Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beloved: The Price of Freedom

Through the shifting timeline and revealing of past events, Beloved by Toni Morrison examines the inability of characters to escape the past as well as relating it into the real world example of the ever so cliche "price of freedom." Both main characters in the novel, Sethe and Paul D, were constantly presented with struggles and the persistent reminder of their past. In Sethe's case, the constant presence of Beloved haunted her, reminding her of her vivid past. She reminds Sethe of her murder of her own children and her loss of those important to her. Sethe also faces Sweet Home which was almost personified as a shifting and overtaking power over the characters in the home. In order to achieve her "freedom," Sethe must lose her sons and also her daughter. Much like Sethe, Paul D is haunted by his own past. While jailed in Georgia, Paul D releases his heart to become a tobacco tin. His escape or freedom of emotion comes only by way of losing connection to those around him and the world as a whole. His loss of heart results in a loss of sociability or connection with either a human or an idea. Both characters cannot escape who they were before and in result end up feeling more and more connected to each other.

Stranger or Outsider

Though a quick read, The Stranger provided an interesting perspective on existentialism while also diving deeper into an understanding of the quasi-meaningless main character of Meursault. The novel was almost bland at parts with lengthy descriptions of characters or their actions as well as detailed depictions of what seemed at the time implausible examinations of weather or a harsh courtroom. As readers, Meursault came off as a fool and unable to control his emotions or actions. That became most obvious when he killed the Arab man. His action son that day were perpetually aided by the beating sun, bursting on his face. It was almost like his blood had been boiling for so long he had to release. In relation to our world, Meursault embodied the carefree and worthless human we recognize only from the wanted ad or the news story. Yet the relationship presented between him and his mother exemplified his understanding of love and his realization of happiness. Like his mother, in the end, Meursault understood the importance of a mate or someone to love. Compared to his neighbor who beat his lover, Meursault wanted what only seemed like the physical from his lover. He treated her as if she was a slave and when separated  unlike his violent friend who cared about losing his love, Meursault seemed oblivious. Up front, the goal of the novel seemed only to help readers understand that life is meaningless and worthless and that death is the only solution. However after finishing the novel, The Stranger was made not only to unravel the truth between a conflicted Meursault, but also into order to examine the importance of the embrace of the world, not letting yourself go to the control of those around you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Stereotypical Invisibility

After finishing Invisible Man, the deepest thoughts I had made were based upon connections to other novels or works, the significance of the title and the attention to detail called upon by the ambiguous symbols used in the novel. Throughout numerous Socratic seminars, Dave and I bantered upon the connection from Invisible Man to Inferno by Dante Alighieri. In Inferno, Dante passes through the nine circles of hell, including lust, heresy, treachery and even that of Limbo. In his journey, he describes the violent and treacherous journey through his sin to eventual reach a place of renewal and redemption. One of the most prominent circles that can be related to Invisible Man, I especially  recognized a connection to that of Limbo. In Inferno, Limbo is the first circle, meant for those who did not accept Christ but also did not sin. In his examination of the narrator, Ellison often displayed the narrator's inability to break from those hindrances whether it be people from his past or symbols such as coins or the briefcase. The Inferno explained the inability to think rationally because those there hadn't been baptized through Jesus Christ, born with the same knowledge that they came into the world with. Also in the novel, Ellison often referred to the title's double entendre. In the prologue, it seems as though the narrator is set up as physically invisible, to the extent where he cannot be seen at all. Yet in the novel, the narrator describes himself as trying to develop his identity. He seeks to rise up the society dominated by whites. He works with the paint company and places like the college to develop his nature to become like Bledsoe who we as readers understand as a conformist to the larger idea of society. He is undermined constantly by those he chooses to associate with, losing that source of personal identity. Finally, by use of the motifs and symbols such as the Sambo doll or the coins, Ellison showed the inability of the narrator to escape the stereotypes. He was challenged by the Sambo doll as it is placed to mock the simplicity and "Jim Crow" nature of the black society. His friend Clifton was murdered in cold blood while he sold the Sambo dolls, fitting in with the stereotypical black man. Death was the only escape from the world for Clifton. Even more stimulating, the cop was white, reminding me of the poem where the emphasis was to pray for the officer who killed the black man for what seemed to be no reason. In terms of the coins, Ellison shows the falsity that follows the narrator. The coins provide a possible opportunity for the narrator to escape from his placement among the black society, offering him a chance to attend a university and learn. Yet each time he fails or succeeds, the coins are present. They act as a hindrance but also as a false opportunity to rise up in the world. The narrator is unable to free himself from the branded stereotypes, guiding his eventual descent back into his "home."

