Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Waiting for Meaning

As a classic story lover, I depend on all that plot mumbo gumbo. So it's plain to see Waiting for Godot was a challenge for me to wrap my head around, and even accept the play itself. After several discussions with some friends, (most of them ended in extreme denial) I finally have come to understand the meaning of this play; there is no definite meaning. Beckett strategically made his play so vague that really any interpretation could technically work, even if it isn't the right one. This play both starts and ends with two supposedly homeless men standing by a tree and waiting for a man named named Godot who (spoiler alert!) never actually came. Their seemingly meaningless banter ranges from boots and trees, to the purpose of human life; which they came to never find. It was frustrating to me to know that they were so close to what they had anticipated yet they never got it. It was humbling to know that not every story is going to turn out the way I want it to be, and sometimes the author is just trying to make me think. Godot never came, yet both of the men were able to find meaning in their lives to keep living. Whether this was Godot continually hanging a carrot in their face to keep them waiting, or just the fact they they liked their boring repetitive life (though I would go crazy), they still continued to live. This brings up the existentialist idea, that in a world where there is no meaning, how can one find a reason not to kill themselves? They mentioned suicide several times, not because they were depressed or upset, but because they were bored and had nothing else to do. They couldn't find any other reason to live, yet they continued living. Like the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus lived the same repetitive life everyday which was full over pushing a rock up a hill only to have it fall back down. How does one find meaning in that situation? He could have easily let the rock crush him into nothing and never had to deal with the seemingly meaningless life that he had ahead of him. Yet, he continued to push that rock up the hill, and let it roll back down again. In Waiting for Godot, Didi and Gogo still wait for Godot to come, yet he never does. They could easily leave, or kill themselves but they don't. Why they don't will forever be a mystery to me.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Is Forgiveness the Key to Freedom.

As many of the students at Arapahoe High School have come to know, forgetting the past is hard. No matter how hard we try, the nightmare is still there and the anxiety still stands. So what does it take to finally be free from the past and all the terror it brings.? This idea of breaking the chains of the past is explored in Ian McEwan's novel Atonement.
The dictionary describes atonement as
satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends.Is forgiveness the key to freedom? Without the ball and chains of a grudge hanging around the ankles, there's no question what human kind can do. Revenge is captivity, forgiveness is freedom.
Some stories;
My mom's dad married a real gold digger (if I do say so myself) in the last three years of his life. As a pilot and fortunate receiver of a cardiovascular doctor's inheritance, my grandpa retired with more than a million dollars. The million dollars that my grandma had intended to go to her posterity when she died. However, in the last few months of his life, the entirety of the will was handed over to my gold digging ex step grandma. Once my grandpa died, none of his children saw a penny of the money, as it went to the gold digger's son's aspiring music career that never really took off. While I was too young to understand the money that would have paid for most of my college disappeared  into the hands of a black haired sugar momma, my mother was livid. The only thing I remember was her constant fuming phone calls to my aunts and uncles, her plans to get back the money, and her spiteful comments here, there, and pretty much everywhere. Her obsession with revenge consumed her. She only thought about getting back at this woman who called herself my grandma. For years it plagued her social life, professional life, and especially her family life. Then one day she simply decided it wasn't worth it. She began on the path of forgiveness, and in part freedom. She is no longer so overwhelmed with revenge and anger as she was long before. She is able to function and make decisions with a clear mind rather than one clouded with revenge.
However, freedom just doesn't come from the forgiveness or atonement of other people, in order to be truly free, one must forgive themselves.
As a young child, Briony commits an act of betrayal and falsehood that she is forced to live with the rest of her life. While she believes she is doing the right thing, she sends an innocent man, her sister's love, to jail and eventually to suffer in the war. Her small act of delusional heroism greatly effects not only her relationship with her sister, but the life of Robbie Wheeler. As she grows and matures into an age where she understands the magnitude of her "mistake," she runs away from all that reminds her of it; her house, her family, even her future plans, all out of hatred of herself. She puts herself to work, hoping to be able to forget her deed, or even make up for it by volunteering as a nurse. She finally decides she can no longer live with the guilt and goes out to atone for her sins. She asks for forgiveness from those who she wronged, and realises the only way she could be free from this mistake is the forgiveness of herself. In her old age she understands that while it was important to seek forgiveness from her sister and Robbie, it was more important to forgive herself. She lived her life with a ball and chain of guilt latched onto her ankle. She couldn't think of anything else besides her wrong doing until she recognised her mistake, and forgave herself.

