The topic for this week was an intriguingly relatable one. Doing the opposite of what your family expects of you, specifically in My Son the Fanatic and The Sermon in the Guava Tree, is common in today's world, but was more taboo in the mid/late twentieth century. Usually the parent gets upset with the child when they decide they want to skip college and become a DJ, tattoo artist, or actor, for example, instead of becoming a doctor or lawyer. What's shocking is when the parent threatens to kick their child out of the house because of religion.
With My Son the Fanatic, by Hanif Kureishi, the idea of a child being more religious and morally aware than the parent(s) is surprising and fascinating. In my opinion, that is typically unheard of. What was fantastic about the way Kureishi wrote this story was how we knew Parvez was concerned about his son, for his actions, but you are confused as to why he is upset - at least I was. When Parvez saw that Ali started throwing away all the materialistic and unimportant things in his life and left his girlfriend, he was pleased at first, then worried. Most parents would be ecstatic for their kid to be growing up and becoming more mature.
As the story goes on, Parvez realizes, despite the men's suggestion, that Ali is not selling his things for drugs and is, in fact, not doing anything wrong; he was merely improving his religion. This becomes a problem when Ali calls out his father on his drinking, eating pork, and other bad habbits, which Parvez took great offense to.
It is clear that Parvez is not a fan of his son becoming conscientious and abiding the rules of Islam; he feels as if he has been told off by Ali. After he tells Bettina he is willing to pray if that is what Ali wants, he says, "But what I object to is being told by my own son that I am going to hell." What becomes even more clear is why Parvez feels this way. For several reasons, he is not religious. This must guilt him, though not enough to do anything about it, especially when Ali tells him that the way he is living is wrong. Parvez feels that he has worked most of his life and did not get to enjoy many things, therefore he indulges in forbidden amusements. Considering his past experience when studying religion, Parvez is completely turned off. "After this indignity Parvez had avoided all religions." There is also no doubt that before living in England, he felt neglected of life's pleasures and has a resentment toward living as he did before England.
With a completely different perspective that I have not seen before, My Son the Fanatic was a great read that took me by surprise. Seeing the viewpoint of a parent who, in a way, seems intimidated by his own son was eye opening.
This week's readings demanded a certain type of interpretation, one that required the reader to put themselves in the character's shoes. Each story/poem had a riveting complexity that made you think between the lines, like Punishment, The Dolls Museum in Dublin, and Death by Landscape; some ended with a surprising twist, like The Moment before the Gun Went off, that left me extremely confused. My favorite, by far, was Margaret Atwood's Death by Landscape.
With the title seeming odd without any context, if judged at first glance, this story is a hidden gem. Similar to The Importance of being Earnest, because of the title, I was not expecting to like this story as much as I did. I appreciated the suspense and mystery, which is not a theme we've explored much of, in my opinion.
As the story begins, the audience is led to believe that this is just a simple, normal story of a widow acclimating to a new life on her own without her husband or children. Then, akin to Mrs. Dalloway, Lois visits her past and remembers an unfortunate accident from her childhood. Thinking back on the paintings she would buy and place around the house that her friends would admire her for, she mentions the real reason she bought them. "She bought them because she wanted them. She wanted something that was in them, although she could not have said at the time what it was. It was not peace, she does not find them peaceful in the least. Looking at them fills her with a wordless unease. Despite the fact that there are no people in them or even animals, it's as if there is something, or someone, looking back out." That is the moment I knew this story was going to be good.
Lois reminisces about her time at camp with her best friend Lucy and the canoe trip that changed everything. What's captivating about this story is the taunting knowledge the reader is given: something bad happened, but was it accidental or intentional?
The relationship that Lois and Lucy had was exceptional; they both got each other through camp. Yet, as they get older and life becomes a little more problematic for Lucy, she gives off certain vibes that Lois probably didn't pick up on. With her parents divorced, a stepfather, and her mother cheating on her stepfather, she is struggling. Lucy gave a couple hints to her unhappiness: she didn't want to go back to Chicago with her family, and her mention of diving off the cliff at Lookout Point.
