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January 30, 2012

Sylvia Plath's "Fifteen-Dollar Eagle"--1959, U.S.


Image Source:http://www.vintagetattooflash.com/images/catalog/products/sailor-jerry-eagle-M.jpg

“I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; like those among men who live by sharking and robbing, he is generally poor, and often very lousy. The turkey is [...] much more respectable” ~Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)


Students, using the direction I provided in some handouts I gave you previously, please type your entry-ticket discussion questions for this reading in the comment box below. These questions will be . . .

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Students of 2011,

Using the direction I provided in some handouts I gave you previously, please type your entry-ticket discussion questions for this reading in the comment box below. These questions will be fair game for the midterm and final exam. In addition to submitting the question to English-blog.com, the question must also be submitted to Turnitin.com. You should also have it written in your Course Journal (collected at midterm and at the final), and have a typed, printed hardcopy to bring with you to class on the day the work is discussed (see syllabus). I will not accept late submissions so mind the deadlines.

Posted by lhobbs at January 30, 2012 06:37 AM

Readers' Comments:

Carmey states, “Laura’s white as the day she is born. Why, she hates tattoos.” Do you think that Carmey likes the idea of Laura being an untouched canvas, or does he wish she had the same love of tattoos that he has? Would Laura have the same relationship with Carmey if she had tattoos?

Posted by: Eric Dirth at February 16, 2011 10:29 AM

It was odd how around the end of the story, the two characters were talking about how tattoos were banned in Japan and how some of the guys who get tattoos at the shop were the ones who were egged into getting one, and then: in comes a kid who wants a tattoo with a bunch of his friends laugh outside of the shop. This made me wonder: Is this why tattoos are banned and consider unacceptable in most place and by most people? Because the fact that it seems almost like body abuse, like how one abuse their bodies by chain smoking or heavy drinking can damage their bodies. Which raises the question does the Government have the right to tell people what they can’t do to their own bodies?

Posted by: John Walker at February 16, 2011 10:33 AM

Discussion Question: In Sylvia Plath’s short story The Fifteen-Dollar Eagle, a kid chooses against any of the available choices of heart tattoos and instead gets a girl’s name tattooed on his wrist. If your first choice is not an option, do you believe tattoos are important enough to warrant a little more time for thinking of an alternative?

Posted by: Chad W. at February 16, 2011 11:26 AM

The eagle is not only a tattoo that is the namesake of this story; it is also a metaphor reoccurring throughout, “…immune as a nun to the eagle’s anger”; “…an eagle in the muscle…” What could the multiple mentionings mean in regards to the stereotype of pride? Could there be other meanings?

Posted by: Manda Butler at February 16, 2011 12:46 PM

The narrator believes that Laura’s refusal to be tattooed means that she is lacking a certain depth and passion. She envisions her body “death-lily white and totally bare- the body of a woman as immune as a nun to the eagle’s anger and the desire of the rose.” Is this simply because Laura refuses to be tattooed? Does it have to do with how Laura’s character is described? Or is it trying to portray a message about tattoos in general?

Posted by: Nicole Natoli at February 16, 2011 12:57 PM

What is the significance of the Sailor getting the fifteen dollar eagle instead of the nine dollar eagle? Do you think that, that relates to his comment of about getting the best tattoo? Does the author create a purposeful contrast between the sailor’s fifteen dollar eagle and the youth’s one dollar name?

Posted by: mathew rodgers at February 16, 2011 12:58 PM

In The Fifteen-Dollar Eagle, the narrator has the assumption that Carmey’s wife is as heavily tattooed as Carmey himself is, but the story ends shortly after the revelation that the wife hates tattoos. How does this revelation take center stage from everything else, and how is it either effective or ineffective as an ending?

Posted by: douglas Phillips at February 16, 2011 01:01 PM

Discussion Question: Silvia Plath’s “Fifteen Dollar Eagle”
On page 177, Carmey states that he believes there should be a freedom about personal adornment in any democracy. However, he refuses to tattoo faces and hands. Why would he refuse to tattoo these places if he believes in the freedom of personal adornment? Do you feel that the tattoo artist should have the power to tell people where they can and cannot have their tattoos?

Posted by: Tara McLoughlin at February 16, 2011 01:30 PM

Carmey is very proud character in this story. Does his immense pride over the quality of his work have anything to do with his meticulously calculated prices? How does this tie in with the title of the work, “The Fifteen Dollar Eagle?”

Posted by: Greg Robinson at February 16, 2011 01:41 PM


After the sailor gets his fifteen-dollar, multi-colored eagle tattoo, he asks to then have Japan tattooed beneath it. Why does the sailor make this special request? Was it his special form of mockery towards the former “center of tattooing” or was it a form of respect? Why does the author include this detail?