Like my mom and Briony, people find themselves stuck in a hole of revenge, guilt or anger, that only leads them deeper into the ground. I've found that rather than using energy to continue the hole, its better to forgive, and get oneself out. In Ian McEwan's Atonement, he explores that the only way to truly be free, is forgiveness and atonement.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A "Beloved" Price

Slavery; the huge, ugly mole on the face of American pride. America the free, more like "America the free except for those slaves. We don't count them as people." The horrible past of America that is slavery, is incredibly unforgettable. Though it's been over one hundred years since there was evidence of actual slavery in America, how can one forget the inhumanity and lack of compassion slavery harbored? The incredible irony that existed in our constitution before 1865, is almost humorous. "We the people [white men] of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union [for white men], establish justice [for white men], insure domestic tranquility [for white men], provide for the common defense [of white men], promote the general welfare [by general we mean just for white men], and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves [the white men] and our posterity [white posterity of course], do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America [but for just the white men]. Though many of the founding fathers recognized this extreme hypocrisy in the new government, very little attempted to do anything about it. This huge, ugly, hypocritical mole that sprung onto the face of American pride could have been removed before it got any worse.

However, the group that were most effected by this terrible past were the slaves posterity. This horrible era in history was their past, the slaves were their ancestors. It is hard to hide from and hard to ignore. Toni Morrison reflects this idea in her novel Beloved.  The character Beloved is a perfect representation of slavery. She is constant reminder to Sethe of the acts she did because of slavery. She also brings up Paul D's memories of slavery he hoped to never have to deal with.

Through her characters, Morrison is able to describe the three generations that came out of the slave era, and how they have helped create a better tomorrow for the African Americans today. She describes "the past" through Baby Suggs, "the present" through Sethe, and the future through "Denver," and through these three characters she is able to juxtapose the three mindsets that sprung from the slavery reconstruction era, and call attention to the significance of this era. Baby Suggs is the past and therefore the hope that is able to come from it. Her influence on the people in the town helps regain their sense of individuality and though even for a short time, reminds them of who they are and the happiness they can feel. However, besides that one scene in the forest, Baby Suggs is mostly in bed almost hiding from Beloved, the ghost of slavery. Yet she is still able to give Denver, "the future," the help and motivation to overcome the idea of slavery. Sethe is consistently trapped in the past. She can never let the fact that she killed her daughter on behalf of slavery go. She represents the present. Though there was a chance for her to create a new life away from her terrible past, she still could not let it go. She embraces Beloved, the ghost of slavery, and continues to love her even though she causes her so much harm. The significance of the attachment Sethe has with Beloved is representative of the fact that Sethe just couldn't forget. She couldn't let her past go in order to create a future. However, Denver is able to create a future for everyone. She never had to live within the confines of slavery. Even though she embraces Beloved at first, she is able to recognize the inherent danger Beloved brings and is able to seek help for her and her family. She is the only one that fled and the only one that was able to. She sought help from the community and they all came together to exorcise the inner demon that lived in all of them; slavery. With the help of Denver, the community was able to fill the missing "3" that "124" it was missing. Morrison uses the past, present, and the future in order to truly create hope and brought a new life into the slavery reconstruction era.

Though everyone was free from the inherent act of slavery, their mindsets were still stuck  in their horrible past. The only thing that saves the women in 124 and the whole community in fact, was the willingness to let go of what they knew for so long what lives were filled with for over two hundred years. To forget the pain and the suffering and let it go, all in order to create a new tomorrow "for [themselves] and their posterity." The huge, ugly mole that is slavery on the face of American pride, is still there yet with a collective look to tomorrow and recognition that mole can be dealt with and used as motivation to try and be better.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

To Be Invisible, Is To Be Free

A person in the constant spotlight has to do everything right. Even Miley Cyrus has everything perfectly planned in order to appeal to the public. I often question if I were to act as Brittney Spears did in 2007, if I would achieve the same amount of press and attention. The answer is: no I wouldn't. I am invisible to most of the world, therefore I thankfully wouldn't make headlines if I gained fifty pounds, or if my boyfriend cheated on me with a beach blonde bimbo.