With an ending that absolutely everyone loves, no one knew what truly happened to Lucy that day. As Lois waited for her to use the bathroom, she recalls hearing a shout. "But she is sure (she is almost positive, she is nearly certain) that it was not a shout of fear. Not a scream. More like a cry of surprise, cut off too soon." This led me to the impression that Lucy jumped, or fell, off the cliff. Whether or not it was her intension, I don't believe she ran away - but I have my doubts. No one found her body, which could mean she ran away. But why would she not tell Lois?
Years later, never knowing what happened to her best friend, not to mention being accused of killing her, Lois is left with a form of anxiety or PTSD. Through all those years, she never allowed herself peace. Not knowing how to deal with the loss, the pictures became how she coped with the pain and guilt of Lucy's disappearance: letting her live on in the pictures. Because of that, she is continuously haunted by the ghost of Lucy and her mystery.
Thank you for reading!
Before talking about Heart of Darnkness, I would like to first touch on Joseph Conrad and his authentically adept diction. For someone who knows three languages, which is impressive in itself, and writes a story in the third language you learned with incredible vernacular and vocabulary, Conrad did not fall short of impressing me. Using words I have never heard of, like Mephistopheles, sepulchral, and yokels, just to name a few, is notable. Not to mention the way he described a man in his grave as "the grass growing through his ribs was tall enough to hide his bones." Impressive, impressive, impressive.
Conrad's writing style also reminded me of Virginia Woolf's writing style where the characters were consciously aware. On many occasions, a character would be talking and in the middle of their sentence, stop to think out loud; much like Mrs. Dalloway.
Heart of Darkness made me think of Conrad as a sort of journalist. Considering it is based from his time in the Congo, telling a story like this of a place where, at that time, our nightmares probably come to life, it is important to make people aware of what is happening in other countries. Although the main character is fictitious, some moments felt as though it was Conrad indirectly talking to the audience through Marlow: "I don't want to bother you much with what happened to me personally, yet to understand the effect of it on me you ought to know how I got out there, what I saw, how I went up the river to the place where I first met the poor chap; Trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once - somewhere - far away - in another existence perhaps."
As he describes the horrors of the Congo, it's clear that it leaves him disturbed, as it would anyone. The way he spoke of the Congolese people was heartbreaking: "They were dying slowly - it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now - nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom." It truly makes you appreciate where you live and the era you live in. Surely bringing awareness had to be one of the reasons why Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness.
His experience no doubt left him with some sort of PTSD and annoyance with the people back home, as he made clear when Marlow says "I found myself back in the sepulchral city resenting the sight of people; They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretence, because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew; I had no particular desire to enlighten them, but I had some difficulty in restraining myself from laughing in their faces, so full of stupid importance." Coming back to people that are living comfortably, completely oblivious to what is going on around the world, and have absolutely no clue as to what you've been through and seen can be a huge culture shock. "It was not my strength that wanted nursing, it was my imagination that wanted soothing." One can imagine that he most likely did not get a good night's rest after being in Congo.
It is sad to know of the awful things that happened during that time and it is crucial to let the rest of the world know so that it will not be continued. That is why I believe that Marlow lied to Kurtz's intended about his death. The horrific truth of what happens over there and how he died would be too much for her to handle, as it would be for many people; it wouldn't be surprising if that is done, sometimes, for people in the army. Their family is told of their death in a less painful way than it might have been, for example. Truth is what I believe was Conrad's purpose for this story.
Thank you for reading!