Friday, January 25, 2013

The King and I

I was surprised by Henry IV not from the plot or the story but mainly by one of the characters. Of all the times I played Falstaff in class, it seemed as though I was nothing more than a drunken, arguing fool. However  from last year's in depth study of probably my favorite play Hamlet, I was taught that the fools and the drunks in Shakespearean plays are always the most wise and truthful. Towards the end of the play, it started to become more prevalent: Falstaff was not only a fatherly figure to Prince Hal but also someone who even after making mistake after mistake was able to admit his faults and carry forward. His confession of hiring his own band of misfits as his army was a coming to light for Falstaff. He not only continued to give the most powerful soliloquy in the play about the meaning of honor but also to be brash and keen. He recognized that even among the midst of those he cared about, he was not going to go out as a fool, killed in the midst of a meaningless battle, but to do what men really strive for: to live. And yes, the entire scene of faking his own death seemed a bit over the line but in the larger view, Falstaff stood for the whole of mankind and even though it seemed the most opposite of honorable, he survived. His lies, like many people tell today, are often only told to keep those safe or to make ourselves look better. If there's one thing I learned from Henry IV, it's that honor comes in multiple forms and that our gut feeling is not always the one that should be overlooked immediately.

Oedipus and Us

Fate brings forth many meanings. Personally I would never want to learn my fate before it happens. If someone offered to hand me a piece of paper that told me exactly what would happen to my life in a few years or so, I would happily push them aside. Like all Greek tragedy, the audience watching Oedipus be performed would have already known the story behind the demise of the great hero Oedipus. It was definitely an interesting way to learn about his struggle to find himself or to understand larger themes such as identity or vision. Through the use of characters such as Tiresias as well as Jocasta, Sophocles was able to display not only Oedipus' inability to see the true meaning of his life but also to be blinded by his own greed. Tiresias was a powerful symbol, acting somewhat as a foil to Oedipus. He was blind yet he could still understand the wrongdoings in the world as well as attempt to reason with Oedipus, explaining why he needed to "open his eyes." The cover of the play version we had was intent on displaying Oedipus with eyes as the least of all his features. As a person, he was boastful and loved by those who like him were blind to his immoral actions. And when the time came to where he learned of his mistakes, they turned on him without remorse. Sophocles used the motif of eyes throughout the play to ultimately symbolize the importance of vision of society and ourselves. Blinded by greed and impatience, Oedipus was labeled as the typical flawed hero, making a statement and then in time losing his throne. What makes us human is our eyes, our ability to see our world and understand our mistakes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bring the World to Me

“I ran. A grown man running with a swarm of screaming children. But I didn’t care. I ran with the wind blowing in my face, and a smile as wide as the Valley of Panjsher on my lips,” (Hosseini - The Kite Runner). I love it when words speak to me, like I can feel them as I imagine myself in the situation. How I can understand something about life through them. I love how the words on a page can sometimes take me away, take me inside the novel even while I learn valuable themes from each book.  For my big question, I chose to answer “How is Literature like Life?” I can honestly say I have absolutely nothing against any English teacher I have ever learned from but it seems as if each time we read a novel, I only understand what the book has to do with the reader, not the world. It’s always about why did the author do this or what does that word make Jimmy like? I get my occasional two cents on how it applies to everyone but usually, I am wrong.  And not that there’s an issue in that, but I feel as though I am at a crossroads. I have always been interested in English and especially in knowledge from literature. But as I get closer and closer to my start of college, I am realizing how important English is as a Business degree hopeful. As foolish as that may seem, personally I would rather have an intelligent conversation with a possible investor than talk to a rich man who’s most recent read was the ticker this morning on ESPN. Don’t get me wrong, because as an avid ESPN watcher, I’m sure that would be a riveting conversation. However my life, as blank as I am currently gives me choices. I can go on with asking questions about life and especially literature along with it or I can buy a book, say I read it and look online for information about the novel. I want option one. I want to challenge myself on a daily basis to understand literature and how it affects me and my world. Because after all, in 2017 when I walk across the stage gazing out at the crowd, that’s my world now, and I better understand some of it by then.