This concept is explored in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Throughout his tale, the narrator is under watch by Dr. Bledsoe, the brotherhood, and eventually the entire public of Harlem. He is unable to do what he wants without having to accept the consequences. He couldn't take Mr. Norris for a drive and then a drink without getting kicked out of his dream school. He couldn't speak his mind without getting verbally punished by the brotherhood, and towards the end of the book, he couldn't speak in front of crowd without the fear of being lynched. Though in the beginning of the book, he achieved invisibility and was able to do what he wanted to do without the consequences of the public

So now to the big question. What does it take to be free? Ellison argues that pure freedom comes with invisibility. To be invisible is to be free. One does not have to worry about what the public with think of them, if no one even knows who he/she is. Just like I don't have to worry about what middle aged woman across the nation will think if I have an extra cookie, because to them, I am invisible. Freedom to do something without the disappointed scowl of the public, comes with invisibility. But is it worth it to be invisible in order to have freedom?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Selfish Compassion: Freedom in Henry IV

To be free or not to be free, that is the question posed in Shakespeare's play Henry IV. In this iconic history, two types of freedoms are presented. The characters must choose between freedom and pay the consequences, or be in bondage and continue the life they were living. Every character yearned to be free from something, yet each freedom came with a price. What were the character's in Henry IV willing to pay to gain their freedom and control over themselves?

Though uneasy to see, Falstaff was a nobleman. Most noblemen at that time period had responsibilities and duties to carry out for the royal court, yet Falstaff didn't and almost refused to do so. Instead he was a drunk, thief, a liar, and any other type of person a nobleman should not be. He wanted to escape from his responsibilities and the pressures society had on him. Prince Hal describes Falstaff's nature by saying "thou art fat-witted with drinking of old sack, and unbuttoning thee after supper, and sleeping upon benches after noon, that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou wouldst know." (Shakespeare 13) Hal accuses Falstaff as being a lazy, fat, drunk that cannot take enough initiative or time to actually achieve what he wants. Falstaff however, responds with an uncaring attitude, portraying that he has already achieved his freedom from his responsibilities. He payed the price, which was to act as a lowlife, thief, who had no substance, which incidentally worked out for Falstaff in the long run. His heedless attention to responsibilities turned out for the better for him in the end. He did not have the same pressures to gain honor or die for the men around him. He says, "the better part of valor is discretion, in which better part I have saved my life," (219). Through this line, he illustrates his almost selfish view of valor, in which one who cares only for himself, also has valor. He chose not to give his life to something that he knew would kill him, which he argues is having honor. This brings up the question that in order to be completely free from outside control, does one have to remain entirely invested upon themselves? Falstaff's lack of compassion and need to help or even die for anyone else, led to his ability to be free from his responsibilities and the pressure honor has on a nobleman.

Unlike Falstaff, Hotspur was unable to gain complete freedom from the standard honor set for him, or even the authoritative power that beset him. He died for his people, though he didn't have to. He feels it was his duty to lead these people and even die for them so they may have a better life. He says of death "If we die, brave death, when princes die with us... Let each man do his best," (202-3). He is so blinded by the glory and honor that war could bring him. Hotspur is trying to free himself and his people from the "tyrannical" rule of King Henry, yet he couldn't see what he really needed to achieve freedom from; himself. He could not free himself from the expectations he had of himself, and the honor he expected to attain. He was trapped by honor until the moment he died. He states "I better brook the loss of brittle life, than those proud titles thou hast won of me," (215). Even in his last breaths of life, he brings up the honors and titles Prince Henry will achieve because he killed Hotspur. He is so obsessed with honor and making his people proud that he cannot free himself from the shackles that bind him to an imminent death. Though Hotspur is fighting for the freedom from King Henry IV's rule, who Hotspur thinks is tyrannical and corrupt, he is leading himself more into the grasps of the consequences of his own obsession of honor, that leads to his ultimate fall. Hotspur was willing to pay the ultimate price to gain his independence from the King, his life, yet he couldn't pay the price for honor; pure humility.

These two contrasting characters only serve as examples for the price the other characters had to pay to be free. When looking at the nature of the two characters, Falstaff is the one who no one thought would win. His traits led to the audience belief that he would fall. Yet his selfish desires led him to being the only character that was truly free of the ailments all around him. Hostpur was the strongwilled, brave warrior that was in everyone's bets. Yet his obsession with honor led to the downfall of himself, and ultimately the people and cause he was fighting for. Through the characters of Falstaff, who was free, and Hotspur, who couldn't free himself, Shakespeare is trying to portray that in order for a character to be free, there has to be an innate selfish desire that drives that character like Falstaff, yet a balance of compassion for the people around him, like Hotspur.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Can Wuthering Heights be free?

Each character in Wuthering Heights is running from something.In most cases it was Heathcliff. For Edgar it was the influence of Heathcliff, for Isabella it was her marriage to Heathcliff. For Linton it was the fear of what Heathcliff would do to him if he didn't do as his father asked. Those characters are just few examples of the influence and captivity Heathcliff brought to the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcrosh Grange. His looming evil was so vast that in order to truly escape his grasp, characters would have to die to be free. This ties in my big question. What were the characters in Wuthering Heights willing to pay to be free from Heathcliff? 