This week's readings were interesting, to say the least. It is no surprise to say that it is distinctly different from what we've read, particularly in a daringly bold way. It seems that most things written in earlier times only danced around certain subjects, like sexuality and desire, and spoke lightly of them. That's not to say that it wasn't mentioned, it absolutely was. Early age propriety surely prohibited provocative topics such as these. While James Joyce's, E.M. Forster's, and Virginia Woolf's works were published in the early 1900s and times were changing, it is honestly still surprising that they would be comfortable writing stories about things that people in that time period weren't as accepting of.
While each reading had a charm of its own, I found Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway to be most interesting. Of course, with the story being set in London, I might be a little biased because of my love for London; give me anything based in England and I will probably love it.
The first thing that drew me to Mrs. Dalloway was the map. It was fascinating how Woolf mapped out all the character's movements and whereabouts. It makes me wonder if she, herself, walked around London and as she would do so, think about these characters and their story. The idea of having her characters, specifically Clarissa and Septimus, so close to each other but never interact is such a modern way of telling a story.
Although Mrs. Dalloway is a curiously amusing story, it has its quirks. As our book said, "Mrs. Dalloway looks deep within the consciousness of a middle-aged woman planning an evening party." In my opinion, the story looked way too deep into Clarissa's consciousness; so much so that it got to the point where I would get lost and get confused as to what was happening at that point in time, what was a daydream, and what was a memory. Descriptions in stories are crucial to the reader, but this was excessive. It felt like Woolf would be in the middle of writing, have an idea, write it down, then remember that she needs to come back to the point she was trying to make in the first place. That isn't to say that I don't appreciate the vision she conjured up for the readers, because that part was great; as the reader, you feel as if you are physically there, seeing and experiencing exactly what the characters are seeing and experiencing. But, it often went off track.
Besides the few qualms that I had with this story, I enjoyed taking a thoroughly detailed stroll through the streets of London; I've been wanting to go back for quite some time now, so this was incredible in that sense. One thing I found humorous was how she described each road/street a character would go on. It reminded me of the SNL skit, "The Californians", where the majority of their conversation is just directions; it made me giggle!
It was also interesting to read Mrs. Dalloway and, in a way, experience how life was back then, especially coming from someone who actually lived during that time. Despite my positive and negative vibes that I've gotten from this story, its attention to detail and modern thinking doesn't go unappreciated.
Thank you for reading!
The theme of this week's readings has been so different and set apart from the works we have read so far. The readings about war were so sad and the fates of their writers were even more so. The fact that Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg died so young, only in their twenties, is heartbreaking. I couldn't imagine how their family must have felt. The awful irony that Owen wrote about young men killed in battle, when he would later become one of those men himself, is horrifically sardonic. And to think, he would have been free from war if he only lived to the next week.
While those readings struck a somber note in my heart, Mina Loy's Songs to Joannes caught my eye for a different reason. Writing poems or songs about love or lack there of is a pretty normal thing to be done - we see it often. What's interesting is when they both come together.
Our book says that Joannes is "Loy's pseudonym for her difficult lover," which is apparent in her songs, especially the first one. Whether it be loving someone through an intimate relationship, loving a friend, or loving a family member, most of us have probably experienced loving someone while also hating them. For example, your sibling can drive you crazy and make you want to grab them by the collar and shake them silly, but that doesn't mean you don't love them. The same thing goes for relationships, but of course, Loy's situation might have been a little different if her relationship was difficult.
As I have said for all the works that we have read, I am astounded by how feelings are expressed in a way that can be understood. Although some of Loy's songs are more complex than others, it is clear that despite her anger or frustration towards him, she can't help but talk about the qualities she loves about him. This is made clear in her first song when she says, "Spawn of Fantasies" and says in the third line, "Pig Cupid his rosy snout". She pays him a huge compliment by saying that he takes her to new worlds, then insults him calls him a "Pig Cupid". He clearly wrongs her, after he rights her.
