twirling in depth, creating imagery for the reader on this time. He goes into detail on each little thing that goes into learning how to baton twirl and the steps it takes to become an accredited participant. It’s almost as if he is metaphorically using baton twirling to represent how white people during that time were conquering yet another thing that the blacks weren’t allowed to at the time.

There was also mention to the separation of benches and fountains for each color, white and black, further emphasizing the ways back in those days, creating a deeper picture for the reader.

James Nani said...

In Southern's story, "Baton Twirling" to the young girls is an act of perfection. An activity which borders on, as Southern states, on the "absurd." This perfectionism is contrasted throughout the story with vignettes of overt and subtle racism. In one image we have a "pretty young girl of about the age of twelve tossing a baton sixty feet straight up," something she had practiced for 6 years. The amount of time and importance put on baton twirling truly does seem absurd next to the teachings racial attitudes of the southern culture. When Southern offers the young girl a "drink of pot," she scoffs at the idea, showing the amount of importance put on not this lifestyle, using humor to his advantage to illustrate this. On the other hand you have the young black boy is relegated to help make illegal hooch. Yet he takes just as much pride in his endeavor, showing the huge difference in treatment and status. Southern also uses repeating themes in a tongue in cheek manner, injecting french terms and language in the story, signs of sophistication which in reality this event lacks because of racism. The racism which lies just beneath the surface of the culture rears up with the 2 young law students. Aside from the blatant song which they sing, he illustrates their attitudes straight from the beginning, saying how they were talking about state constitutional law. This is an important distinction, and shows that state and southern pride and rules reign supreme in this part of the country, and indirectly shows contempt for civil right laws.

nicoLe said...

On page 164 Southern clearly describes the essense of baton twirling in a "threefold justification." The quote he uses makes it very clear as to how it can be compared to society on a bigger whole. Seeing as it is "the second largest girl's youth movement in America" after Girl Scouts tells you a lot about it in a few brief sentences. It is a sport of culture and identity. The fact that it is simple to practice but very difficult to master is key. Southern's style of italicizing the taks one performs when twirling is interesting. He does so in a mocking fashion although the rest of the article fully supports the admirable qualities of the sport. Through this style, the reader is also encouraged to laugh and take light of the subject at hand. Southern speaks in a contradicting tone, but sheds unnatural light on the art of baton twirling.
The inclusion of quotations from the characters is also very helpful in further establishing the mood that surrounds baton twirling. The use of language that is appealing to the eye like "Yessuh, I do" localizes the piece and adds to the setting. It is effective in truly conveying the article's unique voice.

Julie said...

The baton twirling in this story represents an idea that is so much bigger , it's about struggles that people face everyday. This story uses baton twirling to focus on the struggles of blacks and women, but the story can really be used to describe the struggles other people face everyday. I think the image of the baton proves to have a deeper meaning. A baton is a stick with two ends and people throw it around in circles until they catch it or it falls to the ground. That to me, seems like a good representation of the fight for equality. People on two separate sides of an issue bickering and fighting about the issue until it was resolved. Despite the fact that this story is about a sport that has little impact on our society, the deeper meaning that comes out of it proves to be very important.

VEE said...

In Terry Southern’s story baton twirling symbolizes the struggles of both African Americans and women in the south and the attitude carried by whites at the time. His focus throughout the entire story is mainly on these two groups. He constructs the meaning of baton twirling with dialogue and point of view. If Southern had simply described the conversations it would not have had the same effect. The fact that he uses the dialogue (and writes it with a southern accent) really helps the reader picture the attitude of the time, how carelessly they spoke about African Americans. By going beyond simply speaking about their attitudes he helps reader understand the tension and how uncomfortable he must have felt. Southern also uses repetition of the shade over the water fountain to emphasize the discrimination that surrounds this town as these competitions are going on. He takes his reader through a tour of the school but he makes sure to point out the discrimination and irony that exist outside of it.
His point of view is very clear throughout the entire story. The way he describes the endless hours of hard work they put in to be considered the best sounds almost like ridicule. He clearly expresses how na├»ve he believes southerners are when he compares their dance to what was going on in Harlem and describers the girls’ aspirations. This can be seen in the following sentence-“I found it increasingly difficult, despite the abundance of cutie pieness at hand, to be string along with these values, so finally decided to wrap it up.” Throughout the entire story Southern usually inserts his point of view (both directly and indirectly) right after a conversation. His creativity with these two techniques really helps get his point across and early on in the story you know what his bigger picture is.

Kristen said...

Terry Southern's story "Baton Twirling at Ole Miss" is not about the competition itself, but the atmosphere of racism and struggle for equality that surrounds it. Also, beneath it all there is a side note comparing baton twirling to the emancipation of women.

What stuck out to me, displaying the clear differences between the races was evident in the two scenes towards the beginning of the story, where he meets the black child selling "nigger-pot" and his interview with "Mr Baton". Just the language of the boy gave away his character, how uneducated and underprivileged he was. Their status in the community was also shown by Southern describing their trip to the "colored section" and the "hut" the family lived in. Directly after this scene he meets "Mr.Baton" a well-spoken, seemingly wealthy rich man, showing his status in the community. He refused to even touch the "nigger pot", possibly a sign of racism against those who made it.

The aspect of racism was obvious right away too, when he describes the "For Colored" drinking fountain and his notebook comment of "Imagery, socoiochiaroscurian, hack."

As I said earlier, the topic of the rise of women was also present through baton twirling. He even stated in the story that it "closely parallels the history of emancipation of our women." It allows them to be trained in the art which could lead to them being the majorette of their school band, a status previously held by men. Though it explains that they have struggled within the sport and persevered, they are still judged strictly, both in the competition and in life.

allie duarte said...

Baton twirling represents white supremacy and how racial discrimination is a part of the campus' and community's culture. Terry Southern shows particularly how African Americans and women are discriminated in Ole Miss, but how the discrimination also segregates all other cultures. I like his point of view. For example, in this quote, "The development of American baton twirling closely parallels the history of emancipation of our women" (164). He then describes the baton as being used first for military marching and now is used for twirling or flinging-- "a girlish notion." But his point of view is almost like a paradox. He's referring to white women and stereotyping women as well. So just how free are these baton twirling women? Another technique he uses is character descriptions like "an immaculate, pink-faced man..." and the character dialect.

casey q. said...

Southern seems to contrast two sides of the southern culture; one being its charm;he uses the dialogue of southern girls and gentlemen and the baton girl's discipline to pratice what they've been taught for hours each day and then he refers to the racism, the imagery of the blacks only fountain, the "nigger lover" comment he found in a book and the conversation in which the educator tells him people don't get involved much in other people's business. It that the uniformity and rigidity to tradition in the south that can reinforce something as harmless as the baton twirling ritual is also responsible for the fact that people's tendency to be racist will not change either; it will remain as regimented and routine as the girls twirling their batons. It seems the whole story is saying that the south has strong traditions that are not likely to change.