Isabella described Heathcliff by asking "Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil?" Before she truly discovered the darkness in Heathcliff's heart, Isabella was nothing less that infactuated with Heathcliff's mysterious countenance. However, she soon found that she was captive to his influence and could not rid herself from his control. She had to question herself. What was she willing to pay to be free from the ever looming Heathcliff? She ran away from Wuthering Heights and moved into the city. In doing so she risked her own life along with the posibility of the lives of her loved ones. Isabella was willing to pay a large price in order to be free from her past with Heathcliff and Heathcliff in general.

Linton was the child of Heathcliff and Isabella. Heathcliff hated him. He used him for the sole purpose of revenge on Edgar, Isabella and in a round about way everyone who kept him away from his love Catherine. Linton was literally a prisoner to Heathcliff. He was forced to do whatever his father wanted him to do. Heathcliff wanted Linton to marry Cathy for whatever motive, so Linton set off to try to get Cathy to marry him. Linton expresses his innate fear of what Heathcliff will do to him if he doesn't fufill his orders. He says to Cathy "'I cannot bear it! Catherine, Catherine, I am a traitor, too, and I dare not tell you! But leave me, and I shall be killed! But leave me and I shall be killed! Dear Catherine, my life is in your hands: and you have said you loved me, and if you did, it wouldn't harm you." p. 321 Linton succumbs to the demands of Heathcliff, in doing so he sacrifices his pride, peace of mind, and eventually his life in hopes that one day he will be free from the puppet strings Heathcliff holds over him.

Though Heathcliff was the cause of the containment of many of the characters in Wuthering Heights, he himself was trapped and had to pay a heavy price to be free. His love for Catherine was so vast. He could hardly control himself. Though Catherine loved him, she said she would never marry him because he would always be there. He attempted to be free from her hold. He left his home and his "family" for three years. He paid the price of losing a home and the woman he loved in order to be free. However, his freedom didn't last and some could argue didn't exist at all.He was back to be with the one he loved in a matter of years He was always in Catherine's grasp and continued to be until the day he died. Heathcliff was not willing to pay the price in order to be free.

Freedom became almost unreachable in this novel. No matter how hard the characters tried, they could never be free. Isabella's son returned to the terrors of her husband. Linton died in captivity. Heathcliff couldn't leave Catherine and constantly acted in her name. Even when she was dead, he continued to be haunted by her ghost. No matter how much the characters wanted to leave and be free and were willing to pay the price in cost to leave, they couldn't. It was the pull of Wuthering Heights. No one could be free from the influence of the house. It wasn't Heathcliff or Catherine that was holding the people captive; it was the house. The only person who could have truly left was Lockwood, and even he came back. No matter the price one is willing to pay, some freedom cannot be bought. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Price Oedipus Paid

In the play Oedipus Rex, the main character was a slave to fate. As a baby his parents were told their son would kill his father and marry his mother. In an attempt to avoid that fate, they gave their baby away to be killed. Oedipus survived and became the prince of Corinth. Oedipus then traveled back to Thebes and fulfilled his terrible fate. He unintentionally killed his father Laius out of self-defense and married his mother Jocasta. Years later he needed to find who killed King Laius to save his people from the turmoil they were enduring and in doing so he found he killed Laius which led to the discovery that his wife/mother's prophesy came true. Because he committed a serious sin of incest his family was forever cursed. He nobly left his city and sacrificed his pride and happiness for his people. Though it truly was not his fault, he accepted his fate and the consequences that came with it, but only at the end. When he first heard the possibility that he (though unintentionally) committed incest, he fought it. He tried everything in his power to take out the prophet who told him his fate, Tiresias, and the man who advised him to see the prophet, Creon. He did not accept his fate and fought against it. However, he then realized he was not willing to pay the full price to escape his fate, and accepted it. As the country of Thebes soon found out what he had done, Oedipus' guilt was unbearable. He was entrapped by his conscious and guilt. He the prayed the heavy price, and left the children and country he loved, to escape the bonds of guilt.
Oedipus found that some freedom costs too much to pay. He could not pay the price to free from his fate. It may not even be possible to flee from one's fate. However, he did pay the price to no longer be captive to his immense guilt. I suppose, when it comes to freedom, some freedoms are worth paying the price. To no longer feel the embarrassment and guilt Oedipus felt, he gave up his family. But he dealt with the binds of fate. He paid the varied price for freedom from himself and sacrificed things and people he loved in the meantime.