Though, what confuses me is the nature of their relationship. Are they actually in love with each other, or are they only together in a sexual way? She seems to confess some sort of love for him when she says in her third song, "We might have given birth to a butterfly, With the daily news, Printed in blood on its wings". That gave me the impression that, despite their issues, she wanted to start a family with him. Then, in the fourteenth song she says, "I bring the nascent virginity of, Myself for the moment, No love or the other thing, Knocking sparks off each other, In chaos". To me, this describes the passion that they shared and only enhances the question of whether or not they actually loved each other or if they were just attracted to one another and constantly succumbed to their desires.
Although some of her songs confused me as to her feelings and what she actually meant, I was equally fascinated.
Thank you for reading!
Week 2/Blog 3: “Fin-de-Siecle Masculinities”
Without a doubt, some of the readings for this week were tedious and somewhat difficult to understand. Luckily, Oscar Wilde was there to save the day.
As someone who thoroughly enjoys any type of period setting, I instantly fell in love with The Importance of Being Earnest. I must admit, reading that this was supposed to be a stage comedy, I had my doubts. As our book said, "Of the four stage comedies by Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest is generally regarded as his masterpiece. It was first staged in February 1895 and was an immediate hit." My first thought was a sarcastic, "yeah, right!" Little did I know that it would be my favorite read so far.
Compared to the poems, stories, and sonnets, reading this as a play was refreshing. The language was understandable and the audience knew exactly what was going on in the scene; compared to the complex story of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this was immensely welcomed with open arms. I was eager to keep reading to find out what happened next.
While I expected to enjoy this text simply because of the period setting, I did not expect to love and appreciate the humor. The irony of the situation that Algernon and Jack/Ernest got into was pure gold; it actually put a smile on my face. The satire of this play seems so modern and ahead of its time. If someone who wasn't aware of the time it was published were to read it, they might possibly think it was written currently.
At first glance, one might find it unlikely that this story is a comedy and assume it is a drama. With Algernon's amusing banter and Jack's/Ernest's slightly rigid seriousness, Wilde had a way of making you feel as if these characters are friends of yours that you have known for years. The fact that both men find themselves in the same exact situation, both wanting to become Ernest to simply marry girls they can't have is brilliant; the irony is absolutely genius. Then, finding out that both girls prefer the name Ernest is genuinely uncanny. They both want to become someone that does not even exist.
There is an ingenious cleverness to the fact that the title of the play can mean two different things before it is read and realizing the actual meaning after. Ending with a baffling twist that was completely unexpected, I found myself wanting more and irrevocably sad that it was over.
Thank you for reading!
For this week's readings, my favorites were George Meredith's Modern Love Sonnets, specifically the first one. In my opinion, love is one of the most beautiful fantasies one can address; everyone experiences it, everyone desires it, therefore everyone can relate.
Despite Meredith's motif of dying love and "marital unhappiness", there is such a fascinating story behind what is written. So many distinctive possibilities exist as to why the couple in the first Sonnet are unhappy. Did they once love each other deeply? Were they forced to get married and can't take it anymore? Did one commit adultery and condemn the relationship to a hopeless disarray of loathing? With the theme of Meredith's sonnets, there are so many possible factors to the death of their love.
The beauty of poetry based on love is that it is often difficult to put into words; of course, the same can also be said when falling out of love. In both situations, you feel things that you can't explain. Which is why I find this Sonnet to be remarkably brilliant. As I get older I find it more and more difficult to find the right words; when I find someone that does the opposite and forms inexplicable feelings into words that have profound meaning and make complete sense, I am absolutely baffled.
Most of the lines in this Sonnet are so powerful that it not only helps the reader to fully understand what is being said, it paints a crystal clear picture - as if you are watching a movie, only it's all happening in your mind.
"By this he knew she wept with waking eyes: That, at his hand's light quiver by her head." He hears his wife's tears and is aware of the pain she is in, but he can't find it in himself to console her. In his heart, he knows it won't help.
"The strange low sobs that shook their common bed Were called into her with a sharp surprise, And strangled mute, like little gaping snakes, Dreadfully venomous to him." Meredith describes the sound of the woman's sobs as she desperately tries to quiet them. Despite the hurt they are both feeling, her sobs are "venomous" to him and causes him pain.