Posted by: Natasha Witter at February 16, 2011 01:42 PM

How is Carney’s tattooing represented differently in the story from the way we perceive it today? Would the no hands, feet and face rule be applicable today? Specifically, how do you feel about this rule?

Posted by: Lindsay Renner at February 16, 2011 01:44 PM

In the short story “The Fifteen Dollar Eagle” there are many references to Mount Calvary in tattoos and in the decorations of the tattoo shop. Is this a reference to the religious rejection of tattoos? Does it hint to Laura’s distain for tattoos?

Posted by: Taylor Leonard at February 16, 2011 01:46 PM

Sylvia Plath places a lot of emphasis on the blood coming out of each person as they get their tattoos from Carmey. Do you feel that this is to describe the experience or do you think that there is more meaning behind it? Could the blood represent what the person gives up when they get a tattoo, the pain it takes to get one, or something else?

Posted by: Meghan Donovan at February 16, 2011 01:49 PM

Emmanuel Cruz
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340
February 16, 2011
Discussion Question
Sylvia Plath’s story, “The Fifteen-Dollar Eagle,” is a simple tale that depicts loyalty and apprehension. The eagle is a symbolic mark that represents this sailor’s fidelity to his country, U.S.A. However, although this sailor shows a great deal of loyalty by getting an eagle tattoo, he is apprehensive at the same time. This sailor fears for his life. Is that the reason why he gets another tattoo representing Japan? Is he degrading his country and peers by doing so? Does the sailor feel trapped between two cultures?

Posted by: Emmanuel Cruz at February 16, 2011 01:50 PM

What does Plath mean in the quote "Wear you heart on your skin in this life?" How does this relate to the idea of tattoos in context of the story?

Posted by: Meahgan Jameyson at February 16, 2011 01:51 PM

Sylvia Plath’s “Fifteen Dollar Eagle”
Take this quote from the text: “You've got a rose on the heart, an eagle on the muscle, you've got the sweet Jesus Himself, so come into me. Wear your heart on your skin in this life.”
Do you think this quote continues with the theme that tattoos are an external representative of what is internal? What do you think this quote is trying to say?

Posted by: Sarah Buckner at February 16, 2011 02:02 PM

in the text we come across several different characters that sever as canvas for Carney. Do each of these characters represent a different mindset concerning the art of tattoos and the actually action of receiving them? If so what would they be?

Posted by: amanda arce at February 16, 2011 02:10 PM

Katie Ganning
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340
16 February 2011
Entry Ticket: The Fifteen Dollar Eagle
In the first paragraph of the story, the narrator states a comment from Carmey, “Wear your heart on your skin in this life.” What do you think the tattooist Carmey means by this? Do you think it could be about being open to anything or rebel from societies social norms?

Posted by: Katie Ganning at February 16, 2011 02:13 PM

Carmey says that he thinks that anyone should be allowed to get any kind of tattoo they want and to have it placed wherever they wish on their body. Yet he still keeps certain nameless tattoo flash off of his wall for fear of offending costumers. Do you feel that this is a cowardly choice or simply a business decision? What do you think Plath was trying to say about free speech here?

Posted by: JH Pless at February 16, 2011 02:15 PM

Dana Jennings
Dr. Hobbs
ENG-340
2/16/11
Entry Ticket #5: Plath
Laura is envisioned by the narrator to be experienced and covered in tattoos with no flesh left untouched. In truth, she is white as snow and pure as a nun. Why does such a prolific tattooist as Carmey have a woman so austere and condemning as Laura?

Posted by: Dana Jennings at February 16, 2011 02:20 PM

Patricia Pothier
ENG 340
Dr. Hobbs
2/16/11

The Fifteen Dollar Eagle
The story tells us that Carmey would not tattoo any of the “WACS” on their hands or faces. We discover that this is because certain body parts cannot be covered up. What does this decision say about Carmey? Has he earned the title of being a tattoo artist, one that takes great pride in his work? Or is he just a simple tattooer that is willing to give anyone whatever they desire?

Posted by: patricia pothier at February 16, 2011 02:21 PM

Is the $6 difference in price between the 4 color and the two color eagle a symbolic of the tattoo’s respective meanings? Is the cost of the tattoo at all related to its value

Posted by: Jamison Whitney at February 16, 2011 02:24 PM

In the story, Carmey mentions a federal law that prohibits the tattooing of the face, hands, and feet. Mr. Tomolillo finds the law to be appalling. What is your opinion about this so called “totalitarian law”?

Posted by: William Kopnek at February 17, 2011 12:00 PM

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*NOTE* The deadline for this particular assignment has now passed. Any comments listed below are *ONLY* for the reposting of comments that I specifically asked to be revised or are ones from non-student posters. Any 'student' posts below that missed the assignment deadline will not get credit for the assignment.


~ Dr. Hobbs

Posted by: Dr. Hobbs at February 18, 2011 09:24 AM

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