"She lay Stone-still, and the long darkness flowed away With muffled pulses. Then, as midnight makes Her giant heart of Memory and Tears Drink the pale drug of silence, and so beat Sleep's heavy measure, they from head to feet Were moveless, looking through their dead black years, By vain regret scrawled over the blank wall." The wife has no more tears left to cry and the heavy blanket of nothingness is draped over her as she finally falls asleep. Then, at her silence, he too drifts into the empty void of despair that is their marriage. The wall, possibly painted by the wife's tears, is now riddled with the regret they both feel.
"Like sculptured effigies they might be seen Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between; Each wishing for the sword that severs all." As they both lay in bed, seemingly lifeless, the death of their love is shown as they fall asleep in their graves. Beside each other, yet oceans away, with a sword between them, dividing and separating them even more so. Yearning for that sword to end their misery.
Thank you for reading!
Be it through books, film, games, or anything in between, I love the art of storytelling. The allure of escaping reality and entering another has always been a passion for me. Which is why I'm excited, but also scared, to take this class. I'm used to reading the normal 21st century books where not much thought has to go into it. That's not to say that books nowadays don't require some cognitive thinking.
With this week being my first time reading any type of British texts, I must say that my brain has been flabbergasted and dumbfounded - in a good way. Although I felt like I was having a seizure while reading some of these texts, specifically Robert Browning's My Last Duchess, I thoroughly enjoyed them; some more than others, I might add. There is something so refreshing about reading old literature that most people in today's world would find dull or irrelevant. The language that was used all those years ago has such an astute elegance to them; I wish we still spoke that way today.
While I enjoyed the majority of our readings for this week, there were a few poets that stood out above others: Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, Christina Rossetti, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. For me, each of these poets had a beautifully compelling way of telling their stories that made you feel as if you were actually there. Coleridge's The Other Side of a Mirror has such a powerful impact that influences the readers who can relate to what is being said. Although our book says that The Other Side of a Mirror is "speculated to portray mad Bertha Mason", some lines take on a much more intricate matter than what first meets the eye:
"Her lips were open - not a sound
Came through the parted lines of red.
Whate'er it was, hideous wound
In silence and in secret bled.
No sigh relieved her speechless woe,
She had no voice to speak her dread.
And in her lurid eyes there shone
The dying flame of life's desire.
Made mad because its hope was gone."
This tells me that the women is experiencing a pain that no one else can see or understand, therefore in silence her wound bleeds. Her hopes and dreams are a "dying flame" because it seems that no one can help her. Everyone thinks her mad, yet she is only a suffering woman asking for help. Because of her pain, she spirals into an inevitable madness that people cannot understand; and what people don't understand, they cast aside and neglect.
The beauty of these texts is that while the poets might have a certain meaning and intention behind their words, their work is open for interpretation. Every person will read and perceive their words differently, based on their own life experiences. That is the caliber of storytelling; you, as the author, might have your own objective, but once you share it with the world, it has the power to become a whole other entity for someone else to decipher.
Despite my admiration for both Rossetti siblings, specifically with Christina's Goblin Market and Dante's The Blessed Damozel, I felt such a connection to Coleridge as a literary artist. Our book mentions something she wrote: "I have no fairy god-mother, but lay claim to a fairy great-great uncle, which is perhaps the reason that I am condemned to wander restlessly around the Gates of Fairyland, although I have never yet passed them." Someday I would love to write books and create worlds for dreamers and imagineers to escape to and, hopefully, enjoy. I have all these ideas and possibilities in my head that I am so afraid to explore and create. Coleridge put the feelings of my incomprehensible heart and mind into words and completely blew me away. I now realize that I too am condemned to wander restlessly around my own Gates of Fairyland that I have yet to pass. For that, she has become my new inspiration.
Thanks for reading!